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A tasting note: 2005 Azienda Agricola Unterortl Castel Juval Riesling

Front label detail

Date tasted:  April 14th, 2009

Azienda Agricola Unterortl was established in 1992 in Alto Adige, Val Venosta, in the Northern tip of Italy close to the boarder of Austria.  Located about 750m up on Juval Hill, they make only 30,000 bottles per year from around 4ha. According to the May 2009 issue of Decanter magazine, Martin Aurich of Unterortl is one of Italy’s stars of tomorrow, and is producing one of Italy’s finest Rieslings.  Aurich was born and raised in Germany and studied oenology in the 1980’s.  Aurich says “Unterortl’s proximity to the glaciers gives the wines their high acidity and freshness.  The well-draining granite and sand is similar to Wachau in Austria”.  Aurich vinifies as naturally as possible.

Appearance: A light golden yellow with high intensity indicating high acidity.  A bit darker than I expected. Looked like a warmer climate Riesling, which would indicate that 2005 was a warm vintage in the area.

Nose: At first, the aromas reminded me a lot of wines from the Pfalz in Germany, in particular, Bürklin-Wolf. Ripe lemons, very light petrol and minerality. Some fruity notes, seemed to have lactic aromas suggesting that perhaps this wine went through malo-lactic fermentation.  I could not find any information validating this, but it’s just a hunch of mine.

Palate: Dry but fruity, with high acidity.  Medium alcohol which was slightly apparent on the palate.  Ripe lemons, but slightly lacking fruit in my opinion.  Quite rounded with good acidity, but not terribly focused and lacking some freshness.  A slightly fat Riesling.

In my opinion, this was a pretty good Riesling, but not great. I believe I paid around 14 euro and I feel that it was a decent value at that level.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. If I had another bottle, I think it would be interesting to taste it again in about 5 years. I believe this will age well and actually improve.

Back label detail

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Alto Adige, Italy, Val Venosta

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A winemakers dinner – Luca Roagna

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Luca speaking passionately
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Beautiful Roagna bottles

Event:  Stavanger, Norway Vinfest 2009

Restaurant: Bølgen & Moi

Date:  Thursday April 23, 2009  19:00

Host:  Luca Roagna and Best Buys

In my opinion, Luca Roagna is a rising star in Piemonte, Italy. And I’m not alone in believing this as his wines are garnering a lot of interest in other parts of the world as well.  I was very impressed with him and his philosophy after visiting him at his estate in Paglieri (Barbaresco), Italy in November of 2008.  I am equally impressed if not more so with his wines. They are immediately approachable, yet are so well structured and well made that they will endure the test of time and will age gracefully.

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Vinosseur and Luca Roagna

Luca  is extremely passionate.  His eyes light up when you ask him questions about his wines.  He is such a purist.  He approaches his viticulture and “winemaking” in as a natural way as possible.  Luca does not use chemical nor organic fertilizers.  All of this is reflected in his wines.  They best way to describe them is super clean, precise with focused fruit. Extremely well-structured, balanced and elegant.  His signature is his terroir, which he allows his wines to express beautifully.

Luca is also as down to earth and personable.  He is a blast to hang out with and really knows how to enjoy himself. I look forward to the next time we meet Luca!

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Langhe Bianco

As an aperitif, we started with a wine that isn’t currently available in Norway. A Langhe Bianco with 5-6 days skin contact giving the wine a full-golden yellow color bordering on orange. The wine was made using 90% Chardonnay and 10% Nebbiolo. Yes, you are reading this correctly, 10% Nebbiolo and yes, vinified white.  Naturally, only indigenous yeast is used.  This wine was made in a slightly oxidative style but was extremely fresh and elegant with mild tannins, elegant acidity and a medium long finish.

****

FIRST COURSE

Terrine of fois gras with cherries, salad and brioche

Terrine of fois gras with cherries, salad and brioche

PAIRED WITH

2007 Dolcetto d'Alba

2007 Dolcetto d'Alba

Comments:  35 days maceration. Unfiltered wine with clean, focused fruit and feminine, but firm tannins.

****

SECOND COURSE

Sweetbreads of veal with spring carrots, spinach and orange-butter sauce

Sweetbreads of veal with spring carrots, spinach and orange-butter sauce

PAIRED WITH

2001 Langhe Rosso

2001 Langhe Rosso

Comments:  35 days maceration, 4 years in large Botti and 2 in bottle.  The orange peel notes found in the wine worked extremely well with the orange-butter sauce. A very open and approachable wine made entirely of Nebbiolo.  More like a Barbaresco then a typical Langhe Rosso.

****

THIRD COURSE

Lamb with asparagus, glased onion and bercy sauce

Lamb with asparagus, glazed onion and bercy sauce

PAIRED WITH

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2000 Barbaresco Pajé

Comments:  good color depth with a very slight browning around the edge.  Very classic Nebbiolo aromas – floral, cherries (amarena cherry).  About 65 days maceration and 5 years in large Botti.  Even the asparagus worked surprisingly well with the wine.  A very masculine Barbaresco.

****

FOURTH COURSE

Filet of deer with braised celeriac, porto bello, confit of tomatos and Marco Polo sauce

Filet of deer with braised celeriac, porto bello, confit of tomatos and Marco Polo sauce

PAIRED WITH

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2001 Barolo La Rocca e la Pira

Comments:  Average age of the vines is 40 years.  About 85 days maceration.  5 years in large Botti and 2 years in bottle. Dark, sour cherries.  Elegant and feminine.

****

FIFTH COURSE

Mature pecorino with honey, raisins and nuts

Mature pecorino with honey, raisins and nuts

PAIRED WITH

2004 Barolo Vigna Rionda

2004 Barolo Vigna Rionda

Comments:  About 70 days maceration. Bottled in November of 2008. Quite open, but in my opinion it needs about 10 more years just to start stretching it’s legs.  At around 350,- Norwegian Kroner ($50), it’s a real bargain.

****

I will end this post by saying that it’s producers like Luca that really inspire me and spark an infinite passion in me for wine.  This is the reason I do what I do and love it!  Thanks Luca!

Category: 1 Appetizer/Starter, 1 WINE, 2 Main Course, 3 Dessert, 6 FOOD & WINE PAIRING, 7 WINE MAKER DINNERS, Events, organic wine

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A vertical tasting – Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro

Event:  Wine Maker dinner with Ruffino “50 Years of Chianti Classico Riserva”

Location:  Potetkjelleren, Bergen Norway

Date:  Tuesday April 21, 2009  19:30

Lighting: Very, very dim candle-light, therefore, it was rather difficult assessing the color concentration on the wines

Hosted by Christian Bottegal & Gabrielle Tacchoni

Vintages tasted:  2005, 1999, 1990, 1985, 1977, 1955

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I felt fortunate to be invited to this tasting because I have never had the opportunity to taste a vertical of Chianti’s like this going back 50 years! I have to admit that I can remember often drinking the Ruffno Riserva Ducale Oro in the early to mid-90’s, but haven’t tasted the wine since, so I thought that this was an incredible opportunity to see what I have been missing and to see how their wines age.  I also have to admit that I didn’t expect much from a 50 year-old+ Chianti.  I was expecting a very light-colored, way past it’s prime Chianti. Read on to find how the Chianti’s were holding up and what they were paired with!

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First, a bit of history (from the brochure given to us in the beginning of the event): Back in 1890, Italy’s Duke of Aosta, who regularly passed through Tuscany on his travels to Rome, was so impressed with Ruffino wines that he issued a “Ducal certificate” naming the winery as the preferred supplier to his court.  Ruffino crafted well-structured red wines specifically for the Duke’s demanding palate (the “Duke’s Reserve”), which became the inspiration for the wine’s orginal name when released in 1927:  Riserva Ducale Chianti Stravecchio.

Riserva Ducale is the only Italian wine that is allowed to include the word “Riserva” in its name, because the name existed long before the production rules of Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva.  Meticulous selection of the finest Sangiovese grapes, and ever more stringent quality controls led naturally to the creation of Riserva Ducale Oro. The wine was first produced in 1947.  Made only in outstanding vintages, Riserva Ducale Oro is a true expression of the heart of Tuscan wine.

Our historical vintage tour of Ruffino’s Riserva Ducale Oro took us through 3 courses plus a starter and a dessert. The starter was paired with a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay (both un-oaked) from other Ruffino Estates. Here’s the first course:

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Anise seed and coffee-smoked tuna carpaccio, pan-fried Kamchatka crab with nut filo chips, lemon compote and salad

And now for the wines:

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 2005:

80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in thermo-controlled stainless-steel vats at an average temperature of 28° Celsius for 10 days, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged first in vats for about 3 months, then in 35/75 hl. oak casks for about 24 months and, lastly, for a minimum of 3 months in the bottle.

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.65%
  • Total acidity:  5.00
  • PH at 20°C:  3.56
  • Residual Sugar:  2.30

Official vintage rating: ****

Appearance: Dark and young as far as I could tell

Nose: The first thing I noticed was the Caberent Sauvignon influence – bell peppers and blackberries. Well-integrated, but heavy use of oak. Big and modern in style. Some dark cherries

Palate: The Cabernet Sauvignon was also in the mouth – blackberries and peppers with gripping tannins from both the fruit and the oak. A modern Chianti with great structure, medium plus acidity and lot’s of oak. Needs some time for the oak to integrate. Extremely well-made.

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1999:

85% Sangiovese, 15% Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in thermo-controlled stainless-steel vats at an average temperature of 28° Celsius for 10 days, and was followed by a post-fermentative maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Ageing: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was first aged for 5 months in barriques of second passage, then for an additonal 28 months in 35/75 hl. oak casks. After bottling the wine has been further refined in bottle for 4 months minimum

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.00%
  • Total acidity:  4.60
  • PH at 20°C:  3.51
  • Residual Sugar:  2.60

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and young as far as I could tell, very little age showing

Nose: Mature cherries, cigar box, oak still dominant on the nose.

Palate: Cherries, great acidity. Firm, medium tannins. Oak still dominant on the palate with cigar box notes. A well structured modern Chianti which still needs time:

2005 & 1999 Food Pairing

Pan-fried Turbot with pancetta and lentil ragout, beurre rouge and pickled vegetables

Pan-fried Turbot with pancetta and lentil ragout, beurre rouge and pickled vegetables

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1990:

90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo, 3% Malvasia

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 30° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 6 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 24 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and further in stainless steel tank

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.24%
  • Total acidity:  5.80
  • PH at 20°C:  3.35
  • Residual Sugar:  1.60

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and still young looking as far as I could tell. Slightly brownish rim.

Nose: Very similar to the other Chianti’s, but no evident oak aromas. Plenty of farmyard aromas right off the bat with  a bouquet of red and morell cherries.

Palate: Firm tannins and well-structured. This is a more classical style of Chianti with no barrique use and it’s evident on the palate. Clean fruit, mostly cherries with hints of farmyard aromas. Great acidity. Great concentration.  Still young with more room to stretch it’s legs down in the cellar. In my opinion, this has 5-10 more years to reach it’s peak

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Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1985:

90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo, 3% Malvasia

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Ageing: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 24 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and further in stainless steel tank

2009-04-21_420091463Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.53%
  • Total acidity:  5.45
  • PH at 20°C:  3.40
  • Residual Sugar:  1.83

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and still young looking as far as I could tell. Slightly brownish rim. But, still surprisingly darkish.

Nose: Farmyard, plums, cherries and some prunes suggesting that perhaps this Chianti was slightly past it’s prime.

Palate: Plums, prune juice. Still had great tannins and acidity. The Prunes I found on both the nose and palate really hinted at this wines +20 years and suggested perhaps a wine that was slipping, but the structure, acidity and tannins really surprised me. Drink now

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1990 & 1985 Food Pairing

Rack of lamb, creamed potatoes with herbs, glazed chestnuts, house-made pimento and spring onion lamb sausage

Rack of lamb, creamed potatoes with herbs, glazed chestnuts, house-made pimento and spring onion lamb sausage

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1977:

75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia, 5% Colorino

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 15 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 12 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and ageing in bottle for minimum 6 months

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.01%
  • Total acidity:  5.39
  • PH at 20°C:  3.37
  • Residual Sugar:  1.96

Official vintage rating: ****

Appearance: Showing age, especially around the edges with some browning, but still quite a deep and concentrated red color.

