Porto Summit 2018: Barack Obama delivers his keynote speech
It has been a surreal last week. A meet and greet with Barack Obama 44th US President at the Climate Change Leadership Porto Summit 2018 on 6th July. And being circled by his successor or, more accurately, Marine One, since my neighbourhood was on the flight path/holding pattern for Trump’s London visit.
Held by business for business, the Porto Summit saw the launch of the Porto Protocol – a pan-industry initiative to organise around the fight to adapt to and mitigate climate change because, said Adrian Bridge of co-sponsor Taylor’s Port, “there’s no time to reinvent the wheel.”
Obama delivered a typically inspirational keynote speech at the Porto Summit 2018 about businesses’ role in this fight. Whilst, he said, Trump’s recent announcement to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement is bad news, the good news is, “even if there is a rolling back of regulations [aimed at contain rising greenhouse gas emissions], they have been adopted by commercial interests who see them as good business sense and, as you see the unit price of solar and wind energy drop,…there is no reason this won’t continue.”
The former president called on businesses to share best practice, publicise the impact of climate change, put a figure on adaptation costs and exert pressure on governments to care about climate change. You can find more on the resonances of Obama’s speech and the Porto Protocol for the wine industry in my Decanter news report.
Other high profile speakers outlined ways in which business can help. You can now download the presentations of Professor Mohan Munasinghe (The IPCC Solutions to Climate Change), Irina Bokova (Climate Change and World Heritage) and Juan Verde (Climate Change & Green Economy) here.
The Porto Summit sets the scene for another Porto/business-led initiative – the wine industry-focused Climate Change Leadership Solutions Conference in Oporto on 6 and 7 March 2019, which is aimed at an international audience.
Recent extreme weather events in Portugal, which reflect Europe-wide climate change patterns, reinforce the importance of such initiatives. Last year saw drought, culminating in fatal wild fires (click here for my report on the impact on the Dão region). This year has seen relentless rainfall, culminating in hail and floods (click here for news about their impact on the Douro region).
When I spoke to Luisa Amorim of Amorim, another sponsor of the Porto Summit, she was concerned about the future of viticulture in Portugal even in 30 years time when, she said, “Portugal now has two seasons, very hot and very rainy and the vegetative cycle of the vine is confused.” “[W]e need to adapt techniques, our culture and think sustainability,” she added.
In September, Mornington Peninsula winemakers will be visiting London again to showcase signature varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Burgundy’s grapes perform extremely well in this cool climate southern Victorian region but, in the right spot, you’ll find Mornington Peninsula can also produce excellent Pinot Gris and Syrah. Avani Syrah from a vineyard in Red Hill is a perfect case in point.
I first came across Avani last September, when owner/winemaker Shashi Singh – a chemist by training – attended Wine Australia’s Women in Wine Tasting. Blown away by the 2015 vintage, I wrote up Avani Syrah in my October Wines of the Month post. The following month I headed down under to judge at the Limestone Coast Show and spent a few days in Mornington Peninsula doing groundwork for this November’s Arblaster & Clarke wine tour. It was the perfect excuse to visit Avani in Red Hill South.
A spiciness and slightly earthy, granitic minerality
Singh and her husband Devendra, a restaurateur, received me at their small winery. A vertical of Avani Syrah reinforced my initial impressions – it’s a lovely cool climate example of Australia’s emblematic grape. Moreover, whilst the 2012 and 2015 vintages were my picks of the bunch, the wines very consistently expressed their place of origin, with a spiciness and slightly earthy, granitic minerality which I much enjoyed. Fitting then that Avani is an ancient Sanskrit word that means ‘the earth’.
Avani Syrah vineyard
Before the tasting, we took a stroll around the vineyard, which the couple acquired in 1998. The four acre dry grown vineyard, once an apple orchard, was planted in 1987. Rising to 204m, the long, thin, north facing site slopes down from the winery and is surrounded by trees to three sides. Very discrete, though Singh observed that the steep top part of the vineyard has leaner, greyer soils which ripen grapes a week earlier.
Having cultivated it biodynamically since 2005, Singh has noticed that the soil (clay loam and tertiary basalt) has gone browner and has more worms. Oats, peas and mustard sown in alternate rows help improve soil fertility and, she added, “we have no problems with nitrogen deficiency during ferment.” She also uses seaweed sprays and biodynamic preparation 500 to that end, while quartz-based 501 is handy to assist leaf growth. Innovatively, her distinctly Indian accented garlic and chilli sprays ward of the wallabies!
Distinctly Indian accented garlic and chilli sprays ward of the wallabies
Other major benefits which Singh attributes to farming biodynamically include phenolic (tannin) ripeness being attained some two and a half weeks ahead of sugar ripeness and acids holding for longer. Whereas, she observes, “early vintages like the 2007 (13.6% abv) had overt fruit and the other elements were not in balance, now all the flavours are integrated and balanced irrespective of season.” Smiling contentedly, she observes, “it makes for elegance and purity…Avani Syrah is never more than 13%.” And in 2011 when, she says, most Mornington Peninsula vineyards suffered from botrytis, Avani had none. “It cemented my belief in biodynamic viticulture,” she said.
