Jean-Claude Berrouet: Around the World in 8 Incredible Wines
Vinitaly International Academy held an Executive Wine Seminar with another of the greatest winemakers of our time: Jean-Claude Berrouet. Less of a media favorite than some of his enological colleagues, Berrouet has nonetheless fashioned some of the world’s greatest wines during his tenure as technical director at JP Moueix, the venerable Libourne negociant house. In his over forty years as the head winemaker at Moueix, he was responsible for a number of epic wine estates, including Petrus, Château Trotanoy, Château Hosanna, Château Magdelaine, and Dominus in California.
Such is his stature in the winemaking community that enology students from all over the world have vied to study or apprentice under him. “At last count, over 400 of the world’s current enologists received training from Berrouet,” says Dr. Ian D’Agata, Scientific Director of the Vinitaly International Academy, who led the seminar, held Tuesday, April 12 in Verona. “Most importantly, Berrouet has never been associated with either a specific technique or wines that carried his signature above all else.”
“Terroir is the expression of the roles of sun, soil and cultivar,” explains Mr. Berrouet. “The worst thing that can happen to a wine is that we don’t let it speak of where it comes from, that we essentially camouflage its birthplace.”
Before a standing-room only crowd, Mr. Berrouet discussed eight wines from wineries all over the world for whom he consults. Dr. D’Agata praised the quality of the wines, which, though relatively young – the oldest was from 2005 – were already in excellent form: “Tannins were extremely well-handled and total acidities harmonious, in the typical Berrouet style, in which the signature of the winemaker never overpowers the site-specificity in the glass. Therefore, each wine speaks clearly of where it’s from. Even better, no wine in the tasting was characterized by strong notes of vanilla, torrefacted tannins and low acidities so typical of the products of much modern winemaking of today.”
The tasting was a voyage through the vineyards of the world where Mr. Berrouet works, including wines from France, the US, Argentina, Israel and Portugal. (Complete wine list: http://www.vinitaly.com/en/events/calendar/iris-room/VIA-Berrouet/). “This was an incredible opportunity to study the expression of not just Merlot, the variety that Berrouet has most been associated with in his life, but also the likes of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Gros and Petit Manseng,” says Dr. D’Agata.
The audience of 50 wine professionals was deeply impressed by the overall wine quality, and greatly appreciated the opportunity to taste so many great wines with one of the wine world’s truly iconic figures.
“Mr. Berrouet brought great samples comparing regions that are totally different from each other,” says Gonzalo Hernandez, account specialist at Breakthru Beverage, Miami. “In addition to a classic array of fantastic Bordeaux, there were big surprises, like the Boa Vista from Portugal and Tzora Vineyards in Israel, and big challenges like Bodega Tapiz, an Argentinian Merlot in a country that doesn't have a great history of Merlot production like California does.”
Managing Director of Vinitaly International Stevie Kim opened the seminar by explaining the three initiatives of the Vinitaly International Academy: Executive Wine Seminars held all over the world, led by Ian D’Agata as the Scientific Director and expert on the native grapes of Italy; the Vinitaly International Certification Course held the week prior to Vinitaly in Verona; and Executive Wine Seminars held during Vinitaly. “The Certification Course is potentially our most powerful initiative,” explained Stevie Kim. “It’s a five-day intensive course for foreigners from all over the world. We travel the globe to find the VIA candidates, and bring them to Verona the week before Vinitaly. The program is extremely rigorous - we’re trying to create our very own ‘military’ to spread the education of Italian wine around the world.”
Joel Mack, US-based wine educator, Italian wine blogger (Vintrospective), and one of this year’s VIA Certification Course candidates, placed the seminar in the context of Vinitaly International’s broader educational initiative: “It is important that VIA holds seminars on high quality wines from outside of Italy in order to establish educational reference points that provide real context for appreciating and understanding Italy's wines and their place in a global market. A consideration of Italy's wines and native grapes against the backdrop of other world class wines and grape varieties is an opportunity to add depth and dimension to one's perspective of both.”