“In Spain, when you’re fifteen, sixteen years old, you have to decide what you want to study: Science or Humanities,” joked Rioja’s Miguel Merino.
“I chose Humanities… so I can’t let the wine go wrong, otherwise I won’t know what to do to make money!”
The diminutive Merino, who spent twenty years in various aspects of the wine business before deciding to try his hand at his own wines, is like a breath of air that’s fresher than the scent of the roses that line the experimental vineyards in front of his winemaking facility in the Rioja Alta area of Briones. While medieval town and its Moorish architectural influences are thoroughly traditional for this area of Spain, Merino’s wines are made with a decidedly modernist stylistic twist.
But these are not the boorish, overly-extracted oak-monsters that have come to symbolize Rioja’s modern red wine bent – they carry the charmingly poised sense of reverently balancing on the shoulders of Rioja’s best traditions when it comes to winemaking; and their acclaim (Merino now exports to over thirty countries) is, as you will shortly come to read, well-deserved. And it helps that Merino himself is just about as humble, and about as far removed from the overblown, removed sense of self that marks some of Rioja’s biggest modern winemaking stars, as one can get…
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I have a confession to make. I hate the word “freedom.”
Rather, I hate the misuse of the word freedom; because, at the risk of sounding like an unpatriotic American, I’ve noticed that most of the time people use “freedom” when they really mean “liberty” (the latter of which, unlike the former, constitutes non-contradictory inherent states of being and is actually the idea most people have in mind when they talk about the principles upon which the USA was founded). Of course, I’m still red-blooded enough of an American to call myself “American” and laugh when the Canadians also call themselves “American” (Canadian: “Where are you from, eh?” Me: “I’m an American.” Canadian: “Well, I’m an American, too – a North American.” Me: “Awww… that is soooo cute!”).
Anyway, today I officially wrap up coverage of my two-week Australia jaunt earlier this year as a guest of Wines of Australia, recounting a visit to what must be one of the wine world’s most special places: what’s believed the oldest surviving shiraz vineyard in the world, first planted in 1843 by Christian Auricht, who emigrated his family to South Australia to escape religious persecution in Prussia.
And in that sense, the name of Aubricht’s 3.5 acre alluvial loam, red clay, limestone and ironstone Tanunda vineyard – now tended by Barossa producer Langmeil – is not only poignant but also apt (and, I’d add, technically correct!): The Freedom 1843 Shiraz Vineyard.
The wine produced from it shares the same name, and it just might reinvigorate your faith in Southern Hemisphere Shiraz from the persecution of overly-extracted, soda-pop, wanna-be Shiraz plonk…
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In this episode of 1WineDude TV, I talk (on location!) with with Alexandra Manousakis, whose family makes wine from Rhone varieties on the Greek island of Crete. Aside from prettying up things here on 1WDTV, Alexandra gives us an insider’s take on Crete winemaking history, along with her insights on the challenges facing Cretan wine on the international stage. Yes, the cicadas are annoying (believe me, I removed 90% of their noisy asses from the video already!); get over it, and enjoy…
1WineDude TV Episode 52: The Challenges (and Ironies!) of the Modern Crete Wine Biz