WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

Santorini, Megalochori- Gavalas and Venetsanos Wineries

The passionate Vagelis Gavalas stands proudly with his father George

Gavalas winery

Gavalas was established in 1895 making it one of the oldest in the Cyclades. It is still family run with the fifth generation Vagelis taking on the realms. It is situated in the very beautiful hilltop village of Megalochori.
Our Toyota Aygo almost ended up wedged into a tiny narrow street.
We would recommend parking up and exploring the delights of Megalochori prior to tasting.
We were fortunate to be hosted by Vagelis Gavalas who if he’d had his way would have kept us there all day! They have a broad range of styles and have some lesser known varieties such as Katsano

Wines tasted with Vagelis Gavalas

Aidani 2019

In the past vineyards used to be mostly assyrtiko but other grape varieties mingled in including Aidani. So many wines labelled Assyrtiko were effectively field bends. However, although the PDO still allows a percentage of other varietals all the serious wine makers now select to bottle 100% assyrtiko wines.  At least as far as possible.

So as a result there is a fair amount of old vine Aidani and a 100% bottling appears on a number of wine makers lists.  Its not made for aging and is best at around 2-3 years

The winemaking includes a cold soak, fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and 3- 4 months on lees with batonage , typical for aromatic type grapes.

Indeed, the wine is more aromatic and less acidic  than assyrtiko.  There is an aroma of rolling tobacco and ripe honey dew melon.

It has medium body, medium acidity, flavours of stone fruit, mineral, citrusy with a bitter lemon pip finish. 

Vagelis Gavalas the wine maker explains that Aidani does have a bitter characteristic which the lees aging softens out. 

Katsano 2020

This wine is a blend of two rare local grape varieties Katsano 85% and Gaidoura 15%. Made in a similar way to the Aidani and at 12% alcohol a lighter wine.

A floral nose, hyacinth with a green tinge of dried herbs, potpourri quite delicate

Lighter body, higher acidity, floral, green and refreshing.  Similar profile to a gavi di gavi

Santorini 2020

100% assyrtiko in a distinctive blue bottle.

Blend of different parcels from across the island all vinified separately 

Classically austere in style. Lemon sorbet, a green florality, wet stone and citrus pith.

This is my type of wine, fresh and clean with crisp acidity. More lemon, lemon pith and with a phenolic, herbal tingling finish on upper gums. Great balance the freshness masks the 14% alcohol. Really lovely!

Santorini Natural Ferment. 2020 14%

Made from old vines of 50 plus years and with wild yeasts. Slightly riper grapes with a bit more residual sugar. Some of the harvest matured in old oak barrels then a proportion blended back in. 

A wine with a richer flavour and more texture from the longer lees aging.  Lime, lemon pith, wet stones, fresh green herbs. A lovely characteristic salty tang on the finish. Excellent!

Nykteri 202014.5%

This is a barrel aged Assyrtiko using the best late harvest grapes using first run juice from grapes treaded into the night. 

Vagelis explains that the old style Nykteri were heavy and oxidative wines made from the last batches of grapes, made in often partially filled barrels and intended for the wine makers own consumption.   But now better more controlled wine making techniques are used to prevent over oxidation.

A smoky, volcanic nose with a hint of vanilla.

Ripe stone fruit, mineral salty and intense, full bodied but nicely balanced. 

Enalia Santorini 2018

Even older vines at 120 years plus 18 months lees aging.

A pleasant whiff of petrol on the nose, more dried herbs.

A very intense palate, concentrated baked lemon, with a focused sweetness followed salty wet stones, goes on for ever wow!

Full body well balanced by high acidity which masks the alcohol level of 14.5%.

Vinsanto 2013

280 grams residual sugar.

Vinsanto is aging a minimum of 6 years, this one actually 7 years. 

A real Corker!

Figs and dates with a hint of crème caramel on the nose.

Luscious velvety mouth feel with more soft dried figs and medjoule dates with faint toffee notes. Obviously sweet but with great lift and balance. Surprisingly low alcohol at 11%.

This lasts and lasts. Complex and delicious!

We could easily have stayed all afternoon, such was the quality of the Gavalas wines and the passion of Vagelis but we were already an hour late for our booking at the highly recommended Metaxi Mas restaurant .

Venetsanos Winery

Venetsanos winery perched spectacularly on the edge of the Megalochori Caldera

Venetsanos is one of the oldest wineries in Santorini founded by George Venetsanos in 1947. The winery was excavated vertically inside the volcanic rock. They used gravity for the wine making process. The wine flowing down pipes more than 300m down, to be loaded in the ships in the port of Athinios. The wine was exported to France, Russia and Egypt.The tasting was held on on a rocky terrace with the stunning caldera below and overlooking the port
All wines are single vineyard with low production and high quality.


Santorini

Assyrtiko 100%,Crisp acid lemon grapefruit lingering bitterness and salinity

Nykteri

Vanilla whisky creamy texture Rich wine, Nykteri harvest at night, late harvest with oak ageing

Anagallis

Rose wine deep pink colour ferment with 2 white grapes and mandilaria red.

Delightful perfumed red fruit candied strawberry and red cherry nose

Hint of residual sugar. A crowd pleaser more American in style
Mandilaria

Red grapes not overly complex drying tannins all over mouth reminders of an Italian wine possibly Barbera

Vin Santo

Assyrtiko10 to 15 days drying grape, Luscious very sweet some oxidation nuttiness, fig, date, prune and vanilla

View from Venetsanos restaurant overlooking the port of Athinios


Leave a comment

Sensational Santorini

I first tried Assyrtiko at Pete Barry’s home in the Clare Valley, Australia. It was early November 2016. That day he launched Australia’s first Assyrtiko from vines he brought back from Santorini many years before.
I was struck by its vibrant, crisp, fresh, citric qualities, superbly made wine as you would expect from the Jim Barry wines.
Pete talked sentimentally about Santorini and it has been on my list of places to visit since.
It has taken a few years, with other priorities and of course Covid! Five years later I have made the trip and will review some of the best wines and wineries one the Island. Those who appreciate all things vinous also seek the best cuisine. So I have included restaurant tips and a few other general recommendations.

Firstly a bit of factual background –
Santorini is the southernmost Island out of the 33 Cyclades islands in the South Aegean Sea.
The vineyards are over 3,500 years old, among the most ancient viticultural regions in the world.
The volcanic soils have protected the vineyards from the phylloxera, so the vines survived the epidemic of the late 19th century.
Historically Santorini was renowned for its sweet dessert wine “Vinsanto”.
More recently, with modern winemaking techniques and preferences, Santorini is known for producing highly-regarded, complex quality wines. It is most famous for its dominant variety Assyrtiko– which which along with Athiri, Aidani , constitutes 80% of the vineyard area. The remaining 20% are red varieties Mandilaria and Mavrotragano

We arrived early October. On the drive from the airport to the Northern most tip Oia we passed through a harsh dry unforgiving landscape.
Harvest had well passed, being of the earliest in Europe. The vines appeared sad dry and dejected.
I wondered how anything could grow here given to dry arid heat and hard stony volcanic soils. This harsh environment creates a low yield, highly prized harvest which reflect the terroir.
They have developed a innovative pruning system the Kouloura. This is a basket-weaved shape close to the ground to minimise wind damage during flowering and to protect against sunburn. It also helps collect any moisture from the rocks on the ground.

Another method used is Kladeftiko (small ring). This method is slightly higher off the ground allowing more aeration.

What to expect from the Assyrtiko variety?

Previous wines I have tried displayed the characteristic citric, high acid, mineral salty notes with a distinct phenolic bitterness of the finish. Other elements were of a herbal smoky nose. Only one way to find out…

By chance, Kiran had chosen to visit the same week, on the same Island, in the same town! We chose five wineries to visit from recommendations and personal contacts. Tasting notes are a mixture of mine and Kiran’s.

Estate Argyros

Wines tasted

Wine production at Arygyros dates back to 1903. I had been drinking their introductory Atlantis range red from Mavrotragano .Served slightly chilled as an aperitif. It was a lovely way to watch the sunset on our terrace at Oia Mare villas.
I was particularly looking forward to the Vinsanto, the longest aged in Santorini and one of the best sweet wines in Greece. Argyros have a stunning new modern winery. Very spacious clean and bright near the village of Pyrgos. They own some of the Island’s oldest vines two hundred or more years old The fourth generation of the family produces three Assyrtikos, an Aidani, a full-bodied red from the Mavrotragano grape. We were lucky enough to be hosted by the delightful and informed Elisavet Loukaki.

Estate Aidani 2020
Spends 3 months on lees in stainless steel from 40 year old vines. Retails at 25 eurFloral nose, peach and herbs, lovely.On the palate, stone fruit, lemon rind, medium body, medium plus acidity. Nice length.A nice aperitif wine to sit in the autumnal sunLess acidic and more aromatic than Assyrtiko .
.
Estate Assyrtiko 2020

A blend of vineyards with 100 year old vines, spends 3-4 months on lees.Stone fruit, sea air and an undertone of herb, tarragon or cut grass.Ripe stone fruit, cooked lemon with a salty tingling long finish in the mouth.Fuller body and high acidity.This wine is made for food especially Greek dips, fetta and grilled fish.
Estate Cuvee Monsignori 2018
From 200 year old vines and spends 11 months in stainless steel vats on lees with batonage. 14% alcohol retails at 30 eurA pleasant whiff of petrol, apricots and ground hazel nuts honeyAgain ripe fruit, concentrated, full bodied but balanced by high acid. Nice tension from a green note underneath, very long. Delicious. A lateral would be a minerally full bodied Austrian Smaragd from the Wachau.


Estate Cuvee Evdemon 2017
From two parcels 150 year old vines near Pyrgos biodynamically cultivated. Fermented in 25% in French oak barrels then blended and aged for 30 months in stainless steel vats on lees. 45 eurToasty smoky notes with apricot jam, baked fruits and a note of cream. Intense.Very concentrated with full body, high alcohol but balanced by high acidity. Again a salty finish Very long. Again a ripe Gruner Veltliner comes to mind as a lateral such as the oaked Brundelmayer Ried Lamm
Vin Santo 2013 13.5 %
Mostly Assyrtiko but some other grapes in the blend. Assyrtiko 80 Aida I 10 athiri 10Grapes are sun dried grapes for10 days. The wine spends 3 years in cement vats and 4 years in barrels.The nose is complex a mix of figs, nuts & dates and spices.Great balance sweet 220g/l but with great freshness.
Vin Santo late release 2001
For this wine the grapes are sun dried for 14 days. It spends 3 years cement vats but then 16 years in used barrels. Topped up in a kind of solera system Brown tinges are clearly visible showing the wines 20 years.The nose is rich with raisins, dates,hazel nuts and dried ginger. 
The palate is complex with figs dates and nuts and a spicy gingery tang. The sweetness is perfectly balanced with the fresh acid zing and it is very long and delicious. Outstanding

This was an impressive introduction to the wines of Santorini. The Vin Santo 2001 clearly something very special. Wines available in the UK via Clark Foyster. We were keenly anticipating the rest of the week


Leave a comment

Blind Tasting, an exploration of Bordeaux Varietals. Can you tell Cabernet Sauvignon from Cabernet Franc or Merlot?

Stuart’s challenge this week was blind reds, Bordeaux varietals predominant, a blend but had to be >65% of one of the main current Bordeaux varietals – Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, excluding Malbec, any age and from anywhere.

We would have to draw upon our favourite tome ‘Beyond Flavour’ by Nick Jackson MW and remind ourselves of some key distinguishing features of the varietals.

Cabernet Sauvignon has medium to high levels of fine grained tightly knit tannins, always felt on the gums not the tongue. (Hole in the middle of palate) The sleek tannin structure is linear with a strong sense of direction enhanced by good retention of acidity.

Merlot’s fine grained tannins are also felt on the gums but they are fruit wrapped and can sometimes feel a bit sticky/clayey.

They are so richly fruited that the tannins are often less obtrusive in Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon. Furthermore the feel of the tannins can lead to a more square sensation rather than the linearity of Cabernet Sauvignon. Also there is no hole in the mid palate as Merlot has such rich ripe fruit concentration. As opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon it can quickly lose its acidity and require acidification.

Cabernet Francs grainy stalky moderate tannins are also felt on the gums. It preserves its acidity well and has savoury red fruits and obvious pyrazines with a strong herbaceous streak.

Carmenere is described as green on green

Malbec has intense colourmay display high ‘lockjaw tannins’ especially at the angle of the jaw, with sweet fruit ending dry.

Petit Verdot is  often perfumed with floral violet notes

The natural woody cedar flavours of the Bordeaux varietals enable them to blend so well with oak maturation also allowing gentle oxidation.

We had initially explored this theme a few months ago (including Malbec) tasting notes  below.

Blind tasting Bordeaux varietals January 2021

Kiran’s wine

Musty, leather, earthy, cedar, perfume, boot polish, menthol.

Complex nose, very fine resolved tannins, powdery, not at angle of jaw, sweetness, black fruit medium + acid Med + Savoury persistent drying tannins. Delicious complex savoury balanced wine

We thought 15 to 20 years old as mainly tertiary notes no particular pyrazines and suggested a Malbec.

2006 Jean-Luc Baldes Clos Triguedina ‘Probus’, Cahors, France 100% Malbec

Adam’s wine

Green pepper, herbs, black currant leaf.

Herbaceous green pointing to S America for Stu re green and herbaceous

Stu getting lockjaw tannins

Marked acidity with our mouth’s still watering.

The greenness and acidity pointed us to Cabernet Franc, though not particularly red fruited.

Cabernet  Franc Valdivieso 2015 chile

Stuart’s

Bell pepper, pyrazines, floral hint of volatile acidity, dried lilies, red fruits  some cassis, woody cedar and savoury.

Lovely balance and  length with complexity resolved tannins horseshoe profile

We felt this must be old world.

Grand Puy Lacoste 2000

75% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Merlot 5% Petit Verdot

Blind tasting Bordeaux varietals April 19th 2021

Kiran’s wine

Medium to deep garnet clearly showing some age, on the nose  Kiran detected baked plums and milk chocolate , Stu – Spices plum compote possible strawberry.

Adam got more spiced wood  cedar also an oxidative nose, finishes a little Savoury/salty no pyrazine of note

On the palate soft resolved tannins very fine powdery dusty gum tannins mainly, medium plus acidity.

We were pretty certain this was a Merlot dominant right bank Bordeaux of probably premier cru level St Emillion of about 15 to 20 years old

2007 Sophia Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay New Zealand

Merlot dominated Cabernet Franc Petit Verdot blend

This surprised us, though Hawkes Bay is pretty much as close as you can get for this style in the New world and I’m sure Steve Smith MW who we’ve done many tastings with will be delighted to know the outcome of our blind tasting thoughts.

I visited Craggy Range last year and saw the dedicated winery built just for Sophia.

Stu’s wine

Initially charred smoky charcoals cloves spices herbaceous

Smooth soft ripe tannins sweetness.

Full lush perfumed nose, black pepper, incense, sandalwood, young cedar sap from tree

Juicy fruity  slightly sticky feel in the mouth

Kiran gets green pepper pyrazine no one mentioned fruit.

Fresh pour some green pepper stalky

Lavished with oak

Delicious aromatic

Reminds me of Pomerol for no more a reason than I really loved it, an Emotional memory of previous Pomerols often shared with Stuart

Château Feytit clinet 2005 Pomerol

(95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc)

Adams wine

Sweet fruit, strawberry plum fruit forward blackberry

Spiciness, Smoky cloves barrel

Stu got Jammy baked fruit

Stu sure dried fruit warm climate and found raisins

Tannin on the gums drying medium plus acidity

Guidealberto Tenuta San Guido IGT 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon dominated cab Merlot blend from the famous Sassicaia winery in Bolgheri.

Learning points

Focusing on tannins is invaluable. Merlots certainly felt sweeter fruit wrapped and sticker

New Zealand and other New world regions with age can very closely resemble the old world. If in doubt lack of any pyrazines(herbaceous bell pepper blackcurrant leaf cassis notes) unlikely to be Bordeaux

Pyrazines are more often found with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc less so with Merlot which has lusher fruitier spectrum with softer tannins and no hole in the palate


Leave a comment

A biggie – Chateau Haut Brion 1982

I am fortunate to have some wonderful old friends who have spent decades assembling enviable wine collections, and whose generosity seems to know no bounds. I spent Friday evening in the garden of one of these dear friends and he decided that we should open another bottle, after having nearly finished one at lunch earlier! I gratefully agreed to find and decant.

The cork was in marvellous shape, fully saturated but easily came out intact using a Laguiole corkscrew – my better sense said use the Ah-So, but we actually couldn’t find it…decanted and served almost immediately

I had a taste of the first bottle which had been decanted several hours before, then went on to this second bottle and have condensed the note as one tasting note. The bottles were very consistent in overall impression, with the second bottle retaining more of the fruit characteristics.

Colour

Medium garnet, lighter than I expected. Definitely showing its age.

Nose

In one word – fascinating.

Slight ferrous oxide/rusted tin gives way to fresh tobacco, wet earth, a bit of cedar, fresh red currants, ripe plums and then a little bit of tomato. Certainly showing mostly tertiary characteristics (age), and no hint of the warmth of this vintage in terms of baked or dried fruits.

Taste

Tannins are so ripe and soft, fully embedded in the wine, yet there remained a little sparkle, flecks of tannins around the gums, to remind you that this wine still has some of its original teeth left.

Acidity level was beautifully high, providing a good tension to the wine.

Fruit more prominent in the mouth than on the nose, concentrated red plums, blackcurrant, black currant leaf, tobacco and then a savoury almost meaty finish. The concentration of this wine is very high, even though it has lost some of its sweetness over the decade, it leaves a blast shadow of its former concentrated glorious self.

The balance between the tannin, acidity and fruit was near perfect given its advanced age.

The finish was immense, lasting a full 2 minutes, leaving a lingering sensation of this beautifully aged graceful princess still clinging to its former beauty.

Overall, a blessed experience, thank you again to my dear friend!


Leave a comment

Blind wine tasting April 6th 2021

The theme this week was back to the original that we started with at the beginning of lockdown. Blind anything.

Kiran’s wine

Smoke, Black pepper the most I have experienced.

(Black pepper is a note I have struggled with. Partly because I’ve been trying too hard to find it in Syrah/Shiraz when it’s never been there. The majority of Syrah probably doesn’t have this note. Also because I’ve been looking for spices, when in fact, after obsessionally smelling pepper grinders for the last few weeks I now realise it’s more of a floral woody note spice yes but much more complex than that.)

This wine had it in abundance- Floral violet blackberry, wood spice.

Soft tannins mainly on the tongue less so upper palate

Medium plus acid medium alcohol

A lovely Elegant balanced wine

Reminiscent of Pinot Noir but the clear black pepper nose countered that.

Stuart and I were pretty sure this a Northern Rhône Syrah, the elegant style. We had all visited Rene Rostaing a few years ago and this reminded us of that style. Delicious

Wine was

Francois Villard 2012 Cote Rôtie Le Gallet Blanc

The wine is produced from mostly Syrah with a hint of Viognier, 1% or 2% of the blend.

The berries are whole cluster fermented and up to 30% of the grapes are destemmed. The wine is then aged in an average of 50% new, French oak barrels for up to 18 months. A lovely wine highly recommended

Stuart’s wine

(Served in Bordeaux bottle)

Red strawberry chews, very clearly red fruit a little later some beeswax hint vegetal sweet spice.

Soft tannins all over mouth with high acid,fresh, puckering salivary glands

We thought Pinot, possible laterals Grenache but didn’t have the alcohol/body and had very fresh cool climate acidity.

Bonnes Marres 2011 Drouhin Larose

Bonnes-Mares is a grand cru in the Cote de nuits, mostly within Chambolle Musigny with a small 1.5 hectare (3.7ac) plot in neighboring Morey-Saint-Denis

The style of Drouhin-Laroze is between modern and traditional style with moderate use of oak. Based in Gevrey-Chambertin, Drouhin-Laroze owns range of Grand Cru across the Cote d’Or.

Adam’s wine

Rhubarb, red fruit, smoke, liquorice, hint leather complex

Soft tannins all over medium palate medium acid, length Delicious

Château de Beaucastel 2001, Château neuf du pape

Remarkably young for 20 years drinking beautifully.

A blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals. From the Perrin family’s largely organic and biodynamic vineyards

Dessert wine

Brown, thick, viscous, unctuous,Dates figs raisins molasses syrupyThick very very sweet mouth coating.Thoughts ? Pedro Ximenez you could stand a spoon in this!

Esszencia Tokaji Château Pazjos 1993

We didn’t know Kiran had this up his sleeve.Served in miniature bottles containing 100 ml only.From Sárospatak Alcoholic Content: 4.7 % volAcidity: 12.5 g/l A whopping 435g/l residual sugar


Leave a comment

Chianti and Confit

Kiran’s choice this week, and it was to be our first non blind tasting for over a year. Kiran was seeking an exploration of Chianti, one of his blind spots. After listening to the excellent Guild of Sommeliers podcast on Sangiovese it further inspired this weeks theme.

A trio of Chianti wines

It was a little disconcerting arriving with uncovered bottles but it had its own merits and still presented us with many learning points.

Of course we had pre read the indispensable ‘Beyond flavour’ by Nick Jackson MW which primed us into what structure to expect. However there were some revelations in store.

 

Kiran’s wine

Monte Bernardi Sa’etta Chianti Classico riserva 2016

100% Sangiovese single vineyard oak 24 months bottle 1 year

Appearance– Medium ruby

Nose– tart cherry thyme tobacco spice savoury profile

Taste-Very drying gum tannins fine sand or chalky. Clearly felt in the gums medium + and med + acidity

Med acid very dry dusty no real sweetness

Savoury salty flavour profile cherry strawberry

No tertiary aromas

This felt like a typical Chianti and was crying out for a tomato pasta dish

Adam’s wine

Brolio Barone Ricasoli 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva

Very different nose clearly pyrazine blackcurrant, blackcurrant leaf

Herbaceous, chocolate vanilla yoghurt smoother ? Oak influence

Smooth sweeter softer tannins mainly gums

If Tasted blind we all said we would have thought this was a Cabernet based wine. Tannic quality a little different but on the nose clear pyrazine.

Sangiovese 80% Merlot 15% Cabernet Sauvignon 5% aged in barrique and tonneaux for 16 months

Learning points

Small amounts of other varietals can make a profound difference

Chianti Classico wines can vary enormously

Stuart’s wine.

Il Carbonaione 2016 Podere Poggii Scalette

Sangiovese 100% IGT from older vines planted in 1928 from the rare Sangiovese di lamole clone

Red fruits dried and jammy some dark fruit cinnamon stick Vanilla tobacco Tinned cola

Mouth more powerful wine

Notable oak vanilla

Gummy distribution tannins finish savoury

This was a more robust expression of Sangiovese again showing the great diversity of Chianti. In some ways this provides greater interest in other you don’t know quite what to expect.

As with all Italian wines food is needed, fortunately, Kiran hade made a delectable Confit duck and red cabbage