Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

25 November 2020

Film review: Disrupting Wine (2020) by Johan Rimestad, ***


Synopsys
 

Documentary about the founder of Vivino, Heini Zachariassen.

Vivino has more than 43 million downloads worldwide and has its HQ in San Francisco. (from the film’s website) Of course: for wine just as for anything else innovation blooms in silicon valley.

Review 

Too much about the life of the founder and his family and not enough about the Vivino application, its features, its very useful role in the hands of wine lovers and sommeliers alike. While some facts about Heini would obviously be in order to understand the genesis of the app, this is not supposed to be about him but about IT, VIVINO! Also, one gets the impression that the creator of Vivino treats wines as if they were any other commodity, he could have made an app about different kinds of detergents. I feel that is not the case but Heini's passion for wine does not come through.


 

23 November 2020

Film review: A Year in Burgundy (2013), by David Kennard, ***


Synopsis

The film follows Martine Saunier seven wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France through the course of a full year, and delves into the cultural and creative process of making wine, as well as its deep ties to the land. What lies within the rhythm of a year, from vines to grapes to wine? 

The film is in four season-sections, and plays out against that backdrop: spring showers, drought, heat wave, hail and storms, harvest moons and the damp cold of winter. Each vintage is a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs. It all goes in, whether you want it to or not, and 2011 was full of drama. (from Ibmd)

Review

A bit of a disappointment. If you don't know anything about Burgundy you will certainly learn something. If you've been there a few times you will still get a few bits here and there but not much. Much of it is cliche. Brugundy deserves better. Still, if you have it for free on Prime and want an easy evening, go ahead an watch it, with a glass of Burgundy wine in hand of course.


19 November 2020

Film Review: A seat at the table (2019) by David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown , **


Synopsis

A New Zealand winemaking team enters the period known as Vintage when wine is made 24/7 for months on end. Sleepless nights, endless labor, time away from home means they must ensure nature, science and magic come together to overcome each challenge Vintage presents. (from imdb)


Review

A missed opportunity. The makers of this documentary had access to the whole process of harvesting at a large New Zealand vineyard but we learn very little in over one hour of watching this repetitive production. We hear a hundred times how hard the work is during harvest, and how awesome everyone in the multinational team of pickers is, but little else. 

Some information that one learns in this film: foreigners now own one third of NZ wine production, the French were the first to invest, in the 1980s. 

Biodynamics taking off.

Not so many rules like in Europe about controlled origins, allowed varieties, irrigation, chaptalization, so  NZ can experiment more.

One curiosity: lots of pigs apparently threaten the harvest at night, and even deer. As for birds, they try and do their share of eating but mostly cause botrytis, which is some parts of the world is welcome as it allows to make sweet wines, but not here.


Read my reviews of films about wine here.

09 November 2020

Film review: Somm, into the Bottle (2015), by Jason Wise, ****

Synopsis

Sequel to the previous Somm movie of 2012, this documentary takes the viewer into the private world of famed producers (who open exceptional bottles for the occasion).


Review

A peek into cellars that most of us humans will never get into, and a good dose of self-irony about a profession that means different things to different people. Definitely recommended after the first.

We learn that the word "spirit", used for alcoholic beverages, comes from the fact that wine has been used in religious functions for a long time, it takes the "spirit" out of the body, especially when abused! Not sure it is true, but it sounds fun.

We also learn that Julius Cesar instructed his legionaries to drink at least a liter of wine a day, more before going into battle.

One somm opines that aging wine in wood is like adding salt to food: you may need it to exalt the flavor, but not too much. Some may not like it at all, of course. But if you do choose to oak a wine, beware: your barrel is going to be like a wife for your wine, choose well or your wine will pay the price for your mistake!

A few spoke about scoring wines. Some find it useful, some hate it as an oversimplification that is not reliable: no single somm will score the same wines the same way if given the same bottles blind over again.


01 November 2020

Film review: The Barolo Boys (2014) by Paolo Casalis and Tiziano Gaia, ****

The story of a group of Barolo producers, friends, colleagues and competitors at the same time, who broke with tradition to find their own call.

Barolo was mostly cheap, unknown and unloved until the early 1980s. It was a difficult wine, harsh, unfriendly, tannic, and it required a very long time to age and become more pleasant.

A bunch of producers, led by Gaia and Altare among others, decided to change that: they started reducing yields by green harvesting (removing some bunches before they ripen, so as to leave fewer but better bunches on the vine) and using new and small oak barrels.

The result was amazing, Barolo became well known, expensive and veery much loved. But not everyone was happy





 

18 October 2020

Film review: Somm (2012) by Jason Wise, ****


Review

Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. 

The documentary follows them step by step as they prepare and study together, meticulously, for many months, at the expense of their normal lives, their loved ones and their emotional balance.

The test is ruthless, both theory and practice (a blind tasting) demand superhuman qualities, memory, and not a little luck. In the end, those who pass join a club of only some 200 people who ever passed the test and are catapulted to the top of the wine world.




10 April 2020

Film review: Résistence naturelle (2014), By Jonathan Nossiter, **

Synopsys

Ten years after the landmark wine documentary Mondovino, filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter returns to the subject, documenting the drastic shifts that have affected the industry in the time since. Natural Resistance follows four Italian winegrowers.

First is Giovanna Tiezzi lives in a converted 11th-century monastery, and grow grains, fruit, and wine in a way that links to their ancient heritage. She laments that much of Tuscany's vineyards have been bought up by foreigners, but then is proud that her region is a leader in quality vine cultivation.

Corrado Dottori is a refugee from industrial Milan, who inherited his grandfather's farmstead and tends to it as an expression of agricultural social justice. he studied capitalism at the Bocconi, he says, so as to criticize it better.

Elena Pantaleoni works her father's vineyards and strives to create a utopian reality.

Finally, Stefano Belloti, the controversial radical farmer poet, disrupts the long-established rules of farming from his avant-garde property in Piedmont. (Synopsys partly from IBMD.com)


Review

A lot of ideology in this hastily put together film, which is really only a compilation of Nossiter's chats with the above growers over some wine.

The title "resistance" recalls the fighters of World War II against fascism and nazism, and it is not by chance. Nossiter, inserts several clips of Mussolini speaking from a balcony and SS guards rounding up civilians in this movie, and contrasts them with the heroic organic farmers, his partisans of today.

The other word in the title is "natural". The film compares and contrasts it with "artificial". And artificial (made by man with material that exists in nature) is not the same as "synthetic" (made through synthesis, transforming elements that do not exist in nature). Of course, all wine is artificial, it does not exist in nature.

Several of the protagonists complain about the DOC rules being abstract, detached from the criteria for quality that was the original reason for being created. In this they are right, and it has long widely been accepted that many top-quality Italian wines do not have, seek or need DOC certification.

The film nostalgically recalls when, in Italy, but the numbers are similar in other European countries, 60% of the people lived and worked on farms. Now it is about 2-3% depending on how you count it. Of course, every country that modernizes and develops moves from the primary sector of the economy (agriculture) to the secondary (manufacturing) and on to the tertiary (services). This brings higher standards of living, I find it hard to argue one should go back to the happy past.

The speakers are generally critical of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They argue it is a conspiracy to hand agriculture to big multinational corporations. Let alone that in several countries, Italy among them, EU subsidies (managed by regional administrations) are often left unused because small farmers do not bother to claim them.

They also argue that hygiene checks are targeted to create problems for small wine producers while they close an eye on the big ones. I do not know about the accuracy of this sweeping statement but they do not provide any evidence.

I also noticed a bias when a farmer shows Nossiter the difference between rich organic soil and standard vineyard next to it. The organic soil is a dark rich color and fluffy texture while the standard soil is hard and grey. But Belotti digs his organic sample near a plant and the other one on a pathway where constant traffic is expected to compact the soil. A careless test at best.

In sum, this film is more of an emotional call to arms than an analysis of the undoubted biological benefits of organic farming.


You can buy the DVD here

03 April 2020

Film review: L'Esprit du vin (2011) by Olympe and Yvon Minvielle **

Synopsys

A film sponsored by Château Lagarette, a biodynamic producer in Bordeaux.

A dozen or so biodynamic wine-growers express their vision of the present and make proposals for the future.

They ask eminently social and even political questions: What food? How Could humanity restore the ideal of living together?

Through their stories, practices, and the accumulation of knowledge from their experiences, the producers of the film and a group of farmers, biodynamic wine-growers, try to open a path. They want to show how the spirit of bio-dynamics could provide answers to these questions.



Review

This film is an all-out passionate defense of biodynamic viticulture. I say defense because most of the interviewees talk as if they are under siege, as if the evil forces of modernity are out to extinguish the feeble flame of tradition. No alternative point of view is presented in the film. If you want to hear alternative voices, skeptical or critical of biodynamic wine, you have to look elsewhere.

Clearly, the growers interviewed are very passionate about their wine, but often they get carried away. Just a few pearls from their statements. A basic theme of the film is a high level of hostility toward "technology": there is "technological" wine, which is artificial and then there is biodynamic wine, which is natural. Oddly, little attention is paid to organic wines, although biodynamic certification requires a wine to be organic to begin with.

A couple of speakers identify "technological" wines as the result of American influence and specifically the work of Robert Parker, while, on the contrary, "Europe" is the custodian of genuine winemaking. Well, Parker has nothing against biodynamic wines and actually promotes it. And, of course, there are lots of American biodynamic producers and in fact the USA is the biggest biodynamic farming producer in the world.

One speaker argues that biodynamic vineyards are better equipped to resist the negative radioactive impact of Chernobyl, thus lumping together as if it was a dogmatic truth a whole host of questionable assumptions.

A major problem for me is when, as several speakers repeat in this film, the argument is put forward that what is important in biodynamic wine is NOT the result, but the relationship between man and nature, a new philosophy of daily life. Assuming the latter is somehow better served in biodynamic farming, for me the end result, ie good and healthy wine, IS WHAT MATTERS.

Technology, a word that is often repeated with a grimace by many interviewees, destroys the relationship man and nature, farmer and vineyard. Biodynamic preparations restore the correct energy flows! A corollary of this argument is the open hostility of one speaker to established wine associations such as the Masters of Wine. In his view, these associations have been created to serve technology against the natural traditions of wine.

One speaker is very honest when he says biodynamic farming is like a religion: you can not demonstrate it, you can only believe it. Another one compares it to acupuncture: not scientifically proven, but many believe it anyway. Not surprising that biodynamic farmers also accept homeopathic principles, as they use extremely diluted solutions in some of their preparations.

A quirky claim toward the end of the film is that biodynamic wine is especially appreciated by women! Maybe so, as a woman grower claims to have produced a "concert wine" in her biodynamic vineyard because both wine and music share a spirituality for people to appreciate.

If you already believe in biodynamic farming this film will make you feel really good. If you are trying to understand more, it will give you only half the picture.

For a wise and cool view of the subject, read Jancis Robinson, one of the world's most respected authorities.

You can watch the film reviewed here on Youtube.

You can buy the DVD (in French as well as English) here on Amazon. Hard to come by and very expensive, however!





05 March 2020

Films about wine

Films are listed in alphabetical order by title. This is a "living list", continuously updated when I manage to see new films.


An Autumn Tale (1998), by Eric Rohmer. ****

Barolo Boys (2014) The story of how Barolo changed and became famous.

Bottle Shock (2008) by Randal Miller. ***** The story of the "Judgement of Paris" of 1976.

Disrupting Wine (2020) by Johan Rimestad. *** The story of Heini Zachariassen, the founder of Vivino.

L'Esprit du vin (2011) by Olympe and Yvon Minvielle. ** Apology of biodynamics.

A Good year (2006), by Ridely Scott. *** Romantic and captivating.

Mondovino (2004), by Jonathan Nossiter. ** Some interesting information but mostly rambling about the evil of globalization and the Americans behind it all.

Red Obsession (2013) by David Roach and Warwick Ross. **** The Chinese wealthy start buying great wines.

Résistence naturelle (2014), by Jonathan Nossiter. ** An accusation against presumed threats to wine and the environment.

A seat at the table (2019) by David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown.** New Zealand joins the top table of winemaking nations. 

Sideways (2004) by Alexander Payne. ***** The best romantic comedy about wine lovers.

Somm (2012) by Jason Wise. **** The story of a most excruciating battle to reach the summit of the wine trade.

Somm, into the bottle (2015), by Jason Wise. **** Stories of somms, rare bottles and the meaning of it all.

Somm 3, (2018), by Jason Wise. ** The worst of the trilogy. Three famous wine critics share their memories over rare bottles.

Three Days of Glory (2018) by Scott Wright and David Baker. *** Three days in Burgundy for an eclusive annual event.

Vintage (2019) by Colin West. * Vintage time at a NZ vineyard.

A Walk in the Clouds (1995), by Alfonso Arau. **** A good love story in the vineyard.

A Year in Burgundy (2013) by David Kennard. *** Documentary about a vintage (2011) and the people behind it.

You will be my son (2010), by Gilles Legrand. **** Father and son, and a third man, struggle over succession at the helm of a vineyard.

29 December 2019

Visita a Madeira




Alcuni membri del Brussels Wine Club sono stati in visita a Madeira, e naturalmente ne hanno approfittato per andare a trovare alcuni produttori del famoso vino fortificato. Ecco alcuni appunti che ho scritto in base alle mie ricerche ed a quanto abbiamo avuto la fortuna di degustare. Marco Carnovale

João Zarco

Un po' di storia

I capitani portoghesi João Zarco, Bartolomeu Perestrelo e Tristão Teixeira nel 1419 vi trovarono rifugio da una tempesta. L’anno dopo Lisbona iniziò ad inviare coloni. Alle prime coltivazioni di canna da zucchero seguì il finocchio, dai cui prende nome la capitale Funchal, prima città fondata da europei al di fuori del vecchio continente dopo la caduta dell’impero romano, nel 1424.

Madeira, la lussureggiante “isola del legno”, era sulla rotta delle grandi esplorazioni, e fiorì il commercio. Aveva il nome giusto Alvise da Mosto, un veneziano che nel 1455 introdusse la vite, malvasia di Candia che Venezia allora governava.

Nel XVI secolo, l’isola si trovava sulla rotta degli alisei che dall’Europa portava alle Americhe, e i portoghesi cominciarono ad esportare vino oltreoceano. Dati i lunghi tempi di navigazione fino ai porti di esportazione il prodotto diventava inaffidabile e spesso imbevibile.

Si racconta però che una nave diretta in America (alcuni dicono in India) non vendette il vino e lo riportò a Funchal. Assaggiandolo, lo si trovò migliorato. L’armoniosa fusione di persistente acidità ed avvolgente dolcezza venne accreditata al caldo delle stive. Qualcuno pensò anche al movimento delle onde. Per cui, fino all’inizio del novecento, si mandarono botti di vino su e giù per l’oceano, per ottenere vinho da roda (vino di “andata e ritorno”).

Nel XVII secolo, allo scopo di stabilizzare il vino, si cominciò a diffondere la pratica della fortificazione con alcol distillato dalla canna da zucchero. L'interazione tra riscaldamento e fortificazione produce la magia del madeira come lo conosciamo oggi.

Nel XVIII secolo, per simulare il caldo delle stive, si costruirono depositi con tetto di vetro, una specie di serre per il vinho do sol (vino del sole). Le esportazioni fiorirono. Il madeira fu molto apprezzato in America, tanto che George Washington lo scelse per brindare all’indipendenza degli Stati Uniti nel 1776. In Russia fu amato dallo Zar e dalla nobiltà.

Il XIX secolo fu difficile: la recessione seguita alle guerre napoleoniche colpì le esportazioni. La guerra civile americana bloccò il traffico verso occidente e l’apertura del canale di Suez tagliò fuori l’isola da quello verso l’oriente. Il duplice flagello, prima dell’oidio e poi della fillossera, fece strage nelle vigne. Disperati, i vignaioli facevano vino da viti americane non innestate, i “produttori diretti”, con triste perdita di qualità.

Il secolo scorso iniziò male: la grande guerra rese rischioso il trasporto per mare. Proibizionismo americano e Rivoluzione d’Ottobre chiusero le porte ai due principali mercati. Intanto miglioravano le tecnologie per il trasporto del vino, aumentava la velocità delle navi, non serviva più fortificare per esportare anche a grandi distanze. La produzione crollò, si espiantarono vigne. Il madeira venne tristemente relegato in cucina, come condimento.

La Grande Depressione e la seconda guerra mondiale deprimono ancora di più la produzione. Madeira è isolata, i contadini non hanno modo di vendere e smettono quasi di produrre uva. Oggi è quasi impossibile trovare annate dalla metà degli anni trenta agli anni cinquanta.

A partire dalla fine del XX secolo però c’è una ripresa. Il mercato mondiale diventa più sofisticato ed il gusto impegnativo del madeira, ossidativo, più fresco e minerale del porto, guadagna consensi. Punta sulla qualità dato che non potrà mai vincere sulla quantità. L’uso dei “produttori diretti” va a scemare e finisce nel 1980, in preparazione all’entrata del Portogallo nell’Unione Europa. Quest’ultima è di grande beneficio: facilita l’accesso ai mercati e invia sovvenzioni.

Geografia e viticoltura

Madeira si trova a 32 gradi di latitudine, al limite della fascia propizia alla viticoltura. Clima subtropicale, con temperature raramente sotto i 10 gradi o sopra i 20. Il suolo è vulcanico, molto scosceso.

Solo 450 ettari di vigneti: piccoli, difficili terrazzamenti strappati alla lava rendono impossibile ogni meccanizzazione. Circa 1500 i viticoltori che si cimentano nella sfida, spesso microproduzioni sul terreno adiacente all’abitazione. Solo quattro i vitigni considerati “nobili”, tutti bianchi. Le vigne di sercial sono di solito piantate in altitudine, quasi fino a 1000 metri, per conferire maggiore acidità. Quelle del verdelho sui 400-500 metri mentre boal e malvasia danno il meglio al caldo, presso il livello del mare. Un vitigno rosso, il tinta negra, più resistente, è piantato un po’ ovunque.

Le piogge elevate, soprattutto sui pronunciati rilievi, forniscono abbondante acqua, opportunamente convogliata con un’intricata canalizzazione di oltre 2.000km. I forti alisei da nord-est favoriscono le vigne sul lato meridionale dell’isola, più riparate dalle montagne. Sul versante nord le terrazze devono essere protette da vento e salsedine con siepi e muri a secco.

Si vendemmia prima che le uve abbiano raggiunto la piena maturazione per accentuare l’acidità. Difficile la produzione biologica: il clima molto umido obbliga al trattamento delle uve.

I principali mercati sono Francia col 26% delle esportazioni, Portogallo 18%, Germania 10%, Regno Unito 9%, Giappone 8% e USA 7%.

Vinificazione

La fermentazione avviene in botti di legno o tini di cemento o acciaio, e alcuni produttori si affidano ai fermenti indigeni. L’aggiunta di piccole quantità di mosto concentrato o acido tartarico è consentita durante o dopo la fermentazione: utile per correggere il gusto considerando che manca la fermentazione malolattica.

Vinificazione
Vitigno (min 85%)
tipologia
fermentazione
zucchero residuo (g)
fortificazione (%)
sercial
secco
5-6 giorni
9-27
9-10
verdelho
semi-secco
3-4 giorni
27-45
10-13
boal
semi-dolce
2-3 giorni
45-63
13-16
malvasia
dolce
18-24 ore
63-117
17-21


Col sercial si fa vino secco, col verdelho il semi-secco, col boal (o bual) il semi-dolce e con la malvasia, prevedibilmente, il madeira dolce. Il vino deve contenere almeno l’85% del vitigno indicato in etichetta.

La produzione è di circa 4 milioni di litri, nulla rispetto agli 80 milioni di porto. Il tinta negra fa l’85% della produzione. Quanto un’etichetta non reca indicazione di vitigno, si sottintende tinta negra. Boal e malvasia contribuiscono il 5% ciascuno, sercial e verdelho il 2,5%. Microscopica la produzione di altri due vitigni bianchi: il terrantez ed il bastardo, quest'ultimo praticamente estinto. I loro vini, semi-dolce o semi-secco, sono rarità da collezionisti.

Con il tinta negra si fanno tutte le tipologie. Sono vini meno complessi che fino a pochi anni fa non erano autorizzate a indicare il vitigno. Rari gli assemblaggi, poco più che sperimentali. Uno di questo è il Rainwater, ottenuto con verdelho e tinta negra, semi-dolce, molto richiesto negli USA. 

La fortificazione ha durata variabile a seconda della tipologie e viene fermata dalla fortificazione. All’alcol da canna da zucchero nel XVII secolo subentrò il brandy. Oggi si usa alcol puro distillato da uva, importato da Francia e Spagna.

Dopo la fortificazione il vino ha raggiunto i 19 gradi ed inizia la fase cruciale dell’azione del calore, che può avvenire in due modi. Canteiro (trave) è il sistema più nobile, riservato ai vini pregiati, che maturano in botti di legno collocate su travi (i canteiros appunto). Sono posti in ambienti non condizionati, a volte anche all’aperto, sotto il sole, per almeno due anni.

Canteiros da Justino's
Il problema del canteiro è duplice: il costo e l’aleatorietà del risIl problema del canteiro è duplice: il costo e l'aleatorietà del risultato finale, ostaggio di fattori climatici incontrollabili. Ciascun madeira di canteiro è unico nel suo genere, ma imprevedibile. Si cerca di regolare freschezza e morbidezza spostando i canteiros, da un’esposizione a nord in ambienti freschi per privilegiare la prima, a depositi orientati a sud in ambienti caldi per aumentare la seconda. Un’arte difficile.

Estufagem da Justino's

Per questo si è diffusa la pratica dell’estufagem (stufatura) per la fascia medio-bassa del mercato, dove la costanza nel prodotto finale è essenziale. Ce ne sono due varianti: nella cuba de calor (tino di calore) il vino viene immesso in grandi tini d’acciaio, dentro o intorno ai quali vengono posizionati condotti in cui scorre acqua sui 50°C. Così il vino può essere riscaldato secondo le indicazioni dell’enologo, per 90 giorni.

