Rosenthal Wine Merchant- France and Italy Welcoming Trey Stephenson, Southeastern Representative

This week we will feature a variety of wine imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant from various regions of France and Italy, one sparkling (“prosecco”), one white and four reds. We are also excited to welcomeTrey Stephenson, Southeastern Representative and longtime friend of Spirits, who will  be on hand to present the wines and discuss their nuances. Expect lots of surprises this week— this is a tasting you will not want to miss!

Neal Rosenthal is has devoted the past 35+ years to importing wines of “character”- meaning those that display terroir, or a sense of place (the sum effects of the location of the vines including soil, climate, altitude, etc.), are made by family owned-and-operated producers (except one that’s made by nuns) in a traditional, artisinal, organic, hand-crafted manner.

The core of his philosophy is:

“1) 90% of the ultimate wine is created in the vineyard; and,
2) the role of the winemaker is to let the wine make itself (“laissez le vin de se faire”).

The role of the wine producer is to render the fundamental character of the wine in its most clear and precise form so that it speaks to us of its geographical origin, its birthplace as it were, and the special conditions that obtained in the particular vintage.”

Terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry, especially when associated with the “Old World versus New World” approach to wine and the philosophical and commercial differences between the two.

Neal Rosenthal speaks of terroir in his book “Reflections of a Wine Merchant- On a lifetime in the vineyards and cellars of France and Italy”: “I have a distinct preference for the traditional wines of western Europe and a matching skepticism about most of the wines produced in the New World as well as for those wines made in the Old World that seek to imitate the characteristics of their New World brethren. My perspective, once so common in the wine trade, is now shared by a small, probably aging, minority of the wine merchants. Nevertheless, I am content with my choices.

To contemplate the reasons why a wine made from the chardonnay grape planted on a particular hillside in the Cote d’Or of Burgundy differs so markedly not only from its kin harvested on a slope in Australia thousands of miles and a hemisphere away but also from its sister wine made from grapes harvested by the same grower just meters away is to begin to grasp the logic of the phenomenon known as terroir. The concept that the particulars of a zone- the combination of soil, climate, grape type, and perhaps, human history- are responsible for producing very special characteristics that are unique to a quite specific spot turns the consumption and the study of wine, as well as the commerce in it, into more fascinating and ultimately more satisfying activities. It also reveals the truth about wine and anchors us to a respect for the natural world that is fundamental to our well-being. The most satisfying of wines reveal their characters slurp by slurp as they speak of their origins and their traditions. The best of wines always proudly tell you from where they come.”


Enoteca Bisson was born in 1978 when Pierluigi Lugano fell in love with the wines of the Ligurian coastline. He began as a trader in small lots of bulk wine, later became a wine merchant and finally a grower in his own right. He now splits his time between his busy wine shop in Chiavari, the wine cellar and his vineyards. The small but very well equipped cellar is designed so that each lot of grapes can be vinified individually. With the exception of an occasional experiment with barrel aging, Lugano vinifies his entire range of wines in stainless steel to preserve the essential fruit of each vineyard site and each grape type.”

Bisson ‘Glera’ Vino Frizzante Trevigiana 2012– Veneto (Treviso), Italy. Glera (“Glera is a white variety of grape of Italian origin, which until 2009 was mostly referred to as Prosecco”). “The result of his collaboration with a colleague with vineyards situated in the Treviso district of the Veneto. This lightly sparkling wine is particularly distinctive as Lugano insists on producing our cuvee in a bone-dry style. The Prosecco is bottled early to maintain its freshness and is released in the early months of the year following the harvest.  We recently converted to the use of a bottle cap closure for the basic cuvée, the “Glera” for ease of use and for its joyous accessibility.” $19.99


Lucien Crochet expanded the work of his father-in-law [Lucien Picard] and, over a thirty year period, also expanded the domaine so that it now encompasses 38 hectares of vineyards, almost all of which are located in the village of Bué with smaller holdings in the neighboring villages of Vinon and Crézancy. Twenty-nine hectares are planted to Sauvignon Blanc and the remaining 9 hectares are planted to Pinot Noir.  Since 1989 only organic supplements have been used in the vineyards which are planted to a density of between 6600 (older plantings) to 8700 vines per hectare.  The harvest is manual.”

Domain Lucien Crochet Sancerre 2011– Loire Valley (Sancerre), France. Sauvignon Blanc. “The grapes for this basic cuvée of Sancerre are sourced from the vineyards in Bué, Vinon and Crézancy.  After harvest, fermentation is done in stainless steel cuves at temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius.  As with all the whites at the domaine, this wine sits in contact with the fine lies for a considerable period of time with the racking being done late in the spring following harvest.  The first bottling occurs no earlier than July and frequently does not occur until September of the year following harvest.” $26.99


“The Cuilleron family domaine, located in the hamlet of Verlieu (part of the town of Chavanay) was founded several generations ago (1920). Yves Cuilleron’s grandfather was the first to bottle wine for commercial purposes in 1947. Most of the vineyards are situated in and around the commune of Chavanay which is just south of the town of Condrieu; obviously, the holdings in Cote Rotie extend north into Ampuis and the holdings the furthest south are in the village of Saint Péray. A large majority of the vineyards are set on terraces which makes most mechanization difficult, if not impossible.  Thus, much of the vineyard work continues to be done by hand.”

Yves Cuilleron Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Rose ‘Sibel’ 2012– (Northern) Rhone Valley, France. Syrah. “This Rosé is sourced 100% from Syrah grown within the confines of the village of Chavanay.  It is produced by the “saignée” method after a brief maceration of several hours.  The fermentations are in stainless steel and the elevage continues for about six months before bottling in the spring following harvest.” $18.99


“The Domaine Pascal Granger is located in the hamlet of Les Poupets within the village of Juliénas in the heart of the finest sector of the Beaujolais district.  This estate has been in the Granger family for over two hundred years, dating to Napoleonic times, and has passed from father to son continually.  The domaine encompasses 14 hectares with vineyard holdings in the home village of Juliénas and extending through the neighboring villages of Jullié, Chénas, La Chapelle de Guinchay and Leynes.  All harvesting is done manually and treatments in the vineyards are minimal with weed-growth tolerated between the vines.”

Pascal Granger Beaujolais Villages ‘Le Fetrau’ 2010- Burgundy (Beaujolais), France. Gamay. “The vineyards for this classic red of the region are situated just north of Juliénas in the commune of Jullié.  The soil is granite-based and composition is essentially in the form of small pebbles which afford excellent drainage.  After hand-harvesting, the grapes are fermented for eight to ten days as whole bunches.  Then, the wine is drawn off into vats and is aged an additional six months prior to bottling.  Approximately 3000 bottles are imported to the USA annually.” $16.99


The Chateau Massiac has a long history that dates back to the Roman Empire when this area was colonized by the Romans using the nearby Mediterranean port (30 kilometers) of Narbonne as an access point. Bernard Boudouresques and his family recently revived the domaine, planting vineyards and converting the estate to organic viticulture.  Production from the estate is now (2012) certified organic.

Chateau Massiac Sentinelle de Massiac Minervois Rouge 2011– Languedoc-Roussillon (Minervois), France. 80% Syrah, 15% Carignan and 5% Grenache. “The “Sentinelle” cuvée is the more precocious of the two reds produced at Massiac.  The tannins are more supple and the fruit a touch “sweeter”, more forward and less rustic than its companion.  Fermentation and elevage are in tank.  The wine is bottled within a year of the harvest.  The blend is usually two-thirds Syrah and one-third Carignan.  Somewhere between 9,000 and 10,500 bottles are reserved for us for the US market.” $13.99


“The DeForville family emigrated to Piedmont from Belgium in 1848 and established themselves in the village of Barbaresco in 1860. Here, the family was instantly engaged in growing the Nebbiolo grape under the direction of Gioachino De Forville. Our first vintage together was 1978 and we have worked together every vintage since that time. The nearly 11 hectare domaine is divided between holdings in the villages of Barbaresco [4.5 hectare] and Castagnole Lanze [6.5 hectare]. Within Barbaresco, Nebbiolo is planted in the “cru” vineyards of Rabaja, Loreto and Pozzo. In general, the grapes are all hand-harvested and are then fermented in stainless steel with complete temperature control… the red wines are racked into large wood barrels for varying periods before being bottled. The reds are traditionally vinified, being fermented on the skins throughout a cuvaison that may extend (for the Barbaresco) for as long as 4 weeks. At the end of November, the wines are racked into large oak barrels [50 to 60 hectoliter size] and the malolactic fermentation occurs in barrel.”

DeForville Langhe Nebbiolo 2011– Piedmont (Langhe), Italy. Nebbiolo. “This cuvée is a selection of Nebbiolo from the younger vines of the various “cru” in Barbaresco supplemented by grapes from the neighboring village of Neive.  The average age of the vines is 30 years.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel for 10 days to 2 weeks and then is refined in large oak barrels for an additional year before being bottled.  An astonishing value … as are all of the fine wines from this remarkable estate.  We import as much as 9600 bottles per year of the Langhe Nebbiolo.” $22.99

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