Moscato for the Holidays

It’s a little late for Christmas wine recommendations, I realize. But it’s still early for New Year’s, so that’s still all right.

Especially when you suggest a wine that is as festive as it is (relatively) inexpensive, so much so that it could be pulled out for any excuse for a celebration.

The wine is moscato, or more precisely, moscato d’asti, the low-alcohol, sparkling, refreshing, fruity wine that is a specialty of Piemont, in Northern Italy. Made from that most aromatic of grapes, muscat, (more…)

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Death in the Vineyards

Reading the wine news, these days, it seems like the Grim Reaper is in harvest mode. Three significant figures have died in recent days: Didier Dagueneau, rebel vigneron from the Loire, Anthony Perrin, from Château Carbonnieux in Pessac-Léognan, as well as Bailey Carrodus, founder of Yarra Yerring, in Australia.

All three were credited with bringing their estates to the forefront, and being driving forces for improvement in the wines of their respective regions.

Beyond the sad news themselves, these deaths beg the question (more…)

WBW 49: Bush Goes, Maison Blanche Stays

Although it is, for me, a part of everyday life, wine is also a celebratory drink. A well-chosen bottle can be a great part of special occasions.

For instance, asked dhonig, the soul behind the 2 Days per Bottle wine blog, as the theme for the 49th Wine Blogging Wednesday: what wine would best to toast the end of the George W. Bush era in American (and heck, world) politics?

Facetiously, I immediately thought of Shiraz, since, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46: The Whiter Side of Rhône

White wines are certainly the neglected side of the Rhône vineyards. The reputation of the whites is greatly overshadowed by that of reds like Cornas, Côte-Rôtie or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

It might just be a question of math, mind you: according to official statistics, red wine represents 86% of total Rhône wine production. White is only 5%, a little more than half the production of rosé (9%). In Australia, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, all together, represent less than 2% of the total area planted in white varietals, according to government statistics (see page 17 of the publication). Same thing in California, where the 15,757 tons of viognier crushed in 2007 are the only noticeable white Rhône blip among the 1.37 million tons of white grapes produced in 2007 (see page 6 of the California Department of Agriculture grape crush report). I’m beginning to agree with James, who started a discussion on the Open Wine Consortium about the most underrated white varietals, and put roussanne as his choice of underdog.

Mind you, the varietals can be challenging. When overripe, they quickly get heavy, overly sweet and overloaded with tropical fruit. I know, some people might call that luscious and rich, but I find it all gets a little cloying. Which is why I appreciate the balance found in, say, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday (aargh… Thursday, again) #45: Old World Riesling

I like riesling more than I think I do.

What I mean to say is that as I pondered the theme of the May Wine Blogging Wednesday and tried to choose an Old World riesling for this contribution, I kept thinking about the many ways in which I’d enjoyed it, just over the last few months: alsatian Léon Beyer riesling by the glass in two restaurants (dry, mineral and yet nicely aromatic and expressive), a 2002 Grittermatte riesling from Domaine Julien Meyer (a touch oxydized, yet clean, well-rounded and complex), a 2000 riesling from Ontario’s Hernder Estate Winery, a bottle of Mort’s Block from Kilikanoon, a Grant Burge riesling, a Mount Cass slightly botrytized riesling from New Zealand (see my French-language review here) , and so on. The variety in acidity, mineral character, floral and (more…)

Biodynamics: up front or backstage?

I’m a huge fan of a great number of biodynamic wine producers, and several “natural wine” producers, this last category essentially meaning that they are not only made from organic grapes, but also totally free of added sulfur, a widely-used stabilizer (For a quick description of the various types of bio wines, click here). Very often, wines made according to these methods have incredible character and individuality. You’ll probably read many raves from me about the artisan winemakers who promote that sort of viticulture and winemaking.

What strikes me, however, is that the promotion of biodynamic winemaking is presented in two ways. Some producers simply acknowledge that they work their vineyards that way – some do it only when they are asked – while others promote the fact that they are biodynamic producers almost as an end in itself. For example, you can’t tell, when looking at a bottle of Petalos, by Alvaro Palacios, (more…)

Tasting note: Tahbilk Marsanne 2004

They’re no longer a Château, but the wine is still as good. I’ve loved Tahbilk‘s Marsanne for years and years, and I’ve even laid down a few bottles over the years, to see how this inexpensive, well-made, original wine evolved over time. I had great fun drinking a 1994, two or three years ago, and found its nutty, candied orange flavors quite seductive. I still have an orangey 1995 and an pale gold 1997 in the cellar, which I’m waiting to be surprised by… someday.

With vines dating back to as far back as 1927, Tahbilk is a rare Australian producer of this lovely Rhône varietal, and I was amused to read on their web site that they recommend aging it – something I’d started doing well just out of curiosity.

The 2004, which is starting to turn to a lovely pale gold colour, displays rich and plentiful aromas, with notes of honey, star-fruit, apricot and a touch of toasted bread on the nose. On tasting, the bright acidity and light but smooth texture immediately strike you, before nutty, honeyed flavors emerge and roll around for a nice, long time around your mouth. At 13% alcohol, it is remarkably balanced and restrained – and here, the word restrained hardly means that you are missing out on anything. I found it lovely with some cheese, and would recommend it with salmon or poultry dishes.

The Marsanne’s great balance also means that the wine indeed has a good aging potential. At just over 15$, around these parts, I’m surely going out to get some more, and setting it in the cellar. If I can convince myself to wait.

Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Smoke gets in your wine

An article published on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s web site (rural section), reports that heavy smoke will affect the taste of grapes hanging on the vine and, in turn, the taste of wine produced from the grapes in question. I imagine the question is highly important for winemakers in a country subject to brush fires and, recently, record droughts.

Contrary to what the news item says, however, the study isn’t quite a first. With the intense forest fire season of 2003, the Okanagan Valley was (more…)

Tasting note: Kilikanoon 2004 Mort’s Block Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley

The first whiff of this wine brought me back to memories of my youth. My grandparents often served riesling at family parties, and it had that particular aroma of limes, with kerosene or white petroleum jelly, as well as mineral notes and a lively acidity. For me, it’s like a very basic definition of what white wine should smell like.

So the Kilikanoon 2004 Mort’s Block Watervale Riesling was a terrific surprise for me, when I bought it as part of the latest Cellier Magazine Arrivals. Sourced entirely from a low-yielding single vineyard – Mort’s Block – planted 40 years ago by the winery’s founder, it yields a tightly wound, bright riesling with terrific acidity and well-focused flavours. Intense, just a touch dry on the palate, it feels like it has a great aging potential, something I wouldn’t mind patiently exploring over the next decade.

With alcohol levels kept at a very reasonable 12%, for the 2004 vintage, the wine is exceptionally refreshing, and displays very good length, and great varietal character. A great buy.

Published in: on December 4, 2007 at 2:26 am  Comments (1)  

There’s no such thing as “the best wine”

I’ve never been much for top wine lists – although I will admit to having been impressed by them, sometimes. Though they can be good for helping you spot wome great bottles you don’t know about, they also tend to work on a simplistic, linear principle of best to worst. Which has little to do with the way we taste wine, it seems to me.

What set me off on this train of thought is the October 15 issue of Wine Spectator, which features a cover story on “Australia’s Best Wines: 25 Benchmarks every wine lover should taste”. (You can read it here, if you’re a WS subscriber). The introduction shows the kind of hubris and trophy-hunting spirit that presides over so many of these lists: “The following pages identify the 25 wines you should know if you’re serious about Australia.”

Problem is, a lot of those wines (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Comments (2)