Over the years, we wine lovers have all been inundated with pitch after pitch from companies trying to sell us wine preservation systems. Some use pumps, some use gas, and one even encases your entire bottle in a wine coffin, along with tubes reaching into your bottle like something out of Frankenstein’s lab. In the end, no one seems to have been able to pull it off without a hitch. Suction doesn’t last, inert gas isn’t perfect in an open bottle, and not everyone can afford an Enomatic tasting machine (which isn’t perfect any way). In the end, most of us had simply accepted the fact that there was no perfect system—until now, because now we have the Coravin.
Coravin hit the market in 2013 to an audience of very skeptical collectors and wine lovers. Why were we so skeptical? Simple, because we had all heard it before. However, what was different about Coravin is that its creators were more than willing to display the unit’s functionality and repeatedly pour from bottles that had been accessed two, three, and even six months prior. Just so we are clear, I’m talking about bottles where a glass or more of wine had been removed months in advance yet didn’t show any sign of decline.
The process is simple. First, the Coravin inserts a tiny needle into the cork of the bottle. You then turn the bottle, as if to pour a glass a wine. A quick flip of a switch pressurizes the bottle with inert gas, which allows wine to pour freely into your glass. Once the bottle is returned to the upright position, the Coravin automatically tops off the inert gas in the bottle. The needle is then easily removed by the user, and the cork reseals itself with the argon gas trapped safely inside the bottle…simple, right? It really is, and the process I just explained only takes moments to complete.
So here we are two years since its release, and the Coravin has become a tool used throughout the industry. Restaurants are using them for high-end glass pours, auction houses use them to evaluate potential purchases, and sales reps use them to show their wares. However, even to this day, some people remain skeptical.
It’s because of this that Coravin holds a routine tasting event which would put even the most suspicious wine lover at ease. The idea is simple: a collection of wine lovers and industry pros get to use the Coravin on a number of unopened wines and taste through them. As you taste, you sign your name on the bottle with the date. Six months later, the same group is brought back to taste the wines again, except this time blind and placed against a previously unopened bottle of the same wine. Six months after that, the tasting is repeated. I believe it’s safe to say that Coravin believes wholeheartedly in their product, and quite frankly, so do I.
Just think about this for a moment, as the possibilities are endless.
Imagine not having to open a young bottle of wine to test for maturity; instead you can simply try one glass (Coravin’s creator attested to tasting the same wine over fifteen years).
Imagine having a tasting at your home and the leftover wine being completely safe and able to be stored away until you feel like enjoying it again.
Imagine having an entire rack of your best wines accessible at any time. You choose the lineup each night.
Coravin truly is the next evolution in wine preservation; it’s not just hype. Get ready for a paradigm shift.
Check out The Coravin at Morrell Wine.
As for the wines I’ll be checking back on in six months, the notes are below:
2006 Château Lafon-Rochet – The nose showed intense red berry and cedar with minty herbal tones adding freshness. On the palate, it showed soft, supple textures with red currant and wild berry fruits, licorice and tarry tannin providing grip and balance. It was long on concentrated red berry and herbs throughout the finish. The ’06 Lafon-Rochet was very pleasant and easy to like. (90 points)
2012 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault – The nose showed woodland and herbal tones with intense, crushed wild berry, hints of spice, and refreshing citrus note. On the palate, it was youthfully firm with a finessed, feminine frame, showing red berry and inner floral tones. The finish showed floral and undergrowth with hints of soil and minerals. Very nicely done. (92 points)
2009 Kühling-Gillot Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling Großes Gewächs – It’s rare that I open a tasting note with the word, WOW—but here it applies. The nose showed a perfectly balanced and intense mix of fruit, mineral and funk, with Tete de Moine (cheese), lemon, crushed stone, chalk dust and spiced orange peel. On the palate, it showed ripe peach, pineapple and melon with a coating of minerality and rejuvenating waves of fresh acidity. The finish was long and intense, as the funky notes returned (do I detect a hint of Botrytis) along with citrus and minerals. (93 points)
2009 Azienda Bricco Asili (Ceretto) Barbaresco Bernardot – The nose showed a ripe, yet otherwise classic nose of dark red fruits, crushed strawberry, cedar, and sweet spice. On the palate, I found smooth, almost silky textures cut by a core of concentrated red berry fruit and a vibrant lash of acidity. Dark soil and inner floral tones lingered long on the finish with a hint of dried cherry. This didn’t show the overt ripeness of the year, in fact, it performed very well. (90 points)
Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido
I’ve been tasting a lot of German Riesling over the last two weeks, as producers descended upon New York City to show off their wares and talk about the vintage. I must admit that these are some of my favorite tastings each year. Where most wines can be a challenge to taste and wear heavily on the palate over time, Riesling has the opposite effect of both stimulating the senses while leaving them refreshed and ready for more.
