jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Italian wines with the Manchester derby

Football talk, I'm afraid. It's half-time in the Manchester derby game. City started off badly, went 1-0 down. The prize? A place in a cup final, City's first since 1981, although this semi is over two legs.

Then City equalize from a slightly soft penalty. In a sign of respect to Mancini (the city manager), I'm drinking Italian.

Chianti Rufina Riserva 2004 from Villa di Vetrice (BBR) is nicely bitter, lively, plummy, earthy and has a hint of animal. Satisfying and a bit rustic. Nigel de Jong.

Banfi Rossi di Montalcino 2007 is more refined, less edgy and has some satisfying spicy, earthy notes with a bit of tannic grip. Solid, dependable but lacks any real excitement. A good squad member who'll do a job. Pablo Zabaleta. Better than many Banfi reds I've had of late, and this one will be in the Bibendum sale that starts in February.

The commentary team are hopelessly pro-United. City outplayed United for large periods of the first half. Shearer's the only one who realized that. The BBC football punditry is just so rubbish these days.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

One of my favourite Chiantis...yum!

Podere Le Boncie Chianti Classico Le Trame 06 Tuscany, Italy
Just wonderful stuff, this naturally made Chianti from organically farmed vineyards. It shows almost perfect balance, countering the spicy, earthy, slightly medicinal savoury notes with vivid, bloody dark cherry and plum fruit. There's just a hint of fleshiness to the fruit, but currently the firm, savoury, spicy structure is the key theme, with fresh acidity keeping everything lively. It's a brilliant example of traditional, structured, yet balanced Chianti that should age brilliantly for a decade or two. I love the style. 93/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Video: making Vin Santo

Vin Santo is a sweet wine from Tuscany that's made by picking grapes and then drying them for a while to concentrated the sweetness and acidity. These are then fermented and aged in small barrels, sealed with wax. Here's a short film made during my Chianti Classico trip of Vin Santo production at Castello della Paneretta:

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Video: picking Sangiovese

I've been thinking quite a bit about Sangiovese of late. It's a difficult-yet-interesting grape variety, and I've been dwelling on its merits as I've been preparing to write up (at last) my Chianti Classico trip, and also an amazing tasting from last year of Soldera's remarkable Brunellos.

Here's a short video taken during the harvest at Paneretta, one of the producers I visited. The grapes look to be in perfect hygeinic condition, and the berries going to tank look perfect. But 2008 was quite a tricky harvest in this part of the world.

My view on Sangiovese? Difficult grape, but capable of greatness. Tuscany seems to be a special place to grow it. No cellar should be without serious expressions of Sangiovese.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Continuing yesterday's theme of Chianti Classico, this is a paradox of a wine from Chianti producer Fattoria Le Fonti. It's an IGT Toscana Sangiovese weighing in at 14.5% alcohol from a 2 hectare single vineyard. It's sweetly fruited, lush and ripe (in a modern style), yet also shows a hint of volatility, as well as some earthy, spicy notes (more traditional). The overall effect is pleasing and complex, but it's not an easy wine to come to terms with.

Fattoria Le Fonti Vito Arturo Sangiovese 2004 IGT Toscano, Italy
This single vineyard wine is complex and alluring, bringing together modernity and tradition in the same bottle. With a slightly lifted, volatile edge, the nose is lush with ripe, sweet, liqueur-like dark cherry and blackberry fruits combining with spicy, minerally, earthy notes. The palate shows ripe, sweet fruit together with that trademark Sangiovese rasp of earthy, spicy structure and grippy tannins alongside some bitter plum notes. Finishes long and savoury with notes of chocolate and tar. A really complex, interesting example of late-picked, ripe Sangiovese. 92/100 (£22.99 Cadman Fine Wines)

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Rick Astley's Chianti

One of the estates I visited on my recent jaunt in Chianti country was Castello di Brolio, Barone Ricasoli's imposing property strategically placed on the border between the ancient city states of Florence and Siena. (The bomb-scarred Castello is pictured.)

Ricasoli (pronounced 'Rick Astley' with a soft-ish 't') is a modern-style producer. The current Barone's father sold the property to Seagram, who took the brand down-market and expanded production, and then the Barone bought it back and has spent time and money revitalizing the brand by taking it up-market, dropping production dramatically. This is quite a modern styled Chianti Classico, but it still has bags of personality and Sangiovese character. A really good drink that's given me some pleasure when drunk over the last two evenings.

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2006 Tuscany, Italy
Dark coloured, this has a lovely vibrant nose of dark cherries and bitter plum, with some spicy notes. The palate has fresh spicy, plummy fruit with some attractive bitter notes as well as firm tannins. It's fruit driven and quite modern, but distinctly spicy and savoury with real Sangiovese character. 90/100 (£13 in the UK, agent Enotria)
Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Video: harvest at Fontodi, Chianti Classico

A short film from my recent Tuscan excursion. I'm experimenting with Vimeo rather then Youtube as the hosting site. I'm not too happy with the quality on Youtube, so we'll see whether this is an improvement.

Harvesting Sangiovese at Fontodi, Chianti Classico from Jamie Goode on Vimeo.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

More Italy, and mind-blowing Madeira

Went to Raymond Reynolds portfolio tasting today, in a rather crowded and warm upstairs room in a pub. Raymond's company is responsible for importing the vast majority of decent Portuguese wine into the UK, and so I follow what they do pretty closely, because I love Portuguse wine.

Lots of good wines, but the highlight was a reasonable sampling of the offerings of Madeira's top producer, Barbeito. These wines were mind-blowingly beautiful, and I wish I could have had more time just to sit down and appreciate them, rather than taking somewhat hurried notes.

Veramar Boal Reserve
Dense, sweet and expressive with bright citrussy notes. Rich and full bodied. 89/100

'VB' Verdelho-Boal Lote 1
Complex spicy nose is sweet and full with a lively citrussy, tangerine-like edge. The fresh lemony palate is lively and complex. 93/100

Boal 10 Years Old Reserve
Waxy, complex nose is thrilling, nutty and expressive. The palate is just beautiful, with bright orange and citrus fruits, together with dried fruits, and some sweetness. 94/100

Malvasia 10 Years Old Reserve
Malvasia is often referred to as Malmsey in Madeira. This is sweet, fresh and complex with some nutty notes. Bright. 91/100

Sercial 10 Years Old Reserve
Complex, pungent, herby, citrussy, nutty nose. The palate is fresh, bright and tangy with some citrussy fruit. 93/100

Malvasia 20 Years Old Reserve Lote 7199
Deep, complex, intense nose leads to a super-concentrated, limey, spicy, broad palate with sweetness and acid in lovely tension. 93/100

Malvasia Special Reserve 30 Year Old
Deep orange colour. Madly complex nose is really thrilling, with orange, lemons, nuts and spice. The off-dry palate is viscous and super-concentrated with complex spice and citrus characters. Eternal finish. 95/100

Single Harvest 1997
Complex, herby, fresh, dense and lively. Delicious. 92/100

Malvasia Colheita 1994 Single Cask 232c
Very rich, intense and concentrated, with raisin, casky notes, herbs and citrus. Broad and quite sweet. 93/100

Boal 1982 Fransqueira
Complex nose showing old furniture, spice, nuts and herbs. Viscous, broad palate wit a nice citrussy finish. Thrillingly bright and expressive with a crazy long finish. 95/100

Tonight I've been calibrating my Tuscan experience by actually drinking one of the wines I'd tasted on my visits. It's Felsina's 2006 Berardenga Chianti Classico, and from a half bottle, this is beautifully dense yet expressive. 100% Sangiovese, and a full flavoured, structured, yet still-pure expression of what this grape can achieve when well handled. I gave it 91/100 on my visit, and I'd stick there with this rating at home, although I have a few concerns that tonight's bottle may have experienced heat damage in Pisa airport's shop. UK suggested retail is £17.49, but I've seen the 2005 for as low as £13.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

More from Chianti

Mainly pictures. It's late. Punchdown at Ricasoli (which sounds like 'Rick Astley' with a soft 't'), harvest at Bebbiano, traditional botti at Podere Palazzino, harvested grapes at Collelungo.

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In Tuscany, part 2

Sorry about the radio silence, but I have been on a tight schedule here in Chianti Classico country, and the hotel internet connection wasn't working last night. So now I'm taking a break in an internet cafe in Italy in a small gap in the program, before dinner and tasting tonight.

I didn't realise before that in Italy, because of terrorism laws, you can't use an internet cafe or the hotel internet connection without a passport, identity card or driving licence, which they then photograph and send to the officials. It seems kind of weird and control-freaky.

It has been a jolly press trip so far. I'm with Tom Cannavan, Simon Woods, Jane Parkinson, Sally Easton, Andrew Catchpole and Christine Austin, and it has been good humoured and easy going. We have started at 0815 each morning and not finished until 2330 each night, but it is just for three days. You get to know people reasonably well when you do a trip like this with them. So far no conflicts or falling-outs to speak of.

Being here during the vintage has been great. There's something special about seeing grapes being picked and then made into wine that doesn't lose its magic, even if you have seen it happen before. The grapes look just perfect, but most winemakers aren't expecting 2008 to be a particularly good year because of the poor weather in May and June, followed by extreme heat in July and early August.

What about the wines? They have varied quite a bit. Some have been ethereal, complex and thrilling, while others have been a bit rustic, or forced, or too modern. It is hard to pin down exactly what Chianti Classico is. One thing is clear: nowhere else apart from Tuscany manages to make compelling Sangiovese.

I won't be more specific now because I want to keep my powder dry for the proper write-up. I do have some wonderful photographs and videos, though.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Chianti, day 2: harvest at Fontodi

Spent the day in Chianti Classico, with a presentation by the Constorzio in the morning, followed by visits to producers. The highlight was catching the vintage in action at Fontodi, and then tasting the wines, which were simply fantastic. Sangiovese rocks (when it's handled well, anyway). Here are some pictures. Now it's very late, I have an early start, and I have to get to bed.

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In Chianti

Brief post from the road. In Chianti country for the next few days, with a bunch of other wine writers on a press trip. Haven't done much yet apart from enjoy a nice dinner last night. It's the middle of harvest here, so should be quite an interesting trip. More later!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Sangiovese, including a Chilean

Two more Sangioveses opened this evening, in service to my readers - and prompted by my recently roused curiosity about this variety.

Errazuriz Estate Sangiovese 2005 Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Does Sangiovese travel? Not very well in my limited experience, and this wine is frankly disappointing. Immediately there's this distinctively Chilean nose: sweet pastille red/black fruit with a slightly rubbery, green herby edge. It's hard to pick up any varietal character. The palate similarly shouts 'Chile' rather than 'Sangiovese', although if you can see through this masking character, then you get some fresh, spicy red fruit and a bit of earthiness that does have a slightly Italian feel to it. It fails to excite and I don't really enjoy drinking it. I was going to say, 'it's not a bad wine', as a qualifier, but I fear that it is. 76/100

Piccini Selezione Oro Chianti Riserva 2004 Italy
(£7.99 Tesco, though from 12/09 until 9/10 it will be at £4.99)
Nicely bottled with a rather snazzy gold label, this is a well balanced, light-ish, easy-drinking style of Chianti. There's a modest sort of nose here: some sweet, slightly earthy/spicy fruit emerges after a bit of coaxing. On the palate there's a nice balance between the approachable plummy, red berry and cherry fruit and the earthy spiciness - overall, the impression is one of savouriness. This isn't a wine that will blow you away, but at the offer price it's a very respectable companion for a weeknight evening meal that offers great value for money. It's incredibly easy to drink, and every few sips you get a hint of seriousness. 85/100

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So Sangiovese does rock, after all?

Further to my comments on the Querciabella yesterday, some more thoughts on Sangiovese.

You know, I think Sangiovese is a grape that falls into the Serious rather than the Non-Serious category, despite what I may have said in the past. It's just that, for one reason or another, it frequently underperforms. Thinking out loud, it seems that even those grapes which are mostly Non-Serious, like Merlot, do have their moments (anyone for Petrus?), and when they do perform they can be stellar. But, generally, it's good advice to pass when offered a Merlot.

So I search my rack for more Sangiovese. I come up with the following:

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2003
(£9.99 Majestic)
Now I'm going to give Banfi the benefit of the doubt here, and put this wine's relative underperformance down to the dodgy 2003 vintage. Now this is a perfectly adequate Chianti, showing a muted, rather earthy nose which leads to a savoury, balanced palate with a bit of plummy fruit, some spice and a rather earthy, tannic finish. But it doesn't excite or thrill. It lacks something, but I can't quite put my finger on what this something is. 86/100

So I return to the Querciabella Chiantic Classico 2004. You know, I may have underrated this wine last night, even though I enjoyed it a good deal. It has so many different dimensions: acidity, tannin, fruit, spice, aromas, savouriness, length, bitterness. It's really alive. On tonight's showing, after being open for 24 h, I'd rate this as 92/100, with some upside potential.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Chianti and Aglianico

Two Italian wines tonight. With some spaghetti. How cliched.

First, a Chianti. I've been a little tough on Chianti here on this blog in recent months. This is one I like, though. And it has the most amazing, high-quality long cork, just like they used to use in the old days (pictured).

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2004
Quite deep coloured, this has an arresting nose of savoury, quite minerally/gravelly dark fruits, with subtle earthiness and a fair dollop of refinement. The palate is distinctively savoury, combining a plummy bitterness that is so typical of many Italian wines with Claret-like weight and poise. This is a serious effort that isn't taking the short-cut of concentration, over-ripeness and new oak that some Tuscan wines opt for, but instead retains authenticity and adds to this refinement. I like it. 90/100 (£13.99 Waitrose)

Second, an Aglianico - nicely packaged, and good enough without being terribly exciting (like so many of today's wines, I guess).

Cantine Sasso Aglianico del Vulture 2005
Great label design, with a vivid bright red synthetic cork to match. Deep coloured this has a distinctive, rather baked oxidative edge to the spicy, earthy red fruit nose. The palate has an earthy, herby, rather evolved character that's quite savoury, but which lacks freshness and fruit. This would work well with hearty, full flavoured food, but on its own it tastes a bit tired. 82/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Confusing Chianti

One of the wine regions I can't get my head round is Chianti. I've had so many disappointments here, and so few memorable wines, that it's made me question whether there's much merit to Sangiovese at all. But in theory I'm still hoping; still believing; still trusting - surely Chianti is capable of greatness.

Tonight's wine leaves me confused once again. There are bits about it I really like, but then bits that put me off. The package as a whole doesn't quite convince, but then when I prepare myself to dismiss it, I take another sip and suddenly I think it's serious again.

Fattoria Selvapiana 'Vigneto Bucerchiale' 2003 Chianti Rufina Riserva
A perplexing wine. It's quite deeply coloured, with a nose of sweet, lush red and black fruits with a compelling spicy complexity and a hint of tar. The palate is alcoholic and sweet, but this is offset nicely by a lovely savoury, spicy structure, that persists through the finish with some mouth-drying tannins. There's a hint of oak, too. I love the spicy complexity, and the structure suggests this could be one for the cellar, but I'm slightly worried by the sweetness of the fruit and the 14.5% alcohol. It's not at ease with itself at the moment, but I reckon cellar time might cure that. 89/100 (£18 Marks & Spencer)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Torres and Tuscany

Had a tasting, lunch and lots of tecchie chat with Mireia Torres, daughter of Miguel and technical director for all Torres' wines. We began by tasting all the Torres Chilean wines, and then lunched at La Trompette in Chiswick, which performed very well, getting my two dishes just right. I'm quite a fan of the Torres wines: their strength is that they do commercial winemaking very, very well, and their higher end wines aren't bad either. As an example, with lunch we had Grans Muralles 1998, and it was singing: evolved but still very fresh, bright and focused. And their two top Chilean wines - the spicy Carignan-dominated Cordilleira 2005 and the lush Conde de Superunda 2000 with Tempranillo, Cabernet, Mourvedre and Carmenere - rank among the very best that Chile has to offer. I also like the Marimar Torres wines from California.

Switching from Torres to Tuscany, I'm drinking a wine I can't make my mind up about, but which I think I like.
Villa Cafaggio San Martino 2001 IGT Toscana
This is a wine I'm enjoying quite a bit, but which leaves me unsure about whether it's truly serious or not. It's a wine made from different clones of Sangiovese in Chianti (so why is it an IGT Toscana?), aged in new small oak barrels. Weighing in at 14% alcohol this is quite deep coloured. It has a fresh, bright nose that's more red fruit than black, with some lifted spice complementing the tight fruit. The palate is mouthfilling, tannic and quite extracted, dominating by bright red fruits with a vivid spicy, grippy character that leaves the mouth feeling quite dry. There's certainly a lot going on here: I really like the freshness of fruit, I appreciate the savouriness, but I struggle a bit with the rather agressive spiciness, some of which I suspect has its origin in the new oak. Is this wine overextracted and lacking in elegance? Will the dry tannins outlive the fruit? Or is it a serious wine caught early in its youth? I like the fact that it's not soupy and overripe, so I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Very good/excellent 93/100 (c. £23 Waitrose, D Byrne, Sandhams, Upton on Severn Wines, Satchells, Wine Times, Wright Wine)

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

walking the dog, drinking Chianti

It has been a weekend of walks. Mostly dog-driven activity. On Saturday morning a quick jaunt through local Hanworth Park, and then in the afternoon a lengthy romp through Windsor Great Park (including a winter picnic of hot soup and bread), where Rosie jumped into the water for the first time. Then today another early morning Hanworth Park visit, followed by a longer walk in Richmond Park in the afternoon. While winter has a beauty all of its own, I'm really looking forward to spring and summer, when all this outdoor activity will be much more inviting.

I said some slightly mean things about Chianti a week or two ago - and one reader disagreed enough to send me an upset e-mail. So in a spirit of fairness and reconciliation, I'm going to persevere and add data points by drinking more Chianti. A bottle I enjoyed a lot more than the previous few is the Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2004. It's dense and spicy, with a very Italian cedary, almost medicinal streak under the concentrated red and black fruits. It isn't terribly refined, but there's some gutsy presence that I enjoy. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's rustic - but its intense savoury character makes it a useful food wine. It's not cheap at £17.99 (Swig, Noel Young, Harrods, The Wine Society), but it is an accomplished wine, and I'd give it 91/100 if you want a score. This is a wine that shows that my two categories classification of Chianti (dilute and sappy or spoofy and oaky) is actually wrong. This is recognizably Chianti, but it has plenty of richness and concentration. Could age very well, too.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Three Chiantis

Three Chiantis last night. I dunno about you, but Iíve never really got into Chianti. Most of them tend to fall into one of two camps: either basic, honest, dark cherry fruited examples with a bit of plummy bitterness and a savoury streak, or souped-up, rather oaky Chiantis with the foot full down on the throttle. Iím not terribly keen on either.

These three were nice enough wines, but considering their price tags, disappointed a bit. I liked the fact that they were savoury, with good acidity, but I came away a little underwhelmed: there wasnít quite enough to grab the attention. Of course, itís too small a sample to draw any conclusions from, and it needs to be borne in mind that both 2002 and 2003 were problematic vintages here.

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico 2003
Ripe, sweet cherry fruit nose with some spicy 'old cask' and mineral/tar notes. The palate is midweight with a tarry, tannic, subtly herbal edge to the cherry and red fruits. A drinkable food wine, but perhaps a little dilute to be really good. Sappy and savoury, I guess. Very good+ 87/100 (£10.95 Flying Corkscrew)

Casaloste Chianti Classico 2004
Sweet dark cherry fruit nose with a savoury twist and some tarry minerality. Slightly roasted. The palate is a little sappy with midweight fresh cherryish fruit. Nice acidity gives it a savoury, food friendly personality. Juicy but perhaps a little lacking in concentration considering the price tag. Very good+ 88/100 (£14.95 Jeroboams)

Cecchi Monteguelfo Chianti Classico Riserva 2002
Light colour. Evolved earthy nose leads to a soft, savoury palate with an earthy character and a drying finish. Drinkable and not without some charm, but disappointing. Very good 82/100 (£9.99 Thresher, Wine Rack)

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