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