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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

01 February 2007

Organically focused on Alsace Riesling, Corsica & Tuscany

A little eclectic, I realise: these were my three main themes to stay organically focused at the Millésime Bio 2007 showcase, held in Narbonne (Languedoc) in January. Read my reports on Millésime Bio 2006 and 2005 for a slightly less eclectic selection of wines and comments on organic viticulture. Plus winners (honoured or should've been) and views from last year's Signature Bio competition.

Alsace Riesling

Why Riesling? Apart from being a personal favourite, this taxing variety can excel in parts of Alsace. But the key to success isn't as simple as turn and open; more like a multi-toothed double lock. I've tasted quite a few Alsace Rieslings in my time, and the cheaper ones sourced from high yielding vineyards aren't generally worth it. As you can see here, the best wines often come from excellent sites - not necessarily so-called Grands Crus, some of which are ignored by certain producers - and/or old vines (vieilles vignes).
There's also controversy over winemaking styles: some insist on totally dry Rieslings, or as near as, for full flavour expression - except those specialities deliberately made from late picked (vendange/s tardive/s) or botrytised (grains nobles) grapes - others prefer to leave some residual sugar for a 'softer' wine. I tend to get turned on by the extremes: very dry, zesty and mineral or super rich, oily and sweet, yet still fresh. Well, usually anyway...

Dominique Frey - Dambach la Ville
2005 Vieilles Vignes - zesty mineral v ripe citrus notes, showing a little sulphur dioxide perhaps but it's youthful and that should dissipate; quite concentrated 'celery' fruit with subtle tight acidity, a bit closed at the moment. 87

André Stentz - Wettolsheim
2005 Rosenberg - nicely ripe nose, almost late picked character (this is a warm site); concentrated and rounded with linseed oil notes v 'chalky' acidity on the finish. 89
2004 Vendange Tardive - more raisiny and richer with mineral petrol tones, spicy and musky too; attractive balanced length. 89

Eugene Meyer - Bergholtz
2002 Cuvée Sélectionnée - nice perfumed petrol-like aromas, quite full palate with crisp acidity, mineral extract and good length. 89-91
2003 Grand Cru Spiegel - ripe v zesty, a little sweetness countered by firm acidity, weighty finish too; needs time. 90-92

Jean-Pierre Frick - Pfaffenheim
2005 Bihl - a bit closed on the nose; ripe citrus palate v tight green fruit and zingy acid structure. 87-89
2002 Cuvée Précieuse - developed and oily, almost creamy; tight fresh backdrop v mature fruit on its good length. 89-91

Clément Klur - Katzenthal
2005 Katz - appealing ripe kiwi fruit with celeriac edges, well balanced fruit ripeness v mineral acidity. 89
2004 Klur - linseed/petrol notes with raisin edges, 'sweet' maturing fruit v mineral and fresh finish. 89
2004 Wineck Schlossberg - similar character to above but more intense and richer, concentrated and powerful v lively lime zing. 92-94

André Kleinknecht - Mittelbergheim
2005 - perfumed zesty and mineral, grapefruit and yeast-lees undertones; closed up but promising. 87+
2003 Grand Cru Kirchberg de barr - ripe lemons, expressive Riesling purity; quite rich and rounded then dry, crisp, mineral and spicy; just beginning to open up. 90+
More AK wines here.

Sylvie Spielmann - Bergheim
2002 Engelgarten - floral with oily development, quite elegant v concentrated ripe fruit; fairly mature yet still shows fresh mineral length. 87
2002 Grand Cru Kanzlerberg - much more intense Riesling character, lime and mineral tones; very long and fresh v maturing fruit depth, lovely. 94-96
2001 Grand Cru Kanzlerberg - more petrolly and mineral, very dry with intense crisp acid structure; wow. 94

Pierre-Paul Humbrecht - Pfaffenheim
2005 - zesty delicate 'chalky' floral tones, fuller mouth-feel v fresh acidity and tight length; needs 6 months, nice dry style. 89
2003 Abondance - attractive Riesling nose, linseed and lime; ripe with a touch of residual sugar, has nice freshness too and maturing fruit on the finish. 89

Julien Meyer - Nothalten
2005 Nature - a bit closed to start, opens out to 'celery' v citrus fruit, tight and zippy with long dry finish. 89-91
2005 Zellberg - tighter still then creamier and riper actually, very fresh acidity and mineralised fruit. Wow. 90-92
2005 Grittermatte - again closed nose then ripeness on the palate v intense acidity and zesty extract, quite powerful too with very dry finish. 92-94
2004 Grand Cru Muenchberg - more developed and petrolly, good concentration and roundness v steely bite and length, bit of oomph too. 92-94

Frédéric Geschickt - Ammerschwihr
2004 Vieilles Vignes - quite pungent celeriac tones v ripe concentrated fruit, nice zesty texture and length with lively acidity. 89
2004 Kaefferkopf - tighter mineral style with elegant zesty finish; less obvious needing 6 months to a year to express itself. 89-91
2004 Wineck Schlossberg - tighter still with its firm acid structure v gentle ripeness, elegant fresh finish yet developing oiliness too. 88-90
2002 Wineck Schlossberg - more developed and kerosene-like with floral white peach tones, maturing raisin fruit v tight acidity and mineral length. 92-94

Jean Becker - Riquewihr
2004 Lerchenberg - pretty intense Riesling character, fruity v tight mouth-feel with quite dry finish. 87-89
2004 Grand Cru Froehn - more closed up and 'limestone' than above, fresh and elegant finish. 89+
2002 Kronenbourg - very nice 'minerality' and maturing fruit, tight acidity on its quite long finish. 89-91

CORSICA
Okay, there were only two estates from Beauty Island at the MB show - maybe the only ones farmed organically? - so hardly representative. Domaine Comte Abbatucci is now run according to biodynamic principles: whatever the methods, it's recognised as one of the best producers, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Jean-Charles Abbatucci has been experimenting with 18 previously vanished Corsican varieties with some interesting results - see my notes on his 2006 white vat samples. And his red Faustine blend is delicious: he had three different vintages at the tasting.
On the other hand, Domaine de Granajolo perhaps exemplifies the disappointment I've felt before with Corsican wines - admittedly it's been a few years since I've been there though. Or their reds at least, which lack real ripeness and generosity. I'm not sure why: are the varieties planted in the wrong sites or the growing techniques unsuitable or do they just pick too early? Either way, when will Corsica as a whole fulfil what appears to be such great potential? While you're mulling over these cumbersome questions, enjoy the wines:

Comte Abbatucci - Casalabriva
2006 Vermentinu (tank sample) - nice concentration v aromatic fruit, zesty v ripe and rounded; unusual. 87-89
2006 rosé (tank sample: Barbarossa Sciacarellu) - floral redcurrant, very zesty with nice extract and fresh length. 87-89
2006 white blend 1 (I didn't write the grape names down and couldn't find them on their website) - banana and peach notes lead to a creamy concentrated palate and fresh length; interesting. 87+
2006 white blend 2 - zesty extract v rich fruit, quite yeasty at the moment yet should be good. 87+
2005 cuvée Faustine, Ajaccio AOC (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - smoky ripe Italianesque raisin and liquorice fruit, soft fruity mouth-feel v quite firm and fresh, nice power v elegance. 89-91
2004 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - less smoky, more structured yet similar in character, nice grip v ripeness. 90-92
2003 cuvée Faustine (Sciacarellu Niellucciu and a touch of old vine Carignan) - more developed and complex on the nose, quite rich 'tar' tones v firm and fresh, power v lovely fruit. 92
By the way, if you're feeling well-off, you can drink Abbatucci's wines in Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants.

Domaine de Granajolo - Ste Lucie de Porto-Vecchio
2005 blanc
, Corse Porto-Vecchio AOC - fresh perfumed and zesty with lemon and banana notes, tight steely finish. 87
2005 cuvée Monika rosé (Niellucciu) - nice creamy fruit showing toffee-like edges v tart raspberry flavours, weighty v appealing freshness. 87
2003 cuvée Monika rouge (Syrah Niellucciu) - herbal red pepper tones v rustic richness, tannins are a bit hard but this has more generous fruit than the two 04 reds I tried. 83-85

TUSCANY

There was a handful of organic Tuscan estates at the tasting that illustrated quite a diversity of 'modern' and traditional styles, as well as quality it has to be said. However, some were very good and typical of everything you'd want from an attractive, made-for-food red wine shaped by seductive Sangiovese and other local grapes. Having said that, I also liked one or two of the 'international' / Italian varietal blends: a little restraint on the new oak front is still required though...

Casina di Cornia - Castellina in Chianti
2000 Chianti Classico Riserva, Vignala Casina - maturing rustic fruit with liquorice and morello cherry notes, very firm and fresh mouth-feel backed up by quite soft fruit and powerful length. Very Tuscan. 88-90

Poggio Trevvalle - Campagnatico
2004 Morellino (= Sangiovese) di Scansano, Larcille - aromatic cherry and smoke notes, quite concentrated and rich v firm tannins and powerful finish, lingering light cedar oak and 'sweet & savoury' Sangiovese fruit. 87-89
2004 Montecucco rosso (Sangiovese Merlot Cabernet) - more closed up on the nose, chunky earthy and lush with tobacco and cedar undertones. 88

Azienda Agricola Casale - Colle di Val d'Elsa
2001 Chianti Colli Senesi - maturing resin, raisin and morello aromas; soft earthy fruit with liquorice backdrop v dry grip and elegant finish. 87-89
1999 Riserva - richer smokier fruit, pretty tannic palate yet with lovely liquorice v savoury fruit. 89-91

Fattoria Majnoni Guicciardini - Vico d'Elsa
2003 Chianti - light cedar notes lead to richer tobacco and sweet cherry palate, dry firm coating v ripeness and smokiness. 87
2004 - more rustic and peppery yet leaner, firmer mouth-feel; nice fruit, grip and power, tight closed length. 89
2004 Riserva - less obvious on the nose, concentrated and very firm with attractive chocolate oak coating but it's mostly fruit on the finish. Needs a few years. 92
Both Majnoni and Casale also make sensational olive oil.

Fattoria Lavacchio - Pontassieve
2004 Chianti Rufina, Cedro - elegant wild herb scented morello and liquorice notes, tight structure layered with subtle fruit, firm dry length. 88
2004 Chianti Rufina Riserva (Sangiovese etc plus 10% Merlot) - richer plummier aromas with a touch of choco oak, very firm and quite powerful yet showing nice smoky lush fruit underneath. 90-92
2003 Fontegalli (Sangiovese Cabernet) - full on more 'contemporary' style, cassis and light tobacco tones; powerful 14.5% alcohol combines with firm dry tannins, wow. A bit too much alcohol but otherwise good. 90

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