Louis Dressner Selections Louis Dressner Selections Blog http://louisdressner.com/ Wed, 17 Dec 2014 26:37:15 GMT Jules Dressner <![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 6: Party Time!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/12/11/284/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/12/11/284/ Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:45:43 GMT

A farçie is local Loire slang for the end of harvest celebration. These vary in size, but are usually an intimate affair between the harvesters and the vignerons who hired them. Since Clos Roche Blanche was one of the last estates to finish their harvest, I was lucky to partake in many farçies while in France. The first I got to check out was at Maisons Brûlées.



To the left, new owner Paul Gillet celebrates the first harvest he's seen all the way through since taking over from Michel Augé in 2013. It was kind of a cold, but we still hung out for apéro outside. Even in the heart of natural wine country, you gotta satisfy the children with artificially colored and flavored candy:



Can't lie: I kind of mess with those Coca Colas...

Paul's team was mostly composed of natty boys and gals who chain smoked joints (this can describe 95% of harvest teams in France), but there was a handful of interesting characters, including some older locals, an elderly couple from Brittany and a very nice Spanish guy.

After drinking a couple of bottles, it was time to eat an Alsatian specialty, the Baeckeoffe:







If you're wondering why we we were eating a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow cooked in a sealed ceramic casserole dish in the Loire, it's because Paul and Corinne Gillet are, you guessed it, Alsatian! To wash it down, the gracious Laurent Saillard brought some of his Lucky You! Sauvignon and La Pause Gamay:







That gentleman to the right of Laurent (who is in the foreground if you don't know what he looks like) is Bruno Allion, a much loved biodynamic vigneron who for years has sold his grapes to Thierry Puzelat and Pierre-O Bonhomme's négoce. I also got to try some of his own wines for the first time, which were delicious.

After lunch, the sun decided to pay us a visit so we had no choice to sit back outside.



We also had no choice but to drink some Maisons Brûlées Dernier Né, which due to the label is illegal for us to import to the United States.



You see, the barred out "drinking pregnant woman" is the equivalent of the US Government Warning, saying you shouldn't drink and drive or drink while pregnant (or both). It is obligatory to have on each label of wine in France, so as a joke Paul has made it the focal point of this cuvée; it's actually the exact logo you see in tiny on most labels, except huge. But hey, it's legal. Except in the US, where it isn't...

All in all, the Maisons Brûlées farçie was a lovely afternoon, and just a pre-game for what would happen a few nights later: The Villemade farçie!

It can pretty much be summed up in this 4 second video:



First off, this happened at maybe 9pm so you can imagine how the rest of the night went. The context here is that the harvesters, 90% of whom were from Brittany, were about to sing Isabelle and Hervé Villemade a song to thank them. This courageous young lady decided to stand on a chair and play ring leader. Then that happened...

Anyhow, due to the size of the Villemade's estate, there were many more people at this event, including cameos from Loire all-stars Thierry Puzelat, Christian Venier and Pascal Potaire. Pretty early in the evening, I vaguely remember smoking a cigar while make-believe surfing because Surfin' USA by the Beach Boys came on.

After dinner, everyone started dancing to basically the worst music ever, but it didn't matter and was still super fun. I don't think you can quite grasp this type of scene without having experienced an improvised musical mish-mash in rural France for yourself (I'm a hardened veteran), but the flow of music is jarring and all over the place stylistically. To make matters worst, the internet connection kept crashing and cutting off songs half-way through. I tried jumping on to flex my DJ skills and almost immediately this guy wanted to fight me so he could hear some Miles Davis (right after, mind you, a horrible French Ska song picked by someone else). The flow of the two songs was horrendous, but everyone still danced and it didn't matter.

Around 3 in the morning, Thierry Puzelat busted out a secret stash Overnoy that we carefully hid from the harvesters, who were guzzling everything in sight.



Also, this happened:



Strangely, both those images captured a 100% accurate representation of what my blurred vision looked like at that point of the night.

After waking up in Hervé Villemade's guest room, I took a shower and headed to the Clos du Tue-Boeuf farçie for lunch. Knowing Thierry, I was expecting the worst. And of course, before serving me any food, guess what lands in front of me:



Jero bomb of Lemasson!

Lunch was delicious, but I was exhausted and desperately in need of a nap despite having been awake not much more than 3 hours. When I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised that Thierry and most of the harvest team were in a pétanque tournament, with the others jamming on their guitars. It was shockingly mellow for a Puzelat party.

And I couldn't be happier.]]>
<![CDATA[Italian and Croatian Harvest Bonanza!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/25/283/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/25/283/ Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:25:25 GMT

Cantina Giardino!

Cà de Noci!

Massa Vecchia!

Clai Bijele Zemjle!]]>
<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 5: A Visit to Clos du Tue-Boeuf!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/18/282/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/18/282/ Tue, 18 Nov 2014 22:54:05 GMT

The evening of the remontage and visit with Valérie (recapped here and here), Didier told me there would be little to do for a few days and that I should take advantage of them to visit other growers. I had a loose itinerary of people to see, and the following morning I called Thierry Puzelat on his cell.

"We're actually on our last day of harvest. Wanna come?"

The answer was an obvious YES!!!!!! When I pulled into Les Montils, Thierry was loading the just harvested Menu Pineau from the Brin de Chèvre parcel into the press.



From press, it goes into a débourbage concrete tank before being racked into barrel.



Débourbage translates to "racking off the gross lees", which is apt because they are in fact quite gross:



It looks like a honey-mustard factory. Yuck.

Thierry's harvest began on September 19th, and would finish on the day I showed up, October 6th. After lunch with the harvest team, we grabbed our sheers and drove over the a parcel of old vine Romorantin, the oldest being planted in 1905!









eThis is the highest yields weeve ever seen here.i

The grapes were indeed plentiful and magnificent.



Thierry was getting in the mix.





Everything was going great for the first ten minutes. Then, in a bold move of over-confidence, I went for a bunch hidden behind some leaves and cut my finger pretty bad! Much to my surprise, Thierry had a first aid kit and patched me up so I could continue working.



I debated putting up a picture of my extremely bloody hand, but decided that while profanity and nudity (mostly in the form of absurd paintings) is ok, I must draw the line at gore.

Harvesting took about an hour and half, and we couldn't have finished at a better time since it started raining heavily just minutes after we'd loaded all the grapes into the truck.





After a short drive back to Les Montils, we went right to the press.





Unloading the grapes took about 20 minutes, and the press lasts 2:30 to 3 hours depending on the load. Once again, the juice was racked to a débourbage tank, this time much smaller.



The Romorantin we harvested will have to be labeled Vin de France, as it lies just outside of the Cour-Cheverny AOC. Thierry was making it under the Puzelat-Bonhomme label for years, but in 2014 this will be a Tue-Boeuf wine.

In the cellar, an employee was testing the sugar/acidity/PH of the Menu Pineau.





While the harvesters celebrated the end of harvest, Thierry and I tasted some juices.

PeTit Blanc 2014 had a few grams of sugar left, and was in full malo.

Petit Buisson 2014 had way more sugar, but tasted good.

"Once youere about 2/3rd done with fermentation, you can start tasting aromatic complexities."

Frileuse is an assemblage of Fié Gris (a strain of Sauvignon) planted in 1998 and Chardonnay planted from massale in 1967. We tried two separate barrels.

eThe maturities in each barrel are about a week apart, and they bring balance to each other.i

The first was denser and richer, the second more tense and bright.

We then tried the the Brin de Chèvre that had been pressed just hours earlier.

"A slight oxidation on the juice means you won't have any on the wine. It's a guarantee that it can handle it from an early stage. The brown color will be gone in 5 days."

Then we tried the Gamay Vin de France 14, which is made with a 100% carbonic maceration. It was in full malolactic fermentation and had a muddy, murky color. The malic acid tasted awful.

"It's pretty gross right? Once it's finished, it softens up considerably."

I asked Thierry if he gets much from tasting the juice.

