Wine tasting on Friday: Chile and Taurasi, emerging classics

Two wine tastings yesterday: A Wines of Chile tasting titled “Emerging Classics, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir” during the day, and some samples of southern Italian wines, in the evening. It’s a tough life, eh?

Let me dust off my violin for you for a minute, though: to get to the Chilean tasting, I had to travel from Ealing to Borough through the worst of the Friday afternoon traffic. I admit it was on the bike, which is more fun than any car or tube, and I did have another appointment in the City, so two birds were killed with the one stone (what sort of an expression is that, anyway?), but it was a lot of driving. Because of the driving, and also  to maintain my professional integrity, I do have to spit them all out, so it isn’t as much fun as it sounds. So shed a little tear for your stressed wine taster…

Wine Regions of Chile

Wine Regions of Chile

The Chilean Wine Tasting was a little rushed, so I only tasted Pinot Noirs. On the whole I would say that the Chileans have, by and large, started to master the making of this difficult grape. I didn’t taste any of the boiled, soupy, sweet concoctions that used to be Chile’s offering. Instead, we had mainly clean, bright, fresh strawberry fruited wines, which is what Pinot Noir is all about. Highlights were a lovely Tabali Talinay 2009 from Limari, in the North, a terrific Kingston Family Vineyards Alazan 2010, reassuringly expensive (now there’s a good salesman’s pitch!), from Casablanca, an a fresh and clean Anakena Single Vineyard 2010, from Leyda. Bio Bio, in the south, is supposed to be cooler (although many would disagree, saying that the climatic divide in Chile is East-West, depending in how high up in the Andes you are), which should make it more suited to Pinot Noir, but the two on offer yesterday didn’t make it into this article (which isn’t a good thing)!

Italy's Wine Regions

Italy’s Wine Regions

In the evening, an Irpinia Aglianico 2006, and two vintages (2006 and 2003) of Taurasi, all from a grower called Guastaferro. Never heard of these wines? No surprise, they’re regional Italians; so many names, so little time… no-one can keep up. These come from Campania, home of Naples and pizza, and are made from the Aglianico grape, a typical dark fruited, rich, acidic, and tannic southern Italian grape. Lovely wines, though, well-managed tannins, mature, and full of Mediterranean warmth.

Not a bad day; I got to moan about the stresses of wine tasting, too. We drank the Irpinia (well, it was open, it had to be finished…) with dinner of home-made pizza, to keep it regional, and it was a match made in heaven.

Visit to Sedlescombe Vineyard

Sedlescombe

Sedlescombe Vineyard on a beautiful November 13th

Yesterday’s visit to Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard must have been well viewed by whoever is in charge of the weather, as we had a day of uninterrupted glorious November sun; a little chilly, sure, but as clement as we could have hoped for. I know that Oscar Wilde has said that “Conversation about the weather is the last resort of the unimaginative”, but it is important if you compare the appeal of a rain-soaked tramp through a sodden English vineyard (which had been my experience up till then) to the pleasant autumn glow of “the awesome countryside of the Sussex High Weald”, (to quote Bill Green of Slow Food, my fellow organizer) that we got yesterday.

Sedlescombe

The lovely Susan with her vines

Our hosts Irma and Susan were welcoming as anything, and the tour and tasting were well appreciated. We even managed to fill the coach exactly (not an easy task, with people joining and cancelling right up to the evening before), which made it as cost-effective as possible, and went back with the coach clinking occasionally from the purchases of various member of the group.

Not everything was perfect, though. Our coach driver had had his mobile stolen the evening before (by someone in a party of rugby players he was chauffeuring, of all people; shame on you)! Still, we got there using alternate navigation (my phone), with the customary detour down a wrong turning, which, I feel, adds spice to all successful vineyard visits!

Lunch

Animated discussion, a feature of every good lunch

The tour around this tiny artisanal organic, and in part, biodynamic vineyard was charming, and instructive, but it was the tasting which surprised. I know several of the wines well, and have, on past tastings, found them bright and alive, full of vibrant, lively fruit, balanced by moreish ripe English acidity. Yesterday the wines tasted OK, even good. Nothing wrong, sure, they all had a harmonious, and pleasant expression, but I found them a little flat, and muted. Even the Sedlescombe First Release, their inaugural biodynamic wine, seemed to lack the clarity of citrus fruit compote I found on previous Wine Tastings. This was the wine that introduced me to the estate. The first time I showed it at a biodynamic wine seminar I was presenting last year, it blew everyone away with is exuberant quality; yesterday it was appreciated.

Perhaps here is the answer: I am no die-hard zealot of biodynamic viticulture above all others, nor, infectious though it is, do I share Doug Wregg’s or Isabelle Legeron’s unequivocal enthusiasm for ‘Natural wines’, but I am certainly very appreciative of natural ways of making wine like biodynamic, and organic, and I do have a little booklet called “When wine tastes best. A biodynamic calendar for wine drinkers” in my office. Consulting this today, I find that yesterday was a root day, all day. Root and leaf are the days in the biodynamic calendar on which wines are supposed to taste flatter, while flower and fruit days invigorate aromas and flavours.

So there it is: The biodynamic calendar really is the new wine drinker’s bible! As a scientist

Bottles

So many bottles, so little time!

by education, I will say, though, that I am impressed with this empirical endorsement of the calendar. Ideally I would have arranged the visit on a fruit or flower day; practicalities like Slow Food’s calendar also have to be taken into account, though, and yesterday was the day decided on. At least the 13th didn’t fall on a Friday; who knows, that might have caused other problems.

I still consider Sedlescombe Vineyard’s wines to be some of the best around, and we had a fantastic trip and superbly hosted  tour of an unique English vineyard. We learned about organic and biodynamic viticulture, and more than we were expecting about biodynamic wine tasting. The calendar tells me Advent Sunday, the 27th November is an especially good fruit day. Let’s go to Sedlescombe again then and see the difference!

A recent comment from a series of tastings

I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for what has been a fantastic series of evenings. The feedback has been great from everyone here they’ve all learn’t something and had a lot of fun doing so and that is mainly down to you. You are definitely Razorfish’s cup of Tea (or appropriately glass of wine 😉 I would be massively suprised if their wasn’t huge interest in continuing the sessions next year and will certainly be in touch to discuss options for 2012.
Rob, Razorfish