Thursday, July 15, 2010
The world of wine blogging can be a fickle mistress, one day you're swamped in enotecas for your autograph, cheered and back slapped, the next you're attacked with a Parma ham (on the bone) for dismissing a paisans favourite grape. As many of you know, wine geekery is not my formal training, I am actually a full blown net nerd paid to work in SEM/SEO, that little talent helped elevate this blog and the keyword Italian Riesling atop the Google rankings and my cheerful raspberry to Italian Riesling continues to top my e-complaint list.
So, just two years later and after one suit and several beatings, I have decided to write about another Italian Riesling and this one, the Kuenhof Valle Isarco Riesling Kaiton from the Alto Adige is nothing short of scrumdiddly (winespeak for "on par with anything from Franken").
The Kuenhof estate, run by Peter and Brigitte Pliger is located just outside the town of Brixen (70% of the towns population are German speakers) or Bressanone as we shall call it and just a short distance from the Austrian border. This 4 ha vineyard in the South Tyrol holds the honour of producing Italy's northernmost wines. As such, the wines at the Kuenhof estate are Italian only in postcode, growing grape varieties you'd expect from the Austrian vineyards across the way. Strangely, grapes do not respect international borders and so it comes to pass that some of the worlds finest and best value Gruner Veltliners, Rieslings, Sylvaners and Gewurztraminers come from this part of the Alto Adige and the Kuenhof estate.
Kuenhof Valle Isarco Riesling Kaiton, like all the Kuenhof wines from this tiny estate is produced in small numbers. Considering the quality of this wine and the small scale production these wines are hotly priced. The Sylvaner (as you could guess) has the largest production but still comes in at just under 11,000 bottles per year. The wines are also well received with Gambero Rosso year on year with the '07 Sylvaner taking the Tre Bicchiere and still we are getting change from a €20? You can buy the wines directly at the vineyard for closer to the €10 mark.
So, onto the Kuenhof Valle Isarco Riesling Kaiton itself. At the beginning of this week I was in Venice and along with a chum shared a bottle of the '08 vintage sat next to the Rialto bridge feasting on seafood risotto as the the mosquitos, in turn, fed on me. I'm sure the location and late evening sun helped but this was perhaps the most elegant, lengthy and pure Riesling wine I've tasted from any region. No one made me say that. Honest. No one.
Kuenhof Valle Isarco Riesling Kaiton 2008 - BUY - €19
A light golden colour in the glass. A focused and stylised wine with some herbaceous and mineral notes, even a little orange peel on the nose. The palate is concentrated, lustrous and coating with a long finish. This is one of those wines that is almost a little one dimensional but does that one dimension so well that it's a good thing! (that makes sense) 90 Points
Where can I buy this Wine?
Karadarshop.com - €19
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What is your favourite thing from Austria? Apart from this wine... which isn't.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Foradori's Granato 2004 is the first wine from Trentino to make the Wine90 blog. Probably not too surprising, there are only a couple of estates in this north eastern Italian province that consecutively turn out top notch vino.
If you're an Italian wine fan you've probably heard of Foradori, Ferrari and Tenuta San Leonardo but otherwise there hasn't been much to shout about.
Trentino, traditionally, is all about quantity with the highest yields in Northern Italy which is seldom a statistic matched by quality.
But what of the region's saviours and what of this, the Foradori Granato, not only (arguably) the regions best red wine but also its best exponent of the regions finest indigineous grape, Teroldego?
This grape was once a bit of a favourite in Italy, but like so many of her indigenous grapes was slipping into obscurity until taken on by a brilliant traditionalist with the Midas touch. This grape owes it's refound popularity to the indomitable Elisabetta Foradori. She alone is responsible for the resurgence of this full flavoured and moderately tannic red variety. Often compared to Zinfandel, recently it has been proven that one of the parents of Teroldego is actually Syrah.
It is in Trentino though, in the foothills of the alps, within the Foradori vineyards upon alluvial deposits and gravel and with Elisabetta's careful hand that Teroldego has found its greatest expression. The most exciting thing about focusing on Italian wines are stories like these. Every year you hear about another varietal that had been crucially important to the region in times gone by - almost falling out of existence, only to be brought back to life once more. It's an exciting time in Italian wine and Elisabetta's story, whilst extraordinary and dedicated is repeated in every region of Italy. There seems to be an underground society for the revival of indigenousness grapes in Italy; they just forgot to send my press pass.
The wine itself is unique and whilst us wine bloggers love to draw comparisons I'm going to resist temptation as to not do the wine a disservice. This is a wine of elegance produced under some harsh conditions with few peers to guide Elisabetta's path.
Foradori Granato 2004 - BUY - £35
A deep ruby red, the wine's bouquet is a sumptuous mix of tobacco, tar, graphite and cedar with the oak hanging in fine balance but Granato is also fruit forward with notes of orange, cocoa powder and spice. The nose really is stand out and gives the wine its unique quality. On the palate Granato shows well ingrained tannins, both dense and silky with a fine satisfying finish offering plums/dark cherry and some herbaceousness on the back end. I realise that's a lot of characteristics for a wine but it really is something else! 94 Points
Although undoubtedly well made, this will be a wine that splits opinion and so a great wino or dinner party wine. This is the wine to take to your best wine snobs house and trip them up with. If anyone picks this wine blind they should instantly be ordained as the new Jancis of your group.
Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans - Italian Wine Selection - €30
Americans - The Wine Connection - $47
Brits - Antique Wine Company - £35
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc is the finest wine from the Scavino vineyards seemingly year on year, but the 2004 vintage is a masterclass in balance. It appears as though the true potential of Bric del Fiasc has now been realised, a project of over 30 years, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the Scavinos can raise the Barolo bar once more - vintage permitting.
Paolo Scavino has long been a favourite producer for Piedmont fans in the know, not simply for this top cru Barolo but for all his Barolo wines including the award winning Rocche dell'Annunziata. Scavino is currently producing 14 different wines that beautifully showcase the Piedmont with Langhe, Barbera, Dolcetto as well as making use of Cabernet Sauvignon in a couple of Nebbiolo dominated blends.
The Bric del Fiasc doesn't get close in price to the Barolo superstar prices of Gaja, Giacosa, Voerzio et al. As these wines are highly sought after and praised in Italy they sometimes struggle to reach our shores and those that do are snapped up quickly. The Bric del Fiasc 2004 had Antonio Galloni of the Wine Advocate in raptures. The producers top wine in a heralded vintage is still, in relative terms, a QPR hotshot. What other 96 point WA 2004 Barolo can still be found for under €60 a bottle?
So why is this wine so special? This cru Barolo wine was first produced in 1978 when Paolo's son Enrico convinced him that the grapes from this particular area should be vinified separately as they are the best of the bunch and the wine should be sold under its own cru label. Since then the wine has grown in stature. Currently a supporter of French Oak it will be interesting if the amount of oak and period in barrel remains constant for future vintages. However, it was, as always, the combination of grape, vinification and vintage that brought the 2004 vintage to new heights; this combination is also likely to produce a terrific result with age though that remains to be seen as I killed this bottle already.
Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 2004 - BUY - €58
Wound tighter than a Woods backswing this wine had to be left 12 hours before coming out to play. A lovely deep and bold red to the rim with no signs of age to speak of, on the nose the wine offered up measured notes of blackberry, chocolate, blueberries, cedarwood and, for my nose at least, that classic touch of marzipan. Smooth on the palate a great balance of tannins and acidity already, fruit forward with blueberries coming forth on the 45 second finish. A wonderful wine regardless of the price. 95 Points
Unfortunately I don't have a time machine, I would love to see how this vintage performs 10 years from now.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I'm rarely moved to write restaurant reviews. My hesitancy stems partly from my fervid fear of foodies but mostly because neither texture, colour nor presentation put me off my grub. I eat everything. Aside from fish bones and egg shells there isn't a whole lot that would make me push my plate to one side. However, my experience at the Dover Street Restaurant may be about to change all that.
Before we get onto that, I have to say, the wine list here was truly dreadful, as was the music at this "jazz bar" (Blame it on the Boogie and Like a Prayer do not a relaxed dining experience make). There was one shining star in the dismal haze that passed for a wine list - a Serge Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé. I ordered two bottles, one for the food, the other to numb the pain.
OK OK I'll be fair, apart from the dated disco numbers, dire wine lists and being forced to sit in the corner behind a pillar experience; the food was delivered with a smile and the inevitable pepper mill mime artistry and all was well. More than well. For the pound in your pocket and considering we're in a Green Park location this has to be one of the best meals I've had for under £30 per head.
Though I've been told that all the dishes here are excellent and my dining partner was lavishing praise upon her Roast lamb, I found myself enjoying my first course more than my main. Maybe because I was ridiculously hungry or maybe because Dover Street gravadlax, wonderfully fresh Salmon, seasoned to perfection with dill, brandy and mustard, was quite simply, one of the best salmon dishes I've ever had. The main course, Pot Roast Duck, was also excellent with a sweet and strong orange sauce as well as beautifully braised parsnips and sauteed potatoes.
Food aside, the Dover Street Restaurant is a strange place. Not strange bad. Not strange good. Just strange. Squatting in one of wealthiest areas in London, you descend these elegant surroundings (of the street!) into an art deco style cavern which would be cozy were it not gargantuan. Where old timers play jazz classics while you relax and enjoy your cocktails or first sips of Pouilly Fume and then, serene and peaceful with the last strains of the sax in the air, they blast out disco classics over your main course while you and your date take up your own mime artistry and get a good look at one anothers main courses... in situ.
My favourite peculiarity of the evening though was arriving at my table to find that the Italian commission for sliced meats (or so I presume!) had placed an 8 page information leaflet about mortadella, prosciutto, speck and all the other hams... and believe me, there are many, on my table. Stranger still, none of these were on the menu!
I get the feeling the Dover Street Restaurant and Jazz Bar doesn't quite know what it wants to be when it grows up. It oscillates between the sublime and the ridiculous several times throughout the evening. What this place really is though, is great fun. Who says restaurants shouldn't keep you on your toes? So what if only one bottle of wine on the list is any good... at least there is one right? If the food is great and the price is fair who cares if people are grabbing their crotches and moonwalking past your table? Not I.
Serge Dagueneau Pouilly Fume 2008 - BUY - £10
A zippy little wine, fresh and more fruity than flinty on the nose and a real nice cut through that mustard and salmon. The palate gave great acidity, with some pear notes with melon and lime on the back end. Strong finish too. A real QPR top ranking wine. 90 Points.
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Favourites from the Loire? Ever eaten at the Dover Street Restaurant and Jazz Bar?
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