The most recent LBV virtual tasting centered around the theme of “frontiers”—in wine, this means exploring the unknown.
During a year marked by periods of challenge and isolation, syncing up with the LBV wine club to taste cherished classics and explore new frontiers in wine has become so important to me for many reasons, but most importantly for the community it fosters. We all show up on screen willing to try wine outside of our comfort zones in hope of discovering some places unknown, and diversifying our palates. We log on from wherever we are, even if that means en route in a town car from one part of the Island to the other. Perhaps the wildest thing about the LBV wine club is that I have never met any of the members in person, with the exception of the friend who invited me to join in the first place. And yet, the club has become my most cherished community. In this sense, “frontier” takes on a meaning far beyond wine. We are living in a moment in which technology has made it possible to forge new friendships and build new communities virtually.
For our March tasting, the theme “frontier” led us to examine how climate change has yielded innovation in the wine business, like the planting of vines that are not indigenous to a region. Vineyards all over the world are planting foreign vines to see whether it’s possible to produce delicious classics and employ ancient winemaking techniques on new soil. We began our taste test with the Chardonnay, a grape we all felt comfortable with. Whether your Chardonnay interests lie as deep as drinking grand cru Chardonnay from Bâtard-Montrachet on the regular, or a buttery Chardonnay makes you a little crazy with energy, we could all relate.
After we all tasted, our sommelier guide made the big reveal: “This Chardonnay is from Germany!” This is exceptionally rare, it was my first time tasting German Chardonnay (this one was from the Pfalz). Why we were drinking it, and why it was made in the first place were the questions I was most interested in exploring.
Chardonnay has officially been allowed to be planted in Germany since 1991, but still, only 2.1% is planted under vine today, and not much of the bottled product makes it to the United States. German viticulture always seems to be one step ahead. Cool climate Chardonnay is a thing of beauty in Chablis, so it makes sense to plant this varietal in other cooler regions. But we are bearing witness to the troubling effects of climate change—a few days ago it was 79 degrees in NYC in March. Luckily, the world has some vigneron that like to play outside of the known limits, and Andreas Durst, the maker of the German Chardonnay we tasted, is a prime example. Durst is a photographer by trade, but his passion lies in winemaking. He is described as a bohemian artist, and that may be the reason he farms his organic small-scale production by hand. The key is using very old vines with small yields so the soul of the vine can speak.
Even now, I can’t stop thinking about the second wine in our line-up, which enchanted me completely, first with its stunning glow; I admired its blood orange color as it sat decanting on my windowsill for six hours before the tasting. This wine was from Georgia, and by no means was this a new style of wine—in fact, it was a very old school wine, made the way Georgia’s ancient ancestors were making it some 8000 years ago. Georgia’s wine region has existed much longer than one would imagine, since Georgian winemakers only began bottling their wines for export fairly recently. But the food and wine culture in Georgia is ancient history. This cool region is home to around 500 indigenous grape varieties that have traditionally been aged in earthenware called qvevri. These large, egg-shaped clay vessels are used for fermentation, storage, and aging, and are buried under the ground. (Side note: cleaning a qvevri is a job only for a small person, as you have to step inside the vessel to properly clean it.) Today, qvevri are still made by hand from local clay by a few families across the country’s wine regions. Each family gives their qvevri unique character, but all of them maintain the ancient tradition and style of the vessels.
Accompanying Georgia’s wine—which is truly the most untouched by the human process I have seen—is a delicious cuisine. Warm bread with melted cheese and butter, walnuts, meat dumplings, fresh herb salad, and braised meats would traditionally be served at a feast called supra, which is the Georgian word for “tablecloth.” Georgians gather for supra is to celebrate birthdays and promotions, to mourn a lost loved one—any excuse to gather leads to supra. The food and wine at these feasts should be constantly flowing, and there is usually a leader called a tamada who serves as the toastmaster. The energy and sounds of a supra is reflective of Georgia’s rich culture—something I’d like to explore further, and since I can’t travel there yet, I plan to start by reading Lisa Granik MW’s 2019 book, The Wines of Georgia.
Wines From Our Tasting:
Andreas Durst Chardonnay, Pfalz Germany 2017:
Eagerly described on the Vom Boden website as one of the “best goddamn Chardonnays in Germany,” this thirty-five-year-old vine Chardonnay grown in limestone soils was hand-harvested and whole-cluster-pressed. The wine was fermented naturally in used barrique for 12 months, then transferred to stainless steel tanks to settle before bottling (without fining and with minimal filtration). The color of this wine was light gold with a touch of fluorescent yellow. On the nose, I smelled lemon balm, brioche, and citrus, and the palate had bright acidity that was met by a creamy texture. This wine had plenty of structure that kept going for days and maintained its deliciousness all the while. Knowing how tiny the production is, I wonder if I will ever be able to get more of this enchanting wine.
Chateau Khashmi Kisi, Georgia 2018:
This family-run winery is located in the village of Khashimi, Lori Valley, Georgia, where they respect the old Georgian way of making wine that dates back 8000 years. The Kisi grapes are sorted on tables to ensure that only the very best grapes are used. The grapes are crushed—stems included—and then all maceration and aging occurs in the egg-shaped clay qvevri, which are buried deep in the ground to achieve a stable temperature throughout the year. After the fermentation is complete, the wine stays in contact with the pomace and stems for six additional months, and performs natural stabilization. This wine’s label states that it is a dry, unfiltered Amber wine. I took that note and made sure I decanted this wine six hours before I tasted it to let it breathe and to ensure the sediment settled. The color was vibrant—a blood orange hue that I had not experienced in wine, almost like a sun on fire. On the nose, I was getting sandalwood, mushroom, dried apricot, and soil. The palate was intense: unsweetened peach iced tea, with tea tannin that fully coated my mouth. I would be selective about when to drink wine like this. Although it is just crushed grapes in the most unobstructed way possible, the skin contact Kisi grapes give off a lot of tannin, and this may not be what you want if you crave classic wine. I would love to drink this wine alongside a Georgian meal. I trust history that this would be an immersive pairing experience.
If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!
Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on February 11th, 2021. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.
First photo via Wine Tourism
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