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MY BOOKS ON AMAZON
  • Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    by L. J. Johnson-Bell
  • Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Home Cellar Guide Hb
    Home Cellar Guide Hb
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Great Wine Tours of the World
    Great Wine Tours of the World
    Barnes and Noble Books
  • The Wine Collector's Handbook
    The Wine Collector's Handbook
    by Linda Johnson
  • De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    by Johnson-Bell Linda

  • Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    by LINDA JOHNSON-BELL

ARTICLE INDEX

Diary of a Wine Critic

 

Saturday
Jan012011

Bollinger La Grande Annee 1997


Bollinger La Grande Année 1997

Perfectly balanced, harmonious and classic. The 1997 is probably a majority of Pinot Noir (65%), the rest is Chardonnay. And this vintage used 75% of grapes issued from grand cru vineyards and 25% from premier cru. I always prefer Pinot Noir-dominated champagnes. I think they have more body, complexity and drier fruit. Tasted at home: served with a brunch of Eggs Benedict, scallops and creamed leeks in angel hair pasta and assorted left-over canapés. Hang-over cured! This nectar was a cacophony of grilled brioche with salted butter and apricot jam, hazelnuts, retro-olfactive explosion, vanilla milkshake, a perfectly-tuned piano, dried provençal herbs, brunch on Europa & Regina’s terrace on the Grand Canal.



 



Thursday
Sep092010

Alto Adige tasting, London 2010

Alto Adige:  Who needs France?

 

Crisp, personal, solid Pinot Blancs… Chardonnays with the muscle and salty earthiness of a top Meursault… aromatic Gewürztraminers that toy between the sharp and the sensual… and Sauvignons that are explosively fruity and complex …  You would forgive me for thinking that I was in France. But no, I am in Alto Adige.  And there is another surprise to come: the Pinot Neros (Pinot Noir). They are divine, and devoid of that medicinal, metallic retro-olfactive with which so many basic red Burgundies can be marked.  These are fresh, elegant, and ooze a velvety smoothness of plums and warm earth.

 

Alto Adige, or Südtirol, is one of Italy’s smallest regions (only providing .7% of Italy’s total production) and can boast the fact that 98% of its wines are of the DOC quality category. There is archaeological evidence of viticulture here that pre-dates the Romans and today there are 12,500 acres of vineyards. Almost 75% of these are owned by cooperatives, in which, typically, each of the hundreds of members might cultivate a plot of less than 2.5 acres. Cooperatives often have a negative connotation in the wine world, but not here. Here, the concept works as it is meant to and produces high quality, terroir-driven wines.

 

Nestled in the slopes of the snow-covered Southern Alps, Alto Adige has been home to the noble Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes for over a hundred years. The diverse soils and altitudes welcomed them a place alongside their already established Sylvaner, Müller-Thurgau, Veltliner, Riesling and their famously gorgeous native red grape, Lagrein. Protected by the Dolomites, the vineyards’ altitudes range from 750 – 3250 ft above sea level and the rich soils are a geographical rainbow of dolomitic rock, fluvial deposits, porphyry, moraine debris, volcanic deposits and slate-primitive rock.

 

Couple this unique climate and exposition with the quality wine-making techniques these producers embrace, and we are presented with consistent and powerfully elegant, grown-up wines that rival the French greats at half the price.  I, for one, shall be stocking my cellars with some Pinot Nero. Unlike Burgundy, where quality can be a bit hit-and-miss for even the “experts” and quality seems to only be assured by paying exorbitant prices, the Pinot Nero seems to have found the opportunity to express the best facets of  its unique and elegant personality, here in the Alto Adige.  As one of the charming producers quipped to me as I swooned over his Sauvignon: “Who needs France?”

 

Some favourites:

 

1. Pinot Bianco 2009, Cantina Andriano

From Astrum Wine Cellars, www.astrumwinecellars.com

 

Cantino Andriano was founded in 1893 and is the oldest wine producing cooperative in the region. Situated in one of the cooler areas of Alto Adige, yet protected to the West by Mount Gantkofel, they produce elegant, well-built wines made for cellaring. The Pinot Bianco is unoaked, with an approachable, fruity nose. The mouth is well-balanced with solid extracts and a fresh and lively acidity, leading to a persistent and elegant finish. Beautifully made.

 

2. Terlano Sauvignon Quartz 2008, Cantina Terlano

From Astrum (see above)

 

Cantina Terlano has been producing wines since 1893 and their wines owe their distinction to the high mineral content of the soils: the vineyards lie on a red porphyry base of volcanic rock with large mineral crystal deposits. This Sauvignon is true to its name (quartz!). It has a steely, mineral freshness carrying a lush, fleshy body of apricots. It is not a ubiquitous caricature of the sauvignon grape: there is no fake vegetal edge or superficial herbiness to it, screaming, “I am Sauvignon” as do some of the New World models. There is just straightforward, solid fruit and structure: Sauvignon as it is meant to be. Their Lagrein Riserva Porphyr 2007 is also unmissable.

 

3. Gewürtztraminer 2009, Erste + Neue

From New Generation Wines Ltd., www.newgenerationwines.com

 

A long-running cooperative with a tradition of single-vineyard expertise, this Gewürztraminer is an elegant and original expression of this grape: a good balance between crisp minerality and unctuous floral and spicy elegance. It has all of the hallmarks of the traditional Alsatian version of the grape, yet at the same time imparts another dimension to the model – a distinctly Alto Adige-dimension – quite cheeky and personable.

 

4. Pinot Nero Mezzan 2008, Erste + Neue

From New Generation Wines Ltd (as above)

 

The Pinot Noir from this cooperative was a real find. It is approachable without being sweet or boring: there is definite power and structure here, but very fluidly and elegantly expressed. A violet nose takes you into velvety textured body and a good finish. The tannins are well integrated and the overall effect is that one is drinking a very expensive red Burgundy – a Volnay …

 

5. Pinot Nero Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano 2007, Tenuta J. Hofstätter

From FortyFive 10°

masi@fortyfive10.eu

 

This family-owned estate was founded in 1907. The family is quick to point out that the nearest town is Bolzano, which lies on the same line of latitude as Mâcon in Burgundy and that they have made Pinot Nero their specialty. They have two Pinot Neros, their Pinot Nero Meczan, whose 2009 was round, peppery and powerful, and the Barthenau, which was simply stunning. The nose was so perfumed and yet the mouth was restrained, direct, fresh and tightly made… saving itself for the even better times to come… to cellar.

 

6. Pinot Nero Ludwig 2007, Elena Walch from Bancroft Wine Ltd., www.bancroftwines.com

 

Elena Walch, an ex-architect, married into a prominent wine-producing family in Tramin/Termeno and turned to wine-making in 1985. Her wines have earned several of the coveted Three Glassses awards from the Gambero Rosso. Her Pinot Nero Ludwig is gorgeously well-made.  Aged for 14 months in half new oak and half old oak, its power is discreetly brought to the surface by subtle tannins and lively acidity. Perfumed, complex, elegant, it is drinkable now, but worth cellaring.

 

7. Pinot Nero Precios 2007, Josef Niedermayr Estate

From Passione Vino, www.passionevino.co.uk

 

Stunning. It opens with an earthy mineral-ness evoking the vineyard’s chalky soils. The nose is intense with dark berries, spice and violets. The body is textured and complex and the finish is fresh and long. Everything is here, from start to finish. This is a cooperative situated near Girlan, which is has been a family business since 1852: they manage their own vineyards as well as monitor and work with other winegrowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE:

 

There are quite a few Alto Adige producers who are looking for agents in the UK, and some of them are serious competition for the ones currently on the market. It is a bit of pot-luck as to who gets an agent – it not always an indication of the “deserved” order of merit. Keep your eyes open for the producers below, and pray they get to our shores!

 

Castelfeder

info@castelfeder.it

 

Manincor

info@mamimcor.com

 

K. Martini & Sohn

info@martini-sohn.it

 

St. Paul’s Winery

 info@kellereistpauls.com



Tuesday
Apr132010

Wines of Portugal Tasting, London (Lord's) 2010

 

WINES OF PORTUGAL TASTING

Lord’s Cricket Ground

 

ALIANCA VINHOS DE PORTUGAL  (Mario Neves’ Stands)

 

1. Galleria 2009

100% Bical (white), no oak, clay soils

Nose: sweet, tropical fruits, like a Gewurtz

Bouche: superb acidite, frais, good finish

 

2. Terra Boa 2009

VR Beiras

From Alentejo – grape: Siria, Viosinho

Too medicinal

 

3. Alianca Bairrada reserve Red 2006

DOC Bairrada,

Grape: Baga

No fruit, dry, hot - ok

 

4. Vista TR 2007

VR Beiras

Grape: Tinta Roriz and 15% TN

liked

 

5. Alianca Dao Reserva 2007

DOC Dao

Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen

Ok

 

6. Vista TN Reserva 2007

VR Beiras

Grape: Touriga Nacional

Hot, clumsy, not interesting

 

 

7. Alianca Particular Dao 2007

DOC Dao

Grape: Pais

Too sweet, dry, un peu d’elegance, but not very interesting

 

8. Quinta da Garrida 2007

DOC Dao

Grape: Tinta Roriz, Tourigo Nacional

Liked this one

 

 

 

 

9. Quinta da Rigodeira Reserva 2005

DOC Bairrada

Grapes: Baga, Merlot

Merlot seems to help Baga – liked this

 

 

10. Quinta das Baceladas 2005

DOC Bairrada

Grapes : Merlot, Baga, Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

11. Quinta dos Quatro Ventos 2007

DOC Duoro

Grapes: Tourigo Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz

Bien parfume – liked it

 

12. Quinta da Terrugem 2006

DOC Alentejo

Grapes: Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet

Elegant, perfumed, liked it

 

13. Quinta da Garrida Reserva 2004

DOC Dao

Grapes: Touriga Nacional

Fresh, elegant, good acidity, despite 14.5% alcohol

 

14. Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva 2007

DOC Douro

Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz

Frais, franc, direct, propre

 

15. Quinta da Dona 2004

DOC Bairrada

Grape: Baga

Ok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESPORAO

 

1.Monte Velho white 2009

VR Alentejano Grapes: Antao Vaz , Roupeiro, Perrum

Really unique taste, floral, yet crisp and lively acidity, clean

 

2. Esporao Verdelho 2009

VR Alentejano Grape: Verdelho

Not my style – that green, chlorophyl taste

 

3. Esporao reserva white 2008

DOC Alentejo Grapes: Arinto, Roupiero, Antao Vaz

Lovely, a bit weird, but great acidity

 

4. Monte Velho red 2008

VR Alentejano

Grapes: Aragones, Trincadeira, Castelao

Ok – thin and flat

 

5. Vinha da Defesa red 2008

VR Alentejano

Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Aragones

Not very interesting

 

6. 4 Castas red 2008

VR Alenejano

Grapes: Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Alfocheiro, Petit Verdot

Too much oak, unbalanced at the moment – great potential

 

7. Esparao Reserva red 2007

DOC Alentejo

Grapes: Aragones, Alicante, Trincadeira Cabernet

 

8. Aragones 2007

VR Alentejano

Grape: Aragones

Beautiful, solid, fresh, lots of personality

 

9.Esporao Alicante Bouschet 2007

VR Alentejano

Grape: Alicante Bouschet

Nice nose, floral, elegant

But tannins are green – finish is dry and unpleasant

 

10. Esporao Tourigo Nacional 2007

VR Alentehano

Grape: Touriga Nacional

Gorgeous, dense, purply and complex

 

 

Themed Table: Alvarinho

 

Dom Diogo Alvarinho 2009

Vinho Regional Minho, 13.5%

Quinta da Raza

 

Quinta dos Loridos Alvarinho 2008

Vinho Regional Lisboa 12.5%

Bacalhoa Vinhos de Portugal

 

Themed Table: Touriga Nacional

 

Quinta de Pancas Touriga Nacional Reserva 2007

Vinho Regional Lisboa 13.8%

Companhia das Quintas

 

Herdade Sao Miguel Touriga Nacional 2008

Vinho regional Alentejano 14.4%

Herdade Sao Miguel

 

Esporao Touriga Nacional 2007

Vinho Regional Alentehano 14.5% Esporao

Yum – very nice

 

Quinta do Portal Touriga Nacional 2006 DOC Douro 13.5%

Quinta do Portal - non

 

Vista TN Reserva 2007

Vinho Regional Beiras 14%

Alianca Vinhos de Portugal

Nice

 

Casa de Santar Touriga Nacional 2007

DAC Dao, Dao Sul

nice

 

Pedra Cancela 20008 Touriga Nacional

Non

 

CSL T. Nacional, Vinho REgional Lisboa, Casa Santos Lima

non



Monday
Feb222010

Enzo Boglietti visit, Piedmont

 

 

PRODUCER PROFILE : ENZO BOGLIETTI, La Morra, Piedmont

 

As Enzo races around his stunning new winery, his long curly locks swinging wildly, pulling barrel samples from left and right, I scamper behind, doing my best to keep up. We babble excitedly in a messy mix of French, English and Italian and despite this, one thing is clear … I am about to be amazed and seduced by these powerful yet subtle wines.

Enzo Boglietti, aided by his father Renato and brother Gianni, who tend the vines, is considered to be a “new” kid on the block: the family-run company began in 1991 with 2.5 hectares in La Morra and now boasts 21 hectares with an annual production of 75,000. They produce four wines from Barolo, three from Barbera, two Dolcettas and four Langhes wines. Enzo would usually be placed into the “modernist camp” of Piedmont producers. Broadly speaking, the modernists prefer the use of small oak barrels, short fermentations and lots of rotofermenter extraction producing easy-drinking, pleasant wines, as opposed to the traditionalists who don’t use too much oak, don’t want too short a maceration and not too vigorous extraction of flavour and colour. But I would put Enzo in the centralist camp.  He has taken the best of both sides and adapted the best practices to their raw materials.

For this is where it all begins, in the vineyard, and every decision they make, from bud to bottle, can be tasted in their well-balanced, age-worthy and complex wines. The traditionalist in him embraces strict low-yield control, minimum use of chemicals, organic fertilizers, high planting densities, hand-picking at harvest, hand-sorting, de-stemming, fermentation with wild yeast only, and a prudent oak-aging programme followed by bottle aging. And the modernist in him judiciously accepts s the these traditional practices and producing a wine that both educates and pleases the cons

Forgive the oxymoron, but they are modern classics in the making. And like their maker, they are classic but not boring, and modern, without pandering to facile market trends.

Dolcetto 2008

fresh, elegant, 13%

 

Dolcetto d’Alba Tigli Neri 2008

14.5%, veielles vignes, tannins verts, mais bien, une manqué de souplesse

Like it rushed to sugers and tannins never caught up.

 

Dolcette 2007

Much better, fruity, fresh, lovely (GR says both D’s are elegant and expressive)

 

Dolcetto d’Alba Tigli Neri 2007

Beautiful, elegant, florale, bien fait, tout est la, premieres matires solids, premier bouche perfectly toned, finish perfect

Barbera 2008

A difficult year for Barbera – good for Barolo. Nez de violet, florale, bien elegant

Said 2007 best

 

Barbera 2007  X

14.5%, not better than 2008, in my opinion, this is well done, but nothign more, nose is hot, florale bouche is hotter, sec et court – aucun finale.

 

Barbera d’Alba Roscaleto 2007

14.5%  - much more elagnat and fresh

Barbera d’Alba Roscaleto 2006  X

On teh nose –a cetate – vernis – but then lifted – ok, but still too hot – just gets pulled off – not drinkign well today (GR – plum, persistant, complex, plump)

Barbera d’Alba Vigni dei Romani 2006

14.5%, nez epice, mineral, correcte, bien equilibre, vraiment superb

 

Barbera d’Alba Vigni dei Romani 2005

Echoes the 2006 but shows what is coming – superb – same character as 2006

 

Langhe Nebbiolo 2008  X

Soil – sable – can drink younger – less acidite

Nez et bouche plus medicinale – cote cerise – bon bon, je n’aime pas.

Typique pour le terroir – mais apres, ca reviens – c’est un vrai voyage – a real surprise – wine was all over the place – nicely so – took me for a ride

 

Langhe Rosso Buio 2007

80% neb and 20% Barbera

Vraiment bien, spicy, mineral, supple

Nose a bit closed still, Bouche explodes

(GR – drinking beautifully already)

 

Langhe Rosso Buio 2006

Nose still closed – florale, frais, mineral bouche explodes

Round, supple, (GR- morello cherry, tobacco, elegant, palate long)

 

Barolo Fossati 2006

Really puissante – lots of alchohol but still gras and with great acidity.

Nose spicy, powerful

 

Barolo Fossati 2005

More feminine enormous, rond, superb – beautifully done

(GR – fresh tasting but dry tannins – fresh palate 0 dry mouth)

 

Barolo Case Nero 2006

Nose of caramel and chocolat

 

Barolo Case Nero 2005

Better structured – nose acetone – but bouche clean – explodes with flavour. Prefer the 2006 now but think the 2005 will last longer

(GR – clenched, muscular, nose closed)

 

Barolo Arione 2005

Well done – better than the 04? Stunning perfection

(GR – frsh, depth, tobacco, spices, red berry fruits classic, drinkable despite youth and powerful structure.)

 

Barolo Arione 2004

Disc shows some age – noticing that these wines are slow to lose their colour.

A little more fluid , easier, less  structure – or am I comfusing ageing with the newer wine above? (GR – texture)

 

Langhe Merlot Vigni Talpone 2006

Big – open – nose vegetal and green

 

Langhe Merlot Vigni Talpone 2004

More acidity – nose far more perfumed, open, similar bouche to 06, more alcoholic

 

Langhe Cabernet Vigni Talpone 2006

Loved both of these – nothing to say

 

Langhe Cabernet Vigni Talpone 2004

Stunning ...well-aged, plenty of fruit and perfectly balanced.



Wednesday
Sep192007

Dinner at Hotel du Vin, Henley-on-Thames

19 September 2007

 

2002 Chardonnay “La Combe”, Cotes du Jura, Domaine Ganevat

Wonderfully unique and individual. A “gout de vas”, dry and tightly focused. Truly expressive.

 

2003 Springfield’s The Work of Time, South Africa

14% Bordeaux blend from Robertson. Huge expressive nose with a restrained, fresh and elegant palate. Good acidity. Done in a very Old World style. Well-made. Good finish.

 

2004 Willi Opitz Weisser Schilfmandi Muscat Ottonel Schilfwein

Unctuous and luxurious will stunningly crisp acidity.

 

 

Saturday
Aug182007

A dinner in New York - August 18,  2007

 

2003 Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Vincent Girardin

13.5% alcohol, thin and lifeless. Lacking fruit or varietal character.

 

2002 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico

Lovely.

 

2002 Rully 1ier cru “Les Cloux” Vincent Girardin

A bit too hot and heavy, but lusciously perfumed and enjoyable. Very New World in style.

 

1999 Palladio Brunello di Montalcino

13% but fresh, cool and elegant. Luscious chocolate bouche and strong finish.

 

2003 1ier cru “Les Folatieres”, Puligny Montrachet (whose?!)

14%, nice mineral nose, but too hot and sweet and lacking in acidity.

 

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Keenan, Napa

14.3% hot, short, dry, boring. No varietal character or taste, just alcoholic oak. Let it air and kept going back to it and it never improved.

 

 

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