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Learning With #WineStudio – Coup de Foudre Pétillant Naturel from Vermont

August 7, 2014 4 comments

Coup de Foudre Bottle TopHave you tasted wines from Vermont? Do you know what Pétillant Naturel is, or have you tasted any of them before? Yep, me neither – until I joined the #winestudio event a few weeks ago. In case you are still not familiar with the concept (which you should be by now!), #winestudio events are intended to showcase unique and often lesser known wines and wine regions; these events are usually organized in series, take place every Tuesday on Twitter (just search for the hashtag #winestudio), and represent great learning opportunity.

The event I’m talking about was part of the series discovering lesser known wines of United States – Colorado, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin – not a bad line up, huh? This particular session was dedicated to the wines of Vermont, and for me, there couldn’t be a better wine selected to represent the Vermont in the series. Just look at the bottle top in the picture – how many wines did you see with this type of closure? Yep, not many. And the learning? Wow, all the way!

Let’s start with Pétillant Naturel. It was the first time I encountered this type of wine, and looking for the information on internet, I discovered that I’m almost missing a train (well, I’m on it now). Classic méthode champenoise sparkling wines are made with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Pétillant Naturel wines are also sparkling wines, but made with the first(!) fermentation finishing in the bottle. No blending, not chaptalization, only the grapes and (usually) the natural yeast. The resulting wines are typically more fruit forward and expressive of the terroir, and also lighter than Champagne and such. They also develop only half of the pressure of the typical Champagne bottle, thus a standard “beer bottle” closure works quite well. Talking about “missing the train”, it appears that Pétillant Naturel wines are made all over the world and have quite a substantial following – here is an interesting article from the Wine & Spirits magazine.

Let’s continue with the learning and let’s talk about the wine. First, I love the name – French expression “Coup de Foudre” stands for “love at first sight” (unfortunately, the winery will not be able to use this name going forward, as there is now the winery in Napa Valley under the same name, so going forward the wine will be called “CdeF”).

I don’t want to use the term “natural wine” here due to the associated controversy in the wine media, but I will let you be the judge of it. The La Garagista winery is using organic methods and in the process of conversion to biodynamic. The grapes for this wine had been hand harvested and foot tread (!), and fermented with the natural yeast in the glass semijohn for about 5 weeks, then bottled to finish fermentation under cap as pétillant naturel. I think this is as natural as the winemaking can be.

And the love at first sight (and sniff and sip) it was for me! 2013 La Garagista Coup de Foudre White Pétillant Naturel, Vermont (11% ABV) had a yellow tingled color in the glass, quite intense. The nose was hard to describe – minerality was the first thing which was coming to mind, but also it was light, balanced, showing flowers and fresh bread, touch medicinal. On the palate, the wine was very refreshing, with herbs and touch of white stone fruit + minerality. If I can give you a frame of reference, the natural wines of Jean-Pierre Robinot and Frank Cornelissen come to mind, with their pure expression of terroir. I couldn’t stop drinking this CdeF wine, and the best overall descriptor I can come up with is “delicious”. Drinkability: 8

Added [personal] bonus – this wine is made out of the grape called Brianna, which is a cross between European varieties Bourboulenc and Tibouren Gris – this is a new grape for me, so I’m inching forward towards the coveted 500.

That’s all I wanted to share with you. If you like to learn more about unique wines and regions, do yourself a favor and join the #winestudio conversations, I’m sure you will be happy you did. If you can find this Coup de Foudre wine anywhere – buy a case (and send me a few bottles, will you?) Also, go and look for the Pétillant Naturel wines – you might discover the new love. Cheers!

 

Beautiful Land, Beautiful Wines, and Pursuit of Passion – #WineStuidio Experience with ZGR Imports

June 20, 2014 10 comments

Once again, I’m starting the blog post with rhetorical and repetitious opening: have you ever had… (I can imagine some of you rolling your eyes and may be even clicking away… but let me finish, nevertheless) the wines from the region called Le Marche in Italy? With high degree of confidence, I would guess that many of you would say “no” – while better known in Italy and in Europe, wines of the Region Marche are not all that familiar to the wine consumers in US – but it is what we will be talking about here.

Region Marche is located in the Central Italy, up on the Adriatic Sea. As many other areas in Italy, Marche boasts beautiful hills, serene beaches and old city citadels, the towers and the walls which you can see when you drive along any of the highways and the roads. And of course, you can find wine and olive oil pretty much everywhere.

When I visited Marche for the first time about 9 years ago, the area was known best for its white wine called Verdicchio. Verdicchio is actually a white grape, which is known to produce slightly perfumed, brightly acidic, medium bodied wines. Two of the best production areas for Verdicchio are Verdicchio de Castelli di Jesi DOC and Verdicchio di Matelica DOC. When it comes to the reds of Le Marche, I was not all that impressed at that time. Rosso Piceno, one of the most popular red wines in Marche, a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, which I tasted during my visit, was rather simplistic. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, one of the indigenous red grapes of Le Marche, was also rather unimpressive, with the wines coming through as too acidic and too light. All in all, my first encounter with the wines of Le Marche left me with great impression of Marche’s whites, and so-so opinion of the reds. Another conclusion we can make that I simply was not very lucky with my selection of red wines.

It was then. Now, a bit more than a month ago, I participated in the virtual educational event on twitter called #WineStudio. In the past, I wrote a number of times about #WineChat events, where people get together for the virtual wine tasting on Wednesday night. The difference between #winechat and #WineStudio is that #WineChat events are usually a single-time events (one hour on Wednesday night starting at 6 PM Pacific/9 Eastern), but #WineStudio events usually span the period of three weeks, with one hour long sessions every Tuesday nights at 6 PM Pacific/ 9PM Eastern. And another (most important) difference between two events is #WineStudio’s focus on education, on presentation of the wine region and the host itself, where the host can be wine importer or a distributor.

While I definitely had a delay with this post (this time it was not really a procrastination – life was simply getting in the way), as it often happens, the delay was helpful. Last week Matt Kramer published a wonderful article in the Wine Spectator, called “The Most Powerful Force in Fine Wine Today“, where he was explaining the role and importance of the wine importers in educating wine consumers and creating the appreciation, demand and overall market for the fine wine. One of the major traits all of the successful wine importers have in common is passion. It is the passion for the wine region, passion for the winemakers, passion for the wines what makes them successful. And passion for the Le Marche – the land, the people, the wines – was clearly showing in conversation with Jonathan Zeiger, the principal at ZGR Imports, our host for the Le Marche #winestudio event.

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Jonathan’s company solely focuses on the wines of Le Marche, and I can tell you, that focus and the passion were clearly showing in the wines. Jonathan explained that while Verdicchio is well known and well established, the rising star in the region is the white grape called Pecorino (yes, it is the grape and not the cheese). The wine which we tasted, clearly supported that claim. 2012 Centanni Pecorino Offida DOCG, Italy (14.5% ABV) – the wine started as acidic and grassy, and when warmed up a bit, became creamy and round. It became a a supple white, with lots of big flavors, very concentrated, but still refreshing, and quite unique and different. Drinkability: 8-

And the reds… Both red wines were designated as Rocco Piceno, and both were the blends of Sangiovese and Montepulciano – but this is where the similarities end. To say that I was blown away by the first taste of Centanni Rosso di Forca would be an understatement. 2012 Centanni Rosso Di Forca Rosso Piceno DOP, Italy (13.5% ABV) – one of the best Pop-and-Pour wines I ever had. From the moment the glass “cork” was pulled out, it was a luscious, luxurious, round and delicious wine, one sip after another. Loads of fruit, silky smooth tannins, perfectly present texture, velvety mouthcoat (are you salivating by now?), perfect balance. Drinkability: 9-.

During the last session of the event we tasted 2010 Rio Maggio Rosso Piceno DOC (13.5% ABV) – excellent wine, but very different from the previous one – dark restrained fruit, a touch of cherry pit, perfect acidity. The wine was very restrained, but equally elegant at the same time – it was very vinous, if that makes sense to you as a descriptor, and thought provoking. Drinkability: 8-

There you have it, my friends. You should really follow the passion – the passion of the people who make the wine, and the passion of the people who go out of their way to bring those wines to you – and that quest for passion will never fail you. Discover the passion – and you will drink well. Cheers!

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