Thursday, November 16, 2023

Slideshow: the wine of Madeira

 This is a presentation I have put together in 2023 for presentation on cruise ships and private events.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Wines of Moldova - Trade tasting of Purcari Chateau

Unique tasting of wines from southeastern Europe today in London. While Romanian and Bulgarian wines were included, I will focus on Moldovan wines here ad this was the first time I have had a chance to taste them.

Thank you to Wine Communication for organizing this event and to Caroline Gilby, a top expert of Eastern European wines, for guiding us through the tasting.

Specifically the samples provided were from the Chateau Purcari estate, an iconic winery that dates back to 1812. Originally it was created by French settlers who came in the wake of Napoleon's invasion, and following the many ups and downs of Moldovan history it ended up being nationalized when the country found itself as part of the Soviet Union and it socialist system. After the end of that era in 1989 Moldova once again became independent and in the early 2000s the estate was privatized. It is now a public company quoted on the Bucharest stock exchange with additional vineyards in Romania and Bulgaria.

Victor Bostan is its proud boss now, and Federico Giotto, a famous Italian winemaker, helps him improve the quality of the wines. In total Purcari plants 300ha of vines and has set up a state of the art winery with sustainable criteria such as solar panel to provide electricity.

Tasting notes

Cuvee Purcari Alba Brut
Feteasca alba 100%. Traditional method for a delicate and fresh bubbly. Score 86

Nocturne Viorica 2022
Viorica grape, combines aromatic nose to fresh palate. It is a resistant grape that requires little intervention in the vineyard. Score 88

Academia viorica, orange wine
Some pleasant bitter end as expected from an orange wine, good structure. Score 88
Pinot noir native 2021, Smooth mod structure , Score 85

Rara Neagra 2022 
Smooth, traditionally treated as a workhorse grape but good potential, still lacks complexity. Score 83

Academia rara neagra 2020
6 months in amphora, Smooth medium structure. Ready score 88

Separavi de Purcari 
Separavi grape. Fruity, fresh, alcohol, Score 84

Malori de Prut 
65% rara neagra 35% feteasca Neagra, Score 86 

Freedom blend
The name wants to celebrate the independence of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine from the USSR. 
65% Separavi 20% rara neagra, 15% bastardo. A mid-range wine with moderate complexity and structure. Score 85

Negru de Purcari limited edition 2019 
55% cab sauvignon 40% Separavi 5% rara neagra. Score 90 The best Moldovan wine today.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Wines of Greece - Trade tasting by the Greek Wine Federation

It is not often that one goes to church to taste dozens of wines, but this is what I had the privilege of doing today in London for a wonderful trade tasting today At St. John's entirely dedicated to the wines of Greece.

Kudos to Westbury Communications for the organisation and thank you to the Greek Wine Federation for their initiative.

Long gone is the time when Greece was associated with cheap retsina wines that would make collectors raise their eyebrows. In the last 30 years or so the qualitative progress has been incredible and today we were lucky to taste many world class wines that have put the country firmly on the map.

The map is actually a curious concept in Greece, as we learned how no one really knows how many hectares in the country are actually dedicated to vines. Lots of work for the cadastre remains to be done.

Generally Greece produces wines with a high sugar content, because of its latitude and consequent high temperatures. However careful harvesting and smart use of land at higher altitudes have moderated this feature and today many Greek wines sport a more reasonable ABV that is comparable with the best in the world.

That is also reflected in the prices of Greek wines. I learned that today grapes of quality can cost up to 4500 euro / metric ton, which means, roughly, that their resulting wine must be sold for some € 45 / bottle for the producer to make a profit.

Of special interest two masterclasses presented by James Goode, MW. Below is my pick of the best wines he introduced to us.

Masterclass 1: 11am – 12.30pm: “Mountains and islands: Mapping Greece’s viticultural landscape”

Douloufakis Winery, Aspros Lagos white 2022, PGI Crete, 100% Vidiano
Powerful, complex and round, very long.
Acacia wood ageing confers a unique smoothness. RRP £ 30. Score 92

Domaine Costa Lazaridi, Château Julia Assyrtiko 2022
A balanced wine, mod long and complex with a slight and pleasant bitter ending that gives it a special character. A powerful texture. RRP £ 20. Score 92

Atremis Karamolegos Winery, Pyritis 2020, Assyrtiko
120yo vines! A complex, long and perfectly balanced wine. RRP £ 48. Score 93

Santo Wines, Santorini Nykteri 2021, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani
Balanced and complex, long. RRP £ 31. Score 93

Palivou Estate, Nemea 2020, Agyorgitiko
This grape is sometimes referred to as the "merlot of Greece".
Still very young, it needs time to round its edges. A structured, powerful wine. RRP £ ? Score 91

Domaine Skouras, Nemea Grande Cuvee 2019, Agyiorgitiko
Fresh start gives way to an overall balance, with a pleasing sour end. RRP £ 30. Score 92

Parparoussis Winery, TAOS 2018, Mavrodaphne
30yo vines, a complex wine wine with a perfect balance, long and elegant. RRP £ 37. Score 93

Masterclass 2: 3pm – 4.30pm: “Assyrtiko to Xinomavro: Exploring Greece’s indigenous varieties”

Greek Wine Cellars, Moderne Allegorie Assyrtiko 2022
Intense to the nose, complex and balanced interpretation of this iconic grape. RRP £ 30. Score 92

Domaine Hatzimichalis, Assyrtiko Alepotrypa vineyard 2022
Steel fermenting and ageing makes for a crisp wine, to be enjoyed now. RRP £ 16, Score 92

Gaia Wines, Agyorgitiko 2020
Full, round and complex from 40yo vines and 21months in now oak. RRP £42. Score 93

From the same producer I tasted the following wines in the walkaround

Gaia Wines, Thalassitis 2022, Assyrtiko from Santorini
Intense, fresh, even zesty and floral, exuberant in the glass. RRP £ 33. Score 93

Gaia Wines, Assyrtiko by Gaia 2022
Complex, long perfect, a harmonious wine. RRP £ 37. Score 95

Alpha estate, Ecosystem Xinomavro relerve "Barba Yannis" 2019
From ungrafted vines that are 90yo, no less, and planted at the remarkable altitude of 900 meters above sea level. Complex, round, long, a harmonious wine. RRP £32. Score 95, the best wine of the day.

From the same producer I tasted the following wines in the walkaround

Ecosystem Assyrtiko Single Block "Aghia Kiriaki" 2021
A strong, full wine with plenty of room to improve over time. RRP £ 28, Score 92

Single vineyard "Hedgehog" Rosé 2022
Xinomavro. RRP £25. Score 92

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Meet the producer: Balmoral Maravides, Valencia, Spain

Snow at 1000 meters (photo Balmoral)

A big challenge they put before themselves at Balmoral: produce pinot noir in southern Spain. A grape which is known to give its best at cool latitudes, as in Burgundy. The climate could not be more different, but At Balmoral Maravides they had an ace up their sleeve to cool the environment for pinot noir: altitude. So they planted 150 hectares of organic vineyards at 1000+ meters above sea level, to produce about 500k bottles per year, half sparkling and half still. This are the highest altitude vineyards for sparkling wine in Spain.

Their winemaker from Epernay Hervé Jestin makes sure some French imprint is left on the bubbles, though the final signature is uniquely Maravides. Their wines are organic certified.

I met Carlos Garcia Gomariz at an online fair organized by Onvinum and they graciously agreed to send some samples for review. Here below are my tasting notes. Thank you for allowing me to discover a new reality of southern Spain.

Rosé, pinot noir sparkling
My first impression was of a light, easy  wine to drink over the Summer, in the garden, with some starters. However after I left the bottle, half empty, in the fridge for two days, capped with a vacuvin valve, I found a more complex taste and a rounder finish. The best of the wines we tasted from this creative vineyard.
Score 88

Edoné chardonnay sparkling brut
An easy bottle of traditional method bubbles with medium body and a (slightly puzzling for a brut) touch of sweet at the end. Score 80

This chard is flowery, fruity even if it is missing some typical chardonnay complexity, body and buttery notes. An easy wine to drink cold in the Summer with some starters. Score 80

Syrah 2021
An easy syrah just in time for the coming Spring grill in the garden. Moderate structure and complexity. To be enjoyed now, do not wait. Score 82

Friday, March 24, 2023

Taste Uruguay: a unique walkaround in London

At the iconic 67 Pall Mall we had the opportunity to participate in a unique trade tasting dedicated to Uruguayan wines that was organized by Southamericanwineguide.

