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Reverse Senior Editor Zekun Shuai discusses Chilean winery Almaviva's 2020 vintage – the 25th-anniversary bottling – with winemaker Michel Friou and managing director Manuel Louzada.
James sits down with Charles and Harry Symington of the eponymous Symington Family Estates in Portugal's Douro Valley to discuss in detail their 2020 vintage Port offerings."How did it go down and how did it compare to the last declared year?" James asks the two.Charles Symington, the head winemaker of the winery, said rain and warm weather in the early part of the year led to bud bursts two to three weeks early and an early flowering, followed by a dry summer with below-average rainfall and a hot stretch from early July to early August. Then, in mid-August, more rains finally came, "which allowed us to get through maturation quite nicely."Have a listen to their entire conversation to learn how the weather in 2020 went into bottle for each of the wines they made from that year, including their Warre's Vintage Port 2020 and Dow’s Vintage Port Quinta do Bomfim 2020.
Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt recently tasted and discussed the latest vintages of Rare Champagne with chief winemaker Emilien Boutillat and brand director Maud Rabin on Zoom from our office in Tuscany and you can listen to the conversation and insights shared here.Rare Champagne 2008 is supple and soft for a cool vintage, with a complex array of tropical fruit and spice notes, having spent 11 years on the lees with almost two years of bottle age. Rare Champagne Rosé 2012, just released on the market, shows fresher fruit and fantastic vibrancy and elegance, made as a blend of 60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir, with 8 percent of pinot noir red wine from Les Riceys.Both wines are vinified in 100 percent stainless steel and are blends of chardonnay and pinot noir mainly from the Montagne de Reims.Read about more great Champagnes in our annual Champagne report. Senior Editor Zekun Shuai interviews Robert Santana of Spain's Envinate about his winemaking philosophies. "We want to taste wines that take you to the place," Robert says. "The second important thing for us is the character," which comes from a deep understanding of how vintages are affected by the weather each year, and the third element is the "soul" of the wine – "that is the people that are around in the vineyard and in the cellar. We think it's very important that these people are happy and understand [our philosophies] and do the work."
Francisco Baettig and Senior Editor Zekun Shuai talk about the differences between the 2020 and 2021 vintages in Chile. Because 2020 was dry and hot, Baettig said, "the challenge was to preserve the freshness of the fruit ... so vineyard management really was key in terms of promoting a little bit of the vigor of the plant."Harvesting was also done earlier than normal in order to preserve the color, "so overall when we try the wines you'll see that the alcohol is pretty moderate," Baettig said. "You won't see overripe flavors but of course, you will see wines with some power and concentration."To read our full 2022 Chile report, click here.
Senior Editor Zekun Shuai sits down with Ricardo Baettig of Chilean winery Morandé to talk carbonic maceration, new varieties in Chile and what the future holds for the country's wine scene.You can read our full 2022 Chile report here: Senior Editor Zekun Shuai chats with Marcelo Papa, the winemaker and technical director of Chilean winery Concha y Toro, about the 2020 and 2021 vintages and how the weather each year affected their wines. Senior Editor Zekun Shuai talks with Santiago Deicas of Bodega Familia Deicas in Uruguay about the country's wine scene and about Familia Deicas' latest releases.
Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt chats with Argentine winemaker Daniel Pi  on his family "garage wine" project – Tres 14.
James sits down with Tony Soter of Soter Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon, to discuss the state's evolving winemaking scene. James asks Tony about his views on how Soter Vineyards is doing now and what their future – and the state's – look like.Tony says the success of Oregon's pinot noir in recent years is due to the maturing "skill sets" of the state's winemakers, and adds that the increased consistency of the product comes from better viticultural, greater winemaking experience and the climatological change toward warmer temperatures. "It's also about knowing that Oregon is never going to compete on the world stage as anything but a small producer of high-quality wines because we don't get the yields that other sunny climates do…  We've learned probably a hard lesson but one that's serving us well consistently now about cropping the vines conservatively so that they have a chance to ripen in our relatively limited season.”
James visited the vineyards of K Vintners in Walla Walla, Washington, and then spoke with winemaker Brennon Leighton about the importance of vineyards in the state's winemaking aspirations.“It's vital to making authentic wines from the place that they come from,” Brennan says. “If you're not doing the viticulture right, you're not trying to protect the integrity of the place... Everything we do with winemaking is to try to honor the place it comes from.”
James chats with Herve Birnie-Scott and Marcos Fernandez of Argentine winery Terrazas de los Andes about how recent harvests have gone and how their work in the vineyards has translated to a better quality of wine. Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt tasted some new releases from Trapiche, one of Argentina's largest and oldest wine brands, with Marcelo Belmonte over Zoom. Marcelo is the director of winemaking and viticulture at Trapiche and he called in from Mendoza to discuss the wines. They tasted two chardonnays and malbecs from Trapiche's Terroir Series, a project started in 2003. These are from single vineyards and aim to express specific terroir and microclimates, as well as the history and importance of the individual grape growers. Their 2020 chardonnays from Fina Las Piedras and El Tomillo are intense yet fresh, a result of three separate harvests at different ripeness levels to balance tropical, ripe fruit notes with acidity and elegance. The 2019 malbec from Finca Orellana, made from vines of more than 70 years old, shows beautiful dark fruit and intensity with silky tannins, in contrast to the more structured, firm and focused Finca Ambrosia, a malbec that has promising aging potential. They also tasted the very drinkable 2021 Oak Cask Malbec, a great value red at $10 a bottle. Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt recently talked and tasted over Zoom with Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Bodega Chacra in Patagonia, Argentina. They tasted Chacra’s latest vintages of pinot noir, including his Sin Azufre (without sulfur) wines and old vine Cincuenta y Cinco and Treinta y Dos (which was our wine of the year in 2020), from vineyards planted in 1955 and 1932: structured, mineral and incredibly fresh. “It’s so hard to make bad wine here – the protagonist here is nature.” The 2021 chardonnays, made as a collaboration with Burgundy’s Jean-Marc Roulot, are taut, focused and precise. The grapes for Chacra Chardonnay are from vines grafted onto 40+ year old merlot vines. Both the pinots and chardonnays are intellectual and full of tension yet immensely drinkable. 2022 has been slightly more complicated, with sudden rain during the red grape harvest (the whites are so far looking to be the “best since 2017”), so that the grapes were picked later; they are currently maturing in a mix of concrete, clay and used oak barrels.
From Napa, James talks via Zoom with the owner of Tuscany’s Tenuta San Guido, Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta, and her assistant, Elena Brachini, about the recent Sassicaia vintages. James asks Priscilla about the growing season during 2019 and how it was different from 2018.Priscilla says 2019 was "quite cool and fresh in the spring and we also had a couple of hailstorms at a certain point but then … the real summer temperatures arrived after the second half of June.” The heat wasn’t “out of control,” though, and there were very good conditions during the harvest, she says, with very nice temperature differences between night and day.The main difference between the 2018 and 2019 Sassicaia, she says, is the 2018 is “a little bit lighter” than the 2019. “We think it's quite representative of our style – it's so perfumed … with all those nice herbs and flowers you get on the coast during the summer.”
James recently had a tasting over Zoom with winemaker Matt Brain and consulting enologist Andy Erickson of Alpha Omega in St. Helena, California. They discussed the winery’s goal of making more refined and transparent vineyard sourced wines, which shone through particularly in Napa’s superb 2019 vintage.
Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt tastes five consecutive vintages of Bemberg Estate Wines Malbec Gualtallary Valle de Uco El Tomillo Parcela 5 La Linterna and five vintages of Pionero, their malbec-based blend, with winemaker Daniel Pi. Parcela 5 is made with a low-intervention philosophy with wild yeasts, like all their wines, and is only released after four years. Pionero is a vintage-dependent blend of 60 to 65 percent malbec with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, all from El Tomillo, the same vineyard as Parcela 5.
Daniel Pi, the advisor and winemaker of Bemberg Estate Wines in Mendoza, Argentina, and previous director of winemaking at Grupo Peñaflor, takes Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt through the latest vintages of Bemberg's single-parcel La Linterna series, including chardonnay from El Tomillo; pinot noir from Los Arboles to the south; malbec from Valle de Pedernal just north of Mendoza, in San Juan; and cabernet sauvignon from extreme altitudes in Cafayate, Salta.
Alice Tetienne, the cellar master of Henriot, introduces the inaugural 2016 vintage of L'Inattendue, a 100 percent Grand Cru chardonnay from Avize,, alongside Henriot's main wines: the Brut Souverain, Henriot’s historic cuvee; the Blanc de Blancs, a blend of chardonnay from 12 Crus; and the 2006 Cuvee Hemera, a 50-50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay from the house’s six historical Grand Crus. Alice explained the decision behind Henriot's first-ever single-vineyard bottling, describing the surprising richness of the chardonnay from Avize in the Cote des Blancs from the 2016 harvest, in contrast to the Grand Cru village's usual laser freshness and precision. After four years on the lees and over another year in bottle, L'Inattendue 2016 will be released in June this year, and will become a permanent cuvee in Henriot's collection. The subsequent specific vineyard bottlings after each harvest remain to be discovered although they will likely from one of the house's historical Crus (Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Avize, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Chouilly). Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt talks with Patrick de Suarez D'Aulan, the president of Alta Vista in Mendoza, Argentina, about the winery's history and their production of single-vineyard wines.
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