Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Winemakers to watch (part III)

The third and final instalment of my round up of 30 hot shot winemakers to watch under 40, originally published in The Drinks Business magazine.

21: Nick Picone (35)

In 2012, Nick Picone scooped The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year award, becoming the first New Zealander to be honoured with the title. Completing his first vintage at Esk Valley Estate in Hawkes Bay aged just 18, Picone became Villa Maria’s youngest assistant winemaker when he joined the Marlborough-based estate aged 24, after completing a two-year BA in wine science and working vintages in California and Italy. Promoted to winemaker in 2004, two years later, Picone moved to Auckland, becoming senior winemaker in 2008 in charge of Villa Maria’s North Island production primarily from Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. Aside from playing the guitar, Picone’s two great passions are Chardonnay and Gimblett Gravels reds. 

32: Dario Pieropan (35)

A fourth generation of the Pieropan dynasty, Dario is responsible for winemaking at his family’s 35-hectare estate in Soave where wine has been made since the 1860s. Alongside his agronomist brother Andrea, Dario is keen to push the boundaries at Pieropan and has pioneered the production of a duo of red wines from his family estate in Valpolicella, bought by his father Nino in 1999. From eight hectares of vines, Pieropan makes Ruberpan Valpolicella Superiore and Vigna Garzon Amarone. In addition, he oversees the production of the estate’s famed whites crafted from Garganega, including two single vineyard examples – Calvarino and La Rocca. Before he joined the family firm, Pieropan gained experience by chalking up stints with Fontodi in Chianti Classico and Silvio Jermann in Friuli. 

23: Louisa Rose (38)

One of Australia’s leading winemakers, Melbourne-born Rose joined Yalumba in 1993, becoming chief winemaker in 2006. Involving herself in every aspect of winemaking and cellar management, during her tenure, Rose has pioneered the Viognier variety at Yalumba, resulting in the creation of The Virgilius Viognier, which has helped put quality Australian Viognier on the map. “I’m passionate about The Virgilius becoming one of Australia’s flagship whites and am looking to get it into the Langton’s Classification, but in order for it to do so, it has to be able to prove that it can age,” says Rose, who makes a number of different styles, from entry level and organic, to an Eden Valley example. Known for her flair and painstaking attention to detail, Rose has also been instrumental in the development of Riesling at Yalumba.

24: Luke Skeer (33)

Coonawarra-born Skeer always wanted to get his hands dirty and worked his first vintage while still a schoolboy in 1996. Hitting the books, Skeer studied oenology at Adelaide University before completing vintages everywhere from Bordeaux to the Barossa Valley. Having returned home, he is currently winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra and scooped The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year last year. “Wine is all about the purity and expression of a region, variety, vineyard and vintage,” says Skeer, who is passionate about sourcing the best parcels across Coonawarra’s renowned terra rossa soils for the estate’s signature Cabernets. 

25: Charly Thévenet (30)

One of a number of rising stars in Beaujolais, Thévenet keeps things simple at his estate, producing just one wine – a 100% Gamay from three hectares of 80- year-old vines in Régnié. The resulting Grain & Granite, which is aged for four years in old Burgundian barriques then bottled unfiltered, caught the eye of American wine author and importer Kermit Lynch, who snapped it up for the US market. The son of famous “Gang of Four” Morgon producer Jean-Paul Thévenet, Charly, who worked a harvest with Piedmont producer Luigi Pira before a stint with the late “Pope of natural wine” Marcel Lapierre in Morgon, chose Régnié as his canvas because he believes the lesser- known, terroir-driven cru has tremendous potential. “I wanted to do something different and put Régnié on the map.”
Louisa Rose

Photo courtesy of Tom Anderson

26: Morgan Twain-Peterson (33)

With self-styled “Zinphomaniac” Joel Peterson for a father and role model, it’s easy to see why Morgan Twain-Peterson chose a path in wine. Raised at Peterson senior’s Ravenswood winery in Sonoma, Morgan developed a fascination for wine at a young age. Legend has it that at the age of five he was already able to distinguish between a Merlot and a Zinfandel. After a brief stint as a wine buyer, travels took him to Hardys in the McLaren Vale and Lynch-Bages in Pauillac. 

Returning to the US fired up with enthusiasm and knowledge, Peterson founded Bedrock Wine Co. in 2007 in a former chicken coop with the aim of spreading the gospel of Californian Syrah by sourcing fruit from top terroirs in the North Coast. In addition to Syrah, Peterson makes Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, rosé and Sauvignon-Semillon blends inspired by the whites of the Graves. He is just a dissertation away from being crowned a Master of Wine. 

27: Rafael Urrejola (39)

Just squeezing onto our list, 39-year-old Urrejola joined Chilean estate Undurraga in 2007 and went on to blaze a trail with his T.H. (Terroir Hunter) series that aims to shine a light on Chile’s diverse terroirs. Promoted to winemaking manager last year, before Undurraga, Urrejola started out at Viña Leyda, where he crafted wines from Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chile’s flagship red grape, Carmenère. With stints at Saintsbury in Carneros, Paul Ginglinger in Alsace, Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault and, closer to home, Montes in Chile under his belt, for his T.H. series Urrejola selects the individual lots in each vineyard that he believes have the most interesting and expressive soils. 

28: Giuseppe Vajra (26)

At just 26, baby-faced Giuseppe Vajra is keen to follow in his father Aldo’s footsteps at their family estate, GD Vajra in Barolo, named after Vajra junior’s grandfather, Giuseppe Domenico. Having recently graduated with a degree in oenology from the University of Turin, Vajra works full- time as a winemaker for his family business alongside his father, with the pair sharing the philosophy that wine is the ultimate unifier. At the 40-hectate estate, which includes 10 hectares of Nebbiolo, Vajra is learning from his father how to hone the signature GD Vajra style of Barolo that displays bright fruit, defined perfume and elegance achieved by striking the right balance between extended barrel ageing and a judicious use of oak.

29: Tamra Washington (34)

Following a stint as a flying winemaker overseeing production from the Veneto for supermarket Sainsbury’s, Marlborough- born Washington has chosen to make a base in the South Island at the green- focused Yealands Estate in Blenheim where she is winemaker. Wine is in Washington’s blood – she spent school holidays working in vineyards, which gave her a thirst for the industry. Graduating with an oenology degree from the University of Lincoln, Washington’s first post was at Seresin Estate in Marlborough, followed by a stint at Franciscan Estate in Napa and time in the Hunter Valley and Margaret River, where she enjoyed getting her hands dirty in the vineyard. The lure of Italy followed, leading to a post as head winemaker for the Calatrasi Group, which involved making wine in Sicily, Puglia and Tunisia.

30: Sebastian Zuccardi (33)

The bright, blue-eyed, eldest son of José Alberto Zuccardi, director of Familia Zuccardi, was put in charge of winemaking across his family estate’s entire range last year. Based in Mendoza, from a young age Sebastian showed signs of sharing his father’s passion for wine. Going on to graduate with a degree in agronomy, Italy and California, in 2000 Zuccardi founded his own sparkling wine project with friends called Alma Cuatro that aimed to push the envelope through experimenting with grape varieties not traditionally planted in Argentina.

Back at his family estate, Zuccardi is involved with the production of a traditional method blanc de blancs sparkling wine, and is passionate capable of producing world class,  fizz, albeit in small quantities. He is also convinced of Bonarda’s potential in Argentina.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Winemakers to watch (part II)

The second instalment of my round up of 30 winemakers under 40 to keep an eye on, originally published in The Drinks Business magazine.

11: Ryan Harms (37)

Ryan Harms caused a storm in a wine glass last November when he released his Oregon-grown Underwood Pinot Noir in a 12-ounce can to try and encourage the “beerification” of wine among consumers. “We wanted to launch a product that embodied our philosophy of making great craft wine minus the fuss. These wines are more about immediacy and the can is an extension of that thinking,” says Harms. The 37-year-old launched the Union Wine Company in 2005 after clocking up several years experience at wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, including six years at Hawks View Cellars. He is adamant to prove that Oregon wine need not always be expensive and has made it his mission to craft quality Oregon Pinot at an affordable price point.

12: Craig Hawkins (31)

Envelope-pushing enfant terrible Craig Hawkins, chief winemaker of organic Swartland estate Lammershoek, also makes natural wines under his own Testalonga label, founded in 2008, including El Bandito old bush vine Chenin Blanc. Inspired by the skin contact wines of Friuli and Slovenia, the wine spends six weeks on its skins before being aged in French oak for two years, while his zero sulphur Cortez Chenin Blanc spends two years on its lees. 

Hawkins’ ultimate goal is to work biodynamically. “I’m an idealist, so I‘m drawn to the purity of natural wine,” he says. Before Lammershoek, Hawkins spent four years working for the Swartland’s spiritual leader, Eben Sadie, and travelling around Europe working harvests at Sadie’s Priorat property Dits del Terra. He also has a side project making Blaufränkisch for Dirk Niepoort’s Austrian venture, Muhr-van der Niepoort. “I like to challenge people’s ideas of what they believe wine should be,” he says. 

13: Johann Henschke (30)

A sixth generation member of one of Australia’s most prestigious wine dynasties, the Henschke family, 30-year- old Johann graduated with a degree in oenology from the University of Adelaide in 2005. He cut his winemaking teeth through stints at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River, Felton Road in Central Otago, Isole e Olena in Tuscany and Arietta in the Napa Valley before returning to the Barossa Valley last year to work for the family business. Henschke is currently focusing his attention on the estate’s cool climate, steep-sloped vineyard at Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills. He is also co-chair of the Grüner Veltliner Group in the Adelaide Hills, dedicated to promoting the production of the aromatic white variety in the region. Organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard are also high on his agenda. 

14: Charlie Holland (37)

One of English sparkling wine’s brightest stars, Charlie Holland recently swapped he South Downs in Sussex for Kent, having taking up the role of winemaker at Gusbourne Estate after a four-year stint as winemaker at Ridgeview. A Plumpton College graduate, Holland’s first job in wine was as a cellar hand at Tattachilla Winery in the McLaren Vale, which inspired him to ditch his career as a civil servant and pursue winemaking full- time. Working harvests in France, California, Germany and New Zealand, Holland returned to Blighty in 2009 determined to make quality English sparkling wine. During his time at Ridgeview, Holland helped to put quality English fizz firmly on the wine map. Having moved to Gusbourne, Holland intends to make the estate’s first home produced vintage this coming year, which has, until now, been produced down the road at Ridgeview.

15: Jesse Katz (29)

Not only was Jesse Katz the youngest ever hired head winemaker in the US when he joined Lancaster Estate in 2010, he also counts singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake among his friends, helping the curly- haired crooner craft a wine for his wedding to actress Jessica Biel last year. To celebrate the nuptials in southern Italy, Katz created Blue Ocean Floor 2009, a red blend from Sonoma County. 

Katz has opted to work exclusively with Bordeaux varieties at Lancaster Estate in California's Alexander Valley, and, over the last four years, has received 90+ Parker points for every wine that he's made. He developed a passion for wine at an early age while travelling around some of the world’s key wine regions with his photographer father. Graduating with a degree in oenology, before joining the winemaking team at Screaming Eagle, Katz learnt the tricks of the trade in Argentina under the guidance of Paul Hobbs and Hans Vinding-Diers.

16: Kristy Melton (33)

A self-styled science geek with a degree in animal science, Melton swapped beakers for barrels after a family trip to the Napa Valley opened her eyes to the world of wine. Enrolling at the prestigious UC Davis in California, she graduated with an oenology degree in 2007, joining Clos du Val as assistant winemaker three years later after a placement at Seresin Estate in Marlborough and a stint at Saintsbury in Carneros making Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. In just two years, Melton worked her way up to the role of winemaker at Clos du Val, making history as the estate’s first female winemaker. Using modern techniques, Melton makes wines across the entire Clos du Val range, from entry level to small lot offerings. 

17: Patrick Moellendorff (25)

Rarely seen without his beloved Great Dane, Muecke, at just 25, Moellendorf is the youngest entrant in our line-up, having recently been appointed winemaker at Ernie Loosen’s Villa Wolf estate in Pfalz. In charge of directing the style and production across the Villa Wolf Range, Moellendorf’s passion for wine and nature began at a young age during summers in his grandfather’s garden. Starting young, he moved from his hometown of Berlin to the Mosel aged 16 to work as Loosen’s apprentice in Bernkastel where he worked in both the vineyard and winery, spending eight years honing his skills. At Villa Wolf, Loosen has deferred all decision making to Moellendorf, who takes a hands-on approach at the winery, overseeing every part of the process from destemming to barrel ageing.

18: Aurelio Montes del Campo (37) 

The son of Chilean wine pioneer Aurelio Montes, Aurelio Montes del Campo was destined for a life in wine. Graduating with a degree in oenology from the Catholic University of Chile, Montes clocked up winemaking stints at Rosemount Estate in the Hunter Valley, Cape Mentelle in Margaret River and Franciscan Estate in Napa before returning home to Chile to join Viña Ventisquero, where he learned the ropes before joining the family firm in 2007 as chief winemaker at the Apalta winery, where flagship wine Montes Alpha is made. Four years later, Montes hopped across the Andes to Mendoza to take the helm at Montes senior’s Argentina estate, Kaiken, where he works across the entire range, paying special attention to the production of traditional method sparkling wines and the development of biodynamic practices.

19: Arnaud Mortet (32)

Taking the reins at his 10-hectare family domaine in 2006 after the untimely death of his father at just 51, Mortet is responsible for winemaking at Domaine Denis Mortet in Gevrey Chambertin, founded by his father in the early ‘90s and now spanning 14 appellations, including Clos-de-Vougeot and Chambertin. At the time of his death, Denis was already leaning towards making a more gently extracted style of Burgundy, and Arnaud seems to have wholeheartedly embraced this philosophy, moving closer to the wines of his great-uncle, Charles Rousseau, that display minerality and elegance without forfeiting his father’s signature palate weight and opulence. One of Mortet’s most ambitious aims at the domaine is to produce a high quality white Gevrey Chambertin made from small parcels of Chardonnay grown in chalky parcels in Daix, north-west of Dijon. 

20: Ricardo Perez Palacios (38)

Boasting an abundant crop of black ringlets and signature black-framed specs, Ricardo Pérez Palacios doesn’t look like your average winemaker. The 37-year-old nephew of Spanish wine pioneer Alvaro Palacios is currently in charge of winemaking at Descendientes de J. Palacios in Bierzo, where he has been instrumental in putting the northwestern Spanish region on the world wine map. Having gained valuable experience through work placements in France at Château Margaux, Château Palmer and Jean Pierre Moueix, along with time in Chile and the US, Palacios returned home to Spain to work under Alvaro’s wing. He is responsible for a trio of wines at the estate: Corrulón, Pétalos and Las Lamas. Recently, under Alvaro’s tutelage, Palacios crafted a £500 a bottle single vineyard Mencía called La Faraona 2011, which is made from a 0.5- hectare plot of old vines on steep slopes that serves as the grape’s ultimate expression. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Winemakers to watch (part 1)

While often associated with old men in red trousers, the wine trade is fizzing with young talent. So much so, I felt compelled to celebrate the fact in a piece published recently by The Drinks Business that rounded up 30 of the brightest winemakers under the age of 40 currently making waves around the world, from Argentina to New Zealand. 

As you might expect, the lion’s share of the list are currently crafting wines in the New World, with the US, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all well represented. France, unsurprisingly, dominates the Old World entries in the list, with rising stars in Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Beaujolais all receiving hat tips, though bright young things in Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK are also helping to shape winemaking trends and push the envelope in their respective countries. Read on for the first of three instalments rounding up numbers one to ten. 

1: Chris & Suzaan Alheit (32 and 31)

Affable husband and wife duo Chris and Suzaan Alheit work with traditional Cape varieties to make authentic Cape whites. They’re passionate about old vines, preferring to let the terroir talk by keeping cellar work simple. Having worked harvests together in California’s Napa Valley, St Emilion, the Clare Valley and the Mosel, the jet set pair made a base at Alheit Vineyards high on the Hemel-and-Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay. Their highly rated debut, Cartology 2011, is intended to be a picture of the Cape as seen through the lens of its mature vineyards. Composed of rare parcels of mature bush vines from Perdeberg, Kasteelberg and Franschhoek, the Chenin Blanc/Semillon blend is naturally fermented and aged in old French oak barrels. 

2: Victoria Ash (34)

Bringing bags of enthusiasm to the English wine scene is Manchester-born Victoria Ash, who joined Hush Heath Estate in Kent as a winemaker in 2010. Ash cut her teeth at Sacred Hill in New Zealand, which led to a stint at Oddbins and a diploma from Plumpton College. Returning to New Zealand, this time to Mission Estate, Ash was soon snapped up by Ridgeview back home and offered the role of assistant winemaker. While envisaging laying down roots in warmer climes, Ash aims to make the finest sparkling rosé England has to offer, alongside small production cuvées, single vineyard wines and estate produced ciders. “The English wine industry is so exciting; I wouldn’t want to be making wine anywhere else,” she says. 

3: Tom Barry (27)

A third generation winemaker at Jim Barry Wines, Tom was named Young Winemaker of the Year at the Gourmet Traveller Wine Awards in Sydney last September. Barry graduated from the University of Adelaide with the same degree in oenology both his grandfather and father attained before him. He spread his wings via stints at Yalumba, Shaw + Smith and Dr Loosen in the Mosel Valley, before returning home to the family business as a winemaker. “I used the time in Germany and Austria to learn as much about Riesling as I could. It’s still underrated in Australia. We have some of the world’s greatest Riesling vineyards in the Claire Valley, and I envisage a huge world demand for these clean, pure, bone-dry styles,” he predicts. 

4: Brooke Blair (35)

Born in South Australia, Brooke Blair currently looks after all red wine production at Jackson-Triggs’ Okanagan estate. Her responsibilities include evaluating quality through batch tasting, preparing blends for bottling and working with growers to monitor the harvest. Her vineyard manager father ignited Blair’s passion for wine, leading her to study oenology at the University of Adelaide. After a three-year stint at Hollick Wines in Coonawarra as assistant winemaker, Blair travelled to Spain to work at Bodega Mustiguillo in Utiel Requena before settling in Canada under the tutelage of Bruce Nicholson and being promoted to red winemaker in 2007. “Winemaking is an important balance between science and art,” she says. “By combining the two, I aim to make the finest quality wine possible.” 

5: Pierre Casenave (36) 

Born in the Pyrenees, Casenave could have quite easily become a doctor rather than a winemaker, studying pharmacy for six yeas at the University of Bordeaux. During a stint studying chemistry in Pamplona, Casenave had a lightbulb moment and realised his calling in life was wine rather than medicine, leading to a degree in oenology from the University of Montpellier. Cutting his winemaking teeth in St Emilion, Pomerol and Stellenbosch in South Africa, Casenave joined LVMH-owned Champagne house Veuve Clicquot as winemaker in 2008 under the stewardship of Cyril Brun and chef de caves Dominique Demarville. Taking an active role in the creation of blends across all wines in the Veuve stable, Casenave is particularly focused on producing Chardonnay from sites located in Vertus.

6: Sebastian Cathiard (28)

Last August, Sebastian Cathiard took over from his father Sylvain as director of Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, which spans five-and-a-half hectares of vineyards in Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-St-Georges andy Chambolle-Musigny, including tiny holdings in Clos Vougueot and Romanée- St-Vivant. Having studied oenology in Beaune, which involved stints at Domaine de Chantemerle in Chablis and Château Smith-Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan, after graduating, Cathiard jetted off to New Zealand for a six-month placement at Domaine Fromm in Marlborough. Working under his father’s wing back home since 2005, he took over winemaking duties at the estate with the 2011 vintage, making wines that offer, according to Jasper Morris MW, “exceptional energy and purity of fruit”.

7: Pierre-Olivier Clouet (33)

The handsome technical director of Château Cheval Blanc in St Emilion graduated from Caen University as an engineer in agronomy. Interning at Cheval Blanc in 2004, Clouet enjoyed the experience so much he returned two years later after securing an oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux. Returning like the prodigal son, Clouet was made technical director of Château La Tour du Pin – a St Emilion Grand Cru Classé estate owned by Cheval Blanc – along with Château Quinault L’Enclos in Libourne, a recent acquisition of LVMH’s top dog, Bernard Arnault. Since 2008, Clouet has been technical director of Cheval Blanc where he oversees production in both the vineyard and cellar alongside Pierre Lurton. 

8: Matthew Day (28)

Fresh-faced Matthew Day has big shoes to fill, having been made winemaker at Klein Constantia in the Constantia Valley, makers of Napoleon’s favourite sweet wine, Vin de Constance. Day grew up in Johannesburg, but an interest in winemaking saw him relocate to the Cape to pursue his passion. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with a degree in oenology, he flew the nest to work harvests at Château Bellefont Belcier and Château Trianon in St Emilion, Elderton Estate in the Barossa Valley and Dancing Hares Estate in Napa, before returning home to work at Meerlust. Day joined Klein Constantia as assistant winemaker in 2008, becoming winemaker in 2010. Rather than take the wine in a radical direction, he aims to build on Vin de Constance’s reputation. 

9: Jochen Dreissigacker (32)

At the forefront of the current Rheinhessen revival, Jochen Dreissigacker (try saying that after a few Rieslings), is crafting some of Germany’s most exciting wines that display both purity of fruit and upfront aromatics. One of the rising stars of the German wine scene, Dreissigacker took over the running of his family estate in 2005. 

Last year, he was voted one of the 100 most influential Germans under 40 by German GQ magazine and had his wines served by Angela Merkel to US President Barack Obama at a dinner hosted by the German Chancellor in Berlin last June. Dreissigacker decided to abandon his studies as a tax consultant to pursue his winemaking dream. At the estate, he favours minimum intervention, only using wild yeasts and stainless steel vats, having converted to organics in 2010.

10: Caroline Frey (35)

Taking the helm from her father Jean Jacques at her family’s 80-hectare Haut- Médoc third growth Château La Lagune in 2004, under Frey’s stewardship the wines have undergone a renaissance, leading US wine critic Robert Parker to gush: “Today, La Lagune is producing wines that are better than anything made during the estate’s glory days in the seventies and eighties.” 

Having graduated from the University of Bordeaux with a degree in oenology, before joining the family business, Frey studied under Denis Dubourdieu for two years at his Graves property, Floridene. During her tenure, Frey, who manages a team of 30, has overseen the rebuilding of the winery at La Lagune and made strides in implementing elements of organic and biodynamic viticulture. In addition to her numerous duties at La Lagune, Frey is also a winemaker at the 110-hectare Domaines Paul Jaboulet Ainé in the Rhône Valley.