Shashi Singh in the biodynamically cultivated Avani Syrah vineyard
Converting to biodynamic cultivation is not the only change under Singh’s ownership. Originally, the vineyard was dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with just a small planting of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Pinot Noir would have been the lure for Singh, who completed an eight year apprenticeship with Pinot Noir luminary Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip following her oenology degree. Ironically, (and, the Pinot lover confessed, somewhat to her initial disappointment), the site was simply not destined to make great Pinot Noir (it was a bit too warm, she said). “I tried everything I could to make a great Pinot Noir, but it just wasn’t as interesting as the Syrah.”
“I tried everything I could to make a great Pinot Noir, but it just wasn’t as interesting as the Syrah.”
So in 2006, Singh grafted over the other varieties to Syrah, with cuttings from the vineyard. To further enhance the intensity of flavour in the wines, the planting density was also increased from 1,400 vines per hectare to 4,000 vines per hectare, reducing cropping levels to a measly 17hl/ha.
The 2009 vintage was the first vintage Singh completed by herself at the Leongatha winery, under Jones’ watchful eye. She credits Jones with giving her the confidence to let the vineyard express itself and not to get side-tracked – “if you get the viticulture right, you get the flavours.”
“If you get the viticulture right, you get the flavours.”
Avani Syrah vertical
Since 2012, the wines have been made on site at Singh’s own winery. Describing her winemaking approach as one of minimal interference, Avani Syrah is wild fermented and neither fined nor filtered. No pumping is used. De-stemmed, crushed grapes are cold soaked for 7-8 days, fermented for 7-10 days, then undergo post-fermentation maceration for between 7-28 days, depending on the vintage. The wine is matured in 2-3 year old French oak barrels for a period of 18 months. Since 2012, the wine has been gravity-fed and hand-bottled on the premises. Based on current yields, production is between 150 – 200 cases of wine per annum.
Avani Syrah 2011 (Mornington Peninsula)
In this difficult, cool, wet year the grapes were harvested late – in the first week of May. Though healthy, ideally they would have attained greater maturity but, said Singh, “the weather had changed to winter and nothing happened, so we had to pick and the wine was fermented at 20 degrees.” Concerned about not getting enough extraction, Avani Syrah 2011 was left on skins for a month. As befits the vintage, it is paler than the other wines in the line up, with a touch of brown to the rim. However, in the mouth it shows lovely depth of peppercorn, with a hint of earth, firm acidity and a salty edge to its crunchy red fruits. There’s a hint of green – dried pine needle/tea tree too. Going back at the end of the flight, pink grapefruit and rhubarb notes emphasise the coolness of the year. Still, it is distinct – intensely perfumed, with this estate’s spicy resonance and granitic, earthy/mineral acidity.
Avani Syrah 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)
On and off showers and temperatures in the low twenties resulted in good natural acidity and allowed the fruit to hang on for a bit longer, for body and alcohol. Avani Syrah 2012 is crimson with purple flashes, opaque and bright. It has delicious reverberation of savoury peppercorn with lavender and violet hints to nose and palate and juicy black and red berry fruit. Fresh, persistent , well integrated, mineral, slightly earthy acidity makes for a dry (flavour-wise) palate. Lovely length and intensity with grainy, granular even, tannins. 12.6%
Avani Syrah 2014 (Mornington Peninsula)
Singh told me that this is the first vintage picked solely on taste (not numbers) which, interestingly, resulted in a markedly lower alcohol wine (11.6%). I found the tannins were a little puckering; the 2014 has a smokiness which seemed different from the earlier vintages too. Singh attributes it to using some new oak in this vintage. Whilst it results in a loss of the fluidity, purity and delicacy compared with the rest of the wines in the line up, Avani’s tell tale spice, earth and minerals are also evident and the (black and blue) fruit is evidently ripe. It just need time for the oak to integrate. 11.6%
Avani Syrah 2015 (Mornington Peninsula)
This is the vintage that blew me away last September (my note here). Singh describes the growing season as “lovely…the temperature in March was perfect – like in 2012, not too hot.” The peppercorn spiciness really tickles the back palate and, normal service (after the new oak of 2014) is resumed. Avani Syrah 2015 is long and intense with lovely, fine, mineral acidity. Fluid, very even, it holds the intensity all the way through. A beautiful Australian cool climate Syrah. 12.6%
Avani Syrah 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)
In this compact vintage, all the varieties ripened within a month of each other. Bottled four months earlier, the 2016 was in youthfully brisk form. Pale but bright with a vivid pink rim, it has crunchy fruit with pithy tannins and that biological highlighter or Avani DNA – a delicious seam of fine, mineral (granite/earth) acidity, which makes for a dancing, lively finish. It seems lighter than the 2014 or 2015, which gives it early drinking appeal. 12.6%
It’s July, it’s scorching so I know, I know, Vintage Port. But then this post is all about being smitten, not seasonal. And I do give you a Vermentino. Traditionally grown in Sardinia, it will serve you well on a picnic or with prawns on the barbie. Casual drinking then, but remarkable because Deliquente ‘Screaming Betty’ Vermentino 2017 represents a new wave approach to wines from the Riverland.
Deliquente ‘Screaming Betty’ Vermentino 2017 (Riverland, South Australia)
Con-Greg Grigoriou of Delinquente Wine Co.
I first tasted Con-Greg Grigoriou’s Delinquente Wine Co. wines at the Artisans of Australian Wine tasting in 2016. As I wrote then, he represents a new breed of small batch Riverland producers who, in his own words, “are trying to make fun and easy drinking wines with natural yeast and minimal intervention which are punter friendly.” The minimal intervention bit goes back to the vineyard. Source top notch fruit and there’s no need to tweak it, fine it or filter it (so it is vegan-friendly). Hence each of Grigoriou’s wines comes from a carefully selected single vineyard. In this case, an organically cultivated parcel of Vermentino, which was hand-picked, then naturally fermented for 21 days in stainless steel vats and aged for 6 weeks on fine lees. It results in a wine which is quite distinct from the Riverland’s traditional, upfront, fruit-driven commercial quaffers. Rather it is soft, gentle and round (very Vermentino), but fresh and lingering. Even and un-pushed (a quality I savour), with a silky mouthfeel, it shows pear and star fruit on a rolling palate. 11.8% £14.99 at Forest Wines, £16.60 at The Good Wine Shop
Taylor’s Vintage Port 2016 (Porto, Portugal)
Taylor’s Vintage Port 2016
The 2016 vintage has produced some glorious Ports. The Fladgate Partnership, Symington Family, Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira showed off some exquisite examples at the London May launch, which I reported here. I re-tasted many of them blind at Corney & Barrow and the sonorous purity of Taylor’s Vintage Port 2016 remains with me. Fruit from Quinta das Vargellas and Terra Feita are the key constituents of this Port. The former is the hotter site (its median temperature is some two degrees higher) and produces the more aromatic fruit, while the latter is earthier, according to CEO, Adrian Bridge. This is an expressive, bright, elegant vintage of Taylor’s with a striking purity of upfront fresh, well-defined blackcurrant fruit – very poised – with a refreshing leafy edge and white flowers to nose and palate. Really delicious succulence and concentration in the mouth, the tannins plentiful and fine and, initially, immersive, letting the fruit (which is markedly fresh and relatively dry of profile), strut its stuff. Going through, the tannins – mouthcoating salty and schistous – rise, tapering and seasoning the finish which, nonetheless has lovely detail, with a cut of citrus (grapefruit?) and lifted bergamot and violets to the long, firm finish. Less ramrod and less buttoned up than usual, the 2016 has purity and precision without austerity. Terrific. Total production in 2016 stood at around 6,500 cases; 12-14,000 cases is the norm. Looks like a smart buy at Davys at £295/6 bottles in bond.
This sweltering week has most definitely been one for a G & T or wine lovers’ equivalent – classic dry Australian Riesling. I wrote up over 50 highlights from Melbourne’s Riesling Riot here earlier this year. Below you’ll find three extra recommendations, together with another summer quaffer, this one also for the dry of tooth – Petaluma’s Dry Nebbiolo rosé.
Jim Barry The Florita Clare Valley Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
In my Melbourne Riesling Riot notes I wrote up the latest release from 2017. I tasted the 2015 last week – it’s the current UK release. The Florita 2015 showcases Watervale’s flamboyant aromatics to a tee – very enticing. In the mouth concentrated, rapier-like lime, with G & T punchy (and persistent) mineral acidity holds sway. Mouthwatering, focused and long. Delicious now, but will keep for a decade plus. £27.71 at Corking Wines
St Hallett Eden Valley Riesling 2016 (Eden Valley, South Australia)
St Hallett’s Toby Barlow
An aromatic, succulent, textural Riesling with turkish delight/rose petal lift, pure, juicy lychee and jangling citrus and mineral interplay to the finish. Winemaker Toby Barlow told me that the fruit comes from three vineyards and this wine spends time on lees. It’s a dry but friendly Riesling – very gluggable but with nice detail too. 12.5%
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2016 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
I got to know Hanlin Hill very well when I worked for Oddbins. We sold it in the fine wine stores and this single vineyard Riesling certainly ages very well. Check out my notes on the 2010 here, which I tasted in magnum last year. I always find this wine floral – a little musky. In 2017, I find an atypical but intriguing dried lavender note with classic lime (ripe, with a hint of sweetness, though this wine is dry), grapefruit and chalky minerals on the palate. Long and well structured, with some texture. 12.5%
Petaluma White Label Coonawarra Nebbiolo Dry Rosé 2017 (Coonawarra, South Australia)
The Nebbiolo was planted in 2007. The 2017 release is, I gather, the first vintage to be made in a Provence style and is suitably pale of hue. It has an Australian thumbprint in terms of fruit sweetness, with red berry and currant notes. I like the delivery very much – a long throw, with a ‘natural’ arc of flavour. Savoury (wet cement) lees and firm acidity lend balance, interest and length. Well played. 12.5%
Last Thursday, June 21st, Kopke, the oldest Port Wine House, celebrated its 380th anniversary with a dinner launching this Very Old Tawny Port. CNK stands for Cristiano Nicolau Kopke, the German wine merchant who founded Kopke in 1638.
Parent company Sogevinus’ new CEO, Sergio Marly Caminal (pictured top), introduced the evening. He joined Sogevinus in April having worked in beer and spirits for 22 years at Pernod Ricard. Kopke and its sister brands Burmester and Calem are renowned for their wood-aged Ports, which rely on extensive ‘libraries’ of old stock, so Port is a whole new ball game for Caminal.
Sogevinus Douro DOC winemaker Ricardo Macedo
That said, it’s not all about Port. Since an extensive tasting of Ports and Douro DOC wines in 2014 – my last Sogevinus trip – the latter have significantly improved. When I visited Kopke’s Quinta São Luiz on the day of the dinner, Douro DOC winemaker Ricardo Macedo (pictured above) told us that the company is grafting over red grapes to white grapes at Sogevinus’ Baixo Corgo estate (better to match both terroir and demand) and plans very substantially to increase Douro DOC production (red and white).
Dining at Kopke Lodge among the colheitas
Returning to the forte – wood-aged Ports – the blending material for Kopke CNK Very Old Tawny Port averages 95 years old. Chief winemaker Carlos Alves explained that the blend spans the first three decades of the 20th century and includes the 1900 and 1937 Colheitas. Most of the blend components had been ageing in 650l casks. The oldest – Colheita 1900 – was aged in a large 2500l oak tonel.
Kopke CNK Very Old Tawny Port Special 380th Anniversary edition – photo credit Kopke
In line with current Tawny Port trends, Kopke CNK Very Old Tawny Port is packaged in a clear bottle to show off its colour. The bottle was specially produced in Marinha Grande, which is in the heart of Portugal’s glass industry. It is packaged in a Portuguese walnut wooden box with leather trim.
You’ll find my notes on this delicious Very Old Tawny below, also Kopke’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port which seriously over-delivers for that relatively modestly priced category. It bagged a Gold Medal at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.
Kopke CNK Very Old Tawny Port Special 380th Anniversary edition
Kopke CNK Very Old Tawny Port Special 380th Anniversary edition
A dark hue, a little ruddy, in the mahogany rather than tawny spectrum. Initial impressions on the nose suggest dried plum – still fruit! – with rich, nutty frangipane, exotic, lifted dried coconut and edgier amaretto – a touch of “vinagrinho.” In the mouth it has the intensity you would expect from the age of the blending components and this house, with sweetness and sourness to its sloe/sloe gin core and a complexing nutty, toffeed penumbra to the fruit. Liquorice and cinnamon layers emerge, together with dried fig and burnt (caught) marmalade, making for a pithy, agrume finish – lovely balance and length – with the grapefruity acidity which I very much associate with this house’s older wines. Powerful intensity; long and layered. Just 380 bottles made. RRP £1,350.00
Kopke 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Kopke 10 Years Old Tawny Port
We enjoyed this Port with cheese at the end of a picnic lunch at Quinta São Luiz. It’s very good indeed. Generous, creamy, very smooth with smoky roast hazelnut/praline, cafe creme, singed marmalade and dried plums. Long, with delicious spicy woody, resonance. A mellow end to the meal, it has lovely balance. 20% At time of writing, it is on sale at Mr Wheeler at £17.50/bottle, £22.95/bottle at Hennings
Last week’s Wine Australia One Day Wine School showcased a couple of excellent New South Wales’ 2011 wines, whose grapes experienced rather different growing conditions. A salutary reminder of this continent’s diverse terroir.
It’s not the only reason to celebrate them. The Semillon – Brokenwood ILR – is named after the Hunter Valley’s Chief Winemaker Iain Leslie Riggs, who has just added some extra initials to his name – AM. AM stands for Member of the Order of Australia, which award he received on the Queen’s birthday in recognition of his significant services to oenology as a winemaker, developing the Australian wine industry and promoting the Hunter Valley region. Richly deserved I might add. Riggs is a renowned nurturer of talent, not only at Brokenwood but also in his capacity as Chief Judge at wine shows and Chair of Trustees for the Len Evans Tutorial.
Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2011
For many South East Australian winemakers, 2011 was (and remains) quite the worst vintage they had ever experienced. During the winter of that year, I visited the Barossa and well recall seeing unpicked Shiraz grapes still on to the vine! Unheard of in this, the variety’s most emblematic region. So for the Hunter Valley which, said James Halliday at Brokenwood’s 40th anniversary celebration, is vulnerable to “hell and damnation” vintages (its heaviest rainfall is in summer), you might well have expected a disastrous year. Not so. With a mild, dry run up to harvest ending in a sunny spell, the Hunter Valley was actually irrigating madly! Released with six year’s bottle age, this is an intense Hunter Semillon, still youthfully pale and pure, with green glints. It reveals expressive, lifted lime cordial notes to nose and palate and, despite its richer, waxier hints of lemon curd on toast, has a firm backbone of bristling acidity. Terrific length and line. Expect it to age for another decade at least (check out my notes on a 1992-2010 vertical here). 11%
Eden Road Shiraz 2011 (Murrumbateman, Canberra District)
Eden Road Shiraz 2011
Located further south and inland, cool climate Canberra District has a marked continental climate. In 2011, wet weather resulted in disease and ripening pressure and this single vineyard Shiraz from a granitic site at 640m has a cool, earthy, peppery Rhone-like character. One imagines it must have been a challenging year in which to ferment this vintage with 20% whole bunches but, having won a Jimmy Watson Trophy for the first (2008) vintage of The Long Road Shiraz, this winery has form with the variety. Eden Road 2011 Shiraz was aged for 12 months in old 500l French barrels and is distinctly medium-bodied and dry, with fresh acidity to its al dente damson fruit and a delicate play of spice. Persistent, perfumed and savoury with fine tannins, it’s in a lovely place right now. Incidentally, Eden Road have news about their winemaker too – they were recently joined by Celine Rousseau, formerly of Chalkers Crossing in Hilltops. 12.9%
Pushing the boundaries at Soalheiro, Alvarinho specialist
Tis the season to Vinho Verde and, while you can expect freshness to be the hallmark of each and every wine, I’ll be challenging a few stereo-types into the bargain at my Vinho Verde Masterclass at Portuguese Wine School. Held at OSM Wine Bar in Old Spitalfields Market, it will be followed by supper prepared especially for us by Nuno Mendes’ Taberna do Mercado.
We shall taste classic blends – boutique examples – but the focus will be on top tier single varietal Alvarinho and Loureiro from the sub-regions of Monçao e Melgaço and Lima, including cutting edge examples made from biodynamically grown fruit, naturally fermented Vinho Verde and a no added sulphur Alvarinho.
We’ll taste Portugal’s leading red grape variety Vinhāo – two benchmark, contemporary examples which play nice with your gums!
Topping and tailing the tasting, we’ll have a sparkling Alvarinho and a late harvest Loureiro from star players Quinta de Soalheiro and Quinta do Ameal.
The line up
“Prawns” on the barbie at Aphros – just the ticket with Loureiro!
Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante 2016 – a traditional method sparkling Alvarinho (second fermentation in bottle) from the first Alvarinho brand in Melgaço
Quinta de Val-Bôa Escolha Branco 2017 – a naturally fermented blend of Arinto, Alvarinho and Avesso
Casa de Pacos Superior 2016 – a blend of Alvarinho, Arinto, Fernão Pires and Loureiro
Aphros Loureiro 2016 – from this leading certified biodynamic estate
Quinta do Ameal Solo 2016 – so-called because this Loureiro “makes itself alone”
Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Escolha 2014 – fermented and aged in French oak
Quinta do Ameal – Loureiro specialist
Sem Igual 2014 – a surprisingly full-bodied Arinto/Azal blend from Amarante
Soalheiro Nature Pur Terroir 2016 – a no added sulphur Alvarinho
Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2011 – a mature top notch Alvarinho made with skin contact and part fermentation on skins, followed by ageing in 400l French oak barrels – a powerful white from this acclaimed vintage and producer
Quinta da Raza Vinhão 2015 – friendly red Vinho Verde you can chill
Aphros Vinhão 2017 – another red Vinho Verde for chilling – you and the wine!
Quinta do Ameal Late Harvest 2012 – a super rare dessert Loureiro
After a super quick dip in the Sea of the Hebrides earlier this month (much better to stay in the kayak!), I enjoyed my first wild swim of the year yesterday. In the rather more genteel Kenwood Ladies’ Pond! Summer seems to be upon us at last and, with sunshine forecast all week, here are a couple of summery stars from the Douro Superior.
Muxagat’s Riesling & Rosé are hardly the usual suspects, coming from the Douro’s warmer, drier reaches. However, when altitude comes into play, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from the Douro Superior. Here are my notes and on my picks of the classic range.
Incidentally, since I last wrote about Muxagat (earlier reports here and here), ownership of the project has changed. Mateus Nicolau de Almeida is no longer involved, though he is now making wines under his own, eponymous label, including these excellent single vineyard Rabigato whites. Muxagat wines are made with consultancy from Luis Seabra and Muxagat wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.
Muxagat Riesling 2015 (VR Duriense)
This medium sweet, fine Riesling looks the part and tastes the part. It hails from a 15 year old one hectare vineyard at 600m above sea level and was cool fermented (naturally) then aged on lees for 9 months in stainless steel tanks. It has a tightly focused, yet expressive nose with citrus, lime blossom and honey, which notes follow through on a very juicy palate, with tart apple and lime juice spiked sweet apple sauce. As you would expect from the style and origin, it is rounder than its cooler climate German sisters, but it retains line, length and animation. On day two, it remains fresh and fine, with delicate elderflower and lime blossom perfume to its fruit. Lingering. 8% Residual Sugar 49 g/l, pH 2.93.
Muxagat Rosé 2016 (DOC Douro)
A 50:50 blend of Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional, the grapes for this dry, textural rosé come from 15 year old vines at Quinta Vale Cesteiros at 400m. The grapes were gently pressed in a vertical press and fermented and aged for 9 months 50:50 in oak barrels and stainless steel vat on lees with batonnage. It reveals plum/cherry skin and fruit flavours with a lick of strawberry soda to nose and palate. With body, a savoury (nutty lees) creaminess, it reveals a Provence- like lingering mineral, aniseed/fennel undertow. On day two it’s still going strong, with a quince-like firmness to its core and a subtle aldehydic (?) kick, which makes for a certain energy. Very well done. Provençal, not provincial. 13.5%, 2g/l residual sugar.
