wine

Harvest 2017: granny breasts and relief

All grapes have been harvested at Pietershof. Pinot Noir and Riesling actually could have benefited from a bit more time hanging time, but extensive rain prediction forced earlier harvesting. There was a window of sunshine for a couple of days at the end of September and the beginning of October, so the usual suspects were gathered to help out.

Picking grapes in a group always creates a great sense of unity and satisfaction, certainly helped by plenty of sun and a lovely lunch, including Pietershof wine.

Harvesting is not just a matter of cutting bunches. Want to know more about the phenomenon called granny breasts and what happens when all the pickers are gone?

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Biodynamics at Alois Lageder: voodoo or future?

Mention Rudolf Steiner’s name in a group of scientists and be prepared for a load of criticism. The Austrian born intellectual linked the spiritual world with science and was active in many fields, such as medicine, architecture, education and agriculture. His thoughts and ideas were quite provoking at the beginning of the 20th century, and even in today’s world they are viewed by some as absolute nonsense. For every research paper in favour of Steiner’s thinking, there are multiple scientific papers that prove the opposite. If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist?

Looking at his widespread applied theories today, you could say he was ahead of his time. His biodynamic approach to agriculture has been implemented all over the world, also in viticulture. Romanée-Conti, Nicolas Joly, LeRoy, Alvaro Palacios, Weinbach, Ostertag, Zind-Humbrecht, Pontet-Canet, Felton Road, Artadi, Grgich. All world renowned domaines that work biodynamically according to Steiner’s philosophy.

So, there must be something that works for them. But what? Together with a group of Dutch winetraders, I spent a day with Clemens Lageder at another iconic domaine that works biodynamically, Alois Lageder in Italy’s Alto Adige to find out more. (by the way, the accent is on the 2nd syllable: LaGEder)

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Harvest 2016 Pietershof

Countdown to harvest in the North

It’s been quite a while since my last update on Pietershof. Let me get you up to speed while rushing through the past summer months.

Remember the devastating spring frost? While winegrowers in other parts of Europe have forecasted less harvest (the estimate ranges from 20% to a staggering 70% in parts of Bordeaux), at Pietershof they seem to have come out of the frost in pretty good shape with most likely no significant crop loss.

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Orange wine: let it grow on you

Gems, fruit, chemical elements and even a fish are used to describe the colour of wine. I still have to taste the wacky Spanish blue wine adventure, but something tells me I probably never will. There’s a whole category of wines out there that so far hasn’t reached a bigger audience: orange wines.

Granted, it looks like morning pee after a heavy night on the town, but this so deserves to be enjoyed, taking you off the beaten track. Here’s why it got me all excited…

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The North – Pietershof Belgium

This is the first entry in a series of posts following award winning Domein Pietershof in Belgium throughout 2017, from winter to harvest and beyond, describing the challenges of making wine in Northern Europe. What does it take to fill bottles with wine after a year of hard work, hopes and despairs?

The entry on Belgium in Jancis Robinson’s latest The Oxford Companion to Wine has the same length as French oenologist Michel Rolland. A whole country, historically known for importing large amounts of Bordeaux wine, equally important to the man who convinced numerous Bordeaux estates into producing overripe, deep-coloured red wine?

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Italy’s most underestimated grape?

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I encourage my daughters to join me in a winery visit. Given their age, 10 & 5, obviously not to enrich their palates but to get a sense of place and feel the enthusiasm and proudness with which owners often speak about their land and products. For this reason, I always try to hook up with small-scale family owned wineries.

Last summer, the centre of Italy was our destination, so plenty of options to choose from. Tuscany would have been the obvious choice as Italy’s cultural heart and Sangiovese heartland, but the thought of queueing tourists on the autostrada Chiantigiana made us decide to turn left and head for le Marche. This region in the eastern side of Italy is still rather unknown, probably because of its famous neighbours Tuscany and Umbria. The Marche region has beautiful beaches, endless rolling hills and loads of history. It’s one of those holiday dilemma’s: once you find a lovely spot you would like to share it with the world, but at the same time wanting to keep it to yourself to leave it unspoilt.

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First date with Azerbaijan wine

When talking wine, most people think of Western-Europe when referring to Old World, yet few seem to know that further east lies an even older world when it comes to wine growing and making. Forget Greece or Italy, grapes have already been cultivated a few thousand years ago next to the Caucasus Mountains.

Although the first viticultural activities are said to date back to an area which is now northern Iran, Caucasian countries like Georgia and Armenia surely contributed to the birth of serious wine making. Dramatic landscapes, planted with indigenous grapes carrying unpronounceable names like Mtsvane or Rkatsiteli, where winemakers still use ancient vinification techniques (e.g. qvevri, large clay vessels buried in the ground, meant for fermentation and maturation of grapes, even for whites resulting in unusual tannic white wine).

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What the label doesn’t say

Google wine label and you get plenty of hits on what should be on a wine label. Most of it is pretty obvious stuff on what, who, where. The additional pregnant woman warning is praiseworthy but feels like telling a Formula-1 driver that he’s into a dangerous sport (when will there finally be a she?). Same for the government warning on wine bottles in the USA.

What’s more interesting to know is what the label doesn’t say.

Back label sulfite alcohol (1024x768) 

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