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My favorite picks from RAW and Real Wine Fairs

I have personally never seen so many great producers (I think the number is in the neighborhood of 300!) gathered together anywhere before the RAW and Real Wine Fairs May 20th-22nd in London. For this I am very grateful for all the producers (the actual producers in most cases, not suited-up reps) that came over to participate in these fairs. Producers from all parts of Europe, Georgia, Australia, South Africa and even the US. Most of all I would like to thank Isabelle Legeron and Doug Wregg for organizing these two events, focusing on hands-on producers who practice minimal to no intervention viticulture and wine making.

Here are some producers that sent me home thinking and craving  their wines:

Domaine Saurigny (Anjou, Loire Valley) – Jérôme Saurigny makes a Sauvignon Blanc that I have to say really left me impressed. I first met Jérôme and tasted his wines at his place in Anjou about 3 years ago, but I swear I can’t remember how really good his Sauvignon Blanc was. It is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc to date, so refreshing and showing none of the characteristics that often come associated with the grape and which I dislike. His reds were also outstanding and his “accidental” sweet chenin blanc is also worth tasting!

Domaine Saurigny – Loire Valley

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

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A tasting note: 2009 Davide Spillare Bianco Rugoli Selezione Vecchie Vigne

You might remember my brief mention of Davide Spillare in my VinNatur 2011 – producers to keep on eye on, blog entry. Davide’s Azienda Agricola covers about 2 ha in  Gambellara, in the province of Vicenza.  Davide works naturally both in the vineyards and in the winery, being shown the way by his teacher and mentor, Angiolino Maule.  He works mainly with the indigenous Garganega grape, and ferments all of his wines spontaneously without any additions, except a little sulfur in his whites.

The Bianco Rugoli is made up of 90% Garganega (grown on volcanic soil) and 10% Trebbiano. After manual harvest and crush, maceration with the skins lasts 18-24 hours giving this wine it’s gorgeous glow. It is then pressed and transferred to used barriques  for about 10 months for fermentation. It then spends some time in steel and is bottled without fining or filtering with just a bit of sulfur.

 

Date tasted: May 17th, 20:00

Appearance:  honey-toned orange

Nose: slightly jammy orange peel with hints of brown honey. very clear high intensity fruit. Some hints of herbs like sage and thyme. There are some aromas that could only be described as roasted lamb w rosemary. Ripe golden gooseberries. alcohol shows on the nose. With 15 minutes in the glass, a smoky minerality begins to emerge blending nicely with the fruit. Showing also some hints of very ripe fruit, perhaps some grapes being overripe – in a good way.

Palate: spicy, fruity and dry on the palate with good acid and tingling alcohol, which begins to integrate as the wine warms. Very mild tannins with a slight bitter aftertaste. As time passes, the wine seems to become increasingly refreshing, even though the alcohol is my only lament, as it very slightly stings the tongue. Not enough to put the wine way out of balance, however. Young..

Glug Glug wine at it’s finest!! Drink up or keep a few years to allow the alcohol to fully integrate.

 

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Gambellara, Italy, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Veneto

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A tasting note: 2008 Laureano Serres Montagut Blanc Terme de Guiu

Although up to now I have only tasted the wines of Laureano Serres a dozen times (at most), his now extinct Vinyes Arrencades Blanc 2008 was in my top 9 favorite wines list that I published two years ago. It was a wine Laureano made only 500 bottles of from an almost 100 year-old Macabeo vineyard. Unfortunately, he no longer makes this wine because the vines were attacked by mildew rendering the vine’s ability to photosynthesize all but destroyed. We were lucky to receive 24 bottles at Jacob’s. The wine was a cloudy yellow with deep fruit and minerals, and with every sip, evolving (I have one bottle left in my cellar which will give birth to a full tasting note sometime in the future).

That was the only wine I had as a reference to the wines of Laureano. You can imagine my anticipation when I sent a friend to go visit him and she came home with a bottle of his 2008 Blanc Terme de Guiu for me! I waited almost a year, and finally cracked the bottle. On Laureano’s website, he gives very detailed information about his wines, but I neglected to read it. I sometimes prefer to taste something before knowing too much about it. So, you can imagine my surprise when i pulled the cork and started to pour. Orange! Now, i didn’t expect that! My anticipation level just shot through the roof, I must admit.

Here is some nerdy stuff about the wine:

The grapes come from Terme de Guiu, a small rural property (finca) located in Vilalba dels Arcs (Terra Alta) municipality in Tarragona (Catalunya). The vines are approximately 25 years of age.

The south-southeast facing vineyard is cultivated traditionally and naturally. The soil is Clayey-calcareous.

Grape mix is approximately 94% Macabeo 5% Granacha blanca & 1% Colombard. Yield is approximately 45 hl/ha (2.7 kg/vine). ‘The wine is vinified in inox (steel) in an oxidative style (not reductive). 1000 bottles produced.

And more details:

Vineyard naturally grown without chemical fertilizers. Sulfur treatments.
Harvested by hand. Maceration with the skins for 2 nights (Vaslin horizontal press), fermentation with its own yeast for about 14 days, rests in stainless steel without racking in 2009. During this whole process, no outside yeast has been used nor have sulfites been added for conservation, or any other product. Just grapes. (this alone does not make a great wine, but it is important in my opinion to produce a great wine).

Analysis:

Alcohol 13.5%

Total Acid 5.0 g/l

Volatile Acid 0.55 g/l

Total sulfur 7 mg/l

Ok.. on to the good stuff

Date tasted: February 6th, 2012 17:15

Appearance: as i mentioned, i expected a cloudy yellow wine, and in fact it was pumpkin-colored and cloudy 🙂 see photos.

Nose: pumpkin (with spices, not vegetal), hay, fennel with hints of mineral. No oak. thank you.

Palate: Deep deep deep. Refreshing. Great acid. Alcohol is refreshing. Pumpkin (not vegetal, rather aromatic like pumpkin pie). Hay. Fennel on the finish. Structured and deep. Serious yet feminine tannins. Looooong

The best way to sum this wine up is that there is no interference in the wine. No sticky edges. No stinging acid or alcohol. Tannic, but not too. Nothing prevents this wine from going doing easily, except that the bottle was emptied quite rapidly. Absolutely fresh and drinkable. Not to be mistaken for thin. This wine is not thin, rather it is perfectly balanced and it left us wishing we had more. This wine had perfectly juicy, ripe acidity which I am starting to realize is one of the most important factors rendering a wine drinkable, refreshing and delicious. Ripe acidity is perhaps also one of the hardest wine components to get right I have noticed.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Spain, Tarragona

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A tasting note: 2008 Porta del Vento Saharay

Azienda Agricola Marco Sferlazzo
Contrada Valdibella
90043 Camporeale, Sicilia
info@portadelvento.it
www.portadelvento.it

Certified organic Catarratto grapes grown with the help of biodynamic preparations at an altitude of about 600 meters above sea level. Grapes are harvested by hand and brought immediately to the winery where they are gently crushed and left to ferment spontaneously. The skins are left to macerate with the juices for about 30 days in open oak vats without temperature control and without the addition of sulfur. Punching down the cap is done by hand 3 times a day, followed by a soft pressing in a manual press.  Maturation in 2500 litter botti (oak barrels) for just under a year. Bottled without filtration and without the addition of sulfur, of course.

Date tasted (numerous times, but for this note):  Sunday September 11th, 2011 9:00pm

Appearance: Dark orange-amber with brownish reflexes (which increase with time in the glass). Shows a bit more age than the 3 years would indicate.

Nose:  spices, apricots, ginger, leafy, molasses and hints of volatility give this wine an interesting edge which keeps  you sniffing it for minutes and minutes before tasting it. Like many skin-macerated whites, this wine hints of sweetness which could lead the unsuspecting to expect a sweet wine on the palate. The last sniffs reminded me of Vin Santo (a sweet wine from Toscana made from dried grapes)

Palate:  I have tasted many skin-macerated whites and knew what to expect: a fruity, yet bone-dry wine. What I didn’t expect (and always surprises me with this wine) is the tannic structure. Owing to the long skin-contact and 10-12 months in oak barrels, this wine packs a tannic punch making it a perfect match for fatty foods such as Fois Gras, duck and some creamy cheeses.  I have also had success serving this with savory dishes like mushroom soup. Very spicy (cardomom, cinammon and ginger) with the usual yellow fruits like apricots and peaches. A semi-long and dry finish round out the wine nicely.

I like the wines of Porta del Vento and have tasted almost the entire product line. The prices are fair as well.  The Saharay I especially like because of it’s masculinity, a trait I don’t often find in skin-macerated whites making this wine more interesting to me. But I also have to point out a negative characteristic of the Porta del Vento wines I have tasted.  As far as I know, all the wines spend some time in oak and leave the mouth with this rather disturbing dryness. A dryness that can be attributed not only to the fruit, but to the oak.  Oak is certainly not dominant in their wines, in fact I would say that the oak is used judicially (it doesn’t “flavor” the wine).   I just prefer to have no oak in my wines letting the fruit shine through without any interruption, especially in wines that have such fresh fruit character, like the wines of Porta del Vento.  The other complaint I have is that these wines should be drunk up the night you open the bottle. Two or three days open and I find that the wines oxidize.

Back label detail - click on photo to enlarge

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Camporeale, Italy, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Sicilia

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A tasting note: 2005 Franco Terpin Ribolla Gialla

Azienda Agricola Franco Terpin
Loc. Valerisce n°6/a
34170 – San Floriano del collio – Go
Tel +39 0481 884215
If you haven’t yet tasted the wines from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia area of Italy, then perhaps you should.  Sitting in the furthermost North East Corner of Italy bordering Slovenia, this wine region has been getting a lot of attention lately. Is this because the majority of Italian skin-macerated whites (aka orange wines) hail from this region? Is it because the  region produces age-worthy, mineral wines that make you sit back and say “huh…what grape was this again?”?  Is it because this is the home of many natural wines, which also gets a lot of attention these days?  I would place a check-mark next to “all of the above” because these wines are serious.  And many are seriously good!

Most  of the producers (and grapes) in this area of Italy have names that the rest of Italy cannot pronounce. Take Vodopivec for example and the only grape they vinify, the Vitovoska. Even the wines made in this corner of Italy stray from the every-day wines that the average Italian recognizes and consumes. Yet, these are very much wines. These are living wines, often made only with grapes. Nothing added, nothing taken.

The wine for this tasting note was produced by Franco Terpin. A little easier to pronounce, yet far from typical.  Franco farms in a natural fashion without the  use of industrial fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.  “The vine listens. The vine understands”, says Franco.  Franco says that the Ribolla Gialla (called Rebula in this area) is difficult to grow and he only vinifies it in exceptional vintages. Harvest is done by hand, fermentation  (initially in steel) is spontaneous thanks to the extended skin contact.  The wine is then transferred to oak where it spends about one year on the lees. It  is then transferred to stainless steel where it spends another year. Then it’s bottled without fining or filtering and is left to rest for yet another year before going for sale.  Approximately 2500 bottles produced.  This wine is not available in Norway or Poland.

Date tasted: Tuesday May 17th – Norwegian Independence day – 1845

Appearance: a slightly cloudy, orange-hued wine with a high intensity reflection. I just love the look of orange wines!

Nose: Oak  jumps out of the glass at first, with hints of reduction. Not a lot of fruit showing at this time. Mineral.  Some orange peel emerging, but the wine is still closed and not showing well yet. Some very slight, slight balsamic hints.

Palate: mineral, dry and surprisingly, the oak is less evident on the palate. The wine is quite intense on the palate and ends (many seconds after first entering the mouth) with a slight bitterness.  Medium-high acidity. Alcohol seems high, yet is well-integrated. The wood dries out the mouth very slightly, but not offensively . Very focused finish. Reminds of the peach iced-tea I just drank.  Super food wine i would imagine.

Wine is decanted………


Same night at  20:25:

Appearance hasn’t changed

Nose: More fruit has emerged. No sign of oak anymore. More herbs.

Palate: Still quite mineral. Oily. Orange peel. Pork fat, bacon. Alcohol is the only disturbance here, but the wine has been sitting in a decanter for almost two hours at room temp. Sits a long time on the palate. again, serious food wine. Fatty, oily. Texture is nice.

as we finished the last sips about an hour later, the wine had developed the sort of texture that helped the wine  just slip easily down the throat


 


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, natural wine (just about), orange wine

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A tasting note: 2004 Clos de l'Origine Fan de Voile


I’ve written about Marc Barriot and his Clos de l’Origine before, so if you wanna refresh your memory, click here. The wine i wrote about was one of his whites, but this is something completely different. It’s not red, that’s for sure, but it’s not really white either. Rather, this wine glows much like radiator anti-freeze fluid.. What? yup.. it does, check it out:

Date tasted:  January 26th, 2011 21:00

Appearance: Orange, brown, greenish color. Much like radiator fluid?? The grenache gris is a light red colored grape which with some skin contact should give the wine a pinkish-orange hue.. Judging by the look of this wine (the color), it does suggest some oxidative wine making techniques.

Nose: at first whiff, reminds of an oloroso sherry, or better yet, a Marsala. It is an oxidized style wine. It does have a bit sharper aromas with some citrus, orange peels. Almonds, raw. Dusty, wet stones. Hints of caramelized nuts as well on the back. Hints of espresso. Strange wine. Sherry-like tones are what I keep coming back to. Pecan pie? I should also say that the aromas jump out of the glass and you can smell it from feet away.

Palate: Bone dry. Slightly nutty at first with some citrus peel and mineral. Nuts come back after swallowing. A bit of an alcohol sting, but not too much warmth. Very, very slight hints of rancio, with the dried, spiced fruit. Oxidative style really dominates. Fresh and rather light with a pretty good structure. It’s actually quite drinkable for this style of wine, but i still think I’d rather share the bottle. Semi-long, semi-sweet finish.

I wonder what Marc eats with this wine? Cheese? Charcuterie?? Or is it just as an aperitif?  I don’t love it. I don’t hate it…hmmmm, I’ll have to try it again tomorrow.

January 27th, 2011 17:15

Nose: sweeter aromas today and more spicy notes. I swear i can smell dried apricots and more candied nuts. Much less noticeable alcohol on the nose today as well. I have to say that i am a bit surprised at how this has changed overnight for the better. Some of those oxidized notes that were so dominant yesterday have sort of «oxygenated» and burn off… an oxygenated oxidized wine?

Hmmm. My mouth is watering as I nose this glass…

Palate: Much «sweeter» on the palate today as well. Again, those apricots and candied nuts that I found on the nose. Alcohol also less noticeable than yesterday. A slight, very pleasant bitter almond finish appears today, and i love it. This is a great aperitif. Something about this also reminds me a bit of a vermouth, like Martini Rosso (minus the sugar). Know what I mean?

The finish is also longer and sits on the middle of the tongue, and the roof of the mouth. Like sucking on a candy.

I am enjoying this wine much more today than i did yesterday. Has this wine opened up and improved since yesterday? Am I more relaxed today? Is it a «better drinking day»? Or is it just because the wine is a few degrees cooler today giving it all these positive attributes? I don’t know. I know only that this is damn good right now. There is something about this wine that makes it much more quaffable than yesterday.

On January 30th, a few days after i started writing this tasting note, I got this message from Marc describing this wine:

“The Vin de voile is a mistake. he came from the quilles Libres 2004 grenache gris. i harvest the grenache gris the 20/08/2004, fermentation in big barrel for 30 days, then aging in barrels outside, bottling direct from the cask, only 13 % alcohol, a dry and fine rancio!!.

the color was a big rosé, so i put it outside in used barrels for 365 days. after sun, rain and wind it became a nice ‘ptit Vin Jaune” …

i decided to bottle it (600 bottles). i have 192 bottles left. pretty hard to sell in France when it is not a vin jaune !!

it is very good with cheese and foie gras or such spicy meals, but French are very chauvinistic so i keep drinking it slowly and give for special tasting…”

In a separate message, he confirms that this was his first vintage with this grape variety:

“the famous grenache gris which skin color is red, so at harvest when i press a bit too much, i extract too much color… and so it became a nice rosé!!

it takes time to like it, try whit a manchego, anchovies and pizza or foie gras (half cooked) if you still have some…”

January 31th 2220

Appearance: Slightly more brownish in color as you see from this photo. This was to be expected as this wine is oxidized to begin with.

Nose: Aromas still jumping out of the glass as I pour the wine. Very «sticky». Marsala-like. Rancio more than on the previous days – these are my initial impressions as i am pouring the wine. I have yet to nose the glass. As I nose the glass I get very intense, nutty aromas today. Less fruity than on previous days. Walnuts. Nocino (walnut liquor). Worn leather.

Palate: Definitely more oxidized on the palate with some persistent bitter-sweet tones. Alcohol again more integrated. Long finish. Very marasala like and still very savory. I would definitely like this wine as an aperitif or with some nuts and cheese. .

I have tasted most of Marc Barriot’s wines. I like them all, but I have to say that my favorite is still the 2008 P’Tit Barriot which he has bottled in 2 lots.  The first bottling/Lot 1 –  “a very small parcel of old syrah on gneiss soil in Latour. i kept it for 4 years , very old and very low yield.”   Marc is currently bottling Lot 2 of this wine and here is the difference – “the second petit B is produced on the new terroir of Caudies far at the end of the department of 66, altitude quite high 360 m, limestone and schiste soil, lot’s of bird, bees, grass so a big Life over there!! no neighbour, very quite and lovely name: L’amourouse in catalan mean the lover.  It is a carbonic maceration aged in barrel(6 months) and tank until now to loose the technologic aromas and get the terroirs taste of these very “green region” which is the fenouilledes compare to the moon of “Maury” ??

For me, the P’Tit Barriot is full of personality and should be tasted if you have the chance.  I find it very quaffable and easy to like.  And who can resist the label..


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, France, Maury, natural wine (just about), orange wine, Roussillon

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Molten Lava in Not So Frigid Poland

I recently had the opportunity to meet with some wine enthusiasts in Warsaw, Poland. I didn’t know what to expect before the meeting except the fact that I had promised to bring 3 bottles of Magma and that they were extremely interested in tasting them.  On their part there was the promise to taste some Josko Gravner which also gave me something to look forward to.

Wojciech Bońkowski

Andrzej Daszkiewicz

I have to admit that most of my wine knowledge and experience have been gained living in Norway over the last 7 or so years.  I have tasted among whom I consider to be some of the best wine tasters I have seen.  Norwegians have refined palates and an amazing ability to analyze wine. I certainly feel privileged to have earned my experience in this country.  This being said, I was blown away by the tasting abilities of the small group that was gathered at  Mielżyński’s for this tasting.

Tomasz Kurzeja

Ewa Wieleżyńska

In a country that is jumping economically by leaps and bounds, most of it in the last two decades, it is still more common to see large commercial brands dominating the market.  This year I have witnessed wine shops opening up like mushrooms popping up after a rainfall, and often disappearing as quickly as those prized mushrooms. It was certainly a breath of fresh air, and of relief, to meet with such a group that not only had accumulated enormous wine knowledge, but who also seemed to really understand and enjoy wine without being captivated by a label, and have been doing so for years.

We met at Mielżyński’s, a warehouse of sorts that is an import company, a warehouse, distribution center, wine bar and restaurant.  A concept founded by Robert Mielżyński,  born in Canada, studied Oenology in Fresno, California, then moved back to his native Poland.  A concept that seems to be working well for Robert judging by the fact that it was a Monday night and there were no empty tables.  The wine selection was quite diverse ranging from Domaine de Chevalier to Frédéric Magnien to Allesverloren. There was no wine list, just cases and cases of wine that you can pick and grab yourself, or have somebody help you with your selection.  Having lived in Norway for over 7 years now (where the government-run wine monopoly system is in full force), it has been a while since I have seen a place that you could buy wine to drink there or take-away.  The dinner menu was presented to us on a portable chalk board, like you might see in a Paris bistro, and included simple (and delicious) dishes like pumpkin soup, Cornish game hen and a couple of pasta dishes.

Robert Mielżyński

My first Polish wine experience

Katarzyna Niemyjska

We started with a wine produced in Poland. A wine made not with grapes from the Vitis Vinifera species of vines responsible for almost every bottle of wine we consume, but rather from the crossing of  the Vitis Labrasca family and Vitis Vinifera.  The grape was called Hibernal, a white variety developed in Germany derived from a Seibel 7053 (V. Labrasca) & Riesling (V. Vinifera) cross.  An interesting wine made by a winery owned by Katarzyna Niemyjska and her husband with grapes from organic vineyards a few hours south of Warsaw.  On the nose the wine was slightly reductive at first, but with some swirling of the glass, the wine had smoky, mineral notes with light scents of lemons and herbs, most noticeably basil.  On the palate, lemons and bitter oranges, minerals and chalk. A bone dry wine with a nice acidic back bone and a slightly bitter finish. A fine and very interesting wine.

We then tasted good efforts from Zind Humbrecht, La Stoppa, Ostertag and Chateau Tour des Gendres.  We then moved on to some astounding wines from Josko Gravner. A 2000 Ribolla Gialla aged in Botti followed by a 2001 Ribolla Gialla in Amphora.  The difference from one wine to the next was astounding.  The 2001 Amphora version of the Ribolla had layers and layers of complex aromas and nuances that the 2000 just didn’t have. Botti versus Amphora OR 2000 versus 2001? You tell me….

We moved on to the Damijan Ribolla Gialla 2002 from Friuli Venezia-Giulia, on the border of Slovenia.  Damijan Podversic pursues natural winemaking, which he learned from the aforementioned, great Friulian producer Josko Gravner.  He releases his vintages only when he deems them ready.  This was an intriguing effort from a not so intriguing vintage.  A skin macerated Ribolla, fermented only with indigenous yeasts, with a structure to rival most red wines  yet fresh enough to quaff even the most thirsty wine drinker.  This was my first time tasting the wines of Damijan and I look forward to the next.  There is very likely a bright future for Damijan Podversic.

We completed the tasting with 3 versions of Frank Cornelissen’s Magma 2. All hailing from the 2002 vintage, each bottle representing a different Contrada. We tasted the Marchesa, the Calderara and the Trefiletti.  All three wines showed extremely well, with the Marchesa being my favorite.

According to Frank, the Marchesa comes from the part of the vineyard that is normally very sun exposed and has a good balance between tannins and density.  The alcohol is rather low (13,7%) on this wine in this vintage.   The grapes were harvested on November 2nd and 504 bottles were produced.   Light red with very little age showing considering this was an 8 year-old wine made without the use of sulfur.  None to very little browning on the edges. Extremely youthful on the palate as well, with even a slight “spritz” on the tongue like you might find in a wine bottled within the last 12 months.  Very Poulsard-like fruit (think Overnoy here and you might get the idea), medium ripe acidity and tannins that increased with some time in the glass. A delicious wine with tons of drinkability.

The Calderara comes from a vineyard that is very stony and sun exposed.  In a cool vintage like 2002, the fragrances are very Pinot like according to Frank.  In general this contrada produces very high alcohol wines when picked ripe. Harvested on November 1st, 297 bottles produced.  This wine on the other hand showed its more serious side with hints of meat and herbs. The tannins held longer and the wine was darker and more “masculine” compared to the sensual femininity of the Marchesa.

The Trefiletti vineyard is located in Rovitello and is difficult to push to ripeness without losing all fruit due to rot (grey as well as noble).  “This is the only time I have been able to produce Magma there due to the above mentioned climatic difficulties. I love this place for its balanced tannins, structure and elegance when all odds and ends fall together in one vintage, like 2002 pushing all limits”.  Harvested October 30th, 515 bottles produced.  This bottle was the most advanced of the three wines and showed it’s higher alcohol (14,4%) a bit on the tongue with hints of olives and truffles not found on the other two Magmas.

When sharing my tasting notes of the Magmas with Frank, he came back with this:  “This is by far the most evolved set of wines I have ever produced. Beside this fact, I have always thought the Calderara was the most feminin/Burgundian of the three. Less tannic than for example the Marchesa which always needed a bit more time.
The Trefiletti was, I think, an off bottle. Too much oxygen exchange due to a lesser cork has led to a tired wine. This is the more younger and best balanced of all three crus.”

This day in Warsaw, amongst such people and great wines, created a warmth inside that helped me feel at home in Poland.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Molten Lava in Not So Frigid Poland

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Welcome (Back) to Georgia Part III – Prince Makashvili Cellar

Prince Makashvili Cellar – Soliko Tsaishvili, here Irakli Pruidze & David Kapanadze

Date tasted:  July 11th, healing 2010 13:45

This grapes for this wine come from the Grand Cru vineyards of Akhoebi, in the village of Kardanakhi in the low hills of the Kakheti region.    The vineyard covers 1.9 HA and are farmed biodynamically and harvested by hand.  The soil is  black  and carbonate-rich.  The vines are widely spaced at approximately 2500 plants/HA, trained in a double Guyot pattern.  The vineyard is planted with approximately 90% Rkatsiteli, 4% Mtsvane, 4%Khikhvi and a red variety called Saperavi, all on original (non-American) root stock. Harvest is done by hand, the grapes pressed softly.  The wine is spontaneously fermented and macerated for 6 months with skins in Qvevri.  After skin and stalk separation, the resulting wine is stored in smaller Qvevri for a further 12 months.   Bottled without filtration.  In 2007 approximately 20hl/ha was produced, or 1200 bottles.

90% Rkatsiteli 6% Mtsvane 4% Khikhvi
Total SO2 is 31 mg/l (31ppm)
Residual Sugar is 1.83 g/l

Appearance: Apricot-orange hued with golden edges.

Nose: Herbs and spices (lavender & rosemary)  layered on top of  yellow fruit.  Sweet arctic cloud berries with strawberry (yes, strawberry) notes.

Palate: Great focused fruit. Apricots mostly. Medium tannins with medium level acidity.  30+ second finish. Bone dry.

The Grand Cru Akhoebi was my favorite of the three I wines tasted.

Date tasted:  July 11th, 2010 13:45

This grapes for this wine come from the Grand Cru vineyards of Tsarapi, in the village of Kardanakhi.  The vineyards cover 1.25 HA and are farmed biodynamically and harvested by hand.  The wine is spontaneously fermented and macerated for 6 months in Qvevri, then stored in the Qvevri for a further 12 months.   Bottled without filtration, and on this particular bottle, this was quite obvious.  Approximately 20hl/ha is produced, or about  1200 bottles.

100% Rkatsiteli
Total SO2 is 24mg (24ppm)
Residual Sugar is 2.75 g

Appearance: Darker and more copper-hued with loads of visible sediment 🙂

Nose: Sponty aromas with apricots, with less herbs and spices than the Akhoebi Grand Cru.  My favorite on the nose of the three wines because it had that perfect balance between fruit and wild aromas with just enough minerals to give the wine a serious edge.

Palate: More vinous than the Akhoebi – thick, structured and concentrated.  Quite a serious wine and very mineral.  Medium + tannins and acidity with a long finish.  Bone dry, elegant fruit.

This wine wanted desperately to be my favorite, but it came in second behind the Akhoebi. However, with a few years more of cellaring, this may show even better than the Akhoebi.

My overall impressions were that these three Georgian wines I tasted were of top quality and quite serious food wines.  I would have no problem drinking them alongside my Friulian & Slovenian favorites.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Georgia, Kakheti, natural wine (just about), orange wine, Welcome (Back) to Georgia

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Welcome (Back) to Georgia Part II – Clos des Amandiers

Now, back to the future (today) and the wines of Georgia, all hailing from the Kakheti region located in Eastern Georgia, the driest of the 3 regions.  It is the largest wine region in Georgia spanning over  11,000 square kilometers.

All three wines were (mostly) of the same grape variety, Rkatsiteli (or Rkatziteli – pronounced rkah-tsee-tely, and directly translated means “red vine”).  The only Georgian wine experience I have had before today, was  tasting some half-sweet (non-representative) red wine that was poured from a decorated clay bottle, and let’s just say it wasn’t a wine to remember. In fact, I only remember the bottle to this day.   These three wines were not at all what I had anticipated. They were aromatic, complex, fresh and tannic wines that would do well with food.

This project started about 4 years ago when a group of Italian wine and spirit merchants (Luca & Paolo Gargano) from Genova purchased a 1.8ha vineyard in the village of Mararo.  With the help of Jean Jacques, a friend of Nicolas Joly, and a local farmer named Nodar Shinjiashvili who was  cultivating old varieties of cereals biodynamically, Clos des Amandiers was born.  In 2007 they released their first vintage, the first wine in my tasting.

The vines for this wine share the space with almond trees and are cultivated biodynamically.  Harvest occurred in October, the grapes subsequently softly pressed.  Fermentation occurred spontaneously with indigenous yeasts  in old Qvevri without temperature control.  Maceration lasted for six months in these Qvevri then transferred to smaller, non-buried Qvevri for 12 months maturation.  The wine was then bottled without filtration and left to age in the bottle.

Date tasted:  July 11th, 2010 13:45

Appearance: Quite a dark orange hued wine with copper and amber tones (think Cat’s Eye gemstones)

Nose: Wow, intense. Quite a sponty and wild nose of dried peaches, raw almonds, marmalade and yellow plums. Hints of jasmine and lavender emerge after about an hour.

Palate: A delicate and elegant entry. Red apples (yes, red) and yellow apples. Medium ++ tannins, medium + acidity (tangy). I found more fruit on the nose then I did on the palate.  The wine had a 30 second+ finish with dominating tannins and toast.

I feel that this wine would be very suitable to food.  Especially dishes with high contrasting flavors and moderately spicy food (because of the fruity aromas in the wine).  A dish specifically recommended to me would be yogurt-marinated baked mutton (meat of mature sheep).  My experience with orange wines is that they merry quite well with food in general, from your sweeter, more aromatic dishes, to meat dishes and finally with cheese.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Georgia, Kakheti, natural wine (just about), orange wine, Welcome (Back) to Georgia

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A tasting note: 2005 Vodopivec Vitovska Amphora

2009-06-02_620091680Date tasted:  June 2nd, 2009 15:00 (3pm)

In the hills and mountains of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in North Eastern Italy, there are a group of winemakers that wish to make wine like they did centuries ago.  They farm organically and believe very firmly in the principles of natural wine making.  Ancient methods of cultivation are employed and the white wines are treated to extended maceration periods on the skins, producing “orange” wines.   Indigenous yeasts are used without the use of temperature control.  Fermentation takes place naturally and spontaneously.  In some cases, this takes place outdoors in large terracotta Amphorae.

The Vodopivec brothers’  Valter and Paolo’s winery is about 20 minutes north of Trieste, near the Slovenian border.  The brothers own a nursery and are plant and flower experts.  They have been making wine since 1995.  Up until the 2005 vintage, they have always used big Botti, now they are also using Amphorae.

The Vodopivec brothers usually bottle two different wines from the Vitovska grape.  The Vitovska grape is a vine with a greenish-gold berry that has always been cultivated in area of Trieste.  The name of the vine is undoubtedly of Slovenian origin, and was often called Vitovska Garganija.   The top bottling is the Solo, comprised of the top selection of grapes from older vines.  The second bottling is their second selection.

2005 was a challenging vintage with an overabundance of rain, therefore only one (hand) harvest was made. The Solo cuvée was not produced.  After harvesting, approximately 70% of the grapes were then fermented in Botti, the remaining 30% in Amphorae.  The wine was macerated with the skins for around 70 days.  Only indigenous yeast, no filtration, no treatments.  The botti were sprayed with about 10mg/liter of sulfur about 2 weeks before the harvest to “sterilize”.  The Amphorae were not sprayed.

There were two bottlings for the declassified 2005 vintage.  The wine fermented and aged in Amphorae has an orange stripe on the label.  The wine fermented and aged in Botti has a green stripe on the label.  This bottle was the Amphorae version.  Price in Norwegian Kroner is 320 ($50)

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Appearance: Apricot, amber color. Clean. Medium plus intensity.

Nose: Spice, Cinnamon. Kumquat, Umami and orange peel.  Very intense and complex nose.  Keeps you going back to the glass to smell and smell again.  Also leaves the impression that this wine could be very fruity or even sweet.

Palate: Medium tannins and extremely focused fruit.  Orange peel and touches of spice.  Medium plus, mature acidity with a smooth, long and elegant finish.  Bone dry.  Really complex with some minerality on the finish.  Best enjoyed at closer to room temperature.  Goes very well with mature goat cheese.  I have also found success pairing this wine with pork belly in an Asian inspired sauce.

Although extremely enjoyable now in it’s youth, the wine’s concentration indicates to me the potential to lay down in the cellar for 5-8 years; perhaps more.

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Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine

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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.

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