Top Wine Recommendations from Great Winemakers (2nd Instalment)

Welcome back to those of you who have already read the 1st part of this two-part series. We asked 11 very talented winemakers to tell us what wines they like to drink and which winemakers they most admire. After all, winemakers sample wine every day as part of their job and have highly-tuned sensory evaluation skills. Winemakers also take creative inspiration from the wines that capture their attention. So it makes a lot of sense to get advice and recommendations straight from the winemakers.

What Do Winemakers Drink When They Are Not Drinking Their Own Wine?

In order to hold the winemakers’ feet to the fire we asked them their views on favourite wines from outside their own home region. The idea was to have them think about what wines they really admire from around the entire world. To eliminate home-town biases we asked them to abide by a couple of rules:

  1. The wines must be from outside their own region and country; and
  2. The wines must be from a variety they don’t produce themselves.

We have the views of 11 winemakers to share and so this article has been published in two instalments. If you haven’t yet read instalment #1 please check that post for the words of advice from Pierre-Henri Gadais of Domaine de la Combe, Sebastiano de Corato of Rivera Estate, Chris Tolley of Moon Curser Vineyards, Argyris Gerovassiliou of Ktima Gerovassiliou and Marin Plenkovič of Zlatan Otok Winery.

And now, here’s the second set of top wine recommendations!

The Sherry Wines of Jerez – Recommended by Andrea Leon of Lapostolle

Andrea Leon is the award-winning head winemaker at Viña Lapostolle winery in Chile. I love the photo with the winemaking notes she has written on her hand!

“I fell in love with mushrooms, fungi, yeast and all sorts of “creepy crawlies” that a little girl should not have much esteem.  Visiting the Andalucia region in the south of Spain, its culture, its beauty and discovering the world and the cultural heritage of “Jerez”  when I was a student was a revelation. I am captivated by Sherry. The extra layers of complexity you have from either the fleur yeast or/and the oxidative ageing, plus the influence from the sea. Their albariza soils, the solera barrel system, and so much more make it a definite favourite and also an inspiration for me.

The Producers

Regarding producers, Bodega Valdespino is one of the most important producers in Jerez DOC. Their “El Inocente” Fino is one of the very few finos coming from a “single vineyard” called “Pago de Macharnudo”. It is also fermented in “botas” or barrels of 500 litres and aged in 10 “criaderas” under fleur, that means you have 10 vintages in the bottle. For a more modern approach, the selections and also collaborations from Equipo Navazos are always true gems. They work closely with growers and producers  from San Lucar, Jerez de la Frontera and also Santa María to select batches and release a collection of beautiful sherries, from Manzanillas all the way to Creams and even some brandies.

And finally for a Manzanilla with a serious twist (plus the most cute bottle and label) try “Manzanilla Pasada de La Pastora” from Bodegas Barbadillo in San Lucar. It is an old manzanilla with at least some 9 years of ageing. This bodega was one of the first ones to release unfiltered (en rama) bottlings, a whole new level of Manzanilla made in a last century style.”

The Riesling Wines of Germany – Recommended by Vassilis Papagiannakos

Vassilis Papagiannakos of Papagiannakos Winery in Attica, Greece. Vassilis is famed for the work he has done to make nuanced and elegant wine from the workhorse Savatiano grape. If you are ever in Athens head out into the beautiful countryside nearby to visit Vassilis!

“The variety I like is Riesling from different regions of Germany. I have tried some excellent wines and especially in GG wines. GG stands for ‘Grosses Gewächs’ which is like the ‘Grand Cru’ vineyard designation of Burgundy.

Riesling is a variety with great aging potential but this is just one of the reasons it is one of my favourite varietals. What intrigues me more are the complex aromas that are being developed with evolution. And I also love some of the similarities with “Savatiano“, the native variety of my area, Attica, in Greece. I would also add Riesling has amazing dynamics to produce very good dry as well as sweet wine.

Here are some of my favourities: From the Mosel I really like Von Schubert family’s wines from Maximin Grünhaus. From the Nahe region I would recommend the great wines of Dönnhoff. In the Pfalz I really enjoy the wines of Von Winning. And from the Rheingau I recommend Weingut Robert Weil. But there are so many great German Rieslings!”

The Wines of Burgundy – Recommended by Alejandra Sanz of Menade in Spain

Alejandra and her brothers Marco and Richard take organic and non-interventionist practices to really fascinating heights at Menade. They are highly innovative in their environmental practices and fuse technology and tradition to care for their soils, plants and insects. Menade’s Verdejo wines are sensational.

“For me Burgundy is one of the most fascinating wine regions in France, it is a combination of surprises and contrasts. I am in love with French Pinot Noir, it is so generous when it comes to offer you variety of scented aromas based on red berry characters. I can’t get enough of those earthy and floral notes from Burgundy´s terroir. Definitely a very temperamental variety that takes well to French oak and in bottle develops the most amazing undertones.

