Billecart-Salmon: enduring history, evolving savoir faire, and six decades of Nicolas François

By 1844, Champagne’s grand marques were already measuring global shipments in millions of bottles. Following phylloxera, consecutive troublesome vintages, and two devastating wars, they acquired vast swathes of land from…

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Carema: heroic viticulture, sudden demise, and a fervent revival

Some two thousand years ago, the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, instructed the construction of Via delle Gallie, a significant road enabling Roman military and political expansion towards the Alps.…

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Freisa: origin, viticulture, winemaking, and more

As early as 1517, Freisa—a parent/offspring of Nebbiolo—commanded twice the price of contemporaneous varieties. In 1799 Count Nuvolone, deputy director of the Turin Agrarian Society, described Freisa as one of the ‘best red grapes’ in the region, and by 1861 the variety was said to have been included in almost all Piedmontese red blends. In 1875, a third of all the vineyard acreage in Asti and Alessandria was still planted to Freisa; the variety was ubiquitous in Chieri, Monferatto and Langhe too. Its popularity continued into the early twentieth century, favoured for its hardiness, resilience to downy mildew and reliability. Popularity notwithstanding, scarcely more than twenty hectares remain planted in Langhe—several hundred in Piedmont. Between 1960 to 2000, change characterised the region. Lacking as clear an identity as its autochthon counterparts, Freisa fell out of favour—not helped by mixed critical reviews. Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto better suited international palates and plantings grew dramatically, further compounding Freisa’s decline. Today, modern winemaking techniques allow growers to manage Freisa’s bitter tannins better or ferment the wines fully dry. Despite prominent producers scrubbing their productions, a small but impactful band of grower’s continues to cultivate the variety, championing tradition and biodiversity. Particularly resistant to flavescence dorée, requiring fewer treatments than other popular varieties, and yielding a ‘lighter’ canopy than Nebbiolo, Freisa’s revival may be necessary as well as deserving. Herein, I examine Freisa in greater detail, exploring origins, viticulture, and winemaking with Carlotta Rinaldi, Marie Teresa Mascarello, Isidoro Vajra and more. 

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Delayed malolactic fermentation: exploring the stylistic and practical impacts

Though almost universally referred to as malolactic fermentation, the process through which tart-tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid and carbon dioxide released is not technically a fermentation. More accurately it is a conversion or transformation. Though likely as old as wine itself, practical understanding of malolactic is a relatively recent breakthrough. As early as 1837 German oenologist Freiherr von Babo described a "second fermentation'' which resulted in increased turbidity. Von Babo's advice to winemakers was to immediately rack their wines and add sulfur to stabilise. Following a string of influential breakthroughs in the late '80s, in 1939 the French wine scientist Émile Peynaud outlined the importance of malolactic in making great Bordeaux. By 1960, following work by scientists in California, France, and Portugal, isolated strains of lactic acid bacteria were successfully used to carry out malolactic fermentation in the winery. Nowadays winemakers have a range of malo-centric variables at their disposal. Some choose to inoculate with bacterial cultures while others opt for spontaneity, some experiment with particular cultures of bacteria while others negate warming with site-specific blocking of malolactic. And though not often discussed, there are those who consider delayed malolactic fermentation as being amongst the most impactful of these variables. In this piece, I explore this topic in more detail with the help of some of the worlds most-lauded winemakers and writers.

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Phosphorus in viticulture and winemaking: an exploration from soil to bottle

Besides that which is essential for photosynthesis, namely carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, grapevines also require a range of nutrients to grow, survive and prosper. These nutrients are split into two groups depending on the scale of requirement, macro and micronutrient, the former being those required in larger amounts. Phosphorus is essential for plant growth. It is a component of cell membranes and DNA and plays a vital role in photosynthesis, the movement of sugars, and carbohydrate storage within the vine. Deficiency of phosphorus in vines can result in reduced vine vigour and yellowing of the interveinal area of basal leaves. In extreme cases, this may be followed by early defoliation of these leaves. Poor bud initiation and fruit set may also be observed. In this article, I will explore phosphorus in viticulture from soil to bottle.

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Cork in winemaking: history, production, taint and Diam

As early as the fourth century Egyptians are believed to have used cork for fishing buoys; however, there is no consensus as to when the first cork was used to stopper a bottle of wine. Corks have been found in Roman shipwrecks dating from the fifth century BC, though it does not appear to have been the usual method of closure. After the fall of the Roman empire, global trade vastly decreased, between 500 and 1500 cork farmers from the Iberian Peninsula struggled to their products and cork gradually disappeared. In the 17th century cork reemerged and for almost the last four centuries virtually every bottle of wine has been sealed using a cork. However, since the 1970s alternative solutions began to emerge and the cork monopoly looked to be in question. The cause of the onslaught, amongst other things, was a chemical compound known as TCA, otherwise known as cork taint. Despite the growing presence of alternative closures, millions of winemakers drinkers around the world refuse to budge. In this article, I will explore the history of cork, it's production, faults and the future.

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