New Podcast – Brendan Carter of Unico Zelo (part one)

By |2019-07-09T14:39:10+00:00July 9th, 2019|Australia, Podcast|

John sits down with Brendan Carter during his recent trip to Seattle. They talk Aussie soil, Unico Zelo’s history, and about a new model for wine cooperatives in the 21st century (hint: hipster winery co-ops are now a thing, and this might just upend some major wine regions over the next several decades).

Click here for the episode link on Spotify, and here for the episode link on iTunes.

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New Podcast – Gunderloch with Johannes Hasselbach

By |2019-06-20T15:18:42+00:00June 20th, 2019|Germany, Podcast|

We are pumped to distribute this iconic Rheinhessen producer in the Pacific Northwest! Our friends at David Bowler Wine sent sixth-generation winegrower Johannes Hasselbach our way to help get things started, and Johannes sits down with John to cover the bases on all things Gunderloch.

Click here for the episode link on Spotify, and here for the episode link on iTunes.

…and a full transcript is below if you still use AOL and don’t enjoy the convenience of passive audio!!!

JG:                    Hello and welcome back to another episode of Grape; Unfined, Unfiltered. I’m your host, John Griffin and today we’ll be speaking with Johannes Hasselbach of the historic Rheinhessen producer Weingut Gunderloch. I recently caught up with Johannes at the Ace Hotel in Seattle where we spoke about changing times, soils, Australian Riesling, and local beer. All right, let’s get to it.

JG:                    So Johannes, welcome.

JH:                    Thank You.

JG:                    Glad you could make it. How are you doing today? How was your, how was your day out in the market today?

JH:                    Pretty awesome I have to say. Some good customers you have here. Some really interested, uh, wine geeks and a lot of places for good German Riesling I would say, so that’s good.

JG:                    Nice. This is your first time here or…

JH:                    It’s my first time working here. I have friends in the area, so I was here privately, uh, 10 years ago. It’s a long time, but now I’m actually on business. Sounds strange, but it is like, it is.

JG:                    Well, you know what? Welcome to town.

JH:                    Thank you.

JG:                    So let’s see, let’s start off. So Weingut Gunderloch. Okay, so what’s the difference between your last name, ? Hasselbach and Gunderloch. Where does the difference in name come from, I don’t know.

JH:                    So we are, we are family business even though sometimes people think I’m like the sales representative or something because I have a different name. But actually since six generations, my family is running the estate at home in Nackenheim. But as it seems we have some gene defect or something because we only have girls as children. I’m actually the only, the first male person to take over the winery.

JG:                    Really?

JH:                    So every generation, the um, yeah, the name is changing and I have two kids at home, uh, two girls. My mother has nine grandchild’s, eight of them are girls. So it seems to continue this way. So the next generation you have to accustom yourself to a different name again.

JG:                    Wow, that’s, that’s, that’s incredible. Well you can always try for another child?

JH:                    Yeah, we’ll see.

JG:                    So you started touching on the history of the winery in general. So you’re saying right now you’re in your sixth generation. Who started the whole mess, who started it?

JH:                    So who got me into trouble, you mean?

JG:                    Exactly.

JH:                    Okay. Yeah. That was my great, great, great grandfather, Carl Gunderlochoffer, that’s a good German name, a very wealthy banker. He had a bank house called Gunderloch in Mainz in my, in a city next to my hometown. Um, for some reason he seemed to get bored of money and so he started to become a winemaker and made my life a little bit more interesting. Sometimes it would be nice to have a bank house in the back as well. But now it’s uh, yeah, it’s a different, different business. It’s a agricultural business that I’m in and it’s extremely interesting. But he had the vision to select land to make wine on that actually nobody wanted to have at this time. So he picked very steep slopes on very rocky soil. So that means we have to invest a lot of work power into that and you don’t have as many grapes as the other guys at the flatter part of the area. So people thought he was a bit crazy maybe.

JG:                    So at the time people were thinking more quantity versus quality.

JH:                    Yeah, but on the other hand, as a small family business as we are, you cannot compete with the big guys. Just like trying to be more efficient, trying to be faster, trying to be more on the cost side. As a family, as I understand it, you have to get experience with a piece of land and try to extract the uniqueness of this piece of land for that Riesling is the perfect tool for that is what we’ve been doing for the last six generation. I think my great, great, great grandfather was right picking this special spot for growing grapes.

JG:                    Wow, that’s cool. So are you doing other crops besides grapes?

JH:                    No, well, we have some chickens at home and we have some, some vegetables, but that’s it. Like I’m, I’m a winemaker.

JG:                    You’re sticking with the grapes?

JH:                    I am, that’s what I can.

JG:                    Oh that’s good. Sounds good. Tomatoes in the summertime. Grapes the rest of the time. Yeah. And your background. So if I remember correctly, you have been basically working with the winery now for what, 10 years?

New Speaker:   No, not as long.

JG:                    I mean did you grow up in the cellar as a little kid, like running around, getting in trouble and having your father yell at you?

JH:                    Yeah, picking grapes, getting yelled at and uh, throwing the ball in the press and stuff like that. Yep. That happened. Um, but I grew up on the winery. Um, my life plan was maybe a little bit different than what it ended up. I studied accounting at university. My sister was planned to be the winemaker, at out estate and for some reason she fell in love with a crazy Austrian winemaker, so she took happily off to Austria, making now wine there and that opened up the door for me, come back, uh, and continue the family business, so..

JG:                    Winemaking or accounting? Let me think about that for a second.

JH:                    It’s like the one thing that brings you into winemaking they say is if you like hard work and if you’re not good at math, that qualifies you as the winemaker.

JG:                    Or if you start off with a lot of money.

JH:                    Yeah. Right. So no, actually it’s like the first step into the winery was continuing the family business, my responsibility for what my generations before me created, but now getting experience working there again, understanding much more, tasting much more that really feeds the fun and really creates joy doing the work. When I was, uh, when I was young, I didn’t like work, it was too exhausting for me.

JG:                    I hear you.

JH:                    But now it’s a bit different. I really enjoy doing the physical labor. It’s a nice mix. If you sit on the tractor, you work in the vineyards, you go to Seattle, sell some wine, you meet customers. It’s amazing. It’s a great chance that I have. And it takes some time until you see the complete picture of it.

JG:                    But you grew up in the whole environment, so it’s not like your family was doing something completely different. Uh, running a retail store or something and then all of a sudden you decided to become a winemaker or to join the wine business. It was culturally in your family’s blood.

JH:                    Pretty much. It’s, it’s in our blood. Somehow, it’s in our genes and, and uh, when I’m away from the winery, uh, for four or five days, I start to miss the vineyards and I want to get back home. So it’s really nice. I didn’t, I wouldn’t have thought that it would happen this way because when I was young I really wanted to get out of the village. I wanted to go see the world and leave the small village of Nackenheim behind. Now it’s a complete different thing. I really enjoy living there and raising my family in the small village. Uh, yeah, it’s uh, it just changed everything.

JG:                    Yeah. You appreciate it.

JH:                    Yeah, definitely.

JG:                    Do you have… How many kids?

JH:                    I have two kids now.

JG:                    Two kids.

JH:                    Two girls, of course, as it is in our genes.

JG:                    Dog? Cat?

JH:                    A cat. A cat and some chickens.

JG:                    No dog!? Wow.

JH:                    We had dogs in our winery, every generation, but for some reason I ended up with a cat.

JG:                    Cats are easier to work with. Um, so when did you actually start working with the winery full time? So you were doing accounting a little bit.

JH:                    Yup. Did a one year trip around the world.

JG:                    Woe…

JH:                    Just to get some experience and didn’t feel like starting working right away after university. So I took my girlfriend at the time, now she’s my wife and the mother of my kids. We went around the world including a six week sailing trip around Vancouver Island, which was pretty amazing.

JG:                    Wait a minute.

JH:                    And then I started to come back home. Um, vintage 2013 was the first year where I took over the control of the cellar at home and then 2016 I inherited the winery from my parents. So it’s like, it’s a very historical estate with a rich history of over 130 years. But on the other hand, our team at home is very young and dynamic. We are really open to question and redefine what we are doing there and like that we are not falling asleep because we are a historical winery. I think we have to, especially as we see it right now, the weather patterns are changing tremendously in Germany. We see much different seasons than we have seen before. The vineyards react completely different to that and so the wine making is changing big time as well. So everything that my, the generations before us learned, experienced it, it’s not wrong, but it has to be questioned. Like, for example, just in the last generation of my parents between maybe 1970s and now everything changed like from grapes didn’t really get right because it was too cold to the question is it still cold enough for Riesling in our area? Um, I think that is like the question cannot be answered with yes or no, but I think there’s a lot of things that we actually can do to support our vineyards in extreme conditions and climate change and luckily and quite interestingly, we see that in the last series of very warm vintages, the wine actually maintain the elegancy, maintain their freshness and that has a lot to do with rethinking, winemaking completely like practices in the vineyards, practices in the cellar. Everything is now in question and we are trying to find the perfect way of helping our vineyards and guiding the wine in the cellar without influencing it too much. But believing inside what we are always have been doing and trying to extract the style that resembles the soil, the climate, everything. And that’s what Riesling is made for basically. Yeah.

JG:                    Okay. So you were working with your father for, I don’t how many years, when you started trying to, you know, maybe implement some changes or some new ideas like, hey look, the climate’s changing, we’re having warmer vintages, you know, and you’re trying to get your father to like, oh, except those ideas. Was it a battle?

JH:                    Um, it wasn’t a battle, but they were interesting times to say like this. So of course my, my father was a brilliant winemaker. He had a lot of experience and he produced wines that really are standing out. He knew exactly what he wanted and then all of a sudden a young guy comes around and tries to do everything different without any experience. There were some interesting discussions at the dinner table at home, but at the end we are reunited by the belief that we have to work for our vineyards. So that was what is always the same between the six generations making wine in our family, we always believed in the vineyards and so we have to do everything in their favor. And so I did a lot of experiments alongside working with my father, so I was working maybe like two or three seasons together with him. Then unfortunately he got sick and could not work in the cellar anymore. Um, and and this two, three years, I did a lot of experiments. I listened a lot to what my father told me. And I think somewhere there’s a mix between the two sides, like trying new stuff, but also soaking up the experience that at the end it’s a puzzle play. Like everything is a small piece of the puzzle. I’m not saying I have solved the puzzle yet. I’m still looking for some pieces.

JG:                    It’s a moving puzzle.

JH:                    Yeah, definitely and every experience can be a part of the of this. And I think that’s how it will hopefully continue for the next 30 years when I will make wine in our estate is that every season, every year gives us new challenges, new question marks, new ideas. And, and because I think as a winemaker you cannot believe that you will invent a cooking recipe for making wine. It’s not like a formula.

JG:                    For the next 50 years, it’s going to be like so. It doesn’t work that way. I mean that’s the thing. I would imagine that your father was probably thinking like, you know what? I have a lot of experience, I’ve seen changes myself, and the changes that he was seeing while you were working with him. You know what? He’s probably thinking like, yeah, this is good for the future, you know?

JH:                    Yeah. And as I said, it’s a mix between traditional delivery of knowledge and then I’also new ideas and yeah, that you take into, into the big picture of making wine.

JG:                    Wouldn’t it be fun to meet your great, great, great, great. I don’t know how many greats, grandfather and have a bottle of his wine with a bottle of today’s wine and see the difference and see the expressions, like that would be super fun.

JH:                    Yeah and I think a lot of these things are actually coming back to us. So we had a quite industrial phase in the last generation because the knowledge exploded basically. The knowledge that we know about wine, but it doesn’t mean that everything that has been discovered is useful for us because I think there’s much more interesting ideas and things that my great, great, great grandparents did before they had the knowledge, but they developed a kind of feeling. They looked at the vineyards, they looked at the grapes and that told them what they needed to do. So they had a different approach to winemaking, which is much less technical than sometimes we do it these days. And I think also there is a really cool mix to, it’s good to know what can go wrong, but that doesn’t mean that you really have to do everything to avoid it because that would also exclude a lot of this unexplainable stuff of winemaking. It’s, it’s, this is some part of the fascination that you cannot explain everything that happens when you make wine.

JG:                    Well, it’s like people almost want to have every year, every vintage taste the same.

JH:                    Yeah. It’s not Budweiser.

JG:                    Yeah, it’s not Budweiser, but you know what, Budweiser has it’s place.

JH:                    Are you selling Budweiser?

JG:                    No, but I drink it sometimes.

JH:                    And yet it’s, every year is different and every year the things we do to react at different and that makes I think our business so special that it cannot be replicated each year. No, none of my Riesling will tastes the same as it did the year before.

JG:                    And you as a small family winery, you don’t want to be that way. You want to have soul, you want to have distinct Gunderloch, something. Something that’s telling about the, you know, you’re steep vineyards and all these thing. And, uh, what was the red, the red rocks, the red…

JH:                    Red slate.

JG:                    Red slate.

JH:                    Red clay slate to be very technical. Um, it’s unique soil that you will only find in a four kilometer stretch along the river Rhine.

JG:                    Really?

JH:                    And it’s only 250 meters deep. So it’s like it’s really limited. The origin of our vineyards is tiny compared to all the other regions and it’s 80 hectares in size. My family owns around like 25 of these 80 hectares. So we are quite significant holder of this soil. But it’s so interesting to see that even though it’s just one soil, it’s only one grape variety that we really work with, the variety that we can create within this very small and dense (?), it’s quite fascinating and that’s what Riesling can do. It can be everything from bone try and the majority of Rieslings we sell is actually dry. Some people still have a picture that Riesling is always a sweet. I think that can be true. It can be fascinating sweet wines, but it can also be very serious, dry wines. Like there are not many grape varieties that can really create a wine that shows a sense of place and time. I think Riesling is one of them. Pinot noir definitely as well, maybe chardonnay, but they’re not many that really can show a certain region as good and as in such a big variety that uh, Riesling can do. And that is the fascinating part which keeps our family going.

JG:                    That’s true. I think it keeps a lot of families going. I mean, it keeps German Riesling going in general, I think. Because, you know, the top producers, people flock to these top producers because of that. And like, this really expresses this terroir or whatever you want to call it.

JH:                    Definitely.

JH:                    So the red slate thing is pretty funny because everyone sees black slate everywhere. Not Everywhere. But you know, you see it in Priorat, you see it in the southeastern part of Austria. But the red slate I’ve never heard of. That’s pretty, pretty interesting.

JH:                    To be more technical, um,

JG:                    Red clay slate.

JH:                    Yeah. It’s different. You find beautiful red slate vineyards in the Mosel Valley (I think that’s what he said) rarely, for example. But the type of red clay slate that we have, it’s unique to this small part where my family is making wine. Um, it’s uh, actually one of the oldest soils that you can make wine of. It’s 290 million years old. And what it basically is is compressed sand, desert sand. For sometime 290 years ago, Germany was on the equator and so there was a big, big desert and then the desert sand got covered and covered and covered and push down and put under pressure. And where the Rhine Valley carved out the steep slopes of the Rhine valley, that’s the only place where you find the soil. After that it digs deep. It goes away. But just where the Rhine was digging out the valley on the steep slopes, that’s where you find the soil.

JG:                    And over the years with erosion and the clay slate breaking down, it becomes , is there a threat of, you know, in the far future of it being gone.

JH:                    There’s alway erosion. It’s a defining factor of our vineyards. And it also defines very strongly how we can manage our vineyards. And I think when you look at this, like terroir is such a bad word because it has been abused and nobody really knows what it means, but if you think of our region, of its terroir, of its origin, of its specialities, these challenges of the erosion, they define what we do. So I would actually also include this in our thinking, in the definition of our area. We have special limitations that we can do and all of this makes us take different decisions and defines our way of making wine as well. So when I look at a piece of land and if I want to fully understand how the wine tastes, I also always look at what are the problems, what are the challenges? Because I think not, if you look at the greatest vineyards on the Earth, none of them is really good farming land. Like they all have their challenges.

JG:                    Rocky, too steep, two inches of topsoil. Woohoo, you’re not going to grow much cauliflower on that stuff.

New Speaker:   But I think this is also coming back to the founding moments of our winery that’s coming back where you can say like a piece of land has it’s characteristics had its challenges and that defines the wines that are coming out of it and I think this is something that you have to take into account when you look at a vineyard. Of course it has positive effects, but if it’s only fertile land, if it’s perfect water supply, if it’s like everything is like i in paradise, I don’t know if that would be a perfect vineyard land because then it would be like, vineyards need some challenges. They need to struggle a little bit. The winemaker has to think, has to develop a concept, how to best treat the vineyards to react to this challenge. I think all of this at the end makes up for the wine that comes out of it.

JG:                    I think the whole concept of terroir will definitely be facing some redefinitions in the near future because places that have famous terroirs, you know what? That terroir is going to change with rising temperature.

New Speaker:   In our 130 years of history, 2018 was the first year we ever started picking in August. And so this is something like my, my father, if he had experienced, he would have thought I’m crazy, but that was the only way how we could actually counteract these extreme temperatures that we had in 2018. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see how elegant the wines of this vintage actually tasting right now. So in my microcosmos, in my small world, the answer to climate change is not growing different grape varieties. I mean, in a global picture, climate change has to be fought with all means. Um, and there are still some people that believe it won’t exist, but we see it. So in the global picture it’s a different answer. But in my microcosmos as a winemaker in Rheinhessen, in Germany, that makes Riesling, I think the answer is to find ways how to help the vineyards to react to this situation. And that is everything. We have a lot of tools in our hands. We have canopy management, which is extremely useful. We have changed our canopy management completely around in the last couple of years because we saw how effective that can actually be to help the grapes. For example, when we go leaf plucking, we strip the southern, uh, northern side where the sun doesn’t hit, we strip it open. It’s a very natural way of reducing the yields and training the skins to be more resistant to sun, to rain. So it’s really powerful tool. But on the southern side, we leave the canopy completely intact to prevent the heat and the sun hitting the grapes and then late in the season the only pluck the young leaves, the young light green leaves because they have a lot of photosynthetic energy. The old green leaves, they only shade. We leave them. But 20 years ago nobody was thinking about that. That was not an issue.

JG:                    They were just thinning.

New Speaker:   Yeah. And so canopy management, soil management, yield management, we are not like in earlier times you would say like the less yield you have in your vineyards the better and big yields are not good at all. But in this case, it doesn’t mean like less yield is always better. It can be too much reduction. So what we are doing in our winery, we trying to train our vineyards to a slower vegetative pattern, just like less soil movement. Uh, maybe start out with a normal year and then very carefully thinning out by leaf plucking by small corrections. But for example, I don’t like green harvest. Green Harvest for me is after long vegetation period you tell your vineyards, you have done a mistake, you have produced too many grapes. So when you cut out grapes, the reaction of the vineyard will be putting all its energy in less grapes. And that will mean we will have much more higher sugar levels and high…

JG:                    And a shorter season and it will rush to ripeness and it won’t be properly, ripe?

New Speaker:   Yeah. So this is like, it would be completely counter productive to do green harvest in some years. And so yeah, coming back to one of the earlier questions, like all of this has now to be experienced and learned and understood.

JG:                    And on another note, you were talking about the red clay slate. I’ll send you the podcast I did recently with Brandon Carter from Unico Zelo. He’s in Adelaide hills in Australia where they’re growing varieties and they came up with what would survive with minimal water, basically because it’s a desert almost, and it’s all red sand there. And it’s really interesting and they’re coming to a lot of the same ideas that you are.

New Speaker:   Yeah, we can learn a lot from these areas as well. How do they deal with the challenges?

JG:                    I mean their challenges are extreme. I mean we were talking the other day about Australian Riesling. You know, their growing season is short.

New Speaker:   Much shorter than ours. Yeah.

JG:                    It’s extreme and it can still manage to get really interesting dry Riesling, you know? And they’ve been doing it for a while there too. I mean it’s not like, it’s not like something new.

New Speaker:   But I think there’s a rich, rich Riesling history and some really amazing wines are produced over there. Some good friends of our winery make amazing Rieslings in Australia.

JG:                    So who do you like?

New Speaker:   Ah, I’m a big fan of Jeffrey Grosset and his wife Stephanie. They are, we have a exchange as well. We talk a lot and uh, Franklin Estate, Hunter Smith and his family in the Franklin River area. Amazing wines. And then, yeah, New Zealand, there are so many crazy areas and just having contact with these people and exchanging with them.

JG:                    You did some harvest than New Zealand, right?

JH:                    Yeah, I worked in New Zealand, which was pretty relaxed kind of making wine over there.

JG:                    Yeah. New Zealand relaxed!?

JH:                    Yeah.

JG:                    I thought it’d be really uptight and stressful there (joking of course).

JH:                    No, no. The people are, the Kiwis are really a good crowd. And I worked in Martinbourugh Vineyards. They’re a very nice Pinot noir producer. Some Riesling. Yeah. Fascinating culture and seeing so many young motivated people in the wine industry. That was kind of new to me. Going there, going to Australia, going to New Zealand and also, my first experience in winemaking was Canada.

JG:                    Canada!?

JH:                    Maybe not the prime destination. Not yet, but it’s a really, really amazing wine culture developing there. It was honestly an excuse to go skiing and I need to justify it against my parents “so why do you go to Canada”?

JG:                    So obviously this was in the Okanogan.

New Speaker:   Yeah, it was in the Okonagan.

JG:                    Yeah, because East Coast Canada. Uh, the mountains there aren’t so big and the snow kind of sucks. Okay. So we were talking about your estate vineyards, which are about 20, 20 how many?

JH:                    26 hectares.

JG:                    26 hectares. And that’s 26 out of 80 hectares that are basically based on this red clay slate.

JH:                    Yes.

JG:                    So are all the wines you produce estate wines?

JH:                    Um, the majority is, so we are focusing on our vineyard sites, that’s where we put all our efforts on. Of course you have to keep into account that working on the steep slopes is quite costly. So we have to invest four times the amount of hours that you are doing on the flat vineyard sites. And sometimes people forget that and unfortunately cannot charge four times the amount of money for our wines that the others do. Maybe in the future. We don’t know. But so we are also, let’s say, make the bank a little bit happy, producing

JG:                    The bank.

JH:                    A project wine wine together with growers from the region which is called Fritz’s Riesling. A wine that carries the name of my father because he basically was looking for the perfect tool to communicate a more modern style of German Riesling. Not like the really old traditional, big volume cooperative stuffs, but something that is addressed to the entry level. Interesting price point, but carries a soul that is produced by a small family estate in a style that is very flexible, not bone dry. There’s a nice fruit in it. So this is a project that we do together with some grape growers from the region.

JG:                    Oh really? So it’s kind of a collaboration.

JH:                    It’s yes, something like a cooperation, but it’s, it’s a nice addition to what we carry out on under our estate name Gunderloch because Gunderloch wines are like a true ambassador of it’s soil. Can be like for the first time wine drinker, they are serious wines. So they ‘re not just easy going. So the Fritz’s Riesling is really nice addition to that because it really is pure Riesling, 100% joyful wine and a good, for everyday drinking basically.

JG:                    And there’s a rosé I heard too.

JH:                    Yeah, that’s in the same line up. There’s a Fritz’s Rosé.

JG:                    Nice. I like the Fritz’s rosé.

JH:                    Yeah. It’s quite interesting mix because it’s not coming from the obvious grape varieties that you use for rose. It’s a Pinot Meunier-based rose.

JG:                    Pinot Meunier?

JH:                    Yeah, my father was a big fan of champagne, so we planted some Pinot Meunier around 20 years ago. We always lacked the time to really start our sparkling projects, also for the last 20 years it went always into the rose. So maybe I have now a little bit more time to start my sparkling project, which I really would like to, but for the meantime it makes an amazing, yet, characteristics with strong and different or so very fruity, but the typical Meunier kind of fruit. So it’s easy drinking. There are some, some nice character behind it. Yeah, perfect for the coming summer.

JG:                    All I know is we tried a bottle yesterday and it was easy drinking.

JH:                    That’s good.

JG:                    How much of that is coming to the US this summer, summer 2019.

JH:                    So it’s on the way here. It will arrive hopefully early enough to catch the good weather. We are not a huge binary so there’s not like not millions of liters around in our winery, but it’s a decent size. So you, if you like it, you will not run out.

JG:                    How many bottles? 20,000?

JH:                    Uh no, not as much. Like maybe 10,000 bottles.

JG:                    How many bottles does the winery total, more or less.

JH:                    So the total winery, like the Gunderloch estate wines are, depending on the season.

JG:                    Yeah, minus the Fritz stuff. Just the Gunderloch estate.

JH:                    Yeah, like around 150,000 maybe in a, in a really, really strongly year 200,000 bottles, but mostly around 150, 175,000 bottles.

JG:                    And the concentration of that is and which wine?

JH:                    The Jean Baptiste, which is probably the most renowned wine.

JG:                    Who’s that?

JH:                    Jean Baptiste was my great, great, great, great grandfather. The banker. Yeah. So he started our winery and we make this wine in his honor. For the last 25 years since we are doing this wine, this has every year been our most important wine. It’s actually bigger than the Fritz’s Riesling. It’s our liquid ambassador, our liquid business card. Perfect, like very balanced style. Very. It’s fruity, but it has a rather nice minerality in it. It’s light in alcohol, it’s very fresh, but crisp as well. So really balanced, perfect wine to pair with seafood, spicy food, but perfect apperitive wine by itself as well.

JG:                    Sure.

JH:                    Liquid the air conditioning, I like to call it.

JG:                    Mmmm, liquid air conditioning. Can I use that?

JH:                    You might steal that. Yeah.

JG:                    Cool. Okay, another question; It seems like a lot of the wines that you’re focusing on for the US are trocken.

JH:                    Well, that’s an interesting question. I have not answered this question for me finally because we see the tradition here in the US as it’s understood that the Riesling is always a little bit of sweetness involved. And this is what, it’s okay because this is we, we make amazing sweet Rieslings. What I want to do at the moment is to show that actually Riesling can do much more to it than just spesweet Riesling because the bone dry Riesling from our estate vineyard you get a lot of character and you get a lot of message and they’re not the easiest to understand wines around, definitely. But they are very strong ambassadors of their origin and I think, and I feel that there’s a really big chance for these wines in the future and the market, especially as we have a very open minded young generation of wine drinkers growing up and it’s two things. They’re not interested in only drinking sweet, easy drinking wines and they’re also not, they don’t have this background that they have, like they don’t carry around the knowledge of the, the old generations that have been only exposed to sweet German wine. So it’s like for us, like a blank piece of paper, but we can really try to convince people that it’s all about quality and no matter what style of Riesling you’re drinking, when it’s about quality, you will enjoy it. If it’s un-interesting sweet entry level stuff, you will forget it. But if it’s intelligent made wine with the history, with an idea behind it, it doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or dry, every time it will be a perfect ambassador from the region that it’s coming from and this is what I think where we have a great chance.

JG:                    Yeah, I agree completely. I think like you’re saying, the younger wine drinkers coming up, you know they don’t have a preconception of Riesling really. They don’t have a preconception of a lot of things. Rose. You talk to older people, you know, 50, 60 years old. They thought rose was going to be sweet, the stuff that came from California 30 years ago or something, 40 years ago, and it’s not that way. Younger people, boom, hey, you know what? Rose bring it.

JH:                    Yeah.

JG:                    Same thing with a Riesling. If they get a dry Riesling it’s like, oh, this is just like drinking a chardonnay or something like that. It’s dry, it’s delicious. It’s interesting. It kind of goes great with the food I’m having,

JH:                    But I think this misconception maybe is going away.

JG:                    I agree.

JH:                    Because as I said, there are young people, open minded, looking for great quality. It’s not only wine but products with a regional identity. And I think this is a huge chance that we have, especially with Riesling, to create an ambassador of our regional identity that we have in Germany.

JG:                    That’s forward thinking, unlike some parts of the world right now. They’re not forward thinking, but that’s a different story. Well, I think that kind of wraps it up actually for my questions at least. Uhh, well hold on a second. One thing. (The sound of a beer can being opened). Ah, prost.

JH:                    Prost.

JG:                    Um, what beer is this anyway?

JH:                    It’s a local Indian Pale Ale. Very beautiful. I cannot pronounce the name

JG:                    Uh, Bodhizafa. This is from Georgetown brewing in Georgetown.

JH:                    Very tasty.

JG:                    It’s very tasty. Well, Johannes thanks a lot for spending the time with me to talk about your family winery.

JH:                    Thank you.

JG:                    (Closing comments)Yes, that Bodhizafa IPA was pretty good and I don’t even like Ipa. Thanks again to Johannes for taking the time, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to check us out on Instagram at Grapexwine. Until next time. Have a good week.

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New Podcast – Right Bank Bordeaux with Jean-Phillipe Saby of Famille Saby

By |2019-06-05T14:26:22+00:00June 5th, 2019|France, Podcast|

Our lineup from Vignobles Saby is on fire these days, especially Chateau Bertin, Chateau Rozier, and Chateau Hauchat. Jeff gets down and dirty with the always loquacious Jean-Phillipe Saby of Vignobles Saby to break down current releases. We also get a sneak peek at a few new upcoming additions, including Chateau Reindent which will replace our entry-level “Chateau Saby” Bordeaux Superieur. Cabernet Franc as the future in Bordeaux? Jean-Phillippe thinks so and shares his thoughts on that front. There is a raging party going on in the background so apologies if there is some crunchiness in the background…

Click here for the episode link on Spotify, and here for the episode link on iTunes.

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New Podcast – Roberto Echeverria of Viña Echeverria

By |2019-05-28T16:14:40+00:00May 28th, 2019|Chile, Podcast|

John connects with Roberto Echeverria where they cover everything from cool climate varietals, natural wine, and forest fires.

Click here for the episode link on Spotify, and here for the episode link on iTunes.

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New Podcast – José Manuel Bouza of Bodega Bouza

By |2019-05-20T17:54:43+00:00May 20th, 2019|Podcast, Uruguay|

Yes we are still eagerly awaiting our next load of Bouza, and if we weren’t already pumped up for new vintages of Tannat Reserva and Albarino we REALLY are now that we’ve spent a few days in Seattle and Portland with new-generation leader José Manuel Bouza. We presold a lot of wine, and recorded some audio, topics include:

  • An overview of Bouza’s history and their setup
  • Why you find Albarino in Uruguay and why it grows so well there
  • The original idea behind Bouza’s highly-acclaimed “Parcela Unica” bottlings

Click here for the episode link on Spotify, and here for the episode link on iTunes.

Produttori del Gavi – Spring 2019

By |2019-08-01T13:47:41+00:00March 28th, 2019|Italy, Piedmont, Podcast, Travel Report|

Did you say Gavi? Everything old is new again? I’m half deep into a love affair with this most noble white grape of Piemonte. Gavi’s planted vineyard area is 1,200 hectares in total (Napa is 18,000 hectares by comparison), and the village of Gavi itself serves as the region’s center. The DOC as a whole is made up of 13 different villages, and I attempt to break the region (and this opportunity) down real quick for you in our latest podcast episode. Quality-wise there are three levels:

Cortese di Gavi DOC – The most basic level, this can be produced anywhere and is the go-to local quaff in Gavi (along with a focaccia sandwich it is even part of breakfast for many locals, especially those over 70 years old!).

Gavi DOCG – A step up in quality, this an be produced only in a few of the region’s best towns, and is most of what you see here in the USA.

Gavi di Gavi DOCG – The top level – This can be produced only in the actual village of Gavi and is the highest quality level.

You could call Gavi the “queen” of Piedmont’s white wines – Gavi must be made from the local varietal Cortese, and Cortese translates to “gracious” in Italian. Cortese has thin skins, naturally high acid, and it needs a warm climate to grow in. Nowhere does it grow better than in Southeastern Piedmont just North of the Ligurian coast. At its best Cortese is bone dry/with lemon/peach flavors, but at the same time classy. Add in some seafood and you are instantly transported to a very happy place.

Soil composition and exposure in Gavi is varied even by Piedmontese standards, and in this way the Cortese grape can express an enviable “menu” of flavors depending on said provenance. Our good friend and oracle Roberto Fossati lives in the village of Gavi itself and over the years he has seen just about everything here. Jump in Roberto’s car to visit vineyard sites and you’ll experience all this diversity firsthand, from stark white soils made of tuff and limestone to tomato colored soils based on ferrous clay.

Enter Produttori del Gavi. The origins of this cooperative trace back to 1951 when 83 families banded together to share their strengths in cooperative form.  The group is essentially made up of these same growers to this day, with just twelve more being admitted to the group since inception. The vineyards of member/growers are spread all over the Gavi DOC territory in 11 municipalities covering 200 hectares of land from Tassarolo to Bosio.  Such coverage allows the production of various “Cru” bottlings, many of which are amongst the most exciting produced in this historic appellation.

Produttori used to sell off 99% of their finished wine in bulk and from those gas handle type dispensers you see all over Europe, but oh my how things are changing inside the walls of this cooperative. Winemaker Andrea Pancotti leads the charge here now, and this is an exciting development for wine drinkers. Andrea understands the potential of the material at his fingertips (hand-farmed, low-yielding, old vine Cortese from thousands of interesting micro-plots), and the press has just started to recognize Produttori’s work, with Gambero Rosso bestowing his latest Gavi de Gavi release with the coveted “Tri Bicchieri” honors. Andrea is making single “cru” Gavi, he is making organically farmed Gavi, things couldn’t be any different there nowadays versus years past. Until recently, the only thing missing was an attractive label, which we took care of with a local designer last Spring, and we already know you all love Produttori’s new package. And the pricing? This is where it gets crazy – We negotiated DEEP with Produttori last week, and because they want everyone in the USA to be aware of their “brand,” they offered us a multi-container commitment deal that we could not refuse.

Produttori del Gavi ’18 Gavi “Il Forte,” floral, fresh, juicy, very good
Produttori del Gavi ’18 Gavi di Gavi” Bio,” more mineral, lighter style, very good
Produttori del Gavi ’18 Gavi di Gavi, full, ripe, rich, Cortese for hedonists

Our vision is to build Produttori’s “Il Forte” into the most recognized Gavi label in the US market, as it is by far more interesting than anything else out there that restaurants can buy under $10 wholesale. Game on.

New Podcast Episode – Catching up with Daniel Stewart of Guerrieri Rizzardi

By |2019-03-26T22:17:33+00:00March 26th, 2019|Italy, Podcast|

The venerable Guerrieri Rizzardi estate is on a roll these days, cranking out some of the most interesting examples of Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Soave Classico you’ll find anywhere. Daniel Stewart paid us a visit last week and caught us up on all things Rizzardi-related. To listen, click here or pull us up on Spotify.

A full transcript is below – John Griffin (JG), Daniel Stewart (DS)

JG:                    Hello and welcome back to another round of Grape, Unfined/Unfiltered; the podcast that peels back the pretty label to expose what’s really in the bottle. Today we’ll be talking Ripasso and Amarone with Daniel Stewart from Guerrieri-Rizzardi. Thanks for joining us in our beautiful tasting room here at the warehouse Daniel.

DS:                   Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

JG:                    It’s a beautiful day. You’ve just missed the Snowmageddon we had a couple of weeks ago, so you got lucky.

DS:                   Yeah. That’s what I heard.

JG:                    So what, can you tell me for listeners who aren’t familiar with Guerrieri-Rizzardi? Are they a new winery? Are they modern? What’s the deal?

DS:                   Well, there are modern twists to what we do. I mean, we use stainless steel fermentation tanks and things like that, but to call us new would be way off the mark. I mean the first vineyards were planted way back in Valpolicella in 1649, the first bottled of wines were 1678. So, you know…

JG:                    Wow.

DS:                   We’re a pretty established, old school producer, but not old school in the way we make wines, the wines are very classically styled, but they’re also very clean wines.

JG:                    Yeah, I noticed that yesterday at our meeting with the staff, we were tasting the Soave and the regular Valpolicella and they were super clean, no funkiness, pretty pure fruit, you know, like the minerality really shone through.

DS:                   Yeah. I mean that’s it. That’s very much the hand of their winemaker Giuseppe Rizzardi, who is a Rizzardi from the Rizzardi family. I mean the current owners are Giuseppe and his brother Augustino, and Giuseppe trained in Bordeaux as a winemaker and came back with very specific ideas. And one of the most important things that he wanted to do was to make sure that these wines were very clean expressions of the place. So you taste the Soave and you’re not interfered with by any kind of weird off aromas are any, any grape varieties that are too aromatic or two unusual. Really these are wines that taste of the place and in order to do that, they have to be very clean and pure.

JG:                    I think he hit the nail on the head. So the name, Guerrieri-Rizzardi. I hear you referring to them as just Rizzardi.

DS:                   Yeah, I mean a lot of people kind of struggle with the first name because it’s not that easy to pronounce. It’s a, it’s an Italian name where you roll the r’s in Guerrieri, but I mean there’s two names there simply because this is a combination of two families because a hundred years ago, the last Guerrieri married a Rizzardi and that combined the estates of Valpolicella and Bardolino. But, I mean the current owners, their sir name’s Rizzardi and this is a family that is established in the Vernonese area. And so for a lot of our importers in, in many of the countries that sell our wines, they refer to us as Rizzardi because it’s a little bit easier.

JG:                    Yeah, I think we’ll start referring to the wines as Rizzardi also. I think it’s a lot easier to spell too. Speaking of Italian, you don’t sound Italian,

DS:                   Do I not? I was trying very hard. No, I’m Irish originally.

JG:                    Irish!?

DS:                   Yeah. Yup. So I used to, I used to work for a very good importer in Ireland. We had a number of wine shops, quite a few in fact, 30 plus, and I was in the buying side of things and uh, the Rizzardi family, we knew each other over the years. They were one of our key imports. In fact, probably our most important Italian import, and that’s how I kind of ended up over there.

JG:                    Wow. And so far so good? You’re liking it? You have your family and everything there and they like it?

DS:                   Correct. Yeah, they’re pretty happy over there.

JG:                    Well that sounds great. Maybe I’ll have to come and visit you. Let’s get to it. So we got this, uh, the Ripasso and the Amarone here. This is a 2015 Ripasso. I think you were mentioning that you are in 2016 now, so we’ll be seeing that pretty soon. Let’s try the wine.

DS:                   OK.

JG:                    Hmm. This is like, you know, it’s got a beautiful nose. I mean, yeah, it’s really more aromatic. It’s not really “aromatic”. It smells great.

DS:                   This is the style of Ripasso that, it’s funny you’re talking about the nose. I mean it’s a style of Ripasso where the aroma is very much about bright, fragrant fruit. It’s not, you know, sometimes Ripasso can, can almost smell a bit jammy and kind of sweet. This is a very classic style.

JG:                    Yeah, this is not sweet at all.

DS:                   No, it’s not, I mean, it focuses very much on having good fruit purity and a word that we use quite a lot where we are is drinkability. You know, it’s not cloying, it’s not sweet. It’s very fresh and vibrant.

JG:                    Wow. What’s the sugar on this? I mean it’s got fruit but it’s not, ya know, there’s no sweetness really.

DS:                   No, there’s no sweetness. I mean, this is finishing dry. I mean we’re around a gram of sugar, so it’s pretty much as low as we can as we can go. But as you say, there’s plenty of fruit so it doesn’t feel in any way aggressively dry. It’s in balance.

JG:                    I’d have to agree with you there. And what are the actual regulation right now on the production of Ripasso and actually that’s another thing maybe you can touch on just really quickly, you don’t have to touch on it too much, but I see all these other things out there, like, you know, that have twists on the name and it’s somewhat confusing. I mean, for me, and I’m sure it’s confusing for the buying public.

DS:                   Yeah. I think it’s a bit confusing for everybody to be honest with you. Because when you see Ripasso on the label, the wine should be a wine that’s repassed on the pumace or the skins of the of the Amarone. That’s what a Ripasso is. You see a lot of lookalike wines nowadays and wines given fancy names and different names where people are using other methods to try and replicate the flavor profile and the, the body texture, et Cetera for Ripasso. And you know, even though in their own right, some of these wines might be good wines, they’re not Ripasso. And you know, and they can’t replicate it perfectly. So you see a lot of wines where sometimes people will use a portion of dried fruit and add it to their fermentation tank to spark off more and more fermentation, more flavor, et cetera, or they’ll add dried grapes to a finish wine and then put in some yeast to try and bump it up. I mean, these are all wines that may have their own merits, but however they are not Ripasso. The thing about a Ripasso and a very important thing is that it’s got to be a good wine in the first place. You’ve got to have a very good Valpolicella. You put it in with the Amarone and the Amarone skins, they just give it a little bit of polish. They give it an accent. They bring up the texture and the flavor of the wine.

JG:                    That’s what happens on this wine. It’s beautiful. And how much is actually produced. I mean, I heard something about, I don’t know, a certain amount of bottles being produced in accordance to how many bottles of Amarone.

DS:                   Yeah, well that’s it. I mean it’s tied into wine law. I mean, you’re allowed two bottles of Ripasso maximum for every bottle of Amarone you produce. And we normally work off a ratio of about 1.2, 1.3 bottles max…

JG:                    Wow.

DS:                   …of our Ripasso for our Amarone, which means that we’re not overextending the skins that we’re using. We’re not drying them out too much.

JG:                    That’s not a lot of wine actually.

DS:                   No.

JG:                    Okay, let’s move on to Amarone. So this is the 2011, uh, Calcarole, is that correct?

DS:                   That’s it, yeah.

JG:                    Well, what’s that stand for? What’s that refer to?

DS:                   Well Calcarole is, it’s calcare. It’s limestone.

JG:                    Oh, that makes sense.

DS:                   Because essentially this is coming from one single vineyard in Negrar in Valpolicella and the terroir is limestone terroir. This essentially, it’s like a limestone rock in Negrar, with a little bit of soil on top and the vines are planted on terraces up the hill. Then there’s this slightly sloping, sweeping plateau on top. So it’s very, very poor soil for growing just about everything else. But it’s obviously fantastic for grapes because you put a vine in bad soil and the grapes really thrive.

JG:                    Yeah. Well let’s give it a go.

JG:                    (John sips and gags)

JG:                    Ooh, a little bit down the wrong tube there.

DS:                   (Daniel chuckles)

JG:                    Wow, that’s amazing. And again, I’m not finding it very, you know, sweet or super duper raisiny or pruny like some humongous Zinfandel or something, which a lot of people sometimes refer to Amarone as like being some giant Zin-like wine, but I’m not really finding that here. This is really just coming up, really elegant.

DS:                   Well, that’s nice to hear that word because that’s a word that we would like to associate with the wine. I mean this is Amarone of course, I mean it’s made from dried grapes, but what you really experienced is a fine wine. It’s a wine where you have, there’s a lot of flavor, a lot of concentration, but there’s no thickness or heaviness. This wine carries a certain fresh profile through it. Even though we’re hitting 16% alcohol, you know, you have all the concentrated flavor that you get from our vineyards, from drying the grapes, from three years in oak. But as you say, it’s not particularly raisiny. We don’t over dry our grapes. We believe that we are bringing in grapes that are in such a condition in the first place that are suitable for a good wine that we don’t need to have a prolonged drying period. We will dry for three, three and a half months, and then we begin with the wine.

JG:                    Wow. This is delicious.

JG:                    So, we should have talked about this before, but as far as like fruit, I mean, are, you know, are there sources around the Veneto or around obviously Valpolicella, that Rizzardi are sourcing from or is it all estate?

DS:                   Oh, no, it’s all estate. For our Amarone it’s coming directly from our own vineyards. Everything’s done in house and it’s very much, you know, it’s quite a painstaking process. It’s labor intensive, but we get the results we get from it. I mean everything is picked by hand. It goes into boxes in the vineyard, then they’re brought to our fruttai or drying room, which was purpose built in the 18th century with windows open north and south to let the breeze come through. Um, we have no control over our temperature or humidity. We have mechanical fans that have been used for, for years and years and years to keep the air circulating. But as I say, we, we don’t control temperature, we don’t control humidity. So it’s quite a, you know, it’s quite a craft way of doing Amarone. It’s the old way of doing it, but we get the wine we get.

JG:                    So you’re talking about like, you know, the environment outside and you know, the hills being able to interact with the grapes and they’re not like just stuck in a big giant, refrigerated warehouse or something.

DS:                   No, no, it’s not.

JG:                    Oh, that’s good. You were saying like the old, the old fashioned way…are there old vintages available at the winery?

DS:                   Yeah, there is. We keep back a certain amount every year. We started doing that a number of years ago. We always kept a small quantity and we’ve increased that a little bit, so you know, in the future we’ll be able to release the odd vertical case or pop in to the market a few cases of an old vintage. So we like to show our Amarone when it’s aged. It’s quite interesting for people to come and taste at the winery or in the future when we do wine dinners, et Cetera, when they see a Amarone with age, it really changes people’s perception of Amarone because it really ages and matures like, like a great fine wine of the world and it can actually become difficult a bit later on to identify exactly what it is because it becomes a very complex wine.

JG:                    (John takes another sip)

JG:                    Okay. So how old are we talking about at the cellar. Are talking about 1900 or before?

DS:                   No, I mean, Amarone is actually a much younger wine than a lot of people think. I mean Ripasso is actually older than Amarone because Ripasso…

JG:                    Oh, really?

DS:                   Yeah. Ripasso is a wine they used to put on the pomace of the skins off Recioto della Valpolicella, which is the sweet red of the region. So Amarone only really came about by accident in the 30s, and then started to sort of see production in the 40s onwards. So we don’t keep vintages that are that old. We have some very, very old vintages, but they’re private. They belong to the family. And then for us, in terms of the business and tasting and journalists, et Cetera, we kind of go back to 1988 with our Amarone. So we have a pretty clear run from 88 up to now.

JG:                    That’s pretty good. Do you have a whole bunch in your cellar?

DS:                   Uh, no. They never last long. That’s the problem because when I’m in Italy, people want to come and visit and a lot of my friends are wine friends, so they usually destroy it.

JG:                    Exactly. And then you have to go back to the office and get more wine.

DS:                   Yep. That’s it.

JG:                    Uh, tough. So what can you tell me about any trend or. I don’t know, movements going on right now in the Veneto? In Bardolino?

DS:                   That’s interesting you say that because you know, I’m hoping next week on the water there’ll be some Bardolino Chiaretto. That’s our other estate and that’s in fact where we’re based where the offices are, but our Bardolino Chiaretto rosé is going to be shipped to the states and that’s a rosé in the Veneto, which has changed over the last kind of five, six years where the style has become lighter in color and more suitable to our climate. So it’s very, it’s quite, it’s a very vibrant style of rosé, pale in color, but really quite, quite intense cherry fruit. So I think it’s a wine that’s going to have a lot of appeal when it hits the shores of the US. It’s been very successful elsewhere, so…

JG:                    I look forward to it. And you were saying it’s more suitable to your climate. Last night you mentioned something about like, you know, climate change is really having an effect on the area and the producers and the vines and everything, you know, elaborate?

DS:                   Yeah. Well let’s say without getting into too much controversy, there’s no doubt that in our, in our European vineyards we are seeing warmer and warmer seasons. I mean that’s really noticeable for example, for German wine producers that record the data very, very accurately and over the years they’ve seen their gradual summer temperatures rise and rise and rise. Uh, we face the same sort of thing where things are getting a little bit warmer. And for example, in the Soave we have to know in these warmer years, we’re having to pick some of the fruit a little bit earlier to retain freshness. So yeah, it’s something that affects our choices.

JG:                    Ah, I think it’s happening everywhere. You know, earlier harvest, bigger wines, people moving north, ya know.

DS:                   Yeah.

JG:                    So that sounds good. Um, let’s try to wrap this up, I guess, and we’ll get out of here and go get a beer. Actually speaking of beer, what kind of beer do you drink, actually?

DS:                   Well, when I’m back home in Ireland it’s Guinness, but when I’m on the road I actually like something, which is not too wacky in flavor, ya know. I like something that actually tastes like a beer.

JG:                    What, you don’t want a full-blow triple hopped IPA that tastes like, ya know, orange juice?

DS:                   Yeah, no. I’ll pass on that. I like an IPA, but not over the top.

JG:                    Well, let’s get out of here and go get a beer.

DS:                   Sounds good.

JG:                    Alright. Thanks again and, uh, let’s do it.

DS:                   Okay, let’s go.

New Podcast Episode – Drinking in the Kitchen with Derek Mossman and Pilar Miranda of Garage Wine Co

By |2019-02-12T19:44:59+00:00February 12th, 2019|Chile, Podcast|

Angelo Simonetti caught up with the inimitable Derek Mossman and Pilar Miranda of Garage Wine Co. while in Chile several weeks ago. They spent some time in the kitchen and went through current and upcoming releases including Garage’s yet to be seen 2018 Old Vine Pale. For those of you not familiar with Garage Wine Co., they’re at the forefront of Chile’s exciting and growing movement of independent vintners. To listen, here are the episode links on Apple Podcasts/iTunes and Spotify. You can also listen right here on the page:

The full transcript can be found below:

[John Griffin’s opening comments] Grape’s man in Portland, Angelo Simonetti, was heading out to Pichelemu to catch a little surf when he got the call. Derek and Pilar had just returned to their apartment in Santiago and said come on over and let’s try some wines. So he did. We join their conversation just as they’re opening a bottle of their increasingly popular Pais. Here we go.

DEREK:        This is what I had on hand, a half bottle. To me the 18 is interesting.  It’s a little brighter.

PILAR:          Yes, less herbaceous than this one (referring to a bottle of they have open as well, I think it’s a 16).

ANGELO:     Okay. So if you have a full description on this, what do you think.

PILAR:          For the Pais?

ANGELO:     For the Pais.

PILAR:          I think it’s still, it’s uhh, representative of the variety. We see that the wine notes like the herbal things, the smells, the aromas that you can feel, it still have a very nice body. I think at two years old the wines are still very well stand up.

ANGELO:     Still holding.

PILAR:          Yeah, it’s holding very well. The tannins are impressive but it still has a smooth but you can feel them. It’s a light red. I mean it’s not cab. But it’s kind of, kind of serious Pais. A lot of people start to make Pais with carbonic maceration, being very fruity, very strawberry, cotton of candy aromas. I don’t like that style. I think it goes well with other dishes (?). It’s not, uhh, to show the variety in the end if you make carbonic maceration like you can use any variety, going to smell the same.

DEREK:        There’s a lot of Pipeño being sold in the US now, which to me is a different animal. A different thing. But I’m still pleasantly surprised how much Pais sells in the US. People just love the story and it’s just a lighter wine. It’s like buying Beaujolais or something.

ANGELO:     I can tell you it’s more than a Beaujolais. The quality would you get in the nose and the mouth… it’s not simple and one dimensional.

PILAR:          Yeah, but that’s what I was trying to explain with “a serious wine”. Like I mean the Pais it’s not just a simple, light wine. I think it has a structure, it has the tannins, a little complexity; it’s not just a simple wine.

DEREK:        The 16…

PILAR:          The 16 you can drink it easily,

ANGELO:     But it’s still have something, not just goes and pass.

DEREK:        The 15 is still drinking well.

ANGELO:     This is 16.

PILAR:          Yes it’s sixteen, but 17 is sold.

ANGELO:     And holding that much?

DEREK:        The 15 holds. But I’m not sure how much longer.

ANGELO:     But you’re talking about Pais 2016, you’re talking about two years old Pais.

PILAR:          Yeah, and you have a year and half to sell the wine, so it’s been a decent time to sell the wine and for this variety.

DEREK:        The um, what we do with things with labels, these two wines we consider one winter wine. So when we began this project, when we were discovering where the old gentleman with their horses and plows had Cariñena. Normally when you did your roadside tastings, you tasted with them they’d have one foudre and they’d want a “luca extra” (1000 pesos) if you want to take a liter away, you’d have to take your own package, they didn’t actually have it bottled, and what their explanation was that that wine had a second winter and that justified the extra thousand pesos. And that specially related to the second winter and in the end what we found is generally in the Cariñenas, the malolactic doesn’t finish before wintertime, so goes through its first winter without malo. It does it in the springtime and it really isn’t wine and unless you give it another winter of storage, it’s too racy. It’s too, it has too much acid.

It seems that just that doesn’t come into its own. It takes longer to get over the hump. So what we did after working this concept of two winter wines for many years, we decided that, “you know what, we need, the farmers need to sell their Pais, not just their Cariñena, at a decent price. We need to make some things a little more approachable because it’s a cash flow thing. We want to sell some wines before two and a half years.” And in the end we began, the first one we made, was an old vine pale which is in Cariñena from a section of a farm that is, doesn’t matter what you do it has a higher, a higher yield and the old man won’t change, so let’s make a different wine, because we’ll want the good stuff of his down the road. So let’s do that one now. A one-winter wine.

And you know in the beginning I thought was kind of, I suppose I was looking for something original to present,  probably in Inglaterra,  with the , in England, with the Bibendum people. There were just so many people in a room, presenting 12 months in new oak, and this and that and it was so clichéd and hackneyed all the phrases they used that I really loved standing there and saying how many months in a barrel was like one winter or two winters and they’d be like “what’s that?” and you’d have to explain it but then you had them in your hand because now then they’d heard enough of the story the old man and the plows that they wanted to hear the other bit. What was the other bits? Oh, people would say “How old’s the vineyard?” Well, they don’t really know. But they say that when they were young, the vineyard was old. It looked just like it did now and they’re now old, so it must be very old now. And they just kind of smile at you and realize.

Ah, and then there were the percentages. They’d say “and what percentage of Mataró is in this?” I’d say I don’t know. It was 17 barrels of Carignan and one of Matarór. Have you got a phone there, you could probably calculate that if you wanted to. But to me we think in barrels and by the time the staff (not sure here) had a quick visit of the walk around tasting. They were into it. You were the only one they remembered from their loop, little walk around in the New World this afternoon. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. So we stuck with it.

So in the past, some people kind of complained that it was too it was too difficult to learn the system of the lots and it was too complicated, there were too many wines. And it was like dude, I won’t dive into your business and tell you how to sell your wines if you don’t tell me how to make mine, sort of thing.

So what we have done lately though is made sure that the online is everything. So if you go in here you see the parcels, we call them, all of these that we’re about to taste.

So this is 73. So if I go to seventy three here (Derek is referring to their website), we have 17 with 73 16 was 63. I don’t know why 53 and 43 are here but you normally look back in the past further than that.

So all of these, each lot, if it’s any kind of a franc it always ends in a two. There’s a system to it. Those numbers just kind of came out and we just stuck with them. So they weren’t logically organized. This was the seventy third one in gotten since 2000 and 3.

ANGELO:     OK.

DEREK:        So a lot is a lot. A lot is a real lot. We’ve actually got some work to do for the new single-vineyard series.

But all of these are here now and there’s an explanation of the parcels and everything is here so if you wanted to find the, what we were just laughing about the acidity of the sugar of 73, in theory the residual sugar is one point seven. In theory all of these things are here.

ANGELO:     Alcohol 12.6. The pH three point zero five.

DEREK:        That’s a low pH for this wine but most of the pHs are still pretty low. Most are unresolved sugars (I think that’s what he said) aren’t really a factor for us. That would be more or less average alcohol, this is kind of low at 12.5 A lot of these wines are 13.5. The idea is it doesn’t hit 14.

You get that with the cabernets because that’s what the vineyards are used to doing. It will take time to bring it down a little bit if we wanted to, but all of these are here and there’s a root to all of the others (again referring to their website).

[Now they are tasting Old Vine Pale light red]

ANGELO:     Pilar how you describe this?

PILAR:          Ah this is very fresh. Absolutely. What we call, again, like a red. A chilled red. I mean absolutely.

ANGELO:     Can I sell this in the summer as a chill it up, patio wine?

PILAR:          Absolutely. It’s been very successful.

ANGELO:     I like this way. I like the temperature it is.

PILAR:          Yeah. It must be cold like a white.

ANGELO:     That’s what I’m saying. I like the way it is right now, but if it could chill out a little bit over there and serve it a party with my friends with a nice salmon.

PILAR:          Yeah, it’s very successful in UK. It goes really well with Thai food.

ANGELO:     Because there’s no sugar here.

PILAR:          Yeah. Maybe when many people start with the wines they say I don’t like the rosé. I say no, taste it. It’s not sweet.

ANGELO:     Yeah. There’s no sugar at all.

PILAR:          So that’s the idea. It’s a dry wine with a great acidity. So for, you serve cold or for summer salads. Seafood.

ANGELO:     Yeah. This is the, this is the salmon wine. In the Northwest we serve a lot of salmon at parties.

DEREK:        For me this is not a rosé. That’s why we call it old vine pale. Because if it were in a black glass… It has tannins. It has…

ANGELO:     It does. The acidity is balanced. There’s the tannins over there.

PILAR:          Yes.

ANGELO:     It’s very light and refreshing.

PILAR:          We keep it in barrels for six months.

ANGELO:     Six months in a barrel.

PILAR:          Hoping it would round it out.

ANGELO:     Yeah, round it up in your mouth. Okay.

This is a patio wine, for you know, well let’s put it in Celsius, when it’s 30 degrees outside. You don’t want to have nothing to do in the afternoon.

PILAR:          Like today.

ANGELO:     Exactly. You want to just sit down over there. You can drink this. I can drink two bottles of this. It’s fine.

DEREK:        What we found is no one wants a patio wine that comes out in summer. This comes out October, normally.

ANGELO:     Okay.

DEREK:        But the idea is a to…

PILAR:          By December it’s already in.

ANGELO:     Like spring time.

DEREK:        But it’s not doesn’t come out amongst the sales (could he be referring to holiday sales?).

This is something we’d like to start moving more in the US.

ANGELO:     I think so too. I actually, this one of my recommendation right now cause my summer’s coming.

PILAR:          Yes.

ANGELO:     And this, and this is, ya know, Is the cherry on the top the cake.

DEREK:        Yeah I think it’s really fun. Customers who have it do really well with it. What restaurants say they put this on the vino Matic machine, or whatever, on the thing.  And they say you put that there and the people look at the different bottle and they right that, what they say to me traveling is that we’ve never had a wine that gives you the eats like that wine. And then they smile and say I am a  restaurant, I sell food first so that’s a good thing.

ANGELO:     Yeah. This is by the glass.

DEREK:        And then what they say is that once they’ve had that by the glass people say, “What else do you have by these people?” you mean. And then you sell a bottle of whatever else.

ANGELO:     So just two problems for us. I cannot sell rosé in this bottle. A light red I can sell in the green bottle. If they go over then say it’s like red. You don’t call rosé we call light red.

PILAR:          Actually the label doesn’t say rosé, it says old vine pale.

ANGELO:     That’s awesome. [Multiple “That’s Awesome, fading out]

JG Commentary

That’s right Angelo. That does sound awesome for the summer. A light red made from Carignan. Sign me up. Anyway, there you learned a little bit about Pais and how it came about and now the conversation continues with a discussion and a little slurping of some of the outstanding single-vineyard bottlings that garage produces. Take it away.

DEREK:        So the first one is Truquilemu. Well up on the Cordillera de la Costa. Granitic soils This is a little further down in the Sauzal, but it’s similar in soil and this one we’ll talk about afterwards because it’s further inland in kind of an odd way.

This is pure, almost pure Cariñena with a single barrel of Monatrell, Mataró. This one has almost as much Garnacha  as it does Cariñena with a little bit of Mataró again. And this is pure Garnacha.

These are projects that the old, generally the old men had, the old Cariñena, and we decided for putting more Cariñena in and then we put the Garnacha and the Monastrell to make like a field blend out of Don Nivaldo and Señor Orteriez’ (sp) farm. And out of that there are 2,500 bottles. 2,800 hundred bottles every year, something like that, no more. Of this one there is no more than 7000, depending on the year. And this is thirty five hundred…

PILAR:          3000 maximum.

DEREK:        … something like that.

So the idea is that these are all different, but they’re kind of variations on a theme. I really liked what guy that writes for wine-searcher said…I really thought was interesting that someone wrote there. Well they did a mixed case from Chile. What you have to drink. And they go through the various wines, the famous, like the Montes Folly and bah, bah, bah, and he gets to us he say I’m not really going to chose one of these, any one from these guys will do. They’re all, how do you say, variations on a theme. They’re all wonderful and you just you just run through them and try them all, but I’m not going to choose one above the others. I thought that was kind of fun.

[The sounds of wine being poured and Angelo tasting]

ANGELO:     The grip on this one is bigger than that one.

PILAR:          Yeah.

ANGELO:     Wow.

Sowsow? Sauzal?

PILAR:          Sauzal. A very small town.

DEREK:        The herbs are different.

ANGELO:     Yeah. You. I get a little oregano and spicy…

DEREK:        That’s really nice.

PILAR:          It shows very well today.

DEREK:        45 was really, was hard, it was bit lighter…

ANGELO:     Wow.

DEREK:        … while 65 are in the stride.

in this dry. What can we say about these? These are all pretty, um.

PILAR:          I would like to say that if you taste the wines they are different. I mean they show the place where they come from. But you see a connection between the wines between the varieties that it has tannins, really ripe tannins. The have a grip, very balanced acidity.

ANGELO:     You can say, okay, this is a lot of acidity, but these two here with the very nice grip.

PILAR:          Yes. I think the Garnacha does.

ANGELO:     Yeah. And then just give, you see the, the impact of the wine.

PILAR:          Yeah. You need a dish of beef or something to eat with this wine.

ANGELO:     You know I, I, I like big wines in a reserve way, ya know. Initially, initially it’s just the…. because the complexity of this wine here and it’s still go round my mouth and just …(smack, smack, smack). I think sometimes the foods help but sometimes the food you need, just not too little time to understand better the wine. The wine is still talking to you before you have the next bite of the steak.

PILAR:          I like because you feel the dryness, but not, not in the tongue or your gum.

ANGELO:     Is outside.

PILAR:          Here and in the front there, is come from the grapes not coming from the wood or tannins that you add.

DEREK:        To me this one a little bit bigger, but these are quite low. This is like, this is less than 13.5, both of these… alcohol.

ANGELO:     But you can see the…like the other ones.

DEREK:        Here it’s a little above…

PILAR:          It’s garnacha, I mean it’s really hard to make a Garnacha with 12.5.

DEREK:        What happens here is, this has literally pH of 3.3 and acid 6.15, it, it almost has numbers like a Cariñena. I mean sometimes it’s, uhhh….

 

[More lip smacking noises]

 

ANGELO:     Whew. Delicious.

DEREK:        I really like this one.

ANGELO:     You see the evolution coming with the gripping and especially with tannins, the acidity. Wow.

DEREK:        This. Is my favorite today. The 65 wins.

[next wine]

This is a little dopey.

ANGELO:     The sixty five?

DEREK:        Yeah. Well, this first one to me is just… in kind of dumb period.

PILAR:          Mmm, they have their…phase.

DEREK:        It’s got the nose.

PILAR:          [says something about years]

ANGELO:     Because you put it side by side. No, but you put it side by side. You put a side by side. They’re different character, they’re different.

DEREK:        But most days this one goes straight to people’s heart. Just like a sultry tango it just the nails it and the herbs are slightly different.

ANGELO:     But you see these two here is a similarity. But this guy here is just a monster.

DEREK:        This is just (says something about the name of the vineyard)…

ANGELO:     [Angelo talking over Derek] This is a monster.

DEREK:        …this is further inland but what happens here… it’s a very interesting vineyard.  It’s next to a river, but the river flows down from the Cordillera de la Costa. So it’s like an alluvial river bank vineyard, but the silt or the soils and it’s the make of the soils is granitic, so you don’t have those same round stones and it changes as the acid profile changes many things in the wine.  It’s kind of a fun one because in the end you often speak about in this area it’s the river that flows backwards. It flows towards the Andes and then it finds its way to another river combines and flows back out to the ocean.

ANGELO:     This is lot of wine. The third one is just…a lot of wine.

DEREK:        Garnacha is still kind of making its way the, uh… in Chile you wouldn’t really think of Garnacha. There’s a couple. But they’re not really well known, they’re all tiny productions like this, and they’re all very different. There’s someone doing something interesting in the north.

ANGELO:     [Angelo exhales] Pilar, this definitely is a steak wine.

PILAR:          It’s my dad’s favorite.

ANGELO:     This is a steak wine. It’s a lot of wine inside this bottle. But this definitely you see: Beginning. Middle. Monster. You see you, you. A little light but, but this like you said your favorite today…

DEREK:        This and the next year is the one that did really well with Luis Gutierrez is here and it was kind of a fun one because this is the year we start using a lot of reintroducing the lignified stems. We did a little bit in 15 and then a lot and 16 and the tannins just changed, they’re just different.

ANGELO:     Whew. The 69. OH. Delicious.

DEREK:        This is a property that we would manage more than just for us. We actually sell some of the fruit.

ANGELO:     Cab Franc.

DEREK:        This Franc is a hundred and ten years old. It’s been quite an adventure to take it on properly. We used to buy kilos from it and now we manage it and it’s a lot more work, but we can get the alcohol to come down, we can get a little more of the herbally nature, but it’s still pretty, pretty big in this year.

ANGELO:     Which one is this? This is the Cab Sauv. OK.

Cab Franc you know, have his way back in people’s palates in America.

DEREK:        Cab Franc is like a love hate thing; those people love it and people who…

ANGELO:     By the way, this Cab Franc  is having a totally different character from me. But they have a good tannins around the mouth.

PILAR:          There’s a different smell. Like there’s more meats…

ANGELO:     Yeah, I was gonna say a lot of…

PILAR:          Bramble

ANGELO:     Black tea.

PILAR:          It’s more rosés, more fruit.

ANGELO:     But you have a black tea in this.

DEREK:        To me it’s like a bit of a bay leaf which would be Cab Franc. See, and both of these are from the Maule. We make a cab and the cab franc from the Maipo. But we don’t…what we don’t like to do as the clients like this one or the other one we like to just rotate through them and start delivering them when they’re more ready to drink. So if one’s a little harder a year or we sell through one faster we start in on the other one right away.

It’s 17 that the alcohol on this comes down, right Pilar. I was really looking forward to tasting that with you this week, but you didn’t get a chance to come down there.

ANGELO:     The 74? No, this is 82. The 82 is?

DEREK:        The 82 is still 14, but this comes down to less than 13 the following year. I’m really interested in trying it.

ANGELO:     How about the74? How much alcohol is in the 74?

DEREK:        [Checking website]

                        It’s not here yet. I don’t know why 74 is not up yet. Who’s in charge of this.

PILAR:          I don’t know if they’re going to fire me.

ANGELO:     Fire him. Pilar, send him home.

DEREK:        I think that it just kind of blew past me Pilar. I don’t think I…

PILAR:          If you really want to know, it’s on file.

DEREK:        14.1.

ANGELO:     No. Not high.

DEREK:        It’s kind of funny cause when we started, as people who live in Chile, um, when we started making Cab from somewhere other than Maipo, it took us a while to get our heads around it and what we were surprised by was that the critics actually like the Maule ones better. But not the Chilean critics. Chileans have this thing with them.

ANGELO:     Local. Different.

DEREK:        It’s kind of funny in the end even the Franc too they all say “for us it’s not Franc-ee because we’re sued to Cab Franc from the Maipo”, but when they tasted this they said “that’s Franc-ier than the Maipo” and we all look at them kind of…

One of the write ups of, I can’t remember whom, they compared it to Tondonia, which to me was just. It’s kind of like, whoopie if someone says your wine’s like a Margaux. It’s kind of like, yeah right. But when they say something like Tondonia youre kind of like, wow, that’s cool.

There were two that he compared them to this year. Ah, it was another one of the other blends of the Carignans he said it was like a Barolo Chianato.

ANGELO:     Barolo Chianato?

DEREK:        Barolo Chianato. Have you had Barolo Chianato?

ANGELO:     Mmmmhuh.

DEREK:        I was like, What the hell’s that? I had to look it up and then everyone is like, loves Barolo Chianato and I was like, oh nuts.

Oh come on. I think we should make a Chianato

ANGELO:     Chianato here?

DEREK:        Instead of making a port or something like that. I think something that has, cause in the end it’s like a port but it’s it’s with medicinal, right?

PILAR:          Yeah, but that doesn’t really count.

[Lastly, the trio talks about Perverso or La Maldita Solera]

DEREK:        And this is a very ugly label but it shows the point.

ANGELO:     Perverso  [Angelo chuckles]

DEREK:        The reason that we can, how do you say, take chances. The reason we can take chances, it’s not that we take chances, but when we make these wines, when there is a barrel of 8 or a 15 or 21, depending on how big the lot is and there’s a barrel that talks too loud and once you put it in the blend there isn’t harmony anymore, it’s the one that you notice it too much.

We put those away for a third or fourth winter and we make a solera that is perverso. So in the end you can, how do you say, make mistakes, but you end up using and regaining something. Unfortunately we’ve never been able to send this to the US because no one will you work with the name.

ANGELO:     I want to know if that’s true over there you advertising the label. “Fix bad relationship you failed”, then I wanted five of this right now .

DEREK:        We talked about doing this for the US.

PPILAR:        We’re going to change the name.

DEREK:        What was it going to be? Maldita…

PILAR:          Maldita Solera.

ANGELO:     I like it. But I like it perverso too. Evil. Evil.

PILAR:          Yeah, but there’s an issue with the name with the church to make sure.

ANGELO:     Ah, you have someone here.

PILAR:          No, no, no. I mean that they relate the name pervert.

ANGELO:     Ohhhh, ok.

PILAR:          So we’re going to change the name.

ANGELO:     I can see that much. Maldita? I like that too.

PILAR:          Maldita Solera.

[JG’s closing comments]

Hmmm, Barolo Chianato in Chile. Oh that Derek. But the Maldita Solera sounds interesting. Hopefully we’ll see that in the US soon. And what’s up with Angelo loving the 69 and getting all giggly over the perverso. Hmmm, maybe he needs to get out a little more. Just kidding. Anyway there you go. Thanks again to Derek and Pilar of Garage Wine Company for taking the time.

Burgundy – Winter 2019

By |2019-01-27T17:20:23+00:00January 24th, 2019|France, Podcast, Travel Report|

The journey continues to Burgundy, with visits to Domaine R. Dubois & Fils, Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur, and Justin Girardin.  Snow threatened, Frank took care of his Andouillette fix, and all things said a solid day at the office.

Vintage Summary

Conditions in Burgundy for the 2018 vintage were similar to Alsace, and the whole Northern part of France for that matter. The result is a large crop (sometimes too large) of concentrated wines with saturated colors. People who started their harvesting on time and did not overcrop will have superb reds and very good whites. Given the weather, it is more of a Red vintage than a white as acidities may be low.

Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur

Dufouleur started early and harvested rapidly as the heat continued through the harvest. His wines are dark, fresh and have normal
acidity levels. He also has good cooling equipment, unusual in Burgundy, but critical in 2018. Like his father before him Yvan Dufouleur is obsessed with freshness in his finished wines and therefore will pick a few days earlier than most of his peers – We consider this an advantage almost universally (this style is what led us to his wines in the first place), and in 2018 this was a massive advantage. All 2018 reds are barrel-aged, more or less new depending on the appellation
All 2018 reds are barrel-aged, more or less new depending on the appellation
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 H.C. Nuits, dark, loaded with fruit.
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 Santenay Genets, big, very dark, balanced, classy
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 Pommard, more feminine in style, very fine
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 NSG Juliens, good color, elegant style
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 Fixin Chapitre, Syrah-dark ! concentrated, tannic, outstanding (and cheap)
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 NSG Poulettes, soft, round, very fine
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2018 NSG Perrieres, dark, concentrated, complex, emblematic, should get some

We did not taste 2018 whites, all were in malolactic
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 Aligote, still fresh and lively, but too “old” for us now
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 HCN Blanc, fresh, structured, young
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 HCN Rouge, good color, fresh, nice fruit
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 Pommard, rather big, finesse
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 Fixin Chapitre, dark, concentrated, full
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 NSG Juliens, tight, typical, pure, finesse
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2017 NSG Perrieres, dark, more concentration
We also tasted two lots of older wines:

Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2011 NSG Poulettes, some reduction, still youngish, complex
Domaine Guy & Yvan Dufouleur 2007 NSG Poulettes mature, or close to it, beautiful aromatics, ordered everything available.
The wines are less concentrated here, which is their style, but in 2018 this is actually an advantage.

Domaine Raphael Dubois & Fils

Here we have a traditional estate in Premeaux, near Nuits-Saint-Georges, not unlike Dufouleur, but a little more old-school with something of an “undiscovered” feel to it.  Frank has worked with this property for years on the Poot Agenturen side of things in Europe.

Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Aligoté, fresh, full
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Coteaux Bourguignonnes, longer, good flavor
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 HCN, full, more concentration
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 HCB, more acidity, finer, sort of light Meursault-style
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 CdNV, bigger, fatter. more oak
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Bourgogne Rouge, good color, fruit, soft
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 HCN, color ok, fruit, more elegant
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Savigny Les Beaune, color ok, typical, some tannin
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Beaune, similar, pretty wine
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Volnay, again similar in style, but finer
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Chambolle Musigny, darker, fat, full, masculin
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Vosne Romanee, fine fruit, typical
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 NSG, good color, full, tannic. concentration
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 SLB Narbantons, good color, aromatic, nice
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 NSG Argillièrers, fine, concentrated, long
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 NSG Porets, new oak, tannic
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2018 Clos Vougeot, dark, tannic, structured
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 Bourgogne, good color, a little tight
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 NSG, dark, full, fruit, tannin
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 SLB Narbantons, lighter color, fine, elegant
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 NSG Argillières, good color, some reduction, some wood, round
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 NSG Porets, more concentartion, fine, aromatic
Domaine R. Dubois & Fils 2017 Clos Vougeot, dark, tannic, dry
We talk a lot about colors here, because at Dubois they are sometimes on the light side. Wonder why? Well, in these modern times enzyme additions to Pinot Noir at crush have become the norm even in traditional ole Burgundy and while we don’t have a huge problem with this it is refreshing to work with someone like Dubois who is traditional to the max and proud of the naturally light color you end up with in the finished wines of this region.. We should do more with them – Prices are good, few old school estates like this exist anymore, and they offer a wide range of wines.

Justin Girardin

We tasted 2018’s with Justin out of barrel at his main space in Santenay.  One thing you instantly notice about Justin is that he is an intensely focused person. This was actually the winery of Justin’s famous uncle Vincent Girardin, until Vincent moved his operations a few kilometers North.  It is worth noting (some of you already know this we are sure) that Vincent Girardin recently sold his Domaine to Boisset, and the way we see it this puts young Justin Girardin in the position to carry the storied torch of this overachieving Santenay based family.  Carrying that torch well he is.  Just for the sheer pleasure of it we want to drive back and taste this whole lineup once more!
Justin Girardin 2018 Bourgogne Blanc, stunningly good again, fresh, classy
Justin Girardin 2018 Santenay, beautiful lemon color, long, fine, outstanding for appellation.
Justin Girardin 2018 Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot, citrusy, rich, very good.
Justin Girardin 2018 Bourgogne Rouge, 35 year vines, dark, tight, good fruit, cool, outstanding
Justin Girardin 2018 Santenay VV, dark, more complex and concentration, fruit
Justin Girardin 2018 Santenay Clos Rousseau, more of everything, finer
Justin Girardin 2018 Pommard, tons of fruit, fine, elegant
Overall a stunning set of wines, as good as it gets.  While there aren’t huge quantities made of any of these wines there is enough production of the Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge for us to give them focus and build volume. 2017’s are still available in decent quantities. Lesser 2018’s will be bottled in the summer. At this point we were able to get the virtual reality camera working so check out the embedded image of Justin in his cellar below and move the view around. Preferably just put on a VR headset. Depending on when you are reading this you “should” be able to walk around the winery that way but we are messing with some image stitching issues at the moment…stay tuned!

That’s it for now, onwards towards the Macon!

Alsace – Winter 2019

By |2019-01-21T18:52:58+00:00January 20th, 2019|France, Podcast, Travel Report|

Frank Poot, John Griffin, and I are on a dizzying 12 day, 38 winery rout through France to taste 2018’s in barrel and catch up with producers.  We are compiling our opinions, notes, and media as a group and posting them here for your enjoyment!  

Vintage Summary

2018…Extraordinary vintage in Alsace. Large too very large volumes and very ripe at the same time. This despite a wet spring and a very dry, very hot summer. Harvest had to start early to retain acidity and freshness.  The wines are unusually concentrated with high, sometimes even record alcohol levels. However, the concentration is such that this does not seem to be a big problem.Obviously, residual sugar levels in Pinot Gris and Gewürz are high, but the wines still seem to be balanced.

Domaine Fernand Engel

Proprietor Xavier Engel runs what is probably the largest Biodynamic estate in France, and he is somewhat of an outsider on the natural/bio scene as he farms this way out of pure pragmatism (and obsession about mineral content in the finished wines) rather than being someone who farms this way for philosophical reasons. We will take it – Recent studies here showed 70% higher mineral content in wine from biodynamically farmed soil versus conventional soil (same area, same vine age)! Xavier’s cellar is one huge science experiment and his newest passion is reductive winemaking – He is minimizing oxygen to the extreme in all vessels for what can only be described as unbelievable freshness and balance. We will dive into that on the podcast this Spring as it is a bit too technical to splice into this post.

Xavier Engel in front of his self-invented oxygen scrubbing system

Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Blanc, fresh, ripe, outstanding.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Sylvaner, classic Sylvaner, enough to bring Frank close to tears
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling “Cuvee Engel,” Ripe, good acidity and character, full, fresh. Rarely seen quality
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling Rotenberg, big, intense, complex.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Riesling Praelatenberg, finer, more elegant, concentration.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Gris “Cuvee Engel,” dry, full, complex, intense
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Gewürztraminer “Cuvee Engel,” superb, full of character, impossible not to like. RS
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Vendage Tardives (PG and Gewürz), beautiful, super-concentration, still good acidity.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Cuvee Engel,” very dark, full, tannic with good varietal character.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Meyerhof,” biner, more focused, despite young vines.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2018 Pinot Noir “Reniassance” (with some dried grapes added), over-the-top, but if you like Amarone….
Domaine Fernand Engel 2016 Cremant d’Alsace Chardonnay, pale, fine, crisp. Very good indeed.
Domaine Fernand Engel 2016 Cremant d’Alsace Pinot Noir, (new and from the Silberberg plot), big, bold young. *we purchased every last bottle he’d give us of this new bottling
The most interesting discovery on this trip was learning about Xavier’s unique process of making sparkling wines. We’ve long celebrated his bubbles for their rich mouthfeel and fine carbonation but weren’t aware that he was doing something completely unusual to accomplish this result.  Intrigued?  Listen to this short clip from Xavier on our podcast where he explains his philosophy of growing on “cool” soils in order to harvest at a high enough brix level to have the ability to achieve secondary fermentation with natural grape sugars.

Cattin

As you know there is quite the broad range at Cattin and we focused mostly on cuvees we carry since we are just in the process of launching things with them.  Jacques Cattin feels lucky about the bountiful 2018 harvest. If you haven’t yet visited their spaceship like tasting room and wine bar you must go as there is nothing else like it in Alsace.  Tactile wines.

Jacques Cattin shows us his delicious new Cremant “Ice”


Cattin 2018 Pinot Blanc, aromatic, fresh.
Cattin 2018 Pinot Blanc Reserve, a little more of everything
Cattin 2018 Riesling, aromatic, tiny bit of rs
Cattin 2018 Rielsing Reserve, a step up, more acidity and a little smokey.
Cattin 2018 Pinot Gris, more concentration, typical
Cattin 2018 Pinot Gris Reserve, slightly better, same style
Cattin 2018 Pinot Noir, dark, good character, fresh, some tannin.
Cattin 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve, very close
Cattin 2016 Cremant d’Alsace BIO, fresh, crisp, dry, very good
Cattin NV Cremant d’Alsace “Ice,” demi-sec but quite fresh and balanced, Very nice, good packaging
Apparently Cattin’s Demi-Sec “Ice” is a massive hit locally in Alsace.  We couldn’t stop talking about it during our drive to Burgundy – We will give it a go on our next shipment, just in time for swimming pool season! The future ahead is very bright indeed for Cattin.

Introducing our new podcast, GRAPE: Unfined/Unfiltered

By |2018-12-31T06:04:41+00:00December 31st, 2018|News, Podcast|

Always looking for more ways to connect you with our winemakers, we’ve created the GRAPE: Unfined/Unfiltered podcast in order to give you some extra insight on the Grape Expectations wines in your sales bag, your retail shelves, or your wine list.  As of today it is up on iTunes/Apple Podcasts and Spotify, so take a listen when you get in your car!

This first take was a bit of a test run, so bear with us as we continue to improve the audio quality, splice in some intro/outro music, etc…

Various members of our team here at Grape will act as rotating “hosts” and of course we expect to hear plenty of Rotterdam-based insight from Frank.  Are there some specific producers you’d enjoy hearing as guests?  Please let us know!