Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin


4 Commentaires

Ode aux vins grecs

Notre invité de ce samedi est Sébastien Durand-Viel (Connaître & Apprécier). Historien de formation, il remonte pour nous à une des grandes sources de la culture viticole européenne, la Grèce, sur la base d’une dégustation qui ne remonte pas aux calendes, mais au 14 mai dernier…

Deux dégustations avaient lieu le même jour à Paris : l’après-midi, celle des Barolos. Trop jeunes, trop chauds (des vins servis parfois à 25°…), trop tanniques, trop chers, trop tout pour un dégustateur essoufflé après un premier marathon matinal.

Notes laconiques et désinvoltes trahissant la grande fatigue du dégustateur. 14/05, 17h30

 

Parce que, à la décharge des Barolos (qui s’en remettront, je pense), mon quota d’enthousiasme et d’endurance du jour avait été absorbé par la formidable dégustation du matin. Celle-là avait lieu chez Mavromatis* dont le seul nom fait saliver l’amateur parisien de cuisine grecque. Imaginaire, caractère, sensation, émotion, voilà tous les voyages auxquels la poignée de vignerons grecs rassemblés pour l’occasion m’a convié. Et c’était formidable.

Notes frénétiques et illisibles témoignant de l’enthousiasme débridé du même dégustateur. 14/05, 10h.

Rouges vivants, blancs vibrants

Les vénérables Anciens ne nous ont pas légué qu’Homère, Hérodote ou Hésiode, ils nous ont aussi transmis l’amour du vin à une époque où nous autre celtes barbotions allègrement dans la cervoise. Les crus de Pramnios ou d’Ismaros qui égayent le périple d’Ulysse sont parmi les plus vieux crus répertoriés du monde. C’était il y quelques 2800 ans… Certes de l’eau a coulé sur les ponts et les Grecs se sont longtemps noyés, comme d‘autres, dans des flots de vins sans grâce mais dans ce pays que la crise rend encore plus attachant les grands vins de l’Antiquité sont de retour. Mavromaphné, Xynomavro, Assyrtico, Nemea, Céphalonia, Attica…rien que les consonances des cépages et des appellations nous ramènent vers un imaginaire chargé de récits, de mythes, d’histoires édifiantes. Mais si émotion il y a, c’est parce que les meilleurs vins grecs stimulent autant les papilles que l’esprit. Il y a quelque chose de vivant dans l’équilibre des meilleurs vins rouges grecs et de vibrant dans celui des blancs qui (avec un peu d’imagination) font parler, outre les temps homériques, la lumière, la pierre, la mer, le sel. La Grèce c’est un vignoble de 107 000 ha (OIV 2017) situé à des latitudes bien sudistes mais les vins locaux n’ont rien de solaire, de mou, de cuit, bien au contraire. Les blancs sont étonnants de vitalité et de fraîcheur aromatiques, les rouges sont souvent stimulants, bien structurés, entre tanins et acidité. La « faute » à la physiologie des cépages locaux (75% du vignoble), à l’omniprésence de la mer, des vents, de la montagne, de l’altitude qui modèrent les morsures du soleil, et au talent de ses meilleurs producteurs dont voici un aperçu. Tous les vins sont importés par Mavromatis, les tarifs sont ceux indiqués par l’importateur. Sauf exception, les prix sont décents au regard du plaisir qu’ils procurent, ou qu’ils m’ont procuré. Tout étant relatif.

Retsina

Si vous êtes fâché avec la Retsina, et il peut y avoir de bonnes raisons, faites un détour par le domaine Kechris (Macédoine) qui en a fait sa spécialité. Pour produire un vin « résiné », on laisse macérer dans le moût en fermentation des morceaux de résine de pin d’Alep qui apporte ses arômes très typés. C’est l’avatar moderne d’une technique antique consistant à étanchéifier les contenants (outres, amphores) avec de la résine qui donnait au passage aux vins un goût «poissé». Aujourd’hui on peut s’en servir pour masquer la médiocrité des vins de base, ou donner, comme ici, un supplément d’âme à des vins excellents. La Kechribari (10 e), issue du cépage roditis, est splendide à ce prix : à la fois tendre et frais, soyeux de texture, aux notes délicates de résine, d’estragon et de végétal frais. Les Larmes du Pin (22 e), issue de l’assyrtico, y ajoute une vinification en barrique, et c’est magnifique. En version rouge élevée en fût (Roza, xinomavro, 19 e), on frise l’extase : la résine vient juste en écho aux notes de fruit rouge, de cuir, de chêne, la bouche est délicatement charnue, finement tannique, fraîche, longue. Moment de grâce. Et s’il fallait se réconcilier avec les retsina de l’Attique, le bastion de la production, et son cépage vedette, le savatiano, on goutera à celle de Papagiannakos (10 e).

Santorin

La plus belle île des Cyclades dit-on, en tous cas la plus connue de l’œnophile. Anonyme il y a 20 ans, le vignoble de Santorin est devenu un standard grec, grâce à son cépage vedette, l’assyrtico, capable de donner une large palette de vins qui ont comme fondamentaux une forte acidité et des saveurs franchement minérales, salines, bref complexes (mot-clé en dégustation qui masque l’imprécision ou le manque d’imagination de l’auteur). Le domaine Argyros en livre toute les nuances : l’assytico 2016 (23 e) est une expression directe du cépage : intense, vif, avec un corps qui distille (tournure imagée, faiblement chargée de sens mais qui fait son effet) un fruit subtil, salin, précis. Ktima 2016 (27 e) est plus enveloppé, charnu et moderne. En version vinsanto (vin doux issu de raisins passerillés) il faut gouter le 12 ans (68 e hélas), oxydatif et langoureux. Haridimos Hatzidakis, disparu en 2017, était le vigneron vedette de l’île. 2016 aura été son dernier millésime vinifié. La cuvée Skitali possède beaucoup de tout : d’acidité, de gras, d’alcool, un fond légèrement tannique et des arômes réducteurs, lumineux, salés. Impressionnant mais trop cher (46 e).

Céphalonie

C’est la plus grande des îles ioniennes et le fief du domaine Gentilini. L’île est volcanique, les sols rocailleux et le vignoble s’étage sur des coteaux qui tutoient les 800 m d’altitude. Le robola est une spécialité locale, déclinée en deux cuvées très réussies : Le Robola 2017 (17 e) est un blanc parfaitement rafraîchissant, vivace, parfumé (fruit vert, pomme verte), salin et vivifiant. Le Wild Paths 2016 (20 e) provient de vieilles vignes avec un élevage partiel en barriques : citron vert, tilleul, notes vanillées, de la rondeur et une finale cristalline et iodée.

Macédoine

Naoussa est une des appellations vedette du pays. Située dans la Macédoine Centrale, elle met à l’honneur, entre plaine et coteaux, le xinomavro (« acide et noir ») un cépage qui, planté en altitude, donne des rouges pas si noirs que ça mais tanniques, acides, de garde, parfois rustiques. Il faut savoir le dompter, ce que fait très bien le domaine Diamantakos : une robe pâle, un nez complexe (floral, cuir, épice, boisé), une bouche solide, fraîche, ferme, vibrante pour le Naoussa 2015 (23 e) qui vieillira bien (magnifique 2012).

Goumenissa est situé au nord-ouest de Naoussa. Au domaine Aidarinis, le xinomavro est épaulé par un cépage local, le negoska. Cela donne la cuvée Single Vineyard « Î » 2013 : profond, aromatique (cuir, laurier), tannique, au gout de rafle et à la finale mentholée (20 e).
Amyndeon, à deux pas de la frontière albanaise, a comme figure de proue le domaine Kir Yianni : le Kali Roza 2016 (17 e) est un xinomavro carré et fringuant. Le caractère du cépage ne se dilue par dans son rosé : l’Akakies 2017 (13 e) est un vrai rosé, coloré (48 h de macération), vineux, savoureux et suffisamment frais. On ne quitte pas Kir Yianni sans s’essayer à son blanc Paranga 2017 (12 e) : une base de roditis et 20% de malagousia, qui l’emporte en bouche avec ses arômes exubérants. Le cépage est une des nouvelles coqueluches grecques, bien au goût du jour : entre le muscat et le viognier par ses arômes, mais sans le gras et avec la fraîcheur en plus. A l’origine de son renouveau, il y a le domaine Gerovassiliou, dont le vignoble jouxte l’Egée au sud de Thessalonique. Son Malagousia (16 ou 17 ?) est parfait sauf le prix (20 e) : vif, croquant, parfumé, net, désaltérant. Son rouge Avaton (32 e), issu de cépages locaux, est une formidable illustration du tempérament grec : charnu, voluptueux et tannique à souhait.

Péloponnèse

Domaine Parparoussis : vénérable producteur dont la taille (en cm, pas en ha) est inversement proportionnel à sa réputation. J’avais gardé en mémoire son muscat de rio patras gouté il y a 16 ans et qui m’est revenu en pleine forme dans le millésime 2013 (25.50 e) : passerillé, naturellement doux, donc non muté, le nez embaume la marmelade d’orange et l’abricot sec. Les 120 gr de sucre sont digérés par ce qu’il faut d’acidité volatile. Onctueux, suave, long, parfumé, à laper à petites gorgées, tout seul, si possible face à l‘Egée au soleil couchant… Les rouges du Péloponnèse m’ont moins emballé, mais ça m’arrange, il faut bien finir le papier.

Sébastien Durand Viel 

Mavromatis : http://www.mavrommatis.com. Restaurants (Mavromatis et Délices d’Aphrodite) et caviste (49, rue Censier 75005 Paris)


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Looming diary dates: VitiLoire + Pinon PO

 

VitiLoire @Tours: 26th and 27th May 2018

 

Vitiloire_2018_A3s

VitiLoire

 

Plan

Vitiloire centres around the Boulevard Heurteloup
and close to Tours central station

This coming weekend sees VitiLoire in central Tours. This is the Loire’s biggest consumer Wine Fair with some 150 producers from throughout the Loire. It attracts thousands especially on a fine day and this year the forecast is good. Highs of 28˚C are predicted for both Saturday and Sunday in Tours before an early Monday morning thunderstorm 

There are 135 vignerons showing their wines from appellations from the Pays Nantais all the way up the river to the Côtes d’Auvergne. There is the opportunity to buy with ‘grooms’ available to carry your purchases to your car as well as numerous food stalls when you get hungry. There is also the possibility of arranging to have your wine delivered to your home. Not forgetting 12 chefs demonstrating their art – six on Saturday and six on Sunday.

It is always a fun and convivial event and a great chance to taste a very wide range of Loire wines. I prefer to get there early and then slope off around lunchtime but that is because I’m a boring old fart…… 

More details etc. on Facebook

IMG_9831

Time for lunch

Lunch

MusiciansaMusicians 

Hours: Saturday 10am – 7pm; Sunday 10am – 6pm

 

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François and Julien Pinon: Portes Ouvertes: 26th May 

Message from François and Julien Pinon inviting people to celebrate François’ 30th vintage and the first one of his son – Julien  

Dates: Saturday 26th May

 

‘Nous sommes heureux de vous inviter à nos portes ouvertes du Printemps. Venez fêter les 30 ans de carrière de François et le premier millésime de Julien!

Rendez-vous le samedi 26 mai et le samedi 1er décembre 2018, de 10h à 13h et de 14h30 à 18h.’

Julien Pinon

 

Front view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Prosecco: simple, pleasant and inexpensive, a recipe for success

The hillside landscape of Prosecco in the evening, north of Conegliano

Most people are by now aware of the huge commercial success of Prosecco in many markets. More bottles of Prosecco (almost 500 million recently) than of Champagne are produced annually, and this figure will probably continue to grow for Prosecco as this region has authorized high yields, is unconstrained by high prices for grapes, as well as having the possibility to sell its wines within the year following harvest. The combination of these factors, added to a secondary fermentation in tanks that avoids the riddling and disgorgment process, means that the cost price at production of a bottle of Prosecco is at most a quarter of that of a bottle of Champagne, and around third of that of a bottle of Crémant or other sparkling wine that uses the bottle as the container for the secondary fermentation.

The architecture of the town of Conegliano clearly shows Venetian influence. No canals here though: we are in the hills further north.

But Prosecco is not just about price, even if this brings it a serious advantage when used, as is so often the case, as an ingredient in various forms of aperitif cocktails. A couple of days spent recently in this most attractive and (at least partly) very hilly countryside of the Veneto region of North-Eastern Italy gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at some aspects of this fashionable and easy-drinking fizz. In fact the Prosecco production area oversteps the regional boundary of Veneto and strays into neighbouring Friuli, although the most prestigious part, which carries a DOCG status rather than the larger and looser DOC one, is entirely within the Veneto and carries the specific sub-regional name of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. Another recognised sub-region is Asolo.

Although I did not undertake extensive tastings on this occasion, I managed to visit four small to medium-sized producers, all within the above-mentioned sub-regions whose hilly landscapes and regularly ploughed soil under the vines (between the rows they grow grass, as shown above) showed me that, from the viticultural point of view, producers here seem considerably more virtuous than most of those in Champagne!

The Charmat, or tank method used for the secondary fermentation (see above) is often sub-contracted by smaller producers to specialists. It uses pressurised and resistant tanks called autoclaves, with different levels of atmospheric pressure authorized, between 3 and 5 bars. The wine is filtered and bottled under pressure just a few months after fermentation, which meant that most of the wines that I tasted early in May came from the 2017 harvest. This rapid turnover is clearly a huge financial advantage when compared to the necessity to keep a vintage Champagne for at least 3 years on its lees.

The dominant grape variety for Prosecco is called Glera and has to constitute at least 85% of the final blend. Other authorized local varieties are Verdiso, Bianchetta, Trevigiana and Perera, but Chardonnay is also allowed. Dosage levels for the various designations follow the same rules as Champagne, but current fashion, at least in Italy, tends to favour the Extra Dry category (12 to 17 grams of residual sugar) over the Brut (up to 12 grams). I did however taste the occasional Prosecco that was dosed more lightly, around 6 grams, and found that this added the peps and precision that is, to me at least, often lacking in these wines since the combination between a warmer climate and the Glera grape makes for much lower natural acidity that in Champagne.

Here are a few comments and tasting notes from the producers that I visited:

Villa di Maser

This very beautiful estate lies not far east of Asolo and surrounds one of the most remarkable of the Palladio villas, with its frescos by Veronese, its sculptures, its woods and gardens, as well as 40 hectares of vines. These are not entirely dedicated to Prosecco as I also tasted some very good still wines, including a wonderful Verduzzo Dorato, almost amber in colour, suave in texture and enrichened by skin maceration. They also have a very nicely arranged and well managed restaurant and bar in one of the neighbouring buildings Their Asolo Prosecco Superiore was very pleasant, delicately rounded and fruity. Straightforward and easy to enjoy.

Tenuta Amadio, Monfumo

This modernized estate, which builds on a family viticultural heritage, is managed by a young brother and sister team. It lies just north of the medieval town of Asolo, well into the hills with some spectacular views as you climb up the narrow lanes to get there. I liked their wines very much and thought that they were the best of all the Proseccos that I tasted on this trip. We unfortunately did not have enough time for a full tasting of the range, but I especially enjoyed their Asolo Prosecco Extra-Brut 2017: fine and delicate, floral and fruity, that flowed seemingly effortlessly across the palate.

Borgo Antico, Ogliano di Conegliano

A vineyard of 21 hectares currently under conversion to organic agriculture. When I was there, staying nearby for a few days, it rained every night so the tractors were out spraying every day as the rain constantly washed off the stuff that they are allowed to use (no systemic products in organic farming). Made me wonder about the carbon balance of this approach, as well as the quality of copper being used. Modern equipment in a recently-built and impeccably clean winery, but they sub-contract the secondary fermentation. Their Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut 2017, dosed at just 6 grams, showed perfumes of linden and lemon and was pleasantly dynamic. I liked less the Extra-Dry which had more body but less finesse and the dosage seemed to partially mask some bitterness. Of the still wines tasted, I enjoyed the pale red wine made from a local variety called Marzemino (2017), with its lively flavours of bitter cherries.

Vigne Matte, Rolle, Conegliano

This modern estate, with vineyards spread out over several sites (above is a view of part of the main site), is the creation of someone who made his money in the motor industry. The site is very spectacular and shows just how steep and had to work are a lot of the vineyards in this northern sector of the Prosecco region. They do everything here, including the secondary fermentation. Just 20% is exported. My favourite wine here of their Proseccos was the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Cuvée, which incorporates 15% Chardonnay with 85% Glera: quite fine, nicely fruity and just a touch of bitterness on the finish. The others were too heavily dosed for my palate, with the exception of a sparkling wine made outside the Prosecco appellation but using the tank method: à 100% Chardonnay called 007. This had length, complexity and precision. Made me wonder whether this grape might not be more interesting in these parts than Glera. Is this ridiculous?

So yes, Prosecco can be a very pleasant sparkling wine. What it does not have, at least in the wines that I tasted, is complexity and length. High yields and a very short time spent on lees see to that. Maybe also the natural limitations of the Glera grape variety, but of that I am not so sure. But why should all wines be monsters of complexity, especially when they retail for around 6 euros a bottle? Horses for courses is the name of the game. In any case it is a beautiful region to visit if you are ever in Venice. An hour’s drive north from the airport will get you into the heart of it.

David Cobbold

 

 

 


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A few dispatches from a bizarre little island off the north coast of France

Join conference

You may have thought that the government of this bizarre island were convinced that they should get out of the EU. However, in July they will host a conference that seeks to persuade countries from the Western Balkans to join the EU. See below – you couldn’t make it up!

Here are some of the details as reported in The Independent 

‘The British government will host a summit encouraging six European countries to join the EU for the sake of their “security, stability and prosperity”, months before it is due to sign its own Brexit withdrawal deal with Brussels.

London will in July play host to Western Balkans governments including Serbia and Albania, as well as existing EU member states, to discuss reforms to pave the way to future EU enlargement.

The summit is part of the so-called Berlin Process – a series of meetings aimed at supporting the region towards joining the bloc and described by the European parliament’s research arm as “bringing a new perspective and impetus to the enlargement process”.’

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Early example of the new potential Cru Vallet:

 

 

Tasted and enjoyed this 2014 ‘Cru Communaux’ Vallet from Domaine Petiteau this evening. Vallet is one of the latest Muscadet communes to start out on the quest to become a recognised cru communaux. Vallet launched its quest last year. 

The Petiteau’s Vallet spends at least 17 months on its lees. Light gold colour with delicate brioche aromas and attractive appley texture with good concentration, balance and length. The long finish has a refreshing touch of bitterness in the finish. This Vallet clearly has the potential to age well and develop further in the bottle.

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In praise of ebikes

Front view

We had already decided that when cycling became too difficult we would invest in a pair of ebikes. A purchase we saw as for sometime in the future.

My accident on 2nd January when I separated my quads from my left knee cap, brought the acquisition of an ebike forward. Although my knee and quads are now working increasingly well together, I am keen not put too much strain on my left knee. Anyway that is my excuse.

Last Friday afternoon I took possession of a Giant Pro 1 ebike from Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace.

The Giant Pro 1 is a revelation. It makes going up hills easy and a pleasure. There was a time when I was considerably young that I found it easy to climb most hills. I went up some of the classic Tour de France climbs including the Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez.

Close up battery

View of the battery of the bike while on charge 

Some might see an ebike as cheating, which it would be if you were in a race with a hidden battery but this is certainly not the case with the Pro 1 as the battery and engine are in full view. 

I understand that ebikes are now very popular in Holland and they are becoming more popular in this little island. There is much to be said for anything that persuades people that biking can be enjoyable, especially if they tend to be sedentary and are not super-fit whippets…
Reducing weight should help people to live longer and so drink more wine – in modération, of course.


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Valpolicella 2/2

Last week I attempted to present the complexity of the various denominations that exist within this fine wine region of the Veneto, in North-Eastern Italy. Here I will talk about a few of the producers there, following my recent visits and tastings.

This poorly framed and hastily taken shot of a relief map of the Valpolicella region explains quite a lot about the importance of site selection in this region. I always think that « site » is a much more suitable term than the very vague and tendentious term « terroir ». As you can see, it was taken at the Guerrieri Rizzardi estate, which has an interesting garden but whose wines did not impress me and so are not commented in this article. The section of hills to the left, just by the Lake of Garda, is devoted to the denomination Bardolino, which you can see is separated from that of Valpolicella by the river Adige that flows down from the Alps. Although made mainly from the same grapes, the styles of Bardolino is curiously different, lighter and slightly peppery according the the few that I tasted.

The 4 Castagnedi brothers who run this fine estate. Paolo, who did the honours so well on our visit, and who is in charge of the winemaking, is on the left. 

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio

I first encountered the wines of this producer a few years ago when I was part of a press trip to taste the Anteprima sessions of the Amarone wines in Verona. I remember especially liking this producer’s wine and later visited their premises, situated on a hilltop with spectacular views all around. You have to mean business to get there, but it is well worth the winding road uphill. This year I returned, taking a group of 3O with me. This winery belongs to a family called Castagnedi, of which four brothers currently managed all aspects. They produce a wide range of wines exclusively from their own vineyards which are divided amongst two neighbouring appellations: Valpolicella and Soave.

White wines (so NOT Valpolicella)

Scaia 2017 : made with the local variety Garganega, together with some Chardonnay, this is light, crisp and fresh, finely perfumed, quite delicious and retails for just 8,5 euros a bottle at the winery.

Soave 2017 : mainly Garganega with some Chardonnay. Just 4 grams of residual sugar, this is more rounded but just as fine. 8 euros.

Telos 2016 (no added sulfites) : a proof that one can make excellent wine without adding sulfites of one is very careful, technically speaking, at all stages. This is also a Garganega/Chardonnay blend. Rounded and nicely perfumed with a silky texture. Good intensity. 10 euros

Soave Superiore Monte Ceriani: 100% Garganega. This has more substance, as well as showing that touch of bitterness on the finish that one finds in so many italian wines, both white and red. It also has more complexity and greater length that the other Soave, so it justifies its title of « Superiore ». Not much more expensive either at 9 euros.

Red wines

See my article of last week for details of the intricacy of the various techniques used in Valpolicella and the appellations that correspond to these. One should also of course remember that within these technical and administrative boundaries, the individual style decided by each wine maker and the vineyard characteristics combine to create an infinite set of nuances that at times seem to cross these boundaries.

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Monte Garbi

Lovely flavours of bitter cherries combine with with lots of delicacy in the wine’s texture. Very good length. At 12 euros, this is an excellent buy and a very good introduction to the Ripasso style.

Telos Rossa 2014

As mentioned in the white wine section, the Telos range is made without any added sulfites. The technical mastery of the Castagnedi brothers ensure that this is achieved without any deviation. The nose is especially lively, intense and with a slightly peppery edge. It makes me wonder whether this sharpness of focus is partly the result of the lack of added sulfites….to be investigated at some point). It also brings up the bitterness in the wine, perhaps to a point that makes it less agreeable to many. The tannins seemed a bit harsh also. I preferred the previous wines. Bring back the sulfites please! 11 euros

Valpolicella Superiore La Bandina 2013

This wine spent 24 months in large barrels (500 litre hogsheads), and at least another 12 months in bottles before being first put on the market. The nose is magnificent and the texture is fine. Good intensity and excellent length. 16 euros

Telos Amarone 2011

This « no added sulfites » range seems to be sold outside the Soave or the Valpolicalla designations: at least the wines are labelled and listed as such. The wine is clearly powerful in its aromas and flavours, with a fabulous quality of fruit. Full-bodied and refined at the same time Excellent length, but for me the balance tips just a shade on the alcohol side. It certainly has lasted perfectly without the protective cladding of sulfites. 25 euros

Amarone di Valpolicella, Selezione Antonio Castagnedi

The first impressions on the nose reminded my instantly of bitter chocolate and made me want to combine these two substances. Firmly structured, powerful and warm, with that unique (to Amarone) combination between rich fruit flavours and bitterness. I think that I preferred this wine to the one with no sulfites. 25 euros

Amarone di Valpolicella, Campo dei Gigli 2012

A single vineyard wine. Quite lovely, full of energy, intense and refined and showing the best overall balance of the Amarones tasted here to date. This is not to be missed by amateurs of the genre and is still well worth the higher price tag of 47 euros.

Amarone di Valpolicella Riserva Lilium Est 2007

This wine, which is only produced in the very best vintages, is aged in various containers for at least ten years before release. This is therefore the latest vintage available. It shows a slight whiff of volatile acidity on pouring, but who wouldn’t after ten years waiting in the sidelines? Nothing over the top, just enough to add a bit of lift and edge to the aromas. Huge richness and complexity. It has enormous length and its tannins are still surprisingly powerful. There is probably some of the Osoleta grape in the blend, which could explain this. I would keep this for another 5 or ten years before drinking it. One for collectors perhaps. 85 euros.

Recioto della Valpolicella, Argille Bianche 2011

Here, with the sweet but unfortified type of wine from the region, the nose is just packed with aromas of black chocolate and dark cherries. On the palate there is a magnificent and quite unique association between bitterness and sweetness. Splendid balance and, naturally, considerable length. 24 euros (half bottle).

Seen at the Serego Alighieri Estate, which still belongs to the descendants of Dante but which is managed by Masi: these beautiful 5OO litre hogsheads made of cherry wood. They finish their top wines in these after 18 months spent in oak barrels of the same size. They cost even more than the oak equivalent as the trees have not been grown with this usage in mind, so there is far more wastage on account of knots and so on. They add roundness and a certain perfume to the wines they hold, in particular Amarones.

Masi

This is certainly the best-known producer of the region, at least on export markets where it has pioneered the various types of local wines, especially in markets like Canada, the USA and Japan, and several others as well. Masi has conducted a lot of research into the drying process and used long, bamboo-slatted trays that are placed on racks and rotated in their air-conditioned drying chambers to ensure that there is not difference between the levels. It was interesting here to taste dried grapes from several of the local varieties they used, and to note that the Osoleta variety, which cannot exceed 10% in the blends, is almost totally dry and raisined at the end of the process. Its impact in terms of tannins is thus considerable and it seems to be used rather like salt and pepper to adjust this tannic aspect of the wines.

a rack of the grape drying trays at Masi’s cellars. The slats are made of bamboo, which is rounded so as not to break the skins, hard on the outside and very resistant to liquids.

Rosso Veneto, Campo Fiorin 2014 (50th anniversary)

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, and which seem to have much to do with marketing considerations, Masi has taken some of its wines, including this one, out of the Valpolicella designation. The acidity is quite pronounced the tannins are of average intensity but the bitterness shows that this has used the ripasso technique. Very dry finish. Decent wine, but a touch austere for my palate on that day.

Amarone du Valpolicella Classico, Costasera 2012

Moderately powerful in the impact of its alcohol, but extremely refined in both flavours and texture. It has excellent structure from fine, sinewy tannins. A very refined example of Amarone.

Allegrini

Bacchus lives! one of several in fact, sculpted in the wonderfully strange Villa della Torre which has been bought and gradually restored without destroying the spirit of the place by Allegrini. This is well worth a visit, and so are the wines. 

Allegrini is another well-known producer on export markets, but who uses, when compared to Masi, a slightly different approach to the technique for drying grapes for those types of the Valpolicella range that use them. This involves shallow plastic crates with just one layer of healthy bunches. As always, no grey rot at all is permitted as this would rapidly spread and spoil the process and the flavours. They do not air-condition their drying rooms, preferring strong ventilation which is helped by large built-in fans.

White wine (just one tasted)

Soave 2016. 80% Garganaga, 20% Chardonnay. Perhaps the best of the Soaves tasted on this trip, with a possible exception or two among those tried in wine bars but not noted (Pra, Pieropan, for example). Manages to combine good liveliness with a certain form of smoothness (the signification of the word « Soave » could be « suave »). Fine and relatively lingering on the palate. This is vibrant and clearly defined.

Red wines

Valpolicella Classico. 70% Corvina, 30% Rondinella. Complex spicy and smoky hints on the nose that mingle with bitter cherries and something more earthy. Very good, simply delicious, with lively fruit flavours and excellent length. This is certainly the best of the « basic » Valpolicellas that I tried during this trip.

IGT Veronese, Palazzo della Torre. 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese. This unconventional blend removes it from the Valpolicella denomination, but it does use the Ripasso technique, « re-invented » as they say at Allegrini. In this instance, 70% of the wine is fermented directly after the harvest, and the remainder comes from bunches that are dried for 4 months before being pressed and the resulting juice blended into the base wine, thus restarting a fermentation. The difference being that skins are not used in this second « ripasso » process. The wine has plenty of intensity, but the tannins are far lighter than with the traditional Ripasso technique. Fine, juicy and long. Very good.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2014. The nose is magnificent ! Intense aromas of cherries and something a little yeast-like. Its very smooth and voluptuous texture wraps all this richness, like Sophia Loren dressed in satin. A lovely example of an Amarone. Gave this 17/20.

Other wines tasted in restaurants and wine bars

Quite a few were tried but I find it almost impossible to take notes when concentrating on other things like conversation, ordering the wines and ensuring that things run smoothly for the group that I was conducting in this case.

I did mention last week the fabulous Valpolicella Superiore from Dal Forno Romano. Despite the fact that this producer is not within the Classico part of Valpolicella, this wine was clearly at a level above the others, both in its intensity and sheer quality, and also in its probable ageing capacity. The fact that it sells from about four times the prices of the others is also a consideration of course. Cult wines are usually « cult » for a reason, and in this case it is clearly one of quality. But one must be able to pay the prices asked to be able to enjoy them.

Map of Verona, through which flows the Adige, very full of water last week. Great place for a morning run along the banks

Go there and taste the wines! The landscapes and the buildings are often very spectacular and Verona is a beautiful city full of good wine bars and just so close to the vineyards. And now you know that there is much more to Valpolicella than the indifferent stuff from the big cooperatives and so on that fill the wine lists of pizza and pasta places around the world.

David Cobbold


6 Commentaires

Trop de transparence tue-t-elle la lisibilité ?

Je m’interroge sur le bien-fondé des intentions de ces lobbies (hygiénistes?) qui poussent pour une transparence absolue dans l’information fournie au consommateur quant aux ingrédients de nos aliments, vin compris. Je suis sûr que tout cela part d’un très bon sentiment, mais est-ce vraiment si utile que cela, puis, surtout, est-ce vraiment applicable et efficace ?

Je vais vous fournir un exemple réel qui aidera à illustrer mon propos. Cet exemple est tiré du domaine alimentaire, mais on peut, avec un minimum de connaissances des pratiques œnologiques, le transposer au monde du vin si jamais ces défenseurs d’une transparence totale, digne des puritains de tous bords, obtiennent gain de cause en ce qui concerne le pinard.

Lors d’un récent voyage à bord d’un train de la SNCF (un jour de non-grève évidemment), j’ai acheté et consommé un bol de pâtes intitulé ainsi : Penne Tomate, Courgette, Olives Vertes et Basilic. Je vous épargne des commentaires de dégustation sur ce petit plat qui m’a très correctement nourri. Ce qui a surtout attiré mon attention était la longue liste d’ingrédients que le producteur est obligé d’afficher sur son emballage. Pour une fois que cette liste fut lisible sans y appliquer une loupe, je puis vous en livrer le contenu dans sa totalité. On y va ?

(caractères gras et parenthèses sont fidèles à l’original)

Ingrédients : Pâtes penne 45% (semoule de blé dur), tomates 22%, coulis de tomates 10% (tomates 93,5% (pulpe de tomates fraîches 78%, concentré de tomates 15,5%)), courgettes 10%, olives vertes 5% (olives vertes en rondelles, eau, sel, acide citrique E330), échalotes 2%, câpres 2% (câpres, eau, sel, vinaigre), huile d’olive, basilic, ail, maltodextrine (maïs, pommes de terre), légumes 8,1% (céleri, navet, chou, oignon, poireau, carotte), extrait de levure, sucre, huile de palme (matière grasse végétale non-hydrogénée), sel, épices et aromates, jus de citron), sucre, sel, muscade, poivre noir, huile de tournesol, gomme xanthène.

Allergènes : Gluten, céleri, fruits à coque. Produit sur un site utilisant tous les allergènes majeurs.

J’ai eu un peu de mal à faire les additions à l’intérieur de cette liste impressionnante de complexité, et je n’ai pas toujours compris toutes les parenthèses non plus. Mais, au-delà de mes petits problèmes de mal-comprenant, je m’interroge sérieusement sur l’utilité de tout cela. Combien de personnes lisent tout ce qui est écrit sur les emballages de chaque objet qu’on achète ? Et, parmi ces rares (ce n’est qu’une supposition) personnes, combien sont capables d’interpréter correctement les informations qui y sont inscrites, et qui sont probablement utiles uniquement pour un médecin ou autre expert en diététique.

Maintenant, si nous appliquons la même approche à une bouteille de vin, quelle serait la taille d’une contre-étiquette nécessaire à contenir, d’une manière lisible, tout ce qui peut contenir un flacon? On pourrait penser que les vins dits « nature » échapperont largement à ce genre de contrainte. Mais, si on appuie un peu, il faudrait aussi lister les taux d’acidité volatile, le pourcentage de brettanomyces et de bactéries diverses, avec leurs noms en latin, la quantité de CO2, les taux de TCA ou de TCP, etc, etc. Et qui va payer les analyses sophistiquées en laboratoire qui seront nécessaires aux détections de ces substances sur chaque lot ?

En somme, je crains que nous n’ouvrons par cette insistance une sacrée boîte de Pandore, et sans aucune efficacité outre celle de relever encore d’un cran ou deux le phénomène des phobies alimentaires dont on voit de plus en plus les effets.

David Cobbold