Answer: It is adding oxygen into red wine. Useful during the initial main fermentation to help the yeasts do their work effectively. Some claim it adds colour with similar results in the wine that you get from oak barrel aging. Timing and especially amounts used must be carefully monitored so it is not overdone. Good review on the chemistry and pros & cons in Science Direct with more details here.
We were fortunate to have the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino (founded in 1967) visit Vancouver on November 28, 2023, with an extensive wine tasting well organized at the Vancouver Club. Also most pleased that Italian wine guru MIchaela Morris Vancouver-based but knowledgeable contributor to Decanter magazine (and other publications) was present to lead this excellent seminar. We were delighted and grateful that Vancouver was selected by the Consortium from the six countries making up 60% of their export markets of the DOCG Brunello. The exciting tasting named BENVENUTO BRUNELLO 2023 was held on the same day in eight cities: Dallas, Miami, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Zurich. In Vancouver, we had the opportunity to taste 35 producers showing 68 Brunello di Montalcino mainly from the 2019 vintage plus roughly a dozen Riserva from 2018. An intensive sit-down endurance test over 5 hours with every table having their own server for the choices you made from the Wine List in flights of four wines each. Delicious sandwiches supplied only at the back of the room but not to be brought to your table – so no conflicting aromas or break of concentration on the wines. Well done. Your scribe could only stay for 4 hours but did taste 41 out of 68 available including all the 2018 Riserva (+ one 2016) plus a wide selection of 2019s. Some brief overall impressions:
The 2019s have a 5 star rating (compared to cooler 2018 with 4) showing lovely aromatics with a riper balanced structure in the trending luxurious style. The 2018 were lighter colour, even though are Riservas, but making a lovely elegant quality statement. Both have good cellar potential.
Presently a big fan who is enjoying the wonderful 2010 treasures but do believe the twin star vintages of warmer riper less acidity 2015 & later harvested better acidity 2016 signalled generally an upturn for Brunello (except for hot variable forwardly 2017) with their overall quality consistency. Not convinced yet that 2019 is as outstanding a vintage as classic 2016.
Interesting to learn that there are now 208 bottling wineries using 3500 hectares of vineyards on diverse soils reaching an altitude of 564 meters with 2100 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG & 510 Rosso di Montalcino DOC. BdM maximum yield of 8 Tons/hectare, requiring 2 years in oak, and 4 months in bottle (Riserva 6 months) released to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (Riserva January 1 of 6th year). Rosso allowed 9 Tons/hectare yield and released September 1 of the year following harvest.
Impressed by San Polo Riserva 2018 complexity and surprised by the depth of Banfi Poggio Alla Mura 2018 Riserva (and that vineyard in 2019 as well).
Fairly good consistency on the 2019s with my favourites including Vigna Montosoli from Canalicchio Di Sopra, Giobi by La Fortuna and Uccelliera (15 abv).
Question: What is the latest on ingredient labeling on wine bottles?
Answer: A most timely question because December 8, 2023 is the date the European Union has set requiring all “wine” produced by them and sold within the EU to provide a full list of ingredients either on the label or QR code. As a result there are compliance issues for wine producers around the world to consider. A good detailed review on the matter by Global Data here.
Another wonderful Burgundy dinner this month at the rather new Italian themed using fresh local produce restaurant The Farmhouse in Vancouver. Some delightful dishes prepared and served including many delicious flavours of porcini, prosciutto, parmigiano reggiano, gorgonzola, roast chicken, and spicy Spaghetti. Interesting and the courses were well paired with the wines we brought along from our Tastevin cellar. Check out the menu.
A less well known Jean Lallement Grand Cru bubbles blend from the heart of the Montagne de Reims in Verzenay (80 pinot noir & 20 chard) disgorged November 15, 2021 provided a solid aperitif beginning. Four Meursaults from 3 different Premier Cru vineyards and 4 vintages was an educational challenge. Prefer 2010 for classic intense balanced white Burgundy over the other three (2011, 2008, and 2006) but Poruzots does not finish as complex as rich yet delicate Charmes. 2011 early picked Charmes by Olivier Leflaive was fragrant elegance while 2006 from Remi Jobard-Chabloz was showing pre-mox. 2008 Bouchard Pere Gouttes d’Or had depth and length and was the delightful surprise. Less problems in serving whites correctly but an excellent job was done all at the right temperatures that impressed.
The four red Burgundies were well chosen to allow comparison between two 2007 & two 2008 vintages from two regions of Nuits St. Georges rocky Les Vaucrains 1er Cru (Dominique Laurent) and Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru (Frederic Esmonin). Both were challenging years with 2007 late picking, variable, and approachable wines while 2008 had vineyard issues as well but better intense sometimes “sappy” wines resulted. Laurent has that 200% new oak uniqueness using 100% whole stems in 07 but 50% in 08. The Mazy-Chambertins were more stylish than the NSG with 2007 ready while 2008 was much darker, deeper sweet fruit with rich full structure – clearly best red and perhaps wine of the night. At 15 years of age you don’t necessarily think that there will be a lot of sediment deposit in a wine but there certainly can be. For some reason the 2008 Mazy which needed decanting wasn’t. The result was an amazingly thick sediment (the heavier particles of which settled to the bottom of my glass) but with the finer ones still remaining throughout the wine – that would take some time to fall out. Instead of enjoying the nirvana from patiently aged top red Burgundy with those velvety silky round textures that only develop with time your scribe was left with an edgy disappointing impression. It may still be controversial – especially whether to decant red Burgundy or not – but for me please decant the standing up bottle at the last minute to develop in my glass yet showing that anticipated clear pristine complex smooth liquid texture. Maybe I am too fussy in old age but it seems a shame to not be able to appreciate one of the most important benefits of wine cellaring. Your thoughts?
Question: What are the early predictions for the 2023 vintage of California wines?
Answer: California is too wide an area of many different regions to provide you with a perfect answer. However the early harvest report here from the Wine Institute has the vintners generally very bullish on their exceptional quality “as one of the finest in years”. Cooler temperatures in Spring & Summer resulted in a late compressed harvest for better acidity and balanced wines. Continue to monitor 2023.