Winemaking Times Two

In this age of open borders, winemakers are not bound to a single harvest in a single locale. A select few break the boundaries.

The names Michel Rolland, Christian Le Sommer and Renzo Cotarella comprise a veritable Murderer’s Row of acclaimed European winemakers. And when late summer turns to fall, you will no doubt find them plying their craft in the vineyards and wineries of France, Portugal and Italy, and maybe even California and Washington State.

But come winter, when the Northern Hemisphere’s vines are in a deep slumber, do you know where you’re likely to locate this trio? Not on the slopes of Cortina or Val d’Isère, but in Chile of all places. And they’re not there vacationing in Patagonia. They are there making wine.

The concept of the flying, two-hemisphere winemaker is in full practice these days, nowhere more so than in Chile, the subject of our cover story this month. When I first visited Chile in 1996, the country was just beginning to modernize its winemaking practices. Yet back then no one was saying that someday soon the world’s top winemakers would be flocking to Chile during their off season to consult and make wine.

But it’s happening more and more frequently. For a number of years now Rolland, arguably the world’s most renowned flying winemaker, has been the alchemist behind the stylish wines at Casa Lapostolle. More recently Le Sommer, Lafite-Rothschild’s so-called consultant internacional, has been taking a more proactive role at Los Vascos, Lafite’s Chilean operation. And just during the past year, Cotarella, head winemaker for Italy’s Piero Antinori as well as Wine Enthusiast’s co-winemaker of the year for 2001, began working in Chile with Haras de Pirque’s winemaking team in order to make Albis, the newest edition in a growing line of super Chileans.

From my vantage point, it’s a wonder to see the wine world coming together like this. And it really says something about the potential of a place like Chile, or for that matter Argentina, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, that the crème de la crème of the
established winemaking world is willing to travel to the deepest reaches of the Southern Hemisphere with an eye toward making world-class wine.

Call it change or call it evolution. You can even call it amazing that in September or October a winemaker can oversee the fermentation of a great Bordeaux or Chianti before taking off from Paris or Rome for Santiago to consult on the blending of a major-league wine like Clos Apalta, Le Dix de Los Vascos, or the upcoming and still untried Albis. Eight years ago when I visited, Chile was but a dot on the winemaking horizon. Now it’s a destination of choice for the world’s best winemakers. I’d call that progress. For more on Chile, read Michael Schachner’s cover story, “Chile Tackles the 21st Century.”
Also in this issue we shine the spotlight on the Southern Rhône and one of the crown jewels of that region—Grenache. As European Editor Roger Voss reports, Rhône winemakers are bringing French elegance to this sometimes rustic grape. Through careful viticulture and masterful blending, they are crafting fine wines from a variety once better known to produce high-alcohol wines with high-toned fruit. Roger highlights five of the most forward-thinking Grenache stylists in the Southern Rhône. Voss also takes a look at single-quinta Ports. Once the province of small, boutique houses, single quintas are now being
released by the larger Port houses to supplement their declared vintage Ports and late bottled vintage offerings. This is good news for Port fans, and the article also includes a reliable guide to the best bottlings.

American craft brewers have been so successful over the past ten years, adopting many styles of beer—inspired, in true American tradition, from everywhere. But the brewmasters from one country in particular continue to inspire, and that country is Belgium. Brewers in Belgium are so individualistic that, as Stephen Beaumont reports in his story, they practically invent a new style with each bottling. That innovative and even irreverent approach is very much in keeping with the American spirit.

And in our Pairings department, Karen Berman presents a brunch menu with a Mediterranean flair, with some wine suggestions that make sense for a light, midday feast. These are also recipes that make sense for the way we live now—that is, busy, with not much time for shopping and cooking.

Perhaps it’s time for the invention of the Flying Homemaker.


Published on March 1, 2004

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