Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review of the chart work on this blog in 2013

As the year wore on, I turned more and more to the use of charts and infographics (i) as a means of boiling down massive amounts of information (see for example, capturing a significant portion of the key concepts of TONG #16 in ten or so charts in Mapping Nebbiolo) or (ii) as a way of simplifying complex concepts. Some of the presentations are relatively simple while others require a lot of noodling around before I am satisfied enough to let the chart see the light of day. I hope that you found some utility within these charts when you first encountered them and that they continue to serve some type of reference function.

The below chart is from the Mapping Nebbiolo post and attempts to show that the traditional and modern styles co-existed post-1970 and that the respective practitioners have learnt from each other and have incorporated elements from the other side that allow them to make the best wine possible. Hence what TONG calls the Contemporary winemaking style in The Langhe.

The chart below attempts to establish a framework within which to evaluate cellar operations and for reporting data associated with each of the major steps in the winemaking process.

New World winemakers have mostly conquered the production and marketing of their varietal wines and many of them are now pursuing improved quality and new customers by increasing the number of blended wines in their portfolio.  This chart sought to capture, in one place, the reasons why winemakers have sought blends historically, the types of blends, the mechanisms that winemakers utilize for developing blends, and identification of some of the more successful blends that are in the marketplace.

Murli Dharmadhikan (Yeast Autolysis, defines yeast autolysis as "... self-destruction of the cellular constituents of a cell by its own enzymes" following its death. At a high level, autolysis encompasses (i) the degradation of intracellular materials and (ii) degradation of the cell wall and the lees-aged wine is enriched by the compounds released during the constituent-degradation process. The below chart attempted to detail the yeast autolysis process.

Figure 3. Details of yeast autolysis

In his book Inventing Wine, Paul Lukacs tells the tale of wine through the ages in a comprehensive, multi-layered, multi-faceted treatise which organizes the history of wine into seven chapter-specific periods, all of which are connected by underlying themes of class, quality, taste, wine styles, and terroir, with today's wine as a constant reference point. I attempted to capture three key elements of that treatise in the charts below: The evolution of wine through the ages; the rise and fall of wine relevance and consumption between the 18th and 20th centuries; and the anthropological aspects of wine through the ages.

There are, of course, many charts and graphs and tables utilized on this site but theses are the ones that I go back to constantly to help me to understand things that diminish in intensity with distance and time.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

A review of the best wines that we drank in 2013

This is the time of the year when I cast a glance backwards to remember those who have gone before -- the wines, that is. I enjoyed these wines while we were drinking them and it gives me great pleasure to revisit those good experiences. With the exception of the tastings that occurred in Spain, my good friend Ron Siegel was an active participant in each of these adventures.

The best Champagnes

The NV Krug Grand Cuvée and the 1990 Dom Perignon were paired at one of our tastings and they both performed admirably. The Krug had a light yellow color with a nose of lemon, hazelnut, biscuit, and green apple. This was very refreshing and the bottle was drained rapidly. The 1990 Dom Perignon drank beautifully. This wine did not disappoint. Nice medium bronze color that almost looked like a rose in the dim light. Some apple, pear, honey and creme brûlée with some mocha and a kiss of burnt orange and pastry dough. Really great stuff!

The best white wines

Two memorable whites were the 2002 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne and 2007 Didier Dagueneau Silex. The Corton had lemony and crushed rock notes and the great acidity had it drinking more like a great Chablis than a Corton Charlie. This wine had a more elegant and austere style than the fatter and richer style that I have gotten from this producer in other vintages. This is still a baby. The Silex was a real beauty, showing lemon, sea shell, grapefruit, and pear with a touch of flint. Really crisp with tart acidity. This wine is probably one of the best Sauvignon Blancs on the planet. 
We tasted a 1999 Raveneau Butteaux and a 2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc comparatively at a Capital Grille dinner in Orlando. The Raveneau had a nice color with a nose of lemon, seashell, saline, some honey, wax, and flint. Great acidity. Really fresh. It was almost like sucking on a lemon pebble that had been pulled out of the sea. The Domaine de Chevalier drunk really well. It had a rich, creamy mouthfeel, with lemon and honey notes. Nice weight and length. The density and the richness of the accompaniments (seafood dishes comprised of King Crab, Avocado and Mint and Fresh Bluefoot Shrimp with Crisp Bomba Rice) were perfect complements to the richness and acidity of the two wines.

The best red wines

After the Chateau Musar Orlando tasting we headed over to Terramia in Altamonte Springs to round off what had, up to that point, been a wonderful day. It only got better. The wines that stood out for us on that evening were a Langhe flight of the 1999 Rinaldi Le Coste Barolo and a 1997 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo. The Le Coste was a full-bodied, old-style Barolo which showed aromas of black cherry, strawberry, sandalwood, leather, tar, and rose petals. It exhibited good structure, bracing acidity, and chewy tannins to go along with sour cherry and leather notes. The Sori San Lorenzo had had a deep, dark coloration with cherry, raspberry, tar, and violets on the nose. A more modern style than the Rinaldi. This wine was rich and powerful with a firm structure and amazing balance. Ron felt that thus was one of the best Gaja's that he had ever tried.

The tasting and dinner at Andres Montoya of The Wine Barn was especially fruitful in that a number of great wines were brought to the table.  The first pairing was a 1996 Drouhin Chambertin Grand Cru and a 1999 Dujac Echezeaux Grand Cru. This was a pairing of contrasting styles of great Burgundy wine. The Drouhin was the more powerful of the two with an oily richness and tea on the nose. The initial feel was more Barolo than Burgundy with tar, tannin, rose petal, earth, and high acidity. As the wine evolved in the glass it transitioned to iron, blood, game, and more traditional cherry and strawberry notes. The Echezeaux was elegant and silky with strawberries, beef broth, leather, game, and a slight spiciness on the nose. This wine was perfectly balanced with lightness of feet on the palate and a lengthy finish.

The second pairing was a 1982 Beychevelle and a 2000 Clos l'Eglise. The Beychevelle had black olives, dill, smoke, vanillin, sweet tobacco, and cigar box on the nose. Drinking beautifully with bright red fruit and a long, sour finish. Probably another 15 years of life ahead of it. We found the Clos l'Eglise to be uncharacteristic of a Pomerol. It exhibited shoe polish, red fruit, exotic ripe fruit, and kirsch liqueur on the nose. Opulent, powerful. Tamarind on the palate. Long, drying finish.

At this time the penultimate course of the evening was served. It was a Grade 6 Australian Wagyu with homemade chimichurri. The dish was paired with two wines: a 1989 Jean-Louis Chaves Hermitage and a 1999 Chapoutier L'Ermite. The Hermitage showed mint chocolate, pine needles, cedar, and a lot of weight on the palate. The L'Ermite showed spruce, graphite, and silky tannins. Powerful but balanced.

The 2003 Pegau Cuvée Reserve was also a victim at the aforementioned Capital Grille dinner at which we drank the Domaine de Chevalier and the Raveneau. The Pegau showed red and black fruits with lots of garrigue and lavender with earth and leather. This was a big, rich style of CDP that was in perfect balance and drank really well. This particular wine was paired with a thick, rich portion of Bronzed Ora King Salmon, Morel Cream, and Fava Beans. The next wine was the 1991 Vega Sicilia Unico. Unicos generally need lots of time and the 1991 is still a baby. This wine was popped and poured and showed a nose of red fruits, exotic spice, vanilla, and tobacco. Plums and chocolate on the palate with silky tannins. Very classy and elegant. This wine is one to buy and hold. The 1966 La Mission Haut Brion showed a kaleidoscope of flavors to include sweet black fruits, cigar box, black olive, soy, earth, and smoke. Very rich and opulent in the mouth with a finish that just goes on and on. The final high-quality red tasted at this venue was the 1999 Valdicava Madonna del Piano. Sweet red berry fruit, earth, espresso, and leather. Really a nice Brunello with good fruit structure and tannins. Over time developing a salty, toffee red berry character.

A second Capital Grille dinner yielded another bounteous harvest of great wines. We kicked off the reds with a pair of Bordeauxs. The 1990 Beausejour Duffau has always been a consistent RP100 wine. That night it showed a bouquet of blueberries, blackberries, licorice and exotic spices with graphite, forest floor, and mocha. On the palate full-bodied and rich with a balanced tannin structure that should allow this wine to drink beautifully over the the next 20 years. The second wine was the 1989 Cheval Blanc. This vintage was a lighter and a more feminine style of Cheval showing nice red berry fruit with floral notes of lavender, olive, green pepper, and soy.

The Rhone flight was started with the 2007 Rayas CDP. What a vintage? Sheer power that will eventually turn more to elegance and finesse but you could tell that everything is there for it to become one of the top vintages of Rayas. Kirsch liqueur and raspberry jam came to mind along with garrigue, lavender, pepper, and Asian spice. The 2000 Usseglio Deux Freres CdP had black cherry and violets dominant on the nose. Burgundian in style with some Provençal herbs, earth, and pepper. Very elegant and suave in style. The 1998 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage was the final wine in this flight.  This vintage had a somewhat slightly muted nose of red fruits, game bird, earth and leather with some meat, violet and iron. This was a lighter and less ripe vintage for La Chapelle as compared to their 1989 and 1990.

The Pingus flight was next in line. The 2001 Pingus exhibited blue and black fruits, cassis, tobacco, chocolate, and pencil shavings on the nose. Classy and very Bordeaux-like, this wine could pass for a 1st growth. Andrew called it a very modern style in Ribera del Duero. I liked it's elegance and balance. The 2007 Pingus had some black and red fruits, spice and cola. It tasted more new world as it had riper and jammier fruit. Fatter and richer in style than the 2001 with a creamier finish. This will turn out to be an excellent vintage for Pingus, it just needs more time. While pricing has almost reached first growth levels the wine is extremely well made and it was a joy to taste these 2 vintages side by side. These were decanted 3 1/2 hours before serving.

Next up, and our official last flight, was Harlan. 1996 Harlan. Nose of blueberry and black currants with cedar, smoke, tobacco, and graphite. Nice length, and well balanced. Just starting to reach it's drinking window. I really love the elegant style of this vintage. 2003 Harlan. This again was a contrast in 2 styles where you had a more elegant style versus a riper and richer one. The ‘03 is off the charts with rich blackberry fruit. This is more full-bodied with  bigger and richer fruit than the 1996.  Showing sweet cassis and chocolate with smoke and graphite. I can see why Harlan is considered the First Growth of California, as they are extremely well made.

The Imperial 1976 Gran Reserva and the 1964 Gomez Cruzado were drunk at a late-night encounter at a Haro (La Rioja) hotel between a small cadre of DWCC 13 bloggers and the Gomez Cruzado winemakers. It was a wonderful experience made the more so by the excellence of the wines. The Imperial Gran Reserva was light brown in color with caramel highlights. It had an opulent nose with aroma notes of orange liqueur, wet leaves, iodine, tobacco, and hints of floral elegance. Silky on the palate with bracing acidity. Additional dried fruit aromas and flavors contributed significantly to this wines complexity. This wine was a blockbuster. The Honorable had a pale garnet color with an orange rim. It had generous amounts of dried fruits such as apricots and orange zest accompanying tobacco, leather, and sweet spice. There was a consensus that the nose was reminiscent of a good old Tokaji. Graceful and alluring yet exuberant and penetratingly rich. Still fresh and energetic, displaying well-layered flavors lifted by racy acidity. A long, zesty aftertaste.

The best Port wine

Kopke 375 Special Edition Porto Colheita 1940: This wine was produced during WWII and had been resting for 73 years in a 580-liter oak barrel numbered 10053. The number 375 indicates the number of years the company has been in business as well as the number of bottles made for the special edition issue. This wine was deserving of its packaging. It demonstrated that age is this wine's best friend. Petrol on the nose. The fruit is drier and less apparent allowing brighter freshness and more complexity to shine through. Dried fruits and walnuts. Long, delicate, harmonious finish.

