Today, of course, is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday in November, the legal release day for Beaujolais wine from the 2013 vintage. Harvested, fermented, bottled and shipped just a few weeks ago from the Beaujolais region of France, just south of Burgundy, Beaujolais Nouveau is a light, fresh, inexpensive wine meant for drinking young, and the timing of the release makes it a popular choice for the Thanksgiving Day table in the USA. The wine is made from 100% Gamay grapes, which are hand harvested and then fermented whole without crushing by a unique method known as “carbonic maceration” in a sealed container with carbon dioxide, resulting in its distinctive fruity and aromatic style, low in tannins and alcohol. Harvest was a little later than usual in 2013 because of weather conditions in the Spring, resulting in a somewhat more concentrated style than a typical Beaujolais Nouveau. We tasted the 2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau and enjoyed it very much. Deep purple in color, it had aromas of violets and red fruits, including cherries and red raspberries. On the palate, it was a medium bodied wine with intense and tangy flavors of dark fruits, blackberries, plums and blueberries, and a pleasing balance of fruit and acidity along with some nice light tannins on the finish.
Beppe D’Andrea, the international brand ambassador for Ruffino, was the featured speaker at a recent wine tasting and seminar on Italian wines hosted by Century Wines. Ruffino has been making wines in Tuscany and other areas of Italy since 1877 and it is now part of the Constellation Brands portfolio of wines. Beppe gave an informative and entertaining presentation on the history of winemaking in Tuscany, including past and modern production methods, formation of the Chianti and Chianti Classico regions, government regulation of the IGT, DOC, DOCG and Riserva designations, the origin of the black rooster image on Chianti Classico labels, and even the background for the creation of the popular Italian dessert Tiramisu, meaning “lift me up.” His talk included tastings of eight of Ruffino’s wide range of wines, three whites and five reds, accompanied by Italian meats, cheeses and breads. The white wines from Ruffino served at the seminar included: Ruffino Prosecco – a non-vintage sparkling wine from the Prosecco DOC region of Veneto in northeast Italy. Produced by the Charmat Method from 100% Glera grapes, this extra dry sparkler was pale yellow and had plenty of tiny bubbles, along with delicate aromas of apple blossoms and citrus fruits, and clean, crisp flavors of apples, pears and a touch of honey. 2012 Ruffino Orvieto Classico – a dry white wine from grapes grown in the tufa (chalky limestone) soils of the Orvieto Classico DOC region of Umbria in central Italy. 40% Grechetto, 20% Procanico and 40% other local white varietals, including Verdello and Canaiolo Bianco. Pale straw colored, with floral aromas and flavors of golden apples, citrus fruits and almonds. Good structure with a balance of fruit and acidity and a touch of minerality on the medium finish. 2012 Ruffino “Lumina” Pinot Grigio – another dry white wine, made from 100% Pinot Grigio grapes grown in the Delle Venezie IGT region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in northeast Italy. Lumina means “illumination of the moon,” shown on the label. Light yellow in color, with clean aromas of flowers and fruit, crisp acidity and flavors of apples, pears, sage and mint, along with elegant mineral notes on the finish. We’ll have tasting notes on the red wines from Ruffino in our next post.
We tasted another Dolcetto-based wine from the Piemonte region of Italy, the 2011 Marziano Abbona “Papa Celso” Dogliani, from the prized Dogliani DOCG appellation in Piedmont, where the best Dolcettos are generally grown and produced. Azienda Agricola Abbona owner Marziano Abbona produces this wine exclusively from 50 to 60 year old vines in the Doriolo vineyard and has named it after his late father, Papa Celso, pictured on the label. Like other Dolcettos we have tasted, it was a dry, fruit-forward red wine, high in tannins and alcohol and low in acidity. It was deep ruby red in color, with aromas of violets, roses, black fruits, green olives, cloves and leather. Full-bodied and richly textured, the wine had characteristic flavors of sour cherries, ripe blueberries, dried cranberries and black olives, and hints of black pepper, coffee, licorice and tarragon. The ripe tannins were well balanced with the powerful fruit flavors, alcohol and mild acidity. This wine had an intense mouthfeel and a powerful, spicy finish. It was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator: “A big mouthful of sweet black cherry, black currant and a hint of tobacco highlight this monster Dolcetto.” While the Dogliani DOCG area usually produces the best Dolcetto wines, our tasting group preferred the Ca’ Viola Barturot Dolcetto we recently tasted from the Dolcetto d’Alba DOC area. This Dogliani will probably be enhanced by a few more years of ageing.
We are tasting the signature wines of Italy this month, starting with wines from the Dolcetto grape grown in the Piemonte region of northwest Italy. Dolcetto means “little sweet one” and the grapes are black, thick-skinned, with plenty of dark fruit flavor, generally low in acid and high in tannins. They make intense, fruity dark wines best consumed when they are young. We enjoyed a bottle of 2009 Ca’Viola Barturot Dolcetto d’Alba, a DOC wine from Azienda Agricola Ca’Viola in Montelupo Albese, where Giuseppe Ca’Viola cultivates 17 acres of vineyards to grow Dolcetto, as well as Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes, and uses natural yeasts to give the wines a distinctive local character. The 2009 Dolcetto was deep ruby red in color with violet reflections and a clean aroma of rose petals, dark fruits, black pepper and a hint of oak. A dry red wine with low acidity and plenty of smooth ripe tannins, it had lots of black fruit flavor, including ripe black cherries, blackberries and blueberries and nuances of spice, licorice, cloves, coffee and tobacco from some aging in old French oak. Full bodied, with a nice balance of fruits, tannins and acidity, it had plenty of structure and intensity and a fairly long smooth finish. The 2009 vintage received 90 points from both and Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate: “The 2009 Dolcetto d’Alba Barturot is a decidedly powerful, intense wine.”
During the Court of Master Sommeliers prep class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center this month, the instructors covered wines from five countries: Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain and Portugal.
Argentina is the world’s fifth largest wine producing country, and the session on Argentina was focused on Mendoza, an arid desert region which accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s wine production, where temperatures are moderated by high altitudes and grapes are irrigated with plenty of snow melt water from the Andes Mountains. Mendoza is known for red wines, especially Malbec and Tempranillo, as well as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The class also covered Salta Province, which includes the world’s highest altitude vineyards, and known for white wines, especially Torrontes, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Two wines from Argentina were included in the blind tasting of South American wines:
• 2011 Catena Chardonnay “Alamos”, from the high altitude Mendoza wine region, at the edge of the Andes Mountains. Light straw in color, with clear fast tears, and aromas of golden delicious apples, ripe pears, and tropical fruits. Dry, oaky and buttery, with a hint of caramel, this wine had a rich mouthfeel, with flavors of citrus fruits balanced with baked apple and a long, smooth creamy finish.
• 2011 Trapiche Malbec, also from the Mendoza wine region. Made from Argentina’s iconic red grape, this Malbec was medium garnet in color, with aromas of jammy black fruit, currant and cassis, and oaky scents of cedar, baking spices and white pepper. High in tannins and alcohol, it had medium body and dark fruit flavors of black cherry and blackberry, with a powerful long finish.
We’ll cover the prep class tastings for South Africa, Spain and Portugal in other posts this week.
The New York Wine and Culinary Center (NYWCC) hosted a wine class this month to help prepare attendees for the Court of Master Sommeliers examination scheduled for this fall in Canandaigua. This program was part of a year-long series of prep classes at the NYWCC and it covered the key regions, grapes and wines of five countries: Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain and Portugal.
The session on Chile focused on Maipo and Colchagua in the Central Valley wine region, a warm area known for its red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Carménère, and the Casablanca Valley in the Acocongua region, a cooler area known for white wines, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The class included blind tastings of four representative Chilean wines:
• 2009 Concha y Toro Chardonnay “Marques de Casa”, from a cool part of the Maipo Valley in the Central Valley wine region, where the hot temperatures are moderated by the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. Bright pale straw color, with aromas of flowers and citrus fruits, and flavors of green apple, pear, butter and oak, plus a touch of vanilla.
• 2011 Concha Y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon “Casillero del Diablo” (Soul of the Devil), from a warmer part of the Maipo Valley. Ruby red in color, with thin, slow tears and aromas of dark fruit, black cherry, plum and black pepper. A dry red wine with juicy dark fruit flavors and fairly high levels of tannins, acid and alcohol, well oaked with toast and coffee notes and a nice long finish.
• 2010 Emiliana Syrah “Natura”, from the Colchagua Valley in the Central Valley region. Medium ruby red in color, with thin, fast running dark stained legs. Lots of red fruit aroma, red cherries, raspberries, cranberries, as well as some pepper notes and anise, and oaked scents of tobacco and allspice. Well balanced flavors of ripe fruit, soft tannins, medium acid and old wood.
• 2009 MontGras Carménère Reserva, also from the Colchagua Valley in the Central Valley region. Made from Chile’s signature grape, Carménère, this was a dry, ruby red wine with slow stained tears, and powerful aromas of jammy dark fruit, green pepper and petrol, as well as new oak aromas of clove and baking spices. High in tannins and alcohol with a long spicy finish.
We’ll have more about the Argentina, South Africa, Spain and Portugal tastings in other posts this week.
Wines of Argentina was the topic for a seminar and tasting at Century Wines this month. Clay Harpending from Polaner Selections, fine wine importers, has visited Argentina and gave a terrific presentation on the climate, soils, wine growing regions, grape varieties and vinification methods of Argentina, the world’s fifth largest wine producing nation after France, Italy, Spain and the United States. During the seminar, we tasted six different wines from four producers in Argentina: Crios, Luca, Tikal and La Posta.
- 2012 Crios Torrontes – a dry but very aromatic, flowery white wine from Torrontes grapes grown in the Mendoza region, similar in style to a Gewurztraminer or Viognier. Aromas of apple blossoms, pear and orange peel, with flavors of peach, melon and lime. It had good acidity and a medium finish; definitely meant to be drunk young.
- 2011 Crios Malbec Rosé – a lovely deep rose-colored dry rosé made from Malbec grapes grown in the Uco Valley of the Mendoza province, produced in the traditional Saignée method of bleeding off some of the early juice from the production of the red Malbec wine. This wine had a nice fruity flavor of red cherries and strawberries, a good summer wine.
- 2009 Luca Pinot Noir – I didn’t even know that any producers were growing Pinot Noir grapes in Argentina, but Luca has a cool vineyard at almost 5,000 feet in elevation in Mendoza and makes a respectable Pinot aged 12 months in French oak. Medium garnet in color, this wine had complex flavors of raspberry, cherry and spice; rated 93 points by Robert Parker!
- 2010 Luca Malbec – Luca also makes an excellent dry red wine from 100 per cent Malbec, the signature grape of Argentina, grown in the Uco Valley of Mendoza Province. This is a deeply colored, complex Malbec with intense aromas and flavors of dark fruits, coffee, cocoa and spice, and it had a long, smooth finish. It was rated 93 points as well by Wine Advocate!
- 2010 La Posta Paulucci Malbec – the other Malbec we tasted, also from the 2010 vintage, made by La Posta winery from Malbec grapes grown by Angel Paulucci in his vineyard in the Town of Ugarteche in Mendoza province. While not as refined and complex as the Luca Malbec, this was a very drinkable Malbec with nice red fruit flavors and good tight acidity.
- 2010 Tikal Patriota Mendoza – this is a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Bonarda, the other major red grape variety grown in Argentina. By careful blending of these two varietals and aging in French oak, Tikal has developed a deep purple dry red wine with bold flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. A fun wine which would pair well with pizza or barbecue.
Map of Argentina: Yay Image Bank.
With dinner at a friend’s house, we had a terrific bottle of 2009 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Chateau Montelena, of course, is the Calistoga winery which won the famous Judgment of Paris competition in 1976, when its Chardonnay was selected by a panel of French wine experts in a blind tasting of Chardonnays from France and California, a result which shocked the French and surprised many in the world of wine. The story behind the competition was later dramatized in 2008 in the film Bottle Shock starring Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier, the British owner of a wine shop in Paris, who organized the competition. Our 2009 Chateau Montelena was a deep ruby-colored full-bodied Cab, with aromas of black cherry, plums and spice, and flavors of dark red fruits and toasty vanilla from oak aging. The blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc provides a good balance of soft tannins and high acidity, and a gentle 13.8% alcohol, leading to a long and smooth finish. This wine paired very well with our dinner of grilled pork loin, wild rice and sauteed vegetables. Robert Parker gave the 2009 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon a score of 91 points.
Our latest wine trivia question (see post on May 19, 2013) was:
Q. “Fortified wines” can be sweet or dry wines to which alcohol is added at some point during the winemaking process. Which of the following wines is not a “fortified” wine?
A. The answer is d) Sauternes, which is an unfortified sweet white wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France, generally from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and/or Muscadelle grapes. Botrytis, a naturally occurring fungus, also known as “noble rot”, shrivels the grapes on the vine, which concentrates the sugar level in the grape juice before it is pressed and fermented into a sweet wine with an alcohol level around 13 per cent. Port, Sherry and Madeira, on the other hand, are all “fortified” wines. Port is typically a sweet red fortified wine from the Douro wine region of northern Portugal (although there are also dry, semi-dry and even white versions). During the fermentation of the grape juice, a neutral grape spirit with a strength over 75 per cent is added to kill the yeast, stop the fermentation, retain residual sugar and raise the alcohol level in the Port to around 18 to 20 per cent. Madeira is usually a sweet white fortified wine, made from grapes grown on the Portuguese island of Madeira, but there are also dry and semi-dry varieties. In the case of Madeira, a grape spirit of 96 per cent alcohol is usually added after the wine has been fermented to the desired level of sweetness and the sweetest Madeiras may have an alcohol content as high as 20 per cent. Finally, Sherry is a white fortified wine made in the Jerez wine region of Spain from either Palomino grapes (for dry Sherry) and/or Pedro Ximinez grapes or Muscat of Alexandria grapes (for sweet style Sherry). For the sweeter styles, alcohol is added during fermentation to stop the fermentation process and retain residual sugar, while for drier styles the wine may be fortified after the fermentation is complete, to raise the alcohol level to about 15-18 per cent.
Here is our next wine trivia question:
The answer will be posted here next Saturday, May 25, 2013.