Some winemakers I like and would recommend are:  Oronce de Beler (La Maison Romane) and Jean-Louis Trapet (Domaine Trapet); minimal intervention is the name of the game here. I am personally convinced that the route of organic viticulture is essential in a world where herbicides and pesticides are adversely affecting the environment.”

The Pinot Noir Wines of Willamette Valley – Recommended by Michal Mosny of Winemakers Cut

Michal Mosny’s wines are capturing a tremendous amount of attention in the Okanagan wine region. He pays meticulous attention to natural vineyard practices and traditional winemaking techniques. One of the hallmarks of Winemakers Cut is that they play classical music in the vineyard and in the cellar – and it seems to make a difference!

“As a winemaker I was never particularly a big fan of Pinot Noir. It is a difficult to grow, yields are low, Pinot consumers can be very fickle etc… But after visiting Willamette Valley, I decided to name this region and Pinot Noir as my choice for wines outside my region. I just like the focus of Willamette Valley and then also the sub-regions make total sense. It is so much more interesting to explore the region when you see the differences in Pinot Noir from each subregion, each site.

“Pinot” sounds cool and everyone wants to drink cool wine, but tasting true Burgundy or Oregon Pinot is not for everyone’s tastebuds. There are many outstanding, world class Pinot Noirs from Willamette valley and I would expect from myself to name some small enthusiast wine producers from that region. But year after year I am impressed by the famous names: Rex Hill winery, Domaine Serene and Sokol Blosser. No shy or safe Pinot Noir produced there at all. Complex, earthy, rustic. Every time I open some bottles I know it’ll be a longer contemplation.”

The Malbecs of Argentina – Recommended by Paul Pisani-Ferry of Château de Targé in Saumur

Paul Pisani-Ferry (right) and his father Edouard make exceptional wines at Château de Targé in Saumur. Their vineyard holding includes a superb contiguous set of plots in Saumur-Champigny. Château de Targé is one of the most recognizable chateaux along the impressive exposed limestone cliffs of Saumur.

“Of course for me my favourite wine region would be the place that really showed me how wine can change a life: Argentina. I worked in a famous winery there called Familia Zuccardi

In the cellar I worked in the R&D team led by Sebastian Zuccardi himself. I was studying different methods of vine caring (2 styles of pruning, 3 different soil depths of the same nature, or multiple clonal and “massale” selections of a specific varietal) and methods of vinification (mostly on the reds where we tried different intensities of pigeage, délestage and remontage). It was fascinating to see the use of the scientific method for experiments but also a lot of intuition and tasting to follow new leads.

A Winemakers Boot Camp

We worked with Malbec of course, but also with Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, and Torrontés. We really worked a LOT there: 12 hours sessions from Monday to Sunday (but hey, sometimes you had only 6h of work on Sundays!). Changing day shifts to night shifts and back again to day shift every weekend, and really not having much life outside of this experience. I didn’t quite realize there and then all the learning that I got out of it. It came afterwards and I still think about this experience in my everyday work nowadays.

This is where I fell in love with Malbec, which led me to preparing to plant a small block of Cot (as we call Malbec here in the Loire) in the years to come on one of my best terroirs.”

Barolo – Recommended by Matthieu Baudry of Domaine Bernard Baudry in Chinon

Matthiu Baudry (left) is now the head winemaker at Domaine Bernard Baudry but always with some advice from his father Bernard! Matthieu’s vineyards on different locations and elevations of the hillside in Chinon allow him to produce very terroir specific and very expressive Cabernet Franc wines.

“These are crazy times – lock down keeps me on the tractor about every day! No customers at the winery, very slow business, no tastings! I feel like a wild winemaker lost in his vines … which is good somehow! 

For me I would recommend the wines of Barolo. I particularly like Cantina Giuseppe Rinaldi’s wines. And I also really appreciate the wines of Giacomo Fenocchio. Both classic Barolo makers.”

More Great Content On The Wine Beat!

Top Wine Recommendations From Great Winemakers (Part 1) – The 1st Instalment In This Series!

The Wines of Chinon in the Loire – From the Original and True Home of Cabernet Franc!

The Wine-Soaked Lens of Matt Wilson – Meet Andrea Leon’s Lesser Half, the Mad Genius Wine Photographer!

A Podcast Interview with Vassilis Papagiannakos – In Person from Attica, Greece with The Father of Modern Savatiano

British Columbia Wines – The Triumph of A Cool Climate (with a nod to Michal Mosny of Winemakers Cut!)

A Podcast Interview with Paul Pisani-Ferry at Château de Targé

Podcast Interview with Matthieu Baudry of Domaine Baudry in Chinon

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