Saturday, June 22, 2024

Meet the producer: Clos Mont Blanc, Catalunya, Spain

This post is the result of a meeting with Clos Montblanc of Catalunya at the online fair organized by Onvinum in February 2024 and I am grateful to the producer for the samples received which I tested and paired as noted below.

Unic 2022

Chardonnay 100%
A mellow chardonnay, round and balanced. I paired it with tomato sauce pasta with Spanish tuna and the moderate structure of both food and wine went well even though I would have liked a bit more acidity.
Score 83

Xipella 2023

An eclectic blend, Xipella makes for an honest straightforward wine that will go down well with a wide range of food pairings and consumers. This wine is balanced, moderately long and ticks all the boxes for a pleasant drink that is perfect now with the coming of Spring. It does not strike me for its freshness or for its complexity and this is why the first work that came to mind was straightforward. I paired it with spaghetti and mussels and it was a successful marriage in that both wine and food proposed medium structure and the moderate acidity did not overwhelm the sapid flavor of the seafood.  Enjoy it without thinking too much about it! Score 87

Xipella 2019

Carinena, cab sauvignon and syrah for this well balanced wine with a nore of ripe red fruits, and a palate with notes of chocolate. Well rounded tannins, long finish. I paired with Chinese oily tofu and it worked well, both dishes offering moderate structure and the gentle tannins contrasted amicably with the oiliness of the tofu. Score 90.

Chinese oily tofu with spring onions and asparagus

Inici 2018
garnacha negra 79%, cab sauvignon 21% in organic production
An elegant wine, perfectly balanced, complex and long. A rare gem with less than 3000 bottles produced.
Score 92

G de Gourmand 2021
A fruity and fresh wine despite the old vines (30+ years), almost delicate. I paired it with pizza.
Score 86

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Taylor’s & Fonseca Port Chocolate pairing with Vinte Vinte Chocolate

Presented at the LWF 2024 by Pedro Martins Araújo, Master Chocolate Maker of Vinte Vinte, part of the Fladgate Partnership, and João Vasconcelos the UK Taylor's Port Market Manager. 

Port has a tradition of pairing with cigars, cheese and  chocolate, and it is to the last that today's session at the LWF was dedicated.

The suggested tasting technique is to let the chocolate melt in your mouth then drink the wine.

20/20 Chocolate is today's partner that provided all the samples paired to the port selection. The name is meant to be an homage to latitudes where cocoa is produced, and they started their business in the year 2020! 

Here are my tasting note:

1. Taylor's chip dry white port
Paired with 20|20 White Chocolate
1st white port made, in 1934.
Late fortification, let ferment longer, resulting wine is dryer. Their original goal was to compete with dry Sherry, but that is gone by the wayside now and chip dry (origin of this name unknown!) has no need to compare itself with competitors. Oxidative style, the wine is left in oak barrels to develop nutty style. 
Malvasia is the predominant grape. Great contrast of sweet choc and dry wine. Moderate intensity, balanced.
Score 88
Rrp 18

2. Fonseca Bin 27 reserve ruby, large oak barrels 3 to 4 years 
Paired with 20/20 dark chocolate 70%
Raisin plums, a few sharp corners in this ruby.
Score 86
Rrp 18

3. Taylor's LBV 2019
Paired with 20|20 dark chocolate 58%
Round smooth polished 
Cinnamon molasses. An excellent value port.
Score 90

4. Taylor's 10yo tawny 20 20 
Paired with 20|20 milk chocolate 35%
Pair by concordance, sweet choc and sweet wine
Very well balanced, long complex 
Score 92 
Rrp 20

5. Taylor's vintage 2003 since 1692!
Paired with 20|20 Grand Cru Dark Chocolate 70% Mexico Finca La Rioja 2019
Grand cru dark chocolate 
Intense nose of ripe fruit 
Very complex, long perfect balance 
Score 94
Rrp 90

6. Taylor's 50yo tawny Golden Age 
Paired with 20|20 Limited Edition Dark Chocolate 65% Peru
Gold color by aging in cask 
Change every year to clean old barrel, Port hates new wood! 
Angel share takes up to 98% over the decades! 
Highest altitude cocoa farm in the world in Peru 
Rrp 225 gbp 
Score 96
2000 bottles per year roughly

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Meet the producer: Penafiel, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Second tasting of Penafiel wines for the Roving Somm, see my previous notes here on this blog. This second lineup is even more impressive than the first, and it is once more led by the exceptional Silencio de Miros. 

Thank you to Onvinum for making the introduction on the occasion of the online wine fair of February 2024.

See tasting notes below.

Alba de Miros 2022
Albarino 100%. A fresh breath of Spring in this wine that offers floral notes and pineapple in the nose and a balanced and moderately complex palate. Good length. I happily paired it with steamed mussels. A wine with no pretensions that stands up very well in its category. Score 88

Miros de Ribera Reserva 2019
Tempranillo 100%
I would call this an upper middle class typical tempranillo with full elegant body, round structure. This 2019 is ready but will still evolve for a few years. I paired it with baked lam. Watch the alcohol content, it is a strong wine indeed!
Score 90

Miros Roble 2022
Complex aromas of red fruits. A powerful expression of the tempranillo variety. Hard sensations prevail, probably needs some smoothening in the bottle for another couple of years.
Score 88

La Casa de las Locas 2022
Albariño 100%
This was an amazing albariño, intense nose, powerful structure, with complex floral notes and good length. I am used to think of this grape as a relatively easy one, but this wine challenged this taster to focus his full attention to discover its many nuances.
Score 93

Silencio de Miros 2019 
Top of the line Penafiel , this harmonious Silencio de Miros 2019. tempranillo 100% from their most prized parcel of land at 1000 meters above sea level. Nine months in French oak, this 15.5%abv comes in a beautiful wooden box.

A perfectly balanced wine with ripe red fruits that dance along with smooth tannins in a complex swirling of nuanced sensations.

I dared to pair it with slightly spicy red mullet and olives and it works out magnificently, another example where red wine does indeed go very well indeed with fish.
Score 96

Monday, May 20, 2024

Meet the producer: Tenuta Fertuna, Tuscany, Italy

Today I explored the versatility of winemaking in the Tuscan Maremma with Tenuta Fertuna.

Fertuna are pioneers in vinifying Sangiovese in all its forms: white, red and sparkling, as well as vinifying in an orange style with their newly launched Vermentino Orange wine. 

I met them at the LWF 2024.

Here my tasting notes:

Droppello alto bio 2022
Sangiovese white, similar to the results one expects from white vinification of Pinot noir. Fenuta say they did it because it was in demand in the market to make blanc de noir. Early harvest, no skin contact
Certified organic. Intense nose, Peach pear, vanilla from wood (oak grown on chalky soil to increase minerality)
Rrp 18, Score 85

Sparkling metodo classico 2019 brut
100% sangiovese
Fruity, balanced, moderately complex.
Score 86

Vermentino 2022
Apple minerality front and center.
Score 89

Vermentino orange 2022
5 days on skins to make it "orange".
Every week batonnage in open air to develop oxidation without adding sulphites.
Rrp 22 euro, Score 92

Celeo Toscana rosso 2018
50 merlot 50 cab sauvignon
Their flagship bottle, sports velvety tannins, good balance complex long,
25 days skin contact macération
Rrp 50 euro, Score 92

Meet the producer: Argentinian Malbec by Bodegas Fabre

Time for Argentina at the LWF 2024 and its most iconic grape: malbec. I never get tired of it, it is an endless sequel of great enjoyment and it seems to get better and better with time,

Pioneers in Argentinian Malbec, Bodegas Fabre, brought to life exceptional wines in some of the most extraordinary terroirs in Mendoza. Born from winemaker and owner Hervé Joyaux Fabre, who became the first winemaker to produce a premium single varietal Malbec in Argentina, Bodegas Fabre has since become a global presence with wines such as Viñalba and Alta Yari.

I joined Bodegas Fabre's husband and wife team, Hervé Joyaux Fabre and Diane Joyaux Fabre, alongside Buckingham Schenk's Marketing Director David Tromans to explore the origins, and current trends of Argentinian Malbec with four wines from Viñalba & Alta Yari.

Viñalba started making malbec in the 1990s when it bought a plot of 100-year-old vines. They have grown since, with some parcels up to 1600 masl. The also tried Patagonia, where they grow grapes but then they transport them to Mendoza to vinify. In Argentina latitude and altitude play against one another, so in the far south of Patagonia they grow grapes at lower altitude to compensate for the cooler climate.

Viñalba reserve malbec 2022, Uco valley
Tannins well structured, could benefit from some time in bottle, can't really feel the oak aging. 
Score 88 rrp 12

Viñalba Patagonia reserve 2022
200 masl only because higher is too cold
Violet, licorice, Good balance and length
Score 88, Rrp 15

Viñalba Gran reservado 2019
Mendoza, Uco Valley 
1 year in French oak 
Very intense ripe red fruit, smooth tannins long the best of the flight, superb value.
Score 93, Rrp 19

Alta-Yari Gran Corte 2022
1560masl, extreme wine making 
Blend with malbec 35% cab franc 60%and cab sauvignon 5%
Mineral spicy notes 
Needs a couple of years to smoothen tannins corners
Score 90, Rrp 25

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Wines of Canada in London

The High Commission (Embassy) of Canada  in London hosted a tasting of Canadian wines organized by Westbury Communications.

Peter McCombie held a masterclass together with Janet Dorozynski and here below are my main takeaways.

Most wine lovers (including myself) assume that Canada is a cold wine region. It is way up there in the northernmost part of America after all right? Well, yes and no. The climate can cold, but Canada's wine making region share their latitude with some of the mainstream classic areas in Europe we do not always associate with the work "cold". Ontario is on par with Tuscany when it comes to latitude.

There are 700 wineries in Canada which get their grapes from 1770 growers. Some 14,000 hectares of land are dedicated to vines in 4 main regions:

Here are my tasting notes.

1 Blomidon nv

Fresh wine with a zesty tone

40mos on  lees

Score 86

2 Lightfoot 2016

100% chardonnay 

Also quite fresh but 48 months lees allow a more fragrant impression

Balanced more complex

Score 89

3 Norman Hardie 2020

100% chardonnay

Complex smooth long 

Score 90

4 Le Clos Jordanne 2021

100 chardonnay

Very light canary yellow 

Smooth soft sensation prevail 

Score 86

5 Spear Head 2022

chardonnay clone 95 100%

Balanced, complex. Vanilla.

Score 91

6 Big Head chenin blanc 2022 RAW

Low intervention 

Concrete , unfiltered, light botrytis

Balance, Slight bitter end

Score 91

7 Bachelder 2022

gamay 100%

Fresh, said, good structure, raspberry 

Score 90

8 Leaning Post 2020

pinot noir 2020 

Structure complexity length a high quality wine which ever way you look at it.

Score 92

9 Pelham 2022

Baco Noir, hybrid vine (vinifera/riparia) produced by Francis Baco in Nova Scotia. Old vines 

Ripe cherries, sweet end, an easy wine that is very popular in Canada 

Score 85

10 stratus 2020

Cab franc 100%

Fruity fresh, powerful structure needs time 

Score 92

11 poplar Grove 2020

Syrah blend 

Fruit and structure, good length and complexity 

Score 93

The final two wines of the day were icewines. My spell checker tries to correct me every time but icewine in Canada is spelled in one word! I have written about Canadian icewine before on this blog.

12 icewine reif estate 2019


Very complex long 

Score 95

13 icewine Lakeview 2019


Veeery sweet, lacks that bit of freshness that makes for a perfect icewine.

Score 86


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Wines from Sardinia, with Peter McCombie, MW

Wines from Sardinia are well known to sommeliers, but a dedicated masterclass in London is always a good surprise. Eloquently led by Peter mcCombie MW, who told us how most grapes Spanish origin: cannonau carignano vermentino. Which is not surprising in light of Spain's long rule of the island and its relative geographical proximity. Sardinia only joined Savoy in 1762, a century before Italy as a unitary state even existed. 

Vermentino di Gallura is the only docg, yet the most amazing surprises from today came from the red bottles.

Here below my tasting notes. Scores were given blind, we were only shown the labels at the end of the masterclass.

1. White Melio campidano
20yo vines
Steel on lees
Intense nose Fresh savory skin, contact produces structure. 
Score 90

2.White Ver

mentino di Sardegna 
5mos Steel on lees
3k out of 4k total hectares planted in Italy 
 Intense nose fresh complex 
Score 90

3.White Vermentino Gallura docg
Fresh complex long, texture bites, 14.5abv
35yo vines 
Score 88

4. Red 2021
Bovale grande di Spagna, carignano, rosso igt
Tends to be a little rough, old vines better 
Tannins need a little bit of time 
Score 86

5. Red
Carignano del sulcis 
Intense nose, balance, mod complex and long
Score 92

6. Red
Garnacha cannonau di Sardegna 
Full open complex and long, perfect balance 
White pepper, 
Score 95

7. Red
Mandrolisal doc
Intense perfect balance, complex and very long 
Score 96

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Vernatsch of South Tyrol / Alto Adige

Walter Speller introduces vernatsch from Alto Adige/South Tyrol, Italy

Unusual tasting today for an often neglected grape variety from the northernmost part of Italy. I used to buy schiava in the past for easy drinking, maybe with a pizza, or at a garden party to pair with finger food. Cheap and (usually) cheerful, not more. No longer. Things have changed for the better, as we learned from the introduction by Walter Speller of Hunt and Speller and Italy editor for Jancis Robinson. 

Vernatsch is the German name for what Italians call "schiava", but the difference is more than just a name. Schiava was for a long time a pale, cheap wine that did not age well. Bunches were big because of irrigation and no one was really fond of the result.  As people shifted from drinking more wine to drinking better wine, schiava fell out of favor. In 1973 there were 3500+ hectares of vineyards planted with schiava, while in 2020 only 667 remained. 

That began to change over the last decade or so. More and more producers started to pay attention to quality instead of quantity. We now have much less or no irrigation, smaller bunches, smaller berries and more complex, structured wines that are meant to age.

Following are my tasting notes from this event,

Hoamet 2019 Mitterberg
Fruity and structured, slight prevalence of hard sensations.
Score 87

Hoamet 2021
A much better vintage than the preceding wine. Balanced, smooth even.
Score 92

Vigna Bischofsleiten 2019
60yo pergola vines. 90% aged in steel, 10% in large oak to keep freshness high
Perfect balance, long.
Score 89

Vigna Bischofsleiten 2013
Fruit and structure. Amazingly, tannins still require a bit more time in the bottle.
Score 90

Vineyards on poor soil slopes, old vines. Little or no fertilizers used.

Donà rouge vernatsch 2019 Mitterberg
Intense fruit in the nose, structure and powerful tannins that need more time.
Score 88.

Donà rouge vernatsch 2021 Mitterberg
Structured, long and complex.
Score 92.

It is a 101-year-old cooperative with 200 members. In all 240 hectares at roughly 450 meters above sea level. Vines are 80-100 year old.

Gschleier Alte Reben vernatsch 2022
Fresh nose, more balanced on the palate, long.
Score 91.

Gschleier Alte Reben vernatsch 2019
Perfect balance, moderate complexity and length.
Score 91.

Ackerle 2021 Isarcus 2019 St Magdalener Klassisch Südtirol
No fertilizers produce smaller berries, and they prefer pergola training to protect bunches from excessive Summer heat and keep freshness high. Half the grapes were harvested late to allow higher sugar content. A smooth, long wine.
Score 90.

Ackerle 2021 St Magdalener Klassisch Südtirol
Intense aromas, red fruits, freshness but complexity and length.
Score 91.

St Anna vernatsch 2019 Weinberg Dolomiten
Still a bit rough on the tongue, tannins aggressive, perhaps because it was left up to 3 weeks on skins with 50% stems. Two years in big oak. Probably needs a bit of time in the bottle. It could be a demonstration that vernatsch can age, we'll see.
Score 85.

St Anna vernatsch 2012 Weinberg Dolomiten
A mature wine at its peak, or even past it. Full body and complexity with hard sensations prevailing.
Score 88.

Campill 2019 Vino
Biodynamic. Fermented with 40% stems, no temperature control and spontaneous fermentation.
Intense nose, good structure even if alcohol makes its presence felt, hard sensations prevail.
Score 85.

Campill 2014 Mitterberg
Fruit is there, but alcohol is too dominant, a bit rough.
Score 83.

Sea 2019 Kaltersee Klassisch
Their oldest vines are 100+ yo, which probably explains the elegance of this wine. Harvest is delayed as long as possible and fermentation is in large oak barrels with "lots of" stems.
Perfect balance, complex wine and ready now.
A fully developed expression of the best vernatsch.
Score 93.

Sea 2016 Kaltersee Klassisch
Similar to wine above.
Score 93.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Moscatel de Setubal with Sarah Ahmed

You think of Portuguese fortified wines and immediately port comes to mind. If you are a lover or fortified then you will probably know madeira wine with its magic heating process. No one I ever met, even among sommeliers, including myself!, ever mentioned Moscatel de Setúbal. 

A masterclass by Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective, organized by The Big Fortified Tasting plugged this unjustified hole in my knowledge base and I hope it will do the same for my readers. This is some of the main takeaways from her talk.

More info on the Setúbal Peninsula wines website.

Image courtesy of Setúbal peninsula Wines

Image courtesy of Setúbal peninsula Wines

The area is of course by the sea and enjoys a maritime climate. Vines are often planted facing north up to several hundred meters of altitude to moderate exposure to heat and preserve freshness. There is also a planting area at 50-80 meters and it is mostly flat, and this produces richer wines. Soil is mostly clay and limestone.

Total area planted for Moscatel de Setúbal is 634 hectares and 62 additional hectares for roxo.

Denomination of Origin established as far back as 1908 for Moscatel de Setúbal (1989 for Pamela). Wines must be made with at least 85% Moscatel de Setúbal grapes or the red variant Roxo. Moscatel de Setúbal is known as Muscat of Alexandria, or Zibibbo in southern Italy and specifically in Pantelleria.

The grapes are destemmed before being crushed, then left to ferment with the skins. Fermentation is stopped with fortification and maceration continues for over three months. Skins are pressed for further extraction and aging is at least 18 months in steel (resulting in a "young" fresher wine, up to 5 years of aging) or oak barrels (resulting in a "classic" velvety and nutty wine, 5+ years of aging).

Vintage wines must hold at least 85% of the same year  in the bottle and Reserva is given by a tasting panel without any additional aging, while Superior requires 5 more years.

Sarah Ahmed

Tasting notes from the masterclass:

1. Adega de Palmela 2021
Moscatel 100%
Floral aromas, fresh of orange blossoms, nutty and slightly astringent.
RRP £12. Score 84.

2.Adega de Pegoes NV
Moscatel 100%
Nutty, orange peel, spices, and good structure. Slight bitterness but it does not disturb a complex wine.
RRP £11. Score 88

3. Quinta do Piloto 2021 Anforas
Moscatel 100%
Fresh and fruity, hard sensations prevail. 
RRP £18. Score 86

4. Trois Flor de Trois moscatel Roxo 2017
Moscatel Roxo 100%
Strong nutty flavor, round and complex.
RRP £20. Score 89

5. Domingo Soares Franco Private Collection Armagnac 2008
Moscatel 100%, Fortified with Armagnac
Fresh and smoky, long.
RRP £15. Score 88

6. Doming Soares Franco Private Collection Cognac 1998
Moscatel 100%, fortified with Cognac
Strong nutty notes, complex and perfectly balanced.
RRP £15. Score 92

7. Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setúbal Superior 20 Anos 2000
Moscatel 100%
Very fresh. Intense nose then complex and long palate. Smoky. Produced with heating of the wine, trying to reproduce the effect of shipping in old days like for Madeira.
RRP £87. Score 93.

All these wines were paired, unsurprisingly well!, with Portuguese pastel de nata and dark chocolate. The amazing freshness of most of the samples contrasted perfectly with the sweet and mellow texture of the pastel and the chocolate.

I look forward to pair some of the smoother wines above with a good cigar!

pairing Moscatel de Setubal with pastel de nata and chocolate

Port in the 21st Century with the School of Port

At the Big Fortified Tasting

Port is part of culture in the UK has been a primary market for centuries. It is widely available and a solid bridge between the two countries. 

Mr Symington recommended to drink port cool, "room temperature" today is likely to be quite a bit higher than in the past

Tasting notes:

Malvasia, moscato
Primary flavors, fresh, zesty even and yet with a touch of sweet at the end.
Score 90

Freshness is gone, nutty.
Score 88

3.  Graham 20 YO
Big bottle going around the room for this wine. Full body, round structure, good balance. Jammy even.
Score 86

Freshness lingers on yet tannins make themselves felt. Like the previous wine this is a bit jammy, a bit too much perhaps. Nutty flavors.
Score 89

Vintage (less than 1% of production of port). Deep ruby color, tannins still too powerful.
Score 87

Ripe red fruits, complex, jammy.
Score 88

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Meet the producer: Alcardet, Toledo, Spain

A family company founded in 1972, Alcardet is an up and coming vineyard that focuses on organic wines. Located in the region  of Toledo, south-west of Madrid, it combines some interesting experiments with more classic production associated with the region.

Cepas Viejas 2019

Almost extinct Moravia and Tinto Velasco grapes, very limited edition aged in oak for 6 months. A rare gem from Castilla.

A fruity, balanced wine with medium body. Smooth tannins. Ready now. I paired with pasta that I had prepared with a sweet tendency sauce. I also tried roasted chicken and peas, and would not recommend a steak as red meat would have too much structure for this delicate wine. 

Score 90

371+52 =323 Correcto

Verdejo 100%

A floral nose with latent white peach and a smooth unpretentious wine. Moderate length. An easy drink to pair with a salade niçoise or mozzarella. Score 86

Correcto red wine

tempranillo 199%

A simple tempranillo, with fruity notes and moderate complexity and length, produced with the same "randomness" philosophy as the previous wine. 
Score 86

Natura Brut

Chardonnay, macabeo and airén

This organic brut presented an intense fruity nose and a moderately complex, balanced palate with fragrant notes. We paired it with a hearty English lamb pie. 

Score 89

Riesling Sescueras

Riesling 100%

This can be considered an interesting experiment, one does not find many riesling in southern Spain. This is an easy entry level wine, perhaps the warm climate prevents the full development of this variety. 
Score 80.

Real Gana brut Reserva 

Airén 100%

Their top of the line bubbly, this traditional method from Alcardet in Spain is very fresh without being aggressive, pleasant lemon zest. Moderate complexity and length. I paired it with mushroom ravioli, the acidity contrasted perfectly with the filling and fatty sauce. Score 89