Friday, October 28, 2005

Silly Tasting Notes

I just came into a fun website called the Silly Tasting Notes Generator, and for a while, could not stop myself from playing with it. I was amazed at how close these notes were to reality.

Let's guess: which one is from the Wine Spectator, and which one isn't:

A plump, rich and creamy style, with ripe fig, hazelnut and buttery flavors, and pretty glimpses of anise, pear and tangerine. Drink now through 2005.

Wholly obtuse but equally big and plump Port. Attacks with fig, complex and stunning cocoa and weak orange peel. Drink now through 2009.

Actually, this stunning similarity is not a surprise considering the way the generator works. The notes are generated by a script, which randomly picks wine aroma and flavor terms selected from real Wine Spectator tasting notes.

Of course, when you turn on the Extra-Silly mode, it gets totally wacky:

Premature but equally putrid Chenin Blanc. Whispers of cheetos, ripe coconut suntan oil and hopeful orange jello. Drink now through 2004.

Who said that wine was a serious matter?

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Purple Liquid in the Top 10 Sources for Wine Reviews!

Top 10 Sources for Wine_ReviewsTopTenSources publishes a daily "Top 10" site of the best newsfeeds on the Internet. And today, big surprise, I just learned that I was part of their 10 top sources for wine reviews! They also announced two other wine-related winning lists: wine news and commentary and regional wine, which means that a total of 30 wine blogs have been recognized as great source of information on wine. Congratulations everybody!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Course on Italian wines at Incanto: a sweet ending

Our last wine class at Incanto was about Dessert Wines. It seems to me that every Italian wine region is making its own dessert wines, from the very far north all the way to Pantelleria Island, which is at the latitude of the north coast of Africa. Some are fresh, light and gently fizzy and others are opulent and luscious, but one thing is sure: there is no better way to end a fine Italian dinner!

Vineyard on Pantelleria Island

We started our tasting with a Moscato d'Asti. This low alcohol, semi-sparkling wine is made from the Moscato grape that grows on cool, steep hillsides between the Piemontese towns of Asti and Cuneo. Fermentation occurs until an alcohol level of 5.5 percent is reached, and then stopped by a filtration that removes any remaining live yeasts. The level of sweetness can be adjusted by the addition of unfermented must. The 2004 Moscato di Asti Sori del Re De Giorgis had a light straw color and an aromatic flowery nose with notes of pears and white peaches. On the palate, it was refreshing and lightly sparkling with a good acid/sweetness balance. The finish was clean and crisp. This is a good easy-going aperitif wine to drink well chilled.

Our second wine was a Lambrusco Reggiano. This is a locally popular wine from Emilia-Romagna. Thanks to its fizziness, this lively red wine is good at cleaning the mouth during a meal consisting of the region's rich food, pork-based dishes and meat ragout. At first, I did not like the Lambrusco Reggiano Rosso Dolce Lo Duca. It had a pruny and earthy nose that was hard for me to describe. On the palate, it started sweet, and finished dry, with more earthy and herby tones. After a couple of sips, though, I kind of got used to the wine, and could well imagine eating some mortadella, panchetta, and prosciutto with it.

Our next wine was the 2002 I Capitelli Anselmi from the Veneto's Suave region. Roberto Anselmi is a passionate winemaker that believes that Soave's DOC laws promote over-production and mediocre quality. In 2000, he made the bold decision to produce his wines outside the Soave Appellation. I Capitelli is made from 100% Garganega grapes grown in the low-yielding I Capitelli vineyard. After a rigorous selection during harvest and again at the winery, the grapes are dried in a well-ventilated room. By December, the grapes are affected by botrytis (or noble rot), and in February, they are pressed and barrel fermented in French oak barriques for 16 months followed by a year in bottle. The wine had a deep golden color with an intense nose of pineapple and mango. On the palate, it was amazingly fresh and lively, yet opulent, with caramel and pineapple jam flavors, followed by a long, lingering finish. We thought about having an upside down pineapple cake with it.

The next wine was a Vin Santo del Chianti Classico. Symbol of Tuscan joviality and hospitality, Vin Santo has been produced in Tuscany since the 14th century. The wine is made from dried Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. After a selection of the best bunches, the grapes are dried for about four months on mats and racks. Then, vinification and aging is carried out in small barrels called caratelli during 3 to 4 years. The barrels, which are not completely full, are exposed to varying temperatures, hot in the summer, cool in the winter, which produces wines with distinct oxidized and nutty aromas. The 1995 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Fattoria di Felsina had an attractive dark golden color, cherry liqueur aromas with toasty wood, cherry pit, and almond notes, and some burnt sugar flavors on the finish. This wine should go very well with an almond cake or the traditional almond biscotti.

With our last wine, we moved to the Pantelleria island, the southernmost territory of Italy, closer to the Tunisian coast than to Italy. The island produces a sweet wine called Passito di Pantelleria made from dried Zibibbo (Muscat) grapes. It is believed that Passito di Pantelleria was invented by the Punicians who also founded Carthage. Zibibbo is the principal grape that grows in the island. Its name comes from the Arab word zibib, which means grape. To dry the grapes and increase sugar concentration, clusters are arranged on a bed of stones and wood, a cannizza, where they are exposed to the sun during the day, and protected from the dew with a cover during the night. This way, the grapes are dried in just a few days. The 2001 Passito di Pantelleria Fernandes had a deep amber color and a rich nose with citrus notes. On the palate, it showed intense dried apricot flavors and a bittersweet finish of candied kumquat. This wine is truly delicious with the brown sugar date torta with orange crème fraîche and maple syrup that is offered in the restaurant's dessert menu.

More on Italian wines:
• Sparkling Wines
• The North
• Tuscany
• Piedmont
• South and Islands

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Monday, October 24, 2005

The Vineyard by Louisa Thomas Hargrave

I have been captivated by Louisa Thomas Hargrave's memoir, The Vineyard. This is a heartwarming tale about two young dreamers who wanted to grow grapes and make wine on an old Long Island potato farm. They were also pioneers, defying the widely accepted thought that Vitis Vinifera could not grow in that region.

With Louisa, we learn the hardships and joys of frontier life, exactly like young Louisa, avidly following the trail of Laura Ingalls Wilder: constant challenges like drought, storms, weeds, certified pants riddled with virus, accidents, bureaucratic nightmares, but also joyful events like giving birth, sharing food with neighbors, dancing in the fermenting wine must. And sometimes the wildest dream comes true:

“I put my nose over the wine and inhaled deeply. The tears started coursing down my face. I could not speak. This time, I was crying for joy. We had made the wine I had imagined us making. The wine of my dreams was in our barrel, in our winery.&rdquo

I wish I could have tasted Louisa and Alex Hargrave's wine at the time. It looked so special. But I am glad that Louisa shared her memories with us in this precious book.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Course on Italian wines at Incanto: The South and Islands

The Italian South and Islands was the theme of our fifth wine class at Incanto.

Vineyard in Sicily

We started our tasting with Sardinia, the second largest Mediterranean island after Sicily. It is located off the west coast of Italy, just south of the French island of Corsica. Vines have been growing on the island since pre-Roman times. Over the centuries, viticulture and winemaking have been influenced by many foreign cultures, Spain being the most influential country. Sardinia's most important varietals, such as Cannonau ( Grenache), Monica and Vermentino, have all been imported from Spain during the Spanish domination of the island. Geographically, Sardinia consists mostly of mountainous plateaus made of granite and volcanic rocks with most vineyards being planted in the hills and flatlands.

We tasted two wines from Sardinia. The white wine was a Vermentino di Gallura, an appellation located on the northern side of the island. This is one of the only four Italian DOCG. The finesse of the grape is said to come from the combination of heat and marine winds, and from the richness of the soil made of decomposed granite. The 2003 Cantina Gallura Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Canayli had a golden color, an aromatic nose of dried herbs, a fat, nutty mouthfeel and a mineral, almost salty finish. The perfect wine to accompany grilled sardines.

The second Sardinian wine was a red wine from the Cannonau di Sardegna appellation. Cannonau thrives in Sardinia's Mediterranean climate and accounts for 20% of the island wine production. The 2001 Contini Cannonau di Sardegna 'Inu had a forward nose of sweet berries. It was medium-bodied and supple on the palate with fruity aromas, and a smooth and well-balanced aftertaste.

We moved to Campania for the other white wine of the tasting. The region, home to the world-renowned Bay of Naples and the threatening Mount Vesuvius, is bordered on the north by Latium and Molise, to the east by Apulia, to the south by Basilicata, and to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is also the gateway to Southern Italy. It is said that if the south of Italy has become one of the most exciting wine areas of the world, then Campania is the most exciting part of it.

Campania has a long history of viticulture. When the Greek discovered the region in the 8th Century BC, they called it Enotria or Wineland. Local grapes such as Greco, Grecanico, Grechetto and Aglianico, may have a Greek origin (in fact, maybe not).

The best vineyards are found around the town of Avellino, on the slopes of the Apennine chain where the volcanic soil is rich with minerals and the Mediterranean sun is cooled down by winds coming from the mountains. This region is at the heart of the Campania Apennines and is sometimes called the Switzerland of the South. It is home to Campania's best wines including the red Taurasi, often called the Barolo of the south, and the white Greco di Tufo.

The wine we tasted was a Fiano di Avellino, the third DOCG of the region. The 2003 Feudi Di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino is made from Fiano, a varietal that the Romains called Apiano because bees (apis in Latin) are attracted by the sweet aromas of the grape. The wine had a bright golden color and an attractive floral nose with fresh pear and apple aromas. It was medium-bodied with smoky and spicy flavors on the palate and quite complex on the finish. It should go well with a Mediterranean fish stew.

Our next wine came from Apulia, the region that is at the heel of the Italian boot. Apulia competes with Sicily for first place as grape producer. For a long time, most of its wines were shipped north to Turin to make Vermouth, or to France to add color and weight to lighter French reds. However, in recent years, production has scaled back and many vintners are now focusing on quality.

The traditional wines of this area are the powerful inky reds made from Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia Nera. We tasted the 2003 La Corte Solyss Negroamaro made from the Negroamaro grape. In Italian, Negroamaro means black bitter and in fact, I found some bitter cocoa flavors on the finish. The wine had a fresh and fruity nose and tasted peppery on the palate.

Our tasting of the South ended with Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean sea. Sicily has more vineyards than any other Italian region and a reputation for bulk wine. But recently, like in Apulia, production has been decreasing and a push for quality has developed.

Sicily has a long history of making sweet wines. In the late 18th century, English merchant traders created Marsala and Sicily became a major source of fortified wine. Dessert wines still account for about 90% of the total DOC production but an increasing amount of lighter, fruitier wines is produced by quality-conscious vintners. Although Sicilian producers are expanding their use of international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, the island is home to distinctive native grapes such as Nero d'Avola, Frappato, and Grecanico. We tasted the 2002 Valle dell'Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is a blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola. The wine had an ample nose of black berries and prunes, felt warm with flavors of stewed fruits and some acidity on the palate, and had notes of caramel on the finish.

More on Italian wines:
• Sparkling Wines
• The North
• Tuscany
• Piedmont

Coming next week: The dessert wines.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

1-2-3-4 White Wine Cake and Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco

Recently, a good friend of mine gave me a recipe for a white wine cake. The presence of white wine in a cake was intriguing and since I had some eggs in the refrigerator that were close to their expiration date, I decided to try the recipe right away.

Making the cake was as easy as counting 1-2-3-4. Mix 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. Then add 1 cup of white wine, 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 4 teaspoons of baking powder. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F et voilà!

