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Vintips – vecka 43

När skörden är på väg i många olika länder i Europa så har vi i Sverige börjat sjunka in i mörker och köld. Tid för att öppna lite kraftigare flaskor och återbesöka klassiska druvor. Som Cabernet Sauvignon, den så kallade kungen av druvor som kan växa lite överallt utan att tappa sin identitet. Cabernet Sauvignon vinifieras ensam eller blandat. Det är inte bara i Bordeaux som han regerar utan också i Napa, Kalifornien, samt i Stellenbosch, Sydafrika. […] Read More

No Pianotage of Pinotage

(Pianotage – French, from pianoter meaning ‘to play the piano with no skill’)

South Africa always seems to be in the limelight these days. A few weeks ago Kanonkop’s winemaker Abrie Beeslaar, and marketing manager Deirdre Taylor paid a visit to Stockholm. A non-central destination for them to travel to, but a commercially important one: Sweden and Denmark are their big export markets.

It is quite a privilege to have winemakers talk about their wines: there is invariably interesting information to glean from them and they really make their wines come to life. Fourteen bottles were on show. Amongst them just under half were from the Pinotage grape variety and the remainder from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. To my surprise there were no white wines whatsoever. Not one Chenin Blanc in sight…

I confess that I have reservations regarding Pinotage. I will never forget the first time I tried a Pinotage wine. It was rough, it was bitter, it smelled of Band-Aid plaster and tasted of burnt tar. An “Edith Piaf, Mon Légionnaire” moment gone wrong…

That experience, however, was not to repeat itself on this occasion. My reacquaintance with Pinotage was first through the latest addition to Kanonkop´s range: a rosé. It made for a good start to the session. Kanonkop´s Kadette Pinotage Rosé 2016 has all the qualities one looks for in a rosé: dry, refreshing, alive with red fruit and minerality and dressed in an inviting delicate light pink hue.

Next up was an equally inspiring red, a 2014 blend of Pinotage, Cabernet and Merlot. Luscious and fresh with plenty of sweet dark fruit, this wine is made from younger plants and older barrels for Kanonkop´s Kadette label and is to be drunk in its youth.

If the Pinotage rosé was the hook, the Kadette blend was the sinker, and these were just the preamble. By now I was really looking forward to tasting a pure Pinotage wine but I had to wait as a line-up of Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2012, 2003 and 2001 vintages was poured out. All three wines shared some common traits: elegance, freshness, balance, subtle tannins and ripe dark fruit.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, which has a little Cabernet Franc added to it, is a vibrant purple ruby colour, fresh, smoky, with dark fruit and some vanilla. On the palate it is silky, it has good acidity, notes of mocca intertwined with blue fruit, and tannins that fade gracefully away.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is a complex blend of light smoke, white pepper, liquorice, padrón peppers, dark chocolate, moreish blue fruit and vanilla. It remains fresh with good length and dry discreet tannins. 2003 is Abrie Beeslaar´s favourite vintage, which he says has some austerity and a more European expression.

kanonkop_abrie_beeslaar

Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar from Kanonkop presenting his wines in Stockholm at The Ebenist in September 2016

And now for the controversial Pinotage. Quite a different beast from Cabernet Sauvignon. A grape variety, however, that Kanonkop´s winemaker likes a lot. Not a bad thing as 50% of the estate’s vineyards are planted with Pinotage. The variety, a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir, can produce young as well as ageworthy wines. In its youth Pinotage shows dark fruit and with age it takes on more savoury, earthy and spicy notes. At Kanonkop Pinotage gets gold treatment. It is matured for 18 months in up to 80% new French oak barrels. It then receives another 6 to 12 months maturation in bottle.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage 2014. A wine with aromas of dark fruit, kirsch, cherries, on a supple core of baked and savoury flavours, and evanescent tannins.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage 2009. Red and dark fruit. Cherries, prune, raspberries, blueberry pie, smoke, textured tannins and savouriness. According to Abrie Beeslaar, 2009 was a great vintage with cool conditions. It was, in fact, the second best vintage in the decade.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage 1994. In spite of the average vintage, this Pinotage has a lovely perfumed, floral nose with red fruit and spice. Quite a feminine wine. A lightish body with sweet raspberry and some smoke.

The cherry on the cake came with Kanonkop Estate Wine Black Label Pinotage 2014. Very fresh and delicate on the nose. A marked intensity of ripe dark fruit, smokiness, chocolate, and tannins that leave an impression and then fade away. The expression of Pinotage is very different in this wine. It is like a French Burgundy, a site wine, made from 63 year old vines to boot.

If I had any doubts about the Pinotage grape variety, they were entirely dispelled by Kanonkop’s wines. These are, however, in a class of their own. How is it that Kanonkop has been so successful with the expression of its wines?

South Africa has a long tradition of grape growing that dates back to the 1600s. The country was renowned for its dessert Constantia wines. In the 20th century, however, grapes mainly went to the production of spirits but in the 1960s and 1970s the focus shifted to quality wine. At Kanonkop they tried all sorts of different grape varieties, including Shiraz, and gradually they figured out which varieties worked and where in particular they worked the best. This is how they came to drop white varieties altogether. In the 60s and 70s, a time when everyone in South Africa was planting white grape varieties, Kanonkop was planting red. Their majority plantings are of Pinotage (50%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) but they also cultivate Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

kanonkop_in_stockholm

Journalists taking good notes as Abrie Beeslaar explains the success of Kanonkop wines

Kanonkop Estate is situated in Stellenbosch at the foothills of the Simonsberg mountain. There the climate is well suited for red varieties with warm days, cool nights and ocean breezes. Varieties have been planted according to where they do best. Thus Pinotage grows on the slopes, and Cabernet Sauvignon at lower altitudes. All grapes are sourced from the estate or from farmers that work for the estate and yields are kept low (5 tons per hectare for Pinotage).

Different training systems are used depending on varieties and conditions. Many of the Pinotage vines are quite old and gnarly, their age ranging between 30 and 60 years and they are bushvines. Cabernet Sauvignon on the other hand is younger stock and is trellised. This is good in the case of Cabernet as the grape variety can present high levels of pyrazine. With trellising it is possible to minutely manage the ripening process and avoid strong green bell pepper flavours. Trellising is also used on some of the plants that are located right in the mouth of the wind.

Wind is a challenge in Stellenbosch. During the months of October and November the winds can be very strong. They can badly affect flowering and cause major moisture loss, particularly on the unirrigated bushvines. In 2016 the conditions were both windy and dry. This resulted in an uneven vintage with less grapes and some completely green berries at ripening.

