jamie goode's wine blog

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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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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Monday, November 24, 2008

I love Italian wine - a biodynamic Tuscan

It's been a busy day. After seven months of just wine, I've taken on a science gig, producing a report from a two day conference on evaluating medical research. Feels a bit strange to be back in the world of science, but I figure it is important to keep up with it, seeing as wine science has been such an important (and modestly lucrative) field for me. A change of scenery helps keep you fresh.

Tonight's wine is a really lovely, supple Italian red. Apparently, the Wine Spectator awarded this 82/100. Whoever the reviewer is, I reckon they don't really understand wine. It's fantastic stuff. What it isn't, is rich, ripe, sweet and alcoholic.

Tenuta di Vagliano Palistorti 2005 Colline Luccesi, Tuscany
I really like this fresh, supple, fruit-driven yet fresh red from the little known Colline Luccesi in Tuscany. The vineyards this wine came from have been farmed organically since 1997 and biodynamically since 2002. They have limestone and sandstone soils, and are in the hills 10 km north of the northern Tuscan town of Lucca. This is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 10% Syrah, and it shows a bright, fresh nose of spicy-edged, rather pure black cherry and raspberry fruit, with nice freshness. The palate is fresh and supple with just a hint of greenness under the bright cherry and berry fruit, and a nicely savoury, spicy kick. This is a beautifully food friendly red of real appeal, with potential for further development. In style, it's modern and fruity, but with lovely savoury seriousness, too. 13% alcohol and really easy to drink, but if you want an oaky, rich, new world style red then this is not for you. 91/100 (16.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)

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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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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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Monday, June 09, 2008

One day, two remarkable tastings

Two amazing tastings today. Feel a bit spoiled, I guess.

Zubair Mohamed of Raeburn kindly invited me to a lunch featuring the wines of Gianfranco Soldera, who makes Brunello's most sought-after wines (he's the UK agent). Quite a nice coincidence seeing as I was in Montalcino only last week. The tasting was held in the private room at The Square, and we were ten in all: three wine writers (Neil Beckett, Stephen Brook and myself), two restarateurs (Nigel Platts Martin, owner of The Square and The Ledbury, and Ossie Gray of River Cafe), and the balance sommeliers.

This was my first experience of Soldera's wines, and they were mindblowingly good. Really complex: made in a traditional style with a long elevage. What a treat. The food at The Square was brilliant, too. It really is one of London's very best restaurants.

Then, after a couple of hours to recover some strength, I was off to the Caledonian Club in Halkin Street (off Belgrave Square - embassy territory) for a Domaine Leflaive masterclass, with Anne-Claude Leflaive, hosted by Corney & Barrow. How often do you get to try perhaps Italy's best red wines (OK, I may upset some Barolo fans by saying this...), followed by wines from what may be the world's greatest white wine domaine (I've just upset some Germans here)? The 2003s disappointed, if I'm honest, but the 2004s are thrillingly good, with a hint of reduction and high acidity: they'll outlive me, I suspect. And the 1996 Chevalier Montrachet and 1997 Pucelles were fabulous. Full notes to follow on both events.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

I love Italy

Back from Italy. We were only there a few days, but once again I've come away with a restless sort of feeling - I must explore Italy more deeply, and I must not be so neglectful of Italian wines.

I don't know why, but here in the UK there's a widespread ignorance and lack of interest in Italian wine. France gets the lion's share of coverage, but then countries such as Spain, Portugal and the 'new world' nations seem to be in front of Italy when it comes to the attention paid to their wines by the press and the serious wine drinking public.

Personally, I reckon Italy is full of interest, although - as with other wine countries - you've got to put a lot of hard work in finding the really great wines from among the dross. And I'd also say that many of the more expensive wines that hog the limelight aren't the real stars: there's a lot of spoofiness in Italy - the success of certain famous wine consultants making wines in a particular style is evidence of this.

So one of my missions over the next few months is to search for the 'real' Italy.

Pictured is the place Fiona and I were staying in: Poggio Alla Sala. Verdict? It would have scored 10/10 - it's a new, serious high-end hotel with impeccable service, luxurious high-ceilinged rooms, three swimming pools, a spa and a gorgeous hilltop location amid the vines of the Vino Nobile estate of the same name. The standard of finishing is stunning. However, it is still a work in progress, and while the main part of the resort is complete, there was some building work still going on. So, for this reason, we'd have to dock a point or two.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dinner at La Frateria di Padre Eligio

Had a remarkable dinner last night. Filippo Mangani, who does some work with Les Caves in Italy, recommended a few places to us, and one of them was La Frateria di Padre Eligio, quite near where we are staying. So without knowing much about it, we booked, found our way there, and entered with very few expectations.

It's a remarkable place. The restaurant is part of a project called Mondo X, and it is a community set in a restored 13th Century Franciscan convent staffed and run by ex-drug addicts (see http://www.lafrateria.it/). But rather than just be a humble, rustic eating place, it's actually a high-end, multiple-Michelin-star level restaurant in an idyllic setting. The menu is hand written, and there's no choice. We ended up being presented with eight courses (if you include a large selection of antipasti to start with), all hugely creative and perfectly executed. The wine list was excellent and extensive, but we modestly ordered just a solitary bottle (in addition to the complementary bottle of Prosecco) - a Schiopetto Pinot Bianco 05 from Collio.

The service was amazing: attentive, perfectly judged and not at all self-conscious or fawning. The food was memorable, if slightly excessive - these were not small courses. The bill was high, but fitting for this sort of establishment (253 Euros). I felt hideously underdressed in a T-shirt and sandals, but they didn't make me feel bad about it. Clientele was mixed: the restaurant was full, with about 25 covers. One Italian table, two American (there seem to be lots of Americans in high-end places in Tuscany, and few Brits), one mixed (businessmen) and one indeterminate.

Journey back was tricky (I got lost at one point and found myself driving through tiny medeival streets, and then we passed police and ambulances next to a car that had left the road in the torrential rain). This morning we are off to Montalcino.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Montepulciano

Had lunch in Montepulciano, a charming hilltop village. We ate at Caffe Poliziano, where the food was fantastic, and the view from the scenic terrace table was stunning. This afternoon we swam, and now we're off to find some dinner. Sorry for the brevity of the post, but time is short!


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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Frescobaldi, Albarino and a glance backwards

Spent the morning catching up with paperwork, doing some much-needed invoicing, before dodging the showers heading into town. I then headed for a 'Green Spain' tasting, featuring the wines of Northwest Spain - lots of Albarinos, and they were really impressive. The tasting itself was just perfect in a practical sense, too, with self-pour, plenty of space, lots of spitoons, an ideal room and not too many tasters.

Then I was off to the Italian Embassy to interview Leonardo Frescobaldi, of the Tuscan wine dynasty (pictured). Things were running a bit late, and so my interview was a little hurried, but it was still worthwhile. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the tutored vertical tasting of Luce. That's life.

One of the things I'd like to focus on over the next 12-18 months is deepening my knowledge of Italian wine. Italy makes so many different wines, but in the UK we're so France-centric that they don't get their due. Of course, Italy is frighteningly inconsistent, but which old world wine-producing countries aren't? And, in general, Italy - like Spain - is badly covered by the media.

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