Exciting Release Of An Extra Brut Vintage Champagne Wine That Is 40 Years Old

As the group descended the seemingly endless flights of stairs, the temperature significantly dropped with many throwing on a jacket they had brought. At the bottom of this downward journey, deep below the ground, was dim lighting sporadically placed at the top of the tunnels carved within the solid chalk soil. It was so quiet that one of the men in the group could hear his heartbeat as he walked down these passages. A tremendous amount of excitement started to build within him because this was his initiation into becoming an essential part of a great Champagne house with a longtime chief winemaker who is a living legend within the Champagne world. 

Suddenly, there it was, the purpose for such a journey finally presented itself after various smaller caves were passed until they arrived at the place where an extremely important induction would take place; the new chief winemaker for Piper-Heidsieck, Emilien Boutillat, was about to taste his first old vintage of Piper with the previous chief winemaker Régis Camus. In a section of the small cave in which Régis and Emilien entered was written “1982” on a sign with a stack of bottles behind it that seemed to have decades of dust on them. 

There Régis would choose one of the Extra Brut Vintage 1982 bottles that would be tasted with a twin 1982 bottle, a twin that was alike in almost every way except for one stage of its life, and that one change would end up placing the twins on different journeys.

1982 Vintage Hors-Série Edition 

Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Série 1982
Photo Credit: Piper-Heidsieck Champagne

Last year, the new chief winemaker at Piper-Heidsieck, Emilien Boutillat, released the first edition of his own personal Piper project called Hors-Série – a name used by French magazines to indicate a “special edition.” The Hors-Série project allows Emilien to be completely free in expressing his creativity, whether it is releasing an older vintage that displays an exciting aspect of Piper’s past or illustrates something new such as a winemaking technique or how they are combating climate change. The second edition of Hors-Série, just recently released, shows how Piper-Heidsieck was ahead of the trend, several decades ago, by making Extra Brut Champagne which is drier than Brut Champagne.1 

This Piper-Heidsieck Extra Brut was called ‘Brut Sauvage’ as it displayed the “wild” side of Piper; it was an extremely unorthodox choice in the 1980s as Extra Brut wasn’t a trend and barely known at the time and the fierce acidity that many times were present in these wines was too much for the consumers back then. Of course, the ‘Brut Sauvage’ of the 80s should not be confused with the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage of today as that is a Brut Champagne Rosé and today Piper has an Extra Brut Champagne under the name ‘Essentiel.’

Emilien talked about how releasing the 1982 Extra Brut Champagne was a way to show consumers the “bold side” of Piper that was beyond its time and besides it being the first old vintage of Piper-Heidsieck he tasted, the vintage is similar to the current 2022 growing season; 1982 was considered a warmer vintage like 2022 yet what was considered warmer back in the 1980s is entirely different than today. The 1982 vintage produced concentrated grapes so it was ideal for making as an Extra Brut only adding four g/L (grams per liter) during the dosage2 as the acidity wouldn’t have been as sharp. And in a way, it was unknowingly a first step in finding balance with climate change even though permanent changing conditions, such as higher average temperatures, weren’t considered the severe threat it is today.

And down the line, Emilien said he has some exciting bottlings to release that will show how Piper-Heidsieck finds harmony with much warmer vintages.

Twins with Different Life Experiences 

Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Série
Photo Credit:
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne

Not only will Champagne enthusiasts be able to try the limited edition of the Hors-Série 1982 bottle just recently released onto the market but they will also be able to taste two 1982 twins that have gone on two different journeys. There will be another release that will be extremely limited within a two-bottle box, including the Hors-Série, which was disgorged3 in January of 2022, and the other, the Brut Sauvage, disgorged in 1992. Both of the bottles not only come from the same vintage, but they are the same blend and went through the same winemaking process (both have four g/L residual sugar added during dosage), yet when it comes to disgorgement, they have taken two different paths. It is fascinating to taste them side by side, tasting two older Vintage Champagnes that have the same heart and soul, which are noted in both the core of each wine, yet there are several nuances of variations between the twins.

This new release of the 1982 Hors-Série, especially the box set of the twins, is multilayered in the wines’ expressions and their combined story; a story that shows the deep respect Piper-Heidsieck has for the past but is ready to make giant leaps into the future.

And in a way, these two bottles represent the changing of the guard from the legendary former chief winemaker Régis Camus to the current, Emilien Boutillat. Both men were born and raised in Champagne and have a passion for excelling by making the best Champagne in the world. Still, Régis started immediately working for a Champagne house. In contrast, Emilien worked in various wine regions such as iconic producers in Bordeaux, the Southern Rhône, as well as New Zealand, California, Chile and South Africa. One journey is not better than the other as they both have what they need at the core, but certainly, a different life experience is navigating Piper-Heidsieck into the future.

This is a future that still holds a lot of surprises and it is only just the beginning of this new chapter, a chapter that started when Emilien took his first sip of the 1982. 

***Link to original article published on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/11/18/exciting-release-of-an-extra-brut-vintage-champagne-wine-that-is-40-years-old/

Dual Box release of Hors-Série and Brut Sauvage Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

There are 2,500 single boxes of the 1982 Hors-Série and 500 dual boxes of the 1982 Hors-Série and the 1982 Brut Sauvage. Emilien and his team have tasted all the bottles to ensure that all bottles released onto the market are in great shape. And the labels of the wines are similar to the past Extra Brut Sauvage labels, with the dual box set highlighting the twins as there are two holograms which, when moved side to side, shows the changing names of Hors-Série and Sauvage alternating from box to box. 

Single Box release of Hors-Série:

Hors-Série 1982: 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. There is a lifted brightness on the nose with intense minerality and notes of citrus flower that becomes more like juicy peach on the palate with vibrant acidity – a beautiful balance of complex aromatics, fresh fruit and lots of energy with a very long, expressive finish with notes of salty lemon and toasted bread. Suggested retail price is $599. 

Hors-Série 1982 and Brut Sauvage 1982
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Dual Box release of Hors-Série and Brut Sauvage:

Hors-Série 1982: 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay; tasting note given above. 

Brut Sauvage 1982: 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. There is more evolution with the Brut Sauvage 1982 compared with the Hors-Série 1982. Decadent notes on the nose such as honeycomb, pineapple upside down cake and brioche with a creamier palate that feels lush in the mouth with a long, flavorful finish and a touch of caramelized apples. It is interesting how the 1982 Brut Sauvage is creamier and richer on the palate than the Hors-Série as one might think that the one on lees longer (the Hors-Série) would have more creaminess on the palate but the post-disgorgement aging, known as the maillard reaction between the sugars (added at dosage) and amino acids, can create a richness that might explain why the Brut Sauvage is creamier. Suggested retail price is $1,500.

1 The Brut Champagne category is allowed to add 0 to 12 g/L of sugar to the dosage but many times, in practice, the amount added is between 10 to 12 g/L to balance the high acidity. The Extra Brut category is only allowed between 0 to 6g/L as it is a drier style.

2 Dosage is the tiny amount of wine that tops off the Champagne bottle after disgorgement.

3 Disgorgement is the ejection of the deposit collected in the bottle’s neck due to the remuage process. Remuage is the process that allows the sediment (lees created by the second fermentation in the bottle to develop bubbles) to collect in the neck of the bottle in preparation for disgorgement.

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Investment In Mountain Vineyards Pays Off For A Wine Producer In Southern France

Over twenty years ago, Nicolas and Miren de Lorgeril sought out vineyards at higher altitudes in the foothills of mountains in Southern France without any idea that climate change and global warming even existed. At the time, they were going against the grain in their Languedoc region as it was an area that was known for cheap wines and the stigma stuck even when producers were making high-quality wines, but at the time, it was thought that if winemakers made very ripe, concentrated wines with lots of density then they would be taken seriously. But Miren and Nicolas were young and pulled away from other opportunities to help with Nicolas’ family vineyards as his mother was getting tired and the dream of his father, who passed 15 years earlier, had not been fully realized.

Not only would Nicolas’ father’s dream eventually be fully realized but that dream would be taken to heights that he could have never imagined.

Maison Lorgeril 

Château de Pennautier
Photo Credit: Maison Lorgeril

The Lorgeril family has been the caretaker of a precious Languedoc estate, Château de Pennautier, since 1620, so their roots go deep within this southern region of France. But like many other wine regions in Europe in the mid to late 1800s, the devastating pest phylloxera destroyed the vineyards of the Languedoc, forcing its local economy into a tailspin. And despite their historic family estate standing as a glorious monument for the area, known as the Versailles of the South, times were extremely tough for the local people and the Lorgeril family. And so people could no longer plant vineyards on the hillside, as quantity was more important than quality because locals were just drinking during those desperate times to gain enough calories to work, and hence, the vineyards were relegated to the fertile lower plains. “My husband’s grandmother sold hillside land so she could afford to buy the land in the plains for growing grapes,” noted Miren de Lorgeril, as the mentality is undoubtedly the opposite today, with the hillside being much more greatly valued.

Miren and Nicolas de Lorgeril with kids
Photo Credit Maison Lorgeril

When Miren and her husband, Nicolas de Lorgeril, were first married, he was pursuing another career outside of winemaking and she was working for another producer in the Rhône Valley – not that far from the Languedoc, and then Nicolas received word from his mother that she had reached an age where it became too much to oversee their Maison Lorgeril family estates and that he needed to take over. Miren immediately followed her husband to the Languedoc and at the top of their agenda was to produce fresh, elegant wines. Immediately they went to each estate to notify the winemaker, to his disbelief, that freshness and elegance were preferred over intense concentration. 

Miren and Nicolas fiercely worked to make elegant wines from their vineyards that were managed with sustainable practices while also pursuing sales in other countries all around the world instead of continuing the tradition of selling through a local wine merchant, as the wine merchant was all about taking the easy path of selling the wines as bargains completely ignoring the lovely sense of place that their wines were displaying. During this time, Nicolas continued his other career helping finance the significant changes necessary to bring his family’s wine business to the next level. 

Reaching for Greater Heights

After many years of trying to break into various European and Asian markets, Miren and Nicolas decided that they needed to buy more estates throughout Languedoc as well as their neighboring region Roussillon. Many of the distributors from other countries were impressed by their wines at the time, yet they needed a broader range of styles, grapes and terroirs to have any chance of entering international markets. And this became the motivator for the Lorgerils to buy more vineyards in different areas, vineyards that were high-elevation sites within the Languedoc-Roussillon that ranged between 400 to 1,200 feet above sea level. If they were going to put everything on the line to make the world stop and appreciate the brightness and elegance that came from their region, they would go all in and choose the vineyards that they thought represented the best of the Languedoc and Roussillon. And then, in 2000, they released the first vintage of their wines labeled ‘Terroirs d’Altitude,’ bringing a focus to their cooler climate sites which went against the big and robust wines that the Languedoc had built its reputation on.

Château de Pennautier vineyard 
Photo Credit: Maison Lorgeril

Now, as many parts of the world are experiencing record heat waves such as what happened to various parts of the Western world during this past summer, the Lorgerils couldn’t be happier that the choices they made so long ago, when they had no knowledge of climate change, are benefiting them today and guaranteeing a solid future for their children.

