Winevibe

A Visit to Viticoltori De Conciliis in Campania, Italy

July 28th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As per my Nuschese wine tasting post, Bruno de Conciliis’ invited me to visit his winery the next time I was in his neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know, Bruno’s winery, Viticoltori de Conciliis, is in Cilento in the Italian region of Campania.

Just recently, I decided to take Bruno up on his offer. As I was rather unfamiliar with Cilento, I decided to stay a few days so I can acquaint myself with this former Greek “colony.”

Our journey started in the city of Naples, where we rented a car with which to make our way to Bruno’s winery. For those of you who have not been to Naples yet, forget everything you learned in driving school and trust your instincts instead. There’s no such thing as a red light or a stop sign in Naples – at least not to
the locals, that is.

As we made our way out of the city, through the more rural areas of the Salerno province and on towards Cilento, the heart of Campania, the urban stress we felt gradually lifted and in its place, we could feel something similar to what Jaime Oliver must have felt while driving through Italy.

Cilento captivated and drew the eyes with its picturesque scenery, its beautiful coastlines and the endless rows of olive trees that dotted the entire Mediterranean countryside. As we drove up the hill road amidst Cilento’s olive tree plantations, we saw glimpses of the vineyards facing the Mediterranean Sea. In this part of Italy, Aglianico, Fiano d’Avelino and Falanghina vines, which thrive in the area’s hot and sunny climate, are the most common varietals. As we pulled into the De Conciliis Estate, Bruno and his dog were there to greet us.

The Viticoltori De Conciliis Winery was founded by Bruno’s late father in
1996 after Bruno convinced him to abandon their poultry business and go into the winemaking business, instead. Bruno and his family then left Milano, where Bruno worked as an architect, to go back to his hometown. I mention this because many of the Italian winemakers I have visited or will be visiting in the future have either inherited the business or have been in viticulture for generations.

Today, the De Conciliis Winery is very successful and its wines are sold in numerous countries worldwide. This success is probably largely due to the uniqueness of the De Conciliis family. Bruno’s approach to winemaking significantly differs from that of other wine makers. He constantly changes his winemaking techniques, continuously adapting them to the needs of the times.

The De Conciliis are also great jazz fans. In fact, they have a wine called “Naima,” a tribute to the song of the same name by John Coltrane. There is
also a De Conciliis wine called “Selim,” which is a semordnilap of “Miles” (i.e. “Miles” spelled backwards) and a tribute to jazz artist Miles Davis. By the way, Selim, which is 70% Fiano and 30% Aglianico, is the first ever sparkling wine produced in Campania and quite probably its finest.

The next morning, we set out to explore the estate. The beauty of the landscape and the friendly employees (most of whom are De Conciliis relatives) made our tour of the winery extremely enjoyable. Olive trees surround the De Conciliis Estate, and its vineyards share its side of the hill with olive tree plantations.

After our tour of the winery and after sampling Bruno’s latest vintages and blends, we headed to the fresh produce market to shop for the dinner party we were planning to hold in the estate’s tasting room that night. At the market, we got just-picked
vegetables plus still-squirming fish and calamari (squid) fresh off the fishermen’s nets.

Back to the estate, I, Bruno and Dino Tantawi (president and owner of Vignaioli Selection, the NYC-based importer of fine wines) cooked on firewood stoves while jazz music played in the background. Meanwhile, our families mingled, chatted and sipped superb De Conciliis wines while waiting for dinner to be served.

Bon Appétit!

Wine Aromas – Le Nez du Vin

June 29th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

People often ask me how I can be sure that the aromas I say I smell are what they are and not another. “Is it really strawberry instead of raspberry?” they ask.

I can understand why people feel the need to ask this question. All too often, wine aromas are confused or misinterpreted, making it difficult to identify the wine being described. So, just how does one learn to accurately distinguish and describe wine aromas?

In my professional opinion and based on my personal experience, the simplest way to learn to differentiate the aromas in wine is by using the Wine Aromas’ (Le Nez du Vin) wine education kit developed by Jean Lenoir. But we’ll return to that later. For now, let’s discuss where wines get their aromas, and how professional wine tasters describe wine aromas and why they describe them this way.
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Where Wines Get Their Aromas

Wines, or more specifically the grapes used to make wines, take on the characteristics of their environment (in wine speak, that’s terroir). In the earth (i.e. soil), air and water are aromatic compounds. The soil and water also contain the essences of plant and floral life that have been layered over through the centuries. These are the exceptional aromas found in red and white wines from France and around the world.

