Monday, March 14, 2022

Presentation of the English version of Doctor Wine's Essential Guide to Italian Wines

A high quality tasting in Piccadilly today to present the subject guide by Daniele Cernilli and his team. The first guide for the best Italian wines in both Italian and English. You can subscribe to their informative newsletter for free, just click on the link above.

Below is a selection of the best wines I found today.

Roero cascina ca' rossa

Bianco 2019
Inviting aroma to the nose, prevalence of citrus. A med length wine ready now.
Score 86

Roero le coste 2018
A medium structure wine that can be paired with a variety of med structure food, including roast fish.
Score 86

Mompissano 2018
Strong tannins in this best product from this vineyard, needs a bit of time but promises to be a good standard bearer of Piedmont is its category.
Score 88

Tenuta Santa Caterina

Grignolino 2020
Surprisingly powerful, it still keeps the grignolino fruitiness, great balance.
Score 90

Barbera superiore Vignalina 2019
Balanced long
Score 92

Freisa Asti superiore
Red and Black fruit
Structured, balanced.
Score 93

Famiglia Cotarella

Farentano Rossetto 17
Round smooth buttery, some citrus notes
Score 90

Brunello Montalcino macioche 16
Medium body and balance
Score 85

Montiano merlot 100pc 18
Ripe wild fruits
Smooth balanced long, ana amazing wine but needs 5 years
Score 95


Batár 18
50chard 50 pinot bianco
White flower, slight minerality, Smooth long
Score 94

Chianti classico riserva 18
Very powerful, structured
Long and complex
Needs 3-5 years
Score 94

Camartina 17
Cab sauv e sangiovese
Score 97


Tenute del cerro

The best house represented today IMHO.

Silìneo 2018 nobile montepulciano
Smooth velvet
Score 97

Brunello la poderina 17
Perfect balance harmonious
Score 98

Poggio miniera val di cornia 2013
Smooth powerful balance
Score 98

Giacomo Alari delle Tenute del Cerro

Stars of the Show

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Nebbiolo Day in London by Hunt and Speller

In company of the great Alessandro Masnaghetti

Another great tasting of nebbiolo organized magnificently by Hunt and Speller of London in the Royal Horticultural Society, a habitual venue for sommelier in the capital.

Nebbiolo is synonym of Piemonte (Piedmont) of course and of Barolo and Barbaresco, the two iconic wines of the region. But it is more that than. It is grown in adjacent regions and it is vinified in a variety of ways. 
I even found a sparkling wine, produced with the traditional method and light pressing of the grapes, for a final rosé result.

The highlight of the day were the three masterclasses, see some notes below.

The most curious novelty, for me at least, was a sparkling wine made with lightly pressed nebbiolo by  Casina Bric.  Il Nebbiolo d'Alba spumante dates back to 1970, and is the 3rd "spumante" DOC awarded in Italy, though the vineyard goes back to napoleonic times. Delicate aromas and med body. Score 85

Masterclass N. 1: Barbaresco, with Alessandro Masnaghetti

The life of Barbaresco turns around the Tanaro river. On the left bank sandy soil, it is more difficult to grow nebbiolo. On the right bank clay, results in a more tannic and structured wine.

DOC received in 1967 for about 200 hectares, the area grew to 500 hectares by the 1990s and it is now close to 800.

Four "comuni": Barbaresco, Neive, Alba and Treiso, each with its own distinctive features.

Younger soil on steep slopes, less sedimentation, richer in nutrition for the vines. "Evolved" soil on smoother slopes, more sedimentation results  in accumulation of more nutrition.

Generally rounder, more elegant products compared to Barolo. (Barolo producers may not agree.)

1. Poderi Colla Roncaglie 2018
Light garnet color, lively tannins. Moderate balance but lacks somewhat in structure. I can feel the alcohol, a more traditional winemaking?
Score 82

2. Pio Cesare, Il Bricco 2018
Full garnet color, oaky nose and palate. Complex and long and well balanced. Stereotypical smooth and full bodied barbaresco.
Score 90

3. Giuseppe Cortese, Rabajà 2018
Deep garnet, full body,  round and smooth. Very long. A masterpiece. Ready now, hard to say how much it could still improve.
Score 94

4. Albino Rocca, Ronchi 2018
Full, round wine, ripe fruit and long finish. Also ready now, no reason to wait.
Score 94

5. Cantina del Pino, Orvello 2018
Ruby color with garnet highlights. Still a bit rough but a very structured wine with promising evolution. For lovers of traditional nebbiolo with no concessions to modern smoother taste.
Score 95

6. Adriano Marco e Vittorio basarin, 2018
Amazingly complex and round wine, full of nuances, very long finish
Score 96

Masterclass N. 2: Valtellina, Alto Piemonte and Roero with Walter Speller

Nebbiolo as a grape has been documented since the XVI century, and has been a protagonist in northern Italy for longer. However it has not been possible to find its parent grapes as they probably died out over time.

Most people focus on the tannins of Barolo, but this is not entirely fair: one should pay more attention to BALANCE!

1. Arpepe, Rosso di Valtellina 2020
Tingling, fresh, lively, mod balance and length.
Score 85.

2. Dirupi, Gess 2017 Valtellina Superiore Grumello Riserva
Smooth and balanced, mod long.

3. Nino Negri, Sfursat Carlo Negri 2018 Sforzato di Valtellina
Round, long. Called the "son of the wind" because it is picked in early October and then dries 100 days in boxes in a "fruttaio". No control of temperature or humidity. Then pressed in December when below zero. And blended with grapes taken from the vines, so it is actually two separate harvests mixed together. A mix of amarone and late harvest / icewine style.
Score 92

4. Cantine Garrone, Prünent 2019 Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo Superiore
Powerful, balanced and long.
Score 94.

5. Antoniotti Odilio 2018 Bramaterra
Dark garnet, fermented in 120-years-old cement tanks! No temperature control.
Full bodied, majestic wine.
Score 95

6. Le Pianelle 2016 Bramaterra
Dark garnet, a balanced wine with complexity and a long finish.
Score 92

7. Travaglini 2016 Gattinara Riserva
North Piedmont, cooler areas and windy. Unique bottle, dates back to 1958. Apparently Charles V loved this wine...  Touch of bitter, great length. nebbiolo is called "spanna" in this part of Piedmont.
Score 95

8. Hilberg Pasquero SUl MOnte 2016 Nebbiolo d'Alba
Needs time to round the tannins, a powerful structured wine with huge potential.
Score 93

Alessandro Masnaghetti
Masterclass N. 3: Barolo, with Alessandro Masnaghetti

1. Diego Morra, Monvigliero 2018
Fresh and harsh, needs a long time to mature.
Score 83

2. Ceretto, Brunate 2018
Still needs time but I can feel a huge potential once the rough edges and rounded out a bit. Typical Brunate according to Masnaghetti, with a touch of unmistakable and pleasant bitterness. A powerful wine.
Score 90

3. G.D. Vajra, Bricco delle Viole 2018
Round and still with good potential.
Score 92

4. Rocche di Castiglione, Brovia 2018
Smooth, long and with powerful tannins, needs time.
Score 94

5. G. Fenocchio, Villero 2018
Grande vino, it screams for more time to evolve but it is already amazingly powerful, round and long now.
Score 96

6. Diego Conterno, Ginestra 2018

Score 94

7. Ettore Germano, Prapo 2018
Great balance, harmony!
Score 98

8. Grimaldi Bruna, Badarina 2018
Perfect balance velvet complexity and and incredible length.
Score 98 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Meet the producer: Grappa Villa de Varda

Distillery at Villa de Varda

Tasting of grappa samples offered by Villa de Vardo, a renown historical producer of this iconic Italian spirit.

Grappa di moscato
Pomace 100% moscato. Smooth, complex floral notes, a touch of sweet in the end. An easy grappa for those who begin to appreciate this kind of product.
Score 80.

Pomace . Similar to moscato in general taste, floral and sweet.
Score 82.

Notes of vanilla which leve behind a lingering sensation of enveloping warmth. Score 86.

Apricot and toasted notes for an elegant grappa, a rich and full one. Score 88.

Smooth and fruity, with a sweet finish. Score 85.

Another smooth and fruity grappa with a sweet finish, thicker, more complex than the previous one. Score 88.

Smooth, sweet sensations dominate. Score 88.

This grappa is also very smooth with intense aromas. Score 90

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Walkaround and masterclasses of Vouray, Loire Valley, France

Most interesting tasting today in London, focussed on wines from Vouvray and their iconic chenin blanc variety. Well organized by Vouvray producers and Sopexa.

