Snooth - Articles Read the opinions of wine professionals en-us Fri, 17 Aug 2018 07:14:43 -0400 Fri, 17 Aug 2018 07:14:43 -0400 Snooth This is a big piece of California wine history. Mark Angelillo <p>Last month, in the company of forty-five wine writers, I caught up with Murrieta&rsquo;s Well winemaker Robbie Meyer. We tasted through a selection of his latest wines, and I continue to be absolutely floored by Robbie&rsquo;s work. The Murrieta&rsquo;s Well property provides a base of superior ingredients, and Robbie uses them to great advantage.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The Murrieta&rsquo;s Well property has been farmed for over one hundred and thirty years, thus establishing a true core of California&rsquo;s wine heritage. In the 1830s, winery namesake Joaquin Murrieta brought horses to drink from the property&rsquo;s naturally available groundwater &ndash; rife with nutrients from the mineral-rich soils. &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> By the 1880s, wine pioneer Louis Mel had seized upon the property as the ideal spot for grape vines, recognizing its similarities to Europe&rsquo;s great properties. Vine cuttings from famous Bordeaux Chateau (including d&rsquo;Yquem and Margaux) were brought over to establish the vineyard land at Murrieta&rsquo;s Well. Grapes have been grown on the land ever since. To me, this renders Murrieta&rsquo;s Well a cultural touchstone for wine lovers around the world.<br /> Combine the property itself with unrivaled attention to detail and the magic really starts to unfold. Robbie considers each acre, each vineyard plot, each row of vines, each grape &ndash; and yes, each leaf &ndash; as individuals. This pushes the wines&rsquo; quality-to-price ratio off the charts. There aren&rsquo;t any textbook formulas here; it&rsquo;s a dynamic relationship with nature that helps to create these masterpiece wines.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Take leaf layers. Robbie considers the leaf shape of each plant. When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, for example, he wants to make sure that at least one leaf protects the cluster from direct sunlight. Careful leaf pruning will achieve &ldquo;dappled light in the fruit zone&rdquo;, Robbie says. These wines are hand-crafted, in the most literal sense of the term.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The next best thing to tasting the wines is visiting the property. Be sure to add Murrieta&rsquo;s Well to your fall wine travel plans. Take a tour through the vines, taste some wines in the historic barrel room, and sample a few custom food pairings. In the meantime, <a href=""><strong>watch the virtual tasting here</strong></a>. Tasting notes and links to purchase are below.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Murrieta&rsquo;s Well The Whip White Blend Livermore Valley 2016</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Orange and tangerine notes are lightly floral and creamy with fresh minerality and hints of lime zest. Fresh, perky acidity on the palate with creamy orange notes, tea leaf and a finish of green apple and floral white peach.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Murrieta&rsquo;s Well Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc Livermore Valley 2017</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Mineral citrus aromas with tropical fruit notes of pineapple with lemon zest and green apple. Fresh minerality and bold acidity on the palate with lemon drop fruit and a creamy textured palate of lightly green melon and fresh peach.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Murrieta&rsquo;s Well Dry Rose Livermore Valley 2017</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Nicely expressive rose petal and watermelon fruit aromas. Impressive depth of fruit on the palate with notes of cherry and strawberry, watermelon and cranberry, a touch of smoky earth towards the finish keeps the palate grounded but throughout there&rsquo;s a crisp acidity that plays well against the fruit.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Murrieta&rsquo;s Well The Spur Red Blend Livermore Valley 2015</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Floral aromas of fresh licorice, black cherry and blackberry, a touch of green pepper and spice adding some complexity and a creamy vanilla note. This is lively and fun on the palate with juicy and jammy black cherry and purple fruit, fun cinnamon, vanilla bean and black pepper spice, gentle tannins and good acidity throughout.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Murrieta&rsquo;s Well Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Valley 2015*</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Austere and elegant aromas of vanilla and cream with mixed berry and black currant. Full palate of black currant and blackberry, this is cool and juicy with nutty chocolate notes, dried fruit notes of prune and dates with a tart plum skin freshness and a finish of vanilla bean, cinnamon and oak spice.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> *Pre-release. <a href=""><strong>Get the 2014 here</strong></a>.</p> Tue, 07 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7055 Brazilian Sparklers Make a Summer Splash Mark Angelillo <p>I don&rsquo;t see nearly enough sparkling wine from Brazil on restaurant menus and in retail shops. It makes sense, really, since the industry did not begin making strides in foreign markets until the 1990s. Brazil&rsquo;s wine industry is nascent, relatively speaking. And while the focus of this article is on sparkling wine, I don&rsquo;t hesitate to recommend still wines from the region. Forty million liters of wine are produced in Brazil each year, and just under half of it (18.7 million liters) is comprised of sparkling wine. You&rsquo;d overlook a whole lot of juice if you focused on the region&rsquo;s sparkling wine alone.<br /> That said, Brazil has been a sparkling wine powerhouse for the last century. The wines are made in both the traditional and Charmat methods. There&rsquo;s always something to appreciate in all styles and at all price points. The variation testifies to the region&rsquo;s growing legion of creative winemakers. There are roughly eleven hundred wineries in Brazil working with two hundred grape varieties. Ninety percent of the wineries use grapes from small, family-owned plots of vineyard land.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Brazil&#39;s major sparkler grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Italian Riesling, also known as <a href="">Welschriesling</a> or Gravesina. The latter-most delivers Brazil&rsquo;s signature twist on sparkling wine. It brings a lively, acidic backbone that&rsquo;s hard to find elsewhere. Charmat sparklers often use one of some members of the Muscat family. These are fun, fizzy wines guaranteed to please large crowds.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Terroir plays a role here, too. The sloping valleys of Brazil were carved by lava flow. The basaltic soils resulting from the lava impart trademark characteristics. You will find striking mineral notes with dashes of distant (and distinct) ash. Thin top soils promote positive struggle for the vines. Rain fall is well-drained owing to the porous basaltic soils.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Lastly, you can&#39;t talk about Brazil without mentioning Italy and its people. A wave of immigration in the late 19th century brought Italian immigrants, many from the Veneto region, to Brazil. The impact is felt in country&#39;s wine, food, and culture.&nbsp;The Italians pounced on the gentle slopes of red soils that reach to the Atlantic Ocean and onto the high plateaus and through the hills to grow grapes like never before.&nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Now, what to taste? I do have a few suggestions, of course. Here are my top three Brazilian sparklers of the moment.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Casa Valduga Brut Rose Brazil NV</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Founded in 1875, Casa Valduga helped put Brazil on the map. This sparkler is made in the traditional method with a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can pick up a bottle for under twenty dollars - an astounding value. 90 points.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Pizzato Nature D.O. Vale dos Vinhedos 2013</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> The Pizzato family (originally from the Veneto) has grown grapes in Brazil for over a century. The winery was founded in 1999 to showcase some of their best stuff. These are vintage bubbles made in the traditional method. I am hoping to see more from this producer available in the United States. 90 points.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Miolo Cuvee Tradition Brut Serra Gaucha NV</strong></a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Giuseppe Miolo immigrated from the Veneto to Brazil in 1897. The winery opened in 1990, and it continues to be operated by the third and fourth generations of the Miolo family. Again I am impressed with the value on this bottle - usually under twenty dollars. 91 points.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href=""><strong>Click here</strong></a> for a full list of favorites that I&rsquo;ve tasted from Brazil this year, sparkling and still.</p> Fri, 27 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7053 When mercury is rising, drink this wine. John Downes <p>I&rsquo;ve just been booked to present masterclasses in Sydney and Melbourne in October. An Australian spring always excites me as I leave a chilly, autumnal England for sunny Oz, usually after a disappointing summer. But not this year. As I write the thirty-degree sun is beating down on my office window and the forecast is for more of the same. So, as you can guess, crisp dry whites are flying off the shelves, including an old Portuguese friend that&rsquo;s now back in favour; a chilled glass of Vinho Verde is again a popular choice on Blighty&rsquo;s sun-drenched patios.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Vinho Verde was pooh-poohed for years but is now making a welcome comeback which is not surprising for as well as being a terrific thirst quencher, it&rsquo;s famously good with barbequed seafood and makes a mean aperitif. With an alcohol level of just 12% by volume, VV&rsquo;s citrus fruit, mineral overtones and mouth-watering acidity, sometimes lifted with a touch of frizzante, hits the spot when the mercury&rsquo;s rising.&nbsp; <br /> This famous wine is so called, one Portuguese winemaker told me, as it&rsquo;s made to be drunk and enjoyed when it&rsquo;s young. Another said it was because the wine has a green tinge in the glass. You pays your money and takes your choice.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Vinho Verde comes from the green, rolling granitic-based vineyards in the top north-west corner of Portugal where the influential Atlantic Ocean provides a mild, often rainy climate ideal for crisp white wine production. My anorak <em>Snoothers</em> may be interested to know that the region&rsquo;s varying microclimates have resulted in the creation of nine sub regions, namely Amarante, Ave, Bai&atilde;o, Basto, C&aacute;vado, Lima, Mon&ccedil;&atilde;o e Melga&ccedil;o, Paiva and Sousa.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> &lsquo;VV&rsquo; is generally made from a blend of local grapes, Loureiro, Pederna and the fashionable Alvarinho. In case you&rsquo;re wondering, Alvarinho is the same grape as the Spanish Albarino, the variety of Rias Baixas, the increasingly popular blanco that hails from vineyards across the border, just up the road in Galicia. Whilst we&rsquo;re &lsquo;talking grapes&rsquo;, Pederna goes under the name of Arinto in other regions of Portugal.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I&rsquo;m always pleased when a winemaking region sticks to its indigenous varieties as opposed to following the crowd and planting the likes of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo to Vinho Verde and Rias Baixas!<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Following fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats (to retain the aromas and flavours) the wine is generally rested in the cool cellars for a short time before bottling. It&rsquo;s worth noting that the winemakers don&rsquo;t go for oak barrel ageing as they want to produce a clean, fresh, zippy, citrus wine for crisp early drinking. &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Melbourne is famous for its &lsquo;four seasons in one day&rsquo; climate but Sydney in October glories in&nbsp;&nbsp; delightful mid-twenties sunshine. I think I&rsquo;ll welcome the Sydneysiders with a glass of crisp Vinho Verde before they &lsquo;Become a Wine Expert in 60 minutes&rsquo; or start their journey to mastering Champagne and Burgundy. Or should that be Vinhoz Verde? Either way, they&rsquo;ll love it!</p> Fri, 20 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7052 This is America’s Most Versatile Wine Grape Gabe Sasso <p>The history of Zinfandel in America can be traced back to Italian Immigrants who planted it all over California for a number of reasons including its hearty nature. For that reason it was also the dominant choice of home winemakers in other parts of the country who were purchasing grapes shipped east from California.&nbsp; For years it was thought that Zinfandel was a genetic descendant of Italy&rsquo;s Primitivo. However genetic testing discovered that both Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetic matches for the Croatian grape Crljenak Ka&scaron;telanski.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Over time Zinfandel fell out of favor in comparison to some other varieties and a number of great old vineyards were pulled out. Some were actually saved because they were being used for the production of White Zinfandel. Many of those parcels are now the source of some great Single Vineyard Zinfandels. Old Vines matter for Zinfandel as much as any other grape, and more than most. There are many Zinfandel Vineyards in California over 50 and 100 years old, some dating to the 1800&rsquo;s. When they produce less fruit and struggle somewhat to give what they do, the results are often naturally more intense and layered with character a younger vine simply isn&rsquo;t capable of.