June 9, 2017

Tannat

There is a handful of grape varieties that are great contenders on the title of the world's most tannic variety, but none of them are as aptly titled for such a nomination as Tannat, that red and fiercely tannic variety originating from the Southwest France.

This dark variety is first mentioned in the late 18th century as a variety grown in Madiran, the wine region in Southwest France, which still is considered the spiritual home of Tannat and one of the few regions which cultivate this rather unapproachable variety extensively. The name of the variety means "tanned" in the local dialect, but it could also refer to the ridiculously high tannin content of the variety as well. This very deeply colored variety produces usually rather small grapes in which the skin-to-pulp-ratio is rather high, meaning that the amount of grape skins (one of the main sources of tannins) is noticeably high in relation to the juice. Normally Tannat produces wines that are not only remarkably tannic, but also very high in acidity as well. This means that traditional Tannat wines can be extremely ageworthy – the key components in the cellaring potential of wines are high acidity, prominent tannins, high sugar content and high alcohol content – but also very unapproachable (even undrinkable) in their youth.

The old school Madiran wines were made with moderately long maceration times resulting in wines often so tough and tannic it could take even more than decade to soften the wines enough to get them drinkable – something not unlike traditional wines of Barolo and Barbaresco region. However, as wine drinkers at some point started to favor softer wines suitable for early consumption, Madiran producers started to look for ways to make their wines softer and more approachable – aging the wine bottles for decades in the cellars of the wineries was not a viable option nor was aging for years in large oak foudres.

The classic method to reduce the tough character of Madiran and other wines based on Tannat has always been blending the variety with some other local varieties, like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Fér Servadou – all quite tannic varieties in their own right, which only serves to show how tannic Tannat is. After all, normally, in other parts of the world, other softer varieties are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften its tannic character!

At some point wine producers realized that oxygen promotes polymerization of the tannins, meaning they bind together, forming larger (thus less astringent) molecules and even falling out of the solution, reducing the total tannin content of the wine. The logical method for introducing oxygen more effectively to the wine was to change the large oak foudres, often containing even thousands of liter of wine, to smaller barrique barrels of only 225 liters, thus increasing the "breathing" surface in relation to the wine. Furthermore, by using only new oak barrels, whose pores weren't yet clogged by wine deposit and crystallized acid, even more oxygen could be introduced to the wines, resulting even softer and rounder wines. The downside of this oak treatment is that the wines would also be often full of sweet and spicy new oak flavors and aromas. By keeping the barrel aging time short, the wines could keep the fruity characteristics of Tannat pretty much in the front. However, as many of the wines often required prolonged oak aging to let the oxygen have some softening effect, keeping the wine 2 years or even more in new oak barrels often resulted in wines that were quite dominated by new oak characteristics up to the point that the varietal characteristics were masked away and only the firm tannins would be what was left of the variety.

A more recent method to reduce the astringency from the tannins is microbullage, better known as "micro-oxygenation", developed (quite unsurprisingly) in Madiran by Patrick DuCournau of Château Aydie. This process uses a very small vent at the bottom of a wine tank, through which oxygen is introduced at very high pressure. This way the oxygen is introduced into the wine as very fine, minuscule and easily soluble bubbles that mimic the oxygenation that happens in small oak barrels. However, instead of taking several months, this process takes only some minutes. Furthermore, this process does not impart any new oak aromatics to the wine, so after the micro-oxygenation, it is possible to move the wine into old, large oak casks – or even keep the wine in the stainless steel tanks – while still reaping the softening benefits of oxygenation one would normally acquire only through aging the wine in new, small oak barrels. This process hasn't came about without controversies, however. Although adapted widely through the winemaking world, especially in Bordeaux, some people still regard micro-oxygenation as too manipulative a method and steer well away from it. For example Alain Brumont of Madiran Châteaux Montus and Bouscassé, the man who is widely recognized as bringing Madiran into wider recognition, never uses micro-oxygenation with his wines, but instead favors long oak aging periods in small oak barrels to soften his wines.

Although Madiran is the wine region best known for Tannat, it is not the only region where this variety can be found. Tannat is quite well-spread throughout the Southwest France, covering some 2,900 ha (7,250 acres) in total and is a key component in the neighboring regions of Tursan (reds can be up to 40% Tannat) and Saint-Mont as well in the Basque wine regions of Béarn and Irouléguy. From the Southwest France the variety has spread throughout the winemaking world, often with Basque migrants. The variety has found its spiritual new world home in Uruguay, where it was introduced back in the 1870's and is known by its local name, Harriague. Currently the variety covers approximately 1,800 ha (4,400 acres) of vineyards there, which is over 1/5 of the whole vineyard area in Uruguay! The variety is also relatively popular in Argentina (550 ha / 1,350 acres), Brazil (420 ha / 1,050 acres) and USA (100 ha / 250 acres).

Here is a rather large and diverse selection of different Tannat wines that I have tasted through these years, in the order of tasting:

Domaine Labranche-Laffont Madiran 2008
AOC Madiran
  • Domaine Labranche-Laffont
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (60%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
  • Price: 7,00€ / 0,12
  • Tasted on: 30th of March, 2013

The wine is produced by Domaine Labranche-Laffont a small family winery owning 19 hectares in the northern parts of the Madiran region. The hand-picked grapes that are partly from centenarian pre-phylloxera vines go through 18 days of maceration. After the malolactic fermentation the wine is aged for 18 months (1/3 in oak barrels, 2/3 in vats).

Opaque black-red color that reminds me more of blackcurrant juice concentrate than anything vinous!

The nose is quite rich and expressive with aromas of blackcurrants, some leather, a little ripe red fruit and integrated hints of vanilla and spicy oak character.

On the palate the wine feels very fresh, youthful and concentrated with flavors of blackcurrant, dark cherry, black forest fruits and some tannic astringency with toasty hints of oak looming in the background. Acidity is quite modest here, but instead the tannins are very prominent, aggressive even, keeping the wine very tightly-knit, structured and dry-tasting.

The astringent, tightly-wound finish is quite long with long-lingering flavors of toasted spicy oak, tannic bitterness, some bright minerality and hints of savory forest fruits.

This is a classic, tannin-driven Madiran that feels very tight and structured despite its modest acidity. Probably not the best choice for a wine bar wine, because this feels still very primary and even with more bottle age, you'd need something hearty to go along with this.

89/100
Summary: This is definitely stuff I'd leave in a cellar for a decade or more. Not recommended for people who are afraid of tannins. Very good value at 7€ for a 12 cl glass.

***

Plaimont Rosé d'Enfer 2012
AOC Saint-Mont
  • Plaimont Producteurs
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Saint-Mont
  • Grape(s): Tannat (60%), Fér Servadou (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%)
  • Price: 7,50€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 15th of October, 2013


Although the Southwest France is pretty much a red wine region (with some white wine appellations here and there, like Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Jurançon), there are some regions with considerable rosé wine output – like Saint-Mont over here. This wine is made by Plaimont, a noticeably large co-operative of 800 members and 5,300 ha (13,750 acres) of plantings. They produce approximately half of the total output of Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and almost 98% of the small appellation of Saint-Mont. It must be noted, that even though Plaimont is a big co-op, they are generally considered a very good one and also one of the saviors of the forgotten wine regions of the Southwest France.

Pale, pink color.

Juicy and somewhat meaty nose with a pretty straightforward, fruity character with mainly aromas of ripe red berries and yellow plums.

Contrasting the juicy nose, the wine is surprisingly light and even quite thin on the palate with vague, nondescript flavors of red currants and other red berries along with a little bitterness. The taste is rather bland and even boring. Moderate acidity.

The finish is somewhat bitter and rather short with flavors of steely minerality, some herbal notes, a little thin red fruit character and a bit of alcohol warmth. There seems to be a hint of tannic grip to the aftertaste.

Overall Rosé d'Enfer proves that you can also make rosé wines out of Tannat, but at least this wine wasn't so impressive that I would recommend anyone to change their Tannat wine production from red to rosé.

79/100
Summary: It's a rather bland and mediocre rosé wine lacking body and character. Definitely nothing special to write home about.

***

Plaimont Maestria Madiran 2011
AOC Madiran
  • Plaimont Producteurs
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc (5%)
  • Price: 8,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 15th of October, 2013


A red wine made by Plaimont, the same co-op behind the rosé wine above. This is a classic, mainly Tannat-based Madiran that is mainly fermented and aged for 8–12 months in stainless steel (80%) with only a small portion (20%) seeing old oak barrels. The idea is to preserve the vibrant fruit flavors, not to overwhelm them with oak.

The wine is quite opaque red with a noticeable, youthful purple hue.

The nose is somewhat restrained with aromas of ripe dark fruits and sweet berries, some smoked meat notes and a hint of earthiness.

The wine is medium-bodied and very structured on the palate with moderately firm tannins and high acidity. The rather spicy flavors are pure, well-delineated and youthful with notes of tart dark berries, ripe dark fruits, exotic spices, some earthiness and quite noticeable bitterness.

The finish is medium-long and very grippy with quite angular tannins and savory flavors of dark berries, aromatic herbal bitterness and roasted spices. The wine finishes on a light, slightly sappy vegetal hint.

This wine is a rather by-the-book modern Madiran with a lot of emphasis on the bright fruit flavors of Tannat. The variety's tightly-knit structure is obviously there, but not in as hard and forbidding shape as it could be.

87/100
Summary: For a young Madiran, this is a relatively "soft" and approachable effort, although still quite tannic and astringent, like a good Tannat should be. Stylistically this is pretty straightforward effort, so most likely this wine will never be a big and impressive one, but I can imagine it will develop nicely over the following 3–5 years and keep for a decade. Superb value at only 8€.

***

Garzón Varietales Tannat 2012
  • Bodega Garzón
  • Country: Uruguay
  • Region: Garzón
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 13,48€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 4th of November, 2014
Bodega Garzón, founded in 1999, is a Uruguayan winery located in the small village of Garzón. According to their home pages, the winery prefers natural yeasts over commercial ones and cement tanks or untoasted oak barrels over more aromatic, toasted ones. I really couldn't find any information on this wine, because it couldn't be found on the winery's home pages.

The wine's opaque color is very dark, youthful plummy purple.

The nose is dark-toned and very sweet with ripe aromas of cooked plums, some bilberries and hints of ripe strawberries.

The wine is rich, ripe and full-bodied on the palate with intense and somewhat sweet flavors of bilberries, blackcurrant jam, cooked strawberries, some iron, a little vanilla, a bit of balancing bitterness and a hint of milk chocolate. The wine is medium in acidity, making it come across rather mellow and plump, but its moderately firm tannins give it some welcome structure. Alcohol gives the palate a bit of warmth.

The wine finishes with a warm and chewy aftertaste with quite robust flavors of ripe cassis, stewed plums, some rough spiciness and a bit of earth. The wine ends on a quite bitter, astringent and pretty mouthdrying note.

Although a moderately firm and structured effort for a South-American red wine, I find it rather hard to believe this was made with natural yeasts or neutral oak; the oak characteristics of vanilla and other sweet spices are noticeable and there is also an obvious streak of sweet blackcurrant – a tell-tale sign I associate with South-American reds and assume is coming from a locally popular commercial yeast strain.

83/100
Summary: Overall this is a mildly positive example of South-American wine, but I still find it too sweet and plump to suit my taste. Perhaps a good choice for a fan of South-American wines who needs some tannins? Priced according to its quality at 13,48€.

***

Château Montus La Tyre 2001
AOC Madiran
  • Vignobles Alain Brumont, Château Montus
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 100,30€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 1st of December, 2014
As I wrote above, Alain Brumont, the man behind Châteaux Montus and Bouscassé, is the man who is considered to be the one who brought Madiran into wider recognition. He does not believe in the micro-oxidation, otherwise so prevalent throughout Madiran, but instead prefers to use new, small oak barrels to soften the tannins of his wine.

His flagship wine is La Tyre, a single-vineyard Tannat made from a steep, stony plot Brumont discovered in 1990. The grapes for La Tyre were harvested for the first time in 2000, when the vines were 10 years old, so this is the second vintage of this wine. The wine undergoes 3–6 weeks of maceration with the grape skins, depending on the variety, parcel and vintage. After the fermentation the wine is aged for 14–16 months in barriques, of which 100% are new. Bottled with a minimal dose of sulfites.

The age of wine is betrayed by the concentrated, dense black color with a hint of deposit and a slightly orange burnt clay rim.

The wine shows somewhat developed and quite oak-heavy nose with powerful aromas of smoke, tar, dry wood, sweet milk chocolate, dried prunes and some ripe blackcurrant.

On the palate the wine is extremely concentrated, mouthfilling and chewy with massive, mouth-coating, grainy tannins. There are monolithic and rich flavors of smoke, tar, milk chocolate, wood spice, some blackcurrant, maraschino cherry, a hint of licorice and nuances of prunes. Acidity can't really cut through the massive midpalate. The structure is, simply put, immense.

There are no discernible fruit flavors in the long, oaky, extracted and slightly bitter finish, but instead lingering flavors of dark chocolate, cocoa and sweet wood spice. The tannins leave your mouth bone-dry and gritty.

Holy Hannah this wine is full of oak and extraction – this must be one of the most massive wines I've ever tasted! It has impeccable structure to go with the mouthfilling flavors, but unfortunately there is very little left of the original Tannat flavors, as they are replaced by swathes of anonymous sweet wood characteristics. Nose- and flavor-wise this is like any new world super red wine; the dense tannic structure remaining is the only thing that points out to the direction of Madiran.

88/100
Summary: I have no idea whether this wine will ever reach a nice plateau of maturity where the tannins are smoother and more approachable and the fruit flavors and the oak characteristics might be in balance. I have no problems with the black-hole-esque density of the wine that much, more instead with the overdone, obfuscating oakiness. This is a good wine for those who enjoy extremely big and oaky reds, but definitely not for me. I probably need to revisit this in (or after) 15-20 years. Definitely not worth the 100,30€.

***

Château Montus 2010
AOC Madiran
  • Vignobles Alain Brumont, Château Montus
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Price: 33,85€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 4th of November, 2015
This is the standard Madiran of the Montus winery – the "calling card" wine of the winery, in a sense –one that is composed mainly of Tannat but with some Cabernet Sauvignon to soften up the structure (I know that sounds silly, but that's just the way Tannat is). The grapes undergo 3–6 weeks of maceration with the skins, depending on the variety, parcel and vintage. The wine is aged for 12–14 months in barriques, of which 60–80% are new.

Opaque, deep black ruby color with a slightly blueish hue.

Quite dry, savory and not particularly "big" nose with aromas of dark plums, blackcurrant, bloody meat, dark grapey fruit, some iron, a little milk chocolate oak, light dried herbal hints and a hint of dry, savory wood.

The wine is very full-bodied and extracted on the palate with balanced acidity, but surprisingly smooth and mellow tannins. Well, sure, there are a lot of tannins, giving the wine a very textural feel, but they are not grippy or aggressive one little bit. The flavors are very ripe and quite sweet with notes of dark cherries, plummy fruit, blackcurrant-driven forest fruits, moderately noticeable, sweet milk chocolate oak and a bit of spicy oak bitterness.

The finish is quite long, slightly warm and rather spicy with chewy, extracted flavors of cocoa-driven oak spice, red cherries, ripe plums, some bloody iron and bit of tannic bitterness. For a Tannat, the aftertaste is surprisingly mellow and easy, lacking the mouth-drying astringency typical for the variety.

Overall this is quite oak-driven and modern Madiran with great balance and a somewhat crowd-pleasing, easy-to-drink character. Although the wine is drinking very nicely now and is definitely not in need of any cellaring, I personally would age the wine for 7–10 more years in the hopes the excessive oak character would get integrated with the fruit better.

87/100
There is a distinctively Bordelais / Southwest French quality to the wine, giving it nice sense of sophistication and elegance, but it is also so polished, modern and round in style I really can't get grips with the wine. It is good and, in its own sense, pretty tasty, but I look for more rustic and unpolished character in Madiran. A wine this polished feels just too dull and predictable for me – and too expensive for its quality at 33,85€.

***

Capmartin Vieilles Vignes 2012
AOC Madiran
  • Domaine Capmartin
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
  • Price: ~10,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 9th of January, 2016
Capmartin is a Madiran-based winery founded by Guy Capmartin in 1985, focusing on more terroir-oriented, traditional examples of the regional style. In 2007 the winery started adopting organic and biodynamic practices and in 2010 the winery obtained an organic AB certification.

Capmartin Vieilles Vignes is made from very old vines: the youngest vines are approximately 60 years old, whereas the oldest ones are pre-phylloxera – centenarian vines with their own, original rootstocks. The wine is first fermented in 7,000-liter open-top cement fermenters, after which the wine is transferred into oak barrels for 12 months of aging. Then the wines are blended into stainless steel for further 6 months of aging before light filtration and bottling.

Very dark, opaque black-red color.

There is a sense of weight and density in the nose that is somewhat very cool and savory – not suggesting much sweetness – with aromas of somewhat ripe dark, plummy fruits, red forest fruits, some chokeberries and a hint of understated complexity.

The wine is full-bodied, concentrated and chewy on the palate with moderately acidity and firm, ample tannins that grip the insides of your mouth quite eagerly. The flavor department offers licorice, ripe dark berries, some more savory chokeberry character, a little bit of raspberry and a faint spicy streak of old woody oak. The wine feels quite weighty and structured, but surprisingly gentle for a Madiran this young.

The finish is dense and concentrated with ripe yet mouthdrying and grippy tannins and long, intense flavors of blackberries, crowberries, some licorice and hints of fresh, almost tart blackcurrants.

This is a classic, pure and well-delineated Madiran with wonderful, chewy texture and grippy tannins, yet surprisingly gentle and easily approachable character.

92/100
Summary: Although the wine is surprisingly drinkable right now, the acidity and the ample tannins especially give it good potential for further cellaring. I can imagine the wine will mellow out and lose some of its baby fat with some 10 years of cellar age in favor of elegance and complexity – characteristics, which the wine is still lacking a bit in its current state. At only 10€, this wine shows simply stunning value.

***

Capmartin Cuvée du Couvent 2011
AOC Madiran
  • Domaine Capmartin
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 12,90€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 9th of January, 2016
Couvée du Couvent is the top red wine of the aforementioned Capmartin and composed completely of organically grown Tannat. The long fermentation period is carried out in 70hl open-top cement fermenters, after which the wine is moved into new barrique for MLF. The wine is first aged in these oak barrels for 12 months, after which the wine is aged for further 6 months in stainless steel. The wine is very light filtered before bottling.

Very dark and concentrated purple-red color that is opaque up to the rim.

The nose is quite restrained with some bloody iron notes on the fore, supported by notes of concentrated dark berries, dark plummy fruit and a light hint of leather.

The wine is remarkably full-bodied, concentrated and weighty on the palate with chewy texture, moderately high acidity and ripe but tightly-knit, firm and grippy tannins. There are intense flavors of bitter spices, licorice root, blood, dark plummy fruit and tart dark-skinned berries. The wine feels ripe, yet very dry instead of sweetishly ripe. The concentrated fruit masks the oak aging characteristics remarkably well, wood peeking through in the light, slightly bitter spiciness underneath.

The finish is mouth-drying and meaty with pronounced spicy bitterness, some salty dried beef notes and remarkably crunchy flavors of crowberries and chokeberries with hints of sweet licorice and ripe plummy fruit bringing in some balancing richness.

Cuvée du Couvent is overall a rich, intense and very impressive red wine with remarkable structure and gravitas without being one bit too imposing or forbiddingly tannic – although the wine is still very tannic to say the very least. The key word here is impeccable balance between the concentration, structure and intensity – the wine has heaps of these components, yet nothing in excess.

93/100
I'm surprised how well this wine carries its oak – and by that I mean it is barely noticeable by the concentrated yet still very well-proportioned and structured fruit. Although drinking surprisingly nicely already, this wine is still a baby and I can imagine 10 years in a cellar will only benefit it. Lovely stuff and a steal at only 12,90€.

***

Pisano Tannat / Petit Verdot 2008
  • Bodegas Pisano
  • Country: Uruguay
  • Region: Progreso
  • Grape(s): Tannat, Petit Verdot
  • Price: 12,89€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 9th of January, 2016
Pisano is a winery located in Progreso, some 30 kilometers north from Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay. It was founded in 1914 by an Italian family who moved from Italy to Uruguay in the start of the 20th century. The winery is still owned by the Pisano family and they aim to produce wines expressing the local terroir and style with as natural winemaking practices as possible.

I really couldn't find much information on this wine, because it wasn't featured on the Pisano website. From its name one can quite easily guess it is a blend of the local favorite, Tannat, with Petit Verdot – a variety equally notorious for its deep color and tannins.

Very dense dark ruby color with only a hint of translucency and, despite its 8 years of age, faint highlights of youthful purple hue.

The nose is fruity and opulent with intense aromas of almost overripe plums and blackcurrant jam with sweet oak spice, some alcohol and a hint of acetone VA.

The wine is full-bodied and quite soft and supple on the palate with moderately ample yet ripe and soft tannins and quite modest acidity. Although not that concentrated, the wine comes across as pretty big, easy and juicy with relatively soft structure. There are flavors of ripe plummy fruit, savory spice, blackberry-driven sweet dark berry notes, some slightly bitter wood spice and a slightest hint of acetone.

The spicy medium-long finish is slightly mouth-drying and a bit coarse with flavors of sweet dark fruit, roasted spice, some oak bitterness and a hint of sour plums.

Though there is a wild edge to this wine, giving it some welcome character to set it apart from many sweetishly ripe South American reds, this still doesn't really manage to impress me. The wine is just too ripe, sweet and straightforward with too mellow and easy tannins to give the wine the structure its big fruit calls for.

84/100
Summary: Although a relatively well-made effort for a Uruguay red, the wine still leaves much to be hoped for. With more emphasis on structure and less on oak, the wine could show more finesse and potential. I suppose the wine could hold – even develop a little – in a cellar for some years, but I doubt there's room for much development. Priced according to its quality at 12,89€.

***

Miolo Tannat Reserva 2012
  • Miolo
  • Country: Brazil
  • Region: Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha Gaúcha
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 8,90€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 9th of January, 2016
Miolo is a young Brazilian winery with a long history: although the company was founded only in 1990, the people behind it had been cultivating vines since 1897 – almost for a hundred years – and supplying the local producers with fruit. Currently the company cultivates 450 ha (1125 acres) of vineyards, of which the company owns 120 hectares (300 acres) and the rest are cultivated through contract growers. World-famous winemaker Michel Rolland works as a viticultural and oenological consultant with Miolo.

Quite opaque and moderately purple-tinted black-red color.

At first the nose of the wine feels somewhat odd with restrained aromas of bloody meat, dark-skinned forest fruits, some lactic blueberry yoghurt character and herbaceous green hints. With air, however, the nose turns much more anonymous with sweet aromas of cooked red fruits and strawberry jam.

Surprisingly for a Tannat, the wine feels more medium- than full-bodied with lively acidity with rather light and easy tannins. The taste department is full of rich, extracted flavors of youthful red fruits, forest strawberries, ripe raspberries, some meaty notes and blood, a little bit of alcohol and a hint of strawberry jam. Especially after some breathing the wine starts to taste quite much like a generic, inexpensive Aussie red.

The long aftertaste is spicy, quite bitter and somewhat green with flavors of tart lingonberries, ripe blackberries, some coarse peppery character, a little bit of odd, candied raspberry candy flavor and a slightly vegetal sappy hint.

I'm really confused by this wine. At first it felt surprisingly interesting, lighter and more refreshing take on Tannat with some odd – but not fully negative – aromas and flavors. However, with air, the wine lost most of its exciting character and transformed into a regular, thirteen-in-a-dozen red wine, not quite plonk but not far from it.

82/100
Summary: If the wine had remained how it was first, it would've easily scored a handful of extra points. However, in the end there was very little to set this wine apart from any inexpensive new world red and even less to suggest that the wine in question was made from Tannat. So I guess the wine was priced more or less according to its quality at 8,90€ and one shouldn't really expect more.

***

Don David Finca Las Mercedes #6 Tannat 2011
  • Michel Torino / Bodega El Esteco
  • Country: Argentina
  • Region: Salta, Cafayate
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 17,12€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 9th of January, 2016
This wine is made by the old Argentinian wine company Bodega El Esteco / Michel Torino (founded already in 1892) and it represents the single vineyard end of their popular Don David range – named after the company's founder, David Michel. Normally the winery produces only Don David Reserve series wines, but occasionally they release single vineyard wines showing the potential of their finest plots. The plot #6, called Las Mercedes was planted in 1997 with Tannat and from that single plot are all grapes sourced for this wine.

Pitch-black, opaque color with slightly purple highlights in the rim.

The dark-toned nose feels very rich, concentrated and powerful with really intense aromas of almost overripe plummy fruit, juicy blackberry notes, rather dominant aromas of coffee chocolate, some spicy and savory wood and hints of vanilla.

On the palate the wine is really full-bodied, rich and textural with grainy tannins that are both chewy and grippy. The wine is dominated by powerful, sweet oak notes with some fruity notes of blackberry and crowberry jam and juicy dark plums, supported with a light, sweet hint of licorice. Although there most likely isn't much (or at all) residual sugar in the wine, it comes across quite sweet and really ripe – a characteristic further emphasized by the sweet vanilla and chocolate notes of oak. Although the tannins are ample, the wine feels pretty soft, thanks to its rather modest acidity.

The finish is long, powerful and somewhat warm with a little tannic astringency and persistent, sweet flavors of ripe blackberries, plums, mocha, some bitter wood notes, a little bit of dark chocolate and a hint of dried figs.

Well this was a disappointment. Apparently the winery had set out to produce a modern masterpiece with a lot of extraction, more alcohol and even more oak, but to me, they resulted only in a wine showing sloppy (yet expensive) winemaking that masks away all the fruit. I really can't say anything about the quality of the Las Mercedes vineyard, because all I can taste here is oak and fruit preserves.

86/100
Summary: I really do hope that long cellaring can integrate the oak underneath the fruit – there is a lot of fruit, but also a lot of oak to hide. The wine at least shows some cellaring potential with its concentrated fruit and ample tannins, so I guess the wine might show better at 10–15 of age. However, I guess this wine will never be one to suit my tastes. Priced more or less according to its quality at 17,12€.

***

Odé d'Aydie Madiran 2012
AOC Madiran
  • Vignobles Laplace, Château Aydie
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat (100%)
  • Price: 10,20€ / 0,12
  • Tasted on: 21st of August, 2016
Not having an Aydie wine on an article about Tannat would be blasphemy. That's because it was Château Aydie where the now-so-prevalent micro-oxygenation was originally invented and the winery employs it quite systematically with their red wines. The winery was founded in 1927 by Frédéric Laplace and now it is run by the 3rd generation of the Laplace family. The Laplaces own some 58 hectares (145 acres) of vines, of which 49 ha (120 acres) are planted with red varieties for Madiran and 9 ha (22 acres) with white varieties for Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.

Odé is the second wine of the estate, made completely from Tannat. The grapes are macerated with the fermenting wine for 30 days, after which the wine is aged for 12–15 months in oak tuns and vats. Then the wine is blended together and finally bottled after 20 months of aging.

The wine is dark-cherry colored with a bit of translucency.

The nose is rich and expressive with opulent and rather sweet aromas of freshly picked, ripe forest fruits, some cocoa oak, a little bit of plum jam and a hint of milk chocolate.

The wine is full-bodied and quite textural with moderately high acidity and very ample, yet surprisingly soft and friendly tannins. Although obviously quite ripe, the wine is surprisingly savory and bitter with flavors of bloody iron, sappy greenness, astringent berry skin notes, some tangy chokeberry and crowberry notes and a bit of woody bitterness, counterpointed by sweeter oak notes of milk chocolate and cocoa.

The finish is as coarse and bitter as the midpalate with flavors of chokeberries, quite rich, complex and somewhat sweet oak character, a bit of bitter milk chocolate, a little bit of ripe dark plums and a hint of sappy greenness.

Obviously Odé d'Aydie is a modern Madiran, with its very noticeable, sweet oak characteristics and surprisingly mellow and easy tannins. Yet the wine is very true to the Madiran style with its noticeably bitter flavor profile – most likely due to the sheer volume of tannins in the wine. Normally you really don't taste tannins – they just show some level of mouth-drying astringency – but if there is enough of tannins in the wine, you start to taste them as a bitter flavor. What's remarkable here is how the tannins have been cleaned out into the background, yet they obviously are there.

88/100
Summary: In conclusion, this is really not my style of wine – I like my Madirans more tannic and less oaky, thank you very much – but for a relatively easy-drinking Tannat this was a decent effort. Nothing groundbreaking, but a decent wine for a modern Southwesterner. The winery promises 8–10 of aging potential for the wine, maybe that kind of cellar time could help the oak integrate a little bit. Priced according to its quality at 10,20€ for a 12 cl glass in a restaurant.

***

Château Bouscassé Madiran 1995
AOC Madiran
  • Vignobles Alain Brumont, Château Bouscassé
  • Country: France
  • Region: Le Sud-Ouest, Madiran
  • Grape(s): Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Tasted on: 14th of April, 2017
Finally, a wine from Château Bouscassé, the original family winery of Alain Brumont of Château Montus fame. This +20 years old wine is here to show how Madiran is capable of aging in a cellar.

Based on the tech sheet of more recent Bouscassé wines, this wine has probably undergone 3–6 weeks of maceration, depending on the variety, parcel and vintage and then aged for 12–14 months in barriques, of which 30–50% were new.

The wine's color is still quite opaque, but obviously developed with a slightly maroon hue and noticeable bricking in the rim.

The nose is quite robust with powerful rustic notes of barnyard and manure, ripe blackcurrants, brambly black berries and a hint of sweaty leather saddle.

On the palate the wine feels medium-bodied, textural and very structured with lively acidity and generous, still very grippy tannins. The flavors are quite developed and savory with dry, tertiary notes of wizened dark berries, leather, some manure and a bit of umami. The sheer amount of tannins give the taste a slightly bitter edge.

The long aftertaste is very lively but also mouthdryingly astringent with firm, grippy tannins. The finish leaves persistent flavors of dried dark berries, wizened plums, some leather, a little barnyard and a delicate hint of bitterness in the mouth.

Now this is what Madiran is all about! I have no idea how much (or if at all) new oak the wine has seen, but at this age there is none to be noticed. The wine is all about very nicely developed Tannat fruit with really captivating tertiary characteristics and lovely textural feel.

95/100
Summary: I don't know if Brumont's wines have been less "modern" back in the 1990's or if the wines just need 20 years in a cellar to show their best. Whatever the case is, this is a truly wonderful Madiran with tremendous character that speaks volumes of the region's wines' aging potential. Very highly recommended.

***

Having tasted a bunch of Tannat wines through these years has taught me something: although the variety itself is quite tannic, the wines surprisingly often aren't. Sure, you can notice that there might be quite a lot of tannins in the wines (giving them this tell-tale bitterness), but more often than not the winemaking has made sure the tannins are very smooth, mellow and unobtrusive. Especially in the new world the wines can be remarkably silky with barely noticeable tannic grip.

In Madiran things are a bit different. Quite often you encounter wines that have their tannins manicured to some extent, but often leaving the wines with firmness and chewy texture. However, it is also possible to find more rustic old-school Tannat wines in the Southwest France where they don't try to mellow down the forbiddingly tannic nature of the wine, but instead embrace it with open arms. These are the wines I usually love the most – after all, if the variety is known to be really tannic and structured, that is also what I expect of the wine! If I wanted something soft and easy, I'd grab a bottle of new world Merlot.

May 18, 2017

Vertical of the Month: Colonnara Cuprese 2011-1991

In my last blog post I discussed about my love of Verdicchio, that white variety which is capable of producing some of the most spectacular and long-lived white wines in Italy, yet having very little of the respect it deserves. That is why I'm going to extend that previous post a little, just to show a little bit more how long-lived a well-made Verdicchio really can be. To emphasize that point, I've chosen Cuprese Verdicchio by Colonnara to be the subject of this month's monthly vertical.

Co-operatives are often regarded as inferior wine producers compared to small wineries, but every now and then one can come across some really good co-ops that are about quality, not quantity. Marche's own Colonnara is one of such co-operatives – a producer known for interesting, high-quality wines that not only show the classic regional style, but can also age remarkably long in cellars.

Originally Colonnara was a small co-operative that was founded in 1959 by 19 small vinegrowers located in and around Cupramontana, a comune of some 5,000 people in Marche. The name Colonnara did not emerge until 1985 – before that the co-op was simply known as Cantina Sociale di Cupramontana, meaning "the co-operative of Cupramontana". In 1966 the co-op started producing bottled wines in addition to selling the wines in bulk, resulting in rapid growth and wider recognition. This co-op was also one of the key elements in the emergence of sparkling Verdicchio – the first sparkling Verdicchio by Colonnara was produced already back in 1970 and the first metodo classico Verdicchio in 1980. Currently Colonnara consists of more than 110 growers and with its 120 hectares of vineyards it is one biggest producers in the Castelli di Jesi wine region – if not the biggest – yet a winery considered to be among the very best of the region as well.

Colonnara Cuprese is probably the best-known wine by the co-op. The first vintage of Cuprese was made in 1985, the same year the co-op's new name "Colonnara" was introduced. The wine's name means "From Cupra", reflecting its identity perfectly.

These are my tasting notes on the Colonnara Cuprese wines I have tasted.

Colonnara Cuprese
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
  • Colonnara
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
Cuprese is the flagship white of the winery and its appellation DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore means that the grapes are sourced only from the original heartland of the wine region (aka the classico part) and the grapes are of better quality and higher ripeness, resulting in higher-alcohol superiore wine.

The wine is made from the hand-picked, specially selected highest-quality grapes sourced from the Cupramontana area. The must acquired from these grapes is fermented and aged in steel tanks and the wine is bottled in the spring following the harvest. Normally the wine is released after some months after the bottling, but occasionally, in the best vintages, the bottled wines can be aged much longer before the release and labeled as "Riserva" wines to denote the superior quality of these wines.

***

Colonnara Cuprese 2011
  • Price: ~15,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on 20th of March, 2014

Moderately deep yellow-green color tending towards pale yellow.

The nose is slightly restrained, but very sophisticated and attractive despite its lack of overt intensity. The most noticeable aromas are of ripe citrus fruits and delicate spiciness, but even though the nose is quite fruit-forward and rather ripe, there is still a rather dry and savory air to its. Underneath, there are lighter nuances of almonds, mirabelle plums, red apples, lemon curd and even a touch of honey.

On the palate the wine feels rich and full-bodied with a hint of oiliness in the mouthfeel, yet with good, bright and balanced acidity. There are complex flavors of ripe red apple, apricot, some spiciness, a little floral complexity and hints of almonds and honey along with a light touch of fresh pear.

The finish is long, bright and tasty with refreshing flavors of ripe stone fruits, fresh yellow apple, some delicate almond notes and hints of citrus fruits. The aftertaste persists for quite a while, tending towards sweeter tropical notes and ending on a somewhat bitter and very slightly saline note.

Overall Cuprese performs obviously a notch or two above an average Verdicchio with good weight, balance and even some sense of concentration. It is thoroughly enjoyable this young, but it shows good potential to age further for at least five more years.

91/100
Summary: This is easily one of my favorite Verdicchios, being full of varietally typical characteristics, yet also being big enough to stand up to some cellaring. A really impressive effort for a co-operative white and at 15€ shows really good value.

***

Colonnara Cuprese Riserva 1997
  • Price: ~30,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on 12th of October, 2015

Surprisingly youthful, pale yellow color with faint green highlights.

The nose is ripe and juicy, yet quite subtle and restrained with nuanced aromas of dried stone fruits, some almonds and a little hay. With air, the nose starts to exhibit delicate mature aromas of slightly bready oxidation.

On the palate the wine is medium-bodied and lively with rather high acidity and bright minerality. There are flavors of fresh citrus fruits, wet stones, some mature nuttiness, light toasty hints of bread and a hint of tart Granny Smith apple.

The medium-long finish is really long and surprisingly youthful with bright fruit flavors and only very little more developed qualities. There are notes of ripe citrus fruits, ripe apples, some hay, a little mature nuttiness and a hint of dried peach in the aftertaste.

Overall Cuprese Riserva 1997 is surprisingly youthful and definitely not showing its 18 years of age much – although there is some of that developed nuttiness and hints of toasty bread, the fruit is remarkably bright and youthful.

92/100
Summary: When some producers say Verdicchio can be more age-worthy than Chardonnay, they really mean it. It is remarkable how very slowly these best Verdicchios can age, when at close to 20 years of age the wine seems somewhat mature, yet still going upwards. The cellaring potential here is enormous. Well worth the 30€ and more.

***

Colonnara Cuprese Riserva 1995
  • Price: ~35,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on 12th of October, 2015

Very developed, pale orange color.

Powerful, but obviously quite oxidative nose with noticeable nutty aromas with robust notes of syrup, roasted spices and toast crumbs.

The wine feels quite withered on the palate with only medium body and its high-ish acidity sticking out amidst aged notes of crushed nuts, wizened citrus fruits and roasted spices.

The finish is very oxidative with persistent flavors of toasted bread, nuts, some bruised apple and hints of smoke. However, the aftertaste is surprisingly fresh, thanks to the rather high acidity and a nice streak of bright minerality.

This wine was obviously past its prime.

FLAWED
Summary: It is hard to say whether this vintage couldn't handle 20 years of aging or whether the wine was cellared poorly or if the cork had failed. Whatever the case, this wine didn't falter my belief in the aging capabilities of Verdicchio – one bad bottle doesn't ruin the reputation of the whole bunch.

***

Colonnara Cuprese Riserva 1994
  • Price: ~40,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on 12th of October, 2015

Deep, luminous golden yellow color.

Very rich and unctuous nose with nuanced aromas of succulent yellow fruits, orchard blossoms, some wine gum candies and hints of developed characteristics of sweet peanut butter.

The wine feels rich, full-bodied and quite dry on the palate with moderately high acidity and much sense of concentration brought on by age. There are complex, layered flavors of peach, apricot, noticeable spiciness, some mature nuttiness, a hint of aged bready character and a touch of succulent honeydew melon.

The finish is really complex and feels even a bit younger than the midpalate with lively acidity, stony minerality, fresh citrus fruit notes and light herbal hints with underlying developed nuances of nuttiness and slightly oxidative spiciness.

This vintage of Cuprese is easily one of the most impressive Verdicchios I've had, if not the best – Riserva Vigna delle Oche by San Lorenzo might be the only one that could challenge this wine.

96/100
Summary: Not only has this wine survived more than 20 years in a cellar, but it is quite likely to survive a handful of years more – although probably without much further development. It has reached its plateau of maturity, exhibiting some very impressive Burgundian characteristics and incredible depth, showcasing how the best Verdicchios can be some of the most impressive white wines in the world.

***

Colonnara Cuprese Riserva 1991
  • Price: ~60,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on 12th of October, 2015

Luminous, but surprisingly youthful pale lemon yellow color.

The nose feels rather subdued and restrained with subtle yet somewhat concentrated aromas of white flowers, yellow stone fruits, white peach, some honey and beeswax, a little stony minerality and a slightest hint of petrol tones, reminiscent of aged Riesling.

The wine is remarkably fresh, lively and youthful on the palate with medium body and high, almost bracing acidity. There are complex, somewhat concentrated and slightly mature flavors of juicy, ripe citrus fruits, green apples, some grapefruit and even a little pithy bitterness with hints of almonds and a touch of beeswax.

The finish is really crisp, bright and quite long with remarkably youthful flavors of citrus fruits, green apples, some mature spicy notes and a hint of almonds and light oxidative nuttiness.

It's hard to believe this is a white wine at 24 years of age – it drinks more like a wine no more than 10 years old! Apparently the best Verdicchios age at a glacial pace.

94/100
Summary: Although in its current condition this wine is not as impressive and complex as Cuprese Riserva 1994, it still shows potential to not only reach that level, but perhaps even surpass it! Although this wine is starting to show some signs of age, it feels it is still going uphill and its plateau of maturity is at least a decade away. If you happen to have a bottle of this with perfect cellar provenance, you definitely have no hurry whatsoever opening it!

Cuprese Riservas 1997-1991
***

Every so often you hear Verdicchio producers and Italian wine professionals say how aged Verdicchio can acquire very Burgundian characteristics as it ages – even when aged only in stainless steel – and how the best Verdicchios can be as ageworthy as the best Chardonnays and even more so. I don't blame you if you think that these statements are nothing more than marketing talk – I did, myself, too. However, once you have tasted wonderfully rich, nutty and complex Verdicchio with more than 20 years of age, and still very much alive, you start to think that maybe there is something to those Burgundian talks. And when you get to taste a wine that is over a quarter of century old, yet drinks like a youngster, you can't but agree that yes, Verdicchios can be pretty damn long-lived wines in good vintages.

I hope that by showcasing these remarkable wines I've managed to make you take Verdicchio wines more seriously than before. Although there are millions of liters of simple, mediocre Verdicchio produced every day, the best ones can easily be not only some of the greatest white wines of Italy, but also some of the most remarkable and impressive white wines in the whole world. So next time when you're browsing for white wines to fill your cellar with, remember to keep also Verdicchios in mind!

April 29, 2017

Verdicchio

Verdicchio is a white grape that is grown pretty much throughout the Italy, although the variety is found most often across the eastern coast of Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea. The variety has found its spiritual home in Marche, a small region on the eastern coast of Italy where Matelica and Castelli di Jesi – two of the most celebrated Verdicchio wine regions – are located. Out of these two, Castelli di Jesi is the bigger one and better known, capable of producing impressive wines in larger quantities, whereas the hillier Matelica is much smaller, resulting in equally smaller production, but also thought to be capable of producing wines of even more finesse and higher quality.

In addition to Marche, Verdicchio is grown to some extent in Umbria (the region between Marche and Tuscany) and Lazio (the region south from Tuscany, where Rome is located). Furthermore, at some point ampelographers realized that Trebbiano di Lugana (aka. Trebbiano di Soave aka. Trebbiano Valtenesi aka. Turbiana) isn't a Veronese high-quality clone of the normally rather neutral Trebbiano, but instead a variety that is genetically identical to Verdicchio. Apparently Verdicchio actually originated around the Garda lake and at some point during the 15th century winegrowers migrated south from Veneto to cultivate vines in Marche, bringing Verdicchio cuttings along with them. Currently there are over 5,300 ha (over 13,000 acres) of Verdicchio grown in Italy, of which 1,800 ha (4,450 acres) in and around Veneto.

The grapes from Veneto produce wines that are slightly different from those produced in Marche, yet with that unmistakably weighty yet refreshing character of Verdicchio. In Marche varietal Verdicchio wines are the norm, whereas in Veneto the variety is normally encountered as a varietal wine mainly in the Lugana wine region; in Soave the variety is used as an accessory grape to bring in more structure, body and perfume to the more neutral Garganega variety – although the Suavia winery produces a wonderful 100% Trebbiano di Soave called Massifitti in Soave Classico.

Although Verdicchio is not a variety that well-known and hasn't garnered much attention, it is still one of the most highly regarded Italian white varieties amongst critics and those who have at least some knowledge of Italian white wines. This is because not only are these wines delicious with their often lemony acidity and intriguing flavors suggestive of almonds and even bitter spices, but the best ones can be really impressive, serious and even capable of aging for decades.

Here is a selection of different Verdicchio wines that I have tasted through these years:

***

Belisario Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva Cambrugiano 2008
DOCG Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva
  • Belisario
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Matelica
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: 15,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 29th of December, 2012



With 300 ha (750 acres) of vineyards, Belisario is the biggest Verdicchio producer in Matelica. Cambrugiano, in turn, is the world's first Riserva-quality Verdicchio, produced since 1988. The grapes are sourced from vineyards located at the altitude of 400 meters and only the best grapes are selected. The wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel (80%) and in 225-liter oak barriques (20%) and another 12 months in bottles.

Deep yellow color with pale green highlights, slightly oily appearance.

The wine has an elegant, balanced and quite expressive nose with aromas of honeydew melon, pear, some yellow damson, a little almond, a hint of hay and a touch of herbal notes.

It is dry, moderately full-bodied and broad on the palate with slightly oily mouthfeel counterpointed by bright, racy acidity. There are complex flavors of dried herbs, acid-driven citrus fruits, some floral nuances, a little yellow damson and a hint of almonds with a vague undertone of vanilla.

Finally the wine finishes with a ripe, fruity and medium-long finish with harmonious flavors of exotic spices, yellow stone fruits, some minerality and a hint of almond-driven nuttiness.

In a sense this is not a "big, voluptuous and impressive" Riserva white, but instead a balanced and well-made Verdicchio, where the difference between Riserva and "normale" is evident in the addition of depth, complexity and elegance, not in bigger concentration, more ripe fruit or heavier oak influence.

91/100
Summary: Cambrugiano is a very stylish and sophisticated Verdicchio di Matelica, thoroughly enjoyable on its own, but also a lovely and versatile food wine. Definitely one of the better Verdicchios in the market and shows obvious aging potential for at least 5 years more. Tremendous value at 15€.

***

Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2009
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
  • Azienda Agricola Villa Bucci
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: 15,25€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 27th of October, 2012



The entry-level Verdicchio of the winery. Made from organically grown grapes sourced from different parcels, all vinified separately. The Classico in the name tells that these parcels are located in the classic heartland of the Castelli di Jesi wine region, whereas the Superiore refers to the higher-than-normal alcohol content, translating to grapes of more ripeness.

Lovely golden yellow color.

A bit reticent nose with typical Verdicchio aromas of ripe citrus fruits, some pineapple-driven yellow fruit, a little almondy nuttiness, a hint of elderflower and a touch of ripe yellow damson.

Although the wine is modestly medium-bodied on the palate, it is still surprisingly broad and intense with almost oily mouthfeel. There are powerful and quite spicy flavors of almonds, fennel, aromatic herbs, some tropical and yellow fruits like mirabelle plum, unripe tangerine and starfruit, and hints of cookie dough. Good structure with racy acidity.

Very dry and quite complex finish with intense herbal notes, almond-driven nuttiness, a little hay, hints of peachy yellow fruit and a touch of steely minerality.

Overall this is a balanced, but surprisingly intense and powerful Verdicchio with lots of youthful energy. Definitely a food wine, as the wine might be too overwhelming on its own; it also needs food hearty enough to withstand the structure and the intensity of the flavor.

91/100
Summary: Drinking nicely now, but will easily develop for several years in the cellar. Recommended and a wonderful purchase at 15,25€.

***

Colonnara Ubaldo Rosi Riserva Spumante Metodo Classico 2007
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore Spumante Riserva
  • Colonnara
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: 19,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 30th of April, 2014



A méthode traditionelle sparkling wine made with Verdicchio grapes made by the local quality-oriented co-operative founded in 1959. Bottle-aged for a minimum 5 years before disgorging. Hand-riddling. This bottle was disgorged in 2013.

Luminous pale green color.

Aromas of ripe apple, honeydew melon, lemon curd, some aged honeyed nuttiness, hints of floral nuances and a touch of that Verdicchio spiciness. Also, with some air, an autolytic note of French bread emerges.

On the palate the wine is very dry and really fresh with very fine, creamy mousse and medium body. There are complex flavors of fresh apple, lemon peel, some almond notes, a hint of spiciness and a touch of bitterness. Good acidity that gives the wine structure and intensity.

The finish is long, mouth-cleansing and somewhat bitter with flavors of almonds, lemon-driven citrus fruits and an autolytic hint of yeasty leesiness.

Overall this is a really attractive, albeit a very youthful and primary Spumante Riserva – I assume this wine would develop really nicely over medium-to-long term in a cellar.

92/100
Summary: Really tremendous stuff and will pair really good with light, oily dishes. Despite the age, there is definitely no hurry opening this one. Great value at 19€ – sourced straight from the winery in Marche.

***

San Lorenzo Vigneto delle Oche Riserva 2004
DOCG Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva
  • Fattoria San Lorenzo
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: ~23€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 12th of October, 2015



Fattoria San Lorenzo is regarded some of the best producers in the Jesi region, if not the best. Although coming from a family that has grown vines and made wine for generations, San Lorenzo is a relatively newcomer, having been founded only in 1995. They make three Verdicchio wines, all that have been named by the geese (le oche) that roam in the vineyards: the entry-level wine Le Oche, the mid-tier superiore wine Campo delle Oche and the single-vineyard riserva wine, Vigneto delle Oche. This Riserva is made from organically grown grapes and it is aged first for a whopping 2 years in concrete tanks and then a further 12 months in stainless steel before it is bottled unfiltered.

Deep, moderately developed honeyed yellow color.

After having been aged for more than 10 years, the wine's bouquet betrays the age with layered aromas of nutty complexity, matured toasty notes, honeyed roasted almonds, rich candy aromas of wine gums, some cantaloupe, a hint of smoky minerality and a touch of dried apricots.

On the palate the wine feels full-bodied, obviously quite developed and very textural, yet remarkably bright and structured due to its lively acidity. The flavors are dominated by mature nutty flavors, but there are also complex notes of wildhoney, stony minerality, nectarine and some spiciness. The mouthfeel is quite weighty, waxy and somewhat concentrated by the age.

The finish is incredibly powerful, complex and developed with mature, layered nuances of roasted exotic spices, developed nuttiness, some stony minerality, a little dried peach and a hint of honey. The acidity becomes even more pronounced towards the end of the aftertaste, making the wine end on a bright, lively and mouthwatering note.

This might just be the most impressive Verdicchio I've ever tasted, stylistically getting very close to an aged high-quality Burgundy white, yet still with unmistakably Italian flair. Stunning, really.

96/100
Summary: This wine is really a testament to how the best Verdicchios (riservas, usually) not only age really well, but actually require surprisingly much age just to show their potential. This wine also shows how oak aging isn't really necessary to make impressive, weighty and age-worthy whites. Young vintages of this wine can be found for as low as 15€, but with any luck one might be able to source these older vintages for approx 25€. At less than 25€ this wine shows simply ridiculous value.

***

Sartarelli Balciana 2009
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
  • Sartarelli
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: ~30,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 12th of October, 2015



The flagship wine of the Sartarelli range, made from the grapes sourced from the highly esteemed vineyard located in Contrada Balciana. The grapes here ripen extremely slowly and the harvest can go on as late as mid-November in some years. In the coolest years the grapes can't reach optimum ripeness at all and the vintage is completely skipped. The wine sees only stainless steel and glass bottles during the aging, total annual production can reach approx. 15,000 bottles at the highest.

Moderately developed, pale golden yellow color.

Surprisingly dry and savory nose with some smoky aged character, revealing layered nuances of bruised cider apple, exotic spices, ripe stone fruits, some toasty matured notes and hints of aged nuttiness.

Despite the vintage 2009, which is generally regarded as pretty hot throughout Europe, the wine feels medium-to-moderately full-bodied on the palate with balanced, racy acidity that cuts nicely through the rich fruit. Overall the wine feels remarkably fresh and crisp with intense, but surprisingly little-developed flavors of citrus fruits, ripe red apple, cantaloupe, some spicy almondy character and sweeter hints of exotic fruits and apricots.

The wine finishes on a tightly-knit and structured, but more developed note with flavors of yellow stone fruits, some red apple, a little honeydew melon, a hint of exotic spices and a touch of roasted almonds.

For a Verdicchio at 6 years of age, Balciana 2009 feels remarkably young and fresh, apparently aging only at a glacial pace. A remarkable powerhouse for a Verdicchio.

94/100
Summary: You can really taste the concentration, power and potential here and, as this vintage testifies, there is no point opening a wine this impressive yet. Most likely the wine will start to exhibit more mature character only after 10 or so years and hits its stride really at 15–20 years of age, so there is no point opening these wines yet. Truly a remarkable example of what Verdicchio can produce in Marche.

***

Sartarelli Tralivio 2010
DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
  • Sartarelli
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Marche, Castelli di Jesi
  • Grape(s): Verdicchio (100%)
  • Price: 13,00€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 12th of October, 2015



The mid-tier Verdicchio of Sartarelli, made solely from selected grapes of their oldest vineyards. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. Annual production approx. 90,000 bottles.

Somewhat developed peachy yellow color.

Quite rich and complex nose with aromas of ripe yellow stone fruits, yellow gummy bear candies, some developed waxy notes with fruit that is taking on a sweet marmalade edge, hints of almondy nuttiness and a touch of mature creamy / buttery character.

On the palate the wine feels moderately full-bodied and even a bit oily, yet also high in acidity giving the wine even somewhat crisp bite and good, robust structure. There are flavors of citrusy fruit, some exotic spice, modest stony minerality, a little developed honey character and light hints of crushed almonds. Overall the wine feels that is has concentrated a bit with the age, becoming somewhat weighty and rich, yet still carrying that lemony acidity typical of the variety.

The wine finishes with a long, rich and powerful aftertaste of ripe citrus fruits, sweet red apple, some stony minerality, a little exotic spice and hints of almond.

Overall this is a surprisingly serious, rich and structured Verdicchio that is already starting to show some signs of age with some sense of concentration and honeyed fruit, yet the wine is remarkably fresh and taut like a wine that was bottled only yesterday.

93/100
Summary: Very impressive effort that is at 5 years of age only suggesting of the potential the wine can show with age. Obviously a white meant for the long haul. No reason to open any time soon, even though the wine is drinking quite nicely already – it would be just waste of potential. Stunning value at only 13€.


***

Suavia Massifitti 2010
IGT Bianco Veronese
  • Suavia
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Veneto, Soave Classico
  • Grape(s): Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio) (100%)
  • Price: 11,90€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 24th of April, 2014



Often people seem to think that Massifitti is a Soave Classico, but as it is a 100% Trebbiano di Soave aka. Turbiana aka. Verdicchio, it can't be labeled as such – instead this is an IGT Bianco Veronese. Its first vintage was 2008, so this is only the 3rd vintage of the wine ever made. Aged for 15 months sur lie in stainless steel with a part of wine undergoing MLF. After the tank aging the wine is lightly filtered and then bottled in these distinctive potato masher bottles in which the wine is aged for a further 15 months. Annual production is only 3000 bottles.

Luminous youthful green color.

Very expressive, rich and attractive nose with lots of ripe fruits such as sweet citrus fruits, honeydew melon, peach and apple purée along with pronounced notes of wet stone minerality, some understated spiciness and a touch of floral aromatics.

On the palate the wine is quite full-bodied and rich with moderate concentration, but almost bone-dry and very structured as well, thanks to its bracing, focused acidity and rough stony minerality that supports the weighty core of ripe apple, pronounced spiciness and pithy lemon notes. Great freshness with very modest alcohol (12,5%) – the wine feels surprisingly light for such a big wine.

The finish is full of apple and stony minerality, but with more focus on tart, green apple notes that turn towards quinine mineral bitterness towards the end.

Although not technically a Soave, this is hands down one of the most impressive wines produced in the Soave Classico region. Truly a showcase of the potential what Trebbiano di Soave can attain in right terroir with sensible winemaking.

95/100
Summary: Massifitti shows a tremendous combination of richness and focused freshness. This is most likely a wine that'll age nicely for years, but it is drinking so nicely right now that keeping bottles in a cellar and not touching them would be a chore! Ridiculously amazing value at only 11,90€.

***

Zenato Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato 2008
DOC Lugana Riserva
  • Zenato
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Lombardy / Veneto, Lugana
  • Grape(s): Trebbiano di Lugana (Verdicchio) (100%)
  • Price: 23,90€ / 0,75
  • Tasted on: 17th of October, 2011



The flagship white wine of Zenato, a famed producer located by the Garda lake. Made from the best Trebbiano di Lugana grapes sourced from the Lugana wine region, located at the border of Lombardy and Veneto at the southern shore of the lake Garda; the wine is fermented in 5,000-liter oak casks and 300-liter tonneaux (70%) and stainless steel (30%). Aged for 6 months in oak tonneaux and 12 months in bottles before release.

Deep golden yellow color.

Very open, floral and fruity nose with notes of honey, butterscotch and ripe tropical fruits – especially pear and overripe pineapple.

The taste is somewhat lighter and more restrained after the generous nose. On the palate the wine is round, supple and full-bodied, toasted and slightly spicy with some alcoholic heat. Oak is well integrated with brief notes of vanilla and butterscotch complementing the ripe apple notes of the mid-palate. Wine seems to lack acidity, resulting in very full body and sensation of sweetness with the ripe fruits, but also resulting in some lack of structure, energy and focus.

The wine finishes pretty short with notes of spicy oak and ripe tropical fruits.

Overall the wine is pleasant with an elegant taste and and complex aromatics, but it is also a bit heavy and unstructured – for example with its modest acidity, I don't know how well the wine can survive heavier dishes.

89/100
Summary: Though quite weighty and serious for a Lugana wine, the wine is somewhat lacking focus and brightness, feeling a bit too modern and overdone. To me, the wine is best served quite well chilled, paired with spicy Asian kitchen, or enjoyed on its own. I think it feels a tad too pricey at 23,90€.