“Maresa” 2016 from Masseria Starnali. Orange or Not?

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I’ve spent the last few days with Simon Woolf, a personable and knowledgable wine writer with a particular passion for orange wines.

Now, we all know that orange wines can be rather divisive and you won’t be disappointed to know that there were plenty of in-depth discussions but also lots of friendly jibes on the subject.

Knowing that many drinkers don’t find massively tannic, powerful macerated wines to be their cup of tea, some winemakers have started maintaining “but I don’t make orange wine” even though their grapes are kept on the skins for at least part of the alcoholic fermentation.

We’ve ended up in a situation – at least here in Italy – where there’s an ‘is it or isn’t it?’ grey area and where ultimately whatever is said is based on an arbitrary decision rather than widely recognised consensus or actual facts.

As with so many other things however, time has proven itself to be a great healer because as the category becomes more established, an expert will emerge and a particular definition will prevail.

Simon’s definition (and I’m hope I’m not revealing too many secrets from his upcoming book Amber Revolution) is that you should think of an orange wine as another technique in a winemaker’s armoury.

Rather than widely accepted three, we should think of four categories.

Red wines are the result of red-skinned grapes with lengthy skin-contact maceration. Rosé wines are red-skinned grapes with barely any time on the skins. Whites are white grapes but the grapes’ skin never comes into play. Orange wines are made with white grapes and their skins were used (for an indeterminate length of time) during winemaking. Each of these different “colours” can lead to different styles of wine – some oxydised, others clean.


As it happens, I have a ton of open bottles of wine underneath my computer table this evening. (It’s one of the unavoidable consequences of organising a tasting of 215 wines!)

I was thumbing through the bottles, much as most people flick through a recipe book wondering what to make tonight, when I came across “Maresa”, a wine from Masseria Starnali in Campania.

It’s 100% Falanghina – a local white wine grape – aged only in stainless steel tanks and bottled with very few added sulfites.

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The colour, well, I would describe it as golden. It’s not a shade of amber which would scare off the uninitiated but the hue is just deep enough to raise suspicions.

Because I’ve drunk this wine with Maria Teresa and her son Luigi several times, I know that this wine has been made with a couple of days of skin-contact maceration.

Let it be said, this is a superbly elegant wine. There’s fruit – ripe bergamot, citron, and plums; and there’s salt and sapidity – surely coming from the volcanic soils and the proximity to the sea. But there’s another layer too: the maceration, albeit brief, gives structure and soul to what could have been just another crisp, mineral Italian white wine. The maceration gives a chewiness and a fullness to the mouthfeel which coats your taste buds and leaves you begging for more.

It’s also a perfect example of how a technique which doesn’t originate from that region (at least, I hope that’s not the twist in the tail of Simon’s book!) can be implemented succesfully in a place without the history.

If this is orange wine, I’m 100% on board!

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Lusenti’s Bianca Regina 2010

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I went to Venice yesterday. Had a delicious lunch at Estro (highly recommended, by the way!) and then decided to see if I could retrace my steps to a cute, little wine bar that I stumbled across in December.

Fortunately, my trusty nose / ability to find wine / sense of direction is pretty good and, even though I didn’t remember the name or address, I was able to find my way back to the Cantina Arnaldi (also totally worth the visit.)

Andrea at Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

Andrea of the Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

I actually had a secret agenda – I wanted to bring a bottle of something a little different back for my boyfriend, “A”. I asked Andrea at Arnaldi (pictured above) for a suggestion… and it turns out to have been spot on. It’s one of the most interesting wines I’ve drunk recently.


LUSENTI (Colli Piacentini DOC, Emilia) Bianca Regina 2010 Malvasia di Candia Aromatica (13.5%)

Lusenti is an organic winery and part of the VinNatur association but one that I didn’t know of before. They’re located near Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, set in a unique micro-climate between the Po river and the Apennine mountains.

Once harvested, the grapes are left for three or four days for a skin-contact maceration at controlled temperatures.

I’m actually a pretty mean girlfriend because, once I got home, I put some aluminium foil around the bottle and poured a glass for “A” to taste blind.

On first impressions, it smells sweet: lots of ripe apricot, honey, quince and fresh nutmeg. “A” got it straight away, “Malvasia!”

With a traffic-light amber colour, the wine’s vintage was harder to guess. It’s clearly relatively mature because the juice is completely in place but there’s no hint of oxidation. Timeless.

What I found particularly enjoyable about this wine is the gustatory sensations. Despite the sweet nose, the wine is almost completely bone dry. It seduces you in phases: starting with fleshy fruits and almonds, moving through tannins, acidity and mentholated freshness and finishing on a slight bitterness, very typical of skin-contact wines. Lipsmackingly moreish!


Tasted: 13th March 2017

Price: €€

Rating: ****


Lusenti website and Facebook

Domaine Milan’s MGO 3

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The Domaine Henri Milan comprises 16 hectares (40 acres) of biodynamic vineyards located due south of Avignon, in the idyllic Provence region of southern France.

In an area more commonly known for its insipid salmon-pink rosé, it’s a delight to find wines with character.

The MGO – standing for Milan Grand Ordinaire – is a blend of six different vintages and cuvées: Papillon Rouge 2014, Le Vallon 2009 / 2010 / 2011, Clos Milan 2006 and the MGO2. Continue reading

Franz Haas Moscato Rosa 2012

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According to Wine Grapes, the Moscato Rosa grape variety is an Italian cousin of the Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. It is therefore more closely related to Aleatiko than with Muscat of Hamburg (aka Black Muscat.)

It’s a curious grape because it has an above-averagely high sugar content and exhibits the typical musky aromatic characteristics that we expect from the Muscat family but it is red grape varietal local to the Trentino area in north-eastern Italy. It is relatively thin-skinned and can often be prone to rot.

You may have seen Moscato Rosa wines coming from other corners of the world. I remember trying (and liking) the very frivolous Innocent Bystander sparkling pink moscato a few years ago. This is confusing state of affairs – and totally misleading – as the true Moscato Rosa is only found in northern Italy. Any other “pink moscato” is either a blend of Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains with a dash of red wine added or a rosé de saignée made from the black-skinned Muscat of Hamburg.

Franz Haas took over his family vineyard, located in the Alto Adige, in 1986. Established in 1880, he was to become the 7th generation of his family to work these 55 hectares of vines. His main mission was apparently to increase the quality. I already knew his Pinot Noir but this was my first time trying the Moscato Rosa.

The Moscato Rosa vineyard is situated at 250m above sea level, making it the lowest at this winery, where the highest vineyard is at a startingly 1150m.

Harvest occurs before the grapes are able to overly ripen. Botrytis is not a problem here because the constant wind never lets humidity set in.

Maceration only lasts a few days. Fermentation is then prematurely stopped by reducing the temperature. The wine is racked and left in tanks to rest until bottling. It will wait another six months before being released. The estate makes between 12,000 and 18,000 btls of this wine per annum.

They recommend that it be served between 14-16 deg.


Franz Haas Moscato Rosa 2012 12%, 375ml

There is a theory that the Moscato Rosa del Trentino varietal got its name because of its strong fragrant qualities. Certainly, for this wine, it appears to be justified; the dominant aroma is one of sweet, red rose petals. Secondary characters are of Turkish Delight, cloves and orange peel. A gorgeous deep, morello cherry colour.

The palate is interesting. The soft red berry fruit notes give way to fresh litchi and sweet blood orange steeped in Christmas mulling spices. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so. After the bottle has been open for a few days, it becomes somewhat reminiscent of a very pleasant cough syrup but when fresh, the acidity and tannins hold their own nicely.

It is a substantial wine with a medium-long finish; the sugar doesn’t give in to the acidity straight away. There’s a balanced elegance to this wine that I find most beguiling. A wine for winelovers. It would lend itself well to food and be a perfect way to finish a decadent meal.

Pair with a light, delicate sweet dessert. A meringue pavlova with billous whipped cream, topped with raspberries. Alternatively, a white chocolate nest filled with strawberries, redcurrants and a hint of a mint leaf. Just an idea!

Price: €€

Rating: ****

Casa Pardet’s Cabaret Sauvignon

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It’s funny how sometimes you can spend ages thinking to yourself ‘I should really get another post on the blog.’ You can spend an hour looking at the screen but nothing comes. Other times, you can’t help it – the words just spill out.

And so, with no further ado, here is tonight’s practically blind tasting of Casa Pardet’s Cabaret Sauvignon.

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The liquid pours out of the bottle. It’s almost black.

It was the label, rather reminiscent of the Moulin Rouge heydey, that drew me in at first. Natural wine with a sense of humour, it seemed to say. In the glass, the wine has a deep red colour with a gorgeous blackcurrant hue. Also very appetising.

Before I go any further in this tasting note I should mention that this bottle was actually opened two weeks ago. It was opened, had a little poured off and then was re-corked. No more than 20% was missing. It then got put in a box and somewhat forgotten, until this evening.

On first sniff, it has curiously taken on a few funky Syrah characters. It reminds me of some of Jean Delobre’s wines (La Ferme des Sept Lunes) that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. It’s a little lighter than that though. There’s a lot of fruit, some allspice, more fruit. It’s extracted but not overly so. It was also probably more aromatic when it was first opened, but at least it smells like wine.

Moving on to the taste, it is full and fruity. Plump, lush fruit, actually. Primary characters are slightly under-ripe damson plum skin and peppery spice. Pleasant. It’s a little short, but very drinkable.

The name would lead us to believe that this is a Cabernet Sauvignon. I know nothing about this wine (it was given to me very randomly) but I would suspect that there are possibly a couple of other varieties thrown into the mix. The thing is, the tannins are present but they’re surprisingly soft. The wine has a fuzzy edge, typical for a unfiltered, unfined wine with no sulfites.

Given that the bottle has been open for two weeks, it shows remarkable freshness.

I have to be honest and admit that it’s not a wine that I would take home to my parents (i.e. probably not adapted to those with a conventional palate) but it could definitely be a crowd-pleaser amongst a young hipster crowd who are already initiated into natural wine.

I also ought to hold my hands up and confess that I have absolutely no idea what vintage this is, nor of its ABV. Neither are written on the label. I have no idea, either, as to how much a bottle like this might cost. If I put my neck out, I’d say that I’d be happy to put around 15 euros on a bottle, which for me makes it “a weekend wine.”

Price: €€ (probably)

Rating: ****

Château Leoville Poyferré 1999

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I love Christmas. I love that we eat, drink and indulge ourselves from the beginning of December until half-way through January, non-stop. Last night, continuing in this vein of absolute epicurean excess, GDwine came over for dinner.

I should actually prefix this post by explaining that for the last month, my apartment has been undergoing extensive building works. The last room to be completed is the kitchen.

Topsy-turvy doesn’t even come close to describing the current state of disarray. There’s a tower of paint pots in the bathroom, old kitchen cupboards on the balcony… It’s actually way faster to find a screwdriver or a tapemeasure than a knife or a corkscrew. Even finding objects as mundane as the salt and pepper mills turned into a critical two-person, fifteen-minute operation.

However, despite all this there was a calming voice of reason that kept the ship steady. It was this bottle of Château Leoville Poyferré 1999.

I don’t often drink Bordeaux… As you may have gathered if you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, I am most often found praising the eccentricities of natural wine. However, Guillaume knew that his task was to bring a bottle of claret and the boy did good.

It was round, it was mellow, the tannins were supple. There was ripe fruit, there was wood, and it was in perfect harmony. A classic.

Price: €

Rating: ****