Sunday, October 5, 2014

The death of the Tasting Note and a damn fine Champagne.


The Tasting note has become an institution and the most logic form of describing a wine. In it we try to unfold the character of the wine by fragmenting it’s components. A good taster have the ability to distinctively spot the most detailed aromatic/flavour notes of the wine and some can even visualize the wine for you, by using creative metaphors. No doubt that the use of metaphors enriches the language, elevates the fun-factor and even have an inspirational appeal to a thirsty audience. But!” - they can also be highly individual, completely useless and far-fetched. After the creative phase of the tasting note, and the use of endless adjectives, the taster will try to reach a conclusion, by sort of putting the notes back into a context, measuring the wines overall balance. Some end the tasting note with a score – some don’t.

(The scoring of wine is probably a separate post worthy, but let’s leave that for a rainy day).  

I have a hate/love affair with the tasting note. I think it’s a poor mans thought of trying to capture a wines soul. However I recognize that it’s at least a form trying it’s best with words to unfold a wines character.

What I don’t like about the tasting note is that it reminds me of performance tool, between a company and their employees. We look for plusses and minuses, by fragmenting and we ALWAYS end up concluding something. Yet when we have separated all the components of a wine into a SWOT matrix we don’t always, if you ask me, manage to assemble the components correctly back into place. The fragmenting becomes primary and we become too focussed on performing a task, rather than just relaxing and connecting with the wine.  I think we do this, because the tasting note has become such an easy form to adapt to.
Our role models – and where we have learned the tasting note from – are wine journalist.  However I think we forgot forgot, in our eager to play mini-Parker/Galloni or Jancis Robinson, that the wine journalist are at work and tasting notes are part of their paycheck. We, you and I – the consumer, are not at work. Nothing is required from us, when it comes to wine – yet we chose to use the neo cortex of our brain, which is responsible for all our rational and analytic choices. Instead, the curious reader, would obviously ask, why we don’t use our the limbic system of our brain, which holds all our feelings and emotions, when wine are in fact something that unfolds on an emotional level? But does the limbic system have an understandable language? I believe it has and I miss its presence in wine, despite I can find it elsewhere in other emotional systems like literature, art and music. The limbic language is not so easy to master as listing facts are. It will even break the norms and you might be laughed at, because it can be perceived as pure nonsense. Who wants to be a failure, when they can be a success, by just following the already secure standards of a fact-listing tasting note? The tasting note have become like an occupying norm institution. And fair enough really, because maybe we don’t need to express what the limbic system are telling us. Maybe the affect of the wine – that electric pulse inside your bloodstream was just a personal moment for you. The unexplainable was somehow your own little secret – another dimension - something to hold onto and be inspired by. Sometimes it can be disturbing to let other people into your most private thoughts – so why share it, if it holds more value by treasuring it?


There are also good things about tasting notes. I like the fact that starting up a tasting note actually forces you to listen and talk to the wine. The more this conversation unfolds– the more information you will obtain. The experience of the wine, if you do a proper job, should hold most of the details. By having written your notes down on paper, it’s very easy to come back and do some more reflections.

However at the end of the day – the formal approach of writing down has the tendency to focus on “what?” (The neo cortex) – analysis, facts, numbers - and not the “why?” (The limbic system) – emotions, feelings and reflections.

“Why”  - is me – this is who I am, when I drink wine. When I work – I am “what” and I need that contrast when it comes to wine.

Let’s end it here – despite the subject holds more nuances. It’s a blog – not a novel ;-).

But before we end – as the headline promised – I’ll give you a tasting note on a spectacular Champagne.



2009 Benoît Lahaye “Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre”

Blend: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Arbanne, Petit Meslier and other unknown varieties.
Terroir: Brown Chalk
Age of wines: Some Planet in 1923 by Benoit's grandfather – yet some dead replaced again in 1952.
Vinification: 10 months in old 225l barrels.
Dosage: 0 g/l
Production: 840 bottles
Glass: Zalto White wine

I have actually tasted this Champagne once before in 2013, when I attended the pre-2013 Terres et vins de Champagne event called “"Les Vins de Champagne à travers le temps". This is however the first I take it for a spin at home. I remember it as a remarkable breed with highly sophisticated spices. I also remember that the blend was rather particular and also asking Benoît about these “other” varieties? He just smiled, so we will have to settle with that ;-).

I can’t tell you what these spices taste like – they are so unique and intense. You have to buy it “see” for yourself. It smells like raw soil, warm stones, black cherries stones/olives – but I am really guessing here, because I have never tasted anything like it before. The intensity of these spices, roots from a dark place and it seriously feel like drinking the soil. At one stage I feared that it would lose height, given the combination of these dark, mysterious spices and the slightly warm ’09 vintage. However despite the growling dark baseline it somehow also manages to stretch itself into a weightless space. Insane really – something I have never seen before and totally emotional experience for me.

When I ask myself what I love about Champagne, it always circles around the cool climate, fostering overly elegant and precise wines. However I also like the raw side of Champagne, which started to come alive, when I got introduced to growers like Benoît Lahaye here. This is raw nature-stuff Champagne, not seeking any kind of compromise. Nor is it a fruit bomb, ready to take you for Boogie Woogie on the dance floor. “Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre” is not a beginner Champagne and I would recommend you to drink it with food.

One of a kind Champagne. Try it, if you can find it. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Drinking wine alone

Wine is about sharing. Sure – we all know that phrase. In wine it’s second nature to enhance the experience by sharing. Today’s psychologist and coaches speaks about how important it is that other people are witnesses to our life. We live stronger when we give something to other people and they act as a catalyst for our sensorial systems. Wine is no different. The joy of being with likewise passionate people is revitalizing. I live for this – it’s part of my wine loving DNA.


I couldn’t live without “sharing”. However the daily practicalities are of course producing some logic obstacles. We are (well I am) constantly frightful busy and always short of time. So I do actually drink a lot of wine on my own…well almost…technically its most of the times with my wife, but it’s the moments were I completely alone and decide to open a bottle a wine, I want to speak about. I also want to speak about why, especially big tasting events, is not always heaven to me.

Let’s go back to the month of May this year….

My wine mates and I (plus 3 other friends) were at one of my favourite restaurants in Copenhagen. Own wine – Chef table – Rock 'n' Roll. It couldn’t go wrong. But it did. I didn’t have a good time and not only did I have alcoholic hangovers the next day – I also felt like a melancholy zombie. When my brain started to function again, I started to put together my state of mind puzzle. Why did I feel so miserable? What went wrong?

There were three reasons.

Firstly – I often build expectations to an event like this. I am confident it releases some traces of dopamine and increases my adrenalin. That’s why you often hear the remark of people who look forward to events like this, as a child looks forward to Christmas Eve. Good or bad tasting…well often the day after feels hollow and slightly melancholic.

Secondly is a “demon” I have seen before, which relates a little to the first one. The demon is a kind of seven deadly sins – well at least three of them: Lust, Gluttony and Greed. Sadly there is a tendency, that lack of moderation can kill the intimacy for me. Erotic turns into porn. There are too many impressions to digest at a +20 bottle wine tasting with +20 courses of food and +10 people to talk to. You have to prioritize and somehow I have never succeeded to put together the perfect plan. Something has always suffered and killed the overall impression.

Third is a new “troll”. The troll is about different opinions. Despite I think you can learn a lot from tasting with other people and understanding what makes them tick, I am not always in the mood of constantly hearing their and my opinion on wine. Especially if it comes to just focussing on the most significant diversity of each other’s taste. Sure such a debate is interesting, but it requires time to obtain the important nuances. You don’t have that time at such events, where you have to focus on so many things. Sometimes I just want to “be there”. Catching up with friends, I might not have seen for a long time. The wine can even be secondary. It’s simply just about confirming your friendship. So it annoys me, when I sometimes feel in a situation, where I am forced to express my own opinion. At this above-mentioned tasting event there were such a situation. One of the attendees, whom I don’t know well, expressed his opinion about natural wine. He told me about a purchase of a mixed 12-bottle case (all natural wine), from an importer I know well. Now I don’t own or have a passion for these wines he bought, but I have tasted them before. He explained that half of them were good, 3 of them were so so and the last 3 were undrinkable. Then waited for me to say something, especially concerning the 3 undrinkable ones. It was like he had invited me to take part of a discussion, as he must have thought of me as an ambassador of both natural wine and the guy who imports them. So what do you say to that? I didn’t say anything. I didn’t care really. Leave me alone, dude.  

Drinking wine alone.


I love drinking alone. It’s peaceful and aesthetic. When I am alone with wine I can crawl into my own little cave. On one hand I pay attention on all the details of the wine and the ambience around me. Paying attention makes you see nuances, which is muted if you don’t pay attention.  On the other hand, I also like to be absorbed in a kind of no man’s land, where I don’t pay attention to anything. It’s important to create this bubble, which I often do by listen to music, watch a good movie or look in my many photographic books. Wine and the alcohol affect is not an escape from the challenges you have in your life. This is important to understand. Wine and alcohol is not the solution for a stressed life. I never drink wine, when I feel stressed. However I use eight hours a day crunching numbers and try to navigate and beat the financial markets. I simply get nuts, if there is not a contrast to this and have found out that wine creates a path to my other half brain and opens a window of creativity.

So what happens next - when the wine is in the glass and the ambience is set? We talk– the wine and I. Oh yes. I like to talk with the wine. Wine is like a small individual “person” and I see my role as someone trying to understand he/she/it. The only way to understand is to listen and make conversation. Such a statement sounds like mumbo jumbo – I know. Yet I would bet we each have our way of “communicating” with wine. The conversations are highly interesting. They swing from love at first sight >>> instant trouble >>> puzzled >>> intellectual >>> meaningless >>> eccentric >>> seductive >>>…….etc.

Sometimes it happens that the experience and the ambience created, takes my mind to an almost transcendental state. It’s far easier for me to let go when I am alone. Is wine a drug? I have never taken any drugs, but I imagine there are some similarities, when this transcendental mental state takes control. These moments come and go and shift in their strength, but at their peak, it’s at moments like these I feel most inspired in my life.

The silence and the intimacy are also magical. It’s again the relationship/conversation between you and the wine. Yes – there might be issues, which you don’t like about the wine, but then again you have something to “talk” about. The wine is not flawless – and so what? I am far more forgiving when I drink alone. When you taste wine with other people, I think we have a tendency to quickly conclude on aromatic profiles, use a lot time “nailing it” – praise those who “won” and quickly move on to the next wine. This is a big mistake if you ask me. The best way for me to understand a wine is after I have drunk a whole bottle of by myself.

Don’t ever give up drinking wine with friends, your loved ones and with other people – but don’t forget to drink wine alone either.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Champagne visit - 2014

Stay tuned....All images are clickable and will open a larger format.
(Jérôme Prévost)

(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Hotel and restaurant Les Avisés / Selosse)
(Le Chateau de Pierry / Les Origines Champagne) 
(Ine Goossens & Ries van der Vlugt / Just Add Wine)










Saturday, June 28, 2014

The price trap

In April I visited Champagne again. I couldn’t help noticing that prices on grower Champagne are on the rise. Yet the increasing price curve on the most innovative growers in Champagne are not a singular phenomenon. Prices on quality wines are in general increasing and it rarely helps when the production is low. Just think of Burgundy, where some of the most prestigious names are separating themselves to an exclusive club of consumers.  

Overall I don’t like to talk about prices on wines. “Numbers” is what I do for a living and wine has always acted as a contrast to my work life. I like to keep it that way. Money is a weird thing really – we know it matters, but to start a debate about what’s the right way to use them is more about moralizing. What people do with their own money is their choice. Wine is good example. All passionate wine lovers, knows it’s a form of madness to spend a ridiculous amount money on fermented grape juice. You might have done a great investment, but at the end of the day you are willing to  “destroy” that investment by drinking it. Yet we (us wine geeks) know that there is more to it than just grape juice with alcohol.

I often see people complain about price developments on wine. I am no different and guilty as sinned. In fact it happened in Champagne. Some of my favourite producers are starting to be in a price range, where I have to think twice. If I decide to buy expensive wine I just don’t buy a six-pack without blinking. But owing just one or two bottles of a very expensive wine is actually another dilemma. You just don’t serve these wines on a Tuesday evening with a Spaghetti Bolognese. No! You save them for a special occasion. This is okay to some degree, as we have always split wines into different categories and somehow we find wines that suit that Tuesday evening. However when you put the wine on an exclusive price pedestal you build high expectations. You even make sure it’s served with the right people, as you rarely drink such expensive wines alone – or do you? I think most want to share a potential big experience with other people and this is one of the beauties with wines; friendship and the social element. Yet it’s also a bit weird, because you will probably only get one or two glasses. You even make sure the wine is matched with the right food, chose the right day - where “equivalent” wines are present. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking forward to taste a special wine. Not at all – I embrace this myself. However I have never felt comfortable of tasting wines, where I somehow beforehand are almost nervous on the outcome. Tasting wines naked, being relaxed and just interact with the wine and having a good natural flow appeals far more to me.  

Yet the spike in prices also have a positive flip side for me. When a wine breaches your own price limits the initial thought is: DAMN! Now I can’t buy Soldera or Jacques Selosse anymore and this is not so easy to digest. For me it helps thinking that if I die tomorrow I won’t die thirsty of either Soldera or Selosse. Yet somehow I just forget about them. They kind of slip my mind and the reason is simple. Wine-Life goes on. It’s like my consumer behaviour automatically guides me in a different direction and my curiosity likes that. It says something about how many talented winemakers there are out there and how many I haven’t even tasted yet.  I live for curiosity and taking a stance on prices helps me stay alert.

You might already have guessed this introduction is leading up to a wine, where I will touch upon its price tag. This wine is the result of being curious and of course having good wine dealers, who buys the good stuff and knows your palate. The price here is low – but the quality is outrageous. I couldn’t help to speculate if this wine was served blind to me. I would have compared it with some of the best white wines I have tasted from Burgundy, which are easily +150€. But this one is roughly €23…if you can find it that is.



2012 Jean-Marie Berrux “La Petite Têtu”

Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Location: Burgundy, Corpeau, Slightly south of Puligny.
Vineyard: 1,5 ha
Vinification: Oak (20% new) + only indigenous yeats.
Viticulture: Biodynamic
Other: No sulphur during vinification – only at bottling (approx 18mg/l)
Production: 7-8.000 bottles
Glass: Tasted two times – One time from Zalto Burgundy and second time from a Spiegelau Burgundy glass in a restaurant). Zalto was miles better (no surprise) and lifted the wines freshness and minerality, whereas in Spiegelau it was a bit oilier and heavier in style.
  
I didn’t write any notes on it…I never do that anymore, but I remember it very well. I also remember my wife and I drank if faster than we normally do. My wife even said, that she was tired and not so much into wine this evening. She changed her mind. The wine is utterly sensual. It has a mind-blowing elastic feel as soon as you stick your nose into the glass. On one hand its oily and buttery, which sometimes can go deadly wrong with these white Burgundy and not something I favour. Yet it has a combo of wild yeast flavours, honey, brioche and  lots of fresh tickly fruit with sensual apple cider associations, which creates the most divine balance. The touch of oak is also there, yet only secondary with sensuality and so well balanced. The taste is round and lush – just like the nose, yet filled with enormous minerality, life and bite. What a wine. Hunt it if you can find it. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fri Vin 2014 - Impressions

When spring arrives here in the upper part of the northern hemisphere it has an almost hypnotic-like affect. Winter is over – the hell of darkness has come to and end. Life can start again and when you fill the air with 25 degrees, blue skies there is form a madness emerging. On top - set the scene with some of the most leading, innovative bio/”Nature” winemakers play some great jazz music and serve the crowd tasty food. The result was pure bliss.  

Fri Vin 2014 was one of the best wine festivals I have ever participated in. I never attend such events to taste in great detail and take away 200 useful tasting notes. No! it’s more about inspiration. Sure I hope discover my next big wine love affair, but seeing the winemakers and just being in a place with likewise passionate people, is far more appealing to me.

There was a phenomenal atmosphere at the event. Of course helped by the weather showing the best spring setting Copenhagen can offer in late April. You also sensed the relationship among the winemakers and how they were proud to be part of something extraordinary.

I think these types of wines and their frivolous appeal showed what they are all about on such a day. The four wine importers behind the event; Petillant, Lieu-dit, Wine Wise and Rosforth & Rosforth are all aware of what these wines can do and did a very intelligent manoeuvre by illustrating the common analog character of both wine, music and food.


Big applause – Bravo!!!!.....so when is the next Fri Vin?   


Enjoy the images - they are all clickable and will open a larger and better resolution. 
(Dominik Huber)
(Stella di Campalto)
 (Olivier Horiot - Champagne)
 Evelyne Clairet  (Domaine de la Tournelle)

 (Gabrio Bini - Insane wines from  Azienda Agricola Serragghia)
 (Mark Angeli)
 (The one and only Sune Rosforth)
 (We have beautiful women here in Denmark)
(Nicolas Carmarans)
 (Ronald Regan…well almost)
 (François Saint-Lô)
 (Breathtaking Sinne Eeg - Danish Jazz vovalist)
 (More Sinne Eeg)
(Let the party begin) 
 (Frederic Cossard)
(Christian Nedergård - Mr. Ved Stranden 10 Vinhandel & Bar - owner of Copenhagen's finest beard)
(Gabrio Bini again)
(Guy Breton - Morgon)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fruit and soil

Initially I wanted to do a presentation of Ruppert-Leroy – an exiting new Champagne producer from the Aube region. However, when I was in Champagne (where I have just returned from) I tasted a very exiting white wine – which I actually have in glass right now. It’s the 2012 “Clos du Rouge Gorge” from a producer called Cyril Fhal.

I tasted these wines a day apart and thought it gave good meaning to present them in the same post, as they represent a contrast – yet individually something interesting.  

Let’s get aquatinted with the wines:
Fruit!

2011 Ruppert-Leroy “Martin-Fontaine” Brut Nature

Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Teroir: Clay and limestone
Age of vines: 70 years old
Vinification: Oak
Viticulture: Biodynamic
Dosage: 0 g/l
Glass used: Zalto White Wine

A very joyful Champagne, where you immediately feel in a good mood. There is a lot of sensorial sweetness, with ripe fruit, candied citrus, juicy sweet pear/apple and a crystal clear fruit. All together it’s floral attraction and the adorable factor is high. The taste has a precise linear style with a vibrant and precise acidity, which keeps the keynotes uplifted. However there is a fine line of the role of the sensorial sweetness, which keeps adding rather sweet notes, like elderflower and adding what seems to be residual sugar to the back of the palate. On one hand, it’s a part of this joyful style, which you can’t really resist, but you can't help to take notice. For me it’s slightly annoying. Having said that – I had no problems enjoying it.  If I turn to Mr. analytic I really miss some sort of soil bite, which could have shifted its focus away from only fruit. So what’s the verdict? Well – this is young Champagne and it’s indeed very healthy and well made. It’s even extremely easy to drink. It could very well be all about baby-fat and a completely different breed in 2-3 years time. To me this is a very good Champagne, but if to turn really great, it will have to attract more soil nerve with cellaring. However I suspect it will have many fans and for sure a producer I look forward to follow.


Soil!

2012 Cyril Fhal “Clos du Rouge Gorge (Blanc)”

Grape: 100% Macabbeu
Terroir: Sandy, silty soil (150-200m above sea level)
Vinification: Oak (2-3 years old) – No sulphur before Vinification.
Viticulture: Since Cyril Fhal took over in 2002 he converted to Bio (Demeter)
Location: We are in Latour de France (Roussillon)
Glass used: Zalto Universal
  
This is completely different kind of wine. Obviously we are comparing bubbles against a still wine, but as you will see it’s a wine, with an entire different setting. Here the fruit tonality is very shy and not something that would pull your pants down in a blind tasting. It’s however filled with energy – tons of it. It’s that energy, which keeps you turning back to the glass and despite the subdued bouquet, it was actually a wine I spent a lot of time “sniffing”. It’s simply the fascination of not exposing everything at once and a wine, which is constantly changing shape in the glass. The taste is not the kind of wine, which wraps a mouth coating cashmere orgy on you. No! Here its minerals all over – ranging from wet crushed stones, to warm slate. On day two the wine was even better. Thrilling intense, challenging and very reflective to the mind. Loved it and definitely not the last time I taste this producer.

To compare these two wines is not to pick a winner – or a loser. Personally I fell more attracted to wines with high soil energy. However if you have been reading this blog for some time you also know I like to illustrate diversity and how wines should pair with both food, occasions, your own mood and the lust for wine on the day you pull/pop the cork.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fri vin 2014

Impressive list of winemaker this year (click image to see list) 

Copenhagen the 26th of April 2014 - from 10:00-18:00. Tickets can be bought here

See you there.