Oct 21, 2015

Natura Wine

We received a package from Banfi Wines out of the blue a while back, which to our delight was a couple bottles of wine. Now before we opened the package there was a few moments where we were wondering what wine this may be as Banfi has a fairly large portfolio of labels.

For our drinking pleasure we received some NATURA wine made from the grapes of the organic vineyards of EMILIANA.

From the EMILIANA and NATURA website the story of the grapes... "Located in the main valleys vineyards of Chile, Emiliana is characterized by producing only organic and biodynamic wines, so that helps preserve the natural balance of life, human beings and the environment. Producing wines in this way makes these at the end more healthy, unique and of better quality. At Emiliana, the organic vineyards literally teem with life.  Vineyards buzz with various bugs, bees, birds and native wildlife that together provide a natural and effective defense against common vine-destroying insects.  Flowers and native plants thrive throughout the organic vineyards, providing another simple and cost-effective method of pest control and helping to counteract the detrimental effects of soil degradation.  The use of chemicals is shunned, in favor of natural compounds, such as copper and nitrogen.  Compost is sourced from spent grape skins and stems.  Emiliana’s Natura range, which celebrated its U.S. debut in 2006, marks the cutting edge of an altogether new category of wines made from organically grown grapes – a collection of superbly made, affordably priced organic wines crafted expressly for everyday enjoyment and, accessible to all. The Natura collection features seven varietals, three whites and four reds, all produced from hand-picked, organic grapes, harvested from certified organic vineyards in the prime growing regions of Chile’s Central Valley."

And so it was that we were about to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rosé made with organic grapes from Chile.

First off it was a nice warm California arvo so we cracked the cap on the Rosé. This is a light, light Rosé. Soft red berry fruit flavor with very little nose. This is best served a little warmer so the nose and flavors come out. But as an early arvo sip it is better at the cooler range. For the **** price (technically 8 stars) it is a good value drop that we rate a 5. According to the info vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks with gentle pump overs and delicate lees stirring. The Rose is aged for 3 months in stainless steel tanks and is filtered prior to bottling.

Next up it was into the Cabernet. This wine was definitely way more substantive with a nice aroma of dark fruits which carry to the palate with some red fruit having a secondary role. A medium body that has a light to medium palate weight with a soft smooth finish. Great value and bats well above its price point and at **** 's it rates a 6.

The story on this Cabernet is that the 'must' is transferred to temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks for a cold soak before undergoing alcoholic fermentation with gentle low-volume pumpovers. The wine then undergoes malolactic fermentation. 20% of his wine is aged in oak barrels for 6 months.

Overall good value and both bottles ended empty.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Oct 11, 2015

Winemaker for a day...

So recently while visiting home in Adelaide South Australia, an offer was put on the table to participate in tasting and making the barrel selection for the next bottling's and future release of Chardonnay. Oh, and yes it has been said one should not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. So where were we.

This sounds great I thought as this means now I can maybe influence the owner / winemaker with my finely tuned palate and worldly experience and help make this the best group of Chardonnays ever released by the winery. Seemed simple enough right? Which winery you ask? Don't worry I will let you know which Adelaide Hills producer it is in the end, just stay with me here for a bit.

The night before as the thrill of the impending tasting and decision making was upon me I started to have some doubting thoughts. What? One of the world famous WineWalkabout winos? Ah yes! Lets put into perspective, what has been and what was about to happen are two different animals. Or are they? Drinking wine and giving an opinion is something we all can do. Lets face it, every wanker, tosser and ponce can do that! The doubt comes about not because I am not comfortable giving an opinion, but because this time it could be used. It could actually have an affect on an upcoming release and with that, the economic connection and reputation, positive or negative, of a small family owned winery. Cue butterflies in stomach...

The big morning had arrived and it was into the car for the drive from the eastern suburb of Paradise into the beautiful Adelaide Hills and up to Lobethal on a chilly winters morning. Once the three of us were there and the fire was stoked and coffee and pleasantries were had, a discussion of the process (quite complex due to small volume to blend with) and the expected outcomes were discussed.

Having done blending and tastings before for slightly larger wineries, I had not considered that with an extremely limited amount of commodity, there was a process that made sure we used every ounce to maximum effect and there was sometimes nothing available for the previously used, let me try that last one again to be sure type of scenario. Talk about pressure!

We were preparing to determine the barrel blends for the Premium Chardonnay, the Reserve Chardonnay and a special Winemaker release.

Having tasted and drank many of the last 10 years of releases I knew that the norm was a lovely drinking Chardonnay for both labels and in some years just beautiful. Was this going to be one of the beautiful ones? Could I make the difference (not bloody likely)? Would my taste buds pick the perfect barrel combination that helped get the highest scoring wine in the history of the winery. No... that's just for the movies and books. My contribution was probably more along the lines of, does he ever stop drinking? I need some left to sell!

James and his assistant getting more...
So look, the pressure of trying to be the expert that actually could have a positive financial and reputation affecting influence changed the feeling of the game in ways that were previously not anticipated. It made me think about how some of us in the 'wine review / writing' brigade may not put a lot of real thought into just what we may be doing to those that are on the financial edge doing what they love. Of how some of the more influential wine writers can truly make and or break a family owned business. Look we try to tell it as we taste it, with an eye towards being kind and yet telling the truth. These thoughts were heady stuff coming out of a weekday morning tasting a few barrels of Chardonnay that will not see the light of day for another year.

I would like to thank James Tilbrook for his kind invitation and tolerating me tossing my opinion around like I had skin in the game. It was a wonderful experience to work side by side and compare the subtleties of our differing perceptions and on occasion our confirmation of each other. Cant wait to taste the these wines upon their release sometime in the future and I hope you like them as much as I did.

James measuring out the blend percentages of Chardonnay
Stop in and visit James at Tilbrook Estate for a bloody fantastic wine maker pizza and a taste of his latest releases. The cellar door is open 12 – 4 Monday and Friday, and 11 -5 Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, plus most weekdays when James is present. – Please check to see if the sign board is out. On weekends and Public Holidays they serve (to die for) wood oven pizzas and local produce gourmet platters either in the courtyard on fine sunny days or inside amongst the barrels, when it is wet, cold or too windy.

James is a true artisan producer, growing the grapes, making the wine, doing the tasting trials, bottling it, and pouring in the cellar door. Go by, we 'recommend' you do.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Oct 4, 2015

Wine tasting and how we learned couth

Tasting with Tossers 
Ahhhh wine... We've loved drinking all our lives, but since we started drinking wine and going wine tasting this has brought us into contact with actual people. A lot of whom can talk in full sentences and about a variety of subjects, occasionally with knowledge and intelligence. Often times we find ourselves surrounded by these types at events and gatherings and they are not the type to be impressed by crushing cans on your forehead.

Because of this we've had to learn to behave in public and to pay attention to details like shirts and pants and foot wear. Who knew a good old beer tank, budgie smugglers and thongs were not acceptable attire to go wine tasting in. Adding board shorts didn't help much either. What we discovered, and have become better at, is that it's all about not being uncouth. So yes, with that put on the table, it's all about couth. Wine tasting is all about couth. 

So for those of you who are contemplating entering the world of wine like we did, we have put together this little article to help your transition. Or at least maybe what not to do...
Look we're not wine experts, we are more like wine enthusiasts, doctors really. Wine expert is a bit pretentious, as doctors we are still practicing. Yeah that's it, we are Doctors of wine! 

We think that it's not always the sommeliers and winemakers that get the most out of the wine but the wine drinkers. Winemakers and sommeliers can get too caught up in the science, facts, identification and the understanding, and often fail to enjoy the simple pleasure of putting down a couple bottles and having a good laugh.  Lets face it, the special moment that you smell those wonderful aromas and then that first taste. Ahhh so magical. No concern for vintage or varieties, for maker or region. Just the simple ignorant sensory pleasure of the wine and you. 

We did have to learn to drink in public side by side with strangers and not offend (an ongoing struggle). With our Aussie Kiwi sarcastic and sometimes observational humor we can occasionally confuse the slow, offend the sensitive and titillate the initiated, which then just encourages us even more (wives eyes rolling).

It can be intimidating heading into a cellar door or tasting room. What with all those couth folks talking in a strange tongue. But not to worry, we figured it out and will share our wisdom. 

First off, figure out a couple tasting rooms close to home and plan to pay them a visit. No real dress code requirements just don't wear tank tops guys. Put something on that has at least short sleeves fellas. We nor others want to see or smell your hairy pits. 

Once there it's all pretty bloody simple. Just follow the two S's. Swirl and Sniff. Only two S's? Yes, follow along.

First thing to master so you blend in is the swirl. One of the things we have in the bag, swirling. We can swirl with the best. There are a few different ways to swirl. On the table, from the stem or holding the stem and free handing it. Then there is the cellar door crowd favorite, the from the base wobble. It's all about the wrist. A little practice and you will nail it.

So now you have the wine swirling around in the glass its time to stick you nose in and have a good sniff. Do this a couple times and vary the sniffing enthusiasm to better get all those aromas. See, you got this...

We have learned that the swirling and sniffing is about the smell and the sip is about the taste. You swirl and then you sniff and then you taste. The taste is often referred to as the sip. Therefore the taste is the third 'S', yes three S's. We feel most folks have the taste or sip down before they ever show up at a tasting room so not so important, but yes, three S's if you add the sip. 

Don't be confused that there is a fourth S. Spitting.  Anyone with couth knows it's not polite to spit. It's also an affront to Baccus. 
This is a skill that if you intend to use occasionally should be practiced away from the tasting room and rarely used there. There are so many things that can go wrong here. Spitting and missing, spitting and hitting someone, spiting and dribbling down your face. Besides what a waste of good wine, bugger this, get a designated driver. You can tip it out into the dump bucket if you don't care for it, or if you have had a good enough taste and are done with it.

So all in all as you can see, if we can learn some couth anyone can. Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy your tasting experiences.

Happy Tasting Adventures,