Stefano d’Onghia new restaurant


I wrote glowingly about Osteria A’ Cr’janz in this post in 2012: http://oleudsenwineblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/radici-del-sud-2012-impressions-and-results/ Great place, great evening, fantastic food.

The chef (and co-owner) at A’ Cr’janz was Stefano d’Onghia, who has since become a friend. This year Stefano left A’ Cr’janz to start on his own with his wife. It has taken him a while to get started, but he has finally done it. The new place is called Botteghe Antiche, and is to be found at Piazza Plebiscito 8, Putignano, tel. +39 334 791 5705. There is no web site yet (we should probably be grateful that they have concentrated on getting the place up and running and the food just right), but there is a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Botteghe-Antiche/264209213758654?fref=nf.

Stefano is a great chef, so probably no need to wish him and his wife good luck, but I’ll do it anyway: In bocca al lupo, Stefano!

Count on the food being great, probably even greater than before due to less limiting kitchen circumstances, and on the atmosphere being warm, friendly and accommodating. The whole world should flock to this place. I know I will be there.

Yours truly
Ole

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Does Biodynamics need to explain itself?


Read this blog post: http://www.themorningclaret.com/2014/seresin-biodynamics/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheMorningClaret+%28The+Morning+Claret%29&utm_content=FaceBook

According to Woolf, there is no such need. Biodynamics, like homoeopathy and the placebo effect – or indeed like religion – should be free from having to explain itself.

I have to say I heartily disagree with Woolf here. We actually don’t know if biodynamics “works” except on the personal experience level, which as any reasonable person will admit is fallible at best. There can be little doubt, if you ask me, that biodynamics does not “work” for the reasons given by biodynamicists. Just read Nicolas Joly’s completely garbled, utterly nonsensical book on the subject if you need convincing.

If indeed biodynamics does “work”, there must be other reasons why it works than those given by biodynamicists. Examples could include increased care for the vineyard, the focus on returning nutrients to the soil, and – for me an important point given what we know about how vine roots cannot extract nutrients from the soil without the help of bacteria (and funghi) – the focus on healthy bacterial populations in the soil.

However, if we do not study what it actually is that “works”, it is all of little use in terms of improving viticulture everywhere and will remain a niche occupation for nutters and kooks (and in consumption terms merely a big-city preoccupation on the part of hipsters). Now, if biodynamics is such a boon, would we not want for it to become much more widespread, and for us to actually understand what goes on (if anything)?

I am here ignoring the global discussion on the sustainability of organic and biodynamic practices in terms of reduced yields etc., and whether we can then feed our growing population. An important discussion, but not in terms of wine quality.

Yours truly
Ole

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The Good Life


The week-end of 12 to 15 September 2014 was one to remember, with tremendous impact on all senses.

My family and I began it by attending the Pharrell Williams concert at Forum in Copenhagen on Friday night. Great concert, starting with a bang and ending on a high note, with little let-up in between. Visceral impact from the speaker system, music to seriously get the rhythm sense going and PW in finest form, happy (!), inspirational, full-on funky yet elegant, balanced, delicate. In fact, much like great wine. We left elated. The rare class of artist that PW belongs to has shamanic powers, a knack for bringing people together and making them swing to the same rhythm, the same message, the same elusive glimpse of a better world for all.

The next day featured one of the recurring wine dinners I have with old wino friends, this time at my own house. More on that below. And, as if just to extend the week-end’s positive vibe, I attended a lovely, interesting tasting of Croatian wines on the Monday, care of my friend Marie von Ahm; more on that in a later post.

The menu for the wine dinner on the Saturday, care of yours truly:

Starters
– ”Dirty eggs” my way – soft-boiled quail’s eggs, crispy potato crumbs, saffron mayo, trout roe, tarragon and chervil
– Beetroot crisps, fresh goat’s cheese, black pepper, chives
– Tuna tartare, angelica liqueur, spruce oil, ginger

First courses
– Caramelized cauliflower, mussel ragout, emulsion of Skyr (low-fat acidified milk) and buttermilk, dill oil
– Panfried cod loin, zucchini alla poverella, fried fava beans, cheese emulsion, mint
– Chicken liver mousse, aubergine two ways (moutabbal/baba ghanouj and fried in batter), coriander oil
– Mushroom rye-otto, pan-fried veal sweetbread, braised endive, fried sage

Main course
– Pork cheeks, puffed pork rind, Jerusalem artichoke puree, braised beetroot with dog rose vinegar, beer/stock cooking jus reduced with noble rot solaris vinegar, chervil

Dessert
– Tykmælk (acidified “thick” milk) panna cotta, blackberry/port/liquorice compote

I was happy to record two personal firsts with this menu: 1) The volume was sufficiently small to allow all to actually complete the full menu, and 2) all dishes actually came in as planned, without major mishaps. From subsequent reactions I gather that the guys were rather pleased with the menu, which pleases me no end. Difficult customers, high demands. Ego polished.

As usual, we had brought some of our best bottles. And as usual, they were all tasted blind. The following are tasting notes in chronological order, omitting colour notes, as usual, but with aspect for the bubblies.

White sparkling wine. Very fine, persistent bubbles. Nose of fresh citrus peel, crispy aromatic apple, hint of autolysis. Slim to medium weight, soft, rounded, dry. Long, repeating the nose, with a deeper, darker hint of sourdough rye. A lovely aperitif sparkler. The wine: Esterlin Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs NV.

White sparkling wine. Very fine, extremely persistent bubbles. Deep, rather dark nose of bruised apple, chalky minerals, umami/Maillard reaction, hints of dried ceps and rancio; extremely complex and interesting. Medium weight, dry, very elegantly balanced between considerable dry matter, taut fruit and ripe but abundant acidity. Very long, repeating the nose, emphasis on the mushroomy, rancio aromatics. Great wine, hugely complex. The wine: R&L Legras Champagne Brut Cuvée St. Vincent 1996. Legras is probably my favourite Champagne producer right now. Great range, and all of it not only complex, balanced and accomplished, but also affordable.

White still wine. Lovely, energetic nose with apricots, ripe citrus peel, toasted oak, hint of oysters. Medium weight, lovely plump fruit, good acidity, dry, with a hint of oak tannins. Good length, repeating apricots and citrus from nose, with added soft resinous herbal notes. The wine: Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1’er Cru Les Réferts 2010.

White still wine. Dryish nose with apricot, bruised apple, hint of oxidation (in the form of furniture polish), hazelnut. Powerful, round wine, dry, with hint of aged acidity. Very long, with hints of leather, apple leather, Fino Sherry and hazelnuts. Somewhat oxidized and past its best, but no mistaking the intensity and class. The wine: Domaine Amiot-Bonfils Le Montrachet Grand Cru 1991.

White still wine. Somewhat closed on the nose, tight, with peach, citrus peel, green herbs and flint dust. Medium weight, quite fat and soft, very smooth mouthfeel, dry. Good length, repeats aromatics from the nose, remaining somewhat closed and young, with a final hint of bitter orange. Too young yet, but great promise. The wine: Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1’er Cru Goutte d’Or 2002.

White still wine. Tight, intense, really energetic nose with boiled herbs, quince and cloves. Medium weight, dry, great acidity, firm and intense. Very long, very much repeating aromatics from the nose, but widened and detailed, with great intensity. Super! Wow! The wine: Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2004.

White still wine. Somewhat aged/premox nose, bruised apple, granite minerality, caramel/toffee, butter. Powerful, intense, dry, with lots of dry matter and a hint of bitterness. Very-very long and intense, but compromised by premox. The wine: Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1’er Cru Charmes 1995.

Red still wine. Tight, berryish, juicy nose with cranberries, gunpowder, anise and hint of autumn leaves. Light to medium weight, tight/juicy, mild tannins, finely balanced acidity, very pleasant mouthfeel. Fine length, recalls aromatics from nose, emphasizing autumn leaves and with a hint of dried ceps. Lovely, hugely drinkable wine. The wine: Domaine Pierre Amiot Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 1997.

Red still wine. Initially a hint of dank cellar, but that dissipated, leaving a complex, finely fruited wine with redcurrants, cherries, cranberries, a tight/intense note of anise, sweet liquorice, then autumn leaves, funghi, leather. Medium weight, firm and tight, but smooth and fine, intense, lovely mouthfeel. Very long, again initially with a dank cellar hint, but that faded, leaving long, fading notes of anise, fennel and liquorice. Lovely wine once given some air. The wine: Domaine Armand Rousseau Le Chambertin Grand Cru 1994.

Red still wine. Delicious, dark nose of graphite, cigar box, green lobster shell extract (!), mulberries, cranberries and a hint of sweet wood tar. Medium weight, lithe, elegant, mild, with fine-grained tannins. Very long and lovely, repeating the nose, fading slowly away on notes of beautiful red fruits. Great wine, mature Bordeaux from before they went astray. The wine: Château Mouton Rothschild 1978.

Red still wine. Initially, chlorine cellar nose, almost reminiscent of TCA, but with time in the glass developed into a glorious, mature Bordeaux nose with notes of graphite, cigar box, anise. Medium weight, very fine-grained tannins, dry and soft. Very long, lovely complexity of dark ripe mulberries, graphite, cigar box, spices. The wine: Château Montrose 1982. Apparently, the deceptive initial chlorine nose is a hallmark of this particular wine.

Red still wine. Dark, tight nose with dried ceps/umami, extract of blackcurrants, bark, liquorice, rosemary and anise; very interesting. Medium weight verging on big, handsome tannins, lovely acidity, lots of dry matter. Long, with tight red berries and otherwise as per nose, fading away with a hint of anise. The wine: Domaine Chevrot Santenay 1’er Cru Clos Rousseau 2008.

Red still wine. Deep, dark nose of perfumed dark berries, hints of bark and cigar box, moss. Medium weight, juicy, soft, round, with lots of very soft tannins, almost sweet in its fruitiness. Long and perfumed, warm and soft, with bark, liquorice, blackcurrants, anise. Just on the soft, sweet side for me. The wine: Château Figeac 1995.

Red still wine. Juicy, delicious nose with pomegranate, smoked greenness, vanilla and touches of acidified milk and tar. Medium weight verging on big, dry/big/grainy tannins, somewhat low acidity. OK length, weakly reminiscent of the nose. Did not quite follow up on very interesting nose. The wine: Château Phèlan-Segur 2008.

Red still wine. Intense, spicy nose with dark and red berries, iron, graphite and a touch of anise. Medium weight, intense and powerful, yet light on its feet and balanced, with finely-grained soft tannins and lovely balancing acidity; a commanding, handsome presence. Very long, austere, aromatics as per the nose, fading slowly away with anise and bark. Super, seamless perfection. The wine: Domaine Meaume Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1996.

Red still wine. Lifted, light-red-fruity nose with leather, tar, truffles and dried rose; a deeply classical, intense nose. Medium weight, tight-juicy, beautiful acidity, lots of soft and finely-grained tannins. Very long, with red berries, anise, leather, liquorice and a touch of shaly hydrocarbons. Beautifully balanced, classical wine. The wine: Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1997.

Red still fortified wine. Tight, muscular nose, spicy with both green herbs and oriental spices, liquorice, cranberries and a balsamic hint; super nose, complex and handsome. Medium weight, tight, good young tannins, the dryness of tannins and considerable dry matter contrasting beautifully with the sweetness. Very long, red-fruited, fading away with anise and liquorice, juicy and fresh, despite the complexity of evident age. Great wine, decades still ahead of it. The wine: Gould-Campbell Vintage Port 1970.

That wine concluded the evening in a resounding manner, both in terms of its taste impact and in terms of the sheer alcoholic strength, the coup de grâce, as it were, to a long and gruelling session.

Looking back over the list, this was an extremely francophone line-up, even worse than normal. I was in fact the only one to have presented non-French wines. But then, the French do make great wine once in a while, and perhaps the somewhat experimental character of the menu, which was announced in advance for people to be able to bring along matching wines, had prompted the guys to make relatively safe bets in wine terms.

Luckily, we’ll all be meeting again shortly, for an out-of-number 60th birthday celebration with a game theme. We have been instructed not to bring any wine ourselves, so can probably expect an impressive line-up of things someone has been collecting for quite a while.

I can’t wait.

Yours truly
Ole

Posted in Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Douro, Food, Fortified Wine, France, Italy, Piemonte, Port, Portugal, Red wine, White wine, Wine, Wine producers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Griffiths on “liquid fashion”


In the Swan Valley near Perth, Western Australia, reigns Faber Vineyard, for me far and away the best producer in the area. Faber is owned by husband-and-wife team John Griffiths and Jane Micallef. John is no Mr. Nobody, having worked as a winemaker for large producers in eastern Australia, as well as 6 years for Houghton, storied and large producer of Western Australian wines. He is a great winemaker, thoughtful yet wonderfully direct, with an approach to winemaking that emphasises the craft aspect of winemaking, as opposed to arty-farty claims to artistic greatness or “naturalness”. Hence the name Faber, which is Latin for artisan or craftsman. At Faber he produces some fantastic wines, among which I want to highlight the Swan Verdelho, the Reserve Shiraz and the Liqueur Muscat.

Like so many other wine producers, Faber sends out a newsletter from time to time. However, in contrast to most newsletters, which tend to merely provide commercial updates, Faber’s newsletter sometimes provides insight into the inner workings of a small wine producing entity, as well as focused opinion on the wine world. In the most recent newsletter, Faber writes the following (verbatim):

“Liquid Fashion

One of the great things about wine is it comes in so many shapes, sizes and colours. There are so many wine regions and varieties. There are numerous types – red or white, sweet or dry, still or fizzy, fortified or not. There are traditional old world styles, modern new world styles. No one approach to winemaking is more correct or more virtuous than any other. It’s just wine! It’s not how it is made that is important, it’s how it tastes!

Most wine lovers are simply interested in finding flavoursome drinkable wine that they can choose with confidence. But there are those for whom selecting a wine is a fashion statement. Rather than wanting wine to be simple they make it more complicated. Unfortunately you can’t taste fashion. Too often they are attracted to wines that are “heavy on novelty, light on the things that make wine’s culture so rich, such as tradition, quality and history” to quote a Melbourne reviewer.

Right now one fashion holding sway around the world is for so called “natural” wines. This fashion holds that modern wine is unnatural because the winemaker influences how it tastes rather than it being a “natural” expression of the grapes and vineyard from where they come. It’s a very romantic notion but completely ridicuous.

The first wine John made was as a winemaking student at Roseworthy in the early eigthies. He foot trod the grapes in the bath tub and let the must ferment in a garbage bin. He plunged the skins down each morning and evening. The must gave off a variety of aromas – pungent, sweet, earthy, chemical. After about a week he squeezed the bright scarlet wine out with tea towels and put the cloudy wine into some flagons he had cleaned up. The wine slowly settled and after a month or two he syphoned the clear wine off the lees. The colour was attractive but it tasted somewhere between balsamic vinegar, nail polish remover and wine! A lot of fun but not much drinking!

The act of planting a vineyard is not natural – it is a highly unnatural landform creating a monoculture with vines that have been selected and breed to the point where they no longer resemble their native ancestors. The addition of selected yeasts (similarly breed and selected like the grape varieties) and tartaric acid (actually produced as a byproduct from grapeskins after the juice is squeezed out) , traditional fining agents such as egg whites or fish collagen (isinglass) and filtration are practices that have allowed winemakers to improve the quality and consistency of wines over the last hundred years or so. In fact depending on the source of these finings and additives, and the grapes themselves, the wine may still be considered organic!

The “natural” claim and the inference “normal” wines are not natural is ridiculous – particularly when the standard is applied to the winemaking but not the grapes!. Sure some wine is made in large wineries resembling oil refineries – it’s generally cheap and ordinary – but most winemakers are crafting beautiful wines in small wineries using traditional techniques and benefiting from modern practices. It’s fine if a winemaker chooses to reject normal modern winemaking practices – viva la difference! – but whether more than a very small minority of committed adherents really enjoy these rustic “wild” wines remains to be seen.”

I could not agree more. I enjoy “natural” wines when they are well-made and reasonably free from defects, but to confer upon them some sort of metaphysical goodness merely because the winemaker was thinking good, wholesome thoughts while (not) making them is folly.

I recommend Faber Vineyard to anyone interested in great wine. These are not “natural” wines, but extremely well-made, concentrated, balanced and highly drinkable. Check them out on http://www.fabervineyard.com.au.

Yours truly
Ole

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Vignobles Ducourt plants “disease-resistant vineyard”


Read this Decanter article: http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/587372/bordeaux-s-vignobles-ducourt-plants-disease-resistant-vineyard?utm_source=Eloqua&utm_medium=email&utm_content=news+alert+link+12082014&utm_campaign=Newsletter-12082014

This is an important piece of news. As we struggle all over the world with the need for increased agricultural production, we are also facing a determined onslaught by unscientific and ahistoric “back-to-the-past” fundamentalists who wish to ban all pesticides etc. while at the same time banning genetically modified organisms. I am certain this is an untenable position in the long run, but in the short to medium term their influence is great, and has already set the world back decades in the development of sustainable methods for nourishing the world in a clean and safe manner.

The vine is a notoriously heavily-sprayed crop, whether the sprays are “conventional”, organic or biodynamic. Vitis vinifera, such as we use it in the vineyards of the world today, is to a large extent (and with large variations among varieties) a highly manipulated and very fragile being. It is of course a fallacy to say that just because a spraying agent is organic or biodynamic, it is intrinsically “natural” and therefore not harmful to the environment or people’s health. There certainly is a tendency for less spraying in organic and biodynamic and other “natural” practice, but a complete avoidance is extremely rare, and I would contend that some of the sprays used in biodynamic practice in particular are poorly understood in terms of their long-term effect on health and the environment.

If there is a need for avoiding or minimising spraying in vineyards – and I think there is – we need to grow intrinsically healthy, disease-resistant vine varieties. There is much research being done to achieve this, and this has brought about some very resistant and healthy varieties, many of them so-called inter-specific varieties. However, the issue is that these are new varieties. There are several problems with new varieities, chief among them that they do not taste like the varieties that are already known and loved. This gives problems with commercialisation, and also potentially with the perceived terroir expression of any given area in the longer term.

While I welcome Ducourt’s will to address several serious issues, as professed in the Decanter article, I have to deplore the fact that they feel the need to repeatedly stress that the varieties planted are conventional crossings bred specifically for health. While the new varieties may be excellent varieties, we have come to associate the great wines of Bordeaux with very specific varieties and their expression in that area. What if suddenly Bordeaux came to be made from very different varieties with a completely different expression, only in the name of vine health?

Surely, the proper way to go about this – not just in terms of health and environment sustainability, but also in terms of climate change robustness – would be to genetically modify existing varities to be much more robust, while maintaining their well-known and much-loved characteristics? This may be much easier said than done, but surely it is worth the effort. I am not so much a fool that I think that an area’s vinous expression, or the varieties grown in that area, remain immutable over time; that is demonstrably not the case. But to potentially resort to wholesale replacement of varieties that have been demonstrated to produce some of the best wines in the world would be commercial and cultural folly, and all that because caveman ignorance makes it politically impossible to use the best and safest method at arriving at solutions that would not entail such potentially devastating changes.

And no, we cannot in the longer run sustain the world – or, indeed, that small fraction of it that produces wine – with organic and biodynamic farming practices. Not in the face of the future onslaught by climate change and the inevitably much-stricter demands that will be placed on environmental factors and food safety as a result of an ever-increasing world populace.

Yours truly
Ole

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Natural Wines and Sexism? – Punch Drink Article


Interesting article by Rémy Charest in Punch Drink here: http://punchdrink.com/articles/sex-sexism-and-the-natural-wine-label/

Thoughtful stuff. I generally like the article, particularly that it does not set out to judge the trend. Read the article first, then read the below, if you wish.

There are a couple of things I would have liked to see discussed in the article:

Firstly, in Western Europe, at least, after decades of sexual liberation from the late 1960’ies through, perhaps, the 1990’ies, we are now going through a phase of great sexual conservatism in the public space. Beaches in my own Denmark used to be full of stark-naked people, with no-one frowning at that, and nakedness was accepted as natural and generally harmless in advertisement etc. That is no longer the case. Nudity at beaches seems drastically reduced and apparently requires you to be a dedicated nudist, practicing your predilection at specific beaches or specific sections of beaches. Nudity in advertisement is generally frowned upon. Now, I am not arguing that everyone should run around naked and that all advertisment should feature unclad people, but I worry that the public frowning-upon of nudity and sexuality generates some very negative images in people in terms of their own bodies and sexuality, the acceptability if their bodies and sexuality, and the general fact of them having bodies and/or sexuality at all. Are we raising an entire generation to be acutely negatively body-conscious? Could the natural wine crowd – habitually counter-current and iconoclastic – also (knowingly or unwittingly) be reacting to the new (or, rather, old) prudishness? If so, I think that aspect should be welcomed.

Secondly, inebriation, lack of inhibition and sexuality are inextricably linked. Entire religions have been founded upon the combination, with Dionysus/Bacchus leading the way. The natural wine crowd generally sees itself as less inhibited, less mainstream than people at large, and also generally praises the drinkability and non-hangover-inducing aspects of their wines, even if there is probably little evidence for these aspects other than personal perception, heavily tinged by confirmation bias. There is a celebration of the sensuous aspects of life in the natural wine ethos, a typically big-city dream of connection with the soil and the primordial aspects of life (it is my contention that natural wine is chiefly a big-city phenomenon). The natural wine ethos certainly has some remarkably metaphysical sides to it, and a celebration of nudity and sexuality, for me at least, rhymes well with the historical metaphysical aspects of wine.

I personally think most of the labels mentioned are crass and rather sophomoric in their humour, but I cannot be offended or think there is something intrinsically wrong with them. Indeed, I welcome some of the aspects that these labels conjure up. Yes, by all means, do also feature naked men on labels, or even erotic content. We don’t need more inhibited people, we need more uninhibited people.

And remember, wine was invented so that ugly men would also have a chance:-)

Yours truly
Ole

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Radici del Sud 2014 – Day 5


Saturday, 7 June: Competition tasting was now in full swing, and “my” jury sat down to a morning of Pugliese rosés and an afternoon of rosés from the rest of southern Italy.

Puglia rosés:

Puglia is, of course, a great source of rosés. Historically, there are two main reasons for this: 1) The need for quick cash flow in the Salento area, and 2) the bombino nero variety in the area around Castel del Monte.

In the Salento area, making rosés has a long history. The area has for ages supplied strong red wines to bulk up more insipid wines further north, however, in terms of cash flow, these wines had first to be made, which involves a somewhat lengthy process, then transported north, and then paid for by stingy northerners using long payment terms. In order to generate faster cash flows, the practice of selling rosés locally and more or less immediately after the harvest therefore developed. The method used was frequently the one called lacrima, whereby juice is macerated with the skins for a brief while, then statically decanted and fermented. Not using the saignée method, which involves draining fermenting must from red wine fermentations, meant that the grapes for rosé winemaking could be picked fairly early to preserve light red fruitiness and good acidity, rather than waiting for the harvest destined for red winemaking, which would entail darker fruitiness and lower acidity. Excellent, deliberately made rosés – with a real historical raison d’ètre and pedigree – ensued, and it was therefore not by chance at all that the first Italian rosé ever to be bottled, the Five Roses from Leone de Castris, was from the Salento.

The Salento area is blessed with one of the truly great varieties for rosé winemaking, negroamaro. Negroamaro, of course, frequently makes powerful, structured, medium-acidity red wines of considerable spiciness and dark fruitiness, however, when picked early it yields dry rosés with fairly high acidity/sapidity and wonderful aromas of wild raspberries, sweet garrigue, light spice and a floral/mountain-brook minerality. I unreservedly count the best examples of these rosés among the best rosés in the world.

Further north in Puglia, roughly inland from Bari, they grow a grape variety called bombino nero. This variety is a difficult customer, because the grapes tend to ripen unevenly within the same bunch, meaning that there will be ripe, dark red grapes and quite unripe, green grapes in every bunch. This makes the variety difficult to use for commercial styles of red wine, as acidity and bitter greenness tend to be high, while colour tends to be low. This was realized by the pioneering commercial winery in this area, Rivera, back in the 1950’ies, and the obvious connection was made: With its light colour and good acidity, bombino nero was perfectly suited for making rosés. Rivera’s owner, Sebastiano de Corato (grandfather of the present owner, also Sebastiano), proceeded to make a fresh, lively and well-made rosé, which with his hard work and perseverance became a huge commercial success all over Italy, to the point of being an actual brand and representing Pugliese wine to a large part of the Italian population. While frequently somewhat neutral, the best examples of bombino nero rosé these days have beguiling red floral, red berry and granite minerally aromas, with dry, sapid but rounded palates. Far more than just summer charmers, these wines go exceptionally well with food due to frequently considerable dry matter.

In contrast, Puglia’s primitivo does not frequently lend itself well to rosé winemaking. Primitivo rosés tend to be somewhat flabby and alcoholic (which of course can be a popular style, just consider Provencal rosés…), and only from terroirs that lend the wines great minerality and/or acceptable acidity do we see good examples of the category, although frequently blended with other, tauter varieties such as aglianico. The primitivo rosés from the Gioia del Colle area therefore tend to perform better than those from around Manduria or, more broadly, the Salento. When they are really good, however, primitivo rosés can be among the best rosés of Puglia, as evidenced by a couple of wines tasted.

The morning’s flight counted 48 rosés from Puglia, almost half of which were 100% negroamaro or negroamaro-dominated. The rest of the bunch was distributed among several other varieties, with bombino nero and primitivo in evidence, but also counting nero di Troia, malvasia nera and susumaniello. The latter, in particular, is an exciting newcomer to the rosé scene and has recently garnered much attention in that role. Expect a rush towards susumaniello rosés in the near future. The quality was generally high, as expected, with a good number of excellent wines from each of the main varieties.

For the negroamaro category, the past few years has seen a perceptible movement away from the original dry, sapid style of Salentine rosés towards a somewhat more rounded style with more obvious fruit-sweetness in both nose and mouth, and in some instances a more Provencal style. I don’t necessarily fear for the disappearance of the original category, for there is a good number still being made in the proper style, but if I were a Salento rosé producer I would not try to internationalize and thereby neuter my style if I had such an excellent, recognizable and unique product with the original style. Surely, the way forward is to have uniqueness, and surely, the road of competing with a host of somewhat standardized products on the international scene is fraught with danger as it leads to mere price competition.

Other rosés:

The afternoon was dedicated to rosés from the other South Italian regions, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. Basilicata and Campania were represented by aglianico, and Calabria mainly by gaglioppo, but with a few wines from magliocco, both dolce and canino. Sicily was represented by nero d’Avola, frappato and nerello mascalese.

Aglianico is a truly great, noble variety, and like many other noble varieties lends itself exceptionally well to making rosé wines. In the cool, elevated zones where it is chiefly grown, it acquires the cool fruitiness, minerality and acidity that can form the basis of truly great rosés. They are not frequent, however, probably because emphasis is so squarely on red winemaking, and on this occasion aglianico also did not quite deliver at the top of the range.

The great news was that gaglioppo from Calabria really delivered the goods, with several fantastic wines of great character and terroir fidelity. Overall, this was probably the most successful rosé category of all, and quickly became the talk of the event. While there have been very good rosés from gaglioppo in the past, their appearance has been patchy, so to see so many good wines in this category bodes really well for Calabria’s vinous future.

Sicily’s performance was somewhat more sedate, but a single wine from nerello mascalese really convinced me, although its strong character was somewhat controversial.

For winners and my favourite wines in all categories, see upcoming post on Radici del Sud 2014 impressions and results.

For the evening meal, we stayed at the Masseria for a happy, friendly evening with the lovely wines and ladies of the Puglia chapter of Le Donne del Vino.

I hope I won’t be ridiculed when I say that the South seems to have changed dramatically in terms of the role of women in the economic life of the area during the past 20 or 30 years. When I started my interest in Southern Italian wine, the business seemed heavily male-dominated, and fairly traditional gender patterns were in evidence. These days, so many of the new producers, and – it seems to me – an even higher proportion of my favourite new producers, are owned and/or lead by women.

Now, I don’t hold ideas that women are necessarily better winemakers or somehow by nature are better owners or managers than men, but I am a great believer in balance and freedom, and I am sure that previous periods’ tendency to hold back an entire gender from unfolding its full potential was unjust, misguided and wasteful of talent. The new and strong role for women is to be welcomed and encouraged, and I am certain that if the trend I think I have seen continues, we will see a further acceleration of great wines from the South.

The participants from Le Donne del Vino had each brought a single wine to represent the house. Many of those were wines already tasted during the producer tastings, but a couple of them had been brought especially for the occasion:

Soloperto, represented by Sabrina Soloperto, make small numbers of a very special, semi-sweet primitivo from a rather new vineyard. The special character of the wine comes from two circumstances: 1) It is planted in an extremely rocky vineyard that had previously been thought unfit for planting vines; results, however, would seem to vindicate the decision to plant there. 2) It is made exclusively from the racemi grapes from those vines; racemi are the second set of grapes that a few varieties set, and which ripen later. Racemi grapes will tend to be slightly lower in alcohol and higher in acidity, and these tendencies, married to very late harvest, provided for a lovely wine, large and full of character, but with the sweetness well balanced by good acidity and powerful structure. This wine is not for general sale, I gather, but I do hope that once the new vineyard comes into proper production, we will see the results on the market.

The second wine was brought by Renata Garofano of Tenuta Monaci, and turned out to be a version of their Girofle rosé, but from 2011, labelled Controcorrente and made especially for aging, therefore also bottled in magnums. The resulting wine was beguiling; it may have turned down some of the exuberant berry fruitiness and sapidity of the typical Salento negroamaro rosé, but fully made up for that with a highly drinkable, rounded wine with added mineral and garrigue complexity and great weight and length. A serious rosé, for sure, and without doubt a wonderful food companion, but charming and light-hearted nonetheless. Not sure this wine is in general commerce, either, but it showed such interesting potential that the Garofanos will have to do something about that some day.

The evening continued after the official dinner had ended, and once again saw us on the terrace, joking, laughing, discussing and, especially, singing. I will always remember the sight and sound of Antonio Muci, elder statesman among Pugliese enogastronomic writers and now a new, great friend, playing Giovanni Gagliardi’s guitar while reciting popular songs in a veritable Giro d’Italia of music.

I also finally managed to taste with Manila Benedetto the various special Danish beers I had brought along for her. Wonderful Manila is a beer inventer and -writer, and was especially taken with the extremely small-batch ale from Langeland barley made by the Bøgedal brewery.

Needless to say, I got to bed a bit late again, but when one is so full of impressions and happiness, it makes little difference, for sleep is deep and sound.

Yours truly
Ole

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