Reboule du Rhone, second edition

The Reboule du Rhone is back for a second edition! The event last year feted winemakers and wines from the Northern Rhone with dinners and tastings, raising over $300,000 for the charity No Kid Hungry. Above is a quick montage of scenes from last year.

This year’s encore edition will include a series of singular dinners, November 15-17. The first dinner (at a private residence 50 floors up) highlights “legendary” vintages of the last 50 years, the second dinner has a focus on the “kings of Cornas,” and the third is a BYOB extravaganza. For those looking for a more budget-friendly event, it’s hard to outdo the value of walk-around tasting at 1 PM Saturday the 17th. Winemakers and leading sommeliers will pour over 100 wines from the region.

The event is the brainchild of Thomas Pastuszak and Dustin Wilson. Profits go entirely to No Kid Hungry.

List of winemakers after the jump.

FRANCK BALTHAZAR
MATTHIEU BARRET
JULIEN CECILLON
AURELIEN CHATAGNIER
OLIVIER CLAPE
ANTOINE GRAILLOT
GUILLAUME MONIER
VINCENT PARIS
ANDRE PERRET
DAVID REYNAUD
JEAN-BAPTISTE SOUILLARD
CHRISTINE VERNAY & PAUL AMSELLEM

Related: Reboule du Rhone site
Reboule du Rhone [Dr. Vino]

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Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews)

For the most recent batch of wine product sample roundup articles, I’ve been focusing on reducing the pile of wine book sample copies currently littering the floor of my home office. And so for March, I am slowly whittling away at said pile by offering up two more hardcover tomes for your vinous reading consideration. You still read books, right?

image: amazon.com

Firstly, we have French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips (University of California Press, 319 pages, about $30). That’s an unassuming title for a book with such an ambitious scope. Actually, its scope is bordering on insanity. Beginning from roughly 2500 years ago, Ottawa-based historian Phillips carves up the topical elephant into almost-digestible-sized time period chunks: the period before 1000 CE, the Middle Ages, through to the Enlightenment, the onset of the World Wars, etc. I say “almost” digestible because even each of those chapters is sizeable in terms of the rich historical content and context of the topic (remember, wine involves chemistry, historical events, economics, farming….).

The ground zero / linchpin moment of French Wine if there is one, after which all is forever changed, seems to be the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s. Like the rootstocks of its precious vines, nothing in the French wine world was ever quite the same after the country’s vineyards were decimated by that little louse.

All of this is told in dense, matter-of-fact prose, but Phillips isn’t afraid to call out others’ opinions (even somewhat challenging the venerable Hugh Johnson at one point). It’s not a fast or particularly easy read, but ultimately a worthwhile one. And its conclusion is appropriately bittersweet: France is growing fewer grape vines, producing fewer bottles, and drinking less wine than in its historical apexes, and yet the standard-bearer wines (in terms of quality and prices) are still at the top of the global game; and while we may be seeing a dip overall, the country’s vinous development has been anything but uniform, as French Wine dutifully shows us…

Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews)

image: amazon.com

Secondly, there’s Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine by Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino (also University of California Press, who presumably enjoy sending me sample books; 360 pages, about $39).

I have a few reservations about this book, though I suspect in time I will soften on those, considering that partners Nesto and Di Savino have crafted the most complete Chianti overview that has probably ever existed. Chianti Classico is part Chianti history class, part overview of the modern region/geography/winemaking, part review of some of its key and autherntically-minded producers, and part love letter to central Tuscany. This is a narrative that is ultimately scholarly, and quite informative.

But… it’s also a narrative that lacks a sense of cohesion. The style of prose is almost quaint, as if it came from an older time, in a charming way. That will endear Chianti Classico to some readers, and probably turn off others. And the price isn’t exactly on the cheap side. Having said all of that, it’s also a book that doesn’t have to be consumed linearly; and given its depth (history, geography, kick-ass ancient maps, etc.), it’s likely also one that can be consulted many, many times in the future.

Cheers!

Grab The 1WineDude.com Tasting Guide and start getting more out of every glass of wine today!

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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Through The Past, Scholarly (March 2018 Wine Product Reviews) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Hail strikes Burgundy and Beaujolais — again

Climate change is a bitch. Severe weather events have roiled wine growing areas with depressing regularity in recent years. Burgundy seems to be on the forefront of this plagued by floods, hail storms, late frosts and other events that have reduced (or in some places even eliminated) the crop.

Jeremy Seysses, owner and winemaker at Domaine Dujac, posted the above photo to instagram along with this description.

Yesterday night, 10th July, brought heartbreak in the form of hail. Of our vineyards, the top of the hill of Morey was hit hardest, Monts Luisants worst, probably 30-40% damage; Clos St Denis and Clos de la Roche next, then Combottes. Bonnes Mares had minor damage. The rest of the domaine seems ok. The leaves like they were put through a shredder. The fruit is pummeled. The shoots battered. We’ll still make some wine, though!

There was also severe weather in Beaujolais for the second year in a row…gah! I feel sorry for the vignerons who try to make a living in this increasingly unpredictable endeavor.

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Vote Emmanuel Macron! A blind tasting

The French presidential election is heating up. Polls show Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 by 62-38 (yes, polls have been deceiving ahead of recent elections but this is a big margin).

We are single-issue voters around here and that issue is wine! Actually, that’s not true but we will roll with it. Recent French presidents have hovered at or near zero when it comes to passion for wine. Jacques Chirac’s tipple of choice was reportedly Corona. Nicolas Sarkozy famously didn’t even like wine. Current president Francois Hollande sell off a chunk of the presidential wine cellar–but he also canceled a lunch with the Iranian president after the guest insisted no wine be served.

Macron, a former minister of Finance who is a mere 39 years old, exhibits some wine savvy. Although he was raised in Picardy, not a region known for wine growing, he says that his grandparents told him that red wine was “guilt-free” since it is an antioxidant.

The journalists from Terre de Vins and Sud-Ouest conducted a wide-ranging interview about wine. Among other things, Macron admitted that a meal without wine would be “a little bit sad because wine is a part of the French table…our civilization.” He even talks about the pleasure of food-wine pairings! It may not seem like it since you’d expect all French presidents to support wine. But these are kind of fighting words right now as the rate of wine consumption has been in decline and the health crowd that takes a dim view of wine has been ascendant in policy circles.

Macron then submitted himself to a blind tasting with the journalists! (Video above) Can you imagine a leading presidential candidate doing that here? Usually they run away from it, heading toward beer, if anything. And a blind tasting? That’s high-risk stuff for anyone!

But Macron comports himself amazingly well, showing a breadth of knowledge (even though he did offer that the likes Miraval rosé, which comes from the estate of erstwhile Brangelina) as well as taste preferences (says he doesn’t like high-acid whites). He correctly guessed both a Bordeaux blanc and a Coteaux de Provence by region, and even the red he guessed as a Bordeaux but was off by a few appellation (trust me, it’s easy to make mistakes…). I’m sure he will pour some fun wines at the Elysée Palace over the next five years.

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Clos Rougeard sold to billionaire

“Winery X, in family for generations, sold to billionaire” is a headline that would normally barely raise an eyebrow. But the winery in today’s news is Clos Rougeard from the Loire.

Located in Saumur, Clos Rougeard is the Bentley of the Loire. The wines, almost all red, are expensive, rare and of exceptional quality–the kind of wines that can turn haters of cabernet franc into ambassadors. (search for Clos Rougeard at retail)
The 27-acre estate was owned by the Foucault brothers Bernard (a.k.a. Nady) and Jean-Louis (known as Charly). They were the eighth generation to run the estate and made it a pioneer of organic viticulture in the area as well as hands-off winemaking.

After Charly’s death in 2015, La Revue de Vin de France reports, the family resolved to sell the domaine. The buyer is Martin Bouygues, French telecom billionaire and 481st richest person in the world.

In a way it is kind of surprising that a billionaire is attracted to the Loire, which is generally a region that favors low-key wines and hasn’t attracted big fortunes to be tossed around since the day of Francois I. Perhaps that is changing? Doubtful. Clos Rougeard is arguably the pearl of the Loire, now snatched up as bauble for a billionaire. But at least he is discerning! And the estate doubtless cost less than one in Musigny.

LARVF doesn’t report on changes the wine making.

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2016 Champagne Harvest

The Champagne harvest is complete for 2016! The grapes have all been picked by hand and are now bubbling away in their fermentation vessels! Learn about the laborious and extraordinary process of harvesting in Champagne below.

(Below: The youngest member of Champagne Redon helping with harvest and the cutest harvest picture ever!)

HAND-PICKED

All of our growers hand-pick their grapes each harvest season. Bunches of grapes are snipped directly from the vine using secateurs (small pruning clippers), then placed in buckets and baskets that are transported to each family’s press.

Although the process is extremely laborious and requires a lot of people, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

PRESSING

Once the grapes arrive at each family’s cuverie, they are weighed and measured into the press. Many of our growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each press, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction. 
2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

PRIMARY FERMENTATION

After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

Bryan will be headed back to Champagne in January to taste the freshly fermented wines. We can’t wait to see what’s bubbling up!

2016 Champagne Harvest

 

 

UNESCO recognizes Burgundy’s “climats” and Champagne’s hills

UNESCO_burgundy

UNESCO added wine regions to their list of World Heritage sites at Saturday’s meeting in Bonn. The 1,247 “climats” of Burgundy as well as the Champagne hillsides received official recognition as cultural sites.

UNESCO_burgundy_2Campaigns in each French region supported the bids as well as the French government since UN member states are limited in nominating sites in their own boundaries. Burgundy’s campaign video appears below (in English) with more details on their site. Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti led the campaign for Burgundy’s inclusion; above he is congratulated after the vote in favor.

The vineyards in the regions now receive an extra level of protection from future development and they qualify for additional financial aid for preservation and may get a fillip from additional tourism. A new Cité des Vins is slated to open next year in Beaune with the aim of welcoming 90,000 tourists. What do you think: will this make you want to visit more? I was pretty much sold at the word Burgundy…

St. Emilion in Bordeaux received World Heritage status in 1999, the Mosel in 2002, and Barolo and Barbaresco were recognized last year. There are 1,031 sites now on the list.

From UNESCO:

Climats, terroirs of Burgundy
The climates are precisely delimited vineyard parcels on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune south of the city of Dijon. They differ from one another due to specific natural conditions (geology and exposure) as well as vine types and have been shaped by human cultivation. Over time they came to be recognized by the wine they produce. This cultural landscape consists of two parts. Firstly, the vineyards and associated production units including villages and the town of Beaune, which together represent the commercial dimension of the production system. The second part includes the historic centre of Dijon, which embodies the political regulatory impetus that gave birth to the climats system. The site is an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the High Middle Ages.

Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars
The property encompasses sites where the method of producing sparkling wines was developed on the principle of secondary fermentation in the bottle since the early 17th century to its early industrialization in the 19th century. The property is made up of three distinct ensembles: the historic vineyards of Hautvilliers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims, and the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol in Epernay. These three components – the supply basin formed by the historic hillsides, the production sites (with their underground cellars) and the sales and distribution centres (the Champagne Houses) – illustrate the entire champagne production process. The property bears clear testimony to the development of a very specialized artisan activity that has become an agro-industrial enterprise.

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Things heating up in Europe

europe_heat_wave
Things are heating up in Europe–not just in Greece. A searing heatwave has the continent in its grasp.

Burgundy, which is known for producing wines more winsome than boxum, will have four days in the 100s (39C+) this week–and the balance in the 90s. Yikes. Searing temperatures are expected in Bordeaux, Barolo, Brunello and Britain as well to name a few places starting with “B.”

Generally, grape vines don’t like excessive heat. The later in the grapes’ ripening process the heat wave comes, the more difficult it can be to manage. This pamphlet (pdf) from Australia–no stranger to heat waves with a monster one in 2009 that pushed temperatures up over 100 for 14 days–states that the main effects are a loss of crop and reduction of quality. Mitigation strategies include irrigating vineyards during heatwaves, which may be an option in Barossa but not in Burgundy.

The last heat wave that had in impact on French wine was 2003, which was the hottest summer since 1540. The wines from that vintage got a lukewarm reception initially (except for the shootout at the St. Emilion Corral over the Pavie 2003) and they have aged poorly. Sadly, the 2003 heat wave also accounted for tens of thousands of deaths across France. Fortunately, that isn’t likely to be the case this time around.

Sadly, such hot summers in Europe are likely to become more frequent, even “commonplace” by the 2040s. In a study released last year, researchers from the Met Office, Britain’s weather service, predicted that once every five years Europe will have “a very hot summer.”

While it is too soon to tell how the 2015 vintage will work out, the vines will be under heat stress the next few days. Bonne chance.

burgundy_heat_wave

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China’s vineyard area vaults past France

vineyard_area
More acres of grapes are now in China than France. The total vineyard area in China is 1.97 million acres (799,000 hectares) according to new stats presented yesterday in Paris by the OIV, the International Office of Vine and Wine.

Although vineyard area includes grapes for both winemaking (what we’re interested in) and table grapes (those can be good too), the rise of plantings in China over the past 14 years is staggering. Vineyard area in the EU is part of the Common Market Program and is governed by EU agricultural policy, which has been moving to reduce marginal vineyards through a policy known as “grubbing up” and limiting new plantings through a zero-sum formula of planting rights. Unhindered by such policies and with wine consumption rising, China’s vineyards were bound to overtake key EU countries one day. So far, however, it is in quantity only. Oh, this headline caught my eye the other day: “The head of China’s biggest wine brand admits its wines are terrible.”

The US remains the world’s largest wine consuming country. Check out our interactive chart below–be sure to click to see whether each market is growing or shrinking!

Data from OIV

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