Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Blog Year in Review: Part IV, Galloni's Brunello di Montalcino 2010 and DLynn Procotor's Pinnacle of Penfolds

In this year-end review of activity on the blog during the course of the year, I follow up yesterday's post on La Paulée with revisits of two additional high-profile tastings.

Antonio Galloni's 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Tasting
Antonio Galloni's Vinous builds community with subscribers through Vinous Events which are targeted at "fostering dialog and education through once-in-a-lifetime seminars, tastings and dinners." One such event was a tasting of 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos held at New York's Lincoln Ristorante on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. This was a limited-seating event which promised "a comprehensive look at a number of the very best Brunellos from Montalcino's exceptional 2010 vintage" wherein the attendees would "taste the entire stylistic range ... from the super-classic to the ultra-modern" paired with offerings from Chef Jonathon Benno of the Lincoln in the unparalleled setting of the restaurant's East Dining Room. A graphic of the wines tasted is presented below.

Highlights of the tasting were as follows:
  • The Il Poggione was traditionally made and, according to Antonio, is the single wine that offers the highest value for money in Montalcino and brings together a lot of things that are characteristic of Italy.
  • The Salicutti was stunning. An almost Burgundian expresssion of Sangiovese. Powerful, intense, and long without being heavy. Great tannic structure and perfect weight on the palate. Can be drunk now but will also reward patience.
  • The Pian dell'Orino was also stunning. An explosion of flavor and intensity. This wine was constructed using traditional methods and was the best wine tasted up to that time.
  • The Cerbaiona was the best of the wines on display that night endowed as it was with finesse, elegance, layered complexity, and a wonderful balance.
This tasting exceeded the expectations that had been set at the time of the offer. My disappointments were twofold: (i) I did not get there early enough to mingle and so did not have an opportunity to assess the quality and interests of the attendees beyond my table mates (who were fantastic, by the way) and (ii) that Soldera and Poggio di Soto were not among the wines tasted (The quality and excellence of the tasting were not diminished by their absence but I just felt that they belonged in this company.)

Penfolds Pinnacle of Australian Wine Tasting at Pebble Beach Food and Wine
DLynn Proctor headlined a panel at Pebble Beach Food and Wine (April 9 - 12, 2015) titled Penfolds and the Pinnacle of Australian Wine. In addition to himself, the panel included:
  • Greg Harrington MS, Founder and Winemaker, Gramercy Cellars
  • Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine
  • Kim Beto, Vice President of Key Accounts, Southern Wine and Spirits of Northern California.
The tasting was divided into non-Grange and Grange flights, the former consisting of six bottles and the latter of five. The non-Grange labels, drawn from the Penfolds Collection, were RWT, Magill Estate, and St. Henri.

The 1998 exhibited notes of spice, leather, tobacco, smoked meat, burnt toffee, chocolate, and mint. On the palate a savoriness and surprising youth. Intense, bright, some salinity, spiciness, and slightly grippy tannins. Long, spicy finish. According to DLynn, 2.4% Cabernet Sauvignon included. The nose on the 2009 was unyielding. Slight vegetality. Weighty on the palate with a great core of fruit. Intense. Eucalyptus notes. It is not as structured as the 1998 but a beautiful wine nonetheless.

The 1997 RWT had a layered complexity with a perfumed nose and accompanying notes of eucalyptus, mint, earth, spice, and dried tree bark. Delivers on the palate but not on the promise of the nose. Rich and powerful with blackberry, cedar, and truffles dominant. Long, drying finish. The 2012 RWT had a core of blackberry fruit supporting notes of dark chocolate, soy, and mahagony. Concentrated fruit on the palate along with a saline character. Balanced by appropriate tannin structure and acidity. Lengthy finish.

Magill Estate is a 5.1 ha property and is, according to DLynn, the spiritual home of Penfolds. The wine is 100% Shiraz and the 2004 exhibited notes of green bark, coconut, petrol, smoke, charcoal, and toffee along with a hint of phenolics. On the palate elegant and balanced with a drying finish. The 2012 was more "in your face" than was the 2004. Same nose as for the 2004 but with more intensity. Dark fruits and brightness on the palate.

The Grange flight consisted of wines from the 1986, 1989, 1998, 2008, and 2010 vintages.

I had tasted the 1986 as a part of our Five Decades of Penfolds Grange tasting and had described it as having aromas of dill, bay leaf, thyme, phenolics and a little greenness. I had also described it as balanced and savory and having integrated tannins and a long finish. Similar characteristics exhibited at this tasting except for a hint of portiness that I had not evidenced previously.

The 1989 wine had also been tasted earlier and in that case I described it as having ripe fruit, molasses, savoriness, beef broth with dark fruit and molasses on the palate. The notes for this tasting aligned somewhat in that I evidenced an aromatic high tone along with pyrazine, sugar cane, and molasses on the nose to go along with dark fruit, pyrazine, and molasses on the palate.

The 1998 had rich, dark, ripe fruit along with baking spices and pepper on the nose. Palate-filling. Rich and concentrated with a long creamy finish. Hint of port.

The 2008 was perfumed on the nose with baby talcum powder, sawdust, chocolate dust, and cocoa dust. Elegant on the palate with sweet ripe fruit and a hint of green. Toffee, coffee, chocolate, and a long smooth finish.

The 2010 also exhibited an elegant nose. On the palate thick, rich dark fruit. As Yogi Berra would have said, "Its future is ahead of it."

All in all this was a fun tasting. Dlynn and Greg made stellar contributions to the affair with DLynn being "always on" and Greg having taken the necessary steps to be prepared for the event.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Blog Year in Review: Part III, La Paulée

This is the third in a series of posts looking back at the blog coverage areas over the past 12 months. The initial post covered activities in the area of postmodern winemaking while the second covered wine region writings. This one focuses on 2015 La Paulee events which the author attended.

The reputation of La Paulée precedes it. A decadent, boisterous celebration of Burgundy rotating annually between San Francisco and New York, it is the brainchild of Sommelier Extraordinaire Daniel Johnnes but is now, to all intents and purposes, owned by New York Chefs, New York Sommeliers, Burgundian vignerons, and Burgundy lovers from all over the US. It was held in NY this year and we were there. It was all that was promised; and more.

DRC 2012 Vintage Preview
One of the most highly anticipated events of the 2015 edition of La Paulée de New York was the Domaine de La Romanée-Conti (DRC) 2012 Vintage Preview which was held at Daniel and led by the Domaine's co-Director Aubert de Villaine. The wines tasted at the event were as follows:
  • DRC Échézeaux Grand Cru 2012
  • DRC Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2012
  • DRC La Tâche Grand Cru Monople 2012
  • DRC Romanée-Conti Grand Cru Monople 2012
The Échézeaux exhibited pale strawberry, creaminess, and leather on the nose. On the palate ripe Pinot fruit, attractive levels of acidity, spice, balance, and great length. Slight astringency and long, drying finish.

The RSV was less structured than the Échézeaux. On the nose a floral rose aroma along with ripe Pinot fruit, vanilla, and a hint of reduction. On the palate ripe fruit, complexity, and a long, sweet finish. Somewhat reserved and mysterious. A sense of something hidden.

The La Tâche exhibited layered Pinot fruit, richness, wax, and earth. On the palate strawberry, hot spices, baking spice and a long finish.

The Romanée-Conti had cherry, tree bark, and baking spice on the nose to go along with hot spice and savoriness on the palate. Complexity and power. Long, balanced finish.

In his summarization of the tasting, Aubert indicated that the 2012 DRCs had a tendency towards reduction. They had persistence and depth on the palate and are all approachable at this time. They were recently bottled and he was surprised at how well they have taken to the bottle. They are still young but, even at this early stage, are already displaying their individual characteristics:
  • Échézeaux: character
  • RSV: an elegant nose yet austere and hard in the mouth
  • La Tâche: layering
  • La Romanée-Conti: reserved complexity.
He saw the wines of the vintage as being somewhat akin to those of 1991 and 1992 but cautions that we should take them as they are.

These wines were all of exceptional quality and will bring years of pleasure to those "fortunate" enough to acquire (now) and drink (later) from the miniscule stock.
Collectors Dinner
The Collectors Dinner was held at ElevenMadisonPark and featured the wines of Domaine Méo-Camuzet. We were welcomed by a waiter offering glasses of Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2007, the first place in the world that this vintage was being poured.

The Lobster Poached with Daikon Radish and Citrus course was accompanied by a Champagne Salon 1983 en magnum. We were informed that the Champagne House only had 24 of these mags in its cellar and five had been sent to this event. The wine had been disgorged in June 2012. The 1983 vintage had experienced bad spring and winter weather but had been very good for Champagne, with high acidity and excellent sugar levels in the fruit being the order of the day.

The lobster was exceptional and bolstered by the Salon with its notes of orange rind, citrus, distant bread, tropical fruit, and green apple. Excellent acidity and mousse.

The third course was a Foie Gras marinated with Black Truffle and Purple Potato accompanied by a quartet of 2006 Méo-Camuzet wines:
  • Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Chaumes
  • Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Aux Murgers
  • Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
  • Corton Grand Cru Clos Rognet
The Vosne-Romanée showed coconut and spice, strawberries, savoriness and a slight phenolic note. It had strawberry cherry on the palate, excellent weight, and was balanced with a nice, round mouthfeel. The Nuits-St.-George was unyielding on the nose with spice and a slight creaminess on the palate. This wine was non-complex. The Clos Vougeot yielded strawberry, with a lemon tinge, tobacco, leather, spice, dill, and tree bark. Length and intensity wanting. The Corton showed pinot fruit, coffee, and mocha on the nose and power and weight on the palate. Great length and intensity. Still young.

The next course was Celery Root Braised with Black Truffle. The wines were from the Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Brûlées climat and were produced in the years 2002, 1999, and 1990. The wines were served youngest to oldest in this flight, an approach that differs from my preference. The dish was excellent. The 2002 Les Brûlées showed strawberry, spice, dried herbs, and rosemary. Vibrant. Jumped off the palate. Chewy. Long, herby, savory finish. This turned out to be the wine of the flight. The 1999 Les Brûlées exhibited strawberries, spice, walnut, coffee, and mocha. Savoriness on palate. Finish could have been longer. Strawberry, vanilla, and elegance were the hallmarks of the 1990 Les Brûlées along with a marked color differential. Blackpepper on palate. Evolved. Slight bitterness. Finish interruptus.

The meat course was Venison Roasted with Parsnip and Mushrooms braced by Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cros Parantoux (1999 and 1988) and Richebourg Grand Cru (1999 and 1988) wines. Prior to the start of the course, Jean-Nicolas rose once again to describe the wines. He sees these two wines as being flagships of the domaine. He thinks that the 1999 shows "tight" at this time but is the greatest vintage that he has ever made. Nineteen eighty-eight was Henri Jayer's last year and so this vintage is made unfiltered. His (Jean-Nicolas) style is a little more "hands on."

The 1988 Richebourg exhibited deep red fruit, rhubarb, créme brulée, spice, earth, and vanilla. Weight and intensity on the palate. Long, savory finish. This is still a young wine. The 1988 Parantoux was corked. The 1999 Richebourg had a nose of classic Pinot fruit and spice. A little shoe polish. Delivers on the palate. Great intensity and life. Long, spicy finish. A young wine. The 1999 Parantoux was open and less finely honed than the other wines in this flight. Still young though. Overall the Richebourgs were better wines than the Cros Parantouxs in this flight. Slightly disappointing for me as I have a romantic attachment (Jayer-inspired) to the Parantoux.

This was an excellent event. Fifty-three Burgundy devotees, excellent food, great wines, and one of the leading winemakers in the world explaining his wines to us.

Lunch with Jean-Marc Roulot and Christophe Roumier
The main event of La Paulée's official Thursday afternoon schedule was a multi-course lunch, prepared by Daniel Boulud and his team, accompanied by selected wines from Domaines Guy Roulot and Georges Roumier, said wines to be presented by the respective vigneron. At the conclusion of the Roulot play, lunch attendees were shepherded back towards the front of the restaurant and into a room to the right of the main entrance. The room was populated with a number of 10-top, white-table-cloth-clad tables and as we entered, we were given additional glasses of Meursault Les Luchets 2011. As the attendees streamed in, I was pleasantly surprised to see Aubert de Villaine enter and stride to a place at the Roulot-Roumier table which was centrally located within the room. Daniel Johnnes welcomed us all and then launched the event.

The first course was called Jaune d'or et Soleil Vivace (components were Iberico Ham, truffles, and eggs) and had been prepared by Michel and César Troisgrois.

It was accompanied by 2010, 2009, and 2004 Roulot Les Luchets, the former two in magnum. The 2010 Les Luchets exhibited spice, orange-tangerine, power, minerality, orange rind, burnt orange and a slight pricking on the nose. On the palate bright, powerful, intense. Long, intense finish. The 2009 Les Luchets had similar characteristics to the 2010 except it had a little more stemminess, was a little more aromatic, and showed riper fruit. It was also not as tightly wound as the 2004. The 2004 exhibited a lemon-lime aroma along with minerality, crushed stone, sea shells and a hint of sulfur. Slight salinity and great acidity. Balanced. Bright, long, coating finish.

The second course was a Filet de Sole Duglére also prepared by Michel and César Troisgros. This was accompanied by a Roulot Meursault Charmes 2004, Roulot Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 2000 (in Jeroboam), and Roulot Meursault Perrières 1999 (in magnum).

The Meursault Charmes 2004 had tangerine and orange rind citrus characters accompanying notes of spice and herbs. Voluptuous, with bracing acidity and a long finish. The 2000 Meursault Tessons was elegant with apple-pear notes, spice, herbs, cardamom. The 1999 Meursault Perrières had citrus and citrus rind on the nose. Powereful, mineral, and coating on the palate.

de Villaine and Roulot 

Daniel Johnnes with the Jeroboam of Tessons

The third course was a Bœuf Wagyu Rossini which was prepared by Daniel Boulud. And this signaled a turn to the wines of Domaine Georges Roumier. The wines that he presented were the Domaine Georges Roumier Bonnes-Mares 1996, 1995, and 1990, all in magnums.

The Domaine Roumier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1996 exhibited ripe pinot fruit, a herbaceousness, and barrel spice on the nose. Restrained but balanced. Long, spicy finish. The 1995 Bonnes-Mares had a richer nose than the 1996, and greater power and intensity. The 1990 Bonnes-Mares showed pinot fruit, spice, and orange peel on the nose. Perfect weight on the palate. Balanced. Light stemminess/astringency. Herb finish.

Thus culminated an absolutely wonderful day. You do not get this type of variety thrown at you in the wine world every day. Especially in NYC, you can go to a play any day of the week. But it is not every day of the week that you get to see one of the leading winemakers from the famously tight-lipped and closeted region of Burgundy placing his reputation on the line by stepping on stage in front of his customers and running the risk of hurting his brand. And it is not every day that you get to follow that up with that same guy coming back and pouring you a range of his best wines. And, for good measure, he invited along one of his friends to pour some of his (the friend's) wines. And all that wrapped around the food of Master Boulud.

It does not get any better than this.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Blog Year in Review: Part II, wine regions, Nebbiolo, and wine destinations

This is the second in a series of posts looking back at the blog coverage areas over the past 12 months. The initial post covered activities in the area of postmodern winemaking while this one focuses on "wine" region writings.

Wine Regions
One of my long-term objectives for the blog is to develop and maintain an extensive and comprehensive repository of wine region descriptions, all accessible from a single front end. This year I added material on Tavel (soils and AOC), Chateauneuf du Pape (landscape/soils and AOC), Finger Lakes, and North Greece. Data for these posts were collected during DWCC- or WBC-arranged trips and, in the case of North Greece, by the application of detailed follow-up questionnaires.

In the case of North Greece, I employed the Wine -- Mise en abyme (W-MEA) model (shown below) in my framing and evaluation of the region. I had previously only used the model in evaluation of individual vineyards.

Collection of the required data was effected through meetings with relevant winery personnel while on a North Greece Press Trip and through two separate questionnaires designed to elicit detailed information on the wineries viticulture and viniculture configurations and practices. To date I have reported on the region's physical environment, the physical environment versus the W-MEA model, variety and rootstock choices, and vine training and vineyard management.

Based on my observations to date, there are no "show-stoppers" in the siting of the North Greece vineyards. As a matter of fact, all the base ingredients are present for the production of high-quality fruit. Future posts will cover the winemaking and maturation environments as well as a detailed discussion of the region's wines.

Mapping Nebbiolo
While wine regions are by nature vertical constructs, one of the efforts that I have taken on is a cross-regional endeavor that I have named Mapping Nebbiolo, an attempt to build a repository of information on this variety, its instances, and its associated impacts. My repository-building activities this year revolved around identifying the nomenclature and characteristics of Nebbiolo in the places where it is grown in Italy and surrounds. To recap: in Valtellina it is called Chiavennasca; in Valle d'Aosta it is called Picotendro; in Alto Piemonte it is called Spanna; in Val d'Ossola it is called Nebbiolo but an ancient biotype is called Prunent; and in Langhe-Roero it is called Nebbiolo.

At the conclusion of the series, I hosted a dinner with wines from the various regions so that my friends and I could experience the differences in these wines for ourselves.

In keeping with incorporating associated items into this Mapping Nebbiolo bundle, I posted on the development of a wine industry and winemaking culture in Piemonte, the heartland of Nebbiolo, in the 1800s and, a more recent concern, the so-called "Burgundization" of Barolo.

Orlando Food and Wine Trail
In 2015 the editors of Wine Enthusiast identified Orlando as one of the 10 Best Wine Travel destinations of 2015. According to the editors, Orlando "... sports brag-inducing eats and world-class wine experiences ..." with "... something to be found for every food and wine lover ..." After I had stopped rolling around on the floor with laughter, I decided to embrace this concept and provide a solid foundation for the editors' "sketchy" rationalization. In addition, one of my colleagues had referred to Orlando as a food wasteland and I needed to convince her that that was not the case.

Towards that end I developed a construct called the Orlando Food and Wine Terroir that describes the elements (and their interworkings) that define and drive the Orlando Food and Wine Area and then located and characterized the establishments that function on what I term the Orlando Food and Wine Trail.

I will wrap up this year-end review with two additional posts.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Blog Year in Review: Part I, postmodern winemaking

I met Clark Smith three years ago at the Digital Wine Communications Conference 2013, which was held in Logrono, Spain. I ran into him initially at the BYOB party and had some interaction centered around me borrowing his corkscrew to open my wine bottle,. At the time I did not know who he was or or that he was a scheduled presenter at the conference.

I ran into him again the following day and he indicated that someone had borrowed his corkscrew and not returned it. He was bemoaning the loss because (i) it was an expensive piece and (ii) it had sentimental value. For the record, I had returned the corkscrew to him after my usage. At that time I was still unaware of who he was.

I remained clueless as to his identity until the keynote speakers were announced -- Arto Koskelo and Clark Smith -- and my "buddy" strode onto the stage. Arto spoke first and was well received (He is an insider and he had a good story.). Things, however, went downhill fast when Clark began his presentation. And the audience, uncharacteristically, became more hostile the longer he spoke. Words like "wine manipulator" and other such epithets were being hurled in Clark's direction and, during the question and answer session very pointed questions were directed at him. My assessment? It did not go well for Clark. But he seemed oblivious to this fact and carried on through the rest of the conference in an unfazed manner.

At the conclusion of the conference, I overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express at Bilbao Airport as I had an early flight out on Monday. I had gone into town for dinner and, on my return, saw Clark Smith and Doug Frost MS MW checking into the hotel. They were going to be doing dinner in the hotel's restaurant and I joined them for a drink. We had a scintillating, informative, and funny discussion that lasted deep into the night. Doug eventually left and Clark and I carried on. He was very impressive and had more stories than Hans Christian Andersen. I revisited and revised my assessment of him and decided that I would buy his book (postmodern winemaking) and review it on my blog.

And I did. Buy the book, that is. After I begun reading it, I realized that I was insufficiently equipped to credibly review this book. There was a gap -- large enough to drive a Mack truck through -- between my Level 3 WSET knowledge and the material contained in the book; a gap that would need to be filled if I wanted to be able to review this work. So I signed up for the UC Davis Winemaking Certificate Program and successfully completed the requirements in June of this year.

Once I had completed the program, I turned back to the book, but now with a more ambitious objective. Rather than just review the effort, I would evaluate/critique its concepts vis a vis "modern" winemaking principles and practices, the knowledge of which I had acquired in my recent studies. I have written a fair number of posts as I work towards fulfillment of this goal.

The first step was to gather the scattered elements into a single place and to organize them in a manner which would aid me in the endeavor. I next explored what Smith saw as the problem with modern wines and the path that led to this place. Once these foundations had been laid I proceeded to graphically compare postmodern and modern winemaking and to more closely delineate the elements of postmodern winemaking.

The quantity and quality of phenolic compounds (especially tannins, anthocyanins, and co-factors) in the wine (post-fermentation) and the interaction of those compounds, are critical elements in the postmodern winemaking process as laid out by Clark Smith. Before delving into these phenolic interactions, I provided background discussion on grape- and oak-derived tannins, the biosynthesis of anthocyanins, and anthocyanin content as a source of color in red wines.

This is a slow process because of the need to research and post background material so that the reader is equipped to follow along as the assessment proceeds. I will continue the background provision with tannin-anthocyanin polymerization in my next post in this series and then get into the meat of the initial critical aspect of postmodern winemaking. I estimate that my efforts in this area will be spread out over the better part of the upcoming year.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hello from the other side: Alpha Estate (Amyndeon, Greece)

I know what you are thinking. Cheap attempt at leveraging Adele's lyrics to get clicks. And you be right. But I thought it was cute.

But it is also directly applicable to Alpha Estate in a number of ways. First, as shown in the below map of our North Greece Wine Trail Press Trip, Amyndeon is on the other side of Mt. Vermio from its fellow Xinomavro haven, Naoussa. The boxes in the figure below detail the diffrences that result. As pointed out in a previous post, this difference results in Kir-Yianni having its Naoussa vineyard (58 ha) focus on Xinomavro and international red varieties while its Amyndeon counterpart (16.5 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and domestic and international white varieties.The difference also results in, according to Angelos Iatridis (co-founder and winemaker), wines wirh more finesse.

But this "other-sidedness" is not restricted to the environment within which the estate operates. No, its practices and operations are on the other side of the "standard" practices and structures that I saw while touring the vineyards of the region. Let me take a step back before expanding on this point.

Our "guide" on the tour of the vineyard and cellar was chemist/enologist Angelos Iatrides, the estate's co-founder (along with noted viticulturist Makis Mavridis) and winemaker. According to Angelos, prior to their arrival, the land was segmented into small properties with separate owners. They located all of these owners and bought up parcels which eventually amounted to 100 ha, 85 ha of which are planted to vine today.

Angelos Iatrides among the vines
The vineyard is surrounded by three mountains and, due to the "rain-shadow" effect, is very dry; annual rainfall averages 300 mm.

One of the mountains surrounding Amyndeon

In order to ensure that the vineyard is not subjected to extreme water stress, a warren of pipes (350 m) have been installed below ground and draw on the estate's wells (as needed) to deliver water down to the level of an individual vine. That is on the other side in relation to the practices that I have observed at the other wineries. No qualitative judgements are being made herein. I am only pointing out that this is very sophisticated and advances the estate's philosophy of being respectful of the environment and minimizing waste.

Angelos indicated that mildew was his biggest concern, a result of hot summers and rain. By being forewarned, they are able to be prepared to respond effectively. Towards that end, the vineyard is connected to a weather station in Austria and so has a 10-day lead time on coming weather. This is an "other-side" practice.

One of the most important decisions that a winemaker has to make is when to harvest. And that decision is complicated in many cases by uneven ripening in a vineyard. Alpha Esate has deployed microcameras to scan the vineyard and monitor the difference in maturity of the grapes within the block. This is an "other-side" practice.

According to Angelos, they are sustainable-viticulture-certified and are almost precision viticulture.

And this type of precision extends into the cellar environment. No chemicals are used in the wood in the ceiling nor paint on the walls. According to the website, all construction material is highly inactive and neutral in order to guarantee "absolute neutral atmospheric conditions inside the winery" and, in so doing, "protect the quality of the grapes, the must, and the wine."

The winery is equipped with a totally integrated building management system which is accessible and controllable from anywhere in the world. In addition, equipment suppliers monitor their equipment online from remote locations.

This is a truly high-tech winery environment where no expense has been spared in order to meet today's needs and to stay ahead of tomorrow's.

Hello!!! Can you hear me?

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Friday, December 18, 2015

Not your Grandfather's Retsina: Domaine Stelios Kechris (Kalachori, Thessaloniki, Greece)

I visited Greece for the first time during the Olympics in 2004 and, while there, had my first taste of Retsina. I knew then that I would not be drinking that wine again. So when I heard that the first visit on Day Four of our North Greece Wine Trail Press Trip would be with Domaine Stelios Kechris -- and that Domaine Kechris' focus was on Retsina -- I crossed my arms across my chest and prepared to hate it.

Route of North Greece Wine Trail Press Trip

Metsovo is a picturesque village in the mountains of Pindus and, coming in late on the previous night for our Katogi Averoff visit, we had not had a chance to capture, visually or otherwise, any of its famous charm. We made another attempt by driving through on our early morning exit but ... it was too early. So we embarked on our 208 km (129 miles) journey on (mostly) fog-shrouded mountain roads towards Domaine Stelios Kechris in Kalochori.

When the van pulled up in front of this building in a commercial district, I was somewhat surprised. Not a vine plant in sight. During the course of the trip I came to understand that fermentation and aging were conducted at this facility using grapes brought in from outlying areas.

We were welcomed by the owner Stelios Kechris, who also happens to be the President of Wines of North Greece, and Yiorgos Darlas, the individual responsible for the Domaine's Public Relations and Corporate Communications.

In his opening remarks Mr Kechris noted:
  • The over 300-year history of winemaking in North Greece
  • The prominence of the Xinomavro and Malagouzia varieties in the region's wine profile
  • The region's success with some of the famous international varieties
  • The fact that North Greece was home to some of the best wineries in Greece as well as two of the largest wineries in the country.
As regards his winery, it has a 100-year history and is now being operated by the third generation. It is export-oriented, with over 1/3 of its production shipped overseas. The domaine produces nine wines but its focus is on Retsina, a wine they believe in. Retsina has a long history and is produced only in Greece. It has Traditional Appellation status and that status is protected by the European Union.

Mr Kechris, and his daughter Eleni (who joined us during the course of the day's events), sought to emphasize the difference between the Retsinas that they are making and other Retsinas (historical as well as some being made by others currently) by using the term "tradition in motion." That is to say that they are making a traditional product -- Retsina -- but they are applying modern techniques and protocols in order to produce the best wine possible. Retsina is still a wine where pine resin is added to the must at the start of fermentation and then removed at its conclusion but they seek to ensure that only the highest quality fruit and resin are employed as raw materials. Further, Mr. Kechris maintains that the resin's aroma and feel needs to be a background characteristic, much the same as is the case for barrel characteristics; and it should have a certain elegance.

Eleni Kechris of Domaine Stelios Kechris

After a short tour of the winemaking facilities, we repaired to one of the upstairs rooms for our tasting and lunch.

Yiorgos Darlas of Domaine Stelios Kechris
The first wine tasted was the 2014 Kechribari. This wine, according to Mr Kechris, has a history dating back to 1939. It is made from 100% Roditis and is vinified in stainless steel. A small quantity of top quality fresh pine resin is added during alcoholic fermentation. I brought the glass to my nose, expecting a full-blooded dose of pine resin but it was not there. Instead I got some white fruits and citrus notes along with a mustiness, some herbal aromas, and pine resin. It was not off-putting. Refreshing and layered on the palate with no single character dominant.

The second wine tasted was the 2014 Tears of the Pine. Mr. Kechris characterized this wine as innovative as it was the first Retsina produced from Assyrtiko and was initially launched in 2006. It is fermented in oak and spends 6 months on its fine lees. The pine resin is added at the beginning of fermentation. The aim for this wine is to have a perfect balance between oak, resin, and fruit.

This was an extremely interesting wine. The aromas revealed in stages with fruit first, followed by resin and barrel and with a prominent rosemary note. Other aroma notes include ginger beer, coconut, vanilla, and herbs. One of the notes that I made to myself at the time said "ginger beer wine with acidity." Incredible layered complexity. I absolutely loved this wine. And remember it was a Retsina. The wine I vowed never to drink again.

The third Retsina tasted that day was called On a Rosé Background. This is a dry rosé made from 100% Xinomavro. The grapes are macerated for a short period before alcoholic fermentation in oak barrels -- and in the presence of pine resin -- proceeds. The wine is matured on its fine lees for 5 months. This wine also manifested a beautiful complexity and ginger beer character, spiciness, rust, and a little blood. As in the case of the previous wines, a lengthy finish.

We tasted a few other wines and did have lunch but I wanted to focus on the Resinas for this post. I came in with a bad attitude but, like Saul on the road to Damascus, I saw the light. I do not know if there are many producers making Retsina in this fashion, or if this is something unique to Domaine Stelios Kechris, but I would recommend tasting the wines from this Domaine to establish a baseline against which other Retsinas can be compared. And these are not just high-quality Retsinas. These are high quality wines.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"The Louis Vuittonification of Burgundy": A road map for Barolo?

Manna continues to rain down from heaven. A little less than two weeks ago I wrote a post describing two recent articles I had read about the Barolo region. One of the articles was a blog post from Alfonso Cevola (On the Wine Trail in Italy) titled The Burgundization of Barolo... In that post he described a Levi Dalton podcast wherein Antonio Galloni elaborated on a number of areas where Barolo was becoming akin to Burgundy.

Today I read a post from burgundy-report.com titled The Louis Vuittonification of Burgundy (I love the title. It is so evocative) wherein the author is decrying the  -- Burgundization of Burgundy? The author described some of the issues mentioned in the Galloni podcast but went even further. I have taken the liberty of summarizing the author's findings and placing it into a table juxtaposed with Galloni's perception of Burgundy and the areas where Barolo was becoming like Burgundy.

The question that arises is whether the full list of issues raised by the author presents a potential roadmap of where Barolo is headed. If Galloni sees Barolo becoming more like Burgundy, is this a path that is in Barolo's future? I hope not.

Burgundy* Barolo* The Louis Vuittonification of Burgundy**
Inaccessible producers Potential for this situation to develop More and more doors being closed to the casual visitor
Big-Money investors Potential future

Expensive wines Getting there Step-change in global pricing since 2005

Each vintage more ink being spilled on the cost of the wines than what is in the bottle

Bulk wine prices tracking the increases of the top labels

Many restaurants replacing 2nd and third level wines with 4th tier wines due to costs

Imbalance where Village wines from Cote de Nuits cost more than great 1er Cru from Cote de Beaunes

Land pricing and inheritance costs working their way through to the price of wine

Range of wines being offered to taste shrinking as Grand Cru bottles become too expensive to open
*The Burgundization of Barolo (On the Wine Trail in Italy)

**The Louis Vuittonification of Burgundy (burgundy-report.com)

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Vine training and vineyard management practices in the North Greece wine region

In my most recent post on the North Greece wine region, I reported on the varieties and rootstocks deployed therein. In this post I continue to elaborate the relevant elements of the W-MEA model for the region.

New or replacement rootstock and scion installations are primarily based on clonal, rather than massal, selection. The key objective of any clonal selection program is to improve crop yield and grape quality by providing virus-free rootstocks and scions to the grower. Such material is classified as certified stock and, in all but one case, the North Greece estates indicated their use of such planting material.

The training system most widely utilized in the region is the bilateral cordon, with bush-trained vines at Tsantali Rapsani (depending on the zone) and for some old Xinomavro vines at Alpha Estate. These old Xinomavro vines bring to mind the old Grenache bush-trained vines in sandy soils at Chateau Rayas and Domaine La Barroche in Chateauneuf du Pape.

93-year-old Xinomavro vines at Alpha estate
Angelos Iatridis (winemaker) among the bilateral
cordons at Alpha Estate

The region's commitment to producing high quality fruit from healthy soils, and with minimal impact on the environment, is demonstrated by the high incidence of organic -- or some type of sustainability -- as the vineyard management regime of choice. Alpha Estate, for example, is certified sustainable and is configured to, and utilizes, precision viticulture. As an example, the winery is hooked up to weather stations in Austria and, as a result, gets significant advance notice of weather systems that may be coming its way.

Pest control practices follow the dictates of integrated pest management (graphically illustrated below). For those practicing organic farming, sulphur and copper are used as disease control tools.

Source: http://www.pestmanagement.rutgers.edu/

Grass is used as a cover crop to contribute towards healthy soils by providing a habitat for beneficial flora and fauna as well as providing mild stress to the vines through competition for available water resources.

The estates engage in active canopy management in order to ensure balanced vine growth and provide sunlight access to the fruiting zone. Shoot thinning is practiced by all respondents and leaf culling is specifically mentioned by Domaine Porto Carras, Wine Art Estate, and Tsantali Rapsani.

Irrigation is allowed to offset the limited rainfall in the region. Kir-Yianni induces moderate water stress for its red grapes through controlled irrigation and a similar strategy is followed by the other estates. Alpha Estate practices precision viticulture and its manifestation in this area is an underground irrigation system which monitors soil conditions and delivers the precise amount of water to the specific vine when needed.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anthocyanin content as a source of color in red wine

According to Jackson (Wine Science), the sources of color in red wine are: (i) its anthocyanin content; (ii)the polymerization of grape-and oak-derived flavonoids; and (iii) the oxidation of grape- and oak-derived flavonoids. Of the three, anthocyanins are the most important. In this post I will discuss anthocyanins as the source of color in red wine.

As discussed previously, anthocyanins exist in grapes as glycosides (a bonding of the flavonoid component -- called an anthcyanidin -- with a sugar), a situation which increases both the chemical stability and solubility of the anthocyanidin.

The figure at the top shows the anthocyanidins in native form while the bottom shows a glucosylated Malvidin, Malvidin-3-glucoside.

The anthocyanin can be further complexed through the bonding of the sugar with either acetic, coumaric, or caffeic acid (Jackson).


In wine, spectral color is a function of anthocyanin concentration, the concentration of co-factors which bind with anthocyanin to cause co-pigmentation, and the number and quality of polymeric pigments (Enology Note #120).

In young red wines, anthocyanins occur predominantly as a dynamic equilibrium between one molecular state bonded to sulfur dioxide and four free-form states. Most of these forms are colorless within the range of of wine pH. The exception is a small portion that exists in the flavylium state (2-phenylchromenylium ion), that portion being dependent on pH and free-sulfur dioxide content. According to Jackson, low pH increases the concentration of the flavylium (thus increasing redness) while increases in pH will decrease the color density as the proportion of anthocyanin in the flavylium declines.

When sulfites bind to anthocyanins, the anthocyanins go from a colored to a colorless form (Practical Winery). Because of its effectiveness as an anthocyanin bleacher, sulfur dioxide is the most significant factor affecting the color density of young red wines (Jackson).

The free form of anthocyanin is rendered stable by a number of short- and long-term factors. The short-term factor that is most impactful is co-pigmentation, a process whereby anthocyanin complexes are held together by hydrophobic interaction with non-anthocyanin compounds (anthocyanin-anthocyanin aggregates combined similarly are referred to as self-associations). According to Jackson, the stacking of molecules in these complexes "physically limits water access to (and hydration of) red flavylium and bluish quinoidal base states to colorless carbinol forms." In the case of these co-pigmentation complexes "covalent bonds form between acyl groups of anthocyanin and co-pigments."

The principal compounds which act as co-pigments are epicatechin, procyanidins, cinnamic acids, and hydroxycinnamoyl esters but a wide array of compounds may be involved in this role (Jackson).

Co-pigmentation has the following effects on young red wines (Jackson; Boulton):
  • It significantly increases color density and may affect color tint
  • It accounts for over half of the observed color of young red wines
  • It is important to the purplish coloration of young wines
  • Color enhancement has been found to be between two and ten times that expected from the pigment alone
  • It also adds temporary stability towards oxidation and SO₂ bleaching.
During the color extraction phase of wine production, co-pigmentation co-factors seem to attain a maximum extraction after which the ability to absorb additional pigments is exhausted. The general consensus seems to be that extraction seems to peak after approximately six days. In a review of Boulton's article, Curtis Phillips points out Boulton's position that saignée and a host of other contact regimes have yet to "demonstrate any ability to modify this equilibrium other than by temperature effects." And those results are short term.

In the Northern Rhone, Syrah has normally been blended with a small amount of Viognier and the resulting wine is rich in color. Phillips notes the following Boulton comment: "The possibility exists in which red grapes that are deficient in certain cofactors might benefit from being fermented in the presence of others that might have an excess of them, especially if they are cofactors, such as flavones, with limited solubility."

Anthocyanins in polymeric relationships will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Boulton, The Copigmentation of Anthocyanins and its role in the color of Red Wines: A Critical Review, AJEV 52(2), 2001.
Curtis Phillips, Recent Research: Comments on a Critical Review, Wine Business Monthly, July 2003.
Robert S. Jackson, Wine Science.
Enology Note #120, Virginia Tech.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The biosynthesis of anthocyanins

The quantity and quality of phenolic compounds (especially tannins, anthocyanins, and co-factors) in the wine post-fermentation, and the interaction of those compounds, are critical elements in the postmodern winemaking process as laid out by Clark Smith. Before delving into these phenolic interactions, I sought to provide some background, beginning with tannins in a prior post and anthocyanins in the current.

The most important source of color in red wines is anthocyanin, a class of phenolic compound resident in grape skins. As is the case for all phenolic compounds, anthocyanin is synthesized from the amino acid phenylalanin through the phenylpropanol and flavonoid pathways (graphically illustrated below).

The flavonoid pathway. Abbreviations:
ANS -- anthocyanidine synthase;
CHI -- chalcone isomerase;
CHS -- chalcone synthase;
DFR -- Dihydroflavonol reductase;
F3H -- flavanone 3-hydroxylase;
GT -- glucoysltransferase;

Grape anthocyanidins. Source: www.intechopen.com/books/

Anthocyanins are synthesized directly from anthocyanidins by glycosylation (adding of a sugar to a protein) at the 3 and 5 positions of the C ring and are accumulated in the berry skins from veraison until full maturity. After synthesis in the cytosol (fluid portion of the cell cytoplasm), anthocyanins are transported into the vacuole (cell organelle responsible for a number of functions including nutrient storage) where they are stored as colored coalescences called anthocyanic vascular inclusions (Flamini, et al.)

Environmental effects can influence anthocyanin content in the fruit but its composition is most closely associated with grape variety. In the fruit, anthocyanin has the following functions (Flamini, et al.):
  • Protection against solar exposure and and UV radiation
  • Protection against pathogen attacks
  • Protection against oxidation attacks
  • Protection against attacks by free radicals
  • Attracting animals for seed dispersal after the fruit has attained maturity
Each anthocyanin has a particular hue ranging from red to blue (shown below) and the combination of quantities and profiles will determine the color intensity of fruit and wine.

Grape anthocyanins. Source: gopixpic.com

In a follow-up post I will describe anthocyanin interactions and reactions in young wines.

Flamini, et al., Advanced knowledge of three important classes of grape phenolics: Anthocyanins, Stilbenes, and Flavonols, Int J Mol Sci. 2013, Oct; 14910). Accessed online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3821578/
Enology Note #120

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Variety and Rootstock choices in the North Greece wine region

The delivery of high-quality fruit to the cellar door is a critical success factor in the production of quality wines. Key to the realization of such fruits is excellence in all aspects of the model depicted in the graphic below. In my ongoing review of the North Greece wine region, I have previously described the elements covered in the component titled Site Selection. In this post I cover the variety and roostock elements of the area circled in red, a component referred to in the figure as Vineyard Establishment but which is interchangeably called the Built Environment. The information provided has been collected during winery visits, as responses to a questionnaire, and through perusal of winery websites.

Estate vineyards in North Greece range from the 4500 ha of Domaine Porto Carras to the 16 ha of Wine Art Estate. These estate vineyards may surround the winery or may be multiple vineyards, some of which are geographically removed. In the case of Kir-Yianni, the Naoussa vineyard (58 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and international red varieties while its Amyndeon counterpart (16.5 ha) focuses on Xinomavro and domestic and international white varieties. The Naoussa vineyard itself is divided into 40 parcels based on soil diversity.

Slopes of Meliton, Domaine Porto Carras
In addition to estate-sourced fruit, some wineries exercise contractual control over additional vineyard hectarage. Kir-Yianni has an additional 30 ha of land under agricultural contract in Amyndeon while Alpha Estates sources fruit from 750 ha of grower-owned vineyards to supplement its 100-ha (80 ha farmed) property. All of the Tsantali-Rapsani fruit is sourced from local growers. It bears pointing out that the wineries exercise significant control over the practices employed in these grower-owned vineyards.

The table below shows the grape varieties planted at the wineries visited on our North Greece Press Trip. The bracketed numbers indicate the number of wineries planting a specific variety (No bracketed number indicates a frequency of one.). While the frequency should not be interpreted as relative importance (we do not have data at this point on the amount of hectares planted by variety), it is interesting to note that the international red varieties Merlot and Syrah are planted in more vineyards than the indigenous red Xinomavro and the indigenous white Assyrtiko. I will pursue additional information re the relative plantings of the leading grape varieties in order to cast greater light on the topic. Suffice it to say that North Greece viticulturists have significant experience (or practice) with (especially) French varieties.

Indigenous White Indigenous Red International White International Red
Assyrtiko (6) Xinomavro (6) Chardonnay (6) Merlot (9)
Malagouzia (5) Limnio (3) Sauvignon Blanc (6) Syrah (8)
Roditis (3) Agiorgitiko (3) Gewurtztraminer (3) Cabernet Sauvignon (5)
Malvasia aromatico Mavroudi Viognier Pinot Noir (2)
Athirii Mavrotragona Semillon Petit Verdot
Preknadi Krassato Traminer Sangiovese
Debina Stavrato



Touriga Nacional


Cabernet Franc






Negro Amaro


According to data provided by the survey respondents, all of the varieties are: allowed by regulation; highly adapted, or med-high adapted, to the climate and soils; and medium disease-resistant. All varieties are reported as having balanced, or low-to-balanced, yield potential (which is good for the production of quality fruit). I was a little confused by this though as there is a lot of Merlot grown in the environment and Merlot is a pretty vigorous cultivar whose tendencies have to be countered by rootstock selection, planting in less fertile soils, and canopy management practices in order to yield the best results.

The rootstocks deployed in the North Greece environment are 1103P, 110R, 41B, 5BB, SO4, and 140RUG, with 1103P, 110R, and 41B the most utilized. The characteristics of these rootstocks can be found here and here. Kir-Yianni employs 110R and 41 B in its Amyndeon vineyard but adds 1103P and 5BB to the mix for Xinomavro in Naoussa and SO4 for Syrah in the same vineyard.

I will cover training systems and cultural practices in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme