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Willm – Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr

Alsace Willm Estate was founded in 1896 in the town of Barr, France (South of Strasbourg). Owner of the famous Clos Gaensbroennel, the walled vineyard within Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr famed for producing one of the world’s best Gewurztraminer wines. It translates to “goose fountain” and refers to the ancient stone fountain just outside the Clos. Maison Willm has always been concerned with revealing the best of its terroirs and sharing its exceptional wines with the whole world. This drives towards international made it the first producer in Alsace to export to the United States after prohibition. Now we can enjoy a valuable export presence in North America.

While lots of wine lovers have been anxious for the quality and identity of the brand since it became part of the more industrial Wolfberger, there’s no need to sacrifice them so fast. I understand Wolfberger is a gigantic coop that owns almost 10% of the whole Alsace vineyards. However, Willm and other brands such as Arthur Weysbeck and the newly acquired Lucien Albrecht are still quite on their own. Six winegrowers are truly the craftsman of the labels. Jean-Luc and Jean-Marc Ostertag are producing for the Grand crus respectively in Rielsing and Gewurztraminer. Dominique Haasz’s vineyards are a significant part of the Willm final results. Michel Metz joined in 1985 with Gewurztraminer plots. Hervé Thomas and Hervé Kamm part of the new generation of Maison Willm winemakers. These guys are the identity of Willm, not Wolfberger.

The wines of kirchberg de Barr are known for its incredible freshness and powerful acidity. It may be profitable to give them 10 to 20 years of rest because of this strong power and structure. The potential is just outstanding. The Rieslings tends to evolve rather slowly and smoothly while the Pinots Gris has more smokiness and richness right from the start. Overall, the wines from this Grand cru has an impressive preciseness.

La maison Alsacienne Willm a été fondée en 1896 dans la ville de Barr, en France (sud de Strasbourg). Propriétaire du célèbre Clos Gaensbroennel, le vignoble clos au sein du Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr célèbre pour la production de l’un des meilleurs Gewurztraminer. Il se traduit par “fontaine d’oie” et se réfère à l’ancienne fontaine de pierre juste à l’extérieur du Clos. La Maison Willm a toujours eu le souci de révéler le meilleur de ses terroirs et de partager ses vins d’exception avec le monde entier. Ce mouvement vers l’international en a fait le premier producteur alsacien à exporter aux États-Unis après la prohibition. Nous pouvons maintenant profiter d’une présence d’exportation précieuse en Amérique du Nord.

Alors que de nombreux amateurs de vin se sont montrés soucieux de la qualité et de l’identité de la marque depuis qu’elle fait partie du groupe plus industriel Wolfberger, il n’est pas nécessaire de la sacrifier si vite. Je comprends que Wolfberger est une coopérative gigantesque qui possède près de 10% du vignoble alsacien. Cependant, Willm et d’autres marques comme Arthur Weysbeck et Lucien Albrecht, nouvellement acquis, sont encore tout à fait indépendants. Six viticulteurs sont réellement les artisans des étiquettes. Jean-Luc et Jean-Marc Ostertag produisent pour les Grand Crus respectivement en Rielsing et en Gewurztraminer. Les vignobles de Dominique Haasz sont une partie significative des résultats finaux de Willm. Michel Metz rejoint en 1985 avec ses parcelles de Gewurztraminer. Finalement, Hervé Thomas et Hervé Kamm font partie de la nouvelle génération de vignerons de la Maison Willm. Ces hommes sont l’identité de Willm, pas Wolfberger.

Les vins de Kirchberg de Barr sont connus pour leur incroyable fraîcheur et leur acidité puissante. Il peut être utile de leur accorder 10 à 20 ans de repos à cause de cette puissance et de cette structure. Le potentiel est tout simplement exceptionnel. Le Riesling a tendance à évoluer plutôt lentement et en douceur tandis que le Pinots Gris a plus de fumé et de richesse dès le début. Globalement, les vins de ce Grand Cru présentent une précision impressionnante.

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Love Affair

It’s always the same story.

Everything happens so fast and she can’t control it. She perfectly knows that this might, possibly or realistically rather presumably, be just another fling. It’s in this perfectly flawless kind of moment, which would be remembered for decades, that everything seems to align in a magical way. A dimmed light, immaculate linens, highly polished, delicate stemware, the mood is set for another dangerous night, one of those that means something, that have the power to change her. And yet, she finds herself looking forward to it, restlessly looking for it, without any shame. I mean, why should she? It’s perfectly acceptable in this day and time.

She remembers her first time with such clarity. They say the best memories are always clearer since we remember the emotions, the sensations. She remembers the beach waves and Mediterranean smell in the breeze, her sandy sandals, the simplest effortless table and setting, the fast spoken, semi-understood Spanish as ambiance and more importantly, the combined aromas. The banquet-sized fragrant Sea Food Paella with vibrant saffron and the just caught array of shellfish were dancing with an ultimately as aromatic Domaine Georges Vernay, Les chaillées de L’enfer, Condrieu. Both were so perfectly balanced in their exuberance and perfume with power, tonicity, dynamism and richness. This was her first time falling in love, in love with pristine wine and food pairing. And, what an unforgettable first time it was. It was the start of something bigger that she would’ve imagined, a search which would last a lifetime.

The memorable experiences would multiply over time. This time was in a very different setting. Two favorites met unexpectedly to form a lovely combination. It started out with a wine or rather a grape. An unmistakable variety and type of wine surprised her inexperienced, but delicate palate. Nebbiolo is always a temptation; Barolo comes with an impulsive urge to try. It’s a wine full of opposites, subtle yet bold, simple yet complex, delicately perfumed yet graspingly structured. It has a sense of tradition and a sense of place. The ultimate Piedmontese grape, only grown sparsely elsewhere, popularly thought to be named from Nebbia, the Italian fogs that characteristically drape the hills. On the other side of the pair, there was the reason why lactose intolerance is her worst fear, cheese. I don’t have to explain why cheeses are a delectable pleasure of life, it speaks for itself. However, I can describe the one that brought this affair to an unexpected level. It was a Cheddar, as unoriginal as it might seem, it was quite the derivative. The hard granular and crumbly texture of ten years of ageing, mixed with a local element to the pairing, Black truffle bits. Its lover might seem way more special, the liquid sapphire, arch-traditionalist Giacomo Conterno Monfortino 2002, a unique wine from a unique vintage when all the grapes turned out so great, only the normally specifically picked Monfortino was produced. When together, the simple cheese, and celebrity of a wine, became this one perfect memory in the mind of an awakening young girl.

Her eagerness did drive her to get on the move. She though maybe everything was even better directly in the vineyards. Realistically, “better” proved to be an understatement. She found herself wildly exploring the Burgundian vines. From South to North, from Lyon to Dijon, until she reached one specific millennium estate perfectly maintained, tidy and neat without a tiny rock out of place, one she had dreamed about, Château de Meursault. Below this immaculate white Castle and infrastructure is another complete separated world, the cellar. Entering the cellar is like entering another atmosphere. It’s gigantic and labyrinthine. The Vaults and the walls are covered with thick mold and it’s near dark. Then, there was a sign, or an accident, but she’s romantic enough to believe in fate. The lights decided to be capricious, it sometimes happens with the humidity and coat of decay. She was stuck for almost an hour in this spectacular dim environment, exploring the estate’s past and history, every bottle left from every vintage since 1977, imagining the great Paulée de Meursault exactly where she stood. That’s one way to fall deeply in love. As expected, the tasting afterward was exceptional and completely biased. Later during that trip, she came across one of the same wines on a wine list and had to impulsively repeat the experience. She might not have been completely partial yet, but the elegant poached lobster in a Chanterelle mushroom butter of the night’s dinner with the Château de Meursault monopole, Clos des Grands Charrons, 2013, would end her Journey on a very grand finish. This was a proof for her, that in a wine & food pairing, there’s not only the wine & food to take into consideration. Thus, opening a window to a much more complex, elaborate approach.

As she gets to know more about the world of wine, our heroine gets even more passionate, so much as to make her real lover jealous. She spends her time with the nose in a wine book or in a wine glass, always with a quirky smile. It is a true Love affair, one of the most curious behaviour, with the same lust, dramas and disapprovals, but hopefully with a never-ending fervour and enthusiasm.

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A confusing text on varietals

We already know the world of wine is a complex one but there’s something in particular that irritates as well as fascinates me… Synonyms. You may think you know a grape pretty well and the next day someone tells you all about Grecanico and you’re lost if you don’t know it’s in fact Garganega. Or, you think you’ve discovered an amazing unknown grape variety like Rolle in Provence, fantastic! This discovery is just another Vermentino. Those are just some of many personal mistakes. So, bear with me, this is going to be painful but extremely satisfying and unraveling.

You may already know the noble grapes of Alsace, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat. What about, Klevner, Gutedel, Tokay, Klevener, etc. Get ready. Klevner is the local name for Pinot Blanc, while Klevener refers to Klevener de Heiligenstein which is Savagnin Rose found only in Heiligenstein itself, Bourgheim, Gertwiller, Goxwiller, and Obernai commune. Wait there’s more! Savagnin is also known locally as Traminer, Gewürztraminer is a clone of Traminer but also named Naturé just south in Jura. Chasselas can also be found in Alsace, but it’s called Gutedel, and Tokay is just not allowed anymore, but it was Pinot Gris once. Confused yet?

There’s really no standardization or regulations over this kind of name-dropping. It may be an official synonym, a regional surname, some kind of descriptor for young vines, clones or some labeling terms. Don’t worry if you misspell Poulsard, you might just end up calling it Ploussard which is also accepted in Jura. Sylvaner is known locally in Switzerland as Johannisberg which is also a bereiche in Rheingau. And chasselas is dorin. What about very similar names just to mess up your grammar? Which one of these is correctly written: Alvarinho, Albarinho, Albarino, Albariño. Answer, all of them in their very own way and place. It’s up to each of us to navigate through this peculiar entangled map of local preferences.

Alicante or Alicante Bouschet for its breeder Henry Bouschet is found in Corsica, Tuscany, Calabria, the Balkans, Israel, North Africa, California, Portugal and Spain where it is known as Garnacha TintoNera. I’ve heard it be falsely referred to as Grenache or Garnacha (or Cannonau) in Italy but it’s in fact just a crossing from it.

Chardonnay, this one should be simple, right? Nope. It’s also called Gamay Blanc, Melon d’Arbois, Moular, Beaunois in Burgundy, whose Austrian synonyms include Morillon and Feinburgunder.

Let’s work the Cabernets now. Cabernet Sauvignon is known as Burdeos in Péru and some other South American countries. Others synonyms include Petite Vidure in some part of France. However, Grande Vidure is something else. It’s used in some parts of Chile or New Zealand to designate Carménère, which was once thought to be Merlot. Cabernet Franc can be called Gros Vidur too in Hungary (notice the similarity). More regionally, in Pomerol, it’s actually known as Bouchet.

Then there’s the whole story of the Pinot Family with so many members (156 total). Pinot noir or Spätburgunder in Germany is also Savagnin noir in Hungary or Blauer Spätburgunder in Luxembourg. Pinot Gris is commonly spelled Pinot Grigio in its Italian expression and Austrians prefers it as Ruländer or Beurot. Pinot Blanc is very similar and sometimes confused as Auxerrois or Gouais Blanc which is a mistake. It could be confused as Weissburgunder, one of its synonyms in Germany where it’s quite valued. It also has a good popularity as Beli Pinot in Slovenia and Croatia.

The sun-drenched Italy, with its many regions and 407 Italian denominations or appellations (DOCGs / DOCs / DOPs) is maybe the king (or queen?) of the regional surname. In its center, Sangiovese has served as main grape grown forever and rather recent studies mostly in the classic part of Chianti has proved the existence of hundreds of different clones. First promulgated by Biondi Santi in Montalcino, Brunello is probably the most famous clone. As for Prugnolo gentile, it can be found in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano with Rosso di Montepulciano. Both have deeply rooted personalities and expressions. Yet, both are based on Sangiovese. It does not stop there. Morellino on the southern Tuscan coast, Nielluccio in the beautiful Corsica and don’t you dare talk of Sangiovese Grosso to a Chianti Producer, for them it should be Sangioveto.

Even more troubling is El Tempranillo! Spain’s most famous wine is traveling with many variant identities. While it will be Tinto Fino or Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero, it takes the name of Toro when it goes there, Tinta de Toro with looser grapes and simpler style. Going towards south, the name Cencibel is found in Valdepeñas and transformed into Jancivera in the Levante. Obviously Catalan would have their own term, Ull de Llebre, as does the Castilians, Ojo de Liebre. Other identities includes the Portuguese Tinta Roriz, Aragonês, or more internationally, mostly in the United states as Valdepeñas, yes like the Spanish DO.

Are you confused yet? I haven’t even mentioned the different regions and villages with the same name as something else or other terms used differently. Just think of how many ways the name Montepulciano may be used; the difference in a Spanish reserva and Rioja reserva; Friulano the grape or the language; Or Cava, renowned Spanish sparkling or PGI level ageing requirement in Greece… With over 10 000 varieties of wine grapes in the world, of which 1300 is commonly used to make wine, there’s definitely place for interpretation and exploration.

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Why you should love wines from Chile

On any wine lists, I find that ever so often wines from Chile are much overlooked. Consumers know it could be great but still hesitate. This should help convince you to make the step and explore Chilean wines or make you love them even more. Chances are that your last encounter may be with a just-ok very cheap Chardonnay or a very basic Cabernet. You need to go beyond your first impression. Chile’s wines are more and more quality-focused with quality terroir, uses of old vines, organic and biodynamic culture, experimentation and research.

Sur toutes les listes de vins, je trouve que très souvent les vins du Chili sont très négligés. Les consommateurs savent que cela pourrait être génial mais hésitent encore. Cet article devrait vous convaincre de faire le pas et d’explorer les vins chiliens ou vous les faire aimer encore plus. Les chances sont que votre dernière rencontre était avec un Chardonnay juste-ok très bon marché ou un Cabernet très basique. Vous devez aller au-delà de votre première impression. Les vins chiliens sont de plus en plus axés sur la qualité avec des terroirs de qualité, l’utilisation de vieilles vignes, la culture biologique et biodynamique, l’expérimentation et la recherche.

CARMÉNÈRE

Once almost extinct, Carménère has been found in Chile where it was believed to be merlot. It is Chile’s treasured grape and can be quite great. Carménère is known for its important Pyrazine compounds, greeny, bell pepper aromas. It can appear overwhelming when the wine is under-developed; however, a good expression of Carménère is a fabulous food wine.The finer examples of Carménère have been found in tiny areas within the larger Rapel Valley area including Peumo in Cachapoal and Apalta in Colchagua. Yeah for Carménère.

Auparavent presque disparu, le Carménère a été retrouvé au Chili où il a été confondu à du merlot. C’est le cépage précieux du Chili et peut faire des vins fantastiques. Le Carménère est connu pour ses composés importants de pyrazine, arômes de poivrons verts et de verdure. Cet aspect peut paraître accablant quand le vin est en sous- maturité; Cependant, une bonne expression de Carménère est un vin de nourriture fabuleux. Les plus beaux exemples de Carménère ont été trouvés dans de petites zones dans la grande région de Rapel Valley, y compris Peumo à Cachapoal et Apalta à Colchagua. Youpi pour le Carménère.

THE UNIQUE LAND

Just a glance at a map is enough to understand that this very narrow, lateral piece of land is quite unique. The Andes divide the country from Argentina so the whole country is stuck between mountains and coast. Some wine labels may even note where the vineyards fall:  Costa (near the coast), Andes (near the mountains), and Entre Cordilleras (in between). It’s in this array of climate, from North to South, that an even greater array of appellation is currently making their marks and proving their worth.

Il suffit de jeter un coup d’œil sur une carte pour comprendre que cette parcelle latérale très étroite est tout à fait unique. Les Andes divisent le pays de l’Argentine de sorte que tout le pays est coincé entre les montagnes et la côte. Certaines étiquettes de vin peuvent même indiquer où les vignobles tombent: Costa (près de la côte), Andes (près des montagnes), et Entre Cordilleras (entre les deux). C’est dans cette panoplie de climats, du Nord au Sud, qu’une gamme encore plus vaste d’appellations fait actuellement ses preuves et prouvent leur valeur.

VALUE

Chile is one of the hottest regions for great wines at reasonable prices. While some name brand can climb up in price, most of Chile’s wine, even very qualitative ones from decent appellations are modestly priced.

Le Chili est l’une des régions les plus populaire pour les grands vins à prix raisonnables. Alors que certaines marques de renom peuvent grimper en prix, la plupart des vins chiliens, même très qualitatifs, provenant d’appellations convenables, sont vendus à des prix modestes.

EXCITING WHITES

The landscape of Chilean wine is dominated by red. It’s easy to overlook Chilean white wines in favour of its reds. But it’s also a mistake. Chile’s new-wave whites represent a diverse and intriguing offering, with expressive attributes. Savoury Chardonnay, Resonnant Sauvignon Blanc and even oddity like Riesling or White Pinot noir are all vibrant and bold. Vine identification has also been important for white varieties. Much of what was once sold as Sauvignon Blanc was in fact Sauvignonasse.

Le paysage du vin chilien est dominé par le rouge. Il est facile d’oublier les vins blancs chiliens en faveur de ses rouges. Mais c’est aussi une erreur. Les nouvelles vagues du Chili présentent une offre diverse et intrigante, avec des attributs expressifs. Chardonnay savoureux, Resonnant Sauvignon Blanc et même des curiosité comme du Riesling ou du Pinot noir… blanc sont tous vibrants et audacieux. L’identification de la vigne a également été importante pour les variétés blanches. Une grande partie de ce qui était autrefois vendu comme Sauvignon Blanc était en fait du Sauvignonasse.

PISCO

There is a still a thriving fruit industry and thousands of acres of mainly Moscatel grapes dedicated to the production of the local spirit pisco. Pisco sours are the great revelation for many visitors to Chile.

Il y a encore une industrie fruitière prospère et des milliers d’hectares de raisins principalement de Moscatel dédiés à la production du spiritueux local pisco. Les Pisco Sours sont une grande révélation pour de nombreux visiteurs au Chili.

BORDEAUX BLENDS THAT AREN’T

The grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Petit Verdot, Malbec and sometimes Syrah are blended together to create Chile’s own version of the classic Bordeaux Blend. These blends produce some of the finest wines of Chile and you’ll often see them labeled with a made up name (such as Auma, Alpha M, Don Maximiano, Aluvion, etc.)

Les cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Petit Verdot, Malbec et parfois de la Syrah sont assemblés pour créer la version chilienne du classique assemblage bordelais. Ces mélanges produisent certains des meilleurs vins du Chili et vous les verrez souvent étiquetés avec un nom inventé (comme Auma, Alpha M, Don Maximiano, Aluvion, etc.)

ROOTSTOCK

Chile is one of the only places in the world that is Phylloxera free. Nearly all of Chile’s vineyards are planted on their own rootstock, a feat which very few regions can attest to due to the near-worldwide infestation. Chile has been kind of immune due to its sheltered, isolated location and its sandy soils.

Le Chili est l’un des seuls endroits dans le monde qui est libre de Phylloxera. Presque tous les vignobles du Chili sont plantés sur leur propre racines, un exploit dont peu de régions peuvent témoigner en raison de l’infestation quasi-mondiale. Le Chili a été un peu immunisé en raison de son emplacement abrité et isolé et de ses sols sablonneux.

TOP REGIONS

Producers are working hard to identify new and more specific sub-regions within the main valleys. Chile has 14 wine regions spanning nearly 1000 miles of various climates from north to south. There is huge diversity. Truly it is in the extremes of these growing areas where Chile finds its niche. Roughly, there’s Elqui and Limari to the North, the cooler Aconcagua and well-known Maipo in the middle and the drastically different South. However, those are just generalisation as the appellations are only becoming more specific. It’s way more complex than it appears and it’s becoming very precise.

Les producteurs travaillent d’arrache-pied pour identifier de nouvelles sous-régions plus spécifiques dans les principales vallées. Le Chili a 14 régions viticoles couvrant près de 1600 km de divers climats du nord au sud. Il y a une énorme diversité. Vraiment, c’est dans les extrêmes de ces zones de croissance où le Chili trouve son créneau. En gros, il y a Elqui et Limari au Nord, l’Aconcagua plus frais, le Maipo bien connu au milieu et le Sud radicalement différent. Cependant, il ne s’agit que d’une généralisation car les appellations ne font que se préciser. C’est beaucoup plus complexe qu’il n’y paraît et ça devient très précis.

www.winesofchile.org

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Frescobaldi – Former Marchesi di Frescobaldi

With as much as 700 years of wine history in the heart of Tuscany, Frescobaldi has always been one of the very influential Florentine Families. Although they set up home on the south of the river Arno, what was considered the “wrong” side, socially, it didn’t stop the family from being part of the community and collaborating to its development. The construction of the first bridge, the Ponte Santa Trinita by the family helped in uniting both shores and they also built the Basilica of Santo Spirito.

Recently, Marchese de Frescobaldi, has refreshed its brand and logo to Frescobaldi Toscana. The purpose of rebranding Frescobaldi is to shift attention away from the wine’s history, and focus on the diversity. You may see on the various labels, the name of the estate will always be put into highlights, followed by the appellation and down a t the end of the label is the Frescobaldi Logo.

The FrescoBaldi group is at the head of six very unique estates, Nipozzano, CastelGiocondo, Pomino, Ammiraglia, Castiglioni and Remole. However, Ornellaia, Masseto, Luce Della Vite, Danzante and Attems in friuli are also part of the group. Those estates couldn’t be more spread out throughout Tuscany. Nipozzano is in Chianti Rufina, close to the tuscan appenines; Castiglioni is the oldest of the Frescobaldi’s estate in Val di Pesa; Pomino is a hidden gem, surrounded by sequoias, firs and chestnut trees at the base of the Florentine mountains; Castel Giacondo is in the hearth of the Brunello di Montalcino appellation; Ammiraglia with its modern open cellar designed  by the architect Piero Sartogo is in Maremma by the sea; and the old house of Remole is in  Sieci, east of Florence.

Avec pas moins de 700 ans d’histoire au cœur de la Toscane, Frescobaldi a toujours été l’une des familles florentines les plus influentes. Bien qu’ils se soient installés au sud de l’Arno, qui était considéré comme le «mauvais» côté social n’empêcha pas la famille de faire partie de la communauté et de collaborer à son développement. La construction du premier pont, le Ponte Santa Trinita par la famille a aidé à unir les deux rives et ils ont également construit la basilique de Santo Spirito. 

Récemment, Marchese de Frescobaldi, a rafraîchi sa marque et son logo pour devenir Frescobaldi Toscana. Le but de ce changement d’image est de détourner l’attention de l’histoire de la marque et de se concentrer sur la diversité. Vous pouvez voir sur les différentes étiquettes, le nom du domaine sera toujours mis en importance, suivi par l’appellation et vers le bas, à la fin de l’étiquette se trouvera le logo Frescobaldi.

Le groupe FrescoBaldi est à la tête de six domaines très particuliers, Nipozzano, CastelGiocondo, Pomino, Ammiraglia, Castiglioni et Remole. Cependant, Ornellaia, Masseto, Luce Della Vite, Danzante et Attems in friuli font également partie du groupe en associations. Ces domaines ne pourraient pas être plus dispersés dans toute la Toscane. Nipozzano se trouve dans le Chianti Rufina, près des appenines toscanes; Castiglioni est le plus ancien domaine de Frescobaldi à Val di Pesa; Pomino est un joyau caché, entouré de séquoias, de sapins et de marronniers au pied des montagnes florentines; Castel Giacondo est au cœur de l’appellation Brunello di Montalcino; Ammiraglia avec sa cave ouverte moderne conçue par l’architecte Piero Sartogo est à Maremma au bord de la mer; et la vieille maison de Remole est à Sieci, à l’est de Florence.