Franciacorta is not the same as prosecco or spumante

Often when people talk about Franciacorta wines they never talk about Franciacorta, but about spumante or prosecco… but I would advise you to never say that to a wine producer in Franciacorta as they can’t stand it 🙂  Franciacorta bubbled wines are DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata) meaning that the wine can only be made in a specific geographical location. And therefore the sparkling wine is called Franciacorta (nothing else). The geographical location of Franciacorta is on the hills between the southern shore of Lake Iseo and the city of Brescia. A few weeks ago I noticed the Franciacorta/spumante/prosecco topic was a very sensitive topic during a lunch I had with Maurizio Zanella founder of Franciacorta winery Ca’ del bosco. I know it might seem ridiculous for most people, but if only you knew what efforts Mr. Zanella and his colleagues had to do to get this status you would definitely understand their frustration.  But also if you taste all 3 types you’ll definitely notice that the taste and experience of all 3 is very different. With Franciacorta being my personal favorite (not only because it comes from my Dad’s region… but it helps 😉 ) Not that I’m saying you can’t find good bubbles in the other 2 types, but they are different in many ways 🙂

Another very interesting fact I found out during my lunch was that not Champagne ( as everybody thinks) ‘invented’ the sparkling wine, but according to ancient literature it was many years before that a pharmacist from the Brescia/Franciacorta region already discovered it… the only difference beeing that in comparison with our friend Dom Pérignon, nobody continued making sparkling wines after the  pharmacist’s dead. resulting in the wine dissapearing for some years.

Just like in many other wine regions (especially the DOCG ones) regulations for the wine making process is very strict. Besides that the vineyards have to be location within specific borders, there are also regulations about the soil… there it is specified that it has to be mineral-rich, granular-sized, calcareous gravel and sandy morainal soils that cover a limestone bedrock. As for the permitted grape varieties , they are  Chardonnay, Pinot nero and  Pinot bianco.  As for the winemaking it self the rules are even ‘stricter’ than for Champagne. In Franciacorta the rules are as follows:

  • Non-vintage or let’s just call it regular Franciacorta 🙂 : may only be released after 25 months (after harvest), of which 18 months must be in contact with the yeast in the bottle (compared to 15 months in the case of Champagne)
  • Franciacorta Vintage or Millesimato: release not before  37 months after harvest, of which 30 months must be in contact with the yeast
  • Franciacorta Rosé: must contain at least 15% Pinot nero, and may be made by blending red wine
  • Franciacorta Satèn: can only contain with raisins (Chardonnay and/or Pinot bianco)… basically a blanc de blancs

About this last one, Franciacorta Satèn, I was wondering what the significance was… I always thought it had something to do with the silky feel of the wines … but it was Maurizio Zanella who revealed the true story.  Apparently for many years wine makers making bubbled wines had problems because of law changes (mostly because of our friends in champagne) that some names (Crémant, Cramant, etc..), indications, etc. couldn’t be used any more. As wineries Ca’ del bosco and Bellavista were sick of always having to change their labels(amongst other things) they decided to create and register their own ‘type’  and asked a copywriter to create one. This was the moment the Satèn was born. Initially only used by Ca’ del Bosco and Bellavista, but after a few years they released the name for the whole Franciacorta region to be able to use the nomination.  So in a few words Satèn was just an invention from a copywriter 🙂 🙂

Mister Zanella is a born story teller and I felt very privileged to be able to sit across of Mr Zanella during a lunch! I also discovered that Mr Zanella’s mother was born in the same village (Bormio) as my dad 🙂 making me an even bigger fan of their wines 🙂 . He found it important that before we would talk about specific wines, we would know more about the wine region and its history.

Ca’ del bosco is one of the 3  major Franciacorta producers together with Berlucchi and Bellavista.  Ca’del bosco that means ‘house in the forest’ in English, is exactly what it was when Maurizio Zanella’s Mother (Annamaria Clementi Zanella) bought the property early 1960’s. it was a hillside with two hectares of land, surrounded by a dense wood of oak.   It is with the help of farmer Antonio Gandossi that she started planting vines (initially for own use). It isn’t until in the late 1970’s that André Dubois would help Ca’ del bosco to lift the quality of their wines a few levels higher and it was a huge success…. From then on they only kept climbing higher.  I must say it is very impressive how a small winery grew that much in such a short period of time. I might even add the growth of a whole region, as because of all their hard work they have put a small region on the map.

As Maurzio loved and admired his mom a lot, he decided to create a special cuvee dedicated to his mother aka Cuvée Annamaria Clementi.

Of course during our lunch at the Michelin star awarded restaurant Senza Nome we also tasted some of the beauties from the Ca’ del bosco cellar.  A lovely meal I’d say 🙂 one I wouldn’t mind having again.

We started with their ‘entry’ level wine, although I find that term maybe a bit denigrating…anyhow their Cuvée prestige is wine they produce the most bottles of and according to Maurizio it is also the most difficult wine to make. Much more difficult than the other ones he makes. As for the other ones nature does most of the work.  The Cuvée prestige is  a beautiful sparkling wine with even more beautiful aromatic profile with spicy notes with tones of I would say melon. This Franciacorta (75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Nero) offers spicy and vibrant aromatic tones that you don’t find in its peers. A job to drink a high level wine… so we can only imagine how their more ‘matured’ wines taste like.

To me what makes the difference between a good and lesser sparkling wine in general is the type of bubbles. The best to explain it is with a piece of fruit: if you eat a piece of fruit let’s say a peach that isn’t ripe yet you can eat it, but it wouldn’t taste like  one that is perfectly ripe and juicy. With sparkling wine if it didn’t age long enough you can drink it but the bubbles will be more aggressive, if you let it age a bit longer they will soften and more pleasant to drink. The only disadvantage for me is that the ones that age longer are usually also more expensive 🙂 but better to drink less and have higher quality  than the other way around. Besides when I drink sparkling wines with aggressive bubbles I know I’ll be having an enormous headache  the next morning.

The next Franciacorta to be tasted was the Satèn. It was the first time I tasted it, but it was love at first sight. Very elegant sparkles that has aromas of yellow fruit and white flowers. On the palate creaminess and ripe yellow apple, crushed herb alongside a soft perlage. Now I know where the saying ‘like an angel peeing in your mouth’ comes from, as this sure felt like it.  This wine matched perfectly with the Tartare red Gambas aka Gamberrro rosso di Mazara e Caviale, patata morbida al’alceto di vino. Trust me, it tasted as good as it sounds

For the following course which was a pasta (home-made) with pesto raw marinated tomatoes (again all home-made) we were served a 2014 bottle of Chardonnay (Curtefranca Bianca DOC) that brought back lots of memories. I drank it the first time many years ago (I think early 2000’s) at an Italian restaurant in Frankfurt (I know out of all places). That’s also when I discovered Franciacorta also made great non sparkling wines. Maurizio’s idea behind this wines wasn’t to make a copy of Burgundy wines or any other famous wine as to his opinion if you want to drink a great Burgundy (of which he is big fan), you drink a wine from Burgundy… and that’s his philosophy with all the wines he makes. He does his own thing without watching too much to other and certainly not being a copycat. A very nice result for both this white as the red Sebino Rosso IGT (an elegant blend from Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc) we got served with the Filleto di Manzo with old Balsamic vinegar.

 

The stars of the lunch were without any doubt the bottles of wines, but with 1 exception. Giovanni Bruno’s revised Tiramisu, that gave a whole other dimension to tiramisu and lifted up the level.

The end of a perfect lunch with very interesting people and hunger to find out more about this wonderful wine region and winery

Austria meets South America

When I saw our friends from Young Charly were doing  a wine & dine evening with Salomon wines at a South American restaurant (A’sur), I must say I was intrigued to try it. Basically another excuse for a night out with friends 🙂 🙂 .  The Salomon Undhof winery is one the most famous names in Austria as they did many important contributions in the Austrian viticulture history. They were one of the first ones  to export Austrian wines to the EU and the USA (to give one example). The winery is situated along the Danube River around the twin medieval towns of Krems and Stein, the Kremstal region is right next to the Wachau and the same latitude as Burgundy in fact, Krems is a sister city to Beaune. Not that this is of high importance, but just a nice to know 🙂  Today it is already the 7th generation of the Salomon family who is running the winery and the next generation is ready to continue in their parents’ food steps as it was Fanny-Marie (daughter of current owner) who came to Belgium to present their wines.  What is also nice to know is that besides the vineyards in Austria, the family also has vineyards in Australia and New Zealand. The reason why they also have vineyards at the other side of the world, is because the current owner Dr. Bert Salomon had moved there with his family many years ago . But when taking over the reins of  the Austrian vineyard from his older brother the family decided to move back to Austria.  Although technically speaking they follow the sun as first they do the harvest in Austria and in January/February they do the harvest in Australia and they all move there to help 🙂  That maybe also explains Fanny-Marie’s sunny smile 😉

At the Salomon Undhof winery they only produce 2 types of wine (but of TOP level) Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. The famous Riesling of the estate groes on the top sites of Kögl and Pfaffenberg. The Grüner Veltliner Von Stein comes from the steep terraced hills behind the old town of Stein. The best “loess” soils provide the Lindberg and Wachtberg Grüner Veltliner. All the grapes are harvested traditionally by hand only… so you can imagine the time and effort it takes to produce the wines.  At the winery they only use stainless steel tanks, so no wooden barrels that results in intriguing, pure, honest and complex wines that can be drunk immediately.

