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A Brief Meeting with Luisa Rocca

In between grazing my way through a well-judged collection of plates at ‘Beata te’, one of Taipei’s most believable Italian restaurants, I listened to and chatted with Luisa Rocca, daughter of Bruno, owner of the small, eponymously named estate in Barbaresco. Rocca’s wines are easy to like. Their Chardonnay has an edge that both cuts through and remains keen in the presence of food. Their Dolcetto, unlike the too often rustically bruising examples from other producers provides pleasing refreshment and their Barbera, high on acid yet silkily structured, rendered foie gras stuffed meatballs elegant and light, tempering their richness but not their impact.

The wines that I was most keen to try were of course those based on Nebbiolo, grape supreme here in the hills south of Alba, and they did not disappoint. The best, the single vineyard Rabajà, was all powder and perfume, scenting both the air and mouth with a graceful intensity expected from this region but particularly apparent in the wines that emanate from the vineyards and cellar of Bruno Rocca.

The evening ended with a traditional Piemontese dessert called ‘Bonnet al cioccolato, amaretti e oro’. This unfathomably fine pud (the best I have had since we arrived in this East Asian idyll) did what chocolate so often fails to do which was to be intense without being psychotically so, leaving me deeply satisfied.

Luisa was in Taipei for just one night. Recently arrived from Seoul (and only one stop removed from Sao Paulo) next on her itinerary was Singapore. The constant toing and froing has left Luisa’s ebullience undimmed a result she explained of promoting something that she loves. I can’t help think that the work of her brother and father in the vineyards and cellar must be an easier task than that faced by Luisa but she disagreed. Luisa took a quick selfie of the two of us framed by long tables decorated with fine wine, food and lots of happy guests. ‘I think my job’s pretty good’ she smiled. I think perhaps she’s right.

 

 

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In Praise of Gary Vee

This week’s 1001st episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV (http://tv.winelibrary.com/2016/02/21/episode-1001/) reminded me of just how sorely he is missed. Whilst I’m sure that there will be some amongst you who did not mourn the end of Vaynerchuk’s five year ride on YouTube with all his exaggerated mannerisms and New Jersey brogue, no one before or since has succeeded in making wine on screen work so well. Prior to Gary’s arrival, the nearest we had to someone who wore their wine-heart on their sleeve with such alacrity, was Oz Clarke and although Oz has written some great books, I’ve always found his screen presence less natural than his prose. The same could be said for Ms Robinson, a true legend of the wine world whose publications adorn every serious wine enthusiast’s shelves (including mine) and for good reason, but even Jancis lacks the engagement factor of the born visual communicator.

What Vaynerchuk had and still has, is the confidence to speak his mind without allowing any braggadocio to infect his often thoughtful and humorous musings. If any of you doubt just how good Vaynerchuk became look at the very first episode from the 21st February 2006. On display was his now trademark easy charm but he spoke a lot whilst saying very little, for example talking about the ‘colour’ and ‘structure’ of the wine without really explaining why any of that might be important. Moving forward, after a few months honing his shtick, his manner remained as easy, with a little extra ebullience, but his language became much more illuminating, much more direct, much more precise.

Perhaps some people just have it. Of those successful in food, I don’t particularly want to watch Jamie Oliver but I can see that he has ‘it’. So does the exemplary Anthony Bourdain, a man whose laconic delivery only adds to his erudite and excellent on screen persona. So have we got anyone on the European side of the Pond that could engage a new generation of wine drinkers like Gary Vee? Well whilst I dream of having the televisual brilliance of Alan Whicker (the greatest of the great for me), I have a disturbing feeling that I would be more like Alan Partridge. One never knows how someone would appear on screen until you actually see them but I would watch London based Irishman, Mick O’Connell (@wine_philosophy), a wine expert and enthusiast who exudes passion and personality in equal measure. O’Connell has the required lack of pomposity that could make him appealing to more than just me and the wine-nerd fraternity. Yet until someone stakes a realistic claim to Gary Vee’s crown, we still have nine hundred and ninety nine Vaynerchuk vignettes to remind us that wine can be as entertaining as any other subject, given the right personality to present its ethereal charms to the world.

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A Postcard from Bristol

One of the first pieces we ever posted on Sniff last September was on the pleasure of drinking delicious Bulgarian wine, particularly those made from Melnik in the Struma Valley. Whilst back in Bristol we spent an enjoyable evening at Bell’s Diner, a restaurant that has been consistently at the forefront of Bristol’s culinary arts even after the departure of the former proprietor and talented chef Chris Wickes. Now the food is less experimental but equally satisfying and if the wine list has shrunk somewhat, the quirkiness quotient more than compensates.

To accompany the powerful and earthy flavours of smoked paprika and harissa that added vim to our skewers of monkfish and chicken required a wine of some confidence. As more dishes arrived; grilled sardines, silky aubergine salad, aged parmesan, pickles etc, it was clear that a simple Sauvignon would not suffice and I searched the wine-list for something with weight. Rkatsitelli is not a variety that features heavily on the wine-list of the average English restaurant but perhaps it should. This Georgian native is the mostly widely planted white variety in Bulgaria and although its ubiquity is due primarily to its productive and hardy nature (like Riesling for example) this does not preclude it from making some interestingly individual wines. I settled on Borovitza’s Cuvee Bella Rada, an oaked and ‘natural’ example from old vines and with no added sulphites. Whilst a little muted on the nose, the wine sported a vinosity, a layer of palate enveloping fatness, that was surely a result of the extended oak ageing and the oxidative nature of this method of maturation. Such honeyed heft proved remarkably adaptable to the raft of dishes we had chosen and we left, satisfied that this was a fitting finale to our time in Europe. Taiwan with all its beef-noodle loveliness was calling us home.

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The Art of Senn

I don’t often put finger to keyboard after visiting a good restaurant, however pleasurable my experience, but there are reasons other than its inherent excellence for wanting to write about Senn. Senn sells Sake, it doesn’t sell wine and after recovering from my fermented rice induced torpor, it got me thinking about the challenges the wine industry faces here in east Asia.

Taiwan and Taipei in particular is known for its welter of high quality Japanese eateries. Why? Well for those of you who don’t know Taiwan’s location exactly, this small almond shaped island sits at the southern end of a range of now primarily submerged mountains, straddling the tropic of Cancer some three hours south west of Tokyo. This proximity meant that it was not the most unexpected colonial manoeuvring that saw Japan claim Taiwan as its own back in 1895, a reign that ended with Japan’s defeat in the second world war. A lot can happen in fifty years and an appreciation of Japanese food remains steadfastly ingrained within the national psyche.

I will not demonstrate my ignorance of the many forms of Japanese cooking by pretending to know exactly the style of food served at Senn, but I loved it. Limpid sashimi, grilled fish, braised meat served still spitting at the table, sea urchin salad (when have testicles ever tasted so good?) and of course Sake. I know that my friend Kenichi Ohashi, Sake Master and soon to be Master of Wine will grimace at my further limited knowledge of Japanese culture but I know as much about Sake as most people do about wine. Any selection is based on price and the prettiness of the label, and then fingers crossed it’s all right.

It is only when faced with such a stark reminder of one’s own ignorance that you can develop sufficient empathy to understand the task wine faces to become an accepted and normal part of East Asian daily life. Education is key and I hope that the high throughput of enthusiastic students at wine schools around the island coupled with the raft of excellent and passionate importers, will eventually see Taiwan take the prize as being the most knowledgeable wine market in East Asia.

In the meantime go sit at Senn’s bar and eat.

Senn Japanese Gastropub
https://www.facebook.com/sennsakedining/info?tab=overview#

 

 

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Some Books Worth Having

Books are good. I’m sure that you might be able to buy some of these for your Kindle but the best of them are not finished after the first read and warrant re-visiting, so make some space on your shelf.

Like any specialist subject there are those tomes that I consider luxuries, books that will remain almost pristine in appearance as they are either very specialist or very intimidating (Ron Jackson’s work always leaves me feeling slightly inadequate).

Guides to various countries that appear every year can be useful, acting as pointers to wines that might be worth having a look at. However asking for recommendations from those in the trade whose efforts you appreciate (winemakers, independent retailers etc), is much more likely to result in something memorable passing your lips.

The writers I admire are able to do a number of things very well. Nicholas Belfrage MW conveys both his expertise and genuine love of Italy perfectly in his seminal works: ‘Barolo to Valpolicella’ and ‘Brunello to Zibibbo’. Jasper Morris MW (in ‘Inside Burgundy’) manages to effectively delineate between villages and the vineyards of Burgundy without resorting to the same old hackneyed phraseology spewed out by the majority. All Benjamin Lewin’s (another MW) work reads beautifully, he writes like a novelist even when explaining the technical; a rare skill, and Oz Clarke is a bounding dog of effusiveness that gets one’s saliva flowing ready for the next glass. But there are three books (that I refer to more than any of the rest) and they are listed below.

Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz
Scholarly but never boring, This is a piece of work. It’s not cheap but is still a bargain. Anybody who is genuinely interested in wine should own this.
Price: From around $120USD
Score: 19.5/20
Available from: Anywhere decent

Postmodern Winemaking, Clark Smith
Opininated, technically challenging in parts, funny and a real page-turner. Mr Smith writes like a cross between Ross Macdonald and Jack Kerouac. Brilliant.
Price: From around $25USD
Score: 18/20
Available from: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and good independents.

Essential Winetasting, Michael Schuster
There are countless books on winetasting but the reason this is the best that I’ve read is because it feels real. Those writers with less skill, time (perhaps even passion) than Mr Schuster, stray into using terms that could relate to myriad wine styles or grape varieties. Schuster’s gift is that he has effectively and carefully given descriptors to those key structural elements that reflect why one wine is different from another. Masterful yet easy and engaging.
Price: From around $25USD
Score: 18/20
Available from: Wherever you can find it, although Schuster assures me a new edition is due out within the next year or so.

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Bottles & Gifts Part 2

Dry Reds

Joseph Phelps, Insignia (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon), Napa Valley, USA, 2010. (I really like this vintage of Insignia) 19/20
Rich, fine and engaging. Insignia at its majestic best.

Catena Alta, Historic Rows Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009. 18.5/20
This was just about perfect when opened a couple of months ago. Vibrant, pure yet profound.

Ridge, Lytton Springs (predominantly Zinfandel), Sonoma County, USA, 2009. 18/20
Zinfandel that is more than a one trick pony.

Pontet Canet, Pauillac (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon), Bordeaux, France, 2011. 18/20
I would happily drink this now. Forget the 2009s and 10’s and focus on the more ‘classic’ vintages of the last ten years (04, 06, 08, 11) to accompany the big bird.

Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo (Nebbiolo), Piedmont, Italy, 2004 (drinking very well now). 18/20
Perfect.

Jamet, Cote Rotie (Syrah), Northern Rhone, France, 2008. 17/20
I wish I could drink this kind of wine everyday, fresh, delicate and so very elegant.

La Rioja Alta, Gran Reserva 904 (predominantly Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 1998. 18/20
This or the 2001 make for perfect drinking now.

Yarra Yering, Dry Red Number 1 (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon), Yarra Valley, Australia. 18.5/20
The only Australian on the list this year, speaks more of the choice available in Taiwan than the quality coming from Oz.

Duemani, CiFRA (Cabernet Franc), Tuscany, Italy, 2011. 17/20
Like the Jamet, this is very much my kind of wine. Juicy, grippy but charming.

Groot Constantia, Gouverneur’s Reserve (predominantly Cabernet Franc), Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2011. 18/20
South Africa gives you some fruit that has clearly benefited from some warmth but also tannins that remind you of Europe, a winning combination.

Logodaj, Melnik 55 (100% Melnik). Struma Valley, Bulgaria, 2012. 17/20
This really opened my eyes to Bulgaria, I would be more than happy to drink this with my goose.

Chateau de la Font du Loup, Chateauneuf du Pape (predominantly Grenache), Southern Rhone, France, 2012. 18/20
This provides what I want from CNdP, pretty fruit, perfume but with some underlying grunt. Lovely.

Mas Amiel, A Alt 433M (predominantly Grenache), Maury Sec, Roussillon, France. 17/20
Wild, untamed and very good.

Marquis d’Angerville, 1er Cru les Champans, Volnay (Pinot Noir), Burgundy, France, 2008. 18/20
A lesson in what Volnay is meant to be about, delicacy, elegance and that ethereal Pinot charm.

Pieve Santa Restituta, Renina, Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese),
Tuscany, Italy, 2007 (delicious vintage from here). 18.5/20
Powerful but beautifully balanced, I loved this.

Clos Mogador (predominantly Garnacha and Carinena), Priorat, Spain, 2008. 18.5/20
Great wine from great people often tastes…well, great.

Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon), Bordeaux, France, 2008. 17.5/20
I really like the 2008 vintage, sleek and ripe enough and with grainy tannins that help this wine persist on the palate.

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Bottles for your Boy & Gifts for your Girl

If someone asks me what I want for Christmas I hesitate to say wine because I know that people fear getting it ‘wrong’. The problem is that the amateur cannot look at a label and derive much needed information about the quality in the bottle. If, on the other hand, I want to buy my beloved a handbag, whether I know the relative merits of Fendi vs. Fiorelli is immaterial, my judgement on the suitability of the aesthetic is alone, the deciding factor (not that I am pretending that this purchasing decision is free of danger).

What follows therefore is a brief list of some of the wines that I have particularly enjoyed over the last year. I have not listed the wines by price (as typing the name of each into Google will give you a more accurate idea of their cost in your local market) and if you would like more detailed information, many have been reviewed on Sniff in the last few months. It is far from exhaustive and the criteria for appearing on this list was less about the score (I have left out many with similar ratings) and more about those wines that have forced me to engage with them, either as a result of their sheer gustatory pleasure or because of some beguiling complexity. These are, therefore, wines that should make any wine-lover happy (be it your Mum, manager or man-friend) and if you are lucky they may even share their gift with you, ensuring a happy Christmas for all concerned.

One last point – don’t fret too much about the vintage, I state if the vintage is hugely influential to the choice.

Dry Whites

Ken Forrester, The FMC (100% Chenin Blanc) Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2010. 17.5/20
Rich and intense but with a seam of supporting acidity. Chenin at its South African best.

Hans Herzog, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ‘Sur lie’, New Zealand, 2009. 17/20
Quince, pineapple, marzipan and nettle form just part of this complex, very un-Marlborough like, Sauvignon.

Millton, Riverpoint Viognier, Gisborne, New Zealand, 2011. 17.5/20
Warm peach, lemon oil and honey. Vibrant for Viognier and with great length.

Henri Bourgeois, La Bourgeoise, Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc), Loire France, 2010. 18.5/20
My favourite Sauvignon of the year, as elegant as it gets.

Eric Morgat, Cuvee l’Enclos, Savennieres (Chenin Blanc), Loire, France, 2009. 18/20
Weighty but with that special mineral and salty line running through it which separates the great from the good.

Von Buhl, Forster Ungeheuer GG (‘Grosses Gewachs’ meaning a dry wine produced from the best vineyards), Riesling trocken, Pfalz, Germany, 2011. 18/20
Full of tension and vitality.

Cantina Terlan, Winkl, Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige/Sudtirol, Italy, 2013. 17.5/20
The best producers of Italian Sauvignon?

Nik Weis, St. Urbans Hof, Laurentiuslay GG, Riesling trocken, Mosel, Germany, 2012 (I love this vintage here). 19/20
Stunning, the most arresting white I tried this year.

Domaine Labet, Fleur de Savagnin ‘en Chalasse’, (100% Savagnin), Jura, France, 2012. 17.5/20
No need to chill this as the driving acidity and persistence make this feel like it is already chilled. Brilliant.

Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Clos du Four, (100% Chardonnay) Macon-Milly-Lamartine, Burgundy, France, 2011. (I love this vintage here) 18/20
Delicious, approachable and most importantly, highly affordable Burgundy.

Domaine Ramonet, 1er cru ‘les Caillerets’, Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy, France, 2008. 18/20
Delicious and approachable but you’ll pay a bit more for this classic than for the Macon.

Jean Bourdy, Chateau Chalon, (100% Savagnin), Jura, France, 2005. 19/20
Flor influenced brilliance. Gob-smackingly fine with an intensity, complexity and persistence rarely found in any other white wine. Outstanding.

 

Sweet & Sparkling

Rolly Gassmann, Rotleibel de Rorschwihr, Pinot Gris, Alsace, France, 2008. 18/20
A little chubby but only in the most alluring way, I could drink a glass of this every day.

Grahams, The Stone Terraces, Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal, 2011, (special vintage). 19/20
From the spectacular 2011 vintage, this is Graham’s newest addition to their line-up.

Dow’s, Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal, 1994. 18/20
Perfect drinking now.

Chateau Pajzos, Tokaji Essencia, Hungary, 1999. 19.5/20
I had tears in my eyes on tasting this. The most mesmeric wine I tasted this year.

Bruno Paillard, NPU 1999, Champagne, France. 18.5/20
Very complex sparkler that deserves your full attention. Don’t waste this on a celebration, drink with your nearest and dearest.

Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rose Brut, Cornwall, England, 2012. 17/20
Panettone anyone?

Charles Heidsieck, Brut Reserve NV, Champagne, France. 18/20
Surely the best value Champagne on the market.

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The W Taipei

Although no longer the newest big hotel in town (the Mandarin Oriental is the wearer of that crown) the W remains Sniff’s favourite.

The secret is in the service, the ease with which anyone can navigate the drinks/wine-list and the relaxed and hip hedonism that pervades the bar space here. Too many Taipeian establishments remain mired in the past, sporting onerous beverage menus that make little sense, are intimidating and bear no relation to the environment (the bar or restaurant) that they are representing. The W exists without a sommelier, and I like a good sommelier, so a great deal of credit must go to Kenny Miau (W’s Beverage and Food manager) for providing a list that is extensive yet compact enough not to warrant the expense.

I have to confess some bias here as a friend and ex-student of mine, the excellent Nancy Wang works in the W’s top floor Yen restaurant where both commanding views over the city and great food can be had. The employment of skilled people like Nancy, who has worked for luminaries such as Gordon Ramsey, helps explain why the W offers an experience that is so easy to appreciate by both those from within and outside of Asia. They know what they are doing.

On speaking with the knowledgeable and affable Cary Gray (W’s General Manager), I was keen to ascertain the top performing drinks at the W. On the wine front these are Kim Crawford’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. They also sell a wide variety of cocktails with the ‘Flirtini’ their best-seller. I’m more of an ‘Old-Fashioned’ kind of guy but for those in search of voguish modernity, the W should be visited, just remember to book.

Listed below are the W’s biggest selling tipples, plus my favourite…

Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2013,12.5%
Grape:
Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: Stainless steel, this is all about the fruit
Note: Clean and fresh with passion-fruit and pink grapefruit. Very Marlborough and very suitable accompaniment to Taipei’s sub-tropical climate.
Price at the W: 2500NT per bottle, 500NT per glass (plus service)
Score: 16/20

Veuve Clicquot Yellow label, Champagne, N.V, 12%Grape: 50% Pinot Noir with the balance made up of Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay
Wine-making: On lees for at least two years
Note: Classic, biscuity style of Champagne that is dangerously easy to drink due in part to the lack of any acidic bite (a result of the dosage’s effect of rounding out the seam of acidity that underpins this Grand Marque).
Price at the W: 4800NT per bottle, 690 per glass (plus service)
Score: 16/20

The Flirtini: How to make one, courtesy of the W.

Ingredients:
30 mls of Raspberry Vodka
15mls of Cointreau (Triple Sec )
30mls of Pineapple Juice
20mls of Raspberry Puree
5ml of Lime Juice

The Mix Method:
Add all ingredients to the mixing glass (a Boston Shaker is what you need)
Add ice and shake well
Strain into a chilled Martini Glass

…Garnish?
Redcurrant if you have them to hand…

Price at the W: 400NT
Score: another please!

 

The ‘Old-Fashioned’, this recipe is lifted from the great Charles Schumann’s ‘American Bar’

Ingredients:
1 sugar cube
dashes of Angostura bitters
2oz of Bourbon
Soda
Stemmed Cherry
Orange
Lemon

The Mix Method:
Place sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass (a tumbler)
Saturate with the bitters
Add orange and lemon wedges
Press with a pestle or muddler
Add Bourbon
Stir well, add ice cubes, top with soda
Stir again and garnish with cherry

Price: This is priceless, my go-to cocktail
Score: With good bourbon and patience when stirring (you need some of the water in the ice to melt) this is a 19/20.

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Making Wine Easy

Date: 5th of September 2014
Event: Official opening of Vinoza
Venue: Vinoza, 59, Lane 122, Section 4, Ren’ai Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei 110

The biggest challenge faced by those trying to develop a more active wine culture in countries like Taiwan is based on accessibility. If the price is too high then all but the aspirational and well heeled are excluded. If the price is too low then it forms just another part of the alcohol mix that is exchangeable with any other similarly priced booze. Knowledge, or the perceived lack of it is also a barrier to raising consumption. Consumers don’t want to enter into an in depth conversation over the relative merits of the Left Bank vs. Right Bank Bordeaux, they just want to know if they are likely to like the wine. Customers don’t come back if they are made to feel stupid.

Vinoza is a new wine shop/importer in Xinyi district, selling primarily mid-priced wines between 300 and 1500NTD. They offer free tastings every day (of up to five wines) and although all staff have basic wine qualifications, the emphasis is on the customer to find the wine they like. Having identified a particular preferred style for example ‘Sapphire’ for full-bodied red wines, wine novices can look on the shelves for bottles labelled with the same style key to help remove some of the guesswork. Wines can be consumed on as well as off premise and if you do decide to drink at the bar or at the big wooden table in the airy room at the back, plates of assorted tapas can be ordered for 200NTD.

Is Vinoza my kind of wine shop? Probably not, but that is because I want a greater choice. Yet this is exactly the type of wine-shop experience that Taipei needs. No pomposity, no unintelligible descriptions and no wine geek speak. This is relaxed and friendly with a selection that is both affordable and easy to navigate.

Below are three wines that are representative of what Vinoza’s shelves have to offer.

Lamberti Santepietre Chardonnay 2013, IGT Delle Venezia 2013, 12.5%,
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: Stainless Steel
Note: Simple, citrus with some vanilla and spice character. Good palate weight, easy drinking and affordable.
Vinoza style: Topaz
Price: 599NTD
Score: 14/20

Melini Chianti Riserva DOCG 2010, 13%
Grape:
Predominantly Sangiovese
Wine-making: Old Slavonian oak vats
Note: Restrained nose, sour cherry. Very typical. Powdery tannins, a touch of spice, bright acid and slight astringency to the finish…it’s Chianti.
Vinoza style: Ruby
Price: 799NTD
Score: 14.5/20

Plansel Selecta by Doria Lindemann, Touriga Nacional, Alentejo, 15.5% only 6,000 bottles produced
Grape:
Touriga Nacional
Wine-making: 18 months in new French Oak barrels
Note: Intense, damson (sour plum), sloe and citrus peel nose, huge concentration, grippy but ripe tannins with well integrated oak and no alcohol burn. Full bodied and persistent.
Vinoza style: Sapphire
Price: 1499NTD
Score: 16/20

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Classics? 2

Date: 22nd August 2014
Place: J.W. Teres Restaurant,
No.4, Lane 208, Siwei Road, Daan District, Taipei,
Event: Dinner

The dominance of France, Italy and Spain on the consciousness of both wine producers and consumers is profound. When vine growers or winemakers have the opportunity to produce the wine they believe could be their best work they often turn to those proven noble varieties that bestride the wine-making world. This is, of course, completely understandable. Ask an oenophile what their death-bed wine would be and Nebbiolo from Barolo, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy, Syrah from Cote Rotie and Tempranillo from Rioja – are likely to figure large. Why? Because these are proven performers, grapes that over time have demonstrated their inherent ‘oneness’ with the land on which they are planted and the climate in which they inhabit.

Seeking out regions where this ‘oneness’ exists should lead the wine consumer to regions of production that have history: regions where often a single variety has come to dominate. In Bulgaria and the Struma valley located in the far south west of the country such a history exists with Melnik (aka Shiroka Melnishka). On Friday night whilst munching through a variety of fine Bulgarian food – grilled neck of lamb and sail-fish belly, smoky baked egg-plant and stuffed zucchini with yoghurt and dill, we drank some delicious Melnik from the Logodaj winery. The wine was dense with flavour, rich with tannin and with a spine formed of firm acidity. As one might expect, such innate structure is well suited to barrel maturation but the presence of oak flavours and aromas were marked by their integration with what was still a young wine (2012).

Examples of classic wines are to be found in many regions if one is prepared to look. The Struma Valley and Melnik deserve your attention.

Logodaj, Melnik 55, Struma Valley, 2012, 14.5%
Grape:
Melnik 55
Wine-making: 12 months maturation in small French barrels
Note: Rich and ripe yet lithe and sprightly, cherry-like fruit supported by forgiving tannins. Judicious oak use provides spiciness and tobacco aroma. Excellent.
Price: 1900NTD
Score: 17/20
Available from: Aneco International

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