p.s. The name that was decided upon was Topaque, and yep it actually hurts to type it.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Bruce relates that the average pH has been steadily rising from a decade ago where the average Cabernet pH would have been 3.3. This has risen to a cool year average of 3.4 and in the warmer years edging up to 3.7.
Obviously this is problematic because it necessitates higher and higher levels of acidification. But things are complicated by the fact that the decrease in total acidity isn't a spread across the different naturally occurring grape acids. In fact it is overwhelmingly the Tartaric acid which is being lost. This means that the grapes arrive into the winery with proportionately raised Malic acid levels. Malic acid is not microbiologically stable, and is almost always lost after fermentation through the action of Malolactic bacteria. This has a knock on effect on the final acidity of the wine. Meaning that Bruce then has to decide whether to acidify the must to a pre malolactic fermentation level which is more suitable for fermentation, or to a post malolactic ferment goal.
Incidentally when it comes to correcting acidity, it's pretty much established practice across South Australia. 3.57 is the magic number, pH's above this figure leave a fermenting must wide open to oxidative problems, and will likely lead to heightened volatile acidity or worse. So obviously a must with a pH above 3.57 will need acidifying, but the other benefit of acidity is that it will balance the final wine, acting like a frame work for the fruit and tannin to hang upon. It is here where things get difficult because the wine maker needs to anticipate how much acidity will be needed, but there is always some acidity consumed during fermentation. The final complicating factor is that post fermentation acidity fixing never really integrates into the texture of the wine and often appears on the palette as a kind of disjoint between the fruit of the wine and the acidity alongside it.
There are several reasons why the average pH values could be increasing, however Bruce attributes it to increasing vine stress, which may be caused by any of several factors. Obviously, eight years of drought is almost certainly the main factor as the increased temperatures, accompanied by shortage of water put great stress on the vines, however the is evidence of concurrent draining of both sodium and potassium levels in the soil, which may very well impact on the vines ability to ripen in a slow and balanced fashion.
There has been some research into Cabernet clones that are better able to cope with the hotter weather, however it appears that most of this was done some time ago, and really with vines planted in 1968 from cuttings taken from Jock Redman's vineyards, there is little that can be done on that front in the near future.
Hopefully the Lynn's will adapt to the new conditions, because a tasting of their wines showed some beautiful wines, their entry level Musician 08 came across as an excellent value example of Coonawarra fruit, more seriously their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon positively glowed with minty, eucalypt and cassis aromas, medium weight chewy tannins had me thinking naughty thoughts about serving it lightly chilled of a summers evening. Their 2006 Shiraz was showing slightly maturing red berried fruit,a delicate earthiness and boasted great drinkability. Of their top end wines the youngest, 2007 Malleea was a riot of sophisticated oak notes, balsamic vinegar, cassis, dark cherries and cream. The 2004 of the same wine was easing itself into its drinking window still prodigiously full bodied but with complex secondary notes, earthiness and lots of deep dark brooding fruit, though still balanced and drinkable.
Friday, 22 October 2010
'Must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something'
Jacques Derrida, "'Genesis' and 'Structure' and Phenomenology," in Writing and Difference (London: Routledge, 1978)
There is a paradox implicit in great blends, to succeed as a blend they must be the sum of many different parts. Each of the different parts is the product of man's intervention into the environment, and yet each part is also determined by the climatic conditions that preceded the harvest.
Certain elements of the blend may not be excellent by themselves but may shine when partnered with other complimentary elements.
In general we encounter these wines in their finished state and can only wonder as to what exactly each of the parts has contributed. On occasion one gets the chance to peek behind the curtain.
Best's Great Western is a small family winery in the Victorian region of the Grapions, now in their 5th generation they are blessed with some incredibly old stock of vines. Shiraz plantings going back to 1867. Their top two wines are respectively Bin no.0 and Thompson Family Shiraz. The Thompson family wine is a single vineyard expression of the 11 rows of 1967 stock and is made in quantities around 2400 bottles. The Bin no.0 is a blend of their other vineyards, with some of the old stock and is arguably more interesting.
I've long regarded the art of successful blending to be one of the dark arts of wine making. Wineries pay hundreds of thousands pounds to secure the assistance of a successful consultant to help ensure their blend is perfect, and yet after all the talk of soils, vineyards and cultivation methods it remains one of the most important elements in the outcome of the final blend. That and the date of picking, but we'll get onto that later.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of tasting a breakdown of the Bin no.0 blend components in the cellar at Best's with Adam Wadewitz their head winemaker. Fascinating it was.
All the wines were from the 2010 vintage
First pick off the hill vineyards – gravel and granitic soils so excellent drainage. This was given a 100% whole bunch fermentation a method that contributes aromatic complexity, adding a certain green herbal perfume, however it's quite important to get lignified (fully ripe and woody, not green) stems to avoid the green tannins that can result. Discussing what sort of characters the whole bunch pressing gives, Adam was of the opinion that there was a certain dill character that was present.
Indeed there was a fresh nose, some herbal and vegetal characters married to some meaty dark fruit, nicely fresh and perfumed, not too full bodied with a directness of intent and linearity of acidity and tannins.
2010 second hill pick and no whole bunches, the second picking was three days later. I was remarkable how the aromatics differed there was a blast of fabulously opulent cherry liquor, raspberry and red fruits – still very fresh and direct on the palette, showing dark red fruits and hints of dark fruit on the palette. Despite the difference in aromatics there was a noticeable similarity in structure on the palette.
Adam went on to explain that he doesn't crush very much, what they're looking for is integrity and anything other than a very soft crushing is detrimental to the final delicacy of the wines.
Moving onto the 1970 block, this section usually gives quite aromatic and floral wines so they have opted to leave it on the lees to develop more mid palette body. Personally I found it had a very floral and aromatic nose – rose petals and violets, blue fruits which was followed by an incredibly floral palette, rose water, violet love hearts, there was some mid palette structure, but this was a component that was almost overwhelmingly aromatic, certainly an interesting component to have for a blend, but not for a single vineyard wine.
Their 1966 block is usually divided into two picks, one of the area surrounding the gum tree as they like to be able to isolate the heavily eucalypt oil affected grapes. The first pick showed the expected eucalyptus, some meat, mint, and choc chip ice cream. It was quite creamy on the palette, more velvety and richer. Fuller on the palette, bright red fruit as well, twist of pepper at the back?
To quote 'tannin, acid and density are what this wine brings to the blend', though personally I felt that this was another wine that would be ading aromatic complexity and interest.
The 1966's second picking was on the following day and had some whole bunch (30%) ferment, to start with it was a bit reduced, toasty (due to more new oak), smoky (flinty?) and quite complex. On the palette it showed some hard to pin down red, with fullish rich velvety tannins, fruit and
lovely lip smacking acidity on the finish
The 1867 Shiraz plantings are divided into two plots, 4 rows and 11 rows, the 4 rows goues into the Bin no.1 blend, whilst the 11 rows are put into a separate wine if the year is good enough.
The Thompson family vines 4 rows from 1867, this had brooding raspberry and balsam notes, it was aromatic, full bodied with quite tight restrained tannins, great concentration and balance, (incidentally these are often the first shiraz vines to be picked).
The Thompson Family 11 rows, this is regarded as Best's best fruit and in good years it will be the Thompson family Shiraz wine, Adam was pretty certain that this would be one of those years. Indeed the wine was intense showing mint choc chip ice cream, raspberry, a perfumed aromatic nose. On the palette it was serious with both freshness and balance. Finally the tannins were chewy and powerful with great length.
To add some perspective to the tasting we then looked at the Bin no.0 and Thompson Family Shiraz 2008 wines.
Bin no0 2008, this had a gorgeous nose showing mint, balsam, some spice, creamy red fruit, raspberry and on the palette it was sweet and direct with great acidity, elegant tannins, Very, very good and still a baby.
Thompson family 08 – this was a bit closed with red berried fruits some hints of herbal characters, raspberry and spice. Some cigar box notes were on the finish, and it had a great consistency of palette depth. However it was still far to young and acting all coy.
