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Mature Rosso di Valtellina

But for the hints of fruit, you would be excused for thinking the 1999 Cantine Balgera, Rosso di Valtellina is an old, say 1960s, modest Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte.  Priced at just over $1 per year, it could be fun to throw in as a ringer at a tasting of old wine.  You may find it at MacArthur Beverages.

1999 Cantine Balgera, Rosso di Valtellina – $24
Imported by Artisanal Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 80% Nebbiolo, 10% Pignola, and 10% Syrah. Alcohol 12%.  The nose smells of dusty books and old, dry leather.  In the mouth the leather returns with eucalyptus notes and vintage perfume delivered as a focused core of flavor.  There is weight up front with the wine dry from middle to finish.  After some air there is a hint of fruit indicating this is a “younger” wine.  ** Now but will last.

Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830

January 20, 2018 Leave a comment

On April 22, 2017, I attended my third amazing Madeira event Bastardo & Moscatel – The Tasting in New York City. This was the sixth in a series of definitive annual Madeira tastings organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).

Unlike the previous two events I have attended, I did not write an article for the tasting booklet.  Bastardo and Moscatel were produced in such small quantities that I have yet to come across references in the correspondence of our Founding Fathers, historic newspaper advertisements, and even 19th century auction catalogs. For this post I explore the history behind the Bastardo we tasted.

Noel Cossart writes that even before phylloxera the production of Bastardo was so small that it was not kept separate, instead it was pressed with other grapes.  Cossart Gordon typically pressed their Bastardo and some other varieties with Verdelho.  They did replenish their 1844 Camara de Lobos Solera with Bastardo according to Henry Vizetelly.  So scare are descriptions that the 1970 advertisement by Sherry-Lehmann for 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is the earliest I know of in an American paper.

The rarity of Bastardo is evidenced by Mannie Berk’s determination that the only pre-World War II vintages are 1830, 1836, 1858, 1870, 1875, 1876, and 1927.  As far as post-War vintages, it became extinct until Ricardo Freitas convinced a farmer to plant a small vineyard in 2004.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of Bastardo planted on the island.  Bastardo has always been scarce and bottlings of it even more so.

It is incredible then that we sat down to 12 different bottles of Bastardo at the tasting.  It might even seem impossible that of these selections, nine bottles were organized into three single-vintage flights: 1927, 1875, and 1870.  These groupings become understandable if the wines originally came from the same source, i.e. single pipes of each vintage.  Thus the important task of the tasting was to ascertain if each flight originated from a mother wine.

There have been three commercial releases of 1927 Bastardo and we tasted all three: the D’Oliveira, Leacock, and Blandy.  There is a fourth known Bastardo, the two casks sitting at Henriques & Henriques but it has not been released for sale and Mannie Berk was unable to obtain a sample for our tasting.  We know that the D’Oliveira came from Adegas do Terreão which they purchased in 2002 including this Bastardo in barrel.  Of the five known wines from this vintage there are at most four different sources.

For the 1927 and 1875 vintages I feel reasonably certain that two wines in each flight came from the same source.  The 1927 Leacock, Bastardo and 1927 Blandy’s, Bastardo Demijohn Selection I found similar.  The Blandy was recently bottled from demijohn and the Leacock was in bottle much longer given the dusty nose.  Despite differences in bottle age, both wines still share a pungent flavor that is remarkably similar as is the acidity.  This similarity narrows down the potential sources to three.  Without tasting the 1927 Henriques & Henriques I cannot specify further.

I found another strong commonality with the 1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo and 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo which both show a similar copper color and bear a citrus flavor.

The comparisons fall apart with the weaker 1870 vintage.  The bottle of 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is fully mature, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo is round, sweet, old and the  1870 Favila, Bastardo fresh, floral, and elegant.

Phylloxera

Physical map of the Island of Madeira. London : E. Standford, [1856]. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich via Old Maps Online.

The answer as to why I could find commonality with the 1927 and 1875 vintages and not the 1870 might have to do with the spread of phylloxera during the 1870s.  Phylloxera arrived on the island in 1872.  It took over a decade for its spread to be largely contained.  Over the first three years it was devastating to a few particular areas, significantly impacting the diversity of vineyards on the south side of the island.  If Bastardo was grown in vineyards throughout this side, phylloxera would have the effect of reducing the number of separate Bastardo vineyards thus increasing the chance that later vintages came from the same source.

The scarcity of Bastardo even prior to the arrival of phylloxera means we do not have a clear picture on where it was grown.  However, contemporary sources reveal there are at least two areas where Bastardo was grown during the 1870s.  Those are Camara de Lobos and Sao Martinho.   According to Noel Cossart, the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from Henriques’s Camara de Lobos vineyard.  He also writes of Cossart Gordon having an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo as coming from the Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Camara de Lobos.  According to Ricardo Freitas, the 1870 Favilia Bastardo came from Sao Martinho as the wine belonged to Manuel Jose Vieira who had substantial vineyards in that area.

There are no detailed maps or timelines regarding the spread of phylloxera on Madeira.  We can form a general understanding on the impact on these two regions by reviewing O Archivo Rural Jornal de Agricultura (1876), Victor Fatio’s Etat de la question phylloxérique en Europe en 1877, Henry Vizetelly’s Facts about Port and Madeira (1878), Francisco d’Almeida Brito’s Le phylloxera et autres epiphyties de la vigne en Portugal (1884),  Alfredo de Villanova de Vasconcellos Correia de Barros’ Relatorio ácerca dos serviços phylloxericos em 1887 (1887), and Dwight Morrow Jr.’s Phylloxera in Portugal (1973).

Phylloxera was first introduced to the island in 1872.  The importation of vines through the port of Funchal was regarded as the source.  Curiously enough, the phylloxera first bypassed nearby Sao Martinho, instead showing up in the revered vineyards of Camara de Lobos.  This was the first area affected and it was in serious state through 1875 and 1876.  At the time of Henry Vizetelly’s visit in 1877, phylloxera had destroyed nearly all of the vineyards in Camara de Lobos.  The production ranged from 8,000 pipes in 1871 to 300 pipes in 1877 with an estimated 100 pipes for 1878.  The region was considered completely destroyed by 1887.

The vineyards of Sao Martinho were only slightly affected in 1876 and 1877.  This could be due to the orientation or generally higher elevation.  Sao Martinho would see significant devastation by 1887 but for the period of our interest it was a viable source for fruit.

1875 Cossart Gordon and Shortridge-Lawton

Cossart Gordon produced an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo from Camara de Lobos during the most devastating period for the region.  It seems counterintuitive at first but then their vineyard was located at Quinta do Salao in Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  The phylloxera first affected vines at lower altitudes of Camara de Lobos.  The unaffected vines were located at several thousand feet in elevation in the Estreito parish.  Henry Vizetelly writes that this area was untouched as of 1877 which explains why Cossart Gordon could produce the 1875 Bastardo that we tasted.

As for the Shortridge-Lawton, we can infer its history due to the Madeira Wine Association (MWA).  The MWA was founded by Blandy’s and Leacock in 1925 with Cossart-Gordon joining in 1953.  Shortridge-Lawton joined as well eventually becoming just a brand.  Our bottle of 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is labeled as being selected for Sherry-Lehman by the MWA during the 1970s.  The MWA pooled wine from its various members so it is reasonable that the Shortridge-Lawton is really the same as Cossart-Gordon’s Bastardo from Estreito de Camara de Lobos.

1875 and 1870 Blandy’s

While the number of existing vineyard sites reduced from the 1870 to the 1875 vintage, the Cossart Gordon vineyard in Estreito de Camara de Lobos and Vieira’s vineyard in Sao Martinho survived for the 1875 vintage.  I doubt these are the sources for our bottles of Blandy’s based on taste and history.  I found both wines savory and different from the other wines I tasted.

The origins of the 1875 and 1870 Blandy’s Bastardo at first appear somewhat of a mystery. Noel Cossart writes that the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from the Henriques Camara de Lobos vineyard.  The Henriques family owned vineyards at the lower elevation Pico da Torre in Camara de Lobos as well at the higher elevation of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  If Noel Cossart is being specific then the 1870 Avery’s came from Pica da Torre which would have been destroyed by the 1875 vintage.

Alex Liddell writes in Madeira (1998) that the 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is originally from the cellars of Padre Henriques, vicar of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  It is possible that Blandy’s grew Bastardo at both Estreito and Pico da Torre.  However, given its scarcity I suspect they would have grown Bastardo just at Estreito.  This leads me to believe that the 1870 Avery’s is from Henrique’s Estreito vineyard just like the 1870 Blandy’s.  If the 1875 Blandy’s Bastardo came from Henriques as well then it had to come from Estreito and not Pico da Torre because it was destroyed by phylloxera by the 1875 vintage.

Conclusion

That I found commonality between wines from the 1875 vintage and not the 1870 vintage is due to our sample size.  At first I thought Bastardo vineyards which existed in 1870 were destroyed by 1875.  However, Bastardo was grown at higher-elevations on the south-side of Madeira.  These areas remained untouched for both the 1870 and 1875 vintages.    The known Bastardo vineyards for these vintages are Cossart Gordon’s Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, Padre Henriques’ vineyard at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, and Manuel Jose Viera family vineyard at Sao Martinho.  This of course leaves one last wine, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo.  While it tasted like no other wine, I doubt it is pure Bastardo so I cannot confirm a fourth source.  Please find my tasting notes below.

Bastardo Tasting Notes

1927 D’Oliveira, Bastardo
Bottled from cask in 2014. The lightest color of the trio of 1927s. A pungent nose that is balsamic then with air enjoyable aromas of sweet confection and brown sugar. This liquidy, puckering, and salivating wine had a drier finish. The most gentle of the three, there is a shorter finish followed by a gentle wave of flavor in the aftertaste. ***.

1927 Leacock, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio with more brown hints. The low-lying musk mixes with old dusty books then brown sugar. The nose likely affected by a long time in bottle. There is a sweeter and rounder entry with wood box flavors and a fine vein of acidity lurking. The pungency returns in the end as does some searing acidity. I enjoy the integration of wood flavors. ***(*).

1927 Blandy, Bastardo Demijohn Selection
Bottled from demijohn in 2013. Francisco Albuquerque states this came from the best 40-50 liters owned by the family. This is the most aromatic of the trio with pungent note, aromatic musk, and an attractive animale quality. The wine is sweet as well as immediately pungent with round flavors, a spicy middle, and compelling liveliness on the tongue. The flavors stand out on the tongue moving to a drier finish that is fresh and powerful with citric hints, and wraps up both savory and saline. With additional air this pungent wine retains its grip in the mouth and persistent aftertaste. ****.

1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo
A moderate level of aromas that are deep with supporting pungency. There is a savory start on the tongue tip before the wine builds both pungency and power that is soon joined by searing acidity. The body has weight up front, the finish is dry but some sweetness clings to the gums in the aftertaste. Additional complexity comes from lemon citrus and bitters. This is more powerful than the Shortridge & Lawton. ****.

1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo
One of 120 bottles reserved for Sherry-Lehman of New York. This nose is subtle and gentle. The watering start brings a bit of a separate sweet aspect. There is weight to the wine as well though more noticeable up front. At first it is less balanced in the finish with residual sugar in the aftertaste but upon revisiting, it comes together well. It mixes with orange and lemon citrus with bitters. ****.

1875 Blandy’s, Bastardo
Bottled 7 of 180. There is, perhaps, a hint of citrus on the nose. The savory, dense powerful start moves on to a mature, red-wine like middle with old wood flavors. There is body with plenty of grip in the savory, citrus coating finish. **.

1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo
The nose is low-lying with sweet musk aromas. The round entry is not assertive, rather savory with fine complex flavors that become gentler as the wine progresses ultimately fading away in the aftertaste. There is a tobacco note as well. This is certainly less vigorous than the 1875s. ***.

1870 Unknown, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio of 1870s, in fact, almost cola like. The nose is stinky. In the mouth this taste of sweet, old, poor pruned clunky fruit which lacks acidity to support it. The round, sweet, and savory wine tastes past prime which is ultimately too distracting. What is this? Poor.

1870 Favila, Bastardo
The reddest and brownest of the trio. There is a minty, fresh hint to the nose with a delicacy that marks it completely different than all other wines. The flavors are sweeter and rounded with fresh, floral tea flavors woven throughout. There is fine balance to this elegant wine. ***.

1858 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1900. The nose offers subtle tobacco and subtle fruit. The flavors are tobacco infused with low-lying custard sweetness and eventually some bitterness. There is a thick, mature wine like middle before the bitter finish of licorice and tobacco. Perhaps musty in the aftertaste. **.

1836 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1926. The nose offers fine wood notes and perhaps licorice. In the mouth this is a fine and elegant wine with a zip of acidity supporting the rounded body. This is ultimately a bit sweeter in flavor than acidic. It is certainly an older wine but it still sports a bit of racy character. ***.

1830 Welsh Bros, Bastardo
There is a pungency to the nose that the other wines do not have. The nose is strong and decent but on revisiting it is smelly. This is a salty wine with less body and drier than the nose suggests. All of the power is up front, the wine is not balanced. It is dry, bitter, and the alcohol is noticeable. **.

Moscatel Tasting Notes

1900 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
This wine is very dark and the nose is sweaty and pungent. It is round, sweet, and racy in the mouth. The residual sugar is certainly present up front and in the aftertaste. A wood note adds complexity. There is power throughout with the wine sharpening up in the finish as more acidity is brought forth. ***.

1900 Leacock, Moscatel
Rather dark. The nose is subtle compared to the D’Oliveira but the pungency does come out. There is plenty of sweet such that you can practically feel it. The start is higher-toned with some lift from acidity. A bit of tea and pungency add complexity. ***.

1900 Avery’s, Moscatel
This is an oak color with a touch fruitier nose. This is lively from the start with flavors of black, sweet tea and ripe texture. It does not have the level of sweetness that the D’Oliveira and Leacock posses. It is an interesting old-school type of wine. **.

1890 Barrous e Sousa, Moscatel
In bottle for 60 years. A little stinky. This is thick with integrated sweetness and texture. There is an interesting, odd flavor in this weighty wine that drapes over the tongue. Dried fruit develops in the soft middle with textured sugar in the finish. There is both less sweetness and acidity but the wine is balanced. ***.

