The Wine Show: Episode 2
Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys star in this series about the stories behind some of the world’s most fascinating wines. From their villa HQ in the Italian hills they head to meet a Super Tuscan called Cinzano and crash his vintage Fiat 500. Wine expert Joe Fattorini heads to Chile to find out if Gregorian chant can affect the way wine tastes. Chef Dan Doherty tells us about his favourite grape and cooks a dish to complement it and Gizzi Erskine heads to Arizona to meet rock star turned vineyard supremo Maynard James Keenan.
Chile, Cymatics and Holism
As a young boy I was warned not to fall prey to ‘superstitious practices… To charms, omens, dreams, and such-like fooleries’. So is Holism a such-like foolery? Or Feng Shui? Or cymatics?
Chileans seem so sensible. It’s almost a wine-trade joke. Chileans are sensible, on-time and polite. They wear pressed chinos, a neat shirt and a branded fleece jacket. They’re like their wines. Solid and respectable. But at Montes these otherwise sensible people tell me that the winery sits under the protection of a turtle (a hill) in the lee of a dragon (another hill). Yet it looks like a beautiful, scientifically-planned winery. Over at Vina Vik, the titanium-clad hotel has a mystical aura. But the winery? The holism there feels a lot like ultra-professional winemaking.
We’ll never know if what makes these wines special is the Holism or the Feng Shui or the cymatics. They’re integral to everything Montes and Vik do. And whatever else Montes and Vik do, they are also world-class, top-quality winemakers. There’s relentless attention to detail using grapes grown in unique, exceptional terroirs. I’m still a skeptic, with a childhood aversion to ‘such-like fooleries’. But I’m delighted Vik is holistic, that Montes uses cymatics. Even if I’m not sure you can taste it, I think it makes these wines transcendent.
Montes Purple Angel 2012
Purple Angel relaxes in your glass. It should. It’s spent months listening to Gregorian Chant as it matured slowly in barrels. The vibrant, redcurrant-scented fruit comes from the Carmenere grape. The addition of Petit Verdot gives the wine spice, colour, structure and acidity.
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, But I Like (Drinking) It
They say you should never meet your heroes. But when your hero owns a vineyard, maybe it’s time to make an exception. At least that’s what Gizzi Erskine thought when she was asked to head to Arizona to find out about how one celebrity has moved away from the stage and into the cellar.
Celebrity wines are big business. From sports stars like Ernie Els and David Ginola to movie stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, there are many reasons why celebrities decide to get involved in winemaking. For some it’s a purely commercial arrangement. For others, like actor Sam Neil, it’s an all-consuming passion. Neil has been making wine in New Zealand for more than 20 years and lives on his vineyard. Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather, has winemaking in his blood. His family has made wine for generations in California.
Musicians are also attracted to the creativity of winemaking. Madonna has a wine in collaboration with her father, and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwod Mac has his eponymous cellar. But there’s one musician who has taken his unique view of his art and brought it to his winemaking: Maynard James Keenan. The lead singer and founding member of Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band Tool, Maynard owns Merkin Vineyard and the Caduceus Winery, both in Arizona, and it was in the small former copper mining town of Jerome that Gizzi tracked Maynard down.
It may seem surprising that anyone would try to grow grapes in such an unforgiving landscape. There’s little rainfall, very high temperatures in the summer and cold nights in the spring and autumn – both crucial times in the cultivation of vines. But it must be remembered that vines were first grown in the middle east, a region with very similar weather and topographical conditions.
Arizona is not nearly as famous as a winemaking region as California, its cousin to the west. Yet its history of growing grapes is just as long. Prohibition caused a bit of an interruption in the early 20th century, but recently this arid state has seen something of a vineyard renaissance. MJK, as he is often known, by his own admission may not be the best wine-maker in the state, but he is certainly the one with the highest profile. His life as a musician, poet and artist are characterized by a certain idiosyncratic intensity. His lyrics for Tool are said to encourage self-reflection and if people don’t understand them, then that doesn’t particularly worry him. The same can also be said for his wine, which – despite his own protestations – exhibit some very accomplished winemaking.
Sadly Caduceus Cellars collection is not available in the UK yet but if you’d like to try some other ‘celebrity’ wines, check out Joe Fattorini’s recommendations here.
Caduceus Kitsuné 2012
This was Joe Fattorini’s favourite wine of the series. An Arizona Sangiovese? From an American rocker? But it’s astonishing, bursting with cherries, seamlessly woven into vanilla and a forest floor, leafy, earthiness. It’s a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that’s got its groove on. Classy and crackers all at the same time.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge Two
In this episode Joe Fattorini challenges Matthew and Matthew to find a wine that reflects Italy’s sense of style. Many Italian wines can of course, lay claim to having their own unique sense of flair and class. But there’s one wine that over the last couple of decades has attracted more than its fair share of attention, and that’s the group of wines known collectively as Super Tuscans.
But where did this term come from originally? Super Tuscan was a phrase coined by the trade when Italy’s wines of a new and non-traditional style began to take on their French cousins in quality and price-tag. Although the name is fairly new, the history of Super Tuscans can be traced back to the 1920s when the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta decided to set about making a ‘thoroughbred’ wine that reflected the style of the great wines of Bordeaux. By the 1940s he was experimenting with a number of French grapes but settled on Cabernet Sauvignon: a major change from the Sangiovese style and taste that was usual in that region at the time.
The Marchese named the wine Sassicaia or ‘Stony Ground’ as the terrain on which it was being grown seemed to be giving the wine a similar characteristic to its French cousin – Graves or ‘gravel’ in French. But success was slow to build and it was only when it became apparent that ageing was essential to this wine that by 1968 it was being made commercially available. And by 1985, Sassicaia became the first Italian red to beat French vintages in the highly important Wine Spectator annual tasting.
The Marchesi had a kindred spirit in the oenologist Giacomo Tachis of legendary vineyard owners Antinori. They too had decided that for too long Italian wine had been of poor quality. It was being drunk in large amounts – in the 1970s about four litres a week was being drunk per head of population – but most was no better than plonk, particularly when compared to their French counterparts.
Tachis was a scientist by training and using his knowledge of chemistry and microbiology set about making those ‘Bordeaux’-style wines; that is a wine that has more structure and softer flavours, rather than the rather sharp taste associated with the Sangiovese grape. The first wine to be made by Antinori by Tachis in 1970 was Tignanello which was a mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. Today Tignanello is regarded as one of the greatest wines in the world.
Matthew and Matthew are lucky enough to taste Sassicaia 2012 at the wine shop of Jem Macy in Montalcino. It has to be said that their opinion of it didn’t match its price tag. But as Jem says, “2012 was a tough year”! Jem is an American living in Tuscany and has her own small vineyard near Montalcino where she makes her Montechiaro wine. She’s also able to give Matthew and Matthew a much needed primer in what makes a Super Tuscan, and sets them off to meet another winemaker whose Tuscan heritage is as long as his name is famous.
Count Francesco Marone Cinzano is the scion of a great wine family. It first made its name making its eponymous vermouth in the 18th Century, a company they sold to Gruppa Campari in the 1980s. But Count Cinzano has followed in his family’s footsteps by growing the family vineyard at Col D’Orcia near Montalcino since he took it over from his late father several years ago.
The count also has a large collection of classic cars and he’d promised Matt and Matt a ride in at least one. Would it be a Ferrari or a Lamborghini? No such luck! He arrives in his Mk1 Fiat 500 ‘Cinquecento’, into the back seat of which Matthew Goode manfully folds his long frame for a tour of the vineyard.
Back at the winery they are introduced to a selection of wines from the estate. Matthew Rhys is particularly taken by the Spezieri, a wine that takes its name from the spice grinders of Florence. It’s a very reasonably priced wine made from a blend of grapes from all parts of the vineyards and its defining quality is that it’s a “great wine for pizza” according to the Count.
Matthew Goode decides to eschew the obvious appeal of the Sassicaia in favour of Jem’s ‘little wine’, to take back to Joe. So with these two bottles for Joe to choose from, have Matt and Matt proved that you can have style on a budget? Or will Joe be disappointed that they didn’t splash out on something from the classic Super Tuscan repertoire? Let’s see…!
Col d’Orcia Spezieri Toscana I.G.T. 2014
Pasta lovers need this ‘Super Tuscan’ on their kitchen table. ‘IGT’ (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) means it’s made in a juicier, fresher, more generous style than Tuscany’s traditional reds. But alongside fruity Cabernet Sauvignon beats a heart of Sangiovese, full of Italian, bitter-cherry and almond flavours.