Minerality in Wine, Great Hybrid Grapes & What Jimi Hendrix Can Teach Winemakers with Aleks Zecevic

Nov9th

Introduction

Is minerality a flavour or a texture? What does it feel or taste like? Why do wines made from hybrid grapes deserve your attention? What can winemakers learn from Jimi Hendrix?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m interviewing Aleks Zecevic, wine writer and host of the Vintners podcast.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

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Highlights

  • How does Ewald Tscheppe of Werlitsch get a unique texture to his wines?
  • How did carrots help Aleks improve his understanding of and appreciation for biodynamic wine?
  • What distinguishes Werlitsch Ex Vero I, II, and III?
  • Which common characteristics will you taste in most wines from Styria, Austria?
  • What will you experience when tasting Werlitsch Ex Vero III?
  • Is minerality a flavour or a texture?
  • What do I especially love about the mouthfeel of Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Syrah?
  • How does Slovenian influence show up in the wines of north east Italy?
  • What is the Carso?
  • How does the terroir come through in Zidarich Vitovska 2017?
  • Why are some grapes called hybrids while other crossed varieties are not?
  • Why are hybrid grapes increasing in popularity?
  • What makes Vitis vinifera more susceptible to disease and environmental damage?
  • Why are hybrid grapes more environmentally friendly and better suited for climate change?
  • What can winemakers learn from Jimi Hendrix?
  • Why does Aleks connect with vinyl records more than digital music?
  • What’s the mission behind the Vintners platform?

Key Takeaways

  • I thought Aleks’ explanation of how minerality affects both flavour and texture helpful.
  • Wines made from hybrid grapes will increasingly become part of our drinking menu both due to climate change as well as their improved taste and diversity of flavours.
  • I loved his tip on what winemakers can learn from Jimi Hendrix.

 

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About Aleks Zecevic

Aleksandar Zecevic, or Aleks, hails from Belgrade, Serbia. He grew up around a family table where love for wine was nurtured. After relocating to New York City for college, Aleks worked in various facets of the wine industry. These experiences cultivated a greater appreciation, and he furthered his passion by taking WSET courses and landed a job at Wine Spectator. After a training at the magazine and pursuing professional studies in journalism at New York University, Aleks became one of the lead tasters at the magazine. He then became a fine wine specialist at the renowned auction house, Sotheby’s. Today, Aleks specializes in reviewing Austrian wines for Wine Enthusiast and is an avid supporter of eco-friendly agriculture. He is also part of the newly founded Vintners platform, where he creates content and hosts a podcast.

 

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Transcript

Aleks Zecevic 0:00
Minerality definitely impacts the flavour but I think it also impacts the texture. And this one to me, although it has a lot of flavour, it’s mostly about texture doesn’t have tannins but it has this grip that I think comes from minerality and also the high acid you feel it caresses your palate. And then because of the acidity you get this like mouth watering sensation right after you swallow and the wine just lasts. You can really taste it for like minutes.

Natalie MacLean 00:36
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations. Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 206. Is minerality of flavour or texture in wine? And what does it feel or taste like?

Why do wines made from some hybrid grapes deserve your attention? And what can winemakers learn from Jimi Hendrix? You’ll hear those tips and stories in Part Two of my chat with Aleks Zecevic, who hosts The Vintners podcast. You don’t have to have listened to Part One from last week first. But I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one. Now a quick update on my upcoming wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking too Much. So in mysteries and thrillers, suspense usually comes from action. It could be a car chase, the hero entering a room about to be clubbed over the head by a villain, or bullets flying through the air in a shootout. In most memoirs, including mine, there aren’t these heart pounding sequences. However, in memoir, dialogue is action. Why? Because it’s often rapid fire with sentences that are shorter on average than others in the book. And that gives a sense of momentum, sort of a back and forth rally between characters as though you’re watching a verbal tennis match on the page visually. It’s also very racy because there’s a lot of whitespace so each sentence or fragment a character says has its own line. So there tends to be very few thick paragraphs of text. As a reader, you can whip through these pages and feel the satisfaction of motoring through the book. The only risk with dialogue is when it becomes stilted or expository. And I’ll explain what I mean by that next week. In the meantime, here’s a review from Kim Wells, a beta reader from Newfoundland. “Is this a great title or what? I will take Wine Witch over Wine Babe or Wine Mommy any day of the week. If you think this is only a book about wine, then you’re mistaken. It is much more than that. This is an honest, hilarious, and touching memoir from Natalie MacLean which at times made me angry on her behalf. I related to her feelings of being the recipient of mansplaining and patronizing behaviour, and of being underestimated. The online witch hunt she experienced is a timely and important subject, and most readers can probably relate to the experience of being targeted on social media with sexist, angry, or inappropriate messages, although not to the degree the author experienced. But lest you get the impression that this memoir is a downer or an account from a man hater, let me correct that immediately. It is actually brimming with good humour and optimism, describing her journey from emotionally draining and painful life experiences to finding her place in the world again, with renewed self confidence, close family ties, and the support of a good partner. I really appreciated the author’s honesty in this memoir. And for me, that is the valuable piece of reading a well written memoir. It reminds me to face my own problems and demons with clear eyes and equal honesty. I enjoyed this book immensely. Five stars”. Thank you, Kim. That means a lot to me. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/206. And this is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memo from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.

Unknown Speaker 5:23
You have one more interesting story about someone in Styria, Austria. Let’s see, Ewald Tscheppe?  What is the name?

Aleks Zecevic 5:32
It’s pronounced Tscheppe.

Natalie MacLean 5:34

Tscheppe, okay. Yeah, kidding. With a T? Yes. Tell us about that winery and the unusual taste test the winemaker offered you there.

Aleks Zecevic 5:42
Well, so some of the best visits I’ve had and some of the best conversations that I’ve had with producers were with Ewald. He’s really a man who he’s super relaxed and super kind of like in tune of almost like a Buddhist monk. I mean I don’t know if I should say this, but very like level very balanced. Just a  quick anecdote before I get into the taste test. First time I visited him, he was telling me about a 2014 vintage and he lost something like 90% of his crop. So a huge amount. And I was so saddened to hear this. And I was like, well  you know how did you deal with this? Did you have to buy grapes? He said, no. You know next two years I got more than my average yield and it all evens up. It’s all balanced. And it was such a like you know relaxed response, like this was just part of the game. So I really appreciated that. And when you hang out with him and when you talk to him, you really get this vibe. As a matter of fact, I have his wine right next to me here but we’ll get into that later. So he’s a biodynamic grower. He farms according to Demeter rules, probably goes even beyond that. And it has a lot of philosophies that he uses when he’s farming and when he’s making wines.

Natalie MacLean 6:57
So no fungicides, pesticides, and so on. It’s like beyond organics biodynamics.

Aleks Zecevic 7:04
Exactly, so he’s using sprays that you know are made out of like teas that are basically energized by him you know spinning them around with his hand for an hour in one direction and another there. There’s a lot to biodynamics that it’s very complex for me to just like kind of explain in a few words. But anyway, we were actually talking about texture in wine. And one of the things that people normally get confused with is that everybody thinks that all of his wines are because he makes white wines. And they’re a little darker in colour. And people usually think that they’re all skin contact slash orange slash amber wines, whatever you want to call them. And this is not the case. He does make some skin contact orange wines but not all of them. So majority of them are not. They’re just white wines. So we’re talking about texture because you get this texture in his wines that can be confused for patterns and so on. And he was basically saying that he gets this texture in wines because of the way he farms, the biodynamic principles that he uses. And as we were talking about this, he says oh hold on one second I want to do a taste test. So he ran out and grabs two different carrots, and didn’t tell me what they were. But he just said this carrot. So there we were, we were tasting carrots to us. And then he told me he said one carrot is an organic carrot I bought at a market and then the other one is a biodynamic carrot I bought from a farmer that I know. And he says which one do you think is the biodynamic carrot? And I guess correctly. The biodynamic carrot was just well, firstly a little more complex in flavour but also it had this like specific crunch that the other one didn’t have. The other one was also delicious, don’t get me wrong. But there was definitely a difference. So is it biodynamic farming or if simply the other cared was better? I don’t know. But it was kind of a cool taste test and I actually wrote about this when I wrote about vinters from Styria back I think in 2019.

