Tag Archives: wine

Bressan in Friuli – “Ingredients” for Making Great Wine

16 Oct

The philosophy/approach to wine and life at Bressan (Friuli, Italy) includes always striving to make better wine. In principle, this is simple…grow good grapes and turn them into good wine. On the other hand, many details go into making great wine. During our visit to Bressan, Fulvio explained many things they do that not only are different from most wineries but also make a lot of sense. What follows is a few of the things we gleaned during our visit, for those of you who are interested in some of the arcane details of wine making.

The winery has been in the family for 300 years. Bressan has land in the Collio (“ponka” soil with calcium) where we visited, and other land with iron in the soil (”ferrettizzato”), which Fulvio says is good for red wine.

We walked among some Pinot Noir vines (see picture of Lori and Jelena between vine rows) and tasted the fruit….the seeds

Lori and Jelena in the Vineyard

were brown, indicating the grapes were almost ready to pick…the seeds shouldn’t taste green. They use both sensory and scientific means to decide when to pick the grapes.

As you can see, grass is not allowed to grow in the rows between the vines because after 4-5 years it becomes a carpet that absorbs water, keeping it near the surface. This would cause the roots to grow toward the surface, which would be dangerous to the vines in a dry year. The roots should be encouraged to grow deep into the ground. Also, Bressan trims the vines early before the grapes grow, so there’s no need to green harvest…”do it right the first time!” Also, the vines live longer if the harvest is kept small….it takes up to 25 years for a vine to produce good grapes, and their vines are up to 120 years old.

To protect the plants, they use natural types of sulphur and copper that only are on the surface of the leaves. In contrast, most wineries use systemic materials that are absorbed into the plant/vine, into their “blood”. Also, they do all the picking by hand, selecting the grapes to be used in the wine as they pick….”It’s stupid to divide it into two steps, picking and then selecting later.”

Their vines have only two branches, one with the grapes for the current year, which will be removed after the harvest and the second one for grapes the following year, with a new branch kept for the ensuing year. Every 5 years they put horse manure in the ground in the middle half way between the rows….it trickles slowly in either direction to fertilize the vines over time.

The ceiling in the winery is painted (by hand) with products from macerated grapes. Bressan uses only indigenous yeast, and the yeast in the paint on the ceiling promotes the generation of the desired. The painting is done by hand since spraying would kill the yeast.

They use stainless steel for fermentation, as wood breathes too much – in typical winemaking a dried barrel from a previous year will cause a reaction if used to make more wine. He feels barrels are a vehicle for oxidation, and uses a saline solution in new barrels to season them. He also uses glass lined cement containers instead of barrels for some of his wine. On the other hand, Fulvio believes wood barrels can be used to add/influence the taste in a wine. For instance, he uses a specific type of cherry barrel for his unusual Pignola wine, and uses acacia barrels mostly for white wine (acacia is used in making sauternes). Mulberry barrels are versatile, finding use in both red and white wines. Silk was once produced in Friuli, with Mulberry leaves the food, so barrels were plentiful. Not any more; Fulvio has barrels made especially for Bressan. The wood for the mulberry barrels is cut with an axe along the direction of the grain…cross-cutting with a saw would close the grain. Fabrication of the Stainless Steel tanks is with cold welding to eliminate possible effects from hot welded metal, and the feet of the tanks are insulated to prevent galvanic effects….talk about attention to detail! The result is great wines!

For more on Bressan, go to     http://www.bressanwines.com/

Research Trip to Central Coast CA- Day 1 Santa Barbara

4 Sep

Yay! No hurricanes this week so we made it to CA yesterday. After an early flight (4:00 AM CA time) so as to not waste a whole day, we made it to Santa Barbara (the city) by early afternoon. This is the first stop heading north from LA, as most of the wineries in Santa Barbara County are well north of the city. We visited four of the dozen tasting rooms in Downtown Santa Barbara. If you ever go, get the brochure with a map and information on all the tasting rooms.