Nell’ armazem de calor (magazzino di calore) il tino d’acciaio viene posizionato in una stanza riscaldata. Il calore trasmesso al vino è indiretto, e necessita di 6-12 mesi. Sistema più costoso e per questo meno diffuso, ma il riscaldamento è più lento, come era nelle stive degli antichi velieri! In via di sparizione.

In qualche caso il vino viene fortificato dopo l’estufagem per evitare perdite di alcol a causa del calore e poi travasato in botti di legno per l’invecchiamento. Qui si sviluppa il misterioso processo ossidativo che si può protrarre oltre un secolo. La lentezza genera il fascino del madeira, mentre un vino “maderizzato” per rapida ossidazione o esposizione al calore ci ripugna.

Il madeira invecchia in botte: la perdita per evaporazione viene rabboccata con vino identico, ma solo in parte. Una volta in bottiglia resta quasi immutabile, salvo la necessità di cambiare tappo dopo qualche decennio.

Per questo motivo, dal 1994 in poi, l’Unione Europea ha chiesto di indicare in etichetta l’annata di imbottigliamento. Infine l’ispezione dell’Istituto del madeira che certifica il prodotto prima che sia messo in commercio.

Una curiosità: i distillatori scozzesi mandano le loro botti nuove a madeira per farci invecchiare il vino per 2-3 anni e trasferire il sapore del vino al whisky. Per contro, produttori di madeira comprano botti usate di cognac o sauternes per donare eleganza al proprio vino.

Categorie di invecchiamento
etichetta
invecchiamento
Vitigno
maderizzazione
Finest 3 anni
3-5 anni
Tinta negra
estufagem
Reserva 5 anni
5-10 anni
Tinta negra e/o nobile
estufagem
Reserva especial 10 anni
10-15 anni
nobile
canteiro
Extra reserva 15 anni
15-20 anni
nobile
canteiro
Colheita (annata)
5-19 anni, (annata unica min. 85%)
nobile
canteiro
Vintage o Frasqueira (annata)
Minimo 20 anni + 2 in bottiglia, (annata unica min 85%)
nobile
canteiro

L’indicazione "vintage" appare solo su vecchie bottiglie: la legge portoghese sancisce che solo il vino porto possa usarla in etichetta, mentre al madeira è riservata l’indicazione frasqueira (da frasco, fiasco).

Le bottiglie sono conservate in verticale. L’eventuale ossidazione per deterioramento del tappo non è un problema mentre il contatto con un tappo deteriorato sarebbe fatale. I vini così invecchiati durano a lungo anche dopo aver stappato la bottiglia: qualche mese per un “3 anni”, fino a due anni per una colheita o frasqueira. Un altro vino soffrirebbe dell’ossidazione, il madeira ne fa il suo fiore all’occhiello!

Esisteva un madeira prodotto col metodo solera, ma le bottiglie portavano la data del vino più vecchio, il che non è permesso dalla normativa europea. Restano disponibili solo rarissime vecchie bottiglie.

Produttori

Solo otto i produttori sull’isola, che con poche eccezioni non posseggono proprie vigne, ma comprano l’uva dagli agricoltori. Ne ho visitati quattro.

Justino’s

La nuova sede di trova sulle colline a 400 metri di altitudine, scelta per aumentare la freschezza. Mi accoglie Juan Teixeira, l’entusiasta enologo dell’azienda oggi primo produttore dell’isola. Comprano il 40% della produzione di uva di Madeira e dal 1993 son parte del gruppo Martiniquaise. Il capitale francese è stato investito: nel 1993 c’era una riserva di 300.000 litri nelle botti, in attesa di imbottigliamento, oggi 2 milioni! Attrezzature modernissime, enormi tini di fermentazione da centinaia di ettolitri. Imbottigliano solo il venduto: il vino matura solo in botte.

Blandy’s

John Blandy fondò l’azienda nel 1811. Dopo otto generazioni la famiglia continua a credere del suo progetto, oggi secondo produttore dopo Justino’s. Nel 1989 creano la Madeira Wine Company con i Symingtons di Oporto. Nel 2000 Blandy’s apre la strada alla diffusione di madeira di alta qualità a prezzi abbordabili con il colheita Malmsey 1994, il primo madeira d’annata al di fuori dei carissimi vintage. Me lo racconta Rita, assistente alle pubbliche relazioni, nella grande stanza delle degustazioni, luce fioca e pareti tappezzate di bottiglie in verticale e divise per vitigno.
L’edificio maestoso, al centro di Funchal, era un monastero nel XVI secolo, poi fu convertito in prigione. I loro bottai sono all’opera con rovere americano e brasiliano. Possiedono anche 7 ettari di vigna e comprano il resto delle uve.

Visitiamo la “cantina”: alcuni ambienti esposti a sud, dove la temperatura raggiunge i 36 gradi in estate, altri verso nord, più freschi. C’è anche un piccolo museo: vecchie attrezzature, strumenti di misurazione. Sulle pareti le lettere ingiallite di reali che ordinavano vino per le corti europee.

Henriques & Henriques

Maria, la simpatica responsabile delle vendite internazionali, è un’appassionata che esulta nel raccontare l’ampia gamma dei prodotti. Facciamo il giro della cantina, tra le grandi botti di legno da migliaia di litri al piano terra, dove in estate si raggiungono facilmente i 35 gradi. Un bottaio nell’officina sta martellando i cerchi di piccole botti destinata al canteiro. Ognuna è diligentemente segnata con gessetti: anno, vitigno, partita.
L’azienda risale al 1850, quando la fondò João Henriques. Gli successero nel 1912 i figli Francisco Eduardo e Joaquim, da cui il doppio cognome. Nel 1968, alla morte dell’ultimo Henriques, la società passa nelle mani di Alberto Jardim, Peter Cossart e Carlos Pereira.

Oldies da Oliveiras

Pereira d’Oliveiras

Accogliente Luis Pereira d’Oliveiras nella cantina che la famiglia gestisce dal 1850. Il padre Anibal, figura storica dell’isola, li ha lasciati da pochi anni, adesso è lui il capo, aiutato dal figlio Felipe. Mi offre di assaggiare tutto quello che voglio, dalle bottiglie più recenti fino a quelle appunto, del 1850! Non so da dove cominciare. Con calma, comincio dagli anni 90 del XX secolo e risalgo man mano fino al 1850.

Abbinamenti

La fama del madeira è limitata all’aperitivo o al dessert ma c'è di più, anche se non è un vino da tutto pasto. Conviene qui seguire le quattro tipologie, oltre al fattore invecchiamento. Anche se non c’è una regola rigida, si consiglia di aumentare la temperatura di servizio di pari passo con il contenuto di zucchero.

Secco (sercial). Il corpo medio e l’aroma accentuato lo consigliano come aperitivo con olive, mandorle o noccioline tostate. Ama salmone affumicato, sushi e antipasti con maionese. Esalta la mousse di pesce e i formagi freschi di capra o pecora. C’è chi lo sposa con acqua tonica e ghiaccio. Servire a 9-10°C.

Semi-secco (verdelho o terrantez). Più strutturato, è pure apprezzato come aperitivo, ed ama i consommé, le zuppe cremose o di cipolla alla francese. Si sposa con jamon pata negra, funghi e formaggi a pasta morbida, terrine di foie-gras. Servire a 10-12°C.

Semi-dolce (boal o terrantez). Di pieno corpo predilige dolci alla frutta, soufflé e formaggi di media maturazione. Perfetto con cioccolato al latte, petit-fours, dolci alla crema e il tradizionale “bolo de mel”. Servire a 13-16°C.

Dolce (malvasia). La struttura lo rende adatto a foie gras, biscotti al burro, crème brulée e al cioccolato fondente. Parimenti elegante con roquefort o gorgonzola. Servire a 16-18°C.

Le vecchie annate si sposano armoniosamente con sigari caraibici di media intensità.


Degustazioni

Justino’s

Juan mi riceve in una sala con un tavolo bianco e un’infinita fila di bottiglie aperte: dopo una lunga sessione, queste le eccellenze, degustate in un crescendo di invecchiamento.

Malvasia colheita 1997. Tipico colore ambrato scuro. Aroma di erba e tabacco. Caffè e caramello abbracciano arancia matura e tabacco in un complesso equilibrio dove la dolcezza avvolge ma senza offuscare la freschezza. Lunghissimo finale.

Terrantez 1978. Ambrato con riflessi oro. Intenso aroma di tabacco. Prorompente freschezza con note leggermente amare di mandorla cruda ma morbido velluto per un equilibrio moderato. Tipica pungenza che richiama l’attenzione durante un lunghissimo finale.

Sercial 1940. Giallo oro che l’invecchiamento ha scurito, molto consistente. Freschezza citrina tipica del vitigno in perfetto equilibrio con la morbidezza che viene dalla lunga maturazione. Complesso aroma di spezie e tabacco. Ananas e albicocca al palato. Molto persistente, armonioso.

Verdelho 1934. Ambrato scurito dal tempo, molto consistente. Complessi aromi di pepe, cuoio e tabacco. Equilibrio perfetto di molteplici sapori terziari, tra cui emergono cuoio e legno. Lunghissimo e armonioso.
Blandy’s

Boal 1958. Ambrato scuro con naso di albicocca che lascia presto spazio ad agrumi maturi. Incredibilmente fresco al palato per un Boal di sessant’anni!

Sercial 1969. Ambrato con naso di frutta secca tostata, caramello. Esperienza opposta al vino precedente. Un vitigno nato per donare freschezza sorprende per la morbidezza che lo rende perfettamente equilibrato. Molto lungo.

Si costruisce una botte per il canteiro, Henriques&Henriques











Henriques & Henriques

Ci sono una ventina di bottiglie aperte, tenute a temperatura ambiente, alla luce del sole, dritte, con un tappino qualsiasi. “Scegli quello che vuoi!” mi dice Maria. Chiedo consiglio, e qui di seguito il risultato.

Rainwater. Giallo oro chiaro. Delicati aromi di mandorla e buccia d’arancia. Prominente freschezza al palato, con note citrine. Moderata persistenza.

Verdelho 15 anni. Giallo oro con riflessi ambrati. Complesso aroma di noci, vecchio legno, uva passita e miele. Mela cotta e marmellata di arancia affiancate da note caramellate. Freschezza incisiva ma non prepotente, moderato equilibrio con lungo finale.

Boal 15 anni. Ambra scura e riflessi oro. Aromi sorprendentemente fruttati e marcata freschezza per questo vitigno votato al vino dolce. Palato complesso di mela cotogna e crostata di limone. Molto persistente.

Malvasia 20 anni. Ambrato scuro con riflessi oro. Aromi molto complessi di caldarroste, miele, caramello. Palato vellutato di miele e vanigla, nocciole tostate. Opulento, rotondo, ma l’acidità che emerge lo rende perfettamente equilibrato. Un vino armonioso che mi sogno con cioccolato fondente.

Terrantez 20 anni. Colore arancione per prolungata macerazione, sfumature verdi. Al naso risaltano peperone verde e uva passita. Al palato emergono spezie, noci e legno. Perfettamente equilibrato, complesso e lungo con leggera tipca pungenza.

Tinta Negra 50 anni limited edition. Smentisce il luogo comune che vuole il vitigno relegato a vini di seconda classe. Ambra molto scura, grande consistenza. Marmellata di albicocca al naso con note di cuoio. Caramello supportato da mela cotogna al palato. Morbidezza elegantissima e residua acidità producono grande equilibrio. Molto lungo.

Pereira d’Oliveiras

Degustazione da Oliveiras
Bastardo 1927 imbottigliato nel 2014. Naso complesso, di prugne cotte. Fichi secchi al palato. Equilibri perfetto, molto lungo. Imbottigliato per la prima volta nel 2007, dopo 80 anni in botte, ben 60 anni oltre il minimo richiesto di 20.

Verdelho 1912. Nocciole e fichi secchi. Ancora incredibilmente fresto. Complesso e molto lungo.

Moscatel 1875. Molto intenso al naso e al palato. Considerando che si tratta di un moscato, è incredibile che abbia conservato questa freschezza e morbidezza per 150 anni. Lunghissimo.

Verdelho 1850. Il più vecchio dei vini assaggiati. Non smette di sorprendere d’Oliveiras. Vien da dire che questo vino sia ancora giovane tanta è la freschezza. Un tocco di amarognolo sul finale però fa pensare che forse non conviene aspettare oltre. Ma forse sono solo io che non sono abituato a questi sapori.

13 December 2019

Cantina Pereira d'Oliveiras, Funchal, Madeira, Portogallo


Accogliente Luis Pereira d’Oliveiras nella cantina che la famiglia gestisce dal 1850. 

Il padre Anibal, figura storica dell’isola, li ha lasciati da pochi anni, adesso è lui il capo, aiutato dal figlio Felipe. Mi offre di assaggiare tutto quello che voglio, dalle bottiglie più recenti fino a quelle appunto, del 1850! Non so da dove cominciare. 

Con calma, comincio dagli anni 90 del XX secolo e risalgo man mano fino al 1850. Ecco qualche appunto un po’ a caso che ho preso oggi pomeriggio.

Per un articolo più completo e ragionato sul vino di Madeira, leggi questo post sul sito del Brussels Wine Club, AIS di Bruxelles.


Verdelho 2000 colheita bottled 2018
Forte acidità
Mandorle tostate
85

Sercial 1999 colheita bottled 2016
Even fresher
Grapefruit
Deve aspettare 100 anni
85

Tinta negra 1995 medium dry, bottled 2019
Still very dry, comincia a essere bevibile
Caramel,
Long
87

Verdelho 1994 bottled 2019
Pronto grande potenziale
Caramello nocciole tostate
88

Malvazia 1990 bottled 2019
Mela cotogna
Perfect balance
Round ready smooth
Score 90

Boal 1984 bottled 2017
Round complex long
score 94

Boal 1982 bottled 2019
Dry figs
Ready complex
Moderate length
Score 92

Terrantez 1971 bottled 2018
Perfect balance
Ready
Long
Score 94

Sercial 1969 bottled 2019
Still incredibly fresh
Lacks length
Score 86

Boal 1968 bottled 2019
Dark Amber
Complex
Very long
Score 95

Sercial 1937 bottled 2003
Reserva
Still incredibile freshness
Moderate length
Score 88

Verdelho 1932 bottled 2012
Nuts figs
Still on fresh side, moderate balance
Very long
Score 96

Bastardo 1927 bottled 2014
Complex nose
Figs prugne cotte
Perfect balance
Long, imbottigliato per la prima volta nel 2007!
Score 98

Verdelho 1912 bottled before 1994 not indicate bottling on label
Nuts figs
Still incredibly fresh
Complex
Very long
Score 98

Boal 1903 bottled 2017
Still fresh!
Near Perfect balance long
Harmonious
Score 94

Moscatel 1875 the bottled pré 1994
Super complex
Amazing balance and length
Score 99

Sercial 1862 bottled 2014
Still very fresh even too fresh
Touch of bitterness
Moderate length
Score 88

Verdelho 1850 no bottling date
Still fresh
Touch of bitter
Long complex
Score 90

Up to 80 years of aging is optimal, longer and the rise in cost is not justified by a corresponding rise in quality and drinkability


26 July 2018

Book review: The Judgement of Paris (2005) by G. Teber, *****

Synopsis

The Judgement of Paris was a blind tasting that pitched American wines from California against French reds from Bordeaux and whites from Burgundy. The name is a play on the "Judgement of Paris" in Greek mythology.

The author was the only reporter present at the mythic Paris Tasting of 1976—a blind tasting where a panel of esteemed French judges chose upstart California wines over France’s best—for the first time introduces the eccentric American winemakers and records the tremendous aftershocks of this historic event that changed forever the world of wine.

The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest—a blind tasting—a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France’s best.

George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks—repositioning the industry and sparking a golden age for viticulture across the globe. With an eclectic cast of characters and magnificent settings, Judgment of Paris is an illuminating tale and a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old.

Review

The definitive book on this historical event. French wine had been the uncontested world leader until that day, and maybe continued to be the leader, overall, but it was now hotly contested!

Spurrier put Bordeaux vs similar blend Californians, and Burgundy vs Californian Chardonnays. It was initially intended to be a tasting to introduce Californian wines to sceptical French experts, but once everyone was around the table Spurrier told them the real plan: a challenge.

The test was not scientifically exact: more American wines (6) than French wines (4) were included in the sample. And yet, take the whites: every single French judge scored an American chard first.

Another charge was that French wines were too young and would give their best later on in life. But several rematches years later saw the Americans prevail again.

A very detailed book about a pivotal point in wine history.

See my review about the film "Bottle Shock" about the same story which I reviewed in this blog.






27 June 2017

Visit to Stratus Vineyards, Ontario, Canada

Jf and Marco at Stratus






























Today I visited a most remarkable vineyard at Niagara-on-the-Lake, in Ontario, Canada. At Stratus I was greeted by Suzanne Janke and JF, the wine maker from the Loire valley who decided to move to Canada and try to make good wine. He sure did succeed. These are the best wines in the Niagara region IMHO.


2013 Stratus White, 13.8%abv
37% chard, 34% sauvignon, 26% sémillon, 3% viognier
Composition can change from year to year, increase chard if want more roundness, more Sauvignon if need more acidity
gold yellow, complex, vanilla. Ready
Score 92, CAD 38

2014 Stratus Chardonnay, 13.5%abv
246 days in French oak (63% new)
deep straw yellow, balanced
two thirds left on lees in bottle, can filter if needed before drinking
Score 90 CAD 48

2013 Stratus Red, 13.5%abv
30% Merlot, 27% cab sauv, 25% cab franc, 11 syrah, 3% sangiovese
deep ruby red, black fruits, leather, smoky
good acidity and tannins
needs 2-3 years at least
score 88 CAD44

2013 Stratus Cabernet Franc, 13.5%abv
552 days in French oak (23% new)
cab franc most planted red in Canada
deep ruby red, black cherries, , ready
score 93 CAD 38

2013 Stratus Sangiovese, 13.6%abv
the only sangiovese 100% in Niagara
garnet red, well balanced, moderate length
Score 88, CAD 42

2016 Stratus Riesling Icewine, 12.9%abv
54% viognier, 46% sémillon
light straw yellow, consistent
more aromatic than in Germany
need more alcohol to balance higher residual sugar
35 brix, 250 grams of sugar
Score 92 CAD 40 (200ml bottle)

2016 Stratus icewine red,
40% petit verdot, 40% cab sauv, 30% cab franc
light cherry color, rhubarb, cassis
pair with chocolate advised, they soak choc beans with lees of wine!
score 88, CAD 40 (200ml bottle)

11 January 2017

Tasting of Belgian wines

Tastings of Belgian Wines, January 2017

Here are my tasting notes for a selection of Belgian wines I have tasted in December 2016 and January 2017.

Scoring follows the A.I.S. scale of 0-100. Prices are indicative and may vary with time and depending on source. QTP = Quality-to-price ratio

Genoels-Elderen, Haspengouw

Magnificent castle at Genoels-Elderen, on the edge of the homonymous village, a stone's throw from Tongeren, near some Roman tumuli (tombs) of the 1st century AD. The original building dates back to 1132, it was the summer residence of the bishop of Liège. The people of Tongeren, angry with the bishop for excessive taxation and other vexation to which they were subjected, burned the villa a couple of times over the centuries, but it was always rebuilt. The underground cellars of that period are still in use.

The owners, the van Rennes family, planted the first 800 vines in 1990 as a hobby. Today, the vineyard boasts 22 hectares and over 10,000 plants. Joyce, the original van Rennes’ daughter, is the firm’s oenologist. Her husband Stefan manages all the work in the vineyards. Since 2006, sparkling wine has been produced with the Classic Method. In the coldest years, like 2015, they produce only sparkling wines, in the warmer ones, like 2016, only still wine. Otherwise both.

Sparkling Zwarte Parel (Black Pearl) 2012, 12.5% vol.
Chardonnay 41%, Viognier 59%
Intense straw yellow, energetic and fine perlage. Exotic fruit and yellow flowers prevail on the nose; carbon exuberance and the refreshing effect of lemon notes; Despite the unusual cuvée, the palate offers freshly balanced freshness. Moderate persistence (5 sec). Mature. It can be paired to with fish soups, or seafood spaghetti with lemongrass. Score 80. Euro 15 at vineyard.

Sparkling Zilver Parel (Silver Pearl) 2011, 12.5% vol.
Chardonnay 100%
We move one step up with Coer de Cuvée, obtained by eliminating the first and the last part of the must during pressing, and keeping only the “heart”. Brilliant straw yellow, intensely fragrant, both in fruity and in the note of yeast (three years on lees), pineapple and yellow peach bring complexity along with a slight hint of white flowers. It has a freshly attenuated effect with elegance from a little dosage, closes with an aromatic return of roasted hazelnut. It can accompany white meat, from lemon sauce chicken with a slice of suckling calf with light cream. Score 84. Euro 22 at vineyerd.

Sparkling Rose Parel (Pink Rose) 2013, 12.5% vol.
Prevalence of black pinot
Light cherries color. Vibrant foam and microscopic bubble. Fragrant and fruity, ripe red apple, white plum and yellow cherries. Vigor in fruity freshness derives from Pinot and the sapidity helps build a rich structure. Paired with champagne-sauce risotto and seafood pasta dishes, possibly with a Wienerschnitzel. Score 88. Euro 19 at vineyard.

Chardonnay white label 2014, 13% vol.
After 18 months of steel it has a brilliant golden yellow color with some green shades. The nose is full of classic chardonnay fragrance: white flowers (iris and acacia) and tropical fruit are accompanied by vanilla to make for a complex wine. Balanced soft / sapid effect, which makes long and elegant aromatic persistence. Grilled fish and vegetables. Score 90. Euro: not available for retail, only for restaurants.

Chardonnay blue label, 2014, 13% vol.
It has a golden color tone, the nose is intense of mango and papaya. Six months in wood after six in steel make for a balanced wine. It is perfect for crustaceans. Also for tartare or carpaccio. Score 92. Euro 13 at the vineyard, great QTP.

Chardonnay Gold Label 2012, 13% vol.
Late harvest (late October) and Draconian limit of 25 hl / hectare. Flagship wine, this bottle shines with a magnificent deep gold, and the nose expresses intense apples and orange jam. One year in wood and 6 months in steel, then one year in bottle. Very complex to the nose and palate, buttery end. Very persistent (10 sec). Great with dishes full of character, such as lobsters, quail and structured cheeses. Score 95. Euro 26.

Pinot Nero 2013, 13% vol.
The only red of the house: deep ruby, fresh, notes of raspberries and Goji. Moderately intense and persistent. One year in French oak barrels (30% new). A wine that could express itself to the best after a few years in the bottle. It can be combined with soft cheeses, but it may also take on an eggplant parmigiana. Score 86. S bit expensive at euro 26.


Schorpion, Haspengouw

The vineyard lies in the heart of Limburg. In 1994 the brothers Wilfried and Robert Schorpion launched the company and have since reaped growing success, focusing on their bubbles. Chardonnay and black pinot are flanked by white pinot and auxerrois. Intriguing the old Roman motto adopted by the house: Sapere aude! (Dare to know!)

Sparkling Goud (Gold) 2014, 12% vol.
Chardonnay, Auxerrois and Pinot Bianco
Very fresh this blanc de blancs. Average size of perlage with regular chains. Moderately intense notes of lemon and green apple. Moderate persistence. Good aperitif with raw shrimp or caviar, it can be combined with a pasta with four cheeses. I found it excellent also as a sorbet, served quite cold, between two full-bodied dishes. Ready. Score 88. Euro 20 online.

Clos d'Opleeuw, Haspengouw

Peter Colemont produced fruit, only later thought of wine, and so was born Clos d'Opleeuw, adjacent to the village of Gors. Clay soil and an ideal slope of 7% create an ideal stage on which Peter can perform. He decided to focus on the chardonnay, trying to mimic the style of Burgundy, using French and Belgian oak barrels. Only about 4000 bottles, of which a few hundred are part of his Cuvée prestige: more wood, the best part of the parcel and vines planted closer together.

Chardonnay Cuvée Prestige, 2014, 13% vol.
What a surprise! Deep gold, deep, intense and consistent. Vanilla scents blossom in the strong sapidity. This does not detract that the wine is already round and soft (due to a year in new French and Belgian oak), and in perfect balance. Ready for those who love chardonnay fresh and savory, a bit Chablis style. A persistent, harmonious wine with potential to explore over the years. Pair it with pork ribs or American roasted turkey in red fruit sauce. Certainly with mussels with white wine, garlic and parsley à la belge. This bottle is a real flagship of Belgian enology. Score 96. Euro 35, very well spent if you are lucky to find some bottles.


Entre Deux Monts, Heuvelland

Martin Bacquaert grew up in his dad's wine shop and studied viticulture and winemaking in France. In 2004, the first kerner plants, followed by other varieties of vines for a total of 14,000 plants today. The name comes from the two mountains (rolling hills, actually), Red and Black, which put the vineyard in Heuvelland, just a few hundred meters from the border with France.

Sparkling Wiscoutre Rosé 2014, 12% vol.
Chardonnay, pinot black, kernel
The name of this wine comes from an ancient Frankish tribe who lived in the region. Cherry color, very fresh nose and prevalence of lime and mandarin to the palate. Red fruit notes in the background. An assembled rose obtained with prevalence of hard sensations. Moderate persistence (5 sec) and intensity. One year sur lattes. A mature wine. You can drink it alone, as an aperitif, perhaps accompanying it with nuts, salted peanuts, pistachios or olive paté croutons.


Pietershof, Vlaamse Landwijn

Vineyard in the Fourons region, between the cities of Aachen, Liège and Maastricht, on the border with the Netherlands. Limestone rich in minerals. The nearest town is Nurop, near Teuven, in the Gulp valley. Region of wine traditions since the Romans. Varietals used by Piet Akkermans are white and gray pinot, auxerrois, chardonnay and black pinot.

Pinot Gris / Pinot Noir Rosé, 12.5%
The best of Pietershof's wines is this interesting cuvée of two Pinot. Light yellow cherry color, moderately consistent cherry blossom immediately reveals intense strawberry notes on the nose. Tasting is balanced with raw almond and parsley. A wine of moderate texture and persistence. Mature. It can be paired to a sauté of mussels and clams.

Aldeneyck, Vlaamse Landwijn

Already in 750 AD vineyard were cultivated around the abbey of Alden Iker Saints Harlindis and Relindis, in Limburg. After centuries of darkness, Jake Purnot and then Hein and Charles Henckens and his wife Debbie in 1999 decided to make their passion for wine a real job. The first white pinot were planted on the slopes along the Meuse. The experiment has consolidated into a 7-hectare vineyard with 30,000 black and gray pinots. Yield is kept below 50hl/hectare by hand selecting about half the bunches (egrappage).

Aldeneyck Chardonnay Heerenlaak 2014, 12.7% vol.
Last born in Aldeneyck family, a surprising Chardonnay. Intense and complex in the nose, vanilla and pineapple in the foreground. Mineral and fresh but already round, soft, perfectly balanced. Two years in new barriques. Very persistent (10 sec). A wine of great structure, harmonious, still young but with great and unexplored potential. To pair with moderately structured dishes such as a pan-fried sole, or a seafood risotto. Score 95. Euro 18 online.

Aldeneyck Pinot Noir 2014, 12.8% vol.
Intense ruby red, moderate intensity of yellow cherries on the nose, champignon in the mouth. When the cork was pulled out, despite 10 months in barrique, it offered overwhelming hard feelings that were smoother several hours later. Moderately persistent. As a character recalls the Pinot from Alsace. Wine that has to wait in bottle to achieve greater balance. Combined with strongly structured and greasy dishes such as an Alsace choucroute or a Belgian stoemp with boudin. Score 86. Euro 18 online.

Château Bon Baron, Côtes de Sambre et Meuse

The first vineyards of these lands that we know of appear in postcards of the nineteenth century in the area of Profondeville. Bon Baron adheres to strictly organic principles. Jeannette van der Steen and her husband Piotr started in 2001. What was a small production to be shared with a few friends has become, with 17 hectares, one of the country's largest vineyards, spread over three plots along the Meuse.

Château Bon Baron Pinot Noir 2013, 12% vol.
Intense ruby color, mossy and smoky to the nose. On the palate moderate persistence with predominant wild red fruit. Freshness coexists alongside a pleasant velvety feeling and results in a balanced wine. Little structure despite a year in barriques. An easy black pinot without much evolutionary potential. It can be combined with medium structure cheese. Score 78. Eur 22 online.

Château Bon Baron Acolon 2014, 13% vol.
The best red of Bon Baron, perhaps of all of Belgium. Acolon is a German varietal created in 1971 by the Staatliche Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt für Wein und Obstbau in Weinsberg (Baden Württemberg) crossing dornfelder and blaufrankisch. Dark ruby red color. Moderately intense to the nose, red and black fruit with embryonic notes of cocoa and leather. Good minerality and a year in new barrique make it a balanced, medium-structured, ready wine that could give more satisfaction in the years to come. To be paired with game, mushroom risotto or medium-aged cheese. Score 89. Euro 19 online.

Château Bon Baron Chardonnay 2013, 12.5% ​​vol.
Deep yellow gold. Medium intensity and persistence of vanilla and ripe pineapple. On the palate are mature yellow apples, with honey notes. Minimality prominent but well balanced by 18 months in barriques. Medium body. Ready, secure evolutionary potential for 3 or 4 years. You can drink it with a pasta with red sauce seafood, or with monkfish and baked potatoes. Score 89. Euro 21 online.

Le Vignoble des Agaises, Vins mousseux de qualité

Beginning with 600 pinot black plants, Raymond Leroy realized a dream that had begun in his wine cellar. From the two initial hectares in 2002 today we have23 that maybe will increase again, perhaps up to 30 or so, no more because the land with the ideal characteristics is limited. The great advantage of the farm is the constant ventilation that dries his plants from the frequent Belgian rains. Not by chance, just beside the vineyard, there is a powerful battery of wind generators. He only produces sparkling wines with the classic method. White grape chardonnay. Pinot Noir and meunier only for rosé.

Spumante Ruffus Cuvée du Seigneur 2014, 12.5% ​​vol.
Chardonnay 100%, Little sugar added (6 g)
Base wine, straw yellow. You immediately feel the chard fragrance of fresh bread. Freshness is decisively prevalent on the palate, with decisive and capricious perlage and medium minerality. A wine of moderate balance and persistence, suitable to be enjoyed as an aperitif with seafood or bruschetta. Score 84. Eur 16 at the vineyard.

Spumante Ruffus Sauvage 2011, 12.5% ​​vol.
Chardonnay 100%, pas dosé
The only difference from the Seigneur is the lack of dosage. Straw yellow color. Lime and yellow apples on the nose. On the palate it is fresh and mineral. Apples appear with citrus hints but they do not disturb the balance. Although it is a 2011, it is advisable to wait a few years to smooth the acidity. Moderately persistent. Perfect with oysters and seafood or raw crustaceans. Score 89. Eur 19 at the vineyard.

Spumante Ruffus rosé 2014, 12.5% vol.
50% chardonnay, 25% pinot black, 25% pinot meunier, 6g sugar
Unlike in Champagne, where white and red wines are produced separately then blended to make rosé, here they work on the right maceration of red grapes and vinify the whole cuvée together. Light cherry color, this rosé displays a medium perlage, the nose is intense with apple and yellow cherry. The palate is less fresh than the white cuvées, with ripe tangerine notes and ends with surprising vanilla hints. Balanced, moderately persistent and ready. Pair with "matjes" herring or smoked salmon croutons. Score 89. Eur 22 but very difficult to find this bottle.

Thorn, Maasvalleiwijn, The Netherlands

This vineyard is located in the Dutch Limburg, near Maastricht, just a few hundred meters from the Belgian border. So it is a Dutch wine, though they are asking, along with Aldeneyck (Belgian Limburg, see above) a cross-border designation (Belgium / Netherlands) that will be called Maasvallei Limburg. One can build Europe also with wine. It produces its whites (Auxerrois, Pinot Grigio, Dornfelder) in steel or mixed steel and French oak (new or old). On the other hand for its Pinot Noir it opted exclusively for French barriques.

Thorn Black Pinot 2013, 13% vol.
Ruby red is very intense, nose offers underwood and fern. Moderately consistent, complex and intense. On the palate peppercorn notes and cocoa. Round tannins, gifted by its time in oak barrels (30% new, 70% used). Well balanced, and moderately long. A mature wine. Combined with sweet ham of Friuli, medium seasoning cheese or French onion soup. Score 83. Euro 22 online.

10 January 2017

Controlled designations of origin and protected geographical indications of Belgian wine

As is the case in so many other areas, viticulture Belgium is divided into two regions: Flanders (Dutch-speaking) and Walloon (French-speaking).

Flanders

The designations of origin in Flanders are: Hageland, Haspengouw, and Vlaamse Heuvelland Mousserende Kwaliteitswijn for sparkling wines.

The Hageland region is at the center of the country, and it includes Aarshot, Tienen and Leuven. We know of vineyards going back at least to the twelfth century. The soil is mainly composed of silt, sand and sandstone. Hageland denomination was the first to be established, in 1997. Authorized varietals include müller-thurgau, optima, ortega, kerner, siegerrebe, pinots (gray, white, black and precocious black), chardonnay, riesling, auxerrois, bacchus, schön citizen, dominatrix, dornfelder, limberger, sirius, regent, wurzer, johanniter and merlot.

Haspengouw ( established in 1999) is located in the northeast of the country, in Limburg, between Hasselt, Sint-Truiden, Herk-de-Stad and Herstappe up to the border with Holland. The origins date back to the twelfth century. The soil is mainly sandy, with clay and limestone substrate. The grapes grown are Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, Siegerrebe, Pinot (white, gray, black and Meunier), Chardonnay, Riesling, Auxerrois, optima, ortega, Dornfelder, Wurzen, Bacchus and Merlot.

Heuvelland (established in 2000) is situated in the west, in the hills of Monteberg, Kemmelberg, Vidaigneberg, Rodeberg and Zwarteberg. Though mainly in the Flanders, a small part crosses over to Wallonia. The hills provide ideal draining slopes even if their altitude does not exceed 120 meters. Sandy soil is alternated with clay and rich in iron ore sandstone. The main vineyard are in Klijte, Dranouter, Kemmel, Loker, Nieuwkerke Reningelst, Westouter, Wijtschate and Wulvergem. Varietals admitted include: müller-thurgau, kerner, siegerrebe, pinot (black and gray), chardonnay, riesling, auxerrois, dornfelder, regent, cabernet sauvignon, johanniter and muscat.

Since 2005 there is a specific name for sparkling wines produced in Flanders with the traditional classic method: Vlaamse Mousserende Kwaliteitswijn (quality sparkling wine of Flanders). Maximum yield 80 hl per hectare. Permitted grapes: chardonnay, pinot (black, meunier, white, gray), auxerrois, riesling. It is a sector of wine production that is enjoying rapid growth.

Finally, there is a geographical indication for wines without designation of origin: Vlaamse Landwijn (loosely translatable as table wine of Flanders). The only requirement is that the must be made from grapes of vitis vinifera, or from hybrids between this and other species of the genus vitis.

Wallonia

In Wallonia there is one geographical designation: Côtes de Sambre et Meuse (2004), and another, Crémant de Vallonie (2008), for sparkling wines.

The production area of Côtes de Sambre et Meuse corresponds to the catchment area of the river Meuse, consisting in turn eight sub-basins: Meuse upstream and downstream, Sambre, Ourthe, Amblève, Semois, Chiers, Vesdre and Lesse. These areas correspond to the valleys between the two rivers Sambre and Meuse. The hills are very suitable for vines, with optimal slope for drainage and oriented to take advantage of the heat released by the water of the two rivers. The substrate consists of a thin layer of clay with silt, limestone and sand. There are around thirty winegrowers, for a total of about thirty hectares, about 80,000 plants and a production of one thousand hectoliters. The authorized grapes are auxerrois, bronner, chardonnay, chasselas, chenin, gamay, gewürztraminer, johanniter, madeleine of angevine, merlot, merzeling, müller-thurgau, muscat, ortega, various pinots (white, regent, riesling, gray and black) rivaner, seibel, siegerrebe and traminer.

Sparkling wines produced with the classic method have enjoyed rapid success and have demonstrated some of the best wine produced in Belgium. For the Crémant de Vallonie the varietals are Chardonnay and four pinot (black, white, meunier, gray). If a winemaker adds auxerrois or riesling the denomination becomes Vin mousseux de qualité de Wallonie (quality sparkling wine of Wallonia).


For the geographical indication Vins des Jardins de Vallonie (wine of the gardens of Wallonia, 2004) the rules are the same as for the Vlaamse landwijn.

For a brief history of wine in Belgium see another post in this blog.

NOTE: This post is part of an article which appeared in Italian in the issue n. 12 of the magazine Vitae, published by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS).