It is that time of the year, the new wine has arrived. And with that, I’m sorry to say, so to has any sense of normality and focus on quality from wine lovers, wine writers and wine connoisseurs.
Of all the hypes in the wine world none are as stupid as the Beaujolaise Nouveau. This rush to get the first vintage ready is just pain wrong, and the vintners know it. But it is a straight line to fast money, and, well, I can’t really fault people who want to earn a fast buck. But I’ve travelled to Beaujolais and talked to the wine makers there. Many of them see the Nouveau as a burden that has taken alle the focus away of the quality that the Gamay grape and the Beaujolaise region as a whole can produce. And having tasted wines made from Gamay that have been given the chance to rest, it is so clear that they are right. To drink these Nouveau-wines is just wrong, for all reasons. Wine can’t be made in such a short time. Wine, as a product needs time to develop and become what it can and should be!
So, as a personal protest to the hype, we are recommending the total opposite today. Well, maybe not the total opposite, that would be a white wine with age from the new world, but we could’t find that at the vinmonopolet. So we ended up with a 26 year old Bordeaux in stead!
Chateau Bel-Air Lagrave is a Cru Borgeois and the Cru Bourgeois classification lists some of the châteaux from the Médoc that were not included in the 1855 Classification of Crus Classés, or Classed Growths. Notionally, Cru Bourgeois is a level below Cru Classé, but still of high quality. The Seguin-Bacquey family have owned this nine-hectare Moulis property for over 150 years. The vineyard is planted with 60% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot and 5% petit verdot. The wine spends 18-20 months in oak, between 35% and 50% of which is new.
Ch. Bel-Air Lagrave 1994 – 399,90 kr
The first ting you notice is the scent of a pencil that has just been sharpened! It brings back memories of school. I addition there is cedar three, cigar box, leather and red pepper. In the mouth you right away notice the total lack of tannins! In stead there are a lot of secondary flavours. Red peppers dominate, with cigar and smoked ham as well. There is good acidity to help balance the wine, but some tannins would be nice. But it is a wine that surprises and pleases. So much better than the unfinished wines being released right now.
November is upon us and Halloween has come and gone, days grow shorter and shorter and sometimes the sky graces us with a beautiful sunset offset by leafless threes making for spooky shadow play. On these evenings we often pour something red in our wine glass, but for those who goes searching, there can be found gold in Vinmonopolet’s shelves. This week we have wondered to the ancient Greek shores.
Greece isn’t the first country you think of when you think of quality wines. Often the only Greek wines we have had or cheap wines found at restaurants. But lately there has been a small revolution in Greece and the rise in quality has been great. It makes for some new and interesting acquaintances, and this week we welcome the grape Malagouzia to our collection. This grapes was virtually extinct until it was found again in the 1970’s and has been revived to what we now can get. And it is a great grape!
This weeks wine comes from the Amyndeon plateau north in Greece from the producer Alpha Estates. It was founded in 1997 by the experienced viticulturist Makis Mavridis and chemist-oenologist Angelos Iatridis, who, after years of experience in various locations of Greece, chose the Amyndeon region to create his own wine. Respect to nature, combined with high quality and deeply eco-friendly growing practices and the typicity of the produced wines are possible with the implementation of mild, sustainable integrated viticulture and winemaking practices, based on the most recent international standards.
Malagouzia Single Vineyard Turtles 2019 – 211,90 kr
A first for me. Very good Greek wine. At first it gave me hints of a Sancerre but after a few minutes there were more dept to this wine. On the nose, gooseberry and freshly cut grass. It feels quite weighted in the mouth. Honey, oranges, clementine in the mouth. Good acidity to balance the wine. Very long and very smooth.
This is a crowd pleaser in so many ways. Wonderful, tingling flavours, easy to drink and excellent priced. It even features a label possible to remember. Our wine pick of the week comes from California, USA.
Zinfandel was among the first wine grapes I really enjoyed as I started with wine, years back. It presented likeable features for beginners such as sweetness, spiciness and high alcohol. Yup, these were key things for me as I got started. Much the same as Amarone wines, which I also loved.
Well as I expanded my wine horizon both Amarone and Zinfandel fell off the charts.
But over the last couple of years I've noticed that good things are happening to my early favourite; the Zinfandel grape. Excellent winemakers have been working on taming this wild grape, but keeping what its gret at - fruit and spice! Another issue has been getting the alcohol down to more reasonable levels.
And among those who've managed this is Hobo Wine Company. A modern wine company focused on good things such as high quality production and sustainable farming.
It's even a versatile food pairing wine, working excellent with both vegetarian dishes as well as beef or pork dishes.
This bottle could be your new everyday favourite.
Our wine of the week takes us to the far north west corner of Spain, to Galicia. This spectacular part of the country consists of beautiful beaches, steep and high mountains and wast plains. It's blessed with an oceanic climate, with rainy winters and spring, and quite dry summers.
Dominio do Bibei is run by Javier Dominguez and was founded back in 1999. It's considered one of the absolute top in the region and produces quality wines from these dramatic vineyards.
The grapes for LaLama are hand harvested in these steep hills, situated 300-700 meters above sea level. The vines are between 18-100 years old and the grape mix is 90% Mencia, 3% Garnacha, 3% Brancellao and 2% Mouraton. The wine is stored 13 months in French oak, 7 months in 45hl casks and 16 months in bottle before release.
It's a fantastic wine both for drinking on its own, but also super versatile with food.
This is a brilliant example of the new style of wines coming out of Spain these days.
We’re coming upon November and the famous “new wines” from Beaujolais will be dropped. If you have followed this blog for a while you will know our scepticism towards this hype. Wines just aren’t ready after a month of vinification and they are never at the full and best potential. And when you taste the other wines from the Beaujolais vintners the question becomes: why doesn’t everyone just make wine like this weeks wine!
They make great reds in Beaujolais, but don’t forget the whites! The Chardonnay grape reigns supreme among the white grapes here and the result can be magical. Like the white from Yohan Lardy. -The young wine maker started his estate with 2 ha of old vines - planted in 1911 and 1950 - on the heights of the Moulin a Vent appellation in the prestigious plot called "Les Michelons". Here The soil is very thin, meagre, with pink granite crumble rich on iron mineral "manganese". For his white wines Vines are planted near the Cru Fleurie, on a clay and silty soil.
The grapes are handpicked and he vinifies his wines with only native yeasts without sulfites. The wines are aged for at least 10 months in Burgundy barrels in order to get the best balance between fruit and acidity.
Yohan Lardy Beaujolais-Villages Blanc les Bruyères 2019 - 186,40 kr
The first ting that strikes you is the great and clean fruit that you smell right away. Fine citrus fruits, with hints of hazelnuts and ripe, yellow apples. In the mouth great minerality and good acidity to give balance. Very good to drink now and just enjoy!
Here's a bottle of beautiful American Syrah, from Washington, that will be perfect with this seasons great game dishes. It comes from Chateau Ste Michelle that's been taking pride in producing old world style wines since 1967.
The Syrah graps are grown in the Colombia Valley outside Seattle. A cascade mountain range shield the vineyards from the marine climate of Seattle, allowing only 15-20 cm of rainfall every year. This leaves us with a good consentration in the grapes and quite low alcohol being an American wine.
It has great fruit and just enough tannin structure to handle the often lean game meat. It's a beautiful bottle and a great image on what American Syrah graps could be at their best.
NB! - I'm tasting the 2015 vintage, but the current vintage in Vinmonopolet is 2017.
This week we had our annual dugnad where I live. Autumn has worked hard on the threes surrounding our building so there was a lot of leaves to sweep up. And this being Bergen and October we were graced with rain, a lot of rain, to make the job even more “fun”. So, when we were finished it was good to pop open a bottle of red and enjoy the rest of the evening.
The wine I chose I feel is perfect for autumn evenings. It is from Savoie and for those who have been there or have seen our story from Savoie you know the forest surroundings really leave their mark on the wines from this area.
The wine I chose I feel is perfect for autumn evenings. It is from Savoie and for those who have been there or have seen our story from Savoie you know the forest and mountain surroundings really leave their mark on the wines from this area.
This weeks wine is from Jean-Charles Girard-Madoux who founded his Domaine in 2006, after repurchasing vineyards once owned by his grandfather. The Domaine has quickly become a reference point producer of native Savoyard varietals such as Jacquere and Mondeuse and it is the Mondeuse-grape that is focus for this week’s wine.
The Mondeuse is produced from 50 year old vines perched on vertiginous slopes (30-60%) near the village of Chignin, just south of Geneva, Switzerland. Made from hand-harvested Mondeuse grapes and whole-cluster fermented using native yeasts, this beautiful low alcohol red features high-toned cherry flavours and spiciness, mild tannins and firm acidity that bears more than a passing resemblance to Syrah, its distant relative and near-neighbour.
Domaine Jean Charles Girard Madoux Mondeuse 2017 - 180 kr
Very delicate and fine bouquet with hints of red berries, raspberries and fresh strawberries with hints of the forest after a rainfall. Not a lot of tannins so it’s very soft to drink. But good acidity gives it the structure it needs. In the mouth the red berries continue with raspberries, blackberries and cherry. Great to drink alone but will also handle lighter meals with chicken or ham.
"If a wine can smell like white chocolate, we're on to something good"
This is Alaska. Currently working here gives me a chance to take a plunge into great American wines. Being a huge fan, it's not often I have such a wide and varied selection to taste from. In this first round I'm looking at Chardonnays. The common American palette caters to heavily oaked and bold fruited wines. They tend to lack acidity for balance and freshness. But in recent years things have changed. More and more producers are adjusting techniques and working differenty in the vineyards. And this is good news for us.
My wine of the week is the 2016 Chardonnay from winemaker Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat. Since 1982 they've made true artisan wines and winning prices all over the world. Located in Santa Barbara they make wines as a homage to Burgundy.
It's a small investment, but this is a Chardonnay unlike any other. I mean, it smells of white chocolate :)
As the rough winds and rain of autumn batter us up and down the coast we tend to choose heavy and fat meats like lamb for dinner. And why wouldn’t we, the season lamb is fantastic right now. But we sometimes we need a break from the meat and we Norwegians have really come to love sushi. As we should. Right on our doorsteps we have the best fish imaginable and all over the country new and exiting sushi restaurants are starting up. This weeks wine is the perfect compliment to a great sushi meal.
Good sushi is elegant and pure in it’s flavours. You get the sea from the fish, salt from the soy sauce and a full richness from the rice. And then there is all the extra spices and condiments that a good sushi chef will colour the meal with. When pairing with wine you need good acidity to deal with the spice and minerality to go with the freshness of sushi. And if you can get good fruit from the wine as well, well then you have the perfect match.
One of my first visits to a vineyard was to Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken in Saarburg, Germany. Ruth Zilliken invited us inn and let us taste a wide range of bottles she brough up from the cellar. A truly amazing day. To this day I hold the wines from Zilliken as some of my favourites. Always with a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness, these are wines that can be enjoyed alone or with food and especially with fish dishes like sushi.
This week’s wine is the Saarburg Riesling Feinherb 2018. Feinherb would in English mean off-dry in Norwegian we say “halvtørr”. It has 20,4 grams pr liter of sugar so it is sweeter than a dry wine but it has such an exceptional acidity that it does not fell dry at all. This in combination with the great minerality makes it perfect to combine with food.
Zilliken Saarburger Riesling Feinherb 2018 - 239,90 kr
It is a bit closed upon opening but after half an hour it blossoms, and we get citrus fruits, green apples and fresh herbs. IN the mouth the acidity dominates at first and it has a feeling of lemon and lime. After a bite of sushi though the flavour of the wine completely changes, and you get grapefruit and blood orange. This is truly an example of the food making the wine better and the wine making the food better. So, so, good.
Enjoy with sushi of course, but it will also handle other sea foods like shrimp and crab without any problems. If you want to enjoy it by it self decanter the wine and leave it for an hour and it will soften up and become great.
I've been on the road on the west coast of Norway this week. And left with a pretty normal wine list at the hotel, I made it my mission to pick wine of the week from this 12 bottle selection. A situation many can relate to. So how to make the best choice? Here's my how-to.
Stick to the big ones: France - Italy - Spain.
Avoid: New World, like New Zealand, USA and South Africa.
Why: You're just more likely to hit it big by sticking to a classic, in a situation like this.
Choose a traditional producer that has a long and history.
How too: Google the producer. Solid wineries usually have extended websites.
Look for wine regions that you've heard about.
Like Piedmont in Italy, Burgundy and Bordeaux in France and Rioja in Spain.
Don't know any wine regions? --> Google "Famous wine regions in ... France"
Be price smart. Don't head for the 355kr bottle and skip the Amarone at 1650kr.
A good buy in both red and white, at a normal hotel, will be around 6-800kr. Lower is usually overpriced cheap shit, or more expensive is often hyped stuff not worth the price.
Finally get a sense of the staff. The knowledge varies a lot these days.
A good waiter will ask if you want to see the wine list, a poor one will just recommend a random wine without offering you to see the selection.
If you have a good one, ask for recommendation.
For my choice
-I stuck with Italy
-I knew that Fontanafredda was a solid producer
-I know Piedmont very well
-This Barolo was 790kr
-The staff had little knowledge, so I didn't involve them
And I ended up with a very nice bottle at a good price, for a restaurant.