Two month ago I attended Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event in New York city. Writing this blog post late in the game has some advantages – particularly, I can refer you to the work of others. Here is the link to the excellent blog post by Stefano of Flora’s Table and Clicks and Corks fame. Moreover, I had a pleasure of attending the event in Stefano’s company, where his expert knowledge of Italian wines was very helpful in navigating the selection of about 500 creme de la creme wines. Thus you can even compare our notes (I doubt though you will find much discrepancy in our thoughts).
Every year since 1986, Gambero Rosso publishes its guide to Italian wines and awards its prestigious Tre Bicchieri (three glasses) rating to the best wines. The event like the one we attended has the purpose of showcasing all those best wines, and it attracts a lot of attention.
I have to start from the same rant as you can see in Stefano’s post. All the wineries were arranged by the distributors and not by the region – therefore, in presence of 173 wine tables and countless number of people, my well thought plan fell apart. Yes, I understand that distributors are important, but I don’t see why all the wineries couldn’t be pulled together by the region, instead of being all over the place. In terms of overall organization, Vinitaly, which we attended about two weeks before the Tre Bicchieri event, was put together in a lot more logical way.
Leaving that aside, lets talk about the event. I generally attend a good number of trade wine tastings. So when you start going from a table to a table, it takes time to find the wine which will “wow” you. What I didn’t realize at first was that Tre Bicchiery event was different. All the wines which you taste there already had been preselected, they were all winners of the Tre Bicchiery award, and therefore they were all great wines by definition. This was exactly my experience. Table one – wow, this is good. Table two – very good. Table three – excellent! Table four – excellent again – what is happening? How is that possible? Ahh, it is the Tre Bicchiere event, so all the wines are rather expected to be great…
Another important part of the events such as Tre Bicchieri is opportunity to meet a lot of great people there. For instance, we met Giuseppe Vajra, a winemaker at G.D Vajra in Piedmonte, who was a pleasure to talk to.
He gave us a taste of his 2004 Barolo Cerretta Luigi Baudana, which he was not supposed to do at the event ( this wine was not a part of 2013 Tre Bicchieri awards), and the wine was stunning.
Meeting people is great, navigating the crowds – not so much. Here is a “hail Mary” style picture – you raise your arm with the camera as high as you can, at the angle you think will fit, and then release the shutter. Here are few pictures for you, I think it gives you an idea that the event was quite busy:
Another problem with the event like this? You destined to miss on some of the wines. Taking into account gross level of disorganization at the event, it is obvious that you will miss on the best wines. The list of the wines we missed includes Masseto, Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Oreno, Bertani and more…
The real bummer in this group was Masseto, which is a part of my “Must Try Wines ” list – it is Super Tuscan made out of 100% Merlot – this is the wine which can rival Petrus. Well, may be next year…
Now, let me offer you my highlights from the event. In the format of such an event, it is impossible (for me, at least) to take any detailed notes – I’m trying to experience as many wines as possible, only jotting down a single word descriptors at the best, which often don’t go beyond “wow” or “outstanding”. Below is the list of wines I really liked (a lot, huh?), with may be one word descriptors on them (or may be not), and then I offer to your attention a picture gallery of mostly the same wines. Oh yes – and unlike the Gambero Rosso event itself, the wines below are grouped by the region. Remember I recently suggested a new scale of ratings (yuck, ok, nice, wow, OMG) – let me use it here when possible, and I promise not to bring any “yuck” and “ok” wines to your attention. And one last note – not all the wines below have “three glasses” rating – some of them are rated at 2, but I believe they would still worth your attention. Here we go.
2009 Torre dei Beati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cocciapazza – perfect!
2011 Abbazia di Novacella Alto Adige Valle Isarco Sylvaner Praepositus – outstanding bouquet on the nose, very nice overall
2009 Cantina Tarlano Alto Adige Pinot Blanco Vorberg Riserva – complex, beautiful, perfect minerality, wow!
2010 Nanni Cope Sabbie di Sopra il Bosco Terre del Volturno – nice acidity, very good overall. Added bonus – this wine has two rare grapes which I need to add to my grape count – Palagrello and Casavecchia
2010 Marisa Cuomo Casta di Amalfi Furore Bianco Fiorduva – my descriptors for this wine include “beautiful”, “amazing” and “balanced” – definitely a wow! wine. This is a very unique wine in many ways (outside of the fact that it is made out of three rare grapes Ginestra, Fenile and Ripoli) – I need to refer you to the Stefano’s blog post where you can learn more about this fascinating wine.
FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA
2010 Livon Collio Friulano Manditocai – complex nose, nice palate
2011 Ronco dei Tassi Collio Malvasia – nice minerality, very good overall
2011 La Tunella COF Ribolla Gialla Rjgialla – perfect white fruit, clean, excellent
2011 Livio Felluga Friulano – super expressive wine, very good overall
2010 Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella – excellent
2011 Cantine Lunae Bosoni Colli di Luni Vermentino Cavagnino – mint and apricot on the nose and palate, OMG
2009 Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Superiore Riserva – very unusual nose, perfect power.
2004 Ca’Del Bosco Franciacorta Brut Rose Cuvee Annamaria Clementi – 100% Pinot Noir, nose of fresh bread and yeast, strawberries on the palate – OMG
2007 Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Extra Brut – perfect
NV Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut Rose – more complexity than the previous one, OMG
2006 Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut – 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; wow!
2007 Cavalleri Franciacorta Pas Rose – very bread-y, excellent!
2008 Guido Berlucchi Franciacorta Cellarius Brut – wow!
2010 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Cazstelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Vecchie Vigne – wow!
2009 Umani Ronchi Conero Cumaro Riserva – excellent!
2009 Velenosi Rosso Piceno Superiore Roggio del Filare – roasted, gamey nose, a touch too sweet, but good
2009 Bricco del Cucu Dogliani Bricco S. Bernardo – 100% Grechetto, cherries on the nose and palate, very nice!
2008 Le Piane Boca – a blend of 85% Barolo, 15% Vespolina – wow!
2008 G.D Vajra Barolo Ceretta Luigi Baudana – this wine comes from the a specific plot in the vineyard, called Baudana. This was a wow wine, but the next one was one level up, as it had an age on it
2004 G.D Vajra Barolo Ceretta Luigi Baudana – OMG
2008 Schiavenza Barolo Prapo – perfect fruit, open, beautiful, wow!
2009 Vietty Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza La Crena – excellent
2006 Massolino Barolo Villa Rionda Riserva – wow!
2010 Villa Sparina Gavi del Commune di Gavi Monterotondo – very nice
2008 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Sarmassa – nice, round, perfect!
2006 Elvio Cogno Barolo Vigna Elena Riserva – excellent!
2009 Cantina di Santandi Carignano del Sulcis Superiore Rocca Rubia Riserva - aged for 24 month in oak, excellent.
2009 6Mura Carignano del Sulcis – 120 years old vines, growing on sandy soils, very good balance, excellent.
2010 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Archineri – very green
2010 Pietradolce Vigna Barbagalli – nice
2010 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria – the only wine in Italy to receive top awards from all wine publications! Apricots on the nose and palate, perfectly balanced. Overall – wow and OMG!
2010 Tenute Rapitala Conte Hugues Bernard de la Gatinais Grand Cru – 100% Chardonnay, excellent, clean
2010 Firriato Ribeca Perricone – excellent! ( and the rare grape called Perricone)
2006 Ferrari Trento Extra Brut Perle Nero – outstanding, off brut
2002 Ferrari Trento Brut Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore – 10 years aging on the lees, wow!
2008 Famiglia Cecchi Chianti Classico Villa Cerna Riserva – very nice
2009 Famiglia Cecchi Coevo – wow!
2009 Tolani Picconero – 65% Merlot, perfectly Bordeaux in style, excellent!
2007 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino – open, fresh, clean – wow!
2009 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – tannins! very good.
2009 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva – perfect balance, wow!
2010 Tenuta San Guido Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi – excellent!
2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti Orma Toscana – OMG! depth and breadth of this wine was phenomenal
2010 Marchesi Antinori Cervaro della Sala – perfect chardonnay, outstanding!
2010 Ottello Lugana Supweriore Molceo – parfumy, perfect!
2010 Ottello Campo Sireso – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Corvina and Lagrein – roasted notes, wow!
2009 Roccolo Grassi Valpolicella Superiore Roccolo Grassi -very nice
2007 Vignalta Colli Euganei Rosso Gemola – Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend, classic Bordeaux profile, wow!
2005 Cantina Valpolicalla Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Villa Domini Veneti – pure chocolate on the nose, a bit too sweet and too tannic on the palate. Just ok (I know, I promised that there will be no ok or lesser wines – but I’m Amarone junkie, you will have to excuse me for that…)
2007 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi – 16% ABV, alcohol on the nose – not “yack”, but not good [at all]
2008 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – very good
2006 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Mazzano – 120 days of drying the grapes, good overall (not great), too much alcohol on the nose and palate
2008 Viticoltori Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Sant’Urbano – 15% ABV; wow!
And here is the photo gallery for you – enjoy!
Long post, after a long delay – but it is finally done. Yay! Cheers!
Those of you who follow this blog for the while know by now that I mostly talk about wines with the pictures, adding a few words here and there, mostly of a very “excited” nature. If you are looking for the detailed report, I can give you two great references – blog posts by Stefano and John M. Fodera, both covering wines and wineries very extensively.
I have to thank Stefano again, as if it would not be for him, I would be pointlessly wondering from a table to a table, and surely would miss some of the gems. Stefano had a plan, and I gladly followed.
Again, if you are looking for systematic representation of wines, based on the regions and styles, [please refer to the two blog posts I mentioned above. I will just share my personal highlights. Oh, and one side note. It is so happened that I'm writing this last post about Vinitaly after attending another Italian wine event, Gambero Rosso's Tri Bicchiery. While in general I had no complaints about organization of Vinitaly event, now I can also say that it was organized incomparably better that the Tri Bicchiery event - expect to hear my rant with the Tri Bicchiery post.
Enough words. Here are mostly pictures, with some comments, in the order of the regions appearing in the show guide.
Damilano presented two outstanding Barolos – 2008 Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne was beautiful, round and easy to drink. 2008 Damilano Barolo Cannubi was exactly what classic Barolo is – powerful, dense, mouth-puckering, but very enjoyable at the same time.
G.D. Vajra presented 2008 G.D Vajra Barolo Bricco Delle Viole, very delicate wine for the Barolo style overall. The wine underwent a 40 days maceration (quite long) and was bottled in the summer of 2012.
Two beautiful wines from Elvio Cogno:
2011 Elvio Cogno Langhe Nascetta Anas-Cetta – bright white fruit on the nose, same on the palate, very balanced and refreshing.
2008 Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera – so far it seems that 2008 vintage of Barolo is great across the board and the wines are very approachable from the beginning – perfect taste profile of Barolo (plums, minerality, earthiness) with the shot of tannins in the finish.
I can’t tell you which of the two wines from Vis Amoris I liked more. 2011 Vis Amoris Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Dome – beautiful, toned down fruit, soft and opulent, more in style of Rhone whites, very refreshing and balanced. 2011 Vis Amoris Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Verum was a touch bigger and brighter, showing very soft tannins without being fermented in oak. Truly two wonderful white wines.
Two excellent Nebbiolo-based wines from Ar.Pe.Pe – 2001 Ar Pe Pe Valtellina Superopre Sassella Rocce Rosse Riserva and 2005 Ar Pe Pe Valtellina Superopre Sassella Ultimi Raggi. The 2001 Riserva was one of the most delicate expressions of Nebbiolo I ever tasted, but it was perfectly balanced and very enjoyable.
Veneto = Amarone – okay, never mind, this is just my personal biased statement, Veneto is actually a home to many great wines outside of Amarone. But – once you taste Trabucchi wines, Amarone will be on your mind.
While Trabucchi had only 2 wines listed in the book, they brought a substantial line of wines to the tasting. 2003 Trabucchi “Terre del Cereolo” Valpolicella Superiore DOC was probably the best Valpolicella I ever tasted – round, supple dark fruit expression, dark chocolate undertones, very balanced. 2007 Trabucchi d’Illasi Terra di San Colombano Valpolicella Superiore DOC, was very comparable, concentrated, round and again very balanced.
While 2004 Trabucchi Amarone della Valpolicella DOC and 2006 Trabucchi d’Illasi Amarone Della Valpolicella were very good, 2004 Trabucchi d’Illasi Amarone Della Valpolicella Cent’Anni was spectacular. Perfectly balanced, without any “over the top” fruit, showing dry fruit flavors on the nose, and showing full bodied, balanced and very polished wine on the palate. Definitely a highlight of the event.
2005 Trabucchi d’Illasi Dandarin Rosso Veneto IGT was quite unusual – a blend of traditional Valpolicella varieties Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, with 30% of Teroldego and Syrah – slightly different flavor profile compare to Amarone, but quite powerful and expressive. One of the true gems of the day was 2006 Trabucchi d’Illasi Recioto Della Valpolicella – grapes for this wine were dried for 6 month ( typical length of Appasimento process for Amarone wines is 110 - 120 days, i.e. up to 4 month). Tremendous concentration of the dried fruit ( figs, raisins), supported but vibrant acidity – you have to try this wine to believe it!
Before we leave Veneto, a quick stop in Soave, at Pieropan winery:
2010 Leonido Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino is a single vineyard blend of Garganega and Trebbiano – showing excellent minerality both on the nose and the palate, very round and refreshing.
2010 Leonido Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca is another single vineyard wine, 100% Garganega, showing more restrained fruit than the previous wine, as well as a touch of butter on the palate. Definitely a very nice wine.
Friuli Venezia Giulia
Two beautiful wines from Le Vigne di Zamo in Friuli. 2010 Le Vigne di Zamo Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano Vigne Cinquant’Anni ( that was one long name) had perfect nose of raisins, and supple, round white fruit on the palate, medium body and balancing acidity. 2011 Le Vigne di Zamo Colli Orientali del Friuli Pinot Grigio was one of the best Pinot Grigio wines I tasted in a while ( yes, I don’t drink too many of them), with good fruit and touch of minerality.
Podere Il Carnasciale makes only about 3,200 bottles a year, all in the magnum size. All made out of the grape called Caberlot, which is an officially recognized hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. All Magnums. And all magnificent. We tasted 2009, 2008 and 2004 vintages of Podere Il Carnasciale Caberlot – both 2009 and 2008 were somewhat similar, showing perfect trait of Cabernet Franc green profile with fresh raspberries. And 2002 was whole another story:
Take a look at the number at the bottom of the label – we were drinking the bottle number 4! Tobacco, pepper, dark fruit and perfect complexity – a Wow wine without any doubts. I wish the wines would be a bit more affordable… May be someone wants to get me a present?
We tasted two great wines from Tabarrini (yes, I know, I’m abusing “great” and “beautiful” in this post – but hey, these are the highlights – if I don’t think the wine was great, I’m not going to bother you with the detail…). 2010 Tabarrini Adarmando is made out of Trebbiano Spoletino, which is very different from the Trebbiano di Soave – Trebbiano Spoletino grows in the huge vines and it is a very late ripening variety (beginning of November). The wine had perfect acidity and bright fruit, somewhat of a citrus profile – very enjoyable. Next we tried 2008 Tabarrini Sagrantino di Montefalco Campo Alla Cerqua – perfect power, dark fruit, very balanced.
There were quite a few very good wines coming from Marche. 2010 Marotti Campi Lacrima di Morro D’Alba Superiore Orginolo was excellent, very open and food frendly ( or shall we say, food-craving), with very subtle warm fruit nuances. 2009 Villa Bucci Verdicchio dei Lastelli di Jesi Classico Riserva had perfect fruit on the nose and it was very light and refreshing. 2009 Villa Bucci Verdicchio dei Lastelli di Jesi Superiore had very good depth and clear fruit expression. Both Villa Bucci wines are expected to age very well.
First, we found a very friendly girl.
Then we found an excellent white wine 2011 L’Olivella Frascati Superiore Racemo. This wine is a blend of malvasia puntinata, malvasia del Lazio, malvasia di Candia, tgrebbiano and bellone – the wine was very round, with excellent acidity and white fruit.
2010 Cantina Frentana Pecorino Donna Greta is 100% Pecorino. Very long maceration ( 8 month) allows to achieve a very nice complexity. White fruit, touch of minerality, good balance.
Last, but not least for this post – Planeta from Sicilia, one of the best Italian producers overall. 2010 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico Dorilli – beautiful nose, fresh fruit, strawberries on the nose and the palate. 2011 Planeta La Segreta had very nice nose of dark fruit, and perfect dark fruit expression on the palate. 2008 Planeta Santa Cecilia was soft and approachable, with nice soft fruit.
Aren’t you tired yet to look at all these pictures and enjoy all those wines vicariously? There were lots more of excellent wines presented at the event – but we have to call it a post. That’s all I have for my Vinitaly and Slow Wine report, hope you got the idea of what was happening at the event. The next event post I will be writing about Gambero Rosso, and I believe it will be even more difficult that this one. Until that time – cheers!
This is the second post about my experience at Vinitaly and Slow Wine 2013 in New York. In the first post I only gave you some interesting stats. Now, it is time to actually talk about wines.
Attending big wine tasting is great, wine is everywhere, and lots of it – at the same time, it is also very challenging. You can’t really assess wine methodically, it is more of a “swirl (carefully), sniff, sip, suck air, spit” – in case you wonder, “swallow” is typically not the part of the process, otherwise your tasting will be very, very short. After “spit” goes “write a word, may be two or three”, and move on, either to next wine or to the next table. No, of course I’m not complaining, just explaining that as usual for this type of my “tasting posts” there will be lots of pictures, and a few words.
We – oh yes, let me explain “we” – I spent all of the time at the event with Stefano of Flora’s Table fame (by the way, Stefano also just started the new blog called Clicks & Corks – be sure to check it out). Stefano is a wealth of knowledge and a pleasure to be around – if it would not be for him, I’m sure I would miss out on a number of gems at this tasting.
Now, let’s start again . We spent most of the time in the Slow Wine section of the event, with the exception of two wine Master Classes and a few wineries in the actual Vinitaly section. Let me start from the seminars, and then we will talk about other wines (probably in yet another post).
The first Master Class was a vertical tasting of Nino Negri ’5 Stelle’ Sfursat di Valtelina DOCG, a wine made out of Nebbiolo grape. Both Stefano and myself took care of pre-registering for this seminar (when I came to register, I got one of the last 3 seats). No matter. In addition to registration, program also mentioned that Master Classes are first come first serve events. So, do you think our registration helped us? Yep, you got it – not really. When we arrived about 15 minutes before the starting time, we were told that the room is full and there are no spaces left. Well, based on the fact that we had registered, we ignored the guy who was trying to stop us from getting inside of the room. But the room was full. No seats. And it is not that you need just seat – you also need a place for 6 glasses in front of you. I was witnessing a futile attempt of one of the organizers to remove two people who were sitting down and had no tickets. Nope, that was not happening. So when one wants to taste wine, this is what the one wants, right? Luckily for us, the place had very wide window seals. Stand by the window, get 6 glasses, ask for the wines to be poured. Actually, I have to say that service staff was super nice and super accommodating – we all got tasting placemats and we all got wine. Here are few pictures:
Nino Negri winery started in 1897 in the Valtelina region of Lombardy, in the area of Alps close to the Switzerland. This location makes harvesting of the grapes very difficult – actually, a helicopter is used nowadays to transport crates with grapes from the vineyard to the winery – here is a short video in case you want to see how the harvest looks like:
Nino Negri estate makes many different wines out of Nebbiolo grape. The wines we tasted, ’5 Stelle’ Sfursat, are only made in the best years, and they are done in the style similar to Amarone. After grapes are harvested, they are dried outside for 100 days before they are pressed. During these 100 days, grapes are sorted a few times, and all the grapes which don’t cut it are used to produce some other wines. After 100 days of drying the grapes are pressed with subsequent long maceration, and then aged for 18 month in new French oak barriques and 6 month in the bottle. Note that all these wines are not for the faint at heart – they boast 15% – 16% ABV.
Here are the notes for the wines we tasted, in the order we proceeded:
2009 – Prunes, brick dust on the nose, pretty green on the palate, very light for Nebbiolo, good minerality, short finish. Better on the second try, but too watery. Probably needs time.
2007 – According to the winemaker, 2007 was a great year. But – this bottle was oxidized. Some prunes on the palate, tasted more like a dry sherry than a normal wine.
2004 – this year had low yield, and drying season was very difficult. But the wine had nice power, good minerality, good tannins, long finish.
2002 – Prunes on the nose, with some raisins, soft, round, dark roasted fruit on the palate, tobacco, savory herbaceous notes, great balance, overall very nice.
2001 – Perfect beauty! Supple, round, with only a hint of dried fruits on the nose, perfectly balanced, really a outstanding wine. Hell with the rest of the tasting – need a full glass of this one to enjoy. Best of tasting.
1997 – This wine was as good as 2001 – more herbaceous notes than fruit, but perfectly elegant. Dried fruit on the nose (more than the previous wine), graphite and tobacco notes on the palate. Great complexity, balance and elegance. Borderline better than 2001 ( wait, didn’t I just called 2001 “best of tasting” – yeah, I always have trouble with making up my mind…)
All in all, tasting through the vertical of Nino Negri ’5 Stelle’ Sfursat wines was a special experience and I’m grateful to organizers for making it happen – the beauty of the wines overweight the logistical challenges.
At the end of the day, we attended another seminar, this one dedicated to the wines made on Volcanic soils of Italy. We were preregistered, at this point knew what to expect, ready for a fight and this time got the seats.
If you look at the map below (maps were provided as part of the seminar):
there are many volcanoes all over Italy, including even some of the active ones, like Etna in Sicily. Volcanic environments are uniquely different for all the things growing, vines included, and this whole “volcanic wines” project is dedicated to researching the effect of the volcanic soils on the resulting wines. It is also interesting to note that at this point, the whole project is only dedicated to white wines ( and I was hoping to taste some reds).
All together, we tasted 9 white wines:
Overall, I wouldn’t say that I was super impressed with the wines. Some wines were better than the others, but there were no OMG moments. Here are the notes for my favorites:
Azienda Marcato – Lessini Durello Metodo Classico 36 Mesi NV – this was the only sparkling wine in the tasting, and it was outstanding. A blend of 85% Durello, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Nero, 12% ABV. Apple and toasted bread on the nose, nice minerality, smell of granite. Perfect minerality on the palate, very dry. Excellent.
2011 Cantina del Castello – DOC Soave Classico “Pressoni” – a blend of 80% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano di Soave, 13.5% ABV. Nice nose of lemon, green apple, good acidity. White apple and pear on the palate, good acidity, nice lemony aftertaste.
2011 Barone di Villagrande – Etna Bianco Superiore – 100% Carricante. Nice nose with minerality and some saltiness, very dry on the palate with pineapple aftertaste.
That concludes the part 2 of the Vinitaly experience. In the part 3, I will (finally) tell you about the wonderful wines we experienced at the event. Cheers!
For anyone who is into wine (oenophile, aficionado, snob, add here any moniker you like), learning more about their favorite subject becomes an object of insatiable desire, an obsession, if you will (of course I’m not hinting at any “wine exclusivity” here – feel free to substitute wine with any passion you have in life). Learning about the wine is long, tedious and super-expensive process – just reading and talking about the wine is not enough, you actually have to deep your tongue into one occasionally, and this is where your passion gets you. Thus in my opinion, nothing represents more valuable learning opportunity than a wine tasting or a professional wine show – you get to learn, experience and talk to the people who are equally passionate about your favorite subject.
There are many great wine shows all over the world, and the good news is that more of those wine shows come to US. Thus when I read Stefano’s note in the Flora’s Table blog that Vinitaly is coming to New York, I got very excited. Vinitaly is the biggest wine show in the world – definitely when it takes place in Verona, Italy (last year’s stats – 4 days, 4,000 wineries, 140,000 visitors), so you can understand my excitement. Luckily, it was much smaller event than the one in Verona, but still sufficiently overwhelming. To add to that excitement, Vinitaly joined forces with Slow Wine, which is a part of Slow Food movement, promoting true food and wine appreciation all over the world. To give you a very short summary – yeah, there was a lot of wine.
Before the tasting started, there was a presentation by John Gillespie, President of Wine Market Council, about state of US wine market according to 2012 consumer survey. While I was unable to capture the graphics, I did manage to capture some numbers. And while there are lies, damn lies and statistics, I want to share some of the numbers with you – whether they are right or wrong, it is still fun to process them. And to make it more fun, I will add pictures of wines, most of which I didn’t taste during the event (I will talk about those we tasted in the next post).
Here we go. Out of 228M adults living in US, 100m drink wine, 50m drink beer and spirits only, and 78M abstain (mind boggling – how can they live with themselves?). If you think about it, there are more wine drinkers in US than overall population of many wine drinking and wine producing countries ( we certainly beat Germany, France and may others).
There were estimated 295 million cases of wine consumed in US in 2012, and 2011 number was 287M cases. Overall, there are 19 consecutive years of growth in wine consumption in US so far. US drinkers consumes more than 3 gallons of wine per adult.
Core wine drinkers (those who drink wine at least once a week) represent 25% of population, and 22% are non-core. Out of those core drinkers, 11% drink the wine daily, and 28% are weekly.
Out of the all wine drinkers, 51% are females, 49% are males.
Categorizing further, 40% are baby boomers, 20% gen X and Millenials represent 28%.
Next series of stats covers international wines – don’t forget, it was the presentation during Vinitaly, so wine imports definitely were of a major interest. For this imported wine survey, there were 1000 responders, 54% of them baby boomers, 52% male, 48% female.
In consumer panel, 34% were daily wine drinkers, and 52% were weekly.
In the imported wine category, France leads white wine purchases, and Italy leads red wine purchases.
Italy, France and Australia wines are most popular in the stores – promoted and marketed.
France, Spain and Italy are on top in degree of satisfaction from the wine purchased, and Spain and Italy lead satisfaction in under $20 category.
In the likelihood of having wine on hand in many different price and type categories, Italy is trailing California (but the gap is substantial).
Here are few more numbers, now based on US wine trade survey.
There were 400 respondents, with the same age category distribution as in Consumer Survey. France, Germany and Spain are the leading three in under $20 white or rose. Spain, France and Italy are leading in red under $20 category. France, Spain, Italy are leading in reds $20-$50.
Spain, California and then Italy are leading in recommended wines under $20 (Spain has a big lead). In $20-$50 category, France and Italy lead recommended wines group, then California and Spain is quite a bit behind.
Overall imported wines consumption in US hovers around 30%.
I don’t know what you think about all these numbers, but many of them make perfect sense to me, like Spain being in the lead in under $20 red wine category – I personally would look at Spanish red wines before I will look at anything else, if I’m looking for inexpensive wine.
For what it’s worth, I would like to leave you for today with those numbers – and we will talk about wines in the next post. Cheers!
You can call it “play it for Australia” (with a little bit of France). Or you can just call it Shiraz tasting. Whatever the name is, but a few months ago (actually, right after the hurricane Sandy – it was a miracle that we didn’t lose an electricity) we got together for a Shiraz blind tasting and the dinner.
For the blind tasting, we had two limitations imposed. First, the bottle was supposed to say “Shiraz” on it. Yes, of course Shiraz and Syrah are the same grapes, but – this was a limitation number one. Limitation number two (a soft one) – preferably, the Shiraz shouldn’t be coming from Barossa region. You wonder why? Easy. I had a couple of bottles in mind, all from Barossa, so I wanted others to do the hard work. Ahh, yes – and no blends were allowed – only 100% Shiraz.
Before we started the tasting, I threw in a monkey wrench. Doesn’t sound right talking about wine, does it? So the role of this allegorical wrench was played by Frank Cornelissen Contadino 8 wine. Frank Cornelissen makes very interesting wines in Sicily – natural, low intervention wines from the grapes growing on volcanic soils of Etna. His aspiration is to let people actually to taste the soil, the actual stones in his wines, and he is probably succeeding with that (here is the link which explains the wine making philosophy – I think it is worth reading). This wine literally represents a very distinct experience – outside of acidity and minerality, there is very little else which you can taste – nevertheless, it is an interesting wine to try (well, I’m not sure we got too many votes of approval for this wine from the group, but still). Okay, let’s get back to the Shiraz.
The tasting was blind. Of course all the wines were Shiraz, but the blind tasting format allows you to focus only on the wine in your glass – no matter who producer is, how cute the animal is on the label (no, I didn’t expect anyone to pull off the Yellow Tail stunt, but thinking about it now, it could’ve been interesting), did someone tasted the wine before or who brought the bottle.
We had 6 wines in the tasting. As the tasting is blind, the person who brings the bottle, gets to open it and puts it in the brown bag. Then we ask kids to stick the numbers on the bags, completely at random. The wines are poured in the numbered glasses, and the fun begins.
Shiraz is usually quite a playful wine when it comes to the fruit expressions, so this time we decided to add an interesting touch to our tasting – put the fruits on the table. We had raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and couple of different plums in the glasses, slightly smashed to release the flavor. The intent was to use those fruits as a reference while smelling and tasting the wine and to be able to identify what we were tasting. Not sure if it was a successful experiment, but as the very least it was fun.
Now everybody are at the table and we start the tasting – sniff, swirl, sniff, more swirling, taste – talking and taking notes at the same time – no, there is no requirement to participate in conversation, but it is part of fun! And the notes are helpful at the end, when we take a popular vote to identify the most favorite wine of the group. Each person can vote for two wines, and the wine which will score the highest, will win. I case of a draw, we take an additional vote to select only one favorite between the two, so we still will have a winner – this all is necessary to have then a culmination point of unwrapping the winner and listening to the collective “ahh?” as pretty much in all of our blind tastings the winning wine was a complete surprise to everyone, including the person who brought the wine.
Once we have a winner, all the wines get unwrapped and admired, and everybody count their surprises for a few minutes. Here is our line up from this tasting:
And here are the notes:
1. 2006 Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier lieu dit Malakoff Shiraz Pyrenees (13.5% ABV) – little smoke, blueberries, a bit tart, very restrained. Not a typical Australian Shiraz.
2. 2005 Oliverhill “Jimmy Section” Shiraz McLaren Vale (96RP, no ABV as my label was badly damaged) – a little dust, tart cherries on the nose, blueberries, very sweet on the palate, jammy, a little short on the finish, overall pleasant.
3. 2004 d’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz McLaren Vale (14.5% ABV) – interesting blackberries, very tart, not balanced.
4. 2010 Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz Australia (16.5% ABV) – very nice, dark chocolate, jammy, blackberries, dusty nose, overall very balanced.
5. 2010 Jim Barry the lodge hill Shiraz Clare Valley (14.5% ABV) – very round, balanced, plums on the nose.
6. 2010 Eden Road The Long Road Shiraz Canberra District Australia (13.5% ABV) – Smells very young, but with the tannins in the back. Good dark fruit.
Can you guess the winning wine? I will give you a few moments.
And the winning wine was…
And the winning wine was…
And the winning wine was …
2010 Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz Australia – the wine got 8 popular votes out of 10. In the second place with 5 votes out of 10 was 2005 Oliverhill “Jimmy Section” Shiraz McLaren Vale – interestingly enough, this wine has a very high rating of Robert Parker ( 96), and expected maturity in 2011 – 2018 – I guess we opened it prematurely… Oh well.
And now – dinner time!
Did you notice the title of this post? Yep, the cassoulet was involved. No, it was probably not cold enough yet, and cassoulet is a dish from south of France, so Cote du Rhone wines would be typically more appropriate – but, cassoulet is one of my all time favorite dishes to make (and to eat too), so you got to do what you want to do, right?
I fell in love with cassoulet during one of my trips to Geneva a while ago. White beans, pork, duck, lamb, sausage – all so succulent and so “together”, a perfectly heart, soul and body warming dish. I tried to find it in the restaurants in US, but never succeeded. Then at some point I came across an article about Cassoulet in Wall Street Journal, which also contained Alain Ducasse recipe – this was a turning moment when I started making it myself. I don’t know what any other cassoulet aficionados would think, but to me it tastes the closest to those I admired in Geneva.
I would like to share the recipe with you – which is mostly Alain Ducasse recipe (here is a link to the article and recipe on WSJ site) – I made certain adaptations which don’t sacrifice the taste, in my opinion, but make it easier to prepare.
Here is list of ingredients – as copied from the original recipe – with my comments.
For the beans:
1.5 lb Tarbais beans or white kidney beans (I’m talking about beans below)
1 celery stalk
2 heads of garlic
1 tomato? ( well, in the original recipe there is a mention of tomato being diced – but then it is not used for anything – therefore, I just don’t use it)
For the meat:
4 sweet Italian sausages
1 lb pork ribs
½ lb garlic sausage
1 lb lamb shoulder
1 lb pork belly
4 duck legs confit
4 qt. chicken stock
1 celery stalk
1 head of garlic (I just use garlic cloves here)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 sprigs thyme
1 Bay leaf
12 whole black peppercorns
Cassoulet starts with beans. The subject of proper beans for the cassoulet can almost reach the level of religious war. The original recipe of Alain Ducasse calls for so called Tarbais beans. Good luck finding them here. May be you can order them in advance, but this is a bit too much preparedness for me. So we need a substitute. What’s important is to find beans which will sustain very long cooking time, but will not become a mush – you are looking to see and taste actual beans and not some kind of paste. I successfully used so called Great Northern beans, which can be found in supermarkets, and I believe so called Navy beans will work too, but I don’t remember trying them.
The process starts from soaking the beans overnight in a cold water. The actual cooking starts next day – but you still can do a few things in advance.
The recipe calls for duck leg confit. If you look into the recipes for duck confit, cooking it is a very lengthy process on its own. Buying duck confit is possible, but it is hard to find a supermarket which carries it. I successfully replaced duck confit with just fresh duck legs. Sometimes, finding the duck legs can be a problem too. This was my case this time. Well, when you want a cassoulet, you have to do whatever it takes… Duck flavor profile (gamey, nutty, etc. – you know how the duck tastes) is essential – replacing duck with chicken is not really an option. My solution – using the whole duck. I got the whole duck, cut it up into pieces, leaving the skin on legs and wings, but otherwise removing it together with the fat – there is way too much fat in the duck. I fried the duck in the evening, preserving all of rendered fat together with all the meat, so it was ready to go the next day.
Before we talk about the whole process, let me give you an idea about the sizing. I used 2 pounds of beans, cut up meat from the whole average size duck, about a pound of pork country style ribs, pound of Italian sausage (usually 5 pieces), about a pound of chicken garlic sausage, about a pound of lamb chops (4 large pieces). Instead of pork belly, I used one package of “bacon ends” from Trader Joe’s which were fried the day before. All together, this was enough to feed well 10 or so hungry adults, with some leftovers. Now, lets get back to the cooking.
In the morning, step one was to cook beans. Drain the water from overnight, put beans in the pot together with celery, carrots, garlic and the onion, season, cover with cold water and simmer for about 1.5 hours or until beans are tender but not falling apart. Discard carrots, celery and onion. Technically, you are supposed to discard garlic too, but I just couldn’t do it – so I reused it for the next step.
While beans are cooking, you can start working on the meat. First you will need to roast all the meat separately. I use the cast iron pot (you can also use a heavy skillet), and sear all the meat in batches – you will need to season it with salt and pepper. You really want meat to achieve a nice sear, so note that this operation will take time (usually it takes me about 1.5 hours using the amounts mentioned above). Once all the meat is seared by itself, add duck (whether you are using duck confit or the whole duck prepared the day before), add bacon ( unless you will use the pork belly), add diced vegetables and let it roast for another 10 minutes. Then I put together herbs, bay leaf and peppercorns into a cheese cloth, tie it up and use it as Bouquet garni – i.e., put it inside (this way you can remove it all together so nobody need to chase down that peppercorn out of the dish). Now, add broth, cover and let it simmer for about 1.5 hours.
Once done, strain cooking liquid into the beans and put all the meat on the cutting board and let it rest for about 20 minutes or so. Remove and discard all the bones, and cut up meat into large pieces.
We are ready for the last step. Preheat oven for 250F. Take the cast iron pot. Put all the cut up meat on the bottom. Gently put beans with liquid on the top (again, you want to preserve beans as they are, so you will need to handle them with love). Overall, you want to to have enough liquid in the pot, but without making the whole dish looking like soup. Put a good layer of bread crumbs on top of the dish (no skimping on the bread crumbs – having a nice crust on top is one of the important elements of cassoulet). Put uncovered pot in the oven for about 45 minutes. Take the pot out. When serving, make sure to go all the way to the bottom so you will get the meat together with beans. Now, most importantly – enjoy!
Also I have to mention that we had an outstanding “single plantation” chocolate as part of our dessert – can anything pair better with Shiraz than a spicy dark chocolate?
Never heard of “single plantation” chocolate before? Don’t worry, me too – but it appears that Akesson’s has a a substantial collection of single plantation chocolates, and the one we had was absolutely incredible.
Apologies for the post gone too long, but I think I’m finally done by now. I don’t know if I convinced you to make cassoulet, open a bottle of Shiraz or find that chocolate – but if you are still here and reading this – I’m happy. Until the next time – cheers!
New Year is around the corner, and of course, we are all talking about sparkling wines. That little effervescence, the tiny bubbles, they create mood and tell us “this is all good, we got something to celebrate, let’s have fun”.
There is hardly a wine blogger today who didn’t write about Bubbly. Let me join them, and share some recent encounters and (in the spirit of summing up a year) some of the old ones.
My favorite wine store, Cost Less Wines in Stamford, had a Sparkling wine tasting today. Here is what you could try:
Picollo Ernesto Rove Rina Vino Spumante Brut – Italian sparkling wine made in the Gavi region out of Cortese grape. Simple and refreshing, probably could use a touch more acidity. Has apple undertones on the palate.
Champagne Philippe Prie Brut Tradition NV – very yeasty, lots of freshly baked bread on the nose. Probably could use a touch more acidity (either there was something wrong with me, or may be the wines were a bit too warm…)
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV – yeast, baked bread, green apples on the nose – very balanced and refreshing on the palate. Best of tasting.
Bagrationi 1882 Sparkling Wine Rouge NV, Georgia – while I had a number of Bagrationi sparkling wines before, this was my first tasting of the Bagrationi Red. This wine is a blend of 4 different grapes. Very nice nose of fresh fruit. Full bodied, with the touch of sweetness on the palate, but only a touch. Very refreshing and very pleasant.
Here are few extra bubbles for you. First, for the full immersion into the sparkling world, visit this Pinterst collection of all things Champagne.
And here are the Champagne and Sparkling wines which are planned to be open on the New Year’s night:
What bubbly will be in your glass? Cheers!
GUSTO Tastings does a great job of hosting multiple wine events every month, each one with a slightly different purpose. Each first Wednesday of the month, the members of the meetup get together for “Texas versus the world” event where the group gets to taste and compare wines made in Texas with similar wines made in the other countries and regions – this was the exact event we attended, and it was dedicated to Viognier (the November event will be all about Tempranillo or Sangiovese, which should be very interesting, as I think both of those grapes produce very good results in Texas – oh well, I will have to live vicariously through that one…). GUSTO Tastings also runs blind tasting events once a month, which are some of the most exhilarating experiences for wine aficionados. Anyway, if you live in a close proximity to Austin (or few other cities in Texas), you should definitely check GUSTO Testings out and use the opportunity to learn about the wines.
Let me tell you now about the event. First of all, we had the best table in the town. We were lucky enough to meet and share the table with Flat Creek Estate winemaker Tim Drake, a witty and charismatic guy and his lovely wife Spring. In addition to all the fun conversations at the table, it was even more fun listening to Tim delivering his thoughts in bright and engaging fashion, with the ability to use very convincing expressions to emphasize his point (I will have to refrain from repeating his vivid answer and explanation for the question about Reserve wines).
This particular event was all about Viognier, once nearly extinct Rhone white grape varietal. A few month ago there was a Wine Blogging Wednesday dedicated to Viognier, so for more details about the grape, including the link to the short video teaching you how to say that “Viognier” word correctly, here is the link to my blog post.
During the course of the evening, we tasted through 17 different Viognier wines – 8 from around the world, and 9 from Texas. All the wines where split into the flights of four, and the last flight had 5 wines in it.
The first four wines represented the old world – my notes are below:
- 2009 Cacciagrande Viognier, Maremma, Toscana – very unusual, I had no idea Viognier is used in Tuscany. The wine had a beautiful nose of classic Riesling, sweet with a hint of petrol – but palate didn’t support that nose at all. Acidic, briny, not pleasant. Drinkability: 6-
- 2011 Domaine des Cantarelles Viognier, Vin de Pays du Gard – Typical nose – perfume, full body expectation -but the body is too watery, almost Pinot Grigio style… Acidic aftertaste. Drinkability: 6
- 2009 Vidal-Fleury Cote du Rhone – Strange nose, a bit vegetative, and then very oily (I never had a wine before with such a mouthfeel; scotch – yes, but wine? Never), some muted fruit – not good. Drinkability: 5
- 2009 E. Guigal Condrieu – this wine was redeeming the first flight – beautiful concentrated nose, with touch of sugar candy. Nice and delicate on the palate, but not enough power. Drinkability: 7
Flight number 2 consisted of the New World wines:
- 2010 Cono Sur Viognier, Colchagua Valley, Chile – Beautiful nose, touch perfumy, perfectly round palate, good acidity, some green apples. Drinkability: 7+ (best so far)
- 2010 La Capra Viognier, Western Cape, South Africa – somewhat green on the nose, with some matchstick. Let me stop here for a second, and I have a question for you, my readers. Have you ever experienced anything like that? Is that a showing of the extra sulfates used during the production? Anyway, let’s continue – there was also some minerality on the nose (or at least Tim suggested that it was) Pleasant on the palate, more of a Sauvignon Blanc qualities – lime, touch of grapefruit. As I was all puzzled by the nose, I’m not even sure how I want to rate this wine.
- 2010 Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley, Australia. If the previous wine had one matchstick on the nose, this one had a whole box. While that smell was going away little by little, the initial encounter with that wine almost game me a headache. Strange nose at first (heavy matchstick? Sulfites?). The wine opened up eventually on the palate into the medium to full bodied wine, retaining some sharpness. Considering that smell (which rendered the wine literally undrinkable to me) I can’t rate it. I can only hope that it was a particular faulty bottle…
- 2010 Miner Viognier Oakville ’Simpson Vineyard’, Napa. Perfect nose – great bright fruit, nice perfume. Best nose so far. Palate doesn’t live up – kind of flat and unimpressive. Judging nose by itself this wine should get Drinakability of 8, but as a whole, I can only give it a 6.
The next flight included a vertical of 4 wines from Flat Creek Estate Winery. As all of those wines were made out of grapes which didn’t grow in Texas (but the wine, of course, was made in Texas), they don’t carry Texas designation on the label. I have to admit that somehow I missed to take a picture of this flight, so just to give you an idea, I had to borrow the picture from the Flat Creek Estate’s web site.
- 2008 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Nose was practically non-existent (I couldn’t pickup any aroma), sweet on the palate. It is drinkable, but not great. Drinkability: 7
- 2009 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Nice nose, more of a typical viognier. Palate is touch out of balance (a bit sharp), but very drinkable. Drinkability: 7
- 2010 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Beautiful bright nose, touch of the pear preserve, fresh brewed tea on the nose. Needs a bit more acid on the palate. Drinkability: 7-
- 2011 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier. Perfect nose. Bright, clean, nice white fruit. Outstanding, perfect acidity, ripe fruit, perfect balance. Lodi fruit. To this point, this was my favorite! Drinkability: 8.
As we went to the all-Texas flight, Tim gave a great explanation to the room about different types of yeast and their ability to bring different qualities to the wine (more glycerin versus more esters etc.). And this is all in the hands of the winemaker. Yep, winemaking is Art…
And now, to the all Texas flight (look at my notes – they all show a progression of tasting as the wines were opening in the glass):
- 2011 Lone Oak Winery Viognier, Texas. Smell is similar to detergent. Not balanced. Not good. then it opened up on the nose, but with a note of brine. Pretty balanced now. Drinkability: 7+
- 2010 Brennan Vineyards Viognier, Texas. Some sweetness on the nose. Same sweetness on the palate – but not balanced. Needs more acidity. Leaves burning feeling. Improved after a breathing time!!! Much better! Drinkability: 7
- 2011 Becker Vineyards, Viognier, Texas. Nice nose, some gooseberry, little complexity. Finish is short. Drinkable, but not exciting. Drinkability: 6+
- 2010 McPherson Cellars Viognier, Texas. Interesting complexity on the nose. Sweet with some green notes. Beautiful palate, good round wine. Drinkability: 7+
And now (drum roll, please) let me present to you my best of tasting wine:
2012 Flat Creek Estate Winery Viognier, Texas. Barrel sample. Beautiful nose, light fruit, white fruit. 100% Texas fruit (brownfield). Very nice, good overall, some zest – really pleasant! Drinkability: 8+
The fact that grapes were picked 6 weeks ago, and that Tim had blended wine in the morning of the day of the tasting, is just makes it an incredible experience all together.
There you have it, folks – Texas makes great wines, so if you can get them – you should! And if your travel will take you down to Texas – make sure the wineries are part of your trip. You can tell them I sent you. Cheers!
In case you are wondering about the “serious fun” versus “not so serious fun”, somehow this title just got stuck in my head when I thought about this post, and I decided not to fight that. Also, when you have Gaja, Ornellaia, Turley, Bertani and whole bunch of other interesting wines, I think “serious fun” is a good way to put it. And to stress even further how serious the fun was, I’m even using different style of pictures for this post instead of usual “just label” style (and yes, you are right, I also use an opportunity to play with my new camera).
What is your first thought when you see the name like Gaja on the wine list? I don’t know about you, but in majority of the cases I would expect to see a red wine there. Yes, I can think of Gaja Chardonnay, and only because it typically looks at least as an affordable possibility on the wine list, as opposed to the Gaja red wines, which are not. So the wine we had was a white wine made out of …(wait for it)…Sauvignon Blanc!
2006 Gaja Alteni di Brassica Langhe DOC, Italy was a total surprise. Mineral nose, with wet stone, smoke and heavy grass. Touch of white fruit on the palate, more stone, touch of lemon, perfectly balanced. Finish lasted for 3 minutes, if not longer! Very beautiful wine. Drinkability: 9
The next wine we had was also coming from a very respectful Italian producer, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. And the wine was…yes, white again! The grape? Yep, Sauvignon Blanc. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT was simply delicious, with perfumed nose of lychees and white apple. Palate was exhibiting nuts and ripe apple. Very long finish with some tropical fruit notes coming in later on. Bright, round, amazing! Drinkability: 9
We continued our “whites’ extravaganza” with 2009 Ken Forrester The FMC ( (Forrester Meinert Chenin), South Africa. This wine was made out of the Chenin Blanc grape. While Chenin Blanc is one of the signature white French grapes from Loire, it also makes great wines around the world. It does particularly well in South Africa, where it is also known under the name Steen. This particular The FMC wine is a single vineyard flagship wine of Ken Forrester, one of the oldest producers in South Africa. This wine had a beautiful nose very similar to a typical chardonnay – nutty with some acidity, bright yellow color, very round. Drinkability: 8+
Done with whites. Before switching to the reds, we had a different, very unusual wine – as you can judge from the color above, this wine is not called “Orange” for nothing. Orange wine is one of the latest trends, where skin of the white grapes is left in the contact with juice during maceration. This imparts a nice deep yellow/orange color, hence the name, orange wine. This wine also was not some fly by night experimental plonk. 2008 Marani Satrapezo 10 kvevri, Georgia (100% Rkatsiteli grape, all coming from specific block of the Kondoli vineyard) was made in a traditional Georgian style with maceration for 20-25 days in historical clay vessel called Kvevri.
The wine had beautiful orange color. On the nose it had aromas of a bright fresh apricot. Palate was dry, full bodied, vegetative with enough brightness, touch of apricot but no sweetness whatsoever. After three hours in decanter the wine softened considerably – this wine definitely would benefit from a few years in the cellar. Drinkability: 8
Okay, we are finally switching to reds – with it’s own set of surprises. We started from 1997 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend). The wine had perfect color – dark, concentrated ruby red. Eucalyptus, wet stone, dust and raspberries on the nose. Bright red and black fruit on the palate with cassis, eucalyptus and licorice – perfect balance, nice, soft tannins. Drinkability: 8+
This was probably the biggest surprise of the evening – 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah California. Generally, Toasted Head makes simple everyday wines – which you generally are not going to age. This wine was simply lost in the cellar, and we opened it to taste but with the full readiness to dump it. To our astonishment (too strong of a word, but – why not), the wine had perfect acidity, bright youthful color, good black fruit, soft tannins and a touch of cassis. Drinkability: 8
The next wine was Giribaldi Cento Uve – but this will be a subject of a separate post, so I will skip my tasting notes for that wine. And the next wine was the one … we killed – it sounds way too strong, I know – but please read on. Amarone are typically big enough wines, so we decided to decant this wine – without even tasting it first (but the nose was perfect!). This was a [big] mistake. After 3 hours in decanter, the wine became barely drinkable. Another 30 minutes later, the fruit came back, both on the palate and the nose, only to disappear shortly after. Note to self – be careful with decanting. Considering this experience, I will not give this wine any rating – it simply wouldn’t be fair.
As you might expect, we didn’t just drink – we had a lot of good food as well. Just to give you an example, here is lamb kabob in the process of making:
To complement the lamb, we had 1996 Turley Duarte Zinfandel – nice fruit, raspberries on the nose and the palate, hint of jammy fruit later on, plus some eucalyptus. Very good overall balance for the wine at 15.4% ABV. Drinkability: 8-
And then of course there was a dessert – Clafoutis (no further comments, just look at the picture):
This was definitely a great experience. Pretty rare case when all the wines worked very well and were absolutely delightful – if I can only re-taste that Amarone… Well, may be one day. Wishing you great wine experiences! Cheers!
I like sequels, Well, in the movies – sometimes, not so much. But when it comes to the writing, whatever you forgot to say in the first part, you can say in the second, and feel good about it, claiming that this was the intent from the get go.
What I didn’t mention in the first post about great tasting of Georges Duboeuf 2011 Beaujolais portfolio is that red Beaujolais make one of the best red wines for summer – they are typically light in alcohol (if you noticed, 13% ABV was the most for all wines mentioned in the first post), and they also taste the best when they are slightly chilled. Considering how hot this summer is across pretty much the whole US territory, I hope this will help you to find a good red wine for the hot day, because sometimes it just have to be red.
In the first post, I described a self-guided part of tasting. That tasting was followed by the lunch, both of which (tasting and the lunch) taking place at db Bistro Modern, one of the restaurants of the famous chef Daniel Boulud.
Georges Duboeuf opened the event with presentation of 2011 vintage. Here is my best effort transcript of what he said (remember, I’m not a professional journalist, I’m only pretending): “2011 was a great year. Budding started in April, then flowering started in June, and then harvest started August 22nd and lasted for two weeks. Some areas experienced periods of drought. Overall, grapes reached very good level of ripeness. 2005 and 2009 (considered best in a very long time) were good, but 2011 might be even a little bit better than 2009. Throughout the vintage, there are lots of black cherry and earthy notes.”
After Georges Duboeuf’s presentation, the first dish was served – “Legumes du Marche” – Young Garden Vegetables, Fromage Blanc Dressing, Lavender Honey Vinaigarette.
This dish was paired with 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, and it worked together very well by wine complementing soft and earthy flavors of the vegetables.
Next, Frank Duboeuf presented two white wines, Macon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuisse (please see detailed note below). He said that 2011 was equally good year for both whites and the reds, which is a very rare situation. I didn’t take the detailed notes though, as I was preoccupied with parallel discussion at the table and delicious pairing of wine and food ( bad journalism : ( )
White wines were served with the next course, Seafood Risotto – Black Sea Bass, Scallops, Squids, Cockles, Fennel, Tomato Confit “Fumet” Emulsion.
Pouilly-Fuisse worked perfectly well with risotto, which was a unique experience for me. Creaminess of risotto cancelled out some sharpness of the chardonnay, creating next level of experience.
For the next course, Georges Duboeuf presented two red wines, Morgon and Julienas. He described Morgon as having “violet, cassis, kirsch on the nose, same flavors on the palate. A lot of structure. This wine will age very well”. Regarding Julienas, he said that “it is a very special wine, it has great personality. 2011 was a lot like 2009. This particular wine had the biggest success over the last 5-6 years. It was very critical to expand the vineyard (by 4 acres) for the success of this wine. This is a very noble wine with great aging potential. The wine was bottled a week before, right before the event”.
These two reds accompanied the last course of the meal – Duo of Beef – Braised Short Ribs, Beef Tenderloin, Spring Vegetables, Sauce Bordelaise.
I have to tell that while both food and wine were delicious in its own right, they didn’t work together, so the pairing was not successful by not elevating the whole meal to the next level. But I also have to admit that both food and wine really didn’t bother each other too much – they were really two absolutely parallel experiences without a merge or a collision (which is often the case when wine and food don’t work together).
And then…there was a dessert, which was delicious and not paired with any wines (I also have no idea how this little cookies should be called, but it was very hard to stop eating them).
Here are the detailed notes for the wines:
2011 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages Domaine Les Chenevieres, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $13.99, 12.5% ABV, 5000 cases produced) – Very nice, hint of hazelnut and citrus on the nose, good fruit, good balance, good acidity, hint of white apples, touch of vanilla and touch of oak on the palate. (Drinkability: 7+)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuisse Domaine Beranger, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $17.99, 13% ABV, 3500 cases produced, 1200 imported) – this wine comes from the best area, the actual town of Pouilly-Fuisse. This wine had more pronounced chardonnay qualities than the previous wine – vanilla, touch of citrus and oak notes, excellent balance. (Drinkability: 8- )
2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $9.99, 12.5% ABV) – very nice, good balance, a little tartness on the palate, but good overall. (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Morgon, Domaine Jean Descombes, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV) – good acidity, fresh fruit, light, soft, a bit too grapey to be great – but should improve with time. (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Julienas Chateau des Capitans, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $18.99, 14% ABV) – excellent depth, good power, good body, excellent balance. (Drinkability: 8)
All in all, it was one great event, both in the information and experience. Summer is still on, my friends – go find a bottle of Beaujolais to kick it off after a long day. And make an extra effort to find one of Georges Duboeuf wines – it will well worth it. Cheers!
(this self-rant doesn’t belong to this blog post, but I have to let it out of the system. I don’t understand how this works – this post was supposed to be out more than a month ago – the event was great, and the content was very clear in my head – nevertheless, it took soooo long to actually write it. Sometimes, the road from the head to the
paper medium is all so twisty, not straight at all. The things are not what they appear… But I think we can proceed now.)
When you hear the word “Beaujolais”, what is the first thing which comes to mind? Beaujolais Noveau? Yes, me too. At the same time, Beaujolais is a large wine producing region, in area much bigger than Burgundy which it is technically considered to be a part of. And of course there is a lot more wine produced in the Beaujolais region than just a Beaujolais Noveau, a celebratory wine of a new vintage.
At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to be invited for the tasting of the 2011 portfolio of wines of Georges Deboeuf. Georges Deboeuf is one of the largest and well-known wine merchants in France. He is credited with literally single-handily creating the Beaujolais Noveau phenomenon and often is called the “King of Beaujolais”. I also think that his success with Beaujolais Noveau, both wine and celebration of the new vintage with pleasant but very simple grapey wine, appearing in the stores all over the world always on the third Thursday in November, is also an enemy of serious Beaujolais wines, which can be absolutely fantastic – but this can be a subject for a whole different post, so let’s talk about the portfolio tasting of 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais wines.
No, wait. Before we talk about the wines presented in the tasting, let’s take a quick look at Beaujolais wine region. Beaujolais region is located to the south of Burgundy. Red wines constitute absolute majority of wine production in Beaujolais, and Gamay is pretty much the only grape used in the production of that red wine (with small plantings of Pinot Noir been phased out little by little). White wines are produced from Chardonnay with Aligote been also allowed, but overall production of white wines is miniscule. Three levels of wines are produced in Beaujolais – Beaujolais, which allows usage of the grapes from the whole appellation – these wine should generally be avoided; Beaujolais-Villages, which are better quality wines, and so called Cru wines (top level). There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais – Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. In general, Beaujolais wines are considered simple and easy (and thus work well with wide variety of food), and also have lesser aging potential than, for instance, the wines of neighboring Burgundy (however aging is usually defined by the talent of winemaker more than anything else). Now that you know all the theory of the Beaujolais wines, let’s talk about tasting.
The tasting was organized by CRT/Tanaka and I would like to thank Caroline Helper (@ForgetBurgundy) for invitation. The tasting took place at DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan, and it was split into two parts – self-guided tasting of 12 different newly released wines from Georges Duboeuf portfolio (some wines on the list were denoted as barrel samples, as they were just bottled a week before the event), following by organized lunch. Little bites of food were served during the self-guided tasting, and I had an opportunity to try a famous Daniel Burger (with foie gras inside!) – and it was absolutely delicious.
Here I will share with you my notes from the self-guided tasting – description of the lunch, where both Georges and Frank Duboeuf presented their wines, will make up a separate post (ahh, I hope it will not take me another month to write it!). Of course I can’t leave you with just notes, so you will also see some pictures.
2010 Georges Duboeuf Macon-Villages, Maconnaise, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $12.99, 13% ABV) – Crisp acidity, interestingly nutty nose, hint of green apple, very mineral on the palate, with hint of limestone (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuisse, Maconnais, France (100% Chardonnay, SRP: $19.99, 13% ABV) – green notes on the nose, lime zest, light, effervescent and crisp on the palate, with a hint of tropical fruit, very refreshing (Drinkability: 8- )
2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $9.99, 12.5% ABV) – Fresh fruit nose, very tannic, more fruit and tannins on the palate, with tannins literally reaching Barolo levels. Needs time and may be different temperature (Drinkability: 6 at the moment, but this wine needs to be reassessed)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $13.99, 13% ABV) – plums, acidity out of balance, tamed red fruit on the nose, tannins on the second taste (Drinkability: 6+)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – tart cherries on the nose and palate, more balance than the previous wine, but still lacking a bit (Drinkability: 7- )
2011 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly Chateau de Nervers, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 12.5% ABV) – closed, not balanced, all over the place – fruit, acidity, tannins are not harmonious (Drinkability: 6+)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Morgon, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – very nice nose with open fruit, too dry on the palate, very tannic, needs more fruit (Drinkability: 7- )
2011 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV) – good fruit, ghood acidity, reasonably balanced (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $18.99, 13% ABV) – very nice! Round fruit on the nose and the palate, very good balance (Drinkability: 8- )
2011 Georges Duboeuf Julienas, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $14.99, 13% ABV) – pleasant nose, good acidity, but fruit is closed (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $15.99, 13% ABV)- fresh fruit on the nose, lacks substance on the palate, needs more power – this wine is red like white (Drinkability: 7)
2011 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Domaine des Rosiers, Beaujolais, France (100% Gamay, SRP: $17.99, 13% ABV) – very nice, beautiful color, good fruit on the nose, hint of minerality and spices, good red fruit, plums and raspberries on the palate. Best of tasting. (Drinkability: 8- )
In the end of the day, all the wines were showing very well, and if you think about QPR, all the wines were great values. Make no mistake – some of these wines are in a very limited production (especially all the Domaine-denoted wines), so you will need to make an effort to find them. But – it worth the reward!
That’s all for my first part of the report, folks. Until the next time – cheers!