Posts Filed Under on the road
Those visiting Miguel Torres Chile‘s charming little restaurant spot, but without bringing a requisite sense of winemaking history along with their appetites, are likely to come away thinking that this pioneering Spanish wine brand’s foray into Chile consists of some tasty juice and really good food, the end.
In the infamous words of the USA’s 45th president (who, incidentally, was elected to that office the night before I arrived at Miguel Torres Chile during a media tour):
Admittedly, the wine biz (spectacularly) overuses the concept of context, but Miguel Torres Chile is legitimately a brand that has to be experienced in context for it to make sense.
In 1855, Jaime Torres headed to Cuba and, a mere fifteen years later, returned to Spain stinking rich from time spent in the trade and oil businesses. The Torres family then began a successful wine business in the Penedès, and, in what I am guessing was the manifestation of Torres’ large-scale dreams, built the largest wine vat in the world. Everything went up in smoke during the Spanish Civil War, and it was after rebuilding that things started to get really interesting. The Torres clan eventually went on to pioneer mich of what we’d now consider normal winemaking in Spain, including the planting of international grape varieties, temperature controlled vinification, and the use of French oak barrels.
Fast forward to the present day, and you’ve got fourth generation family member Miguel A. Torres, a chemist by education and an author of several wine books, overseeing much of the family business (including giving approval to the final blends for some of the Chilean wines, to the point where samples sometimes have to be sent to him to taste in Spain)…
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The modest country stylings at Vina von Siebenthal in Panquehue
Chile’s wine business is dominated by producers that could charitably be described as “corporate.” Its movements are almost exclusively set by a small number of very, very large production houses.
In that environment, 30 hectares of vineyards – which comprises the entire holdings of Viña von Siebenthal – is basically a rounding error.
I was first exposed to the benevolently pernicious undercurrent of Chile’s micro-production wine brands (and to von Siebenthal itself) when I first visited the country in 2011, and was able to spend some time tasting the wares the independent vintners of MOVI. So I was piqued (and thirsty) when I saw that von Siebenthal was on the list of producers I was to visit for my return media jaunt to Chile late last year.
The brand began as a passion project of its eponymous Swiss founder, über-wine-consumer Mauro von Siebenthal, who at the age of forty decided to retire from his “adult” carrier (in law) and give the wine business a go (hey, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). In 1998, he planted ten hectares in Panquehue in Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, building a modest winery building (which is easy to miss, as it looks exactly like a number of Chilean country houses in the area) two years later.
Mauro von Siebenthal has described his winemaking philosophy (assisted by Doña Paula and Santa Rita alumnus Stefano Gandolini) in similarly modest terms, as “interpreting each meter of land.” I loved that description, because it both betrays Swiss cultural fastidious while promising the potential for uniqueness across the portfolio. Fortunately, that’s precisely what you find – precision and uniqueness – when you taste through his wines…
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I recently visited an area of Tuscany that is, ironically, probably better known for old school Vespa production than for wine, despite being in a prime tourist location between some of the region’s most popular northern cities: Terre di Pisa. It’s an area with a tight-knit, talented group of producers, and some of the more fascinating vineyard soils that you’ll ever see (and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of them).
I wrote about the experience for Palate Press, which you can check out via the link below:
Forward to the Past: the wines of Terre di Pisa
TdP views from Beconcini
I’m not going to give away the wine geekiness goodies from the article here (c’mon, you’re not really that lazy, are you?) but I thought that I’d at least list and link the wines highlighted in the piece:
Check out the article for the details, and, of course, the wines themselves (for a taste of what Tuscany is like from an area not dominated by the dueling monocultures of grapes and olives…).
Last week, Palate Press published my take on the current state of the Paso Robles wine scene (based on a recent media tour of the region), titled Paso Robles: Sorry, not sorry.
That title seemed more publication-appropriate than “Bitch, please!” or “I heard what you said, I just don’t give a f*ck.”
You see, a funny thing happened on the way to producing the fine wines with lower alcohol levels that are supposed to represent the changing tastes and preferences of the American consumer: Paso Robles largely stopped giving a sh*t.
image: Palate Press
By largely ignoring said trend and focusing on what the region naturally provides, Paso Robles’ finest are arguably making some of their best wines yet, to the benefit of those who favor big, bold, but ultimately well-balanced vino.
Check out the full story for the details; below are the wines highlighted in the piece (in case you’re the impatient type):