If you could make wine in a region other than your own, where would it be, and why?
It was clear as soon as the first responses started arriving that many winemakers, whether based in hot or more moderate growing regions, dream of making single-variety wines (mono-cépage in French) in coolish northern climates (or southern, in the case of the Southern Hemisphere), where there’s little margin for error when it comes to ripening the fruit.
A generation ago, growers in places like Burgundy and the Loire Valley, Italy’s Piedmont region, and Germany’s Mosel were lucky to get their fruit ripe four times a decade. But today, thanks to much better vineyard work and clonal selection, lower crop levels, and a major boost from climate change, these previously marginal growing areas succeed far more often than they fail, even if the style of their wines can vary dramatically from year to year. It’s obvious that many of our participating winemakers gravitate toward regions that are a challenge, because the payoff in uncommonly intense, complex and refined wines is worth the commitment of time and energy.
Ben Smith, Cadence Winery (Washington). Easy: Piemonte. The beautiful expression of site is important to us; nebbiolo fits the category perfectly. The grape has a reputation for difficulty—all the better a challenge! Loving the regional food, people and geography is a real bonus. Our second choice would be Bordeaux—either Pauillac or Saint-Emilion. Making wine in the place our winemaking philosophy has its ancestral home would be humbling and deeply gratifying. Are there any winemakers in need of an experienced cellarhand listening?
Rupert Symington, The Symington Group (Portugal). The place that I would choose to make wine would be New Zealand, and it would be white. Apart from having a climate that is the polar opposite of ours, I find the crisp and mineral style of Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay sauvignon blancs extremely appealing, and have been impressed by the individuality of wines such as Clos Henri planted on less traditional types of soil. And, what’s more, the people are wonderful, the country is uncrowded, and the grass is certainly greener over there!
Philippe Cambie, consulting enologist (France). For me, most of the Mediterranean regions are zones where I would like to work, because they are close to my philosophy. I already work in the Priorat at Bodega Mas Alta and a young can with the Celler Capçanes in Montsant, with old grenache and 100-year-old carignan planted on schist. I find it important to get closer to the origins of our Rhône grape varieties. And I like Spanish culture, Spanish cooking and the climate of Spain. I’d be happy to live in Spain.
Patrick Campbell, Laurel Glen (California). Well, given the fact that I already make wine in four regions—Sonoma Mountain, Lodi, Mendoza and Chile—the options are a bit fewer. But since you might as well make wines you’d like to drink in a place you’d like to live, I’d have to settle on far northern Argentina. The wines can be a bit alcoholic, but they afford a real mouthful of delicious dark fruit. Learning to tame those alcohols while retaining the core of deep fruit would be a satisfying intellectual challenge. The region is less civilized than many wine regions, but it has a flavorful, if limited, cuisine that is rustic and pure. The high desert scenery and the mixed European and indigenous population are ever fascinating. And best of all, when it’s winter in Sonoma, it’s summer there. Bring it on.
Dave Powell, Torbreck Vintners (Australia). Bandol, because mourvèdre is my favourite grape variety.
Jeremy Seysses, Domaine Dujac and Triennes (France). If it were for white wine, it would be in the German Mosel, and if it were for red, in the Northern Rhône, perhaps Cornas. Essentially, I would privilege these regions because outside of Burgundy they are the places that make the wines I most relate to and love drinking. I understand and enjoy mono-cépage [single-variety] wines rather than blends (for obvious reasons).
Syrah and riesling share much of pinot’s transparency and those two grapes can really speak of site magnificently. Cornas for me is one of the strongest vineyard expressions in the Rhône and is perhaps undervalued somewhat relative to the more famous Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie, and yet I find the strength of its mineral expression to be one of the strongest out there. And the Mosel wines fascinate me. The balance of a wine like a Spätlese is something somewhat magical and exotic for a winemaker like me who makes dry wine. I find them completely fascinating.
Josh Bergström, Bergström Wines (Oregon). When Jeremy Seysses moves to the Mosel, I’m moving to Morey-St.-Denis.
Michael Twelftree, Two Hands Wines (Australia). Barolo, because its great wines can’t be reproduced anywhere else in the world. No other wine matches Barolo’s lifted aromatic profile, powerful fruit and steely tannins. I also love that the vineyard sites and producers are as intricate as Burgundy: each site has its personality and each vigneron his or her touch.
A few years back I spent four days touring the region and tasting with the likes of Sandrone, Clerico, Altare, Giacosa and Mascarello. I was amazed at their generosity, frankness and warmth. The quality of the wines left a very lasting impression on me, and I buy and cellar them as often as possible.
My favourite aspect of Barolo is that it always delivers in the glass, and you are rarely left guessing or wondering about the quality. I always open them for my friends, who thoroughly enjoy their kaleidoscope of aromas and flavours. In my eyes the great wines of the Piedmont are so much more interesting than regions like Champagne or Bordeaux, and I am inspired that they’re made by real people, with real stories standing behind them.
André Ostertag, Domaine Ostertag (France). Making a wine in a region other than Alsace was a dream I had for a long time, and the original dream was California because that was for me the symbolic limit, the border, the end of my western world, and all dreams were possible there. Finally, five years ago I started a project with three Chilean friends in Casablanca Valley in Chile. It’s even better than California because it’s at the other extreme, in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s just ten kilometers away from the same ocean, and it’s a hand-crafted biodynamic sustainable project based on five hectares of non-grafted pinot noir, my favorite grape along with Riesling.
And overall it’s the spirit of South America, a thrilling adventure far away from my Alsatian culture. I’m just back from my third Montsecano harvest made mid in mid-March after the terrible earthquake, and I’m full of great emotions! To have an idea, watch the video: http://vimeo.com/10430105.
David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars (California). I’d choose Long Island, simply so I could get into New York City more often!
Marc Hugel, Hugel et Fils (France). I would probably chose Piemonte and more precisely the area near Barolo/La Morra because of the admiration I have for these great (red) wines (their originality, subtlety and harmony), for the kindness, generosity and modesty of their growers, for the beauty of the area and the unbelievable concentration of good restaurants all around, and also because I would then be finally forced to improve my Italian to a higher lever than the actual miserable, shameful and inexcusable one.
Mike Dobrovic, Havana Hills (South Africa). I would love to work on one of the islands in Croatia (Korcula). Not only are the climate and soil exceptional, but the people are unspoiled and hard-working. They appreciate the smallest things life has to offer. I believe it would be a wonderful challenge to be confronted with the vast array of unknown varieties, both red and white, some dating from Roman times (perhaps even older). I have tasted wines there with such exceptional extract and flavor, and to be a part of that would be a wonderful privilege. The knowledge passed over from generations of winemakers would be an asset for me and hopefully something I could use to improve my skill and the complexity of the wines I make.
The whole package—the sea, the food, the silence (almost no traffic!), the rugged beauty and the strength and goodness of the people—is what attracts me most. There is always a touch of wildness that one finds on islands, and island people have a freedom of spirit that I envy!
Andy Erickson, Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Arietta (California). This is an easy one for me. I would love to make wine from Saint-Emilion. Since early on in my winemaking career, the wines from this area have always been an inspiration for me. There is a depth, complexity and richness in the wines that excite me. I also love wines with a strong sense of place, and wines from Saint-Emilion, escpecially from high on the plateau, have a very strong character and sense of terroir.
Yves Cuilleron, Domaine Yves Cuilleron (France). If I had to choose another region to make wine, it would certainly be Burgundy because for me it’s the region with the most traditional way of making artisanal mono-cépage wines, wines that offer a great expression of terroir.
Manfred Krankl, Sine Qua Non (California). Well, at the risk of being predictable, I would have to say the southern Rhône. Since I am obviously in love with Rhône varieties and am downright obsessed with grenache, I can’t think of a place I would rather make wine than in Châteauneuf du Pape. The idea of working with grenache from one of these hallowed sites would be just incredibly sweet. I would love to truly experience a full growing season, with all the weather conditions throughout, and seeing how it all differs from our own here in California. The differences are what would interest me most. And since this is a sort of magic wand question, it creates this little movie in my head of days spent hanging out with people like my friend Philippe Cambie . . . discussing vineyard work, the merits of own-rooted vines versus rootstocks, etc.—such wine-geek stuff—and of course lots of drinking, eating and laughing. Somehow running into Henri Bonneau out in the field somewhere, waving to each other from one tractor to another, is also a fantasy I cherish. But most of all it is just the idea of working with grenache fruit from the motherland, if you will.
There are countless other places I would enjoy working a vintage or two—my homeland Austria, for example. Harvesting fruit from the gorgeous Singerriedel vineyard and turning it into what surely is God’s eau de toilette would be a real treat too. But in the end, if forced the pick one, Châteauneuf du Pape it is.
Joseph Davis, Arcadian Winery (California). In my dreams I have always lived in Morey-St.-Denis. But I could be convinced to move to Bouzy.
Charles Back, Fairview and Spice Route (South Africa). The most appealing region to me at the moment would be Algeria. Not only because it is on the same continent, but rather because it is a wine region caught in a time capsule. During the French occupation of Algeria beginning in 1830, there was obviously a very strong French viticultural and winemaking influence. Vast amounts of this can still be found. I had the pleasure of meeting the Minister of Agriculture and the Director of the Wine Institute of Algeria a couple of years ago, and they told me of magnificent high-altitude historical vineyards of grenache, mourvèdre, carignan and shiraz. There are also a large number of old cellars ready to be spruced up. If one investigates the use of Algerian wine blended into French wines during the Occupation, this could make an interesting story in itself. I think the location as well as the age of the vines, in particular old-vineyard grenache, would be a most exciting opportunity.
Dominique Lafon, Domaine des Comtes Lafon (France). Besides Oregon, where I am currently involved and which I like a lot for its potential, I would go to New Zealand for its ability to produce pinot noirs of high quality. And if stayed closer to home, I’d like to make a bit of wine around Chambolle-Musigny…
Pio Boffa, Pio Cesare (Italy). If I could make wine in another region, I would like to do it in Burgundy. I find some similarities between Piemonte and Burgundy. In Burgundy wines are made from only one grape variety, pinot noir for the reds. Their wines are the purest expression of the different terroirs and the single grape variety in each specific location. Just like in Barolo and Barbaresco.
In addition, pinot noir is just as difficult to grow as nebbiolo. It’s a challenge for the grower and for the winemaker. Pinot noir, just like nebbiolo, requires a specific microclimate, area, soil, climate, human culture, tradition, experience, patience, perseverance, modesty. In all, a great challenge there just like in Barolo and Barbaresco.
Philippe Guigal, E. Guigal (France). I have a real passion for vintage port and my instinctive answer would probably be the Douro Valley. These terraced hillsides speak a language that I can understand. It is an historical vineyard technically rediscovered, and the generous climate often offers outstanding wines.
Russ Raney, Evesham Wood (Oregon). If growing red wine varieties, I would love to find a nice site in the Languedoc, preferably in a slightly higher-elevation area like Montpeyroux. Although they’ve been producing wine there for centuries, it’s like a new frontier in terms of matching terroir to the best-suited varieties—plus it’s within a half hour of my beloved Mediterranean. For producing whites, I’d have to say the Jura, around Arbois. I’m fascinated with savagnin and would love to experiment with fermentation and élevage methods using this variety.
Christian Seely, Quinta do Noval and Château Pichon-Baron (Portugal and France). The answer is England, and in fact I have recently planted a small vineyard there in Hampshire, together with my partner Nick Coates. Why? Well, there are places in southern England with geology remarkably similar to that existing in Champagne, with I believe very high quality potential. We have planted chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier on chalky soil in a protected valley site with south-facing slopes, with the aim of making a great English sparkling wine. First bubbles due in May 2011 under our name: Coates and Seely.