Saturday, November 28, 2009

A night with the legend of Burgundy

Henri Jayer who died in 2006 left behind a legacy and a future path for Burgundians to follow. He epitomized the phrase "do as little in the winery as possible". This non-interventionist attitude did not mean "do nothing" however, just not in the tanks but in the vineyard. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether he has any equal or successors ( in the form of Rouget or Meo-Camuzet ) to this legacy. There is something about these wines which is unmistakable. Just as Domaine Leroy wines have an unmistakable "fingerprint" so does Henri Jayer.

1990 Echezeaux. George et Henri Jayer.

Vinified, produced, elevated and bottled by Henri Jayer. I think we should put the myth to rest that this wine is not qualitatively as good as Henri's own - it is. Coming from a section of Echezeaux located right below Grand Echezeaux it was multi faceted and complex. Needs about an hour of air with smells of plum, cherry, tea, vanilla & cream, herbs and minerals. I have never had an Echezeaux with such a complex and ever changing bouquet. On tasting again multi faceted and layered with a long finish. The most appropriate words for this was "symphony". Stylistically speaking there is nothing quite like Henri Jayer, not Leroy not DRC. Everything in the right amounts, balanced nothing out of proportion or wasted. 96+ points

1993 Echezeaux. Henri Jayer

This was made from Henri's own plot. This was starting to come into it's own after the 1990 started to fade ( roughly 2.5 hours after opening). Again that Jayer fingerprint of supreme competance of balance, focus proportion and nothing out of place or wasted. This was less complex in the aroma section compared to the 1990 there were plums, tea, minerality incredible balance in the mouth as well as a more impressive tannin structure and very very long. The tannins had a little bitterness to it which started to fade/back down later (~2hours). This may need a few more years to hit it's stride. While it had a less complex and chameleon like aromatic structure whatever it had was more focused and more pure. So it comes down to preferences - and these could change even in the same person day to day. While the 1990 was a symphony, the 1993 was a "soloist". The best analogy I can think of is music. Sometimes you want to hear Fritz Reiner or George Solti conducting the CSO. Sometimes you want to hear David Oistrakh doing a violin solo. Both are equally valid and equally good. 95+ points.

1997 Fontaine Gagnard "Le Montrachet"

This is because it required lots of time to open up. The color was medium gold and my first concern was oxidation but this wasn't the case. Notes of caramel, toast, oak and minerals. Came alive about 2 hours after opening - powerful. If you can imagine Batard Montrachet then this would be it's big brother. I was hoping for a little bit more complexity - not an epiphany. This is where one can understand why some experienced Burgundy drinkers consider Chevalier Montrachet qualitatively equal to Montrachet. 92 points.

2006 Dog Point. Section 94
Brought to keep people occupied while the other Burgs had a chance to air out as well as provide a counterfoil. This should be the benchmark for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon, citrus, cut grass, gooseberries and aromatic vegetables ( i.e. celery, endives ), touch of oak very good concentration and not watery at all like many other SB's.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The reds of Piedmont

Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo & Barberesco - typical Italian names for red wines. Why do they all have to start with a "B" - confused already? It doesn't need to be painful.

First of all the Brunello doesn't belong in this group because:
a) It comes from a completely different region which is Tuscany
b) Is a totally different grape varietal from the other two (i.e. Sangiovese).

First off, Barolo & Barbaresco are names of actual towns. Both are in the Langhe region in Piedmont. If you can imagine the capital of Piedmont being Alba (yes think white truffles). Barberesco would be Northeast of Alba while Barolo would be Southwest of Alba. To be considered Barolo or Barbaresco they would need reside in the appropriate regions AND be made from the Nebbiolo grape.

Let's take a look at the Barolo region first.

The Barolo region essentially comprises of a hilly area comprising of 2 valleys interspersed with old towns which are homes to the many wine producers. Traditionally, these are the towns of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falleto, Serralunga d'Alba and parts of Monforte d'Alba. Additional locales were given Barolo designation in the later half of the 20th century and these were parts of Cheresco, Diano d'Alba and Roddi. By regulation Barolo needs to be in wood for a minimum of 2 years and 1 year in bottle. Typically, producers release their Barolo 4 years after the vintage. A reserva designation can be given with the additional stipulation of 5 years total ageing with 3 minimum in wood.

The region comprises of over 1,700 hectares of vines producing over 10 million bottles of Barolo annually. Can we say over production? Over the past years there have been efforts to categorized various terroirs in Barolo but nothing has come about even closely approaching the Bordeaux classed growth or Burgundy cru designations. Supposedly the terroir and soil composition are different between the different sides of the 2 valleys comprising Barolo ( roughly bisected by the road designated SP3/SP3bis). The western portion is considered to have softer and more supple tannins but may be less age-worthy. The eastern having harder tannins but with more complexity and age-worthiness.

Unofficially though, there seems to be widespread recognition of the following terroirs to be above the rest. This is not a definitive list so if I've probably missed a whole bunch

La Morra: Rocche dell'Annunziata, Brunate & Cerequio
Barolo: Cannubi
Castglione Falleto: Monprivato, Villero
Serralunga: Cerretta

More to come...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Decent everyday drinking wine

While it's getting easier to find good wine - it's not so easy to find decent everyday drinking wines which won't burn a hole in your budget.

Having sampled these wines very recently, I can say that they are indeed very decent everyday drinking wines. In fact - they will last for quite some time if you can keep the corks on them.

Both are suited for mediterranian type food from Spain, Italy, Southern France etc..

2006 Artadi El Seque - Alicante

A newly acquired vineyard in Alicante, Spain. 40 acres in brown/limestone soil. The blend is 80% Monastrell (also known as Mataro or Mourvedre), 10% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Full bodied wine. Extremely rich and packed. Best to give it a couple hours of air but drinks well right out of the gate. Very nice tannins. The price should be under US$30 - 91pts

2007 Le Macchiole - Bolgheri Rosso
This time from Tuscany, Italy. IGT table wine. Combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese. True to Le Macchiole, the purity of the fruit comes through here - each and every varietal. Initially one has the feeling the blend has not fully integrated and the tannins can be a bit roughish (but not bad). After time in the decanter this begins to come together. Under US$25 - 89+pts.

Just in case people get the wrong idea - these wines are the most economical ones in the range from Artadi or Le Macchiole. Their high end wines can fetch prices similar to Bordeaux first growth prices. These are some very high quality producers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In memory of Michael Jackson.

I wasn't a great fan of Michael Jackson in the later years but there is no denying he redefined the genre over the decades again and again. My favorites still come from the Jackson 5 era and here are some of them:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some more music

This time it's not a golden oldie but the complete opposite. 
Amazing especially given the circumstances.  Zee Avi is a jazz/folk vocalist & songwriter. The 23 year old Malaysian from Borneo was posting youtube videos until being "discovered" and was offered contracts by several US record companies.

More songs on the link below - enjoy!!

2008 Bordeaux - Selling one's soul

Most of you won't believe this but the winehunter bought 2008 Bordeaux En-Primuer. Alright, accuse me of selling out, turncoat whatever - I admit it!! Anway, let's see if this works out.
Given the pricing and the vintage there were some relatively good values to be had especially in the early days. Duhart-Milon @ $400/case was to me a complete no brainer. Owned by Lafite, quality has been improving steadily. Pontet-Canet; too hard to resist. The 2003 were yummy, 2008 costs less and should be even better. 

On the other hand, some of the top rated wines have shot up tremendously especially after Robert Parker gave higher marks than were expected. 1st growths like Lafite have doubled since initial offering...  Greed is back. Either way, this should be fun to watch and try when it finally gets delivered.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

An adventure down history.

For many, collecting antiques can be a fanatical pastime. For wine lovers, this road is fraught with uncertainty but also wonderful surprises. Last night, we had disappointments but we had some wonderful surprises as well - such is life.  We had 2 vintages which bookended the beginning and the worst parts of the previous large financial disaster - the great depression of the early 20th century. Is this where we are in the latest equivalent of the 21st century? - who knows.

1929 Beaune - Doctor Barolet selection ( H. Villamont)

A great many significant events occured in 1929 which would reshape the later parts of the 20th century - a monumental year by any measure.
  • The beginning of the great depression ushered in by the stock market crash in the United States
  • The first public telephone booth call was made
  • The Vatican was established as an independent jurisdiction by the Lateran treaty
  • The first Academy awards were given out
  • The EEG was invented
What a surprise on opening this 80-year old wine -  it was still alive & kicking! The color was light but healthy. Immediately on opening, smells of plums, hints of tea and a touch of figs. Balanced and consistent on the palate, fine tannins but not the quite the kind you expect from a GC on the Nuit side.  Over the course of 10-15 minutes of air contact the tannins started to reassert themselves and had a bit of an edge - this then softened over the next 15-20 minutes. Surprisingly, the nose reminds me of Armand Rosseau's Chambertin. In the mouth, it's a slightly different story - again definitely not GC finesse. It had the energy, balance, acidity, complexity. A wonderful experience trying, experiencing and partaking in history.

1933- Beaune Premier Bouchard Pere

As the US started bottoming out here were the highlights of historical events of 1933
  • Construction of the Golden Gate bridge begins
  • Newsweek magazines is published
  • Franklin D Roosevelt becomes US president and begins the "New Deal"
  • Nissan Motors begins operation
  • Adolph Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and the Nazi party comes into power
Holy cow! This thing does not resemble a 76 year old wine. It must have been suspended animation. Color is extremely deep and young ( given the age) - you would have confused this for at most a 20 year old Burgundy. Nose is a bit more reserved not as seductive and complex as the the 1929; bit more monolithic as well on the palate.  Compared to the previous bottle this was more of a "bulldog" - tough and wound up. Tannic structure was more heavy and to me not as fine as the previous bottle ( again these are both Beaunes! ). Nit-picking aside, given that is Bouchard is 76 years old - completely amazing condition. Hope I'm in that good shape when or if I get there.

1949 - Moet & Chandon Rose

Some landmark geopolitical events shaped this year and for years to come.
  • The People's Republic of China is officially proclaimed
  • Chiang Kai Shek's army retreats to Taiwan
  • The Federal Republic of Germany is officialy founded.

I had high hopes for this one but it was not to be. DOA. Oxydised, no go. Blech.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And another Golden oldie....

What has all this got to do with wine?? Not much I guess. Just in a nostalgic mood this evening (where's that Burgundy from the 60's I've got stashed away?).
Anyway - since I'm on a roll here's another one. Sorry - just couldn't get it out of my head after the movie.

T-Rex - "20th Century Boy"

Have you ever seen the rain - nostalgia & melancholy

When John Fogerty wrote the lyrics to the song "Have you ever seen the Rain", he was referring to the eventual breakup of his brother Tim from the band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). This song was released in 1970 and whenever I hear this song it rings nostalgia all over. For people of my generation (you know who you are) this will probably be true as well - for other generations perhaps not. Either way, it also seems like appropriate lyrics for the economic downturn and the credit crisis. By now everyone has seen the rain (or flood or Tsunami).
Hopefully the sunny days will come back soon...

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have you ever seen the rain?

Someone told me long ago, there's a calm before the storm,
I know; It's been coming for some time.
When it's over, so they say, It'll rain a sunny day,
I know; Shining down like water.

I want to know, Have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, Have you ever seen the rain
Coming down on a sunny day?

Yesterday, and days before, Sun is cold and rain is hard,
I know; Been that way for all my time.
'Til forever, on it goes Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know; It can't stop, I wonder.


Sense of smell and the wine palette (or don't take it too seriously)

Some thoughts on wine descriptions and your sense of smell.

Years ago, I would read all the literature out there. Tasting notes, buy the wine, try it and then read the notes again. We get phrases like "...smells of Lychee, organge zest, pineapple, banana, buttery...." blah blah blah. For every 10 descriptions I would be lucky recognizing and picking up one of them. Perhaps my sense of smell wasn't as acute, taste buds dead, sensory memory lacking?? Maybe there is something wrong with me? Stop right there.

Years later and many bottles down the road - I have yet to meet too many people who were truly missing these god-given abilities to taste. People may not know how to surgically dissect and analyze the wine but they surely know if it's good or not very quickly - there is no fooling that. The exceptions were usually people with a flu, Chain smokers, some other overriding impediment or cranial damage. If you enjoy food and can smell and recognize it; you should be able to do this. This is not to exclude the supertasters - there are those among us with an extraordinary level of ths gift. Even here, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion or disinformation on this end.

  • On one side, the media and experts tell us that there are "supertasters" among us which have biologically more tastebuds than normal people. Great - no denying this is real.
  • On the other hand, the experts also tell us that much of the perception of wine comes from the olofactory organs rather than the tongue and mouth - our sense of smell. The tastebuds can only account for the very primitive tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salty. I would say add a 5th one which is "mouth feel" or "tactile senes" - somethig which tells us the difference between round and coarse tannins. That's it.
  • My simpleton conclusion is then that most people are barking up the wrong tree in putting too much importance on tastebuds and not enough on the nose...??
Getting back to not recognizing or registering the smells.....

It may sound like heresy but perhaps it was the book that got it wrong??!! Maybe the author thought it smelled or tasted like which may not correspond to your experience?

Here is my favorite example:

Buttery - Perhaps thick, creamy and viscious but "buttery"??

To me there are too many loose ends:
  1. Does it mean cold or melted butter? In which case it looks, feels and tastes totally different.
  2. Is this salted or unsalted butter? Again completely different - not many wines are salty
  3. Is this clarified buter? Is it cooked and to what degree?
  4. Is this Normandy, Danish, Japanese, New Zealand butter?

Don't Give up

Long story short - don't give up if you don't seem to be able to pick up all these nuances that other people or the wine literature seem to have. It may not be your fault. The simple fact is the aromas and nuances in a wine cannot be adequately described in words - words only go so far. Wine more than anything seems to give people and the general public so many assumptions, myths, preconceived notions and BS. You have to take everything with a grain of salt and use your own judgment.

The only caveat is if you find someone who can consistently find good wines and recognize them blind or zoom in just on smell and taste without looking at the label - latch on to that person!!! You can probably throw everything all other rules out the window and follow their advise.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

God's Joke ( or why TV series can't be serious)

For many who follow the comic book God's Drop or "Kami no Shizuku" - some will know that a limited 8 episode TV series began earlier this year in Japan. The final wine or "Kami no Shizuku" literally meaning "God's drop" was no other than the 2003 Chateau La Puy. Yours truly bumped into this wine by chance recently so here are the tasting notes.

2003 Chateau La Puy.
Well, for something which was the wine of God - this is a bit disappointing. On the nose, this had the smell of a Burgundy with a bit of age (15+ years?). Earth, plums, tea - surprising and getting my hopes up as this is totally unexpected for an '03 Bordeaux. On the palate with....Disaster!!! Thin, astringent, slightly coarse tannins; can't believe this is an '03.  Mid-palate and finish is nothing to write home about.  Don't see how this could be construed with something close to perfection and showing "eternal qualities" - anything but. Wine of God - hmmm don't think so Joke - maybe. 83 points

2006 Peter Michael "La Crarrie"
Smells of minerality starting to integrate with the oak. Very aromatic oak. Some people smell "pineapple" - I think it's the combination of the minerality and the oak - not quite pineapple perhaps a Pina Colada. High viscosity almost oily quality in the wine. Nice aftertaste but maybe a bit short and  thought it thinned out at the very end. May improve with time as wood integrates with rest of the wine. 90+ points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feb 25, 2009. A few tasting notes from a previous dinner

2005 Francois Raveneau Butteaux.
Minerality more covered up by fruit than usual. Try not to overchill this - nice acidity - very nice balance - good finish. Still prefer the 2002 though. 92+pts.

2006 Fontaine Gagnard - Chassange Montrachet 1er Cru Clos St. Jean
Opened for ~30minuts. Denser, brasher, minerality backed up by power. Kept unwinding throughout the night - give this time. 90 pts.

2005 George Roumier Chambolle Musigny
Opened in bottle for ~3.5 hours - needs it. Red fruits laced with a bit of earth and game. Structured, fine tannins - amazing village wine. 90 pts.

2005 Duhart Milon Rothschild
Opened for ~2 hours. Young, full bodied, expansive, cassis, touch of pencil, traces of Lafite but not quite as this is more brawny without the complex aromas. Hey but given the price - no complaints! Serve at room temperature or a bit above ~19-21 C, no problems and may make it a bit less rough on the edges. 92 points.

1999 Chateau Palmer
Opened for ~1.5 hours. Ahhh the 2nd disciple. An amazing achievement in an otherwise lackluster year. Soft, beautiful on the nose, depth without being overly brutish. Silky tannins and decent finish. 94-95 points.

2004 Oremus 4 putt Tokaji ( forgot the vineyard).
Good acidity great with thick creamy deserts - cuts through and gives balance.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dinner with Lodovico Antinori & Tenuta di Biserno

A few years back, I mentioned about a wine that stood out on a trip to Tuscany. That wine was called Isoglio del Cinghiale. After some fact checking, the people behind this winery were none other than Lodovico & Piero Antinori - the previous owner(s) of Tenuta Ornellia. Fast forward almost 2.5 years later and we had a very special treat - dinner with Lodovico in person.

Insoglio is basically their everyday drinking product. Up until 2005, it was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cab. Franc. Starting in 2006, Syrah was added to the blend and by 2007 I believe Cabernet Sauvignon was completely eliminated. Going forward from the 2007 the blend of varietals have pretty much "settled" in. Given the price point of this wine which is ~ EUR15, no complaints. More than acceptable as an everyday quaffer.

Next up is the Il Pino di Biserno which is a more Bordeaux-like blend and does not contain any Syrah unlike the Insoglio. This is a much more complex wine and also takes things up another level. Starting in 2007 however, there might be a qualitative change as some of the best vine blocks will be going into their next level wine called Biserno.

Biserno - will start with the 2007 vintage and will be their "flagship wine". First shipments will start in 2010. This will be fun to watch as it is probably aimed squarely at Ornellia.

If Biserno is to Ornelia then my guess is that sometime down the road there may be something ultra-rare to match off with Masseto...

2007 Insoglio - More Syrah dominant and even more fleshy.
2006 Insoglio - Syrah introduced a bit more fleshy
2005 Insoglio - Cabernet Sauvignon driven. A Bordeaux ringer.

2005 Il Pino di Biserno
Extremely young. Is it a Puillac or St.Emillion?? It seemed to me however that it was just a bit closed and tight. This will take time.

2006 Il Pino di Biserno
To be released very soon and seems like it is still settling in but looks promising. The balance is there and just a bit more hi-keyed than the 2005 to prop things up here ( though not the sharp acidity in any sense ). Shades of Ornellia here?? This is going to be interesting in a couple of years.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 9, 2009. A couple more tastings

A couple more tried over the week.

2006 Leroy Bourgone Aligote
Good acidity, minerality present but had hints of wet cardboard. Suspect this one was "slightly" corked.

2006 Craggy Range "Le Sol" Gimblett Gravels
Extremely ripe primary syrah notes; you know the type where there is a note of "roach spray". I don't know how else to describe it but the fruit has a hint of something coming out of a can of Baygon. Very one-dimensional at this stage - perhaps evaluate in another 7-10 years; it's going to be a while.

1998 Haut Brion.
Doing well now; this looks to be an early drinker by Haut Brion standards. A little air (45minutes) is all it needs. This vintage is underlined by the aromas of the earth - you can smell the soil. Tannins are quite fine and the mid-palate is full but will thin out over a span of 2 hours.... Not a vintage to go into the history books but good now - why wait?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Another year has gone by - time certainly flies.

Been getting lazy posting tasting notes so new year's resolution is to be more deligent. Here goes....

1998 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicholas

Brilliant Pinot Noir smell gushing out just on the pour. On the palate, it was Chardonnay dominating. Quite good but the Chardonnay and Pinot could be a bit more integrated which will take time. 92+ points.

2004 Michel Niellon Chassange Montrachet 1er Cru Clos St. Jean
On the nose, bright flecks of minerality and acidity. The palate could not follow through what was promised on the nose - bit diluted/thin on the core though it had nice acidity and a finish. 90 points.

2006 Domaine Leroy Aligote
Minerals, acidity on the nose and on the palate. Nervosity and a bit of sharpness on the mouth. Needs a little bit of air (30minutes)to balance out. Chablis-like. Had 2 bottles in as many months - the latest one was defective. Flat, no fruit or minerals and a bit oxidised. Previous bottle was much better. 89 points.

1966 Leroy Echezeaux

Primarily plums a touch of figs, earthiness and hint of minerality. Very nice indeed but palate doesn't quite deliver though initially it did for a short period of time ( I dived in while others wanted to wait - their lost) My suggestion - don't wait too long. This was not to say the wine died after that it didn't it had density, structure the finish could be longer but it didn't seem to have the fruitiness and viscosity as in the beginning... 94+ points

2005 Raveneau Valmur
Good balance of acidity, fruit and minerals. Long gentle finish. Needs more time in the bottle and was a bit reticient at first. Don't serve too cold or it will be tight as a clam. 93+ points possibly 95 later.

Oops left one out

2006 Comte Liger-Belaire - Vosne Romanee Clos du Chateau
Limpid and lively light ruby color. Amazing aromas and nose - high notes of red fruits with strong mineral overtones and a bit of earth. On the palate --- ugh.. disappointing - what a let down. Missing a bit of concentration and what was hinted on the nose didn't deliver -- accept tannins and a slight bitterness. I'd like to think this like a Pommard but there you hope the tannins drop to reveal something more balanced... Here I don't think there's anything left when the tannins drop... 87+ points.