Just a quick note before the holiday weekend. With the warmer and more humid weather this week we have enjoyed several bottles of Chianti in an effort to turn towards lighter wines. The 2009 Il Brunone, Chianti Classico is actually quite structured. A structured, tannic wine can be the last thing I want to drink on a warm evening but this bottle bears rugged tannins. They impart a youthful character and help the wine stand up to grilled cheeseburgers. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2009 Il Brunone, Chianti Classico – $17
Imported bt Shaw-Ross International Importers. This wine is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo that underwent alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel, malolactic fermentation in cement vats, then was aged 12-18 months in large casks. Alcohol 13.5%. The dark fruited nose matched the slightly robust, dry flavors of dark fruit in the mouth. This is a textured wine from the rugged tannins which provide a dry structure throughout. The fruity component bears some weight before the dark, dry, and slightly bitter finish. With air the wine turns a touch tart while also offering dry, floral flavors. **(*) Now – 2019.
We continue the 2009 vintage theme with this pair of notes from David Bloch.
2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun), Moulin-à-Vent
Extremely clean style of winemaking. On the nose, very sweet red fruited notes appear without much coaxing. The mouthfeel is silky, with penetrating notes of strawberries, raspberries and some cherry. This a wine to serve to Burgundy drinkers who recoil at the thought of drinking Gamay. The wine doesn’t lack for complexity – a little bit of game and leather peak through as well. Good finish. Some would say wait longer. If you’ve got a few stashed away I’d drink one now. You just may find it is in a place that you like. What a terrific Cru Beaujolais and one of my favorites from the vintage.
2009 Château La Fleur Morange, Mathilde, Saint-Emilion
This is a screaming deal modern-styled Right Banker produced in fairly small quantities from 100% Merlot and is the second wine of La Fleur Morange in St.-Emilion. This is a big and juicy wine that really delivers. A complex nose emerged after only a brief decant. Dark fruits, earth and some minerality are immediate on the palate. Then some chocolate that is typical for Merlot. Now some plum. Maybe a touch jammy. This wine has improved over the last year or two. The tannins are soft and the acidity is balanced which will carry this wine for another 5+ years.
There is good value to be had in Tuscany and the 2009 Dievole, Chianti Classico is one such example. Hints of bottle age come out on the nose which is reflected in the moderately complex flavors which show best after an hour of air. Priced at $13 per bottle this is a solid weekday wine which you may drink over the next few years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2009 Dievole, Chianti Classico – $13
Imported by Pasternak. Alcohol 14.1%. The nose smells mature with an attractive pencil lead aromas. The moderate complexity continues in the mouth with dark cherry then dry black fruit. There is a good balance between the tannins and juicy acidity. This is a solid wine, grippy, with a dry finish that is perhaps a touch short. **(*) Now – 2019.
It turns out that both David Bloch and I are fans of Tua Rita.
2007 Tua Rita, Perlato del Bosco
Tua Rita is a producer of some of the finest wines in Tuscany. From the iconic Redigaffi (100% Merlot) and killer Syrah to the terrific Bordeaux-styled Giusto di Notri to more “everyday” offerings like the Perlato. Very dark in color. Should be decanted a few hours in advance. On the nose there are notes of espresso. Stewed plums. Now some chocolate. Black cherries. A rich wine – full bodied but not heavy. Same notes of espresso, coffee and dark chocolate on the palate. Along with the plums. Blackberries too. The tannins are still poking through and I suspect it would take several more years for them to be fully resolved but I would not risk missing out on the fine Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. Long finish and better on day two. This is not the most refined vintage of this wine I’ve had from Tua Rita, but it provides enormous drinking pleasure today and works well at the table.
Lou and I gathered in his kitchen last week to drink through a range of Sangiovese based wines primarily focused in on Ruffino, Riserva Ducale. We always start with a white wine but this time the bottle of 1999 Savary, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume was drinking too advanced. A few sips were fine for curiosity but I soon moved on. I did not miss a beat in tasting (and drinking) the 2010 Carpineto, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva. After recently loving a bottle of 2010 Carpineto, Chianti Classico Riserva the Montepulciano did not disappoint. Let me just say that this is a great wine which is already complex and will clearly develop over the next several years. I would buy several to lay down. I then moved on to the 1998 La Sirena, Sangiovese, Juliana Vineyard, Napa Valley. This tasty wine will have broad appeal. It is a hypothetical mix up of Sangiovese made in a Rhone style in California. Perhaps this sounds bizarre but it will not after you knock back a glass or two.
1999 Savary, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from 30 year old vines on Kimmeridgian Limestone that was fermented in stainless steel. Alcohol 12.5%. The attractive autumnal amber color looks quite mature which the nose confirms with fallen orchard fruit signaling the wine is past its peak. The wine is younger in the mouth with hints of apple cider, fresh acidity, and nice tannins making for attractive grip. There is even a citrus hint. But with additional air I just can no longer get past the nose. * Past.
2010 Carpineto, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
Imported by Opici Wines. This wine is 90% Sangiovese and Canaiolo Nero that was aged for over 2 years in oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is quite pretty and complex with leather and floral aromas. This youthful wine has flavors of black fruit supported by structure and acidity. There is a hint of minerality and an inky quality with a layer of red, floral flavors on top. It is even savory with a touch of fat in the aftertaste. This is well balance for aging. ***(*) Now – 2026.
1998 La Sirena, Sangiovese, Juliana Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.6%. The robust nose offers up some roasty, toasty aromas in a style evocative of California. The wine is drinking surprisingly well with a fruity, dense and rounded start. The watering acidity moves the wine along as it takes on some glycerin for body and offers tart black fruit on the sides of the tongue. It becomes softer with air with some dark cocoa flavors but it remains tasty. A hypothetical Rhone-styled Sangiovese. *** Now.
Our main flight of three wines was focused in on Ruffino in Chianti. Founded in 1877, this estate did not produce their first Ducale Riserva until 1927. The Ducale Riserva with the beige label is produced only in good vintages with the gold label only produced in the very best vintages. The best grapes from estate vineyards are used for Ducale Riserva. The gold label is a selection of the best lots of the beige label from the very best vintage and was first released in 1947. The Riserva Ducale has appeared in American newspaper advertisements since at least 1960. Over the subsequent decades, Ruffino was considered one of the best known names in Chianti with the Riserva Ducale Oro expensive but considered an age-worthy wine. In this vein, A&A Wine & Spirits of Washington, DC, listed 11 vintages of Riserva Ducale Oro for sale in 1987. From the 1977 at $23.99, their selection went back to the 1949 vintage at $199.99 per bottle. Only the 1964 Biondi Santi, Riserva Il Greppo was more expensive at $399.99 per bottle.
The beige label spends three years in various vats and oak casks with the gold label spending at least four years in oak. There was no gold label produced in 1961. The 1961 and 1971 vintages are a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia and Trebbiano, 5% Colorino, Ciliegiolo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1993 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7-8% Canaiolo, and 2-3% white grapes.
The gold label is interesting in that it is made with 6-10% governo. Governo is a second fermentation caused by the addition of dried grapes, dried must, or concentrate. The governo used for the gold label is based on grapes dried on mats for two months. Ruffino feels it helps encourage malolactic fermentation. The Wasserman’s are of the opinion that wines made with governo can actually age quite a long time, particularly the gold label. Another example is the Chianti Classico of Monsanto which used governo until 1967.
Given our small sample set, it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the use of governo. The Wasserman’s rated the 1961 vintage in Chianti a zero out of four stars with Michael Broadbent three stars out of five for Tuscany. The Wasserman’s rated the 1971 vintage two out of four stars (commenting that the 1971 Ducale Oro was fading when tasted in 1989) and Michael Broadbent rated the vintage five out of five stars.
A general opinion appears to exist that Chianti, outside of the spaghetti joint flasks, does not age to extremes due to the large percentage of white grapes. Our bottle of 1961 Ruffino, Ducale Beige, Chianti Riserva was certainly past prime. I managed a few satisfactory swallows but there was nothing that could improve its state. Perhaps the governo and the strong 1971 vintage worked together for the bottle of 1971 Ruffino, Ducale Oro, Chianti Classico Riserva kept supplying great glasses of wine all night long. It smelled and tasted like old-school Italian wine with lively acidity and good weight to the flavors. This bottle was clearly well-stored and I suggest that fans of old Barolo try out this Ducale Oro if you can find one. Our final bottle of 1993 Ruffino, Ducale Oro, Chianti Classico Riserva was clearly a wine of a different era. It did have attractive leather, vintage perfume, and a sweaty note but it did not have vibrant acidity, making it softer and more advanced than I would expect. A solid bottle. Based on my experience with the 1971 I will continue to carefully look for other old bottles of Chianti.
1993 Ruffino, Ducale Oro, Chianti Classico Riserva
Imported by Schieffelin & Somerset. Alcohol 13%. The nose has some VA to it, mixing with hard cherry aromas that become grainier with air. The wine is immediately softer in the mouth and more advanced than I would expect. This mature bottle sports tart cherry, leather, and vintage perfume flavors. It has weight and an attractive sweaty component. I keep thinking it is softer than it should be. ** Now.
1971 Ruffino, Ducale Oro, Chianti Classico Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12.5%. The good nose remains aromatic with mature, old-school aromas reminiscent of Italy. The vibrant, acidity driven start shows good weight to the red fruit with good presence in the mouth. There are ripe, dusty tannins in the aftertaste where a citric grip returns. The wine responds well to air taking on a persistent flavor of old-school perfume. The fruit is dry but there are no hints of raisins (from the governo). *** Now but will last.
1961 Ruffino, Ducale Beige, Chianti Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 12.8%. The nose is full of roast earth indicating the wine is past its prime. In the mouth is good, edgy acidity with a core of dense, old fruit. It is more of a core of tired fruit that tastes old by the end. There is some menthol. Drinkable as a relic. * Past.
The 2014 Domaine Faury, Vieilles Vignes, Saint Joseph is an enticing wine to drink after several hours of air. The core of dark fruit is salty, racy, speckled with stone notes, and coated with a bit of fat. It reacts to air in an understated manner which suggests it is best left to cellar for several more years. If you are tempted by curiosity then pick up a few bottles. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2014 Domaine Faury, Vieilles Vignes, Saint Joseph – $35
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted on granite soils between 1937 and 1976. The wine was aged for 15 months in oak demi-muids and barrels. Alcohol 13%. There is a core of clean, grapey purple and black fruit which takes on hints of cream before it becomes racy in the middle. With air the wine becomes salty and exhibits more attractive fat. The ripeness of the fruit gently builds as does a note of stones. **** Now – 2025.
“coming in as freely as they did before 1914”: An early post-WW2 bottle of German wine once sold in America
The triple punch of World War I, World War II, and Prohibition cut off American wine lovers from German wines for nearly 40 years. The first significant German wine imports into America did not appear until five years after the end of World War II in 1950. This is not surprising given the need to rebuild the transportation infrastructure not only within Europe but also between Europe and America.
Under the Marshall Plan, European countries saw a period of rapid growth from 1948 through 1952. Trade agreements were reached such as that between the Allied High Commissioners for Germany and France in 1950. These agreements naturally involved wine as one of many products. By Christmas 1950, not only were Rhine and Mosel wines plentiful in West German stores but so were the wines of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and Chile.
That same year, during August 1950, West Germany showcased wine, amongst other goods, at the first International Trade Fair in Chicago for the Marshall Plan countries. Some 35,000 people attended the Fair through which European merchants established trade partnerships. There was even a German Wine Tasting Ceremony of 24 wines for some 100 tasters. New trade partnerships soon bore fruit for by the end of 1950, Central Liquor Store of Washington, DC, was selling a selection of German wines including 1947 Liebfraumilch Madonna, Spatlese at $2.39 per 24oz.
You can imagine my surprise then when Vladimir Srdic of Novi Sad, Serbia, sent me pictures of 1950 Otto Caracciola, Piesporter imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co for the Central Liquor Store.
The Caracciola family were wine merchants and hotel operators since the mid 19th century. For further history and historic images related to the Caracciola family please read the section Otto Caracciola und der Apollinaris-Keller on the Rhein Wine Bruderschaft website. This particular bottle of 1950 Caracciola represents an early selection from the resumption of German wine imports.
Macy’s held their first all-German wine tasting in 1953. Jane Nickerson of The New York Times noted the wines were “coming in as freely as they did before 1914”. She felt that Macy’s in particular was acting “as if to make up for time lost.” The following year Frank Schoonmaker was importing German wine exported by Deinhard & Co of Coblenz. It was during the fall of 1954 that Central Liquor first sold the 1950 Caracciola vintage imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co of New York City. These selections of Liebfraumilch, Hohannisberg, Niersteiner, Domtal, and Moselblumchen were consistently amongst the least expensive wines. They were priced at $0.89 per 24oz compared to 1950 Huegen Piesporter Goldtropchen at $1.49. Central Liquor continued to sell the Caracciola wines through the end of 1957. It is not clear whether Dreyfus, Ashby & Co stopped importing the Caracciola wines or the market for inexpensive German wine in Washington, DC, dried up.
This wine bottle bears no indication of vineyard nor grape. With no other designation than Piesporter, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, it is possible this is not a Riesling based wine rather one from Muller-Thurgau or Elbling. Both Andre Simon and Frank Schoonmaker wrote that the wines of Piesport were amongst the very best of the Mosel. However, there was a fair amount of inexpensive Piesporter exported out with Frank Schoonmaker going so far as to write in The Wines of Germany (1956) that more was sold than produced. With this in mind he felt it was “particularly important” to insist on estate bottled wines with a specific vineyard name, the label indicating Original-Abfullung, and a producer’s name. Of the 1950 vintage, Frank Schoonmaker felt it was a very good year for the Mosel wines but by the mid 1950s they were already past prime. Michael Broadbent echoed this sentiment noting that most wines of this vintage had been drunk up by the middle part of the decade.
You might be wondering, as did I, how a bottle of wine imported into New York City then sold in Washington, DC, came into the hands of Vladimir in Serbia. It turns out a friend of his lived in New York for a long time. When he moved back to Serbia he brought with him interesting bottles of wine and liquor including the one featured in today’s post. Many thanks to Vladimir for letting me include his images in this post.