Given the strength of association the two things now share, it is difficult to remember a time when the state of California and the production of fine wine, were not inextricably linked. Today, viticulture is such a key component of the landscape and an integral part of the state’s economy, that one imagines it has always been this way. However, large scale winemaking is a relatively new addition to the west coast and the road from simple subsistence agriculture to worldwide critical acclaim has been anything but straight. So how did the golden state transform itself into a new world wine superpower?
When Miguel Mateu purchased the Castle of Perelada in 1923, a vast renovation was needed. His dream was to modernise one of Catalonia’s great historical wineries into something fit for the future. Yet such an aspiration is timeless. The need to strike a balance between utility and statements of tradition, between context and innovation, has continuously loomed over every architectural project, and the wine business is no different. What has changed however, is our considerations of how things work, and what things mean; in short perhaps, fashion.
Aglianico del Vulture must be considered one of the great terroirs of Italy. Its ruggedly beautiful terrain tumbles from the foothills of Monte Vulture, an ancient and extinct volcano situated in the thick of the Mezzogiorno. At dusk, its talon shaped crater crafts an eerie silhouette against the crimson sky and the little lights of the Vulture’s (vul-tur-aay) hilltop villages flicker beneath the stars. This is a wine that looms large in the hearts and minds of its admirers, for to truly understand the Aglianico grown in these ancient soils, is to understand Basilicata and its culture of struggle.
The picturesque surroundings of the Disan area, located just outside the town of Negotino, in the famous Tikveš Wine District, might remind us of the rolling hills of Tuscany. Boasting the breathtaking scenery of unspoiled nature, vast stretches of vineyards quilt the landscape. Of course, flashes of every day rural Macedonian life also populate the view; ambling villagers, labourers in the fields, the old and rusting road signs, and the tinny echo of rudimentary farming equipment, all symbolic of times gone by, remind us that we are clearly on the Balkans. When it comes to wine though, things are changing fast…
Horia’s recent visit to the island of Santorini included a fascinating vertical of Domaine Sigalas’s flagship dry white, showing the Assyrtiko grape’s high potential to evolve and improve with age. It was a tasting full of surprises.
As I pace the steps of my beloved Scarpatetti for the last time - I am choked and frozen in a standstill as anxiety overflows and tears spill over. The feeling of intense sadness and gratitude become me as I peer over my bella città, in utter disbelief that this life altering chapter in my life has come to a close.
Pantelleria is one of the most interesting terroirs in Italy. Known as the black pearl of the Mediterranean, this secluded Sicilian island is entirely volcanic, formed through a series of eruptions that have gradually composed its contoured slopes of basalt and shiny obsidian. Over time, man has left his mark too, sculpting walled terraces in order to cultivate grapes, capers and olives, and such endeavours have helped develop its famous vistas of simple, agricultural life.
Rather surprisingly, given that it is one of the world’s most widely planted white grape varieties, Chasselas - known variously as Fendant, Gutedel and Perlan (amongst an unusually long list of pseudonyms which also includes Queen Victoria) - remains a mystery to most casual consumers and amateur wine critics. And whilst one might argue that a lack of prominence given such prevalence suggests that the grape has little to offer the wine world, an enthusiastic army of vignerons across Switzerland would very much beg to differ…
There are few serious wine collectors clamouring to stockpile Gavi. Why would they? The Cortese grape is known for its simple, drink-early freshness, not for its ability to mature and certainly not for its capacity to deliver complex wines that merit being hidden away in the cellar for years. Ask around the wine world and you’d be hard pressed to find someone prepared to put Gavi in their list of age worthy whites. Sure, they’ll enjoy a glass or two as an aperitif, but momentous wine it is not.
Hungary - a landlocked country at the centre of Europe - has an interesting and colourful history which includes a period of Turkish rule from the middle of the sixteenth century to the close of the seventeenth, the subsequent rise and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the restoration of independence after the First World War. Many famous battles have thrown up stories of heroism and great sacrifice, but perhaps none more so than the Battle of Eger - a conflict of 1552 which saw the Hungarian army defeat the Turkish forces.
Film and wine have a long history of entanglement and inextricable links. From James Bond’s quip that he should’ve known something was wrong when undercover assassin Donald Grant ordered ‘red wine with fish’ in From Russia with Love, to Ross Jennings’ (Jeff Daniels) refusal to throw a bottle of Château Margaux at the advancing spider in Arachnophobia, wine has played a pivotal role in some truly iconic movie scenes. Here, I explore some of the best…
Collio is a beautiful part of the world with plentiful forests and hills that produce a diverse and healthy environment. Stephen Quinn reflects on his latest visit to the region where he explores the often stunning wines of the Collio DOC.
Synonymous with winter sports and watches, Toblerone and trains that run on time, the mountainous European country of Switzerland is hardly the first name that springs to mind when you think of wine. But delve a little deeper and you might be in for a surprise…
In modern wine making terms Macedonia is still a very young country. It only gained independence as recently as 1991, and with little history of quality focused producers before this, there is no legacy of fine wines for us to turn our attention to when seeking to understand today’s wines.
Something has happened to Soave in the last decade. It seems to have gone from being one of the most uninspiring names in wine to one of the most spectacularly under valued whites around. The secret, it seems, lies in a new generation of winemakers that focus on freshness, balance and the relentless pursuit of expressing the mineral rich hillsides of the appellation’s historic ‘classico’ zone.
Just before the clouds burst, the brooding grey sky hung low over a vertical wall of jagged basalt, the key geological feature of San Giovanni Ilarione, a rustic agricultural village nestled in the heart of Italy’s trendiest sparkling wine appellation - Lessini Durello DOC.