Category Archives: Lunch reports

Bordeaux Chateaux “Punching Above Their Weight”

This article was originally published in Upstate-Downtown : Healthy Living for Active Epicureans https://upstatedowntownny.com/2017/02/01/wmg-bordeaux-2017

By Christopher Matthews

Bordeaux Chateaux that “punch above their weight” was how Wine Media Guild (WMG) member Mark Golodetz framed the WMG’s recent, annual Bordeaux walk-around tasting and lunch, held at Il Gattopardo in Manhattan. As the traditional member-sponsor of the Bordeaux event, Mark arranged for the following chateaux to participate this year: Chateau Smith Haut Lafite (Pessac-Leognan); Chateau Branaire-Ducru (Saint-Julien); Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac).

WMG Logo

His theme implies the Chateaux in question are somehow underrated, presenting a source of Bordeaux value, something wine writers, collectors and consumers (!) are always hunting. Whether these houses are undervalued can be debated, and they are certainly well-known and highly regarded in their own right. But what the event really drove home, in spades: the compelling overall quality of the wines presented, from current releases, to older vintages pulled from private cellars. 

It’s true that these three chateaux are not included in the Liv-Ex 100 Index of fine wines (with a secondary market), and they are (as many others in Bordeaux) in the shadow of the iconic First Growths and “Super Seconds” that dominate the collectors’ market. This, I believe, informed Mark’s choice of theme.

The wines definitely spoke for themselves.

The vaunted 2005 vintage showed brilliantly yet again – all brought their 2005s, and all were outstanding, each in their own way: the Smith Haut Lafite (SHL) showed great depth and freshness; the Branaire-Ducru (BD), an earthy, developed nose with lush, harmonious black fruit; and the Grand Puy Lacoste (GPL), high-tone aromas of eucalyptus and cedar, with great structure, balance and length. Already nicely drinkable at this stage, they will all continue to age and develop beautifully for years to come. Truly the vintage of the century thus far – and naturally pricey – but the average prices for these three chateaux come in at less than a fifth of the average price of the First Growths from 2005 (which is approximately $830 a bottle). Pretty good punching, indeed!

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Some other highlights:  

SHL is one of the few Bordeaux Grand Crus best known for its stellar, stylish and hedonistic whites (we had the 2012 and 2010 whites at the lunch as well), but its reds are rapidly gaining fans, too. I was particularly engaged by the 2012 at the walk around, with its aromatic, high-toned nose, pretty briar fruit and excellent balance and finish.

From B-D, its 2010 exhibited an elegant nose of underbrush and earth, with excellent structure, balance and pretty berry fruit – a good one for the cellar. And B-D really shone at the lunch, in the older vintages. The 2001 is still quite youthful, with a fresh, aromatic nose and lip-smacking black fruit. Courtesy of WMG member Ed McCarthy (author of “Champagne for Dummies”, and co-author of “Wine for Dummies”, among many others), we were able to sample B-D’s 1982 and 1975 vintages. The 1982 was like aromatherapy, full of coniferous and menthol notes, drinking beautifully. And the 1975 was a seamless stunner: all elements are fully integrated, with clear fruit and a gorgeous finish. Almost perfection. Many thanks, Ed!

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Last, but not least, GPL also showed well. Its 2009 combined classic graphite and Cassis elements with excellent balance and fine tannins. 2006 had an attractive blackberry nose and a fresh, brambly palate, somewhat linear but delicious. And at the table, the classic 2000 was a great food companion, sporting heady aromatics, generous black fruit and excellent energy.

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Clearly, these chateaux all “punch” well, regardless of weight, and illustrate Bordeaux at its best: age worthy wines that stimulate both the intellect and palate, yielding their estimable pleasures best at the table.

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From L to R: Fabien Teitgen (SHL), Emeline Borie (GPL) & Patrick Maroteaux (B-D)

 

Santé!

Valpolicella: One Gentle Wine from Verona

This article by Tracy Ellen Kamens was originally published on It's A Winederful Life
Living la vita del vino with Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE at http://itsawinederfullife.com/valpolicella-one-gentle-wine-from-verona. Posted on 

2016-11-08-09-23-01Looking for a low tannin, high quality red wine? Look no further than Valpolicella!

This fruity, yet elegant, red wine hails from the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

We tasted a selection of these wines at a recent Wine Media Guild luncheon and, while I had my favorites, there wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch. Even more impressive, most the wines were priced under $20.00.

While Verona is famous for its balcony, the valley (val), just north of the city, is known for its many (poli) cellars (cella). This amalgamated name has been attributed to the wine since the mid-12th century.

The region relies on indigenous grape varieties, with most wines produced as a blend of Corvina and Corvinone and, to a lesser extent, Rondinella (making up 5% to 30% of the total), supplemented with other authorized, red varieties. The resulting wines have aromas and flavors of berries, cherries and flowers, although I did find some herbaceous notes in a few of the wines we tasted.

Unlike its vinous siblings – Amarone and Ripaso – these wines are not aged nor are they influenced by dried grapes. Consequently, they are wines that are honest about their origins. Looking at the vineyards themselves, the focus has been on reducing chemicals through the Consorzio’s “Reduce Respect Retrench” Project. To date, low impact pest control measures have been implemented for 2,000 ha (approximately 25% of current plantings) and growing.

Wines produced from grapes grown within the most historic (aka classic) area are called Valpolicella Classico DOC, while those from the broader designation are simply, Valpolicella DOC.

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All in all, we tasted 12 wines; these were my top selections:
* Buglioni “Il Valpo” Valpolicella DOC Classico 2015, Veneto, Italy, $19.00
* Scriani Valpolicella DOC Classico 2015, Veneto, Italy, $17.00
* San Cassiano Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy, $N/A
* Fattori “Col de la Bastia” Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy, $N/A
* Massimago Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy, $17.00
* Villa San Carlo Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy, $N/A

The 2014 wines tended to be more acidic in style due to the cooler weather conditions of that vintage, while the 2015 wines were more generous. The Consorzio has very high hopes of the 2016 harvest being even better than 2015.

The wines paired quite well with pasta as well as with a pork dish and are a nice option for this transitional period of late autumn with its crisp, sunny days and cooler nights.

NB: Prices are listed when available on Wine-Searcher.com  All other wines are available in the U.S. somewhere, but not somewhere associated with Wine Searcher.

 

Valpolicella: Background and the Influence of Altitude

This blog by Charles Scicolone was originally published on his blog Charles Scicolone on Wine at: http://www.charlesscicolone.wordpress.com.

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with Olga Bussinello and  Alberto Brunelli

The Wine Media Guild’s November tasting and lunch featured 13 Valpolicella wines. These wines express their terroir and go well with food, qualities that I always look for in a wine. What’s more, they can be drunk young. Fresh and fruity, Valpolicella wines have hints of red fruit and good acidity. They are vinified in stainless steel and aged for a short period in stainless steel, and a few see a short period in wood. At under $20 they are a real bargain.

The speakers at the event were Olga Bussinello, director of Consorzio Valpolicella who spoke about the Consorzio and Alberto Brunelli Consorzio Valpolicella Oenologist, who spoke about the wines.

Tha Consorzio per la Tulta dei Vini Valpolicella is an association of grape growers, wine producers and bottlers in the production area, which includes 19 municipalities of the province of Verona. The Consorzio represents more than 80% of the producers that use the Valpolicella appellation.

The Valpolicella appellation is located north of Verona. It borders Lake Garda to the west and is protected by the Lessini Mountains to the east and north. It covers the Verona foothills area, which is part of the eastern Alps. The vines are traditionally pergola-trained according to the typical “pergola Veronese system.”

The main grapes are Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella and to a lesser extent Molinara. All of them are strictly indigenous and found only within the Verona province.

Valpolicella Superiore is made from select grapes grown in the best locations and is aged for a minimum of one year. It has a higher alcohol content and lower acidity then Valpolicella.

Alberto divided the wines into three groups. The first group was selected for the altitude of the vineyards.

Alberto said altitude plays an important part because it allows for grapes to develop complexity in terms of structure, acidity and flavors. It influences daily temperature range, the key factor for acidity, accumulation of anthocyanins and polyphenolic potential. Of course altitude is also responsible for retardation of ripening and consequently for the harvest.img_1770

He then said altitudes on the tasting sheet referred to a winery’s location and main vineyards, but wineries frequently have vineyards located at higher altitudes (as Monte Zovo). As you see on the map the Stefano Accordini wine, the wines did not make the tasting, has the highest vineyards at 520 meters, but Monte Zovo has the highest individual vineyard at 800 meters.

The Wines: img_1738

Monte Zovo Valpolicella DOC 2014 made from Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella. Vineyards at 260 meters. The hillside vineyards located in Tregnago (eastern Valoplicella) are at 600 meters. The wine is fermented in steel to maintain the expression of the fruit. The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of sour cherry and good acidity. This is an everyday wine, which goes with a number of different foods. 

This is a family run winery in Verona. All the grapes come from their 140 hectares of vines located in Valpolicella, Bardolino and Lake Garda. One vineyard is at 850 meters making it the highest vineyard in the Verona area. The vineyards will be fully converted to organic by 2018.img_1736

Vigneti Villabella Valpolicella DOC Classico “I Roccoli” 2014. Made from 60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Vineyards at 140 meters. Training system is traditional Veronese Pergola. The soil is limestone mixed with clay and harvest is in the beginning of October. Fermentation takes place in contact with the skins for 12 days at a controlled temperature. The wine remains for a time in stainless steel to preserve the fruitiness and freshness of the wine.

The winery is located at Calmasino in the province of Verona, in the heart of the Classico zone, on a hillside overlooking Lake Garda. They have 10 hectares of vineyards that are organically cultivated and another 13 which are being converted to organic cultivation.

The wine has a fruity bouquet with hints of cherries and raspberries and a touch of violets with good acidity and soft tannins.img_1737

Buglioni Valpolicella DOC Classico “Il Valpo” 2015. Vineyards at 80 meters. Made from 60% Corvina 25% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and 5% Croatina. The soil is dark, clayey and fertile with a high content of gravel, deep and drought resistant. The training system is double pergola with 2,500 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand in early October.

There is a crushing and pressing of de-stemmed grapes. Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature and maceration of the must for 10 days in contact with the skins, with daily pumping over. Malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is in steel tanks for 6 months and 2 months in bottle before release. It has a fragrant and intense aroma of cherries and wild red berries with good acidity. It is a wine to be drunk young.

The winery is located in Corrubbio di San Pietro in Cariano in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone.

Next time microclimate variations: The influence of Lake Garda

Valpolicella: Of the People, By the People, For the People

This article by Tom Maresca was originally published on Tom's Wine Line at:http://ubriaco.wordpress.com

November 14, 2016

Valpolicella is a simple wine, a wine for pleasure, not for analysis. Grown over a wide zone by more than 2,000 farmers, vinified by who knows how many winemakers, bottled by more than 200 firms for commercial sale, and happily drunk in 85 countries by many thousands of people, of whom probably only a tiny fraction would consider themselves connoisseurs for doing so, Valpolicella is the most democratic of wines, a true wine of the people. It goes with everything, from hors d’oeuvres to meats to cheeses. It even partners decently with fish, because it has the brisk acidity necessary for the job.

What prompted this post was the Wine Media Guild’s November tasting luncheon, which consisted of a presentation by the Valpolicella consortium of a dozen representative examples of the breed – all charming, all thoroughly enjoyable by themselves or with food, and most retailing for under $20. For a reliably quaffable wine with everyday meals, that just can’t be beat.

Valpolicella originates in a fairly large zone – 7,600 hectares under cultivation – in the western part of the Veneto region, just north of the lovely city of Verona, and not far from Lake Garda.

Valpolicella vineyards

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The lake has a great moderating effect on what would otherwise be a continental climate, since the vineyards lie along a series of sub-Alpine hills, with north-south running valleys. Even though the zone is large, it is relatively homogeneous, with vineyards planted on south-facing slopes and relatively uniform soils. The greatest variable is altitude: The best wines always come from the hills, which top out at about 700 meters above sea level.

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Valpolicella is blended from three native grape varieties: Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella. The once ubiquitous Molinara has all but disappeared from the blend, and international varieties have never made much headway in this zone – simply because the indigenous varieties have so much character and charm and are naturally capable of elegance. The latter quality shows best in the more sophisticated wines made in the zone – Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone – but in good vintages even the simplest Valpolicella has its share of it.

And that is what I’m talking about here: the most basic wine of the region. Most of it is made at a very respectable level of quality. Sure, you can get a bad bottle now and again, from a producer more interested in quantity than quality – but as the Italian and international wine market has changed over the last 20 years, most producers have seen the handwriting on the wall and have opted for quality over quantity. Particularly with wines from Valpolicella’s two labeled sub-zones – Classico and Valpantena, the historic heartlands of the Valpolicella appellation – even the most naïve shopper can buy with confidence of getting an enjoyable bottle of wine.

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Certainly there are variations from producer to producer and vintage to vintage – but to my palate, they are very slight. Valpolicella is a pretty uniform product. That may detract from a wine’s status for alberto-brunelliconnoisseurs, but it’s a distinct advantage for a wine that is quintessentially a companion for everyday meals. The WMG’s tasting included wines of the 2014 and 2015 vintages, which were very different from each other. As the consortium enologist Alberto Brunelli reported, 2014 was cold and rainy and yielded wines of low alcohol and high acidity, while 2015 was hot and dry and produced rounder, warmer, more balanced wines.

I tasted reasonably carefully, and I’ve got to report that yes, by concentrating I could discern differences, but they were very slight from producer to producer and vintage to vintage. All the wines were enjoyably drinkable, and part of their charm was that I could drink them without having to pay a lot of attention to them. If even an old wino like me can take pleasure in a wine like that, how much more so the large numbers of people who only want a nice glass of wine with their dinner and not a workout for their palate?

For your information, here are the wines the Valpolicella consortium showed us at the tasting that prompted this post.

  • Buglioni Valpolicella Classico 2015 Il Valpo
  • Cantina Valpolicella Negrar Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014
  • Gerardo Cesare Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015
  • Fattoria Valpolicella DOC 2015 Col de la Bastia
  • Massimago Valpolicella DOC 2014
  • Monte Zovo Valpolicella DOC 2014
  • San Cassiano Valpolicella DOC 2014
  • Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014
  • Scriani Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015
  • Vigneti di Ettore Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015
  • Vigneti Villabella Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014
  • Villa San Carlo Valpolicella DOC 2015