Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Seriously Sophisticated Funky Icon

It’s a fine line whether you praise or damn a wine for its slight funkiness.  So many factors come into play that affect your objectivity.  In the end, it’s your subjectivity that rules.  So here SWMBO and I were, visiting The Orbiter and Satellites, and the coup de gras for lunch was brought out and ceremoniously opened.  It had been lovingly search out from the depths of the cellar and stood up, but not decanted, and allowed to attain a temperature that was cooler than outside, but a little warmer than the cellar.  It was indeed a special time, and it was deemed the perfect occasion to open this wine.
Not only was the 1997 Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT a rare and expensive wine, it is a wine that is Antinori’s flagship, designed to sit amongst the likes of first-growth claret, but with its own Italian spin on it, being 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese.  The fruit comes from the best plots of the ‘Tignanello’ estate and sees a year’s aging in the finest barriques.  1997 was of course, a blue chip year.

On pouring the wine, one could see it was dense and dark, but with a little bricking on the edge.  Then the nose, a powerhouse of concentrated savoury, secondary aromas.  Load of black fruits, with no greenness, and indeed some plum, earth and liquorice.  A bit of game – and a little more – funky, you could say.  Beautifully structured still, with plenty of grip to match the fruit density.  Hinting at drying, but the fruit sweetness still to the fore.  We all pronounced it serious and sophisticated.  Truly a representation of an icon in the most serious sense.  Yet we all saw the funkiness – a bit of brettanomyces – but it just added to the complexity.  Sure, in a wine show we’d have doubts judging it at the highest level.  But here, in great company, excellent food, and the occasion of a rare catch-up, we were all enjoying life.  This wine’s status and all its positive points would not allow any thought of something technical as a yeast strain spoil our day.  Subjectivity rules!  This wine was a stunning one which cemented our bonds of love and friendship.   

Friday, March 3, 2017

Building White Burgundy

The white burgundy wines have always been a difficult category for me to get my head around.  I suppose it’s the wide variation in styles, compounded by technical issues that can be interpreted as complexity or faulty.  How far can you accept sulphide reduction and oxidative aspects before they are too much to handle?  Then there’s the issue of ‘pre-mox’.  Have the vignerons moved on, knowing how to prevent it?   I was raised on a diet of Joseph Drouhin wines, and learnt to love their elegant style.  But after that came the full-on styles of Lafon, and then the very subtle styles of Chartron.  The great wines, no matter what they were in style always shone through.  They had put on weight and richness, and had layers of interest
The negociant Chartron & Trebuchet white burgundies disappointed me.  They were lighter than light and more delicate than delicate, to the point of dilution.  Yet the Jean Chartrom Estate wines were altogether something else.  It is often the way between your own fruit and that purchased, the latter not quite meeting the standards of the former.  So when SWMBO and I visited The Orbiter, he produced a 2007 Jean Chartron Puligny-Montrachet 1er ‘Clos de la Pucelles’, a monopole wine too.  I knew we were in for a treat.  But it was more than that, it was gorgeous.  Still pale in colour, the nose exuded layers of white stonefruits, mealy notes, nuts and toast, all beautifully integrated, yet with a degree of power.  The palate reinforced the bouquet.  Lovely elegance and concentration, with a depth and density that was not surly in any way.  This had the stony/floral minerals of Puligny, with the understated richness and class of Pucelles.  The freshness and acidity just rounded to perfection.  Jean Chartron might not quite have the glamour of Leflaive or Ramonet, but this was up there.  Chartron knows how to build a great white burgundy.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nah, Nothing's Really Different

I’m not alone in admiring the wines of Donnhoff in the Nahe region of Germany.  Many critics and enthusiasts with far better palates and credentials have heaped high praise on the wines.  SWMBO and I have loved the ‘fruit-sweet’ wines that are more traditional from our perspective.  The Kabinetts are great all-rounders, and for something more decadent, the Spatlese wines do the job.  The Auslesen soar to greatness, but we have them rarely, as they are limited in release and not inexpensive.

However, we’ve come to appreciate the Trocken wines from Donnhoff recently too.  They were initially a bit of a departure from what we were used to, but we haven’t been disappointed.  Afterall, there’s still the search for highest quality, best expression of site, and sheer balance in the Donhoff wines, whether Trocken or ‘fruit-sweet’.  Nah, there’s really nothing different in these Nahe wines!
This was borne out at our lunch with The Orbiter.  The 2014 Donnhoff Roxheimer Hollenpfad 1 Riesling Trocken was our contribution to the proceedings.  A little yellow colour, then a solid volume of aromatics, showing classical white and yellow florals, citrus fruit and minerals in a wonderful amalgam.  Sure, it’s dry on the palate, with plenty of body and presence.  But oozing finesse and real German minerality.  There’s the softness of the Rheingau, but allied to the freshness of the Mosel.  Exactly what Nahe should be.  This is pure terroir and regionality, without any sugar distraction.  And so easy to enjoy.  It wasn’t long before the bottle was finished.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mumm's The Word

I know that a wine’s repute can change.  Sometimes it is a gradual process, the result of development and evolution.  Other times it is sudden, more a revolution, possibly with a change of thinking or personnel.  It is wonderful when the changes are for the better.  Often we see fortunes change, up and down.

Champagne Mumm has always been a pleasant wine for me.  Going through changes of ownership, the style hasn’t changed too much.  It has to me been elegant and pretty, sometimes flowery and quite beautiful, and also sometimes a bit inconsequential.  The ‘Cordon Rouge’ NV had this character that pleased, but didn’t take you to the heights you really desired.  The Cramant was the special wine that did give consistent pleasure, but it wasn’t ‘classic’ Champagne for all that’s individual and good about it.
There has been word that Champagne Mumm has gone up a considerable step, but I hadn’t experienced myself.  So when we met up with The Orbiter, he served a 2002 Champagne Mumm Brut Millesime.  It was a wow wine.  Lovey layers of autolytic complexity, all bundled up in a complete package.  Not slight in any way, and more than elegant.  It had a subtle strength.  Drinking beautifully to the extent that our eyes brightened.  And of course, our smiles got bigger.  Our host had known the secret about Mumm’s renaissance, and he has now shared it with us.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Holistic Thinking and Drinking

One of the easiest traps for wine lovers can fall into is letting a relatively minor fault totally ruin the experience of a wine.  Wine judges and critics are prone to do so, so that the appearance of a little volatile acidity or brettanomyces consigns the wine to the rubbish heap, never to be re-looked at again.  It’s a moving feast for sure, as faults such as reduction are nowadays seen as positive in small doses that give complexity.  The more consummate wine judges and appreciators take a holistic approach, and take the wine as a whole.  Most wines have degrees of positives and negatives, and as long as the negatives don’t intrude too much, there is plenty of pleasure to be had, even in a wine where a fault registers.
So it was at a celebratory dinner.  The Young One had just passed another milestone, so it was time to have a nice meal at one of the posh eateries in town with Jo-Lo, SWMBO and Moi.  We had a nice Champers and then a Riesling.  Then the big one – 1998 Penfolds ‘Grange’.  Purchased in 2003, with a staff discount, it was $315.00 in cost.  Nowadays, this legendary wine could fetch three times that amount.  But it was not about the cost, but the taste.  I can report it was a gorgeous wine in many ways.  Beautifully ripe and sweet fruit.  Deliciously smooth and silky in texture, and lovely, lovely finesse of extraction.  Weight and with a presence second to none, but remarkably elegant and slippery.   The acidity perfect.  The oaking perfect.  A fantastic rendition of Grange for the modern world without any hint of rusticity.  But, there was a touch of cork taint.  Sometimes you smelt it.  Sometimes you could taste it.  It came and went.  When it was there, it distracted.  When it wasn’t, the wine was sublime.  We could imagine the wine that much richer and out there if not affected.  But as it was, it had style, if the TCA wasn’t in front of you.  Needless to say, we took the holistic approach and finished the bottle. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Savoury Musk

I suppose I should have expected it.  Muscat has such a wide range of styles and flavours.  I adore the lighter, floral styles we make in our cooler New Zealand climate.  And the delightful Moscato d’Asti sparklers from Italy are so light and delicious.  If I want something more serious, I can pick up a bottle of table wine Muscat from Alsace, in drier for and sweeter.  Then there are the moderately rich wines from Pantelleria.  For something full-blown, and super decadent I can sip on a Rutherglen Muscat, or even one of the Muscat-based sherry blending material, now fashionably bottled on its own to sit alongside the PX wines.  Of course I’m oversimplifying things as there are much more variations of style and to the Muscat grape itself.
But I wasn’t expecting what we got with the 2012 Marco de Bartoli ‘Pietranera’ Zibibbo Terre Siciliane.  From Pantelleria, the Zibibbo is also the Muscat of Alexandria variety, here grown on volcanic black stone soil (Pietra Nea), given a day’s skin contact and fermented in tank and one-thir in barriques.  It was a warm evening, and SWMBO and Jo-Lo were in the mood also for something aromatic, light and refreshing.  We should have realised the wine, being from the said volcanic soils and a warmer climate, made with some textural inputs in mind might not have been ideal.  Indeed, it was somewhat golden (possibly the VinoLok closure played a part) and the musky Muscat fruit had moved to a more savoury, yellow stonefruit and nutty spectrum.  Even a hint of oxidative detail.  And there was texture, exacerbating the dryness.  This was not a sip-alone wine, but needed something to eat.  So out came the cheeses, and all was fine…

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rich Minerals

Some wines seem to defy style typicity and logic.  Dry Riesling can be taut and austere, lean and brisk, with an electric quality to show minerality.  Well, that’s a more accepted model.  But every once in a while a great example can turn up, that features other aspects.
With Jo-Lo in residence and a hot day leading to a thirsty palate, a Riesling was in order to quench the palate, so SWMBO said.  It just happened there was a 2012 Peter Pilger Kuenhof ‘Kaiton’ Sudtirol Eisackel Riesling chilling down.  We tend to forget that wonderful Riesling can come Italy.  Pliger’s estate is tiny and there’s only 2,500 cases made annually.  Biodynamic farming, purity and some acacia vats feature.  Off came the top, and it nearly poured itself into our glasses.

Dry to taste, this had richness of fruit forming an unctuous and weighty palate.  It’s 12.5% alc., so there’s no alcohol fire.  The flavours are classical, with lime and secondary toast, and genuine mineral nuance.  There’s acidity too, but very soft – from low pH rather than high TA.  This forms the basis of the wine’s richness.  But over-riding it all was a sense of minerality and supporting complexity.  Refreshing certainly, but with an intriguing richness.