I had the great pleasure of visiting this week Yvan Meyer and his family at Château d’Orignac, located in the Fins Bois appellation of Cognac, the largest of the six appellations that exist there. A short 50 km southwest of Cognac, and a quick 1 hour drive north from Bordeaux, Château d’Orignac resides on 20 hectares of terroir that consists primarily of limestone and clay. I was there to educate myself on Pineau des Charentes, the wine we represent from them and which is a definite “MUST NOT run out of” in our book!
There is only one word to describe VinExpo 2017 – HOT! The weather was hot and the events and after-parties were even hotter. Every day the weather was in the upper 80’s to mid 90’s (31-36° C), and while the expo itself was air conditioned, by the afternoon everyone had the glow of perspiration on them as the expedition hall heated up. Any of the 50,000 visitors who came to Bordeaux and rented AirBnB’s for the week quickly found out that many flats in Bordeaux do not have air conditioning – ouch! Each night, with the sun still in the sky until after 9:30 PM, guests at the famous Bordeaux parties wore their finest, searching for shade, eagerly enjoying unique food, incredible wine, and plenty of fun entertainment.
The Douro Valley region extends from the city of Porto and the Atlantic Ocean on the west to Portugal’s eastern border with Spain. Within it are three recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites – one in the historic center of Porto (the Gateway to the Douro Valley) one in the Alto Douro Wine Region, where you will find pre-historic rock art sites in the Coa Valley, and one which contains the Douro Valley vineyards themselves. Within the vineyards, UNESCO recognizes the 2000 years of viticultural work which created a landscape of unreal beauty and reflects the regions technological, cultural, and economic evolution.
I began my Portuguese wine experience in Amarante, a municipality in the Porto District, in Northern Portugal. I was met at the Campanha train station by Quinta da Calçada Managing Director Andre Estacio Pinto who drove me to their hotel property, Casa da Calçada, which is located on the Tamega river directly across from the Sau Goncalo Monastery in Amarante and situated midway between Porto and the Douro valley.
The wine cellars of Quinta da Calçada were founded in this location in 1917. A 16th century manor, Casa da Calçada, still has vineyards planted around it – directly in the heart of Amarante. The rest of their vineyards and their production facility is located several kilometers outside the city center. They are one of the regions oldest producers of Vinho Verde, the famous grape varietal which is set to take the world by storm – a delicious, crisp, bright explosion of fun in a glass.
Saying goodbye to my friends at Antico Colle, I was picked up by Gabriele Brugnoni, who is a business development consultant for CMK, an important partner to Kindred Vines Import Company, and who represents the interests of many of Kindred Vines important Italian producers.
Gabriele was to drive me to Montauto, located in Maremma and a good two-hour drive from Montepulciano, but first he was kind enough to drive me to Montalcino, where we were to visit Woodberry Wine partner Podere le Ripi. Montalcino is the famous birthplace of Brunello di Montalcino, which is crafted from Sangiovese grapes. The historic area has been known as Podere le Ripi since the 1200’s, when shepherds and farmers tended their flocks and worked their farms, and indeed, shepherds were still working the land in 1998 when Francesco Illy, of Illy’s coffee fame purchased this magical land.
After an uneventful flight into Rome, I took a two-hour train ride from Rome Tiburna train station to Chiusi, where I was greeted by Elisabetta and Giulia Frangiosa from Cantina Antico Colle. Elisabetta is the wife of current owner Andrea Frangiosa, and his daughter Giulia represents the upcoming third generation moving into the business. Andrea’s father Giuseppe still enjoys working at the 30-hectare estate as well, supporting his son’s drive and passion.
Antico Colle is an important partner of both Kindred Vines Import Co and Woodberry Wine and is an impressive and constantly improving winery in Montepulciano, Italy. Montepulciano is located in the Provence of Siena, in southern Tuscany and the area is famous for wine production and boasts the warmest micro climate in Tuscany. In 1980 Montepulciano was one of the first 4 wine regions in Italy to receive DOCG status.