Neophysics: n. the scientific process of being a neophyte
OK, so I invented a word. It came to me during my first experience of the phenomenon that is ProWein. It happened whilst having all those feelings of disorientation, amazement, excitement, intrigue and of being overwhelmed that are part of getting to grips with something big, new and utterly unfamiliar.
And ProWein is big. It is, in fact, vast. Picture the largest Big Box retailer you’ve ever been to – the kind of B&Q or CostCo that takes 10 minutes to walk corner-to-corner – and fill it with massive pavilions like this one, with multiple people serving their wines:
That’s one ‘corridor’ running along a short axis, and there will be at least 10 in each direction in the hall.
And there are 10 halls like that. TEN. It is not just vast, it’s huge – Trump-huge!
6,850 exhibitors with, say, 10-20 wines each to taste = 50-100,000 wines. Not in 30 days would you get around that, let alone 3!
I spent the first 2 hours on day 1, just walking around and working out where everything was, including the WSET’s pavilion where I was due to give a talk to WSET Alumni the next morning (and the purpose of going in the first place).
After that, I started to make a plan – because of course, I didn’t have one even though everyone I spoke to later said “you need to have a plan, and even with one you’ll still only scratch the surface”; neophysics indeed.
A lot of people have back-to-back business appointments pre-arranged to do buying or selling deals; it is absolutely a trade fair in all senses. I was conscious that, in many respects, I was just an observer. So as and when I stopped somewhere to talk or to taste, I needed not to get in the way of commercially valuable conversations.
So, how to see things, learn stuff and taste?
Well, I first found possible general tasting events in the programme and found a couple of interest that would not need pre-booking – because, again, I hadn’t organised that! That began with a Côtes du Rhône guided tasting at the InterRhône generic stand.
That also opened my eyes to tasting ‘banks’ – what the marketing organisations or representative bodies for different regions, or other grouping entities, put on to show a broad range wines for tasting on self-pour. I went to a couple of these, although the Champagne one was emphatically NOT self-pour; the only problem being when the 4 staff chose to talk to each other and totally ignore me and the 1 other person looking to taste their next wines…
I also went to events or to stands that friends, fellow MWs or fellow MW students had highlighted. A fascinating experience was to do a tutored taste of a range of dry and sweet Tokaji wines, organised by MW student Agnes Herczeg for other MW students, with a guest appearance from winemaker, István Balassa. Generous and helpful in equal measure.
And it was a pleasure to catch up with Gerhard Kracher and see his new, Blaufränkisch-based red wine project; real potential there.
Finally, sometimes I just tasted slightly randomly. In fact, the last thing I did before leaving ProWein was to stop in at Glenelly’s stand but end up getting to know The Drift winery’s wines from Overberg and chatting to owner-winemaker, Bruce Jack and a crowd of other folks. I didn’t take any reliable tasting notes, but they have some fantastic labels, designed by Bruce’s wife, like these:
Anyway, below are slightly rough notes and scores for most, with minimal tidy up, of the 150+ odd wines I tasted over the 3 days. This also includes notes from the masterclasses I joined. The Kopke aged white and Tawny Ports were a huge highlight, as was seeing different 2010 Riojas support the quality of that vintage. Jadot’s range was also very fine.
Given that this has turned into an over-11,000-word write up (!), here’s the summary of tastings and masterclasses done:
- InterRhône generic tasting: tutored tasting of “a prestige wine selection”, with some fine examples
- Champagne Moutard: generous, innovative Champagnes from the Côte des Bar, including 3 of the lesser varieties, with a new, no-SO2, zero dosage bottling
- Torres: latest releases including Mas la Plana and a couple of solid Priorats
- Oregon Willamette Valley Whites masterclass: tutored overview and tasting of white varieties from Willamette, with a particularly fine Chardonnay from Domaine Drouhin
- L’Ecole Walla Walla: some very fine Bordeaux blends, demonstrating terroir variations, as well as some unusual Sémillon and Chenin Blanc
- Yalumba: solid-to-excellent range from one of Australia’s best family-owned wineries, exploring Grenache, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-Shiraz blends
- Bodegas Muga: top-end Rioja, with a very good 2010 Prado Enea Gran Reserva
- Tokaji MW student masterclass: fascinating exploration of all things Tokaji, with Agnes Herczeg and winemaker István Balassa. His wines, along with István Szepsy and Grand Tokaj were all new to me and very good indeed
- Bodegas Roda: fine, modern Rioja. Good to retaste tannic Roda I 2004, as well as 2010 and 2011
- Txakoli Zudugarai: brisk, flavoursome, saline, white and pink txakolis
- Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi: some fine, slightly wild, minerally, terroir-driven, not-Riojas
- La Rioja Alta: new, single-vineyard expression from their modern-style Torre de Oña estate
- Kopke: amazing, aged White Ports, Tawnies and Colheita Tawnies, along with all of Sogevinus’ promising 2016 Vintage Ports
- Champagne Lounge: tasting mainly small producers I’m not familiar with, but also a tutored tasting of organic and biodynamic Champagnes
- Louis Jadot: tasting the range of whites from Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé and the Côte d’Or, to test the 2016 vintage, plus some 2015s, Beaujolais Crus and fine Côte d’Or reds
- Alsace Riesling masterclass: great tasting with some excellent wines, selected and presented by Anne Krebiehl MW
- Boeckel Alsace: fine Sylvaner Grand Cru wines and Crémant
- Weinlaubenhof Kracher: catching up on Gerhard Kracher’s new joint-ventures
- Barone di Villagrande: a quick taste of their Etnas, with the 2017 Rosato promising much for the vintage, plus a retaste of their Malvasia delle Lipari
Wines 2-10 were presented as a Prestige Tasting Selection, designed to show different regions and varieties, and alternative winemaking, with wines selected for prestige taste. #9 had a cool label:
1. Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss Costières de Nîmes Ka 2015 (15.5 / 20)
Alsace natural winemaker has started making wine in the Costieres de Nimes.
N: Natural ‘funk’ but nice. Bright berry fruit beneath with schist minerality
P: Bright acidity. Chalky, peppery tannins. Mineral. Funky blue fruit. Salty. Needs food
2. Lirac Blanc 2016 (15.5 / 20)
100% Clairette. Barrel fermented.
A: Pale lemon-green
N: Green melon and honey. Creamy fruit. Apple pip
P: Medium body with some richness of lees? Cream, apple and spice. Warming. Pure. Bright not brisk acidity. Mineral tones
3. Château de Clapier Luberon 2011 (16- / 20)
38% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 25% Pinot Noir – a special derogation within the AOC. MLF in oak.
A: Mid-deep garnet
N: Medicinal. Ripe, baked fruit. Smoky leather. Maturin
P: Medium body. Brisk acidity and mineral bite. Old leather. Firm, smoky, chalky tannins
4. Mas de Sainte Croix Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas Passion d’une Terre 2016 (16 / 20)
75% Grenache, 25% Syrah. Grown at 350-400m altitude, near the plateau of Vinsobres, benefiting from the cool air of the pre-Alps.
N: Primary floral, bright aromatics with black pepper and violet.
P: Ripe but not jammy. Pure, with granite mineral and coal smoke. Fairly firm tannins. Medium-long
5. Domaine Grand Nicolet Rasteau Vieilles Vignes 2014 (16.5 / 20)
50 : 50 80 year old Grenache and 50 year old Syrah, at 25HL / Ha.
A: Deep ruby-purple
N: Bloody, spiced, rich. Garrigue. Inviting
P: Sweet and spicy black fruit. Flinty mineral. Peppery fairly firm tannins. Brisk acidity. Heady alcohol finish
6. Domaine de l’Amauve Côtes du Rhône Villages Séguret Estelles 2015 (?? / 20)
75% Grenache, 25% Syrah grown on North-facing, limestone and sand soils, with altitude. New and 1 year old barrel maturation.
A: Pale-medium purple
N: Perfumed red berries. Bright and scented. Flinty. Creamy touch
P: Brisk acidity. Fine, firm tannins. Smoky. Perfumed red and blue fruit
7. Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Pas de l’Aigle 2014 (17 / 20)
Old vine Grenache and Syrah, with barrel maturation.
A: Mid ruby-garnet
N: Toasty garrigue. Bloody tang. Dense-ish fruit
P: Black, smoky fruit. Power. Pepper. Dense. Spiced
8. Aureto Ventoux Cuvée Maestrale 2014 (16.5 / 20)
70% Syrah from old vines. Oak matured.
N: Herbal tang, integral cedar oak. Coal smoke and black pepper. Fresh, ripe, blackberry
P: Sweet black fruit. Bright acidity. Firm, fine tannins. Smoky / spicy. Pretty elegant for its power
9. Michel Gassier Costières de Nîmes Lou Coucardié 2012 (16.5 / 20)
49% Mourvèdre, 35% Grenache, 16% Syrah.
A: Mid garnet
N: Hint of brett, with meaty Mourvèdre tones. Old strawberry fruit
P: Raspberry, spice, Mourvèdre tones. Smoke. Rich, spicy. Ready
10. Les Vignerons de Tavel Tavel Cuvée Royale 2014 (15.5 / 20)
50% Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul and others. 48-hour maceration.
A: Mid-deep rose
N: Spice. Stones. Apple pips. Strawberry
P: Apple, strawberry, flint and gravel minerality. Chalky, light-medium tannins. Vinous finish. Brisk, refreshing acidity
11. Clos des Cazaux Gigondas Cuvée Prestige 2015 (17 / 20)
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Bloody spice, gamey pepper. Density. Richness. Classic
P: Dark fruit, spice, power. Rich, with firm, peppery, slightly rustic tannins. Long
12. Clos des Cazaux Vacqueyras Cuvée des Templiers 2015 (16 / 20)
A: Mid ruby with some purple tints
N: Meatier Mourvèdre spice. Dense black fruit.
P: Lighter and spicier than the Gigondas. Sandy, firm tannins. Less impressive
13. Domaine Christophe Semaska Côte-Rôtie Château de Montlys 2015 (17+ / 20)
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Powerfully floral aromatics. Heady. Bacon fat
P: Spice, raspberry and blackberry. Bacon fat. Toasty oak. Mineral. Fine tannins. Lovely balance through the medium-long finish
I happened to spot Moutard, whose wines I knew a little, whilst wandering around and spotting their Cuvée Arbanne on display. I happened to have Book 5 with me, with a label from the single bottle I’d ever had, so showed that, got chatting to the folks and ended up tasting with Victor Laculle-Moutard, discussing his winemaking innovations.
Those included a new rose version of 6 Cépages (and I did ask: no they have no plans to plant Pinot Gris to complete the set of 7! Nor will a Petit Meslier be bottled), as well as an SO2-free Champagne alongside new Tonnerre AOC still Chardonnay. Only brief notes on each. Based in the southerly Côte des Bar, the Champagnes are softer and rounder than more northerly vineyards.
1. Moutard Champagne Cuvée Arbanne Vieilles Vignes 2013 (16 / 20)
Floral, nutty, sweet but balanced. Soft. Complex
2. Moutard Champagne Cuvée des 6 Cépages Brut Nature 2009 (16.5 / 20)
3 g/L RS rich, full, oxidative from barrel fermentation, but fruity too
3. Moutard Champagne Cuvée des 6 Cépages Rosé Brut Nature 2010 (17 / 20)
Powerful, marmite savouriness, spice, dense. Rich. Needs food
4. Moutard Champagne Pinot Noir sans soufre 2016 (?? / 20)
Zero dosage to allow a no-SO2 bottling that is stable. First vintage.
Very expressive, floral, nutty and apple skin. Jumps from glass with hints of yeast. Green apple, despite MLF. Zero dosage. Firm, but not austere. Clean.
5. Tonnerre Chardonnay 2016 (?? / 20)
New appellation between Côte des Bar and Chablis. 15 year old vines.
Rich, broad, hay notes, rich stone fruit. Would be hard to place as chardonnay. Rounded. M(+) acid. Medium-full body. Hay. Stone fruit. Firm acidity – MLF?
Stopped in at the Primum Familiae Vini stand, of which Torres are part. Tasted with their new brand ambassador, Viktoriya Bryska – 3 weeks into the job. She was nice.
1. Torres Mas La Plana 2013 (16.5 / 20)
N: Powerful cedar oak and spice. Rich dense fruit. Crushed rock. Not Bordeaux!
P: Dense, fine tannins – fully extracted. Warming
2. Torres Priorat Salmos 2015 (16 / 20)
Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, 14-15 months oak
N: Primary, slightly jammy mixed black fruit.
P: Juicy palate fruit, slightly wild, chewy tannins. Good length but a bit simpler than Perpetual
3. Torres Priorat Perpetual 2015 (17 / 20)
Grenache, Carignan. 18 months oak
N: Dense and ripe black fruit, subtle oak spice
P: Moderate, fine tannins. Well balanced
4. Torres Chile Cordierra series Cabernet Sauvignon 20?? (16 / 20)
N: Pastille cassis and pyrazine green tones. Very Chile. Minty
P: Structured, minty, ripe cassis. Firm, fine tannins. Fairly long length
5. Vardon Kennett Esplendor Metode Tradicional 2013 (15.5 / 20)
Mostly Chardonnay, with some Xarel-lo. Penedès but not DO Cava – single vineyard at Santa Maria, at 500m altitude.
N: Apple with earthy toast lees. Bready and nutty
P: Lots of lees palate character, stone fruit and apple. M(+) length disappoints a little
6. Jean Leon X-16 Penedès 2016 (14.5 / 20)
Xarel-lo, 6 months on lees in stainless steel.
N: Reductive. White flower and white peach.
P: Nuttiness on the palate with white peach. Bright acidity
I saw this tutored tasting at the Oregon wines pavilion advertised and turned up 2 minutes before it started. Fortunately, there was one space available! A quick overview of the region was given, before a sprint tasting of a range of white varietal wines, with the intention of showing that Oregon is more than just Pinot Noir. When we got to the Grüner, I was put on the spot to say what I thought of the wine – in the middle between Austria’s lean, white pepper and riper tropical fruit styles was my verdict (fortunately, I had something sensible to say!). I was not surprised at the quality of the Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay.
The region is at 44-46°N, between the western Coastal and eastern Cascade mountain ranges. Beyond the Cascades, climate is fully-continental with very cold winters and hot summers. Beyond the Coastal range the climate is dominated by Pacific humidity. Between the two, a balance of low humidity with wind and warmth is found, giving low botrytis pressure. The Willamette Valley is amongst the coolest zones, being moderate at both ends of the temperature spectrum: 80°F in mid-summer but only in the mid-late afternoon, then temperatures quickly fall back in the evenings.
3 soils are found, varying across the Valley, but all are free-draining, low fertility soils on the hillsides:
- Marine sedimentary
- Volcanic basalt
- Windblown loess
The Willamette Valley AVA was founded in 1983, with sub-AVAs coming afterwards: Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills (most important, size-wise), McMinnville, and Eola-Amity Hills.
Production is small-scale, with 70% wineries making <5,000 cases a year. Yields are typically low, around 2-3t / acre for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris or Chardonnay. These are the 3 main grape varieties, with 2016 planting areas being:
- 64% Pinot Noir
- 13% Pinot Gris
- 6% Chardonnay
- 3% Riesling
- 2% Syrah
- 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
- 11% Others, including Chenin Blanc
Riesling has been grown in the Willamette longer than any other variety, and much experimentation is going on with e.g. fermentation vessels. For Chardonnay, Dijon clones are only relatively recent additions, but better suited to the Willamette than Draper and UCD clones. Winemakers were doing ‘big and buttery’ then swung the other way, to no MLF and stainless steel winemaking, but now are finding a balance point.
Oregon is now moving to a 95% minimum of that grape variety for varietal labelling and is already at 90%, vs. the 75% minimum found elsewhere in the US, demonstrating the region’s tighter commitment to quality.
1. Alexana Winery Revana Vineyard Riesling Dundee Hills 2016 (15.5 / 20)
Whole bunch press. Wild yeast fermentation in 85% stainless steel, 5% new oak, 5% 1st fill, 5% neutral French oak. Fermented to dryness. 4 months on lees
N: Lime, chalk, cream, floral. A bit basic
P: Rounded RS (must be >3 g/L?). Ripe lime. Spice. Vibrant acidity. Fair length
2. Chehelam Wind Ridge Block Grüner Veltliner 2015 (16 / 20)
Stainless steel and neutral barrels. 5 months on lees. 4.5-5.4 g/L TA. pH 3.32
N: Creamy peach, subtle pepper. In the middle.
P: Ripe, rich mid-palate. Some fine spice. Good character. Some RS notable (16 / 20)
3. Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2016 (15 / 20)
Whole bunch pressed. 6.3 g/L. pH 3.16
N: Peanut, earth, mineral, restrained. Old World style. Mandarin – between citrus and white peach
P: Vibrant citrus and apple; subtle white peach. Flinty. Needs a bit more but could go somewhere interesting. A little short, but interesting
4. Domaine Drouhin Arthur Dundee Hills 2015 (17 / 20)
Whole cluster. Half inox, half barrel, with barrel thru MLF and tank blocked. 25 yo vines.
N: Subtle oak spice and some flinty / earth mineral tones. Caramel touch to white peach
P: Moderately ripe and balanced. Plenty of spiced oak tones with nuttiness. Rich. Brisk acidity. Long and creamy. Fine
5. Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (16 / 20)
Barrel F and matured 11mth 18% new FR oak. pH 3.25, TA 7.1 g/L.
N: Mealy oak. Ripe apple and creamy white peach. Nutty. Restrained
P: Green but ripe melon. Mealy and spicy. Crisp acidity. Long
6. Kings Ridge Pinot Gris 2015 (15 / 20)
10-vineyard blend. 100% stainless steel fermentation and maturation, with no MLF. pH 3.37, TA 5.8 g/L, RS 1.6 g/L.
N: Grigio style. Some mineral. Some white peach. Some faint spice. Quite neutral, but more than Alto Adige and very much more than Veneto
P: Bright acidity and some spicy white peach. Rounded
7. Cristom Vineyards Viognier 2016 (16 / 20)
Columbia River basalt soils. Hand harvest and sort. Barrel F in neutral oak and stainless steel. Partial MLF. 9 months on lees. pH 3.48, TA 5.8 g/L.
N: A little reductive. Floral and white peach; not as rich as some, but toast and apricot emerges on swirling. Richness builds in the glass
P: Leaner palate style; some oak creaminess and stony mineral, with some white peach fleshiness. Spice
Immediately following the Oregon tasting, Tom Danowski, President of the Oregon Wine Board, introduced me to Martin Club, owner-winemaker of L’Ecole No. 41 wines in neighbouring Washington State – and on the neighbouring stand, since Oregon and Washington had a shared pavilion. We got chatting and I stayed to taste some of Martin’s range, including Bordeaux blends from their 3 properties in 3 different terroirs. A clear variation in terroir expression (and some very nice wines!).
Martin has had the estate for 35 years and been winemaker for the last 30 years. Imported to the UK by Wine Treasury. They have 1 vineyard on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley and the other 2 in Washington. Drip irrigated as 200m or less rain a year to give the equivalent of heavy-deficit drip irrigation.
1. L’Ecole Apogee Pepper Bridge Vineyard 2015 (?? / 20)
Named Apogee so as not to be confused with the wines of Pepper Bridge Winery. Lowest altitude. Basalt with layers of glacial flood sediments on top. 2 miles depth of volcanic rock. Heat sink delivers ripeness. Hand pick, lightly destemmed with almost whole berries. Gentle punchdowns, no fining (so vegan). 18 months in barrel, 1/3 new, mostly tight-grained French oak e.g. Taransaud. Blended only after MLF and initial ageing. 22 months total ageing.
N: Deep, ripe, black fruits. Draws you in. Unusual aromatics – almost hot rocks. Cedar and vanilla-cream (a % of American oak)
P: Ripe, jammy black fruit. Creamy vanilla. Firm, grippy tannins. Warming. M+ to long.
2. L’Ecole Perigee Seven Hills Vineyard 2015 (18 / 20)
Dry, with warm South-westerly winds, so can ripen Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, to give a floral but ripe style. 15 feet depth of wind-blown, very fine volcanic loess on top of ground glacial granites. Oldest vineyard. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot. A lot of production from this vineyard, much of which goes into varietal Columbia Valley bottlings.
N: Cedar oak, then much more floral violets and red perfumed fruit. Some blue and blackberry tones and Szechuan pepper spice touches, clove and dried herb.
P: Full, but very fine tannins – longer maceration to build structure. Some salinity. Fine and dense
3. L’Ecole Ferguson Vineyard 2015 (17 / 20)
Fractured basalt with a thin loess layer; iron rich. Windy. Dry. 450m altitude. Longest growing season and small berries with thick skins.
N: Clove and cedar oak entry, with mocha. Ripe black cherry and blackberry – broad fruit. Mint touch
P: Ripe, dense, black palate fruit with espresso finish. Smoky. Dense. Firm acidity
4. L’Ecole Columbia Valley Semillon 2016 (16.5 / 20)
Small proportion of Sauvignon Blanc. Older barrel fermentation for weight and texture.
N: Leafy grass touch. Wax hint. Toast hint. Green and yellow citrus peel. Flinty stone touch
P: Stone fruit palate with gentle spice and creamy touches. Rich. Some sweetness
5. Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc 2016 (16 / 20)
40-year old, ungrafted, Yakima Valley vines. 5 plots. Chenin planting stock originally from California, but hard to be sure the primary origins before. Small % of botrytis, but small clusters. 4t / acre.
N: Fleshy stone fruit and wet wool; hint of peanut
P: Brisk acidity, ripe yellow apple and white peach. Smoky, flinty, volcanic spice
Always a pleasure to stop in and taste Yalumba’s wines, and especially to see a familiar face in the crazy crowd that is ProWein!
1. Dalrymple Pipers River Tasmania Pinot Noir 2016 (16 / 20)
Heavy investment in Pinot in the last 5 years, with 50Ha planted 2017 from Yalumba nursery, including Mt Lofty premium Pinot Noir.
N: Vibrant, ripe, cherry fruit. Perfumed. Crunchy. Hint of stem herb. Subtle cedary toast and spice
P: Crisp acidity. Ripe, dense, slightly smoky, red cherry. Warming. Spiced. Medium-long to long. Just a bit too much alcohol
2. Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache 2016 (?? / 20)
“Blue collar Pinot Noir”. Cap plunger with oxygen, for very gentle extraction.
A: Pale ruby
N: Spice, earth, garrigue; ripe, wild strawb beneath
P: Ripe, savoury, dried thyme garrigue. Light-medium, sandy tannins. Rich. Pretty long
3. Yalumba Tri-Centenary Grenache 2013 (17+ / 20)
Mostly French, some small American oak.
N: Dense, pungent spice over ripe and rich blue fruit. Dusty mineral. Power. Creamy oak
P: Full bodied, saline, spiced, floral aromatic notes over blue and blackberry. Super spiced. Saline touch and fine, fairly firm, sandy tannins
4. Yalumba The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (16 / 20)
A: Deep ruby
N: Eucalyptus and tobacco leaf and jammy cassis. 100% Coonawarra
P: Cigar box palate with ripe cassis, brisk acidity, fairly firm tannins
5. Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (16.5+ / 20)
N: Creamier, more vanilla oak tones. More spicy, fresh cordite and dusty tones. Denser
P: Polished palate; suave, fairly-firm tannins. Bright acidity. Ripe and round
6. Yalumba Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Barossa 2013 (17 / 20)
52:48 Cabernet Sauvignon : Shiraz. French, Hungarian and American oak
A: Deep ruby-black
N: Mocha. Ripe, rich, dense fruit with Shiraz spice and baked tones. Integral
P: Rich and ripe. Heady fruit. Some tobacco leaf through mid-palate. Peppery M+ tannins. Baking spice and cocoa finish. Long
7. Yalumba Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Barossa 2014 (17.5 / 20)
A: Deep ruby
N: More overt dried tobacco Cabernet Sauvignon tones and cassis. Then bacon fat Shiraz. Mint
P: Cabernet Sauvignon-led. Subtle toasty oak. Appetising. Long
I’m a big fan of Muga, who can do top-end Rioja in both traditional (Prado Enea) and modern (Torre Muga) styles. I stopped in, just to see if I could arrange a visit before the IMW’s 4-yearly Symposium in Logrono in June 2018. I stayed to taste the range – a pleasure (and another piece of evidence for the quality of 2010, in the form of Prado Enea).
1. Muga Rioja Blanco 2016 (16 / 20)
90% Viura, 10% Malvasia. 8-hour press maceration. Barrel fermentation in new French oak, with 3 months on lees.
A: Pale lemon-gold
N: Apple pips and flinty tones to smoky oak. Subtle toast – surprisingly little oakiness for new French oak
P: Brisk acidity with ripe pear, melon and white peach. Spicy oak on mid-palate and finish.
2. Muga Rioja Rosado 2017 (15 / 20)
60% Grenache, 30% Viura, 10% Tempranillo.
A: Very pale salmon
N: Flint and some reduction to delicate red and white currant. Some breadth – not exactly toasty, but broad
P: Chalky texture and flint mineral to melon and subtle hints of strawberry. Sweet apple. Low temperature fermentation feel – turns out it was a 25-day fermentation!
3. Muga Reserva 2014 (16.5 / 20)
Labelled Crianza in Spain. 2 years oak and 1 year in bottle. 70% Tempranillo, 20% Grenache, 10% Graciano & Mazuelo.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Ripe black and red fruit. Some oak spice and torrified tones. Ripe and rich. More serious than many a ‘crianza’. Merits Reserva
P: Silky texture, with spicy red cherry and torrified cedar oak. Serious wine. Long. M acidity. Ready now but will hold 2-4
4. Muga Reserva Selección Especial 2012 (16.5+ / 20)
N: Integral cedar-clove oak, with a hint of gherkin. Black fruit. Crushed rock. Spice
P: Medium body, ripe, spiced, crushed rock and cordite. Fairly-firm, furry tannins. More extracted. Needs time
5. Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2010 (18+ / 20)
N: Ripe, dense and dark. Integral, spicy oak. Hint of grilled meat. Savoury. Holding back / tight
P: Medium-full bodied, super-spicy, ripe, slightly dried black fruit. Crushed rock and cordite. Soy savouriness. Creamy vanilla and gherkin touch to the long, integral finish. Saline touch. A fine, powerhouse wine that needs a decade to be ready
6. Muga Torre Muga 2014 (17.5++ / 20)
A: Deep black-purple
N: Toasty, cinnamon and caramel oak. A cloak of expensive oak. Crushed rock mineral emerges. Brooding black fruit beneath and black tea tones. Savoury over deep black fruit
P: Ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit. Smoky oak tones and spice. H, chalky tannins. Spice. Warming alcohol. Long, but not as well integrated as Prado Enea. Needs a lot of time
Agnes Herczeg organised this tasting which I went to after my WSET presentation on Monday morning. A great opportunity for MW students to taste different sweetnesses of Tokaji wines, from fully-dry to over 200 g/L RS, from unbotrytised to 6 puttonyos, as well as different vintages going back to 2001.
I took some additional notes on the region from Agnes and from István Balassa, who joined part-way through, in addition to extensive, printed notes Agnes had compiled.
Tokaji has 5,000Ha and István believes it has 1,000 different terroirs, given the diversity of mainly-volcanic soils. This means huge potential for terroir-specific wines, that István is exploring through single-vineyard dry Tokajis. He divides his 10Ha across 11 terroirs, into 34 parcels to facilitate this.
In the 1990s, after the fall of communism, István Szepsy and others began the transformation of quality in Tokaji by selecting smaller-berry clones for Furmint, for better sweet wines. Over time, selection has created some clones more susceptible to botrytis (e.g. P26) but others with different characteristics, better suited to dry wines (e.g. T85). Therefore István Balassa believes that now, planting has to be done with the end-wine in mind: dry vs. szamarodni vs. aszú, to get the combination of rootstock, clone and trellising correct.
The difference between szamarodni and aszú is that szamarodni is made with whole bunches including ripe, dried and botrytised grapes, “as it comes”. Aszú involves making a base wine, then macerating selected aszú botrytised berries in it, before pressing then fermentation.
The choice of base wine is an interesting one: a fully-dry wine, or one still fermenting? If still fermenting, the activity of the yeast generates CO2, giving a naturally-protective layer that retains fruit precision during maceration. However, apparently this is a trade-off against likely longevity.
Pressing of the paste formed by maceration is very firm – 4 hours at up to 6 bar. Maturation is in mainly Hungarian oak from nearby forests, with some producers using new oak.
1. István Szepsy Szamarodni Tokaji 2012 (17.5 / 20)
186 g/L RS. 6.4 g/L TA. 11.5% ABV.
A: Mid gold
N: Rich stone fruit, cream, yellow peach and quince. Background botrytis spice. Honey
P: Crisp acidity. Sweet. Creamy and rich. Slight spice. Long. Sophisticated
2. István Balassa Szamarodni Tokaji Nyulászó 2013 (17 / 20)
220 g/L RS. 8.2 g/L TA. 9.5% ABV.
A: Mid lemon-gold
N: Honeycomb. Subtle spice touches. Dried yellow peach
P: Sweet. Honey. Wax. Spicier mid-palate. Light. Brisk acidity. Medium-long finish
3. István Balassa Bom Boly Furmint 2016 (16.5++ / 20)
4-5 different types of volcanic stones in the Bom Boly vineyard.
A: Pale lemon
N: Flinty / smoky volcanic nose! Greengage fruit beneath
P: Rounded texture (lees?). Firm, spicy, volcanic structure. Brisk acidity and saline
4. István Balassa Villó Mézes-Maly 2016 (16 / 20)
A: Pale lemon-green
N: Floral, creamy, greengage and quince. Vanilla touch
P: Rounded, creamy, flinty
5. Bodrog Borműhely Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2013 (17 / 20)
186 g/L RS, 9.1 g/L TA, 9.5% ABV.
A: Pale-medium gold
N: Fungal, spicy, botrytis-led. Broader / traditional. Dusty. Quince fruit
P: Spice. Crystal stone fruit. Mandarin. Crisp acidity. Honey. Rich – >180 g/L RS?
6. Grand Tokaj Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2013 (17.5 / 20)
208 g/L RS, 9 g/L TA, 9.5% ABV. Mostly Furmint and Hárslevelű with traces of Zéta, Kabar, Yellow Muscat and Kövérszőlő botrytised berries. Fermenting base wine maceration for 24 hours. Pressed and tank-fermented, then 136-500L barrel maturation for 18 months.
A: Mid-deep gold
N: Beeswax and spice. More overtly botrytised and curried. More dried fruit character
P: Focused. Spiced. Dried stone fruit. Honey and beeswax. Powerful. Longer
7. Grand Tokaj Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2013 (16.5 / 20)
170.8 g/L RS, 7.7 g/L TA, 9.5% ABV. Same blending and winemaking as 6 puttonyos.
A: Mid lemon-gold
N: Creamy oak. Flinty. Spiced marmalade tones. Honey. Fair dose of curried spice
P: Sweet-ish, but not so powerfully so. Sweet. Honeyed. Crisp acidity. Pure crystal fruit. Medium-long finish
8. Fuleky Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2013 (16+ / 20)
A: Pale-medium lemon-gold
N: Apple skin and stone fruit. Spice
P: Stony mineral. Stone fruit. Subtle, spiced apple tart and lots of finish botrytis. Sweet. Full bodied. Crisp acidity. A bit simple now
9. Patricius Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007 (16 / 20)
176 g/L RS, 7.4 g/L TA, 11% ABV. Macerated in fermenting must for 24 hours. Maturation in 220L oak barrels for 3 years. Bottled November 2011.
A: Deep gold
N: Toast, flinty-fungal spice. Lots of botrytis. Some wood spice? Wax touch
P: Rich, dense, fully-sweet. Fungal spice. Brisk acidity. Honeyed wax
10. Grand Tokaj Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2001 (18 / 20)
238 g/L RS, 8.4 g/L TA, 9.1% ABV.
A: Deep copper / amber
N: Nut brittle, ‘dry’ caramelised tones. Beeswax. Orange peel and burnt orange. Spice
P: Burnt orange, caramel and botrytis spice. Gracefully sweet and brisk. Toasted marmalade? Long
I spent a lot of time in halls 9 and 10, which included not only the New World, but Spain and Portugal. Whilst wandering the aisles of Hall 10, I passed Roda last thing one evening, but couldn’t pass-up the chance to taste their range. The next morning.
1. Bodegas Roda Rioja Sela 2015 (15.5 / 20)
95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano.
N: Primary, almost some carbonic. Red & black fruits
P: Quite rustic, firm tannins. Spicy. Background oak spice
2. Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda 2014 (16+ / 20)
Some Garnacha and Graciano.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Mocha. Cedar. Cinnamon and clove
P: Red cherry. Firm, fine tannins (M+). M+ slightly warming
3. Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2011 (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Deep, cedar-clove. Refined. Ripe black cherry and crushed rock minerality beneath. Dense
P: Full-bodied, ripe spicy, smoky black fruit. Rich, but not super-powerful. Fairly-firm, very fine-grained tannins. Long
4. Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Cirsion 2015 (17+ / 20)
Unusually 14% Graciano for acidity as a hot year; normally 100% Tempranillo
N: More floral, elegant and aromatic red and black cherry. Subtle caramel and vanilla oak
P: Black, ripe, slightly jammy fruit with vanilla overlay and spicy, mineral undertow. Firm, slightly grainy tannins. Needs 10 years
5. Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2010 (17 / 20)
N: Tobacco tones. Some VA tiredness of sample (bottom of the bottle)? Toasty oak
P: Dense black fruit. Rich. Dense, compact, fine, firm to high tannins. Power. Flinty / smoky. Pretty long. Nice
6. Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2004 (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid-deep Garnet
N: Attractive, integrated cedar, fresh tobacco and dried red & black fruits. Some earthy, forest tertiary character. Toasty. 100% clean?
P: Medium body. Truffle and earth tones over dried black fruit, mocha oak and spice. Very firm, fine tannins. Still needs 5 years before it’s ready
7. Bodegas Roda Corimbo Ribera del Duero 2013 (16 / 20)
100% Tempranillo, but younger vines
A: Mid ruby
N: Ripe, slightly jammy black cherry. Torrified oak tones and caramel. Sweet. Some cordite / minerality. More than entry level
P: Red fruit and oak spice. Some freshness, but in a ripe style. Spice. Firm, grainy tannins a little jarring
8. Bodegas Roda Corimbo I Ribera del Duero 2012 (17+ / 20)
A: Deep ruby-purple
N: Much richer, torrified and clove oak. Rich and dense
P: Full body, rich black, smoky fruit with weighty overtones of clove and spicy oak. Powerful. High, chalky tannins. Warming, but not overly so
Mikel Errasti, the owner-winemaker had connected with me on Facebook, some months before ProWein. He messaged to ask people to come and see him at his stand, so I did. Only 2 wines, but fine, brisk, flavoursome Txakoli.
1. Txakoli Zudugarai Rosé 2017 (16 / 20)
60% Hondarrabi Beltza, 40% Hondarrabi Zuri.
A: Pale salmon
N: Scented redcurrant. Crushed schist mineral. Spice touch. Some citrus
P: Racy acidity with spritz. Delicate, but salty power. Redcurrant and citrus. Light alcohol. Refreshing. Good length
2. Txakoli Zudugarai Blanco 2017 (16.5 / 20)
On lees till pre-bottling. Native yeast.
A: Pale lemon
N: Nutty, spice tones. Lemon-lime peel touches. Delicate
P: Lively acidity and spritz, apple, lemon, mineral and salinity
I also stopped in at Artadi to discuss a possible visit before the IMW Symposium and had the opportunity to taste their terroir-driven, no-longer-Rioja wines. Some pure excellence here.
1. Artadi Viñas de Gain Blanco Vineyard Selection 2014 (16.5 / 20)
10 months French oak then 2 years stainless steel.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Chalk, floral, fresh-cut apple. Delicate. Oyster shell and subtle touches of vanilla in the background
P: Bright, not brisk acidity. Rounded, ripe oyster shell, pear skin and spice. Creaminess. Medium-long to long. Rich but not oaky
2. Artadi Viñas de Gain 2016 cask sample (16 / 20)
5 parcels maximum 8km apart. 10 months in barrels.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Perfumed, blue and black fruit. Aromatic. Crushed rock. Spiced oak background tones. Primary
P: Sweet fruit entry, then lots of spice, then slightly wild, fairly-firm tannins. Some saltiness
3. Artadi Valdegines Single Vineyard 2015 (17.5 / 20)
Northern exposition in Laguardia. 10 months in non-new oak.
A: Deep ruby
N: Spice and smoky, stony minerality – powerfully mineral. Ripe black fruit beneath, but savoury style. Totally not Rioja classic style; terroir
P: Supple, peppery, firm tannins. Ripe, smoky / savoury black cherry. Spice. Mineral. Moderate acidity but some salinity. Long
4. Artadi La Poza de Ballesteros Single Vineyard 2015 (17+ / 20)
A: Deep purple
N: Marmite, almost anthracite smoky rock
P: Richer, sweeter blackberry entry. Powerful, high, rustic tannins. Smoky – almost volcanic style. Cedar oak. Powerhouse. Needs time
5. Artadi El Carretil Single Vineyard 2015 (18 / 20)
A: Deep ruby
N: More floral. Precise blackberry fruit. Focused flinty mineral
P: Red and black fruit. Precise. Still structured, firm, peppery tannins
6. Artadi Viña El Pison 2015 (18 / 20)
Vines planted 1945.
A: Deep ruby
N: Lifted, slightly jammy, blackberry and red cherry. Subtle flinty mineral. Rounded. Doesn’t jump from the glass but holds elegance
P: Perfumed, red cherry and elegance. Pure. Fairly-firm, fine tannins. Chalky, flinty minerality. Subtle, perfumed length
Again, whilst stopping-in at old favourite, La Rioja Alta, to mention a possible June visit, they showed this new addition to the line-up. Torre de Oña is their more modern-style estate.
1. Torre de Oña Rioja Reserva Martelo 2012 (17.5 / 20)
New wine, from a single plot: 95% Tempranillo, with the rest a mix of Viura, Garnacha and Graciano. 24 months in mostly American oak.
N: Creamy oak and spice. Broad red fruit, with complexity
P: Ripe and spicy; creamy oak; depth of minerality. Stylish. Long
I had previously drunk and tasted some of Kopke’s Tawnies including the 1957 Colheita and their aged White Ports. Seeing that they had a few (!) to taste, I stopped in on Monday afternoon. 19 White, Tawny and indeed 2016 Vintage Ports later… I was quite satisfied. Their winemaker joined with the colheitas, hence additional winemaking notes there.
As part of Sogevinus, Kopke has sister Port houses, Barros, Cálem and Burmester, whose 2016 Vintage Port samples I tasted, suggesting 2016 is a solid quality for Vintage Port.
In summary, Kopke’s wines are flagships for White Ports as well as for Tawnies. Serious, sophisticated and woefully undervalued. Also, it was interesting to learn that they only bottle Tawnies to order and operate to a minimum age of 10 years. That quality commitment shows.
1. Kopke 10 year old White Port (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid amber
N: Fudgy tones to preserved stone fruit. Spice. Some spirity tones, but generally very integrated. Some wood tones
P: Intensely sweet, rich, spicy, orange and preserved stone fruit. Dense, integrated and lovely
2. Kopke 20 year old White Port (18 / 20)
A: Mid amber, with green glints
N: Fudgy, spicy, cakebread. Dried peach and apricot fruit. Creamy
P: Rounded sweetness with freshness and cooked citrus. Very long, with beautifully balancing acidity
3. Kopke 30 year old White Port (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid-deep amber, green rim
N: Mahogany wood tones to hints of fudge, only dried fruit and cakebread tones. Definitely bringing the maturity
P: Polished wood, fully integrated sweetness. More powerful spice character. Less overtly sweet and becoming spiced. Long. Slightly more overt alcohol
4. Kopke 40 year old White Port (18.5 / 20)
A: Mid-deep amber, green rim
N: Mellow, polished wood and touches of rancio. Fully-integrated alcohol. Cakebread and fresh leather. Fully matured
P: Dense, intense, some cooked citrus, lots of spice, polished wood. Hugely spiced, toasted finish. Very long
5. Kopke 10 year old Tawny Port (16 / 20)
A: Pale-medium tawny
N: Oxidative – quite mature for just 10. Spirity touch is quite marked. Baked red fruits. A little simple
P: On the palate, primary fruit and some spice. Spirity. Spicy. Medium-long length
6. Kopke 20 year old Tawny Port (17 / 20)
A: Mid-depth tawny
N: Some rancio tones. Subtle cakebread. Nutty, spice character emerges. Fudge touch. Toasty oak. Dried red fruit beneath
P: Richer dried strawberry palate fruit, fudge, cakebread. Intense sweetness, pretty well balanced. Milk chocolate finish. Long, with some spicy alcohol
7. Kopke 30 year old Tawny Port (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid tawny-amber
N: Mahogany and hazelnut. Touches of rancio. Subtle cakebread. Well integrated
P: Sweet and full. Rich and powerful. Some spicy notes, but well integrated alcohol, mahogany, chocolate, background dried fruit and acidity. Bright. Long, creamy finish
8. Kopke 40 year old Tawny Port (18 / 20)
A: Mid tawny-green
N: Fully mature, somewhat VA-laced. Then lots of mahogany and old cheese rancio. Toasted wood. Old olives
P: Powerful, intense and dense, sweet, rich, integrated palate. Linear acidity holds it together. Fudge, cooked fruit, mahogany, chocolate. Wow – beats the nose. Very, very long. Creamy
9. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 2008 (16.5 / 20)
Quinta San Luis. Pick grapes with different maturity to get correct acidity. Robo-lagares to ferment Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Roriz separately. 3 years large oak, then into pipes. Rack 1-2 times / year between small and large oak, and top-up alcohol with brandy, then back to cask. Light filtration.
A: Mid-deep garnet-brick
N: Heady, brandied, lifted aromatics. Port varietal character – stems and floral tones
P: Toasty oak and cinnamon spice. Primary
10. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1998 (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid tawny
N: Fugdy, toasty – more toasted hazelnut character. Dried strawberry. Complex. Attractive. Sweetness and savouriness. Some spiritiness, but much less than the headiness of 2008
P: Sweet, but not massively so. Spiced chocolate and cakebread. Fair freshness of acidity. Nutty, long finish with dark chocolate
11. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1987 (18 / 20)
A: Mid amber with red glints
N: Walnut skin, mahogany, nut, spice. Minimal dried fruit. Cakebread and cocoa
P: Intense, powerfully sweet, with balancing acidity, lots of spice, wood, nut and chocolate. Hard to spit
12. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1978 (18.5 / 20)
A: Mid tawny-amber; green rim tinge
N: Mellow, rancio, old wood and old tobacco. Toast. Nutty spice. Residual dried mixed peel. Cakebread
P: Palate weight is also dense, but acidity holds deep sweetness. Lots of polished wood, chocolate and hints of rancio; walnut skins. Fully-integrated alcohol. Long
13. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1965 (18 / 20)
A: Mid-deep tawny, with notable rim olive
N: Subtle, fudgy, hazelnut tones. Deep, with some smoky touches. Very mellow. Touches of dried peel fruit
P: Intense but balanced dark chocolate, sweet cooked citrus fruit, spice, nut and mahogany. Incredible depth. Sweet but not sweet. Long, spicy, slightly alcoholic finish
14. Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1941 (18.5 / 20)
A: Mid amber, red tints
N: Walnut skins, rancio, toasted nuts. Fully mature and tertiary
P: Very weighty palate. Full body. Spicy spirit, toasty nutty oak. Dried mixed fruit and Christmas cake. Chocolate. Just enough acidity to hold the power together. Very long
15. Kopke LBV Port 2013 (15.5 / 20)
A: Deep black-ruby
N: Intense herbal violets, but with fresh leather tones of subtle oxidation. Hints of fresh coal smoke minerality. Deep, jammy black fruit
P: Fairly-firm tannins. Sweet, stemmy mid-palate. Bright fruit. Bright acidity. Fair length. A little lightweight on the palate
16. Porto Barros Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17+ / 20)
Tough vintage overall, but very good weather conditions at harvest, resulting in very good vintage; likely to be widely-declared. Portuguese style house. Majority Touriga Franca as a good vintage for Touriga Franca.
A: Deep black-purple, with a narrow rim
N: Floral, red and black fruits. Attractive. Primary. Ripe. Dense, some mineral but mostly floral-fruity
P: Pure and sweet blackberry and blueberry fruit; floral tones. Firm, very fine tannins with stem and schist. Warming but medium-long to long
17. Cálem Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17.5+ / 20)
30% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 10% Sousão
A: Deep black-purple, very narrow rim and very purple
N: Stem and elegantly floral. Very ripe blackberry and raspberry
P: Dense black and blue fruit, with lots of scented notes. Firm, very fine tannins. Needs time
18. Burmester Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17+ / 20)
50% Touriga Franca, 50% Touriga Nacional.
A: Deep black-purple, very narrow rim
N: Slightly fiery, red and black fruit. Lots of perfume. Some crushed rock
P: Primary floral Touriga Nacional notes. Spice, crushed rock. Fine, very firm to high tannins. Plenty of density. Will go somewhere very interesting
19. Kopke Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (18+ / 20)
100% old vine Touriga Nacional.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Totally Touriga Nacional. Not so massively aromatic, but still plenty of violet tones to rich black fruit, with crushed rock and schist mineral, and some saline notes
P: Pure, liquorice and jammy blue fruits with violet – almost violet candies – overtones on the palate. Dense. Tense. Some saline hints. M+ very fine, mouthcoating tannins and integrated alcohol. Very long
In the corner of the main Champagne producers area was the not-self-pour Champagne Lounge (without anywhere to sit, or to put a notepad…), with a broad selection of primarily small producers from across the region – though with a sizeable representation from the warmer, southerly Côte des Bar including several from Les Riceys, which was interesting to try.
I explored a few mostly new producers – except Maurice Vesselle, first encountered in 2000 [link] – with some different wines, particularly the ‘clairet’, almost pale red Champagne, which wasn’t half bad…
Near the end of the wines I was interested in, the folks mentioned a presentation starting of some organic and biodynamic Champagnes, so I joined that. This type of viticulture is challenging in Champagne, due to the cool climate and fairly high humidity so far North. Of 33,000Ha of Champagne, only 584Ha or 1.7% of the vineyard area is organically farmed, with just 132 domaines registered as organic. This number is growing however.
It was introduced by a German Champagne ambassador, who did pretty well in English (AV issues and exploding Champagne corks notwithstanding). Except when she introduced Françoise Bédel as François and kept referring to “him”…
1. Vincent d’Astrée Champagne Brut 2009 (14.5 / 20)
Co-op. 100% Pinot Meunier. 6-7 g/L dosage. 2-3 years on lees.
N: Stone fruit. Gentle toast. Red cherry tones
P: Crisp acidity, slightly raw; green apple and some stone fruit. Chalky. Some salt. Moderate length. A bit disjointed
2. Maurice Vesselle Champagne Grand Cru Brut NV (16 / 20)
N: Dense and vinous. A little oxidative. Black cherry and coffee hints
P: Dense, stone fruit and vinosity. Dry. Slightly oxidative. Flint touch. Apply finish. Not such overt lees
3. Maurice Vesselle Champagne Grand Cru Millésimé 2007 (16.5 / 20)
N: More overt toasty, biscuity lees. Flinty, oyster shell mineral
P: Extra Brut? Yes, 5 g/L. Certainly low dosage. Flinty, chalky mineral. Lean citrus. Taught and saline. Medium-long to long
4. A. Bergère Champagne Prestige Brut 2009 (16+ / 20)
50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier, 10% Pinot Noir. 7 g/L dosage. Disgorged Jun 2017.
N: Depth of toasty lees over red fruit. Stony minerality. Touch of lime peel
P: Fine, lazy mousse. Slightly oxidative stone fruit. Crisp, firm acidity. Saline green apple. Fairly-long length
5. Paul Georg Champagne Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs NV (16 / 20)
Chardonnay. c 7 g/L dosage.
N: Richly toasty lees, brioche, some fresh citrus beneath. Brisk acidity. Flinty mineral
P: Lean citrus. Some Lees richness, but linear. Fairly fine mousse. Slight sweetness to the finish. Fairly-long perfumed finish
6. Petit & Bajan Champagne Avize Blanc de Blancs Nuit Blanche Grand Cru NV (15.5 / 20)
3 g/L dosage.
N: Oxidative, giving some red fruit character. Bruised apple. Biscuit lees
P: Richness of stone fruit with some bruised flavour. Subtle lees. Fairly-long to long
7. Petit & Bajan Champagne Avize Ambrosie Grand Cru NV (16.5 / 20)
70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir.
N: Floral. Pure. Fresh dough lees
P: Fair density of palate lean lemon and flinty minerality. Firmly saline. Fairly-long to long
8. Gallimard Pere et Fils Champagne Cuvée de Réserve Les Riceys Brut NV (15.5 / 20)
7 g/L dosage. 100% Pinot Noir from Les Riceys.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Lean, green apple skin. Then honey and stone fruit emerges
P: Note of sweetness on entry. Yellow apple. Some gentle toast, but pretty simple. Not such firm acidity
9. Gallimard Pere et Fils Champagne Amphoressence Les Riceys Dosage Zero NV (17 / 20)
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. Clay amphora vinification.
A: Very pale lemon
N: More overtly toasty lees entry. Bruised apple. Nutty, with some dusty mineral
P: Precise, stony green apple. Saline. Textured. Good length. Big step up from regular NV
10. Gallimard Pere et Fils Champagne Cuvée Quintessence Elévé en Fûts de Chêne Les Riceys Extra Brut NV (16.5 / 20)
100% Chardonnay, 5 g/L dosage. 6 months in oak. 60 months on lees. No SO2 at disgorgement.
A: Pale gold
N: Oxidative apple skin and baked bread lees in the background. Reticent. Hint of spice from oak, but
very subtle – old oak?
P: More nutty oak sweetness on the palate – more overt. Gives mid-palate richness. Spiced, toasty finish with lees and oak integrated. Long
11. Alexandre Bonnet Champagne Noir Extra Brut Les Riceys NV (16.5 / 20)
A: Pale gold
N: Marked strawberry and blackcurrant fruit – almost blackcurrant leaf. Some dusty mineral and toasted lees beneath
P: Rich, fuller bodied stone fruit. Brisk not crisp acidity. Flinty. Fairly-long length
12. Charles Collin Champagne Cuvée Charles Brut NV (17 / 20)
N: Toasty lees intensity with black cherry hints beneath
P: Good intensity of stone fruit. Some grip. Stony mineral then a long, toasted-brioche finish. Fine
13. Brocard Pierre Côte des Bar Saignée de la Côte 2011 (16 / 20)
Rosé de saignée. No SO2.
A: Pale-medium ruby – ‘clairet’ style
N: Funky, natural and hay tinged notes. Sour apple and wild strawberry. Cherry kernels.
P: Grippy palate with brisk not crisp acidity. Funky. Weird but actually not bad
14. [1. bio tasting] Franck Pascal Champagne Reliance NV (17 / 20)
Marne, mostly clay and flint. Biodynamic since 2002. Use plants to add organic material and plough to open soil. MLF. No SO2. No fining, filtration or stabilisation. 60% Pinot Meunier.
A: Pale gold, lively fine bead
N: Floral, chalky, broad stone fruit – wild yeast? Toasty, minerally lees character
P: Tight palate. Flinty. Zero dosage? Lean stone fruit. Chalky texture. Long, flinty perfumed finish with brioche finish. Softens on warming
15. [2. Bio tasting] Waris Larmandier Champagne “Porte de Bas” NV (17+ / 20)
Estate is 4Ha, mostly Chardonnay in Avize but also in Côte des Bar and Montagne de Reims. This wine: 100% Chardonnay, from a single plot in Avize.
A: Pale lemon – marked greenness
N: Melon. Toasty lees. Chalk minerality
P: Chalky texture, crisp acidity, lean green apple. Precise. Flinty. Plenty of toast on finish, with some salinity. Good length. Needs time
16. [3. Bio tasting] Jeauneux-Robin Champagne Eclats de Meulière Extra Brut NV (18 / 20)
Stainless steel winemaking.
A: Pale-medium gold
N: Brioche and fresh bread less dominance. Slightly vegetal tones to otherwise fairly ripe white peach
P: Earthy mineral. Some bitter grapefruit peel tones, with lemon citrus, toasty lees mid-palate. Richness and fine, elegant balance. Some white peach at the finish. Long. Effortless
17. [4. Bio tasting] Vincent Couche Champagne Chloë NV (17 / 20)
Biodynamic since 1999; now Demeter certified. Côte des Bar on similar soils to Chablis and Montgueux on silex. Solera aged reserve wine. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier. No filtration, dosage, SO2.
N: Rich, scented stone fruit aromatics. Slightly oxidative stone fruit, with some touches of hay. Subtle bready lees. Fresh yellow apple beneath
P: More oxidative palate fruit, with some bruised yellow apple. Some toasted touches
18. [5. Bio tasting] Françoise Bédel Champagne L’Ame de la Terre 2005 (16.5 / 20)
A: Pale-medium lemon
N: Broad, oxidative honey, toast and yellow stone fruit. Dense fruit. Stony, spicy overtones.
P: Wild, oxidative mid-palate tone to stone fruit. Brisk acidity. Wild. Weighty. Hay finish. Fair length
As a négociant whose wines I have enjoyed and admired, and as a Supporter of the IMW, I was attracted to their stand, alongside the chance to taste some 2016 white Burgundies. I really had the intention just of tasting some interesting whites, but ended up doing most (all?) of their range, including some lovely reds from both Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or.
1. Domaine J. A. Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé 2016 (16 / 20)
Small estate owned by Jadot but independently run. 50% stainless steel, 50% barrel fermentation. All Fuissé fruit.
A: Pale lemon
N: Creamy oak touches over melon fruit. Some white peach. Pure and clean. Flinty
P: Pure, rich lees texture; very precise palate of melon and white peach. Floral. Good length. Lively. Well made
2. Domaine J. A. Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé Clos des Prouges Tête de Cru 2016 (16.5 / 20)
Single vineyard. Longer barrel ageing.
N: Reductive tone. Toastier, with white and yellow peach fruit. Fresh. Some pebbly stone minerality
P: Rich palate with more minerality and savoury oak expression over white peach. Longer and more dense
3. Louis Jadot Chablis 2017 (16 / 20)
Stainless steel for freshness. Contracted grapes or must.
A: Pale lemon
N: Ripe, rich, leesy apple and ripe pear. Surprisingly ripe
P: Dry, chalky texture and flinty mineral. Brisk acidity. Green apple. Leesy. Dense. Medium-long to long. Impressive but not so classical
4. Louis Jadot Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2015 (16.5 / 20)
Older 500L tonneaux maturation.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Some oak spice evident, but more earthy mineral. Nut. Cream. Subtle white peach
P: Brisk acidity, stony and flinty. Chalky texture. Some salinity. Medium-long to long
5. Louis Jadot Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2015 (17 / 20)
Limousin, tronçais oak from in-house cooperage.
A: Pale lemon
N: Creamy, integral oak. Some oyster shell. Dense, with stone fruit. Crisp. Creamy. Tense. Pure
P: Sweet-saline mix of white peach, pear and salt. Creamy finish. Long. But not that impressively dense
6. Louis Jadot Bouzeron Domaine Gagey 2016 (15.5 / 20)
Aligoté Petit Dorée clone. Stainless steel, with partial barrel maturation.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Leafy, vegetal and greengage fruit
P: Crisp acidity. Crunchy green fruit. Some creamy mid-palate touches. Flinty. Fair length
7. Louis Jadot Bourgogne Blanc Couvent des Jacobins 2016 (16 / 20)
$16 / bottle in US. Givry winery and most grapes from Côte Chalonnaise. 30-40% barrel maturation. Aiming for higher quality Bourgogne blanc. Partner with growers for consulting in vineyard and pay for grapes after sorting table. Jacobins cuvée different from regular Bourgogne.
A: Pale lemon
N: Mealy oak tones to melon fruit. Sophisticated
P: Brisk acidity, good flinty minerality and integral oak back palate. Definitely a superior Bourgogne Blanc
8. Louis Jadot Marsannay Blanc 2014 (16.5 / 20)
Fermentation and MLF in barrel, then 13 month ageing in 1/3 each 1st, 2nd, 3rd fill French oak
A: Pale lemon
N: Struck match reduction, then precise lemon-lime citrus fruit. Toasted bread and spice. Crushed rock
P: Chalky palate with lemon and white peach fruit. Salty. Powerful. A bit rustic, but plenty there. Creamy finish
9. Louis Jadot Meursault 2015 (16 / 20)
A: Very pale lemon
N: Nutty oak. Restrained for Meursault. Spiced note emerges. More reductive, struck match and toasty than buttery
P: Richer palate with creamy, more buttery texture. Rich, ripe pear and yellow peach. Nutty finish. Long-ish
10. Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Réferts 2016 (17.5 / 20)
N: Beautifully aromatic mint and fennel herb Puligny note! Delightfully integrated vanilla oak touches. Aromatic melon tones
P: Chalky, chewy entry. Flinty, stony minerality with plenty of rich melon fruit
11. Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Grande Montagne 2016 (17 / 20)
A: Very pale lemon
N: Delicate caramel and hazelnut tones over white peach. Restrained
P: Mid-weight but tightly wound, chalky textured palate. Some richness of stone fruit. Long
12. Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2016 (18 / 20)
Fully-southern exposure on mid-slope.
A: Pale lemon
N: Richly oaked entry with spice tones and stony minerality. Dense. A little baked apple to otherwise rich
stone fruit. Touch of mint
P: Weighty palate fruit – white peach, mint, celery seed aromatics. Chalky minerality and texture. Creamy oak mid-palate. Long
13. Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015 (17.5 / 20)
A: Pale lemon
N: Richer, denser stone fruit. Smoky tones to vanilla oak spice
P: Rich, full-bodied, open style. Warming, spiced tones through chalky finish. Will be ready sooner than 2016. Creamy, long finish. Fine
14. Louis Jadot Château des Jacques Clos du Grand Carquelin Moulin-à-Vent 2014 (16 / 20)
Close to windmill. E-facing?
A: Pale-medium ruby, with some purple glints
N: Scented violet notes over slightly gamey blueberry. Flinty hint
P: Bright blueberry fruit and black cherry. Furry, fairly-firm tannins. Medium-long length. Straightforward but nicely made
15. Louis Jadot Château des Jacques Morgon Côte du Py 2013 (15.5 / 20)
A: Pale ruby
N: Toasty, gamey, crushed rock tones, with vanilla-cinnamon oak. Oak tones emerge to be somewhat dominant
P: Chalky / chewy firm tannins. Very structured. Gamey red cherry. Not dense or long enough for the structure
16. Louis Jadot Volnay 1er Cru Santenots 2016 [barrel sample] (16.5 / 20)
A: Pale ruby-purple
N: Powerfully aromatic, floral blue and redcurrant. Integral toasty spice
P: Crisp acidity. Fairly-firm, fairly-fine tannins. Ripe fruit core. Good length and fairly-perfumed finish
17. Louis Jadot Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Theurons 2016 [barrel sample] (16 / 20)
A: Pale purple
N: More overt cinnamon oak. Precise griotte cherry. Nice crushed rock and spice touches
P: Crisp acidity. Red cherry. Firm, grippy tannins. Fairly-long, but needs a bit more depth
18. Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin Petite Chapelle 2016 [barrel sample] (17 / 20)
A: Pale ruby
N: Soapy, floral. Less obviously earthy, though is something at the end. Touch of barrel spice and clove oak
P: Dense red and black cherry. Spice. Earthy. Dense. Firm, peppery tannins. Needs a lot of time. Long
19. Louis Jadot Clos de Vougeot 2016 [barrel sample] (17+ / 20)
N: Animal, earth, spice, power. Minerality over black fruit
P: Chewy black cherry and spice. Firm to high, peppery tannins. Long, but will it integrate?
Friend & fellow MW, Anne Krebiehl mentioned that she was running this masterclass on behalf of the Alsace region. A pleasure to join!
1. Cave du Roi Dagobert Muscat Sélection 2016 (15.5 / 20)
A: Pale gold
N: Dry. Floral orange blossom. Some earth touches
P: Light bodied. Bright acidity, delicate floral orange peel and orange blossom. Dry. Sandy minerality. More-than-moderate length. Easy
2. Jean-Marc Bernard Riesling Grand Cru Wineck-Schlossberg 2015 (17 / 20)
Granitic soils. 11 months lees. Wild yeast fermentation.
A: Mid-gold, with green glints
N: Stony, slightly smoky lemon-lime. Peach touches. Aromatic. Expressive
P: Taught lemon-lime acidity. Chalky texture. Spice
3. Cave de Hunawihr Grand Cru Rosacker 2016 (16 / 20)
Co-operative. Triassic Muschelkalk limestone.
A: Pale lemon
N: Floral, slightly confected lime and white peach. Cool. Clean. Oyster shell, white peach and old cream
P: Dry, rounded, creamy lime-lemon
4. Gustave Lorentz Altenberg de Bergheim Vieilles Vignes 2012 (17 / 20)
A: Mid lemon-green
N: Kerosene tones to lime peel. Slatey tones
P: Lime and petrol palate. Smoky slate. Needs food. Needs ham. Spicy, long finish
5. Albert Mann Riesling Grand Cru Furstentum 2016 (16.5 / 20)
Limestone. Stainless steel fermentation.
A: Pale gold
N: Toasty lime. Lees-vegetal tones and some cool ferment pear drop touches
P: Just off-dry. Tingling acidity. Lime-lemon, vibrant fruit with toasty touches
6. Paul Zinck Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg ‘Hertacker’ 2015 (17 / 20)
10 months on lees. Hot, sunny year, so South-facing leaves were left to shade bunches and avoid sunburn.
A: Pale gold, green glints
N: Slate, toast, some white flower, lemon citrus
P: Off-dry roundedness of 5-6 g/L RS? Spiced, toasty / nutty sweet lemon and some heady stone fruit. Honey sweetness. Long and perfumed finish, though not so brisk acidity
7. Bott-Geyl Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenburg 2014 (17.5 / 20)
Biodynamic. Mixed marl, limestone, sand and clay.
A: Mid-gold, with green glints
N: Firm, smoky, bacon fat, flinty spice. Lime rind citrus. Hint of TDN
P: Dense, vibrant lime-lemon fruit. Bacon fat. Flinty, taught acidity. Needs time. Fine. Long
8. Barmes-Buecher Riesling Grand Cru Steingrubler 2015 (17 / 20)
Biodynamic. Long time on fine lees – 16 months in stainless stell on gross lees.
A: Mid lemon-green
N: Broad, wild yeast toastiness over oxidative stone fruit. Broad, floral. Then spice tones emerge
P: Ripe, rich, lemon peel and peach skin. Stony mid-palate with some mandarin and spice. Warm. Long. Powerful style
9. Wolfberger Riesling Grand Cru Rangen de Thann 2014 (16.5 / 20)
Small parcel in Rangen.
A: Mid-deep gold
N: Hugely honeyed. Powerful, rich, dense style. Surely botrytis? Wax. Preserved lemons. Stony tones. Precise
P: Powerful smokiness and ‘firm’ volcanic acidity. Masculine. Mandarin tones and botrytis ripeness. Dry – or at least dry perception. Stony and slightly salty. Expressive, though probably a bit early-maturing
10. Hugel [Schoenenburg Grand Cru] Grossi Laeue Edition Limitée 2011 (17.5 / 20)
A: Pale lemon!
N: Lime peel and chalky, youthful aromatics. Assertive but not big. Floral. Toast, touches of TDN, but a complete nose. Developing but still early in maturity curve
P: Hint of RS, but otherwise dry, stony, slatey, with dense lime and kerosene hints. Fresh. Salty. Good length, though could go a little further. Nevertheless very fine
At the end of the Alsace Riesling tasting, Anne introduced me to Thomas Boeckel, and recommended his Crémant and Sylvaner. We duly went round the corner and tasted. I was not disappointed.
Zotzenberg is in fact the only Grand Cru permitted for the normally-overlooked Sylvaner – a variety I like very much when done well, in Franken for example. It was a pleasure to taste an example. It was a greater pleasure when he opened an older vintage, to show how it develops. Very well, is the answer!
1. Boeckel Cremant d’Alsace Chardonnay Extra Brut 2016 (15.5 / 20)
Vines planted 1968 and 12 years before producing crémant. Zero dosage, c. 1 g/L RS. Disgorged Jan, a little young, but difficult to produce in recent years (2013 small; 2015 too ripe), so normally 20 months on lees but had to shorten to fill commercial gap. Full MLF to allow lower dosage.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Precise, vibrant green apple. Bright, brisk
P: Crisp, linear fruit. Precise. Apple rind. Good length with some breadiness and some flinty texture. Much finer than many crémants
2. Boeckel Riesling Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2015 (17 / 20)
A: Very pale lemon
N: Warm, baked stone tones, to mandarin rind and maybe the Italian bitter citrus fruit, chinotto. Very different. Interesting
P: Dense, medium-full bodied. Smoky, spice with a bitter chinotto twist. Textured, spicy and smoky mineral. Long
3. Boeckel Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2016 (17 / 20)
Calcareous marl in Mittelbergheim. 10 months in foudres with long fermentation into winter. Naturally 7 g/L RS.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Floral tones to ripe mirabelle and greengage – more aromatic than Franken styles. Some spice and stony tones, but more fruit-forward
P: Ripe fruit entry – off dry – but with good acidity. Richness. Density. Touch of salinity. Some sylvaner spice at the finish. Fruity, but long too
4. Boeckel Sylvaner Grand Cru Zotzenberg 2011 (17.5 / 20)
N: Dense, maturing mirabelle and ripe pear fruit. Honeyed touch. Developing beautifully and far from mature. Spiced, stony notes. Complex
P: Brisk acidity. Full body. Rounded but dry. Spiced. Rich. Stones and pear fruit. Long
Having seen Gerhard Kracher twice in a couple of weeks at 67 Pall Mall, including an excellent tasting of his extensive range of sweet wines from Burgenland (which will get written up at some point), it was ironic that he was the first familiar face I saw at ProWein. It only took me 25 more days actually to catch up with him in the Austrian hall and taste a couple of things.
Both were joint ventures. The first, a pair of Blaufränkisch wines in conjunction with Gerald Wieder. Reunion is the junior of the pair:
But I got a rough tasting note on the senior, Vision. In both cases, the tannin textures were fine-grained, whereas many Blaufränkisch wines can have furry, slightly rustic tannins. Very well handled and bodes well for the future.
The other was his Lilian and Kracher joint venture Transylvanian eiswein, which I have subsequently seen is on 67 Pall Mall’s list by the glass. Served with duck liver paté, it made a fine pairing.
1. Kracher and Wieder Vision 2015 (17++ / 20)
N: Clove oak, ripe dark fruit
P: Very firm to high, fine tannis. Long
2. Liliac and Kracher Transylvania Eiswein 2016 (16 / 20)
Feteascǎ Albǎ, Muscat, Pinot Gris. 161.5 g/L RS. 7 g/L TA. 11.5% ABV.
N: Spicy stone fruit; pure, no botrytis
P: Rich stone fruit. Brisk acidity. Fully sweet
At the end of the final day, Tuesday, I did a once-round the predictably large Italy hall. Spotting some Etna, and particularly a producer whose reputation is justified (and whose wines I first tasted in Sicilia in 2017), I stopped in at Barone di Villagrande.
Marco showed some wines, including their rare Lipari passito Malvasia, which it was great to taste again. Marco was excited by 2017 and was keen to show the Rosato as the earliest example available from the vintage; it didn’t disappoint.
1. Etna Rosato 2017 (17 / 20)
Etna Bianco will be released from Sept 2018, so not yet available. Rosato is a field-blend, co-harvested, with 90% Nerello Mascalese. Press-maceration. “Pista motti” method (if I spelled it correctly). Barrel-based white wine production after that. 100kg grapes to yield 50L wine.
A: Pale onion
N: Smoky, flinty, mineral; some touches of red fruit skin and apple beneath, but mostly savoury
P: Crisp, chalky, textured with some phenolic pickup. Steely, firm, nutty / smoky mid-palate. Saline. Needs food. Minerally and tense. Medium-long length. No messing
2. Etna Bianco Superiore 2016 (16 / 20)
Field blend with 90% Carricante. Cool, rainy harvest, so lost some aromatic density, but not complexity.
N: Moderate intensity nose; definite nutty / smoky nose. Some white fruit and touches of floral. Cream. But mostly stony, nutty mineral character
P: Brisk acidity. Mid-weight chalky, flinty palate. Delicate apple and white peach, but still plenty of salty mineral. Medium-long length
3. Etna Rosso 2014 (16+ / 20)
2 years chestnut barrel ageing then 2 years in bottle, so later release. Chestnut gives balsamic aromas and also better colour stability vs French and American oak.
A: Pale gold
N: Perfumed, balsamic-tinged (written before Marco mentioned this as a chestnut feature!), ripe & dried red cherry. Smoky tones with some wood spice
P: Dried cherry, polished wood and old leather maturity. Still pretty chewy, fairly-firm tannins. Powerful. Just needs a little more length. Minerally
4. Malvasia delle Lipari Passito (17 / 20)
2Ha in Salina. 2,500 bottles total production. Sun-dry. Berry-by-berry hand de-stemming. Make must from 90% non-raisined, then macerate the selected, raisined berries. Gentle pressing, post-maceration.
A: Deep, burnished gold
N: Raisin, Demerara sugar, flinty tones; some floral touches. Creamy touch. Deep
P: Orange peel, smoky tones, flinty. Sweet, but not massively so – crisp, balancing acidity. Minerality and some saline touches to the finish. Floral. Long. Lovely. Different