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Into the Clouds with Elena Walch

When she first developed big ideas about wine, Elena Walch knew nothing about winemaking. She was reared in Milan, studied in Venice, and then set up her own architectural practice in Bolzano, the capital of Northern Italy's Alto Adige.

Then in 1985, at 35, she was hired to oversee restoration of a 17th-century Austrian Hapsburg hunting castle surrounded by 50 acres of gorgeous, steeply sloping vineyards. The castle and vineyard owner was Werner Walch, who ran his family's historic Wilhelm Walch winery in Termeno.

Before the project was completed, she and Werner fell for each other, and they were soon married. Then things got really interesting when she turned her attention to the vineyards.

Mining Gewürztraminer for Greatness

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An Italian co-op takes a misunderstood grape to new heights—aging it in an abandoned silver mineTermeno is a Tyrolean wine dream.

This postcard-perfect town, commonly known by its old Austrian name, Tramin (pop. 3,400), is a collection of traditional Alpine houses and cobblestone streets that rise up from the Adige river valley in far northeastern Italy. Steep terraced vineyards climb 1,000 feet to conifer forests at the edge of the Dolomite mountains.  

About 60 miles south of the Austrian border, Tramin/Termeno is believed to have lent its name to Gewürztraminer, an aromatic variety often ignored in the U.S. because of the bad rep created by cloyingly sweet German versions that flooded the States decades ago.

Ultimate Tapas in Spanish Wine Country

I love Spanish food—particularly in Spain.

It starts with incredible food products including melt-in-mouth sweet pata negra hams, meaty Cantabrian anchovies, crunchy quick-fried chipirones (baby squid) and aromatic green olive oils.  

Then comes the festive presentation—particularly in tapas places where you can share lots of small, artful plates and then gesture to a neighbor's food and say, "We'll have some of that!"

There is an irresistible excitement to point-and-choose dining—even if you don't always know what you're eating.

A modern success in old Burgundy

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David Duband remembers the breakfast when his father popped the question.

It was 1991, and the young Duband was serving his obligatory year in the French military at a regional gendarmerie near his home in the Burgundian backcountry of the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits.

His father, Pierre, cultivated about 50 acres of vineyards in the Hautes-Côtes—the cooler high, western slopes above the Côtes de Nuits that typically produced less-ripe, simpler wines—and sold the fruit to a local cooperative. But on that morning, his father was planning to purchase an acre of nobler vineyards in nearby Nuits-St.-Georges.

“Do you want to make the wine?” his father asked.

“Yes,” Duband responded, though—like his father—he’d never made wine. He enrolled in a crash winemaking course, got permission to leave his military post for harvest, and went to work, using the cellar below the family house.

Terroir and Technique in Beaujolais

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Mathieu Lapierre on what's important-- and 'natural'-- in wine

Marcel Lapierre was known for two things: producing delicious, aromatic Beaujolais wines on his family’s home turf of Morgon and pioneering a “natural” style of winemaking from the 1980s on.

Since Marcel’s death in 2010, his son, Mathieu, has filled big shoes, carefully making wines that are often sulfur-free until bottling and that frequently score 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator blind tastings.

Wine's Orient Express

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A chat with China's top wine dealer 

Robert Yang is a Chinese wine success story—the self-made man who brought the chain wine shop to the world's most populous country.

For nearly 20 years, the former hotel manager rode China's wave of thirst for Western wine & spirits, by becoming a distributor, retailer, Internet impresario and direct importer. His company called 1919 (a Chinese word play for "I want wine. I want wine.") has grown from one store in Sichuan Province's capital Chengdu in 2005 to a network of 1,000 shops in 600 cities with annual sales expected to top $2 billion this year. 

Mountain Men

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Climbing the heights of Pic St.-Loup

I’ve visited a lot of vineyard estates, but when it comes to inspiring awe, few compare to the Ermitage du Pic St.-Loup in southern France.

Size makes a lot of the difference. On a clear day around Pic St.-Loup—a craggy 2,159-foot-high, sharkfin-shaped mountain in the Languedoc region—the sky seems as big and blue as it gets. In all directions are the rugged lands of the Ermitage.

Southern Star Rising

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A difficult birth for France's newest appellation

The 2016 vintage was a rollercoaster for France’s newborn appellation, Languedoc’s Pic St.-Loup.

In September, nearly 2,500 vineyard acres on the lower flanks of the jagged mountain “Pic,” some 15 miles north of Montpellier, achieved the independent appellation status its winegrowers had sought for more than 20 years. On the surface, the change is subtle: Red and rosé wines that had been labeled as the subappellation Languedoc–Pic St.-Loup will become simply Pic St.-Loup with the 2017 vintage.

Wild About Burgundy (and DRC)

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Edmond Asseily doesn’t make halfway decisions. He goes all in.

As a young high-flying currency and metals trader in Europe in the 1990s, Asseily dove into Bordeaux’s top growths—amassing thousands of bottles in his Paris cellar, studying châteaus and drinking every vintage he could find.

“Within seven years, I drank everything you could drink in Bordeaux back to the 19th century,” he says. “I was on a learning binge.”

But Asseily, now 48, wanted more. Tall and lean, the French-Lebanese hedge-fund manager has an intense personality, fluency in seven languages and a hyperactive curiosity.

A well-dressed Sicilian

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Salvatore Geraci is one of the world’s most well-tailored winemakers.

With his soft-shouldered suits from Naples and handmade shoes and shirts from London, the 60-year-old architect and wine producer is also one of Sicily’s most colorful characters.

“Coco Chanel said, ‘Fashion fades. Style endures,’” says Geraci in his new “garage-wine” vineyard in Passopisciaro, on Mount Etna’s north face. “I want to make wines of style.”

It is a compelling scene: Geraci waxing about style, smartly attired as a country gentleman in an old double-breasted blazer, while in the middle of dilapidated vineyards on Etna’s rustically terraced volcanic slopes.

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