World Malbec Day, April 17, is an annual observance that celebrates this noble red grape. Malbec’s roots are from southwest France, but it has achieved superstar status in Argentina where it has flourished. In fact, Argentina now produces seventy-five percent of Malbec, and its wines have become world-renowned.
One example is Bodegas Luigi Bosca. Established in 1901 by the Arizu family, Luigi Bosca is one of Argentina’s few continually owned and operated family wineries. Its main winery is in Lujàn de Cuyo, a sub-appellation of Mendoza. The Arizu family was instrumental in helping establish Lujàn de Cuyo as an official CDO in 1989. The winery also vineyards in Maipú and and the Uco Valley, also in Mendoza.
Head winemaker, Pablo Cunéo, has worked with Luigi Bosca since 2017. If anyone is an “ambassador” for Mendoza, it is Cunéo, who praises its climactic conditions for making exceptional wines.
“We are fortunate to have very stable growing conditions year after year,” he noted. “Mendoza has a continental climate bordered by the Andes and high elevation vineyards. Its poor alluvial soils help to produce a high concentration of fruit. The cool winds from the Andes, low humidity and ample sunlight are ideal for ripening the fruit with exceptional vibrance and color, especially as you go higher in altitude in the Uco Valley.”
Bodega Luigi Bosca’s De Sangre collection of reserve wines was introduced in October 2021. (Importer: Frederick Wildman)
“De Sangre means ‘of the bloodlines,’ and these wines are close to the Arizu family, special reserve wines usually brought out to serve for special occasions. Now, they want to offer them to the world,” said Cuñeo.“The wines are made from grapes sourced from select parcels to show the characteristic of each variety.”
We tasted three selections:
De Sangre White is a blend of Chardonnay (50%), Semillon (35%) and Sauvignon Blanc (15%). “The Chardonnay is fermented for eight months in French oak to attain toasty, caramel notes. The Semillon has herbal and chamomile characteristics, and the Sauvignon Blanc adds citrus and acidity. We thought this wine would well with a variety of dishes, from a light creamy pasta to spanakopita to pan-roasted trout almondine or Florida grouper in a tropical sauce. So many ideas came to mind!
The De Sangre Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) is blended from grapes from four different parcels in Mendoza. “Each adds something special to the wines,” said Cuñeo. After 12 months aging in oak with malolactic fermentation, this wine delivers pleasing black fruit and peppery notes and ripe, balanced- not overly agressive- tannins which we appreciated. Consider this wine for a for grilled meats, game, or roasts. We enjoyed it with a savory roast chicken.
De Sangre Malbec is one of three Malbecs produced in the collection. The Malbec DOC Lujàn de Cuyo is aged 12 months in oak with malolactic fermentation, which imparts soft elegance and a ripe roundness to the fruit laced with notes of cacao and coffee. This Malbec is silky and plush. We discussed grilled meat, steak and barbecue and tasted at home with David’s “vegetarian” meat loaf.
Cuñeo feels Lujàn de Cuyo produces the most representative of European Malbecs made in the 19th century- very classic. “I call it [Lujan de Cuyo] the Malbec that conquered the world,” he said.
We enjoy drinking wine with our meals and an evening cocktail. We also know taking a healthy break from daily alcohol consumption is a good thing, especially in our profession. However, drinking water with our dinner just doesn’t provide the satiating satisfaction we desire.
Happily, we discovered Enroot Sparkling Teas, thirst-quenching cold brewed teas with botanical and fruit flavors that do not overpower the palate. The recipes for Enroot’s five different tea flavors were created and tested by chefs with food pairings in mind. Our first taste of Enroot was at Chef J J Johnson’s Field Trip at Rockefeller Center in New York City. At the time, we had never heard of Enroot, but we were impressed. Then, our friends at Vineyard Brands introduced Enroot a wine tasting in New York City last October. Vineyard Brands is the distributor. We were hooked!
It turns out Enroot is the brainchild of three friends, Cristine Patwa, John Fogelman and Brad Pitt (yes, the actor!) The teas were conceived to appeal to the “sober curious,” population who want to enjoy low or no-alcohol beverage options and seek something better-for-you than a sugary soda. Tea, being filled with antioxidants and botanicals makes sense.
Fact: Low- and no-alcohol market, driven by millennials, is continuing to expand, with consumption expected to grow 31% by 2024, according to the IWSR.
CEO Cris Patwa was inspired by the refreshing teas made by her grandmother, Pamela, a small-scale farmer and food entrepreneur in the Philippines. “When I was a little girl, my grandmother would cut open fresh mango for our afternoon snacks. If we were thirsty, a fresh coconut would be plucked and hacked to enjoy directly from the trees as refreshment. We lived with this authentic connection to our food, farms and family – which ultimately became the values that Enroot is founded on today. A driving force for me in creating this company with Brad and John was to be able bottle these memories and learnings from her.”
The cold brew process takes over 20 hours. “This method avoids scalding or over-cooking the tea leaves and botanicals which can create bitterness and astringency that often require a notable amount of sugar or artificial sweeteners to mask,” said Patwa. “Without this bitterness in our slow cold brews, we were able to avoid the use of added sugars, sweeteners, artificial ingredients, flavors/essences/extracts, concentrates, Stevia or monk fruit – while only being 25 natural whole calories. “
Enroot works with small farmers around the world to select its botanicals, another nod of respect to Patwa’s grandmother.
“Each ingredient is meticulously sourced to ensure the highest quality farm-to-bottle experience. Our organic teas can take several months to several years to evolve and mature for careful picking during harvest season,” said Patwa.
Enroot also partnered with The James Beard Foundation (JBF) to select 12 chefs to create the botanical recipes for Enroot. There are currently five flavors. Apple-Lemon-Cayenne-Yerba Mata; Mango, Ginger- Tumeric-Guyasa, Peach-Hibiscus Jasmine Green Tea, Raspberry-Mint White Peony Tea and Strawberry- Lavender Rosemary- Tulsi (a type of holy basil). The chefs also created cocktail recipes and dishes to pair with the different teas which can be found at www.drinkenroot.com
A Certified B Corp, Enroot has also committed to supporting JBF’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. “The desire to support women is also a nod to grandmother, Pamela. In many ways, she laid the foundation for who I am today, imparting wisdom and life experience, and learning about business, agriculture, community, and sustainability,” said Patwa.
Listen to our conversation with Cris Patwa, CEO, Enroot- The Connected Table SIPS! podcast-iHeart Radio
Sixty years is a milestone for any business and especially when it is a winery. Even more interesting is when the winery is located in New Zealand, which is still considered a “new world” wine region. Many of the country’s earliest grape growers were immigrants from Croatia with the biggest wave arriving between 1890 and 1914. This included the Fistonich family. That is where the story of Sir George Fistonich and the birth of Villa Maria begins.
In 1961 at the age of 21, George Fistonich leased land in from his father and planted his first acre of vines in Auckland with the goal of making quality wine, accessible to many. From those humble beginnings, Villa Maria expanded to three wineries throughout the country. It is New Zealand’s most awarded winery with more than 2000 accolades. In 2009, Sir George Fistonich was knighted in recognition of his service to the New Zealand wine industry, a first in that nation.
Villa Maria’s winemaker, Tom Dixon started as a cellar hand in 2013. “Villa Maria one of the few wineries making wines in every production region of New Zealand. We are based in Auckland on the North Island. On the east coast in Gisborne, we grow Chardonnay and Pinot Gris; just south in Hawkes Bay we produce Bordeaux style reds and Chardonnay. The South Island in Marlborough is where we make out Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir,” he explained.
Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blancs take center stage. We tasted the Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon 2021, Marlborough (SRP $16.99). The wine’s flavor notes blend citrus and tropical fruits with lemongrass, fresh herbs and a whiff of bell pepper. Dixon explained that Villa Maria sources its Sauvignon Blanc grapes from two vineyards to achieve this balance of flavor.
“The Wairau Valley in Marlborough has a warmer climate and more fertile soils which bring out the tropical fruit character. In the Awatere Valley the climate is cooler, drier, windier and the soils are poor, resulting in wines with more vegetal character such as snow peas and grass. With the Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, we aim for a 50-50 split so you can taste a lovely intermingling of both tropical and herbal notes,” he noted.
Villa Maria is also recognized for its sustainability platform based on four pillars: Respect the land. Tread lightly. Invest in people. Inspire conscious consumers. “By caring for the land and focusing on preservation, we benefit by making better wine. By investing in people, we have a committed team who shares our mission. Our passion and desire to be sustainable and responsible we want to inspire others to do the same,” he said.
We recommend pairing Villa Maria with plant-based dishes, salads, grilled fish, mussels frites, papaya salad or pad Thai.
Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardia is a region of rolling hills, medieval villages, majestic and vast stretches of vineyards earning it the moniker, the “Tuscany of the North.” Oltrepò means “beyond the Po,” a reference to the region’s location on the southern shore of the Po River in the province of Pavia. Oltrepò Pavese benefits from cool breeze from the north and a location on the 45th degree parallel, where some of the world’s great wines are produced. The appellations was granted DOCG status in 2007. Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir) is the key grape variety cultivated, and region is recognized for its outstanding Blanc de Noir sparkling wines.
Castello di Cigognola, a 12th century castle with landscaped gardens surrounded by vineyards, is one of the most stunning and historical properties in Oltrepò Pavese. Decorated by master architect, Renzo Mongiardino, Castello di Cigognola been designated an Italian National Trust World Heritage site.
Castello di Cigognola is owned by the renowned Moratti family. Gianmarco Moratti is a successful entrepreneur; his wife and Letizia Moratti, is a businesswoman who has served as the mayor of Milan. Their son, Gabriele Moratti oversees vineyard management with Gian Matteo Baldi, Castello di Cignonola’s CEO.
