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Bandol-- the Hard Way

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Jean-Marc Espinasse stood overlooking his day-old Bandol vineyard with an expression somewhere between exhaustion and bliss.

"It's been a fantasy for me to be here," said Espinasse on his hillside in coastal Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, surrounded by olive trees, pine forest, sea views and 2,000 stubs of grafted Mourvèdre vinestock in an acre of freshly turned clay.

It was Sunday, a day of rest for the 47-year-old Marseille native and former Rhône winemaker (see our previous blog on him) who sold his Domaine Rouge-Bleu in 2012 to do Bandol the hard way. The day before, he and a team that included friends and his 19-year-old son planted the first vines at his Mas des Brun property—working from dawn and finishing under car headlights. This followed a year of clearing trees, removing boulders and preparing soils.

Exiled on Wine Street

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Yevgeny Chichvarkin is a big-shouldered guy who likes big wines—preferably in very big bottles.

When he opened a store in London nearly two years ago and decided to call it Hedonism Wines, he really meant it. Hedonism displays dozens of great wines—Bordeaux to Barolo to Spain and Sonoma—in huge formats that are at least eight times the size of a magnum.

Chichvarkin, 39, takes particular pride in a 27-liter bottle (equal to 18 magnums) that he commissioned of the 2010 vintage of his favorite Rioja, Bodegas Roda Cirsion, listed at $14,000.

What’s the idea of such a bottle? I ask. He looks at me like I'm crazy.

“Idea?” he shrugs. “Open and drink.”

Chichvarkin, a self-made business whiz turned political dissident who fled his native Russia five years ago, is one of wine retail’s most interesting characters.  Read more at the Wine Spectator

Antinori's Architectural Labor of Love

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Before Marchese Piero Antinori began work on one of the world's most expensive and daring wineries, the 75-year-old vintner approved an estimate of the cost. The final amount was nearly double.

"Piero was in love with the project. We were all in love," Marchesi Antinori's CEO Renzo Cotarella admits with a laugh. "And when you are in love, you find reasons to rationalize the love."

"Of course it was going to be more expensive," Cotarella says with a shrug, "but we wanted to believe otherwise."

After seven years of work, nightmarish construction problems and a budget that ballooned 170 percent to more than $130 million, Marchesi Antinori's flagship property opened last year on a hillside in Chianti Classico. It was immediately praised for its audacious environmental design, folded into the contours of a hillside in the town of Bargino...Read more at the Wine Spectator 

 

 

Letter from Lambrusco Country

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Trattoria La Busa, on the southern outskirts of Modena, is a window onto Emilia-Romagna's traditions: Italy's fastest cars, fantastic food and its most misunderstood wines. 

Ferrari-racing memorabilia cover the walls, platters of melt-in-your-mouth salumi lap around the dining room, and the kitchen turns out delicious handmade pastas drizzled with thick traditional balsamic vinegar. And dominating the wine list is fizzy red Lambrusco.

This Lambrusco is not the sweet red fizz that became Italy's most exported wine in the decades after the 1970s. It's the good stuff: dry, not-quite-sparkling, easy-drinking wine crafted from select grapes and offered at reasonable prices.

Fausto Altariva, 41, is the fourth-generation Lambrusco maker at his family's Fattoria Moretto in the rippling hills of Castelvetro di Modena. "Our goal is to make a wine of terroirs, like other fine wines," he says... Read more at the Wine Spectator 

 

Free Beppe!

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How new Italian wine labelling laws are stifling Barolo traditionalists.

Giuseppe Rinaldi has always danced to his own tune.

A producer of great old-school, cask-fermented Barolos, Rinaldi has been guided by his own gut and local tradition—not others rules or expectations.

When I first met him a couple of years ago, I asked a simple question: Was his 16-acre estate organically certified?

"I am nothing," scoffed Rinaldi, only half joking. "I am an anarchist!"

Letter from Europe: Talking vino and Parmigiano with Italy's maestro modernist chef

Photo Per-Anders Jorgensen

If there were a Nobel Prize for Parmigiano cheese, Massimo Bottura would certainly be its first laureate.

For more than 20 years, Bottura, Italy's most acclaimed modern chef, has worked to perfect a signature dish founded on the belief that this famous aged cheese made near his native Modena wasn't getting the respect it deserved.

"Why did we only use this incredible cheese—this symbol of our land—just to grate on pasta?" The 50-year-old Bottura, clad in chef's jacket and jeans, is nearly shouting.

That's a good question, and his Five Ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano in Different Textures and Temperatures is an even better response....Read more at the Wine Spectator. 

 

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