Category Archives: Chianti

Traveling the Old World: A European Red Blind Tasting

Some may remember the Malbec tasting Nina and I hosted last month. We had so much fun that night, that in our drunken state of mind we all agreed to have another tasting soon. And so it was, last week, that the same group of friends gathered. We had agreed to make it a blind tasting and had chosen an area as wide as possible, European Reds, so that we could actually play around with the wines and no one would feel intimidated talking about them. Blind tastings can be a very humbling experience if you think you have some wine knowledge at least, and it is a great equalizer as everyone is free to associate as much as they want.

If you are contemplating a tasting with friends at home, here are some tips that I jotted down a while back but are still helpful, I believe.

We met at 6.30pm (I actually went earlier because I just had to play Wii with our hosts’ son). Everyone brought one bottle of wine, which added up to seven bottles because one fellow wino was sick. I had brought a Riesling to clean our palates with after the tasting, the 2003 von Hövel which I wrote about last week. One of our friends had volunteered to arrange the order of bottles and conduct the tasting so that all others were in the dark except for their own wines.

Because it worked, we had the first bottle of wine with a traditional Roman pasta dish, Pasta cacio e pepe. The first wine, a bottle of 2009 Banfi Chianti Classico (13% ABV, Italy – Sangiovese-based), poured in a medium, clear red color. The aroma intensity was on the lower end of moderate, and the wine smelled young. There was not much I could detect in the nose, very subdued. The wine tasted dry, was light with fresh acidity and low tannins which were fairly balanced. I got some cherries and an overall fresh note from this wine with medium length. I thought this was a decent light wine. My guess was a Sangiovese-based Italian, from 2010 or 2009.

Up next was a 2011 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais (France – Gamay-based), which poured in a pale to medium red and was slightly hazed. The nose was aromatic with some age, showing tobacco, cedar wood, hay and some grape aromas. The wine was dry and light bodied, with low tannins and moderate aromas. On the palate it had quite some unpleasant heat, hardly any fruit with a harsh and disappointing finish. It tasted like it had its best days way behind it. I did not care for this wine much, and guessed 2011 Northern France or Austrian wine.

2010 Banfi Chianti Classico and 2011 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais AOC

The third wine was a 2012 Domaine Pral Beaujolais nouveau (France – Gamay-based). It showed a medium ruby red in the glass. Its nose was young and aromatic, with red fruit, jammy raspberry, gooseberry, pear mustard and roses. Quite the nose!! On the palate this dry, medium bodied wine was smooth with medium tannins and great balance. It showed strawberry and red fruit aromas, was floral and had some red currant to it. There was some heat in the end which I did not care for too much, but it was a very yummy wine with a long finish. Very pleasing. My guess was a 2010 Northern French wine.

And up was wine number four: A bottle of 2009 Andrieux et Fils Gigondas Côtes du Rhone (14.5% ABV, France – Grenache, Syrah, Mograve). Of deep ruby red color, the nose was aromatic with some age, and had plum, coffee, earthy aromas and some dark chocolate. Very different from the last wine! The wine tasted dry, with a medium-full body, smooth acidity and medium to high tannins. All in all it was very balanced and flavorful, with a very long fresh finish. It was the most complex wine of the night thus far and impressed pretty much everyone (as far as I remember). My guess was a 2010 Côtes du Rhone.

2012 Domaine Pral Beaujolais nouveau and 2009 Andrieux et Fils Gigondas Cotes du Rhone

The fifth wine, a 2010 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines (15% ABV, Spain – Garnacha), poured as a deep, ruby red and slightly hazy wine. The nose was aromatic, young and very weird: water colors, chalk, cherry and petrol. Not at all what I am used to, very intriguing. The medium bodied wine tasted dry with smooth acidity and medium to high tannins that were fairly well balanced. On the palate it was flavorful, with very ripe aromas, spice box, chocolate, and very juicy. There was a hint of residual sugar which made it absolutely fascinating. I liked this wine a lot, it was probably my favorite of the evening. Pretty early on, I decided in my head that this must be a Merlot from a Southern European area. Not sure about the age, but I kept yelling “This is a Merlot” across the table….

The sixth wine was a 2009 Az. Tilli  Concetto Terre di Chieti IGT (15% ABV, Italy – Merlot). It showed deep to dark ruby red with a slight haze. The aroma intensity was powerful, with berry compote and raisins. Very ripe, very impressive nose. I could have dove into this for longer. The wine was medium-full bodied, with fresh acidity and medium tannins, all very well balanced. On the palate, it had depth and was incredibly smooth, very likable with mostly red berry aromas. The finish was medium long. The Concetto is just a super yummy wine, I like it a lot. This one had to be a Merlot (by that point I knew that it was Nina’s wine, which she had bought in Germany at a wine store we both like with the one purpose of throwing it in at a blind tasting).

2010 Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines and 2009 Az. Tilli Concetto Terre di Chieti IGT

The final wine in the tasting was a bottle of 2008 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine de la Bila-Haut L’esquerda (13.5%  ABV, France – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan). It was the wine I had brought, and it proved to be the most controversial. I had bought it during Wines Till Sold Out‘s big sale the week before and it arrived in the mail just in time. I did not have a chance to try it before this tasting. It poured in a very dark, almost purplish red. The nose turned pretty much everyone completely off, and I have to admit it was the most unpleasant nose I have come across in quite a while: dirt, sulphur, manure. That is all one got for the first 30 minutes. With a heavy emphasis on manure. It was, frankly, disgusting. I was very surprised,  had not expected that at all. After 30 minutes, there were some red fruit aromas fighting their way through, but it was still not enjoyable to smell. On the palate, the wine was extremely intense, mostly earthy. There was some cassis, but mostly dry, dusty earth aromas. I still defended it and want to see what it tastes like after an hour or two in the decanter (I have a couple more bottles). What I tasted at this tasting though, was not very enticing…

2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L'esquerda

2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda

We finished the tasting, as is fast becoming a tradition, with a bottle of German Riesling Spätlese. I reviewed that wine over here.

Overall, I was very impressed with this tasting: Most of the wines were really good, and there were some really great surprises in it for me. We all played the guessing game, and it was fun. The best surprise though was a friend from Nina’s undergrad days who just began working in Detroit. He and a friend of his joined us for some of the wines later on and oh my God, did the friend of the friend play the guessing game. He nailed the last wine, and was pretty much spot on with the others he tried. That was really impressive! Time was just flying by and  I am sure I see another tasting in the not so distant future…



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2005 Melini Vigneti La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva

2005 Melini La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva

2005 Melini La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva

Sometimes, you luck out in liquor stores. And sometimes you don’t. But I have learned that it is worth trying it out. And with this find, the 2005 Melini Vigneti La Selvanella Chianti Classico Riserva, I definitely lucked out. According to Wine Searcher, the wine retails for $25 and up. I found this lone bottle on the sales shelf for $12. There is always a good chance that an older vintage wine sold in a liquor store (instead of a professional wine store) has gone bad because of poor storage conditions etc. But it is sometimes worth a try, and it all depends on what discount the store is giving you.

Some of you know that I have made Melini’s 2010 Chianti Borghi d’Elsa my go to, everyday Chianti. It is nicely affordable and delivers refreshing, light wines. When bought in the magnum bottle, which are available at Costco, it is hard to beat price wise for a good dinner companion.

Cantine Melini is a big Italian wine producer. The winery was established in 1705 and today covers over 550 hectares of land in Chianti and Chianti Classico. The vineyards reportedly cover 136 hectares divided in 5 farms. While the Borghi d’Elsa is an everyday wine, La Selvanella is on the other end of Melini’s spectrum: It is their top notch wine which has garnered attention by Italy’s leading wine guide, the Gambero Rosso (the 2006 La Selvanella got the coveted 3 glass rating). This vintage received 2 glasses in Gambero Rosso and 4 grapes in the Duemilavini guide. The 2005 vintage was rather difficult as far as the weather was concerned (lots of rain and low temperatures from June to August), but the grapes are said to have ripened enough. The wine is made with 100% Sangiovese grosso grapes which come from 49 hectares around Radda in Chianti, one of the top villages in Chianti. The grapes were harvested in October and after 20 days of maceration it ripened 30 months in French oak. It has 13.2% ABV and the winery gives it 10 to 12 years of ageing potential. (All this information can be found on the winery’s website)

We decanted the wine for about an hour. It poured as a darker red wine with very slight browning on the edges. In the nose, I got raisins, lots of plum and some sweetness as well as herbal aromas. The medium bodied wine showed mostly plums and prunes on the palate, with good acidity and medium tannins which were nicely round. There was some spice going on and it had a medium length finish. The wine was still very, very fresh, which surprised me. It is by far not nearing its end yet.

I really enjoyed this wine. At the price I bought it, it was a steal. It also paired great with the Pecorino Toscano (a young Pecorino with delicate flavors that has none of the ripened Pecorino’s saltiness which I don’t enjoy much) I was able to secure in San Antonio and awesome different, thinly sliced bacons from my favorite sausage maker in town, Biercamp (which is right around the corner). It transported me right back into Tuscany, on a warm fall day afternoon, sitting outside, munching on Pecorino Toscano, prosciutto and panini and having a glass of wine…there is no better compliment I can make a wine.

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2008 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva and 2010 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer

2008 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva and 2010 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer

2008 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva and 2010 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer

Happy New Year! I trust you all made it safely into 2013.

We’ve been going through quite a number of wines here up north, but there weren’t many exciting wines among them. There were some that I had already written about and they did not seem very different  so I felt no need to write about them. Last night though we did have two interesting wines. My mother in law had made a bean and ham soup and we had this bottle of Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva around that I thought might be worth trying.

Banfi is one of the biggest wineries in Italy. I initially learned about them by trying the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino which I both liked quite a bit. Over the years, they have expanded and now produce a host of wines from different regions in Italy. I am not very impressed with their cheaper wines (the Col di Sasso, for example, is just rather bitter and unpleasant). I had not had a chance to try their chianti classico riserva until last night. The wine aged two years in Slavonian oak and an additional 6 months in the bottle. It is the 2008 harvest and has 13% ABV. The wine is made with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was not decanted and drunk straight after opening.

It poured in a lighter red color with slight browning on the edges. On the nose it had prominent cherry and berry aromas. On the palate, I got light bodied wine with a good level of complexity. Several layers of aromas, among them cherry, blueberry and some vanilla worked nicely together. The wine had hardly any noticeable acidity, good tannins and ended in a quite long finish. It was really tasty. I am not sure it worked well with the soup, the flavors did not really complement each other and made the wine too vegetable for my taste. But on its own, I enjoyed it a lot. I am a sucker for good chianti and this one worked for me.

My fellow blogger Rachel blogged about this wine here.

After dinner, we opened a couple of jars of fruit mustards and had them with different cheeses, one of Nina and my favorite pastimes. I rummaged through the wine collection at my in laws and found the 2010 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer which I threw into the freezer to bring it down to drinking temperature. I am not very familiar with Fetzer winery, a big California producer. I do like a good Gewürztraminer, which I also think should be more on the sweet end to bring out all these marvelous fruit aromas. It is difficult to achieve a good Gewürztraminer though, because the grape easily produces overbearing wines.

This one poured in a clear yellow color. The nose was exciting: lychee, gooseberry, papaya, and all sorts of other tropical fruit. It also had a rather alcoholic nose (when I checked, it had 12% ABV, quite a bit for a white wine). On the palate, it was very sweet, on the heavier side of light bodied and combined the aromas I found in the nose in a sugary fashion. The alcohol was prominent and I was not fond to find such a sweet white wine with such a high alcohol level (I know, I am a German riesling snob). It just did not work. The alcohol destroyed potential delicacy, but the sugar also hurt the fruit in the wine. It is hard to wrap my head around it. It just seemed a bit all over the place, without really showing what the grape is capable of. That was kind of sad…that said, it was finished easily.

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