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Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Underappreciated Regions

March 14, 2013 2 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and  even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

After spending some time looking at hard-to-find-but-worth-seeking wines (Jerez and Madeira posts can be found here and here), let’s go back to the “hidden secrets” series. We agreed at the beginning that in this “secrets” series, we are looking for great wines which will bring a lot of pleasure – but will not require one to dip into pension savings to enjoy them pretty much every day. We talked about Rioja, second labels, French Sparkling wines and wines of Languedoc. Where should we go now?

If anything, we are living through a wine renaissance period right now. Wine is very popular as a beverage among people of all ages and all walks of life, everywhere in the world. Wine is also made nowadays almost everywhere in the world – from China and India to downtown Chicago (I’m serious – you can read about it here). Does it mean that you can universally enjoy wines made anywhere in the world? Of course not (not yet? May be, but I can’t predict the future). Taking out of equation exotic wines made in exotic regions, what are we left with? There are a number of well know wine making regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Rhone in France, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, Germany (as one big Riesling-making region), Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand (often taken as a whole), United States with Napa and then Sonoma being most prominent, and hopefully Washington and Oregon being also well known outside of the US, and Chile and Argentina, as still relative newcomers in the wine world. How did I come up with this list? Before someone gets upset for his or her favorite regions not being mentioned, or all 70+ regions of Australia not being accounted for, let me explain the logic here – it is simple. Each of the regions listed above (even with the whole country lumped as one) makes tens or may be hundreds of the wines which are in a high demand. How can we estimate the demand? When wine is in demand, it typically starts going up in price. Each one of the above mentioned regions has many wines priced in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle (anyone who wants to check is welcome to look for Screaming Eagle, Chateau Petrus, Krug Champagne or Vega Sicilia on wine-searcher).

Yes, you are absolutely right – not all the wines produced in Bordeaux or any other famed region cost hundreds of dollars, there are many which cost between $10 and $20. True, but in many cases consistency of those wines might be in question – meaning, you never know what you are getting for your ten or twenty dollars. Of course probability of finding very good and reasonably priced wine is getting better and better in today’s world – but you can even further improve it by stepping out of familiar circle and looking for wines from under-appreciated regions.

So what are those under-appreciated regions? As you can imagine, there are lots of them. Again, all the exotic places aside, for each famous wine region, the same countries have tens of “under-appreciated” regions, consistently making good wines for hundreds of years, with majority of those wines being also reasonably priced. In France, great wines are made in Loire, Provence, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon (we already talked about them) and many other places. In Italy, excellent wines are made in Umbria, Sicily, Lombardy, Marche and again in many other regions. Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Jumilla and La Mancha in Spain; Long Island, Virginia and Texas in United States, South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Georgia and Hungary… There is no limit to the places where now we can look for consistently good wines.

As usual, time to open a bottle, right? Let me give you a few examples from the regions which I believe are under-appreciated.

Rosso Conero Marche 2006Let’s start in Italy, in the region called Marche, which is located on Adriatic coast of Italy, near Ancona. There are a number of great wines produced in that region, which is still staying off the radar for the most of the wine lovers. Particularly, white wines made out of the grape called Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica are excellent white wines, with balanced acidity and fruit, perfect for summer day. The red wines are made mostly out of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes.  This particular 2006 Casal Farneto Rosso Conero IGT is made of the blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and it is an excellent red wine with lots of layers and luscious red and black fruit on the palate (think of blackberries and sour cherries), perfectly balanced.

VouvrayLet’s move from region Marche in Italy to France. Here is our first wine, coming from Vouvray region in Loire valley. Loire is home for many different wine regions, all producing interesting but lesser known wines, may be with an exception of Sancerre (I might be really stretching this “may be”). Vouvray wines are made out of the grape called Chenin Blanc, which produces wide range of wines from very dry to very sweet. This particular 2009 Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray AOC is very nice and pleasant, showing some sweetness (probably equivalent to Spatlese Riesling). It is easy to drink and should be great accompaniment to many summer meals.

Loire Chinon Cab FrancLast but not least for today is red wine coming again from Loire Valley, from the region called Chinon. As many other red wines in Loire region, Chinon wines are made out of the Cabernet Franc grape, with an addition of some other grapes. Cabernet Franc is typically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and California, but it also produces great wines on its own, in all the different regions throughout the world. This 2007 Epaule Jete Chinon required extensive time to open up, but after three days, finally became drinkable, showing earthiness, fruit and acidity, all in harmonious balance.


Not sure if I was convincing enough, but next time you are in a wine store, look for unfamiliar wines from unfamiliar places – it is possible that you will make a great discovery. As subject of under-appreciated wines is almost endless, I will give you many more examples of great wines from no-so-well-known places. Until then – let’s drink to fearless wine tasting and great discoveries.

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Re-post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Wines of Languedoc

February 20, 2013 4 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and  even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Corbieres_2008Continuing our “Best Secrets” series, we are going to … France again. However, we are going all the way down south, to the region called Languedoc-Roussillon (in most of the cases it is simply call Languedoc).

Why France again, and moreover, what is so special about Languedoc? First, don’t worry, we are just getting started in our “experiences” journey, we will be going all over the world, I promise. Now, to answer the question “why Languedoc”, let me simply give you some facts. Languedoc-Roussillon is single biggest wine making region in the world! It also produces one third of all the wines made in France. I think this is not bad for the beginning.

One of the great things about Languedoc wines is that while many other regions in France are strictly limited in the grape varieties used in the winemaking in that particular region, Languedoc is not. All white wines from Burgundy are made out of Chardonnay, and all the reds are from Pinot Noir. Red Bordeaux are predominantly made out of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes – yes, with the addition of some other grapes, but in any case you will not find any wine which proudly specifies Bordeaux on the label and made out of Pinot Noir or Syrah. Languedoc is different – a lot more grapes can be used in the wine production throughout the region. Red wines can be made out of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan, whites can be made out of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, plus many other red and white grapes can be used in the wine production (for more information about the region, you can always look into Wiki page).

If you are surprised that you didn’t know about Languedoc wines before – don’t be, I’m sure you had Languedoc wines unknowingly. How come? A lot of it is in the labels. Have you seen “Vin de Pays d’Oc” on the labels of wine you were drinking? “Vin d Pays” literally means “Country wines” – level of quality which is one step above “vin de table” table wines, but less than level of AOC wines. But if Vin de Pays can be used with many wines, when you see “d’Oc” added to that it squarely points to Languedoc (last two letters of the region’s name) – if you think about it, I’m sure you had those wines before. There are other well known appellations within Languedoc, such as Corbieres, Minervois and St. Chinian, plus a number of other lesser known appellations. I want to point out that we already discussed one of the Languedoc wines in this “secrets” series of posts when we talked about French Sparkling Wines. That Blanquette de Limoux is produced in the Limoux appellation which is part of the Languedoc region (by the way, if you still didn’t give that Blanquette de Limoux a try, you should do it quickly!).

So what is so “secret” about Languedoc wines? Languedoc is one of the most dynamic wine making regions in France – new appellations created, rules are changing. Languedoc winemakers have more freedom to create, and they are making more and more of the high quality age-worthy wines. And because those wines are not as well known to the public as many others, they happen to represent a great value. Let me give you few examples.

Languedoc_ChardonnayLet’s start with white: 2009 Domaine de L’Olivier Chardonnay Pays d’Oc. If you like Chardonnay, this is the wine to try. Very nice and very clean, great fruit expression – tropical fruits, touch of grapefruit, all with balancing and refreshing acidity and barely noticeable tannins. Great wine which delivers a lot of pleasure.  To put things even in a better prospective I would like to note that retail price of this wine is about US $10 – you would have to get to the $30-$40 price range for Burgundy or California to achieve the same level of experience.

Black sheep GSMAnother example – 2008 Black Sheep Le Grand Noir GSM blend from Minervois. As label suggests, this wine is made out of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes (which is a classic combination of the Rhone grapes). Again with the price tag of about US$10, this is a great deal. Very soft and gently layered fruit, soft tannins are present, but unobtrusive. Good acidity complements this wine well, delivering nice and pleasant experience. Again, considering the price, this is the wine to look for.

Now that you learned yet another secret, it is time to put that knowledge to the practical use. Did you have Rioja wine yet, or may be tried some second label? Now you know about Languedoc wines, so “to do” list just got longer. Go find the bottle and experience this wine tonight – and let me know if your experience was worth reading this article. And just to tell you about what’s ahead, the next time we will talk about something else – will take a break in the secrets series. For now I can only tell you that this “something else” is quite rare and almost forgotten – and I will tell you more the next time we meet…

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: French Sparkling Wines

January 31, 2013 12 comments

During 2011, I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and even the web site is down, but I still like those posts, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Saint-HilaireSo far we talked about a number of “secrets” of the wine world: Rioja, Second Labels, Amarone, wines of Georgia. Let’s continue our journey of discovery. This time we are going to talk about French Sparkling Wines.

Everybody knows about Champagne, a special wine for celebrations. If we think that occasion is special enough, the first thought is: we need a bottle of Champagne to celebrate. Of course producers of Champagne also know that, and respond with ever increasing prices – it is practically impossible to find the bottle of Champagne for less than $35 – and as with any other wine, there is no limit on top.

What is Champagne anyway? First of all Champagne is a place, a region in northern France – the only place in the world which can produce bottles of the sparkling beverage with the Champagne name on it. Second of all, Champagne is a sparkling wine, made in accordance with very specific winemaking rules and techniques, which are typically referred to as “Méthode Champenoise”. In that method (which legend has, was discovered by accident), the wine is fermented twice, and second fermentation takes place in the closed bottle, which leads to the wine becoming carbonated (hence the generic name “sparkling wine”). One quick note on the grapes – traditional champagne is produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, in various combinations as decided by the producer. If you want to read more, as usual Wikipedia offers great wealth of information (you can read it here).

Today sparkling wines are made all over the world, and of course none of them can be called Champagne, as the word “Champagne” on the label is protected by law. I’m sure you heard many of the names and tried many of the wines, but to give you a brief summary, Spain produces sparkling wine under the name Cava, Italy typically makes Prosecco (there are some other lightly sparkled wines, like Moscato D’Asti, but we will leave it aside for this post). Sekt is made in Germany, and most of the other countries simply use the term “Sparkling wine”, sometimes also identifying the grape, such as Sparkling Shiraz from Australia or Sparkling Malbec from Argentina.

With such a diversity and widely available offerings, why French sparkling wines are such a secret? While being the closest to the original (Champagne), they offer probably the best QPR (Quality Price Ratio), beating often California Sparkling wines and even Cava – and they taste really authentic.

French_Sparkling_with_GlassesThere is a substantial variety of Sparkling wines coming from France alone. Almost each and every wine producing region (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire, Jura, …) produces its own versions of the sparkling wines, in most of the cases called Cremant: Cremant de Bordeaux, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Jura, Cremant de Loire and others. You can find additional information on the sparkling wines here. All of these Cremant wines are made using the same “méthode champenoise”, however, typical regional grapes can be used to make the wine.

So as usual, I wanted to prove to you that the knowledge I’m sharing is worthy of a “secret” designation, which can be of course done by forcing you, me readers, to buy the wine and taste it (and then telling me that I was right). However, as this is not an easy undertaking, I took this function upon myself, and here are the results of tasting of 3 inexpensive French Sparkling wines. I got 3 French Sparkling wines – Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut ($10.99), Cave de L’Aurance Cremant de Buourgogne Brut ($11.99) and Lucien Albrecht Cremant de Alsace Rose Brut ($14.99). Before we talk about tasting notes, I want to mention that the Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux claims to be the first sparkling wine ever, produced by Benedictine Monks in Saint-Hilaire abbey in 15th century ( beating Champagne by at least a hundred years) – but I guess they never put much effort into marketing, while Champagne did, so the result is obvious (however, it is better for us, consumers).

French_SparklingAnyway, here are the notes:

2008 Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut: closest to the classic champagne. Nose of yeast and hint of fresh bread, very refreshing, good acidity, citrus notes, dry, medium to full body. Best of tasting.

Cave de L’Aurance Cremant de Bourgogne Brut: quite limited expression on the nose, but very elegant on the palate. Offers golden delicious apple and ripe white grapefruit notes, medium body.

Lucien Albrecht Cremant de Alsace Brut Rose: very complex on the nose, with some onion peel and white truffle. On the palate offers strawberries, pink grapefruit, medium body.

Now you know one more secret. No, you don’t need to trust me. I would definitely encourage you to get a bottle of your favorite Champagne. Then you need to get a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux, and compare them in the blind tasting. I have done this with the group of friends, and you can find the surprising results here. I challenge you to do it – and then leave me a comment with the result – I will be waiting.

That’s all for now, folks. For the next secret of the wine world – stay tuned. More secrets are coming…

Re-post: Best Hidden Secrets of The Wine World: Wines of South Africa

January 24, 2013 12 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Hamilton_Russell_Pinot_Noir_2008Continuing the subject of “secrets” of the wine world (you might remember our past conversations about Rioja, Second Labels, Georgian Wines and more), let’s talk about wines of South Africa. If you are asking why South African wines should be considered a “hidden secrets”, please read below.

As one would rightfully expect, history of South African wines is tightly intertwined with history of South Africa as a country. Winemaking in South Africa started in 17th century, and for the long time, South Africa was making dessert wines, some of them still famous, like Constantia. Most of the wines were exported into United Kingdom. Similar to the most of the winemaking world, South Africa experienced Phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century, and lots of vines had to be replanted. The 20th century was marked by the political issues – as apartheid was a bad problem for the South Africa, the institute of wine regulations by KWV also became a limitation for the wine industry. Combination of the KWV restrictions with boycott of the South African goods, including wines, as a means to fight apartheid regime, lead to South African wines staying largely non-existent for the wine lovers around the world. With collapse of apartheid the situation changed, and then KWV monopoly was also broken, which lead to the great advances in the South African wine making. If you want to read more about the history of

A number of different grapes are used in winemaking in South Africa. First we need to mention Chenin Blanc, which is still one the major white grapes used in wine production (it is also known locally under the name of Steen). Similar to the Loire valley, where Chenin Blanc is shining, it makes whole range of wines in South Africa, starting from very dry and acidic, and going all the way up to the dessert wines. Next we need to mentioned Pinotage, which is unique grape, produced and cultivated only in South Africa. Pinotage is a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir grapes, and has a number of strange characteristics, such as being reminiscent of liquefied rusty nails in the glass. Then whole bunch of international varietals are also planted (amount of those plantings is increasing), and it includes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and many others.

Thelema_Chardonnay_2007So why are we placing South African wines into the “secrets” category? Once you will try [good] wines from South Africa, chances are you will be blown away. It is important to note that South African wines are new world wines masquerading as an old world – which makes blind tasting with South African wines very challenging.

As our tradition goes, let’s open a bottle or two, and let’s talk about the wines. First, 2008 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir. This wine is simply amazing – very restrained and polished, with beautiful restrained fruit, lots of smokiness and earthiness on the palate. This wine shows off as a classic Burgundy, and only when you look at the label you experience almost a shock – this wine is from South Africa, last place one would expect to produce classy Burgundy (you can read about our blind tasting experience here).

Then comes 2007 Thelema Chardonnay, again, very reminiscent of beloved White Burgundy – restrained, with balanced fruit, hint of butter and vanilla on the palate and good tannins – very elegant.

Cirrus_Syrah_2003Last I would like to mention 2003 Cirrus wine – a predominantly Shiraz ( 96%) with addition of small amount of Viognier (4%). On the palate, this wine mostly represents liquid smoke, but it really comes alive in a glass, with excellent tannins, toned down fruit and perfect acidity, well balanced.

I don’t know if I manage to convince you in the “secrets” status of South African wines. But if you will think about it, either way you have to find a bottle of South African wine – to either agree or disagree with me. Look for the one we talked about here – and judge it for yourself. Cheers!

Re-post: Best Hidden Secrets of The Wine World: Wines of Georgia

January 17, 2013 9 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

We are continuing our “secrets” discovering journey, this time moving few thousand miles mostly east of Veneto, Italy, which was our last stop. Now we are in the fertile mountainous region called Caucasus. To be more precise, our destination is Georgia, a small country with a rich history (the subject of Georgian Wines was already discussed in this blog, but recent encounter with Georgian Wines convinced author that this subject is worth talking about again).

For the sake of this blog, we will of course focus on the part of Georgian history which relates to wine. For beginners, Georgia is widely considered a cradle of wine making. According to Wikipedia, wine production started in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago. With all due respect to so called “old world” of wine, that beats France, Italy and other European countries by about 7,000 years.

Of course, truth to be told, multiple thousand years of history don’t translate directly into today’s advantage. For instance, majority of the countries which existed thousands years ago are not even remembered today. If everything goes well, that long history can only translate into traditions – good or bad, but traditions are just what they are: “typical ways of conducting certain activity”, or “an inherited or established way of thinking, feeling, or doing”, according to the definition from Merriam-Webster.

Fast forward to the middle of 20th century, and Georgian wine making traditions came under attack by soviet regime and Georgian wine making industry became literally non-existent. Fast forward once again, to the last decade of the 20th century, and traditions came back into play, helping to re-born Georgian wine industry. Of course, once former soviet union collapsed and Georgia became independent, freedom had a “drugging” effect. Tremendous amount of mediocre (at the best) wine was produced, all in attempt to “get rich quickly”. This situation backfired, and Georgian wines went into “ignore” category without any chance to rise to prominence (disclaimer: these are observations from US-centered wine market).

Luckily, traditions, based on real, rich history and pride came to the rescue. Fast and greedy mostly disappeared, and real wine makers and businessman took their place. Those thousands years of history and traditions became multiplying force for skills, craftsmanship and ambitions, and now started bringing us world-class wines. It is still very difficult to buy good Georgian wines in US, you have to really know where to get it, but hopefully this situation will change. Hmmm, may be we don’t need that to change? Let’s keep it secret, so those in the know can continue enjoying first-growth Bordeaux quality wines at one hundredth of the price?

Bagrationi_SparklingTime to talk about wines – after all, we need to put some substance behind the nice words. Let’s start with… Champagne? Err, Sparkling wine, of course, as Champagne can only come from Champagne. Enters Bagrationi 1882, which makes sparkling wines using traditional “Méthode Champenoise” for more than 100 years. Round, soft and creamy, with perfect acidity, bright and refreshing, this sparkling wine will successfully compete with any of the actual Champagnes and other sparkling wines. In the blind tasting (non-professional), 2007 Royal Cuvee was the best out of the 8 sparkling wines, including classic Champagnes (you can read about it here).

Pheasant's_Tears_winesMoving along, let’s talk about some of the most unique wines I ever had a chance to taste. Pheasant’s Tears winery (as well as some others), produce wines using thousands-years old (talk about traditions) technology – the grapes are crushed and fermented for prolonged period of time in the clay vessels called Qvevri. The resulting wines, made from different indigenous grapes, such as Kisi, Rkatsiteli, Tavkveri, Saperavi and others, are very different from most of other wines. Both whites and reds show very nice tannins which come from prolonged contact with skin and seeds (no oak aging whatsoever), as well as great level of complexity somewhat similar to good Madeira. This wines should really be experienced, as words can’t do them enough justice.

Maisuradze_winesLast for this post, but not least, I want to mention true world-class winemaker-made classic wines. You know, those wines which are happily associated with winemaker or lead producer, such as Michel Roland,  Christian Moeux, Helen Turley, Andy Erickson ( Screaming Eagle) and many others. These wines are made by David Maisuradze out of the classic Georgian red grape called Saperavi. Both Mukuzani and Saperavi are truly amazing wines, with perfect layered dark fruit on the palate, perfect structure, powerful tannins and excellent balance. 2005 Mukuzani shows more tannins at this point (it was aged for 24 month in the oak), and while it can be definitely enjoyed right now, it needs another 10-15 years to truly shine. Get it, if you can!

Georgian wines came back to the wine lovers to take the place they really deserve, the product of love and obsession supported by deep roots and traditions. While not easy to find, they are definitely worth looking for. Make an effort, find the bottle, try it, and send me a “thank you” note later on, as I’m sure you will be inclined to do. To the wonderful wine discoveries!

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Second Labels

December 18, 2012 8 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Second labels. Second is a keyword here. Second – meaning second best? How good it is to be second best?

When it comes to competition, second best is always only second best. Second best means you scored less, you ran not as fast as the best, you jumped not as far as the best. By all means, you really tried – but someone else was better in the same art.

Luckily, the notion of “second best” is not applicable to the world of wine. Of course, you might have your favorite (the best) wine, and then second favorite wine, and the third, and the fourth and many others.  However, those are your personal favorites which are driven by your own personal taste. It is entirely possible even that someone’s most favorite wine is totally not drinkable for someone else (I think this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the wine world.

So what is the second label? Many wineries around the world have one wine which is considered the best, most well known and well regarded. Such wine would be their “First Label”. Typically, those wines have two” external” characteristics: they are very expensive and made in the limited quantities – and one way or the other, these subsequently become driving factors to produce so called “second label” wines, which are at least less expensive (quantity still might be an issue).

Actually, officially designated second labels started in Bordeaux in France simply to avoid throwing out the grapes which didn’t make it into the best wines. What started from so called “first growth” Bordeaux wines from famous 1855 classification in the 18th century, the second label movement spread widely across many wine making regions in the last quarter of 20th century (you read more on the subject here). From being only a Bordeaux phenomenon, it became adopted by many wineries all over the world as their main wines elevated to the “cult” status.

Today many of the cult wines from California, Italy and Spain ( other regions joining in as well) have their second labels. It is interesting to point out one essential difference between Bordeaux second labels and the rest of the world. Based on In Bordeaux AOC rules, second label or not, if Chateau is specified on the wine label all the grapes (100%) for that wine have to come from the vineyards which belong to that Chateau. This is not the case for most of the world. For instance, when particular AVA (analog of AOC in USA) is mentioned on the wine label, it means only that at least 85% of the grapes in that wine should be coming from the specified AVA, and 15% of grapes can be coming from any other places. I’m not saying that this is good or bad – this is just something to take into account when talking about second label wines.

Now, putting all the technicalities aside, what is all the fuss? Why are we talking about some kind of “second labels” as a great secret of the wine world? Very simply, it is all about QPR. Let me give you an example. If you hadn’t done so recently, go check how much Chateau Latour or Chateau Lafite costs. 2008 (somewhat of a sleeper vintage, not declared as outstanding) Chateau Latour will cost $1,600 or more, and Chateau Lafite is somewhere in the $2,000 – $2,500 range. No, not for 5 cases – these are the prices per bottle… 2008 Les Forts de Latour, second label of Chateau Latour, will cost about $250 per bottle, and Carruades de Lafite, second label of Chateau Lafite, will cost about $600.This is still very steep, but I’m sure you can see the magnitude of price difference.  In addition to the better QPR, second labels are ready to be enjoyed much faster compare to the main wines.  You need to wait for 15-20 years for great Bordeaux to open up, and second labels often cane enjoyed right away or after the short time in the cellar.

Let’s talk about some practical examples, but instead of Bordeaux, let’s start from Italy.

LeVolte_2008Le Volte is so called Super Tuscan wine made by Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. Their flagship wine, Ornellaia, has won numerous accolades and consistently rated above 95 points by various wine critics. You can buy Ornellaia for about $180 – $220 per bottle. Le Volte is produced by the same winery (it is technically a third label, with Le Serre Nouve being the second) from the grapes which were not selected for the main wine, and you can buy it for about $20-$25 per bottle (about one tenth of the price of Ornellaia).

2008 Le Volte was very tight and aggressive initially. After a while, it changed beautifully showing luscious fruit (dark fruits) and silky smooth tannins. It can be enjoyed right now with the appropriate breathing time (an hour in decanter might be the right call), but it will benefit from another 5 years in the cellar.

Croix_de_Beaucallou_2005Here is another example – Crouix de Beaucaillou, second label from Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is so called second growth winery from Saint-Julien region in Bordeaux – again based on 1855 classification. Taking 2008 as a reference year again, their flagship wine, Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, can cost $110 and above (just for comparison, same wine from 2005, which was one of the best years in Bordeaux, will cost you $180+, and 2009 prices start from $250). 2005 Croix de Beaucaillou can be found for about $45 per bottle, which is one fourth of the price of the first label. This 2005 Croix de Beaucaillou opens one with beautiful nose of ripe black plums, oak and spice box. On the palate the wine is very restrained initially, and then opens up with some cedar notes and exhibits pronounced acidity and powerful tannins. Despite my earlier statement about second labels being ready to drink earlier, this particular wine definitely need more time in the cellar (but we should still keep in mind that 2005 was a great year).

After learning the first great secret of the wine world – beautiful Rioja wines, now you are armed with even more knowledge and you can have a lot of fun exploring the world of hidden gems, the second labels. Just to leave you with a little reference, below you will find a table with names of some of the second labels throughout the world, you can enjoy hunting for. And stay tuned, as more secrets are coming!

Note: this post was prompted by the post “Second Label Values” by the fellow blogger wpawinepirate.

Reference: Second Label Wines

Primary Wine Second label
France – Bordeaux, 1st growth
Chateau Haut-Brion Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite Rothschild
Chateau Latour Les Forts de Latour
Chateau Margaux Pavillon Rouge
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Le Petit Mouton
France – Bordeaux, others
Chateau Ausone Chapelle d’Ausone
Chateau Cheval Blanc Le Petit Cheval
Château Rauzan-Ségla Ségla
Château Léoville-Las Cases Le Petit Lion de Marquis de las Cases (Clos du Marquis before 2007)
Château Léoville-Poyferré Château Moulin Riche
Château Léoville Barton La Réserve de Léoville Barton
Château Gruaud-Larose Sarget de Gruaud-Larose
Château Lascombes Chevalier de Lascombes
Château Pichon Longueville Baron Les Tourelles de Longueville
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Reserve de la Comtesse
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou La Croix de Beaucaillou
Château Cos d’Estournel Les Pagodes de Cos
Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto
Ornellaia Le Serre Nouve, Le Volte
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5°
Alto Moncayo Alto Moncayo Veraton
Bodegas El Nido Clio
Clos Mogador Clos Manyetes
USA – California
Bryant Family DB4
Duckhorn Migration, Decoy
Harlan Estate Maiden
Pahlmeyer Jayson
Paul Hobbs Crossbarn
Screaming Eagle Leviathan
Quilceda Creek Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Red

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Amarone

October 18, 2012 8 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Continuing our “secrets” series, let’s talk about wine called Amarone. The reason to include Amarone as one of the “secrets” of the wine world is simple – I don’t think too many wine lovers know how great Amarone can be, to ask for it by name. I guarantee you – if you like wine, and you will happen to come across a good bottle of Amarone, it will blow you away. And, assuming that many wine lovers are not familiar with Amarone, let’s talk about it starting from the basics.

Amarone is an Italian wine which comes from the region called Veneto. Among [well] known wines produced in Veneto (which has the biggest wine production among all DOCs in Italy) are Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella. While Prosecco is a famous Italian Sparkling wine, Soave makes dry white wines, and most of Valpolicella wines are red. Main grape varieties used in Valpolicella are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, plus there are some other grapes which are used in production of Valpolicella wines.

Amarone is one of the wines produced in Valpolicella. What is so special about it? Let me tell you about my first experience with Amarone. I tried that wine for the first time during the Italian wine class at Windows on the World Wine School, taught by Kevin Zraly. On the nose, that wine had pure raisins, and lots of them. Based on the smell, I was absolutely sure that the wine will be very sweet. The first sip of that wine showed off very dry, full bodied and powerful red wine. The contrast of smell and taste was so amazing – it stuck in my head forever. As an interested side note, once we all smelled the wine, Kevin Zraly asked the class (about 100 students) what we’re thinking about when we smell the wine. Before anyone else had a chance to say anything, the woman in the front row literally jumped from her seat screaming “Sex!”.  In case anyone curious, the wine we tasted in that class was 1997 Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella.

Outside of such an interesting reflections, what puts Amarone apart from many wines is the way it is made. Once the grapes are harvested, they are put out on the straw mats (used to be straw mats, now there are other techniques) to dry under the sun. The drying process, called Appassimento, usually takes between 3 and 4 month, and leads to the grapes shrivel to literally become raisins – and then those shriveled grapes are pressed and fermented to become Amarone wines. Another interesting fact is that after the grapes are pressed for Amarone wines, the grape skin and seeds leftovers can be added to the Valpolicella wines, which helps to impart additional flavor onto the resulting wine. The wines produced using this method will be called Ripasso which will be designated on the wine label.

It is the time to open a bottle. Today we will actually open 3 bottles, all three from the same producer called Vaona, and we will be able to compare the way the wines are made and taste, progressing from Valpolicella Ripasso to Amarone of different levels.

The first wine is 2008 Vaona Valpolicella Classico Superiore Pegrandi Ripasso (Pegrandi Ripasso means that it used the grape skins left after production of Pegrandi Amarone). This wine is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara grapes and it was aged for a year in a barrel and 4 month in the bottle. The resulting wine is very smooth and concentrated, with lots of dark fruit and spices on the palate.

Our next wine is 2007 Vaona Paverno Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. It is made of the same grapes as the Vlapolicella wine (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara). After the grapes were harvested, they were dried up in the wooden boxes for a period of 3 month, and then made into the wine. This wine is very nice and round, reminiscent of Charles Mara Pinot Noir, both in soft and round style and in masterful handling of the alcohol. This wine boasts 15.6% alcohol, and outside of reading the label, that level of alcohol can not be detected neither on the nose, nor on the palate – this is how balanced the wine is. The wine is showing some blueberries and a bit of tobacco notes on the palate.



And now we can talk about the flagship wine – 2006 Vaona Pegrandi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. The grapes for this wine come from the vineyard called Pegrandi, where the average age of vines is 30-40 years. The same Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara are used in the production of the wine, with an addition of local indigenous grape called Raboso Veronese. Once harvested, grapes are dried on the bamboo racks for more than 4 month before they are made into the wine. The resulting wine was aged for 24 month in the small barrels before the release. Again, the wine is incredibly smooth and balanced, regardless of  the 15.8% of alcohol. On the nose, it shows fruit jam and dark chocolate. It is extremely rich on the palate, with lots of dark fruit and dark chocolate notes, powerful tannins and hint of tar and tobacco – and then more tannins. This wine should truly be experienced – describing it using words doesn’t do a true justice to it.

I really hope that once you read this article, you will run into the wine store, and ask for the best bottle of Amarone – this wine should be really experienced, and who knows – you might find your wine love forever.

P.S. This post was also prompted by the recent post on Vino in Love blog about best wines from the latest Gambero Rosso (famous Italian wine guide) and his rant about Amarone at the end of the post.

Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Rioja

September 28, 2012 6 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed, but I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

“Let me tell you a secret” – how many stories started from this sentence? Adventures, journeys, discoveries, friendships and feuds, love and hate – secrets can be beginning of many things.

Secrets have special place in our lives. Secret is a hope.  Hope, anticipation and promise of unique experience. Humans always hope to find secrets – of health, wealth, attraction, eternal life. When you know a secret, you feel good – you possess  something which nobody else does. Or at least nobody from the people you know. And this is when it becomes difficult. We are social creatures, and we want to share. When we share a secret, we feel special, we feel  high above, as we share something which a moment ago was unique and exclusively ours. Then we regret we shared – ahh, that moment of weakness. And yes, you are right, there are evil secrets, those which bring death and destruction – but nothing like that belongs to this blog.

Okay, fine, I hear you. This is not a philosophical blog – this is the blog about wine and experience. But – the preamble was necessary, as we will continue from here on. Secrets (sometimes referred to as “know-how”) are everywhere, and world of wine is no exception. Are they really such a secrety secrets? Of course they are not, and you don’t need a special clearance to learn them. However, secrets are personable, and if secrets I plan to share will only make you yawn, please make sure to tell me so.

So what can be so secret about something which is available in abundance literally everywhere? Of course it would be nice to discover a secret of buying a bottle of Chateau Petrus for $100 instead of $3,500, but this is something which I don’t know myself (hey, if by any chance you do, can you PLEASE share that special knowledge with the rest of us?).

So my secrets will be about wines which will give you a lot of pleasure without the need to refinance the house. And they will be about the wines you probably never heard of. I promise you will learn some secrets, and I’m certain you are not going to regret.

Bored, tired, lost my chain of thoughts and need a drink? And even if you like it so far, it might still be a time for a drink. Get your bottle opener and reach out for that Spanish wine called Rioja. Why Rioja? Rioja is a well known wine from Spain – what makes it a “secret”? I truly believe that Rioja is under-appreciated by the wine lovers, despite two very essential characteristics: value and ability to age.  Let’s start from aging: Rioja will rival best Bordeaux and Burgundies in its ability to age. Just to give you an example, I recently had an opportunity to try 1964 Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva (the wine was exactly 45 years old when I had it) – and the wine was still youthful, with bright fruit, very round and polished, and was not over the peak at all. Now, talking about value: how much do you think this 1964 Rioja costs today? Before we get to the numbers, you need to take into consideration that 1964 was one of the most exceptional years for Rioja in the past century. Essentially, best Riojas had being produced in 1964, 1973 and 2001. So if you would take a parallel with great Bordeaux of 1982, a bottle of wine from that vintage would easily cost you thousands of dollars. Yet that 1964 Monte Real Gran Reserva can be bought today for $220 (if you are in US, you can find it at PJ Wine store in New York) – this is an outstanding QPR (quality price ratio).

Rioja wines are typically aged in the oak barrels, and then still can be aged in the bottle before they are released. You can see all that information on the label of Rioja wine. If the wine just called Rioja, it means that it was aged in oak less than a year. If the wine is called Rioja Crianza, it means that it had being aged for two years total – 1 year in the oak, and another year in the bottle. Rioja Reserva had being aged for a minimum of 3 years – 1 in the oak, 2 in the bottle. And the Rioja Gran Reserva is aged for a minimum of two years in oak and 3 years in bottle. Also, Reserva and Gran Reserva is produced  only in good years, not always. Why all the classification? Let’s take a look at couple of Rioja wines readily available today.

First, 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial. Just to make things more complicated, here is additional designation of Rioja wines – Reserva Especial. “Good” thing is, you are not going to find too many wines like that, because Reserva Especial is assigned only in the best of the best years – again, repeating from above – 1964, 1973 and 2001. La Rioja Alta is a very good producer with wide variety of great Rioja wines, and one can make a few blog posts talking just specifically about them. This 2001 Reserva Especial is outstanding – when you take a sip, it becomes a fiesta of flavor in your mouth – cherries, plums, cigar box, chocolate notes, all bright but not overpowering at all, with silky smooth tannins and long finish. This is the great wine, and will continue to evolve for many years to come.  The price of the pleasure – $29.95!

Here is another example – 1996 CVNE “Vina Real” Rioja Gran Reserva.  This is Gran Reserva in all meanings – while this wine is 15 years old, it needs time like great Barolo to be enjoyed fully. In the first half an hour of breathing, only tannins opened up to the point of completely puckering the mouth, and the fruit appeared after another half an hour of time. After an hour and a half of breathing, this became a nice and gentle wine with the cherry and eucalyptus notes. Great wine, again at a great price – $31.99! Considering that this is a Gran Reserva, comparable Bordeaux or Burgundy wine would cost probably ten-fold, if not more.

I did my best to share the great secret of Rioja – don’t know if I managed to convince you, but I hope at least you feel encouraged to give Rioja a try. I truly believe you will not be disappointed. In any case, there are many more secrets we are going to share – rare grapes, little known wine regions, and many other wine pleasures to be discovered along the way. Cheers!

Restaurant Files: Oyster Bar, One Of The Best Hidden Dining Secrets Of New York

November 16, 2014 7 comments

Oyster's selection at Oyster Bar NYLet me ask you a question – do you think trains and freshest possible seafood have anything to do together? Here is another question – thinking about train station, what kind of food would you expect to find there? Does the word “gourmet” easily associates with the train station?

Of course I’m not talking about an average train station in the town with population of 10,000. The tricky part of my question is that we are talking about New York, and the train station is the famous, beautiful Grand Central Terminal. Still, let’s say if you are visiting New York, how many of you would set the restaurant at the train station as your desired dinner destination? Well, if you like seafood, especially if you like oysters, Grand Central Terminal might be a very wise choice, as since 1913 (!) it houses, on the lower level of the station, one of the best if not the very best seafood restaurant in New York, called Oyster Bar and Restaurant.

As you enter into the restaurant, you get the feel of the authentic diner from the 30th. Nope, I’m not that old, but this is an impression from the movies. Red checkered cloth definitely adds to the ambiance. And once you get to your table and given the menu, especially if you are a seafood aficionado, you understand that you are literally in the heaven. The menu is presented as unassuming large piece of paper. The reason for this is simple – the new menu is printed every day (!), as  the bulk of the menu is a fresh catch. Nope, they don’t offer the coveted but equally anonymous “oysters on the half shell”, where you get whatever single kind of oyster there is. You can pick and chose from the daily selection of about 30 (!) different oysters. Overall, Oyster Bar has a 5 pages long oyster list which includes about 250 (!!) different oysters – here is the link for you to take a look. Of course the menu goes well beyond oysters offering all kinds of fish and seafood. Here is a fragment of the menu from November 15th:

Oyster Bar menu fragmentOysters, fish, lobsters and more – whatever your seafood lover’s heart desires. And don’t forget the soups! New England Clam Chowder at Oyster Bar is my perennial favorite. One of the very best and very consistent. As Grand Central Terminal generally is my link to New York, from time to time, I like to stop by the Oyster Bar for a quick bite to eat – at $6.95, the bowl of clam chowder is literally the best value one can get in New York – definitely beats any deli.

Tokaji Hétszölö Dry FurmintAs we were planning for the oysters to be the main dish, the appropriate wine was in order. One of the traditional choices for the seafood wine is Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, with its steely acidity. But that is exactly the point – this is a very standard and traditional choice, and we wanted to try something new and different. Conveniently, wine list at Oyster Bar listed few very nontraditional wines as the winners of the popular choice as oyster’s accompaniment in the section called “Oyster Wine Pairing Champions 2014”. One of those wines was 2011 Hétszölö Tokaji Dry Furmint from Hungary, which we decided on. This happened to be a great choice, as wine showed not only acidity, but also a wonderful salinity (I can only guess – attributed to the volcanic soils in the vineyard), all together making it practically an ideal pairing for the various oysters.

And then, of course, there were oysters. There is not a lot I can tell you about them, except that the selection included 8 different oysters (you can see the list in the picture above), which were one better than the other, both in the taste and in ability to support the conversation.

Oysters at Oyster BarThere you have it, my friends – now you know about one of the best seafood destinations in New York – lunch, dinner or a quick bite on the way – Oyster bar will serve you well. Oh yes – and reservation is highly recommended if you plan on dinner.

Did you know about Oyster Bar before? Have you ever been there? If you have, what do you think? Cheers!

Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Grand Central Terminal
New York, NY 10017
P: 212-490-6650

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Between The Worlds

June 26, 2019 7 comments

What lies on the intersection of the Old World and the New World?

Yep. Starting with the question. As many of you have come to expect. Let me repeat – what lies on the intersection of the old world and the new world? Of course it is the wine we are talking about.

I can spin this question differently if you want. What is the name of the major winemaking region (a country, rather) which is most often overlooked at dinner tables, wine stores, and restaurant wine lists? Yes, give it a thought. I’m sure you know the answer. But it is too obvious, which makes it difficult.

Let’s continue?

If you said “South Africa”, pat yourself on the back. You got it. Yes, it is South Africa. The wines of South Africa are often described as “old world wines masquerading as the new world”, and when you taste the wines from the region, you can easily see why such description makes a lot of sense.

I wrote about wines of South Africa many times in the past, also including them into the “best hidden secrets” series. Winemaking history of South Africa goes back more than 400 years, to the mid-1600s. From there on, South African wine had good times, bad times, phylloxera, political issues, boycott, and lots, lots more. Many times in history the wine production was focused on quantity and not quality, which obviously had consequences and not a good ones.

I had been tasting South African wines for quite a while, and I have to say that I perceive a definite upswing in quality. As I mentioned at the beginning, South African wines are still rare and underrepresented in the modern wine scene, for sure in the USA – nevertheless, every time I get a chance to taste South African wines, they make me say “wow” more often than not.

Case in point – recent tasting of the South African wines in New York. It was not a large tasting, by all means, maybe 60–70 wines, but out of those 60–70, I probably was wowed by at least a half of them, which is very unusual for the trade tasting, maybe with the exception of Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri. Below are my brief notes – as I had a bit more time than at the typical trade tasting, but absolutely not enough to do a full assessment, I’m using words instead of plus signs. Plus, I share here some of my general impressions.

Let’s go:

I love Graham Beck wines – their sparkling wines represent great value. These wines are similar to Champagne, as they undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle, so any time you are looking for the bubbles but want to spend the half of what you will spend on the Champagne, see if your wine store carries Graham Beck wines.

NV Graham Beck Brut Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – love it! Fresh, generous

NV Graham Beck Brut Rosé Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – beautiful, elegant

2012 Graham Beck Rosé Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – a touch of strawberries, toasted notes, excellent

2013 Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – wow! Elegant, clean, polished

2012 Graham Beck Brut Zero Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – good

NV Graham Beck Bliss Demi-Sec Methode Cap Classique WO Western Cape – beautiful! Touch of sweetness, good acidity, elegant

I had some past (and delicious!) experience with Glenelly Chardonnay, so I was definitely looking forward to tasting their line of wines:

2018 Glenelly Unoaked Chardonnay Stellenbosch – excellent

2016 Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve Stellenbosch – excellent, a touch of vanilla, burgundy style

2015 Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch – excellent, cassis forward

2012 Glenelly Estate Reserve Stellenbosch (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Shiraz, 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot) – restrained, clean, herbaceous, salinity. The wine is built for the long haul.

2012 Glenelly Lady May Stellenbosch (89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc) – Bordeaux style, needs time

This was an unknown producer for me:

2018 Beau Joubert Oak Lane Chenin Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch – unusual, might be a touch sweet

2017 Beau Joubert Oak Lane Merlot – Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch – simple

2017 Beau Joubert Oak Lane Shiraz – Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch – earthy, nice pepper note

2013 Beau Joubert The Ambassador Stellenbosch – needs time

2014 Beau Joubert Fat Pig Stellenbosch – port style, very good balance, tasty

Yes, there was food too:

Let’s get back to wines.

The next set of wines surprised me in a lot of ways – packaging (labels), creative wine names, unusual grape varieties for South Africa (Barbera? Touriga Nacional?!) and most importantly, tasty wines. When I commented to the lady who was presenting the wines how unique and tasty the wines were, she said very unpretentiously “ah, it is my brother, he is always running around with new ideas, experimenting with the wines”. Little did I know that Bruce Jack is a star winemaker who was making wines for more than 25 years and who has almost a cult following. I can tell you, as the proof is in the pudding, this line of Drift Estate wines offered plenty of proof.

2018 Bruce Jack Year of the Rooster Rosé Western Cape – nice and restrained, excellent Rosé rendition. You would never guess the grape this wine is made out of – Touriga National. Yep. As I did a bit of research, I found out that 2017 was made out of Pinotage, and 2016 out of … Touriga Franca. Yep, talk about South African wines.

2014 Bruce Jack Moveable Feast Red Blend Western Cape – excellent. Dark fruit, spices, just excellent.

2017 Bruce Jack Gift Horse Single Vineyard Barbara Western Cape – another hit. Dark fruit, tar, pencil shavings, tobacco, just wow. Yep, a South African Barbera.

2016 Bruce Jack There Are Still Mysteries Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Western Cape – beautiful, elegant, restrained, truly a mix of the new world and an old world. If you didn’t discover yet South African Pinot Noir, go on, try to find this wine.

And a few more wines:

2018 Boschendal Rose Garden Rosé South Africa – excellent, restrained, Provençal style. Merlot + Pinot Noir blend

NV Boschendal Brut Rosé Methode Cap Classique South Africa – excellent

2016 Boschendal Elgin Chardonnay South Africa – Burgundy! Wow, spectacular wine – might be the best 9fnthe tasting.

2016 Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc Coastal Region – (3 Chenin Blanc vineyards, vines are 35 to 47 years old) – petrol on the nose, beautiful, clean, delicious.

2014 Bellingham The Bernard Series SMV Coastal Paarl Region (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Viognier) – Elegant! Excellent

2014 Brampton Roxton Stellenbosch (41% Syrah, 33% Petit Verdot, 26% Malbec) – outstanding. Lots of power. This wine is named after a bull.

That competes my report. What do you think of wines of south Africa? Any favorites? Cheers!

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