Blogs

An Independent Streak

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Corsicans are known as an independent lot. As individual as some of the French island's terroirs.

"In Corsican, we have an expression: A terre e fatta a palmi," says Yves Leccia, a key figure in the renaissance of Corsica's Patrimonio appellation over the past 37 years. "It means everywhere you put your hand down, the earth changes."

Leccia is standing in his prized E Croce vineyard, in which a layer of chalky limestone soil covers schistic bedrock. The vineyard—like his Partinelone vineyard a couple of hundred yards away—nestles in a cirque surrounded by rocky peaks. Between two humpbacked ridges to the west, you can glimpse the turquoise Mediterranean waters of the Gulf of St.-Florent. A dry wind from the west—known locally as the libeccioventilates the vineyards on a clear sunny morning.

For the Love of Corsica

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Nearly 40 years ago, Antoine Arena stunned his family by announcing he was quitting law school on the French mainland to return home to their vineyards on Corsica.

“When I told my father I was quitting my studies to make wine, he didn’t talk to me for three months,” says Arena. “It was a [point of] shame for him.”

Arena’s father, who sold wine in bulk to Corsican bars and restaurants, wanted his son to escape to a more secure life than viticulture in the Patrimonio appellation, carved into a hilly northern corner of the island.

Calabrian High Style

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When many of his peers in southern Italy were abandoning family farms and vineyards, Roberto Ceraudo went the other direction.

The son of a grain merchant, Ceraudo grew up in the Calabrian countryside and dreamed of having his own land. In 1973, he borrowed money to buy an abandoned 100-acre estate in Strongoli, in the hills above the Ionian coast, just south of the Cirò wine appellation.

Ceraudo then set to work—planting vineyards in the chalky clay soils, reclaiming centuries-old olive groves, renovating a 400-year-old farmhouse and excavating a lake fed by well water.

Calabria Rocks!

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Is Cirò Italy's next big wine?

Cirò is the kind of wine place I want to root for.

This ancient Calabrian wine region in sun-baked southern Italy offers a gorgeous countryside of ancient olive trees and undulating vineyards planted with a unique and often-misunderstood red grape—Gaglioppo. What's more, a new generation of winemakers is working to turn Cirò from a backwater to an appellation worthy of our attention.

"It's a moment of foment," says 40-year-old enologist and local producer Cataldo Calabretta, walking through a freshly plowed clay-limestone hillside vineyard.

Into the Clouds with Elena Walch

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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. 

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