Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace Are Underpriced by Philip S. Kampe

            Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace are Underpriced...

I have long been a fan of the sparkling wines from Lucien Albrecht. The ‘Cremant D’Alsace’ has been a real ‘got to’ wine of mine for get-togethers, parties and celebrations. At close to twenty dollars a bottle, my cellar has always been stocked with both the Cremant D’Alsace Brut and Rose, which is my true favorite.

One of the thrills of my life occurred last week when I had the opportunity to meet Lucien Albrecht’s winemaker, Jerome Keller.

Jerome Keller, the name behind the brand sat next to me at a luncheon for four and was so humbled to learn that his Cremant was at the top of my list for both quality and value. He knew he didn’t have to sell me on his wines because he knew that I knew the products inside and out.

What I didn’t know was that Jerome Keller produced a line of Lucien Albrecht wines, that represent what Alsace is all about, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. All vines are harvested by hand-a true trademark of Maison Lucien Albrecht.

Before sampling the wines, Mr. Keller explained that to produce wines at this level, he and his team must follow the grape from the birth on the vine until the varietal is picked and begins the process of fermentation. With cutting edge equipment and advanced winemaking skills, Jerome Keller executes what Lucien Albrecht wines are all about.

The journey began in 1425 when Romanus Albrecht started the winery. Eight generations have followed in the same footsteps.

In 1971 the first Cremant was produced by the family and in 1976, the methode traditionnelle was adopted. That means that the same method of making Champagne was adopted for all Cremants, which put them in the same league as Champagne and Spanish Cava. Double fermentation and aging creates Cremant’s profile.

The Brut is made from 100% Pinot Blanc grapes and was recently awarded four gold medals, giving Maison Lucien Albrecht more gold medals than any other Cremant producer in France.

The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose is made from Pinot Noir grapes. It has a second fermentation in the bottle, then stays on the lees for nine months before being disgorged. The small bubbles circle the rim of the glass when poured, illustrating a well made wine. Red, exotic fruit prevails, rhubarb and red current bring out brightness to this salmon colored show stealer.

The 2016 Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar ($17) was the first of the new series of wines, for me, that I sampled with winemaker Jerome Keller. The wine was pale yellow in color, fresh and supple with hints of apricots and sunflower seeds. Smooth and stylish on the palate, a great wine that could be used as both an aperitif and a food wine.
The 2016 Riesling Reserve ($16) jumped out of the bottle like a rocket. Balanced, yet not contained, the intensity and persistence of the wine’s acidity gave life to its citrus notes. Don’t get me wrong, it is overpowering in a good way. Riesling is the dominant grape in Alsace and this interpretation is special and stylized by winemaker, Jerome Keller.

The 2016 Pinot Gris Cuvee Romanus ($20), named after Romanus Albrecht, the wineries founder. The clay and limestone support the 100% Pinot Gris grape to dance on your palate. Distinctive flavors of orange spice, earth, chalk and honey are abundantly blended with a creamy smokiness that elevates with each sip.

The 2016 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($20) is a wine that I could drink everyday. The wine is very lively, like sunshine in a bottle. The faint spiciness and acidity of this medium bodied wine highlights the semi-sweet flavor of passion fruit and pineapple.

Alsace is an appellation in France that has been part of France and Germany throughout history. My family is from there. The region feels isolated and historically has followed centuries old traditions and maintained its own culture, a combination of both countries. Most of the wines (90% white) from Alsace come in the traditional tall, mostly green glass bottles.

Visit Alsace by visiting

                                                Winemaker Jerome Keller

Philip S. Kampe

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Malbec World Day is April 17th. Let's Celebrate Worldwide! by Philip S. Kampe


Malbec World Day 2018

Choose your favorite Holiday in April 2018.

April 1 April Fool’s Day
April 1 Easter Sunday
April 8 Greek Easter
April 17  Malbec World Day

I guess that you know where I am going with this. To me, even though April Fool’s Day is my Birthday, as a #Winelover and journalist, the most important holiday in April, each and every year, is always on April 17th, Malbec World Day.

How did this day happen?
Historically. President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina was on his personal mission in 1853 to transform Argentina’s wine industry. He asked Michel Aime Pouget, a soil expert from France, to bring over new vines for the winegrowers to experiment with. Malbec was one of the new varietals. Ten years later France underwent a phylloxera plague that wiped out the varietal  in the Rhone Valley. Malbec cherished in Argentina. In the 1990’s, years after France’s 1956 freeze, that wiped out the majority of France’s Malbec vineyards, Argentina positioned Malbec as its rising star and declared that on April 17th, “Malbec World Day” would be celebrated throughout the world.

To celebrate “Malbec World Day”, starting in 2011, Wines of Argentina has been responsible for branding the event.

To celebrate the event, I have chosen two iconic Malbec varietals that represent the day.  Amalaya 2016 Malbec
13.9% abv
85% Malbec  10% Tannat  10% Verdot
25% of the wine is aged 8 months in French Oak
The palate is really alive with this Malbec. Lots of vanilla, spice and cherries and raspberries make up this balanced tannic wine. ($15)
The vines grow at high altitude in a dry climate with rocky and sandy soil. The Calchaqui Valley in northern Argentina (Salta) has vineyards growing at 5,700 feet. This is one of them.

Colome 2015 Estate Malbec
14.9% alcohol
100% Malbec
Aged 15 months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle
In the Upper Calchaqui Valley in the Salta region, these grapes are the highest in elevation Malbec grapes in the world. At 7,400 feet, the environment lends both complexity and weight to grapes that are sustainably farmed.
Rich tannins and acidity paired with over the top dark fruit mixed with spices make this wine a truly complex giant. ($25)

Enough said- Let’s Celebrate “World Malbec Day” on April 17th and toast the purple grape with the rest of the World that Celebrates this Worldwide Event.

Philip S. Kampe 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wild Yeast Wines Are In by Philip S. Kampe

The other day I attended a WILD YEAST wine tasting- a collaborative group of natural wine and even beer and cider small, regional importers who wanted to show their wares to the trade. Since I am employed as a wine scout- a person who seeks wines for retail shops, my journalistic hat was taken off so I could find and suggest wines to the shops that I scout for.

Wines at this event featured all wild fermented organic or biodynamic grapes that did not have sterile filtration or fining. What I found was that these wines were very alive and represent the terroir they come from.

Grapes that made up the wines, some international, but, many were indigenous varietals from a spectrum of European and North and South American countries. Importers that are members of the Wild Yeast Wine Group include: Eklektikon, Maritime Republic Imports, Brazos Imports, Artisanal Cellars and Steep Hill Imports. Add Purity Wine from California and La Garagista from Vermont to the list-as producers.

Of the fifty or so wines that were sampled, I will focus on two wines or grapes that stole the show for me. Both wines were from Greece and both wines were named for the grapes used to make the wines.

The first wine used the Savatiano grape-the most planted grape in Greece and known worldwide as the grape ‘Retsina’ is made from. Savatiano, as I was taught, is a very hardy grape, more resistant than most grapes to drought and disease. Central Greece, where it is grown gets very hot and remains dry for months upon end. Savatiano appears to enjoy the arid conditions.

The grape when vinified takes on different shades of yellow. The one I sampled contained no sulfites and was unfiltered and straw colored. Eklektikon imports the wine, a 2017. The wine I sampled was very woodsy with huge overtones of hazelnuts. It was unlike any wine I had sampled before. It lost its classic Retsina pine and tar flavor and was transformed to a luscious wine unfamiliar to the hundreds of thousands I had sampled during the course of my lifetime. This wine must be served cold-as when I was leaving and tasted the wine at room temperature, my palate was not as intrigued.

The second grape and name of the second wine is Roditis- a grape that is linked to a pink-red grape clone (see photo) and is found throughout Greece. Often the grape is blended with the drier Savatiano grape to produce Retsina.

Roditis is best suited for higher altitudes, where the terroir-driven grape can thrive and turn into a superstar. Roditis wines at their best are full-bodied and complex. The one I sampled was pink in color-attributed to the grapes color and was citrus like in flavor. I am sure the wine was unfiltered. It had a very earthy, yeasty quality and, to me, exhibited what the Wild Yeast movement is all about-fermented wines from organic or biodynamic grapes, without sterile filtrations or fining.

Philip S. Kampe 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Rose Invasion by Philip S. Kampe

                                                   The Rose Invasion
                     Did you ever feel like you were on Rose overload before?
                                               Rose has many shades....
                                                My first rose was Mateus (Portugal)
                                           Loire Valley wine made with Pouilly-Fume
                    Languedoc rose ade with 80 year old vines (Grenache)
                                                 A first for me, rose Pinot Grigio
                                                 Fizzy sparkling from Piedmont

If you were in the metro NYC area this week, you may understand my thoughts. All of the great wine importers and distributors did their thing. From TEdwards to Martin Scott to Verity to Winebow and the nor’easter, Jerome Selections tasting.

Rose wines from all over the world were flowing. Sparkling, still,any form that rose was bottled was front and center this week.

I suggest wines to three clients in the metro area, a new wine shop opening near my old stamping grounds, the Wine Library and a few out of the metro area.

What’s wonderful about the industry is that an imported wine from your home area can be distributed in other states by other distributors.

What I got out of the numerous rose tastings was the sense that the rose wine category has found its place in our world. As a matter of fact, both Rose and Prosecco  have succeeded in an upsurge in market share, enabling them to larger and more obvious shelf space and attention by wine merchants.

As a journalist in the field, and a wine taster and judge, honestly, I find it a bit more difficult to evaluate the rose category as compared to other categories. Maybe it’s the freshness of the wines or the varietals, but, often I am a bit lost in this huge field.

Terroir seems to play a big factor in roses. At the tastings, roses came from all possible terroirs-South Africa, NY state, Spain, France, Austria, Italy, Australia and so on. Get the drift? All terroirs work…its just which ones work the best?

Historically, the rose market meant the south of France-Provence, Languedoc and Rousillion. That is not the case anymore.

Today, rose, known as Rosado in Spanish speaking countries and Rosato in Italy, has universal appeal. Iconic Mateus, from Portugal, was my first contact with rose.

Rose incorporates its color from the grape skins, but much less then to qualify as a red wine. The pink color chart (see attached photo) can range from pale to a near purple, depending on how long skin contact takes place. The color can also come from blending grapes or the saignee process which involves making rose as a by product of red wines.

Enough education…

Choosing a rose is up to you….my loose guidelines are to explore the grapes that you like and see if a rose wine is made from that grape.

The attached photos contain several well known varietals that have made rose their home..….

Also, it makes sense to look for the distributor or importer whose name appears on the bottle. Or you can search their website for roses….or just ask your wine merchant what rose wines do they carry from the merchants below…

Enjoy the journey....and look for Chiaretto, a rose from Lake Garda, in the Veneto region...

The list of top rose distributors are:
Martin Scott Wines  
Verity Wine Partners

Philip S. Kampe

Choosing Easter Wines During a Nor'Easter by Philip S. Kampe


                                      Choosing Easter Wines During A Nor’Easter

Thanks to today’s Nor’Easter and advice from Mayor Bill de Blasio, I have had time to pick out two red wines that should be considered as choices for your Easter table. In my case, the choice is extremely important because Easter falls on my birthday, April 1st, also know as April Fool’s.

When you are inside during the duration of the nor’easter. I am because I arise early. Today, due to the nor'easter, there are only three options-write about wine-cook a meal-and sample wines for your upcoming articles.

Today, I have a chance to do all three.

Since choosing Easter wines has always been a serious task, as choices affect many people, much consideration must be taken to include a common palate pleaser. Traditionally, lamb, the greek style with lots of garlic and rosemary has been the show stealer. You always need wines that can match up to the fat, but, won’t overpower the main course.

Those same wines that you use for the lamb, can often be the transition wines from the course before. In that case, pasta with a red sauce is the transition dish. There is one grape that can make the leap. That grape is Sangiovese, the useful grape in Chianti, known around the world as the pizza wine.

Take it a step further and that grape, often blended with other grapes is perfect for pasta with red sauce and can be stretched even thinner as the wine for lamb with all the fixings.

I like to choose two wines for the main course-in this case both from Italy-and both from Tuscany, home of Chianti. The first wine is a 2013 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Chianti Rufina ($23). The wine is mainly Sangiovese that is blended with many indigenous local grapes (Nera, Colorino) plus Canaiolo and Malvasia. This wine has just the amount of complexity and balance to pair with the lamb and pizza dishes for our Easter feast.  Aged for two years in oak barrels, the Nipozzano Chianti is a palate pleaser with bold concentrated notes of cherry and raspberry.

The second wine that I chose is also a masterful 2013 Castello di Albola Chianti Classico Reserva ($27). It is more of a barnyard wine that should match perfectly with the lamb. The wine is earthy with hints of licorice and violets. The vineyards surround the 15th castle. The vines grow on the tallest part of Chianti Classico region, which was perceived as a symbol of status.

So, the choices are in….

Philip S. Kampe

Thracian Wine Treasures

Thracian Wine Treasures

Who were the Thracians? – The Thracians were a mysterious group of tribes who occupied the southeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. They spoke an Indo-European language. Numerous theories about their appearance on the European cultural map and later extinction/assimilation exist. One theory indicates that the Thracians were the original inhabitants of ancient lands many millennia ago, another relates them to the tribes in West Asia and others go even as far as China. One thing is for certain – the Thracians left a deep mark on the cultural development of the European civilization. They influenced both the Greek and Roman cultures and it is even believed that a great share of the Greek and Roman gods and mythology is impacted by the Thracian beliefs and rituals.
The Thracians were famous for three main things: waging war, making exquisite jewelry and producing wine.

Thracians’ cultural heritage in the area of wine-making, wine traditions and rituals drift through the ages and is evidenced by many ancient authors starting with Homer. The Homeric epics depict Thracians as brave and handsome men who fight on chariots richly decorated with gold and silver, carry “weapons of gold, huge and wondrous, and ride horses as fleet as the blasts of wind, and who also make and drink fine wine in beautiful cups”. Considering the special ritual value of wine in ancient Thrace, it becomes clear why so many precious vessels have been found. More than 180 gold phialae (wine cups), or more than half of those discovered in the whole ancient world, were found in Thracian territory. Many of them are decorated with figure of merry god of wine Dionysus. This no doubt highly developed wine culture is represented by many other archeological monuments:  plates, bas-reliefs, vessels and coins decorated with vine and wine motifs have been found all over the Thracian Valley.

Nowadays the successors of the old Thracian masters of wine produce brilliant, charactful, self-confident wines that are perhaps the best kept secret in the wine world! Older than the old world and bolder than the New one, the present day Thracian wines are modern classic, innovative, fashionable and most importantly very enjoyable! So we believe the time is not far when the world wine drinking public, fed up of the traditional offers, will direct their interests to a somewhat different wine born in the land of Homer’s Thrace.
Some of these amazing Thracian wines will soon be tasted in USA thanks to the New Wines of Ancient Thrace, EU funded promotional campaign of the Bulgarian Wine Export Association.
New Wines of Ancient Thrace

mail:, mob: +359 885 731 331


Luiz Alberto (on behalf of Galina Niforou, BWEA chairwoman)
  • Master of Wine candidate (former)
  • Italian Wine Ambassador
  • I combine my passion for wine with social media

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring Has Arrived, A Good Time To Buy Summer Wines by Philip S. Kampe

After attending ‘A Taste of Mount Vedeer’ at a local resort in La Quinta, California a couple of weeks ago, my passion for wines from northern California has grown. One producer that has always intrigued me with their wines has been the Hess Collection, a vineyard that is family owned, practices sustainability and seems to take their customers and visitors seriously.

Recently, I read an article in Wine Business that the Hess Select portfolio of six different wines was getting a facelift-so to speak, a new look, a new design, new packaging. Well, that article was dated 1 February and today, 19 March, nearly the beginning of Spring, is a time when I add some lighter wines to the ‘Kampe Collection’ for easier drinking during the warmer summer months.

I always look for affordable summer wines-although we drink them year round, thanks to climate change.

Fifteen dollars or under has been my rule for warmer month wines. My wife loves Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as much as the rest of the world. I like to alternate wines from Rose to Pinot Gris to Torrontes to Chardonnay-adding several sparklers to the mix-Cava and Cremant primarily.

Wine shops have crazy pricing at times-often when you buy a mixed case of wine, the shop automatically gives you 20% off unless the wines were already on sale. This was the case yesterday-I saw the new labels and bottles of the Hess Select wines that I mentioned earlier and took the plunge of buying a case of wine.

Each bottle retailed for $12.99 each minus 20% discount equaled an amazing $10.40 per bottle. I chose five bottles each of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and 2017 Pinot Gris plus two bottles of 2016 Monterey County Chardonnay.

Last night, we opened all three-only the Chardonnay had a cork. I cooked shrimp and mussels and made a porcini mushroom risotto. which paired best with the Chardonnay. The Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc (sorta a New Zealand style) were best with the seafood. The goat cheese puff pastry-our appetizer went well with all three wines. Dessert was leftover Irish soda bread, topped with Irish butter and rhubarb jam..

Afterwards, we tried both the Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc as aperitifs, in preparation for summer entertaining. They both worked.

All three wines were truly exceptional value wines-full of acidity, flavor and aroma.

At $12.99 a bottle, buying these wines is a no brainer..

Philip Kampe

Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace Are Underpriced by Philip S. Kampe

            Lucien Albrecht Wines from Alsace are Underpriced... I have long been a fan of the sparkling wines from Lucien Albrecht. The...