So here's the deal. It is accepted wisdom that storing wine in oak barrels may in many cases be beneficial. Storing wine in barrels may add flavors and/or textures that add desirable complexity to wine. Myriad decisions regarding the quality (and/or “qualities") of the various types of barrels (French vs. American, vs. Slovenian oak etc., new barrels vs. used, or “neutral,” etc.) have to be made by any winery regardless of scale. Over 20 years ago, as “oaky” became a synonym for “high quality” (I'll reserve discussion about aesthetics for another time), large-scale producers were faced with a big challenge; how do you get “oaky” when you need to sell wine at supermarket prices? You see, barrels are expensive. The typical barrel holds 300 bottles. A new barrel that will impart that “oaky” flavor (a barrel used once, is considered neutral–incapable of imparting oak flavors), will cost anywhere from $250 to $1500 per barrel, depending on where the oak comes from, quality of th
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, ge
So that big truck pulled up outside of Sergio Germano's winery, fully refrigerated at 56° (13.33° Celsius, for those “in the know”). It was the first time I'd seen one of the reefer trucks in Europe. After a whole lot of years working in wine, it's unbelievable that this isn't the “norm.” On this same day, a number of (much smaller) delivery vans pulled in to pick up smaller amounts of wine, and none of them were refrigerated, let alone air-conditioned — and this was in June. The small vans were apparently picking up from a number of wineries in Barolo, so one has to assume that a lot of wine was sitting in these vans for some time before they got to their initial destination. One hot July afternoon outside of Domaine Ampeau, I saw a flat-bed with dozens of cases of expensive Burgundy sitting outside the cellar. It had come to pick up 10 cases from the domaine. It was in the low 90's temperature-wise. Who knows how long those wines had been sitting there, or how mu
Patrick Brunet of Domaine de Robert, farms roughly 2,500 vines per acre by hand In wine production, oak barrels (see here for more on this subject) are the second largest expense after grape purchases, unless, of course you already own the grapes, having grown them yourself. In industrial “winemaking,” where a company needs to fill its “brand position” in the marketplace with many multiples of thousands of cases, this is rarely, practically never the case. Whether you’re “Cupcake Vineyards,” and buying grapes or ready-made “wine” on which you’ll slap your label (or a multi-national, publicly-traded marketing corporation most known for luggage that does the same), the “raw material,” grapes, are one of your largest expenses. This brings us to farming. Before we get started down that road, let’s first establish how things work with our producers; 99.5% of them farm their own vineyards, and do so sustainably. Most are fully “organic,” some are "certified" in their respe
Fabrice Gasnier working the vines during veraison Hang around here long enough and you’ll hear lots of conversations about wine in the “Old World,” and how they evolved. And even more stories about our winegrowers. Wines like those you’ll find here are very different from what you’d find in a typical liquor store. And the stories of small local cultures that existed before “France,” “Italy,” or “Germany” were countries as we know them today, explain why “Burgundy” is Burgundy, and “Barolo” is Barolo. Ours are stories that speak of the humanity of wine—whether as a function of human cultural evolution, or the hard, physical, human effort that goes into producing fine wine. Our winegrowers are a living part of this history. They work in a spirit of gratitude, refining and developing what previous generations created while preserving the land for future generations. For them, an attentive, sensitive style of stewardship is both a duty and a precondition for living s
The work looks easy–until you realize you’ll be walking up and down a 50 degree (or better) slope repeating the movements thousands of times. Here’s a taste of the hard work that goes into fine wine. Also Greg gets a quick tutorial from someone who has done this for a number of years on the Halenberg one of Germany's most important vineyards.
Paolo De Marchi and James Spinelli Paolo was exhausted. Following a huge turnout the night before in our New York store, a two-hour drive to my house to spend the night, a 9AM meeting and interview with Philadelphia's most influential food writer, then the all-day tasting; he was spent. He was telling me (on our way to pick up sushi for a quiet dinner at home; ( Fuji in Haddonfield in case you're interested) how old he was feeling, and how tired he was. And it got me thinking. I took a short detour down Tanner Street in Haddonfield and pulled up in front of Quaker Shoe Repair. I took Paolo with me into the little shop, and introduced him to the owner, James Spinelli (he keeps my cowboy boots in shape). Mr. Spinelli took an apprenticeship in shoemaking at age 11 when Calvin Coolidge was still President and was just turning 94–still working six or seven days a week as an artisan. I told Mr. Spinelli that Paolo was "feeling his years," and was tiring out. Mr. Spinelli lo
A Salumeria's sign in Monforte It’s always an interesting question; “What’s the difference between this Barolo and THAT Barolo?” When talking about how “place” determines what the wine will be, the “geeks” among us like to talk about soils, altitude, and exposure - each giving something to the wine that can’t be reproduced in the next town over. But the one other aspect of “terroir” that’s often missed is “culture.” And differences in culture shape the viticolotore’s aesthetic just as much as soils. You can see this in looking at the two Barolo villages represented at Moore Brothers; Monforte and Serralunga. Monforte is a much larger town than Serralunga. It was one of the important centers of commerce in the area which became known as the “Barolo” zone. Quite broadly speaking, the inhabitants of this town were much “better off” than their counterparts in Serralunga. In Serralunga, the market for grapes was dominated by the large Fontanafredda winery, and most of the farmers s