WanderCurtis Wine

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Veritas Vineyards and Winery, Virginia ‘as happy as it can be’

The magnificent vista from the sauvignon plots on the high ground at Veritas

I was very keen to visit Veritas. Andrew Hodson, the owner like myself is also an English Doctor. There is a long historical connection with physicians and wine. Amongst many examples is the founder of Penfolds in Australia by Dr Christopher Penfolds who was a member of the society of Apothecaries in London. For more information about this I strongly recommend reading ‘Wine & Medicine: An Enduring Historical Association

Andrew and Patricia bought the land at Veritas 23 years ago and have transformed it into one of the go to destinations in Virginia wine country. Alongside producing supreme quality wines they have onsite luxury accommodation, a lovely restaurant and manage events and weddings. It’s a magnificent property.

Emily Hodson, Winemaker, Veritas Winery

I was lucky enough to be hosted by Emily Hodson, winemaker and daughter of Andrew. It is very much a family run business. Emily’s brother George the general manager also popped in to say hello. We sat over lunch and tried a series of Veritas wines.

After the tasting, Emily took us to explore the land in her 4WD. This led us to the peak of the property at over 1000 feet and to panoramic views over to the blue mountains of the Appalachian range. The Appalachians stretch thousands of miles parallel to the East coast of the United States.

She showed us the Afton mountain gap. This is one of the few gaps in the mountain range which allows for a flow of wind. This helps decide the orientation of the vines on the hilltop. The air flow provides not only a cooling effect from the heat of the Virginian Summer, but also helps to suppress disease which would be prominent in the humid conditions. The Sauvignon Blanc vines were thriving in this environment.

Wines tasted- whites

Veritas Scintilla 2015 sparkling wine

Traditional Method

100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc, dosage 7 g

Aged On lees 7 years. This was the First vintage

Brioche toasted almonds marzipan fresh apple and lemon crisp and refreshing.

Veritas Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Aromatic style, passion fruit. Reductive, cool ferment

Fresh some pyrazine

Grown at higher altitude and benefits from air flow through the Afton mountain gap

Veritas the momentarius collection 2019

Monticello white blend, no rules on what grapes to use or the vilification process

Petit manseng, chardonnay, viognier and sauvignon blanc.

Aromatic Sauvignon Blanc feels the most predominant. Nice balance.

Veritas the momentarius collection 2021

More restrained than 2021 and the petit manseng characteristics come through

Could not make a 2020 vintage as frost destroyed much of the crop in this part of Virginia

Wines tasted -reds

Veritas Cabernet Franc 2009

Bordeaux nose of cedar, tobacco and some aged character coming through, also effects of barrel hints of smoke and chocolate

Soft tannins nicely integrated, fruit dropped out

Initially slight Smokey and sulphurous but this blew off and complexity developed.

Veritas. Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017

As Benoit at Pollak had found the 2017 was a Great vintage. Emily’s description made me laugh out load!

‘As happy as it can be

Delicious ripe cherry a fruit Bomb.

Pot pourri, floral, dry petals, and some dried herbs such as thyme really seductive nose, fabulous.

Veritas Cabernet 2021 franc

Plenty of fruit raspberries, nice balance of oak

More simple candied fruit but delicious easy drinking a bit more Pinot like

Veritas 3 2009

3 winemakers 3 vineyards 3 grapes a collaboration with Veritas, Pollak and King Family

A blend of 3 grapes Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet franc

Fruity fresh, lively, balanced with a Savoury salty mineral element. Chocolate pudding on the finish

Veritas Reserve 2019

Their Flagship wine

Can’t use ,vintners reserve, name due to name protection rights. I suggested Emily’s Reserve which went down well.

Violet chews, floral elements came through.

Veritas Petit Verdot 2019

Aromas of blueberry , Intense colour, deep ruby

Chunky dark thick skinned berries

A bit tight closed needs a decant nice rounded tannins, food wine, some violet notes

Lilies floral improved. Tried over the next few days whist in Washington DC and became more complex.

Veritas Petit Verdot 2017

Blueberry jam lots of delicious fruit a great top vintage clearly evident

Veritas Petit Manseng 2014

Dessert wine Great retention of acidity

Nuttiness slight oxidation 85g/l per litre sugar

Lovely complex most of candied pineapple and hazelnuts very ripe apples beeswax

Really well made, Jurancon like dessert wine

This tasting highlighted the potential in Virginia to establish some novel grape varieties such as Petit Manseng.

This grape in many ways is highly suited here. It ripens late leading to high sugar but retains its acidity

The thick skin helps with disease resistance and the high skin to pulp ratio intensifies flavours.

The 100% petit Verdot rarely found in the Old world seems to work here with the warmer climate.

It was interesting to try along with traditional varieties some more unusual wines such as dry Petit Manseng and 100% petit Verdot.

I managed to pick out some of Emily’s personal characteristics in the wines, such as the violet aromas from the Cabernet Franc and the blueberry in the 2009 Petit Verdot which has parcels of grapes grown on heavier clay soils.

It was also lovely to see the collaboration and friendliness between the winemakers exemplified here by the Veritas 3.



Matthieu Finot, Winemaker, King Family Vineyards

French winemaker Matthieu very kindly networked me in with local winemakers which facilitated my arrangements in Virginia.

I really like the way the winemakers join forces in the wine industry. This is something I have found throughout the world and is a joy to see. In so many walks of life people work against each other, more interested in bettering their own aims. Not so in the wine industry. It’s about sharing ideas, sharing innovations and helping the industry as a whole.

Matthieu was a shining example of this. He is from Northern Rhone and has a vineyard with his brother. He has worked in Bandol, Rhone and also Burgundy.

Matthieu proudly showing off his magnificent range of King Family wines

The wine industry is still relatively new here despite the planting of vines dating back hundreds of years by Thomas Jefferson at his Monticello estate. Matt is carrying on with developments and is planting Nebbiolo here. His favourite wines are Pinot and Syrah, but it’s too warm and wet here and the Clay soils don’t lend to those varieties Cabernet franc red does best being more resilient. The Soil is not right for Cabernet Sauvignon You can also do a lot with Cabernet Franc, such as Rose dessert wine, light style red and more full bodied red. It doesn’t have the acidity of the Loire and doesn’t show the methoxypyrazines shown in the old world. Matthieu wanted to produce a dry rose when he first came here. There was Some scepticism doing a dry rose now it’s the biggest seller.

Wines tasted, reds

King family Crose

100% merlot medium colour 1 day skin contact

Their biggest seller, Sold in cans too

Nice red fruits and balance

King family Petit manseng

I tried a dry petit manseng at Veritas too

High acidity, some honey and nutty notes and candied pineapple nicely crafted

Kings family vineyard Brut Blanc de Blanc 2015 100%Chardonnay

7 years ageing on Lees

Chalky Lemon apple crisp fresh

Kings family vineyard Viognier 2021

Watermelon apricot bitter finish

Not same oily texture as others. Harvested a little early so a fresher style

Kings family vineyard Chardonnay 2021

Barrel fermented with malolactic 25% new oak light citrus fruits fresh smokiness oak

Kings family vineyard mountain plains 2021

A blend of Chardonnay petit manseng and viognier, third each

Petit manseng does well in the Basque Country humid and clay in Jurançon

Works well here too maintain acidity and high brix. Very high acid good

18 months barrel, pineapple nuts some oxidation

Kings family vineyard Viognier Orange wine

Skin contact Viognier orange wine

Fermented like a red wine with punch down and malolactic

Very interesting complex nose Spicy nutmeg saffron orange, clove

Tannins but soft, served at room temperature fine but bitter tannins

Big wine interesting

Kings family vineyard Cab franc

Light style

Harvest early 12.3% wants fresh light style

Tuesday evening pizza night wine simple fresh light fruity

Bit savoury slightly vegetal

Kings family vineyard Meritage 2019

Flagship red which sells the most

18 Months in barrel

Merlot, petit Verdot, cab franc and Malbec blend

Needs time to develop slight bitter

Kings family vineyard Meritage 2008

Matthieu pulled something a bit older out of the cellar, Unfiltered wine

Showing some Bret horsiness with some fruit and good structure

Kings family vineyard Petit verdot 2019

Blue fruit, deep colour lots tannins full bodied

This tasting highlighted how well some varieties are doing here, such as viognier and petit verdot

I like the style of Cabernet Franc less pyrazined and more fruit forward which can be very green and herbaceous in places such as Chile and also Bordeaux but here seems to be a nice balance between new and old world. In the hands of gifted winemakers such as Matthieu it was also interesting to see the range of wines made and the embracing of new styles such as the viognier Orange wine.


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What’s trending in the Virginia? An exploration with five talented winemakers in Monticello AVA.

Monticello AVA, view from Pollak Winery with the Blue Mountains of the Appalachian range in the background

Blind Mondays in London was the fabulous concept of Guillaume Raffy. A team of wine lovers would meet on Monday evenings in a pre selected London restaurant and bring along hidden wines, following a theme.

I’ll never forget the Nebbiolo evening.

One wine stood out. More full bodied and fruit forward than Nebbiolos I’d had before, but with that lovely seductive perfume and classic structure.

The wine was revealed – Barboursville vineyards, Virginia, Nebbiolo, part of the Zonin family.

That was about ten years ago and I’ve been planning to visit Virginia since.

To further whet my appetite the book ‘Billionaires Vinegar’ helped set the scene.

A bottle of Lafite, with the initials of Thomas Jefferson, dated 1787, was offered to Christie’s by Hardy Rodenstock, a German wine collector . He refused to say exactly where it had come from. Allegedly a hidden cellar in an unidentified 18th century house in Paris, possibly part of a Nazi hoard.

Jefferson spent time in France and was an avid wine lover. He regularly sent wine back to Monticello, his home in Virginia. He set up some of the first Vineyards in Virginia in the 1800’s.

Bottle of Chateau Lafite from Jefferson’s house in Monticello

There are now 1200 hectares of planting and 220 wineries. The AVAs are Eastern Shore, Monticello, Northern Neck, North Fork of Roanoke, Rocky Knob, Shenandoah Valley.

I will focus on Monticello AVA and have chosen five wineries to visit based on reviews in Decanter Magazine and from personal contacts in the wine trade.

Accommodation

Suggested places to stay in the area include – The farmhouse at Veritas winery, Afton mountain Vineyards and Boar’s Head Resort, near Charlottesville.

Benoit Pineau – Pollak Vineyards

The supremely talented Benoit with degrees in Oenology and Viticulture from Bordeaux Blaqufort

Winemaker Benoit Pineau took me on a mini safari around the 100 acre property, planted with 34 acres of vines.

It’s a beautiful property with a large decked tasting room overlooking a lake with the blue ridge mountains providing the backdrop.

Benoit discussed the disease pressures here in Virginia. They have high humidity and high rainfall in summer. Up to 900mm to 1000mm annually make it a relatively high rainfall region for viticulture.

Note the mounding at the base of the vines to protect the graft site for the winter

They can’t grow organically as pesticides are required. Furthermore there is a frost risk. In 2020 most of the vine growth was wiped out. Then there’s the small matter of hurricanes, which can wipe out a harvest. Not to mention Deer and Bears necessitating the perimeter fencing . Oh, and netting to prevent the birds stripping the grapes.

It’s a wonder they can make wine here at all!

The soils are mainly clay with silt so Merlot and Cabernet Franc do well here but there’s less Cabernet Sauvignon which ‘doesn’t like it’s feet wet’. They are planting their first Nebbiolo vines which explained the mounds of soil surrounding each vine base to protect the graft sites throughout the winter as in the photo above.

Wines tasted – white wines

Pollak Sauvignon Blanc 2021

French style Sauvignon, French clones, restrained

Neutral oak Crisp fresh

Served a bit cold and then opened up.

Lovely balance

Pollak Chardonnay 2020

Hints of peach, banana apples pear

Beautiful balance again

Pollak Viognier 2021

Floral and apricots.

Lovely texture, Viognier typically has lower acid

Difficult to press as skins thicker often giving a Rich oily texture

Very smooth with good length. Lovely

Pollak Pinot gris 2021

Delicious, ripe pear on the nose

Mouthfeel Is rich and slightly oily, balanced, alive, Skin thicker, Lees 4 months, Little battonage

Award winning wine. Beautifully crafted

(Vin pair voted in top 50 wines of the world)

Wines tasted – red wines

Red wines. Benoit generously served one of their best vintages 2017 which he described as perfect.

The ‘perfect’ 207 vintage selection

Pollak Cabernet Franc 2017

Fantastic with a nose of blueberries, raspberries

Tons of fruit, No greeness No herbaceousness

Delicious ripe soft tannins. Really enjoyed a Cabernet Franc without all that Capsicum greeness.

Pollak Meeitage 2017

CF 60% merlot 24% petite Verdot 16%

Beautiful balance, 18 months 40% French oak

Bordeaux blend

I didn’t realise they have to Pay a dollar case to use the name Meritage!

Ripe delicious tannins, smooth and well balanced.

Pollak smuggler 2017

Merlot 56% cf 24% CS 20%

Slightly more pyrazine and black currant

Beautiful balanced too

More structure more tannic than Meritage

Pollak Mille fleur

100% petit manseng

Petit Manseng is Popular in Virginia following Horton winery winning a competition in California.

It is however difficult to grow, has high acidity but can lose acid fast in the heat.

This was fortified and stored in barrels for 5 years

Really complex, Brazil nuts, Prunes.Delicious

A wine transfusion? Benoit’s creativity demonstrated here with bag of red wine connected by tubing to maintain full barrels

This was a great start to my exploration of Virginian wines. Benoit is passionate and focused and brings experience from working in France, California Australia and even a spell making rum in Guadaloupe! The wines tasted were top quality. It’s a shame I can’t get them at home in the UK!


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Dona Paula Masterclass, Asia House London October 17th

Dona Paula Masterclass ‘Taste The ultimate Malbec’

Taste the Ultimate Malbec

This was a very Informative masterclass presented by Martin Kaiser Director of Viticulture and Winemaking at Dona Paula. It featured a mini vertical tasting of their top wine, Selección de Bodega. Patrick Schmitt MW also provided a valuable insight.

Mendoza was founded in 1562 and Spanish settlers planted wine for sacramental purposes.

Argentina gained Independence from Spain in 1816 which led to a new wave of immigrants. The population rose from 2 to 8 million between 1869 to 1914. In 1865 Miguel Pouget brought French varieties to Mendoza.

A big advance came when a 1000km trainline was built from Buenos Aires to Mendoza

The 1929 wall St crash caused global economic collapse and a decrease in wine production

There was later another wave immigration and the population became the largest wine consumer in the world in 1980 112 Litres per person per year!

Don Paula was founded in 1997 with French and Chilean investment

First production was 1999

The vineyards are high altitude with a dry continental climate as they are long way from the Atlantic and Pacific. Rainfall is low.

Because of altitude the Minimum temperatures are similar to Cahors and Bordeaux but the Maximum temperatures higher

Martin talked about using a number of studies including Electro conductivity affected by Water running down slopes moving stones.. Studies can map out best areas and aid in where to plant

Wines tasted

Estate Malbec 2021

Alluvial soil and Loess

Black fruits dark plum blackberry

slightly closed nose olive bay leaf

A little like cool climate Syrah

Altitude blend 1100 2019 Malbec 60 cab Sav Syrah

More pure fruit blackberry and black currant chocolate hint tobacco raspberry and some floral notes soft tannins cheeks mainly soft fruity

Altitude blend 1550 2019 cab franc Malbec casavecchia (Italian variety)

More acidic white wine acidity a sudden watering of cheeks. Medium soft tannins on the cheeks,some chocolate and tobacco

Sélection de bodega 2006 alluvial 1350 m Uco Valley

At yeast 1 month maceration, new oak 2 years, soil calcium carbonate

Very concentrated nose rich powerful.

Stewed blackberry and blackcurrant quite floral, violets, chocolate, cedar, cigar box

notes of black cherry, liquorice, black olive

Very smooth mouthfeel, soft integrated dry powdery tannins, especially cheeks and gums

Really long delicious 🤤 fortunate to taste an old Malbec of such quality

(Reminds Patrick of old Massetto, wish I’d tried some!)

Sélection de bodega 2012

Black fruits and florality, soft tannins cheeks and palate, nice acidity and balance, lively but not as seductive as 2006, slight meatiness in nose ? 2y limestone in soil. Savouriness provides the match of Malbec and steak with finely chopped herbs

Not the fatness fullness richness of the 2006 but delicious too.

Sélection de bodega 2019

More red berries raspberry,, red cherries fresh.

Clean acidity chalk mineral elements.

Impressions-

This was a good reminder of the quality of Argentinian Malbec with approachable soft tannins and a lovely mix of red and black fruit and a nice balance of acidity

We were very fortunate to taste an 16 year selection which was really rich and complex and shows the ageing potential of top Argentinian Malbec and the quality produced by the Dona Paula Estate

It was Interesting to compare the effect of different altitudes and soils.

There was a certain meatiness/meat juice bloodiness in the 2012 possibly reflecting the limestone soils and I can see why Malbec is often the perfect match for steak.

I am most grateful to Martin Kaiser and Patrick Schmitt MW for the excellent presentation and Isabel Distin from The drinks business for the kind invitation.

This was an excellent preparation for our forthcoming WanderCurtis wine dinner on Thursday 27th October with Zuccardi wines from Mendoza. When quizzed about Malbec next week I’ll have more idea!


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Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece

Asos village North West Cephalonia

After recent visits to Santorini and Crete, I was keen to continue exploring and increasing my knowledge of Greek wines. I could not miss the famous Robola of Cephalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands. Other important grape varieties found on the Island are Muscat of Kefalonia, Vostilidi, Zakynthino, Tsaoussi and Moschatella, and the red grape Mavrodaphne.

I chose to visit Sclavos wines on the Paniki peninsula, following recommendations from the excellent ‘Wines of Greece’ recently published by Yannis Karaksis MW.

Yiannis Papadimitrakopoulos at Sclavos

Sclavos Winery, Lixouri, Paniki Peninsula, Kefalonia

I am grateful to Yiannis Papadimitrakopoulos from the winemaking team who gave us a fantastic introduction to Cephalonia and Sclavos wines.Yiannis has a degree in Oenology from the University of Athens and a Masters degree in vine, wine and terroir from the university of Burgundy in France. He has gained great experience in wineries across the world.

The history of Sclavos commences generations ago. Sclavos’s great grandfather made wines in Odessa.

Evriviadis Sclavos runs the business and is a professional viticulturist and adopted the system of biodynamic agriculture. In 2014 they had to seek investment following extensive damage to the winery following an earthquake.

Biodynamic farming

The concept of Biodynamics started in the 1920’s with an Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner.

Biodynamic winemaking involves a set of farming practices that views the vineyard as one organism. Everything in the universe is considered connected including the moon and planets and stars.

It is important to follow the calendar and lunar cycles. There are particular fruit days for harvesting grapes, root days for pruning flower days to leave the vineyard to rest and leaf days for watering. It is a holistic and homeopathic approach to viticulture.

Natural materials, soils, and composts are used in the vineyard. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden. Animals such as horses, chickens and sheep roam around helping create a more natural fertile environment. Biodynamic farming seeks sustainability aiming to leave the land in as good or better shape as it was found it for future generations.

Whilst touring the winery we witnessed one of the many natural products used. A crate of dried horsetail. This is made into a form of tea which is diluted many times to create a homeopathic spray to use in the vineyard against disease.

Other more bizarre practices involve burying cow horns filled with manure over the winter preferably from a lactating cow. It is then diluted and sprayed on the soil.

Many of these practices may appear wacky and bizarre. They certainly require a deep passion to follow them.

I have to admit to buying into biodynamism.

Some of the best wines I’ve ever had are biodynamic such as Felton Road, Zind Humbrecht ,Chateau Pontet Canet and Chapoutier.

Views from Sclavos, Kostilidi old vines in foreground Mount Ainos in the distance

Sclavos also practice minimum intervention wine making and produce natural wines with no sulphur added and Orange wines often with long aging on lees which protects wine from oxidation

They have 14 hectares of  their own vineyards all over the Island including Robola on Mount Ainos

Some grapes are purchased which may not be biodynamic.

Total production is 160000 bottles

They are fortunate enough to have some 100 year old ungrafted phylloxera resistant vines.

Sales are widespread including France and Europe and USA

We were lucky to catch the Last day of the harvest. A  team of workers were bringing in the Roditis grapes when we arrived. Interestingly there were red and green grapes. Ioannis explained that they were from the same vines but Roditis can have both colours on the same vine.

I couldn’t resist pinching a few from the sorting table. The pink were decidedly sweeter.

We were led through the process of wine production. First the crates were emptied onto a vibrating conveyer belt with perforations in it so debris falls through.

Then a multitude of workers meticulously picked out  debris and any damaged or diseases grapes. At the latter end of the conveyer belt a couple of people snipped the larger bunches into more manageable sizes. They were then fed onto a steeply sloped shelved ramp and fed into the destemming machine.

It was mesmerising watching the destemmer in action. Whole perfectly formed bunches became individual slightly macerated berries and the stripped stems were neatly piled aside ready for composting or feeding to the local goats.

The berries were then pumped via a large bore tube into the hydraulic pressing machine. This is a cleverly designed bit of apparatus.

Once in the metal cylinder a bag inflates inside gently pressing the berries and free flowing juice is pumped off into tanks.

No yeast is added at Sclavos. fermentation begins with naturally occurring yeast.

This method is more risky but leads to more complex wines and is a more natural process.

We followed Ioannis into the winery

I spotted a 1500 litre vat of red grapes. They were releasing a heady aroma of alcohol. They were nearing the end of their 30 day natural fermentation and maceration and needed  a daily Pigeage (pumping down)

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to do the manual punch down. I did this with great enjoyment but perhaps not great effectiveness as I didn’t correctly wet the cap on the final motion of punch down.

My first attempt at Pigeage!

More expertise in the winery is needed until I can ever produce my chosen cuvee.

Wines tasted outside surrounded by the wineries cats and dogs.

Alchimiste 2021

Natural yeast, low sulphite,Good sales in Canada.From the Peloponnese high altitude

Mixture of 4 varieties tsaousi, vostilidi, moscatella, rhoditis(50%)

Citric orange, Bitterness on finish,fresh.

Robolla in a Cephalonia

Robola is indigenous to Kefalonia and is restricted to a specific zone, the Robola zone. Robola of Kefalonia VQPRD. The zone extends from the Omala Valley up to the Paliki peninsula and the surrounding of Mount Ainos Natural Park. Robola nose is often described as citrus blossom , peach and green apple.

Recommended to keep for at least 1 year to develop complexity and mineral notes. Ideal 5-7 years. Mostly grown in a bush traditional system. Bush protects grape from wind and sun via shade.

Robolla vino do Sasso Wine of stone

800 meter altitude high vineyard

Nice floral minerally nose, medium body, fresh acidity citrus and riper stone fruit. Stoney finish. Lovely long.

Efranor 2021 Meaning – fills the heart with joy

Muscat of alexandra 70% 30% Vostilidi, 100 year old. Before phyloxera so ungrafted.

Muscat nose, elder flower, grape, nice mouth feel, fresh herbal green twist to the finish.

Alchymiste rose

Mavrodaphne 80%moscatella 20

Medium pink colour, slight orange hue from oxidation but doesn’t affect taste

Characterful rose, some complexity and texture with fruit.

Metagitnion

Biodynamic natural wine, from kostolidi 15 hl per hectare low yield ungraded old vines

Nutty honey complex can age 8 years Urea, clementine very full bodied

Floral develops spice with time good length

Very interesting wine

Muscat orange

Made in same way as a red wine whole grapes destemmed in tank. Natural Orange wine

Concrete eggs nil added unfiltered no sulphites no additives, 30 day maceration

Press and take wine, then concrete egg 1 year

Marmalade, musty, dried apricot geranium leaves, dried herbs old sports socks.

Tannins palate back teeth

Gamey fatty lanolin good persistent acidity

Alchimiste 2020

Non oaked stainless steel

Light fruit all Mavrodaphne

Crushed raspberries, chalk with a smokey slightly gamey nose. Medium all through soft powdery tannins

Monambeles

Organic grapes Mavrodaphne 100%

70 year old vines 250 meters, soil is calcareous (marly limestone – Maltese slate) fermentation with native yeasts, aging in five hundred litre French oak Allier barrels and also in a three ton oak vinifier for at least twelve months.

Black fruits soft long tannins some spice

Quite long concentrated some savouriness

Thiniatiko

From Thinia 2 grapes from grandfather of the new investor. Naturally made with log maceration natural yeast biodynamic

Good black fruits round tannins spice savoury

Needs some time to develop

Vin doux du soliel 2019

Made with passito method dried in vineyard Mavrodaphne grapes

Intense concentrated fruit, good acidity, very long delicious


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Wine dinner with Familia Zuccardi – Mendoza, Argentina with Nicolás Angelini on Thursday October 27th, 2022 at Frederick’s Restaurant

Alberto Zuccardi, planted the first Zuccardi vines in a small plot in the Maipu region in 1963. Located in the Uco Valley, Mendoza which is at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Argentina

They were voted The World’s Best Vineyard in 2020. Sebastián Zuccardi the third generation of the family, continues the family business and is one of South America’s finest winemakers. He added a Research and Development Wing in the family winery, to learn and analyse more about the terroirs.

They are known to produce some of the highest quality of wines in South America. The vineyards enjoy the benefits of altitude and a cool dry climate throughout the year. They are high-altitude wines (from grapes grown at least 500 metres above sea level). At high-altitudes, vines get more sun during the day and are cool at night. This diurnal variation intensifies the flavour of the grapes. Zuccardi’s San Pablo vineyards are situated 1500m above sea level. Their Paraje Altamira vineyards are at 1,100 metres altitude.

We had a selection of their brilliant wines including their single-varietal estate wines primarily made from Malbec with a matched three course menu.

Nico had flown in that morning from Mendoza. Zuccardi had been elected for the Hall of fame the night before. He gave a great introduction into Zuccardi and amongst other things discussed ageing in new concrete eggs.

Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2017 Delicious, very Champagne like, autolytic with a lovely freshness

Zuccardi Valles Torrontes 2020 Beautiful florality and fruit. A perfect match for the gentle spice of the prawn piri paparadelle

Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2018 lovely mouthfeel balanced oaked influence and good length

Zuccardi Tito Malbec Cabernet Franc 2017 Concrete then oak aged, plenty of ripe fruit nicely balanced with a touch of spice and vanilla

Zuccardi Concreto Malbec 2019 delicious Malbec with rich fruits and no oak influence

Zuccardi Malamado Fortified Malbec NV well matched with Tiramasu brought out hints of chocolate and mocha.


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Barbaresco Weekend: Annual Barbaresco a Tavola 2019 Vintage Blind Tasting Dinner notes

Casa Nicolini, Barbaresco May 27th 2022

Introduction

The WanderCurtis team were delighted to have been invited to attend our first Barbaresco a Tavola dinner on Friday May 27th 2022. For the unacquainted, this is an annual tradition held by the region’s winemakers to showcase their latest bottled vintage. Held over three successive weekends in different restaurants, wine makers from across the area bring and pour their latest bottled vintage to other wine makers, members of the trade, journalists and others, to give a sense of how the vintage has turned out.

For those who have yet to encounter the Barbaresco region, well, the best thing to say is that what is commonly referred to as one region is comprised of the three regions of Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso, that collectively work under the single communal name of Barbaresco DOCG. While the star of the show must be made from 100% Nebbiolo, aged for a minimum of 12 months in oak with a further 9 months of bottle ageing, the region is also widely planted to Barbera, Dolcetto, Arneis and many other international varietals that can be bottled and sold under the Langhe DOC label. This affords the local winemakers an opportunity to honour more ancient traditions of blends, provides an outlet for the wines made from young vines and gives opportunities to experiment with more international varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

We attended the third of the three Tavola dinners, held at the restaurant Casa Nicolini in Tre Stelle. Set on one of many sensational ridges that run across the top of the vineyards, we were greeted with breath-taking views of key Barbaresco vineyards such as Asili, Rabaja, Rio Sordo and Martinenga. The potent aromas of ripe jasmine, although enticing, made it difficult find some of the finer edges of the aromas in these very young wines. We were the guests of Jeff Chilcott, Kiwi cellar master of Marchesi di Gresy, who we visited on Sunday for an amazing tasting (more on this later).

The format of the dinner is simple: 20 wines are set up on a central table, labelled 1-19, and you are invited to taste and score your way through the wines. Later in the evening, the wines are revealed, and you find out that most of people pouring the wines are the wine makers themselves. Over the course of the evening, we were served a typical and delicious multi-course regional meal. As the light faded, our palates tingling from the young vintage’s tannins and acidity, we left feeling full, fortunate to have taken part and maybe just a little tipsy.

The wines uncovered

Impression of the vintage

The 2019 vintage has been described by many as pure, energetic, and authentic with good fruit expression, fine abundant tannins and elevated levels of acidity – all typical characteristics of strong vintages. Our tasting left an impression of a vintage of balance, elegance and with good bones for the long haul. We would caveat this to say that with many having been bottled within a few weeks of the dinner, there was a high degree of wood on show, with many wines showing baking spice characteristics of cinnamon, and nutmeg, with a muted fruit expression. There were a range of wine making styles on show, with many made in the traditional neutral oaked manner and some showing the signs of flashy new barriques. We scored all the wines fully blind on a scale of 1-20, and frequently returned to wines that, on discussion, proved either hard to understand or sparked an interest.

I have put our scores together in a table by wine, with our average, maximum, minimum and standard deviation scores listed (for those who like a bit of statistical wine geekiness).

Casa Nicolini Barbaresco

Tasting note comments

On balance, you will see that our average across all wines from the evening scores a 16.2 out of 20, which one could normally interpret as representing an average to good vintage. In context, however, given the extraordinarily young, freshly bottled wines, and examining the structural characteristics (acidity and tannin) and winemaking styles on show, I believe these wines will be showing beautifully in the medium term, and will reward the patient given their exquisite balance and structure.

In terms of individual wines, there was much debate on which of these was our favourite on the night. Initially, we were besotted with number 18 (Pelissero), a producer that clearly likes the full barrique approach, creating a ravishing, fuller bodied version of Barbaresco. On reflection and discussion, we marked it down on the basis that vanilla is not something that we feel belongs so overtly in Barbaresco of any age.

While our collective scores of number 12, the Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga, was rather low, our tasting on Sunday showed just how wonderful their wines are with a bit more age, and we therefore conclude that this wine was being a little shy. We would say the same for number 3 from Ada Nada, which split opinions, and whom we visited the next afternoon and had a wonderful tasting.

Our clear favourite, number 2 from Silvia Rivella, shone out as both an approachable yet structured newer style barrique-aged wine with potential to age into something truly beautiful. Other strong showings included the Castello di Neive (6), the ever-dependable Produttori del Barbaresco (10) and the Francone (8) which all stood out.

Stuart Grostern


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Wine dinner at Frederick’s restaurant with Chiara Tedeschi of Tedeshi Wines, Veneto, Italy on April 28th, and wine auction with all proceeds donated to Ukraine.

Tedeschi is a family-owned and run winery producing renowned classic Veronese wines, including Valpolicella, Amarone, Ripasso and Soave.

The Tedeschi family has been making wine in the Italian Valpolicella Classico wine region since the Seventeenth Century. They produce four types of Amarone and five Valpolicellas

The Tedeschi estate is comprised of four main vineyards : Fabriseria, Monte Olmi, Tenuta Maternigo and Lucchine.

Over a three course matched dinner we tasted 6 of their wines.

This was a great chance to try Amarone della Valpolicella. This is an intensely flavoured red wine made from grapes which have been dried on racks to intensify flavour. It is made in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, and is one of Italy’s most prestigious red wines.

We held a small auction of a few select wines from our wine cellars and extremely generous wines fro Tedeschi and raised nearly £2,000 for charities supporting Ukraine.


Aperitif

Tedeschi Capitel Tenda Soave DOC Classico 2020

Starter

Wild mushroom risotto 

Tedeschi Lucchine Valpolicella DOC Classico 2020

 Tedeschi Maternigo Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2017

Main

Roast rump of Welsh  lamb, Charlotte potatoes, sauté asparagus

 Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore 2018

Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Marne 180’ DOCG 2018

Dessert

Tiramisu 

 Tedeschi Capitel Fontana Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2018


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Book for our WanderCurtis Wine Challenge Evening – Corporate and Client Entertainment

Contact Us   for price and details of your next company/client entertainment eventwine challenge

The  “WanderCurtis Wine Challenge”

An evening of wine  education , coupled with fabulous and fun interactive tasks .

 

Wine tasting Events 2022

We have a very exciting schedule of wine dinners so far this year. We travel from Spain to New Zealand to Italy and back South to Argentina.

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January 27th 2022

Lighten up January   with CVNE to try the fabulous range from this famous Rioja winery from Northern Spain

April 28th 2022/

May 26th 2022 (TBC)

Tedeschi Wines, Valpollicella, Italy

September 2022

Zuccardi wine , Mendoza Argentina

Please enter details on our  Contact form   to receive invitations, Full details  will be sent to our mailing list.


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Vassaltis Winery, Vourvoulos Santorini

Vassaltis Vineyards

When my good friend Richard, founder of Wanderlust wines knew I was off to Santorini he insisted I go to Vassaltis. ‘Best wines on the Island’ he told me. Started by Yannis Valambous a former financier in London. It is Santorini’s newest winery, outside the village of Vourvoulus. The winery is sleek modern light and spacious with excellent views over his vineyards to the sea.The first wines from Vassaltis were released in 2015. We were lucky enough to meet their two highly talented winemakers, Elias Roussakis and Yiannis Papaeconomou.

Richard was bang on.

The wines are fabulous. The restaurant menu excellent too and the vibe atmosphere and service of the staff lived up to all expectations. Definitely a highlight of our vinous tour of Santorini

Tasting notes below courtesy of Kiran

Aidani 2020

Aged for up to 2 – 3 years

The label design is shape of a volcanic stone.

Nice floral nose.

Fresh with peachy and citrus notes some jasmine florality and medium body with high acidity but less than Assyrtiko A lovely aperitif style wine. 

Nassitis 2020

A blend of 3 whites Aidani, about 30% Assyrtiko and Athiri.

Lemon sorbet and wet stone on the nose.

More lemon zest, mineral and lovely salty tangy phenolic bitter finish.  A great food wine. 

Santorini 2020

100% Assyrtiko  a blend of grapes from different vineyards all over Santorini 24 eur. 

12 months on lees then bottled.

Immediate hit of dried herbs, rosemary thyme etc. then some lemon zest.  Then emerging hyacinth quite floral. 

Quite full bodied tannins felt on gums  high cripsp acid  nice long salty finish.

Gramina 2019

Gramina means field so this is a single vineyard wine from Vourvoulos the village nearby. 100% Assyrtiko grapes are handpicked early morning and the wine spends 12 months on lees and 12 months in bottle. 

On the nose an attractive petrolic whiff with an undertow of herbs and wet stones

Full bodied, smooth texture with dried green herbs, fresh acidity and a long lingering salty stony finish. Excellent. 

Santorini 2016

Darker richer in colour than the 2020.

A much more complex nose: petrol, honey, baked lemon, over ripe honey dew melon then salted almonds, really interesting. 

Lovely silky texture, very complex ripe with some sweetness and nuttiness the saltiness is still there but less aggressive softened out by the other flavours and age. A superb wine showing how well Assyrtiko can age. 

Santorini barrel aged. 2019

Smokey lemon and lime sorbet hint of petrol faint tarragon

Taught and almost austere structured wine herbs minerals and sea salt. Long. 

Santorini barrel aged 2017

On the nose smoke a bit of vanilla and over ripe mango AKA petrol.

The nuts honey, increasingly complex.

Lovely full body with a silky elastic texture, sweet notes, complex softening out the austerity found in the 2019 Gramina. Very long and persistent. Another fantastic wine.

Laterals would be an aged Riesling or a grand cru Chablis with a few years. In other words, premium wines of complexity and character. 

Open to debate but generally the non oaked versions seem to retain more of a unique assertyko character although the oaked versions are extraordinarily well made wines. 

Plethora 2018

The outstanding Plethora from Vassaltis- a truly remarkable wine

Late harvest Assyrtiko 6 months on lees then 8 months in old vinsanto barrels which are 60 years old then 2 years in bottle. A gap is left on top and sometimes flor grows. 

This closest to Nykteri approach that Vassaltis has.

Nose is reminiscent of a vinsanto, roasted nuts, smoke, hint of caramel, touch of balsamic. Very complex, a hint of Christmas.

Rich mouth feel, spices, orange peel and a characteristic sea salt and wet stone tang. Very very long. An outstanding wine, extraordinary.


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Domaine Sigalas – Santorini, Oia region

The view of the vines from Sigalas outdoor tasting area (harvest was August the earliest in Europe explaining the vines appearance)

Domaine Sigalas is the closest winery to our base in Oia, the Northernmost point of Santorini. It is a very pleasant walk via the village of Finikia with its excellent restaurant Meze Meze.

Sigalas was founded in 1991 by Paris Sigalas a maths teacher.It has been sold recently.

They predominantly make Assyrtiko and other indigenous whites like Athiri and Aidani. Red varietals include Mavrotragano and Mandilaria. More recently they have been exploring the subtle terroir variations of seven individual villages of Santorini.

Paris is seen as  a visionary and established the first vertically trained vineyards on the Island, almost heretical at the time.

They have almost 40 hectares of vineyard and produce nearly 200,000 bottles.

Santorini 2020

The wine spends six months on lees in stainless steel barrels.

2020 is apparently great year previous years from 2017 to 2019 suffered heat waves.

A nose of lemon rind and sea salt.

Medium body high acidity, great balance. Lively fresh pithy flavours with a tangy salty nice lingering finish.

Epta (7) Villages

One of a series of seven single vineyard wines exploring the terroir of different regions of the island.  Made in stainless steel barrels but aged on lees through to next harvest. 

Floral blossom notes some citrus underneath.

Some tinned peach at first followed by ripe lemon pith and characteristic herbal salty finish like rosemary salted fries! Again medium body high acid. Great length. Lovely!

Santorini Barrel 2020

Aged6 months in French oak barrels on lees. One in six are new oak and the rest second and third year.

Subtle vanilla and toast on the nose tiny hint of nice petrol. 

In the mouth nice blend of oak and lemon peel, lovely full silky mouth feel, full bodied but with lift and long. 

Nychteri. 2019

A truly massive white wine, more like a red, a real heavy weight with a price to match!

Kiran-

Traditionally late harvest, 18 months in oak. 6 grams residual sugar l so only just dry. 

Nose of perfume spicy, sweet, nutty and of course vanilla – Coco Channel like!

Round and full bodied a definite sweetness.

Rich spicy fruit, medium plus sweetness, and endless length. Extremely complex. 

Adam –
From select grapes picked during the night

Aged for longer on lees

Rich highly textured deeper colour

Honeyed feels like a hint of residual sugar

Really smooth and complex, length++

Delicious +++++

Spyros Recommends aging 6-7 years. Salty mineral character keeps building and fruit falls away. 

Reds

Mavrotragano 2019 

Kiran -Mavrotragano was traditionally grown in the same way as Assyrtiko trained into low but struggled to ripen evenly. Sigalas and Hatzidakis began to train the vines in low linear runs and to irrigate to help ripen the grapes fully and demonstrate the potential of this indigenous grape.

On the nose lots of berries, blueberry and a little smoke then also some red berries and perhaps a bit of cheesecake. 

Very appealing and tasty, medium plus body, medium acidity, medium soft tannin experienced upper lip.  Ripe Fruity flavours with lashings of toast and vanilla but not overwhelming.  Drinking beautifully. 

Adam- Sigalas red 18 months in oak Mavrotragano 3 percent vineyard area

First vertical vineyards on island,

Plums, berries spice complexity

Lots of fresh red fruit and blueberries

Good Length a hint of spice, cumin.

Mavrotragano – Mandilaria 2019

Mandilaria blend with Mavrotragano.

18 months in oak Mandilara has high acidity but high tannin so good for a blend. 

Nice chewy mix of strawberries and cream with a savoury herby bite. 

The food from the restaurant at Sigalas is a fine match with their excellent wines.

We highly recommend the seafood risotto which you must call in advance and reserve as limited amounts made. It was also interesting to taste the caper leaves and stems which were slight aromatic and more delicious than capers themselves.

Santorini is not just about white wine. This red Mavrotragano was fruit packed and delicious