Muxagat Os Xistos Altos Rabigato 2015 (DOC Douro)
Muxagat Os Xisto Altos Rabigato
I’ve always like this assertive, characterful single varietal Rabigato from 25 year old vines at 500m. After over-night cooling at 5ºC, the grapes were (vertically) pressed and the juice settled in a subterranean concrete vat for 24 hours. The juice was then decanted into an eastern Europe oak vat and cement egg where it fermented and aged on lees for 18 months. Surprisingly given the fermentation vessels, it has a vanillin edge to it quinine and sweet white apple fleshed palate, with nuances of fresh lime, cucumber and salsify. Lovely concentration and energy with that subtly aldehydic (?) kick, here almost like Calvados. On day two, it retains tension and focus, showing quince, ripe lemon/lemon peel and lemon verbena. Bristles with energy. Very good. 12.5%
Muxagat Tinto 2014 (DOC Douro)
A blend of 60% Touriga Nacional, 35% Touriga Francesa and 5% Sousão from a parcel in Muxagat at 250m altitude and another in Meda at 550m altitude. The grapes were foot-trodden and fermented in granite lagares for several days. The wine was aged for some 14 months in French oak barrels. With its rich, chocolate and bergamot-edged dark fruit – blackberry, plum and succulent black cherry – it has a Douro Superior smoothness/glossiness, but a freshness too. Fine grained, sooty tannins with subtle cedar oak make for a velvety, soft finish. 14.5%
Muxagat Cisne 2013 (DOC Douro)
This Tinta Cão intrigued from the off (my notes on the 2010 here). It’s good to taste it with some bottle age because the variety demands it. The grapes hail from 15 year old vines at Quinta de Vale Cesteiros, at 500m. Whole cluster grapes were very gently foot-trodden and fermented in granite lagares for six days then pressed to 2000 litre wooden vats, where the wine was aged for a minimum of 2 years. It’s a real character, with lashings of perfumed incense spice, orange peel, a hint of green/dried herbs and dried rose florals as it unfurls. Inveigling, sinewy tannins and coursing acidity running through its veins lend it a dynamism – marked structure and energy. On day two, its chocolate-edged kirsch and red berry fruits are more assertive. This is a baby, with lots yet to come. Well worth stashing this away; for now, decant. 13.5%
Quinta do Montalto Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire 2017
In my recent post about Herdade do Rocim’s innovative and exciting Clay Aged Red, I mentioned a go-ahead Lisboa producer, Quinta do Montalto. Go ahead with a reverse gear, Montalto are developing a project to make wine amphorae (talha) in Alentejo with a local potter, so it’s no surprise that they make wine in talha. But what about an organic wine which, cover your ears cork producers, is bagged in box as well as bottle? The range also includes an intriguing so-called Medieval wine – Quinta do Montalto Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire. Below you’ll find notes on my highlights from their range, which is imported into the UK by Portuguese Story.
Located in Ourém, near Fátima, Quinta do Montalto is based in the Lisboa (DOC) sub-region, Encostas d’Aire. The fifty hectare farm has been in the Gomes Pereira family for five generations and, in addition to 15.5ha of vineyards (planted on chalky clay soil), is home to orchards, forests and olive groves. The entire farm is certified organic.
Quinta do Montalto Filas White (Wine of Portugal)
Quinta do Montalto Filas White
I tasted this certified organic wine from (75cl) bottle, but it is also sold bag in box. Made from Siria and Fernão Pires, it is a dry, very un-pushed, quite sapid, white, a little grapey, with Fernão Pires’ typical vegetal/green inflection to its round stone fruit/apple flesh and a refreshing saltiness to the finish. Gentle – nice balance – very natural, with a lovely clarity. A sophisticated bag in box/entry level wine then. Indeed, I’m told it’s the house wine at Londrino, acclaimed Portuguese chef Leandro Carreira’s restaurant at London Bridge. 12% The bag in box version is available retail at Weino BIB, Victualler, Wapping & More Wine
Quinta do Montalto Touriga Nacional 2017
I wasn’t so keen on the Filas Red. I’d go for this Touriga, which was fermented and aged in amphora coated with natural tree resin. It’s a a vivid hue, with a purple rim. On nose and palate, it has something quite Beaujolais about it, a wild floral lift and a clay/iodine/dust note (attractive) which I associate with amphora. A fresh neatly structured palate has a cloak of powdery tannins to its smooth, ripe but bright fruit. With nice freshness and line, it wears its alcohol very well indeed. 14.5%
Quinta do Montalto Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire 2017 (DOC Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire)
Quinta do Montalto vinha_medieval – photo credit – Quinta do Montalto
Since 2005, local viticultural and oenological ancestral practices (inherited from 12th century Cistercian monks) have been regulated (and protected) by law, hence the DOC, Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire. Like medieval vineyards, the vineyards for this wine are bordered with olive trees and fruit trees. The vines, high density (7,000 vines/ha), are loosely trained by a trellis system named “taça,” with three arms spread apart. Vines are pruned leaving short spurs, and, less frequently, fruiting “canes.” Only two grape varieties are used to produce this wine: Fernão Pires (80%) for the white must and Trincadeira (20%) for the red must. The grapes were hand-harvested on 8 September. The white grapes were pressed to barrel, filled to (only) 80% of their capacity. The red grapes were de-stemmed with a “ciranda” directly to wooden vats called “dornas” and fermented for four to ten days with the skins. At least twice a day, the cap was sunk with a wooden tool called “rodo” to obtain colour and flavour. Almost at the end of the fermentations, the red must and skins were added to the white must to top up the barrels. Once the co-fermentation of red and white must was completed, the cap sank to the bottom of the barrel, helping naturally to filter the wine. It is a deep but bright and translucent garnet hue – very attractive. A thoroughly intriguing palate shows great intensity of sweet, concentrated dried plum with a medicinal, herbal and liquorice note. It has a certain weight to the palate, but it’s not unctuous – I imagine the texture and weight comes from the skin contact. As for the levity, I attribute that to the wine’s lively, insinuating acidity, subtly spearing even. Long and persistent and, tasted four days later, it is purer of (fruit) expression, fresh and well structured. Very good, quite unique – an experience! According to the producer, it pairs well with traditional local dishes “prepared with lots of olive oil like the grilled codfish with “chícharos” (very similar to chick-peas) and “migas” (very thin sliced cabbage leaves with rice, bread and beans).” 14%
Sarah Crowe, Yarra Yering’s Chief Winemaker since 2013
Following on from last Friday’s post about Warramate, today’s report focuses on its iconic sister-label, Yarra Yering. It was good to re-visit with Sarah Crowe – a member of Yarra Valley Wine Women – who became Chief Winemaker in 2013. Her take on Yarra Yering, both sympathetic and fearless, won her James Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year 2017 award.
Below, you will find my notes on the wines, including Crowe’s new baby, a 2017 Semillon. Evidently you can take the girl out of the Hunter, but you can’t take the Hunter out of the girl….
I could have sat with these complex, beautifully structured wines for an age. While very refined and, in this sense, accessible, they’re tantalising too, because you know there is still so much yet to give.
For an insight into the history, vineyards and winemaking tradition at Yarra Yering, click here for a report of my 2012 visit with Crowe’s predecessor, Paul Bridgeman.
Follow these links for earlier reports on my visits with Yarra Valley Women of Wine:
Yarra Yering Dry White Wine No 1 2015 (Yarra Valley)
Sourced exclusively from a 25-year-old dry-grown block south of Underhill Vineyard and slightly higher in elevation. Following three hours of skin contact and a bit of foot-treading for the Semillon, this blend of 83% Semillon 17% Sauvignon Blanc was slowly basket-pressed then fermented (primary and malo) and aged in (old) French oak barriques for 11 months. It is so very not Bordeaux. Rather, as you might expect given process, it’s a very textural wine, with lemon shred, nutty, slippery, satiny apple pips and an aldehydic touch of red apple skin. It’s a touch too aldehydic for me, but I like this wine’s lemon shred, saline undertow of acidity and yoghurty tang. 12.5%
Yarra Yering Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley)
Fruit for this wine was sourced from two individual dry-grown blocks, one planted in 1969 (amongst the oldest Chardonnay in the Yarra Valley), the other in 1980 from ’69 cuttings. The fruit was foot-stomped before being basket-pressed. It was naturally fermented and aged in 500l and 228l French oak barrels (30% new) and underwent 80% malo. It shows powerful white peach with an old-fashioned nutty, cashew sweetness. Flavoursome, muscular and long with a firm if well-disguised/integrated undertow of acidity – the framework for ageing. 13% £46.95 at The Vinorium
Sourced from three blocks – the 1969 original vineyard, 1973 Underhill Vineyard and 1990 New Territories. These, some of the oldest Viognier vines in the country, produce tiny yields. Just two barrels were made in 2015. The fruit was crushed and underwent a little skin contact before being slow basket pressed straight to old oak barrels (any juice not pressed from the skins is then frozen to be used in the Dry Red Wine No2 ferment weeks later). It was fermented (primary and malo) and aged in barrel for 10 months. Lacy white pepper lends a delicate note to nose and waxy apricot and succulent lychee palate. Citrussy acidity both leavens and brings drive, making for a persistent, powerful, layered finish. Very good. 14%
Yarra Yering Semillon 2017 (Yarra Valley)
Yarra Yering Semillon 2017
Crowe rates 2017 as a great white vintage and, with good yields, made both Dry White No 1 and around 100 cases of this straight Semillon. She pointed out the estate has form with special single varietal bottlings in top years, including a 1990 Merlot and Malbecs in 1978, 2010 and 2016. I enjoyed the Semillon over a chatty lunch with Crowe and Sandra de Pury at Meletos (great wood-fired pizzas), Unlike Hunter examples, it was very expressive/broachable already, intense and lingeringly lemony (lemon juice, more tactile pith and waxy peel) with sweet talc, good palate weight and dogged acidity – the chops for ageing. Very good.
Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley)
A mixed planting of 4 clones (including MV4, MV5, MV6) was undertaken in 1969, then repeated in 1981, this time close planted and again in 1984. Like Yeringberg’s Pinot Noir, this is a relatively pale, soft Pinot compared with its perkier contemporary peers, with plush scented strawberry fruit, hints of sous bois and spice, leather and a ruffle of suede tannins. Some parcels were fermented with 20% whole bunches and some with stalks for subtle structure. Aged for 9 months in French oak, 30% new. 13.5%
Fruit for this two-barrel blend from original 1969 plantings was destemmed without crushing and fermented in Yarra Yering’s idiosyncratic 600kg ‘tea chest’ fermenters (pictured above). Stalks were added back for lift and structure. It was aged for 9 months in French barrels, one new and one two years old. Quite introspective compared with the regular Pinot Noir, with markedly grainier, feathery, papery tannins part of the warp and weft – very much woven into the plummy fruit. I’d hold onto this for a couple of years to allow it to unfurl more layers. 13.5%
Yarra Yering Light Dry Red 2017 (Yarra Valley)
Crowe introduced this 50:50 Shiraz/Pinot Noir blend in 2015. This light, dry red blend was pioneered by Maurice O’Shea of Mount Pleasant and has recently seen something of a revival in the Hunter Valley (re Mount Pleasant, click here for a recent tasting note of O’Shea’s phenomenal 1944 light dry red and here for Jim Chatto’s 2014 example). Crowe explained she wanted to give people permission to drink Yarra Yering young. The Pinot Noir (whole berry fermented) came from 1969, 1981 and 1984 plantings, the Shiraz (100% whole bunch fermented) from the Waterloo block, planted in 1995. While the Pinot Noir was hand plunged during the fermentation, the Shiraz saw only occasional light foot stomping just prior to pressing, i.e. minimal extraction. Following 9 months in French oak barriques, the varieties were blended and bottled. Crowe thought 2017 a great vintage for Pinot Noir and it leads the way, lending floral lift – a heady trace of violets – to nose and juicy, bouncy palate. But this wine has a seriousness about it too, with an under-pinning of tannin which suggests it will age too. The Shiraz, darker, builds on the palate on a persistent finish. 300 cases 13%
Portuguese grapes – the last to be picked – were sourced from 1990 New Territories planting located on a rocky terraced hillside. Barely enough grapes are grown to fill a small fermenter. Co-fermented, this blend of 45% Touriga Naçional, 28% Tinta Cão, 9% Tinta Roriz, 7% Tinta Amarela, 7% Alvarelhão & 4% Sousão was foot-trodden then pressed and matured in old oak barrels for 10 months. It shows juicy, exuberant red and black fruit with Touriga floral lift and sinewy, spicy tannins which, together with its fresh acidity, make for a well-focused finish and good length. Nicely done, Crowe observed that the 2016s are beautifully fruity as young wines. 14%
Yarra Yering Underhill Shiraz 2015 (Yarra Valley)
Underhill Shiraz comes from a very distinctive 8 acre block of Shiraz planted in 1973 at the western extremity of Yarra Yering. Crowe says the bunch architecture is quite different and it makes for a particularly savoury style of Shiraz. The 2015 vintage was aged for 15 months in 500l French oak puncheons, 30% new. Although the grapes were de-stemmed and whole berry fermented, adding back a high percentage of stalks accentuates its meaty, vegetal notes. I detect capsicum, meaty marrowfat peas and mulch notes to its slightly cooked, sweet and sour dark fruits. With immersive ripe, silty tannins, it needs time for the brooding fruit to unfurl. 13%
Yarra Yering Dry Red Wine No. 2 2015 (Yarra Valley)
This blend of 95% Shiraz, 2.5% Viognier, 2% Mataro, 0.5% Marsanne is comprised of original 1969 plantings of Shiraz and Marsanne with Shiraz, Mataro & Viognier sourced from vines planted from 1984 to 1995. The different components were fermented with a high percentage of whole berry fruit and some stalks added back in, then aged for 15 months in French oak barriques, 40% new. Very polished compared with Underhill, with bright, juicy blackberry fruit, hints of charcuterie and bay leaf. Striated tannins make for a dynamic inter-action between fruit, juice and textural, gently sinewy tannins. Lovely persistence and layer. 13.5 %
Yarra Yering Carrodus Shiraz 2015 (Yarra Valley)
And another change of gear – a different, very Rhônish style of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from a small section of the original 1969 Shiraz vineyard, de-stemmed into a 600kg fermenter and, following fermentation, basket pressed into two new tight-grained French oak barrels for 20 months’ maturation. Very cool, mineral and precise, with iodine/iron filing tannins framing its violet-perfumed, tightly coiled black berry and currant fruit. Lovely freshness, intensity and depth. A baby. 13%
Sourced from the Agincourt block – the most easterly part and one of the most sheltered parts of the vineyard. This blend comprises 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (a distinct Cabernet clone from the No. 1 site, planted in 1995) and 25% Malbec, planted in 1990. The de-stemmed fruit was hand plunged twice daily with some extended time on skins to soften the Cabernet tannins. It was basket pressed and aged and underwent malolactic fermentation in two year old Bordeaux barrels for 18 months. Wow, what a colour – inky purple and positively opaque with a bright pink rim. So no surprises that it is so exuberantly fruity on the attack and going through, with Malbec’s violet and dark chocolate-laced bounteous black berry and cherry fruit. The Cabernet introduces concentrated cassis with leafier, tobacco and spicier curry leaf notes (a ripe vegetality). Beautifully textured, taffeta tannins and juicy acidity carry a very long, well-focused finish. Terrific energy and bounce, yet with a sense of great clarity and poise. 14%
Yarra Yering 2015 Dry Wine No. 1 (Yarra Valley)
So-called because the Cabernet for this Cabernet-Sauvignon-led blend hails from the first-planted 1969 vines. The blend comprises 67% Cabernet, with 16% Merlot, 13% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot from vines planted between 1990 and 1995. It was fermented in Carrodus’ small stainless steel lined ‘tea chest’ fermenters and underwent some extended skin maceration before being basket pressed, then aged for 18 months in 80 % new French oak. Not as expressive of its fruit as when I last tasted it in September 2017. Rather, one notices its (building) tannin and acid structure – the tannins fine but sinewy, a little spicy and gently but persistently (taffeta) layered, the acidity fresh and energetic. As it opens up in the glass, it reveals lifted tobacco and dried rose notes. Long, elegant and perfumed with time on its side. 14%
Exclusively sourced from the original 1969 planted No1 Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyard’s south west corner. The grapes were de-stemmed and crushed into half-tonne open fermenters, hand plunged twice daily and spent some extended time on skins to soften the tannins before being basket pressed and gravity filled to two Bordeaux barrels, one new and one two-year-old. It was aged in oak for 18 months. Delivers a pure hit of blueberry fruit with seductive inky, florals on nose and palate. Chalky, fine tannins rise going through, grooming the fruit and extending the palate. Culminates in a long, long, tapering, markedly perfumed finish. Gorgeous. 14%