A wine’s aromas can give us an indication of this wine’s country, region and vineyard of origin. They also tell us about the grape varietal/s used to make the wine, the winemaking techniques utilized and the aging conditions to which the wine has been subjected.

An Explanation of Wine Aromas and How Wine Tasters Describe Them

When professional wine tasters say they detect the strawberry aroma in a particular wine, they are not saying that the maker of the
wine added strawberry essential oils to the grape juice (i.e. that the wine is a strawberry-flavored one). They are simply saying that the wine has a scent that closely resembles that of strawberries.

In truth, wines owe their aromas from their chemical composition. It is not just one chemical compound that can lead to a particular aroma, moreover. A specific wine aroma can be a result of one or a combination of several compounds. For instance, there are a number of compounds (individually or in combination) that can give wines strawberry-like aromas – and these include Furaneol, ethyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl formate, ethyl hexanoate, and methyl cinnamate.

Professional wine tasters, however, do not mention these compounds in their wine reviews. For example, they simply say they smell strawberries instead of saying the wine has Furaneol or any of the other compound with which the strawberry aroma is generally associated. This
makes it easier for the readers of wine tasting notes to assimilate and use the provided information in their wine buying decisions. What professional wine tasters do, basically, is assess a wine’s aromas and describe them in a manner that laypersons (non-professionals) can easily understand.

Example:

Isn’t it easier to imagine how a wine would be like if we read a tasting note that describes it using words in our everyday vocabulary? Take the following sample description of a Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru:

This red wine, garnet in color with pinkish meniscus, has the aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and liquorice with some smoky notes. The wine is balanced with a smooth lingering finish.

The above description is clear, simple and very easy to understand, right? Now, imagine how so much more complicated and unfathomable this
review of Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru would be if wine tasters wrote the following way:

This red wine, garnet in color with pinkish meniscus, has the aromas of one or more of the following: Furaneol, ethyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl formate, ethyl hexanoate, methyl cinnamate (Strawberry), ethyl acetate, ethyl formate and esters (Raspberry), Benzaldehyde-cyanohydrin (Cherry), Glycyrrhyzin (Liquorice), Guaiacol, and 4-ethylguaiacol (Smoke). The wine is balanced with a smooth lingering finish.

Is your head aching yet? With a description like the above, only someone with a degree in chemistry could possibly imagine what this wine smells like. Any wine taster that writes his tasting notes this way will quickly (and deserves to) lose all of his readers, subscribers and followers.

The Wine Aromas Wine Education Kit

Now, let’
s go back to our original question. Just how do we learn to distinguish and name specific wine aromas? The answer is simple: use the Wine Aromas (Le Nez du Vin) wine education kit.

Wine Aromas - Le Nez du Vin 54 Aroma Master Kit

The Wine Aromas (Le Nez du Vin) wine education kit is an essential tool for anyone who wishes to learn how to accurately identify specific aromas in wine. Through its help (and with time and practice), you will learn the universal language of wine, become skilled at accurately pinpointing wine aromas, and become good at identifying the type and origin of whichever wine you are sampling. Ultimately, the Wine Aromas wine education kit will improve your appreciation for wines.

For more information about
Wine Aromas / Le Nez du Vin, please visit www.winearomas.com.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Sébastien Gavillet (the author of this article) is the Chief Wine Officer of Wine Aromas Inc, the official distributor of Le Nez du Vin wine education kits.

Swiss Wines in the City – New York City

May 26th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

It was a rare treat for Swiss wine lovers. On May 3rd, Swiss Wines in the City was held at the City Winery in New York City.

The Concept:

Leave it to the Swiss to come up with such a fantastic and original idea: a wine bottling party to promote Swiss wines in New York City! Swiss wine journalist Chandra Kurt came up with the idea. She then pitched her proposal to two world-renowned Swiss wineries, Jean-René Germanier and Provins, both of which graciously consented to have their wines bottled in a special event at the City Winery.

The Venue:

The City Winery, located at the heart of Soho, is the only winery in the City of New York. It was founded by Michael Dorf in 2008. It is a fully
equipped winery, producing wines using wine grapes from all over the world. French winemaker David Lecomte heads the City Winery’s professional wine making team. Next time you are there, try his Petite Syrah. You’ll find it hard to believe you’re drinking wine made in NYC. The City Winery is a great place for hanging out. It is place where people can get together, enjoy wines produced on-site and listen to live music. Artists like Suzanne Vega and Elvis Costello have performed there. Want to try your hand at wine making? The City Winery also offers aspiring wine makers and hobbyists the opportunity to make their own wines.

The Wines:

Two wines, one from each participating Swiss winery, were selected for bottling. One of them is a white wine, a Petite Arvine “Cru des Domaines” 2007 from Provins. The other is a red wine, a
Syrah “Cayas” 2008 from Jean-René Germanier (see Jean-René Germanier Winery post for my Cayas wine review and tasting notes).  A barrel of each wine was shipped to NYC with the help of Laurent Crolla of Swiss Cellars, a distributor of Swiss wines in the United States.

The Party:

Winemakers, sommeliers, wine experts, gourmands, wine importers, wine enthusiasts, and members of the media were amongst those invited to attend this first-of-its-kind event for Swiss wines. Swiss Wines in the City started with a “bottling party.” It went exactly as you imagine: the wines described above were bottled right in front of the guests. After the bottling party, there was a dinner party. The guests were then able to sample a wide variety of wines from the cellars of Provins and Jean-René Germanier.

After Party:

After dinner, we headed to Terroir, Paul Grieco’s latest wine bar and a top NYC hot spot
located in Tribeca. We were just in time to share some of the Swiss wines with sommeliers and food critics from all over the country who had just attended the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards. Cheers!

Jean-René Germanier – Switzerland’s Premier Boutique Winery

May 19th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As I continued my journey into the heart of Switzerland’s only Grand Cru wine making area, I met up with Gilles Besse of Cave Jean-René Germanier. He is, in my humble opinion, one of Switzerland’s top wine makers.

The Jean-René Germanier Winery

La Cave Jean-René Germanier was established in 1886 when Urbain Germanier planted his first vineyards and founded a winery in Vétroz, a small village at the very heart of Valais (see the post about Rene-Favre & Fils Winery for more information on this region). Today, 3rd- and 4th-generation oenologists Jean-René Germanier and Gilles Besse produce wines that rival those of the
world’s best producers, although Jean-René Germanier – while still very much involved and passionate about wines – now spends most of his time playing politics as he is a member of the Swiss Parliament. Apart from wines, the Germanier Estate is also known for its remarkable eau de vie (i.e. fruit brandy). Another Germanier ancestor, Francis Germanier, was the first to make eau de vie from the now-famous Williams pears, giving birth to Germanier Estate’s Bon Père William.

The Germanier Wine Varietals

The Jean-René Germanier Estate produces both white wines and red wines. The following is a list of the grape varieties used in making Germanier wines:

White wine varietals

Red wine varietals

Remarkable Germanier Wines

Jean-René Germanier & Gilles Besse have achieved star status in Switzerland and around the world for their superb, award-winning wines. Cayas, Champmarais and Mitis are just three of these notable Germanier wines.

Cayas Syrah Du Valais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Cayas Syrah Du Valais is a Syrah varietal red wine. It resembles any great Rhône Côte-Rôtie or Crozes-Hermitage wines, but surpasses most of them.

Cayas has an intense garnet robe. It is very elegant; the nose is complex yet surprisingly delicate for such a full-bodied wine. It presents the aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, redcurrant, some spice (with hints of licorice and pepper), leather, vanillin, and a touch of earthy mineral-like notes.

There’s an almost-perfect balance between acidity and tannins, which gives Cayas a surprisingly crisp and harmonious finish for a Syrah. To put it simply, this is the type of wine you can drink, glass after glass, without having to force yourself one bit.

Proof of its excellence can be seen in all of its awards. Among its many awards is a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationales Paris and
a Gold Medal as well as the distinction of being one of the Top 10 Best Syrahs in Syrah du Monde 2009. It is also the only Swiss wine you’ll find in the wine list of the famous La Tour d’Argent in Paris.

As you all know, the purpose of my visit into the Swiss wine country is to introduce you and the rest of the world to unique Swiss wines. As remarkable as Cayas is, it’s still a Syrah varietal – and Syrah is not a grape variety native to Switzerland.

If you are hankering for wines uniquely Swiss, then you’d love my discussion of the next two Germanier wines: Cornalin de Champmarais and Mitis Amigne De Vétroz.

Cornalin de Champmarais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Cornalin de Champmarais
is a red wine. As its name suggests, it is made using the Swiss wine grape, Cornalin.

Now, as anyone who has had Cornalin wines would tell you, wines made of Cornalin often have a great nose and superb finish but tend to be lacking on the mid-palate. Not this time, though. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with Champmarais, which embodies all of the positive characteristics of the Cornalin varietal but none of its faults. No wonder Cornalin de Champmarais belongs to the growing list of Germanier wines with a Gold Medal from Viniales Internationales Paris.

Cornalin de Champmarais owes its full body from superior wine grapes and a unique fermentation and maturation process.
At Cave Jean-René Germanier, the grapes used all come from a single vineyard, ensuring great grape quality control. These select Cornalin grapes are fermented in 400-liter barrels made of new oak. The resulting wine is then aged, again in 400-liter new oak barrels for 2 years.

Champmarais is a day-bright, pigeon-blood-red wine with purple hues. It is a rich, complex and highly fragrant wine with excellent aging potential. It presents the aromas of raspberry, blackcurrant, morello cherry, and hints of spices (peppercorn, vanilla). On the palate, the wine is elegant and velvety, with the fruit and wood tannins perfectly integrated. This is one wine you’ll find very hard to enjoy in moderation.

Mitis Amigne De Vétroz: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Mitis Amigne De Vétroz, an Amigne varietal white wine, is another premium wine from the Germanier Estate. This sweet
dessert wine, made using botrytised grapes, is aged on its lees in new oak for up to 18 months. It can rival any top-of-the-line Austrian and German wine of the same style. In fact, Mitis Amigne De Vétroz 2007, has just been awarded a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationales Paris 2010.

This amber-colored, full-bodied wine presents the aromas of quince comfits, linden, honey-roasted hazelnuts, a touch of Cointreau-like orange peel, and a hint of vanilla bud. This succulent wine enrobes your entire palate, leaving a smooth but lingering caramel or toffee finish. In a word, Wow! Just writing about it is making me salivate.

The Germanier Cellars and Winery

All Germanier wines are made, aged and bottled at the Germanier Estate. Red and white wines are kept separate, and each has its own dedicated “caretaker.” The Jean-René Germanier Winery is a modern
production facility. It has undergone some renovations over the years to meet the ever-increasing demand for its wines. More changes are expected to be instituted in the near future.

Germanier wines are available for sale at the tasting room, which is elegant and spacious enough to accommodate large parties. If you are ever in the neighborhood, I urge you to take the time to visit the Jean-René Germanier Winery and sample its wines. You can tell them I sent you.

Just one thing, though: please drink responsibly. There are just so many great wines in that tasting room you’ll find it very hard to spit all of them out. Can’t or won’t take my word for it? You can ask my father who was with me on this particular visit. Let’s just say he had a little too much to drive… Cheers!

Rene Favre & Fils – The Princes of Petite Arvine

May 06th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

My journey into the Swiss wine country included a stop in St. Pierre-de-Clages, a village in the municipality of Chamoson in the canton (state) of Valais. There, I met up with Mike and John (Jean-Charles) Favre of the Rene Favre et Fils (Rene Favre & Sons) winery.

The Wine Region of St. Pierre-de-Clages, Chamoson

The wine-growing area of St.Pierre-de-Clages and Chamoson is the largest in Valais and home to around 30 different wine grape varieties. The soil in this area is mostly limestone. The vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Rhone River, and most of them are on gentle slopes. The unique location of the St.Pierre-de-Clages – Chamoson vineyards gives them a southern exposure that makes the proper maturation of wine grapes possible, and it is at the heart of this exceptionally located wine-growing region that you’ll find the Rene Favre & Fils
Estate.

Rene Favre & Fils Winery

The Rene Favre & Fils winery specializes in Petite Arvine wines produced from the world’s oldest Petite Arvine vines. This family winery is currently run and operated by the Favre brothers, Mike and John.

John Favre first studied at the agricultural school of Chateauneuf in Valais. Next, he went to L’ecole Superieure de Changins, the best viticultural and oenology school in Switzerland.

Mike Favre took a slightly different route. He studied Economics before going on to study Oenology and Viticulture in the state’s engineering school. Then, he set off to the US where he lived and made wines for 7 years before returning to Switzerland and the family estate. Today Mike is Vice President of Vinofed, among other
things.

Mike and John Favre represent the new generation of winemakers. Bold, forward-looking and passionate about their wines and vines, they are revolutionizing the industry by introducing and applying new techniques to viticulture and winemaking.

The Favre Vines

The Favre vineyards are easily identifiable by the way the vines are planted. Specifically, the vines are arranged into two tight rows and one larger row (see picture gallery).

The vines were planted this way mainly for efficiency. This configuration gives grape pickers better access to the grapes. It also makes the vines more accessible to a specialized machine that removes extra leaves. The removal of extra leaves increases air flow within the canopy. This helps prevent rot and other vine diseases and, consequently, the Favres don’t need to use pesticides on their vines.

The Favre vines are, in fact, some of the cleanest I have ever seen (see it for
yourself by checking the picture gallery), and I have seen plenty in my trips to vineyards worldwide.

The Favre Wines and Wine Production

The Rene Favre & Fils winery produces a diverse range of wines. Their white wine production consists mainly of Petite Arvine, Johannisberg (Sylvaner) and Fendant (Chasselas). Their red wine production, in turn, consists mainly of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Humagne Rouge, Merlot, Syrah, and Diolinoir.

All Favre wines are made in the estate, and all of them are fermented in stainless steel vats. Most of the whites never see oak, but all the reds do. The profiles of Favre wines are typical of the region, with the exception of a few blends which Mike and John have produced for a more international palate.

My personal favorite in the Favre white wine lineup is the “old vines” Petite Arvine (i.
e. Petite Arvine wine made with grapes harvested from very old Petite Arvine vines). This wine is fresh with a medium body and balanced acidity. It has the aromas of lemon, grapefruit rind and rhubarb and some floral notes, too. It also has noticeable minerality (limestone) on the palate and a pleasant touch of salinity.

My favorite Favre red is the Renommée St. Pierre, which is surprisingly rich and fruit driven for a Suisse Pinot Noir. This is wine aged for 18 months in oak, and I highly recommend it to any Pinot lovers.

This is all for now. Watch out for more posts about Swiss winemakers and Swiss wines. In the meantime, you can read the first two installments in the Swiss wine series: Swiss Wine Facts and The Adrian and Diego Mathier Winery.

Cheers!

The Adrian and Diego Mathier Winery

March 23rd, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As you know from my post, Swiss Wine Facts, I have been to Switzerland recently. There I met with half a dozen winemakers and visited their wineries. The Adrian and Diego Mathier Estate was one of the wineries in my itinerary.

The Mathier Family and their Estate

The Adrian & Diego Mathier Estate is located in Salquenen, in the Swiss Canton of Valais. The Mathier family has been living in this wine producing village since 1387. The Mathiers have been making wine for four generations. Their domain extends to a total of 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards in Salquenen and Chamoson.

Wine is more than just a business to the Mathiers. It is their way of life. As with other Swiss wine producers, quality is the Mathier winery’s topmost priority.

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Distinctive Salquenen Soil

Salquenen soil is unique in Valais. Salquenen soil is rich in lime and magnesium. On the other hand, the soil in most other wine producing areas of Valais consists of slate and gravel.

Winemaking Particularities

The grapes are not crushed. A centrifuge is used to separate the grapes from their stems. After fermentation, the grapes are pressed using a pneumatic press (applying pressure not exceeding 1.5 bars).

The Mathier Estate practices what I call “individual plot fermentation,” which is when grapes from a certain area (plot) of a vineyard are selected to be fermented by themselves rather than in a mixture with all the grapes of the same varietal harvested from the entire vineyard. This lets the Mathiers “experiment” and/or separate better quality grapes from lesser ones.

The Mathier family does not chaptalize their wine. Mathier vineyards get close to 330 days of sun
per year! Additives may be added or used in the course of winemaking. Such additives include yeast, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, calcium dioxide, and fining agents.

Wine may or may not be aged in oak. When it is, a type of French oak is used. Specifically, the Mathier family uses Quercus petraea (Sessile Oak) and Quercus robur (Pedunculate Oak).

Wine Production

The Mathier family produces more than 45 different types of wine and distillates. One of their most notable products is Glacier Wine (vin du glacier), a late harvest (noble rot) wine stored in ice chambers dug right into the Aletsch Glacier. These ice chambers make a perfect storage for late harvest wine. The ice acts as an electromagnetic shield, protecting the wine. This plus the low ambient temperature (just above freezing level) and the highly humid air all work together to preserve the wine.

The Mathier family’s wine production facilities are
modern and very well maintained. (No surprise there; this is Switzerland, after all.) There are small, stainless steel tanks which the Mathiers use for individual plot fermentation (see the “winemaking particularities” section). Over the last few years, the winery’s facilities have undergone massive construction/renovation. This modernized operations and increased productivity without sacrificing quality.

The Adrian & Diego Mathier tasting room is open to the public. So the next time you are in Switzerland and find yourself in Valais (perhaps you’re on your way to visit the alpine resort of Crans-Montana or Zermatt – home to Switzerland’s, if not the world’s, most famous mountain, Matterhorn – or maybe you’re just traveling by train to Italy), be sure to make a quick stop in Salquenen and sample some of Adrian & Diego Mathier’s award-winning wines (that’s 150 gold medals over the years). I highly recommend it!

Cheers!

Swiss Wine Facts

March 17th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

Not much is known about Swiss wine outside of Switzerland. When people think of Switzerland, they usually think of skiing, chocolates, cheeses, watches, and private banking, among other things. Where does wine fit into all this, and why don’t we know much about it?

lavaux vineyards
Vineyards of Lavaux , Vaud, Switzerland

How much wine does Switzerland produce?

To put Switzerland’s wine production into perspective, I will compare it with California. Switzerland produces around 1.1 million hectoliters (29 million gallons) of wine a year. California, on the other hand, produced around 20.6 million hectoliters (545.8 million gallons) in 2008. In other words, Swiss wine production is only around 5% of California wine production. Clearly, Switzerland’s wine production is significantly less than California’s. Nevertheless, if you figure in
Switzerland’s population, you’ll realize that Switzerland actually produces a lot of wine. Specifically, it produces more than 4 gallons or 21 bottles of wine per inhabitant.

How much wine does Switzerland export?

Over 4 gallons of wine per capita seems plenty, especially since people below 18 normally do not drink wine. Switzerland probably exports most of it – or does it, really? Well, it does not. Swiss wine export is actually very limited. It’s just supply and demand. Swiss people drink 4 times more wine than Americans do. In fact, Switzerland has to import around 1.7 million hectoliters of wine (45 million gallons) just to satisfy its people’s demand for wine. In short, residents of Switzerland love their wines so much that they leave very little available for export. Switzerland exports only 1.5% of the wine it produces. In contrast, according to the US Department of Commerce, California exported over 21% (3.8 million hectoliters
or 100 million gallons) of its wine production in 2006. So, why do we know so little about Swiss wine again? Simple. Virtually all of it is consumed domestically. Not a lot of people outside Switzerland get to try it, let alone know about it.

Interesting trivia: Even though the demand for Swiss wine is very high, Swiss wine prices remain reasonable. Most Swiss wines are priced at the $12-$30 range.

Swiss wine varietals

Switzerland is most well known for growing Chasselas, a white grape variety often used as a table grape in Europe. For some reason (climate/soil), Chasselas has found a perfect home in Switzerland. Swiss Chasselas wines are delicate and elegant with great minerality. At first, it was thought that all Swiss Chasselas wines are best drunk young (within the first 2 years). However, sommeliers have
discovered that some Chasselas wines 15 years and older from great producers and vintages actually drink very well. These vintages are creating beautiful, mature Chenin Blanc/Viognier-type wines. Switzerland is home to many indigenous varietals and has cross-cloned numerous varietals as well. Some 190 varietals are grown in Switzerland today. The most commonly cultivated are (in order of importance and categorized by wine type):

Reds:

Pinot Noir (52%), Gamay (19%), Merlot (12%), Gamaret (4%), Garanoir (2%), Syrah (2%)

Humagne Rouge, Diolinoir, and some fifty plus, non-listed varietals account for 9%

Whites:

Chasselas (66%), Muller-Thurgau[ /glossary] (8%), [glossary]Chardonnay (5%), Sylvaner (4%), Pinot Gris (2.5%)

Amigne, Pinot Blanc (Malvoisie), Charmont, Humagne Blanche, Petite Arvine, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Heida (Paien) and some seventy or so non-listed varietals account for 14.5%

Swiss vines go back as far as 3,000 BC. According to records, Swiss viticulture and wine production began at the time of the Roman Empire. We owe today’s incredible terraces of vineyards in the Lavaux area to the monks. Some of these vineyards are now UNESCO World Heritage sites (enlisted/inscribed in 2007, UNESCO ref 1243).

More Swiss wine facts and trivia to come

This is just the start. Expect more blog posts about my trip into the heart of Switzerland’s wine production areas.

Cheers!

What are Super Tuscan Wines?

March 09th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

A great question with a very simple answer. Super Tuscan wines (or Super Tuscans) are wines from Tuscany (Italy), and they have the following characteristics:

  • At least 85% of Super Tuscan wines consist of grapes produced in Tuscany to receive IGT cassification
  • The Super Tuscans’ winemaking process does not adhere to the local appellation law

montepulciano-tuscany
View of Montepulciano, Tuscany

What does that mean exactly? Makers of Super Tuscan wines do not use Sangiovese as the dominant varietal. Instead, they use other wine grape varieties (mostly Bordeaux types) such as Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. This makes Super Tuscans ineligible for DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or DOCG (
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) classification under the local appellation law. Nevertheless, Super Tuscan wines do qualify for IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) classification. Some of the most expensive wines from Tuscany are Super Tuscan wines such as Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, Magari, Ornellaia and Picconero. Cheers!

The Wine Vibe Blog 2.0 Beta

January 05th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

Welcome to the new and much improved Wine Vibe, the first multilingual wine review and wine education blog by industry professionals.

Six months ago, Wine Vibe was already a great wine education blog. It had news about the wine industry, accounts of wine tastings I’ve attended, stories about wineries and vineyards I’ve visited, helpful guides on serving and drinking wines, and exclusive wine reviews. I wanted more, however. I felt Wine Vibe could do more, be more and share more, so I decided to push the envelope – and thus began an extensive and definitely expensive overhaul of the Wine Vibe blog.

I began with a redesign of the way Wine Vibe looked. I then went back to my old posts and revised them extensively to make them even clearer and easier to digest. This took a lot of time out of my busy schedule, but I felt that I needed to do it to give you – my readers – greater value for your
time. After revising the posts, I removed 99.5% of the external links in the posts. I wanted Wine Vibe to be your one-stop wine education resource, so I hired researchers and compiled an internally available, comprehensive glossary of wine lingo and grape varieties. I hired programmers to create custom applications that would make the site more interactive.

I also hired animators so I could add multimedia content to the blog. As a final step, I got professional translators on board and had Wine Vibe translated into 6 other languages apart from English. Then I had the site thoroughly reviewed by industry professionals.

It’s been seven months since I started revamping Wine Vibe. I plan to add more features and applications, compile a list of the who’s who in the wine industry, add more animations, post more pictures, and create more multimedia content. I am happy to be back and I have a dozen new great posts pending to be posted once they are translated.

Cheers!
Sébastien Gavillet

Nuschese Wine Tasting at Southern Wine & Spirits

May 14th, 2009 by Sébastien Gavillet

When Franco Nuschese said he would present his new collection in style, he spoke only the absolute truth.  For the wine tasting, he flew three of his chefs and Bruno de Conciliis (Italian winemaker and owner of Viticoltori de Conciliis) from Italy.  He also flew in additional personnel from his DC office to assist in the tasting and ensure the proper execution of his plans.  Larry Ruvo, General Manager of Southern Wine & Spirits (SWS) hosted the wine tasting event, assisted by Carmelo Messina, SWS’s Italian wine specialist.

All of the wines presented were native to (harvested/made in) the Campania region (Southern Italy), of which both Franco Nuschese and Bruno de Conciliis are natives.

larry-ruvo-bruno-de-conilii
(Larry Ruvo hosting the Franco Nuschese, Bruno de Conciliis lunch/dinner at SWS)

Nuschese Wines

nNuschese wines are not the type of wines that you will find in regular wine lists or in local wine stores.  They are made from less available grape varietals like:

The more readily available varietals or wine grapes used in making Nuschese wines are:

Wine Reviews and Wine Tasting Notes

The Nuschese wines featured at the tasting were paired with a seven-course meal.  There were nine wines in all.  Two of the wines were served as an aperitif while the remaining seven were served with a
specific course.  It was definitely a wonderful and innovative way of presenting wines.

The following are my wine reviews of the wines featured at the Nuschese wine tasting:

Il Sogno (Italian for Dream)

60% Fiano, 30% Malvasia, 10% Moscato

Served as an aperitif

franco-nuschese2
(Franco Nuschese enjoying a glass of Il Sogno with a Mrs. Ruvo)

Wine tasting notes:  This sparkling wine, which is not a Prosecco, is made using the Charmat method, also known as the Metodo Italiano.  Unlike Champagne, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the tank rather than in the bottle, after which phase it is bottled under pressure.

This wine has floral aromas with a touch of tropical fruits on the nose.  In mouth, the aromas open up to more floral notes, and you can notice “saltiness” due to the proximity of the grape vines to the ocean.  Refreshing and
clean, with a smooth finish pulling more towards the acidity side.

Falanghina 2007 IGT

Falanghina

Served as an aperitif

Wine tasting notes:  This is a white wine with the aromas of lime, grapefruit rind, lemon, green apple, and lots of jasmine.  Very noticeable minerality giving way to the more tropical fruit side of this wine.

Greco di Tufo 2007 DOCG

Greco di Tufo

Paired with citrus marinated langoustine with zucchini, fennel salad and pink peppercorn olive oil

citrus-langoustine-zucchini

Wine tasting notes:  This is an aromatic white wine.  It has the aromas of melon, lime, bruised pear, and white flowers.  Fresh and lively, well-balanced with good minerality
notes.  This has a wine style that you will not encounter often.

Fiano di Avellino 2007 DOCG

100% Fiano di Avellino

Paired with warm baby octopus salad with vegetable panzanella and Italian parsley pesto

baby-octopus-nuschese

Lucretia 2007 IGT

50% Fiano di Avellino, 50% Greco di Tufo

Paired with imported paccheri pasta with sautéed Maine Lobster, marjoram and fava beans in a light spicy cherry tomato sauce

lobster-nuschese-sws

Wine tasting notes:  This aromatic white wine has more complexity than the Fiano di Avellino.  Its aromas of green apple, melon rind and jasmine as well as its strong terroir attributes beautifully
complemented the lobster.

La Pietra 2007 (The Rock)

50% Barbera, 40% Aglianico, 10% Primitivo

Paired with sautéed Monkfish ossobuco with Italian lake beans, pancetta and mussels guazzeto

Wine tasting notes:  This wine is called “The Rock” after Bruno de Conciliis.  It represents the more realistic side of life, as opposed to the Il Sogno (see above), which was named after Franco “the dreamer” or the visionario.

This red wine with medium plus acidity is very well suited to tomato-based dishes or even fish.  It has the aromas of red cherry, raspberry preserve, green pepper, plums, a hint of white pepper, and a touch of strawberry (typical Sangiovese characteristic); yes, indeed, this wine has a splash of Sangiovese in it.  Fruit forward with fruit tannins, no oak.  Long finish.
n

Taurasi 2004 DOCG

Aglianico

Paired with braised veal cheek with Jerusalem artichoke pure and baby vegetables

Cassius 2005 DOC

Aglianico

Paired with imported Italian Pecorini cheese with truffle honey and homemade radicchio jam

Wine tasting notes:  This wine is definitely unique.  After drinking it, you’ll think a small piece of vanilla bean was left on your tongue!  You can tell that this wine has had substantial oak contact.  New World wine style aficionados will surely love this wine.

MarcAntonio 2006 DOC

Primitivo di Manduria

Paired with chocolate chili cremoso with delicious rosemary berries compote

chocolate-chili-cremoso

Wine tasting notes:  Very complex and sophisticated for a Primitivo di Maduria, this dark-colored, almost-black wine has the aromas
of raspberry, blackberry, plum, spices, leather, dark chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of smoke.

What a feast!  I have to say that the wine pairing was executed flawlessly; the wine and the dishes were exceptionally well-matched.  I look forward to visiting the de Conciliis winery this summer and enjoying the wines on site.  I am sure that the trip will make for some pretty interesting posts in this wine blog.

That’s all for this wine tasting.  Cheers!