1875 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
Bottled in the 1970s. This is the darkest along with the 1870 Blandys. There is less sugar up front but the balanced start conveys sweetness and pungency. There is an attractive mineral, racy vein as the wine reveals density and tea flavors. It is concentrated but not too much. ***(*).

1870 Manuel Jose Vieira, Moscatel, Camara de Lobos
This is the lightest color. Wow, this is an acidity driven with minimal sugar, old perfume, and thin body. It is old-school but volatile. *.

1870 Blandy’s, Moscatel
The sweetness comes from textured brown sugar. The wine has power and some searing acidity near the finish but the residual sugar drapes over the acidity. In the end this is satisfying with good flavor from the baking spices. **.

1856 Barbeito, Moscatel
A medium color compared to the others. This is pungent and acidity driven like a non-Moscatel Madeira. The acidity builds and is persistent but not offending like the 1870 Vieira. The body has glycerin. The driest wine of the flight. Is it pure Moscatel? ***(*).

Even more recent drinks

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

I cannot seem to shake a consistently busy work schedule which eliminates any free time I have.  Hence my sporadic posting.  Of the lot of wines featured in today’s post the 2007 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac is my favorite.  I was a bit underwhelmed until several hours in when it completely transformed for the better.  Of the wines which are currently available the 2012 J. M. Rimbert, Carignator is a good value.  It is Carignan so it is a bit firm in a way but the flavors have taken on good bottle age.  The 2016  Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Benje, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife does not offer up the excitement I experienced with the 2015 vintage.  The profile is still there but this vintage is not as expressive.  I will try another bottle in case there is bottle shock.  Finally, I was underwhelmed by the 2016 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis.  A strange evergreen incense marked the wine for days.  Coupled with bitter black fruit it did not become enjoyable until several days in.  I will broach my second bottle several years down the road.

2006 Domaine du Clos des Fees, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
Imported by Simon n’ Cellars.  This is a gravelly wine with maturing blue fruit, watering acidity then flavors of garrigue and strawberry liquor candied near the finish.  it develops a spiced berry cote becoming drier towards the end where the strength of the wine shows.  It wraps up dry.  *** Now – 2023.

2007 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 33% Mourvedre. Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a maturing core of fruit but there is still plenty of spicy structure surrounding it.  The wine is thick with black fruit and a bit of bitterness towards the end.  After 2-3 hours in the decanter it rounds out and the components come into balance quite well.  There are racy blue flavors, watering acidity, wood box, baking spices, and a luxurious marshmallow body.  **** Now – 2028.

2012 J. M. Rimbert, Carignator – $15
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This is 100% Carignan largely sourced from 70+ year old vines.  It was aged for six months in old neutral barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  A medium opaque, bricking cherry color.  This is a dry, textured wine that is maturing in the bottle.  There are wood notes, a little balsam, and textured tannins left on the gums.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2015 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $17
Imported by deGrazia Imports. Alcohol 13.5%.  There are lifted aromas of tar.  In the mouth are somewhat black and red fruit, mineral on the sides of the tongue, and minimal fine tannins which give it some grip.  The wine tasted polished, focused, and modern.  With it it becomes more mineral, which is attractive, and takes on a touch of cocoa.  Solid but not moving.  **(*) 2018-2020.

2016  Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Benje, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife – $22
A Jose Pastor Selections imported by Llaurador Wines.  This is a blend of high-altitude 70-120 year-old Listan Prieto with some Tintilla that was foot trodden, fermented in concrete and tubs with indigenous yeasts then aged 8 months in neutral oak barrels.  Alcohol 12%.  This is a high-toned, bright wine which mixes white pepper and potpourri incense right from the start.  The focused red fruit matched the polished wood note.  There is a very gentle ripeness. **(*) Now – 2021.

2016 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis – $32
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a mix of Syrah from near the Rhone and young Cornas.  It was aged for six months in cement and 6 months in foudres. This is a completely opaque, grapey purple color.  Followed over many nights the nose is incensed with primarily evergreen aromas and floral notes.  For the first few days there is a similarly incensed, evergreen flavor to this wine.  It is bitter with very fine structure through the firm, polished, bitter black finish.  The evergreen aspect eventually reduces with the wine showing focused, floral black fruit in the finish.  ** 2021-2026.

Recent drinks or cheap stuff that tastes like Aubert and Sine Qua Non

We tried a number of value wines over the holiday break and I am happy to report there are certainly some fine values out there.  The 2016 Lafage, Novellum, Chardonnay is being compared to Aubert and the 2015 Lafage, Bastide Miraflors, Syrah & Vieilles Vignes de Grenache, Cotes du Roussillon to Sine Qua Non on a budget.  The former is ample in flavor and body, the later shows more focus.  At $15 each you cannot go wrong with either.  For a few bucks more I highly recommend you try the 2015 Antoine Touton & Fred Torres, Seleccion, Montsant.  Think mixed berries, fat, and juicy acidity!  The 2014 Mas Marer, Montsant is good too, just keep it in mind it is a structured wine from Monsant.  Finally, the 2016 Maitre-de-Chai, Carignan, Poor Ranch, Mendocino profess to fall in the middle camp of Californian wine making.  There are firm flavors of red fruit, bright acidity, and fine citric tannins.  There are hints of that Pilsner natural wine style which I find distracting but perhap you will not.

2016 Lafage, Novellum, Chardonnay – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Alcohol 13%.  A very light straw yellow color.  The nose is mineral with white, tropical flowers.  The tropical fruit continues in the mouth with floral notes and a nutty body that is supported by just enough acidity.  The wine takes on a mineral hint towards the end.  This wine has ample body with grip underneath and a baking spiced finish.  *** Now – 2019.

2015 Lafage, Bastide Miraflors, Syrah & Vieilles Vignes de Grenache, Cotes du Roussillon – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache sourced from vines averaging 55 years of age which was raised in concrete tanks and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The flavors come across as ripe at first then they show more focus with cool red and black fruit.  This focus is good, carried by slightly juicy acidity into an almost chewy finish.  The wine becomes floral and citrus infused with air.  There is some textured structure to support drinking over a few years.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

2015 Antoine Touton & Fred Torres, Seleccion, Montsant – $19
Imported by Lawrence Boone Selections.  This wine is mostly Garnacha with some Carignan sourced from vines mostly on clay and calcareous soils.  It was raised in stainless steel.  Alcohol 14%.  Grapey on the nose.  A dense, almost glycerin start brings fresh floral berries, and pure fruit covered with fat.  There is a bit of texture as baking spiced flavors come out.  The red fruits morph to blackberries.  In the end the seductive mouthfeel and juicy, acidity supported brambleberries, are hard to resist.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

2014 Mas Marer, Montsant – $15
Imported by Weygant-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot aged for 14 months in used French oak and concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  A moderately structured wine of cherries and herbs with good acidity moving the wine along.  It has a bit of a stone/earth note to it.    It shows a touch of bottle age already but might develop further into the year.  **(*) Now – 2022.

2016 Maitre-de-Chai, Carignan, Poor Ranch, Mendocino – $27
This wine is is sourced from vines planted in the 1930s and 1940s on soils of mostly sand and granite.  Alcohol 13.2%.  Sampled over two nights the nose remains delicate with bright berry aromas.  In the mouth are tight, slightly focused red fruit and some very fine citric tannins.  The firmness of flavor matches the bright acidity making this wine more about texture than depth of flavor.  It is verging on a natural style.  ** Now – 2021.

Merry Christmas Eve with old Louis M. Martini

December 24, 2017 2 comments

Merry Christmas Eve!

Comparisons are fun so at the start of my Christmas vacation I opened a pair of Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1977 vintage.  These wines would have been fermented in cement tanks then aged for two years in neutral wood.  At the end of the aging period all of the barrels were tasted.  The majority were bottled as the regular selection with the top 3-5% as the Special Selection.

In essence the 1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection is like the 1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon but turned up several notches.  You can literally smell and taste the similarities. There was quite a bit of sediment so I double-decanted both bottles.  The regular selection is a bit light weight and short at first such that I expected it to soon fall apart.  I was wrong!  It developed weight and the Special Selection developed savory flavors.   These old Martini wines are mellow rather than athletic.  They have the green pepper notes of modestly ripe fruit and hallmarks of longer aging in wood.  If you still own a bottle then I recommend you drink them with dinner or to prepare your palate for a more complex old wine.

1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 12.5%.  Green pepper on the nose.  The bright red fruit is carried throughout with fresh acidity.  The wine improves with air, putting on some weight and increasing in length.  It takes on a rounded edge with generally clean greenhouse accented red fruit.  It is not terribly complex with only an additional note of leather.  However, it never fades and in the end is a solid quaffer!  ** Now but will last.

1977 Louis M. Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Selection
Alcohol 12.5%.  A similar nose to the basic bottling but more intense.  This is a savory wine with more fruit and weight.  The greenhouse accent is there but so is a more prominent leather note.  It responds very well to air.  The bottle is in fine shape with plenty of grip into the durable aftertaste.  **(*) Now but will last.

A thorough introduction to Loire wines: 2011-1979

December 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Bill is passionate about Loire wines, top quality producers none the less, which was evident at a tasting he hosted at his house.  The wines largely came from his cellar making a parade of heavy hitters, cult favorites, and new discoveries.  As an introduction there were bottles of sparkling wine, white wine, red wine, and dessert wine.

There were sadly a number of off bottles but with a vast array to try (I missed at least one bottle) there were still some top-notch bottles.  This includes the 2009 Domaine Guiberteau, Saumur Blanc Clos des Carmes Monopole as my favorite white wine.  This is a tense, engaging wine which combines stone and fruit.  For the reds, individual favorites include the mature 2010 Clos Rougeard, Saumur Champigny and youthful 2010 Plouzeau, Ante Phylloxera, Touraine Clos de Maulevrier Franc de Pied.  I can see why Rougeard is a cult favorite, the mature flavors are infused with fat and drape over the tongue.  The Plouzeau is electric and young, it should be fully open in three to five years.

My favorite flight of all is a quartet of Olga Raffault, Chinon Les Picasses: 1990, 1989, 1985, and 1979.  What a unique opportunity!  What I like is the consistent theme of fruit, without any green pepper notes, and complexity from earthy flavors.  The 1989 offers so much more than the 1990.  The original release 1985 is a treat with more color and texture.  It is easy to connect with this bottle because it is not so squeaky clean.  The 1979 is elegant and autumnal.  It is the sort of wine to drink at lunch or by oneself reading a book next to a fire.

A trio of Huet Vouvray dessert wines includes a maturing 1985 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux.  The nose is an interesting mix of apples and seaside with a heavily textured mouth.  Our bottle of 1989 Domaine Huet,Vouvray Cuvee Constance also has a killer nose but it is dialed down tight in the mouth.  The drier 1989 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie is also young.  Perhaps it is the state of the 1989 vintage.  All three wines smell great so who knows!?

Thanks again to Bill for hosting.  Without his generosity I would still be the rare soul who had never tasted the Loire greats of Dagueneau, Clos Rougeard, and others.

Flight #1 – Sparkling

2010 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Petillant Brut
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. There is a fine bubble grip with slightly round flavors of light yellow fruit and chalk. It is minerally and a touch earthy.  *** Now – 2020.

NV Francois Chidaine, Montluis sur Loire Méthode Traditionelle Brut
Imported by Dionysos Imports. Alcohol 12%. A little gamey on the nose. In the mouth are finer, more aggressive bubbles. The flavors are oxidative and the finish is sour.  Underperforming? * Drink up.

Flight #2 – White Wines

2000 Nicolas Joly, Clos de la Coulee de Serrant
Imported by Paterno Imports. Alcohol 13.5%. A darker gold-copper color. The heavier nose makes way to a focus start then short and weird flavors. Bad bottle.  Not Rated.

2007 Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fume Silex
Imported by Connoisseur Wines. Alcohol 12.5%. There are fine, ripe chalky flavors, texture, and a weighty middle which builds towards the finish. It wraps up with a vintage perfume finish.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2009 Domaine Guiberteau, Saumur Blanc Clos des Carmes Monopole
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Frederick Wildman. Alcohol 12%. A flinty wine with tart yellow fruit and a vein of acidity which makes for attractive tension. My favorite.  **** Now – 2027.

2011 Clos Rougeard, Saumur Blanc Breze
An aromatic nose with a touch of apricot and cheese. Different. It is simpler in the mouth, tight with a vein of acidity. It remains tight when warm. Drinkable but not the best bottle.  ** Now.

Flight #3 – 2010 Reds

2010 Catherine & Pierre Breton, Bourgueil Franc de Pied
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 12%. The color is a little purple. A finely scented nose of clean green pepper. In the mouth this is a fine, focused wine with dry and tight flavors. With air it remains a lighter weighted wine but becomes a touch creamy. Good citric grip.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

2010 Chateau de Fosse-Seche, Saumur Eolithe
Alcohol 12.5%. There is a deeper core of color with hints of brick. Initial aromas are of old-school perfume but then nail polish comes out.  Not right.  Not Rated.

2010 Bernard Baudry, Chinon Les Croix Boisee
Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2010 Clos Rougeard, Saumur Champigny Les Poyeux
Alcohol 12.5%. There are darker berries on the perfumed somewhat alcoholic nose. The mouth filling wine is luxurious with a creamy edge and zippy acidity. Certainly a big wine but ultimately simple compared to the basic Saumur Champigny.  *** Now – 2020.

2010 Clos Rougeard, Saumur Champigny
Alcohol 12.5%. A good, mature nose. The flavors drape on the tongue with a cranberry-grape grip. The core of berry flavors remains focus but takes on a coating of fat. My favorite of the flight. **** Now – 2023.

2010 Domaine Guion, Bourgueil Cuvee des Deux Monts
Imported by Fruits of the Vines. Alcohol 12.5%. A grapey color. The nose is tight with berried perfume. In the mouth the wine keeps right focus with fine, tannic, and young flavors. There is a green pepper note and salivating acidity. Needs time.  *** 2020 – 2027.

2010 Plouzeau, Ante Phylloxera, Touraine Clos de Maulevrier Franc de Pied
Imported by Weygant-Metzler. Alcohol 13%. The nose tilts towards the richer side. There is good flavor, a bit citric, and electric acidity. It sports good weight, an attractive sweaty note, and will clearly age. **** Now – 2030.

Flight #4 – 1996 Bourdeaux versus Loire Guessing Game

1996 Joguet, Les Varennes du Grand Clos
Slightly stinky on the nose yet good. More engaging in the mouth but overall a bad bottle! Not Rated.

1996 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc
Much darker in color. An harmonious wine. It is brighter in the mouth than the nose indicates. With air, ripe hints of flavor come out yet the wine maintains focus. Clearly Bordeaux.  *** Now – 2023.

Flight #5 – Olga Raffault

1990 Olga Raffault, Chinon Les Picasses
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Library release. This is tart with red and black fruit flavors. It ultimately reveals less fruit intensity. It sports a touch of animale and a hint of earth which adds interest. Overall this is a tangy wine. ** Now – 2023.

1989 Olga Raffault, Chinon Les Picasses
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Library release. There is more dense fruit compared to the 1990. It is clean, dense, and slightly earthy with cinnamon spices in the aftertaste. Watering acidity. This will clearly go on for ages. **** Now – 2032.

1985 Olga Raffault, Chinon Les Picasses
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Original release. Alcohol 12.5%. This is good and much different than the 1989 and 1990. There are impressions of more texture making the wine feel substantive. The wine is earthy with a wood stem note, and vintage perfume.  Drinking well. **** Now – 2025.

1979 Olga Raffault, Chinon Les Picasses
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Library release. In fine form. This is tangy, lighter than the others with a clean cut. There is a fair amount of acidity.  Elegant and autumnal.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

Flight #6 – Respect the Legend

1985 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux
Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections. A dark, apricot amber. The nose smells of tart apples and the sea side, quite nice. In the mouth there is up front texture back the apple orchard flavors. The citric acidity is prominent but the wine is weighty. A fair amount of mouth feel.  **** Now – 2037.

1989 Domaine Huet,Vouvray Cuvee Constance
Imported by Envoyer Imports. A golden amber color. The nose offers up electric aromas. In the mouth there is clearly more residual sugar in this dense wine with flavors of dried fruit. It remains tight so cellar it.  **** 2023 – 2043.

1989 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie
Imported by Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 13%. A golden amber color. Apple orchard on the nose with acidity driven, drier flavors in the mouth. It is weighty, clean, and sports acidity.  A baby!  ***(*) 2023 – 2043.

An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954

December 1, 2017 1 comment

A small group of us gathered to explore modestly priced old Nebbiolo of which little is known about the producers in general or the wines in specific.  This meant no Vallana and no Nervi, for example.  We selected 10 different red wines from 1975 back to 1954 but were sure to include flights from the excellent 1964 and 1958 vintages.  The wines hailed from Barolo, Carema, Gattinara, Ghemme, and simply Alto Piemonte.  Before we tasted the red wines we tucked into a bottle of NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose and a trio of German wines from 1976.

Sticking with the theme of little known, the German trio included Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Optima.  As may be expected the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz is the best of the lot.  The deep nose perks interest and in the mouth it is mature yet rounded so as to provide good mouthfeel.  It falls a bit flat since it lacks the electric acidity I would like.   The 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz smells and tastes like Gewurztraminer yet is a bit monolithic.  Finally the 1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz is a strange combination of fruit and florals as if it could not decide what to be.  This grape is a Riesling and Silvaner cross that was crossed with Muller-Thurgau.  That fact is more interesting than the wine.

From the shadows of Mont Blanc the 1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso is the brightest, most acidic, and nearly most tannic of all the wines tasted.  You get hints of its maturity but you are left wondering when will it ever be ready to drink?

The 1964 flight was a mixed bag but the wines improved across the flight.  Our bottle of 1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva is clearly way past good drinking.  The 1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme smells proper but there is a bit of roasted earth indicating it is over the hump of prime drinking.  I suspect it was always a modest wine.  Much better is the 1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna.  It is pungent and still has concentration from age.  Quite good if not the most exciting wine.

I found the wines from the 1950s of the most interest primarily from the successful flight of 1958 Vini Valsesia.  The 1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara still has incensed red fruit and tangy grip.  This bottle and the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva were the two most consumed.  The Ghemme is very good and a clear step up in quality.  It is ripe and mouth filling with sweaty, earthy notes.  If I had to guess, it is this wine which saw the addition of fruit from Southern Italy.  It took several hours for the 1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva to clean up.  It has moved passed fruit to old leather and dried oregano notes.  Both the Gattinara and Spanna Riserva had similar weight and acidity.  A fun flight.

The final flight of wines sported two very powerful yet boring Barolo: 1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo and 1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva.  The former is clean with simple flavors of tart, red fruit and the later, a bit stinky with blood and iron flavors.  Neither wine changed over three nights.  The nose of our 1954 Avondo, Gattinara is volatile, but still with hints of perfume.  The flavors are completely clean and electric with fresh red fruit.  There is depth and character here such that this could have been the wine of the night.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions.  I had a lot of fun tasting through wines that I had no idea what they would be like.   There was also a slew of dessert wines but I will write those up in a separate post.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Riesling Auslese, Martiner Schloss Ludwigshohe, Rheinpfalz
A honied, deep nose.  In the mouth are round flavors, black tea notes, and fresh acidity before the lighter flavored middle.  There is nice body, floral notes, and rounded finish with watering acidity.  ** Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Gewurztraminer Auslese, St. Martiner Zitadelle, Rheinpfalz
Gewurz on the nose and in the mouth but with density and white nuts.  Full of flavor yet not that complex and in need of acidity.  *(*) Now.

1976 Gebruder Schneider, Optima Beerenauslese, St. Martiner Baron, Rheinpfalz
A strange combination of tropical fruit and floral notes.  Very rounded in mouth, could stand more acidity. Weird.

1975 Produttori di Carema, Carema Etichetta Rosso
Alcohol 12%.  It is a brick, tawny color.  Blood on the nose.  There is bright red fruit in the mouth, some leather and some age evident in the bit of roasted earth flavor.  There is strong, citric acidity and very fine structure in the finish.  Will this ever develop?  **  Now but will last.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Colline Novaresi Spanna Riserva
Founded in 1894 the wines are raised in oak and chestnut.  Brown in color with a nose of roast earth, must, and cheese.  Tastes old.  Past.

1964 Agostino Brugo, Ghemme
The tawny color has hints of cherry.  The subtle nose reveals deeper, sweaty notes.  In the mouth are red fruit flavors, cranberry, and that slightly sweaty complexity.  There is some roasted earth speaking of age but the bottle comes across as well stored with freshness and citric grip in the finish.  ** Now.

1964 Cantine Curti, Spanna
Alcohol 13%.  It is a light to medium tawny brick color.  The first proper smelling wine with pungency and old concentration.  There is a core of ripe red fruit with good flavor.  The bottle is in fine condition, tasting fresh with some density up front but becoming lighter towards the finish.  There is a modest amount of the sweaty funk in the end.  *** Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Gattinara
The Valsesia family have produced wine since the 1920s when Alessandro Valsesia purchased the Perucca family of wine and grain licenses. In the 1950s, Anselmo Valsesia takes control of the winery and begins to bottle Novaresi wines. It is not until 1960 that new land and a new cellar is built.  Alcohol 13%.  The lightest color yet being a brown tawny.  The nose is gentle with bloody hints.  In the mouth is delicate, incensed flavors of bright red fruit.  There is fine texture, electricity acidity, and a lifted finish.  I like the tangy grip.  ***  Now.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Ghemme Riserva
Alcohol 12.5%.  A medium+ tawny brick.  Clearly a good nose with sweet and sweaty concentration.  This is a ripe, mouth filling wine with fruit, earth, and even some vigor.  There is gentle spice, sweet leather, and more weight in the finish.  I like the ethereal nature of the ripeness.  It picked up a menthol note in the finish.  **** Now but well stored bottles will last.

1958 Vini Valsesia, Spanna Riserva
Alcohol 13%.  Not up to the other wines and in need of much air to clean up.  This is less about fruit than old wood, dried oregano, and blood.  The acidity is fresh and the wine is grippy.  ** Now.

1959 Cavalier Felice Abbona & Figli, Barolo
The Abbona family has produced wine for this firm located in the center of Barolo since at least 1873. In 1929 the Abbona family acquired the Marchesi di Barolo winery and vineyard.  Alcohol 13%.  A dark tawny color.  The subtle nose is meaty.  In the mouth this remains a focused and decidedly tart red fruited wine with lively acidity and power.  To match the power is the structure and puckering finish.  No real complexity.  * Now but will last.

1958 Pistone Luigi, Barolo Riserva
Around since at least 1890.  Alcohol 13%.  A light brown color.  A stinky nose of meat. In the mouth is a tight core of grippy red fruit, bloody, and iron that fill the mouth with flavor.  There is plenty of fresh drying structure that coats the gums.  * Now.

1954 Avondo, Gattinara
Caesar Avondo of Lozzolo exhibited his 1874 Spanna at the Paris Exposition of 1878.  There is some volatility on the nose but also perfume.  The wine is clean in the mouth with plenty of lively fruit delivered with an electric, vibrant mouthfeel.  I agree with Lou’s comment of, “fresh crushed berries”.  It would have been wine of the night but for the nose.  *** Now.