Wondering which white wine I should use, I searched the web and found a recipe that seemed to indicate that this kind of cake originated in Alsace. The recipe recommended to use a Edelzwicker wine. Edel means noble and zwicker means blend so Edelzwicker is usually a blend of two to three noble Alsatian varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and Sylvaner. It is actually a rarity in Alsace where almost all the wines are varietal wines. The wine is usually used for cooking or mixed with cassis liqueur and drank as an aperitif.

I did not have any Edelzwicker wine so I used a Alto Adige Pinot Bianco from Alois Lageder, which, I think, was close enough. We drank the remaining of the wine with the cake that I served with a red berry sauce made of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The cake was light and fluffy and the wine was rather pleasant and a good match for the cake and the slightly acidic sauce. The nose was mild, mineral, with notes of apple, and the palate was light- to medium-bodied with a crisp and fresh aftertaste.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Course on Italian wines at Incanto: Piedmont

The third session of the Italian wines course, organized by Incanto, was about Piedmont. This westernmost region of Italy borders France and Switzerland on the other side of the Alps. In fact, Piemonte means foot of the mountain because the region is almost encircled by the Alps. Winters are cold and snowy, summers are warm and dry, and during the harvest season, the weather is often cool and foggy. However, the region produces a high percentage of very distinctive wines, mostly red.

Piedmont is often called the Burgundy of Italy. It is famous for its family-owned, artisanal winemaking, as well as its great cuisine, featuring game, porcini and white truffles. The Piedmontese are people who strongly respect tradition, good craftsmanship, and are completely devoted to native varietals.

The morning of the class, I unfortunately woke up with a cold. My nose was congested during the class and I sadly sensed that I was missing a lot of the flavors of the wines we tasted.

Our first wine was a white wine from the Roero appellation, which is located in southeastern Piedmont, between the town of Alba and Asti. Roero makes a certain amount of aromatic white wines from the native Arneis grape. Aged in stainless steel, the 2003 Roero Arneis Recit Monchiero Carbone showed a golden color and a lively citrus nose. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, dry and nutty. A very pleasant wine.

Our second wine was a red wine from the native Barbera grape. Barbera is vigorous and productive, and thus, Piedmont's most widely planted grape. Barbera d'Alba, around the town of Alba, and Barbera d'Asti, around Asti, are the two major appellations making 100% Barbera wines. Barbera is sometimes compared to Sangiovese. It is a high-acidity, low-tannin grape that is very food-friendly. The 2002 Barbera d'Asti Camp du Rouss Luigi Coppo was deep garnet red in color. I found it medium-bodied, peppery and spicy with some vanilla notes, but not very fruity, and with a lively acidity on the finish.

The following wine showcased Dolcetto, another popular Piedmontese grape. Dolcetto produces fruity wines, low in tannin, high in acidity, which should be drank young. It means little sweet one because of the sweetness of the grape juice. The 2003 Dolcetto d'Alba Rousori Icardi had a dark-pink/purple color with a mild nose. On the palate, it was round and milky, with a rather short finish. But I found the wine very enjoyable and I liked the soft texture it left in the mouth.

The two remaining red wines were from the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo is one of the world's noblest red varietal, and it can produce rich and long-lived wines, with substantial tannins. The origin of the name is uncertain but some suggests that it comes from nebbia which means fog in Italian, while others think that it comes from nobile, meaning noble. Nebbiolo accounts for only 3% of Piedmont's wine production: the late-ripening grape is difficult to grow, some say harder than Pinot Noir, and it requires the best soils and best exposures, which means hilltops and south-facing slopes.

The most prestigious areas producing Nebbiolo wines are Barolo, southwest of Alba, and Barbaresco, east of Alba. Barbaresco wines are usually regarded as more elegant and refined while Barolos are thought to be more robust and longer-lived.

We first tasted the 2000 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco. The wine had a brick red color and an attractive forward nose. The palate was concentrated with some earthy and sweet fruit flavors. The finish was well balanced with some lively acidity. A very fine wine.

In comparison, the 2001 Barolo Mauro Molino had a powerful nose and a lot of concentration and richness on the palate. The wine was still tannic with some vanilla notes and a long lingering aftertaste. This was, without any doubt, the best wine of the tasting.

We ended the class on a light sparkling note. The 2004 Birbèt Cascina Ca'Rossa is an amazing low-alcohol (5%), sweet red sparkling wine made from Brachetto, another Piedmontese grape. The wine had a bright ruby-pink color and was full of berry aromas. On the palate, the bubbles were light and fresh. It reminded me of a Kir royal, a cocktail made with sparkling wine and crème de cassis. Everybody loved the wine... and the class!

More on Italian wines:
• Sparkling Wines
• The North
• Tuscany

Coming next week: The south and islands

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cellaring: Myths and Realities

The other day, my friend asked me whether she should buy a wine refrigerator for her 50 or so bottles collection. This type of appliance costs at least $500, so is it really worth the spending? For the same amount of money, she could add a case of some excellent Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to her collection. So I advised her to rather find a dark and cool space at her home, such as a closet, a crawlspace, or even a place under the bed. But are these places good enough? What are the right ingredients for good wine storage conditions - knowing that a majority of the wines will likely be consumed within a couple of years of release?

The conventional wisdom advises that wines should be kept at a constant temperature of 55°F (13°C), a humidity level of 70%, and with no vibration, no light and no odor. The science of wine ageing is poorly understood but, in his book Making Sense Of Wine, Matt Kramer offers some good technical explanations for why these requirements are unfounded or, on the contrary, totally justified.

Humidity: according to the common wisdom, humidity is required to keep the cork moist. Matt Kramer argues that it only applies to wood barrels, which were commonly used in private cellars in the 1800s and early 1900s. Wood barrels are porous and a high humidity keeps the wood moist and reduces the amount of evaporation through the pores of the wood. On the contrary, a good cork, compressed to half its size in a bottle, adheres to the glass with a barnaclelike grip. Therefore, the moisture present in the air affects only a tiny portion of the cork, which is too little to change the adherence of the cork to the bottle.

Vibration and movement: traditional thinking contends that continual or chronic vibrations are harmful to wine. In his book, Matt Kramer refers to some studies made at UC Davis by Dr Simpleton, showing that vibrations have little consequence on wine. Dr Simpleton concluded that “the only bad feature about vibration is possibly in dispersing sediments.” Here again, the possibly harmful effect of movement seems to only apply to wine in barrels. Because the wood is porous, oxidation increases when the wine is shaken. This is the famous case of these Bordeaux wines, originally tough and tannic, traveling to the Indies aboard sailing ships and coming back, miraculously fully mature and ready to drink. This started a trend in the 1800s to build devices that would agitate the wine and give it a mature taste called “Retour des Indes” or “Return from the Indies”.

Temperature: The effect of heat on the quality of wine is today pretty well understood. Heat speeds up the chemical reactions within the bottle, causing the wine to age prematurely. For example, a wine stored at 73°F (23°C) will age twice as fast as a wine stored at 55°F (13°C). This could actually be advantageous when cellaring space is a problem. A wine that would need 10 years to mature in a cold cellar, could be enjoyed after 5 years or so if stored in a warmer place. Although some wines are more delicate than others and each type of wine responds to temperature differently, high temperatures can deteriorate wine rapidly. The wine loses its fruitness, gets oxidized and develops cooked aromas.

On the other hand, cold temperatures, which slow down chemical reactions, have little impact on wine, until the wine freezing point is reached, around 27°F (-3°C). The wintertime low, but non freezing, temperatures have no detrimental affect on wine and temperature fluctuation should only be a concern toward the high range.

Light: light, especially sunlight because of its intensity, excites wine molecules. Like heat, it creates chemical reactions that degrade color, aromas and tannins. Regarding artificial light, research has shown that it has a lesser impact. It was found that the wine had to be very close to the source of artificial light and exposed constantly to it to present any harmful effects.

Unfortunately, if your wines have deteriorated because of poor storage conditions, you can always use the Catania Wine Enhancer!

Some Web resources:

• 30 Second Wine Advisor: Cellar-less aging
• Wine, collecting
• The Ideal Wine Cellar
• Storing Wine
• CELLARING ...preserving the flavors while postponing the pleasure...
• How to Cellar Wine

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Monday, October 10, 2005

A premature ageing device for wines

In Japan, Hiroshi Tanaka has spent 15 years developing an electrolysis device that simulates the effect of ageing in wines. He claims that “in 15 seconds it can transform the cheapest, youngest plonks into fine old draughts as fruit flavours are enhanced and rough edges are mellowed.”

You can read this story called Premature ageing device that puts old wine in new bottles in today's edition of Times Online.

Mr Tanaka’s machine pumps wine and tap water into an electrolysis chamber where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are rearranged around the alcohol molecules witout diluting the wine. This is what would normally take place over years if the wine were ageing naturally.

Mr Tanaka sees different usages for his machine. First, it can be used to improve the quality of wine at the winery. In restaurants, it could instantly improve the taste of cheaper table wines. He also thinks that individual wine lovers will want to have a version of the machine at home to transform wines that need cellaring time and make them ready to drink sooner.

The Times tasting panel in Tokio tested the device on two wines:

The 2002 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir was crisp, fruity, lots of berry, silky, alcoholic nose with a light body and rated 2/5 before electrolysis.
After electrolysis, it tasted more subtle, more musty, lost its crisp, fresh fruitiness but far easier on the palate, heavier but less exciting and was rated 3/5.

The 2001 Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours Grande Réserve was a bit rough and acidic, with muscular tannins and non-distinct bouquet and rated 1/5 before electrolysis.
After electrolysis, it had more of a nose, more tobacco and fruit, a riper flavour, smoother finish and was rated 2.5/5.

Scary, isn't it?

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Course on Italian wines at Incanto: Tuscany

The third session of the Italian wines course, organized by Incanto, was about Tuscany. This beautiful region, well known for its hills covered with olive trees, cypress trees, vines and villas, has now become one of Italy's most dynamic producer of premium wines. Even if I was already familiar with the region, Tuscan wines have unique flavors, and, when they are well-made, they are a great pleasure to drink.

The first wine we tasted was a white wine from the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, a hilly area around the famous medieval village of San Gimignano. Vernaccia is the local white varietal, which, in its modern version, produces a light and crisp wine. The 2004 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Casa Alle Vache had a light golden color and a mild floral nose. On the palate, it was dry and crisp with additional citrus aromas. A light summer wine to drink under the pergola...

Our second wine was a white version of a Super Tuscan. A Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc blend, the 2001 Querciabella Batàr is a reference to Bâtard-Montrachet, and is made in a Burgundy style, aged in half new, half one year old, French oak barrels. The color was deep golden with an attractive nose of pear, apple and citrus. On the palate, it was full-bodied with a fat mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

With the third wine we moved to Chianti Classico, the very heart of Tuscany. The principal red varietal of the region is Sangiovese, the blood of Jove. The 2002 Chianti Classico Le Corti was a dark garnet wine with an attractive nose of black fruit aromas. On the palate, it was full-bodied, with firm tannins and a lively acidity. The finish was long with a bitter cocoa powder aftertaste. A truly delicious wine!

The newly created Bolgheri DOC, is a rising star on the Etruscan coast. The 2003 Campo al Mare Folonari is a classic Bordeaux blend but offering unique flavors that I found hard to describe. It had a dark purple color and a nose of blackberry and licorice. On the plalate, it was smooth but dense and full-bodied.

From the beautiful small town of Montalcino, we tasted a Rosso di Montalcino and a Brunello di Montalcino. It was interesting to taste the two wines side by side because they are both 100% Sangiovese Grosso, a local clone of the Sangiovese grape, but while Brunello wines are powerful and destined for lengthy aging, Rosso di Montalcino wines are characterized by a certain freshness and vivacity, and are made to be drunk young.

The 2001 Rosso di Montalcino Val di Suga had a lively nose with sweet fruits on the palate and a medium body. It was a pleasant and well crafted wine but it did not have the complexity of the 1998 Brunello di Montalcino La Palazzetta. The Brunello had a dense nose of fruit liqueur, a concentrated body with minty flavors and a long, tannic finish.

More on Tuscany wine tasting:
 • Wines from Brunello di Montalcino
 • Wines of Tuscany

More on Italian wines:
• Sparkling Wines
• The North

Coming next week: Piedmont

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Will your car be happier with some nice French Chardonnay?

“Do you want to try what will be going into your tank?” asks Olivier Gibelin, snifing a glass of deep red wine. This story, A wine of character served up at the gas pump, is in today's edition of the International Herald Tribune. With French wine in crisis and the worldwide overproduction, France is now distilling some of its AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) wines into fuel.

The wine is first turned into ethanol, and then sold to oil refineries, where it is used as a gasoline additive. This is part of a European campaign to increase the use of renewable fuels. By 2010, the pourcentage of ethanol in French gasoline is supposed to reach 5.75%.

France exports some of its gasoline to the United States, so, sometime next year, some Americans will be pumping gas containing a small amount of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir...Read the full story.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

WBW14: The Pinot Noir was white!

For the theme of the fourteenth edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, and my second participation, Jens of Cincinnati Wine Garage proposed a New New-World Pinot Noir. The idea was to try “a Pinot Noir from someplace other than France or the West Coast of the United States -- New New World.” Jens suggested some other wine regions like Chile, Spain, Australia and New York, as “a great opportunity to explore an old varietal in some new locations and then compare them to the usual suspects.” Being in an Italian mood these days (and if Spain is in the list, why not Italy?), It seemed to me that Pinot Nero, a type of wine that is still largely undervalued and unknown, would fit the definition perfectly. Italy can be one of the oldest wine countries of the world, it sees today more revolutionary changes than many New World wine regions.

My New Old-World Pinot Noir came from Oltrepò Pavese, an appellation located on the right bank of the Po river, in southwestern Lombardy. Oltrepò Pavese is not a very well-known wine region even if it has been one of Lombardy's most productive area since the Middle Ages. In these times, a large part of the wine production was shipped down the Po river to nearby Pavia, and then to Milan, which already represented an important consumer market. The region is also a leading source of Pinot Nero, often vinified in white to be used in local sparkling wines. But the 2003 Torti Pinot Nero, Vinificato in Bianco was not sparkling. I found the wine to be original with very distinctive aromas. It had a light golden yellow color, with a mild nose. On the palate, it was dry and mineral with some toasty aromas, surprisingly almost like a Champagne that would have lost its bubbles.

I was not as impressed with the other Pinot Nero of the evening, the 2002 Niedrist Blauburgunder, a real red wine this time. It came from Alto Adige, Italy's most northerly wine region, at the border of Austria. This is a German speaking country where Pinot Noir is called Blauburgunder. Most of the vineyards are steep and terraced, and lie along the Adige river and the Isarco Valley. With fresh summers, and hard winters, this is a cool place to grow Pinot Noir. It usually produces wines with moderate body and light fruity flavors. But this wine was different. It had a dark color, a subdued nose, oaky flavors on the palate, and not the fresh fruity aromas and the liveliness that I was expecting. With the wine, we ate a pork roast with apple and potatoes, a somewhat German-inspired recipe.

We went back to our Pinot Nero Bianco with the dessert, a simple but delicious galette called Broyé du Poitou. Broyé means crushed because the cake is so hard that according to the local tradition, you have to punch it with your fist to break it. The wine worked surprisingly well with the cake and we finished the all bottle...and the cake too!

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