Master class n. 1: Vouvray Sparkling wines

1. Couvée Privilège, Domaine du Margallau 2014
Mineral, fresh, dry, 2g dosage. Steel only, 48 months on lees, aging potential. I see this as an aperitif, it is too dry for anything else. Score 85

2. Feuilles d'Or, Domaine Herivault, biodynamic, 2012
Also mineral but rounder finish, better balance. Score 86

3. les temps d'Aimé, Dom Aubert NV
Intense nose, mod balance. Score 82

4.Chateau Gaudrelle extra brut 2014
Balances wine, mod complex, very dry, NO residual sugar. Score 86

Overall an interesting discovery of relatively lesser known sparkling wines from the Loire.

Master class n. 2: Vouvray and cheese

It was a lot of fun to try and pair the cheeses you can see in the picture, which ranged from blue to mid-aged one and were all from France except Gorgonzola. There are countless possible combinations, and in the end it is a matter of taste to pair by contrast (e.g. acidity of the wines and fat of the cheese) or concordance (e.g. sweetness of both wine and cheese).

My favorite of the above lineup was n.5, Champalou les Fondreaux 2018, a sweet wine that maintained adequate acidity, made with only natural yeasts, picked late with no added sugar, which paired with most of the cheeses on my plate! Score 86

I was personally surprised at how well the sparkling wine, contrast-paired with Gorgonzola.

The other feature which emerged this afternoon is the high degree of versatility of Vouvray chenin blanc, which allows for a wide range of possible pairings depending on vinification.

Prices for all above wines between 13 and 16 euros FOB.

Kevin sharing his wisdom

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Walk-around tasting on Ribera del Duero with Tim Atkin MW

Thank you Tim Atkin

Amazing tasting of Ribera del Duero, mostly tempranillo. 100 wines selected by Tim Atkin MW from over 500 he tasted in recent months. The level of quality was extremely high, both for celebrated (and expensive) bottles as well as for many not so expensive gems.

This is a partial list of the bottles that impressed me the most.

98% tempranillo, 2% albillo
Exceptionally intense in the nose, perfect balance and very long.
RRP 138 euro, Score 98

100% tempranillo. Intriguing violet color in the glass, intenso nose and powerful palate, slight feel of alcohol I think this wine is mature now.
RRP 240 euro, Score 92

Amazingly powerful fruit, perfect balance and impressive length. A harmonious wine.
RRP 200 euro, score 98

Four amazing wines from this producer, hard to choose, scores 97 to 99.
In my view these wines are close to perfection: all display intensity, balance, complexity and length. They are all harmonious products which are ready now but could age another few years, though I am not sure they could improve further. Here they are:
La Roza 2016, RRP 2230 euro
LLanos del Almendro 2016, RRP 115 euro
Valdegatilles 2016, RRP 116 euro
La Mala 2016, perhaps the best of all four, RRP 116

Another exceptionally balanced product.
RRP 120 euro, score 98

A velvety wine with a strong personality, it is repetitive but today here is another perfectly balanced and complex wine, long, harmonious. 
RRP 240 euro, score 98

tempranillo 95%, cabernet sauvignon 5%
The perfect wine, it's got everything, do not miss it if you can find a bottle and can afford it. Words are missing to describe the multitude of sensations and pleasure that come out of this bottle.
RRP 350, Score 100

Only one very small step lower is the Unico 2012, RRP 300 euro, score 98.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Meet the producer: Folktale, Aviary and Golden Wineries from California

Today we had a video call with Eddie Morris of Folktale Winery and Vineyards in California. In addition to their own wines, two other vineyards belong to the group: Aviary Vineyards and Golden Winery.

In the video below Eddie explains how their group operates, what are their guidelines and which features to expect in their products.

We tasted their Golden Winery chardonnay from Monterey County, 2019, a golden yellow wine with intense and complex aromas that surprises for its full body, near perfect balance and length. Gone are the days of overly rich Californian chards, Golden rediscovers the more traditional freshness of the variety. I happily paired it with a traditional Chinese "you tofu" and cabbage in the wok. Score 92.

The label needs clarification: it is Monterey-grown fruit but sometimes produced in Napa for operational reasons. As they explained to me, "the bottling location often different than the area that the grapes are grown. Our facility in Napa is about 2.5-3 hours from Monterey. Depending on the availability and need of production, wines from Napa can end up being bottled in Monterey, or Monterey wines can be bottled in Napa."

We also tasted a cabernet sauvignon reserve 2018 from Aviary, a complex abundance of red and black fruit, with tannins rounded by 14 months in oak and a medium structure that will pair well with food of character. I tried with beef chunks in the wok and slightly spicy broccoli. Score 93.

