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Notes From the Dump Bin

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Avignon, Braun & Hogenberg, Cosmographia, 1575

I love the dump bin. During my Bristol days, Harvey’s had a half-height wall full of bin-end selections. Now I troll through the half-barrels at MacArthur’s and the racks at Wide World of Wines. With judicious choice you can walk away with interesting wine at rock bottom prices. There are several different types of wine in the dump bin.  MacArthur’s has a special category for the absolutely worst wines, the “cooking wine” selection. I suspect these might be better suited for distillation. Then there are notorious wines to avoid regardless of the cost, perhaps highly rated but terrible to drink. If you like to gamble there are those of low-fill or signs of seepage that could be worth the risk. Finally there are good bottles marked down in cost simply because they represent the last odd bottle or two in the store.

Avignon, Baedeker's Southern France, 1914

Both of the wines in this post were purchased for $20 or less. I got the Font de Michelle from MacArthur’s and the Bosquet du Papes from Wide World of Wine. The cheapest prices on wine-searcher are $35 for the Font de Michelle and $60 for the Bosquet des Papes. I personally think that anyone who would pay $60 for the Bosquet is nuts.  Other Dump Bin wines in this blog include the 2000 Mourre du Tendre, 2001 Janasse, Terre d’Argile, 1999 Gourt des Mautens, amongst a few others.  These sorts of wines will now be tagged “Notes From the Dump Bin” to honor a comment from P.

1998 Domaine Font de Michelle, Chateauneuf du Pape
This is a blend of 70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Cinsault/Counoise/Terret Noir/Muscardin.  The Grenache is aged in foudres or tanks, the Syrah and Mourvedre are aged in newer barriques for 16 months.  Then the final blend is aged six months in tank.  This wine is a light+ garnet with bricking on the rim.  It has a light nose of funky, earthy aromas, and some roast.  In the mouth there are dense, dark, red fruit flavors.  There is a sense of gentle power lurking here.  The flavors expand in the mouth giving way to blue fruits and minerals in the finish.  There are some chunky tannins that come out in the aftertaste.  This wine is still youthful and not as complex as the Bosquet du Papes.  An awesome buy for this single bottle.  ***(*) Now-2017.

1998 Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape
This is a blend of 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault.  The vines average 50 years of age and the wine is aged in foudres.  This is a lighter color with a clearer, garnet core and more bricking than the Fond de Michelle.  It has a light nose of earthy, spices, forest, and old wood box.  In the mouth is is more mature in flavor, with ethereal, wood box aromas and spices.  The wine fills the mouth with red fruit and minerals.  I suspect is is now drinking at its peak.  Another good buy that I was able to purchase a few of.  **** Now-2015.

Greek Coins from Naxos, Sicily

April 29, 2011 1 comment

I collected coins through the end of high school.  Our recent tasting of Italian wine made me curious to look for images of coins that are wine related.  The coins pictured in today’s post were minted during a 150 year period at Naxos, Sicily.  Naxos was the first Greek colony in Sicily founded in 734 BC.  It was a successful colony in that after several years they were able to found the colonies of Leontini and Catana.  In 495 BC an altar to Apollo Archagetas was built.  Apollo was the patron under which the Chalcidians originally sailed.  Hippocrates of Gela attacked and took over Naxos around 498-491 BC.  Then in 476 BC Hieron of Syracuse removed all of the inhabitants of Naxos to the city of Leontini and brought in fresh colonists to live in Naxos.  By 461 BC the old inhabitants returned to Naxos.  In 427 BC, the three Chalcidic cities allied themselves with Athens during the Peloponnesian war.  The final blow was delivered in 403 BC when Dionysius of Syracuse turned against the Chalcidic cities.  He took over Naxos, sold all inhabitants as slaves then destroyed the city walls and all of its buildings.  Naxos never recovered.

Here are some terms found below.

  • Apollo was a Greek and Roman god, the son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother to sister Artemis.
  • Assinos is the god of the river Assinos that flows just north of Mt Etna.
  • Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and of wine.
  • Herm is a sculpture with a head and possibly a torso on a square, lower section that was adorned with male genitals.  It was intended to ward off evil.
  • Kantharos is a type of Greek pottery used for drinking. It is characterized by high, looping handles.
  • Silenus is a companion and teacher of Dionysus who lives in the forest.  He was the oldest, wisest, and must drunk follower of Dionysus.
  • Thyrsus is a staff of giant fennel carried by followers of Dionysus.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 530-510 BC

Obverse, head of Dionysos to left, with long, pointed beard, ivy wreath in his hair and a necklace of pearls bordered by two plain torcs at the truncation; around, border of dots within two linear circles. Reverse, NAXION Bunch of grapes on stalk with two leaves.  From the Calatabiano Hoard (IGCH 2061), found near Taormina before 1946.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 525-510 BC

Obverse, head Dionysos, bearded and garlanded with ivy. Reverse, bunch of grapes hanging from stylized tendril between two leaves; NAXION (reversed).

Sicily, Naxos, Tetradrachm, 461 BC

Obverse, head Dionysos, bearded. Hair in knot and garlanded with ivy. Reverse, NAXION. Nude Silenus sitting with footless kantharos.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 461-430 BC

Obverse, Head of Dionysos to right, wearing ivy wreath and with his hair in a bun at the back.  Reverse, Ν Α ΧΙ ΟΝ Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, turned very slightly to the left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and supporting himself with his left hand propped on the ground; his animal tail curls out behind him and around to the left.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 430-420 BC

Obverse, NAXI. Head of Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy, dotted border.  Reverse,  grape cluster with six leaves.

Sicily, Naxos, Drachm, 430-420 BC

Obverse, bearded head of Dionysos to right, wearing a hair band ornamented with an ivy wreath, and with his relatively short hair hanging loose in curly locks.  Reverse, NAXION. Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, his right knee raised, his left on the ground, and his tail coming out to left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and holding an upright thyrsos with his left; to left, ivy branch.  

Sicily, Naxos, Onkia, 425-420 BC

 Obverse, male head right, wearing tainia.  Reverse, vine leaf; N-A flanking.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetras, 420-415 BC

 Obverse, Kantharos with three pellets around.  Reverse, grape cluster with vine.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetradrachm, 420-403

 

Obverse, NAXION. Laureate head of Apollo to right, his hair rolled at the back; behind neck, laurel twig with leaf and berry. Reverse.  Nude and bearded Silenus squatting, facing, his right knee raised, his left on the ground, and his tail coming out to left, turning his head to the left towards the two-handled, stemless drinking cup he holds in his right hand, and holding an upright thyrsos with his left; to right, herm topped with an archaic head; to left, ivy branch.

Sicily, Naxos, Didrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, signed on the obverse by the artist Procles. NAXION, laureate head of Apollo left, laurel leaf and berry behind neck, die engraver’s initial Π under neck truncation.  Obverse, nude Silenus seated facing on ground, head turned left, right hand raising kantharus to lips, left hand holding thyrsus, ivy vine growing to left, herm standing to right.

Sicily, Naxos, Hemidrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, head of the youthful river-god Assinos to left, wearing wreath of parsley and with a tiny horn above his forehead.  Reverse, NAXION. Silenus kneeling partially to left, nude and with a long beard, holding kantharos in his right hand and an ivy branch in his left.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 410-404 BC

Obverse, NAXI. Wreathed and bearded head of Dionysos right with flowing hair. Reverse, grape cluster on vine with two leaves.

Sicily, Naxos, Litra, 410-402 BC

 Obverse, head of the river-god Assinos left, crowned with vine leaves.  Reverse, grape-vine with grape cluster.

Sicily, Naxos, Hemidrachm, 420-403 BC

Obverse, head of the river-god Assinos left, crowned with vine leaves.  Reverse, grape-vine with grape cluster.

Sicily, Naxos, Tetras, 400-390 BC

Obverse, Kantharos with three pellets around.  Reverse, NA, grape cluster on vine tendril.

2009 Bastide St. Dominique, Cuvee Jules Rochebonne, Cotes du Rhone Villages

April 28, 2011 Comments off

Like the 2009 Les Argiles Rouge the 2009 vintage of Jules Rochebonne is an excellent followup to the 2007 vintage.  This vintage sports a new label that is contemporary and dark. The wine is blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache.  The Syrah comes from vineyards in Champovin and Bois Lauzon that are 15-35 years of age.  The vineyards are located on north and south oriented hill sides of stony soil.  It aged 18 months in vats for the Grenache and barrel for the Syrah.


2009 Bastide St. Dominique, Cuvee Jules Rochebonne, Cotes du Rhone Villages
After a few hours of air it becomes relatively open.  There is a nose of earth and dark fruits.  In the mouth there are slightly earthy, dark blue fruits, and herbs.  There are some coarse tannins followed by dark red fruit in the finish.  The aftertaste sports slightly tart, complex flavors.  Consistent in profile with previous vintages, it is best to cellar this for a few years.  ***(*) Now-2019.

Dutch Wine Gauging in the Seventeenth Century

April 27, 2011 4 comments

De Kuiper, Jan Luyken, "Het menselyk bedryf", 1694, Collectie Amsterdams Historisch Museum

 

Many European cities imposed taxes on wine and beer.  Wine gaugers measured the contents of the barrels in order to calculate the appropriate tax.  This was not an easy task because a barrel is not a simple cylinder.  The two ends of the barrel may be of different diameters, the length varied, and the amount of the bulge varied.  In addition the barrel might be partially filled.  Barrel shapes varied depending upon the wine region it came from.  With the Dutch importing and trading wine from all over the world they had to become proficient at gauging.

The tax on wine and beer was introduced in the 14th century.  There was a tax for the transportation of wine and the selling of wine in cities.  No barrel could be sold within a city without the mark from the tax collector.  By the 16th century wine and beer taxes were generating significant revenue.  In Antwerp they accounted for one-half to three-quarters of all revenue.

A wine gauger was always assisted by a writer.  The first step was to taste the contents to determine if it were filled with wine or water.  The barrel was then measured.  The measurements were entered into an excise book and signed by the gauger and writer.  The wine gauger would then brand the barrel with his mark.   At that point the barrel could be sold or transported.  The wine gauger was also responsible for visiting inns.  Wine for consumption at an inn was taxed at a higher rate than that for private consumption.  The wine gauger visited innkeepers on a quarterly basis to measure the contents of the barrels so that he could calculate the amount of wine consumed.

De Dam, Lambert Doomer, 1645, Collectie van Eeghen

The volume of the barrel was calculated by using a wine gauging rod.  There were several different styles of rod and methods for calculating the volume.  In general the rod was inserted through the bung hole to measure the diameter of the bulge.  Then the diameters of the ends were measure and the length of barrel.  These numbers were used to approximate an equivalent cylinder then the volume was calculated.  To simplify calculation some rods had depth points engraved with the quadratic results next to them.  Another simplification involved pre-calculated tables of length times depth on a so-called change rod.  Finally, a set of engraved calipers called sectors could be used.  Sectors were introduced to wine gauging during the first half of the 17th century and may have military origins from measuring the contents of gunpowder barrels.

Wine gauger with rod

Wine gaugings was an important position that provided a small income.  A wine-gauger was appointed for life.  It is possible they were paid per barrel measured.  Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709) was a Dutch painter of primarily wooded landscapes.  In 1668 he married Eeltje Vinck and became a wine-gauger in Amsterdam.  He held the position for 40 years during which he virtually ceased painting.  Several works exist from this period but oddly do not include wine as a subject.  The couple was buried as paupers.

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) began his working career in 1654 as a shopkeeper.  In 1660 he became a civil servant and eventually a wine gauger for the city of Delft.  In 1671 he left civil service to start his scientific career assembling microscopes and magnifying glasses.  He eventually discovered “animacules.”

The verse in the image of Vincent Jacobsz reads, “With self-searching, most people find the reason and cause for disputes about what is theirs or yours. Yet reason and the law (where disputes are concerned) bound by measurement and justice aim to suit everyone”

Vincent Jacobsz, Gauger-Merchant Amsterdam, Jacob Matham,New South Whales

Two Sicilian Wines from Cerasuolo di Vittoria

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Both of these wines are from Cerasuolo di Vittoria.  It spans three provinces: Ragusa, Caltanissetta and Catania.  The area has a long history of wine production starting with the Greeks.  The city of Vittoria was founded in 1606 and is named in honor of Countess Vittoria Colonna Henriquez.  Vittoria is located near the south-eastern tip of Sicily not far away from Noto.  The Countess offered the first 75 farmers one hectare of land if the promised to cultivate a vineyard on another.  This resulted in an explosion in vineyards that established this as a significant region.

Cerasuolo stems from the name Cerasa meaning cherry.  During the pre-phylloxera times there were so many vineyards in Ragusa that the wineries could only process the grapes fast enough if they used very short maceration times.  This resulted in a light cherry-colored wine.  This DOC was granted DOCG status starting with the 2005 vintage.  This allow wine makers to move away from the traditional 50/50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato.

Planeta is a company with five estates and wineries located throughout Sicily.  The Dorilla estate in Vittoria produces only one Cerasuolo di Vottoria wine.   The 17 hectare vineyard is at an altitude of 60 meters and was planted in 1997.  The soils are sandy and lie over volcanic tufa.  The grapes are typically harvested during the end of September.  This wine is a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato and was completely brought up in stainless steel.  Alessio Planeta believes this DOCG is about perfume and that oak would weaken the focus.  It is available for $22 at MacArthur’s.

Arianna Occhipinti is a young winemaker from Vittoria.  She has been making wine for ten years under the guidance of her uncle.  Her vineyards are also located in Cerasuolo di Vottira at an altitude of 270 meters.  The vines average eight years of age and are harvested during the middle of October.  This wine is not DOCG wine because it is 100% Frappato.   Her wines are certified organic.  The Occhipinti is $33 at MacArthur’s and 13% alcohol.

Both of these wines are quite enjoyable.  I really loved the gorgeous nose on the Occhipinti but I found it a bit weak in the mouth.  While it is a good introduction to pure Frappato it is too expensive to be a daily drinker.  I recommend the Planeta as an introduction to this region.


2008 Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily
This wine sports a light, Frappato nose with cherry undertones.  In the mouth there are red flavors, gritty cherries and raspberries that are savory.  There is a salty character on the sides of the tongue.  After a few hours the wine rounds out in the mouth, putting on nice weight and underlying blue fruit.  Jenn found an enjoyable nutty, toasty flavors at the end.  *** Now-2015.


2008 Occhipinti, Il Frappato, Sicily
This wine is much more aromatic with a medium nose of aromatic, floral, cherry, raspberry, and scented spices.  In the mouth there are similar flavors of herbed red berries, tart fruit, in a savory and salty manner.  There is a light amount of medium-coarse tannins.  With air it becomes a bit tart and the nose leaves a stronger impression than the body. ** Now.

2006 Tenute Soletta, Corona Majore, Cannonau di Sardegna

April 25, 2011 2 comments

Sardinia has historically been different from the rest of Italy.  It has been governed by Carthage, Rome, Byzantines, Arabs, and Catalans.  In 1479 Ferdinan II of Aragon married Isabel of Castile and the Kingdom of Sardinia became Spanish.  The 250 years of Spanish rule left a legacy of using Spanish grapes.  Grenache was brought to Sardinia and is known as Cannonau in Italian.

Sardegna, Giovani Cassini, Rome 1792

Tenute Soletta is a wine cooperative founded by Umberto Soletta in 1996.  He has meticulously reclaimed land for the vineyards and established a clean, modern winery full of stainless steel and French oak.  Corona Major is named after the region in the northern tip of the Sassari province.  Sassari may be found in the upper, left-hand corner of the map.  The Cannonau vineyards are grown at an altitude of 400 meters on sandy, chalky soil.  The vines are harvested in October and the wine is aged for 18 months.  It is 13.5% alcohol and is available for $26 at MacArthur’s.


2006 Tenute Soletta, Corona Majore, Cannonau di Sardegna
This wine is a bright, vibrant ruby color.  The light nose has ripe, sweet red fruit and sweet spices.  With air lifted, gritty blue fruit aromas develop.  There are waves of tart red fruit in this medium bodied wine.  The sweet spices lift up and out of the mouth.  It is a modern style of wine with lots of ripe, red, herbed fruit, good aromas, and an almost spicy character.  *** Now-2017.

Two from Sicily

April 23, 2011 2 comments

These two wines from Sicily are made from different grapes grown in radically different areas.  I initially preferred the dark flavors of the Cottanera.  As the wines breathed the Cottanera demonstrated its need for aging and the Maccari became open for drinking.

Cottanera was founded in the 1960s by Francesco Cambria.  The two sons, Guglielmo and Enzo, took over the company in the 1990s.  They set about replanting new vineyards and refurbishing the winery.  The estate covers a total of 100 hectares on the northern slopes of Mount Etna at an altitude of 730 meters.  50 hectares are planted at Castiglione di Sicilia and 5 hectares at Solicchiata.  The Fatagione is a blend of 85% Nerello Mascalese and 15% international varieties from the Castiglione di Sicilia area.  It vinified in temperature controlled stainless steel and aged for 12 months in medium-high toasted French oak barriques (40% new).

The Etna DOC is shaped like a backwards “C” that hugs the middle of the volcano. The soils differ throughout. Castiglione di Sicilia is located on the northern slopes of Mt Etna and from this old engraving appear to be of volcanic tufa.  The climate is quite cool which results in a late harvest of mid-October!

Val di Noto is famous for being destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1693.  The wide-spread destruction of southern Sicilian buildings cleared the way for the birth of Sicilian Baroque architecture.  Antonio Moretti vacationed here in the 1990s.  He decided to create a winery so along with his daugher Monica, they acquired more than fifty properties to create their estate.  The vineyards are planted using the old l’Alberello system.  Alberello (little tree) vines are grown close to the ground and narrowly spaced toallow mules or horses to plough in between.  This system allows the vines to survive the extremely dry summers.

1693 Fire and earthquake destroy Val di Noto town, "Specula physico-mathematico-historica...", Johann Zahn, 1696

Fuedo Maccari is located in the south-eastern corner of Sicily in Noto. This wine is 100% Nero d’Avola from 20-year-old vines grown at an altitude of 80 meters. The vineyards have a southern exposure.  The soils are mostly volcanic with some areas of white sand and chalk.  It is aged in new and one year old French oak barriques for 15 months. “Saia” is an Arabic word referring to small canals build to hold water for summer time use.


2007 Feudo Maccari, Saia, Nero D’Avola, Sicily
This wine has a darker core than the Cottanera.  It has a light nose that turns towards darker berries.  In the mouth is has a lighter body with an immediate delivery of red fruit, acidity along with some underlying darker red flavors.  There are definitely tannins lurking about.  Though the wine tilts towards tart red berries, it takes on blue fruits and becomes more mouthfilling with air.  Give it a few years in the cellar.  This is $27 at MacArthur’s.  **(*) 2014-2017.


2007 Cottanera, Fatagione, Nerello Mascalese, Sicily
The Cottanera is a medium ruby color with cherry core.  It is bit darker and richer than the Maccari.  However it is definitely a drier wine with a tighter structure.  There are both grape and wood tannins throughout.  It is drying in the finish.  I like the dark flavors of this wine but it is somewhat shutdown at this point.  Give it several years in the cellar.  This is $30 at MacArthur’s.  **(*) 2014-2019.