We are continuing our series to take a look at one of our favorite winemakers, Emmanuel Lassaigne. Manu is a rare breed: someone who works very instinctively and puts all his powers of creativity into action, seemingly without fear of failure or concern for what the market wants. He makes the Champagnes he wants to make, and he takes huge risks in doing so; risks that others would never even consider taking. He does all this almost entirely by himself, working alone in the vines and in his cellar throughout the year. We find the results to be truly stunning: incredibly focused and alive wines of terroir that are crystal clear renderings of the best Champagne has to offer. We’ll continue with this series throughout the fall season.
Emmanuel ripped up all his Pinot Noir vines. He previously made two cuvées, les Papilles Insolites, a 100% Pinot Noir champagne, and his rosé, which was light and just barely graced with a hint of red fruit from the 10% Pinot Noir in the blend. People (including us!) loved this wine as a light rosé Champagne with racing acidity. He sold both these Champagnes with ease every time they were released, and had totally viable markets for them. But Emmanuel thinks the best expression of his soil is through the Chardonnay grape, so he completely ripped out all the Pinot Noir vines and has since replaced them with Chardonnay. Emmanuel will not see the results of his labors for a minimum of another 10 years, and really it will be much longer than that; 3-5 years for the new Chardonnay vines to grow into anything that will produce grapes suitable for making wine, and then 3-5 more years for that first wine to ferment then age in the bottle. In fact it will be even longer than that before we really get to taste the results of this new vineyard, as Manu almost always combines at least 2 vintages to make one cuvée.
Manu makes radical choices, as we see time and time again, without regard for quick profit or the taste of the market. He makes the choices he wants to make, and what his instincts tell him are the right choices, for his soil, and the right long term choice for the winery.
There are moments of working in the NYC wine industry when we can feel disconnected from the wine we are working with. There is something about rolling a wine bag into the subway and down the crowded streets of the city that feels (and is) so very far away from where it began. This is why it’s so important and refreshing to spend time on the vineyard – to feel the soil, breathe the clean air, get your hands (and feet) dirty and re-connect with the earth. This is, after all, where all the important things begin.
I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Joe Pedicini and his team outside of Hillsboro, Oregon in the Willamette Valley and experiencing the magic of harvest. Long hard work days are followed by long nights of talking and laughing over homemade food and wine and the reward is spending a lot of time with talented, amazing people and the ability to actually taste what they’ve created.
The weekend started on an uncharacteristically warm and sunny October weekend at Ruby Vineyard where Joe has been making his wine for 2 years now. Steve and Flora are a husband and wife team who own the house and vineyard where neighbors pop by for a coffee or to put in a few hours of work and even just to say hi to the crew and pet Stanley, the vineyard dog. Two interns and a handful of other harvest helpers make the winery buzz with excitement and a family vibe where it doesn’t feel quite like “work.” The backdrop is sprinkled with green hills and mountains with Mt. Hood standing proudly in the distance, wearing a pink hat at sunset and everyone stops to stare.
We processed 20 tons of fruit while I was there and 2014 was a perfect growing season. The fruit tumbled onto the sorting table in near perfection, only a few leaves here and there to pick out, all of us snacking on bunches throughout the day. I decided to pick Joe’s brain about the other vintages and vineyards he works with.
The 2011 Crawford Beck just arrived in NY at the beginning of October. 2011 was a cool, rainy year – harvest was a nearly a month later than in 2014. Every vintner has a different way of deciding when to pick; Joe uses both testing and taste – and in 2011 when the brix were measuring but the flavors were not developed enough for his palate he waited a bit longer. A small and perfect window for picking finally arrived and though it was a bit hectic, the fruit came in beautifully and worth the wait. Crawford Beck vineyard is owned by David and Jeanne Beck and according to Joe is meticulously farmed. Always using at least 50% whole cluster fermentation, he likes what the stems bring to the wine, herbaceous aromatics, and silky tannins when the wine is aged and ready. The cool year brings great acidity and balance, and in the end a wine that is more delicate and floral than in warmer years.
The most interesting thing about the Crawford Beck Vineyard is the two soil compositions living right next to each other. The Dijon 115 clone is grown on a slope where the top slope is volcanic soil and the bottom is marine sediment. Though the fruit is grown just steps from one another they make completely different wines – terroir! Joe has always vinified the two wines separately and later blended them to make the Crawford Beck Pinot Noir we know and love in NY. But recently, he started making two separate wines to showcase how these soils produce very different wines from the same vintage. In the future he will make three wines from Crawford Beck, with grapes grown in the different soils alone, and one as a blend. We can’t wait to taste them!
Joe started working with a couple of new vineyards in 2012 – Kathken vineyards and Momtazi, a biodynamic vineyard. Kathken Vineyard, from which the 2012 Pinot Noir also just arrived in NY, is a high elevation vineyard with Jory and Nokia soils. In 2012 the conditions were perfect — almost too hot in some areas but with the high elevation at Kathken, a cooler AVA from the nearby Pacific influence, the ungrafted old clones of Wädenswil and Pommard fared perfectly.
While Joe has a method for his winemaking it’s refreshing to see that he’s not afraid of the unknown – throughout the weekend he pulled some fruit aside for various experiments just for the sake of trying new things and learning by doing each year. While processing some perfect Gewürztraminer fruit we decided to hand squeeze a bunch into steel pots to skin ferment and later bury underground for a few months.
So what about the wine? It starts in the vineyard but it ends in the glass! The wines of Montebruno are reflective of the precise work that begins in the vineyard. In the glass they are expressive, thirst-quenching, and full of life. Wine that is delicate yet complex and interesting. Pinot Noir that embodies the terroir from which it came yet somehow echoes the style of Burgundy.
In honor of La Fete du Champagne, we’re kicking off a new series to take a look at one of our favorite winemakers, Emmanuel Lassaigne. Manu is a rare breed: someone who works very instinctively and puts all his powers of creativity into action, seemingly without fear of failure or concern for what the market wants. He makes the Champagnes he wants to make, and he takes huge risks in doing so; risks that others would never even consider taking. He does all this almost entirely by himself, working alone in the vines and in his cellar throughout the year. We find the results to be truly stunning: incredibly focused and alive wines of terroir that are crystal clear renderings of the best Champagne has to offer. We’ll continue with this series throughout the fall season.
From the beginning of his winemaking carrier, Manu has been willing to take big risks based on his own instincts and make decisions in isolation from the opinions of others. Before Emmanuel took over the winery from his father Jacques in 1999, he worked in the industrial packing industry with zero experience making wine. He studied the vines and winemaking for a few years, by himself, and decided he was ready to make his first vintage in 2002. He then promptly cancelled all orders with their existing client list. He knew he was going to completely change the way the wine was made, and he didn’t want to be beholden to any customers who preferred the old way. He chose to start completely from scratch. He built an entirely new list of clients, starting with the then small but slowly expanding Paris natural wine scene.
He began by converting to organic viticulture, putting a lot of time and effort into the land and the vines. At the time in France for certain, but especially in Champagne, this was considered complete madness. Grapes from Montgueux, the area in Champagne where his vineyard is situated, were and still are almost all sold to larger houses at very lucrative prices. Manu’s neighbors thought he was a total lunatic at first, although they now respect what he has done. Manu did this because he had a vision to create wines of terroir; to showcase the unique different parcels of the vineyard. He didn’t make these choices because he had spent time with other natural winemakers like Marcel Lapierre, and he had never heard of Anselme Selosse. He just thought it made sense, so he walked away from guaranteed income and clients to start everything anew and make wines the way he thought they should be made.
Come protest Global Warming with the Jenny & François team! We are passionate about this subject for many reasons, but as people of the wine industry who work closely with winemakers around the world, we have to acknowledge the effect of global warming on grape growing. On Sunday September 21st, we will join the People’s Climate March at 11 AM on 77th St. and Central Park West to march as a group of wine lovers who want to take back the terroir and bring awareness to this growing problem. Check out the website here: http://peoplesclimate.org/
Research shows that if climate change patterns progress as expected with higher temperature and droughts, grape-growing regions will shrink by nearly 80 percent by the year 2100. We don’t want to be in the raisin business! Please come by for an hour or two and walk with us – we’ll be the ones holding the banner that says “Winelovers Unite: Take Back the Terroir!”
We’d love to see a giant group of wine drinkers, industry or not, walking with us on Sunday the 21st to continue the battle against global warming. Please send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can make it so we know how many to expect. We look forward to marching with you!
In Vino Veritas,
The J&F Team
Jean Luc le Du has been a fixture in the New York City wine scene for almost two decades now. He helmed the list a sommelier at restaurant Daniel in the mid 1990’s and also designed many of the lists at Daniel Boulud’s renowned restaurants, including Café Boulud. He opened le Du’s wines in 2005 and put together a slick, huge, and very successful wine store that is one of the city’s best. Needless to say, Jean Luc has tasted and bought an incredible amount of the world’s most storied wines.
However, we wanted to sit down and talk to him about another one of his passions- natural wine. Nestled amongst the Grand Cru Burgundies at le Du’s, you’ll find treasures from the world’s top natural winemakers as well- Olivier Cousin, Frank Cornelissen, and Grange Tiphaine just to name a few. Check out the video to learn what Jean Luc likes about natural wines:
These days, with scores of new natural wine importers scouring Europe for the latest and greatest finds, it’s not every day we run across an example of stunning, zero sulfur, natural wines we’ve never heard of before. But that’s exactly what happened to us last Fall when we all first tasted the wines of Franz Strohmeier.
Franz has been making wine in Styria since 2003, works with indigenous local grapes we never heard of (blauer wildbacher anyone?), experiments in his vines to get as close to nature as possible, and makes a host of wines with zero addition of sulfur. Needless to say, on paper we were very eager to try these wines, and then when we tasted them in our office, our entire team practically broke down in tears at how good these wines were.
We are beyond excited to share the first five wines we brought in with the New York City market. The sparkling wines wow with freshness and drinkability. In fact with just one day on the street with these wines, I’ve never heard so many wine buyers say they forgot to spit before. The TLZ zero sulfur wines are full of finesse and vitality, and the subtle amount of skin contact used in these wines drives us wild with visions of fine dining pairings that would knock our socks off.
A few days ago I opened my e-mail and there was a message from Giovanni Raiti, one of the winemakers at Vino Quantico in Sicily. He sent a photo of the volcano, Mt. Etna, in a beautiful eruption and said “I think it wanted to celebrate the arrival of our wine in NY! To think, we were just walking up there a couple of months ago!”
It is definitely pretty wild to think in August we were hiking at the top of this volcano and just a few days ago it was spitting lava on those same trails. Between the eruption and the arrival of the Quantico wines in New York, I thought it was time to pick up where I left off on my Sicily adventures and fill you in on these exciting new wines to the Jenny & Francois family.
Situated in Linguaglossa on the North side of the famous active volcano, Mt. Etna, I found myself in another special and truly fascinating place – Vino Quantico. I can’t say I had ever been in a vineyard that has actual volcanic rock from an eruption a few years ago that came so close to Linguaglossa it left ash on their car windshields and black rocks scattered throughout the vineyard.
The Quantico wines are made by Giovanni Raiti (below, right) who works mostly with the white vineyard and Pietro Di Giovanni (below, left) who works mostly with the red.
I kicked my boots over the yellow powdery ground which I later learned is sulfur coming from the crater. It was so strong and stinky it took our breath away and we had to walk with napkins shielding our faces like a filter (don’t worry, they aren’t putting any in the wine!)
It felt like we were walking on the moon at the top of Etna and I was surprised to see thousands of lady bugs all over – hiding in tiny crevices of burnt rock, flying into me while I was hiking into the wind. It was strange and enchanting at the same time.
Halfway down we took a lunch break and Giovanni to my surprise took off his backpack, unpacked prosciutto sandwiches, wine glasses (not plastic!) and two bottles of his white wine, made from Carricante, Catarratto and Grillo. The wine is fermented on the skins for 24 hours; it’s a medium to full bodied white with great complexity, citrus and spicy herb notes finishing with perfect acidity. I remember the most extraordinary feeling of drinking this gorgeous wine and sitting on the side of the volcano that made the very soil that produced it. The soil of Etna is extremely fertile and produces wines with great acidity and long aging potential.
After the hike we drove to the vineyards; there are 3 – one for the white grapes, one for the red grapes, and a separate older vineyard that belonged to Giovanni’s father where they still harvest 20% of their grapes. The vineyards have been organic since 2007 and they are growing 5 varieties, Narello Mascalese which is the primary red grape, Narello Capuccio which is blended mostly for color with it’s a dark black/blue skin and the three white grapes mentioned above, Carricante, Catarratto and Grillo.
The white vineyard looks up at an ancient Greek/Roman town, Castiglione di Sicilia which takes its name from Castel Leone, or remote fortress. The ruins still stand and you can see the castle in the distance from the vineyard.
Besides making delicious wine, Giovanni and Pietro were two of the nicest people I’ve ever met and were truly gracious hosts. We finished the evening at a restaurant in Randazzo that specialized in mushroom dishes and finished the rest of the wine they brought alongside some of the most incredible mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. Their red wine was the perfect companion, a blend of 90% Nerello Mascalese and 10% Nerello Cappuccio and aging 12 months in a mix of new and old barriques, the wine is spicy and aromatic with a beautiful balance of acidity, bright red fruit and soft tannins. You would never guess it comes from such a warm climate. Pietro even brought a bottle of Passito, a sweet wine made from dried grapes from the first vintage he ever made and we clinked glasses. An old wine shared among new friends and the perfect ending to a day filled with history, terroir, new found knowledge and just enough indulgence…
Stay tuned for tales from my other two vineyard visits.. coming soon!
Emmanuel Lassaigne, our amazing champagne winemaker, is coming to New York, and his plane lands this evening, on Halloween. He’s only here until Sunday, so if you want to break bread with him, you’ll need to buy a ticket to the amazing dinner Rouge Tomate is putting on Saturday. Apart from that, if you follow our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds, we might just clue you in to where we’re hanging out until all hours, maybe at The 10 Bells or perhaps Pearl & Ash.
In the meantime, we thought this was a perfect time to watch this video we shot over the summer, of Emmanuel demonstrating his manual disgorgement technique:
There are a lot of issues at stake in Olivier Cousin’s resurgent court case. To read about the whole mess, you could check out our old posts here, and for the latest updates, read Jim Budd’s post here. The heart of the issue is not a mere case of overly tyrannical wine labeling laws, or even the bureaucratic AOC disaster. The real problem, and the one Olivier cares most about, is the government sponsored funding of industrial polluters and the fall of the small farmer and winemaker in France.
Many of these truly industrial wines from France are a product we don’t encounter in the United States. When you go to a supermarket in Paris, you will see wines from every prestigious appellation, including Pomerol, Sauternes, and Saint-Emilion, all at a price of 10 euros per bottle or even less. Due to the ranks of American importers combing through the mass of French wines searching for quality, most of these mass produced wines don’t make it to the United States. Here in the US these appellations command top dollar and are thought of as rare gems, pillars of the AOC system. But the reality is that the AOC system has been diluted and corrupted by these sham wines, until it has become almost meaningless.
The same is true of the wines of Anjou, Olivier’s homeland. The bulk of wines from this area now come from overproducing vines doused in herbicides and pesticides, and the reputation of the wines has tumbled into obscurity. In a letter he wrote in 2011, when this whole fiasco started, Olivier recalled how before 1980 his small town, Martigné-Briand, comprised 120 winemakers, 800 harvesters, 5 bistros, and 800 hectares of vines. Today there are 40 agro-business wineries, 2 vine growers, 40 harvesters, 2 bistros, and 850 hectares of vines.” The Layon river, once one of the cleanest and most beautiful in France, is so polluted you can’t even swim in it anymore.
If the AOC system is supposed to ensure quality and standards of wines, why does it promote these low quality, industrially produced wines? It seems the answer must lie, as it does so often these days, with the power of big business and industry, and corruption in the systems that partner eagerly with those businesses. In 2005, the final straw for Olivier was when the AOC allowed chaptilization and acidification in Anjou wines, something that had never been permitted before. For him the AOC had crossed the line and was now fully in support of the very same companies that destroyed his local river and forced out the small family run wineries.
Olivier left the appellation at that point, but in protest, he decided to leave “Anjou” on the labels. He hoped to point out how ridiculous and unfair the system was, and at the same time felt he should be able to tell his customers where his wine came from. Always one with a sense of humor, he later adorned his boxes with “Anjou Olivier Cousin”, with AOC in big red letters. The AOC rightly saw these moves as a threat to their dominion, and that’s why they’re attempting to teach a lesson and make an example of Olivier.
For those of who believe in French wines of quality and aren’t interested in the needs of big business to market and sell their products, this issue is enormously important. This is a David and Goliath fight Olivier has taken on. He risks his entire livelihood and even prison time for his protest, and for these actions, we commend him. If you feel the same, why not buy a tee-shirt to help support his defense fund?
I can tell Sicily will be a unique and incredible place before the plane even lands. My face is pressed up against the plane window and I see mountains and beautiful serene turquoise water. The kid behind me is kicking my seat and I’m so excited I could kick him back (I don’t). I’ve heard it before, and it’s true – it feels like a separate country compared to mainland Italy, and the wine follows suit- a whole new terroir to discover. Though I took this trip as more of a vacation, the vineyards were the highlight – that’s what happens when you are lucky enough to work with amazing and talented winemakers who invite you into their homes and seat you at their table. To share the local food and wine of a place with the people who make it is a truly special experience and I wanted to share a bit of it with you in the coming weeks.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one of four sales reps for Jenny & François Selections and have been with the company for two years. My interest in wine began long ago during many years of working in restaurants. I became particularly interested in natural wine after working on Long Island’s North Fork at Shinn Estate Vineyards, where they grow grapes organically and have a more holistic approach to winemaking. After exploring the tastes of natural wines my palate wouldn’t have it any other way. My love for wine has really been fueled by my passion for travel which has been a part of my life since I was first allowed to get on an airplane by myself at age 12 to visit a friend who moved to Florida. Over the years my love of culture, food, wine, and history has brought me to a myriad of amazing places, from the mountains and jungle in Peru and Ecuador, to wine regions in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. I once spent a week with a family in Morocco who cooked the best food I was ever allowed to eat with my hands. Wine for me is a symbol of life, enjoyment and reward for hard work in the way it can join cultures, history and people into a bottle and around a table.
This summer I was able to spend time at three of our vineyards in Sicily– Bosco Falconeria located 40 miles west of Palermo, Azienda Agricola Serragghia in Pantelleria, and Vino Quantico in Linguaglossa, near Mt. Etna. Each one was special and unique, with abundant history, different terroir and lovely families behind the scenes.
I have too much information and too many beautiful photos to pack into one newsletter. So this is me saying stay tuned until next week so I can take you on a little trip and share more stories with you.