Can Terroir Be Designed? (Behind The Scenes With Chile’s Newest Ultra-Premium Red at Viña Vik)

Vinted on May 12, 2011 binned in elegant wines, on the road

“Of course, you know this word, terroir?”

The fact that Gonzague de Lambert, Marketing & Sales Manager of Viña Vik, didn’t punch me squarely in the head after my response to his question – especially given our close proximity at the time, he in the driver’s seat and I in the front passenger seat of a truck bouncing through the meticulously-kept vineyard property of one of Chile’s newest winemaking outfits – is strong testament to his good-natured attitude:

“Sure,” I said, “it’s French for Brett.”

Gonzague, formerly of Château de Sales, is very tall, very approachable, and (in mannerisms) very French (zee accent, zee pursing of zee lips when he speaks…).  All the more reason why my joke actually playing out successfully feels, in hindsight, like some minor miracle.

On a warm, sunny, South American Summer day in early March, I visited Viña Vik, hosted by Gonzague and their equally affable winemaker Cristián Vallejo. On a day like that, with full view of their estate (and upscale guest house) in Millahue, one marvels at what’s been achieved in their plantings, and in their lofty ambitions.  A state-of-the-art winery is being built there in the hopes of making the best wine in Chile.  As in, the best wine ever made in Chile.  No pressure or anything, right guys?

Viña Vik is the brainchild of uber-rich Norwegian entrepreneur Alexander Vik, who, after researching potential S. American vineyard sites with extensive soil reporting, settled his winemaking sights on this stretch of land in Millahue (“Place of Gold” in the native indigenous language there) on the northern end of the Apalta Valley in Chile. Carving out a viable vineyard here, in the middle of nowhere (if you were dropped into this hilly, arid, windy spot blindfolded, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in an eastern Africa game preserve) must have put a serious dent in Vik’s fortunes.  They wouldn’t give me numbers, but did admit the cost to develop this land for viticulture fell somewhere in the ridiculously-expensive range.

The idea was to identify and develop a unique terroir in South America, and let the wine speak for itself.  But can the expression of terroir be designed? Can it bend to the whims and resources of an almost-unlimited wallet? In other words, did it work?  I tasted their blending components made from the unique vineyard parcels in 2010 – along with their latest 2009 release – to find out

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Georges Duboeuf Wine Book Of The Year Awards, Continued (“Best Of The Rest” Giveaway!)

Vinted on May 11, 2011 binned in book reviews, giveaways, going pro


For the next act in my continuing saga as judge in the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, I wanted to detail the awards finalists that didn’t make the cut for my top three candidates for this year’s award (the three is not an arbitrary number, by the way – as judges, we were asked to pick our top three selections for the award from the seven finalists chosen by the event’s organizers).

And, we’re going to give away a copy of one of those books – Charlie Olken’s excellent New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries – to one lucky commenter!

Most of you know the drill: you comment, and in one week a winner is randomly selected from the comments.

Personally, I find myself swayed at least a little bit when it comes to awards like this, in terms of my wine book purchasing decisions.  I suppose that a part of me figures, Hey, if some people took the time to judge this thing against its peers and say it was good, it’s probably pretty darn good – but all-in-all, when it come to wine book buying, I probably put more weight into jacket testimonials (especially when they’re written by people that I know and respect).  So the question I’ve got to get our comentarios del blog de ​​discusión started is this:

Do awards factor into your wine book-buying decisions? Or are they like most wine competition medals (i.e., kinda meaningless)?

My thoughts on all of the non-top-three-listed finalists’ books are below after the jump. I need to preface this by saying that these books are all worthy additions to the English-language wine book lexicon; they just didn’t make my top three for the Georges Duboeuf award based on the judging criteria.  That competition was stiffer than the graphite neck on those headless Steinberger basses that Geddy Lee used in the `80s, so not making the cut shouldn’t be treated as a slight; in fact, simply being included in the list of finalists for this year’s award is a nod to the quality level of all of these books.  Now that I think about it, I might be getting in trouble by listing these finalists, but technically no one involved in the awards has said that I can’t list them… so what the hell, here we go!

Next week: my take on the top three and my #1 pick for the award…

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Born Digital, Buried In Content (The 2010 Born Digital Wine Awards)

Vinted on May 9, 2011 binned in about 1winedude blog, wine 2.0, wine blogging

The good news for wine lovers is that there’s a ton of wine-related content on the ‘global interwebs,’ much of it available for free (because content is a commodity now, people).  The bad news is, not all of that content is reading that would appeal to a wider audience (wider than the friends and family of many of those writing the content, that is) – that’s not at all meant as a dig at the vast majority of wine blogs that act as personal journals chronicling passionate consumers’ journeys into the amazing world of wine; it’s just the truth in terms of how much of that content is presented and targeted (trust me, not too many people would want to read my personal journals… but the point is that a small group of people close to me might).

The better news is that, for those looking for the most surfable waves among the vast oceans of on-line wine content, the judges for the 2010 Born Digital Wine Awards have done a great job of vetting some superb individual pieces of that content for you. You can thank them later (I recommend flowers, because those people get a ton of wine already).

The Born Digital Awards program is brainchild of Gabriella and Ryan Opaz along with Robert McIntosh, who together have started building up an impressive set of wine-related media ventures in Europe.  The idea was to build on the success of the Wine Blog Awards in highlighting outstanding wine-related websites, but with a Pulitzer-style twist: focusing on individual pieces of content (video and writing), and awarding actual cash to the winners.  I don’t know anything about the judging process itself beyond what’s already been published at, but I do know that the list of judges contains some pretty amazing wine writing talent.

The finalists in each of the award categories were published last week, and the winners will be announced on May 18th at 5:30 PM ET, streamed live from the London International Wine Fair.  I’m humbled to be among the short-listed finalists (go ahead… make the height jokes… you jerks…), but that’s not why I’m talking about the awards here.  I’m talking about the awards because I wanted to post the entire list of links to the short-listed finalists below (after the jump) – there’s just some great f*cking content in the list, and if you’re into wine it’s a treasure-trove of cool-ass shiz to read.

WARNING: You may get tired of seeing Blake Gray’s and Alder Yarrow’s names in the list, as they’re each finalists for something like 900 of the categories (ok… two…).  In all seriousness, those guys are friends of mine (as are several of the other finalists, actually) and I’m happy to see their stellar writing included in the list (and even happier to be included in any list with those guys).

Now get reading (and watching)… and enjoy!…

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