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My visit to Eric Taillet

Eric Taillet is a champagne grower based in Vallée de la Marne.  As you might expect from this area his speciality is making Champagne based on the grape Pinot Meunier.  Sometimes as single blend (known as a blanc de noir, and sometimes with the other classic Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)

Vallée de la Marne is one of the sub regions of Champagne (and the largest) and is probably most recognised for growing Pinot Meunier.  Pinot Meunier begins bud burst and flower set a week or so later than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.  This time difference is critical, because it dramatically reduces the risk of frost killing the vine when it begins to awaken.  To a blend therefore, it can offer some much-needed quantity of grapes.  But in taste and texture profile it can also offer some softness and fruitiness to the party.  Pinot Meunier was once seen as an inferior grape variety in Champagne, but this is not the case today.  Vallée de la Marne  is a complex and evolving area with soils containing more marls, sand or clay than the classic chalk associated with Champagne region more boradly.

I remember arriving at the vineyard of Eric Taillet.  Its small and very understated, like most of the grower champagne houses.  Completely different to the houses of the big brands based in Riems or Epernay.   On arrival you see a sense of family history in the building and how as generation has passed the winery onto the future, so small improvements and innovations have been made, and yet nothing has been lost or forgotten.

To the right we have the winery.  The most notable thing is of course, the huge vertical press.  Pressing is an essential aspect of creating champagne.  The free run juice (2050 litres for every 400 kilos of grapes) must not be rushed.  Tannins and certain flavanols from the grapes will interfere with the profile of the wine.

Before the tasting we were shown the steal tanks used for first fermentation of wine.  Space is at a premium in any small winery, and here you can see how intricately everything has been designed.  There are around eight tanks.  First fermentation of sparkling wine can last anywhere from the minimum requirement of roughly four months (you cannot end first fermentation before the following January in Champagne) but in this time the first fermentation and the malolactic fermentation will complete (malolactic fermentation begins after approximately 4 to 5 weeks).

The we go down to the cellar.  Here you can feel the dampness, the humidity, and of course the chalk.  There is water on the ground, it is noticeably cooler, and there is water on the ground.  Here a second fermentation is happening in the bottles completely surrounding us.  Again, space is at a premium – everyone of these bottles is precious.  For the second fermentation a precise amount of yeast and sugar is added to the bottle (along with a little of the clarifying agent bentonight).  We need enough to get the right fizz but not too much that the bottle bursts.  Once this fermentation has occurred in the bottle, the sugar will become alcohol and carbon dioxide which cannot escape and therefore becomes the small bubbles in the wine.  The dead yeast cells have no where to go, and so they begin to decompose.  As they do, this adds a further layer of complexity to the wine.  Autolytic flavours include bread, yeast, almond nuts  Autolysis begins to happen after around nine months in the bottle, but it can continue for many years.

After disgorgement, the dosage is added.  This is the final part of the equation to balance the wine, its complexity, its acidity, and its finish.  Dosage is typically taken from the original blended wines in this vineyard.  Now we have a final product.  Back to the tasting room!  My next post will provide comprehensive tasting notes from this visit!

My wine of the week this week is Momento, Chenin Blanc & Verdelho, by Marelise Miemann

My wine of the week this week is Momento, Chenin Blanc & Verdelho, by Marelise Miemann

Winery : Momento,

Where : Swartland is a large wine-producing area north of Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Traditionally a wheat-producing region, it now specializes in making rich, fruit-driven wines particularly from the Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage grape varieties.

Swartland covers a large area, encompassing the vineyards on the northern side of the Paardeberg mountain in the south to the plains of Piketberg in the north. The smaller ward of Riebeekberg and the Kasteelberg Mountain lie in the eastern part of the region, while the cooler district of Darling separates the area from the Atlantic Ocean. The topography is varied, and vineyards can be found on steep mountain foothills or on gently folding hillsides.

The climate is hot and dry, which viticulturists have used to their advantage in Swartland’s vineyards. Dry conditions significantly reduce the risk of fungal diseases among the vines, and a lack of water in the soil leads to lower yields and smaller, more-concentrated fruit. Hardy, drought-resistant bush vines have been utilized in the hottest, driest parts of the region.

The dominant soil type in Swartland is Malmesbury shale, named for the town of Malmesbury that sits in the middle of the region. There are also pockets of granite, particularly around the Paardeberg area. While these soils are well drained, they also hold enough water in their lower reaches to support the irrigation-free farming technique that is used extensively throughout the region. Bush vines will dig especially deep to get to the water reserves in the soil, resulting in stronger vines and particularly concentrated flavors in the grapes.

Swartland (Dutch for ‘black land’) is named for the native renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that turns black after rain. Chenin Blanc and Shiraz are the most important grape varieties in the region; the latter is often blended with Grenache and Mourvedre to create a Southern Rhone Blend.

The grapes : Chenin Blanc and Verdelho

The Chenin Blanc : grapes come from a 38 year old vineyard grown in Swartland, and a 35 year old vineyard from Bot River, called “Langbene (long legs)” named after the unique and extremely long trunks of the vines.  A soil combination of Bokkeveld shale and clay from Bot River and decomposed granite from Swartland.

How is this wine made :

The grapes are whole bunch basket pressed without adding sulphur or enzymes.  Natural fermentation takes place in 225l frnech barrels.  Some fine lees was added back to the juice in barrel to allow more complex characters and textures during its time in the barrel.

Time in oak, ten months, 100% malolactic fermentation

So, my wine of the week this week is Terroir Sense Fronteres – Brisat 2017

So, my wine of the week this week is Terroir Sense Fronteres – Brisat 2017

So, my wine of the week this week is Terroir Sense Fronteres – Brisat 2017

Winery : Terroir Sense Fronteres

Where : Monsant

To understand DO Montsant one needs to be intimately familiar with its geography, as confusion comes easy here.  To be clear, both D.O. Montsant and D.O.Q. Priorat are located within the political region of Priorat (demarcated by the dotted line on the map). Additionally true, D.O. Montsant forms a perfect ¨C¨ around D.O.Q. Priorat (area in white), thereby making the two inseparable in conversation if we are understand the region in its totality. Serra de Montsant, a major mountain chain running from the NE through the NW of both wine appellations is also a source of confusion, as it is a major player in craft wines of both regions.

A very unique and differentiating characteristic of Montsant is its smorgasbord of soil types, altitudes and climates. Unlike DOQ Priorat, with its famous slate soils, DO Montsant primarily consists of lime clay soils throughout the region, with a spattering of sandy granite in the south and lime and granite in the north, along with odd batches of slate in between.

 

The grapes : 75% Grenache Blanc and 25% Macabeo,

Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca in Spain) is the light-skinned mutation of Grenache Noir. It is native to northern Spain.  The light-golden, straw-colored juice of Grenache Blanc is increasingly produced as a varietal wine, though its use as a softener in a blend is still more common. It typically displays green-apple and stonefruit aromas and a fat texture. However it is considered to be very sensitive to terroir so can show considerable variation. Extra care is needed to avoid oxidation.

Macabeo (or Viura in Rioja) is a white wine grape used on either side of the Pyrenees, in the north and east of Spain and the southernmost reaches of France.   The wines can be fresh, floral and aromatic when harvested sufficiently early and aged in stainless steel, but weighty, honeyed and nutty when aged in oak and harvested slightly later.

Spain is unquestionably Macabeo’s homeland, most obviously the northern regions. It is the principal ingredient in white wines from Rioja, where the locals call it Viura.

How is this wine made : harvested from vines growing in clay and sandy soils in the valleys of the DO Montsant. In a typically Burgundian style, the grapes are fermented in whole clusters, without first being destemmed and using exclusively native yeasts that appear naturally on the fruit. They are then left to macerate on skins for two weeks, resulting in something similar to an orange wine, with plenty color, tannin and character.

The wine is aged in stainless steel vats for a period of 6 months. The lack of oak used in the aging process allows the distinctive Mediterranean characteristics of the Montsant terroir to shine through.

Terminology : Brisat – Grapes are fermented and macerated with the skins, the stems and the seeds. This old local technique results in what in Catalan is called a “brisat” white wine

Soil type : Clay and sandy soil

How does this wine taste to me : Almost orange! Well textured wine with notes of nuts, dried herbs and apricots.  Hints of oxidation, almost sherry like.

The Label : Classic straightforward and clear

Pietradolce – Etna Rosato – 2018

Pietradolce – Etna Rosato – 2018

So, my wine of the week this week is Pietradolce – Etna Rosato

Winery : Pietradolce

Where : High altitude vineyards on Mount Etna in Sicily.  Mount Etna, or Etna, is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania.

 

The grapes : 100% Nerello Mascalese.  Nerello Mascalese is a late harvesting grape creating light coloured wines that display a red fruit character and gentle tannins – allowing the wines to be approachable at a young age, but also suitable for ageing.  Noticeable in the wine this grape produces is essence of the soil, with distinctive minerality, and earthy yet fresh feel,

The variety takes its name from the Mascali plain between Mount Etna and the coast where it is thought to have originated – a small portion of older vines predate the phylloxera epidemic of the 1880s. The prefix Nerello refers to the black color of the grapes, and is shared by Nerello Cappuccio

Nerello Mascalese is a late-ripening variety, and most vines are trained in the traditional bush-vine method, which works well in the terroir.

How is this wine made : Soft pressing and fermentation in steel vats

How does this wine taste to me : Rich, fruity, intense and complex style of rose – very different to provence style lighter rose wines.  Vibrant crunchy redcurrant, good acidity.  Super refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

How does this wine taste to team Wine Parlour : Soft ripe nectarine, cranberry and a vibrant crunchy red current – dry and delish!!

The label : quite recognisable, although I am not sure what this is or how it relates to the feelings I have for what is inside the bottle

The Rhone

The Rhone

On Sunday Evening my wife and I decided to go to a restaurant and enjoy a family favourite – steak and red wine!  After we looked at the menu, we decided to go with this bottle of Vacqueyras.  A southern rhone appellation – this has pretty much all the reputational credibility of the top four prestige cru’s (chateauneuf-du-pape, cornas, cote-rotie, and hermitage) except it isn’t, it comes from the next tier down or the other 12 cru’s.  The rhone is an exceptionally complex wine region in my opinion.  Here is why…

In the northern rhone alone we have 8 appellations

  • Cote-Rotie (reds of syrah and up to 20 viognier)
  • Condrieu – whites of Viognier only
  • Chateau-Grillet -whites of Viognier
  • Saint -Joseph – reds of Syrah and up to 10% Marsanne and Roussanne plus whites which can only be made from Marsanne or Roussanne
  • Crozes-Hermitage – reds of Syrah and up to 15% Marsanne and Roussanne with whites made from Marsanne or Rousanne
  • Hermitage – as above
  • Cornas – Reds of Syrah only
  • Saint-Peray – sparkling and still whites of only Marsanne and Rousanne

In the southern rhone, it is as complex, and appellations are as follows

  • Cote du Vivarais
  • Cotes du rhone
  • Cotes du rhone villages
  • Chateauneuf du pape
  • Grignan Les Adhemar
  • Vacqueyras
  • Rasteau
  • Cairanne
  • Gigondas
  • Vinsobres
  • Beaumes de Venise
  • Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
  • Tavel

The Southern Rhones most famous wine Chateauneuf-du-pape is a blend containing 19 varieties of grape (10 red and 9 white), other AOC regions may even contain more.  The complexity of grapes grown, blends, and appellation rules are intense to say the least.

As part of my diploma studies, I am trying to focus in on the detail of particular wine regions.

The Rhone will be my first one.  Here is my first attempt at drawing a map of the southern rhone to help me remember the appellations and geography of the region.

New Zealand wine tasting @ 67 Pall Mall

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Highlights would be a 2014 Viognier by Alpha Domus based in Hakes Bay, North Island, and two very contrasting Pinot’s.

The two pinot’s I loved were Tinker’s Field, by Rippon Vineyard, mature vines in Central Otago in  contrast to Te Whare Ra organic vineyard in Marlborough.

Marlborough and Central Otago are around 750km apart.  Central Otago is the only wine region in New Zealand to have a continental influence making the climate closer to Burgundy – it is also cooler and closer to Antarctica.

I found the Tinker’s Field to be lighter, fruit forward in style, red berries, lighter fruits, and generally a lighter style of wine / pinot.  The Te Whare Ra, was fuller in flavour and more complex, higher in alcohol with a longer finish.

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The difference in styles interested me, and I look forward to trying more Pinot in New Zealand next year.

Rioja Alta Vertical Tasting!

Vertical tastings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wow, what an amazing afternoon doing this vertical tasting!  These wines are an amazing expression of Rioja and I hope we can visit the vineyard next year.  The insight of tasting the same wine from different vintages is extremely interesting.

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Loving this book right now!!

And also loving this region!  Italy has so many grapes!

Orange Wine!

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Really like this visual showing how Orange Wine is made I found on-line!

 

Orange Wine or Vino Naranja is produced in Huelva and Málaga in Andalucia, Spain with white wine macerated with orange peel. Vino Naranja del Condado de Huelva is an appellation of origin for aromatised sweet wines originating in Condado de Huelva, Spain. The system of production and aging of this wine is a white wine flavoured with macerated orange peel followed by a process of aging by the solera system. Orange Wine from Huelva is usually dark orange to brown in colour. The brown colour is a result of sun drying of the grapes prior to fermentation.

World’s Leading Wines Tasting Event

Great day out yesterday.

 

Found some very interesting wines, but of particular interest was a wine from The Douro.

 

Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered on the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence.  Apparently in recent years many of these wines have suffered from a poor reputation, but watch this space, as with many things a resergence is under way!  I found the grapes Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional to produce dark fruitful wines with a terrific finish.

 

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