Overnight successes are rarely that. In the world of wine there are occasions when regions that have been producing for years seem suddenly to gain traction in the market. In the noughties the rise of off-dry Prosecco, crisp Albarino from Rias Baixas, black cherry scented Pinot Noir from Central Otago and the Languedoc’s oyster friendly Picpoul de Pinet (to name but a few), became vital additions to any wine-list with pretensions of modernity. In the 2010’s the re-discovery of white wines fermented on their skins, aka ‘orange’ wines, the proliferation of minimal intervention ‘natural’ wines with their restrained use of sulphur dioxide (SO2), and the global thirst for the seductive Pinots of Burgundy, demonstrates the ever shifting sands of public and journalistic opinion.
Like most fashion, much is a barely changed interpretation, or reboot, of a previous expression. As a teenager I had to endure my mother’s commentary on the similarity of certain contemporary styles with those she had worn in the sixties. Like any self-obsessed adolescent who believes that they know more than the generation that went before, I pulled a face and ignored my mother’s obvious truths. Now I am tempted on occasion to say the same thing to my sixteen year old, but resist where possible. Why would she believe or be interested in the ruminations of her Dad?
Having recently returned from Sicily (where I had been fortunate enough to be a guest of Sicilia En Primeur 2017, Sicily’s most significant wine fair), another wine region, Etna, is perhaps the most obvious ‘new’ darling of those in the know. In some ways Etna really is new. It is true that there were vineyards producing wine on this uncommonly active volcano’s slopes in the 19th century, yet as recently as twenty years ago there was but a handful of serious estates that were crafting wines worthy of discussion beyond Sicily’s cerulean border. Now there are more than 130 and with the ever-ebullient Angelo Gaja, deeming this the right time to join the Etna party, the focus on these volcanic slopes will only increase.
So what is it that makes Etna special and does it really have the necessary quality to join southern Italy’s other great vinous gift to the world, the Aglianico based wines of Taurasi in Campania? Two weeks ago I would have been non-committal, simply because I had tasted too little to have an opinion that was worthy of sharing. The wines I had tasted were mainly red, the product of the principal black grape of the region, Nerello Mascalese. From the very first time that I pulled the cork on my first bottle of Nerello (approximately four years ago), I recognised the potential. They are aromatic, firm and fresh and taste like they have the ability to age gracefully, the problem was that I had never tried an example older than that produced in 2009. That particular bottle also seemed a little tired, with the ample structure still in place but with a fruit profile that had begun the slow slide to obscurity. What I wanted was to see if Nerello Mascalese could be transformed, i.e. could it move with time from being invitingly nubile to something altogether more flavoursome and complete.
The two bottles that proved that this was indeed possible both originated from one of the great names of Etna: Benanti. Tasting their Rovitello and Serra della Contessa from the 2004 vintage demonstrated that high quality Nerello in the hands of the experienced can result in greatness. Both remained perfumed and pretty but beneath those remnants of youth was a glut of more savoury smells and flavours. I was reminded (and I’m sure that I am not the first) of a rather delicious marriage of the noble Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir from their respective homes of the Langhe and Burgundy.
So will the wines of Etna prove to be more than a modish nod to the esoteric? Undoubtedly. Make no mistake, the best reds (and the same can be said for the saline whites) are not just very good wines they are fine wines. They deserve both a place in your affections as well as your wine rack and will justifiably be considered a true modern classic before this decade is out.
Names to look out for include:
Barone di Villagrande
Tenuta di Fessina
I think I was in my early twenties before I could properly enjoy a joke at my mother’s expense without bristling, or even worse, threatening violence to the teller. On working in a pub on the outskirts of Hull as a callow eighteen year, the landlord (now my father-in-law), warned me not to talk politics or religion with the customers as what might start as good-natured, gentle verbal sparring could, with sufficient lubrication, result in an all out brawl. Outside of those already mentioned, the topics that really raise people’s ire are in my experience actually rather limited but on entering the wine trade back in 2002, it became quickly apparent that there was one other subject that you disparaged at your peril.
Pinot Noir enjoys an almost fabled status amongst those in the trade. Everyone has a story to tell about how some doddery old uncle or jedi-like wine mentor opened a cobweb-encrusted bottle of Burgundy to reveal a wine the like of which they had never tasted before. Whilst I refuse to brand any of these tales as outright lies, the consistency of this story from one person to another leads me to believe that this is the ultimate vinous version of the urban myth. Either that or I was dealt a bad hand in the uncle department.
Now before I’m outed for being nothing more than an unromantic curmudgeon, I need to tell you that wine has made me cry. There have been a number of occasions (I would estimate the frequency to be once every couple of years) where a wine’s effect on me has been so profound as to make my eyes hot and my throat tight with emotion. Such experiences, as with the gold prospector hoping for one last nugget-laden strike, are fundamental to why I’m wedded to this line of work. The allure of finding a wine where the perfume beguiles and the tannins catch on the palate just enough before slipping silkily away, cause my mouth to salivate and my body to judder in expectation. But, as of yet, Pinot has never elicited this response in me.
Winemakers talk about Pinot as being a pernickety little bugger. Both delicate and capricious it poses a challenge that, as in many industries still dominated by men, many want to conquer. The problem is that my experience of tasting Pinot suggests that this is a challenge that the vast majority are simply not capable of meeting. Pinot remains in most cases a wine of two dimensions, all fruit and alcohol (or if you prefer the Hull vernacular, all fur coat and no knickers). Now some of you will say that I am barking up the wrong tree, that what I’m referring to is the Pinot that comes from ground less sacred than that of Pinot’s home; Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. But they’re wrong, I’m not.
One of the most over-used words to describe fine red Burgundy is ‘ethereal’. One only has to flick through any online thesaurus to see that synonyms such as frail, fragile or waiflike are in many cases just as appropriate as would be the more pejorative ‘thin’ or even ‘scrawny’. If I’m paying more than a hundred quid for a bottle of wine it needs to be showing me much more than cat walk-like model dimensions.
So does this mean that my wine fridge (no cellar for me in my 4th floor apartment) is bereft of Pinot Noir? Of course not, I like Pinot, very much in fact, but do I love it?… It would seem not. In a world where social media has led to ever increasing levels of excited expression for the morbidly mundane, (see the following example: ‘I saw a cat today!!!! Who knew!?!? ☺’), perhaps I am simply mis-reading people’s affection for the variety, perhaps they only really like it very much too?
Whatever the reality I will continue to call out those who deify Pinot and who write in a language that in previous times was reserved for the veneration of Saints. And yet I can’t be in the wine trade and not have a variety that I love, a variety that really makes my heart sing, a variety that is capable of both magic and majesty in the same glass at the same time and that variety, as any person of real taste knows, is Syrah!! ☺.
The pomelo season has been over for a while in Taiwan. For those of you who have never eaten one you may be thinking “So what?” and even for those of you that have, many might feel bemused by my mild melancholia at the disappearance of this inelegant fruit’s presence from my fruit bowl. This parent of the grapefruit wants for some of its progeny’s elan. It lacks the eye-widening acidity that helps shift a slumbering palate to full wakefulness but a good pomelo is to a grapefruit what a fine Pessac white is to a Marlborough raised Sauvignon Blanc. Both have their place but I prefer the shimmer of the Bordeaux above the dazzle of the New Zealander.
The pomelo also represents a lesson in respecting those old adages that concern appearance being only skin deep. Some of my favourite pomelos come from Yunlin, a county on the west coast of the island. In the supermarket they sit hammocked in individual nets with a shiny gold sticker declaring their provenance, but these accoutrements fail to hide the truth; these are forlorn looking fruit, yellowed and baggy of skin with brown patches like liver spots decorating their pocked peel. For the western eye, raised on the uniformity of fresh produce, the sight of such wizened looking fruit is as anachronistic as Chianti sold in a straw covered fiasco.
Why has the pomelo not achieved the global presence afforded the grapefruit? I really don’t know but like many an Italian grape variety, perhaps pomelos are less adaptable, less willing to yield their subtle, citric bounty when dragged from their sub-tropical homelands and asked to perform similar feats of deliciousness in alien surroundings. Even if this is the case I suspect that the average western consumer lacks the patience to peel a pomelo. Of the three people that live in my house, I’m the only one willing to dedicate the fifteen minutes required to remove all the segments from their enveloping sacs of pith (although I’m not the only one willing to eat them).
So what has this got to do with wine? Well not a huge amount really apart from that my appreciation of the pomelo mirrors my appreciation of certain styles of the world’s best beverage. I’m not particularly interested in wines that try to bully me into liking them or reveal themselves completely once poured. I prefer a little more reticence and restraint in my grape juice and if I can devote a quarter of an hour to peeling a pomelo, I’m happy to wait a while whilst a wine gets its act together.
Recently I was at the launch of a new vintage of a prestigious Napa Valley red and experienced the same sense of vague disappointment that supposed ‘icon’ wines have engendered in me before. This particular wine reeked of money: vanilla and other exotic spices that spoke of the use of fine French oak, were joined by the richly ripe scent of morello cherries, blueberries, graphite and crushed rock, a heady combination that usually sends my serotonin soaring. So why didn’t I like it? Because behind that bold aromatic exterior and dense cloak of opulence lurked the exact opposite of the prosaic looking pomelo. A wine made with grapes so ripe that it was sagging under the weight of its own fecundity. The prodigious alcohol made this feel more like a curative. Something to be taken in a tumbler before bed rather than an accompaniment to an evening’s chatter with one’s beloved. Why we continue to place such value on these crude behemoths is confusing to me but perhaps the jackdaw in us all finds these ‘shiny’ wines almost impossible to ignore.
No, I want to drink wine that has so much more to offer than simply an over-confident swagger, I want to drink wine that holds my hand, that walks me down a vaguely familiar street whilst directing my gaze at new points of interest. I want to be engaged, but sensitively so.
So what are these wines that wear their charms more lightly? Where do they come from? The answer, truthfully, is everywhere. I am yet to visit a region, never mind a country that doesn’t produce at least a few wines that beguile rather than berate. The key I believe is freshness. Good wines, whatever their age exude it, whilst bad ones, whatever their price, exclude it (and at their peril). Wine, like a good pomelo, enlivens. A wine I tasted last week, Tardieu Laurent’s Hermitage, 2012, has this trait. On first sniff it announced itself gracefully yet with authority. Perfumed and yet also slightly savoury, this had me smiling immediately. In the mouth the initial sensation was one of texture rather than taste. On swallowing there was no burn of excessive alcohol or bitterness from over-extraction, just the further unfurling of flavour. This wine had no need to shout to inform me of its existence it just spoke to me, softly but with clarity. It was alive, it exuded freshness.
As winter approaches I am yet to find something fruity to replace the pomelo sized hole in my life and the current season’s ‘mountain’ apples whilst sounding rather fine, are, well, just apples. On the other hand there is always a new wine to try and tonight I’m being considerately escorted by some rather fine boned Bourgeuil from Jacky Blot; a wine so full of youthful vigour that I’m sure consumption will actually make me look younger.
…Perhaps I expected too much. I’ve just taken a look in the bathroom mirror and unfortunately nothing has changed I’m still more pomelo than Peter Pan.
那麼，是什麼酒能夠這樣輕易地展現出自身的魅力？它們又來自何方？答案是，隨處可見。說真的，我還不曾去過一個沒能產出一、兩款令人心醉好酒的產區，甚至國家。我相信，好酒關鍵就在於新鮮度。無論酒齡為何，只要是好酒，都能展現出新鮮度；而壞的酒──不管要價多麼昂貴，則總是缺乏新鮮度。在我看來，葡萄酒就跟一顆好吃的柚子一樣，具有振奮人心的效果。上週我品嚐的2012年Tardieu Laurent’s Hermitage，便展現了這樣的特質。才初聞，我便覺得這款酒兼具優雅與莊嚴的特性，既芳香又帶了點鹹鮮風味，才聞到我已經禁不住一臉微笑。品嚐時，我最先注意到的是質地，而非滋味。即便是吞下肚，我也不覺得口中有任何高酒精所帶來的燒灼感，或過度萃取的果味，只有更多風味的展現。這不是一款需要大聲宣告其存在價值的酒，而僅是輕柔且清晰地娓娓道來，自己充滿生機的存在。
Weightstone, Taiwan: The quest for quality
My desire this week to attend any tasting, never mind one dedicated to Taiwanese wine, was never going to be great. My family are home for the holidays and sunlight rather than fairy lights has been the principal illumination in our living-room as Taipei basks in an unseasonable bout of warm weather. Luckily life has taught me that making an effort, however modest, often results in reward and as I set off for the half hour cab-ride to the event, I considered that even if the wines were only average in quality, I would still dramatically increase my very limited understanding of the fledgling Taiwanese wine industry.
The reason why this particular tasting is being featured for our Christmas post is opportune in many ways. Obviously the tasting happened at a very convenient point in the calendar but it also has a back story that eschews the humbug of the cynic and revels instead in the most positive traits of the human condition: hope, determination and respect. A very appropriate message for the festive season.
Our guide for the tasting was Operations Manager Vivian Yang and what followed was no common rendition or professional patter of the seasoned ‘rep’, no this was effusive and heartfelt, punctuated at times by tears and laughter. Vivian’s father Ben, a successful agriculturist and agronomist was encouraged to pursue the goal of producing a wine in which Taiwan could be proud. This led to the creation in 2011 of Weightstone and the effort involved in the establishment of both vineyards and winery facilities by Ben, Vivian and the rest of the team has been remarkable. The great sadness is that Ben is no longer with us to witness the rise of the brand he conceived and this was the reason for the emotionally charged nature of Vivian’s presentation.
The three wines tasted included my first ever experience of Musann Blanc. This is a variety of whose parentage I am not completely clear; the distinctly aromatic nature and slight bitter phenolic twist suggests a close relationship with the Muscat family, with Torrontes being the variety with which it has the most in common. Weightstone use Musann Blanc in their dry white and as support for Golden Muscat in their Blanc de Blancs. Black Queen is a hybrid brought to Taiwan during the Japanese occupation and represents the principal variety in the Gris de Noirs traditional method sparkling. My previous encounters with wine produced from this grape have been disappointing with the whiff of rot (something to which this variety is prone and difficult to avoid in Taiwan’s sub-tropical climate) too often negating any positive comments I may have had to offer.
Overall the tasting was a success. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality demonstrated in all three wines, but with minute levels of production comes a fairly hefty price tag and from an international perspective these are wines that are over-priced. However these are wines that will be primarily bought and sold domestically and the rarity and justifiable pride in Taiwanese produce will mean that sourcing a bottle will likely prove a challenge. If one considers the intent and desire of the people behind Weightstone then this is an Estate that deserves to succeed and I look forward to seeing how Ben Yang’s dream continues to develop over the coming years.
Musann Blanc, Cuvee #14, 2015, 14%
Aromatic and Muscat-like with tropical fruit and floral notes lifted by a lime cordial lightness. Soft but balancing acidity provides freshness and the 14% alcohol is well hidden. Simple but enjoyable. 15.5/20
Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee Classique #14, 12%
Very slightly autolytic in character more earthy (Cava-esque) than the sweet brioche of Champagne and with pear and yellow flower aromatics. Brut style, citrusy with moderate but enlivening acidity that lends this wine a certain elegance. The mousse and therefore the persistence on the palate fades a little quickly but again this proved to be an enjoyable glass. 15.5+/20
Gris de Noirs Rose Brut, Cuvee Classique #14
Bruised apple character points to slight oxidation but beneath this is some juicy berry fruit. On the palate this is the best wine of the three with higher acidity, and much greater persistence and a leesy richness on the finish. Potentially very good, it just needs an aromatic profile of greater purity. 16/20
這一天品嚐的三款酒中，有一個品種是我從未品嚐過的白木杉（Musann Blanc）。我不太清楚這個品種的來源，但它清晰的香氣調性與口感中略帶苦味與酚類物質的風味，似乎暗示了它與蜜思嘉（Muscat）家族有著緊密的關連。若要找一個與其風格較相近的品種，大概就是多隆蒂斯（Torrontes）了吧！威石東以白木杉釀了一款單一品種的干型白酒，另外也搭配金香（Golden Muscat）釀成了一款白中白（Blanc de Blancs）氣泡酒。酒莊用的另一個品種──黑后（Black Queen）是日據時期引進臺灣的雜交黑葡萄，主要用來釀造威石東的傳統法氣泡酒Gris de Noirs。過去，我所品嚐的黑后酒款多半令人失望，還帶點腐壞味（這品種本來就容易腐壞，偏偏在臺灣這樣亞熱帶的氣候，更是難以避免），因此總難讓人注意到任何優點。
整體而言，這次的品飲會頗成功。會上品嚐的三款酒，品質都出乎意料之外地好，但威石東不但產量極少，酒款要價還頗昂貴，以國際水平而言，這樣的價格確實偏高。不過，想必這些酒主要會在國內市場流通，其稀有程度與身為臺灣產品的自豪之處，都代表了要收藏上一瓶，可能不太好找。考量其釀酒團隊的動機與渴望，這無疑是一家值得邁向成功的酒莊。我期待看到楊文彬的願景在未來幾年繼續發展。（編譯 / 艾蜜・emily）
Musann Blanc, Cuvee #14（酒精度14%）
香氣豐沛，調性宛如蜜思嘉一般，佐以熱帶水果香和花香，另有萊姆香甜酒的香氣提升了整體輕盈感。口感柔軟、新鮮，平衡以良好的酸度，喝不出來有14%酒精度。簡單而易飲。（15.5+分 / 20分）
Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee Classique #14（酒精度12%）
香氣有非常輕微的酵母味，相較於香檳（Champagne）的甜布里歐麵包味，這款酒有較多土壤香氣（近似Cava），並點綴以梨和黃色花香。這款不甜風格的氣泡酒展現了柑橘風味，與柔和但有活力的酸度，整體顯露了相當程度的高雅風格。雖然口中氣泡消逝嫌快，導致酒款持久度不夠，但它依舊是一款怡人的氣泡酒。（15.5+分 / 20分）
Gris de Noirs Rose Brut, Cuvee Classique #14
碰傷蘋果的香氣暗示了酒款有些氧化，但新鮮怡人的莓果香隨即取而代之。這款酒是三款中表現最佳者，酸度較高，持續性更佳，餘韻更帶有豐富的酵母味。這款酒也許會發展得相當不錯，只需要再多一點香氣的純淨度即可。（16分 / 20分）
The more Champagne one drinks the more one really recognises the range of styles available. Unfortunately Champagne suffers through its association with celebration. Whilst the producers themselves may be thankful of the price premium it is possible to enjoy as a result of this, it does mean that the majority of glasses downed act as a vehicle for emotion rather than being the cause of it. If only we would pay more attention. I say this having drunk more Champagne in the last two months than I have ever managed before in such a similar time frame. Such sacrifice has engendered in me a much greater appreciation of the Champenois and their offerings as well as a surprising shift in my bubble brightened preferences.
I remember the first time I had Krug Grand Cuvee and Bollinger’s RD, two wines whose depth and richness sparked in me the realisation of what Champagne was capable. This was back in early 2004 and although my financial limitations prevented me from drinking either of these wines with any frequency they became the benchmarks against which other Champagnes came to be judged. These two wines have many things in common, they are both wallet witheringly expensive, they both spend some time in oak, they both have a backbone of Pinot Noir rather than Chardonnay and they are both very ‘winey’ Champagnes (rather than the lighter, aperitif style) and therefore demand your attention and a certain coherence. Yet as time has passed I have found my tongue turning to Champagnes that are less obviously rich and powerful. If current consumption is to believed, I have been enjoying the work of Veuve Fourny et Fils, Bruno Paillard, Taittinger and the half way houses that operate between these two extremes of delicacy and density, namely Larmandier Bernier, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon.
As of last week I have been able to add another Champagne to this list having been introduced to Champagne Thienot. This relatively new house was started in 1985 by Champagne broker Alain Thienot and last week his son, Stanislas, was in Taipei hosting a tasting that revealed wines with the fresh and exuberant style that are currently en vogue in my household. What was crystal clear was the lack of any oxidative characteristics. These were whistle clean without being boring, polished but not prim and extremely enjoyable. Below are a few notes about my favourites.
Thienot Brut NV
45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 20% Meunier, 9g/RS, 4yrs on lees. 45% Reserve wine. Fruit from 65 different villages.
Elegant and gently yeasty nose with a touch of hazelnut, with crisp but ripe apple fruit and a persistent fine mousse that makes this a real palate enlivener. Chalky, sherbert-like mouth-feel drags its way across the palate leaving a minerally reminder of its presence once swallowed. The dosage is perfect balancing the brisk acidity whilst adding nothing that might get in the way of the style.
Thienot Brut Rose
45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Meunier. 10g/RS, 7% Red wine, 2-3 yrs on lees, 45% reserve wines.
Salmon pink, and with aromas of redcurrant, and some fresh cherry pie. Delicious but perhaps not quite as persistent or fine as the Brut NV?
Thienot Brut 2006
57% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, 8.5g/RS. 6 yrs on lees
Expressive nose, with the heady and alluring aroma of a bakery at work. Powerful, firm of structure and with Chardonnay’s mineral grip, lots of stewed/preserved fruits whilst still very elegant. Delicious.
Cuvee Stanislas 2005
Blanc de Blancs (100% Cote des Blancs), 9g/RS, 6 years on lees.
Showing some maturity with a touch of fennel, jasmine tea, very floral, stewed apple fruit, pear and grapefruit. Lovely tension without being testing or remotely hard work. Fine, persistent and worthy.
Cuvee Garance 2007
Blanc de Noirs , 100% Pinot Noir (100% Montagne de Reims), 10g/RS, 7 yrs on lees
More yellow fruit here plus a little wet wool and orange peel accompanied by some toastiness and has again a pink grapefruit finish that leaves a persistent impression.
Cuvee Alain Thienot 2002
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 9g/RS, 10yrs on lees
Lovely mature nose of savouriness with mushroom, dried fruit and dried flowers (almost pot pourri like) but with that touch of ripe grapefruit that haunts these wines. Persistent, rich and mouthcoating with weight but also elegance and finesse. Very fine.
我記得自己第一次喝到深度與豐裕度均佳的庫克陳年香檳（Krug Grand Cuvee）與伯蘭爵RD年份香檳（Bollinger RD）時，徹底發現了香檳驚人的實力；那已經是2004年的事了。即便我的荷包沒深到可以時常品嚐它們，這兩款酒依舊成為我日後品評香檳時的最高標準。事實上，這兩款香檳有許多相似之處：首先是它們的價格都貴到令人掉淚；再者是它們均於橡木桶中陳年，並都以黑皮諾（Pinot Noir）為組成架構，而非夏多內（Chardonnay）；最後，這兩款酒其實都非常近似於一般非香檳的葡萄酒，風格不走輕巧或開胃酒路線，但也因為如此，它們總是能抓住飲者的注意力。然而，隨著時間的推移，我發現自己愈來愈偏好較不濃郁或展現勁道的香檳。如果要以我現在的品飲做為喜好標準，Veuve Fourny et Fils、布魯諾・百漾（Bruno Paillard）、泰廷爵（Taittinger）等其實是我目前更偏愛的類型，還有介於細緻和濃郁兩個極端的中間類型香檳，如浪夢迪－貝荷尼香檳（Larmandier-Bernier）、保羅傑（Pol Roger）與香檳王（Dom Perignon）等酒廠。
上週，當我第一次品嚐到席諾香檳（Champagne Thienot）時，我發現自己又能為偏愛的香檳品牌多添了一家。這家歷史較短的酒廠，是由香檳酒商Alain Thienot於1985年成立。上週，莊主的兒子Stanislas來臺舉辦品酒會，並展示了一系列風味新鮮、豐富的香檳，正是我目前所愛的風格。這些酒款都沒有展現出任何氧化風格，嚐來雖乾淨，卻一點也不無趣，精雕細琢但不呆板，而且非常可口。以下簡介幾款我最愛的香檳。（編譯 / 艾蜜・emily）
其它資訊：葡萄100%來自白丘（Cote des Blancs）；殘糖量每公升9克；瓶中二次發酵6年
其它資訊：葡萄100%來自漢斯山脈（Montagne de Reims）；殘糖量每公升10克；瓶中二次發酵7年
Cuvee Alain Thienot年份香檳2002
I had thought that I wasn’t going to write anything about the MW award ceremony as it felt like it would be difficult to not make it all sound rather self congratulatory. However as I’ve subjected Sniff’s readers to some of the trials and tribulations experienced over the last couple of years of my passage through the MW program, it seemed somewhat disingenuous of me not to finish it off with a brief piece on the denouement itself.
As always, the memories of the event that will remain forever etched on my consciousness are the spirit of friendliness and welcome that were on constant display from the other MW’s (both new and old) in attendance, and the feeling of joy that pervaded the whole occasion both pre, during and post the ceremony itself. It is hard not to be impressed by many of my fellow MW’s so wide is their scope of experience and impact on the wine world in which I’ve chosen to seek (and sometimes eek) out a living. It was such a pleasure to celebrate in the company of Mick O’Connell MW, a man whose ebullience and bonhomie is a lesson and a pick-me-up to any of a more dour disposition and I feel honoured to have started and finished my studies with him. It was also a pleasure to see the humble incredulity of Mary Margaret McCamic MW as she was awarded the Bollinger Medal for being the best taster in the exams as well as picking up the gong for best overall student. I want to say something like ‘that young lady will go far’ but of course, she already has; chapeau Mary!
It was also heartening to see so many new MW’s of different nationalities, and I make no apologies for my obvious bias in being so pleased to see the Asian MW contingent further strengthened by the success of Sonal Holland MW (India) and Fongyee Walker MW (China); their countries are fortunate to have them. But any event that purports to be a celebration of its newest members rather than simply an opportunity to collect a certificate, needs to focus its energies accordingly. Having never attended one in the past I cannot vouch for how these gigs have historically functioned but what I can say is that our ceremony overseen by the Institute’s always effusive and eminently personable Executive Director, Penny Richards and the new Chair, Jane Masters MW, was a master-class in the delivery of revelry. From the moment we were paraded from the back of the high ceilinged, wood panelled, Livery Hall (literally rebuilt from the ashes of the Great Fire of London), past friends, family and fellow MWs, whilst they whooped and cheered as we made our way to the front two rows; to Penny Richards, her voice cracking as she introduced each of the new membership in turn; to the drinks party that followed that provided the opportunity for much hugging and further introductions; the evening was nothing less than joyful.
On a very personal note this was also the first time I had the chance to meet my Research Paper mentor, Alison Eisermann MW, someone who could not have been more helpful as I tried to finish my studies with a flourish rather than a whimper.
Lastly I just want to say how lucky I feel. There are many extremely talented and impressive people with whom I started my MW studies and many of them will experience that beautiful walk through the Livery Hall whilst their nearest and dearest holler their appreciation; I look forward to celebrating with you and promise that I’ll be the one shouting the loudest.
我原本不打算針對葡萄酒大師（Master of Wine，簡稱MW）的頒獎典禮寫任何文章，因為無論怎麼下筆，似乎都免不了顯得自我吹捧。然而，我想就某方面而言，過去數年來，Sniff的讀者已和我一同踏上了準備MW的旅程，因此現在若不以一篇短文為這段回憶劃下句點，反而顯得我不夠坦率。
在頒獎典禮中，我印象最深刻的，是那些來自新舊MW們所展現的親切與歡迎，以及我自己在典禮前、中、後所感受到的喜悅。我很難不欽佩這些葡萄酒大師們的專業經驗，以及他們對於葡萄酒世界的影響；這是個我試圖在其中生存，卻也時常倍感艱辛的世界。而能夠與熱情洋溢的Mick O’Connell MW一同慶祝，更是一大殊榮。他的好脾氣與樂觀態度，總能成功感染周圍的人，讓人一掃心中陰霾。能和他一同開始並完成多年來的學習，我深感榮幸。除此之外，見證Mary Margaret McCamic MW如何因為追根究底的精神，讓她在這次考試中獲頒成為Bollinger Medal獎項的最佳品飲人，更接續成為本年度MW畢業生中成績最優異者，著實令我想要說出「這年輕女孩未來想必有驚人的成就」之類的話。只不過，不用我說，她早已經是了。我要向Mary脫帽致敬！這次頒獎典禮上另一個鼓舞人心之處，莫過於來自多個國籍的新科MW，其中不乏印度籍的Sonal Holland MW與中國籍的趙鳳儀（Fongyee Walker MW）；這更令對於亞洲有深刻情感的我，感到開心不已。能有這兩位做為MW代表，無疑是印度與中國的榮幸。
當然，任何旨在慶祝新成員加入、而非純粹收集證照的頒獎活動，肯定要展現出一定的活力才行。不曾參加過MW頒獎典禮的我，無從得知過去這類活動是如何舉辦。但我可以確定的是，這場在葡萄酒大師機構熱情洋溢的執行董事Penny Richards與新上任董事長Jane Masters MW監督之下的頒獎典禮，儼然已成為一場狂歡享樂的大師講堂。今年的頒獎典禮於天花板挑高並設計有護木飾板的Livery Hall中舉行；這裡是17世紀知名的倫敦大火後重建而成。我們一行新科MW被安排由大廳尾端緩步向前行，途中經過兩側親朋好友與其它MW熱情的歡呼、叫喊與掌聲，宛如一場遊行一般，最後到達大廳前兩排座椅區，停在Penny Richards面前，聽她高聲宣布著每一位新加入的MW與背景。典禮結束後接踵而來的酒會，更是充滿了親吻、擁抱，與互相介紹，讓這一晚滿是歡欣。
其實，我是到了這一天才頭一回見到我的研究論文指導教授Alison Eisermann MW。在我完成MW證照的期間，她無疑是給了我最多幫助的一位，讓我最終能夠成功來到如今的一步，而非暗自啜泣。
最後，我只想說自己有多麼地幸運。和我一同開始準備MW的，還有許多才華洋溢且出眾的朋友們，其中有許多位也會在不久的將來，體驗到穿越Livery Hall時，接受親友歡呼慶祝的喜悅。我很期待與你們一同慶祝，也已經準備好要成為呼聲最大的那位。（編譯 / 艾蜜・emily）
On Wednesday morning, beneath grey skies lamenting President Elect Don T.’s ascension to power, I inched across London in the relative comfort of a black cab. With the MW award ceremony beckoning later in the day, my state of nervous excitement meant that I eschewed early eating deciding a better breakfast would be claret rather than cornflakes.
My destination was Vintner’s Hall and the IMW’s ‘Annual Claret Tasting’. The vintage to be tasted was the 2012 and on entering the long and airy Livery Hall, the sight of ninety-five of the best bottles, Bordeaux has to offer was the first part of my reward for journeying the six thousand miles from Taipei.
In a previous post in March 2015 (http://sniff.com.tw/?cat=83) I had mixed feelings about 2012 finding it inconsistent and typically a little too herbaceous for my sensibilities. This was an altogether more comprehensive tasting and was without the distracting presence (however pleasant) of the Chateau owners. I was really interested to see whether a further 18 months in bottle had helped ease any of the vegetal funk into a more perfumed, elegant iteration. ‘Possibly’ was the answer.
The first thing to say is that no famous commune tasted was without some issues but those areas more obviously associated with Merlot were definitely more consistent. Pomerol and Pessac Leognan provided the wines with the most charm and if anyone is offering I’ll gladly take delivery of six Haut Brion as this was my wine of the day. However one needn’t take out a bank loan to experience the particular elegance and eminence of this first growth as there is more than enough pleasure in less expensive offerings with the likes of Malartic Lagraviere providing perfumed precision without a whiff of green. In Pomerol, the best had this AOP’s hoped for richness as well as freshness, with La Fleur-Petrus and Trotanoy my personal picks.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there was also real excitement to be found in the colder soils of St.Estephe with Calon Segur and Montrose being both bright, lively and assured and the altogether more closed Cos d’ Estournel promising pleasure in the future if you can wait another decade for it to shed some of its scaffolding.
Communes where there was definitely more miss than hit included Margaux, St.Julien and Pauillac. Apart from the ever elegant and beguiling Chateau Margaux, the rest of this famous AOP is disappointing, with the best examples showing some prettiness on the nose but unfortunately too much stodge on the palate. Wandering further north and the story is similar with too much oak and extraction for the quality and relative delicacy of the fruit. These wines feel like they’ve been forced into clothes that are just never going to fit, like a boy in his dad’s suit.
Sometimes all the aspiration in the world cannot produce inspiration and a gentler touch would have allowed the herbaceousness present to appear less angular and less marked. One can only hope that on the day that saw a man with orange hair take control of the most powerful country in the world that Donald takes a similar view, dialling back on the protestations of self-aggrandisement and instead displays an as of yet unseen restraint and magnanimity in victory. Then, like the best of this uneven 2012 vintage, we may experience more pleasure than pain as we move forward into our uncertain future.
週三早晨，天空灰濛濛地哀悼著川普成為美國總統的事實；同時間的我，正坐在黑色計程車中，緩慢地於倫敦市區中前行。由於今天即將出席葡萄酒大師（Master of Wine）的授頒典禮，既緊張又興奮的我，決定跳過穀片早餐，改以波爾多紅酒（Claret）墊胃，心想後者大概適合作為這一天的早餐。
我要去參加的是葡萄酒大師協會（Institue of Master of Wine，即IMW）於Vintner’s Hall舉辦的「年度波爾多紅酒品飲會」（Annual Claret Tasting）；這一天要品嚐的是2012年。當我走進長型而挑高的Livery Hall時，95瓶波爾多最優秀的酒款映入眼簾；這是我從台北飛了9000多公里來到倫敦的第一個犒賞。
另外，有些出乎意料之外的是，這年份在聖愛斯臺夫（St. Estephe）較冷的地塊──如Calon Segur與Montrose，都端出了出明亮、鮮活、風格明確且領人興奮不已的酒款。相較之下，Cos d’ Estournel目前嚐來雖然較為閉鎖，十年後、待銳利的稜角軟化，同樣能為飲者帶來許多樂趣。
不同於聖愛斯臺夫，瑪歌（Margaux）、聖朱里安（St. Julien）與波亞克（Pauillac）等酒村則表現欠佳。除了向來優雅、誘人的瑪歌酒莊（Chateau Margaux），其它的AOP酒款都令人失望。最好的例子擁有漂亮的香氣，但口感過於厚重。一路往北，其它酒款們也都展現了類似的狀況，不是桶味太多，就是萃取過重、果味偏輕。這些酒款像是穿著父親西裝的小男孩一般，硬被套上了不合身的衣服。
有時候，再多的志向也釀不出鼓舞人心的美酒，唯有輕柔的釀酒手腕，才能降低青澀感，並帶出酒中圓滑的一面。我們只能期望，在橘髮川普成為全球最強勢國家領導人的這一天，他也能像一些釀酒人一樣，在面對勝選時，少一些個人膨脹，多一些過去我們不曾見到的內斂與謙容雅量。如同品質不定的2012年中最好的一些酒款，我們也許也能夠在不確定的未來中，少經歷點痛苦，多享受點樂趣。（編譯 / 艾蜜・emily）
Is there anything more to say about Coravin, the wine preservation system that allows you to access the bottle without pulling the cork, that hasn’t already been said? Perhaps. I have already made clear in a previous post that Coravin helped make my journey through the MW programme considerably cheaper than it might otherwise have been, enabling me to access on multiple occasions wines that I considered necessary to compare and contrast with others.
My generally high level of contentment with the system does not mean that it is perfect. Beyond the obvious inability to access screwcaps, or plastic corks my other casual observations have centered on Coravin’s efficacy with agglomerated or technical corks like Diam. As these are not made from one piece of cork their elasticity appears somewhat compromised (meaning the hole made by the needle is less quick to close) and I have suspected that some wines I have re-visited have been ‘flatter’, the fruit a little more oxidised than expected.
On the 23rd of September the extremely personable inventor and owner, Greg Lambrecht was in Taipei and as part of his visit hosted a comparative tasting of three wines, a 2013 Fume Blanc from Mondavi, a 2010 Beaune 1er Cru from Domaine Champy and a 2010 Brunello di Montalcino from Castelgiocondo. What made this tasting different was that those assembled were given three wines of each, with one or two in each flight of three (we were not told) being wines that had been accessed three months earlier on the 21st of June. We were asked to identify the wine(s) in each flight that had been ‘Coravined’ or if we couldn’t tell the difference between the three to say as such on the recording slips that we had been given.
Lambrecht said that this was the largest tasting of this type yet undertaken by Coravin, as there were more than one hundred participants. The results were conclusive in that there was no consensus on any wine being significantly different from the others tasted. For me, the only wine where I really noticed any difference was with the Mondavi, the fruit aromas were just not as pronounced in the previously accessed example. Lambrecht asked, “Is there any wine here that you wouldn’t be happy to share with your guests/customers?”
“No” was the resounding response. A sentiment with which I fully concur.
Just before leaving I asked Lambrecht about my suspected ‘issue’ with technical corks and he recommended allowing both these and old corks a few extra seconds to close (approximately 30) on removal of the needle, to allow for the reduced elasticity, before returning the bottles to their horizontal position in one’s cellar or wine fridge.
大家都知道，葡萄酒保存工具Coravin可以讓飲者在不取出瓶塞的情況下品嚐到瓶中酒。但關於Coravin，到底還有什麼是我們所不知道的呢？在過去的文章中，我已清楚地提到Coravin讓我能夠多次於不同時間點順利品飲同樣酒款，以比較和對照其它酒，進而大大地降低了我在準備葡萄酒大師（Master of Wine）考試時所需的費用。
9月23日這一天，魅力十足的Coravin發明家與專利擁有者Greg Lambrecht蒞臨台北，一同參與了進口商特別舉辦的一場「比較品飲會」。現場邀請來賓品嚐了Mondavi酒莊的2013年Fume Blanc白酒、Domaine Champy的2010年伯恩一級園紅酒（ Beaune 1er Cru），以及Castelgiocondo酒莊的2010年蒙塔其諾布魯內洛紅酒（Brunello di Montalcino）。這場品酒會的特出之處，在於與會來賓眼前的三款酒，都分別各有三杯，總計九杯；而三杯同款酒中，各有一至二杯酒，是倒自今年6月21日時已被Coravin取過的樣酒。身為來賓的我們，則要試圖辨認出眼前那一些酒，是三個月前被取過的，或直接誠實地勾選出自己無法辨別這些酒款的不同。
離開這場有趣的品飲會之前，我詢問了Lambrecht自己納悶已久的問題。他建議，若是以聚合類木塞與老木塞封瓶的酒款，待Coravin取出後，最好先讓酒瓶直立約末30秒不等的時間，讓彈性欠佳的木塞有時間緩慢癒合，再將酒評橫躺回酒櫃中。（編譯 / 艾蜜・emily）
Thirty nine and a half hours on from being told that I was an MW the frustrating but equally exciting thought pervading my mind is “What’s next?” Having heard about some of the more extravagant celebrations embarked upon by previous newly minted MW’s, I had half expected to find these first few days given over to drinking my own weight in Champagne, but this scenario never materialised. It’s certainly true that Messieurs Paillard and Perignon have popped in to say ‘hello’ and I enjoyed their effervescent personalities enormously, but ever the pragmatist (I’m a Virgo), I realised that such a pursuit would soon have kicked a major dent in my cash-flow whilst also requiring a Jeroboam of Pepto-Bismol to relieve my acid ravaged innards.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not bothered, I am, very, but it is a sense of relief rather than outright elation that predominates. As my wife rightly pointed out when I questioned why I wasn’t throwing shapes and punching the air every five seconds, firstly I’m nearly 45 (true), I’m a Virgo (this we have already established) and just imagine what a miserable bastard I would have been if I’d not got the result about which I’d dared to dream.
The truth is that there is only so much self-congratulatory backslapping one can engage in before not only is your back sore but people start actively crossing the road to get out of your way as you thrash away at the space between your shoulder-blades. Life moves on, work piles up and the laundry basket needs emptying.
When I started the MW four years ago, I was determined to pass and assumed that if I threw enough dogged stubbornness at it then that would suffice. Some looking at my achievement may decide that this was indeed enough, that bloody-mindedness won the day. But like one of the equations in my daughter’s maths textbook, the answer alone does not reveal the layers of working out that helped pave the way to success. Without the help of all the people in the wine industry from whom I’ve sought advice, without the incredible generosity and support of my fellow students, without the encouragement and ego re-building words of current MW’s and without a family that allowed me to plan every holiday around the proximity to wine regions I wanted to explore, then I’d have achieved nothing. So how do I feel? Lucky, very lucky, time for some Bollinger.
For past posts on my quest for the MW simply search for ‘MW’.