Archive for January, 2018

Ask Sid: Wine to match with a curried soup?

January 31st, 2018
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what wine goes with curry soup

Question: What wine would you recommend with curried broccoli and turkey soup?

Answer: Perhaps a refreshing beer? Depends a bit on how hot your curry is. The usual choice would be a gewürztraminer with that uniquely aromatic spicy character . However that variety tends to polarize between those that love it and those that hate it. Many white wines with good acidity or even a balanced rose should match well. “Fire” Chef Francis Mallmann chooses a wine that contrasts with the dish and probably would use a red. No single correct answer. Try a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Have you considered a sherry? Remember that Andre Simon in his Partners Guide suggests pairing mulligatawny (a traditional Indian curry soup) with Verdelho from Madeira. Good idea. Lots of interesting choices. Experiment.

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1998 Right Bank Bordeaux at 20 Years

January 29th, 2018

1998 Bordeaux Right Bank vineyards

2018 is here bringing the opportunity to organize horizontal wine tastings at 10 year benchmark intervals for vintages 2008 (try classic Chablis), 1998 (Bordeaux), 1988 (improving old style red Burgundy), and 1978 (40 year old treasures). Started out this month trying 20 year Right Bank Bordeaux 1998 a year of overall varying quality but favouring the ripening of cabernet franc & merlot especially in the Graves, Pomerol and St. Emilion regions. The rains during most of the first half of October hindered the phenolic ripeness and intensity of some wines from the Left Bank (which your scribe will report on after a forthcoming Spring tasting) but the Right Bank on release was universally recommended. Here is a brief report card on the 9 wines:

First Flight: Lafleur-Gazin, Magdelaine, & Grand Pontet. Colours are still young and deep led by M but GP is more aged murky looking with a mature browning rim. L-G high merlot plums show plus some typical Pomerol iron notes but finishing with drier simpler vegetal flavours. GP is full rich but ready and not aging as slowly as other two so drink it up now. Star of flight is definitely Jean-Pierre Moueix’s Magdelaine (last vintage was 2011 & now part of their Chateau Belair-Monange) on Cotes limestone soil resulting in complex fruit with extra dimensions of anise, cinnamon, and licorice. Excellent match with the prosciutto wrapping on the roasted quail course. Good start.

Second Flight: Trotanoy, Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse & Mystery wine (1998 Chateau Haut-Brion). T is a big jump up in class! So big concentrated yet velvety textures with superb length singing Pomerol. Excellent reminding of the 1964 from old vines before vineyard replanting. BDL quite brown on the edge and way too earthy and unclean. Strange. Bad bottle? Not near the sensational 1990 100 pointer we reported on earlier here. Disappoints. Mystery wine is dark deep and rich but has stunning power combined with elegance. Some ripe mocha notes. Guesses of another 1998 of highest quality perhaps a First Growth – Cheval Blanc cab franc & merlot? We didn’t nail it but H-B in Pessac-Leognan really fits with Robert Parker’s description for this wine of “liquid nobility”. Two really outstanding wines in this flight showing off the excellent quality of 1998 at the very top level. Truffles seem to always show the wines to advantage!

Third Flight: Pavie-Macquin, La Gaffeliere, & Canon La Gaffeliere. P-M way the darkest look here. Young with good structure and impressive extracted Right Bank fruit but still quite primary. LG palest colour especially the rim with quite a lot of herbaceous pyrazine styling obvious on the nose. Stylish elegant ever improving in the glass especially tasted with the 56 day dry aged steak. CLG mid range look with a maturing rim but solid balanced lovely very St Emilion terroir from this often undervalued property. Nice flight but lacking somewhat in overall complexity.

Have you tried the 1998 vintage from some wine region recently? Are you organizing in 2018 an interesting horizontal of older wines from the same vintage?



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10 interesting facts about the wines from Russia

January 28th, 2018

Russian wine facts
By Joseph Temple

Much like the country itself, Russian wine has endured a roller coaster ride of change and transformation.  From utilizing French methods at the start of the twentieth century to a system of collectivization and central planning by the 1950s, the result has been a sweet and lackluster reputation across the world.  And while nearly on the verge of extinction during the Gorbachev era, it appears that Russia’s wine industry has finally turned the corner in the 21st century.  While known more for its vodka, vintners in the northern Caucuses have been able to grow native grapes such as Rkatsiteli, Krasnostop, Saperavi , and more popular French varietals like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Let’s have a look at a wine industry unparalleled in terms of adaptation.

Russia wine history
1. Although viticulture in Russia predates Ancient Greece, the modern industry was spearheaded by Tsar Alexander II who invited French winemakers to help modernize domestic production. blank

Russian revolution and world war i impact on wine
Due to the impact of both the First World War and the Russian Revolution, wine production was dealt a crippling blow across Russia. blank

Russian wine during Stalin
3. During the Stalin era, grape sugar and ethyl alcohol were added to high yield and frost resistant varietals in order to make them passable, giving Russia a long lasting reputation for cheap and poor tasting sweet wines. blank

wine production during Mikhail Gorbachev
4. Due to the anti-alcohol policies of Mikhail Gorbachev, total vineyard area dropped significantly as many of the best vineyards were destroyed.


Russian wine geography
5. Most of Russia is too cold to ripen grapes except in the northern Caucuses. blank

Moldova wine history
6. With a continental climate and icy winters, vineyards in these areas need to be protected from the intense cold.  According to Jancis Robinson, growers have experimented with varieties that incorporate cold-resistant genes from Mongolian vines. blank

Russian wine regions

7. The five main wine growing areas are Rostov, Krasnodar, Stavropol, Checheno-Ingush, and Dagestan – all between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. blank

Russia wine consumption per capita

8. In 2010, per capita wine consumption in Russia was 7 liters.  In comparison, France and Italy’s were 42.51 and 33.3 respectively.

Queen Elizabeth II Moldovan wine

9. However, its sizable population makes it one of the top ten wine consuming nations in the world, producing approximately 310 million liters of wine annually while importing an additional 560 million liters. blank

Russian wine expansion
10. After annexing the Crimea in 2014, an additional 25,000 ha was added to Russia’s total vineyard area.  Later that year, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to increase total vineyard area to 140,000 ha by 2020. blank


Blinnikov, Mikhail S. A Geography of Russia and Its Neighbors. New York: Guilford Press, 2011.
Harding, Julia. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Nee, Patrick W. How to Get Rich Doing Business in Russia. Oxford: The Internationalist, 2014.
Robinson, Jancis. (2009, October 24). Russian wine gets real. Retrieved from

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Ask Sid: More rubber smell in wines?

January 24th, 2018
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why does my wine smell like rubber

Question: I have heard participants in the various tasting groups in which I belong refer to “baby rubber bumpers” aromas in older Meursault. Have you ever heard this description before?

Answer: Yes I have smelled “rubber” in many wines over the years. Usually cheaper badly made ones or wines with an overly reductive winemaking issue. However it is sometimes also noticed when combined with the petrol/marmalade notes of Riesling and Northern Rhone Syrah earthy blackberries. Most pronounced is “burnt tires rubber” a mercaptan fault from volatile sulphur I have found from riper grapes including Southern Rhone blends & Pinotage from South Africa. Haven’t seen it specifically from older Meursault (which I drink frequently) but there can be some of that when pre-mox shows up. Decanting or adding a pure old copper penny to the wine may help eliminate this rubber smell.

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January 22nd, 2018

Walla Walla Washington wines

Last month long time IWFS Vancouver Branch member David Spurrell orchestrated a memorable blind tasting dinner at Blue Water Café of 9 red wines. The lucky 8 knowledgeable participants did an admirable job of identifying the line-up as 9 different years from a dominant cabernet sauvignon variety with oak influence of style uniformity showing some cool Bordeaux-like fruit but perhaps less elegant plus more New World California ripeness without the alcohol. We failed to nail it exactly but of course these comments are so appropriate to describe the unique magnificent reds from Leonetti Cellar the first commercial winery in Walla Walla, Washington. Their website is outstanding with details on their passion, vineyards & wines including their interesting history dating back to the Leonetti farm established in 1906 followed by the winery founding in 1977 (now celebrating 40 years) by Gary & Nancy Figgins with a vision to produce small amounts of the best cabernets and merlots. Remember well the days of no tasting room and needing to be on their mailing list to get invited to their exciting annual tasting. They certainly reached and have exceeded their initial goals. In 1990 they made their first meritage wine blend. This true family wine estate team continues with Chris Figgins now president & winemaking director.

A few brief comments by your scribe on these outstanding Leonetti wines in order of service:

1. 1989 Reserve “Seven Hills” Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 13 degrees alcohol. Their website only goes back to 1994 wines with no information available on this one. Highly acclaimed on release. Shows now still a deep rich colour with a lighter brown rim with lovely mature impressive notes of complex cinnamon. Easy softening herbal notes less tannins and quite elegant. Drinking well.

2. 1992 Select Walla Walla red table wine 50 merlot, 40 cabernet sauvignon, and 10 cabernet franc spending 22 months in 70% French oak & 30% American at 13 degrees produced 1100 cases. Northwest Wines Pocket Guide 2nd edition 1996 notes that CS “massive without a blemish can be deeper and denser than the Merlot in a year such as 1992.” They describe this wine “is a stunning success: seamless, elegant, and strong, with marvellous velvety richness running all the way through a long, focussed finish.” 20 years later it has developed well and was most open almost Burgundian-like sweet bouquet with the palest colour most aged look of all the wines. Enjoy now and drink up.

3. 1993 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 83CS 9M 8CF with 22 months in mixed new oak 13 degrees produced 2500 cases. Darkest of first flight with an excellent bright red look. Good fruit young vibrant with a slightly drier finish of more cab sauv in this blend that is on a lovely plateau for current drinking.

4. 1994 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 80CS 12M 8CF again 22 months mixed oaks American, French & Oregon 13 degrees 2500 cases bought for $45. Website has extensive details. Average Brix 23.5 with vineyards blended from Seven Hills & Pepper Bridge in Walla Walla, Sagemoor & Conner-Lee in Columbia and Portteus in Yakima. Like the note that “Wines produced from rich , ripe vintages taste good from the beginning and continue to improve throughout their aging period”. Says enjoy through 2015 but still going strong with some purple tones with massive good very floral fruit. Yes.

5. 1995 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 85CS 7 M 8CF similar vineyards and Hungarian added to the oak mix 13 degrees 1961 cases “Enjoy now”  Brix 23.06. Shows lighter rim than 1994 and most mature of second flight of three. Shows less herbs mixed into the deep rich fruit. Nice.

6. 1996 Reserve Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 95% Seven Hills-Old Block, 4% Spring Valley 1% Leonetti Estate 86.5CS 8.6M 1.3 CF & 3.6PV 420 cases 13 degrees. “A very deep darkly colored wine…exotic aromas of spices and sweet black fruits of cassis and blackberries.. loaded with gobs of wood influenced vanillin. A big rich chewy wine with the kind of density that can only be accomplished with very low yields…full bodied powerful fruity finish. A great aging future.” Good comments that describe this treasure even today. More red colour left plus wonderful oak complexity from these Leonetti oak masters. Like the plump plummy excellent fruit here. Well done indeed.

7. 1997 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 86.1CS 6.7CF 3.3PV 3.9M Oak has Pennsylvanian replacing American in the mix 2200 cases with all three wines in this last flight now up to 13.7. “Very dark cassis mint leather and cedar shavings. This elegantly styled balanced wine is rich soft complex and extremely long finish of fruit and oak spice and fine-grained tannins. A compelling Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon from a great vintage.” Dark with cool balanced herbal fruit at 20 years of age. Seemed younger tasted blind. More noticeable oak in this last flight of three. No heat on the finish. Still vibrant with layers of fruit.

8. 1998 Walla Walla Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon note 100% Walla Walla Valley Vineyards in the Reserve again producing 75CS 12.5M 12.5 M (no cab franc) only 576 cases. “Winemakers dream perfect conditions. Yields naturally low wines incredible intensity color and fruit ultra rich … likely be remembered as one of the finest Leonetti’s produced to date.” To this scribe it was lighter colour like 1992 & 1995 but shows more dimensions and not coarse tannins for such a big wine. Distinct terroir shows much better. Impressive integrated smooth ripe tannins. Great winemaking with the oak use and tannin management.

9. 1999 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 89.5CS 8.4M 2.1PV 2329 cases $60/bottle stating “enjoy now through 2020”. First non-Reserve Cab to carry Walla Walla Valley appellation (rather than broader Columbia Valley used previously) due to expanded estate vineyards plantings of Seven Hills & Mill Creek Upland. “Broodingly dark wine with a wonderful nose of chocolate, mint, cassis, cola, and vanillin. The concentrated mouth feel is dominated by black fruits and the wines bright acidity and fine-grained tannins are in perfect balance, backed up with a tremendous finish.” This was the darkest of all and showing very well. No edges no alcohol burn with excellent balance. Acidity fresh and lovely with no malic issues of some 1999 reds in British Columbia. Drinkable but still a baby. Like the unique style. Really establishing Walla Walla on the quality wine map with these last three vintages. Outstanding match with roasted lamb saddle dish. This one will go beyond 2020 easily!

Have you tried some Washington wines? Thanks David for this educational tasting. Seek out some of the new Leonetti releases and other small production treasures from Walla Walla!

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