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VIA Masterclass: Barolo Cannubi

February 24, 2014 4 comments

Barolo MasterClassAs promised, I’m continuing the VinItaly 2014 series (here is the first post). Barolo Cannubi was the first Masterclass I attended. The exact name of the class was “Barolo Cannubi: Italy’s oldest and most famous Grand Cru”, and it was taught by Dr. Ian D’Agata, the Scientific Director of Vinitaly International Academy (VIA).

You probably know that Barolo is considered one of the most famous wines produced in Italy – “The king of wines, the wine for the kings”. Barolo is a part of Piedmont, the region in the northern part of Italy. Nebbiolo is one of the main grapes of Piedmont, with the winemaking history going back more than 700 years (first mentions of Nebbiolo are dated at 1268) , while Barolo wines only became well known some starting from 1962.

It is interesting to note that Barolo region is often compared with the Burgundy. In Burgundy, the soil is the king, and different vines, located seemingly next to each other, can produce vastly different wines. Burgundy’s classification is based on Cru system, where all the Crus are assigned based on the established quality of the wines. While Barolo doesn’t have an official “Cru” system, the parallels are often made to designate some of the Barolo production zones as “Grand Crus” of Barolo. Today, Barolo has  11 of such “Grand Cru” zones – even though you will never see the words “Grand Cru” on the label of Barolo. The “Grand Cru” supposedly should have higher quality, which then translates into the ability to charge premium for your wines.

Cannubi, the subject of our master class, is the oldest “Grand Cru” zone in Barolo, officially recognized since 1752. Cannubi is about 37 acres in size, and has 4 different sub-zones – San Lorenzo, Muscatel, Boschis and Valletta,  each having its own soil type. Recently, Cannubi was a subject of controversy, where the number of winemakers tried to limit the use of the name “Barolo Cannubi” to apply only to the wines produced from the 15 acres sub-zone, and force the producers to use exact designation of the sub-zone, such as Cannubi Boschis or Cannubi Muscatel on the bottles of the Barolo if the grapes are harvested in one of those specific areas. This caused a revolt, and the attempt fail, leaving the situation as it always was. The producers have the right to designate their wines as Barolo Cannubi or Barolo Cannubi [sub-zone] or Barolo [sub-zone] as long as the grapes are harvested within 37 acres of Cannubi zone – this might not be best for the wine aficionados, but this is how things were historically.

Barolo winesIn the tasting, we had an opportunity to try 7 different Barolo Cannubi wines, all from the 2009 vintage (there was supposed to be 8 wines,  but the wine #8, Ceretto Barolo didn’t make it through customs on time). As you can imagine, the color of the wines were quite similar, somewhat of the brickish red with the hint of an orange hue, a characteristic color of Nebbiolo – therefore I will not be pinpointing individual colors in the notes below.

2009 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cannubi
Nose: Pretty closed, a bit of sweet cherries/plums in the back
Palate: very delicate, but not very impressive

2009 Brezza Giacomo & Figli Barolo Cannubi
Nose: Touch of sweetness, violet, rose petals
Palate: Strong tannins, mostly locked in.

2009 Damilano Barolo Cannubi
Nose: Sweet, with rose petals
Palate: Cherries, good round tannins ++-|

2009 Scavino Paolo Barolo Cannubi
Nose: Quite closed
Palate: Cherries, Tannins

2009 Chiara Bsochis Barolo Cannubi
Nose: Beautiful – open, bright, lots of black fruit
Palate: cherries and tannins, but open, balanced, inviting. One of my favorites +++

2009 Cascina Bruciata Barolo Cannubi Muscatel
Nose: nice sweetness
Palate: Cherries, herbs, interesting palate – most unusual from the group

2009 Virna Barolo Cannubi Boschis
Nose: Beautiful – touch of sweetness, plums, violets
Palate: Lots going on on the palate – cherries, raspberries, firm tannin structure, good acidity, one of my very favorite wines in the tasting +++

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This was definitely a very interesting masterclass. We learned lots of interesting facts about Barolo – while I heard about Burgundy comparison before, only now I started getting an understanding of it, so this was definitely a personal discovery. This is the great thing about the wine world – opportunities for learning and discovery are endless!

Next up – an Amarone Masterclass report. Stay tuned… Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine Tasting Whirlwinds and Barolo News

July 3, 2013 3 comments

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with the answer for the wine quiz #63, grape trivia – Malbec. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about Malbec grape.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Explain the meaning of the name Malbec.

A1: Malbec is a very old grape. It was originally known as Auxerrois, then as Pressac, and subsequently in the 1700s it was named Malbec in the honor of Sieur Malbek, who made the grape popular in Medoc, Bordeaux.

Q2: In France, Malbec is known under a number of different names, used in the different regions. Can you name at least two of those “other names”?

A2: Auxerrois, Cot and Pressac are the three names which are used for Malbec in different regions in France (there are other names, of course).

Q3: About 200 years ago, Malbec was widely planted in France, and it was considered to be one of the major grapes. Two events lead to severe decline in plantings and almost disappearance of Malbec as a grape of any importance. Do you know what events were those?

A3: First it was phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s, and then the frost of 1956 which literally destroyed most of the Malbec plantings in France, after which the Malbec vineyards were replanted mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Q4: Some of the best Malbecs in the world come from Argentina. The quality of Malbec grapes in Argentina is also often associated with high altitude at which grapes are growing. Do you know what is the highest altitude of Malbec vineyards at the moment?

A: 1,500 feet, B: 5,000 feet, C: 7,000 feet, D: 3,000 feet

A4: Catena Zapata in Mendoza has Malbec vineyards located in Valle de Uco at altitude of about 5,000 feet (1,500m)

Q5: In its best times, Malbec was the grape made into so called Black Wine, very popular among Royal families. One Royal family went as far as even associating health benefits with consumption of Black wine. Now, do you know what Royal family was that and where the Black Wine was made?

A5: Black Wine was made in Cahors, with the name coming from the fact that wine was practically black in appearance. Many Royal families had the highest regard for the black wine, but Russian Royal family, starting from Peter The Great was one of the biggest aficionados, also attributing lots of health benefits to the Black Wine.

Now, when it comes the answers, there was only one answer given to this quiz! Don’t know if it was too boring, too intimidating, or both. Anyway, we don’t have a winner, but Barbie at Blindly Guessing Grapes definitely gets an honorable mention for trying. Hope to see more answers next week!

And now to the interesting stuff on vine and web!

I have only two articles which I want to share, but I think they both deserve your attention.

First, on the subject of the science of the wine tastings, there is an interesting article from The Guardian, arguing that all the science behind wine tasting doesn’t really exist. As usual, this is highly debatable subject, but if anything, it is an interesting read.

Another interesting article I want to bring to your attention is written by Jancis Robinson for the Financial Times, and it talks about changing the laws of Barolo appellation to make it illegal to specify two different vineyards (Crus) on one label. This creates an interesting issue for some of the producers such as Giuseppe Rinaldi, for instance, where he would need to come with the new way of labeling his wines which in the most cases produced as a blend from the different vineyards.

That’s all I have for you for today. The glass is empty – but refill is coming. Until the next week – cheers!

[My belated notes from ] Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Event

April 18, 2013 16 comments

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri logoTwo 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.

DSC_0205 Giuseppe Vajra

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:

DSC_0248 Another Gambero Ross View

DSC_0247 Gambero Rosso view

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.

ABRUZZO

2009 Torre dei Beati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cocciapazza  – perfect!

ALTO ADIGE

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!

CAMPANIA

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

LAZIO

2010 Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella – excellent

LIGURIA

2011 Cantine Lunae Bosoni Colli di Luni Vermentino Cavagnino – mint and apricot on the nose and palate, OMG

LOMBARDY

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!

MARCHE

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

PIEDMONT

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!

SARDINIA

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.

SICILY

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)

TRENTINO

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!

TUSCANY

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!

VENETO

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!

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Long post, after a long delay – but it is finally done. Yay! Cheers!

Study of Grapes, 152 at a Time

July 31, 2012 6 comments

How do you experience 152 grape varieties, all at the same time? Easy. You get a bottle of Giribaldi Cento Uve wine and … voilà!

As you probably know, I’m an enthusiastic member of the Wine Century Club – a virtual club dedicated to the grape adventures. I already talked too many times about virtues of the Wine Century Club, thus I’m not going to bore you with those details again. Instead, let me focus on only one, dare I say it, sacred bottle of wine – 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Langhe DOC.

What makes this wine “sacred”? It is made out of 50% Nebbiolo and the other 50% containing additional 151 (!) varieties, so it can really help you to advance in the quest for higher levels of The Wine Century Club membership (except that it doesn’t count towards the first level of membership with 100 varieties). The wine is almost impossible to find in US – except one wine shop in Colorado which actually carries it (if you are interested, the wine is available from The Vineyard Wine Shop, 303-355-8324). When I called the store to order this wine, gentleman who answered the phone, Matt, said that he is quite convinced that they don’t have any wine under such name – after checking his computer, he was surprised more than me by actually finding it. At $60 + $20 for the shipping, this was definitely worth the experience.

Interestingly enough, finding this wine and drinking it was the easiest part – the tough (seriously tough) part was figuring out what grapes I already tasted and what grapes I can actually add to my list. As this is one of the coolest parts of Wine Century Club membership ( figuring out what is what in the grape world), let me explain it with appropriate level of details.

To begin with, the web site for this wine states that it contains 152 varieties. The list of grapes is nowhere to be found on the winemaker’s web site. The only place on internet where you can find the list is at the Indian Wine Academy. Well, list is a list, you say, right? Yes, but not precisely. As I need to properly account for all the grapes I already tasted, I need to go through that list very carefully, line by line. As soon as I started going through the list, I noticed duplications (same grapes listed twice, like Gamay, for instance) – I called it a red flag and decided that the right thing to do is to contact Giribaldi, the winemaker. After 2 or 3 of my e-mails went unanswered, I decided that it is a time to … get an audience support? No, call a friend! And as I happened to have a good friend in Italy, Corrado, I asked him to help me to get to the correct list. This was not easy, but after a few conversations with the winery, he was able to get full description of the wine, including the list of grapes.

Yay? Nope. The list of grapes was … identical to the one published on the site of the Indian Wine Academy! Fine. From here on, I had to figure it out myself. I converted the list to the Excel file, and sorted it alphabetically. Then I had to figure out how to get from 156 varieties listed to the 152 which we know this wine has. It later downed on me that 156 varieties  include Nebbiolo and 4 Nebbiolo clones , therefore if we will take all 5 Nebbiolo varieties from consideration we will get to the target number of 151. Whew. Tired of me yet? No? Let’s continue.

Next step was to remove obvious duplicates, then go through the list again. For every grape I didn’t know, I used Internet resources to verify that such a grape exists (i.e., referenced at least once on one or more sites). Here is the good list of references in case you ever need to conduct a search on grape etymology (Italian grapes, if you will):

After all the cleanup, removing duplicates, fixing the spelling and checking the references, I got to the final list of 138 grapes (don’t ask me where the 14 went – let’s keep it a grape mystery), out of which I was unable to find any references for the grape called Michele Pagliari – therefore I’m keeping it on the list, but not counting towards the new grapes. In case you want to see a transition here is an excel file for you – note that is has multiple spreadsheets inside starting from full list. Here is the list of those final 138 grapes.

Legend: letter N next to the grape stands for Nero (red), B is for Bianche (white), Rs is for Rose. Showing in Bold are the grapes which I count as new grapes for my grape count.

Aglianico N Michele Pagliari N
Albarola N Montepulciano N
Albarossa N Moscato bianco B
Aleatico N. Moscato giallo B
Alicante Bouschet N Moscato nero di Acqui N
Ancellotta N. Moscato Rosa Rs
Arneis B Muller Thurgau B
Avanà N Nascetta B
Avarengo N Nebbiolo  N.
Baco Nero N Nebbiolo ( Bolla) N
Barbera bianca B. Nebbiolo ( Rosè) N
Barbera N. Nebbiolo (Lampia) N
Becuet N. Nebbiolo (Michet)N
Bianchetta Tevigiano B Negrette N
Bianchetta Veronese B Neretta cuneese N.
Bombino Bianco B Neretto di Bairo N
Bombino Nero N Nero Buono N
Bonarda Piemontese N Nero d’Ala N
Bosco Nero N Nero d’Avola N
Brachetto N. Neyret N
Bracciola N Pampanuto N
Brunello N Pecorino N
Bussanello B Pelaverga (di Pagno) N
Cabernet Franc N Pelaverga N
Cabernet Sauvignon N Pelaverga piccolo N
Canaiolo B. Petit Arvine N
Canina N Petit Verdot N
Cannonau N Pigato B
Carica l’Asino N Pignola Nera N
Carignano N Pinot bianco B
Catarratto comune B Pinot Grigio G
Catarratto Nero N Pinot Nero N
Chardonnay B. Plassa N
Chatus N Pollera 1 N
Ciliegiolo N. Portugieser N
Colorino Nero N Primitivo N
Cornalin Prosecco B
Cornarea N Quagliano N
Cortese B Raboso Veronese N
Corvina Nera N Rebo Nero N
Croatina N Refosco da Peduncolo Rosso N
Crovassa N Riesling B
Dolcetto N Riesling italico B
Doux d’Henry N Riesling Renano B
Durasa N Rossese bianco B
Durasca (Dolcetto di Boca) N Rossese N
Enantio N Ruché N
Erbaluce B Sangiovese N
Favorita B Sauvignon Blanc B
Franconia N (Blaufränkisch) Schiava Gentile N
Freisa di Chieri N Schiava grossa N
Freisa di Nizza N Schiava N
Gamay N. Sylvaner Verde B
Gargiulo N Syrah N
Grechetto N Teroldego Nero N
Grignolino N Timorasso B
Grillo B Tocai Friulano B
Incrocio Manzoni N Tocai Rosso N
Lambrusca di Alessandria N Torbato B
Lambrusco Maestri N Traminer aromatico Rs
Lumassina N Trebbiano Toscano B
Maiolica N Uva di Troia N
Malvasia di Casorzo N Uva rara N
Malvasia di Schierano N Uvalino N
Malvasia Istriana N Veltlimer Fruhrot  N
Malvasia nera lunga N Verduzzo Trevigiano B
Manzoni bianco B Vermentino B
Marzemino N Vespolina N
Merlot N Zweigelt N
Grand total for the new grapes – 67. I think it is a pretty good leap in my grape counting adventure.

What is left to tell you? The tasting notes, of course. Considering that this wine is very close to Barolo (uses the same main grape, Nebbiolo), we decanted the wine prior to the tasting for about 3 hours. The wine showed considerable dry, very balanced, good tannins, sour cherries (we are going nicely alongside of typical Barolo, right?) and the showing flowery undertones after the sip – not your typical Barolo anymore. I guess those 151 grapes affect the taste, at least a little bit. All in all, this was a very nice wine. Drinkability: 8.

That’s all for now, folks. Consider starting your own grape adventure – the fun is all yours. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage

July 25, 2012 2 comments

Hello and welcome to the special Wednesday – Wine Blogging Wednesday #79 it is, a.k.a. #WBW79.

Let’s start from the usual routine – the answer for the Wine Quiz #21 – Do you Know the King? Similar to the previous quiz, this one also had a diversity of opinion as to which wine is called a “King of the Wines”. And the answer is … Barolo!

Believe it or not, but until the middle of the 19th century Barolo was a sweet wine (it probably sounds funny for anyone who experienced the power of Barolo) due to the deficiencies of the winemaking process. In the second half of the 19th century, invited French oenologist managed to change the winemaking process which resulted in production of completely dry wine. This dry Barolo wine became so popular among nobility of Turin that it was often described as “the king of wine” (here is a link for you with more information on the subject). Now that you know the king, you can enjoy Barolo even more (but don’t forget to decant it!).

Now it is time for the wine news. Let’s start form the Wine Blogging Wednesday #79 – Summer Reading, Summer Wine. This is probably one of the more difficult WBW events, as you are required not to drink the wine yourself, but rather explain to the world what kind of wine your favorite fiction character should be drinking, and why. I’m still not decided if I will will be writing my blog post for #wbw79 – may be yes, may be no – but I’m sure it will be fun to read what the other people will have to say.

Now, all the wine lovers who like value – please pay special attention. Wine Till Sold Out (a.k.a. WTSO) Cheapskate Wednesday is coming up on August 8th. Starting at 6 am Eastern, deeply discounted wines will be offered for sale every 15 minutes or may be even faster. All the wines will be priced in the range of $7.99 to $18.99 and you will have to buy 4 bottles or more to get free shipping. These “marathon” events are usually offering great values and shouldn’t be missed – here are couple of reports (one and two) I compiled from the past events in case you want to have a frame of reference. Get your cellar ready!

Moving along. Next, I want to bring to your attention two more interesting posts. First, W. Blake Gray wrote about the results of market research of consumers’ emotional attachment to the brand (of course primarily concerning alcohol brands). This is pretty short post (here is the link) – read it, some of the results are staggering and hilarious at the same time.

Last but not least: if you love wine and live in a close proximity of Boston (remember, airplanes are known to greatly shorten the distances), there is a restaurant you must visit until the end of August. Why? Because this restaurant (Troquet) is offering mind boggling dealson superbly aged wines (1966 Bordeaux for $75? unreal…) – for more details, please read this post by Richard Auffrey who writes The Passionate Foodie blog.

That’s all for today, folks. Hope you enjoyed this Meritage, and don’t worry – the next Wednesday will be here much sooner than you are expecting, so we will be talking again. And… don’t forget to leave a comment. And – think about your #WBW79 post. Cheers!

Taste Expectations, Or Notes From The Blind Tasting

February 28, 2012 2 comments

If you had been drinking wine for a while, I would expect that you have developed certain taste expectations. As you drink the wines from the different regions, you find that the wines from the same geographic locality made from the same grapes would have somewhat of a similar taste and style (yes, of course, I just described what is properly called Terroir without using the word itself). At some point, the associations between the origin of the wine and its expected taste become engrained in your mind. Looking at the bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you are expecting to find bright acidity and citrus flavor profile even without opening the bottle. Looking at the bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon you are expecting to find good amount of fruit with some explicit black currant notes and probably good amount of tannins – note that I’m really trying to generalize here, but you got the point.

This is the way the wine was for a very long time. However, when you taste modern wines, do you have a feeling that your expectations no longer valid and don’t match the reality any longer? I had this experience many times lately, when Amarone didn’t taste like anything expected (you can find my rant of pain here), or when unoaked Chardonnay tastes rather like Pinot Grigio – and there are many more examples of “taste confusion”.

Recently, I had another case of “broken” taste expectations – this time it was somewhat sanctioned, as we did a double (almost) blind tasting. The theme was set a bit ambitiously, as France and Italy. The “ambitious” part is coming from the fact that these two countries on their own have such a variety of wine production that it makes literally impossible to recognize the grape or at least the style of wine (either one of those countries would provide a plentiful selection for a double blind tasting on its own). Anyway, with the main goal of having fun with the wines, we actually had a great time.

We blind tasted 5 wines, which happened to be 4 reds and one white. For what it worth, here are my notes as we were moving along:

#1 – Very nice, a bit too sweet. I think Italy, Super Tuscan/Barbera/Dolcetto

#2 – earthy, nice, little green bell peppers, roasted notes? Bordeaux?

#3 – France, nice bright fruit, good sweetness, noit enough acidity? No idea about the grape.

#4 – interesting, lots of fruit, very nice – no idea.

#5 – great, round, good fruit – no idea.

While I understand that these a rather limited wine descriptions, would you try to guess what was what? Well, you can see the answers below in the picture (wines are set in the order we tasted them, left to right):

 

Here is an actual list: 2007 Comm. G. B. Burlotto Barolo Verduno; 1995, Chateau Haut-Corbin Saint-Emillion Grand Cru; 2009 Petracupa Greco di Tufo;  2005 Pascal Marchand Pinot Noir and L’oca Ciuca Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – now compare that with my guesses above…

In case you are curious – of course we voted for the favorite – Brunello (#5) was a clear winner, with Greco de Tufo (#3) trailing it closely behind (one point difference).

Where is the case of broken taste expectations? Fruit forward, bright and loaded wine with well masked tannins and almost non-existing earthiness, bright purple in color – 2007 Barolo? I’m very far from Barolo expert, but this doesn’t match my expectations of Barolo, albeit well decanted. Even winning Brunello was quite uncharacteristic, lacking earthiness and tartness, the traditional Brunello bite. I can’t comment on Greco do Tufo (it was actually quite nice), and the only varietally correct wine was 1995 Bordeaux. Am I making too big of a deal from varietal correctness and taste expectations here? It depends. On its own, both Barolo and Brunello were good wines, but if I would order either one in the restaurant with the goal of pairing with food, that could’ve been quite disappointing…

Okay, I can’t leave you with this sad impression of disappointment – it was not that bad at all. Also, we had a great cast of supporting wines, even with some pleasant surprises.

First, two sparkling wines. Chevalier de Grenelle Cuvee Reserve Saumur AOC, a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc with 10% Chardonnay was very good, full bodies sparkling wine, with good notes of apple and toasted oak. In addition to good wine, this was also a very special bottle – a magnum with metal imprinted label. Second sparkling wine was even more unusual – Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry – a sparkling wine from Russia, made by reincarnated famous producer of sparkling wines for Russian Tzar (original company was created in 1870). This wine had just a hint (a whiff) of sweetness, lightly toasted apple and nutmeg on the palate. Very refreshing and delicate. I suggest you will find a bottle and try for yourself – there is a good chance you might like it.

And for the last surprise – 2002 Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG. Why surprising? If you will look at the Wine Spectator’s Vintage Chart, you will see that 2002 was regarded as a very bad year for Barolo, with the rating of 72 and recommendation of wines being past prime. I decanted this bottle at some time in the late morning, and by the early evening, when we actually drunk it, it opened up very nicely – while it was lacking powerful tannins, otherwise it was quite enjoyable wine, very balanced with quite a bit of finesse.

Play with your wine, get friends together and do the blind tasting – I guarantee you will learn something new about your palate, your wine preferences and may be even your friends!

Cheers!

Long Overdue–Notes From Michal Skurnik Wine Tasting

April 13, 2011 1 comment

Yes, this post is long overdue, as I hinted that it’s coming a while back. Better late than never, right? Here it is.

Let’s say you are in a wine store. Bottles, bottles are everywhere. Sometimes you know exactly what you want. Sometimes you don’t – and this is when it becomes challenging. How do you know if that bottle of wine is any good? Price is really not an indicator of quality. You can’t try the wine ( at least in the majority of cases). Yes, you can ask for the advice – then it really depends what store you are at (some of the store advice should be avoided at all costs). So, what do you do? Of course, using your iPhone is always an option, but this is not where I’m going right now. One possible solution is to look at the back label, which all the wines in the US have to have. Look for the name of the importer. And if it says “Michael Skurnik” or “Kermit Lynch”, you should smile, because you just learned that chances this bottle of wine is good just increased dramatically.

Why you are asking? Michael Skurnik Wines is so-called “importer” (they are also a wholesaler, but this information is typically not advertised on the label). It means that Michael Skurnik Wines company (MSW) works with thousands and thousands of wineries and other wine merchants all over the world to find the wines which will pass through their rigorous selection process and will be represented by Michael Skurnik Wines.

The wines chosen to be carried in the portfolio might not be all your favorite – but they all will be quality well-made wines. It means that MSW folks are doing all the hard work of selecting the best wines for you, and all you need to do is to enjoy the fruits of labor.

Few times a year wine importers and wholesalers organize special wine tasting events to present their portfolio to the trade. I was lucky to attend Michael Skurnik Wines Spring Grand Tasting, and I would like to share some of my personal highlights.

First and foremost, my personal “Best of tasting” is Peter Michael wines. Four 2009 Chardonnays were presented in the tasting (“Mon Plaisir”, “La Carriere”, “Belle Cote” and “Ma Belle-Fille”) – tremendous, all four are the best Chardonnays I ever tasted. Finesse and absolute balance – vanilla, toasted oak and butter all being present, but in absolute harmony with bright acidity, fruit and silky smooth tannins. I would put drinkability for all four at 9+. Just so you know, these are the cult wines, which affects the pricing and availability. These wines are available only through the mailing list or through select merchants – you might be able to find them at Wades Wines and Benchmark Wine Company.

The next highlight was an amazing line of Barolos. A mix of 2005, 2006, 2007 Barolos from Azella, Manzone, Renato Corino, Marengo, Altare, Clerico, Cavalotto – one was better than another, all beautiful and powerful wines. Anyone of the names I mentioned is worth seeking.

While the Barolos were great, they had a group of contenders, which were literally as good. Wines of Aldo Rainoldi come from the area in Lombardy region called Valtellina. These wines are produced from the same grape as all Barolos – Nebbiolo, with all the vineyards located at the very high altitude of 600+ meters (1800+ feet). I tried four different Aldo Rainoldi wines – 2007 Sassella, 2005 Crespino, 2006 Inferno Reserva and 2007 Sfursat Classico – all were truly outstanding and very comparable with great Barolos, but at the half price as the least.

In addition to all the wines in the tasting (about 700), there were some stronger spirits as well. One of the surprises was Calvados I tried. Calvados is a brandy which is made out of apples in the Calvados region of Normandy in France. Typically, I can drink it, but it is not something I would be seeking out. However, two of the Calvados presented at the tasting – Camut Calvados 6 years old and Camut Calvados Reserve 12 years old were simply incredible. Soft, smooth, elegant, great aroma of fresh apples, very delicate balance. They will not be easy to find, but I would highly recommend you will make an effort. You can try your luck at D&M, and believe me, you will not be disappointed.

That’s all, folks. There were many many more great wines, but you got to stop somewhere, right? Until the next time – cheers!

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