The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Clos des Papes and…Clos des Papes!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014My very first wine trip was to the Rhône Valley, one I will never forget. This marked the turning point in my studies to become a chef, taking me on quite the detour to follow my love affair with wine. The Rhône is France‘s second largest wine growing area, a region that offers great diversity of vines and wines. Covering around 150 miles and just under 6,000 estates, it’s demarcated between the long and narrow north region and expansive southern region. Today we are traveling to the south to explore the “castle of the pope” otherwise known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Clos des Papes is a traditional estate firmly established as one of the finest in the region run by father and son team, Paul and Vincent Avril. Although thirteen grape varieties are allowed in the blend (Grenache Rouge and Blanc, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picpoul, Picardan, Terret Noir), Clos de Papes focuses primarily on Grenache with a bit of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cunoise making up the rest of the blend. The wines from the Avril family perfect the balancing act of power and finesse, and this estate crafts wines that can age for decades while maintaining an impressive level of elegance and floral elements that dances across the palate. You will find pinch of spice and sturdy backbone in these wines due to the higher portion of Mourvèdre, which allows the wines to stand out among others. If you enjoy traditional wines from the southern Rhône, you will love these!

Clos des Papes 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1.5L $250.00

Captivating all around, this lovely 2008 is rich and graceful with aromas of violets, black currant, plum, kissed with hints of game and earth and a hint of anise on the finish. With seven years of maturity, this wine has started to soften and is approachable now, but it has the ability to cellar another few decades.

Clos des Papes 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape $129

Velvety and decadent, this gorgeous 2012 is like silk on the palate offering flavors of cherry, black currants on the nose with a rich palate of black fruit with hints of mesquite, pepper and game. Approachable now, this wine has a good decade to go in the cellar, should you have the patience.

Inside IWM, June 15-18, 2015: Drink It Up!

A look back at the week that was

The author with Paolo Bea in Umbria

John Camacho Vidal with Paolo Bea in Umbria

IWM has always believed that when it comes to wine, knowledge is more than power: it’s enjoyment. This week our blog was dedicated to deepening your understanding and love of wine. We began with the second part in our Italian white grape discovery series, this one looking at grapes from Drupeggio to Grillo. We ended the week with Julia Punj’s spirited guide to the cocktail known as the “Flip.” (While these adult beverages aren’t wine, we want you to love what you drink, even cocktails!) In between, Michael Adler poured out his love for Frecciarossa’s under $20 Riesling sparkling wine, and John Camacho Vidal gave you a guide to get the most out of your winery visits.

Our Experts were similarly motivated. Looking toward Bolgheri, David Gwo picked two iconic Merlot wines that he loves, one from Le Macchiole and another from Tua Rita. Will Di Nunzio finds that, as much as he gets caught up in the spectacle of new releases, sometimes unusual, obscure wines with great back stories pull him to the glass. And Crystal Edgar let her first love, Bordeaux, be her guide in her selection of a pair of St. Emilion vintages from Château Pavie.

Here’s to knowing–and loving–what’s in your glass, whatever libation it may be!

Expert Picks: Château Pavie and…Château Pavie!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Bordeaux is where I began my love affair with wine. While in culinary school, I won an award and a trip with the Commanderie de Bordeaux to spend a season traveling and tasting through the different areas of Bordeaux. I found it thrilling to make my way through each appellation, meeting the winemakers, spending time in the cellars and tasting through the wines of the region. I was very much in awe of the Left Bank royalty, or Grand Cru Classé wines, of Pauillac, Margaux and Haut Brion, but I found my sweet spot on the Right Bank, the land of Merlot. If I had to narrow it down, my fondest memories from the trip were in Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, Pomerol and, lastly, St-Emilion. If I should be forced to choose only one of those areas to retire, it would have to be St Emilion.

The charming town of Saint-Emilion holds over 900 individual producers. Growing grapes since Roman times and the source of some of the world’s greatest Merlot and Cabernet Franc based wines, Saint-Emilion makes some of the most magnificent wines I’ve ever tasted—Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot being a few examples of wines at the top. These are names that carry huge reputations and, as to be expected, large price tags. There are, however, delicious wines available from this region for a fraction of the price of the top names, Château Pavie being one of my top picks.

Château Pavie has become a fabulous first-growth quality estate, offering gorgeous complexity and richness. Located along the hillside cotes of St. Emilion, Château Pavie’s beautifully situated vineyard lies just southeast of the town. It is the largest vineyard among the St. Emilion Premiers Grands Crus Classé properties and also one of the best-known St. Emilions, made in a slightly lighter, more elegant style that some of its neighbors. Today I chose to highlight two fantastic vintages, 2010 and 2011.

Château Pavie 2010 $409

A blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this powerhouse Pavie is bold and super concentrated and shows incredible structure and character. Certain critics and writers rated this vintage just behind the incredible 2000 vintage. A tremendous wine for the cellar, the key is patience here. With time to soften, this wine will be an absolute knockout!

Château Pavie 2011 $199

The 2011 Pavie is also composed of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it possesses surprising approachability in its infancy, which is somewhat disarming because it goes against the big, broad-shouldered style of wine that Pavie is known for. Complexity is the name of the game here, and one of the standouts from the region in my opinion. This awesome vintage shows off gorgeous texture and brilliance while maintaining great balance and harmony.

Inside IWM, April 13-16, 2014: Other Places, Other Wines

A look back at the week that was

Château Margaux

Château Margaux

IWM clearly has been struck by wanderlust. It’s most evident by Garrett Kowalsky’s post about his upcoming trip to Italy, where he details the three things you should know in planning your trip. However, it’s just as plain in Robin Kelley O’Connor’s detailed history of Bordeaux’s Château Margaux, and our primer to the indigenous grapes of Friuli (get your red-hot Refosco and Picolit panda here!). Only David Bertot seems pretty happy to be at home with his bottle of Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum, but then he also made risotto for his wife.

Our experts enjoyed sharing a little knowledge with their picks this week. Crystal Edgar explained “winemaker’s vintage” with two bottles of 2002 wines. And Will Di Nunzio explored cult wines with picks from Italy’s North, Sandro Fay and Miani.

Cheers to you and your wines, wherever you may be, and wherever you may wander!

Château Margaux – Four Centuries of Winemaking, Part 1

The history, the majesty, and the inspiration of Bordeaux’s great Château Margaux

Château Margaux

Château Margaux

Aside from the topography, grandiose estates, great wines, and the power of nature, one of the aspects of Bordeaux that has always intrigued me is how certain properties endure. Château Margaux is one of those rare entities: an estate that has enjoyed four centuries of excellence. I have had the rare privilege recently to partake in two Château Margaux intensive seminars: the first one was hosted held at the Consulate General of France in New York City, and the second was this past weekend at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine event in Monterey Bay, hosted by the estate’s Commercial Director Aurélien Valance.

In the twelfth century, Château Margaux went by the name “La Mothe de Margaux” (the Margaux mound). It wasn’t until 1572, when many Médoc estates abandoned grain for wine, that the noble Lestonnac family began planting vines. By the end of the seventeenth century, Château Margaux comprised 655 acres, a third planted to vine. This time period say innovations at Margaux that may simple to the ear today but were quite novel for the era. First, red grapes were separated from the white grapes and vinified separately. Second, they stop harvesting at dawn when the grapes were covered in dew, whose humidity caused color dilution and paling. In essence, this was the birth time of modern viticulture and vinification, when owners, estate managers, vineyardists, and cellar masters started to understand the importance of the soil, and the influence of the terroir.

Grapes and terroir at Château Margaux

Grapes and terroir at Château Margaux

The eighteenth century was known as the “Golden Century” for its Bordeaux expansion. In 1705, the London Gazette advertised the auction of 230 barrels of Margaux, calling it a great Bordeaux growth. The 1771 was the first Bordeaux vintage that Christie’s catalogue called “claret,” and in the late eighteenth century, the notion of Bordeaux First Growths or ‘Premier Crus’ came into being. United States Ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson developed a deep love for Bordeaux and, in particular, for Château Margaux. During his ambassadorship, Jefferson bought casks of Margaux, shipping many back to his Monticello wine cellar, writing, “There couldn’t be a better Bordeaux bottle” when he placed an order in 1784.

1855 saw the Second Universal Exhibition in Paris, when Emperor Louis Napoléon III mandated a classification of selectBordeaux wines from the Médoc, Sauternes and Barsac. A blind tasting was organized in Paris to divide sixty-one properties—sixty from the Médoc and one from Graves—into five quality levels, which led to the creation of the official classification of 1855. Margaux was classified as a First Growth, or Premier Grand Cru Classé, just one of four châteaux to receive such honor. For 160 years, Margaux earned its elite position as the best of the best through continual innovation, dedicated research, and leadership willing to make the necessary sacrifices to maintain the status of Premier Grand Cru Classé.

A château as great as Margaux needs more than one blog post. Stay tuned for the next installment, which will take a look at 1855 to the present, exploring why Château Margaux is a leader in the making of world-class wine.

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