A riveting insider's look at the world of fine wine. Telling the stories of the people and the places that shape the world’s most compelling finds. John Szabo, Master Sommelier and Sara d’Amato, a jack of all wine trades, get to the root of the vine.
S2 Ep 9: Australia's Refreshing Whites
The Wine Thieves are finally back with a new episode, perfect for the late summer, at least in the northern hemisphere, in which we share some cool news and information on the white wines of Australia. Many picture Australia as a warm country with beautiful beaches and great surfing, well suited to heat-loving red grapes like grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre (aka mataro) that make up the classic GSM blend, and rightfully so. But this episode looks at some lesser-know, future classic white wines. John and Sara steer clear of chardonnay, despite the many excellent examples, and concentrate instead on the new wave of eclectic and lively whites emerging across the country.
Our special guests are Con-Greg Grigoriou, winemaker and partner at the Delinquente Wine Co. based in Riverland, and the legendary Louisa Rose, head winemaker for Hill-Smith Family Vineyards, which includes includes Pewsey Vale, and, most famously, Yalumba.
Grigoriou has set Deliquente apart from much of the bulk production the Riverland region is better known for, by pushing boundaries and making non-conformist wines in every sense of the word from unconventional varieties like arinto, malvasia bianco, fiano, bianco d’alessano, and vermentino.
Pewsey Vale, on the other hand, put Eden Valley on the world map for riesling. At the same time, Louisa has created an identity for viognier at Yalumba, the first southern hemisphere winery to produce wine from the variety in a style that Rose has been perfecting it for the last twenty years.
Hot or not, wherever you may be listening in the world, this episode will leave you craving a glass of refreshing Australian white wine.
S2 E8: The Old Vines Project, A South African Perspective
In today’s episode: how cataloguing old vines in South Africa has raised standards for fair employment, and sustainable farming and may just prove the key to solving the problem of the country’s most prevalent vine virus. We continue investigating the topic of old vines, this time from a different perspective, as we look to the Certified Heritage Vineyards of South Africa. We hope you’ve built up an appetite for the subject after last week’s head-turning conversation with the South Australian duo of Dr. Dylan Griggs, the man who wrote the Ph.D. thesis on old vines after an extensive study of the old vines of the Barossa Valley, and Prue Henschke, viticulturist for the renowned Henschke winery, that produces two of the oldest single vineyard wines in Australia today.
We know that the term “old vines” helps to sell wine. Trade and well-informed consumers, tend to believe that old vines = better wine. But is that really true? Listen to last week’s episode to find out more about that topic but, spoiler alert, a more accurate expression would be “old vines make different wines”. The Thieves have come to think that those differences are worth preserving and protecting and thus will be discussing a movement in South Africa whose core mission is to do just that - preserve and protect old vines. Winery members of what is known as the “Old Vine Project” can now put a Certified Heritage Vineyards seal on bottles - the threshold for old is 35 years, which is not quite as arbitrary a number as you might think and the seal includes the date of the original planting of each of these old vineyards – a guarantee of authenticity.
Our guests on the program include former lawyer-turned-viticulturist Rosa Kruger who is the founder of the small, privately funded group of crusaders known as “The Old Vines Project”. Kruger is the great-great-granddaughter of Paul Kruger, President of South Africa from 1883-1900, and the one for whom the famous Kruger national park is named. During her travels and tastings around the wine world, Kruger arrived at the realization that old vines not only had advantages on a viticultural level, but also produced better, or at least distinctively, wine.
Rosa’s colleague and counterpart at the OVP, Andre Morgenthal, joins the round table. André has lectured at the Cape Wine Academy and has worked several vintages at Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, Burgundy and made wine on a small Stellenbosch property, Clos du Ciel. In 2001, he joined Wines of South Africa (WOSA) as Communications Manager with a focus on media relations but in 2016 he resigned from WOSA to start his own business, among other ventures assisting Rosa Kruger with the Old Vine Project (OVP).
Also joining the conversation is Andrew Harris of DGB, one of the largest South African producers and distributors of wine and spirits. DGB has developed and built some of the most successful wine brands in South Africa, including Boschendal, Franschhoek Cellars and Bellingham, as well as new projects through Artisanal Brands such as The Old Road Wine Co. and Fryer’s Cove, which DGB acquired last year. DGB is an important member of the Old Vine Project and manages more old vineyards than any other group in SA.
Find yourself a glass of old vines chenin blanc and join the conversation!
S2E7: Old Vines Myths & Facts: the South Australian Perspective
Today's episode takes a critical look at the fashionable and fascinating subject of old vines, some extremely old, how they got so old, how they perform and the wines they produce. Do they make better wine than young vines?
The Wine Thieves ask two world experts from South Australia to weigh in: Prue Henschke, viticulturist for the renowned Henschke winery, including two of Australia’s most iconic ancient vineyards, Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone, and Dr. Dylan Grigg, author of the doctoral thesis “An investigation into the effect of grapevine age on vine performance, and grape and wine composition”. Grigg studied five shiraz vineyards in the Barossa with genetically related ‘young’ and ‘old’ plantings in close proximity. The average age difference between these adjacent young and old blocks was an astonishing 97 years, the greatest spread of extreme of vine ages to be subjected to scientific scrutiny.
And it's a study that couldn't be reproduced elsewhere; South Australia is home to some of the world’s oldest vineyards, including some of the oldest producing vines on the planet.
And the Barossa Valley in particular is rather unique in the world with large areas of surviving pre-phylloxera vines, some with continual production that dates back 180 years.
In 2009 the Barossa Valley instituted the ‘old vine charter’ to register vineyards by age, so that older vines could be both preserved and promoted. The charter classifies vineyards into 4 age categories that include Barossa Old Vines , equal to or greater than 35 years of age, Barossa Survivor Vines, at least 70 years of age, Barossa Centenarian Vines 100 years old or more, and Barossa Ancestor Vines 125 years old or more.
With a glass of fine shiraz in hand, Join the Wine Thieves for this perspective-changing discussion about what it means to be old. You'll have to suspend your beliefs about old vines and the wines they produce. The conversation might very well reset your beliefs!
S2 E6: Technicolour Beaujolais
Who doesn't love Beaujolais? This in-depth episode is all about this picturesque, hilly region and its geological and stylistic diversity. Recent cataloguing of the Beaujolais soils helped bring to light over 300 soil profiles that have been analyzed and described by geologists in tandem with growers, underscoring that diversity (be sure to check out the soil map, published on beaujolais.com.)
The Thieves welcome Mee Goddard to the round table, one of the newer voices in Beaujolais, who launched her Domaine in 2013 with three special bottlings of Morgon: Corcelette, Grand Cras, and Côte du Py. She focuses on “vins de garde”, wines meant to age, blending carbonic and non-carbonic techniques.
Cyril Chirouze is also on the program, Director of Winemaking and manager of Château des Jacques, owned by the venerable Maison Louis Jabot. Cyril made wine in the Côte d'Or before making the move to Beaujolais, yielding to the "siren call" of gamay, and the vast, untapped potential of the region. Today Cyril makes wines in the crus of Morgon and in Moulin-a-Vent.
Mathieu Lapierre is our third star guest at the table. Matthieu's father Marcel Lapierre was a pivotal player in the revival of Beaujolais, one of the "gang of four" who moved towards making wines with a bare minimum of intervention, what are currently often called “natural” wines. Mathieu sets the record straight on what is "traditional" winemaking in the region (spoiler: it's probably not what you think), and explains why gamay languished in northern Burgundy but flourished in the south.
John and Sara also attempt to sort out the status of the lieux-dits in Beaujolais and investigate the difference between a lieu-dit, a climat and a cru at the conclusion of the interview.
Join us as we dig beneath the multicoloured soils of Beaujolais to reveal the secrets of France's most affable wine. Santé!
This episode was produced in collaboration with the interprofessional association of Beaujolais.
S.2 E5: Massaging the Octopus: Galician Cuisine & Rias Baixas with Michelin chef Pepe Solla
The Wine Thieves venture out beyond wine (but not too far) to speak with Michelin starred chef-sommelier José González-Solla (Pepe to his friends) of the renowned Casa Solla, near Pontevedra in Galicia. Once-known for its excellent, traditional, home cooking, when Solla took over from his parents he transformed the business through his inventive style of cooking that's still firmly focused on the authentic flavours of Galicia.
Pepe believes that “Galicia is the best place in the world to be a chef!” thanks to the excellent quality of regional ingredients, and he lets us in on a few of his cooking secrets to get the most out of what's available. There is of course the bounty of the rías to draw from, where sweet and saltwater meet on the Spanish coast, which includes the world's best razor clams, mussels, crab and pulpo (octopus), to name but a few. But inland, Galicia also has a unique breed of pork , distinctive from the Iberian pigs prevalent in the rest of Spain, as well as local cattle and native poultry breeds, abundant produce and a wealth of local cheeses made into unique shapes such as the mushroom-shaped cheese known as Cebreiro, the creamy Arzùa-Ulloa, the golden pear-shaped of San Simón da Costa and the cheese known as Tetilla . . . .
Solla was among the founders of an association called the Grupo Nove, a 100%-Galician gastronomic movement. Members include a couple dozen Galician chefs, champions of their regional cuisine and innovators in the realm, whose aim is to put Galicia firmly in the world spotlight of cuisine.
Salivating? Join us as we ask chef Pepe Solla for tips on cooking at home and how best to enjoy the energetic wines of Rias Baixas.
Rias Baixas: Albariño & Friends in O Rosal
In Episode 4 in a five-part series on Rias Baixas, the Wine Thieves speak with winemaker Emilio Rodriguez of the Terras Gauda winery in O Rosal, the largest privately owned winery in Rias Baixas. Emilio has been at Terras Gauda for longer than he can remember, and he is a big fan of some of the other native grapes of the region beyond Albariño, especially caiño blanco. He speaks about the sweeping changes that occurred in the region, bringing Rias Baixas out of the middle ages of homespun winemaking and into the modern, quality-focused industry it is today.
O Rosal is in the spotlight, the third most important sub-zone of Rias Baixas in size after the Salnés Valley and Condado do Tea. A coastal region in the southwestern corner of Galicia, bordered by the Minho River and Portugal to the south, Condado do Tea to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. O Rosal accounts for about 11% of total plantings in Rias Baixas, and sits in temperature between that of Condado do Tea, the warmest, and Val do Salnés, the coolest.
Albariño is the main variety here, but complementary white varieties loureiro, treixadura, caiño and even godello have a role to play. Terraced, south-facing vineyards along the north bank of the Minho enjoy excellent sun exposure, maximizing the nearly 2200 sunshine hours per year. Ripeness is nudged to a slightly higher degree than in the Salnés Valley, enabling even late varieties like caiño to deliver. Another distinguishing feature of Rosal is the band of schist bedrock that runs through the region, a variation on the otherwise granite-derived soils in most of the rest of the Rías Baixas D.O. You can expect the white wines of O Rosal to tilt more towards stone fruit flavours and relatively generous and rounded palate.
Grab a glass of your prefered Atlantic white and join John & Sara on their continued journey across the misty terroir of Rias Baixas.