WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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Travel to Bolgheri

The Bolgheri wine region.

Bolgheri DOC lies within the Maremma, once a sizzling mosquito infested area of swamp lying between low hills and the sea, it features as part of the inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Thankfully the marsh land has long since been drained and the area is now a welcoming patchwork of farmland, vineyards & olive groves accentuated here & there by picturesque rows of cypress trees.

Bolgheri wine region runs north south bounded by hills to the east and a line parallel to the coast (largely defined by the motorway) to the west. There are four small towns in the region. To the north-east is the village of Bolgheri itself at the foot of the wooded hills. To the north west is Marina di Bibbona a coastal resort & further down the coast, is Marina di Castagneto Carducci.  Finally, the ancient hill town of Castagneto Carducci itself makes up the quartet.

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Accommodation:

Accommodation is available in all four of these towns but if you want to be in the heart of the wine action as we did there are a number of wineries that offer accommodation and a few agritourismo too.  We stayed at: Relais Felciaino which has three or four family /twin rooms opening onto the garden and does a nice al fresco breakfast under a canopy with views of the Tenuta San Guido’s castle on the hill.

http://www.relaisfelciaino.com/indexen.html

The location is right on the wine route ‘La Strada del Vino’ as it passes through Bolgheri

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http://www.lastradadelvino.com/en/default.aspx

Tenuta Ornellaia & Chiappini, are next door, Le Machiolle is opposite & Tenuta Guado a short way down the road & the fabulous restaurant Osteria Magna is also within walking distance.

Other options include apartments in the vineyards of Azienda Agricola Giovanni Chiappini, & several other agritourismo in the area.

Eating out:

IMG_2732If you like meat, then look no further than Osteria Magona. Chef Omar Barsacchi serves a selection of beef by Dario Cecchini , Panzano’s famous butcher.  On the T bone or a cheek, the meet is amazing.

The wine list is comprehensive and, although most of it will require re-mortgaging, there are actually some delicious gems such as Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso 2015 and, one of the waiter’s recommendations, Sondraia Bolgheri Superiore 2013 by Poggio al Tesoro.IMG_2733

http://www.osteriamagona.com/

IMG_2866The find of the trip though was Enoteca Tognoni in the village of Bolgheri itself.  Imagine crossing your favourite wine merchant with a brilliant trattoria and you get Enoteca Tognoni.  Walls to the left and right are lined with shelves of Tuscan wines to browse and between customers sit at long tables.  Choose your bottle, scan the menu and settle in.

IMG_2876The wines are priced very fairly and you pay the same when you sit down for lunch as you would to take out.   Fancy tasting through some of the local icons with your meal then check out the enomatic wine machines on the bar at the back serving both tasting portions and drinking measures.

So good we come back for lunch two days running!IMG_2869

http://www.enotecatognoni.it/

 

 

For sea food we visited Restaurant La Pineta right on the beach where chef Luciano Zazzeri serves Michelin-starred seafood. The wine list is a ridiculous tome that is so big an heavy it comes to you on its own side table but we did find some bottles of Grattamacco Bolgheri Vermentino 2015 which were vibrant and delicious and a couple of bottles of Ca Marcanda Magari.  The food was very good but not all the dishes were outstanding & we found the service a little un-attentive.

http://www.lapinetadizazzeri.it/LaPineta/Home.html

Beach.

The resorts on the coast feel quite separate to the wine country but are so close that an evening dip looking out towards Corsica can easily be worked into your program.

Bike hire:

 

 

Travel:

Lots of flights to Pisa which is less than an hour’s drive away.

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Discovering Bolgheri and the Super Tuscans October 2017- Day 2

 

What better start to the day  than the Gaja winery Ca’ Marcanda ( house of endless negotiations !) Built in 1998 this impressive winery is 9500m2 with three levels underground perfectly blending in with the local landscape. They surveyed the land and chose this as the sandy colour of the land matched Ornellaia and Sassicaia. Gardens and olive groves on top of winery allow  great views of the sea and Corsica  on a clear day.Gaja’s other properties include the magnificent  Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino.Production is 450000 bottles, first vintage 2000.All Gaja is organic, red worms from California form natural compost using selected manure from selected cows.

Three main wines produced-

Promis merlot Syrah blend small Sangiovese 25000 cases  Magari half merlot 1/4 cs 1/4 cf8000 cases Camarcanda half merlot 40 cs 10 cf 2500 cases.

 

Wines tasted

Vistamare 2016  sea view

Vermontino 60 viognier 40 Citruswhite. Flowers peach Others sea.  Shells.Dried sage acidity balance excellent

Promis 2015 55 merlot 35 Syrah 10 Sangiovese Promis and Magari are sourced from vineyards lying in the terre brune, where the mineral content including lime and iron makes for wines with more pronounced tannic structure and character.

Black cherry chocolate vanilla nice tannic balance cedar

Magari 50 Merlot 25!cab sav 25 cf

Cranberry blue berry fruit forward great balance acidity tannins soft silky integrated beautifully pure Linear A baby opens up savoury herbs thyme opens up in glass over 10. Mins+++ then smokey toasty notes

 

Çamarcanda 2013 Merlot 50 CS 40 cf 10 ,the winery’s flagship wine, from vineyards in the terre bianche with their high composition of calcareous clay, ideal for  wines intended for long-term aging.Wow the nose is amazing packs a punch. Concentration +++ black currant cassis blueberry red currant cherry. Toasty smokey so. Good keep smelling balance tannins integrated, Elegant silky tannins. Length amazing ++

 

Next stop back  on the bikes towards Bolgheri. We  got totally lost, then found the place which got it all started and birthplace of Sassicaia

Tenuta San Guido guided by Elena Brancini

The star on label is from family crest, aia means ‘place of something. Sassicaia means place of many stones, 3000 hectare estate 100 hectares of vineyard Higher area later harvest, sand near pines, lots different soils – clay sands stones altitude sea to 400 m lots of forest and even a place to breed racehorses. Interesting history the first  vineyard planted in 1944 when the Piemontese Marquis Della Inchetta arrived. He was familiar with the excellent wines of Bordeaux and  tried  1 ha Cabernet Sauvignon at top of the Hill. Now most plantings are lower altitude due to sea breeze and the sea acting as a mirror for light.  Castillo on top of Hill medieval castle first cellar sassicaia. The first vintage was in 1968 and became the only Property in Italy with its own DOC. Iron rich area of red soils where the Etruscans first settled.

 

Wines tasted at Tenuta San Guido

Le Difese 2015 70cs 30 sangiovese 300000 bottles

Smokiness,Soft light red fruits savoury slight strawberry,  Sangiovese

Sassicaia 2014 Perfume floral red fruits,Vanilla oaky notes mod tannins a bit lacking on the finish

Guidoalberto 2015 Merlot,Black currant leaf lovely acid balance and tannins

 

Grattamacco 

After a strenuous  climb up the hill and many expletives later we arrived at Grattamacco 120m above sea level allowing magnificent views of the regionOwned now by  Bertollerri  it was the second winery in the area after sassicaia. Only 12 employees and organic since 1997 made  easier with sea breeze and altitude and good drainage.No irrigation required although this June was very with no rain and it was very hot making for a difficult vintage.Justerini & Brook importer to the UK

Wines Tasted

Bolgheri Rosso 2016 CS based some new oak,Spicy ,violet hints cocoa dark cherries nutmegGood acidity and Med Fine tannins crunchy

Grattamacco 2014 Cedar minty eucalyptus,Higher level tannins cocoa vanilla oak toasty smoke sour cherry good length and structure cherry pie dried herbs

Grattamacc0 2011 Magnum

Cooked tertiary savoury basalmic salty rioja like vanilla spices cooked plums,Bit oxidized

Poggio massari poggio lombrone 100 Sangiovese 2013 herbal tea tobacco

We recommend a trip to this area. It is a little quiet and off the beaten track compared to inland nearer Siena and Florence, but this is Italy. In even the smallest places,  there’s an immaculate town square, medieval church, and of course a brilliant local restaurant and wine flowing from the local wineries.

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Discovering Bolgheri and the Super Tuscans October 2017- Day 1

When Marquis Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta acquired Tenuta San Guido in the 1930’s,  few thought it would inspire a cult of wines which were to follow some decades later. The  coastal plain forming the western border of Tuscany was essentially marsh and swamps. It was know for its malarial Mosquitos. However after the draining of the Maremma it made it possible to grow crops.

The early wine product at Tenuta San Guido was for family consumption. After a visit from a member of the Antinori family, the quality of wine produced was realised and they were persuaded to attempt commercial production. The First vintage of Sassicaia in  1968 was sold as a Vino da Tavola. The 1985 vintage was a revelation and sparked the whole Super Tuscan phenomenon. Marquis Lodovico Antinori was not to be outdone by his cousin and created Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia in 1981. A special DOC Bolgheri was  created in 1994. There were only seven producers ‘ the magnificent seven ” up until 1990 there are now forty five.

There area is now renowned for some of the best wines in Italy. The famous Massetto from Ornellaia can fetch £ 1000 per bottle. . IGT Toscana was created in 1992 following inflexibility of the DOC system allowing a higher range of varieties. It was devoted to Bordeaux varieties  with a small amount Syrah and Sangiovese. Alex Heinz Winemaker at Ornellai describes Bolgheri as a Mediterranean version of the Bordeaux climate, a wine of the South. It has a special combination of ripeness opulence and freshness.

 

We arrived at the modest gated B+B Relais Felciaini0. It is perfectly located for visiting the local wineries on the Strada Provinciale Bolgerhese about 6km  South of Bolgheri and north of Castagnetto Carduccio. Bikes were delivered for us from Ciclosport.

First visit

Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia

Established in 1981 with its first Vintage 1985. It became one of great names purchased by the  younger brother of Marchese Piero Antinori family with an interest from Mondavi. It is   now entirely owned by the Frescobaldi family. They own two separate vineyards- home vineyard,  surrounding the winery and Bellaria to the south. Four wines are made-Ornellaia 8,000 cases, Masseto 100% Merlot from Masseto Hill, clay based soils. A separate building is under construction for Masseto alone. Le Serre Nuove 2nd wine, Le Volte Sangiovese Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Arturo met us on the landscaped courtyard explained the etymology of the word Ornellaia. Aia meaning place of and Orniello, a type of local flowering ash tree.

 

Tasting notes

Le volte 2015 67% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese 7%. Alcohol 14% nice balance, soft tannins, but good level of cherry red fruits strawberry. herbal lovely balance app 15 € drink 1 to 2 yrs

Varia Zioni Rosso 2013 House wine little made, Cabernet Franc based 13 months in second  barrique. tannin ++ chalky sl grippy, sl pine resin nose more black fruits cedar. Tannins a bit too dominant drink 3 to 4 yrs

Le serre Nuove 2014 13.5% Alcohol,50% merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon. Smokey toasty, Others- red plums basalmic notes deep floral orange blossom finer tannins savoury finer silkier tannins

Ornellaia 2014 difficult year blend is Cabernet Sauvignon based almost 32% Merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon also Petit Verdot 20%Vanilla, creamy perfume 75% new oak. 13.5% alcohol later cocoa powder coffee slight toast  baking spices nutmeg clove mouth coating gripping tannins ++pronounced barrel struggling to find fruit maybe stewed plums,something graphitic.

Ornellaia olive oil tasting Blend of 15 oils from the estate harvest going on as we visited. Spicy, smooth, kick at back of throat peppery.

Eligo grappa Arturo suggested we rub it on our hands allowing the alcohol to evaporate then smell it- nuts  figs pistachios ground baclava hazelnuts. This was a first for all of us and a very entertaining way to finish our visit to this iconic property

 

Batzella

 

This is very much a boutique artisan operation.It was Started by Franco Batzella and Khanh Nguyen who previously worked for the world bank initially buying land in Montalcino. They have a small but very well maintained and low yielding vineyards ( 1 kg =1 bottle per vine)-1ha Cabernet Franc, 1ha Syrah, 5 ha Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 ha white varieties. We were greeted at the gate by Khanh and their rather excitable dog.Franco Batzella soon arrived. He explained how he yearned to return to his native Italy after retiring from the World Bank to embark on a dream.

The passion from Franco and Khanh became clear. The winery was in full action. They were transferring the wine from stainless steel  into oak barrels. The Harvest was 2 weeks ago 1kg per vine = 1 bottle per vine!He gave us a detailed explanation regarding transfer to barrels and fine lees and different levels of pressing with all parcels vinified separately.He has stared using slavonian oak 20,000l with good results as consumer taste goes away from excess oak.Oak forest in France were used by the French navy for building ships, later for oak barrels. when transferred from France to Britain on ships it was found  it tasted better on arrival.The area is a  mixture of sand clay and  alluvial soils, so good drainage despite the flat plain like Bordeaux gravels. Mostly spurred cordon 80 cm up then bent 80 cm 5 spurs allowed on that.

Franco hosted our tasting on his lovely  terrace overlooking Castagnetto Carduccio as the sun set.

Batzella White Mezzodi 2016 DOC Bolgheri, Viognier and Vermentino. Slight saltiness, minerality, very cold, lime citrus. Crisp moderate length slight oiliness on the  finish but well textured.

Batzella Péan Bolgheri Rosso DOC 2013Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet Franc 11 moths barriques. Cassis herabaceous green pepper 2013 was a warm summer.Rained at right time 14.8% alcohol but good balance, hot, tannic structure

Tam Bolgheri superiore 2010 ++cab sav 65% cab franc 35% 24 months French oak barriques. Soft silky tannins slight tertiary earthy hint sulphur initially only, acacias floral.Black cherries star anise woody, Menthol eucalyptus.

Syrah vox Loci 2010 Voice of the land, Oxidised port like cooked fruits,Grippy tannins acid unbalance basaltic savoury possibly corked.

 

In the Evening we walked to the local restaurant- Osteria Magona all the meat is supplied by celebrity butcher Dario Ceccini based in Panzano in Chianti. We shared a 1.4 kg aged Fiorentina T bone and a large cut of Panzanese steak.. Oh to be back in the gastronomical heaven of Italy!

Wines with dinner at Osteria Magona Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia,Le Macchiole Rosso,Castello Giaconda  Montalcino2012. We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the region. It was the perfect end to our first day in Bolgheri.


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Sensational Stellenbosch Day 3


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Sensational Stellenbosch May 2017 , Day 2

Kanonkop 

This historic winery is situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountains.Its name is derived from ‘Koppie’ from which a canon was fired in the 17th century to alert farmers of ships entering table Bay .They have 100 hectares of vineyards mainly pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon . Focus is on top quality red wines especially Pinotage. Kanonkop is run by 2 brothers Johann and Paul Krige. The family run ethos have resulted in only three winemakers in the last 48 years. Arbrie Beeslaar is the current winemaker whose mother in law I coincidentally sat next to on the flight from London !

 

Wines tasted

Pinotage Rose 2015

Fresh citrus and raspberries

Kadette Cape Blend Pinotage 2015,Big production 65000 cases smoke toast blackberry

Kadette Pinotage 2015

19000 cases spicy rubber entry level

Kanonkop Pinotage 2014

30 to 60 year old bush wines vines 6000 cases

Complex nose concentrated medicinal herbaceous spicy coffee black fruit soft tannins chocolate

Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

3500 cases cassis black currant leaf

Kanonkop Pinotage 2001

Coffee chocolate medicinal savoury soy sauce soft tannins truffles + lovely a good indicator of what aged South African Pinotage can deliver

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2013

CF CS Merlot liquorice black currant

 

 

Rustenberg

 

 

 

Rustenberg was founded in 1682 and is situated at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains . It’s a Cape gem with beautiful Cape Dutch thatched roofed buildings, a historic gabled manor house , extensive landscaped gardens and vineyards. John X Merriman, a former Cape Prime minister bought the property in 1892. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought Rustenberg their sons now run the business

Wines tasted with Willem, marketing manager ( Importer in the  UK is seckfords, available waitrose majestic)

Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Grown at altitude 550m + Can smell from end of table, Pineapple tropical fruit lemons,Crisp fresh ++ aged in lees 3 months

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015,Butter toast creamy citrus fermented in oak

Five soldiers Chardonnay 2014,Creamy textured long marzipan citrus nutty crisp +

Rustenberg Grenache 2015,Blueberries red currant cut bunches in half before harvest to concentrated

Rustenberg Merlot 2015,Plummy fruity soft tannins

RM Nicholson 2015 Shiraz blend slight perfume black cherries

John x Merriman 2014,Bordeaux blend,very good structure needs age a little tight Black fruits

Bouzard clouf Syrah,rubber spice pepper mixed herbs liquorice

Peter Barlow 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon,mint menthol cassis firm tannins Still a baby

 

 

This fabulous mornings tasting was followed by a delicious lunch at Jordans Estate

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Sensational Stellenbosch. May 2017 – day 1

Our first tasting in Stellenbosch was at the magnificent  Tokara Estate  owned by GT Ferreira , situated  at the crest of the Helshoogte Pass. The exceptional location allows panoramic views over Olive Groves, valleys and Mountains from Simonsberg to Table Mountain. The  tasting room has a huge stone fireplace and contemporary architecture, there’s also a sculpture garden delicatessen and restaurant.

 

 

 

 

We were greeted by Karl the GM and Suzanne .This stunning property has 60 hectares of vineyards and was built in 1999 with first vintage in 2001. Grapes are sourced from a variety of sites including the lovely Elgin Sauvignon blanc on a site which was a fruit farm. 2007 to 2016 ten year tasting shows exceptional development of these wines Back vintages are stored in a monumental four storey cylindrical cellar hidden behind a vast cast iron door off the tasting room .

Luckily I was inquisitive enough to encourage Carl to not only give us a peek inside but also to sneak out the delightful 2006 Directors reserve Semillon.

Tokara is named after the owners 2 children Distribution is mainly in Holland U.K. Germany. ABS wines distribute in the U.K The German market is very big partly due to historical factors , the Germans colonized SW Africa.25% of  Somerset West has German owned homes

 

Wines tasted.

Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Elderflower floral citrus peach , crisp good length persistence balance

 

Tokara Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2015

Naturally fermented .15% Pineapple tropical fruit .Butter vanilla toast oak 95 points best in SA 27 % new oak .

Tokara Directors Reserve 2014

70 Sauvignon Blanc 30 Sémillon High altitude 500 m Rich barrel fermented textured .wet hay lemons musty earthy

Tokara 2006 Directors Reserve Semillon

Carl plucked from secret cellar Rich pétrolic flinty gunsmoke texture full lovely pickled lemon

Tokara Reserve  Syrah 2013

Crushed spice Violets soft tannins savoury

2013 directors reserve red

Merlot Petit Verdot others Cedar cigar box tobacco . Long lovely soft tannins Long finish

Tokara Directors reserve Potstill Brandy Another special treat from Karl

floral dry fig and raisins

 

 

 

 

Delaire Graff Estate

 

The high altitude vineyard on the slopes of Botmaskop was originally a lookout for boats entering Table Bay Harbour .

No expense was spared on their multifaceted property, with   a winery, two restaurants, a lifestyle boutique,a diamond store, a five star lodge and spa transformed by Laurence Graff founder and chairman of Graff Diamonds International Ltd.

The cellar is one of the most advanced and well equipped in the Southern Hemisphere the first wines made in 2008.

Wines Tasted on the terrace

 

Cabernet franc rose 2016

strawberry crisp fresh finish

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2015

beautifully fresh hint gooseberry and lemon

Delaire Graff  Sauvignon Blanc coastal cuvée Olifants river 2015

3 km from sea has 4% sémillon Franschoek Textured structured great mouthfeel length gooseberry tropical fruit

Delaire Graff Banghoek reserve Chardonnay 2015

vanilla peaches toast long 10 months French oak barriques seductive nose long lingering finish

Delaire Graff Swartland Chenin Blanc 2015

Honey citrus

Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

Alcohol stands out Tomato leaf nose cassis soft tannins Needs another year or more

 

 

 

Kleine Zalze Estate

 

Winemaking dates back to 1695 . Now run by ex lawyer Kobus Basson with extensive renovation and modernization.The property includes an 18 hole golf course a luxury residential developments a boutique hotel and a top Provençal inspired restaurant

Terroir Dinner with Anthony van schalkwyk atTerroir restaurant

Four clearly defined ranges exist . the foot of Africa range , The cellar selection range , the vineyard range and their flagship family reserve range.

Wines tasted with dinner

Vintage 2009 Blanc De Blanc Methode cap classique.

Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015

Family Reserve, Cabernet 2012

Family Reserve Shiraz 2012

For full tasting notes see details from our wine dinner in London with Kleine Zalze .

I highly recommend this as a destination to base yourselves in Stellenbosch, complete with infinity pool , majestic views , mountain bike trail , excellent restaurant and easy access to wineries .


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Singing in the rain at Groot Constantia

My long awaited trip to South African began at this historic  Cape wine estate dating back to 1685 .
The first rains for three months were greeted with great glee at Groot Constantia Estate.
After a long dry summer drought the parched earth lapped up the rainstorm.
Their passionate winemaker Boela lined up a
delightful run of wines.
CEO Jean Claude joined us with a history lesson
followed by a tour of the  finest surviving Cape Dutch Architecture
and the oldest Manor House in the country.
Wines tasted
Blanc de Noirs 2016 a wonderfully fresh rose
with 3 or 4 hours of skin contact
with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Sauvignon Blanc /Semillon 2016 herbaceous with added texture
Sauvignon Blanc 2016 melon passion fruit crisp and dry finish
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 cassis tomato leaf and ripe tannin
Pinotage 2015 savoury Umami soy sauce and smoky . Good finish
Shiraz 2015 pepper spice good core of black fruit long finish , lovely
Gouverneurs Reserve 2014 ripe plums vanilla cedar firm tannins ,
a little closed needs a few more years and a good long decant , great potential.
Grand Constance 2014. Aromatic ripe apricot lavender,
fresh black tea leaves rich lush with very long length , delicious, a marvel
We had Lunch at Jonkerhuis with Cape Malay influenced dining.
 After overeating we took a  stroll up into the autumnal vineyards
which gave us wonderful views over False Bay making it clear why
Simon Van Der Stel chose this beautiful  valley over three centuries ago.