Friday, 20 May 2011

Return of the Soave

Although not in the same league as Pieropan's La Rocca, this is another really god wine from Soave. If anyone ever needed proof that the Garganega grape can rival Chardonnay for richness and Sauvignon for crispness, this is it.

The Coffeles have 25 hectares of vineyard in Soave. Made entirely from Garganega, the Soave Classico is the entry level wine to an impressive and diverse range.

Soave Classico, Coffele, 2009

Appearance: light & golden with  a green hue

Nose: clear with minerals & wild herbs

Palette: clean and crisp with some underlying honey richness and apricots. More mineral on the finish, which isn't particularly noteworthy.

Conclusion: a good wine with all the right flavours but a little two dimensional. 2.5* 6/10

Monday, 9 May 2011

An Italian discovery

Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOC is hard to find. It doesn't exist in most wine books, even the indispensable Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book 2010 draws a blank. The little known appellation is in the Marche, the central coastal region of eastern Italy. Falerio dei Colli Ascolani is a DOC for white wines made from a traditional blend of Trebbiano, Passerina, and Pecorino (the grape variety, not the cheese!). 

The producer, Saladini Pilastri, was the first winery in the Piceno area to achieve the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award from Italy's wine bible the Gambero Rosso. The winemaking is overseen by celebrated enologist Alberto Antonini and the vineyards are clasified as organic since they are kept without the use of chemical fertilizers. While the wines are not amongst Italy's most well known, they are well regarded. Wine Advocate raves about the wines of Saladini Pilastri, which regularly receive scores of 90 and above.

I didn't make a tasting note but it was an interesting wine with a richer palette than other Italian varietals and pleasant minerality: 2* 6/10. It turns out that the same wine was stocked by Berry Brothers who noted the following:
Falerio is the appellation, a little known enclave of The Marche, in the centre of Italy. The producer, Saladini Pilastri, has been making organic wine since 1995 and this example, which includes the rare grape varieties of Passerina and Pecorino, is delightfully lemon oil and fennel-scented, and is crisp, dry, intriguing and compelling.
Finally, not only do Saladini Pilastri make excellent wines, they are also not bad with a camera. The website has some great photos, perfect for vinuous escapism...
The vineyards
The surrounding area
The Colli Ascolani

The clock tower in Spinetoli

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A lust for Meerlust

The Meerlust Estate
With the Bordeaux 2010 en primeur campaign about to kick off, hot on the heels of the much-hyped and expensive 2009 vintage, it looks tempting to snap up a few bargains in what is rumoured to be as good a vintage as the previous one. However, after the price rises for 2009, a bottle of cru classe claret starts at circa £25 per bottle and at these prices consumers would be forgiven for looking elsewhere for a cheaper alternative. Can an entry-level wine from the New World and costing less than half as much offer a decent substitute?

Meerlust is one of South Africa's oldest, most reputable wine producers, renowned for its top wine, a Bordeaux blend called Rubicon. Having been established in 1693, Meerlust certainly has the heritage of the top Bordeaux chateaux. It has been owned by the Myburgh family since 1756 and Hannes Myburgh is the 8th generation of Myburghs to own Meerlust. It has even got a chateau,  a fine old manor house on the estate near Stellenbosch. When it comes to finding a claret substitute, Meerlust ticks all the right superficial boxes.

Meerlust Red is the entry level wine selected from a combination of the younger Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabenet Franc and Merlot vines destined for the flagship wine, Rubicon.  Meerlust even suggest that it can be aged for up to 12 years. How many of those Bordeaux garagiste bombshells will age that long?! And, at £10 a bottle this is not only amazing value but it is also a serious contender for a claret alternative with a very Old World pedigree and taste.

Meerlust Red, Stellenbosch, 2008

Appearance: scarlet rim with a claret translucency

Nose: initially, very merlot with lots of 'green peppercorns', then plenty of cabernet franc aromas and mocha with a hint of mint.

Palette: perfect balance, very Old World with a cabernet franc bias as well as creamy cab sauv blackcurrant & mocha with well integrated oak and lovely juicy acidity and tannin. A medium finish but a point now.

Conclusion: if I had tasted this blind I would easily take this for a cru classe claret. A luscious red wine that is both classy and moreish. 3* 7.5/ 10

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The perils of the modern wine writer

Origin of the Gout, Henry William Bunbury, 1815
How does the modern day wine writer quench the multimedia's thirst for frequent tasting notes and oenological insights whilst observing medical guidelines regarding alcohol intake? As a regular reader of the vinous press and wine blogs, it has often struck me that, in order to publish such an enormous amount material on a constant basis, wine journalists must have strong livers and hollow legs.

Now, of course, I realise that at most wine tastings the professional wine hack makes use of the spitoons, but what of the sheer number of wines tasted? Are gout, a ruddy complexion, having a liver that looks like foie gras and a constant hangover the inevitable side effects of a successful career in the wine media? The only conclusion I can draw is that the venerable Michael Broadbent, with a career in the wine trade spanning decades, must have the constitution of an ox to have lasted this long and keep going!