I find all of the right flavors in the 2014 La Garrigue, Cuvee Romaine

February 5, 2016 Leave a comment

Philippe Cambie and Eric Solomon continue to highlight their joint efforts with the latest vintage of the 2014 Domaine La Garrigue, Cuvee Romaine, Cotes du Rhone.  The 2014 vintage has produced an early drinking wine which still bears all of the familiar dark flavors of the cuvee.  This is in essence declassified Vacqueyras at an attractive price.  If concrete tanks and red Rhone wine make you excited then buy this by the case. I know that I will.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Domaine La Garrigue, Cuvee Romaine, Cotes du Rhone – $16
Imported by Eric Solomon.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah sourced from 60-90 year old vines.  It was aged for 12 months in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The aromas precede the flavors which bear the unmistakable low-note of Vacqueyras.  There are good flavors, akin to previous vintages, along with a bit of watery acidity.  There is a sense of lightness but the wine has the right amount of textured and ripe tannins.  *** Now – 2018.


19th century map showing vineyards surrounding Herat, Afghanistan

February 3, 2016 Leave a comment

This late 19th century map of Herat, Afghanistan is centered on the citadel of Herat which dates back to 330 BC.  The map also details plots of cultivated land surrounding the citadel.  These plots are divided between vineyards and gardens.  If you look closely at the map you’ll see that there are many vineyards surrounding all four sides of the citadel.

Herat, Afghanistan. Wyld, James. c. 1880. [1]

Herat, Afghanistan. Wyld, James. c. 1880. [1]

The vines at Herat were typically trained for climbing.[2]  The grapes were, according to some, considered the “finest”. While they were largely used to produce raisins and treacle, some wine and spirits were produced as well.

[1] Herat, Afghanistan. Wyld, James. c. 1880. American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. World Digital Library. URL: http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agdm/id/499
[2] A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India, Volume 6, Part 4. 1893. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=dd10bZS6IDsC&pg=PA2#v=onepage&q&f=false

Categories: History of Wine Tags:

The bocksbeutel is back!

February 3, 2016 Leave a comment

The 2014 Weingut Hans Wirsching, Iphofer, Silvaner Trocken, Franken is a lively wine with pure white fruit flavors and a chalky finish.  It drinks best over two nights when it offers up some fat and dried herbs. It is a good example of acidity and minerality which I recommend you drink now.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Weingut Hans Wirsching, Iphofer, Silvaner Trocken, Franken – $17
Imported by Rudi Wiest. Alcohol 12%.  The white fruit flavors became nutty in the middle followed by a chalky stone finish.  The wine is rather lively, almost with a prickle, from acidity that carries it through the finish.  It does take on some fat and ripeness at the start followed by dried herbs and some tannins.  ** Now – 2017.


A 16th century illustration of Vitis Vinifera in a Spanish edition of De Materia Medica

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

De Materia Medica is an encyclopedia and pharmacopoeia written by Pedanius Dioscorides who was a Roman physician of Greek origin.  Published in the first century it was translated, copied and published for some 1500 years.  It was first translated from Latin into Spanish during the 16th century.  Andres Laguna, the doctor of Pope Julius III, published his Spanish edition around 1555.

In the section on the grape vine and wine appears a single color image of Vitis Vinifera.  It is a particularly attractive illustration perhaps due to this copy being a gift for the future King Phillip II.  I find the illustration more akin to the 17th century water colors of John Tradescant’s grape clusters than other 16th century Herbal Illustrations.


“De Materia Medica” by Dioscorides. Published by Laguna c. 1555. [1]


[1] “De Materia Medica” by Dioscorides. Available at the World Digital Library through the Biblioteca Digital Hispanica. URL: http://bdh.bne.es/bnesearch/detalle/bdh0000037225

Casual notes on four Sicilian red wines

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago we were joined by another family for a late afternoon gathering.  The kids played while we tasted through a selection of Sicilian wines.  It was a casual evening so I only jotted down brief impressions.  To cut to the chase, the 2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso must be the most forward and generous vintage yet.  It is a fruity, affordable wine from Etna to drink right now for our bottle seemed tired by the end of the evening.   Still, it made for an enjoyable drink while we waited for the other bottles to come around.  Whereas the 2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso remained distractingly tannic and the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna  too simple, the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna surprised us all. After 3-4 hours it became aromatic with an elegant style of complexity that had us all proclaiming it as our favorite as we then rapidly drained the bottle.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso – $34
Imported by Domaine Select Wines.  This wine is a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato. It is fermented in terracotta amphora of 250 and 400 liter capacities. The fermentation is allowed to take its own course so there is no temperature control and it typically lasts for seven months.  Alcohol 12%.  The somewhat floral nose is followed by tart red fruit and a wall of very fine tannins.  It remained distractingly tannic, even with extended air, leaving the impression the structure will outlast the fruit.  *(*) 2020? – 2026?


2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $17
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 5-50 year old vines on volcanic soils. It was fermented then aged for 11 months in large French oak barrels then aged a further month in stainless steel. Alcohol 14%.   Generous flavors of ripe red fruit tastes young in nature.  Perhaps the most forward vintage yet it drinks well from the very first glass with supporting acidity and tannins.  ** Now.


2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 40-50 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. It was aged for 8 months in old oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%.  After several hours of air the nose became very aromatic with floral and herb aromas.  In the mouth were fine, red and black fruit flavors with a vein of lively acidity.  The complexity and depth for aging is there but requires hours to come out.  *** 2018 – 2024.


2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna – $18
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 10-30 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. Alcohol 13%.  Brighter, more acidity, and simpler than the other bottling. *(*) Now – 2017.

A view of the vineyard at Chaillot in Paris

January 29, 2016 Leave a comment

A General View of the City of Paris taken from an Eminence in the Village of Chaillot. Parr, Nathaniel. 1749. #B1995.13.87. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The Yale Center for British Art recently released over 22,000 high-resolution images through the center’s online collection.  Amongst these images appears a view of the city of Paris from 1749.  The city appears in the background with the green of Chaillot in the foreground.  In the map below, Chaillot is located in the middle, left-hand section where it is colored in blue.  The closest road in the foreground is the Grande Rue des Chaillot.  It is in this area that the famous vines of Chaillot were tended.


Plan de la ville et faubourg de Paris. Mondhare et Jean. 1790. Hollis #010890191. Harvard Map Collection.

A snow day with the 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme

January 28, 2016 Leave a comment


The snow days full of shoveling and sledding left me worn out by the end.  I have mostly drunk inexpensive wines as a result, not wanting to waste anything.  I did manage to open one nice wine.  The 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme is produced mostly from Spanna which is the local name for Nebbiolo.  Ghemme, like its neighbor Gattinara, are lesser known regions compared to Barolo and Barbaresco.  In Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991) the 1981 vintage is not regarded too well.  In fact, the wines of Ghemme in general are damned with the conclusion “one has to wonder if it is really worth the effort to make these wines.”

If you drank this bottle within an hour or two of opening it you might agree.  Confident in the staying-powering of Spanna, I double-decanted this bottle 24 hours before drinking it.  The Wassermans also wrote that Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo is “the finest producer in the zone.”  Given that this basic bottling from a poor vintage showed as well as it did is testament to this estate.  The wine is, in all senses, elegant and tastes as if the flavors are fully mature.  However, this fine wine will continue to hold your attention for many years to come.  This wine was purchased from The Rare Wine Company.


1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme – $90
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is a blend of 75-80% Spanna, 15% Vespolina, and 5-10% Bonarda Novarese.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was finely scented with roast aromas.  In the mouth was a subtle sense of sweetness to the flavors of dried herbs and fruit, the later from a tart cherry core.  The fine interplay between the dry flavors, old wood tannins, and very good acidity, left fresh impressions in the mouth.  ***(*) Now – 2026.



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