Rosenthal Wine Merchant
This Week’s Tasting
Neal Rosenthal established his importing company, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, in 1977. They specialize in wines from France and Italy, most notably the regions of Burgundy and Piedmont, although they also import wine from Switzerland and Spain, among others. He is a firm believer in the concept of “terroir” or the sum effects of a particular site as it relates to the vine. Neal Rosenthal states that: “At the core, onemust start with the proper vineyard site and excellent viticultural practices. We had wonderful mentors who taught us early in our career that:
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”).
In essence, those two simple rules codify that wine is an agricultural product and that its flavor and structure, those elements that make each wine unique, come from the combination of soil, climate, and grape variety. We refer to this trio as the holy trinity of terroir (and it is important to note that the first two elements of the equation determine the third). 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.”
RWM is one of our favorite importers due to their commitment to high-quality producers that are small production, family owned, make wines from estate-grown organic grapes, and use minimal intervention as well as traditional techniques in all winemaking practices.
Bisson Glera (Prosecco) 2014– Veneto, Italy. “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 Glera grape produces this prosecco that is “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; beginning with the 2011 vintage, a second, more elegant cuvee will be presented with the traditional champagne style cork secured to the bottle with a thin strand of rope.” $19.99
Domaine Jean Claude Thevenet Bourgogne Rouge “Bussieres Les Clos” 2014– Maconnais, Burgundy, France.
“We began working with Jean-Claude Thevenet in 1982. At that point, having taken responsibility for this family domaine in 1971 from his father, Raymond, when their holdings were a mere three (3) hectares, Jean-Claude was in the process of building the domaine to its current size of thirty (30) hectares with vineyards centered on their village of Pierreclos at the heart of the Maconnais. In addition to working their own vineyards, the Thevenet family, for three generations, has also conducted a successful nursery business producing fine quality grape vines for many family-owned domaines in Burgundy and also in the Champagne district.”
“The pinot noir for this wine is found in the village of Bussieres and is sourced from the lieu-dit « Les Clos ». The vines are south-facing at 350 feet above sea level on gently sloping hills that are principally composed of clay. The fruit tends to ripen early due to its excellent exposure. Pigeage and remontage are practiced during fermentation. This wine is marked by notes of black, ripe berries, often a touch “sauvage”. $18.99
DeForville Barbera d’Alba 2014– Piemonte, Italy.
“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. He was succeeded by his son, Vincenzo, followed by Vincenzo’s nephew, Paolo and, then, the fourth generation is represented by Paolo’s daughter, Mafalda and her husband, Bruno Anfosso. Now, the fifth generation is in place: Valter and Paolo Anfosso, the two sons of Bruno and Mafalda. We are particularly proud to note that, along with the Ferrando family in the northern reaches of Piedmont, we have worked with the Anfosso-De Forville family since the very first moment of our engagement as importers of wine for the USA. Our first vintage together was 1978 and we have worked together every vintage since that time.”
“This vibrant, full-bodied red is a blend of grapes harvested in parcels spread amongst the three communes of Barbaresco, Neive and Alba. Included as the primary source are grapes harvested in the cru “Ga’Grosso” in Barbaresco. The grapes are crushed and are then fermented in stainless steel for almost two weeks after which the wine is racked into oak barrels and “botti” for one year prior to bottling. The average age of the vines is 30 years. We import between 7500 and 9000 bottles per annum for the US market.” $18.99
Chateau Massiac Minervois Rouge 2013– Minervois, Languedoc, France.
“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. In the 17th Century, two brothers from Massiac in the Auvergne region traversed the area in service to the King of Spain and eventually settled at this spot situated almost precisely halfway between the clock towers of the villages of Azille and Rieux Minervois. During the French Revolution, the “chateau” was burned to the ground. 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. Massiac encompasses 21.5 hectares of vineyards, 8.5 of which produce the Minervois Rouge and 5 of which are the source for the two white wines classified as Vin de Pays d’Oc.”
“This is the most important wine of the estate, a serious red vinified to reflect its capacity to age. The grapes are harvested at a point of slight “surmaturité” which captures the profound scents and flavors of the surrounding hillside “garrigue”. The cuvaison continues for at least a month; then, the wine is racked into tank for aging. The wine is bottled twenty to twenty-four months after harvest. As the wine ages in bottle, it develops enticing notes of juniper, rosemary and thyme as well as the savory flavors of wild berries and a hint of the “animal” … all in all, one of the more compelling values in our portfolio. Depending on harvest levels, we purchase between 9,000 and 12,000 bottles per vintage.” $16.99
Chateau du Gour de Chaule Gigondas “Cuvee Tradition” 2011– Southern Rhone Valley, France.
“The Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, situated in the heart of the village of Gigondas, was founded in 1900 by Eugene Bonfils, the great-grandfather of the current proprietor, Stephanie Fumoso. All the wine produced at the estate was sold in bulk to negociants until 1970 when Madame Rolande Beaumet, Eugene’s daughter and the grandmother of Stéphanie, began to bottle a small percentage of the estate’s wine for sale to private clients. Madame Beaumet’s daughter, Aline Bonfils, ascended to the head of the domaine in the early 1980s and it was under the direction of Aline that the tradition of estate bottling expanded significantly. We arrived at her doorstep virtually at that same moment and, from that day, we became the exclusive representative in the USA of the Domaine du Gour de Chaulé, purchasing increasingly more important quantities of this classic version of Gigondas.”
“There are several important vineyard sites that form the base of the Gigondas that comes to the USA, including Gour de Chaulé, Les Blaches, and Les Bousquets. The average age of the Grenache vines planted within these plots is 55 years (as of 2011). Production levels generally average 30 to 32 hectoliters per hectare. The grapes are harvested manually and are never destemmed. There is a three week cuvaison. A small amount of press juice is added back to the cuvee. Malolactic fermentation takes place in cuve and, after the malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is racked into large oak “foudres” where it stays for approximately 18 months. The wine is racked no more than three times before it is bottled – unfined and unfiltered – 30 to 36 months after harvest. New oak is not used at this domaine. The resulting wine is sturdy, braced with sweet, dusty tannins, and is intensely aromatic with notes of crushed white pepper, oriental spices and game. We purchase approximately 12,000 bottles of Gigondas each vintage and always draw a considerable number of magnums as well.” $33.99