Archive for the ‘Collecting’ category

Ceretto revisited

November 30, 2008

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The quickest way from Neive to Alba is not the most scenic one as the Strada Statale di Santa Vittoria takes you through the industrialist alluvial plains of the Tanaro river, but leaving the outskirts of Alba behind, the backdrop immediately grows dramatic again. In San Cassiano, between Alba and Grinzane, the impressive La Bernardina estate is hard to miss towering high above its surroundings. On arrival it appears to be in the middle of a huge renovation with the relocation of the barrel room just completed and the construction of what is going to be one of the regions most modern tasting rooms in full swing. Host Roberta Ceretto decides the surroundings of the Bricco Rocche winery in Castiglione Falletto are more inspiring at this stage and a short drive takes us to what is the production centre for the estate’s cru Barolos. On arrival another renovation is being undertaken, this time without Roberta’s knowledge, leaving her rather perplexed as vineyard workers are pulling out some of Bricco Rocche’s oldest vines. An entire block is going to be replanted in order to retain an optimal mix between young, mature and old vines, and when this process is undertaken regularly continuity of production and consistency of quality is guaranteed. Apart from keeping the vineyard healthy this renovation also allows to plant the vines at a much higher density than the current 4,300 per hectare.

The winery itself is a stunning piece of architecture à la Ceretto, modern yet meaningful and integrated in the the natural environment. The glass cube on the photo embodies Barolo, sharp edged when young with a great solid structure and longevity. The production in the cellar was in full swing and as we walked past the filled fermentation vessels the content of small 20 hl tank was just being pumped over. As we were told this was the entire production of 2008’s Cannubi, a cru of which Ceretto has only a tiny 0.4 holding, it felt like watchingthe making of a future collectors item. It might not be the greatest single vineyard in Barolo but it is certainlythe oldest as the label of the Langhe’s most ancient bottle reads “Cannubi 1752”. Roberta admits that with the purchase of the parcel in 2003 the collection of the estate’s crus was finalised. The old vines that have been nurished by the church for nearly a century will be left in the vineyard as opposed to the the ongoing renovation of the others as wewitnessed at Bricco Rocche. However, for those who want to buy the first release of Ceretto’s Cannubi patience is the key word as this wine will only be released as a Riserva after 10 years maturation in cask and bottle. If you can’t wait that long the ones from producers like Giacomo Brezza, E. Pira, Luigi Einaudi or Marchesi di Barolo are worth seeking out.

Back at La Bernardina the tasting of some of Ceretto’s 2004 releases proved to be another highlight. Already lauded as one of the best vintages ever, the wines underscored this once more and to fill your cellar you don’t have to wait as those wines are all released.

The 2004 Barolo Zonchera is Ceretto’s entry-level Barolo named after the Zonchetta area around the town of Barolo. This wine has a deep brick-red colour showing bright aromas of cherry, strawberry, flowers, cedar and spice. The full-bodied palate is lush and round with loads of ripe fruit and a long, smooth lingering finish. Although the wine could be enjoyed in all its youthful glory the tighlty knit structure suggests it will be even better after a few more years in the cellar. Good, drink now-2020.

Made at the Bricco Asili winery in the Barbaresco DOCG, the 2004 Barbaresco Bricco Asili Bernadot shows what a stellar vintage can do with the grapes from the relatively young vines of Ceretto’s vineyard in Treiso. Dark ruby red in the glass the nose shows the perfumed opulance of young Barbaresco with aromas running through red berry fruit, wilted flowers, vanilla and exotic spices. On the palate, it is rich and concentrated with ripe fruit on the foreground nicely balanced against firm tannins and fresh acidity on a long and firm finish. This wine is ready to drink in 2 to 3 years and should maintain style for at least another decade. Very good, drink 2011-2020+.

Over the years it has become clear I love the open and perfumed style of Barolo from around La Morra and at Ceretto this means Brunate. The 2004 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate shows a dark red colour that will acquire a brick red tinge with a bit more age. The bouquet is full with complex aromas reminiscent of prunes, plums, red berries, roses, violets, raisin, vanilla and cloves that follow through to a palate with bold fruit, big tannins and balanced acidity. Full and ripe, this wine always remains pretty and elegant and is all about restrained power. This is a must have for every serious cellar. Very impressive, drink 2012-2025.

