Jefford on Monday: Up The Steep Hill

news  %tages Jefford on Monday: Up The Steep HillChateau Latour and Napa Valley Araujo owner Francois Pinault has just been named the eighth richest man in France, but this archived column from Andrew Jefford considers the wide difference in value that exists in wine and reports on a tale seldom reported yet arguably much more predictable. BrandstattThis Jefford on Monday article was originally published on 25 August 2013.
I’ve never, alas, tasted an Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley.  My newly bought enthusiasm for fantastic Napa Cabernet, though, suggests that I’d like it a lot.
What was ‘the undisclosed sum’ paid by the Pinault family in late July to bring Araujo into the Latour stable?  No one knows quite which two digits preceded the million dollar abbreviation.  (Or were there, even, three?)   The colossal difference in land values, though, between Napa Cabernet vineyard and those of Coonawarra, Margaret River, or indeed any additional location in the ‘New World’, is remarkable, and http://1000-facts-about-wine.com merits reflection by landowners in those additional key Cabernet regions.

See also: Richest French wine chateau owners revealed

Let me tell you about a very different vineyard transition. You’ll never have heard of the peddler or the vineyard, and may not have ever heard of the buyer, either. The sum involved was insignificant. Why am I bothering you with it? More before long.
On the afternoon of June 25th, I stood with a Wachau winegrower called Peter Veyder-Malberg. We looked across to a terraced vineyard on a slope a link of hillsides away called Brandstatt. It’s photographed above.
Veyder-Malberg is an incomer to the Wachau, a former Vienna advertising executive who quit, learned winemaking at Pine Ridge, Villa Maria, Esk Valley and Franz Keller then, after working as general manager for Graf Hardegg in the Wienviertel, bought a few morsels of terraced vineyard for himself.
Why terraces? “My thought was to farm land where tractors have never driven. We’re in the north. It rains. Tractors do a huge amount http://1000-facts-about-wine.com of hurt when driven on wet soil. This work is more like gardening, and that was fascinating to me.” He concentrated his buys on the Spitzer valley at the Wachau’s western end. “People on the banks of the Danube say that these vineyards never get ripe, but I thought that would be fascinating with climate change. And most growers here take their fruit to a co-operative, so I could just afford the land prices.” He’s bought 20 tiny parcels up and down the Wachau, building about four hectares.
He pointed across to Brandstatt: a steep hill whose terraces were half-abandoned. “I bought that vineyard in 2009 from an ancient lady in her eighties. She was called Margarete Siebenhandl – a tiny lady, very slender, with a very precise voice. She was unmarried. She’d tended those vineyards all her life. She used to come up here each day. You see that hut?” A small black lean-to crouched at the bottom of the vineyard. The slope meant it was sited at a http://1000-facts-about-wine.com crazy angle; it looked as if it would slide away at any moment. “That was where she used to shelter from the storms. She used oak stakes for the vines. She used to remove them each winter, so no one would steal them, and place them back in spring. But one day she couldn’t come up the hill any more. So she questioned the firemen to cut all the vines off, and the vineyard fell into ruin. She went to live with her sister. I talked to the sister, who told her ‘This man wants to buy your vineyard’. The ancient lady didn’t believe it. No one thought that vineyard would ever come back to life. Many growers in this part of the valley are ancient. Their backs go, and then they have to give up, because the children are all pleased with their jobs in Vienna.”
Veyder-Malberg reclaims four terraces of Brandstatt each second year: he hasn’t got the funds or the time for more than that, but he http://1000-facts-about-wine.com does a thorough job, restoring the walling as well as clearing and replanting. In six years’ time, he should have finished his restoration of this perfectly exposed mica-schist vineyard; he’s planted Riesling (“it’s too free-draining for Grüner”), and he has high hopes for it. What, I questioned him, did Margarete reckon of his work?
“I felt very sorry for her when I heard her tale. Before long I called back and talked to her sister. I questioned if I could show Margarete what I was doing. ‘No,’ she said; ‘she’s in bed and doesn’t get up any more now. But anyway I told her,’ the sister went on. ‘When she heard that her Brandstatt was going to be replanted, she cried.’”
For some wits, I haven’t been able to forget tiny, aged Margarete Siebenhandl, who walked herself up the steep hill ever day of her working life to look after her vines, who lived on the modest sums her grapes brought her at the co-op each year, and who felt, http://1000-facts-about-wine.com when her strength disastrous, that she had to question firemen to ruin her life’s work because no one would now want it. I suspect it’s a far more predictable tale than the excellent chance of Bart and Daphne Araujo — in all the hard parts of Europe, and in all the have-a-go places in the New World where high hopes before long crumble. Each time you drink a European cooperative-produced wine, it will brim, silently enough, with tales like Margarete’s. At least this one had a pleased ending.
The post Jefford on Monday: Up The Steep Hill appeared first on Decanter.

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