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Making Up With Sancerre

SANCERRE is the word on the lips of nearly every young woman that strikes a pose in front of the wine fridges. Sancerre sells itself.

It’s easy to spell and retain. Even if it’s dead simple to pronounce and flows from the tongue like a short sibilant song, one feels a tiny sense of pride in pronouncing it, as if one knows it’s coming out properly. 1Perhaps the average consumer glows a bit in trumping the foreign wine name pronunciation bugaboo that plagues, say, Gewurztraminer, or German and Austrian Riesling vineyard names, or Blaufrankish.

Along with shitty industrial Pinot Grigio, boring inexpensive Malbec, and that last refuge of shaky-handed, broken souls that is vodka, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the major drivers of a wine and spirit shop’s sales that gradually evokes a deep hatred in salespersons. With each request, a stake is further driven into an angry heart that’s grown tired of ushering folks to a selection of beverages which evoke the opposite of excitement.

Having to taste through oceans of mediocre Sauvignon Blanc with sales reps proves the first breaking point.

Not unlike a smelly cat reappearing at one’s door, nearly every single day, a Sauvignon Blanc makes an appearance. And the telltale signature of feral pyrazines or perhaps thiols — let’s call it ‘Sauv Blanc stank’ — makes its indelible little mark. You can smell it from 5 feet away, and it’s going to cling to your palate as you try to move forward and taste other wines.

The smelly cat.
That smelly cat is back.

What I have always had a hard time grasping is just how Sauvignon Blanc conquered the world, particularly given (Click to Read more)

The Valle d’Aosta, Italy’s Beautiful Secret, Part 2

This is the second article on Italy’s stunning Valle d’Aosta region. Here is the previous article on the La Kiuva co-op. This article explores the opposite of the co-op model: independent vigneron Vincent Grosjean.

The Grosjean Brothers’ wines are like dark, knotted oaks; reticent with their charms, slow to grow, open, and reveal themselves. But once they are forthcoming, they count among the most compelling wines ever — and for prices that belie their quality.

Vincent Grosjean in his cellar.
Vincent Grosjean in his cellar.

Thanks to Vincent’s brother Eraldo Grosjean who is responsible for the upkeep of the vines, the house has been certified organic since 2010 — and Vincent has been using indigenous yeast to vinify for even longer, since 2004. Even if the La Kiuva co-op and Vincent Grosjean exploit the same varietals, the Grosjean wines are far more challenging wines which often prove severely reductive upon uncorking and insist on cellaring.

When drinking young Grosjean reds, it can take two hours before the reduction “blows off” of his Gamay or Pinot Noir to reveal a wonderfully dark-fruited wine beneath. It’s tempting to confuse this reductive aroma with a whopping overdose of sulfur, but, as Vincent explains, he actually uses only a third of the amount of sulphur permitted 1“Per quanto riguarda i solfiti, questi sono normalmente presenti nel vino, e noi ne aggiungiamo il minimo indispensabile, meno di un terzo di quelli consen- titi.” Article Dauphin Grosjean, il “patriarca” fondatore della Maison vigneronne, in the newspaper La Vallée Notizi, Saturday Nov. 5 2011.; it’s simply that the wines are bottled in such an oxygen-deprived environment that they gasp for air upon opening and need time.

Aside from Vincent’s unflinching confidence that the Cornalin grape will be a big player in the Valle d’Aosta’s future, it was one of his anecdotes about Neal Rosenthal which marked me.

  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.
  • Tasting with Vincent Grosjean at his cellar.


It wasn’t until Neal Rosenthal stopped in to taste Vincent Grosjean’s wines for the first time that Vincent began to appreciate (Click to Read more)

The Valle d’Aosta, Italy’s Beautiful Secret

I can see myself living here for a while.

The Valle d’Aosta is the fascinating Alpine junction between France, Switzerland, and Italy.

In the extreme northwest of Italy, Valdostano denizens typically speak both French and Italian, their accents a mind-bending blend of Southern French drawl and classic bouncy, sing-song Italian.

Welcome to the mountains.
Welcome to the mountains.

Contrary to popular belief, the Romans may not have been first to bring viticulture to the region, with a possible earlier arrival alluded to by locals citing a historian named Guillemot who discovered proof of native vines ca. 2000 or 3000 BC 1I can find no trace of this person and am not sure of spelling; if anyone can enlighten me, please comment or email me..

At different moments much later in history, the House of Savoy possessed every greatest wine region in the world: Burgundy, Piedmont, and the Valle d’Aosta (which served as their hunting grounds). Oh, to have been a Duke of Savoy.

The Valle d’Aosta is quite dry, and you’ll see evidence of irrigation all over while driving the freeways — giant sprinklers working to keep vines alive.

Massive streaks of green granite are visible from along the highways that curl through these glacial valleys; roche-mères 2This best translates to bedrock; imagine an exposed crumbling layer of bedrock whose eroded pieces are strewn down upon a vineyard site to lend its character; or, conversely, are buried deep under a vineyard site, where dry-farmed roots tap into them. that sit above quarries and seem to bleed crumbly, powdered rock, like green scars cut into the side of a mountain.

Both blue and green granite are common terroir components throughout the Valle d’Aosta. These are ridiculously shallow, sandy glacial soils, where the ocean never reached nor deposited calcium-based limestone minerals (as in neighboring Gattinara, or, say, Chablis).

I’d like to explore this region through two different producers: one is a co-op, integral to the region’s success, and the other an iconic, independent producer. Each is emblematic of the region in a different way. (Click to Read more)