I was introduced to Altos de Luzón, a wine from Jumilla, this past winter and was entranced by a small, relatively unknown wine region in southeast Spain that has been growing grapes and making wine for over 5,000 years. When I was planning a holiday in Spain, Jumilla was my go-to destination.
Sommeliers-turned-winemakers: a predictable career move for restaurant wine professionals. Despite the large number of stories such as these among sommeliers, many are not vanity projects; instead, unique endeavors of true passion for a particular region or style.
California hardly conjures up an image of a wine region struggling with an identity crisis. But there are areas of the Golden State that have never fully defined a winemaking niche.
There’s a reason that the Italian Trade Commission has held an annual wine fair in New York since 2009. Imports of Italian wines to these shores have increased enough that in 2010 Italy surpassed France to reach a market share of 30.3 percent compared to 24.5 percent for France, a country whose position at the top of the import heap was unsullied for decades. No wonder that the phrase often repeated during VINO 2011, held at the Waldorf Astoria the last week of January, was that we are in “a golden age for Italian wine.”
Most wine tasting room visits tend to be similar; people lined up at a bar sampling the current releases. Occasionally wineries offer a barrel tasting experience, where a tour guide (or if you’re lucky the winemaker) will use an oversized pipette, commonly referred to as a “wine thief,” to extract samples of wine from barrels. This allows the taster to observe how the unfinished wine is evolving before it is bottled. While opportunities like this are rare at most wineries, one producer in Boulder, Colorado goes a step further.
From a certain point of view, winemakers don’t make wine; yeast and bacteria do. Juice becomes wine by the miracle that is fermentation, the conversion of sugar to alcohol and other compounds. Since I’ve yet to see a human person ingest sugar and expectorate alcohol (whoa…don’t follow that mental image), winemakers must delegate this key operation to yeast.