Epicurus and the Good Life – Other than Hedonism


It never rains but it pours. So two posts in the same day.

I came across this oldie-but-goodie article at The Economist’s 1843 site. Apart from explaining the injustice done to the memory of Epicurus, it also sets out salient parts of Epicurus’ down-to-earth and wise philosophy. Very good stuff to think about and incorporate, I think.

https://www.1843magazine.com/story/a-practitioners-guide-to-hedonism

Surely, much of what’s wrong with today’s societies, much of what makes so many people unhappy, continues to be driven by an excess of unlivable, dour and life-disparaging schools of thought, with contorted, impossible ideals and morals that are impossible to live up to. Why not go for something that affirms life and the simple pursuit of happiness? And don’t forget wine along the wine. It might even help…

Posted in Opinion, Various | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Best wine ever?


Dear all,

It’s been ages since I’ve written anything here. I do apologize. My absence is mostly due to having been very busy at work, but also to the fact that I tend to write long, involved posts, and I haven’t had the get-up-and-go to sit down and put in the focus and hours it takes, including all the tagging etc.

Anyway, I was just making a Facebook post, which obviously favours a much shorter format, and I thought I’d also put it up here. Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that I might be doing myself the favour of allowing shorter, less involved posts in future.

So here goes:

Interesting article, even if just pieced together from several other articles. It seems that some answer the question “what really opened your eyes to wine?”, while others answer “what is the greatest wine you’ve ever had?”

So, here I answer both:

Eye-opener:

Back in 1984 I went to Italiensk Vinhus in Amaliegade in Copenhagen, run by Carlo Merolli, with DKK 500 I had gotten in return tax. A huge sum for a poor student such as myself. There, I bought 5 bottles of wine, chosen by Carlo to represent the very best of Italy. One of the bottles was the Quintarelli Amarone Monte Ca’ Paletta 1979. It totally blew me away with its sheer size, complexity and forceful character. Until then I had never known wine could have such impact. Carlos Melia Christensen may remember; he was there. Unfortunately, this bottle has essentially ruined Amarone for me, for who else makes wine of such stature? In hindsight perhaps not advisable that your first Amarone ever is THE definitive one.

Best ever 3 candidates (sorry):

Probably the favourite was the Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 1988 tasted from cask in 1995; an absolutely mindblowing wine, combining size, density, vertiginous complexity and ballet dancer elegance, in perfect balance at the time.

But how, then, to classify the Bruno Giacosa Barolo Vigna Rionda 1967 we had for New Year’s Eve, probably that same year? An incredible masterpiece of terroir, a wine of pitch-perfect Serralunga structure and aromas, ethereal, philosophical, and the first wine that opened my eyes in a serious way to the fact that greatness in wine is rarely about the fruit, it’s about all the other things, with fruit decidedly playing second fiddle.

And then again, some time in 1992, visiting the cellars of Domaine Trapet in Burgundy, his Le Chambertin 1990 from barrel, light, lithe, elegant, yet profound and enormously complex, a perfect example of the terroir and of the fact that wine does not have to be huge in structure to be great.

Strange, on reflection, that two of my all-time favourites were tasted from cask/barrel, but that seems to often be when they are most harmonious and open. Bottling is a severe shock for any wine.

So, what are your favourites?

See Decanter article here: http://www.decanter.com/features/my-wine-moment-from-the-sommeliers-374483/?utm_source=Eloqua&utm_medium=email&utm_content=news+alert+link+20170823&utm_campaign=Newsletter-20170823

 

Posted in Amarone, Barolo, Burgundy, France, Italy, Opinion, Piemonte, Red wine, Veneto, Wine, Wine producers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Angelo Gaja Supports GMO Vines


Dear all,

It’s been too long since I posted last. My daytime job has claimed almost all of my time, research for the updated version of the book on Italian wine that I co-author has tken the rest. That will change as of now. Expect infrequent posts, but at least some, going forward.

I came across this article just now: http://www.vinodabere.it/angelo-gaja-mostra-una-nuova-via-alla-viticoltura-mondiale

Gaja was always at the forefront, and you have to salute his relentless search for improvement and progress.

I predict that the use of very precise techniques of transferring disease-resistant genes to fragile-but-qualitatively-important varieties will be a complete fact in 50 years, and will ensure a sane, rational, non-polluting and disease-free viticulture that is also economically sustainable for the producers.

The resistance will be overcome slowly at first, but thanks to the visionary support of the likes of Gaja, we’ll get there.

Think about it: We need viticulture to be economically sustainable, or the growers will stop growing vines.

Yours truly
Ole

Posted in Italy, Opinion, Piemonte, Various, Wine, Wine producers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stefano d’Onghia new restaurant


I wrote glowingly about Osteria A’ Cr’janz in this post in 2012: https://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

Posted in Food, Restaurants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Opinion, Wine | Tagged , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Australia, Opinion, Western Australia, Wine, Wine producers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment