Italy, California, Canary Islands, Portugal, Germany and France…
What do they all have in common… good wine… what else?
You can’t travel there right now,
so we will take you…with wine of course!
First to Italy, a country with close to four hundred registered varietals and likely 1,600 unregistered.
A lot to comb through… For today we will go to the Abbazia Di Novacella Winery, located in the Isarco River Valley in South Tyrol, Trentino Alto Adige.
Italy’s northernmost wine region.
Just picture: beautiful Alpine mountains.
Because of the high elevation it is an optimal setting for grapes where you find a good balance between cool nights and warm days to create sharp and elegant wines with great acidity balance.
(Perfect for these summer days up ahead… just saying!)
The winery was founded in 1142 by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular.
While tradition remains key, make no mistake that in response to climate change and organic methods, Abbazia di Novacella is dedicated to progressive wine-making.
The grape varietal is called Muller Thurgau, created in 1882 by Hermann Muller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau.
Because of Alto Adige’s location in Italy there is strong Austrian and German influence, creating their own dialect and customs.
The Romans conquered Europe, and their influence on Alto Adige is prevalent in the first Golden Age of winemaking. They shaped the first winemaking canvas by planting grapes with a diversity of varietals that still spans Italy, comprising regions that are reflective of true and individual character.
Returning stateside to the central Coast of California, along El Camino Real,
“The King’s Highway” in San Benito County we find that the Spanish Franciscan Missionaries were the first to plant grapes in California in the late 1700’s, the mission grape.
(Keep the mission grape in mind in regard to the Canary Islands.)
Because understanding of setting, climate and soil are still evolving, this is considered
the “new world of wine”.
The tipping point for California occurred on May 24, 1976.
A tasting of ten red and ten white wines was arranged in Paris, California Cabernet and Chardonnay against red Bordeaux and white Burgundy.
The judging panel primarily consisted of French judges, including Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti
(who also said Dominique was the best sommelier he ever met)
and Odette Kahn, editor of La revue du vin de France. The verdict? California wines won!
Overnight, California wine became the sensation!
(See fun facts at the bottom to read which wines won.) Past and present California had and have a fair share of wine pioneers as well as trend setters, and since the 90’s the styles of these forerunners have varied leading us to now.
Their focus is on wines that show a true sense of place, balanced and food friendly wines with low sulfites and low ABV.
Winemaker Bryan Harrington is one of them,
(to read our previous newsletter about Bryan-click here ) In this offering we have the Sagrantino grape, a one of kind Italian varietal, found mostly in Umbria Italy.
As Bryan shared with us regarding his own San Beniot acquired Sagrantino,
“There is something about the soils in San Benito that integrates tannins without sacrificing structure.
A mellowing magic maybe.”
Progressing across the Atlantic to the Canary Islands,
located off the coast of Morocco, these Spanish islands, boast something few places can, ancient vines that can be over a hundred years old!
You’ll remember from our first newsletter and the one on Etna Rosso, phylloxera, the aphid like pest that nearly wiped out all European wine production in the 1800’s never made it to these islands.
Seated in sand or volcanic soil, the Canary Islands vineyards are on non prolific phylloxera ground.
Of even greater advantage and because of the distance to the main land, the Island vineyards are un-grafted and remain in original root stock- a unique and rare heritage readily discernible to the palate.
Even though the islands are Spanish, the first serious growers on the Canaries were Portuguese winemakers, and some of their techniques are still employed today.
The estate Suertes del Marques is located on Tenerife, the largest of the seven islands,
and home to Spain’s tallest mountain, Pico del Teide… an active volcano!
You know how much we love fertile volcanic soil.
The grape, Listán Negro showcases terroir supreme, sea, salt and sand.
We must point out that the islands, especially Lanzarote, contain the most unique vineyard lands, picture a hive like pattern of vines planted deeply in individual holes surrounded by rock walls in a moonscape setting …. like nothing you’ve seen, yet you must see!
The fastest way to our next destination is to hop on another flight to Portugal,
In particular, the Minho region, noted for its beautiful lush green landscapes and fertile soil.
Many a visit has been spent here, helping Dominique’s mother with bottling, stomping or sometimes just cleaning barrels.
The country was founded in 1143 which in some ways makes it one of the oldest countries because during the next century the borders were stabilized and kept.
This factor contributes to the strong cultural identity and the unity that is felt among Portuguese people, and why no matter where they go you’ll always see couve galega growing in the yard of anyone with Portuguese roots… including ours!
The art of making wine in Portugal was first established by…you guessed it, the Greeks, in the 7th century.
Alvarinho, one of the noble grapes of the region with a wonderful, bright and refreshing quality and sense of minerality, it tends to be lighter and can feel more seasonal, perfect for right now!
The winery, Adega de Monção is true to the area and craftsmanship that has recently come back with top quality into the Vinho Verde wines.
A short two hour flight to Germany,
an amazing winemaking region, known for its Rieslings, which unfortunately received a bad reap in the 60’s and 70’s because large quantities of sweet blended wines were created for export. Don’t let that mistake lead you in the wrong direction.
Germany creates some of the most fabulous Rieslings, but also a lesser known fact is their Pinot Noir, which now has the same production methods as Burgundy without the hefty price tag.
Being in Europe, of course, those Romans conquered and began producing wine around 100 BC.
The estate Burg Ravensburg has been growing and making wine since 1251.
Even in the extensive world of wine history throughout Europe, you’ll be hard pressed to find ones that go back that far, except the first one we told you about!
Located in Sulzfeld Germany, in the Northwest of Baden-Wurttemberg.
Burg Ravensburg has the longest hold of organic vineyards throughout Germany.
If that wasn’t enough, a huge percentage of them are “Grosse Lage”, the German equivalent of Grand Cru.
The same Cistercian monks who planted Pinot Noir in Burgundy also did in Baden Germany about the same time.
While Burgundy is the King of Pinot, for all the right reasons we are impressed with the German ability to bring forward the beautiful grape.
Just in case you are tired of planes by now, for our last destination you can take an eight hour drive and enjoy the beautiful sights from Sulzfeld to
Séguret, France, home to one of the official, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, most beautiful villages of France.
This is reason enough for going in my book, and France holds a special place in my heart.
Seguret is located in “Cotes du Rhone”, the northern part of Provence that stretches roughly 150 miles along the river in Rhone valley from south of Lyon to Avignon, making it one of the largest wine regions in France.
Just like Italy, every mile or kilometer offers different climate and soil components, culture and scenery.
Seguret was awarded the AOC in 2016.
Domaine de Mourchon Rose is the perfect Provencal example, 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.
Grenache brings the fruit and Syrah brings the complexity, structure and dryness.
Picture yourself with a glass of rose, basking in the lavender scent and Provencal light that has inspired artists for centuries.
Garrigue permeates the air.
Fresh tapenade and fougasse lead the aperitif hour, and the occasional noise of the boules de petanque claim their position in the game.
The Mourchon Rose encapsulates all of these things through inviting aromatics, a complex, fruity and refreshing palate, and an understated sense of satisfaction.
One might say in today’s world of travel,
that “you can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometime”,
with some imagination
and the help of Dezilu Wine Co.,
“you might find, you get what you need”…..