The last wine shows great Barolo is all about terroir with the 2004 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò a showcase for the more robust examples from around Serralunga d’Alba. This wine has a deep red colour and shows aromas of plum, prune, strawberry, cedar, spice and a hint of earthy undergrowth on the nose. The palate offers ample fruit on the front and the middle while big, chewy tannins add even more power towards the finish. The wine will shed off some of its robust character over the next few years and will gain a more velvety elegance with 10 to 20 years of age. Excellent, drink 2011-2025+

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Produttori del Barbaresco Asili 1999

September 19, 2008

img_5120When the wines from Barbaresco are discussed a lot of generalisations tend to be made: the grapes ripen earlier than in Barolo and the biggest part of the DOCG’s soil consists of the same calcareous marl that is found around the comunes of Barolo and La Morra, all resulting in lighter structured Nebbiolo performing as humble understudy for the more famous and ageworthy examples from Barolo. How inaccurate such generalisations can be is beautifully described in Edward Steinberg’s ‘The vines of San Lorenzo’, an in depth exploration on the superstar of Nebbiolo Angelo Gaja and the making of his famous cru Sorì San Lorenzo. Through conversations with viticulturist Frederico Curtaz aspects as for example exposition, the position of the vines on the slope and methods of planting are lined up in order to unravel the mysteries of terroir, a concept that stresses the uniqueness of a specific site opposed to common characters of a whole region.

When the qualities of certain vineyards in Barbaresco are considered it’s not surprising their wines are more baroleggiano than one might suspect. Montefico, Rabajà, Montestefano and Asili are notable examples, the latter known for its subtle wines, ultimately shown in the 1999 Produttori del Barbaresco. Deep ruby red in the glass, intense, highly aromatic aromas of cherries, red berries, violets, roses, exotic spices and a hint of tar are the prelude to a full-bodied palate where sheer power and great finesse are marvelously balanced with smooth tannins, ample acidity and a long, persistent finish. This is benchmark Barbaresco that rightly deserves a place in any serious cellar.

Source: Enoteca Sileno/The Grocer  Price: $145  Drink: Now-2020+

Champagne Salon 1996

May 21, 2008

I haven’t been posting notes on the site for a fair while, way too busy drinking wines I guess, but I’m glad to be back for this one. The only question that I kept asking myself for a while is how to write about the perfect wine? An inside story about the House of Delamotte, an elaborate essay on Clos du Mesnil, or the glorious vintage of 1996 maybe? It all seems not enough for this Salon, so when doing a bit of research I got into Richard Juhlin’s masterpiece ‘4000 Champagnes’ and his chapter about rating Champagne in particular. Juhlin employs the scale that goes up to 100 points. A wine that gives no pleasure scores zero points, although most Champagnes deliver enough to earn an average of 50. The mark of 100 points has only been given once; the 1928 Pol Roger Grauves made by the legendary Emile Emond. Juhlin reasons that the highest score should only be given to the perfect Champagne and that’s why he scored some really good ones, including the 1996 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes, 1938 Krug, 1955 Clos des Goisses and 1979, 1988, 1985 and 1982 Krug Clos du Mesnil ‘only’ 99 points, in order to avoid that when a better wine would follow it should be given the impossible 101.

I like Juhlin’s approach, its safe, but how are you sure not withholding the perfect score to the perfect wine? Of course, everything is relative and should be placed within a context or framework, i.e the tasters experience and exposure to a wide range of wines. All I know is that compared to Juhlin my knowledge of Champagne is neglectable, although I can tell the 1996 Salon is one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Pale straw in the glass with a green tinge giving away its youth, the raw material of Le Mesnil tells the story because it didn’t undergo malo-lactic fermentation. The nose is all about intense primary fruit aromas, apples and citrus in particular, with a hint of white bread. The palate clearly shows a low dosage, allowing the same fruit characters to display their acidity, linear and sharp as a knive, yet never loosing its sensuality and splendid balance. So 99 or 100 points? In order to choose, the question remains to be answered  whether I’ll ever have a better wine in the future or not. I don’t know, but let’s hope so! 

Source: Luxury Beverages/Fine Wine Wholesalers Price: $600 Drink: 50+ years

Web: www.salondelamotte.com

Ceretto Aziende Vitivinicole Part 2: The wines

March 10, 2008

img_4178.jpgFrom Arneis to peaches and back. That is the basic story about the 2006 Arneis Blangé. This grape can be so tricky that its name literally means ‘little devil’ in the local dialect. In its heartland Roero the variety was largely abandoned by growers who en masse planted more profitable peach trees on the fertile alluvial soils. Over the last 25 years the fortunes have reversed with plantings now exceeding 400 hectares in the DOC. However, for Ceretto this rascal has always been good, so good that it is the company’s bread and butter. Around 60 percent of the annual production consists of Blangé, as the wine is called in Ceretto’s dictionary. The appendix has in fact become so common in the region that it is widely used to coin dry white wine. Pale straw in colour it shows aromas of pear, citrus, herbs and flowers that all come back on the richly textured palate where a light fizz adds additional freshness and emphasizes the flavours. The striking packaging will impress at any table although for a crisp dry white it’s a costly affair. 87 points ($45)

img_4179.jpgThe second wine starts where this tasting is all about: Nebbiolo. When smelling and tasting the bright purple 2005 Nebbiolo d’Alba Bernardina there is no doubt about the variety at work. Little red fruits, violets, spice and a hint of earth give the wine a lovely fragrant nose while the acid on the palate presents itself straight-away, making the furry, mouthdrying and firm tannins in this medium-bodied wine even more noticable. Well balanced and approachable it’s the perfect introduction to this noble variety. 88 points ($50)

img_4183.jpgThe 2004 Barbaresco Asij is a wine which name confuses nearly everyone. The proprietary name ‘Asij’ is the dialect spelling of Asili, the famous vineyard that makes Ceretto’s top Barbaresco but also supplies grapes for this regional blend. The Barbaresco Asij always offers fantastic value and the ’04 proves to be no exception to this rule. Beautiful primary perfume reminiscent of plum, raspberry, rose and violet dominates the nose while the ageing of the wine in predominantly large oak casks for 24 months only gives a hint of spiciness. The front of the palate is dominated by rather sweet, concentrated and rich fruit with notes of cedar, leather and earth adding background and the tannins on the mid and the back of the palate seem less overt by the perfectly balanced acid. A lovely wine of classic structure that should drink well from 2010 to 2020+. 93 points ($80)

img_4185.jpgWhen Frederico Ceretto first tasted the 2003 Barolo Zonchera he was shocked. “I remember that despite its youthful age the wine was really evolved, all the primary aromas were allready gone, something you normally see when a wine is at least six to seven years old. But then I really started to see its generosity, something that made the ’03 a complete wine right from the start. You didn’t have to wait to get all these lovely secondary, even tertiary aromas and flavours, they were already there. That we didn’t have to worry became clear with all the positive reactions from customers who liked what they drank, this wine sold out faster than any previous vintages.” The purple-orange Barolo Zonchera is a very approachable wine indeed with loads of plums, prunes, raisins, liquorice, spice and coffee on a foreward, developed nose. The same themes are seen on a palate that is shaped by sweet and ripe fruit dominates with less overt acid and softer tannins. Expressing an abnormally hot vintage this wine is highly interesting although it’s not the kind of Barolo I admire so much. Drink this wine within 5 years from now while there’s still plenty of life left. 89 points ($90)

img_4186.jpgIn the second part of the tasting we leave the regional wines behind us to focus entirely on the contrasts between wines from different vintages, crus and even parcels within the same vineyard. A perfect illustration of the latter is the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate, made from the best fruit that is always grown on the mid and upper parts of the vineyard. Its power, concentration and fragrance is many times bigger than in the 2003 Barolo Zonchera, predominantely made from grapes grown on the lower part of the same vineyard. The sheer quality of the fruit allows different winemaking techniques with longer macaration and ageing in small 300 litre barriques only. Purple with a brown-orange tinge it shows a fragrant and seductive bouquet of violet, rose, cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum and exotic spices. The extremely balanced palate has all the intensity and richness to be expected from a cru, with Brunate’s fresh acidity adding swiftness to the still furry tannins. Despite a hint of prune and raisin shining through on the mid and back of the palate, an expression of the hot vintage conditions, the wine clearly shows a lot more can be expected over the next 15 to 20 years. 92 points ($160)  

img_4189.jpgHighly interesting is the comparison between the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate and the 2003 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò. With vintage and winemaking exactly the same, terroir is allowed to express itself at its maximum. The relatively lightness and freshness typical for wines from the Barolo and La Morra subzones give way for the more seriously structured fruit from Serralanga d’Alba where clay subsoils produce fruit that reflect notes of tar, earth, balsamic, violets, little red fruits, undergrowth and spice. The sweet fruit, less overt acidity and smooth impression on the front of the palate gradually give way to rich and extracted flavours reminiscent of plum, prunes liquorice and a hint of raisins while mouthdrying tannins flex their muscles on the long and satisfying finish. Although the legacy of extreme vintage conditions is again clearly noticable, the sheer power of the fruit keeps balance, freshness and finesse. Although the wine seems accessible now it drinks best from 2010 to 2025+. 93 points ($160)

img_4191.jpgAccording to Frederico Ceretto Barolo’s from the Prapò vineyard are always progressive and full of surprises. “They go on themselves, you can’t really drink them young, they need a lot of time to show their real characters. If it was up to me I would release those wines only after 6 or 7 years, still full of attractive primary fruit but with evolved characters adding far more complexity and interest”. The 2000 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò completely supports this statement. Purple with brown and orange shades in the glass it exudes a lovely combination of fragrant primary floral, cherry and berry fruit aromas with exotic spice, toffee, tar, cedar and liquorice adding dramatic depth to an intriguing bouquet. The same characters continue on the palate that shows a delicate balance between rich and powerful fruit, fresh acidity and firm yet integrated tannins. Despite all this I wouldn’t unleash this pup for another 3 to 4 years as it will futher improve for 15 years or more. 95 points ($160)

img_4193.jpgThat patience and an excellent vintage can result in something extraordinary is fully demonstrated in the 1998 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapò, a wine showing what great Barolo is all about. Don’t get tricked by the brown-purple colour of the wine as the combination of slow macaration and the low natural content of anthocyanins in Nebbiolo produces relatively light coloured wines at Ceretto. “The marketing department has repeatedly asked for darker, more intensely coloured wines as they are more popular on the modern markets, but with our winemaking philosophy it’s just not possible. At the end of the day they can all go asleep peacefully because there is no relation between the colour and the ageing potential of our wines, in fact it’s amazing how slowly the colour of the wines evolve over long periods of time, they just seem to stay like they are when young”. When tasting the wine this statement comes true with a near paradoxal difference between the mature colour and the aromas and flavours noticed. The nose is ethereal and complex with constantly changing notes of plums, tar, roses, liquorice, earth, spice and coffee while flavours of earth, tar, balsamic, truffles and loads of spices offer even more interest on an amazingly fresh and gracefully balanced palate. A long and hauntingly complex peacock finish show this is a wine of class, distinction and pedigree. Although it perfectly drinks now it is one of those collecters items that will go for another 20 years. 97 points ($245) 

Source: Enoteca Sileno/The Grocer

Web: www.ceretto.com

Marc Brédif Vouvray 1988

September 30, 2007

img_3699.jpgThis is Brédifs first Grande Année wine I have seen since the selling out of the 1986 vintage. The tasting notes of both vintages are practically exchangeable: a mix of primary and developed fruit characters such as stewed apple, pear and quince on the nose and an edgy balance between sweetness and acid on the palate as hallmark for both wines. This wine appears fresher compared to the 1986 at the same stage, although it is difficult to tell whether this is due to vintage or bottle variation. At a price of $52 it is still a bargain – at Langton’s the 1986 has been sold for $95 this year – and if you like this wine I would snap up some bottles as it sells out increasingly fast. 91 points.

Source: Negociants Australia  Price: $52  Drink: Now-2015+

Vinoptima Gewürztraminer 2004

August 20, 2007

img_3704.jpgAfter 40 years of groundbreaking work in the industry Nick Nobilo hasn’t slowed down. In contrary, his mission to create his own masterpiece has only yet begun by the start of his Vinoptima project in 2000. With passion, flair and catching enthousiasm Nick grows, crafts and promotes what is one of the world’s best Gewürztraminers. The choice for this slightly unfashionable variety needs a lot of courage and determination, characteristics of great winemakers who aim to enrich our experiences by producing something extraordinary out of the square. Since the first release of the 2003 vintage this wine has been compared with the ones from Zind Humbrecht and Josmeyer Hengst, although Nick himself says he’s not out to achieve an Alsatian Gewürztraminer but one on the same parallel from Ormond in Gisborne on New Zealand’s North Island. His dedication has materialized into 8 hectares of Gewürztraminer only and a custom-built winery. Add to this 20 years of clonal selection, fastidious vineyard management and impeccable winemaking and I can’t think of anything else a human-being can possibly do to make a perfect wine. And this is precisely where nature plays its part and takes over to produce wines that reflect terroir and vintage, the latter being the best on record in 2004. The resulting wine teases your senses straight away with an exotic and rich nose of rose petal, lychee, ginger, citrus and spice, all with balanced elegance rather than being over-exuberant. The same applies to the palate where an unctious, oily texture is matched by great purity and limpidity of flavour and crisp mineral acidity. This wine is far from the ones that are simple, plump and overly sweet, it fascinates and provokes by its complexity instead, slowly unveiled after half an hour in the glass. As a wine that can easily be laid down for 10 years this is an absolute must-have for any serious cellar or collector. 95 points.

Source: Negociants Australia  Price: $54  Drink: Now-2015

Web: www.vinoptima.co.nz

Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock 2005

June 11, 2007

img_2924.jpgSince I began working in the wine-industry as a professional I have access to a lot of wine at pretty smart prices. I also started to drink aged wines more regularly and so the idea of putting together my own modest cellar was quickly born. Far from being a serious collecter with the hope to make money out of cellaring wine I began to buy collectable australian wines along the line of Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. Useful information on wines, regions and vintages is provided which makes this site a handy buying-tool. But isn’t the classification nothing more or less than just a reflection of current market sentiment influenced by track record, reputation, consistency, demand and price? The answer is yes because when the preferences of consumers, collectors and investors change so does the classification. When comparing the four classifications that are released since 1991 it catches the eye that the number of wines has gradually increased from 34 to 101 and that there is a shift from multi-regional to regional and single-vineyard wines. Overall it could be said that the classification has become more diverse and this diversity is exactly what should be kept in mind when buying wines for a cellar. But if one has a good look at this ‘unofficial honour roll’ of Australian fine wine it is not hard to find out that out of the 101 wines in the classification 86 wines are red and only 13 white. From those 86 reds 78 wines – more than 75% of the total – are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and blends of both varieties from all major Australian wine-growing regions although South Australian Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon hold absolute sway. To put it shortly, when the classification is used as the only buying tool your cellar – as I did for almost half a year – you might end up with too many wines of the same style and varieties while a lot of these wines also demand quite some time in the cellar before they show their true potential. To avoid falling into the same trap I can recommend to buy wines that make your cellar more balanced. Apart from your favourite ones consider cellaring wines and varieties that fall outside your normal drinking pattern, whites with good cellaring potential or wines from other countries than Australia. Most important is to cellar wines you find interesting to drink apart from wines that represent good value on the secondary wine market.

Anyway, I found myself in the situation that I wanted to open some of the bottles I had gathered over the last year. Apart from some wines I wouldn’t consider buying anymore I also drank some really interesting ones. The Bindi Pinot Noirs and older Grosset Rieslings where undoubtedly the winners while only a few of the Shiraz really stood out. Luckily the 2005 Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock was one of them. What fascinates me about the wines from this Heathcote pioneer is the fact that the grapes all come from dry- and biodynamically grown vines, something that has not been easy in this by drought affected region. Over the past vintages the alcohol-levels in the Emily’s and Georgia’s were getting dangerously high although it can be said that the balance in the wines never really got lost. Having to pick grapes at optimal physiological ripeness in difficult conditions faced is something different than deliberately pursuing blockbuster-style wines and due to the strict adherance to the viticultural philosophy the wines never lost or will lose my support. I was delighted to see though that with only 13.5%  ABV the 2005 Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz is back to normal resulting in a more balanced and elegant wine. The nose shows the typically strong earthy and sweet red berry aromas. The palate has a sweet, dense and round texture upfront beautifully balanced by a lot of refreshing acid and spice towards the back. This wine is all about combined power, finesse and complexity with the latter developing even more over the next decade so don’t drink this wine too young. 93 points.

Source: Liquid Library  Price: $85  Drink: 2010-2017

Web: www.jasperhill.com