i4C cool climate Chardonnay conference, some highlights


If you are going to have a conference on a single white grape variety, from a drinking point of view, Chardonnay is probably the best choice. Over the weekend at the i4C we tasted and drank a lot of Chardonnay. These are some of the highlights.

Tara Atacama White Wine 1 2014 Atacama Valley, Chile
Wild yeast, unfiltered, 13% alcohol. Complex and spicy with a slightly mealy edge to the rich pear, grapefruit and lemon notes. Manages to be fresh and rich at the same time with tingling, mineral acidity and lovely weight in the mouth. Complex, vital and appealing. Serious effort. 94/100

Bachelder Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Great concentration and freshness here with textured, lively citrus fruit and a nervy, mineralic, acid core. Juicy and supple with lots of complexity and subtle apple and pear richness. 94/100


Westcott Vineyards Lenko Old Vine Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12.8% alcohol. There’s lovely freshness and detail here with juicy grapefruit, lemon and pear notes. Finely spiced and with a linear, mineral core, this has complexity and poise. Fresh and complex with lovely balance and intensity. 94/100


Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2015 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
13.6% alcohol. This has lovely freshness with some pear, grapefruit and citrus pith. Has some melony mid-palate richness. Lovely balance here. 91/100

Domaine de Montperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014 Burgundy, France
Taut and dense with a lovely pithy, mineral core to the citrus and pear fruit. Juicy and focused with nice intensity. There’s a density to this compact, linear wine that’s really appealing. 93/100


Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015 Carneros, California
Concentrated and ripe but with nice structure. Orange peel, marmalade and citrus here with a lovely herbal twist. Distinctive and bold with nice focus and acid, and a bit of tannic grip here, too. 93/100


Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvee Dix Neuvieme 2014 Niagara, Canada
Delicate nose with some lovely apple, pear and nut characters, as well as some herbs and citrus peel. The palate is very appealing with an open, slightly oxidative character. Lovely texture with nice citrus drive under the ripe appley fruit. Very appealing and textural. 94/100

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Canada
Bright and focused with sweet citrus fruit at its core. Very linear and intense with a pithy edge to the tight fruit. Currently really dense and compact, but everything is there for this to be fabulous. Lovely herb-tinged, pithy citrus notes. Great acidity and structure: needs time. 94/100

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i4C school of cool part 2, winemaking and Chardonnay


Earlier I reported on session 1 of School of Cool, part of the 2017 international cool climate Chardonnay celebration here in Niagara, Canada. Session 2 delved into winemaking decisions with Chardonnay. Winemakers on the panel discussed their winemaking choices and how these were reached, and what the effect on the wine is.

These included Adam Mariani of Scribe winery in California, who uses concrete eggs and skin contact. Then Francois Morrisette of Pearl Morrisette, who described how he uses long press cycles of 4.5 h with no sedimenting. His goal is to oxidise the must but not wine, so the must is left in the press tray to brown. It’s then blended and goes straight to fermenting vessels. In 2014, a delicate vintage, it went to foudres and spent 15 months on primary lees. And we had Norm Hardie, who emphasized the importance of juice solids. He uses no sulfur at juice stage and ferments with indigenous yeasts. He waits four or five days after pressing for the chilled juice to settle, and then slowly siphons down until he gets to the haze. Then he takes the solids until he gets to the danger zone. Norm has horizontal dairy tanks for fermenting, which is important when the solids are being used. The soilds to juice ratio is much higher and the tanks are equipped with stirrers so when the fermentation starts he can mix up the solids. With these horizontal tanks you can smell what’s going on really easily, and if it’s too reductive you can pick it up early and rack off. You can recover well if you spot it early. But he emphasized that you have to move quickly once you see it turning. And there was also Gregory Viennois from Laroche in Chablis. He emphasized that the soil is the important thing for him, and Laroche work the soils and send 35 people a day into the vineyards. In the cellar the fruit is 100% hand harvested, he sorts the grapes, and uses a small press with each block kept separate. There are small vats for natural decantation, keeping the mineral components from the skin. The wines are fermented in an old cellar with natural temperatue control.

These wines were all tasted blind, and we were asked to try to match the wine with the winemaker, using Sli.do. It was tough, but the audience performance was better than chance. These are my notes on the wines, written blind and not altered later.

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 Okanagan, Canada
Appley and nutty with nice lemon notes, good acidity and subtle oxidative notes. Lovely texture and length here. Distinctive stuff with lovely personality. 93/100

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015 Prince Edward County, Canada
Toasty, a bit nutty, nice appley notes. Lively and quite spicy with a subtle toasty edge and ripe apple and pear notes, as well as a bit of citrus. Supple and fine 92/1oo

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Canada
Powerful and intense with lovely concentration and depth. There’s some apple and spice, with lovely citrus freshness. Very lively and exotic, but also really fresh. Ripe tangerine and melon hints add interest. A complete, mouth-filling wine with lots of personality. 94/100 

Domaine Laroche Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaudevey 2014 Burgundy, France
Open and fruit-driven with lovely pear and white peach notes, as well as some citrus brightness. Subtle herbal hints, too. Nice weight and focus to this wine. 92/100

Invivo Gisborne Chardonnay 2016 New Zealand
Ripe and open with lovely dense, sweet pear and grapefruit characters with some hints of marmalade and pineapple. Ripe yet balanced with nice sweet fruit character. 90/100

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015 Carneros, California
Concentrated and ripe but with nice structure. Orange peel, marmalade and citrus here with a lovely herbal twist. Distinctive and bold with nice focus and acid, and a bit of tannic grip here, too. 93/100

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvee Dix Neuvieme 2014 Niagara, Canada
Delicate nose with some lovely apple, pear and nut characters, as well as some herbs and citrus peel. The palate is very appealing with an open, slightly oxidative character. Lovely texture with nice citrus drive under the ripe appley fruit. Very appealing and textural. 94/100 

Torres Milmanda Chardonnay 2014 Catalunya, Spain
Very appealing texture to this wine, with smooth, ripe pear and peach fruit. There’s some melony richness, with a lovely fruit core to this wine. Smooth and fine with nice purity. Fine-grained. 91/100

Ravine Reserve Chardonnay 2014 St Davids Bench, Niagara, Canada
There’s a lovely matchstick minerality to this wine. It’s very fine-grained and detailed with good acidity and lovely citrus fruit, with just a hint of pineapple richness. Lovely balance and complexity here. Quite profound. 95/100

Chamisal Chamise Chardonnay 2014 Edna Valley, California
Sweet and fruity with nice pear, white peach and citrus fruit. Generous but not overblown with good acidity. Nicely focused with a hint of spiciness on the finish. 90/100

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i4C School of Cool, part 1: the influence of soil on the flavour of Chardonnay


The opening event of the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C), School of Cool, kicked off with a session on soil.

Dr Paul Anamosa began the session talking about the impact of soil on wine flavour. What does the soil provide to the vines? What does vineyard management have to do with this?

Paul talked about what the soil provides to the vine. It contributes nutrients, water and the anchoring of the vine to the ground. There are essential macro and micro nutrients. Some are added to the soil or vine as fertilizer: nitrogen (taken up as nitrate, postly), phosphorus (phosphate ion), potassium, calcium, boron, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. Some are better applied as foliar nutrients because they if you add them to the soils, they are complexed and aren’t easily available to the vine. When it comes to other things, small molecules such as some pesticides can be taken up by the roots, but other elements – such as kaolinite, a component of clay – are too big and can’t be. Some minerals are desirable in small quantities, but not in large ones. For example, high juice potassium can be problematic, because once you are over 2000 ppm you get very high berry pH. Some rootstocks hoard potassium such as Riparia 101-14, so you don’t want these in high potassium soils. High calcium can be good, because it increases cell wall strength which makes the berry skins thicker. Low soil nitrogen reduces YAN levels and this can cause fermentation problems.

Paul didn’t really explain how different soil types affect wine flavour. He emphasized the importance of water management, which has an impact on canopy, berry size, structure of the berries, and even berry chemistry. He mentioned minerality, which is a metaphor, and he’s not keen on metaphors in describing wine. Minerality is not caused by the uptake of minerals into the berry, says Paul.

There were some questions that Paul addressed. The first was about the importance of limestone. He says that it doesn’t give up its water easily – the smaller the pore the harder it is for the water to be sucked back out by the vine. So small pore structure manages the supply of water to the vine in a steady, slow way that will affect flavour development. Most uptake by the roots is basic elements and water. It’s the horticultural effects of water management gives the most impact.

He was also asked about the effect of using herbicides. ‘We see suppression of soil microbiology with herbicides,’ he said. ‘And when you kill off weeds all the time the soil starts to lose its organic matter. Soil organic matter has a half life of around 1000 years. If you add compost 99% is gone in the second year, only 1% remains as soil organic matter. If you kill off the weeds then the organic matter depletes and the soil becomes hard and crusty.’ This lack of organic matter means that there’s no soil life. But he adds that soil microbiology still isn’t well understood.

We then had short presentations from each of a number of winemakers who were showing wines, and we tasted 10 Chardonnays blind. The idea was that we should try to match each Chardonnay with specific soil types using the Sli.do website/app. While it was interesting to taste the wines blind, it was impossible to do the matching because we just didn’t have enough information to try to match flavour and soil.

‘Is anyone else getting the sense that this is perhaps futile?’ moderator John Szabo joked as the wines were revealed and we clearly were guessing at random.

He concluded. ‘The relationship between soil and wine flavour is a complex one.’ But he pointed out that good tasters can regularly pick out wines from certain regions with different soils. ‘So we can’t throw out the idea that soil is related to wine flavour profile.’

Lightfoot and Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2014 Nova Scotia, Canada
Lively and bright with lovely mineral notes, a hint of ripe apple, some pear and nice acidity. There’s a ripe, rounded character but also lots of detail. Lovely acidity here. Rounded and fine. 93/100

Malivoire Mottiar Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
There’s a delicious stoniness here with some lemon and pear notes. There’s freshness here and a slight saltiness on the finish, with a bright, lingering citrussy finish. 91/100

Esterhazy Chardonnay 2015 Leithaberg, Austria
Rich, mealy and nutty with nice texture. Has lovely depth with some ripe white peach and pear fruit. Has a nutty, rounded, sake-like character. 90/100

Creekside Queenston Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 St David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
Sweetly fruited with white peach and melon notes with hints of wax and a savoury, mealy note. Ripe and bold with lots of fruit, but also a smooth, rounded character and a softness on the mid-palate. 89/100

Manoir de Mercey Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune ‘Clos des Dames’ 2015 Burgundy, France
Very nutty and rounded with some pear and peach fruit. Ripe and quite textured. Nice depth. Quite seamless with some refinement. 90/100

Adamo Estate Wilms Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Toasty, mineral, a bit nutty. Lovely weight of peach fruit with some smoky, matchstick minerality. Nice reduction on this wine coupled with ripe fruit. 92/100

Cremaschi Furlotti Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Loncomilla, Chile
A bit musty? Has a mushroom edge to the nutty, mineral, herby notes. Pear and apple fruit. It’s a little corked.

Bachelder Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Willamette Valley, Oregon
Very spicy and mineral with a lovely taut pear and white peach character, with a citrus core and lovely spicy minerality. 94/100

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Very rich and generous with lovely weight and intensity. Powerful and bold with white peach, toast, pear and some spicy citrus on the finish. A rich style with lots of interest. 92/100

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara, Canada
Rounded with sweet pear fruit, some ripe apple and a soft texture. Lots of fruit here, very rich but still in balance. Tasty in a ripe style. 90/100

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Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2015

quinta do noval vintage port

Quinta do Noval have lately become known for what the English wine trade describe quaintly as ‘eccentric’ declarations. They released a vintage Port in 2013, for example. Now they’ve released 2015. It’s not a surprise, because 2015 was a really good vintage, and I’m surprised more people haven’t declared it. Of course, these days there’s not as much fuss around a general declaration as there used to be, but even for the rebels like Noval, it makes a difference. If the vintage isn’t declared, there’s only so much they can release and then sell because the demand is dampened. In a widely declared year, most recently 2011, the rising tide floats all the boats and Vintage Port is much easier to sell. I’ll let Christian Seely introduce this wine:

I am delighted to announce the declaration of the Quinta do Noval 2015 Vintage Port. As is well known, a Quinta do Noval declaration cannot be categorised according to the traditional distinction between a full declaration and a single quinta declaration, for the simple reason that all our greatest wines are wines from a single quinta, the great vineyard of Quinta do Noval. Whenever we decide to declare a Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, we are clearly saying that this is a great wine that deserves to bear the Quinta do Noval label. Noval follows its own path in its approach to Vintage Port. If we believe that we have wines of the quality and personality to join the ranks of the Quinta do Noval Ports of previous years, we will bottle it and declare it, even if this means declaring several years in a row, and even if it means, as is often the case, bottling only a few hundred cases of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, representing a tiny percentage of the total production of the Quinta, in some years less than 3% of our production. In the case of the 2015 where wines of great quality were relatively abundant, the 2600 cases produced nevertheless represent just 9% of the total production of the legendary vineyard of Quinta do Noval in the heart of the Douro Valley.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2015 Douro, Portugal
19.5% alcohol. Great concentration and structure here in this young Vintage Port. There’s a wonderful floral blackcurrant jam and black cherry nose, which leads to a sweet, dense palate of blackberries, spice, cherries and plums, with a warm spiciness adding complexity and grippy tannins, currently cloaked by the sweetness and fruit intensity. Showing lovely fruit, this is a beautiful young Port that should age fabulously. Finishes warm and slightly salty. Lovely stuff. 95/100

See also: a report on a tasting of Noval ports back to 1962

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Sidecar Tinto NV Portugal: a bi-regional, amphora-aged beauty


This is a lovely wine. It’s a collaboration between Susana Esteban (who works in the Alentejo), and Filipa Pato and William Wouters (who work in Bairrada). Half of the wine comes from Portalegre in the Alentejo, and half is Baga from Bairrada. It’s made in amphora.

Susana created the Sidecar brand with a view to working with a different winemaker each year. In 2014 it was Dirk Niepoort; in 2016 Eulogio Pomades (who, like Susana, is Spanish). She explains the concept here:

To share moments, ideas and experiences with other oenologists or people connected to wines is something that I have always liked and encouraged. So, I decided to create the brand Sidecar.

Each year I will challenge a friend to produce wine in my wine cellar, in Mora.

They will decide how to interpret this region’s fantastic vineyards…. by driving the motorcycle!

For Sidecar’s second edition, I invited two friends, the winemaker Filipa Pato and the sommelier William Wouters. Quite a mix, you would think… It makes all sense though!

We decided to bring out the best field blend of indigenous grape varieties from the Serra de São Mamede, in a higher and cooler part of Alentejo and mix with an illustrious Baga grape from centennial vineyards of Atlantic influenced Bairrada.The wines were both fermented and aged in amphorae.

Sidecar Vino de Mesa NV Portugal
12.5% alcohol. This is beautifully stony and aromatic with cherries, plums and fine spiciness. Grainy texture with an appealing bitter damson edge. This has freshness and purity with a nice stony dimension to the fruit. It’s a ripe wine but it shows restraint. Supple, elegant and delicious. 94/100

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Mr Glover Wilde Vineyards Agent Field Blend 2016


I tried this with its creator, Ben Glover (previously of Accolade, now focusing on family business Zephyr and other projects), in Scotch Bar in Blenheim a few weeks ago. I’d just been speaking at a biodynamic and organic conference and I’d urged New Zealand producers to take a few more risks and make the odd ‘out there’ wine. This fits into that category, and I really enjoyed it. Ben foot trod the grapes with his kids. He found a buyer pretty quick and ended up selling all (just a couple of barrels) in one go to his Dutch importer, who loved it. More please!


Mr Glover Wilde Vineyards Agent Field Blend 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Ben’s parents’ property. Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon, with the first two whole bunch and the Sauvignon destemmed on top of this. Then it goes to stainless steel barrels. 30 days on skins. So perfumed and expressive with pear and peach fruit. Textural and broad with a lovely perfumed character and delicious sweet grapey fruit. Lovely stuff. 92/100

Two orange wines from Spain


Last night I drank two orange wines from Spain. Both different in style, but both very good. The first, a distinctive Albillo, was on the list at the brill Morito. The second was a Macabeu in a distinctive ceramic bottle, which was purchased at Furanxo, a lovely Spanish deli and bar in Dalston.

Alfredo Maestro Lovamor Albillo 2016 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Spain
This is an orange wine from the Albillo grape, 6 days on skins then on its lees for 4 months. 12.5% alcohol. Complex, rich with lively pear and apple fruit. Lovely lemony notes but the dominant theme is rich, quite exotic melon and apple fruit. Distinctive and complex. 92/100 (£45 on the list at Morito; UK agent Les Caves)


Costador Metamorphika Macabeu 2016 Conca de Barberà, Spain 
This striking wine comes in a ceramic bottle, and is a varietal Macabeu, which is also known as Viura. Slightly cloudy yellow. 6 weeks whole berry fermentation in amphora, followed by 5 months in used oak barrels. Lovely texture and freshness with subtle herbs, a hint of wax, some floral notes and lovely lemony fruit. Textural and fresh, this is really delicious. Clean and focused. 91/100 (UK agent Otros Vinos)

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Grower Champagne: Vouette & Sorbée Brut Nature Fidèle NV

vouette sorbee fidele

Champagne Vouette et Sorbée is one of the star growers in the Aube, in the south of the Champagne region. Bernard Gautherot was persuaded to begin making his own wines by Selosse back in 2001, and the first release was in 2004. Based in Buxières-sur-Arce, he has 5.5 hectares in the Côte des Bar, which are farmed biodynamically (certified by Demeter since 1998). Average vine age is over 20 years, and the soils are mostly Kimmeridgian marl. All the base wines are fermented in oak. This wine, Fidèle, is their largest production, and like all the wines is based on a single year, with less than 10% reserve wine. It’s Pinot Noir, and first of all it is a wine; it’s a Champagne second. I found this wine on the list at the brill Westerns Laundry, and really enjoyed it.

Champagne Vouette & Sorbée Brut Nature Fidèle NV France
12% alcohol. Disgorged March 2016, no dosage. This has a bit of colour, and it’s not overly fizzy, enhancing its vinous qualities. Fresh with bright citrus, red cherries and a bit of apple. Complex and vinous with nectarine and glace cherry characters, and also a hint of mineral earthiness as well as lovely intensity and weight in the mouth. Quite beautiful. 93/100

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Video: in the spectacular Mosel region with Ernie Loosen

The Mosel is one of the most remarkable wine regions of all. Here, I’m in the vineyards with Ernie Loosen, visiting the Erdener Prälat and Urziger Würzgarten, before heading back to the winery for a tasting. The steep slopes are quite terrifying.

A couple of lovely Kiwi Pinots: Ma Maison and Yealands

ma maison

Continuing my journey into the wonders of Kiwi Pinot, here are two lovely bottles recently consumed. The first was new to me. The second, Yealands, wasn’t a surprise: I always like these wines, and they are underpriced.

Ma Maison Cuvée Two Richards Pinot Noir 2014 Martinborough, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. A blend of equal parts Abel, 667 and 777 clones. This is a very rich, ripe style of Pinot with warm spicy depth to the sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. It’s complex, rich and satisfying, with some green herbal undertones adding a savoury dimension to the ripe, sweet, sleek black fruits. There are hints of olives and cured meats, too. Not a particularly elegant style of Pinot, but delicious and full. 92/100

yea lands

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. Made in large cuves (6000 litres and 7500 litres) and small oak (no new). 30% fermented with cultured non-Saccharomyces yeast Kluyveromyces (half with four times the standard inoculation rate and half with normal inoculation rate plus an S. cerevisiae chaser after 48 h), and the rest with S. cerevisiae. This is silky and textural with sweet, floral black cherry fruit. There’s a bit of smoky spiciness on the palate, with a bitter damson twist and nice sweet, sleek black fruits. Shows nice definition. Sweet and textural but with some complexity. Pretty serious stuff. 93/100

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