Wine Media Guild Explores Portugal

by Christopher Matthews

During its long history, especially during the Age of DiscoveryPortugal has been known as a nation of explorers, something that allowed the (then) small kingdom to punch far above its weight for centuries as a colonial power.

Times have changed, and the tables have turned, as Portugal itself, sans colonies and King, has become a hot tourist destination and a country to explore, not least for its vibrant and rapidly evolving wine sector, a big success story of the last few decades, but one the US market should know more about.WMG Logo

 

This was the point of departure for the Wine Media Guild’s (WMG) most recent tasting/lunch — “Exploring the Wines of Portugal” — hosted by WMG Member David Ransom, and featuring Ivan Escalante, a sales rep for Iberian wines for the distributor Wine in Motion USA, at the Restaurant at La Nacional (The Spanish Benevolent Society).

It was an instructive, eye-opening tasting of quality, value…and lesser known, indigenous grape varieties.

Portugal

Portugal, the home of Port and Madeira, is no newcomer to the world wine stage. It is only in the last few decades, however, that many Portuguese wineries and estates (Quintas) have moved significantly into production of dry, unfortified wines (particularly in the Douro region), looking to diversify and to capture new markets, and to capitalize on Portugal’s climatic, viticultural and cost advantages. But unlike some other modern wine successes, like Chile or New Zealand, whose models have been based on well-known international grape varieties (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot), Portugal has a treasure trove of native, quality grapes, like Touriga Nacional (red), that were once used solely in Port wine production, and are creating (or contributing to) unique and exciting wines made nowhere else.

The hosts put together an impressive tasting of some 30 wines that are available in the US/New York market, with over half under $20.

Portugal is not renown here in the US for sparkling wine, but it produces quality Method Champenois wines, like Caves Transmontanas Rose Sparkling 2014 (Douro region – $17), a bright, energetic bargain, with pretty red fruit and nice minerality, made 100% from the indigenous Touriga Franca grape.

In the US, Portuguese whites are, for many, defined by fizzy, cheap Vinho Verde wines. These certainly have their place, and have wide distribution, but Vinho Verde produces compelling quality wines, too, as do many other Portuguese appellations (DOCs), using diverse, native grape varieties, for just a few dollars more than the lower-end offerings. Here are a few white gems from the tasting (all prices approximate):

Conde Villar Alvarinho 2017 (Vinho Verde) — aromatic and floral, with tropical and stone fruit notes and nice energy, all for only $11! (Alvarinho is the Portuguese version of the Spanish Albariño).

Chocapalha Arinto 2017 (Lisboa region) — attractive peach aromas with a lean, citrusy and mineral-laced palate (Arinto is a native Portuguese grape). [$14]

WMG1

Torre de Vila Nova 2016 (Vinho Verde) — a blend of the indigenous LoureiroAzaland Arinto grapes, it has stone fruit and pineapple aromas, and a clean, zesty and citrusy (grapefruit/lime) palate. [$19]

Portugal truly excites when it comes to reds, as this WMG tasting confirmed in spades. And the overall quality of the reds was outstanding. Here are some highlights:

Luis Pato Tinto Vinhas Velhas 2013 (Bairrada) — the Bairrada DO is tied to the native Baga grape for reds, which can yield long-lived, complex wines similar to Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir, depending on age. This one is still youthful, with an expressive, brambly nose, juicy blackberry fruit, nice acidity and a long finish. [$20]

Quinta do Passadouro Passadouro Tinto 2013 (Douro) — possibly the best value of the tasting. Made of 50% Touriga Nacional, 25% Touriga Franca and 25% Tinta Roriz, this has a fresh, dark berry nose, along with lip-smacking black fruit, silky tannins, impressive structure and exceptional length. [$18]

WMG2

 

João Portugal Ramos Vila Santa Reserva 2013 (Alentejo) — a slightly smoky, deep black fruit nose, followed by lean, brambly fruit, good balance, medium body and nice length. [$15]

Alexandre Relvas Art.Terre Amphora Red 2016 (Alentejo) — A pretty (and unique) blueberry nose is reflected back on a zesty palate with a clean, long finish. Great as a table companion, and a true bargain. [$15]

WMG3

Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional 2015 (Douro) — on the higher end, and my best-in-show, this 100% Touriga Nacional wine shows it class: a focused nose of violets and black fruit, with energetic, juicy blackberry fruit, smooth tannins and compelling structure and balance, reminiscent of a Grand Cru Bordeaux.  [$64]

WMG5

All of the wines mentioned above — both the whites and the reds — worked beautifully with the Spanish repast over lunch, especially with the wonderful Valencian seafood paella served as the  main course.

WMG4

Certainly a worthy exploration, with plenty of discovery (even rediscovery!), especially the qualitative excellence of these Portuguese wines, at extremely reasonable prices.

 Saúde!

THE MUCH IMPROVED BUBBLIES FROM FRANCIACORTA

This article originally appeared in the Virtual Gourmet  and was written by Geoff Kalish.


Guido Bellucchi Estate, Franciacorta

About 20 years ago on a visit to northern Italy’s little known Franciacorta area, I was unimpressed by the quality and value of most of the sparklers tasted, especially when compared with that of the Prosecco region, only 100 miles away.

In fact, while Franciacorta sparklers are made by the same process as used in Champagne (i.e., making a base wine, then adding additional yeast and sugar to the bottle to produce carbon dioxide bubbles), our visit revealed many with a strange, somewhat oxidized bouquet and a too sweet taste. Moreover, at that time one could hardly find a bottle of Franciacorta bubbly at more than a handful of U.S. retail outlets.

That’s all changed. Now I’ve found that the bouquet and taste of a number of sparklers from Franciacorta not only outdo those of Prosecco but rival the likes of many bottles of Champagne —and at a very modest price when compared with that of most bottles of Champagne. Today many more shops nationwide are carrying more than a token brand or two of Franciacorta sparklers.

What’s accounted for this change is multifactored: Since the late 1990s the region has witnessed an emphasis on enhanced quality of viticultural and vinicultural practices —especially a movement in the region to produce the wines organically, with the great majority now “certified” organic, as well as an effort to determine the best growing area for different clones of the Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes (the predominant varietals used in these wines); decreased sweetness, or even elimination of the dosage (the liquid that’s added to Franciacorta sparklers when, as in the process in Champagne, the wasted yeast from the second fermentation is removed, a process known as “disgorgement”); and of course some savvy marketing — the combination of which has led to the export of over 12% of the annual production.

To evaluate the result of the effort to enhance the quality of these wines a tasting of 15 currently available for consumers to purchase was conducted at New York City’s The Leopard des Artistes by the Wine Media Guild (a U.S.-based organization of professional wine communicators). To be honest, I didn’t love every one of those tasted, finding a few too sweet and others not rising above the quality of good Prosecco. On the other hand, I found a number of the wines outstanding, and the following are my notes on these with my top choice in each of 7 categories.

ZERO DOSAGE

Castel Faglia, Dosaggio Zero, Millesimato 2012 ($23)

This sparkler is made of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero grapes and, as the name implies, no additional sugar is added to the wine when it’s disgorged. It shows a straw yellow color, a steady stream of rapidly rising bubbles and a delicate, fruity taste with hints of almonds and cinnamon in its dry finish.

EXTRA BRUT

Il Mosnel, Extra Brut. Vintage 2013 ($52)

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, this wine was fermented in small oak casks over five months with the second fermentation taking place over 3 years. It has a pale yellow color, very fine bubbles and a refreshing bouquet and taste, with hints of vanilla in its finish. One might be hard pressed to distinguish this wine from a top-tier Champagne.

NON-VINTAGE BRUT

Ca Del Bosco, Cuvee Prestige, Brut NV ($32)

This bubbly is made from 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Nero grapes. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks over five months. In making the final blend, a small amount of “reserve” wine from other vintages was added, with the second fermentation taking place over 25 months. Of note, disgorgement takes place in an oxygen-free atmosphere, so that very little sulfur dioxide needs to be added. It shows a bouquet and taste of peaches and brioche and has a very fruity finish with a bit of vibrant acidity.

VINTAGE BRUT

Franciacorta, Bellavista, Millesimato, Brut Vintage 2012 ($45)

Made from 73% Chardonnay and 27% Pinot Nero, this outstanding sparkler underwent primarily stainless-steel tank fermentation, with 30% of the grapes barrel fermented. The second fermentation was conducted over 36 months. It shows a pale straw color and a fine stream of bubbles, with aromas and an elegant taste of ripe apples and brioche, with a long memorable finish, that has notes of almonds and vanilla.

SATĖN (A classification unique to the area in which the blend must be made from only white grapes and have a bottle pressure so as to produce a very “foamy” wine.)

Ricci Curbastro, Saten Millesimato NV, Dossagio Zero ($49)

This 100% Chardonnay wine was fermented in oak and underwent its second fermentation over 48 months. It has a straw yellow color, a bouquet and creamy taste of apples and peaches with hints of fennel and lemon in its smooth finish. This wine makes an excellent mate for grilled salmon, veal or smoky cheeses.

ROSÉ

Guido Berlucchi, Rosé NV ($29)

Made from 60% Pinot Nero and 40% Chardonnay, this great value from the producer who first made sparkling wines in the area shows a fragrant bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and strawberries, with hints of lemons and limes in its finish. More than just an aperitif wine, it makes great accompaniment to pasta with red sauce as well as grilled branzino or shrimps.

BLANC DE NOIR

Majolini, Blanc de Noir, Brut NV ($56)

While a bit pricey, this 100% Pinot Noir wine, from grapes hand harvested from a vineyard on a hilltop loaded with calcareous soil, represents Pinot Noir bubbly at its best, with fragrant flavors of ripe berries and a taste of berries and hints of dried apricots in its long smooth finish. This is an ideal wine to mate with a wide range of food from scallops to grilled chicken or veal.

Bordeaux Producers Shine at NYC Wine Media Lunch

This article was originally published on A Wine Story
by Marisa D’Vari.  https://awinestory.com/2018/05/bordeaux-producers-shine-nyc-wine-media-lunch.html

What a great presentation of fabulous vintages of Bordeaux wine. You will see in the picture the four representatives from the very top estates in Bordeaux who came to New York to showcase several of their vintages. It was an amazing event as you can imagine.

In the picture to the extreme right, let’s start with the only table with both dry white wine and red wine represented by Wilfrid Groizard (wearing a black sports jacket, who is the commercial and marketing director of Chateau LaTour-Martillac in Graves. M. Groizard brought three FABULOUS white wines, the 2011, 2013, and 2015 vintages. Of course he had me at the 2011, a great blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. I will write more about the new Semillion massal selection in another article.

Wilfrid Croizard Ch Latour Martillac

And it goes without saying that the reds of Chateau LaTour-Martillac are also fabulous. We had the precious 2000, 2010 and 2015 vintages and I will not reveal my favorite. Oh yes, one of the most interesting tidbits of the visit was his showcasing this tasting diary of the original owner from the 1930s — one of the drawings became the label still used on the wine today.

Phillip Blanc, Ch Beychevelle

Wearing a black suit in the photo is M. Phillippe Blanc, Managing Director of Chateau Beychevelle. I have known M. Blanc for a few years now and have stayed at the fabulous chateau which is now open to guests (more later in another article). M. Blanc brought several vintages including 2000 (oh yes!), 2005 (more, please) 2009, 2014, 2015 (all excellent) and also the new second wine Admiral de Beychevelle 2015. What is interesting about the estate is the ever shifting percentage of Merlot, which in some vintages is just a small amount less that the Cabernet Sauvignon. I will investigate this trend further and report back.

Didier Galhaud Ch Guiraud

The fashionable and charming woman is Sophie Schyler Theirry, family owner and Development Director of Chateau Kirwan. Just a few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend the opening dinner for the En Primeur evening for journalists in their new Chai. Madame brought several vintages including the memorable 2000, 2008, fabulous 2009 and 2010, and the highly rated 2015. What was super interesting at the Chateau was the new “tulip shaped” fermentation vessel – more on that later!

Sophie Schyler Thierry Ch Kirwan

Wearing tan slacks and a sports jacket is Didier Galhaud, export manager of Chateau Guiraud. M. Galhaud brought several vintages, all so incredibly great …. I am a huge supporter of enjoying Sauternes at the beginning of the meal as an aperitif instead of waiting until the end. I wrote extensively about this for the World of Fine Wine a few years back. My favorite of his offerings today was the 1998 of course, then the 2009, 2010, and 2015. And here is an interesting thing. He also brought the Petit Guiraud 2015, which is made from younger vines with less oak and sugar.

A great afternoon of Bordeaux here in Manhattan, with special thanks to the WMG organizers and the producers who showed their wines so beautifully.

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: 2015 BURGUNDIES

This article was written by Geoffrey Kalish and was originally published by John Mariani on the Virtual Gourmet.  http://www.johnmariani.com/archive/2018/180422/index.html

It’s said about California wines that the only reason to know the vintage date of a bottle is to figure out who made the wine at a particular winery, since the California weather is more stable than the position of winemaker, who are often “drafted and signed” by facilities like prized sports figures.
Whether that’s fact or merely witticism, the situation with the quality and quantity of wine from a particular vintage in France, particularly in Burgundy, is certainly more dependent on the vagaries of the year-to-year changes in weather, with the same winemaker at the same facility for long periods of time. With that in mind, the Wine Media Guild (a New York-based organization of professional wine communicators) sought to determine the quality of the 2015 vintage of Burgundy with a luncheon tasting at Manhattan’s Il Gattopardo of 14 whites and an equal number of  reds from a widespread range of Burgundian locales.
Overall, the consensus was that this was an excellent year for Burgundian wines, with the whites ready to drink now or in the next few years, since the climactic conditions generally produced ripe, full-flavored Chardonnay grapes with less acidity than found in a number of other recent harvests. On the other hand, these same weather conditions also allowed the Pinot Noir to ripen fully, yielding red wines best to consume a few years from now and expected to be quite long-lasting. Unfortunately, these days most good Burgundies are not geared to the faint of wallet, so in order to guide consumers about purchasing these wines, the following are my notes on what I considered the top ten bottles presented.WhitesChâteau Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Clos” Propriatire Récolant  ($64)—Made from Chardonnay grapes grown on a vineyard with vines dating to 1929, this wine had a bouquet and rich taste of apples and honey with notes of almonds and hints of apricots and orange in its long finish. It’s an ideal white to mate with risotto or roasted chicken.

Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet 1er Cru ‘La Cabotte’ ($560)—While a bit much for most pocketbooks, this memorable wine is aesthetically a cut or two above many of the 2015 white Burgundies. It has a distinctive bouquet and taste of pears with hints of marzipan and a touch of lime in its vibrant finish. Expect it to drink well with the likes of lobster, scallops, or tuna tartare for the next 5-10 years.

William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros “Côte Bouguerots” ($98)—This full-bodied wine, with a bouquet and taste of peaches and citrus, has a crisp, fruity finish perfect to pair with seafare, especially grilled dorade or branzino.

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Chassagne Montrachet, 1er Cru “Les Embazées ($90)—Grapes for this wine hailed from vineyards noted for a complex soil of limestone and clay. Following harvest this wine was fermented using natural yeast and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. It has a bouquet and taste of apples with undertones of honeysuckle and hazelnuts and should drink well over the next 10 years with ripe cheeses and grilled seafare, particularly swordfish or tuna.

Domaine Laroche 1er Cru Les Vaillons Vielles Vignes Chablis ($41)—Very well priced for a Premier Cru Chablis, this wine is made from grapes grown in a vineyard composed of fossilized oyster shells. It shows a bouquet and taste of apples and peaches with notes of apricots and zesty lemon in its finish. Unlike many 2015 Chablis, this wine contains enough acidity to age well and pairs perfectly with bivalves or shellfish.

 

Reds

Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits-St-George 1er Cru ‘Les Cailles’ ($108)—This wine shows a fragrant bouquet and taste of ripe berries, with hints of oak and earthy spices. And, while lighter in taste than many other Nuit-St-George reds, it harmoniously matches with lamb or veal and is expected to gain complexity with a few years of bottle age.

Domaine de Bellene, Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Cinquantenaire ($90)—This blend of grapes from five different premier cru Beaune vineyards shows a bouquet and taste of plums with notes of ripe cherries and toasty oak. A bit young to drink now (although it marries well with grilled lamb or beef), expect this wine to become more complex and elegant with 5-10 years of bottle age.

Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin ($80)—Made from hand-picked Pinot Noir grown on 30-year-old vines in vineyards noted for chalk and limestone soil, this wine was aged for a year in oak barrels following fermentation. It has a distinct bouquet and taste of black currants with notes of anise and a smooth finish that mates well with grilled chicken or ripe cheeses.

Vincent Giradin, Santenay, Terre d’Enfance ($34)—A good bargain, this hand-harvested Pinot Noir grown in limestone-rich soil has a bouquet and taste of fresh strawberries and plums with hints of almonds in its smooth finish. It makes a good wine to match with summertime barbecue, especially grilled ribs, chicken or hamburgers.

Domaine Antonin Guyon, Savigny-Les-Beaunes ‘Les Goudelettes’ ($40)—This well-priced wine was made from hand-harvested Pinot Noir fermented over 15 days in open vats and aged in oak barrels (15% new) over 15 months. It shows a fruity bouquet and taste of ripe plums and blueberries with a long, smooth finish that matches well with duck or grilled pork.

 

 

Bordeaux-Blanc-or-Bust

This article was originally published on https://www.dolcetours.com/LivingLaDolceVita/2018/3/22/bordeaux-blanc-or-bust

Bordeaux Blanc or Bust

by Patricia Thomson

 Learning the art of the blend

LEARNING THE ART OF THE BLEND

Blending is an art form, and the Bordelaise are masters of the craft. So what better way to gain an understanding of dry white Bordeaux than a blending workshop?

On a sunny February morning, a dozen attendees gathered for “The Art of Bordeaux Blanc,” presented by the Bordeaux Wine Council. An airy penthouse overlooking Manhattan’s East Village had been transformed into something looking like a science lab class. Cylindrical measuring beakers, lab pipettes, and four wine bottles sheathed in silver sacks sat on each table. Inside each bottle was a tank sample:

Sauvignon Blanc on gravel
Sauvignon Blanc on clay and limestone soils
Sémillon on gravel
Sémillon on clay and limestone soils

Our mission, should we decide to accept it, was to create our own Bordeaux Blanc blend.

Overseeing this exercise were three potent powerhouses of Bordeaux: Dr. Valérie Lavigne, a consulting enologist and researcher at the University of Bordeaux; winemaker Valérie Vialard, of Château Latour Martillac; and biodynamic viticulturist Corinne Comme, of Château du Champ des Treilles.

“Most of us forget that Bordeaux was predominantly a white wine region until relatively recently. As late as 1969, it was 59% white.”

Both Valéries had professional ties with the legendary winemaker and professor Denis Dubourdieu during his lifetime. It was Dubourdieu who’d discovered four hitherto unknown molecules in sauvignon blanc, all volatile thiols which impact its aromas.  Present in the grapes in the form of odorless precursors, they’re released only under the action of yeasts during alcoholic fermentation, and yield aromas like broom, boxwood, lemon zest, grapefruit, and passion fruit—all the scents we know and love in sauvignon blanc. Dubourdieu also discovered farming techniques related to water uptake and nitrogen nutrition that would increase these compounds—and thus the varietal’s heady scent. His science was a great leap forward for sauvignon blanc, the most widely planted white grape in Bordeaux.

bordeaux_map_1153.jpg

Most of us forget that Bordeaux was predominantly a white wine region until relatively recently. As late as 1969, it was 59% white. It was only in 1970 that the balance tipped towards reds. Today white wines make up just 10%, or 42.3 million bottles.

What else has changed is the types of grapes. There’s been a narrowing of varietals—as we’ve seen in all corners of agriculture compared to times past. Up until phylloxera hit in the 1860s, Bordeaux had a wide, diverse assortment of white grapes. Today just three dominant: Crisp, aromatic sauvignon blanc rules the roost at 54% of vineyard plantings. Its blending partner, lush sémillon, comes next at 32%. Floral muscadelle trails at 7%. All the rest—sauvignon gris, colombard, ugni blanc, et al—amount to 7%.  Surely their presence was greater pre-phylloxera. But that sea of white wine didn’t necessarily remain as such; in the 17th century, much of it was exported to Holland for the production of brandy.

If you hear “Bordeaux Blanc” today, you expect a sauvignon blanc/sémillon blend (though increasingly winemakers are trying their hand at pure varietal bottlings of sauvignon blanc and sauvignon gris). Bordeaux Blanc falls into two stylistic categories. There’s the summer set: refreshing and fruit-forward, with notes of lemon, grapefruit, and acacia, made in stainless and meant for immediate quaffing. These prevail in bottles labeled Bordeaux Blanc (68% of AOC production), Entre-Deux-Mer (20%), and Cotes Blaye, Bourg, and Francs AOCs (3%). Then there’s the age-worthy set: weightier, fermented &/or raised in wood, with scents of boxwood, citrus, and tropical fruit. This style is favored in Graves (5%) and Pessac-Léognan (3%).

In making our own blend, we set our sights on the universal goal of all blenders: create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Easier said than done.

bordeaux_blanc_1154.jpg

First we sampled the samples, then worked in teams to perform our magic. I partnered up with Linda Lawry, director of the International Wine Center.

It began like a scene from the Three Stooges. Though we both know our way around a wine tasting, the science accouterments were befuddling. How does the pipette work? Do you siphon from the bottle like a gas tank? Mouth or thumb? And why do the numbers run backwards up the pipette? (Only later did we turn it around and discover another set running in the opposite direction.)

We fumbled our way to a 60/40 blend of our two favorite tank samples: The sauvignon in gravel was zippy and bright, with an endless finish. We paired that with the clay/limestone sémillon, whose round opulence we imagined would tame the sauvignon’s aggressive streak. But nope, not enough. Our first effort was all sharp elbows, like a gangly adolescent screaming sauvignon. Hoping for more body and complexity, we tried throwing in all four samples, keeping the 60/40 ratio while attempting a 70/30 blend within each varietal (it was a guestimate, not having tackled that pipette). We liked the result. “I’d buy it!” Linda and I both said, like kids proudly managing a lemonade stand. I presented my glass to Valérie Lavigne, who sniffed, then tasted. “Lots of sauvignon,” she said, handing it back with a sympathetic smile.

 Linda and me trying to make magic, while Bordeaux professor Valerie Lavigne patiently waits.

LINDA AND ME TRYING TO MAKE MAGIC, WHILE BORDEAUX PROFESSOR VALERIE LAVIGNE PATIENTLY WAITS.

Okay, so we didn’t hit the ball out of the park. But I’m sure I improved my tasting skills a notch, especially discerning that extra dimension that sémillon gives: the roundness, the supple texture, the peach and acacia notes. Immediately after, we had the chance to test our new powers of discernment right next door on a few dozen bottles, arranged by AOC.

Coincidentally, another tasting opportunity came two weeks later, when Bordeaux Blanc was the focus of the Wine Media Guild’s luncheon, organized by our very own Mary Gorman-McAdams MW, the North American market advisor to the Bordeaux Wine Council (who also MC’ed the blending workshop).

Between the two tastings, the breath of styles was on full display, ranging from a pure Sauvignon Gris from Château de Bellevue, offering delicate pink grapefruit and lemon aromas, to a 50/50 blend from biodynamic Château Peybonhomme-Les-Tours, a luxurious barrel-fermented wine with a seamless touch of vanilla oak.

These tastings reminded me how I’ve always enjoyed Bordeaux Blanc—ever since a college professor introduced me to an aged, honey-hued Grave many years ago (probably Château Carbonnieux, the only one imported in the 1970s.) Today America is the top export market for Bordeaux Blanc in retail sales (number three in volume), so there’s plenty of options available. Coming out of these two tastings, I’ve made my short list for the summer:

 

 A cluster of favorites at the Wine Media Guild Bordeaux Blanc tasting.

A CLUSTER OF FAVORITES AT THE WINE MEDIA GUILD BORDEAUX BLANC TASTING.

Château Les Charmes-Godard Blanc 2015 (sémillon/sauvignon blanc/sauvignon gris 50/25/25) – “The beauty is in the blend,” said Gorman of this vibrant wine from Cotes de Francs, the smallest of the appellations, and I couldn’t agree more. Showing green apple, citrus, and stone, it’s got old-vine intensity at a great price ($21) and finds that perfect sweet spot between richness and acidic zip.

Château Brown Blanc 2014 (70/30 sauvignon blanc/sémillon) This is an age-worthy beauty from Pessac-Leognan, with the floral notes of ripe sémillon, the grapefruit spritz of sauvignon, and richness from eight months on the lees in barrique. Beautifully balanced, with tremendous length. ($32)

Château La Rame Blanc Sec 2016 – From 25-year-old vines on an historic property overlooking the Garonne river, this 100 percent sauvignon blanc gains body and stature from cask fermentation and six months on the lees. It’s fuller bodied and more textured than Loire sauvignons—not to mention the alpine versions from Alto Adige that I’m used to, which are as lean and nervy as a racehorse. “This is more like a mare out in the field,” WMG member John Foy said. A steal at $16.

Le Sec de Château Doisy Daëne 2015 – A dry, barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc from Barsac—Bordeaux’s sweet-wine territory—this shows pretty floral aromas and a lively citric acidity. “You’re bringing shame to our region,” a neighboring winemaker told Denis Dubourdieu when he first produced this iconoclastic wine at his historic estate. But next year, that same neighbor followed suit. Little wonder. ($25)

ROSÉ BUBBLY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY 

This article was originally published  on Virtual Gourmet

http://www.johnmariani.com/current-issue

ROSÉ BUBBLY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
by  Geoff Kalish



“The Night They Invented Champagne” from Gigi (1958) with Hermione Gingold, Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan

With the rising popularity of pink wines as well as bubbly it’s no wonder that most retail shops are well stocked now for pre-Valentine’s Day sales, especially rosé Champagne (the real stuff from a demarcated area in France).  Moreover, many of  these bubblies offer enjoyment not only as romantic toasts but also as mates for a wide range of fare.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is, however,  many a clunker out there, generally too fruity and/or lacking enough refreshing acidity to provide pleasure as a toast or with all but sweet desserts.  So, as a guide to consumers, culled from a series of tastings, particularly one held recently by NYC’s Wine Media Guild (an organization of professional wine communicators), the following are my comments on ten widely available, top-notch rosé Champagnes for Valentine’s Day.

 

Collet Brut Rosé ($48)

Made of 40% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, this non-vintage bubbly is a great bargain. It shows a fresh, yet delicate bouquet and taste of peaches and raspberries, with hints of honey in its velvety finish – perfect to pair with flavorful cheeses and grilled seafood.

 

Henriot Brut Rosé ($57)

Fashioned from 50% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier, this non-vintage bubbly has a bouquet of raspberries and a taste of black currants and lime, with notes of anise in its elegant finish. It makes a good mate for pasta with white sauce as well as chicken and duck dishes.

 

2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé ($185)

One of my all time favorite bubblies, this effervescent wine contains 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. It shows a lush, ripe cherry and cranberry bouquet and taste with hints of toasted hazelnuts and orange peel and a lush, silky finish. This wine makes a perfect mate for lobster or langoustines and should be drinking well for another 10 years.

 

2011 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé ($70)

This bubbly was made from 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay, with a quarter of the wine fermented in oak casks. It shows a lively bouquet and taste of strawberries and peaches with hints of orange in its finish and marries well with flavorful seafood like swordfish and tuna.

 

 

 

Deutz Brut Rosé ($55)

This  non-vintage bubbly, from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, has a bouquet and taste of ripe berries that starts sweet and finishes on a fresh, crisp note. It pairs well with smoked seafood and blue-veined cheeses.

 

Lamiable Grand Cru Brut Rosé ($43)

Flavors of strawberry and ginger dominate this almost ruby-colored non-vintage sparkler made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay that has a vibrant, memorable finish ideal for toasting and snacks like pretzels and nuts.


Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé ($46)

Made of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir, this  non-vintage example shows a bouquet and taste of raspberries and grapefruit with notes of ginger in its finish. It marries well with zesty ethnic fare like Mexican, Korean and Sichuan Chinese specialties.

 

 

G.H. Mumm Brut Rosé ($75)

Perhaps a bit pricey for a non-vintage sparkler, this non-vintage bubbly made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay shows a bouquet and taste of strawberries, peaches and hints of black cherry in its vibrant finish that mates particularly well with shrimp, clams and scallops.

 


2004 Ruinart “Dom Ruinart” Brut Rosé ($235)

Made from 81% Grand Cru Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Noir, this classy wine features a distinctive bouquet of fading rose petals and a taste of wild berries with hints of exotic spice and a crisp, but long lasting taste – perfect to match with creamy cheeses and delicate seafood dishes.


2006 Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame Rosé ($286)

A bit pricey, but the grapes (53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay) all hailed from top name Grand Cru vineyards. It shows a bouquet of wild strawberries and some ripe cherry, with an elegant taste of cherries and cranberries with a satiny finish. Drink this bubbly with shrimp specialties and caviar.

 

And finally, for those unwilling to pay the price for rosé Champagne, there’s an excellent bottle of Italian Rosé available – 2013 Rotari Rose DOC Trento Sparkling Wine ($17) -made  from 25% Chardonnay and 75% Pinot Nero by the same method as for Champagne.  While it’s not as delicate a true Champagne, and its flavors don’t linger as long as those of most of the wines discussed above, it offers a fragrantbouquet and taste of apples and raspberries with notes of grapefruit in its vibrant finish. It is well suited to use as a toast and marries well with grilled seafood, pasta with red sauce and veal.

 

 

Rose Champagne at the Wine Media Guild

This article was originally published on https://upstatedowntownny.com/2017/12/10/rose-champagne-wmg/

By Christopher Matthews

Cross one of the bucket list…  

After years of work conflicts and scheduling bad luck, I finally made it to one of Ed McCarthy’s annual December Champagne tastings for the Wine Media Guild of New York (WMG)!

WMG Logo

And after whiffing so many times on this yearly event, things actually worked out in my favor, given Ed’s choice of theme this year: Rosé Champagnes, with a record number of Champagnes to sample (22 in all).

IMG_4525

Ed McCarthy, Mr. Champagne, in his element

Ed happens to be one of America’s foremost authorities on Champagne, and the author of the James Beard Award-nominated Champagne for Dummies (as well as co-author with his wife, Master of Wine Mary Ewing Mulligan, of the gazillion-selling Wine for Dummies, and numerous other titles). Armed with a great palate and a thoughtful, articulate approach to wine evaluation, Ed has been a pleasure to work with at various professional tastings and events over the years. And true to form, his Rosé Champagne tasting at the WMG lunch earlier this week at Il Gattopardo was an embarrassment of riches,  and a great advertisement for the category in general, one which many only consider for special occasions — and not for the table (a big mistake!).     

Rosé Champagne, as the name suggests, is essentially a pink-hued version of the Methode Champenoise wine, running from the faintest pink to a deep salmon or watermelon, achieved by either adding some still red wine into the blend, or (less frequently) allowing more skin contact from the red wine grapes during fermentation (in both cases, with either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier – or both). Counter-intuitively, these rosé wines are often not made with a majority of the Pinots, but rather with the other allowed grape in Champagne, (the white) Chardonnay.

RChampagne

For the record, there were no dogs in this bunch, which included 15 non-vintage (NV) and seven vintage wines, including “prestige cuvées”. One could possibly quibble about the price/quality ratio for a few of the wines, like the $300 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2006, which, despite the beautiful flower bottle, was disappointing in view of the hefty price tag. But otherwise, this was an amazing, can’t-miss line-up (all prices are approximate).  

On the least expensive end of the spectrum, I liked the A.R. Lenoble Brut Rosé NV ($43), a small production “grower” Champagne with a high dose of Chardonnay (89%), the lightest pink color of the bunch and a bright, lively palate with a clean, crisp finish, perfect as an aperitif. The Ayala Rose Brut Majeur NV($53), dry and minerally, with tart red berry fruit (51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier), would also work beautifully with appetizers and light fare to kick off a soirée.

One wine that would easily hold up for the entire meal is the Duval-Leroy 1er Cru Brut Rosé NV ($60) – substantial body, with good grip and nice complexity, along with vibrant red fruit.  Speaking of the table – or, in fact, any occasion – the Henriot Brut Rosé NV ($60) is a pink Champagne for all seasons: a light salmon with a floral nose, a clean and elegant palate with herbal notes and a mile-long finish.

IMG_4528  

The vintage Champagnes were complex, impressive…and expensive. Among these leading lights, I was seduced by the Taittinger Comtes Brut Rosé 2006 ($230): a deep salmon hue, this wine is precise, clean and creamy, with red berries, spice and citrus notes (and great length). Sophisticated. Impressive.

At the lunch, WMG member John Foy and I marveled at the versatility and food friendliness of these wines. And while not inexpensive, Foy asserted that even the most expensive of the Rosé Champagnes are bargains compared with top end Bordeaux and Burgundy, and equally long-lived. Here, here!

So, a (Champagne) toast to Ed McCarthy and these serious rosés, festive choices for the holiday season…and beyond.

 

 

Red Wines of Verona II: Amarone “Red Wines of Verona, Postscript: the Amarone Families”

This article was originally published on “Tom’s Wine Line” https://ubriaco.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/red-wines-of-verona-postscript-the-amarone-families

Some weeks after my return from Verona, the March meeting of the Wine Media Guild featured the wines of the Amarone Families, the breakaway group whose wines had not been shown at the Valpolicella Anteprima in Italy.
.

.
As Sabrina Tedeschi, the president of the Amarone Families, explained, these producers left the Consorzio because they felt that it has to represent the differing interests of all the sorts of growers and producers in the extended Valpolicella zone, all 8,000 hectares of it: small growers and big industrial producers, old-timers and newcomers, growers in the hills and growers in the plain. For the Amarone Families’ 12 members, all of them family firms with a history of Amarone production, this meant that the standards being set for Amarone were not sufficiently stringent, so in 2009 they formed their own association with stricter requirements for Amarone: longer aging, higher alcohol levels, higher extract, and – to my mind the most important requirement – that the wine must be dry, with high acidity.

As I said in my last post, many of the Consorzio’s producers are making fine Amarone – but many are not. The Amarone Families’ approach seems to have eliminated the negatives and provided a set of guidelines that – to judge by the dozen samples I tasted at the meeting – has turned out wines of uniformly high quality. Even more important, all 12 wines, though very, very young by Amarone standards, tasted exactly as this long-time fancier of the breed believes Amarone should: aromatic, velvety on the palate, big in the mouth, with rich but fully dry, sometimes even austere, fruit; hinting and promising the complexity that will come with age, and very long-finishing. This far-from-dirty-dozen all tasted like infant and incipient octogenarians.

Here are the wines, in the order tasted:

  • Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone DOCG Classico Riserva 2009
  • Venturini Campomasua Amarone DOCG Classico 2009
  • Guerrieri Rizzardi Villa Rizzardi Amarone DOCG Classico 2010
  • Musella Amarone DOCG Riserva 2010
  • Tommasi Amarone DOCG Classico 2010
  • Masi Costasera Amarone DOCG Classico 2011
  • Brigaldara Casa Vecie Amarone DOCG 2011
  • Allegrini Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
  • Begali Monte Ca’ Bianca Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
  • Speri Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano DOCG Classico 2012
  • Zenato Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
  • Tenuta Sant’Antonio Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone DOCG 2013

All were surprisingly drinkable for extremely young Amarone. (Normally, I don’t drink Amarone before it is at least 10-15 years old.) The ones I most enjoyed (this particular day, with this particular lunch) were Tommasi, Masi, Speri, Zenato, and Sant’Antonio – the latter the youngest wine of the day, and consequently a real surprise to me.

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!

img_3304

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!

img_3301

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.

img_3306

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.

img_3309

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.

mappavalpolicella

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.