Posts Filed Under elegant wines

High Tension Wires, Low Tension Views (Mas de l’Abundancia Montsant Recent Releases)

Mas de l'Abundància view

Jesús del Rio Mateu, proprietor of the Masroig-area Mas de l’Abundància – doesn’t just have an enviable name; he’s also got an enviably amazing vineyard view, enviably old vines, and sits enviably close to one of Spain’s critical-darling DOs, Priorat.

He also has an enviably-close relationship to a good importer, Folio Wine Partners, owned by the Michael Mondavi clan, who, Jesús is quick to point out, love to visit his hilly, llicorella-heavy eight hectares of aging vines.

Jesús del Rio Mateu

Jesús del Rio Mateu

“‘Can you fell the energy?’ That’s what they said when they were here,” he told me during a media tour visit to his Montsant DO estate. And while Jesús’ “house of plenty” certainly has its own energetic charm, my guess is that the tingling vibes felt by the Mondavis on their visit had more to do with the overhead high-tension power lines. Either that, or it was the pent-up tension in their shoulder-blades being released after taking in the glory of the scenery.

Anyway… the dramatic views of Priorat and the encapsulating Montsant mountain ranges from Jesús’ vines seem to have imbued him with senses of both literal and figurative perspective about the place; after all, this region of Spain has belonged to monks, aristocrats, Romans, and Arabs. Jesús puts it this way: “this doesn’t belong to me; I belong to it.”

The “it” in this case, coupled with ample sunlight, elevation, slope, and a continental climate, have combined to produce Montsant wines that are nearly as compelling, dramatic energetic, and “deep” as Mas de l’Abundància’s location…

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First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)

Filipo Antonelli

Filipo Antonelli

It’s a wet, chilly, grey Winter morning in San Marco, a locality that sits just outside of Italy’s Montefalco and the ridiculously-well-named town of Bastardo. And I’ve had to wait in the damp cold for a short bit, because Filippo Antonelli is a bit late for our appointment at his family’s winery (hey, welcome to Umbria, right?). And that’s pretty much the only slightly-negative thing that you’ll read about Antonelli over the next few minutes… but let’s set the stage with a little bit more detail before we get into the effusive wine recommendation stuff…

Filippo opens up the Antonelli tasting room, which sits on a hill across from the old family house/cellar/former winery, and starts to bring the charmingly imposing place to life, switching on the lights, and asking me “would you like a coffee?”

I tell him no, grazie, I just had plenty of java at my hotel, so I’m good.

Antonelli cellarAfter a bit of a pause, he turns towards the espresso machine longingly, then back to me. “Do you mind if I have one, then, before we get started?” And that’s one of those moments where you just love Italy.

Anyway, Filipo then gives me the lowdown on the Antonelli biz. He co-owns (since 1986) the family company along with his cousins, with the Umbria property being from his father’s side (and formerly, for about six centuries, being the Summer residence of bishops – part of the fact that Umbria was a portion of the Vatican state until the Eighteenth Century). His great grandfather Francesco was a lawyer, who purchased the estate in 1881. At that time, it was typical Umbrian farming fare; a mix of vines, olive trees, pig farms, and wheat, with the wine being sold in bulk and crop-sharing being the norm. After the advent of the DOC in 1979, they began bottling their own wine, and now release about 300,000 bottles a year from 50 hectares of vines (and still farm olives, wheat, spelt, chick peas, and host agritourism (that is an actualy word, by the way) on roughly 170 hectares of land).

A new subterranean winery was built in 2001. And from it comes perhaps some of the most elegantly-crafted Sagrantino available on the planet…

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It’s Cold Outside And… Holy Crap! I Actually Review Some Samples! (Tasting Two Under-The-Radar Gems)

Vinted on January 10, 2018 binned in elegant wines, overachiever wines, wine review
Porg_lookie

Look! Wine samples!!!

If it feels like forever since I’ve actually highlighted something from the wine sample pool in a feature here, that’s because in Internet terms, it more or less has actually been forever since I’ve actually highlighted something from the wine sample pool in a feature here.

This is, I like to think, a function of having so many worthy travel-related wine experiences to impart to you (as well as having to drum up at least some money in doing writing and video work for other outlets). But it’s probably more a function of devoted single-fatherhood, the holidays, and allowing myself the gift of not feeling as though I have to hustle all of the f-cking time.

But as the temperature has dipped into obscenely low levels in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. region that I call home at the tail-end of the Winter holiday season, I’ve been raiding the home sample pool in between media jaunts. Two things were bound to happen in that scenario (in order of decreasing statistical likelihood): 1) hangovers, and 2) finding at least a couple of gems to recommend to you.

And so, I’m happy to report that I did find some sample pool princesses to highlight, after kissing a fair amount of frogs…

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This *Is* A Tasty Berger! Do You Mind If I Have Some Of Your Tasty Riesling To Wash This Down? (Highlights From Grand Cru Schlossberg)

Vinted on December 21, 2017 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

Alsace Schlossberg

When you’re within spitting distance of Kayserberg (quite literally the cutest town in France, an honor it was officially awarded in 2017), amid the picturesque shadows of a castle that dates back to the fourteenth Century (and in which harvests were celebrated), and regularly run into ruins from the early 700s AD, you might justifiably consider yourself in a sort of Western European daydream-like fantasy land. Just add fairies and elves!

Schlossberg castle

Hence the “schloss” part…

While that is, indeed, the present situation of Alsace’s Schlossberg Grand Cru vineyard site and the sixty-some-odd producers who farm it (a spot I visited as part of a media jaunt earlier this year), that present situation belies a more, well, aggressive historical backdrop.

This granitic area of northeastern France has seen a revolving door of historical overlords, including the Romans, Germans, and the French. And yes, Schlossberg has the distinction of being awarded on of Alsace’s first Grand Cru classifications in 1975, but that was almost fifty years later than planned (they attempted it first in 1928, but things got sidetracked due to a World War). Actually, it’s almost 500 years late, considering that the area’s vines have been known as having serious vinous potential since the 1400s, and that the area exported twice as much wine in the Middle Ages as it does now.

Also consider that, from a farming perspective, you’re not getting much more than grapes here. The area sits on steep slopes rising up to almost 400 meters, and (thanks to the Vosges mountains) sees less than 500 millimeters of rainfall per year (which about three times less than Bordeaux). Alsace sits on the largest underground water reserve in the country, but irrigation isn’t permitted, so the vines have to work their roots down deep to get a drink.

Alsace Schlossberg viewThe soil in Schlossberg has high pH levels, and so requires calcium to prevent toxicity, and its diversity is a testament to the violence of the ancient Devonian forces that formed it. Also, you need dry stone terraces (the work of Italian immigrants hired by regional monks in the Middle Ages) to keep everything in place, and they are, to put it mildly, a pain in the ass to maintain. Oh, and the climate is semi-continental, which means they get nearly the full extremes in seasonal variation, and the subsequent farming headache potential.

Finally, we should include the political and cultural vagaries that come with producing consumables in a place that has changed country of ownership more than a few times. Alsace’s major market, historically, has been Germany, since the French kind of considered Alsace as French-but-maybe-not-really.

How does all of this impact the Rieslings crafted from Schlossberg’s soils? More than one of the wine producers with whom I met described their Riesling as “thin, delicate, and like a marathon man.” You’ll understand what they mean in a minute or two…

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