2021: In Memoriam

Before we look ahead to whatever 2022 may bring, Wine Spectator‘s editors would like to remember the wine industry pioneers, innovators, leaders and chroniclers we lost this year, some of them to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year we bid farewell to Steven Spurrier, organizer of the famed 1976 Paris Tasting, as well as Châteauneuf-du-Pape star Philippe Cambie and Barolo champion Pio Boffa. We also lost California wine pioneers David Bruce and Au Bon Climat co-founder Jim Clendenen, and Hollywood producer-turned-Oregon vintner Mark Tarlov. We’ll fondly remember these members of our community that we lost in 2021.


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Alexander “Sandy” Block
The longtime Legal Sea Foods wine director was warm and personable, with a knowing twinkle in his eye.


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Pio Boffa
The visionary leader of the historic Pio Cesare winery converted his family’s négoce operation to one focused on Barolo and Barbaresco’s top vineyards.


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David Bruce
The Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir pioneer balanced a medical practice with a life in wine, cultivating grapes 2,100 feet above the Pacific Ocean.


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Philippe Cambie
The larger-than-life winemaker was the driving force behind many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wineries raising their quality.


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Jim Clendenen
From his Au Bon Climat winery in Santa Maria Valley, Clendenen helped raise the quality of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


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Eloi Dürrbach
The founder of Domaine de Trévallon did things his way, making gorgeous red wines for decades.


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Alejandro Fernandez
The Spanish vintner put the Ribera del Duero region on the map with powerful, outstanding Tempranillos.


[article-img-container][src=2021-12/1638899732_rc_franchetti120721_1600.jpg] [credit= (Molchen Photo)] [alt= Andrea Franchetti bought his Tenuta Trinoro farm as a retreat with the money he made selling a painting. The idea of planting vines came later.][end: article-img-container]

Andrea Franchetti
After creating a cult wine from the remote Val d’Orcia hills of Tuscany at Tenuta Trinoro, he became a key figure in the renaissance of Sicily’s Mount Etna at his Passopisciaro winery.


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Howard Goldberg
The longtime New York Times editor and wine writer was knowledgeable and kind, with a quick wit.


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Benjamin de Rothschild
The head of his branch of the famous banking family owned seven wine estates in Bordeaux and beyond.


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Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino
The elegant, silver-haired and bearded Tuscan aristocrat took over his family’s Castello Sonnino and its Chianti vineyards in Montespertoli more than 30 years ago.


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Steven Spurrier
The British champion of all things vinous was best-known for organizing the 1976 Judgment of Paris.


[article-img-container][src=2021-08/ns_tarlov081121_1600.jpg] [credit= (Shannon Sturgis)] [alt= Mark Tarlov speaks at the 2018 New York Wine Experience during a panel discussion and tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir.][end: article-img-container]

Mark Tarlov
Passionate about Pinot Noir, the movie producer spent his later years founding the Evening Land, Chapter 24 and Rose & Arrow wine brands.


[article-img-container][src=2021-08/ns_becky082021_1600.jpg] [credit= (Jon Wyand)] [alt= Becky Wasserman often hosted Burgundy newcomers at her house for lunch or dinner, ready with advice to help them get started in the wine business.][end: article-img-container]

Becky Wasserman
From her farm near Beaune, she represented small winegrowers from around France to U.S. importers and consumers, and was a valuable mentor.


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Franco Ziliani
The winemaker and co-founder of Berlucchi was a Franciacorta pioneer.

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A Father of Franciacorta: Franco Ziliani, Pioneering Winemaker of Italian Sparkling Wine, Dies at 90

Franco Ziliani, the winemaker and revered “founding father” of Northern Italy’s Franciacorta sparkling wine appellation, died of natural causes over the weekend at his home on the shores of the appellation’s Lake Iseo. He was 90.

Ziliani’s passing came at a historic milestone, 60 years after making his first groundbreaking vintage of a Champagne-style sparkling wine for Berlucchi, the winery he came to own through his long partnership with Count Guido Berlucchi. That wine demonstrated that the region could produce high-quality sparkling wine, in a similar style to French Champagne. Today, Franciacorta is considered one of Italy’s top sparkling styles.

Silvano Brescianini, president of the Franciacorta wine industry consortium, described Ziliani as the visionary who transformed a historic but languishing winegrowing area in Lombardy into an Italian answer to Champagne. “Above all he deserves credit for having believed and invested in something that did not exist—namely Franciacorta,” Brescianini said in a statement.

Maurizio Zanella of Ca’ del Bosco, who launched his family Franciacorta winery in the 1970s, adds that Ziliani’s greatest contribution was in helping to improve the image of Italian wine, particularly sparkling wine, among Italians. “It was not considered elegant to drink Italian. You had to drink French like Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon,” Zanella told Wine Spectator. “But Franco Ziliani broke that dogma, because when you drank Berlucchi in the ’70s and ’80s it was so fashionable, so chic.”

Ziliani, who studied enology in Piedmont in the postwar years of the 1940s and 1950s, turned Berlucchi into a success story on all counts. Today Berlucchi is Franciacorta’s leading winery, producing about 330,000 cases annually from organically farmed grapes grown on its 270 acres of vineyards and another 1,000 vineyard acres it manages.

Earlier this month, the non-vintage Guido Berlucchi Brut Rosé Franciacorta ’61 (91 points, $36) earned a spot among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2021.

Ziliani often spoke of developing an admiration for Champagne while studying enology in Alba. After attaining his degree in 1954, he went to work for his family’s wine merchant company, which did business throughout Brescia province, including the area that became the Franciacorta appellation. In 1955, Ziliani was recruited by the elegant Count Berlucchi to improve the Pinot Bianco produced in his 17th century cellars in Borgonato. Berlucchi’s rustic white was plagued by instability problems that the young Ziliani traced to the release of iron and calcium from the walls of the winery’s cement fermentation tanks.

Ziliani didn’t stop by solving that puzzle. He famously suggested that to valorize his vineyards, Berlucchi should use the wines as a base for sparkling wine in the “French style.” After three years of experimenting, Ziliani produced about 3,000 bottles of 1961 vintage Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise Brut. In later interviews, Ziliani recounted how the count’s butler complained the wine would take 20 years to unload. Instead, it sold out in months.

With production and demand climbing in 1965, Guido Berlucchi formally created an eponymous wine company in partnership with Ziliani and another business associate, Giorgio Lanciani. The company set to work replanting and acquiring vineyards and expanding and renovating its cellars.

Berlucchi’s image made it something greater than the nascent Franciacorta. And in 1976, Berlucchi withdrew its wines from the appellation it inspired in order to source additional grapes from the Oltrepò region of Southern Lombardy and from the mountainous Trento area of northeast Italy. It wasn’t until the year 2000—at the urging of Ziliani’s children— that the winery began again producing Franciacorta appellation wines again and returned all its production to the area before Berlucchi’s 50th anniversary in 2011.

Following Berlucchi’s death in 2000, Ziliani became company CEO and embarked on a new era, aided by his three children. He gradually purchased the count’s business shares from his foundation. In 2017, at 86 years old, Ziliani retired, selling nearly all his shares to his children, while maintaining the title of company president. His son Arturo remains CEO today.

Ziliani is survived by his three children—Arturo, Cristina and Paolo—who all work at Berlucchi, as well as eight grandchildren, two of whom work at the company.

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Top New Wine Videos of 2021

While our top videos of 2020 highlighted creative ways to pass the time at home, 2021’s favorites focused more on getting out and about and meeting big names in wine in their element. Whether it was riding along on vineyard visits with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, talking wine with NBA legend Dwyane Wade or seeing Italian comedian Maccio Capatonda go overboard in pursuing wine expertise, we covered many aspects of wine education and enjoyment. Our top videos also included an inside look at the Wine of the Year, an exploration of European wine regions and how to master the cheese board. So raise your glass and enjoy this year’s favorite clips!

Top 10

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Wine of the Year 2021

Once again, wine lovers around the world tuned in to see Wine Spectator‘s Wine of the Year reveal. Senior editor James Molesworth, lead taster for California Cabernet and Bordeaux, unveiled the Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2018, the Yountville project of Right Bank Bordeaux leader Christian Moueix, who brought decades of experience, patience and good instincts to a benchmark vintage for Napa Cabernet. For more information on all Top 100 Wines of 2020, check out our Top 100 video page to hear from our senior editors about what makes the Top 10 wines special and explore other regions, grape varieties and wine styles featured in this year’s list.

Video Contest Winner

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Sommelier: Don’t Try This at Home

For our 2021 Video Contest, filmmakers got their creative juices flowing to bring their personal wine stories to life. In this year’s winning submission, Italian winery Caviro and Volio Imports brought together Italian wine professionals and famous comedian Maccio Capatonda to show what happens when we attempt to seem like an expert instead of just being ourselves. “Sommelier: Don’t Try This at Home” proved to be the favorite among voters, followed by “High Tannins” and “finalists and honorable mentions!

Wine 101

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How to Build a Better Cheese Board

As friends and family began gathering again in 2021, it was time to break out the special treats—like a beautiful charcuterie board overflowing with fine cheeses, enticing meats, fruits, nuts and more. Our editors shared 3 keys for constructing a winning cheese board, tips on how much you need, an easy hack for stunning salami rosettes and 4 wine-pairing recommendations. Find more cheese tips and get your charcuterie on!

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How to Poach an Egg

Take your breakfast to the next level with perfect poached eggs. We headed to the chicken coop at Vegetable Power Farm for this quick and easy recipe!

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How to Make Dalgona Coffee

Do you like your coffee extra creamy and frothy? We shared a recipe for this instant coffee–based Korean treat to go along with the full story on this Internet sensation in our June 15 & 30, 2021, double issue of Wine Spectator!

People

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Cellar Talk with Dwyane Wade

This fall, NBA legend and Napa vintner Dwyane Wade joined senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec in Wine Spectator‘s Napa office for a deep dive into Wade’s journey into wine appreciation and then production, as well as what he hopes to accomplish as a new U.C. Davis board member. Learn more about what he aims to bring to the wine industry!

Wine Regions

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ABCs of Cariñena

No matter how long you study wine, there’s always a new region to explore or an old region to rediscover, and guiding wine lovers through them is a core part of Wine Spectator‘s mission. Learn about one of Spain’s historic winemaking regions: Cariñena. Check out its fascinating history, demanding terroir and signature grapes.

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ABCs of Prosecco Superiore

As New Year’s approaches, Prosecco takes the stage. But how do you find the best of this booming Italian sparkling wine category? Senior editor Alison Napjus walks viewers through the Prosecco DOCG’s terroirs, top classifications and terms, so you’ll know exactly what to look for on the bottle before you snag one for upcoming festivities!

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ABCs of Trentodoc

While Prosecco has become widely known, there’s much more to Italian sparkling wine. Our editors introduced viewers to the traditional-method sparklers from Italy’s mountainous Trentino region. Get to know this historic area, its winemaking traditions, key grapes and what makes these bubblies so exciting!

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ABCs of Sicilia

With its diverse culture, incredible cuisine and a long history of wine production, this Mediterranean island has broad appeal. Learn more about Italy’s Sicilia D.O.C. with senior editor Alison Napjus and associate editor Julie Harans as they explore the history of the wines, important indigenous grapes, food pairings and more!

In the Vineyard

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Napa Vineyard Ride-Along with Thomas Rivers Brown

California’s most sought-after winemaker offered an inside look at three different Napa Cabernet vineyards—demonstrating pruning techniques and showing the impact of drought—as senior editor James Molesworth rode along this summer. Plus, watch a bonus video of Brown and Schrader Cellars founder Fred Schrader from the 2018 New York Wine Experience!

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Eleven Madison Park’s London Counterpart Closes

Davies and Brook, chef Daniel Humm’s restaurant in London’s Claridge’s hotel, will close at the end of December. Opened in late 2019, it was the first international venture for Humm’s New York–based Make It Nice group, which includes Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park.

Since Humm’s transition to a completely vegan menu at Eleven Madison Park in June, Davies and Brook has been the only place where guests can still order meat-based dishes from the chef, like his iconic dry-aged duck glazed with honey and lavender. Humm planned to change that and make the vegan pivot in London as well, but with pushback from Claridge’s, the teams decided to part ways.

“We completely respect and understand the culinary direction of a fully plant-based menu that Daniel has decided to embrace and champion and now wants to introduce in London,” read a statement from the hotel that was shared with Wine Spectator. “However, this is not the path we wish to follow here at Claridge’s at the moment, and therefore, regretfully, we have mutually agreed to go our separate ways.” Claridge’s hinted at a replacement restaurant but did not provide any details.

A more casual-leaning concept with options for à-la-carte dining, Davies and Brook still built up an expansive wine collection, one that has held a Best of Award of Excellence since the restaurant’s first year in business. Wine director Gabriel Di Bella has been managing the 1,800 selections with highlights in Burgundy, the Rhône, Italy, Bordeaux and California.—Julie Harans

Lazy Betty Team Opens Juniper Cafe in Atlanta

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The team behind Atlanta Award of Excellence winner Lazy Betty opened a new Vietnamese concept, Juniper Cafe, on Dec. 15. Located in the West Midtown neighborhood, the café-bakery offers Vietnamese classics, homemade pastries and a small but robust wine list.

“Because of the French influence on Vietnamese culture, I decided to focus on French and American wines,” Juniper Cafe and Lazy Betty beverage director Carl Van Tyle Gilbert told Wine Spectator via email. “We are highly focused on sourcing from smaller producers with strong business ethics centered around making natural, biodynamic and organic wines.”

Overall, Gilbert has built a program of 20 food-friendly wines, 17 of which are available by the glass. The 200-bottle inventory includes a diverse range of sparklers and whites, as well as reds from Argentina, California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Oregon and Washington. There’s also a Verdejo–Sauvignon Blanc orange wine. These join a larger selection of natural sodas, beers, sakes, sojus, makgeollis (Korean sparkling rice wine) and Vietnamese-inspired cocktails. “Our focus is on flavor and assuring that each wine is a great representation of either the varietal or the region,” Gilbert said. “The wine experience is very casual, but stands out based on flavors and quality.”

As corporate chef and culinary director, respectively, owners Aaron Phillips and Ron Hsu have put together a modern Vietnamese menu. Day-to-day, executive chef Timothy Rufino (formerly of Lazy Betty) prepares dishes like summer rolls with Chinese pork jerky, a lemongrass pork chop, banh xeo (a savory coconut crepe) and Vietnamese hot fried chicken. There are also several bahn mi and pho options, plus many pastries to choose from. For now, Juniper Cafe is only serving breakfast and dinner, but will be adding lunch service in the near future.

Gilbert says that while both restaurants are built on a “come as you are” mentality, Juniper Cafe is more casual than Lazy Betty. This relaxed feel is evident in the ambiance of the brightly colored space, featuring modern takes on traditional Vietnamese design elements.

With Juniper Cafe open, Hsu, Phillips and Gilbert are working toward opening their American-cuisine restaurant, Humble Pie, in spring 2022.—Collin Dreizen

Gordon Ramsay and Mandarin Oriental Opening Ramsay’s Kitchen Boston

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Celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay is set to debut Ramsay’s Kitchen at Boston’s Mandarin Oriental hotel in January. The Back Bay restaurant is Ramsay’s first venture in Boston, and joins a group that includes Award of Excellence–winning Gordon Ramsay Steak locations in Baltimore and Atlantic City, N.J.

“I absolutely love the energy of Boston and consider it a premier dining destination in the country,” Ramsay said in a statement, adding that he “couldn’t be more excited” for the opening.

Overseeing the 300-label, international wine list will be Crystl Horton, director of wine and spirits for Gordon Ramsay North America. “[The wine program] will build on and enhance the relationships and wine programs that we have existing in other Gordon Ramsay restaurants while maintaining a distinct personality of its own, influenced by Gordon’s own travels and experiences,” she said.

The 2,500-bottle inventory includes wines from California, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italy, spotlighting rarer bottlings akin to those found in Ramsay’s personal cellar. Horton expects the list to evolve and expand as the restaurant team learns more about guests’ preferences, and Ramsay will take part in the program’s ongoing development. “We want this to be a warm and welcoming experience where you feel that the sommelier has only your best interest in mind.”

Diners can pair these wines with executive chef John Holloman’s menu, which will incorporate seasonal ingredients and, like the wine list, draw from Ramsay’s career and travels. The kitchen will serve Ramsay signatures like his beef Wellington alongside dishes with a local twist, like lobster and clam bouillabaisse. According to Christina Wilson, vice president of culinary for Gordon Ramsay North America, local produce will be emphasized as well. “It’s a chef’s dream to have these high quality ingredients right in the backyard,” she said.

The 7,000-square-foot space features a raw bar, a bar and lounge, a patio and private dining areas, in addition to its upscale-yet-comfortable dining room. The design is largely inspired by Boston itself, with blue marble details that evoke Boston Harbor, brick elements to match the city’s architecture and a back bar modeled after the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge.—C.D.


Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at @wsrestaurantawards.

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Can Added Sulfites in Wine Actually Prevent Headaches?

Why do certain wines give people headaches, even when consumed in moderation? Wine intolerance has long been a mystery and a nuisance for many wine lovers. For researchers, it’s proven difficult to determine what exactly causes the symptoms, which can range from headaches to nausea to wheezing and even anaphylaxis. While studies have pointed to a few culprits, many consumers have blamed sulfur-dioxide (SO2), or sulfites (the family of compounds that include SO2).

Some SO2 is produced naturally during fermentation. Many winemakers add some too, as a preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria. For some wine lovers, being for or against added SO2 has become almost a religious stance. The rising popularity of low-intervention and natural wines has made the debate even more heated. Natural wine proponents point to no-added sulfites as a plus.

But multiple scientific studies have provided evidence that a set of naturally occurring molecules called biogenic amines (BA) are typically the cause of wine intolerance symptoms, not sulfites. And a new research paper by Sophie Parker-Thomson, a winemaker and Master of Wine, suggests that additions of SO2 could help reduce BA levels and lower the risk of wine intolerance symptoms.

In proper quantities, sulfites might be the cure, rather than the cause.

