Opinion, Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

Before the arrival of this wine into Dublin I have to confess that I was only distantly aware of Wente Vineyards and their home of Livermore Valley in California’s Central Coast.  The two are inextricably linked, but first here’s a map for us to get our bearings:

Livermore Valley in California

 

As you can see, Livermore Valley is at the top of the Central Coast region, across the Bay from San Francisco.  Cooling sea breezes and fogs from San Francisco Bay give the valley more significant diurnal temperature variation, helpful for producing quality wine.

Although not that well known today – in Europe at least – grapes were first planted in Livermore in the 1840s, before the Bordeaux Classification of 1855 and well before phylloxera devastated European vineyards.

There was a flurry of winery openings in the 1880s, with Cresta Blanca Winery in 1882 followed by Concannon Vineyard and Wente Vineyards in 1883.  Colcannon and Wente are still in operation today, with Wente being the biggest.  In fact, it was Wente who ended up buying the land that Cresta Blanca had used and replanted it after decades of being barren.

Livermore Valley’s influence on Californian wine extended beyond its immediate borders:

  1. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grown there originated from vine cuttings taken from Château d’Yquem
  2. Livermore was the first area in California that labelled wines by their variety
  3. As one of the oldest places planted to Chardonnay, it is the genetic source of 80% of Californian Chardonnay

Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards are proud of their status as “the country’s longest, continuously operated family-owned winery”.  They have now reached five generations of family winegrowers:

  1. Carl H. Wente founded the vineyard with the purchase of 47 acres in 1883
  2. Ernest Wente imported Chardonnay cuttings from Montpellier in 1912 and established the Wente Clone.  His brother Herman Wente helped to found the California Wine Institute in 1936
  3. Karl L. Wente joined the business in 1949 and greatly expanded US and international distribution.  He also expanded the family’s holdings into Arroyo Secco (Monterey)
  4. Eric, Philip and Carolyn Wente took over management of the business in 1977
  5. Christine, Karl, Jordan, Niki and Aly Wente hold various positions in the business

Not content to simply fall back on with their long history, Wente are also embracing the future with the first ever virtual wine tasting accessed through Alexa or Google.

In addition to producing wine the estate also features a restaurant, 18 hole golf course and concert venue.  But it’s the wine that matters most to us!  The Wente wine portfolio consists of several ranges.  In approximate order of most to least expensive they are:

  • The Nth Degree
  • Small Lot
  • Single Vineyard
  • Wente Winemakers Studio
  • Estate Grown

It’s not unusual for Estate wines to be the top range in a producer’s portfolio, so this indicates a high quality level.  To evaluate this theory we now turn to a specific wine from the Estate Grown range.

Disclosure: This bottle was kindly provided as a sample

Wente Morning Fog Livermore Valley Chardonnay 2018

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay from Livermore Valley

The Wente Vineyards “Morning Fog” Livermore Valley Chardonnay is made by fifth generation Karl Wente.  Its name evokes the fogs that roll across San Francisco Bay and into the east-west trained vines of Livermore Valley.  Various Wente Chardonnay clones are used, including “Old Wente” which have been propagated without going though heat treatment at UC Davis.  Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately.

After the grapes are pressed the must is split into two parts: 50% is fermented in old American oak and 50% is fermented in stainless steel tanks.  The barrel fermented portion remains in those containers for five months and undergoes monthly lees stirring.  The Inox portion is split further; half remains on its lees and receives bâtonnage while half is racked into clean tanks.  All vessels are then blended together before bottling.

When poured the wine is lemon, not as deep as some other (more oaky) Chardonnays.  It’s highly aromatic on the nose – helped by 2% Gewürztraminer – full of toasty, leesy notes and fresh citrus.  The palate is fresh and clean, but with lovely texture.  Unlike some Cali Chardonnays, the texture doesn’t get in the way of the wine or stand out awkwardly, but rather comes along for the journey.  There’s a fine mineral streak through the wine and a fresh finish.

Overall this is a very well put together wine, rising above many confected and manufactured rivals at this price point.

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €27
  • Stockists: Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Jus de Vine; Lotts and Co; Martins Off Licence; McHughs Kilbarrack and Malahide; Mitchell and Son Glasthule and CHQ; Nectar Wines, Sandyford; Power & Co Fine Wines; Sweeney’s D3; Redmonds of Ranelagh; The GrapeVine, Glasnevin; The Wine Pair; Thomas’s Foxrock
Single Bottle Review

Offley Drinkable Port

Vintage Port is the pinnacle of the Port quality tree, only made in the best years and very rarely in two successive years.  It’s a wine made for the long haul, able to last for several decades and often entering its peak drinking window after one or two.  The drawback is, however, that it is often unapproachable in its youth.  A very small proportion of wine drinkers buy bottles to drink a decade hence, leaving Port producers with something of a dilemma.

A few months ago I attended a zoom masterclass with Luís Sottomayor, winemaker at Offley Port and Casa Ferreirinha (I have already written about the latter’s Vinha Grande Branco and Tinto here).  Luís gave an overview of the 2018 harvest and the background to the 2018 Vintage Port: Spring 2018 was wet and the Summer not particularly hot.  The harvest started earlier than usual in mid September, but was done very slowly as maturity was quite uneven.  Overall 2018 was similar to the 2016 vintage apart from a slightly hotter summer in ’16.

The principal varieties used are Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cão.  To make this Port more approachable the proportion of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) was increased; it has a high level of tannins but they are soft.

The grapes were foot-trodden in traditional lagars for maximum flavour and colour extraction without bitter phenolics.  Normal corks are used as, in Luís’s considered opinion, they are the best closure for ageing.  The wines have great body, acidity and structure making 2018 a classic Port vintage, though the crop was small.  Luís characterises it as a fairly simple wine, easy to understand, drinkable when young but capable of ageing for decades.

Offley Vintage Port 2018

It might be approachable but this Vintage Port is opaque in the glass, as it should be.  The nose has intense, rich black fruits, lifted aromas including spice and balsamic notes.  The palate shows both red and black fruits, balsamic notes, chocolate, all kept fresh by good acidity.  It’s a very generous but not overwhelming wine; it flows straight down without having to chew.  Perhaps this is Goldilocks’ Port?  Not too sweet, not too tannic or dry, not a blockbuster, but not too light.  In a word, accessible!

Luís recommends drinking with cheese or – as the locals do – with Feijoada, a Portuguese black bean and meat stew.

  • ABV: 20.0%
  • RRP: €78.99
  • Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie
Single Bottle Review

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

Our first born child arrived in September 2011, and rather than just buy a case of wine for him (or us) to enjoy when he reached his majority I decided to buy a wine I could enjoy around his birthday every year as a toast to another year on earth.  In the end I settled (!) for one of Australia’s iconic white wines, generally regarded as Australia’s best Riesling: Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling.  Normally I enjoy the wine so much that I completely forget to make notes, but this year at least I did write a brief tasting note.

Grosset established his eponymous winery in the small town of Auburn in 1981.  Auburn lies at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, a Nelson (111) km north of Adelaide and 25km south of the town of Clare.  The Polish Hill vineyard lies at 460 metres, covers eight hectares and is certified organic.  The soil is rocky and low in fertility making the vines work hard.  Winemaking is straight forward, trying to retain as much of the fruit’s character as it becomes wine.

Famously tight when young, the wine is made from small berries, a stark contrast to the larger grapes which grow in the Watervale sub-region of Clare Valley for Grosset’s other key Riesling, Springvale.  Acidity is high and in its youth there are pronounced chalky characteristics.  Indeed, you might say that (in most vintages) this is a wine for purists, but given time (and good care) it can blossom into something truly magnificent.

Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2011

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: how dry or sweet is this Riesling?  Well, Clare Valley Rieslings are nearly always dry – Grosset’s Alea Riesling is an exception to that rule – and by dry I mean technically dry, i.e. the yeast could not ferment any more sugar into alcohol, leaving just 0.9 g/L.

It pours a bright lemon in the glass; I expect that it was paler on release, though I didn’t have a young equivalent to compare it to.  The nose is amazing – I could happily sniff it for hours.  There are chalky mineral notes, of course, plus lifted lime, quince and grapefruit.  There are no real kerosene notes yet, with the TDN¹ compound not present.

The palate is surprisingly soft and juicy, full of citrus with a soft chalky texture.  The softness doesn’t mean it’s gone flabby – far from it, with literally mouth-watering acidity – but any austerity it had in its youth is firmly discarded.  This is a classy, long and serene wine, nicely into the swing of things at nine years old, but with plenty to go yet.  Yes it’s far from cheap, but for this quality and ageability it’s a very fair price to pay.

 

Latest vintage available in Ireland is 2019.

¹TDN stands for 1,1,6,-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronapthalene, apparently

Single Bottle Review

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Chardonnay 2017

I introduced the wines of Dorigo – an exciting and innovative producer in Friuli – in a previous post on their Pignolo.  Pignolo is just one of their many wines, based on many rare local grapes as well as some better known international varieties.  Their range extends over four lines which are fairly self-explanatory:

  • Prestige: Chardonnay, Ronc di Juri, Montsclapade, Rosso Dorigo, Pignolo 
  • Colour: Pinot Grigio, Pinorigo, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon, Friulano, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Refosco, Schioppettino
  • Sweet: Picolit, Verduzzo
  • Perlage (traditional method sparkling): Dorigo Brut, Blanc de Noir, Blanc de Blancs

The winery was founded by Giralamo Dorigo in 1966 when there was very little wine – and even less quality wine – made in the eastern hills of Friuli, close to Italy’s border with Slovenia.  Today, the baton has been passed to his son Alessio who continues his father’s work.

In contrast to the very rare Pignolo, we now turn to another of their wines made from a more common grape – Chardonnay:

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali “Ronc di Juri” Chardonnay 2017

As you may have noticed from the information above, Chardonnay is one of Dorigo’s five Prestige bottlings – and probably my favourite grape, so it was likely to receive a good reception chez Frankly Wines.  However, its relative lack of rarity and ease of production mean that its price is much more modest (see below).

Grapes are all hand picked at full ripeness (one of the guiding principles of Dorigo’s wine making).  Triage of bunches ensures that only the best fruit is used.  Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation take place in a mixture of new and one-year old French oak barrels.  The wine is matured on its lees – with bâtonnage four times a week – for a total of ten months, before blending and bottling.

This Chardonnay pours a light gold colour in the glass.  There are intense aromas of freshly squeezed orange juice on the nose, including all the pulp and pith.  I didn’t do a comparison there and then, but it wasn’t somewhat reminiscent of fresh OJ, it was just like fresh OJ!  The palate shows lovely vanilla, buttered toast and orchard fruits.

I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed this to be a Chardonnay tasted blind…I might possibly have stabbed at a high end Godello such as As Sortes.  Perhaps it’s the lightness and freshness despite the oak cloak which make this Chardonnay different from the norm.

Dorigo give “ten years and more” as their ageing estimate for this wine.  To be honest, although delicious at the moment, I think it still has a way to go before hitting its peak.  I can’t wait!

 

Single Bottle Review

Gustave Lorentz Pinot Blanc

When I received the list of the wines to be included in the SuperValu French Wine Sale, the wine I was most keen to taste was this Pinot Blanc.  Why?  Well because it’s from Alsace, of course!  And not only that, it’s also a wine I haven’t tried from a producer that I rate.  This is one of ten “special guest wines” which are available on a limited basis only during the event which runs for three weeks from 3rd to 23rd September.  For the first two weeks there is also an additional €10 off any six bottles – so get them while they last!

Disclosure: this bottle was kindly sent as a sample, opinions remain my own

Gustave Lorentz Pinot Blanc Réserve 2019

The Lorentz family can trace their origins in Alsace back to the 1650s, moving to Bergheim in 1748.  Maison Lorentz was founded in 1836 and this is the date which adorns their bottles.  The current custodian of the family estate is seventh generation Georges Lorentz.  Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim is the jewel in their crown – they own 12.8 out of the total 35 hectares.  Grand Cru Kanzlerberg is less than a tenth the size at just hectares – it’s the smallest in Alsace.

The Maison produces a huge array of wines (see below) across a total of 33 hectares, including the two Grand Cru sites, several Lieux Dits and other terroirs close to Bergheim.  I reviewed L’Ami des Crustacés blend two years ago and loved it (see here) and have had several bottles of the Riesling Réserve over the past few years and enjoyed its chalky minerality.  Now we turn to another wine from the Réserve range, Pinot Blanc.

As you may know, wines sold in the EU have to contain 85% of more of a variety if they are labelled as such.  However, there is an exemption for Alsace Pinot Blanc as it can be made with anything up to 100% Auxerrois Blanc.  For centuries Auxerrois was thought to be a type of Pinot, and was often called Pinot Auxerrois.  However, DNA testing showed that it is actually the offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, and therefore a full sibling of Chardonnay.  Pinot Blanc is just a colour mutation of Pinot Noir – and the two can be difficult to distinguish genetically.

As Crémant d’Alsace has become increasingly popular, much of the true Pinot Blanc grown in Alsace has been diverted from still wine production to sparkling.  Thus Auxerrois has become a growing component in Pinot Blanc-labelled wines, here accounting for 65% with the balance Pinot Blanc.  In the glass it’s a pale lemon in colour.  The nose has upfront peach and pear with a strong mineral streak, backed up by citrus elements – there’s a lot going on!

These elements return on the palate but are joined by red and green apples, with the citrus resolved as lemon and grapefruit.  There’s a juicy, almost voluptuous mid palate and a very long, crisp finish.

Even as an Alsace fanatic and Pinot Blanc lover this wine exceeded my expectations.  It’s a versatile white wine that could be served as an aperitif or with many types of food, yet tasty enough to enjoy on its own.  At its normal price this is good value but at the offer price it’s an absolute steal!

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.68 down to €11.80 from 3rd to 23rd Sept (plus buy any 6 bottles save €10 from 3rd to 16th Sept)
  • Stockists: SuperValu stores and supervalu.ie

 


The Gustave Lorentz range of wines:

    • Grands Crus: Kanzlerberg (Riesling), Kanzlerberg (Pinot Gris), Altenberg de Bergheim (Riesling), Altenberg de Bergheim (Pinot Gris), Altenberg de Bergheim (Gewurztraminer)
    • Lieux-Dits: Burg (Riesling), Schofweg (Pinot Gris), Rotenberg (Gewurztraminer), La Limite (Pinot Noir)
    • Réserve: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner
    • Cuvées Particulières: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir (oaked)
    • Évidence (organic & vegan): Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir
    • Special wines & blends: Fleurelle (Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner), Pinot Noir Rosé, L’Ami des Crustacés (70% Pinot Auxerrois, 30% Pinot Blanc)
    • Crémants d’Alsace: Brut Blanc, Brut Rosé, Zéro Dosage
    • Sweeter wines: Riesling Vendanges Tardives (VT), Gewurztraminer VT, Muscat (VT), Pinot Gris (VT), Riesling Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN), Gewurztraminer SGN, Pinot Gris SGN

 

Information, Single Bottle Review

Pignolo, The Lazarus Grape

Have you heard of Pignolo?  I hadn’t until recently – when I tasted the wine below) – though I since spotted it in one of my friend Cara Rutherford’s posts.  Now I could be forgiven for this as I’m no expert on Italian wines, though Pignolo does feature as one of Jancis, Julia and José’s 1,368 Wine Grapes.  However, it nearly disappeared after its native Friuli was ravaged by phylloxera over a century ago, and it was forgotten about; low yielding vines and susceptibility to powdery mildew put it at a disadvantage when it came to replanting.

Fast forward to the 1970s and Pignolo vines were found (on their own rootstocks) at the Abbey of Rosazzo.  Cuttings were taken from these hundred plus year old vines and a new vineyard planted by Girolamo Dorigo (no relation to the former England footballer Tony Dorigo, to the best of my knowledge).  Other producers in Friuli have since planted Pignolo so that a tiny 20 hectares in 2000 had grown to (a still modest) 93 hectares in 2010 (let’s not ask about 2020 just yet!)

I had the opportunity to taste Dorigo’s Pignolo earlier this year and I was astounded at its expressiveness and quality:

Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Pignolo 2015

Pignolo

 

On pouring it shows a medium intensity, more red than black, and a lighter garnet towards the rim.

The nose is just amazing.  Firstly there is new oak, not as you would typically find it in a wine’s aromas, but rather more like being in a Médoc chais.  If you’ve ever had the chance to be in such an establishment the oak is lifted, intertwined with evaporating alcohol from the wine.  Freshly made milk chocolate and lightly roasted coffee and exotic spices (so exotic, in fact, that they are hard to pin down!)

The aromas continue through to the palate, though the oak is a little more pronounced now but fresh raspberries, cranberries and alpine strawberries have joined the fray.  The palate is super-smooth, with gentle tannins just hovering in the background.  Acidity is firm but not intrusive, just giving a fresh aspect to the ripe fruit flavours.

This is still a very young wine, especially in magnum, which will develop gracefully over the next few decades.  Even in this youthful stage, I have to include it among the top five wines I’ve ever tasted and declare it as the best nose on any red wine I’ve tasted, ever.  This wine is made in very small quantities but if you ever get chance to enjoy a bottle chais vous (you see what I did there?) then you owe it to yourself to snap it up!

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €60 bottle / €120 magnum
  • Stockists: Deveney’s of Dundrum (magnum)

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Rolly-Gassman Alsace Pinot Gris VT 1996

Rolly Gassmann
Rolly-Gassmann tasting room (Credit: Pays de Ribeauvillé & Riquewihr)

Rolly-Gassmann is based in Rorschwihr, a small Alsatian village close to Ribeauvillé; a ten minute drive along the D18 takes you past André Kientler on the outskirts of Ribeauvillé and close to Gustave Lorentz and Marcel Deiss in Bergheim.  Even amid Alsace’s highly diverse soil types Rorschwihr is something of an extreme case; the faultline that passes through the village created 21 different soil types, and so there are lots of small climats with their own peculiarities and specificites.  These are so important to the local vignerons that, when the powers than be tried to amalgamate them into larger plots for grand cru classification purposes, they refused and said that “either there would be 12 Rorschwihr Grand Crus or none at all”.  So none it is!

Rolly-Gassmann’s Domaine dates back to 1611 but the current name is decades rather than centuries old after two wine families became intertwined through marriage.  The estate includes 40ha in Rorschwihr plus 10ha in Bergheim, all run on organic and biodynamic lines.  Despite the lack of grands crus, there are lots of lieux-dits belonging to the domaine, each suited to a certain grape variety.

  • Silberberg – Riesling
  • Kappelweg – Riesling
  • Pflaenzerreben – Rieslings
  • Rotleibel – Pinot Gris
  • Oberer Weingarten – Gewurztraminer
  • Stegreben – Gewurztraminer

Rolly-Gassmann is well known among Alsace cognoscenti but aren’t seen outside France that much; it transpires that only around 20% of sales are exports, and that the domaine has a large cellar of bottles including many older vintages, so well worth a visit.

The bottle I review below was a very kind gift from my good friend Peter Dickens.  I had saved it for a special occasion and shared it with my wife last weekend, though didn’t manage to take a photo before the bottle was whipped off to recycling (first world problem, I know) so I even nicked Peter’s photo!

Rolly-Gassman Alsace Pinot Gris Rotleibel de Rorschwihr Vendanges Tardives 1996

Rolly Gassmann Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 1996
Credit: Peter Dickens

When you open a bottle of white wine that’s over twenty years old there’s a definite pang of nervousness: will it be totally oxidised? corked? vinegar?  While good Alsace Pinot Gris definitely benefits from a bit of bottle age it’s not normally regarded as having the longevity of Riesling.  This bottle had also been in and out of the wine fridge several times as it was going to be opened on a few previous occasions .

But thankfully the wine was amazing!  Not even a cracked cork!

Vendanges Tardives (VT) is the Alsace term for “late harvests”, a sweet wine from grapes that are left on the vine for several weeks after the regular harvest so that they continue to ripen and produce more sugar.  Rotleibel de Rorschwihr is the name of the lieu-dit, literally meaning “red soil” – which I imagine includes plenty of iron oxide – that are perfect for the extravagance of Pinot Gris.

And extravagant this wine is – so powerful yet fresh, full of ripe tropical fruits, ginger, cinnamon, honey and marmalade.  It’s a sweet wine without any hint of flabbiness, and one that could happily pair with certain main courses as well as desserts.  The complexity is mindblowing.

Thanks again Peter for an amazing wine!

 

 

Single Bottle Review

Remelluri “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva 2012

While the Remelluri estate’s origins hark back over six hundred years, the Rodríguez family’s involvement started relatively recently in 1967 when Jaime Rodríguez bought the key vineyards.  They lie on the high slopes of the Sierra de Toloño mountains – at a high altitude, but with a  southerly exposure and protected from overly harsh weather.  Significant diurnal temperature swings help the grapes to become fully ripe yet retain flavour and acidity.

Chemicals have never been used in the vineyards but the organic approach has been extended to a holistic system; far from being a monoculture, the estate has fruit groves and hedges to maintain a natural balance.

After decades spent raising the bar in Rueda, Ribero del Duero and Galicia, prodigal son Telmo Rodríguez returned to Rioja in 2010 and set about further developing the Remelluri estate.  Amongst his initiatives are reexamining old training systems and evaluating the best variety for each specific plot and microclimate.

There are currently five wines in the Remelluri range:

  • Remelluri Blanco
  • Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de San Vicente’
  • Lindes de Remelluri ‘Viñedos de Labastida’
  • Remelluri Reserva
  • Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva

The two Lindes wines are made from the grapes of growers in the surrounding villages.  Now we turn our attention to the top wine in the stable:

Remelluri “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva 2012

Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva 2012

The “Granje Remelluri” Gran Reserva is made only in the best years, and then only in very small quantities.  The blend for 2012 breaks down as 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha and 5% Graciano.

The vines selected for the Gran Reserva vary in age from 40 to over 90 years old and are at elevations between 480m and 705m.  Vinification takes place in small wooden vats with ambient yeasts, followed by maturation for 24 months in a variety of seasoned oak vessels from 225L barriques up to 2,000L foudres.  After bottling the wine is kept in Remelluri’s cellars for a further five years before release.

This is an epic, immense wine still in the early stages of youth.  The nose has a cornucopia of fruit: blackberries, plums, black cherries and wild strawberries joined by cedar, exotic spice and vanilla from the oak.  It is warming and powerful in the mouth, with dark fruits and vanilla, yet with elegance and freshness.  No shrinking violet this, it’s a substantial wine that would be best with hearty food now or to be kept for the long haul.  If I had the spare readies I’d be opening one every couple of years.

Single Bottle Review

Pentagons and Pyramids: Mazzei Vermentino

It was said – by Jancis Robinson if my memory serves me well – that the vignerons of the Médoc are glad to put white Graves on the table when a dish calls for white wine so that they don’t have to resort to serving Burgundy.  The same dilemma faces the producers of Tuscany; with so much red wine made, what whites should be served?  One answer is Vernaccia di San Gimignano, but many now turn to Vermentino as a fresh white wine.

This variety is well established in southern France and north western Italy – including the major islands of Corsica and Sardinia – under several different names:

  • Rolle in Provence, especially around Nice (a former Italian county)
  • Favorita in Piedmont
  • Pigato in Liguria
  • Vermentino in Sardinia, Corsica, Languedoc-Roussillon and Tuscany

Vermentino can be used in a Tuscan DOC wine -Colli di Luni which crosses the border into Liguria – but often features in IGT Toscana.  Here’s one I tried recently and really enjoyed:

Disclosure: bottle was kindly supplied as a sample, but opinions remain my own

Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Vermentino di Toscana 2018

mazzei vermentino

Mazzei is of course best known for its excellent Chianti Classico wines (see my reviews of the Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2012 and 2015).  However, although the climate of northern Siena is perfect for Sangiovese, it is too warm for fresh white wines.  Hence, Vermentino is usually grown in the Province of Grosseto, close to the cooling sea breezes of the Tyrrhenian.

Provinces_of_Tuscany_map
Provinces of Tuscany (Credit: Norman Einstein)

This Vermentino is a complex wine.  The nose has some smoky reduction followed by ripe grapefruit, peach and a hint of mango.  It’s the sort of nose that unrolls as a story for your olfactory senses.  Those smoke and fruit notes follow through to the palate where they are joined by fresher fruit – quince and lemon – and a mineral core.  The finish is a little coy, but very long and fresh.

With average alcohol (12.5%) and both fruit and clean aspects to it, this is a delicious and versatile wine that would be great with a wide range of foods or simply as an alternative to Chablis style wines.

PS: the title Pentagons and Pyramids refers to the shape of Vermentino’s leaves and grape bunches, respectively.

Single Bottle Review

Classic and Classy: Fritz Haag Riesling

My love for Alsace wines – especially its Rieslings – is without parallel, yet even I am forced to concede: Other Rieslings Are Available!  Given the grape’s Germanic origins and it’s position as the most widely planted grape there (23% of vineyard area as of 2015) it is only fair to look to Germany.  Of all Germany’s 13 wine regions, for me the most synonymous with quality Riesling is the Mosel.

The Mosel wine region had SaarRuwer appended to its name until 1st August 2007, and those two names still account for two of the six Mosel Districts (Bereiche).   Also, adjacent to Luxembourg, the Obermosel and Moseltor Districts are home to modest wines – still and sparkling – made from Elbing and other “lesser” grapes.  The final two Mosel Districts are the most important.  The Berg Cochem District is also known as the Terraced Mosel (Terrassenmosel) as many of its slopes are incredibly steep and are terraced so that they can be worked.  The final District is Bernkastel which includes the famous sundial vineyards.

The Haag family have run their estate in Brauneberg, Bernkastel District,  since 1605.  I have previously reviewed their Brauneberger Juffer Grosses Gewächs Riesling and Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel.  Now I turn to their “entry level” dry Riesling.

Disclosure: bottle was kindly given as a sample, opinions remain my own

Fritz Haag Mosel Riesling Trocken 2018

fritz-haag-riesling-trocken

Weingut Fritz Haag hand pick their Riesling grapes for this wine from their slate-soil vineyards around their home base of Brauneberg.  Fermentation takes place in both large wooden vats (for a touch of roundness) and stainless-steel tanks (for freshness).  As many who are fluent in wine know “Trocken” means dry in German, so the fermentation is not stopped early to make the wine sweet (although Fritz Haag does make some brilliant sweet wines).

This estate Riesling pours a light lemon in the glass.  The nose is full of citrus with lifted mineral tones – and unmistakable Riesling character.

The measured residual sugar is 7.5 g/L which would be creeping into off-dry territory for some grapes, but set against this Riesling’s acidity it merely tames the zing a little and brings out the fruitiness of the wine.

On the palate we find fleshy lime, grapefruit and peach combined – you don’t taste them individually but there’s a new super-fruit that combines all their characteristics!  Light and lithe, a wine that dances on your tongue before disappearing down your throat.  Once in your stomach it sends a direct signal to your brain for another taste!  The finish is dry as you’d expect from a Trocken wine, but the fruit sweetness in the mid-palate banishes any thoughts of this being too dry.

The TL;DR review: tastes of deliciousness!

  • ABV: 12.0%
  • RS: 7.5 g/L
  • RRP: €23
  • Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf wines; F.X. Buckley Victualler & Grocer; Jus de Vine; McHugh’s Off-Licences, Kilbarrack Rd & Malahide Rd; Nectar Wines; The Vintry; The Wine Pair; Sweeney’s D3; Avoca Ballsbridge; The Corkscrew; Deveney’s Dundrum; D-SIX Off Licence; Drink Store Stoneybatter; Grapevine, Dalkey; La Touche, Greystones; Lotts & Co.; Martins Off Licence; Terroirs, Donnybrook