This year, it’s the 2014 vintage they are showing, which can be described as turbulent to say the least. That’s not to say that the wines aren’t worth your time. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, because what 2014 does deliver in spades is approachability. Many of these wines are so good now that you won’t be able to keep your hands off of them. What is most important, though, is to be picky, because where some producers turned out an exciting set of stunning Riesling—others fell short. One thing you won’t see a lot of from 2014 are the sweeter, Auslese and Beerenauslese-style Rieslings, as early rot prevented the region from obtaining healthy botrytis (noble rot), but I get ahead of myself.
There were two events which affected the 2014 vintage in Germany. First was an early bud break and flowering, which put the vintage three weeks ahead of expectations. However, through July the region enjoyed moderate weather with warm days, cool nights and sufficient rain fall. The result was a large crop of early, yet healthy grapes. Growers throughout the region were very positive about the vintage until the second event occurred: rain, which started in August and in some regions lasted into September. Many vineyards even began to flood. This coupled with continuous warm weather created rot.
Suddenly growers were forced to pre-harvest, dropping large portions of their fruit in an attempt to save the healthy bunches. In fact, if it wasn’t for the large crop set, many producers would have lost their entire production. The good news is that what remained on the vines were healthy grapes.
In general, the 2014s came out as more approachable and elegant than the 2013s, showing high, yet balanced acidity. In most cases, they also have high must weights and lower alcohol levels because of higher dry extract and low sugars at the time of harvest. The results are beautifully aromatic wines, which show gorgeous finesse, along with saturating fruit and minerals on the back palate—and into the finish. It’s a very attractive combination.
I found a lot to like in the category of Trocken, Feinherb and the early release Großes Gewächs. This is where those saturating fruit and mineral components are most prevalent. As for the range of Kabinett and Spatlese, I found these to be very enjoyable, yet best for early consumption. Many of the Kabinetts I tasted simply lacked depth on the palate, but not every vintage needs to be a blockbuster. I, for one, can think of no better beverage to be sipping on a warm summer night than a glass of 2014 Kabinett. As for the dry wines, Trocken and Großes Gewächs, I can assure you that I will be a buyer.
Essentially, 2014 will be the best-drinking vintage of German Riesling on the market. Below is my list of wines that made the cut. Many more were tasted, yet these were the ones that truly stood out. Some won’t be hitting our shores until the fall yet all are worth keeping an eye out for.
Explanation of Terms and Tasting Notes:
Trocken = Dry as a bone. (Reminder: dry even if Spatlese Trocken)
Großes Gewächs = The Grands Crus of Germany, and Dry as a bone.
Feinherb = Off Dry and remarkably balanced.
Kabinett = A hint of sweetness balanced by lively acidity.
Spätlese = A rich wine from extremly ripe grapes., yet perfectly balanced.
Mosel Saar Ruwer
2014 A.J. Adam Riesling in der Sängerei Feinherb – The A.J. Adam Im der Sängerei Feinherb was one of the highlights of the tasting. It’s sourced from a small section of the Hofberg vineyard, and it’s easy to see why Adam has bottled it separately. The nose was highly expressive with an intensity of airy herbs, ripe citrus, flowers and crushed stone. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with veins of tongue-curling acidity throughout, ushering in notes of ripe peach, grapefruit and saline-minerals. The finish was long and mouthwatering, displaying ripe citrus contrasted by tart grapefruit. (94 points) @Morrell
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben – This was amazingly complex with a deep and ripe bouquet of tropical fruits, smoke, yellow flowers and a hint of cheese rind. On the palate, I found soft textures with flavors of ripe pear and spiced apple, hints of lemon zest and young red berries. There was a great balance of acidity which kept the mouth watering and fresh. The finish was long with ripe fruits slowly melting away to reveal minerals and slight sear of cleansing acidity. (94 points) @Morrell
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Trocken – The nose showed peach and rich spices with hints of smoke and crushed stone. On the palate, I found tremendous depth with weighty yet balanced textures giving way to flavors of ripe apricot, spice and young strawberry. The finish turned to tart citrus. (92 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese – The nose was rich and intense with ripe peach, minerals and gravel dust. On the palate, it was vibrant with gorgeous ripe tropical fruits, spiced apple and smoke. It finished long on tart citrus and juicy acidity, providing a very pleasurable finale. This was one of the most successful Kabinetts I tasted from the 2014 vintage. (92 points) @Morrell
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling feinherb – The nose showed herbal tones with a zest of lime and crushed stone. On the palate, concentrated citrus notes seemed to coat the senses, along with a wave of sharp acidity, which provided bite. It finished on minerality with remnants of fruit tingling on the senses. (90 points)
2014 A.J. Adam Hofberg “Pfarrgarten” Riesling feinherb – The nose was spicy with an airy-herbal quality, along with sharp notes of tropical citrus. On the palate, I found soft textures with flavors of ripe apricot, herbs and citrus rind. It finished with lingering tart citrus and spice, yet with a ripe tropical note which provided a satisfying finale. (90 points)
2014 Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett feinherb – The nose showed pretty lemon floral tones with notes of spiced peach. On the palate, it showed silky textures which were accentuated through a wave of brisk acidity with flavors of ripe apple and peach. The finish was refreshing and balanced with lingering notes of ripe apple. This was a pleasure to drink. (90 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling Dry – The nose showed green herbs with hints of citrus and stone. On the palate, it was finessed with notes of mineral and wet stone, green apple and hints of citrus. It finished with hints of lemon rind and minerals. (89 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling Spätlese trocken – The nose showed tart citrus and green herbs with hints of wet stone. It was richer on the palate than expected with saline-minerals, citrus and green apple acidity. It finished clean and mouthwatering. (89 points)
2014 A.J. Adam Riesling trocken – The nose was quite closed with an herbal, almost skunky aroma before airing out to reveal a zest of lemon. On the palate, it was juicy and clean with citrus rind tartness and lingering minerality. I was hoping for more here, yet this may have performed better if allowed to breathe. (87 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Riesling Vulkangestein Riesling trocken – The nose was savory and mineral-driven with smoke, crushed stone and cheese rind. On the palate, it was focused and intense, showing lemon-tinged apple and minerals with masses of inner floral tones. Long and saturating on the finish with tingling acidity, which seemed to touch upon all the senses. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Großes Gewächs – This showed a gorgeous nose of ripe citrus and pit fruits with mineral-stone and hints of herbs. On the palate, it provided smooth textures with veins of brisk acidity giving lift to its ripe citrus tones. Minerals coated the senses throughout the finish with citrus rind bitterness lingering on the palate. This was tremendously balanced for young GG. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling trocken MAGNUS – This was just gorgeous and a tremendous value. The nose showed peach and spice along with lemon, crushed stone and pretty floral tones. On the palate, ripe stone fruit and citrus was kept in check by brisk, tongue-curling acidity. A note of bittersweet grapefruit and minerals lingered on the finish. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Kertz Riesling feinherb – The nose was rich, almost savory, with notes of wool and crushed stone up front turning to citrus and floral tones. On the palate, it was clean and incredibly refreshing yet packed with intense citrus fruit. The finish was long with a staying note of lemon-tinged apple lasting on the back of the palate. (92 points)
2014 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Kahlenberg Riesling trocken – The nose showed sweet, spiced peach along with yellow floral tones. On the palate, I found silky textures with juicy underlying acidity providing excellent contrasts, as notes of bitter citrus turned sweeter while gliding across the senses. Tongue-curling acidity gave way to minerals and sweet citrus on the finish. (92 points) @Morrell
2014 Dönnhoff Roxheimer Höllenpfad Riesling trocken – This showed tremendous intensity with wet stone, minerals and young tropical notes on the nose. On the palate, I found lime and stone with wave of mouthwatering acidity biting at the senses. It finished long with bitter citrus and saline minerality. (91 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling trocken – The nose was intense, showing crush stone, tart lemon, cheese rind, and saline-minerals. The palate displayed a rush of minerality up front followed by tart citrus, green apple and herbs. The finish showed intense tart citrus with gum-searing acidity, yet in the best possible way. (89 points)
2014 von Winning Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Großes Gewächs – The nose showed intense saline-minerality along with wet stone and hints of lime zest. It was vibrant and driven on the palate with a wave of brisk acidity giving way to minerals and green apple which lasted into the finish with a bite of tart citrus. (92 points)
2014 von Winning Deidesheimer Langenmorgen Riesling Großes Gewächs – The bouquet on the Deidesheimer Langenmorgen was like stepping through a waterfall into a wet cave with all the moist minerality and hints of undergrowth you’d expect to find. Only a hint of young peach seemed out of place in this cave, yet it was perfectly matched for the wine. On the palate, notes of lemon, lime, minerals and herbs were ushered along by tongue-curling acidity. It finished long on intense minerality. (91 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Pfeffingen Terra Rossa Riesling Spätlese trocken – This showed wonderful depth with its sweet and savory bouquet displaying peach skins, mineral-stone, citrus zest and notes of ripe cheese. On the palate, I found tart pineapple, herbs and minerals with a thrust of vibrant acidity. It was intense and mouthwatering on the finish with lingering notes of tart citrus. (91 points)
2014 von Winning Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker Riesling Trocken Erste Lage – The nose showed intense crushed stone with hints of citrus. The palate continued where the nose left off, as saline-minerals coated the senses along with floral and lemon tones. It finished on bitter citrus, inner florals and palate-cleansing acidity. (90 points)
2014 von Winning Riesling ‘Winnings’ – The Winnings Riesling represents great value and an excellent gateway to this producer’s style. Here I found a nose of ash and minerals with hints of citrus rind and young strawberry. It turned to ripe lemon and lime with a hint of salinity on the palate and finished refreshing and clean. (90 points)
2014 Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz Riesling Estate Dry – The nose showed pecorino cheese, apple, peach skins and crushed stone. On the palate, it was light with acid-driven textures delivering tart citrus and herbs. It finished clean and refreshing. (88 points)
2014 Weingut Keller Riesling Limestone (Feinherb) – What an incredibly intense and interesting nose, like walking through a moist cave, lined with mineral-laden rock and tropical flowers, while peeling a fresh lime. On the palate, this was buzzing with acidity, yet perfectly balance by a noticeable hint of residual sugar. Ripe peach, lime, minerals and inner floral tones lasted long into the finish. This is a dangerously delicious and very drinkable Riesling. (91 points) @Morrell
2014 Florian Weingart Bopparder Hamm Ohlenberg Riesling trocken – The nose showed minerals and ash up front with crushed stone and lime. On the palate, I found zesty acid-driven notes of citrus and peach with a coating of minerals that lasted into the finish. Lemon rind and floral tones lingered long with a crushed flower petal feel on the palate. (90 points)
In A Catagory All Its Own
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling ‘Schmitt’ (Mosel Saar Ruwer) – Sweet, dry, or somewhere in between, the nose here was very closed at this youthful stage. On the palate, I found weighty and rich textures with tropical fruits and a ripeness that was virtually canceled out by balanced acidity. I can imagine what this wine will open up into over time, but at the moment I can only judge it on its balance and focus of fruit, which this has in spades. (94 points) @Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
When we think of Sancerre, the first thing that comes to mind is a dry yet thirst-quenching Sauvignon Blanc with a nose of citrus and flint. Seldom do we expect more from this Loire Valley white. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I honestly didn’t expect to be so moved when tasting through the wines of Domaine Vacheron.
But then again, Domaine Vacheron is far from your average producer of Sancerre. The Vacheron family has been tending vines in this region for over a century. Yet, much of the credit goes to Jean-Laurent and Jean-Dominique Vacheron, who over the last decade have raised the bar at this historic property. Beyond the entry-level Sancerre, they also produce a set of single-vineyard expressions, as well as the region’s most renowned Pinot Noir.
As is often the story with quality wine today, it all starts in the vineyards, of which Vacheron is known for having some of the best plots in the appellation. Much of what you find in the glass is a transparent interpretation of Silex soil, a flinty rock that rests on a bed of clay and limestone with a mix of small oceanic fossils. These complex and distinct soils are found throughout their holdings. The Vacherons also credit their organic and Biodynamic methods in the vineyard to the purity and intensity we find in the glass.
A Burgundian approach is employed in the winery, with parcels throughout their holdings being vinified separately and blended differently for each vintage to obtain the ideal expression of Sancerre. Very little is added, and nothing is taken away, with aging completed in neutral wood and stainless steel. The result is a Sancerre that will drive you wild, and it’s certainly not a wine to sip absently. Instead, you’ll find yourself exploring every nuance in the glass. This is more than just a thirst-quenching Sancerre—this is an eye-opening experience.
Then there is the Rosé. I will be the first to admit that I have yet to fully accept how far Rosé has come in today’s world of wine. This has much to do with the bulk of Rosé still being produced for poolside sipping. However, we are now seeing such serious expressions of Rosé produced throughout the world that it really is time to stop and take note, and that’s exactly where Domaine Vacheron fits in. The same vineyards, soils, and biodynamic farming provide the fruit for this Rosé. Made from Pinot Noir and aged in tank for four months, it emerges as one of the most exciting pink wines I have ever tasted.
Exploring Sancerre can be a very satisfying and thirst-quenching experience, and it’s an excellent way to spend the summer months. I recommend that you place Domaine Vacheron at the top of your list.
2013 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre – The nose was wonderfully fresh and expressive with contrasting notes of tart lemon and ripe apple, moist mineral tones, white flowers and clay. On the palate, it showed razor-sharp acidity which made the mouth water, as notes of tart lemon and green apple soothed the senses. The finish was fresh and clean with lingering floral tones, saline minerality and citrus zest. (E. Guido 91 points)
2014 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Rosé – This showed an intense nose of zesty bright cherry and citrus with floral tones, ginger, crushed stone, and hints of forest floor. On the palate, I found tremendous cheek-puckering grapefruit with strawberry accents. It finished intense and incredibly refreshing. (E. Guido 91 points)
Click HERE, for Morrell Wine’s Selection from Domaine Vacheron.
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
The Rhone Valley has quickly become an area of interest of mine, and the more I dig into this region full of rich and hearty reds with all their savory spice and animal tones, the more I like them.
My tastes in wine tend more toward muscular and mature reds, especially Italian wines that display earthiness and brisk acidity; wild wines that often require food yet tend to take decades to reach the sweet spot that I love. However, there are very few Italian wines that I’ve tasted in their youth and didn’t want to put away in the cellar for five or more years. This exercise becomes tiresome as I wait for my Italian cellar to mature. And so, in an attempt to find wines that appeal to my taste but didn’t require the patience of a Shaolin monk, I found the Rhone.
Some people find this odd, because many associate the Rhone Valley with big, overripe Grenache. This is no surprise, as critics like Robert Parker hand out 100+ point scores to a slew of over-the-top, prestige bottles that are created to cater to his palate. However, there’s a lot more to the Rhone than just intense dark fruit with sappy textures. This is a vast region with a more continental climate in the north and Mediterranean in the south. What’s more, you’ll find numerous soil types, elevations, and a list of 20 or more grape varieties (although it’s really Grenache to the south and Syrah to the north that make up the lion’s share). The Rhone Valley is home to smoky, earthy, pepper, herb and mineral-laden reds with intense fruit and juicy textures. When you say it like that, you start to see how a lover of Italian wine could find a second home here.
The first thing to understand is that it’s not all about Chateauneuf du Pape (although there are still some great affordable bottles to be found). The true values in the south can be found in the AOC designations of Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone villages (such as Cairanne), Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Lirac and Gigondas. Many of these wines, while unique in their own way, are like baby Chateauneuf du Pape for less than half the price. Saint Joseph, a designation in the north that is starting to gain serious momentum, is ideal for anyone seeking smoky, earthy wines redolent of olive and blackberry fruit.
As for the whites, they are some of the most unique you’re sure to find. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane are the primary grapes here and show such unique characteristics that they are sure to peak your interests. Viognier is one of my favorites due to its intense spicy, floral characteristics, which translate right from the nose to the palate. What’s more, Viognier, made in a richer style with its weighty texture, is an excellent pairing partner for spicy foods such as Indian and Thai cuisine.
In the end, for the fan of hearty, big reds which swing to the savory and spicy side, there’s a lot to like about the southern Rhone. Below, you’ll find some of my favorites that were tasted over the last few months. Each one is worth your attention, a great way to explore the region, and represents great relative value in world-class wine.
The Southern Rhone
2009 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Rasteau – The 2009 Gourt de Mautens revealed a bouquet of blackberry and spice, along with moist earth, animal musk, dark florals and brown sugar. It was more finessed on the palate, yet deceptively so, as blackberry and cherry fruit gave way to pepper, spice, dark herbal tones and crushed stone with slick and enduring textures which lasted into the close. This finish was simply gorgeous with black fruits and spice contrasted by a hint of sweet herbs and lingering tannin. (E. Guido, 95 points) Morrell
2012 Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chante Le Merle Vieilles Vignes – The nose was, at first, restrained, yet opened with time in the glass to show deep layers of tart cherry, wild herbs, dried twigs, graphite, orange zest and a hint of animal musk and black pepper. On the palate, velvety textures set the stage for a mélange of rich dark-red fruit, plum, dark chocolate, and herbs. Long and tense on the finish with tart berry saturating the senses, offset by gorgeous inner floral notes. This was so beautiful, with a perfect integration of herbs and dried twigs from the whole cluster fermentation. Be warned, however; at this young age, it can take an hour or two in decanter before showing its true potential. (E. Guido, 94 points) Morrell
2012 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas – The nose showed a rich mix of sweet and savory with blueberry and blackberry fruit, seared meat, exotic spice, pastry crust, pepper and grounding notes of mineral and animal musk. On the palate, soft textures caressed the senses, ushering in flavors of wild berry, spice, grilled herbs and dried cocoa; all carried by vibrant, mouthwatering acidity. The finish resonated on the palate with crushed blackberry, dried cocoa and a hint of bitter herbs. (E. Guido, 93 points) Morrell
2012 Domaine la Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Signature – The nose was remarkably fresh for all the concentration in the glass, literally the best of both worlds. On the nose, I found crushed, ripe red fruits with hints of confectionary spice and gorgeous, lifting floral tones. On the palate, this showed depths of dark red fruits, which were concentrated yet balanced perfectly to result in silky, cool textures. It finished pretty with a grip of fine tannin, spice and tart berry. (E. Guido, 93 points) Morrell
The Northern Rhone
2012 Pierre Jean Villa Côte-Rôtie Carmina – The nose was rich and layered yet wonderfully floral all the same, showing black fruit with ginger-spice, violet floral tones, dark earth and black pepper. On the palate, waves of mineral-drenched black fruit washed across the senses with herbal tones, showing remarkable balance and poise. The long saturating finish was floral with berry tones and spice. The 2012 Pierre Jean Villa Côte-Rôtie Carmina is incredibly youthful today with serious upside potential, yet it’s so hard to resist now. (E. Guido, 94 points) Morrell
2011 Michel & Stéphane Ogier Coteaux de Seyssuel L’ame Soeur – The l’Ame Soeur takes things to another level from the second you put your nose to the glass. The bouquet was a mix of crushed stone, blackberry, and dark soil tones, yet with time in the glass it took on a much dark persona, as the fruit turned to crushed black raspberry, grilled herbs and charred meat. On the palate, the ripe character of 2011 mixed perfectly with the austere nature of terroir, as dark fruits with hints of citrus, herbs and balsamic tones flowed across the senses with brooding weight. The finish seemed to go on and on, leaving saturating notes of black fruits and mineral-stone. This is just beautifully balanced and really pulls you in. (E. Guido, 94 points)
2012 Domaine Monier St. Joseph Terre Blanche – A truly floral and exotic perfume reached up from the glass with notes of yellow flowers and rosemary, along with bright, tart cherry and spice. On the palate, it entered silky with fleshy textures only to reveal more acid-driven tension as it traveled across the senses. Finessed dark fruits and floral tones lent a feminine persona with the addition of grainy slate and minerals, which lasted long into the finish. (E. Guido, 93 points) Morrell
2010 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Cornas Domaine de Saint Pierre – The nose was diffuse, showing blackberry and herbs with hints of cocoa powder, spice and dark soil. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with intense tart black fruits and hints of pepper. Gripping tannin matched with a good acid balance assures this will last an easy decade in the cellar. Herbal tones, dark fruits and hints of citrus lingered through the finish. (E. Guido, 93 points)
2011 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave St. Joseph – The nose was dark, earthy and intense, showing blackberry, blueberry skins, herbs and bacon fat, with woodland tones of dark soil, dried leaves and hints of animal musk. On the palate, it was remarkably smooth with silky textures verging on velvet, as dark fruits, blueberry, spice and crushed violets lasted well into the finish with lingering minerality. There’s plenty of concentration and a balance here to warrant an easy decade in the cellar, yet with a good decant, it’s so good now. (E. Guido, 92 points) Morrell
2012 Michel & Stéphane Ogier Condrieu La Combe de Malleval – The nose was rich and intense, showing notes of peach, which turned sweeter with air, spicy floral tones and dried apricot. On the palate, it was broad and weighty with balancing acidity, showing tart grapefruit with a sprinkle of sugar, then more tropical and gaining richness. Spicy floral tones lingered on the finish with fading topical notes. This is a big wine, but the balance is impeccable. (E. Guido, 93 points)
A Southern White
2011 Daniel et Denis Alary Cairanne Blanc La Font d’Estevenas – This was a very pleasant southern Rhone white, showing a nose full of apricot and peach skins, with a slight springtime herbal and lemon zest component. On the palate it showed rich, oily textures with ripe white fruit, inner floral notes and a hint of bitter citrus. The finish was long and satisfying, showing apricot and a note best described as flower petals, which lingered long on the senses. (E. Guido, 90 points)
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
You could say that Sangiovese is “The” Italian wine grape with a storied history going back to the 18th century and its earliest documented mention in 1590. It is also the most widely-planted red wine grape variety in all of Italy. Sangiovese is the star performer behind many of Italy’s premier wines, including Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano and many of the Super Tuscan IGT bottlings. Central Italy is the area most planted with Sangiovese, often coined the Sangiovese belt. Tuscany is obviously the most famous of these regions with a number of great expressions, but you will also find it widely produced in Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Abruzzo and the Marche. That said, in my opinion, the best place to be looking for Sangiovese today is in the Chianti Classico appellation.
However, this wasn’t always true. Chianti was one of the first wines in Italy to be protected and governed by rules on blending. Although the intent was good in the beginning, over the course of 100 years, the rules began to wear on modern winemakers, and in turn they began to revolt against the system. With the recipe of Chianti including a dose of 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia Bianca (that’s right, a white grape), you can see why producers strayed to stay current with worldwide trends. This in turn started the Super Tuscan movement.
With time, it was realized that the rules needed to be changed. First was the mapping and designation of the Classico zone, as the Chianti region had expanded to include villages surrounding the original growing area. The creation of Chianti Classico was a very good start, but then in the 1990s, the floodgates of change were opened again–this time resulting in a situation of too much, too late. One good result was allowing producers to create a 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico (which few took advantage of at the time). However, the damaging effect was the permission to add up to 20% of any other red wine grape to Chianti Classico’s blend. Suddenly the region began to lose its identity, as a mix of international varieties and a dependence on new oak shaped Chianti into a wine which was hardly recognizable as Sangiovese.
To this day, Chianti Classico is still recovering from this time in its history, but they have come a long way. This has much to do with the winemakers themselves and also the changing palates of consumers and the wine critics they follow. One such critic is Antonio Galloni, of Vinous Media, a man who is ever in search of true varietal character complemented by terroir and produced by the deft hand of passionate winemakers. With his modest personality, Galloni would likely reject the idea that he had so much to do with these changes in Italy, but the fact remains that it is very much the result of the following he has built. Even so, these changes didn’t happen overnight; but as eyes began to open to Sangiovese’ inherent natural beauty, producers began to look for a balance of oak and to reduce the percentage of international varieties. A perfect example is the once internationally-styled Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo, which as of the 2011 vintage is now a 100% pure expression of Sangiovese.
All of this is wonderful news for the lover of Chianti, but there is one more piece to this puzzle, one which the Italian Authorities are banking on to improve the image of Chianti Classico even further. For the longest time, we had two designations of Chianti Classico–Normale and Riserva–with the difference being that a Riserva would spend an extra year aging in wood before bottling. However, many producers had continued to produce “premium” bottles or their own “Super Tuscans,” which could fall into the laws governing Chianti Classico, yet these wines had obtained such status with consumers that they decided to leave the Chianti Classico and Riserva designations for their lesser wines.
In a move to provide a level of Chianti Classico to compete with these wines (and also with Brunello in my opinion), the Gran Selezione designation was created. It requires that the wine is made from fruit grown only in estate vineyards, with a selection of the best parcels made and matured for 30-months before bottling. At first, many questioned this new designation, yet now it appears that even some of its most outspoken critics are producing their own Gran Selezione.
So how are the wines, and can they live up to the hefty price tags that we’re seeing? For one thing, while some producers are using this to make super premium wines (Isole e Olena), others have given a nod to collectors and released a Gran Selezione at a lower cost of their top wines (Castello di Ama). However, only time will tell, but I can assure you that the future does look bright.
On to the tasting notes:
2010 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione – At first, this was a dark and brooding beast of a wine, which seemed to be too heavily affected by its time in oak, yet all it needed was time to open up. The nose showed dark red fruit, sweet spice, tobacco, rich dark chocolate and a hint of cedar. It was focused and intense on the palate with black cherry and minerals carried by rich textures, while a spine of tannin lurked beneath its otherwise extroverted character. The finish was long with brisk acidity prompting the mouth to water, which released a wave of bitter dark fruit, espresso bean, minerals and dried cherry. This is a large wine in both character and structure, and it should be cellared for optimal enjoyment. (96 points)
2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo Gran Selezione – The nose was a lesson in contrasts, as it was rich yet fresh, intense and yet utterly classic and refined. Notes of dark red fruits, herbs, tobacco, cedar, minerals and undergrowth came together in a gorgeous and haunting expression of Sangiovese. On the palate, I found a mix of cherry and strawberry with cedar giving way to gripping tannin with balancing acidity. Balance is the key here, as this comes across as painfully youthful, but it is enjoyable on its potential alone. Incredibly concentrated yet focused fruit lingered long on the finish. (95 points)
2010 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Colonia Gran Selezione – The nose was rich, almost sappy and savory, with intense dark red fruits, plum, spices, tobacco, sweet herbs and earthy minerality. On the palate, it was youthfully firm, persistent and angular, with focused cherry and strawberry fruit, hints of cinnamon and minerals. The finish was firm with palate-coating minerality and dried red fruits. A wine of serious potential, yet many years away from its drinking window. (94 points)
2010 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico San Marcellino Gran Selezione – The nose showed black cherry and plum with soil-laden minerals, sweet floral and herbal tones, and a hint of cedar. On the palate, it was intense and structured yet balanced, showing tart berry and minerals before giving way to youthful tannin. The finish was long and structured, showing dried red fruit and mouth-coating minerality. The 2010 Vigneto San Marcellino was a very happy surprise for me, being a wine that I was totally new to and will look for again. (93 points)
2010 Marchesi Mazzei Chianti Classico Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione – The nose was stunning and wonderfully fresh, showing bright cherry with dried flowers, pine, minerals and hints of dusty soil. It was youthfully angular on the palate, with dense textures ushering in flavors of pure black cherry with savory herbs. With time in the glass, this gained richness and flesh, yet with a brisk acid balance finishing on bitter berry tones. This is remarkably pretty, yet it’s still quite serious Chianti. (93 points)
2010 Antinori Chianti Classico Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione – The bouquet showed a pretty, brilliant fruit character with an airy freshness. Cherry and strawberry fruits mixed with hints of cedar and balsamic tones on the nose. It was refined and focused on the palate with silky-supple textures giving way to ripe strawberry and hints of spice. The finish was long with staying, tart red berry fruit, which turned fleshy and ripe before fading away. (92 points)
2010 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione – The nose was earthy with undergrowth and dark floral tones up front, followed by rich crushed raspberry, which brought it all together to form a very wild woodland persona. On the palate, it was finessed with tremendous energy, showing notes of strawberry, minerals and inner floral tones. Tannin mounted on the finish, leaving hints of dried strawberry and leather. (93 points)
2010 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Castello di Monna Lisa Gran Selezione – At first slightly restrained, the nose began to bloom in the glass to reveal intense wild berry, sweet spice, and a hint of orange peel. It had an almost sticky quality, which I’m sorry to say reminded me of a Fruit Roll-Up. On the palate, it was dense and weighty with dark red fruits, herbal tones and burst of buzzing acidity. The long finish showed tobacco, savory cherry and cranberry. (90 points)
Click HERE, for Morrell’s selection of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
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