Chianti Classico – new classification for whom?

The best wine of the holiday was a Chianti Classico from Marchese Antinori. I choose it as I thought it should be a great companion to the dinner. It was. But it also made me reflect about the news Decanterreported on some days ago; the proclamation of a new classification in Chianti Classico.

The Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico has together with the producers decided to launch a category for the very top wines. But is there a need for the new category? Apparently, the majority think so. However, the interviewed Paolo De Marchi from the Isola e Olena winery was not convinced.
Well, do we need another Chianti classification? I guess that depends on who you wants to approach. The ordinary consumer does not mind. These are not wines in the price range demanded. The knowledgeable wine connoisseur will probably neither benefit from the added information. The connoisseur already knows the producers and the wines to look for. Quality goes before classification. Or should I express it as brand is more important than classification?
When the super tuscans were created the brand became more important. The wines were classified as “simple” Vino da tavola. The quality was excellent. It was just that they did not comply with the wine laws. The knowledgeable wine lovers loved the wines. Super tuscans became Super brands.
So, the new classification must be directed to the group of wine buyers in between. The people that are interested in wine, want to have good wines and perhaps even show off with them. By adding a new classification they will know what to look for. The new classification in itself would be a superior brand to the ordinary Chianti Classico. It could thus relieve the individual producers a part of an expensive marketing to become and sustain their individual brands.
Indisputable is that one more classification needs to be explained to the consumers. And the need for educating the wine buyers increases constantly. Chianti classic is not alone. The innovativeness among the world’s wine producing regions to promote their wines is high. There are more and more to learn. So I see a bright future for all those involved with informing and training the wine consumers. Wine organisations, wine classes, magazines, blog writers, etc.
End of reflection. Back to the best wine of the holiday. A good Chianti Classico should not be drunk too young. Marchese Antinori’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2004 was a great example of this statement. A bit into maturity it had developed so much lovely flavours. It was spicy (nutmeg notes) together with dark berries, integrated oak and a very nice hint of barn. Balanced, concentrated, with very good length. Just wonderful!

Fairview’s innovative Pinotage

We had an interesting wine from Fairview in Paarl, South Africa, to dinner. No, not just interesting, but a very good one. Perfect to the grilled lamb with its spicy side dishes. The interesting was the mix of Pinotage and Viognier, where the latter brought a gentle but delicious floral aroma to the wine.

The practice of adding the white Viognier to a red wine originates from northern Rhône. In Côte-Rôtie it is allowed to add up to 20 percent of Viogner to the Syrah. The usual practice is much lower, about 2 – 5 percent. When Viogner and Syrah co-ferments, the wine gets a nice aroma and the colour is stabilised.

I already knew Fairview’s beautiful pure Viognier. Round but surprisingly fresh, with lovely floral aromas. Fairview was back in 1997 the first producer in South Africa to make a Viognier. The grapes get a long period to get the right ripeness and the yield is very low. Fermented in a combination of French oak and stainless steel and left on the lees for ten months. A wonderful wine, and to the delight of us consumers, very reasonable priced. Also a good choice for spicy food.

The innovative Fairview has once again come up with something new in the Pinotage Viognier blend. And once again they have succeeded. Just as in Rhône, the winemaker Anthony de Jager has made a co-fermentation. Now the black Pinotage grapes together with a small percentage of Viogner. Then nine months in old French and American oak barrels. The result, a softer Pinotage with marked fruit.

My tasting notes says; Soft aroma with dark berries and some floral hints. Medium bodied, marked but soft tannins, nice medium acidity. Dark fruit with morello cherries, beautiful floral hints. Just a very tiny sweetness and subtle oak. Good length. New world wine in old world style. A truly good wine, easy to drink and great to food.

Fairview is well-known not only by the wines labelled Fairview, but, perhaps even more, for the Goats do Roam selection of wines. Also a range of really good wines, humorously branded with allusions to the goats lodged at Fairview’s estate; Goat-Roti, Goats do Roam in Villages, Bored Doe, etc. And the goat cheese, just wonderful!

How do you like your Riesling?

Max and I attended a seminar recently. The theme was how different soils affect the wine. Very interesting. Chablis was one of the examples, where the Kimmeridge clay of the best vineyards give wines that distinctively differs to the ones made from soils based on Portlandian soil. Both calcareous, but so different.

We compared a Petit Chablis with a Première Cru, both from the cooperative La Chablisienne. The first was nice, but rather one dimensional in its citrus freshness.  The latter with more body and pronounced notes of butter scotch in addition to the citrus and yellow apples. Fresh, but with so much more complexity and a rich buttery texture. Concentrated and very long.

Riesling is another grape that clearly reflects the type of soil. To our great delight this was illustrated on the tasting by some Alsatian wines. As profound fans of this lovely French region, we always enjoy to have some of its exquisite liquid in our glasses.

As the geology of Alsace is so varied, there are quite different soils found among the 51 Grand Cru vineyards. Marl and limestone is rather frequent, e.g. the Furstentum, Altenberg de Bergheim and Mambourg, while granite is found in Brand and Schlossberg.

There is in fact even one Grand Cru with shale, the Kastelberg in Andlau. These Rieslings are said to have a bit of musk aroma, even though we not have had the opportunity to try by ourselves. Would have been interesting to taste and see if there is any truth behind that suggestion.

Back to the main question. What can the soil do to the Riesling? Well, Max and I learnt that when it is grown on granite it will be fruitier. Limestone and marl will give less fruity wines, but the calcareous ground is on the other hand said to bring out more power.

Josmeyer’s Grand Cru from Hengst is an example of the limestone based Riesling. Rich, full bodied and with more power than the one made of grapes from their granite Brand vineyard.

Paul Blanck gives us another interesting example. The Furstentum, calcareuous, to be compared with the Schlossberg, granite. The latter has however in the 2008 a rather restrained fruitiness. There is an elegant minerality, not found in the Furstentum, which has a more floral appearance.

The conclusion; Alsace Riesling Grand Cru can differ considerably from each other, but the renowned producers never make us disappointed.

From asparagus to the outstanding Josmeyer wines

Asparagus was on the menu. What wine should I choose? Some say it is hard to find a suitable wine, as the asparagus’ oxalic acid, umami and bitter substances are problematic for wine. But it all depends on cooking method and what they are served together with. Salt, butter or olive oil and some flakes of parmesan will make it a straightforward and delicious dish. And at the same time wine friendly. As for the wine, Pinot Blanc from Alsace will be a safe bet.

So what has this to do with Domaine Josmeyer? Well, the asparagus made me think about when I visited the domain in Wintzenheim some years ago. Among their many fabulous wines was one that particularly was highlighted as the best companion to asparagus; Les Lutins Pinot Blanc.

As is usual in Alsace the Pinot Blanc is blended with some Auxerrois. To Les Lutins the grapes are hand picked, gently pressed and fermented with its natural yeast and then just a light filtering. The result, a lovely wine, lightly perfumed with minerality, nice acidity and good length.

Domaine Josmeyer is really one of the top producers in Alsace. Terroir-driven wines made with minimal intervention. The winemaker, a woman of the Meyer family.

The domain dates back to 1854 when it was started by Jean Meyer’s great grandfather. Jean Meyer, who brought the domain’s development a great step forward when he decided to convert it to organic culture in 2000.

Today it is the daughters of Jean Meyer who is in charge of the winery, together with Christophe Ehrhart as responsible for the bio-dynamically treated vineyards. Céline Meyer is the Managing Director and responsible for the public relations and administration. Isabelle Meyer, trained in viticulture and oenology, is in charge of the vinification.

Isabelle, Céline and Christophe, that is a trio brings out the best of Alsace in Josmeyer’s wines.  I guess that considerably more well-known than the Pinot Blanc I mentioned, are their great Rieslings from the grand crus Hengst and Brand.

All wines are made to express their birthplace, the terroir of each vineyard. Great grapes are the starting point. Then only indigenous yeast, no chaptalisation, no enzymes. The initial phase of the fermentation takes place in tanks with temperature control. Then the must is transferred to 100 year old, very large (1000-6000 litres) wooden casks to complete the fermentation and, after a racking, be kept there on the lees till the time for bottling comes.

An interesting, and for Alsace unusual practice, is the artistic labels for some of their wines. Jean Meyer started this tradition in 1987. A selected artist, always connected to Alsace, visualises the impression of the wine on the label. Since the start, eleven artists have contributed with their art work to the Josmeyer labels. 

Céline, who has studied both art and literature, continues this tradition and has created the new wine range “The Great Travellers” inspired by the colourful art work by Daniel Viene. Aero planes are one of Daniel’s motifs and Céline associates these to Josmeyer’s wines. They too have wings. Wings that lift the wines to higher and higher altitudes, to the pleasure and delight of all wine lovers. 

PS. Noticed Jancis Robinson‘s award to Domaine Josmeyer as being one of the “Natural Heroes” at London’s natural fairs a couple of weeks ago. A well-deserved honour.