Parker-Thomson became inspired to delve deeper into the cause of wine intolerance while researching for a seminar on sulfites with her husband and business partner, Matt Thomson. (Together they own New Zealand’s Blank Canvas Winery.) “Although the wine intolerance landscape is complex, it became obvious pretty quickly that the likely culprit was biogenic amines,” Parker-Thomson told Wine Spectator. “At toxic levels, which vary from individual to individual, they can trigger allergic-type responses that are identical to wine intolerance complaints.” She submitted the research to the Institute of Masters of Wine, which reviewed and published it.

Noting that a majority of research failed to connect the use of sulfites to BA levels, she set out to collect her own data. Parker-Thomson collected 100 samples of Sauvignon Blanc from across the country. She then separated the samples into groups based on sulfite levels and when sulfites were added to the wine. The subgroups considered zero additions of SO2, low additions (less than 40 milligrams per liter), more than 40 mg/L and over 65 mg/L, plus whether sulfites were added before alcoholic fermentation, after malolactic fermentation or before bottling. The samples were then tested for three types of BAs: histamine, tyramine and putrescine.

She found that wines made with zero or low additions of SO2 had the highest BA levels, while wines with over 65 mg/L added sulfites had the lowest levels. Additionally, data showed that total BAs decreased noticeably when as little as 30 mg/L of SO2 were added before fermentation. Because BAs occur in the presence of bacteria, it is likely that the antibacterial properties of sulfites are responsible for the drop.

While the data shows a clear correlation between BA levels and the amount of added sulfites, Parker-Thomson’s research takes understanding this relationship a bit further, showing the significance of when sulfites are added in the winemaking process.

“I was very surprised at the magnitude of results between the different sub-groups and very surprised just how high the BA concentrations were in the wines that had had no SO2 at all or no SO2 before fermentation,” she said.

While Parker-Thomson notes that more research and robust clinical trials are needed to determine what level of BAs trigger wine intolerance, she hopes her study helps to bring the effects of BAs to the forefront and heighten consumer awareness of wine intolerance. Though this may include the difficult process of creating regulations or third-party certification systems similar to organic and Fairtrade, Parker-Thompson is hopeful for the future of low-BA wines.

“[This] presents an opportunity for the wine industry,” she said. “To both take action in reducing general BA levels in wines by following the BA management protocol, and potentially also create a specific low-BA category to cater for BA-sensitive consumers so they can enjoy wine again.”


Want to learn more about how wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle? Sign up for Wine Spectator‘s free Wine & Healthy Living e-mail newsletter and get the latest health news, feel-good recipes, wellness tips and more delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

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Is Inflation Coming for Your Cabernet?

Wine has been largely absent from the raging debate over inflation in recent months. While the wholesale price of beef is up by 20 percent and gas costs are at their highest level in seven years, a bottle of wine has been one of the few products consumers could count on to stay stable.

Not for long. Because grapes are harvested just once a year and wine reaches the market through a multitier distribution network, price pressures have simply not caught up to consumers yet. When they do, the perfect storm of inflation (up 6.2 percent in the United States in the past year, the highest rate in decades), supply chain bottlenecks, a small global grape harvest and a surge in demand will mean consumers should brace themselves for spikes in wine prices.

“I’ve never seen inflationary pressure like this,” said Rocco Lombardo, president of Wilson Daniels, an importer that represents wineries like Biondi Santi, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Champagne Gosset. “The massive escalation in the cost of dry goods—glass, corks, labels, cardboard—is actually hyperinflation. Labor and energy costs have skyrocketed. No producer, region or part of the wine industry is immune, and you will see price increases very soon.”

Wine isn’t as volatile as other consumer goods, so it’s historically less subject to price fluctuations. While the overall inflation rate between 2004 and 2021 was 2.11 percent, wine prices only climbed 0.73 percent.

But today’s market challenges have left producers little choice, says Miguel Torres Maczassek, general manager of Familia Torres, one of Spain’s leading wine brands. “There is a sense of caution among producers as nobody is interested in price increases, especially in the middle of the post-pandemic recovery,” he told Wine Spectator. “But for many, there is no option. Costs keep going up and most distributors around the world have already absorbed the higher costs for shipping wines. They must pass them to the market.”

Most winery owners say they have done everything possible until now to maintain pricing. “We held our prices in 2021, but will have to take increases in 2022 within the first part of the year,” said Enore Ceola, CEO at Freixenet Mionetto USA, a leading sparkling wine company. “Everyone worked to delay increases just before the holidays but we will see prices going up between 10 and 15 percent, or even 20 percent on some wines.”

Imported wines feel the cost crunch

Imported wines are battling the most challenging issues. “Price increases are going to be commonplace on imported wine in 2022 because the cost of containers and general freight are up in excess of 100 percent,” said Marc Taub, president and CEO of Palm Bay International and Taub Family Selections, which represents dozens of brands including Cavit and Castello di Fonterutoli.

Disastrously small harvests in regions such as Burgundy, the Loire and Provence, will compound price pressure. Taub says his winery clients are “attempting to be as modest as possible,” but he warns consumers to expect prices to start edging up early in 2022. “Fierce competition in the wine industry will keep the increases moderate, but prices across all wine categories will absolutely go up,” he said.

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Consolidation in companies that control ocean cargo shipments, along with the steadily climbing cost of crude oil, has driven shipping prices up. “When oil barrel prices get to the mid-$80s, that has a big impact,” said Lombardo. “It used to cost us approximately $10 to ship a case of wine from Western Europe to the U.S., and it’s now $15—that’s a 50 percent increase.” Other importers, like Taub, report jumps even higher than that.

Many retailers know what is coming—and see high demand adding fuel to this fire. “We are seeing the beginnings of some serious price hikes,” said Cyrus Tolman of Houston Wine Merchant. “I think they will most impact the regions in highest demand: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Rioja and Napa. Wine buyers could end up with prices that skyrocket 20 to 25 percent within a year.”

Brooke Sabel, wine director at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey, is already seeing wine prices “increasing at every level.” For national brands, that bump is between $1 and $3 per bottle, she observes, and even higher for boutique brands.

And forget about deals. “An overlooked repercussion of this is that retailers can’t get access to large volumes of certain brands at a quantity discount, so we are unable to offer any discounts to our customers—particularly with Champagne,” Tolman adds.

None of this, however, will dampen the appetite for elite wines one bit, insiders project. These are regions that have seen prices inching up for many years, unrelated to inflation. “We have not seen any slowing in the super-premium category at all; there is a very strong demand for luxury wines from Burgundy, Piedmont and Tuscany where prices have been climbing for years,” Lombardo said. “There is a thirst for quality wines from great producers and that is not changing.”

What about everyday wines?

Domestic wines won’t be spared price hikes either, nor will wines in the value end of the spectrum, which will be forced to take bigger percentage step-ups. “We haven’t raised prices in five years, but that is all changing now starting with constrained grape supply based on back-to-back short harvests in California,” said Jeff O’Neill of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, which owns many wine brands and also operates as a grape supplier to other brands. High-end wines benefit from a cushion of larger margins, and “have always increased price based on exclusivity and scarcity, a slightly different model,” he said.

For wines in the $8 to $30 price range, O’Neill anticipates, at a minimum, 10 percent higher pricing across the board. “Many wines today that sell for less than $30 per bottle move through the system pretty fast,” and reflect a changing economy more quickly than wines that age longer in cellars before release, he explained.

“For certain wine categories like our single-vineyard wines, it is true that the impact of a short or a large harvest is something that might not come into the market for many years,” said Torres. “Younger wines don’t have much flexibility, as the production time is shorter.”

While Champagne is experiencing its own headaches of shortages and logistics nightmares, within the world of affordable sparkling wines like Prosecco and Cava, price increases loom large on the horizon: Ceola estimates that consumers will see increases of $2 to $3 per bottle for wines in the $10 to $17 range, and a $3 to $5 bump up for those falling between $20 and $30.

Just how long will higher prices stick around?

The U.S. Federal Reserve and many market analysts advise that inflation won’t last, as it’s merely the result of “transitory factors,” including shutdowns and restarts in multiple economies. Some in the industry take a similar view. Blake Leonard, vice president of her family’s eight independently owned retail stores, Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits, told Shanken News Daily, a sister publication of Wine Spectator that, although her business is seeing these rising costs coming, she believes “this is a temporary disruption and our stores are not raising prices because we anticipate it will all settle.”

[article-img-container][src=2021-12/ns_rocco120221_1600.jpg] [credit=(Courtesy Wilson Daniels)] [alt=Rocco Lombardo] [end: article-img-container]

Others are not so sure. “This is not transitory,” said Lombardo. “We are now going into three quarters of these inflationary pressures and I think it is going to be longer term. Until demand is depressed, I think we will continue to see price escalation.”

Besides, Ceola adds, because there is only one wine harvest per year, “which dictates pricing for the next one to five years, it’s a slower process than other consumer goods.”

Even by conservative estimates, prices will remain elevated for more than a year. “Overall price increases will be felt throughout 2022 and 2023,” says O’Neill.

Yet in spite of high demand for wines across the price spectrum, and relatively short supply, the fierce competition within the wine market will keep runaway pricing in check. There remains an abundance of choice for wine drinkers, says Taub. “Wine is different from most other consumer goods. There is wine sold at every price tier, and there are an inexhaustible number of wine choices out there,” which is why producers are reluctant to increase prices.

Inflation could also drive experimentation and may benefit lesser-known regions. “This will lead more people to look outside some of those blue-chip wine regions in search of better value,” said Houston Wine Merchant’s Tolman. “While there are diehard collectors of Burgundy that will only ever purchase Burgundy, many collectors and everyday wine drinkers are looking for new bottles that deliver more wine for less money. Maybe this is the catalyst that will tilt the scales in favor of smaller producers and less famous wine regions.”


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Grand Award–Winning Acquerello Team Opens More Casual Sorella in San Francisco

The team behind Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Acquerello in San Francisco opened Sorella (Italian for “sister”) on Dec. 1. “After spending 32 years perfecting the fine dining experience at Acquerello, we are ready for a new challenge,” co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini told Wine Spectator via email. “The time feels right for us to introduce a more casual, versatile restaurant experience that translates to the next generation of diners and allows our team to grow and evolve in new ways.”

Acquerello wine director Gianpaolo Paterlini is curating the new restaurant’s 60-label program in a consulting role. Like Acquerello, Sorella’s wine list centers on Italian appellations, such as Chianti Classico, Barolo and Barbaresco. This includes bottles from well-known estates like Piedmont’s Fratelli Brovia and Tuscany’s Fontodi. The 500-bottle inventory is largely sourced from Acquerello’s cellar, though the plan is for Sorella’s wine collection to eventually become its own entity, and Paterlini expects it to grow to about 1,000 bottles.

“We want wine to be fun and approachable for our guests, so the list focuses on classic regions and low-intervention winemaking,” Gianpaolo Paterlini said. “But I’m always on the lookout for exciting new producers that innovate with respect to tradition and terroir.”

The list will change regularly to represent a wide range of producers, mostly at prices ranging from $50 to $95 per bottle. “At Acquerello, we have over 2,000 selections from every region in Italy and verticals are a huge part of the program, as we want guests to come to us knowing they can find just about anything they’re looking for,” Paterlini said. “At Sorella, we hope that a concise list with very fair prices will encourage a new generation of wine drinkers to discover new wines while seasoned wine lovers will find some of their favorite classics.”

The wines complement executive chef Denise St. Onge’s menu, which primarily consists of house-made pastas. But guests can enjoy other Italian-influenced options too, like pumpkin minestrone soup, potato-and-leek focaccia, striped bass and cicchetti (Venetian-style snacks meant to accompany drinks). Sorella will also feature a signature Acquerello dish: Warm parmesan budino with sunchoke, hazelnut, truffle and brown butter.

Designer Tava Lloyd of Harbour Creative helped create the restaurant’s interior, which features a handmade partition between the bar and the dining room, and a neon “Sorella” sign. “We designed Sorella to be lighthearted, lively and neighborhood friendly,” St. Onge said. “The kind of place that checks the box for a weeknight dinner as well as Saturday night cocktails and bites.”—Collin Dreizen

Jean-Georges Vongerichten Makes His Nashville Debut

[article-img-container][src=2021-12/tt_drusiedarr120221_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy of Drusie & Darr by Jean-Georges)] [alt= Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten with Kelsi Armijo, executive chef of Drusie & Darr ][end: article-img-container]

Chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened Drusie & Darr at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 17. Vongerichten’s first Southern location outside of Florida, the restaurant joins his namesake Grand Award winner in New York, as well as his other Restaurant Award–winning concepts: Jean-Georges Steakhouse, the Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges and Jean-Georges in Philadelphia.

“It’s an honor to be part of the growth of Nashville’s prominent food scene,” Vongerichten told Wine Spectator via email. “With Drusie & Darr, I wanted to contribute my style of cuisine, but also incorporate the tastes and flavor preferences of Nashville.”

The chef’s corporate wine director, Rory Pugh, currently manages the 90-label list, though a new wine director for Drusie & Darr will be appointed soon. As with Vongericthen’s other restaurants, the list focuses on French regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire and the Rhône Valley. It’s rounded out by wines from California, Italy and Spain. “[The] wine list has a focus on the classics with newer discoveries placed throughout,” Pugh said. “We wanted to show off a range of our guests’ favorite wines.”

Executive chef Kelsi Armijo oversees the menu of approachable American- and Asian-influenced dishes, which highlight organic and seasonal ingredients from local sources, such as the Hermitage’s garden at Glen Leven Farm near Nashville. This includes ahi tuna tartare, roasted black sea bass, mushroom risotto and warm chocolate cake. Several pizza options are available as well, cooked in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven.

Drusie & Darr’s dining room was crafted by designer Thomas Juul-Hansen with muted colors and bold lighting that accentuate the space’s vaulted ceiling. A few original Beaux Arts details from the historic space have been preserved, including the restaurant’s oak walls.

Named after the children of the Hermitage’s former general manager, Dick Hall, Drusie & Darr was developed as part of a wider restoration of the nearly 112-year-old hotel. Additionally, Vongerichten will open a café in the hotel called the Pink Hermit in January 2022. “It’s a privilege to be in Nashville, a city that welcomed me so warmly,” Vongerichten said. “I hope to give that and much more back.”—C.D.

D.C. Hospitality Group Debuts All-Day Cafe

[article-img-container][src=2021-12/tt_bistrodujour120221_1600.jpg] [credit= (Rey Lopez)] [alt= An egg dish at Bistro du Jour ][end: article-img-container]

Knead Hospitality + Design, the group behind Restaurant Award winners Succotash and the Grill, debuted another restaurant in Washington D.C.’s District Wharf. Opened last month, Bistro du Jour brings a classic, Parisian café experience to the multipurpose waterfront development.

The menu by chef Treeven Dove features time-tested bistro staples like steak frites, coq au vin, French onion soup and duck confit, while the restaurant’s partnership with New York City-based bakery, Mah-Ze-Dahr, will supply morning pastries and treats.

The beverage program is led by Knead’s beverage director, Darlin Kulla. In addition to a strong selection of French aperitifs like Lillet, Bonal and Suze, it features a nearly exclusive French wine selection of 60 labels, with additions of traditional method sparkling wines from around the globe. This includes Thibaut-Janisson’s Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc from Virginia, South African Cap Classique Brut from Graham Beck and traditional-method Brut from Ferrari in Trento, Italy. At just over 40 labels, the bottle list offers picks from across France, including lesser known regions like Jura and Corsica. The remaining 17 selections are available in 5- or 8-ounce carafes and also span the entirety of France, but highlight sparkling wines.—Taylor McBride


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The Court of Master Sommeliers Is Expelling Six Members. Is It Enough to End a Culture Many Call Toxic?

After an external investigation that began one year ago, the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) plans to expel six Master Sommeliers: Bob Bath, Fred Dame, Fred Dexheimer, Drew Hendricks, Joseph Linder and Matt Stamp. The move follows allegations by multiple female wine professionals who were studying for the organization’s certification exams that some of the most senior members committed sexual assault. They also allege that the group suffered from structural toxicity, in which male leaders exploited the mentorship-based nature of the organization and their power to influence exams and careers to harm candidates physically, emotionally and professionally.

“From this deep disappointment and betrayal, we will continue channeling the learned lessons into growth and positive change for our organization,” said CMS-A chair Emily Wines, in a statement issued when the expulsions were announced Nov. 17. Wines is part of the new board of directors elected in 2020 as part of the organization’s restructuring efforts. “The work does not stop here.”

Some members see it as a step in the right direction. But others, while happy to see any concrete action taken, are dissatisfied with the components of the investigation as well as CMS-A’s actions that followed, especially after such a lengthy process.

“As somebody who has to make a decision as to whether or not I want to sit my Master Sommelier exam next year, [the investigation] really has personally thrown my timeline off,” said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who’s been working toward that goal for about 10 years. “I could not in good conscience move forward with the process while there was an investigation concerning my own experiences within that organization.”

“This was the final chance for [the court] to do the right thing, and they did the wrong thing in every way,” Liz Mitchell, an Advanced Sommelier based in New Orleans, told Wine Spectator.

Van Til and Mitchell are among the more than 20 women who shared explosive allegations in a New York Times article in October 2020 that they had been groped, received explicit texts, were pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. They’re also among the members of the organization with concerns about how the investigation was handled, which range from the announcement itself to perceived conflicts of interest to the confidentiality of certain investigation details.

The biggest question for both CMS-A members and the hospitality industry remains, Are these expulsions the start of true reform? Or just damage control?

The investigation

The Court of Master Sommeliers’ investigation was supposed to be the start of rebuilding trust in an organization that members felt was increasingly tone deaf if not downright negligent in ignoring how some members took advantage of others. The board hired attorney Margaret Bell of Lagasse Branch Bell + Kinkead. Multiple members were suspended while she conducted her work.

She investigated a total of 22 cases, based on member complaints and media reports, and then presented her findings to CMS-A’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee in September. Committee members worked with anti-sexual-violence organization Raliance to determine discipline recommendations, which were then voted on by the CMS-A board. The harshest actions were taken against those who exhibited an ongoing pattern of bad behavior. “This is not a moment of somebody being drunk and making a bad decision,” Wines told Wine Spectator.

