April 30, 2012

To all of you dedicated winemakers

Thank you for the great wines, the ones we’re drinking
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing


ABBA’s Bjoern Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson said thank you for the music. I can’t resist using the same phrases to praise the great wines. 

The great wines are the ones that speak to our innermost being and give us so much pleasure. And besides the sensational experiences that tickle nose and palate, we get wonderful moments together with friends who share the same fascination. And who should we thank? 

Well, I want to thank all the dedicated people behind the great wines. The people who invest their heart and soul into the art of making beautiful wines. Those who have an idea and work hard to fulfil it. And it is we, wine lovers all around the world, who can enjoy the fruits of their hard work. 

For someone new to the world of wine, it can be hard to realise how much effort that lies behind every bottle of great wine. The many hours of meticulous, often manual, work put into the vineyard. Caring for each vine, guarding it from every kind of threat and keeping the yield down by sacrificing some of the grapes to the earth. All with the goal to get healthy grapes, full of flavour, which in the winemaking process will give wines of concentration and complexity. Wines that reflect their birthplace, the terroir. 

This weekend gave an opportunity to taste some of these treasures. Not the most expensive ones, oh no. But affordable great wines that after some years in the cellar gives us a real treat. I am so grateful to all you dedicated winemakers who made this possible. 

So thank you Jean-Michel Deiss, for the Domaine Marcel Deiss Engelgarten 2003. For advocating terroir and making a perfect Alsatian blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir. And thanks to Deiss’ neighbour in Bergheim, Georges Lorentz, for the wonderful Gustave Lorentz Altenberg de Bergheim Gewurztraminer 1999. The subtle notes of roses and the developed complexity, just magnificent. Great Gewurztraminer can be kept for many years. And a thank you to the Faller family, Colette and her daughters Laurence and Catherine, for the Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucins Muscat 2006. A great wine and a great grape, which sadly too seldom visits the cellar of this house. 

When the winemaking tradition in Alsace goes centuries back, with domains that often can be proud of an unbroken chain of generations of winemakers, the ancient Spanish wine region Priorat fell in a beauty sleep after the devastating phylloxera attack. It was not until the eighties the awakening took off, thanks to a small group of dedicated growers who saw the potential of the land. 

My last thanks for today thus goes to Carles Pastrana and Mariona Jarque at the Costers del Siurana. In 1987 they became two of the pioneers that lifted Priorat up to the great heights of wine. Your Clos de l’Obac 1998 was just breath-taking.

April 22, 2012

Rosé reviews give hope for freezing souls

The rain pours down outside. To find something positive, I can conclude that there is no wind and the sea is smooth as glass. The pale shade of green in trees and bushes tells about a spring that ought to be here soon. April has been so chilly. Despite all the warm sweaters, I have been freezing constantly. The remedy has been full bodied wines with power. A few single malts have also passed by to bring some heat. 

It seems much too early for the reviews of this year’s rosé wines. However, the calendar says it is time and consequently we have been able to read many in recent weeks. It gives hope. The sun and the warm days have to lurk somewhere around the corner. 

Rosé has become so trendy. There has been a lot of “pink talk” the last few years. Of course it has influenced the consumers who are buying, drinking and chatting about them, usually in spring and summer time. It is nice that a previously undervalued type of wine has come into vogue outside of France. 

I have always liked a good rosé. Fortunately, the wave of rosés has brought with it a greater selection of quality. I favour the elegant ones with body, character and good length. Fruitiness, freshness and multifaceted appearance in nose and palate are also included on the wish list. Often I find the ones I prefer to be made of the grapes from southern France. 

Tavel in southern Rhône is the classical origin. An AOC where rosé is the only permitted type of wine. Tavel gives us wines that respond well to the requirements. Structure and body are there, freshness and fruitiness as well. The grapes are Grenache and Cinsault, together with, among others, Syrah and Mourvèdre. 

A new favorite of mine is found in Costière de Nîmes, located only a short distance south of Tavel. This region received its AOC-status in 1986 and got its current name in 1989. As recent as 2004 the AOC changed main region, as it was moved from the Languedoc to Rhône at the request of the growers. 

In Costière de Nîmes we find the small family-owned estate Château Mourgues du Grès. Franҫois and Anne Collard make whites, reds and also some beautiful rosés. Two of them are found on top of my list thanks to their freshness, concentration and body. 

“Le Galets Rosés” has exactly the right appeal to my palate. Made mainly of Syrah, with a little Grenache to season the blend. While this wine only has seen stainless steel, the “Capitelles des Mourgues” has been fermented and then aged a few months in large oak barrels. In this wine, the leading role is played by Mourvèdre with Syrah and Grenache as important supporting actors. 

I conclude with a contender from the New World. Morgenster in Stellenbosch makes a superb rosé from an unusual guest in the South African vineyards. This rosé is namely made of 100% Sangiovese and has a name which alludes to its Italian roots; Caruso.

April 15, 2012

Merlot can be brilliant

What a wine! Thirteen years old, still vibrant with life. This week’s most stunning experience came from a South African wine, bought and put in the cellar many years ago. Then forgotten, until this week.

A quick web search made me a bit nervous. It was not unlikely that its best days already had passed. Better open it and face the harsh reality. 

Magnificent! That is the right word to describe the Steenberg Merlot 1999. It met me with a hue of brick. Overwhelmingly rich, with layers of flavour sensations. The nose delightfully mature and complex, just slightly smoky with hints of sweet roots. The sensational explosion came in the palate. A rich concentrated, spicy blend of laurels, root vegetables, raisins and well integrated oak. Great body. Balanced with velvet tannins, moderate alcohol and very good length. And after a little while the minty notes evolved together with some sweet raisins. 

Isn’t it time for a revival of the Merlot? This Steenberg confirmed my belief in the grape’s maturing potential. It also showed the ability to make great Merlot in South Africa. A Morgenhof Merlot Reserve 1998 some time ago gave the same impression, even if this wine from Steenberg was well ahead of its competition. 

Steenberg is one of the reputable South African wine farms dating back to the seventeenth century. Unusual is that the farm was founded by a woman. Catharina Ras came from Lübeck to South Africa already in 1662. In 1682 she was allowed to lease some land in Constantia from Simon van der Stel, a lease that was converted to ownership in 1688. Catharina was also known for her bad luck with husbands, the fatality rate was so to say high and she was married five times. But that is another story. 

Steenberg is today owned by Graham Beck. The 62 ha Constantia vineyards include plantings of Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Nebbiolo. The latter a rare guest in the South African vineyards, which in the hands of the winemaker JD Pretorius is transformed into a beautiful, well-structured wine with the typical nose of leaves in decay and a substantial load of tannins. 

Unfortunately, I have not tasted any newer vintages of their Merlot. But now I have a great reason to find a bottle. Hopefully, a sip of it will convince me to put some into the cellar and, in ten years’ time or so, give me another stunning experience.

April 09, 2012

Jessica’s Champagne for Easter

“What’s on the menu for Easter wine-ing and dining?”  That was the question from Julie Brosterman at @womenwine some days ago. 

"Champagne!" That was my spontaneous response.

Why did I immediately think of this exquisite sparkling liquid? Was it the glittering yellow colour? Or the millions of bubbles, reminiscent of micro eggs?  Hardly. No, I would guess it was because Champagne is considered to be the celebration drink above all others. Thus, perfect for the traditional, joyful festivities of Easter Saturday. 

In Champagne, there are many treasures to be discovered, well hidden from the general public. These secrets are not to be found within the huge ranges from the big Champagne Houses. Oh no, you should instead go looking among the small ones. 

Most of the 19.000 growers sell all their grapes. It is first class grapes, mainly coming from vineyards classified as Grand Cru or Premier Cru. The buyer would be a négotiant, a Champagne House or a co-operative.  Still, there are also almost 5.000 Grower Champagnes available to the market. A majority of these are however produced at some of the co-operatives. Richard Juhlin, the Swedish Champagne expert, estimates that the number of growers who actually make their own Champagne in-house is about 2100. 

Champagne Thierry Perrion belongs to the latter category, located in Montagne de Reims’ small Grand Cru village Verzenay, where Pinot Noir is the main grape variety. Thierry is the third generation winegrower, but for his wife Jessica it was a new world in 1991. Then she was the Swedish girl who came to Reims to study French, met Thierry, fell in love and soon became Madame Perrion. Probably the only Swedish winegrower in Champagne. 

Jessica Perrion.














Perrion is one of my absolute Champagne favourites. The rich style, where Pinot Noir adds a lot of flavour and body to the wine, appeals not only to me. It is a style which has charmed all of my friends, even the wine novices and the ones who usually are not so found of sparkling wine. 

Of Perrion’s three Champagnes, all Grand Cru, the Cuvée Prestige is my top choice. 90% Pinot Noir, of which 10% have matured on oak, and only 10 % of Chardonnay. A fruity flavour with apples and bread.  Significant body with a nice, creamy mousse, good acidity and good length. Perfect as an aperitif and a lovely companion to the autumn lobster. For the summer day, when we gather in the garden for an afternoon chat, the glasses are filled with demi-sec. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay with a dosage of 20 gr sugar. 

Only about 8000 bottles are produced in the Perrion cellar, as the majority of the grapes are sold to the Champagne Houses. It is thus a privilege to be one of the few who can uncork one of Jessica and Thierry’s excellent wines. A real luxury, which was perfect for this year’s somewhat cold, but lovely sunny Easter.