To quote Michaelangelo 'True art is made noble and religious by the mind producing it. ... The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ... A man paints with his brains and not with his hands'. It is with this in mind that I often feel the better blends of a producer are the true works of vineous art. Single vineyard wines, whilst beautiful, fail to have the added intellectual depth of purpose that the great blends get to carry.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Bodrogkeresztur is a smallish village on the Bodrog in the heart of the lower (Tokaj) end of the Tokajheglya, and it's home to Tokaj Nobilis. Sarolta Bardos is from a family with a long history in the region, and for this we should be grateful. When her and her husband, Peter Molnar of Patricius, were looking to buy up vineyard land, it was the good name of her Grand Father that pursuaded people that they could sell to her. The upshot is that they now have land in two of the cru vineyards around Bodrogkisfalud, Barakonyi and Csirke-ma. From their holdings they vinify a range of wines, which keep getting better.
I've visited Nobilis twice now, once in 2009 and again this year (2010), both times it's been a pleasure, not least because there are usually one or two little girls either in someone's arm or peeking shyly round the corner of a wall.
Sarolta is a charming host, who evidently loves her vineyards, and is equally passionate about the wines she's making. This is very much her winery, Peter has more than enough to do with Patricius, and being the president of Tokaji Renaissance..
We arrived at the winery earlyish on the Sunday morning following the festivities of the previous nights harvest party, and for once I was extremely glad that I'd gone to bed on return to the house the previous evening. No one else in the house was going to be raised for several hours more and on their reappearance there were sunglasses all around (that's you Gergley and Rita x).
Sarolta then took us out to visit the Barakonyi vineyard, unfortunately the Csirke-ma hasn't coped with the inclement weather so well and won't be providing much quality fruit this year, a story I've heard repeated all over the place, the vineyards are, helpfully, located just about the Patricius holdings and aren't too far from their house.
On return we got stuck into tasting..
Stylistically, the wines tend to see quite a bit of oak, I found this a bit problematic when I tasted the 07's last year, and probably is why I didn't rave about them as much as I ought to have done. However I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the Barakonyi Hars 08 (Harslevulu) at the Buda wine festival, it was showing lovely white flowers and nice minerally core of citrus fruit, while the oak was noticeable it was merely adding body, exactly how I like it. A tank sample of the Hars 09 was equally promising, prodigiously aromatic with very ripe fruit and some sweet apple like notes on the palette.
When I think of the dry Nobilis wines I tend to think of their Harslevulus, however this might be because good examples of the grape are slightly harder to come by than good dry Furmints, of which the 09 Barakonyi is an example. Sarolta has left 8g of residual sugar in the wine which isn't very noticeable balanced as it is by the high acidity of the Furmint grape. The 09 showed lots of peachy Furmint character, and was starting to integrate it's oak. It should be released sometime next year.
There are a couple of off dry wines, a Sarga Muscatoly (Muscat), which is at 14g residual sugar and is very perfumed with a lime and turkish delight palette and an off dry finish, and a Koverzolu (means fat grape) which again is light, off dry and quite pleasant.
However the serious wines return again when you start to taste the sweet wines. The late harvest Sarga Muskatoly which is made from shrivelled grapes from the Barakonyi vineyard shows all sorts of exotic rose, spice and perfume and is suitably sticky and unctuous on the palette.
Amicus 08 (120g residual) is 90% Furmint, 7% Koverzolo and 3% Hars and spends 6 months in new oak has bucket loads of acidity which conspires to keep the sugar in check, apricot and ripe pear characters abound on the palette and it has a great lengthy finish.
The 2002 6 Puttonyos clocks in at 160g residual sugar and similarly has a great freshness and intensity of fruit. These are sweet wines that are predicated on their intensity of fruit, they're very much of the new school where oxidative characters are nowhere to be found, unless they develop slowly with age. Rather like the Amicus, the 6 putt is very well balanced and has a great finish of apricot marmelade and a touch of the tokaji minerality.
I like Nobilis a lot, I think Sarolta is charm personified, and oddly I also relish seeing Peter slightly more relaxed, he's away from the official business that I usually meet him through, so instead of being the president of Tokaji Renaissance he can concentrate on keeping his youngest daughter occupied long enough for his wife to chat to us about the wines. A lovely family winery, that also seems to be on the up and hopefully will continue to improve.
Monday, 4 October 2010
Alana alana, give me three wishes, I want to be that dirty finger and his sex bitches.....
I can't look at Alana without hearing the inimitable Lovefoxx from Cansei de Ser Sexy singing almost the same name... Slightly distracting, but less so because it's a great song. Oh and the wines are quite stunning.
Alana arrived on the scene with some dash and verve a couple of years ago. They obviously have some money behind them, though this wasn't fully elaborated upon, because they've arrived to really shake up the scene in Mad.
The village of Mad is sort of the spiritual home of the new generation of Tokaji producers. With Royal Tokaji having their cellars only a couple of doors up from Istvan Szepsy's boutique operation. Growers like Gabor Oroz skirt the periphery of the main road and the whole town is dominated by it's most famous produce.
Alana has set up shop on the main street, purchasing in two goes a 900 square foot cellar and 17th century house which they are in the process of renovating. The goal is to have two separate entries, one from the main road which visitors can use and the other at the top of the property for wine making traffic.
They have around 23 ha which is divided into 10ha of Furmint, 6 of Harslevulu, 2.5 of Yellow Muscat and the rest between other varietals like Zeta.
Their policy regarding Oak, as slowly evolved as they have gone on. Always using Hungarian Oak they have moved from Trust with western Hungarian Oak, to Kadar with their guaranteed Zemplen Oak to finally using the local Tonellarie in Erdobenye, where Atilla has found that simply having a good working relationship with some one close has benefited him the most.
In Atilla Gabor Nemeth they have found themselves a winemaker thoroughly up to the challenge. Quiet and thoughtful he's regularly singled out as the philosopher of the younger generation. This might be doing him a slight disservice, but his wines have the rare quality of showing a very distinct character, and one that runs through the range.
Furmint 06 Betsek. Betsek is regarded as one of the traditional cru vineyards, however Atilla is of the opinion that the upper and lower parts differ radically in terms of quality, with the upper half being much better. Sadly their holdings encompass both areas, though the lower part is more likely to suffer from botrytis, so for the dry wines it's mostly the higher fruit.
This had some slightly toasty peach/ripe pear fruit characters on the nose, it is medium bodied on the palette with quite high acidity. There is an abundance of fresh fruit still on the palette which is lovely to see as the wine has spent 3 years in barrel, yet still finishes with fresh clean youthful fruit.
Harslevulu 05, there was about 20% of Botrytis affected fruit in this wine, as such it took a very long time to finish fermenting, however the extra marmelady apricot notes on the nose complement the white flower notes very well, and the slight extra viscocity helps offset the higher alcohol nicely. Again for a wine that spent three years in barrel it is remarkably fresh. Atilla comments that this was a wine he didn't like for most of it's evolution, before finally blossoming later on in its life.
2005 Muscat/Harslevulu blend, one of only 500 bottles that probably wont see a commercial release this was a blending accident that turned out very well. A beautiful golden colour with slightly sticky ripe tangerine notes and perfume on the nose then a marmelade and apricot palette.
2008 Muscat. I've never had a hankering for Passion fruit cheesecake before, it's not something that I usually find myself yearning for. However this stunning sweet muscat succeeded in lighting that particular flame. A glorious confected lime and perfume nose led directly onto a superbly sweet (140g residual sugar) palette that maintained a directness and minerality that succeeded in keeping it fresh.
2008 Kiraly Furmint, at 220g residual sugar this is in the Szamorodni category and from the Kiraly vineyard. There was 30% of Botrytis fruit in the blend, the rest was plain late harvest. Unlike a lot of Szamorodnis this isn't lacking any freshness, and indeed it demonstrates (the bar I'm sat writing this in has just started playing Backstreets Back, by the Backstreet Boys, it's incredibly disconcerting) minerality, fresh super ripe peach notes, a lovely opulent creamy palette and a very fresh finish. For a 100% Furmint sweet wine it is very fresh with really good poise.
It's a great shame that at present Alanas wines are not available in the UK as I think they're a Tokaji hose of the highest quality, their production is still on the low side, so I imagine that when they finally get an importer willing to make the individual hand sales the wines require that the prices will be a long way from the bottom of the price scale.
This is quite simply how it has to be. As wines of this quality only come about as a result of serious care and attention to detail.