During the last weekend of November, Goodwine organized the autumn wine fair where most of the Romanian wineries, but not only, attended. The wine fair started on FRI at noon and closed its doors on SUN afternoon, giving the chance to any visitor to taste most of the wines available on the Romanian market.
I attended the expo on FRI and SAT.It was a great opportunity for me to meet many wine producers, winemakers and virtual friends(Facebook) sharing the same passion for wine. I have to give special consideration for the time they shared with me to Gabi Lacureanu from Crama Basilescu, Ciprian Rosca from Recas wineries, the crew from Serve and Winero, and last but not least to Andrei Iva, the organizer of this expo, for the invitation he sent me.
On SAT I attended a seminar organized by Recas and Masi about the Appassimento method (branded Appaxximento to certify Masi’s expertise in the appassimento method in the XXI century). Quoting from the Masi’s presentation book:
“Appassimento is the traditional method used in the Venetian regions to give wines greater concentrations of aromas and flavours. The grapes are laid out to rest for a long time on bamboo racks before vinification”
Drying of the grapes can take up to 2-3 months and the grape varieties used are Corvina for fruit, Rondinella for structure and Molinara for freshness. The grapes can lose 30-40% of the weight, concentrating the color, the sugars, the aromas and the tannins. Noble rot affects particular grapes producing glycerin and therefore smoothness. The wines are aged for 12 up to 36 months in oak barrels. Masi acquired vineyards in Argentina experimenting the appassimento method with Malbec.
After the presentation and a short session of questions we had the chance to taste three of their wines: Masi Campofiorin 2007, Costasera Amarone Classico 2006 and Campolongo di Torbe 2003(aged in oak for 36 months). The first two wines didn’t strike me as something special.
The 2003 Campolongo di Torbe has an elegant nose with aromas of mushrooms (predominantly), chocolate, a mix of fresh ripe dark fruits, tobacco and cocoa. In the mouth the wine is full body with silky and round tannins, nice acidity, great balance of the 16% alcohol, with sweet dried plums and blackberries and a nice medium plus finish with spicy chocolate in the aftertaste. Excellent wine but pricey – the wine sells for about 100 EUR.
During the rest of the wine fair I had the chance to taste most the wines available at each booth. The wines I found most interesting were:
– Cuvee Charlotte 2007 from Serve
– the white Solo Quinta 2010 (this year they used Feteasca Neagra as the red grape variety added to the other white grapes)
– a 2009 Pinot Noir Budureasca that sells for under 5 EUR
– Gabi Lacureanu from Crama Basilescu is a very young(28 years old) passionate and ambitious winemaker and invited me to taste together his wines. I found very interesting a new Feteasca Neagra based blend that is planned to be launched next year in spring.
– a 100% Petit Verdot Cuvee and a Carmenere grown in a colder climate from Wines of Chile booth
– a Spanish blend of Bobal(a local grape variety from Valencia) and Syrah from Vicente Gandia
– the wines from Winero that I already tasted last week with Dr Hauptamann
The wine fair is a great initiative for the producers to meet their clients directly and present their wines. The good news is that the next fair from March-April 2011 will be hosted at a different bigger location in order for more producers or distributors to attend. It would be a pity to miss such an event especially when the 2.3 EUR/10 RON entrance can save you plenty of money by knowing exactly what you can buy in the future.
More pictures from the fair are available on the blog page on Facebook.
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Vinexpert together with Riedel organized on FRI, November the 26th, 2010 a very interesting seminar where Mr Kornel Dura, Riedel’s representative, explained to about 100 people how important and what a difference a stemware can have on judging a wine.
After a brief introduction into the history of the Riedel family, Mr Dura started the presentation of the four glasses that each attendant took home after the event. The package contained a glass for Sauvignon Blanc, one for Montrachet/Chardonnay, one for Pinot Noir and one for Cabernet Sauvignon. The experiment was very thoroughly planned so that each wine can be tasted from at least two glasses. There was a fifth ordinary glass involved just to highlight the Riedel glasses and enhance the tasting experience. This Joker glass – as they called it – was the most ordinary glass found at the Ramada’s restaurant.
The seminar started tasting a 2009 Davino Sauvignon Blanc Edition Limitee from the Riedel Sauvignon Blanc glass to feel the nose, the taste and the finish, then pouring the same wine into the Joker glass. It is indeed a huge difference between the two glasses and how much the wine can lose by not using the properly shaped stemware.
I have been using Riedel glasses already for more than a year and I had the chance to see differences compared to a regular IKEA wine glass. The walls of the Riedel’s are very thin and totally transparent therefore giving full access to the wine’s color and usually focusing the wine directly where the nose, the tongue and the mouth can feel it better. The Sauvignon Blanc glass has a narrow opening and focuses the wine on the tip of the tongue, therefore the more discrete aromas of the Sauvignon are felt better. The Montrachet/ barrel aged Chardonnay glass has a wider opening, making the mouth to open more and focusing the Chardonnay’s low acidity on the sides of the tongue, where it can usually be felt. Tasting the same barrel aged Chardonnay from the Montrachet glass and the Sauvignon Blanc glass gives two completely different perspectives for the same wine.
The same process was applied tasting 2009 Oprisor La Cetate Pinot Noir from the Pinot Noir glass and the Montrachet, then 2006 Hyperion Cabernet Sauvignon from the Cabernet Sauvignon glass and the Pinot glass. Each wine showed the best from its designed glass.
I am sure that using the properly shaped wine glass, not necessarily from Riedel, you can still preserve all the qualities of the wine and have a full wine tasting experience. It is the shape of the glass that makes the big difference. However Riedel is a very good choice for anybody that doesn’t mind paying a high premium for something that can break pretty easily if not handled with extreme care. I did break a Sommeliers Black Tie Bordeaux Grand Cru and it didn’t feel good at all. I still miss that beautiful glass.
This type of event is a very good opportunity to attend for anybody that wishes to purchase the Vinum Tasting Set package from Riedel. The cost per ticket is similar to the cost of the four glasses package or less and you receive added value for the money: the training and a bottle of wine – in this case a 2009 La catina Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from Cramele Halewood plus some vouchers with discounts from Vinexpert.
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I received an invitation from Mr Ghenadie Bobeica, the person in charge of Winero – the producer of Alira and importer of Enira wines in Romania, to taste together their whole range of wines that are currently available on the market. The tasting was hosted at the Escargot in the company of one of the shareholders of Enira/Alira – Dr Karl Heinz Hauptmann. Together we had the chance to sample about 8 wines. This was a good opportunity to find out more about their Romanian project at Aliman.
Dr Karl H. Hauptmann is the main shareholder of Bessa Valley Winery, the producer of Enira wines, and has also vineyards in China, Germany(Mosel – 1 ha and looking to purchase more), Switzerland and now in Romania. He was Managing Director of Merrill Lynch in London and Vice-President of the London Bankers Trust International. He confessed discovering his passion for wine in 1987 while having a lunch in London when he tried different old vintages of Bordeaux – from 1975 down to 1929. He started to actively collect wine only 11-12 years later and buying his first vineyards in 2000-2001. Now his wines collection contains over 11.000 bottles of Bordeaux and insignificant quantities from other areas. He started to purchase en-primeur Bordeaux in 1999-2000 and continued doing so ever since.
There are exciting things to be expected from the Romanian project at Aliman. Dr Hauptmann compares Feteasca Neagra to Blaufränkisch grape from Austria, capable of producing a low alcoholic but aromatic wine, more Burgundian style than what it is available today on the Romanian market. This is a totally different perspective than what Recas has in mind with their joint venture with Masi to use Feteasca Neagra for an Amarone style wine. So the next years will be very interesting for Feteasca Neagra. There are also plans to start planting white Romanian grape varieties in limited amounts initially at Aliman – 2 ha for each variety – just to experiment with the terroir and see what gives the best results.
Last night we tasted 8 wines: 2009 Enira Rose (blend of Syrah and Petit Verdot), 2008 Easy by Enira, 2009 Alira Merlot, 2008 Cabernet by Enira, 2006 Enira, 2006 Enira Reserva, 2007 BV and 2007 Syrah. Unfortunately the BV was corked so we couldn’t drink it. I did not drink BV and Syrah previously therefore it was a great chance for me to taste the wines(at least the Syrah).
The wines I liked the most from the bunch were the 2008 Cabernet by Enira and the 2007 Syrah. The Cabernet has evolved nicely since the last time in spring when I last drank it.Even though it is not a too complex wine, the purity of the fruit, the nice mouth feel and the beautiful balance are really making this a very good pairing for barbecues or any other unpretentious food.
The 2007 Syrah by Enira is a hedonistic wine with a tremendous balance without being over the top. The nose shows plenty of ripe dark fruits mixed with spices and floral aromas(lilies and violets are really nice). In the mouth the wine is full body with silky texture and beautiful concentration, really balanced. The strong point of this wine is its long finish. The wine coats the palate with concentrated sweet fruit and spices, the aftertaste lasting more than 10-15 seconds. It is a wine that goes very well on its own and it is reminding more of an Amarone than of a Rhone Syrah. Excellent+ wine. People that like Bordeaux might not prefer this style.
The food was good as usual at Escargot. I had a tasty beef steak with a mix of vegetables that paired well with the last three wines, the high end range.
Initially Dr Hauptmann intended to purchase vineyards in 2000 in Romania, but due to complicated procedures and easier access to land in Bulgaria they decided to start in Bulgaria. According to him, both countries have the same great potential for wine making and the only advantage Enira has over Alira is the 5-7 years advance that gave the vines time to accommodate better. It is expected for the vines in both sites to hit their real potential once they are 20 years old.
Great night with interesting wines and good company.
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Last weekend I had an important celebration in my family, my father’s birthday, therefore I was looking forward since last week to open some interesting wines with good food. There were two wines in particular that I wished to try and this was a perfect occasion.
The starter was a dish of foie gras, balsamic vinegar reduction and unripe figs preserves that was paired with a Canadian ice wine.
2007 Inniskillin Ice wine Cabernet Franc (VQO Niagara Peninsula)
Here is some data from the producer’s website about this wine:
Harvested at the pinnacle of Canada’s crisp winter, the grapes are naturally frozen on the vine and picked when the temperature drops to -10°C. Residual Sugar: 220g/L. Alcohol/Volume: 9.5 %
This Cabernet Franc made wine has a light red color. The nose is strong on red berries, strawberries dominate and honey. In the mouth the wine is lusciously sweet with an interesting mix of flavors of ripe red fruits and a long sweet finish. There is not a great complexity on this young wine, perhaps with age it will become more interesting. A delicious wine nevertheless (Very good+ to Excellent) that paired well with the foie gras dish and stood well against the hardcore sweetness of the unripe figs preserves.
As we served lamb in a Provencal sauce, I thought a Spanish Tempranillo from Toro would be a good pair. Plus I was eager to try the 2005 vintage from this producer.
Unfortunately this bottle of 2005 was corked. I hate when I get a bad bottle for something I paid a considerable amount of money. But that’s the risk of the business.
As the Spanish Tempranillo was damaged, I went in the cellar and pull out a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend from Tuscany.
Sassicaia 2004 – Tenuta san guido
Price: over 100 EUR
A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, aged for 24 months in French oak barriques. Sassicaia was the producer that put the Super Tuscans on the map starting with the 1985 vintage. Actually the 1985 Sassicaia was rated a 100 points wine, now the price for the vintage is around 1000 EUR per bottle.
The wine has a deep ruby color. The nose is pretty discreet with earthy aromas, very low fruit, a little bit of cherry. In the mouth the wine is medium body, with firm but silky tannins, giving a nice mouth feel. There are some red fruits, earthy tones and spices, with a nice medium acidity. Nice balance and good integration of the oak. The aftertaste has a pleasant discreet bitter-sweet medium finish.
For the price it sells, the brand it is and coming from a vintage recognized as Excellent(2004) this wine is a Major disappointment. It is an Excellent-(minus) wine if it had a price tag of 40-60 EUR, but anything more than that is a really poor effort from this acclaimed producer.
Briefly, major surprises from the wines of the weekend. And not necessarily pleasant.
Something else not related with wine and food. FRI evening I went to Teatrul Nottara and saw a very nice play called Platonov which I liked a lot. Fairly long, over 2 h, with some moments where you can sense the falseness of the actors, but overall a really good combination of drama and comedy, really entertaining. I would really recommend it if you want to enjoy a night out.
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I was forced to get home earlier on THU thanks to those “professionals” from UPC that left our office without an Internet connection for more than two days now. Late afternoon I visited my cellar to choose a wine for dinner. I had some duck breast in the freezer that required immediate attention. Knowing that the duck breast requires something more pretentious I chose a Syrah from the Languedoc – a wine from Chateau de la Negly. I know this producer for some time and I know their wines are just amazing, all of them.
Of the reds, La Falaise and the preponderantly Mourvedre-based l’Ancely are both serious, dense wines of satisfying complexity. The two finest wines, though, are both pure Syrah: Clos des Truffiers, made with Jeffrey Davies, comes from vineyards at St Pargeoire, whereas La Porte du Ciel is part of the Negly estate itself. Claude Gros now consults. I tasted the La Falaise 2006 and 2007 so far and both are very good wines. I prefer more the 2007. However it is the first time I am trying one of their top cuvees.
The food pairing was medium-rare duck breast with mashed chestnuts, black truffles and a reduction of balsamic vinegar. All made by yours truly. Briefly this is how I prepared the dish.
After boiling the chestnuts for 45-60 minutes, the most boring part is removing the zest. That was done with a spoon.
Plenty of leftovers.
The duck breast had the skin cut and roasted 6 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other.
A final reduction of balsamic vinegar was the final step for this dish.
For this dish I had to chose between two Syrah’s: one from Cornas, a 2006 Thierry Allemand Reynard or this 2002 Syrah from La Clape, Languedoc. I chose the latter. The Reynard will be open with another occasion.
Chateau de la Negly – La Porte du Ciel 2002
Price: 95-100 EUR
This is a 100% Syrah aged for 24 months in French oak. This wine received 19 points (on a scale of 20 points) from Jancis Robinson, a very high rating from a pretentious critic.
The color is pitch black.
The nose smells like a juicy medium rare steak with plenty of spices and dark fruit spread on top of it. It’s like you are serving meal in the glass. Dark pepper, meat, blood, balsamic vinegar, game, truffles, cinnamon, minty aromas, cedar all covered in a discreet ripe dark fruits layer. Amazing nose.
In the mouth the wine is lush, sumptuous and dense with a distinctive salty edge lent by the marine location. Full body with silky texture, thick layers of ripe dark fruits mixed with game, meat, black pepper, clove, cedar and mint, this wine is extremely complex. Has an amazing mouth feel and coats the mid palate with a silky glove. Immense balance and huge concentration.
The wine has a very long finish leaving a taste of rare steak, dark chocolate and cranberries that lasts forever.
This is one of the most complex and pleasant wines I had, very hedonistic. Exceptional wine even though 2002 was declared a difficult vintage in most of France.
The pairing was really good. The sweetness of the chestnuts, the balsamic vinegar reduction and the medium rare duck breast found perfect correspondence in this complex wine. Perfect match.
Update: I am drinking the wine after 2 days sealed with a vacuum cork in the fridge. The sweet fruit faded away and the wine has a dominant aroma of black truffles. In the mouth the wine remains lush and sumptuous with a long bitter-sweet aftertaste.
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Nigl Senftenberger Piri Riesling 2008
I bought this wine from Austria at the beginning of the year for something around 10-14 EUR, I cannot recall exactly.
The wine has a pale lemon color. The nose is very fresh, showing mineral aromas, oil and wet rocks mixed with lemon and grapefruit zest. In the mouth the wine is medium body with a very high and pleasant acidity, showing green apple and citric fruits. The finish is medium plus with a very distinctive bitterness in the aftertaste. When you make tea and add slices of lemon, the zest included, and leave it over night in a cup and taste it the next day, you notice a certain bitterness from the juice of the zest. This is exactly what this wine leaves in your mouth in the finish. And it persists for about 5-6 seconds easily. An interesting wine if you like lemon. For me a Good+ wine.
Madiran Laplace 2004
I received this wine as a sample from Le Manoir to taste it. Drank from a small 0.375 ml bottle. This is a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Madiran is a region in the South of France where they use Tannat as the dominant grape to make red wine. Wines made from Tannat are usually pretty aggressive in their youth, not to mention the number of years they need to soften and become more approachable, but the wines can usually last for decades. It seems micro-oxygenation has helped this region a lot to make the wines approachable while still young. A little bit of oxygen added at different stages during vinification softens the Tannat. I confess I was expecting a monster of tannins to show up from this bottle.
The wine has a deep dark red color. The nose is pleasant with a touch of sweetness, showing plenty of spicy dark fruits. In the mouth the wine is not aggressive, this is very important to mention. The wine is medium body with a nice mouth feel, the tannins are there for sure, but they are round and soft already. There is a certain complexity in this wine showing a mix of spicy, leathery ripe blue and dark fruits: mulberries and cranberries. The wine finishes spicy with a medium aftertaste. Good+ and balanced wine. Usually wine matures quicker in small formats like this 0.375 ml bottle.
I had this wine paired with chicken and mashed potatoes with truffles and it was not the best pairing I have tried so far. I hope next time I do better.
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The second week of November was very warm in Romania with temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius, a very unusual sunny late autumn for this period of the year. Therefore I decided to take advantage of the sunny and warm weather last SAT and pay a visit to Halewood wineries at their Conacul Urlateanu, some 20-30 km away from Ploiesti. After a call, the reservation was made and we arrived at the destination late noon, just in time for lunch.
The people at Conacul Urlateanu were very welcoming and they invited us to make a tour of the winery. It is important to mention that Halewood wineries are using this place strictly for aging their wines in barrels. They have two large cellars with natural aeration filled with barrels where the wines rest. Our guide, Mrs Claudia Marinache, explained that they use Portuguese, Romanian, French and American oak for barrel maturation.
We tasted about 8 wines aged for 10 months directly from barrels. I find these type of tastings very interesting as you get the chance to see what a big difference the oak has on wine. We started with three samples of the same Merlot aged in different types of oak for the same 10 months period: old and new Portuguese oak and new Romanian oak. I preferred the old Portuguese oak sample as it was very approachable as opposed to the other samples where the tannins were firmer. Usually in new oak the wine gets more tannin from the wood, lasts longer but, generally, it is more aggressive in the mouth in its youth.
We sampled two more Cabernet Sauvignon’s from new and old oak and three different Feteasca Neagra from different types of oak.
Halewood has a different approach when it comes to choosing which wine goes into their top cuvees. They are not using a specific vineyard for their premium range. Once the maturation process is over, they choose the best wines in the winery to go into the Hyperion range. Hyperion is their top range wine and so far they released two cuvees each year starting with the 2007 vintage: a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Feteasca Neagra. There was a 2006 Hyperion Cabernet Sauvignon released.
Once the cellar tour was over we moved into the tasting room where our guide offered us four more wines to taste. We tasted from bottle: La Cittadella, a Pinot Grigio from Transilvania (thin in the mouth), La catina vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Cherry tree hill 2006, a Merlot aged for 18 months in oak barrels, and a Prahova Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cherry tree hill Merlot 2006 was by far the most notable from the bunch, excluding the Hyperion Feteasca neagra.
We drank a dry rose sparkling wine and a 2008 Hyperion Feteasca Neagra during lunch.
Rhein extra Brut rose (dry)
Price: 4-5 EUR (22 RON)
The wine has a red pink color. The nose shows wild strawberry and caramel. The alcohol can be felt quite a lot in the mouth. There is a short finish on this sparkling wine. Good-
2008 Hyperion Feteasca Neagra
Price: 17-20 EUR (80 RON) at the winery
1800 bottles produced and sold out completely.
The wine has a deep dark red color. Spicy dark cherry candy and dry plums are very intense on the sweet nose. In the mouth the wine is medium body, pleasant with plenty of ripe dark fruits and spices. The 14.5% alcohol is very nicely integrated with absolutely no sensation of heat and good balance of the American oak. There is an initial sweetness on the medium aftertaste followed by a discreet pleasant bitterness. Very good wine.
Overall the visit to Conacul Urlateanu was very pleasant, the food was unpretentious but good and the wine tasting very interesting. This is a good place to come, relax and enjoy Romanian food and wine, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful panorama.
The old house sits on top of one of the highest hills and offers a panoramic view of the small town and vineyards.
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