Showing posts with label Nebbiolo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nebbiolo. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Two Very Highly Recommended Wines from the North of Italy

Two Very Highly Recommended Wines from the North of Italy

GD Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe (DOC) 2018, 14.5%, €29.99
Searsons Wine Merchants, Baggot Street Wines, The Corkscrew, Clontarf Wines, Sweeneys D3, Ely Wine Store Maynooth, 

Mid ruby is the colour of this Langhe Nebbiolo. Vibrant aromas, fragrantly fruity and floral, invite you to explore further. The flavours are pristine, elegant dark and handsome fruit, cut with sweet spices and minerality, silky tannins, and there’s no shortage of acidity to make it a welcome guest at the table. The label promises elegance, pleasure and refinement; the contents deliver, in the most harmonious way. Very Highly Recommended.
They say: Whenever possible, we pick this fruit in the early hours of each day. Maceration is long and very gentle, so to retain lift and energy to this wine. Variety is 100% Nebbiolo from young estate vineyards, ranging from 7 to 25 years of age.  Our Langhe DOC Nebbiolo ages for 8 to 14 months on average. It is a wide range, in order to respect the uniqueness of each vintage and patiently await for the optimal bottling time. Most of the ageing is carried in stainless-steel vats, with a minor fraction of the wine being in neutral oak only when needed.

GD Vajra have been farming organically since 1971 but they didn’t get off to the best of starts. Giuseppe, during an April online masterclass, said he was dragged away from his soccer games (he was playing too much of it - well he was just 15) to plant his first vineyard. 

He and his current team are still youthful and he is proud of their work. “We hope we get wiser as we go on. We started organically and our first vintage in 1972 was not a good one, not worth ageing!” The whole extended family are at work here in this “multicultural team” near the village of Barolo. Perhaps, that first vintage was a disappointment but there have been many good ones since including this 2018.

As you know, Nebbiolo is the grape from which the famous Barolo is made and GD Vajra have some gems, quite a few available via Liberty Wines (who supply the stockists listed above). During the masterclass on the outstanding 2016 vintage, Giuseppe spoke eloquently. 

Then a tough question: “Which is your best cru from 2016?” Very hard for Giuseppe to answer as they had invested so much hard work into each. He didn’t really want to pick one but, under gentle pressure, went for the Barolo Bricco delle Viole for “its flair and elegance”. So there’s a nice tip for you. And I’d safely say the 2016 vintage of our Nebbiolo Langhe would also be one to snap up if you come across it.

The Langhe is a hilly subregion in the province of Piemonte.

Pieropan Soave (DOC) Classico 2019, 12%, €16.99

Jus de Vine, Grapevine, James Redmond and Sons Ltd, Kelly`s Off Licence, 
McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Rd, Martins Off Licence, 64 Wine, C Morton & Son Ltd, Clontarf Wines, Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, The Corkscrew

In the 1960s, Soave wine came from the Classico region. But the economic boom of the 70s, saw Soave (like Chianti) expand beyond the original area. And it proved a disaster. 

During a recent Liberty Wines organised online masterclass, Andrea Pieropan explained: “The DO expanded into the flat area where the yields were higher, the season shorter and there was less personality in the wines.” He explained that no area in Italy has such a difference between the Classico and the surrounds.

So, quantity reigned and quality was hard to find. Soave became something of a dirty word. Many avoided the wine but, according to Vino Italiano, that meant “missing out on the elegant floral whites of Leonildo Pieropan whose Soaves show off the plump mouth-filling character of ripe Garganega.”

Today’s Soave is usually fresh and expressive and that is certainly the case with this Classico, the freshest youngest wine in the Pieropan family range. It is 85% Garganega with Trebbiano contributing the balance.

The nose is delicate and elegant, with pleasant floral notes. Plump and mouth-filling certainly, terrific depth of fruit and a lively acidity, persistent finish. Excellent and Very Highly Recommended.

Suggested pairings include soups, starters, especially vegetable based such as asparagus, peas, courgette, egg-based dishes or seafood and fresh water fish dishes. It is an excellent aperitif, especially when served with simple canapés. Serve at 12°C.

Soave is perhaps the most famous Italian white wine DOC. You'll find it in the Veneto wine region of northeastern Italy.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Day The Vines Died in Alto Piemonte. And, 95 Years Later, The Resurrection.

The Day The Vines Died in Alto Piemonte.
 And, 95 Years Later, The Resurrection.
The soil in Lessona, mainly a prehistoric sea sand
The 11th August 1905 was the day the vines died in Alto Piemonte. A massive hail storm wiped out the crop and the vines and 90% of viticulture in the area was abandoned. No wine was bottled that year and so 1904 was the last harvest and the farmers sought new employment and many found it in the expanding industry of Northern Italy.  

Fast forward to the year 2000 and the father and son team of Paulo and Luca de Marchi set up (recovered may be a better word) the vineyard at Proprietà Sperino in Lessona, the land previously owned by their relation Felice Sperino, a professor in Turin where young Luca was studying history. Paulo, of course, already had his vineyards in Isole e Olena (see below), and so Luca got involved here and is loving it, both the whole wine experience along with the history behind it!
Luca in action!

One winemaker had struggled on through the 20th century and, by 2004, there were three in total in Lessona, 8 by 2009, 14 now and a few more to come. During the Question and Answer session, Luca was asked if, due to the increasing popularity of the Nebbiolo grape, that even more growers would enter the area.

“Perhaps, the popularity is coming too quickly, I’m a bit worried. We shouldn’t forget that 90% of the vineyards are incredibly young. The place is amazing but we need to slow down and learn more, stay away from the spotlight. We can be much better than we are now.”

In introducing Luca to the Zoom audience for the latest in the Liberty Wines series of masterclasses, David Gleave said he knew both Paulo and Luca well. He said that Luca was thoughtful, intelligent but maybe not so reflective as his father, always with new ideas and thoughts. Luca’s answer above though showed that he can be reflective as well.

The father and son endured some good natured teasing when their intention of setting up in the abandoned area became known. “You should be planting rice!” Luca: “Slowly I fell in love with the history of the area in the foothills of the Alps, over-shadowed by Monte Rosa, for 400 years the most popular wine area and then abandoned.” And he found an amazing old library of wines “my work today”.
The oval barrels in the underground cellar, where the wine matures, slowly!

He’s been delving into the history of Nebbiolo too, the main (95%) red grape in the area with its very acidic soils and low yields “unusual in Italy”. “Nebbiolo is quite a recent grape but something very similar was described by Pliny (AD23-79) - cold resistant, late ripening, high quality, exported to Rome and called Allobrogica. Then Quinta Sextilia (also 1st cent) offers wine and fabrics as a gift, the same two products that the area excels in today!”

And more history. In the Middle Ages, the Austrian Gattinara played a key role here. Luca explains: “Italy was always a wine country, every region. So a very old wine tradition but a very young bottling country. And it was Gattinara who started the bottling when he began to present the local wines as gifts.”
Monte Rosa, Europe's second highest mountain. Switzerland is at the other side.

Geology is another major factor here and geography of course. “We have the soil of another world, unbelievable. Zero calcium. The soil is from an ancient volcano including granite one million years old. Iron, magnesium, and other metallic elements abound in nearby Bramaterra. It is different in Lessona, prehistoric sea sand is the soil here and so the Lessona and Bramaterra wines have different properties.”

While the Alto vineyards are close to the Alps they are not high altitude “less then 500m in Boca”. But “the vertical wall of Monte Rosa, 3000m high,” gives them a lot of protection; for instance, they get no snow. Hail though is still a hazard due to the cold mountain air meeting the hot air.

And he showed us a picture of the vineyard at harvest time. In most places, there is still much greenery on the vine but here there’s only an autumnal gold. “The harvest is late, the maturity of the grapes and the life cycle of the vine go together, very unique, I think.”

There are two other red varieties that he mentioned. Vespolina is one, “an incredibly interesting variety and great in blending with Nebbiolo.” Croatina is the other one. “I don’t like it too much but thick skin protects it from problems, including hail.”

He then spoke about his “Rosa del Rosa” Rosato. “This is a new thing I started in this part of Piemonte (after a lot of discussion) as I was never a Rosé drinker”. This is a beauty apparently - watch out for the 2019 - with a mineral and savoury character and made from Nebbiolo. 

“I love Cabernet Franc” he declared, to our surprise! “Nebbiolo is the lifestyle grape but Cab Franc is my favourite grape” “We planted a mislay portion of this excellent cold climate variety and the wines show exactly what Piemonte is.” Both the wines (and more) are available from Liberty Ireland.

David Gleave reminded him that his wines do well in France especially in top restaurants, that “there is a Burgundian character to them”.  Luca agreed: ”Yes it is that kind of style, more like what they are used to. It is indeed easier to sell Lessona in France than Isole e Olena.”

Another questioner asked him to compare Lessona and Barolo. Luca: “I love Barolo. Beautiful, mature dark wine. I love it. Lessona has a lighter colour, more floral aromas, more gentle, more length (the one thing you can’t change in the winery).”

We’ll finish up with a few comments on recent vintages in the area. Luca: “Vintages are changing, getting slowly warmer. Hail can be a major problem. Generally, if the vintage is good in southern Piemonte, it is good here and overall vintage variation is probably less than elsewhere.”

Q: What is your favourite vintage?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Barolo and Barbaresco. Two of the best from Italy’s Piemonte

Barolo and Barbaresco. Two of the best from Italy’s Piemonte. 

“In a world where wines are generally produced using the same grapes, the same technology, the same additives, the same oak for ageing and above all the same wine makers, our aim is to obtain a wine which is the expression of the vineyard it comes from, of the grapes it is made of, and above all of our own ideas.” So say Ascheri on their website. The result, in this case at least, is excellent.

The DO is in the Piemonte, not too far from Turin and a next door neighbour to the Barbaresco. Since its earliest days Barolo is referred to as “the king of wines and the wine of kings”, the red wines of the area having been developed by various noble families. Counts (including di Cavour, a leader of the Italian unification movement) and Vittoria Emanuele II (the first king of a unified Italy) were among those associated with the area.

Speaking of unity, I am reminded that there are differences in Barolo bottles. Those from the northern side where the soil is softer tend to to be smoother, less tannic, and more approachable.  From the south and its slightly older soil, you'll find the wines are a little bit more "muscle'y", more spicy, a bit more structured. Besides, there is a traditional approach (buy to lay down) and a modern approach (buy to drink soon) and each has its passionate devotees here.

But back to the matter in hand. Mid to light ruby, close to the normal Pinot Noir colour. Beautiful aromas, light fruit, sweet and floral notes. Soft and round on the palate, elegant rounded fruit flavours. There an overall harmony here, an amicable unity of flavour tannin and a refined power, with a gentle lingering finish.  Complex, soft and round, this 100% Nebbiolo is Very Highly Recommended. "Good Barolo," according to the World Atlas of Wine, "is arguably the world's most uncompromising wine.. ."

Try this “classic of the wine world” with Fillet Steak, Pork, Rib-Eye Steak, Roast lamb/beef. Perhaps with one of those wild mushroom risottos recommended for the Barbaresco. Best served at 14°/16°C.

As you may know by now, I usually keep an eye on the sales and offers for wine and was glad to get this for 24.95 in the O’Briens pre Christmas Fine Wine Sale. The Nebbiolo vines are grown on steep hillsides and all grapes are picked by hand. The wine is aged for 12 months in steel tanks, 24 months in large oak barrels (70% old, 30% new).

You may come across, most likely in Italy, a Barolo Chinato; this is an aromatised wine made from a base of Barolo wine and usually drank as a digestif.

Barbaresco Pora Riserva 2011 (DOCG), 14.5%

Only in the very good vintages, the best grapes from historical crus (single vineyards) of the Barbaresco appellation are vinified separately. They are released after four years of ageing, as Riserva. It is bottled by “one of the best cooperatives in Europe” (according to The Modern History of Italian Wine), a cooperative founded in 1958 by Fiorini Marengo “to give dignity to a depressed area”. Now the famous wine brings dignity to the table. And indeed, it is referred to as "the wine of queens".

The proud past of Barbaresco and the dedication of its creators have made the Produttori one of the greatest producers in a great wine-producing area; it... ”continues to set some of the highest standards of wine making for any cooperative in the world”. (Robert M. Parker, Jr.; The Wine Advocate, 2-28-90). “Textbook Barbaresco made in traditional style” according to Vino Italiano.
Colour is mid-ruby. Sweet ripe fruit aromas. Sweet cherry and plum and a wash of spice flows across the palate. Smooth, with a medium body, with pliant tannins, this harmonious wine, somewhat lighter and brighter on the palate than its neighbour, is quite exquisite with a long and pleasurable finish. Good acidity also and that helps it go well with the rich food (best described as forestale, according to Vino Italiano) that local restaurants serve: wild mushroom risottos, golden Toma cheeses, all sorts of chestnut and hazelnut torte. Very Highly Recommended.

A quick check on the internet showed that you can buy the Pora for €68.33 (for the 2014) at Millesima; my 2011 was bought at the 2019 Karwig Wine closing down sale for much less. Production in 2011 was 16,666 bottles, and this bottle is numbered 4877. The DOCG, in the Piemonte, is not too far from Turin.

In great vintages, nine single-vineyard Barbarescos are produced from nine classic premium sites within the Barbaresco village boundaries: Rabaja, Asili, Montestefano, Pora, Ovello, Rio Sordo, Montefico, Moccagatta and Pajè.
These are the geographical names of sites where Nebbiolo grapes have always been cultivated. The names of the single-vineyards, the total number of bottles produced, and the name of the owners of the vineyards are marked on the labels.

The current edition of the prestigious World Atlas of Wine also has high regard for the Produttori, naming it in a handful of "outstanding producers in Barbaresco today". It also tells us that Nebbiolo finds its "most dazzling expression... in the Barbaresco zone .. and around the village of Barolo".

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Noteworthy Trio from Karwig Wine

A Noteworthy Trio from Karwig Wine

Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe (DOC) 2015, 14.5%, €21.65 Karwig Wines

“Langhe Nebbiolo is a close relation of the famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines but one that is usually softer and more accessible.” - Decanter. They also say that it is “Part of great value Italian wines made by cooperatives". 

This mid ruby coloured wine has inviting red fruit aromas, a hint of spice too. The same fruit and spice invade the palate, in the nicest possible way; it is medium-bodied with good acidity, a decent finish with soft tannins. Easy drinking (despite the high alcohol), very pleasant and Highly Recommended.

Perfect, they say, with pizzas and pastas, white and red meat, and rich fish dishes.

Verso Rosso Salento (IGT) 2016, 14%, €15.75 Karwig Wine

Salento is a town in Puglia in the south-east of Italy. Oak ageing has played a role here and the wine is made with a “small amount of apassimento” which gives a raisin element in the flavours. 

They recommended using it with red meats, stew, game and mature cheese. Duck breast should also be a good match. The blend is Negromaro (60%), Primitivo (35) and Malvasia Nera (5).

It is a deep red (skins have been left in must for “extended period”). Legs are slow to clear. Dark fruit on the nose. Juicy and fruity (think crème de cassis) with a vibrant spice, sweet tannins at play also. An easy drinking wine and Highly Recommended.

Château Boisson Bordeaux Blanc (AC) 2016, 12.5%, Karwig Wines €14.95

This blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Sauvignon Gris comes from a stunning estate located at the gateway of Cadillac in the small municipality of Beguey, overlooking the Garonne River. You’ll hear that Bordeaux whites are often better value than the reds and this is the case here.

It has a pale straw colour. Citrus and floral notes feature in the expressive nose. Fresh engaging fruit on the palate, lovely acidity also and a superb lip-smacking finish. A Highly Recommended melange of Bordeaux fruit and craft.

It has spent two months on fine lees and is, they recommend, a perfect accompaniment for oysters, sea food and smoked salmon sushis. The salmon I enjoyed it with wasn't smoked but they paired well nonetheless.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Classy Reds. Don't judge a book by the cover!

Three Classy Reds

Don't judge a book by the cover. The plain label on the Gamay could well lead you to believe this is a bottom shelf wine whereas it is anything but. Perhaps, especially if you bought bottom shelf Moroccan wines on French holidays years ago, you wouldn't be expecting a great deal from the Volubilia but it is a lovely surprise. And no surprise really with the Italian. You'd expect this to be good and it is very good indeed.

Clos du Tue-Boeuf Gamay 2015, Vin de France, 12%, €18.85 Le Caveau
Light red, fairly typical of the grape, is the colour of this natural beauty. The aromas are of strawberries and raspberries. On the vibrant palate, you'll find the same mix of fruit flavours, with a light tang of cider apples; it is light and fresh and smooth for sure, fine tannins and then a long finish.

The two Puzelat brothers, regarded, by Jamie Goode, as “natural wine royalty”, mature this for 4-6 months in large wooden vats. The organic grapes are bought in from trusted local winegrowers in the Loire. “The wines are quite unique, highly expressive of their terroir, authentic, filled with life and have a very strong personality.” That lively personality is very evident, pleasingly so, in this example and it is Very Highly Recommended. By the way, it is neither filtered nor fined, so do decant!

La Zouina Volubilia Classic Red, Morocco 2012, 13.5%, €22.95 Le Caveau

This is a relatively new French run chateau. Bordeaux know-how plus freedom to experiment has helped produce this excellent result from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Syrah, Mourvedre, and Tempranillo.

Colour is medium red. And the aromas include warm blackcurrant. It is medium bodied, smooth and fresh, well endowed with concentrated berry flavours, medium spice, fine tannins. It is well balanced with a long and juicy finish. A surprise from Africa and Very Highly Recommended.

Ascheri Coste & Bricco Barolo (DOCG) 2010, 14.5%, €47.00 (down to 30 in recent Fine Wine sale) O’Brien Wines

No surprise that this one was good as I had tasted it at the O’Brien Wine Fair in Cork. Nebbiolo is the grape here. Made from two select plots from Ascheri’s single vineyard, this is their top cuvée. 

The wine has spent 26 months in Slavonian barrels, six months in steel and a further nine in bottle before release. According to Grapes & Wines, Italian Nebbiolo ages better than those of California and Australia. And indeed the producers reckon this will last for 18 to 20 years if kept in a cool dark place.

I couldn't wait that long to tuck into this garnet coloured wine. Small red fruits feature in the aromas, also some herbal hints. It has a palate full of rich flavours, spice too and an acidity that helps put all in harmony. This elegant and inviting wine is Very Highly Recommended.

They, Ascheri, recommended matching it with hard mature cheese, pheasant, pigeon, roast lamb and beef, Mediterranean vegetables. I've tried and tested it here with Parmesan and Walnut crusted rack of lamb with roasted vegetables, the lamb bought at our local craft butchers, Davidson’s of Montenotte, Cork.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

All Red For You. Garnacha-Syrah-Nebbiolo

All Red For You
Ricossa Barola 2010 (DOCG), 14%, €17.00 (down from 22.99), SuperValu Christmas

In the Langhe hills it’s the aromas - of truffles, mushrooms, hazelnuts, coffee, and above all else, Barolo or Barbaresco wine - that sweep people off their feet. (Vino Italia).

Barolo, by the way, is a place in Piedmonte (Italy) and the grape is Nebbiolo. There is a minimum aging requirement of three years (two in barrel) and the result has been described as the king of wine, the wine of kings.

So let's be king for a day and try this vibrant ruby red. And yes there are gorgeous dark red fruit (cherries mainly) wafting up from the glass. The Riedel (Veritas 6449/67) has been made for New World Pinot Noir but it certainly works well here! The fruits are agreeably prominent on the palate but there is a great balance, some spicy elements too, a sweet and savoury experience and then the long dry finish. I really like this one, feeling rather royal! Very Highly Recommended.

Marco Real Corraliza de Los Roncaleses 2012, Santacara (Navarra DO), 15%, €15.50 Karwig Wines

Colour here is a bright cherry, long lasting legs. For me, nose is more fruit (cherry) than floral (which is highlighted on the label). Soft and full-bodied and elegant too, moderate acidity and yet, despite the high abv, the balance is fine; the finish is long and pleasant. Highly Recommended.

It is one hundred per cent Garnacha and wines made from this variety can be high in alcohol (as is the case here) and heady (not the case here!).  By the way, I had this with Poulet Basquaise and it was an excellent match.

Think I may have been fairly close to this vineyard a few years ago when I came over the mountains from France to Roncesvalles, a major stop on the camino to Santiago. It was lunchtime and I was hoping to get the  Pilgrim’s Meal but was told it was available only in the evening!

Finca Pasion Mi Fuego Syrah 2012 (Argentina), 13.5%, €13.50 Karwig Wines
Colour is a dark red (with a lighter rim) and it has ripe fruits aromas. Then you get the fruit again on the palate, spice too and quite fine tannins, a pleasant presence in the mouth plus persistent finish. Hand-harvested and estate bottled, this is easily quaffable and Highly Recommended.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mountains, Football, Nutella and Good Wine!

Stars of Northern Italy

One well known, the other not so.

“The haunting Nebbiolo has no rival as the first red grape of Northern Italy,” says the current World Atlas of Wine. But, you do have to wait for it, according to the authors of Vino Italiano:  “Nebbiolo is more about complexities revealed over time”. Difficult to grow too and often late.

Both wines below come from Piedmont, famous not just for its wines but for its mountains, its football (Juventus), its Nutella! Red wines are mainly produced but the Roero area is the home of the little known Arneis, a fragrant pear scented old local white.
Bosio’s Boschi dei Signora, Nebbiolo D’Alba 2009, 14%, €16.99 Curious Wines
The fruit of 40 year vines is used for this wine. Vineyard practice encourages a low yield and a final thinning means that only the best grapes make it through. The wine-making uses a mix of modern and traditional methods and the product is refined in Slovenian and French oak barrels before a wine that befits the noblest Piedmontese vine is released.
Colour is ruby and there are aromas of red fruits, even blackberries and indeed some floral elements. It is full bodied, velvety with some spice but generally mellow with a very pleasant mouthfeel, and is further enhanced by a long dry finish. This one would be a good sub for a more expensive Barolo and is Very Highly Recommended.

Fontanafredda Pradalupo, Roero Arneis 2010 (Piedmont, Italy), 12.5%, €18.36 Karwig Wines
I don’t come across the Arneis variety very often but, going by this bottle, it is well worth looking out for.
Colour is that of a light honey, invitingly clean and bright. It has beautiful aromas, both floral and fruity. On the palate it is vibrant and full of flavour with an almost creamy mouthfeel, yet it possesses a lively acidity that gives a beautiful balance and a very pleasant clean finish. Very Highly Recommended.