<br /> A sense of place is as important for Zinfandel as any grape. Single vineyard Pinot Noirs get a lot more press attention but the truth is that site to site variance for Zinfandel is even more dynamic. Zinfandel thrives in nearly all of California&rsquo;s regions, and brings different characteristics to the forefront depending on place. While Zinfandel flourishes all over California, there are a few areas few that really raise the flag on what has become the Heritage grape of the Golden State.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Dry Creek Valley</strong> &ndash; Located in Northern Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley is home to some of the best Zinfandels in the world. A number of multi-generational family producers in Dry Creek Valley are focused on Zinfandel which is their signature red grape. The classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels have structure, spice, and proportionate fruit in common. Some of the most famous and well regarded single vineyard parcels of Old Vine Zinfandel call Dry Creek Valley home.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Lodi</strong> &ndash; This Central California region is home to a number of heritage old vine Zinfandel vineyards. A group of winemakers there founded &ldquo;The Native Project.&rdquo; Each winemaker commits to producing a Zinfandel each year from a true Old Vines Vineyard. Winemaking protocols are the same across the board and all that changes is the fruit source. This project really highlights how important site is to Zinfandel. Lodi Zinfandels tend to have and abundance of fruit. Tended properly they can also be well structured.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Napa Valley</strong> &ndash; Due to the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon and the prices it can fetch there&rsquo;s not nearly as much Zinfandel in California&rsquo;s most famous wine growing region as there once was. However the old vines that do exist can produce excellent wines. Great Napa Valley Zinfandels are loaded with red fruit, proportionate and structured, often with more tannins then Zinfandel from many other regions.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Paso Robles</strong> &ndash; Initially known for big, fruity Zinfandel, there are now more producers focused on wines of structure and nuance that still have those fruity flavors Paso is famous for. Diverse climatic conditions in various parts of Paso Robles also assure lots of variance within the region for factors outside of site alone.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Russian River Valley</strong> &ndash; While It&rsquo;s best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay these days, cool, foggy Russian River Valley is the source of distinct Zinfandels too. The Zinfandels from here tend to feature lots of spice and fruit that is a bit more reticent in nature. Great Russian River Valley Zinfandels tend to age very well due in no small part to the wonderful acid they feature.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Well-made Zinfandel is fruity, balanced and a versatile food wine. Whether you&rsquo;re having a classic Italian Sunday Dinner, Smoked Brisket, Pizza, Traditional Mexican cuisine or so much more the terrific fruit, acid and structure of great Zinfandel is a great pairing choice. And of course there is no better pairing with the most of American of meals, The Burger, than Zinfandel.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Suggested Bottles:</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Cline Cellars 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel &ndash; Lodi ($11)</strong><br /><br /> Red fruit aromas and hints of vanilla lead the way. The soft palate is stuffed with strawberry. Bits of tea emerge on the finish. This is a great value and would make a god choice as an everyday house red.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Angry Bunch Winery 2016 Zinfandel &ndash; Lodi ($18)</strong><br /><br /> Hints of tar emerge on the nose alongside black cherry. Sweet red raspberry jam and black pepper are evident on the palate. A hint of leather shows up on the above average finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Oak Ridge Winery 2014 Moss Roxx Zinfandel &ndash; Lodi ($23)</strong><br /><br /> Black raspberry aromas explode from the nose here. White pepper and blackberry are evident on the palate. Bits of chocolate sauce dot the long finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Redhaus Wines 2015 Ancient Craft Old Vine Zinfandel &ndash; Lodi ($25)</strong><br /><br /> The aromas bring to mind a bowl of fresh, ripe red and black cherries. The plate is studded with black raspberry and plum. Bits of cinnamon and clove emerge on the finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pedroncelli 2015 Bushnell Vineyards Zinfandel &ndash; Dry Creek Valley ($26)</strong><br /><br /> Black pepper and savory herb aromas underpin raspberry aromas. Blackberry, dark chocolate shavings and a core of spices drive the full flavored and well-proportioned palate. Earth and hints of vanilla close things out. Delicious today this Zin will age gracefully.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Bella Grace Vineyards 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel &ndash; Amador County ($28)</strong><br /><br /> Red and black fruit aromas are joined by hint of bay leaf. Plum flavors and associated spice characteristics are evident on the juicy palate. The finish is lush and stuffed with a continuing m&eacute;lange of red and black fruit flavors.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Ridge Vineyards 2016 East Bench Zinfandel &ndash; Dry Creek Valley ($32)</strong><br /><br /> Dark fruit aromas and hints of savory herb burst from the glass upon the first whiff. The palate is filled with black raspberry and blackberry accompanied by a nice complement of spices. Wisps of earth are evident on the long finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Artezin 2015 Collins Vineyard Zinfandel &ndash; Russian River Valley ($35)</strong><br /><br /> Red and black violet aromas lead the way. Flavors of red plum and raspberry are accompanied by hints of Bay Leaf. Sour plum, spice and bits of dark chocolate are all evident on the long, clingy finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Ravenswood 2015 Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel &ndash; Napa Valley ($37)</strong><br /><br /> Red plum and candied strawberry aromas burst forth from the glass. Blackberry, oodles of spice and lite savory herbs are all part of the substantial palate. Sour red raspberry and bits of earth dot the prodigiously long finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Peachy Canyon 2016 Willow Vineyard Zinfandel &ndash; Paso Robles ($42)</strong><br /><br /> Red raspberry and white pepper aromas emerge with conviction once this wine is poured.&nbsp; Black cherry, raspberry and hints of red plum drive the palate which shows off an intense purity of fruit. Gentle bits of earth, spice and a tiny speckle of tar are all evident on the finish.</p> Fri, 13 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7049 Meaningful Wine Letters: GSM John Downes <p>Fancy a bit of GSM to liven up your holiday? Is this your first time? Don&rsquo;t worry, a couple of Australian reds and a Rhone Ranger will soon get your taste buds into the swing of things.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> If you hear a wine snob talking about &lsquo;GSM&rsquo;, it has nothing to do with &rsquo;50 Shades of Grey&rsquo;, he&rsquo;s just spouting off about a blend of grapes; <a href="">Grenache</a>, <a href="">Syrah</a> and <a href="">Mourvedre</a>, the typical southern Rhone Valley trio that&rsquo;s exciting winemakers across the world.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I was in Western Australia&rsquo;s beautiful Margaret River and was privileged to spend a couple of hours with two of Australia&rsquo;s best known winemakers. Perched in their tasting room overlooking the vineyards I remember their total passion for the southern Rhone varieties, &ldquo;they are perfectly at home in our Mediterranean climate&rdquo;, they told me.<br /> The well-known Australian winemakers to whom I refer are Murray McHenry and David Hohnen. Their cracking GSM goes under the &ldquo;3 Amigos&rdquo; label, (2015, $25). For the mathematically minded, it&rsquo;s 35% Grenache, 43% Shiraz and 19% Mourvedre (and 3% Marsanne, the white Rhone variety). The sharp eyed Snoother will notice that the back label says that the &lsquo;M&rsquo; stands for the Mataro; &lsquo;don&rsquo;t panic it&rsquo;s simply another name for Mourvedre. &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Then there&rsquo;s Australian winemaker Grant Burge&rsquo;s Holy Trinity 2012 ($35). It is a blend of Grenache (38%), Shiraz (34%) and Mourvedre (28%). Each of the three varieties are hand-picked from old, dry grown bush vines in the baking Barossa Valley, the youngest being about 50 years old, the oldest well over 100 years old.&nbsp; Each of the three varieties are vinified separately, the final blend being aged in large vats and smaller oak barrels for 18 months, resulting in vibrant blueberry aromas, rich cherry, blackberry plum flavours and a spicy liquorice finish that will have you reaching for another glass. In case you&rsquo;re wondering, Syrah is called Shiraz in Oz.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I&rsquo;m a big fan of Cotes du Rhone reds as they offer good value the world over and rarely let you down. Guigal is arguably the most famous producer in the Rh&ocirc;ne Valley so you&rsquo;re in safe hands with their Cotes du Rhone rouge, (2014, $20). Founded by &Eacute;tienne Guigal in Ampuis in 1946, his son Marcel has played an important part in the region&rsquo;s resurgence over the last few decades. Marcel&rsquo;s son Philippe, the third generation of Guigal winemakers, continues the family&rsquo;s proud traditions. Although you&rsquo;ll struggle to find the title &lsquo;GSM&rsquo; on a southern Rhone Valley label, Guigal&rsquo;s Cotes du Rhone is a &lsquo;GSM&rsquo; as it has a small percentage of Mourvedre in the blend &ldquo;to add a little complexity to the Grenache and Syrah&rdquo;. This medium to full bodied red with its crisp, blackberry plum and pepper spice overtones will also reward a few years in the cellar but, that said, it&rsquo;s also drinking well tonight!<br /><br /> <br /><br /> How about comparing Grant Burge&rsquo;s full blooded Barossa Valley GSM, McHenry Hohnen&rsquo;s&nbsp; &lsquo;restrained New World&rsquo; Margaret River GSM and Guigal&rsquo;s traditional Cotes du Rhone with friends this weekend. All the wines are completely different, all completely delicious. Who can&rsquo;t resist a bit of GSM?</p> Mon, 02 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7046 This is Sicily’s Answer to White Wine Cathrine Todd <p>One can travel all over Italy and still have no sense of Sicily, as Sicily is like no other place. It is probably one of the most diverse regions in Europe with not only a long history of a multitude of conquerors, but to this day, an evident openness to various cultures. This open attitude towards diversity is expressed by the architecture, food, and wines along with the sea of faces ranging from pale skin and blond hair to Mediterranean olive skin and brown curly hair to dark skin and woolly, black hair. Northern Europe, North Africa and Greece are just a few of the influences that meld so wonderfully with the Italian culture within this lovely island. Sicily offers a beauty that is multifaceted and complex&hellip; it is the only place that I can think of that would place so much of their quality white wine focus on a grape variety such as Grillo.<br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Grillo</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Although Sicily is sometimes thought of as just another Italian wine region, when it comes to wines, it could be considered its own continent. The range of soils, climates as well as grape varieties makes Sicily not so easy to understand in regards to wine unless one devotes a significant amount of time dissecting it. In fact, according to Antonio Rallo, president of the Consiglio di Tutela that supervises the DOC Sicilia, there are 76 autochthonous (indigenous) varieties currently in production in Sicily; so their choice of picking Grillo as the white wine they promote to the world gives an insight into some deep core Sicilian beliefs.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Over the past few years, Grillo has been spoken about a lot, but it always seemed like it was an ancient Sicilian white grape variety that was finally getting the focus for its quality wine potential - but that is actually not the case. In the beginning of May, Master of Wine Robin Kick revealed that it was an intentional crossing of Catarratto Bianco and Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) in Agrigento, Sicily in 1869 by Baron Antonio Mendola, an agronomist and expert of grape varieties, with the first grapes appearing in 1874. Even some Italian grape variety experts are lacking this knowledge and have previously incorrectly hypothesized that it is an indigenous variety of Puglia; some experts realize it is a crossing but do not know it was an intentionally human-created one. Robin Kick, however, was sent a copy of the document that proved it was created by Baron Mendola.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Grillo benefits from the aromatic complexity of Zibibbo and the fresh acidity of Catarratto Bianco. It is a variety that is more resistant to disease than Catarratto Bianco and so it usurped many of the Catarratto plantings after phylloxera (the pest that devastated many European vineyards) in the early 1900s. But after World War II, Grillo had a dip in popularity as other varieties that produced higher quantities were favored since there was such a huge demand for wine across Europe during that time.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Marsala &amp; Grillo</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Historically, the grape variety Grillo was mainly known in Sicily as one of the varieties that made Marsala fortified wine. Despite Marsala being known as a cooking wine to the rest of the world, those who have been long time Sicilian wine connoisseurs considered the best Marsala, which many of us don&rsquo;t see on our own markets, on par with the greatest fortified wines in the world such as Madeira. And so through time, as Sicily started to focus less on quantity and more on quality (40% less vineyards today and very low yields with an average of 50 hl/ha noted by Antonio Rallo) the leaders in the Sicilian wine world decided that a focus on Grillo would be part of their plan to raise Sicily&rsquo;s wine quality.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Today there is an array of Grillo wines that range from herbaceous to fruity to perfume notes and can be light and bright or big and rich; some may seem more like Sauvignon Blanc, others like Viognier, and many a combination of both. Sicilian wine producers have been able to identify two biotypes (aka clones) that are labeled A and B to make things simple yet there are quite a few Grillo vines that are not identified as either and so they are still discovering this variety&rsquo;s potential.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Sicily&rsquo;s belief in Grillo is so strong that, as of 2017, the variety can only be noted on approved Sicilia DOC bottles.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Sicilia DOC</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> The protection and promotion of Sicilia DOC wines by the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Doc Sicilia has been evident since its establishment in 2012 by the Assovini Sicilia (a group of small to large size wine producers); not only was there an increase of 9.96% of bottles purchased that had Sicilia DOC on the label, but also an increase of 21.81% of bottles mentioning Sicily at all (figures comparing 2016 to 2017 sales). Grillo is part of Sicily&rsquo;s wine success story, seeing a sales increase of 23% for wines that mention the variety. And that commitment to excellence will only accelerate in the future as they study new local strains of yeast that could potentially improve wine quality and find more autochthonous (indigenous) grape varieties that go way beyond the 76 currently in production.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Improving by Diversifying DNA</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando said of Sicilian wine, &ldquo;&hellip;it is fair to say that we have managed to reconcile the roots and the wines of our existence. A metaphor indicating our respect for the past and commitment to the future.&rdquo; On the last day of Sicilia en Primeur 2018, he adamantly said that all immigrants are welcomed to Palermo and to Sicily as a whole as diversity is part of their success of a people and why Palermo, the capital of Sicily, was recently named &ldquo;Italian Capital of Culture for 2018&rdquo;. &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Sicilians deeply appreciate that it is the mixing of cultures and DNA of people that makes it such a special place and they are investing in that idea; there is no better representation of that then their passion for Grillo, a mix of two beloved Sicilian grapes. No other region has stood so strongly behind a crossing but Sicily proudly does. They know that the mixing of people have enriched them a thousand times over and so it makes sense that it would create one of their best white wines.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Grillo Recommendations from Sicilia en Primeur 2018</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>NV Fazio, Spumante Brut, Grillo, Sicilia DOC:</strong> Charmat method sparkling wine. Lemon confit, creamy bubbles, and saline minerality &ndash; only 4g/l residual sugar.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>2017 Caruso &amp; Minini, &ldquo;Timpune&rdquo;, Grillo, Sicilia DOC:</strong> A Grillo that comes from a high altitude vineyard at the top of a hill with 20 days in used barrels. Citrus zest, linear body with lots of energy and a textural contrast on the body.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>2017 Firriato, &ldquo;Caeles&rdquo;, Grillo, Sicilia DOC:</strong> An organic wine that is vegan certified with exotic flavors of mango and spice with hints of rosemary on the finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>2017 Donnafugata Sur Sur, Sicilia DOC:</strong> 100% Grillo. Floral and sweet peaches on the nose with a medium body and a zingy finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>2017 Cusumano, &ldquo;Shamaris&rdquo;, Grillo, Sicilia DOC:</strong> If I didn&rsquo;t know what this wine was, I would have sworn it was Viognier with its intense perfume and rich stone fruit, yet it had a fresh acidity that gave it energy on the palate.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>2017 Baglio del Cristo di Campobello, Grillo, Sicilia DOC:</strong> Made from chalky soils, this wine shows Grillo&rsquo;s expression of terroir with fierce minerality that is accompanied by a bright backbone of acidity that has plenty of rich fruit to make this wine delicious as well as ethereal.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Cantine Florio, &quot;Donna Franca&quot;, Marsala Superiore Riserva DOC:</strong> 100% Grillo fortified wine that is an ideal example of great Marsala. Blend of Marsala aged from 15 to 30 years in oak barrels. Grilled figs, Mediterranean scrub, candied orange rind, hint of vanilla and finishing with roasted almonds all wrapped around a velvety texture. 19% abv and 93g/l residual sugar.<br /><br /> </p> Thu, 28 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7045 Rosé Has Jumped the Shark Mark Angelillo <p>Hasn&rsquo;t it? When we started Snooth back in 2007, ros&eacute; was not such a hot button topic. Its growth over the past eleven years is astounding. Nielsen reports that sales of still ros&eacute; have risen sixty-five percent since last year. Sparkling ros&eacute; sales jumped by sixteen percent. The funny thing is, we can assume that prior to direct pressing most all wines looked like a ros&eacute;. It was the notoriously sophisticated Romans who brought winemaking to a place where color gradations could be created. If not for their ingenuity, perhaps we&rsquo;d have been drinking ros&eacute; all along.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Regardless, ros&eacute; has most always existed in its own class.&nbsp; Clairet from Bordeaux is an example of ros&eacute; wine that dates back centuries. While it was always possible to find quality ros&eacute; wine from Europe, most early-to-mid twentieth century Americans considered the wines too simple. It was down-market juice for the unserious drinker. <em>The grapes weren&rsquo;t grown with ros&eacute; wine in mind. It&rsquo;s just run-off juice used to enhance the color of a red wine (as in the saign&eacute;e, or bleeding method.) It&rsquo;s just a red wine and a white wine mixed together</em>. (These days, with the exception of ros&eacute; Champagne, mixing is not permitted in the European Union. It is permitted in the New World.)<br /><br /> <br /><br /> So how exactly did we become a nation of ros&eacute;-philes?<br /> The rise of ros&eacute; indicates that the wine cellar guard has changed. A new generation of wine drinkers is democratizing consumption in heretofore unseen ways. That&rsquo;s great news for everyone here &ndash; yes, more people are drinking wine. Many wine writers have worked tirelessly to make wine more accessible and inclusive. And to me, the rise of ros&eacute; is proof of their success. The wine industry is booming because there&rsquo;s more for everybody to enjoy no matter your taste or price point. Inclusivity is one of the main tenets upon Snooth was built, and I couldn&rsquo;t be more proud.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> But now that everyone has jumped on the ros&eacute; bandwagon, where are we headed? Many of the great brands have made their first ros&eacute;s in just the past few years, and most do not disappoint. The majority of them are intentional &ndash; the grapes are grown with the ros&eacute; wine in mind. But while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we should remain vigilant as we wade through the great twenty-first century ros&eacute; glut.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I always taste ros&eacute; at room temperature to start. While this is a fairly common wine adjudication practice, I find it particularly important when it comes to ros&eacute;. If it doesn&rsquo;t taste okay to you when it&rsquo;s slightly warm, there&rsquo;s probably a better bottle out there.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Here are my top five ros&eacute; wines for the 2018 season. For a longer list of good bets, <a href="">click here</a>.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Field Recordings French Camp Vineyards Valdiguie&nbsp;</strong><strong>Ros&eacute;</strong><strong>&nbsp;Paso Robles 2017</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <em>If you&rsquo;re going to join one new winery club this year, make it Field Recordings. Winemaker Andrew Jones knows how to pick &lsquo;em when it comes to grape vines. His intimate knowledge of the California coast has created some superior selections.</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Strawberry with hay and barley aromas, a touch of cherry and some citrus notes on the nose. This is a bit biscuity on the palate with loads of citrus zest and sparkly acidity, cherry, grapefruit and tangerine fruit, some melon rind and a finish of warm spice and a creamy texture.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Field Recordings Creston Ridge Vineyard Sangiovese Ros&eacute; Paso Robles 2017</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Fresh peach and dried persimmon notes with a hint of something herbal and a bit of fresh melon. Zesty and bright on the palate with orange leaf, creamsicle and strawberry notes with a really pleasant fresh pumpkin note and a floral finish. Truly intriguing and a nice departure from the norm.<br /><br /> 91 pts<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Clean Slate Pinot Noir Ros&eacute; Nahe 2017</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <em>Clean Slate is well-known for Riesling from the Mosel, but they also deliver on this easy-drinking delight. Buy twelve or more for your next barbecue and please the entire crowd.</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Clean and light notes of strawberry and pink grapefruit on the nose. Very expressive palate of juicy citrus fruit - grapefruit and lemon with some cherry and strawberry notes with a lightly floral halo. Lots of buoyant acidity, fresh melon and a finish with a bit of apple and a touch of creaminess.<br /><br /> 90 pts<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Domaine Bousquet Malbec Cabernet Ros&eacute; Tupungato Valley 2018</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <em>This winery, a jewel of the Andes mountains, has become a fast favorite of mine. The potpourri of grapes in this ros&eacute; will make your head turn: 55% Malbec, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Pinot Gris. This is a ros&eacute; you can confidently serve at your next cloth napkin dinner.</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Creamy floral notes of rose petal and watermelon with a spicy pepper note and some soft cherry. Mellow and tart on the palate on entry but developing some zest towards the finish, this is light and easy drinking with strawberry and cherry notes and a chunk of earth alongside the fruit.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Left Coast Cellars&nbsp;Ros&eacute;&nbsp;Willamette Valley 2017</strong><br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> <em>I can&rsquo;t go too long without having a taste of Oregon. The Pinot Noir (54%), Pinot Meunier (40%), Pinot Blanc (6%) grapes were grown specifically for this wine. Don&rsquo;t pass up the opportunity to visit the five hundred acre estate the next time you pass through the Willamette Valley.</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Crisp, mineral slate and steel aromas with light cherry fruit on the nose. Juicy and pleasant palate of cherry, tangerine and berry flavors, soft, plush body and good acidity, finishing with a nice earthy complexity and a touch of green herb.</p> Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7043 Spanish wines know no bounds. John Downes <p>As you can guess, the London Wine Trade calendar is choc-a-block with tastings. If you went to them all you wouldn&rsquo;t have time to work! So, selection is the name of the game. I recently received an invitation from Berry Bros &amp; Rudd to a tasting in their historic St. James&rsquo;s Street cellars; two words turned my head. Vega Sicilia. Three other words sealed it into my diary; vertical, tasting, Valbuena.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Vega Sicilia is one of Spain&#39;s most prestigious wine estates and is often referred to as Spain&rsquo;s &quot;first growth&quot;. Located in the &lsquo;Valbuena del Duero&rsquo; south of the River Duero in the Ribera del Duero region of northern Spain, their celebrated hillside vineyards lie at about 650 &ndash; 900 metres above sea level and cover about 250 hectares.<br /> As my anorak readers will know, Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s portfolio is headed by Unico, (Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon), their flagship red, followed by Reserva Especial (a blend of top vintages) and Valbuena. Valbuena is generally made from younger vines (if 20-25 years can be classed as young) and in years when Unico is not produced, the grapes normally destined for Unico go to producing Valbuena. &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Many commentators refer to Valbuena as Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s &lsquo;second wine&rsquo;. I can&rsquo;t agree. This is&nbsp;&nbsp; a first class wine that I often prefer to Unico. Valbuena 2012 has a bottle price tag of &pound;130 ($200) &hellip; I rest my case.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Valbuena is Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s &lsquo;expression of Tempranillo&rsquo; as the wine is dominated by this famous Spanish variety. Merlot also plays a small part for depending on the vintage, between one and six per cent is added to give softness and roundness to the blend.&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Vega Sicilia was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec under his arm and planted them together with the local hero Tinto Fino, that&rsquo;s Tempranillo to you and me. By 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero the wines were gaining international recognition.