We started our journey through the Salomon winery with ¨their Grüner Veltliners, the 2016 ‘Wieden’ and 2015 ‘Krems’ that got served with and appetizer with pork belly  followed by one of my favorite dishes ever a ceviche from gilt-head bream.  The 2016 had a nose of ripe yellow plum. The palate brings more Grüner Veltliner savoriness, with hints of yeast and a bit herby. It is dry in mouthfeel, it refreshes with a lovely herbal citrus tang on the finish.  The 2015 (that gets my preference) is juicier with a herbal touch reminiscent of fresh sage and a very savory finish. For the dish the 2016 seemed like a better fit (to me) as it added that extra bit of freshness. Basically wines that ask for sunny weather (just like today… so guess what I’ll be having tonight 😉 )

As a surprise Fanny-Marie had brought a 2009 Krems-Stein Grüner Veltliner. Personally it wasn’t 100% my taste, but for my table guest it was (so it was just me 🙂 ). It was a rich wine with a almost oily texture. In the mouth you notice the intense flavor of  ripe fruit with the yellow fruit flavors dominating acidity and peppery taste.  Nevertheless my personal opinion, it was a great pleasure to have tasted it. This wine was served with Brussels sprouts South American style 🙂 I didn’t see that one coming .

Now we change our path and move towards the Rieslings, the wines the winery is famous for:-)  here we were served the 2016 Riesling ‘Stein a. d. Donau’ and 2015  Pfaffenberg and here again Fanny-Marie had a 1996 Pfaffenberg as a surprise for us. The 2016 Citrus (orangy zest) with a touch of exotic (mango I think it was). Juicy, pleasant fruit sweetness with fine acidity and honey on the finish. With the smell of the 2015 you get an instant feel of happiness in the package 🙂 That and fresh lemon zest notes (aka spring). The palate is so precise, so much tension that you can almost feel the citrus flavors exploding in your mouth. A beautiful aromatic Riesling that can described with words like glorious, long, ripe and freshness.  For the 1996 it was more intense apple and mineral flavors that are accented of salt/ peppery notes. A powerful finish though.  Wines that went very nice with the seabass we were served.

As I’m not a big cheese fan I skipped the cheese, but got a lovely pineapple dessert to match one of my favorites, the Niepoort Colheita. There were some jealous people around me, I can tell you that 😉

A very nice introduction of wines I didn’t know too much about. Athough you notice that Austrian wines are finding their way more and more towards Belgium… both in restaurants and homes. I can’t wait to discover more of their wines or Austrian wines in general… I think a wine trip to Austria needs to be done!! And who new South America and Austria could walk hand in hand. Thank you to the A’sur team, Young Charly and Fanny-Marie for making this evening possible!!

Quality without compromise

A few days ago the time had finally arrived that I would have a meal at the 2 Michelin star restaurant De Pastorale. I had always figured the restaurant was quit far from my home, but it seemed it was only 3km from my home… oops 🙂 A few days ago I was here to discover the wines from organic &bio dynamic Tuscan winery Podere Forte.  Organic/bio dynamic wines don’t also float my boat many of them have a special taste in them that I just don’t like… luckily there are wineries like Podere Forte that could be used as a benchmark any day for how organic/bio dynamic wines should be like!! Podere forte was founded in 1997 as an act of love from Pasquale Forte. When Pasquale was visiting the area of Castiglione d’Orcia he fell hopelessly in love with it 🙂  and I can’t blame him as the area is breath taking! I visit the area 8 or 9  years ago with my wife where we stayed at the old San Simeone convent (that was transformed in B&B) that unfortunately closed its doors a while ago.