We visited with Gian Matteo Baldi to a record aSIPS podcastfor The Connected Table (stream it below) and taste three expressions of the Moratti metodo classico blanc de noir cuvées. We were impressed by how fresh and clean they tasted on our palates and the finesse of the bubbles. While we have had the chance to taste metodo classico sparkling wines from other well-known regions in northern Italy, notably Franciacorta and Trentodoc, we were struck by the exceptional character of these Oltrepò Pavese blanc de noir wines.
Here is what we tasted:
Moratti Blanc de Noir Pas Dosè. For no dosage sparkling wine lovers, this selection will delight. The wine remains 18 to 24 months on the lees and has a clean, crisp
Moratti Cuvée More Blanc de Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir with a touch of Pinot Meunier. The wine is aged 18 to 24 months on the lees, depending on the vintage
Moratti Cuvée Dell’Angelo 2012 was the only vintage sparkling wine in the trio we tasted. Grapes are sourced from select vineyard plots, and the wine remains 72 months on the lees. This is a gastronomic blanc de noir that we enjoyed with our salmon and roasted vegetables.
Château Climens’ Bérénice Lurton is recognized for making stunning Sauternes wines from the Sémillon variety. Her Château Climens Cyprès de Climens Barsac is one of the classic sweet wines of Bordeaux- liquid gold! This year, she released her first Bordeaux Blanc dry wine, Asphodèle 2018, a 100 percent Sémillon 2018, ideal for sultry summer nights.
Named after a delicate white flower that also is a symbol a rebirth. Bérénice collaborated with renowned Loire Valley Sancerre producer, Pascal Jolivet to conceive Asphodèle. Lurton has also converted her vineyards to biodynamic farming to embrace a more holistic way of making wine. Asphodèle is now available in the U.S. (SRP: $41.99). Importer is Vineyard Brands www.vineyardsbrands.com www.chateau-climens.fr
We sat down with Bérénice to taste her latest releases and record a SIPS podcast, we asked her why she decided to launch a dry white wine and collaborate with Pascal Jolivet.
TCT: Château Climens makes some amazing sweet white wines made from 100% Semillon. But you’ve also branched out and introduced a dry white Asphodèle, also 100% Semillon. Tell us about the genesis of this wine and why you decided to introduce it.
We had been thinking about making a dry white wine for a few years, driven by curiosity, longing for innovation, and because we have a few hectares of younger vines which can produce nice but not overwhelming sweet wine. It took a few years to bring this project to life because it needed investments and certainly a point of view from outside Bordeaux. After all that hard work, I am very pleased with the result and proud to now be able to launch it in the US.
TCT: You worked with Pascal Jolivet. Why did you decide to collaborate with him and what did he bring to the process?
The first thing Pascal Jolivet brought, at first, was his confidence we really could make a fantastic dry white from the terroir of Climens, and specifically from the young vines. And really, the result is beyond my hopes, we’ve made the wine I really was dreaming of!! In terms of harvest and vinification, he brought a very different approach from the classic tradition in Bordeaux: earlier picking, cold fermentation, no added yeasts, no wood, in order to preserve the purity and minerality. We’ve stopped working with him after the 2018v, but we’ve kept the philosophy and are very grateful to Pascal.
TCT: Asphodèle has a lyrical sound to it. What does this name symbolize and does it has a special meaning for you personally?
Asphodèle is a name which has been an evidence to me for this specific wine, it was pure inspiration. I like the elegant sound of it, which matches perfectly the wine’s personality, starting by this open and assertive vowel, following with soft and round syllables and ending fresh and long ones. I was seduced by this name yet I hardly knew it was a white flower. When I found more elements about it, I was amazed: this lily is both wild and very refined, and is also a symbol of rebirth, being the first plant to grow again after a fire. Like the Cyprès, which is the name of our other sweet wine, it’s considered as a link between the earth and the sky. And the terroir at Climens has a potential of vibrancy and energy that you can really feel in the wines, which are at the same time seductive and transcendent.
Asphodèle was also the first wine we’ve made after the frost had destroyed all the crop in the spring of 2017. This project and this new-born wine have really been a blessing in the difficult period we have gone through. It’s a real creation, we’re proud and …we’re really excited and proud about it, it’s our baby!
In Peru, “Pacha mama” (Earth Mother) is the powerful life force. We are taught to respect and honor Her. We are constantly reminded of this force of nature every time there is hail, frost, drought, tornadoes and now a pandemic. As a biodynamic vintner, what is your philosophy on respecting and protecting the Earth and working in harmony with nature?
Of course, biodynamic is an approach which is totally in this idea: it’s not only avoiding to use polluting inputs, but it’s a way to re-create and develop the relationship with Nature, the Earth and the Cosmos. The farm is considered as a living organism, which all parts are connected and interdependent, as well as to all the different elements of life. It’s a vision you can find in all the traditional societies, maybe especially in Asia, and I often compare it to Traditional Chinese Medicine
It is a preventive approach, based on observation and the use of natural elements, may they be plants, minerals or animal manure in order to help the vines to be well-balanced and sane in harmony within its environment. It is thus very flexible: we do adapt our approach to the terroir, the growing phases, the issues of each plot, the weather conditions, the positions of the moon (as they have an impact on tides, they have one on water in the soil and plants), etc. We are facing more and more weather brutal phenomenon, and biodynamic really helps by its research of balance.
Biodynamic is not protecting the Earth, it’s being part of it, by respecting and restoring the harmony between all its elements, at our level. It’s not a list of recipes but a vision, a philosophy, a way of life.
I have read that Bordeaux has permitted some additional white grapes to be cultivated. Can you share a little more about this? Will any be applicable to your appellation?
This is just experimental. I’d love to make experiments, but I’m not sure these grapes are adapted to our specific soil. I’m fond of Albarino, but it seems to be more comfortable in acidic soils, and we are limestone dominant… I don’t exclude to try other varieties but it’s not our priority for the next future.
For those who have never visited Barsac (including us) and are traveling their dreams for the time being, what are 3 -5 things you recommend doing/seeing or eating when visiting?
First of all let me tell you what people can discover when visiting Climens:
The “classical” visit is already different from what you can see elsewhere, Climens being a different planet in the galaxy of sauternes. We also offer a “slow tasting”, for wine lovers to take time to appreciate all the sensations that the wines do provide.
Of course, you know we are fond of food and wine pairings, so we do organize meals with a wonderful chef; I’ve been experimenting (and enjoying!!) the unlimited possibilities of delight for 25 years, and let me tell you again these wines are far from being only dessert wines: they are wonderfully versatile, and it’s an experiment not to be missed! We’ve been working for many years with Florence Camaly, a chef who’s as precise as sensitive and inspired. Her cuisine has a resemblance with Climens in the fact that it’s natural, fresh and refined. It’s based on traditional French cuisine but with a personal and oriental inspiration. I am so fond of her gambas in Thaï style, her sea bass “en croûte de sel , her lamb tajine, her heavenly fruit desserts…
We also organize yoga sessions in the unique tisanerie (the attic where we dry and store the plants for biodynamy) .
Apart from Climens, the surroundings are beautiful to discover by car or bicycle. The landscapes are superb, and the Sauternes and Barsac area is a very historical region where Heritage buildings are abundant: baroque churches like the gorgeous one of Barsac, magnificent chateaux from the Middle Ages, XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, and the rural architecture is very nice too.
I also strongly recommend to go rowing on the Ciron, it’s not only the origin of the Botrytis microclimate, but also a very preserved and beautiful little river which flows inside gorges.
As for restaurants, you’ve got the choice, from very typical regional food like an “entrecôte aux sarments” (rib steak cooked on dried vine shoots) at L’auberge des Vignes in Sauternes, to the top of French gastronomy like at the new Restaurant Lalique at Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey.
Show notes: Bérénice Lurton is a fourth-generation winegrower of Bordeaux’s renowned Lurton family. Her father, Lucien Lurton, acquired a collection of famous estates that he shared among his ten children. In 1992, Bérénice assumed stewardship of Château Climens at age 22. Considered a jewel of the Sauternes region, the 16th century Château Climens is a premier cru First Classified Growth of 1855 known as the “Lord of Barsac.” www.chateau-climens.fr U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands www.vineyardbrands.com
We have a soft spot for South Africa after a visit to the wine country and the bushlands in late 2006. So, it was a pleasure to visit with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, proprietors of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a producer of estate-grown wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the fishing village of Hermanus in Walker Bay. It’s one of the southernmost wine estates in Africa and benefits from a cooler maritime climate, ideal for producing their Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. (listen The Connected Table Sips)
Now, after producing 40 vintages in South Africa, the Hamilton Russells have spread their wings and have invested in making wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their first two releases, vintage 2018 deliver classic Pinot Noirs with opulent fruit and spice balanced with masterful restraint and purity. The wines are available through Vineyards Brands in the U.S.A.
The couple had looked into investing in Burgundy but decided the Willamette Valley offered a better opportunity to work with some of the region’s best AVAs, Eola-Amity Hills and Ribbon Ridge.
The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is recognized for its iron- rich volcanic soils formed by ancient lava flows combined with marine sediments and alluvial deposits. The maritime climate allows for a steady cooling sea breeze during the long, warm growing season Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Here, the soil is uniformly marine sediments with fine silt, sand, and mud.
“After sanctions (in South Africa) were lifted in 1992, we knew we wanted to expand long-term. We visited the U.S. often and saw an extraordinary opportunity in Oregon with Pinot Noir. While Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from South Africa exhibits a bit more austerity, the Oregon wines capture the more purity of fruit. Interestingly, the alcohol levels, acidity and PH balance are almost the same,” said Anthony Hamilton Russell.
Hamilton Russell Oregon wines, both 2018, are like fraternal twins. They share a similar DNA – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir -but exhibit different character, due to terroir. Olive Hamilton Russell has a culinary background and is a passionate forager. She shared some pairing tips for each wine.
Established in 2016, AOC Cairanne is the newest of the Côtes du Rhône’s 17 crus. Located on the left bank of the Rhône River thirty minutes from Avignon, the village of Cairanne is perched on a rocky outcrop, surrounded by vineyards. In the distance one can see the craggy peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail.
Considered a gateway to the southern Rhône Valley, Cairanne’s climate is Mediterranean- dry and sunny with frequent gusts from the mistral winds which cool and purify the air, an ideal setting to cultivate healthy vines. Many vines in this region are more than 50 years old.
Red wines make up 96 percent of Cairanne’s production. AOC guidelines require that the reds be a minimum of 40 percent Grenache, blended with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan, but no variety can exceed 30 percent of the total blend. The end result are red wines that display sultry spice, fresh red fruits, smooth tannins, and elegant finesse.
Though only four percent of total production, Cairanne whites, also follow stringent AOC guidelines, comprised mainly of Clairette, Grenache Blanc or Roussanne. Bourboulenc, Picpoul. Viognier or Marsanne may be used in smaller amounts. The whites are all aromatic with a bright balance of floral, fruit and spice.
Conservation is important in Cairanne where 26 percent of planted areas are organically farmed, and sulfites are kept to extremely low levels. Most of the vines are gobelet-trained to safeguard against the wind and to preserve the freshness of the fruit. Cairanne is divided into three growing areas. To the west near the Aygues River, vineyards are planted on steep terraces with extremely stony topsoil over calcareous clay. The hilly slopes just north of the village are alluvial clay and silt with limestone. In the flat southern region, the vegetation is shallow scrubland, known in the Rhône Valley as les garrigues. Each contribute to the consistent style and character of Cairanne wines which producers unanimously refer to as more “refreshing and elegant.”
Cairanne is a winemaking community consisting of 50 independent vignerons, 35 négociants and seven cooperatives. Locals talk about a youthful vitality in Cairanne; after all, it is the newest Cru in the Côtes du Rhône. The reference is also a nod to the region’s younger winemakers who are working together with an eye on preservation, sustainability, and recognition for AOC Cairanne in the global wine market.
Here are the producers we met and their U.S. importers:
Domaine Alary. Jean-Etienne Alary is one of Cairanne’s young winemakers whose families have been producing wine in the region for many years. Domaine Alary has existed since 1692. Jean-Etienne represents the 11th generation. (Weygandt-Metzler Importing)
Domaine André Berthet-Rayne. André Berthet-Rayne’s great grandfather started with 15 acres; his father, Paul expanded it substantially. Today the winery is run by André with daughter, Alexandra, taking on winemaking duties. (Santa Armosa NY)
Domaine Boisson. Sixth generation winemaker, Bruno Boisson, studied and worked in Burgundy for several years, which is why the wines have a Burgundian flare to them, notably the barrel-aged white, L’Exigence (Verity Wines)
Domaine Le Grand Bois. An estate founded in 1920 by Albert Farjon now run by his descendent, Mireille Farjon, and her husband, Marc Besnaudeau, who worked as a sommelier in Paris before joining his wife’s family business. (Weygandt-Metzler Importing)
Learn more about AOC Cairanne. Listen to The Connected Table SIPS. Each podcast is 12 minute.
Cairanne, a pretty hill town in the Côtes du Rhone, has a winemaking community committed to producing elegant wines with an eye on sustainability and authenticity. A cru appellation since 2016, AOC Cairanne requires vines to be hand-harvested and sulfite levels kept to a minimum. 26% of all vineyards are organic. Jean-Etienne Alary, 11th generation family member at Domaine Alary, discusses Cairanne’s different soils and how young winemakers are working to support each other. www.vins-rhone.com
AOC Cairanne, the youngest of the Côtes du Rhone’s 17 crus, is located on the left bank of the Rhône River in the Vaucluse. Cairanne’s dry, sunny climate, cooling mistral winds and three distinct soil types provide the perfect setting for producing the region’s complex, lush grenache-based red wines and “rising star” aromatic whites blended from local grapes. Producer and negociant, Jean-Marie Amadieu, discusses Cairanne’s setting and styles of wine. www.vins-rhone.com
One of the Côtes du Rhône’s first cru appellations (established in 1947), AOC Lirac is a wine lover’s gem. The wines were prized among European nobility and the Avignon papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 18th century, local magistrates in Roquemaure started to authentic the origin of Lirac wines by branding the casks with “C.d.R.” Lirac wines were the first in the region to use the term “Côtes du Rhône.” Today, Lirac wines continue to draw a strong following among sommeliers and other wine aficionados.
Lirac is rare among the 17 Rhône crus for its range of red, white, and smaller amounts of rosé wines. AOC guidelines require all to be blends, mainly using indigenous varieties. Red wines, which comprise 85 percent of Lirac’s production, must contain a minimum of 40 percent Grenache. The remaining amounts are usually Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre or Cinsault (the latter is popular for rosés). Around 10 percent of production is white. Clairette is the superstar white variety in Lirac followed by Bourboulenc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and, to a smaller degree, Picpoul and Ugni Blanc. The white wines lean toward aromatic with balanced acidity. While overshadowed by the reds in the global market, Lirac’s whites are well worth seeking out.
During our visit in early March 2020 (thankfully before the travel shutdown), a robust mistral blew in, practically knocking us over. The locals are used to the mistral wind which average 180 days of the year. Lirac’s climate in the southern Rhône Valley is Mediterranean, but a mistral can have you reaching for scarves and jackets even under a brilliant sunny sky.
These winds, unique to this part of France, combined with more than 220 days of sunshine, play a key role in shaping Lirac’s terroir. They help purify the air to keep humidity low, chase away pests and nurture healthy vines.
Another key factor are Lirac’s three soils. Alluvial river soils scattered with large round stones, known as galets roulés, produce intense red wines with dark fruit and savory spices, offering long aging potential. Limestone soils deliver minerality and aromatics, a hallmark of the whites which are fruit and floral with balanced acidity. Sandy soils produce fresh lighter wines, low in tannins, ideal for Lirac’s fruitier style of rosés
Avignon serves as a great base to visit both Lirac and Tavel, its next -door neighbor which only produces rosé wines. If you stay in Avignon, a visit to the Palais du Papes (the Popes’ Palace) is a must, and allow plenty of time (advanced reservations are suggested.). We had the chance to spend a Sunday in Avignon where locals and tourists gather at the covered market for casual Sunday dining or to pick up provisions. It’s great people watching!
We visited with several Lirac producers during our trip. When asked how they would define “Lirac style,” they all underscored “freshness and lush” as a backbone of the wines and what they refer to as “the Rhône Valley’s “right bank style.” In contrast, left bank wines, such as those in Chateauneuf-du-Pape just across the river were described as “concentrated and more intense.” A number of producers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, have invested in vineyards in Lirac.
Lirac is home to many independent wineries; many are family-run Here are the producers we met and their U.S. importers.
Château de Ségriès. This historic winery is one of the first in the appellation. by Count Henri de Régis de Gatimel inherited Château de Ségriès in 1940 and was one of the first to replant vines in the region. The Count was the first to petition that Lirac be awarded AOC status, which occurred in 1947. (U.S. importer: Kysela Pere & Fils).
Château de Montfaucon. The center piece of this estate is a lovingly restored fortress dating to the 12th century owned by a noble family. Proprietor Rodolphe du Pins showed us a pre-phylloxera vineyard dating back 140 years. (Winebow)
Domaine La Lôyane. Started by a family of growers dating back four generations, the winery is run by Romain Dubois and his wife, Laure. Organically run, this winery is home to five vineyards including one whose Grenache vines are 150 years-old! (Elixir Wine Group)
Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine The Lafond family has been making wine in the Rhône Valley since 1780. “Roc-Epine” was established in 1970 and started to bottle wine in 1978. The name commemorates “Roquepine,” a famous horse race. (Skurnik Wines)
Château Mont-Redon. The original name, “Mourredon,” dates to 1344, when the property was part of the Pope’s land; it was recognized as a vineyard in the 18th century. Today this winery, is owned by the largest landowner in Chateauneuf-du-Pape who saw the potential in making wine in Lirac. (F. Wildman)
La Maison Ogier. In 800 A.D. with “Ogier the Dane” fought with Charlemagne’s soldiers and settled in the area. The family entered the wine business in 1859. Ogier was founded in 1948. Today it is a leading negociant in the Rhône Valley. (Folio Fine Wine Partners)
Listen to The Connected Table Sips. Discover Lirac!
AOC Lirac on the Rhône River’s right bank is a small cru appellation producing lush reds and aromatic whites. Lirac has an ideal terroir: over 200 days of sun, purifying mistral winds and three different soils: rocky galets, calcareous and sandy, with most vineyards organically farmed. AOC Lirac Co-President Rodolphe de Pins is owner of Château de Montfaucon, where some vineyards date back 140 years. He discusses how Lirac’s different soils shape the character of its wines. www.vins-rhone.com
One of the Côtes du Rhône’s first cru appellations since 1947, AOC Lirac is a wine lover’s rare gem, just northwest of Avignon. Lirac wines were prized among Europe’s nobility and the Avignon papacy in the 14th century. Lirac is rare among the 17 Rhône crus for its range of red, white and smaller amounts of rosé wines made from blends of mainly indigenous varieties. Château de Montfaucon’s Rodolphe de Pins, AOC Lirac Co-President, discusses the region and styles of wine. www.vins-rhone.com
We're Sipping J Vineyards’ Sparkling Cuvées at Home
Everyone needs a versatile sparkling wine on hand to enjoy with home-cooked meals and to uncork for impromptu entertaining. J Vineyards & Winery is one of Sonoma’s top sparkling and varietal wine producers whose cuvées are made in the traditional method. The six vineyards are all located in the Russian River Valley, a cool climate setting that delivers wines of exceptional, fresh fruit crispness and balanced acidity.
Underscoring the popularity of these wines for casual entertaining, J Vineyards & Winery’s tasting room near Healdsburg offers special culinary experiences. A popular one is the J Bubble Room, a gastronomical experience led by Executive Chef Carl Shelton and Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, which includes both sparkling and varietal wines. Chef Shelton shared, “Many of our visitors come to taste the sparkling wines and leave with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.”
What we tasted:
J Cuvée 20 Classic Brut. The winery’s twentieth anniversary is a blend of 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier with aging on lees to add complexity. It delivers notes of toasted almond and brioche toast, baked apple, white peach and Meyer lemon. Pair with creamy brie, seared cod, poached lobster, grouper and truffle pasta. SRP: $38
J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé gets its soft salmon pink color and ripe red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors from Pinot Noir. The blending of 32 percent Chardonnay into this wine adds notes of slivered almond, kaffir, jasmine and lemon meringue. We recently enjoyed our J Rosé with a harissa spiced shrimp over rice. SRP: $45
Both wines are available nationwide through many retail outlets, and you can order direct from the winery. www.jwine.com
J Vineyards & Winery Executive Chef Carl Shelton joined us on The Connected Table Sips to share pairing tips. Listen here (link) or click below:
The rare whisky market continues to soar even during a global pandemic, On March 18 in London, Sotheby’s achieved a new auction record, selling a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) to a private collector in Asia, well exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £160,000-220,000.
So, what makes fine Japanese whisky such a collectible spirit?
We asked Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Masa grew up in a family distilling business and launched dekantā in May 2015 with the goal of filling a gap in the retail market specializing in Japanese whiskies.
TCT: Makiyo, what sets Japanese whisky apart?
“Japanese whisky has its own sense of place, from water to earth. The Japanese tradition is to pursue the best with an idea for fine details. That is what makes Japanese whisky truly special.” There are many special small distillers that produce great whisky, not just the largest companies. We are always looking for and sourcing the best we can find.”
TCT: We understand that online retails sales for wine and spirits are brisk, even during this Spring global pandemic. How is dekantā holding up?
“At this time, we feel very grateful to have developed such a strong online platform with a network of international clients, who we refer to as the ‘dekanta family.’ We envisage little to no disruption to our online orders and deliveries, and as such we have not been impacted as heavily as other businesses who rely on trading in person. However, our hearts go out to all the bars and restaurants across the globe who are struggling through this pandemic.
“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and our staff. Our staff are working from home wherever possible, and we’re handling deliveries with additional measures with regards to hygiene. It has been a logistical challenge, but the team are communicating regularly from their remote working, to keep up morale, and to ensure as little disruption as possible to our regular operations.
TCT: Sotheby’s Auction House in London sold a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) on March 18. What makes this whisky so special?
“This is a truly spectacular bottle, and it is very exciting to see this new bottle breaking a record previously held by the Yamazaki 50- Year Old. We have seen huge demand from our most ardent collectors for rare and old bottles of Karuizawa whisky. The Karuizawa distillery produced liquid with a notably rich and sherry flavor before it was forced to close its doors in 2000. The remaining casks were sold to private individuals, who have been bottling the liquid independently as spectacular limited editions in recent years. As a result, the distillery has developed something of a cult status among Japanese whisky aficionados.”
TCT: Has dekantā sold a similar bottle?
“It’s highly likely that we will have sold one of these bottles to a client through our concierge service, by which we source the most rare and highly sought after bottles of Japanese whisky. The most expensive bottle set that dekantā has ever sold to a single client is a collection of rare Karuizawa bottles totaling over one million dollars. It is an extensive collection of over 270 bottles, with distillation dates ranging from throughout the distillery’s brief history.”
TCT: Well, we feel very lucky since you brought us a bottle of Karuizawa Spirit of Asama Single Malt to try. Tell us about it.
“The Karuizara Spirit of Asama s a very rare and delicious single malt whisky with a lower proof, just 48 percent. It is very hard to find on the market today anice, as I noted, this legendary distillery closed in 2000. Only 400 casks were left.” – Suggested retail price: $2,400m /70 cl bottle. Info and to purchase
TCT: The other single malt your brough is from Chichibu, a small distillery of only nine employees.
“Mizunara Heads 2011 is a higher proof single malt whisky named from the type of porous wood from the Mizunara tree used to make the casks, a process that can take 200 years . “ – Suggested retail price: $2399 Info and purchase
Japanese master distillers are known for their pursuit of perfection. Rare bottles of whisky can command thousands of dollars at auction. But buying a bottle for home or gifting is easy thanks to dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, explains what makes Japanese whisky special and why you should consider a bottle on your spirits shelf. www.dekanta.com
India has a rich heritage in craft spirits and is the birthplace of the gin & tonic. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Radico Khaitan is India’s oldest and largest distillery. Two of its prestige brands include: Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, made with 11 indigenous botanicals and triple distilled in copper pots, and Rampur Single Malt Double Cask Whisky, aged in American Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks. Info: www.radicokhaitan.com
What we tasted: Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
At first sip of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, we tasted the distinct flavors of coriander and orange peel with a touch of caraway, pepper and anise on the back palate. We’d chill this over ice and add just a slash of tonic or soda.
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin’s name is inspired from the historic city of Jaisalmer, home to the Golden Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “gold” comes from the building’s construction of sandstone that casts a golden hue at sunset.
Sipping with Company President Sanjeev Banga
Company President Sanjeev Banga explains how India’s biodiversity helps define its styles of spirits and discusses both Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Rampur Indian Single Malt Double Cask Whisky in this edition of The Connected Table SIPS. Here is the link http://bit.ly/TCTSipsRadicoKhaitan
An invitation to a guided tasting of Bordeaux wines with artisanal chocolates from one of France’s top chocolatiers is a welcome treat. The tasting and discussion was one of the daylong activities hosted by the the Bordeaux Wine School. Founded in 1989 (yes, celebrating 30 years!) the Bordeaux Wine school educates more than 85,000 people each year through its global network of over 250 accredited instructors. Classes are taught both at the school’s center in Bordeaux City and online around the world, offering courses in multiple languages. There is also a mobile app.
Master of Wine Mary Gorman McAdams, an accredited Bordeaux Wine School instructor, teamed up with Pierre -Antoine Bollet of Maison du Chocolat. The duo had conducted rigorous tastings beforehand to select the wines and chocolates for the session which started with an historical overview and a discussion about the commonalities of both Bordeaux wines and chocolates.
Grapes and Cacao Beans: Similarities
Just as wine is made from varieties of grapes, chocolate is made from different types of cacao beans grown. Terroir plays an important role in cultivating both grapevines and cacao trees. Cacao flourishes in tropical climates; over 70 percent is grown in Africa and 16 percent in Latin America.
Dark chocolate must be made with 43 percent minimum cacao, and milk chocolate is a minimum of 30 percent cacao. White chocolate has no cocoa powder (a heated form of cacao) and is 20% cacao butter and 14% milk. Technically, it is not chocolate. Cru chocolates, like wine, are sourced from single estates.
Both wine and chocolate contain tannins and (red wine) are rich in resveratrol, flavonoids and polyphenols. Both can be good for heart health when enjoyed in moderation. Chocolate contains caffeine, so be careful consuming large quantities at night.
Bordeaux & Chocolate: Three Key Elements to Consider
Gorman McAdams and Bollet explained that fruit flavored chocolate brings out acidity, and wines usually pair best with bittersweet and dark chocolate (with a higher percentage of cacao). They underscored three key elements to consider when pairing wine and chocolate:
Acidity, sweetness, astringency
Light / delicate
Rich / dense
Fruity, herbal, smoky, nutty, earthy,
The pairing included one wine with two types of chocolate. The first misconception that went out the door was thinking it’s all about pairing red wine and chocolate. One of the best pairings was a Clos Floridene, Graves 2016 with a dark chocolate ganache with lemon cream and zest (“Andalousie”) from the South of France.
The experience was palate opening and generated an enthusiastic response among attendees. Second helpings, anyone?
What we tasted
Clos Floridene, Graves, 2016
Andalousie: dark chocolate ganache with lemon cream and zest from South of France
Akosombo: Chocolate Bar with 68% cacao
Comment: The Graves with the ganache with lemon cream left us ready to try more white wines with chocolate.
Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol, 2015
Extreme Chocolat: dark chocolate ganache, perfect balance between the acidulous character and bitterness of pure cocoa
Salvador: dark chocolate ganache with raspberry pulp
Comment: The consensus in the room was mixed as to which paired better. We were partial to the dark chocolate ganache with raspberry with the plushness and deep tannins of this wine.
Château Fonbadet, Pauillac, 2016
Noir de Cassis: dark chocolate ganache with cassis
Quito: bittersweet dark chocolate ganache
Coro: Chocolate Bar with 100% cacao
Comment: Hands down the winning pairing was the Noir de Cassis, proving how well tannic wines can balance out creamy ganache.
Château de Cérons, Cérons, 2009
Maracuja: dark chocolate ganache with passionfruit pulp and juice
Comment: We initially thought this pairing would be overly sweet, but to the contrary, it was a nice balance.
Bordeaux is one of the world’s most renowned wine appellations with more than 6000 producers. For 30 years, the Bordeaux Wine School has been the premier education source for learning about Bordeaux. Located in Bordeaux City and online, the school educates more than 85,000 people annually through its global network of over 250 accredited tutors. Master of Wine Mary Gorman McAdams discusses the Bordeaux Wine School’s curriculum for both wine professionals and consumers. www.bordeaux.com