Anselme Selosse’s Terroirist Manifesto

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 08-19-2014

selosseAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I profile Anselme Selosse, the Champagne producer with a cult-like following.

The Terroirist Manifesto of Anselme Selosse

“Nature is larger and bigger than all of us. It’s crazy to think that man can dominate nature.”

Anselme Selosse issued this profound statement while explaining his winemaking philosophy one recent morning at his small property in Avize, a village in Champagne’s Côte des Blancs.

“Wines must show the characteristics of the place,” he continued. “Illuminating the vineyard is my obsession.”

For Selosse, wine has a higher purpose. A wine must translate place, clearly expressing the characteristics of the soils and climate in which it’s grown.

This concept — the notion of terroir — is hardly unique. Winemakers across the world wax poetically about how “wine is made in the vineyard.” When Selosse took over his father’s winery in 1974, however, such talking points weren’t yet clichéd. In Champagne, especially, few producers cared about such things.

There were exceptions, of course. But most of the large producers that dominated the region sought simply to deliver a consistent product each year. They purchased grapes from thousands of growers across Champagne and paid by the ton. So growers sought to “dominate nature,” maximizing yields by utilizing fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.

The results were predictably atrocious, but it didn’t matter. For most producers and virtually every consumer, Champagne wasn’t about wine; it was about luxury.

So Selosse’s philosophy wasn’t just unusual, it was downright revolutionary.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Uncork to Impress

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-19-2014

Old Vine“Old Vine may not be the bottle you uncork to impress, but it sells for $14, making Marietta the rare winery to barely pace the rate of inflation since Chris founded it in 1978.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné visits Mendocino County to spend some time with the Bilbro brothers.

At Tablas Creek, this year’s harvest is the earliest ever — but it boasts a longer-than-average hangtime. Jason Haas explains.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan explains why “wholesalers benefit when consumers walk into tasting rooms and gain first hand experience with a wine.”

“For Slow Food fundamentalists, there’s something paradoxical about importing massive, fragile stoneware — expensively and inefficiently — from overseas. For those of you who lie awake at night tormenting yourselves over quandaries such as these, we now have an only-in-Oregonian solution.” In the Oregonian, Katherine Cole profiles Ceramicist-turned-winemaker Andrew Beckham.

“How would Napa Valley look with a casino and a 12-story hotel in the middle of the now-scenic horizon? That’s the nightmare the county fears if the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs goes through with a proposed rules change.” W. Blake Gray has the details in Wine-Searcher.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Gray chats with Rodrigo Soto, the head winemaker for Huneeus Wines in Chile.

Lars Carlberg isn’t impressed with the Wine Atlas of Germany, just released by the University of California Press.

Tom Wark and Julie Ann Kodmur have launched SWIG, a blog that’ll focus on wine marketing and public relations.

King Richard III enjoyed wine.

Discovering Greece’s Splendors

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 08-18-2014

Photo credit: Ed Comstock.

Photo credit: Ed Comstock.

When I told people I was going to Greece this summer, I received my share of odd looks. Didn’t I know that there was a financial crisis going on there? But I was going to Greek islands, well trodden on the tourist route, not even mainland Greece where, perhaps, maybe, I’d be more likely to experience problems.

Still, my interlocutors imagined mass strikes, poverty, violent protests, and worse. They seemed sure that — given their essentially “flawed” society, given that the chickens of European socialism had come home to roost — everybody in Greece must be miserable.

I saw none of that, nor, frankly, any sign at all of the economic downturn.

This is not to say, by any means, that there aren’t real problems that have befell the wonderful people of Greece, nor that many are not suffering from some very real difficulties. Rather, I’m saying that to imagine an economic collapse, or localized violence, as somehow essential to the fabric of such a great society — as indiscriminately and totally crashing across every place and every institution like a tsunami — is akin to imagining that Manhattan or Seattle are dangerous places to visit because there is violence in Flint, Michigan.

So here’s the point: if you have wanted to go to Greece, go. There is no better time. Don’t let anything stop you. Its land is still as eternal, its blue skies are still holy, and its people are still as authentically kind, unpretentious, and generous as when Henry Miller was there.

But when you do go, I suggest you be very careful in selecting your wines. For the most part, they are not good.

In fact, I’ve never experienced more science-project wines in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Not Simple

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-18-2014

The Loire.

The Loire.

“This much is true: Muscadet is most definitely white, inexpensive, and goes beautifully with raw oysters and most other shellfish. But simple? Best when young? These are the stereotypes that sadly have succeeded in making good Muscadet a great but little-known value.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov praises Muscadet.

In the Financial Times, Andrew Jefford takes issue with the argument that “a wine ‘needs’ prominent acidity in order to age well.”

In Palate Press, Simon Woolf finds some outstanding value in St. Chinian.

“Esterer’s winery is essentially a backwoods cabin where he offers guests a tasting at a rough-hewn table that promotes conversation more than sales.” In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre visits northeastern Ohio to spend time with Arnie Esterer.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague spends some time with New York City’s Masters of Wine.

Elsewhere in the Journal, Dan Ariely explains how to choose the right wine for cheapskates.

“Perhaps all that distance running has given Laborde a longer-term view on things.” James Molesworth spends some time with Ronan Laborde at Château Clinet.”

“If ever there was a fanatical subset of wine lovers, it’s the Riesling fans.” In Wine-Searcher, Don Kavanagh reviews Stuart Pigott’s Best White Wine on Earth.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson profiles some of Europe’s craziest wine celebrations.

“Far too many great bottles of wine are denied their purpose: to be shared with those you love, or at the very least, to be enjoyed in contemplation of everything they represent, whether that be decades of careful cellaring, or the whim of a passionate purchase.” Alder Yarrow writes a quick, thoughtful post on wine and death.

Wine lovers probably shouldn’t live in Massachusetts.

Wine Reviews: Oregon Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-16-2014

If you love Chardonnay, you have to love Oregon, right? Every time I taste through Oregon Chardonnays, I become overtaken with joy. The combination of ripe fruit and zesty acid makes these wines easy to enjoy with food and pleasing to all sorts of palates. With the grilled veggies and seafood dishes I tend to cook during summer, Oregon Chardonnay is always welcome on my table.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Trent Ghiringhelli

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 08-15-2014

Trent GhiringhelliEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Trent Ghiringhelli, the winemaker at Heibel Ranch Vineyards, a family-run winery in Pope Valley.

Born and raised in St. Helena, Trent left Napa Valley to study business at the University of Colorado at Boulder. After graduation, he returned home and began his wine career in 1998 at ZD Wines.  He worked as a wine educator there until he took the leap and decided to make his own wine at his family’s historic ranch, which Trent’s grandfather George Bennet Heibel had purchased in 1945.

Check out our interview with Trent below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Secret Lists

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-15-2014

secret“Without enough natural wine to satisfy rising demand, and 30 million tourists passing through the city each year, Paris’s wine destinations are increasingly unabashed about discouraging cherry pickers, a development which, counterintuitively, makes many of these restaurants unlikely places to enjoy the most famous natural wines.” Looking for Overnoy, Aaron Ayscough explores Paris’s secret wine lists.

With Enchiladas and the 2012 Pascal Janvier Jasnières “Cuvée du Silex,” Jonathan Lipsmeyer finds “the magic of an unexpected perfect fit.”

Jameson Fink comments on the “dangerous philosophy” of sommeliers.

“Ravines has quickly become one of most dynamic winemakers in the region, elevating the level and expected quality of Finger Lakes wine.” In Grape Collective, Christopher Barnes chats with Morten and Lisa Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars.

London-based fine wine merchant Woolf Sung believes that vintage Champagne is the next big wine investment.

“When you compare mature Bordeaux with almost anything else, it suddenly doesn’t look that expensive.” According to Henry Jeffreys, “First Growth Bordeaux is a sensible choice.”

In Chicagoist, John Lenart offers “A Guide to the Best Wine Podcasts.”

Alder Yarrow tastes 72 wines at the International Pinot Noir Celebration.

“Chada’s menu is shorter than Lotus’s, the portions more dainty, but the cooking struck me as more exact and polished after one meal at each.” In the New York Times, Pete Wells praises Chada Thai & Wine.

Photos from Champagne Savart

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 08-14-2014

If there’s one grower whose popularity has exploded over the last year, it’s Frédéric Savart.

While at a small dinner party in Napa in February, two different guests arrived with bottles of Savart. When a New York attendee inquired about the producer, the Bay Area folks were shocked — “he’s the hot new grower,” they explained.

On Instagram, it sometimes seems as if Bryan Garcia (aka @corkhoarder) drinks Savart on a daily basis. Superlatives are used by Raj Parr whenever he pops open a bottle — which he seems to do quite regularly. Mike Madrigale is a fan. These are great allies for any wine brand.

It helps, of course, that Grand Cru Selections imports Savart’s wines. (Garcia works as a rep for Grand Cru.) And Fred, as he’s known, is quite active on Twitter and Instagram.

But his wines are the real deal.

Producing about 3,000 cases annually, it’s obvious that Savart’s goal is to make high-quality wine. He just happens to be in Champagne. That’s why some of his wines see malolactic fermentation and others don’t. Some see large oak barrels, some see small oak barrels, and others don’t see any oak at all. Dosage varies. It’s also why his vin clair was mind-blowingly delicious.

Hanging out with Fred on my visit to Champagne was a blast. Get your hands on these wines, because they’re only going to get even more popular. Below are some photos from my visit.

The three vin clairs tasted.

Three of the many wines tasted.

An oak barrel. I'd never seen one before.

An oak barrel. I’d never seen one before.

Frédéric is extremely photogenic.

Frédéric is extremely photogenic.

Explaining the different wines.

Explaining the different wines.



Daily Wine News: Big Money

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-14-2014

Flickr, John-Morgan.

Flickr, John-Morgan.

“But there’s another factor very much in effect, as you can see from the top prices for Napa grapes in those years. Picking ripe fruit became attached to big money. The whims of farming followed suit.” Jon Bonné finds some fascinating data on “the rising tide of Cabernet ripeness.”

Penfolds’s famous re-corking service rolled into Auckland recently, so Wink Lorch went along to check it out.

“The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s finance director is advocating that the agency increase its markup on liquor and wine.” Join the AWCC.

“Terroir is what we make of it — and what we make of it never stops changing.” In Decanter, Andrew Jefford looks at Europe’s history of cross-regional blending.

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Amy and Joe Power, the husband-and-wife team behind “Another Wine Blog.”

In Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About Château Pavie.”

“If any area within Italy can be described as ‘picture-perfect,’” then according to USA Today’s Marla Cimini, it’s “the bucolic wine country of Collio.”

From Bill Ward, a helpful primer on wine flaws that’s worth sharing.

Photos from Champagne Krug

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 08-13-2014

There’s never been a better time to explore Champagne.

Since the dawn of global wine consumption, large producers like Moet & Chandon and Louis Roederer have dominated the Champagne market. That all changed in the late 1990s, when Terry Thiese began importing “farmer fizz.”

Wine geeks quickly became obsessed with growers in Thiese’s portfolio like Chartogne-Taillet, Vilmart, Pierre Peters, and Gimonnet. Today, it seems like there’s a hot new producer every month. Ulysse Collin! Vouette et Sorbée! Jérôme Prévost! Frédéric Savart! Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up.

But there’s still something special — heck, beautiful — about certain big-house Champagnes. One of my favorites is Krug. The NV offering (ahem, “multi vintage”) is without comparison. And all Krug’s wines effortlessly combine power with finesse.

Visiting Krug was certainly one of the highlights of my recent visit to France. Below are some photos from my visit.

Joseph Krug and a journal of his that was discovered just three years ago.

Joseph Krug and a journal of his that was discovered just three years ago.

One hallway (of many) in the cellar at Krug.

One hallway (of many) in the cellar at Krug.

Riddling racks.

Riddling racks.

The library. Sadly, it was behind a locked gate.

The library. Sadly, it was behind a locked gate.

The wines we tasted.

The wines we tasted.