Tuesday, 31 March 2009

WineWorld Newsletter April 2009

WineWorld AB have just published their latest newsletter for April 2009. It can be downloaded from their website in PDF format. This month sees wines in PET bottles and in 1.5 litre bag-in-boxes.

Website : Vintips Från WineWorld

TN : Floresta Leyda Sauvingon Blanc 2007, Valle de Leyda, Santa Rita, Chile

The winemaker was Andres Ilabaca. This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc composed of 55% clone 242, 20% clone 1, and 25% clone 108.

All the clones are planted on a trellis system with the shoots positioned vertically in bilateral rows. The grapevines are located on soft slopes of gravelly, clayey soil, with shallow to medium depth and good drainage. Once the seasonal growth began, the vines were thinned in order to obtain the proper distribution of the remaining shoots; thus assuring adequate luminosity for bunches without exposing the canopy to excessive sunlight. Irrigation was managed to halt growth during the veraison and in turn to obtain good nutrition for the grape bunches to enable the berries to develop their varietal characteristics. After veraison, hydric control was very strict.

Each clone was managed separately and blended later. The harvest was carried out from the end of March to mid April, based on clone and maturity level, in order to obtain the different varietal components. The harvested grapes, exclusively picked in the morning, were transferred to bins and quickly taken to be processed. Once destemmed and softly crushed, the grapes are then pressed, except for some lots that are subjected to an extended maceration, in the press, at a controlled temperature so as to prevent any type of oxidation and phenolic extraction. Drop selection from the press is carried out by tasting, selecting only the best texture, fruitiness and freshness and no phenolic extraction or oxidation. The obtained juice is settled for a 20-day period, during which, the varietal character is obtained from the solids and thus the juice becomes more complex. Fermentation is at low temperatures to maintain its fruitiness. Once the wine was finished, it was kept on its lees for additional mouth feel. The wine was bottled once it was been clarified and stabilized at cold temperatures.

The pH is 3.10, total acidity (as tartaric acid) is 6.7 grammes per litre, and the residual sugar is 1.27 grammes per litre.

Colour : Pale lemon

Aroma : Gooseberry, tropical fruits, blackcurrant leaf

Taste : Overwhelming grass and nettles, blackcurrant leaf, tropical fruits, minerals

Alcohol : 14%

Price : 149 SEK

Mark : C

Website : Santa Rita

Monday, 30 March 2009

Vinkällaren Grappe Newsletter April 2009

Vinkällaren Grappe have posted their latest newsletter containing wines that they will be launching on Apri 1st 2009. What I really like about this newsletter is that the tasting notes contain drinking windows for each wine which is something that Systembolaget seem reluctant to publish (maybe they just don't have a clue !). The newsletter can be downloaded from the Vinkällaren Grappe website in PDF format.

Website : Vinkällaren Grappes Nyhetsbrev april 2009

Friday, 27 March 2009

Peter Work, Ampelos Cellars

I met with Peter Work, owner of Ampelos Cellars in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in California, USA and Bradford Schultze of Muram International on Wednesday 11th March 2009. Muram International are a leading wine importer of American Wines into Europe with a current focus on wines from the Central Coast of California. The meeting was kindly arranged by Brad.

Peter is originally from Denmark but came to the USA via his studies at Princeton and then later with his job at Price Waterhouse. He bought land in 1999 in Santa Barbara

County which would later become incorporated into the Santa Rita Hills AVA. The first vines were planted in 2001. In total, Ampelos now has estate vineyards planted to Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier. In addition to their estate vineyards, Ampelos acquires grapes from Fiddlestix, Alisos, Cuatro Vientos, and Byron. Peter also has a small amounts of Dornfelder and Pinot Gris planted.

Amepelos is a Greek word which means "vine". Peter and his wife Rebecca were married on a small Greek island, and fell so much in love with the island that they created a 10 room hotel, Ampelos Resort. He visits usually once a year which is stocked with a cellar full of Greek wine.

