Uncorked goes South Africa – my wishlist!

I asked my swedish Facebookfriends to name their favorite south african wines – and I got quite a good response (see here!). Swedes love south african wine and we got quite a good range at the swedish monopoly.

Therefore it is with great pleasure that I can announce that Ericsson Uncorked is going to South Africa – already next week. Me and videoproducer Björn Lilja are now preparing a seven day tour that will take us from Cape Town and Constantia, south towards Elgin and Walker Bay, then north towards Stellenbosch and Paarl and finally even further north to Swartland and Darling.

And it is quite hard work to choose which among such a number of great wine producers.

So this is my wishlist (in no particular order). Unfortunately we will not be able to visit all of these wineries – but some have already been booked and I am really looking forward to meeting the people behind them. Others have still to confirm. I will keep you posted along the way.

But for now – who or which producers have I missed?

Constantia/Cape Point

• Groot Constantia

• Klein Constantia

• Constantia Uitsig

• Cape Point Vineyards

Elgin/Overberg/Walker Bay

• Paul Cluver

• Newton Johnson

• Hamilton Russell

• Bouchard-Finlayson

 Oak Valley

• Hermanuspietersfontain

Stellenbosch

• Spier

• Thelema Mountain Vineyards

• Vergelegen

• Morgenster

• Meerlust

• Delheim

• Tokara

• De Trafford

De Toren

• Le Riche

• Raats Family Wines

• Kanonkop

• Haskell Vineyards

• Beyerskloof

 Paarl/Franschoek

• Boekenhoutskloof

• Neederburg

• Fariview

• Colmant

•  Chamonix

Swartland

• Eben Sadie

• Allesverloren

• Mullineux

• Badenhorst

Lammershoek private wine cellar

Darling

• Groote Post

Cederberg

• Cederberg Private Cellar

Calitzdorp

• De Krans

• Axe Hill

Robertson

• Springfield

Volver Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2008 – New Wave Spain

The new wave of spanish wine seems to divide the winelovers and bloggers around the world. Recently I noticed some quite a harsh critique of the new more fruitier styles of spanish wines in social media forums – but for me this critique seems more than a bit unfair.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on the spanish wine industry – but I have been tasting spanish wines for decades and I think that you could compare the situation in Spain today to where Italy was say some 15 years ago. All around the country there seems to be a lot of experimentation and old dogma is being questioned. “New” (at least for the consumers) districts and regions (think Priorat, Montsant and Bierzo to namne but a few) are putting out amazing wines and old favorites like Rioja are better than ever.

Yes it is still true that some of the big names, I am thinking foremost on Ribera del Duero and Toro, are not fulfilling ther potential to the fullest (and whatever happened to Navarra?). Yes there are excellent wines coming out of those districts too but not in the numbers we could expect.

La Mancha on the other hand is a district that you normally do not expect to perform well at all. Large and extremely hot and dry it was long just a center for uninteresting bulk wine production. But even that has changed over the last couple of decades with the likes of Marques de Griñon and Manuel Manzaneque setting the the standards with some truly amazing wines.

I haven’t come across Bodegas Volver earlier – but this Volver Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2008 shows great promise for that grape in the district. And it is also a good example of the more fruity non-oxidized style of the spanish new wave. The Bodega are owned by the enologist Rafael Cañizares and comprise 98 hectars in the eastern parts of the district were the topsoil is sand over large river stones, clay, iron and chalk.

The Volver vineyard, planted in 1957, is the source of the producers top Tempranillo. Low yields, high altitude (660 meters above sea level) with great daytime/nighttime temperature variations and the age of the vines forms the basis for what is going in to the bottle. The wine gets a long and slow fermentation/maceration and then spends 6 months in french oak.

The 2008 got a dark red and dense colour. The aromas loaded with red berries, mint, herbs and liqorice. I also find elements of cocoa and raspberry candy. The taste is medium bodied and fruitdriven with red berries (raspberries), herbs and cocoa powder with a long herbal finish. The tannins are well integrated and mellow. Drink now or over the next five years!

Awesome Grüner Veltliner from Vayder-Malberg

It’s not my favorite grape by default – but the wines made from Austrias own Grüner Veltliner can be amazing. It all comes down the balance between aromatic fruit characters and acidity – because a non-fresh spicy aromatic fruitiness isn’t just that interesting in itself.

In my mind there are more than a few similarities between Grüner Veltliner and Viognier or for that matter Pinot Gris. They all can be refreshingly aromatic with layers upon layers with exotic fruits. But they need that acid tinge that gives the fruit that extra lift for them not to turn flabby.

But to tell the truth – I more often comes across the fresh ones than the flabby kind so lets not whine. Most often the the best wines come from the Wachau where they also get an almost steely minerality as well.

This is very true about Veyder-Malberg Hochrein Grüner Veltliner 2010 that is one of the best examples of the grape that I’ve tasted in a while. The producer is a new acquaitance for me. It was the guys behind the danish wine bar Ved Stranden 10 that thought that I ought to try it – and I am glad I did.

The estate is leaded by Peter Veyder-Malberg who has a been doing wine in, besides Austria, USA, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and New Zeeland. Since 2008 he is his own winemaker and wine consultant. He sought out the best terassed vineyards in Wachau and now farms them biodynamically.

The Hochrein Grüner Veltliner comes from terraced loessdominated slopes in Wösendorf and the 2010 is a beuaty. It vibrates with young fresh and delicately peppery/spicy exotic fruit aromas (lime, kiwi, mango) and got that almost steely/flinty minerality as a backbone. It is light to medium bodied and got fresh citrus tinge as well and the aftertate is beautifully balanced and long! Just love it!

Christmas treats – Brunello and Chianti

The swedish christmas dinner on Christmas Eve is a staunchly traditional meal with meatballs, sill (pickled herring), gravad lax and a lot of other must haves. And the traditional beverage is christmas beer (winter ales and lagers) and snaps.

And to be honest – that is not my cup of tea. So when Christmas Day arrived with lamb and a creamy potato gratin – I was more than happy to uncork two fantastic wines from central Italy – a magnum of Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 1998 (my own) and a La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino 2001 (courtesy of my sister-in-laws husband).

And what a relief it was to find them both in mint condition. Both wines similar and at the same time different.

The 1998 was the second vintage of Castello di Brolio after the Ricasoli-family restored this classic estate to it’s former glory. The wine was an effort to once again put Chianti Classico in focus after that the so called “super tuscans” had dominated the scene under most part of the 1980s and 1990s. But with the new legislation in place (1996) it was possible to do a Chianti Classico of the best local and interanational grapes (a minimum of 80 percent sangiovese and up to 20 percent of other red varieties like Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

The Castello di Brolio 1998 is made with 100 percent sangiovese (the 97 and 98 were both monovarietals – but that was replaced with 10 years of experimentation and the 2007 was a blend of 80 percent sangiovese and 10 percent each of cabernet sauvignon and merlot).

The colour is still deep bordeaux-red with an orange maturity rim. The nose wonderfully opulent with dried fruits, cherries, spices and a hint of leather, almonds and chocolate. Sligthly oxidized complexity. In the mouth it feels round and mellow with a lovely fruit intensity and elements of cherries, dried fruits and herbs. The finish long and well balanced. Probably at it’s peak with a some tannins giving it a delicious lift. 

The Fattoria La Fiorita-estate is a new acquaintance – at least for me. It’s run by a well known oenologist, Roberto Cipresso, in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The 2001 was of course a wonderful vintage that delivered classic wines. And the La Fiorita Riserva 2001 is no exception.

The colour lighter than the Castello di Brolio – more brick/orange red. The nose is quite similar but juicier and a bit more perfumed with cherries, dried fruits, leather and nuts (almonds). The taste is also quite mellow (although it is two years younger than the Brolio-wine) and fruit-driven with cherries, leather, herbs and chocolate. The finish long, lingering and wonderful with a sligthly oxidized tone that gives that extra compelxity.

Both wines were superb with the lamb!

Modernist or not – La Spinettas great wines

The battle between modernists and traditionalists in Piemonte was maybe at it’s peek some 10-15 years ago. It concerned things like shorter maceration-periods, new oak vs. old slavonian casks and no or total de-stemming.

Today we find wines that show the trademark of both modernists and traditionalists as well as all kind of mixes between the two of them – but most wines of the new millenium have one thing in common: they are made with riper fruit and in a more fruity approachable style that doesn’t need decades in bottle before you open them. And the best thing is that the longevity of the wines does not seem to have been compromised.

The Rivetti family of La Spinetta was one of those who was leading the revolution and showing that you can make approachable nebbiolo that still got an impressive (or almost awesome) backbone of tannins and acidity. They started back in the 1970s and they did it with Moscato d’Asti – Piemontes underappreciated sweet light sparkling wine – the closest you get to pure grapejuice when it comes to wine.

But already from the start the Rivettis had there sights set on making great red wine.  Braida and Giacomo Bologna had shown what could be done with the barbera grape with their now legendary Bricco dell’Ucellone (1982) and in 1985 the Barbera d’Alba Ca’ di Pian was created at La Spinettas winery in Castagnole Lanze 1985. It is now La Spinettas entry-level wine – but there is nothing simple about it and it offers great value for your money.

Pin was next – a groundbreaking blend of nebbiolo and barbera (1989). Six years later came the first Barbaresco Cru Vigneto Gallina (and also the first wine to get the now famous rhino on the label). Barbaresco Vigneto Starderi and Barbera d’Alba Gallina followed 1996. IN 1997 came Barbaresco Vigneto Valeriano, 1998 Barbera d’Asti Superiore Bionzo and 2000 La Spinetta bought their first vineyard in Barolo – Campè. And since then the producer has also acquired 65 hectar of land in Tuscany.

What makes La Spinetta modernists is the Rivettis firm belief in new french oak for all their prestige wines. They also use rather short maceration-periods (7-8 days) and so called rotofermenters – rotating vessels for the fermentation and color extraction of their wines. This may make the Spinetta wines a bit more juicy and fruity than those from many other great producers of Barbaresco, Barbera and Barolo. But as I said above – these are serious wines that you can cellar for decades if you like.

So what’s up next? Earlier this years La Spinetta bought the historic sparkling wine producer Contratto in Canelli – and the results so far is stunning. But more on Contratto later here in Uncorked.

In the top photo: The wonderful Manuela Rivetti of La Spinetta. You can see the vineyards for Ca’ di Pian on the hills in the background.

Bloggers democratizing the wine biz – the EWBC

The web and social media has transformed the way we think about writing and journalism. And this has had a profound effect on not only traditional news journalism but also the way we report and write about wine.

And it is not just about blogging or writing. It is not just about sharing and telling stories. The European Wine Bloggers Conference that was held for the fourth time in Brescia in Italy in mid october this year has developed into a gathering for journalists, bloggers, promotors, wine businesses and social media nerds alike. And one thing is for certain – these people are democratizing the way we are reporting, educating and sharing our opinions and views on wine.

Ericsson Uncorked visited the EWBC in Brescia to meet some of these people. With one foot in the old media and one in the new it was an opportunity for me to get some inspiration from the next wave of wine writers and wine educators. This is our short documentation of the event!