Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines

Spit Shine (Domaine Marcel Deiss Recent Releases)

Vinted on September 20, 2017 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines
Jean-Michel Deiss

Jean-Michel Deiss, talking spit

Jean-Michel Deiss likes to talk spit.

That his family, winegrowers since 1744, are established as the Alsatian version of winemaking royalty probably helps him to get away with it.

“Wine today is an industrial project,” he told me (through interpretation) during a media tour visit to Domaine Marcel Deiss‘ Bergheim winery. “But great wine is not a question of taste. Great wine is like a [good] book; as soon as you finish reading, you look for someone you love [to share it with].”

Or, in my case, you put it on the Internet to share it with total strangers. But the point is a solid one. Anyway, we were talking about spit.

Busker Du Alsace

Busker Du on the streets of Alsace…

“Salivation is how you measure a wine’s energy,” Deiss continued. “You don’t need to be an expert for that. And there’s no salivation without terroir. It’s like geography in the mouth. Where you get salivation, you get terroir.”

“It’s not an efficient concept,” he added, at which point he showed multiple rips in his pants, presumably the result of his efforts in the vineyard and the cellar.

Domaine Marcel Deiss is still a family-run outfit, utilizing about 20 people and overseeing about 30 hectares of vineyards, many of which are old vine field blends (or, as they like to call them “companion planted” vines) of Alsace’s key grape varieties, with roots deep enough that the different varieties essentially ripen around the same time. Deiss’ focus is now solely on vineyard site (rather than on variety), as well as on biodiversity, minimal sulfur additions, and no filtration. Lest you think that this ostensibly hands-off approach should make life at Deiss easier, Jean-Michel’s son Mathieu echoed his father’s sentiment regarding the amount of extra work required by their approach; “with ‘natural’ wine, you have to be more precise in the cellar, not less.” At which point, he offered up the next generation’s version of dad’s ripped pants: according to his cell phone, he had logged the equivalent of 100 kilometers of walking in the last four days alone…

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The People’s Republic (Highlights From “Authentic Alentejo”)

Vinted on August 24, 2017 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, sexy wines, wine review
union theological seminary

Tasting Alentejo at the Christian Hogwarts…

In the grand scheme of the wine world, Portugal appears to be the county that stands tall, despite its relatively small size (about 575 miles long, and just under 140 miles wide). In Napoleonic-complex fashion, it makes up for its stature in other ways; Portugal is in the top ten worldwide in vineyard acreage, per capita wine consumption, wine exports to the USA, and almost squeaks into that list for wine production (coming in at number 11).

Given that, we tend to forget that Portugal’s land mass isn’t actually all that tiny; one of its largest production areas – Alentejo – is responsible for half of the world’s wine cork production, takes up approximately one-third of the country, and has portions in the south that stretch all the way out to the coast. Alentejo has eight sub-regions, over 35,000 acres of PDO wine production, and is about the size of Belgium.

Joshua Greene Alentejo NYC

Wine & Spirits’ Josh Greene, doing his best religious statue impersonation

The host of a recent Wines of Alentejo “Authentic Alentejo” event held (I was a media guest), Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein summed it up this way: “‘the People’s Republic of Alentejo,’ if you will.”

Wine has deep roots (ha ha) in Alentejo, stretching back about 4,000 years. The pre-Roman-era Tartessians likely introduced winemaking to the region, and the Romans cemented it into its DNA (including the amphorae methods of talhas de barro, still in use today). The region has more or less been making wine ever since, with only a brief decline during Moorish occupation in the 8th Century. In modern terms, tourism-stimulating attention from National Geographic and a nearly seven-fold increase in wine producers in the late 1990s have brought renewed vinous attention to the region.

Well, that and the fact that several of the wineries became known for the fruit-forward, full-throttle, probably-overblown style of winemaking popular with major wine critics during the last couple of decades.

But Alentejo wines don’t have to be overblown; at least, that’s the takeaway that I got from the wines presented by Goldstein and co-host Joshua Greene in the refractory of NYC’s Union Theological Seminary (best imagined as the Christian version of the main hall at Hogwarts)…

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37th Heaven (Highlights From The 2017 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

SFIWC 2017 1

All smocked up and ready to go

By the time that you read these words, the results of the 37th (!!) annual San Francisco International Wine Competition should be publicly available, so I thought that I would share some of the highlights among the event’s big winners.

The SFIWC is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Under the watchful eyes of Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue and Director of Judging Tim McDonald, SFIWC assembles a top-notch volunteer crew and some of the best and most experienced tasters in the U.S. wine biz (and yes, I’m still trying to figure out why they keep inviting me to judge).

That large, talented team happens to be chock full of some of the funniest, liveliest, and kindest people in wine, and so it’s a real pleasure to interact, work, and generally just break bread with all of those folks.

SFIWC 2017 2

Sweepstakes and super tasting require smocks, not capes…

We also happen to taste some killer juice over that weekend, all done blind within categories, in panels of 3-4 people,  with “super tastings” and an eventual sweepstakes round to help determine the best-of-the-best. It’s from that latter category – the wines fully deserving of having Tenacious D’s To Be The Best as their theme song – that I draw my personal competition highlights…

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Complex, With A Complex (Vinas del Vero Somontano Recent Releases)

Old Vines Somontano

What do you do when your identity, your story, and even your best efforts are only seen through the contextual lens of your more famous cousins?

Besides developing an inferiority complex, I mean? After all, major characters in Greek tragedies were written with this stuff in mind; and it happens to be the defining lucha of Northern Spain’s Somontano wine region. That’s not the entire Somontano story, of course; as it happens, the region just might be the home of your next favorite Garnacha or Cabernet. While the DO is probably more familiar to WSET students than to American consumers, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot have been grown in Somontano for over one hundred and twenty years.

Viñas del Vero old vines

Viñas del Vero’s old hillside vines

Somontano is a place that’s relatively high on quality fine wine and winemaking prowess, but low on the ohhhhh-producing items (think indigenous grapes, or trendy stylistic techniques) that make for easy feature article material in the wine trade. The area largely produces wines from international varieties, in some cases from vines with significant age on them, done up in styles that are clean, fresh, and modern enough to all but dilute any defining sense of place.

But a sense of place does exist in Somontano, albeit courtesy of more famous wine regions. When the phylloxera epidemic spread throughout France, Somontano’s proximity and favorable climate made it an attractive spot for planting French vitis vinifera; which was later followed by declining demand and the abandonment of vineyard sites that were promising but difficult to farm. Sites like Viñas del Vero‘s “rediscovered” high-elevation plantings.

Situated at the northeastern slopes of the Somontano DO, along the edges of the European plate, these vineyards had dwindled down to 5 hectares by the time that Viñas del Vero rescued them (they’re now up to about 55 hectares). The oldest of the field-blended vines along those 800-meter-high, calcareous hills are in excess of 100 years in age. As Viñas del Vero’s vineyard manager José María Ayuso put it (during a media tour of the region), “you can get maybe one bottle per vine” from those old souls…

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