MS Tasting and AGM – Barolo 2009


This promised to be a great tasting. I love Barolo. It is sooo expensive though, so I don’t get to drink anywhere near enough of it.

First up was the Society’s AGM, however. To accompany the business section a small selection of “conversation wines” from the Society’s collection was provided to lubricate the meeting, ahem.

Magnum AGM

I tried the Australian 2002 Grosset Riesling Polish Hill which was lovely, linear and minerally; a 2001 Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Combe aux Moines  (a gift from the Estate of a supporter of the Society); a 2001 F. Esmonin Ruchottes Chambertin (from the same estate) which was tender, floral, and fine, with gorgeous fruit and structure, and a sweet finish;  and a 2010 Terres Dorees Beaujolais Village, Moulin a Vent which was delicious, floral, light and aromatic and fruitful. A fantastic way to get the palate working.

The business was over and done in 23 minutes, longer that the previous year (due to a few questions from yours truly), then it was on to the Barolo’s…

Magnum Piedmont 2

As usual, a society member led the tasting, and produced the following notes to accompany the flight and provide pre-reading background to the wines. Here is what AH wrote for us:

 “It is usually possible to recognise Barolo or Barbaresco when they are served blind, particularly if they follow Red Burgundy. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” is often the call. Michael Garner, co-author of Barolo – Tar and Roses says it is the only wine that smells like you have walked into an old church. The structure is distinctly Italian, with unrepentant tannin and acid, and that characteristic tarry goudron element often shows in older examples. These stereotypical descriptions fail to account for the fascinating variation in style that is seen among these wines, which are every bit as diverse as Red Burgundy.

What are the key determinants of style and quality in Barolo?

  1. Soil. The soils of the Barolo region can be divided into two main types that are separated geographically by a diagonal line running through the town of Barolo and up towards CastiglioneFalletto. The communes of Barolo and La Morra to the northwest of the line are located on soils formed in the Tortonian era; consisting of calcareous clay and blue-gray marls. Wines from this part of the Barolo region tend to be more elegant and approachable earlier than their Serravallian counterparts.

Southeast of the line, the communes of Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba are on silty marls dating back to the Serravallian era and are comprised of clay, sandstone and, in particular, calcium carbonate, which renders wines that are more structured, tannic and take longer to reach their optimal drinking window.

Parts of Castiglione Falletto have a third soil type; the Arenarie di Diano d’Alba. This has a higher sand content than the soils across the valley in Serralunga d’Alba and may explain differences in structure between Serralunga and Castiglione wines, and differences between vineyards within the Castiglione Falletto commune.

  1. Aspect. The direction a vineyard faces is fundamental to the quality of the cru. The tongues of the Barolo hills are rippled with hills and valleys, producing enormous variability in microclimate, and a vine planted on a south or southwest-facing slope will see more sun than vines on the northern side of the hill. Elevation is also important, the best parts of the vineyard being on the mid to top part of the hill; the so-called bricco. Traditionally, the best sites for vines were identified as the a reason the hill where the snow melted first in spring. In recent years, global warming and the rise in prices of Barolo have made it possible and desirable to replant with Nebbiolo areas that were previously considered suitable only for Barbera, Dolcetto and hazelnuts.
  2. Winemaking style. Up until the late 1960s, Barolo was made by blending wines made from different vineyards to achieve a balance of elegance and structure, and aging them in ancient large format oak botti, probably inherited from ones grandfather. In the 1970s, a new generation of winemakers began to question their forefathers’ practices. These ‘Barolo Boys’ visited Burgundy and came back with ideas of making individual crus and aging them in barriques. In 1983, in a fit of pique, Elio Altare took to his father’s botti and fruit trees with the chainsaw that was heard around the world; this act being a symbolic turning point in Barolo winemaking history.

While the move from the traditional winemaking practices to the modernist approach undoubtedly brought long-overdue improvements in cellar hygiene and consistency of quality, many felt that the flavours imparted by high speed fermentations in roto fermenters and aging in oak barriques obscured the essential form of Barolo and Barbaresco; with leather, tar and roses giving way to espresso, chocolate and vanilla.

These days the distinction between traditionalists and modernists is less clear-cut. Producers like Bartolo Mascarello stick to a hard line traditionalist approach; a fax machine being the most high tech device in that cantina, whereas others like Domenico Clerico take great pride in their vast halls of French barriques, but many combine elements from both approaches, or use roto fermenters only for turning the cap once or twice a day, or have a low percentage of new oak.

Of the producers we will be tasting, Brezza and Marcarini and perhaps Vietti could be regarded as traditionalists, Baudana under the ownership of G.D. Vajra would be leaning towards traditionalism, Sandrone somewhere in the middle and Mauro Veglio more in the modernist camp.

Vintage 2009

A wet spring led to delayed flowering and the summer was dry and hot, causing a rapid maturation cycle and an early harvest for most producers. Complexity in Nebbiolo relies on a long maturation time, which 2009 did not provide. Galloni describes the 2009 Barolos as light to medium-bodied wines, with radiant fruit but only modest concentration. He says that “overall, this is a fairly average vintage with many good wines, a few superstars and a bevy of Barolos that will drink well right out of the gate. But the visceral thrill of the truly great vintages, sadly, is not there.”

Kerin O’Keefe describes 2009 as a buyer-beware vintage, with exceptional wines being few and far between. Scathing heat caused uneven ripening and if the grapes were picked in a single harvest the presence of overripe fruit led to cooked flavours.

Here are the wines we will be tasting:

2009 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito (Serralunga)

2009 Brezza Barolo Bricco Sarmassa (Barolo)

2009 Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne (Barolo)

2009 Mauro Veglio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata (La Morra)

2009 Marcarini Barolo Brunate (La Morra)

2009 Luigi Baudana Barolo Ceretta (Serralunga)

And then on to the tasting itself, with all the wines customarily served blind in 60ml pours:

Magnum Piedmont 1

2009 Mauro Veglio Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata – Deep dark carmine. I was very impressed with this wine.  Dense savoury nose of cinnamon, aniseed and vanilla, dark fruits, fig, plum, a chemical character, and tarry. So expressive. The wine was sweet and ripe to taste on entry, with intense gorgeous primary ripe fruit flavours, harmonious oaking, tar, and a gentle drying finish.  I scored this Gold. A great start.

2009 Marcarini Barolo Brunate – Brick carmine. A classic Barolo.  Sweet and lifted nose. Thinner fruit than the Muro, almost sour. There where notes of lanolin, strong bush honey, and quite angular. Again the wine drank as sweet, ripe, intense, and powerful. It was long. It was hot. Tasting superbly with honey and tar. Quite evolved.  I scored this Gold.

2009 Brezza Barolo Bricco Sarmassa – Brick carmine. There were a few suspended solids in this wine. Didn’t affect the taste. Quite dumb aromatically at first, with cardboard box and funky characyers. Spicy hot and sharp to taste. Sweet entry. Lean. A hot finish. (they were all hot, to be honest). This one was lighter, perhaps faulty. A simple wine, compact and complete to some.  I scored this Silver.

2009 Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne – Deep brick carmine. Another classic Barolo.  Quiet on the nose, but a step up in quality. Lightly fruited, not much in the way of expression at first. Tarry, showing some leather an tomato sauce. It was a big changer through the night. Powerful in the mouth. Dense and sharp. Tarry, powerful. Grunt.  Balance. Then a dry finish. Harmonious when all considered. No flaw, gorgeous. My second favourite wine of the night.  I scored this Gold.

2009 Luigi Baudana Barolo Ceretta – Deep brick carmine. Yet another classic Barolo.  Quiet nose, with elegant fruit, then revealing savoury qualities and density. Some described ‘roasting-tray scrapings’. I saw roses in a broody, reserved wine. To taste, the wine wasvery  powerful, with depth and tannic thrust, full-on, grunty and hot.  Menthol character.  A fruity finish, long, and quite sweet. A bruiser of a wine. I scored this Gold.

2009 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito – Deep brick carmine. Floral, with rose and quinine, sweet vanilla, ripe fruit, lanolin, quite confected. There was a fantastic savoury and spicy hit at the back of the nose. So expressive. The wine tasted sweet and ripe. There was great tannin structure, density and opulence. Mouthsmackingly good . I scored this Gold and it was my Wine Of The Night (WOTN)

 

What’s in the glass tonight June 22nd – Merlot Syrah Cabernets


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Ata Rangi Celebre Martinborough 2014 – $$$

This is a long-time favourite local red for me. A bright red blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc fruit grown on the Martinborough Terrace, and matured in 20% new oak.

Deep plum purple colour. 13% alc.

Soft, round and opulent on the nose. A savoury character up front, then opens to reveals oak, plums, and spice.

Sweetness on entry, fine-grained tannins in the mid-palate, and fresh acidity on the finish. Fruit flavours are restrained, not as ripe as the ’13, and slightly leafy.

A fine, expressive wine.

Recommended 89 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 21st – Riesling


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Off Topic – Wynns Coonawarra Riesling, by the glass, on Circular Quay

No sooner was I back from Fiji, but I had to fly to Sydney to inspect a new client’s office premises.

After a whirlwind morning and afternoon session of meetings, walk-arounds, note-taking and photograph-making, I found myself back on the street outside the client’s building, finished, and with a couple of hours free before I was due to check-in at Kingsford-Smith Airport for the sleepy-eye back to Wellington.

So I headed for Circular Quay. I took the usual touristic pictures of the bridge and Jørn Utzon’s famous sails. I watched a piano accordion player accost the ears of passers-by with his (deliberate, I think) atrociously out-of-key playing.  I watched the yellowing and green passenger ferries come steaming headlong in to crash-stop at the docks, and watched the heavy wash from their reversing propellers heave and surge against the massive timber barriers that bulwarked the quayside. I watched meandering groups of aimless Maroons stink the place out, filling in their own time before Origin Game 2 kicked off.

Finally, I settled down at City Extra, below Circular Quay Railway Station, with a glass of Wynns Coonawarra Riesling, and watched the local world walk on by for a bit. I don’t recall anything about the wine. The waitress offered to go find out for me about the vintage, but I said, it’s ok, no worries.

What’s in the glass tonight June 20th – Chardonnay


Sacred Hill Riflemans 2015

Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2015 – $$$+

Bula!

L and I recently jetted off for a long weekend on Denarau island in Fiji. L was to attend a conference, and I was her ‘plus-1’.

The weather was sunny and warm. The pool was cool and inviting, the hotel staff were friendly and helpful, and we had a great time with her workmates and fellow professionals. Vinaka vaka levu, L!

I raided the airport duty-free store on the way and bought a bottle of Chardonnay to drink on our hotel room balcony. I chose one of NZ’s best single vineyard Chardy’s, which is only made in good years from grapes off old Mendoza clone vines. As I have written about before, it was a bottle of the ’07 that started me on my wine journey.

The nose of the Riflemans showed mealy and fine and aromatic. The wine smelled oaky and oily, quite similar to Viognier in that regard, and had that typical Riflemans intensity, buttery character, and layer of lemon curd.

To taste, the wine was finely-grained and smooth in texture, with rich and dense golden fruit flavours, and some butterscotch and spice. It finished long, with quite “tingle-y’ acid, and showed some bitterness.

This Chardonnay is an somewhat old-fashioned heavy style of wine, in its way, and was not really suited to the tropical Fijian climate at all. A winter white, this one, and best for a cold climate and roast chicken dinners. Still, couldn’t deny the quality.

Highly recommended 91 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 10th – A few beers


Turbo Charger

Brewing Turbo Charger

I recently joined five mates down at the Occasional Brewer to make a couple of batches of beer together. OB provides ingredients, brew stations, and advice and guidance to budding craft brewers who want to have a go at making beer.

And so we did. R and S and I made an IPA/APA called Turbo Charger, and R and R and A made an NZ IPA. It took about three hours for us to make about 80 litres of beer, all up. Really interesting – I’ve never done this before. We had a few pints of the Occasional Brewers own beers (an IPA, Best Bitter and an Oatmeal Stout) during the process, and had lots of laughs. And I don’t think we f**ked things up that much either.

The picture above shows 40L of “wort” towards the end of its 50 minute rolling boil stage. The greenish scum is from 200g of various hops we added to the mix about 10 minutes earlier.

We bottle on the 28th, and the six of us will walk away with 13 litres of beer each. I have to pop in a few days beforehand to “dry-hop” the brews, cos I live closest. We should stand the beer for a further two weeks. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

What’s in the glass tonight June 9th – White Burgundy


Olivier Leflaive Les Setilles Bourgogne 2013

Off Topic: Olivier Leflaive Les Sétilles Bourgogne 2013 – $$$+

I bought this bottle to take to a friend’s 70th and share with L. I thought it was a bit funky at first, and perhaps faulty, but friends who have a good nose tried it and agreed that this wine was pretty good. Fine minerality, a steely austere quality, and crisp acidity. Delish!

Unfortunately L didn’t like it much. I have my eye on a Marsanne/Rousanne Northern Rhone blend for next time – she might like that better!

Highly recommended 90 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 9th – Pinot Noir


Wild Grace Pinot Noir 2015

Wild Grace Pinot Noir Central Otago 2015

Someone at work bought this negociant wine for our Friday work drinks. I am usually suspicious of entry-level Pinots, but this was really good.

It had a good core and depth of fruit, good ripeness, and little of that bitterness I sometimes see in over-extracted cheaper Pinot Noir. The nose kept my interest, with an alluring savoury character. Yum.

Nice label design too. We are a design-led company…

Recommended 89 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 1st


Noble Rot

Date Night

As a blended family, I have gotten a bit used to time off from our kids when they go stay with our ex’s. But recent events have mucked our schedules around, and the kids have been with us like forever.

The children are all wonderful and fun, but also they are also messy and loud. So when L suggested a date night over a couple of glasses of wine and snacks at the fab wine bar Noble Rot, I was had at hello.

L really liked the Bilancia La Collina Viognier Hawkes Bay 2014, which I did as well, whereas I wasn’t so impressed by the M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitages Le Meysonniers 2014. I don’t think I get wines from Crozes at all. However, I switched to the Samuels Gorge Grenache Noir McLaren Vale 2013 and it was amazeballs

What’s in the glass tonight June 7th – Chardonnay


Montana Reserve Chardonnay 2016

Montana Reserve Chardonnay Gisborne 2016 – $

I’m really confused by this volume value brand of wine. First it was named Montana. For years and years and years. Then the owners wanted to sell more wine into the States. But suffered buyer confusion about its name. Wine from Montana? They don’t make wine in Montana! So the powers-that-be switched names to Brancott, after one of the original vineyards in Marlborough. Which makes sense. And we move on. Then I see this wine in the supermarket, and they are back to selling wine under the name Montana. WTF?

Anyway, this is a simple wine. Soft ripe golden fruit, lightly aromatic, a core of ripe fruit to taste, nothing memorable, but serves as an acceptable aperitif and smoothes the days rough edges…

Commended 85 points

Straight to the Pool Room – May 2017


Pool Room May 2017

Three additions for slumberland under the watchful gaze of KellerMäusefänger Mimi.

Wynns Michael Ltd Release Shiraz Coonawarra 2012- $$$ – drink 2020-2027. A gift from lovely L. High hopes for this classy Aussie.

Man O’War Ironclad Cabernet Waiheke 2012 – $$$ – drink 2020-2022. Odd to think that despite me having enjoyed wines from this producer for a few years now, there isn’t any in the Pool Room. There is now – this great cab!

Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay Waiheke 2016 – $$$ – drink 2021-2024. And this one too.