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Ask Sid: When do you describe a wine as crunchy?

April 21st, 2021
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Question: When do you describe a wine as crunchy?

Answer: Yes this is a rather newer wine tasting word that is hard to really nail down. The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes “crunchy” as “that can be or has been crunched or crushed into small pieces; hard & crispy.” This literal definition seems most appropriate for tasting the tartaric crystals thrown by a white wine or sediment crust deposit
from an older red wine. However it is finding a broader positive use to help describe a diverse group of lively crisp textured wines that you almost can crunch! Your scribe sometimes uses it with reference to thicker bodied Rhone style white blends and natural Syrah big fruit ones among others. What about you?


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LEGENDARY PIO BOFFA OF PIO CESARE PASSES FROM COVID

April 19th, 2021
Image courtesy: piocesare.it

The evolving stages of the Covid-19 pandemic are continuing to affect so many of us. All the hospitality industries are suffering badly especially led by tourism and restaurants. The toll around the world keeps rising presently at just over 3 million deaths from the Coronavirus and 142+ million confirmed cases in 219 countries and territories. Wineries have had to adjust to this new reality of less customer visits & personal tours, less restaurant new orders, but more direct consumer shipping and webinars. Therefore they have generally not been as exposed directly to the virus compared to the service sector businesses dealing up front with the public. However, that didn’t save Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare (founded in 1881) who just passed away from Covid complications. What an outstanding
contribution he provided as a real Ambassador for Italian wine and for Piedmont in particular. Pio was constantly travelling around the globe spreading the goodwill of not only Pio Cesare but much more. He reminded me of what Jean-Michel Cazes (Lynch-Bages) & Mai de Lencquesaing (Pichon-Lalande) among others and before them Henri
Martin of Chateau Gloria used to do in spreading the good word for Bordeaux (as well as their personal Pauillac & St. Julien properties). Remember so many times meeting up (sometimes unexpectedly) with Pio Boffa at wine events in America to Singapore. He would be there as always providing valuable insights. Of course it was better still to visit with him at their old fortified historic cellars under the town of Alba. Recall his friendly open warm laugh on so many occasions. What memorable times!

Your scribe has written several references about Pio Boffa over the years. Many fond memories are stimulated from the one posted here of December 7, 2015 where he told me in great detail about his insights on every Barolo vintage he made from 1996 to 2015 inclusive. Pio Boffa joined the family firm in 1972 and with an astute future vision helped pioneer both traditional classic vineyard blends but also vineyard specific ones like Il Bricco in Barbaresco (Treiso) from 1964 & Ornato in Barolo (Serralunga d’Alba) in 1970. Some wonderful tributes to Pio Boffa flowing in already from Tom Hyland on @WineSearcher & @WineSpectator. Salute a great man! A wine legend who has left a marvellous legacy behind him. RIP


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Ask Sid: Your thoughts on the frost damage this month in French vineyards?

April 14th, 2021
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frost damage france french vineyards 2021 vintage harvest

Question: What are your thoughts on the frost damage this month in French vineyards?

Answer: Most concerning indeed. In this era of climate change we normally worry about higher temperatures but extremes have become a major problem too. The past decade has experienced smaller harvest crop volumes (except abundant 2018) especially in Chablis because of hail (2012, 2016) and frequent frosts of varying intensity (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, & 2020). However the cold temperatures of last week were particularly long, severe and widespread. These Spring frosts caused extensive damage to early vine budding all over France including Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy, Rhone (Cote-Rotie) and Bordeaux (Graves) but also Italy (mainly PIedmont & Tuscany). Everyone is calling this 2021 vintage the “worst frost freeze in decades” (called worse than historic 1997 & 1991) with a crop loss “catastrophe.” Expect prices to rise and supply to be more limited for 2021 when released. Recommend you stock up on your favourite wines from current vintages now.


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LESSER VINTAGES CAN BE UNDERRATED FROM TOP VINEYARDS BY DILIGENT PRODUCERS

April 12th, 2021

Recently enjoyed some delightful wine surprises by drinking up so-called inferior vintages supposedly already over-the-hill. It is most difficult to rely with full confidence on the overall general rating shown on a vintage chart or elsewhere about any specific property or wine. There will always be exceptions as we know. IMHO these are often more likely to occur from the best vineyards from conscientious producers. For example Bordeaux has a deserved
reputation for always aging longer than you might expect. However in off years some properties have excelled in terrific old treasures. Château Latour in Pauillac with a unique terroir always seems to have a wine of some power yet with elegance every year. Even in a large over-crop like 1950 the resulting wine is always a delight. Similarly
Château La MIssion Haut Brion in Pessac-Leognan often shows unexpected depth. Your scribe remembers well a real delightful eye opener even with a glorious 1958 from a bad year. Selection and know-how together with choice grapes from outstanding sites may overcome bad weather conditions. Today the concern is not so much cool weather with unripe grapes but rather excessive heat concerns. 2012 & 2013 may not be top vintage superstars but those current releases from Château Latour though forwardly elegant should still develop with some cellaring.
All this came vividly back to my memory bank last week with two Baroli from 2003. Not an acclaimed vintage in Piedmont but quite variable due to again that dry very hot record breaking Summer temperatures prevalent throughout many wine regions – especially in Europe. At least it was better than the very weak wipe out 2002s. The wines were both Nebbiolo made in different styles from outstanding vineyards by top producers but that made all the difference for these 2003s:

  1. 2003 BAROLO SORI GINESTRA CONTERNO-FANTINO This Sori slope (south facing hill “where the snow melts first”) from the ideal great Ginestra vineyard in Monforte d’Alba is dark, deep, concentrated, rich and impressive at 14.5. Conterno-Fantino is a more “modern” producer with shorter fermentation-maceration methods using
    French oak in smaller barriques. The overall balance is helped by the higher natural acidity levels of Nebbiolo. A much bigger and riper wine than their Vigna del Gris. Sori Ginestra is also smooth, approachable and so delicious when paired with a dinner main course of pasta, porcini mushroom sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano. Underrated.

2. 2003 BAROLO MONPRIVATO GIUSEPPE e FIGLIO MASCARELLO This prestigious Monprivato southwest facing vineyard of Giuseppe e Figlio Mascarello in Catiglione Falletto is one of the very best of all the Barolo sites. The amazing depth of fruit balance with complex fragrances that can be achieved from this site is enviable. Situated
at about 240-320 metres elevation the soils there retain moisture which helped in 2003 plus the green harvesting did as well. A more “classic” producer that was most successful in this difficult year. Brown tinged lighter colour than usual but pure delight of perfumed bouquet & balanced flavours. Surprising structure. A superb dish of
Tajarin pasta with fresh shaved black truffle (instead of preferred white) with new EVOO Argiano Biologico Italiano IGT worked like a charm in showing this underrated beauty to the best advantage!


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Ask Sid: Any wine trend so far in 2021?

April 7th, 2021
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Question: What is the hot wine trend so far in 2021?

Answer: Your scribe is not a big follower of wine trends. They may be interesting but too often are just PR marketing moves to try and sell more commercial wine. Still there seems to be a growing interest this year by consumers from a big fruit driven beverage to a drier, less sweet, fresh, lower alcohol style of wines with a better acidity balance. I think this is a good thing or an encouraging trend. Yesterday VinePair featured: “Pucker Up: With Sour Flavors Trending in Beer and Cocktails, What’s Next For Wine?“. They suggested wines with higher acidity like Albarino & Chablis plus lower dosage bubbles and even mead will be the ticket. Also something that is a bit “funky” stands out as well. Perhaps this is a trend to watch out for!


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