Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Dec 11, 14 Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Posted by in All, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Yesterday I visited cava producer Vilarnau in Penedes, Spain (post here).   After my tour of the grounds and winery, it was time for a tasting of their cavas. As we were walking through the cellar to the tasting room, we passed by a collection of clay vases that were sitting under a set of spotlights. Curious, I asked my guide, Vilarnau winemaker Eva Plazas Torné, if they were some sort of archeology display. With a laugh, she explained that they were actually an experiment that they was currently conducting with the xarello grape. Eva explained to me that she was experimenting with fermentation in amphora made from the various soils of Penedes. I asked her if it she had gotten the idea from the Georgians but she told me that she had gotten the idea from a local potter that she knew, she liked his work and asked him if he could make amphora for her. Her idea is to make amphora from the  different soils of Penedes and ferment the xarello in a distinct amphora to see how the fermentation goes. Already, Eva says that one of the xarello’s (the one in the amphora mostly composed of clay) has almost finished malo while the others have changed to different degrees but not gone through malo. Eva hopes to find the best soil for the amphora and ferment the xarello in it. If things go to plan, she’s hopes to use 300 litre amphora next year. The experimental amphora this year are only 15 litres.  After fermentation in the amphora, she would than do the second ferment in bottle. It will be interesting to see how/if this experiment is successful. As for Eva, she admitted that she’s just as curious as me to see how it will turn out. Almost directly in front of the amphora was another experiment of Vilarnau, chestnut barrels. Eva explained that in the region a hundred years ago,they used to use chestnut instead of oak for barrel aging when...

read more

Discovering Portugal’s Vinho Verde, visiting Soalheiro vineyards

Sep 10, 14 Discovering Portugal’s Vinho Verde, visiting Soalheiro vineyards

Posted by in All, Portugal, Sparkling Wine

The last days of summer are upon us but that doesn’t mean you have to automatically switch to red wine. As they say, it’s ok to drink white after Labor Day (well, that’s what they say in the States).  Earlier this summer I visited the Vinho Verde region in the north east of Portugal where they make great wines, and not just for summer. Vinho Verde can be a bit confusing because it is not only the name of the grape and  one of the styles made, but is also the region. Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a light easy drinking wine that is meant to be drunk young. As an added bonus, it’s also low alcohol, averaging between (9% – 11% alc).While that is all true, there is a lot more to it then just that. For example, Vinho Verde not only pertains to young white wine but also to rose and red wine. Vinho Verde can also be sparkling or distilled. Our trip focused on the whites of the region. The main grapes used for the white wines are alvarinho, arinto, loureiro, trajadura, azal and avesso. All of these are indigenous varieties of Portugal and produce light wines with acidity but also with body. A very nice combination on the palate. Throughout the trip, we tasted not only the still white wines but also the sparkling wines of the region, which are less well known but equally as good. One of the sparkling wine producers we met was Luiz Cerdeira, son of the founder of Soalheiro. They are located in the northern most part of Portugal, in Melgaço and specialize in alvarinho. They produce both still and sparkling wines. Sitting on the balcony of the winery overlooking the vines with the border with Spain just at the bottom of the hill was a delightful experience. We sipped their Brut Rose as well as the sparkling alvarinho. I think those sparklers could easily compete on an international scale. They had great acidity,...

read more

Nino Franco Prosecco. Prosecco but not as you know it…

May 24, 13 Nino Franco Prosecco. Prosecco but not as you know it…

Posted by in All, Italy, Sparkling Wine

Cheap and cheerful. Big fat bubbles, sweet tasting. Famous for being the bubbly in a Bellini. All these things are commonly said about everyone’s favourite Italian sparkler, prosecco. But that’s not the only kind of prosecco being produced. I had lunch earlier this week at Locanda Locatelli with the owner of Nino Franco Prosecco, Primo Franco. Prosecco is traditionally made from the glera grape, goes through a secondary fermentation using the charmant method (in tank rather then bottle) and comes from the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano regions of Northeastern Italy. Franco make their proseccos this way but do much more. They are one of the few producers to make single vintage and single vineyard proseccos. For them, it’s very important to show the “terroir” of the region. It’s so important to them that they left the appellation in 2009 so that they could make their prosecco without having adhere to the rules and regulations put down by the Italian government. They want to differentiate themselves from the regular ‘prosecco’ made by their neighbours. Besides being single vineyard and single vintage, the wine is left on the lees and goes through battonage, none of which is allowed by the AOC, to give them complexity and body. They also wait 2 to 3 years before they release their proseccos to the market. The results are wines with complexity and depth. Another characteristic that I noticed straight off were the tiny bubbles – not something usually associated with prosecco. During lunch, I asked Primo if he would still call his wines ‘prosecco’ or would he prefer them to be called sparkling wine? This brought on a rather lively debate of what IS prosecco. We decided in the end that they were prosecco but …”not as we know it.” We tried Nino Franco’s Rustico prosecco, the 2009 Grave di Stecca, single vineyard and vintage, and the Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano, single vineyard. The Rustico was a delicious aperitif, dry but with balanced fruit on the nose and...

read more

Langlois-Chateau, Loire Valley wines

It may seem like I only drink champagne but that’s not true. Sometimes I drink sparkling wine, too. All kidding aside, I do enjoy a good sparkling wine and some of my favourites are cremants.  A cremant is a French sparkling wine that does not come from the Champagne region. It’s as simple as that. So for example, you can have a Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Alsace, or as in this particular post, a Cremant de Loire. In each case, the sparkling wine is made from grapes that are grown locally and usually produced in the traditional method but not always. I met up with the the wine maker for Loire Valley producer, Langlois-Chateau, Francois-Regis de Fougeroux recently  for lunch at Cigalon on Chancery Lane. Francois-Regis brought along  his sparkling wines as well as a few red wines for us to have with lunch. The white sparkling was composed of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc and the rose sparkling was 100% cabernet franc. Langlois-Chateau is owned by Bollinger and benefits from the experience and expertise that the Champagne house brings to the table. They are the only house that buys grapes and then vinifies them separately as opposed to other producers in the Loire who buy the “must” and make their sparkling wines from there. They also use the “traditional method” with the wines spending at least 2 years in the cellar before being released. All of this results in sparkling wines that have much in common with champagne. The brut sparkling wine had very fine bubbles with good balance and citrus fruit flavours, a great aperitif. I really enjoyed the rosé, an aromatic and fruity nose followed on by loads of strawberries and raspberries on the palate, very fresh and morish. Francois-Regis calls this his “swimming pool” wine, perfect for lounging on a hot (well, here in England the most we can hope for is a warm) summers day. Another plus in choosing cremant de Loire’s is the price tag. Both...

read more

Lunch/Launch of Billecart-Salmon Elisabeth Rose 2002

It’s not every year that Billecart-Salmon releases it’s Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon rosé but lucky for us they’ve deemed the 2002 ready to drink now. The Cuvee Elisabeth is named for wife of the founder of the Billecart house, Nicolas Francois. Nicolas has his own prestive cuvee and in 1988, Billecart decided to name their prestige rosé in tribute to the co-founder of the house, Elisabeth Salmon. The 2002 is 50/50 chardonnay/pinot noir blend, coming from Grand Cru vineyards. 7% of the pinot noir used is the still wine used to give the champagne its copper coloured hue. The berries used to make the still wine are hand selected to achieve that beautiful, bright colour that this rosé champagne sports. Colin Palmer, Managing Director of Billecart-Salmon UK, told us over lunch that the rosé is only released when Francois Domi, chief winemaker of Billecart believes it’s ready. For this reason, the cuvee is not released in chronological order which is why not all the vintages are available. Even when they are released, it’s made in such small quantities that they quickly sell out. It’s so special that it’s even packaged in it’s own specially designed box. Billecart had chosen Morton’s Club in Mayfair to kick off the launch and we were treated to a delicious lunch paired with some of their other champagnes before the big reveal. We had the Extra Brut Non-vintage, as an aperitif, of which I made a video with Winebird TV, click here to see the video. It was still delightful and great with the anchovy tapanade served with breadsticks.The Extra Brut is a zero dosage champagne but doesn’t suffer from being overly acidic or tart as the fruit is perfectly balanced. Aromatic and fresh with complex aromas of brioche anad dried fruit, on the palate – biscuit notes and flavourful white fruits, great to drink on its own.  The Billecart-Salmon Blanc de blanc followed, which was great with the crab salad starter. A whole seabass was roasted and presented at the table to...

read more

Ruinart 2002 lunch

This week marked the beginning of Spring and I am so ready to say goodbye to winter! What better way to celebrate then with  the launch of the Dom Ruinart 2002. Oh, yeah! Ruinart have a very distinctive bottle shape and it’s easy to spot one across a crowded room. I am a sucker for design but what’s in the bottle is just as distinctively designed. One of the qualities I most admire about champagne is the concept of assemblage.  Having spent a fair amount of time around vineyards both in Champagne and in other wine producing regions, I think that to blend champagne must be one of the most difficult things to do (no disrespect to other wine makers as I know how hard producers work to coax wine from the vine).  The cellar master uses base wines (which are thin and acidic forerunners of the wine to come) from various vintages and is able to foresee how that wine is going to transform into champagne after going through not one but two fermentations and then spending a minimum of 3yrs in a cold dark cellar laying on a sediment of dead yeast cells. Incredible and yet, the Champenois manage to produce their amazing champagnes year in and year out. Ruinart Chef de Cave Frederic Panaiotis pointed out that for Ruinart, the quality they most desire is a refined timelessness and elegance while at the same time not becoming a boring champagne which never changes with the vintages. He said that when they work on blending the wine they pay particular attention to the mouthfeel, weight and softness in the mouth while at the same time ensuring that they are making a lively and flexible champagne. He likened their champagne to alpaca wool, instant luxury and quality combined which, although you don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate, does help. The complexity and depth of the champagne is a pleasure for experts but it also has an immediate appeal and he says...

read more
%d bloggers like this: