Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow. There are only a few places in the world which can express the secrets of Pinot. Burgundy of course, Central Otago in New Zealand and Oregon.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley offers the perfect conditions for growing the delicate Pinot Noir grape, combining the elegance and complexity and of Burgundy with the benefit of American sunshine. This leads to the most beautiful perfumed red fruited wines.
In April 2013 Jacques Lardière who was leading winemaker at Maison Louis Jadot for 42 years formed a collaboration with Thibault Gagey whose family had operated Maison Louis Jadot since 1962.
Résonance is Maison Louis Jadot’s first wine project outside of Burgundy since their founding in 1859
Resonance Wine is sourced from two vineyards: the 20 acre Resonance vineyard planted in 1981 and the 18 acre Decouverte vineyard located 10 miles from Résonance Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AV
We will be tasting six wines in total including their excellent Chardonnays with a matched 3 course dinner in Frederick’s Private club room.
Wines will include Decouverte Chardonnay, Resonance Pinot Noir and Decouverte Pinot Noir and
This promises to sell out quickly so please book early for this dinner.
The Produttori del Barbaresco was founded in 1958. They now have 51 members and more than 100 hectares of Nebbiolo vineyards in Barbaresco. It is conveniently located in the small village of Barbaresco and wines can be tasted by just dropping in. They are well known for producing high quality and more affordable Barbaresco
Lange Nebiolo 2020.
On the nose: Aromatic, herbs, cut strawberry.
In the mouth: Nice balance, dusty tannin, fruit structure, medium in length. Approachable already. 14 euro very nicely made
On the nose a little volatile, rose, macerated strawberry, pot pourri
In the mouth: good balance, full body, sweet juicy fruit, little hot on end.
Herbaceous nose, cinnamon, red tart fruit, cherries.
On the mouth: Rounded fruit, elegant structure, good fruit concentration, slightly puckering youthful tannin, long finish. Very good.
The 2019 although only recently bottled showed as one of the top 6 wines at the Tavola tasting. Confirming the consistent quality of the wines here.
The winery produces 50,000 bottles per annum and is 100% organic, The Ada Nada farmhouse is located in Treiso, near Alba. They have a beautiful Agroturismo with a lovely outdoor swimming pool with panoramic views of the rolling hills.
Golden green colour, made from 100% Nebbiolo. Grapes are green harvested then the wine is made following a method traditional and the aged for 24 months on lees.
On the nose citrus, lime zest, orange peel some cream, in the mouth sherbet, finishing slightly abruptly. Fresh and fun.
This is another 100% Nebbiolo method classic but this time with zero dosage. Made with skin contact and fermented in barrique then and aged for 60 months on lees. The wine is not long enough in barrique to impart a woody character but allows micro oxygenation.
This is a more serious fizz. On the nose: toasted brioche, toffee, flint and smoke. In the mouth stewed spiced apple, nutty, long and persistent, slightly drying from a dusting of pleasant tannin which counteracts the citrus finish.
Neta Sauvignon Blanc 2021.
Grown on north facing slopes.
On the nose a touch of grass, green pepper, concentrated confected pear drops.
In the mouth rich ripe candied citrus, well balanced but finishes a touch warm.
Lange nebiollo Serena 2021
Made in Barbaresco but from youngest vineyard where the vines are 18 yrs old the wine is made to be approachable and for earlier drinking.
Nose: red cherries, raspberries, dried cherries, light herb.
On palate: strawberry chew, chewy tannin, a well made great food wine.
Classic Barbera Pierin 2020
made in large oak 2 year
Nose: Dark cherries, a whiff of polish, touch of sawdust then strawberries, ripe fruit, voilets. In the mouth blackberry as well as juicy red fruit, medium acidity, fuller body, medium length. Tasty! another good quaffing wine.
Barbaresco Valeirano 2019.
The vines here are over 50 years old.
Nose: Mint, bay leaf, celery, cut strawberry, herb, then floral notes. A delicate and complex nose.
In the mouth: medium plus body, tart cherry, savoury meat, liquorice, herbs. Elegant long excellent!
Barbaresco Rombone Elisa 2018. This vineyard was planted in 1947.
Nose: more expressive, soft red fruit, baked strawberry fruit tart, spices, touch of polish and scent of pot purri.
In the mouth: Full bodied, savoury, cooked fruit, sweetness then a ton of tannin, fine grained. The finish is dry but with a line of fruit that persists.
Barbaresco Cichin Reserva 2017.
Spends 3 years in large oak botti and 2 years in bottle before release. From the rombone vineyard planted in 1958.
The wine maker naturally concentrates the wine by letting 20% of the juice run off and leaving the rest to macerate and ferment on the skins.
On the nose: Leather, perfume, pot purri, polish, orange peel, incense very complex.
In the mouth: Rich, spice, leather, orange peel, firm present tannin but drinking. Very long excellent!
The Cisa Asinari estates of the Marchesi di Grésy include four wineries located in the Langhe and Monferrato region.
2020 Marchesi di GrésyLanghe sauvignonblanc
Flinty smoky slightly sulfurous, reduced,. Bottled 1yr, green gage, nuts, briny, 7-8 mth stainless steel on lees Greengage, green pepper, tart lemon, mineral dust coating in mouth. Fairly full bodied, good finish
2016 Marchesi di Grésy langhe sauvignon blanc
Darker colour Lemon curd, sweet top note of peaches, salty, floral Fuller body, hint of peach, yellow plum? Reminds me of white bordeaux, thought a blend with semillon great finish, excellent acidity
2019 Marchesi di Grésychardonnay
Pale Ripe pear, maybe a little peach, great wood influence, vanilla, bit of smoke and toast, stone Tart apple, peach, great acidity, but drying, very elegant
2015 Marchesi di Grésy Chardonnay
Coal smoke And toast, roasted hazelnuts, white flower, Caramel, lemon, mineral, really balanced and elegant, acidity, linear
2019 Marchesi di GrésyDolcetto Monte Aribaldo
Cherry linctus, dark and red, strawberry, stem, slightly burned nose, possible reductive Savory and tannic, tart cherry, slight bitterness, savoury finish, med acidity
2015 Marchesi di Grésy Montecolombo Barbera
Treated like a barbaresco Turmeric and cumin nose, dark cherry, vanilla, toffee, Dark cherry, really drying, super acidity, a little hot, herbaceous, quite tannic in gums
2011 Marchesi di GrésyVirtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60
Green pepper Black currant leaf dark cherry, Blackcurrant, good acidity and tannin, balanced, mid palate missing
2007Marchesi di Grésy Virtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60
Much more developed, great mix of the barbera linctus with blackcurrant leaf Mushroom to start on the nose Great ripe balanced, fantastic wine,long… love it
2004 Marchesi di GrésyVirtus Langhe Rosso – Cab Sauv and Barbara 40/60
Green pepper Black currant mushroom caramel vanilla Another great balanced wine, finishes v very cab, very beautiful
2018 Marchesi di GrésyBarbaresco Martinenga
Mixed vintage Muted nose, slightly floral And herbaceous woody notes, tart cherry Drying, good intensity and length not showing yet but had very good potential based on finish
2017 Marchesi di GrésyBarbaresco Martinenga Gaiun Made from specific plots on the outer edge of the Martinenga cru, bordering Asili
Dark cherry strawberry cream pot pourri, roses Drying, intense dried flower, incense, tart cherry, liquorice, finish forever long, sexy, complete, wine for the long term. 2016 Marchesi di GrésyBarbaresco Martinenga Gaiun
Darker Sandalwood, Rose, macerated strawberry, white truffle, sapid More concentration, fruit intensity, liquorice tobacco, finish goes on forever An epic wine for the long term. Touched something deep inside me, literally brought tears to my eyes
2016 Marchesi di GrésyCamp Gros Martinenga Riserva
12 mths small barrel 18mths large barrel, 3 yrs total 6900 btls made
Dried rose, sandalwood, pot pourris dried cherry orange peel, spice – fascinating nose Drying, tart, regal tannins, stony, tight. Not showing itself, wait another 5-10yrs for this to emerge.
This iconic winery needs little introduction. We were fortunate to be hosted by the Giovanni, Angelo Gaja’s son.
He gave us a great insight into the wines and the challenges ahead. We looked out of the palatial Gaja headquarters to where the River Tanaro should be. Instead we say a dry cracked river bed with no water in sight. The Tanaro had dried up which is a worrying sign of things to come.
We tried a selection of their wines all made to perfection. Mehul requested a bottle of Sori Tildin (one of my desert Island wines) A vintage 2001 was duly decanted. A fitting finale to a memorable weekend in Barbaresco!
Kirsty Harmon is a local girl turned renowned winemaker.
She grew up across the road of Blenheim and is well acquainted with the local scene.
Her first degree was in microbiology. She then worked as an event and wedding planner and worked for the previous owner of the Trump winery. She stayed on, ultimately becoming head of winemaking and general manager.
She Trained in enology at UCL Davis and won various scholarship for internships.
This took her to Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay New Zealand part of then Family of 12.
She also gained experience at Domaine Faivlely in Burgundy. She was the first intern there since 1837!
Dave Matthew a local celebrity in country music owns Blenheim and many of the labels have his colourful artistic designs.
It’s boutique winery producing 5 to 8 000 cases.
Kirsty with her microbiology background initially had a service lab for testing wines and helped out local wineries.
She has pioneered her wines all under screw cap, somewhat unusual for the US, but having worked in New Zealand and learned of its merits prefers this method of closure.
Blenheim Sauvignon Blanc 2021
100% Sauvignon Blanc steel fermented
Somewhere between new and old world
Goooseberry reductive, some passion fruit and tropical nuances
Blenheim Albariño 2021
Peachy stone fruit
Delicious Albariño very typical
Amazing it shows such typicity and saltiness after such a recent planting in such a new environment
Heavy red clay here with iron which I’d noted when I visited the Trump winery for lunch.
Blenheim gruner veltliner
An interesting story, it was planted very much by chance whentheir 800 vines of Teroldago didn’t bud and they were offered by the Gruner the nursery!
Slight gun flint
Lean reduced nice acidity
Blenheim Cabernet franc 2020
Interesting Fractal wine label especially liked by the mathematicians
Kirsty prefers to make lighter style red
Enjoys the fruitiness
Full of fruit
9 months barrels
Some whole cluster and natural carbonic
Painter Red Nlend
Lots grapes fresh fruity blend
Tasting with Kirsty reminded me that the winemaking in this region is a mere 30 years old and they are very much finding their feet and don’t know yet exactly what’s going to work.
She has a great pioneer spirit and along with Albariño planting from Mencia in Galicia, (also has clay soils and high humidity).they have planted Garnega, Tempranillo Roussane and Gruner Veltliner are among many others being planted here.
It will be fascinating to see what the future holds. It certainly seems to be in good hands.
This is an historic site with vineyards first planted by Fillipo Mazzei,Italian architect with the backing of Thomas Jefferson whos Monticello estates is nearby.
Recent plantings date from 1981
I was kindly hosted by Chris Ritzcovan winemaker and met the current owner Attila.
This is Chris’s 10 th vintage. His father made home wine which may have sparked in him an interest.
He trained locally at the famous University of Virginia
Chris mentioned they have a lot of vintage variation and also described the challenges mentioned on other visits
Jefferson Vineyard petit manseng 2021
Dry, Sugar gets high
75 cases made (only 3 barrels)
Petit Manseng originally form Jurancon-aromatic, peach honey ginger
Lovely texture lees ageing
Good balance nice nutty feel almond
Great effort here and shows potential of this grape in the region.
Jefferson Vineyard estate reserve 2019
Viognier, barrel fermented for 9 months in new French oak barrels Petit Manseng 6%
Really rich, full bodied oily with stone fruits, apricot and peach
Slight bitter finish
Jefferson Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay
Barrel fermented 9 months in oak
25 years old vines
Lemon, some vanilla, butter, lees ageing new American, new French and Hungarian oak (lighter spicier influence than French or American)
Jefferson Vineyard 2017
Great vintage, 9 months in oak barrels
Fruit bomb, blue fruits
Plenty of tannins
Mouth and gum tannins integrated, Not green or herbaceous
Jefferson Vineyard 2019 meritage
Merlot and Petit Verdot, cabernet franc Malbec
20 months in oak Hungarian French and American oak
Blue and black fruits good tannic structure
Quite drying tannins
May benefit from more time
Jefferson Vineyard Merlot Réserve 2019
Smooth tannins wrapped with fruit
Chocolate and plum slightly hot
Made with Older vines 100 % French oak
Chris is also growing some Tannat and shows the same enthusiasm for the region as fellow winemakers.
The wines from Virginia are somewhere between new and old world. They are quite European in style. They don’t have the opulence and power of California but they still have more fruit and aromatics than similar wine growing areas in Europe.
It still a young region and experimental.
The current notable varieties performing well are Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Verdot . Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
However, watch out for new varietals including Albarinho, Petit Manseng and Nebbiolo.
I’d love to visit again and explore other areas, such as Rappahannock, an hour north of Monticello. Perhaps a few weeks earlier, in October to witness the full autumnal splendour.
Mostly when I ask winemakers about what they are doing to be more sustainable and to reduce their environmental impact the answer is all about stewardship of the land; vineyard practice, avoidance of pesticides, and perhaps a bit of onsite recycling. All good stuff, but as the drive towards Net Zero Carbon builds obviously the wine industry also needs to step up and make a start down this road.
Challenging though it may be, without plotting a route and taking the first step, the target will never be reached. Equally we consumers need vote with our wallets and make it clear we care, not just about how tasty the wine in our glass is, but also about the journey has taken to get there.
Happily, there are some great wineries out there, leading the way on sustainability and one of them is Reyneke Wines in Stellenbosch.
Since the early noughties Johan Reneke has been working towards achieving the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. As he eloquently argues, how can a wine be beautiful if there is ugliness, in the form of glaring social inequity, involved in its making? He also makes the point that only a financially healthy business is going to be able to achieve any sort of environmental and social goals.
Johan sees Biodynamic farming as part of a larger picture of regenerative farming. Agriculture is one of top five contributors to climate change but regenerative agriculture actually provides the opportunity to turn this around. It can actually sequester carbon back into the earth by improving soil health and increasing humus content. Another win is by moving away from monoculture biodiversity can also be improved.
Reyneke works with nature to maintain vine health without recourse to chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. This ‘land caring’ element of the approach uses for example dandelions and other cover crops to provide a preferential home for pests. It also involves ducks trotting around the vineyards hoovering up snails.
Land within the farm is also ‘spared’ so that there are pockets of wilderness left between the vineyards which are rich in flora and fauna. The farm’s herd of cattle currently roaming in pasture below the winery, are let into the dormant vineyards over winter to fertilize them. In a lovely example of the vineyard’s circular like economy the winery produces feed for the cows in the form of the grape pressings which according to Yohan they love!
Improved soil health and biodynamic farming has made the vines more resilient to pest, fungus and drought and so by extension perhaps some of the other effects of climate change?
As we visit the Reyneke wine farm is currently being extended into a neighbouring farm recently acquired. Some of the vineyards are being kept and some replanted. One can see where strips running along the contours of the hillside are being set side for biodiversity corridors between the vines. Old vines are piled up and will be turned into bio-charcoal that will be mixed in with the soil, locking in the carbon long term.
When looking at the road to net zero carbon any organisation needs to look at its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are C02 emissions arising from operations directly controlled by the organisation. Scope 2 are emissions up stream caused indirectly by the organisation when it buys in goods and services from elsewhere, for instance electricity or bottles. Finally scope 3 emissions are those downstream arising from the activities of distributors and consumers transporting, consuming and disposing of goods.
At Reyneke the farm is now carbon negative but Johan continues to look at the winery operations. He is investigating renewable energy in the form of photo voltaic (PV) panels, possibly in combination with electric tractors which could double up by providing some energy storage too. The Cape is lovely and sunny but electricity is currently rationed in ‘load shedding’ which adds another reason for moving off grid.
Reyneke is also trailing the use of Tetra Pak type packaging as an option, starting with their entry level organic wines in Scandinavian countries who seem more open to the idea. Clearly there is a challenge here in shifting negative consumer perceptions of ‘bag in a box’ type wine. Moving away from bottles would deliver valuable reductions in carbon footprint in terms of packaging and transport.
A non-interventionist approach follows through into the wine making. Instead of temperature controlled stainless steel and yeast inoculation at Reyneke wild fermentation in oak barrels is the order of the day. The wooden containers and smaller volumes successfully manages the temperature during fermentation in a passive way. The wild yeast and breathability of the oak also give a different character to the wines in particular the Sauvignon Blancs.
Johan’s story is so fascinating, and the challenges he and his team have taken on are so inspiring that this intro’ section could easily run on and on so let’s get to the wines, which do not disappoint!
Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 2021
On the nose, hay, a touch of gooseberry, a whiff of custard. Good body with lovely balance and freshness. A nice supple mouth feel, white peach, exotic fruit pineapple, creamy gooseberry fool. Complex with good length a wine that evolves. Excellent. (Tasted at the farm and again back in London with consistent results)
Reyneke Reserve White 2020.
This is also 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The reserve is made from selected pockets of grapes within the vineyard which have their own character. It gets 24 hours on the skins and the new oak barriques.
More stone fruit on the nose also a bit of hay and a subtle touch of vanilla. Lovely textured mouth feel, more peach and bit of toast, rich but balanced, great length. Neither of these wines are your identikit new world SBs, much more interesting and complex.
Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2021
The vineyards here are part of the South African old vine project so more than 35 years old.
The nose is floral and nutty. In the mouth apricot, honey and a slightly salty finish. Vibrant.
Reyneke Syrah 2019
On the nose, sweet blackberry, dried herbs and crushed pepper. In the mouth dried black fruits, iodine, ripe tannins, full bodied but fresh. Long. (Tasted at the farm and again back in London where the wine benefited with time in the glass.)
Reyneke Reserve Red. 2019
The wine is 100% Syrah and again from selected parcels of the vineyard.
On the nose, blueberry pie, ripe fruit, pie crust, vanilla, coffee grounds, fresh garigue herbs. Iodine? Ripe blue and blackberries, powdery tannins, a herbal liquor note, savoury notes of grilled meat, full body and fresh acidity. Complex and very long. So good now that it will be hard to keep ones hands off this to let it mature! (Tasted at the farm and again back in London where again the wine benefited with time in the glass.)
A blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage.
The wine is named after the Cornerstone project. Johan sees the workers as the cornerstone of the business, farm workers generally receive low wages as there is high unemployment and viticulture is the least profitable part of the industry. Scheme aims to empower workers with housing and education using profits from the winery.
Classic cassis, black current leaf, black current jam and a touch of sawdust on the nose. Austere at first, black fruits, green pepper, coffee grounds, slightly drying grainy tannins. Tasted again in London it opens up and fruit fills out the palate with bit of air. Still fairly primal at this young stage but good potential.
There is a vibrancy and depth to these wines which is compelling and it’s a quality that the Wander Curtis team have noticed on multiple occasions in other Biodynamic wines by producers such as Felton Road and Chateau Pontet-Canet. On every level there is definitely something to Biodynamic wine making.
Not only does wine making in South Africa go back a very long way but winemaking in the Cape actually has a birthday: 2 February 1659! On that day Jan van Riebeeck recorded in his diary “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes.’
Sent by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, to establish a staging post to supply ships on their way around the Cape of Good Hope, Van Riebeeck lost no time on the important business of planting vines and making wine. Apparently was essential to the treatment of sailors with scurvy. Yet more historical evidence of the health benefits of red wine!
Constantia lays claim to have the oldest vineyards in the southern hemisphere dating from 1685 when Simon van der Stel, the Cape’s first Governor established a farm on the southern slopes of Table Mountain facing False Bay. False bay is of course a ‘real’ bay, it was just the wrong one from the point of view of sailors returning from India when they realised that they hadn’t quite reached the Cape Bay and still had to round the treacherous Cape of Good Hope.
Vin de Constance has since been revived by Klein Constantia and Groot Constantia also makes a sweet Grand Constance. However, the comparatively cool climate, elevated altitude and generous rainfall (twice that of London apparently) means that modern Constantia is now home to a wide range of red and white varieties.
Where Van Riebeeck’s relied on enthusiasm Van der Stel brought to bear some viticultural knowledge and his name is firmly stamped on the Cape winelands. Quite literally as he named Stellenbosch town after himself and the imposing back drop of Simonsberg mountain serves as an ever present reminder. The wines of Constantia attained international acclaim in the late 18th and early 19th C boosted by the war between France and England which made French wine hard to get hold of. Famously Napoleon’s suffering during his exile on St Helena was greatly eased by a steady supply of Vin de Constance. The wine at the time is thought to have been sweet and quite possibly fortified. Once there was peace and a trade agreement between England and France the market for Vin de Constance diminished and in the end the vineyards did not survive the onset of Phylloxera.
Groot Constantia (pronounce the G as if you are clearing your throat) is the largest part of the Van de Stel’s original farm. A trust now owns the estate and it is even a National Monument. The old Cape Dutch style farm house houses a museum which tells the story of the wine farm. Simon van der Stel’s mother was daughter of a freed Indian slave and after him Johannes Colijn, who heralded in the heyday of Vin de Constance in Europe, was also of mixed race. The exhibition gives a sobering understanding of the part that colonisation and slavery played in the history of the farm and Cape’s wider wine heritage.
An easy drive from Cape Town the history, wine, restaurants and beautiful setting make the estate well worth a visit.
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc made with minimal grape skin contact. Pale orange pink colour. Nose of honey dew melon. Nice balance, peachy notes and good freshness. Easy drinking in the sunshine.
Sauvignon Blanc 2022
Constantia has a reputation for fresh Sauvignon Blanc. Floral nose with elderflower blossom and a touch of grassiness. Again good balance, melon and tropical fruits flavour, fullish body but with freshness.
Smokey vanilla nose. Lemon, vanilla, spicy wood, full boded mid-level acidity and medium length. Tasty ‘new world’ style.
Gouverneurs Reserve White 2020
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon partly aged in new oak Barrique.On the nose green pepper, hay, meadow flowers, herbs, tarragon. Fullish body, mid-level acidity, dry herbs, hay, grapefruit pith. Complex with very good length and a lovely citrus persistence.
Lady of Abundance 2018
A red blend of Pinotage, Merlot, Shiraz and Tannat.Mixed macerated red and dark fruit nose. Ripe plum, blackberry, clove and toast favours with soft tannin. Easy drinking.
A nose of classic plum and milk chocolate and a whiff of vanilla. Ripe capsicum, red fruit, soft tannins, medium length. Tasty.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Initially mulberry, then a leafy green aroma. Touch of strawberry, dried cranberries. In the mouth more dried fruit, nice chalky tannins, medium body, good acidity. Reasonable length. Give it a year or two and this should round out nicely.
Baked dark plum with ferrous notes and a sprinkle of cake spice. Rounded full body but not flabby, more spicy baked blackberries, finishes with sweet fruit and is quite long.
Plush fine oaky nose, iodine and dried cherry. Good balance and length, dark cherries, hint of blood, good length. Firm tannins sit squarely on the tongue, this should age quite nicely.
Gouverneurs Reserve 2028
A Bordeaux blend. Plums, cedar wood, milk chocolate, nice furniture polish. very Claret like. Mix of red and black fruit, Black Forest Gateaux, great balance and a long savoury finish! Excellent.
Grand Constance 2017
Made from Muscat d’Frontignan the white Muscat is complemented with a small percentage of red Muscat.
Burnt orange colour. On the nose orange peel, ginger powder, dried apple, cinnamon, cake spices, furniture polish. Lusciously sweet but with enough lift to keep it fresh. A strangely a floral note, rose water or something like that and more dried orange. Very long.
Hemel en Aarde is known for growing Burgundian grapes and is divided into three areas: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, closest to Walker Bay, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley further up the valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge the highest area in terms of altitude. Each area has different soils and micro-climates.
The received wisdom is that in the lower section clay soils produce broader more structured Pinots, the decomposed granite in the Upper part results in a crunchy, elegant style and due to the altitude and recurrence of some clay the Ridge produces something in between. That said many other wines are also produced here including some crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Rhone blends.
Overall the region’s proximity to Walker Bay, the cold Benguela current as well as the prevailing Southeaster results in a particularly strong cooling maritime influence. Hemel-en-Aarde also has higher than average rainfall.
Hamilton Russell was the first winery in the area, the eponymous owner was looking for land and was attracted by the cooler climate. A risky move back in the 1970s as the vineyards had no quota for wine making under the then restrictive rules and so winemaking was technically illegal. Having planted a wind variety of grapes including Pinot and Chardonnay they eventually restricted wine making to just these two varietals. The winery has spawned several other neighbouring wineries as successive winemakers have left to set up their own ventures in the valley, these include Buchard Finlayson, Creation and Storm wineries.
The Wine Village, Hermanus.
At the bottom of the valley in the whale watching town of Hermanus is the Wine Village store with is a treasure trove of South African wines and will ship overseas.
Stephen was on the counter and let me taste Hamilton Russell Vineyards’ 2021 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Both from the Valley were beautiful rich, structured, and perfectly balances wines with lashings of fine oak. Immediately pleasurable for such young wines which for me puts them in the New World but with a level of Burgundian understatement.
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards
Newton Johnson is located in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley located in a beautiful spot with spectacular views.
75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% oaked Semillon. Flinty nose, gooseberry, Semillon gives the wine a nice body, good length with a slight toasty finish. Very nice.
The first planting of this grape in SA were here at Newton Johnson. Made 20% in old oak barrels. Floral notes with sea breeze, a nice saline note in the mouth, fresh. A bit more breadth than you would find in a Spanish version but no shortage in bracing acidity.
Family vineyard Pinot Noir 2020. 13.5%
A blend of several vineyards including Sea dragon and Windandsea each bringing different characteristics to the wine. On the nose red soft fruit, some nice vegetal notes. In the mouth sweet fruit, more herbs, delicious rounded body, good freshness, and a lovely long finish.
Full Stop Rock 2020
79% Syrah and the rest Grenache grown in decomposed rocky granite. The wine is aged in 5% new oak barrels and the rest used for18 months. Blackberry, ripe fruit forward nose. In the mouth ripe sandy, rounded tannins, very approachable now. Long.
A blend of 75% Syrah and Mouvedre. Darker colour. Black fruit, meatiness, oxo cubes on the nose. A nice stoniness, more ripe black fruit and savoury notes. Full bodied developing some earthy notes.
Boekenhoutskloof have also started making a Chardonnay and Pinot under their Cap Maritime label from vineyards in the valley. See the full review of this winery posted separately.
Wines of South Africa podcasts
Finaly just a quick shout out for the excellent series of podcasts that Jim Clarke and the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) have made. Packed with regional information, interviews with winemakers and some really interesting historical background these and Jim’s book really are essential further reading. To access the podcasts click on the link below.
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
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.
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.
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 ViognierOrange 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
Dona Paula Masterclass ‘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
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Crushed raspberries, chalk with a smokey slightly gamey nose. Medium all through soft powdery tannins
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
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
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.
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).
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.