And We’re Back!
Well, we certainly have a lot of catching up to do! Internet at our winery in France was a bit “complicated” to say the least, so our blog was, for all intensive purposes, non-existent at the end of 2012. Bordeaux was a great experience and it was really interesting to be able to contrast the masculinity of the Italian wines we had just helped to make, to the elegance of the French wines. The highlight of our time in Bordeaux was most likely sitting in on a tasting with Michel Rolland and his winemakers while he sampled this year’s Le Bon Pasteur and Chateau Fontenil. What an impressive palate and talented spitter!
While in Bordeaux, we went with our friend and co-worker Dean, to a few bottle shops in St. Emillion where he taught us about Second Labels, a more economical way to taste wine produced by some of the better known Chateaux in France. The great thing about these Second Labels is that French Chateaux grow all of their fruit with the intention that it will be turned into wine for their First Label. They don’t have specific vineyards designated as inferior and therefore dedicated to a less expensive wine. So in some vintages you can purchase some pretty outstanding Second Labels if you know what you are looking for. In New World winemaking there are some wineries that also operate under this principle but for hundreds of years, Second Labels did not exist in France. Particular vintages and labels that are worth searching for include 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010 and Croix de Beaucaillou, Carruades de Lafite, Lynch Bages Echo, Comtesse de Lalande, Les Forts de Latour, Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, or Le Clarence de Haut-Brion to name a few.
The wine shops in St. Emillion are like wine nerd heaven. They stock labels as far back as the 1800’s in layers of caverns under their store. These caverns, some of which date back to the 800’s, were old quarries whose white limestone was used to build the picturesque town. Now these quarries have been repurposed to serve as naturally climate controlled cellars. The owner of the bottle shop we visited was extremely knowledgeable about all of his wines and excited to give us a tour of his cellar. It takes a wine nerd to know one.
After Bordeaux we traveled through Paris, back to Italy to see two of our favorites, Summer and Fabrizio at Cascina Iuli, then to Switzerland, Slovenia and finally Greece. One thing all these places had in common was, not surprisingly, wine. Each of these countries had something to offer. A good Swiss wine with fondue is heavenly. The Swiss have great wine, cheese and chocolate, what’s not to like? Slovenian wines are becoming more common in European and US wine shops and for good reason. The price/quality ratio of these unique wines is tough to beat. Check out some of the labels that Summer carries if you are curious, for the price you really can’t go wrong: www.indiewineries.com.
In Greece you have to search a little harder for a nice local bottle, but they do exist. While the “mom and pop” restaurants are out of this world when it comes to cuisine, in our experience, the wine list consists largely of boxed wines that are past their prime, if you can really even classify a boxed wine as having a prime. At the more mainstream restaurants you’ll find wait staff that can point you in the direction of a great local producer. We had a nice bottle for about 12 Euro with dinner. If you like wine, my best advice to you while traveling would be to try a local wine with local cuisine. It always pairs well.
Two weeks at home for the holidays and then we were back on the road. We were so eager to get started in Australia that we shaved a day off of 2012, literally, crossed the international dateline, and landed “Down Unda” on January 1. We have our Visa’s in hand and will be starting at family-owned, Bethany Wines next week. We’re excited to see what Australia has in store for us!