"For me, it's about tasting if the juice is pure and in good shape. As I mentioned earlier the aromatic complexities come later. For now it's about making sure the juices are in good shape and to spot any potential issues before they become insurmountable."

The last two wines I tried were a special new experiment, Menu Pineau and Pinot Noir from Caillière made in amphora! They were totally wild and tasted nothing like what you'd expect from a Tue-Boeuf wine. Both spent 6 months on the skins and were bottled un-sulphured. Thierry showed me the 2014's fermenting:





Oh and the soon to be available Caillière 2013 (3 week maceration, 10 months in barrel) is absolutely delicious.

We then joined the harvesters and hung out until really late.

]]>
<![CDATA[More Harvest Reports from France and Italy!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/14/281/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/14/281/ Fri, 14 Nov 2014 22:52:26 GMT

Jean Manciat!

Olivier Lemasson!

Monte Dall'Ora!

Cascina 'Tavijn! (Those crazy looking grapes are the Ruché!)]]>
<![CDATA[And So It Begins: 2014 Harvest Reports!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/10/279/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/10/279/ Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:35:26 GMT

Alice and Olivier de Moor!

Zélige-Caravant!

Bernard Baudry!

Plenty more where that came from!

]]>
<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 4: Visiting a Colleague!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/4/278/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/11/4/278/ Tue, 04 Nov 2014 21:19:02 GMT

Apologies for the lack of recent updates. All the craziness leading up to our annual portfolio tasting (which was a huge success!) and a trip to DC has set me back on posting new stuff on the blog, but rest assured that there will soon be a FLURRY of new content, including new interviews, producer visits, and of course our annual HARVEST REPORTS, which have usually already been published at this point.

Louis/Dressner Selections: Weeve Got Internet Content!u

On a lovely afternoon, Julien Pineau and I accompany Didier to Domaine de la Méchinière, an estate run by Valérie Forgues. Didier chose to wear this sweet T-Shirt, purchased in NYC during a trip in 1998.



Founded in 1999, Méchinière spans 14 hectares in Mareuil-sur-Cher, is planted in the 6 grapes of the Touraine AOC and is in its second year of converting the vines to organic viticulture. Didier met Valérie because she is dating his brother, and for the last few years has been helping her out in the cellar.

"She's gone through a lot of setbacks and I think she deserves the help. She's a fast learner and I think that she will be able to do everything on her own very soon."

Here is her awesome dog Drago, Crusher of Souls.



The reason for our visit was to scope out the damage from the what would turn out to be the hot topic on everyone's mind: the drosophila suzukii. Originally from Japan, these flies have been fucking shit up in the US since 2008, and were first spotted in France sometime in 2010. They look like fruit flies (which are a common occurrence around fruits, so no one really worried at first), and feed themselves by stinging soft summer fruits and sucking out the sugars. They also lay their eggs between the skin and the pulp, and in both cases the berries start turning to vinegar. Normally these bugs die after summer, but the strange climactic conditions of 2014 kept them around too long. As far as anyone knows, this is the first time they've actively targeted grapes in France.

Herees what the damage looks like:








"It's crazy. Here we are a few days after our Pineau D'Aunis harvest, and you can easily spot the damaged grapes. When we were picking ours, you could barely see the stings and the only way to know was smelling the bunches to see if they stunk of vinegar. Good luck explaining that to the harvesters!"

Valérie was one of the last people in the area to harvest her Pineau D' Aunis, so this was a rare opportunity to see what the grapes look like after about a week after being stung. The worst is reports of suzukii bites began only TWO WEEKS before harvest, which many believed was going to be an abundant year after the very challenging 2012 and 2013 (Ieve heard some growers have lost up to 50% of their harvest because of this).

Still, not all hope was lost:

"The grapes that havenet been stung are ripe and in good shape. This is salvageable, but only if you hit the tank with sulfur immediately after cuvaison. Otherwise the vinegar yeasts, which are in full force, will take over."

Stories like this are stark reminders that the work of a vigneron is one of constant adaptation, and that dogmatic extremism -Iem specifically referring to sulfur use here- can only work in ideal conditions or states of complete mastery (Overnoy, Dard & Ribo and Massa Vecchia immediately come to mind). Many vignerons who traditionally do not sulfur during vinification felt obliged to do so this year, and I do not fault them for it: if they hadnet I canet imagine what the juices would have ended up as. For Valérie, whose Pineau De Aunis rosé is a big seller, you can understand why sheed be losing sleep at night over this.

On a brighter note, we then visited Valériees 80+ year old Chenins, which were in tip-top shape and ready to make some bubbles.







After a walk through the vines, we went to taste the juices in the cellar, which had a shockingly over-powering odor of reduction.

eItes intense right?i

These crazy concrete tanks that looked like submarines captured my imagination.



We tasted Sauvignon from an organic parcel, and Sauvignon Rose from one in conversion. We also tried some Gamay.





Outside, I admitted to Julien that tasting juice is really hard, and that I found it almost impossible to tell what was going on.

"Me too. But ites still fun to do!"]]>
<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 3: Introducing Julien Pineau and Doing a Remontage!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/20/277/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/20/277/ Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:36:13 GMT

When I wake up on my third day at CRB, the sun has already risen. Today Didier, Julien Pineau and I are going to do a remontage!

Just as I step out to catch some fresh morning air, Julien pulls up ready to work.



Who is Julien Pineau?


photo copyright Jim Budd.

Julien is originally from Tours, where for many years he worked as a geological analyst for a real estate contractor. His job mainly involved analyzing the geological compositions of pre-built or build-able land in order to advise on how to proceed with construction on the most sound foundations possible.

"You'd be surprised how much stuff was built anywhere in the 70's. So much has to be done to make sure these don't crumble to the ground."

Though he found the geological aspect of his job fascinating, the corporate environment was not really his jam so he decided to quit and try something new. Along with a few friends, he had gotten increasingly into natural wine and wondered if there was a place for him working in the vines. After some research he landed at an estate in Provence for 2 years, followed by a year stint as Noella Morantin's employee.

During that time he met Didier, and the two hit it off during Julien's benevolent help in the CRB cellar. He is currently interning with Didier for a year, and will be one of the partners taking over the CRB land in coming vintages (more on that in a future post).

Anyhow, back to wine stuff. For Didier, the two first days after harvest are the most important when making red wine.



"The first two days, you extract the best colors and tannins. After this initial period, it gets much less interesting."

In order to extract said color and tannin, it was time for me to do my first of many remontages! A remontage, which translates to "bringing back up", consists of pumping the juice trapped at the bottom of the tank back onto the grape bunches so they can interact with each other. It is important to remember that at this point the grapes are macerating and haven't been pressed yet. The pumped juice will precipitate the berries that haven't "popped" yet to do so, and the contact with the skins and stems help with extraction of color and tannin.

eWhat do you have in there (the tank)? Juice at the bottom and grapes at the top. If we don't do a remontage, there is no exchange between the two.i

The remontage is done with the help of this pump:



In the photo below, you can see how a tube from the bottom gets pumped through the pump and pumped back onto the grapes:




Before pumps like the one used existed, this process was done bucket by bucket, and would take twice and much manpower and time!

Speaking of buckets, there's always a little juice left in the pumps so we made sure to catch it and not let it go to waste.





eThe white foam shows the beginnings of yeasts fermenting and eating away at the sugars.i



After Julien took care of the Gamays, Didier asked me to do a "special, one time above oxygen level" remontage. You see, in the very early stages of fermentation, yeasts need oxygen to multiply. Yet the very act of fermentation emits carbonic gas, which smothers oxygen. Didier proved this with the "lighter trick":



The point when the lighter goes out is when their is no more oxygen in the tank.

"You have to be very careful with this. It's the number one cause of fatal accidents in this line of work. The body reacts extremely poorly to a lack of oxygen."

