Archives for category: Wine

On Monday 5th August Kim showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group wines from Valpolicella.

Valpolicella is a Demoninazione in the Verona region of the Veneto in N. E. Italy. The area is about 70-100 kms West of Venice, and forms an arc of about 15kms radius North and North East of the lovely town of Verona. So its eastern border is with the Soave wine region.

Italia & Valpo redux.jpg
The area produces getting on for 80 million bottles a year in four styles, of which Kim showed a pair of each of the three most common.

Grapes for Valpolicella centre upon the Corvina, and to a lesser extent its cousin Corvinone. Recent regulations require 45% – 90% Corvina of which up to half can be Corvinone, so the regulations recognise the latter grape but only does so as a “version” of the former. Rondinella is the other main grape which can comprise 5% – 30%. Together Corina/Corvinone & Rondinella must make up 75% of the grapes. Other grapes which can make up to 25% (but rarely exceed 10% in better examples) include Molinara (which used to be compulsory); Oseleta; Dindarella; Rossignola and Negrara. “Other” in most cases below are varying amounts of these last 4.

Wine labelled as simply “Valpolicella”, “Valpolicella Classico” or “Valpolicella Superiore” are made as any other wine. Until early in this century the only other wines of note were made by drying the grapes for at least 2 but commonly 4 months after harvest and crushing the resulting dried grapes. This allows a potential alcohol of getting on for 16%. Most of the wine is fermented to dryness, emphasising the bitterness in the dried skin and labelled “Amarone della Valpolicella”. A small proportion of these wines have fermentation stopped at normal alcohol levels leaving substantial unfermented sugar and yielding Recioto, an impressive sweet wine – at impressive prices unfortunately; a sort of cherry-port wine with normal alcohol levels and some acidity.

Recently winemakers have taken to adding the lees (or “pomace”) of the Amarone or Recioto to the younger normal wine – as it were: re-passing over the lees and imparting some of the dried grape flavours. This is called Ripasso and now is the most common form of Valpolicella.

Wines produced in Valpolicella in 2018 vintage - millions of bottles [Source: Regione VENETO, AVEPA, SIQURIA] (click to enlarge)
Kim showed us 2 exampes each of Valpolicella; Ripasso and Amarone

Here are my notes:

VALPOLICELLA 2017 (ALLEGRINI)   –   £12 Wine Society   –   13%
Corvina/Corvinone 70%; Rondinella 30%.
This has a slightly spirit and oily note on the nose, quite a lot of red fruit, some of it cherry. Palate is warm with sharp cherry and plum notes, slightly bitter but tasty tannins and some toasty hints, a little simple but pleasing and chill-able.

VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2016 (TEDESCHI)   –   £12 Wine Society   –   13.5%
Corvina 35%; Corvinone 35%; Rondinella 20%; others 10%.
Rounder nose with some similarities on the nose, fruit more recessed and some woody notes. Palate has more non-fruit elements: leather? And more vinous complexity, more serious, more food-friendly acidity and very good value.

VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO SUPERIORE 2016 “CAPITEL SAN ROCCO” (TEDESCHI)   –   £18 Wine Society   –   14.5%
Corvina 30%; Corvinone 30%; Rondinella 30%; others 10%.
This nose has significant wood and alcohol on the nose, giving a slightly grainy note too. Palate is a bit bitter, shows a spirit element and a tendency towards muddiness again and sweet fruit not-quite-integrated in a drying palate. Too young and a little unbalanced right now, but may open.

VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO SUPERIORE 2016 “LA CASETTA”   –   £18 Majestic   –   14%
Corvina 65%; Corvinone 15%; Rondinella 10%; others 10%
Much fresher Ripasso nose – some red fruit, dusty herbs and plums… Palate is sweeter, a little linear but showing hints of fruit cake and round tannins. Very satisfying and well balanced – a cheese wine?


AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA “MARNE 180” 2015 (TEDESCHI)   –   £32 Fareham   –   16%
Corvina 35%; Corvinone 35%; Rondinella 20%; others 10%.
This has the full fruit-cake, Xmas-pudding nose, plum and a hint of alcohol. Palate has a big texture, warm with some spice and slightly grainy tannin, again an impression of youth and slightly unintegrated. A big wine with great food matching potential.

AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2013 (TOMMASI)   –   £48 Millisema   –   15%
Corvina 50%; Corvinone 15%; Rondinella 30%; Oselta 5%
Nose has a much softer fruit, berry fruits even blueberry! A better balanced range of vinous elements too – some sharper notes and some light spices. Palate is rounder and softer without unintegrated components, some spice again warm acidity, velvet tannins and a lovely twist of bitterness. The overall impression of the fruit recalls a summer berry fruit salad made a couple of days before and starting to show hints of fermentation. A well-integrated gentle giant of a wine – very impressive but quite expensive.

A very interesting tasting, showing that the styles offer a series of different quality/price conundrums. The Tedeschi wines all seemed a little young to be fair, and all had a big-boned quality, that might mean time was envisaged by the makers.. The other 3 seemed more subtle – but sometimes that speaks of a shorter future. The exception is the – older – last wine which was just lovely, although not showing, what I have come to think of, typical Amarone size. I liked that wine best, then and there in the tasting – but the Tedschi Superiore was great value and the Ripassi (especially La Casetta right now) were a great compromise!

Thanks so much Kim for a thought provoking tasting.

À Bientôt

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The Group met for a blind-Tasting party on Friday 26th July, hosted by Kathryn and Matt. A lovely evening with, as it turned out, a unusual link between half the wines…

Here are my notes:


KAIKEN BRUT nv   Argentina                       Welcome Wine
A citric nose with a frothy mousse. Nose and palate develop towards grapefruit acidity and open to a slightly sweet orchard fruit. A light and lively Brut with an aperitif profile!

GRÜNER VELTLINER 2012 (Holzmann)    Weinvertel          Anna   
Nose has some deeper fruit flavour – apricot? Green apple notes and the usual tell-tale pepper hint. The palate has richer, creamier notes showing its evolution, Good length and underlying refreshment…

PECORINO 2017 (Umani Ronchi)    Tuscany       Sue T  
Nose has pear fruit, and some floral notes that deepen to a hint of almonds in a very Italian style. The palate is rich with a, slightly mealy, fruit profile and warm, round acidity.

PIGATO RISERVA 2018  (Laura Aschero)    Liguria          Kathryn  
Pigato is a grape found quite commonly in Liguria, and DNA profiling shows it is the same grape as Vermentino despite finding their homes independently (Vermentino is also sometimes known as  Rolle in France). This example has a pungent nose with slightly pithy and oily notes. Palate follows the nose with a lifting round acidity and a slightly bitter note.

FIANO IGP 2017 (Maree d’Ione)     Puglia     Yvonne  
Fiano is perhaps better known from Avellino or the Sannio area of Campania. This shares those versions lightness and verve, making it a very fish-friendly wine – however this example has a slightly herby and exotic fruit tinge making it seem a little bigger flavoured. Crisp acidity and quite long lasting, a surprisingly poised hot-climate white!

JACKSON-TRIGGS OKANAGAN ESTATE RIESLING 2016   British Columbia          Paul
Forward diesel and elderflower nose – very reminiscent of some Oregon examples. It turns out this is not that far away to the North. Very Riesling with a Mosel style level of sweetness in a richer package – succulent, supple and lovely!

TRINITY HILLS MARSANNE/VIOGNIER 2017   Gimlett Gravels N.Z.         Kim
Very nutty, creamy nose, with a hint of oak in a very white-Burgundy style. But is isn’t that – the palate has an oily profile with some olive and herb notes and a rich, warm length. A Rhone-ish blend done well on the gravel in Hawke’s Bay.


VIGNETI DELLE DOLOMITI PINOT NERO 2014   Dolomites                       Ann
This has a light red-fruit nose with a light peppery tinge. The palate has fruit and a sharp-acid, food-demanding, line. This wine has the mark of some cooler growing sites, would be lovely with a roast pork dish.

CHIANTI RISERVA  2006 (San Colombano)    Tuscany           Laurie   
Red fruit but earthy nose, with fruit cake (spice and dried fruit) elements appearing. Palate has some liquorice and an echo of the nose. Clearly a mature, and very typical, Chianti.

“ALTITUDES” 2013 (IXSIR)    Lebanon       Sue Mc 
Another earthy nose, darker fruit and some warm spice. Palate has the same profile with sweeter-than-expected fruit and a wide tannic line.

VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2015  (Boscarelli)    Tuscany          John  
Herbs and cherry fruit at first with the fruit broadening into a softer note. The palate is similar with an acidic line, plum-prune fruit and a warm long finish. Some Chianti-like character and complexity with a rounder fruit base and a slight mineral hint lifting the very end… This is 85% Prugnolo – the Montepulciano clone of Sangiovese! And it’s lovely (my favourite of the night).

XINOMAVRO 2016 (Alpha Estates)     Amyndeon, Greece     Matt 
Sweet plum nose, leading to a grenache-like sweet plum tomato line, offset – at least in part – with a supple acidity. If the Pinot Nero showed its cooler origins this speaks of warmth!

PISANO “CISPLATINO” TANNAT 2017    Uruguay          Mike
Pungency with nutty elements, some prune and spice notes underneath. The palate is very supple and rather different from Madiran tannic monsters, with a little woodiness and a blackberry fruit within a (relatively) gentle tannic frame.

CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2015 (Sertosso)   Tuscany                   Rob
Rather leather/liquorice, typical Italian, nose with a Xmas cake hint – baking spice more than dried fruit at this stage. Some sour fruit and a warm tannic frame persisting longest. A food wine that maybe needs another year or two.

PAULINSHOF RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2014     Mosel                  Farewell Wine   
A diesel, peach, sweet fruit and honeyed wine with that lovely lifting Riesling acidity. A pure pleasure and a fitting vinous conclusion to a lovely evening.

An interesting evening when Italy played a surprisingly large part: not a single French wine and seven Italians! Three from Tuscany, three Italian whites and a North Italian Pinot. Very unexpected and very enjoyable…

Partly because I have been unable to attend a Sock Club Tasting since February, I particularly appreciated and enjoyed this one. Faultlessly welcomed by our knowledgeable and generous hosts, it was a real pleasure to indulge in the sociable hedonism of the group – my profound thanks to everyone and especially to Kathryn and Matt.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 18th July the ICC Group met to compare Wines from Victoria and Burgundy – both white (Chardonnay) and red (Pinot Noir). This tasting partly followed an eye-opening tasting of Antipodean Pinot (see post of March 8th 2017) a couple of years ago, and the Jancis Robinson quotation cited in the Theme post last week. Both of these showed Australia can make wines in cooler climates from Burgundy grapes very well – but how well?

For each grape 3 wines were served blind one each from the Yarra Valley, Gippsland (both in Victoria) and Mercurey, (in the Côte Chalonnaise). The wines are all around £20 in UK. I chose the same wineries for both red and white wines.

Hoddles Creek Estate, established in 1997, is located in the Upper Yarra, which is higher, cooler and more marginal than the lower Yarra, The Estate is planted with 10ha of Pinot Noir (five clones), 6 ha of chardonnay, Being in a marginal climate, requires extensive canopy management. Over the last decade it has been focusing on minimal chemical use in the vineyard, and claim they are starting to see the benefits of health soils and vines with more balanced wines. It works the vineyards for low yields (below 33 hl/ha).

Wickham Road is a 8 hectare vineyard planted solely to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is cool, free draining and the vines are 17 years old. During the winter months, sheep are used to reduce the reliance on chemical control for weeds and grasses. The resulting wines require no acidification or fining.

Domaine Pillot is a family wine business over 150 years old in Mellecey a village in the Mercurey commune. The domaine has 17 hectares throughout the appellation and practice La lutte raisonnée (a sort of minimum intervention) in the vineyard. Appropriately the wines have a reputation for lightness and delicacy.


The serving order was random – so the following notes follow the order in which the wines were served (before their identity was know). First, the Chardonnays:

WICKHAM ROAD 2017   Gippsland, Victoria   –  12.8%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly nutty nose. Palate has fresh acidity with pithy note – seeming to tighten with time. There is orchard fruit, bright but slightly soft. Acidity persists and eventually becomes the main character.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20

MERCUREY 2016 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
This has a more citric and lighter nose, some oak giving a creamy texture building to a slightly bitter mineral end. The fruit line is hidden in the acidity making the wine develop more in the glass than the other example. Less striking but more subtle???
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016  Yarra Valley,Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £22
Nutty notes again, with a palate more restrained and lighter than the first wine, but clearly in the same style. Balanced, long and correct – very well made…
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best white (9 votes) followed by the Mercurey (7) and the Gippsland (6)

Secondly the Pinots:

MERCUREY 1er Cru “En Sazenay” 2015 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
Light and bright colour with a herb and plum nose. Quiet but insistent palate with soft red fruit (hints of cherry) a line of warm acidity and subtle grip with a spice note accentuating a very Pinot character. Very good and my favourite…
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  16/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016 Yarra Valley, Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £23
Darker with a herbal nose, red fruit too and again on the palate with a slightly bitter bay leaf twist to the acidity. To my taste a good but slightly one-dimensional red.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

WICKHAM ROAD 2017 Gippsland, Victoria  –  13%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly brownish colour and a quiet nose, fruity palate but little else. This had little vinous quality and as a consequence I would probably avoid it!
Ratings:        Quality:  12.5/20   Value:  11.5/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best red (10 votes) followed by the Mercurey (8) and the Gippsland (5). Though, funnily enough, no supporters of the Gippsland red followed through to choosing it a best wine overall – despite two-thirds of those present choosing a red. Clearly those that liked the last red are white wine drinkers!!??

Wine-of-the-night voting went (in serving order) 1 – 2 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 0

So the Yarra Valley estate won the night overall (as well as the separate white and red votes) with 13 supporters, the Mercurey 9 and the Gippsland 1.
For me the whites very much closer, although I can’t help thinking – for the price – a decent Chablis (or maybe a Pernand-Vergelesses) might beat them all. I thought the Yarra Pinot surprisingly good but lacking just a little subtlety and complexity compared to the Burgundy. The Gippsland red showed the worst qualities of New World Pinot, IMO although their white was much better. My scores have Mercurey leading 32 to 31 for the Yarra, with Gippsland trailing in with 27.

An interesting tasting – I was impressed by the Yarra – though not enough to seek Victorian wines out, especially considering one can get £20-in-UK wines in Burgundy itself at around the €13 mark… must go there again soon…

À Bientôt

Owing to a prolonged period in France (see also my reply to Brigitte’s last post.) I have to combine the notes for the July Tutored Tasting and the Theme Briefing for the ICC Tasting later this week… Both are a little less comprehensive than I’d like and I have to extend my thanks to Anna and Paul that the first exists at all…

Firstly: on July 1st, Anna and Paul led the Group in a tutored tasting of Grüner Veltliner (or Gru-V as it’s – to give it it’s rather… well… groovy – name). The tasting contrasted examples from its home in Austria with those from the New World. Secondly we are, later this week, going to taste some celebrated Chardonnay and Pinot from Victoria, Australia against examples from Mercurey in Burgundy. The post sets the scene for that tasting – the Tasting Notes of which will be with you in about a week.

So first the Notes from the Grüner Veltliner Tutored Tasting:

Grüner Veltliner is the most popular grape variety in Austria, occupying about one-third of the country’s vineyards. Much of the wine is simple and designed to be drunk young in the “Heurige” inns around Vienna, but the better examples have a distinctive character, often described as spicy, peppery, steely or herby. In the last decade or so, the Grüner Veltliner grape has been introduced to the New World, so the point of this tasting was to compare three Austrian examples with three offerings from the Southern Hemisphere.

The Austrian wines come from three side-valleys of the Danube, located just to the east of the famous Wachau region – the Traisental, Kamptal and Kremstal. These areas and the Wachau itself are generally regarded as producing the highest quality Gru-V wines.


DOMAINE HUBER, TRAISENTAL, 2017 (Ocado £10.79)
Very pale, nose sweetish. Zingy, fresh and minerally. Enjoyable but a bit light and simple.

WEINGUT BRUNDLMAYER RIED BERG VOGELSANG, KAMPTAL, 2016 (Ocado £18)
The word ‘Ried’ means vineyard, or ‘cru’.  Darker yellow, oily honeyed nose. Rich texture with plenty of fruit (pears?) and mineral character.

TURK KREMSER WEINBERG, 2016 (Worth Bros £16.50)
Zingy, peppery and minerally, with plenty of acidity and a long finish. Probably the most typical and distinctive of the three.

DIEMERSDAL ESTATE, DURBANVILLE, SOUTH AFRICA, 2015 (Majestic £10)
This is an old wine estate, near Capetown, but they have only been producing GV since 2013. The wine is matured on the lees for 6 months after fermentation.  Rich and citrusy nose. Palate has a limy acidity with distinctive spice and pepper of the grape variety.

WAIMEA ESTATES, NELSON, NEW ZEALAND, 2017 (Majestic £11)
Sweet fruity nose. Palate rather dull, soft, tinned fruit, lacking the character of the grape.

HAHNDORF HILL WHITE MISCHIEF, ADELAIDE HILLS, AUSTRALIA, 2015 (Worth Bros £18)
Hahndorf Hill have been producing GV since 2010 and make four different types of wine from it. This one is described as their fruit-driven style. Slightly oily nose. Good acidity, nice balance, tropical fruit and spice and a long finish.

Overall, an interesting tasting with four excellent wines, and the New World wines showing well against the Austrians. My thanks to Anna & Paul for sourcing the wine and the information, conducting the Tasting and supplying the notes….

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On now to a Scene-Setting Note about the upcoming ICC Tasting Theme: Victoria v Burgundy. This will compare 2 examples each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Victoria, Australia with one of each from Burgundy.

My interest in this Theme, which I started to prepare nearly a year ago, was piqued by a quotation from Jancis Robinson: “…some of the finest, and certainly most technically dependable, Chardonnays in the world come from Victoria...”.

Victoria certainly has a cooler climate than most of Australia, especially around Melbourne and the South-East of the state. This is evidenced by the fact that a grape that certainly needs a cool-climate more than most – Pinot Noir – finds a home there.

For both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, comparison with Burgundy will always be a background to tasting. So why not actually compare them? So this month we will taste 2 Chardonnay and 2 Pinot Noir from Victoria against a similar price example from Côte Chalonnais, Burgundy.

Chardonnay from Burgundy is one of the iconic wines of the world, but in fact Australia produces over twice as much. It was the first grape that drove Australia to world recognition, famously (or infamously) producing cheap, rich, exotic fruit and vanilla examples. You can still get Chardonnay like that from Australia, but less oaked, leaner and subtler versions are to be had .. hence Jancis’ opinion above.

Victorian Chardonnay is between 3% – 4% of all Australian Chardonnay. There is about half as much Chardonnay coming from Victoria as from the Cote d’Or – so something like only 7% or 8% of the total white Burgundy produced. (For information: White Burgundy is about half Côte Mâconnais & Côte Chalonnais, a third Chablis and a sixth Cote d’Or).

We’ll taste examples from Yarra Valley and Gippsland – both East of Melbourne – against a top Mercurey. Victorian Chardonnay has a reputation for “normal” alcohol levels (making it “restrained” for Australia?), plenty of fruit and texture but balancing acidity and some subtlety. Mercurey is also known for textured whites, but with a mineral line and freshness, somewhere between Chablis and Côte d’Or in style… All the example are around £20.


Over on the red side the tables are turned, Australian Pinot Noir is restricted to the (relatively) cooler fringes of the country, places like Tasmania, Southern Western Australia and Victoria. Therefore Australian production is about half as much as Burgundy. Victoria produces about 20% of that (though a little less than the total amount of Chardonnay it produces), nearly half of it from Yarra Valley. So Victoria yields the equivalent of about a tenth of red Burgundy’s volume (Red Burgundy is about two-thirds Cote d’Or; one-third Chalonnais & Mâconnais, mostly the former).

We’ll try exactly the same growers’ Pinot Noir offerings. We’d expect the Victorian examples to be, again, at normal alcohol levels, showing fruit and texture with a more “old world” structure and savoury, herbs or spice notes. So too with Mercurey – stylistically lighter than Cote d’Or, and often showing mineral or herby flavours. Again, all the examples are around £20 in the UK.

I hope the comparison is illuminating.

The ICC group met on Thursday 20th June to taste wines made by female winemakers. It was an interesting tasting with a good range of wines from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Spain, France and Portugal. Wines were sourced from three different wholesalers: Liberty, Enotria and Inverarity Morton. The prices are the RRP that the wines sell for (or would sell for) in Brigitte Bordeaux. Here are my notes:

dav

MOUNT HORROCKS 2018 ‘Watervale’ Clare Valley Riesling, 12.5%, £22.99
A fresh, dry Riesling with plenty of minerality. Flavours of lime, green apple and blossom with some early diesel hints. Very enjoyable!
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 14/20

TINPOT HUT 2016 McKee Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, 13%, £16.50
A subtle nose of peach and honeysuckle is followed on the palate by more stone fruit, lime notes and delicate white pepper hints on a mid-length, dry finish. Good balance of fruit and acidity with a refreshing minerality.
Quality 15/20                     Value: 15/20

LEYDA 2015 Chardonnay ‘Lot 5’, 14%, £18.90
This is a big, full bodied Chardonnay, fermented and aged for 10 months in French oak, 30% of which is new. The oak influence is well integrated with plenty of tropical fruit. Only 10% underwent malolactic fermentation leaving a fresh acidity to complement the rounded texture and long honeyed finish.
Quality 16/20                     Value: 16/20

LOBBAN NV Sparkling Shiraz, 13%, £19.50
This Spanish sparking red made from 95% Shiraz and 5% Garnacha was unanimously unpopular at the tasting, though Decanter magazine rated it highly enough to award it a Silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2014. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but the unusual savoury flavours which were difficult to pin down specifically, were reminiscent of some sort of herbal medicine. Not a patch on England’s Camel Valley Sparkling Red which some of us tasted during English Wine Week at the end of May.
Quality 11/20                     Value: 8/20

DOMAINE JONES 2015 Fitou, 14.5%, £20.95
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, with some of the fruit coming from very old vines. The result is a full-bodied and intense wine packed with berry fruit. Slightly jammy but with some herbal notes giving more complexity.
Quality 14/20              Value: 14/20

QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS 2015 Dão Touriga Nacional, 14.5%, £21.99
Pronounced aromas of red fruit and violets on the nose. On the palate, the red fruit and violet notes are supported by some warm spice. Smooth tannins and good acidity contribute to a well balanced wine with the floral and spicy notes persisting in a medium-length finish.
Quality 15/20                     Value: 14/20

I’m not sure we identified any particular shared characteristics in these wines by female winemakers, but it was an interesting and enjoyable tasting nonetheless.

See you next time,
Brigitte. x

woman wine

In a patriarchal world, it’s no surprise that the wine industry, like many other industries, has always been male-dominated. This androcentricity is perfectly illustrated by the name of the first Champagne House to be run by a woman when her husband died in 1805, ‘Veuve Cliquot’ or ‘Widow Cliquot’, defining Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin by her relationship to her dead husband.

If we had attempted this tasting twenty or thirty years ago, I would certainly have had more of a job sourcing the wines. As it is, in 2019 there are plenty of great female winemakers whose wines I could have chosen, and whittling it down to my final line-up was quite difficult. That’s not to say any sort of parity has been reached in the world of winemaking but rather that there are many more female winemakers than there used to be and that they are producing some great wines.

Last year saw a new bar open in London’s Covent Garden, called Lady of the Grapes, which showcases wines made predominately by female winemakers. Prior to that, Daphne’s, a restaurant in Chelsea, created a 40-strong wine list of wines made by women.

Statistics on the global percentage of female winemakers are hard to find, but statistics from America seem to suggest that about 10% of Californian wineries are headed by female winemakers and less than 10% in other states. I looked at the portfolios of a few of my suppliers and found that out of all of the producers listed, again roughly 10% had female winemakers. So, I guess a global estimate of about 10% shouldn’t be too far off.

This figure of one in ten is bigger than it used to be and I’m sure it will continue to rise. After all, don’t a woman’s superior sensory abilities make her better equipped for the job of winemaker? Many may refute this, but there is a certain amount of scientific research to support the idea that women (particularly of child-bearing age) have a more receptive and accurate sense of smell and taste.

Linda Bartoshuk PhD of Yale University was one of the first to carry out research in this field, dividing the population into non-tasters, tasters and supertasters and finding that 35% of women were supertasters compared to only 15% of men.

Other research has found that women have on average nearly 50% more cells in their brains’ olfactory bulbs than men, suggesting a clear biological advantage when it comes to smelling and tasting.

There is also linguistics research that suggests that women’s descriptive vocabulary is more specific and precise than men’s, enabling them to more precisely identify and describe the smells and tastes that they encounter.

Whether or not biological and gender differences can be said to give women an advantage over men in terms of tasting, assessing and describing wines, women certainly have had to work as hard as men, if not harder, to get to the top in this male dominated world. Interviews with ten international female winemakers for a Wine Enthusiast article entitled, ‘Meet 10 Trailblazing Women Leading the Wine Industry Forward’, elicited many anecdotes and examples of challenges and difficulties they have faced in terms of being viewed as the equals of their male counterparts.

But such outdated attitudes cannot last in a wine industry that now has so many women producing great wine and winning awards. Nyetimber’s Cherie Spriggs, for example, won IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year in 2018. She and many others are paving the way for more and more talented women in the world of wine.

cheri_IWC_Awards_Presentation_0334-785x475

So, we should hopefully see the number of women winemakers continue to grow. But is the wine of a female winemaker different to that of a male winemaker?

In the same Wine Enthusiast article mentioned above, some of the 10 female winemakers were asked whether women make wine differently, or indeed make different wine to men. The responses were varied, but some general themes pointed to women’s attention to detail, awareness of subtleties and ability to ‘see the bigger picture’ and therefore take a more holistic approach to winemaking. Claims to be more ‘intuitive’ and ‘nurturing’ also featured. One female winemaker, whose wine we will be tasting on Thursday evening, said ‘I am sure that women make wines of different styles than men. I think we make less extracted wines. Rather than big blockbuster styles, we look for more finesse. Personally, I make wines with more minerality, freshness, vibrancy and identity rather than big structured wines.’

For Thursday evening’s tasting, I’ve gone for 6 very different wines from 6 different women in 6 different countries. Will we see any commonality between these wines? Will we notice anything that sets these wines apart?  I’ll look forward to tasting them with you and finding out!

See you on Thursday,

Brigitte. x

Two sets of Notes for the price of one this month – A Tutored Tasting and an ICC Tasting I led on New Zealand…

A group of 11 W1NG members met at the Brigitte Bordeaux Wine Emporium on Bank holiday Monday, 6th May, for a Southern Rhone 2011,
Châteauneuf du Pape v Gigondas tasting. This was a wine society case purchased en primeur in September 2015.


1-Domaine du Cayron  Gigondas 14%  £18
78% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 6% Cinsault and 2% Mourvèdre
This had a powerful nose with nice volatile acidity. The palate was light with some liquorice notes. There was sour cherry and soft tannins. One of the group said this was their favourite and four would buy it.

2- The Society Châteauneuf du Pape £17.50 (Vignobles Mayard)
65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre
Nice acidity, more serious nose than last one, richer, non fruit flavours of liquorice and garrigue, thyme and rosemary.

3- Domaine Raspil-Ay Gigondas 15% £19
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah 5% Mourvèdre
This was very soft but with good acidity. Plummy fruit. Some port qualities.

4- Chateau Mont Redon Châteauneuf du Pape 15%  £20
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre and others
Sweet orange peel, light fruit and a little spicy, vegetal, quite simple. The group’s least favourite overall.

5- Domaine La Bouissiere   Gigondas  15%  £19
70% Grenache 25% Syrah 5% Mourvedre
A little medicinal on the nose, mineral, tarragon, liquorice, not mainstream, more complex. Good. Two of the group’s favourite.

6- Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 14.5%  £36
65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre 5% Cinsault
Restrained style, good balance and good acidity. lighter than expected. Quite a closed nose, lots of red fruit flavours and very long. 8 of the group said this was their favourite but were not all convinced it was worth the extra money.

An  interesting tasting. Overall the Gigondas were maybe a little more rustic, less powerful  and simpler than the Chateauneuf du Pape’s but they stood up very well and in some instances were better. Thanks to Matt and Kathryn for opening Brigitte Bordeaux for us.

Plus Corkmaster’s thanks to John and Ann for sourcing the wines, conducting the Tasting and the above notes.

 

Ten days later, after my excursion to Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (see two posts ago…) it was my turn to lead a tasting of
New Zealand Wine: North Island v South Island. A tasting that had been near the top of the poll for Themes this year.
I decided to show three pairs of wines, all sourced from The New Zealand House of Wine. The wines were served blind and I tried to encourage expression of  simple preference before trying to guess which was which.

Here are my notes:

The first pair were a Marlborough and a Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, each about £12.

WINE A had a nettle nose with some exotic fruit, later a hint of something in the Asparagus direction (I think of this as a fault). The palate had gooseberry and hgh acidity, grapefruit and a little green.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20       

WINE B was darker but with slightly more restrained nose, the acidity was warmer giving a richer impression but more pliant and citric. Some chalky minerality at the end. Although a slightly bigger package it seemed more balanced and complex and therefore less boring.
Ratings:        Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  16/20

 

It turns out Wine A was from the South Island – 

KIM CRAWFORD 2017 (Marlborough)       

Wine B was from the North Island –

TRINITY HILL WHITE LABEL 2016 (Hawkes Bay)

 

 

We then moved on to two Pinot Noir  each for about £17 – one each from Otago and Martinborough

Wine C had some farmyard and a herbal hint, with soft, even mashed red fruit. The palate had a slightly bitter “squeezed pip” quality and the whole package seemed soft and a bit grainy to me.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20       

Wine D had more fragrant fruit, slightly sweet but less over-ripe. The palate had a crunchier sharper fruit and some clean tannic structure, darker fruit and a herbacious tinged tannic finish. Again a cleaner, better balanced more effortless package.
Ratings:    Voting: 18 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20       

 

It turns out Wine C was from the South Island – 

CARRICK UNRAVELLED 2017 (Otago)

Wine D was from the North Island –

PALLISER ESTATE 2016  (Martinborough)

 

 

 

The final pair were two £19 Syrah, again from Marlborough and Hawkes Bay:

Wine E had a nose of slightly pithy olive and black fruit. The palate was grainy but supple and structured with a black fruit acidity and a tinge of salinity. Quite a persuasive Syrah
Ratings:    Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20   

Wine F had a much quieter nose with a palate of sweeter fruit, hints of blueberry and some soft tannins. A passable wine, with the lack of Syrah character a double-edged thing IMHO. However a simpler, slightly overdone wine.
Ratings:    Voting: 9 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20       

 

It turns out Wine E was from North Island –

TRINITY HILL GIMBLETT GRAVELS 2015 (Hawkes Bay)

and Wine F from the South Island –

SERESIN ESTATE 2016 (Marlborough)      

 

 

So an interesting result. The majority preferred the North Island Wine of each pair – with a combined score of 50 to 29! I concurred with those preferences, strongly, and surprisingly so in the case of the Pinot Noir, of which the Martinborough was my favourite of the night. I also noted that of the first two pairs – the North Island Wine had lower alcohol and wore it’s heat and richness more lightly. The final wine was less clear to me – I find Syrah a bit grainy at the best of times – but the South Island wines all seemed a bit muddy, maybe over-extracted and somehow trying-too-hard… Of course this is a small sample, easily explained by individual grower or terroir factors.. However a bit of a surprise – and something to think about with future NZ sampling.

À Bientôt

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