In The Vineyards With: Isabelle & Jean-Yves Vantey (Les Rouges Queues, Maranges, Burgundy)

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It was on one distinctly grey and damp afternoon in late January that our car wound its way through the vineyards of Burgundy, up towards the small area of Maranges, just south of Beaune.

I was with two of the Maule brothers (producers of natural wine in the Veneto) accompanying them as a translator and willing drinking companion on a short road trip through France.

Maranges is one of the lesser known appellations in Burgundy. Strictly speaking, it’s a Village Appellation in the southernmost point of the Côte de Beaune, and within it are 7 Premier Crus. (These 7 climats are: Clos de la Boutière, Clos de la Fussière, La Fussière, Le Clos des Loyères, Le Clos des Rois, Le Croix Moines, Les Clos Roussots.) Continue reading

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

Backstage at the Soavino Wine Tasting

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Earlier this week, Soavino held their annual tasting at the Villa Gritti, near Soave. Not having a restaurant, wine bar or off-licence, I shouldn’t really have been allowed in but I am a regular client of their enoteca (also near Soave) and I also happen to be friends with several of the exhibiting winemakers who put me on the guest list.

In the wine world, we sometimes get so caught up in tasting notes and comparing vintages that we forget about what is happening backstage, on a human level….

mel_danielaChampagne’s most recent power couple!

You may remember that I spent the afternoon with Melanie Tarlant at their winery near Épernay last year. Well, there’s news, hot off the press:

She met Daniel Romano quite by chance, while she was presenting her family’s Champagnes at the Villa Favorita tasting in Italy in April 2016. Daniel, an accomplished sommelier specialised in natural wines, stopped by the stand to taste… and Cupid shot them both with his arrow! Daniel moved to France at the end of 2016 in order to be closer to Melanie. Best of luck to both of them!


Going back to basics with Olivier Varichon

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The quality of the cork closure is fundamentally important for a winemaker. A bad cork can ruin a year’s worth of work in an instant.

We commonly talk about TCA (cork taint) affecting a wine, by making it “corked”, but a bad cork can actually spoil a wine in other ways… turning it bitter, flat or dusty.

When winemakers get together, one of the questions that I hear the most is: where do you get your corks? Amongst old world winemakers, the most highly respected regions are Portugual and Sardinia.

At the Soavino tasting, I got chatting to Olivier from Domaine Vinci, in the Roussillon (south-west France.) He explains that his corks are from the French part of the Basque country and are completely untreated. A cork manufacturer may add wax to fill in the holes and give a more appetising tan colour to the final product. Olivier’s, on the other hand, are distinctly knobbly and have a bleached white colour.


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The talented Axelle Machard de Gramont whose 2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges are showing beautifully.


In case you were wondering what the featured photo was in the header of this blog post…. it was taken during a brief pause on the André Beaufort stand. The Italians love Champagne and André Beaufort’s are one of the biggest sellers at the Soavino shop. Unsurprisingly, they got through a ton of bottles at this tasting.

Many of the Beaufort Brut Champagnes have a fairly high level of added sugar (dosage, in French.) The exact level ranges between 5 and 10 grams/litre.

Having a little extra sugar helps in markets like the USA, Canada and other “newbie” consumers for whom completely bone-dry Champagnes tend to be too sharp.

Réol (pictured below) is the 6th of the eight Beaufort children. He explains that this style of Champagne is very much to his father’s liking, especially because he has found that dosage helps with the ageing process of the wines.

He comes over to talk with us later and reveals that his personal style is rather more towards having a lower dosage, maybe around 2g/l. Obviously, having such a large family – most of whom are in some way involved in the family business – you can’t always get what you want… but, once again, the passing from one generation to the next is not easy.

Réol Beaufort

Anna & André Durrmann Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2012

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy a Snow Day. If you’re not familiar with the term, a Snow Day is when you’re able to call your boss and say “Can’t come into work today – I’m snowed in.”

The thing is, having been self-employed for just short of three years now, there is no boss to call and justify my absence.

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Walking through the snowy Soave vineyards with the puppy.

With this wintery weather, however, the road to Castelcerino was under considerable snow, making the decision to stay by the warm fire at The Boy’s house a very easy one.

While he went off to work (he, woe betide, couldn’t use the same excuse) and because his supply of teabags was already at a dangerously low level, I decided to do the responsible thing and open a bottle of wine instead!

It just so happened to be a wine from Alsace, in eastern France, and more specifically a Riesling from the Durrmann family’s Grand Cru Wiebelsberg.  Continue reading

In The Cellar With: Alessandro Maule (Veneto)

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The name “Maule” is one of the most evocative for natural wine in the Veneto, north-east Italy.

angiolino maule pico label

The story starts in the late 1980s when Angiolino Maule and his wife buy a small farm-holding of six hectares and start making little-to-no-intervention wines. This small farm-holding, near Gambellara (just east of Soave), included the house La Biancara which subsequently lent its name to the winery.

Famiglia #vinnatur @alice.feiring @filippisoave #angiolinomaule #wine2wine @paolagiagulli @burntcream_hq

A post shared by Paola Giagulli (@paolagiagulli) on

 

Even from the very beginning, Angiolino had a clear idea of how he wanted to make wine (putting nature first and not pumping it full of commerical yeasts, enzymes and the like) but found that his vision was leaps and bounds ahead of the market. Continue reading

Harvest 2016: The Final Week

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We are (finally!) approaching the end of Harvest 2016, up here in Castelcerino, in the Soave hills. It’s been by far the longest harvest that anyone here at the winery can remember. Since the 1st September, between 3 and 6 people have been hand-harvesting the 15 hectares, meticulously arranging the precious bunches of grapes into small boxes.


Looking Back Over Harvest 2016

The Preparations – starting the yeast pied-de-cuve.

Early September – at the beginning of the harvest, when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Mid-September – at this point I still had plenty of energy and had concretised my place in the team.

End of September – with the end of harvest in sight, I was feeling tired but happy.


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Young to Young Tasting 2016: Part 1

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I’m pleased to say that I’m back for another round of Young to Young tastings. The concept is that selected wine bloggers (of which, again, I’m the only foreign one!) sit in a sterile VIP room, far above the bustle of the trade show and taste wines from new, interesting, small producers. 

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The Vinitaly wine tasting has one huge Achilles heel: Verona’s transport system. A producer from Sicily called the shuttle bus from the city centre as bad as one of Dante’s circles of hell. From personal experience, I can say that trying to find a parking space is no better.

So here we are, twenty five minutes after the tasting’s supposed start time and there are only four of the dozen writers and two of the three producers. Once again, Verona’s traffic has thwarted even the best made plans.

Finally, the tasting gets underway and we get to discover today’s selection of “Young to Young: Giovani Produttori Incontrano Giovani Consumatori.” (If you’re interested, you can see last year’s posts here and here.)

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Despite my whingeing, I actually quite like these tastings because it’s an efficient way to see who are the next generation of quality wine producers in Italy. These people are sure to be the names that we will hear more and more about as they establish themselves in their field and region.

We start with a producer from the Oltrepò Pavese. When I think of this region, to be honest, the first wine which comes to mind is the sparkling Bonarda which makes up the most significant part of local production.

Today, however, we try a Methodo Classico (i.e. Champagne-style) wine from Azienda Agricola Calatroni. It’s 100% Pinot Noir. We learn that the Montecalvo Versiggia hills are especially suited for growing Pinot Noir. The soil is heavily calcareous (limestone) which enhances the best qualities of this grape variety.

Stefano, our speaker today, is 31 years old and is the seventh generation of his family to work these 15 hectares of vines. He works alongside his older brother Cristian and they are in the process of converting to organic agriculture.

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He speaks well; lively, engaging and interesting. A particularly poignant moment came when he touched upon a short experience (3 months) working in the vineyards in the Barossa Valley. For him that was the moment when he realised that winemaking was not something necessarily stuck in the past but something that could be interesting and innovative.

His wine, Pinot 64 Brut is a straight Pinot Noir, Blanc de Noirs, which spent at least 36 months on the lees. So fresh, bursting with citrus fruit, it’s a great way to start the day. The nose is hugely expressive with some toasty notes but they don’t overly dominant. The taste is similarly elegant and the acidity is integrated and refreshing.

The style is very international but I’m not going to try and deny that it’s not very pleasant. I’ll be looking forward to trying more wines from this producer in the future. The price point – 16 euros a bottle  – is admittedly higher than your average sparkling wine from this region, but this wine can easily take on Champagnes, English sparkling wines and other quality sparkling wine.

Continue reading