Master Class Bordeaux with Fiona Morrison MW

The alumni association of sommeliers-conseil organised a master class with Fiona Morrison, Master of Wine (MW), on Bordeaux. And I had the pleasure of being there. Not only does Fiona Morrison hold the most prestigious title in the wine world, she is also married to Jacques Thienpont, the Belgian owner of some of the most famed estates in Bordeaux, such as Château Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan, and l’If. That makes her very well placed to talk about Bordeaux, obviously, but also about the wine culture of the Belgians, as she lives and works in Belgium.

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Jacques Thienpont, Fiona Morrison MW, Cyrille Thienpont ©Château Le Pin

One of the first things she learned after coming to Belgium was that good wine for Belgians means red wine, and Bordeaux… Yes, generally speaking, we do have a classical taste. Belgium is even the biggest importer of right-bank Bordeaux, beating China, Germany and the US! It actually makes you wonder why we so often describe our life style as “Burgundian”… Continue reading “Master Class Bordeaux with Fiona Morrison MW”

Pear meets flint

Only three days left before I go to Burgundy for a weekend of pinot noir showers and sucking snails out of their shells. But a promise is a promise. I told you I would come back to you before I go to Burgundy with a hidden gem from Italy. And it’s a white one for that matter! I still hear people saying from time to time that Italy does not make good white wine. I agree that Italy is mostly known for its majestuous reds, but wouldn’t it be weird, to say the least, that a country that challenges France for the biggest wine production, and that has an enormous diversity of autochtonous grapes, did not produce good white wine?!

Friuli is a region that some of you might already know as a region that produces elegant whites. But the wine I want to share with you today comes from Campania. That is not another family member of Donald Trump, but the region around Naples. That’s pretty far south to make white wine, you might think. And yet, this is a region that actually produces more than one white that merits your attention, such as Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina. But today’s wine is a Greco di Tufo, Loggia della Serra 2015, produced by Terredora Di Paola : the nose is absolutely breathtaking with ripe pear, but it’s especially the minerality, the flint, that adds a layer of finesse and playfulness. A little bit of je ne sais quoi, to use a beautiful Italian expression… The acidity in this wine balances the ripe fruit so beautifully that it is literally mouthwatering, making you grab your glass instantly for more. If you can find this wine, do try it out! You will not be disappointed, nor will you be bust, as this little beauty only costs around 12€…

The people behind this wine are no strangers. Terredora is one of the most well-known wineries in Campania, created by Walter Mastroberardino in 1993. If this name rings a bell, don’t look too far. Walter is the brother of Antonio Mastroberardino, who leads the winery Mastroberardino, probably the most important winery of the region. Walter and Antonio went their separate ways after a dispute, and Walter named his winery after his wife, Dora di Paola.

If only all family feuds led to such great results…

 

Weingut Günther Steinmetz in the Mosel

I was in the Mosel Valley, Germany, in November last year. For family holidays in the first place. But if you’re reading this, chances are high that also you choose your holiday destinations in a way that you can visit a winery or two… Everybody happy (that’s what I tell myself), win win for sure!
And even if you don’t like Mosel wines, the region is absolutely beautiful. Think of the most picturesque wine landscapes you can think of. Well, that’s the Mosel valley. Vineyards as far as you can see, crawling up some of the steepest hillsides I’ve ever seen in a wine region. Only to be interrupted by tiny white villages here and there. Impressive!IMG_0786
The Mosel is riesling land, of course. And even though I like riesling, I never really had a chance to explore riesling in great detail. All the more reason why I definitely wanted to squeeze in a visit or two. I visited the wineries of Markus Molitor and Gunther Steinmetz. I will tell you more about the stunning tasting I had at Molitor’s another time, because today I had my first riesling of Gunther Steinmetz since my visit in November. It was the 2015 Kestener Paulinshofberg. 2015 is hailed as a very good vintage, combining ripeness with good acidity. So I was happy of course that I could sample the 2015 Rieslings at Günther Steinmetz’. For your information, don’t look for Günther in case you visit. It’s his son Stefan who’s in charge now and who makes the wines. I saw Stefan on his way out when I arrived, because there was work to be done in the vineyard. It was All Saints’ Day, so most people don’t work then, but that’s not the case for winemakers. When there’s work in the vineyard, it’s need to be done! IMG_0669So I tasted his wines with Sammie, his wife. Sammie is actually American and quite new to the wine business. But she obviously learned really fast. I was impressed by her knowledge, and I had a great tasting. My German is lousy, by the way, so that was very convenient…
Before I go further, let me just share today’s experience with the Kestener Paulinshofberg. When I tasted it in November, it was still a bit closed, so I was happy today to see that it had opened up quite a bit. The nose was very fine, with mineral aromas and pine apple at the first sniff. But more came out after a little while, with lemon, aniseed, spring flowers, orange zest and sage. Yes, sage! I think that’s the first time I spontaneously smell that in a wine. Lovely nose. The wine confirms what I had read about the vintage : ripe fruit, but also very fresh. The tension that I love in Riesling was also nicely present here. Not a very long finish, but a wine I really enjoyed with the Asian style salmon we had for dinner. The great thing about this wine is that you get bang for your buck. This bottle cost 12,50€ at the winery. And that’s what I like so much about the wines of Stefan. They are pretty darn good, and they don’t set you back too much. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the wines of Markus Molitor. Outstanding for sure, but a bit more expensive…
I will not go through all my tasting notes but just give you my favorites :

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  • Dhroner Hofberg 2015 : another price/quality stunner. At first there was animality in the nose, but then came beautiful aromas of grapefruit, wisteria and honeysuckle. Not completely dry, but good acidity to balance the wine. 11€.
  • Wintricher Ohligsberg GW 2015 : White pepper, a bit timid still, but then also citrus coming through, a touch of safran, and a hint of petrol. This is still young, but great potential. I expect this to age nicely. Can’t wait to see how this will turn out in a few years. 17€.
  • Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese 2015 : This was Sammie’s personal favorite and I had no problem seeing why. While the nose is still a bit reductive, it is also very subtle, with a hint of petrol beginning to come through. The wine is creamy, rich, with pine apple and again great acidity to keep this wine in balance. Even though this is a Spätlese (generally a sweeter style), the freshness of the wine is beautiful. Everything I expect from a Riesling. 15,50€.

So in a nutshell : the wines of Stefan Steinmetz are really beautiful. He makes more dry wines than sweet wines, but I liked both, the sweet wines being real charmers! The wines were still very young, but I expect them to evolve really nicely, developing more depth and complexity. I will tell you in a couple of years how they turned out. If I will be able to wait that long…

Hopefully, Stefan will keep his prices at this level. His wines receive very positive reviews and are being served in New York restaurants. So I’m obviously not the only one who appreciates his wines. Time will tell. In the meantime, I got myself a little stash…

 

 

 

Cool climate vs Cool climate

I’m a big fan of pinot noir. The elegance, complexity, classiness that this single grape can produce is simply enchanting. Many wine amateurs rave about pinot noir, and I am not an exception. A practical thing I like about pinot noir is that many can be drunk relatively young, and the entry-level wines even upon release. Not having a cellar where I can tuck away a few hundred bottles for the next 10 to 20 years, that helps! Of course I’m not talking about Grand Crus from Burgundy or top pinot noirs from other wine regions, which do need extensive cellaring. But you get the gist… Continue reading “Cool climate vs Cool climate”

Elegance in Etna Rosso

 

I said in my first post that I want to focus on not so well-known grapes and regions, trying to find those hidden gems that many of us are after. I’m not sure to what extent Etna Rosso is still a hidden gem, as these wines from Sicily are attracting more and more attention. But still, they are not that obvious to find, and for most people Etna Rosso is therefore uncharted territory. High time to change that, I daresay!

The reason why Etna Rosso caught my attention is because there is something quite unique about these wines. When I think of Sicily, I think of hot and dry weather! The distance between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia is about 155km. So you would expect full-bodied, sometimes alcoholic wines, reflecting the weather conditions. And such wines can indeed be found there. Think of Nero d’Avola. Well, I can assure you that Etna Rosso wines have very little in common with that style of wine. The illustrious nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio produce rather elegant, fresh, and sometimes also very structured wines.

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Picture courtesy of Etna Wine Lab

Continue reading “Elegance in Etna Rosso”

Hidden gems in Gaillac

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One of the things I want to write about on this blog are grapes or wine regions that are not well known, but that sometimes harbour hidden gems. Well, here is one of those : Domaine de Brousse. They are based in Gaillac, a French region that is still not very well known. And yet, you can find almost every style of wine here : dry white, rosé and red, with every year also “nouveaux” wines (as in Beaujolais), semi-sparkling wine (“perlé”), sparkling wine “méthode ancestrale” (interrupted fermentation), and sweet white wine. That doesn’t make it any easier to market your wines, of course. Things get even more confusing if you look at the bigger picture : Gaillac is one of many appellations of France’s South-West, where there are many different grapes, resulting in very different styles of wine. And in fact, Gaillac is closer to the Mediterranean than the Atlantic. So much for being part of the South-West… But don’t let that put you off. As I’ve experienced myself, those who dare venture into something new will be rewarded!

I’ve discovered Domaine de Brousse at the wine fair of independent vignerons in Lille, France. I was impressed by their reds. The entry level wine, Origine, is made of Braucol and Duras, two local grapes. The domaine wine is aged in wooden barrels and is made of Braucol and Syrah. Braucol is the name of the grape in Gaillac, but it is to be found in several appellations in the South-West, such as Marcillac, where it is known as Mansois, or in Béarn, under the name Pinenc. And it also known in general as Fer Servadou. Again not simple… For Duras it’s easier : Duras is Duras, and it is also a local grape that can be found in some of the appellations of the South-West. Instead of telling you what literature says about the typical aromas of these grapes, I will let the wines speak for themselves…

Origine 2014 (70% braucol and 30% duras)
Transparent red. Beautiful ripe red fruit, some herbs, very fine and elegant nose. The acidity here is just right, keeping the wine nicely fresh and well-balanced. The tannins are very mild. This wine made me think of the juiciness I often get in Crozes-Hermitages, but two fellow wine freaks with whom I tasted this wine also linked this wine with the freshness of a Cabernet Franc, the lushious fruit of a Beaujolais, or even an Italian wine, because of the acidity. For me, this shows that this wine is not easy to compare to anything else, and really has its own profile. I really like this wine because of the great drinking pleasure it gives, and… because it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. I bought this bottle for 7€ at the wine fair. This is not the wine you will find in many wine critics’ lists. Why? Because the appellation is not known, because the winery is not known, and probably also because this is not a “big” wine. And if they had reviewed it, this would have been the kind of wine that disappears in the anonymous ocean of wine scores where people don’t look if it’s not 90 or more. That’s why I find it important to say that this wine gives me great satisfaction.

Domaine de Brousse 2014 (50% braucol and 50% syrah)
on day one I had mostly cherries and a bit of wood. Not bad at all, but it had quite a modern and international feel. I was a bit disappointed actually. On day two the wood had integrated more and the ripe strawberries from the Origine started to show here as well. It’s only on day 3 (!), however, that this wine showed its full potential, displaying cherries, a bit of cassis, ripe strawberries, even minerality reminiscent of certain Beaujolais, and some herbs. Velvety mouthfeel, ripe tannins. Great length also, and the intensity of the fruit in the final is remarkable. I had almost given up, but was very happy to have one glass left of this wine on day three! I will keep my remaining bottles of this one tucked away in a dark corner for a couple of years.

So, if you have a chance to pick up one of these bottles from Domaine de Brousse, do give it a chance. You will see that it pays off to leave the beaten track behind.