Monday, March 23, 2009

Feel the Love,When you Are a Wine Critic !

I set out to do a book review of Alice Feiring's
The Battle for Wine and Love
or How I Saved the World from Parkerization
but instead will refer you to a very good in depth review by Brooke Cheshier on Vinography.
Apart from getting hints about the loves in her life, there is an inspiring passion about her love for 'natural' wines and her loathing for chemically manipulated, scientifically engineered from vineyard to cellar wines.
Her book has obviously made its mark in Spain where a translated version will be available in 2010. You can read about that on Alice's own site 'In Vino Veritas'.
Besides her book being easy to read you will find yourself coming away and wondering about how natural the wines are that you now consume. Since reading her book, I have had the pleasure of meeting several wine makers and asking them how much of an influence Robert Parker has had on their wine making.

There is hope out there Alice!
During a delightful lunch with Johannes Selbach of the Weingut Selbach-Oster, I posed this question to Johannes. With great pride and perhaps a touch of indignation, he suggested that since his famly had been making wines for a long time before Parker came on the scene (since 1661) they have been making wines in traditional styles handed down from generation to generation. The Selbach-Oster wines are known for their purity of fruit and fresh and delicate aromas. The mineral rich slate soils of the 'MittleMosel' and the ripe, juicy Riesling fruit are evident in all their wines. Interestingly enough both Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator rate these wines highly with their 'points' in the 90+ range.
Alice has written passionately and you will experience that when reading her book. I admire her fearless approach on this controversial subject.
The video below takes more than the usual few minutes of videos seen on YouTube but this one on Vimeo is well worth watching. You can 'Feel the love' or otherwise, in this one. Oh, the life of a critic is not easy.
Go Alice, Go!

Robert Parker's Bitch from Josh Hermsmeyer on Vimeo.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Will the Real Green Wine Come Forward!

We hear so much these days about green wines and carbon foot prints but have we forgotten that there is only one wine that is truly 'the' green wine?
I am speaking of course about the Vinho Verde from the Minho Valley in Portugal.
It doesn't refer to the colour of the wine but rather that it is a wine produced under minimal growing conditions and one that should be drunk young. You do not age a Vinho Verde wine. I thought about this after reading the article in the Irish Times and the arrival of the the French schooner, the Etoile de France landing in the port of Dublin delivering 15,000 bottles of 'green' wine in time for St.Patrick's Day. Very admirable concept. The article even mentions that "each shipment is fitted with radio frequency identification to record and monitor the temperature of the alcohol during the voyage". OK, then what? So if this ship travels during the hot summer months are cooling systems in place to keep the wine from getting cooked? If yes, then what about the carbon foot print of all that energy used to do the cooling? And oh yes, that North Sea can get pretty turbulent during winter storms. Is this just a little bit of hyped up marketing going on? Really now, are we going to see French and Italian wines shipped all the way to the North American market on fancy frigates?

But hey, you know what? Tomorrow is St. Patricks day and what better 'green' way to celebrate then to enjoy a bottle of Vinho Verde, especially one with the cool green cat on the label.

I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy and fun filled St.Patricks day and may the following Irish prayer come true for you all.

Notice the part about "may the sun shine warm upon your face" and "the rains fall soft upon your fields". Sounds very much like an Irish prophecy and ideal growing conditions for a vineyard. Who knows with a little bit of global warming, the Emerald Isle may become the next best place to grow grapes. Then you can anchor your schooner and expend no carbon foot prints at all. God bless the Irish and one and all!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Travelling in Super Tuscan Wine Country!

Say Super Tuscan and surely Sassicaia and Ornellaia come to mind. In 1968 the first Sassicaia was introduced to the market and thus the Super Tuscan phenomenon was started. They are produced with non native varietals, using instead Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes to make up a Bordeaux style of wine. So successful was the vinification with these Bordeaux grapes that in 1994 Bolgheri was officially recognized with its own DOC status.Today there are some 40 producers on 1300 hectares of vineyards.
Bolgheri is a very picturesque town and to get there you travel along 5 km stretch of road,the Viale-dei-Cypressi, lined by magnificent two hundred year old Cypress trees.The 19th century Nobel Prize-wining poet, Carducci immortalised this "sunlit green avenue" in his famous poem Davanti a San Guido. Italian school children are taught this poem at an early age.
Side roads will lead to the Bolgheri wineries. My trusty driver and friend Sanjoy had managed to get us here from Florence faster than we had anticipated for our appointment at Tenuta dell'Ornellaia. So we decided to visit Bolgheri and as luck would have it we met the wife of a local winemaker. She insisted we meet her husband and that turned out to be the best part of our visit. The Castello di Bolgheri winery is located right in Bolgheri and its winemaker is the brilliant Alessandro Dondi. Allessandro gave us the grand tour of the winery and the vineyards.
The Castello vineyards are located on the farm surrounding the castle. The farm consists of 130 hectares and 50 hectares are planted to vines. The vineyards were planted beginning in 1997 using the principle varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, specified for in the DOC Bolgheri wines.All the grapes had been harvested except for the Cabernet Sauvignon and had been fermenting in stainless steel for about two weeks. So we tasted straight from the tanks and I have to tell you, I have tasted freshly fermenting wines many times before but never anything this delicious. Allesandro drove us out into the vineyards where the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were waiting for his decision as to when to be picked. Gently squeezing a few grapes, he announced tomorrow would be picking time. Besides lab analysis, he feels the grapes and just when the firm skin begins to soften slightly,that is when it is optimum time to harvest for him. Back at the winery we had the opportunity to taste the Varvara, a very impressive entry level wine. But Allesandro beamed with pride when he saw the big smiles on our faces after tasting the flagship Castello wine, the Castello di Bolgheri.
This Super Tuscan is an amazingly well crafted wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Aged in oak for 18 months and then a further 12 month aging in bottles. Rich, silky, smooth, this extremely well balanced wine is a pure pleasure to drink. What a fortunate stroke of luck to "discover" the Castello di Bolgheri and meet this very talented wine maker. Certainly a high light of our trip to Tuscany.
Since we still had time to go for lunch we asked Allesandro where he would recommend we go. So he took us to a restaurant a short distance from the winery and introduced us to the owner.

That was another great experience. Tourists and locals are treated to traditional Tuscan cuisine and of course wines from Bolgheri. If you happen to find yourself in Bolgheri be sure to visit the winery and have lunch at the enoteca Tognoni. You never know, you might find Allesandro taking time out for a super Tuscan meal and enjoying a truly super, Super Tuscan wine from the Castello di Bolgheri.