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All Posts from May, 2007

Eichenchips oder Eichenfass? Artikel in der New York Times

Schon wieder ein lesenswerter Beitrag in der New York Times. Eric Asimov, deren “Chief Wine Critic” findet immer wieder den richtigen Ansatz. In diesem Artikel über Kellertechnologien geht er insbesondere auf die Verwendung von Eichenchips ein. Er betont, dass Eichenchips zwar das Eichenaroma an den Wein geben können, jedoch aber nicht wie das Weinfass durch Gerbstoffe und Sauerstoff die Textur des Getränks veredeln könnten. Nur ein Weinfass könne das sogenannte „mouthfeel“ verändern.
Außerdem wirbt er für mehr Transparenz auf dem Weinetikett. Der Kunde solle wissen wie der jeweilige Winzer arbeitet. Werbungen der Weinindustrie mit idyllischen Landschaften und alten Weinfässern täuschen die Kunden zu oft über die tatsächliche industrielle Verarbeitung hinweg.

Categories: News

Can you taste Terroir?

Apparently there is a bigger discussion going on in the Wine-Blogging-World about the notion Terroir, and the influence of the soil on the wine in general. A somehow provocative article posted on the NYT by Harold McGee and Daniel Patterson meant to clarify on the perception and interpretation of the idea of Terroir.
It firstly stated that it isn’t really possible scientifically speaking that one could taste the type of soil on which the wine has grown within your glass of wine; that many professionals like wine writers, importers and even winemakers would misleadingly suggest that one could taste the slate in the wine if the vines are growing on a slate soil.
Further the authors try to clarify the concept of and analyze all the “components” which makes a certain wine a Terroir-wine and uncovers the influence of Mr Parker and his disciples on Terroir-style. They also observe how many people perceive the whole Terroir concept as a giant marketing hype, which only exists in order to mystify and glorify age-old winemaking traditions in Europe.
Clearly there is a lot to say on the topic and I believe the 2 authors have delivered a thorough article which is a good basis for discussion.
As Eric Asimov wrote in his blog in response to the article, it is of course clear that one doesn’t actually have the taste of limestone in his wine, but if you ever tasted a Chablis and then heard about the soil being composed of million year old mussel-shells, your brain directly links it to the flintstone nose of Chablis. These evocative descriptions have to do with emotions brought up by wine. And I don’t really understand why these authors try to ridicule wine professionals, which isn’t benefiting anyone really. I guess it is just the typical irony of Scientifics and engineers.
Concerning the dissection of the whole Terroir concept, I merely agree with the authors. I believe that the problem with the whole Terroir idea is that it is the subject of a giant misunderstanding. It is such a flexible notion that nearly everyone uses it with another meaning.
So, even if I don’t have so much experience with wine, I will start by giving you my understanding of a Terroir wine. It is a wine that is independent. It doesn’t try to copy another wine (or another Terroir), it has found an optimal balance between the attributes of the soil, the climate and profits from the experience of winemakers within a certain region and is marked by the wine-culture of the region.
The misunderstanding might be that apparently people tend to think that Terroir is something modern, some kind of European marketing strategy against New World Wines, whereas it is exactly the opposite. It is rather old fashioned, something which demands patience and experience, and maybe a hint of stubbornness. The problem is that, as I said before, Terroir can’t be copied.
I would believe for example that a true wine-lover wouldn’t look for some kind of super-Mouton when he discovers Californian wines, but rather for unique and delicate wines which are made in the most appropriate form to represent the attributes of its origins.
Anyway, I urge everyone to read the article, as well as Eric Asimovs posting with many interesting comments.

1976 Wachenheimer Luginsland Spätlese, Weingut Peter, Pfalz


Do you believe in the ageing of dry white wines? I have always been very sceptical about it. Generally there are only a few (non-sweet) white wines which are known to have a good ageing potential. These are Chablis (Chardonnay) or other white Burgundies like Montrachet’s for example, and of course Rieslings’. If a Riesling has an optimal balance between fruitiness/sweetness and acidity it can pracitcally age forever and if it has as an extra, minerality and complexity, it might become a fabulous treasure! Well this is at least the theory.
Of course, as a German I have so far mostly been confronted to old Rieslings. And practically when I think of them, I have an image on my mind of some brown liquid which I pour into the kitchen sink. Thus my belief until that day was that stories about good aged Rieslings were myths. But today I should learn that I only drank the „wrong“ old Rieslings. I was in fact too much impressed by the collection of third quality bottles my parents had accumulated over the years, which were something like „Riesling Kabinett 1978“ from some remote vineyard. With the bottle I opened today, I learned that if you ever tempt to drink an old Riesling, you have to chose at least a Spätlese from a decent vintage (1959,1964,1967,1971,1976 or 1985 for example), and a reknown „Lage“ (vineyard). So what was that bottle that made me change my mind? Was it a German Grand Cru or something? No it wasn’t! It was simply a late harvest from a remote vineyard but made in a great vintage. Indeed, 1976 was apparently a very hot year, and this heat has translated itself into wonderful fruity white wines, of which the best bottles are still drinkable today.
This 1976 Luginsland from Weingut Peter in Wachenheim we opened, had a golden and amber colour with brilliant clarity and some slight orange reflects.
Its nose was heavily perfumed with honey and a clear, elegant age note (Edelfirne in German. Is there anyone who could tell me how to translate Edelfirne properly into English?).
On the palate it was oily and rich in texture, with a slight exotic impression. There was still some acidity and a fresh minty note which gave the wine a youthfull appeal. The final was extremly long and had a slight bitternote, which didn’t alter the overall impression which was very good: 90 points. And I was really impressed. Now my question isn’t anymore: can old Riesling taste good? It’s rather: if a Spätlese from a remote vineyard tastes good, how good must a Spätlese, Auslese or a Goldkapsel from a top vineyard taste? And thus I am now very eager to get more out of aged Rieslings and prepare myself for a real tasting session, but merely from top vineyards and top vintages, trying to find some real treasuries.

Categories: Germany,Pfalz

Old Rioja Tasting

Rioja is one of the most prestigious wine regions on this globe. No doubt about it. Luckily Oskar has a great affinity with spanish wines and also collected some nice specimens during the last years. We were all very curious how these old Riojas would come out, especially compared to other „old bottles“ tastings we had like the Burgundies’ for example.
I could do a quick profile of Rioja, but why should when the Winedoctor already has done such fine work on it.

1970 Campo Viejo Gran Reserva

Our starter-bottle was from the Campo Viejo Bodega on which I don’t have much info except its website. It had a brick-red colour with a brownish rim, high clarity with a few floating particles. The bouquet came sweetish with a berry touch and a slight marmelade impression. On the palate it left a very balanced and round impression with perfectly solved tannins. No signs of 37 years of age except a slight bitter note in the end which punctuated a very nice length. This wine came from a good vintage according to Mr Parker (90 points for the vintage) and was still very nice to drink, nevertheless we believer it has seen better days before.

1975 Imperial Gran Reserva C.V.N.E.

Imperial is a brand name from C.V.N.E. (Compania Vinicola del Norte D’Espana) which exists since the 1920’s and has a great reputation for bringing constantly great qualities. The Bodega is known for being a motor of innovation for the Rioja region; it has for example among the first bodegas to bottle its own wine and to build out ageing capacities of its cellar.
It had a very brilliant ruby-red robe with slightly brown sides. It had clearly a more intense colour than the first wine. Its nose was intensely perfumed with berries, without permitting us to identify a particular berry (we guessed bramble-berry though). On the palate it was sweet at first, than fruity with a slight eucalyptus freshness. Its length was enormous, most of all 5 wines, but here again a slight bitter note came through.

1978 Marques De Riscal

Marques De Riscal is a very well known brand/winery in Rioja, since they also belong to the pioneers in that region. This wine seems to be neither a Gran Reserva, nore a Reserva, thus we believe it is a simple crianza. Nevertheless 1978 is supposed to be one good year in Rioja.
It had a ruby red, slightly blunt colour with only a little brown on the side. In the nose some strawberry. On the palate then, it appeared balanced without any adstrigency, yet with a slightly sour touch of red fruits. The final then was average, in particular when comparing it to the last wine.

1982 Vina Berceo Reserva

1982 again a very good vintage for Rioja, delivered to us by this rather unknown bodega (at least to me, and the spanish website didn’t help me much either).
But let’s rather describe the wine itself. It had a rather light colour. The nose was full of berries and with time developped and had a nice peppery touch. On the palate, the berries appeared again accompanied by a complex interaction between vanilla and liqorice. It had a nice length with a certain eucalyptus freshness. The slight bitterness was also there; nervertheless this was in our opinion the most enjoyable of the 3 younger bottles.

1987 Faustino I Gran Reserva

Faustino is a very popular Rioja brand launched by the Bodega Faustino in 1960. The Faustino group is today the biggest wineyard owner in Rioja with 760 hectares and stocks over 12 million bottles of Reservas and Gran Reservas in ist ageing cellars.
1987 was an above-average year in Rioja (82 points according to Mr Parker) but not truly exceptional. The wine was dark in colour but not with full clarity. The nose had a certain eucalyptus freshness and slight berry fruit. On the palate the wine didn’t appear very harmonious and balanced. Acidity, fruit and tannins didn’t come together quite well and drew a nervous picture of a wine which has overpassed ist drinking phase.

This tasting was marked by the 2 oldest bottles in my opinion, and one could say it was a duell between the better vintage (1970 Campo Viejo) and the better name (Imperial), which in the end, we agreed has slightly been taken by the 1975 Imperial. Besides those 2 we were quite surprised by the Vina Berceo which had the most complexity of the 3 younger wines, maybe due to the fact it was the best vintage of all 5.
Something that irritated us a little was a bitter-note that came through in all 5 bottles in a more or less intense way. We tried to come up with reasons for it and guessed that the sweet impression on the tip of the palate, either coming from the oak or being an intrinsic attribute of the tempranillo grape, made this final bitternote – whereever it stems from- much more apparent. We then concluded that, despite the fact that these wines were all exceptionnaly well drinkable and in good shape (no cork fault), they have surpassed their ideal maturity and might have offered greater pleasure some time ago. This wasn’t so obvious to tell for the 2 old Gran Reserva, but most evident for the Faustino which made a quite unbalanced and nervous impression. When compared to the old Burgundies and Bordeaux tastings we already had I would say that, for this time the Riojas couldn’t overtake them, but I’m pretty optimistic that it will happen at a further tasting. Thank you Oskar for the fine supply and see you soon for the next episode.