Nose: Stewed cherries, slight oxidation, and purple gooseberries

Palate: Quite elegant with soft acidity and tannins. Still had good concentration, but no room for storage. Drink now

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Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1955:

75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia, 5% Colorino

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 15 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 12 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and aging in bottle for minimum 6 months

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Total acidity:  5.70
  • PH at 20°C:  3.38
  • Residual Sugar:  2.05

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Still surprisingly deep and concentrated in color. Even darker than the 1977!  Brownish rim. As I mentioned, the lighting in the restaurant was mostly by candle-light and therefore it was hard to assess the color.

Nose: Madeira notes immediately evident. Stewed and dried fruit. Plums, prunes, caramel and cherries

Palate: Great concentration and acidity. Still had firm tannins.  Still had great structure.  But, this wine had Madeira-like aromas and oxidation.  Overall, it still had great mouth feel, acidity, structure and tannins, but the fruit didn’t match the rest of the components. I have never tasted a Chianti of this age, but I am quite sure that this wine was past it’s prime.  This really reminded me of some of the great old Boal Madeira’s I have tasted, but drier. A very interesting wine. It sparked many discussions around me at the table. We all enjoyed sipping it and many felt that it was perfect. Although I also thought it was a “perfect” bottle of 50 year-old Chianti, I still debated that the fruit was showing too much age and was at it’s peak years ago. Drink now.

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1977 & 1955 Food Pairing (sorry folks, no photo)

Reindeer with morel cream, juniper berries, fried mushrooms, glazed onions & pommes Anna

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the wine-making in the Riserva Ducale Oro and am quite confident that the latest vintage(s) will age well.


Category: 1 WINE, 4 VERTICAL TASTINGS, 7 WINE MAKER DINNERS, 8 FOOD, Events, Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro

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Minerality – the 6th taste sensation?

Up to now there have been 5 taste sensations clearly identified:

  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Umami

Sweet (or fruitiness), is usually perceived towards the front of the tongue.  Saltiness towards the center of the tongue.  Sourness (or acidity), is perceived towards the sides of the tongue.  Bitterness, which is sensed predominantly at the back of the tongue and throat. Umami or “savory”,  is a relatively new taste descriptor which is what you might expect to find in soy sauce, certain mushrooms and dishes that are rich in flavor and don’t really fit into the four basic taste sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

In my opinion, we are missing one more taste sensation, one that people in the wine world have been discussing, debating and arguing about for some years now. What I’m talking about of course is the topic, or the new taste sensation of  “minerality”.  Many of us wine nerds (no offense intended) have been describing certain wines as “minerally” for years now.

We have been discussing it for years when describing certain white wines such as Riesling’s, Sauvignon Blanc’s, Chablis’, Etna’s Carricante’s, etc. We’ve even become comfortable describing certain red wines using the term “mineratlity”.  Barolo’s, Burgundies and so on. We use this term in a positive manner when describing wines considered to be of high quality.  Another thing to think about regarding minerality – we tend to find it in wines made of grapes grown on vines that grow on chalky or volcanic soil (which is full of sulfur).

We have been debating it as well. What is “minerality”? Is it something that the grape has absorbed through the soil? Probably not, but many minerally wines are made from grapes grown on sulfurous volcanic soil.   Can it be a characteristic of certain grapes?  Perhaps.  Or, is it merely the effect of volatile or reduced
sulfur compounds,  more commonly referred to as reduction?  Who knows??

We have been arguing over it as well. Does “minerality” exist?  Many people firmly argue that “yes” it does, and continue to describe a wine’s characteristics as “minerally”.  In fact, it has been used to denote a positive attribute in a wine.  Wine’s that are “minerally” are often sought out and considered to be well made.  Some argue that it can help a wine age gracefully.  Other people argue that “minerality” doesn’t exist and what we are describing is simply “reduction” or volatile sulfur compounds. Reduction, which may bode well for certain Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, and Burgundies is none the less,  considered by many to be a fault.

Whichever the case, it’s here for now and I feel that it can be described as a taste sensation.

Since the sensation of “minerality” can’t be described as sweet, sour, salty, bitter nor umami, how should we describe it?  The sensation of “minerality” isn’t perceived  on any particular area of the  tongue. It doesn’t show at the front, the sides or at the back. It isn’t a richness that we would find in Umami. In fact, the sensation  of minerality seems to give the wine depth and concentration that the other taste sensations can’t accomplish on their own.  It seems to fill up the entire mouth, and for this reason I can’t see how it fits into the other flavor sensations already defined.

Whatever it is that creates this “minerality” in certain wines, we may not be sure of for some time.  Many of us will continue to use the term when describing wines, and we will also be the same people to consider it a good quality.  So for now, I will consider it the 6th taste sensation. What do you think?

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Minerality – the 6th taste sensation?

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Vino Vino Vino 2009

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I had the opportunity to check out the Gruppo Vini Veri, Vino Vino Vino 2009 gathering at Villa Boschi in Isola della Scala, Verona Italy last week.  I had never been to this gathering before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Although some things impressed me, I was also disappointed by others. Of course I didn’t get to taste everything, but from my sampling, here’s my personal feedback.

manifesto.inddFirst, the positive. Many exciting wines coming out of Sicily. These Sicilians, especially around Mount Etna, are delivering fresh and interesting wines from  indigenous grapes. White wine grapes like the Carricante and red wine grapes from the Nerello family. What really impressed me the most about these wines was the freshness, something you are seeing more of in well-made Sicilian Wines. Many of these wines were natural, without the addition of Sulphur Dioxide, no filtering and thankfully, no oak. Many of the wines were fermented/stored in cement, steel or amphora’s.

It was also nice to see many “orange wines”, white wines made using maceration techniques (letting the grape must sit with the grape skins for some days) rendering some white wines with a more orange-like hue. Although some of these were exciting, fresh and well-made, many were over-macerated, overly tannic and bitter. Just because this old wine making technique is coming back into fashion, doesn’t mean you should be (over) doing it! Listen up!

Then, there were too many wines from the region of Tuscany. It seemed that upwards of 25% percent of the producers at this gathering were from Tuscany. Although there were some interesting (and excellent) wines from Tuscany,  I found most to be too similar and un-interesting.

The most disappointing thing for me, however, was the shortage of non-Italian wine makers. I understand that Italy has more vineyards being farmed organically (up to 5 times) than other European wine-making countries and that we were in Verona, Italy, but I would have liked to have seen more French, Spanish, Portuguese and German (etc.) wine makers at this gathering.

Overall, I can see that producing natural wine is becoming fashionable and trendy. I am glad that at least natural products are becoming trendy and fashionable, but I felt that there were too many wine makers making natural wine because it was the fashionable thing to do. Thankfully, you can taste who these copycat producers were, and they were not good.

I would like to end this entry on a positive note by saying that I was happy to meet some wine-makers whom I have had some contact with both personally and of course through their wines:

Drink more naturally made wines and wake up the next day feeling fresh!

Category: 1 WINE, biodynamic wine, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), organic wine

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JoeDressner.com

Joe Dressner is part owner of Louis/Dressner Selections, an American wine importer specializing in small producers, mostly French wines from highly regarded names like Bernard Baudry and Didier Barrouillet.

I just had to share this quote which was found on a blog post about the state of wine tasting today:

“Wine is not a vehicle for egomania, boastfulness and self-promotion. All the great ‘tasters’ I have known are able to submerge their ego and understand what is in the bottle.”

I couldn’t agree with this quote more and that’s why I am repeating it here.  I feel that there are too many people working in the wine world that just don’t understand wine. Just because you have an education and some knowledge (and brag about it), doesn’t mean you understand wine or that you ever will.

You can follow Joe Dressner’s blog here.

Category: 1 WINE, biodynamic wine, natural wine (100% living wine), organic wine

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About

About
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

Get in touch

Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com