The idea of the "special one time only above air" remontage is to pump the juice where it is exposed to oxygen (where the flame stays lit), which will kickstart and invigorate the active, native yeasts that will then continue to work on the sugars. I was a little freaked out at the prospect of instant death, but got up there and did it anyway. It's hard to see, but this is what the grape bunches look like:



Up until press, a remontage is done each day. After it is done, Didier measures the density of liquid in the tank.



When it gets to 1000, this means there is very little sugar left and it is time to press. Today it was the Gamay was at 1074.



I have no idea how this is read.

On the way back to the cellar, my bud Jack the Rooster was just hanging out.



Back in the cellar, we tasted the juices again. The Sauvignon had just started fermenting.

"You can feel that bite on the edge of your tongue."

The wine was also more cloudy.

"That's totally normal. It means the yeasts are getting to work."

The Sauvignon in wood, however, had not started fermenting.

"That's because of the wood. Unlike stainless steel, which adapts to its environment, wood stays colder in the initial stages of fermentations. However, because fermentation emits heat, the wood will stay hotter than stainless steel at that point. This is ok with small volumes but becomes much more challenging otherwise."

The Pineau D'Aunis Rosé was fermenting a little bit as well, but will really kick start the next day according to Didier. The color this year is surprising, and will be darker than usual.]]>
<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries Part 2: Harvesting the Côt!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/10/276/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/10/276/ Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:33:48 GMT

NOTE: ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT JIM BUDD. JIM HAS GRACIOUSLY GIVEN ME PERMISSION TO USE THESE PHOTOS FROM HIS EXCELLENT BLOG JIM'S LOIRE. THESE PHOTOS, ALONG WITH MANY OTHERS, ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THIS BLOG POST.

When I wake up at 7:am, it's still dark outside. The meet-up is set for 8 to harvest the Côt at La Boudinerie, the farm where Didier, Noella Morantin and Laurant Saillard live (the first picture here is the parcel we harvested). Catherine drives me over and we are the last ones to get there. The team of harvesters is a hodge-podge of younger people and some middle aged women who, as I would later find out, love gossiping about the goings-on in the village like some weird rural Days of Our Lives recap. They are not particularly friendly to me, but not mean either. Then again, I'm showing up 2 weeks in, working at a slow and confused pace.

Like with most things, my first attempt at harvesting grapes comes with a hefty amount of over-analysis. It this bunch with a few shrunken grapes good? What about that one with only four grapes? When I ask Catherine, she just says: "Sure, take it." and keeps moving. In a year like 2014, there weren't any issues with rot, so harvesting is really as simple as finding bunches and putting them in your bucket.

Everyone works at a steady pace, and my bucket always seems half full compared to the rest of the group. The organization is semi-informal: two people per row, but Catherine and a few others jump around rows to help out where they see fit. If someone finishes a row before the other, then they help finish their neighbors' before moving on to the next. Two harvesters man the "hotte", big open container backpacks which the pickers dump their grapes in for them to unload back to the truck.

Didier is knees-deep in arriving grapes, sorting through bunches as they arrive, making sure to get rid of leaves, grass and undesirable grapes. When we are almost done with the first parcel, he tells me to come with him to do a eprélevementi of the Cabernets, which are just a short walk away. Walking through the unpicked parcel, Didier randomly picks grape bunches here and there from various rows. We return to La Boudinerie, where he crushes them with his hands to extract the juice. This is poured into a beaker, and the sugar/acidity/PH tests are done.

eNot Ripe. Friday at the earliest, but most probably Sunday or Monday.i

It's Friday the 3rd, and Didier is talking about the 10th.

By the time we get back, the parcel is finished and it's off to Clos Roche Blanche to harvest the 120 year old Côt. In my jet-lagged state, I forgot to charge my phone and was super bummed that I wouldn't get any pictures of the proceedings. Fortunately, Jim Budd (from the fantastic blog Jim's Loire, which you should go read immediately) was there to capture the moment.











Here's a picture of me to prove I was actually doing something...



After another 17 row parcel of younger vines, harvesting is done for the day, just shy of 12:30. Catherine sends the team home, and we head over to the the press to sort grapes for them to start their fermentation. First, we collect the juice from the crushed grapes at the bottom of truck, dumping it bucket by bucket into the vat. When this is done, the grapes get unloaded on a conveyor belt tray table, where they endlessly flow from right to left as 6 of us de-stem the bunches and throw out as many stems as we can before they get end up in one of Didier's custom stainless steel cuves to macerate and ferment. It's a messy procedure which leaves my grey tee full of splashes, stains and pulp, and my hands sticky and red from the juice.

eIf your hands stick, it means the alcohol will be there!i

If anyone is interested in a super limited stained XL grey tee full of 120 year old Côt from Clos Roche Blanche's last vintage, I'm putting it up on Ebay. Bids start at 500$.]]>
<![CDATA[The Didier Diaries: An In Depth Look at Clos Roche Blanche's Last Vintage (And So Much More)!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/6/275/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/10/6/275/ Mon, 06 Oct 2014 10:29:45 GMT

PART 1: SETTLING IN...

(NOTE: There will be a lack of pics in the first two posts, but I will more than make up for this afterwards.)

I arrived to the Saint-Aignan train station on October 2nd around 5:10pm. As per usual, I hadn't slept on my red-eye flight (where I watched 22 Jump Street and X-Men: Days of Future Past), and was pretty loopy. Catherine Roussel picked me up, and told me that we hadn't exactly calculated my arrival correctly: the Sauvignons had been picked the week before, the Pineau D'Aunis was done but a mess because of some new asian bug that came out of nowhere a few weeks ago (more on that in future posts), and that I had missed the Gamay by a day. All that was left was the Côt, which would be harvested the next day, and the Cabernets, which would be done sometime next week. Slightly disappointed but undeterred, I thought to myself: eShit, this may actually be a vacation!i

Yeah right.

A few minutes after settling in to the beautiful Clos Roche Blanche house, I hear Didier chatting away with his colleague Valérie. For the last 4 years, Didier has been guiding Valérie in the cellar. She founded the estate in 1999, has always worked sustainably and is her second year of converting the estate to organics.

They are outside doing the analysis for sugar density, acidity and Ph levels, crucial info for when to harvest. This process, which I always imagined to be extremely elaborate, with everyone putting on white lab coats on and breaking out microscopes, turns out to be almost crude in its simplicity. First, the sugars are weighed by an instrument that looks a lot like a thermometer: it's dunked in the juice, and floats back up with an indication of the sugar density. Acidity is measured by adding liquid that changes the juice's color, and somehow you know what it is based on the color. Finally, Ph is done with an instrument that looks like a lot like a taser, which again is placed in the juice, and a reading is done.

The juice Valérie has brought is called a prélèvement: she has taken a few bunches of grapes, crushed and analyzed them to decide if the time is right to pick or not. Didier tells her the Chenins are in good shape, but when it comes to the Pineau d'Aunis, there is a dangerous amount of volatile acidity due to the Suzukees bugs. These bugs are from Asia, and came out of nowhere 2 weeks ago. They sting grapes to feed themselves from the sugars, which then dry out and start reeking of vinegar (acetate acid). Dider tells her we'll go visit in a few days to check the damage.

After Valérie says her goodbyes, Didier asks me if I want to taste some juices. Duh!
We start with a stainless steel tank of Sauvignon Blanc. I missed the last day of Sauvignon picking by two days: it was harvested on September 30th. It has 13.3 degrees of alcohol. We both laugh that it tastes like canned pineapple juice, or pineapple gummy bears. But way better.

Didier tells me that stainless has the best exchange between the inside and the outside environment. Therefore the thermic exchange adapts to the cellar, which in CRB's case is ideal.

Next, we try Sauvignon from foudre, which Didier thinks will producer a N#5. It tastes more concentrated to me, but he assures me it's the exact same, although with higher acidity and Ph.

We end with Pineau D'Aunis rosé, which has a beautiful color. It has a sweet candied taste, and we both laugh that it tastes like Strawberry Haribos. Except way better.

-eDoes the peppery thing come with the fermentation?i

-eUsually.i ]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Salvo Foti in Randazzo!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/23/274/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/23/274/ Tue, 23 Sep 2014 24:28:50 GMT

That's the picture Salvo sent us the night before our visit. Oh Etna, always erupting!

After a lovely morning visit at Romeo del Castello, it was once again time to visit the grand, mysterious Salvo Foti!

While waiting for him, many of us got into a heated debate on who was going to buy this sweet miniature automobile.





No one could agree, so we decided to grab a coffee at the best named cafe of all time:



YES, I know it's spelled with a K but I still thought it was funny.



Not making us wait too long, Salvo pulled up with his left-hand man Mauricio and we drove up to a new vineyard.



This parcel is at 1100 meters elevation, and was planted 3 years ago. Salvo does not plant Nerello Mascalese above 800m, as it doesn't grow well in those circumstances. Whites, on the other hand, fare well, and this vineyard has been planted in Grecanico and Minella.

A small crew of the I Vigneri team was busy hoeing the soils.



"Every time they do this, it's like adding a fertilizer to the vineyard. It's the vines' water."

It's very important to do this work in the vines' infancy due to Etna's volcanic ash soils. If the ash isn't constantly being shifted around, the roots will stay superficial and not reach the subsoils. Furthermore, wild grasses and flowers grow very quickly on volcanic ash, making for too much competition.

"If we weren't constantly hoeing, these vines would look like this."



From there, we took a terrifying, extremely steep road that almost resulted in a few accidents. Certainly not for stick-shift novices... Fortunately no one was harmed and we were able to visit the Vigna Bosco:









Salvo acquired this vineyard 12 years ago. To his knowledge, this is one of if not THE highest vineyard in all of Etna, towering at 1300 meters elevation. Very few people still own vineyards at these types of altitude.

"In their eyes, it's too much work for too little result. Plus you need to have workers who know what they are doing, and these are getting harder and harder to come by."

Do to the altitude, the vineyard produces very low alcohol grapes. Harvests here are always extremely late as well. 2013 was picked on November 5th!

Grenache, Alicante, Grecanico and a bunch of grapes Salvo can't recognize are planted here. The vines are 110 years old, and all planted in franc de pied.

Speaking of franc de pied, a new plantation is in the works, all in massale.



Of course, everything will be raised in Albarello.

"Albarello is the best and oldest training method in the world. If this was used world-wide, fungal illness disappear. Other training systems are for chemicals and machines."

That's quite a hefty statement I'm sure many would disagree with. Perhaps Salvo was specifically referring to hotter regions? Then again, Mark Angéli trains all his Chenin in gobelet. Ultimately, his argument lies in the fact that Albarello gets no shadows from other vines and is exposed to more air.

"The cure for any plant's illness is sunshine."

Salvo then busted out a picnic basket with a couple of bottles in it.



It was none other than 2011 Vinudilice Sparkling!



Vinudilice is the wine produced from the Vigna Bosco, and usually consists of a still rosé field blend. With the 2011 vintage, Salvo exceptionally decide to make bubbles due to low quantities and maturity issues.

The wine is already sold out.

From Vigna Bosco, we headed to Vinupetra, undoubtedly in the top 5 vineyards I've seen in my lifetime.











At 240 years old (!!!), Salvo thinks these are "probably" the oldest existing vines in Etna.

"You have to treat these vines with the same respect and care and you would a 90 year old person. When you're 90 you can't do the same stuff you were doing when you were 20. It's the same with vines."

On average, the work to maintain these old vines requires his team 250 days of work. Young vines trained in Cordon on these soils require approximately 50 days of work a year.

"40 years ago, all of Etna's vines were trained in Albarello. Now it's water, chemicals and vines planted to last only 20 years before being ripped up."

The craziest of these vines were HUGE. Here's one taller than me!



And I'm tall!





Conveniently enough, Salvo's house overlooks Vinupetra, and it was at a long table that we sat down to eat dinner and taste wine.



As always, the antipasti alone was enough to fill an average human being up.



Of course, Salvo has a oven set up outside, perfect for making flatbreads and pizza.





As we set up, we asked for a spit bucket. Reluctantly, Salvo got up and brought some to the table. The one on my side had a large spider web in it.

"As you can see, no one uses that thing!"

We started with some white, then the 2013 Vinudilice Rosé, which if you recall is from the Vigna Bosco we visited earlier. Before Salvo acquired it, the prior owner used this parcel to make house wine for his family.

"When I took over, he told me that his grandfather had always made the wine with one night skin maceration. So I continue this tradition."

We then moved on to the Etna Rosso 2012. Did you know that the Etna DOC is the oldest in Sicily, dating back to 1968? Did you also know that this wine is a wine illegally made in a Palmento? If not, re-read this. On the subject, Salvo chimed in:

"Sicilians always expect something illegal. So we don't worry."

The Etna Rosso is always foot-trodden, then and open fermentation takes place for 7 to 10 days before the wine is racked to chestnut barrels.

The tasting ended with younger vintages of Vinupetra, followed by 06, 02 and 01.

As we ended dinner, Salvo toasted us and had this to say:

"I thank you all for coming and doing what you do. Wine is important, wine is three dimensional: there is time (the cycle of the year, the wine aging...), space (the context of where it is consumed, whether in its place of origin or all the way in the US...) and the mental (how it makes us feel, how it brings us together...)."


I guarantee you a lot was lost in translation, but it was a special way to end a special night.

]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Arianna Occhipinti in Vittoria!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/12/273/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/12/273/ Fri, 12 Sep 2014 24:07:21 GMT

Before visiting Arianna in her native Vittoria, we spent a night in the lovely town of San Leone. Serious sunset vibes.



The main reason we stayed there was because of this legendary seafood spot that was a pure joy.

Check out this before and after jam:





This whole octopus were pretty stellar as well:



On a much stranger note, our hotel was adorned with seriously bizarre artwork, including crying clowns and this police brutality portrait:



Way to set the mood...

Ok, on to the good stuff! Occhipinti time!

The big news is that Arianna has built a beautiful new cellar on the farm she acquired two years ago (read up on that in my first recap in 2012).





Besides the obvious advantage of having way more space, it has permitted Arianna to start a new regiment of concrete fermentation and aging for both SP68's (in the past everything was done in stainless steel and fiberglass). Some of the tanks are glass lined, some aren't. They are all 2mx2m, and with the way they are set up, the juice can be worked by gravity.



"We can smell and feel the grapes from the top, which is a huge step up from the old cellar."

From concrete tank, we tried both SP68 Bianco and Rosso. The Bianco is 40% Albanello and 60% Zibibbo this year, with no skin contact. SP68 Rosso is 70% Frapatto and 30% Nero d' Avola in 2013, with 30 days skin contact and 6 months aging in cement. For both blends, Arianna usually co-fermented the wines, though some years this is not possible.

We then tasted through the 2013's barrels of Frapatto, Siccagno and Cerusuelo.



Some 2012 Il Frapatto was also being bottled.



While tasting, Jill from Domaine LA asked Arianna for insight on why her wines are so elegant and light compared to most Sicilian wine. Besides the fact that Vittoria is located amongst many mountains that provide the vines with constant wind, Arianna had this to say:

"Not irrigating, harvesting late and not using fertilizers are the secret to making more elegant wines in the area. The freshness and minerality in my wines come from the subsoils. Any wine made from young vines or chemically grown vines feeding only off of the top soil will have the cooked, hot characteristics people associate with wine from warm regions."

After a great lunch where we tasted currently bottled offerings, Arianna showed us the old farm house she is currently renovating. More precisely, she showed us the Palmento, which pretty much a staple of nearly every farm-house in Sicily.









These Palmentos are extremely common, but also extremely abandoned. The reason is less that they were made illegal for "sanitary" reasons in the 1970's and more that there are simply a lot less people making wine on the island. Today only 600 hectare of vines are planted in the Vittoria region, and Arianna estimates it was 20 times as much in early 1900's.

We then took a coffee break, which served as an excellent moment for everyone to pet Arianna's dog Paco.







I decided to join the fun:



I then began fluffing him, which got Paco frisky.



Then, out of nowhere, he snatched my notebook!



Naturally, I panicked since all of my precious notes (including the ones used to write this) were in there! My reflex was to chase Paco around trying to get my book back:



This proved unsuccessful, but after some screaming on Arianna's part, Paco dropped the book. He was a bit bummed his mom wouldn't let him play anymore:



The book was more or less unscathed, but did suffer a bit of superficial damage.



After all that excitement, we walked over Arianna's new plantation of 3.5 hectares of Frapatto on red sand over limestone.







These were all grafted in place in massale. 19 000 plants will be re-grafted on the roots starting in August. Arianna will undertake this daunting task with the help of 3 local contadinos.

The visit ended with a quick tour of the bianco parcel, which is trained in Albarello.



While there, we were informed that Ari only performed 1 copper and sulfur treatment in 2014! That's crazy!

Walking back to the house, we were surrounded by a never ending amount of bright red poppies.



It was a great visit.]]>
<![CDATA[Benefit Screening, A Few Seats Left, This Thursday, Sept. 11th]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/8/272/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/8/272/ Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:50:48 GMT

Resitenza Naturale

This event has sold out! Thank you for the support!

Louis/Dressner Selections, Reynard at the Wythe Hotel and Indie Wines would be thrilled to see you at a pre-release screening of Natural Resistance, the new film directed by Jonathan Nossiter (here's a link to Jonathan's Film Quarterly article about the film). The screening will take place at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room & Bar on Thursday, September 11th at 8 PM.

In addition to the film, Jonathan will be there for a short talk and to take some questions directly after the film. Wines from the winemakers/protagonists (Stefano Bellotti of Cascina degli Ulivi, Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Stefano & Giovanna Tiezzi of La Pacina and, we hope, Corrado Dottori of La Distesa) will be available at the Screening Room Bar for purchase by the glass and half-glass before, during and after the screening.

The evening's proceeds will be donated to Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and the Far Rock Farm Project.

For tickets go here at
brownpapertickets.com

Seats are limited, so hurry.]]>
<![CDATA[Rest In Peace Joe Dougherty.]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/2/271/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/2/271/ Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:54:32 GMT

Yesterday afternoon I received the shocking news that Joe Dougherty is no longer of this world. I say shocked because Joe was one of those people I never imagined wouldn't be around; as both a friend to us but also to a staggering amount of the growers we work with, Joe seamlessly interweaved himself into both our personal and professional lives on such a profound level that it's impossible to envision who we are today without him.

I really wish my father was here to detail the early days of SFJoe's rise to prominence in our lives, as I don't have much insight on the matter. I have however been around Joe my whole life and have plenty to say.

I'm sure my dad met Joe Dougherty through wine. I know I met Joe Dougherty because of wine. And yes, SFJoe had an insane cellar, was the most knowledgable person about wine I've ever met and was always ready to open a bottle that most people would never dream of having the opportunity to try. But when I think about Joe, I never think about wine. Joe was one of the most fascinating human beings I've had the pleasure of knowing; I often joked that he knew everything about everything.

But unlike a smartphone or Google search, Joe wasn't just a scripted fact-sheet; he knew how to pull you in with the details. This could range from casual observations to humorous anecdotes and sometimes get as precise as the molecular composition or chemical reactions in food, wine or anything with molecular composition or chemical reactions, which is basically everything. No matter what you were talking about, you would learn something while laughing about another, all while drinking some Vouvray.



What was great was that you never felt intimidated by his intelligence or knowledge. Instead you felt welcome, invited to a world you had no idea was as interesting as it is, a world of details you constantly overlooked until Joe brought them to your attention. For example, I once opened a bottle of (surprise!) old Huet that Joe had brought to Terroir in San Francisco. I was convinced it was corked, but Joe busted out some empirical research he'd done because he'd often noticed that old Chenin Blanc tends to get get fungal aromas and flavors with age that many associate with cork taint, and that it blows off after about an hour or so. He also went into some next-level chemical reasons behind this that went way over my head, but that I appreciated anyway. As the hour passed, my skepticism subsided when lo and behold, a wine I found undrinkable was now showing beautifully!

For years, there has been a running joke of introducing Joe to growers as the "Average American Consumer". This gag has its origins in Joe joining us annually on our trip to the Loire valley every winter. Because Joe never had a professional stake in in wine industry, he was always the only consumer on the trip, so Joe (Dressner) and Kevin settled on "Average American Consumer" when introducing him. It was of course tongue-in-cheek, since most average consumers didn't have libraries of back vintage Huet or could guess blind that the moelleux François Pinon just poured us was a 1954 just off one sniff (a truly remarkable moment I'll never forget, especially François' face lighting up in surprise and delight). The "Average American Consumer" also didn't have to step out for 2 hour international phone meetings in his car out in the dead of winter and wasn't able to understand the chemical structure of a wine more than the person who had made it. But hey...



But in so many ways, Joe was the embodiment of all my favorite wine lovers and affianados. I think Joe's profound love of wine, besides the geeky scientist stuff, was that he had a firm grasp of how important it is in this world. Wine was an excuse to bring people together, to share stories, to excite the senses, to laugh, eat, drink and be merry. To live and to celebrate life. It's no surprise that his love for lively wines led him to lively people, be it my father, Eric Texier or David Lillie. Everything intertwined so perfectly.

Joe, you'll always be family. You will be sorely missed and I'll be drinking some Vouvray tonight for ya!


]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Marco de Bartoli in Marsala!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/29/270/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/29/270/ Fri, 29 Aug 2014 21:37:14 GMT

On our first day in Sicily, we got a day off to hang out in the incredibly photogenic town of Trapani.







While walking around, I kept noticing locals hanging outside burning huge candles. At first I thought little of it; after all I'm not from there and maybe that's how people hang. But then I started hearing marching band music!



And along with the marching band, a huge group of people where following a statue of this guy!





Our group was a bit stumped as to what this ritual pertained to, but with some googling we were able to figure out it was a celebration for Santo Padre, who, amongst other accolades, was the 2nd Pope. Ever!

As an aside, the best painting of all time was on proud display at the restaurant we ate at that night:



The following morning we drove over to Marsala to see the de Bartoli family. Their hamlet still looks like a cross of Miami Vice and a Spaghetti Western.





Here is their adorable dog Picasso, who many felt was the cutest canine of the trip:



Here I am angering Picasso by trying to do "extreme" maneuvers on a tiny, tiny skateboard not much bigger than my foot:



This video truly gives you all an inside glimpse in the sheer professionalism we here at Louis/Dressner profess with every visit.

Right on the outskirts of the de Bartoli cellar, a limestone quarry provides a good look into what the soils/subsoils of the area look like.



Interestingly, the limestone from Western Sicily is not only great for growing white grapes, but also for building houses.

"Half of Sicily was built from our area's stones."

I couldn't help but notice this everywhere we went for our remainder of the time on the island.

To the side of the quarry, 9 hectares are planted in Grillo.



These 9 hectares produce all of the de Bartoli Grillo based cuvées: Vigna Verde, Grappoli di Grillo, Integer Grillo and of course the beautiful line-up of Marsalas the estate is famous for. The Cataratto that produces Lucido are a short 4 kilometers away and the Pignatello that produces Rosso di Marco are 10km away.

From the vines, we set off to the de Bartolis' beautiful and elaborate cellar. Before I jump into the technical stuff, I highly recommend re-reading my visit re-cap from two years ago. There will certainly be some overlap (as well as a past Miami Vice reference), but many of the details I delve into below will complement the information from our past visit that I didn't catch the first time around.

The Marsala process begins in the ground level part of the cellar:





To understand how the solera process works, the first concept to grasp is that alcohol molecules are bigger than water molecules, and therefore water molecules disappear first with evaporation, leaving a more concentrated alcoholic liquid to be topped off with new wine each year.

The top floor cellar is where the Solera process takes place, going from top to bottom barrel, which if you scroll up will notice go from smallest at the top to biggest at the bottom. The new wine added each vintage is vinified like the Integer Grillo: barrel fermentation and aging without any added sulfur. Every year, Marsala is bottled from the small aging barrels in the underground cellar (we'll get to that shortly), and wine from the huge bottom barrels is racked back into the small barrels, where they will continue aging until they are bottled. In practice, this is a never-ending process that can continue endlessly:

"Marsala can age for hundreds of years."

The average mix in a big bottom barrel is 20 vintages.

From the ground level cellar, we walked two flights down into the aging cellar.







As explained earlier, these little barrels are where the wine that has already gone through the solera process age. It is at this point that the wine is either left to age on its own before bottling or fortified with mistella to produce the Superiore line.

"Traditional Marsala was never fortified, but my father wanted to look forward while also honoring tradition, and this is how the Superiore line came to be. Still, it is the territory, the grape and oxygenation that makes a Marsala, not fortification."

At the end of the cellar visit, Sebastiano drew this very helpful diagram to understand the whole process of making a de Bartoli Marsala.





It all seems so simple when you add a cute drawing!

It was time to taste, which is always a lot of fun since the family produces so many different wines from the same vines and land.





We also got to taste the Zibibbo based passitos from the island of Pantelleria, a project started in 1984. As a fun treat, Sebastiano pulled out a few bunches of the dried grapes that make the wine for us to taste.



BEST. RAISINS. EVER.

We ended our visit with a tour of the late Marco's prized car cellar, which is full of rare automobiles from the 60's, 70's and 80's.









The funnest part was seeing his favorite sports car, this red Alpha-Romeo that served as the inspiration for the Rosso di Marco label!





VROOOOOOMMM!!!!!!]]>
<![CDATA[Natural Resistance, A Benefit Screening, Thursday, September 11th]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/26/269/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/26/269/ Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:51:06 GMT

Louis/Dressner Selections, Reynard at the Wythe Hotel and Indie Wines would be thrilled to see you at a pre-release screening of Natural Resistance, the new film directed by Jonathan Nossiter (here's a link to Jonathan's Film Quarterly article about the film). The screening will take place at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room & Bar on Thursday, September 11th at 8 PM.

In addition to the film, Jonathan will be there for a short talk and to take some questions directly after the film. Wines from the winemakers/protagonists (Stefano Bellotti of Cascina degli Ulivi, Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Stefano & Giovanna Tiezzi of La Pacina and, we hope, Corrado Dottori of La Distesa) will be available at the Screening Room Bar for purchase by the glass and half-glass before, during and after the screening.

The evening's proceeds will be donated to Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and the Far Rock Farm Project.

For tickets go here at
brownpapertickets.com

Seats are limited, so hurry.

]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Luca Roagna in Barbaresco!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/15/268/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/15/268/ Fri, 15 Aug 2014 19:59:20 GMT

Right next to the Roagna family house is the historic and majestic Pajé vineyard.





The Roagna family has been working this land for over 130 years, and have owned the majority of this Cru since the 1950's; they currently work 2 of the site's 4 hectares, which is shared two other growers. The site is shaped like an amphitheater, and exposed South-Southwest.

Many cuvées are bottled from the Pajé, all depending on the age of the vines and the conditions of the vintage: the base Pajé comes from 45-50 year old vines, Pajé Riserva is from vines that are 60+ and the Crichet Pajé is produced only in the best vintages, and from the oldest vines (70-100).

The soils are composed of marly limestone. The Roagnas never cut the grass at any time in any of their land:







Luca explained that this creates an incredible biodiversity in the vineyards and soil, which -amongst a multitude of herbs and flowers- includes more than 10 varieties of mint.

"If we ever fail at wine, we can become premium Mojito producers!"

The young Nebbiolo vines from Pajé (which are 20 to 50) partially produce the Roagna's Langhe Rosso, and the estates's Dolcetto is also planted here.

A short drive from Pajé, we visited the Asili Cru, the second of three lieu-dits within the village of Barbaresco that the Roagnas produce from.





The soils here are clay, limestone and sand. The youngest vines are 55.

A little further down, you can spot their tiny parcel of the Montefico Cru. Can you guess which it is?



Hint: grass grows wild...

If you guessed this:



You are wrong and chose a parcel with evident, heavy handed herbicide use!

If you chose this:



Then you are correct!!!!!!!!

All joking aside, the picture above is a very interesting contrast of the varying degrees of herbicide use in vineyards. From the full "Brazilian Wax" to "just in between the rows" to "let it grow free!", you get to see it all. Still, I feel I must ask the rhetorical question: which plot looks the healthiest and most full of life?

From Barbaresco, we hopped into our Dressner mobiles and drove the half hour to Barolo. It was looking like rain the whole way over, but we still felt that it was necessary to visit La Pira, the 8 hectare Cru and monopole Alfredo purchased in 1990.











The total property is 11 hectares, with 8 hectares of vines planted. The oldest vines here were planted in 1937, but there have historically been plantings here for at least 500 years.

In addition to the obviously planted Nebbiolo, La Pira is also where the Langhe Bianco and Barbera grapes are grown. As you can see from the pictures, the grass stays just as tall here as in Barbaresco. This is particularly useful for harvesting herbs and making their Chinato, which is one of the best in the game. La Pira is an isolated clos.

At the bottom of the hill, Luca is conducting a franc de pied experiment with the best clones from his various parcels.





The goal is to see which react the best to this situation in order to propagate them in the future.

Our visit ended in a visit in the brand new cellar installation Luca has constructed above La Pira. It is fucking huge and kind of looks like the Legion of Doom headquarters.







It isn't clear if all the vinifications will take place here, but the idea is to do all of the aging here; because space is longer an issue, this will permit Luca to age wines much longer than he has been able to in the past. Even though everything looks really new, the space already has that cold, moldy cellar feel.



Cages will eventually hold reserve bottles of wine.



Or maybe lock up pesky importers if they misbehave.



Luca has also started custom building his own concrete tanks because he doesn't trust the manufacturers.

"I want it to not have lining and the concrete to have very specific dimensions. I want it to to be the most neutral tank possible, and I cannot find what I am looking for on the current market."


Here are some pics:







This shouldn't come as much of a surprise; to this day Alfredo and Luca are the only ones allowed to prune the entirety of their land. That's two guys for 15 hectares!

We tasted wine, it was good. As we drove off, a nice rainbow led the way to Torino.

]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Vinirari in Quart!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/1/267/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/1/267/ Fri, 01 Aug 2014 23:31:25 GMT

That was the view from our hotel.

As you know, we here at Louis/Dressner are big fans of underdog regions and the crazy indigenous grapes grown there. We also are big fans of die-hard traditionalists, preservers of history and lovers of the land. After our visit with Giulio Moriondo of Vinirari, I can confirm he exemplifies these qualities to a tee.

First off, if you don't know Vinirari, rest assured that 99.3% of wine drinkers are right there with you. Giulio is truly a garagiste (his cellar in his garage), owns about 1 hectare of vines spread over a gazillion parcels, and tends vines/makes wine purely out of passion and love for his region's viticultural history. He's even written two books about it! And it's not even his full time job!

We only visited two micro parcels very close to Giulio's house, but still learned a ton. The first parcel we visited was planted in Pinot Noir for a long time, but Giulio has spent the last years re-grafting these with over 20 different massale clones of the indigenous Petit Rouge.





Here you can see the grafted vines.



When asked about getting rid of his Pinot, Giulio answered:

"This is not Burgundy. I've tried every vinification possible and still have never found a way to express the grape properly in this terroir."

If you're wondering how Giulio found 20 massale clones of a weird grape you'd never heard of before, it's because he's made it his lifework to discover, analyze, understand and preserve Aosta's indigenous grapes. Through his own rigorous, self funded research, which mostly involved talking to old timers but also DNA analysis, he's been able to identify and in some cases re-discover varieties long believed to have disappeared from the area.

We were lucky, because the only other parcel we'd visit that day (just a short walk from the Petit Rouge) is Giulio's training ground for all the clones he's been able to find and preserve over the years.







One, for example, is called Blanc Commun, a grape from the 18th century. Only 8 plants of this are planted within the vineyard.

Cornalin, another unknown indigenous variety, was considered to have disappeared in the area. Most confused the remaining plants as a strain of Petit Rouge. Giulio, armed with a hunch and DNA analysis, was able to identify the grape and help it regain its identity. But here is the confusing thing: What they call Cornalin in Aosta is actually Humagne Rouge in the Valais of Switzerland!

Other grapes in the vineyard include Oriou Gris, Fumin, Vien de Nus and Giulio's new darling, Nebbiolo Rose.

"This is a very different strain then the Nebbiolo grown in Piemonte. The traditional wine made with this grape was considered a luxury good. It was called a "Clairet", and made like a Recioto."

Petit Rouge and Fumin are the grapes with the longest historical standing in the area. Aosta used to have a much richer vitculutural history: in the 18th century, 4000 hectares of vines were planted on the region's mountains. Today there are barely 400.

"70 years ago, this entire mountain had vines as far as the eye can see."

As far as agriculture, the soils are very poor so Giulio lets grass grow wild, then selectively tills what he doesn't want. He also needs to have gates surrounding the vineyards because of badgers.

"If you don't take preventative measures with them, they can eat up to 70% on the crop."

Heading back to Giulio's house, he was excited to show us "the rarest wine in the world", a mutated strain of Petit Rouge that produces white grapes. Giulio had dubbed it Petit Rouge Blanc (not a confusing name at all...) and planted three rows in his front yard.





The vines are three years old and 2013 was the first year they produced fruit. 23 liters total!

When it came time to see the cellar, Giulio warned us to not expect much:

"My cellar is more of a workshop than anything."





It was indeed tiny and in his garage. The wines are fermented off their native yeasts. Giulio never filters or fines. The wines are usually bottled two winters after they were harvested.

Because he does 100% of the vineyard work alone, Giulio has customized this seat with wheels to make things easier on his back.



I had to make sure it was comfortable to be used on a daily basis.



This customized seat with wheels is Jules Dressner approvedu.

We ended the visit by tasting some wine, starting with the Petit Rouge Blanc. It had an aromatic, clean nose.

"It reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc."

It was fresh, with balanced acidity, minerality and again, slightly aromatic. Due to the vines' very young age, there was not much complexity in the body.

Someone asked for a spit bucket and Giulio replied:

"I'll go get a spit bucket for you, but remember that you are tasting the RAREST WINE IN THE WORLD!"

Next we tried the Saint-Ours 2011, a blend of 70% Cornalin and 30% Petit Rouge from the re-grafted parcel we visited. It was very good.

This was followed up by a 2009 Pinot Noir from the aforementioned re-grafted vineyard. This was the last year he made it, and Giulio blended it with 15% Cornalin. We all agreed it was "not bad".

"My wines really take time to develop. I wish I could age them for 4 of 5 years, but I just don't have the room."

We ended the tasting with a wine very dear to Giulio's heart, a "Clairet" style wine he made from Petit Rouge and Vien de Nus.



Lo Vrej translates to "The Real", and is Giulio's homage to the traditional luxury wines of the 18th century.

Unfortunately, both bottles were corked.

Bummer.]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Franco Noussan in Maillod!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/21/266/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/21/266/ Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:42:34 GMT

Vallée d'Aoste. Holy shit.



In all of my years of visiting viticultural regions, Aoste just might be the most visually remarkable. You can't take a picture here without it looking majestic! Proof's in the pudding: the picture above, is the view from Franco Noussan's front yard.

Speaking of Franco, he lives in the commune of Maillod, which itself is part of the town of Saint Christophe. If all these names sound kind of French to you, that's because they are: Aoste used to be part of the Royaume de Savoie, and only became part of Italy in the aftermath of World War 1. In such, Franco speaks a local dialect called Patois with his wife and daughters, but is fluent in French and Italian.

"We are not French, we are not Italian. We are people of the Alps."



Though vines have been planted in Aoste since Roman times, the idea of terroir driven viticulture is a recent one, dating back to the 70's. This is because more traditional, rural ways of living were abandoned and forgotten during the Industrial Revolution.

As locals began working in the metal industry to build railroads, Aoste wine became for family consumption, while the more established viticultural region of Piedmonte began providing them their every day wine.

"Our tiny micro vineyards could not compete with our much more established neighbors in Piedmonte."

The first vineyard we visited was young Pinot Gris planted in 2007.



The vines are planted in very high density and in Cordon to reduce yields.



The elevation here is 1300m! As we walked through the vines, Franco started breaking down some of his viticultural practices.



In a new plantation, he always uses a small amount of herbicide along the rows for the first three years of their growth. This is because the area has a ton of cereal production, and the grains fly into vineyards because of the wind, then start growing wildly. This creates too much competition for young vines. He also irrigates the first three years, because Aoste only gets 500ml of annual rainfall.

"If the young vines don't get water in their infancy, their roots don't dig deep enough into the soil and won't fully express the terroir."

If the vines are over 3 years old or acquired at a later stage in their growth, Franco never uses herbicides or irrigation.

"After this initial step, I work organically."

Franco's "estate" consists of 1.5 hectares of vines, spread over 13 parcels in 3 communes. 7 different grapes are grown: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Vien de Nus, Mayolet, Cornalin, Fumin and Petit Rouge. He rents all of his parcels, but has fixed them up himself.

"Everything is small production here. You can't make a "commercial" wine in the sense of volume; the numbers just aren't there. The best you can do is produce a great wine of terroir that expresses its place."

Most of the people who currently live in Franco's commune are residential habitants who work in the nearby city of Aoste. Almost no agriculturalists are left.

The next plot we visited was some 20 year old Pinot Noir.







A tiny part of this parcel is a 90 year old field blend. Though he likes the current results, Franco believes it will take at least 20 more years before these vines produce "really great" grapes.

Driving to Franco's main site, we passed a 12 year old, very low yielding vineyard composed of 70% Petit Rouge, 30% Fumin.

Our final stop was Franco's main vineyard site, where 6 of his 13 parcels co-exist amongst his neighbors' vines. It is one of the most stunning vineyards I've ever seen.











The vines that produces Franco's Torrette are located here, and stand tall at a whopping 710m elevation. The soils consist of sand, and it was abandoned before Franco gave it new life.

The highest parcel here 800m elevation planted in Pinot Gris. In the same area, there is some very old Petit Rouge.

"I'm not sure how old these vines are, but they are definitely older than me."

Unlike the earlier parcels we visited, which were trained in Guyot, the much older vines here are trained in gobelet.



The soils in this particular section are very light clay that breaks up like sand.

The sun was beginning to set, so we decided to head back to Franco's house to visit the cellar. Unsurprisingly, it is tiny. So small in fact that Franco is forced to vinify all of his wines at different times. The wines ferment off of their native yeasts for 12 days.

Along with some incredible local charcuterie and cheese, we tried a bunch of wine. Each bottle features the date of harvest on the label, and looking at the lot number is the only way to identify the vintage, since it is not listed.



Blanc de Tzanté: means "little hill" and is all Pinot Gris. We tried 2012 and 2013, and both had a lot of Alpine Charmu. I'm trademarking that because it sounds like the name for a Febreze or Old Spice odor, and you never know with these multi-national corporations! I need to keep my creative endeavors safe!

Torrette 2012 had a dark nose, with a smoky, Mountain Freshnessu and herbaceous character. The blend always consists of 70% Petit Rouge, but the rest varies vintage to vintage.

11 Torrette had a fruitier nose which also marked the palate. It was the fresher of the 12.



Cuvée de la Cote is a blend of all his red grapes, all co-fermented. Both 12 and 11 were super glugable, easy drinking wines.

"You have to want to drink the wine. If finishing a glass seems like a burden, you haven't done your job correctly."



The tasting ended with a 2011 Pinot Noir that was my favorite of the night. Why?

Tune in next time...]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti in Casa del Bosco!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/10/265/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/10/265/ Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:15:41 GMT

When you've travelled all the way from another continent to visit an estate, the last thing you want is getting rained out. It really dampens the mood!

This was unfortunately the case as we pulled up to Casa del Bosco to visit father and son team Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti; in the winter it's not the end of the world since the vines are hibernating and it's cold as shit out. But when you've just landed in Italy in early May and the vines bursting full of vigor and life, you definitely want to spend as much time as possible outside. Alas, the rain was coming down hard, and it looked like it was going to be an "inside only" visit...

Luckily, the Antoniottis have some nice inside stuff to visit. For example, their really old cellar:





The cellar is directly under their family house, divided in two parts and dates back to the late 1700's. What you see here is the vinification area.

Grapes come in through this window:



All of the wine ferments in these large concrete vats from 1910.





There used to only be a single huge vat, but Odilio split it in 2 to focus on more precise vinifications. The grapes are de-stemmed, and fermentations take about 3 weeks, with 2 to 3 remontages a day. The wine then clarifies (decants) in stainless steel before being racked to barrel about a month later to age. Many of their barrels are made from oak chopped down on their own land.

The Antoniotti family produces two D.O.C wines: Bramaterra and Coste della Sesia. Both are micro-appellations, with 8 producers bottling Bramattera and 20 for Coste della Sesia.

"And each producer has a tiny annual production."

Factoid: the tiny village of Casa del Bosco was originally built as a lord's hunting resort. The historical reason vines were planted in the area is because the lord and his crew naturally needed wine to celebrate after the hunt!

Moving on, Mattia showed us their labeling room, which is literally just a room where they hand label EVERY SINGLE BOTTLE ONE AT A TIME WITH GLUE AND A PAINT BRUSH!





That's what I call attention to detail!

From the cellar, we trekked upwards to the Antoniotti's semi-formal tasting room. Old bottles were proudly on display, including this 1964 produced by Odilio's grandfather.



From the tasting room, a large window faces a large hill right by the house.



While sitting down, Odilio explained how this entire hillside was planted in vines just 50 years ago.

Before getting to down to business, Mattia busted out some local cheeses.



There was also some Prosciutto thrown in for good measure.



Finally, there was some wine to taste!



We started the tasting with a first time experiment, a delicious Rosato made from 24 hour saignée. It follows the same blend as the Bramaterra: 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina (also known as Bonarda in Emilia-Romagna) 7% Vespolina and 3% Uva Rara (which literally translates to rare grape). My notes said it was "super good" with "super purity".

Next up was the Coste della Sesia 2011, which is always 90% Nebbiolo and 10% Croatina. It was dark and fully bodied but super fresh, with bright acidity and nice finish.

"This is the best Coste we've ever made."

Conditions were perfect in 2011: cool winds, no illness, no hail.

We ended with the Bramaterra 2010, which is aged 3 years in barrel before release. It showed more structure than the Coste della Sesia, and even though there is less Nebbiolo in it than the Coste, I felt the wine to be more marked by the Nebbiolo than the rest.

Someone asked about the lesser planted and known grapes used at the estate, and Odilio answered:

"Having many grape varieties balances the vineyard and ensures that if something goes wrong (with one of the grapes), you have the luxury of a back up plan."

By the time the tasting was over, the rain had majorly subsided and we decided to brave the elements to visit some nearby vineyards. Incredibly, Odilio had eight million umbrellas handy and was able to lend one to each of us.



Well, everyone but me. I actually had a broken parasol.



The first vineyard we visited is 450 m elevation and produces Coste della Sesia.



In better weather conditions, you can clearly see the Alps and the Sesia river in the background.

The vineyard is and isolated clos, exposed full South and is planted in Nebiollo and Vespolina. The soils here consist of volcanic Porphyry, which is a type of granite. Odilio decided to grab a huge chunk of it to break it down.



"Every different color you see in a different mineral, which adds much complexity to the wine."



Here's another, smaller piece to give you an idea.



The next vineyard we visited took us through a crazy, slippery and very uneven road that I have no idea how anyone could access without a 4x4 truck.















This is their main vineyard; the current vines were planted in 1978, but the Antoniotti family purchased the land in 1860 (Odilio still has the contract papers stashed somewhere!) The soils are also Porphyry, but much finer and pebbly.



The site is a proper viticultural amphitheater, and as such the exposition spans from South to South-West.



The Antoniottis have never used herbicides.

"We till the grass, and that becomes a natural compost."]]>
<![CDATA[New "Our Peasants" Article: Nüsserhof "Trapped Vineyard" by Wolfgang Mayer!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/8/264/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/8/264/ Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:46:09 GMT
How the wonderful Mayr-Nüsserhof Blatterle became a "B......." wine

When the Mayr family bought the Nüsserhof farm in 1788, Tirol was a country, France hadn't had a revolution yet, Andreas Hofer (trans. note: the future commander of the Tyrolean insurrection against Napoleon) had just traded his first horses, sold his first barrels of wine and the view from the Nüsserhof extended all the way to the church. Today, the Nüsserhof is the only original piece of land hasn't been devoured by the expanding town of Bolzano, and is all that remains of the once green Bozner land.

Surrounded by walls and bordering the Eisack Dam, the Mayr's family estate resembles a French "clos": an enclosed vineyard. But while such a thing is respected, even venerated in France, Germany or Austria –countries where old traditions and old vines are being defended against the fast moving Zeitgeist– the quiet, stoical Heinrich Mayr-Nusser and his entrepreneurial wife Elda remain quaint outsiders in the South Tyrolean wine landscape. This despite the fact that the Blatterle grape was the most common variety in the Bozen area as recently as the 19th century! An indigenous vine that, one would assume, would mean protecting the last remaining Blatterle area like Noah's Ark (note: Nüsserhof is one of only three remaining producers growing Blatterle, and has the highest holdings of the three)

But Saint Bureaucratus sees things differently: no large conglomerate cared for the Blatterle, so it fell to the wayside and doesn't have DOC status, just like the real Weißterlaner by the way, which still yields a few bottles thanks to the steadfast Waschtl Stocker. If you sow bureaucrats, a North Tyrolean grouser once remarked, you will reap insanity!

In the case of the Nüsserhof Blatterle, that means that Saint Bureaucratus doesn't allow the word Blatterle on the label of a wine made from authentic Blatterle. So the brave Elda and Heinrich quickly chopped off a "t" on their labels and bottled their "Blaterle" for years without being challenged. Until somebody recently pressed charges and accused Mayr-Nusser of fraud because "Blaterle" sounds much too close to the real, formerly important varietal Blatterle...

It's hard to believe: the last South Tyrolean vintner producing a 100% Blatterle from real Blatterle isn't allowed to put Blatterle on the label. If you sow bureaucrats, you will reap insanity. A "fantasy" name would be possible, said the magistrate: Tom, Dick and Harry wine or so. That's how Elda and Heinrich finally came up with the idea to salvage at least one last letter, and from 2011 vintage on the labels just say "B.......".

"Nüsserhof's Blatterle was one of the most intriguing whites I encountered... it is surprisingly full of flavor considering its light to medium-bodied texture", wrote wine pope Robert Parker enthusiastically, giving it 90/100 points. For friends of good taste and healthy opposition to bureaucrats, we are including the Mayr's address:

Elda and Heinrich Mayr, Weingut Nusserhof, Josef-Mayr-Nusser-Weg 72, Bozen – Tel/Fax 0471 978388 or mobile: 335 6207558]]>