Monthly Archives: January 2014

WinEvents: Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2014 & Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2014

Just a quick FYI to let our US-based readers know that, once again, the time has come for the two most important Italian wine fairs in the US: both Vinitaly International in association with Slow Wine 2014 and Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri US Tour 2014 are upon us.

VinItaly International 2014 - NYC

SlowWine 2014 - NYC

Vinitaly International/Slow Wine 2014 will take place in New York City on February 3, 2014 from 9:30am to 5:00pm at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th Street. Registration is limited to members of media and trade and is available on the Vinitaly International Website, along with the program of the event itself and that of the master classes.

Are you curious how the event was after all? Check out our post with the full coverage of the Vinitaly International/Slow Wine NYC 2014!

Should you wish to read my summary of Vinitaly International/Slow Wine 2013, please check out my post from last year.

Gambero Rosso - Tre Bicchieri World Tour 2014 - NYC

Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri US Tour 2014 will be in New York City on February 6, 2013 from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at the same venue as Vinitaly International/Slow Wine 2014, the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th Street. Even here, registration is limited to members of media and trade: more information is available on Gambero Rosso’s Website.

Are you also curious about how this event turned out to be? Check out our post with the full coverage of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2014!

Should you wish to read my summary of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri US Tour 2013 – NYC, please check out my post from last year.

I will be attending both events with Talk-A-Vino’s Anatoli (as I did last year) and this year we will be joined for the Vinitaly International/Slow wine event by The Winegetter’s Oliver! Should any of you plan on participating, please drop me a line in the comments section: it would be fun if we could get together!

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Wine Review: Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT 2009

Planeta ChardonnayToday’s review is of a Sicilian Chardonnay made by excellent Sicilian winemakers Planeta from whom we have previously reviewed their outstanding Nero d’Avola “Santa Cecilia” and their Syrah – specifically, today we are going to review PlanetaChardonnay Sicilia IGT 2009 ($35).

Will it be in the same league as their wonderful reds? Keep reading and let’s find out together! 🙂

The Bottom Line

Overall: What can I say… a spectacular wine and excellent value for money! A wonderful golden color, a sensuous, complex, multi-layered bouquet that strikes a perfect balance between fruity secondary aromas and delicate tertiary aromas, luscious on the palate with a kaleidoscope of delicious flavors; acidic, tasty and super long. This is a wine that should be tasted by those who are skeptical about Italian whites in general or about Chardonnay’s potential in warmer climates such as Sicily. Oh Man… This is a wine with the “wow” factor!

Rating: Spectacular and, needless to say, wholeheartedly Recommended! Spectacular – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Chardonnay is a white-berried variety that is indigenous to the French area between Lyon and Dijon, encompassing Burgundy and Champagne. The earliest documented mention of Chardonnay dates back to the late XVII century in the village of Saint Sorlin (today known as La Roche Vineuse) under the name “Chardonnet“, although the variety takes its name from the village of Chardonnay near the town of Uchizy in southern Burgundy.

DNA analysis showed that Chardonnay is a natural cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc.

Chardonnay Rose is a color mutation of Chardonnay, while Chardonnay Musque’ is a mutation with Muscat-like aromas.

Chardonnay is one of the most versatile and adaptable white grape varieties, which explains in part why it has been so extensively grown all over the world. Chardonnay grapes are generally high in sugar levels and do not have a dominant flavor of their own, so the wines made out of them tend to take on a variety of aromas depending on where the grapes are grown and how the wines are made. Thus Chardonnays run the gamut from subtle and savory to rich and spicy still wines as well as being one of the base wines for Champagne and other Classic Method sparkling wines.

Chardonnay is a typical international variety given how widely it is cultivated on a worldwide basis, from native France, to Italy, North and South America and Australia.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties in general, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Estate

Planeta’s Chardonnay is made out of grapes coming from the 51 HA Ulmo vineyard and the 42 HA Maroccoli vineyard (the latter situated at 1,475 ft/450 mt above sea level) within Planeta’s Ulmo estate, located near the town of Sambuca di Sicilia (Agrigento), on the western coast of Sicily. The density of the Chardonnay vines in the two vineyards is between 3,800 and 4,500 vines/HA.

Ulmo is the first and the oldest among Planeta’s current estates: it became operational in 1995, along with its winery, and it encompasses 93 HA of vineyards where ChardonnayMerlot, Grecanico, Nero d’Avola and Syrah are grown to make certain of the wines in the Planeta lineup, including their Chardonnay “supercru“.

Our Detailed Review

The Planeta, Chardonnay Sicilia IGT 2009 that I had was 13.5% ABV and retails in the US for about $35.

The wine was made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in Planeta’s Ulmo and Maroccoli vineyards (on which, see above for more information). It fermented for 15 days in French oak barrique barrels (50% new and 50% previously used ones) with the addition of selected yeasts.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, it poured a rich, golden color, thick when swirled.

On the nose, it was intense, delectably complex and excellent, with aromas of banana, melon, grapefruit, lemon, peach, hints of herbs (rosemary), hazelnut and minerals.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, warm, smooth; fresh and tasty. It was full-bodied and masterfully balanced, with intense and excellent mouth flavors of peach, lemon, almond, minerals, herbs and hints of acacia honey. Its finish was exquisitely long and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., wonderful to enjoy now, but it might be even better, more complex if it rests one or two more years in your cellar).

Saint Emilion Chronicles #6: Chateau de Ferrand, a Visit and a Wine Review

The wine tasting area of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

After a hiatus due to the winter holidays and the addition of cyclone Sofia 😉 to our family, it is time to resume our Saint Emilion series.

Today we will briefly talk about one of the Chateaux that we visited during our stay, namely Chateau de Ferrand, and I will review their Grand Vin, of which I brought a couple bottles home.

On a previous post, we have provided a general overview of the Saint Emilion wine region and its wine classification system: if necessary, take a look at it for a refresher.

Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

About the Producer and the Estate

Chateau de Ferrand is located near the town of Saint Emilion, on the right bank of the Dordogne river, not far from Bordeaux. The Chateau was founded in 1702 and since then it was remarkably owned by only two families: that of Elie de Bétoulaud, the founder, and since the XX century that of Baron Marcel Bich, the man who became world-famous for the inexpensive, disposable ballpoint pens which still bear an abbreviated version of his name, “Bic“.

The wine case storage area at Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

Incidentally, there are two interesting anecdotes regarding the Baron and the abbreviation of his name: (i) Baron Bich was actually Italian – he was born in 1914 in Turin and relocated to France when he was in his thirties and (ii) the decision to drop the “h” at the end of his name in the pen brand was reportedly due to commercial reasons, namely the concern of how the word “Bich” could sound when pronounced by English-speaking consumers… 😉

Nowadays, Chateau de Ferrand is managed by Pauline Bich Chandon-Moët, a descendant of Baron Marcel Bich who married Philippe Chandon-Moët, whom we have been fortunate enough to meet and chat a little bit with in the course of our visit.


The vineyards of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

The estate counts 32 HA of vineyards where Merlot is the dominating variety (75%), as is generally the case in Saint Emilion, followed by Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). The estate lies on a limestone plateau with clay-rich soils where the vines are planted at altitudes ranging from 150 to 330 ft (46 to 100 mt) above sea level. The average density reaches an impressive 7,000 vines/HA and the Chateau’s annual production is about 180,000 bottles.

Ripening Merlot grapes at the vineyards of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)About the Grapes

You can find out many cool facts about and the DNA profiling of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon by checking out our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Wine

Chateau de Ferrand is a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé wine: it was promoted to the status of Grand Cru Classé in the 2012 revision of the classification of the wines of Saint Emilion (for more information, see our previous post about it). It is made as a Bordeaux blend of the three varieties that grow in the estate. Although the percentages in the blend vary from vintage to vintage, by and large they are similar to those of the plantings that we mentioned above.

Interestingly, in the winemaking process, Chateau de Ferrand’s enologist uses a cutting-edge Italian-made destemmer and optical grape sorting machine called X-Tri to automatically sort the grapes worthy of their Grand Vin from those that are not up to standard. Should you wish to know more about this unbelievable machine (it can accurately sort about 15 tons of graps per hour!), check out the producer’s website, which also includes a pretty cool video demonstrating how it works.


The X-Tri optical grape sorter of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

The must then goes through a short 2-day pre-fermentative cold maceration phase to maximize the extraction of color and aromas, followed by approximately 10 days of fermentation with natural yeast in concrete vats and then full malolactic fermentation that is started naturally, by increasing the wine’s temperature (without adding any lactic acid bacteria).

Concrete fermentation tanks at Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

Finally, the wine ages for about 15-16 months in 60% new oak barrique barrels and 40% one-time used barriques (these are mostly French oak, with about 10% of US oak) plus 24 more months of in-bottle aging.


The barrique cellar at Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

Our Review

Based on my tasting of several vintages of the Grand Vin at the end of the visit (there is also a Second Vin called Le Différent de Châteaux de Ferrand), I decided that I liked 1999 the best, so that is the wine we are going to review today.

Hydraulic presses at Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

As always, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

Chateau de Ferrand, Saint Emilion Grand Cru AOC, 1999 ($35)


The wine tasting area of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé) with their resident sommelierThe wine was 13% ABV and the proportions of the blend were 83% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. In the U.S. it retails for about $35, while in France it retailed for €50. I decanted it for an hour before enjoying it.

In the glass, the wine was ruby red and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense and fine, although not particularly complex, with aromas of cherry, cocoa and black pepper.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, medium ABV, silky smooth; still moderately acidic, with velvety tannins and tasty; it was medium-bodied and wonderfully balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of cherry, raspberry, licorice and dark chocolate. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning to be enjoyed now as it will likely start declining if left to age longer.

Overall, the Chateau de Ferrand 1999 was a very good wine: despite its aromas being not particularly complex, the wine really won me over once it was in my mouth.  After 14 years of aging, its mouth flavors were still lively and elegant and the wine was perfectly integrated and cohesive, silky smooth and gently tannic, with still enough acidity to keep it alive and kicking – not for much longer though, so should you have a bottle in your cellar, I suggest you find a good reason to enjoy it now!

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)


The vineyards of Chateau de Ferrand (Grand Cru Classé)

Two Wines, Three Mysteries

StefanoRight before the winter holidays, creative fellow wine blogger Jeff (AKA The Drunken Cyclist) launched a fun initiative: a wine-based Secret Santa that he aptly renamed Secret Alcoholic. Basically, Jeff’s wife kindly took care of pairing each participant with a buddy Secret Alcoholic to whom one or two surprise bottles of wine could be shipped.

So, I mentioned in the title that there would be three mysteries to be solved – these are:

1. Who was my Secret Santa?

2. Which wines was she kind enough to send my way?

3. What did they taste like?

These three gripping mysteries worthy of Huckle Cat were all solved by the beginning of the New Year…

Right before Christmas, I received my package which, much to my 7 year old daughter’s delight, was nicely decorated with festive stickers, which led her to claim that the package “had to be” for her… 😉 After redirecting her to more age-appropriate presents, I opened the box and found a holiday card that solved mystery number 1: my Secret Santa was witty and ever pleasant to read Kirsten, AKA The Armchair Sommelier!

In a matter of seconds was mystery number 2 also solved: thoughtful and generous Kirsten had sent me two wines: a Viognier from her own State, Virginia, and one of her favorite Californian Syrahs, which is also a hard-to-get, wine-club-only red that has received some very positive attention from wine critics.

I very much appreciated the thought she put into selecting those wines: not only for her generosity in parting from and sharing with me a bottle of that exclusive Syrah, but also because she chose that Viognier to introduce me to one of the best expressions of that variety in Kirsten’s own State. I am all for promoting quality wines made from locally grown grapes, especially if they come from wine regions that are not as well known to the general public as others that enjoy widespread repute. So, way to go, Kirsten – I bow to you!

With Kirsten’s bottles in hand, solving mystery number 3 was only a question of waiting a few days before opening them and tasting their contents – just to make sure that they would recover from any bottle shock.

As is always the case for me with any wine, this was the most exciting mystery to unveil. Because no matter how well you may know a wine’s grape variety, the region it comes from, its environmental conditions, the producer or even previous vintages of that same wine, no matter all that, you may sure make your own educated guess about what to expect from it, but in the end you will always have to taste that specific bottle to appreciate all its subtle nuances.

To put it in the succinctly eloquent prose of fellow wine blogger Julia Bailey, who has devoted her own entry to Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6 (theme: Mystery) to this very topic: “It is simply impossible to know exactly what your wine will taste like until you pop that cork.” So true: if you want to learn more, I definitely suggest that you read Julia’s entry wherein she elaborates on several reasons why this is so.

As for me, time to wrap things up by sharing my tasting notes of the two wines. My tastings have been conducted in accordance with the ISA wine tasting protocol, but for brevity here I will not go through the entire step-by-step tasting process: I will only summarize the main characteristics of the wines and of course provide my own assessment.

Check out our Grape Variety Archive for cool facts about the Viognier and Syrah grape varieties, including their DNA analysis which suggests that they are relatives!

1. King Family Vineyards, Viognier Monticello 2012 (13% ABV – $22)

King Family Vineyards, Viognier Monticello 2012In the glass, it poured a nice straw yellow and was moderately viscous when swirled.

On the nose, it offered intense and pleasant aromas of yellow peach, apricot, pineapple, white flowers and hints of white pepper (a tertiary aroma suggesting some gentle oak aging).

In the mouth, the wine was smooth and exhibited only moderate acidity, which suggests that this wine should be enjoyed now. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with intense mouth flavors that matched the aromatic pattern perceived on the nose, and had a medium finish.

Overall, a good white with a nice bouquet and fruity mouth flavors, ending up in an intriguing, slight peppery finish. Not extraordinarily complex, but definitely pleasant.

Rating: Good Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Herman Story, Syrah “Nuts & Bolts” California 2009 (16% ABV – $45)

Herman Story, Syrah "Nuts & Bolts" California 2009In the glass, it poured ruby red and thick when swirled.

On the nose, it released an impressive array of intense and complex aromas of blackberry jam, wild berries, black cherry, tobacco, ground coffee, black pepper and licorice. A great bouquet that anticipated the “blackness” of this wine.

In the mouth, it immediately struck as a big, chewy, fruit-forward wine: its very high ABV (which nears the limits of alcoholic fermentation and pushes this wine to the highest step in the ISA scale of ABV perception: alcoholic) was tough for the wine’s good acidity and solid but unobtrusive tannins to counterbalance, also due to the wine’s not particularly high smoothness (I wonder whether it did full malolactic fermentation). This high ABV perception, that is clearly evident on the top of the palate, throws the wine a bit out of balance: given its good acidity, I would let it rest for two or three more years and then re-taste it.

The wine was full-bodied, exhibiting intense mouth flavors of blackberry, black cherry, plum, coffee, tobacco, dark chocolate, licorice and black pepper, which closely trailed the wine’s aromatic palette, and it had a medium to long finish.

Overall, I found the Nuts & Bolt somewhat of a “double-faced” wine: on the one hand, it had great, complex and intense bouquet and (if a little over the top) mouth flavors, but on the other hand, its very high alcohol (which its other qualities did not seem to effectively counter, at least at this stage of its life) made the wine feel a bit imbalanced. A few more years of aging may help make this wine more graceful.

Rating: Good (especially in perspective) Good – $$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Sofia

Sofia

To get the whole story about the cutest, furry addition to the family and see more photographs of her, please head over to Flora’s Table and read a very partial take on her!  😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Herculean Polar Bears

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) confronting one another in a snow storm

With winter storm Hercules being the first big storm to hit New England in 2014, two mere days into the New Year, it only seems appropriate that I share another image from my Polar Bear Gallery, portraying two Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fighting in a snow storm near Hudson Bay, in Canada’s Manitoba province: if you live in an affected area, stay warm! 🙂

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)