Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization by Alice Feiring



A fabulous, fun little book! I saw it in the stacks at the central library when I was looking for Robert Mondavi's Harvests of Joy.

Interestingly, Feiring would place herself on a wine continuum VERY FAR AWAY from Mondavi. She is interested in and writes passionately about wines that have personality and are reflections of their place (AKA terroir, which you'll hear a lot about in winespeak). She bemoans the current trend towards wine manipulation (the introduction of industrial yeast and color additives, the use of heavily-toasted oak barriques) by some of the largest and highest scoring wines (i.e. Robert Parker and Wine Spectator scores) in the business. This intrigues me, as I find that I also don't necessarily agree with Parker and the other wine scorers all of the time. Wine is very personal, and palates are so different - it almost seems impossible to score something that can be so subjective.

A few great little tidbits from Feiring's book:
  • Importers who seek out naturally-made European wines (pp. 26, 242, 261):
    • Louis/Dressner (Joe Dressner, owner)
    • Kermit Lynch
    • Neal Rosenthal
    • Becky Wasserman
    • Jenny & Francois
    • Jon-David Headrick
  • Wines to try (natural and biodynamic):
    • Thierry Allemand in Cornas, France continues to make wine in the traditional way, with minimal to no manipulation (p. 71)
    • Bernard Belahsen from Languedoc (p. 239)
    • Pierre and Catherine Breton are the darlings of the Loire Valley, dedicated to biodynamics and natural wines - Feiring describes their wines as "beautiful" (p. 227)
    • Teobaldo Cappellano - Italian old-timer/anti-barrique winemaker (p. 149)
    • Castagna Syrah from Australia (yes, the winemaker, Julian Castagna chooses to call his wine Syrah and not Shiraz) is the only Australian Syrah/Shiraz that Feiring likes (p. 64)
    • Feiring's favorite Champagnes include Selosse, Françoise Bedel, Raymond Brigandat, José Dhondt, Fleury, Pierre Moncuit, Camille Saves, David LeClapart, Jacquesson, Jacques Lassaigne, and Leclerc Briant (p. 126)
    • Chave's Hermitage (Côte-Rôtie) from France is made by a domaine that has been passed down through one family for many generations, and is considered one of the best in the region (p. 67)
    • Auguste and Pierre Marie Clapes in Cornas, France continue to make wine in the traditional way, with minimal to no manipulation (p. 71)
    • Close Roche Blanche Côt (Malbec in the Loire, France), which to Feiring tastes like "velvety violet petals sucked through a chalk straw" (p.28). Clos Roche Blanche - seems to be Feiring's goto wine/vineyard - owned by Catherine Roussel, with co-winemaker Didier Barrouillet (p. 244)
    • Giacomo Conterno - Italian old-timer/anti-barrique winemaker (p. 149)
    • Nicolas Joly of Coulée de Serrant is the unofficial leader of the worldwide biodynamic wine movement, Return to Terroir, or Renaissance des Appelations (p. 231)
    • Dard et Ribo, owned by René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, in Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph, France (p. 74)
    • Giacomo Fenocchio - Italian old-timer/anti-barrique winemaker (p. 149)
    • Livia Fontana - Italian traditional winemaker making old-style wines (p. 151)
    • Frog's Leap, owned by vintner John Williams, is one of Napa Valley's first organic wineries (note to self: must try - CG loves this winery!) (p. 51)
    • Bruno Giacosa - Italian old-timer/anti-barrique winemaker (p. 149)
    • Grgich Hills winery in California doesn't irrigate (this causes the vines' roots to go deeper for water, and thus the grapes are heavily influenced by the soil/land that they are grown in/on) -Feiring believes that its wine has a stronger sense of terroir than a winery that does irrigate (because with irrigation, roots stay near the surface of the soil and the vines are more easily manipulated by the vineyard) (p. 54)
    • Jacques Lardier of Domaine Jadot (p. 238)
    • Anne-Claude Leflaive (has her own domaine) (p. 238)
    • Lopez de Heredias, Rioja, Spain (p. 105)
    • Bartolo Mascarello, a master Barolo maker - "Say no to barrique!" (p. 147)
    • Philippe Pacalet’s (from Burgundy) wines are described by Feiring as being delicate with an uncommon purity. That's a wine I'd love to try! (p. 204)
    • Guiseppe Rinaldi - Italian old-timer/anti-barrique winemaker (p. 149)
    • Olivier Rivière, a Frenchman making wine in Rioja, Spain, is a winemaker to watch who uses only natural winemaking methods (p. 107)
    • Hervé Souhaut from Ardeche and St.-Joseph, France (p. 74)
    • Jean Michel Stephan from Côte-Rôtie, France (p. 75)
  • Fringe Tastings – mostly naturally-made wines and biodynamic practices
    • At France's VinExpo, Feiring found her preferred wines at the fringe tastings (p. 141)
    • ViniVeri - Paolo Gargano, owner of Triple A wine import company based in Genoa, is organizer of ViniVeri, an Italian wine show featuring wineries that use no chemicals in farming, no enzymes, no bacteria, no reverse-osmosis, no concentrator machines, no micro-oxygenation, no added tannins, no oak chips, no grape must, no added acidity, no deacidification, no overuse of new wood, and little to no sulfer (p. 171)
    • Dive Bouteilles, often takes place the weekend before Salon des Vins de Loire (p. 230)
  • pp. 172-3 - When Chianti producers Silvio Montesecondo and Paolo di Marchi (Isole e Olena) bottled wines without wood influence, they were told that they did not get the DOC mark of approval (so that they could label their wines "Chianti") because of their wines' lack of color (even though Joe Dressner thought that Montesecondo's wines tasted like Chiantis should taste).

Interesting that many of the "wines to try" listed above can be found in the Louis/Dressner portfolio. Feiring used to work for Louis/Dressner, and their portfolio seems to be a good fit for her palate.

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