Tag Archives: Italian

New Release Tasting

Fine Wine Wholesalers

Reviewed 14 October 2011

Matt Holden, the State Manager for Fine Wine Wholesalers popped in to show off some of his new releases. The highlight of which was the fantastic rieslings from Geoff Grosset.

The value wine of the tasting was the Echelon from Kingston Estate. A flagship wine at a bargain price.

Speaking of value, Lamont’s have some Italian wines at great prices. JJ is bringing them in directly and the wines reviewed below are available for $30 per bottle. To get a Barolo for this price is unheard off. To make the deal sweeter, ask for 13 to the dozen!


Grosset – Riesling – Springvale – 2011 (18.5). Lovely nose. This is floral and fragrant, with hints of lemon blossom. Steely characters dominate the palate, but this opens up to show fragrant talc and very fine acid/structure. The lemony fruit goes on and on. A superb wine that just got better and better in the glass. This is all class, but I would like to give it a few years. We drank this with a roast chicken for dinner and it was beautiful.

Grosset – Riesling – Polish Hill – 2011 (18 – 18.5+). Wow. Pristine nose showing fresh lime juice. This has a degree of viscosity and almost a touch of phenolics, but the lovely lime fruit drives the palate forward. Much more approachable than some previous vintages and an excellent drink. This does, however, have superb structure and it will live for a long time.

Grosset – Riesling – Off Dry – 2011 (18). Lovely wine. Floral fruit and vibrant acidity. Really delicious in the mouth – a super wine. A touch oily to close, the length of fruit on the palate is a standout. The slight residual sugar is balanced by well judged acidity. Softer and more approachable than the previous two and my pick for current drinking.

Bird in Hand – Sauvignon Blanc – 2011. (16.8). Gooseberry, lantana and tropical fruit more typical of NZ than of the Adelaide Hills. Clean and fresh with more of the tropical notes on the palate. Smart wine with good persistence. Not overly complex.

Chapel Hill – Blend – Il Vescovo – 2011 (17). More reserved, but more interesting. Nutty, oily, textured and viscous. Savoury wine of some appeal that would suit food well.

Olssens – Pinot Noir – Nipple Hill – 2010 (17.4). More depth and structure here. Smart wine, with cherry and strawberry fruit, with savoury/sappy complexity underneath. Almost chewy, the finish is very good. Not a delicate wine, but one of much appeal. Well made, but straightforward.

Dominique Portet – Shiraz – Heathcote – 2008 (17.3). Dense fruit here. There is ripe plum notes, but no overripe/dead fruit characters. Pepper and spice over silky, supple fruit. Only medium bodied, but long and savoury finish.

Kingston Estate – Shiraz – Echelon – 2008 (18). A touch of menthol and cedar on the nose. The palate has pepper and spice to the max. Long and lean, the tannin structure is spot on. The oak is noticeable, but this will settle down. Fantastic fruit and great value.

Mario Marengo – Nebbiolo D’Alba – Valmaggiore – 2009 (17-5 – 18). They say these wines smell of tar and roses, and this has both. A lovely nose here. The palate is lovely. There are some ripe fruit characters, but the tar and floral notes come through in spades. This is long and savoury, though there is a degree of suppleness that is beguiling. Long and fine, this is a lovely wine.

Tenuta Di Capraia – Chianti Classico DOCG – Reserva 2007 (17.5). More depth to the nose. Hints of aniseed/licorice. The palate is finely structured and beautifully balanced. Excellent mouth feel and structure. Not a big wine, but all the better for it. A touch of savoury, medicinal flavours that add interest. Lively, fresh and well made. Good persistence.

Il Poggione – Brunello Di Montalcino – 2005 (17.9). Very savoury palate. Traditional style that is savoury, mouth-watering and leathery. This is all about texture and mouth-feel, with little in the way of primary fruit. Slightly chewy tannins to close. Long palate that demands aging or food. Long and dense, with deftly handled fruit.

Lamont’s Direct Imports

These wines are spectacular value. Both are available for $30 from Lamont’s. Mention this review and you may even get 13 to the dozen!

Salvapiana – Chianti Ruffino – 2008 (17 – 17.5). Limpid. Mot much on the nose, but the palate is a lovely blend of traditional characters and fresher fruit components. Savoury, medium bodied and medium weight.

Apartin – Barolo – 2006 (17.5 – 18). Lovely savoury aromas, but still with aniseed. Much more subdued and better balanced. Excellent structure and length. An excellent wine that is modern. I would like to see this again in a couple of months once it has settled down.

Xavier Bizot’s Selection

3 August 2011

Xavier Bizot has an illustrious pedigree when it comes to wine. His family owns Bollinger, and his father-in-law is Brian Croser of Petaluma fame.

Xavier was at Lamont’s in Cottesloe to showcase a cross-section of the wines that he distributes in Australia. The range consists of imported wines and the wines made by Brian Croser under the Tapanappa label. This is an idiosyncratic range, but there is an obvious focus on producing stylish, refined wines from carefully selected sites.

Please note that the majority (I think all) of the wines were sealed with a cork. Also, this was not a blind tasting, so my points are only preliminary.

A special thanks to John Jens and the team at Lamont’s. Not only was the function superbly run, it delivered extraordinary value!


Domaine Marcel Deiss – Pinot Blanc – 2009 (17.5). Dry and austere on the nose, though there are obvious varietal and regional characters. Think slate and a touch of mineral. There are floral hints on the palate, but this is all about texture. Rich, round, viscous and even a touch oily. The length is a standout, aided by a touch of residual sugar to flesh out the palate. Sat well alongside some scallops.

Domaine Marcel Deiss – Premier Cru – Burg – Single Vineyard – 2003 (17-18). Aromatic, even Sauternes like aromas. Powerful fruit notes with lychees, tropical fruits and a touch of rose. The palate is very textured and viscous, without the oiliness of the pinot blanc. This is a high impact, turbocharged wine of some charm. The botrytis component turns the dial up to 11! A wine to taste on its own perhaps. The wines from Deiss focus on the vineyard perhaps more than the grapevine. They are using numerous clones of the various grapes, but also blending different varieties (13 in this case) when producing their single vineyard wines.

Tapanappa – Chardonnay – Tiers Vineyard – 2008 (18+). Tight, austere and elegant. There is creamy fruit on the nose, with lees and very fine oak highlights. Excellent palate that is expansive yet full of nervous energy. This is modern and very tight. The palate has some pineapple, melon and lemon fruit characters. Fine and elegant, with a tangy finish courtesy of the lemony acid.

Tapanappa – Chardonnay – Tiers Vineyard – 2007 (17-18). Quite a different style to the 2008. The fruit was initially very subdued, with the medium toast oak providing the dominant flavours and aromas. This really opened up in the glass displaying powerful fruit that soaked up the oak. Very powerful and complex. Most people preferred this wine, though I would rather drink the 2008.

Chateau Pierre Bise – Cabernet Franc/Merlot – Anjou Villages – Sur Schistes – 2009 (17). Floral fruit, though the structural components are never far away. Savoury, sappy, long and juicy, this is an interesting wine that has seen no oak. From the Loire.

Ceretto – Barolo DOCG – Zonchera – 2007 (18+). This is a lovely wine. Cherry and savoury notes that are fine and balanced. The palate has plenty of tar, leather and spice. The mouth-feel is tight and restrained due to the (very fine and supple) tannins. The finish is somewhat grippy right now, but the balance is spot on. The length of the finish is a feature. Give it 5 – 10 years to open up a little.

Tapanappa – Merlot – Whalebone Vineyard – 2003 (17 – 17.5). Perfumed nose redolent of violets. The palate has cedar, plum and floral notes. The tannins are still remarkably firm, though they are supple enough to make this a good drink. Needs years more to show its best.

Tapanappa – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Whalebone Vineyard – 2006 (17 – 18). I struggled to understand this wine at first as it was very closed and tight. The sweet, ripe fruit really builds and the textured finish is fine and savoury, with a souring finish. Points awarded for potential.

Tapanappa – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Whalebone Vineyard – 2004 (18+). This wine had to compete with the aromas of a superb Wagyu steak. The fruit shows chocolate, leather and spice, with tight knit oak in support. This has lovely mouth-feel and excellent length. It is supple, textured and quite delicious. A quality wine!

Francois Lumpp – Givry AOC – Pied de Clou – 2009 (17). Quite shy, with delicate fruit. This has been well made. Sympathetic winemaking allows the fruit to shine, as the oak is only secondary and the tannins are nicely polished. Good short term drinking.

Domaine du Clos de Tart – Pinot Noir – 2008 (NR). How do you point a wine that is so unique. From a single monopole vineyard, Clos du Tart is the name of the winery, the vineyard AND the appellation. Created in the 12th century, the vineyard has only had three owners in its history. Destined to live for many years, this is hard to appraise now as the wine is very closed… Herbal, savoury and a touch stalky, this is tight, focused and very long. Spicy notes (clove and cinnamon) dominate the palate. The tannins impart a talcum powder like effect on the finish.

Chateau Pierre Bise – Chenin Blanc – Coteaux du Layon – Rouannieres – 2009 (17.7+). Fresh and vibrant nose with floral soap/talc aromas. The palate is intensely sweet and concentrated. The palate is viscous, rich and oily, with ground almond and cashew nut textural components. There is 220grams/litre of residual sugar, though the refreshing acidity prevents this from getting too cloying in the mouth. Delicious.

Piedmont Reds

Reviewed: 15 September 2011

This is the second Piedmont tasting that I have written up in the last few weeks. This time the venue was Lamont’s in Cottesloe. A point of difference with this tasting was that I was not part of the tasting. Instead, I was helping out my friend John Jens by facilitating the tasting and pouring the wine.

Two of Perth’s most qualified Piedmont aficionados, Kristen McGann and Brendan Jansen, provided the excellent commentary that accompanied the tasting.

I managed to sneak a look at the wines and compiled the brief tasting notes below. More commentary on some of the wine can be found here.

NB. This was not a blind tasting.


Arpatin – Barbera d’Alba DOC – 2008 – (16.7). Fresh, ripe and vibrant fruit showing cherry and spice. Acid a touch sharp, but nice fruit weight. Early consumption with or without food. (A bargain at $15).

D’Annona – Barbera d’Asti DOC – 2006 – (17.6). Greater colour and much more fruit intensity on the nose. This is quite a serious wine. Complex, with some new oak influence, the fruit is more in the dark spectrum. Very good!

Il Cascinone – Barbera d’Asti – Rive – 2007 (17.8). More perfumed than the Albas. Very silky. There is excellent structure and mouth-feel, though this needs several years to show its best. A serious wine.

Guiseppe Mascarello – Langhe Rosso – Barbera d’Alba – Santo Stefano – 2005 (17). Starts off quite closed. A more traditional style that is savoury and spicy. This will make a good foil for a light meal.

Bruno Giacosa – Dolcetto d’Alba – di Treiso – 2008 (16.7). Pretty wine. Floral and fragrant with gentle spicy notes. Quite straightforward on the palate, with a pleasant rounded finish. (16.7)

Guiseppe Mascarello – Langhe Rosso – Status – 2001 (17.5+). More red fruits. Quite rustic (authentic) palate where the fruit is subdued, but the textural components are the main contributors. Showing the benefit of a few years in the bottle, the length and mouth-feel are excellent. Received great support from many of the attendees.

Oddero Estate – Nebbiolo – Lange – 2007 (17+). Lovely perfume with cherry, Satsuma plum and some red berry notes that really add to the appeal. Dense and structured, with trademark nebbiolo tannins. Silky and supple, this will develop well over 5 years.

Arpatin – Barbaresco DOCG – 2006 (17.8). Feminine and seductive. There is a core of red fruits running through the nose, but there are lovely complex notes as well. The palate has souring fruit and very silky, supple tannins. This is complex, long and savoury. A really smart wine and outstanding value.

Castello di Verduno – Barbaresco – Rabaja – 2000 (18). Closed, and quite modern by comparison. A touch more primary fruit than the Apartin, but more angular and quite lean. Really evolves in the glass. Very long and structured, with excellent depth to the palate. Tannins a touch firm but will soften. Very youthful. One of the favourites of the tasting.

Bruno Giacosa – Barbaresco – Santa Stefano – 2007 (17+). An interesting blend of the last two. Savoury and long, with some herbal and menthol notes. A touch medicinal to close. Drinks well with air.

Arpatin – Barolo – DOC (18). Very clean and fresh. The quality of the fruit is exceptional. Subtle, fine-boned and elegant, this is a lovely wine. Real length and depth to the palate and the texture is a highlight. May not be “traditional” but it is extraordinary value. (Develops more traditional aromas with air).

Gianni Voerzio – Barolo – La Serra – 2005 (18+). Again, a very refined, yet modern style. Silky, but with more of the sour cherry fruit characters. The finish is a touch tarry, and cries out for food. An excellent wine that would make an excellent introduction for palates raised on Australian shiraz.

Castello di Verduno – Barolo – Massara – 2004 (17.6). Souring fruit that is gentle and supple. Only medium bodied, but with excellent penetration on the palate. Very good drinking.

Luigi Einaudi – Barolo – 2004 (18.5). Quite closed, but the palate is amazing. Vibrant and powerful fruit that has cherry and tar. Very long, the fine tannins shut down the finish. Superb wine with a long future.

A Taste of Piedmont

Reviewed: 1 August 2011

My good friend and co-contributor to Fine Wine Club, Brendan Jansen, hosted this tasting as he has returned from his sabbatical in Italy with “A Boot-Full of Wine” for us to try. Unfortunately, his wine did not arrive in time. This turned out to be a bonus for us as most of the wines are currently available. (Try La Vigna, Bocaccio, Lamonts or East End Cellars).

Given that Brendan has been living and drinking in Italy for the last few years, it is of no surprise that the tasting was spectacular. Yes, the wines were excellent, but it was the stories and facts that Brendan shared with us that made the tasting special.


In order tasted

Giribaldi – Cortese – Gavi – I Risi – DOCG – 2009 (17.4). Apple and pear fruit notes to open. This is really fresh and vibrant in the palate, with impressive length and some finesse. Light acidity and a touch of caramel help make this soft and very drinkable.

Vignetti Massa – Timorasso – Derthona – DOC 2006 (17). A few years in the bottle has made this a lovely drink. Open and inviting, with gentle spice on the nose. Quite oily and viscous on a palate that has some caramel/honey and nutty notes. Long and round, this has some similarity to the Alsatian varieties. From Colli Tortonesi.

Tenuta Carretta – Arneis – Cayega – DOCG – 2008 (17.5). Fresh and fragrant, this has lovely floral fruit. Excellent length and mouth-feel. The acidity is perfectly matched to the fruit. From Roero.

Benevelli Piero – Freisa – Alla Mia Gioia – Langhe – DOC – 2009 (16.7). Is this a precursor to sparkling shiraz? Very fruit forward, but with a degree of complexity and structure. Slight spritz positions this between a standard red and a sparkling shiraz in terms of mouth-feel and texture. I think this would be a good substitute for a sparkling shiraz. Freisa is a relation to nebbiolo.

Bruno Porro – Dolcetto di Dogliani – DOCG – 2008 (17). Subdued nose. A gentle, elegant wine that is more about texture and mouth-feel than primary fruit. The souring cherry fruit make this an excellent food wine.

Il Cascinone – Barbera D’Asti – DOC – Rive – 2007 (17.5). Very vibrant hue, especially compared to the other Barberas here. Complex and enticing with fresh fruit notes. I thought cherry, plum, licorice and tobacco leaf. Has some similarity to cabernet in the slight mint and red fruit notes. Lovely palate with vibrant fruit that dances on the tongue. The tannins are fine and the oak influence subdued. Good length and weight, though the oak could settle down a little.

Giacomo Borgogno & Figli – Barbera D’Alba – DOC – 2008 (16). More earthy characters on the nose. Fresh and somewhat tart, with souring acidity providing the main flavour notes. An interesting wine.

Giribaldi – Barbera D’Alba – Vigna Caj – DOC – 2005 (17.8). An interesting compromise between the fresh fruit of the Il Cascinone and the Borgogno. Savoury notes, but with good quality fruit in evidence. The palate is a lovely compromise, with ripe cherry and red fruits, but with a lovely savoury twist. There is licorice, tar, herbs and spice. A lovely wine, though some felt that it was past its best.

Arpartin – Barbera D’Alba – DOC – 2008 (17). Perfumed nose that is very attractive. Floral fruit on the palate, showing lovely fresh fruit. This has a soft, almost plush, finish. This is a very approachable wine that will be great drinking on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Vietti – Nebbiolo – Lange – Perbacco – DOC 2007 (NR). Gently perfumed. Perhaps a touch cork tainted, but quite delicious.

Three Hills – Nebbiolo – 2007 (17+/-). A powerful nose that is a blend of dark fruits, forest floor and vegetative notes. The palate is the same. A style that is not me, but it is very impressive.

Traversa – Barbaresco – DOCG – Straderi – 2007 (18.3). Wow. Fragrant, spicy and very attractive. Cherry, leather, tar and spice to a pretty nose. The palate is firm and structured, with the very fine tannins framing the palate. Impressive length here, and remarkably approachable. Very long and very fine.

Produttori di Barbaresco – DOCG – 2006 (17+). More subdued, and savoury. High acid and a touch of varnish/resin put this firmly in the old school style. A touch tough right now, this builds in the mouth, so I would like to see it again in a few years. Showed some pretty fruit and lovely structure with air.

Arpartin – Barolo – DOCG – 2005 (17.8). Pipe tobacco, fennel seed and a touch of vanilla. The palate is very leathery and savoury, and the tannins, whilst noticeable, are very fine and silky. Has started to develop, but is a long way from the end of its life. Sour cherry fruit to close.

Cavalotto – Barolo – DOCG – Bricco Boschis – 2004 (18+). An interesting nose that I had trouble pinpointing. A muscular and powerful wine in a traditional style. The prodigious tannins are starting to soften, allowing the fruit to express itself better. Tar and leather predominate on the palate, but with cherry red fruits showing through. A wine of real power that will continue to improve for ten years.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

A Boot-full of Wine – Tasting Notes from Italy

11 January 2011

Every year, the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS – Italian Sommeliers Association) publishes its edition of Duemila Vini (“Two Thousand Wines”). One of the biggest and most respected compendiums of Italian wine, its closest Australian counterpart would be James Halliday’s or Jeremy Oliver’s annual handbooks.

To celebrate its annual launch of a new edition in Tuscany, a tasting is organised in Florence where all producers from the region who have been awarded 4 or 5 Grappoli (“Grapes”, but perhaps better understood as “Stars”) are invited to show their wines. This year 142 producers responded to the invitation, and the event, as is the case annually, was held in one of Florence’s oldest and most beautiful hotels.

Here then were showcased the best of Tuscany – from Chianti Classico to Brunello, to the IGTs made from predominantly international varieties in Bolgheri, and of course, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It was the last appellation that I chose to focus upon.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the descendant of centuries of winemaking tradition in the region. Montepulciano itself is said to be Etruscan in its origin, and artefacts thought to be wine goblets have been found dating back to these times. There are also documented references to Montepulciano wines as early as the 8th century, and the English court was said to enjoy Montepulciano wines in the 19th century.

Formalisation of the “formula” for Vino Nobile only occurred in the last century, with DOC status being accorded in 1966, and promotion to DOCG status in 1980. The appellation laws specify maximum yields, minimum aging times and grape varieties permitted. Today, Prugnolo Gentile (a clone of Sangiovese, cf Sangiovese Grosso) is the main varietal used, with smaller amounts of indigenous varieties (such as Canaiolo, Colorino and Mamolo) used, but with French (“International”) varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) also permitted. White grape varieties are no longer allowed.

Hence the appellation laws mirror that of Chianti Classico (to the north), and the similarities continue between the Chianti appellations and with Brunello di Montalcino (just to the west) – there are producers using more “traditional” methods (use of large old inert Slavonian oak butts, ambient yeasts, and authoctonous varieties) while others use a more “modern” approach (with the use of French oak barriques and French varietals).

Indeed, the wines of Brunello and Chianti Classico form the main competitors for Vino Nobie di Montepulciano, and my view was that producers were seeking to find a point of difference, setting the Vini Nobili apart, to produce “terroir wines”.

My own general impressions were that Brunello is a more robust and denser wine, with Vino Nobile being midway between a good Chianti Classico Riserva and Brunelo. My overall preference was for the more traditional style wines, which had weight, body and structure (indicating age-worthiness) but also enormous drinkability. They also tended to provide a vehicle for Sangiovese to be expressed.

Three final points before moving to my tasting notes (the high points are reflecive of the quality of the tasting). Most Nobile producers also produce a Rosso di Montepulciano, which, like the Rosso di Montalcino, can be excellent though less expensive. The area is especially well known for its Vin Santo (produced all over Tuscany also), to which I shall have to devote a whole article next year. Finally, most examples tasted were from the 2006 and 2007 vintages, both excellent, with the 2007s probably just shaded by the superb 2006s.


Bindella – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – 2007 (17.5). All Bindella’s Vini Nobili are fermented in steel tanks, with malolactic fermentation completed in tank before transfer to barrel. They also do a 3-4 day prefermentation soak, thus adding more acqueous extraction and therefore fruit aromas. Only the 50% of the I Quadri spends time in French barrels (6 months), the others are matured in large oak butts. Red cherry fruit, fine dusty tannins, seamless palate, very gluggable!

Bindella – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – 2006 (17.75). Similar fruit profile but with a greater elegance, and more complexity.

Bindella – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – “I Quadri” – 2007 (17.75). The oak elements were immediately evident, but well integrated into the wine, with more spicy notes in evidence.

Canneto – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – 2006 (17). An example of a more international style, this had 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet and Merlot combined. French oak barrels (500 litre size), a percentage of which were new, were employed (aging for 30 months). The wine showed good structure with firm, ripe tannins, but in my view was far too young for the degree of extraction.

Contucci – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – 2007 (17.75). Excellent for their “base” Nobile – this is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino and 10% Canaiolo. Maturation in large oak butts for 24 months. Seamless, with a midweight palate.

Contucci – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Pietra Rossa – 2007 (18). Spending an additional 6 months in large oak butts (ie 30 months in total) and from a “better” vineyard, this wine has the same blend of varieties. Softer and more persistent than its cousin above.

Contucci – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – 2006 (18.25). Again, the grape blend is the same, but there is a percentage of smaller French oak barrels used, with an even longer aging process (36 months). The result is a wine of good structure, yet approachability, added spicy complexity, with all elements of fruit, acid and tannins in balance.

Dei – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – 2007 (17). A “traditional” producer, this “entry level” vino nobile managed to attain fresh, aromatic notes (without carbonic maceration) possibly due to the lift provided by the supporting cast of Canaiolo and/or Colorino (the website does not say).

Dei – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – “Bossona” – 2006 (18). This time 100% Sangiovese with 24 months aging in large Slavonian oak butts. Elegant, complex and long, with velvety tannins and spicy/violet notes.

Fattoria del Cerro – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – 2006 (17.75). A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Mamolo, this is in a traditional style. Bright cherry fruit with ripe tannins and hints of roasted meat (the last flavour leads me to suggest it might go very well with roasted meat!).

Nottola – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – 2007 (17.5). Again aging only large oak butts, but this time 10% Merlot added to the 80% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Lovely mouthfeel with soft tannins, good balance.

Podere Le Bérne – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – 2007 (17). A producer with an integrated approach – half modern, half traditional – with wild yeast fermentation in stainless steel and cement tanks, use of only indigenous varieties, but the employment of smaller French oak barrels (in the case of their Riserva below, all first pass). This was the only wine which I felt finished a little hot (alc 15%).

Podere Le Bérne – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – 2006 (17.75). The oak treatment added tannic structure and spice, but was harmonious with the wine’s core of dark and red fruits. Alc 14.5%.

Poliziano – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – “Asinone” – 2007 (18.5). Indigenous grapes but new French oak, this is a serious wine. It displayed tannins of wonderful texture, cinnamon and clove aromas, deep dark fruit flavours, and exceptional length. Notwithstanding my previous comments about a general preference for minimal oak influence, this wine was so powerful and complete, it was my Nobile of the tasting. Will mature well into its second decade.

Tenute Flolonari – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Riserva – “Torcalvano” – 2006 (16.75). I thought the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon component and the (probably second pass) French oak tended to create a wine in which harsher tannins dominated, with the fruit muted and closed in the background.

A final note on alcohol levels. All the wines tasted had alcohol levels of between 14 and 15%. Most were balanced so that the high alcohol levels did not overtly declare themselves as being out of balance. However, these levels will surely become an issue in the ever-increasing alcohol-level consciousness of consumers, especially in the UK. No more are high alcohol levels seen only in the New World. Global warming may play a part, as would the excellent ripe fruit from two good vintages. When will the now EU sanctioned methods of alcohol reduction come into play in southern European countries? Watch this space….

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen

Other Piedmontese Varieties

A Boot-full of Wine

Tasting Notes from Italy

6 December 2010

Following on from the previous articles on Piedmontese wines, here are a few wine varietals that are well worth checking out. Some are better known, others rare. All are different, distinctive, and in the main, delicious. They will be illustrated by a relatively typical example.


La Colombera “Derthona” Timarosso Colli Fortinesi 2007 (16.75). Timarosso is an aromatic white variety. The example I tried was given to me by my Piedmontese friend Marco, whom I must thank for my Piedmontese wine education. Timorasso was abundant pre phylloxera, but with the arrival of phylloxera, other varieties like Cortese (see below) were favoured. Various projects to revive its cultivation have led to its reemergence, especially in the province of Alexandria. I found this Timarosso to be rather Riesling-like in quality, but with a fuller middle palate. High acid was present, with citrusy lemon-lime flavours and even early aged characters of lanolin as seen in Rieslings. The finish was a touch bitter, but all in all an enjoyable wine, perhaps as an aperitif!


Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi “Rovereto” DOCG 2008 (17). Cortese is grown in several areas within and without of Piedmont but it only has DOCG status in Gavi. It has centuries-old history of cultivation and is thought to pair best with seafood. I have found the examples of Gavi di Gavi that I have tried to have moderate acidity, strong citrus notes, but also that hint of viscosity so common in European wines, giving the best examples a rather ethereal quality, as in this case.


Tea Costa Roero Arneis DOC 2009 (17). Arneis literally means “little rascal” in the local Piedmontese dialect, and the name is apt as the variety is difficult for several reasons – susceptibility to powdery mildew, easy oxidation, low yields, lowish acidity – though modern winemaking nous has overcome most of these difficulties. Available in oaked or unoaked versions, the latter is the more aromatic entity. Our visit to the Tea Costa Winery occurred during the final stages of their harvest – Nebbiolo the last to come off – yet we were still welcomed. To boot, the proprietor is also the local mayor, and in between talking to us and delivering hand-picked grapes to the winery via tractor, he was fielding phone calls from his constituents!!

This wine was clean and crisp with herbal and citrus notes, with no oak influence. Apple and straw, with that slight viscosity again – giving it a different palate weight to most Aussie whites – completed the picture.


Comm. GB Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga 2009 (17). A light ruby colour in the glass, with a fragrant nose of raspberry, also present on the palate, accompanied by dried cherry flavours and light dusty tannins. A fresh wine with medium acidity, with added hints of green pepper and fennel. No oak is evident on the palate (fermentation would have taken place in steel tanks, with time spent post fermentation in large oak botti). I have heard that care should be taken during handling as this (rare) variety oxidizes easily. Piedmont’s answer to Beaujolais, without the carbonic maceration?


Cascina Gilli Bonarda “Moyé” 2009 (17). Another one of those rare red varieties from Piedmont, here produced in a slightly effervescent style – the first fermentation to dryness, then some sweet juice set aside earlier introduced for the second fermentation. Dry, berry fruit, savoury and spicy hints, soft tannins with a light fizz. An accompaniment for Piedmontese salamis? Or maybe Chinese roasted meats?


Aldo Conterno – Dolcetto – Masante – 2008 (18.25). Dolcetto is by no means a rare variety – it is widely planted in Piedmont. Though its name means literally “the little sweet one”, Dolcetto is usually fermented to dryness. Rich in anthocyanins which impart colour, only brief maceration times are usually necessary. This example was fermented in stainless steel – no wood influence is present. Aldo Conterno is a well-known Barolo producer, and this is one of the best examples of Dolcetto available. Deep ruby in colour, it nonetheless has a mid weight palate, a touch fuller than a Pinot Noir. On the nose, cherry and blueberry are evident, along with savoury notes of leather and tobacco. The mouth-feel is silky with soft tannins and it has remarkable persistence of flavour.

Final Thoughts

Though Piedmont is rightfully known for its austere and powerful reds – the Barbarescos and Barolos in particular – it has a variety of cultivars – white and red – that offer wonderful drinking in the dry and aromatic white styles, and the lighter bodied dry red styles. Well worth seeking out!!

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen



A Boot-full of Wine

Tasting notes from Italy

27 October 2010

The wines of Barolo get their name from the village of Barolo, around which the DOCG appellation is located, in the Piedmontese province of Cuneo in the Langhe hills. The wine is made from the Nebbiolo variety, which is an early budder but late ripener, thriving best in calcerous soil. Therefore, in cool North West Italy, sites which have the greatest sun exposure, by virtue of slope orientation, and the requisite soil type, provide the best conditions for Nebbiolo to thrive. Though a tannic variety, the skins of Nebbiolo are not so much thick as tough, accounting in part for the sometimes lighter colour of Barolo wines.

Barolo was “invented” in the 19th Century by a French winemaker, Louis Oudart, at the invitation of the Count of Cavour – prior to this, wines from the area were sweet rather than dry. In what would become tradition, wines were macerated and fermented for several weeks, thus explaining the extraction of tannic components, and then aged in large oak or chestnut butts for up to 3 years and more. The result was a wine best left to age in the bottle, to be drunk after a period of 10 years at least.

The oft referred to “Barolo Wars” of the 1970’s and 80’s refer to the development of the more widespread use of shorter maceration and fermentation times, the employment of aging in small French oak barriques, and longer bottle aging at the expense of time in oak. This led to a more approachable, “modern” style of Barolo, with the innovators at loggerheads with the so-called “traditionalists”.

The current situation has evolved so that, usually, some kind of middle ground is adopted by most producers. This is epitomised by the producer we visited in the Cannubi vineyard, smack bang in the commune of Barolo, considered to be one of the prime sites for production of quality Barolo. (Attempts to classify vineyards by quality into vineyards considered “cru” have as yet not been granted official sanction.)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno have been making Barolo for more than three generations. We were guided through our tasting by Danillo Boffa, who has married into the Borgogno family. Over the course of the tasting, Danillo espoused the virtues of the site, describing themselves as custodians of a great gift. As with many Old World winemakers, the importance of terroir, and in particular the terrabianca (white clacerous/clay) soil, and orientation of the slope of the vineyards, were seen as key. He also spoke about the importance of “tradition”, seeing it as an essential ingredient in the creation of any wine. In our brief discussion about Australian wines, he commented that it would be difficult to make great wine in any country without a “tradition” of winemaking.

Should I at this point talk about the history of Australian wine dating back to before Barolo was “invented”? To Sir James Busby? And the many greater than 100 year-old vines to be found in Australia? The many different “terroirs” that we, too, were discovering? The many passionate winemakers all over Australia, who marry the numerous Australian-led innovations in wine science to a respect for the art of winemaking? I thought better of it – perhaps another time….

In reality, the “tradition” that Danillo spoke about placed emphasis on the use of old large butts (bote) and no small French oak barrels. On this point, this producer is indeed “traditional”. However, in terms of maceration and fermentation times, temperature controlled fermentation, yeast innocula, – the list goes on – the producer has adopted some the more enlightened “modern” methods.

Though most of its 60,000 bottle production is derived from grapes grown in its own vineyards, the Dolcetto D’Alba, Barbera D’Alba and Barbaresco are made from grapes sourced from trusted growers in Fossati (a few kilometres south), Castellinaldo (in Monferrato) and San Rocco Senio d’Elvio, (a few kilometers northeast, close to Alba) respectively.

On to the wines (note: prices are ex-cellar):

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Dolcetto D’Alba DOC – 2009 (15.5). Suffering somewhat from having spent a little too much time opened, the cherry fruit core was still evident. 15.5 pts (5 Euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Barbera D’Alba DOC – 2007 (16.5). Classed as “Superiore” for having spent 24 months in large boti (butts), this wine was understated yet showed great structure, a lovely medium weight palate with soft cherry/berry fruit. 16.5 pts (6.50 Euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Nebbiolo D’Alba DOC – 2005 (17.5). Light coloured, with the classic “tar and violets” signature of Nebbiolo, with perfumed fruit poking through its chewy tannins. A fantastic wine! 17.5 pts (7.20 Euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Barbaresco DOCG – 2007 (18). This wine had spent 2 years in large wooden butts, and showed mint, herb and spicey notes, even a whiff of scorched almonds, with chewy plum and berry fruit, and wonderful length, encased in mouth puckering tannins. 18 pts (14 euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Barolo Cannubi DOCG – 2006 (18). Opened earlier that morning, this wine was the quintessence of young Barolo – tight, with firm tannins and tarry notes, with a hint of prunes poking through. 18 pts (18 Euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Barolo Cannubi DOCG – 2005 (18). Showing a little more development than its younger sibling, more spice, truffle and tobacco notes. 18 pts (18 Euro)

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno – Barolo Riserva DOCG 2004 (18). Spending a whopping 5 years in large butts, this showed even more development with anise, cinnamon, tar, truffles and smoky notes. 18 pts (19 Euro)

As can be seen by my points, this was a tasting of superlative quality. I cannot wait for my order to arrive! Interestingly, there were some back vintages on sale also, including Baroli from 1999, 2001, and, yes it is not a misprint, 1971!

After the winery visit, we popped in to the little town of Barolo. Once an impoverished part of Italy, the town has been transformed into a wine tourist’s paradise. Nowhere in Italy have I seen such a collection of trendy wine bars and tasting rooms. A visit to the old Barolo castle ended the day. Now refurbished largely using private money, the castle is now the home of an ambitious wine museum. Part art installation, part interactive exhibit, it has a comprehensive section on the history of wine, with special focus on the history of Barolo wine. (17.5 pts, 12 Euro entry fee!)

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen

Brunello di Montalcino

A Boot-full of wine – Tasting notes from Italy

Excellent Current Releases

Brunello do Montalcino is an appellation in the southern part of Tuscany, south of Sienna, around the picturesque hilltop town of Montalcino. The tradition of Brunello goes back a relatively brief hundred or so years, with the family and firm of Biondi-Santi associated with its inception. The number of companies has ballooned however, to include over 200 producers now.

The wine is made from 100% Brunello, or Sangiovese Grosso grapes (a clone or group of clones of Sangiovese). Traditionally the wines were aged in large Slavonian oak butts for the requisite 3 years, though more and more, the use of smaller French oak barriques is becoming the norm. Commonly, some Brunello is aged in larger oak casks, some in smaller barriques, and then later blended. Often producers will make 2 levels of Brunello – a ‘normal’ Brunello, and a Riserva from the best parcels of grapes. Very occasionally, if not up to standard in poor vintage conditions, the designated Brunello can be reclassified as a Rosso di Montalcino, though usually the Rosso di Montalcino is an earlier drinking, less oaked, less extracted, and often delicious manifestation of Sangiovese Grosso.

At a recent tasting of current release Brunelli, I had the opportunity to sample 11 wines. That I have chosen to highlight eight of them indicates both the high quality level of wines at the tasting, and of Brunello in general. I have a confession to make – I love these wines, and they represent a different beast altogether to other incarnations of Sangiovese such as Chianti Classico. Most usually require bottle aging for 10 years at least in order to reveal their full tasty potential. The wines were tasted alphabetically by producer, and are presented so.


Altesino – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (18). Cherries but also blackberries, leather and chocolate. Persistent and balanced. 18 pts. 44 Euro

Banfi – Brunello – Poggio All’Oro– DOCG Riserva – 2004 (18.5). An early whiff of sulphur which soon blew off. A baby – long, tannic, tangy acid, complex. 18.5 pts. 84 Euro

Cupano – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG – 2004 (17.75). The nose was a bit muted but the palate sang, with fresh dark red fruit and a savoury undertow. 17.75 pts. 84 Euro

Pacenti Franco-Canalicchio – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (18.25). Acid, tannins, fruit in fine balance. Complex and long. 18.25 pts 47 Euro

Piancorello – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (18.5). Incredible depth to the fruit with blackberry and raspberry, violets, and spicy anise. 18.5 pts. 46 Euro

Il Poggione – Brunello di Montalcino – I Paganelli – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (18.7). Complex with excellent persistence of aromas and flavours. Hints of chocolate and leather. 18.7 pts 59 Euro (For the record, the Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2008 is a cracker – providing the essence of Sangiovese unsullied by oak – 18 pts, 14 Euro)

Poggio di Sotto – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (19). Almost indescribable – wonderful length and complexity – and one would expect so at this price. 19 pts. 130 Euro

Tenuta di Sesta – Brunello di Montalcino – DOCG Riserva – 2004 (17.75). Again began a touch sulphurous, but later a solid example of Brunello, suffering somewhat for having been tasted after the Poggio di Sotto. 17.75 pts. 44 Euro

I should add that my favourite Brunello producer, Uccelliera, was not represented at this tasting.

As can be seen, there is a range of prices for Brunello, but these producers represent excellent quality and hence value for money.

Ciao again!!

Brendan Jansen


© 2009 – 2013 Fine Wine Club

Chianti Classico

Current Release Tasting

16 October 2010

Following my article from last year on Chianti Classico, here are a few recommended Chianti Classici, and Chianti Classico Riservas, from a recent tasting. Note that there were almost 30 wines at the tasting so the following wines are limited only to those to which I accorded a medal rating. I will keep the tasting notes brief, and try to describe the essence of each wine. I am sure that at least some will be available from retailers in Australia.


Buondonno – Chianti Classico – docg – 2007 (18.2). Complex, savoury, good balance fruit, acid, tannins. 100% Sangiovese 18.2 pts. 22 Euro

Caparsa – Chianti Classico – docg – 2004 – Riserva – “Caparsina” (17). A touch oxidized, which was a shame. Lift from small amount of Canaiolo evident. 17 pts. 19 Euro

Fontodi – Chianti Classico – docg – 2007 (17.5). Clean, with no oak influence, the essence of cherries. 17.5 pts. 15 Euro

Il Poggiolino – Chianti Classico – Riserva – docg – 2004 (17.75). Deep red and unctuous, with some colorino and canaiolo adding spice and lift. 17.75 pts. 18 Euro

Il Poggiolino – Chianti Classico – Riserva – “Lebalze” – docg – 2001 (18). Proof yet again that Sangiovese in the right hands can age beautifully. Exquisite length. Will continue to improve for another 3-5 years. 18 pts. 23 Euro

Le Boncie – Chianti Classico – docg – “Le Trame” – 2006 (18.75). Cherry fruit suspended in ripe tannins, with complex earthy, barnyardy notes. If this means a hint of Brettanomyces, then lets have more! (Apologies to Terry James) 18.75 pts. 26 Euro

Montemaggio – Chianti Classico – docg – 2007 (17.25). The small percentage of unnamed grapes includes, I suspect, Merlot, which gave this wine a softer, rounder feel. 17.25 pts. 15 Euro

Montemaggio – Chianti Classico – Riserva – docg – 2006 (18.25). From a good year, my tasting notes simply say “Yum!” 18.25 pts. 21 Euro

Monteraponi – Chianti Classico – Riserva – docg – “Il Campitello” – 2007 (17.5). Closed and a bit muted but indicative of great structure, and a long life ahead. 17.5 pts 25 Euro

Monteraponi – Chianti Classico – Riserva – docg – “Baron Ugo” – 2006 (18.2). Similar to the other Monteraponi wine, this had added complexity in the form of herbs and spices to add to the core of maraschino cherry fruit. 18.2 pts. 37 Euro

Podere Il Palazzino – Chianti Classico – docg – “Grosso Sanese” – 2006 (18.25). Good palate persistence of red fruit flavours and a complexity that included, I thought, soy sauce! 18.25 pts. 27.50 Euro

Quercibella – Chianti Classico – docg – 2008 (17). A fruit bomb consisting of stewed plums and cherries. 17 points. 21 Euro

Riecine – Chianti Classico – Riserva – docg – 2006 (18.25). A lovely wine with hints of mint possibly enhanced by oak. 18.25 pts 34 Euro. (Their ‘supertuscan’ IGT “La Gioia” made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot is also a delicious drop. 18.25 pts. 42 Euro)

As a postscript, a review of 2 wines that are Chianti Classici in all but name.

Il Borghetto – “Bilaccio” – IGP – 2007 (18.5),

Il Borghetto – “Clante” (selezione prima scelta) – IGP – 2006 (18.5).

There is a story to these wines. They are made by the English winemaker Tim Manning. He has worked with Pinot Noir before and has noted the similarities between the varieties. Thus he employs whole bunch pressing and even bottles the wines in a Burgundy bottle. Therein lies the rub – the Chianti Classico Consorzio have decreed that all Chianti Classici are to be bottled in Bordeaux bottles, for uniformity! Though not mentioning Il Borghetto wines by name, the establishment has had to remove the designation “Chianti Classic docg” and replace it with an igp one! In previous vintages these wines were Chianti Classico.

A shame really, especially from a country which tends to take pride in flouting rules! Also a shame because these wines are fantastic.

The Bilaccio was long, complex and rustic with hints of chocolate and coffee intermingled with ripe red fruit. 18.5 pts. 27 Euro

The Clante, similar, but with an added spiciness, more defined acid and tannic backbones, indicating a longer aging potential. 18.5 pts. 39 Euro

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen


A boot-full of wine

Nebbiolo is a grape variety that has begun to have New World manifestations, but it is really the noble variety of Piedmont (even though much more Dolcetto and Barbera is grown there). Very smart examples indeed are also made in the Valtellina region north of Milan, but Piedmont is its spiritual home.

Nebbiolo is a late ripening variety, and has, surprisingly, thin, though very tough, skin. It grows best in calcerous rather than sandy soils. Its first two or so buds are infertile, so it is not a candidate for spur pruning – cane pruning (and thus hand harvesting) is the rule.

In Piedmont, its two most famous incarnations are the wines from Barolo, and those from Barbaresco. Both are 100% Nebbiolo wines. Other DOC regions also produce nebbiolo based wines, not least of which are the Boca and Gattinara regions. (As an aside, Piedmont is a place that does not subscribe to blending of varieties. Thus, from Barbera to Gavi, Barolo to Dolcetto, you will almost always find wine made from a single variety.)

Barolo wines were traditionally fermented in contact with its skins for up to 2 months, thus explaining the extraction of tannins and colour in old Baroli. Aging used to occur in large oak or chestnut butts, but amongst modernists, this has given way to French oak. In fact, winemaking in Barolo has moved to making the wines more approachable earlier than the traditional 10-year minimum of the past. Skin contact is nowadays often limited to about the average of 2 ½ weeks, and aging in oak often occurs for the minimal time allowed by law (the law requires 3 years aging, 2 of which must be in oak).

“Tar and violets”, chocolate, prunes, tobacco, truffles and autumn smoke are the common descriptors for Nebbiolo in general and Barolo in particular.

Barbaresco hails from a drier, warmer area than Barolo, at altitudes about 200-350m above sea level. Regulations allow for only 1 or 2 years aging in oak, and again there are traditionalists and modernists. Generally speaking Barbaresco is a little softer and approachable when younger than Barolo, though with the essences of violets, lush fruit, assertive acid and tannins still in evidence.

I am heading off to Piedmont next week, but here are a few great examples of Nebbiolo from a recent tasting (I am unsure about their availability in Australia, but if you track down any of them, it may be worth acquiring a few bottles):


Burlotto – Barolo – DOCG – 2006 – “Monvigliero” (18.5). A lighter colour but a powerful structured wine, with lots of leather and mushroom notes. Yum! (40 Euro)

Clerico – Barolo – DOCG – 2006 – “Ciabot Mentin Ginestra” (17.75). A traditional style Barolo, this is powerful but young and tannic, and needs time – much more time! (71 Euro)

Grimaldi Bruna – Barolo – “Badarina” – DOCG – 2006 – “Vigneto Regnola” (17.5). “Simpler” in the sense that primary fruit flavours dominate with a crisp clean palate without too many secondary flavours. 30 Euro

Grasso Elio – Barolo – DOCG – “Gavarini Chiniera” – 2006 (18.75). Rich and unctuous, a quintessential Barolo with tar, rose petals, truffles, and firm tannins. Stupendous! (61 Euro)

Grasso Elio – Barolo – DOCG – “Ginestra Casa Mate” – 2006 (18.5). Like a more feminine version of the above, with poise and finesse. (61 Euro)

Massolino Vigna Rionda – Barolo – DOCG – 2004 – Riserva – “Vigna Rionda” (18.8). The best Barolo in the line up. Dark and brooding, softened by its age but with many a year in front of it. Rich red fruit, herbs and smokiness. (73 Euro)

Massolino Vigna Rionda – Barolo – DOCG – “Margheria” – 2006 – (17.75). Again lighter in colour, but with a firm tannic structure, high acid, complex yet clean with wonderful palate line and length (to borrow a cricket analogy). (52 Euro)

Nada Fiorenzo – Barbaresco – DOCG – 2006 – “Rombone” (18.5). Softer and rounder but unmistakably Nebbiolo. Again, has the fine structure afforded by firm tannins and fruit to give it longevity – if you can keep your hands off it!! (44 Euro)

Travaglini Gattinara – DOCG – Riserva – 2004 (18). I thought this wine was fantastic, and very Barolo-esque, but, perhaps owing to its less well-known appellation, at half the price! (31 Euro)

A final note on the vintages mentioned – 2006 was very good, 2004 outstanding!

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen