Author Archives: Stuart

Bordeaux Wine Diary: Day 4 – The Blank Sheet

Léoville BartonI’m sitting in an office that looks like countless other offices in rural France – cream colored walls, filling cabinets and desks, a framed map of the company property on the wall – but I’m not just anywhere in rural France, I’m in Bordeaux (BDX), and I’m not anywhere in BDX either. The commune of St.Julien at Château Léoville Barton, one of the elite Grand Cru Classé properties in the Médoc; fame and fortune! I just finished a two-hour tasting of only six wines, Château Léoville Barton of the vintages from 2010 through 2015. What made that tasting absurdly time consuming? Why didn’t I just suck up all that good juice down, then wallow in it, instead of hunkering down and hammering away on my ageing MacBook Air in a corner of this office?

The simple answer is that shortly after I arrived in BDX I resolved I would treat the region and its wines as a blank page. That was at the breakfast early on Monday morning at Château Mauvesin Barton in the AOC of Moulis where I have been staying since Sunday evening. In fact, that isn’t anything else than my regular determination to treat each glass of wine I encounter as just that: another glass of wine that either tastes good or doesn’t. I was once told told by a rather important colleague that this is “empiricism”, a term thrown out with a pejorative tone, as if to say, “OK, young man, you might have a bunch of experience and be reasonably intelligent, but I can’t take you seriously!” For me empiricism means nothing but acknowledging how I experience the world – my truth – also that part of it in the wine glass – my truth in wine.

It felt good to make that resolution and I was quietly confident that I wouldn’t find it difficult to keep, because it isn’t difficult for me to do so on a regular basis in Berlin or New York. However, as soon as I started tasting I found it was much more of a struggle here in BDX. The problem is all the baggage in my head. Lugging that around is real hard work. In my case, this is the residue of all the great BDX red wines I drank during the last 35 years on the positive side, and various negative experiences I had in this region and with its wines, on the other side. At almost every moment I felt torn more in one direction or the other, and it was a real challenge to simply merely calm.

There will be more about both those things in the first of my forthcoming series of stories for the Grape Collective website about BDX, but in the meantime let’s continue along this diversion I’ve taken. Watch that space soon!

There’s also plenty of baggage just lying around this place, for example, the famous classification of the wine châteaux of 1855. The proposals various colleagues of mine made for a new classification or for an updating of the existing would only perpetuate the hierarchical structure that pervades the BDX wine industry. Undoubtedly, there are places in the region where it is much easier to make a great wine than others, because some vineyard locations make a sensational grape quality possible that can’t be obtained elsewhere, however well you tend the vines. However, the hierarchy of the 1855 and other classifications of the wines have nothing to do with nature and everything to do with the traditional nature of BDX and French society, in spite of the French Revolutionary principle of Égalité. Although the rigidity of that society has been significantly loosened in recent years you still bump into it. If I look at the way my colleagues are judging these wines, then I have to say most of them are following it some degree.

Jean-Pierre Foubet, Chasse Spleen

Given all that it was appropriate that the best discovery I made during this trip was Château Brans Grand Poujeaux in the AOC of Moulis en Médoc. It’s not even a Cru Bourgeois, the lowest rung of the hierarchy of wine estates here, but the wines are rich and subtle. Moulis has a history of bucking the system and to good effect. One of the first exciting young red BDX wines I tasted was the 1978 Château Chasse Spleen, also an unclassified wine estate in Moulis. While exploring Moulis yesterday it was striking how the wines of Chasse Spleen have maintained an astonishing stylistic consistency since then, always being sleek, fresh and dry and the quality slowly inched up too thanks to the work of director Jean-Pierre Foubet (pictured above) and his team. Around the corner at Château Poujeaux quality is also and the wines have a completely different style again, one that’s suave and elegant. With the 2011 vintage Château Mauvesin Barton became the fourth top producer in this AOC. Even the best recent vintage of all these wines can be found for under Euro 30 a bottle, or a slightly higher number if you’re paying in US$. See www.wine-searcher.com.

Another piece of baggage lying around is the global prejudice that BDX reds are expensive wines, but that turns out only to apply to about 3% of the production of this region: the famous and classified growths. However, even there the differences are huge. 2015 is an excellent vintage here (and most of the better wines will be bottled in a few months time) and the Léoville Barton I just tasted has a combination of ripe black fruit aromas, concentrated dry tannin and fresh acidity that creates an elegant and ravishing whole. You can buy it on futures for a little over Euro 60, and although that’s not cheap it’s certainly not wildly expensive.

