Category Archives: Bio-Dynamic

$20 and Under for Summer Drinking

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite wines for summer drinking.

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Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2014 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. It has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $14

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross-featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_8070

Pinot Grigio 2014 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $17IMG_8062

Urban Riesling 2014 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. It is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, with juicy fruit and a minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14IMG_8063

Frascati DOC “Terre Dei Grifi 2013 Made from 50% Malvasia Bianco di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. Hillside vineyards with volcanic, potassium rich soil. The grapes are gently pressed and vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for 4 months to impart greater complexity, structure and bouquet. The wine ages in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has fragrances of exotic fruits and citrus with a touch of ripe pear and almond in the finish. $12

Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 Colli Aprutini IGT Cerulli Spinozzi (Abruzzo) 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation in stainless steel, then malolactic. It is aged on its lees for 5 months before the wine is bottled. Hints of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits and apricot. There is a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I was very impressed by this wine, one of the best I have tasted. $16IMG_8098

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco 2013 DOC Struzziero made from 85% Caprettone 15% and Falanghina or Greco. The vineyards are located on the slopes of Vesuvius. Crushing and destemming followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is bottled in March following the harvest. Aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with good minerality and a touch of smoke. $12

Sparkling

Organic Prosecco DOC grapes for this small production Prosecco are harvested from certified organic wine estate in the town of Vazzola in Treviso. The grapes are grown without chemicals or fertilizers, the grapes are 100% organically grown. It is produced in the extra dry style with just a little more residual sugar than a Brut. It has hints of green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. $16

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Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc  This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $14IMG_7661

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence. Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with nice red berry aromas and flavors. Very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18

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Cantina Terlano St. Maddalena 2014 Alto Adige DOC made from 80% Schiava and 15% Lagrein. The vineyards are between 230 and 500 meters and the exposure is south/ southwest. Harvest is by hand and there is a grape selection and they are destemmed. This is followed by a slow must fermentation at a controlled temperatures and gentle agitation of the must in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging is in big wooden barrels for 7/10 months. The wines are blended one month before bottling. The wine has hints of black elderberry and cherry with a touch of bitter almond and violet. It has balanced acidity and low tannins which is a unique feature of the Schiava grape. $20IMG_8069

Scherecbichl Colterenzio Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Schiava. (Vernatsch) produced by old traditional pergola trained vines. The hillside vineyards are at 410/440 meters and the soils are morainal mixed with sand and eroded porphyry deposits. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation, then four months of aging in tanks. It had red summer fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry, light tannin and acidity. This is a wine to be drunk young served slightly chilled for summer drinking.IMG_8068

Kaltern Caldaro Kalterersee Auslese 2013 Alto DOC Adige 100% Schiava (Vernatsch). The vineyards are on south and east facing slopes surrounding Lake Kaltern at 230/450 meters. The soil is loamy, limestone gravel, with a small proportion of sand. The average age of the vines is 20/50 years and the training system is the pergola. Harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is for one week on the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged four months on the fine lees in stainless steel and large casks. It has hints of cherry and raspberry with a touch of bitter almond. Wine should be drunk young.IMG_8066

Chianti Classico “Aziano” 2013 DOCG Ruffino Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino and Canaiolo. The soil is moderate clay content rich in Galestro rocks. The vineyards are at 200/400 meters. The vines are guyot trained and cordon spur pruned. Fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once malolatic fermentation is complete the wine is aged for 11 months in stainless steel and concrete vats and four months in bottle before release. It has hints of red berries, cherries, violets, plums and a touch of spice. $14IMG_8064

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 Sartori di Verona made from 45% Corvina, 30% Covinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatioa. The Valpolicella Classico area is north of Verona and the soil is calcareous with fine layers of limestone. There is soft pressing with skin maceration for 8 to 10 days. After pressing 10% of the must is extracted to obtain better color and tannin. After racking and malolactic fermentation the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in oak for 15 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. It has aromas and flavors of rich red fruit with hints of black cherry, nice minerality and soft tannins. $20

I was very impressed with this wine. It was one of the best Valpolicellas I have tasted in a long time.

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Filed under Banfi, Bila- Haut, Bio-Dynamic, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kalterer See, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Struzziero, Petale de Rose, Peter Zemmer, Pfarrhof Kaltern, Prosecco, Ruffino, Sartori di Verona, St. Magdalener- Hausler, Terre dei Grifi Frascati, Urban Riesling-Nik Weis

By Hand and By Feet

When I was in Rome in May I saw the Emidio Pepe 2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on a restaurant wine list for 38 Euros. This was a real bargain as this wine would be twice the price if I could find it at a retail store in NYC.  I knew that the wine could use another 10 to 15 years before it would be ready to drink, but since it is one of my favorite wines and I never had the opportunity to drink one so young, I ordered a bottle. It had full aromas and flavors of red and black fruit and the roast lamb that I ordered for my main course softened the tannins. It was a great combination.

I always look forward to tasting Emidio Pepe wines but drinking them is always better!  Over the years I have been fortunate to drink the 1975, 1977,1979,1983,1985 and 1993 vintages of the Montepulciano and have tasted other vintages both in NYC and in Italy.  I have only had the 1995 Trebbiano.

Chiara and Grandfather Emidio Pepe

I met Emidio Pepe a number of times both in NYC and at Vinitaly, the wine fair in Verona, but could never get the answers to all of my questions about his wines until recently when Chiara De Julis invited me to taste the 1983 and 1984 vintages of the Montepulciano.  I know Chiara as   the public relations person for the winery, but I had not realized that she was Emidio Pepe’s granddaughter.  

Chiara began by telling me that her grandfather’s first bottled vintage was in 1964 and at that time he had only one hectare of vines. Today there are 12 hectares of vines near the Adriatic Sea that stretch out over the Teramo hills at the foot of the Gran Sasso Mountain.  The winery produces only two wines — the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and the Montpulciano d’Abruzzo.  Chiara said that they have just one clone for the white and one for the red.

In the early days, friends told Emidio that he was building castles in the sand but he replied that he was building wine castles. He had faith in the Montepulciano grape and as it turned out, he was right.

Chiara said they use both the tendonne method and the cordon spur method for training the vines. In vintages when the weather is very hot the tendonne method is better because the leaves form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun.  When the weather is not too hot, the cordon spur is better because it allows more sun and air to reach the grapes.

According to Chiara, 1 hectare of tendonne has 900 vines and produces 90 quintals of grapes.  That means that each vine produces from 6 to 9 kilos of grapes. In one hectare of cordon spur trained grapes, there are 3,300 vines and each vine produces 5 to 6 kilos of grapes.

The Emidio Pepe winery is Organic and Bio-Dynamic. They belong to the Triple “A”– Agriculturists Artisans Artists, an association of wine producers from around the world that believes in Organic and Bio-Dynamic production, terroir and as little interference as possible by the winemaker in the winemaking process.

In their vineyard only sulphur and copper water are used along with biodynamic preparations. Only natural yeast is used and Chiara said that this gives the wine more complexity because there are so many different strains of yeast on the grapes and in the air. The white grapes for the Trebbiano are crushed by feet and the red grapes for the Montepulciano by hand. No sulfites are added to the wine. The juice is placed in glass lined cement tanks of 20/25hl. The white remains here for one year and the red for two years. The wine is then transferred to bottles by hand.

In Italy the current vintage is 2009 but in the USA it is 2003.  Chiara told me that only older vintages are sent to the USA because the younger wines are not ready for the long trip. The wine has to be well balanced and decanted to manage the trip and only their best wines are sent to the USA and put on the market.

Chiara’s grandmother Rosa Pepe is in charge of the decanting process. Since this is a natural wine malolatic fermentation may take place in the tank or the bottle.  There is no filtration or fining. The corks are placed in the bottles by hand and only the best cork is used. She said that they guarantee all of the bottles that have been decanted at the cellar for 20 years, no matter if the vintage is 2003 or 1983.

About 60,000 bottles a year are produced.  In an exceptional vintage they will hold back 70%.

Chiara told me that at first her grandfather did not like the 1983 vintage so he kept it in his cellar and did not sell it.  A journalist came for a visit and asked why there was no 1983 on the market.  When Emidio explained, the journalist asked if he could try it.  Emidio agreed and they tasted it together.  The wine had developed in the bottle and the two decided that it was a great wine in a great vintage.  Emidio put 30% of the 1983 on the market. I  am glad it is for sale, it is a great wine make.

Chiara said that they have 600,000 bottles of wine from 1964 to the present vintage.

This is a family winery where everything is done by hand (and in one case feet) from the time the grapes are picked until the labels are placed on the bottles.  Now I understand why these wines age so well and why I enjoy them so much.

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Filed under Bio-Dynamic, Emidio Pepe, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Triple "A"