Monday, January 31, 2011

NV Laherte Fréres "Les Clos", Champagne

Blend: 18% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier, 8% arbanne, 15% petit meslier,17% Pinot Blanc and 10% fromenteau
Dosage: 0 g/l
Vintage: This is the debut release of the Les Clos Solera project - 2005/2006 vintage.
Vineyard: 1 ha in Chavot - planted in 2002.
Bonus: All 7 grapes are picked and pressed together.
This is Bio-stuff
Glass: Spiegelau Adina "Red wine"

Before we go into some more glass talk - let's taste some wines.

Admitted – being so much into wines, it happens that you are drawn to the unique; the rare and wines that can add some sort of storytelling to their character.

A Champagne with 7 different grapes are for sure unique and holds lots of storytelling by embracing and bringing back historical varietals from the Champagne region.

I can’t help to start my TN like this, as it’s really important to know how this Champagne is composed and especially that all 7 grapes are harvest and pressed together. Why you may ask, as not all of these grapes has the same cycle of life and maturity date? The answer is simply to show terroir, by actually not focussing on the grapes individuality.

Having tasted it 4-5 times already, I really felt the comfort zone on a Friday evening, but the Champagne completely took me by surprise. I mumble a lot about energy, don’t I? This Champagne has an outrageous level of energy. It’s like a lime bomb with razor blades has been buried inside the glass, providing obscure intensity and freshness. Even when it rises in temperature and the mousse settles down, it doesn’t stop. On top of this you have the freakiest spices, which is almost impossible to describe. They took me on a journey of; black/green tea leaves, spicy peach, wet hay and nutmeg. There are so many “voices” coming from the fruit core, like all 7 grapes are singing their song. The other notes are of course this intense lime note, citrus, yeasty components, baby banana and apple zest.

Taste is incredible sleek, fresh and with intense acidity.

Utterly sensational Champagne!!!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An introduction to wine glasses

(All images by courtesy of Zalto ,except the taste zone illustration from Riedel)

I promised you an elaboration on wine glasses about a year ago. So here goes – this is the first of some upcoming posts on wine glasses.

After this post, there will be a presentation of the glass producers - after that a presentation of each glass and in the then end a conclusion of my tests.

Let’s play!!!

I have always been fascinated by how the smallest details can make an significant difference. I remember when I studied finance; I quickly hooked up with one of my classmates, who were a HI-FI nerd. He had the smallest apartment I had ever seen and it didn’t do much good to the décor of the place, which was filled with Elektrostat loudspeakers, a weird looking record player, several amplifiers and subwoofers, making the place look like a sound studio with a kitchen. The sound was magical. Never had I heard music expressed so pure and fragile. I remember coming home to my own HI-FI thing…awful – it was like comparing a Ferrari California with a Berlingo.....and I had the latter.

I think of wine glasses in the same way. Glasses are the loudspeakers, which brings out the most fragile nuances in wine. We are willing to spend an awful lot of money on wine – we should also be willing to spend a decent percentage on wine glasses. Getting familiar with wine and educating your own palate are exactly about listening to small differences.

But for sure, I can understand why not all want to go have so many glasses like I have.

It’s not always easy to convince people about the importance of the glass. Somehow it has the tendency to be seen as something geeky, if you are so focused on having the right stemware. Surely the non-believers have a point – especially when the debate completely forgets what’s inside the bottle.

The constant search for the perfect wine glass are definitely the main reason why I have so many glasses – but it’s also a bit irrational and collector behaviour.

The natural approach

It shouldn’t really be difficult to act as an ambassador for having a glass for each type of wine.

Just make people smell a wine in a plastic cup and then let them taste the wine is an appropriate glass. I think most people get that the wine will obviously taste better in the wine glass than a plastic cup. It’s much more difficult to convince people about the small nuances. This requires actual testing.

Most of the times, when the geeks - and in the end, the defenders of the glass has an emotional approach to the glass. We rarely speak about science, because it’s a bit more complicated and doesn’t seem natural. But maybe we should – but let me get back to that. The emotional approach is somehow easier, as our senses are a vital part for the choice of wine glasses. Emotions basically holds everything we need to explain about the glass, as we can enlighten our friends or other wine lowers, how great we think this particular glass is. We can even talk about the shape, weight, brilliance and design of the glass and how well this type of glass works with this particular wine or grape.

But there is no real proof to back up our theories. Surely, glass testing can be conducted and ARE being done - but most of the times, we of course try to focus on the wine itself. Glasses are like wine – they are objects for different palates and open for discussion.

But there is some science to the wine glasses – which shows that wine glasses can be engineered to enhance certain features in a wine.


The experts say that 80% of the evaluation of a wine comes from the "nose". 10% is the taste zones. We know them better as; sweet, sour, salt, and bitter (see Illustration above). The last 10% is texture. Texture has a close partnership with the temperature of the wine. Think of it – as soon as the wine touches our lips, small nerve impulses will send messages to our brain. Putting your lip to a wine that was boiling – you would immediately stop. Texture is also about the density, structure, viscosity, minerals and tannins. Is the wine oily, creamy or does the tannins create dry spots on the palate? With texture we can even determine if we find the wine fascinating or dull – just by reading the impulses of the mouth feel of the liquid.

But there is more science. Aromas are about molecules. The smell of cherries, blackcurrant or the aroma from the barrel etc - everything is about the size and weight of the molecules.

The glass producers are of course aware of this and that is why glasses can be engineered to express the terroir of the wine and the DNA of the grape.

Let’s talk a little more about this.

The molecules place themselves inside the glass in layers. The concepts of these layers are of dependent on their weight and size.

When it comes to the weight of the molecules, the lightest raises right up to the rim of the glass. These aromas are typical clear fruit and flowers. Did a bell just ring – or did you also just think of the Burgundy glass? Now it’s certainly gives meaning why the Burgundy glasses are designed like they are. In the middle of the glass you have green vegetal scents and earthy, mineral components. The heaviest aromas, typically of wood and alcohol, remain at the bottom of the glass.

But you are not able to smell through these molecule layers – that’s why we swirl the wine. Swirling is NOT about aerating the wine – it’s about increasing the evaporation surface. But swirling the wine does NOT blend the molecule layers together. That’s why wines taste so differently from glass to glass. The reason – well, the molecules will still hold their weight and sort of ranking by weight in the layers, as wine flows on gravity. If you want to obtain the same smell no matter what glass you use, you will have to separate the layers vertically by shaking the glass (good luck).

The size of the glass

If you think of it, some wine glasses are ridiculous big. Why even make glasses – like the Riedel Sommeliers line, which for the Burgundy Grand Cru (1050cl) and the Bordeaux Grand Cru (850cl) can hold over a bottle of wine? Riedel has come up with something they call “orange skin”. A technique in the making of the glasses, which will more than quadruple the evaporating surface inside the glass. This should prevent the wine for getting lost in the big glasses and hopefully result in a seamless presentation of the wine. But the overall oversized glasses are of course about increasing the evaporating surface and orchestra the nose - orange skin or not.

The rim diameter and the thickness of the rim

There is a link between the rim diameter and the size of the glass. When you lift the glass and are about to sniff and taste the wine, a routine is activated - which you might never have thought about. Your brain has already made a calculation – based on what your senses (your eyes) have reported - which results in your mouth and tongue adjust themselves to the liquid they are about to consume. The tongue locks itself into a fitted shaped, which will match perfectly to the design, size and rim diameter of the glass. It’s crucial where on the tongue the wine have touchdown and how wide or narrow the flow to the tongue will be. The smaller the rim diameter the further it’s pushes down the wine on the palate. This is truly problematic – as on the back of the palate you have tannins and bitter components. The ISO glass – which has the reparation of being a reference glass, is IMHO the most mediocre wine glass of existent. The glass is popular because tasters often get’s the same impression in this glass – and therefore often comes up with the same conclusions on the wine. But, as I see it – what has just happened is a sterilization of the wine, as this glass has a way to narrow rim diameter and therefore always will push the wine further down the palate and emphasize tannins and bitter components. Imagine a young Pinot Noir, which has lots of delicate sweet bright red fruit. A Burgundy shaped glass – will firstly present the nose much better as Pinot Noir is such an aromatic grape. It will also direct the wine to the front of the palate – giving touchdown on the tip of the tongue where the sweet taste zone are located - highlighting delicate fruit. Having it touch on the back palate, with the ISO glass - will be catastrophic as here you have tannins and bitter components.

So - the shape, size and rim diameter of the glass decides how and where the wine will hit the palate – but also how it will expand to the palate. This is essential for getting the balance right between fruit, tannin and acidity. However – we don’t all like the glass to deemphasize, let’s say high acidity. I personally can’t get enough of high acidity. However - with red Burgundy it’s really important that the wine will hit the tip of the tongue to get all of those wonderful sweet red aromas in. If you look at Riedels gigantic sommeliers Burgundy glass – you will see the glass bends itself outwards again at the top of the glass. Riedel calls this technique “Acidity barriers” and this directs the wine to the tip of the tongue and from there it expands itself onto the palate.

In the glass world you speak of a cut rim and a rolled rim. Basically it’s really important that the glass has a fine cut rim, as it makes the wine flow more direct, precise and smooth into the mouth. A rolled feels clumsy when the lips touch it, as it inhibits the smooth flow of the wine and will accentuate acidity and harshness.

Weight, design and handling.

Glasses are a tribute to the senses and can be utterly beautiful things. A perfect wine glass, gives comfort in having secured the wines ability to show all of its generic codes.

But there are also softer parameters like praising the weight, design and handling of the glasses. The weight – the lighter the glasses are – the more exquisite, elegant and closer you feel to the wine. Having very thin glasses have the tendency to give the wine more freshness and electricity. A light glass should have a really firm stem, a solid foot and make you trust the glass hardness and not feeling it could easily break. However - most “glass accidents” really happens when washing up the glass, turning bowl and stem towards each other or simply just washing up with a bit too much good wine in your blood.

The design of the glass might be a secondary parameter, as functionality has to come first.

But still we deal with glass, which just happens to be connected with craftsmanship and beautiful objects. The reflection of the light in the wine glasses, the swirling of colorful liquid – or just small bubbles rising, like life has just erupted. All the sense giving elements can increase the appetite for tasting the wine. It’s not uncommon that people will refer to a glass as being beautiful, elegant or even sexy, by just looking at them.

Weight and design are of course closely associated to the handling of the glass. All 3 parameters have to be fulfilled in order to have the perfect glass. The handling is the last checkpoint, as here you get to see how the functionality of the glass integrates with weight and design.

Next up is a presentation of the glass producers; mainly Zalto, Spiegelau and Riedel.

Stay tuned.

2001 Salvioni "Brunello di Montalcino"

100% Sangiovese (5 different clones)
Only big oak casks
Production: 13.600 bottles in 2001 Vintage
Salvioni has 4ha of land.
Glass: Several (see below)

When I started to drink wine, I thought of Brunello as something mediocre. As I was seeking more tense fruit and powerful wines, I thought of Brunello as something dusty, shy and way too overpriced. If Sangiovese, I preferred the IGT versions, which had more immediate and ripe fruit – such as Percarlo, Cepparello, Flaccianello, Fontalloro….etc.

Today, maybe wiser - or just older, less hair, fatter - I see Brunello as something true Italian – if in the hands of the right winemaker. They are so many styles of BdM, but I tend to favour the old school producers - such as Soldera, Poggio di Sotto, Cerbaiona and Salvioni. I adore the Sangiovese grape, which like Pinot Noir, can posses the shining red fruit, which is the gateway to gracefulness and the beauty of red wines.

This wine was not decanted – just poured directly from the bottle – enjoyed over 4 hours.

The opening is really nice – already the breathtaking red cherry perfumes and so utterly classic Italian. I have never thought of Italian wines as something with a strong soil terroir footprint, but it’s all about the warmth they bring to you and therefore also posses the ability to move your emotions.

Salvioni here, unfortunately contracts rather fast on the nose – almost offended of being opened and the fruits are now shyer and darker. A note of prunes came forward. It teased me a bit. I am not in favour of this note, as it often comes with alcohol – but this is NOT the case here – so it’s simply just a mindgame for me and it didn’t take long before I didn’t pay much attention to it. As I poured myself one glass after another, the wine makes a stronger and stronger impact on me. It’s a wine, which invites you to stress down and listen, as it’s not something, which screams from the glass, but a very reserved, elegant and subtle wine. The notes are; crushed cherries (both red and black), prunes (slowly taking a step backward), leather and rosemary. The taste is a stunning – simply beautiful and what takes the wine beyond good. You have so much backbone, structure – yet so well defined and with that lovely vibrant curl on the tongue, which has you begging for more.

There is so much life left in this beautiful wine, but you can easily take it for a spin now.

Glasses: Well – I tried it in 4 different types. The Riedel Sommerliers Bordeaux, shows the wine very round, but you loose intensity in the glass. The Zalto Universal gives the most exciting mineral taste, but you loose red fruit on the nose. The Spiegelau Bordeaux Adina glass, gave the best sweet fruit of all glasses, but the wine doesn’t flow direct enough onto the palate, giving too much tannins. The Zalto Bordeaux was the winner, as I brought the best freshness and herbal character (rosemary) to the wine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1996 Trimbach, Riesling "Clos Ste Hune"

(Old-school Riesling - old image)
Blend: 100% Riesling
Vineyard: We are in Hunawihr - the site is located at the centre of the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard.
Soil: Limestone
Production: approx. 9000 bottles per year.
Bonus: Clos Ste Hune is monopole of Domaine F.E. Trimbach, and has been owned by the Trimbach family for over two centuries.
Glass: Zalto Universal

I have always admired Clos Ste Hune from Trimbach.

I have tasted the wine on several occasion and vintages. It's an incredible long-lived Riesling. I remember being fortuned to taste some of the really old vintages and it's always fun to see people blind guessing 20-30 years off on a bottle of CSH from the nineteen sixties.

I have tasted the 1996 vintage 6 times – but man it has been a while. So I really looked forward to dig in and going down memory lane.

I had the wine I tree stages. First with dinner (I had opened the wine 2 hours before serving) - Coq au Riesling, then a couple of glasses without the food and 2 hours later, when all the putting the kids to bed, cleaning up the house had ended – I sat down and had the last third of the wine.

First stage revealed an incredible rich wine, with lots of sensational fruit servings, such as honey infected fruit and divine sweet and vivid fruit. You also had some of the classic Riesling trademark, the scent of petroleum. Tasting the wine is a mineral overload and an incredible structured finish.

The second stage of the wine was the least interesting. It was like the fruit had contracted, bringing out some darker patterns and the honey scents now felt like there going more to dark caramel. Maybe I am a bit sensitive and saw the sulpur-ghosts – but it felt like a note, which reminded me of sulphur. It was certainly not nice, but it could very well just have been some spicy notes.

2 hours later – the wine had transformed and was actually fresher and divine lime-driven. No more mysterious sulphur notes and the lush fruit from the opening were now transformed into a sleek and crystallized fruit bath. The aftertaste was seriously impressive - really long and filling the entire mouth with mineral grains.

Stunning Riesling, but I will have to say, it wasn’t an emotional wine – my heart belongs to something else now. But from an objective view, Clos Ste Hune are still paradise for Rieslings lovers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weekend wines

This weekend offered a classic setup; Champagne, white and red wine.

2006 Bérèche Instant Rosé No. 1
2007 Fanny Sabre Mersault "Charmes"
2001 Felsina "Fontalloro"

Friday with Sushi, I had the 2006 Instant Rosé No.1 from Bérèche. I simply can't keep my hands of this Champagne and even though there is plenty of rewarding potential in this utterly beautiful breed, I think there is risk of those wonderful strawberry/raspberry notes will evaporate slowly over the coming years. I can't underline enough how much I treasure this Rosé. It simply has to be one of the most exquisite, elegant and fragile rosé Champagnes on the market. As with my first encounter with this Champagne - you perceive it first as being simple, but as you get acquainted you slowly fall in love. Its firm tallness, elegancy is persistent - even when you raise it to 15-16 degrees in temperature. Utterly stunning stuff. (See my previous TN on this wine, here)

Glass: Spiegelau Adina “Red wine”

Saturday, I made an on paper wicked Pasta Dish - which my good friend Martin / recommended me. Pasta Carbonara with smoked eel. Well -it worked, but what wine do you drink with such a rich and fat fish? I thought of something oily and why not a Mersault?. The only one I had in the wine cabinet was from Fanny Sabre - the 2007 vintage Mersault "Charmes".

It worked...sort of....I mean the eel flavours is really rich and this Mersault is a firm and elegant example. I have to say, I favour this type of Mersault and not those who are so fat, oily and buttery in their profile. Here you have sublet notes of toast and smoke - but the smoky notes could even come from a warm soil element and not linked to normal sweet oaky components. Nor does it have this rich oily texture of a Mersault, but far more feminine, fresh and sleek, with a firm anchored mineral snap on the palate. It's not completely perfect I would say - I missed a few layers here and there, but still a splendid well drinking and defined wine.

Glass: Zalto Burgundy

Sunday it was homemade Pizza - and of course an Italian red. Sangiovese was my first thought and why not the 2001 Fontalloro (100% Sangiovese) from Felsina. I have been quite happy with this wine in its youth, but was about to face a rather disappointing wine. The taste is fairly all right. It curls with good bite, structure and acidity profile, but the aromas from the bouquet are however not okay. The wine has naturally lost some of the young sweet aromas, which unfortunately also means the red cherry scents is replaced by black cherries. The wine is also covered in earthy and dusty components - which can sometimes be good with Italian wines. However they have companionship of some spicy notes - mainly old thyme and that's simply the drop, which kills of the purity completely. Despite the okay taste - it's not enough and I found it very disappointing.

Glasses: Zalto Bordeaux, Riedel Sommerliers “Bordeaux Grand Cru”