Wine for Normal People podcast

Ep 387: Veramonte's Sofia Araya -- Organic, terroir-driven wine in Chile

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Sofía Araya  - head winemaker of Veramonte, Ritual, Primus, and Neyen

Sofía Araya was born and raised in Chile and she has made wine in nearly every high quality valley of the country since she graduated from la Universidad de Chile. After years of working on conventional farms for some big names, she moved to Veramonte. She helped transition the over 500 ha/1,235 acres to 100% ECOCERT certified organic vineyards. Veramonte represents 15% of all organic vineyards in Chile.


Sofía is now the head winemaker and oversees the organic Veramonte and Ritual and the organic and biodynamic properties of Neyen and Primus.  All are under the umbrella of Sherry-based Gonzalez Byass.


Although this may seem like a mega-brand because of its excellent distribution, it actually turns out that Veramonte and its sister brands – Ritual, Primus, and Neyen – make just 200,000 cases of wine a year (2.4 million bottles) combined. That’s the size of a medium brand at a big hulking winery!


Two things that are important:

1. Sofía and I jump right in on the geography. It may be helpful to follow along with the WFNP map or to listen to this podcast we did on Chile before you listen. (You can listen to this on the Casablanca Valley, this on Maipo, and this on Rapel if you really want extra credit!)

2. A summary of the brands to keep it all straight:

    • Veramonte: Cool climate Casablanca and Colchagua wines for everyday consumption. Pop and pour!
    • Ritual: Also from Casablanca, and only Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot. These are more food wines, with stronger tannin, and fuller body. They are a bit more terroir driven.
    • Primus: The same idea as Ritual but these wines are bolder reds. There is a red blend and a Carménère from Apalta in Colchagua, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo.
    • Neyen: The signature, high-end blend, sourced from their top site in Apalta.


Here are the points we cover:

  • Sofia tells us about her life and career. She talks about working for Casa Lapostolle and Luis Felipe Edwards in the Colchagua Valley, and Arestí in Curicó.


  • We get the history of Viñedos Veramonte and how Sofía was a major part of its transition to organics. We discuss some of the exciting things about the transition and some of the more difficult ones (including a change in mindset.

    **Sofía mentions Flowers and Quintessa as being brands owned by Augustin Hunneus. Flowers is a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir brand, Quintessa is a Napa-based mainly Cabernet-based brand. Both are biodynamic and both are very pricey).


  • We discuss the Casablanca Valley at length – its surprisingly cool climate, how it developed through the 1990s and 2000, and the very pure fruit flavors that she is able to achieve in the wines made here: Ritual and Veramonte. We discuss the reds of the region, the different flavor profiles they can achieve in this area, and why they are successful in Casablanca.

  • Sofía discusses Colchagua and why the Carmenére is so good from this area. We discuss the sub areas of Apalta and Marchigue (pronounced mar-Chee-way) from which Primus and Neyen are sourced. We discuss what makes Neyen, their flagship wine, so special.


  • Since Primus Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Maipo Valley, we also discuss this beautiful, famed area. We mention the Maipo Alto, Maipo Medio, and Maipo Bajo as being diverse


  • Sofía schools us on why Chilean wine is an incredible value for the money and why price doesn’t always mean quality, especially where Chile is concerned.



Thanks for our sponsors this week:

Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to


To become a member of Patreon go to



To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:

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It makes a lot of different grapes but we focused on the Avesso grape, which is floral, like pears and red apples, bready (from lees contact) and creamy, as is the nature of the grape.  I love this grape, it belongs in the full whites category with Rhone whites, Priorat whites, Verdejo, and Fiano. Producers: A&B Valley Wines, Curvos     Basto is in the southeast as well, with Douro on the other side of the mountains. Avesso, Arinto, Azal, and Alvarinho are the main grapes. Azal is a rare grape that is acidic with green apple, citrus, herbal, lemon, grass, mineral notes and and acidic yet savory quality. (I mention that only about 10 -15 pure Azals made in the world, Quinta da Razas in one of them). Producer: Quinta da Razas   Photo: ©Wine For Normal People, Harvest team at Quinta da Raza in Basto Monçao e Melgaço  is the home of Alvarinho! There is traditional Alvarinho and then there is so much experimentation with the grape that flaovrs range enormously. The standard bearers show tropical fruit, lime, and floral notes with characteristic strong acidity because the wines don’t go through malolactic fermentation. Granite v schist soils make a difference and any number of styles from sparkling to oak aged, to amphora aged to skin contact wines are being made. Producers: Soalheiro, Adega de Monçao, Quinta da Santiago.   I did not visit the subregions of Paiva and Baiao so we don’t discuss them in the show, but they are in the south and specialize in Arinto, Avesso, Azal, with some Loureiro.   All in all it was a lovely trip! The producers are open to the public, so it’s an easy and fun few days to plan if you love white wines and want to learn something new!   _____________________________ Thanks for our sponsors this week: Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to   To become a member of Patreon go to     To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:
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    Ep 392: The Greats -- Chablis


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  • Wine for Normal People podcast

    Ep 391: Édouard Miailhe - Dynamic leader of the Margaux AOC & 5th Generation Owner of Château Siran


    Château Siran is an historic and innovative estate on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, in the commune of Margaux. Once owned by the painter Toulouse-Lautrec’s great-grandmother, in the mid-1800s Siran was purchased by ancestor of Édouard Miailhe’s family and today he is the 6th generation to run Siran.   Miailhe, like many of the most interesting people in the wine industry, had an entire career doing something other than wine (in his case finance and real estate in the Philippines) until his mother and father retired about 15 years ago and he decided to move back to France to run the Château. He likes to stay busy (and take on challenges) because in addition to being the leader of Château Siran in 2018, he took the difficult job of running the winegrowers association of Margaux, a post that was held by his predecessor for decades! Photo: Team at Château Siran, Marjolaine Defrance, oenologist on the left, Édourard Miailhe center, Jean-Luc Chevalier, vineyard manager, right. In this show Édouard does double duty – telling us first about Margaux and then about the spectacular, very classic wines of Château Siran, which are an insane value and should be sitting in your cellar to age right now! We discuss the Margaux AOC: the location, the climate, the (slight) elevation, the soil and the typical style of Margaux, plus how it differs from its close neighbors like Pauillac, St-Julien, Listrac, Moulis, and parts of the Haut-Médoc Édouard shares a bit of the political landscape of the Margaux appellation, its long history (he is amazingly and refreshingly honest about this – Margaux hasn’t always been fancy, glitzy and glamorous!) and talks about how Bordeaux was a very different place 35 years ago. We talk about the grapes in Margaux and what each brings to the blends in the appellation (with special attention given to Petit Verdot). Then we discuss Château Siran … We learn the history of the château and how the property wound up in the Miailhe family’s hands in 1859. Édouard tells us about the fine gravels and subsoils of the region, the proximity of Siran to the river and its unique place in the Labade commune.   The blend and the role of Petit Verdot is featured -- they use up to up to 11% of the grape in some years. We also discuss Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We discuss the importance of sustainability – Édouard’s father never sprayed chemicals in the vineyard so it has been free of pesticides for more than 40 years. His vines are old, healthy and full of character. We talk about the Grand Vin – Château Siran – the blending, vinification, and aging. Then we discuss the other wines: S de Siran, the second wine Château Bel Air de Siran (Haut-Médoc) Château Saint-Jacques (Bordeaux Superieur) We really get into the limitations of classifications and why Siran originally opted out of the 1855 Classification and why they recently decided to opt out of the Cru Bourgeois classification. We close talking about how Château Siran is one of the few estates in the Médoc that people can visit. Let’s visit!!! Photo credit: Château Siran Other notes... Chateaux mentioned: Château Giscours, Château Dauzac, Château Prieure-Lichine, Château Pichon-Lalande, Château Palmer, Château Margaux Édouard also mentions Professor Denis Dubourdieu as wine consultant from St.-Émilion Here’s a link to the video of Marjolaine Defrance, the enologist at Chateau Siran   _____________________________________________________ Thanks for our sponsors this week: Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to   To become a member of Patreon go to       To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:
  • Wine for Normal People podcast

    Ep 390: The Grape Miniseries -- Petit Verdot


    Petit Verdot is often the secret weapon in a blend -- providing unique aromas and flavors plus acidity and tannin. In this show, we discuss this essential grape and the vital role it plays in wines around the world. What is Petit Verdot? The name means “little green one”, since it's hard to ripen, the berries remain green when other grapes are ready to harvest The grape is used in Bordeaux blends but sometimes made as a varietal wine Petit Verdot ripens later than other varieties and is used for tannin, color and flavor, gives structure to mid palate Photo: Virginia Wine Origins: Around in Bordeaux before Cabernet Sauvignon Could have been brought to Bordeaux by Romans Probably from Southwest France around the Pyrénées but gained recognition in the Médoc and Graves (on the Left Bank of Bordeaux) Plantings shrunk after phylloxera and the big 1956 frost in Bordeaux Petit Verdot was uprooted to be replaced in Bordeaux with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Now – more being planted, can withstand heat and drought   The grape: Small, thick-skinned berries that look almost black because of high anthocyanins -- lots of color and tannin! Early budding, late ripening -sometimes too late for the Bordeaux climate but that is changing (more similar to Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot in the vineyards   In the vineyard: Best on warm, well-drained, gravel-based soils  Canopy management to maximize sun exposure is important If the weather does not cooperate in the spring during flowering, the fruit will not ripen well  Sensitive to water stress Winemaking: Even in small amounts (0.5%!), Petit Verdot can make a big difference Most winemakers will age these wines in oak, fostering undercurrents of vanilla   Aromas/flavors: Pencil shavings, violet, black fruit, spice, tannins, acidity Very acidic if not fully ripe but can be elegant and refreshing if it’s ripe Cool climate: Dried herbs (sage, thyme), blueberry, blackberry with violet, leathery, pencil shavings Warm climate: Jammy, spicy, dark fruit, full-bodied, decent acidity, high tannin   Old World France Almost all Petit Verdot in France is in the Médoc of Bordeaux Big proportions are in: Chateau Margaux, Chateau Palmer, Chateau Pichon Lalande (Pauillac), Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien, Chateau La Lagune, Chateau Siran in Margaux Italy Primarily in Tuscany in the Maremma Toscana DOC (we mention the PV by Podere San Cristoforo), and in Sicily in the Menfi and Sicilia DOCs. Some in Lazio and Puglia Other Old World Places: Spain: Petit Verdot grow in warmer areas like Castilla y Leon, Jumilla, La Mancha, Alicante, Méntrida DO Portugal: Success in Alentejo Found in Turkey, Israel   New World United States Virginia: Often blended with Merlot of Cab Franc Needs free-draining soils (gravel is best) and high heat We get a firsthand account of PV from Elizabeth Smith of Afton Mountain, who makes outstanding wines. California: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Lodi, Central Valley used in Meritage/blends often, with a few boutique standalones Washington State: PV is grown and made in Columbia Valley, Walla Walla, Yakima, Red Mountain Other Places: Planted in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, PA, Maryland, New York, and more   Canada: Okanagan Valley of BC, Niagara Peninsula in Canada   Australia Used to make big bodied, lots of floral and dark fruit flavor single varietal wines. The grape has good acidity and tannin that will age for several years Ripens very late, often weeks or a month later than Shiraz Regions:  More bulk wine: Riverland, Murray Valley, Riverina, region is home to Australia’s largest plantings of Petit Verdot (which maintains acidity, even in heat) Better areas: McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Barossa, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, and the Limestone Coast.     Argentina Every region from Patagonia to Calcahquí but mostly in Mendoza -70% or more is there. Verdot has good results in Bordeaux style blends Other South America: Peru, Chile, Uruguay – in blends and a varietal wine   South Africa: Mainly in Bordeaux blends and as a varietal too   Food Pairings with PV: Grilled or roasted red meat or hearty vegetables Spicy pork and spicy foods in general – Latin American spices ____________________________________________________________ Thanks for our sponsors this week: Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to   To become a member of Patreon go to   To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:  
  • Wine for Normal People podcast

    Ep 389: Chateau Doyac and the Diversity of Terroir in the Haut-Medoc of Bordeaux


    Photo: Château Doyac In our continued exploration of the Médoc (which will culminate in two free, live, online classes that I hope you'll join or watch on YouTube afterwards), on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, I spoke with Astrid de Pourtalès, co-owner of Château Doyac. This property is a Cru Bourgeois Supérieur located in the northernmost part of the Haut-Médoc appellation that is unlike what you think of when you consider this region. This show presents a high level overview of a different part of the Médoc (versus Château Meyney, where Anne Le Naour gives a very detailed view of St-Estèphe) and a nice view of what a family owned château is like in the region.   Astrid de Pourtalès owns the château with her husband Max and her daughter Clémance. She discusses her experiences in being fairly new to Bordeaux after a career in the New York theater scene (they bought Château Doyac in 1998) and the bold move that Max made to transition Doyac to an ECOCERT certified organic vineyard in 2018 and then a Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard in 2019 (this is no small feat in Bordeaux, which has an erratic climate, we don’t go into extensive detail but it is an interesting contrast to the show with Sofía Araya of Veramonte in Chile who discusses biodynamics in that easier to farm area). Photo: Château Doyac Astrid tells us how they came to buy the château, the measures they took to improve it (including hiring famed consultant Eric Boissenot, who consults for the majority of the Grands Crus Classé in the Médoc), and the role her daughter, Clémance, an agronomist, will take in the future to run things for this small, high quality property that makes about 100,000 bottles/8,300 cases.   We discuss a number of high-level topics: What it is like in the very northern part of the Haut-Médoc where the effects of the Atlantic and Gironde are stronger and the soil has a big proportion of limestone (Doyac's Sauvignon Blanc is on my list to try – apparently it is reminiscent of Chablis - not a typo she says it's like a minerally Chardonnay!). Map: We talk about the reasons Max pursued the organic and biodynamic paths for Château Doyac and the results: better, easier to work soils, and much improved vines and wines that demonstrate elegance, acidity, and pure fruit character (right now the mix is Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon but in the future about 20% will be Cabernet Franc, with 70% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is their most recent planting -- it does well on the limestone clay soils here).   Astrid discusses their second wine, Espirit de Doyac and their newest wines in Le Pelican line.                                 Astrid tells us why Doyac uses amphora (you can listen to this podcast to really learn about that topic) and what the benefits of that is versus oak.   We wrap up with a discussion of the Cru Bourgeois and talk about the bright future for Château Doyac. Photo from Les Grappes: Astrid and Max de Pourtalès _____________________________________________________ Astrid mentions a few chateaux in the conversation. Here are links that will be helpful if you missed anything in the conversation: Chateau de Malleret, Haut-Medoc, France – the chateau Max’s father in law owned (Holy COW this is a huge château and gorgeous!)   Chateau Ferrière in Margaux (very pricey wines, BTW) where a group meets to discuss and mix teas for  biodynamics   We also talk about the Saint-Émilion Classification issues (Article) and the Cru Bourgeois.   ____________________________________________________________ Thanks for our sponsors this week: Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to     To become a member of Patreon go to     To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:  
  • Wine for Normal People podcast

    Ep 388: The Greats - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano


    Photo: Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano The Nobile Wine of Montepulciano is a wine based on a clone of Sangiovese and from a small hillside town in Tuscany called Montepulciano. It is, indeed, one of the great wines of the world. Although often overshadowed by its neighbors – Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico – and confused with a grapey, high yielding producer in Abruzzo (the Montepulciano grape), this wine has class, style, and a legacy of greatness to back it up.   After ups and downs over nearly 2000 years of winemaking, Vino Nobile is experiencing a quiet revival and it's one of my favorite wines in Italy. Moderate in body with an interplay of fruit, herb, and brooding tea and forest-y aromas and flavors, this is a wine that those in the know (you!) will immediately fall in love with. With its latest comeback, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is back and better than ever. And who doesn’t love a comeback story? Photo: Getty Images Here are the show notes: We discuss where exactly this hillside town is: in Tuscany, southeast of Siena, 40 minutes east of Montalcino We talk about the specific regulations the region has built into law to try to improve the wines: Grapes must grow on the slopes to qualify for the Vino Nobile DOCG 70-100% Sangiovese or 30% other red varietals (Colorino, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, other local grapes) and up to 5% Malvasia and other whites You can find all the laws here, as well as the requirements for aging. Here is the official page from the Consorzio del Vino di Montepulciano with the latest rules on aging, yields, etc. They also have proposed Pieve, as of 2021. We address the elephant in the room: Montepulciano IS not the grape, this wine is from the PLACE called Montepulciano!!! We get you squared away on the difference between these two wines – Montepulciano is a grape that makes an US$8-$10 wine. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the noble wine made from Sangiovese in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano. It is based on a clone Sangiovese – Prugnolo Gentile History The wine has been noted since 55 AD. Montepulciano has been praised by merchants, authors, Popes, and politicians like Thomas Jefferson Phylloxera, mildews, World Wars, the Depression, and then an emphasis on quantity versus quality put the wines of Montepulciano in a real funk. It got lumped in with Chianti, lost its status, and that was a real setback for the region In 2017, six like-minded Montepulciano winemakers created a small association called Alliance Vinum to show the purest expression of single-vineyard Sangiovese/Prugnolo Gentile. The group calls these wines Nobile instead of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to avoid confusion with the southern Italian grape. Here are the wines of this group: Avignonesi: Nobile Poggetto di Sopra Boscarelli: Costa Grande Cantine Dei: Madonna della Querce La Braccesca, an estate of the Antinori family: Podere Maggiarino Poliziano: Le Caggiole after a 20-year pause, Salcheto: Salco Vecchie Viti Photo: Getty Images Other wines we mention… Rosso di Montepulciano  Vin Santo    We review Pairing Suggestions with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Antipasti --Grilled Vegetables, fresh cheeses, cured meats like prosciutto, salami Pasta with tomato, truffle, Bolognese, mushrooms sauces Risottos with mushrooms Pizza, lasagna, eggplant Braised and roasted game, red meats. Stews. Portabella mushrooms Ribollita Hard cheeses Photo: Getty Images ______________________________________________ Thanks for our sponsors this week: Wine Access: Access to the best wines for the best prices! For 15% off your next order, go to   To become a member of Patreon go to   To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to:

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