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A hard-learned winemaking lesson: Growing is the tough part
This was the year I coulda been a contender. Instead, here I am crying in my grape juice.
The 2014 harvest was going to be the one when my small, 100-vine plot of Syrah on a patch of earth in southern France was going to shine. I am not a professional winemaker so there was no hope of my wine being tasted and scored 95 points by Wine Spectator. But it was going to put a smile on the faces of friends and vignerons who drank it.
Today I have one word: fuhgeddaboudit.
What happened? Grape rot. While I was waiting for those little dark beauties to ripen in September, the Provençal sun disappeared, clouds came in, rain followed and voilà. Less than 10 percent of the crop was salvageable—enough to fill one picking basket. The rest? Damaged grapes oozing juice that was already turning to vinegar.
Before you start saying that winemaking is difficult, let me say: It's not.
How Piedmont pioneer Walter Massa revived Italy’s newest celebrated white wine
In a corner of eastern Piedmont you probably haven't heard of, Walter Massa is considered something of a prophet.
At 58, Massa is known as the farmer and visionary in Monleale (pop. 600+) who resurrected the local white Timorasso grape from near extinction with wines celebrated in Italy and beyond. In the U.S in recent years, his bottlings have found an important niche on top Italian wine lists.
"Walter is a pioneer and a hero for his dedication to reviving Timorasso," says Gianpaolo Paterlini, wine director of San Francisco's Acquerello. The variety, he adds, has "the potential to make one of the top five most important Italian whites." Read the full blog at Wine Spectator.com
Ready for southern France’s new wave of Champagne-style rosé?
Summer rosé season is nearly over, Champagne time is coming, and more Provence winemakers are thinking about bubbles and pink.
To sum up the trend: Why not make traditional Provence rosé sparkle à la Champagne?
"Bubbles are festive, and our idea is to make them with the lightness and elegance of Provence," says Alain Combard, 70-year-old patriarch of Domaine St.-André de Figuière in the rolling vine-covered hills above the Mediterranean coast of La Londe Les Maures.
More than 60 winemakers and co-ops in the heart of Provence now make limited quantities of sparkling rosé in the méthode traditionelle, as it's known outside Champagne. Under current French appellation laws, the wines are labeled humble Vin de France, with their Provence appellation nowhere in sight...Read the full blog at Wine Spectator
A journey from classical music to melodic Sicilian reds
At 32, Giuseppe Russo was a classical pianist and doctor of letters who knew nothing about making wine.
Now in his 10th vintage, the soft-spoken, unassuming Sicilian is one of the most acclaimed winemakers on Mount Etna—clearly the top local-born producer of Nerello Mascalese on the volcano's north face.
"For me, Giuseppe is the leader of the area," says Alessio Planeta of Planeta, the sprawling family-run wine company, which located its fifth Sicilian winery on Etna in 2012. "He has the right approach. He is like a poet."
Such high neighborly praise isn't common. But it's clear Russo's winemaking is deserving of the recognition that has spread across Italy to the rest of the world…..Read the full blog at Wine Spectator
In the shadow of Cannes, a monks' island turns out soulful reds and whites
Winemaker Frère Marie stuck his nose into a glass of Syrah and grinned. Then he swirled some wine in his mouth and spat into a floor drain.
"It's velvet," the 59-year-old Frenchman with short-cropped hair and beard proclaimed, eyes sparkling.
For more than 20 years, Marie has made some of coastal Provence's most prestigious wines—served in the glittering luxury hotels of the Côte d'Azur and at the Cannes Film Festival. But while his wines travel, Marie doesn't get out much.
He is monk-cellarmaster of the Abbaye de Lérins—a Cistercian monastery on the tiny (less than a mile long), idyllic island of Saint Honorat, about two miles and a 15-minute ferry ride off the yacht-jammed Cannes coast.... Read the full blog at the Wine Spectator
Rescuing a Sicilian cru in the middle of the night
At four o'clock one morning in April 2012, a small tanker truck pulled up to what had been Ciro Biondi's winery on Sicily's Mount Etna and made off with more than 2,000 gallons of wine. The haul included the first two vintages—2010 and 2011—of a red single-vineyard cru from Biondi's ancestral vineyard known as Cisterna Fuori.
When Biondi learned the wine had been taken, he was relieved.In fact, he had organized the whole furtive operation to retrieve barrels that had been stuck in the winery after a bitter split left him on the outs with his decade-long business partners.
"It was my wine," says Biondi, 55. A boyish grin crosses his face, and he shrugs with everything from his large shoulders to his polished, shaved crown. "And nobody was looking after it!" Read the full blog at Wine Spectator.
What you didn't know-- or even think about rosé
If you're like me, you don't reflect much when sharing a bottle of good summer rosé. You chill, open, pour and drink.
But in Provence, the leader of fine rosé, a lot of thought goes into rosé—right down to the shade of pink that attracted you in the first place.
"Today people like rosés that are very pale that give the impression of lightness," explains Gilles Masson, one of the world's foremost rosé thinkers. "It's aesthetic—the idea that rosé should not only be good, it should be beautiful."
"Why deny the pleasure of the eyes?" adds the blue-eyed Frenchman, throwing in the obligatory reference to beautiful women...Read the full blog at the Wine Spectator.
Cantina Filippi sits at the highest part of northeastern Italy's Soave appellation in a Renaissance-era palazzo transformed into a sort of Bohemian lair.
"Most Soave gives me a headache," says poetically named Filippo Filippi, 44, who has made 11 vintages of small-production Soave Classico crus here on a 1,300-foot hilltop in Castelcerino.
Filippi has all the elements I love to write about: an iconoclastic winemaker, distinctive wines, varied terroirs and a long history in a beautiful setting. Even better, it's hiding in plain sight in Soave—one of Italy's largest vineyard areas, dominated for more than a century by large cooperatives and high output.
The 21st century has seen the growth of a small scene of quality Soave producers, and Filippi, a bear of a man with long, silver hair and beard, represents the eccentrically colorful wing. Read the full blog at Wine Spectator.
Jean-Marc Espinasse stood overlooking his day-old Bandol vineyard with an expression somewhere between exhaustion and bliss.
"It's been a fantasy for me to be here," said Espinasse on his hillside in coastal Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, surrounded by olive trees, pine forest, sea views and 2,000 stubs of grafted Mourvèdre vinestock in an acre of freshly turned clay.
It was Sunday, a day of rest for the 47-year-old Marseille native and former Rhône winemaker (see our previous blog on him) who sold his Domaine Rouge-Bleu in 2012 to do Bandol the hard way. The day before, he and a team that included friends and his 19-year-old son planted the first vines at his Mas des Brun property—working from dawn and finishing under car headlights. This followed a year of clearing trees, removing boulders and preparing soils.
Yevgeny Chichvarkin is a big-shouldered guy who likes big wines—preferably in very big bottles.
When he opened a store in London nearly two years ago and decided to call it Hedonism Wines, he really meant it. Hedonism displays dozens of great wines—Bordeaux to Barolo to Spain and Sonoma—in huge formats that are at least eight times the size of a magnum.
Chichvarkin, 39, takes particular pride in a 27-liter bottle (equal to 18 magnums) that he commissioned of the 2010 vintage of his favorite Rioja, Bodegas Roda Cirsion, listed at $14,000.
What’s the idea of such a bottle? I ask. He looks at me like I'm crazy.
“Idea?” he shrugs. “Open and drink.”
Chichvarkin, a self-made business whiz turned political dissident who fled his native Russia five years ago, is one of wine retail’s most interesting characters. Read more at the Wine Spectator
See the Video Trailer for PALMENTO on You Tube....
Robert reads from and discusses Palmento at McNally Jackson books in NY Sept. 2010.
Robert on radio