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Domaine Besson, Pinot Noir 2015, Le Haut Colombier, Givry.

This is an exceptional example of a Pinot Noir. A 2015 vintage still tasting fresh with the acidity holding up well and complexity coming through from bottle aging.

On the eye: pale ruby

On the nose: pronounced, we find red cherry, redcurrant, raspberry, red plum, blackberry, fennel, dried herbs, liquorice, cinnamon, leather, earth, mushroom, fig and prune.

On the pallet: dry with medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, a full body with pronounced flavours as found on the nose.  The tannins are medium plus and are smooth, soft and ripe. The wine has a long finish.

This wine is outstanding in quality.  The aromas found on the nose are intriguing and complex.  The wine has tertiary characteristics, yet the acidity is refreshing and ensures primary fruit flavours such as redcurrant and red cherry still shine through.  The tannins are soft and perfectly integrated into the wine.  The alcohol, tannins and acidity form a perfect balance.  The wine has great complexity and intensity of flavour showing pronounced primary fruit flavours alongside the results of bottle aging adding tertiary notes such as mushroom and prune.  The finish is long and complex allowing the drinker to savour this wine at a slow pace.

What are the wine making techniques that make this wine so outstanding?

  • Grapes are de-stemmed. De-stemming grapes removes both the tannins and astringent flavours found in the stems of grape bunches.
  • Fermentation is at 28 – 30 degrees Celsius, with just a few gentle punch downs over 8 to 10 days. This is a relatively warm fermentation, meaning extraction of phenolics and tannins will be maximised.  Undertaking just a few punch downs will slow the fermentation down increasing complexity of flavours both from the juice and from fermentation itself.  However, punch downs do increase extraction of flavours, tannins and colour, so doing just a few is a stylistic and intentional choice made in conjunction with the decision to ferment at 28 – 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Element of whole punch fermentation. If whole bunches of grapes are added into the juice, there can be an element of intracellular fermentation. This is an anaerobic fermentation that happens inside an intact, uncrushed grape that causes it to break down on its own. This produces additional flavours such as lighter red fruits like strawberries and red cherries and even a hint of bubblegum. Additionally, the stems absorb some of the colour pigment making the wines lighter in colour.
  • Aging is carried out in 50% new oak for at least 12 months without racking. Oak aging provides three things for a wine:
    • 1) flavours from the oak are imparted into the wine, such as clove, cinnamon, smoke and coconut.
    • 2) micro oxygenation occurs stabilizing the colour of the wine, breaking down harsher tannings and making the wines mouth feel less astringent.
    • 3) If malolactic conversion has not taken place during the fermentation it can happen in this environment as can other subtle chemical reactions. During this time there is no racking, which means dead yeast cells known as lees will add mouth feel and texture to the wine as they are slowly broken down and absorbed into the wine.
  • Blending wines from different parcels of land and/or wines aged in different oak barrels (new or old) can give the wine an intended style, more consistency over vintages, and more complexity. Some people refer to this as “designing the wine” – taking the best of various wine pressings and combining them in the right proportions to make something even better.

The Punset Winery – Featuring Arneis & Barbera

These two Italian wines come from the Punset Winery in Neive, a beautiful village in the Cuneo area of Piedmont.  Punset is a family owned vineyard, which was founded in 1964 by Renzo Marcarino.  In the early days the family had an intuitive desire to grow grapes as naturally as possible, but it is the daughter, Marina who pushed the vineyards towards fully organic grape growing and is the wine maker today.  Not content with this, the winery is now effectively biodynamic.  Family, nature, and natural wine making are at the heart of this family’s philosophy and their wines.

These guys make a range of wines from classic grape varieties found in Piedmont, but I am going to focus on two, Arneis and Barbera.

Punset Arneis Langhe DOC – 2020

Arneis a grape that was almost extinct by the early 1960’s, but now is enjoying a comeback. Low-yielding and susceptible to powdery mildew in warm seasons it needs careful management in the vineyard.  It can struggle to retain it’s acidity, so picking at the right moment is essential.  In return for this effort, Arneis can make a beautiful wine and this is a great example.  This Arneis comes from grapes grown in the Langhe region of Piedmont.  Langhe is a hilly area to the south and east of the river Tanaro in the provinces of Cuneo and Asti in Piedmont, Northern Italy.  The aspect and altitude combine to provide great diurnal temperature ranges with long days of sunshine and cooler nights refreshing the grapes acidity and lengthening the growing season. Perfect location for Arneis to thrive.

Note that this wine is DOC and not DOCG, suggesting that the winery has not pushed for the “garantita,” or guarantee status of this wine, which requires approval from an independent tasting panel and comes with the associated costs.

On the eye: pale lemon

On the nose: pronounced, we find blossom, bruised apple, pear, grape, apricot, nectarine, melon, passion fruit, fennel, dill, dried herbs, white pepper, wet stone, yogurt and almond.

On the pallet: dry with medium acidity, medium plus alcohol, a full body with pronounced flavours as found on the nose.  The wine has a long finish.

This wine is outstanding in quality.  The aromas found on the nose are intriguing and complex.  The wine has a delightful balance between acidity which is refreshing yet understated and the alcohol which despite being medium plus is barely noticeable.  The wine has a lovely mouth texture and intensity which is enhanced by the lees aging.  As with the nose, on the pallet the wine has a real complexity with every flavour being well defined and spanning many clusters from green, citrus, and stone fruits, to secondary and tertiary characteristics such as yogurt and almonds.  As you might expect this wine has a delightful finish which is long and evolving allowing the drinker time to savour every sip!

So what are the wine making techniques that make this wine so outstanding?

– Hand harvested grapes, picked early in the morning when the temperature is still cool, placed in small perforated crates.  This ensures only the best grape bunches are picked from the vines.  Picking in the morning and transporting in small crates minimises damage to the grapes in transit.  This harvesting method ensures only optimum grapes come into the winery and are used to make the wine.  Any spoilage from damaged grapes or grapes that are under ripe is avoided.

– 50% of the grapes are gently pressed with the stems still intact to provide pure aromatic fruit flavours and avoid harsher flavours from the skins of the grapes.   This happens because the juice runs through channels created by the stems and not over the skins of other crushed grapes.  The remaining 50% of the grapes are destemmed and given several days in cold soak to build phenolic flavours.  The balance between destemmed and stemmed is a conscious decision by the wine maker to make a precise style of wine.

– Indigenous yeasts are used to provide a unique expression of terroir and flavour to the wine.  Many of the flavours in wine come from the fermentation process itself.  Using indigenous yeasts imparts unique flavour characteristics to the wine.

– Fermentation is at a cool temperature of 18 – 19 degrees Celsius and is slow, imparting more flavours and complexity to the wine.  At cooler temperatures, yeast works at a slower pace which in terms builds more complexity and diversity of flavours.

– The wine is left on the lees for eight months.  Lees aging (dead yeast cells left in the wine for a period of time typically six months to one year) adds complex secondary aromas to the wine and also adds body and texture.

Punset Barbera D’Alba 2019

Barbera d’Alba is perhaps overshadowed by its neighbours Barolo and Barbaresco, but it makes delicious wines which are sometimes less intense and show more red fruit, particularly cherry for example, on the pallet.  The best Barbera d’Alba wines come from grapes grown on hillside vineyard sites close to Barolo

On the eye: medium ruby

On the nose: pronounced, we find rose, violet, redcurrant, raspberry, red cherry, dark plum, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, fennel, dill, dried herbs, white pepper, liquorice, mushroom and wet leaves.

On the pallet: dry with high acidity, high plus alcohol, medium tannins that are ripe and chalky, a full body with pronounced flavours as found on the nose.  The wine is intense and has a long finish.

This wine is outstanding in quality.  The aromas found on the nose are delightful and complex.  The wine has beautiful balance between acidity which is refreshing against the alcohol (despite being high and 14.5% it is barely noticeable) and tannins which are wonderfully well integrated and add to the wine’s body and depth of character.  As with the nose, on the pallet the wine has a real complexity with every flavour being well defined and spanning many clusters from red, dark fruits to herbs and spices. Tertiary notes of mushroom and wet leaves tease us with the potential of this wine.  As you might expect this wine has a delightful finish which pulls the red and black fruit flavours apart allowing the drinker time to enjoy every aspect of this wine!

So what are the wine making techniques that make this wine so outstanding?

– Harvesting is left until the last moment to give the grapes maximum time to reach phenolic ripeness. This gives the wine the amazing acidity and flavour intensity balance with alcohol at 14%

– Again, hand harvested grapes, picked early in the morning when the temperature is still cool and placed in small perforated crates.  This ensures only the best grape bunches are picked from the vines.

– The grapes have the stems removed to give a purity of fruit flavour to the wine and avoid unwanted flavours from the stems which can be harsh or tannic.  This approach gives the wine it’s light and approachable tannin structure.

– Again, indigenous yeasts are used to provide a unique set of flavours that help to express the terroir and flavour to the wine.  Many of the flavours in wine come from the fermentation process itself.  Using indigenous yeasts imparts unique flavour characteristics to the wine.

– Racking is done regularly to give the fruit a purity and maintain a light body.

– Concrete vats are used for aging. Concrete is a neutral storage vessel in terms of flavour, unlike oak, which imparts characteristics such as vanilla, cloves and coconut.  However, unlike stainless steel, concrete allows for micro-oxygenation and this encourages the development of the tertiary flavours you can pick up in this wine, adding complexity whilst retailing the elegant freshness of the wine.


Calling a Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc blind

This week I have been homing in on these two grape varieties.  At first smell and taste they can appear very similar, but for those extra WSET marks in a tasting exam, you need to be able to pull them apart and correctly recognise their characteristics.

I’ve been working with a selection of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc wines at mid price from the local supermarket.  I think these show good typicity and are pretty mainstream examples. It’s less about the quality of the wine and more about the profile – but I would rate all these wines probably as very good quality.

Chenin Blanc has very high acidity, medium alcohol.  The number one first flavour I get on the pallet is lemon, then tropical fruits of banana, melon, pineapple. then pear

Chardonnay still has high acidity, but is lower relative to Chenin blanc, but higher in alcohol.  The relationship between the alcohol and acidity levels is telling for me.  On the pallet the difference I am finding is the upfront first flavour of apple, then followed by more citrus notes of lemon, limes, grapefruit, and then stone fruits of apricot and nectarine

The flavour profile of Chenin Blanc can vary widely between South Africa and Vouvray, but I still find that lemon versus apple a key way of determining the grape variety

So, if I am confused as to whether this wine could be Chardonnay or could be Chenin Blanc, I need to ask myself 1) is the acidity level and alcohol level quite similar (yes, more likely to be Chardonnay, less likely to be Chenin Blanc with high high acidity and only medium alcohol) 2) is it lemon or is it apple I find first (apple should confirm Chardonnay, lemon should confirm Chenin Blanc)


Mac Forbes Strathbogies Ranges RS17 : Riesling : 2018

This is one of a range of Riesling wines from Mac Forbes that have been developed to showcase the value of terroir, aspect, and altitude.  They illustrate how with Riesling the balance between sugar and acidity are essential in developing the wines final style and flavour profile.  This wine is made from a blend of grapes coming from two vineyards.

VINEYARD Town: Caveat

Region: Strathbogie Ranges

Planted: 1983, 5 Acres

Aspect: East

Soils: Granitic

Altitude: 600m


VINEYARD Town: Upton Hill

Region: Strathbogie Ranges

Planted: 2005

Aspect: North West

Soils: Decomposed granitic with pink quartz

Altitude: 530m


As you can see, it’s the same grape at places not too far apart from one another.  Yet the aspect is different which will affect how much sun the grapes get, when during the day, and therefore its intensity on the grapes.  The altitudes are different and the grapes at higher altitude can take longer to ripen and have a better sugar/acidity balance, whereas the grapes at the slightly lower altitude could make a more full-bodied wine.  The soil is different which will affect drainage, nutrient uptake, and heat retention during the growing season.

This wine is made from hand harvested grapes which are de-stemmed and then crushed before pressing takes place to provide the juice.  Fermentation is not to dry and is stopped when there are just 17g / litre of sugar left in the tank.  The wine is matured in stainless steel vats that allow only the lees (dead yeast cells) to break down and offer more body and flavour complexity to the wine. Before bottling the wine is unfined but sterile filtered to maintain taste and produce a clean finish.

Here’s my tasting note for this wine

On the eye, pale lemon.

On the nose, pronounced, with aromas of apple, pear, lemon, yellow unripe apple, apricot, nectarine, pineapple, grass, tomato leaf, dried herbs, dill, bread dough, yoghurt, cream and petrol

On the palate, the wine is dry with, high acidity, low alcohol, medium plus body and flavour intensity with flavours matching aromas found on the nose.  The finish is long.

This wine is outstanding quality.  It has an array of complex aromas and flavours to excite the drinker.  These show great typicity and showcase Riesling extremely well.  There is plenty of intensity to the wine due to the hint of residual sugar and less aging components working hand in hand.  The acidity is very high, yet completely integrated with the wine’s flavours.  The alcohol level is low and unnoticeable.  Overall, these elements give the wine perfect balance.  The wine has a long and evolving finish reminding the drinker of the pronounced aromas on the nose.  A joy to taste!

Baby Bandito: Keep On Punching

I’m considering the merit of natural wines as both a style and marketing theme or approach to developing a wine business.  This wine is an interesting example of natural wine to consider…..

Baby Bandito: Keep On Punching
Chenin Blanc by Testalonga winery, Swartland. 2020

The label and the branding are indeed very engaging, and the winemaker, Craig Hawkins, has built a formidable reputation for making great wines using low intervention, low / no sulphur natural winemaking techniques.  This gives the wines a particular character, with skin extraction and colder longer fermentation techniques being used alongside ambient yeasts found in the vineyard. The less steps and processes that are used to make a wine, will perhaps give a truer expression of the grape and where it was grown.  It can also lead to some extremes that another winemaker may try to avoid such as an imbalance of acidity or particular primary flavours in the wine appearing to dominate the palate.

Whilst the wine may be interesting to try, it wasn’t a style that I particularly enjoyed.  I found the “rawness” of the wine difficult to handle.  Perhaps, when we think back to the Romans making wine, this would have been exceptional.  In the modern era of winemaking we have become too reliant on chemical intervention either in the vineyard or in the wine itself, particularly in lower cost bulk wines made to suit a particular customer that has no vintage variation or flavours that can be polarising.

So, here’s my tasting note on this wine.

On the eye, pale lemon and slightly cloudy.

On the nose, medium, with aromas of lemon, yellow unripe apple, pear, grape, hint of peach.

On the palate, the wine is dry with a little petillance, high acidity, medium alcohol, body and flavour intensity with flavours matching aromas found on the nose.  The finish is medium plus.

This wine is good quality.  The balance between the characteristically high acidity of Chenin Blanc and flavour profile of the wine is out of balance.  This leaves the drinker experiencing high acidity on the palate which overrides the flavours of the wine.  The alcohol has a slender but noticeable burn on the chest despite only being at the low/medium level (11.5% abv).  The wine has some complexity, but lacks both intensity and a broader range of flavour clusters to really represent Chenin Blanc well.  The wine’s finish could be longer, but it is only on the finish that the acidity and alcohol dies, and one can really enjoy the citrus fruit characteristics of this wine.

I have a range of wines from this Testalonga 2021 vintage to try, and I really hope to learn more about the natural styles he has produced.  The front and back labelling is eye catching and engaging.  But I know these are classic marketing techniques, hinting at stories and being controversial to engage and provoke an audience.  Many independent retailers I know sell out of these wines very quickly.  But are the wines as good as the branding?  The price of these wines are not prohibitive and his stance and approach to winemaking is honest, clear, and determined.  My mind is not made up, follow the story on my Instagram feed!

Mas De La Pansa, Parellada, 2016

If you fancy trying something a little unusual, I can thoroughly recommend this Parellada we are serving @thewineparlour from Mas De La Pansa winery in Vila Rodona , 2016 Vintage.  Parellada is perhaps more recognised for its use in a blend of grapes used to make Cava, but it also has the capacity to make a beautiful still wine with refreshing acidity, citrus and saline characteristics to enjoy.

For those of us working up to the WSET Diploma exams in May, here’s another tasting note.  As usual any / all feedback is gratefully received

On the eye, pale gold (that’s right, this wine goes beyond lemon in colour)

On the nose, medium plus intensity, with aromas of blossom, honeysuckle, bruised apple, grape, lemon, lime, nectarine, apricot, white pepper, olive brine, almond, hazelnut and a hint of petrol

On the palate, the wine is dry, with medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium plus body, medium plus flavour intensity with flavours as per the nose, with a long finish.

This wine is outstanding quality.  The balance between refreshing acidity, flavour profile, and alcohol is perfect.  The alcohol is integrated neatly into the wine’s acidity and is barely noticeable.  The wine has great complexity with floral, green and citrus flavours to enjoy.  The wine has good body and structure with a hint of petrol, almond and hazelnut coming through as tertiary flavours.  The finish is long and maintains the bruised apple and olive brine notes particularly well.  Delicious!

A little bit more about this wine.  These grapes are old bush vines planted in 1958.  These low yielding, yet richly concentrated grapes are at 312 metre altitude.  This gives the grapes the perfect combination of fruit concentration and acidity which are provided by the longer growing season.  Harvesting is by hand, at night in small 20kg boxes to avoid any unwanted damage to the grapes.  The grapes are sorted by hand, and again any grapes that are not in perfect condition will be disregarded.  The bunches of grapes are destemmed and placed into a steel tank at low temperature, around 10 degrees Celsius. The grapes naturally begin to crush and release their juice, but this is an extremely slow and gentle process to maximise flavour extraction managed over two days.  It contributes the deeper golden colour and saline notes to the wine.  The juice is decanted from the tank and fermentation will begin.  After fermentation is complete, the wine is split into two parts with one part being stored for four weeks in new French oak barrels.  All the wine will have six months lees aging before bottling which gives the wine the hint of petrol and depth in body we can feel.

Furmint trade tasting 4.0 in London!

On Monday I was lucky enough to go to the Furmint Wine Tasting in London, sponsored by Wines of Hungary.

As well as meeting some great wine makers who are seriously passionate about their homeland, I learnt a few things about Furmint along the way.

A brief overview of Furmint!

Furmint is the most widely planted grape in Tokaj, around 70% of all plantings in the area. The beauty of this grape variety is that it can produce a range of styles from dry to sweet.  Even when fully ripe, unlike some varieties, it retains it’s full acidity very well.  Tokaj has a long sunny growing season and so vineyards with the right aspect and altitude can optimise this characteristic of the grape.

Tokaj, for many decades, has been largely known for producing sweet wines as despite being a thick skinned grape, Furmint is very susceptible to Botrytis.  As sugar builds in the grapes naturally through the growing season, botrytis can set in at harvest or late harvest, concentrating the grape’s sugar, whilst preserving acidity.

However, winemakers are now working much harder to promote dry styles of Furmint.  Furmint when fermented to dry is typically, full bodied, medium to high in alcohol, and high in acidity.  Flavours include lemon, green apple, pear and a hint of ginger – a very refreshing wine on a hot summer’s day.  The wines can be young and fresh, or matured in oak for a short or longer amount of time, giving a range of styles.  I also found some examples of extended skin contact and oxidised wine styles similar to oloroso sherry.

Here’s three wineries at the tasting I found very interesting:

Bodrog Bormuhely – I think this is a great example of how a wine label can be used to really encourage trial.  The label shouts young, modern, different – as well as DRY wine from TOKAJ

Breintenbach is a modern winery founded in 2006.  They are working with different winemaking techniques to create oxidised styles of wine which could be described as either orange or made with the encouragement of flor (a technique used in Sherry).

Gilvesy – an organic vineyard since 2014, shows the real flexibility of Furmint.  Producing sparkling, dry, off dry, oak aged, and extended oak aging wines.

A tale of two Italian wine regions!

Inspired by some intensive wine study this week, we enjoyed two Italian reds on Sunday! A Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 from the Querciabella winery and a Primitivo 2018 from The Cantele winery in Salento.

Some background

We have visited Querciabella – they are recognised as being one of Italy’s best and most innovative wine producers.  The family have owned the vineyard over three generations.  Current wine maker, Sebastiano has a real passion for animal rights and the preservation of the environment.  In 2000 he introduced a 100% plant‑based approach to biodynamics that forbids the use of animal products in the vineyards or in the cellars.

Appellation Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva

Chanti classico is a DOCG requiring 100% of the grapes to be Sangiovese.  Querciabella have a selection of the best vineyard sites in Greve, Radda and Gaiole. All the sites enjoy south facing elevations giving better sunlight. The soils in this area of Chianti are mainly sandstone rocks and sands obtained from the flaking of galestro.  The higher presence of galestro slate results in wines of persistent tannins and darker fruit profiles. In Gaiole the soils have more limestone also known as Albarese which is also found in parts of Spain.  This soil is richer in calcium carbonate and delivers a riper expression of the Sangiovese fruit and a marked acidity.  The average yield from these vineyards is just Average Yield 30 hl/ha.

The vineyard has been completely Organic since 1988 and biodynamic since 2000. Harvesting is done entirely by hand in small 9kg crates between early September and early October.  Each vineyard is picked and fermented separately in oak barrels, prior to 16 months maturation in fine to extra fine-grained oak barriques (225 l) and tonneaux barriques (500 l) of which up to 20% are from new oak

Salento IGT is one of the most commonly used IGT titles in Puglia, southern Italy. We didn’t make it that far south!! It covers the Salento, the limestone based peninsula that divides the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea and forms Italy’s heel.  Southern Puglia’s star performing DOCs are Primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino. Their core grape varieties (Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera) are also key in Salento IGT wines.

The Cantele Primitivo del Salento is made from 100% Primitivo grapes sourced from the Torricella area of Salento in Puglia.  Harvest takes place at the end of August.  Harvesting Is carried out by machine as the vines are head trained and pruned-spur cordon.  Maceration lasts about a week and the fermentation takes place at around 22 – 24 degrees.  Aged for approximately 6 months in oak barriques

So here’s my tasting notes for these two wines.

Let’s start with the Chianti

On the eye : medium ruby

On the nose : pronounced violet, blossom, redcurrant, raspberry, cherry, red plum, blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, dill, dried herbs, liquorice, cloves, cedar, charred wood, smoke, coffee, dried raisin and fig

On the pallet : dry, high acidity, medium + tannin, ripe, soft, smooth, high alcohol, full bodied with flavour characteristics as on the nose and a long finish.

This wine is outstanding quality.  The fruit flavours remain fresh and offer amazing complexity through several primary clusters (red, black, and herbal), as well as the use of oak bringing tertiary flavour characteristics and offering more depth and intensity to the wine.  This Chianti has great typicity, with the grape’s high acidity perfectly integrated into the tannins and alcohol.  The acidity balances the tannins, which have softened, and compliments the flavours from oak ageing, meaning the wine feels fresh, elegant, and complex all at the same time.  The wines finish is long and evolving and reminds the drinker of the wine’s aroma.  A truly outstanding example of Sangiovese.

Now onto the Primitivo

On the eye : deep garnet

On the nose : medium plus with redcurrant, cherry, red plum, blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, cooked fruit, chocolate, liquorice, cloves, cedar, charred wood, mushroom, coffee, leather

On the pallet : dry, medium acidity, medium tannin, smooth & ripe, high alcohol, full bodied with flavour characteristics as on the nose – showing dark fruit characteristics and a medium plus finish.

This wine is very good quality.  The wine has great balance between the acidity and alcohol. The fruit flavours remain fresh and have a good level of intensity exhibiting lots of dark fruit character.  The use of oak has added to the wines complexity with tertiary flavour characteristics offering more depth and a smoothness to the wine.  The wine’s high acidity compliments the tannins very nicely.  To be an outstanding wine, the wines complexity would perhaps exhibit a wider range of fruit flavours and the finish could be longer.

Beautiful Gewurztraminer from Waitrose

Really enjoyed finding this Gewurztraminer in Waitrose this week.  Studying Alsace wines is fascinating.  The area has such winemaking and grape growing history all of which contributes to the diverse styles and selection of grape varieties available from the area today.  Add to that the region’s vast array of soil types, growing aspects and altitudes and you find that there is so much complexity from this relatively small growing region.

Alsace is geographically in an ideal location from which to export wine to a number of key neighbouring countries.  Over the centuries it has also been influenced by the countries it borders.  Perhaps its hero grape is Gewurztraminer but other noble varieties (as they are known) grown in Alsace can produce outstanding wines with beautiful acidity, complexity, length, and finish.

Gewurztraminer itself, is known to be typically floral and have a distinctive lychee characteristic, it is typically full bodied and surprisingly higher in alcohol than one might think.

Blanck family have a long history of wine making in Alsace dating back to the 1600’s, where they began farming in the Schlossberg area.  Later generations were highly influential in gaining Grand Cru status for this area and at the same time extending their plantings to other areas of Alsace. They have held a long-standing commitment to Terroir based wine making and many family members are still involved in making the wines today.

The Gewurztraminer I found in Waitrose is made from grapes grown in Kientzheim.  A vineyard they own with 20-year-old vines. The soil is a mix of clay and limestone which benefits from gentle, south-facing slopes as the altitude is actually relatively low at 400 metres for Alsace.

Grapes are typically hand harvested. Interestingly an air bag press is used to ensure extremely slow, gentle pressing which avoids crushing the stalks and pips whilst maintaining great extraction of those primary flavours associated with Gewurztraminer.  Fermentation is undertaken with natural yeasts contributing to the winemaker’s desire for an expression of terroir.  Fermentation usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks in stainless steel vats to control the temperature and ensure a reductive environment is maintained to preserve the aromatics of the grape variety. The wine is stored in oak for one year and lees aging is encouraged to add richness to the Gewurztraminer.

Here is my condensed WSET tasting note for this wine:

Appearance is pale lemon

The nose is pronounced with an immediate hit of lychee followed by blossom, rose, pear, peach, apricot, nectarine, mango, pineapple, turkish delight, cinnamon, honey and buttery cream.

The wine is dry with a medium minus acidity and medium alcohol, with a great flavour intensity of flavours echoing what I described on the nose.  Perhaps the cream and fuller body from lees aging is more apparent to taste.

This wine is outstanding in quality.  The alcohol and acid are in perfect balance. The wine’s flavours and aromas disguise the dry style of the wine extremely well and the lees aging adds a texture and fuller body to the wine.  It has great complexity with many clusters of flavour.  The wine’s finish is long and leaves the drinker thinking of that distinctive lychee note associated with Gewurztraminer.  Fantastic!

At Home Burgundy Tasting!


So here is a selection of wines I blind tasted this week to begin revising Burgundy for my WSET Diploma exams.

Overall this was very useful for me.  I found the two supermarket sourced wines from Macon-Villages to really show how the more moderate continental climate can produce a more rounded Chardonnay with slightly less acidity and “crispness” to the wines.  The Chablis was also extremely distinctive, with it’s higher acidity level and minerality.  A flint / struck match characteristic also came through not as a fault but as an indication of a reductive winemaking technique. Finally, I tasted an Auxey Duresses from the Cote de Beaune (basically a wine slap bang in the middle of Burgundy)  Because of this wine’s quality and the smaller size of vineyard, I chose to focus on reviewing this wine from the tasting.

So, the place.  Auxey Duresses is an AOC for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based in the Cote de Beaune, sitting to the west of Volnay and to the North of Meursault.  Generally the wines are 100% Chardonnay, although Pinot Blanc is permitted.  There are nine premier cru sites in this AOC, though this wine is not from one of them, and premier cru sites tend to benefit from the south facing aspect provided by the Montagne du Burdo.

The winemaker, Agnes Paquet whose family have had vines in Auxey Duresses since the 1950’s.  In this area she holds 13 hectares of vines and is recognised for her innovation in vine growing and wine making techniques.  This wine is delicious and an excellent example of what can be achieved with Chardonnay from Burgundy today.  Everything in the fields is done by hand and between veraison and harvest, the number of people tending to the vines doubles.  Whole bunches of grapes are gently and slowly pneumatically pressed to form free run juice. Fermentation is carried out by indigenous (ambient) yeasts and the use of sulphur is kept to a minimum. The fermentation for white wines takes place in oak barrels and the wines are aged from 12 – 18 months with 15% in new oak. There is no batonnage (lees stirring) during aging and filtration is often avoided, though this wine has had some fining

My condensed WSET tasting notes for this wine

Appearance is pale lemon, clean and clear.

The nose is pronounced with flavours of lemon, apple, lime, pear, peach, apricot, cream, fresh butter, tiny hints of hazelnut and almond.

The wine is dry with a refreshing high acidity

Alcohol is medium and pleasantly understated

The wine is full bodied, with a great intensity of flavours echoing the aromas I described on the nose.

The wine’s finish is long and distinctive

Overall this wine is outstanding in quality.

There is perfect balance between the alcohol which is subtle and the refreshing clean acidity.  The wine has complexity yet (primary) flavours such as apple and lime, (secondary) cream & fresh butter, and even a hint of tertiary characteristics can be pleasantly identified.  The finish is long but does not rely on alcohol or acidity, instead individual flavours persist.  This wine could age for two to three of years, the acidity will support the primary characteristics and tertiary flavours such as hazelnut and almond have still to fully develop.  Beautiful!!!