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The estate changed hands several times before its acquisition by the present owners, the Alvarez family, in 1982. The family built Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s global reputation throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, a time when classic vintages of Unico (1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1975) were all readily available.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Back to St. James&rsquo;s Street. The Valbuena tasting was hosted by Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s winemaker Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan who is proudly carrying the Estate&rsquo;s traditions into the new generation. In the vineyard, low yields, individual plot selection, clonal choice, canopy management, green and manual harvesting set the tone, &ldquo;we started making our own compost 32 years ago. We have 55 different soils and Valbuena is taken from about 30 different plots &ndash; we work them all one by one&rdquo;, Gonzalo explains.&nbsp; For the mathematically minded, the vineyards have a 3,0 metre x 1,50 metre grid which means a total of 2,222 vines per hectare with an average yield of 1,0 - 1,50 kilograms of grapes per vine. That&rsquo;ll impress your friends this weekend!<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Vega Sicilia&rsquo;s meticulous winemaking and unique ageing is also in safe hands with Gonzalo. In the bodega, following fermentation in stainless steel at a controlled maximum temperature of 28 degrees centigrade, the wines undertake a complicated series of rackings from large oak vats to new and old oak barriques. Valbuena is aged in large vats that vary from 8,000 -15,000 litres before being transferred to French and American oak 225 litre barrels, &ldquo;American oak has always been popular at Vega Sicilia. Cooler vintages allow us to us a little more American but that said, we&rsquo;re trying to reduce our use of oak&rdquo;, Gonzalo reveals.&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Whereas Unico undertakes a long ageing process, (incredibly the celebrated 1970 was aged for 16 years), Valbuena is aged for a total of 5 years, (generally about three in oak, about two in bottle) hence the name &lsquo;Valbuena No.5&rsquo;. For me, the hallmark of the Vega Sicilia portfolio is that even with extended ageing the wines retain a wonderful, mouthwatering freshness; this touch of magic was evident in the Valbuena tasted across an array of vintages on that sunny spring morning in London S.W.1. &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> It was interesting to note that the wines in the vertical tasting each reflected their own individual vintage - 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 1995.&nbsp; &ldquo;Unlike with Unico where it&rsquo;s aged for longer and you lose the vintage a bit&rdquo;, Gonzalo added. &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Like me, you probably start contemplating suicide when you see a long list of tasting notes so here are notes on my three top wines from the amazing tasting.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> <strong>Valbuena 2011</strong>.&nbsp; Lovely mouthfeel, mouth-watering, good fruit-acid balance, lovely purity of fruit with positive tannins and a gentle sheen of spicy oak, long layered finish. Depth and balance indicate long ageing potential &ndash; 20 years?<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Valbuena 2010</strong>.&nbsp; (&ldquo;A legendary vintage following a near perfect growing season&rdquo;); powerful yet crisp dark fruit with attractive toasty overtones, friendly tannins, cracking purity of fruit, happy lingering finish. Depth and balance indicate long ageing potential &ndash; 20 years?<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Valbuena 2006</strong>.&nbsp;&nbsp; (&ldquo;From a very early vintage, one of the earliest&rdquo;). Sunny, hot vintage reflected in spiced velvety, vibrant black fruit warmth balanced with mouth-watering freshness and integrated tannins. Lovely fruit purity, texture and mouthfeel. Very long. Very fine.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The invitation stood out. The wines stood out. It was a privilege to be there and taste such wonderful wines with the winemaker. &lsquo;I&rsquo;ve just been accused of sitting on the fence with regard to my favourite wine. &ldquo;Was it 2011, 2010 or 2006?&rdquo; &lsquo;Just jumped off &hellip;. 2006! Wow!</p> Mon, 11 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7041 A Vintage Success Story (To Everyone’s Surprise) Michelle Williams <p>Throughout my global wine travels, the winegrowers I meet offer a unified message: Climate, as expressed through weather, is changing, and chaotic weather patterns are making vintages more difficult and unpredictable.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The 2016 Bordeaux vintage is a case in point. But even after wringing their hands all season, Bordeaux&rsquo;s vignerons have been blessed with one of the best vintages in recent years. Here&rsquo;s what happened.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Here Comes the Rain Again</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> In the fall of 2015, Bordeaux experienced unseasonably warm temperatures. Meteorologists suggested this late heat wave was the result of an ending El Ni&ntilde;o and warned that the coming La Ni&ntilde;a would generate extremes. They were right. The seemingly ceaseless rain started in January 2016, and by the end of that month rainfall totals were the highest since 1926. As it the rains continued, many worried over bud break, but at least the saturated soils helped Bordeaux evade frost, and bud break was spared.<br /> Rain continued in April and May, which were also a roller coaster of temperature swings and violent storms. The chaotic extremes slowed vine growth, but some believe the waterlogged soils were saturated with nitrogen so the vines did not suffer. Flowering began on the Right Bank in late May and was complete on the Left by mid-June, and unsurprisingly the rain led to increased coulure, mildew pressure, and other irregularities. Everyone was wondering where this vintage was headed.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Here Comes the Sun</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> On June 20, summer arrived seemingly overnight. The sun woke up and the rain stopped &mdash; for the next four months. Initially everyone was grateful, and it became evident that although there were irregularities, flowering had proceeded well and vignerons were hopeful for a quality harvest. Then came 85 days of drought, and the vines shut down. Water reserves in the ground and light showers throughout July offered some protection, though, and as veraison approached in late July and early August, new showers arrived with just enough moisture to awaken the vines for ripening.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Only Happy When It Rains</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> The vintage was touch and go until mid-September. Just has summer had arrived in the blink of an eye, so did fall. On September 13 the temperature dropped precipitously and the rain returned. The autumn season began just in time to aid in freshness retention during the final stages of ripening. This proved beneficial everywhere but particularly for Merlot, which was all picked by mid-October and showed signs of one of the best Merlot harvests in years. Cabernet Sauvignon was picked in the following weeks, likewise at good ripeness. What happened next no one could have predicted.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>The 2016 Vintage</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> After a tumultuous year of weather highs and lows, it would have been understandable for the 2016 vintage to be a disappointment. This is not the case. As the grapes were harvested it became apparent the vintage was nearly perfect. Unlike in the rest of France, where yields were down 10% from 2015, Bordeaux yields actually rose 7%. And the grapes were ideal. Little work was needed in sorting, crush, and extraction, and vignerons labored not to overwork the velvety tannins. In keeping with Old World winemaking styles, less was more in 2016.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Eloi Jacob, Director and Technical Manager of Ch&acirc;teau Fonpl&eacute;gade, shared his 2016 vintage experience with me: &ldquo;2016 saw a rainy difficult spring, nice for the vines and aided in growth in the spring. This was followed by a dry period that was perfect for flowering. July was marked by drought, but rain came at the perfect moment and three days later we had veraison. The rain was non-stop till it stopped, then we had sun non-stop. At the eleventh hour rain returned; it was a miracle. The heat of August aided in high concentration in winemaking, the wines more elegant. Our biodynamic terroir added minerality &mdash; no explanation for this. We have more minerality in &rsquo;16 than in &rsquo;15, but overall they are two great vintages.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>My Tasting Notes</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> I returned to Bordeaux recently to taste at Degustation Panorama Millesime 2016. After having tasted the fantastic 2015 vintage twice, I was unsure what 2016 had in store. I&rsquo;d read about the weather predicament, but while I knew general opinions were high after last year&rsquo;s En Primeur, tasting for myself after time in barrel is key.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I found in this vintage a softness and silkiness that wasn&rsquo;t present in the 2015. The wines have approachability and depth with a balanced pronounced acid-tannin structure so important for age-ability. I found their fruitiness, with a focus on red fruit, a pleasant surprise, as well as their pronounced aromatics.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Breaking it Down</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <em>Right Bank</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> I was thrilled by how well the Right Bank performed. In 2015 I favored the Left Bank, but in 2016 the Merlot in these Right Bank wines really shines.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Denis Pomarede, winemaker at Ch&acirc;teau Couvent des Jacobins, shared with me his thoughts on the wines: &ldquo;This 2016 vintage is a great parallel to 1966, 50 years ago, because of both weather patterns and the identity of the Merlot on the Right Bank. What makes it an exceptional vintage is a rarely-seen balance between power, freshness, and identity. It would have been easy to make powerful, tannic and jammy wines in the Right Bank given the high berry concentration and temptation of late harvest. But the 2016 vintage on the Right Bank feels more like a &lsquo;back to basic&rsquo; vintage: not-too-late harvests to maintain freshness; moderate extractions to keep the balance; and moderate new oak to keep the identity and personality of the fruit. Our ancestors were good at keeping personality and identity in wines in 1966: it&rsquo;s amazing how elegant and racy wines can get when the new winemaking techniques are gently combined with that ancestral know-how!&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> A few standouts for me from Saint-Emilion include Ch&acirc;teau Couvent des Jacobins, Ch&acirc;teau Chauvin, Ch&acirc;teau Fleur Cardinale, Ch&acirc;teau Grand Corbin, Ch&acirc;teau Larmande, Ch&acirc;teau Magrez Fombrauge, Ch&acirc;teau Quintus, and Ch&acirc;teau Sansonnet.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Pomerol standouts include Ch&acirc;teau La Crois du Casse, Ch&acirc;teau la Fleur de Gay, Ch&acirc;teau la Rose Figeac, Ch&acirc;teau Saint-Pierre, and Ch&acirc;teau de Sales. These wines were polished, rich, and floral with balanced spice and earth; elegant and full-bodied.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <em>Left Bank</em><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Many of the left bank wines I tasted were lighter and fresher than their 2015 counterparts. Don&rsquo;t get me wrong &mdash; I will still be buying 2015, and you should too. Those wines were outstanding and have a long cellarability. However, adding 2016 allows wine consumers to balance them with another great vintage that is lighter and more approachable.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Sandrine B&eacute;gaud, Public Relations for Ch&acirc;teau Rauzan-S&eacute;gla, shares with me a comparison of the 2015 and 2016 vintages, &ldquo;2015 and 2016 are comparable to 2009 and 2010. 2015 is powerful with a more massive tannic structure even if it is very silky and elegant for Rauzan-Segla. 2016 has a bigger proportion of cabernet sauvignon. 2016 is composed of 68% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot and 2% petit Verdot. 2015 is composed of 63% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, 3% petit Verdot and 1% cabernet franc. Proportion of cabernet sauvignon, in the vintage 2016, is the highest we have used for years, and merlot the lowest. Cabernet is extremely delicious in 2016. Both vintages, 2016 and 2015, will age perfectly but with 2 different profile, 2 different identities. They are like 2 handsome men, a blond hair man and a brown hair one. 2 amazing wines&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Sandrine elaborates on Ch&acirc;teau Rauzan-S&eacute;gla left bank experience with 2016 vintage, &ldquo;We always have to face difficulties that is why a vintage is very unique. In June 2016 sun has been very hot for 2 weeks and some Merlot grapes, exposed to sun, had sunburnt. The skins were more fragile and ripened quicker. In September, when the vineyard manager walked in the different plots of Merlot he tasted had different ripeness. Exposed clusters, facing south, had over-riped flavors and the other clusters had fresher flavors. The technical team conducted by Nicolas Audebert, our general manager, decided to pick just the exposed clusters, plot by plot, and adapt the vinification process to the ripeness of the fruit (low temperatures, short vinifications&hellip;.) to protect the fruitiness and freshness instead of emphasizing the concentration. The &ldquo;regular&rdquo; clusters of merlot were picked in ideal conditions, few days later, and been vinified differently with the appropriate temperatures, maceration&hellip;. At the end it appears that &ldquo;both&rdquo; merlot were used in the grand vin : both were complementary &hellip;.fruitiness, freshness and elegant tannins.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Haut-M&eacute;doc wines were focused. My picks include Ch&acirc;teau Citran, Ch&acirc;teau Larrivaux, Ch&acirc;teau Peyrabon, and Ch&acirc;teau La Tour Carnet.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Pessac-L&eacute;ognan wines were elegant, with prominent notes of black currant and eucalyptus. Highlights include Domain de Chevalier, Ch&acirc;teau Malartic-Lagraviere, Ch&acirc;teau la Mission Haut-Brion, Ch&acirc;teau Olivier, Ch&acirc;teau Pape Clement, and Ch&acirc;teau Picque Caillou.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Margaux wines always deliver. I found the 2016s to have a femininity to them: big yet silky and floral. Standouts include Ch&acirc;teau d&rsquo;Arsac, Ch&acirc;teau Lascombes, Ch&acirc;teau Palmer, Ch&acirc;teau Rauzan-S&eacute;gla, and Ch&acirc;teau de Tertre.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I tend to enjoy the minerality of Saint-Julien wines and 2016 was no exception. Top tastings include Ch&acirc;teau Beychevelle, Ch&acirc;teau Leoville Barton, and Ch&acirc;teau Leoville Poyferre.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Paulliac wines were linear in focus, driven, and with more earth and minerality than fruit. Standouts include Ch&acirc;teau d&rsquo;Armailhac, Ch&acirc;teau Batailley, Ch&acirc;teau Clerc Milon, Ch&acirc;teau Lynch-Bages, Ch&acirc;teau Pichon Baron, and and Ch&acirc;teau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Saint-Est&egrave;phe was showing more fruit and floral notes, focused but less minerality. Highlights include Ch&acirc;teau Cos d&rsquo;Estournel, Ch&acirc;teau Laffitte Carcasset, Ch&acirc;teau Lafon-Rochet, Ch&acirc;teau Montrose, and Ch&acirc;teau Tour de Pez.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Conclusion</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Although weather caused stress for many ch&acirc;teaux in 2016, in the end the right weather at the right time created a vintage that rivals some of Bordeaux&rsquo;s best. I found the wines to be full-bodied, bold, elegant, and harmonious, with alcohol levels slightly lower than in years past. Overall, this is a vintage to buy and lay down.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Fabrice Bernard, General Manager of Mill&eacute;sima summed it best: &ldquo;We have 2010 and 2016; two of Bordeaux&rsquo;s greatest vintages.&rdquo;<br /><br /> </p> Fri, 08 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7040 This Wine Region Lurks in the Shadows John Downes <p>Back in the 80&rsquo;s Chateau Musar and its winemaker Gaston Hochar caused quite a stir in the UK, &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know Lebanon made wine&rdquo;, was the usual reply. It couldn&rsquo;t have been further from the truth for Lebanon&rsquo;s ancient people were bottling and shipping wine as early as 3000 BC.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Chateau Ksara has now joined Chateau Musar on UK wine shelves. Ksara&rsquo;s tradition stretches back to 1857 when Jesuit brothers inherited a 25 hectare plot between Tanail and Zahle in the Bekaa Valley and linked their science and agricultural skills to plant foreign, mostly French, grape varieties on Lebanese soil. Chateau Ksara bought the winery from the Jesuits in 1973. <br /> Lebanon is a small, mountainous country in the eastern Mediterranean, bordering Syria to the north and Israel to the south. The Bekaa Valley plateau lies at about 1100 metres above sea level and with its backdrop of snow-capped mountains enjoys a continental climate (cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers); a combination that suits the French varieties down to the ground.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Chateau Ksara&rsquo;s vineyards are located in the central and western Bekaa Valley and produce white wines (including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer) and reds from varieties that include Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.&nbsp; &ldquo;Our whites are delicate and aromatic whilst our reds are rich, fleshy and tannic&rdquo;, notes Ksara&rsquo;s Chairman Zafer Chaoui.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> To complete the French Connection, Ksara&rsquo;s winemaker is a Bordeaux man, &ldquo;I was at Chateau Prieure-Lichine in Margaux and to be honest, I didn&rsquo;t expect to be amazed by the winemaking opportunities in Lebanon. I&rsquo;m now very proud to be a Frenchman making wine in Lebanon&rdquo;, notes James Palge. He&rsquo;s in a good place for Bordeaux varieties are major players at Ksara.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Chateau Ksara, the flagship red wine follows the Bordeaux line. The 2014, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (30%) and Petit Verdot (10%) from the clay-limestone Khirbet Qanafar vineyard at about 900 metres, was fermented in stainless steel before being aged for 18 months in 50% new oak and 50% first year oak. My notes included red and black fruit aromas with crisp, cherry and plum spice flavours, positive tannins, lovely mouthfeel, with a lingering toasty bramble finish. The older vintages of 2001 and 2008 confirmed that these wines age really well.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Chateau Ksara&rsquo;s Cuvee du Pape Chardonnay 2014 hails from guyot-trained vines planted in the clay and limestone soils at about 1400 metres. The wine was fermented in new oak barrels with &lsquo;battonage&rsquo; (lees stirring) and aged for 8 months in new and one year old French oak barrels. &ldquo;Intriguing and exotic&rdquo;, I wrote as an opening line, &ldquo;honey and vanilla overtones to ripe, yet fresh peach, melon and apple flavours with a pleasing finish&rdquo;, I concluded. Like many of my fellow tasters, thinking of the hot summers of the Bekaa Valley, I expected softer acidity. We also tasted the 1996 vintage which again revealed a refreshing edge to the mellow fruit and honeyed overtones.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> If you want to treat your friends to a quality wine that&rsquo;s &lsquo;intriguing and different&rsquo; Lebanon&rsquo;s a great place to start.</p> Fri, 25 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7038 The Latest from Champagne Alan Tardi <p>April in Paris is wonderful, but for someone who loves Champagne, April in Reims is even better. Because April is when this city, home to a splendid cathedral and many of the most prestigious Champagne Houses such as Krug, Veuve-Clicquot, Roederer and Pommery, is abuzz with Le Printemps des Champagnes. Now in its tenth year, this five-day event for wine professionals is comprised of many individual salon-like tastings staged by groups of small grower-producers from all over the Champagne region.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Things kicked off quietly with two tastings Saturday afternoon, one of which &mdash; a tasting of Meunier-based Champagnes by the Meunier Institut &mdash; I managed to attend despite having just arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport that morning to a train strike which delayed my arrival in Reims by 7 hours.<br /> The second day, Sunday there were five tastings, including a very large group of organic producers called &ldquo;Bulles Bio&rdquo; at Le Man&egrave;ge de Reims (a former stable) as well as &ldquo;Les Mains du Terrior&rdquo; which took place in the ornate salon of the Town Hall. The effervescent frenzy peaked on Monday with 8 events, including both morning and afternoon sessions of &ldquo;Terres et Vins de Champagne,&rdquo; one of the original groups of grower-producers that got this whole thing going a decade ago, in the Palace de Tau adjacent to the imposing cathedral. After that the flurry tapered back down with five tastings on Tuesday and three on the final day.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> As the strike was still alive and kicking (and still is, as I write this several weeks later), I had to get a ride to the airport at 5:30 Wednesday morning, which made Tuesday my last evening in Reims. But I was not disappointed. After a full day of tasting (including a fantastic collection of wines by a group called Les Artisans du Champagne at the luxurious hotel-restaurant Domaine les Cray&egrave;res) my final event of Printemps 2018 was a tasting &mdash; kind of a party, really &mdash; sponsored by the Acad&egrave;mie du Vin de Bouzy at an open-air wine bar called Les Clos across from the Boulingrin market.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Bouzy, population 947 (2009), is located in the southern part of the Montagne de Reims area of the Marne department and is a 100% Grand Cru village. But what makes it especially notable is that it is one of the original sub-appellations of Coteaux Champenois AOC.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> While it may come as a surprise to many, long before bubbles were embraced and the complex process called the M&eacute;thode Champenoise was developed to intentionally create them, the wine produced in Champagne was still. And back at a time when the name of the region didn&rsquo;t have quite the allure it has today, the name of villages that had developed a reputation for producing wine that what was generally considered to be exceptionally good often got top billing on the label. Bouzy was one of these villages; A&yuml;, Cumieres, Sillery and Vertus were others.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> We all know what happened: bubbles became a big hit, the kinks in the production process were ironed out, and sparkling Champagne &mdash; often copied but never quite duplicated &mdash; went on to become a symbol of luxury and the &lsquo;good life&rsquo; throughout the world. Needless to say, all the popping corks and foamy fizz greatly overshadowed the still wines that preceded them. But they did not disappear.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> In 1974 the ancient practice received its own appellation, Coteaux Champenois AOC, replacing what had up until then been referred to as &ldquo;Vins Natures de la Champagne,&rdquo; and a number of stalwart producers kept making still wines (in addition to their Champagnes), despite the fact that there wasn&rsquo;t much market for them.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> When I was spending lots of time in Reims researching my book on Champagne, I would scour restaurant wine lists to see whether they had any, and most of them didn&rsquo;t. When I asked a restaurateur why there was no Coteaux Champenois on the list of their restaurant in one of the capitals of Champagne she said &ldquo;We can get better wines of this style for less money from Burgundy; who wants to drink still wine from Champagne?&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Moi, I thought to myself, but she did have part of a point: because the still wines are made from the same grapes and vineyards that are authorized for the production of Champagne, the wines are not inexpensive. Generally, Coteaux costs about the same as the entry-level Champagne from the same producer, but not always: sometimes they can cost much more.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Though Coteaux Champenois are made (mostly) from the same grapes as Burgundy &mdash; Pinot Noir and Chardonnay &mdash; they are completely different wines: Coteaux Champenois tend to be a bit lighter in color and body, and less fruit-forward than their Burgundian counterparts with higher acidity and a distinct mineral edge. Moreover, these wines offer unadulterated expressions of the unique climate, soils and terroirs of Champagne, and for this reason, while quite delicious on their own terms, they also provide a valuable insight into (bubbly) Champagne.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> So I was quite happy to spend my last night in Champagne with a bunch of Bouzy.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> There are 17 members of the Acad&eacute;mie de Bouzy and each had at least one Coteaux Champenois and a ros&eacute; Champagne &mdash; &ldquo;Rouge et Ros&eacute;&rdquo; was the theme of the evening &mdash;so this was a great opportunity to have your Coteaux and drink bubbles too. Many also offered a <em>vin clair</em>, a still wine from the most recent 2017 vintage. As Bouzy is located in the Montagne de Reims, Pinot Noir dominates and most of the Coteaux from Bouzy is Rouge. But there were a few remarkable standouts. The Herbert Beaufort winery poured an extremely rare Bouzy Blanc 2017 made from 80% chardonnay and 20% petit meslier, one of the so called &lsquo;lost&rsquo; native grape varieties of Champagne, which added an exotic fillip to the taut and focused chalky core. (About 1,000 bottles made.) Another was an extraordinary Bouzy Ros&eacute; from the &ldquo;Clos Barnaut&rdquo; 2008 made from 100% pinot noir grown in an enclosed vineyard site (Also 1,000 made).<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Unfortunately, neither of these wines is available in the US. But here are some that are:<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Egly-Ouriet, Ambonnay Rouge Coteaux Champenois AOC &ldquo;Cuv&eacute;e des Grands C&ocirc;t&egrave;s&nbsp; 2014&nbsp; - $160/bottle<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Rene Geoffroy, Cumieres Rouge Coteaux Champenois 2006 - $70/bottle<br /><br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /> Bollinger, A&yuml; Rouge,Coteaux Champenois &ldquo;La C&ocirc;te Aux Enfants&rdquo; 2013 - $120/bottle<br /><br /> <br /><br /> B&eacute;r&ecirc;che et Fils, Coteaux Champenois Ormes Rouge &ldquo;Les Mont&eacute;es&rdquo; 2014 (Pinot Noir &amp; Meunier)&nbsp; - $75/bottle<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Pierre Paillard, Bouzy Rouge Coteaux Champenois &ldquo;Les Mignottes&rdquo; 2012 -&nbsp; $40/bottle</p> Fri, 18 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7037 Top 5 Grapes to Watch Mark Angelillo <p>Everything I am about to share was gleaned during my recent trip to ProWein, the world&rsquo;s leading international wine and spirits gathering. I&rsquo;m sure that each one of the sixty-thousand visitors came away with their own impressions &ndash; but one thing is certain: if it&rsquo;s happening in the wine world, it&rsquo;s happening at ProWein. This gathering continues to help inform the way we drink wine around the world.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> ProWein has shown us the rise of natural wines, the &ldquo;return&rdquo; of orange wine, and of course the slow but steady growth of wines from China. Wine in a can and on tap also have arrived. But what I keep coming back to is the millennial-driven push for experiential wines. The adventurous millennial palate wants local varieties, preferably consumed in the grape&rsquo;s native land. And many of them come at great values.<br /> Here are my top five grapes to watch based on my trip to ProWein. There were over 6,000 exhibitors at ProWein this year, so please understand that this list is not exhaustive. I selected them based on their potential attractiveness to the up-and-coming generation of wine drinkers -- millennials. Their sway is having real-time impact on the wine world.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Vermentino from Sardinia</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Cannonau, also known as Garnacha, is a Sardinian staple. But what I&rsquo;m most excited about is the increasing interest in Vermentino. Vermentino from Sardinia&rsquo;s Gallura is the one and only DOCG on the island. It&rsquo;s a highly aromatic varietal that flourishes by the sea. These days you can find it everywhere from Virginia to California. I think we will be seeing even more of it in the coming years.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Harriague from Uruguay</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> While the country has no native varieties to offer, it has adopted Harriague &ndash; also known as Tannat &ndash; as its own. The name comes from Pascual Harriague, a Basque native credited with bringing wine to Uruguay in the late 1800s. While Tannat is renowned for its overpowering tannins, Harriague presents in a soft, fruity way that is unique to the region.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Xarello from Spain</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> One of the three grapes used to make Cava (along with Macabeo and Parellada), some producers are experimenting with the Xarello grape as a varietal wine. It contributes body, structure and freshness to Cava and so it stands strong on its own. The millennial palate is already primed for Cava and is sure to be intrigued by its components in isolation. Varietal Xarello delivers heavy-hitting citrus, pear, and herbal notes.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Zweigelt from Austria</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Zweigelt plantings grew 48% between 1999 and 2015. It is the most widely planted red grape variety in Austria. Named in honor of viticulturist Fritz Zweigelt, these wines are fresh and crisp in a way that most red wines aren&rsquo;t. It is known as the white wine lovers red for a reason.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Grolleau from Loire</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> This is another example of a grape that is usually associated with a blend, often a ros&eacute;. Its high acid content can cut through the meatiest dishes with precision and finesse. Light red fruits complement the strong acidity quite well. It is the third most cultivated dark-skinned grape in the Loire Valley, after Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir. Suffice it to say, this grape is prime for a varietal revival.</p> Thu, 10 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7036 When we wine with purpose. John Downes <p>Most fairy tales have a happy ending but there&rsquo;s a wonderful story that unfolds every year in the middle of France, bringing wealth and riches to the poor every time it&rsquo;s told. And, as if by magic, the bags of gold grow bigger with every telling. Are you sitting comfortably?<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Way back in 1440 the Chancellor of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin, decided to build a hospital for the sick and needy. He created a foundation and thanks to his influence, the venture soon gained support from the wealthy burgers of Beaune. It may have been keeping up with the medieval Jones&rsquo; but seeing that Rolin had endowed the Hospice with his prestigious vineyards inspired many to follow suit. The first donation was made in 1457 with 33 hectares of Corton Grand Cru. &lsquo;Not bad for starters! <br /> The first patient hobbled up to the gates of the Hospice de Beaune or L&rsquo;Hotel Dieu as it was known, on New Years Day of 1452 and to this day, its fine work is supported by the wines from vineyards donated over five centuries. For these are no ordinary vineyards but amongst the planet&rsquo;s finest, boasting some of the world&rsquo;s most expensive real estate! &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> As centuries passed, donations kept rolling in and today the portfolio boasts over 60 hectares, mostly <em>Premier </em>and <em>Grand Cru</em> vineyards that read like a &lsquo;&rsquo;Who&rsquo;s Who&rsquo;&rsquo; of top Burgundy plots. The best parcels of Montrachet, Morey St. Denis, Corton Charlemagne, Meursault, Mazis Chambertin, Pommard and Volnay are just part of a mind-blowing list that envelopes the magical Cote D&rsquo;Or, (the Golden Slopes), the narrow vineyard strip that links the wine towns of Nuits St. Georges and Beaune.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> In the early days the wines from the Hospice&rsquo;s vineyards were sold by private treaty but in 1820 it was decided to sell by auction. In 1824 the third Sunday in November was set aside - the date that remains today for France&rsquo;s, and probably the world&rsquo;s, most famous wine sale. Initially the auction was held at the Hospice when its priceless tapestries were hung around the magnificent courtyard to produce a sumptuous auditorium but in 1956 with its increasing success, the event was moved to the more spacious, albeit less palatial, Halle de Beaune across the square.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Not satisfied with a conventional auction, (for what kind of fairy tale would that make), the Hospice auction was originally &lsquo;a la chandelle&rsquo; - where a candle was lit to start the bidding, the winner being the one that holds the last bid before the flame goes out. Sadly, <em>la chandelle</em> was recently extinguished, giving way to a traditional hammer. &lsquo;Not so romantic but the auction&rsquo;s excitement still remains.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> According to Christies, the auction organisers, last November&rsquo;s (2017) auction, the 157th, achieved sales of Euro.13.5 million (US$16m) beating the previous record set in 2015. All the wines were from the latest vintage and were bought in barrel; 787 barrels in total, 630 red and 157 white. Bids were received from 18 countries on 4 continents.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> The prices increased by 8.6% on 2016; +3.15% for the reds, +29.65% for the whites, an increase that shows the ever-growing interest of foreign buyers for Burgundy wines, especially the Grand and Premier Crus. It&rsquo;s interesting to note however, that the prices of the whites are back to the 2015 level after last year&rsquo;s significant decrease of 35.94%. 2017 saw only a moderate increase in the prices of the reds.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The results mark a return to form for the annual Hospices de Beaune auction, albeit there was also more wine to sell from a 2017 vintage that proved relatively plentiful versus previous vintages.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The special &quot;Pieces des Presidents&rdquo;, (the President&#39;s Barrels) whose proceeds go to outside charities, fetched the highest price of all thanks to the traditional help of celebrities; this time three charities benefited, namely The Foundation Tara Exp&eacute;ditions (supported by French designer Agn&egrave;s b and actress Julie Depardieu), The Federation for Brain Research (talk show host Marc-Olivier Fogiel) and The Foundation for Alzheimer Research (French singer Charles Aznavour). &lsquo;Fairy tale stuff indeed.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> This year the Pieces des Presidents consisted of two barrels of Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru. They were bought jointly by Maison Albert Bichot and a China-based investor for a whopping Euro.410 000.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Albert Bichot have been at the forefront of sales for 20 years and it was the 6th time in the history of the Hospice that they had acquired the prestigious President&rsquo;s parcel. In 2017 Albert Bichot again confirmed its position as the leading buyer at the auction with the purchase of 115 barrels (out of 787) for an eye-watering total of Euro. 1,746,600.&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> &ldquo;As a leading actor in Burgundy, our role is to promote the reputation of the region and its wines at an international level whilst, at the same time, supporting local, national and international charities&rdquo;, explains CEO Alberic Bichot. Bravo Bichot!<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The Hospice is no longer used as a hospital but reflecting the wishes of Rolin and the earliest benefactors, the show goes on with the sick now being treated at four centres around the town. The &lsquo;must-see&rsquo; Hospice with its colourfully patterned tiled roofs, exquisite colonnades and brightly decorated balconies, remains however, the jewel in the centre of Beaune, attracting about 200 000 tourists every year.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> So the fairy tale goes on, continuing to give riches to the needy and enormous pleasure to all who taste the wine. The magic is as fresh today as when Nicholas Rolin first wrote the story over 550 years ago and even in these troubled times, its ending gets happier and happier as the years roll by.<br /><br /> </p> Fri, 04 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7035 Chile’s Terroir-Driven Wines Are Shifting the Narrative Michelle Williams <p>Chile is one of the oldest and most productive wine regions in the New World, thanks to the missionaries who introduced viticulture there in the 16th century. But although Chile&rsquo;s wines have stormed the global market, they haven&rsquo;t always enjoyed a reputation for quality or complexity.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Today that story&rsquo;s shifting, thanks to a loosely affiliated group of winemakers in the country&rsquo;s northern reaches. Rodrigo Soto is one of them. Wine director at Veramonte, in the Casablanca Valley, Soto believes the key to shifting Chile&rsquo;s reputation lies in emphasizing quality and site expression &mdash; a message that may be well-worn for the Old World but is all-new for Chile.<br /> &ldquo;Today, we realize the value of Chile is its regionality,&rdquo; Soto told me. &ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t communicated our geography and regionality effectively. We have promoted brands over the regions. That&rsquo;s a problem.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Soto and a small group of like-minded winemakers have decided to take the message of Chile&rsquo;s sub-regions to the masses in the best possibly way &mdash; through the wine glass. In a recent visit to the Leyda Valley, San Antonio, Casablanca, and Limar&iacute;, I discovered that these visionaries have a unified ambition: To produce high quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that are truly expressive of place. Below I share my findings.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Leyda Valley</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Located in Acongagua within the San Antonio Valley, Leyda is cooled by morning fog and strong afternoon winds. Undurraga winemaker and self-professed &ldquo;terroir hunter&rdquo; Rafael Urrejola called out the special conditions of the region at the winery&rsquo;s Lomos de Leyda estate. The site receives little annual rainfall, but it&rsquo;s located merely five miles from the ocean, so the mornings are foggy, the afternoons sunny, and the winds blow constantly. The average temperature is 10-12&deg;F cooler than in Chile&rsquo;s Central Valley regions.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> All of these factors contribute to lower yields and slower ripening. Urrejola said the grapes &ldquo;cook like in a slow oven, giving them plenty of time to ripen,&rdquo; but retain their natural acidity. The granite soils are topped with various types of clay&mdash;another factor that adds freshness, he said.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> &ldquo;Vines want to grow vigorously. Granite acts like a hand-break, stopping over production of the vines, said Urrejola. This &ldquo;adds vibrancy to the wine&hellip; increases longevity, adds structure and tension.&rdquo; I found in his wines pronounced fresh fruit notes and subtle secondary notes with rich vibrancy from minerality and crushed stones. Wines of note include <strong>2016 T.H. Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Sibaris Gran Reserva Chardonnay, 2015 T.H. Pinot Noir</strong>, and the <strong>2016 Trama Pinot Noir</strong>.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>San Antonio Valley</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> At Matetic winery, the vineyards also have a strong ocean influence. Winemaker Julio Bastias said that the combination of the cold Humboldt ocean current, foggy mornings, and wind add &ldquo;freshness and vibrant acidity for Pinot Noir.&rdquo; Soils here are also granite, but mixed with a little mica and quartz. It is a complex soil that he sees as a key to the complexities of the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc produced here, as it retains water well and adds minerality to the wines.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Bastias embraces biodynamic practices in the vineyard, believing that &ldquo;biodynamics is simply the expression of a place. It&rsquo;s part of the chain; everything is harmonically connected.&rdquo; The vineyards are surrounded by native forests, which he said gives the wines more identity and balance. The winery also has 5,000 cattle helpful for their fertilizing manure and uses sheep, chicken, alpacas, and geese to control vineyard weeds and pests. Limited intervention in the vineyard continues in the winemaking practices, as Bastias strives to let the fresh fruit and pure flavors of the place to speak through the glass. I admired the <strong>2016 EQ Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 EQ Chardonnay, 2014 EQ Pinot Noir</strong>, and <strong>2017 EQ Pinot Noir</strong>.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Casablanca Valley</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Casablanca is slightly farther inland, so the winds are more subdued and the temperatures warmer. Veramonte was the first to plant in Casablanca, in 1984, but now there are 50 producers with approximately 5,500 hectares of vineyards. The soil is deposited from the old coastal mountain range, which is much older and more decomposed than the Andes. The crumbled granite is the key to the region; fracturable, it allows the roots of the vines to grow through it, interact with it.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> In 2012, Veramonte head winemaker Rodrigo Soto shifted all of their vineyards to organic viticulture, and his next goal is to transition to biodynamics, a practice he believes is particularly suited to expressing site. &ldquo;How can we capture decomposed granite in grapes?&rdquo; he asked, hypothetically. &ldquo;How can we get the soil into the wine?&rdquo; For Soto the answer is to close the fertility cycle of the vineyard through biodynamics, allowing a unique expression of region into the wines.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Veramonte started their Ritual label as a vineyard-designate project, and vineyard practices and winemaking techniques are employed to emphasize the characteristics of each place. I found the wines expressed fresh fruit and minerality with depth and complexity, including <strong>2017 Veramonte Chardonnay, 2016 Ritual Chardonnay, 2016 Supertuga Single Vineyard Chardonnay, 2016 Veramonte Pinot Noir, 2016 Ritual Pinot Noir</strong>, and <strong>2016 Monster Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir</strong>.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Kingston Family Vineyards is an American-owned winery in Casablanca, started in the early 1900&rsquo;s. Today winemaker Amael Orrego is overseeing the conversion of 60 hectares from conventional to organic vineyards, with a focus &ldquo;not on promotion, but to make better wine.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Soils under the undulating vineyard hills are decomposed granite. A dairy farm on site supplies manure for compost. &ldquo;Compost improves the microorganisms in the soil,&rdquo; Orrego said, adding that it &ldquo;does not fertilize the wine &mdash; it feeds the soil.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Orrego believes Kingston is the only winery in Casablanca with Pommard and Calera Pinot Noir clones planted among the more common Dijon. He expressed high hopes for Calera in particular, and believes that &ldquo;Chile is on the cusp of a breakthrough in premium Pinot Noir.&rdquo;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Kingston wines such as the <strong>2016 Savino Chardonnay, 2016 Tobino Pinot Noir</strong>, and <strong>2017 Alazan Pinot Noir</strong> illustrate that high quality wines from Casablanca are worthy of international recognition.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Limar&iacute;</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Limar&iacute;, in the northern Coquimbo Valley, is not protected by a coastal mountain range, so receives full ocean influences, with steady winds. Marcelo Papa, winemaker at Concho y Toro, said the fog rolls in around 3 a.m., blanketing the area until noon and resulting in a maximum of 5 hours of sun each day. This produces Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are &ldquo;more austere, less fruit intense, more intellectual, more Burgundian in style,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Papa&rsquo;s special project, Maycas di Limar&iacute;, seeks site expression in the vineyard&rsquo;s limestone soils and red clay, which he believes add body to the wines. Through the <strong>2016 Maycas di Limari Quebrada Seca Chardonnay</strong> and the <strong>2016 Maycas di Limari San Julian Pinot Noir</strong> Marcelo shares his expression of Limar&iacute;.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> If Papa is fortunate to have veins of limestone in his vineyard, Felipe M&uuml;ller, winemaker at Vi&ntilde;a Tabali, won the limestone lottery. M&uuml;ller told me that Tabali&rsquo;s Talinay Vineyard is the only vineyard in Chile planted over marine terroir &ndash; the bedrock is solid limestone. Lying just adjacent to the Atacama Desert, the average rainfall is a mere 80 mm a year, requiring irrigation for the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir planted there. Vi&ntilde;a Tabali beautifully expresses the unique site of the Talinay Vineyard through its 2015 Talinay Chardonnay, <strong>2015 Talinay Pinot Noir</strong>, and <strong>2015 Talinay Sauvignon Blanc</strong>. Each wine reveals a similar style of expressive fruit with pronounced minerality, complexity, and vibrancy.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Conveying &mdash; and Communicating &mdash; a Sense of Place(s)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Over my week of site visits and tastings, it became clear that these winemakers are not just striving to produce wines of place, they&rsquo;re succeeding.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> &ldquo;We have not been good storytellers of our country,&rdquo; Rodrigo Soto, of Veramonte, said. But through loose team effort these winemakers are trying to shift the narrative. &ldquo;This project is about believing in the regions,&rdquo; he said; an organic movement started by those who have their hands in the dirt.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> The shift won&rsquo;t happen overnight. &ldquo;Building an image takes time,&rdquo; said M&uuml;ller, of Vi&ntilde;a Tabali. &ldquo;Maybe we should have started sooner, but we are here now.&rdquo;<br /><br /> </p> Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7033 Pisco, the Spirit of Chile Gabe Sasso <p>Many wine producing regions also make a mark producing spirits. In Chile it&rsquo;s Pisco which is South America&rsquo;s take on brandy. Regardless of where it&rsquo;s from brandy is made from the distillation of wine. Two countries produce a brandy called Pisco, Peru and Chile.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Distillers in Chile who want to produce Pisco must start by growing their own grapes. More than a dozen are acceptable for use but a small handful of aromatic varieties account for the bulk of production. Muscat, Pedro Jiminez, and Torentel are the key varieties.&nbsp; Production methodologies vary with some distilling their spirit more than once to achieve a level of refinement and a smoother end product. Quantity wise most Pisco is bottled without aging but some producers age the spirit in oak to achieve different results. Oak aging affects not only the flavor profile but the color which takes on a light copper hue with time in barrel. These aged expressions are designated as Reservado, Gran or Especial. These expressions come closest to bringing to mind Cognac, perhaps the most famous region for Brandy. Some producers focus on blending more than one grape while others stick to a single variety for each expression. &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Alcohol content in Chilean Pisco most commonly hovers right around 40% but can occasionally be as low as 30% or as high as 46%. The expressions that are distilled multiple times tend to be higher in alcohol even though that is sometimes dropped somewhat by the addition of water prior to bottling.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Pisco is deeply embedded in Chilean culture and everyone it seems drinks Pisco Sours, often prior to a meal. I spoke to Vi&ntilde;a Koyle winemaker Cristobal Undurraga about Pisco and asked him how it fit into his life. Undurraga said, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a real big lover of this grape distillate from Chile. The culture in the Pisco region is fantastic, and quality is going more sophisticated. Personally I prefer Pisco Sours, but it&rsquo;s also very popular in Piscola, with 2/3 Coca Cola and lot of ice.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s certainly right as most Pisco is consumed in a variety of cocktails; the Pisco Sour is undoubtedly the most popular. However Pisco can also be sipped neat. The barrel aged expressions are most appropriate for enjoying in this manner.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> I tasted through a number of different expressions of Chilean Pisco both in cocktails and neat. Here are my thoughts about some specific bottles all of which are available in the U.S.<br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Mistral Anejado en Roble ($15)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> A bit of heat is discernible from the first whiff here. Toast, vanilla bean and yellow peach aromas are all in play. The intense palate is layered with yellow fruit, spice and hints of dark baker&rsquo;s chocolate. Peppercorn and bits of sage present on the solid finish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Alto del Carmen Pisco D.O.C. (The essence of Muscat) ($20)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> A massive burst of appealing aromatics lead the charge here. Toasted nuts, lychee fruit and wisps of apricot are all in evidence. Bits of anise intersperse with continued fruit on the layered palate. The warming finish shows off a dusting of dark chocolate. Delicious sipped and an exceptional cocktail ingredient.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Capel ($22)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Wisps of Thyme underpin the more prominent citrus aromas. Mango, papaya and a complement of spices dot the palate. Sour yellow fruits and a touch of heat are evident on the above average finish.&nbsp; This one is best suited for mixing.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado ($24)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Aromas of peaches and white flowers fill the nose. The ultra-smooth palate features stones fruit, bits of marzipan and a hint of white pepper. Bing cherry and bits of wild strawberry are evident on the long and memorable finish. Sip this beauty neat.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Control C&nbsp; ($27)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Intense citrus aromas leap from the nose along with hints of vanilla bean. The palate is clean and fresh with white fruit and continued citrus notes. Gentle herb characteristics lead the solid finish. This fresh, vibrant Pisco is perfect for cocktails.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Mistral Nobel ($35)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Toasty oak and bits of vanilla fill the nose. The palate is loaded with dried stone fruit and hints of rugelach. Apricot and bits of persimmon are evident on the long finish. This is an impressive Pisco that deserves to be sipped neat and contemplated.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Waqar ($38)</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Rode petal and stone fruit aromas dominate the nose. Fresh apricot, dried herbs and white pepper are evident on the palate. The clean, crisp finish shows off a tiny bit of heat and a hint of dark chocolate. A solid bet for use in Pisco Sours.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Pisco Sour</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> Ingredients<br /><br /> 2 &frac12; parts Pisco<br /><br /> 1 egg white<br /><br /> 1/2 part simple syrup<br /><br /> 3/4 part fresh lemon juice<br /><br /> Bitters<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Fill a shaker with ice and top with egg white, Pisco, lemon juice and simple syrup. Cover and shake then pour into a rocks glass. Top with some bitters and serve.</p> Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7034 This grape should sparkle more often. Claudia Angelillo <p>Atypical wines entice intrepid drinkers. Anomalies can be off the mark, but when they&rsquo;re not it&rsquo;s reason to rejoice.&nbsp;<br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> Many different grapes are used to make sparkling wines. The grapes tend to be delineated by region, but winemakers love to experiment. Sometimes the experiments flop. Other times, they strike new chords. This is the case for <strong>Bodegas Moc&eacute;n A&ntilde; Espumoso Brut Nature</strong>, a sparkling <a href=""><strong>Verdejo</strong></a> from the Rueda region.</div><br /> <br /> <strong>Bodegas Moc&eacute;n A&ntilde; Espumoso Brut Nature</strong> demonstrates, to me, the possibility of a new Rueda region staple. The Verdejo grape is known for full-bodied citrus and tropical melon flavors complemented by high acidity. Verdejo from Rueda also delivers notes of smoked nuts (mostly almond and Brazil). They are unmistakable and unique to Verdejo from Rueda. Pipe those notes through a thicket of bubbles and a new experience is born. It&rsquo;s an experience I&rsquo;d like to repeat.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> I had the opportunity to taste the <strong>Bodegas Moc&eacute;n A&ntilde; Espumoso Brut Nature</strong> at the Ribera y Rueda Roadshow, a collection of tastings for both trade and consumers.&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>Sign up here</strong></a> to learn about future events and more from Ribera y Rueda.&nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> <strong>Bodegas Moc&eacute;n A&ntilde; Espumoso Brut</strong> Nature is available from <a href=""><strong>Columbus Wine &amp; Spirits</strong></a>.</div><br /> </p> Tue, 10 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7031 Wine Label Workshop Mark Angelillo <p>I just returned from ProWein 2018. As always, the world&rsquo;s leading convocation of wine and spirits professionals did not disappoint. Stay tuned for more coverage on this event in the coming weeks.<br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> We&rsquo;ve talked a lot about wine labeling over the years, but there&#39;s always more to say. While at ProWein I attended a dinner sponsored by the VDP. You may recognize the letters VDP from bottles of German wine. It occurred to me that while so many Americans are drinking German wine, many may not fully understand the importance of these three letters on some German bottles. And for those who already do understand, I hope this piece reminds you to pick up a bottle of German wine this weekend.&nbsp;</div><br /> <br /> VDP stands for the Verband Deutscher Pr&auml;dikatsweing&uuml;ter. It is the oldest national association of fine winegrowing estates anywhere in the world. Founded in 1910, the VDP brings together roughly 200 winegrowing estates from a variety of regions across Germany. They adhere to incredibly specific standards that ensure quality bottles. Their logo, an eagle bearing a cluster of grapes, is unmistakable. Many of the German wines you will find at your local retailer have this logo on their seals.&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>Learn more about VDP and what they do here</strong></a>.&nbsp;</p> Fri, 23 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7029 Drink The Old Vines of South Africa John Downes <p>A chef recently challenged me to match a wine with <a href=""><strong>Bakewell Tarts</strong></a>, one of England&rsquo;s favourite cakes. These delicious sweeties have a jam-coated shortcake case filled with sponge, topped with by almond flakes and icing. I luv &lsquo;em. What&rsquo;s more, Bakewell is a village in Derbyshire not far from my home city of Manchester so, as you can guess, I was up for the challenge.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> South Africa&rsquo;s beautiful vineyards are also very close to my heart. Chenin Blanc&rsquo;s one of my favourite grape varieties and so, for me, the combination of Bakewell Tarts, Manchester, South Africa and Chenin Blanc really hits the spot.&nbsp;<br /> With the Bakewells I opted for a dry but fruity South African Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 from Klein Zalze; it chips in with ripe yet crisp pineapple and peach melon flavours which, together with the sweet almond overtones of the Bakewell beauties complete an intriguing taste experience.&nbsp;<br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> Zalze&rsquo;s Chenin Blanc hails from their Stellenbosch vineyards tucked behind Cape Town&rsquo;s Table Mountain. The bush vine bit refers to the vines being trained as bushes, a historical system often referred to as &lsquo;goblet&rsquo;. Chenin Blanc arrived in the Cape in the mid 17th century and soon became popular as its versatility produced dry, medium, sweet and sparkling wines. This classic variety also gave the winemaker bags of mouth-watering acidity, so important to balance the riper fruit produced in a warmer climate.&nbsp;&nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> South Africa is the world&rsquo;s largest producer of Chenin Blanc so it&rsquo;s not surprising that it&rsquo;s the Cape&rsquo;s most planted variety. Chenin therefore plays a leading role in South Africa&rsquo;s new and exciting &lsquo;Old Vine Project&rsquo; which aims to preserve South Africa&rsquo;s vines with over 35 years on the clock. There are currently about 2,600 hectares of vineyards with vines of this age, &ldquo;but only an estimated 7% have been identified and resuscitated and result in an identifiable wine brand. The rest are sadly all under threat of being pulled up. There&rsquo;s a long way to go&rdquo;, admits the Project&rsquo;s marketing specialist Andre Morgenthal. Cleverly, the project also has 20-30 year old vines in its sights as these are the &lsquo;old vines&rsquo; and great wines of the future.</div><br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> I was lucky enough to be invited to South Africa House a while ago to taste over 70 wines from &lsquo;the Old Vine Project&rsquo;, a stunning collection that spanned the Cape&rsquo;s vineyards from Olifants River in the north to Bot River in the south, from Swartland and Darling in the west to Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo to the east.&nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> Wines of South Africa, ably supported by viticulturalist Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal have championed the &lsquo;Old Vine Project&rsquo; but importantly they also have the support of S.A&rsquo;s top producers including Badenhorst, Alheit, Metzer, L&rsquo;Avenir, Klawer, Piekenierskloof, Bellingham, De Krans, Morgenhof, De Morgenzon, Simonsig, Reyneke, Gabrielskloof and the Sadie Family. Klein Zalze are also supporters of the Old Vine Project but it&rsquo;s their Bush Vine Chenin that clicks with the Bakewell.</div><br /> <div><br /> &nbsp;</div><br /> <div><br /> A friend thought that a red may also lift the Bakewell Tarts so I stayed in the Cape vineyards and opened a bottle of Benguela Cove Shiraz 2014. The wine is 100% Shiraz from the Walker Bay vineyards that overlook the Atlantic Ocean in the Overberg region near the whale watching town of Hermanus. The crisp blackberry flavours went surprisingly well with the tarts, &ldquo;told you so&rdquo;, he smiled. It just shows you that when it comes to matching food and wine there are few hard and fast rules. Try the &lsquo;Bakewells&rsquo; with the Chenin Blanc and the Shiraz or, push the boat out and pour Klein Zalze&rsquo;s Old Vine Project Family Reserve Chenin 2015 or one of the others from the exciting &lsquo;Old Vine Project&rsquo;. Either way, South Africa wins again!&nbsp;</div><br /> </p> Fri, 23 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7028 The Classico in Chianti Matters Mark Angelillo <p>I&rsquo;m often asked by novice wine drinkers if Chianti Classico is worth its price (as compared to base-level Chianti), and my short answer is an emphatic yes. The Chianti region is iconic and known for producing Sangiovese-based wines in volume, but it&rsquo;s important to remember that Chianti has eight distinct sub-zones. Chianti Classico is one of them, and arguably the most important. After tasting hundreds of bottles of Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, I&rsquo;ve narrowed down my top five producers in each category.<br /> Chianti Classico DOCG, established in 1984 (and elevated to DOCG status in 1996), demarcates specific tracts of vines where superior quality Sangiovese grapes are grown under the strictest conditions. Here you will find winemakers experimenting with a variety of Sangiovese clones, selecting those that are best suited to particular bands of vines. Sangiovese grapes for Chianti wines were originally grown in the &ldquo;Classico&rdquo; area, prior to the region&rsquo;s expansion into nearby territories. The wines are classically superior versions of themselves. &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> It&rsquo;s so easy for Sangiovese-based wines to go sour &ndash; literally and figuratively. The thin-skinned, high acid grape demands a lot of the winemaker&rsquo;s attention. The tiniest bit of moisture can lead to ruin. Chianti Classico&rsquo;s microclimates are a huge help, and the altitude of the vines tends to be higher than surrounding regions. Rocky mountain slopes reflect sunlight onto the vines, bringing additional heat to combat moisture. Pockets of coastal breeze make a difference too. Galestro, Central Italy&rsquo;s rocky, schist-based signature soil, combines with sandstone to produce terroir-driven notes unique to the region. Galestro is fairly brittle; water and heat help the vines soak up its mineral content in plenty. &nbsp;<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> Chianti Classico produces three different levels of wine for your consideration: Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Gran Selezione.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Chianti Classico</strong> must have a minimum of eighty percent Sangiovese grapes, but may be up to one hundred percent. Red grapes like Cabernet, Merlot, and Colorino can appear in the remaining twenty percent of the blend. As of 2006, white grapes are no longer permitted in Chianti Classico wines. The minimum alcohol level for Chianti Classico is 12% (compared to 11.5% for Chianti DOCG) and the wines must age for one year prior to release.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Top 5 Chianti Classico Producers:</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href="">Poggerino Chianti Classico 2014</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2014</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Principe Corsini Le Corti Chianti Classico 2014</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Castello di Radda Chianti Classico 2014</a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Chianti Classico Riserva</strong> wines are aged for a minimum 24 months, with a minimum alcohol level of 12.5%.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Top Five Chianti Classico Riserva Producers:</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href="">Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Cantine Guidi Chianti Classico Riserva 2013</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico Riserva 2014</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Fattoria di Rignana Chianti Classico Riserva 2013</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2012</a><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Chianti Classico Gran Selezione</strong> was introduced in 2014 to much fanfare. These wines focus on estate grown grapes and estate bottled wines. The wines are aged for thirty months prior to release.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> <strong>Top Five Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione Producers:</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <a href="">Villa Calcinaia Vigna Contessa Luisa Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Castello Vicchiomaggio la Prima Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Castello di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Losi Millenium Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2009</a><br /><br /> <a href="">Barone Ricasoli Colledila Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013</a><br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /> I do want to stress that there are a slew of fantastic Chianti Classico producers out there, and these are my top picks from this particular tasting. You can see a full list of the wines I rated <a href=""><strong>here</strong></a> (Classico), <a href=""><strong>here</strong></a> (Riserva), and <a href=""><strong>here</strong></a> (Gran Selezione). </p> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400 article7027 Wine Travel is On the Rise Mark Angelillo <p>The link between wine and travel has intensified over the last few years &ndash; largely owing to the world&rsquo;s growing thirst for wine. The United Nations World Tourism Organization held their first Global Conference on Wine Tourism in Georgia in 2016 with fifty countries represented. It is estimated that fifteen million US travelers in 2014 pursued wine related journeys. Revenue from wine tourism increased by ten to fifteen percent between 2013 and 2016, for a total of $22 billion. Emmy-award winning travel writer and host of the popular PBS program Travelscope Joseph Rosendo notes that more and more travelers are, &quot;following their passions and heading out on wine journeys. It makes sense because vineyards thrive in some of the most scenically stunning places on earth and are often icons of a country&#39;s history and are able to marry their passions for travel, food and wine -- three human pursuits that have always offered us the opportunity for adventure, joy, and pleasure.&quot;<br /> While wine travel is not new, it is most certainly renewed in today&rsquo;s world of travel and leisure. Bordeaux is a premier example, as the name alone has drawn wine visitors to the region for decades. Between 2002 and 2016, visitors to Bordeaux increased by a whopping sixty-one percent. Not only are there more travelers, but many of them want to experience their wine in new ways.&nbsp; Bordeaux wineries are offering a wider range of activities to satisfy tourists&rsquo; desire for hands-on experiences - from hand-harvesting grapes with winemakers to blending workshops. Many of today&rsquo;s wine tourists demonstrate a desire to earn the wine they drink through hard work and education. Brahm Callahan, MS, of Himmel Hospitality Group, recently spent time in Spain&#39;s Ribera and Rueda wine regions where the same trends are evident. &quot;The producers (in Ribera and Rueda) offer a range of experience and order for the experience to be as authentic as possible they need to tie in the food, culture, and surrounding environment.&quot; &nbsp;<br /><br /> <br /><br /> One of the most obvious reasons that wine tourism has witnessed growth is the explosion of New World wines. Beyond the well-known California regions, smaller areas are creating infrastructure to accommodate travelers. Detailed maps and suggested routes, such as that offered by the Wine Institute of California, allow travelers at all budget levels to self-guide their journeys. Some regions have started festivals which create the opportunity for repeat visitors.&nbsp; Twenty-eight years ago, Sonoma County&rsquo;s Dry Creek Valley forged a tradition with their Passport festival that continues to draw crowds. This event has been a touchstone for visitors to Sonoma and can be linked to the region&rsquo;s tremendous growth over the past three decades.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Another key facet of success in wine tourism is being mindful of the needs of your audience. Portugal&rsquo;s Alentejo is leveraging their status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in combination with its notably beautiful landscape - ideal for birding, beaching, and biking - to draw travelers from around the globe.&nbsp; Those who prefer luxury-style travel will appreciate Alentejo&rsquo;s spas and hotels. This region has armed itself with amenities that fulfill most every need or wish.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Regions and brands are casting wide nets to draw the greatest number of visitors to their uniquely beautiful corner of the wine world. And as a result, there are a lot of incentives out there for wine travelers right now. Check in with your favorite regions and see what they have to offer.<br /><br /> <br /><br /> Where will you travel for wine this year?</p> Fri, 02 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0500 article7026