Our weekend was dedicated to the International Gold Cup steeplechase held in Virginia. Between hanging out at home with an old friend and drinking wine at the Gold Cup we went through a variety of wines. It was a gorgeous, warm and sunny day at the races so I spent my time chatting and tasting. Which meant I did not take any pictures. So I have no clue, for example, of what the tasty Barbera d’Alba was we had during the day. There was an elegant and crisp 2012 Failla, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. Between the 2013 Justin, Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast and the 2012 Justin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, I preferred the later for being an unapologetically forward Californian wine. The 2011 Chateau Lilian Ladouys, Saint-Estephe was an herbaceous, Merlot dominant wine that, like the Justin, disappeared before I could taste it again. The most interesting bottles that I did save include the 2010 Castell d’Encus, Quest, Costers del Segre which is a Bordeaux blend sourced from high-altitude fruit in Spain. The particular cool factor is that the fruit is fermented in 12th century stone vats located in a mountainside. The resultant wine had herbaceous, brighter fruit with outstanding crunchy acidity. The 2007 Mas de Boislauzon, Chateauneuf du Pape and 2007 Mas de Boislauzon, Tintot Special Cuvee, Chateauneuf du Pape were a fun pair. The former is a Grenache dominated blend that showed secondary flavor complexity, good wood notes, herbs, all at a presently drinkable 13.5% alcohol. The Special Cuvee is purely Mourvedre. It possessed even less alcohol but packed more of a flavor punch of earthy fruit. I think this cuvee might be aged a bit more. The 2011 Crasto, Superior, Douro showed more polish from oak aging but came across as muted compared to the regular Douoro bottling that is both floral and flavorful. Finally, the 2008 Alice Bonaccorsi, Val Cerasa, Etna Rosso did not appear to have too many fans. This is primarily Nerello Mascalese with some Nerello Cappuccio in it. I rather liked its earthy take and reasonable price so I will follow up on this wine by drinking another bottle at a later date.
There is quite a range of both white and red wines from Etna available at MacArthur Beverages. There is something of a premium on price for these wines so I make sure to always try what falls below $25 per bottle. Today’s post features the 2012 I Custodi, Pistus, Etna Rosso produced by Il Custodi delle vigne dell’Etna. I recommend you take a look at the website for a good introduction to and images of the vineyards. You might recall the label for this is the younger brother of the 2007 I Custodi, Aetneus, Etna Rosso that I reviewed in my post Tasting Austrian and Italian Wines With Lou . There are two key differences between these wines. The first is that the Pistus is made using fruit from 10 year old vines whereas the Aetneus comes from vines up to 150 years of age. Second, the Pistus is raised entirely in concrete vat whereas the Aetneus is fermented in stainless steel then aged for some time in barriques. I think the Pistus is spot on. It is literally young so while it could stand from short-term aging, it does offer up interesting floral aromatics and the mineral, blacker fruit I like in a wine from Etna. I recommend you try it! This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 I Custodi, Pistus, Etna Rosso – $22
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from ten year old vines on sandy, volcanic soils. The fruit was whole-cluster crushed, fermented, and aged for nine months in concrete vats. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was less herbaceous than it was evocative of orchids in a greenhouse. The wine took on weight to its ripe blue fruit that had minerally, black undertones. The sense of firmness was balanced by acidity. With air the notes of dried herbs took on vintage books in the dusty finish. Everything wrapped up with salivating acidity. **(*) 2015-2019.
The wines of Massimiliano Calabretta are lovely examples of traditional Etna wines. They easily combine lightness of flavor with minerality in a wine that has both strength and stamina for development. The prices are also traditional to bygone years! I thought it cool that at MacArthur Beverages the follow-on to the the 2002 Calabretta, Etna Rosso is the 2001 Calabretta, Etna Rosso. Having not tried these two vintages side-by-side I can only remark on my impression that the 2001 vintage appears to have more power for the long-haul. I would personally keep it in the cellar instead of drinking it. The 2011 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio is made from young vines but has good flavor. Like its serious elder, this vintage will develop as well. If you are at all curious about traditional, Italian wines then you must try this pair. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is Nerello Mascalese which saw some time in Slovenian oak casks. Alcohol. There was brighter red fruit then black fruit which surrounded a tight core of ripe fruit. The good flavor was structured by ripe tannins. The mineral nature expanded with air. Needs some cellar time. **(*) 2015-2020.
2001 Calabretta, Etna Rosso – $28
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 60-80 year old vines in Calderara. Alcohol. There was a good nose with perhaps a hint of tar. It started with minerals, light red fruit then a dry, tart middle. There was a core of ripeness with black fruit in the finish. The wine has both strength and depth. With air it took on notes of polished wood, an earthy finish, and an expansive, coating aftertaste that coated the gums. This clearly has the power to age for a long time. ***(*) Now-2025.
Frank (Drink What YOU Like) was in town again. I typically meet up with Frank at one of the innumerable wine events which take place in Washington, DC. We decided to shake things up and actually pay for our wine. Actually, I do not get invited to many events so I typically pay for my wine both at home and at restaurants. Range is a great place to go for wine, the list is diverse and prices per bottle start in the $20 range. Surprisingly, there are no half-bottles.
Frank wanted to have a lighter red wine with dinner, perhaps not Beaujolais and not Loire Cabernet Franc due to his upcoming Cabernet Franc tasting on Sunday. Going off of these restrictions we let sommelier Elli Benchimol pick a wine for us. She suggested Sicily which worked for us so she returned with a bottle of the 2010 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Caldera Sottana, Etna Rosso. This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio source from a single vineyard at 600-700 meters of elevations. The vines here range from 50 to 100 years of age. Though the wine was light in a sense, it packed some deceptive structure and really needs several more years in the cellar. We even had Elli pick our main courses of Octopus and Pork. The wine did start to open up during the course of our dinner so I would recommend dumping it into a decanter.
As were deeply engaged in discussing the wine blog-o-sphere Frank was up for another drink. Again, there were no half-bottles so I figured we could order a full bottle then take the leftovers. I suggested the well priced 2008 Finca Sandoval, Salia, Manchuela at $26 but when I mentioned the 2010 Jean-Paul Thevent, Vieilles Vignes, Morgon Frank lit up. “That’s a Kermit Lynch wine,” he said. That worked for me. Unfortunately, the supply of the 2010 vintage was exhausted and the next case held only the 2011. We decided to try it and idiotically, keep trying it. It wasn’t the best. Frank did not much care for it and Elli even made a face or two. She decanted it and swirled it for quite some time. It eventually opened up, just a little bit to reveal some delicate berries and citrus. Too bad, this wine is made from fruit sourced from a parcel of vines 45 years old and a parcel which is 110 years old.
To allay our feelings Elli returned with a bottle of 2010 Aurelien Verdet, Le Prieure, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and two fresh glasses. She gave us generous pours which she refreshed later on as we enjoyed the wine. This was much more interesting, a little earthy, good concentration, and weight. The fruit is apparently sourced from a 4 hectare vineyard planted in 1970. I do not think we concluded anything that night but I had a good time talking a lot over a rather long period.
Lou came over last week so we could catch up and taste some wines. He had recently been in San Francisco where he drank interesting wines from Huet, Donkey & Goat, Clos Saron, Ferret, and Broc Cellars at such places at Locals Corner and Terroir. As attractive as his experience was we ended up having a pretty good night. The 2004 Gernot Heinrich, St. Laurent was in fine shape. It was showing maturity but not much complexity and was best drunk up on the first night. The 2009 Weingut Arachon T. FX. T. Evolution was an interesting wine. Weingut Arachon T. FX. T. was started as a joint venture between Tibor Szemes, F.X. Pichler, and Manfred Tement. After the passing of Tibor Szemes his widow jointed the venture. A cooperative of twenty-five growers provide their best Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is then produced at the Arachon winery. From both the first sniff and taste it is evident this is a serious wine meant to be aged. I suspect the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot give it a bit of heft. I would try this again in a few years when it might be even better. I stared at the back of the 2010 Rosso Azzurro, A Crush on Mt. Eta, Nerello Mascalese label for sometime. The graphics of the moon and lady bug looked familiar, even the font did. It turns out this wine is the project of Jean-Marc of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. There was pretty high-altitude volcanic fruit but the structure makes itself present and could use some integration. Perhaps this will happen in a few years. The 2007 I Custodi, Aetneus was a good wine. I seemed to have drunk it more for enjoyment than for taking notes. It was more athletic than the Rosso Azzurro and would work out well with food. Lastly are the pair of wines from La Stoppa. I recently tasted the 2010 La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso with Charles Gendrot of Williams Corner Wine. I must agree with Phil that particular bottle was a bit bretty and took some work to get through. This bottle was completely different and all about fresh and ripe red fruit. Enjoyable and well priced. I believe La Stoppa is a low sulphur winery so perhaps there will be some bottle variation. The 2007 La Stoppa, Barbera Della Stoppa was the more serious of the two. It showed more concentration and was also more rugged, perhaps the pure Barbera nature coming through. I would stick this in the cellar and drink the Trebbiolo Rosso in the mean time. As always Lou and I split the leftover wine making sure to inject a good dose of Private Preserve. When I went to open a bottle of red wine for Jenn and I to actually drink she exclaimed, “Why? I really like these wines.”
2004 Gernot Heinrich, St. Laurent, Burgenland -
Imported by Vin Divino. This wine is 100% St. Laurent sourced from 5-35 year old parcels in on high slopes at 140 meters in Gols. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in both stainless steel and wooden vats, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for ten months in used oak barriques. Alcohol 13%. The nose was almost mature with a little wood aromas. In the mouth there was a slightly tart start with red fruit and acidity on the tongue. The wine rounded out a bit with black fruit. Best on the first night. ** Now-2015.
2009 Weingut Arachon T. FX. T., Evolution, Mittel Burgenland – $35-$40
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon which was fermented in stainless steel then aged in French oak barriques. Alcohol 14%. There was a good, assertive nose with almost floral pepper aromas and fine old perfume. The mouth follows the nose with black fruit and old perfume. There was a firmness to the flavors which became racy towards the finish with a good aftertaste and watering acidity. Serious. *** Now-2020.
2010 Rosso Azzurro, A Crush on Mt. Eta, Nerello Mascalese, Sicily – $30
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from old-vines at 600 meters. The fruit was partially destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts in open-top barrels then aged for one year in two neutral 500 liter barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose bore powdery ripe red berry fruit and eventually minerally, black and red fruit developed. In the mouth there was a fine firm structure which builds up until the drying tannins stick to the lips. With air a very delicate, pepper and graphite flavor comes out. The flavors are attractive but the structure suggests it needs age to both resolve and integrate with the fruit. There was watering acidity in the end. **(*) Now-2018?
2007 I Custodi, Aetneus, Etna Rosso – $32
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 100+ year old vines at 750 meters. The fruit is 80% destemmed then fermented in stainless steel vat before malolactic fermentation and 20 months aging in used barriques. Alcohol 14%. There was a distinctly Sicilian nose of ripe aromas and perhaps mulberry. The mouth follows the nose with a good amount of fruit. The tannins were obvious early on but mix well with the dry flavors and minerals. Despite my short note I did like it. Drink with food. *** Now-2018.
2010 La Stoppa Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia IGT – $20
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is a blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda macerated on the skins for 20 days then fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. There was a bright nose of berry fruit and toasted spices. The flavors were rich in the mouth with ripe cranberry and other youthful, ripe red, fresh fruit. Well done. With air there were gobs of fresh red young fruit to which the acidity played a supporting roll. There was almost a grapey pulp texture. *** Now-2015.
2007 La Stoppa, Barbera Della Stoppa, Emilia IGT – $32
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from 25-45 year old vines macerated on the skins for 30 days then fermented with indigenous yeasts. It was aged for one year in used barriques. Alcohol 14.5%. The first whiff was of almost stewed fruit but then the nose became articulate. The articulated scent follows in the mouth with a very ethereal earthy flavor and brambly nature. With air the wine became more pebbly with earthy fruit, a hint of Pilsner, and a fine, drying structure of tannins left on the lips. This definitely needs age. A ripe red raspberry flavor came out but there is more to this wine. It was a little rugged and yeasty in the aftertaste. *** 2015-2023.
I recently tried my second wine made from the indigenous Sicilian varietal Perricone. The 2009 Castellucci Miano was my first followed by this featured bottle from Valdibella. Both bottles of Perricone were lighter wines leaning towards black red fruit with structure for the short-term. They are interesting wines but I recommend them for those curious to try a new varietal. A step up is the Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Allegracore which I certainly recommend to all for $3 more. This is an affordable wine from Mt Etna which is quite fresh with pleasing tartness and rather attractive tannins. These wines were purchased from Chambers Street Wines.
2010 Valdibella, Acamante, Perricone, Sicily – $19
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is 100% Perricone sourced from Catarratto vineyard at 300-500 meters. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts. Alcohol 12%. The nose revealed light red fruit with peppery spiced shrimp shells (I know, quite a description coming from me.) On the second day there were aromas of delicate black red fruit. In the mouth there was dry, bright red fruit then black red fruit which mixed with minerals and acidity. There were fine+ tannins on the front of the tongue. Dry. ** Now-2015.
2009 Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Allegracore, Etna Rosso – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucino sourced from vineyards at 700 meters. It was fermented in stainless steel vats. Alcohol 13%. The color was a light cranberry garnet. The light nose was interesting with pungent red fruit. In the mouth there was initially black red fruit which lay low on the tongue. Then it steps through with acidity driven, dry black fruit flavors. It became tart with a little orange citrus note. There was a dry, textured, mineral finish with almost chewy, flavorful tannins. *** Now – 2019.
I am used to coming across under-performing or flawed bottles of wine. Most of the time these were immediately detectable by the nose alone. At one point I believe I experienced an average of 7% flawed bottles. However, I was confident in my palate so I routinely returned these bottles, as the folks at MacArthur Beverages may attest to. As I drink more wines sealed with alternative closures I seem to come across less flawed wines. But lately I have started coming across a different set of flaws which manifests itself in a similar manner regardless of varietal or region. These wines have a good nose but in the mouth the flavors are often bright red, very dry, full of powerful tannins, and a strong yeasty/Pilsner flavor. They are, in short, flawed and undrinkable.
Three examples from last month include the Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4 (I wrote about it earlier here), the 2010 Domaine de Gimios, Rouge Fruit, and the 2011 Natalino Del Prete, Nataly. The common thread is that these natural wines are all made without the use of sulphur dioxide. The yeasty/Pilsner flavor I tend to attribute towards fermentation with indigenous yeast and I do not mind it to some degree such as in the 2010 Weingut Hexamer, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg, Riesling Quarzit or the 2011 Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco. But when the wine so strongly reminds me of beer and combined with the other issues, I am completely put off. I do not know what causes these problems. The Frank Cornelissen was purchased at MacArthur Beverages and the Domaine de Gimios and Natalino Del Prete were purchased at Chambers Street Wines. These are both reputable stores so if it is a storage issue I doubt it occured at the store.
At first I thought I simply did not understand a certain style of natural wine, that they were meant to taste like that. Now I believe I am experiencing the flaws of non-sulphured wines. Alternative closures were created in light of the flaws attributed from cork. If sulphur use may prevent this type of flaw then why are these flaw tolerated? How many people try a flawed bottle of non-sulphured wine and think it is meant to be like that? For a brief but interesting comment check out the final paragraph in Mike Steinberger’s post from one week ago.
Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4, Dry Rose, Etna – $26
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. Produced from the free-run juice of various indigenous varietals. Alcohol 13.5%. Rather cloudy in the glass which is not surprising given the clumps in the bottle. Beautifully texture, aromatic nose is very enticing. Then in the mouth it started with pure tart, thin, dry flavors. Very tart at first but after an hour or two the flavors were of pure, dry, grapefruit juice followed by a yeasty Pilsner finish. Strange disconnect between the nose and mouth. Poor.
2009 Le Petite Domaine de Gimios, Rouge Fruit, VdT – $23
Imported by Fruit of the Vines. This wine is a blend of Cinsault, Alicante, Grenache, Carignan, Aramon, and Muscat sourced from a 1 hectare plot (which is planted with 16 different varietals). Biodynamic and no sulphur dioxide is used. Demeter certified. Alcohol 13%. The nose was light to medium in strength with red fruit, cooked green veggies, and black tea. In the mouth the wine starts with scented red flavors which were very dry then yeasty, Pilsner flavors. There were very fine, drying tannins which stuck to the gums. With air the yeasty, Pilsner flavor started very early on and lasted through the long aftertaste. Poor.
2011 Azienda Agricola Biologica Natalino Del Prete, Nataly, Primitivo, Salento IGT – $18
Imported by Louis/Dressner. This wine is 100% Primitivo sourced from 80+ year old vines from almost 7 hectares of vineyards. Certified organic with no use of chemicals, pesticides, and sulphur. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a medium grapey ruby. The medium strength nose was very lifted with aromas of red candy, perfumed, and powdery texture. In the mouth the flavors followed the nose with tart, tangy red fruit which was dry. The wine than became very dry with powerful tannins which coated the mouth along with some salivating acidity. Then a yeasty, Pilsner and dark red fruit aftertaste. * Now-2018.