Squishing Time! Firing Up the Basket Press for the FGV Bathtub Cabernet

3 May

The Press Cake from the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project Makes a Great Birthday Cake by Paul Kaan

The first and only press for Vintage 2015 is done and dusted! The Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Cabernet was squished a few weeks ago, after 24 days on skins. The perfume and earthiness I was looking for have arrived. The texture has lengthened, developed beautifully and is looking good.

It’s been 10 years between Vintages. Winemaking again has brought delight and pleasure, not just for me, for everyone involved in the project. The garage has been lit up with smiles, laughter, shared magnums of Filth, just a whole lot of fun!

By the time this post is published the wine will be resting safely in barrel, to begin it’s long journey to the bottle.

The Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project will return in 2016!

We’ve had so much fun playing with grapes and friends that we could resist doing it all again. If you’re interested in joining us, hit me up via the Contact Page and I’ll get in touch when we start preparing for more action in the garage!

Check out the smiles, laughs and all the action from our day pressing! Read on to find out more about pressing.

Pressing is another chance to guide a wine.

How fast do you press?

How much pressure to you apply?

What machine do you use?

All of these factors can impact the extraction of particularly tannins from the skins and dramatically impact the texture of the final wine. Press too fast, too hard and you risk extracting bitter, hard tannins.

Taste is critical!

Wines separated into two basic components:

Free Run: The liquid you can drain out of the vat full of skins and seeds without doing any squashing.

Pressings: The liquid extracted by applying pressure to the grape skins using a press. Sometimes these are separated further into first and second pressings.

Throughout the pressing process we constantly taste the wine coming from the press. In the Yarra Valley the tannins tend to be pretty supple, particularly using a basket press. In general the pressings are mixed straight back into the free run. Ours went straight back in adding to the structure and texture of the wine & it’s overall yumminess!

In some regions tannins from pressings can be hard, sappy and bitter and need to be kept separate from the free run. Think McLaren Vale.

Vintage Lunch Went Back to Basics!

Fuel for the pressing of the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Cabernet. 
Fish, chips, a dimmi & bottle of Chardonnay. Good Friday lunch break.

Fish, Chips, a dimmi and a bottle of Yarra Yering Chardonnay for Vintage 2015 Pressing Day

Another Ghetto Winemaking solution! Cable ties & duct tape are a winemaker’s best friends!

When G heard us saying the Cake looked amazing she assumed we meant birthday cake, not, cake from pressing the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Projects Cabernet. So we put a candle in it & sang happy birthday …. 4 times!

The Press Cake from the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project Makes a Great Birthday Cake by Paul Kaan

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine … READ THIS!

24 Apr

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine ... READ THIS! by Paul Kaan

At 49 years old this baby, 1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret, was looking tired! So I decanted it onto 30ppm of Sulphur & left it 2 days. Result was impressive!

1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret

The samples I tried on the day, both sulphured & un-sulphured were dramatically different. The unsulphured sample was hard with an aldehyde finish. The sulphured sample fresher, but, closed. Aldehyde had been mopped up by the sulphur.

2 days later the sulphured sample has freshened and opened up beautifully. For around $20 you can get the equipment & sulphur needed to treat more tired old bottles than you’ll drink in a life time. If you have a lot of old wine in the cellar & want to know how to do, this hit me up via the Contact Page or leave your email address in a comment below.

What can you learn from tasting 14 x 1988 1989 1990 Baroli from the best producers?

21 Apr

1988 1989 1990 Barolo Dinner by Paul Kaan

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1988, 1989 & 1990 are referred to by many as the years that made Barolo, starting it’s astronomic rise to celebrity status amongst the greatest wines of the world. Once again Anthony D’Anna has scoured the cellars of Barolo to source 14 of the most celebrated Crus from these three vintages. Rare does not even begin to describe “drinkings” like these. You don’t taste these wines, you devour them, they are meant to be enjoyed with delicious food and good friends. When I first found out that I had a ticket to this event I had goosebumps and the very thought of the pleasure that awaited me!

1988 1989 1990 Barolo Dinner by Paul Kaan

Themes have started to come together over the last few “Il Vino da Tavola” dinners. Bottle condition, corks, old world vs new, oak, acid, restraint, oppulence, the hand of the maker, drinking windows.

What’s the difference between Great wine & Mind-Blowing wine, wines that scream DRINK ME?

Perhaps the most important question to answer from the night. I sought to assess these wines at the extreme level of excellence and differentiate between stunning and mind blowing. There were a couple of wines that I’d happily devour every night of the week and twice on Sunday, yet, amongst this company they were lost.

So what, was the difference between those wines that shone and those that whilst excellent didn’t make the cut on the night? I was looking for an edge more, that extra layer of complexity, harmony, seamlessness, wines that screamed DRINK ME! That rare ability to caress your tongue with a divine texture. The wine version of the renaissance man! I saw it in the Cicala, Mofortino, Voerzio’s and Grasso, hidden under some Brett in the Gigi Rosso. So very close to being there in the Vietti’s. I’ve seen it in the past in the wines of Bartolo Mascarello.  A core of incredible fruit wrapped in so many layers of yumminess and intrigue, that you can’t help but go back for more!

At a purist level, I just wanted the extra nuances that take it to the ultimate level. It felt like the wines that didn’t quite get there had seen some overt intervention, holding them back from being a true expression of site.

To address the elephant in the room … Where does the line between being too technical in your assessment of wine and just calling a spade a spade rest?

If it’s bretty enough to detract from the aroma and give the wine a hard finish it’s bretty. If the fruit has been dulled through oxidation, well, you guessed it, it’s oxidized! I’ll call the spade a spade. If a fault stops a site expressing it’s true personality then it hasn’t enhanced the wine, it’s detracted from it.

Tonight, there we wines that had faults that detracted from their expression. It’s a shame that wines of such great quality haven’t reach their potential. They weren’t terminal, but, they weren’t the best examples.

How old is too old?

The ultimate rule for wine applies here … call the wine, not the maker, not the region, not the vintage. The Gaja’s had years left in them, as did the Voerzio. The Vietti’s, Monfortino, Grasso, Gigi, Aldo Contertno’s good to go now. Fantana, Borgogno over the hill. As a generalisation, increasingly I’m getting the sense that 15-20 years is a good window with the caveat that you still need to play the wine, try a bottle after 5 years and give yourself a feel for when to try it next. This leads to the next question …

How much difference does provenance make?

Provenance is the cellaring history of the wine. Has it been stored under optimal conditions or not? The sense around the table was that a few of the wines hadn’t been stored well. The Monfortino and the Grasso were the two wines that stood out as perhaps not showing as well as they might have, potentially due to storage. The Monfortino, at close to $1,000 a bottle looked like it had seen some heat, now that hurts! Finding these wines, putting a collection like this together alone is a challenge guaranteeing provenance without source direct from the winery is near impossible.

Rusty tap water! Does colour really matter?

Simply stated … NO! As far as I’m concerned blind fold me. I just don’t care! Give me bags of aroma, flavour, texture and personality and I’m a happy fella! The Nerello Mascalese from Etna and the Barbaresco and Barolo from Piedmont are often pale, they can look insipid, at the same time they are some of the most intriguing wines with incredible personalities.

The Wines on the night.

GIACOMO CONTERNO – Monforte Monfortino 1988 Barolo Riserva

Incredibly rich, ripe, complex wine with layers of flavour and bags of aroma. A little VA lift, great savouriness. Soft and supple. This bottle wasn’t in the greatest condition, appeared a little heat affected. Will have to try another to confirm!

PODERI ALDO CONTERNO – Monforte Bussia Cicala 1988 Barolo

Loved the acid drive of Cicala, beautifully structured with fine tannin. A stunning perfume, incredibly elegant feminine Barolo, layered with savoury goodness.

1988 Giacomo Conterno Monfotino 1988 Aldo Conterno Cicala Barolo by Paul Kaan

ANGELO GAJA -Barbaresco- Sperss 1989 Barolo

The Sperss showed the balance of oak and oak tannin, fruit and acid that I was looking for in the younger of the 5 Decades of Gaja Barbaresco we drank a month ago, but, did not find until we reached 2011. Incredible perfume, core of fruit. The Gaja’s were some of the most youthful wines on the night. Great, clarity, freshness and a colour that suggest a little more than Nebbiolo was in the mix. I’d have loved just an extra bit of restraint in the oak handling to allow the site to shine a little more, rather than the hand of the maker. Now classified as a Langhe, not a Barolo, due to incorporation of around 3% of Barbera.

ROBERTO VOERZIO -La Morra- La Serra 1989 Barolo

Voerzio’s La Serra was one of the wines of the night. Complete, full and round, harmony, complexity balance. An expression of a special site.

1989 Angelo Gaja Sperss Barolo 1989 Roberto Voerzio La Serra Barolo by Paul Kaan

ANGELO GAJA -Barbaresco- Sperss 1990 Barolo

Just like the ’89, incredibly youthful. True to the Sperss style of the ’89 with that slightly overt oak. It was pulling short initially, openned to show a lovely perfume.

ETTORE FONTANA Castiglione F. Barolo 1990

Dried out and thin. Well past it’s prime. The colour of this wine was like a pale Rosé.

GIGI ROSSO -Castiglione F.- Sori Ulivo 1990 Barolo Ris. Baj

This could have been wine of the night bar the Brettanomyces! Incredible core of fruit, masked, by a little to much Brett. You could see what was underneath it. So much potential lost!

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ROBERTO VOERZIO -La Morra- La serra 1990 Barolo

As with the ’89, this was look fresh, opulent, refined and elegant. Oak structure was there, yet, not over the top. Like the Conterno’s it had a great acid drive and a beautifully even structure. There was incredible pleasure to be derived from this wine.

ELIO GRASSO -Monforte- Ginestra Casa Mate’ 1990 Barolo

Brooding, opened up beautifully. Would have loved an edge more acid, a personal thing really. Rich wine with incredible complexity. The 2004 was my Wine of Night at a Monforte dinner a year ago. Stunning wine. Would have loved to see it 5 years ago.

PODERI ALDO CONTERNO Monforte Bussia 1990 Barolo

An edge corked, looking flatter and less vibrant than expected. Would still drink it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Again and again Aldo Conterno comes up with the goods! His wines are refined, sophisticated creatures, with so many layers of yumminess.

1990 Aldo Conterno Barolo 1990 Elio Grasso Ginestra Casa Mate' 1990 Roberto Voerzio La Serra by Paul Kaan

PIO CESARE -Alba- Ornato 1990 Barolo

Massive oak, with huge mid-palate structure and fruit with a silvery line of bitterness that worked well with food. Drunk by itself I’d probably have rated this wine higher. In comparison with the better wines on the night it lacked the layers and complexity.

GIACOMO BORGOGNO E F. -Barolo- Barolo 1990

Wild wine! Out of control, oxidised and hard. True to the Borgogno style it was an animal, savoury and rough around the edges, blood like saltiness, almost vegemite.

1990 Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo 1990 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo by Paul Kaan

VIETTI -Castiglione F.- Lazzarito 1990 Barolo

Finishing with two Vietti’s was a conflicting moment for me. I visited the winery back in 2005 and have a soft spot for the people and their wines. The following comments need to be put in context. Both wines were sensational examples of Baroli. On this night I sought to assess wines at the extreme level of excellence and differentiate between stunning and mind blowing. If I’d happily rave about the Pio Cesare Ornato on it’s own, I’d by rolling around the floor drink these bad boys. Vietti have exceptional sites and great fruit. I was looking for an edge more, that extra layer of complexity I saw in the Cicala, Mofortino and Voerzio. I felt that these wines had seen some intervention, holding them back from being a true expression of site. The Lazzarito appeared rounder, slightly broader. I feel like a bit of a hard ass. This was a great wine, again at a purist level, I just wanted the extra nuances that take it to the ultimate level.

VIETTI -Castiglione F.- Rocche 1990 Barolo

The Rocche stepped it up, the structure, acid and refinement, gave it a level of finesse that appeals. The restraint it showed was impressive, with such a core of fruit. Again I’d happily drink both wines every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I’d like to see them both as wines direct from the cellar. Perhaps they would have showed better a few years ago. That said as with many of the great wines of the world, I feel that they would have only declined slightly after their peak and would continuing drinking well for some time. I need to look at more young Vietti to see the direction Luca is heading in … Technical vs Expression of Site vs Restraint!

1990 Vietti Rocche Barolo 1990 Vietti Lazzarito Barolo by Paul Kaan

Passopisciaro the Jurasic Park of Wine! Ancient Vines Revived to Create the Liquid Essence of Etna!

14 Apr

2012 Contrade from Passopisciaro, Photo by Paul Kaan

Passopisciaro is at once both a fossil and  a piece of modern art! Vines aged from 70-120 years old grow on the slopes of a volcano at altitudes that make noses bleed. Less than 20 years ago these wines were unknown, the Grandfathers of today’s revolutionists made simple wine from overcropped vineyards.

Guardiola under a blanket of snow. Photo courtesy of Passopisciaro

Today the next generations are pushing the boundaries making wines from 100% Nerello Mascalese. Often referred to as a hybrid of the great Nebbiolo’s from Barolo and Pinot Noir’s from Burgundy, Nerello Mascalese is capable of making wines with real personality! They’ve taken something incredibly ancient, gone back to the DNA and started again. In under a decade the evolution of these wines have accelerated through a millennia.

Vines have been nurtured back to balance, tended by hand on terraced vineyards that one in every  3 years find themselves under ash clouds hurled into the sky from the very mountain they are planted on, a volcano, Mt Etna!

In the winery they have played the mad scientist experimenting with an incredible array of variables to find the best way to express the personality of these extreme sites. In Letizia’s grandfathers day wines were given just 1 day on skins, she describes them as grape juice. Today they sort fruit by hand and seek to find the best way to guide wines and reveal the true expression of their vineyards. Whilst they have applied modern technologies, they have done so with restraint.

People ask “How long will they age?” “What will they look like in 20 years?” The answer is just an educated guess, no-one knows yet! That excites me, they’ve made such great strides, in such a short time. It’s like watching a start-up with the wisdom of elders to support it, jumping the hurdles and avoiding the mistakes of inexperience, yet still they have so much to learn!

Much of the vineyard, randomly planted on terraces, is goblet trained, just a trunk low to the ground with shoots trained up a single stake.

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Vines are tended by hand with a green harvest removing 50% of the fruit taking the number of bunches per vine from 12-15 down to 6-7. They’re massive bunches with big berries and thin skins. Towards the end of the video you can see a picker unloading fruit and will get a true perspective of the berry size.

Letizia Patane considers Etna to be an island within Sicily. A unique terroir that has three times the rainfall and sites at altitudes from 500-1,000m in elevation. That’s only the beginning, the single vineyards, Contrade (plural of Contrada), are a true expression of place, each having their very own personality. Passapisciaro has been bottling five Contrade over the last few years. Only 2,000 to 3,500 bottles of Contrade: Chiappemacine, Porcaria, Guardiola Rossa, Sciaranuova and Rampate are produced in any given year.

They are all planted on North facing cooler sites. Not exposed to the humidity from the sea of the South facing slopes.

The Vineyards of Passopisciaro Photo Courtesy of Passopisciaro

It was fascinating to taste a vertical of Passopisciaro from 2007-2012. Passopisciaro purposely highlights the vintage on the label to celebrate the variation and individuality each year brings to their wines. Perhaps highlighted by the extreme viticulture.

Vertical Tasting of Passopisciaro from 2007 to 2012 with Letizia by Paul Kaan

The 2007 is developing beautifully. It included the fruit of all of the Contrade, age seeing complexity layering into it, 2009 was a fuller riper year, again developing complexity, 2010 showed the elegance of a cool your, refined wine, with potential to age, I would love to see this specific wine in 10 years, 2011 was closed the first time I tasted it 8 months ago, it is now starting to open and be far more expressive, it is bold wine and just a little gangly, like a teenager working out how to use their limbs! The 2012 is rich round and ripe, a much more masculine style.

The 5 vintages of Passopisciaro are light, almost translucent in colour.  A beautiful perfume was ever present, more evident in the cooler years and balanced by savoury earthy yumminess. The mouthfeel would be demanding for inexperienced palates, with the right food on the plate a great accompaniment.

Tasting the 2012 Contrade A Masterclass for a lucky 12 at Boccaccio Cellars (importers of Passopisciaro) raised the bar and the level of intrigue! Letiza wears her heart on her sleeve, bringing a little bit of her home Etna to the table. The Contrade are tasted in order of altitude from lowest to highest. The explanation, the lower vineyards produce wines that are fuller, rounder and richer, the higher, more acid, refinement and elegance.

Notes on the 2012 Vintage: An incredibly dry year with no rain from May to October. Passopiscaro took the risk of waiting for rain to help the vines push through the last stages of ripening and pull back the fruit into better balance. Unlike most years they had around 10-12 days on skins compared with the more typical 15-18 days. The friable open nature of the Contrade probably saved them, with roots being able to penetrate deep into the ground, finding a temperature and moisture stable environment. The wines are aged in Botte, large oval shaped oak barrels holding 1,500-3,000L, no chestnut barrels here!

Tasting the 2012 Contradas from Passopisciara with Letizia Patane by Paul Kaan

2012 Passopisciaro – 45% from the Guardiola vineyard the balance from their other non-Contrade holdings. Rich round and ripe, a much more masculine and forward style.

2012 Chiappemacine – 550m The only Contrade with mixed soils, limestone and volcanic soils. The rocks of the limestone have been used over hundreds of years to make the stones that grind olives to yield delicious olive oil. The name itself translates to “Big Stone Grinder”. The 2012 has a perfumed lift supported by the 15.5% alcohol, which really doesn’t show as you might think on the palate. 3,500 bottles of this rich wine are produced each year. The Contrada didn’t have the core of fruit present in the others.

2012 Porcaria – 650m Super ripe, rich, the simplest of the group, yet not a simple wine. Comparatively a bit clumsy. Picked on the 20th of October a full 20 days before the highest altitude Contrade, Rampate. It was perhaps my least favoured wine, just a matter of personal preference. Many around the table rated it as their wine of the day. I’d happily drink it any day of the week, but, preferred the refinement of the higher altitude Contrade.

2012 Guardiola Rosso – 800m a selection of the best vines, 120 year old, from the 5 Ha site surrounding the winery. The first of the wines that truly sparked intrigue. Inviting, demanding of attention, I kept going back to smell this wine again and again finding something new each time. A savoury wine, initially looking reduced, it openned up to reveal layer after layer of integrated flavours with finer tannins than the previous wines.

2012 Sciaranuova – 850m just five minutes walk from the Guardiola vineyards, the name explains much of the difference, translating to “New Lavaflow”, the soils are younger the rocks are bigger, not having had the time to break down. This 80 year old vineyard produced wine of much greater perceived acidity and had purity and elegance about it.

2012 Rampante – 1,000m Each year this is the last of the vineyards to be picked. It has a level of sophistication and elegance that appeal to my taste, with a core of fruit to support it. Much of this is a result of higher acid levels. It steps up the yumminess a notch.

So, what did I buy? 3 x Rampante, 3 x Guardiola and 2 x Sciaranuova. If I had more money I’d have bought a full cross section of the wines to see how these wines evolved with time. All in all, REAL WINES! Wines with personality, wines to try, sooner rather than later, before the prices skyrocket! Anthony sells his allocation in a couple of weeks each year, so give him a bell at Boccaccio Cellars if you want to get your hands on some.

Test Driving the Durand Corkscrew for Dodgy Corks in Old Bottles

6 Apr

The Durand Corkscrew Test Drive by Paul Kaan

Opening old bottles of wine with dodgy corks can be a challenge even for the most experienced wine hound. Good hardware can make a big difference. The Durand combines the Ah-So, prong opener, with the screw of a waiter’s friend. Check out the video review below. It’s not cheap, if you have a lot of old wine under cork it’ll make your life a bit easier.

Alternatively you can go the Power Drill or Coat Hanger (end of post) method of opening your bottles.

*I have no affiliation with Durand and paid in full for the corkscrew.

Waiter’s friend (top), Ah-So (middle) & Durand (bottom) with 1979 Laira Cabernet Malbec.

Three Corkscrews Waiters Friend Ah-So  Durand by Paul Kaan of Filthy Good Vino