Unknown Speaker 9:04
So its a good way to illustrate texture too, like how it can be expressed in other fruits. Sometimes that’s more relatable. But you aced a blind test obviously.

Aleks Zecevic 9:14
This was purely luck.

Unknown Speaker 9:16
That’s great. You mentioned his wine that you have I don’t want to miss tasting that with you. So what’s two wines do you have there with you? Because I love to also hear how you taste.

Aleks Zecevic 9:26
I have two wines. So one of them is from Ewald Tscheppe here in Austria. Yeah, that is his label. It has a planet and the tree that grows. Okay. Anyway, this is called Ex Vero III. So he grows primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. And Ex Vero line, he has three different Ex Veros, Ex Vero line is always a blend of the two. It comes from the vineyards that are directly above his house. You can literally see them. And it goes Ex Vero I comes from kind of like the bottom. So where do you have the most topsoil. Then Ex Vero II is kind of in the middle. And then Ex Vero III comes from what we were talking about in Burgundy the top of the sights, usually from the soils that are not as rich. So very poor, the vines are struggling a little more. And that is Ex Vero III. Exactly.

Natalie MacLean 10:15
So that should be the best one I would think.

Aleks Zecevic 10:20
Exactly. So I opened this last night, okay. So the wine has no added sulphur. It is not filtered or fined. The wines can age beautifully because they have low pH. I believe 2.9 or maybe three. This is pretty low. Bacteria does not like this whatsoever. And higher acidity. This is from 2015 which was warmer vintage. The wine is a little bit richer. I’m going to bring my glass. You’ll see the colour.

Natalie MacLean 10:52

Oh, yeah it does look like an orange wine.

Aleks Zecevic 10:55
So it looks like an orange wine for sure.

Natalie MacLean  10:58
Yeah. And just so you know, I’ve got two Syrahs here. Not that we tried to do a thematic tasting in any way. But they are both from Ontario, and one is from Backyard and one is from Rockway. But yeah, go ahead keep telling me about what’s in the wine that you have there or how it smells to you.

Aleks Zecevic 11:13
To me most of the wines from Styria has very specific tastes, kind of almost like a flinty note, if you will. But I think well from this part of Styria, I should say because there are three different separate appellation in Styria that are different. But from this part, they have this soil they call it Opok. O P O K. And it’s basically marrow with a lot of clay.

Natalie MacLean 11:35
Okay, lots of drainage.

Aleks Zecevic 11:39
So lots of drainage and that is very good because Styria gets a lot of rain. It is the wetness wine region in Austria.  You know which also just shows you how dedicated this person is farming biodynamically with all the humidity that he has to deal with. The wine is extremely expressive. It’s pretty ripe. As I said, this comes from the most concentrated berries he gets. 2015 and also being a warmer vintage, the wine is full of like tropical flavours. I mean, when I write my tasting notes I definitely give specific fruits and so on because you have to, but I kind of like to when I’m talking to my friends who like wine. You know people get intimidated when you tell them like oh I’m spelling peach or mango here but you don’t you know. It’s true. I think this is very subjective. It’s also depends on what you eat and stuff like that. So a lot of tropical flavours and stone fruit flavours and also that flint can have that kind of credit to the soil and the minerality.

Natalie MacLean  12:40
While you’re tasting there, is minerality s taste or a texture to you? And take your time there. I’m just pouring my Rockway Syrah from Ontario. And I said I had the Backyard as well. So go ahead.

Aleks Zecevic 12:53
I’m kind of glad you’re bringing that up. I think minerality you know a lot of people will say one or the other. I think it’s both. I think it definitely impacts the flavour but I think it also impacts the texture. And you know this wine to me, although it has a lot of flavour, it’s really mostly about texture. Doesn’t have tannins, but it has this grip that I think comes from minerality and also the high acid. It’s kind of you feel it. Goes over your palate, kind of caresses your palate. And then because of the acidity you get this like mouth watering sensation right after you swallow. And the wine just lasts. You can really taste it for like minutes.

Natalie MacLean 13:31
Wow. I don’t get technical just by nature. It’s not my focus on the wine reviewing but I just want to say in terms of these two Syrahs I’m finding they have some similarities. They’re both full bodied and smooth, of course Syrah usually is. And I think we can do Syrah well in Ontario even though we’re a cool climate. We specialize more in Riesling, Pinot Noir as you know, Alex. But these just have a beautiful sort of velvety mouthfeel and I do love that texture, mouthfeel however you want to describe it. It’s different from weight, fulled bodied medium light, but it’s just a voluptuousness or something that just as you say it caresses your palate and there’s something beautiful about that.

Aleks Zecevic 14:13
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve actually had some Syrahs from cooler climates. I think when done well, they can really work. I think the grape can take it. Syrah is definitely one of those grapes that really shows that it was grown in a cooler climate or warmer climate depending.

Natalie MacLean  14:29
It does, doesn’t it? Well, lots of dark fruit here. Again not getting into my fruit salad bowl just right now. I’ll just keep it at a high level. Beautiful dark fruit and even some dried tea leaves or something there says dried herbs maybe more like it. There’s something savoury about these Syrahs that I’m really liking.

Aleks Zecevic 14:47
I was just gonna say also about my wine. Now on the second taste, the aftertaste is almost salty. And I think I love when I taste this in food. The other wine that I have is definitely saltier, but I love when they get this in wine because I think good matches when you’re eating food like that really helps out.

Natalie MacLean  15:06
Especially if it’s making your mouth water. What is the other wine that you have there?

Aleks Zecevic 15:09
The other one I have is it’s a. I’ve never covered this region before. And I’m kind of sad about it. This comes from Carso or Karst depending on which side of the border you are. So this is northeast Italy, right above Venice, right on the border with Slovenia. So this is a historically really interesting area because you have a lot of Slovenian people living in this area in Italy. And this is because a little bit of history. After World War Two, President Tito of Yugoslavia basically gave a little part of the land to the Italians. And so the Slovenian stayed on the other side of the border. So what’s interesting is that all these Slovenians basically make the wine the same way. They went back to the roots, and they’re all making wines without adding anything. So natural wines, if you will. A lot of them are making white wines with skin contact, orange wines, or amber wines, whatever you want to call them. And this is from a guy his name is Benjamin Zidarich. So the rich is anything that ends with itch, just like my last name, is usually Slavic last name. So not Italian at all. As a matter of fact, if you go to his website, he would say in Italian welcome. So benvenuta I think it’s an Italian and also dobrodošli which is in Slovenian. And this is from a grape Vitovska, which is an indigenous grape of the area. And kind of like the signature grape of the winery. It’s pretty neutral. So it’s really able to show where it comes from. And the soils in Carso or in Karst, it’s basically limestone soil but a very specific limestone with a lot of calcium and a lot of iron. So it’s kind of reddish and if you compare it, for example, Grave who’s in a similar area, but really more Fruili and Collio then in Carso. The soil is different. The wines are bigger. Zidarich which makes these wines that are very light. So this is only 12% alcohol and it’s a skin contact wine. But as you can tell. It’s orange again. it’s definitely orange, but it’s a little bit lighter. And it’s lighter in colour than Werlitsch who does not have skin contact. So this is because of the tough skies, the variety, but also because of that soil. And the wine is just very mineral, very salty, you know, a lot of like chalk. Again, it’s not really about the fruit. This is really also a lot about the texture.

Unknown Speaker 17:40
That sounds so good. Wow, I’m really enjoying the Rockway. These wines are changing.

Aleks Zecevic 17:48
I chose these two because while Zidarich being one of my really favourite producers and also Werlitsch, because we’re talking about him, but also because I wanted to show that colour can be deceiving. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. And going back to my wine origin speech that I gave earlier, I think wine should be mostly about taste. It’s not about what you see in your class. Of course, if it’s a beautiful colour it helps especially when we’re posting on Instagram. But

Natalie MacLean 18:19
But wine’s more than Instagram, thank goodness. So while we’re tasting, I don’t want to skip over this, you had a really interesting podcast about hybrids on The Vinters podcast. Just at a high level, how do they differ from vitis vinifera? For example we think of Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, but hybrids like we have here in Ontario Baco Noir is a cross between I think it’s Cinsault and Pinot Noir if I remember correctly. Someone will correct me if I’m not. But what’s the key difference? Why are some grapes named hybrids? They’ve obviously been crossed, but so have vitis vinifera grapes. They’re originally crossings of some sort like Cabernet. I think you mentioned in the podcast is actually Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. It’s a combination. Yeah, but it doesn’t get called a hybrid.

Aleks Zecevic 19:03
Yeah so hybrids are normally called all the varieties that are crossing the vitis vinifera and another type of vine. So I don’t know it can be a vine variety from Northeast from North America or whatnot. So it’s usually a vitis vinifera and and non vitis vinifera variety that is cross and those are called hybrids.

Natalie MacLean 19:22
I see. So instead of two Royals marrying each other was a royal and a commoner, and they probably, you know have a more interesting marriage.

Aleks Zecevic 19:31
I’m sure a lot of Europeans would like this comparison. I think vitis vinifera is the most commonly used variety that we use for winemaking at least. And because it was dominant in Europe for centuries. Other varieties come from you know Asia, or North America, South America or whatnot. And we didn’t have a huge culture of winemaking in these areas you know so this is why we think of vitis vinifera as being the best.

Natalie MacLean 20:02
The classic or the noble. They were self appointed I guess. They’re just more from the classic wine regions of Bordeaux and northern France.

Aleks Zecevic 20:11
So you know I don’t know if I would call them the Royals maybe..

Natalie MacLean 20:15
No, probably bad comparison. But I was trying to figure out something.

Aleks Zecevic 20:19
I think it’s a good comparison because so what are the Royals? They’re just human as we are.

Natalie MacLean  20:24
That’s true and they’re getting in just as much trouble as everybody else these days. So anyway.

Aleks Zecevic 20:31
Exactly.  So I think because of the culture and history, we appreciate vitis vinifera more, but also because we have more experience with the vinifera varieties. And over centuries you know we’ve learned how to deal with them, how to make them, how to produce them. But you know with climate change the increasing problems that growers are facing in the vineyards, with humidity, with heat, and so on, the hybrid grades are definitely getting more and more popular. And also, especially in certain cooler regions like as you mentioned Ontario or Vermont. One of the people I was talking to in my podcast was Deirdre Heekin of La Garagista in Vermont. And you know Vermont is a place that is known for cheeses and skiing and stuff like this. It’s not really famous for winemaking but she’s doing an incredible job. And she’s really focusing on these hybrid varieties because it’s easier for her to farm them and to ripen them in Vermont because of their resistance. Now, their resistance to you know fungal diseases or so on is not 100%. And you still have to spray these varieties, but you have to spray them way less than you spray a vitis vinifera variety you know. I don’t remember exactly if I mentioned this in the podcast, but I’ve also talked to a lot of people after the podcast about this. And one thing with vitis vinifera is that over the years people were taking the best clones, the vines, the plant material that was producing the best grapes. And so if you imagine, you know, there’s not a lot of crossing and it’s basically just clone after clone which kind of lowers the immune system of the plant itself.

Natalie MacLean 22:11
In breeding. Again, back to Royals. It’s like if you don’t get out of the family, that’s not a good thing either.

Aleks Zecevic 22:18
Exactly. And that’s a great comparison. This is one of the reasons why vitis vinifera is so more prone to getting these diseases and having problems and being finicky.

Natalie MacLean  22:30
That’s interesting. So yeah, yeah. So you’ve got more biodiversity in the vineyards. They’re healthier rootstocks because they’ve been crossed with other not in a family kind of vines. Are they more resistant to extreme cold heat? And fungal diseases? All three, like, can they deal with all the extremes?

Aleks Zecevic 22:50
So they’re all designed for different things. I mean okay they were basically designed by humans. They were piwi varieties. What’s kiwi? So basically, PvE is fungal resistant varieties and it was developed in Germany. It is an aberration but in Germany, and my German is not great, and I’m not gonna butcher now the name. But everybody can Google it’s P I W I. So piwi. And they were designed so people can grow grapes in cooler regions and regions that are wet that get a lot of rain. But some of them are obviously better for drought. But also you know I think with the drought this is just the big problem for wine growing in general.

Natalie MacLean  23:30
It is. It is. So if they’re not as thirsty as vines, that’s good for the environment as well in terms of just the demand. Exactly. Especially when we hear of vineyards like Australia and California. They have such problems with drought and the ground is getting so salty because it’s just concentrating year after year becoming more saline. So and then I know in Canada, we have a lot of hybrids even like say in Nova Scotia where a lot of German and Austrian winemakers emigrated to or immigrated to. They use Seyval Blanc and all kinds of different hybrids there because it’s really cold. The climate there. So makes sense.

Aleks Zecevic 24:10
Absolutely, and I think hybrid grapes get kind of a bad reputation. I think wine professionals generally are now thinking more about them because I think they’re getting a better rep. But I think they’re an answer to the climate change and also to being more environmentally responsible just you know by default. You don’t have to spray them as often, you don’t have to use harmful chemicals, and they’re easier to farm so.

Natalie MacLean 24:35
And even just the diversity of tastes to like. It’s not just environmentally you know. I’ve had some great Baco Noirs fromHenry of Pelham and it’s you know it’s more diversity in taste. Like it’s just if you’re tired of your Cabernet that’s just you know you’re in a rut. I think it’s really great to branch out and try some of these different wines for different tastes and different dishes, the pairings.

Aleks Zecevic 24:57
Absolutely. One of the things when you and I talked you mentioned that you liked my comparison with Jimi Hendrix. Yes. Tell us about that one. Yeah, this is actually something that I use a lot in life in general. I love music a lot. And I think Jimi Hendrix, he’s one of the best guitars ever. And most of guitars are designed for people who are right handed just like any other things. And Jimi Hendrix was left handed. So he didn’t have a left handed guitar. He just flipped his guitar the other way around. He was basically playing it upside down. And if we’re always following the rules of like you have to play the guitar this way, or you have to grow your wines this way, or you have to make your wines this way, or wine has to look a certain way going back to my wine origin thing, you wouldn’t have Jimi Hendrix. You wouldn’t have wine from Werlitsch, which is absolutely stunning. You know, you probably wouldn’t have Domaine de la Romanée-Conti either because they’re very natural and they’re biodynamic. Also, by the way, one of the most expensive wines in the world are biodynamic and natural in the way that they’re made.

Unknown Speaker Natalie MacLean 26:01
Wow. And I can see right in back of you, you’ve got a passion for wine, and you actually collect vinyl records while we’re talking about Jimi Hendrix. Do you have any vinyl records from him as well?

Aleks Zecevic 26:13
Absolutely. Oh, you do? Okay. So, I think one of the first records I bought was Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. Miles Davis was the first record I bought because it was $5 at a flea market in Williamsburg. Wow. And I just got my first record player at that time then later I built on. But yes, definitely. I have I think four records from Jimi Hendrix.

Natalie MacLean 26:35
Oh my goodness. Because I can see you’ve got your bar next to all your vinyl records. I love that like, without getting too off track in a wine podcast, but what is it about vinyl that you like over say digital recordings? What comes through to you?

Aleks Zecevic 26:50
There’s something romantic about having a record player and putting a record on and hearing a little bit of that, you know. That noise? Yeah, the vinyl. Yes, exactly. But also you know a lot of people will tell you that listening to music on vinyl –  if you have a good sound system, if you have a good record player, good speakers, good amp, and so on –  that produces a better quality sound than if you’re listening to your music on Spotify. And to me, I love music so much and I basically noticed what people were saying to be true. And you know, my parents had a big vinyl collection when I was growing up. And because of space and everything was two children living in Belgrade during the embargo and the war and everything that was going on there, they kind of like took all their records they gave them to my grandparents. The records were in an attic. And you know the attic kind of at one point was letting some rain come through and most of their records got ruined. And it was heartbreaking to me. So I at one point you know moving here, I wanted to kind of rebuild a collection to have a collection of my own that I could pass to hopefully one day my children or my brother’s children or whoever. I do have some of the records that I was able to save for my parents collection. Yeah. Oh, yeah, that’s lovely. Most of them might purchase.

Natalie MacLean 28:10
You know that just reminds me. When you talk about the little crackling and whatever reminds me of back to our wine – hopefully, it’s not too much of a stretch – but that whole thing about texture and especially from an unfiltered, unfined wine. It’s got more crackly bits. There’s something about the experience that’s a bit more hands on, tactile you know tangible. But anyway, I love that. Yeah, for the two together for sure.

Aleks Zecevic 28:35
I think it brings a little more soul and little more human into everything we do. Because nowadays, we’re so connected.

Natalie MacLean 28:44
And everything needs to be perfect.

Aleks Zecevic 28:47
Yeah exactly I mean I have like a huge problem. For example, when I’m trying to watch a movie you know there’s so many options. You go on Netflix and you have gazillion of movies. And it’s hard. You know back in the day you had your DVDs or you had what was playing on TV and that was it. And you can choose.

Natalie MacLean 29:03
And everybody talks about the same things. Yeah, exactly. No one has anything to talk about. Well, we still have wine. But I also don’t want to forget we will need to talk about your new startup vintners.co your website. Tell us what that’s about, and what people would find there ,why they’d want to go, who would want to go there? That sort of thing.

Aleks Zecevic 29:24
Absolutely. It’s actually just like all other wine related things. During the pandemic, I was hanging out with my neighbour at the time, Roland Benedetti, who is a co founder of Vintners. And he came up with this idea. And I was working in Wine Spectator and then kind of like transitioning to Sotheby’s at a time. But I always had this in the back of my mind because he told me about the idea. And finally together with his partner, Eric Barroca, who’s based in Paris, they founded Vintners.co  in the fall of last year 2021. And I think apart from you know developers, I was the first person they hired maybe even the first I’m not sure. But the idea is to build a B2B platform. So only business to business, no consumers. And basically the platform would connect wine producers with wine importers slash wine distributors, and also professional wine buyers. When I say professional wine buyers, I mean people who buy wine for restaurants or wine shops or you know hotels or whatever. And basicall, it’s a marketplace. So as a producer, you can put out your whole portfolio on this marketplace. And you can sell you know depending where you are. If you’re in Europe, you can sell if you’re in the EU you can sell to most EU countries directly using our platform. So if a restaurant in Paris, for example, wants to buy a wine from Alta Adige for example, who is another guest of ours on hybrid podcasts, we sold some of his wines in Paris directly. But also you can find an importer in the US if you don’t have one. Or you can work with your importer if you already have one in the US or Canada or you know wherever you are. And so your importer now I’m gonna go to this tier. Basically your importer or distributor can buy wine through the platform from the producers. They can also find new producers, but they can collaborate basically with all the producers they have in their portfolio. And you know they can put all the wines they have in their portfolio, they can list them on the platform. And then people, and I moving now to the next year, people from restaurants and wine shops can go in there and purchase wines from these importers or directly from the producers. So that’s one of the things that the platform does the project is very ambitious. Another thing is that you know I’ve noticed this doing my research about wine when I’m writing, but also you know Roland and Eric also notice, this co-founders, wine information is something that is very valuable. And a lot of times in the wine industry you know you go on one website and it says one thing about a wine you go on another website says another thing about wine. The idea with Vinters is that the producer would post the information about their wine about their winery and everybody who is a basically a stakeholder in the winery. So if they’re selling the wine or if they’re buying the wine, they can check this information. And it’s consistent from point A to point C. So the wine information is also very important to us. A third thing that we also want to allow is management of allocations. We were talking earlier about Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and their allocations, right. So for example they could easily manage their allocations who they’re going to with the inventory tracker and everything through Vintners.co. People like Werlitsch who you know, both Werlitsch and Zidarich have only eight hectares of vineyards, very tiny productions. So if they wanted to manage their allocations and see where their wine is going, they could also manage this. And another final thing I think and very important for us is that a lot of times the producer kind of wants to sell the wine to importers. Once it goes to another market, if it doesn’t go directly to a restaurant, they don’t know where the wine sold. If it’s sold at a business that they want it to be sold. So one of the things that we want to provide is this visibility. So everybody knows you know what happens with this product. And the whole platform is designed for craft wine producers.

Natalie MacLean 33:30
Okay, so small artisanal kind of producers.

Aleks Zecevic 33:33
Exactly. Yeah. So craft is a term that we don’t really use in the wine industry. And I don’t know why. We were actually wondering because you see it in beer industry, you have a craft beer, or craft spirits. And it’s basically anything that comes from you know independent producer, producing small quantities. And it’s usually produced with a lot of care with a lot of room for innovation and making experiments with your product and with your wine. So you know we didn’t want to use this is something that a lot of people would say oh well that sounds like natural wine. However, I think natural wine term, even though I use it a lot, and I drink a lot of natural wine, I think it can be a little bit limiting because I think there are a lot of artisanal producers out there that wouldn’t fall into the category of being natural producers, but have been making wine the same way their great great great grandfather was making. I’m looking at Germany, for example because German Riesling you block the malolactic fermentation with sulphur normally and this is not allowed in natural winemaking even though natural wine is not really defined. But normally why it has to go through malolactic fermentation. Okay, so it can be a little bit excluding. So we’re using the term craft wine and I think it suits exactly the people that we’re trying to target.

Natalie MacLean 34:51
Well that sounds like a great project, great platform, especially for your smaller producers who don’t have that kind of infrastructure and technology to do all of that. What you’re providing thing for them so that’s another great project. Aleks, you do keep yourself busy. So where can we get in touch with you? Of course, there’s vintners.co. How else can we find you online?

Aleks Zecevic 35:14
Well, I’m mostly on Instagram in terms of social media. I don’t use Twitter or Facebook. I mean I have accounts on those platforms. But I really did not post anything.

Natalie MacLean 35:24
We’ll link to you and your website in the show notes. We’ll put links to the wines you mentioned as well because I’m sure people will be curious as to what you’re referring to and to find you online. But anything else you want to mention before we wrap up?

Aleks Zecevic 35:38
No, I think we covered everything, even things that I didn’t plan to talk about.

Natalie MacLean 35:44
Which makes it interesting. No, I loved your story. Really good, Aleks. So thank you. Well, thank you for spending time with us here. And I really appreciate it. And I look forward to our next chat on your podcast. So I’ll say goodbye for now, but have a great rest of your day, Aleks.

Aleks Zecevic 35:59
You as well. Thank you very much for having me.

Natalie MacLean 36:01
Okay, thank you. Bye. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Aleks. Here are my takeaways. I thought Aleks’ explanation of how minerality affects both flavour and texture was really helpful. Two, wines made from hybrid grapes will increasingly become part of our drinking menu both due to climate change as well as their improved taste and diversity of flavours. And three, I loved Aleks’ tip on what winemakers can learn from Jimi Hendrix. In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Aleks links to his podcast and website, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/206. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected]

Natalie MacLean 37:13
You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with David Garrett, who is the co founder of Club dVIN, a global non fungible token NFT wine club. We’ll chat about how this new technology and others are changing the wine world. In the meantime, if you missed episode 54 go back and take a listen. I talk about what minerality and wine means to me as well as the California wildfires. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Natalie MacLean 37:43
What is minerality when it comes to wine? Is it a taste, a feeling, or some bogus concept meant to keep wine mysterious? What’s the latest with the devastating wildfires in Sonoma wine country? And how will that impact the wines we drink? Why are winemakers wary of cannabis producers? It’s not what you might think. And what is a new wine group doing to help with a balanced life? That’s exactly what we’ll be learning on today’s episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.

Natalie MacLean 38:26
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines, tips, and stories we shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a wine with great minerality.

Natalie MacLean 38:52
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.

 

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