Chatting with Edgardo del Popolo of Dona Paula Estates, Argentina

Sep 24, 12 Chatting with Edgardo del Popolo of Dona Paula Estates, Argentina

Posted by in Argentina

“Blends are definitely the next step for Argentine malbec.” That opinion was voiced to me by Dona Paula winemaker Edgardo del Popolo while we were tasting a few of his wines the other day. Edgardo (or Edy as he prefers to be called) and I were at The Only Running Footman in Mayfair for a small tasting and we were chatting about not only Dona Paula’s wines but also meandered into the future of Argentine wine. Edy was referring specifically to malbec/cabernet franc blends. He thinks that consumers today are looking for not just everyday wines from Argentina but also for premium, high quality wines. And that is where blends come into play. Dona Paula have found some great vineyard spots in the Uco Valley of Mendoza and it is here that he’s planted not only cabernet franc but also chardonnay and malbec. Edy thinks that the cabernet franc lifts malbec, giving it the structure that it needs. He compares it to Bordeaux blends, merlot and cabernet sauvignon are fine on their own but put them together and it’s a whole different dimension. So what about these great vineyards that Edy was talking about? He was referring to the Altamira and Gualtallary vineyards of the Uco Valley. Dona Paula has such confidence in Edy that about 15 years ago he was tasked with finding the best region both in climate and soil for Dona Paula’s wines. Edy found both areas by flying over them and once identified, they had to ride in on horseback to inspect the soil as they were in a completely isolated region. Dona Paula then bought 160 hectares, each hectare going through extensive analysis to decide what would grow best there. Edy liked the region because the soils were particularly poor but full of calcium carbonate which he believes gives his wines the minerality he prizes. One of the grapes he thinks do well in the Gualtallary is chardonnay. Edy wants to make a chardonnay that is not the usual...

read more

Oldenburg wines at Berry Bros. & Rudd

Aug 16, 12 Oldenburg wines at Berry Bros. & Rudd

Posted by in South Africa

Oldenburg Vineyards in Stellenbosch, S. Africa,  is located in what many consider to the premium wine growing region of the country. The vineyard is in the Banghoek Valley which means “scary corner” due to that fact that it used to the stomping grounds of local leopards. Nowadays they have all but disappeared leaving the valley to the vines. The vineyard was originally a fruit farm founded in the 1950’s which then became a vineyard in the 1960’s. The family sold their grapes to other vineyards until 1993 when Helmut Hohman, the owner died. It wasn’t until 2003 that the vineyard was revitalized by Adrian Vanderspruy, the current proprietor of Oldenburg Vineyards. I had dinner with the winemaker, Simon Thompson, in London not long ago at the wine cellars of Berry Bros & Rudd.  Over dinner, Simon related how a study had been commissioned of the vineyard site and they had found that it was a very unique site with the best soils placed in the middle of a hanging valley. The location having good sunlight but still being in a protected site. We touched on the fact that they practice “bio-viticulture”, it’s a phrase that was coined by a Stellenbosch professor and the the philosophy encapsulates both the principles of organic and biodynamic winemaking. Oldenburg believe that winemakers should “tread lightly on the environment”. In this case, they use as little copper and sulphur as possible in the winemaking process and the softest approach. They think a healthy microbial soil structure is very important in the grape growing process. They also do quite a bit of green harvesting to ensure that only the best grapes get through. Over dinner we had the first public vertical tasting of their chardonnays. Rather oaky in style, Simon believes that the way forward for South African chardonnay is less oak and I tend to agree with him. He’s a big fan of chenin blanc and thinks it could be the third wine of S. Africa. I tried the...

read more

Bicycling through the Loire, part 2

Jun 27, 12 Bicycling through the Loire, part 2

Posted by in France, Lifestyle, Travel

The next day we had an early start, catching the train to Saumur, a short 45 minute train ride away. The weather was not as nice in the morning but as the day went on it cleared up to be a sunny afternoon. Seriously, when you’re on a bicycle, you don’t want it to be TOO sunny now do you? We headed through the vineyards of Saumur to our first stop of the day, Clos du Cristal. We had a wine tasting smack in the middle of the vineyards. An interesting note about Clos du Cristal is that their cabernet franc vines are planted against a wall with a hole about shoulder height. A large section of the vineyard is a series of rows of these walls.  Once the vines reach that height, the leaves and bunches of grapes all grow on the other side of the wall. The effect is that it looks like the vines are hiding from you on one side and the other side has grapes poking out of holes in the wall! This was done to keep the roots cool while still allowing the berries to get lots of sun. It seems to work as the cab franc was balanced with not too many vegetal notes coming through. Clos du Cristal is organic and they don’t use pesiticides as evidenced by the flocks of geese and chickens running around the vines. We hopped on our bikes and headed to a restaurant carved out of the soft rocks, L’Helianthe. I forgot to mention earlier that the region is dotted by troglodyte caves. The caves were dug out of the rocks thousands of years ago and were later used (and still are) as caves for the wines. Nowadays, it has become fashionable to use the caves as second homes by the locals. Or, a restaurant in this case. Lunch was quite tasty and one of the highlights was a Coteaux du Layon. Not far from the restaurant is Chateau de Targe....

read more

Literally in the middle of nowhere,Bodega del Desierto -La Pampa, Patagonia

Picture it: Sicily, 1920, an Italian peasant, boarding the boat for a new life in the new world, all his worldly possessions in a beat-up old suitcase, cradling a tiny vine in his pocket, nurturing it, taking care that nothing happens to it on the long voyage across the sea. Finally, he arrives in the port of Buenos Aires and makes his way across the pampas to the province of Mendoza where he finds a beautiful plot of land beneath the Andes. Here, here is where he will plant his carefully tended vine and make wine. If only that´s the  way that Bodega del Desierto was founded. Instead, what started out as a gas company  looking to diversify it´s investments in the La Pampa region of Argentina has turned into a labour of love. Originally, the gas company was looking to grow grapes and sell them onward but the vines transfixed the family behind the company and before they knew it, they were pouring money and manpower into transforming the Patagonian desert into a vineyard. Helped along early on by expert winemakers, the desert has now produced a vineyard of very high quality. Famed Argentine wine maker, Mario Toso was brought on board to develop the project and he in turn brought on California winemaker, Paul Hobbs, once he realized the potential of the area. At first, Hobbs was reluctant to take on a winery that had only produced one vintage  but Toso convinced him that the area was capable of producing high quality grapes and after a bit of persuasion, Hobbs agreed to contribute his expertise. The first thing they did was decide to make all the vineyard decisions while the vines were being planted and growing. Thus they knew they could get the best quality out of the grapes according to how they raised the vines from the very beginning. The vineyards are literally in the middle of  nowhere, 160 kms from the nearest human settlement, the area was virgin desert land, not having...

read more

How do you say “cheers” in the Loire? A cab franc to taste…

Cheers! Salut! Salud! Tchin tchin! and now you can add… Trinch!   I came across  Trinch! the other day. What are it’s origins you might be asking? Well, since you asked, the origins of the word come from Old French,  “trinquer”, or “toast” in English, which was corrupted into… tchin, tchin. Another way of wishing you health with every mouthful. But trinch is not only a drinking salutation, it’s also a cabernet franc from the Bourgueil appellation in the Loire Valley, an organic wine which is very low sulfur, only a minimal dose on bottling is done. Trinch! is made by Pierre and Catherine Breton. Their wines are in many Parisienne bistros and wine bars and they are among the best Loire Valley red wine makers. Pierre specializes in cab franc which seems only natural considering is surname is Breton, another word for cab franc in the local dialect. The 2007 Trinch! is an easy going Frenchie, made to be drunk now, not later. I found it very approachable for a cab franc. Cab francs often need time in bottle before they can be drunk but not this one. The grapes for this wine are sourced from small vineyards and bottled unfiltered. It’s also vinified in stainless steel so that the pure fruit character of the juice is on show. Pierre calls this wine his “wine of fruit.” I love the character of cabernet franc. It’s often accused of being harsh and tannic but this one was a fabulous balance of fruit and tannins. A beautiful purple beast with hints on violet of the rim, the nose was a bouquet of striking herbal notes, I detected a hint of bell pepper as well, very fresh and refreshing. A juicy wine, filling my mouth with ripe mulberry and berry fruit flavours, underlying it all, again the bell pepper and herbal tones heading off into the sunset. This is a great food wine, the tannins bite a little but they are enough to stand up to a bistro meal. Best served slightly chilled. Hangar steak,...

read more
%d bloggers like this: