Posts Tagged ‘italy’

Style or Terroir?

July 25, 2017

A bit of a “wine dweeb” blog tonight…I was trying a Syrah (one of my favourite grapes) from Greece (which I had never had). It was good, very good, tasting similar in style to the North Rhones I love so much.

But that got me thinking of a conversation I had last year with the owner of a wine shop in Tacoma. We had been talking about BC’s wines, and which were the best. I was making my case for Syrah (for reds), and one of the reasons was that the style was so similar to Northern Rhones. I was surprised when he disagreed – not with the wines, but the idea.

In his opinion, a wine region needs to find its own style based on its local attributes – something the French call terroir. So in BC, that mean finding our own style of Syrah, for example.

I was polite, nodded my head, bought some wine (which I was going to by anyway), but left thinking I didn’t really agree with him.

And after drinking the Greek Syrah, I still don’t agree with him!

For me, I know the style of wines that I like. I look for them, and if I can find that style made in different places, all the better!

Are there variations? Of course. Take Syrah…I find when it is grown in some parts of California and Washington State, the level of ripeness of the grapes is higher, meaning the wine tastes riper as well. Not jammy – it is not Shiraz. Just riper. Personally, I like that.

But some of the key elements are still there – pepper, black cherries, good acidity, little or no oak. Make a Syrah like that, and I will like it, no matter where it is made!

Compare that to Syrah from, say, some that are made in South America, South Africa, or even Italy. Some of those – some, mind you, not all – add elements which may represent local characteristics, but which I don’t enjoy. Herbs, brambles, and oak…the wines may still be good, but no longer in my style.

But does that make them better because they have their own style, perhaps unique to their area?

Some – including my wine shop friend – may say yes.

But for me, it is moot point. Because I don’t like them…because of that style.

I want wines – whether Syrah or anything else – that I like to drink.

So regardless of whether they are “unique”, I don’t care.

Just open the bottle and poor!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Advertisements

Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

MANAGING WINE EXPECTATIONS

March 16, 2016

I wrote last week a bit about expectations in the context of the Vancouver International Wine Festival…but then I experienced the same phenomenon this past weekend with some wines from my cellar!

Friday/Saturday/Sunday are “cellar wines” in our house, and the ones I chose were, at least in my mind, potentially a mixed bag. We were having a Portuguese clams and chorizo dish on Friday, so I brought up a 2004 Quinta de Crasto Old Vines Reserva for that…I have had that in the past and, frankly, been a bit disappointed, as it was more Bordeaux in style than I like. But I thought, what the heck, match the wine with the food!

At the same time, I was thinking Spain for Saturday – Tournedos Rossini – and saw a 2008 Pesquera, one of my favourite wines, so jumped at pulling that out. And then for Saturday, a bbq of some kind, and there was a bottle of 2009 Tellus Syrah from Italy, so I took that as well.

Based on my expectations, then, the Pesquera was going to be the star of the weekend, followed by the Syrah (which I had really liked in a restaurant a few years ago) and then the Portuguese wine.

And the result? Well, you have probably guessed by now…

The Quinta de Crasto was beautiful! Somehow, some fruit had come back into the wine, and while not a “fruit bomb” by any means, it was a very nice balance of cherries and cedar. Perfect with the dish, and a pleasing to drink by itself. Alright!

And now I had the Pesquera to look forward to! I have been drinking that wine since the early 1990s, and the Tempranillo based wine has been a California Cab look a like, full of ripe black currants and vanilla. I couldn’t wait!

But then I opened it and…oh boy…not off, but a completely different style! Way more Bordeaux than Cali…even after an hour or so. I was disappointed, but at least the Tournedos Rossin was great (although I didn’t have the fois gras or the truffles).

At least I had the Syrah to look forward to! And then…yep, you guessed it…not as good as before. Some previously unforeseen wood had come in and, while not bad, it certainly wasn’t what I remembered.

So the lessens here? Well, expectations are going to be there…nothing you can do about that. And when they pay off – or are exceeded – that is great!

But if they aren’t met, it shouldn’t put too much of a damper on your wine experience. As long as the wine isn’t bad, you should try to enjoy it for what it is.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Learnings from the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 9, 2016

A week late, but here are 5 things I learned from this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival:

1. The VIWF remains one of the best wine events anywhere

Year in, year out, regardless of the feature country/grape, the VIWF is outstanding and can compete with any festival in the world. It gets great producers, and they actually pour some of their best wines, which this year mean lots of Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos and Chianti Classico Riservas!

2. Young Barolo doesn’t have to be tannic

What a nice surprise! I love Barolo, but find it hard to taste/evaluate young…after 10+ years it is amazing, but young…except this year! I tasted a number of 2010’s and 2011’s that were really ripe…still with tannin, but way fruitier than usual. A much more enjoyable experience!

3. My favourite producers continue to be…my favourite producers!

Call it bias if you want, but it was great to see that some of my favourite producers once again made some of my favourite wines! Case in point? Averill Creek and their Pinot Noir…Andy continues to make unbelievably good wine on Vancouver Island, a gorgeous cross between Cali and Burgundy. The same goes for Famille Perrin and their Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. Yes, it is expensive at about $90. But simply stunning, and having been drinking this wine since the 1981 vintage, I can tell you it is almost guaranteed to produce an orgasmic experience after 10 – 15+ years.

4. Its nice when expectations are exceeded

Argentina hasn’t been a big focus of mine for a while when it comes to fine wine, with too many producers using too much oak in their red wines (particularly their Malbecs). But Decero and Colome had beautiful wines, including a 100% Cabernet Franc that was as good as I have had in many years.

5. Its too bad when low expectations are met

Have to say it…sorry…but when I saw Mission Hill had some new single vineyard wines with fancy names (and price tags), I bet myself they wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Tasted them and…no surprise, I was right!

There you go…short but sweet for a rainy Wednesday night!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Vancouver Wine Festival 2015 – Four Wineries No One Has Told You About

February 25, 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I am excited to be going to the Vancouver International Wine Festival tomorrow night. But in reading the lead up to the Festival in the past week, it has struck me – yet again – that some of the best wineries are not being promoted.

Why? Well, that would be a blog of it’s own…

But given the short time frame, let’s focus on four wineries – and their wines – you may not have heard about, but certainly shouldn’t miss out on.

Let’s start with BC, my home province. Incredibly, La Frenz Winery – which wine dweebs like me know is the best overall winery not just in the province, but in Canada as well – has seen nary a peep of promotion.

If there is one winery you need to go to, it is La Frenz. According to the info, they are pouring four wines – 3 whites and 1 red. All are worth trying, but if you are limited for time the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may be the best of its kind ever made in BC (it has won numerous awards) and the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay will make you think of Beringer’s Private Reserve for half the price. And the red? Well, if you want a Cali/Burgundy Pinot Noir cross, try the 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve – it is stunning, and a real bargain at $32.

Next up is one from Australia, the featured country this year. And I am still shaking my head that d’Arenberg hasn’t received any press, as – wine for wine – they are my favourite producer in Australia (and have been for many years). They are pouring two of their best wines as well! The first – the Galvo Garage – is a Bordeaux blend that tastes the way Bordeaux should. The fruit is super ripe, but not jammy, with just the right amount of wood and herbs. Nice young, it ages easily for 8 – 10 years. And their best wine is the Dead Arm Shiraz. More Syrah than Shiraz, it is classic black peppery, cherries, licorice and earth – tannic when young, but oh, so beautiful after 8 years or so.

The third winery to look for is Zenato, from Italy. Zenato specializes in Amarone and Valpolicella, both of which can be acquired tastes, although real red wine lovers will definitely appreciate them. The Amarone is high alcohol, almost overripe, and just amazing. The Valpolicella is made from dried grapes and has that nutty flavor to it…again, a beautiful wine.

Last winery? Giesen from New Zealand. They specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both of which are amazing. Even the regular bottles are extremely ripe, but the Reserves (called “The Brothers”) can be mindblowing. All are being poured this week.

So there you go…four wineries that haven’t been promoted, that you may not have heard of. But if you go taste their wines, you will not be disappointed.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BARBARESCO…THE “OTHER” PIEDMONT WINE

February 18, 2015

Now don’t get me wrong…I love Barolo. In fact, it is in my top five red wines, both because of the flavour profile, lack of oak, and the fact that it can age almost forever.

But it has never been cheap and, in the past few years…well, it has kind of gotten ridiculous! Most of the average wines are in the $70 range…the better wines $100+ and the really prestigious ones way more than that. It is to the point where I start to look at a $50 Barolo as a “good value” (and a very hard one to find at that).

Which brings me to Barbaresco.

Same grape (Nebbiolo), same flavour profile (dried cherries, earth, some herbs), and a better than average development period (8 – 10 years, although I have had 15 and 20 year wines that are gorgeous).

Not only that, Barbarescos can be less tannic when young, and you don’t need to wait as long to try your first bottle. With Barolo – from a good producer/vintage – I am really hesitant to try drinking the wine before it is 10 years old.

But Barbarescos can be nice at 8 years old, even 6.

Not that they can’t age as well! I had a 2005 Prunotto a few weeks back that was stunning, but still far from being fully mature. And some of the Riserva wines from Produttori del Barbaresco that I have had (Asili, Ovello, Ovello, Rabaja and Montestefano) have been amazing at both 15 and 20 years of age.

As for price?

Well, Barbaresco isn’t cheap either. But it can be $10 – $20 a bottle less than similar quality Barolos. The last vintages of the Riserva wines referenced above, for example, were $59 (for wines rated 93 – 95 by Robert Parker). And the “bargain” regular wine is still about $42 and – year in, year out – is rated 90 points or more. I have been drinking it since the 1986 vintage.

So if you like Nebbiolo-based wines (or Italian wines in general) and are looking for some reliable ones to put in your cellar for 8 – 15+ years, take a look at Barbaresco. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BARBARESCO – the “other” wine from Piedmont

January 24, 2013

I bought some Barbaresco for my cellar this week, which is what gave me the idea for this blog. As the sometimes “poor cousin” of the more notable – and expensive – Barolo, it has been a favourite of mine for many years.

Barbaresco is from the Piedmont region of Italy and made from the Nebbiolo grape (the same as Barolo). When I talk to people about this wine, I often say it is “red wine lover’s” wine. That’s because it is not big on jammy fruit, and it is also quite dry and tannic when it is young. So you have to really like this style, and be willing to cellar it for a while, to enjoy Barbaresco.

But if you have the patience, it can really pay off. After 8 – 10 years, the best wines – from good vintages – can become wonderfully complex. Dark purple turns to beautiful shades of brick; the nose has an amazing mixture of dried, earthy cherries, herbs and – with a few more years – even a port-like sweetness to it. In the mouth, you can find virtually no evidence of the oak these wines are aged in. Instead, there are smooth, soft dried cherries, fully ripe, but not jammy.

There are two things I like best about Barbaresco . The first is that it is one of the few wines that, at least for me, taste so much better after a dozen or so years of aging. “Old wine” can often be an acquired taste, but in this case you don’t get a dried out mouth of wood. Instead, there are these wonderfully complex aromas and flavours that go great with hearty stews, meats and hard cheeses.

The other reason I love Barbaresco is, relatively speaking, it’s a great cellar value. Now don’t get me wrong – I love its bigger brother Barolo as well. But most of the best Barolos are now in the $100+++ range. And that is out of my price range.

Barbarescos can be that expensive – Gaja made his reputation on them, and his are well over $100 a bottle. But many others aren’t.

Case in point, the ones I just bought. Produttori del Barbaresco is a cooperative that makes a regular wine and a number of vineyard designated reserve Barbarescos. The regular wine is great in its own right! I have been cellaring and drinking it since the 1986 vintage, and it is a solid bet for 8 – 10 years of development in the cellar. At $43 in Canada, that is a cellar bargain.

But the vineyard designated reserve wines are incredible! Asili, Ovello, Rabaj, Montestefano and others are all big, brooding Barbarescos that can easily last 15 years or more. In fact, a bottle of the 1985 Asili Riserva I had at age 20 was one of the greatest red wines I have ever drunk! Almost port-like in its richness, it was smooth and still ripe, with nothing dried out. Considering I bought it for $35 when it came out, that was amazing!

My most recent purchases have, alas, gone up quite a bit. The 2007 vintages of all these wines are now around $60. And while I am the first to agree that isn’t cheap, they remain the standard bearers for this wine. And with Parker giving them 94 – 95 points and a life expectancy of 20+ years, they will help me celebrate my retirement some day!

If you haven’t tried Barbaresco, buy the regular bottle and stash it away for a few years. I can almost bet – at age 8 or so – you will be amazed what it tastes like. And that will send you looking for the latest vintages of the Asili, Ovello, Rabaja and Montestefano!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com