On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Alsatian Digitasting

10 Aug 2023

(February 2023) … You would think that the days of the online tasting are over; what with the global pandemic on hiatus and all. But Alsace has embraced the online realm with their second annual “digitasting” ... And what an interesting concept it is.

Months before you are asked to select the wineries you want to taste, plus they will throw in a couple of extras for you to discover; they will also include the masterclass wines. About two weeks before the “event”, the wines appear at my door in neatly packed boxes: each containing four bottles with the instructions (paraphrased): “put whites in the fridge, reds at room temperature”. I received eight of these boxes in total, and only one had a leaky bottle. Each bottle contained about an ounce of wine - enough for a tasting, but not enough to throw a party.

I started by attending the masterclass called "So Trendy" ... Alsace wanted to prove they are "where all trends meet", and set about to prove it with an expert panel. The seminar was broken down into four topics with four wines representing the themes: So Fresh, So Terroir, So Sweet, and So Red.

My biggest takeaway from the class was that Alsace is all about acidity, so much so that you would believe that Alsace invented the stuff; but let's look at the wines, some of the comments from the panel assembled and a few other key points and takeaways.

So Fresh ...
Domaine Schoffit 2020 Riesling
This wine was truly a fresh Riesling, easy to drink with all that lovely minerality, apple, pear and a touch of floral that one expects in Riesling.
"Throw it in the fridge and keep going back to it."
"Let's not talk, let's drink."
Takeaway: Alsace proved their point – their wines do have a freshness about them.

So Terroir ...
Domained Schlumberger 2017 Riesling - Alsace Grand Cru "Kitterle"
A more elegant Riesling that showed earthy, mineral and salty notes; nice complexity and dryness on the palate.
Quotes / Concepts:
"Who can define terroir, it's impossible."
Terroir also includes man's hand: same terroir, two wines, made by different winemakers from the same grape variety equals completely different wines.
Takeaway: Alsace obviously has a unique terroir destined to make Riesling with personality and character.

So Sweet ...
Domaine Hurst 2020 Gewurztraminer, Vieilles Vignes
I found this one spicy, with little in the way of sweetness.
To me, this was the uninteresting part of the masterclass.
Takeaway: The panel just seemed to repeat themselves from the past two topics: acidity / terroir / acidity / terroir, oh and there is sweetness to be found here as well.

So Red ...
Cave de Ribeauville 2019 Pinot Noir "Rudern"
This is a Grand Cru wine, but the area remains unclassified. Nice purity of fruit with good tannins ... Light with notes of sour cherry, needs two three years to settle.
Takeaway: I had no idea that Alsace was so into Pinot Noir ... Most Pinot I tasted throughout the tasting were pretty interesting; starting with this one. I think Pinot might be Alsace’s hidden talent and gem.

Random Remarks ...
(from the masterclass – topics that were randomly discussed)

- white wine regions are having a Renaissance
- Alsace has over 100 years of sparkling wine tradition
- the AOC started in 1976
- Pinot Noir is the newest trend for Alsace
- Germany is the largest consumer of a sparkling wine in the world
- organic wineries rose by 35% in 1 year
- demand is growing for organic and biodynamic wines

As stated, everyone talked about the acidity in these wines as if Alsace invented acidity; but being from Ontario, Canada we know about acidity in wine too - far too well. It was head-shaking to listen to them talk about this. It is as if there was nothing else interesting about Alsace wine. Might I suggest digging deeper into Pinot Noir.

By the Numbers …
• 74 Exhibitors, 296 Wines Presented
• 2,850 Accredited Visitors: 621 French (22%) - 2,229 International (78%) - from 51 Countries
• 8,300 boxes shipped and more than 33,000 miniatures
• More than 350 people watched the Masterclass live

Wines Tasted...

74 producers were involved, each providing four wines each, I had seven wineries products (28 in total), see my reviews below.
These are the wines that impressed me the most:

Domaine Brigitte & Vincent Fleith 2018 AOC Alsace - Pinot Noir - ""F" 
A weightier Pinot Noir that has plenty of backbone and spice - there's also notes of black cherry that help this wine on it's way to an elegant finish.

Domaine Materne Haegelin & Filles 2019 AOC Alsace - Pinot Noir - Tradition
Super interesting wine with notes of sour cherry, cranberry with a pretty violet seam that keeps tinkling the nose.

Domaine Mittnacht Freres 2019 AOC Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker - Riesling Mittnacht
Clean and salty, quite refresing with it's dry finish and white fruit middle.

Domaine Neumeyer 2021 AOC Alsace - Riesling - Hospices
Another well-made Riesling that has flavour and depth; you could spend the afternoon with this and even swim around in it.

Domaine Paul Blanck 2017 AOC Alsace Grand Cru Schlossberg - Riesling Blanck
This is a stony-mineral driven Riesling that's got plenty of replay in the mouth; it hits all the right notes.

Famille Hauller 2019 AOC Alsace - Assemblage - Oberwinzenberg, Altitude 330
An Auxerrois / Pinot Gris blend from old vines grown at 330 meter above sea level. There is subtle sweetness, it’s clean and easy on the mid-palate with a nice finish and a great sippabilty factor that can't be denied.

Maison Arthur Metz et Proprietes 2018 AOC Alsace - Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives
Definite peach and pear sweetness with a long finish. It's a little oily in the mouth, but this is certainly a dessert wine people will love.

Domaine Materne Haegelin & Filles 2019 AOC Alsace - Riesling - Tradition
Clean with good acidity and some nice citrus zest.

Domaine Neumeyer 2020 AOC Alsace Grand Cru Bruderthal - Riesling Neumeyer
Pretty with a floral-salty-mineral aspect that helps draw you in and keeps you interested.

Domaine Paul Blanck 2016 AOC Alsace - Pinot Noir - Cuvée F
Sweet fruited mouthfeel: cherry and raspberry comes across clean and vibrant - "F" stands for Furstentum; which are 30-year-old vines planted on mainly ferrous-marly soils."

Famille Hauller 2021 AOC Alsace - Riesling - Héritage, Vieilles Vignes
Fresh and lively with pretty floral nuances, some mineral notes and a medium-to-short finish that has a subtle citrus linger.

Maison Arthur Metz et Proprietes 2020 AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg De Wolxheim - Riesling
Fresh, clean and mineral driven with nice acidity and some orange blossom on the finish.

Maison Arthur Metz et Proprietes 2020 AOC Alsace Grand Cru Florimont - Riesling - Domaine Viticole De La Ville De Colmar
More focused than the wine above, though this one is also more straight-forward with mac apple, lemon drop and mineral.


Praise for Older Chianti (Riserva) 1949-2020

07 Aug 2023

(March 2022) ... There is something to be said about older wines, but usually you are looking at special vineyards for those kinds of wines for real longevity. While at the Anteprima Toscana in 2022, Chianti decided to celebrate with a look at older vintage wines to see how they were ageing.

These were all Riserva designated wines, so you would expect them to have some cellarability, but I did not expect them to last as long as they did. As a wine journalist, you often ask yourself "how long will this wine be good for, what is its age-ability?" So when you get an invite to a tasting where they are going to pull and pour wines as old as 73 years, you don’t ponder whether to go, you ask when.

Chianti Classico decided to pull out some older vintages; one dating back to 1949, another from ’58, then there was one from each subsequent decade –a representative wine from the 40s thru till today. They wanted to show the resilience and potential longevity of these Sangiovese-based wine.

In Praise of Older Chianti

BrolioCastillo di Brolio 1949 Chianti Classico
Very pale in colour but with some great acidity, could be mistaken for a rosé colour-wise. Subtle orange peel, cherry skin and medicinal quality. But this wine is very much alive. Amazing.

Badia a Coltibuono 1958 Chianti ClassicoColtibuono
Brown of colour, seemingly dirty, earthy, with notes of orange peel and a port-like taste. Hints of oxidation (when decanted), undecanted it showed a little fresher with leather and tea notes and there’s even a touch of dried fruit.

Castello di Monsanto 1969 Chianti Classico
The nose is in great shape: sugared beets and cherries / dried sour cherry, earthy, lovely acidity, very sippable, with hints of new leather; really very pretty.

Villa Calcinaia 1975 Chianti Classico    
Another cloudy wine, just a touch volatile: orange peel, soft lamb’s leather, again the acidity is killer with a dirty Pinot-like palate of sour-ish fruit, but still very much alive and drinkable. So far the most mature tasting of the wines in this flight.

AntinoriMarchesi Antinori 1985 Chianti Classico    
A vibrant colour with a young and fresh nose of cherry, leather, blood orange along with spiced-cherry, subtle smoky-tobacco and a spicy finish with good acidity. Still young and vibrant with lovely fruit at it's core and a long finish. This one could last a number of years more, but drinking it now is not a crime.

Lamole di Lamole 1993 Chianti Classico    Lamole
Smooth and silky, but with a modicum of acidity to keep it fresh. The freshness comes in the form of red fruit: currants and cherry with notes of blood orange and balsamic.

Fattoria di Pomona Bandini 2009 Chianti Classico
This is not surprising, it's got good acidity, good colour, fresh fruit and spice – along with spiced-cherry, red plum, red currants and subtle smoke on the mid-palate to finish.

Poggerino Vigna di Bugialla 2014 Chianti Classico    
This was considered a difficult vintage, but this wine does not show that difficulty. It's lovely with fresh red fruit that just comes screaming out of the glass and onto the palate. Lots of acidity keeps this fresh and tasty.

Dieviole 2020 Chianti Classico    
Fresh, red fruit, it's a young wine and it tastes like it should.

Castell'in Villa 1995 Riserva Chianti Classico
Green pepper, cedar and herbal aromas on the nose; herbal and subtle spice with hints of red fruit on the palate. The finish shows an interesting tannin structure.


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