Friday, November 17, 2017

Mature Barolo tasting, at Eurowines

We met today at Eurowines in Brussels for a blind tasting of mature Barolo

Thank you to Eric Daive, owner of Eurowines, for his hospitality in his first class shop in the Woluwe borough of Brussels. Do visit him for a wide choice of wine and spirits and friendly advice.

These bottles had been patiently waiting in the cellar for decades, slowly developing tertiary flavors, and today it was their day.

We tasted the wines blind, one by one, and scored them using the AIS system. Just so as not to make it too easy, two of the nine bottles were similarly aged Barbaresco, another noble wine from Piedmont made with the same grapes but in a different terroir. And two of the seven bottles of Barolos were identical: same producer, wine, vintage.

Overall, the Barolos were at, or very close to, their peak. A couple of them would have scored higher five years ago, but deciding when to open a bottle of Barolo is not an exact science. This tasting confirmed the incredible aging potential of this wine.

Or one could say of the nebbiolo variety: we added to the tasting a single bottle of Barbaresco, as a sort of control group. Sometimes considered the junior wine in the nebbiolo family of wines, this Barbaresco proved to be capable to take on all the Barolos and prevail.

The average score of today's wine was quite high, with five wines out of nine scoring above 90. This was perhaps not surprising given the high reputation of the lineup.

Only one of us correctly guessed which was the lone bottle of Barbaresco and none of us could tell which two bottles were the identical Scavino Barolo 94. The two bottles turned out to be very different indeed, even though they had been stored together for almost 20 years.

We paired the wines with a few Italian gastronomic specialties: Parmigiano cheese (aged 70 months!, none of us had ever tasted one this age), prosciutto and salami. Structured food for a structured wine. The delicacies provided by our sponsor Primitiae Italiae were a good complement for our tasting.

Preserved mushrooms, eggplant, olives, dried tomatoes and others, which matched well with the tannic Barolo and Barbaresco. You can read about their project and suggested recipes, as well as contact them to order their products on their website.

The Tasting Results

Individual wine notes, scores (average for the group), rank in our tasting and approximate market price (retail in late 2017 based on data):

1. Barolo Vigna Enrico VI, Az. Cordero Montezemolo, 1996.  Top label by Montezemolo, it was a bit disappointing. Past its prime. Score 79. Ranking today: 9/9. Price: Eur 100.

2. Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata, Az. Scavino, 1990. A great wine at its peak, full bodied, perfectly balanced and long. Score 89. Ranking today: 5/9. Price: Eur 350.

3. Barolo Bric del Fiasc, Az. Scavino, 1994. Another great one. Past its prime but still a balanced and long wine. Score 91. Ranking today: 4/9. Price: Eur 85.

4. Barolo Bric del Fiasc, Az. Scavino, 1994 (identical to n. 3).  Surprisingly better than identical bottle n. 3. A top bottle tonight. Perfect balance and very long. A harmonious wine. Score 94.. This bottle scored higher than the identical n.3 Ranking today: 2/9. Price: Eur 85.

5. Barolo Serralunga, Az. Manzone, 2000. A very good bottle, just short of excellence. A few years past its prime. Score 87. Ranking today: 6/9 ex aequo. Price: Eur 60.

6. Barolo Bussia Az. Prunotto, 1990. Another bottle that scored a bit below its original (very high) expectations. Score 85. Ranking today: 8/9. Price: Eur 120.

7. Barolo Campè Az. La Spinetta, 2000 .  Excellent bottle, full bodied, round and long. Score 92. Ranking today: 3/9. Price: Eur 100.

8. Barbaresco Valeirano Az. La Spinetta, 2004. Only one of us tasters tonight guessed correctly that this was the lone bottle of Barbaresco of the night. An exceptional, harmonious bottle, at its peak.  Score 95. Ranking today: 1/9. Price: Eur 105. The surprise winner today!

9. Barolo Vigna Elena  Az. Cogno, 2000.  A very good bottle at its peak. Ripe fruits still at forefront. Full body and long. Score 87. Ranking today: 6/9 ex aequo. Price: Eur 75.

The lineup unveiled at the end of our tasting

Facts about Barolo

King of Italian wines, wine of Italian kings: beginnings in 1850s, same as Bordeaux, under initiative of Count Cavour and King Vittorio Emanuele II, before unification of Italy.

Area: 11 towns (comuni) in southern Piedmont. Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba are the mains ones + 6 others.

Geology: mostly clay, with chalk an sand. Continental climate.

Grape: Nebbiolo 100%. Same as for Barbaresco, generic Nebbiolo, and a few others.

Etymology: from nebbia (fog) because grapes ripen late when the region experiences much fog. Also grapes covered with pruina, a grey fungus coating late in season.

Production: 700+ vineyards for close to 2,000 hectares, ca. 11-13 million bottles, +50% in last 20 years. About 4% of all Piedmont wine, which is ca. 5% of all Italian wine.

Max yield/hectare: 8 tons (5600 liters) . In case name of vineyard is mentioned: 7.2 tons.

Alcohol content: 12.5% to 15%.

Aging: min. 38 months, of which 18 in French or Slavonia oak barrels. Chestnut no longer used, too bitter. Riserva: 62 months, 18 in oak. New trend: aging in small oak barrels, smoothens indigenous tannins and acidity. Both styles of Barolo are in use today and the debate is still open as to which is best. In the end it is a matter of personal taste and luckily we consumers can have both!

Price: retail for new wine in the market from ca. 35 euro to over 1,000 (Gaja, Conterno).

Color: garnet red.

Aromas and flavor: complex secondary (fermentation): ripe plums, cherries. Powerful tertiary (aging): chocolate, liquorices, leather, tobacco.

Evolution: potential in the bottle of well over 25 years for the best wines.

Pairing: red meat, game, pasta/risotto with hearty sauces to contrast tannin. Cured cold cuts. Aged cheeses. Structured food to match structure of wine. At its peak of maturity it can be enjoyed by itself.

Final remarks: Barolo is a powerful yet elegant wine, with infinite complexity and long aging potential. It requires all of our attention to buy, to age in our cellar and to find a proper pairing, not least because it does not come cheap. 

Comuni where Barolo is produced. (C)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Revue des Vins de France Champagne tasting in Paris

Trade tasting at the Paris Intercontinental for sommeliers interested in Champagne. How to resist a quick Eurotunnel trip under the Channel? Here is a highlight of my tasting notes.

Belle de blanc guy mea 2010,
100pc chard top of the range
huge fragrance and complexity
great potential
score 90, 38eur

cuvée prestige William Deutz 2006
80 pc pn, 20 pc chard GC
intense long and complex this 2006
still incredibile freshness
great potential
score 92, eur 100 depending on the offers

Deutz top of the range chard 100
incredibile intensity and complexity this 2007 Amour de Deutz
a great champagne to drink now or keep a few more years
score 95, eur 125

Philipponnat blanc de noir. 2009
incredibile balance for a Pn, round and smooth while enough freshness promises a few years in cellar still
score 91, 48 euro

1522 GC 2007
named after the year the Philipponnat family came to Champagne from Switzerland
66pc pn GC 33 pc chard, 4 gram sugar
Freshness still present but quite round well balanced
score 92,eur 65

Clos des Goisses by Philipponnat
65 pn 35 chard
Always incredibile CdG, round balance very complex and persistent. A harmonious wine.
score 96, eur 130

Intemporelle 2010 by Mailly GC
60 pc chard 40 pc PN
hazelnut, butter! what a surprise this champagne .
fragrant complex round long
score 92 eur 60

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Meet the producer: Tasting and visit to the vineyard of Clos d'Opleeuw, Limburg, Belgium

Clos d'Opleeuw chardonnay almost ready for harvest

Today a group of members of the BWC/AIS Club of Brussels went for a day trip to the Limburg, a province of the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. A sunny and balmy day, perfect for a day out!

Here we visited Clos d'Opleeuw, the vineyard of Peter Colemont, for a tour of the small (1 hectare) plot of chardonnay and pinot noir and a vertical tasting.

We went to the vineyard first, which is very well kept and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to expand this level of soil/ slope/ orientation/ protection from the weather.

Peter does not believe in "organic" farming but makes minimal use of chemicals in the vineyard. No added yeasts, only indigenous: more difficult to control but can do also thanks to his limited quantities. No fining with egg whites, only some casein.

The wall of the Clos, dating back to the middle ages, protects from the weather

But let Peter Colemont explain himself about his project.

We then had our tasting. First the chards, then the lone red. Following are the tasting notes that reflect our consensus during the tasting. The scores are mine. I did not indicate prices because the older wines are sold out and Peter Colemont exceptionally agreed to this vertical tasting. However the most recent vintage chardonnay retails for some 40 euro, while the Prestige goes for 60. Peter Colemont does not sell directly unless buyers also purchase some of his imported wines.

Peter Colemont leads our tasting (© Lifang Yan)

Chardonnay 2011, 12%
Straw yellow, moderately intense and consistent. Still quite fresh though round enough for drinking now.
Score 88

Chardonnay 2007, 12%
Golden yellow and very consistent. Notes of white truffle. Minerality and still plenty of freshness make for a perfect balance.
Score 92

Chardonnay 2005, 13%
This vintage is fresher than the 2007 we just tasted, it was a cooler year. Even a tad of effervescence, some excess carbon dioxide in the bottle.
Score 90

Chardonnay Cuvée Prestige Pleistoceen 2015, 13%
The prestige is produced, only in the best years, with the best grapes, from the best part of the small vineyard. Longer and more complex than the other Chards. Again truffle and some vanilla. Obviously still too young, it has a great potential but it is a ready wine for those who like it fresh, a bit Chablis style. A harmonious wine which could provide great surprises to its lucky owner for years to come.
Score 94

Pairing with food: these complex and structured chardonnays could go with structured white meats, maybe guinea fowl or turkey, and even caramelized pork chops.

Pinot Noir 2016, 12.5%
Surprising garnet color instead of the more usual ruby which characterizes pinot noir. Red fruit jam in the nose while mushrooms emerge in the palate. Very well balanced for a young PN, much smoother than expected. It's Achilles heel is perhaps its structure, not as well defined as it could be. Moderate length. Ready with limited aging potential.  As Peter himself noted, more work is necessary on the Pinot Noir, though I personally appreciated its pleasant smoothness and was intrigued by the garnet color.

The Pinot Noir will go well with duck liver spread on toasted bread, pasta with green and red peppers and, why not?, a delicate curry or Chinese Hainan-style steamed chicken with fried rice.
Score 84

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (© Lifang Yan)
Thank you and see you next time! (© Lifang Yan)

To complete an excellent oeno-gastronomic excursion members of the BWC/AIS Club went for an excellent lunch at the nearby Altermezzo restaurant, creative and colorful cuisine at reasonable prices.

And to finish the day we paid a visit to Tongeren, an ancient Roman city where wine was already made some two thousand years ago. Its central square and cathedral as well as the unique treasures of the Teseum before returning to Brussels.

We'll have to come back to Tongeren, to taste the next vintage of Opleeuw, to visit other wine producers in the region (stay tuned, write to us to be included in our mailing list...) and to admire the Beguinage, a UNESCO world heritage site in the center of town.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dom Perignon brunch in the sky in Hong Kong


A large display of lobster is what I noticed first when I entered the bright room of the Ozone Bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel, on top of the ICC tower in Kowloon, Hong Kong. They claim it is the highest bar in the world, and I can believe it.

Every Sunday they offer the "Dom Perignon Brunch": noon to 3pm, all you can eat from an immense mouth watering buffet plus all you can drink Dom Perignon.

We were there five minutes before noon, to make best use of the time without overdoing it.

Three hours in heaven, and not only because we were almost half a kilometer high above the ground. 

This time (mid-2017) they were serving the 2006 vintage. A creamy smooth champagne. It was, as expected, complex, persistent and perfectly balanced. 

Awesome pair with cold seafood, of course, but also with more structured foods like Spanish pata negra ham and roast beef.

Score 96.

Lobster is what I saw first, but I actually started my brunch with sashimi.

Yes, jamon pata negra goes well with champagne

Final touch: gold-leafed chocolate dessert

The cost of these three hours was about 1500 HKG dollars service charge included, which was roughly the RRP of a bottle of Dom Perignon in Europe at the  time. Not bad. I think I drank close to a bottle, so the food was free. And the view!

Tuesday, June 27, 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)

Suzanne and JF

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cabernet Franc Blind Tasting, at Phil dans ta Cave

Bunch of Cab Franc, © Wikipedia
Ten members of the Club met today at Phil dans ta Cave for an exclusive blind tasting of Cabernet Franc wines. A good way to end the week on this Friday evening, 26th May.

After an aperitif of Burgundy white, while waiting for everyone to arrive, we tasted three sets of three cab francs each, for a total of nine bottles.

Each set was prepared in carafes by Jonathan Smets, who was the only one to know the content. Each set was composed of two Loire Cab francs and one each from Italy, Hungary and Argentina, but we did not know which until the end of the tasting.

All of the above was accompanied by bread and tasty snacks. Wines were scored using the A.I.S. system.

Below is a summary by Marco Carnovale of some of the comments in the room, followed by his scores and (in brackets) the average score from the group.

Thank you to Phil and Jonathan of Phil dans ta Cave for hosting us. See the page "Friendly suppliers" in this blog to contact them and benefit for special discounts and receive invitations to tastings and sales as a member of the Brussels Wine Club. Contact us to join for free.

Here is a useful template from Winefolly to introduce Cab Franc.


1987 Guffens Clos des Petits Croux (magnum). 100% Chardonnay from Burgundy.

An amazing wine which never ceases to surprise. Excellent consistency, but incredible freshness at 30 years-old. Complex aromas of ripe apricots, caramel, whisky. Perfectly balanced and very long. A harmonious wine, probably at its peak, but one would probably have said the same thing ten years ago. Score 95 (95). Price: 75 Eur (if you can find it).


2015 Magipiro Az agricola Siciliano. Light ruby, moderate consistency, maybe a bit of nail polish. Barely balanced, some residual sugar. Score 78 (74). Ranking today: 9/9. Price: Eur 29.

2014 Y Amirault Saint Nicolas des Bourgueil Les Malgagnes. Green pepper, moderate balance, hard sensations prevail but not aggressive. Body and acidity promise a good evolution. Score 88 (85). Ranking today 2/9. Price: Eur 25.

2010 Philippe Alliet Chinon Vieilles Vignes A bit less freshness than previous wine, but otherwise similar. Typical Cab franc. Score 88 (83), Ranking today 3/9. Price: 18.


2011 Philippe Alliet, Coteau de Noire Deep ruby intense and complex. Explosive raspberry and plum, perfect balance of full body and prominent freshness. Ready but will deliver for several more years. A harmonious wine. Score 94 (90). Ranking today 1/9. Price 28 Eur.

2013 Don Balthazar (Argentina),  The previous wine was a hard act to follow. This is a good cab franc with moderate potential. Good value for the money if your budget is limited. Score 86 (82). Ranking today 5/9. Price Eur 11.

2010 Baudry Chinon Les grezeaux, we step down a bit again from previous wine. Bitterish cherry. Moderate balance and length.  Score 84 (82). Ranking today 6/9. Price 18 Eur.


2012 Malatinszky "Noblesse Cabernet Franc" (Hungary). Exuberant alcohol overpowers a pleasant sour cherry jam. Moderate balance, body and length. Score 78 (82). Ranking 4/9. Price: Eur 24.

2010 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny  A relatively plump wine, but lacks acidity. Mature. The most expensive wine of the evening, it did not really perform as one would have expected. Score 84 (81). Rank today 7/9. Eur 100+.

2012 Baudry Croix Boissée. Well known to most participants the 1st wine by Baudry was a bit of a disappointment, did not shine as expected. I found it aggressive, only moderately balanced while in the past I have several times ranked it as one of the best cab franc in Loire. Maybe it just needs time. Maybe I was just tired at the end of the evening!! Score 78 (80). Ranking today 8/9. Eur 28.

BONUS WINE (Thanks Jon!) 2008 Joguet, Clos de la Dioterie. Quite distinctive cab franc, ready now with its peak probably a few years ahead of us. Score 86. About 20 Eur.


1. Cab franc is a difficult varietal but can give great pleasure by itself, and not necessarily in blends with its son cab sauvignon, merlot or others. Few regions of the world try to make 100% cab franc, too bad. Even Cheval Blanc blends a bit of merlot.

2. It is not necessary to spend a fortune to get a good cab franc, in the 20-30 eur range there are great products.

3. Loire is still top, but Hungary and Argentina have interesting offers. We'll try Slovenia and others soon. Italy disappointed this time.

4. This varietal needs time, no point trying to hurry up. Give it ten years, more for a 85+ wine.

You can buy all of this wines with our members' discount of 10% at Phil dan ta cave, see page on friendly wine suppliers on this blog.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Masterclass on South Tyrol wines from Italy

A little gem of class at the London Wine Fair 2017 presented by Nancy Gilchrist MW. 

Alto Adige produces only 1 % of Italian wine. 98% of it is doc.Vineyards have been around for several centuries, in fact for at least two millennia. Archduke Leonhardt brought French grapes in the XIX century and this was a major leap forward.

Lots of good products by the 12 co-ops.

Topography is special because of altitude and steep slopes. Virtually all work in the vineyard must be done by hand. Mountains protects from the harsh climate of the north while warming air flows northward from Garda Lake and helps.

Mix of soils, different wines. about 20 varietal, three indigenous, Gewurztraminer, schiava (vernatsch) which represents the largest production, lagrein.

200 vineyards. 60pc whites 40pc reds.

35% of wine exported, mostly to USA and Germany.

Below are my tasting notes for the day. Whites better than reds. Most wines ready now. These are a good selection but there is better output in South Tyrol which was not here today.

pinot bianco 100pc Sirmian, cantina Margreid 2015
easy flowers and light citrus.14 abv! I Score 86.
12 gbp

Pinot Grigio 2015 by Lageder.
light cherry highlights!
quite smooth and complex. score 87 abv 14

kerner aristos by cantina valle Isarco 2016.
zesty yet balanced and persistent. score 88. abv 14.5

sauvignon blanc Mervin 2015 by cantina Merano
lightly barriqued, somewhere in between serious dry Loire and plump smooth New Zealand.
score 87 abv 14
gbp 14

Gewurztraminer Turmhof 2016 by Tiefenbrunner
very smooth yet moderately balanced as enough freshness lingers on until the end to justify drinking it with a meal of creamy fish or seafood risotto . abv 15
score 84

schiava (vernatsch) etymology uncertain. Schiava di cantine Caldaro, classico superiore. 2016
a bit rough, ripe red fruit contrasts with unruly tannins. abv 13.5
score 78

Pinot Noir riserva by Trattmann Manzon 2014.
French oak uses sparingly. maybe could have used some more. hard sensation prevails. abv 13. 8
score 87

Alto Adige Lagrein riserva Tor di Lupo 2014 cantina Adriano
deep ruby red intense black fruits
still a bit rough, lacks structure for evolution. abv 13.5
score 83

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brussels Wine Club founding and Belgian wine presentation

Today we met at the house of Marco Carnovale, Sommelier AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) and promoter of this new Brussels Wine Club, and his wife Lifang Yan. In this informal setting, in the company of 13 wine lovers from several countries, Marco presented the AIS and the idea of creating a branch in the capital of Europe.

In addition, Marco gave a presentation on Belgian wine: its history, denominations, and characteristics. The research for this presentation was based on an article that Marco wrote for issue  n.12 of magazine Vitae of the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (AIS).

Marco's presentation, including the description of each wine tasted today, can be seen online here.

During the course of the evening participants tasted the following wines:

1. Ruffus Cuvée du Seigneur 2014, 12.5%
2. Genoels-Elderen Rose Parel 2012, 12,5%, no AOC.

3. Aldeneyck Chard Heerenlaak 2014, Vlaamse Landwijn
4. Clos d’Opleeuw Chardonnay Prestige Pleistoceen, 2014, GOB Beschermde (protected) Haspengouw

5. Bon Baron Acolon, AOC Côtes de Sambre et Meuse, 13%abv
6. Bon Baron, Pinot Noir Tresor, 2013, 13% abv, AOC Côtes de Sambre et Meuse

7. Aldeneyck Pinot Gris "Noble", 2013, 11.5%

Wednesday, January 11, 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. 

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 blanc
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. 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 45 (in a box with other wines), 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 noir, 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, vin 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 noir, 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 Pinot Noir 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. Paired with sweet ham of Friuli, medium seasoning cheese or French onion soup. Score 83. Euro 22 online.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chateau d'Yquem

My first Yquem, for a special occasion. 1984, a young one as Yquems go. 

Dark amber, dramatic consistency, infinite complexity. Caramel, prunes, quince, apricot jam. Still powerful minerality and perfect balance. Very long, ça va sans dire over 10 seconds. 

Paired with magret de canard and foie gras and then with pan fried lobster and again foie gras, Auvergne blue cheese to finish the bottle. A harmonious wine.

Possibly my best wine ever, could be on par with a Puligny Montrachet 1989 I shared with a friend during a humble dinner in my kitchen a few years ago. score 100. eur 300.

Belgian wine: controlled designations of origin and protected geographical indications

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

Wine designations in Belgium


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.

In 2017, the denominations of Maasvallei Limburg was approved. The area of ​​approximately 150 km² consists mainly of sand and gravel that was supplied over 400,000 years from the Alps, Jura, Vosges and the Ardennes. The mild microclimate, due to the lower area, ensures less rain and a longer growing season. Authorized grapes: Acolon, Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Dornfelder, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Siegerebe. (Thanks to Belgian Wines for the info).

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.


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 an updated part of an article by Marco Carnovale which appeared in Italian in the issue n. 12 of the magazine Vitae, published by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS).