Archive for February, 2021

Ask Sid: Viticulture or Vinification?

February 24th, 2021
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Question: What is the difference between viticulture and vinification?

Answer: Viticulture is everything concerned with growing the vines and grapes in the vineyard. Vinification is everything involved with producing the wine in the winery including the time spent fermenting to the decision when the wine is to be bottled.

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February 22nd, 2021

A majority of consumers are buying and drinking earlier on the wines that are available to them from currently released vintages. Nothing wrong with that and in fact in most cases that is probably the wise decision. Wines from everywhere are generally better made these days with advanced knowledge learned for best use in both the vineyard and in the cellar. Current releases usually are showing wonderful freshness of fruit plus balance for rather immediate enjoyment. A good example is the riper 2018 Chablis AC from William Fevre. Got to like that!

However there is another possible dimension to search for besides just simpler yet impressive grape juice by giving some top wines more time in bottles to come together and develop other complex nuances to appreciate. This thought has come back to me rather vividly this month in my wine selections for enjoying with dinner. Your scribe has been trying again most of the wines listed in our recommendations in this Blog on January 4, 2016 referencing wines purchased in 2015 for cellaring. Without exception they all have improved to my nose & palate with 5+ years of cellaring. Previously mentioned the opening up currently of 2013 Wynn’s Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon but 2010 (and 2009) Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode Domaine Pavelot though textures are rounding out still is structured for further development. What is showing dramatic improvement tasted this month are three 2012 Chablis from Christian Moreau and 2010 Barolo Serralunga D’Alba Fontanafredda. The Chablis are remarkable in their progress. The original mineral vibrancy has mellowed to become a better complex old vines beauty 1er cru Vaillon Cuvee Guy Moreau, as well as Grand Cru sites of rich forwardly Valmur & brilliant complete Les Clos. All are now treasures to pair with food especially Brill sole (Petrale) with pistachios. The biggest leap was taken by the 2010 Barolo. An outstanding classic vintage is showing some tertiary notes of lovely bouquet typicity plus 90% Serralunga nebbiolo fruit helps the overall depth. Really singing now with a delicious pasta course of Cacio e Olio Tarajin. Buy a few of those 2016 Piedmont classic reds on the market now and hold them a few years to replicate hopefully a similar memorable experience.

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Ask Sid: Name for storage casks used in Madeira, Port & Sherry?

February 17th, 2021
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Quesiton: I know the names of barriques and casks for used in wine production. But what are the correct names for them in Madeira, Port & Sherry?

Answer: Yes this is all rather confusing with so many different names used for wine barrels in many varying sizes in regions around the world. Difficult indeed. Madeira & Port both used to be called Pipes with Madeira in a smaller size. Now though generally you have MADEIRA DRUMS & PORT PIPES. Also SHERRY BUTTS.

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February 15th, 2021

Northern Rhone wines have become a hot commodity. Hermitage & Cote Rotie now are expensive collector items with Cornas & Saint Joseph also increasingly in high demand. However back in the seventies and eighties there was another cult wine from Crozes-Hermitage. A special red named Thalabert from Jaboulet domaine was the shining star of this appellation. Today the Crozes wines have lost some lustre compared to their elite neighbours and have become quite variable in quality. The vineyards have quite different soils and range from flat land to hillsides. Most producers have not been able to achieve the desired ripeness of Syrah in Crozes that one finds on the granite hill of Hermitage. During this century of climate change plus younger inspired winemakers Crozes should be on your watch list of good value red wine. During this continuing pandemic your scribe has enjoyed drinking up some choice remaining single oldest bottles that had been retained for possible future vertical tastings. Among these have been some ancient vintages of their star Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert (called Domaine de Thalabert since 1980) of old vines from Paul Jaboulet Aine. They also produced Crozes Les Jalets from the younger vines of Thalabert with blending material from other producers. So impressed still with the 30 year old 1990 (18 months in cask) that Jancis Robinson scored 18/20 in May 2015 stating “Was any better Crozes ever made? Possibly the 1978 Thalabert.” Your scribe agrees on the 1978 being outstanding as did the late Gerard Jaboulet who called that 1978 Thalabert his “best one ever made”. Even today it sings vibrantly with a bouquet that needs time to open up but explodes with true smoky, peppery, black olives, animal gamey notes with smooth intense textures before drying out on the finish. So much black thick sediment deposit now thrown shows just how much original body mass fruit extraction with strong tannins that this wine started out with in a bottle. Especially a delightful treat matched to a roasted lamb shank with ratatouille Provencal stewed vegetables sauce. Remarkable indeed! Doesn’t have the big bold rich concentrated blackberry fruit of the legendary 1978 Hermitage La Chapelle which is an amazing treasure but nonetheless this 1978 Thalabert is memorable in its own way too. Also drank up recently my last quite light mature 1976 and harder more earthy roasted peppers fruit but rather good though 1983 vintage. Gerard had advised me not to open 1983 before 2001. This latter Thalabert 1983 paired so well with a vegetable pasta dish featuring grilled cauliflower with a spicy pesto sauce.

Checking my records it is informative to check out original purchase prices. 1976 Thalabert purchased March 1978 $6.65/bottle; 1978 Thalabert January 1982 for $12 (also bought 1978 La Chapelle at same time for double the price $24); 1983 Thalabert March 1986 for $19.05 (La Chapelle $35.25); 1990 La Chapelle acquired December 1993 at $65.65/bottle.

Fun and nostalgic to look back at some of these crazy purchase prices. Great value if you can make smart decisions on what turn out to be bargain priced bottles on purchase compared with when you later consume them. That is what the present wine consumer is searching for. Look to find fair priced wine from anywhere that you can enjoy rather currently but will improve further complexity with cellaring. Good luck.

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Ask Sid: Are the words used to describe wine changing?

February 10th, 2021
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Question: Are the words used to describe wine changing?

Answer: Astute point. Yes I do believe the wine vocabulary like everything is becoming more politically correct. There is less use of wine descriptors like “feminine” (find another word among many choices such as “delicate”, “finesse, “gentle”, etc.), “masculine” (“firm”, “power”, strong” etc.), “legs” (use “tears” or “weight”), “mouthfeel” (prefer “texture”) and others. There are always newer words and concepts to be aware of from “natural”, “orange”, “amphora”, “organic”, “biodynamic” and so many more. It is fun to learn new words to use in describing wine. “Mineral” is everywhere today! The language is evolving especially that used by many of the younger demographics to be less technical and more about just drinkability. Accordingly we see more words like “bright”, “crunchy”, “fresh”, “fruity”, “sense of place” “spicy” and even just “smell” – instead of “aromas” and “bouquet”. Do you have other good examples for us?

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