Here is to more great wines in the new year.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Itching for high-quality small plates? Then Scratch it is

At last Monday's holiday tasting, Carter Nixon, Stacole Fine Wine's Regional Representative, spoke with great passion about a new Winter Park restaurant called Scratch where he had eaten a couple of times. The restaurant, he said, did not buy his wines but he was recommending them anyway because the food was tapas-style and darn good; the restaurant was owned by young, ambitious out-of-towners; and they had a reasonable wine list and BYOB policy. This restaurant is all the things that Carter mentioned and more. Go there. And hurry before they become really famous and you are unable to get your butt into one of the 40 seats that are available there. This restaurant is sticky. When you enter, you do not want to leave.

After listening to Carter's description, and knowing that he is fairly sparing with his praise (and especially so if you are not buying his wines), I decided that I would check the place out as soon as I could. I had originally thought of going on Friday night but we ended up at Eddie V's instead so I used the occasion of my brother-in-laws retirement after 25 years as a Seminole County Sheriff's Deputy as a rationale for a trip to the restaurant last night. My wife called early on Saturday to make a reservation but was told that, because of their size, they do not take reservations. Our party numbered eight so we decided to go to the restaurant early in order to snag the number of seats that would accommodate our party.

The restaurant is located at 223 West Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park and we were told to turn left into New York Avenue and then to walk across the street to the restaurant. The parking lot is actually the second lot on the left-hand side on New York. To get to the restaurant, you have to turn left onto Fairbanks and the restaurant is 40 yards up on the left-hand side of the street. As we stepped up to the door, the portions of the restaurant visible from the outside were very welcoming: the muted lights; the long bar running down the eastern wall of the space; attractive stools guarding the bar; and comfy-looking sofas towards the front. A narrow space but with a good feel. I went back to my car to get my wine bag. We were going to be dining here tonight.

I thought that I would order a bottle of Champagne off the list so that my friends would have bubbly ready when they arrived. I was told by the bartender that, in addition to the wines on the list, a few new Champagnes had arrived that day and Ashley, one of the owners, was best positioned to help me with that. Ashley came over from helping set up the tables for our party and began working with me on the Champagne. Based on her recommendation I went with the NV Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blanc. It was heavenly.

Over the course of a number of conversations with Ashley (She is warm, effusive, customer-oriented, is willing to say what she does not know, and is possessed of a Facebook-like openness), I found out that the restaurant is owned by her, her boyfriend (Michael Roller), and her twin-sister's boyfriend (who also happens to be the Executive Chef). They hail from Virginia Beach and Ashley had been dating Michael for 7 years but, because of his job as a Merchant Seaman, they did not get to see much of each other. Ashley had given him the option of getting a "land job" or getting a new girlfriend. Ashley and Dustin had been discussing a restaurant venture and Michael joined them as a part-owner.

Ashley (left) and Arena
Brittany (Ashley's twin sister) and Arena

They found the current location on craigslist and once she saw the place, she knew this was where they were going to be. The other members of the team went on looking at other locations but she was done. She was responsible for the decor design and variously described it as mid-century modern and nouveau. Whatever. Anyway, she wanted a place where she could hang out, eat, drink, and have fun with friends. I say mission accomplished.

The Executive Chef is Dustin Haney, a self-trained chef who has worked at a number of places, including La Fourchelle in Atlanta, and who, according to Ashley, has a natural talent when it comes to food and ingredients. She has known Dustin for a very long time and has a lot of confidence in him and his abilities. She describes the cuisine as modern American and then checks herself because, she says, they try to "infuse" the menu with cuisines from around the world.

Dustin Haney, Executive Chef (Left) and Adam

So then it was time to get down to the food. There is a standard menu -- which changes from time to time -- that is supplemented with daily specials that are listed on a green board towards the rear of the restaurant. All plates are tapas-style and range in price from $8 to $13. I made an executive decision where I ordered four small plates per course so that we could all eat the same thing at the same time. The kitchen appreciated that approach.

French Fries with Saffron Aioli Sauce

Loup de Mer: Citrus-Thyme Marinated Sea Bass, "Beer" Blanc,
Potato-Fennel Hash

Pan Roasted 1/2 Creme Hen, Pistachio Cream,
Pea Tendrils, Natural Jus

Coffee-Dusted Scottish Salmon, Baby Cabbage, Curry,
Head-on Shrimp

Pork Belly Adobo: Soy-Glazed Pork Belly, Calamari Juice,
Micro Cilantro, Carrot Puree, Black Rice, Scallions

The fries had been recommended by our waitress -- Arena -- and she was spot on. The Loup de Mer had an incredible wow factor, the result of a veritable explosion of flavors. The 1/2 Chicken was perfectly seasoned and light on is feet, the darkness of sauce notwithstanding. The Pork Belly had a distinct smokiness but was flavor-filled. I prefer my pork belly with a crispy outer shell. Not the case here but this preparation was discrimination-banishing.

The wines that we paired with the courses are shown below.

This was a high-quality experience. High-quality food in a well-paired setting and service by young, committed, enthusiastic staff and owners. I offered Arena a glass of wine and she said that this was the best job with the best people that she had ever had and she was not going to do anything to mess that up. We left after 11:00 pm and the place was packed. As a matter of fact, people were sitting at the bar and on the couches waiting for tables. They are committed to serving a full menu until 2:00 am, a godsend for nightbirds like us. In addition to wine, they also serve a range of craft beers. and this, plus the proximity to Rollins, will make for a younger base of customers.

The one area where I think some attention will have to be paid in the future is in the staging of food for delivery to the table. When you are ordering multiple courses, you do not want them bumping up against each other, or for overly long intervals between courses. And you definitely do not want to deliver un-ordered courses to the table.

This restaurant will be one of the winners in the Orlando restaurant wars if these young owners stay committed (or if they are not bought out by Darden in the next week) and do not start looking at the next hill to conquer too soon. I will be doing my part to contribute to their long-term success.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rioja's perspective on Cune's Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 being named WS Wine of the Year

In mid-November 2013, Wine Spectator delighted the hearts of all Spanish wine lovers (as well as the hearts of retailers who had the wine in stock) by naming the Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 as its Wine of the Year. In speaking about the award in The European (Rioja's Cune Imperial is named wine of the year, 19 Novenber, 2013,, Maria Umatia, Marketing Director at CVNE, saw the award as being " ... not only good for Cune but for the region of Rioja and Spain as well." I checked in with a few members of the Rioja wine industry to see if they shared her sentiments and received valuable input from Manuel Muga, Manager at Bodegas Muga, Rodolfo Bastida, Director General, Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, and Amaya Cebrian, PR Manager, Bodegas LAN.

As is to be expected, the respondents heard the news of the award in a variety of ways. For example, Rodolfo heard about it through Twitter while Amaya read it when it was first published by Wine Spectator. If these respondents are representative of broad Rioja sentiments, then the euphoria that was experienced by Cune is pervasive. The overwhelming feeling is that this was a great recognition and vindication of Rioja -- specifically - and Spanish wine -- in general -- quality.

Riojan winemakers were going about their under-appreciated way, making what they had to feel was under-appreciated wine, when the Wine Spectator bolt from the blue struck. Maria, in my conversation with her, as well as in the European piece, admitted to surprise at the news. Our respondents were similarly -- pleasantly -- surprised. While surprised, Rodolfo had been noticing a trend towards the classic wine style, with better scores being awarded of late. Amaya expresed similar sentiments while noting that the classics from Rioja, and their quality-price relations, are "more and more valued by these experts."

I asked the respondents whether Cune's award would impact their operations in any way. Rodolfo saw no change in his future as a result of the award but hoped that, in the long term, they would be the beneficiaries of additional press attention. Amaya saw no impact on operations but hoped that the award would help bring attention to Bodegas LANs Gran Reserva. Manuel felt that giving the award to Cune made it easier for WS to place the Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial 2009 onto the Highly Recommended Wines list in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.

None of the respondents foresaw any change in the way they operate as a result of the award. Manuel saw it as being more motivational than anything else. "We will keep on doing what we do at the moment but with a little more motivation as we feel the international recognition for the region."

I queried the respondents as to whether this award placed any pressure on them; either as individuals or for their enterprise asa whole. No one felt that the award brought additional pressure beyond their normal goals and operating parameters. Rather than bringing pressure, the award, Manuel reiterated, was a "great recognition of the long background and the big quality of the wines" that Rioja has been producing for so many years. Amaya thought that some owners might say to their winemakers "I want one of those" but, she understated, "... this is not so easy ..."

The bottom line here is that everyone appears to be happy. "If not me, then let it be someone from my region. If not someone from my region, then let it be a Spanish wine." Each of the respondents had reached out to Cune to congratulate them on the award. Amaya and Rafael had sent congrats through Social Media and Rafael had supplemented this with a call to the winemaker. Manuel has spoken to various levels in Cune and has congratulated the Cune President "who we, of course, know well and appreciate."

In my conversations with Maria about how the award had been received in Rioja, Maria had said: "If I were in their place, I would be proud of a Rioja wine being top wine. I think that they feel that way." She had her colleagues pegged perfectly.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cune's perspective on its Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 being named WS Wine of the Year

In mid-November 2013, Wine Spectator delighted the hearts of all Spanish wine lovers (as well as the hearts of retailers who had the wine in stock) by naming the Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 as its Wine of the Year. Having just returned from a trip to Rioja -- a trip during which I visited and toured the Cune facilities in Haro -- I was curious as to whether the winery had perceived this wine as extraordinary prior to the acclaim and also wondered about their response to the news. In order to satisfy this curiosity I gained the approval of Maria Urrutia Ybarra to submit a number of questions for her e-mailed response. First, some background on Cune's Imperial.

As noted in a prior post, Imperial is one of many Cune labels but, according to Maria, it "has always been our flagship wine. It is a wine we only produce in vintages which are classified as excellent." The wine was first introduced in the 1920s and got its name after a special production for the English market in a bottle called the Imperial pint (approximately 1/2 liter). Grapes for the wine are sourced from Cune's 28-ha Villaba vineyard in Rioja Alta as well as selected vineyards in the neighboring communes of Briones and Montalvo. The Villaba vineyard is planted to 85% Tempranillo plus Graciano and Mazuelo. The rootstock is Richter-110 and the vines are hung on wires in rows that run northeast to southwest. The layout (i) maximizes the vines' exposure to sunlight, (ii) enables manual access to each vine, and (iii) positions the vines favorably vis a vis the strong, frequent north winds. Average vine age is 25+ years and average yield is 5000 kg/ha. Imperial wines are aged in American and French (30% today) oak barrels of approximately two years of age for a period of between 2 and 3 years. The Imperial blend is traditionally 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo.

Following are the questions to, and responses from, Maria. The material has been edited for clarity and flow.

From Cune's perspective, what are the outstanding characteristics of the Imperial Gran Reserva 2004?

Really the 2004 is as unique as the rest of Gran Reserva vintages. From generation to generation we have striven to make the best wine possible in each and every harvest.

What was special about 2004 as a vintage year?

The year 2004 was excellent with rain, cold and a hot summer. Let us say that it had all of the key factors to give birth to excellent quality grapes and, therefore, excellent wine.

How did the team feel about the Gran Reserva 2004 at the time of bottling? Was there any inkling at the time that the wine would attain these heights?

With all the wines we produce we always strive for the best quality and bet for an excellent result.

Was there any special processing or aging of this wine as opposed to previous or following vintages?


How and when did you first know that the wine had been so honored?

We heard the news on Friday around 5 o'clock Spanish time. We were thrilled. We could not believe it. A friend from the U.S. called to inform us. He had seen it on TV.

What was your initial reaction?

Shock. Happiness. Joy. Amazement. Thrilled. Really no words can explain.

How was the information shared with staff and what was their reaction?

The information was shared straight away. This award is not only for a wine but for a whole tradition of producing wine where everyone has a hand in it. The reaction was joy.

Did your group celebrate? How?

It was Friday afternoon and most people had gone for the day. I did celebrate with my family, my dad, actual Chairman of CVNE, and my brothers. Our winemaking team was having lunch together to celebrate the end of harvest and they did a double celebration.

What was your perception of the worldwide response?

Amazing. In a few hours we had responses from everywhere. It was amazing how quickly this good news had spread.

Has things changed for the company since the announcement? How so?

Things have not changed. Now we have to focus on the fact that the award is not only great news for CVNE but for all the wines of Rioja. We have to try to communicate our history and our brand and make our wines known worldwide.

What do you see as the going-forward impact of this award on CVNE? On Rioja as a whole?

As I said before, from one generation to another, we have always worried about producing the best wine. The new generation added another concern to this (very short) list; to make our wines known across the world.

This is the first time that a Spanish winery has received this award. It is very unique. I think this recognition puts Spanish wines at a very top level worldwide.

CVNEs crest is, essentially, Spain's flag. Not an aristocrat's shield. Or a single person's signature. We are Spain's ambassador. And Imperial is the wine from Spain.

How did your fellow Rioja wine companies react to the announcement?

If I were in their place I would be proud of a Rioja wine being top wine. I think that they feel that way. This award helps Rioja, not just a winery.

Is CVNE going to be doing anything differently after receiving this award?

Different? Not really. We cannot relax. Now we have to continue producing excellent wines. We are a family business. My great grandparents left us a great legacy and we have to keep it and pass it on to the new generation.


Summarizing, Maria feels that the 2004 Imperial Gran Reserva is just as good as every Reserva they have ever made because their creed is to make the best wines possible every time. As a matter of fact,  this recognition is really just the world catching up with what has been going on in Rioja for a very long time. She views the recognition as reflecting positively on Cune, of course, but also placing Rioja and Spain in the world's spotlight. While thrilled with the recognition of the great job that they have been doing, they will continue to function in the way that they always have, with the additional goal of making Cune wines known the world over.

I would like to express my gratitude to Maria and the Cune organization for being responsive to my request -- and in such a timely fashion -- especially given the end of harvest conditions as well as the hubbub around the Wine of the Year recognition.

I have solicited responses from selected Haro producers as to the meaning of the award from their perspectives and hope to report on that in the near future.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mapping Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo, the variety used in the Langhe's famed Barolo and Barbaresco wines, is considered Italy's most noble grape. Its name is thought to have been derived from the Italian word for fog (nebbia), a condition which is common in Barolo during the September-October maturation period of the variety. I have previously written on The Langhe as a wine region but, after reviewing TONG No. 16's focus on the region's key variety, I have attempted to map Nebbiolo to its regions, its requirements, its wines, and its styles.

Sources: Map --;
Data -- Various authors, TONG No. 16; Wine -- Mise en abyme
A fuller description of the areas where Nebbiolo is planted in Italy has been described in a series of posts on this blog. During the course of a journey through the geographical locations and naming conventions associated with the Nebbiolo grape, we have encounterd it as Chiavennasca (Valtellina, Lombardia), Picotendro (Donnaz, Valle d'Aosta), Spanna (Vercelli-Novara region of Alto Piemonte), Prunent (Val d'Ossola) and Nebbiolo (Langhe-Roero). 

Detailed maps of Barolo DOCG are shown below.


The below chart was compiled from a BBR blog post ( by David Berry Green in which he tasted Le Rocche offerings from a number of producers in order to determine whether the subject vineyard was Grand Cru material. His conclusion? "It should be ranked alongside other prized Barolo vineyards such as Brunate, Cerequio, Vigna Rionda, Monprivato, Falletto, Cannubi, Monvigliero, and Bussia."


Sources: Data from TONG No. 16, Green and Daniels;
author's construct

Sources: Data from Tong No. 16, Mascarello;
author's construct

Sources: Data TONG No. 16, Mascarello;
author's construct

*Last revised 1/6/14 to add chart on 1989 and 1990 vintages.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme