Sunday, March 22, 2015

Humble and clueless

I don’t know what to write about? I have tasted a Champagne, which I want share with you all, but I can find a subject.

But what’s the problem? I don’t want the tasting note to matter so much - because it doesn’t really interest me to write them anymore, if they are not part of a reflection. This is what I do – this is what this blog is about. Why should I compete with what’s already out there in the tasting note category?

But there is also another reason. I feel deeply humble when putting a judgment on wine. Paradoxically – the more wines I taste – the less I feel about expressing my judgment. I have seen how emotional I am around wine and how variables can change the outcome. I wrote about it here.  I have even seen how wine can outsmart the most skilled tasters and I have too much respect for the wine craftsmanship and for the producers I have met. But for sure – I am the paying costumer; I even have lots of experience, so why not express my opinion? Sometimes I want to – sometimes I don’t.

But I am probably deviating for the trend, which is moving in the opposite direction. We have endless opinion formers on wine these days. Sometimes I am astounded how quickly some people form their judgment and conclusion thirsty they are.

There is a Danish poet, author and filmmaker called Jørgen Leth, which I deeply admire. Together with two musicians; Michael Simpson and Frithjof Toksvig they formed a trio called; “Vi sidder bare her (We are just sitting here)”.  So far they have released 3 CD’s. The genre is Spoken Word (in Danish). Jørgen Leth has an almost hypnotic nasal voice, which are well known here in Denmark. Jørgens voice is accompanied by an almost dreamy cinematic soundtrack of subtle floating sounds. On the first CD there is a track called (translated) “Not a damn thing wiser”. Here is a part of the lyric, which I particular like:

“I like to be perceived as slightly stupid - I would rather express a stupid consciousness - a kind of non-intellect consciousness. So it’s the completely opposite from most people, who basically are clever and looking to announce their wisdom. This in an attitude I don’t have at all - not at all”.

On many occasions I feel like Jørgen Leth - especially when it comes to praise wisdom and judgement on wine.

So what now? What should I write about? Should we just get on with the tasting note – something everyone understands and not all of this Mumbo Jumbo?

Let’s get acquainted with a new Champagne from Cédric Bouchard, which I have bought a while ago, but not before now I got the chance to taste it. I tasted it with my friend Claus and we were both intrigued and fascinating from the first glass, but also agreed that the last glass was by far the best.  
2010 Roses de Jeanne / Cédric Bouchard “Presle”

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir (10 different clones)
Terroir: Hard clay soil
Vineyard: 0,2548ha – West exposure
Location: Celles-sur-Ource
Age of Vines: Planted in 2007
Aging: Steel
Dosage: Zero – always the case with Cédric Bouchard
Disgorgement: April 2014
Glass: Zalto White Wine

About a month ago there was an article on Cédric Bouchard in the Danish food & wine magazine: “Gastro”. The article highlighted the fact that Cédric is not a fan on oak and the autolysis character of classic aged Champagne, as both take focus from purity and the terroir character of the wine. Then the journalist reported some tasting notes, found them very interesting, but ended up concluding that he especially missed the autolysis notes.

I feel the complete opposite. I never miss anything, when I tasted Cédric Bouchard. I don’t mind oak – I can even appreciate the autolysis character, but unlike the journalist from Gastro I praise the diversity of Champagne and the fact that Cédric makes wines his way and no other way.

I get and praise the idea of comfort zones in wine (as you saw with “Daily drinkers”), as they are something, which takes a lot of time to reach, and we can find enormous rest within. However when reaching out to a producer like Cédric Bouchard we have to cross our anxiety zone. There is no alternative. This is a producer, which doesn’t make any compromises. Like or not. The first Champagne I tasted from Cédric Bouchard was in 2007.  It was the 2005 “Les Ursules”. I was on one hand fascinated – but also confused and I was definitely outside my comfort zone and close to my anxiety zone. Today that anxiety has turned into a warm comfort zone and if I should tell others about my love for WINE in Champagne, he would be one of the first I would serve them.

So – If I understand this correctly, the Presle vineyard was supposedly meant to be the base of Cédric Bouchard Coteaux Champenois project. When I visited Cédric in 2011 I noticed some oak barrels there, which he told us was an experiment for his still wines. Initially the still wine(s) were to be sold in very limited numbers of magnums. But for now – the first vintage have gone bubbly – let’s see what happens in near future.

I tell you it’s an intense Champagne this one. Like with Haute-Lamblé, I have to say that I am amazed that Cédric manages to make this kind of quality with vines of such young age. It even seems to have a solid soil footprint with enormous bite and intensity.  Like all other Cédric Bouchard Champagnes you don’t just sit and pick a fruit note here and there and outline a normal tasting notes. Because rarely you don’t find these common notes as lemon, pear and apple for instance. What you find is a wine composed of all kinds of racy edges – like here with Presle, which both plays with exotic fruit notes, gamey flavours, black currant and an enormous savoury spectrum. We had it both with and without food and it plays better with food as it has a very vibrant acidity and it’s one of the most structured Champagnes I have tasted from Cédric Bouchard.

I was just about to compare Presle with the other Champagnes of Cédric Bouchard. But does it really matter? Presle stands for something singular and unique - like the rest of Cédric's wines. BRAVO!!!.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Daily drinkers

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”
(John Lennon)

Wine has always been a victim of proportions. Most of my wine loving friends (including yours truly) have always measured the experience of drinking wine. It’s the simple result of telling a story and emphasising the enthusiasm or disappointment. 

Telling a story about wine is not easy, which of course is a good thing, as we interpret so individually. Yet we often categorize. Cut to the chase. What wine are we dealing with? What level are we at? Legendary, Great, dull or bad wine. Maybe just daily drinkers

So what are daily drinkers?

First of all it’s a wine with a good” quality to price ratio” (QPR). It’s something we buy in cases and drink it big gulps. The no brainer wine - the wine we always reach out for, when we have no idea what else to drink. The wine, which is never seasonal, but works all year round. It’s also something, which define us. Italian wine aficionado maybe; a Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Dolcetto or a Barbera. These wines not only provide our everyday needs – they also keep us in our comfort zone. We have bought these wines, because we know beforehand that we will connect with them.

But when it comes to tastings or special occasions we tend to dress up and explore wines with a higher price tag and presumably also a higher quality and complexity. Rosso di Monalcino becomes a Brunello - Dolcetto or Barbera becomes Barolo. These special events tend to be the bridge to some of our most memorable wine experience. Or are they really? Did John Lennon have a point, when it comes to wine? I think so.

For sure wine obtains an extra dimension, when it breaks the barriers and light up our emotional barometer. But somehow I think daily drinkers deserve the same respect. They are the backbone of our passion. I also like the humbleness, which are essential for these wines. There is something aesthetical about the simplicity they posses and despite the might lack in complexity they can in some cases have a higher degree of presence as you immediately connect with them. And last – but not least, to earn and fit this category they always have the highest degree of drinking pleasure.

Here are some of my favourite daily drinkers – some I drink now – some I have run out of –some are on the radar, some I wonder why I forgot or never bought more of. Price wise less than €20 are ideal, but it could go all the way up to €30 in some cases.

Champagne:

Laherte “Brut Nature”
Tarlant “Brut Zero”
Marie-Courtin “Efflorescence”


Whites:

Nicolas Carmarans “Selves”
Cyril Fhal “Clos du Rouge Gorge (Blanc)”
Sarnin-Berrux “Bourgogne Aligote”
Yann Durieux “Love and Pif”
Frederic Cossard “Bigotes”
Noella Morantin “Chez Charles”

Reds:

Arianna Occhipinti “Il Frappato”
Arianna Occhipinti “SP68”
Lamoresca “Nerocapitano”
Vino di Anna “Palmento” 
Yvon Mètras “Fleurie Printemps”
François Saint-Lô “On l’aime nature”
Domaine de la Tournelle “Uva Arbosiana”  
Maxime Magnon "Rozeta" 

….Etc….and I am sure there a lots of wines, which I have either forgot or could fit in.

Let’s end this small session with a wine, which fits this category to perfection: 

2012 Hervé Villemade “La Bodice”

Blend: 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Chardonnay
Location: AOC Cheverny (Loire Valley) town is called Cellettes
Terroir: Sands with flint and flint clays
Age of vines: 33years old
Vinification: Oak and steel
Glass: Zalto Universal

I love this wine – simple as that. It’s trademark and the fist impression is divine zippy freshness, which burst out of the glass with candied citrus and lime zest. But there is also a remarkable secondary understated window with remarkable ripe and lush fruit sensation – such as mango and pineapple, which could very well be driven forward by the Chardonnay grape. Underneath you have some darker baseline, soil and spice driven with fennel and liquorice as the main character (also mentioned on the Hervé Villemade homepage). This is the sort of wine you drink with our without food on any day of the year. If you choose the latter you will discover a phenomenal food-pairing breed, which I have successfully matched up with both a rich salmon dish, chicken in red curry, sushi, gazpacho and even guinea fowl. Great stuff and highly recommended. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The perfect drinking window




From the very first day I got acquainted with wine, I also stock my head into a swarm of consumer guidance. At that time I needed those advises - so obviously I embraced them as the most natural thing to do. 

The drinking window was one of those advises, I quickly realized was of significant importance. Back then; I was into wines with serious muscle and extract, which required time to unfold. Paying attention to the perfect window of opportunity was crucial and logical. However I also learned, that the drinking window was not a straight line, which gradually unfolded the flower. Wine were a living organism, which had it’s own dynamic cycle and you never knew what to fully expect.

The consumer guidance however evolved over the years with the birth of the Internet. Wine boards – databases and social medias, all chiming in with live data stream about a wines status. It matters in an environment of passionate, dopamine addicted and seriously impatient wine people. Being guilty as sinned here – yet somehow I have also realized flaws in the system and actually never solved the equitation of planning the perfect drinking window.

But why are we so anxious about the drinking window? Are we merely just practicing due diligence by sort of protecting our investment? Opening a wine at perfect maturity is success. Opening a too young wine or a wine over the hill is failure. The consumer guidance has taught us to pick our winners and stay away from the loser’s team.   

But you know what – it’s just another flawed story from the wine scene, always posting flock mentality black and white guidance.

I think it’s fine that you, as a wine geek pay attention to every detail about a wine. If you pick up stories about a possible vintage or certain wines, which requires extraordinary patience  - you will obviously somehow storage that information. But personally I discovered, that I gradually became a slave to an overload of information. It became the driving force behind every move I made. I started to form intros, story lines and endings for wines, like they were a predictable Hollywood movie.

It had to stop and it did.

If you are a romantic wine drinker (like me), it’s important that you somehow bury the theorist inside you and prepares the inner “doer” to get out on the dance floor and practice. The only way you learn about what’s the right or wrong drinking window (if at all any) is to make “mistakes”. But actually they are not mistakes. You take experience with you and if you are willing to challenge yourself you stop and reflect. In this process you will discover that wine does not have one, but almost never ending drinking windows. I would even go as far, as saying, there is no such thing as a wrong drinking window. That’s not the same as saying a wine will taste significant better/worse during it’s life span. But hey – that’s life – that’s wine – that’s the risk you have to live with. If you are looking for a 100% bulletproof plan only circulating in your comfort zone then you might consider drinking Coca-Cola or water.

So let’s turn to a Champagne, which can support my post. It comes from a wine maker, which I am very fond of. It’s the one and only Jérôme Prévost (again).

Now Jérôme have often told me, how it sometimes takes 5-6 years after bottling before he can actually recognize the wine he worked with in the cellar. His wines are known to shut down dramatically in the bottle. For this and based on several experiences, two visits (and even a small vertical tasting in nov-2012), I have build a comfort zone fence of making myself believe that “Les Béguines" and La Closerie Fac-Simile rosé” requires +4-6 years of cellaring to reach an optimal drinking window. In this process I did the exact same mistake, which I have just criticized. I forgot that Jérôme’s wines, especially “Les Béguines" presents one of the most sophisticated versions of Pinot Meunier from day one.

You love your children from birth – and they might bring even higher joy to your life as they grow older – but their character are also a reflection of their childhood. Wine is the same – small individuals, with both a backpack of personality and constant evolvement. They might be slightly flawed, unresolved, mysterious - even fascinating, yet they also provide a mind game of imagination of what they can be. Wine is sense game, a dreaming aspect and who on earth would miss out on this?

2011 Jérôme Prévost “Les Béguines “

Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Terroir: Sand & Calcareous elements
Age of vines: 42-47 years old
Location: Village of Gueux – located west of Reims.
Dosage: 2 g/l.
Glass: Zalto White wine and Riedel Veritas Champagne (see test result)

From the very first nosedive you are beamed into a another Pinot Meunier dimension. Nowhere in Champagne you find this sophistication. I would be reaching beyond my vocabulary, if I should try to list the “correct notes”. They seemed to be composed of black cherry stones, black olives, diamond dust (don’t ask), licorice powder, nutmeg and a mixture and unexplained spices. There is a splendid firmness and energy, bringing utterly divine tallness, which is reason enough to taste it young. On the palate it shows great definition with a solid footprint of this spice paradise mixture being gracefully released in a very convincing way. Overall – the 2011 might not have the majestic tallness like the ’08 and the ’06 devilishness – but it’s one of the most elegant and sophisticated versions I have tasted of “Les Béguines “. 


Now knowing how it tasted from youth, we have been formally introduced to each other. The dream processes have begun. When will me met again – how will the next“date” turn out? 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pink Love in January

I tend to forget about the rosé category in general. What about you? How often have you said to yourself (in comparison with red and white) – I need more “pink” in my cellar? It’s a shame really, because they are in some ways unique, not only by colour, but also on aromatic profiles and food matching abilities.


Maybe the category occasionally slips our minds, because it’s season based, making sense as the refreshing thirst-quenching drink on a hot summer day. But of course the wine geek knows better and the pink song has a B-side, which contains much other than Tutti Frutti bonbon beats. Often the flip side leads to Champagne, where another dilemma awaits. The simple equation of the supply and demand curve, with deadly high price tags, as the en vouge pink sparkling version often is microscopically part of a producer’s entire portfolio. 

Yesterday I found myself in mood for some rosé. Or should I say – I was in the mood for some Jérôme Prévost. The weather was dead awful. Grey with a mixture of sleet and snow, so not your average sunny rosé day. But what the hell, I had prepared some pearl barley with pumpkin seeds, which I made like a risotto and served with guinea fowl. I thought a Rosé could work and it did – really well in fact. I knew the fat structure from the risotto look-alike dish could be an issue. And for sure, it was of some concern, but then again the refreshing bubbles did a good job cleansing the palate.

But let’s turn to the Champagne.

2011 Jérôme Prévost “La Closerie Fac-Simile Rosé”

100% Pinot Meunier
Dosage: 0-2 g/l
Terroir: Massive layers of calcareous sand formations and fossils with tiny crustaceans
Aging: Oak
Method: Assemblage
Production: 3.128 bottles
Glass: Zalto white wine

Some would say that Jérôme Prévost rosé version always have been in the shadow of his standard Champagne: “La Closerie”. Of course it makes sense to do the A vs B battle here, as Jérôme currently only makes two cuvèe’s. However I think it’s wrong and like to see them as two different persons, with two different personalities. I also believe that Jérôme have improved his rosé enormously since release, and it’s something you need to drink over an entire evening – both with and without food. You also need to let it breath and warm up in temperature (which I did).

Let me emphasize, what I like about a rosé (and forgive me for repeating myself). I love a when a rosé sort of “dries out”. When the primary fruit settles down and removes the worst candy like associations. With the saignée method (maceration – not the case here), time is also necessary for me, to take away both the slightly more aggressive style and in some cases lower the potential tannins. In both cases, cellaring will bring a saltier and far more interesting Champagne IMHO. But also on the aromatic barometer, there awaits beauty with patience…..now you are probably thinking….so why the hell are you telling us all this stuff, when you have just popped the cork of a relative young 2011 Champagne? Good question and I have no good answer, other than I always like to check out (if I have enough stock) a Champagne when it’s potentially too young. But here comes the good part – this rosé had already gained some of that “dried out style”, which provided some of the most fascinating aromatic notes of verbena, currant, dried thyme and other mind-blowing sophisticated spices. These notes will come fully alive half way through the bottle and when you raise the temperature to 13-15 degrees. You simply can’t let go of the glass – the nose is seriously intoxicating. The taste is not bad either – really light on its toes, very graceful, yet persisting enough with enormous bite. I think some would argue, that it has a slightly greenish style, which is also the case for the ’11 vintage in Burgundy. But I really this, because it becomes so understated by this. What rosé Champagne – WOW!!....and just to let you know – the day before I drank 2004 “Venus” from Agrapart, which was also mind-blowing good, so I came from a high calibrated level and this Rosé didn’t suffer one bit at all.


BRAVO Jérôme!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vintage hysteria, high expectations and 2008 “L’Apôtre”

(David Léclapart)

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”Alexander Pope

I think we have all been there, right? Expecting too much and ending up disappointed. With a colleague, your company, your best friend, your spouse or maybe even a bottle of wine. Expectations are the result of looking ahead, thinking solution orientated and imagine (maybe even dreaming) of a happy end. When failure arrives at our doorstep, we obviously ask ourselves why? Did we overlook something? Or were unexpected variables responsible for the negative outcome and can we actually blame someone other than ourselves?

Wine is indeed exposed to high expectations and holds a complex field of variables, which sets complex scenarios.

One of the most expectation adding variables is vintage hyping. The declaring of a great vintage will obviously raise the bar and expectations.

Vintage has always been a key driver for wine lovers. If you get caught inside the wine universe, you have also learned to pay attention to details. We constantly search for wines, which can enlighten our sense hungry minds a little more than our last experience and provide us with those unforgettable moments.

So we plan well ahead to be in our comfort zone. We look for a bulletproof plan, by cherry picking the best vintages and carefully (unless your are a billionaire) plan our future wine purchases. Why shouldn’t we? Wine education tells you to be selective; otherwise your finances will run dry

Paying attention to vintage is logical – but also a blind alley and not a guarantee.  Especially because wine journalists often compose the declaration of a vintage, which tends to follow a framework, which might not take into account how you drink wine. I mean, how many speak about the simple drinking pleasure and how food diverse the wine or vintage may be? I couldn’t care less about +60 second finishes and only hearing praise for vintages with the highest testosterone.

I find myself split on vintage and high expectations. It really depends, how much I pay attention to vintage. When I get my yearly allocation on producers like Ganevat, Cossard or Cédric Bouchard, I don’t really care about the vintage. I just buy them (if I can afford them), because I know they will have something to offer. And what if it’s on paper not a great vintage? Maybe it will just taste better young? Cellar the big vintage and drink the smaller vintages. Great plan as I see it. I think there is almost nothing worse than seeing tasters obviously disappointed with a wine in a “great vintage”, trying to prove for themselves that the wine was still fantastic.

So even if I find the whole vintage thing one big mass psychoses I would be lying to you if I said that vintage didn’t matter to me and I never tried to find an alibi for a wine, which didn’t live up to my expectations.

It actually happened a couple of days ago.   

2008 David Léclapart “L’Apôtre”

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l
Vines: Planted in 1946 
Vineyard:0,31ha Lieu-dit “La Pierre St-Martin”
Fermentation: Oak-barrels. 
Other: Biodynamic stuff
Glass: Zalto White wine

Oh yes I had high expectations. Why not? I have a thing with David and his wines and there is always something in the air, when I taste his Champagnes. 

I even tasted the 2008 “in the “L’Apôtre” Vertical 1999 >>> 2009” back in Nov-2013 with David and was blown away by its intensity. It certainly lived up to the hype about the 2008 vintage in Champagne. Vertical tasting are really educational, as you can almost outline the younger wines path and imaging their potential Sure, having tasted almost all releases of L’Apôtre from youth, I knew there was a risk of it being simple too young. I even knew that L’Apôtre would be slow starter.

Day one – Friday. A leaf day btw - So not a good day to drink wine, according to the biodynamic lunar calendar. I think I have never tasted a Champagne this shy and 110% completely closed. There was simply nothing to gain from the nose other than the sense of something very clean. The taste had an insane acidity, which felt like a thousand citrus fruits being crushed on your tongue. I would be lying, if I said it was good. More a study than actually pleasure. If I had to conclude something from this day I would have no idea what to write other than I had too high expectations. Did I hype it too much or what had happened since Nov-2013. I found myself making the same excuses that I somehow find rather pathetic; when a taster just can’t get himself to say it’s not a good wine, but feverishly try to argue their way out of the problem. My wife and I drank half of the bottle and I decided to leave the other half for the next day, where I had the entire half for myself.


Day two – Saturday. A fruit day and even if I don’t have that great success with the bio-calendar, I still found myself in this search for meaning (and still hoping) over my Friday disappointment. Mama-Mia – WOW!!! I wouldn’t say that the wine was actually open now and a flowering fruit bomb. But what revealed itself was one hell of an insane electric Champagne, setting the bar for energy higher than I have ever seen before. The aromatic notes are still very primary with tons of ripe citrus tonality, soil intensity and this nerve wrecking acidity still cuts all the way through the wine. With vintages like 2002 and 2004 “L’Apôtre”, which has occasionally also shut down, especially shortly after release I would obviously recommend seriously cellaring here. However “L’Apôtre” is known to open up again before heading for a more mature window. When that is – I have no clue. But damn – what a Champagne it will be, when it unfolds.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A new Champagne glass

(From left: Zalto White Wine / Riedel Veritas Champagne / Spiegelau "Adina water Goblet) 

A Danish glass aficionado (thank God there are more than me) recently brought to my attention that the new Champagne glass from Riedel (the Veritas series – middle on the image) was worth checking out. It however slipped my mind, before I attended a tasting where this glass was praised once again. Hmmmmm……Okay to hell with it – let’s see what the fuss is all about.
So a week ago, when tasting Chartogne-Taillet 2002 “Fiacre” I took it for a spin vs Zalto White Wine, which I am using more and more as my reference Champagne glass.

The Riedel Veritas Champagne glass overall has a good feel about it. It’s cool, classic design and on sight seems to be a good companion if you want to bring out the vinous side of Champagne – which I do. Although it’s machine made, it’s has a fairly low weight and a really thin stem. However, when arriving from Planet Zalto, everything seems bulky and heavy in comparison. This will always be an advantage for Zalto a no other glass brand has the same magic feel about it IMHO.

Fiacre is a lovely Champagne, which always makes me in a good mood. In Riedel “Fiacre” performed classic and really good. If you knew of no other glass, this would be a great Champagne glass.

In Zalto however (left), it was another story. It’s been a while since I have conducted glass tests, but here I overwhelmed by the difference. Zalto was a millions time better. It’s simply a difference in frehness and focus, which makes all Champagnes in Zalto seems so frisky. Returning to Riedel; “Fiacre” was suddenly much heavier and sweeter and I am confident it has to do with the fact you are tasting lead (Riedel) vs lead-free (Zalto).

Another test: 28. december 2014.


2010 Doamine Belluard “Ayse Mont-Blanc Brut Zero”
(So not Champagne, but a sparkling wine from Savoie made from 100% Grignet). Seriously one of the best non-Champagnes I have ever tasted. A real bargain)


More or less the same result, though not as clear as Zalto’s first win. This time Adina was also in play. In Riedel it was more about simple fruit, which of course is okay. But the wine was lacking secondary nuances as the fruity impression was overwhelming. Yet in Adina, it has a more toned down/subtle appeal, which provided more elegance. In Zalto you had the edgy feel again, where the wine felt really naked, yet also far more mysterious and interesting with the mineral spine really kicking in. I am not sure everyone would go for the Zalto as winner here, as it shows the wine far more raw and unpolished. But I like this raw and racy expression.  


Test – from 16th of January 2015.

2008 “L’Apôtre” from David Léclapart


This time Adina vs Zalto. Hard to say, who actually won here, because we were dealing with a very shy Champagne.  But the pattern was the same. In this case, the Adina glass seemed to have an advantage by opening up  “L’Apôtre” a bit more. However it was just an illusion, caused by the wider opening of the glass and the feel of some fruit coming forward. The Champagne was indeed sealed like an oyster. I still favoured Zalto, despite it was a strange test really, simple because the firmness and feel of the energy in Zalto was better, which is always the case for me. On day two – I forgot about testing and just enjoyed the second half of the bottle in Zalto. 


New test: 30th of Janury 2015

2011 Jérôme Prévost “Les Béguines “

Zalto vs Riedel. It really came close this time. Riedel really captured the essence of “Les Béguines “. Refined and fresh in Riedel – no fuzz at all, just like Zalto. Where it goes wrong for Riedel, is when it warms up in temperature. First of all it accelerates faster in Riedel, whereas as Zalto keeps the wine cooler. Or it feels like that and of course Riedel in general has a wider bowl. But one difference seems once again to be the unleaded vs a lead glass. In Riedel the wine becomes clumsier when raised in temperature and the feel of lead. In Zalto there is a constant firmness and nothing is lost or sticks out, when it warms up – only a natural temperature evolvement.


I might do one of two testing’s more – but I think there a pattern is starting to form.

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.