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Anne Krebiehl unravels the Pinot puzzle

Published:  29 September, 2010

The best thing about Monday's Pinot Puzzle was that all wines were served blind, having everyone guessing and trying to find common threads in the different country flights. London's wine glitterati (yes, they all turned up) were debating the comparative alcoholic heat, the integration of oak and the use of different clones in a spectacular line-up of Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Chile, New Zealand and Australia. Were those balanced, almost tender and pale wines at home in the Willamette Valley? Was the heat and power of one flight down to Californian, Australian or Central Otago sunshine? Did acidity and fruit-forwardness really point to Chile or was it Mornington Peninsula? Almost all got some flights spot on but mixed up others - also scrutinising bottles for clues via closures and bottle weight. The 66 wines were presented in Hardy's Brasserie, a small enough space to encourage lively discussion.

 

Astonishingly this was not a sponsored PR stunt, but the independent project of two wine PRs, Kate Sweet (of Hilltop Wines) and Jen McDonald (Mandarin Communications) and wine educator Angela Reddin. "This is not officially underwritten by any of the generic bodies or a client," says Sweet. "It is a hobby of Jen, Angela and myself who have an interest in Pinot Noir." Once word of the event got round, they had to turn away wines from Argentina, South Africa and Canada who also wanted their chance to shine. "It is just about looking at a snapshot of what the new world regions are doing with their Pinot Noir at the moment," Sweet explains. "We have tried to show a broad spectrum of wines. They are contenders, they are operational in the UK market and they are real alternatives to traditional styles of Burgundy. It demonstrates that new world areas are finding their feet."

 

The flights were revealed just before Gerard Bassett MW chaired a panel of winemakers to discuss the different countries' Pinot Noir traits which are finally emerging without constant, slavish comparison to Burgundy. Even Bassett confessed that he was "confused" after tasting the wines twice, especially since "each region has more than one style." Blair Walter of Felton Road in Central Otago reflected on the continuing evolution: "From a New Zealand point of view we have come a long way: the main developments have been viticultural. There's increasing vine age and a better understanding of how to farm our vineyards. We are more subtle on the winemaking side." He reckons that the new Pinot contenders in five years' time will probably be from South Africa and the Canadian Okanagan Valley. Mac Forbes of Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley, Australia, made a similar point, saying that the right clones are ever more important for quality Pinot. As for winemaking, Forbes said there was "an increased confidence to be able to step back and allow the sites to express themselves more." Helen Masters of Ata Rangi in Martinborough, New Zealand was enthusiastic about all the wines: "Probably five years ago you might have seen more faults. You are able to see the countries and regions more clearly now. Overall, the quality made a huge leap in terms of what people are doing in the vineyard and the winery. People start to understand what clones, what rootstocks really suit their region. At the higher end it's actually harder because all the wines have such good quality, such good weight. In five year's time it's going to be even more exciting!" Many tasters commented, Christine Parkinson of Hakkasan emphasising that she was pleased to find "something delicate, something mysterious" in those Pinots.

 

The Pinot Puzzle showed how healthy it is to have one's ideas challenged. Tasting without preconception demonstrated the astonishing quality and variety of new world Pinot Noirs. The educational value of blind tasting was completely affirmed.

 

Some highlights:

Ponzi Reserve, 2008, Willamette Valley - Total definition of raspberry fruit on nose and palate with something more earthily aromatic in the background, ripe and fine tannins reveal their soft grip later. A wine of depth rather than power.

 

Ten Minutes by Tractor, 2008 Mornington Peninsula - Very pale, with savoury, classic Pinot varietal notes, reminiscent of the old world. Expressive elegance with structure, quiet power and spice.

 


Vina Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir, 2008, Leyda Valley - An atypical bouquet of fragrant, fresh fruit that almost turns into the perfume of dark conifers on the palate. Interesting despite a little too much extraction.

 

Marimar Estate, Cristina, 2005, Russian River Valley - Brick red colour, red-currants mingling with smoke and tar on nose and palate. Seductive, elegant power.

 

Felton Road, Block 3, 2007, Central Otago - Deep ruby colour, very fragrant and despite its heat a fine acidity and delicate spice. "This has some poetry," my tasting sheet scribbles say.

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Expectations high for Bordeaux's 2010 vintage

Published:  28 September, 2010

Geoffrey Dean writes for The Times and is currently studying for WSET exams.

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Gondola changes name to yourfavouritewines.com

Published:  28 September, 2010

Gondola.co.uk has rebranded its name to yourfavouritewines.com after feedback from a customer survey.

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Burgundy harvest starts early

Published:  23 September, 2010
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Burgundy harvest starts early

Published:  23 September, 2010
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More bid speculation for Foster's wine interests

Published:  21 September, 2010

Rumours are circulating about another bid for Treasury Wine Estates, the wine division of Foster's.

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Richard Siddle dines at The Milroy

Published:  16 September, 2010

Walking into The Milroy you feel like you've stepped up a notch or two in social class, which is all part of its new-found appeal.

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Nine new MWs announced

Published:  03 September, 2010

The Institute of Masters of Wine has announced nine new Masters of Wine to its membership following the results of its 2010 examination.

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Foster's EMEA becomes Treasury Wine Estates EMEA

Published:  02 September, 2010

Treasury Wine Estates EMEA will become the new identity for Foster's EMEA Limited, from today.

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Pernod Ricard ups investment by 30% for Christmas

Published:  27 August, 2010

Pernod Ricard has unveiled the firm's Christmas plans ? it has upped marketing investment by 30% for this year's focus on premium brands across TV ad campaigns, sponsorships and new packaging.

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Berry Bros & Rudd to match red wine with fish

Published:  25 August, 2010

Berry Bros & Rudd is using science in an attempt to prove that red wine does go with fish after all.

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Head winemaker for Mont Tauch

Published:  24 August, 2010

Mont Tauch, Fitou's largest cooperative, has appointed Jean-Philippe Trollet as head winemaker.

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Vinea to hold its 17th annual wine fair

Published:  23 August, 2010

Switzerland's most important wine fair Vinea is to run its 17th show offering several new features.

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Andrew Catchpole's final Regional Heroes blog from Australia

Published:  23 August, 2010

From the Hills to Clare Valley, where a cracking turn out of winemakers reinforces one of the best masterclass tastings of the trip, fronted by the region's lime-slaked, bone dry signature style of Riesling.

 

Dave and Diane Palmer of Skillogallee, Jeffrey Grosset of Grosset and Stephanie Toole of Mount Horrocks were just a few of the dozen leading Clare winemakers who joined us for a tasting lunch following a serious crack at Clare sub-regionality under the guidance of Kilikanoon's Kevin Mitchell.

 

Flights of the superb 02 and '09 Riesling were shown blind, followed by a bracket of iconic Clare Shiraz (think Jim Barry's 'The Armagh' and Tim Adams 'Aberfeldy'), before launching into a lunch which then opened the field on Clare's myriad styles, including plush Cabernet-driven wines epitomised by Grosset's seamless Gaia and Mount Horrrock's seductive Semillon.

 

It was the Rieslings, though, that really pinpointed the character of Clare, as we traced a progression from warmer, fleshier Auburn in the lower Valley via the well-structured complexities of Watervale and Sevenhill to the tightly knit, mineral charged wines of Polish Hill. '02's, especially from sub-regions showing more minerally, tighter character in youth, also impressed upon our group how well Clare Riesling can age.

 

After such a whirlwind tour of cool and cooler climate regions it was intriguing to contemplate how Barossa, king of the blockbuster Shiraz, would show after such a run of aromatic Rieslings, fresh and restrained Chardonnays, vibrant Pinot Noirs, cooler region savoury Shiraz/Syrahs a host of other up-and-coming varieties including Rhone whites, Italians (Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Nero d'Avola, Fiano and Arneis, among others), plus the odd dollop of good-looking Tempranillo.

 

It was pretty simple and quite a coup. The Barossa boys and girls pulled out their Old Vine Charter and soaked our palates with flights of Old Vine (35+ years of age), Barossa Survivor Vine (70+), Barossa Centenarian Vine (100+) and Barossa Ancester Vine (125+). These old vines are - no cliché here - a national treasure and given the extraordinary combination of balance, harmony and concentration that overwhelmingly informed this superb flight of 12 Barossa classics, it seems churlish to single out any single wines. However, an '07 Cirillo Estate Vineyard Grenache, from 1850 plantings, and a 164 year old '05 Schild Estate Moorooroo Shiraz deserve special mention.

 

The final stages of this Regional Heroes trip played out in the Barossa and its more elevated sister region Eden with visits to a trio of wineries, all very different and all thoroughly enjoyable, not least for their more intimate tours and tastings after so many masterclasses in so many and such contrasting regions. It was a good reminder of something that Australia does well - namely approachable and down to earth winemakers. Stephen Henschke of Henschke, Louisa Rose at Yalumba and Christie Schulz at Turkey Flat all proved generous with both their time and their wines, including some exciting barrel and tank work where we again looked at some very promising 2010 wines in the making.

 

After 300+ wines, nine regions, a wealth of masterclasses, innumerable visits, the chance to look at a wealth of 'new wave' varieties and style coming on line, along with the emerging and established classic Australian styles, and what could generally be described as a pretty full-on immersion in the current wine scene Down Under, the Regional Heroes delegates - Rachael, Robert and Matt - agreed that they had only scratched the surface in terms what Australia offers. But the depth and diversity of that offer was clearly apparent. All in all a great trip and some superb wines.

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Carol Emmas reviews Roux at Parliament Square

Published:  16 August, 2010

It was a sad day for me when the peace protesters were removed from Parliament Square - where some had camped for almost a decade.

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Speaker highlights at Top Merchants, Bristol conference

Published:  03 August, 2010


Speaker highlights from the Top Merchants conference held in Bristol on July 19.

 

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Carol Emmas reviews Inter Beaujolais

Published:  29 July, 2010

Unless you've been residing on another planet these past few weeks, it's unlikely the hype of the 2009 Beaujolais vintage has passed you by. Xavier Barbet, vice-president of Inter Beaujolais, says this is the best vintage he's ever seen.

 

I have to say it's nice to have a Beaujolais revival because when Gamay is good it's a joy to behold. Plus it sits so well with what the consumer wants these days: it's light, not a high abv, tastes good chilled and is a great food wine. It also stands out on its own in terms of individuality and style.

 


All 12 appellations were on show, from the light, frivolous and fruity through to the more serious and complex. There were a couple that fell a little flat , but there were many more delightful, luscious and succulent wines on show and it's these that will have the consumer coming back for more.

 

Some of the more complex wines were good to savour and good value on the pocket. But to me it's about making hay while the sun shines and I'd be opting for the bright-fruited fun aspect - and there's plenty of that to be had this year.

 


Henry Fessy Beaujolais Rouge 2009 (Louis Latour Agencies) had a colour you'd want on your palette as well as your palate. Red-purple in the glass, it had a lively nose of raspberry and violets, with upbeat, red berry fruits to taste.

 


Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Rouge Coeur de Vendange 2009 (Enotria) was a gluggable wine, with cherry and raspberry flavours backed by firm tannins and a succulent finish.
Les Vins Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages 2009 (Berkmann Wine Cellars) had vibrant red and purple fruit that skimmed and teased the palate and delivered a long, juice-laden finish.

 

Domaine de la Madone Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2009 (Thorman Hunt) showed aromas of violets and dark red fruit, intense flavours of liquorice, a touch of spice, good acidity and lively tannins.


But it wasn't all about the reds. There were a few whites under the Beaujolais Blanc appellation and the Château des Jacques Grand Clos de Loyse 2009 (Hatch Mansfield) showed a fresh, clean nose with lemons and nuts on the palate and a good level of minerality.

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Richard Siddle dines at The Milroy

Published:  29 July, 2010

Walking into The Milroy you feel like you've stepped up a notch or two in social class, which is all part of its new-found appeal. Previously you were only able to dine here if you were rich enough to pay the membership fee for what is essentially a private casino - Les Ambassadeurs Club.


Located on the cusp of Hyde Park, The Milroy is situated in what used to be one of Henry VIII's hunting lodges and its interior is still modelled on the fin de siècle Louis XV style incorporated in the 1870s. Dining here certainly makes you feel one step closer to royalty.


The food is European traditional, dressed up with a serious modern twist. It's the kind of menu where you need the staff to explain at least two ingredients per dish. But this is no surprise as head chef Simon Foster was trained by Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire.


Foams, juses and mousses run alongside Barnsley chops, ribs of beef, sole meunière and pan-fried skate.


The wine list is tilted to the Old World but evenly spread around the New World. With Cloudy Bay and Hunter Valley running up alongside Meursault, Pommard and Nuits St George. Under head sommelier Andres Lucas it features 200 bins, 10 by-the-glass at £7.50, and fairly priced bottles starting at £22.


Lunch here is a grand occasion. A step up and a step back in time. But well worth stepping up for.

 

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JF Hillebrand acquires Bora Shipping

Published:  26 July, 2010

Logistics supplier to the wines and spirits industry JF Hillebrand has acquired Bulgarian beverage logistics specialist Bora Shipping.

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Connoisseur Estates takes on Adelaide Hills producer

Published:  22 July, 2010

Connoisseur Estates has been appointed as the UK agent for Sidewood Estate from the cool climate Adelaide Hills region of South Australia.

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