The process was based on a code of ethics created by the committee earlier this year, when a non-discrimination policy and an anti-racism pledge were also implemented. The group also hired a new executive director with experience in nonprofit organizations and corporate leadership, rather than wine. One complaint had been that what had once simply been a small credentialing organization had grown into a large professional society, but leaders never created a human resources department or implemented sufficient rules.


Read more about recent CMS-A changes in our Sommelier Talk with Vincent Morrow, co-chair of the CMS Diversity Committee.


Following the investigation, Geoff Kruth—a former Master Sommelier who resigned after being named in multiple allegations in the Times article—was prohibited from ever applying for reinstatement. Two members were removed from suspension. Other members who were not expelled but remain suspended are undergoing education to attempt to return to the organization in good standing. “We believe that will further lift our culture as opposed to leaving them out and having them potentially reoffend,” said Wines.

CMS-A is also offering to connect survivors to counseling and support via Raliance’s national network of experts.

Most of the Master Sommeliers facing expulsion have not spoken publicly on the decision. They include some of the group’s pioneers. Dame was a co-founder of CMS-A. Bath passed the exam in 2003 and has worked as a professor at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa campus. Hendricks, Dexheimer and Linder have all worked for top wine programs and served as educators. The decision to expel is pending a hearing within 30 days in accordance with CMS-A’s bylaws and federal law.

Stamp, who operates a popular restaurant in downtown Napa, was first suspended after an internal investigation found that he had undisclosed sexual relationships with two women who took the 2018 Master Sommelier examination. He shared a statement with Wine Spectator. “As a wine educator, I am deeply saddened by today’s decision. The code of ethics of the Court of Master Sommeliers establishes that I should have not been within the vicinity of anyone taking an examination with whom I had a romantic relationship. I take accountability for my error in judgment for not following this bylaw, but did recuse myself in writing from proctoring the exams for these women,” he said. “These were real relationships I cared about, and am saddened for them or anyone hurt by my mistakes,” Stamp continued. “I will learn and grow from my mistakes and accept today’s decision with a heavy heart.”

Partial justice?

“The announcement on Wednesday was one step out of many toward becoming a safer, more transparent and more diverse organization,” said Mia Van de Water, a New York–based Master Sommelier.

But for members like Mitchell, the announcement reopened old wounds.

“Not only did the victimized women who all so bravely came forward not get a report or have any communication regarding the ‘findings’ of the investigation, but they were given no advance notice that the ‘findings’ were going to be made public,” said Mitchell in a statement posted on Instagram. She and others called this insensitive, as it could retrigger trauma for survivors.

Wines says members had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting where the findings were announced, but she acknowledges that “it went public very quickly after that.” She says there were discussions about alerting survivors in advance, but that many of the women spoke to the investigator on the condition of anonymity, which the court would have broken by reaching out.

Mitchell says she never heard of any town hall. Van Til recognized the potential for this issue and specifically asked to be contacted in advance. She says the court did respect that request.

Overall, Van Til has mixed feelings. She was grateful to see actions taken against more under-the-radar offenders and is impressed by the new code of ethics. She says her interactions with Bell during the investigation were mostly positive. And she’s slightly comforted by the leadership of the new executive director, rather than the organization’s past culture, which was dominated by the mostly male longtime Master Sommeliers.

But she notes that the issue has been ingrained in the court for so long that there are inevitably victims who did not speak to the investigator, and therefore offenders who have yet to see justice.

She hopes the court’s decisive moves will encourage more people to come forward, but she says that there’s a harsh-reality flipside to that: “Those women know what I know, which is that putting your name on something like this puts you in a tenuous professional situation.”

Mitchell also said that the offer of support was insufficient. “At this point in time, every woman that I know that was involved has their own therapy, has paid out of their own pocket going back like five years, so the first thing [the court] could do is, at least, monetarily, help people out with the cost that they’ve already incurred for therapy.”

Mitchell and others in the wine community also took issue with CMS-A’s decision to withhold the names of those still-suspended members, which feels too in line with the overarching issue of secrecy that’s drawn criticism for years. She shared additional concern about the presence of current Master Sommeliers on the committee that helped determine the disciplinary actions, calling it a conflict of interest.

“There’s no reason why [Bell] needed to turn over the results of the investigation to the organization that is in question,” she told Wine Spectator. “That, to me, is a major conflict of interest. How are they deciding their own fate? That makes no sense.”

Wines stands by the investigation process. “It was really meticulous and exhaustive,” she said. “I feel like we really did the most thorough process that we could have.”

Asked about concerns over the decision not to share specific details of the investigation—including the identities of suspended members—Wines said they’re “following the guidelines of what’s done in all kinds of organizations.” She points to a new feature on the court’s website, which uses asterisks to indicate which Master Sommeliers are eligible to participate in CMS-A programming such as teaching and examinations. No asterisk could indicate that the member is currently suspended. It could also mean that they haven’t signed the code of ethics or completed the now-standard sexual harassment training, possibly because they aren’t involved in programming and therefore chose not to take those additional steps.

When it comes to allowing suspended members to work toward returning to good standing, Wines stresses that the rehabilitative education (which each participant is financially responsible for) involves many hours of in-depth and individualized psychotherapy. “This is not parking them in front of a video for an hour and saying you’re good to go,” she said. “We want them to really deeply do the work.”

Restoring the main mission

Wines says that hopefully the investigation and resulting actions can help restore CMS-A’s fundamental identity as a group that provides mentorship, education and certification to the sommelier community, rather than feeling like a private club.

It’s a mission that members like Van Til still see value in. “I don’t think anybody else has done what the court has done in terms of how they teach people to sell wine, how they teach people to taste wine and integrate that with theory,” she said. “I think the mentorship, camaraderie and community are a very unique culture with a very extreme upside.”

Van der Water shared a similar sentiment. “I believe, absolutely, in our core mission, and in our ability to grow into an organization with a genuinely positive impact on our community and industry,” she said. “Furthermore, it is deeply important to me personally to be an active participant in enacting these changes.”

Mitchell believes the danger remains. “I do think a lot of people are ready to unfortunately move on and just give them a pass and kind of look the other way. And I think that’s what’s upsetting to me the most, that people have continued to participate in the examinations that have resumed this year and people are back to kind of business as usual with giving power to the court and without them having actually shown one ounce of accountability or change.”

As Van Til points out, the industry’s sexual harassment issue goes beyond just Master Sommeliers, carrying through to other ranks within the organization and to the entire wine community as a whole—and even to guests who exhibit inappropriate behaviors toward sommeliers in restaurants. That means the weight can’t fall entirely on the leadership of a single organization.

“This is a culture change that’s not just going to happen with the people at the top doing investigations and declaring certain people out and others in,” she said. “The only way there’s going to be change is if everybody can internalize this lesson—so I think it’s a call to action for all of us.”


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Provence Winemaking Iconoclast Eloi Dürrbach Dies at 71

Winemaker Eloi Dürrbach, owner of Provence’s Domaine de Trévallon, died Nov. 12 at his winery. He was 71.

“For my father, either you did something with passion and excellence, or you didn’t do it all,” said his daughter, Ostiane Dürrbach Icard. He was a winemaker who was proud to do what he loved—produce great wines. “He had confidence in nature, patience and trust with wine, and he didn’t worry too much about life.”

Eloi Dürrbach was the son of two well-known artists. His father was a sculptor and painter. His mother produced tapestries, and had the permission of family friend Pablo Picasso to reproduce his works. She wove a tapestry of Guernica and sold the tapestry to Nelson Rockefeller, using the proceeds to buy Trévallon, a 144-acre estate of forest, garrigue scrubland and three small hills on the Alpilles near St.-Remy de Provence, as a vacation house.

Eloi dropped out of university where he was studying architecture in order to create a vineyard. “My grandfather always said, ‘We should plant vines [at Trévallon]. It will produce fine wines,'” said Icard. “Papa quit his studies and began planting vines.”

He started the vineyard from scratch in limestone soils. Eventually, he cleared and shaped 36 acres for vines, 12 acres for olive trees. He created 32 plots, expressing terroirs with varying altitude, exposure to the sun, and grape variety, all surrounded by a natural habitat. “It was like creating a piece of art,” said Icard.

Dürrbach started with red varieties—50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 percent Syrah—planting in 1973 and bottled his first vintage in 1976. Less than a decade later, his wines were hits in America. He expanded slightly, planting white grapes in 1988. When the AOC Baux de Provence appellation was created in 1995, the officials asked him to grub half of his Cabernet plantings to meet the AOC’s regulations. He refused, selling it as a vin de pays. He stood by his wine.

Today, Trévallon produces 3,750 cases of red and 600 cases of white in a typical vintage. Each vintage has a unique label. Dürrbach’s father designed 50 labels for his son.

Eloi Dürrbach is survived by his wife, Floriane, and their three children—Ostiane, Isoline and Antoine. The family will continue to run the estate. Ostiane, who has worked at the winery for 12 years, handles administration and works in the cellar. Antoine, who has worked with his father for 20 years, runs the vineyards. Isoline is expected to join them.

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Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune Charity Roars Back

Burgundy’s historic Hospices de Beaune charity auction roared back to life Nov. 21 after delaying and limiting its 2020 auction, setting a new record in front of a packed house. The 161st iteration of the auction raised a total of $15.3 million, including premiums, for multiple charities.

The highlight of the sale was a record high price for the charity barrel “Pièce des Présidents,” selected from the grand cru Corton Renardes vineyard, which sold for $900,000 to London-based fine wine merchants OenoGroup. The proceeds will be split between two beneficiaries, Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes and the Institut Curie.

The auction also marked a new partnership between the Hospices Civils de Beaune and auction house Sotheby’s, which took over running the event this year from Christie’s. “It was a huge success—beyond our highest expectations,” said Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s wine, in an interview with Wine Spectator. “This year’s auction, with 362 lots, achieved an average lot price of $39,178, compared to 2020, when 638 lots were sold for an average of $24,443, giving a more than 60 percent increase in price per lot this year.”

The average increase in price for barrels of white Burgundy was 115 percent, while the reds outdistanced their 2020 counterparts by 56 percent. Two barrels of Bâtard-Montrachet grand cru, Cuvée Dames de Flandres 2021, each doubled their high estimate, selling for $280,420 and $249,940, respectively.

The 2021 harvest, vinified by winemaker Ludivine Griveau and her team, was more than 40 percent smaller than the 2020 crop, but that didn’t stop 700 attendees from packing the Halle de Beaune and yelling over the three auctioneers who split duties over the course of the six-hour auction. Last year’s event limited attendance. Telephone bidding was also feverish.

Albéric Bichot, managing director of merchant house Albert Bichot and president of Union des Maisons de Vins Grande Bourgogne, was the top bidder in the auction, acquiring 45.5 barrels for a total sum of $2,227,680. “This was another great day for the Hospices de Beaune and I am very proud, firstly as a citizen of Beaune, but also as president of the Union des Maisons de Vins de Grande Bourgogne, to have actively participated in this success,” he said in a statement. “This year’s wine sale will help finance the reconstruction of the hospital, which has a total budget of [$75 million], and will provide the medical facility with better equipment to fight breast cancer.”

The climax of the event was definitely the Pièce des Présidents. The President’s Barrel is traditionally sold at the Hospices with the help of celebrities: This year, French actors Jeanne Balibar and Pio Marmaï represented the two charities that will use the proceeds to combat violence against women and fight breast cancer. “Bidding opened to the strains of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect,’ and over the course of a memorable 15-minute bidding battle, the audience erupted into applause several times as the figure rose ever higher,” said Ritchie.

For Sotheby’s, the auction marked an impressive debut. “It was an incredible team effort from everyone involved,” said Ritchie. “We had 55 people from our Sotheby’s France team and 10 from our global wine team, all in Beaune, including three brilliant auctioneers. Working together with the outstanding team from the Hospices de Beaune, and their exceptional wines, and supported by the generosity of both the négociants and the private individuals, we were able to combine together to create something truly special and unique.”


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