Posts Filed Under sexy wines

We Like Mike (Miguel Torres Chile Recent Releases)

Miguel Torres Chile Vines

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):

wrong

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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Little Place, Big Dreams (Vina von Siebenthal Recent Releases)

von Siebenthal winery

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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Cab-Francophile (An Arcanum Retrospective In Tuscany)

Vinted on September 21, 2016 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review

It takes some serious chutzpah to pour your super-Tuscan red, sans hesitation, alongside Le Macchiole Paleo, Ornellaia, and Sassicai.

Arcanum faun

Now, you might expect that kind of faccia tosta from the Italians, but in this case it came from Frenchman veteran vigneron Pierre Seillan who, alonf with winemaker Lawrence Cronin and vineyard manager Michele Pezzicoli, produces the Cabernet Franc-dominated Arcanum at Tuscany’s Tenuta di Arceno (I visited as part of a media jaunt earlier this Summer).

Tenuta di Arceno is part of the Jackson Family megapolis of wine brands, for which former Loire and Bordeaux winemaker Seillan also oversees Château Lassègue in Saint-Émilion and Anakota in California. The gorgeous, Etruscan-history-tinged estate, nestled in the San Gusmé area, was purchased in the early 1980s, and now has about 230 acres (among 2500 total) dedicated to the vine.

Pierre Seillan

Pierre Seillan

Seillan’s faccia tosta isn’t just for show; the guy is happy to make bold pronouncements about his wines, because at this point he has notched enough winegrowing experience that the of-course-that’s-how-it-would-be timbre of his words are bolstered by an unspoken sense of and-I-know-this-because-I’ve-lived-it-twenty-times-already. “The future of this region,” he noted, “is to show the potential of the wines in ten, fifteen, twenty years.”

To wit: Arcanum was birthed in 2002, a difficult vintage for Tuscany. “Cabernet Franc showed its elegance,” Seillan said of the vintage; “we had a revelation in Cabernet Franc!” Based on the result, Sellian and his team decided to replant and re-graft even more Cabernet Franc on the estate, some utilizing 20+ year old rootstock. Sellian told me that he now wants to bring Château Ausone‘s team here, to “scare them a little bit…”

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“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

Inama Foscarino

What do you do at harvest time if you are part of a family wine business, but are highly allergic to pollen?

If you’re Alessio Inama, son of Azienda Agricola Inama‘s Stefano Inama, you hoof it to the major wine markets, and take media types like me out to dinner so that we can taste your wines. Which is how I got to meet Alessio at Philly’s excellent Fishtown-area haunt Root last week.

Alessio describes his father as “a crazy man,” and certainly he has a rep in the wine world for possessing the quintessentially Italian trait of bucking convention (which is second only to the quintessentially Italian trait of adhering almost blindly to tradition). This is fortunate for anyone who loves eclectic northern Italian white wines, as Inama is now well-known as producing the thinking person’s Soave. Alessio quoted his father as saying “the first step to making a great wine… is to fire the accountant.” It’s hard not to like such a character (unless you’re his accountant). Especially when he also makes Carmenere (more on that in a minute).

Back in the 70s, Soave had its heyday, being one of the most recognizable Italian wine regions, if not its most famous white wine regional brand. As in all such things, insipidness and market hangover ensued, and by the 1990s Soave wasn’t much considered as the world turned to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (though Soave remained popular in its home country). It was during the heyday in the`70s that Alessio’s grandfather, Giuseppe, began buying up small, lava basalt hillside lots in the Soave Classico region (today they own about 30 hectares).

Today, Soave is a bit of a bell curve. At one end, you have insipid, forgettable quaffers; in the middle, a large production of capable, often very good, almost always refreshing sippers best enjoyed in the warmest months; on the tail end, a small number of producers who push the region’s Garganega grape to its physiological – and philosophical -limits…

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