Saturday, December 27, 2014

Brunello di Montalcino Masterclass and Tasting event

It was an opportunity to learn a little more about wines from Montalcino; the Brunello di Montalcino wines in particular. Felicitas Global Pte Ltd organized a masterclass and tasting of these wines on 20th Nov at Hilton Hotel (Singapore).

Brunello di Montalcino Masterclass and Tasting
 
It was attended by trade and professionals from the local wine industry. Eleven wine producers from Montalcino were at hand to share about their wines. They came from the following wineries: Aemilla, Capanna, Caprili, Collemattoni, La Fornace, La Magia, La Rasina, La Serena, Lazzeretti, Mastrojanni and Palazzo.


The masterclass came first. I must say this class was well attended as all seats were taken up quickly and additional chairs had to be brought in. Recent years have seen an increased interest not only in the consumption of Italian wines in Singapore but also for the quest to gain more knowledge on Italian wines and its wine regions. Trade folks, wine professionals and even consumers are pursuing wine courses and attending workshops to keep themselves informed and updated on the evolving Italian wine scene.


Mr Thomas Ling, a wine educator and consultant, was at hand to facilitate the masterclass. Thomas has visited the Montalcino region recently and visited these wineries. He shared his insights on the history, terroir, viticultural and vinification practices of this region. The wine producers at hand offered details on their respective wineries, wine making philosophy and vinification practices.



Some snippets on the above mentioned wineries during this masterclass.

Armilla. Occupying 4.5ha, it is one of the smallest wineries in Montalcino. Located west of Montalcino, the soil composition here is clay with some tuft and pebbles. Its vines were planted in 1982. Aging of wine occurs in large Slavonian barrels for 2 to 2.5 years.

Caprili. Winery is located west of Montalcino. Its grapes come from 3 vineyards (Ceppo Nero, Pino and Quadrucci) located at different elevations. Aging of wine occurs in Slavonian oak barrels for 3 years before spending 4 months in bottle.

Capanna. Owned by the Cencioni family since 1958, the winery is located in Montosoli. Vineyard size is 20ha, located at an elevation between 250-300m. Vines are between 10-25 years of age. This vineyard has a southwest exposure. Wines are aged for 48 months in Slavonian oak barrels. Annual production is around 30,000 bottles.

Collemattoni. Winery is located south of Montalcino. It has 4 distinct vineyards covering 7ha located at an elevation between 380m-420m. Winemaking leans toward a long maceration and fermentation phase of between 28-40 days. Wines are aged for 30 months in 32hl Slavonian oak barrels.

La Fornace. Winery is located to the east of Montalcino at an elevation of 400m. Vineyard comprises 4.5ha of land. Age of the vines are between 6 to 38 years. By and large, aging of wine occurs in large Slavonian oak barrels; though a small percentage of wine is aged in smaller French oak barrels.

La Magia. Winery is located south of Montalcino at an elevation of 400-500m. Estate covers 15ha. Presently it is managed by Fabian Schwarz.

La Rasina. Winery is located on the southeastern slope of Montalcino. This estate sits on 45ha of land of which 11ha is used for viticulture. The vines are between 3 and 25 years old. For aging wines, smaller barrels are a preferred option here.

La Serena. Estate is owned by the Mantengoli family since 1933. In 1988 sons Andrea and Marcella embarked into winemaking. Located on the eastern part of Montalcino, the vines are grown on limestone rich tofu soil. Organic farming is adopted here; with a preference towards low yield per hectare harvest to produce good quality grapes. Upon fermentation wines are aged for 3 years. Both 20hl Slavonian oak casks and French oak barriques are used for aging wine.

Lazzeretti. Estate is located in the north east of Montalcino at an elevation of 300m. The vineyard has a south east exposure. This estate is managed by a brother and sister team (Marco and Lucia Lazzeretti). Wines are aged for 30 monthls in 35/40hl Slavonian oak casks. Annual production is around 20,000 bottles.

Mastrojanni. Vineyards are located south of Montalcino (in Castelnuovo dell Abate, Siena province). There’s 26ha of vineyard land located in parcels between 180m and 430m of altitude. This winery was founded in 1975; at present it is owned by the Illy Group since 2008.

Palazzo. Estate holds 4.2ha of land and located at an altitude of 320m. The vineyard has a south east exposure with vines having an average age of 26 years. Wines are aged for 3 years in 20/25hl Slavonian oak barrels and in smaller French oak barriques.




We got the chance to taste a brunello wine from each of these 11 wineries during the masterclass. The tasting event which followed the masterclass offered attendees an opportunity to talk to the wine producers directly and taste other wines in their stable.


For more information on these wineries and their wines, you can contact Ms Faye Cardwell at faye@fayecardwell.comwww.fayecardwell.com ).

I took the opportunity to take pictures of this event; if you like to view them, you can visit the following link:

Brunello di Montalcino wine event.


morgun pathi

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wines from Cousino Macul Winery

Wines from Cousino Macul Winery; Alto Maipo, Chile.

Mr Carlos Cousino of Cousino Macul Winery was in town on 15 Oct to introduce several wines from his stable. The foIks at Alfa International (some would be more familiar with the company’s wine ecommerce site: ewineasia.com) was good enough to extend me an invite.

Carlos Cousino of Cousino Macul winery
 

A little history

It’s a winery with some history and time under its belt. It was founded in 1856 by Mr Matias Cousino and to date is the only Chilean winery from that century that is still in the hands of the original founding family (and still 100% under family control). The founder’s passion for producing wine was inherited by his son, Mr Luis Cousino, who took over the estate. Generation after generation contributed their fair share to continue with this legacy of wine making. Presently, with slightly more than 155 years of history, this winery is in the hands of 3 brothers (Carlos, Emilio and Arturo Cousino), who make up the 6th generation.

One major challenge to this winery came in 1989 when a drop in temperature caused a considerable loss in harvest. The brothers decided at this period to make a shift from large scale production to producing grapes of low yield, high quality and making wines which will hold their own in international markets. The goal was to produce “world class wines, unmistakably Chilean, carrying the distinctive character of the Maipo Valley.”

This new aim resulted in a major shift in its viticultural practice, followed by a major investment and overhaul within its winery and cellar facilities.

Carlos Cousino with staff from Alfa International
 

Wine making philosophy

Carlos explains that the brothers’ primary intention is to make wines that can be enjoyed at a gathering or over a meal with friends and family. It’s not about crafting wines for the sake of winning awards or getting a high rating from wine critics.

“Approachable when young, but with the potential to age” explains Carlos. Towards this end the brothers strive to produce wines which display a degree of elegance, balance and roundness in body so they are approachable for consumption when young; while at the same time possessing the required elements within the wine to facilitate aging if so preferred. Through their viticultural and vinification practices they hope to show to consumers the influence of Maipo Valley’s terroir upon the grapes and the resulting wine.


Vineyard

Presently the winery owns 2 estates. Both are located within the Maipo Valley. The first one (Macul estate) is located south east of Santiago; while the second one (the Buin Estate) acquired in 1996, is located south of Maipo Valley, near the town of Buin.

Both vineyards are located in the upper region of Maipo Valley (therefore the name Alto Maipo). It is ruled by a Mediterranean climate with subtropical thermal conditions. The temperature here averages at 30C during summer (with a temperature variation of 20C between day and night). This variation enables the grapes to attain biological and phenolic ripeness while still retaining a good degree of acidity within the grape juice.

Vinification

Carlos highlights 3 initiatives he has implemented during the vinification process in order to produce good quality wines; they are: keeping grapes under a cold temperature prior to fermentation, aggressive fermentation and long maceration. These steps he believes help the wine to hold its fruit characters while still retaining freshness and vibrancy. Aging after fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks or French oak barrels as required by these wines. Current annual production is around 300,000 cases.

Wines tasted during this session

The group at hand had the opportunity to taste 6 wines from this winery.

Whites

2013 Antigua Reserva (Chardonnay). Around 15% of this wine is barrel fermented while the remainder is fermented in stainless steel barrels. This brings forth a wine with a little more structure, body and character while still retaining freshness.

2013 Finis Terrae (Chardonnay, Riesling & Viognier). Only 500 cases produced annually. Light bodied wine with pleasant aromatics.

Both whites show as refreshing sips with good offerings of fruit flavours in palate. The noticeable acidity present in the body adds liveliness to these whites. The 2013 Antigua Reserve single varietal Chardonnay came off as a wine with good structure and restrained elegance; while the 2013 Finis Terrae displayed more aromatic charm with a ‘easy drinking’ appeal.

Reds

The reds generally display a good amount of fruit flavours in the palate; acidity is evident and it keeps these wines lively. The good thing about the tannins is that they are present without being big, bold or harsh. It keeps these wines approachable to drink even when young but with sufficient amount present to offer aging potential.

2012 Antigua Reserva (Merlot) Dark fruits, spice and ripe berry flavours. Medium plus body showing acidity. Tannins display a little grip in the gum.

2012 Antigua Reserva (Cab Sau) Hint of spice, oak, leather; medium plus body, smooth texture.

2010 Finis Terrae (Cab Sau, Merlot & Syrah) Dark fruits, mocca and tobacco notes; smooth and supple body which holds acidity and tannins without overpowering the fruits in the palate. Tannins display a feel of austereness in mouth. Shows potential to age further.

2008 Lota (Cab Sau, Merlot) A flagship of this winery; grapes come from vines 80 years or older. Hand harvested, berry selected, basket pressed and aged in new French oak after fermentaton; lots of care goes into making this wine. A wine with good aging potential; certainly lovely on the nose at this moment. Tannins offer a grip in the mouth hinting at the possibility to age further and there’s ample fruits in the body to see it through.

2008 Lota
 

Markets

Apart from a good presence in Chile itself, Cousino Mascul winery’s 2 other major markets are Brazil and USA. In 2013 local consumption was 40% of its sales volume, while 60% was exported abroad. In Asia these wines are present in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China and now in Singapore as well.

Alfa International Pte Ltd distributes these wines locally. If you are keen to purchase these wines, you can visit the online site: http://ewineasia.com

For more information on these wines you can contact 62223977.


morgun pathi

Friday, October 17, 2014

Don Melchor - The Secret Tour Asia

It was an interesting invite. A tasting of the 2010 Don Melchor; a new vintage release from the stable of Concha y Toro, one that has not been made available to consumers yet. And more tempting was the offer by the winemaker, Enrique Tirado, to present to the gathered wine enthusiasts a component tasting of wines from each of the seven plots within the Puente Alto vineyard; wines which contribute towards the final blend and makeup of a Don Melchor wine.

Winemaker Enrique Tirado (Don Melchor’s wine maker since 1997) was in town on 13 Oct to personally conduct this session together with Ms Annette Scarfe MW, who was at hand to share with us her opinion on the wines before us.

This wine session was organized by VCT Group of Wineries Asia Pte Ltd (a Singapore subsidiary of the Vina Concha y Toro Group).

Carolyn Etherington & Enrique Tirado
 

The Don Melchor wine and the winemaking philosophy

If you are a new wine enthusiast beginning to explore Chilean wines, one wine company you’ll soon come across is Guilisasti family’s Concha y Toro; and exploring the wines within its portfolio will lead you to the Don Melchor wine, a wine held in high esteem among its offerings.

Enrique Tirado explains that with Don Melchor it is not the company’s aim to produce a well crafted wine. Rather, the goal is to produce a Cabernet wine which best expresses the terroir of Puento Alto, a location believed by the Concha y Toro folks as well suited for this varietal.

The first vintage of this wine was in 1987. From then till the 1998 vintage, the Don Melchor wine was produced as a single varietal Cab Sau wine. The 1999 vintage was a blend made with Cab Sau and Cab Franc, while the year 2000 vintage reverted back to being a single varietal Cab Sau wine. From 2001 till the latest vintage (2010), the Don Melchor wines carry a small percentage of Cab Franc in them.



Vineyard location and Climate

The grapes for this wine come from the Puente Alto vineyard, a 113 hectares land area situated 650m above sea level in the Alto Maipo Valley (the coolest part of this valley). It is influenced by semi-arid Mediterranean climate. The warm days are contrasted by lower temperatures at night as a result of cold air descending from the Andes. This provides a long, slow ripening period which helps the grapes intensify aromas, concentrate fruit characters and still retain a good degree of acidity.

Viticulture & Vinification

The years spent in cultivating grapes from this vineyard has revealed to the winemaking team that not all harvested grapes share the same character profile. Slight difference in soil composition in different parts of the vineyard tend to influence differently the character profile of the harvest. Appreciating this, the team has gone on to divide the vineyard into smaller plots; each plot lending to homogeneous growth. Low yield is observed and hand harvest is practised.

The Don Melchor wine is presently made with grapes coming from 7 of these smaller plots (6 subplots yield Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 pot produce Cabernet Franc). Each plot is harvested separately depending on the maturity of the grapes and vinified separately as well. Upon final blending, the wine is aged between 12-15 months in barrels made of french oak, followed by bottle aging for a year before release.

Tasting wines from the different subplots

I confess to being curious if wines from these different subplots in fact reveal a marked difference in their character profile. I mean, apart from the Cab Franc component (Lot 7), the rest of the grapes from the other 6 subplots come from the same varietal (Cab Sau), the vines grow side by side in the same altitude and under the same weather condition. The viticultural and vinification practices come from the same team as well. How much different can they be ? ... an inner voice asks :)


To my surprise, the 6 Cab Sau wines from each of the subplots displayed sufficient difference to justify the winemaker’s efforts:

Lot 1: Fruit driven leaning towards red fruits, soft, ripe tannins; soft body and easy on the palate; a vibrant wine that offers a pleasant finish.
Lot 2: Black fruits flavours, tannins more prominent in body as well as a firmer body structure. Acidity can be felt within the body.
Lot 3: Displays more black fruits than red fruits character, firm tannins in body, shows acidity.
Lot 4: Good core of fruits showing in palate; displays some depth with ripe tannins; a rounded, smooth body texture, a good mouthfeel.
Lot 5:  Red fruits and spice notes, ripe tannins, approachable sip with a sturdy structure.
Lot 6: Full body with dense black fruits, displays a degree of depth, acidity in palate adds to its vibrancy.
Lot 7: (the Cab franc): Herbaceous note, ripe tannins and softer body when compared to the earlier wines.

I must agree that these wines certainly did not come with a uniform personality. These little differences go towards contributing a different flavour, layer and dimension to the final blend. Enrique Tirado attributes this practice to the continued success of Don Melchor wines over the years in displaying a wine with good balance, rich flavours, complexity and great aging potential.

The various awards and high points awarded to this wine over the years by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker go to highlight the consistency in quality and the international recognition it has garnered.

Don Melchor 2009 and 2010

We had the opportunity to taste both the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Both revealed a good concentration of fruits and balance within their body.

The 2009 vintage (96% Cab Sau; 4% Cab Franc) displayed a smooth texture with an elegant body made up of red and black fruit characters.

The 2010 vintage (97% Cab Sau; 3% Cab Franc) on the other hand showed a grainy texture with dense fruits and a long finish; its slightly rougher on the edge now, but I suspect this wine will evolve well with age.

Local purchase within Singapore

For more information on this wine, you can contact:

A. VCT Group of Wineries Asia at Tel: 6507 9470
NIkki Salimbagat nikki.salimbagat@vctwinegroup.com.sg
Carolyn Etherington carolyn.etherington@vctwinegroup.com.sg

B. AMS Aurum Mestika Sejati Tel: 6749 6088

The Don Melchor 2010 is currently available EN-PRIMEUR only with a minimum order of 1 case (6 bottles) at an introductory price of S$594 (U.P.$930) till Christmas 2014. Deliveries to be scheduled around March 2015.


morgun pathi

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Upcoming consumer wine events (Sep-Oct 2014)

Three interesting wine events are just around the corner for wine consumers residing in Singapore. For those who like to explore and discover what your palate prefers, or taste wines from a particular region and learn a little more, this would be a good opportunity. Those who are presently pursuing wine courses would find this a good time to taste and discover what their manuals and wine books speak of as well. Of course you can rope in a few friends and visit these events for the sole purpose of having a social get together.

29 Sep 2014; 'Discover California Wines' event



This main wine producing region in US has a lot to offer in terms of quality and variety. You'll get an opportunity to taste wines produced from different AVAs within California.


18 Oct 2014; Wine Directions Wine Fair




19 Oct 2014; Wine Family Gathering



Wines brought in by various local wine merchants come together under the 'Wine Family platform' to showcase their liquid wares. One can expect wines from different countries, producers and vintages over here.


23-26 Oct 2014; Wine Fiesta



I think it will be safe to say that this will be the biggest wine consumer event in terms of size for this year. The Straits Wine Company organizes this event. Wine consumers will by now be familiar with the concept as this event has been held in previous years. Just keep in mind that this time round there is a change in venue. It will be held at Clifford Square.

Go explore and discover :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Upcoming wine classes by Stephanie Rigourd (Sep-Nov 2014)

Ms Stephanie Rigourd is a sommelier with Hilton Hotel (Singapore). I had the opportunity to attend one of her wine classes on food & wine pairing back in 2011. She is well knowledgeable on things wine, a good speaker who injects humour into her wine sessions, and I must say one of the few local sommeliers who have taken the time to organize and conduct wine lessons for the public on a regular basis over these past few years. In between her efforts at wine service and wine training, she travels quite a bit to wine regions to keep herself updated on the viticultural and vinification aspects of wine as well.

I recently received an email on some of her upcoming wine classes. I'm posting the details here for those keen on such wine classes. For those who don't have time to attend professional wine courses which lead to some form of certification, these short wine classes offer an opportunity to gain some wine knowledge and meet like minded folks.

For more information on these wine classes or to be placed on the mailing list for information on future courses, you can contact:

Stephanie Rigourd (Sommelier, Hilton Singapore) at +65 6730 3216 or +65 8186 3745.

Wednesday 10th September 2014:
7.00pm
Tasmanian Vineyards (Australia), with our guest wine maker Mr. Nav Singhi from Domaine Simah.
Wine class about the growing wine region of Tasmania and the fabulous winery of Simah.
Period: 1h 30min.
Blind tasting of 6 wines - Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo.
$68++ per person

Thursday 25th September 2014:
7.00pm
New Topic! Secrets of the Wine making processes & How to differentiate between a wine which can age and a wine which can’t. In answers to your great feedback, this is a wine class to learn how to recognize an easy going wine from a complex wine. How do we know how long can we keep or age a wine, when is it ready to drink?
Period: 1h 30min.
Blind tasting of 6 wines - Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo.
$68++ per person

Wednesday 22nd October 2014:
7.30pm
Wine dinner at Il Cielo restaurant with our guest wine maker, Tim Lovett from Leeuwin Estate. 5 course dinner from our Italian Chef Riccardo, paired with 6 prestigious wines from Leeuwin Estate.
$150++ per person.

Friday 24th October 2014:
7.00pm
We are proud to welcome back the wine maker Tim Lovett from the famous and well known winery Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia.
Wine class about – Margaret River wine region- Tim Lovett will share his experience and knowledge.
Period: 1h 30min.
Blind tasting of 6 wines - Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo.
$68++ per person.

Friday 31st October 2014:
7.00pm
Wine and Cheese Pairing with our partner “Cheese Artisans” How to match wine with cheeses? - Course of 30 min about the main rules of wine pairings - 6 types of cheeses per person - 6 wines to be tasted with the cheese.
Aperitivo by the pool side, including some more cheese and wine.
$68++ per person.

Thursday 6th November & Friday 7th November
On 6th November: 7.30pm
Wine dinner at Il Cielo restaurant with our guest wine maker, Mr. Michele Giannazza from LVNAE winery, Liguria, Italy
5 course dinner from our Italian Chef Riccardo, paired with 6 prestigious wines from
$150++ per person
 
On 7th November: 7.00pm
Wine class with our guest wine maker from LVNAE winery, about Italy in general and most specifically the Liguria area
- Course of 1h30
- Blind tasting of 6 wines
- Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo
$68++ per person
 
Thursday 13th November
7.00pm
Secrets of the Wine making processes & How to differentiate between a wine which can age and a wine which can’t-
In answers to your great feedback, this is a wine class to learn how to recognize an easy going wine from a complex wine. How do we know how long can we keep or age a wine, when is it ready to drink? I contacted several Oenologists from Europe and Australia to help me to build a clear and interesting session.
 
After the great success of this topic given for the first time on the 25th of September and a big demand from people who missed it, I am giving it for the second time. It’s the perfect session to begin with wine knowledge and to understand the basics of wine. This session will make easier to understand all the others.
 
- Course of 1h30
- Blind tasting of 6 wines
- Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo
$68++ per person
 
Monday 24th November:
7.00pm
Spanish wines and the Rioja wine region.
We are proud to welcome with our partner “Iconic Wines Singapore” the wine maker Matias, from the winery BODEGAS BERONIA in Rioja, Spain.  
Wine class about –Rioja wine region- Matias will share his experience and knowledge.
- Course of 1h30
- Blind tasting of 6 wines
- Aperitivo by the pool side- Cold Cuts, Canapés and Pizza from our Italian Chef Riccardo
$68++ per person
 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Proseccos from Nino Franco Winery

Ms Silvia Franco of Nino Franco winery visited Singapore last month. It presented an opportunity to learn more about her winery and the Proseccos she represents.

Nino Franco winery was founded by Antonio Franco in 1919. Like family wineries which get passed down from one generation to the next, this winery was handed to Nino Franco who expanded its production during his time. The management of this winery then went to his son Primo Franco. Primo (the current owner) upgraded the winery and went on to become one of the pioneers in Veneto to export prosecco to countries like US and Asia. Ms Silvia (representing the fourth generation) presently looks after the sales and marketing activities of this winery’s operation.

Ms Silvia Franco of Cantine Franco
 

Location

This winery is located in the Valdobbiadene region (within the Treviso province located in Veneto, north-east Italy). It is an important area for Prosecco production. The ‘hillside vineyard’ area between the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano can be looked upon as the ‘heartland’ of the Prosecco production region in Veneto. The winery owns 2.5 hectares of vineyard land. This currently supplies 10% of the grapes used for wine making. The rest of the grapes (90%) come from a dozen other growers who work closely with the Franco winery.

