…spontaneously fermenting

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)


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.


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


A tasting note: 2007 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 4


Date tasted:  June 2nd, 2009 15:00(3pm)

Frank Cornelissen owns about 12 ha on Mt. Etna in Sicily. He’s a non-interventionist who says “Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be.”


Frank & Alberto at the top of 'Rampante', the pre-phylloxera vineyard at 1010m altitude located above Solicchiata on Mt Etna after the devasting forest fire of 3 full days & nights.

On a postcard I recently received, he goes on to say  “To produce a bottle of genuine, natural wine, the recipe is simple:  take large quantities of dedication, determination, intuition and coherence.  To these ingredients throw in a strong dose of masochism in order to physically and emotionally survive the difficulties and downsides of this ‘Art of Wine’.  Finally, enjoy a glass (or more) of this wine, before sending the rest around the world to good homes.”

Of all the “natural” wines I have tasted, Frank’s are always the most interesting.  I am not saying that his wines are the most well-made of the natural wines I have tasted, but his are always the most engergetic.  And, definitely the most natural tasting compared to his counterparts.  From the very rustic labeling, to the almost opaque  wines that are very obviously not filtered nor fined.

This “orange” wine is no exception.  Made from the local (white grapes) Grecanico Dorato, Coda di Volpe, Carricante and Cattaratto grapes, this orange wine is barely see through.  This cloudy wine is so packed full of sediment that I swore I could see chunks of grapes floating towards the bottom of the bottle.  Of course this is a “slight” exaggeration, but it sure made me happy knowing that this wine was made from something (grapes) that was growing wild in the vineyards, and nothing else.   His wines are the most natural of the natural wines I have tasted, and this wine was no exception.  His wines have a certain “energy” about them which is hard to put in words, but they make you feel good.

The grapes for this wine come from various vineyards on Mount Etna owned and cared for by Frank.  Frank harvests the approximate 13ha/hl of grapes totally by hand.  The bunches of grapes are put into a destemmer and crushed, not pressed at this time.  This machine is more of a crusher than a destemmer as it hardly removes any of the stems at all.

The must is then placed into plastic containers in his backyard (no temperature control here) which are then covered with a tent-like plastic material to keep the rain out.  Of course only indigenous yeast here.  The wine is left to spontaneously ferment and macerate with the skins for about 4 months giving the wine it’s apricot-hued glow.  The wine is then pressed into Amphorae with the help of gravity and then bottled.  Absolutely nothing else is added to this wine. Nothing.  Not even SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide).  The wine is not fined nor filtered before being bottled and this is evident.  Since Frank bottle’s his wine without filtration, the last wines bottled have more sediment than the first ones.


First tasting 1500 (3pm):

Appearance: A very cloudy, unfiltered appearance.  Loads of sediment which are very visible to the naked eye.  In the glass, the wine has an apricot juice hue with a medium intensity.  It is hard to analyze intensity with an unfiltered wine of this type (wine with high intensity glows can indicate a high level of intensity and vice versa).


Nose: Apricots with hints of minerals and loads of farmyard (those of you familiar with red Burgundy know what I am talking about).  The distinctive (for me) Cornelissen pickle juice.  Dry hay and flowers.

Palate: Wild just like the other Cornelissen wines.  Typical.  A little tingle at the front of the tongue initially from the slight residual CO2, which quickly burns off with a little swirling of the glass.  Medium minus tannins.  High acidity, but not harsh, just mouth watering and mature.  Pickles and smoke.  Kumquats.  Essence of apricots and peaches, but not sweet.    Bone dry with around 2g/liter of residual sugar according to my palate.

Second tasting 1809 (609pm):

Nose: Much more pickles and farmyard.  Less distinct apricots.  The apricot aromas I do get are of unripe apricots.

Palate: Medium minus tannins.  Rosemary, sweet yellow fruit at the back end, apricots.  Finish is long and persistent with mild tannins, great acid and smokey flavors.  The wine sits and sits.

Interesting to note that although the wine was dry, it paired well with sweeter dishes.  It worked well with my honey and lemon marinated chicken.  It was also working surprising well with my Mexican Cactus Fruit.. Strange….

I’m always fascinated with the fact that the few bottles of natural wine that I manage to keep open a few days seem to only improve.


Please check out my video wine tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s Rosso del Contadino! Click below and forgive the quality:

Wine Tasting with Vinosseur – 2007 Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 5 from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 3 TASTING NOTES, 31 Days of Natural Wine, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Frank Cornelissen - Mt. Etna (Sicila), Italy, Italy, Mt Etna, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Sicilia


A tasting note: 2005 Azienda Agricola Pacina Chianti Colli Senesi


Date tasted:  May 16th, 2009

I have tasted a few Chianti’s from the Colli Senesi DOCG and they are often fresh and light. This wine seemed more like a Brunello di Montalicino than a Chianti or Chianti Colli Senesi.  With some digging I found out that Azienda Agricola Pacina is located in Castelnuovo Berardenga, but his vines are in the Colli Senesi DOCG (which I am told you can see from the kitchen window).  I should also add that on a clear day, you can see Montalcino from the estate (home of the afore mentioned Brunello di Montalcino), which could be part  of the reason why this wine was more like a Brunello to me.


The 10ha vineyard for this wine is made up of sand, clay and oyster fossils and is farmed organically, leaning towards biodynamics.  The blend is 97% Sangiovese and 3% Canaiolo/Ciliegiolo.  The grapes are hand harvested, crushed and the alcoholic fermentation takes place utilizing indigenous yeasts.  The wine is left to macerate for around five weeks in concrete tanks (the long skin contact could be another reason why this wine resembled a Brunello).  The wine is then aged for one year in (5-10 year-old) 500 liter barrels and botti of 17-25hl.  The wine is then bottled without clarification nor filtration.  Very little sulfur is added at this time ( I’m told 15-20 mg) and aged a further 6 months before release.  25,000 bottles are produced.  Alcohol:  13.2%  Total Acidity:  5.5%.  Price in Norwegian Kroner is 200 ($31).

Appearance: Dark brick-red with good color depth.  Medium intensity.  Still nice dark edge suggesting that this wine is younger than it really is.

Nose: When first opened, slight hints of onion, suggesting that there was slight reduction.  This very quickly burned off.  Hints of mineral emerged along with dark cherries and dark plums.  Hints of herbs like rosemary.  Some dried fruit notes on the back end.

Palate: Dark cherries and cherry pits.  Medium plus acidity and medium plus tannins which actually increased and began to over power the wine a bit once in the glass for 10 minutes.  It was difficult to distinguish weather the tannins were coming from the fruit or the 500 liter barrels.  I am quite sure that most of the tannic structure of the wine came form the fruit itself.  Very rustic style of wine with secondary aromas that emerge about 10 seconds after the initial impression on the palate.  Those secondary aromas sat for 30 plus seconds.


I tasted this wine again on the 19th of May, after the bottle had been open for 3 days and stored in the refrigerator.  It had actually improved considerably.  The tannins were better integrated and the fruit more precise.  It’s my opinion that this wine is a wine that could benefit from 5-7 years of cellaring.  A reliable source reported to me that he had recently tasted a 1995 and that it was, to quote him directly “fantastic”!  I suppose that at this price, one might expect that a wine with the Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG can be aged.


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Chianti Colli Senesi, Italy, natural wine (just about), Toscana


A tasting note: 2007 Cantina di Nomi/Antichi Portali Rulander

2009-05-05_008Date tasted:  May 5th, 2009

Cantina di Nomi is a cooperative situated in the heart of the Vallagarina, between Trentino and Rovereto in the far North in Italy.  The cantina was formed in 1957 by a group of farmers and, according to the website, the almost 200 hectares are harvested by hand.

This wine is part of the Antichi Portali line and is made with the Rulander grape, also known as Pinot Grigio. The grapes for this wine are harvested by hand and come from a single vineyard called Castel Pietra.  Once harvested and crushed, the skins are macerated with the must for 18-24 hours at a temperature of between 6-8°C (43-46.5°F).  The wine is aged for a short period in stainless steel.

Appearance: A very light bronze/rusty color. Medium intensity with good clarity, most likely this wine has been filtered.

2009-05-05_520091557Nose: Not very floral nor fruity.  Under ripe lemons.  Light aromas of gooseberry, with slight green notes (some similar aromas to Sauvignon Blanc, but less intense and green).  Hints of under ripe melon.  Not a terribly intense nor complex wine.

Palate: Very dry, medium acidity.  Dry orange peel.  A bit steely and saline.  Crisp with a medium long finish.  Medium alcohol.  Very slight oxidaton on the palate.

I tried the wine again the next day and there was no evolution.

Overall this wine was OK, but not great.   I expected greater complexity due to the skin contact, but the short time on the skins didn’t add much to the wine. It is quite a typical Pinot Grigio.

It’s suitable for an aperitif or just to refresh yourself on a hot day.


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Italy, orange wine, Trentino

1 comment

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


A tasting note: 1961 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva

Before I get to the the tasting note, I just want to start off by asking you to bare with me. I haven’t been posting as often as I would like because  I am still trying to figure out this WordPress thing. The posts on my site don’t show up the way I’d like them to. So, until I figure this out, please be patient with the placement of photos within my posts. Thank you. And without further delay:

Detail from the back label:
“….Barolo will naturally produce a sediment as it matures. Before Borgogno will export any of their mature wines, each bottle is decanted from this sediment, checked, and then topped up from the same vintage and recorked. For this reason the corks in the olders wines will be new, but the quality has been guaranteed by the producer before shipment. DECANTED: JULY 2007”


Opened and NOT decanted. Poured into large Burgundy glasses.

The wine was a light rusty red with rusty brown edges – color still quite “intense” considering the 47 year age of this wine

Sniffed immediately:

slight farmyard scents with some crushed rose pedals
eucalyptus leaves
sour cherries
forest floor
some spice in the background
a little burn on the nostrils from the alcohol.

Tar and roast meat emerging on the nose after some time in the glass. Also
some licorice emerging – more perfumed and more intense fruit

sour cherries and dried sour fruit
gripping tannins (still after all these years) and
high acidity (still after all these years)
finish persisting for 15 to 20 seconds

15-30 minutes after the bottle was opened, the wine started really opening up – fruit was more intense on the nose and on the palate. Acidity more pronounced and tannins a bit softer, but still quite firm. The wine remained well-balance throughout.

A typical aged nebbiolo with classic nebbiolo nose and palate with well defined and firm tannins. Well made, good concentration and balance, but not very complex. I believe that this bottle still hade some life ahead of it – enjoy now or for another 5-10 years.

Although it’s always interesting to taste a mature wine, this wine didn’t leave me desiring more..

And now, the photos:




Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Barolo, Italy, Piemonte




Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. 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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