Lisbon’s Magical Blend of Youthfulness and Decay

Portugal’s wines must be the most undervalued in the world. While most of us can’t afford to buy aged wine in its prime, in Portugal, you can. You don’t need a cellar and 10 years’ patience; you just need a cheap flight to Lisbon, some AirBnB research, and an empty suitcase with enough wool socks for your bottles.

While every other wine region is struggling to fool folks into believing their wines are blessed with this generation’s buzzwords — freshness, acidity, unique indigenous grapes, and enough tannins to improve with age — Portugal actually delivers. It’s an irrefutable truth whose meaning sets in via your gums once you’ve tasted through your first dozen Portuguese wines. The wines call for food: they are crafted for them.

Even if the Portuguese have anointed a precious handful of crown jewels priced 200-900€ from the Douro — Barca Velha; Pera Manca; Quinta do Crasto; and of course aged ports — the insane value lies outside of these fleeting icons of national pride. (Click to Read more)

Wine Geology 101: A Book That Needs to Be Written

Piles of blue slate in the Graacher Himmelreich vineyard. Mosel Valley, Germany.

You’ve probably heard of vineyards covered in slate or schist. But did you know that slate can turn into schist? Or that shale can transform into slate, then schist, and later into gneiss?

I didn’t. And I wish I’d known this years ago.

Wine lovers like myself are in DIRE need of a bare bones guide to geology for wine. Someone needs to do for geology and terroir what Karen MacNeil did for wine with her Wine Bible — make it user-friendly by extricating needless jargon. And that’s a tall order, because unfortunately, geology starts off intuitive, then grows hopelessly complicated with an unending barrage of esoteric terms.

I’ve alerted Kevin Pogue, a wine geology expert specialized in Washington terroir. Unfortunately, he has a book on the Columbia Basin to write first, and admits that the project would prove daunting.

Meanwhile, I’ve found an excellent resource: an online geology course crammed with explanations and visuals at GeologyCafe.com. Creator Phil Stoffer is an ex-librarian and geology professor in MiraCosta College in California, and is committed to open-source science education … what a beautiful humanist.

I’ve culled the essentials from his site that seem useful to wine lovers.

***

Image courtesy Geologycafe.com

So, yes: shale, when under pressure (via both heat and friction), will transform into slate, and with greater pressure, into (Click to Read more)

Didier Barral: The Gentle Voice of the Earth

Didier Barral, winemaker, winegrower, and valiant defender of the ecosystem in the town of Lentheric, in Faugères (Languedoc, France).

Listening to Didier Barral — the most careful and loving steward of nature — speak from among his vines in Lentheric is a religious experience.

But even if it feels religious, and even if Didier is a noted advocate of organic, Fukuoka-influenced hands-off farming, nothing about Didier’s discourse feels preachy. There are no exhortations; no imperatives. His persuasiveness flows from the stunning beauty of his 35 hectares of vines, and from the freshness and purity of his wines. He speaks for himself, and tells his story: one of observation, of trial and error in his vineyards.

At some point in your experience of wine, you grow interested in terroir. Rocks; slopes; drainage; expositions.  Later, like it or not, you become interested in farming. Careful farming enables great wines, and is often the most reliable predictor of a wine’s ability to transmit terroir. 1

Didier is quick to contrast his neighbors’ vines with his own as a starting point to understanding his wines. What follows is my translation from French, with interjected bits of Didier’s English interwoven.

Didier: “Look at the difference in the grass between the neighbor’s vines and my vines. The key to soils is vegetative diversity. And what’s most important (Click to Read more)

WANT MORE? SUBSCRIBE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.
  1. This is not to say all organically-farmed vines go on to make great wines; some taste like a horse’s ass. Skillful, responsible farming simply enables terroir-driven wines to rise from a cellar. []