Undoubtedly vineyard practices are key in the excellence of Kanonkop’s wines. But that is not the entire story, the grapes need to be processed. Abrie Beeslaar talked much about the work in the vineyard and skimmed over the winemaking, without even a mention of his contribution or philosophy…  In any event all of the above-mentioned wines attest to the winemaker’s talent and to how everything is beautifully in balance at Kanonkop Estate.

kanonkop-scenic-011

Kanonkop vineyard (image: copyright Kanonkop courtesy http://www.nigab.se)

 

 

Watch Abrie Beeslaar sing the praises of Pinotage and ostrich … in these two WineSpectator videos.

 

A fresh start

Summer is over. The children have started school again and work routines have resumed. A spell of freezing weather made it easier to accept the end of holidays. But some warm and sunny days have made a come back, giving us the opportunity to finish off the last bottles of rosé that didn’t get drunk during the summer break. This is certainly true in my case: I am a weather optimist. I stock up the summer house in the archipelago with plenty of refreshing whites and rosés to find that there are not enough opportunities to drink them. Swedish summers are unpredictable. They can be nice and warm, but they are not long lasting. The evenings where one can comfortably sit outside are few. Once the sun has set, life on the terrace is spent wrapped up in a blanket or a down jacket fighting mosquitoes. Those are not conditions that prompt me to choose rosé, but the pink wine can be a useful psychological prop. If rosé exists mainly to refresh and quench the thirst from summer heat, we can happily sip it under just that pretence, enjoy virtual heat and imagine the sound of crickets.

summer-sky

Summer evening sky in the Stockholm archipelago

As the waning wasps dance aimlessly around, I shall be tempting friends with the last of my summer wine. I am not sure how much of it will get drunk. According to the Swedish National Food Agency (www.livsmedelsverket.se), summer is the period of year in Sweden when the consumption of wine and spirits is at its highest. As school and work routines set in so do sporting activities and healthy eating habits. The positive aspects of wine are quickly forgotten and consumption levels of alcohol fall. The current mood is on maintaining the holiday glow and cutting back on excesses. Media coverage of food and wine in early September was focusing on the highly calorific content of wine and on the negative impact of alcohol on sports training. In mid-September Dagens Nyheter’s wine writer was still following in the same vein by giving tips in the week-end supplement on how to make an opened bottle of wine last longer. A message to not finish an entire bottle in one sitting…

alf-tumbles-wine-tips

Wine and oxidation: DN’s Alf Tumble giving advice on how to store an opened bottle of wine

But what does a glass of wine contain and is it really all that bad for you?

Wine’s life starts off as a sweet grape juice. The average composition of that juice is water (80%), sugars (20%), organic acids (0.6%) and other dry extract (0.5%) containing proteins, amino acids, esters, alcohols, polyphenols, minerals and aroma components (Margalit, 1996, p. 12). As the grape juice becomes wine, some of the original components remain and others are produced. The main change is the conversion of sugars into alcohol. A glass of table wine between 8% and 14% alcohol by volume, fortified dessert and aperitif wines are roughly made up of water (70 – 90% v/v), ethyl alcohol (8 – 20% v/v), sugars (0.1 – 20% w/v), acids (0.3 – 1% w/v), bases (0.1 – 0.3 w/v), phenolics, tannins (up to 0.4% w/v), volatiles (up to 0.2% w/v), other non-volatiles (0.5 – 1% w/v) (Rankine, 2004, p. 260).

In effect it is a minor percentage of the total content that can create drunkenness and potential ill health. It is an even smaller percentage that sets one wine out from another through its colour, texture, odour and taste. All these elements play their part and work in symbiosis. They cannot be dissociated from the whole. Alcohol gives body and texture to the wine and it enhances many of the sensory perceptions. In addition, alcohol is highly calorific.

Drinkaware (www.drinkaware.co.uk) states that a 175 ml glass of red or white wine at 13% abv could contain up to 160 calories which is equivalent to a slice of madeira cake. The Swedish National Food Agency calculates that a 150 ml glass of dry white wine and dry red wine at 12% abv contain 101 and 73 calories respectively – a somewhat lower estimation than British Drinkaware. In Scandinavian terms the glass of white wine would be equivalent to a small portion of pickled herrings. Wine Folly (www.winefolly.com) has a clever formula for counting the calories of alcohol in wine which is to multiply the amount of wine in millilitre by the alcoholic percentage, then multiply again by 7. In addition to the calories from the alcohol, there are those from sugar in wine such as in the case of champagne, fortified, late harvested wine etc… but likewise in dry white wine which can often have residual sugar to mask an unpalatable acidity, bitterness or an inherent poor quality.

pickled-herring

In the fridge: pickled herring, pickled herring and pickled herring

If one solely looks at the calorific content, then wine does indeed compare badly with a sugary fizzy drink (150 ml = 64 cal, Swedish National Food Agency). Wine does not, however, stifle the appetite like a sugary beverage, nor does it fill you up and need digesting like a slice of madeira cake. Moreover it usually makes food taste better. What other reasons are there for drinking wine with food? And what about the beneficial effects of wine? I turned to Ronald Jackson’s book Wine Science and found the following answers stated in the paragraph below.

Wine taken in moderation with food increases saliva and gets the gastric juices going, thus promoting digestion. When enjoyed with a gastronomic meal it helps us to regulate our food consumption, making us eat more slowly and realise when we are about to reach satiety. Wine also has an antibiotic effect on Helicobacterium pylori, one of the main causes of stomach ulcers. Furthermore, studies have shown that a moderate consumption of alcohol reduces the rate of death caused by cardiovascular disease by 30-35%. Hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and peripheral arterial disease are all reduced, as are kidney stones, with a regular moderate consumption of alcohol. A diuretic and muscle relaxant, wine can help with arthritis by limiting water retention and reducing joint swelling. It has microbial properties, known since Roman time when wine or vinegar was added to soldiers’ water to fight dysentery (Jackson, 2008).

all-in-the-berry

The phenolics are mainly in the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes but some are in the juice and pulp

The major components in wine that are responsible for the above-mentioned health benefits are the alcohol itself as well as the phenolic compounds. The latter are in the skins, seeds and stems and extracted during fermentation, though a small percentage is present in the juice and pulp. The compounds have antioxidant properties. They preserve wine by protecting it from oxidation. Antioxidants act in a similar way in the human body. Vitamin E and C are both important antioxidants found in some of our foodstuff. Wine does not contain those vitamins but it has potent antioxidants such as resveratrol (also found in blueberries) and such as the flavonoids quercetin and catechin. Antioxidants are thought to lessen the occurrence of neurological diseases, notably Alzheimer, and are beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Generally red wine contains greater levels of antioxidants than white wines as white wine is pressed and then fermented off the skins. Various factors impact on the concentration of phenolics, such as grape variety, vintage and winemaking. White wine made from the maceration of grapes on the skin will show an increased concentration in phenolics. Caffeic and coumaric acids, however, are two phenolics that are common in white wine and that are potent antioxidants (Jackson, 2008, p. 694).

white-wine-at-the-winebar

White wine has its good sides too

It is understood that any health benefit is only obtained if wine or alcohol is consumed moderately and in conjunction with food.

I spoke to Sven Wåhlin, chief physician at Riddargatan 1, Mottagningen för Alkohol och Hälsa, a surgery for patients suffering from alcohol related problems. He of course mentioned the devastating effects of alcohol on the body and brain when consumed in excess. I asked him what he thought of a moderate daily consumption of wine and whether it was a good thing to give the body a rest and be abstinent a few days during the week. He was of the opinion that with regular drinking the villi (from Latin “shaggy hair”), which line the small intestine and whose task it is to transport nutrients into the bloodstream, get damaged. As a result vitamins and nutrients that the body needs do not get absorbed. I also asked him whether one could really put the calories in wine on a par with those say of a slice of cake. His answer to that was that the body does not respond in the same way to cake as it does to wine. Alcohol activates stress, it heightens the body’s base metabolic rate and makes it burn more calories.

So the golden rule is everything in moderation. In January 2016 the UK government issued revised guidelines on alcohol consumption and set lower upper limits than what it previously advised. These have been provoking some controversy and are amongst the lowest in the world for men (theguardian.com). The current recommendations are a weekly maximum for both men and women of 14 units. This corresponds to six 175 ml glasses of  13% wine a week – which incidentally is lower than the recommendations in Sweden where there is a state monopoly on alcohol.

When you see a 175 ml glass of wine on the table in front of you it is hard to believe that six of them are the limit, yet 175 ml is a big glass. Not that long ago a standard wine glass had a capacity of 100 ml. Today wine glassware has drastically increased in size and so have the servings. A standard pour in a restaurant is 175 ml but 250 ml is often also on offer. Every extra glass of wine ordered at the wine bar is a multiple of 175 ml. You order two glasses of wine and you are not far off a half bottle of wine.

Size matters. From left to right, 175 ml, 125 ml and 100 ml of red wine

From left to right, glasses containing 175 ml, 125 ml and 100 ml of red wine

Would it not be a good idea to make wine glasses with smaller bowls the norm in wine bars and restaurants? Wine glasses for a 100 ml pour? If 100 ml were the standard amount for a glass of wine instead of 175 ml, this would change consumers’ perception on what is a reasonable amount of wine to drink. They could then not just stick to one glass but could order two glasses with their food – from a psychological standpoint, two smaller glasses are more satisfying than one big one – and were they to have two such 100 ml glasses of wine everyday of the week, they would be over the British limit but within the recommended limits of alcohol consumption in Sweden. To fall within the British guidelines they would need to be abstinent for two days during the week. But maybe, as Dr Sven Wåhlin pointed out, that would be no such bad thing.

References
Jackson, R.S. (2008) Wine Science, Principles and Applications. 3rd ed. Canada: Academic Press
Margalit, Y. (1996) Winery Technology and Operations, A Handbook for Small Wineries. San Francisco: The Wine Appreciation Guild
Rankine, B. (2004) Making Good Wine. Sydney: Macmillan

To find out more about the effects of alcohol on health
http://www.drinkaware.co.uk

Click to access ah_fakta3.pdf

°(O_O)° Green aliens in Portugal

In a previous life – but on the same planet, or just about – when I worked for a private bank in Geneva, I had a colleague who was from Portugal. One day she started talking to me about the wines from her country. “Portugal makes a famous green wine”, she told me excitedly, “and it’s called Vinho Verde”. “The wine is so called because it is quite green in colour and is made from small unripe green berries”, she continued emphatically. I was going to question her but thought the better of it… I was quite surprised that she could think that green unripe berries would result in a beverage one would actually want to drink. Her words, nevertheless, left a lasting impression and Vinho Verde was never to be forgotten by me.

Vinho Verde is a region in the north-west of Portugal. It is bordered by the River Minho to the north, mountains below the River Douro to the south, the Atlantic to the west and a mountain range to the east. It is a pretty, verdant region, criss-crossed by lots of rivers. The soil is mainly granitic with sand towards the Atlantic and sediment in proximity to the rivers. The climate is very similar to that of neighbouring Galicia, in Spain. Winters are cold and rainy, summers hot and dry. Rainfall is quite high (1200 mm/per year) but it is concentrated between the months of October to April and thus does not affect most of the growing period nor harvest time.

Wines from the region can be labelled under the Vinho Verde Denominação de Origem Protegida (DOP) or, if they don’t meet the criteria, under the Minho Indicação Geográfica Protegida (IGP). The Vinho Verde DOP is the most commonly seen on labels and covers ninety percent of the region’s production. Under the new EU labelling laws DOP has replaced Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) and IGP has replaced the Vinho Regional (VR) but the old terminology is still widely used in Portugal.

If Vinho Verde does literally translate as green wine, the word ”green” is to be understood as “young” which is how the wines from the region have traditionally been enjoyed. Today Vinho Verde is famed for its white wines and these are fresh, fruity, aromatic, light in body, low in alcohol, often slightly sweet and with a fizz. Occasionally there is no indication of vintage as the bottle can contain a mix of wines from different years. These wines are perfect as an apéritif or as an accompaniment to seafood. The majority of Vinho Verde is white (84%) though some rosé and red is also produced i.e. 6% and 10% respectively. The vineyard surface only amounts to 21’000 ha – a little less than 10% of the country’s total surface (224’000 ha), but it accounts for 40% of Portugal’s exports, which are increasing (2014 figures from the CVRVV).

White Vinho Verde from Portugal

White Vinho Verde come in different guises: single varietals or blends

Many Vinho Verde white wines are blends of native Portuguese varieties, and the classic one is a mix of Loureiro (60%), Arinto (20%) and Trajadura (20%). Loureiro is the most planted white grape variety producing wines with fresh floral and fruity aromatics and refreshing acidity. It grows by the coast and in the sub-region of Lima where it originates from. Its Portuguese name “Loureiro” translates as laurel and one of its distinctive features is its aroma of bay leaves. Avesso is another interesting indigenous white variety that is found in white blends mainly in the southern part of the region. The best recognised white variety from north-west Portugal, however, is undoubtedly Alvarinho. It is grown in the sub-region of Monção e Melgaço, which borders Spain. This is in fact the same grape variety that is known in Spanish as Albarino and which produces some of Spain’s best white wines, notably from Rías Baixas. In Portugal Alvarinho is commonly blended with Loureiro and Trajadura and also made as a single varietal wine. Single varietal Monção e Melgaço Alvarinhos tend to be weightier in style, more alcoholic and more expensive than traditional Vinho Verdes. Proponents of the grape variety include winemaker Anselmo Mendes, and Luis Cerdeira, cellarmaster at Quinta de Soalheiro. Both make a range of Alvarinhos and believe in the ageing potential of the grape variety. Their pursuit of expression is achieved through such means as fermentation on skins, fermentation in oak barrel, lees contact and bâtonnage.

Pink, red and white wine from Vinho Verde, Portugal

A mix of pink, red, white and sparkling wine from Vinho Verde, Portugal

1. Casal de Ventozela, Espadeiro 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (11.5% alc.)

This Vinho Verde is a rosé, made from the indigenous dark skinned Espadeiro. It is the variety that is commonly used for rosé but it also makes light red wine in the region.

Light pink in colour, fresh, peachy, floral, with a slight fizz, zingy acidity, red fruit and a little sweetness on the finish.   

2. Solar de Serrade, Alvarinho 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (13% alc.)

The winery is located in the subregion of Monção e Melgaço, where Alvarinho finds its best expression. Alvarinhos from this subregion are often richer in style and higher in alcohol than the average Vinho Verde. Standard Vinho Verde wines usually range between 8% to 11.5% alcohol.

Pale lemon green, a bright clean nose with wafts of pears and sweet sherbet. Light in body, with a high acidity this aromatic wine has flavours of pears and white peach with a touch of the grape’s signature bitterness. 

3. Quinta da Lixa, Alvarinho, Loureiro, Trajadura Escolha 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (11.5% alc.)

A classic Vinho Verde blend of three grape varieties. The wine is light, elegant, perfumed and fresh. A light fizz and a swirl of pears, peaches and nectarines tailing off nicely to a wet stone finish. 

4. Casa Senhorial do Reguengo, Tinto Bruto, 2014, Basto, Portugal

Not what one might expect today from the Vinho Verde region: a sparkling (“espumante”) red wine. Nevertheless, this wine is a typical example of traditional winemaking from the region. Vinho Verde used to mainly produce red wines in a dry and fizzy style with native red varieties such as Vinhão, Padeiro and Espadeiro. It is only in the last thirty years or so that the region has shifted the focus of its production to light white wine, often with some residual sugar and a naturally occurring fizz.

The wine has deep damson-coloured legs, its nose is milky, savoury and grapey with notes of balsamic vinegar. On the palate its bubbles are suffused with light red fruit, muscat grape and hints of marmite. The predominant grape variety is here the teinturier Vinhão from the Basto subregion.

5. Casa Santa Eulália, Plainas Branco 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (11.5% alc.)

Located close to Vila Real, Casa Santa Eulália’s Plainas is a white blend from the Azal and Arinto grape varieties. Santa Eulália, with their consultant Anselmo Mendes, produces an exciting palette of wines from the other Portuguese grape varieties of the region. Plainas is their classic range.

Refreshing yet not overly acidic, this pale lemon-green wine enchants with its softness and flavours of citrus, apple, pears, white peach and white blossom.

6. Caves Campelo, Tapada do Marquês, Alvarinho 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (12.5% alc.)

The wine is labelled as an Alvarinho from the subregion of Monção e Melgaço. The winery itself is based south of the Cavado River and makes a range of wines covering other regions of Portugal.

A light Alvarinho, quite fizzy with fairly high acidity. Pears, boiled sweets and citrus fruit. 

 7. Adega, Ponte de Lima, Loureiro, Colheita Seleccionada 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (11.5% alc.)

Sweet, fragrant nose, aromas of white flowers, hawthorn, ripe pears and citrus over good acidity, minerality and a prickle.

NB. All above-mentioned wines were tasted in March 2016 at the Vinho Verde Wine Day in Stockholm, Sweden.


Aveleda, Casal Garcia, Vinho Verde and Anselmo Mendes, Alvarinho Contacto 2015, Vinho Verde

Aveleda, Casal Garcia, Vinho Verde and Anselmo Mendes, Alvarinho Contacto 2015, Vinho Verde

Aveleda, Casal Garcia, Vinho Verde, Portugal (8.5% alc.)
(57 SEK, SB 2596)

Anselmo Mendes, Alvarinho Contacto 2015, Vinho Verde, Portugal (13% alc.)
(119 SEK, SB 6707)

Pictured above are two of the three white Portuguese wines on the shelves of my local Systembolaget wine shop in central Stockholm, Sweden. These wines are in contrasting style. The Casal Garcia at the low price of 57 SEK and with no indication of vintage is a blend. It is light, frothy, high in acidity with some citrusy notes. It is apparently the biggest selling Vinho Verde. According to Aveleda’s website the Frenchman Denis Dubourdieu has been their consultant winemaker on this wine. Probably not in his remit, but he should have told them to drop the cheap, non carbon-friendly plastic box…

The Alvarinho Contacto, made as the name suggests, by leaving the juice in contact with grape skins for a period of time, is richer both in texture and in aroma whilst retaining lightness of being. Pear, melon, apricot, white peach, with some salinity, good acidity and bitter citrus. At SEK 119 it is a steal and a definite summertime staple.

°(O_O)°

 

Pitching up at the International Wine Challenge

Last Friday saw the end of ”Tranche 2” of the 2016 International Wine Challenge (IWC). The IWC is a London-based wine competition open to producers from around the world. Wines are assessed blind by groups of tasters and receive awards according to merit.

The competition takes place at the Oval cricket ground over a two-week period. If you are imagining the sounds of a wooden bat against a ball and champagne corks popping, no such luck. The beautifully green clipped pitch stretched out empty but for flocks of birds. During the first week the wines are streamed into three categories: medal contenders, commended wines and those that have had their chips. During the second week the medal-worthy wines are retasted to determine whether they deserve a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Trophy Medal. Wines that were judged no-goers and commended get tasted again by IWC chairmen to make sure that no wine has been unfairly judged and that a potential medal-winning wine has not slipped through the net. Well, anything less would just not be cricket…

Tasters taking their places as judging is about to start at the IWC

Tasters taking their places as judging is about to start at the IWC

The judging process unfolds in a large open space occupied by long tables clad in white tablecloths. On these tables the wines are laid out in flights according to provenance and style. All the bottles are wrapped in white plastic clothing and coded. A group of roughly five judges stand around each table and go through the wines one after the other, jotting down impressions and marks. Once all the wines in a flight have been assessed, the panel chairman in the group will take his fellow tasters’ marks and give each wine a final score. In instances where opinions are different, a wine will be retasted and evaluated afresh. Whilst a flight is being judged, stewards are preparing the next group of wines to be tasted at an adjoining table. The tempo is kept fluid (naturally) all through the day with a scheduled break for refuelling, i.e. a welcome hot lunch. One hundred or so wines are tasted during the day.

The judges at the IWC come from very different backgrounds. Many have travelled from outside the UK and some come from as far as Japan, the United States and Israel. Their professions are varied: world-class winebloggers, journalists, wine writers, educators, winemakers, wine sleuths, wine merchants, heads of sales, export managers… Their palate is second to none, their experience is vast and their enthusiasm certainly not watered down by the years. The competition also allows those with less experience to work their way up the ranks, by starting as an associate judge and making their way up to panel chairman. The atmosphere at the IWC is dynamic, vibrant and fun. Having different teams of judges working together in an open space is key to the friendly and focused mood of the competition. There are no chairs around the tables: judging is carried out standing. Being able to move about whilst tasting, though possibly tiring at the end of the day, is actually a great help for concentration and staying alert.

Look out for results on the IWC’s website (www.internationalwinechallenge.com). Medals and Trophies will be revealed on the 11th and 16th of May 2016 respectively.

IWC_fault_clinic

Howzat! And here is why.

 

Vintips – vecka 11

Äntligen. Ett löfte om våren även om den verkar ha försvunnit bland molnen. Isen är på väg bort. Det är dags att äta färsk, krispig, lätt mat och öppna några flaskor vitt vin.

Dessa två viner matchade perfekt mitt vårhumör och finns nu på Systembolaget i små partier. Chardonnay är en mångfacetterad druva och båda vinerna passar med olika rätter som grönsaker, pasta, fisk, kyckling, fläsk, skinka, kanske med en gräddig sås. […] Read More

Vintips – vecka 7

Det var nyligen Alsace och Bourgogne vindag i Stockholm och det inspirerade mig. Jag var inbjuden till middag med två tjejkompisar. Kvällens menu var smögen räkor, toast, ost och lite pannacotta till efterrätt. Jag hade tänkt köpa tre olika viner – som matchar olika plånböcker – för att prova vilken som passar bäst. Jag valde en mousserande och en Riesling från Alsace, och en vit Bourgogne. Det visade sig att vi tyckte att alla tre var bra med maten. […]

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Alsace Pinot Noir ♥︎ A Red to Love

If you walk through the aisles of Sweden’s Systembolaget you won’t see any Pinot Noir from Alsace. If you look for wine on the monopoly’s website under France and Pinot Noir, you can only refine your search to the regions of Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc-Roussillon. Alsace is not an option. The latter, of course might be attributable to the lack of subtlety of the website: after all Pinot Noir is produced in other regions of France, such as Sancerre.

Be that as it may Alsace is not generally known for its red wines and this is not surprising. Of the 15’500 ha of vines under appellation, 1.15 mio hl of wine is produced of which 90% is white. In 1969 only 2.1 % of the total vineyard surface was allocated to Pinot Noir but over the years the percentage has crept up to just over 10% in 2014. Some of the Pinot Noir finds its way into Crémant d’Alsace, the region’s sparkling wine, and into rosé.

The grape variety originated in Burgundy and was brought to Alsace by monks during the Middle Ages. At that time more red wine was drunk than white. No doubt red was a better match for the diet which included foods such as salted meats, salted fish and cabbage.

Alsace Pinot Noir has historically been a light wine both in colour and body. Today, however, some of the region’s winemakers are producing reds that have more depth of colour, more flavour and more texture. One of the first to pave the way in the production of such wines was the Domaine Paul Blanck, in the Kaysersberg Valley, a twenty minute drive from Colmar. Not far away, in Bergheim, just north-east of Ribeauvillé, Marcel Deiss is another winery which advocates more concentrated red wines.

The only permitted red grape variety under the Alsace Appellation (AOC), Pinot Noir is a tricky variety to work with. It has compact bunches of small, thin-skinned berries. It is sensitive to rot and its yields are irregular. Nevertheless, Alsace presents some very favourable growing conditions: it has a low rainfall and a long growing season. This translates as a reduced risk of rot and an increased possibility for berries to reach perfect maturation.

The latter two points are indeed key for producing quality red wines. In fact, there are four conditions that need to be met for making more concentrated Pinot Noir wines. Firstly, grapes have to be ripe –  and this includes pips which must no longer be green but brown. Secondly, the berries need to be in perfect health and free of rot. As well as giving juice a musty taste, grey rot destroys its colour. Thirdly, yields need to be kept low. In the past, yields have simply been too high. Optimal yields are around 30-35 hl/ha (hectolitres per hectare). There is a big drop in concentration in wine when yields increase to 50-60 hl/ha. Interestingly, for a red wine to qualify for either the Alsace AOC, the Alsace Communal AOC or the Alsace Lieu-dit AOC, the upper limit for yields 60 hl/ha. Thus, 30 to 35 hl/ha is well below the legal maximum. Finally, the fourth determining factor impacting the character of the wine is the soil type. Alsace has a complex geology and thirteen main soil types. The best soils for Pinot Noir wines are clay or marl with an iron content for depth of colour and complexity, and limestone for freshness.

Alsace_pinot_noir

Alsace Pinot Noir – many shades of crystalline ruby

Most winemakers in Alsace share an ecological approach to viticulture and are either sustainable, organic or biodynamic. As far as the vinification and maturation of Pinot Noir is concerned, there does not appear to be a general consensus. Some winemakers use whole clusters, some destem or part destem. Regarding maturation vessels, many different materials and sizes are used: stainless steel, new and old oak barriques, demi-muid and foudres. The length of maturation is also variable (between eight months and two years). The tradition in Alsace is to use bigger wooden oval-shaped containers known in French as “foudres” to maintain silky tannins and to avoid imparting too much wood flavour to the delicate Pinot Noir.

The “Wines of Alsace” trade event that took place last week in Stockholm kicked off with a seminar showcasing Pinot Noir. The seminar included a presentation and tasting of six Pinots Noirs from different producers. These wines beautifully displayed the essence of Alsatian Pinot Noir: wonderfully light in body yet focused, perfumed, fresh, earthy, mineral, dry, with silky tannins and aromas of red berries, cherries. And shining in the glass like a red ruby dropped in water. They are best served fairly cool, at around 12° Celsius and can accompany beef, duck and game.


Wines tasted

Charles Wantz, Pinot Noir 2012, Rouge d’Ottrott, AOC Alsace Ottrott
Tasting note: Medium intensity, burnt red colour. Leather, earth, dried herbs, dried strawberries on the nose followed by red fruit, delicate acidity and a light body on the palate. A wine to be enjoyed now. 

Ottrott is an area that has been famous for its red wines since the 11th century. It is here that the monks first arrived from Burgundy. Located close to Obernai, in the north of Alsace, Ottrott is a communal appellation with mainly sandy and sandstone soils. This type of soil tends to create wines with lower levels of acidity.

Domaine Pfister, Pinot Noir 2012, Rahn, AOC Alsace
Tasting note: Medium intensity, ruby red with a tinge of raspberry. Milky, smoky, wild strawberries and fresh on the nose. Red fruit, savouriness, fresh acidity, elegance, silky tannins and light juicy body. Dry finish with wafts of sweet dark fruit.

Domaine Pfister is located in the north of Alsace, in the village of Dahlenheim, twenty kilometres from Strasbourg. The Pinot Noir vines are rooted in loess and limestone soils, which accounts for the good acidity of the wine. The winemaker, Mélanie Pfister, has a special affinity with Pinot Noir. She completed her studies with work experience in the Côte d’Or in Burgundy. For her Rahn Pinot, Mélanie chose whole cluster fermentation, 10%-20% new French oak barrels and no filtration.

Domaine Boeckel, Pinot Noir 2013, Les Terres Rouges, AOC Alsace
Tasting note: Medium intensity of colour, purple ruby. Herby, minty, strawberry sweets and violets, good balance between acidity and silky tannins.

Here is an organic Pinot Noir made by a Domaine from Mittelbergheim, a village which has been classified as one of the most beautiful of France. Marl, clay and limestone soil, yields of 45 hl/ha and a maturation of 18 months in 10% new oak barrels. The marl/clay is responsible for the good tannin structure and good colour, whereas the limestone is responsible for the fresh acidity.

Domaine Albert Mann, Pinot Noir 2013, Les Saintes Claires, AOC Alsace
Tasting note: Medium intensity of colour, purply red. Red and dark fruit on the nose, some leather and spice, fresh, nicely concentrated. On the palate red and blue fruit come to the fore. Elegant blend of fruit, acidity and tannins. 

The domaine is situated in Wettolsheim, just south of Colmar, but Les Saintes Claires is made from a vineyard attached to an old monastery in Sigolsheim where the soil is pure limestone. Yields are kept low at 20 hl/ha. The wine spends seventeen months in barrels.

Domaine_Paul_Blanck_Alsace

Domaine Paul Blanck in the Kaysersberg Valley, Alsace

Domaine Paul Blanck, Pinot Noir 2010, “F”, AOC Alsace
Tasting note: Medium intensity of colour, ruby. Elegant nose, fresh juicy blue and red fruit with a touch of sweetness. On the palate attractive acidity and concentration, fresh strawberries, cherries, a light velvety body, silky tannins, a dry finish with a touch of 
sweet fruit on the length. 

The Domaine Paul Blanck was one of the first to think about the potential of certain “crus” for Pinot Noir. As a matter of fact, their Pinot Noir “F” is made from grapes grown on one of Alsace’s 51 Grand Cru sites. “F” stands for Furstentum. In Alsace, however, the Grand Cru designation can only be used for the four noble white varieties, i.e. Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. Hence the “F” on the bottle and the AOC Alsace classification. 2010 was a great vintage for Alsace.

Marcel Deiss, Pinot Noir 2011, Burlenberg, AOC Alsace
Tasting note: Medium intensity of colour, crushed mulberries. Elegant restrained fruit on the nose. Good acidity, noticeable tannins, white pepper, meatiness, red fruit, cherries, a little rough, but light in body. Needs some bottle ageing.

The Domaine Marcel Deiss, in Bergheim 3 km from Ribeauvillé, is well-known for its biodynamic wines. Mathieu Deiss, who is now working alongside his father Jean-Michel, explains during the seminar that Burlenberg is a “Lieu-dit” up a hill, on rocky limestone soil. The natural acidity in the wine is due to the elevation of the vineyard. Maturity is pushed to get a lot of tannins out of the grapes but as a result the wine needs time to evolve and to smooth out. The wine has not been filtered and use of sulphur dioxide is kept to a minimum. They work with low yields – at Burlenberg yields are 15-20 hl/ha – and in order to do so they plant vines at a high density. They believe that competition, and not green harvest, is the optimal way to reduce yields. According to Mathieu, Alsace on the whole is thinking along the same line. Burlenberg, in a bid to express terroir, is made from a field blend of Pinot Noir and a small proportion of a few other Pinot varieties including Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.



 

Having been seduced by the Pinots Noirs selected for the seminar, I went to meet some of their producers at the “Wines of Alsace” event to discover more of their range.

Mélanie_Pfister_Alsace

Mélanie Pfister, the lively and passionate winemaker at Domaine Pfister, Dahlenheim, Alsace

Mélanie Pfister is the winemaker at the family domaine, where she took over from her father eight years ago. Domaine Pfister in Dahlenheim in the north of Alsace has ten hectares of vines surrounding the family home. The commune is famous for its Grand Cru Engelberg, literally meaning the mountain of the angels. Wines from Engelberg have had a reputation of excellence for over a thousand years. Like many Alsatian winemakers, Domaine Pfister is committed to playing a caring and respectful role within its environment. It has been certified sustainable by Fair’n Green – a German association of which Georg Breuer and Leitz Weingut are also members. They cultivate all the main Alsatian grape varieties. Riesling is their most important one and occupies 25% of the vineyard area.

Their hallmark is wines that are fresh, pure, ripe and attractive.

Tasting impressions

  • Crémant d’Alsace, Brut, Blanc de Blanc – Made from a blend of white skinned grapes only, i.e. Chardonnay (50%) and Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois (50%), this Crémant awakens the senses with its lovely ripeness of fruit. Red fruit, stone fruit, tropical and toasty notes are carried on the palate by elegant bubbles and fine acidity. It has spent 29 months “sur lattes” (i.e. in contact with lees before disgorgement) which has given it nice yeasty notes and more complexity.
  • Pinot Blanc 2013 – Nice fullness on the palate, fresh, ripe stone fruit with a long length.
  • Riesling 2014, Tradition –  Light body, juicy acidity, warm peach, tasty finish.
  • Pinot Gris 2014, Tradition –  Made in the same style as her grandfather, the Pinot Gris Tradition is dry, elegant, pure, with fruity flavours of apples, ripe lemons, and a nice long finish.
  • Grand Cru Engelberg, Riesling 2012 – This wine is released later than those mentioned above. Wines made from Grands Crus take longer to develop. Concentrated nose, some kerosene, ripe limes, banana, mango. On the palate dry, fine acidity. A long length with lingering ripe fruit.

 

Philippe_Blanck_Alsace

Philippe Blanck, from Domaine Paul Blanck, Kientzheim, Alsace

Practically opposite Mélanie Pfister’s table was Domaine Paul Blanck’s, and towering behind it the genial Philippe Blanck. I was all set to try out his wines made from the typical Alsatian grape varieties: his Pinot Gris Patergarten, his Gewürztraminer Altenbourg, his Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes, not forgetting his Grands Crus, Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles.

Philippe, however, had an entirely different idea in store for me. He started by pouring me a glass of his Riesling de Terroir, i.e. made from the lieu-dit Rosenbourg, a plot with soils of marls over granit. The vintage was 2014, which produced wines characterized by their fruitiness.  The Blanck Riesling 2014 Rosenbourg was very fine, with digestible acidity, citrus fruit and a mouthfeel with presence.

Next we tasted a Wineck-Schlossberg Riesling 2012. Parameters are here different: lower yields in the vineyard (20 hl/ha), a Grand Cru with granitic soils, and the 2012 vintage which produced wines with quite a lot of acidity, as the year was cold and rainy, but nevertheless fruity. This wine was complex, elegant with fine acidity, ripe fruit, pears and almond.

Finally he served the Domaine Paul Blanck, Riesling 2011, Grand Cru Schlossberg. Schlossberg is the most famous Grand Cru appellation in Alsace. It was established in November 1975 and was the very first. It is located on the commune of Kientzheim, in the Haut-Rhin, not far from Colmar. Its soils are composed of granit. The 2011 vintage in Alsace was a warm one but this didn’t prevent wines from showing beautiful acidity. On the palate, this Riesling certainly displayed greater acidity than the previous wines tasted. Its texture was dense and taut, with a full body, citrus and limes, and a long finish tailing off with flavours of warm ripe peach.

Riesling and Riesling only. No other grape variety tasted.

Philippe’s idea was for me to experience the manifold expression of Riesling through different vintages, soils, and many other parameters; to tune into the fine details that can be picked up in a wine, if one takes the time to search for them, to fully experience the emotion of tasting wine.  I suppose the grape variety, in this case Riesling, can be compared to an instrument or a musician. Ultimately, they are the channel through which music goes. They bring music to life, making the musical experience possible. The music, as it is written, remains the same. Its expression will vary depending on who interprets it, on how the interpreter is feeling, on what his vision is, on the ambient temperature, on how the listener himself is feeling, etc… The same sort of experience and emotions take place with wine.

The tasting could have ended there but Philippe took all three Rieslings and decanted them. I can’t say I have ever decanted white wine before. He then got me to taste side by side the Riesling poured straight from the bottle and the same one decanted. Sure enough, the tasting experience was not identical. Decanting brings other elements to the fore. Would I even recognise the wines as being the same? The young 2014 Riesling displayed a slight metallic edge and citrus, yet when decanted it came across as riper, sweeter and with a plumper and more textured body.

Philippe went on to explain that the way you breathe when you sniff a wine also impacts what you get out of it. A short sniff – which is what one usually does – will not capture the same fragrances as if you take a long sniff filling out your ribs with air. I didn’t try that out on the spot but can see that he probably has a point. I think I will experiment quietly at home, hoping that I don’t hyperventilate before having had a sip of wine…

Alsace_wine_route

The Alsace Wine Route

(All photos by Sarah Jefford)

The Buddha in the Bottle

Hustle and bustle, laughter, elbows in ribs, not much room to manoeuvre, and lots of red wine, yes, you can guess, it was the Italian wine trade show. Were there lots of Italians present or was it the effect of Italian wine on Swedes? Either way, the atmosphere felt quite Mediterranean, which was very welcome on this icy cold day. And what better room for the show to take place in than the Grand Hotel’s Mirror room: gilded ceilings, gold panelled walls and vertiginously tall mirrors. Smiling benevolently from above, angelic faces adorned with bunches of grapes.

White clad tables were lined along the wall like a row of dominoes, with not numbers but bottles matching up between tables. On every table red wine. Hardly a bottle of white in sight. What’s more, not red for the faint-hearted, but full-bodied, highly alcoholic and pulsing. Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino. Every importer seemed to have a selection of these on his table. Bottles beckoned, promising to be better or more exciting than their equivalent on a neighbouring display.

Italian Wine Trade Show, Grand Hotel, Stockholm, November 2015

Italian Wine Trade Show, Grand Hotel, Stockholm, November 2015

Swedes I was told, like powerful wines. They can match them with many of their traditional dishes as well as with their flavoursome wild meats such as reindeer and elk. Ripasso and Amarone are great favourites.

I remember a time when Amarone was not drunk with food but rather at the end of a meal. With its rich flavours and high alcohol obtained from fermenting dried grapes, Amarone was one of those wines coined “vini da meditazione” (meditation wine) by the Italian food writer and activist Luigi Veronelli. Those were wines that were best consumed at the end of a meal, their dense structure, sweetness and high alcohol making them tricky to pair with food. Not that they require food: they are the perfect post-prandial beverage, to be enjoyed for what they are and how our being responds to them. And it is once the job of eating is over, that we can truly relax, properly talk, hold philosophical discussions and possibly meditate. The term “vino da meditazione”, however, came into existence a while back, in the 1970s. That was when table wines used to be between 11% and 12.5% abv, before alcohol levels started soaring in response to global warming and to the trend for picking grapes at maximum phenolic ripeness.

Does “vino da meditazione” have any relevance today? Table wines are now between 13% and 15% abv and they are meatier. Consumers have progressively got used to stronger table wines and many like some sweetness and residual sugar in their fermented grapes. Meanwhile, the appetite for Amarone has increased. According to the Oxford Companion to Wine online, the production of Amarone has more than tripled between 1990 and 2003. Some producers are able to maintain the alcohol content at 15% or 15.5%, but it can reach 17%. Ripasso, made from refermenting new Valpolicella wine with the pomace of Amarone, is not quite as potent as Amarone. Nevertheless, the fermentation process is designed to give more power, depth, alcohol and sweetness to ordinary Valpolicella. It is a robust wine but its usual alcoholic content is equivalent to many table wines, i.e. 13.5%-14.5%. The boundaries of “vini da meditazione” have blurred with those of “vins de tous les jours”. Both are consumed interchangeably. If not by all, certainly by the Swedes.

Today's recommendation for wines to drink with Fallow deer with blackcurrant and celeriac

The week-end recommendation for wines to drink with Fallow deer, blackcurrant and celeriac. SvD newspaper, Wine and Food, 4.12.2015.

What can we deduce from this? Is it a case of, in the words of Cole Porter, “Anything Goes”? Is it a trend? Admittedly, habits have changed. Dessert wines are not as popular as they once were and a meal is not necessarily sealed with an inevitable brandy. Does a full-bodied, ripe, appassimento wine bridge a meal through to coffee? It would be a shame to think that there is no room for some sort of meditation over a glass of wine once plates have been cleared away. Maybe there is no longer time for this in the busy twenty-first century. The meal, the part where we chew, has become the focal point for communion, with coffee the cue to soon get up and go. Furthermore, if powerful wines are served throughout an entire dinner, there is a reduced likelihood of reaching any form of enlightenment, let alone coffee-time before self-combustion. If you want to meditate, forget alcoholic vapours. Roll out your yoga mat and get chanting “Om” rather than “Amarone”.

Munskänkarna – Don’t call them monks

As I was reading through the week-end papers I came across a small discreet advert for Munskänkarna. Intrigued, I checked in my dictionary and discovered that the hard-to-pronounce-word means “the cup bearers”. I peruse the advert and after more leafing of my dictionary – or rather tapping on my phone’s dictionary app – I find out that Munskänkarna is a wine tasting club. Moreover, it claims to be the world’s biggest one. With more than 145 branches all over Sweden as well as abroad, the society offers regular wine tastings, seminars, wine education courses and also recommends wine travels. It publishes a newsletter, gives notice to members of new wines to be released by Systembolaget (the Swedish monopoly) and provides reviews of the wines as well.

Constantly on the look-out for new opportunities to taste wine – trade fairs and tasting events in Stockholm are few and far between – I promptly fill in the application form and pay the reasonable yearly membership fee of 375 SEK (£28). A few days later an envelope drops through my letterbox. Upon opening, a little golden pin with a capital M atop a bunch of grapes drops out and falls onto my desk. There is more, a welcome letter and a booklet about the society tucked firmly inside the envelope. I browse through the upcoming tasting events. There are plenty of them, four to five per month, with different speakers and topics of interest. First on the list is a presentation of wines from Etna given by Niklas Jörgensen, who also happens to be a Madeira expert and 2015 Wine Blogger Awards finalist (www.madaboutmadeira.org). These events appear to get booked up pretty quickly and unfortunately such is the case for the Etna one. There is also a tasting of 1990 DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) for which there are a few places remaining. I have never had the privilege of experiencing those wines and am sorely tempted but the cost of the tasting, 11000 SEK (£815) holds me back. I settle for a SEK 1000 (£74) tasting of 2003 Bordeaux wines. The 2003 vintage was of course a scorcher in terms of weather. Many producers nevertheless managed to make some outstanding wines. Whether these wines have what it takes to age and develop harmoniously is the question. Thus, on a very cold and wet evening I set off with piqued curiousity, and an umbrella…

I make my way through the dark and sheets of rain, and come to a garage door. Hesitant, I peer inside. A sign above my head with the words Vinkällaren (wine cellar) reassures me that I have reached the right place. I walk down the dimly-lit tunnel-like corridor and reach another utilitarian door. It has been left ajar. I poke my head in. Two long tables lie side-by-side in a confined cellar space partially enclosed by red brick walls. Four rows of mainly grey heads are all turned in the same direction towards a speaker at the front of the room. I stand there for a good five minutes, wondering whether I should have brought my golden pin to gain admittance and whether I will be invited in. Finally, at the back of the congregation a hand rises through the gloomy thick air, and points to a vacant seat.

Bordeaux vintage 2003, Munskänkarna, Stockholm

Bordeaux vintage 2003, Munskänkarna, Stockholm – November 2015

After a summary of the climatic conditions of 2003 and its impact on the different appellations in Bordeaux, we are served eight wines. Their identity is known to us but their order is not, and we taste them blind. It transpired that they were poured from the lightest to the more powerful, and incidentally in ascending order of Robert Parker’s scores!

  • Château Grandis, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 178 kr
  • Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, Margaux, 1100 SEK (RP 90)
  • Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, Cru Classé, 977 SEK (RP 91)
  • Château Hosanna, Pomerol, 902 SEK, (RP 92)
  • Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, 5ème cru classé, 800 SEK (RP 95+)
  • Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2ème cru classé, 1100 SEK (RP 96)
  • Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe, 2ème cru classé, 1680 SEK (RP 97)
  • Château Angélus, Saint-Émilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé A, 2000 SEK (RP 98)

In spite of the baking summer, 2003 was considered a good vintage for Bordeaux reds albeit an atypical one. There was much talk as to whether these wines would be able to age. Some thought they might just collapse. Twelve years later we can see that this clearly has not happened. Today critics are divided as to which wines should be consumed soon and which will keep. The general recommendation is too drink them fairly soon. For Robert Parker Angélus and Cos d’Estournel were the superstars of the vintage. Indeed, the Cos d’Estournel showed freshness on the nose and palate. With its lush plum colour, it has a particularly lovely nose with some vegetal, floral, cedar wood and red fruit notes. Lots of fine tannins, pencil shaving aromas, bitter chocolate and evolved fruit. The heat of the vintage has imprinted many Bordeaux wines with power, strong tannins and ripe, dense, jammy red fruit. The latter, ripe cooked strawberries, are present in the Château Grandis, the St-Julien (Léoville-Poyferré) and the Pauillac (Pontet-Canet). The Pontet-Canet, however, also has fresh blueberries and flowers in addition to the ripe red fruit. With nice acidity and good length, this wine is elegant and harmonious. The Hosanna did not show well though. More port than wine, it was oxidised and reminiscent of an aged sake, with flavours of old strawberry cordial, prickly alcohol and drying tannins. This could be down to bad storage as opposed to poor natural development of the wine, and merits another tasting out of a bottle sourced from a different cellar. Alongside Cos d’Estournel, Angélus is the most tannic of the line-up. Its nose is restrained with red fruit, savouriness, herbs and some mint. It provides quite a tannic mouthful but is very silky and imparts toastiness and notes of bitter chocolate. It might very well be reaching its peak and should be drunk soon. At a little over a half of the price of Angélus, Pavillion Rouge’s 2003 does not display baked red fruit. Dark in colour, it has more of the classic Cabernet and Médoc blue tones: blue fruit, cassis, smokey tannins and a good length.

I would have happily drained many of my glasses, and had some food with them – especially the more tannic ones – but had to refrain as I was driving home. I should have known better…

This was an interesting seminar given by Munskänkarna. I will definitely attend future events. My Swedish friends might even come along with me, especially now that I have nailed the pronunciation of the word Munskänkarna, and am able to explain to them that I have joined a wine society and not Munkarna, the monks. Four letters and a world of difference. Or maybe not.

For more information on Munskänkarna visit www.munskankarna.se.