Rosenthal Wine Merchant is a highly-regarded, distinct, and quality-driven portfolio representing, almost exclusively, wines from France and Italy. Their book includes limited-production, estate grown and bottled wines that are made in a classical manner and reflect a specific sense of place. This concept of sense of place, or terroir, became the driving force of the Rosenthal philosophy- the producers they represent must share in their passion of terroir. Rosenthal’s objective from the very beginning was to work as directly as possible with growers and represent wines that are produced in limited quantities, using traditional winemaking methods, and that are made as naturally as possible. Click to read Neal Rosenthal’s definition of the Concept of Terroir.
Neal Rosenthal got into the retail wine business in the late 1970’s and began importing wine shortly thereafter. Today the Rosenthal portfolio includes more than 75 producers from almost every viticultural area of France, a handful of regions in Italy including Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Liguria, and Oltrepo Pavese, as wells as a very small amount from Switzerland, California, and Spain. The wines are selected for concentration, purity of flavors, and clarity of expression. The Rosenthal offerings strike a balance between finesse and power, which results in exceedingly ageworthy wines.
Their high standards and inflexible values set Rosenthal Wine Merchant apart from many in the wine business; they seek out small, family owned and operated producers (as opposed to cooperative, negociant, or commercial ones), they do not follow fads or “hot sources,” they do not purchase wine to “fill a slot” or a missing appellation in their portfolio, they purchase wine from their suppliers year after year, vintage after vintage, regardless of the “quality” of vintage (be it good or bad!), and they visit each grower twice per year to follow the evolution of wines and track development of the estate. To top it all off, their entire sales staff visits each grower so that they can properly communicate the nuance of each estate to their customers.
People ask me all the time what’s my favorite wine, and although I do not have a specific answer to this question, I can say with certainty that Rosenthal wines are my favorites, and the wines that I consume most frequently at home and for pleasure. Commonly we will drink well-known, high-end, high-scoring wines (that are not Rosenthal’s) from regions such as the Rhone Valley, Burgundy, or Piedmont, and almost every time Matt and I agree that Rosenthal’s wines from the same appellation are much better- and in almost every case the Rosenthal wines are a fraction of the production level and a fraction of the cost. In the store there is a barrel by the register with a smattering of wines displayed upon it- if you’ve ever wondered what these wines have in common, it’s that they are imported by RWM and that they are some of my “favorites”.
Tomorrow night for the tasting we will sample three wines from France and three from Italy. We are pleased that Trey Stephenson, South Eastern Representative, will be on-hand to present the wines and answer any questions.
The specific wines for the tasting are:
Chateau La Rame Blanc 2010– Bordeaux, France. Chateau La Rame is among the oldest and most renowned properties in the Sainte Criox du Mont appellation. The estate was purchased by Claude Armand, father of the current owner, Yves Armand. The 20 hectares of Chateau La Rame are set on a clay-limestone soil with an exceptional substratum of fossilized oysters dating from the Tertiary era. The vineyards are planted 75% to Semillon and 25% to Sauvignon Blanc, with vines that average 45 years. The harvest is done entirely by hand over a series of weeks. Bottling is accomplished with no fining and very light filtration. The result is a dry, crisp, enchanting, and aromatic white. Tasting $16.99
Paul Jeune Domaine de Monpertuis Cotes du Rhone 2009– Rhone Valley, France. The Domaine de Monpertuis has been in the hands of the Jeune family for several generations. Each successor has added vineyards and expanded the estate to include today 10 acres of vines amongst 32 separate parcels throughout the confines of Chateauneuf du Pape, as well as Cotes du Rhone and Vin de Pays du Gard. The Cotes du Rhone vineyards are generally between 20 and 60 years and planted almost exclusively to Grenache. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented separately, whole cluster (with stems), according to varietal. The wine is aged in large foudres and is then bottled without filtration. Tasting $17.99
Jean Claude Thevenet Bourgogne Rouge 2009– Burgundy, France. Jean-Claude Thevenet is a third generation “vigneron” whose winery is located in the heart of the Maconnais in the village of Pierreclos. His grandfather was the winemaker for the Chateau de Pierreclos and his father developed a business as a supplier of rootstock. Today the Thevenets own 25 hectares of vineyards in the adjoining communes of Pierreclos, Prisse, and Rilly Larmartine. The vineyards are planted mostly to Chardonnay (although this is Pinot Noir!); not a single drop of the wine is sold to negociants. The entire harvest is done manually and the wines are made using traditional methods. Tasting $18.99
Luigi Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso “La Torrazza” 2009– Canavese, Piedmont, Italy (near Val d’Aosta). Luigi Ferrando’s family’s winemaking tradition dates back to 1900; his family is responsible for discovering and preserving local winemaking traditions that may have otherwise been lost. His sons Roberto and Andrea now work with him on the estate, thereby assuring the continuation of the Ferrando tradition. The Canavese is technically part of Piedmont, located near the Val d’Aosta. Erbaluce is an ancient white grape variety originally from the alpine foothills of upper Piedmont. It offers bright acidity, elegant underlying minerality, and an overall structure that makes it the ultimate flexible wine. Tasting $19.99
DeForville Dolcetto d’Alba 2010– Piedmont, Italy. The DeForville family emigrated to Piedmont from Belgium in 1848 and established themselves in the village of Barbaresco in 1860. In the early part of the century the DeForvilles sold their wine in bulk directly to restaurants and retailers, who then bottled the wine. They bottled their first wine in 1940 and today their entire production is bottled at the estate, averaging 100,000 bottles annually. The Dolcetto vines are planted in Barbaresco, in the “cru” vineyard called Lorento. The wine is vinified in the traditional manner and fermented on the skins with extended cuvaison. It is then racked into large oak barrels, where malolactic fermentation takes place. It ages for about nine months prior to bottling. Tasting $16.99
DeForville Langhe Nebbiolo 2009– Piedmont, Italy. The DeForville family began growing the Nebbiolo grape in the village of Barbaresco in 1860. In 1907 Paolo Anfosso married into the DeForville family and took over the reins of the family business. In the early part of the century the DeForvilles sold their wine in bulk directly to restaurants in retailers. They bottled their first wine in 1940. Valter and Paolo Anfosso, sons of Bruno, now manage the estate. The 10 hectare domaine is divided between holdings in Barbaresco and Castagnole Lanze. Within Barbaresco, Nebbiolo is planted in the “cru” vineyards of Rabaja, Lorento, and Pozzo. The Nebbiolo is made in a traditional manner, fermented on the skins through an extended cuvaison, then racked into large oak barrels where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wines of DeForville are particularly ageworthy, and after sufficient bottle age develop complex aromas of fruit, earth, and flowers, that can only result from wines that are vinified in this traditional manner. Tasting $20.99
Much of the information included in the introduction and wine descriptions came from either Rosenthal’s book “Reflections of a Wine Merchant- On a Lifetime in the Vineyards and Cellars of France and Italy” or his website, madrose.com