Production & Markets

Presently the winery produces around a million bottles annually. Of these, 65% are exported overseas. This winery’s 4 major overseas markets are US, Canada, Russia and Austria. In Asia its wines can be found in Singapore, HK, Japan, S. Korea, Thailand, Maldives, Australia and New Zealand.



The wines

During the meeting with Ms Silvia we had the opportunity to taste 3 of their Proseccos:

Grave di Stecca Brut 2009. Grape varietal: Glera 100%. The grapes for this wine come exclusively from Cantine Franco’s own vineyard. The old vineyard goes by the name of ‘Grave di Stecca’ and is located on the slopes of Prealpi. Straw colour with light green hue and tiny bubbles; a fairly complex wine with floral, citrus and apple notes. A light body with good acidity contributing to the wine’s structure; this wine has a lingering aftertaste.

Primo Franco 2012, DOCG. Grape varietal: Glera 100%. Grapes come from vineyards located on hilly slopes. The first vintage of this wine was in 1983 (made by Ms Silvia’s father after he took over management of the winery). Straw colour with fine bubbles. A light body with peach and apple notes at play here. Palate displays a refreshing character backed by a smooth, creamy texture.

Rustico Prosecco Superiore, DOCG. Grape varietal: Glera 100%. Straw colour with fine, persistent bubbles. A light plus bodied wine which makes its presence felt in the palate. Fresh, crisp with peach, apple and pear notes in the palate. The mouthfeel makes this wine a suitable match for food dishes with some body weight.

Ms Silvia explains that by and large proseccos are made to be consumed young and fresh. Unlike champagne which undergoes lengthy autolysis (a process which adds body, complexity and aromas of yeast, bread and biscuit to a champagne's constitution), a Prosecco is made to give a clean, fresh, 'primary fruits' showing wine. Alcohol levels for proseccos are usually between 10.5% - 11%, typically lower than that for Champagne as well. Further a prosecco’s mousse is intentionally soft and non-aggressive in order to heighten rather than mask its natural fruit flavors.

'Wine bits' for new enthusiasts

Wine enthusiasts new to this sparkling sip may wish to know about 2 recent changes. In 2009 the Consorzio administering this region’s wine production elevated the ‘Conegliano -Valdobbiadene zone’ to the D.O.C.G. level (beginning with the 2009 vintage). Another change in recent years is the fact that from 2010 the term ‘prosecco’ does not refer to the grape varietal anymore but rather to an exclusive geographical location (the Conegliano –Valdobbiadene wine area). The grape varietal used to produce the wine is now called Glera.

Though Prosecco can be made both as a still or sparkling wine; it’s the sparkling style which has caught the world’s attention. An affordable, easy to enjoy sparkling sip, a prosecco avails itself for many occasions: as an afternoon sip or something to go with a picnic lunch, as an aperitif before dinner, a welcome drink for house guests, or something to be drunk in abundance during celebrations and Sunday gatherings. The world looks upon it as an affordable alternative to pricey Champagne if one must go the way of a sparkling sip for an occasion.

Local contact

Nino Franco is not a new comer to Singapore. Its wines have been sold here for the past 15 years. For the last 6 years Cantine Franco has worked with Alfa International Pte Ltd (which distributes these wines locally).

If you are keen to purchase these wines, you can visit the online site: http://ewineasia.com
For more information you can contact 62223977.

... morgun pathi

Monday, July 7, 2014

Champagne Nomine-Renard Trade Tasting

Ms Cecilia Nomine of Champagne Nomine Renard was in town a week ago to showcase her Estate’s ‘grower’ champagnes. Enoteca (the local representative and distributor) took the opportunity to organize a trade tasting for local F&B folks.

Jason Koh (of Enoteca) & Cecilia Nomine (of Champagne Nomine-Renard)
 

Champagne Nomine-Renard

“First and foremost we are Winegrowers. Each generation has passed on to the next the same passion for our vineyard”, so states a brochure on this winery. Champagne Nomine-Renard was founded by Andre and Germaine Nomine. In 1971 they released their first champagne under this estate’s label. They were however not new to this region. Earlier generations have owned the land and have been making a living as grape growers. Presently their son Claude Nomine and grandson Simon Nomine manage this estate. Being an independent grower and producer allows them the luxury to control quality from grape growing to champagne production.

Viticulture

This estate owns 20 hectares of vineyard land. It may not appear ‘large’; but this is the Champagne region. Cecilia explains that 58% of growers have less than 1 hectare of vineyard land; they tend to sell their grapes to big Champagne Houses and co-operatives rather than make any champagne of their own. Only 12% of growers have over 5 hectares of vineyard land. Plots get split into smaller parcels with each successive generation dividing the land among a few children.

Nomine-Renard’s vineyard is not a single land parcel; it is spread over 36 plots within 6 villages (these villages are located among 3 distinctive regions):

Coteaux du Petit Morin Region
Village Etoges: mainly Chardonnay and a little Pinot Noir grown here.
Village Villevenard: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Cote de Sezanne Region
Village Broyes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Village Allemant: only Chardonnay.

Vallee de la Marne Region
Village Charly sur Marne: only Pinot Noir
Village Passy-Grigny: only Pinot Meunier

Operating at a latitude of 49 degrees North can pose a challenge to most grape growers. Frost can wreck good harvest (and have done so in previous years). Powdery mildew, downy mildew, grey rot and insects present their own challenges to vine health as well. The use of sulphur, copper or any other product to ensure vine health is undertaken with great care. Cecilia explains that a fine balance has to be struck between the desire to produce healthy grapes and the need to preserve the health of the land (and the quality of soils). Sustainable agricultural practices are adopted within the vineyard to ensure the land is kept healthy.

Vinification

Each grape variety and grapes from each of the 36 plots are pressed and vinified separately. This offers a range of ‘terroir specific’ base wines as blending components for the cellar master to work with. Stainless steel containers are used to preserve the wine’s freshness and fruit flavours. Upon second fermentation the bottles are aged for 3 years, a period longer than required under current champagne rules. The bottles are laid to rest in a cellar located 9 metres underground. This ensures a constant, cool temperature and a 75% humidity level; both ideal for wine development and aging.

Once dosage is added, the bottles rest for another 6 months (for the components to integrate) before release to the market. Each champagne producer strives for a house style which he hopes to recreate in future productions. When queried, Cecilia answered that Nomine-Renard strives to show ‘freshness, elegance and minerality’ in their champagnes. Presently 10,000 cases of champagne are produced annually.

Champagnes

During the recent tasting we had the opportunity to taste 4 of this Estate’s champagnes.

Brut Nominee. Chardonnay 40%, Pinot Noir 30%, Pinot Meunier 30%.
(pale yellow-gold; pear and apple aromas; crisp, fresh body showing minerals, good acidity in palate)

Brut Rose. Chardonnay 50%, Pinot Meunier 50%.
(light pink; red berry aroma; delicate, crisp, fresh body with lively berry flavours, pleasant finish)

Brut Reserve. Chardonnay 100%.
(pale yellow; minerals and toasty hints showing in aroma; good structure and minerality in body)

Special Club 2008. Chardonnay 80%, Pinot Noir 20%.
(yellow; fine bubbles, acidity offering good structure to body, complex and elegant, minerality showing in palate)



The ‘Club 2008’ is a special wine. To date, this cuvee has been produced for 6 vintages only. In order to produce this Special Club wine, this estate has to be a member of the ‘Tressors de Champagne’ Club. It’s a club formed in 1971 by a group of grower champagne producers striving to promote quality in champagnes they produce. Membership is by invitation and one gets admitted only if a grower champagne producer shares a similar ideal for quality viticultural and vinification practices as required of Club members. To date, there are 28 members (and Nomine-Renard is one of the founding member of this club). A Special Club cuvee is only permitted to be produced by a member after certain quality criterias are fulfilled. The 'Club'champagne comes in a bottle specially designed for Club members.

This Estate also produces a demi-sec. It was not presented during the tasting; but is nonetheless available in Singapore.

Export Market

This estate's 3 largest export markets are Luxemburg, Norway and Japan. In South East Asia, these champagnes can be found in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Local Distributor Contact

Enoteca Co. Ltd (Jason Koh); Tel: 63371263

Local Retail Outlet

Enoteca Wine Shop, #B2-02, Takashimaya Departmental Store; Tel: 68363068

Pictures of the Trade Tasting

To view pictures of the trade tasting, follow this link:
Champagne Nomine-Renard Trade Tasting Photo Album

Identifying a grower champagne

Champagnes from big 'Champagne Houses' like Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Krug, Gosset and GH Mumm have been around in Singapore for quite a while and wine consumers are familiar with these labels. But how can a wine consumer identify a bottle of grower champagne when at a wine retail outlet?

One way is to look for a fine print (a 2-lettered initial) appearing on the front label of a champagne bottle. It shows who the producer of the champagne is:
'RM': champagne produced by a grower using grapes he grow (a grower champagne).
'NM': champagne produced by a Champagne House which purchases grapes from growers.
Others initial one may come across are 'CM', 'RC', 'MA' and 'SR'. You can get more information of these initials at 'Types of Champagne Producers'.

For those curious and keen on numbers, I was able to obtain the following information from Cecilia on the current number of producers:
Number of RM (grower champagne producers) = 1,951
Number of NM (big Champagne House producers) = 392
Number of cooperatives = 40

The total champagne production for year 2013 = 25 million cases
Production (in %) by Big Houses = 78%
Production by rest = 22%

Local restaurants carrying grower champagnes

If you are looking for local eateries carrying grower champagnes, you may wish to visit the following:
Restaurant Andre at 41 Bukit Pasoh Road.
Pollen (Gardens by the Bay) at 18 Marina Gardens Drive.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

2006 Soldera Case Basse, Brunello di Montalcino Press Launch

First time tasting the 2006 Soldera, Case Basse,  Brunello di Montalcino; in fact, it’s the first time I am tasting a Soldera wine. Ruby red greets the eye with a degree of liveliness. Aroma was closed initially but soon opened up with a little aeration in the glass to reveal youthful red fruits (cherry) and floral aromas. Palate reveals a light (plus) body with cherry flavours and hints of spice. Silky tannins support the fruit element rather than overwhelm it; and a good amount of acidity keeps the body vibrant and contributes to a lingering finish.


But descriptions about aromas on the nose and flavours on the palate just hint at a two dimensional perspective of what this wine possesses rather than inform on its essence. What struck me as the wine evolved in the glass was the play between the ‘delicate body’ and the flavour intensity which pushes to reveal itself via this light bodied wine. Big in flavour intensity, without being big in body. It’s about flavour intensity clothed in light-weight elegance and refinement as opposed to opulence or screaming robustness. It’s an awareness best to be realized while the wine reveals itself sip upon sip on the palate; my description of this experience in words is a weak attempt, I must confess.

I got the opportunity to taste the 2006 Soldera during an ‘Event Launch’ recently organized by Corney & Barrow in Singapore. Ms Monica Soldera of Az. Agr. Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera was present to provide information on the winery; as well as Mr Adam Brett-Smith (of Corney & Barrow).

Ms Monica Soldera
 

Background on Winery

Ms Monica explained that in early 1970s, her father Gianfranco Soldera decided on making wine and searched for an ideal location. In 1972, he finally settled for a disused farmhouse which was located on the southern side of Montalcino, facing southwest and 320m above sea level. Well intended advise of the time informed him that the land was not suitable for viticulture. He on the other hand saw the soil and location as most suitable for making good quality wine and purchased it. History, passion and hard work proved him right. There were no vines on the land then, no ‘vineyard’ there. He planted Sangiovese Grosso vines in 2 plots of land. The Case Basse plot (2 hectares) was planted in 1972 and the Vigna Intistieti plot (4.5 hectares) in 1973; around 7,000 vines per hectare. Her father began producing Brunello wines when there weren't many producers around. Back then, there were less than 20 producers, now there are more than 200 she highlights.

Viticulture

Vineyard management meant first taking care of the environment in which the vineyards are located. Towards this end, her father encouraged the “growth of flora and fauna, and a bird and insect-rich environment” within which to sustain the vineyards. “Everything is done by hand”, she mentions as a matter of fact; referring to pruning in winter and green pruning during the growing season (to keep the yield low and to ensure proper ripening of remaining grapes). The soil is revitalized with scattered oat straw and cow dung; organic farming, a favoured approach.

Vinification

Strict berry selection is ensured so that only quality grapes are used for winemaking. Traditional winemaking practices are preferred: minimal intervention, fermenting without temperature control, the use of only natural yeast (no cultured yeast or enzymes), no fining or filtration and long aging in large Slavonian botti (well beyond the Consorzio’s Brunello di Montalcino DOCG rules). Gianfranco prefers the use of large Slavonian botti for aging which he believes will reveal a truer expression of terroir within the wine rather than the use of smaller French barriques (which imparts vanilla and chocolate flavours to the wine). Wines are only released when Gianfranco deems them ‘to be ready’.

Philosophy on wine making

Mr Adam Brett-Smith explains that Gianfranco respects old practices which he believes have evolved for a reason over “time and experience”. But he also advocates the use of modern techniques and research to “challenge the validity of accepted norms, if only to gain greater understanding of what works and why – and then to improve of that.” He has tie-ups with various universities to study the effects of climate change in his vineyards and monitor the winemaking process within the winey with a view to tweak changes as necessary.

Limited supply of next few vintages

A tragedy befell the winery in Dec 2012. An act of vandalism in the cellar at Case Basse destroyed most of its Brunello wine over 6 vintages (2007 to 2012) leaving only about 22,000 litres of wine. If the 'unaffected 2006 vintage' itself is in limited supply, the ‘affected vintages’ will certainly be a hard and rare find (if at all) in the future indeed.

Local Contact

Mr Adam Brett-Smith, Ms Kate Tan, Ms Monica Soldera
 

Corney & Barrow at present represents Soldera, Case Basse in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In Singapore, you can contact Ms Kate Tan (of Corney & Barrow) for more information. Tel: +65 68093900; singapore@corneyandbarrow.com

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Fattoria Nittardi Masterclass

“We don’t just produce a painting for the wine label, we go a step further in producing a painting for the wrapping paper as well”, says Peter Femfert of Fattoria Nittardi with a mischievous smile as he was talking about his Casanuova di Nittardi wine.

Peter Femfert was in Singapore early this month to introduce his wines to a small group of wine enthusiasts. We had the opportunity to get an introduction to his wines, understand the reason behind the beautiful wine labels & wrappers and obtain some information on his vineyards.

Art, wine labels and wrapping papers

Picture with permission from Fattoria Nittardi winery
 
Upon acquiring Fattoria Nitarrdi in 1981, Peter Femfert took the opportunity to marry wine with art. He invited Bruno Bruni to create 2 paintings; one for the wine label and the other for the wrapping paper, for the 1981 Casanuova di Nittardi (the first vintage under his ownership). The project was so successful in garnering interest and support from wine enthusiasts that he decided to make it an ongoing art project for the upcoming years. Every year since then, an artist is invited to create 2 paintings (one for the wine label and the other, for the wrapping paper) for the Casanuova di Nittardi wine. To date, 31 artists have participated in this project and contributed 62 artworks. The most recent artist to participate is Korean artist Kim Tschang-Yeul who contributed his efforts to the 2011 vintage. Some of the other renowned artists who have participated in this project include Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Horst Janssen, A.R. Penck, Mimmo Paladino and Günter Grass.

First vineyard: The Fattoria Nittardi estate in Chianti Classico wine region

A little history. It’s a ‘farmhouse’, a wine estate in Tuscany located between Florence and Siena. A brochure highlighting the history of this estate states: “Nittardi used to be a ‘stronghold tower’ referred to as “Nectar Dei” as far back as 1182”. Why a stronghold tower? Things weren’t all that friendly between Florence and Siena back then. Castles found today north of Siena bear witness to the power play between these 2 cities. (I find Hugh Johnson’s book ‘Tuscany and Its Wines’ a pleasant read with regards to Tuscany’s wine making history.)

Michelangelo Buonarroti, owner of this estate in the 16th century, not only produced wines but also sent Nittardi wines to the Pope in Rome then as ‘genuine gifts’.  This estate has been a stronghold tower, a farmhouse and a vineyard offering grapes for wine production for a good period of Tuscan history.


Peter Femfert of Fattoria Nittardi
 
Present owner. Since acquiring this estate, Peter Femfert has replanted vines, improved the vineyard and in 1999 built a new cellar. I emailed Leon Femfert (his son) on the viticultural practice and his reply was: ”Yes all our vineyards in Chianti Classico and Maremma are organic. It is more healthy for everybody who works in the vineyards, an aspect that is most important for us. Also it helps to preserve the soil and the biodiversity of vineyards and the surroundings better and finally it helps to express the terroir of our wines more clearly.”

Nittardi is located 450m above sea level, within the Chianti Classico region. Presently vines occupy 12 hectares of Nittardi’s land. Sangiovese is the main varietal grown here, followed by a small parcel of Merlot and ‘old vines Canaiolo’. The two Chianti Classico wines are produced here are 'Çasanuova di Nittardi' and 'Nittardi Riserva'.

Second vineyard: Mongibello delle Mandorlaie in Maremma

The second vineyard is located in the Tuscan coastal region of southern Maremma. Located 18km from the sea and 240m above sea level, this land is locally known as ‘Mongibello delle Mandorlaie’. It was acquired in 1999 and planting of vines started soon after. Presently there’s 26 hectares of land under vine (20 hectares of own land and 6 hectares on rented land). Grape varietals grown here are: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Alicante, Merlot, Vermentino, Roussanne and a few other varietals on an experimental basis.

Since early 2000, two supertuscan reds come from this vineyard; the “Ad Astra” and the “Nectar Dei”. In 2013 a white wine was introduced as well; the “Ben” made from Vermentino. Peter Femfert clarified that 'Ben' stands for ‘Beniamino’, meaning “the youngest and most beloved child” in Italy.

Wines for tasting

A participant queried about the intended style of Nittardi wines. Peter Femfert mentioned that he strives to produce wines which display "roundness, softness and fruits in the palate”. “Flavours may change year to year based on weather conditions and other unforeseen elements, but these 3 characters are what I like our wines to show”, he explains.

The wines we tasted were:
2013 Fattoria Nittardi, Ben Vermentino IGT, Tuscany
2011 Fattoria Nittardi, Casanuova di Nittardi, Chianti Classico DOCG
2009 Fattoria Nittardi Riserva, Chianti Classico DOCG
2011 Fattoria Nittardi, Ad Astra IGT, Maremma, Tuscany
2009 Fattoria Nittardi, Nectar Dei IGT, Maremma, Tuscany


2013 Nittardi Ben Vermentino IGT, Tuscany
First released in 2013, it’s a single varietal wine made from Vermentino. Fermentation and 6 months of aging in stainless steel tanks help the wine retain freshness. Nose shows citrus and mineral notes. A medium bodied wine, it reflects similar characters in palate as well. Refreshing acidity keeps the body alife in palate and helps to one to experience a ‘long finish’. I must say that the good body weight displayed in the palate makes this wine even appropriate for main dishes with a medium body weight as well. Buy to drink (there’s no need to age this wine).

2011 Casanuova di Nittardi, Chianti Classico DOCG
(Sangiovese 97%; Canaiolo Nero 3%). Grapes for this wine come from land located 450m above sea level. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Aging takes place for 9 months in French oak barrels; followed by another 6 months in bottle. Floral note, spice and cherry fruit aromas greet the nose. Dark cherry and spice notes dominate the palate, while soft tannins and refreshing acidity offer support. A wine made to be drunk young; it’s approachable at this moment.

2009 Nittardi Riserva, Chianti Classico DOCG
(Sangiovese 95%; Merlot 5%). Grapes for this wine come from Vigna Alta, a south facing plot located 500m above sea level. The wine is only produced in exceptional years. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Aging takes place for 24 months in French oak barrels; followed by another 6 months in bottle. Ripe dark berries and spice notes show on the nose; palate reveals a full bodied wine with dark fruit (black currant) flavours. Palate reveals a smooth texture; tannin and acidity show themselves offering structure. There’s a degree of austereness showing in the palate as well. A wine with depth and complexity, it shows the potential to develop further with age.

2011 Fattoria Nittardi Ad Astra IGT, Maremma, Tuscany
(Sangiovese 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25%, Merlot 15%, Syrah 15%, other varietal 5%). According to Peter Femfert, this is his best selling wine at the moment. The grapes for this wine come from the Mongibello delle Mandorlaie estate in Southern Maremma. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks; aging for 9 months in French oak barriques followed by a period of bottle aging before release. This wine holds a deep red core with purple hints in the rim. Aromas display intense berry fruit and plum notes. The palate shows roundness and a generous ‘mouthfeel’ of fruit flavours. Soft tannins and acid support the fruit flavours rather than overwhelm it. A wine made to be enjoyed in its youth; but can be kept for mid-term aging as well if one is so inclined.

2009 Fattoria Nittardi Nectar Dei IGT, Maremma, Tuscany
(Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, Merlot 20%, Syrah 20%, Petit Verdot 15%, other varietal 5%). Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Wine undergoes aging for 22 months in French barriques and another 6 months of aging in bottle. Wine showing a red-black core in the glass. Red & black berry fruits and spice notes greet the nose. A similar profile of berries, spice and hints of vanilla show in the palate. A full bodied wine with a smooth and supple body. Good depth and complexity; an elegant wine (reveals fruits without being too upfront or showy). A wine with a potential to develop if aged further.

Peter Femfert explained that in keeping with Michelangelo Buonarroti’s tradition of sending wines to the Pope (as was practiced back then in the 16th century), he makes it a point to send a case of Nectar Dei wines to the current Pope each year.

In Asia, the 3 biggest importers of Nittardi wines are China, Korea and Japan; and these wines can also be found in Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore as well.

If you like to see more photos from this master class, you can visit the link below:
Fattoria Nittardi Masterclass Photo Album


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