Our Favorite Wine Regions
September 25, 2012, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
The new classification for Saint-Émilion was announced on Friday September 7th by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine). There were four wines promoted to the top level — Premier Grand Cru Classé – three of which are made by Stéphane Derenoncourt: Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Canon la Gaffelière and La Mondotte. As a result of this re-classification, Stéphane is responsible for seven out of the eighteen Premier Grand Cru Classé wines. This impressive achievement underscores why many – including we at Montesquieu Wines – believe that no one knows the Right Bank quite like Stéphane.
One of Stéphane’s most famous wines, La Mondotte, skipped the Grand Cru Classé category entirely, jumping from AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru to Premier Grand Cru Classé, which is a rare feat. For those familiar with the famous garagiste wines such as La Mondotte and Valandraud (also promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé), these promotions were well-deserved and not entirely unexpected. La Mondotte has been considered among the greatest Bordeaux chateaux for years, a collector’s gem and fetching prices that one would expect from the top level. View Full Post
July 25, 2012, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
Syrah is not known as a shy varietal. It is known for its strength, thick skin, and the ability to thrive almost anywhere, and as such is commonly referred to as the “growers varietal”. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Syrah has become increasingly popular, and is now estimated to be the seventh most widely planted varietal in the world.
Part of Syrah being adaptable to grow most anywhere yields the characteristic of producing wines that vary widely according to the climate, terroir and viticultural practices of the particular vineyard. It has been said that the varietal has experienced an “identity crisis” amongst consumers because of this wide variation, plus the unfortunate flooding of the market with generic Syrah with little character.
Additionally when Syrah in the United States was beginning to take off, many American critics were awarding their highest scores to very powerfully extracted wines, including Australian Shiraz with this over-the-top profile that was popular at the time. Many American Syrah producers, seeking approval of the critics, emulated this jammy, intense style.
Many feel what happened was the loss of character at higher ripeness levels which became more important than sense of place, or distinctiveness. Over time, with growers gaining more and more experience with various vineyard locations and climates, we have seen an emerging trend in the industry toward cool-climate Syrah. View Full Post
March 22, 2012, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
DOC Vineyards along the Douro River
The Douro Valley in Portugal is rich in history, romance and stunning scenery, and is home to one of the most distinctive wines in the wine world—Port. This fortified wine is revered for its ability to age as well as having an unequaled range of flavor and style profiles, which makes Port a valuable addition to any well-rounded wine cellar. Every wine tells a story, and the story of Port is quite unique!
The History of Douro and Port
Declared a World Heritage Site in 2001, archaeological finds date winemaking in the Douro back to Roman times. However the development of fortified Port wine occurred during the second half of the 17th century. In 1678 Britain declared war on France and blockaded French ports, and in doing so created a wine shortage in England. In 1703 Britain and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty that established the supply of cloth from England in exchange for Port wine, among other things. View Full Post
February 15, 2012, by: Stephen George
Pierre Bernault with his windmills
Anyone who knows much about winemaking knows that the romantic stereotype of life in the vines is just that – a stereotype. Winemaking can be romantic, of course; but it can also be risky and fraught with uncertainty. After all, Mother Nature has a long history of being a fickle master.
Consider Pierre Bernault, owner of an ancient chateau and plot of vines in Montagne Saint Emilion where he and Stéphane Derenoncourt craft Montesquieu Winery’s Moulin du Paradis blend: “You can lose an entire year’s income by surprise in the course of three weeks because of weather,” says Pierre. “But I like to take risks.” View Full Post
February 10, 2012, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
It has been said that there is hardly an inch of Italy that isn’t suitable for growing grapes for wine production. As a result, Italy has the most diverse array of individual wine styles, micro-climates and indigenous grape varieties in the wine world!
One of the most distinctive and treasured of all Italian wines—and one that we at Montesquieu Winery believe has a particularly interesting history—is the Amarone della Valpolicella from the Veneto region in the province of Verona. Valpolicella has been producing wines since ancient times, and even its name reflects a longstanding relationship with wine— “Val polis cellae” means “the valley of many cellars”. View Full Post
September 28, 2011, by: Stephen George
Cooperative President Jean-François Préau and Chef de Cave Hervé Dantan with Fonda Hopkins
Forgive us if we feel a bit like Ponce de Léon.
Over the past few years, we’ve been searching high and low for just the right opportunity to craft exclusively for our clients a Grand Cru Champagne that we can call our own. The winegrowers had to be of the highest level, showering each vine with attention and care; the chef-de-cave had to share our terroir-driven winemaking values; the cellar had to be first-rate; the property had to be capable of producing the very best fruit; and the wines had to be thoroughly delicious.
It took a long time – and countless tastings and visits – but we finally found what we were looking for. And although it’s not quite the Fountain of Youth, it’s one heck of a Champagne!
It all started on my first visit to a true Champagne cave – something I’ll never forget. My traveling companions, our fearless leader Fonda Hopkins and our intrepid winemaker Hélène Mingot, were not nearly as green as I. They knew the Champagne region well, having logged many miles over the years searching for just the right sparklers to source for our clients. But although I have tasted many different Champagnes in my day, I’d never before been there in person.
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August 27, 2011, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
Stéphane and Manu
During En Primeurs this April in Bordeaux we had the pleasure of attending the exclusive preview of Stéphane’s new wine shop in Saint-Émilion, aptly named “ Terres Millésimées”. Terres means land, which can also mean terroir, and Millésimées means vintage or year. He had been wanting to do this for years, an idea that grew out of constantly being asked by friends, colleagues and fellow wine lovers how to find the wines of his eclectic consultancies, as well as other wines he loves and recommends.
As inspired projects go, ones that involve great passion, Terres Millésimées grew into an ambition to be more than a wine shop, a place where wine lovers can gather, both locals and tourists alike, to experience selections from “d’ici et d’ailleurs”—meaning “from here and elsewhere”—wines “des terroirs et des hommes” or “wines of the land and of man”. View Full Post
August 21, 2011, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
Montesquieu wine broker Jonathan Hetz with Livia Fontana, happy among the vines!
One of the most rewarding aspects of working directly with small producers to source the very best wines for our clients is the privilege of getting to know the winemakers, the talent and conduits of inspiration behind great wines. One of our favorites of all time is Livia Fontana—who we have worked with since 1997—a sixth generation winemaker and matriarch of the 180 year-old Cascina Fontanin in the heart of Barolo country.
Picture yourself perched high on a majestic hillside, overlooking lush steep vineyards to the point where the ancient villages of Barolo, La Morra and Monforte meet below. It is here, atop the famous tiny commune (population 637) of Castiglione Falletto, that Livia and her two sons Michele and Lorenzo tend to every detail of making wines at the family’s estate —from working in the vineyard to bottling and labeling and everything in between! View Full Post
August 10, 2011, by: Stephen George
Intimate Asado Dinner with Federico Benegas-Lynch & Don Zofanor
History. Tradition. Family. You’ve probably noticed that these words get thrown around a lot in the wine industry. These days, everyone seems to be claiming that they’re family-owned and family-run, that they are tapping into a tradition as old as the sun, that they use historical vineyard techniques or winemaking methods or what have you.
It’s easy to tune out this sort of rhetoric as marketing-based background noise. And as merchants who are barraged by wineries who want us to introduce them to our clients, we at Montesquieu Wines know how critical it is to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. To truly determine whether there’s real history and tradition in play, and whether it matters to the quality of the wine, we have to do more than just scratch the surface. We have to dig deeper, to pull back the veil to see whether these buzz words reflect something real and unique, or whether they’re merely a marketer’s fancy. View Full Post
June 24, 2011, by: Stephen George
The splendor of St. Emilion viewed from one of its crown jewels, Pavie Macquin
“Is this the hanging tree?” I asked.
I stood on a grassy path flanked by vines on both sides, staring up at a tall tree with large branches spreading wide. Oak? Elm? I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was whether this was THE tree, the one that – according to legend – the townsfolk of St. Emilion used for executing criminals many years ago.
We had broken free from our tight tasting schedule in order to take up this quest. That Tuesday, our first day of 2010 tastings at Primeurs, we did Cheval Blanc and the Rolland Collection at Le Bon Pasteur, followed by Michel Rolland’s consultancies at Chateau Soutard and then Stéphane Derenoncourt’s consultancies at Chateau La Gaffelière. Wednesday brought a full morning of tasting biodynamic wines at Ch. Fonroque followed by a cross-river haul to take in the wines of St. Julien, St. Estephe and Pauillac at Ch. Branaire Ducru, and then a dash to Ch. Lascombes to sample Margaux before the day’s tastings closed. We began Thursday morning early with the St. Emilion tasting at Ch. La Couspaude before heading back to the Left Bank for Graves and Pessac-Leognan – both rouge and blanc – at Ch. Malartic-Lagravière, and then back again to La Gaffelière to finish tasting Stéphane’s wines and chat with some of our producer friends there.
If you’re counting at home, that’s over 500 wines tasted in three days, not counting bottles we enjoyed during our dinners or at the late-night producer parties we attended. This kind of professionalized indulgence is par for the course during Primeurs week, but still, by Thursday afternoon we needed a break that didn’t include swirling, sniffing or sipping. View Full Post