Friday, October 15, 2010

Chinese Wine?

Western wine markets see little Chinese wine, so little that many of us could be forgiven for thinking there was no such thing. But OF COURSE there is such a thing, and it took my brother in law's keen eye in the SAQ to pick up this offering (note: SAQ has 3 Chinese wines listed on their website).

Grape wine has been produced in China for millenia, although it seems to have gone in and out of fashion. Today there are over 800 wineries and the industry is experiencing double digit growth in production. China is now the world's sixth largest producer of grape wine (1), and according to a recent report (The Future of Wine, by UK wine merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd) could produce wine to 'rival the best of Bordeaux'. (2)

The Bordeaux reference fits nicely, as my introduction to Chinese wine begins with Cabernet Sauvignon. Holy Green Pepper, Batman! The 2006 Dragon's Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon was so green peppery that it took a little while for some other notes to reveal themselves - some Cocoa and cheese rind, green wood, and dark fruit in the background - but not a great nose. The odd nose did not carry to the palate - very smooth, but also very vegetal and tart. I think my bro-in-law summed it up: "Tastes ok, but smells bad".
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 13/20
Price: C$14.75 (SAQ)

My take - young vines, probably picked early, which is unsurprising in an industry experiencing such growth (i.e. lots of new plantings) - I have noticed this with young vineyards in Canada and the U.S.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Looking for Piemontese Terroir

Enough talk (1,2) about Barolo and Barbaresco, it is time to tell you how the tasting went.

So, was our group of five tasters, blinded, able to correctly divine the thread of terroir in this small selection of top Piemontese offerings? Well, no. In fact none of our group paired the two Barolos and two Barbarescos together, although two of us put the 1998 and 2000s together. (does vintage trump terroir in Piemonte?)

But there was no disappointment tonight, as we collectively enjoyed some tremendous wines:

On our left was the 2000 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. A nose of sour cherries, vanilla and some metallic notes, the fruit turning darker as the wine opened up...but always delicate and light, somewhat reserved vs. other Sandrone Barolos I have tasted. Dry, sour cherries mingled with fine tannins on the palate - delicate and very well balanced, yet with tremendous length and presence. Such elegance could only be the product of Luciano Sandrone.
14.5% alcohol, Score: 18/20

The 1998 Marchesi di Barolo Sarmassa was a revelation. Enjoyed previously, but I didn't expect it to show so well amongst such illustrious peers. A nose of vanilla and black cherries, roses, a dash of black pepper and metallic notes (characteristic of both barolos tonight). Silky smooth with substantial tannins and a beautiful, never-ending finish. Bravo! (I thought it was a Barbaresco)
14.5% alcohol, Score: 18.5/20

Another terrific effort tonight was the 1998 Prunotto Barbaresco Bric Turot. Very flinty on the nose, with vanilla and cinnamon, some tar and black pepper ... late appearing notes of almonds and cooked cherries signalled an older wine. Very dry, with soft velvety tannins and a slight metallic aftertaste. A beautiful long finish, simply gorgeous, and very Barbaresco.
13.5% alcohol, Score: 18/20

The 2000 Moccagatta Barbaresco Bric Balin was the odd wine of the evening, and the only one everyone was completely wrong on. A stark nose - tarry, very tarry in fact, with noticeable oakiness, black earth, tobacco and cheese rind. While the first three wines were tremendously polished, the Moccagatta was tart, tannic and harsh, kinda "in your face". Crisp, with a very, very, long finish - it certainly has the acid and the tannins for aging - I think I will open my other bottle in another 10 years.
14% alcohol, Score: 17.5/20 So we didn't find terroir tonight, as the relative harshness of the Moccagatta screamed "young Barolo" and left everyone looking elsewhere for Barbaresco. Tonight I paired the 1998s and the 2000s together, which made me think that our research would have been better served by removing a variable and pouring wines from the same vintage...

Finally, I should mention the 2001 Pio Cesare Barbera "Fides" that served as our "starter wine" tonight, beautiful, as always (1,2).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Fast Facts: Barolo and Barbaresco

Source: Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Roero

Despite the near legendary status of these Piemontese wine regions, it is actually very difficult to find good stats in books or on the web. Just as these monstrous wines are slow to reveal their secrets, so too is the producer consortium, it appears, which seems ok with an Italian-language only website...

Hopefully these quick facts will save you some searching:

(awarded DOC in 1966, promoted to DOCG in 1980)
Langhe hills southwest of Alba
Eleven communes: Barolo, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglio Falletto, Novello, Grinzane Cavour, Verduno, Diano d’Alba, Cherasco, Roddi
Varieties: 100% Nebbiolo
Vineyard Area: 1714 ha / 4286 acres
Production: 10 million bottles
Aging: Three years minimum (at least two years in oak), five years for Riservas

(awarded DOC in 1966, promoted to DOCG in 1980)
Rolling hills east and northeast of Alba
Three communes: Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso
Varieties: 100% Nebbiolo
Vineyard Area: 680 ha / 1680 acres
Production: approx. 2.5 million bottles
Aging: Two years minimum (at least one year in oak), four years for Riservas

Soils in the Barolo/Barbaresco region are predominantly limestone-rich marls. Note that there are over 800 producers in the two regions, with an average vineyard size of just 5 acres, and average annual production of just 10,000 bottles!

Sources: Oxford Companion to Wine, Vino Italiano, Wikipedia and other

(PS - consider this post a work in progress - please feel free to share any sites/books that could fill in some additional details)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Danger, Wine Tasting

My daughter had a warning for my guests last night. No need to worry, no one was Tazer-ed who didn't deserve it.