All posts filed under: Winemaker Profiles

Donnhoff Riesling and climate change. A visit to the Donnhoff vineyards in Nahe, Germany

As we walked up towards the famous Hermannshöhle vineyard in the Nahe, Helmut Donnhoff shouted back to those of us slowing everyone down by taking photos of the spectacularly steep Riesling vines at the Donnhoff vineyards in the Nahe, “Hurry up. There are beers waiting for us a the end!”  He has known this vineyard since he was a child. The Hermannshöhle vineyard was replanted in 1949, the year of his birth. As he showed us the frost damage on the canes from April frost, he explained how strange it was for this vineyard to be affected by frost,   “Cornelius (his son, who is now the winemaker, born in 1980) did not believe that frost could happen here. Now he knows that anything can happen.” He recalled his first vintage was 1971, one of the best vintages of the century. We joked that 1971 was a high standard to forever live up to. As we drove up to the Felsenberg vineyard near the “Donnhoff Castle” I asked, “What is the difference between working in the 2017 and …

&.. there is more to Germany than Riesling. Pinot Noir, otherwise known as Spatbugunder

German Pinot Noir 2015 – Furst and Jean Stodden

German Pinot Noir 2015 is a guilty pleasure. On the one hand, the fruit from this warm and dry vintage is ripe and delicious. They have come into the world with adorable baby fat. But make no mistake, they are not exactly childish or simple. They have a sophisticated poise, even at this early stage, with just the right amount acidity to balance the ripe fruit.  On the other hand, it is difficult not to think about the wider implications of seeing warmer temperatures at this latitude. If wine grows best between 28th and 50th degree of latitude, the wineries we visited were at the limits: 49.7136 degree North (Fürst in Bürgstadter, Franken) and 50.5133 degrees North (Jean Stodden in Rech, Ahr). Many winemakers we visited on the ABS Masters of Riesling trip observed, from their vantage point at the edges of viticulture, the climate is changing. The silver lining for these stormy times ahead, is that red wines from Germany are having their moment. Arguably, the best yet after a few lean years.  These are strange …

Oh! Ochota

“And if by chance you surf….. you would understand what a great barrel is.” After a pure two-tone fruity-vanilla start reminiscent of tasting straight from the barrel in a cold cellar*, it found a balance point exactly where satsuma, lemon curd and Comte cheese meet. In the current trend for leaner Chardonnay but more balanced on the side of sweet fruit and oak, it is happily supple (and definitely not fat). Made by Taras and Amber Ochota, and you can find their story here, this couple is a talented and well-traveled lot, who chose to dig at a hard spot for Australian Chardonnay (this is a difficult price point in the UK) and hit upon gold in the Adelaide hills. The wine did not reveal itself fully until the next day, which reminded me not to drink big white wines under screw cap without at least a good swirl in a decanter first (a decanter is not just for red wines).   Bottle number 9! The back label details:       *After being immersed in months of Burgundy …

At Chateau Palmer #bdx12

This is what Bordeaux En Primeur week is like: it seems quite leisurely as we talk but it is really a quick yearly catch up on what has been happening since last time we met. This year CEO Thomas Duroux  stole us away from tasting Chateau Palmer to show us the new cellars. It is very interesting to hear how the yields must come down for organic viticulture, especially in Bordeaux – it is more humid down here than in Burgundy and needs constant labour-intensive (read: expensive) vigilance to keep away the mildew and pests so to keep the quality high. From original post for 2012 Bordeaux En Primeur week on Bibendum Times.

Jean-Marie Fourrier on 2012 vintage conditions

The last time I spoke to Jean-Marie Fourrier it was November 2011 in his cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin. He gave a very clear and poignant portrait of the vines after the wet summer of 2011. As I mentioned in my previous post, he explained how, by the time winter had arrived, the plant was confused by the unusual weather patterns. At the end of 2011, the stalks had not turned from green to wood completely so an unusual second sprouting happened again in winter. Especially for those who

Awake in Turkey – Arcadia Vineyards in Thrace, #ewbc 2012

Zero  Is where the Real Fun starts.  There’s too much counting Everywhere else! – Hafiz, I heard God Laughing * Technology, as Max Frisch said, is the art of arranging the real so that we no longer notice it. In a hotel room in Instanbul, on the way home from the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Izmir, I can hear the call to prayer bouncing around the minarets across the city and I am wondering: what makes Turkish wine so distinctly Turkish? It was a question that I knew had no easy answers.

From Rhone with Love – J.L. Chave at Christie’s

The night before the Christie’s tasting of J.L Chave pre-auction wines, the swimming briefs worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale went at auction for £44,000 (with 5 bidders). During the tasting, we were reminded by Anthony Hanson MW that in the past Rhone was shipped to Bordeaux to be used as bulk wine. In between these two extreme stories, sat before us the wines of J.L. Chave. The market of fine wine, like other markets, is based on sentiment. And

The Truth About Mac Forbes

Let’s try to forget Mac Forbes is rather attractive. I don’t want this to influence my perception of the wine in any way. Of course. That’d be completely unprofessional. Hands up – I had written about his wine before I met him: “Supersonic”. But, for the sake of objectivity, let’s get this out of the way… and he is married. So, I said it. There. What about the wine? Mac was in London between visiting Austria and Portugal. In itself, this is a very Australian idea of Europe and her wine. The island of Australia covers from St Petersburg to Dublin. Yet this is the key to understanding it. Let me explain.

Tar and Roses

Last week I met with two giants in Barolo in the space of a few days: Elio Altare and Maria-Teresa Mascarello. Their espressione of Nebbiolo are as starkly different as tar and rose. Tar and rose are the signature aromas of Barolo. I like the dissonant images that come to mind of thick, black gooey tar joining with delicate, velvet, pastel roses. There’s something about this wine that resonates with me on a primitive olfactory level: perhaps, it’s the realization that the best is not always sweetness and light. This also holds true for the people making the great Barolos of today, or anyone who decides to go against the grain. Yet there could not be two more different producers of Barolo. Altare uses French barrique; Mascarello is dead against it – using traditional large botte – and famous for the label “No Barrique, No Berlusconi”. Altare makes single-vineyard Barolo; Mascarello makes Barolo the traditional Piedmontese way from three to four cru vineyards. Altare visits Burgundy twice a year since 1976; Mascarello insists on traditional Piemontese spelling …

Raving with Clos Ste Hune (Trimbach)

  The signature taste of Clos Ste Hune Riesling is pine needles but this is no tranquil afternoon in the Black Forest; more like non-stop “pine needle” green strobe light action at a rave. Trying to describe it is like waving your hand through laser light; the complex flavours meld and disappear in a green light of spicy lime and steely tang. Let the music lift you up. It would have been fortunate to have only one Clos Ste Hune, but at yesterday’s Enotria tasting with Jean Trimbach at Bistro du Vin Soho, we were treated to three vintages. Everybody raves about Clos Ste Hune Riesling from Trimbach; and happily, this wine lives up to the hype.

The wine was Chambertin

I forget the name of the place; I forget the name of the girl; but the wine was Chambertin” – Hillaire Belloc Tasting Grand Cru Chambertin next to other wines is like seeing a film featuring Anouk Aimée after an all-day marathon of Friends. It has such a different affect on the senses it makes you wonder whether all winemakers are using the same key ingredients of grapes, soil, sky and cellar. The last time I tasted 2008 and 2009 Grand Cru Domaine Rossignol-Trapet they were in an embryonic En Primeur state in London; now the wines had formed a clear personality. Rossignol-Trapet’s Gevrey-Chambertin villages red was a go-to wine for me for a couple of years, so it was a thrill to meet Nicholas at the Domaine. 

Introducing Christophe Buisson

The RN74 road in Burgundy is like driving down a wine list. Great names, manicured vines; it is, to state the obvious, a place where vineyards have been have been held in loving trust for millennia. Generations of families and growers have worked the land; a place where growers are so well-known by winemakers business is done on a handshake (‘topler’). But it must be the perverse streak in me, despite having the privilege to taste many Grand Crus from great familes during my time there, one of my favourite wines was a red Saint-Romain from the relatively new winemaker, Christophe Buisson.

Languedoc Seduction: Domaine Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes 2002

Winemaker Marlene Soria has achieved a grand clandestine moment with 2002 Peyre Rose Clos des Cistes. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this wine is not the dramatic Mediterranean garrigue character, nor the resolutely non-berry style of the dark rose and golden figs, leather and slight bay-leaf menthol. It is the fleshiness given to this powerful, idiosyncratic voice from the South of France: a region where a lot of voices have yet to find out what they exactly want to say. Compelled to find out more, I learned Soria stopped shipping to the US soon after gaining recognition in Wine Spectator as well as dumping the three previous vintages (1999, 2000, 2001) with the local wine co-operative due to taint from faulty enamel tanks. This, for a wine that easily commands over £60 a bottle. I questioned whether I should write about the vinous equivalent of a one-night stand, one that you and I may never see again (it is found in the UK in seriously low quantities). Yet, weeks later, its mysterious voice and …

Schloss Gobelsburg: philosophical investigations on the pleasures of Gruner Veltliner

“Then I brought up this question: When you say, Men do desire pleasure, what is this use of “pleasure?” Is it contrasted with pain? Pain is localized, for instance. He went on with one of the nicest bits of analysis I heard… He started: Pain is a sensation. Pleasure is not. Why are the senses classified together? Obviously they are not a bit alike. Smells, odors, aren’t a bit like sounds. Then he gave this account. With respect to all these, you can time them precisely with a clock. “Now you see; now you don’t. Now you hear it; now you don’t.” By the clock you can tell. Now pleasure isn’t like this. The logic of the word pleasure is quite different. Clock the pleasure. When did the pleasure begin, when did the pleasure end, etc?” “Wittgenstein conversations 1949 – 1951”, p 63, Oxford. Wittgenstein   Each Gruner Veltliner is a puzzle: in Austria, the spicy white is an everyday wine enjoyed in the same way as Chardonnay; but, here, Gruner Veltliner is still an …

Lifting the fog: Pannell, Nebbiolo and the future of Australian wine Pt1

For a brief moment, I did an internship as a curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Like most internships it was unpaid, part of the reason why I started working in wine sales. Apart from that, one of the best things I learned from my time working as an intern curator in an art gallery was learning to ask questions beyond whether I liked or I didn’t like a piece of artwork.

Dinner with Francesca Planeta

At a press dinner with Francesca Planeta, it did not surprise me when she said her wine had run out at Milan Fashion Week. These wines are seriously loved by the fashion industry. What does come as a surprise is to learn Planeta has only been making wines in Sicily since 1985. Think Italy and wine: what comes to mind is old estates with centuries of history. Then there’s Sicily… dormant for the past 4000 years, it has recently become a hotbed of wine innovation. The world’s love affair with Planeta started with their Chardonnay. We tasted the 2000 vintage and I was instantly back in the 1990s: poured from a double magnum, it’s a full-bodied Chardonnay with prominent oak, a style which has now fallen out of fashion somewhat. But this is Chardonnay: there is no other grape that is dictated so much by fashion.  Contrast the latest 2009 Cometa Fiano. It’s Sicilian style, full of fabulous pure fruit expression that had a consultant exclaim on first tasting, “When a wine comes out like this, it’s indigenous in …

dark sunglasses required: sexy Sicilian wine

There’s a stuffy image to the wine industry. It’s where middle-aged men with cigars who imagine themselves out every night patting strippers on the bum between glugs of Bordeaux as they discuss wine like stock prices. Sicilian wines are not for them. There’s also the people who go to the supermarket on the way home from work, get home and perfunctorily open a bottle to watch television for a few hours before going to sleep to do it all again the next day. Sicilian wines are not for them, either. Sicilian wines are TROPPOOOO BUONNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! For the first time in ages, I had the Planeta Cometa Fiano and I felt about it exactly as I always did: affable, over-the-top glamorous, completely unpretentious and overall just delicious. If Dolce & Gabbana had a wine then it would be close to this. This is effortless Sicilian style. On a grey London day, I wanted to reach for my dark sunglasses to pour it. The colour is golden straw like mid-afternoon sunshine by the beach. It had a …

New Wave: Kooyong Estate Farrago Chardonnay

In the same way as the sculptor Constantin Brancusi sculpted this piece in 1910, the Farrago Chardonnay from Kooyong Estate is spectacularly modern. Kooyong Estate winemaker Sandro Mosele has been peacefuly innovating on the Morninton Peninsula near Melbourne under the radar and turning out classic modern masterpieces. To say this wine is defined by its minerality is like saying the above sculpture of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse is only defined by its smoothness. It has a linear feel like Brancusi’s Bird in Space, yet has layers and texture, “quiet” fruit like pear and grapefruit, with very light touch of French oak (only 30% new). The name “Farrago” comes from the name of the corner of the cool-climate vineyard with motley soil of high sand and clay (farrago means assortment, medley) giving the wine its mineral core. There is nothing else like it and what I like about it is that I find no references to French wines. This is the second time in two weeks I have been jolted out of my complacency. First, Mac Forbes’ …

What is a ‘vino da meditazione’?

I love reading wine tasting notes in Italian. I always want to sing it back. For example, What is a vino da meditazione? It’s an intriguing term often seen in Italian wine notes. It looks like the word “meditation”, but it’s not quite. Coined by famous Italian gastronome, Luigi Veronelli, meditazione is often used to describe sweet passito wines or red wines aged for a long time such as Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino. From my Italian sources, a vino da meditazione can mean: 1. Calm, sweet wine (without bubbles); 2. Important red wines; 3. Wines with a long vinification process from vine to bottle such as Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (at least 5 years in oak), Barolo Riserva (5 years) or Vin Santo (8 years in oak); 4. A way to drink these wines with an attitude of understanding its complexity:”Stop and slow down – this wine should be approached calmly, reflectively to understand its complexity and composition”.   Holy Wine   A classic vino da meditazione is Vin Santo (holy wine), a Tuscan sweet …

Lunch with Randall Grahm: Imagining Change

Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with darkpoles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name. Eaarth.” Environmentalist, Bill McKibben     To be honest, it took me a while to sit down and write this post after lunch with Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon vineyards. Why? Firstly, my notes from the conversation at lunch sitting next to him read like a Steiner school brain map: Volcanoes, White Grovonia, Root depth, new clones, aesthetics, saline water, Acacia barrels, the lime taste in Australian Riesling “what is it?” RG asks…. Secondly, there has been a lot already said about Randall and it’s easy to get caught up in the “Californication” of him. He does look particularly exotic from a European perspective. The gonzo Ralph Steadman drawings on the labels (artist of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing), the long hair, the …

Bazaar not Bizarre: Modern Turkish Wine

A mark of intelligence is how to answer stupid questions in a smart way. And before I went to this year’s London International Wine Fair, I had many stupid questions about Turkish wine. Let’s start with the basics. Isn’t Turkey Islamic? Are Islamic cultures allowed to make and sell alcohol? Is it going to be rough traditional wine that will give me headache? Can you buy wine in restaurants there? Where is this wine drunk? How do you even pronounce the grape? Is it even a grape or a style of wine?

Lalou Bize-Leroy, Burgundy

astrological principles guide the world’s most illustrious winemaker, Lalou Bize-Leroy “Wine is from a cosmic inspiration, it has the taste of the world matter.” – Lalou Bize-Leroy Lalou Bize-Leroy is the person behind some of the most expensive, sought-after, imitated and adored wines in the world. Her Burgundies are breathtaking, ethereal and out-of-this world. Yet she has to be one of the most idiosyncratic and eccentric winemakers on the planet. Lauded by her critics, shunned by her neighbours, loved by her buyers and collectors. Controversially, Lalou manages her wine on horoscopes and phases of the moon – she is one of the first exponents of bio-dynamic management of wine based on a cosmic, Steiner philosophy. Madame Bize Leroy doesn’t just think big, she thinks cosmically big. And let’s the rest of the world catch up. You may not believe in it, you may not understand it, but she must be doing something right. You don’t get a page of superlative praise from the world’s biggest wine critics for no reason. What you need to know …

Eccentric Winemaker series, Pt 3: Anne Gros, Burgundy

Now, you may think, why Anne Gros? She is certainly not as outlandish as the previous two winemakers I have featured in Wine, Woman and Song’s Eccentric Winemaker series. This is true. She is from a historic Burgundian family stretching back to the 1830s, making blue-labeled wines in the blue-blooded part of Burgundy, Vosne-Romanée. Yet, there is something unique about Anne Gros. To be an eccentric you must dance to the beat of your own drum. Anne Gros is certainly doing something different, right under the noses of the the old guard. In an extremely traditional area such as Burgundy, even the most imperceptible tremors and changes result in huge waves. Just look at her label. It’s modern – blue! – no fancy script or complex descriptions of proprietors over the vineyard name. It clearly states the region and the Domaine name. How different it looks compared to the traditional Burgundy bottles. To the wine itself: her wines are lightly filtered; unfashionable at the moment. They are unashamedly feminine. Arguably, most wines from Burgundy are …