For those lucky enough to visit Folktale in California, their estate is now perfectly equipped for tasting, meals and every facility to organize events or explore the vineyards and the region at leisure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Twelve producers from Occitanie

Another tasting in London about Occitanie, the region of France that was created on 1 January 2016 from the fusion of former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. This is an administrative region, it does not change the classification of the wines.

Thank you to Isabelle Kanaan and Sébastien du Boullay of "Maison de la Région Occitanie - Sud de France" in London for organizing this event.

Besides a walk-around of dozens of wines from 12 producers, there were two most interesting masterclasses today, both led by Matthew Stubb MW.

Masterclass: Occitanie outside the box

1. Terroirs d'Occitanie, baron Ermenegaud, AOP Fugères 2020
50% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, 20% Vermentino, 10% Viognier
Scisty soil, very poor, roots have to go deep to find nutrients.
A fresh wine (from Vermentino) with floral notes. Honey suckle, jasmine, peach. A complex wine with a long finish. Score 88.

2. Les Vignerons Castelas, Vieilles Vignes, AOP Cd Rhone Sinargues 2018
40% Grenache noir, 40% Syrah, 20% Carignan
Red and black fruits, spicy, peppery notes, good substance (matière!). Good balance, smooth finish. Score 89

3. Domaine de la Louvière, La Sèductrice, AOP Malepère 2019
60% merlot, 20% Cab franc, 20% malbec
Super smooth wine, merlot clearly overwhelming, probably more than 60%
Very ripe fruit, green pepper, herbaceous notes.. Score 82.

4. Les Vignerons du Brulhois, le Vin Noir, AOP Brulhois 2017
50% merlot, 30% tannat, 15% cab sauv, 5% malbec
From the northern part of the region, closer to Bordeaux. medium-strong tannins, probably from tannat. A simple simple but pleasant wine. Score 80.

5. Vignobles Vellas, Domaine Valinière "Granmarone", AOP Languedoc St Drézéry 2019
Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre
The name wants to indicate that this is done in "Amarone style", though the grapes are dried on the vine, unlike Amarone. Fermentation for four months, no wood, aged in concrete for one year. An impressive deep color, intense nose and plump, complex and long in the mouth, a touch of sweet at the end. Score 93.

6. Domaine F. Jaubert, Or du Temps, AOP Rivesaltes 2002
70% Grenache gris, 30% grenache blanc
Fortified wine, they added 96%abv to raise wine to 17%abv. Domain started using this technique in the XIII century, before fortification started in Porto, Madeira or Marsala. Dried fruit, caramel, toffel. Aged 17 years in concrete, NO WOOD. About 85g residual sugar. Score 88.

Masterclass: Local grapes and distinctive taste of Occitanie

1. Maison Sinnae, Eléments Luna, AOC Côte du Rhone Villages Laudun 2020
65% grenache blanc, 35% clairette
Citrus and peach follow a floral welcome to the nose. A delicate wine despite 14.5% abv. Waxy notes, no oak, steel only. Score 84

2. Domaine Lalaurie, marselan, IGP Pays d'Oc 2020
100% marselan
This grape is a cross between cabernet sauvignon and grenache. Produced in the early 1960s, it has become popular in Languedoc and more recently in China because of its resistance to mildew and small berries which result in lower yields. Aromatic wine, red and black fruits, licorice, spicy. Medium tannin. Score 84

3. Domaine Gayrard, Braucol, AOP Gaillac 2019
100% fer servadou (braucol)
Smooth, medium body and balanced wine, herbaceous notes. Lacks complexity and length. Biodynamic. Score 82

4. Les Domaines Auriol, Influences naturelles, IGP Pays d'Oc 2020
syrah 100%
Smooth, medium body, crunchy and vibrant fruit. Not a complex or long wine but pleasant nonetheless. Biodynamic. Score 82.

Before the masterclass I had tasted their Chant de l'âme 2019 a blend of syrah, carignan, mourvèdre and cinsault: a complex, round and long wine ready now. Score 92

5. Domaine Guillaman, Gos manseng, IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2020
100% gros manseng
Semi-aromatic wine, smooth and med long, not complex. Sweetness prevails with 35g of residual sugar, only 11%abv. Score 83

6. Domaine Tariquet, Dernières Grives, IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2018
100% petit manseng
beautiful deep golden yellow for this aromatic sweet wine. Yet one can easily pick a vibrant acidity that makes for a well balanced product. Honey, tropical fruits (mango?). It is a late harvest wine but without botrytis. 100g residual sugar. Score 93.