Archive for February, 2014

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Feb
21

Some thoughts on Barolo/Barbaresco

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A customer 2 nights ago, asked me the difference…. between Barolo & Barbaresco. I thought that would make for an interesting blog…..especially if I could incorporate quotes from other notables on the subject.  Just so you understand, There is NO ONE correct answer.  It would therefore be crazy to generalize, as there are so many factors/variables which can influence the outcome. I am, however, just hoping by asking the questions, it will start the discussions….AND hopefully the comments from each will help to shed more light on the topic……from different perspectives.  I have found that is a great way to learn.

I greatly thank the contributors, for your comments, in some cases, sticking your necks out, so we can learn & therefore ask better questions.

ALFIO CAVALLOTTO  (Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis)

Well, the most important difference between Barolo and Barbaresco is that in average Barolo is more structured and there is more complexity. In average it has a better attitude to age & for a long time.  Barbaresco normally is ready before to be well drank; it is a little bit shorter in the back taste but it can be very elegant with a very fragrant bouquet.

The production of Barolo is about 12 millions of bottles;  Barbaresco is product in about 4,5 millions bottles.

The two territory are separated by the plain area around Alba town and so they aren’t adjoining.  The soil of Barolo, in particular the soil of the East side (Serralunga Castiglione, Monforte) called “Elveziano” is much older than Barbaresco area and is richer in calcareous clay. Barbaresco, that is very close to Tanaro River, is richer of sand and the soil is a little bit more humid.

Of course, depending from producer to another one, there are many difference about the characteristics of the wines and it can change a lot if the producer is more “classic” or “modern”, if he works very well in the vineyards or not etc etc.

 

GIORGIO PELISSERO (Pelissero)

“Although we start from the same grape variety and from a geographic area
with similar characteristics and very close the one to the other, Barbaresco
and Barolo present significant differences.
Barolo is rougher, crude, austere, structured, Barbaresco is more elegant,
refined, delicate, more winning.
The characteristics are anyway similar for these two wines, while they’re
both sons of the same vine variety, the Nebbiolo, grape that for his own
history and for his varietal characteristics originates acid, complex and
harsh wines. The Barbaresco area, for its geographical shape and for its
soil, mitigates more and better this characteristic roughness then the
Barolo area.
   The main difference is in the fact that the Barbaresco area has the form of
a hand with its five fingers, where all the fingers are opened towards the
valley, characteristic which allows a great air circulation which permits
the climate, during the maturation period and during the whole year, to be
more regular then the climate in the Barolo area, without in fact great
peaks of high and low temperatures during all over the year. This condition
permits a major regularity among the different vintages, too.
In the Barolo area instead the hills are more “closed” – to understand You
may think about the form of a funnel – and for this reason they keep inside
them a sort of sacs of heat, so called sultriness, and humidity, that cause
a different perception on the different vintages of the wines.
To joke, in Piemonte people always say that Barolo is the king of the wines
(being more structured and majestic), while Barbaresco is the queen (more
elegant, delicate, soft and refined)….this is the reason why I only
produce Barbaresco!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

GIORGIO RIVETTI  (La Spinetta)

“Barolo and Barbaresco are two great wines and they have one huge factor in common and that is their grape varietal, Nebbiolo. To me Nebbiolo is the most intriguing varietal in the world and of course, I might be biased, as I am a born and raised Piemontese. However it is difficult to argue, that Nebbiolo is one of the scarce varietals that are elegant, yet full bodied with length. To me Nebbiolo is the race horse, that is so powerful yet so elegant, when it moves. 

Now having said this, Barolo and Barbaresco, both being Nebbiolo from vineyards that in fact are only some 10-15 miles apart from each other, are two very similar wines. I doubt, that even wine producers from the area, when having to taste Barolo and Barbaresco blind, would always get it right. Some Barolos would fall more in the category of Barbaresco and vice versa. Yes, there are some generalisations, people say that, Barolo is more dense, more deep and more made for aging. However, I believe that the intensity and longevity of a Barolo or Barbaresco depends on the producer and his vineyard. Are the vineyards south facing, what is the soil like, how old are the vines, very important, at what yields is the wine being produced. Factors like this, will more decide the expression of the final product, whether the Nebbiolo would be perceived more as a Barolo or a Barbaresco. 

My concern regarding the discussion of the differences of Barolo and Barbaresco goes into another direction. I am much more concerned about a negative trend: More and more Barolos and Barbarescos with the DOCG on the label, that taste like Langhe Nebbiolo, too light and with no aging potential are entering the market. This trend is a real shame and reflects bad on the area and all of the producers. Langhe Nebbiolo wines offered for a Langhe Nebbiolo price, yet on the label  it is written Barolo or Barbaresco. This unfortunately will confuse the final consumer much more, than trying to identify the exact differences between a great Barolo or a great Barbaresco. 

To me everything that is called Barolo and Barbaresco should be top wine and should be sold at a price point the wine and the work of the producer deserves, anything else we should call what it is, Langhe Nebbiolo!”

 

VITTORIO FIORE (semi-retired, superstar consulting oenologist)

“the question that you do to me is one of the most difficult to answer (and it is the same one that a now distant day a colored taxi driver  in NY did to Bob Parker, putting him in big trouble) as Barolo and Barbaresco have everything in common except the production area and some cellar practices .

First of all, both are obtained from the Nebbiolo and the amount of grapes per hectare is 8 tons for both  Barolo and Barbaresco.

Barolo must be kept for 38 months , of which at least 18 must be in wood , while the Barolo Riserva is required 62 months , 38 of which in wood.

Barolo can be put on the market after January 1st of the fourth year following the harvest , while the Barolo Riserva must wait until at least January 1st of the sixth year following the harvest.

The Barbaresco , however, must be kept for 26 months ( of which at least 9 in wood ) , while for the Barbaresco Riserva –50 months of storage , of which at least 9 to spend in the wood.

Therefore, the element that distinguishes these two wines and gives each of them their own personality, is definitely the environment in which the grapes are grown.

Barolo is born in the towns of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto , Serralunga d’ Alba and part of the territory of the municipalities of Monforte d’ Alba, Novello, La Morra, Verduno Grinzane Cavour , Diano d’Alba , Cherasco and Roddi within the province of Cuneo.

The Barbaresco is produced instead in the towns of Barbaresco , Neive, Treiso (former village of Barbaresco) and part of the village ‘ San Rocco Senodelvio ” already part of the town of Barbaresco and aggregated to the municipality of Alba in April  1957, within the province of Cuneo.

But the most important aspect that gives the measure of the difference between these two giants of Italian enology, is certainly that organoleptic.   The BARBARESCO is perhaps more light and elegant , while the BAROLO is more powerful and concentrated. 

 

STEPHEN TANZER (world renown wine writer…..International Wine Cellar / Winophilia)

I’m more likely to want to recommend specific wines to Winophilia readers than to TALK about the differences. I find generalities are no more important than winemaker styles.  What would you say beyond Barbaresco typically being lighter and more floral, and perhaps peaking earlier?  Seems to me that differences due to the slightly earlier harvest in Barbaresco could be more important that stylistic differences between the two zones.

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Feb
17

Big Island Brewhaus

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It is really amazing how craft beers have thankfully caught on in the local restaurant scene, which has created more demand for importers & distributors to bring in a growing array of quality minded beers.

Fortunately, a real standout- Big Island Brewhaus, is local. 

I first met brewmaster/owner Thomas Kerns when he helped open the Fish & Game Brewing Company in the late 1990’s over in Kahana, Maui.  In the mid 2000’s the awards & accolades really starting rolling in & deservedly so and over time, Tom & his beers really developed quite a following.  I was surprised to hear that Tom & his wife Jayne moved to Waimea over on the Big Island, first taking over a Mexican restaurant & finally starting to produce their craft beers again.  In several recent tastings, these beers are really worth searching out for.

Of his impressive portfolio of beers, here are the 3 we really liked.  They are all available only in the 22 ounce bottle. 

In addition to my comments, I have also included some more technical information (noted in Italics)  from Bill “The Beer Guy” Carl (Beer Specialist & Certified Cicerone©) who presented them to us this last go around.

GOLDEN SABBATH

The Golden Sabbath is a Strong Belgian style Golden Ale. Traditionally a Belgian Candy sugar is used in the beer to lighten the body while increasing the alcohol. Tom Kearns prefers to use Hawaiian raised honey instead of the candy sugar to increase the sugar content. The honey may not always be raised on the Big Island but is ALWAYS raised in Hawaii. A blend of Ohia/Lehua, Christmas berry, and Macadamia honey is used in the beer along with Cascade, German Hallertauer, and Czech Saaz hops”. 