Let’s put that in the crazy local context though. The rather lusher and slightly softer, more immediately appealing 2015 from neighboring Château Léoville Poyferré is also a very impressive wine in a more “modern” style for perhaps Euro 5 more per bottle. That seems like consistent pricing until you turn to the other Léoville in St. Julien: Château Léoville las Cases. It’s 2015 sells for about Euro 100 more than that per bottle. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about that vintage, because the Château wouldn’t give me an appointment although I have only written positive things about their wines. That’s not the point here though. In BDX pricing is all about the classification (all three Léovilles are 2eme Grand Cru Classé) and reputation – Léoville las Cases has the highest of the trio. The Médoc Château with the best combination of classification – 1er Grand Cru Classé – and reputation is Lafite Rothschild in the commune of Pauillac immediately to the north of St. Julien. For a bottle of the 2015 vintage of that wine you’ll have to pay another Euro 300 more than the Léoville las Cases of the 2015 vintage. These situations only apply to the top 0.3% of Bordeaux wines though. As Abba famously sung, “Money, money money / Must be funny / In the rich man’s world.”

An old saying says that the higher you climb the further you can fall, and this is very true of this kind of wines. The effect on me of those highs (in wine prices) and those falls (when the taste doesn’t measure up to expectations) multiplied over 35 years are what I’ve been struggling with. The struggle has been well worth while though, and I managed enough calm to gather a lot of new impressions and get a lot of new ideas. However, time is running out to write the first of my BDX stories for Grape Collective…see you there soon.

ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA

Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | Leave a comment

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 1 – WATCH YOUR BACK the Riesling Movie (Part One)

WATCH YOUR BACK

Although work on my movie was completed several months ago my thoughts have returned to it, because my producer and I recently submitted it for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. We feel this would be an ideal venue for it given the unconventional nature of the work. Here is a brief introduction to the project which I began planning in 2013, and for which shooting and editing began in earnest early in 2014. Before leaving New York I did a small private screening for a group of friends and it was encouraging to hear how they found the result funny, but also informative and to see how well they responded to its distinctive style and tempo. Of course, not everyone will love it!

Of course, even the title of the documentary movie I made together with producer, editor and cameraman Klaus Lüttmer of Berlin in Germany will strike many people as abnormal. Either half of the title looks fine on its own, but the combination of the two halves is downright strange. That’s because the 65 minute movie tells a seriously strange story, and we felt it would be cruel to make viewers expecting a regular movie of the kind Hollywood churns out, when it’s actually light years removed from them.

Making this kind of movie wasn’t our intention at the beginning though. Then our goal was to make an entertaining 20-30 minute film about the Riesling grape, its wines and the global network of fans who drink and celebrate them. I’m a British wine journalist living in Berlin and New York and Klaus, who also makes wine in the Ex-East Germany, felt that I would provide a colorful anchor. Believe me, we wanted to tell a seductive tale of wine and food, funky winemakers and beautiful wine regions scattered around the world. However, the unexpected and shocking events that unfolded during the shooting swept us along in a gonzo direction far removed from our original plan. Or would you call it normal that some fans of one kind of wines threaten the lives of certain fans of another kind of wine?

We live in strange times and WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie (Part 1) explores this situation with brutal honesty. When Klaus and I began shooting in New York City and Berlin in 2013 Klaus Lüttmer and I were rather naïve, but it wasn’t long before we realized that our movie could only end up being a dark and disturbing tale drenched in fear and paranoia. Sometimes that made it exciting to work on, but at other times I literally feared for my life as a group of fanatical Chardonnay fans pursued me across America from Venice Beach in LA to Manhattan in New York. Were they only trying to frighten me off promoting Riesling, or were they seriously intending to rub me out? It wasn’t clear.

A number of things made that last possibility seem plausible. The booming American wine market of the early 21st century was the scene of battle for market share and Riesling enjoyed a sustained renaissance there that culminated in a “Summer of Riesling” being celebrated each year in bars and restaurants coast to coast. On the other hand there are almost 100,000 acres planted with Chardonnay in California and the producers of the big brands of these wines form a lobby who didn’t welcomed any of this. No doubt they would have been delighted if all the Riesling advocates had been spooked into silence. Maybe the fanatics making up the self-styled Chardonnay International Army (CIA) were operating without industry support or financing, but their actions appeared to meet with the tacit approval of the Chardonnay lobby.

The prime motive of Klaus Lüttmer and I was to record these events in a form that accurately reflected their nature. Shooting “from the hip” with cameras small enough not to attract attention was often a matter of necessity, but as this strategy developed we quickly came to relish the edgy look it gave our movie. The fact that I ended up shooting large sections of the movie myself – I have a BA in Fine Art from a London art college, but I’m not a trained cameraman – accentuated the grungy aesthetic we locked ourselves into.

However discrete I tried to be about that material my activity with the camera was noticed by the thugs who were trying to intimidate me. To our horror this inspired them to send us a series of videos that made their threats gruesomely explicit. Fearing that it would only enrage them further we bit the bullet and included this material in our movie. It makes an extreme counterpoint to the thoughtful analysis of the development of the global wine industry provided by experts like economist Dr. Karl Storchmann of NYU, but this also seemed to say something important about the contemporary wine world. Wanting to include all those facets made the movie stretch and stretch until we reached 65 minutes.

The result is totally different from other recent documentaries on wine subjects such as Somm (dir. Jason Wise, 2013) or American Wine Story (dir. David Baker, 2014). Nor is there much similarity between our movie and the feature films Sideways (dir. Alexander Payne, 2004) or Bottle Shock (dir. Randall Miller, 2008). Our recommendation is that you see it and if you end up cheering for Riesling, then watch your back!

ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | 1 Comment

New York Wine Diary: T minus 5 Days – My BDX Re-Search

Damien Sartorius

My New York days are numbered and I am busy packing up all my stuff, part of which is going back to Berlin where I will spend the winter and part of which is going into storage here in NYC where I will return to search for a new home in the spring. This unexpected and unwelcome change is thankfully not the only thing happening now. On Sunday November 13th I am flying to BDX (Bordeaux) for a week of research, or as I sometimes call it re-search for a series of articles about BDX for the Grape Collective website. Why?

BDX and I go back a long way. In the spring of 1981 when I was a barman at the Tate Gallery Restaurant in London I tasted my first high-end red Bordeauxs (1971 Château Cheval Blanc was the most decisive experience) and was instantly fascinated. However, my love affair with these wines has been stormy with moments of complete elation, but also some painful shocks leading to periods of virtual abstinence. Of course, the dramatic price rises also dampened my enthusiasm for these wines, but that’s nothing specific to me. Most people have price limits for an everyday bottle and for special bottles, and when your favorite wines break them you either reluctantly abandon them or ration yourself. She who bought herself a 12 bottle case of a particular chateau in every good vintage now either buys a 6 pack (which have become very common since the post 2000 price rises) or buys none at all. This – the erosion of traditional markets and their replacement with nouveau riche markets – is unquestionably a challenge for BDX. The same must also be said of the almost complete disconnect between the market for the top 2-3% of the region’s production and the rest. These are subjects worthy of investigation.

For me there are other, more important reasons that I’ve decided to shortly return to BDX and one of them is pictured above. I got to know Damien Sartorius of Châteaux Léoville Barton, Langoa Barton (both in St. Julien) and Mauvesin Barton (in Moulis) last year in New York and stunned by how much he knew given his age. He is just 26. From the beginning he was asking me when I was coming to BDX and the better I got to know him the more certain it became that I would take him up on his offer to help me write something new about BDX. My goal is to shatter the unquestioned “truths” that are actually just oft-repeated myths and to hang all the boring journalistic clichés out to dry. What Damien is – a winegrower and winemaker with a profound understanding of all the technical issues relating to the production of red BDX with an extremely cosmopolitan appreciation of wine – made me decide in advance to give him a major role in the story.

Of course, every story needs to develop a life of its own, and my story will acquire it’s own dynamic very quickly once I get started. The flights are booked. During the next few days a program for my week in BDX will begin taking shape, then I will start work on the first of the series of stories I will be writing for the Grape Collective website. Of course, that is where my stories about the hipster somms of NYWC  (New York Wine City) appeared. As in that series I won’t hesitate to say exactly what I think, and I shall also adopt an “anthropological” approach to my subject. However, BDX isn’t NYC and the nature of the land and the culture of the region will also shape my story.

To get me thinking I will be tasting and drinking some red BDX, as I did the other day at Racines on Chambers Street with Damien (Thank you Frederick Wildman for the invitation). That first serious taste in a long time immediately connected with my memories of that first Close Encounter of the Third Kind back in the London of 1981, it made me think back to all the sensational bottles that kept my love affair with BDX alive, and made me remember how for decades I yearned for a world in which I could afford to drink top BDX wines at my own expense from time to time. One thing I now know for certain is that this “better” world is never coming. The question at the front of my mind is therefore if there’s also some good news from BDX. Watch this space to find out!

150810_rockstars_rz 

 

Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | Leave a comment

Eppstein Wine Diary: Day 7 – Caroline & Sylvain Reinvent Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen/Nahe

img_1738I sometimes tell people that, “I’m a living fossil with the emphasis on living.” What this means is that I’ve been doing this job in more or less this way for around 30 years. This year in May was the 30th anniversary of my first visit to Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen/Nahe, and my second visit followed 30 years and a few days ago. During those days Armin Diel not only introduced me to the wines of Schlossgut Diel, but also to the first German wines matured in small new oak barrique casks that I ever tasted and to the wines of the Nahe in general. (Although it was clear that Barriqueweine were no less a fashion back then than Naturweine, i.e. Natural Wines are now, it was equally obvious that something lasting would develop out of them and enrich the wine culture of Germany.

Since the fall of 2006 Schlossgut Diel has undergone a subtle, but far-reaching transformation under the current winemaker Armin and Monika Diel’s daughter Caroline (left in the photo), and during the last years she has been supported in this by her French husband Sylvain Taurisson Diel (right in the photo). Sylvain previously held a senior position at Valrhona, and is the only example I know of someone sidestepping from chocolate to wine. He didn’t drink his first glass of wine until the summer of 2009, but this has given him a fresh view of the world of wine that is very different from that of living wine fossils like myself. That has been complimentary to Caroline’s approach, which was decisively been influenced by her experiences of French wines and the French high-end wine industry (amongst other places she did a stage at DRC in Burgundy). The wines she is making now show how well she learned those lessons. For some reason this is a story that hasn’t been well told so far, perhaps because of the long shadow of Armin Diel, and that’s the reason I have to tell it here.

Of course, any wine story is only really interesting if the wines it is associated with taste good, and I tasted more than 30 wines when I visited Schlossgut Diel in order to get a clear idea of what is being produced there today. Most of the Rieslings along with the Pinot Blancs and Pinot Gris (all dry) were 2015s and they were almost all of excellent quality. However, the more important thing is the distinctive new Schlossgut Diel style – powerful and intensely mineral, but never heavy or loud – and the spot-on balance of almost all the wines. The dry Rieslings are never too tart, phenolic or too alcoholic, and when they get some bottle age, as the superb 2014 Goldloch GG had, they acquire a serious elegance and a complex spicy-mineral finish. The Pinot Blancs and “Cuvée Victor” (now mostly Pinot Blanc) are amongst the best examples of this grape from a cool climate that I know, and I was also very taken with combination of charm and character that the Nahesteiner Pinot Gris possesses.

The highlight of the tasting though were the stunning 2015 sweet Rieslings. This has long been a strength of Schlossgut Diel as the dramatic and still impressive 1990s and 1993s show. However, just as Caroline has given the dry wines an elegance they often missed before, so she has given the sweet Rieslings a precise balance that makes them much more charming as young wines than they used to be. My gut tells me that these wines will also age even better too. Here I recommend two relatively new additions to the range as an ideal introduction to these wines. They are the light and still very fresh 2014 Riesling Kabinett (a so-called Gutswein without a vineyard designation) and the more luscious 2015 Dorsheim Riesling Auslese (a cuvée from the estate’s three top sites) that is also available in half bottles. Here is all the succulence that makes these categories so appealing, but combined with floral and herbal notes, the acidity and minerals making the finish light up.

And I will shortly be writing something about the sparkling Sekt in the the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung so will only say now that this is one of the top Sekt producers, with a style closer to the Krug and Bollinger champagnes than any German sparkling wines. And although still rather closed the 2014 Pinot Noir “Cuvée Caroline” is by far the most elegant and sophisticated red wine I ever tasted from the Nahe.

Please note: I know that some of you would like a lot more detail, but that is what I am now doing on JamesSuckling.com since September 1st this year, and it would be a terrible mistake to duplicate. The process of adjusting to this change continues.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

FLX Wine Diary: Day 1 – Knapp’s Reinvention and the 2016 FLX Wine Harvest

Belinda & Jerry

I just arrived in the FLX (Finger Lakes in Upstate New York) where the wine harvest has been briefly interrupted by some rain showers that are actually a welcome change from the long dry summer. It would take several inches more rain to pull the region out of the drought it’s in, but that seems rather unlikely. It wouldn’t be good for the quality of the fruit either, since it could lead to both dilution and rot. Of course there’s a lot of anticipation as to how this vintage will turn out for the FLX after much of the 2014 and 2015 crops turned out so well. That’s why today I leapt at the chance to taste some fermenting wines at the Knapp Winery on Cayuga Lake together with the General Manager Belinda Venuti and the new winemaker Jerry van Vort (pictured left and right above).

Jerry previously worked at wineries in Connecticut and Santa Barbara County, California. As different as the growing conditions in those locations on opposite coasts of the United States are, working in those divergent cool climate regions seems to have prepared him very well for the conditions and general types of wines made here in the FLX. Of course, wines that are still fermenting or have only just finished their alcoholic fermentation shouldn’t be judged in the same way as finished wines in the bottle. Tasting embryonic wines is like reading science fiction. However, it struck me that Jerry’s done a very good job so far at mastering grapes from quite a challenging growing season. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and the Lemberger (a.k.a. Blaufrännkisch and Kékfrankos) red pictured below all made a very good impression. Just look at that color. No filter was used to enhance it, in fact the photograph makes it look paler than it did seen directly.

Knapp Lemberger

 

Knapp is part of the Glenora Group of wineries and getting their own winemaker is important for reasons that go well beyond potential improvements in wine quality. Previously the Knapp wines were made by Steve DiFrancesco of Gelnora Wine Cellars and this lead to the widespread impression that this was just a second label for Glenora, although in recent vintages many of the Knapp wines (particularly the Rieslings) had their own distinctive style. That made a lot of sense, because Knapp has almost 40 acres of their own vineyards and they are located close to Cayuga like, while Glenora Wine Cellars is on the west bank of Seneca Lake. With Jerry’s arrival not only should that style become yet clearer, the independence of Knapp as a winery is finally immediately and easily comprehensible. The winery’s reinvention, which Belinda has been working at for 7 years has entered a new and decisive phase!

PS I continue to be astonished how many people, also people in the FLX, remain unaware of the existence of my e-book (for Kindle – all you need to read it is to download the free app onto your device) about the region and its wines: ROCK STARS OF AMERICA #3: FLXtra with KJR. This was only published a few months ago and it is by far the most up-to-date in depth report on the subject available. Here is the link to it:

https://www.amazon.com/ROCK-STARS-WINE-AMERICA-FLXtra-ebook/dp/B01FBI0STS?ie=UTF8&keywords=stuart%20pigott&qid=1462714774&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

 

150810_rockstars_rz

 

Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | Leave a comment

New York Wine Diary: Day 3 – Martin Tesch, Master of Light

Martin Tesch

Light is not exactly the coolest word in the wine scene and it hasn’t been so for a long time. Many years ago it was rudely pushed aside by “concentrated”, “powerful”, “gobs of fruit”, “mineraly”, “authentic” and, finally the most holy of them all, “natural”. However, light has a long-term German champion in Martin Tesch of Langenlonsheim/Nahe, pictured above. Since the 2001 vintage he has been systematically promoting the idea that dry Riesling should not only actually taste dry, but that it should also be a wine with a certain lightness. I know it sounds like contradiction in terms, but Martin Tesch is radical and uncompromising in all that he does, however, he is not an extremist.

What do I mean by this? Martin Tesch has found that the range of 11.5% – 12.5% alcoholic content fits ideally with the bracing natural acidity and bone dryness of his Rieslings. He doesn’t want to push it any lower than that though, because in his view this would mean sacrificing balance. Martin Tesch has no interest in getting into a numbers game, much less in being holier than thou. Instead, by sticking to this range and this type of balance he has been able to perfect one of the great food wines of the world. It has also enabled him to become one of the most consistent producers of dry whites in the world, regardless of grape variety and region. Since the 2007 vintage every wine I tasted from him was excellent, and every time I encountered one of those wines a few years after release it was every bit as delicious mature as it had been when released. The contrast to some other well known producers of dry Riesling is striking, but even more so if you take some well known producers of Chardonnay. Martin Tesch’s wines have no problems at all with premox (i.e. premature oxidation) of the kind that are widespread with white burgundies.

Tesch 2015 Rieslings

There is, however, one area in which Martin Tesch wants to push the numbers lower and that is the weight of the bottles he uses. It is a little-known fact that by far the largest part of the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine is the glass bottle itself. This is why almost a decade ago the Champagne industry developed a new bottle that is 65 grams lighter than the 900 gram bottle they were previously using. It’s use became standard from the wines of the 2010 vintage and non-vintage blends based on this vintage. With the 2015 vintage Martin Tesch has switched to a 370 gram bottle, down from the 420 gram bottle he used for the previous vintages. (Please note, bottle weights for sparkling wines are higher than for still wines because of the 6 atmospheres pressure in the bottle). The 12% drop in bottle weight at Weingut Tesch may not seem that significant, but compare those 370 grams with the 700 grams weight of the bottle used for Germany’s new high-end dry GGs (Großes Gewächs) wines and it is 47% lower. That is a lot of carbon emissions saved. VDP please take note. And don’t forget, there are even heavier and more fancy bottles out there!

Of course, the wine in the bottle is the most crucial thing for the drinker and 2015 is, by a modest margin (over 2012), the best vintage Martin Tesch has made to date. The wines are not only impressively fresh and vigorous, they are also delightfully delicate and subtle, and, of course, wonderfully light. If you are able to buy direct from their maker they cost from Euro 9 for “Unplugged” up to just Euro 14,90 for the St. Remigiusberg. These are very friendly prices for wines that are this well made and have this much individuality.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

 

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 10 – James Suckling and I

James Suckling

Pictured above in a brief break during a hard day of wine tasting recently at his HQ in Southern Tuscany is James Suckling, the CEO, guiding spirit and main author of www.JamesSuckling.com, one of the most important internet publications about wine in the world. I point this out, because there are still a good number of wine fans out there who’ve heard of Suckling, but are not aware of his influence in Asia, America, Europe and beyond. James gives every wine he tastes a score on the 100 points scale, but as you can he see from the photograph he’s a very different guy to Robert Parker.

The reason that I’m introducing him to you today is that yesterday the first of four stories by me about the dry white 2015 GGs from the members of Germany’s elite VDP (Verband deutsche Prädikatsweingüter) was published on James’s website. It focuses on Rieslings from the Mosel and the Nahe, the best of which are sensational dry whites that you should definitely try if you like elegant and complex dry whites. Beyond announcing the appearance of this report I have to let you know that on September 1st I became  James Suckling’s correspondent for wines of the German-speaking world (i.e. Germany, Austria and Alsace), and will also write about some other subjects for him. I am very optimistic that this is the beginning of a long and fulfilling association between James and I.

The reason I’m so convinced about that is that I’ve known James Suckling since the fall of 1986 when we met at a wine auction in the Rheingau and hit it off right away. For ten years we collaborated until our paths amicably parted again in 1996. I was then a freelance contributor to Wine Spectator where he was the senior editor for Europe. When I visited James a few weeks back we spent two days tasting together and were both rather amazed how closely our views of more than a hundred wines lined up. (Alsace whites are familiar territory for me, but Sicilian whites certainly aren’t and the convergence of views and scores was clear there as well.) This is because we share a deep-seated belief that wines is there for drinking so balance is more important that sheer power and intensity.

My story about the 2015 GGs of the Mosel and Nahe includes tasting notes for 39 wines from the former region and 24 from the latter. It doesn’t report on all the wines of this category produced in those regions in 2015, but 63 tasting notes is a lot to digest, and we felt this is about the limit a single story can successfully carry. You will have to take out a premium subscription to read this story now, but I make no apologies for earning a living, neither does James. Creating this kind of content demands a lot of experience, and a serious investment of time and effort. Those things cannot be offered for free, and anyone who claims they can be should be treated with skepticism.

Please note that the less comprehensive type of material that appears here at www.stuartpigott.com will continue to be available for free. However, the addition of advertising to this site is under review, because currently it costs me money to run and generates no income whatsoever. That policy has only been possible, because I had well paying employers and the losses were written off as the largest item of my publicity budget.

I am convinced that these facts in no way obstruct or diminish the enjoyment and appreciation of wine, indeed the fact that journalists like James Suckling and I have to think about what the wines we report on (because also we can’t afford everything we want) strikes me as a positive thing. Let’s get excited about wine, but also be critical and realistic! I am sure that this is the right basis for good wine journalism and that’s the spirit behind my work both on this blog and www.JamesSuckling.com. WATCH THESE SPACES!

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | 1 Comment

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 3 – How The Hipster Somms Could Get Away With Murder And How We Can Stop Them

Never are the hipster as cool or perfect as when sipping the right “natural” wine!
How The Hipster Somms Could Get Away With Murder And How We Can Stop Them

Yes, Part 4 of my series of outrageous stories about the hipster somms of NYWC (New York Wine City) was just published on the Grape Collective website and the flack has been flying in my direction. Needless to say, some readers were sure before they read a single word – some of them didn’t seem to bother to read a single word! – that they hated what I’d written and they hated me for having written it. Others seem incapable of grasping the idea that I am trying to describe a concrete phenomenon in the smallest number of words (i.e. an article, that is a series of them, not a damn fat book) and through the use of satire to make this seriously entertaining to read. You see, I really do want you to read it and make up your own minds if, as I hope, I have come rather close to describing the true situation in NYWC. Part 4 tries to analyze how the wine city functions as an ecosystem which competing organisms cohabit; a food web! I gratefully acknowledge the inspiration of Jonathan Swift and William Hogarth (18th century Britain), along with that of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolf (late 20th century America). As we Brits say, the truth will out, and if I’ve done my job well, then I have been its medium. As with the publication of Parts 1-3, I am in Berlin, and it is a weird experience to be on the other side of the Big Pond to where the action is. So be it!

Here is the link to the Grape Collective story:

https://grapecollective.com/articles/how-the-hipster-somms-could-get-away-with-murder-and-how-we-can-stop-them

Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | 1 Comment

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 1 – Simone Schiller & Stefanie Brösel – Wine & Spirits Could Also Just Taste Really Good!

Sometimes during the last months it felt like all the young somms of the world were lined up in closed ranks facing me like an army. It seemed that I had catastrophically lost touch with them, because I wasn’t head over heels in love with “natural” wines of all kinds as they seemed to be. Had I become a backward-looking arch-conservative or even the “Trump of Wine”, as one of them recently described me? Sometimes it felt like it!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care about how people think of me or describe me, rather I was worried by the thought that young people working with wine and spirits might no longer be interested in fruit aromas and flavors. That would be sad, because it would mean the end of a great tradition along with all the scientific and other progress made during its development.

Yesterday I stepped virtually straight off the flight from New York to Berlin and ran straight into two talented young women in the Berlin wine scene who gave me a completely new perspective on their generation. Simone Schiller (left) who comes from Regensburg in Bavaria is the chief sommelière of Das Stue restaurant in Hotel Berlin here in Berlin, having previously worked as the somm at Hotel am Steinplatz, also here in the city. She’s just launched two wines with her name on the label in collaboration with Y Sommelier, a new wine producer based in the Rheingau I’d never heard of before. That strikes me as quite an achievement considering that she’s just 24 years of age.

She suggested we meet at the gallery-come-wine-store of her friend Stefanie Brösel, 32 (right) who comes from the wine region of Südburgenland in Austria, and because I’d walked past several times without going in it seemed like an excellent idea. She founded her own wine company in Berlin six years ago, then added a range of spirits she distills herself and opened her gallery-come-wine-store Fräulein Brösel directly behind Café Espresso in the Manteufelstrasse 100 in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin two years ago.

When I walked through the cafe and into Fräulein Brösel at 11am yesterday I found Stefanie sitting on a swing (!) behind her small desk deep in conversation with Simone who was sitting on a low chair that looked more like a child’s stool. Stefanie immediately suggested that I join her on the swing and when I did, I wondered what that was all about. I asked her if she knew the French 18th century painter Fragonard’s work The Swing. When I showed it to her on my iPhone she clearly didn’t recognize it, and from her reaction it became clear to me that the swing was playful in an Alice in Wonderland kind of way, rather than erotic as the French painter’s work is.

Perhaps the Alice in Wonderland feel of this unique room (one wall of it forms the background to the above photo) explains how during the good hour that we drank coffee, talked, tasted Simone’s two wines, then two distillates from Stefanie time seemed to stand still. Maybe it was just my jetlag though?

Simone is one of the brand ambassadors of Y Sommelier, a kind of “flying winery” founded by the Turkish-German Ahmet Yildirim (hence the Y) in Elville/Rheingau. He works with a number of well known Rheingau producers such as Altenkirch in Lorch and Hans lang/Urban Kaufmann in Hattenheim.  That’s a pretty revolutionary concept for the conservative Rheingau!

“Rheingau wines are often too astringent for the charming and smooth style I wanted,” Simone explained. For that reason she chose to have her wines made at the Gutzler estate in Gundheim/Rheinhessen. The Simone Schiller 2015 Riesling is already very open and was brimming with fruit (most of ripe pears!) Although it is juicy in the way most of the dry whites from Gutzler are, it is also properly dry and has a pleasantly crisp finish. At just 11.5% alcoholic content it’s light enough to quaff without any food to accompany it. In contrast, the Simone Schiller 2012 Pinot Noir will definitely show better with food (particularly with fatty meat dishes) than on its own because of the wine’s dry tannins and a subtle earthy quality as well as some spice from oak and plenty of berry fruit aromas

“My wines are optimistic, they should speak to you very directly in a way that is hip,” she explained, and in that moment it struck that what she meant was that for her ripe fruit aromas, freshness and charm in wine are hip for her. From everything I’ve seen and heard about Y Sommelier and Simone Schiller they don’t hesitate for one second to bring the worlds of good food, wine, fashion, music and party culture together, and that’s why the word “hip” seems very appropriate. As she pointed out, fruity wines fit far better into that picture than challenging skin-fermented and more or less oxidative “natural” wines.

I am not the world’s best spirits taster, because I don’t try them neat very often. However, I was very impressed with the clarity, expressiveness and the great harmony of Stefanie’s Haselnuss (hazelnut) and Schwarze Johannisbeer (blackcurrant). In both of them (35% and 32% alcoholic content respectively) the alcohol was barely perceptible and the character of the nuts/fruit from which they were made was dominant. Of course, no artificial aromas were added. To my mind this is the most important quality high quality schnapps should have. The design of the bottles is part Alice in Wonderland, part Tim Burton and like nothing else I ever saw . In fact everything about Fräulein Brösel is like nothing I’ve encountered before. Yesterday was a day of discovery!

The Simone Schiller wines can be purchased for 13 Euros (white) and 15 Euros (red) from Fräulein Brösel. Half liter bottles of the schnapps are 35 Euros, liter bottles 62 Euros. Fräulein Brösel is open from 2pm – 7pm Monday to Friday. Enjoy the fruit!

 

 

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | Leave a comment

New York Wine Diary: Day 11 – ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA Celebrates It’s First Anniversary

The humble beginnings of ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA in Brooklyn

Exactly one year ago today I began work on my e-book series (for Kindle) ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA. The photo above shows what that looked like. At that point I was de facto homeless both in NYC and Berlin, so this was a bold decision and I had no idea where this serious commitment to gonzo wine journalism in the land of the free would lead me and an unsuspecting world.

Since then I’ve published three volumes: #1, describing my first trip to the US – Baltimore – in September 1985, described as if it happened yesterday; #2, a report of my encounters with Maynard James Keenan – the singer of Puscifer & Tool – and the other pioneer winemakers of Arizona, most notably Kent & Lisa Callaghan and Kelly & Todd Bostock; #3, the story of the new community of young winemakers in the FLX (Finger Lakes, Upstate New York) including Peter Becraft, August Deimel, Julia Hoyle, Nancy Irerlan and Bruce Murray. #4, about the non-Pinot Noir wines of Oregon is a work-in-progress, publication date to be announced.

It all feels good now, although there was some difficult moments along the way. The sexually explicit material in both #1 and #2 was widely criticized and #3 was damned for the lack of sexually explicit material!  Many thanks to everyone who bought and/or read and/or talked bout this radical new form of wine literature. Also a special thank you to Kate Fitzgerald-Groby for allowing me to house, garden and cat sit for her in Brooklyn while I started work on this project. I greatly appreciate all your support. By the way, not only is no end in sight, but I intend to continue working on this series for the rest of my days, so help me God!

The strange looking link below takes you to the ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA page at the Kindle Store. Once again, you don’t need a Kindle to purchase or read, just download the free Kindle app onto your device. The iPhone and iPad both display these texts in a form that makes them easy to read.

 

Online shopping from a great selection at Kindle Store Store.
AMAZON.COM
Posted in Home, ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA | Leave a comment