Thinking about my love for Portugal, I realized that it is all thanks to the lovely lady in the photo, Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group. I first met Aileen when I moved back to New York after having lived in Italy for many years. She was and is always a pleasure to see and chat with. Aileen I believe studied to be an opera singer and she adds touches of song to her speech at various points in a conversation. I have had the pleasure of working with Aileen on a number of projects through the years and pitching others. Among those highlights was a project on Madeira and a fantastic trip to the Tejo in 2013 that sparked my interest in Portugal. I had been twice before but never to a wine region or more preciously never on a wine trip. Thanks to Aileen, indirectly this last time, I have now been on two wine trips. A consummate professional and a pleasure to be around, Aileen has opened a new world to me and for that, I am very grateful.
Portuguese wine fact #1: Alicante Bouchet grows in the Alentejo: “Despite not being an indigenous Portuguese grape variety, Alicante Bouschet is so deep-rooted in Alentejo collective patrimony that it is often assumed to be Portuguese. In fact it is a displaced variety, the result of conjoining the French varieties Petit Bouschet and Grenache. It is one of the world’s very few colouring grapes, able to provide concentrated, deeply coloured wines, a feature that has earned it the nickname “Writing Ink,” according to the website Vinhos do Alentejo.
On my way to the women in wine symposium today, I have been looking at all the wonderful women in wine groups and websites. There are so many that it is quite impressive. One great resource that caught my eye is from Luscious Lashes. What an impressive and varied group.
I just got back from a great trip to the Douro Valley in Portugal. I was thrilled to see the number of women working in the wine industry there. And I admit, surprised. I think Portugal surprised me in general. I had been there on three different occasions but this time I really fell in love. Sometimes you fall in love at first sight, other times it takes a bit longer or doesn’t happen at all. The women I met were winemakers, owners, marketing and sales, and laboratory assistants. I saw women picking grapes and sorting them as well. I will be writing about all of these experiences in the coming weeks but I am pleased to report that women seem to be a strong part of the wine industry in the Douro Valley.
Today I am posting an article written by Charles Scicolone, a friend and wine expert with a particular affection for Italy. His take on the tasting which I also attended is right on. My favorite was the amazing 2007 which showed beautiful tropical fruit and great acidity. I also favored the 2013 and the 2009. It was very interesting to see how Fiano developed through the years and showed the impact of the vintage. I will be working with Ilaria in the future and my policy is not to write about wines that I represent so I am happy that Charles has written such a great and in-depth post.
I was excited to stop by a new wine shop – new to me, as it has been open for almost four months – at Columbus Circle’s new underground food court. I knew of the existence of the shop because I know the owner, Kit Pepper. The shop is lovely, light and airy with a funky and interesting selection.
I am really looking forward to trying the Chiaretto I bought from Kit whose palate I respect. She’s another person I met through the International Wine Center during my travels in the WSET world.
The shop has a $15 dollar table and more than half of the wines retail for under $20. Her selection is quite complete with sake and spirits as well. She noted there was a large Japanese community in the vicinity and the sake was a big draw for many.
I remember running into Kit months ago when she said she was opening a shop. It’s exciting to see someone succeed with their plans. Kudos Kit and love the new digs.
Another one of the rose’ wines I had this week, by Susana Balbo from Argentina, was a real treat. This 2015 was made from 100% Malbec in the Uco Valley in Argentina. The vineyards are very high, 1200 meters above sea level here and are hand harvested. While the alcohol was high, 14.5%, I didn’t find it overwhelming even on a hot Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg. It was fruity but not over the top with nice acidity thanks to the elevation, subtle aromatics and a long finish made it a great wine to pair with summer foods. It is also very affordable at around $13.
I love the fact that these wines are made by an Argentine woman, Susana Balbo. Susana got her degree in oenology in 1981, and became the first woman in Argentina to do so. Her career started in Cafayate, Salta province at Michel Torino winery, she then worked at other well-regarded wineries such as Martins and Catena Zapata. According to her website, “She was the first Argentinean woman hired as a consultant to wineries worldwide: Spain, Chile, Italy, Brazil, Australia, and California. This experience allowed her to always be ahead of market trends and wine styles.” In 1999 she founded her own winery, Dominio del Plata. It is located in the Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. I loved Argentina when I visited some time ago. For a time I danced tango a bit and was quite taken with it. I didn’t visit her winery at the time of my visit but there is always a reason to go back.
Elisabetta Fagiuoli from the winery Montenidoli is what Italians call “una forza della natura (a force of nature).” She is a strong, vibrant and amazing woman who I got to see at both Slow Wine and Tre Bicchieri in February. The Vernaccia di San Gimingnano that they make and that is in the photo above is delicious, vibrant and nervy filled with minerality, a note of sapidity and of course, a bitter almond finish characteristic of the variety. This wine spends time on its lees and those aromas and flavors are evident in the glass. Montenidoli however is more than a winery but also a foundation and a place of respite. The foundation, named after Elisabetta’s late partner Sergio, the Patriach as he was known, is dedicated to helping others. According to the website, they offer the following,”We want to host, free of charge, elderly people in need of rest and love, for their well-being in the fields and the woods. We want to invite youngsters in search of their identity, so that they can find themselves and grow through the message of nature. They will be our guests for a month in original country houses, in the middle of vineyards, olive trees and woods, on the hill overlooking San Gimignano, in the heart of Tuscany. During their stay they will learn our way of life and our daily work, and they will find themselves part of the big family that lives and works at Montenidoli. They will have the chance to meet all the friends of Montenidoli: geologists, biologists, agronomists, vine growers, wine personalities.”
I loved meeting her, albeit briefly, and hope to spend more time with her at another moment. She raised, together with Sergio, nine children on their land along with their vines, hopes and dreams. Amazing stuff is happening in San Gimignano, a beautiful medieval town that had its heyday in the 12th-13th centuries. Tuscany never ceases to create awe, both for its landscapes and the people living there.