Dynamic Wine Region 

There are many European wine regions where the locals resent outsiders buying estates and making wine. And although Nicolas de Lorgeril traces his family back to 1620 in the Languedoc, he and his wife love that there is no over-evaluation of their land as it allows young people from all over to purchase vineyards in the Languedoc to pursue their dreams, bringing with them lots of creativity and a dynamic energy that has helped to make much of the wine region organic, and the Lorgerils became organic ten years ago. Miren de Lorgeril said it is a big contrast to when they first came to the Languedoc as it seemed impossible to get the world to take them seriously as a wine region. Yet today, the Languedoc is becoming a place where many retail stores and restaurants around the world want to source their French wine selections as the wine producers are finding an ideal balance of ripeness and freshness in higher-elevation sites, it is extremely easy to be organic there and the prices are very reasonable.

All those years ago, Nicolas de Lorgeril’s father believed that the Languedoc could become a high-quality French wine region, even in the shadow of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he wrote precise instructions for his wife to follow to make high-quality wine in case of his death. And in a way, that paper has become the greatest treasure he could leave his family as it gave hope for a brighter future – he was determined that his beloved region would not fall into obscurity, with many abandoning vineyards for other crops.

But maybe he couldn’t imagine that his son and daughter-in-law would sell the family’s wines all over the world and that people from different places would move to the Languedoc because they saw the potential of it becoming the next exciting wine region in Europe. Or maybe, just maybe he could imagine all of this, and more to come, as he sat gazing at his stunning Château de Pennautier estate, knowing that even though locals were living hand to mouth, that just like his glorious palace, the best vineyards were waiting to be discovered by the world. And once they were, the world would completely be taken by the beauty that came from his home.

***Link to original article published on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/11/10/investment-in-mountain-vineyards-pays-off-for-a-wine-producer-in-southern-france/

Bottle of Château de Caunettes
Photo Credit: Maison Lorgeril

Maison Lorgeril Languedoc Rosé

2021 Maison Lorgeril, Ô de Rosé, Languedoc, France: 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Viognier harvested from three different estates in the Languedoc and then vinified together. Lovely white cherry notes and wet stones with a touch of raspberry on the finish.

Maison Lorgeril ‘Terroirs d’Altitude’ Estate Wines 

 2020 Marquis de Pennautier, Chardonnay, Cabardès, Languedoc, France: 100% Chardonnay from their historic Pennautier estate in the hilltop town of Carcassonne in Languedoc. In a north-facing site that ranges from 750 to 1,200 feet in altitude. Lemon curd flavors with hints of minerality and a creaminess on the mid-palate with spices and bright acidity. And this Chardonnay is one of their most popular wines, which may seem odd considering Chardonnay’s spiritual home, Burgundy, is just north of them. But the balance of just enough fruit ripeness with the bright acidity and minerality at a moderate price point has made this wine a big seller.

2019 Château de Caunettes, Cabardès, Languedoc, France: Red blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache. Upheaved earth with turmeric powder and cardamom pods balanced by black cherry juicy fruit.

2019 Château de Ciffre, Saint-Chinian, Languedoc, France: Red blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre. Fresh blackberries with a touch of leather and bacon fat with finely etched tannins. 

2019 Domaine de la Borie Blanche, Minervois la Liviniere, Languedoc, France: Red blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache. Red blend of Syrah (of which 50% is grown on schist soils and 20% undergoes carbonic maceration) and the rest Mourvèdre and Grenache. Hints of black pepper on the nose with wild mushrooms and wildflowers in the background and good weight on the palate with fresh mulberry fruit and black cherries finishing with silky tannins.

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‘Rare’ Champagne Wine Producer Displaying Its Environmental Commitment Through Art

2012 Rare Rosé Millésime Champagne with William Amor’s Créations Messagères
Photo Credit: Antony Magne

The glittery pink jewels that sparkled in the light attracted the fashionable crowd at The Ritz Carlton Nomad ‘Champagne and Art’ event as they seemed like bejeweled beacons that called out to the sophisticated guests. As one approached closer and closer, the exquisite shapes and brilliant colors of the gems were even more impressive and as some of the guests would sneak a touch of these sparkly treasures, around bottles of oustanding Vintage Rosé Champagne, they were further astonished by the overall lightness of being that gave these jewels an otherworldly quality.

As one of the fabulous attendees gazed with amazement at these gems, a French artist, William Amor, started to explain how he can create jewelry and flowers from waste… yes, waste such as plastic bags, plastic bottles and even cigarette butts, to name a few of his materials. His flowers are just as bewildering as his gems as even to the human touch they seem so real one starts to second guess whether there were some real flowers placed among the fake ones made from waste; but no, they were all crafted from trash and sculpted by human hands.

‘Rare’ Champagne 

Maud Rabin, director at Rare Champagne, and French artist William Amor, showing Maye Musk his Créations Messagères
Photo Credit: Antony Magne

Maud Rabin, director at Rare Champagne, orchestrated a fantastic event at The Ritz-Carlton Nomad, in Manhattan, New York City, to launch the 2012 ‘Rare’ Rosé a couple of weeks ago and the event illustrated how the values of Rare Champagne are intrinsically connected to those of William Amor’s creations. Rare Champagne first found notoriety among the royal court of Queen Marie Antoinette when she tasted the first ‘Rare’ cuvée back in 1785, and the current ‘Rare’ wine label, a golden lace crown, is symbolic of its noble origins.

Maud says the qualities she and her team look for in creating a ‘Rare’ Champagne are “boldness, elegant freedom and creative energy” that is ultimately a “truly transcendent Champagne .” Emilien Boutillat, the chief winemaker of ‘Rare,’ further noted that he, Maud and their team all work together in regards to staying true to the style as well as being ruthless when it comes to the selection process in finding the most extraordinary vintages. Of course, the most influential person in deciding the epitome of Rare Champagne is the former chief winemaker, Régis Camus, who was there for almost 30 years and received the prestigious title of “Sparkling Winemaker of the Year” eight times. Régis was leading the team when the final blend was decided for the 2012 ‘Rare’ Rosé, as well as determining when the ideal time was to release the wine onto the market regarding its stage of evolution in bottle. And Maud noted that she and Emilien are like Régis’ “babies” to whom he is handing over his remarkable legacy, so he is continuously checking in with them which is very convenient for Régis as he lives down the street.

Emilien spoke about the range of vineyards that they used in 2012 to create the Rare Rosé Millesime cuvéewhich includes eight Grand Cru and three Premier Cru vineyards as well as one that is not classified under Champagne designation, a Pinot Noir vineyard that is in the south of Champagne, closer to Burgundy, and it makes the red wine they use to add color and an extra complexity to the final blend as all the other Pinot Noir grapes in the blend from the Grand Cru and Premier Cru sites are gently pressed off their skins quickly, producing white wine and so the color comes from this particular plot. The 2012 Rare Millésime Rosé is given the name “Virtuoso” as it expertly balances a generosity of fruit, floral notes and spice with the minerality and freshness at the soul of ‘Rare.’ The Rare Millésime Brut and the Rare Millésime Rosé are both made up of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties, with Chardonnay dominating in both, such as the 60% Chardonnay in 2012 Rare Millésime Rosé. 

The dominance of Chardonnay, specifically with some plots based in cooler sites in chalky soils, is a key part of the ideal expression at the core of ‘Rare,’ giving it an overall elegance and minerality. Interestingly, exotic tropical notes are also part of the key to a cuvée worthy of being called ‘Rare’ as the Chardonnay from cooler sites will retain most of their aromatic profiles including the tropical notes that are burned off first in warmer sites. Hence, notes such as lychee fruit will be present. 

Créations Messagères 

2012 Rare Rosé Millésime Champagne with William Amor’s Créations Messagères
Photo Credit: Antony Magne

‘Rare’ has partnered with French artist William Amor and his Créations Messagères creations to produce Mathusalem 6-liter bottles of 2012 Rare Rosé Millésime that have his exquisite ornaments of “flowers” and “jewels” adorning these stunning bottles of champagne. William became obsessed with inventing a way to transform abandoned plastics, and other items considered trash, into poetic messengers that bring attention to the single-use materials of the world having catastrophic effects on the Earth; also, with the help of a grant, he has been able to purchase 19th-century tools for flower-making, hence, keeping an ancient art alive yet with a modern twist of bringing attention to the dangers of certain materials.

Immediately, it is evident that the Créations Messagères and 2012 Rare Millésime Rosé Champagne share a unique beauty. Still, there is a deeper connection with ‘Rare’ becoming a certified B Corp, which indicates a high standard concerning social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Sustainability doesn’t only apply to the impact on the environment under a B Corp Certification but the sustainability of establishing and continuing a good working environment for employees is also part of the commitment. A further connecting bridge is an awareness of protecting vulnerable people, such as employees, or those who could have their full potential underestimated, such as people living with disabilities, as William Amor started a program at his workshop where disabled people can tap into their creative power.

‘Rare’ Gem  

When one thinks about dreaming of an aspirational lifestyle surrounded by luxury products that represent the height of social prestige and material success, there can be a disconnect between the outstanding craftsmanship of the product versus the ideal ethical standards that should be part of such a rare gem. Often those rare goods were part of destroying precious resources or damaging a community or a lot of lives lost just to acquire a precious object that was so rare. But as younger generations are demanding immediate action regarding the climate change crisis, they are putting their money towards things that align with their concerns and ethics. A product that isn’t part of the good fight will never have any value to those who are most worried about the fate of the human race.

As there is a shift in younger buyers of luxury products who only support goods that share the same values as themselves, one can start to become hopeful that the most sought-after items will have to be part of ensuring a better future. 

Just imagine that one day, the epitome of luxury could be represented by a gem created by a passionate artist, who made something so uniquely beautiful that it was truly “rare” but, in this case, did not come at a human price.

***Link to original article on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/10/27/rare-champagne-wine-producer-displaying-its-environmental-commitment-through-art/

2012 Rare Rosé Millésime Champagne Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2012 Rare Rosé Millésime Champagne: 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. 12 Crus of which eight are classified as Grand Cru and three as Premier Cru. Intense minerality on the nose such as broken chalk with notes of cherry blossom and rose petal with a combination of exotic lychee fruit combined with brambly forest fruit and juicy peach on the palate enhanced by orange zest and cardamom pods with extremely fine bubbles that create a silky texture and long, expressive finish.

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Famous Bordeaux Wine Family Partners With Historic Port Family, Creating An Elegant Wine With A Unique Terroir

No set of eyes conveyed the paradoxical characteristics of exhaustion and electricity more than the man who surveyed the wine grape bunches on the vines with a fierce intensity. At any moment, this winemaker, with his weary, electric eyes, would have to throw it into high gear to get his team together to harvest within an hour’s notice as grapes destined for a stellar wine cannot wait in the Douro Valley, unlike other fine wine regions which can, many times, schedule a week or so out. And with every examination that takes place along the vineyard rows, there is a mixed feeling of hoping for a sign that would allow him to start picking the grapes, finally being able to release his team from their frustrating purgatory, contrasted by a potential feeling of euphoria when he finds out that his most highly-regarded variety, Touriga Nacional, will be able to stay on the vines longer, ultimately increasing the chances of an excellent vintage.

But this is the Douro Valley, tucked away in the mountainous Upper Douro Valley in north-eastern Portugal, and its extreme viticulture is like no other as vines grow on rocky soils, steep slopes, have little access to water (low rainfall and many vineyards cannot be irrigated) and grow within century-old vineyard terraces that always need maintenance. Outstanding fortified Port wines have been a big part of its fine wine legacy and, in recent years, high-quality big, robust, non-fortified red wines; yet in some spots, the Douro is capable of a delicate beauty and pure expression of place that is breathtaking considering the various aspects of its terroir.

Quinta de Roriz vineyards

The wines that have those exquisite characteristics of delicate beauty and pure expression come from the Quinta de Roriz and Quinta da Perdiz properties; Roriz is located on the South bank of the river Douro in the heart of the Upper Douro region, where a natural north-facing amphitheater that reaches up to 1,500 feet in altitude is located and Perdiz lies on a steep gradient on the other side of the same mountain. The Symington family, who first became part of the Port world in the Douro back in the 1880s, started to experiment with making non-fortified wines back in the 1990s, as Port is fortified with a neutral spirit in the middle of its fermentation. They wanted to show the world beyond Port drinkers the extraordinary sense of place of the Douro Valley. The Symington Family Estates, which is 100% family-owned and family-run – unfortunately becoming a rarer situation in today’s time – started to experiment among their many estates in the Douro to see if it was possible to make a non-fortified wine that could not only live up to their most outstanding fortified Port Vintage wines but could also compete with the great non-fortified wines of the world.

Finally, Rupert Symington and his cousin Charles Symington, CEO and head winemaker at Symington Family Estates, respectively, not only found an ideal partner in this venture, Bruno Prats, former owner of “super-second” Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux, but found the perfect vineyards on the Quinta de Roriz and Quinta da Perdiz estates. Roriz has traces of tin intermixed within the schistous soil from an old mine at the highest point of the estate, and hence, is said to give a strong minerality to the fruit grown on the property as well as its north-facing position ensures to retain aromatics; as opposed to Perdiz, on the other side of the same mountain, has a warmer micro-climate that produces fruit that makes ripe, velvety wines.

Chryseia 

2019 Chryseia 2020 Post Scriptum de Chryseia

The Prats and Symington families purchased the Roriz and Perdiz estates around 20 years ago, the Prats family contributing expertise in making one of the most excellent red wines in the world as Bruno Prats is credited with bringing Cos d’Estournel to true “super-second” status. The Symington family brings their expertise of the Douro Valley as they have lived and breathed these vineyards for almost a century and a half.

Rupert and Charles Symington had been experimenting with an array of different varieties from their various prime estates throughout the Douro, but the Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca red grape varieties from the Roriz and Perdiz properties were the ideal combination for a wine that showed a potential for outstanding quality. And hence, the ‘Chryseia’ wine was born, which means “golden” in ancient Greek, and it is also a play on the word “Douro,” meaning “golden” in Portuguese. Subsequently, a second selection, ‘Post Scriptum’, as well as a third selection, ‘Prazo de Roriz’, that is 100% sourced from the Quinta de Roriz estate, were created.

Unlocking Pure Expression of a Place 

Harvest boxes waiting outside of Quinta de Roriz

It has been a journey of discovery for both the Prats and Symington families as well as for many other wine producers in the area, as the Douro Valley was seen as a place that should only make great Port wine and, in special circumstances, great big, bold red wines; the elegant wines of ‘Chryseia’ took many aback with initial criticism thrown at this extraordinary project. But these legendary wine families were determined to show the nuanced sense of place without using techniques in the winery that would over-extract the wine, which is a key to many other great wines in the Douro. Even Bruno Prats, who had his own past challenges with his Cos d’Estournel estate, proving to the world that it deserved to be considered on a par with the First Growth wines – which has become a reality today, was completely surprised how the vineyards that make up the ‘Chryseia’ wine could not only survive in periods of intense heat without any water but that the vines thrived and produced exquisite fruit that had a subtle beauty and distinctive sense of place.

Miguel Bessa, winemaker of Quinta de Roriz and the ‘Chryseia’ wines, says that the 2020 vintage, the warmest year of the century in the Douro, as well as 2022, which may surpass 2020, have both proved that they can still make outstanding wine that is equal to more moderate years, which gives them a lot of reassurance for the future because he feels that even though the Douro wine region has “300 years of knowledge in taking care of their vines,” the ‘Chryseia’ wines’ goal is different in aiming for an elegant red wine, as opposed to making Port. So they have only had 20 years of experience with this goal which is a small amount of time, although they have made significant improvements with the wines and how they manage the vines; and Miguel feels that there is still room for improvement and looks forward to this project becoming the ideal way to showcase the depth of complexity that happens when they unlock the terroir expression in some of the region’s best vineyards.

Fermentation tank at Quinta de Roriz

Miguel has even started experimenting with non-Saccharomyces yeast to ferment a few of his wine vats (Saccharomyces is the yeast most commonly used for wine ferments) to enable him to use less sulfur and potentially allow the wine to greater express a sense of place. As he finds that there is no risk of spoilage yeast, which could create unpleasant aromas, taking over when using non-Saccharomyces hence he doesn’t need to use as much sulfur – but time will tell. It may be another leap in taking these wines to an even more extraordinary level.

A Wine Representing the Soul of the People

But nothing could ever take the place of Miguel’s eagle eyes constantly walking up and down the vineyard rows combined with his crew ready to jump into action at any moment, as yes, they do pay the price in the hottest years with losses in yields that are anywhere between 20% to 30%, yet it is their unwavering commitment that keeps enough of the grapes at a high-quality level that is worthy for the ‘Chryseia’ project. That is why Miguel lives at Quinta de Roriz during harvest, not returning home for over a month, if not longer.

Many give Miguel so much credit and note that it is his team and especially Miguel himself who make this project possible, but such praise makes Miguel uncomfortable as he is a quintessential Portuguese person who shuns the limelight as the culture expects people to keep their head down and to not stand out in any way. His softly spoken words are indicative of the finely textured structure of his wines and his depth of thought and quiet intelligence is also evident. In a way, the ‘Chryseia’ wines, with their overall finesse, really do reflect the soul of the place, although the wines may go against the more traditional idea of making red wines that are reminiscent of Port. But the ‘Chryseia’ wines give the drinker a chance to not only experience an incredible terroir but also to truly experience the physically and mentally tough people who work in some of the most extreme vineyards in the world yet despite the arduous work, they are some of the gentlest people who have the patience to continue the precision necessary to make fine wine in the Douro Valley consistently.

***Link to original article on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/10/14/famous-bordeaux-wine-family-partners-with-historic-port-family-creating-an-elegant-wine-with-a-unique-terroir/

2019 Prazo de Roriz, 2020 Post Scriptum de Chryseia and 2019 Chryseia

2019 Prazo de Roriz, Douro Valley, Portugal: 35% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca, 15% Tinta Roriz, 10 % Tinta Barroca and 20% mixed varieties; third selection of Chryseia. This wine is overall fresh and bright with lovely strawberry fruit and stony minerality and a soft texture.

2020 Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: 51% Touriga Franca, 34% Touriga Nacional with Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca making up the rest of the blend; second selection of Chryseia. Pristine red cherries with wet river stones and hints of baking spices on the nose with excellent vitality on the palate with fresh red fruit intermixed with broken gravel.

2019 Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: 75% Touriga Nacional and 25% Touriga Franca. This vintage should be arriving in the U.S. soon and it is a stunning beauty already even though it is far from improving in bottle and it will easily last at least 20 years, if not longer. Pretty lifted aromas such as rose oil intermixed with complex notes of tar, tobacco leaf and crushed rocks with a finely etched tannic structure highlighted with subtle blackcurrant fruit and a long, expressive finish.

2020 Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: Do not have the breakdown of the varieties, but it is majority Touriga Nacional blended with Touriga Franca. Also, this wine is still aging so it will not be released on the market until next year. Intense minerality with notes of graphite and turmeric spice balanced by rich blackberry preserves with a slight tannic grip that gives a lift to the lush fruit finishing with aromas of wildflowers. Surprising how delicious this wine is already at this stage.

2009 Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Touriga Franca. Bright acidity with a smoky minerality that has enticing notes of espresso and ripe raspberry intermixed with crushed rose petal, rosemary and zingy cranberry that has a lot of tension. So complex and multi-layered.

2015 Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: 65% Touriga Nacional and 35% Touriga Franca. Silky tannins and good fleshy black fruit on the palate are enhanced by notes of orange rind, cocoa powder, and the development of cigar box notes with a breathtaking overall quality of refinement.

2017 Chryseia, Douro Valley, Portugal: 75% Touriga Nacional and 25% Touriga Franca. Beautiful mineral purity on the nose accompanied by aromas of jasmine and spice has juicy cassis flavors with a fine texture that caresses the palate. A wonderful example of concentration and overall finesse – awe-inspiring.

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Napa Winery Using Covid Lessons On How Technology Can Take Wine Hospitality To Next Level

Garden at Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

As beautiful outdoor weddings, charity events and meaningful anniversaries are coming back in droves to Napa Valley, it makes one forget that a pandemic ever existed. Chris Kajani, winemaker and general manager of Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery, noted that everything is off its typical schedule as it is difficult to gauge when Napa Valley has its high season these days as significant life events were on hold “for two years”. There was a time when California was on the roller coaster of shutting down and opening as no one had dealt with a pandemic in modern times, and so, it was impossible to balance, at times, the protection of people’s health while keeping a healthy economy going. As many wineries were struggling to stay engaged with their customers, Bouchaine was one of the first to leap into the virtual tasting space giving their long-time customers, as well as potential future customers, a great experience that could make them feel connected to the outside world and bring some much-needed indulgence to their home.

Bouchaine’s Terrace
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

Bouchaine is in an enchanting corner of the cooler climate area of Carneros in Napa Valley, with jaw-dropping views that bring the magic of Napa to life. Before Covid, Bouchaine was a popular place to visit as it is a sanctuary where one feels tucked away from the more frenetic parts of Napa, surrounded by vineyards and trees and very little else, while sipping delicious Pinot Noir on a terrace that looks out over the San Pablo Bay with San Francisco in the background. Since Carneros has cooler temperatures, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive in this area of Napa, with Bouchaine also producing some small bottlings of Riesling, Syrah and Pinot Meunier, as well as other varieties. Still, every bottling is small since Bouchaine’s total production is only around 5,000 wine cases.

And so one would think that a winery with such a small production, which can’t be found in every restaurant and retail store, and is known for its more intimate property that many wine lovers like to visit, would struggle during those two years of Covid.

Yet they found great success in virtual tastings that brought friends, strangers and colleagues together in various formats that were either geared towards companies, current customers or people who wanted to get more familiar with Bouchaine wines, and even with the days of shutdown long gone, they are finding that these virtual tastings are a permanent part of their hospitality offerings.

Taste of Technology 

There is a wide selection of virtual tastings offered by Bouchaine including basic wine lessons, wine pairings, collaborations with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and of course, customized experiences, yet it is bringing a multifaceted technology experience with their Taste of Technology tours.

The Taste of Technology tours have become hybrid events where corporations can bring a group from their company to the actual winery, to enjoy their beautiful estate yet also bring in other employees from other areas of the country and so those colleagues in New York City can be brought in virtually and enjoy Bouchaine’s 4K camera system that brings the vivid colors and overall experiences to life. And there is no need for any employee to stress out about having to know about wine, or having no experience drinking expensive bottles, or a potentially unhealthy competition among colleagues being created on this tour, as the Taste of Technology tour focuses on bringing everyone to one of the most humbling aspects of winemaking, Mother Nature.

View from Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

And so, not only does technology help to connect everyone from far and wide but it brings another fascinating aspect with Bouchaine Cisco sensor technology which will track the vines block by block in the vineyards and use reliable data about temperature, light, humidity, wind and soil moisture to help guide the Bouchaine team to make ideal choices for the grape vines block by block. Discussing how the Cisco soil moisture probes work in the Bouchaine vineyards is especially relevant in regards to concerns about climate change as water has become a “critical” and scarce resource in California. Chris says that since 2015 they have discovered that their property gets enough water for high-quality grape growing and that they can dry farm for the most part with the exclusion of their older vines. But when it comes to severe drought years, such as last year in 2021, they have to have a much more accurate view of which blocks need to be irrigated and which ones are doing fine with the continuation of dry farming as they realize that there could be a significant difference between blocks right next to each other in regards to their water needs. 

And so, when Chris and her team are setting up these technology tasting tours, there is no need to worry that one may not know enough, as everyone, even Chris and her team, are learning more and more each day about how different factors can affect the vineyards and ultimately shape what one tastes in the glass. 

How It Made A Group Feel

View from Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

As companies start to find the balance when it comes to bringing people back to work, dealing possibly with hybrid experiences of part-time at home and part-time in the office, employees are coming back with a greater sense of giving importance to their mental well being over cutthroat goals of climbing the corporate ladder. As many have found that they could avoid the toxic elements of some work environments such as humiliation, fear or unhealthy competition becoming a detriment to performance, hence those workers feel they could stay at the same company long-term while keeping a happy and hopeful disposition. Of course, many lose out on key elements of working with co-workers in person by not having that same sense of belonging, or that there is something bigger that they are a part of, and indeed, there are lost opportunities of emotional growth as a professional who can witness how senior employees handle various situations.

The idea of any harmonious working environment is to ensure everyone’s strengths are highlighted as benefits to the company and that weaknesses are nothing to be ashamed of but are a part of everyone’s journey. A place that lacks intimidation yet is challenging in a fun and wondrous way makes employees want to learn more. That is what Bouchaine, before Covid, had always been in Napa, a safe and friendly place to learn about killer Napa Pinot Noir in Carneros with a magical view that knocks one’s socks off. Yes, the wines are fantastic, but the place would make a group of people feel as if they belonged, they were part of something bigger than themselves without any of the baggage of feeling inferior that sometimes comes with fine wine tastings.

And as Bouchaine had been implementing more technology tools to take them to the next level during Covid, they are now able to give corporations the chance to create authentic team-building experiences avoiding cliché exercises and instead put people in a situation where they are all on equal footing, learning about something that brings them so much pleasure and realizing that at the end of that gorgeous day, when the sunset creates a stunning golden aura over the vineyards, that everyone there has the power to build a better work environment; an environment where each person is empowered to be her best, knowing that she is a vital part of the success of that business.

***Link to original article published on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/09/16/napa-winery-using-covid-lessons-on-how-technology-can-take-wine-hospitality-to-next-level/

Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery is bringing a multifaceted technology experience with their Taste of Technology tours in Carneros, Napa Valley.
Bouchaine Pinot Noir single clone wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The below Bouchaine Pinot Noir wines come from three different clones, as different Pinot Noir clones will have nuanced differences from each other that are fun to experience in the below single clone bottlings.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Swan Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Swan Clone. The Swan Clone Pinot Noir lives up to its name with an overall elegance and delicacy in its texture with a floral nose, fresh black cherries and hints of crushed rocks. It is stunning in its subtle beauty.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Pommard Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Pommard Clone. Chris talked about the creamier texture of the Pommard, and it was on display in this vintage with a rich texture while still being energetic with spicy notes and bright red cherry flavors. Delicious.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Dijon Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Dijon Clone. Mouthwatering acidity comes from the Dijon Pinot Noir and a fierce minerality with finely etched tannins that give more structure than the previous two Pinot Noir clone wines and lots of fresh crunchy red fruit on the palate. Multi-layered wine. Chris says she always loves to hear her customers talk about their favorite out of these three Pinot Noir clone wines, and it is often balanced when it comes to the votes.

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Greenest Wine Region In Europe And Its White Wine, A Favorite Among Sommeliers


The sounds of crying, desperate prayers and the unhinged ramblings of people on the verge of madness faded into the background as the cover of night helped to lull the wounded “traitor” to sleep. As he dreamt, he was transported to the soothing sounds of the sea then his dream would quickly transport him to a lush forest accompanied by sounds of the breeze rustling through the trees until finally, his dreaming state settled into a place where he would experience the best sounds of all: his family harvesting wine grapes in their vineyards. But within a blink of an eye, he woke as the sun began to rise and the door of the cattle car, which he was shoved into the day before, was being opened. More people were being pushed into the car until it was at about 200% capacity with people gasping for air and as the people were crushed into the “traitor”, a stabbing pain reminded him of his cracked ribs that were a parting gift from the Nazi soldiers who initially forced him into the cattle car the day before.

Abruzzo Landscape
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

As people in the car began to faint, many started begging the Nazi soldiers to spray the cars with water but there would be no such luck. It was a grueling ride but the “traitor” tried to inundate his mind with the picturesque memories of his home in the Italian region of Abruzzo. His memories of numerous nature hikes he took along the rolling hills, accented with wild, colorful poppy flowers, where he had sat and quietly watched the multitude of creatures, brought him a slight sense of peace. But then one memory aggressively latched onto his mind, deeply unsettling any sense of tranquility: the time he witnessed an eagle soaring through the air with its massive wingspan – a wingspan that seemed more prominent than the “traitor” himself. How he wished he was that eagle at that moment.

Once the cattle car came to a complete stop and the exodus from the car began, he knew that this was his chance, his only chance to try to break free. He felt that this would be his only shot to survive as he had a feeling that the place where the Nazi soldiers were taking them would be a greater hell than death itself. He quickly bolted through the crowd, hearing screams from the soldiers. Still, he didn’t know if they were running after him or other people and he just kept running, running faster than he had ever before, feeling as if he was that eagle in that instance, until he was nowhere near any other human beings. He eventually found out that he was being brought to a concentration camp in Poland. Now he needed to find his way back home, to Abruzzo, as the thought of having one more wine harvest party with his family and neighbors back home kept him going even in the bleakest of times, and there were many bleak times along the way.

Abruzzo Wine Region 

In Calascio, in the province of L’Aquila offers the view of Abruzzo Apennines
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

When the Nazi German troops occupied Italy in 1943, they created a fascist government under Mussolini and the German army captured around 600,000 Italian soldiers, putting them in prisons and labor camps. The only way to be released from the prisons and camps was to join the German army and fight for fascism, but three-quarters of the imprisoned Italian soldiers rejected the offer, with many dying in jails or camps. The Nazis called the Italian soldiers who refused to fight for a fascist government “traitors”, and Laurentino De Cerchio was that young Italian soldier forced into a cattle car traveling to a labor camp in Poland, who desperately dreamt of his home in Abruzzo.

Eventually, Laurentino was able to make it home and he decided to throw himself into rebuilding his father-in-law’s wine estate, Torre Zambra in the Chieti province in Abruzzo. The war destroyed the vineyards so Laurentino had to start from scratch but with a greater focus on making quality wine. It took a couple of decades, but Torre Zambra bottled their first wine, instead of selling in bulk, in 1961. Over time, Laurentino bought more land in Abruzzo and other areas in Southern Italy to eventually build a well-respected family wine company.

Traditions Still Being Upheld in Abruzzo
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

After World War II, Italy’s economy was destroyed and instability rose as they had a divided society with much anger against the monarchy for endorsing a fascist regime. Through time the Italian Republic government superseded the monarchy, with some regions of Italy ultimately finding economic success with major industries building factories, creating more local jobs or creating more opportunities by finding wine export success that then helped to establish a tourism industry, such as Tuscany. In contrast, other regions just languished in obscurity. 

Abruzzo was one of those hidden Italian wine gems that, in some ways, was significantly affected negatively by people struggling for decades in a poor region with few opportunities, yet in other ways, it has helped to garner its nicknames as “the greenest region in Europe” and “the green lung of Italy” as much of it is untouched. There are four major natural parks in Abruzzo, three national and one regional, that are home to around 1,700 plant species that account for 70% of the entire Italian flora that is found in the country; these parks are also hosts to 75% of Europe’s animal species and the region is broken up into two macroclimates: the continental climate found in the mountainous areas inland that make up around 65% of the region and the milder maritime climate in the coastal areas along the Adriatic Sea. And despite Piedmont taking most of the credit for Italian truffles, around 40% of Italian truffles come from Abruzzo.

White Wines of Abruzzo 

Vineyard Row in Abruzzo
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

In recent times, Abruzzo wine producers have found some success in their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines, although many confuse it with the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano reds from Tuscany, the latter made mainly from Sangiovese and comes from the town Montepulciano in Tuscany as opposed to the former being made from the Montepulciano red grape variety in Abruzzo. Although Abruzzo has made headway with their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine, as it over-delivers for the price so it is an ideal wine to serve by the glass in restaurants, Abruzzo has a handful of impressive local white grapes. One of the white grapes that has become a darling of many sommeliers worldwide is the Pecorino white grape variety.

Due to one producer, Emidio Pepe, hardcore Italian wine connoisseurs are familiar with the prestigious legacy of Abruzzo white wines. One of the handful of local white grapes is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. It is a specific clone, with enough genetic markers to make it a Trebbiano grape yet it has distinctive traits of its own and so this clone is very different from some other Trebbiano grapes that are grown to produce high yields to make quaffable wine. But Emidio Pepe goes to great lengths to grow concentrated, well-balanced Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grapes that make white wines that can easily age for up to 50 years, and hence, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo started to get its following and that was the only white grape that many Abruzzo producers wanted to grow; until an Abruzzo winemaker, named Cataldi Madonna, was the first in Italy to label a wine as Pecorino.

Pecorino 

Sheep in Abruzzo
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

Surprisingly, Pecorino is believed to have originated within the boundaries of Abruzzo’s northern neighbor, the Marche region, still, no one can dispute that Abruzzo is part of the great success story of Pecorino. Like so many other lost native grapes, more high-yielding varieties took the place of Pecorino, a low-yielding grape, with it almost seeing its demise if it weren’t for key Marche and Abruzzo producers as well as sommeliers around the world being advocates for this white grape that has the same name as the much more well-known Pecorino Romano cheese. It is believed that the name “Pecorino” came from the sheepherders who would bring their flock of sheep from the mountains of Abruzzo to the southern region of Puglia during mid-September but the sheep would eat the Pecorino grapes hanging on the vines in the vineyards along the way. To compensate for the loss of the grapes, the sheepherders gave the vineyard owners some of their Pecorino cheese, which is how it is believed that the grape took on the same name as the sheep cheese.

The Pecorino white wine from Abruzzo has become quite the sommelier darling for many reasons; one apparent reason is that it is a familiar name because of the popularity of Pecorino Romano cheese but its range of floral, mineral, stone fruit and citrus fruit flavors combined with a nice amount of weight makes it a wonderful wine that can pair with a range of foods such as seafood, chicken and pork to name a few. Also, it offers value for those who seek out small producers making high-quality white wines as they are moderately priced while giving an authentic experience to the customer by introducing them to a native Italian grape variety that was almost lost.

Protected in Abruzzo

Considering the Pecorino grape variety’s low-yielding nature, it is remarkable that it survived in a region that struggled for so long with poverty as the wines of Abruzzo were underappreciated for so long and one would think any grape that couldn’t produce a decent quantity would have never survived. But just like Laurentino De Cerchio, who was able to survive against all odds, it is an example that there is something special at the core of Abruzzo people who go beyond mundane logic to protect what is vital to sustaining the values of their culture. And part of that incredible passion made Laurentino determined to make quality wine decades before there was even a market for Abruzzo premium wines.

An ancient fishing hut trabocco in Abruzzo
Photo Credit: Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo

It is pretty impressive when one thinks to what degree Abruzzo has not only kept their natural parks untouched but the perseverance of their culture. The first time someone sees one of the trabocchi structures in Abruzzo, it is like experiencing a fantastical dream beyond one’s comprehension as they marry the visual effects of spider webs with pulleys, ropes and wooden beams that giant wooden crabs seemingly control. But they were the most reliable way to fish along the Adriatic Coast as one could catch fish in all sorts of weather conditions without having to take a boat out, as the wooden platform brought one out to a structure where fishing could take place right in that spot. These trabocchi were common in many Italian regions along the coast but Abruzzo protected them by passing a law to conserve the trabocchi in Abruzzo. The fishing that took place on these trabocchi were an essential part of financial survival for many local families, and after World War II, they became an iconic architectural marvel for Abruzzo and today are a big tourist draw. Yet some trabocchi in Abruzzo are still used by multi-generational Abruzzo fishermen who proudly bring their grandchildren to show them the brilliant innovation of their people that goes back for centuries.

A little boy sitting on the end of the pier, as the sun warms his pinkish cheeks, watches his grandfather with an intensity that brings an awestruck look to his face as he knows one day he will take over this tradition from his grandfather. As the family gathered later that day for dinner, pouring the family wine from their vineyards into glasses, the grandfather once again sneaks his grandson a small taste of their wine while teaching him that the Abruzzo people, at all costs, protect those things that have been lost in other parts of world. And he recounted again how his own grandfather narrowly escaped a Nazi war camp during World War II to return to the family estate to devote himself to making quality wine, knowing that it would only benefit future generations.  

Federico De Cerchio, fourth generation family winemaker of Torre Zambra
Photo Credit: Famiglia De Cerchio

Recommended Abruzzo Producers for Pecorino Wines

Mid Price

Azienda Agricola Terzini $12

Bosco Nestore $14

Cantina Frentana $17

Premium

Torre Zambra $20

Azienda Vitivinicola Tiberio $25

Cataldi Madonna $29

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Famous Super Tuscan Wine Producer Brings Tuscany To New York City While Displaying Age-Worthy Quality Through Verticals

Ornellaia Lunch Table at 214 Lafayette
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

One of the great chefs and hunters of Tuscany, Omar Barsacchi of Osteria Magona, took a deep breath as his boisterous and playful demeanor melded into a peaceful calm. Presenting the final dish from a wonderful Tuscan wine lunch in the heart of Soho, in New York City, he spoke about a good friend and fellow chef who gave him the recipe for the exquisite apple tart that was beautifully enhanced by a cream made with a rare sweet wine that the great Super Tuscan producer Ornellaia makes in minuscule quantities. But then, when he stated with a grieving heart that his friend passed away last year, it became apparent that this final dish was a heartfelt pause to remember all those who have died in the past couple of years.

Axel Heinz at the Ornellaia Wine Lunch Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

One of the many fascinating things about New York City is that some of the most inconspicuous buildings usually have the most wondrous surprises behind their doors. Sometimes it can be an enchanting garden, a noteworthy historic enclave or it can encompass glorious spaces that are quintessentially New York. That day, the prestigious Super Tuscan wine producer Tenuta dell’Ornellaia brought Tuscany to one of those quintessential downtown NYC places. The space, 214 Lafayette, is said to have been originally built to house all of the power lines for downtown Manhattan during the turn of the century. The soaring ceilings accented with beams and the exposed brick walls transport one into the movie version of the perfect look of downtown Manhattan in New York City.

Ornellaia’s estate director, Axel Heinz, started the lunch by addressing the idea that there is no substitution for coming together in person and if some found it hard to travel then they would bring Tuscany to New York City. A special treat of that day was that the famous Tuscan chef Omar Barsacchi, whose restaurant Osteria Magona is nestled in the small village of Bolgheri, surrounded by some of the most respected Italian wine producers, was in charge of the meal. Axel presented a small vertical of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s top wine, Ornellaia, and a couple of the rare Ornellaia white Bianco wines as well as the rare sweet Ornus dell’Ornellaia.

Ornellaia 

The guests were spoiled from the first moment they entered the building with incredible Italian meats and cheeses covering a large, rustic wooden table. Then lunch started in a grand space complete with a gourmet kitchen and it was kicked off with the two vintages of Ornellaia Bianco paired with an aromatically enticing spinach flan highlighted by a truffle fondue, representing the truffles and spinach that can be found in the Tuscan area. Then the newest release of the red Ornellaia, the 2019 ‘Il Vigore’, was presented with wild boar ragout as boar is commonly hunted in Tuscany by the locals as there is an overpopulation issue. Chef Omar Barsacchi is quite the accomplished hunter who honors the wild animals by making sure not to get in the way of featuring the fantastic natural flavor. And it would not be a proper Tuscan meal without bistecca, Tuscan prime rib roast cooked to a juicy pink perfection accompanied by the 2012 and 2007 Ornellaia, giving a peek into the 2019’s future.

Appetizer Table
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Axel became the winemaker for Ornellaia back in 2005 and was promoted to estate director for both Ornellaia and Masseto estates in 2015. He brings an outsider’s perspective to Bolgheri, spending his previous wine education and experience in Bordeaux, France. “The area of Bolgheri has everything in abundance,” noted Axel, and he continued by talking about the tremendous amount of sunshine they receive. In some ways, he feels fortunate that there are no issues with ripeness, yet he is cautious as even though he wants to make wines that do have a generosity of spirit, like the local Bolgheri people themselves, he keeps that ripeness in check as he always wants the wines to have an elegant restraint and overall finesse. Since many of Ornellaia’s vintages can be enjoyed in their youth, Axel felt the need to express that even though he is not against “occasionally opening a young bottle” of Ornellaia, the wine is really for the “long-term,” as with age it reveals “all its facets and complexities.”

Vendemmia d’Artista Labels with 2019 Ornellaia in the Middle
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The aging window depends on the vintage but Axel gives a broad window of between eight to 15 years for the wines to reach their peak and that many of the great vintages could easily go for 30 years if not way beyond, as the Ornellaia wines that he has tasted recently from the mid to late 1980s have been impressive. He figures that the 2019 Ornellaia ‘Il Vigore’ (‘Vigor’) shows the “strength of the healthy growth of the vines” as it has such an irresistible ripeness balanced by bright acidity and overall multifaceted complexity of flavors and texture. Axel chose the 2012 and 2007 vintages as they were similar to the 2019 in their youth; the 2012, which was forward and friendly in the beginning, is now showing some real “muscle” after ten years and it still has some more time to go, according to Axel. But the 2007, in Axel’s opinion, is a true “parallel vintage” to the 2019.

Axel discussed how the great vintage of 2007 had the misfortune to follow another great vintage, 2006. At the time of the 2007 release, he felt that its more subtle character was overshadowed by the more “flamboyant” 2006, yet through time, he thinks that the 2007 has become one of the most “graceful and harmonious vintages”. The 2019 reminds him of the 2007 in its primary stage, hence, he believes tasting the 2007 now will give a glimpse into how the 2019 will evolve.  

Appreciating the Challenges 

At first, the shutdowns of 2020 and beyond seemed like a gift in some ways, once the hospitals were able to treat and manage Covid patients, enabling people to have a slower life with no crowds and more rest. Events were non-existent, many were working from home and everyone’s main responsibility was to stay away from people. It gave many a chance to reexamine their previous lives, of always being on the run with constant stress, as unhealthy existences. But as time has gone on, the mind starts to become numb and depression sets in; people have realized that the multitude of people challenging one through their day is an essential jolt to stay in the present. Even seemingly unpleasant challenges caused by others in the moment can become deeply rewarding and fulfilling once they are resolved through mutually beneficial compromise.

When Axel had his first harvest at Ornellaia in 2005, he was thrilled to be able to calculate the ideal day to start picking the grapes – but it was, unfortunately, a Tuesday. The vineyard manager informed him that local superstitions don’t allow them to start anything on a Tuesday or Friday, so it was out of the question. Axel thought that it was ridiculous to allow superstition to dictate the harvest, still, he was disciplined and thoughtful enough not to convey his frustration but instead show respect to the vineyard manager and try to figure out a way around the superstition. And so he proposed they pick one crate of grapes on Monday and do the rest of the harvest on Tuesday, that way, they officially started on Monday. The vineyard manager thought it was a good idea, so he gave it a try. It ended up being a problematic harvest with lots of rain so the following year the vineyard manager told Axel, “No tricks this time, you see what happens when you try to cheat.” And ever since then, Axel says that he has honored the superstition.

Chef Cesare Casella (left) and Chef Omar Barsacchi (right)
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

All his previous years working in Bordeaux, Axel could never imagine that he would run into such a challenge or an illogical way of handling one of the most critical decisions in the vineyards. But it has made him grow in ways he could not imagine and the challenges certainly keep him on his toes. And many people, after the shutdowns, have come to realize how much they are missing by not having those challenges from people with different perspectives. And yes, many have felt the loss of people who they could never have imagined passing away at a relatively young age, such as chef Omar Barsacchi’s friend, and it is apparent that he is determined to keep his friend’s memory alive by pairing the apple tart with Ornus dell’Ornellaia cream paired with the scarce sweet wine 2019 Ornus dell’Ornellaia that day. The Ornus is a wine meant for friends and family and at that moment, it was the exemplary pairing of the day as everyone felt connected by the losses in their own lives.

The locals in Bolgheri are known for having a strong personality, carving out unconventional paths, as who else would be able to bring in international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon to a country known for having the largest quantity of well-known grape varieties in the world? The wines not only succeeded in Italy but were able to go head to head with the most notable Bordeaux wines, becoming some of the most sought-after wines in the world. In the beginning it seemed crazy to do such a thing but as Axel has learned, many things may not make theoretical sense as they need to be experienced. And it is this challenge that makes Ornellaia so special – the combination of Axel’s meticulous nature combined with the unbridled passion of the locals produces a wine that is dangerously delicious while young yet it reveals itself through time in ways that one finds surprising for such an initially friendly wine.

And that is the path many are on now, avoiding those challenges that are toxic to one’s very being yet seeking out the challenges that help bring one to a place that is more extraordinary than one could ever imagine.

Lineup of Ornellaia Wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd
Vendemmia d’Artista Label for 2019 Ornellaia Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

The 2019 Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista project includes a label styled by the artists on one of the six 750ml bottles in every case of Ornellaia. As in previous years, the project includes a limited release of 111 large-format bottles (one hundred Jeroboams (3 liter), ten Imperials (6 liter) and one Salmanazar (9 liter) which are numbered and personally signed by the artists. Every year a selection of these bottles is auctioned by Sotheby’s and the profits go to support the Mind’s Eye program at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Ornellaia has raised over two million dollars for the Mind’s Eye program – assisting visitors who are blind or have low vision to experience art by using all the senses.

Rosso – Red Wines

2019 Ornellaia
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Ornellaia “Il Vigore” (translates to Vigor): 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Ornellaia is historically known to have more plantings of Merlot than other top “Super Tuscan” producers but over the years they have been planting more Cabernet Sauvignon in areas where it will do well and 2019 was a great vintage for the Cabernet Sauvignon, according to Axel. This wine has a nose that sings from the start with notes of violets, rich blackberry and blueberry fruit with spicy and herbal notes intertwined that has a touch of lushness on the mid-palate yet balanced exquisitely by bright acidity and lots of vitality along the fine, silky tannins that has an extraordinarily long length of flavor, finishing with a refined saline mineral note.

2012 Ornellaia “L’Incanto” (translates to Charming): 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. An enticing nose of cumin and sandalwood with plush red cherry fruit on the palate with dried blueberries balanced by hints of earth displaying muscle in regards to structure yet the texture has a velvety quality.  

2007 Ornellaia “L’Armonia” (translates to Harmony): 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Multilayered nose of fresh Mediterranean herbs, black truffles and a mixture of fresh and dried black and blue fruit with seamlessly integrated oak and well integrated tannins; a fine texture with a superb length of flavor on the finish.

Bianco – White Wines

2019 Ornellaia Bianco: 81% Sauvignon Blanc and 19% Viognier. An enchanting nose of crushed stones and citrus blossom with zesty lemon rind on the palate and fierce stony minerality that finishes with ripe white peach and honeysuckle.

2014 Ornellaia Bianco: 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 5% Petit Manseng. Richer aromas of baklava and lemon confit with that same intense stony minerality also present in the 2019 with jasmine flower and green mango on the palate and a persistent finish.

Apple Tart with Ornus dell’Ornellaia Cream Paired with 2019 Ornus dell’Ornellaia Dessert Wine Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Dolce – Dessert Wine

2019 Ornus dell’Ornellaia: 100% late-harvest Petit Manseng that was harvested in several pickings – four different times. Candied violet petals, orange marmalade and Earl Grey tea on the nose with a lush mouthfeel that accompanied the decadent flavors of peach pie and drizzled honey balanced by bright acidity.

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The First Chilean Wine Producer To Score 100 Points Releases Over Decade Old Back Vintage

Eduardo Chadwick climbed Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world
Photo Credit: Viñedo Seña

The pounding of his heartbeat was the only thing he could hear as he surveyed the traditional European room accented with crystal chandeliers. For this adventurer who had climbed one of the highest peaks in the Southern Hemisphere, this was the biggest and most thrilling challenge he had ever faced. But as some of the most well-known European wine tasters started to finish up their blind tasting, that tremendous adrenaline rush subsided and an overwhelming panic overtook the adventurous man. Doubt began to creep in and he wondered if he had made the biggest mistake of his life, that would not only affect the image of his wines, but all of the wines produced in Chile.

Eduardo Chadwick, multi-generational Chilean vineyard owner and wine producer, had gathered some of the most prestigious wine professionals in Europe to conduct a blind tasting inspired by the Judgment of Paris blind tasting back in the 1970s, that first brought Napa Valley wines to international fame; but this time it would be Chilean fine wines against some of the top Bordeaux and Super Tuscan wines at an event called the Berlin Tasting, as it took place in Berlin, Germany.

Seña Wines with Dirt
Photo Credit: Viña Seña

Eduardo had already traveled the world several times, evangelizing Chile’s fine wine potential, especially his beloved Aconcagua wine region. But unfortunately, Chile’s “short international history” and its image as a producer of “value wines” made it impossible for critics and key players in the wine industry to take his fine wine claims seriously. Today, Chile’s diverse topography is undoubtedly much better known as it is a long country that is very narrow and travelers who have taken the journey from North to South have experienced its extreme diversity with places such as the Atacama Desert to central coast Chile to the Patagonia Icefield.

But that day, on January 23rd, 2004, when the Berlin Tasting took place, was Eduardo’s last chance to prove that Chilean Bordeaux-blends could make wines that would rival some of their best counterparts in the world. He placed three of his top wines in the lineup and although there was no other Chilean wine producer’s reputation on the line to worry about, he knew that, for better or for worse, Chile as a whole winemaking country would be judged that day. But he felt that he was given no other choice as every door for acceptance had been slammed in his face and either Chile resigned themselves as a country that would never be allowed within the fine wine world or they would fight to the very end.

Eduardo Chadwick and Steven Spurrier at one of the blind tastings
Photo Credit: Viñedo Seña

Eduardo was just hoping that all three of his wines wouldn’t end up at the end once the scores were tallied; if only one could make it in the top five, it would perhaps start to open minds in regards to wines from Chile. As the list of the top ten wines was read, starting from the bottom and working its way to the top, his 2001 Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve was announced at ninth place, and although it was better than last place, there was still a sense of disappointment if that was it for Chile. Then his 2000 Viña Seña was announced at fourth place, tied with 2001 Château Margaux and Eduardo started to relax as it proved Chilean wines could go toe to toe with the greatest of the greats. Third place belonged to 2000 Château Lafite-Rothschild, which was no surprise, but then, second place was given to 2001 Viña Seña, and if that didn’t already catch the room filled with wine luminaries off guard, first place would be a complete shock – Viñedo Chadwick, the wine that honors Eduardo’s father. At first, there was “complete silence,” according to Eduardo, that then turned to murmuring followed by a “long, hard round of applause.” He was beside himself in “disbelief,” and if he was dreaming, he certainly didn’t want anyone to wake him.

Although Eduardo is a part of a multi-generational family of vintners in Chile, with his great-great uncle pioneering the Aconcagua wine region as far back as the 1870s, it was the wineries that he started, Viña Seña (a.k.a Seña) and Viñedo Chadwick, that would go on to make history. Viñedo Chadwick became the first Chilean wine awarded 100 points by James Suckling (for the 2014 vintage) and it would make history again by receiving 100 points for the 2017 vintage as well. His beloved Seña, which he started in partnership with Robert Mondavi back in 1995, who significantly influenced him, received 100 points for the 2015 vintage. 

Chile’s First Iconic Wine

Perseverance is certainly in Eduardo’s DNA as during the land reform that took place from 1962 to 1973, the land was confiscated from some of the largest estates, and 1,174 acres (475 hectares) were taken away from the Chadwick Errázuriz family estate, leaving them with only 62 acres (25 hectares). Eduardo’s father eventually bought back their old winery in 1983, Viña Errazuriz, and Eduardo took the opportunity to study vineyards and winemaking in-depth in Bordeaux. The family spent the next 30 years buying back land and replanting new vineyards that would produce high-quality grapes.

Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick
Photo Credit: Viñedo Seña

The legendary Robert Mondavi decided to first visit Chile in 1991 and Eduardo Chadwick was chosen to be his driver; during the visit, Mondavi realized he saw himself in Eduardo. Together they formed a partnership to start a project that would produce Chile’s first iconic wine to help the country gain respect in the wider wine world and hence, Seña became a reality in 1995. They would spend four years looking for the ideal location for Seña’s vineyard, which ended up on the hillside in an area called Ocoa, in the Aconcagua Valley, only 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean; the Mediterranean climate allows for grapes to fully ripen yet the cool nights, averaging 66 Fahrenheit at night during the growing season, would help to retain acidity and delicate aromatics. 

The Seña vineyard is protected by a ravine and steep mountains
Photo Credit: Viñedo Seña

Just like Mondavi’s unwavering belief in Napa Valley wines, he also believed that Chile’s Aconcagua wine region had the same potential. The Chadwick family had the means and the resources to make a great wine in some of the exceptional vineyards in Chile. Still, just as important, it would take a strong personality with a fierce tenacity at his core to constantly face the snickering, patronizing comments, sneers and the worst of them, most of the time just being completely ignored. Mondavi had been there, as even with the fanfare over the Judgment of Paris it still took decades to get people outside of California to take the wines seriously when they were compared to their European counterparts; in Eduardo, he saw such tenacity.  

Even with Eduardo and his family as the sole owners of Viña Seña, he still feels the pioneering spirit of Mondavi with him, that American spirit that not only applies to the U.S. but to South America as well. And so he has been a relentless advocate for Chilean wines, just like Mondavi was for Napa, traveling the world and organizing blind tastings. 

Ability to Age 

Magui Chadwick
Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

But Eduardo took it a step further as he knew that the ability to age with grace was a key marker for a high-quality fine wine; so he again traveled the world, conducting blind tastings, but this time it was with back vintages of Seña against the same vintages of some of the most prestigious wines in the world. And not only did a Seña always come in first place, but many times various Seña vintages would take the top three. And he knows that the work is far from over, and happily, he can hand over his wineries and the special Seña project to his four daughters. One of them, Magui Chadwick, leads the way as marketing director to the two iconic estates of Seña and Viñedo Chadwick. 

Now Magui is organizing events that celebrate the 2019 Seña that has been released in unique packaging to celebrate its 25th anniversary and Magui designed the label as well as being part of deciding the final blend with her father and their longtime team who have been there from Seña’s inception. 

Eduardo and Magui Chadwick
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Magui has also decided to offer a 2009 library release to the market that has a unique label and it is packaged within a wooden collector’s box at a suggested retail price of only $150, continuing her father’s evangelizing of Chilean fine wines by allowing the fine wine drinkers of the world to decide for themselves.   

Eduardo understood early on that the fight to gain respect for fine wines from Chile would be a long battle that would have no end. Eduardo is thrilled to hand the reins over to his daughters as he knows that the only way the wines of Chile will be able to evolve is if they are led by young leaders that have a fierce fire within them, such as he had in his youth.

Bringing Your Own Chair

Eduardo Chadwick
Photo Credit: Viñedo Seña

And he speaks about Mondavi still today as an extraordinary example of answering an impossible question: how does one get a seat at the table when the hierarchy hasn’t given you an invitation? Mondavi brought his own folding chair to the table, took his seat proudly and defiantly and kept showing up until Napa received the respect it deserved. Many would try to dissuade Mondavi by calling him arrogant due to his nerve in talking about the greatness of Napa Valley wines when it was only the hierarchy’s place to do so. Passage of time always gives perspective and not only was he right in his statements about Napa but he opened the door to the idea that greatness is not only a privilege for those that were born into it but it was everyone’s right as long as they did the tremendous amount of work and they consistently over-delivered. That is not arrogance but simply justice.

And so, Eduardo sought out his justice; justice for the Aconcagua wine region, justice for Chilean wines and justice for the other America – South America. And it all started with that first leap at the Judgment of Berlin, not knowing his fate, Chile’s fate, still deciding that it was better to risk a humiliating modest showing, that would at least result in the knowledge that Chile is striving to make fine wines, rather than to give up on the notion of Chilean fine wines completely. In the end, it turned out better than he could have hoped and since that time, he has only continued to amaze famous personalities and connoisseurs in the wine world.

Eduardo brought his folding chair and set up his own seat at the table and he not only challenged misconceptions, but he blew them out of the water. He is confident that his daughters will crush those misconceptions in the future and bring Chile’s first iconic wine to the next level.

***Link to original article on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2022/08/03/the-first-chilean-wine-producer-to-score-100-points-releases-over-decade-old-back-vintage/

2019 Seña and packaging
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Seña hillside vineyard employs biodynamic farming practices for 100% of its vines. 

Seña lineup
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

1996 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Carménère (Carménère was initially planted in Bordeaux and brought to Chile, but it has found its home there). 1996 was the first vintage they released onto the more extensive market as the first vintage they produced was 1995. Tim Mondavi (Robert’s son) wanted to pick the grapes earlier, so the wine has marked acidity, which still gives it lots of vitality and this vintage is considered the “old style” of Seña, according to Eduardo. Smoldering sandalwood incense with still fresh fruit such as red raspberries and black cherries with fine tannins and mouthwatering acidity.

2005 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Carménère, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Once the Robert Mondavi family sold their wineries to Constellation in 2004, Eduardo bought the remaining 50% share from Robert so he and his family would own 100% of Seña. And so the 2005 vintage starts a new era by trying to find more balance of ripeness that includes the skins and seeds of the grapes as well as the sugar levels, retaining acidity and deep concentration. It has a very pretty floral nose with violets enhanced by baking spices and juicy blackberry fruit on the palate with complex notes of espresso and earth that has well-manicured broad tannins.

2009 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carménère, 16% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. 2009 was a “warm and ripe vintage,” according to Eduardo, and it shows itself with a delicious rich cassis flavor balanced by notes of broken earth and graphite that still has an intense focus with wonderfully silky tannins. 

2015 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 12% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. The 2015 Seña was awarded 100 points. Eduardo notes that the growing conditions in 2015 were “perfect” as it wasn’t too hot or too cold and he loves the balance of this wine. A very expressive wine with spring flowers, new leather, stony minerality and pristine red and black fruit that has tremendous vitality on the palate with lots of finesse along the extraordinarily long finish. 

2017 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 15% Carmenère, 10% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. Eduardo addressed the horrible fires in Chile in 2017, as many of the wine reports made it seem as if all of Chile was on fire, and he wanted to make it clear that Seña’s vineyard was not affected. And the proof is in the wine bottle in this case. Delicate mineral and floral aromatics with blueberry cobbler flavors and hints of underbrush notes with deeply etched tannins giving structure and lift to this wine. 

2019 Seña, Aconcagua, Chile: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 15% Carmenere and 4% Petit Verdot. 2019 represents the 25th anniversary of Seña and the bottle has a special packaging. The 2019 vintage was warm, so it is considered to be between 2015 and 2017 in terms of climatic conditions. A stunning harmonious wine with enticing aromas of citrus blossom, jasmine and blackberry pie with hints of cigar box with silky texture and good weight on the mid-palate balanced by bright acidity along the flavorful and outright delectable finish.

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Wine Producer Who Put Ultra-Premium Rosé On The Map Is Now Taking Another Leap For Terroir Expression

The smell of lavender filled the air while an enchanting scene was created by the purple flower spikes accenting tops of green foliage planted throughout the land. The sun, with its golden beams, gave everything a divine light so the olive and mulberry trees glowed and the landscape was further enhanced by the red clay soil adorned with limestone rocks and broken gravel. As shown in the paintings of the greats like Paul Cézanne, Provence, in southeastern France, was stunningly magnificent and even standing there in person, Marcel Ott still couldn’t believe what he was seeing with his own eyes. The picturesque scene was not only unbelievable for its sheer beauty but the fact that many owners were giving the land away almost for free was even more shocking. It seems impossible today that a piece of this French Mediterranean paradise could have been bought for so little, as it is known so well today with many people desperately wanting to win the lottery so they could have their slice of Provence heaven.

Domaines Ott, Château Romassan Rosé bottle
Photo Credit: Stanislas Desjeux

In 1896, Marcel Ott had just graduated from an agronomy engineering program in the northeastern French region of Alsace, which borders Switzerland and Germany, so he traveled around France to check out the vineyards in various wine regions. Phylloxera, an insect pest, had already devastated much of Europe, so much so that it is estimated that phylloxera cost France 10 billion francs (back in 1870’s money!). For over a decade, no solution to fix the phylloxera issue could be found and as one can imagine, having one of the most critical sectors of a country’s economy, growing grapes and making wine, taken away with no hope in sight was terrifying. By the end of the 1800s, a solution seemed to be found however, yet it was still risky considering that it would take time to see if phylloxera could truly be defeated, or perhaps another incurable blight could wreak havoc on the vines in the near future.

But Marcel took that gamble and bought his family’s first estate, Château de Selle, in 1912 in the Côtes de Provence, with a mission to elevate rosé wine to an ultra-premium category that would show how this style could express the captivating terroir of Provence. Eventually, his family wines, Domaines Ott, would become world-renowned and open the door for many other premium rosé wines.

Domaines Ott 

Over a century later, Marcel’s great-grandson, fourth-generation winemaker Jean-François Ott, oversees their estates and ensures his great-grandfather’s high standard for Provence rosé wines continues to live on with Domaines Ott. The bad image that still lingers on about rosé frustrates Jean-François, such as the misnomer that rosé cannot age, and when the subject is raised, he quickly replies to this misconception by simply saying, “No, a bad wine cannot age.”  

Three different soils of the three Domaines Ott estates
Photo Credit: Stanislas Desjeux

One of the things that created a cult following for Domaines Ott rosé wines among fine wine enthusiasts was their ability to express three distinctive terroirs in Provence. The first estate acquired by Marcel was Château de Selle, located in the appellation (designated wine area) called Côtes de Provence, which is situated on high limestone inland slopes with mild winters and dry summers with lots of sunshine. The second, which Marcel and his son acquired in the 1930s, Clos Mireille, also in the Côtes de Provence, overlooks the Mediterranean with the vineyards cooled by the sea’s spray but then warmed by the hillside air. Finally, in 1956, the last estate was acquired in another appellation of Provence called Bandol AOC – less than an hour west of Clos Mireille, named Château Romassan; the wine area of Bandol is unique as it is known for great red wines made mainly from the powerful Mourvèdre red grape variety. Clos Mireille is located in the heart of Bandol, where Mourvèdre does well in the poor, limestone soils that enjoy the extremely dry climate and abundance of sunshine – Bandol is one of the sunniest places in Provence.

Domaines Ott makes an ultra-premium rosé wine from each of these estates, which are bottled separately, to showcase the sense of place of each individual terroir and to display the fine wine ability of Provence rosés. But they also make a small amount of red wine from the Château Romassan and Château de Selle estates as well as a small amount of white wine from the Clos Mireille estate. 

Jean-François Ott says that it was a battle through the decades to get people to take rosé wine seriously, and even now, despite the overwhelming popularity of anything pink, he feels in some ways, the popularity itself has hurt the image as the market is mainly saturated with easy to drink, simple rosé wines that limit its image as being a non-serious libation that is best enjoyed when one doesn’t want to overthink what she is drinking. There is undoubtedly a time and place for such wines, but Jean-François is afraid that with its popularity, the idea that there are some rosé wines that are ideal for pairing with an exquisite meal, or ones that can show an incredible depth of complexity after being laid down to cellar, will be lost among the overall rosé wine trend that has been taking the world by storm. 

But today, Jean-François is highlighting their commitment to illustrating the high-quality potential of Provence rosé with the stricter selection of their Étoile bottling. 

Étoile Rosé 

2020 Domaines Ott, Étoile Rosé Photo Credit: Stanislas Desjeux

It was important to Jean-François’s great-grandfather to show the world the profound sense of beauty of Provence by capturing the different appellation terroir expressions from three different estates. He also had a vision of giving a sense of the stunning coastline by creating a bottle with curves that Provence itself inspired. Eventually, in the 1930s, Jean-François’s grandfather René Ott settled on the final shape, inspired by ancient Roman amphorae, which were tall, oval-shaped vessels with a narrow cylindrical neck. The shape of the Ott bottle is patented, but other Provence rosé producers have found a way to design a somewhat similar bottle that hints at the Domaines Ott bottle without infringing on the patent. It is still remarkable to think that one of the most iconic wine bottles did not come from a savvy marketing team, but instead, a small multi-generational producer who put everything on the line to bring respect to an underappreciated wine.

And Jean-François has stayed true to his paternal lineage, who has gifted him with some of the most outstanding rosé wines in the world, by keeping the bottle shape, keeping the individual bottlings of each estate and continuing the mission to always seek improvement in the winery and the vineyards by bringing more precision and clarity to the terroir expression.

And so, in 2019, a bottling that blended the portions from each of the three estates was released under the name Étoile which means “star” in French. “My family used to make this cuvée but only for ourselves,” Jean-François noted and he thought the time was right to show the next level of Provence rosé. The Étoile bottling expresses a “deep taste and silky texture” that is balanced by freshness and purity of fruit expression and it brings together all the best attributes of each estate together giving a complete picture of Provence, the place that captivated his great-grandfather all those years ago.

Clos Mireille Estate
Photo Credit: Domaines Ott

But honoring his lineage goes beyond just keeping the high standards that were first established, he is also determined to continue to push the envelope to keep raising the bar, even if it is by unconventional means. There is nothing odd about some of the changes, including starting the organic certification process (they will be officially certified organic for the 2022 vintage despite already being organic in practice) and aging in spherical ceramic vats for some of the wine for the Étoile bottling as it brings out more “aromatic precision” according to Jean-François. But he is conducting an unorthodox experiment in the vineyards by planting the Italian noble red grape variety Sangiovese on their estates in Provence, France, as he feels that maybe in 15 years it could be needed with rising temperatures due to climate change but time will tell if he does indeed use it in Domaines Ott rosé wines.

Through it all, he still keeps alive what has always been the most important thing to his family: the vineyards. “We spend 600 hours every year per hectare [2.5 acres] working outside,” and the quality comes “100% from the grapes,” noted Jean-François.

A Star Rooted in Humble Beginnings 

One could only imagine what Marcel Ott was thinking long ago as a young student risking it all to invest in land that seemed worthless at the time. Did he have any inkling that he would establish one of the greatest rosé wines in the world that was perfectly contained by one of the most iconic bottles in the world? Or was he just taken by the place, knowing he could end up penniless? Even if the French wine industry died at the hands of phylloxera, at least he lived in the closest thing that he could imagine to be heaven.

The one thing that is for certain is that an idealistic young man from humble beginnings was able to break barriers beyond anyone else’s imagination, and today, his high-quality rosé dream has become a standard that many other Provence rosé producers try to live up to yet still none are able to surpass.

Ott bottles that go back to the early 1900s
Photo Credit: Domaines Ott
2020 Domaines Ott, Étoile Rosé Photo Credit: Stanislas Desjeux

2020 Domaines Ott, Étoile Rosé, Vin de France, France: Étoile 2020 is the second vintage of Étoile as 2019 was the inaugural vintage. A blend of 80% Grenache (from Château de Selle and Clos Mireille) and 20% Mourvèdre (Château Romassan). This wine greets the taster with generosity and includes enchanting floral notes of citrus blossom and lavender that has ripe strawberries on the palate with zingy grapefruit and intense stony minerality with marked acidity along the superb length of flavor.

2021 Domaines Ott, Château de Selle, Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France: 55% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Syrah. At first it invites with savory notes of fresh thyme and rosemary that has mouthwatering acidity on the palate with lemon zest and quince flavors that finishes with wet stones and lots of energy.

2021 Domaines Ott, Clos Mireille, Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France: 70% Grenache, 25% Cinsault and 5% Syrah. A thrilling saline minerality from the first sip with bright acidity balancing the creamy texture with green mango and white peach flavors that has hints of desert scrub, finishing with seashell notes.

2021 Domaines Ott, Château Romassan, Rosé, Bandol, France: 55% Mourvèdre, 30% Cinsault and 15% Grenache. Cherry blossoms and raspberries on the nose intertwined with crushed stones that has a silky texture on the palate with a good amount of flesh mid-palate and has hints of anise on the finish.

2018 Domaines Ott, Clos Mireille, Blanc, Côtes de Provence, France: Blend of Sémillon and Rolle (Vermentino). Oyster shell, sea salt and lemon confit with honeysuckle in the background that evolves with savory notes on the palate such as bay leaf and a hint of white pepper with a creamy texture.

2017 Domaines Ott, Château Romassan, Rouge, Bandol, France: 90% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache. Multi-layered fruit with black, blue and red berries that are enhanced by chili powder and smoked paprika notes that are grounded in smoldering earth with broad-shouldered tannins, which are well tamed and silky in quality, that are balanced by plush fruit finishing with power and delicious decadence.

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Woman From India Leads As Winemaker At Beloved Napa Winery To Build A Better Tomorrow After Tragedy

As the terrifying words and shocking photos showing fierce fires destroying thousands of acres of land flooded social media, it was hard to not feel helpless. The over 50 mph winds assisted the fire in covering so much ground in such a short time that people who thought they were out of harm’s way would quickly realize within the same hour that they needed to evacuate as soon as possible. The direction of the wind changed constantly making it impossible for anyone within Napa Valley and Sonoma County to know if they were truly safe, as fleeing one’s home had many downsides since temporarily living in a crowded community center seemed to be a torturous alternative, or much worse, one could accidentally drive into the heart of one of the fast and furious fires, trapped with no way out.

Many living outside of northern California stayed glued to the internet to see if friends or colleagues in the wine industry were doing okay. All the messages, photos and videos on social media platforms created a chaotic storyline of everything seeming to be destroyed. Several wineries were listed as being damaged, or in some cases, burning to the ground but most of it was misinformation causing unnecessary nervous breakdowns for the owners. Tons of winery owners took to Facebook to inform people that the damage reports were untrue. So many devoted Napa wine customers demanded pictures showing wineries had indeed burned down if anyone dared even to mention that such a thing happened.

Signorello Estate patio overlooking the vineyards Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

It seemed like all the wineries would luckily emerge unscathed from the horrific 2017 fires but then all of a sudden many posts started to talk about the great historic winery of Signorello Estate. As more and more shared on the internet that they had heard rumors about the winery burning to the ground, there was a backlash of people demanding to see a photo before such rumors were posted… and then there it was… a photo of Signorello engulfed in flames. A place that had many precious memories for people as Signorello was one of the first Napa Valley wineries, located along the Silverado Trail, with a professional kitchen and full-time chef to create magical wine and food pairing experiences, and so, many of their customers have had beautiful memories on their Italian Terrazzo-style patio overlooking the valley.

In the middle of the night, Signorello’s longtime winemaker, who had been with them for 20 years, Pierre Birebent, saw the buildings burn down with his own eyes. He went there with one of his guys, trying to put out the intense inferno until he was forced to leave as he gagged from the black smoke. Just a month after this terrible event, Pierre seemed like a broken man speaking about the experience at a conference and despite the family owner, Ray Signorello Jr., being adamant about the fact that they would rebuild, Pierre seemed less sure of how they could go on.  

Priyanka Dhar French

Ray Signorello Jr.
Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

Pierre ended up retiring, which is more than understandable, and so Ray Jr. was on a mission to find a winemaker who would not only help rebuild Signorello but take this opportunity to make it even better. The property was initially built in the 1970s as a retirement home for Ray Sr. and his wife, and then when Ray Jr. came on board and realized that top wineries highly prized their vineyards, he saw that they had the rare opportunity to make stellar Napa wine. Significant advancements had also been made in understanding vineyards’ soil and the best way to build state-of-the-art wineries and cellars, and so in some ways, he thought he was given a gift to redo things the right way.

Priyanka Dhar French
Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

Ray Jr. was able to find a rising Napa star, Priyanka Dhar French, who is a fierce champion of diversity in the wine industry – she is one of the youngest female winemakers to lead a Napa winery as well as one of just a handful of Indian winemakers in California. She has worked at such stellar wineries in California as Louis M. Martini, Stags’ Leap and Dalla Valle, and gained more international experience in New Zealand and the Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy.

Priyanka was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and her parents, both of whom are scientists, thought that she would become a scientist like themselves or at least a doctor or a lawyer. She received her undergraduate degree in food science, which would have been an acceptable career choice to her parents but the idea of working at a factory that was all about creating a formula that would just be churned out did not sit well with Priyanka as she also has a creative side. One day she went out to Sula Vineyards, one of the most prominent wineries in India, and as she sat in the tasting room, sipping wine and overlooking the vineyards, she said to herself, “Oh my god, this is the life.” She reached out to an uncle, a food and beverage director, about her idea of working in wine and he immediately told her to do it. He also encouraged her to get her Master’s degree in enology at U.C. Davis in California.

At first, the wine career path she chose was not so easy to understand from her parents’ point of view. Despite her talking about getting a Master’s degree in winemaking for over a year, once she announced she was accepted into the program, they responded that they thought she was joking. Her father used to joke that he would love to go into wine once he retires as he could not imagine it as a real job. But eventually, she won them over when her father came out to California to visit one of the wineries where she worked and he saw the lab, the winery, the cellar and the vineyards – that it was a tremendous amount of work to make great wine. After the visit, he called up the family back in Mumbai and said that her job was a “real thing,” and today, he gets to witness his daughter becoming one of the rising stars of the wine world.

The Future for Signorello Estate

Since Signorello’s backup drive for their computer burned in the fire, they were left with none of the data recorded over the years. Priyanka made sure to spend as much time with Pierre in the winery and vineyards, before his retirement, as she wanted to write down everything important. Also, Signorello’s vineyard foreman Carlos, who has been overseeing the vineyards for 36 years, is a great help to Priyanka every day.

When Priyanka had her first meaningful conversation with owner Ray Jr., the idea of elevating their practices to achieve even a greater level of winemaking and setting up a solid business that would survive for several generations was of the utmost importance. So Priyanka recommended bringing on two legends of the industry to help consult in overseeing the vineyards and building a new winery, consulting director of winemaking Celia Welsh and viticulturalist Steve Matthiasson. They started to dig several soil pits to understand the many layers underground that affect the vines in various places of the vineyard, as well as Steve creating a sustainable and regenerative environment that includes laying down some of the foundations for a potential carbon capture program that will be implemented once an economically feasible way is discovered so low-margin businesses such as wineries can implement such programs.

Signorello Estate Winery sign
Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

When it comes to the new winery and cellar, they have planned to build 18,000 feet of caves into the hillside on the estate that will act as a cellar for storing barrels and include some of the winemaking processes. Only non-flammable material is being used, such as concrete and glass, to build the structures, and there will be a huge high-pressure sprinkler pump that can either push out water or specific, fire-retardant chemicals. All entrances will be double sealed, and vents will be installed with special filters that will trap volatile compounds related to smoke. A full-time generator and fire pump will be on-site, and even if the winery doesn’t need it, the fire pump’s water source will be available to firefighters who may need to tap into it to save other properties.

Priyanka is extremely excited to get the opportunity to not only lead a great Napa winery into a better future but also to be given a chance to truly know the property from the bottom up as Signorello is starting from scratch – except when it comes to their vineyards as those were never damaged in the fire.

Tragedies Bring Out the True Character of Someone 

Hands filled with Signorello soil
Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

The 2017 fires not only destroyed a lot of homes and land but it also dampened the spirits of several residents, many still trying to recover from such traumatic experiences. Ray Jr. has another home in Canada and once he found out that his winery was burning down, he made sure he was there the next day. The area was evacuated and no one outside of first responders or media was allowed, so Ray Jr. joined a national TV news crew to visit his property; the structure was completely destroyed but the wine was safe within the sealed stainless steel tanks. 

At that moment, the cameras were rolling and could capture Ray’s reaction when he first saw his parents’ beloved dream burned to the ground. He immediately expressed gratitude that no one was hurt and when he saw the vineyards were untouched, he proclaimed at that moment that he would rebuild. Priyanka, who was working at Dalla Valle, said seeing Ray on the news was one of the most powerful memories she has from that time because while so many around her were getting pulled down into the darkness, here was a man who had lost so much, and within seconds of seeing the tremendous devastation, expressed grace rooted in a determination for a better future. And now she gets to be part of making that better future come true.

2019 Signorello Estate ‘Padrone’ Cabernet Sauvignon & 2019 Signorello Estate ‘S’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd
2019 Signorello Estate’ Hope’s Cuvée’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Signorello Estate’ Hope’s Cuvée’ Chardonnay, Napa Valley: Estate-grown Chardonnay fruit and unfiltered wine. The Chardonnay come from a part of the vineyard where the vines were planted in 1980, and it is a single estate block wine. It is an emotional bottle for Ray Jr. as Hope Signorello was Ray’s mother, and she is why they ended up in Napa, but unfortunately, she passed away pretty early on and she didn’t see the growth of this winery and where it ended up. And so, when she passed away, Ray Sr. and Ray Jr. named this wine Hope’s Cuvée as an homage to her. An enchanting nose with orange blossom, white flowers and stony minerality with rich lemon curd flavors on the palate and a beautifully textured wine that finishes with uplifting acidity. Only around 400 to 450 cases are made of this cuvée. $98

2019 Signorello Estate’ S’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Signorello Estate S Napa Valley: S comes from a selection of acclaimed vineyard sites beyond the Signorello Estate vineyards and Ray Jr. describes it as a “modern, opulently styled Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”. 2019 is the inaugural vintage of S Cabernet Sauvignon. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot with fruit sourced from St. Helena, Rutherford and Howell Mountain, all farmed organically. Enticing nose with notes of black tea, blackberry liqueur and savory spices with hints of licorice and dark chocolate on the palate with juicy black cherries and broad yet silky tannins that give it power and elegance. $75

2019 Signorello Estate, ‘Padrone’
Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Signorello Estate, Padrone, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Estate-grown fruit and unfiltered wine. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 3% Malbec. Complex nose of black truffles, espresso and granite balanced by rich cassis aromas that has a mixture of freshly picked fruit combined with more mature fruit flavors that has hints of cigar box and lavender dancing in the background. $175

Ray Jr. has come out with an affordable Cabernet Sauvignon called ‘Edge’ and it is sourced from premium vineyards in Alexander Valley, an appellation in Sonoma County that is known for its high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. The price is $25.

2018 Edge,
Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

2018 Edge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County: 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petite Sirah. Really impressive wine considering the price point! Freshly grated nutmeg on the nose and hints of crushed rocks with fine tannins along the palate with cocoa dust and blueberry preserves expressed on the sustained finish. $25

2020 TRIM
Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo Credit: Signorello Estate

Also, it was just announced that Ray Jr. is introducing new labels for his entry-level TRIM Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay-focused wines. The new labels debut with the 2020 TRIM Cabernet and the 2021 Chardonnay bottlings and highlight nutrition information and an ingredient list on the back labels. Both wines will be released late-June 2022 and are priced at $12.99 a bottle.

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