Château Pesquié & WLTV – winning ways.

Ξ July 30th, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Winemakers, Wineries |

On 23rd June this year Gary Vaynerchuk had a guest on Episode 491 of his regular WLTV show – Frédéric Chaudière of Château Pesquié in the Côtes du Ventoux with two of his wines for tasting, the 2004 Quintessence and Cuvee Artemia.

Frederic and Gary

This wasn’t the first time the Château has been mentioned on the show, its 2003 Quintessence was featured in Episode 200, but this time Frederic was there in person with a special announcement – a competition where 4 lucky winners would spend a week in September working in the vineyards and at the winery. A month later and Episode 506 rolled around with the results of the competition – 1 winner each already picked by Frédéric (Laura Gellman) and Gary (Heather Weid), and two random picks “live” on the show.
Karl wins
Gary dug deep to pull out…Karl Laczko…. yes, yours truly (honest, it’s me – Greybeard’s not my real name you know!). Of course I was travelling at the time so didn’t find out for another day, but watching the show back again I heard the surprise in the voice of long-time WLTV producer and cameraman Chris Mott! Fourth out of the hat was Susan Spaulding, and again Gary was thrilled that another long-term “Vayniac” was picked (Susan and I have been loitering around WLTV and its forum for years now; I guess you can call us old-timers!).
Susan wins

I have since recovered from the shock and all the winners are working out with Frédéric the logistics of getting to the Ventoux for that September week, a once in a lifetime experience that I am looking forward to as much as anything else I’ve done in recent memory. This is an opportunity to experience first-hand the day to day life, good and bad, of working the harvest and getting a vintage ready, and to do this in the beautiful surroundings of Southern Rhône is a bonus. In preparation for the trip, and to set the scene for the Reign of Terroir article that will undoubtedly follow, here is some background on Château Pesquié and what we lucky 4 have set ourselves up for.

Chateau Pesquie

In 1985 Edith & Paul Chaudière took over the family property outside Mormoiron, 15 miles northeast of Avignon. They spent the next 4 years improving the vineyards, continuing on from Edith’s parents, Odette & René Bastide, who had bought the Château in the early 70s, before the Côtes du Ventoux received Appellation status in 1973.

After attending the Université du Vin in Suze-La-Rousse and the Wine Institute in Orange (where Paul’s father, Charles, was professor of oenology) they set up the Château Pesquié winery in 1989 – previously they had supplied their grapes to a local co-operative – and produced their first first vintage in 1990, at a time when the number of independent wineries in the region was in single figures. The reigns of the Château passed to the younger generation in the early years of the millennium with Paul’s nephew, Renaud Chaudière and his sons Alexandre and Frédéric.

La familie

The modern winery and vineyards cover more than 70 hectares and the AOC wines produced are predominantly (>80%) red; the entry level Les Terrasses, the Artemia Red, the Prestige and the renowned Quintessence. Some Rose and white are also produced, including non AOC Viognier and Chardonnay. The winery exports over 60% of its production, 10 times more than average for the region and they have received many press accolades and favourable critic ratings, especially from a certain Robert Parker.

From what I’ve seen and heard so far I think Laura, Heather, Susan and I are in for a fantastic and memorable week, not only for the experience but also for the chance to taste some wonderful wine and enjoy a slice of Rhône life. I also intend to ask Paul and Frédéric about a side venture of theirs I came across researching this piece – the “Rhône Gang”, which appears to be a light-hearted collaboration between Pesquié and some other wineries in the region, Louis Barruol of Château St Cosme, Rodolphe de Pins of Château Montfaucon and Arnaud de la Chanonie of wholesalers and marketing company Avitus. I look forward to meeting a winemaker who enjoys life enough to share the Rhone Gang song!
To quote, it ”is all about having fun, making great wines and never taking oneself too seriously”.
In anticipation, Greybeard.


Radiation Leak In The Rhone

Ξ July 28th, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Technology, Wine News, Wineries |

Map of AOCs near radiation leak.On July 8th the French govt. revealed the release of 7,900 gallons of liquid containing an estimated 12 grams per liter of non-enriched uranium from the Tricastin Nuclear Power Center near Bollene. Of the total 7,900 gallons spilled around 4,700 gallons made its way into the Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers, both of which empty into the Rhone.

July 10 brought this news: “Residents in the Vaucluse, a popular southern French tourist destination, were banned yesterday from drinking well-water or swimming or fishing in two rivers after a uranium leak from one of France’s nuclear power plants.”


Other communities have followed with bans of their own. (However, as of this writing the bans have been lifted. Govt. tests of tap water and urine samples have found radiation levels consistent with normal background exposure.)

A second leak was subsequently discovered in an underground pipe. It appears the pipe may have been leaking for quite some time. This development had forced the French govt. to call for the testing of the ground water at all nuclear facilities throughout the country.
July 27th brought an excellent summation of the social upset caused by these recent events. It may be found here.

Of specific interest to Reign of Terroir is the use of the water from the Rhone and affected tributaries on the multitude of downriver vineyards throughout the region’s AOCs. Update to come.



Bodegas Heredad Ugarte, Rioja DOC, Spain

Ξ July 24th, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Tasting Notes, Wine News, Wineries |

My local wine warehouse, Spanish Spirit, invited me to a tasting recently to introduce their new line of Spanish wines from Bodegas Heredad Ugarte, based in Vitoria-Logroño near Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa region. Presenting the wines was Maier Rico-Salinas, Export Manager for the Bodegas, and during the evening I managed to ask her a few questions and get a feel for the company and what they do, as well as trying the wines and some delicious Chorizo, ham and cheese provided by Spanish Spirit’s founder, Oliver Ojikutu.
Rioja AlavesaRioja Alavesa is the smallest and most Northern of the three Rioja areas, the other two being Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja) and is culturally Basque, with the geography of the Toloño mountain range to the southern Ebro valley providing a unique micro-climate with high temperature variations between hot day and cold night, the condensation created by such variation essential to provide water in an area where irrigation is banned under DOC regulations.
Don Amancio Ugarte started wine production in 1870 and in 1957 his grandson, Anastasio Jesús Victorino Eguren Ugarte (Victorino), founded Bodegas Heredad Ugarte, building a new winery in Laguardia in 1989. Maier highlighted these 3 years in the family history and described the now 74 year old Victorino as a “character” who dug the 2km of underground caves on which the impressive winery sits (the company website has good interactive panoramic views). His two daughters, Mercedes and Asunción play an active role in the family business and the company actually has two ranges – the main one under the La Rioja DOC and a second which produces two labels (Reinares and Mercedes Eguren) under the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla classification. These VdT Castilla wines use grapes purchased from La Mancha topped up with excess grapes from the companies own 115 hectares of Tempranillo, Malvasia and Viura vines that don’t make it into the Rioja wine.
Bodegas Ugarte produces about 700,000 bottles a year (Maier said they had capacity for nearly 1 million but choose not to go so high) and export nearly 40% of its wine (although I’ve read elsewhere it may be lower than this) – mainly to Germany with the U.K. and U.S. (mostly East Coast) each getting a lesser portion. This is similar to export trends for Spanish Wines in general with Germany being the biggest export market, the U.K. taking a respectable share and, although lagging behind, the US is on the up in recent years. The winery is run under an ethos of sustainable development and “putting the law of the five Rs into practice: reduce, reuse, repair, recover and recycle”.
MaierOnto the wines, and first up were the Reinares and Mercedes Eguren (named for Victorino’s daughter who also designed the labels). Maier confirmed that the Eguren range was aimed primarily at the U.S. market, consisting of mainly single varietals in a New World style.

First was the Reinares Vendimia 2007 Blanco, 100% Viura, half from the Rioja vineyards. This had a clear nose of pear with a light start, nice mid-palate going fast into a very dry and bitter finish. It was a touch weak and the bitterness overpowered the promising start.

This was followed by the Mercedes Eguren 2007 Verdejo, a grape more famous in the neighbouring Rueda region. This had a floral but very light nose, not as aromatic as the Viura but with a creamier taste, less dry and a hint of pear – more enjoyable than the Blanco. As we moved onto the 2007 Mercedes Eguren Sauvignon Blanc Oliver commented that this is the first non-Spanish varietal he’s ever carried! Fitting in with the modern style of the range the grapes (from Albacete in La Mancha) are unoaked producing a very typical Sauvignon Blanc nose and style, not too bad, but nothing unique and I’d rather go to New Zealand or Chile for this variety.

Next to the 2007 Mercedes Eguren Chardonnay, the 2nd non-Spanish variety for Oliver! An unoaked Chardonnay with a fruity nose and a very dry, mineral taste and a long finish. This wine was very surprising, reminiscent of a white Burgundy, having an Old World style and noticeable minerality, definitely the best white of the evening. Before we moved onto the reds we had a palate cleansing Reinares Vendimia 2007 Rosado. This 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha is made from the unpressed free-run juice and made a delicious dry drink with a strawberry cream nose, to be added to the list of excellent Rosados Spanish Spirit has on offer.

Things became more serious as we went red with Reinares Vendimia 2007 Tinto, 100% Tempranillo with half of the grapes from the Rioja vineyards and half from La Mancha. 3 months in American Oak Barriques have given it a rich, herby nose – in fact I’d have sworn there was some Garnacha in there. A medium Light wine with oak tannins at the front of the mouth, easy drinking – could have done with a touch less acidity and a little more structure, but very nice nonetheless. We finished with VdT Castilla on the Mercedes Eguren 2007 Shiraz Tempranillo, a blend that spends 6 months in American oak and has a deep rich nose, good depth of colour and richness in the mouth – another enjoyable, easy drinking wine.
OliverThe evening came to a close on the DOC Rioja trio of Tinto, Crianza and Reserva (Oliver had started slicing his Serrano Ham at this point and the other assorted cheese and meat selection made a great accompaniment for the wines). The 2006 Ugarte Tinto Cosecha is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha which has spent 6 months in American oak. A soft raspberry nose precedes a well balanced wine with moderate complexity and a light finish. This was good preparation for the Heredad Ugarte 2005 Crianza, 15 months in oak turning the 92% Tempranillo and 8% Garnacha into a very rich wine with good tannins, still slightly furry, and some mocha flavour – an extremely well made wine.
The final wine of the night was the Dominio de Ugarte 2003 Reserva, 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano. This has been in oak for at least 12 months (the website suggests 20) and then 22 months of bottle aging before release to give a full-flavoured “big” wine with good complexity and tannins. While the Reserva probably has the longest aging potential of the range I didn’t think it had as much elegance as the Crianza, which was, for me, by far the best red of the night and a guaranteed future member of my cellar!
I had an enjoyable evening tasting the range and talking to Maier, who was looking forward to some vacation time on the back of a lot of recent travelling (I know that feeling). I’m certain I’ll be visiting Oliver in the near future to top up my Spanish section of the cellar and three or four of the Heredad Ugarte range will now be added to the choices I have.


The Geography of Wine

Ξ July 23rd, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Book Reviews, International Terroirs, Interviews, Wine History |

It often happens that wine books especially those taking up scientific topics, plunge into the middle of the subject. An unrealized level of academic sophistication is required for many wine enthusiasts to get much out of them. And it is for this reason I welcome Brian J. Sommers’ fresh effort The Geography of Wine, How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop.
Prof. Sommers works in the Geography Dept. at the Central Connecticut University. His discipline shows. He begins by providing necessary, positional knowledge. The first two chapters introduce readers to such important principles as ‘the morphology of landscape’, terroir, growing degree days, the ‘Köppen system’, and broad climatological distinctions. No need to worry! Prof. Sommers makes these concepts readily accessible. In fact, every chapter is capped by an international example so that a reader may pair a vinous experience they’ve had with geological notions they might not have imagined. The chapter on Microclimate and Wine ends with a gloss on the Rhine and its tributaries. That of Viticulture, Agriculture, and Natural Hazards, California, of course.

But beyond geology, geophysics and its cloud of related sciences we will also read about urbanization, communism, temperance, multinationals, and wine tourism. Each topic is conducted with the conversational ethic of a good teacher; no one gets left behind.

Indeed, I asked him a few questions about his book. Here is what Prof. Sommers himself had to say:
Admin How is it you became interested in the world of wine?
Brian J. Sommers I became interested in wine and its geography thanks to the teaching of John Dome. I was his graduate assistant at Miami University (Miami of Ohio). There is some background on this in the book. He taught a geography of wine course that involved nightly wine tastings. Through it I discovered two important things. First, I discovered that wine was a lot more than Manischevitz. Second, I learned that you can actually pursue academic studies of those things that you enjoy in daily life.
Have you ever worked in the wine industry?
B.J.S. I have not worked in the industry. I just kept going to school until I got a job teaching in one.
Do you provide vineyard consultation?
B.J.S. I do not provide vineyard consultation. My interests are more toward teaching about wine through classroom experiences or through study tours/travel. My colleagues and I have significant experience taking students abroad on geographic study tour. As a follow-up to the book’s publication, I had planned to turn my wine knowledge and travel experience into wine tours (for a general-not academic-audience). But given rising travel costs and the growing disparity between the Dollar and Euro, those aspirations have been put on the back burner.
Are you part of a larger oenology/viticultural program at Central Connecticut University?
B.J.S. In my wine interests I am all by myself here at CCSU. I did have a colleague in the History Department who was very active in wine research. But he got a great gig as a wine researcher at Cal-Berkeley.
Who is your target audience?
B.J.S. My target audience is those individuals whose interests in wine are such that they want to learn more about it. My target is not a person sitting in a classroom. It is the person sitting at home who enjoys reading about wine while they relax with a glass. Two weeks ago it might have been a wine history book. Last week it could have been a literary journey through Provence and its wine. Next week it might be a book on wine vintages or food pairings. Maybe some week it will be a book on wine and its geography. In doing so, I would hope that the readers would gain a greater appreciation for wine and a greater understanding of geography. Even though it is not aimed at a classroom audience, the book does touch upon all of the major subject areas that I would cover in an introductory geography course. We are just covering them using wine as the subject matter.
Do you have reading suggestions for those interested in transitionin to more technical texts?
B.J.S. There are no technical texts in the geography of wine that are comparable. That was why my original book proposal was for a textbook. I never envisioned doing a book for a general audience. That was the challenge that my publishers posed to me. I actually had a heck of a time trying NOT to write in a textbook/academic journal format. Tim Unwin has a nice historical geography of wine (ie. a little geography and a heck of a lot of history). There are some books which deal with geography in a couple of chapters and then go into the description of wine regions. But interestingly enough, most are from an earlier time and are out of print. Given the absence of a true textbook, I am working on a web accompaniment to my book that will allow for a classroom application of the book. My intention was to have it done by the end of the summer. The reality is that I probably need a New England winter to get through that task.
Can you tell me a bit more about your tasting evolution? Were you a part of Prof. Dome’s tasting group? Perhaps a bit on how it was organized? By country, variety, climate, terroir?
B.J.S. He was an emeritus professor when I arrived at Miami U in 1987. He has long since passed away. When I was given the assignment I thought it was a joke. But after a couple of weeks in the class I came around. There were two sections of 90 students each. About 1/5 were ‘townies’ from around Oxford (just NE of Cincinnati) who took the course every time it was offered. They were great because they brought in food–always a welcome addition for poor graduate students. Many of the other students were Business majors who saw the knowledge as useful for shmoozing with future bosses. A few were geography majors who wanted to get the geography out of the course. Most of the rest were the drinkers that thought a $50 lab fee paid by their parents would ensure them of 15 weeks of getting drunk. The last group were roadkill at the first test.
Each night John would deal with a different wine producing region. It was a lot of slides (two or three 80 slide trays a night), a fair amount of geography, and then wine tasting. He dealt a lot with terroir as it is a natural for geographers. After all, terroir tells us that geography matters. What is more important than that??? In the class we would learn what made the wine regions tick. We would then taste 4 or 5 wines from that region. This was, after all, the 1980’s on a residential campus. My job was to prepare enough bottles for 90 people and to make sure that the drinkers did not heist the bottles as they made their way around the room. After class I was left to clean up and ‘dispose’ of the remaining wine. For the opened bottles this usually involved emptying them in the company of the other grad students who were working down the hall in the computer lab. The unopened bottles ended up back at my apartment. So I had the opportunity to taste the wines in each of the two classes. I then tasted them again after class with the other grad students. I then repeated the process in the months that followed as I worked my way through all of the leftover bottles. So while it started as a joke, it turned out to be the best ‘job’ that I ever had!
Thank you, Prof. Sommers. I certainly hope your fine book will be found by those who might otherwise be anxious to ask the questions you easily answer.


A Tale of Two Chenins

Ξ July 21st, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Tasting Notes, Wineries |

I love Chenin Blanc, have done ever since my family vacation to the Loire Valley in 2006 where we had some delicious dry and semi-dry Vouvray, however for this tale I’m heading to Chenin’s winter home, South Africa. The spur for this was the drinking of two bottles from the same vintage this month, Bellingham’s 2005 The Maverick and Rijk’s Private Cellar 2005 Barrel fermented – more on those later.
Chenin Blanc looks to have been one of the original grape varieties planted in South Africa as far back as 1655 when it was then called Steen (a name that still lingers on today in South Africa), but it wasn’t until 1963 that Professor C. J. Orffer from the University of Stellenbosch identified Steen as Chenin . In the mid 1990s the variety made up nearly 30% of South Africa’s vineyards but a drop in popularity has seen that fall to less than 20% nowadays, however the best sites have had hundreds of years to be identified and produce world class white wines, a fact that a lot of the wine world has still to fully understand. My first ever South African Chenin was about 2 years ago with Stormhoek’s “African Storm” 2005 Reserve and I have been a fan ever since.
The Bellingham winery is in Wellington, in the Paarl region, but the grapes for the 2005 Maverick were from Stellenbosch just down the road on the way to Cape Town. I picked this up last year from my local Waitrose store for £8.99 ($18) and waited for 6 months before it came out to play when we had friends over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. 2 CheninsWhile it was obviously a well made wine, with a heady, spicy nose, floral and fruity taste and a luscious and smooth texture, unfortunately the oak was overpowering. For those who like a lot of wood then you’ll enjoy this as a 4-star, but for me a little less oak would have made for a far more pleasurable glass and so I’m dropping it into the 3-star range (feel free to add a half point).
Two weeks later and a Chinese meal required a white to accompany it. The only one that seemed appropriate from my drinking list was the 2005 Rijk’s Private Cellar, Barrel Fermented. This is from Tulbagh, a region generally overshadowed by its neighbours Stellenbosch and Paarl, although not as much as the 3 mountain ranges which surround it – the western Obiqua Mountains, the Winterhoek Mountains in the north and the eastern Witzenberg Mountains.

The influence of these mountains and the open southern valley with its cooling winds, mean some varied terroir and climates in such a small area which should be worth looking out for if the quality of the Rijk’s is anything to go by. This was the second time I’ve had this wonderful wine, the first being last Christmas Eve (with the same friends we shared The Maverick with) where I was blown away by its honey aroma and complex, zesty taste. Both bottles were purchased in South Africa during separate trips to Johannesburg, this one for about 95 Rand ($13) last month, so it didn’t have long to recover from the jet-lag! The nose was of spicy honey, and floral in the mouth, dry and thick with some oak throughout, and honey at both the start and finish. There were similarities to The Maverick but I found this more complex and the honey aspect was delicious, while the oak was restrained enough not to overpower. This was a clear 4-star effort and backs up my impression of its sibling from Christmas.

I see both of these wines as training for the final Chenin in my cellar (at least for the moment) – The FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin), 2005. This Stellenbosch wine has become something of an icon and I was quick to buy a bottle when it was on offer at Waitrose for £11.99 ($24) at the beginning of the year. Whilst my heart is sorely tempted to open this up in the next few weeks to contrast with the other two my head is pointing out the 2008-2014 drinking window I’ve assigned and it will likely be a few years yet before I can compare notes – I’ll post a comment when I do!
Meantime I recommend you seek out this much maligned grape and see what it can do in the hands of a good South African winemaker, and then maybe buy some Vouvray and see how the original Loire Valley view of Chenin Blanc compares.


Gary Vaynerchuk’s 500th Show Redux

Ξ July 17th, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine News, Winemakers, Wineries |

Gary Vaynerchuk channeling the ‘Oak Monster’

The dust of well over 500 energetic souls has only just settled. Last Thursday, not an auspicious day of the week for an Event, nevertheless it witnessed the filming of Gary Vaynerchuk’s 500th episode of his celebrated WLTV series before a packed house. When Mr. Vaynerchuk took time to breathe between passionate proclamations the crowd jumped in to further drown out the roar of Hwy 280 traffic streaming nearby. Yours truly and Brandon Miller, writers for this blog, had the pleasure of assisting the good folks at CrushPad, especially Stu Ake and the delightful Hayden Moulds, to make real the evening.

And the evening would not have been complete without the presence of Chris Mott, Gary’s gentleman filmmaker.


Many thanks go out to the excellent wineries who answered my invite to join in the mix.

In no particular order:


Fort Ross

Edmunds St. John

Pelican Ranch

Sones Cellars

Twisted Oak

J. Lohr

New Zealand Winegrowers

Clos La Chance

To the wineries who either missed the deadline or could not attend: another gathering is planned for late Fall, early Winter.

The official 500th episode may be viewed on WLTV. (Brandon and I make an appearance.)

CrushPad has provided the following photo and video links.




Santa Cruz Mountains Passport, July 19th, 2008

Ξ July 15th, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine News, Wineries |

Passport MapIt is time once again for another Santa Cruz Mountains Passport event. This Saturday, July 19th, the AVA’s fine wineries are hosting tastings and offering educational insight into winegrowing in the diverse microclimates that inform the stylistic variety of the region.



“Some of our wineries are not open to the public except on Passport days and many pour special wines or barrel samples on these days.A lot of these wines are simply not available anywhere else, so if you find a wine that you like, please buy a bottle or two. Without sales, these special tastings cannot take place.” [Full text].
All tasting fees are waived provided the visitor is in possession of the Passport which may be purchased online (click link above), by calling (831) 685-VINE [8463], or at any of the participating wineries. Additionally, some local restaurants offer discounts for Passport holders.
Salud! Drive safely!


Mondovino’s Aimé Guibert of Le Domaine de Daumas Gassac. Bastille Day interview.

Ξ July 13th, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Interviews, Technology, Wine History, Wine News, Winemakers, Wineries |

On this Bastille Day may I suggest few persons better sum up the independent esprit of the French vigneron than Aimé Guibert of Le Domaine de Daumas Gassac. Fixed in the popular imagination, for better or ill, by his dour utterances in the comédie humaine that is the film Mondovino, yet Monsieur Guibert is far more complex. Like most of us, for him love of family is the highest good. His deep feeling for country is no different than ours. He is well read, lives the life of the mind despite his advancing years.

But notoriety invites reaction or celebrity, and follows upon the public’s choosing of sides. Such has happened with Monsieur Guibert, no less than French wine itself. Vigorous debates swirl about the relative merits of Old and New World wines styles, rising alc levels, the niaiserie of scores, increasing dependance on organoleptic technologies in the winery, etc., all important discussions, to be sure, but very often they isolate lead characters given limited speaking rôles.

Reign of Terroir’s ethical position is to put people back into play, as it were. Here is a marvelous quote from Roland Barthes, the great French cultural critic, which gets at the heart of matter:

When I used to play prisoner’s base in the Luxembourg, what I liked best was not provoking the other team and boldly exposing myself to their right to take me prisoner; what I liked best was to free the prisoners–the effect of which was to put both teams back into circulation: the game started over again at zero.
In the great game of the powers of speech, we also play prisoner’s base: one language has only temporary rights over another; all it takes is for a third language to appear from the ranks for the assailant to be forced into retreat: in the conflict of rhetorics, the victory never goes to any but the third language. The task of this language is to release the prisoners: to scatter the signifieds, the catechisms. As in prisoner’s base, language upon language, to infinity, such is the law which governs the logosphere. Whence other images: that of choosing up hand over hand (the third hand returns, it is no longer the first one), that of scissors, paper, stone, that of the onion in its layers of skin without a core. That difference should not be paid for by any subjection: no last word. [emphasis added]
And now, the laconic interview.
Admin Would you tell us how you came to know Professor Enjalbert, the gentleman who initially discovered the unique terroir of the Daumas property?
Aimé Guibert Enjalbert is a personal friend from Aveyron. Aveyron is one of the truly Gallic department; one could say “gallic tribe”.
How is it you took him at his word? I mean to ask, given that you and Véronique had no experience with grapes how did you both decide on the vine?
A.G. As an “Aveyronnais”, he deserved my confidence.
Where did you find your first Cabernet Sauvignon vines? What Bordeaux properties were sourced for cuttings?
A.G. Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux 1910, came from a small collection, destroyed nowadays. Even in Bordeaux, it is quite hard today to find a Cabernet from before clone and massal selection.
Your first bottling, the 1980, when did you drink the last bottle? Or do you still have a few bottles left?
A.G. On Peynaud’s strong advice, we have kept a few hundred bottles of each of our vintage from 1978.
You began farming ‘organically’ back in the early ’80s. What were the rules in France then? Does ‘organic’ mean something different today?
A.G. Any natural product could be accepted. Any product of “man synthese” is not accepted.
And while we’re on the topic, what is your understanding of Biodynamics?
A.G. Traditionnal European farming is our unique rule.
How has the Languedoc benefited from your efforts? Have wineries responded to your innovations? Of course, in the early days quality improved, without a doubt. But now, in 2008, what may we say of the Languedoc as a whole?
A.G. Still alone in our respect for the traditional rules, but Languedoc has made tremendous progress towards quality wines.
Your resistance to globalization is well known. I, myself, find your’s the proper stance especially if one’s community hopes to preserve local knowledge. What is lost to technological innovation? What does a vigneron come to mean in a world dedicated to repetition, sameness?
A.G. Globalisation means big volume, big money and fascist like economic power. I am against any fascism. Read the bible.
And CRAV, the Comité regional d’action viticole, how do you understand their actions? Are they relevant?
A.G. No comment on any of the hundred “comité…”
Leaving abstractions behind, could you tell us about your vineyards? What actions do you employ? Irrigation? Copper? And in light of the recent poor weather around Aniane what do you intend to do?
A.G. Our vineyard is a genuine community vineyard of fifty of the best European historical varieties.
And in the winery, would you tell us a little about your barrel regimen, yeasts used, blending?
A.G. Read Emile Peynaud, he is the perfect answer to deal with natural conditions.
What do you do in a poor vintage?
A.G. When you pick from 20 to 35 hectolitres on average per hectare, from a non-cloned vineyard, you never have a really poor vintage; You have top quality ones and medium quality ones.
Is Global Warming apparent in the Languedoc?
A.G. What means “global warming”?
Climate change. Have you noticed it in the vineyard?
A.G. [No answer was given.]
The film Mondovino is an unavoidable topic. Have you spoken with Jonathan Nossiter in recent years?
A.G. I love the poet Jonathan. But I haven’t had any calls from him for years.
Have you read his book, Le Goût et le pouvoir? Your opinion?
A.G. A clever love declaration to Burgundy and Burgundy vignerons.
And I simply must ask, what is your present understanding of Michel Rolland?
A.G. A fine money maker like millions of people today.
Do you have any words upon the passing of Robert Mondavi?
A.G. Robert Mondavi was a real man who deserves respect.
What is Véronique’s role in Le Domaine Daumas Gassac?
A.G. Nothing could exist without Veronique’s influence and wisdom.
And Samuel, your eldest son, in what direction will he take the family winery?
A.G. I have three good sons involved in Daumas Gassac, Samuel, Gaël and Roman. Life will show their weight.
Do you plan to write a memoir? A book?
A.G. I have made for years research on wine and Christianity for lectures; but my decision is not to write anything.
My next lecture will be at the Political Science School in Paris called Sciences PO.
What will be your lasting contribution to the wine world?
A.G. The Gassac vineyard is more a poem to the Mediterranean world; what is the influence of poetry?
What should my American readers finally understand about Le Domaine de Daumas Gassac?
A.G. We have a few hundred nice American citizens visiting every year. They all share emotion and love for this valley, first planted as a vineyard by Saint Benoit II, minister of Charlemagne. There are still quite a few European valleys not destroyed by chemicals and religion of money and volume. To visit them is a good project.
Thank you, Monsieur Guibert. It has been an honor.

Viva la France!



365 Days of Wine

Ξ July 10th, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Tasting Notes, Wine News, Wineries |

WLTV logoIt’s amazing how a simple comment can change influence someone’s life for a whole year. Towards the end of Episode 275 of Wine Library TV that hyperactive wine-champion of the Internet generation, Gary Vaynerchuk, got into a rant about people playing safe with wine and not being adventurous enough, saying “…are you ready to step up and try 365 different wines for the rest of the year”. After dropping that one-liner into the episode it was inevitable that the VaynerNation would rise to the call and almost immediately The 365 day Challenge was born. The rules were painfully simple – before 12th July 2008 you needed to have had 365 DIFFERENT wines, no duplicates allowed. Before claims of incitement to alcoholism get bandied around remember this is a wine enthusiasts community where visits to wineries, multiple tastings etc. are commonplace – no-one was saying drink a full bottle of wine every day for a year, I’m sure the Surgeon General would have something to say about THAT advice!
From my recent Centurion post you’ll probably already have gathered I like a challenge, however being in the UK I felt at a disadvantage. I don’t have any wineries within easy driving distance to visit and my average drinking was 2 bottles a week, which would take me to just over 100 – far short of the target. However I did have 2 advantages over my other U.K. based wine-loving friends;
-My work. Being shipped around the world on a regular basis, with access to Frequent Flyer lounges, meant a significant proportion of the total could be met in Airports and on-board flights. Hotels and restaurants can also quickly add to a total if you have a glass or two of something different each time round.
-The Newcastle Wine Fair. This twice yearly event has 40+ wines to taste your way through over the course of an evening, so assuming I could get through most of the wines on offer during each one then that’s nearly 80 wines on two separate nights!
Of course notes would be required to keep track of what had been tried and eliminate the chance of duplication (strictly against the rules!) so I reverted to type and started a spreadsheet with all the relevant information – although a little later fellow Reign of Terroir author Brandon Miller set up a dedicated Web-based database for anyone to use and keep track of their progress. My first red wine logged was a humble offering, the Concha y Toro Explorer 2005 Pinot Noir from the Casablanca valley, Chile, savoured on the 13th July 2007. This was a classic New World Pinot, very smooth and enjoyable. The first white was a day later, Tyrrell’s Old Winery 2005 Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley in Australia, with a buttery aroma, rich texture and a sweet citrus tang at the end. So began a year of new wines.
The first months progress was good with a large dinner party and business travel to move me just under the one-a-day target, moving into August with more business trips keeping me reasonably on track. Late September and the first Newcastle Wine Fair kicked in with 39 tasters to send me ahead of schedule, however after that progress stalled – I think I dropped to a 3 per week average, far behind what I needed to stand a chance at the Challenge, even Christmas and New Year couldn’t keep me ahead. By that time it was no longer a competition among the Vayniacs, that sub-plot had already been won when a little lady called Suzanna reached the 365 in November (much to everyone’s amazement and secret calls to AA!).
FlagsThe business travel kept on coming and Israel in February ’08 added a boost, when I visited 3 wineries, and not much later the first of two visits to Turkey gave a healthy injection of middle-eastern wines and explains how both of these countries ended up in my final Top 10. Pretty soon it was April and the second NWF – another 37 wines to the totals and suddenly I was ahead of target again, and the home-stretch beckoned, with work throwing more hectic foreign trips at me, each with the bonus side-effect of wine exposure. It was Turkey again in May, followed by Australia and South Africa, meaning that June 28th saw me sitting on 364 – one wine to reach the Challenge total and 2 weeks to do it.
Chateau MusarNumber 365 coincided with an experimental tasting I carried out with 2 friends met on the Wine Forums, one in Japan, the other in the US. The event had been planned for months and was set for the 4th July, with the 2000 Vintage of Chateau Musar Rouge (Gaston Hochar). Earlier vintages of this wine, always a polarizing influence in the wine community, had been enjoyed by all 3 of the participants and in retrospect it was a fitting label for the 365th wine on my Challenge list. There is likely to be a future article on the great Musar simultasting, so I won’t go into any more detail of that here, but this was quickly followed by 366, also a Musar, this time the 2001 Blanc.
So with a week left to go before the end of the challenge there was room for another 12 wines, 10 from a mid-week Spanish tasting, to bring the final total for a year of novel wine tasting to 378. Keeping records of each wine means that I have a detailed insight into a year of my wine drinking life, and some wonderful statistical breakdowns of what, where, why and when.
Here are some of the key figures;

Red Wines = 189, White Wines = 138, Sparkling Wines = 17, Rose Wines = 13 and Fortified & Dessert Wines = 21.


Number of different countries = 24, including China, Cyprus, England, India and Mexico (1 each).

Top 10 countries;

France (85), Spain (53), Australia (49), Italy (36), South Africa (36), Chile (19), USA (17), Germany (14), Israel (12) and Turkey (11).

Most common regions;

California (15), Stellenbosch (14), Rioja (14) and the Loire Valley (13).


Number of wines drank = 271, number of wines tasted = 107.

Number of wines tried at airports or onboard flights = 53.

Oldest Vintage = 1967.


Thanks Gary, for (unintentionally) setting off this brilliant adventure I ended up on – along with the Wine Century Club these two “quests” have changed my wine buying and drinking habits. Whilst I will undoubtedly end up buying some of the better wines I tried last year for future drinking, and there are a few bottles in my cellar I’m bringing to the top of the lists now that the “no duplicate” ban is removed, I have definitely moved from the safe options of buying “whatever tasted good last month” and into the uncharted territories of novel grapes, regions and wine producers.



La Scala Italian Restaurant, Johannesburg, S.A.

Ξ July 8th, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Restaurant Reviews, Tasting Notes |

La Scala Italian Restaurant

Montecasino Boulevard, Fourways, Johannesburg

South Africa

La Scala BalconyMy 3rd visit to South Africa in a year saw me again at the Montecasino complex in Fourways, north of Johannesburg. For the weeks sole wine & dine night La Scala came recommended through my friend Caroline who shared a table with me. The restaurant is inside the kitchy faux-Tuscan complex and we got a table on the balcony overlooking the Casino itself. The wine list made for good reading and I’d mentally prepared a few different selections for over the evening, but was then disappointed to find that the by-the-glass selection was limited to a single house white & red not on the menu. We agreed on a bottle of red with the main meal and started with a glass of Chenin Blanc from Basson Family Wines, their 2007 Babylon’s Peak from Swartland . This arrived refreshingly cold, but still providing a rich floral aroma which remained through the first taste. A nice example of a variety South Africa is justifiably famous for, light and refreshing with moderate length, it was a good 3-star start to the evening.
The menu had a wonderful choice and I was already having trouble deciding on what to go for, but then the waitress came by and started to list the specials, and kept on listing! There was at least a dozen and all sounded wonderful enough for us to reconsider our initial choices.Springbok
Eventually Caroline went for line-caught fish Carpaccio (sorry, can’t remember what type) and the Langoustine pasta (linguine I think, it tasted wonderful!) while I chose Springbok Carpaccio and a main of seared Tuna.
The Springbok was delicious, a rich flavour similar yet gamier than the likes of a Parma or Serrano ham.
Along with the starters our main bottle had also arrived, and this time round I went for a Pinotage, that much maligned South African variety. Although the Longridge tempted me I had some at home from one of the earlier trips, ditto the Beyerskloof, so the Clos Malverne from Stellenbosch rose to the top of the list. Basket-pressed, this was their Pinotage Reserve, the label referring to 35 year old vines. I had a sip with the Carpaccio and it worked well with it, probably because of its forward acidity. I left the rest to breathe while we chatted and finished off our respective Carpaccio with the Chenin.
My Tuna arrived with a light vegetable selection and a pot of fresh tomato sauce, but the fish was the centrepiece – a generous steak well-seared. The waitress had checked I like rare Tuna, and the inside was a deep pink and juicy, for most people the perfect rare (definitely not overdone) but for me I probably would have had it a bit less cooked, however I do tend towards Sashimi when it comes to Tuna!
Clos MalverneSo, onto the Pinotage, which had a rough and rustic nose, initially unpromising but there was a sweet vanilla and cherry end which rescued it. Deep inky purple with long legs (14% abv) it had a sharp attack, very acidic initially with tannin at the front of the mouth. Mid-palate it mellowed and lead into a good finish, the tannic aftertaste reminding you it had been there. An excellent food wine in the style of some Italians I’ve had – on their own a little harsh, but with meaty food perfect and it worked really well with the tomato sauce accompanying the seared Tuna. I can’t raise it above a 3-star effort, but, as with other Pinotage I’ve tried, nothing to prevent me coming back for more.
Unusually for me I even had a dessert, Tiramisu (obvious, but tasty nonetheless!) and a glass of Grappa came free at the end, finishing off the meal and almost me – I always forget how evil smelling and potent this stuff can be!
In summary the only real grumble was the lack of choice by-the-glass, still a common concern in a lot of restaurants. Apart from this minor gripe this was a good evening with friendly staff, delicious food and nice wine.


Tohu Wines on New Zealand/Maori Settlement

Ξ July 7th, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Interviews, Wine History, Wine News |

On June 25th the government of New Zealand announced the handing back of half a million acres of North Island land to the Maori. (The text of the settlement may be found here. The settlement partially redress the confiscation of Maori lands by the British in the 19th Century. Additional news stories of the historic event may be found here and here.

The historical density of this issue is far too complex for a modest blog to discuss. I trust interested readers will click the links I’ve provided for further research. However, I did contact Tohu Wines for comment. Tohu Wines is the World’s first Maori owned wine company.

And here is their reply:

Kia ora (good morning) Ken
The Waitangi Tribunal was specifically set up to hear and adjudicate on Maori historical claims back in (I think) the 70’s.
The government of today are facing an election this year and are wanting to fast track and finalise a lot of the outstanding issues relating to these before the election.
To this end Dr Michael Cullen the Deputy Prime Minister has personally taken control of the process and with the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) is attempting to get as many claims finalised before year end as he can.
Quite a few claims have already been processed this year and the “treelords” deal is the latest. The deal is between the government and a few Iwi (Tribes) in the central north island my Iwi, Te Arawa being one of them.
By any definition this is a big deal, the largest Treaty settlement by value and by number of possible beneficiaries. The task now facing the successful claimants is to manage almost $500 million in assets in such a way that they generate income for investment in education, health, family support, employment, culture, creativity and identity of all our people (NZ Herald 30 June 2008).
I believe that the deal now has to go through Select Committee hearings before coming back into the house for its final reading.
This is a good result for Maori although it can also be looked at as small compensation for lost land and more importantly opportunities for Maori over the last 160 years. The overlapping claims by different Iwi also have been a consideration in the time taken to get a result.
In the soon to be released negotiation for my other Iwi encompassing eight Iwi in the top of the south island (Te Tau Ihu), the compensation package will be largely us getting back our own land with some (but not enough) compensation in $s to offset land taken in the 1840’s.
However all in all we are starting down the road to recover something, which I see as a good thing.
I hope this helps.
Mauriora (behold the breathe of life).
James Wheeler
Tohu Wines


Thank you, James Wheeler, Marketing Manager of Tohu Wines.



Wine Centurions

Ξ July 5th, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine News |

Century Seal Out of the possible 10,000 Vitis Vinifera varieties in existence it has been estimated that only 200 are commonly used in wine production and less than 50 are grown internationally, the rest restricted to their regional origins. However, it is the “Big 6” in the global market – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – which makes up the bulk of production, with many wine drinkers happily going through the year on these, with the occasional top-up from specialised favourites such as Semillon, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, etc.
Even wine enthusiasts, a category in which I count myself, don’t often venture too far off this beaten path, but there is a group who shudder at the prospect of restricting themselves to such limited choice, whose raison d’être is to actively search out and try the unusual and exotic. The Wine Century Club was formed in 2005 by Steve de Long (creator of the Wine Grape Varietal Table) and since then has expanded to over 430 members world-wide. The majority of members are based in the US, 350 at last count, with some towns having enough to organise local gatherings. Canada, at 37, is the next significant group, with the Rest of World contingent headed by the UK on 10 members and Australia on 6. Details of the club meetings and events can be found on their website.
I first read about the group just over a year ago and it seemed a perfect part of my new found commitment to push the boundaries of the wine frontier, to explore strange new varieties, seek out new grapes and old civilizations and boldly go where few wine drinkers have gone before (sorry, couldn’t resist that!). Having a competitive nature I immediately downloaded the membership application form and started going through my tasting notes and records to find how many varieties I could definitely claim. According to WCC rules the “Grape varieties that you’ve tried only in blends with other varieties are permitted” but for me this was ambiguous and open to abuse, as an evening meal with some Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Papes, Port and Madeira could get you nearly half-way to the total if you included all of the typical grapes that could be in those bottles. So I made myself a little pact – only include the major varieties clearly listed on the bottle and making up a significant percentage of its content, not the 5% or 10% blends that often are found – if it wasn’t on the label, and I couldn’t clearly reference a major share in a blend, I didn’t include it. I eventually counted 49, which I was not too disappointed with given that I’d only been seriously into wine for just over a year, but that 100th variety seemed a long way off indeed. I knew that I’d be able to increase this number without changing my wine buying methods too much and I was already experimenting with new wines, the UK has a great buying choice compared to many other countries and, as regular readers of R.O.T. will know, I am frequently sent on business trips around the world so I had an excellent chance of coming across even more local grape varieties not often encountered back home.

So, for the best part of a year I looked for unusual names on the labels, and along the way I learned a lot more about grapes and wine than I probably would have;

- Assyrtiko, the dry white from the volcanic island of Santorini, whose eruption 3 thousand years ago is believed to have led to the downfall of the ancient Minoan civilization. Today grapes grow on the steep slopes of what’s left of the caldera.

- Georgian Saperavi and Rkatsiteli from a country with possibly 9 thousand years of history with winemaking but plagued by counterfeiting, spurned by its neighbour, Russia, and looking west for new markets.

- Italy, familiar to most people for Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, whose diverse selections of regional wines contributed 15 varieties to my total and created a love of Southern reds made from Aglianico, Negramaro and Nero d’Avola.

- The world’s most planted grape varietal is Airen from central Spain.

- Turkey, with a history almost as long and several hundred indigenous varieties, including Öküzgözü, Bogazkere, Narince and Emir, it’s almost impossible to drink a bottle in that country without tasting something new. Turkish wine is going through a transition at the moment, rediscovering an ancient heritage of wine production but at threat from Government taxation and discouragement in a predominantly Muslim society.

- The Eastern Mediterranean vying for the title of most unpronounceable grape, with contenders including Xynisteri, Agiorgitiko, Papazkarasi and Karasakiz.

New CenturionAs you may have already guessed by now I have finally reached the 100 mark. It was initially a slow progress, with only 20 new varieties on top of the 49 in the first 6 months. I may have been buying more unusual wines but I already had a cellar which had plenty bottles ready for drinking and I wasn’t deliberately changing my drinking habits just to get into the Wine Century Club – in the words of the Paul Masson ad, “Drink no wine before its time”! However time did start to take effect so there was a noticeable shift in the proportion of the weird and wonderful in the cellar, until the law of averages started to mean new varieties came to the top of the drinking list more frequently.
So what was the grape that sent me into triple figures and where did I drink it? Whilst I wouldn’t have minded had it been a glass taken alone at home in the U.K. for the sake of good memories, and more impressive writing, I am happy to say that it was a glass of 2005 Pano Papakosti, a blend of Papazkarasi, Cinsault and Karasakiz varieties from Marmara and the Aegean regions, savoured at an excellent winehouse in Istanbul (see my earlier ROT post for a full review of this evening).
Interestingly my cellar still contains quite a few new varieties I didn’t get to in the normal course of drinking, another 8 which were in reserve to reach the 100 but which I’ll get to over the next few months and years, including a Corsican red containing Niellucciu Sciallarellu, a Croatian red made from Plavac Mali and a few others made with grapes that many of you reading this will not see as uncommon and already have in their lists, Torrontes, Pinot Blanc and Tannat.
For a couple of other excellent articles on unusual grapes look here & here and for those enquiring minds who are interested in exactly which grapes made up my Century (deep breath!);

Agiorgitiko, Aglianico, Albariño, Alicante Bouchet, Arneis, Assyrtiko, Barbera, Blaufränkisch, Bonarda, Bual, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Carignan, Carmenère, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Chenin Blanc, Cinsaut, Clairette, Colombard, Cortese, Corvina, Dabouky, Dornfelder, Emir, Fernao Pires, Flora, Furmint, Gamay, Garganega, Gewürztraminer, Greco, Grenache/Garnacha, Grenache Blanc, Grolleau, Grüner Veltliner, Hárslevelü, Jandaky, Kalecik Karasi, Karasakiz, Királyleányka, Macabeo, Malbec, Malvasia, Marsanne, Melon de Bourgogne, Merlot, Meunier, Molinara, Montepulciano, Mourvèdre, Müller Thurgau, Muscadelle, Muscat Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Narince, Nebbiolo, Negroamaro, Nero D’Avola, Öküzgözü, Orange Muscat, Palomino, Papazkaras, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Portugieser, Prosecco, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Rondinella, Rondo, Roussanne, Ruby Cabernet, Sangiovese, Saperavi, Sauvignon Blanc, Schiava, Semillon, Sercial, Silvaner, Sultaniye, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo, Tinta Negra Mole, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Vasilaki, Verdejo, Verdicchio, Viognier, Welschriesling, Xarel-Lo, Xynisteri , Zinfandel/Primitivo and last, but not least, Zweigelt.



Beyond Biodynamics, Domaine Viret’s Cosmoculture

Ξ July 2nd, 2008 | → 5 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Interviews, Technology, Winemakers, Wineries |

Cosmoculture. Imagine an energetic continuum in the vineyard, a spectrum, that of light, for example. It begins with conventional growing methods, including a dependance on pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, winery manipulations. This approach would radiate a deep red, the red of the sun declining over a burning tropical forest. Next, orange to yellow, would be sustainable vineyard practices, as ordinary as a Montana wheatfield in the flat light of the afternoon. Organic and Biodynamic, blue to violet, of course. And Cosmoculture? Philippe Viret’s vineyard and winemaking philosophy has its angstrom equivalent in invisible wavelengths.

I first became aware of Cosmoculture while conducting research for an interview with Randall Grahm. I asked him about the practice and he wrote,
“…I am extremely interested in what the Virets are doing, with ‘informed water’ and the strategic placing of stone menhirs as a means of aligning energetic fields within their vineyards. I am particularly interested in the possibility of making wines that have a strong life-force, i.e. the ability to tolerate multiple saturations with oxygen without themselves becoming oxidized.”
The Virets, Philippe and Alain, explain their principles (from their web site):
“According to the ancient Mayan and Inca civilizations, cosmoculture is based on exchanges between cosmic and telluric energies.
On the ground, beacons of cosmic energy situated at precise points are used to support the close relationship that exists between the sky and the earth, and to recreate an environment where the vine can defend itself naturally.
“Cosmoculture is a form of natural agriculture which joins together the fundamental principles of biological and biodynamic cultures. It opens new horizons on forgotten ancestral principles.”
The following interview with Philippe was conducted via e-mail. And he answered my questions in English since it is better than my French! Very generous of the gentleman. But it has required of me some modification of his responses into an easier read. For any remarks semantically undecidable I’ve left in the original as written for my readers to grasp. As Philippe writes, “I am a better winemaker than a writer in Americain”.
Admin Philippe, you were awarded a diploma in oenology in 1998. Yet Domaine Viret began its transformation to cosmoculture a decade earlier, in 1989. Can you tell us what you needed to study in the university?
Philippe Viret I studied at the university to understand the vine and wine in general and to obtain a scientific approach. It’s important for better understanding natural wine.
How was your winemaking philosophy influenced by your university experience?
P.V. I think that the oenologist diploma permits the analysis of the process of fermentation and maceration. The first time I understudied, [I learned] that my wine was very resistant to oxidation and that SO2 was not always necessary in my wine.

In the second time, I worked with oxydo-reduction and I observed the longer time for ageing [allowed] in my wine. I’ve chosen, too, for the future, experiments with Amphora. I work to make better natural wine by respecting my soil and my grapes, for the pleasure of my customer. I make wine differently that must be in the image of my ideas and of my site.

Did you discuss cosmoculture with your professors? And what were their responses?
P.V. Cosmoculture was not known by people before Domaine Viret wine, and my professors didn’t speak of organic or biodynamic wines. I learned of organic wine in books, in nature, in the tasting, and in my work, but never at school.

Maybe now it changes!

How did you discover the principles of cosmoculture?

P.V. Cosmoculture is a school of life we learned in esoteric books, and then in the energetic application to my domain. [Our understanding] of it has evolved with practice in this world.

At my starting, the producers thought that we were crazy. [But then] they actually began to copy my method and my mark. So last year I registered internationally cosmoculture in order to protect the method and to ensure good, [responsible] development [under its name] in the future.

Domaine Viret uses a number of conventional methods in the vineyard, ploughing, inter-row cropping, sowing grass, for example. How is it decided which conventional methods are acceptable?
P.V. We work with traditional biological methods, but we’ve evolved to a world more subtle and complex. The work of the soil is very important, a natural food for the vineyard, and the preparation for treatment must be to help the plant to be more resistant.
How does cosmoculture differ from biodynamics?

P.V. It’s more energetic in the vineyard and it continues into the cellar. We have a good balance in the energies of the site; the vineyard must be always separated and preserved, an ecologic reserve, never a mix with chemical-using producers. We work on the energy of the soil, of the plant and of the wine.

The information of my preparation is important; we work on the memory of the water, with sound, colour, frequencies etc…

I make the wine with very low sulphur (98% of my production is without S02.)

Would biodynamic viticulture be improved with the addition of cosmocultural practices?
P.V. I think that cosmoculture can improve and give an evolution to biodynamic principles because cosmoculture opens onto a world of energies, and [therefore improves as well] the sensitivity of producers, for man is very important in cosmoculture. It’s the 5th element!
What is your position on the use of copper in the vineyard?

P.V. During 5 years nothing with copper [was used] in my vineyard, but in a year with intense mildew, we use a low quantity of cooper or substitute to help the plant when the preparations are not sufficient for the vineyard in the attack period.

We’re always working to improve our preparation, and we will find a solution in the future. Science works, too, [in order] to find a substitute product.

Have other vignerons taken up your innovations?
P.V. Yes, we receive a lot of vignerons [from around] the world. I think that the method will become more collective in the future.
Have you experienced the effects of climate change in your vineyards? What do global warming models predict for the future of the Côtes du Rhone?
P.V. We’ve observed a change of the climate. The harvests are always earlier, the soil is hotter, and the water reserves are much lower.

We want to create an ecologic reserve, with animals for compost, several points of reserve in water in the domain, we work on the [proper] selection of vine, and we try to keep the [biodiversity] on the domain.

What do you do in the winery to conserve energy? Do you recycle water? Any ‘green’ practices you’d care to mention?

P.V. We have built a special cellar with a good orientation, a telluric point with the spring in the Centre of my cellar, and we used the number gold.

We have a good potential energy inside of my cellar.

We have a system to recycle all the water on my domain, [including] a basin-lake, and we use the water for the garden and the animals.

Here in the United States we have many Organic, sustainable, and Biodynamic producers. Do you have a professional relationship with any of them?
P.V. The Bezier staff visited my domain and Randall [Grahm] is a friend. I think that he’d like our work in cosmoculture.
I first learned of cosmoculture through California’s Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame. He is practicing biodynamic viticulture to some degree but is also considering adding elements of cosmoculture. Are the principles transferable? Could cosmoculture be considered an element of terroir?
P.V. I think that its method is transferable to California. We must find good energetic sites and the [right] producers for good development.
What is your opinion of wine critics? And Robert Parker in particular?
P.V. It’s Necessary to have wine critics in the world of wine. Our work must be judged. Robert Parker I have never met the person. He doesn’t know my wine or my domain.
Do you enjoy any American wines?
P.V. [Throughout] the entire world we can find good wines and good producers. Most importantly, we must to work hard to obtain good wine and we must respect our soil, our vines, our wines so as to give [great] pleasure to our customers.
What is the most important idea we should understand about Domaine Viret?
P.V. It’s a more energetic world, more alive with natural and authentic wines.
Thank you very much, Philippe.


From the Vineyard to the Glass, Winemaking in an Age of High Tech


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