Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BOE: Wine and Art combined to be appreciated, admired and tasted & 2007 BOE (Brooklyn Oenology) Viognier North Fork of Long Island New York USA

2007 BOE (Brooklyn Oenology) Viognier North Fork of Long Island New York USA

BOE introduction to their website says it all:

Brooklyn Oenology. Wine made in New York, Art made in Brooklyn.”

I first discovered “BOE” Brooklyn Oenology a few years ago, when Alie Shaper, BOE’s owner and winemaker extraordinaire, came to the store to introduce her wines. It was the beginning of a beautiful adventure for her, but at that time, when she barely started the operation, she was working on her own: doing tastings, making and promoting wines and delivering them on her own. But she was passionate and convinced, and wanted to show her wines to the world.

Alie established the company in 2006 and started selling her wines in 2007. Within the last 5 years, she went from being a one person operation to a 7 persons operation. She stumbled into winemaking like someone suddenly realizing that he or she has a purpose or a mission to accomplish, with a simple light bulb idea.

But don’t get me wrong, she didn’t develop her passion for wine and winemaking just like that, from one day to the next. No. Well acquainted with wine, she was already working in the wine business for a few years and had already an internship at Premium Wine Group, a winemaking facility on Long Island; but it took a move and the influence of a few new surrounding factors, to really initiate the idea.

In 2005, she decided to move to Brooklyn, partly for practical reasons, but mainly because of the significant artistic community and attractive lifestyle of this vibrant and ever-active borough. Once in Brooklyn and already establishing contacts and friendships with the local artists, the brilliant idea of incorporating Wine and Art to celebrate local wine culture and local creativity came to her mind.

In 2006, she started to produce wine at her internship facility in the North Fork of Long Island, Premium Wine Group, and established her office in Green Point, the northern neighborhood of Brooklyn, near the young-and-hype Williamsburg.

The heights of Kings county throne like an old, yet wise and serene sovereign, overlooking his young and somewhat undisciplined sibling that Manhattan is. And despite its bad and rough reputation, Brooklyn has become a hub for great inventive minds, energetic young entrepreneurs and daring artists. It is a borough of mixed traditions and culture, which combined old established family traditions and respect with outgoing attitude and desire to achieve better.

Today, with its many quaint places, lanes, terraces and quiet cul-de-sac, the western neighborhoods of Brooklyn combined some of the most exclusive family-oriented and hype neighborhoods in the city. And atop of being filed with inviting bars, mixologists clubs, small craftsman boutiques, eclectic food markets, modest factories and gourmet restaurants and eclectic art and culture, and much more; Brooklyn also encompasses wineries and breweries and distilleries lead by ingenious and creative people, which have for the past few years helped revived and reestablished Brooklyn needs to shine and demonstrate.

As for BOE, nowadays, 5 years later, Alie is still making wine at the same facility (Premium wine Group), and even continues, from time to time when not too busy or in case of urgent measure, to deliver her wines to certain accounts.

From the first few wines of the beginning, she tremendously expanded her portfolio to 14 different labels, most made by local Artists and, for some, conveniently detachable from the bottle. Everything in her concept revolve around Wine and Art, which are blended together into the bottle of course, but also reflected on each label, which somehow, by the colors and forms, auto-suggest in advance the aromas, flavors and overall profile and attitude of the wine. Pretty smart, isn't it?

2007 Brooklyn Oenology "BOE" Viognier North Fork of Long Island
Suggested retail price $16-$19
Distributed directly by Brooklyn Oenology BOE in NYC

To prove what I was trying to say on the last paragraph, let's take for example the label of the 2007 Viognier: you may see something else, but in my opinion, it looks like a close-up of gently undulating grass on a bright, sunny day due to the movement and the light; it evokes Spring, or Summer, a picnic may be... and yet again, it somehow also gives you the illusion of being in the water or like if you were looking at grass under water just below the surface with the ever-changing light filtering through it; creating in your mind images and sensations of grassiness, minerality, freshness, crispiness, lightness, something with soft, gentle and discrete behavior, yet bright and lively and inviting attitude. And surprisingly, it is also what you get in the bottle when you taste the wine. What a great idea! (and it works with pretty much all of her wines, amazing).

Let's talk about that Viognier. Like for most of her wines, she sources most of her grapes through various growers of Long Island and this Viognier is no exception. All of her wines are bright and racy with a lot of focus, great acidity and balance, but this Viognier is one of my favorite wines amongst all the ones she introduced me to, since I begin to support her project and ideology a few years ago.

Viognier is a tough grape variety to deal with: floral, mineral, expressive, long, elegant, mouth-coating and lightly oily when well crafted; it can also turn into a tired, dull, fat, viscous and uninteresting wine, if the fruit is too ripe and the overall wine profile lacks the acidity and freshness. However, this is not the case for 2007 BOE Viognier, which is quite zesty and refreshing.

Viognier loves stainless steel; so, it was fermented in-tank at a cool temperature. It rested on a small amount of lees for a few weeks to extract extra aromas to give the wine its prolonged finish. It was then simply rested and bottled. Its flavors present in a sequence of fruits and flowers, and linger like a reminder of a summer evening. (320 cases made)” – Alie Shaper, Winemaker/Owner

I could have described the taste of this wine myself, like I normally do, but I’m usually too wordy and Alie has a great way on describing it shortly and pleasantly.

A cooling alternate French varietal, our Viognier will refresh you with honeydew, peach, lime, and honeysuckle, finishing clean with stone and rose. It’s a great wine when you want to explore outside of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Get sipping and be transported out of the city and into the meadow.” – Alie Shaper, Winemaker/Owner

She has a great website where one can find a lot of info about what is happening in the BOE world, but I just wanted, with this post, to open little parentheses about her past and how she began this wonderful adventure, which you will not necessary find on her website. And encourage her to continue to pursue her ideas and visions. http://brooklynoenology.com


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

2009 Qupé Marsanne Santa Ynez Valley California USA


Qupé is dedicated to producing handcrafted Rhône varietals and Chardonnay from California’s Central Coast. Robert Neil Lindquist, a.k.a “Bob”, and his team employ traditional winemaking techniques to make wines, which are “varietally” correct, true to their type and speak of their vineyard sources and Terroir of origin.

Qupé goal is to make wines with impeccable balance that can be enjoyed in their youth, yet because of the good acidity from cool vineyard sites can also benefit from ageing. Bob and his team are committed to sourcing grapes from some of the best and most prestigious vineyards in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Yet, before I describe the 2009 Qupe Marsanne Santa Ynez Valley California, it will be difficult not to talk about the legendary winemaker behind the label and his very interesting journey in the wine world, which inspired him at an early age and eventually led the way, bouncing from one opportunity to another, to become one of the best winemakers and producers of California central coast.

So here is his story that I simply took and slightly shorten from the winery website at http://qupe.com/

Robert Neil “Bob” Lindquist was born in the Midwest and moved to Southern California with his family in 1964 when Bob was 11 years old. The sixties music scene quickly became a passion of Bob’s as bands like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Byrds and Rolling Stones were electrifying the airwaves…rock and roll music still resonates with Bob and in fact the “Kinks” later became a plot device in Bob’s choice to pursue a career in winemaking.

In the early ‘70’s while Bob was in college at UC Irvine he got his first taste of good wine and he was instantly hooked. Bob started hanging out at Hi-Time Cellars, a great wine shop in Bob’s hometown of Costa Mesa, asking a lot of questions and buying whatever wines he could afford…and in 1975, at the age of 22 years old, Bob moved from “SoCal” with his young family to the North Central Coast to pursue a career in the wine business.

Bob’s first job was working the 1975 harvest at the Fortino Winery in the Hecker Pass area near Gilroy. When harvest ended he landed a job at the San Martin Winery tasting room in Gilroy where his enthusiasm and growing wine knowledge quickly got him promoted to assistant manager. San Martin was a dynamic and important player in the growing Central Coast wine business.

When an opportunity to manage a new tasting room in Ventura County came along in 1976, Bob jumped on it. This lead to Bob’s discovery of the potential for wine in neighboring Santa Barbara County, and from his first visits to Firestone Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley Winery, Rancho Sisquoc and Sanford & Benedict this is where he was destined to be.

On January 1st, 1979, Bob moved to Santa Ynez to manage a retail wine shop in the little town of Los Olivos. This shop was way ahead of its time, and was owned by the son of the owner of Zaca Mesa Winery. Fate intervened (the Kinks) and in September 1979 Bob went to work at Zaca Mesa as their first tour guide just in time for the upcoming harvest. Zaca Mesa didn’t get many tourists in those early days so most of Bob’s time was spent working in the cellar learning to make wine under the tutelage of assistant winemaker Jim Clendenen, who would become Bob’s winemaking mentor.

Zaca Mesa was fertile ground for learning about winemaking in this up and coming region. In 1982, while still working at Zaca Mesa, Bob started Qupé by buying barrels and grapes and traded his time to use Zaca Mesa’s facility. In that first vintage he made 900 cases of chardonnay, syrah and a dry rosé of pinot noir.

After the 1983 harvest Bob left Zaca Mesa and went off on his own, continuing to rent space in other wineries to make the Qupé wines. As the winery’s production grew, Bob decided to focus on Syrah and other varietals of the Rhone, while continuing to make chardonnay, which always helped pay the bills.

In 1989 Bob joined with his old friend Jim Clendenen (who had started his own winery, Au Bon Climat, in 1982) to build a winery facility of their own under a lease agreement with the Bien Nacido Vineyard. The wines continue to be produced in this same facility to this day.

Bob is also a partner in Verdad, a winery dedicated to Spanish varieties produced by his wife, Louisa. In 2002 Bob and Louisa purchased an 80 acre ranch in the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo, and the following year they moved to SLO with their then 2 year old son Theo. In 2005 they planted 40 acres at what is now called the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, where they are starting the next chapter of their life.

In short, Bob Lindquist had an amazing “parcours” and is now a recognized and consulted winemaker, who transmitted his passion for wine and winemaking to most members of his family. Bob’s two oldest sons, Ethan and Luke Lindquist, are also winemakers and spent plenty of time around the ABC/Qupé winery. Daughter Paige runs the Qupé tasting room and wine club.

2009 Qupé Marsanne Santa Ynez Valley California USA
Suggested retail price $15-$18
Distributed by Verity Wine Partners in NYC

2009 Qupe Marsanne Santa Ynez Valley is a blend of 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne, including 70% Marsanne from Ibarra-Young, 15% Marsanne from Purisima Mountain and 15% Roussanne from Bien Nacido Vineyards. The Marsanne lots were barrel fermented and aged in neutral barrels, while the Roussanne was fermented and aged in one year old Francois Freres French oak barrels.

The Marsanne lots were picked at the low end of ripeness, 21.2° for the Ibarra-Young and 22.2° for the Purisima, while they still have great acidity and fresh, balanced alcohol levels. The Roussanne holds its acidity better and was picked at riper sugars, 24.4°, which adds richness and complexity to the blend. 848 cases of 750ml and 98 cases of half bottles were bottled in June 2010.

The resulting 2009 Qupé Marsanne Santa Ynez Valley is a classic example of Marsanne from cooler climate in central coast. Yet it is far from the Marsanne wines of the Rhone Valley, which are fatter and denser. This Marsanne has more refreshing acidity, crispiness and balance, and seems less viscous than its Rhone counterpart. Even the color seems paler. The nose exhibits aromas of white core fruit like white peach, but also citrus and fresh almond, with flinty mineral notes. The palate is rich and complex, and lively and racy, with a lengthy zesty finish, rather than being flat and dull like it happens too often with white Rhone when not properly handle and care after, more especially if inexpensive.

Like Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are difficult grape varieties to work with and the result may sometime be unsatisfying, if not crafted with enough acidity and balance of all components. I must say that Bob isn’t like at his first vintage, and his experience is greatly reflected in his wines, especially this one (and his Syrah, which is for me always a standard of quality).

Although ready to drink now, this Marsanne blend offers texture, structure, balance and great acidity, which should allow it to age nicely for the next 2-3 years, and more (but you know me, I hate speculating about how long a wine will last in the bottle, because there are too many factors that come to play in the life of a wine to really be certain and advance big numbers: how it was stored, oscillating temperatures, etc…).

However, in my opinion, better drink it now than latter to enjoy the full characteristic of the flavors, which encompasses vibrant nuances of peach pit, citrus and green hazelnuts and honey in the lingering finish. Serve it as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres, but also with fish and white meat dishes.


LeDom du Vin

Most info taken and partly edited from the winery website at http://qupe.com/

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

2007 Domaine Vico Red Corsica

2007 Domaine Vico "Vico" Red Corsica

In the heart of Corsica, down the Popolasca snowy peaks, the 82 hectares of vineyard (202 acres) of the Domaine Vico overlooks the Golo Valley. The estate and the vineyard benefit of a unique location in the mountains surrounding the village of Morosaglia, in the northeastern part of Corsica, about 53 kilometers southwest of Bastia and about 35 kilometers northeast of Corte.

Jean Vico established the vineyard in 1901. A pioneer of his time, he took the innovative but risky decision to plant vines at altitude, in a cold region, beyond the boundaries of vineyard planting in Corsica.

Between the end of 1989 and beginning of 1990, François Acquaviva, Jean-Marc and Manu Venturi - two businessmen and an oenologist - then took over the Domaine and completely restructured it from the vineyard right through to the vinification process. Their pursuit for quality continues, as they experiment with specific vinification systems for each parcel of the Domaine.

Having introduced "Agriculture Raisonnée" (sustainable agriculture) to the island of Corsica, they aim to produce earthy, concentrated, modern wines with traditional twist and Terroir oriented profile in the highest vineyard in Corsica. Characteristic to mountainous vineyard, the vines are planted on hill slopes ranging between 300-400 meters of altitude, far from the direct influence of the Sea and benefiting of high temperature fluctuation between day and night.

This peculiar vineyard is separated in two big parcels: one near the village of Ponte Leccia and the other near the hilltop village of Piedigriggio. In both parcels, the produced wines are very complex, structured, elegant, and powerful just like their lands. They are rich without being heavy, and possess very good acidity and tannins.
  • The parcel located near Ponte Leccia possesses rich, deep soil full of schist stones and rocks providing incomparable minerality to most wines produced there.
  • The parcel near Piedigriggio contains more sandy-clay soils, which confer ampleness, fatness and richness to the reds.

The uniqueness of this estate is also embraced through the blend of different indigenous and international grape varieties that they use and how they specifically used them to make particular wines through their different ranges:
  • Vermentinu for the Whites (20 hectares – 49.4 acres)
  • Niellucciu for the Reds (25 hectares – 61.7 acres)
  • Sciacarellu for the Roses (10 hectares – 24.7 acres)
  • Grenache to add richness and complexity to the reds (8 hectares – 19.7 acres)
  • Syrah to add structures for the reds (10 hectares – 24.7 acres)
  • Muscat for Dry and sweet whites (8 hectares – 19.7 acres)

Totally modernized and renovated, the cave of the Domaine Vico is very efficient regarding its wine making capacity.

Domaine Vico produces 4 different labels coming in four different colors:
  • Vico Collection (Red/White/Rose)
  • Cuvee Morosaglia (Red/White/Rose)
  • Vico (Red/White/Rose/Muscat)
  • Clos Sulana (Red/White/Rose)

For more info, you can always go to the winery website at http://www.domainevico.com/

2007 Domaine Vico “VICO” Red Morosaglia - Ponte Leccia Corsica
Suggested retail price $18-$21
Imported/Distributed by Wineberry in NYC

Great wines can only be crafted from complex Terroir and skillful winemakers! And this wine is a very good example of it. Characterized by its combined concentration and elegance, it is the result of a rigorous selection in the parcels of this peculiar high altitude vineyard. The 3 grape varieties used to craft this Corsican red, come from vines planted on schistous soil, around 300 meters of altitude in the Golo Valley, resulting in a unique, rich, earthy, racy wine.

Hand-harvested and carefully sorted, the grapes were destemmed and gently pressed to retain essential fruit flavors and diminish the extraction of the hard tannins from the grape. The fermentation occurred in stainless steel vats at controlled temperatures between 25°C and 31°C, for maximal extraction of the aromas and needed tannins for the structure. After full Malolactic fermentation, the wine rested in vat on its lees for a short period of time, then underwent a light filtration before bottling in order to maintain aromas, flavors, complexity and structure.

A blend of 50% Niellucciu, 20% Sciacarellu and 30% Syrah, 2007 Vico red exhibits a lovely red ruby robe with mauve nuances. It boasts Terroir oriented aromas of licorice, pepper, raspberry jam with notes of mint and leather nuances on the nose. The palate has a supple, fruity and luscious mouth feel with well balanced acidity and present yet integrated crunchy tannins leading to a licorice, tarry finish. Well crafted, intense, dark, structured, earthy and long, this is a wine to discover with hearty food, stews, grilled red meat and strong cheese.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at http://www.domainevico.com/

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

My first real encounter with the wines from Domaine du Clos des Fées (Roussillon, France)

My first real encounter with the wines from Domaine du Clos des Fées
(Roussillon, France)

A few days ago, I had the pleasure to receive at the store a guy that seems to always be in a good mood and adorns a great friendly smile with every word he says. Definitely the type of guy that you can only like and befriend on site. His name is Christian Dalbavie. I met him in 2008 during a 5-6 days trip to Bordeaux, where we visited quite a few Chateaux around St. Emilion and Pomerol and also the Négociant Company of Jean-Luc Thunevin, a few people from the Wine trade of New York including myself and about 3 or 4 of the staff + the owner of T-Edward, the distributor of some Jean-Luc Thunevin’s wines in NYC.

It was a great trip and despite the wines, which were ok to good to great for rare few, the most memorable souvenir was (and still is) the outrageously good “cuisine” of Jean-Luc’s wife. Murielle cooked everyday for our group, which was oscillating, depending on the day and the numerous guests of Jean-Luc, between 10 to 20 people. Murielle Andraud is an energetic and lively brunette who, on top of being a great and busy chef, personally supervises the care of the 4.5 hectares of vineyards at Château Valandraud. Great hosts, Jean-Luc and Murielle received us like Kings and, somehow, allowed me to, once more, better try to comprehend a world usually difficult of access: Bordeaux.

Yet that said, the right bank is much more welcoming than the Bourgeois, Aristocratic left bank. Yet again, there are good and bad on both sides. I know it for a fact, I spent more than 15 years going to Bordeaux every year, around the end of Mars – beginning of April, to participate to the “En Primeur” campaign and taste at the barrel, with Chateaux owners and winemakers, in their various cellars and “Carrière de pierre”(anciently carved limestone cave from which the sculpted stone blocks where used to built entire towns like Saint-Emilion and Bordeaux, just to name the most famous of the Gironde departement).

I even had the chance to talk with these owners and winemakers at countless occasions during lunches and dinners at the Chateaux or during some of the reunion/dinner of one or the other, amongst the many “Confréries” de Bordeaux. Therefore, all these words just to say that I think that I know the “Bordelais” pretty well, being one myself and moreover being the grandson of a late winemaker from the Right Bank, and I can say that despite beautiful host manners and a certain cozy “savoir-vivre”, Bordeaux and the Bordelais have the reputation of being closed to the outside world, especially when it comes to wine; like kings in their castles.

Yet, it is very true that Bordeaux benefits of an ideal geographical position and enjoyable life and vine growing factors, proudly and jealously guarded by the Bordelais: some of the best wines in the world and rich, exceptional food recipes (Oysters, Foie Gras, Truffles, Lamb of Pauillac, Lamproie à la Bordelaise, etc); kilometers of wild beaches; proximity with the Jet-set's best kept secret riviera of the southwest of France: Lège-Cap-Ferret, and consequently the "Bassin d'Arcachon", famous for its oysters park, cute fisherman villages, quiet sailing route and of course, "Les cabanes tchanquées": the famous huts built on stilts in the middle of the bassin, on the main island called "l'île aux oiseaux", often seen on Bordeaux postcards. Add to all of these, the fact that Bordeaux is only about 2 hours and a half from the closest Ski resort in the Pyrennees and about the same time from Basque country capital Donostian-San Sebastiàn in Spain, and you will immediately understand why Bordelais love their region and their town, which has the magical way of being amongst the 10th largest cities in France in term of population, yet it feels like a tranquil, respectable village in a middle of an ocean vines. Yes, the Bordelais can be proud and protective of their region and more especially of their classic XVIII century style town Bordeaux the magnificent, which, since June 2007, is classified as world patrimony by UNESCO.

However, enough about Bordeaux, let's go back to Roussillon and Christian Dalbavie.

So, here he came, all smiling and joking, as he entered the store with Alison from Domaine Select, a Wine distributing company in NYC. He told me: “Long time no see! Since 2008 during the Bordeaux trip with Jean-Luc, if I’m correct.” It took me a minute to replace him in the many draws of my legendary bad memory for names and faces. Yet, once I recognized him, everything came back right away. And talking a few words about the past, we directly went in the back of the store to taste a few wines.

A long timer in the Music and Showbiz industry, Christian, who has only been working in the wine trade for the last few years, explains that he recently put his own wine distribution company together and now, amongst other, represents the wines of “Clos des Fées” in his portfolio.

He told me that Hervé Bizeul, the owner of Clos des Fées, should have been here with us to introduce his wines. But unfortunately, due to a non-conventional passport and total refusal from B.A. to accept him in the plane for possession of non-updated-non-biometric passport, which, by the way have been in place since Ben Laden events occurred (but he didn’t know, I guess), totally missed the flight departure and was forced to stay in France, while 15 days of organized appointments, hotel’s rooms, lunches and dinners and a lot of anticipation from devoted awaiting fans crumbled in a few minutes to a disappointing end.

However, "Too bad" and "Tampis" if Hervé Bizeul had to stay in France, hoping that he is updating his passport for next time; because fortunately, Christian was here with the wines for me to taste! And at the end of the day, even if I would have like very much to have an interesting discussion with Hervé about his wines “et tout le tralala” orbiting around them, the words that best described his wines and his qualities as a winemaker were the ones that I formulated during the tasting of each of his wines that afternoon, after being dissected by my taste buds and my uncompromising palate. Tasting is always a revealing beacon of the personality of each tasted wines but also of the winemaker behind them.

And to be sure that it is true, that’s what Alison, Christian and myself did. We tasted 6 wines that were quite extraordinary well crafted. And I loved them so much that I bought all 6 of them. Four of them were from "Clos des Fées" and that is when I realized that it will have been great if Hervé Bizeul could have been with us in person to talk about his wines; because I first had a lot of questions to ask him; and secondly if the quality and the character of his wines reflect his personality and the personage in general, then he must be someone worth spending time with.

Therefore with this post, and a little “pensée” for Hervé, who must be pretty pissed off that he had to stay in France instead of coming to New York (and the rest of the USA) to promote his wines, from what I could read on his blog at http://www.closdesfees.com/blog-herve-bizeul/… I will describe and share with you this amazing experience from “Clos des Fées”, a real revelation for my taste buds. For the store purpose, I will insist a bit more at the end on "Walden", a wine that I just used for the Wine of the Month Selection of this month, February 2011.

Roussillon France

I have always said that Roussillon lives in the Shadow of Languedoc, due to the fact that people in general do not know how to differentiate Languedoc from Roussillon. Also because usually, like the generic name of the Appellation implies it, and for for most people understanding, Languedoc and Roussillon both go in the same bag.

It has definitely something to do with the fact that Languedoc is much larger, covering about 4 départements (Aude, Hérault, Gard and Lozère), while Roussillon covers only one (Pyrenees-Orientales). Therefore, Languedoc is generating, in many ways, much more interest and press than Roussillon.

It is also due to the fact that the wines from Roussillon are less marketed and less known than the ones from Languedoc. Appellation’s names like Collioure, Banyuls, Rivesaltes, Maury or even Tautavel are somehow very obscures for most novices and amateurs, compared to Faugères, Saint-Chinian, La Clape, Minervois and so on.

Even Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages label, which is granted to 25 villages along the Agly river, don't get the recognition that they deserve. Except for Banyuls and Collioure, both small fisherman villages nearly touching the Spanish border and over-crowded with tourists all summer long, the rest of Roussillon is rather unknown and remain somewhat wild and undiscovered.

Yet, Roussillon, which represents the most southern region of France, bordering Spain and sharing the Catalan culture with its neighbor, has experienced a real renaissance over the last decade and really deserve a bit more attention.

The eastern foothills of the Pyrenees melting into the Mediterranean Sea under the scorching sun, constantly swept by the fierce and forceful “Tramontane”, a strong, dry cold wind from the northwest going down to Spain, may not seems to be a very welcoming place. Yet, recently, it attracted more young and adventurous minds, which decided against all odds to make this place home and give it a chance, found it a certain charm and achieved hard work and perseverance to tame its temper and nature.

Thanks to them, Roussillon has evolved for the better. The cave cooperatives still exist, but a new generation of winemakers freshly arrived exhibits talent, initiative and innovation, with utmost respect for the environment. They also favor bottling at the property and emphasize low yield and natural methods, which definitely marked a new beginning and the revival of the quality rather than the quantity. Although low yield has always been the credo of the Roussillon region, so I'm not so sure if we can talk quantity within the same terms, numbers and extreme measures as in Languedoc for example, where over-production was a lifemotive for decades before changes happened in the last 10-15 years.

Hervé Bizeul was one of these newcomers that had and still has great influence on the development of the region. One of these beneficent souls who in 1997 decided to venture on the road of estate-running and winemaking in the harsh, scorched and rocky land of Roussillon. He created the world-renowned “Domaine du Clos des Fées”.

Once Hervé said: “I returned to my place of birth, the Roussillon, also known as the Pays Catalan (Catalonia), to prove that this region could also produce great red wines...” - Hervé Bizeul

Domaine du Clos des Fées Roussillon France

Domaine du Clos des Fées is located in Vingrau, a small mountainous village about 29 kilometers northwest of Perpignan and about 5.5 kilometers northeast of Tautavel, part of the Roussillon wine region, in the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees-Orientales.

Celebrated sommelier and wine journalist Herve Bizeul (Best Sommelier in France in 1981), came back to Roussillon in 1997 to buy small plots of land and vineyards scattered with nearly abandoned twisted looking old vines (they all look like that at first glance if you are not used to it, but these old ladies have resisted trough time, strong wind and harsh climate for years, hence their perfect adaptation to the rude conditions makes that twisted look rather healthy and robust).

After two years of hard work, trials, experiences, ups and downs, toughen hands and body aches, he came to the realization that winemaking was his passion and the main goal of his life, aiming to produce great wines. Therefore, in 1999, with courage, passion and a lot of determination, he firmly established his estate in the little Roussillon village of Vingrau, converting his garage into a small winery for his first vintage.

From only a few hectares at the beginning and barely no money in the pocket, through hard efforts and research of consistency and quality, the estate has now reached a staggering 27 hectares of vines, encompassing 125 tiny sites in several distinct Terroirs in Roussillon, some as much as 15 kilometers apart from each other, with vines averaging 60 year old.

The myriad of subsoil ranging from granite to schist to limestone to small pebbles reflect the incredible diversity of the vineyards that are planted with old vine (up to 100 years old) Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rouge, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre.

Herve's vision was quickly recognized: in 2002, Gault et Millau's "Best Newcomer" in 2003, and Revue du Vin de France's Number One in Roussillon in 2005. Today, the wines are some of the most sought after in France and reflect Herve's passion and philosophy for life and for great wine.

I will stop there for the estate info, because Hervé has a great website with a lot of explanations at http://www.closdesfees.com and if it is not enough, he also write whatever goes in his mind on his blog at www.closdesfees.com/blog-herve-bizeul/

Here are the 4 wines from "Clos des Fées" that we tasted:

2009 Clos des Fées Grenache Blanc Vieilles Vignes
Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Roussillon
Suggested retail price $29-$33

Imported/Distributed by Christian Dalbavie Selection via Domaine Select in NYC

A blend of hand-harvested and carefully sorted 90% Grenache Blanc from a plot of 2.5 hectares that has some of the oldest vines of the state (over 100 years) and 10% Grenache Gris, both planted on limestone-clay soils at an altitude between 200 and 400 meters, mainly facing north and west. Fermentation occurred in stainless steel for the Grenache Blanc and in two-years old barrel for the Grenache Gris with regular stirring. Then the wine matured on its lees for roughly 8 months after malolactic fermentation, to add flavors, texture and structure. Fining and filtering occurred before bottling.

Pass the pale yellow gold color, the expressive nose is very mineral with aromas of yellow apple, peach and white blossom. The palate is rather fat, ripe, complex, and long and somewhat viscous with the same type of flavors of peach and yellow core fruit enhanced by great minerality and excellent balance. The lingering finish is very well structured and inviting. This wine calls for another glass right away. I love it. Other than the usual grilled fish and succulent Mediterranean fish dishes that you can find in the Roussillon, especially in the postcard villages of Collioure and Banyuls near the border of Spain; this wine definitely can stand white meat dishes too, like poultry, game, and veal and of course roasted chicken and cheese.

2008 "Les Sorcières du Clos des Fées" Côtes du Roussillon Rouge
Suggested retail price $18-$21
Imported/Distributed by Christian Dalbavie Selection via Domaine Select in NYC

A blend of 35% Carignan Noir and 35% Grenache Noir from old vines between 40 and 80 years of age, mixed with roughly 30% Syrah from younger vines, and a tiny touch of Mourvèdre, all growing on limestone-clay soils. The hand-harvested and carefully sorted grapes, underwent a pre-fermentation cold maceration in small concrete tanks, before being macerated at room temperature for about 15-21 days, obtaining soft extraction. After Malolactic fermentation, the wine was racked from the stainless steel vats to concrete tanks where it was aged for 8 months on its lees. It was then bottled with no filtering nor fining, with minimal addition of SO2 during ageing and at bottling.

The resulting wine possesses a bright, deep, ruby color leading the way toward a concentrated nose loaded with dark berry and cassis aromas mixed with inviting floral and earthy notes of Garrigues, violet and earth. The palate is balanced, earthy, deep, complex and Terroir oriented with explosive flavors of cassis, dark dried fruit, tar, earth and spices. The lingering finish is dark, earthy, and nicely framed with present yet integrated tannins. Overall, this excellent wine is generous, friendly and inviting and will pair well with Mediterranean dish and grilled meat. It is a great, accessible example of what Cotes du Roussillon has to offer.

2006 Domaine du Clos des Fees “Le Clos des Fees” Hervé Bizeul Red Roussillon
Suggested retail price $65-$70
Imported/Distributed by Christian Dalbavie Selection via Domaine Select in NYC

Le Clos des Fées” is the Grande Cuvée of Hervé Bizeul, a superb wine made from a blend of equal parts of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir and Carignan Noir, hand harvested and carefully sorted from selected plots of hold hillside vines on limestone-clay soil. The vinification first occurred in new hogsheads of five hectoliters capacity, then after fermentation the wine was racked into new oak barrels (100% Saury, the name of the cooper) where the Malolactic fermentation and the ageing process took place. All operations such as pumping-over, racking and barrel filling are done by hands, without pumps. It was aged for 18 months on its lees and bottled unfiltered to keep maximum of flavors, intensity, texture and structure.

The resulting 2006 “Le Clos des Fees” exhibits a really deep, intense ruby color. The nose is extremely intense and expressive, with literally explosive aromas of cassis, blackberry, dark chocolate, pepper, spice intermingled with floral and earthy nuances. Definitely a beautiful, exhilarating nose that can keep me inhaling for hours.

It is very “à propos” to say that certain wines will make you buy them simply by their nose, even if you didn’t taste them. If it smells that good, then it can only taste good, isn’t? Well, it is not always true, that is why tasting fully rather than relying mainly on the nose, is extremely important. Lucky for us, this wine is as good as and even better in the palate than it is on the nose.

The palate is soft, integrated, expressive, juicy, extremely balanced and refreshing with great acidity and focus, despite the concentration and richness of the wine and the perfect ripeness of the fruit. It expresses intense flavors of ripe black fruit, spice, earth, tar, soil and Terroir expressions. It has been long since I drank a wine that great from the Roussillon. It is simply a superb wine that left me speechless.

Hervé Bizeul & Associés "Walden" Côtes du Roussillon Rouge

In 1854, Henri David Thoreau, poet and philosopher, published “Walden”, an account of his lonely life on the shores of a wild lake in Massachusetts. This seminal book extols the joys of a simple life in harmony with nature. Living in nature, proud to work with our hands, listening to the seasons, animals and plants, the winegrowers of the Roussillon live daily the kind of life he promoted. This authentic wine, rich, with jammy fruit and silky texture is in homage to him: his name, his commitment and to our independence and our values.” - Herve Bizeul

Walden, is a project of “Clos de Fees” owner, Hervé Bizeul, who, in collaboration with small family vintners, designed this affordable wine to showcase the potential of Roussillon’s old Carignan and Grenache vines. The vineyards consist of 6 hectares of vines planted on hillside in a wide variety of deep surface soil with mainly clay, in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. They created an intermediary solution between a ‘cooperative’, wine merchant and private domain to help support local vine-growers and make fair trade possible for small producers. The partners collaborating in the alliance all have a strong cultural know-how and undeniable passion for their craft.

