Tag Archives: wine tasting

Tasting NOPI @bibendumwine

Yes I know. A week of wine tasting sounds fab. And yes I know you’re now waiting for me to tell you how hard a job this is. Well take my advice and trust me on this one: as hard as they can get, wine tastings are fun and anyone who begs the differ has a serious laziness issue.

So here we are again in day #2 of our massive tasting week (you can check our prelude and day #1 here) and this time I’m meeting old friends at the Bibendum HQ in Primrose Hill. Having spent a year socializing the wine world with the Bibendumites, tasting wine here feels like the reasonable thing to do. But nostalgia and business apart we’re here (we’re here) to get the coolest wine list in town going.

Having consulted Allesandra (my longtime Bib partner), we managed to agree on a shortlist of around 40 wines. This might seems like a lot of wine to taste but it is really the bare minimum. In order to get a cracking 70bins wine list, one has to go through at least triple the amount, which is, as already mentioned, a tough job.

This was the task of the day

the day's line up

The secret of a good wine list is no secret at all. Like any other aspect of our lives balance is the key here. But there’s one main ingredient that cannot be ignored, creativity. Nothing is easier than writing the same wine list again and again. The city’s full of them. The NOPI peeps agreed to take this approach one step further and demolish the usual wine list structure. So not only will we have unusual wines from interesting regions but we will also group the wines into some pretty unusual mini categories. And not just one, but many & all different ones. We are leaving the boring list by country, style or price behind and sorting the wines by their story. Wines can be categorized only by grape, by the special conditions in which they are grown, by the very good year they grew up in, or by the unusual winemaking techniques which were applied…but I guess you’ll have to see it to dig it.

Enough reveiled for one post, instead, here are the wines I liked best and a video where Yotam, Osh & Basha give us their top pics

Friendly Gruner Veltliner, Laurenz V (Niederösterreich, Austria)

Maybe the day’s favourite. From winery devoted to just a single grape variety: Grüner Veltliner.Super friendly indeed.

Vibrant freshness with loads fo herbacious notes. Very clean style with very light hint of residual, loads of aromatics & mouth watering acidity. Very good length as the minerality keeps on giving on and on and…

Wild Yeast Chardonnay, Spingfield Estate (Robertson, South Africa)

An unwooded Chardonnay, tank fermented with native yeast 70 days alcoholic fermentation 100% malolactic was allowed naturally 13 months on the lees. Unlike any Chardonnay you ever had!

Very complex nose with loads of bread & almond notes. Very intense on the palate. Loads of bready, martzipan flavours lifted with a fine mineral acidity.

Pinot Noir, A to Z Wineworks (Oregon, USA)

A interesting pick for our Pinot Noir group. Not often can you taste such a dangerously drinkable wine for such a friendly price. Simplicity at its best.

Lovely soft nose, beautiful primary and fresh fruit coming through. Pronounced strawberry on the palate with some soft aromatics. Light leafy character with a touch ripe fruit.

Morgon, Domaine Marcel Lapierre (Beaujolais, France)

Who’s afraid of natural wine? And who ever said Beaujolais can’t rock? Marcel Lapierre, the godfather of natural wine, passed away last summer. He shall be missed.

Light manure notes on the nose, then a burst of fresh red fruits comes through. Fantastic freshness on the palate, minerality and an intriguing combination of soft spices, black sour cherries and some leafy notes.

And as promised, here’s team NOPI thoughts of the day

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Unusual varities part 1

I have a very bad sense of direction. I always loose my way, especially on romantic or special trips abroad. Despite being aware of this fault I will NEVER take a minute, lower the car window and ask for help or advice. Never.

Despite all the above I still dare complain about people drinking boring wines. I seriously think something’s not right with them. Why on earth would you, out of a wine list packed with reasonably priced, interesting, different & exciting wines (“I’ve never heard of X will be the biggest compliment) will one choose a Gavi or PG. Is it the fear of being lost in the world of unknown surrounded by foreign names that are difficult to pronounce or maybe just a lack of imagination? In many cases I get the feeling they’re just the old me in the car feeling too proud or stupid to ask.

That is why I felt both proud and happy to help in an adventurous project. I do like being adventurous, just not in a car. And adventurous it was. I was asked to chase and find the most obscure and unusual grape varieties. Strange how the bizarre demands feel to me like the simplest of tasks. This is my chance to do what I do best. I will use this old flair of mine that manages to source unusual wines and persuade innocent people to drink them.

After a few weeks of nudging, begging and simply endlessly chasing my various contacts in the wine trade I ended up with a box full of goodies. We both sat in the wine cellar of l’anima. It was chilly but the wines benefited from it. I have carefully organised all the usual suspects with extra care as I am tasting today with Julia Harding MW, she is the mind behind my scam. She offers to try the red first and I naturally oblige. It is a bit of a hit and try game as we haven’t tried most of the wines before and so the order is decided according to our assumptions.

We kicked off with Lacryma Moro di Alba 08 from Colonnara – Great wine to start with I thought after nosing a very fragrant and perfumed Aroma. The palate showed fresh almost crisp Red cherries and some fine spices. Summery wine that could work well slightly chilled and with some BBQ roar as a background noise.

Second and third on the grid were wines made from the seriously obscure Longanesi. The wine also stated Burson as the grape variety, so we were left slightly confused. (see more for this here). Fact is that both of the wines were very different, the bad side of different in fact. Burned rubber, meaty and tinned vegetables on the nose. Terrible extraction on the palate with no delicacy or grace. A very pronounced rusticism that made us feel the wines were not quite right.

Then arrived two Campanian blokes who were to be made the stars of the tasting. It all started quite difficultly. The first wine answered to the name of “Cunto” 07 from Alois (I was later informed by Luca Dusi, the importer that it will bear a different name for the UK market, phew…). The wine was made from the unusual grape Pallagrello Nero and caught our attention for good reasons. A very subtle yet complex nose, dry herbs, minty note, light cherry frauit were all harmonious. The palate bursting with (almost sharp) acidity, youthful red fruit and an elegant spicy character. Beauty and elegance with a hint of salty minerality – reminding me that in Campania we are.

His older brother answered to the name of “Trebolanum” 04 from Alois. It was made from the Casavechia grape (more info in the Alois website here ). The nose was richer and showed quite a lot of new oak with vanilla, liquorice and soft sweet spice. The palate proved to be much more in balance. Great black fruit concentration, sweet spice and above all, again, the typical Campanian cutting through minerality. A bigger style, for heavier loving palates yet well made and left us with a strong varietal character impression.

On the white sector I was impressed by the Timorraso 04 from Morgassi Superiore. Timorasso, indigenous variety of red wineland Piedmont (excluding the much discussed Cortese…). bearing in mind that the wine is almost 5 years old I found it to be very exciting and again, on the good side of the different. A spicy and lightly oaked nose, a very delicate mushroomy note and hint of minerality. The palate also proved to be unique. Something that reminded us both of an old flat champagne. There might have been just a hint of oxidation but this was well hidden by a dried stone fruit character and a still vibrant minerality. Enjoyable and a very interesting food matching prospect.

It was a very special tasting. Not being able to mention all the wines we tried, I just did the very best. It was highly interesting to see that good varietal character comes out hand in hand with purity. This only enhanced the fact that tipicity and varietal character are amongst the most important factors determining quality of wine.

It was an exciting afternoon with flavours and smell to cherish and remember where one conclusion was made—–> Pallagrello Nero is the new Nebbiolo!

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New beginings

How important are new beginnings.

I am told that in order for something real and important to happen there should always be a breaking point. This one moment when you realize something has really changed and that nothing will ever be the same again. I honestly think this is just a whole load of crap.

Nevertheless, in order to satisfy my loyal audience I will ignore my previous statement and start the new beginning of this write ups with something big.

I was waiting for this email to come for quite a while. I’ve been quiet yet hopeful. Finally on a dull Friday afternoon, on my way to another busy Friday night, it arrived. I was kindly ask if I could help with some technicalities and participate in a tasting with no less than my (and I’m pretty sure that everyone else’s) wine guru.

I was given the task (small yet vital) to put in order and organize an intriguing tasting consisting of 60 red white rose and sweet wine from the most Spanish region of France – Roussillon.

Setting up the wines will be the part that I will not share as I don’t wish to reveal my professional secrets.

We will go straight to the wines, shall we?

Les Blancs-

These were the most diverse and seemed to represent the mood of this colour in Roussillon. Diversity being a positive and attractive quality but can it also point out a lack of style?

More than anything else it felt there is some lack of self identity here. Don’t get me wrong, some of the wines showed beautifully.

The like of Ch Cap de Fouste, Sant Galdric Muscat Sec 2008 that showed just how a simple Muscat can be so much fun. grapey wit a touch of sweetness and enough acidity to balance.

Some other unpretentious whites included the Vignerons des Côtes d’Agly Sauvignon/Vermentino 2008 an unusual blend where the sauvignon plays second best and only compliments aromatic notes to a ripe stone fruit and mineral backbone.

Still, among all the white varieties (isn’t cepage a much more attractive term?) there was one that stood out from the others; The one that felt most at home. Grenache Blanc effortlessly beat all the others. The wines felt right, different and representing this Mediterranean edge.

Cave de l’Abbé Rous, In Fine 2008, was smoky rich and complex. Despite the hint of oak ageing the wine managed to keep depth of fruit and fantastic complexity of flavours. The most authentic with an almost Catalunian scented feel to it. A big boy with graceful moves that is not ashamed of his size.

Les Rouges –

The reds were quite different; stylish and full, they were expressing some Mediterranean passion. Rich and spicy they were not ashamed to show their origins to the whole wide world. Most of the wines were good descent drinks yet as always a few stood apart.

Dom Rossignol, Bérénice 2005 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Les – This showed quite a lot of animal notes here with a very pronounced black fruit component. Not as big on the palate. Somehow, more elegant and restrained. It did benefit from the savoury element yet the fruit was much more present. There was good freshness and even a minty herbal note. Almost Rhone in style.

Another one to impress and maybe to point out the qualities for ageing was the Domaine de Vénus 2004 Côtes du Roussillon- This showed some enjoyable mature red fruit complimented by some savoury spices. The palate was concentrated and fruity. Some of it dried and mature in character yet a hint of freshness was also coming through. Good spices the like ofliquorice, leather & coffee which worked very well with the almost sweet edge that the fruit had. Slightly warm finish. A big Mediterranean chap here, yet polite and open minded.

Some of the wines did take this big and beautiful approach a bit further, which made some of the wines taste like any grape anywhere style. The majority did keep it simple. My experience tells me that less and less drinkers are interested in superstrong giants and much more appreciate charm and elegance.

My general feelings were that red wine making felt much more natural to the producers that we’ve sampled. As I’ve mentioned, the reds showed character and tipicity without the need of proving too much. A slightly more careful tannin and extraction management could result in wines that might shine some elegance behind the familiar thick Mediterranean fruit.

Whitewise again the focus on local varieties and a spicier slightly richer style will draw more attention to the wines. The old formula of cold fermentation crisp and fresh wines just doesn’t give exciting results in this part of France, they have much more to offer.

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