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.

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!!!

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.