All posts tagged: winemaker

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 of us, slowing down everyone by taking photos of the spectacularly steep vines, “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 1971 vintage?” He thought for a while, slowing right …

&.. 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 …

A Judgement of Our Times – Trump Wines

If logic applied, the Trump wines (i.e. a project with enough built-in cynicism owned by teetotal reality-TV-star-turned US President Donald Trump) should be reliably terrible. But these are extraordinary times, as Adam Curtis explains in his political documentary HyperNormalisation; and in 2017, we prefer to retreat into a simpler world rather than face the huge complexities of politics today. And, he argues, this trend began 40 years ago. That’s about the same time as the Judgement of Paris tasting of 1976, where Californian wines were pitted against the French greats and won. After the “A Judgment of Our Times” blind tasting, for a brief moment, I felt outrage similar to Odette Khan after the original tasting. Organised by Evening Standard drinks writer Douglas Blyde, and James Hocking, wine director at The Vineyard Cellars and The Vineyard Hotel, we arrived with no idea of what to expect. We then entered the dining room where a large canvas shows the original participants of The Judgement of Paris in a heated debate. America First We tasted two wines at a time, completely blind. One of the wines in …

3 terroirs in Saumur-Champigny you need to know

As the boat drifted away from the town of Saumur on a summer night, and I was drifting away in my thoughts at the end of the day (and, perhaps, from one too many glasses of red), I thought about the knotty notion of terroir. When does wine become more than just about thirst? The Loire is a vast collection of different terroirs following the Loire River from the centre of France to the Atlantic. We were in Saumur-Champigny AOC, in the centre of the Loire region. South-east of Angers, on the left bank of the river, and east of Coteaux du Layon and Anjou. The boat drifted to the point in the river where the Saumur region ended and where Touraine began. A winemaker pointed to the old stone stairs on the river bank. The stairs were divided down the middle. Although they joked about it, saying one side was for the people in Saumur and one was for Touraine – there were clearly still some healthy rivalries between the neighbours. The line where one region started and another ended was clear in the …

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 …

Inferno Paradiso: Tasting Mount Langi Ghiran 2004 – 2009

Love that is not loved back, pardons the loving. Once a lovesick friend wrote me this on a napkin in a café, a quote from Dante’s second circle of hell (“Amor cha nullo amato amar perdona”). To be honest, it’s the only thing I can quote from Dante’s Inferno, the text studied by winemaker Dan Buckle for his thesis, long before he became the new winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran. What I do know about Dante’s Inferno is that it is about poetic justice, and there is certainly something poetic about a winemaker who has studied the descent into the flames of hell to be now working in the Grampians in Alpine Victoria, an area almost routinely devastated by bushfire and drought.   Inferno Whether there is justice is another matter – as Dan said at a vertical tasting of his wines from 2004 to 2009, what he has learned during these hard years: “it’s one thing to stress a vine, it’s another to kill it.”

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 …

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.

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 …

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 …