Alain Bortolussi and his family in Madiran In 1952, Alain Bortolussi's grandfather, an immigrant from the Veneto, purchased the eighteenth-century château and the surrounding 25 hectares of vines, which had just been classified under AOC regulations as Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh. At the time, it had almost no value. Over the next thirty-five years, most of the estate was replanted with the best clones of Tannat and Cabernet Franc for the Madiran, along with a tiny one-hectare parcel of local white varieties for the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. Alain, who is the first to bottle wine at the estate, took charge in 1991. When we met him in 2013, he was just completing the restoration of the château. In 2016, his daughters, Claire, and Marion, joined Alain at Château Viella, and in 2019, on Alain’s nominal “retirement,” have taken the reins of this jewel of a winegrowing estate.
I’d just completed a two-hour drive from Orly (with a stick shift, mind you — that vehicle would never be the same) after an eight-hour flight from Philadelphia — my first trip to France. I was beat, but as I pulled up to the front gate at Philippe Poniatowski’s Clos Baudoin, and stepped out of the car, I was struck by the familiarity of the place. I’d opened hundreds bottles that grew on this estate, and had drunk quite a few myself. A deep breath was all it took to recognize the“Clos,” even though I’d never been there. Philippe (now, deceased), was in his 70s at the time, and I was a young “know-it-all” back then, but he did all he could to guide me to an understanding of wine in the “Old World.” He was patient with me — no simple task in those days…some might argue that hasn’t changed…but I digress. On the map above, you see many places carefully mapped out that show the boundaries between one wine region and another. The concept of wine as having a distinct, geographic
Frédéric Méhaye The estate lies on a privileged location: atop a rare mound of Garonnaise gravel, looking directly down on the Gironde estuary. Château Sipian had always been classified a Cru Bourgeois of the Médoc, until the vineyards were pulled up and abandoned in the 1950s. Bernard and Nicole Méhaye purchased the estate in 1978, and planted the first seven hectares of Merlot. But the real history of Château Sipian begins with their son Frédéric, whose risk-taking vision and hard work have lifted the estate into the front rank of Médoc producers. Today, Frédéric’s son, Quentin Méhaye, has taken over responsibility for much of the work in the twenty-five hectares of mostly 30-year-old vines.
Alessandro Castellani in the Casal Vegri vineyard Ca’ La Bionda was founded in 1902 by Pietro Castellani, Alessandro’s great grandfather, who was a passionate grape grower and winemaker. The east facing hillside vineyards extend over 29 hectares in the commune of Marano di Valpolicella, northwest of Verona, in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone. Only traditional varieties, including Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, and Rondinella are grown (there are no international varieties), and the farming is entirely organic. Particular attention and care are given to the delicate process of drying the grapes for the production of the Amarone and the sweet Reciotto.
Treating esca, organically, Here's Greg Moore and Peter Fischer of Château Revelette discussing the importance of organic farming in winegrowing. It's a good thing to let some weeds and wildflowers to grow among your vines - this attracts other life to the vineyards, helping to maintain balance. It's also a good idea to cut these weeds and flowers so that they can return natural nutrients to the soil.
Wil Franklin is a Moore Brothers alum, with the reputation as the finest producer in Humboldt County, California. He has given us permission to republish his pieces from The Courtier. One of the most perplexing characteristics of wine is “sweet vs. dry”. I have often heard friends say they don’t drink white wine because it’s too sweet, yet they like late harvest red Zinfandel that is sweet. Others tell me they don’t like red wine because it’s too dry, but then turn around and drink an even drier white wine. What’s at the root of these perplexing contradictions that keep some people from even considering half of all wines? Clearly the words dry and sweet mean different things to different people. To make all this more understandable, I’ll put on my winemaker’s hat and explain the actual, technical meanings behind the terms. First, dry does not mean the puckering sensation felt in the mouth when quaffing a high acid white wine – that’s tartness. Second, dry is not the tactile, chalk
Luca De Marchi at Proprietà Sperino For more than thirty years at Isole e Olena in Chianti Classico, Paolo De Marchi has produced some of the greatest wines ever to come out of Italy. But he always nurtured another dream: to bring back the wine of Proprietà Sperino, the original De Marchi family estate in Lessona, in the Alpine foothills of northern Piemonte, where the last vintage had been harvested in 1952. If you scoop up the soil in Lessona only a half-hour after a heavy rain, it runs through your fingers like sand in an hourglass. The climate is dry, and a cool breeze blows down from the Alps to the north. A hundred years ago, the wines grown here by Felice Sperino, Paolo De Marchi’s great, great uncle, were the most expensive wines in Italy. Today, after twenty years of arduous work replanting the vineyards and renovating the winery, Paolo and his son Luca have given new life to Proprietà Sperino, and are now the vanguard of the renaissance of this historic wine growing
Catherine Thibon and Nestor Jean-Pierre Thibon’s family has operated the Mas de Libian in Saint-Marcel d’Ardèche since 1670. He and his cardiologist wife, Jacqueline, have three daughters: Hélène, Catherine, and Cécile. In 1995, Hélène, Catherine, and Hélène’s husband Alain Macagno assumed responsibility for viticulture and winemaking, and began to estate-bottle the wine, rather than sell it in bulk to négociants. Long before it was fashionable, the Mas de Libian was an organic farm, and in 2005 Hélène introduced the demanding practice of biodynamics. Catherine does much of the vineyard work herself, with the help of “Nestor,” a charming Comptois draft horse who is encouraged by his canine stable mates “Sophia” and “Éclair.”