WALDEN was born: a modest attempt in embracing the concept of «Winery», similar to those in the US, especially boutique wineries in California and Oregon, and the «Fair Trade» system of giving a chance to people with less money and means, with the only goal in mind to produce:

  • - the best possible wine;
  • - sold at the lowest possible price, considering the low yields;
  • - where the majority of the profit goes to the vine-grower,
  • - mainly sold through the Internet or by distributors who support this project and will work with reasonable margins;
  • - Providing clear and honest information to the wine enthusiast.

In 2004 three vine-growers joined the program and provided part, if not all their production. One was an old member from a local cooperative who, with his wife, contributed 6 hectares (14.8 acres). And the other two are vine-growers who recently established their own winery but whose wine-making facilities don't allow them to process their entire harvest. Hervé Bizeul and his team provided them with the technical support needed to properly tend their vineyards, using the AOC regulations as guideline.

The system is based on trust, each participant understanding their craft and taking their own responsibilities; barely needing Herve’s team to intervene. The date and method of harvesting as well as the wine making process were decided by Hervé Bizeul, with the help of one of today’s best wine expert Athanase Fakorellis, who worked unpaid on the project.

In the autumn of 2004 and 2005, the first vinifications took place in an old cellar, in the heart of the little village of Vingrau, in large hundred years old concrete vats, with limited technology but with a lot of thinking, patience, care, if not to say, love. The result was a delicious 2004, highly praised in the Revue du Vin de France, June 2004 issue, sold-out now, and then a delicious 2005.

2007 Hervé Bizeul & Associés "Walden" Côtes du Roussillon Rouge
Suggested retail price$15-$17
Imported/Distributed by Christian Dalbavie Selection via Domaine Select in NYC

Although under the supervision of Herve Bizeul, also produced and bottled by him and his associates in Vingrau, “Walden” is a project aside of “Clos des Fées” to wish it is too often associated. Named in homage to Thoreau, this excellent Cotes du Roussillon value wine is the fruit of hard work and devotion to the cause of helping local growers, from a group of persons who put their love for the region and their savoir-faire together to craft an affordable, accessible and surely one the best example of what Roussillon has to offer in this price range.

The different grapes varieties for this wine came from old vines planted on both deep and surface soils of mainly clayey limestone, schist and granite composition. The wine underwent pre-fermentary cold maceration in concrete tanks, with daily pumping-over and was then aged for 8 months in stainless steel tanks on fine lees.

A blend of 30% Carignan Noir, 30% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, the 2007 Walden Côtes du Roussillon Rouge possesses a deep, concentrated ruby color. The nose displays attractive aromas of juicy blackberry, cassis, raspberry and black pepper, with earthy hints of Roussillon Terroir, Garrigues violet and purple flowers. The palate is very balanced, crisp, fresh and crunchy with very good acidity that carries and put into focus the freshly crushed red and dark berry flavors. The finish is really inviting and Terroir driven with vibrant berry flavors and spicy, earth notes. A delicious, lively and youthful red wine that will complement pretty much all grilled meats and Mediterranean dishes served with grilled or stewed vegetables, around a table, on top of a hill or not too far from the Sea, protected from the cold Tramontane by a bonfire on pretty much any night of the year, appropriated for immediate consumption despite that fact that it has the guts and profile to support and benefit from a bit of bottle ageing.

In short and to resume, these 4 wines were extremely good and highly recommended. I hope one day to have the chance to go back to Roussillon to visit Hervé Bizeul and have walk with him in his vineyards to fully comprehend and still be amazed by how, when climatic conditions, ideal soil composition and human perseverance and savoir-faire meet, such fantastic results can be achieved. One day, I would love to do the same, making great wines. Merci Hervé pour tes vins!


LeDom du Vin

Most info partly taken and edited from the distributor website at www.domaineselect.com/ and both wineries, respectively at www.closdesfees.com/ and http://www.walden.fr/

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Domaine Jean-Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy & 2004 Jean-Marc Morey Chassagne Rouge "Champs Gains”

Domaine Jean-Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy France

HISTORY: The Morey family is an extensive one with deep roots in the village of Chassagne Montrachet. Jean-Marc Morey created his own Domaine in 1981 upon the retirement of his father Albert, who, at that point, divided his estate between his two sons (Jean-Marc and Bernard, his brother). Albert Morey was one of the first in Chassagne to bottle his own wines, beginning that tradition in 1950.

Drawing upon the rich experience he obtained while working with his father, Jean-Marc has developed a very personal style that reflects a deep commitment to the concept of "Terroir" and eschews the facility and homogeneity that characterizes many "modern" renditions of Burgundy (both red and white).

Neal Rosenthal and consequently his company, Madrose, have had the pleasure of representing the wines of Jean-Marc Morey since the 1994 vintage.

COMPSITION OF DOMAINE: Rather than splitting individual vineyard plots in half, the brothers decided to divide the holdings among the different appellations. In that way, the already small holdings were not fragmented further, as is common in Burgundy.

Jean-Marc possesses about 8.25 hectares of vineyards spread over the villages of Chassagne, St. Aubin, Santenay, and Beaune. Production is fairly evenly divided between white and red wine. The average age of the vines is over 35 years.

Chardonnay yields average around 48 hl/ha; Pinot Noir yields are much lower, frequently coming in between 30 and 40 hl/ha. Jean-Marc does not believe in using the "green harvest" to control crop size, which usually consists of removing the tiny, immature grapes while they are still green. He prefers to control production very early in the season by removing excess buds at the moment before the vine expends its energy producing surplus flowers and clusters.

VINEYARDS: From the southern part of his holdings, Morey produces the great red Santenay 1er Cru "Grand Clos Rousseau", the classic Santenay Rouge "Comme Dessus" as well as a small amount of Santenay Blanc "Les Cornières".

The bulk of his holdings are in Chassagne which enables him to produce a stunning array of whites that includes separately vinified and bottled wines from the lieu-dits of "Chaumées", "Champs Gains", "Caillerets", and "Chenevottes", along with his village wine; in red, he produces the fine 1er Cru from the "Champs Gains" vineyard.

As one turns the corner to St. Aubin, Morey exploits the lovely 1er Cru vineyard of "Charmois" to produce a white of character and great value. Finally, from his beautifully situated plot in Beaune, he presents the elegant and complex red, Beaune 1er Cru "Greves".

To further enhance the domaine's offerings, Jean-Marc also collaborates with his in-laws whose holdings in Meursault and Pommard enable him to produce Meursaults from the "Grands Charrons" and "Meix Chaveaux" vineyards and Pommards from the "Levrières" vineyard as well as the 1er Cru "Arvelets".

The daughter of Jean-Marc Morey, Caroline, happens to be the wife of Pierre-Yves Colin(-Morey), himself the son of Marc Colin, which add even more wines produces by the different members of the Morey family.

(Picture of Jean-Marc Morey and his daughter Caroline in their cellar, courtesy of http://www.loegismose.dk)

In sum, Jean-Marc Morey provides “Rosenthal Wine Merchant” with one of its most impressive and important suppliers in the Cote d'Or with a range of wines that is particularly suited to love affair with "Terroir".

METHOD OF VINIFICATION: Jean-Marc Morey favors traditional vinification methods. He uses only wild yeast.

  • For his white wines, the juice goes straight from the press into barrel for fermentation. With the gentler pneumatic press, he does not need to let the must decant to remove excessive particulate matter before fermentation. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees and benefits from bâtonnage during its aging. His Pinot Noir is destemmed before going into cement tanks for fermentation and maceration.
  • The red wines are also allowed to age on their lees while aging in barrel, adding complexity and roundness to the wine. Only about one quarter new oak is used. For Jean-Marc Morey oak is a necessary part of the "elevage" but it is an element that should never overwhelm the fruit or the "terroir". The wines are bottled the year following their harvest to preserve the freshness and purity of the fruit and to prevent the wood from drying them out and influence texture and structure.

CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET: Rather known for its whites counting for two third of the Appellation’s production, Chassagne-Montrachet also produces delicious reds made out of Pinot Noir, which are produced primarily in the southern part of the commune, in the direction of Santenay; the whites being mainly produced toward the east and the northeast between the communes of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, where the chalky soil contains more limestone than clay, which add more minerality and character to the whites.

There are three Grand Cru vineyards within Chassagne-Montrachet, with Montrachet being the most well known, and 50 Premier Cru vineyards.

In addition, there are 50 “climats” in Chassagne-Montrachet classified as Premier Cru vineyards, located both to the south of the village, in the Santenay direction, and to the north, in the Puligny-Montrachet direction. Their wines are designated “Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru” + the vineyard name, such as “Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Champs-Gains”, or may labeled just “Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru”, in which case it is possible to blend wine from several Premier Cru vineyards within the AOC.

However, in my opinion, the red wines from Chassagne-Montrachet really deserve a bit more attention than most amateurs and connoisseurs are willing to give. A good reason to write a little post about the following one that I recently discovered.

2004 Jean-Marc Morey Chassagne Rouge "Champs Gains” Côte de Beaune Bourgogne France
Suggested retail price $32-$36
Imported and distributed by Rosenthal Wine Merchant / Madrose in NYC

Situated in the south of the Côte de Beaune, Chassagne Montrachet is one of the 5 villages of the prestigious «Côte de Blancs». Facing east and southeast, white Premier Cru soils are mainly made of brown clay and limestone. Chassagne Montrachet produces 70 hectares of Premiers Crus.

The east-facing “Champs Gains” vineyard lies immediately south of the village of Chassagne-Montrachet, bordering the other 1er Cru “En Cailleret” also known as "Les Caillerets". At an altitude varying from 250 to 350 m, it benefits from exposures ranging from East to South and Southwest.

Any wine made from this particular vineyard site, red wines from Pinot Noir and white wines from Chardonnay, may be labeled either as Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, or with the vineyard's own name.

“Les Champs Gain”, also spelled “Les Champs-Gains” depending of the producer, is a “climat” 1er Cru of Chassagne-Montrachet, not to be mistaken with the Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru “Champ Gain”. And for the reference, because we are in the middle of the subject, it also exists a 1er Cru of Chassagne called “En Cailleret”, that should neither be mistaken for the 1er Cru of Puligny called “Le Cailleret”.

However, to be ever more confusing and as far as I know, the spelling with the “s” at the end or the addition of a pronoun don’t seem to necessarily obey any rules. Producers can write whatever they want on the label, which is quite strange knowing how strict the administration ruling the AOC French system can be. Therefore, do not be surprise if you encounter differences like “Caillerets” or “Cailleret” with or without a pronoun, or even “Champ Gain” or “Les Champs Gain” or “Champs Gains” with or without the pronoun.

From a traditional producer who likes natural methods and uses only wild yeasts with utmost respect for the environment and classic burgundy style, and crafted from 30+ years old vines,
2004 Jean-Marc Morey Chassagne Rouge "Champs Gains” has a pale, garnet color with bright red reflects. The expressive nose boasts classic Burgundian Pinot noir aromas of ripe red cherry and fresh red berry intermingled with lovely floral, mineral and earthy notes, with hints underbrush, forest floor and game reflecting of a bit of age (secondary and tertiary aromas). The palate is really good, balanced, earthy, slightly smoky and spicy, with slightly restraint acidity and a good grip of tannins. The expanding mid-palate is very focus, bright and crisp, with flavors of a bowl of fresh mixed red berries, cherry and raspberry, plunging nicely toward the lingering, earthy, slightly mineral finish with underbrush, mushroomy nuances.

Overall, an excellent wine, which does not have the ripeness of the 2003 vintage or the complexity of the 2005 vintage or not even the focus and balance and harmony of the 2006 vintage (which is surely one of my favorite of last decade with 2002); yet, it is well crafted and pretty enjoyable. A certain rawness of the components makes me think that this wine didn’t have any fining or filtration.

Well, it is not surprising, when you know that Jean-Marc, who is also one of the first to harvest his grapes in September to keep maximum freshness and fruit character, likes to use natural methods and remain a bit old fashioned in his way of making wine and maintaining his cellar. Let’s say, he is one of these traditional winemakers, but for our sake, I hope that he will continue like that, because his wines are rather good compared to many other of his neighbors. In short, you can taste the integrity and the bonhomie of the man in his wines, and those are the signs of a good winemaker reflected in his vines and wines.


LeDom du Vin

Info about the winery and producer before final description mostly taken and partly edited from the Importer/Distributor at http://www.madrose.com/moreyprint.html

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2009 Buil & Giné “Nosis” Verdejo Rueda Castilla y León Spain

2009 Buil & Giné “Nosis” Verdejo Rueda Castilla y León Spain

Although this wine called “Nosis” is from Rueda, it seems that the adventure of the Buil & Giné debuted in the south of Catalonia during the Winter of 1996, when the family decided to go back to wine elaboration in the Priorat region.

Before winemaking strikes back, the Buil & Giné family has been, until fairly recently, active in the food retail business. Before that, both their grand and great-grand parents had been wine makers and merchants. Making wine was only a logical mix of suites and decisions that were bound to resurface.

Bringing this tradition back to life, the present generation is dedicated to growing grapes and producing wine in both local southern Catalonian “Denominación de Origen” (DO): Priorat and Tarragona-Falset.

This dream started to materialize during the Spring of 1998 when they introduced their first wine, “Giné Giné” 1997. The name of this first wine consists of the grandfather last name repeated twice, because he was both a wine grower and the President of the Cooperativa Agrícola Falsetenca, elected twice for the quality of his work.

Obviously, ambition and opportunities, lead them to expand their business to other regions, because, outside of Priorat and Monsant, they also now produce wines from Toro and Rueda, which, for the latter, we will concentrate on for the post of today.

Rueda is a Spanish wine Denominación de Origen (DO) located in the “Castilla y León”, centered around the town of Rueda, in the province of Valladolid about 170 km northwest of Madrid. Rueda represents a flat high plain at an altitude of between 600 and 780 m above sea level, where the Duero river flows through the area from east to west.

With traces in History going back to the 11th century, like most European regions under Christian rules, where monks produced wines for the mess and the ruler of the lands, Rueda has been a wine region for a long time. Through out history and especially around the beginning of the 20th century, it appears that Rueda was producing, amongst other whites, sherry-like wines from the Palomino grape, but for the most part Rueda has always been the land of Verdejo.

Between roughly 1860 and mid 1930, while the Phylloxera louse destroyed over two thirds of the vineyards in most European countries, it also came to Rueda where it was the most devastator between 1890 and 1922.

After what, vineyards were slowly replanted by grafting vines shouts onto louse resistant New World rootstock(s) coming from America, paradoxically the country where the bug originally came from.

However, new grape varieties were selected and grafted according to productivity criteria rather than quality ones and for many years the wine produced in Rueda was sold in bulk (like in many other places across Europe between World War I and the end of 1960’s, when you really think about it). Sauvignon Blanc, Viura and Palomino Fino were planted at that time, nowadays continue to actively share the region alongside the king Verdejo.

The idea of creating a DO was first raised in 1935 but it was not until 1972 that major investment by the Rioja winery, Marqués de Riscal, signaled the start of a second era of quality wine production, again based on the Verdejo variety. Official DO status was acquired in 1980.

The Verdejo grape, grown here for centuries, experienced a great renaissance by the 1990 when it was found again to create enjoyable and approachable dry, refreshing white wine. The Verdejo variety currently occupies more than half the vineyards in the region of Rueda. It is vigorous and rustic, showing its true splendor when vinified around 13 degrees of alcohol.

Today, Rueda is second only to Rias Baixas in reputation for white wine production in Spain and generally around the world in Spanish wine retail sales. The climate, soil and winemaking tradition along with affordable pricing have generated a renewed interest in the area, and consequently its wines.

The climate of Rueda is one of the coldest parts of Spain in the wintertime and one of the warmest in the summer. The result is a long dormancy for the vines and then quick ripening so the grapes have an optimum balance of fruit and acidity, resulting in fresh and cleansing whites with Sauvignon Blanc-like attitude and character. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to often hear that Verdejo is the Sauvignon Blanc of Spain.

2009 Buil & Giné “Nosis” Verdejo Rueda Castilla y León Spain
Suggested retail price $13-$16
Distributed by David Bowler in NYC

Made of 100% Verdejo grapes manually harvested from “Fuente la Miel”, a 35 years old Verdejo vineyard near the town of La Seca, in the Valladolid province, where vines are planted on terraces overlooking the Duero River, with sandy-rocky soil above clay subsoil, this exquisite Verdejo from Rueda offers captivating nose, boasting delicate vegetative aromas, anise and hay. It was fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks after it underwent a criomaceration at 8º Celcius to extract maximum fruit aromas and flavors. On the palate, it is clean, juicy, fresh and vibrant with white core fruit and citrus flavors expanding toward a characteristic grassy, slightly bitter, limey finish, enhanced by a good amount of minerality which adds elegance and personality. A classic Verdejo from old vines that delivers agreeable, crisp sensations to pair with white fish from river and sea, but also with chicken and other white meats, along with green salad, goat cheese and a wide array of shellfish.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at http://www.builgine.com/ for the wine and history and partly from the distributor website at http://www.bowlerwine.com/ for the Rueda region.

The rest as always is personal knowledge from various visit in Spain and a lot of reading and analyzing, which are both keys to full comprehension of the wine, its region of origin and the culture and the people that surround it.

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

2009 Aragus Grenache-Syrah Old Vines Campo De Borja Aragon Spain

2009 Aragus Grenache-Syrah Old Vines Campo De Borja Aragon Spain

“Aragus” is one of the numerous labels produced by Bodegas Aragonesas. The Bodega is located in the Campo de Borga Denominación de Origen (DO), in the medieval kingdom of Aragon, with vineyards planted at the foothills of the Iberian Mountain Range, in the northwest of the province of Zaragoza.

It is a transition zone between the plains of the River Ebro and the mountains of the Sistema Ibérico, which includes the foot of the Iberian Mountain Range and the high valley of the Ebro River, two important geographic and topographic factors also shared by neighboring ancient kingdom and wine regions “Navarra” and “La Rioja”.

Although less recognized than its two more regarded neighbors, Campo de Borja, which for the past 5-6 years enjoyed climbing notoriety for producing easy-going and affordable wines even when produced from old vines, is also a privileged and long established area for growing vineyards, both due to the quality of the soil, the ideal climate and the centuries of savoir-faire, where countless inexpensive yet rewarding wines are exponentially produced.

Grenache, or Garnacha, is the predominant grape variety grown in Aragon and more importantly Campo de Borja, producing juicy, earthy and slightly spicy wines with generous amount of ripe dark fruit and versatility to complement a wide array of dishes and gently agreement any occasions. Other grapes like the irreplaceable Tempranillo, but also more international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah often complement Garnacha.

Although you won’t find much info on their website about this particular wine, due to the fact that sometimes, labels may changed depending on the various market they are distributed to, I invite you to visit the winery website to check the different wines that they produce at http://www.bodegasaragonesas.com/

Moreover, I couldn't find or make a good picture of the label, so here is the label of the Garnacha-Cabernet Sauvignon which is about the same and will give you a good idea.

2009 Aragus Grenache-Syrah Old Vines Campo De Borja Aragon Spain
Suggested retail price $6-$8
Distributed by Winebow in NYC

A blend of 85% old vines Garnacha and 15% Syrah, this little wine isn’t the most complex, yet it is pretty enjoyable and easy to drink. Behind its medium dark, ruby color, the nose at first, then the palate, delivers generous ripe juicy red and dark fruit aromas and flavors intermingled with earthy, floral and slightly toasted notes and hints of chocolate. Following a soft, round palate with good balance and medium built between the ripe fruit, the acidity and the present yet fairly integrated tannins; the lingering finish has a good grip with earthy, spicy nuances, which makes this rather inexpensive wine a crowd pleaser and a great everyday red to enjoy at anytime with “charcuterie” based hors-d’oeuvres and grilled and / or BBQ meats.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Wines in retail store: Standing Up or Laying Down bottle?

Dominique Noel (a.k.a. LeDomduVin),
Wine Director at Heights Chateau, Brooklyn Heights, NYC (2010)
©LeDomduVin 2010

Standing Up or Laying Down bottle?

Not because it is the store where I currently work (and have been working for the last nearly 4 years), but "Heights Chateau" is the quintessential "niche wine boutique store": antique library look, elegant boiserie, quaint charm, warm atmosphere, inviting, cosy and full of carefully selected wine and spirits gems (from all around the world) by the knowledgeable and friendly staff, under the leadership and guidance of its friendly, experienced and skilful owner - Matthew Lasorsa.

Both pictures (above and below) show you the charm of this Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood “Alibaba Cavern” and partly reflect the extent of the choices it has to offer, neatly organized on shelves and displays for the pleasure and easy access of our customers. 

As you can see, 1 bottle is shown on display, while the others are laying down in the back of the shelves where they are both protected from the lights and able to rest laying down with the wine touching the cork (the most ideal way to store wines, even the bottles don’t stay long enough on the shelves for their conditions to really be impacted).

Very often, when our customers come to the store and pick up one or more bottles from the shelves, they inadvertently take the first one(s) they see, which, generally and in most case scenarios, end up being the one(s) standing up.

Wine Shelves at Heights Chateau, Brooklyn Heights, NYC 
Photo courtesy of www.yelp.com 

As mentioned above, at Heights Chateau, the bottles are stored on beautiful antique-like library shelves, with one bottle (for display) standing up in front of a few more bottles (about 6-8 bottles), which are (usually) stored vertically (forming a column) with the bottles at the horizontal (lying down on their side) on top of each other (see picture above).

The owner and myself, as the store's manager and wine director, as well as the rest of the staff, are very concerned about the quality of the bottle(s) we buy and sell, how we store them.  However, we are even more concerned about how our customers pick their wine(s) and take it(them) from the shelves. 

Consequently,  unless they don’t have any other choice (as there is only one bottle left standing up), we always recommend them to choose one of the bottles lying down in the back rather than the one standing up (facing them).

And irremediably, my colleagues and I, (nearly every time we do that recommendation), are faced with the same unavoidable question from our customers: "Why? Why can't I buy the bottle standing up?" 

Well, there are surely countless amounts of reasons I could give for you not to buy the bottle standing up, yet, among them, the following 4 ones seem (to me) the most obvious and logical. And these are usually the reasons I give to my customers, when having to choose a bottle of wine in a retail store (whether it is a niche wine boutique store or a supermarket, or anywhere else you buy your wine from for that matter), and explaining why they should avoid taking the one(s) standing up.

Four Reasons not to buy a bottle standing up at your regular wine store: 

A wine Cork's Story by ©LeDomduVin 2018 (v2)

1. Dry cork and Oxidation

The first reason that comes to mind is that the bottles standing up might be affected by "dry cork and oxidation". Due to lack of the inventory's turnover on the shelves and/or, (even worst), if all the bottles on the shelves are standing up (like in a supermarket), and more especially for the bottles that have been corked with a real tree "cork" (and even for the ones that are made out of agglomerate cork to some extend, but not for the synthetic ones (*)), the cork may have dried out (due to lack of contact with the wine inside), and let some air enter the bottle, which may have resulted in some oxidation of the wine in the bottle. 

Once oxidized, a wine is bad and deteriorates rather quickly (especially if the bottle is left standing up), and its color tend to become dull and brownish (for red wines). 

That is the first and main reason why one should always choose to take a bottle from the ones that are laying down rather than from the ones standing up on the shelves.

(*) Screw-tap and plastic-like-synthetic corked bottles are usually less or rarely exposed to this kind of problem, but there again, it may happen, especially with bad or loose screw-tap caps.

Corked and Upstanding Bottles by ©LeDomduVin 2019 (v2)

A little tip: 

Always pour yourself a little taste of the wine prior filling up the rest of the glasses (the ones of your company and/or guests), as if you happen to have a bottle that you believe is oxidized or corked after tasting the first sip, do not serve it and discreetly put it aside...

(that way you will prevent anyone from making any embarrassing comments and consequently save your face at the same time, and will continue to enjoy a dinner that will have surely turned a little sour and annoying otherwise...) 

...then, immediately put the cork back and bring the bottle back to the store (where you bought it from) with what is left of wine in the bottle. 

Do not pour  the wine out in the sink (like most people do), as you might still have a chance to get your money back or get to choose another bottle as a replacement of the bad one (obviously that entirely depends of the type of store and store management you will face... you might need a tiny bit of luck too). 

One of the following scenarios will occur:

A.   You've only poured and took a sip for yourself to taste first, and the bottle is about 95% full, which is good (and will surely work on your favor when at the store explaining the situation) 

B.    You've poured a few glasses already, but they have not been touched yet... you're in luck, just pour the content of the glasses back into the bottle, put the cork back, then bring the bottle back to the store (the person at the store does not need to know you've poured the untouched wine back in the bottle, remain impassive and/or evasive on that part) 

C.    You've poured a few glasses already, and people started to taste the wine a little.... bad luck (sh*t), then forget about it, just put back the cork on the bottle as it is, probably only 40-50% of the wine left in the bottle, yet you might still have a chance... it ain't over til it's over... 

D.    You've poured the whole bottle and the glasses have long been emptied (and maybe no one but you noticed the fault...).... well, your loss... and don't push your luck mate... coz, bringing the empty bottle to the store and try to convince the store manager the bottle was oxidized or corked won't get you far.... 😊     

However, whether A, B or C (Shh.... not D we told you... ), just remember that the store needs the bottle, the cork (if possible) and (more importantly) the wine inside in order to taste it, to agree or disagree (that the wine is faulty or not), and if agreed to let you choose another bottle at the same or similar price and/or refund you (depending on their policy and also the understanding and kindness of the store manager). They also need the bottle with the wine inside for them to make, in turn, a claim and try to get the bottle replaced or a get a credit back from their suppliers/distributors.

The store should normally exchange it for a new one or another wine of your choice at the same or similar price (if they are nice and if they want to keep your business... at least that is what I do). That say, as a wine being oxidized doesn’t happen too often, and being corked either, that is if your local wine shop is doing the right thing and if you have the right customer profile (in their eyes)... Otherwise, forget about it, most stores management and/or policy will totally ignore your request and probably won't even acknowledge you. 

The Daily Life of a Bottle of Wine on Display by ©LeDomduVin 2019

2. The life of a wine bottle on display: Grabbed, checked, shaken, put back, repeat

The second reason is that the standing up bottles on the shelves, (usually the ones on display to identify the other bottles lying in the back), are always the ones that people grab, check, shake and (too often) put back without buying it, and with no consideration whatsoever for the poor wine all shaken inside the bottle. Wine doesn’t like to be shaken. Do you?

Wine Under Bright Lights by ©LeDomduVin 2019

3. Under the bright lights

The third reason is that the standing up bottles (especially the ones on display) are always the ones which receive the most light, usually the lights from inside the store (generally cheap neon fixtures glaring from the ceiling), but also from outside the store, like the sun light (yet, and obviously, that entirely depends on the store plan configuration and how large and close to the wine shelves the store's windows are... duh....).

Light usually discolors the wine. It fades or dulls the color of the wine, which may becomes lighter at first than may darken into a dullish-brownish color. In parallel, light may also affect the aging of the wine too (aging or reaching its peak prematurely) (**).

  • For the young and light whites: the color might go from light yellow-greenish hue to becomes
  • For the older and heavier whites: the color will evolve from pale and/or deeper yellow, to darker yellow-brownish
  • For the reds: the color will turn from purplish-ruby red-crimson red to a dull brownish brick color (in general)   

Among other places, (and don't get me started on supermarket's ultra-bright and harmful neon lights), rare are the wine stores that have the appropriate LED lighting and proper light orientation to make it less harmful for the wines. In fact, it is quite intriguing and enervating (and fascinating in a weird way) to see bottles on display under direct bright lights in most (supposedly fancy and reputed) wine store... (like if they did not know... unbelievable).... 

And (fortunately), that is the main reason why wine (in general), and more especially red wine, which often needs a minimum of time to age in the bottle, always come in darker colored bottles (green, dark green, brown, amber or even black), to filter the light and more especially some of the harmful UV rays, and thus prevent the light from discoloring and damaging the wine in the bottle.

It might not matter much for wines made for immediate consumption, which are usually inexpensive enough to have a good turnover and thus move faster from the shelves. Like young white and rosé wines, for example, which (usually) come in transparent or lighter colored bottles for color identification purposes (and maybe for aesthetic purposes too).

Yet, it definitely matters for top tier, expensive and high quality wines (more especially reds, but also some whites), which usually come in darker colored bottles protecting them from the light, as they usually need more aging time in the bottle.

(**) I have also read that light, among other faults, may also cause oxidation in the wine. I definitely agree for the faults that might include side effects and changes in the wine chemical composition/reaction due to the degradation of the color and pigmentation/sedimentation/residues/ components of the wine, harmed by the UV rays of the light. However, I have doubts regarding the "oxidation" of the wine by the light, as oxidation usually occurs via/through air contact, and air cannot pass through glass, as glass is impermeable to gases and liquids and is nonporous (meaning that light can pass through it but not air, nor gas or liquid). 

Color and Sediments A Soap Opera for the old, rich and famous by ©LeDomduVin 2019

4. Older wine's sediments and color pigments falling down and settling at the bottom of the bottle

The fourth reason is that, as the wine gets older in the bottle, the sedimentation naturally occurs and thus sediments form inside the bottle as the wine ages and matures (***). These sediments consist of a combination or mixture of micro-particles, composed of debris of solid matter, as well as color pigments and other wine component's residues in suspension. 

If the bottle is left standing up and the suspension is left undisturbed, these micro-particles, color pigments and other residues, will gradually fall towards and likely settle at the bottom of the bottle (in the punt). 

Understandably, if the bottle is left standing up, and more especially if it is an older wine/vintage, all the sedimentation will fall down at the bottom of the bottle, and as a consequence (and due to the fragility of older wines), the consistency of the color, but also the taste (of the wine of this particular bottle) will be irrevocably disturbed/changed. The color of the wine will fade gradually from the upper part of the bottle (logically being more concentrated at the bottom than the top) and the wine will taste slightly dull and unbalanced, lacking of focus in aromas and flavors.

I never repeat it enough, but it is really, really important to keep these old ladies at an horizontal position (meaning on their side, and not standing up) for the sedimentation (or the sediments if you prefer) to rest at the bottom along the side of the bottle. That way, the sediments remain in contact with most of the wine contained in the bottle allowing it to keep its color and taste consistency.

(***) Sedimentation usually occurs for most wines (yes, even whites), and more especially the wines that did not undergo any "soutirage" (racking), nor "collage" (fining) or filtration during the vinification, the aging in stainless still vats or wooden barrels and/or prior bottling.

"Le Domaine du Vin" by LeDomduVin, NYC Boutique store style, by ©LeDomduVin 2017

 5. Conclusion

In short, and for these 4 main reasons above, while shopping and browsing around for some good bottles of "JaJa" (a synonym of "wine") at your local wine boutique store (like at Heights Chateau), you should always choose the bottles laying down rather than the ones standing up.

That is also the reason why, in my honest opinion, one should always favor the recommendations and prone the quality of the eclectic choices (the wine selection) of a local wine boutique store (a "Caviste" as we say in French), rather than looking bewildered and irritated when facing the endless and usually “staff-less” aisles of a supermarket, which will (usually) offer a lot of choices, more especially in terms of low quality and prices, but will definitely lack the uniqueness and precision of the wine selection, the knowledgeable advises and the quality of the services, as well as the more intimate and personable experience a wine boutique store usually provides.(****)

Remember, that, unless the bottle standing up (that you are about to grab) is the last remaining bottle of the wine you really want in the store, and you don’t have any other choice, and you want it so badly, that, no matter what, you will take it anyway..... then, it is the bottle laying down that you would want and should take, not the one standing up

PS: in fact, leave the standing up ones for those who do not know better, don't care, don't want to listen and/or will not believe you even if you tell them anyway....


(****) Matthew La Sorsa, owner of Heights Chateau, if you ever read this article, thank you for everything you taught me about wines and how to manage a retail store and for the opportunity you gave me to be the wine director and manager of your beautiful and characteristic wine boutique store in Brooklyn Heights (NYC) back then, for nearly 4 years (between October 2007 and July 2011). Thank you. The drawing above was inspired by the façade of your store. 😊


LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

All illustrations and pictures and other materials used in LeDomduVin blog and other relative LeDomduVin sites and/or social medias/networks are subject to copyrights ©LeDomduVin

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Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.