Sun and Hills
On our recent February winemaking trip into Western Europe, we arrived on the heels of a cold spell that had dropped moderate amounts of snow on the hillside vineyards of Germany's Mosel Valley and Italy’s Piedmont. Many of these sites have been famous for a millennia for their ability to ripen fruit under such challenging continental conditions. In these cooler conditions, with their late-ripening varieties, the difference between a slope that is Southeastern to Southwestern and the alternatives is often the difference between a legendary wine and something that you need to add sugar to for a wine of mere moderate quality.
While we often speak of this effect, there are times that it is more than evident to the naked eye. In each one of these areas our first few days were cold and sunny, but it was more than evident which the optimal sites were. As we drove through the twisted roads, the best exposures were bare of any snow while the lesser sites were still blanketed in white.
It was from these sites that we source the best fruit and wines for HillCrest's International selections.
As a side note, it is interesting that these same attributes hold for other food products as well. It is said that the greatest fruits in the world come from the coolest environment in which small crops can barely ripen. Examples include apples from Normandy and Southern England, Maraska Cherries from Bosnia or white apricots form Kazakhstan. These environments, on the edge, allow for the brutally slow accumulation of sugar while the flavors are able to develop to maximum levels. The best salmon comes from the coldest water in which it will swim. Alaska's Copper River salmon are some of the most sought-after, regarded as some of the world's most exceptional wild salmon whereas pen-raised salmon often closer to the equator (where it grows faster) lacks the elegance and texture of its northern cousins.
So not unlike life it is the challenging conditions, or in the case of great wine the vineyards on the edge, that produce the wines with the most depth and strength of character.
To the Genie in the bottle!