Uruguay wine is mostly associated with Tannat, a variety which has been planted there for centuries with great results. However the oenologic landscape has evolved and there is now a large range of options to choose from. Over 6500 hectares are planted with cabs, merlot, syrah, viognier, and albarino, among others.

Selected Tastings

Below are my favorites from the walkaround tasting that was available sadly for too short a time, 90 minutes, to fully appreciate what the participating producers had to offer.

Castel Pujol Folklore Naranja (Rivera) 2022
A smooth orange wine which tasted on the light side despite 13.4%. Score 84

Albarino "Sobre Lias" (on the lees) Maldonado 2022 
The lees confer fragrance and elegance. 12.5%. Score 86

Singular Pinot Noir Clon 777 2020 (Maldonado)
A balanced, complex and long wine. 14.5% Score 90

Austros 2015 (canelones)
Smooth yet structured wine. 15%. Score 90

Barbera 2020 (canelones)
A light barbera. 13% Score85

Estival 2022 (canelones)
Balanced and complex. 14% Score 90

Alcyone NV (canelones)
Tannat 100% sweet wine. 16% Score 92

As they put it, this is a "back to the future" project. Anfor is inspired by the ancient Georgian traditions, dating back as much as 8000 years by some estimates. The best Muscat Ottonel bunches are left for 7 days to develop carbonic maceration, after which they are foot stomped and moved to amphora where they are sealed for 4 months and left in the open during winter. 8.5% Score 89

Santiago Degasperi of Proyekto Nakkal

Friday, March 17, 2023

Meet the producer: Valquejigoso, Madrid, Spain

The Valquejigoso estate is located 45 km south of the capital of Madrid. We had a chance to meet the producer at the 2022 online fair brilliantly organized by Onvinum, a new Spanish platform to bring together producers, buyers and educators.

The Valquejigoso Domaine was bought by the Colomo family in February 1986. From 1992 the domain, previously known as a hunting cottage for the European aristocracy, was transformed into a winery. The first vines were planted in 1997. Very well-known French nurseries participate in the project like Renoux - based in Bordeaux - as well as other French teams who came to share their experience in the "fork" vine planting method, an ancient method which requires a painful manual work.

Blend of cab sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo, negral and syrah taken from 21 plots, no less!
It is the only wine we tasted of this producer. An intense nose with complexity and length. Also well balanced. I paired it by concordance with with a vegetarian pizza, both food and wine of medium structure. Drink now or wait a year or two.
Score 90

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Sangiovese day in London

Massive and very informative tasting organized by Hunt and Speller in London, this event brought together over 100 producers of sangiovese from Tuscany, of course, as well as Romagna, Umbria, Marche and Basilicata. We learn a lot from the booklet distributed to the participants as well as from a masterclass dedicated to sangiovese from the Romagna region.

Today there are over 65,000 hectares of sangiovese planted in Italy, about 10% of all vineyards in the country, and it is therefore by far the most popular variety. It is featured in 112 DOC and DOCG as well as 88 IGT (indicazione geografica tipica, roughly the equivalent of the French vin de pays).

Its history goes back a long way: first mentioned in the XVII century, the name means "the blood of Jupiter", and it is attributed to monks from Romagna. Recent DNA research proves sangiovese is a cross of Ciliegiolo, a Tuscan variety with which is now frequently blended, and the almost extinct Calabrese di Montenuovo.

While sangiovese is mostly known because of Chianti and Brunello, it is the only variety planted on both sides of Apennines, originally by monks. Quality wines mostly to be found on hills. It is in Romagna that we find the oldest vines of the country, sangiovese plants that are over 90 years old.

Originally and for a long time sold in bulk, in the 1970s some producers began began bottling, looking for quality and enjoyment and not just calories and nourishing.

Now there are about 6000 ha of sangiovese in Romagna, mostly on clay soil. Prices still quite low but edging up as quality and recognition improve.

Walkaround tasting

Isole e Olena

2020 Chianti  Classico
Fruity, can feel the alcohol. Score 88

Cepparello 2019 IGT
Olena's battleship, powerful wine still young, with a complex and long finish. Score 90

Interesting story that of Isole and Olena, recently sold to a larger group.

Castello di Vecchiomaggio

Chianti Classico Guado Alto 2021 
A wine to be drunk young, fruity and straightforward, like a Chianti of the good old times. Score 90

Chianti Classico Riserva 2021
A sublime chianti with elegance, finesse, length and yet a strong personality. Score 92

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2020 Le Bolle
Ready, strong structure, complexity and length, a classic in the true sense of the word. Score 93


Poggio Cerrino 2017 Brunello
Structured, still hard sensations prevail, need time. Score 92

Poggio Cerrino 2015 Brunello
This vintage is ready now. Score 93


Brunello 2018
Balanced and ready. Score 88

Brunello Riserva 2016
Old vines, complex. Score 91

Brunello Riserva 2012
Balanced and ready, very complex. Score 93

Brunello 2007
At its peak. Score 92

Tenuta Buon Tempo

Brunello 2018
Native yeasts only, large wood vat and French oak for 3 years. Score 92

Brunello 2015 Riserva
Ready now, a full, elegant complex wine, one of the best I tasted today. Score 94


Chianti Rufina Riserva 2018 vecchie viti
A round wine, their entry product falls easily in the space of excellence. Score 92

Chianti Classico Tenuta Perano Rialzi 2018
Round, complex and long. Score 94

Brunello Castelgiocondo 2018
A harmonious wine, a top Brunello. Score 96

Brunello Ripe al Convento 2017 Riserva
The best today, this wine has it all, intensity, complexity, length, balance. Score 97


Brunello 2014
Round, smooth, elegant. Score 93

Cava d'Onice

Rosso di Montalcino 2020
Blend from 11 plots, large Slavonian vats. Score 88

Brunello 2018 Colombaio
Only half an hectare of young vines: need to wait for this one. Score 90

Brunello 2015 Riserva
Pronto, mineral, sapid. Score 94

Tasting of wines from Nova Scotia, Canada

Masterclass by Sarah Drake, Flint Wines


You may not have heard of wines from Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada, and neither had I before I was invited to this tasting, a first in London, by Westbury Communication. Ontario, yes, British Columbia, yes, Prince Edward County, yes, but Nova Scotia? And yet it is there that wine was first made in Canada, in the XVII century. The first winery was planted at Bear River in 1611. The second winery was established at Petite Rivière in 1633. One would have to wait over two and a half centuries, until 1980 for the first commercially viable winery to start operations at Grand Prè under pioneer Roger Dial.

Wine production in Nova Scotia, like for the rest of Canada, was inhibited by prohibition in the early part of the XX century, and there were dry areas until 1980s where there was a legal need to hold a plebiscite to make wine. Despite these difficulties, altogether, 63 varieties are grown to produce 2,500+ metric tons of wine grapes (2021) over 485 hectares.

Nova Scotia is the home of a typical Canadian grape, the Arcadie Blanc, a hybrid crossing that was produced in the 1950s. It now makes for some 30% of all wines in Nova Scotia. 

There are now 35 wineries, and another couple of dozen growers who sell their grapes to them, all in all a small number for a population of 1m people. The geographical location is somewhat isolated which does not help with trade in general and wine trade in particular. In Canada each province is like an independent country, limited exports from one to another.

Climate difficulties are predictably severe, in March 2023 they just had frost at minus 25 Celsius, and lost almost all harvest. Harvest, when it does happen, is a long process because of the slow ripening of the berries at this latitude. Picking bunches from the vines usually starts in September and it can go on until well into November.

25% of production goes to sparkling wines, not surprising given the high levels of acidity resulting from the cool climate. Outside Canada export to many countries but small quantities. A rising share of production is consumed by local youth, who like some of the very low alcohol drinks that are even sold in cans to please soda drinkers.

There is one controlled origin appellation: Tidal Bay, a unique feature in all of North America. Wines must pass a panel tasting to be labeled in Nova Scotia, if they don't satisfy the judges the winemaker has to go back and modify the wine for another try. Officially launched in June 2012, it is a crisp, aromatic white wine. The name Tidal Bay was inspired by the fact that this is home to the biggest tidal differences of water level in the world.

Overall, Nova Scotia makes quite a few good wines and some excellent ones, and while more work may be required to catch up with some other Canadian provinces, it is an interesting emerging wine region to monitor in the years to come.

map from

Selected tastings

Lightfoot and Wolfville Tidal Bay 2021
50% Arcadie blanc et al
Zesty, hard sensations prevail, apricot in the nose. RRP £20
Score 86

Planters Ridge, Tidal Bay 2021
Blend of arcadie blanc, chard et al.
A crisp aromatic wine. RRP £34
Score 88

Luckett Vineyards, Tidal Bay 2021
Blend of arcadie blanc, chard, ortega et al
Rounder than the previous wines, longer. RRP £32
Score 89

Blomindon Reserve Chardonnay 2020
Barrel fermented for a round, balanced wine with good complexity. RRP £34
Score 90

Lightfoot and Wolfville Brut 2017 sparkling
100% chard
Light fragrance, on the fresh side but mod complex and long. RRP £35
Score 88

Benjamin Bridge Brut 2017 sparkling
Wild yeast fermentation in large French oak barrels produce a fragrant wine with a slight bitter ending. RRP £38
Score 87

Blomindon blanc de blanc 2011
100% chardonnay
Balanced and fragrant, still development potential. RRP £56
Score 89

Blomindon Grande Reserve 2008
100% chardonnay
Complex,  round and long with toasted notes. Only 11.4% abv. The best wine today, and it shows how Nova Scotia quality wines can age. RRP £78

Luckett Vineyards traditional method sparkling NV
arcadie blanc 100%
Fragrant, mod complex and long. RRP £37
Score 90

Friday, March 3, 2023

Meet the Producer: Heras Cordon, Rioja, Spain

The Heras Cordón vineyard in Rioja should be better known. I have been introduced to them at an online fair organized by Onvinum in 2022. 

From their website we learn about their history. The family tradition in wine elaboration dates back to the end of the 19th Century, when they built the first cellars in their hometown, Lapuebla de Labarca in Rioja Alavesa.

During the first years, the wine was meant for local consumption; it was not bottled but primarily sold in bulk. The clients were locals and the amounts of production and consumption were rather small.

Wine production came to a halt during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. In the 1950’s, the winery was modernized and the production of Crianza wines started, with oak barrels of primarily French origin.

In the 70’s, taking advantage of the country’s modernisation, Heras Cordón Wineries and Vineyards launched its Crianza and Reserva wines into the national market. Its acceptance and growth was spectacular, in fact, the process reached its first peak in the 80’s, when the three siblings, who are currently the owners of the winery, set up a vine plantation company, becoming a national benchmark in that activity. Read more here.

Here below are my reviews of the wines they provided for tasting.

Heras Cordón Reserva 2015
Tempranillo (97%), graciano and mazuelo.
Incredible bottle this RESERVA from Heras Cordon in Rioja. The 2015 is eight-years-old at the time of this tasting and it is a marvelous feast of complex aromas, perfect balance and great length. The tannins are superbly rounded though they still offer structure. I paired it with a "boomerang" steak and it was a match made in heaven.
Score 95.

Expresión Limited Edition
Another great hit by Heras Cordon, this tempranillo is perfectly balanced, complex and long. It is ready now though still lots of fruit to show. ONly 5651 bottles came out of the cellar, grab one if you can! Score 93

Vendimia Seleccionada 2018
Tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo from old vines. Thirteen months in new French and American oak.
This  is a great wine, and looking at the main online retailers can be had for less than 20 euro. Intense ripe cherries to start, followed by smooth tannins and a complex and long profusion of secondary (prunes, mature wild berries) and tertiary (leather, chocolate) notes. Paired with aged beef. Score 94

Monday, February 20, 2023

Furmint walkaround tasting in London

Vintner's Hall Seal

Fifth London edition of this event, with some 100 wines presented for tasting to a trade crowd that filled the room at Vintner's Hall on a cold February morning. As Caroline Gilby, an expert of Central European wines put it, furmint is now not only recognized for its traditional sweet wines, but for fresh dry ones as well.

Below are some notes from the wines I found most interesting.

Szamorodni 2015 dry furmint, 15%
The best wine from this producer, nutty with a pleasant bitter ending. Score 91

Vision 2019, furmint and hárslavelü, kabar, 13.5%
Their entry level dry wine, fresh with a good balance. Score 90

Expression, hárslavelü, 14%
French oak makes for a rounder final result. Score 90

Intuition, Furmint, 13.5%
Zesty, intense aromas. Score 90

Mezes Maly Dry Szamorodni furmint, 2016, 12.5%
Fully dry fermented after botrytis but loses alcohol during maceration. Score 90

Blue Label Aszu 5 puttonyos 2017, furmint and hárslavelü, 11%
Sweet. Score 90

Nyulaszo Aszu 6 puttonyos furmint 2017, 10-5%
Their best sweet. Score 92

Monday, February 13, 2023

Meet the producer: Lajas, Finca "El Peñiscal", Calatayud, Spain

A Calatayud wine region map leads us to the north of Spain, in mountainous Aragon. It is in the province of Zaragoza, in the Ebro river valley. The history of the Calatayud Spain wine region dates back to ancient times. It was the 2nd century BC when viticulture first emerged in the area. In Roman times, vines were planted all over Spain. Later, the Moors inhibited wine production. The Christians restarted it in the 12th century, the monks of Monasterio de Piedra actively encouraged vineyard planting. The monastery's cellars testify to the vital role of wine throughout the region. 

Calatayud shown in dark purple

Since the region earned the appellation status and became an authorised DO (denominación de origen) in 1990, it has never ceased the production of high-quality wine, making the appellation prestigious and attracting winegrowers from Europe and all over the world. (

Samples received from the producer in the context of the 2022 Onvinum wine fair. 

rare bottle, n. 430 of 4313!

Intense aromas, complexity and moderate balance for this rare Garnacha, it is ready now but may benefit from a few more years in the bottle. I found it best several hours after opening the bottle, in fact the next day. 

I paired it with a mouth watering steak on the bone cooked medium rare. The tannins matched the succulence by contrast and the strong structure of wine and food married by concordance. Strongly recommended with any kind of steak.

Score 89

What was supposed to be a simple garnacha revealed surprising complexity and perfect balance. Kudos to Aris by Peñiscal! Watch out its 15%abv! I paired it with a plate of hearty lasagne.
Score 92

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

New Zealand Top 50 wines

Quality keeps getting higher and higher every year, and so do, alas, prices for premium New Zealand wines. Part of it is due to externalities (global inflation, logistics bottlenecks) but part is probably just because the best NZ wines attract more and more demand.

In the context of the Annual New Zealand Trade Tasting in London, organized by NZ Wine Growers, a separate table was set up for the "best 50" wines selected by an independent panel of UK experts. I will focus my post on my best of the best among these.

Tiwha pinot noir, 2019
Old vines planted in 1994, a wine made from destemmed fruit which is given a cold soak for 4 to 6 days and then matured in barrel for 10 months, using 28% new French oak. The best wine today. RRP £40. Score 94

Esk Valley The Terraces 2016
A blend of malbec, merlot and cab franc makes for a unique experience, a round wine with complex aromas and flavors. A bit of an investment at RRP £90 for a score of 92

Pegasus Bay, Waipara

Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2020
A floral and zesty wine by Ivan Donaldson who planted his first Pegasus vineyard in 1986. Single vineyard. Score 88

Pinot noir 2019
Made using traditional Burgundian techniques, single vineyard. RRP £36. Score 92

Aria, late picked Riesling 2020
Plump fruit still freshness come out but is balanced by a slightly sweet ending. RRP £27. Score 88

Sauvignon blanc 2020, organic
Apricot notes, quite an original interpretation of sauvignon. RRP £26. Score 91

State of Flux sauvignon blanc 2019
A balanced and long wine from a single vineyard overlooking the Awatere river. The name comes from the fact the wine has been fermented and aged for 11 months in concrete eggs with the lees kept in "state of constant flux". RRP £27, Score 92

Chardonnay 2019, organic
A fresh and moderately complex chard. Too expensive. RRP £34. Score 86

Tuturi Pinot Noir 2021
A powerful wine on the border of excellence. Ready now. RRP £45, Score 90

Thomson pinot noir 2017
Tannins still a bit rough but very promising.
Smoky and jammy. RRP 44. Score 90

Monday, February 6, 2023

Wines of Austria trade tasting in London

It is not often that the wines of Austria are on display at a trade tasting in London, and so I was most grateful for the opportunity to participate in this event expertly organized by Austrian Wine.

Austrian wine regions are all in the east of the country

Some relevant facts learned today.

Today Austrian wines are 68% white (Grüner Veltliner is top with 32%) and 30% red (zweigelt at the top with 13%).

These are grown over some 45,000 hectares of vineyards (about 1% of the world wine production) with some 15% now certified organic and 18% certified "sustainable."

In addition to a large walkaround choice of wines, a few masterclasses were offered as well, and it is on two of these that I will focus my post.

Masterclass 1: Zweigelt in Neusiedlersee

A few dates by way of introduction:

1922: successful crossing between St Laurent (an early ripening, delicate fruit grape) and blaufrankisch (a late ripening grape with firm tannins) to produce zweigelt.

1950s: many experimental vineyards are launched

1960s-70s: significant increase in production, 770 ha in 1978.

1992: first designated area of origin Rubin Carnuntum, zweigelt becomes the top red grape in Austria

2012 DAC  (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) granted.

Below some notes from the best wines (all zweigelt) I tasted in this masterclass:

Seegut Lentsch - Podersdorf Neusiedlersee, Ried Seeweingärten DAC reserve 2017
Firm tannins, mod complex and length, vegan certified. Score 88

Hannes Reeh - Andau - Unplugged 2015
feels older than 2015, balsamic notes, leather, perfect balance. Score 90

Georg Preisinger - Gols, Ried Dorfweingarten 2009
Feels much younger, still zesty. Cassis, blackberry. Ready but with potential in the bottle. Score 90

Allacher Vinum Panorama - Gols, Ried Altenberg 2001
Well aged, smooth, leather, game, soya;, mature now! Score 93

Weingut Pöckl - Mönchhof, Cuvée Admiral 2011
Complex and long, ready now. Blend of zweigelt (60%) with cab sauv and merlot. Score 92

Masterclass 2: Kamptal in Neusiedlersee Grüner Veltliner (GV) and Riesling DAC

All in all I found the quality of the whites in this masterclass superior to the zweigelt of the previous one. Of course I am comparing apples and oranges, but today confirmed the axiom that Austrian whites fly higher, for now, than reds.

GV Langelois "friendly by Laurenz V" 2021
Typical freshness and aroma, balanced result probably because of 35yo vines. Steel only. Score 90

GV Langelois "Alte Reben" 2021
Powerful flavors from late picking on 45yo vines. Steel and Austrian oak. Score 92

GV Ried Schönberger Kalvarienberg 2021
Fruits and flowers, good balance and length. Score 92

GV Reserve Ried Schenkenbichl "1ÖTW" 2021
Floral nose then  balance and even smoothness ending. Score 93

GV Ried Grub "1ÖTW" 2020
Another surprisingly smooth wine, balance and length. Score 92

Riesling Ried Heiligenstein "1ÖTW" 2021 Eichinger Birgit
Not yet open, yet already strong typical riesling with notes of tropical fruit, needs time to excel. Score 92

Riesling Ried Gaisberg "1ÖTW" 2016
Petrol as it should be, dry and long. Score 93

Monday, January 16, 2023

Film Review: Blind Ambition (2017) by Warwick Ross, Robert Coe, ****


Four Zimbabwean refugees who were forced to flee their home country in search of a better life become Africa's best and most unlikely sommeliers and compete in the World Wine Blind Tasting Championships - the Olympics of the wine world.

"Blind Ambition" follows four friends who have conquered the odds to become South Africa's top sommeliers after escaping starvation and tyranny in their homeland of Zimbabwe. Driven by relentless optimism, a passion for their craft and a sense of national pride, they form Zimbabwe's first national wine tasting team and set their sights on the coveted title of "World Wine Tasting Champions."
(Rotten Tomatoes)


The disaster that their government produced in Zimbabwe led droves to emigrate to neighbouring South Africa as the only option to survive. 

Many crossed the border as illegal aliens and ended up doing menial jobs but a few emerged with new careers. The four kids whose adventures are the subject of this documentary must rank among the top achievers in this group. It is in a way amazing that despite their running from a rotten dictatorship they still want to represent their country in an international contest.

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