We tasted four of his wines over the course of an hour's conversation. These were the Pinot Noir Lambda 2005, Pinot Noir Rho 2005, Syrache 2005, and the Syrah Gamma 2005. The Rho is made from the best barrels for the higher-end cuvee. The Lambda had lots spice and cherries while the Rho was richer and oakier - an all together bigger wine. Lambda is a mathematical constant signifying that the wine will be made each year. Rho is a correlation co-efficient signifying that each year this wine will be made but from a different set of barrels and thus clones. The Syrache was very gluggable though still with complexity. The Rho is a barrel select Pinot Noir made by selecting the best barrels (16 in the case of the 2005); the rest goes into the Lambda - the fruit is identical between the two cuvees. The Gamma Syrah was a lovely wine with some substance and very drinkable now. Gamma is used mathematically for a function that includes complex numbers which signifies the complexity of the estate Syrah.

In the case of the Pinot Noir then some Pinot Gris is incorporated to fix the colour (same principle as adding Viognier to Syrah). This tends to give the fruit an uplift.

All of the red go through a cold soak. After picking, the grapes stay in our cold room at -1 degrees centigrade for at least 24 hours. The clusters are then destemmed; Syrah and Grenache are also crushed . Following this, the grapes stay in small 1 and 1/4 ton fermenters for three days before inoculation. This leads to the right amount of early colour, tannin and flavor extraction.

If Viognier is added to the Syrah varies from year to year. In 2007, Viognier skins we added (they had just been pressed for the white wine) into a Syrah fermenter. In 2008, the estate Viognier was hanging and crushed together with the estate Syrah.

Ampeleos uses cultured yeasts; Three different yeast strains for Pinot (Asmanshausen, BM45 and RC212) and three for Syrah/Grenache (BM45, VQ15 and D254)

Peter releases all of his wines when they are ready to drink; though they continue to improve with age.

Peter's son Don is actually the winemaker at renowned winery Sea Smoke Cellars.

Peter made an interesting remark when it comes to when to pick and that is that the vine usually gives out it's own sign. That is, if the leaves are green then things are probably not ready in that photosynthesis is still happening, if the leaves are all brown then things are shutting down; thus if the vine shows a mixture of green and yellow/brown leaves then one should think about picking. Tasting the seeds also gives some clues as they start to take on a hazelnutty flavour when ripe.

All of the grapes are sorted in the as they are picked.

Something he also practices is the use of special netting so as not to restrict the movement of the leaves in that they naturally need to follow the sun as it moves in the sky; ordinary netting can restrict this leaf movement.

Peter's vineyards are all 100% biodynamic and will now certified by Demeter.

Peter was recently featured in two episodes of Gary Vaynerchuck's Wine Library TV.

I asked Peter if he missed his old career - not at all was his reply.

Website : Peter Work
Website : Ampelos Cellars
Website : Bradford Schultze
Website : Muram International
Website : Wine Library TV Episode 630
Website : Wine Library TV Episode 631

Bryn Ceiliog Vineyard, Penarth, Wales

My parents-in-law come from a small town called Penarth which is just outside Cardiff in Wales. I was indeed surprised to discover that grapes was being grown minutes away from where they live.

The Bryn Ceiliog vineyard is located on the Beggan farm on Cock Hill in Leckwith in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales. There are 2,000 vines planted on over 4 acres (1.8 hectares). Both black and green grape varieties are grown and all the vines are cool-climate varieties, mainly from Alsace and the Rhine Valley.

The white wine is a blend of six grape varieties which are Orion, Phoenix, Reichensteiner, Kernling, Findling, and Bacchus. The red wine is a blend of three varieties which are Rondo, Dornfelder, and Regent.

After harvesting, the grapes are sent to the Three Choirs Vineyards in Newent for processing and bottling.

The price is currently 45 GB pounds per half case (6 bottles) inclusive of VAT and paid duty. Delivery is free within South Wales for orders of four cases or more.

TN : Les Hauts de Granget ArteVino 2005, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France

This wine will improve with 2-3 years of age. It is a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Colour : Purple/blue

Aroma : Plum, milk chocolate, herbs, coffee

Taste : Typically St-Emilion, plums, cherry, oak, drying tannins on finish, herbs

Alcohol : 13.5%

Price : 149 SEK

Mark : B-

UK Vineyards Guide 2009 ?

I asked Stephen Skelton if he was planning to release a 2009 edition of his superb UK Vineyards Guide. "probably but not until the autumn" was his answer.

Website : Stephen Skelton

Thursday, 26 March 2009

TN : The Joshua Shiraz-Viognier 2006, Graham Beck, W.O. Coastal Region, South Africa

This wine is a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Viognier. The grapes were co-fermented and then the resulting wine was barrel matured for 15 months in new fill oak.

The Graham Beck Wines website contains no information relating to the 2006 vintage.

Colour : Dark purple

Aroma : Oak, blackberry, herbs, milk chocolate, liquorice

Taste : Herbs, milk chocolate, burnt rubber, blackberry, liquorice on finish

Alcohol : 14.5%

Price : 129 SEK

Mark : B-

Website : Graham Beck Wines

TN : Virgin Hills 2002, Virgin Hills Vineyard, Kyneton, Victoria, Australia

In 1968, a 300 acre section of high altitude forest was carved out of the Macedon ranges in Victoria and planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec, and Merlot. The vineyard was created by Hungarian-born sculptor Tom Lazar. Virgin Hills is owned today by Michael Hope, an ex-pharmacist.

The grapes were grown and made with minimal chemical intervention. The wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 8% Merlot, and 5% Malbec. The wine was aged in 100% French oak of which 50% was new. The pH of the finished wine was 3.55 and the total acidity was 7.6 grammes per litre.

The wine was imported by Winepartners AB.

Colour : Purple/red

Aroma : Blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry liquor, currants, sultanas

Taste : Blackcurrant, cherries, currants, spice, fruity, christmas pudding, oxidation on finish

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 198 SEK

Mark : C+

Website : Virgin Hills
Website : Winepartners

Friday, 20 March 2009

TN : Riesling 2007 Von den Terrassen, Qualitaetswein Trocken, Winzer Krems, Austria

All the grapes were hand picked. This wine was sealed with a screwcap.

The wine was imported by Granqvist Vinagentur AB.

Colour : Very pale yellow

Aroma : Mandarin oranges, pineapples, pears

Taste : Green apples, pears, honey, crisp, dry, pineapples, minerals on finish

Alcohol : 12%

Price : 79 SEK

Mark : C

Website : Winzer Krems
Website : Granqvist Vinagentur AB

Monday, 16 March 2009

TN : Agiorgitiko (St George) 2005, Driopi Winery, Nemea, Greece

This new estate is run by Tselepos in the Koutsi district of Nemea; though there is no mention of this on their website - the only clue is a reference on the back label of the bottle. The winery is a partnership between the two wine-producers Yiannis Tselepos and Alexandros Avatangelos. There are five hectares of vineyard planted at an altitude of 350 metres above sea-level. The soil is mainly clay. The vineyard consultant is George Germanis, the winery advisor is Thanassis Fakorelis, and the oenologist is Yiannis Sivris.

Colour : Blackberry/red

Aroma : Blackberry, dark fruits, herbs

Taste : Blackberry, dark fruits, herbs, violets, raspberry

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 159 SEK

Mark : B

Website : Domaine Tselepos

Friday, 13 March 2009

Systembolaget New Wines March 16th 2009

Systembolaget have released their list of new wines to be available on March 16th. These can be viewed on the Systembolaget website. Of interest are three older wines from South Africa's Boekenhoutskloof.

Website : Systembolaget Nyheter den 16 mars

TN : Pinot Noir 2006, Dankbarkeit, Weingut Josef Leutsch, Burgenland, Austria

This wine was imported by Vinhus Örjan and Feuer.

The wine is sealed by a screwcap.

Colour : Pale red

Aroma : Spicy, lots of stewed strawberry and raspberry, vanilla, herbs

Taste : Thin stewed red fruits, spice, vanilla, herbs, nice acidic finish, fruit overwhelmed by oak

Alcohol : 13.5%

Price : 145 SEK

Mark : C-

Website : Vinhus Örjan and Feuer

Tourism and Bordeaux Wineries

I saw a posting on the Bordeaux Wine News blog yesterday talking about tourism being an under-developed asset and it made me think of my experiences when visiting chateaux in the Bordeaux area.

Typically when visiting chateaux, I want to taste the wine. Sometimes, I end up drinking (like the 2001 Chateau Lynch-Bages I had when visiting the chateau - gorgeous wine and a very generous pour !). On a warm day, which it usually is during summer in Bordeaux, the alcohol has an effect. These days, the police are out on the roads stopping would-be tourists and testing them for alcohol. This stops me from hiring a car and driving to the chateaux.

What are my options then ? I can take a ridiculously over-priced tour arranged by the tourist office, or one of the local companies, or attempt to travel by public transport. I have always opted for public transport for the last three summers I have been to Bordeaux. However, the bus service is not what it should be - infrequent services, meaning waits of over an hour, and badly located bus stops (Ravezies, middle of nowhere, for the 705 Pauillac bus).

Isn't it about time that Citram, the Acquitaine bus company, etc did something to help wine tourism in Bordeaux ?

Website : Tourism : The Under-Developed Asset of the Wine World

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Tasting Grapes or Lab Analysis - When to pick grapes ?

Richard Smart recently did an interview for the UK Wine Show where he casted doubt on the method of going out into the vineyard and tasting grapes as a method of when grapes are ripe and that the concept of "hang time" was a result of bad viticulture.

I asked a variety of winemakers what their opinion was :

Marie Eleni Papadakis, Winemaker at Domaine Serene, states that in theory that she agrees with Richard Smart. This is always the problem for the growers: they want objective data whereby to base their harvest maturities and quality. Unfortunately such measurements just do not exist and any winemaker worth their salt will use the best instrument they have available to them -- their palate. It is true that most grapes taste nothing like the finished wine (the muscat family being the primary exception) and she does rely on Brix, pH, and TA to help triangulate and balance any skewed perceptions but she makes every effort to taste first (she always sorts and classifies her juice/berry samples blind) and then looks to the numbers. Some winemakers also use phenolic data. As she is primarily focused on Pinot Noir and not looking for massive alcohols or other wild extraction, her method as described is quite suitable. her opinion is that our palates really can be trained and have historically helped us know what is ripe, healthy, and generally desirable. That said, she supposes if she wasn't concerned with deterioration or vector activity, she could just stand back and wait for the birds to tell her when the grapes were ready.
Martin Bacquart, Sales Manager and Winemaker for Bacquaert Interdrinks and Entre-Deux-Monts, says that the best thing to do is both lab analysis and tasting grapes. Tasting grapes is surely not rubbish. For example for a Sauvignon blanc you have exotic Sauvignon Blancs and you have more greenish Sauvignon Blancs. You can taste that in grapes! If you compare the taste of grape, you'll taste the evolution of greenish to exotic!

Kristin Belair, Winemaker, Honig Vineyard and Winery, says that in a way Richard Smart is correct that the grapes don't taste like wine at all. There are some flavor compounds in grapes that one can taste when tasting the grapes that will end up as a flavor in the wine, for example some of the herbal characters are that way. However, many flavor compounds are attached to sugar molecules, making them undetectable by taste until the yeast break the sugar and flavor compounds apart and make the flavor compounds detectable through tasting. She thinks that this is what Richard Smart is referring to. There are chemistry, flavor and texture changes in the grapes as they are ripening that over time we can link to certain wine styles and characteristics. This can be tied to a sugar range in some instances. So, even though the grape flavours may be different than the finished wine, winemakers can, over time, (they taste things sooooo much) link certain flavor and texture characteristics to flavours and textures in the finished wine. That said, at Honig, they use both criteria...lab analysis ( mostly Brix, sometimes acid and pH) in conjunction with how the grapes are tasting to decide when to pick. Every growing season has its own personality, so they are always building what what they have figured out so far and adjusting for the current season.

John Harding, Assistant Winemaker at Bleasdale Vineyards, uses a combination of lab analysis of a representative sample from the vineyard and tasting the grapes. He not so much looking for flavours but waiting until the tannins in the skins and preferably the seeds are ripe; hopefully when this happens, the flavours he wants in the grapes will be there. He looks at the pH, TA and sugar levels. John's analysis of Richard Smart's comments are that he is trying to say is that longer hang time doesn't mean better flavours or better wine. If the vine is in balance, then sugar/acid and flavour should coincide. In Australia, this often happens at higher sugar levels.

David Ramey, owner Ramey Wine Cellars states that wine tastes like the grapes do when they were picked. Imagine apricot wine: you know what an unripe apricot tastes like, a perfectly ripe one, and an over-ripe one. If you were to make apricot wine out of each of those, the wines would bear a remarkable resemblance to the state and flavor of the grapes they were made from. Same with any fruit, including grapes. Red grapes have the added issue of waiting for the tannins in the skin and seeds to polymerize so that they are “mature, supple tannins.” Sugar and acid are poor indicators of maturity for red grapes.

Hernan Ovalle, Owner & Winemaker of Chinigue Winery in Chile, says that they have different ways, first brix grade at 20°C , baumé density at 15° C, PH, tasting skin, and grapes and finally % of dry seeds, and of course have a clear idea about the climate, forecast for the next days, also weighty grains to determine if they are having deshidratation.

Gérald Majou de La Débutrie owner Chateau Milon winery states that it depends on what kind of wine you want to make (rosé, white, red, fruity, full bodied..) but for a full bodied red wine he first tastes the grape (pelicule, flesh, pepin), when flesh and pelicule tasting is ok he makes a lab analysis then waits for the pepin to be ok (if the weather condition permit it), when the pepin tasting is ok he confirms it with a new lab analysis to validate everything. It’s like a dichotomic process. Both tasting and analysis are significant (to his mind).

Ilja Gort owner Chateau de la Garde states that grapes are needed to make wine and that tasting a grape, a winemaker can clearly determine the sugardegree and other essential info. They also use a refractometer and take samples for laboratory analysis, but tasting the grapes, that's where it all begins.

Jean-Michel Cazes, owner of Chateau Lynch Bages, believes in both figures and tasting grapes. At Chateau Lynch Bages they tend to rely more on lab analysis since it is more accurate and believe that tasting is very limited and always rather subjective. They test test sugar, acidity (pH), maturity and extractibillity of anthocyanes and tannins. They also test seed tannins and a few other parameters like weight of berries, juice/solid ratio, nitrogen, polyphenol index, etc. Regarding the notion that the concept of "hang time" arising as a result of bad viticultural practise then Jean-Michel's view is that "hang time" is simply a technique that can be employed to obtain grapes with high concentration through dessication that will eventually produce body-builded wines, high in color, tannins, and alcohol. It also lowers the yield by loss of water. Some critics love that style of wine... It’s only possible when climate is dry, like most years in California, but difficult in Bordeaux. It can be a disaster if weather is humid and rot develops… Then you get “red sauternes” … at best !

Vanya Cullen, Managing Director of Cullen Wines in Australia, says that she harvests on taste and then checks the figures.

Peter Word, Owner of Ampelos Cellars, made an interesting observation that the vines will tell you approximately when the grapes are ready to harvest. If the canopy consists of green leaves then photosynthesis is probably still happening and one should wait to pick; if all the leaves are yellow/brown then it is too late as everything has shut down. When the canopy consists of a mix of green and yellow leaves then it is time to start thinking about picking. Also check the seeds, when they start to taste hazelnutty then think about picking.

Website : UK Wine Show 115 Richard Smart on viticultural practice and myths

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

TN : Granit de la Vallee Pinot Noir 2007, Terroirs d'Alsace, Cave de Turckheim, Alsace, France

The grapes are planted on slopes of exposed granit at the entrance of the Munster Valley around the villages of Zimmerbach, Walbach, and Wihr-au-Val.

Colour : Pale red

Aroma : Stewed strawberry, spice, not giving much

Taste : Strawberry, weedy, thin, spice, stewed red berries

Alcohol : 12%

Price : 99 SEK

Mark : C-

Website : Cave de Turckheim

TN : Arrogant Frog Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Organic Ribet Red 2006, Languedoc, France

This wine was made from ecologically grown grapes and has been certified by Ecocert Sas. It was sealed with a screwcap. The creator was Jean Claude Mas. On the back label it states that it has been bottled by "The Humble Winemaker".

Colour : Red/plum

Aroma : Plums, blackcurrants, earthy

Taste : Fruity, blackcurrant, plums, earth, tastes like an everyday drinking Bordeaux should taste like but usually doesn't

Alcohol : 13.5%

Price : 79 SEK

Mark : C

Website : Arrogant Frog

Friday, 6 March 2009

Systembolaget New Wines April 2009

The new wines for April 2009 can now be found in the latest newsletter from Systembolaget state monopoly. The newsletter, in PDF format, may now be downloaded from the Systembolaget monopoly's website.

Website : Systembolaget Varunytt April 2009

TN : Cipresseto Rosata 2008, Marchesi Antinori, IGT, Santa Cristina, Cortona, Tuscany, Italy

This rose is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Canaiolo and other varieties. The grapes were destemmed, crushed, and pressed. The must was then cooled to 10 degrees, to aid clarification, and transferred to stainless steel vats. Alcohol fermentation took place at a temperature no greater than 15 degrees. The wine was then racked into stainless steel vats and stored briefly at 10 degrees for aroma preservation.

Colour : Bright strawberry

Aroma : Limes, strawberries

Taste : Strong taste of limes, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, crisp, dry, cream

Alcohol : 11%

Price : 69 SEK

Mark : C

Website : Antinori

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

VinUnic Newsletter March 2009

VinUnic have just published their newsletter for March 2009. It can be downloaded from their website (PDF format). There are new wines from Catena, Allegrini, Dönnhoff, Sweden's own Kullabygdens Vingård, and Shafer.

Website : VinUnic Våra Viner Nyhetsbrev mars 2009

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

TN : Chakana Bonarda 2007, Andean Wine, Lujon de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

This wine is a blend of 90% Bonarda and 10% Shiraz.

Colour :

Aroma : Blueberry, violets

Taste : Blueberry, violets, blackberry, savoury notes

Alcohol : 13.5%

Price : 69 SEK

Mark : C

Website : Bodegas Chakana
Website : Primewine Sweden AB

TN : Cullen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007, Cullen Vineyard, Margaret River, Australia

This wine is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. It underwent natural fermentation using indigenous yeast. 50% of the wine spent 3 months in French oak barrels of which two thirds were new. The wine was bottled under screwcap. The harvest in 2007 was the earliest on record at Cullen.

This wine was imported by Giertz Vinimport AB.

Colour : Pale yellow

Aroma : Lemon, leafy, slight mandarin, gooseberry, slight oak

Taste : Creamy, oak on finish, big lemony acidic mouthwatering fruit, long finish

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 169 SEK

Mark : B-

Website : Cullen Wines
Website : Giertz Vinimport AB