Pasquale Forte is a good example of a self-made man (that kept/keeps his feet on the ground). Pasquale was born in Calabria as youngest of 9 children. Pasquale already learned very early in life what hard working was on his parent’s farm. When his parents died, as tradition imposes it, the farm went to oldest son. Due to a gambling problem of Pasquale’s oldest brother the farm had to be sold and Pasquale set sail to the North of Italy to look for work.  In a garage in the small centre of Orsenigo, in Brianza area, not far from the Como lake  he started his own company (Eldor Corporation) specialized in consumer electronics, developing high tension transformers for radio and television sets.  Today 46 years the company has over 3000 employees, offices all over the world and is supplier of all big car companies. But still with all of this success Pasquale still had an interrupted dream…having a farm and making wine, olive oil, etc… I know many of you are thinking it is another fortunate/ famous person who just wants to have a vineyard in Tuscany,  but has no clue what he is doing with an end product basically ‘sucks’. Pasquale is exactly the opposite as he knows 100% what he is doing and he is doing it with the same love, drive for perfection, determination, and passion and philosophy like when he started Eldor ‘Quality without compromise’(in this case with full respect with nature).

Tuscany is known by everbody for its wonderful wine regions like Montalcino or the Chianti region, but instead of buying a property in one of these ‘famous’ regions Pasquale just followed his heart and chose an abandoned place between Montalcino and Montepluciano in the Orcia Valley (Unesco world heritage list) with a hundred-year history behind it and where wine making wasn’t done (or almost not done).  He saw it a bit as a challenge to put this place on the map as new wine region. On the 300ha of land Podere Forte owns only 21 are cultivated with vineyards, 23 are full of olive trees and the remaining part exists of forests, pastures, gardens and grazing areas for the Cinta Senese and Chianina cattle they have. The winery only produces 3 types of wine (technically 4 as they are been experimenting for 20 years to make the perfect white wine (a Greco di tufo), but they don’t want to sell it until it is perfect)  and next to that they have many other organic biodynamic products like honey, olive oil, flour, cured meats, etc…

At Podere Forte nothing is left to chance and everything contributes to create a self-sufficient, wholesome ecosystem. Biodynamic agriculture is a complex concept to explain, but basically it is creating products that are fundamentally balanced and respectful of every living creature in the course of its production cycle… Pasquale obviously doesn’t to this all by himself. As Pasquale is a perfectionist  who wants to do the best job possible he called in the help of “earth scientists” Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, world experts in the preparation of viticultural soil. Lydia and Claude analysed parcel by parcel (nothing happens at the estate without their blessing 🙂 ) to know which type of grapes would be best on which parcel!! Talking about a torough investigation.  The estate grows Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. You can take their philosophy ‘Quality without compromise’ almost literally as they spend over 1000 hours per hectare of land (which is enormous as most others spend around 300hours).

So after having heard all of this and much more interesting things about the vineyards I was very excited to try their wines !! Before I continue I must also add that the dishes Bart De Poorter and his team at De Pastorale made to match the wines were perfect!!! Incredible pairings!!

We started with their ‘entry level’ wine, their 2015 Petruccino that they also like to refer to as the ‘premier cru’ (85% sangiovese, 15% merlot). The wine has a ruby red color, in the nose floral notes of violets and fruity aromas of wild strawberry or maybe even cherry. When tasting you notice a lot of red ripe fruit, with a pleasant acidity, soft tannins and long-lasting elegant aftertaste. What did surprise me that the wine has a 15% alcohol percentage , you really don’t notice it as the wine is so elegant and went wonderfully with the chianina!! (the wine also already found its way to my own private cellar).

If I was already so impressed by the ‘entry level’ wine, god knows what their ‘grand cru’ Petrucci would be like. Just like with the Petruccino, in the Petrucci  you notice it is a strong wine, but in the end it still stays so elegant. From the Petrucci we were served 2 difference vintages, the 2008 and the 2013 (both 100% sangiovese).  The 2013 was brilliant ruby red, intense nose of cherries and raspberries, floral notes of violet and rosehip, on the palate cinnamon, vanilla and a hint of black pepper with a mineral finish. Now the 2008 was a bit stronger, but it had the same fresh/mineral finish like the 2013.  Basically it was the 2013 but with a bit (even more)body…

For the main dish we left the ‘Sangiovese’ for what it is and headed towards Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot blends that go under the name Guardiavigna. We were served 3 different vintages from the Guardiavigna the 2007, 2008 and 2013.  All 3 beautiful wines, but what was funny to discover was that from 2007 onwards the percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Franc replaced each other. The Merlot was initially the main grape, but in the most recent wines it is the Cabernet Franc that is on the main stage 🙂  . So they replaced the red fruitiness for the balance and elegance that Cabernet France brings to blends.  Add to that Petit verdot for tannins, extra colour and flavours and you have a winner 🙂  I’m more fan of Sangiovese wines like the Petrucci of Petruccino, but the Guardiavigna wasn’t at all punishment to drink 🙂 .  On the contrary, a true celebration to drink it!  It was interesting to taste this evolution from both they blends as the bottle type as that also changed during this period…

As our friends from Podere Forte don’t have a dessert wine yet, the sommelier came with a beauty he still had in his cellar to match the Jerusalem artichoke dessert (yes, you are reading it correctly, Jerusalem artichoke).  He surprised us with a 2004 Scheurebe by Koehler-Ruprecht.  Scheurebe is (as you probably know) a white-wine grape, one of Germany’s most successful new grape breeds. It is a cross between Riesling and Silvaner that are often aged to create sweet or dessert wines just like the wine we were served.  Very nice floral notes, rosted spice and candied orange slices.  Less sweet than expected on the palate, lots of citrus, without being lemony, more candied oranges, plus a hint of old oak, dried grasses and herbs, thanks to the moderate acidity keeps the gentle acidity against it and is harmonious, albeit a little quiet. Excellent as a companion for the Artichoke dessert.

A wonderful and very interesting evening. I learned lots of new things about Biodynamic/organic winemaking. A new wine trip presents itself 🙂

Wine of a mythical purity: Jermann

It was finally time to have a trip with my 2 favorite girls, my wife and daughter 🙂 I know it seems like I only go on holiday with other people, but it isn’t. This year we set sail to Friuli to visit another favorite woman in my life, my dear Zia Livia. Zia Livia might already have a blessed age of 83, but she is as active as a 40 year old that and cooks like nobody else can (not even in restaurants). Until now I always was the apple of her eye, but let’s say I had to leave this spot to my baby girl 🙂

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When I go on holiday with my wife I try to hold myself and not make it a wine trip. I allow myself to visit 1 (max 2) vineyards… I mean otherwise it be like a kid standing in front of a candy shop not being allowed to go in 🙂 . My mind was made up very quickly that I wanted to visit the Jermann wine estate. If I would have to describe Jermann in 1 word it would be “Flawless” or “multi-layered”!! What impresses me most about these wines is the purity and depth of flavor coupled with huge mineral extract, all perfectly in balance. In case you wouldn’t know it, the Friuli region is mostly known for its white wines. They do also have some really nice red wines like Refosco, but their main focus is white wine…

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The Jermann winery was founded by current owner Silvio Jermann’s Austrian great-grandfather Antonio in 1881. A heritage Silvio is very proud of and cherishes a lot. You also notice the Austrian background when you visit the winery. FYI you will notice that  there will be less pictures and no pictures from the inside of the wine estate… this is due to the fact I was not allowed to take pictures from the inside of the building… So you’ll have to take my word for how it looks, if not there is only 1 solution… visiting the vineyard yourself 😉

Silvio Jermann

It must be said that Silvio Jermann is one of the winemakers that changed Italian wine history and created a new era in vinification of white wines. It did take him a bit of effort to convince his parents to change their way of winemaking as they had more conservative views. Something remarkable is that Silvio’s choice of country to build up experience in winemaking after his studies at some of the most renowned wine academies Conegliano and Istituto di San Michele. His choice went to Canada, not the first country I would think of… nevertheless I have drunk some very nice wines from Canada. Silvio’s move to Canada gave him the chance to broaden his horizon and the freedom to do some research of new techniques to make wine.

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Let’s say that the research has paid off as he did not only convince his parents with his multi-layered, extract-loaded whites, he convinced the whole wine world!! You could see it as a combo of Collio’s incredible terroir and Silvio’s daring flair.. of lots of small vineyards that are personally monitored by Silvio, and unique blends of autochthonal and international grape varieties.

I do recognize this aim for perfection from another monument/innovator in Italian winemaking I visted this year, Guiseppe Quintarelli…Just like at Guiseppe, it was Silvio who has put the vineyard on the map and expanded it to what it is today. Today Jermann has around 200ha of land, of which not all is used to make wine, but only 3/4.

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I already visited lots of vineyards, but I must admit that Jermann is one of the most impressive I’ve seen. Maybe because they only move to this newly build location I in 2007 (with first harvest in 2006) or better on 07.07.07 :-)I was told that Silvio likes numbers or dates like this. But I think the beautiful pieces of art, the gardens (including a golf course as Silvio is a Golfer… to bad he wasn’t there as we could have had a little match as I also played golf for a long time 🙂 ). You feel quit “Zen” at this vineyard…. or at least that’s how I felt when visiting it (hope people working there experience it in the same way).  Although I think the lovely Serena also played a big part 🙂 FYI Serena is the person who showed us around the estate.

Azienda Jermann

Like always the best part of the visit is at the end… the tasting of the wines. They upgraded the tasting as there is no better way to taste wines than with food ?? Local artisan products like San Daniele (my all time favorite ham!!), some cheese, polenta and freshly baked bread 🙂 Simple things, but things that rock my world!! We started with their evergreens or less complex or “entry level” wines the Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. All from 2015, a wine year every winemaker is enthusiastic about

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The Jermann white wines are either made from one of the following grapes or a blend: Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, Picolit, Tocai Friulano and Riesling Renano. The grapes might change, but they all have 1 thing in common, purity!! What you’ll notice when you see a white wine bottle from Jermann (as off their 2009 vintage if I remember it good), is that they have a screw cap instead of the classic cork. The reason for this is keeping the taste of the wine how Silvio made it, a classic cork would change the wine’s taste too much and  after lots of research they found out that with a screw the changing of the wine is far less.

Jermann

I also see it as a kind of statement as for most people when they see a bottle with screw cap they think it is a wine of lesser quality… but in this case they get proven wrong!! AND another good thing about a screw cap is that you’re bottle will never taste cork 🙂 🙂

During this tasting I got proven again that I sometimes have expensive taste 🙂 🙂 no no just kidding… All wines were very pleasant to drink, but my preference always goes to full bodied wines… which in the case of Jermann would be the “Where dreams”(97% chardonnay) and their Vintage Tunina (a blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, Picolit) . What intrigued me in the “where dreams” before I even tasted it was the many times it changed its name 🙂 . The first 9 years it was called “Where the Dreams have no end…” (for every vintage they had a different color for the capsule). In 1996 it became “Were Dreams, now it is just wine!” and they changed the capsule in  blue, bearing a stylized Comet Hale-Bopp.  Finally in 2003 they returned to their “roots” with: “W…. Dreams ………”, adding the year of harvest and a drawing of Mars on the capsule.  A wine with a story behind it. ..A nice note: The wine was actually dedicated to U2’s “The Joshua Tree” album (1987) and specifically to the song “Where the streets have no name” 🙂 . When I actually tasted it, it does indeed make you dream of opening a second bottle of it 😉  charm hand in hand with complexity and rare elegant refined notes of exotic fruits, melted butter, vanilla… and they nose doesn’t disappoint the taste as the whole pallet comes through when taking a sip!!

Jermann where dreams

As for the Tunina it was love at first sniff 🙂 the tempting aromas, the complexity, honey, mango, lime…. it all works! Again here the taste doesn’t let you down… and again that full body!!

Result of my visit? Yes, a few more bottle for my cellar (of which 3 have already disappeared) and less space in the car 🙂 🙂

I could and would like to tell you more, but I can only suggest to taste the wines yourself and maybe even plan a visit to the vineyard.

For more info  you can always contact Jermann directly. for my Belgian friends, you can check with our friends from Young Charly as they are the Belgian Dealer 🙂

 

40 Years Young Charly

A few weeks ago the ‘beau-monde’ from the wineworld gathered to celebrate the 40 years existence of Young Charly. It was 40 years ago that the Mortlmans family or better father Mortelmans opened his small wineshop in Merksem. Back then they only sold French wine. First of all because that was the wine country father Mortelmans loved, but also at that time in Belgium 95% of the wines drunk in Belgium were French. It was only upon arrival of son Mortelmans aka William that they broadened their selection with Italian, Spanish, Portuguese (to name a few) wines. In 40years Young Charly grew out into one of the biggest wine importers and sellers in Belgium, representing some of the most renowned wine estates around like Ornelaia, Gaja, Col d’orcia, Masi, etc…

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I have known Young Charly whole my life, not always as a drinker though 🙂 At young age I remember always driving by the Young Charly shop in Merksem with my dad when going to a big supermarket further down the street or to look for Porcini mushrooms. As a wine drinker, I have to be honest I only started visiting their shop more often after a friend of mine started working there 🙂 So basically I have to thank this friend as thanks to Young Charly I discovered lots of wines that until then I only knew by name. To me what is important for a wineshop, is being guided before you do a purchase. I mean I usually buy wine according to a dish/meal I’ll be preparing and it is with that menu I go to the wine shop with the hope they’ll be able to help me finding a perfect match… With Young Charly I’ve always found that match!!

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When I was asked to join this ‘beau-monde’ to celebrate the 40 years of Young Charly I didn’t need too much convincing after the mentioned it was at restaurant ‘t Fornuis (in Antwerp 1* since 80’s and an institute in Belgium) and that 4 top wine estates would be present. Basically a combo of top sommeliers, journalists, amazing food and unforgettable wines…

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The 4 wine estates that were present were Niepoort, Col d’orcia, Artadi and Michel Chapoutier and they brought their best stuff 🙂 A sommelier’s meal wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t asked to taste everything blind and respond to some questions. From the wines of Artadi, Niepoort and Col d’orcia we had to guess the vintage, for Michel Chapoutier we knew the vintage, but we had to guess the ‘terroir’ 🙂 Could it become more difficult? In my case I have to admit that it was mostly guessing I did. I did always now which was the oldest and the youngest wines… but to really tell which vintage or even crazier the piece of land they come from was a bridge to far for me as I’m not a top sommelier like the others present 🙂

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The wines we ended up tasting:

Although all the wines were good, there is always that wine you prefer over the others. Which in my case were the Batuta 2013; the Ermitage Le Méal; Viña el Pison 2007 and the Col d’orcia 1995 🙂 .Strange enough you also immediately find out the people sharing the same taste pallet as you. The funniest tasting or revealing of the wines we tasted was without any doubt the one from Niepoort. I like Dirk Niepoort a lot, I have never met a wine enthusiast as big as him. Besides making lots of different types of official wines, he also has countless projects running besides that and on top of that he supports lots of new young wine markers trying to find their way through the world of winery. His comments of this wines were basically that he didn’t like any of the wines he brought 🙂 🙂 but said that even though some of the wines were bad, they matched perfectly with the food they were served with :-). Again, he’s a wonderful person who love wine and has it running through his vanes like no other :-).

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The fact that this celebration was at restaurant ‘t Fornuis was special to me as the restaurant has been on my list for a loooooooong long time, but never managed to get there. The restaurant serves classic Belgian/French cuisine from the highest level using the best ingredients available!! The might seem simple to the eye, but I can say for a fact that never to judge a book by its cover as sometimes the simple things are the most difficult to make.

We started with a ‘crab salad’, followed by surf and turf 🙂 leek with sweetbread, langoustine and truffle sausage. The main course was a fancy chicken (I forgot which one it was :-)) with Morel mushrooms and chicken kidneys. We finished our meal with crema catalana and a lemon meringue. If there is a heaven I hope they serve all of this (including the wines 😉 )!! It all tasted heavenly. I always love dishes with deep flavors in it!!

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The only thing I don’t like about meals/events like this with winemakers? I end up liking the wines very much, buying them and in the end going on a wine trip to visit the wineries 🙂 eeeeeeeeeevery time again… I need more holiday to visit all of them and more room to store the wines 😉 😉

It was again amazing to be part of something this wonderful!! I can’t wait for Young Charly to celebrate its 50 years anniversary 🙂

Website Young Charly:  http://www.young-charly.com/

The night with a Bolgheri Pearl

Italy has – just like France – some iconic wine estates. In Piemonte for example they have Gaja. In Tuscany they have even 3 of these iconic wine estates, Sassicaia (technically speaking this is Tenuta San Guido), Tignanello and Ornellaia. Today I will will give you some background about Ornellaia. The reason I mention the other 2 estates is that together they are better known as ‘Super Tuscans’. What makes them special is that they were the first vineyards in Italy to produce wines ‘bordeaux’ style by using French grapes in combination with the Tuscan ‘sangiovese’ grape… which basically results in very beautiful Italians wines with a French flare. A few nights ago I joined one these 3 estates, namely the Ornellaia estate, for a dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Belgium Spiga d’oro.

Ornellaia

Before I continue I do want to mention that I’m not going to mingle myself in the discussion if wines like the top Ornellaia wines are not worth their price, as  I think that it depends of your financial resources if you find those wines expensive or not. It also depends if wish to spend your money on wines like this.. But I agree to say that without any doubt they are very good wines and I wouldn’t mind to have to drink them again 🙂 and that is what it is all about, right?

Ornellaia wine

It was actually my friend Bram who asked me to join the Ornelaia dinner and I’m glad he did as I had never tried the Ornellaia wines before with exception for the ‘Le Volte’ I got as a Christmas present a few years ago (which I liked). The fact that the diner was taking place at Spiga d’oro was a bonus 🙂 Franco makes every dish a refined Italian celebration and pleasure for one’s taste buds 🙂

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It is more than obvious that you cannot start your dinner with the best wine, you have to build up crescendo and end with the best… this way you’ll remember that best for always and crave for more :-). I think I must rephrase that sentence, as I’m sure it is every winemakers aim to make every wine his best wine!! Maybe I should have said you should end with the wine that got even more attention, care and patience from the winemaker:-). The purpose of an ‘entry’ level wine is getting to know a vineyard or estate. This wine will also be the wine with which 90% of the people will have the first contact with you estate, so you would want it to be an ‘everybody’s’ friend. I think that the winemakers of the Ornellaia estate succeeded in this purpose with ‘Le Volte’! During the dinner it was indeed the second time I tasted it and although this time it was the 2013 vintage and the one I had before the 2008 vintage, it tasted as youthfully fresh and left the same fruit-forward mouth feel as I remembered it. This time with a bit more tones of red cherry, sweet spice and I even want to say chocolate.

Le volte

Le Volte’s freshness worked really nice with subtlety of the Veal involtino with fennel salami, ragú of chianina and a Fiorentina spinachsauce  we were served as a 1st course. As well as with the chickenliver crostini or short raised calzone with pecorino Toscano we were served as appetizers  (that were heavenly btw)… I’m a pizza fan, but not such a fan of pecorino cheese, but Franco showed me with this ‘simple’ dish that it’s all about how one prepares it…

Crostini with chickenlivers

Short raised calzone with pecorino Toscano

Veal involtino, fennel salami, ragú of chianina and a Fiorentina spinachsauce

What was about to follow was an absolute winner for me from the moment I saw it on the menu, Papardell di Grano Duro with fresh truffle sausage from Panzano (made by a top butcher aka Cecchini). God, I so love sausage (I wanted to say Italian sausage, but ALL men reading it would take it in a wrong way 😉 pervs (I know, it takes one to know one ;-)). Now it was time to start exploring new unknown wines (for me) of the Ornellaia estate and go 1 step higher with the 2012 ‘Le Serre Nuove’ that with his fuller body can work against the ‘fattiness’ of the sausage and harmonize with its walnut and red fruity (because of the Merlot) aftertaste (although I think if you age this wine a bit more you have an even more sparkling star)

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Papardell di Grano Duro with fresh truffle sausage from Panzano

What was about to follow was in some ways an unexpected surprise as they only make 2000, yes 2000 bottles of this wine!! Resulting in only having around 60 bottles available in Belgium. I’m talking about the Ornellaia Bianco. I know it seems strange to have a white wine after 2 reds, but its strong enough to handle it. In this wine you’ll find a blend of Sauvignon and Viognier… a strange combo, but it works! That’s all I can say… the only down side, as they only make 2000 bottles buying one isn’t an option (for both budget and availability reasons 🙂 ).

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I don’t want to suck up to Franco or so, but with the marinated chianina tartare with cantuccini breaded goose liver, Cetara anchovy and beetroot dish he showed me again that it’s all about the preparation. Just like pecorino (or Goat cheese), I’m not a too big fan of goose liver, the taste just doesn’t float my boat (Although I am a big pâté fan)… so I’m not sure what Franco did, maybe it was my favorite cookie crust around it that made it different, but I liked 🙂

Marinated chianina tartare with cantuccini breaded goose liver, Cetara anchovy and beetroot

The previous wine was without any doubt the headline of the night, but the wine I’m sure everybody came for was the one and only Ornellaia Superiore!! This wine needs something strong with it, so it got served with a Tagliata from grilled Chianina (red meat) with chianti salt, braised spinach with truffle pecorino, fried Porcini and chickpea crème. Both winners I’d say (wine and dish). The dish makes me happy because of its rich flavors (I love gravy and butter!!!) … and I can only say the same for the wine. I like my wines full bodied, strong and yet this wine is all about elegance with a long finish and interesting flavors of blueberries (some said tobacco, never tasted tobacco, so no idea how it tastes :-))

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Tagliata from grilled Chianina with chianti salt, braised spinach with truffle pecorino, fried Porcini and chickpea crème

My wife was sooo jealous when she saw what Franco had prepared for us as dessert, a Vahlrona chocolate Baba in a vanilla soup with a blueberry basil coulis (My wife is a chocoholic).With the dessert we were served Ornus from Ornellaia (which comes from Fraxinus Ornus”, the Latin name for the Manna-Tree or Flowering Ash (in Italian, Orniello). To my opinion it was a bit too sweet . I don’t like to be ‘negative’ but it wasn’t 100% my taste, a little bit more acidity would have made it perfect. So it is not that they had force me to drink it, as it was nice, but not as much as I had hoped 🙂 (but that’s my taste)

Vahlrona chocolate Baba in a vanilla soup with a blueberry basil coulis

Nevertheless, I had a wonderful evening full of wonderful experiences and I am glad I could be part of this unique event to try these unique wines!! (in unique company 🙂 )

In case you would want to purchase or  more information about the Ornellaia wines in Belgium I would advice you to contact Young Charly (for other countries check website  Ornellaia).