This week, Simon and I tasted through the samples together. It was lovely to be working together as a team again. Learning more about wine has been an exciting journey for me. In fact, this week I found out that I passed my WSET3, the third level of the wine education certificate, which I took back in October (don’t ask me why it took so long to receive the results!). Having Simon and Vanessa impart their wisdom definitely made the exams go much more smoothly - so a big thank you them!
A few of the many outstanding wines we tasted as part of the course at the Napa Valley Wine Academy.
One thing that always surprises me about wine, is how the same bottle can taste differently, even over the course of a single day. It reminds me that wine is truly alive. It is quite common in the wine world to follow any and all rules that may improve the chances of experiencing the perfect glass of wine. It‘s a high that most wine lovers chase endlessly. Among the many methods is the adherence to the biodynamic calendar, which we've written about before. This stems from the work of Rudolf Steiner and combines Steiner’s philosophy with the cycles of the moon and gravity to determine when a wine is at its best to be consumed. Though I was skeptical at first, I find it fascinating to observe how a wine changes according to this calendar. This week, I tasted our wines three times. On Sunday evening (a Fruit day, as they call it) the wines were expressive and intriguing. I re-tasted them Monday morning (a root day) and they felt flat and somewhat vegetal. Then, on Monday evening, I tasted them again with Simon (another Fruit day) and they were back to their full potential. Say what you will (and please do experiment with it yourself using the app When Wine), but if this theory increases the chances of experiencing that special moment when a wine hits you with all of its exciting elements, then I am no longer a skeptic! So, before you dismiss a wine, consider coming back to it in a few hours or the next day and taste it again - you may be surprised. This week we have some special new additions for you.
This is a simply fantastic Sauvignon Blanc. Its complex nose is immediately apparent as soon as this wine is poured it into the glass. Domaine de Bel Air dates back to 1635 in the Loire Valley and has been farmed by thirteen successive generations. Over time the property has undergone several transformations and today the estate combines modern winemaking techniques with great respect for more traditional methods. Their Cuvée des Acoins is born of Kimmeridgian Marl, a heavier soil, which imparts a great structural elegance to the wine itself. Its texture and intriguing minerality make this wine a real treat. Add the alluring notes of lemon, apricots, and white peach, the great acidity and round, smooth palate, and the result is just delicious. Simon was particularly intrigued by this wine and immediately recommended a pairing: seared scallops with lemon zest, hints of cayenne pepper, butter and just a touch of honey. Epic!
Our first red this week comes to us from Campania, Italy on the volcanic slopes of Mount Vesuvius. These special vineyards lie on protected land, which provides the ideal natural biodiversity for the vines to thrive. Here, vines are propagated through layering. This is a process by which a single cane from a healthy vine is bent and buried in the soil allowing just its tip to protrude. The cane then grows to form its own roots and eventually becomes an entirely independent plant. This process of propagation can be rather time consuming, but is just one of the details that can affect a vine's health and therefore the overall quality of the wine. Cantine Olivella’s Lacryma Christi is an exciting blend of three rare, native grapes - Piedirosso, Olivella, and Aglianico. This wine’s lower alcohol, combined with the flavor of intense red berries, cedar, dried herbs and velvety smooth tannins, make this a perfect companion with spicy sausage pizza, mushrooms and garlic, or a Spaghetti Nero squid ink pasta. One sip of this and you’re sitting in the piazza in Napoli - lovely stuff.
And lastly, our Cellar Selection for this week.
We have featured this producer’s 2008 vintage before. This 2010 is every bit as good, and still one of the best bargains we have ever come across. The Lopez de Heredia estate has been a hallmark of quality since its inception in 1877. Their 2010 Rioja Reserva has deep notes of plum, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, lead pencil, smoke and sumptuous boot polish! This wine is highly complex and bright and has such a long finish and a richness that just can’t be beat. I have to say, this is one of the best wines I have ever tasted. It will no doubt develop for decades to come, but is perfectly approachable now. Make sure the wine isn’t too warm when drinking, and give it at least half an hour in a decanter to really open up and enjoy the adventure.