Monday, October 9, 2017

Languedoc Is All About Diversity by Philip S. Kampe


                                          Languedoc Is All About Diversity
I Love Languedoc and its wine diversity.

Wine blends are what the huge area is all about. Many, certainly, not all, producers choose to make blends of the hundreds of grapes that thieve in the area versus producing single varietal wines. There are many times that international grapes are part of the blend.
Take the typical red blend, often for export. Grenache, Mouvedre, Carignan and Syrah are the prime suspects, while Grenache Blanc and Picpoul create the normally unoaked, acidic white wines. Sparkling, of course, has become rather famous due to the use of Cremant de Limoux and sweet wine thrives its success from Muscat.

Languedoc was once known as a region that overproduced wines-when I visited the region in the late-70’s-inexpensive jug wine was the norm. Carignan was the go-to grape due to its high yield. That has changed and now the region produces smaller yields, focusing on blends with the new ultimate regional blending grape, Grenache, second to Carignan’s historical presence.

The wines from Languedoc are now terroir driven. They have personality and character paired with experimentation from the winemakers, many young, who are the new pioneers in the industry.

Historically, Languedoc has been extremely important for centuries. The port of Sete was the link to the Atlantic for exporting barrels of wine. The Canal du Midi, possibly the most important waterway in Languedoc, gave the wines exposure by way of the ocean. Winemaking has its roots in the 1st century-historically near Montpellier, in Clermont I’Herault.

As you can see from the photos, there are numerous areas that produce wines of varying degrees of discernable quality. The level of high quality wines from Languedoc has consistently outperformed expectations.

Isn’t it time for you to experiment with the many styles of wine from this rich and affordable area?

Philip S. Kampe

Friday, October 6, 2017

Abbye de Valmagne: Languedoc's Homage To Wine by Philip S. Kampe


                                      Abbaye de Valmange: Languedoc’s Homage To Wine

Visiting Languedoc, in south central France, has always been an adventure that I dream about year round. One of the reasons that I love the region is that Languedoc's wine history is important to all of France. 

In a small village near Villeveyrac, Herault lies a former Benedictine monastery that has influenced the wine world for many centuries. Built in 1138, the monastery, now known as the ‘Abbaye de Valmagne’,  converted from a religious order into a wine cave.  Maturing wine in large barrels or vats was the only way of saving the order from destruction. 

On the large property is a vineyard that was originally established by the Cistercian monks in the 12th century. Vines have been growing on the property ever since. Today, the vineyard covers 190 acres (75 hectares) , of which 75 acres (30 hectares) are classified AOC.

The property is an architectural treasure and easy to reach, as it lies in-between Beziers and Montpellier, only seven miles from the Mediterranean sea.

The property was close to destruction and was ingeniously saved from destruction by becoming a winery,  The large abbey was a perfect place to store the huge casks that store wine. Cool conditions exist, hence the storage and aging of wine was safe from external conditions.

As a guest at the Abbaye, I had the opportunity to meet the present owner, Philllippe d’Allaines and his lovely wife.  He explained to me that the abbey has been in his family since 1838 and wine growing, which saved the monastery, has been going on for eight centuries, with little interruption.

The families grape of choice is mouvedre, also known as monastrell, a grape known for its explosion of dark fruit, full-bodied, big and bold. Mr. d’Allaines explained that the grape is used primarily as a blending grape in his cuvees.

All of the abbeys wines were served at a gala event that I attended thanks to a trip with a group of journalists sponsored by Terroirs & Millesimes.

There were many wines to sample at the event, but, the wines from the Abbye de Valmagne were the ones that I focused on. It was hard to imagine that this huge abbey, 300 feet long and 100 feet wide was not a church. No seating, just a sandstone soil floor and massive vats of wine. It was a different kind of religious experience, at least for me. I closed my eyes and imagined centuries before-how, a brilliant idea of using the abbey as a wine storage facility saved the church from serving as a stone quarry, which is what happened to deserted churches hundreds of years ago.

This trip to the Abbye de Valmagne has altered my life in many ways. Since wine has been my life for many years, finding salvation in a church for refuge and the human spirit has always meant a lot to me-but, realizing that wine storage saved a church from destruction is the larger story for all of mankind.

Languedoc is a wonderful area to visit. It is France’s wine country.
The Abbye de Valmagne is a wonderful place to start your journey.
Once at the Abbye, you should realize how important and sacred wine is to the residents of Languedoc and the rest of the world.

Philip S. Kampe 

                                                          Abbye se Valmagne


                                                    Mr. & Mrs. Phillippe d'Allaines

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wines of Chile: Beware, World, Pinot Noir Is On Its Way by Philip S. Kampe

                                 Wines of Chile: Beware, World, Pinot Noir Is On Its Way

If you believe that the wine production in Chile of Pinot Noir is only 3% of the total production, then you will begin to understand that in the near future, that figure will grow by leaps and bounds according to three prominent voices in the wine business from Chile.

Presenters, Tim Kingston of Kingston Family Wines, Felipe Tosso of Vina Ventisquero and Ritual’s Rodrigo Soto focused on the fact that with years of experimentation and unique terroir in Casablanca, where the cooling breezes help create high quality grapes with picture perfect acidity, that it is only time before Chile makes a name for itself in the world of the tricky, Pinot Noir grape.

Pinot Noir is a relatively new grape (late 60’s) for Chile. Cool climate conditions permit this sensitive grape to blossom in a few regions, specifically Casablanca as mentioned earlier, plus San Antonio/Leyda, Malleco, Curico, Colchagua, Limari and Bio Bio.

Winemakers consider Pinot Noir a rather difficult grape. It is thick-skinned and has a history of rot, decay and disease.

Only cool climates aid its growth-think Oregon, Washington and France (Burgundy). Many of these regions, have both success and failure with the grape. Not always, do you say that I had a memorable Pinot Noir today. Most often then not, there are palate failures. Chile has an edge-the Pinot’s that I have sampled seem lighter in body and have a higher acidic character-two factors that should lead to success.

I’m far from an expert on Chilean Pinot’s, but, these are my observations. With the recent introduction of French clones, as time moves forward and the vines age, Pinot Noir will eventually have major success in Chile. The cool climate paired with granite, slate and clay will enhance the grapes enough that the Chilean style will be achieved as time moves onward.

The wines that were poured were generally fruit-driven, somewhat complex and had soft tannins versus rough edges. At the moment, the style is being developed, but, as the presenters emphasized that they were only in the beginning stages of Pinot Noir experimentation.

Future goals should be to incorporate freshness and savory notes to highlight the grapes diversity. Felipe Tasso and Rodrigo Soto are on that mission, as well as Kingston Family Wines.

The presenters shared their wines with us in a comparative tasting.

Vina Ventisquero (Felipe Tasso winemaker)
2015 Tara Pinot Noir ($40) 13.3% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir
Aged for 24 months in 5-7 year old barrels
Earthy, mineral, low acidity, drinkable lighter style

2015 Heru Pinot Noir ($40) 13.5% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir
Aged for 14 months in French oak, 25% new, 35% second use and 40% third use.
Spice, red fruit, oak, soft with a medium body, well balanced with a Burgundian style
Ritual (Rodrigo Soto)
2016 Monster Block ($49) 13.5% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir
Aged 14 months in French oak, 30% new
Full-body, tight, chewy tannins, wonderful aromatics of dark berries with a hint of black licorice

2015 Ritual Pinot Noir ($19)  14% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir
Malolactic fermentation and 11 months in French oak, 30% new.
Medium-body, bright fruit, balanced and ready to drink
Kingston Family Wines (Tim Kingston-partner)
2016 Alazan Pinot Noir ($38) 12.5% alcohol,100% Pinot Noir
Aged 8 months in French oak, concrete egg vat.
Medium-body, ripe tannins, long finish, oily finesse

2016 Tobiano Pinot Noir ($24) 12.5% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir
Age3d 8 months in French oak.
Fruity,yet, earthy, minerality plus spice.

The six wines, each with its own message, did ring in the words, Pinot Noir, to my palate. It wasn’t even a stretch-the basic characteristics were in place.

The seed was planted.

And is growing quite quickly in Chile.
World, beware!

Philip S. Kampe

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Alves de Sousa-Generation After Generation of Great Portuguese Wines by Philip S. Kampe

                      Alves de Sousa, Generation After Generation of Great Portuguese Wines

 Tiago Alves de Sousa

Family winegrowing and winemaking traditions began with the grandfather of Domingos Alves de Sousa, known to many as Portugal’s finest winemaker. The family’s journey is now led by the son of Domingos, Tiago, who preaches to understand his families wines, only grapes from the estate can be used because of the diversity of the terroir and the plethora of grape varieties grown on the estate.

Alves de Sousa has been recognized and awarded special distinctions and has been honored and revered by fellow Portuguese wine producers.

Visiting the hillside compound of Alves de Sousa, in the Baixo Corgo region,  made one feel like they were in outer space. The black building emerges silently as part of the landscape.

Created by architect Belem Lima, the visitors center and winemaking facility, Quinta da Gaivosa, gives way to the future. Built as both a production center and visitor’s center, the dual purpose buildings function is to transform the harvest into wine, bottle and age the wine, then show the finished product to the world, partly through the tasting room in the visitors center.

This compact operation is headed by Tiago Alva de Sousa, who has windows in every area, so, he could keep an eye on every part of the operation. He was quick to say that if any problems arise, he would be the first to respond. The window from the laboratory has views of the vineyards as well as the stainless steel vats and wooden casks below the vantage point. The building was designed and built into the earth to ensure consistent temperatures while aging the wine. Another reason that the wines age at the correct temperature is that the black brick is lined with mineral wool insulation that passively controls the temperature inside the complex.

Sampling the wines that began five generations ago was a privilege that Tiago gave our small group. He opened bottle after bottle, emphasizing that all of the grapes were grown on their estate and the wines were made, stored and bottled by them. The results made me rethink why I hadn’t run across these masterpieces more often in my travels.

                                                                 View from the Labratory
                                                                            Tasting Room

Tiago said that ‘harmony’ and the focus on ‘little details’ are what sets Alves de Sousa apart from others.

For me, it is difficult to have a favorite wine from this vineyard. Sure, I ‘felt the schist’ in the 2013 Abandonado and swore that it was the best Portuguese ‘red wine I have ever tasted.’ And the 2013 Quinta da Camosa impressed my palate with its 80 year old vines and over 20 grape varieties in the red blend.

As far as whites, the 2012 Berco, a wine made by Tiago as a homage to his father, Domingos, was a show stopper.

The diversity and high quality of this operation shined magnificently with Quinta da Camosa, 20 year old Tawny Port.

If you have the opportunity to purchase any wine produced by this outstanding producer, take it, as the quality and consistency is unmatched, generation after generation.

Philip S. Kampe

How Hungarian Cabernet Franc Changed My Life by Philip S. Kampe

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