An introductory Madeira tasting: 1971 Terrantez back to 1880 Malvasia

January 12, 2018 1 comment

This past weekend I hosted a Madeira tasting in answer to requests I have received from my friends.  With a sizeable selection of wines made available to me by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., I settled in on what I consider an introductory tasting.  Over the course of 10 bottles I presented such wines as a recent Historic Series blend, a 19th century Bual solera, Bastardo, Tinta Negra, young Terrantez, and Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres.

I deployed all of my matching stems, some 72 of them, so we tasted the Madeira in two flights of five.  The extra dozen stems were required for Champagne, of course.  Each flight was largely designed to move from drier and more acidic to richer with the ending wine of each flight being old.  The two oldest bottles were decanted five days prior to the tasting then rebottled after one day in the decanter.  The other bottles received similar treatment one to two days ahead of time.

One guest surprised the group with a bottle of 1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira which was inserted into the first flight so we could compare it against the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira.  Thus you will find eleven tasting notes below.

The wines all showed very well with enough variety to encourage comparison.  It is definitely one of the most satisfying tasting I have been to as of late.  Given the loud volume of everyone towards the end of the tasting coupled with their individual comments, they agreed to!  For each flight I presented a short history of the wines which was well received.  I was excited for this tasting to occur, not just to experience the aromas and flavors, but to convey the individual stories of the wines.  Please find these wine histories appear below.  They are far more important than my tasting notes and ratings.

The histories are largely compiled from correspondence with Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and  Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, as well as the private publications of Mannie Berk Terrantez: The Transcendental Terrantez Tasting (2012) and Bastardo & Mostcatel – The Tasting (2017).  I also relied on the books Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) and Alex Liddell’s Madeira (1998).  Of course some bits are of my own research.  The map reproduced above comes from Isole Canarie from Vincenzo Coronelli published in 1697 and available at the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Flight #1

NV Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Library Company Madeira
Released in 2015 to honor the Library Company of Philadelphia which is the oldest successful library in America, having been founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Henry Hill was a successful Madeira merchant who lived in Philadelphia and also knew Benjamin Franklin. As a partner in the firm Hill, Lamar, & Bisset, he sold Madeira to wealthy Americans including financier Robert Morris, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll and John Hancock, and George Washington. Many of the business letters sent to Henry Hill reside at the Library Company. Bottled 2015.  The honied nose is followed by luscious, honied flavors of fig.  There are both tea and tobacco notes in the end.  This is fully mature now with just a vein of structure apparent in the finish followed by a bit of bracing acidity.  A fine value with flavors clearly evocative of old bottles of Madeira.  ***(*).

1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Pereira D’Oliveira was founded in 1850 as a producer of wines. It operated as a partidista until the mid-1970s when it began to market wines under its own name. Over the years D’Oliveira has acquired other firms thus expanding its stock of old wines. This particular wine was acquired in barrel when D’Oliveira purchased the Adegas do Terreão collection in 2002. Terreão was founded in 1949 by Vasco Loja who also operated as a partidista supplying the major wine companies particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. D’Oliveira keeps their wines in barrel until they are bottled for sale on an annual basis.   This means that different bottlings come from different barrels having seen wood for different durations. Bottled 2017.  A highly aromatic and articulate nose of citrus and tobacco, profound and of unique complexity.  The dense, explosive start has very fine acidity which soon builds to rapier sharpness.  Overall, this is a lighter weight, saline wine with an expansive, lighter finish, and pervasive pungent aftertaste. ****(*).

1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Shipped by David Turner Air Cargo.  Imported by Vineyard Road Inc.  From old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2012.  There is a low-lying, dark nose.  The rounded start transitions to a berry core by the middle.  There is acidity present but it does not finish with much acidic strength.  I found more weight throughout the palate given impression of length but ultimately it is not as exciting nor complex as the 1928.  ***.

NV Henriques & Henriques, Inauguration Wine Madeira
From the back label, “To inaugurate Henriques & Henriques’ new winery in 1994, winemaker Luis Pereira searched the firm’s stocks of old wine to find something truly extraordinary. The wine he chose had been vinified and blended in the 1950s by his mentor Peter Cossart—the father of John Cossart. Though the wine’s origins were uncertain, Pereira believed it to have the character of a great verdelho or bual. It was a wine uniquely worthy of commemorating this important event. Pereira produced 800 bottles which were given to dignitaries attending the inauguration. This left a small amount to age in cask. In October, 2006, 144 bottles were drawn out, and then in April, 2008, the final 168 bottles were drawn out, each time for The Rare Wine Co.” This is the 2006 bottling of which it is numbered 66 of 144.  The nose is robust with mature hints and caramel.  Further investigation reveals articulate and sweet aromas of brown sugar, Christmas spices, and tobacco.  This is a zippy wine with piercing acidity soon coming out then building to the piercing finish.  There are good, sweet and weighty flavors that drape over the tongue with a ripe, orange flavors core, and mineral finish.  This ia very powerful wine with a long, textured aftertaste.  ****(*).

1971 D’Oliveira, Terrantez Madeira
Terrantez, long regarded as the finest variety in Madeira, was largely wiped out of existence with the phylloxera of the 1870s.  Being low-yielding and difficult to grow, it was not replanted.  In 1921 it was considered “extinct or almost extinct.”  The situation had hardly improved by 2004 as there was less than one hectare of vines in existence.  This scarce wine was acquired in barrel when the Adegas do Terreão collection was purchased in 2002. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2017.  A complex nose of fruit, marmalade, and sweet aromas.  In the mouth is a controlled start, vibrant middle, and sweet kick at the end.  The mouth feel reminds me of marshmallow combining sweetness and airy weight into one sensation.  This is a gentle, young wine of elegant strength and seamless integration.  ****.

1845 Cossart Gordon, Bual Solera Madeira
The 1845 Bual became a solera in 1875 in response to the shortage of wine following the Phylloxera epidemic. It eventually became the first Cossart centenary wine marking the anniversary of the founding of Cossart Gordon in 1745. After Cossart, Gordon joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1953, the soleras in wood were moved to stores at Rua Sao Francisco and no longer topped off. There were many bottlings of this solera both in Madeira, with red and black text, and in England. This bottling is by Evans Marshall & Co. who became Cossart’s agents in London in 1956. Bottled after 1956.  A very mature nose still with some bottle stink.  The sweet start soon focuses on flavors of sweet black tea with wood notes in the middle, and flavors of sweet cinnamon and baking spices in the textured finish.  This is the most advanced wine of all with a mellow nature and slight separation of acidity and residual sugar.  It becomes  vinous in the aftertaste with a hint of acidity.  ***.

Flight #2

NV Unknown, Padre Madeira [da Silva Collection] 
The oldest known dated bottles of Madeira once belonged to Braheem Abdo Kassab who famously initialed his wax seals with BAK.  This Padre wine was in bottle for a long time, discovered in the laundry room of the home of a Kassab relative on the island. This is believed to be all Tinta Negra from the early 20th century.  Approximately three dozen bottles were aired in demijohn for a few months then rebottled. Bottled 2016.  The pungent, sweeter nose steps out of the glass with aromas reminding me of old Madeira.  There is a round, weighty, vinous start with ripe orange citrus flavors, good acidity, and grip.  The middle is assertive and the finish powerful with hints of dense fruit, I suspect this wine needs further time for integration.  ***.

NV Barbeito, Bastardo 50-year-old Avo Mario Madeira
Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is today run by third-generation, Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas. Bastardo was completely extinct in Madeira until 2004 when Ricardo convinced a farmer to plant it.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of vines.  This wine is an homage to Ricardo’s grandfather and is a blend of Bastardo wines Ricardo made in 2007 and 2009.  These are the first two successful harvests for there was bad weather in 2008.  At the time, there was no living memory on how to make the wine so Ricardo set out on his own.  He mixed these wines with some old Bastardo in demijohn that belonged to the Favilla family and 36 bottles of old Tinta Negra from 1950 that was bottled in 1997.  The 50 year old category was only introduced in 2015.  Bottled 2017 of which it is #326 of 550.  A sweet and floral nose is similarly followed by a sweet, gentle start.  Of good flavor, it mixes herbs and cedar box in an easy to drink manner.  The balance is impeccable making it compelling to drink.  ****.

1929 D’Oliveira, Tinta Negra Medium Sweet Madeira
Dated bottles of Madeira from the late 1920s through early 1930s are scarce.  The effects of the Great Depression was felt on an international scale and locally it wreaked havoc on Madeira.  The Portuguese Minister of Finance sought to mitigate the effects on Portugal by centralizing the importation and milling of grain in January 1931. The price of bread and other common goods quickly rose as a result. A few months later a revolt on the island of Madeira took place with control of the island temporarily seized from the government.  The spread of the European financial crisis coupled with the political instability on Madeira impacted the banks on Madeira the same year of the revolt.  By the end of the year banks suspended all payments and in the course of restructuring the banking system in 1932, many private banks failed.  This is the period when the influence of the partidista rose.  These merchants purchased wine at vintage then sold it off to shippers as they needed it.  It is likely that during these financially difficult times much Madeira was sold off for ready money rather than kept around as single vintage lots tying up capital.  This wine is from old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2016.  With ripe aromas this wine offers attractive aromas of age which I look for in older bottles.  There is a weighty, round, dense start with good body and juicy acidity.  The flavors are more mature with moderately sweet bakings spices, strong acidity, and some brown sugar in the finish.  The strength of the acidity builts into the finish leaving a piercing citric edge.  ****.

1986 Barbeito, Malvasia Faja dos Padres Madeira
Malvasia encompasses several different grapes with Malvasia Candida the most sought after. It is a difficult grape to grow and prefers particular locations. One of these locations is Faja dos Padres which was originally cultivated by the Jesuits centuries ago. Located on the south side of the Island it lies at the bottom of a 900 foot cliff which, until recently, was only accessible by boat. For centuries, this site was considered as producing the best Malvasia Candida wines. The Malvasia Candida was nearly wiped out by phylloxera in the 1870s.  When the site was sold in 1919 it was believed that no Malvasia Candida vines existed. But in 1940 a single Malvasia Candida vine was found surviving at Faja dos Padres. It was cloned then planted at Torre. In 1979 the same vine was cloned again then planted at Faja dos Padres. An additional vineyard of 0.4 ha was eventually established. This is the first commercial bottling of Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres since 1921. It was raised in 800 liter casks aged by the canteiro method. Bottled 2012 of which it is #172 of 654.  The nose is young and fruit with complexity from wet tobacco.  The wines is young and rounded with clearly defined sweet black tea flavors.  There is a delicacy to the wine that makes it stand apart, with delicate berry fruit and a fresh finish.  With impeccable balance this wine highlights the flavors of Malvasia.  ****.

1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira
Founded in 1870, CVM was eventually associated with Justino Henriques. The company was closed in 1984 and much of the stock was sold off. This bottle bears a paper Junta Nacional do Vinho seal underneath the wicker capsule. The JNV seal would have been applied between 1937 and 1979.  The nose is slightly pungent with sweet, yellow citrus.  There is a gravelly start of brown sugar, wood box, and flavors of age.  The wine is completely balanced with no hard edges.  Backed by residual sugar this is dense and even racy in the finish with a hint of spiciness to perk up the long, gentle, sweet aftertaste.  ****.

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.

2016 Julienas and Morgon from Lapierre

In 2016, hail damaged more than 7 acres of Lapierre family vines, prompting the purchase of fruit from nearby Julienas.  I tasted this one-off cuvee with its brother from Morgon over two nights.  That the same hand made the wine is evident so the comparison between the two wines is fun.  The Morgon has a bit more stuffing being meatier with more tannins.  The Julienas is higher-toned, more floral and elegant.  In this context I found the Morgon to be a touch more satisfying.  But then I first drank the Julienas with an old friend at Buvette, it was exactly what I craved after a day of travel.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Lapierre, Morgon – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines on granitic gravel soils.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose is articulate with ripe aromas.  There is a ripe, bright core of red fruit and minerals with a drier finish.  Both citric acidity and pithe-like tannins come out in the aftertaste.  Enjoyably meaty with good acidity.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2016 Lapierre, Julienas – $35
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60 year old vines on volcanic and schist soils.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is relatively brighter and higher-toned.  The high-tone echoes on the start with citric red fruit and zippy acidity yet the wine has attractive fat.  It is floral and fruitier with spices in the watering finish.  With air a floral, sweet black tea note comes out.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

A half-bottle of 1977 Graham’s Vintage Port

The 1977 Graham’s, Vintage Port is the only Port we drank over the holidays.  In the half-bottle format the Port soon opens up to reveal itself as fully mature.  It is of moderate sweetness but the mixture of brown sugar, cloves, and cinnamon flavors add to the impression of being an end of evening drink.

1977 Graham’s, Vintage Port half-bottle
Imported by Ginday Imports.  Alcohol 21%.  There is a rounded berry core that mixes with wood box flavors.  The wine rounds out even more as it takes on brown sugar, cinnamon, and hints of tobacco leaf.  There is a good dose of acidity which keeps the balance spot on.  Of moderate sweetness you are reminded of it in the finish due to brown sugar and cloves.  This is just the slightest notion of heat.   ***(*) Now – 2028.

Holiday Claret with Lou

Lou and I usually crack open a few bottles of claret around Christmas-time.  This year we settled on a trio of Chateau Gruaud-Larose sourced from that old DC cellar.   In lieu of a Champagne starter, we tried the 2016 Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Rose petillant cuvee Exile.  This is a surprisingly deep-flavored sparkling Gamay which is only $17 at Chambers St Wines.  Crazy!  It is a rather big wine so one glass to start the evening is all you need.

All Gruaud bottles had fills in the neck but the 1975s were not in good shape.  One cork dropped in at some point after being stood up and the other bottle had a firm cork with scary mold growth on top.  No worries though, the 1978 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien with modest body and fruit acted as a foil for the 1966 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien.  The 1966 has more of everything compared to the 1978.  The  juicy acidity makes it particularly enjoyable to drink.  Though there is mouth-coating structure to carry the core of fruit on for several years to come it is balanced and mature right now.

I served Lou one blind wine even though I suspected it was most likely undrinkable.  I did so because the 1975 Montana Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand is positively ancient when it comes to the history of the New Zealand wine industry.  With origins dating back to the 1930s, Montana Wines was part of the development of a proper industry during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The wine is completely shot but it is best put in perspective.  It was only in the late 1960s that that American hybrid vines were ripped up in favor of European varieties.

2016 Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Rose petillant cuvee Exile – $17
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 40 year old vines that was fermented in used barriques. Alcohol 12%.  A very light pink salmon rose.  There are modest and firm bubbles at first with surprisingly ample body that makes it was into the fat and racy finish. Good depth, earth, and a racy, mineral finish.  *** Now.

1978 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
Greenhouse aromas with finely articulate scents of red fruit and some earth.  In the mouth are slightly rounded flavors of red fruit, sharp acidity, and structure.  Not bad but certainly no 1966.  ** Now.

1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Company. First bottle, dark red, meaty with substantial presence yet short in the finish.  Second bottle, less of a deep nose with celery aromas.  The red fruit is tart, mixing with leather, wet fut, and a very short, tart, citric finish.  Not Rated.

1966 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
The most mature color of the trio having a garnet rim.  There are aromas of red fruit, hints of brown sugar, and greenhouse.  In the mouth are bright, fresh cranberry red fruit, juicy acidity, and an almost sappy nature.  The wine still has plenty of mouth-coating tannins as well as a core of fruit.  It takes on a touch of greenhouse with air and a slight cedar note.  Quite satisfying.  ***(*) Now but will last.

1975 Montana Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand
Alcohol 12%. Toast!

Two particularly fine wines from 2017

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

For my favorite wines of 2017 I chose two bottles that are of particularly fine flavor.  The first wine stood out during the Madeira at Liberty Hall tasting held by Mannie Berk on April 23, 2017.  It is the second time I have tasted an excellent Acciaioly Madeira.  The Acciaioly history is oft repeated being an old Florentine family having descended from the Dukes of Burgundy.  When they arrived at Madeira during the early 16th century they are said to have introduced the Malvasia vine to the island.  Accordingly to Mannie Berk, when the last Acciaioly passed away in 1979, his wines were divided into two lots.  The second lot went to his sons who consigned them to Christie’s in London.  Some 135 lots of Accaiaioly Madeira were auctioned off in 1989 including more than 14 dozen bottles of the 1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho one of which we tasted.  It was an exciting wine during the tasting and when I was able to enjoy a small glass from the leftovers I felt it was a wine I could have drunk all night long.

1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho
Shipped by Reid Wines.  Imported by Vieux Vins.  A proper nose that is pungent with herbs. In the mouth this is sweet with grip, lovely balance and presence. The wine builds in flavor through the middle as marmalade flavors come out which linger through the aftertaste leaving sweet notes in the mouth. The acidity weaves in and out. Top-notch. ****(*)

For my second bottle, I naturally include an old red wine, this time from Italy of which I have tried to drink from with more attention this year.  The vine in Piedmont dates back to the Roman times.  The great Alto-Piemonte producer Antonio Vallana pays tribute to this history with their Campi Raudii label.  It is in Northern Piedmont that the Romans suffered one of their greatest military losses in 105 BC to invading Germanic tribes.  Nearly 100,000 Roman troops perished.  Four years later, in 101 BC, Consul Caius Marius defeated these tribes at Campi Raudii.  This decisive battle ensured peace in the region and accordingl to legend, allowed the cultivation of vineyards.

The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are held to be the best for Vallana.  The Wasserman’s attribute some of this to the inclusion of Aglianico from Basilicata.  They also hold that the Campi Raudii and Traversagna are the best wines.  Mannie Berk shares this same view which is why we drank a bottle together at a small table in an Indian restaurant.  It was no less than the 1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale which he had imported and laid down long ago based on the green strip label.  Double-decanted to separate off the sediment it was at its glorious, nearly perfect peak when we sat down.  The few old bottles of Vallana that I have tried bear remarkable body and a certain sweaty, sweet concentration.  All the elements came to bear in our bottle and no doubt inspired a blur of conversation.

1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium bricking garnet color.  The nose is deep with sweet fruits and damp soil.  The sweet, concentrated flavors are immediately complex.  Notes of old leather mix in the racy and flavorful wine that swirls through the mouth.  Animale like earthiness exists through the aftertaste where it picks up a touch of attractive pungency and sweatiness.  It wraps up with fresh acidity. ***** Now but will last.