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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.

DSCN2525

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.

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades of Gaja with Anthony D’Anna

13 Mar

Gaja Barbaresco Dinner 2015 by Paul Kaan

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades! An intriguing tasting. More twists than a series of House of Cards! Anthony D’Anna’s passion for Italian Vino and desire to learn, by tasting, the best, has driven him to travel to Italy to collect an incredible array of the unique wines. Sharing a table, plate and several glasses of these incredible wines with friends has earned him the status of Legend Wine Dinner curator.

13 Vintages of Gaja Barbaresco over 5 decades by Paul Kaan

It is a rare experience to taste the same wine from a single producer across 5 decades, let alone the wines of the much sort after Gaja. The Gaja wines were not exceptional, lacking the personality and expression of wines like those of Bartolo Mascarello. What was exception, was to see how a vigneron, has evolved, how their relationship with, site, has deepened over time. How their winemaking has shifted, to see that they had continued to push and the direction changes they had made was truly fascinating.

Four distinct phases were revealed through out the night. The first starting with the oldest wine of the night the 1967, continuing with the 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977.

These were the rustic wines, wines that were often driven by searing acidity and refined natural grape tannin. The 1967, one of my top three wines of the night, was still bright with an excellent core of fruit, stunning secondary characters bricky, but, not brown. 1973 had searing acidity, but, unfortunately was past it’s prime and fell away quickly, brown in colour. The 1974 was beguiling, also in my top three wines of the night, without really jumping out of the glass and saying drink me, none of the wine really did. The 1975 was a victim of the FUCork Gods. 1977 was just outside my top 3. Again with searing acidity and edgy tannin.

Gaja Barbaresco 1967 1973 1974 1975 1977 by Paul Kaan

The second evolution, the oaky ones! A regression for me, included the 1987, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 1999. These wines were over oaked showing the hand of the winemaker, not, the potential of the site. Sappy, green, hard oak tannin dominating the mouthfeel to the point of detracting from the wine and masking the expression of fruit. This was the just past puberty, gangly, I’m not quite sure what to do with my limbs yet, or, how to extract the most puss from my zits phase. The 1996 was the second victim of the FUCork Gods. The oak a combination of French barriques and large Eastern European Botte. Some of these wines were, balanced, to a degree, by the stunning feed dished up by our host Maurico Sosta at Sosta Cucina.

Gaja Barbaresco Dinner 2015 by Paul Kaan

The third evolution 2004 & 2006. 2004 saw a shift to more restrained coffee / mocha oak.  2006 was an outlier, an overblown, OTT, oaf, clumsy, high alcohol wine with super ripe fruit, jammy almost porty fruit.

The lastest evolution, the 2011 finally saw the balance I was looking for! The hallmark searing acidity, backed by a core of fresh fruit and balance oak & grape tannin. Finally the oak was just a layer, enhancing the wine, not, dominating it!

2011 Gaja Barbaresco Nebiolo by Paul Kaan

Gaja’s wines are controversial, they don’t deliver great value for the dollars. I do love the fact that they continue to push to find the best expression of place & time! If they continue toward the style of the 2011, I’ll be heading back to take another look at future vintages of Gaja, but, not alone, by sharing the bottle with friends!

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“Stop the Wine-ocide” Kaani 2012 – My Deep Dark Secret + a Wine Tip

12 Jul

kaani 2012 Stop the Wine-ocide Feature Image Filthy Good Vino

I can keep my Deep, Dark Secret No Longer. I’ve Witnessed and Particpated in the Murder of TOO much Filthy Good Vino!

THE INSANITY HAS GOT TO STOP!

Yep, I regularly open more than one bottle of sensational wine at a time.  Let’s face it who’s happy with less than 3 glasses of different Filth AKA Wine in front of them.  End result left overs!  By the next day, when my mouth’s as dry as a Cocky’s Cage and I’m looking for something to pour on my Weaties, the vino that was an absolute PLEASURE FESTA the night before is just a shadow of its former self.  No longer the vibrant, beautiful, creature that had passed my lips only hours earlier, but, sad, tired, withered up and DEAD! Murdered by evil oxygen.

After a few too many bottles of Filthy Good Vino going to waste, I had a revelation. I was responsible for the MURDER of the ones I loved.  Some of you might say I’m a bit soft and just need to add a spoonful of concrete to the mix, keep on training … pass me that waiter’s friend please… harden up and finish the bottle(s) on the night.

In my defence I offer the following:

    1. Those of you that have shared a glass, plate and table with me will know, I’m half Chinese, scored the Asian vino-genes, and, with them a genetic inability to quickly process the bi-products of metabolising alcohol.  Just watch as I go bright red at the sound of a cork popping!
    2. Some times, on school nights, the Mrs and I just feel like a glass each and not a whole bottle.

I have a solution! It’s not some crazy wine preserving system with a vacuum or pressurised Argon to “remove” or “replace” the air in the bottle. Best thing is, it’s free and you’ve probably got all the kit you need floating around your home.  Check out the video above. After you’ve watched it, if you feel like donating to “Kaani 2012” to help me drink more Filthy Good Vino and stop the insanity, get in touch or drop around with a tube of Filth.

I’ve been meaning to share this for some time.  A recent post by La Donna Del Vino inspired me to take action. Check out La Donna Del Vino’s Blog Post “In the Face of a Deluge of Red Wine” for some other solutions to this horrific crime!

kaani 2012 Stop the Wine-ocide Feature Image Filthy Good Vino

Want wine that’s 32,978 times more fun, more yummy? Samuel L Jackson & John Travolta have the answer …

22 Jun

Samuel L Jackson & John Travolta showing the way on a Filthy Good Vino Challenge

Just like Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction you must complete a Filthy Good Vino challenge to get the answer.

Samuel L Jackson & John Travolta showing the way on a Filthy Good Vino Challenge

You’re Filthy Good Vino challenge, should you choose to accept it:

STEP 1:  Grab at least one 6 pack of vino, 3 x 6 packs of different wines if you really want to go hardcore. Make sure they’re half decent and mix it up with at least 1 white wine.

STEP 2:  Now, drink one bottle of each and chuck the rest in the cupboard. Not so challenging so far, actually kinda like being a kid in a candy store.

STEP 3: The kicker, you have to keep your thirsty little mits of the rest of them until further instructed. You can cheat by going straight to the end of the post or be true to the challenge and read on.  If you look carefully you might just find a Secret Filthy Good Vino Challenge Step hidden somewhere.

Here’s why.  I had a wine last night that had my heart racing from its Sweet, Sweet, Kiss, a 64 year old beauty that induced an adrenalin hit from its Pure, Concentrated, Unctuousness. This gear was (..past tense, it’s all gone) Filthy Good Vino without a doubt. Just writing about it is enough to bring the incredibly intensity of flavour back to the memory of my completely overwhelmed taste buds.

Co-incidentally, at the time, I was reading some statistics on wine consumption that made me giggle. In Australia the overwhelming majority of wine is consumed within 17 hours of purchase .. that’s right not even a day old. I had just drunk a wine that was a mere 32,978 times older.

All Saints 1948 Muscat Gordo Blanco 'Essence'

The wine a 1948 Muscat Gordo Blanco “Essence” from All Saints winery in Rutherglen, bottled in 1991 at 43 years of age! All Saints was in a bit of financial strife back then and barrels of some of the most precious liquid gold were sold off at auction and some, bottled straight. Typically this wine would have formed a minor percentage of a blend, providing complexity and intrigue to, an on average, much younger wine. To see it in it’s pure form is a rare gift usually reserved for winemakers or special visitors to the winery. Almost black in colour. If it was any more viscous, you’d needs a honey twirler to extract it from the bottle. A sweetness balanced by searing acid, concentrated by decades of slow evaporation as the wine rested in barrel. So many layers of yumminess, an astounding fragrance and flavour profile that simply couldn’t be pulled apart. It was just so together, integrated and seamless, like an old school plum pudding that’s been hanging in a cellar for a couple of years and gone to a whole new level of pleasure. Aside from once again highlighting how lucky we are to have Rutherglen in Australia.  It made me think of just a couple of the ways wine can give incredible pleasure.

The first was in “The Hunt”. The joy of foraging through a cellar, built up over decades, and the delight of stumbling across something I’d forgotten was lying in wait for me to devour.

Bourgonge Cellar c 1928

 “Bourgogne”. Collection A – Maison Paul Court – Dijon. Un des Caveaux à Bouteilles (c.1928)

The second, and the primary topic of this challenge, is in the pleasure of having enough bottles of one particular wine to allow you to drink it over time, watch it evolve, find the perfect time to drink it. The All Saints wine is perhaps not the best example, as once bottled a fortified wine of this concentration, that has already spent near half a century in barrel, will change very little in bottle (provided the cork holds up).

But, take any table wine, even your daily $10 drink, chuck it in the cupboard for just one year and it’ll evolve and change, usually for the better.  Winemakers have a massive challenge balancing finance and consumer preference, often forcing their hand into making wines more approachable to drink when they’re younger.  Contradicting this is the need to get wine to market potentially resulting in a wine being bottled one day and on the shelf for purchase the next. The issue being, that wine goes into it’s shell immediately after bottling. It is less expressive, the aromas and flavours less intense, the feeling of the wine in your mouth can be disjointed and angular.  To show its true potential again can often take 3, 6 even 12 months.

In an ideal world, as a wine ages, it will shift away from basic primary fruity character, become more complex, perhaps start to develop a bit of funk. The aromas and flavours will integrate and become seamless, making it harder to pick any of these individually. And, the texture of the wine will often soften. The very nature of wine, particularly Filthy Good Vino, will see it benefit from time in bottle if you want to drink it at its peak. I’m not saying they’re not yummy when they are first released, just that they can often be better with a little patience. Like anything if you start with S*#T you’ll still have S*#T a couple of years later.

Just like kids, you can watch wines grow, develop complexity and generosity, at one tasting. Years later refuse to come out to play, not giving you anything. And, when they eventually reach the point where they have finally got their S*#T together and are ready to meet the world for public consumption, you can have incredible, engaging experiences like the one I had last night. I’ve been lucky enough to watch this evolution occur for countless wines and share the pleasure of drinking fully mature wine with many peeps, over a shared plate of decent tucker.

OK .. 32,978 times more fun may be a bit of a stretch. Guaranteed you’ll get a whole lot more from your vino if you finish the Challenge.

Now, to the instructions for the rest of your Filthy Good Vino challenge.  If you didn’t get thirsty and break into the emergency supplies, you should have 5 bottles of at least one wine stashed somewhere safe.

STEP 4-9:  You must now wait until it is 500 times older than the average age of a bottle of wine consumed in Aus before you drink the second bottle then 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and, finally 5,000 times older. In Vino years that’s 1 year, 2, 4, 6 and 10 years old!  Now flick over to your calendar, add your next 5 drinking dates in, make sure you invite a few scaly mates around to share the glass, and add a note to get in touch with me, I’d love to now how you went on the challenge.

MR WOLF’s SECRET FILTHY GOOD VINO STEP 10: If you want to go for instant gratification and accelerate the process, see if you can get a couple of vintages of the same wine from a decent Independent Wine Merchant.  The further apart they are the better. Back vintages are often available at Winery Cellar Door, so keep your eye out on your next trip to the vineyards.  Sure there will be some natural variation from the differing vintages and changes in winemaking, but, you’ll get the drift of things.

DISCLAIMER:  There is a whole lot more to aging vino.  Variables like, variety, vineyard, winery, the sealing method of the bottle (Cork v Screwcap v Glass Stopper) can have a massive impact.  So muck around, hopefully you’ll have a heap of fun, tasting amazing different wines.  Dr Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering once stated that a pear is only perfectly ripe for 4 hours.  Fortunately we have a greater window to find the perfect age to drink a wine.

Special thanks to Michael Gow (He likes Filthy Good Vino too) of Raw Wine and Beer who put me onto this beauty many moons ago. You can follow him on Twitter @RawWineandBeer

As always for the latest on Filthy Good Vino or if you want to know more follow me on Twitter @PaulKaan or subscribe to this blog.

1970 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret … and a T-Bone!

7 May

1970 Penfolds Bin 128

1970 Penfolds Bin 128

I always feel a certain sense of history heading to the cellar to dust off a genuinely old bottle of Filthy Good Vino.

The entertainment starts, before you’ve even opened the bottle. Enter the 1970’s wine label. No flowery, food matching mumbo jumbo on this one!

You know a wine’s old when the label uses Imperial measurements, there’s no mention of the Alcohol % and it is described as a Claret.  I love the details of the District:  “Coonawarra, South Australia (The most southerly vineyards in Australia.”  Apparently Tasmania didn’t even have a legit wine industry when this baby was bottled.

This label certainly beats some of the dribble that’s was pushed out for the 2nd release of Penfolds Bin 620 in 2011.  Whoever wrote it was on the money! Classic old school description: “The dry finish and Tannins make this wine a real Claret of high quality, with the distinctive Coonawarra character prominent. Will improve with bottle age.” With 42 years under its belt they got that one right!

Penfolds have smashed out a lot of wine over the years. The wines of the 1960’s and 1970’s have been some of my favourites. I’ve got a real soft spot for the St Henri’s, aged in big old wood they show more elegance than their big brother, Grange.  I will be forever grateful to my old man, Cudos Eddie Son, for collecting an array of Penfolds Bin wines: 28, 128, 389, 620 (the original), St Henri’s and Grange.  More important than collecting them, he’s shared them! A 1972 St Henri won me the approval of the now officially sanctioned outlaws.

There’s been a massive evolution for Penfolds over the years. The wines of the 1960’s and 1970’s were perhaps more elegant, refined and balanced. There’s a level of sophistication to them that seemed to have been lost in some of their modern siblings.   I’ll leave my ramblings on the evolution and revolution(s) of Australian wine to another day.

Back to the subject at hand: the 1970 Bin 128 Claret made from Coonawarra Shiraz.  Some times when you open bottles this old they actually “sigh”. Bare with me for a moment before writing me off as a lunatic, there is a scientific explanation.  Over time liquid makes its way out through the cork and the gas in the bottle is placed under negative pressure. When the seal is finally broken you can actually hear the bottle suck in a breath of fresh air. One day I’ll capture it on film, stay tuned!

After four bites at the cherry I finally got the cork out of this little baby and with a quick decanting, the beast was unleashed. The 1970 is a classic gobsmacking, spicey, rich bottle of yumminess. There’s no doubt that it’s more of a masculine style and has the fruit weight to hold it. A slight bricky hue suggested a little oxidation, confirmed by a quick wiff, revealing an Amontillado Sherry twist. The passing of time has mellowed an explosive wine that still packs a punch. Incredibly complex: truffle, leather, earthiness and spicey fruit aromas meld together enticing you to wack your honker in the glass and smell it again and again. It starts slow on the tip of your tongue and explodes with ripe, bordering on jammy fruit that fills out in the middle palate. A line of acid refreshes your taste buds as it slides down your throat.  The flavours lingers long after being swallowed.  As a stand alone drink it finishes hard, dusty and slightly sappy, kinda screaming out like a Hawaiian Shirt at a Black Tie event. This is definitely a food wine, a 1kg T-Bone helps to silence the screams.

Yumminess = Yes.  Lamb Chop Wine = Nope, not far from it though.

Food = Perfect with a 1kg T-Bone!  Where to Buy = Check out the Auctions!