I received a press release yesterday from Whole Foods about a promotion they're doing with Australia.
'In just the past few years, Australia has earned a solid reputation for producing some of the finest varietals in the world. Whole Foods Market will be taking shoppers on a wine 'walkabout' starting today and running through May 5th, highlighting the value and quality of Australian wines with selections from Australia's diverse wine-growing regions.
From an organically grown Chardonnay and a spritzy, bright, aromatic Verdelho-Viognier blend to a dark chocolate cherry Pinot Noir and the continent's best Cabernet Sauvignon, we will have styles for everyone.'
Like many others in the wine world, I've been puzzled by Whole Food's lack of commitment to the natural wine world, as if what goes into wine is not as important as what goes into food. Okay, it's not. Food is nourishment of another kind, but if WF is going to get into the wine biz, shouldn't they have some principles?
So, I wrote a letter. It was strong, hard-nosed, I didn't sugar coat. Perhaps I should have but the gist was basically==shouldn't Whole Foods step up to the plate?
I'll share the response I received.
Thank you for the interest and input. We are confident that the products we support meet our quality standards and our support of family wine making traditions in Australia. Additionally, we feel great about promoting a wine trade devastated by fires a year ago.
Duly noted. And duly noted that there was nothing about the fires in her press release.
The fires of February 2009 were awful. There were too many deaths. Per reportage in the Wine Spectator in May, 2009, over 200. Yarra Yarra was destroyed. Roundstone was destroyed and about 5 % if the Yarra Valley vineyards were affected. But it is anticipated that the vineyards will come back over the next couple of years.
I trust Ashley did some quick spin on this, as there was nothing about fires in the release. Never the less, am happy for WF's charitable attitude, but why not showcase some of the rare organic wines from the area? Or also sponsor a natural wine week? Or learn the differences in certification?
I didn't mean for this to turn into an editorial, but I'm staring out my window with Detroit in the distance, hoping there are no bed bugs in that bed behind me, and it just came on.
Pergola, is the traditional way of farming the albarino vines and when walking under old vines, with thick barks and long tentacles, I can't get the image out of my mind that I'm walking under the legs of tarantulas.
Todd in the vines his friend Honorio farms for Veiga Serantes.
I disappointed Honorio, he had beautiful hairy crabs for lunch, we moved on to the next step, Lagar de Pintos
Located in Salnes, the family has been producing since 1887. Part of the Domaine is set up like a museum to show what it was like then, barrels of wine fermenting in the kitchen, that sort of thing. But Marta, an oatmeal colored girl,thin with large orbular eyes, blue and serious took us to taste the wines. She does quite a bit of cash cow wines, didn't taste them, so I can't comment, and then the Lagar de Pintos.
Marta had been making wine, like Todd, since 2003. She doesn't yeast but she does feed the buggers, if the chemistry indicates the organisms needs a boost. She also cools the grapes down quite a bit to 3 degree c. for 36 hours, and then destems and presses. She fiddles with the fine lees---20% of the wine rests on them, the others are separated. No matter what she does, the chick can make wine. The 2007, which seems to be a lovely vintage all around was deep and breathy, almost vermentino in its orange, and was quite juicy. With the acidity to match. Regarding her 2008, she said, it was the first vintage that made her cry. But I liked it. I love that wet wool quality and kind of edgy minerality. "It could be good to leave it there for a few years." she said. And I bet she does. On this trip I met people like Marta and Todd who are not in a rush to get the wine to market if more time is needed. We tasted the '09. and it was still extremely primary, bubblegum, cinnamon with a touch of silver.
The big treat was the 1994. For the occasion, her father Jose, came to taste with us. I've often called albarino the muscadet of Spain and this wine is why. Shit. That was lovely stuff. As we tasted it Marta said, "I was 17 when this was made. I didn't know or care about anything other than boys and clothes."
Meanwhile her dad was making a spectacular wine. Tasted now, it had a deep color from age, caramel, toast, almond and oxidized lemon cream and acidity that made me dimple. It was like an old house that had been opened up to wash itself in spring air.
Did you ever read Hudson River Bracketed? This, my favorite Edith Wharton novel, has a scene where Vance Weston enters the old house, he is just about to meet Halo for the first time --she's reading in the houses library. I can feel the humidity from melting snow and the lilacs about to bloom and the dust seeping out into the forest. I loved that little wine and was so happy, albarino, good albarino can age like muscadet.
Ah, what would the wine be like if the DO didn't require cold stabilization and ultra filtration? This fiasco started with the 1990 vintage because of the zero tolerance approach to sediment.
It seems to me that abarino could develop a terrific marketing program; Calling all acid freaks! Of course that would mean it would have to be unfashionable to remove the acidity from the wine. An honest albarino is a lovely thing to uphold and it seems to me that the DO of Rias Baixas doesn't offer the wine much credibility for quality.
It was 4pm and we almost missed lunch. In a panic, Honorio called a nearby restaurant and pre ordered. The food was simple. The freshest clams and sea snails and boiled octopus in all of its ink, salad for me --perfect tender greens. An unbelievable sole, Honorio dissected it perfectly. And the best surprise of all, the 'illega'l red wine of the area--Tinto de Barrantes. The wine is traditionally served in ceramic cups, which create a 'flower' as you drink, I imagine there's a flower reading tradition like one with tea leaves.
But we sipped in conventional glass.
The wine, the hybrid Folla Redonda arrived in an unlabeled bottle. It was 8% alcohol or so, tart and just delightful. I think it reminded me of the first time I had a dry Freisa. Tart and pippy. And illegal.
This is an excellent address for warmth, deliciousness and authenticity.
Tío Benito+34 986 710 287
Avenida de Bouza Martín 4
Barrantes, Pontevedra, Spain
Because I liked Todd's wine so much and because it seemed as if he was a lone ranger kind of guy, I was interested to know what his Galicia looked like.
I knew the commercial face, a lot of wine I couldn't drink. Gallo is rules there with its brands like Martin Codax and Kendall-Jackson is buiding a big estate --plantations are underway. I had been warned by the marketing arm that organic is very difficult in Galicia,so wet, I was told.
See the celery green part of the map north of Pontevedra? That's the region, the Val do Salnes.
First to his vineyards. Todd wants very much to focus on single vineyard albarinos. This was in his organic one--the kind of organic they say is so hard to do ;) in back of a church. The spongy, healthy soil---with diviets from the massive amounts of rain--was filled with thyme and mint and chunks of remarkable red/pink granite.
I never saw this kind of granite in soil, gorgeous stuff and they were all around. To see them in the sun might have been exquisite, like TinkerBells in the vineyard. But it was as green as Ireland and as soggy.
Inside his winery, in front of the Xoan vineyard, Todd took me through the wines, but first he had a sip of chocolate milk.
Now, he's only been making wine since 2003, and is figuring it out. But he has talent. Definitely has talent. One of his odd ideas involves that chocolate milk --and yes you can say I'm a tease--go ahead--and that he often does not destem.
Once again, I shock myself with my lazy notes. It is so hard to pull myself from conversation to write, if there was only a way to record my thoughts. Where is the iPhone microphone for the brain?
The 2005 Bemil was extremely creamy on the nose and punchy with mandarin with a slight reduction, in a way that seems compelling, that note that I say is like halitosis--but in a good way.
The 2004 Bemil had a bit of spritz, a cold metal finish and more mandarin.
The 2005 Saiar was tangeriney and had some oxidation.
2008 Saiar, bitter arugula greeness with pineapple and the hintiest of tropical but NOT tropicale, if you know what I mean?
Notes are silly. What's the point. Here's what's important. He's in the rarity of folk working with native yeast. All of the wines had brilliant acidity, enough to please acid freaks around the world, enough tangerine, mandarinity to mark it's difference and a freshness that is lacking in so many of the modern Albarinos.
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.
And, if you'd like a signed copy, feel free to contact me directly.