This is a very tasty beer, with lots of fruity-spice-floral qualities with the honey nuances popping in and out.  I’ve never had a beer done in this style before, but I really liked how delicious it really is.  Makes you want to drink more and more with each sip.

OVERBOARD IPA

Overboard IPA is a two-time gold medal winner in the American IPA category (the most populous category) during the 2011 & 2013 US Open Beer Championships. The hops in the IPA are Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe, and Amarillo leading to 50 IBUs”.

We love how outgoing and showy this beer is.  The exotic/citrus fruit & spice aromas just seem to jump out of the glass.  It is definitely firm in structure has lots of vigor and personality with a rather brazen, whopping finish.  Definitely a winner!

WHITE MOUNTAIN PORTER

White Mountain Porter incorporates both hand toasted Hawaiian coconut and Big Island grown and roasted coffee from the award winning White Mountain Coffee Co on the Hamakua coast.  Both Cascade and Czech Saaz hops are used in this roasty, lightly sweet, 3 time award winner from the US Open Beer Championships”.

Where the previous two beers are for thirstquenching & gupability, this one makes you stop and think.  Sipping and relaxing.  There is, of course, lots of roasted coffee character with cacao & coconut nuances.  It is darkly colored and has a real soothing yet refreshing creaminess which the bubbles seem to accentuate.  I imagine enjoying this on the lanai on a cool evening, while relaxing and winding down.

Yes, these are very interesting, well made beers.  PLUS, it is another way to support local!!!!!

Categories : General, New Discoveries
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Feb
15

Didier & Catherine Champalou

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Here is a note I received from Bruce Neyers & Kermit Lynch about one of our favorite wines, which I thought you might find interesting.

Recently, I had a chance to talk to Kermit about Didier and Catherine Champalou. We visited them last month with my traveling group, and as many of you have already heard the 2013 vintage in Vouvray was a disaster. Domaine Champalou lost almost 70% of their 2013 crop to a combination of hail, coulure and rain, and Kermit was interested to hear how they were dealing with this enormous economic setback. They were fine, I told him, and indeed despite an economic disaster that seems almost biblical, they were upbeat, enthusiastic and welcoming. Strong people. Kermit thought about it, and sent me the following note, which he entitled ‘From the Pencil of Kermit Lynch’……..”  Bruce Neyers

 

Dear Clients,

When the classic Vouvrays of René Loyau were no longer available, I went to Charles Joguet for new leads. (As recounted in Adventures on the Wine Route, I’d originally found Loyau thanks to Joguet.) We visited a bunch of good addresses and afterwards I narrowed it down to working with Domaine Foreau or Domaine Champalou.

            I’ll never forget Foreau’s deep cave, funky as could be with a marvelous smoky smell that surely seasoned the aroma of his Vouvrays.

            The Champalous, Didier and Catherine, were much younger than Foreau, and just launching their domaine. Their cave was pristine, and so were their wines.

            I chose Champalou, but regretted not picking up Foreau as well. In those days, it seemed too much to try marketing two Vouvrays, because the appellation did not have much of a reputation back then—sweet and sterile describes the biggest proportion of them.

            Didier and Catherine are modest and proud. They don’t seek the limelight, don’t seek riches. No, pride in their creations motivates them.

            Their style is what the French call discret: reserved, restrained, the opposite of bombastic or blatant. The perfumes are there for the taking, but won’t give anyone a bloody nose. The bouquet evolves as the bottle grows emptier—it’s an aromatic voyage.

            The other remarkable quality, almost unique in Vouvray, is the textural pleasure on the palate. No matter which bottling, one enjoys an elegant texture, which derives from the winemaker’s touch. Think of Lassalle, Meyer-Fonné, or Abbatucci, for example. All show the same sort of touch, the same luxurious textures.

            I feel the wine market is turning its back on Vouvray as it did in the 1970’s, and for the same reasons—too much enologically correct mediocre plonk. Where is the winemaker, the touch? But we have a gem in the Champalou family, so in line with what we look for, so impeccable in terms of their work and their character……………..”

Yours for fine wine, Kermit Lynch

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Feb
12

Blind Tasting 01-30-14

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Yes another Blind Tasting…..another opportunity to learn…to better understand what good wine can be……AND hopefully get better at listening what the wine wants to say….especially on this quality level.  185

2011 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais

I often wonder what “good” Beaujolais tasted like in the 1960’s & earlier.  From what I have heard & read, it was light in color, hazy, tart, often fizzy & somewhere between 9 & 11 degrees in alcohol. ( I would have loved to wash down bites of VINO Chef Keith’s grilled home-made Shinsato Farms pork sauages with a glass or 2 of that style of wine.)  Since then, somewhere along the line, warm vintage Beaujolais became popular.  It was more substantial & had more to say.  I surmize because Beaujolais (& Burgundy in general) typically had such sun drenched vintages only 2 to 3 times every decade, they looked to chaptalization (the addition of sugar) to help beef up the wines.  What may have started out to be noble, became quite the “quick” fixer over time, to the point of abuse.

I really look to search out good Beaujolais.  Why?  The good ones have delicious-ness, incredible food friendliness & gulpability….& are therefore worth the effort.  So….for these students we poured this 2011 from Domaine Dupeuble on this night.  Nothing fancy here…..just light & delicious red “country” styled wine.  Yes, we have run across a growing number of really good Cru Beaujolais, which have more stuffing & much more to say…..BUT in terms of simplicity, honesty, “country”ness & pure gulpability, here is the one for me.

In the hamlet of Le Breuil, deep in the southern Beaujolais and perched above a narrow creek, the Domaine Dupeuble has been running almost continuously since 1512.  Tradition runs deep in the family, the estate is comprised of one hundred hectares, about forty percent of which is consecrated to vineyards. Strong advocates of the lutte raisonnée approach to vineyard work, they tend their vines without the use of any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. The vineyards, planted primarily to Gamay, face Southeast, South, and Southwest, and about two thirds of the property is on granite-based soil. The grapes are harvested manually and vinified completely without SO2. The wines are not chaptalized, filtered, or degassed and only natural yeasts are used for the fermentation“.  184

2011 Maison L’Envoye Morgon “Cote du Py”

There is a  reason why we poured this wine next.  It is thankfully another really delicious, lighter bodied, food friendly & gulpable Beaujolais…to be enjoyed.  Fortunately, there is a growing number of top notch CRU Beaujolais.  I really like this relatively new discovery because of how light, delicious & gulpable it really is, yet has more to say than the Dupeuble. 

Morgon typically produces hearty, expressive, long living Gamay, with the finest vineyards being situated along the Côte de Py. And it’s here that 40 year old vines are planted in schist soils,  rich in manganese & iron. This soil structure provides a minerally edge to the raspberry & dark red fruit characters typically seen. The fruit was destemmed & the whole berries were allowed to undergo a long, natural fermentation (utilizing wild yeast) & was then aged for 12 months in older French oak. This is no insipid Beaujolais” .   183

2012 Nicole Chanrion Cote de Brouilly

We next served a highly revered, top echelon superstar Cru Beaujolais.  Tasting & understanding this true standout will hopefully show tasters what Beaujolais can be, which is a style we will hopefully see more & more of.  Wines passionately grown & crafted like this have much presence & resounding character.  

“The Côte-de-Brouilly appellation sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes. These stones yield structured wines with pronounced minerality and great aging potential.  Nicole works all 6.5 hectares entirely by herself, from pruning the vineyards and driving the tractors to winemaking and bottling, all without bravado or fanfare. Wild yeast fermented, whole cluster, carbonic maceration”182

2011 Olivier Savary Bourgogne  “Epineuil”

We now shifted gears & sought to showcase 3 Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, each from a different sub-region.  Hopefully, this would make tasters contemplate possible regional differences when tasting, rather than just lumping all of Burgundy together under one heading.  This is just another way of better listening what the wine wants to say.

This particular wine comes from Chablis in the northern most reaches of Burgundy.  Pure limestone & super cool weather.  I had previously had just a few Pinots from there & most had very little color to them.  Here is a captivating rendition–wonderfully ethereal, remarkably light & seemingly fragile.

“Pinot Noir grown in the kimmeridgian limestone soil of Chablis!  100% de-stemmed & done in stainless to capture the purity, minerality, ethereal-ness & remarkable lightness on the palate”.  180181

 The final pair of red Burgundies were produced by Evening Land Vineyards, a very comprehensive Pinot project using top quality grapes sourced from Oregon, Sonoma Coast, extreme Santa Barbara & in this case Burgundy, France.  Utilizing the talents of FOUR winemakers, this visionary wine project is changing the game.

The intent here was to show/remind tasters, there is a difference between Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune to the south & the Cote de Nuits to the north, as the wines were from the same vineyards & the same winemakers.

2009 Evening  Land  Beaune  Premier Cru  “Bressandes”–Premier Cru Cote de Beaune, 20% new oak

2009 Evening  Land  Vosne Romanee–Village quality Cotes de Nuits—from 3 separate vineyards, 18 months in 30% new oak.

As a side note, we recently heard that the trio of suoerstar sommelier/restauranteur Rajat Parr, star winemaker Sashi Moorman & business entrepeneur Charles Banks will now be running the show.  Should be even more interesting, to say the least!

Categories : General, Red, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Feb
06

Blind Tasting 01-28-14

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After we finished our New Age Kaiseki @ Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, we did a Blind Tasting with the “guest sommeliers” who poured wines for the dinner.  Our goal was to show this new generations of wine professionals what our teachers from England referred to as bankers–typical, “spot on” wines.

Again, I don’t think we as an industry spend enough time teaching people what is good wine.  Hopefully we accomplished that on this night, in a small way. 

191

1995 Felsina Chianti Classico “Riserva”

Red in color with some browning mixed in going to orange on the rim.  The wine was murky.  The nose had lots of development & complexities–sandalwood, dried cherries, tobacco, roasted nuts, coffee & lots of spices.  It tasted dry, medium bodied, medium high acidity & medium tannins with a long finish.  Definitely aged in taste.  The tasters quickly zero-ed in on aged aged Chianti of high quality.  Hopefully, this wine will serve as a benchmark of what good Chianti can be like.  190

1996 Marcarini Barolo “La Serra”

The tasters quickly started rattling off lots of descriptors, as there really was lots to say about the appearance & nose of this wine.  One taster then said roses…..& I watched the rest dive their nose back into their glass & slowly each one started to nod their head in agreement.  Roses….truned on the light bulb.  I thought this was a stunning bottle of Italian Nebbiolo.  It was still vigorous & youthful in its core, but the color was noticeably lighter than the last time I had it 8 months ago & the nose just jumped out of the glass.  Yes, it is finally coming out oif its shell again.  The gang nailed this wine!  196

2000 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape

The group were saying alot of the right descriptors–earth, lavender, stony, baked, raisins, cherries, game, dried herbs….BUT it really was when one blurted out “white pepper” that put everyone on the right track.  Yes, they nailed this one too…..even down to the vintage.  Kudos! 

Here is something superstar wine importer Kermit Lynch once wrote, which helps one better understand Vieux Telegraphe & its wines.

The source of his wine’s quality, he says, is his stony terrain, situated upon the slope of the highest ridge in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation.  To the eye, there is no soil here and one would think it is a barren, but living vines poke out from the thick layer of smooth, oval stones……They look like Sierra riverbed stones…..One tasets the influence of the stones in the wine.  Eperienced tasters in the area recognize a Vieux Telegraphe by its expression of pierrer a feu, or gunflint.  A great Chateauneuf-du-Pape tastes almost as if it had been filtered  through the stones…..In addition, the stones account for Vieux Telegraphe’s characteristic power & generosity because they reflect & collect heat…..”. 

When one of the tasters said “raisin”, I understood.  I often find the sun baked stones creates the kind of ripe, bordering raisin-like character in Grenache, especially in hot vintages & the “power & generosity” noted above.  It comes from the stones.    195

2001 Saint Cosme Cote Rotie

I was quite surprised how much oak showed in this wine…..at least this time  I think it threw tasters off at first.  Luckily someone said peppercorns & black pepper…thick skin grape…with nobility…..& the tasters started down the right track again.  Just as we earlier paired an Italian Sangiovese with a Nebbiolo, I thought it would be insightful for tasters to taste a southern & northen Rhone Valley red wine, side by side.  It was impressive how well the tasters deducted this wine.  

The 3 top appellations of the northern Rhone Valley, for many, are–Cornas, Hermitage & Cote Rotie.  Each is a very dramatic hillside & each specializes in Syrah.  “The taste of Cornas is as bold as its appearance.  You chew it around in your mouth, & it seems to stain the palate.  There is nothing like it.”   Hermitage further north is a hill which over the eons, glaciers smashed different soils they collected up against the previous deposit.  When one walks the hillside, the various soils are very apparent.  Cote Rotie is yet another impressive, imposingly steep hill.  I remember back in the early 1990’s, Marius Gentaz drawing us a map of the different hillsides of Cote Rotie, making sure we understood there are more than one— the Cote Mollard, Blonde, Brune, Moutonnes, Landonne & Vieillieres,–which “are separated by deep, steam eroded ravines“, which has then created a complex matrix of different soils.

I think again, Kermit Lynch in his book, Adventures on the Wine Route, says it best–“Apollonian.  Master of oneself, harmonious, a beauty that is more formal, more architectural, as in the wine of Hermitage.  Dionysian.  A wilder force, instinctive, immediate, a beauty that is more passionate than cerebral, as in the wine of Cote Rotie.”   194

1996 Francois Jobard Blagny Premier Cru “La piece sous le bois”

Here was a very pretty, interesting, aged red Burgundy.  The tasters knew it was Burgundy…lighter in color……cherries, funk, humus, sandalwood, spice with really fresh & a long finish.  Impressive collaborative effort….& a solid methology.  Kudos.  

Hopefully tasters walked away thinking about the difference between wines from the Cotes de Beaune (which is where this wine is from) & the Cotes de Nuits farther north.  There is a reason why the ancient ones drew a line between the 2.  Why not leave it just as Cote d’Or, 1 appellation?  It would have been much more simple.  And when you stop & think about it for a second how many great Grand Cru white wines have you heard of from the Cotes de Nuits?  Yes, the Cote de Nuits, at least today, is more generally known for their list of red wine villages……and sadly as it may seem, the Cotes de Beaune is most know today for their white wines.  This red wine, however, should show you there are interesting red wines still to be found in the south.  How can one resist such a pretty, flirtatious, layered & absolutely delicious wine like this!!!!       192

1994 Ramonet Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru “Champ Canet”

This one, not surprisingl,y really threw everyone for a loop.  After all, how many times does one have a chance to sample a well aged white Burgundy like this….in all its glory.  This wine was definitely singing…glorious, majestic & completely mesmerizing!  As it turned out, when someone said honey…..then limestone, most tasters ended up with aged Vouvray Sec.  What I was hoping to show was the nuances of aged Burgundy & its limestone soil-ness……. at an ideal time of its life.  I think some tasters, more accustomed to tasting mainly New World wines, might think this wine to be oxidized.  Yes, there is oxidation, BUT, for me in the right way.  By the looks on everyone’s faces, this is a wine they will remember for a long time.

Thanks everyone for a wonderful tasting!  Toast!!!!!

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Feb
05

Yet Another Blind Tasting

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I have mixed feelings on blind tastings.  On one hand, I find that most tasters, will inevitably select their favorite of the line-up….& it usually is the biggest, blackest, loudest, more dramatic.  While that is okay for most, I ask myself, what am I learning?

We, therefore, created these blind tasting opportunities at our VINO restaurant, so we all can walk away experiencing & learning other facets of wine enjoyment.

First & foremost, I am hoping we can take advantage of the tasting’s blind-ness (NO label recognition) & explore whether we think each wine is good or not.  I really don’t think we as an industry spend enough time understanding what good wine is.  In the old days, one apprenticed with a Master Sommelier….for years.  By working side by side & learning through their nuturing , one would more thoroughly learn all of the nuances of the craft, including understanding what a good wine is (AND also learning how to pair wines with foods, which is another topic we can discuss later).  We somehow have lost that along the way.

I have seen tastings where everyone brings a hodge podge of wines, some good, & some not so good.  I wonder why I would want to spend time on being able to identify a shitty wine?  So, the first premise I think we should address, is what is a good wine.

If you are a wine buyer, isn’t one of your jobs to spend your monies wisely?  Why invest your money in shitty or mediocre wine?  Your job is to sift through the many wines & find those which deliver for the dollar, in the various appropriate price ranges/styles, that fit in with your restaurant’s schtick AND with your menu.

Blind tastings can therefore help you hone in on those skills.  Identifying a wine blind is a different skill.

I, therefore, wanted to select some wines which were good & typical to use for the blind tasting. (just my opinion mind you). Then participants will at least have some benchmarks to measure & compare other wines by.

The second premise I was hoping to establish, was, IF we are learning to taste for professional purposes, whether I like the wine or not personally isn’t of primary importance.

I am may not like fish, but shouldn’t I be able to tell my customer the difference between mahimahi & tuna?  And, I may not like to drink, but professionally, shouldn’t I be able to tell the customer the difference between a mai tai & a pina colada? 

Furthermore…….why do I have to choose?  Can I not appreciate my son for who he is & my daughter for who she is?  Similarly, asssuming the wines are all good, can I not appreciate each ‘good” wine & try & to understand what it is trying to say?

Those were some of the goals we set out to showcase in this particular blind tasting, for whatever it’s worth.

9721997 Terreno Chianti Classico “Riserva”

This really is enjoying a Chianti at an ideal time of its life.  For those asking or looking for what a good Chianti is….well, here it is.  The 1997 is 90% Sangiovese & 10% :”other” grape varieties (Cabernet, Merlot & Canaiolo most notably) & is crafted by superstar enologist Franco Bernabei.  I wouldn’t say this wine is grand, but it is pretty good & really is typical enough of an example.

As the gang noticed, it is red, with a slight brown-ness & orange to the rim, a noticeable murkiness & dullness to the sheen.  Words like “aged” & light color pigmentation started popping up.  The nose did show dried cherries, sandalwood, earth, floral, cigar box, autumn leaves, tea, as the group really was zeroing in pretty impressively.  On the palate, it was dry, light to medium to medium in body, medium high acidity, medium tannins, with a medium long finish.  The group also confirmed all of the nuances they smelled in the taste.  The wine’s core still had vigor & a firm structure.  The final 2 choices were both Italian red wine, & the majority said Tuscan Sangiovese.   1111

2001 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos du Chene Vert”

I wouldn’t say this wine is typical Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.  It wasn’t that long ago, when, other those from Joguet, it really was hard to find, at least here in Hawaii, a RED Loire Valley wine, much less a good one.

Yes…..this one is Cru…..one of the true regional standouts……with lots going on….& not some quaffer.

With the first whiff, someone blurted out “jalapeno“….& others soon followed with a whole slew of green things.  Yes, there is a green thing going on in this wine.  “red fruit”, earth/game/rusticity.  Someone also noted “of high quality…9/10“.  Good acidity, medium bodied, long finish.  Remarkably, one of the tasters bravely said Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, which caused everyone else to dive their nose back in their glass.  More & more people started to nod their head in agreement.  Yes.

Chene Vert, historically, is one of the most iconic single vineyards of the appellations….& for centuries.  Here is one 13 years old……AND, it was still the handiwork/magic of Charles Joguet.  1113

2011 Fillaboa Albarino

Aromatic grape varieties seem to be growing in popularity & from my perspective rightfully so.  Well grown & made ones can create magic with a wide array of foods.  Spanish Albarino is one of those worth looking for.  Maybe I am just plain picky, but finding a good one really is harder than one would think.

On the nose, the gang just started throwing out all kinds of exotic fruit smells.  Some added minerality.  Not one said anything about oak, malolactic or alcohol, which was a good sign.  Dry, light to medium bodied, crisp, riveting acidity.  Clean, fresh, alive.

Thankfully, I think this wine really perked many tasters’ minds.  I could readily see it in their eyes.  Wow!   Imagine the possibilities!  babc8 

 2010 Champalou Vouvray

I was amazed at how one taster shouted out minerality first.  I asked what kind?  Limestone was the response. 

Another taster was so surprised at how intense this wine tasted despite the fact it looked like it had only a little bit more color to it than water in her eyes. 

Mint, floral, peach skin, pear, apple, lemongrassOff dry, light to medium in body, medium high acidity, long finish.  Most said Loire Valley.  The most experienced said Vouvray & they finally convinced the others.

I simply adore this wine!  It is so sheer, minerally, ethereal & effortlessly light on the palate.  I have yet to find anything even remotely close to this in style, quality & finesse!   Tasters….for me, this is a true benchmark!!!!!!   babc11

 2009 Kunstler Riesling Trocken “Domdechaney”

I was astounded that the first word burted how on this wine was petrol.  What happened to color, clarity & rim variation?  At least they were headed down the right path.

The next word was mega-intense.  What happened to smells/perfume?

The next word was WOW! 

When one really thinks about it…..that really sums up this wine.  And so, we end a blind tasting, not with adjectives or following a tasting grid…..just pure enjoyment of a sensational wine….with friends.  Is there anything more special than that?

Categories : General, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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