Jaffurs Wine Cellar was first on our list, as we’d heard much about them and some customers had mentioned them as well. We met several people, including David Yates, the General Manager and Assistant Winemaker, who gets to New England now and then. Jaffurs specializes in Rhone varietals, and our favorite was their 2009 Santa Barbara County Syrah (with a touch of Petit Syrah). David also gave us a taste of the 2010, which was being bottled as we stood there tasting wines. A mobile truck/bottling unit was parked in the entry way…it’s typical for small wineries to hire outside bottlers to avoid the investment in equipment they would use only occasionally. As to be expected, the 2010 was a bit “green”, but had nice fruit and will be good once it settles in the bottle and has a little age on it. We also liked a Grenache blanc, viognier and petit syrah. The Grenache was a bit hot, and all the wines had pretty high alcohol levels, which is typical of this region. Except for the Syrah, we think the wines, although very good, are a bit pricey for what they are.

We asked David to recommend a winery that we might not visit otherwise, which is how we ended up visiting Whitcraft Winery. A bottle of Whitcraft is seen in the movie “Sideways”. He said the term “sideways” referred to the channels (valleys) from the ocean in this area that make it a great region for growing wine grapes. An alternative is that “sideways” is the orientation one ends up in when drinking a lot of wine. Drake Whitcraft was pouring, as his staff took the long Labor Day Weekend off.…he’s a character. He was actually drinking ale while pouring wine for us and another couple, and we had a discussion about different ales. Ray wants to get the Stone Russian Imperial Stout. Whitcraft wines aren’t available in MA currently, and he’s looking for a distributor (he gave us contact info in case we could recommend him to someone). He does everything sustainably, uses gravity feeding, whole clusters (no destemming). Ray loved his chardonnay, which is 50% stainless, 50% old oak, and 100% full malolactic fermentation. It was delicious and creamy without having big oak in the mouth. Whitcraft is known for Pinot Noirs, and we tasted several, including one with grapes from Andersen Valley in northern CA. Although each PN had a different profile, there was something similar about them all, which I’m speculating is from his inclusion of the stems in the winemaking process. These wines aren’t for everyone, but are worthy.

Next was Au Bon Climat, sometimes referred to as ABC (not “anything but chardonnay”). These wines are impressive, and at a good value. We will be having some of them in the store at Pairings. The Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend and Chardonnay were all superior. The winemaker, Jim Clendenen was trained in Burgundy, and it shows in all his wines, especially the chardonnay and the two Pinot Noirs we tasted. Our favorite is the 2001 (yes 2001) ICI/LABA, which use grapes from a winery in Oregon, Montinore (which we visited a couple years ago). Both PN’s kept on improving in the glass. These wines are well made, complex and balanced, without being over the top. The last wine, the 2000 Vita Nova “Reservatum” is an interesting/unusual blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. Even after ten years of aging, it could age more, with black spice, dark fruit and assertive tannins. Generally, these wines are drinking well now, but could age. Even the SB is said to age well for up to 10 years…very unusual.

Our final research effort of the day was at Margerum, which one of our distributors had urged us to visit, as she had a customer who adores these wines. We weren’t disappointed. Surprisingly, their Grenache rose is one of the best we’ve had. We had two SB’s one with and the other without oak, the first one with intense fruit and the second one with a richness seldom found in SB. Our favorite was the KLICKITAT Pinot Gris, with a beautiful complex nose, good minerality and surprising power. Their M5 has 5 grapes from 11 vineyards, an excellent food wine. The other reds were pretty hot on the palate. Clearly, the whites (and rose) are the winners for us.

We stopped at a cheese store, C’est Cheese, that Jaffurs had recommended and had some excellent cheeses which we hope to bring to Pairings if we can get them. One was Seascape. It is a cow blend like a cross between a good gouda and a cheddar and is from the Central Coast Creamery, not too far away. We also bought a wonderful earthy, sheepy cheese from Switzerland called Berghueblumen. The outside was covered in herbs and looks like “Brin D’amour” from Corsica. As it sits in the fridge in our room it is getting marvelously stinky!

Then we headed north to Lompoc, where we’re staying for the first four nights. We went to the only “real” restaurant in town, “Sissy’s Uptown Café”, had a nice meal along with a Ken Brown Pinot Noir, which isn’t generally available. The wine list is excellent, with many hard to find wines from this area (and others). We had a good time talking to one of the owners, Steve, who took us around his wine store, recommending different wineries for us to visit. Tomorrow is the “Wine Ghetto”.