Riesling isn’t the first grape we think of when considering “international varieties.” Yet it thrives from the suntraps of Napa Valley to the cool valleys of the Antipodes. In this webinar, we will briefly examine the origins of Riesling, trace its early spread through Germany, then zero in on the surprising range of regions where it thrives today: Alsace, Austria, Luxembourg, Northern Italy, the U.S. West Coast, Michigan, and New York, as well as Australia and New Zealand. With a focus on the terroir, traditions, and innovations that affect style in each place, we will uncover what makes Riesling so well-suited to such a wild array of climates, soil types, trellising styles, and winemaking approaches.
Valerie Kathawala is a New York City-based writer specializing in the wines of Austria, Germany, South Tyrol, and Switzerland. She is a lifelong student of German culture and language and has lived, studied, and worked in both Germany and Austria. Valerie holds a WSET advanced certification and has hands-on harvest and cellar experience in two of Riesling’s spiritual homelands: the Mosel and the Finger Lakes. Valerie’s work appears in SevenFifty Daily, Pipette, Glug, Meininger’s Wine Business International, Pellicle, WineFolly, The Vintner Project, and more. She is co-founder and co-editor of the wine magazine Trink.
Have you ever tasted a Souvignier Gris, a Solaris or a Bronner? What about Regent, Cabernet Cortis or Rösler? These are just some of the disease-resistant varieties that have been bred over the last few decades from complex crossings of vitis vinifera cultivars with American sub-species such as vitis labrusca, vitis riparia or vitis rupestris.
What started as a crude exercise in creating new plant material in the wake of the turn-of-the-century phylloxera catastrophe has become a cutting-edge niche in wine production. Varieties are being developed that have resistance to cold, drought, or to common vine ailments such as downy mildew and botrytis. This has opened the door to a form of viticulture that requires almost no inputs apart from pruning.
Should we call these varieties hybrids or PIWIs or something else? And how is a hybrid different to a crossing or a “direct producer”? Does laboratory crossing of grape varieties overlap with gene-splicing, CRISPR9 or GMOs? Where are the boundary lines in these techniques and what do they mean for viticulture and wine in general?
We’ll talk about why winemakers from France, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and beyond are planting hybrids – some are even specialising in them, mainly or even exclusively. Many see them as an essential development in the quest for more sustainable viticulture, and as a potential solution to the dangers posed by climate change.
What do they taste like and why has the wine industry’s reaction to hybrids sometimes been rather disparaging? We’ll take a look at some of the most promising varieties, and some of the winemakers who are achieving the best results.
Hybrids might just be the future in wine. So join me for this session if you want to stay ahead of the curve!
Simon J Woolf is an award-winning English author and wine writer, currently based in The Netherlands.
An acknowledged expect on the developing niche of natural wine, he's written for Decanter magazine, Meininger’s Wine Business International, World of Fine Wine and Noble Rot, and many other publications. Simon is the editor of The Morning Claret, an online wine magazine which specialises in natural, biodynamic, organic and orange wine.
Simon's first book "Amber Revolution - How the world learned to love orange wine" was published in 2018, and won the Roederer Wine book of the year award in 2019. Simon has also won numerous awards for his magazine features and online columns.
Simon travels regularly to countries such as Georgia, Slovenia, Italy and Portugal, where he continues to research the stories and traditions behind artisan winemaking. His second book, Foot Trodden, a collaboration with photographer and wine communicator Ryan Opaz, was published in October 2021. It is described as a journey deep into the soul of Portuguese wine.
Simon is also active as a presenter, editor, wine judge and translator.
Marselan started its commercial journey a mere thirty years ago, as an unknown cross useful in the fight against mildew. It has since won medals and trophies for Chinese wines and been acclaimed as the new Chinese variety. However, the variety is fast spreading around the world with producers needing to learn how the variety expresses itself in new terroirs and with different winemaking techniques. With such a short history, there is little inherited knowledge as to how this variety behaves and ages. With such diversity in style and quality, it is also a difficult variety to market, with suspicion in more conservative markets over its cross status. We will be looking at examples from France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Israel, Lebanon, Uruguay and China to see what the potential is and where it is going.
Elizabeth Gabay has been in the wine trade for thirty years, and an MW since 1998. She has lived in South-East France since 2002. Elizabeth specialises in the wines of southern France and Central Europe with a particular interest in viticulture, climate change, winemaking and non-mainstream varieties. International judge and speaker, she writes for magazines such as Decanter, Meininger, The Drinks Business, The Buyer, Sevenfifty and GuildSomm. Author of "Rosé: Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution" (2018) and a new e-guide "The Buyer's Guide to the Rosés of Southern France" (2021).
Gewurztraminer is a well-known grape variety that has a high potential for aromatic intensity, diversities of style, different expressions of terroir and a good potential for aging. Often described as being too powerful, too rich or too sweet, consumers and sommeliers need to challenge themselves, get out of their comfort zone and embrace the uniqueness of Gewurztraminer. Eric will take us on an exploration of this grape variety and where it is found around the world and also describe which types of foods best pair with this distinct varietal.
Eric Zwiebel MS is Cellar Master at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in Dorset. Born in Alsace, he began his wine career early on by helping his parents in their restaurant, before working as Sommelier in Paris for 5 Years
Following his experience in Paris, he decided to move to London to broaden his knowledge of the many different wine regions and take courses offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Two years later, in 2001, Eric achieved his MS qualification.
In 2004, he was named Best Sommelier of the UK, which he followed up with 3rd place at the Best Sommelier of Europe competitions in 2006 and 2008. He reached the finals in the Best Sommelier of the World competition in 2007 and placed 4th at the 2013 competition in Tokyo.
Rick's Pick: Miguel Torres discusses the winery's role in the fight against climate change discussion as well as the recovery and rediscovery of Spain’s lost indigenous grapes.
Over thirty years ago, Familia Torres embarked on an exciting project close to its heart: the recuperation of ancestral varieties which were believed extinct after the devastating phylloxera plague of the late 19th century. The idea was to recover the winemaking heritage of Catalonia, and thanks to the efforts of the family's fifth generation, the project is going stronger than ever! More than 50 varieties have been rediscovered so far, a few of which are very interesting from a winemaking perspective.
Miguel Torres, who is now heading these efforts, will share more about this amazing project and how it is also making a positive impact on climate change.
Miguel Torres Maczassek is fifth-generation and has been the General Manager of Familia Torres since 2012. Miguel started as Manager of the Jean Leon winery (Penedès), later at Familia Torres he oversaw the new ventures in Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Rueda and Rias Baixas and worked as General Manager of Miguel Torres Chile. Today, his primary focus is the production of wines from unique vineyards and historical estates, climate change and the recovery of ancestral varieties.
Italy’s wealth of grape varieties presents wine connoisseurs with many tantalizing prospects, particularly on the red wine spectrum. While Sangiovese and Nebbiolo still reign supreme, numerous grape varieties have re-emerged from hiding in recent years to spellbind wine lovers around the world. In Italy, the story of how some of these grapes transitioned from obscurity to fashionably cool can be just as compelling as the wines themselves. In many cases, the wines from these grapes are shining in a way they never have before, thanks to more informed decisions in the vineyard and winery.
Here are five up-and-coming Italian red grapes to pay attention to. While all of these grapes have been around for centuries, their resurgence has meant a quality revolution and increased interest from the international marketplace.
While Italian red wines still garner much of the attention, there are, without doubt, many outstanding white wines that deserve consideration. While white wines like Soave, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Fiano di Avellino, are already well-known, there are also lesser-known — but rightfully trending — Italian white grape varieties that today produce exciting wines worth seeking out.
Drinking and discovering Montepulciano (the grape) d'Abruzzo is like looking at a painter's palette, so many colors, so many shades and so many possibilities. Montepulciano is one of Italy's most versatile grapes that can produce terrific rosatos, quaffable reds for any occasion but also some of Italy's boldest and age-worthy wines, worth every sip.
Ciro Pirone, Director of Italian Wines for Horizon Beverage Company, is a graduate of the Istituto Alberghiero (Hotel and Restaurant Management school) of Salerno, Italy. Traveling and working in Italy, England and the US, Ciro developed an incredible passion for wine, food and culture. After all, growing up in Italy, wine was always a very important part of his family’s lifestyle and traditions.
In 1999, Ciro moved to the US permanently. He landed in Boston, where he continued his wine studies at Boston University, the International Sommelier Guild and the London –based Wine & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET). In 2007, Ciro accepted the position of Italian Wine Specialist for Horizon Beverage. After successful growth at HBC, Ciro accepted on a new challenge as the US Brand Manager for the Arnaldo Caprai Winery of Montefalco (Umbria), the top producer of worldwide recognized Sagrantino di Montefalco. In June 2011, Ciro returned to Horizon Beverage with a new position of Director of Italian Wines in support of their expanding presence in the New England marketplace. Ciro is happy to share his passion for Italian wine and culture in an effort to give the American wine consumer a better understanding and appreciation for Italian wine!