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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.

Bryans’ Top 40 of 2017

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I met Bryan Jacoboski a few years back. He spends an impressive amount of time tasting wine both in Washington, DC and New York City. 

I will do this Casey Kasem-style with a Top 40 of 2017:

99 2013 Pahlmeyer Piece de Resistance
99 2013 Carter Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet The O.G.
99 2010 Carter Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet The Three Kings
99 2013 Pahlmeyer Raison d’Etre
98 1989 Chateau d’Yquem
98 2015 Carter Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet The O.G.
98 2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia
97 1986 Chateau d’Yquem
97 1963 Taylor Vintage Port
97 1989 Montrachet Ramonet
97 1978 Château Rayas
97 1996 Dom Perignon Oenotheque
96 1999 Batard Montrachet Ramonet
96 2002 Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese #10
96 1972 Ridge Monte Bello
96 2004 Montrachet Drouhin
96 1996 Montrachet Drouhin
96 1993 Bonnes Mares Roumier
96 1999 Chambertin Rousseau
96 1966 Scharzhofberger Auslese Eieswein Egon Muller
96 1988 Scharzhofberger Auslese Auction Egon Muller
96 1990 Chateau Rayas
96 1862 Terrantez Teixeira
96 1998 Cornas Noel Verset
96 1999 Cornas Reynard T. Allemand
96 1953 Chateau Haut Brion
95 1968 Vega Sicilia Unico
95 1999 Chambertin Clos de Beze Rousseau
95 2002 Musigny JF Mugnier
95 1999 Ruchottes-Chambertin Roumier
95 2004 Bienvenues-Batard Montrachet Ramonet
95 2014 Griotte-Chambertin Jean-Marie Fourrier
95 1982 Cote-Rotie La Landonne Guigal
95 1996 Dom Perignon
98 1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
95 2002 Vosne-Romanee Brulees Meo-Camuzet
94 2001 CNDP Cuvee Celestins H. Bonneau
94 2010 Montrachet Ch. De Puligny Montrachet
94 1999 Clos de Tart
94 1996 La Tache

A lot of Burgundy (as always) but the highlight of the year for me were the Pahlmeyer and Carter Cellars’ wines.  I generally am not a fan of Cali Cabs, or New World wines in general, but I call ‘em as I see ‘em. These approached perfection.

Eric Ifune’s most interesting fortified wines of 2017

December 26, 2017 2 comments

Eric Ifune’s love of fortified wines once again comes through in his third annual post of his favorite wines of the year.

Once again, I’m naming my most interesting fortified wines of this year, 2017. Not necessarily the best, but the most interesting. They are listed chronologically.

Bastardo and Moscatel Madeira in New York

1875 Shortridge-Lawton Bastardo
Tasted at a large tasting of Bastardo and Moscatel Madeira in New York. This was the best wine of the tasting. Shortridge-Lawton was an old shipper founded in the mid-18th century. It is now a minor label of the Madeira Wine Company. This wine was bottled by the MWC for the Sherry-Lehman shop in the 1970’s.

Bastardo, a red skinned variety, almost completely disappeared from the island due to Phylloxera. A few growers have replanted a bit. I believe there’s now about half a hectare grown currently.

Red-copper green in color. Aromas of lemons and a bit of musk. On the palate, very rich and mouth filling. More citrus flavors. Excellent acidity and very, very long. Much better than both Blandy’s and Cossart-Gordon’s 1875 Bastardos at the same tasting.

50 year old blends

A new category of indicated age wines was approved for Madeira a couple of years ago. This is the 50 year old category. Several producers have now released 50 year old blends. I managed to taste a few on the island this past spring. Given the extensive aging needed for quality Madeira, this is an exciting new category.

Justino’s 50 year old Terrantez.
Bottled Feb. 24, 2017.
Terrantez is my favorite variety on Madeira. Still relatively rare, it’s gaining in plantings. Copper-bronze in color. Smoky, nutty, and tangy aromas with limes and a hint of VA. Rich and concentrated on the palate. A proper old Terrantez with a hint of bitterness at the end. Long and balanced.

Henriques & Henriques 50 year old Tinta Negra
Bottled Sept. 2016.
The same legislation which allowed for 50 year old wines also permitted the Tinta Negra (formerly TInta Negra Mole) variety to be listed on labels. This wine originally belonged to Joao Eugenio Perreira, a grower in Camera dos Lobos. Beautiful bright gold copper. Irridescent. Complex aromas of smoke, wood, and leather. A sweet (doce) style of TN, with great balancing acidity. Very long with lemons and limes on the finish.

Barbeito 50 year old Bastardo
Not officially labeled at the time of tasting.  550 bottles will be produced. This wine will be named in honor of Ricardo Frietas’s grandfather. Barbeito has been experimenting a lot with Bastardo lately. From both Ricardo’s grandfather’s stocks and from the Favilla family stocks. Irridescent gold-green with a hint of rose. Spicy and floral with smells reminicent of roses. Medium sweet (Meio Doce). Very complex with beautiful balance.

Blandy’s 50 year old Malmsey
Bottled 2016.
400 liters produced. A blend of multiple vintages: 1952, 1964, 1974, 1975, 1978. Bronze, red, gold in color. Beefy and citric aromas. Perfect balance for me. Great concentration and richness. Smoky with tangerines on the palate. Very long.

32 Vintages of D’Oliveiras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1875 D’Oliveira’s Malvasia
Old JNV (Junta Nacional) seal, in bottle before 1979 (Seen in far right).

I was fortunate to attend a large tasting at D’Oliveiras with over 32 Vintage and age indicated wines. This wine showed a dark bronze color with a green-gold rim. Huge aromatics with smoke, musk, soy, limes, lemons, pralines, and dried fruits. Dense and rich in the mouth. Quite sweet but not overly so. Great balancing acidity. Accompanied with a long citric, meaty finish.



1850 D’Oliveira’s Verdelho. Bottled 2016.

D’Oliveras’s keeps their wine in cask until bottled to order. Thus, this wine was in cask for almost 166 years! Luis D’Oliverira is shown presenting his wine to the right. Very dark bronze color with a copper green rim. Hugely concentrated, as can be expected for a wine in cask so long. Smoky, spicy, citric with toasted nuts and a hint of VA. Sweet due to the extreme concentration but with huge, huge balancing acidity also concentrated. Flavors of limes, tangerines, brown sugar. Very, very long.

The Marquis de Pombal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grounds and cellar of the Marquis de Pombal estate

Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquis of Pombal and 1st Count of Oeiras, was one of the most important figures in Portuguese history. He was the Prime Minister in the mid-16th century. His statue is in Lisbon in Pombal Square. He rebuilt Lisbon after the disastrous 1755 earthquake and repulsed Spanish invasion. He also reformed the government along enlightenment lines and demarcated the Douro wine region, the first demarcation in the wine world. His estate is near the town of Oeiras, just outside of Lisbon and the vineyards he planted formed the basis of Carcavelos. Carcavelos was once a very famous Portuguese fortified wine, rivaling Madeira. However, because it is close to Lisbon, it has been swallowed up by urban sprawl. At one time it was virtually extinct, however a few years ago, some viticulturists brought it back. It’s stronghold is it’s original one, the Pombal estate. It’s now owned by the local government. There’s a couple of smaller outside vineyards, but they are threatened. There is a total of 25 hectares of Carcavelos, 12.5 belong to the Pombal estate. A 5 hectare vineyard is just outside the estate, but it’s for sale at a price which would preclude viticulture. The grape varieties are mainly white with a few red. Arinto, Boal, Galego Dourado, Negra Mole, Trincadeira and Torneiro. Villa Oeiras is the company producing wine from the old Pombal estate. They use the old estate cellars. They also have a facility in the old Pombal stables where the wines are fermented. I had a fascinating visit earlier this year. The wines are fortified with a 77% aguardiente which is locally produced. One huge difference from other fortified wines is the use of new 225 liter oak barrels. They are doing many experiments with different barrels from different sources and woods, French and even a Portuguese sourced oak. Different toast levels as well. I had a chance to taste the same wine brought up in different oak barrels and the difference was marked. The new oak gives a tropical fruit and coconut quality to the wines which is not unattractive. Highly unusual and distinctive wines.

2004 Villa Oeiras Carcavelos
11 years in oak. 17.5 % alcohol by volume.
Burnished bronze, gold, green color. On the nose, nuts, oak, tropical fruits, honey, and coconut. Velvety mouthfeel. Sweet, tropical fruit flavors. Good acid balance with a long, saline finish.

Villa Oeiras 20 year old Carcavelos
Average age of 20 years.
Bronze gold green in appearance. Looks similar to an old Verdelho Madeira. Oaky, coconuts on nose. On the palate, sweet with almond skins and dried citrus fruits. More coconuts and tropical fruit. Nice acidity and great balance. Very long.

A trio of old Colheita Port

Quinta do Noval 1968 Colheita Port.
Bottled 2016.
Sitting and relaxing on the waterfront in Vila Nova de Gaia. Wanting something good to imbibe, got a half bottle of this from the Noval shop. I’ve had this before, but bottled several years earlier. Now, it’s become even more superb. Full tawny, gold, green. On the nose, nutty, spicy with caramel, limes, and tangerines. On the palate, enormous complexity with flavors of limes, oranges, cinnamon, apricots. Very rich and long.

Quinta do Noval 1937 Colheita Port
Bottled 2008.
At a large multiday tasting of Ports in Seattle. Bright cola colored with hint of green at rim. Complex nose with smoke, dried fruits, nut skins, and pralines. Full and rich on the palate. Intense with great balance. Very long and sweet. Very complete wine.

1957 Kopke Colheita Port
Bottled 2015
Also in Seattle. Dark tawny colored. Musk and brown sugar aromas. Lots of concentration on the palate. Not real sweet. Dried fruits and citrus. Nutty. Great complexity of flavors. Lots of depth and very, very long. Better than the Kopke 1937 and that’s saying something.

A tasting of 1997 Vintage Porrts

I was fortunate to attend a large tasting of 1997 Vintage Ports to celebate their 20 year anniversary. 30 different Vintages served blind.

1997 Croft Quinta da Roeda
Very, very dark. Really young looking. Purple all the way to the rim. Sweet and plummy. Still primary. Aromas of bing cherries. Rich and velvety mouthfeel. Lots of tannins still. Lots of primary fruit. Really long. Needs lots of time to peak.

1997 Fonseca
Dark, just beginning to lighten at the rim. Still rich and primary aromas. On the palate, tannic with lots of grip. Very primary plummy fruit. Almost painfully young.

1997 Calem
Very dark purple all the way to the rim. Very spicy and primary aromas. In the mouth, rich and very primary. Very tannic but everything in balance. Lots of depth and length.

1997 Ramos Pinto
Dense impenetrable dark purple. “Black as Egypt’s night” was the old term. Nose somewhat reticent but plums and spices. On the palate, tight and tannic. Black fruits. Great depth and concentration.

A retrospective of 1977 Vintage Port

I also had the good fortune to attend a 40 year retrospective of the famous 1977 Vintage Ports. 13 wines tasted blind. At this age, lots of variability.

1977 Sandeman
Deep red color. Going rose-tawny at rim. Spicy aromas with strawberries and violets. Just starting to turn secondary. Velvety mouthfeel. Sweet but with great balance and vibrant acidity. Great intensity. Quite long.

1977 Gould Campbell
This has long been considered an overachiever for the vintage by Port aficionados. Still impenetrable dark purple color. Very floral nose with citric fruits and violets. On the palate, sweet with lovely, juicy plummy fruit. Not real intense but beautiful balance. Not the most complex, but very satisfying.

1977 Taylors
This was the best wine of the tasting. There’s a lot of bottle variation, but this one was spot on. Just starting to go tawny colored at the rim. Spicy cherries and citrus on the nose. Rich, velvety mouthfeel. Great intensity. Sweet and plummy. Very long and satisfying. Vibrant and youthful.