Mar 12, 2014

Wine bloggers' dinner at Ceestashop in Helsinki, Finland - Joseph Chamonard Morgon 'Le Clos de Lys' 2012 (Morgon, Beaujolais)

Joseph Chamonard Morgon 'Le Clos de Lys' 2012

A nice bottle of Beaujolais makes me smile. There are a lot of wines from the region which are both complex and structured, thus far apart from the Beaujolais Nouveau wine style and very interesting to try. It was a pleasure to open a bottle of Chamonard's Morgon 'Le Clos d Lys' during our six course dinner last Saturday as fellow wine bloggers gathered together for an evening of wines and great food. The evening was arranged in Ceestashop in Helsinki (address Töölöntorinkatu 5).

This Beaujolais is a fine example of gamay grape produced with low intervention by the winemaker during the winemaking process. Domaine Chamonard aims for natural production and the wines are made without adding any sulphite, using only native yeast in natural fermentation. Chamonard practices organic farming although the domaine is not officially certified as organic.

Delicious, especially if you prefer your wines to be sensitive and layered - i.e. not with huge concentration of jammy fruit and with a high alcohol content. The Morgon's structure is what you appreciate the most, the wine is on the palate so layered that its components are easy to pick up. It has notes of strawberry (benchmark for the region's wines) along with dark fruit & blueberries, with small amount of greenish, forest floor and herbal notes in a positive sense, and even a bit of a meaty feeling. The elements combine into a medium bodied wine with a soft finish.

The grapes have been hand picked from a small vineyard in Morgon, the 'Clos de Lys'. This is a nice wine to enjoy now or wait for a couple of years, and I personally would be intrigued to taste it after a decade. A bottle trades between €13-€20 making it a value buy.

Domaine Joseph Chamonard is a small tradiotional Beajolais producer with only little over 4 hectares of vines. The domaine is currently run by late Joseph's daughter, Genevie, and her husband Jean-Claude Chanudet.
Iberico's cheek, barley "risotto" with celery,
choi-sum and marsala sauce

Chef Aikasalo
Chefs Toni Aikasalo and Miikka Väisänen, owners of WMW (, prepared an outstanding 6 course dinner with the wines.

My Chamonard was an ok pair with the main course of tender Iberico pork's cheek, barley with celery, choi-sum and marsala sauce. However, to my personal liking the other two wines which were from Spain, Dominio de Pingus' Psi 2009 (Ribera del Duero) and Totem Wines' Ibizkus 2010 (Ibiza) were better matches with the dish. I am not taking anything away from the Chamonard Morgon which is a very pleasant wine in itself, however as far as food pairing goes, the dish had stronger flavours which suited better the slightly stronger wines.

Read more on Totem Wines' interesting Ibizkus 2010 from Mikko's blog (written in Finnish):

And visit Ceestashop for any wine glass and decanter purchases or to buy quality foodstuff:

Nov 20, 2013

Burgundy harvest 2013 - Gevrey-Chambertin

Chambertin Clos de Beze vineyard in the background.
Photo from the outskirts of the Gevrey-Chambertin village
The Burgundy harvest was this year a month later than in 2011 and two and half weks later than in 2012. The timing of the grape harvest, first and second week of October, was similar to 2010 which is known for a vintage needing to develop for a long time with lower fruit and higher acids than 2009, which was a ripe year. However many Burgundy lovers seem to prefer the 2010s which resemble the classic style.

In 2013 the yield is smaller even than in 2010, so we are talking of a small amount of grapes here. After the difficult May flowering, which affected the yield sigificantly, it took extensive time for grapes to reach ripeness and some village and Bourgogne crus did not reach 11.8% abv. natural alcohol, so vignerons have to chaptalise or drain some of the juice out to increase the potential alcohol content in the remaining juice. 

It was cold this year at the vineyard, however
the team kept a good spirit
Cases of Musigny grapes ready for the sorting table
As far as quality is concerned, it was easy to see the difference between grand crus, 1er crus and village crus. Grand cru vineyards produced grapes with over 13% natural alcohol even in this difficult vintage, while some of the 1er crus reached grand cru levels in ripeness, namely Au Closeau and Lavaut-St-Jacques. It was remarkable to see some of the Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St-Denis village cru vineyards have the same potential for ripening, which gives structure to the village blend made by Drouhin-Laroze as they are mixed with grapes from other vineyards. 

Thus, for wine purchasing, vintage 2013 is definitely labeled by knowing your stuff - knowing the vineyard and the producer - even more than in a normal or usual vintage to find wines where the grapes reached maturity. Wine purchasing in a ripe year, say 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009, is easier however the cost is definitely higher. Sommeliers I have talked to say that they actually like to offer wines from off-years (i.e. not the most ripe years) as the wine is more affordable for the consumer and, since the non-ripe years usually have really good acidity levels, the wine supports food well, is easier to combine with different foods and it does not steal a center stage in the dinner over the food.

The morning at the cellar starts with punch down of grapes for the macerating wines. Each wine tank is given one punch down and one mechanical pump-over per day. We produced only one tank of Chardonnay so every other tank has to be punched down daily for duration of the 1,5 week cold maceration, 1 week alcoholic fermentation (with natural yeast) and 4-5 days warmer maceration period is over. The wine cellar and each tank are temperature controlled, however this year cold maceration was significantly aided by grapes coming into the winery at a very low temperature, at +4 degrees celsius (39 Fahrenheit) on couple of mornings, as nightly temperatures in Burgundy were really low. The aim is to keep them at 12 degrees Celsius and almost all of the grapes arriving to the winery achieved it. It was cold at the vineyards this year!

And it rained. Half of the days during the harvest were spent in rainy conditions, while during the other half soil was damp which means muddy in Burgundy. However the grapes seemed to dry up well after the rainy days, decreasing formation of rot and mold on the grapes. Vineyard selection was important again this year, though, however this year more from the point of recognizing unripe grapes than in previous vintages. The temperatures were much colder than in Condrieu which boasted a +26 degrees celsius four days before start of the Burgundy harvest (read my report on Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie harvest here)

Again, grapes from Musigny and Clos de Vougeot (both grand cru vineyards) were in outstanding condition, the vineyards are constant performers. Clos Vougeot is a large grand cru, its surface stretching all the way from the bordering prestigious vineyards of Musigny and Les Grands Echezeaux to the flat area adjacent to the A74 road (the Nuit-St-Georges - Dijon road) where premier cru and village cru vineyards lie. Thus Clos de Vougeot is a large grand cru island surrounded by premier cru and village cru vineyards. Within this area, Drouhin-Laroze's holdings within the Clos de Vougeot are in the upper part, i.e. located closer to other grand crus, and their quality resonates this fact. The grapes have been really good in each year 2011, 2012, 2013.

Looking forward to eventually tasting the wines from barrel next year. I expect a lot of acidity in the 2013s which is not a bad thing at all, and the grand cru and premier cru wines to include also ripe fruit flavors although less than in 2005, 2009 and 2011. All in all, the 2013 vintage wines are for long maturation in the bottle.

Oct 6, 2013

Harvest 2013 in Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie

Grapes were harvested in Condrieu and Cote Rôtie this past week in beautiful weather and the vintage looks good in quality however limited in quantity. Due to problems with flowering in May, the yield i.e. quantity of grapes is significantly smaller than in an average year. In particular  for Viognier, the quantity is 50% less than usual. 

Thursday morning started with punch-down of the grape must in to the grape juice for the maceration of the Landonne block of Cote-Rôtie which was harvested a day earlier. We were happy to pick Viognier for Condrieu and Vin de Pays and most Syrah for Côte Rôtie before the rain which started pouring on us after 6 on Friday (Oct 4th) evening. The rain lasted only the evening and part of the night while beautiful sunshine on Saturday morning helped dry the grapes. The rain was supposed to last for 30 hours but as it lasted significantly less, vignerons were fortunate that the risk of dilution of grape juice was not as high as expected. It takes 3 days for the water to climb up to the grapes, however the last grapes were scheduled to be picked up in Monday, thus the rain water does not have time to reach grapes.

Wine harvest in Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie is a balancing act, literally. The steep terraces are a challenge for the pickers and the carriers of 32 kg grape baskets. The photos do not entirely make justice to the steepness of the terraces but after this, Burgundy's flat vineyards are a piece of cake.

Oct 3, 2013

2013 Harvest blog 1 - Condrieu & Côte Rôtie

It is finally harvest time after a particularly long growing season hindered by rains and lower average temperatures for many wine regions in France. Due to the lower average temperatures this year, the waiting period for grapes to reach ripeness has been extensive as this years' harvests are generally 2-3 weeks later compared to the last year. Harvest in most Burgundy vineyards starts later than in 2010, a vintage also known for lower average temperatures, higher acidity and wines needing extensive periods of bottle maturation to become more accessible. It is interesting to seen how much rot is found on the grapes, the high-end growers fearing that this vintage will be one with a significantly lower yield (in tonnes) than usual as the quantity of non-healthy grapes is higher, driving the overall quantity produced down due to careful selection of grapes.

This year I will start harvesting in the Northern Rhone Valley, at Condrieu and Côte Rôtie, 40 kilometeters south of Lyon, for Viognier and Syrah grape varieties. Harvest season finally began and vinemakers now hurry to harvest all grapes before the looming rains during the weekend.

After the harvest in Northern Rhone, I will travel north 220 km to Burgundy's Gevrey-Chambertin for Pinot noir and Chardonnay harvests. Reports are on the way and readers will be provided with information on how the vintage develops. Stay tuned. 

Alarm clocks are set for waking up at 6.15 am, it will be a long but interesting day tomorrow. 

Sep 20, 2013

Viña Leyda winemaker dinner with Viviana Navarrete - good value Pinots and intriguing whites from one of Chile's most exciting producers

I had an oppotunity to meet Viña Leyda's winemaker Viviana Navarrete in a tasting organized by importer Vindirekt in the beginning of September. I came away from the tasting thinking Viña Leyda is in the forefront among Chilean producers of wines made from cooler region varieties, especially from Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir. In my mind Viña Leyda is one of the country's most exciting producers right now by quality however also by price to quality ratio.

Located in Leyda valley, Viña Leyda cultivates there red varieties Pinot noir and Syrah as well as white varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, and Sauvignon Gris, in addition to Carmenére and Cabernet sauvignon in the warmer Colchagua and Maipo valleys. The tasting was organized around the cooler Leyda Valley wines, for which first vines were planted in 1998 after construction of the irrigation system enabling cultivation of vines in the area. According to Viviana no green harvesting is needed as yield of grapes is naturally low, shown during the tasting in the concentration of the wines.

Sauvignon Blancs: Reserva 2012, Garuma 2012, Lot 4 2010

Sauvignon Blanc Lot 4,
picture from Vindirekt site
First we tasted three Sauvignon blancs: Reserva, Garuma Single Vineyard and Lot 4. The Lot 4 provoked a lot of discussion, the wine is a thing of beauty and personally hard to put down. Made of a Sancerre clone of Sauvignon blanc, with 10% matured in french oak barriques, it is a unique wine possessing such truffle aromas which I have not found in any other Sauvignon blanc. The retail price is around 13 eur, but the wine is worth more.

The grapes from which the Reserva Sauvignon blanc is made are from three different vine clones, while the wine itself has lots of exotic fruit notes, peach, jack-fruit and kiwi along with a hint of vanilla. The wine is really fresh and the most fruit driven of the three, and for 11 eur on restaurant sales is a good value.

The Garuma (retail price 10 eur), a single vineyard wine from a single vine clone, stands out from the others by having a creamy structure to it with a really good acidity - reminiscent style wise of a Burgundy type Chardonnay compared to the others.

So they are three different Sauvignon blancs, each with good food combination possibilities given their structure and level of acidity - none were dull nor over alcoholic as some Chilean whites tend to be, obviously the cool climate benefiting the formation of acidity and not too much sugar which would turn into burning alcohol on the palate. Furthermore, the three wines were all noticeable different from each other, Lot 4 and Garuma being both unique in this category.

Sauvignon Gris 2012

Sauvignon Gris -
picture from Vindirekt site
An interesting white made of Sauvignon gris, Viña Leyda Kadun Vineyard Sauvignon Gris (12 Eur, 14%  abv.) was the revelation of the event. I put a lot of exclamation marks in my tasting notes for this wine. Imagine a low-yielding, concentrated viognier with its trademark oily structure and spicyness, with notes of white pepper, apples, caramel, ginger. Add a creamy feeling to it as 10% of the wine is matured in large oak, and as end result you have a nicely structured wine which viscosity is thicker than usual. Still they have managed to maintain a pleasant acidity. The wine has potential for cellaring for 5-10 years. Interesting.

Leyda Reserva Syrah 2010

The Reserva Syrah (12 Eur, 14%) is a black fruit driven wine which is a combination of a Crozes-Hermitage Syrah from northern Rhone Valley with the trademark blueberry notes, and a typical Chilean Syrah with spiciness. Being a very concentrated, fruit-driven although not jam-like, darker and more powerful than a Crozes-Hermitage, it is a full bodied and spicy expression of Syrah with an earthy and lime or limestone feeling to it with licorice, allspice and black salsify notes. Like it was made in the old world style in the new world. According to Viviana, 20% of the wine is matured 10 months in used oak barrels which are 5% new majority 1-4 years old, and even 8 years old oak can be used. Further according to her, the 2010 is superior to 2011. Recommended. 

Pinot noirs - Las Brisas Vineyard 2011, Cahuil Vineyard 2010 and Lot 21 2011

Lot 21 Pinot -
Picture from Vindirekt site
The Pinot noirs are each single vineyard wines, very intensive and spicy expressions of Pinot noir, the intensity peaking with the premium Lot 21. 

They are made in the exact same fashion with soft pressing and open vats. The Las Brisas (13 Eur, 14.5% abv) is harvested earliest, in mid-March, i.e. two months prior to harvesting the Syrah above. Vines are situated on a granite soil facing south with cool air breezes, the combination of the two maintaining lower average temperatures compared to Cahuil (17 Eur, 14% abv.). 
Comparing Las Brisas and Cahuil vineyards, if Burgundy terms are allowed, the former is more feminine and thus reminds me of a Chambolle-Musigny compared to Cahuils' masculinity which is reminiscent of a Gevrey-Chambertin. 

Cahuil is located on a north-west facing slope which receives more sun exposure (as the vineyards are located below the Equator, northern slopes get more sun), and composition of soil is 100% red clay which according to Viviana gives the wine creaminess. Cahuil is an intensive Pinot, definately the more powerful of the two with coffee notes accompanying cherry and rasperry notes. 

The Lot 21 Pinot Noir (33 Eur, 14% abv) is made of the best Pinot grapes. The wine has been matured 10 months in new french oak and 12 months in old, and has longer cellaring potential. And time the wine needs, as in the tasting Lot 21 was somewhat closed, more reserved than the other Pinots. It needs more air if enjoyed now, however recommended to keep in the cellar for a few years. Being a superintensive, spicy Pinot noir style, black pepper and cherry notes are accompanied with blackcurrant notes. It is a very Chilean Pinot Noir at core, however has more depth and power to it. Give it a couple of years in the bottle, the wine would be very interesting to try in 5-10 years. 

All in all, Viña Leyda's Pinot noirs have been accepted in my wine circles as premium quality within the Chilean Pinot noirs, and after the tasting I had no opposition to the view.

Aug 20, 2013

Wachau & Kamptal trip (Austria) - Part 2 - F.X. Pichler visit

F.X. Pichler is not only the most renowned winery in Wachau but all of Austria, and a must-go site when visiting the Wachau valley. The winery is located in Dürnstein (Oberloiben 57, 3601 Dürnstein;, surrounded by the Klostersatz vineyard and overlooking the famous Kellerberg, Schütt and Loibenberg wine terraces. The modern building is a piece of art itself, and so are the wines made and deposited within the premises.

F.X. Pichler produces only white wines from Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Sauvignon blanc grapes, of which classifications are roughly 80% smaragd and 20% federspiel, a ratio which is unrivaled in Wachau and speaks volumes on behalf of their vineyards potential for ripening grapes. The amounts produced are small, 130,000 bottles per year, thus prices tend to be high for these sought-after wines.

Lucas Pichler took over vinification in 1999 from Franz Xaver (hence, F.X.) to continue the long winemaking tradition of the estate which started in 1898. Franz Xaver had run the estate for 28 years, from 1971, including the period in early 1990s when the estate became world known and releasing the first "M" and "Unendlich" wines. Unfortunately, we were not able to taste these monumental wines during our visit.

Harvest is done usually on the first week of October with a small team of only +/- 15 people, i.e. the vineyard team and certain experienced extras. The amount of workers needed is small as different grape varieties ripen at different points of time, thus enabling the same team to harvest all the vineyards. It represents a very drastic difference compared to harvests in Burgundy's Gevrey-Chambertin for example, where we used some 40 people to harvest a little over 12 hectares in 9 days. In most of Burgundy, only two grape varieties, pinot noir and chardonnay, are cultivated and they are picked up entirely when the grapes show the desired ripeness. In Wachau, the harvest period is significantly longer due to differences in ripening of the grapes.

F.X. Pichler's vineyard team knows each grapevine individually and thus is able to make selection on the vineyard very efficiently, enabling good organization of harvest. There is a very thorough selection made on the vineyard with the team going through the same row of vines up to 3 or 4 times in order to be able to pick the ripened grapes.

Wines are fermented in stainless steel and matured in used, 30-40 years old large oak sourced from north of the Wachau valley. No 225 litre barriques are allowed for wines registered under Wachau's official classification (i.e. Steinfeder, Federspiel, Smaragd, in increasing order acccording to minimum must weight & potential alcohol content).
The "M" wines, which are F.X. Pichler's most well known wines internationally (made from Grüner Vetliner and Riesling), of which name M stands for "Monumental", the wine style is that of a big wine. The grapes are mostly (80%) harvested from the Loibenberg cru with the end product being a mix of the most potential single vineyard grapes left unharvested by the team for a couple more weeks after harvesting of the single vineyards. The grapes achieve higher sugar level and ripeness, thus producing a big and poweful wine with long cellaring potential. The soil composition is loess and primary rock, mostly gneiss, which gives minerality to the wines. The south facing vineyard has significant sun exposure which facilitates ripening of the grapes.

The "FX" sign in the picture indicates the location of the winery, arrows indicating the vineyard of Loibenberg
(picture from F.X. Pichler's website) 

Kellerberg, on the other hand, is somewhat cooler than Loibenberg as it enjoys a northern wind blowing through the small valley between Kellerberg and Loibenberg (in the above picture, the small valley can be seen immediately to the left of the first white arrow).

While Loibenberg is sometimes called the "oven" of Dürnstein, Kellerberg's milder microclimate with the cooling air breeze, exposure to south/south-east, and somewhat similar soil composition of primitive rock with loess deposits gives the wine the basis on which powerful but better structured (as in acidity structure) wines develop. Kellerberg is F.X. Pichler's most important single cru.

Arrows indicate the vineyard of Kellerberg
(picture from F.X. Pichler's website) 

The Klostersatz vineyard is situated on the flat (in the front), with Kellerberg vineyard in the back of the photo on the terraces.  Kellerberg is F.X. Pichler's most important single vineyard, facing south / southeast, in Dürnstein, Wachau.

The Loibenberg terraces in Wachau, from where 80% of grapes for the "M"-wines are harvested. In the picture, Hochstrasser vineyard  is situated on the flat at the base of Loibenberg.

The Loibenberg vineyard continues to the east on a south facing slope


We were met at the estate by Johanna Pichler, wife of chief winemaker Lucas Pichler. There were only four wines offered for tasting at the winery, and our brief remarks on the tasted wines are below. The most interesting quality is the wines' ability to age - see my earlier notes on the 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Von den Terrassen from here - as the 2006 was best of F.X. Pichler's wines tasted during the trip. Their best wines achieve long age in the bottle, and the seven-year-old GV smaragd mentioned above had already developed nicely, giving framework for GV smaragds harvested from the terraces to be enjoyed after minimum of 5 years from vintage.

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz 2011 (12.5% abv.)

Started the tasting with Austria's, and especially Wachau's, "own" grape, the grüner veltliner. Made from grapes grown on the flat area just next to the winery (i.e. not from the terraces), this grüner veltliner is the lightest of the wines tasted, still offering good structure with a soft but slightly crisp feeling (only 1 g/litre of residual sugar in this young wine). Keep for 4-5 years, then enjoy.

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Urgestein Terrassen 2011 (13.5% abv.)

Harvested from several vineyards situated on the terraces, the wine is made as a mix of Loibenberg, Kellerberg, Steinertal and Mühlpoint grapes. Beautiful young wine with more oomph than the Klostersatz, ready to be drank from 2016 onwards. The wine has more extraction from grape than the lighter Klostersatz, and with 2.5g/l residual sugar, a somewhat rounder mouth feel. Better vineyard position on the terraces gives more structural components to the wine. Acidity levels have been very good in both of the grüners thus far.

F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Oberhauser 2012 (13.0% abv.)

A fresh and youthful wine with defined concentration of aromas, the Riesling Oberhauser 2012 is a more round on the palate compared to earlier wines, explained by 4g/l of residual sugar in it. Cinnamon, citrus and baked apple cake with a smokey feeling, and very nice acidity which carries the aftertaste far.

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg 2011 (14.0% abv.)

The wine is round and silky however with a high alcohol content which slightly overpowers the otherwise beautifully structured wine. It seems to be the case with many smaragd wines (not only Pichler's), the other components have to match the high alcohol content of the smaragds for the wine to feel as balanced - here the balance is slightly on the alcohol side. The vineyard is pictured below - it is situated to the east from Dürnstein on the turn of the Donau river before the town, i.e. actually closer to the town of Weissenkirchen, on the south/southwest facing terraces. 

The Liebenberg vineyard is situated on the terraces before the turn of river Donau (on the slopes to the left in the picture), behind the flat area which is the "Frauengärten" vineyard.  

Aug 19, 2013

Wachau & Kamptal trip (Austria) - Part 1 - F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Von den Terrassen Smaragd 2006

F.X. Pichler's 2006 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Von den Terrassen was one of the most memorable wines during my trip to Austria this July. Found this gem in the Wine & Co shop in Vienna for only 29 eur, which is remarkable since the new vintages were priced on the same level, 2006 being an excellent vintage for grüner veltliner in Wachau, and older vintages were hard to come by.

The color is already slightly developed straw yellow with a reflection to greenish. The wine's age of 7 years is evident on the nose which is already developed and pronounced. The wine has smoke, caramelized pear, ripe apple and vanilla notes on the nose with a hint of minerality.

The smoky notes on the nose remind me of a smoke sauna (a Nordic tradition), however the smokiness does not dominate. In fact, F.X. Pichler uses only large oak (no barriques are allowed under Wachau rules), thus neither oak or toasty notes dominate and their wines keep the natural freshness. Similarly reminding me of a smoke sauna, there was a hint of chemical substance on the nose.

On the palate, the wine triumphs over its so many peers. Elegant, broad and nicely structured, it has great acidity (I would rate 3+ or 4 on a scale of 5) which carries the beautiful taste long in the aftertaste. The secondary notes, which evolve through additional years in aging the wine, can be felt here and viscosity is slightly heavier than for younger grüners. Oak is present on the palate while the alcohol level (14% abv.) is a bit high overpowering the mouthfeel somewhat, however on a positive side it provides backbone for the wine.

The taste has a plethora of pear, apple and smoky notes, I actually wrote on my notes that the wine is wine world's equivalent to a strongly peated single malt whisky! Which could be a bit troubling to read for many wine lovers, however I still encourage to try this wine and you will see how elegant it can be.

More tasting notes to follow soon with winery visit information and recommendations.

Jul 8, 2013

Valpolicella Tour: Tedeschi


During my visit to Valpolicella, Italy, this July I made it a priority to visit the Tedeschi estate in San Pietro di Cariano, 15 km from Verona. Tedeschi is family-owned and Sabrina Tedeschi herself met us in the morning and gave a tour in the cellar as well as wine tasting.

Sabrina Tedeschi at the wine cellar at San Pietro di Cariano
The Tedeschi family grew their business to larger export sales in the 1980s. Market reception of their wines has been positive as Tedeschi's wines seem to be very approachable in their youth due to their friendly, moderate tannin structure, and the style being fruit-driven. Only moderate tannin is extracted while at the same time fruit extraction is great. Looking at professional reviewers, most reviewers agree on the fruit-driven style however also praise the depth of the wines, which adds to the tasting experience. And the price-quality ratio seems one of the best in Valpolicella for the lower end of their range of wines.

As most consumers drink their wines young, Tedeschi has found a formula for success. Even their 2008 Amarone was already drinking surprisingly well at its youth, however you should not discount their maturation potential, as the amarones are worth cellaring for 10+ years. Big Slavonian oak is used for the amarones.

A few remarks on the most interesting wines below:

The flagship wine - Monte Olmi Amarone 

Tedeschi’s flagship wine, the Capitel Montel Olmi Amarone, is a single cru wine from grapes grown in a 2.5 ha vineyard on the Pedemonte hill in the heart of Valpolicella which the family purchased in 1918. The vineyard faces south-west and its soil is red clay and limestone. The density of wines is only 3,500 as the vineyard is built on terraces, thus reducing the annual production quantity. Interestingly, the wine is a blend of 9 grapes - 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and the rest 10% comprising Molinara, Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, Croatina and Forselina. Similar to the Amarone Classico, grapes are dried for 4 months and in January a slow alcoholic fermentation in temperature controlled tanks follows with temperatures as low as 15 celsius.

Given the low temperatures, the fermentation and maceration processes are very slow. The low temperature used in fermentation and maceration is traditional in amarone wine making, portraying the inside temperature in the winter time in Northern Italy in January/February. Slavonian oak barrels are used for maturation for 2-3 years.

The 2007 Monte Olmi had significantly more backbone from higher tannins and grip than the regular Amarone. It is up to the consumer to judge which style to prefer, however this one is made for longer cellaring and should reward the keeper in the long term. The Monte Olmi is a wine with such density and tannin that you should cellar these wines and drink the other Tedeschi wines in the meanwhile as the estate has a range for both short-term consumption and long-term cellaring.

The regular Amarone 2008

Tedeschi’s regular Amarone della Valpolicella is a good deal indeed for its price. Made of grapes grown on the Mezzane and Tregnano hills, the vines have an average age of 20 years and are planted 5,500 per hectare. The wine is a blend of 7 grapes - 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and the rest 10% comprising Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara and Dindarella. Grapes are dried for 4 months after the October harvest in a humidity controlled facility, after which they are pressed softly. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration are done in a low 15 celsius temperature. Finally, the wine is aged in Slavonian oak.

2009 Corasco Appasimento Breva

From three different grapes, 70% Corvina (grown in Moraine Hills in Valpolicella), 20% Refosco (grown in Aquileia, Friuli) and 5% Raboso (grown in Oderzo, Treviso). The name of the wine comes from the three grapes used in making it, CORvina, RAbosa and refoSCO.

Made in the appassimento style, grapes were dried for only one month which is one fourth of the duration if making Amarones. During the appasimento process, the grapes lose one third of their weight as they dry, thus leaving a higher concentration of fruit and sugar, giving the otherwise fruity dry young wine a feeling of sweetness in the mouthfeel as well as depth.

Matured 1.5 years in big Slavonian oak. A very round wine with ripe fruit and raspberry, menthol, chocolate and spicy notes dominating. Also white pepper, vanillin and cherries. The addition of Refosco gives the wine a nice personality. Acidity is pleasant. A very good everyday wine. For some 13 euro a great buy. Will develop further, however enjoyable now.

Valpolicella Tour: Tommaso Bussola

Tommaso Bussola is one estate you shouldn't miss when travelling to the Valpolicella region.

The estate lies among the very top estates in quality its wines, made in artesan wine making style, and compared to the older and definitely more pricey estates of Quintarelli and Dal Forno, Tommaso Bussola's wines are low priced for the awesome quality they offer.

Tommaso Bussola's artesan wine making and wines are extraordinary, crafted by passionate people and in small quantities.

As producers like Tedeschi are believers in controlled wine making and state-of-the-art grape drying facilities, Tommaso Bussola believes in all natural wine making techniques where technological advances doe not play a role.

We were glad to meet Daniela at the estate who gave us a presentation on the wines. Her husband, Tommaso, is the man behind the operations with help of their son Paolo.

We tasted only the "TB" range at the estate.

I have to state that though Quintarelli and Dal Forno are world renowned masters in Amarone production, Tommasso Bussola ranks in my books with them, however with significant advantage in price you have to pay for a bottle since the before mentioned producers are definitely on the high end.

Especially their flagship Amarone (Vigneto Alto, tasted the 2006 vintage) is a true beauty, something to really look for and the best wine I had during the trip to Valpolicella. Artesan winemaking was very evident from the wines since they had  a special feeling to them. The wine spends 4 years in French oak. Really concentrated wine with such a ripeness of fruit that it is almost sweet on the mouthfeel -tobacco, espresso notes being very eminent. The best grapes are used for the Vigneto Alto.

It seems that using double barriques makes a difference in amarones, Tommaso Bussola uses them a lot.

Production is limited to 20,000 thousand for Amarones, 25,000 for Valpolicella Ca del Laito, and under 10,000 bottles per each of the rest of range.

The "Ca del Laito" 2008 is a Valpolicella Superiore which is very good in its own class. Recommended. Full bodied and with great tannin structure. Blueberries, chocolate and dark berries. The Valpolicella Classio 2007 offers more toasty and tobacco notes compared to "Ca del Laito".

Plus a really interesting IGT Rosso Veronese:

L'Errante 2007 (IGT Rosso Veronese)

My travel companion said that she has maybe never had a wine as great as the L'Errante 2007.

A red bordeaux blend (merlot 50%, cabernet sauvignon 25%, cabernet franc 25%) with limited production of only 8,000 bottles from a vineyard located in Negrar.

This extraordinary wine boasts aromas of espresso, chocolate, plum & blueberry & blackcurrant leaves mixed together in a highly concentrated package. It is very velvety, round and beautiful all the way to the lingering finish. Outstanding structure.

The wine is quite unique, albeit other producers try to experiment with similar grapes and winemaking style.
Made in amarone style, i.e. the grapes go through appasimento (grape drying). With a huge 16.5% abv, the wine is still miraculously in balance as the extraction of fruit is superb and the wine has sweet tannins. Both French oak and American oak was used (mostly French, and new), and my liking this wine is surprising since I am not a fan of American oak used in old-continent wines, however I still adored this wine.

With €40 you get a very good wine at a reasonable price. The wine is approachable now however will surely develop into a hedonistic piece of heaven with further maturation and should well last 10+ years. It is definitely worth trying now however rewards cellaring.

Apr 9, 2013

Amarone - Bertani 1965, Quintarelli 1998, Dal Forno 1996, Tedeschi Monte Olmi 1974, 1986, 1988, Corte Sant'Alda Mithas 1997, Accordini 2000

A few weeks back we had a tasting of mature amarones from Quintarelli, Dal Forno, Tedeschi, Bertani, Mithas and Accordini - producers which are household names within amarone producers.

While amarones wines can be stored for decades, most of them are drank too young i.e. only a few years after the vintage, not expressing their beauty fully to the taster. However how do they fare up when reaching their maturity? These wines were all excellent apart from one bottle. And acidity was great, offering hedonistic pleasure when combined with dried fruit emerging from the older vintages. One of the better tastings I have encountered in a few years.

The other interesting point was to find out about supremacy within Valpolicella in mature wines - while Quintarelli and Dal Forno are world famous, how do Tedeschi, Mithes and Accordini fare in a same tasting?

I will post up the Valpolicella Tour tasting notes from 2012 to accompany this text later.

Tedeschi's wines were the first flight.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone 1974

Vintage 1974 actually carried label "Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone".

A dark garnet color which was surprisingly youngish, with orange on the rim. However the orange rim was quite narrow. Not so surprisingly, notes of raisins and ripe plum on the palate with dark coffee, dark chocolate, black pepper & dark spices. Fruit has nicely dried up here (not entirely!) to give flavours of a christmas cake. Round and broad mouthfeel with minerality and limestone emerging after air time in glass. A beautiful expression of mature amarone, with a medium length in aftertaste (i.e. not short, however not the longest either).

Tannins are still there underneath there while the level of alcohol also warms the mouth. To add to the equation, the level of acidity is really good too. As those are the key components for helping wine to preserve, no wonder it has survived almost four decades.

Drink now. In addition, after getting air for 2.5 hours the wine was going down as notes of used band-aid surfaced. The wine is so mature that it does not need oxygen to open up and it is detrimental to expose it to a too long period of air contact. I would recommend drinking the wine within 1-2 hours after opening.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone 1986

The color is still garnet however showing signs of more maturity with more orange in it than in the 1974. The wine was not in perfect shape, the fruit is more in the background and the wine is more greenish, having notes of fresh sprig (or needles) of coniferous tree, mixed with dark chocolate, plum and dark roasted coffee flavors. Acidity is good too. All signs are that this was a nice wine when young however our bottle had not completely survived to this date. Recommendation is to drink Monte Olmi 1986 now and not wait longer.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone 1988

A really good wine, especially if you like intensive fruitiness. This is in great balance now. Beautiful garnet color and again a small orange rim, not that different from 1974. Like the older vintage, this one has the raisins however coupled with medicine herbs (the distinctive amarone feeling) and mocha in a full-bodied package. I wrote "really good stuff here" in my notes. Like in 1974, alcohol (15% abv) burns a little straight after opening, however when exposed to air, the wine rounds up. Intensive fruit, almost syrup like, leaving a feeling of a thick layer on the tongue remaining for minute after tasting the wine.

The wine is really well in balance now with good acidity to support it. I had it in a glass for almost 4 hours and the wine was still in good condition, so no need to hurry with it. Drink now or wait for a couple of years, if not a decade. If I would give points to a wine in my blog, which I usually don't do, this would get a 94.

I really like the tannin structure of Tedeschi's young wines produces in the recent years, however the level of acidity in Capitel Monte Olmi amarones was excellent for all three wines.

Corte Sant'Alda Mithas Amarone 1997 

Mithas Corte Sant'Alda 1997 was initially slightly reserved and closed. This one needs at least two hours of air in glass and decanting before. Patience really pays off here - if you drink the wine before it has had extensive breathing time, it seems the wine is in a sleeping mode at this point, however waiting to open up in a beautiful state in  as the core is beautiful. Herbs, licorice, plums and chocolate are mixed with forest ground, greenish (not in a bad way) notes with hints of cherries, which emerge after being open for 2+ hours. Plenty of fruit in this one, and my overall feeling is that Mithas has produced a quality wine however slightly closed at this point, and it would be interesting to try it again in a few years' time if it is more open as I do not think we saw the vineyard's true potential with this bottle.

Note to myself - try this again.

Stefano Accordini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto "Il Fornetto" 2000

Another great expression of amarone, Accordini's Vigneto Il Fornetto 2000 had 12 years of age and the wine has decades ahead for providing hedonistic pleasure to the lucky ones having this one in their cellar.

The wine is in a really good balance. A beautiful, round mouth feel. Dark elements emerge from the glass in an intensive nose of maraschino cherries and plums mixed with dark cherry chocolate and herbs while notes of black tea raise give a dimension not present in the earlier wines in this tasting. Also some mushroom like notes emerge after 2 hours. Cherry liqueur comes in mind since there is a lot of alcohol in this one, however the wine still manages a balance as other components, including acidity, are big too and tannins are nicely integrated. The notes found here give feeling of a multidimensional wine which stands out among amarones.  Lots of sediment in the bottle. Still alive after 3 hours in the glass. Drink now or keep in cellar for decades. Should I give points? No, I give a range, which is 94-95.

Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998

We tasted Quintarelli's Amarone 1998 alongside Dal Forno's Amarone 1996, and overall feeling is that however big wine the Quintarelli amarone was, it is still somewhat lighter yet in a delicate way than the super-bodied Dal Forno.

A truly outstanding wine. The color is ruby, the wine is still looking quite youngish while having over 14 years of age. Tannins are evident and make the wine last for decades and decades. The fruit is beautiful here - ripe and big, yet delicate. The ripe fruit makes this wine feel more sweet on the palate than what its nose indicates prior to tasting it. Notes of licorice, toffee and milk chocolate as opposing to more dark chocolate in the earlier wines. Oak and smoke. Some lingonberries too, in the feeling of acidity which is great. The greenish notes of herbs often associated with amarone wines are more in form of leafy greenish notes here. Other tasters also commented on burned sugar and balsamico.

Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella 1996

The most full-bodied wine in the tasting, Dal Forno's Amarone 1996 is a dark ruby, meaty, dark, super thick expression of amarone with super ripe fruit, big tannins and a smoky, almost barbecue like, feeling. This is like candy made with mixing tar flavor in it. The mouth feel is unbelievably round even with big tannins and alcohol. Really good balance and acidity here. Plums dominate the big, big extraction of fruit. The other tasters expressed the green feeling in this wine showing in the form of dill. 

This wine is sure to please most people, however it also gives a contrast to Quintarelli's delicate 1998 - the question which one is better is like ying and yang balancing - to taste them both at the same time gives you the opportunity to weigh on them and get a more thorough picture of the wines differences. The overall result of the voting in our tasting was Quintarelli's 1998 slightly edging Dal Forno's 1996. 

Bertani Amarone 1965

Slightly sweet ripe fruit is still evident in Bertani's 1965 Amarone, i.e. the fruit has not dried up entirely. The wine was really beautiful although showing signs of decline already. Almond, slightly oxidized nose with burned sugar have changed the nose to a liqueur like feeling. Drink it within an hour since it does not last long in the glass. Still it is very interesting and has great acidity.

Bertani is one of the original makers of "dry" amarone, starting in 1950s. It would be great to find these older vintages as this wine gave promise to the quality and longevity of Bertani's wines. 

Jan 15, 2013

Consumers and wine - fresh information from 2012 monopoly sales

The Finnish wine monopoly Alko has just released its most recent sales information on 2012 wine consumption and it is time to take a fresh look at what Finns, a Nordic nation of 5.4 million, are drinking.

Wines in the price range of under 8 euros per bottle continue to dominate the market with a 65 % and 77% share of all red and white wines sold, respectively, down from 68 % and 81% in 2011 (all prices being scaled to the usual 0.75 litre bottle size). The statistic is very much influenced by tax increase in 2012 as well as sales of bag-in-box wines (BiB) which represent 39% of all wines sold in Finland,  mostly priced under 8 euros.

Picture: Alko
It is encouraging to learn that wine continued growing as % of total alcohol consumption in 2012. And bulk wines naturally lead this trend as newbies to wine and new generations are more and more willing to try wine and make their initiations on the entry level products, i.e. the lower priced wines.

So why not study this trend and enjoy popular wines from the named price range, i.e. "St. Elmo Village", a Californian medium dry (12% abv) which was the 4th most popular white wine sold in 2012, and a red "Caballo de Mendoza" from Argentina's largest wine producing area (13% abv), on the 5th place among reds. 

Both wines are imported by Altia Denmark where the wines were also bottled, then further sold in Finland by Altia. The decision to bottle bulk wines in Europe rather than in the country of origin leads to a significantly more efficient logistical operation, leading to cost efficiency as well as being environmental friendly, factors which usually go unnoticed however are appreciated by the consumer if they were aware of them. The wine labels do not carry vintage information.

Picture: Alko
* ...While writing this, notes of grapefruit and flowers emerge from the St. Elmo Village, combined with a surprisingly round mouth-feel and nice acidity in the medium-dry finish. While St. Elmo Village is suited to be enjoyed with food as well as over a social setting, the red Caballo we had with minced meat soup at dinner was well suited to the carefully spiced dish. Notes of blackberry and ripe cherry in a fruity, smoky and spicy charcoal-made-barbecue style emerge after the bottle has been open for 2 hours *

... Back to the subject. Now consider this anomaly which would definitely not exist in a free market situation for wines. While wines over 17 eur in Alko represent only 1.5% and 0.5% of all sold red and white wines, respectively, the wine monopoly carried a whopping 826 and 323 items for these categories in 2012. Now compare those numbers with 285 and 217 items for wines under 8 euros, respectively. Needless to say, if there was no wine monopoly, Alko simply could not carry this amount of non-moving goods on its lists, as it is on a business sense plainly unrealistic. For those offering critique on wine monopolies, in this sense, Alko does a nice job in keeping available nation-wide a large number of extremely slow-moving wines, four times the amount of items compared to best seller wines. 

Similar information can be found from Swedish wine monopoly Systembolaget's statistics, however with a significantly larger spread among price groups. Wines under 8 eur (69 SEK) represent only 42% of wines sold while 78% of all wines are priced under the next threshold,  under 10 eur. Explaining the significant difference between the two Nordic countries, in Sweden the more pricey old world producers Italy and Sout Africa are the largest countries of origin while Chile dominates the Finnish market being twice the size of the next largest country, Spain. 

Jan 11, 2013

2000 Chanson Meursault Boucheres 1er Cru, 2002 Daniel Moine-Hudelot Chambolle--Musigny 1er Cru

Ok so here is the deal.

Burgundy from early this millenium, i.e. white from 2000 and red from 2002, both from very good vintages for the respective areas. Expectations are high. However only one delivers. Which one?

2000 Meursault Boucheres 1er Cru, Chanson

Nice golden semi-intensive color, indicating promise of a mature white. Nose has some grassy notes, like straw and seaweed, with honey, citrus and white pepper. Initially the honey is in the forefront, then pineapple and ripe citrus come in forefront. Not an intensive bouquet in this one, albeit being spicy. And on the palate, oak is fortunately not too evident, however has contributed for the wine's mouth feel being thicker, somewhat oily and round, spiced up with some nice acidity. But that's what you can expect from the wine making style, appellation and its age. Feels like this is a sensitive expression of a Meursault, one in which I would like to find more intensity in taste. On the palate, this one leaved me somewhat short. I have had many better white burgundies before.

2002 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Daniel Moine-Hudelot

Now we are talking. What a wine. Really nice structure and all that pinosity I love. Straight after opening the bottle, the wine is very concentrated and long, the taste lasting for a minute. However still so silky. Balanced nose of pepper, blueberry and lingonberry, those forest-like notes along with underbrush. Such an  impressive wine.  Like my friend said well, there is a fine element of saltiness or sea salt in this one, which I think makes it unique within Burgundy wines. Round however having a nice backbone to it, the wine commands respect. This one is meaty after 2 hours of air time. Lingonberry and blueberry mixed with meaty notes and peppery, without being too meat-soup-like, if you know what I mean.

Slightly matured color. The wine evolves in the glass after two hours after opening into an even more ripe feeling, air does good for this one (like you would be surprised of the fact...). On the palate, first you have a silky feeling, in mid-palate the alcohol gives the wine a strong backbone and the intensity of the aftertaste is great, lasting looooooong. Very long indeed.

Certainly one of the better Burgundy wines I have had for a while. Complex. The wine can be kept for many years in the cellar however it is very enjoyable right now. Usually Chambolle-Musignys are feminine in style, however this 2002 has more to it than just sensitiveness, it has a definitive backbone which does not overrun any sensitive parts.

I bought the bottle from the producer's shop in center of Nuits-St.-Georges. Got to get more of this! The producer is a small one, and has been purchased in 2008 by Domaine de la Pousse d'Or. When this bottle was made, the mayor of Chambolle-Musigny still owned the estate. It would be very interesting to find if there are differences in wine making style after the acquisition. They also ow parcel of the very prestigious 1er Cru wineyard of "les Amoureuses" in Chambolle-Musigny, a vineyard which wines are priced at Grand Cru level everywhere. Hopefully I will find bottles to buy.

Jan 10, 2013

1967 Delas Chatauneauf-du-Pape

What an interesting fella this 1967 Delas is.

Try to imagine a wine, one that has been touched by oxygen, but not too much. Plenty of oxidation in this one, just enough for the wine to enter a state resembling the taste of a dry sherry.

Notes of black tea, raisins, smoke and cigar box in it, along with strawberry juice and burned sugar, in a thick mouth feel. Medium length. Some pepper notes too, presumably from the Shiraz content in it. Like spicy meat soup. Tannins are fully integrated at this point. The wine still has great acidity.

We drank this just before Christmas, thus the season could not have been better considering the raisins tasted in this wine. A bit of orange emerges on the palate after letting it breath for 1.5 hours.

Brown color with a hint of red left, check out the bottom photo on the right. I did remember to take a photo when there was a few drops left, ok better late than never.

The wine is 20 years past its peak, however not dead and still enjoyable if old wines suit your palate. Due to oxidation, plenty of sherry feeling in this one. Which is certainly not surprising. It is nice that the wine has lived this long. However the friends I drank it with did not like it that much, the oxidation feeling taking a center stage in our conversation. So again, you are able to find good conversations about wine around this one. Interesting.

Jan 9, 2013

2011 Amauta I - A red from Cafayette Valley with a lot of personality, whether you like it or not...

It is safe to say that Amauta I divides opinions - loved by most, not understood by some. While the wine is enjoyable (or very enjoyable) to a vast amount of consumers, I know there is a large amount of wine lovers who oppose this kind of wine style. As the division in opinion will most certainly be huge, which group do you belong to?

Let's get to the basics. Amauta I is a dry red from winery El Porvenir de los Andes in a less known wine producing area of Cafayette Valley. The valley is one of Argentina's most northwestern wine producing areas. Located within the area of Calchaqui Valleys at altitudes beginning from 1,700 meters up to 2800 meters, Cafayette Valley has 2,500 hectars of wineyards for mostly the white tórrontes variety which is the most popular white in Argentina. One of the most highest altitude wine producing areas has very little rainfall, low humidity and large difference between day and night temperatures.

However also interesting red wine projects seem to pop out of the mostly sandy soils of this area.

One such is the Amauta I in my glass. Made of Malbec 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and Syrah 10% from vineyards located at altitude of 1,750 meters. The divider of many opinions.

Super intensive. This 2011 wine is very young - however even with its big tannins, the sweet tannin structure makes the wine enjoyable already at a young age. The producer explains impact of high altitude of their vineyards to give sweet tannins to their wines. Some of that toffee feeling to reveal that French oak was (I think partially) used. So let's give a positive remark on tannin structure. After tasting the wine, I was very surprised to learn that the wine had been matured only 6 months in oak. Seems like there was much more oak in this one.

Its unbelieveable big sweet fruit will please a lot of people. Nose with loads of smoke and roasted meat, oak, sweet cola, herbs and very strong licorice and toffee integrated to plum and blackcurrant. The palate is dominated by almost-sweet fruit which is the tale of this wine. After getting air for 1.5 hours, the notes of meatiness in the wine turned into a charcoal (barbecue) feeling. And that's your recommended food pairing too.

A lot of alcohol in this one, 14.5% abv. I can already feel wine aficionados who love their Pinot Noir trembling. OK, so we have established that this wine is super intensive.


Where is its sensitivity? Where is the hint of something you want from the wine to seduce you?

You are not able to find it in this wine. This one is a muscular, strong, fruit & licorice bomb which is in-your-face in style. Not my type of wine, however if you need a big wine, look no further. Price tag is set at 24 eur in your local Alko shop, so the price keeps its sales numbers relatively low.

At first when opening the bottle, the wine has a bit of a harsh aftertaste after 5 seconds, of which volume decreases as time in glass increases. But it stays there underneath in the mouth feel while the wine rounds up with 1.5 hours after opening.

The positive fact about this wine is its ability to provoke discussion. While enjoying the bottle we had plenty of discussion about it, which is a compliment to any production with lots of winemaker's love behind it.

The story behind El Porvenir de los Andes are Italian immigrants who established the winery in 1890. The winery was however bought by Romero-Marcuzzi family in 1999 who invested in wine making and the winery now lives a renaissance. The renowned wine maker Paul Hobbs is consulting the estate.

Sep 29, 2012

Burgundy Harvest Blog 5 - September 28 - Finally sunshine after all that rain

Finally sunshine after all that rain. It has been a very rainy harvest season in Burgundy. Honestly you could say that we had not seen a cloud which did not rain on us for the last five days until yesterday.bIn Gevrey-Chambertin, it has rained in all of the last five days except today which is a remarkable difference to last years harvest where it rained in only one day.

Only light rain showers yesterday though when we harvested Chambertin-Clos de Beze grand cru. The grapes were good with only limited selection in the vineyards was needed. In each of the grand crus harvested thus far, the quality and health of the grapes is higher than in village appellations, which in addition to the terroir aspect speaks for the higher market price of the products. The raw material is just better. 

However the real story of the day is the quality of Drouhin-Laroze's grapes for the entry level Bourgogne red. The grapes used in the wine were in such good health that people in the winery were astounded with the quality, which rivaled that of grapes from grand cru vineyards. The domaine's 2012 Bourgogne red should be kept in mind when released.

Today it was beautiful sunshine the whole day. Also part of yesterday when Clos de Beze was harvested. Tomorrow we will harvest the last remaining grand cru, Latricieres-Chambertin and the premier cru of Lavaut St. Jacques which is among the coldest premier crus in Gevrey-Chambertin and thus usually harvested among the last vineyards harvested in the appellation, for allowing grapes to mature the longest. 

Tomorrow is the last day of harvest and the harvest-ending party with the team. This years harvest was 10 days. 

Sep 24, 2012

Burgundy Harvest Blog 4 - September 24

Another rainy morning in Gevrey-Chambertin turned into a sunny afternoon. Our work was done before lunch though as we decided to harvest white grapes for domaine's other, negotiant wines.

To recap the harvest thus far, we started with harvesting grand crus in Chambolle-Musigny (Le Musigny, Bonnes Mares) and part of village appellations during the first days. The original plan was to harvest all grand crus first as grapes had matured so well. However the plan was changed to harvest village as rain set in during the third day and forecasts seemed to deliver more rain in the next days. The fourth day was sunny and we harvested premier crus. The fifth, today, was again rainy in the morning so chardonnay was harvested and pressed. The pressing of white grapes cut the capacity of the winery and pickers were given rest if day off as no red grapes could have been processed in the afternoon. Pinot noir is again harvested tomorrow. Grand crus within the Gevrey-Chambertin village area, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Latricieres-Chambertin and Chapelle-Chambertin are still to harvest.

Burgundy Harvest Report 3 - September 23

Welcome to the best upper and lower back training session in the world, grape harvest in Burgundy. Not only do you get in great physical condition working here for 1.5 weeks, you do the exercise in the most outstanding of surroundings, in (or looking over) grand cru vineyards in Cote de Nuits.

On the vineyard you work either as cutter or a carrier. If you are a cutter, your job is to select only good grapes to your 6kg basket, i.e. cutting out the bad ones from the grape bunches to be sent to the winery. Basically you are constantly bending your lower back, kneeling down or sitting in a squat position for 8 hours each day. Needless to say, it is especially strenuous on your lower back.

If you would like to exercise your upper back, then be a carrier. As a carrier, you carry a basket holder on your back which is  specifically designed for this purpose, weighing some 5 kg empty. And your basket is filled every 4 minutes by 4 or 5 cutters, each throwing you 5-6 kilos of grapes (total 23 kg) which you then walk from the vineyard to the road where the tractor waits, i.e. on average 150m. So you either walk with 5 kg or 28 kg on your back for 8 hours a day. I can personally guarantee you this is a much better workout than your average gym workout.

Drouhin-Laroze places great emphasis on gentle handling of grapes at the harvest before destemming. Using only small 23 kg baskets, grapes are not kept under significant weight, i.e. they are not crushed already in the vineyard unlike in larger baskets used by certain other producers. If grapes are placed under too heavy weight and are crushed, there is a risk that yeasts and micribes on top of grape skin begin to react with grape juice, allowing fermentation to begin too early and not in a controlled environment. Intact grapes where grape juice is kept within the skins allows the wine maker to control the process and eliminate unwanted chemical reactions which might lead to unwanted off-flavours in the wine.

No rain after yesterday morning. Grapes were dry and the sun came out in the afternoon after a cloudy morning. We continued with Village wines in the morning while Premier crus were picked in the afternoon. Better quality in the premier crus. Drouhin-Laroze owns vines among Gevrey-Chanbertin's premier cru sites of the Craipillot, Au Closeau, Clos Prieur and Lavaut St. Jacques (most other domains write that Lavaux St, Jacques by the way).

Tomorrow we will collect white grapes for the Drouhin family's daughter Caroline's negotiant wines. It will only be a half day tomorrow, we will work only until lunch.