Producers

france-iconFrance

We fell in love with France a long, long time ago…well before our immersion in wine. Reading Stendahl, Flaubert and Montaigne or Camus, Sartre and Beckett (yes, an Irishman but writing in French), one encounters the human condition, each man’s struggle to make something of value out of one’s brief existential moment. Great French wine mimics that experience.

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The strict rules that govern the production of wine in France (heaven forbid that they be changed, abandoned or ignored) are fundamental to the understanding of why good wine moves us. The rules recognize the forces of nature, the dynamic between soil and climate, that determine the best place to grow the grape and which grape belongs where. This discipline, the marvelous logic that underpins the system, is necessary to deal with the pain, the hard work, the capriciousness of daily life and still produce wine of compelling character. It is a truism that great wine comes from places where the vine must suffer. After all, wine offers a mirror to our battle to survive and prosper: we both are better when we fight through the hard times and suffer a bit; we’re both stronger, more complex, more interesting.

The vast arrays of viticultural regions in France are all bound together by these rules. We respect those guidelines because they are put in place for the single purpose of producing wines that express their respective terroir. That concept is the foundation of everything we do as wine merchants. No one is better at understanding and explaining this notion nor superior in enforcing the conditions necessary to achieve this result than the French are. Our love of French wine is boundless

 

italy-iconItaly

Most people think we started our career as importers working our way through the villages of the Cote d’Or in Burgundy.  But, the truth is that we launched our little enterprise with two growers in Piedmont: Luigi Ferrando in Ivrea (for his inimitable Carema) and the Anfosso family in Barbaresco (De Forville di Anfosso).  It was there in the hills of the Langhe and in the shadow of Mont Blanc that we encountered the majesty of Nebbiolo and the rich culture of Italian food, wine and hospitality.

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In fact, one could argue that our first experiences with Nebbiolo-based wine had a fundamental impact on our ultimate selection process. The traditionally crafted wines like the Carema from Ferrando and the Barbaresco of De Forville require patience in both the production and the full enjoyment of their riches.  We developed a love of wines of restraint, discipline, complexity; wines marked as much by their acid component as by their level of sugar; wines that reflect decades, if not centuries, of local tradition; and, finally, wines that clearly portray their geological and climatic conditions.

Italy offers a trove of wines that fit that description.  It is a country rich in tradition and proud of its history.  Italy is modern, yes; but, by and large, the Italians accept modernity with a shrug.  Nothing is more comforting nor more calming than standing in a damp cellar deep underground, whether it is in Tuscany or Piedmont or Umbria, before a series of massive old wooden barrels holding solid, rustic red wine destined to become over time a distinguished author of a consumable work about a piece of time and a particular place.

 

switzerland-iconSwitzerland

It has been our habit over many years to use Switzerland as our point of entry and departure when beginning and ending the twice-annual tours to visit our growers.  In traversing the roads of Switzerland on our way to Alsace or to the Jura or to Burgundy or over the mountain-top of Mont Blanc to descend into Italy, we were intrigued by the sight of steeply terraced vineyards lining the shores of Lac Leman and the steep ascent from Martigny to Italy via the Grand Saint Bernard pass.  It seemed that there must be good wine being produced there for the effort to plant and maintain vineyards in that forbidding terrain is immense.

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For years the Swiss protected their market with steep tariffs.  The local market was vibrant and demand strong.  The producers met that demand by increasing yields and the quality of most Swiss wine was banal at best.  Once the Swiss eliminated the barriers to competition, the response on the part of the serious growers was immediate: yields were severely restricted and local grape varieties that had been overlooked or abandoned because of their capricious nature were rediscovered.

We are convinced that there is enormous potential for greatness in Swiss wine.  The growing conditions are ideal for our type of wine.  The high altitude vineyards planted on glacial moraine to indigenous grape varieties is a divine formula.  The fresh mountain air and the cool nights give birth to wines of precision with vibrant acidity and persistent minerality, elements that are critical in rendering wines expressive of their terroir.  The local grapes in the Valais, like Amigne, Humagne and Cornalin, have character galore.

It was a natural progression for us to cross the high Alpine passes from the Valle d’Aosta in Italy to enter the world of the Valais in Switzerland.  Let’s see where this journey takes us.

 

spain-iconCatalonia

We have crossed the frontier to make our first foray into the world of Spanish wine, or more accurately, into the fascinating region of Catalonia.  This is a natural progression for us as it is an extension of our regional interest in the wines produced along the Mediterranean rim and Recaredo fits snugly within our portfolio of family-run estates producing limited quantities of traditionally-produced wines. 

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In this instance, we were most struck by the principled approach of the Mata family to the production of Cava and their fanatical commitment to the expression of the terroir and the tradition of Cava.  Here is an example of a producer whose dedication to the highest quality is in stark contrast to the commercial mediocrity that is endemic to the current Cava scene.
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