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Winemaker profile: Stefanie Weegmüller

The wine women of Weegmüller are part of over 300 years of remarkable winemaking history.

Weingut Weegmüller is considered the oldest winery in Pfalz. This is quite a feat in an area with so much history but their reputation for great winemaking has long and solid foundations dating back centuries. The winery was started in 1685 and has been in the family for an impressive 12 generations. The family’s origins can be found in Zurich, Switzerland but they can date their time in Haardt back to 1657.  Despite all this history they still have a consistently forward looking focus, always striving to maintain and improve the quality of their wines.

Today, the winery remains based in the same baroque buildings that have been on the site since the 1730s. Weegmüller is set apart by being one of very few German wineries run exclusively by women. Today, sisters Gabriele and Stefanie Weegmüller work together to drive the business forward and ensure the continuing production of high quality wines. Their focus on quality and terroir means they carefully consider which grape varieties and wine styles will best show the region as its finest. With Gabriele managing the commercial side, Stefanie is able to focus fully on creating the best possible wines which rightly earn their reputation for excellence.

Stefanie has been Cellar Master for more than 30 years and was notably one of the first female winemakers in Germany at a time when the industry was especially male dominated. Her career began in 1984 when she took over winemaking responsibility from her father and a reputation for technical prowess and a clear passion for precise winemaking was quickly evident. As a result, Stefanie has spent over 25 years making some of the highest quality wines in Pfalz. She demonstrates a thorough understanding of the complex winemaking process but also imbues a lot of heart and soul in to Weegmüller’s wines. This enables the production of classic wines which are delicate and pure, perfectly expressing the terroir and showing generous fruit and length.

 

WOTM: Tahbilk, ‘1927 Vines’, Nagambie Lakes, Marsanne 2012

Recently described in The Buyer as ‘quite exquisite’ by restauranter, Roger Jones, our January Wine of the Month is Tahbilk, ‘1927 Vines’, Nagambie Lakes, Marsanne 2012. Produced from the Estate’s 1927 planted Marsanne vines – some of the oldest in the world – this 100% Marsanne will provide a real talking point with guests in 2020.

In a nutshell

Notes of lemon, grapefruit, toast and classic honeysuckle weave through the rich and textured palate culminating in a zesty, citrussy finish.

The producer

Established in 1860, Tahbilk is an historic family-owned winery,  renowned for their rare aged Marsanne. Tahbilk is known as ‘tabilk tabilk’ in the language of the Daungwurrung clans, which translates as the ‘place of many waterholes’. It perfectly describes this premium viticultural landscape, which is located in the Nagambie Lakes region of Central Victoria. The estate comprises 1,214 hectares, including a seven mile frontage to the Goulburn River. Environmental sustainability is paramount at Tahbilk and in 2013 they became carbon neutral. In 2016, Tahbilk was awarded ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday.

The wine

The hand-picked grapes were handled semi-oxidatively; controlled amounts of oxygen were allowed which helped impart secondary flavours and texture to the wine. Fermentation took place with selected neutral and aromatic yeasts at cool temperatures and lasted for 20 days in stainless steel fermenters to enhance the purity of fruit. Made with naturally high acidity to support serious long-term ageing, it was matured in bottle for seven years.

The Perception of Minerality

I first used the expression salt-and-caramel in a tasting note about four years ago. My memory is a little hazy, but I think I scribbled it during a sampling of Juan Pablo Michelini’s Zorzal wines at Prowein. I was searching for words to describe the amazing tang which cut right through the sweet fruit in the red wines; a kind of refreshing acidity at odds with the opulence around it. I thought the phrase a little childish but that it would mean easy recall when I referred to my notes later.

And then, of course, I found myself writing that phrase again and again. Salt-and-caramel. Slightly irritating habit, this, like wiggling your leg in the waiting room. What was happening? Were my taste buds changing? After thirty years in the trade? Odd.

I recalled that Prowein moment a few weeks ago while reading a Wine Folly blog, I Tasted 3 Rocks, So that you don’t have to! In this light-hearted piece, posted in May 2019, Madeline Puckette described licking pieces of chalk, river stone, and slate. She found the connection between slate and Riesling to be apposite; that “chalk feels like licking a hard sponge that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth,” the flavour reminding her of a Brut Zero Champagne; and that while “river stone is supposed to remind people of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir,” its flavour is pretty gross.

Puckette was seeking to explain minerality, but concluded: “Minerality is neither a single compound nor the vines” ability to “suck the minerals out of the soil,” but is a combination of many different aspects including esters, trace minerals, acidity level and a wines’ alcohol level. So, when wine writers write “minerality” they are trying to put a name on a multi-faceted characteristic that science doesn’t have a definition for.”

It’s a bit old hat, this minerality thing. Been done to death. A bit late to the party. And as Alice Feiring said: “Minerality has become a dirty word par excellence.”

Walking between the raindrops, then.

I know, but it doesn’t go away.

Minerality famously did not appear in Ann Noble’s 1984 Wine Aroma Wheel, nor in the first four editions of The Oxford Companion to Wine (“imprecise tasting term and elusive wine characteristic that, along with the descriptor mineral, became common currency in the early years of this century.”) But here are two definitions relayed by Jamie Goode in his Wine Science:

Stephen Spurrier: “I suppose it is easier to define what it is not – that is, it is not fruit, nor acidity, nor tannins, nor oak, nor richness, nor fleshiness. It is not really a texture, either, for texture is in the middle of the palate and minerality is at the end. I think it is just there, a sort of lifted and lively stoniness that brings a sense of grip and a sense of depth, but it is neither grippy (which is tannin) nor deep (which is fruity.)”

Michael Bettane: “Minerality is a fashionable word never employed in the 1970s and 1980s. The only no-nonsense use is to describe a wine marked by salty and mineral undertones balancing the fruit, more often a white wine rich in calcium and magnesium as many mineral waters are. For a red wine I have no idea.”

Now Goode himself: “I know what I mean when I encounter some characteristic in a wine that makes me think “mineral”, but I can’t be sure that when other people use it they are referring to the same thing. I suspect that it’s sometimes used as a way of praising a deliciously complex wine, in the same way that “long” is often thrown into a tasting note when people really like the wine but have run out of more concrete descriptors.”

Similar sentiments from Sam Harrop: “Minerality is a term I have used for many years with a clear and personal understanding that not all wine professionals might share.”

But what is it that provokes these “allusions to minerality,” to use Doctor Peter Dry’s words? A prickling on the tongue, or a savoury aroma on the nose? And – from a commercial point of view – does describing a wine as mineral confer a kind of supremacy? A more romantic artisanal image?

Beverly Tabbron MW, Jim Wilson and Steve Daniel.

Steve Daniel, Beverly Tabbron MW and I had a chat about this in Hallgarten’s tasting room. Steve, fresh from describing one wine as “saltier than a bag of KP nuts,” said: “There is definitely minerality in wine. It has to be there. It’s not acidity, it’s not body. It’s a skeleton which will change but which will let you know where the wine is going.” Steve strongly believes that there is a relationship between minerality and volcanic soils, such as those on his beloved Santorini.

For Bev, minerality is shorthand for a “form of freshness, a salinity. Sometimes I wonder if it is a mild spice.” Then she paused. “But are we just being lazy?”

It seems an elusive concept. Are we searching for a connection between this taste and – inevitably – the impression of rock from which the vine draws its nutrients?

Two well-recounted experiments:

At the end of the 20th century, a German scientist, Andreas Peuke, planted Riesling in three different pots with different soils (Loess, Muschelkalk and Keuper). After some time he collected the resin from the plants, analysed them and compared them. To his surprise, there was a huge deviation in the nutrient levels in the three plants. A definite connection?

Randall Grahm soaked rocks into tanks filled with wine; he too, concluded that the rocks altered the wine to a great extent, detecting changes in the aromas and mouthfeel, and he felt that the wines had gained a higher degree of complexity and density.

But as we know, the correlation between minerality in rocks and minerality in wine has been largely debunked over the last decade by some really clever people, most famously by Alex Maltman, professor of earth sciences at Aberystwyth University, who opined that the geological minerals in rocks (made from chemical elements) are different from the fourteen nutrient mineral elements required by vines. The rock’s chemical elements do not degrade easily and only slowly release their nutrients for vegetation. Then, some of these nutrients are then removed each year in crops, and the soil is further enriched by compost and fertiliser. The result is that almost all of the nutrients in wine come from this humus of decayed plant and animal matter, rather than the geology.

“There would seem to be no basis for the common assertion that a particular kind of bedrock produces certain wine flavours. The term minerality is a contemporary invention.”

Viticultural guru Dr Richard Smart told the Institute of Masters of Wine that viticulture “is not an issue” in wine minerality: of those fourteen nutrient mineral elements, “three of the most important (N, P, S) are not derived from minerals; they are absorbed directly from soil organic matter (humus). Even those which are commonly found in minerals (K, Ca, Mg, and Na) are not directly extracted, they are firstly cycled through organic matter.” He cited minerality as an “invented term as a wine descriptor.”

And in any case, rocks have no flavour at all. Apparently, the “flavour” of stones is caused by an invisible substance called petrichor, which, according to Wikipedia, is “constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning “stone”, and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the Gods in Greek mythology.”

Whoa!

Petrichor

Derived from organic matter like oils from plants, petrichor floats through the air and comes to rest as a thin film over everything on the ground, including rocks. This coating then releases its flavours (vapours) only when a rain hits the ground; hence the smell of rain.

So, sadly, it looks as though the romantic in me is going to have to take a back seat; it seems I am not sucking from the rock’s core when I savour my Zorzal Malbec.

But if the perception of minerality doesn’t come from rocks, where does it come from?

Fermentation, probably. To rehash well documented findings, it may come from sulphides produced by yeasts as they work their magic in converting sugar into alcohol. If the yeasts are having a hard time finding enough nitrogen in the must, they may produce volatile sulphur compounds such as hydrogen sulphide and mercaptans (thiols), often called reduction and which can usually be the cause of rotten egg smell. But sometimes these compounds, such as ethyl mercaptans, can also give off flinty or struck-match aromas that can be quite mineral in character and seem to add complexity to a wine. It’s a thin line. Modern reductive winemaking techniques, like the use of closed top stainless steel fermentation tanks which limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen, can also encourage the release of these subtle sulphur compounds.

And then, of course, there is the other common form of sulphur: sulphur dioxide can affect taste perceptions of minerality. Their presence may ‘tweak’ the flavour profiles of wine in a more salty or bitter direction, creating a mineral effect.

Sam Harrop: “Complexed sulphides are one of the main aromatic indicators of minerality. Reductive handling at wine phase is vital to protecting mineral perception – both aromatically and texturally. Wines with mineral perception have a low pH, complex acid profile, complex sulphide aromas and necessary aromatic and textural balance to provide the x factor”

I suppose that one crumb of comfort for those looking to equate minerality with terroir may lie in the fact that if one of the reasons for the dodgy performance of the yeasts is because some vineyard sites are deficient in nutrients – so causing the yeasts to stress and produce these volatile sulphur compounds – at least it is the effect of the vineyard.

Explanation over, then.

And yet…

Whatever the reasons, it still seems odd to me that the use of minerality is so ubiquitous when it apparently didn’t even exist before about 1984.

Each week in our tasting room in beautiful downtown Luton, Bev, Steve and I attempt to delineate every new wine into just three words. We stock about 950 wines, and when we trawled through our database we found that we had used the word minerality in 49 of them – around 5%. These include seven red wines, one rose and 41 whites, all of which had been tasted in the last six months. Intrigued, we looked at this list, but couldn’t find a common theme. The surprise was the absence of Greek wines, which, given our focus on Greece and the character of its wines, gave us pause for thought – and gave Steve the hump. “I can’t believe we didn’t describe Gaia’s Thalassitis Assyrtiko as mineral.”

Gaia Wines, Santorini

So earlier this week we gave ourselves a couple of hours and went through a selection of a randomly chosen dozen of these wines. The results were surprising.

Whites

Australia – clos Clare Riesling, Watervale, Clare Valley, 2016

Jim: “This has an amazing nose.”

Steve: “Limey and a little phenolic.”

Result: definitely not mineral.

Austria – Johann Donabaum, Grüner Veltliner, ‘Johann’ Federspiel, Wachau, 2018

Steve: “This definitely smells of slate. This has to be a mineral wine.”

Bev: “It is not a vinous taste. It has a slightly ‘drying’ taste in the mouth.”

Result: still mineral.

Crete – Idaia, Vidiano, Dafnes, 2018

Jim: “Wow! What an astonishing nose! Mouth-watering, very complex, a touch of seaweed?”

Steve: “Chalky. This is what it would feel like if you put a lump of chalk into your mouth. This is limestone. The scientists say you cannot taste limestone, but you know what I mean.”

Bev: “It has a non-vinous finish, and so for me that is mineral.”

Result: still mineral, in fact even more so.

France – Gouffier, Rully 1er Cru ‘Rabourcé’, 2016

Jim: “Evolved, just a touch of controlled oxidation, gorgeous, but not mineral.”

Bev: “Apricots and tangerines. Opulent.”

Result: a long way from mineral.

France – Domaine de la Villaudière Sancerre 2018

None of us finds the slightest bit of minerality with this wine.

Steve: “Why doesn’t Sancerre taste like Sancerre any more – this is like an Hawaiian pizza.”

Bev: “This was closed when we first opened it. Now it is almost pineapple.”

Result: nowhere near mineral.

Italy – Feudi di San Gregorio, Fiano di Avellino, ‘Pietracalda’, Campania, 2017

Jim: “This is easily the most mineral. Mineral on the nose, mineral on the finish, perhaps fuller in the mouth.”

Bev: “Wet stone again.”

Result: still mineral.

Ancilla Lugana, ‘Ella’, Lombardy, 2018

Steve: “I don’t know why we would describe Lugana as a mineral. This definitely isn’t.”

Jim: “This is like charcoaled pineapple. A fantastic, vibrant and crisp wine, but not mineral.”

Result: not even close to mineral.

Reds

Argentina – Zorzal, Malbec ‘Eggo Tinto de Tiza’, Tupungato, 2017

A touch faecal when first opening, but within minutes this disappears.

Steve: “This is definitely a ‘natural’ wine. Alive and kicking!”

Bev: “Edgy.”

Jim: “This is my salt and caramel wine.”

Result: mineral, no question.

There were four others where we were unsure. So, of the twelve wines to which we originally assigned the descriptor mineral, only four would now definitely qualify for it. And four would not even come close.  A conundrum: while accepting that wine – of course – changes character as it lies in bottle, here we have three so-called experts, with 60 years of experience between them, conceding to fundamental variances in their use of minerality over a relatively (six months) short period of time. Are we just not good at writing tasting notes? Are we incompetent? After all, WSET students are discouraged from using the word mineral. Blimey!

With most (though not all) of the wines, we found that the fruit elements were now much more advanced than in our original tasting; revelatory so in some instances. Are we writing our tasting notes without giving the wine a chance to recover in the warehouse after reaching us? Or are we – as Bev has suggested elsewhere – just lazy? Using the word minerality as shorthand for something else? And even as I write this, landing on my desk is a note from a producer: “After a long and passionate work in our cellar, we are proud to introduce our new-born: a rich white wine, with notes of tropical fruit and a full body which is supported by great acidity and minerality.”

Well, what do our winemakers make of this?

Juampi Michelini (whose wines kindled this essay!) says: “Of course it is necessary to have mineral soils, especially if they are loaded with chalk. But it also has to do with earlier harvest times, something that has been done more and more throughout the world in the last seven years, as well as more reductive fermentations.

Juampi Michelini, Zorzal Wines

“I describe almost all of my Zorzal wines as being mineral wines – but I always say that minerality is more a sensation of textures than of aromas.”

In the appropriate setting of La Cambuse du Saunier, a bucolic oyster shack which borders a sea salt farm near his Narbonne winery, Gérard Bertrand paused. “Ah, minerality! So controversial. I make a link between minerality and salinity, and the salinity comes from limestone, and if you suck a limestone rock – that is minerality.” He put his index finger into his mouth. “You can feel the minerality in the middle of your tongue.

“You cannot make this during the vinification process. This comes from the rock. We do an experiment. We put Château la Sauvageonne in front of a piece of schist rock; we put Château l’Hospitalet in front of limestone, and we put Château de Villemajou in front of silex, and we ask people to taste the stones and then the wine. They all get the link.

“People need to suck stones.”

At the recent South African tasting held at Phonica Records in Soho’s Poland Street, I asked our award-winning winemaker, Samantha O’Keefe, who said: “It’s a sensation of cold in your mouth.” “Cold?” “Yes.” She laughed. “But I work in feelings and colours and so my tasting notes are often odd. But certainly my wines on stony vineyards give me more minerality than those from red shale soils, which are fuller and richer. I definitely do not think it is a flavour. It’s more just a feeling in your mouth. I think it might just be a way of differentiating from those sweeter, fuller types of New World wines which you often get. But I don’t know!”

She paused again. “Minerality is a texture. It’s a stony quality: wet pebbles. I use minerality a lot. But maybe I am being lazy.”

Lazy. There’s that word again.

It does seem as though some winemakers are anxious to maintain the link between minerality and their wines (as you’d expect!) But are we talking about terroir as opposed to minerality? Playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order?

Some key words: refreshing, zingy, acidity, a certain sourness, licked stones. A kind of austere or nerviness or tension; or simply the opposite to ripeness. Whenever I come across what I think is minerality, I pause: “Hello darkness, my old friend…”

But I’m still nowhere near working out what it actually is. Mind you, far better minds than mine have tried and failed; the Oxford Companion to Wine again: “it is not possible to determine whether minerality is a terroir or winemaking effect.”

And why does this bother me so? Why this sophistry in trying to describe something which isn’t there? A flavour – an essence – which may not exist? Am I bending my language to fit a need? What is the need? What is it about minerality? At what point does minerality trans into Fashion? “Sparkling or mineral sir?” Well mineral, obviously, because mineral is Brioni, sharp suited and therefore Continental. But sparkling is, well, gas, isn’t it, and a bit Wyoming. Minerality is cool, it is quartz and diamonds and vaguely Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “Good evening, Commander Mineral, we’ve been expecting you,” white gloves ‘n all. Mineral is nuance. It is class, it is style, and hardly Biffo the Bear. “Indeed.” “Yes, indeed.” “Minerality, yes.” “Yes, indeed.” Opulence, move over, Vanilla step aside and all you other flavours tripping the not-so-light fantastic to the strains of the Fat Belly Boogie. Sodium and calcium and manganese are important and not flippant at all and their nexus endows us as professors in white lab coats, like those Cambridge chaps who discovered DNA in the pub. So when I say: “minerality!” am I a luvvy satisfying my inner core, my night primaeval, by licking from the core of the earth and sharing in a pagan rave with matter which is six hundred and fifty million years old? Is it my soul I search for? Aristotle’s tabula rasa? Core is a great word, it is a key word and if you prefix it with hard you get an awkward word, a dangerous word, a bit nihilistic, but who other than the hardcore would go the Paul Grieco’s Terroir tasting to drink wines from heavy-metal soils matched with heavy metal music? Do metal and core satisfy some kind of prehistoric desire to engage with the elements, to go deep, really deep, in to the earth because deep is good, deep is important and it is the opposite of shallow and who wants to be shallow? No, we’ll keep digging in a maelstrom of kinetic exuberance, knocking at the gates of perception, nosing the brimstone, surrendering to something so great no-one understands it (though it may be “the only true measure of greatness in wine”¹), digging like Heaney’s Old Man, right down into the “roiling, boiling, sulphurous, belching belly”² of the earth, seeking approbation and Dante’s felicity and Milton’s liberty to know, desiring good or desiring God, ingesting Plastic Soup, and not flopping into the chair to watch Corrie but rather romanticizing we are the Underworld Gods, Hecate and Hades, with petrichor running through our veins.

Minerality: is this the taste of what is not there?

Reading List

¹ Sam Harrop. Winemaking Intervention in Minerality Perception

² Alice Feiring. The Dirty Guide to Wine

Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly

Jamie Goode. Wine Science

Alex Maltman. Minerality in wine: a geological perspective

Dr Peter Dry. Terroir – It’s the Rocks That Matter

Oxford Companion to Wine

Wendy Parr, Alex Maltman, Sally Easton, Jordi Ballester. Minerality in Wine: Towards the Reality behind the Myths

WOTM: Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru, Art Déco NV

Our December Wine of the Month, Champagne Collet Brut 1er Cru, Art Déco NV, is an award-winning Champagne from the region’s first co-operative, established in Art Deco France in 1921. A blend of seven Grands Crus and 13 Premiers Crus, this Champagne is not just suited to celebrations throughout the festive period, but also as a gastronomic partner to a number of cuisines and dishes.

In a nutshell

A broad style of Champagne with developed biscuity notes from extended ageing on the lees and a lovely long and salty finish.

The producer

Champagne Collet with its elegant Art Deco packaging is evocative of the Belle Epoque era from when it was established. It is the oldest cooperative in Champagne, dating back to 1921. Since its inception, Collet has been creating Champagnes of character with authenticity, elegance and great finesse. Located in Aÿ, in the heart of the Champagne region, Collet represents some of the finest growers and mainly sources from vineyards which are based on Premier and Grand Cru sites. Each cuvée reflects the diversity of the region’s terroirs and has been masterfully blended to suit gastronomic cuisine

The wine

The Chardonnay, predominantly from the commune of Vertus, contributes freshness and citrus notes. The Premier Cru of Villers-Marmery contributes the mineral dimension of the limestone terroir along with smoky touches. The Pinot Noir imparts a richness and power thanks to historic Crus such as Ay, Hautvillers and Avenay Val d’Or blended with Crus from Rilly la Montagne. The Pinot Meunier from Villedommange completes the blend imparting a roundness and suppleness.

This cuvée was bottle aged for a minimum of four years in the historic limestone cellars which are centuries old.

Best served with

Young pigeon, veal carpaccio or red mullet.

Winemaker Profile: Johann Donabaum

“Great wine is unique. It is as distinctive as the territory and the soil it is growing in and as inimitable as a signature.” Johann Donabaum

 

In 1961, Johann Donabaum’s parents decided to give up mixed agriculture and specialise exclusively on viticulture instead. Although it may have been perceived as a risk at the time, this turned out to be an inspired choice.

Viticulture and winemaking has been a constant throughout the majority of Johann Donabaum’s life. Growing up surrounded by family vineyards, he graduated from Krems School of Viticulture whilst still a teenager. Following his time studying, Johann completed a seven month apprenticeship with F X Pichler. This valuable experience gained him a great deal of new ideas and insight into the practices of a great wine producer, preparing him for his own successful winemaking career.

With his studying and training complete, Johann returned to the family vineyards. His father gave him the go ahead to take the helm and the young Johann was keen to implement his own ideas for the future. He had a clear vision of the direction he wanted his winemaking to take and he decided to focus on quality rather than quantity and champion terroir. This has led to his wines coming to be considered among the finest in Austria and attracting positive praise on the international stage.

Johann cultivates 7.5 hectares. For him, terroir is absolutely crucial. His knowledge of his vineyards is extremely detailed and this means he is able to cultivate the vineyards with exceptional care and attention. Understanding all the nuances of the different plots means they can be given individual attention and this enables Johann to truly express the terroir of his vineyards in the resulting wines.

Using the right grape varieties for the soil is key and many of Donabaum’s wines are on extremely steep terraces where the soil is rich in gneiss and slate. Johann, therefore, uses these plots primarily for growing Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. Johann’s aim with these wines is that they are forceful, dense, juicy, elegant and mineral.

Johann has a strong wine philosophy. He believes wines should be mirrors which reflect origin and terroir, and also the meticulousness and signature of the winemaker himself. For him, the vineyard is where the foundations are built for the quality of the wine and so getting the viticulture right is hugely important. Precise and careful cultivation is how Johann goes on to create wines of the highest standard.

Winemaker profile: Nicolò D’Afflitto, Director of Winemaking, Frescobaldi

Overseeing the winemaking and viticulture of all seven of Frescobaldi’s historic estates is no mean feat. Yet, Nicolò D’Afflitto has spent more than twenty years doing just that.

Following a rural upbringing on a farm, Nicolò studied Oenology at Bordeaux University, graduating in 1982. His winemaking experience was enhanced spending time living and working in the US before he returned to Tuscany. It was there, in 1991, he joined Frescobaldi, working at Castel Giocondo in Montalcino. Four years later, he was managing all the estates, nearly 3,500 acres in total.

With over 700 years of Frescobaldi winemaking history and the 2020 Gambero Rosso Winery of the Year under its belt, producing consistently great wines is crucial. D’Afflitto believes the vineyard is the key with terroir creating wines with individuality. As such, attention to detail in the vineyard is everything. Nicolò takes a different approach with each of the seven estates and each vineyard needs different techniques to nurture its specific attributes. Each estate has a winemaker, general manager and viticulturist and D’Afflitto is also closely involved, all with the aim of creating something truly special, as well as unique, from every vineyard.

For Nicolò, his top priority is always the fruit. This philosophy is carried forward in both the vineyard and winery with the soil, climate, vine and human input all vital. Combining this care and dedication in the vineyard with assiduous use of oak in the winery allows Nicolò and his team to produce wines that show the grapes’ full potential. Frescobaldi’s long and illustrious history is not forgotten either and Nicolò takes pride in the part culture plays: great historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo have passed through Frescobaldi’s vineyards and its strong connections to Italy’s art, history and culture remain part of its fabric to this day.

Decades of experience managing Frescobaldi’s wine production means Nicolò has presided over many changes, including the replanting of Castel Giocondo and the introduction of new wines to the market, including Tenuta Perano – the family’s first venture into Chianti Classico and launched in the UK in 2018.

His work sees him travel thousands of miles per year visiting each estate every week to ensure the quality of all 12 million bottles produced reaches the family’s high standards. An experimental vineyard allows Nicolò to work on new trials and explore disease resistant varieties. This experimentation and strive for improvement allows Frescobaldi to build on their centuries of experience and strike the perfect balance between tradition and innovation.

WOTM: Gouffier, Cuvée Baudron, Bourgogne Rouge 2017

A new addition to our portfolio this autumn from France, the Gouffier, Cuvée Baudron, Bourgogne Rouge 2017 was made in honour of the Baudron family who owned the domain before the Gouffier family, in the first half of the 20th century.

In a nutshell

A delicious Pinot Noir showing all the hallmarks of a good red Burgundy, with a vibrant bouquet full of red berries and delicate notes of spice, silky and intensely flavoured.

The producer

Gouffier owns five and a half hectares of vineyard in the villages of Fontaines and Mercurey in Côte Chalonnaise. Historically it was run by the Gouffier family for generations until Jerome Gouffier handed over the reins to his close friend Frédéric Gueugneau, formerly at La Chablisienne. Since 2011, Frédéric and oenologist Benoît Pagot have brought about a new style of winemaking. They follow an organic philosophy to create wines that are modern and approachable, but with all the style and panache of good Burgundy. They have created a collection of wines of outstanding originality, verve and spirit.

The wine

The hand-harvested grapes were vinified with 25% as whole bunches, which helped to impart structure. The wine was matured in 228 litre French oak barrels, of which 25% were new. The barrels came from forests in the centre of France.

Best served with

Perfect with roast poultry or duck terrine.

WOTM: Undurraga ‘TH’, Cabernet Franc, Maipo 2015

One of our very new additions to our portfolio from Undurraga, one of Chile’s most awarded wineries. This Cabernet Franc from the ‘Terroir Hunter’ range is no different having recently received 93 points from Tim Atkin and we are sure will receive many more in the months to come.

In a nutshell

A mature wine with intense black fruit aromas complemented by hints of cedar, spice and floral touches of violets. Firm, mature tannins surround a fresh, textured palate with harmonious balance.

The producer

Undurraga is one of Chile’s most prestigious wineries, consistently receiving high scores from top wine critics around the world. Founded in 1885, Undurraga owns 1,350 hectares of estate vineyard in Chile’s premium wine producing areas such as Leyda, Cauquenes and Itata. Head winemaker Rafael Urrejola has spent a great deal of time understanding the diversity of Chile’s vineyard sites; the result is the emblematic ‘Terroir Hunter’ range. Undurraga cultivates their vineyards with respect for the environment and follow a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar in order to showcase the terroir.

The wine

The Cabernet Franc grapes were sourced from a selected vineyard planted exclusively for this range in Catemito, in the Valle de Maipo. The vines are 12 years old and planted on their own rootstocks. This low-yielding terroir of 2.25 hectares was subjected to a controlled limited water supply during the ripening process and the resulting yield was 1.5 kg per vine, providing the necessary concentration for a rich, ripe wine.

The grapes were de-stemmed and carefully sorted to ensure only healthy, ripe fruit was crushed. The grapes were transferred by gravity into the vat, where they underwent pre-fermentation cold maceration under anaerobic conditions for five days at 6 to 8°C. Fermentation took place with natural yeasts at 27 to 28°C for 13 days with three daily pump-overs. The wine was left over its lees and skins for an additional 12 days to further enhance its structure. It was aged for 16 months in French oak barrels.. The floral, well-structured Cabernet Franc is gently softened by a touch of Merlot.

Best served with

Serve with game, grilled red meats or cheese.

WOTM: Bodegas Ondarre, Ondarre Reserva, Rioja 2014

A classic Rioja Reserva from one of the standout producers in the region. The grapes are grown in vineyards covering 1,200 hectares around the winery, at the point confluence of La Rioja, Alava and Navarra, resulting in the optimum climate and terroir.

In a nutshell

Leather, vanilla and spice of traditionally made Rioja
enveloped in an elegant and textured palate.

The producer

Bodegas Ondarre, is based in Viana, a historic town six kilometres from Logroño, Rioja’s capital. Founded in 1986 it has quickly become one of the standout producers in the region with its elegant and distinguishable style. Their most acclaimed wines are their Reservas, which win top awards and critical approval every year.

They attribute their success to the hard work in the vineyards and their continual investment into the winery and barrel stock. They use both French and American oak casks to help them obtain the incredible character in their wines. As well as their Reservas they produce a few thousand cases of a single varietal Graciano. A real rarity due to the low yielding nature of the vine.

The wine

Each grape variety was fermented separately in temperature controlled vats at 28 to 30°C, which lasted for between 16 to 18 days. The wine was blended and then aged for 16 months in American and French oak Bordeaux type casks imparting subtle oak complexity. During the maturation the wine was racked four times, in order to gently extract phenolic compounds by oxygenating the wine. This produced a softer wine which exhibits great varietal fruit character.

Best served with

Serve at room temperature to accompany tender lamb cutlets, game – such as pheasant or partridge; or mature cheese.

WOTM: Larry Cherubino ‘Laissez Faire’, Pemberton, Pinot Noir 2018

A wine new to our portfolio from the world-renowned winemaker, Larry Cherubino. This elegant Pinot Noir is part of the Laissez Faire range, which takes inspiration from organics, biodynamics and natural winemaking practices. Whilst they could be called ‘natural wines’; Larry Cherubino likes to think of them as “post natural” wines.

In a nutshell:

An elegant Pinot Noir expression, showing black cherry and strawberry notes with savoury undertones and delicate hints of oak spice. Smooth, long and silky.

The producer:

Named ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday and Matt Skinner, Larry Cherubino wants his wines to be distinctive and to speak clearly of their variety and vineyard site. He believes in paying meticulous attention to the vineyard, canopy and water management, picking at the right time and minimal intervention in the winery. Larry also makes wine under the Laissez Faire label, an exquisite range of natural wines which are the ultimate expression of site, made in small batches from hand harvested grapes. From delicate whites to opulent reds, all his wines have pure class and finesse.

The wine:

Laissez Faire means “let it be” and this is reflected in the hands-off approach of winemaking. The grapes were hand-harvested, sorted and naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts. The wine spent eight months maturing in French oak foudres, offering optimal fruit expression and oak integration. As the name suggests, no additional acids, enzymes or yeasts were added during vinification and the wine was not fined. There was zero sulphur use throughout the winemaking and only minimal sulphur was added at bottling.

Best served with:

The perfect accompaniment to pan-seared duck or roast vegetable tagine.

 

WOTM: Zorzal ‘Eggo Blanc de Cal’, Tupungato, Sauvignon Blanc 2015

From a high altitude, drip irrigated vineyard in Gualtallary, Zorzal ‘Eggo Blanc de Cal’ 2015 is everything you might not have ever tasted in a Sauvignon Blanc – egg fermenters, volcanic soil and Argentinian – the perfect bottle to open on International Sauvignon Blanc Day 2019.

In a nutshell:

A characterful Sauvignon Blanc showcasing a strongmineral and  gunflint intensity, combined with grassy andherbaceous notes.

The producer:

Zorzal is an Argentinian boutique winery which has been dedicated  to the production of high quality wines since 2008 and is located at the highest point of the Uco Valley. Hailed as one of the most exclusive and well-regarded areas for viticulture in Argentina, the terroir is revealed in the Zorzal wines through a respectful, non-invasive winemaking process that puts austerity before exuberance and fruit before wood.

The wines have rapidly gained international recognition. Founded by the Michelini brothers, who are outstanding in their passionate leadership in the vineyards and winery, this highly regarded winemaking duo have become renowned as the trendsetters of the Argentinian winemaking scene.

The wine:

The grapes were gently pressed and combined in the cement eggs. Fermentation started naturally with native yeasts at temperatures of between 18 to 21°C. When fermentation was complete, a partial malolactic fermentation took place. The wine was then left in the same cement eggs for five months, without separating it from the lees, which generated volume on the palate. It was bottled directly from the cement egg without any intervention to stabilise or filter the wine. The cement egg significantly helps with the structuring and stabilisation of the wine, through the natural movements that are created by this shape.

For further information on the ‘Eggo Blanc de Cal’, Sauvignon Blanc 2015 or any other Zorzal wines, please contact your account manager. 

Winemaker profile: Roberto Echeverria Jnr.

Roberto Echeverria Jnr, Chief Winemaker at Viña Echeverria, heads up production at the family-run Molina based winery with passion and a constant focus on excellence.

Viña Echeverria was established in 1930 but, the family has generations of agricultural heritage dating back to the 1700s. Today, they produce a wide range of elegant, expressive wines in the Curico valley, the country’s oldest wine region, located 200km south of Chile’s capital, Santiago.

Roberto took over as Chief Winemaker in 2001, however it is very much a family affair with Roberto Jnr working alongside his three siblings and father, Viña Echeverria founder, Roberto Snr.

Inspired by their French heritage the wines carefully balance a European style with New World intensity of flavour. Using their family’s combined expertise, traditional techniques, and a passion and respect for the diverse terroir Chile offers are key to Roberto’s approach.

Working with a skilled and enthusiastic team of young winemakers from Chile and Europe, Roberto expertly ensures consistency of quality and flavour from one vintage to the next, whist also innovating and adapting to ensure the creation of very high quality wines.

This all starts in the vineyard where careful pruning, irrigation, canopy management and harvesting ensure grapes reach their full potential allowing the best quality juice can be obtained. This level of attention to detail reflects Viña Echeverria’s sustainable approach – they have been certified sustainable by Wines of Chile – and also the level of precision that goes in to creating the wines.

Roberto Jnr.’s signature style combing Old and New World techniques is  apparent in the vineyard, where a European approach to harvest ensures grapes are not over-ripe, and wines have perfectly balanced flavour and alcohol.

Roberto is keen to show the range that Chile can offer, with some of the driest areas on the planet, a moderate climate and Mediterranean climactic influences all making up the country’s complex geography. Roberto continues to get the best from the grapes through skilful winemaking using French barrels and yeasts as well as a variety of blending and longer fermentation and barrel ageing, creating wines that embody his passion for the winemaking process and the terroir of Chile.