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The Problem with Pinot Noir

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!! ☺.

 

黑皮諾的問題

我大概要到二十歲出頭左右,才能夠大方地對於嘲笑我媽的笑話,一笑置之而不至於感到憤怒,或甚至威脅以暴力相向。回想正值十八歲血氣方剛的我,在赫爾(Hull)近郊一家酒館打工;酒館老闆(如今已是我岳父)警告我,與客人聊天時,最好別涉及政治或宗教,以避免讓原本只是無心的言語玩笑,演變成嚴重的爭吵。就我的經驗中,除了以上幾個禁忌,似乎沒有什麼其它話題會挑起人們的憤怒之情。直到我於2002年開始銷售葡萄酒後,才發現原來還有一件事,如果輕忽了,得自負後果。

在葡萄酒世界中,黑皮諾(Pinot Noir)享有近乎傳奇的地位,而且似乎每個人都有一個關於黑皮諾的故事可以分享:他們都曾經因為喝到一款瓶身滿覆蜘蛛網的布根地酒,而經歷了前所未有的體驗,無論這瓶酒是來自年事已高的叔叔收藏,或是透過比絕地武士還厲害的酒商而品嚐到。雖然我不太願意大辣辣地說,這些聽來全是謊話,但同樣的故事屢屢從一人傳到另一人口中,不禁令我深信,如果葡萄酒世界裡也有都市神話,大概就是這個了吧!再不然就是,我是身邊所認識的人中,唯一一個沒有厲害叔叔的可憐人。

雖然我在上文中儼然已承認了自己是個一點也不浪漫的討厭鬼,但我還想說,葡萄酒確實曾令我感動到潸然淚下。在我的人生中,曾經有幾次因葡萄酒帶給我的震撼之大,令我眼眶濕熱、喉頭緊鎖(我估算大概每幾年會有一次這樣的經驗)。而如同淘金者盼望能撈到最後一次金礦一般,這樣的經驗,成為我從事這一行最重要的原因。光是想到能品嚐一款香氣令人著迷,口中單寧恰如其分、質地如絲綢一般細緻的酒款,就足以令我分泌唾液,身體因興奮而微微顫動了起來。不幸的是,截至目前為止,還沒有任何一款黑皮諾讓我有過類似反應。

釀酒人談起皮諾,如同這是個麻煩的小鬼一般,只因這品種既可口又善變,讓許多釀酒師燃起挑戰、並征服它的慾望;在許多由男人主導的產業裡,大概都有類似情節。不過,依我品嚐過的皮諾來看,大概沒幾位釀酒師成功駕馭得了這品種。對我而言,黑皮諾常僅有兩個面向可言:一是果味,一則是酒精(如果用赫爾,即我打工的地區的語言來比喻的話,則全是毛皮大衣而沒有內褲)。讀到這裡,有些人可能覺得我腦袋不清楚了,或以為我說的黑皮諾全來自於其神聖家鄉──布根地金丘(Cote d’Or)──以外的產區。但我要告訴你,我沒有搞錯。

綜觀所有最常被濫用來形容頂級布根地紅酒的詞彙中,當屬「空靈」(ethereal)一詞居冠。只消上網隨便搜尋任一個字典,就可以發現,在許多情況中,空靈其實也等同於「虛弱」(frail)、「脆弱」(fragile),或「身材瘦小的」(waiflike)等詞;事實上,這些也與帶有貶義的「淺薄的」(thin),甚至「骨瘦如柴的」(scrawny)等形容詞同義。這麼說好了,如果我要花上一百英鎊(約新台幣NT$ 3,840)買一瓶酒,它最好不要只像伸展台上的模特兒一樣「空靈」而單一面向。

但這是否代表我的葡萄酒冰箱(我住在公寓四樓,沒有酒窖)裡,一瓶黑皮諾也沒有?當然不,我非常喜歡這品種,不過這份喜歡是否有到鍾愛它的程度?嗯…… 看來是不至於。

拜社交媒體之賜,如今所有平凡、乏味之事,都可以病態地無限上綱(需要例子嗎?『誰想得到阿!?!?☺我今天看到了一隻貓耶!!!』)。也許純粹是我誤判了人們對於黑皮諾的熱情,也許他們和我一樣,只是非常喜歡這品種?

不管事實為何,我打算繼續戳破那些將黑皮諾奉為神明、或是用過去以敘述聖人的語言來形容黑皮諾的人所說的話。當然,身為葡萄酒業界的一員,我不可能沒有一個鍾愛的品種。這品種深得我心,釀得好時,在同一杯中既能展現魔法,又能傳遞莊嚴的氣質;而任何真正有品味的人都知道,我說的不是別的,正是希哈(Syrah)!!☺(編譯/艾蜜・emily)

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Champagne Thienot

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.
17/20

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?
16/20

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.
17/20

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.
17.5+/20

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.
17.5/20 

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.
18/20

席諾香檳品飲會

喝的香檳愈多,愈能發現香檳風格之廣,只可惜,香檳總是被拿來與歡慶的場合做聯想,因此,當香檳業者們一方面因酒款的超高價位而感到欣慰之時,一方面又得面對一個無奈的現實:即絕大多數消費者在享受香檳時,其實多半出自於香檳被賦予的感性意涵,而非酒款本身。如果我們能多注意酒質本身的表現就好了。我會這麼說,是因為這兩個月以來,我品嚐香檳的頻繁程度,前所未即。而這也讓我對於香檳人和他們所端出的酒款,激出更多欣賞之情,並驚訝地發現香檳整體風格的美好改變。

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) 

席諾干型無年份香檳
品種資訊:45%夏多內、35%黑皮諾、20%皮諾莫尼耶(Pinot Meunier)
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升9克;瓶中二次發酵四年;45%為陳年酒(Reserve wine);葡萄來自65個不同的村莊
品飲筆記:高雅、細緻的酵母氣息,綴以些許臻果香。口感爽脆,展現成熟蘋果味與細緻綿密的泡泡質地,嚐來相當鮮活。口中如同白堊土或雪泥冰砂般的質地,在口中緩慢延伸,留下礦物味餘韻。這款酒的補液(Dosage)恰如其分,既不至於更改酒款風格,又保留了活潑的酸度。17/20分)

席諾干型無年份粉紅香檳
品種資訊:45%黑皮諾、35%夏多內、20%皮諾莫尼耶
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升10克;使用7%紅酒;瓶中二次發酵2~3年;45%為陳年酒
品飲筆記:酒色呈鮭魚粉,香氣帶有紅醋栗與一些新鮮櫻桃派。這款酒雖然可口,但以無年份干型香檳而言,餘韻長度與細緻度似乎略嫌不足?16/20分)

席諾干型年份香檳2006
品種資訊:57%夏多內、28%黑皮諾、15%皮諾莫尼耶
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升8.5克;瓶中二次發酵6年
品飲筆記:香氣表現豐富,滿是令人陶醉且引人入勝的烘焙坊新鮮香氣。口感勁道十足,架構紮實,有夏多內所帶來的礦物緊緻度,以及相當多燉煮水果和蜜餞的風味,同時維持高雅特性。非常可口。17/20分)

Cuvee Stanislas年份香檳2005
品種資訊:100%夏多內(白中白香檳)
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
品飲筆記:展現出些許成熟風味,帶有一絲茴香與茉莉花茶等花香,以及燉蘋果、梨,和葡萄柚風味。口感展現出恰如其分的張力,很是怡人,質地細緻,餘韻綿長,物有所值。17.5+/20分) 

Cuvee Garance年份香檳2007
品種資訊:100%黑皮諾(黑中白香檳)
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
品飲筆記:這款年份香檳展現較多黃色水果香氣,以及些許濕羊毛和橘子皮氣息,另有一些吐司風味,餘韻綿長而令人印象深刻,同樣以葡萄柚香氣作結。17.5/20分)

Cuvee Alain Thienot年份香檳2002
品種資訊:60%黑皮諾、40%夏多內
其它資訊:殘糖量每公升9克;瓶中二次發酵10年
品飲筆記:怡人的成熟香氣中,帶有如蘑菇、果乾和乾燥花(幾乎有如乾燥百花香一般)等鹹鮮風味與成熟葡萄柚香。風味持久不散,豐富而滿覆口腔,在展現酒體份量之餘,也不乏優雅與細緻特性。非常精美的一款酒。18/20分)

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Louis Jadot: Return of the Gagey

It is the nervy nature of great Chardonnay from Burgundy that makes it more thrilling than the majority elsewhere. With Thibault Gagey back in Taipei for the second time this year the opportunity to taste through another raft of Jadot wines was too good an opportunity to miss. Having started with vineyards based round the town of Beaune it is of little surprise that however impressed I can be by their reds it is their whites that I find have the power to move. Not that this tasting was necessarily a fair reflection. In classic regions where vintage variation is often quite marked, the whites were better placed to demonstrate their class being from the distinctly superior vintages of 2013 and, in particular, 2012. The majority of the reds were from the high acid 2008 vintage whose saliva inducing nature was a hallmark that some wines managed to carry off better than others. These were accompanied by wines from 2007 whose overall structure was pleasing as long as there was enough fruit concentration to add flesh to the sinew rippling beneath the surface.

There are more detailed notes below but it is worth pointing out the consistently high quality of the village wines on show. Whatever the global demand for Burgundy, any justification of high prices for insipid Burgundies that flaunt their famous labels whilst being miserable little buggers once the cork is drawn simply won’t wash. Jadot like to remind everyone (and Thibault was sticking to the script) that they often declassify/sacrifice a portion of their wines that are entitled to 1er Cru status to help bolster the quality of the village wines. Here the rhetoric was proved to be true by the pleasure exhibited in the glass. Whether it was the Chambolle, Puligny or Chassagne, these wines were deliciously representative and whilst not remotely inexpensive they waved the flag for their appellations’ without necessitating the need for a loan.

 All wines listed below are from Louis Jadot and St. Finesse in Taiwan.

Oaking for village through to Grand Cru wines is more or less the same: One third new, one third one year old and one third two years old French oak barrels. 

The Prices listed include some exceptional offer prices on the 1er Crus but there are limited stocks. 

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 80% Gamay & 20% Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in steel
Note: Red cherry and red currant nose, brisk and bright with just a touch of spice. Ideal lunch time wine as it requires little cogitation. Gentle tannins leave your mouth feeling refreshed rather than assaulted.
Price: 900NT
Score: 15/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Rouge 2012, 12.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in both oak barrels and vats
Note: Proper Burgundy Pinot nose that is red fruit driven but with a touch of clove spice. Shows the ripe fruit style of the vintage whilst also having just enough grip to fix the memory of the wine on your tongue.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 2008, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: The beginnings of some earthiness and proper Pinot perfume that adds complexity to the subtly spiced red fruit. Has the juiciness of the vintage with the bright acidity the dominant structural element. Yet the fruit is no shrinking violet lending a strong voice, that makes up for its relative lack of volume with an elegance that is classic Chambolle.
Price: 2,770NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Delicate and perfumed nose and the palate is brisk with more sinew than the village but the pronounced acidity is a little strident for the fruit making it a less obvious pleasure than the village Jadot.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Sentiers, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Bright but with enough fruit concentration to balance. Classic Chambolle that has the prettiness associated with the AOP but with the requisite spine.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2008, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking:18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed and floral with concentrated fruit and a depth that marks this out as a prime site. Deliciously virile and appetising with the ability to age gracefully for another 5-8 years.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Earthy and more closed than the Les Baudes but still with some subtle floral quality percolating through. On the palate this has the sinewy nature and precision that we associate with this part of Chambolle but I prefer this premier cru in warmer and less ‘classic’ vintages when its obvious refinement is supported with a little more fat.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Baudes, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Interesting to compare my favourite 2008 in this flight with the 2007. This has less concentration and therefore finishes a little short. Remains a decent effort however.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Almost transparent so delicate and precise is this wine. Yet lurking beneath the layer of chiffon is a toned physique that manages to persuade you to forgive the lack of density (a result of the vintage) and instead focus on the pretty.
Price: 2,090NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: A little dumb but there is no masking the muscle that makes itself felt immediately on first sip. This feels Grand Cru-ish; dense and tannic with good (for 2011) levels of fruit concentration.
Price: 3,545NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw) 

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed, brisk and sinewy. This amount of structure requires time…the only caveat being whether the acid will always sit a little above the fruit rather than knitting harmoniously together. Time will tell.
Price: 3,795NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2001
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Lovely nose showing some of the leafy, spiced complexity of mature Pinot. The tannins retain some of Vougeot’s chewiness and there is a lack of fruit concentration that may come to haunt this as it ages further. Still good but is it Grand Cru good?
Price: 4,260NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Whites

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 55% Chardonnay, 45% Aligote
Winemaking: Fermented and matured in steel.
Note: Crisp and whistle like in its cleanliness. A simple but satisfying wine with which to wet your appetite for the region.
Price: 1,030NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Eight months ageing in both wood and steel
Note: Simple but with good levels of intensity and concentration that lifts this above more insipid and gutless examples from this basic Burgundy AOP. Good value.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Pouilly Fuisse 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Both vat and barrel
Note: Ripe apple & citrus sits alongside something a little more savoury. There is a richness that betrays its provenance as being from the best part of Macon whilst retaining enough acid giving freshness to suggest this will continue to age for up to another five years.
Price: 1,620NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny Montrachet, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in barrel
Note: A sudden jump in aromatic presence and complexity with a mealy, nutty character accompanying the toasty oak, citrus and physalis style fruit. Firm but not oppressively so, this again shows the quality to be had from Jadot at village level.
Price: 2,825NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013, 135
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18 months in oak
Note: More closed and will benefit from another year or two before broaching. Dense, rich and with good length, this Chassagne amply illustrates its pedigree whilst not having quite the same drive/precision of the village Puligny. This though again is an excellent example.
Price: 2,870NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru La Garenne, 2012, 13.5% (High altitude over 300m)
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Mealy, toasty and tangerine like. Brilliant acidity gives the wine great line and poise on the palate. A long finish completes the picture of a fine wine fit for a further decade in the cellar…if you can wait.
Price: 2,030NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: Another excellent lesson in Puligny precision. This Folatières has the struck match character, the chiselled structure and tongue tingling acidity that makes Puligny so popular and unfortunately expensive. Delicious.
Price: 2,400NT
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:12-15 months in oak
Note: Slightly riper style after the precision of the two Puligny 1er Crus but the little extra fat on show here is supported by a grapefruit style pithiness that helps balance the extra girth. Very good.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Mersault, 1er Cru Les Genevrières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Dense and delicious with a complex interplay between citrus (grapefruit), oak, nut, power and precision. Impressive stuff.
Price: 2,560NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:18 months in barrel
Note: Smoky and powerful, creamy, full bodied chardonnay but with that grapefruit finish that provides freshness. Whilst being a long way from disappointing this clearly needs time to morph from its somewhat gauche teenage temperament to a more considered young adult. Try again in five years.
Price: Price on request
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Montrachet, Grand Cru, 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak
Note: Mealy, rich, nutty and mushroom like aromatics are accompanied by an apricot skin like perfume that suggests ones nose is not in the company of everyday Chardonnay. This is not an easy wine to appreciate with plenty of restrained power growling beneath a serene exterior but as yet it is not in the mood to give too much away. Give it another ten years and it may begin to repay the ransom that you will have paid for ownership.
Price: 13,300NT
Score:? If you drink it now then 16/20. If you wait a decade perhaps 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

D93 The return of Gagey bottles

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Hemel-en-Aarde: Newton Johnson

When I met Bevan Newton Johnson, the man in charge of marketing for the eponymously named estate, he was smiling even though his right hand bore the marks of a previous evening’s mugging. Bevan was mildly annoyed at himself, rather than his assailant, suggesting that he had not helped himself by walking alone, carrying his lap top through Cape Town at midnight. His first experience of such an occurrence appeared not to have dented his easy charm and as he talked me through his wines it became clear that they reflected, at least in part, some of Bevan’s engaging personality.

The wines that particularly moved me were the reds and specifically those in their ‘Family Vineyards’ range. Like many in Hemel-en-Aarde, Bevan’s family specialise in the Burgundian varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, whilst also having some deliciously expressive Shiraz. Pinot Noir for a variety so lauded spends the majority of its existence producing wines that flatter to deceive. Too often they are fruity but gutless with hot tasting high alcohol and a price-tag that reflects the intention of the winemaker rather than the quality of the juice inside the bottle. In Hemel-en-Aarde this is generally less true than in most New World regions I could mention, and at Newton Johnson they have managed to make Pinot of real perfumed purity with just enough mid-palate grunt to suggest that these wines will only get better as the vines mature and their experience of this area deepens. The price is less than most village level Burgundies but the pleasure quotient the opposite.

‘Granum’ is a blend of three quarters Shiraz with the remainder Mourvedre. This has Newton Johnson’s hallmark purity with ripe cherry fruit supported by a clove-like spiciness that makes me want to dig out a thick jumper and warm my toes in front of a fire, even here in the midst of an abnormally warm autumnal Taiwan. Don’t be fooled by the grape being called Shiraz, normally this has come to mean a more intense style of wine, more akin to those made famous in South Australia, but this is more ‘Syrah’ like, hardly angular but certainly elegant.

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A Second date with Louis Jadot: Part II

What follows are the notes for the red wines tasted on the 12th and 13th of May 2015. They are, like the whites, grouped by vintage and are all available from finessewines.com.tw. 

Marsanny ‘Clos du Roy’ 2012, 13%
Note: Pronounced and pure with a slightly bitter cherry fruit core that is both crisp and delicious. Brilliant value Burgundy.
Price: 1,750NT
Score: 16+/20 

Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Ursules’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: This was the vineyard where it all started for Jadot and it remains a consistently excellent producer at (for Burgundy) relatively fair prices. Floral, spicy, mineral and exotic this is properly delicious.
Price: 3,950NT
Score: 17/20

Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Les Vergeleses’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: Jadot’s excellence in their Beaune heartland is exemplified here via this great value Savigny. Spiced cherry, mineral with and a touch of the exotic, this is like a mini Corton.
Price: 2,050NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Pommard 1er Cru ‘Les Rugiens’ 2012, 13.5%
Note: The most famous of Pommard’s vineyards and one that produces wines capable of delivering over the long-term. As a result this is still fairly closed with Pommard’s tannic grip very much the dominant element at present. I have only scored this 16, but give it another five to eight years and the carapace of tannin should have softened enough to reveal a more charming centre.
Price: 4,490NT
Score: 16/20 

Santenay ‘Clos de Malte’ 2012, 13%
Note: Excellent value, firm and crispy, very much like a baby Pommard, this is definitely worthy of a place in your cellar for medium term-drinking.
Price: 1,750NT
Score: 15.5/20

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Beaux Monts’ 2008, 13%
Note: Pretty and elegant but with just a little too much acidity for the fruit. Finding the right balance in 2008 was clearly a difficult task although Jadot manage to get away with it here…just.
Price: 4,920NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Suchots’ 2008, 13.5%
Note: My preferred Vosne Romanee from this year as it has just a little more density that helps balance the brisk acidity.
Price: 4,380NT
Score: 16/20

Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Croix de Pierre’ 2008, 13%
Note: I love the wines from this vineyard but the quality of the terroir here can’t quite make up for the relatively hollow nature of the vintage. Pleasant.
Price: 1,600NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Beaune 1er Cru 2008, 13%
Note: Elegant but a little lacking in fruit, a wine to drink now.
Price: 1,850NT
Score: 15/20

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Some of Jadot’s wines from Chambolle are rather un-Chambolle like in their firmness and vigour (more Morey St Denis like in fact). This though is Chambolle in its famed supple and charming guise. Delicious drinking now.
Price: 5,270NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Fuees’ 2007, 13.5%
Note: Charming but lacking a little density. Drink now.
Price: 4,100NT
Score: 15.5/20 

Griottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: Violets dominate in this perfumed Griottes and although still a baby it is charming enough to enjoy now. Those of you with more patience will rightly tuck this away for at least another five years.
Price: 9,600NT
Score: 17/20 

Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: Similar density to the Corton but with more sinew. This may never be the most elegant Charmes but it has the depth of earthy fruit and charge of tannins to promise much in the future.
Price: 8,490NT
Score: 17/20

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Estournelles Saint-Jacques’ 2006, 13.5%
Note: 2006 is a precocious year for reds in Burgundy. They are generous and easy-going and manage to makeup for their lack of a more elegant, chiselled profile by drawing your attention to their curves. Relatively evolved and supple with just enough sinew under the flesh to keep you interested.
Price: 4,650NT
Score: 16.5/20 

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Petite Chapelle’ 2006 13%
Note: Similar in style to the Estournelles but without that wine’s density.
Price: 4,755NT
Score: 16/20

Chanmbolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Fuees’ 2006, 13%
Note: I felt this was very much a calling card for the 2006 vintage; precocious, fast maturing and slightly ill defined giving plenty of pleasure but without a great year’s complexity.
Price: 4,400NT
Score: 16/20

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru ‘Les Petits Monts’ 2006, 13%
Note: Dark and exotic with sandalwood and leaf mould providing a rather sensuous bouquet. Mouth-coating and with just the right amount of opulence, this is delicious now but will offer much pleasure over the medium term.
Price: 5,500NT
Score: 17+/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Les Boudots’ 2006, 13.5%
Note: A little rustic, even burly but that does not prevent this from being a pleasure to drink. Meaty and mushroomy, this is a wine crying out for a piece of rare steak to keep it company.
Price: 4,650NT
Score: 16.5/20

Corton Greves Grand Cru 2006, 13.5%
Note: For all of the precocity of 2006 there are some wines from this vintage that due to their heritage will remain tight-lipped and unforgiving for another decade. This is firm and fine but requires patience.
Price: 4,380NT
Score: 17/20 

Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos des Ursules’ 2004, 13.5%
Note: The best red wine of the two days for me even though it comes from the maligned 2004 vintage. This was exotic, floral, vibrant and fresh with that sweetness of fruit that hangs around in quality Burgundy whatever the age. A triumph for the year.
Price: 2,850NT
Score: 17.5/20 

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Feusselottes’ 2001, 13.5%
Note: All graphite and potato skin (I’m English so I appreciate the charms of this tuber more than most) this has the delicious scent of mature Burgundy. Not overly complex but with enough vibrancy and general allure to engage.
Price: 3,950NT
Score: 16/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Les Cras’ 1999, 13.5%
Note: Mature nose of porcini and undergrowth gives complexity but it would benefit from just a touch more fruit. Classic Nuits with granular tannins that provide a very structured wine that is still going strong.
Price: 4,500NT
Score: 16/20 

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru ‘Aux Thorey’ 1999, 13%
Note: Dense, almost chunky with enough muscular power and fruit to suggest further development is possible but drink by 2020.
Price: 5,600NT
Score: 16.5/20

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Italy: More than pizza and pasta

Italy’s cuisine, founded on pasta, pizza and the concept of ‘cucina povera’ (simple but quality food), has seen Italian food garner global fame. It is rare to arrive in any town or city in the developed world without seeing the tricolore proudly displayed in the signage of the local trattoria, but what about Italian wine?

Most wine consumers will, at some point, have worked their way through a glass of Chianti or Pinot Grigio but that is just the tip of a very large ‘wineberg’ that remains relatively unknown to the majority. If you doubt my assessment of the level of consciousness that Italian wines have managed to prick, just examine the Master of Wine exams of the last three years (2012-2014). Of the 108 wines that candidates have been asked to assess: only eleven were Italian in comparison to thirty three from France. I don’t think this is evidence of some internal bias by the Institute of Masters of Wine, just a reflection of the lack of penetration in global terms for many of Italy’s offerings. This lack of recognition is partly due to what lovers of Italian wine cherish the most; namely the vast range of indigenous varieties scattered throughout the Italian peninsula. The ‘problem’ for many of these varieties is that they seem reluctant to flourish away from their homeland meaning that there is a concomitant lack of exposure. Hopefully Australia’s increasing desire to plant some of these varieties, a sensible choice considering the generally Mediterranean climate experienced in much of the wine growing South East, will help to redress this situation.

Monday saw the Gambero Rosso Italian wine tasting event arrive in Taipei. The raft of Italian producers in attendance, many as yet to find importers in this corner of Asia, provided a welcome opportunity to refamiliarise myself with the classic as well as the more esoteric offerings from this vinous heavyweight. Below are wines from four producers that I hope will have been successful in their search for representation, as I believe they have the necessary charm to delight not just me but also the increasing number of wine-drinkers here in Taiwan. Whatever the outcome for these four estates, be sure to explore Italy’s vinous heritage, it is as important and as impressive as their food and warrants your attention.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta DOCG, Brut Nature, 2011
Grape: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir
Wine-making: More than 24 months on lees and less than 3g of sugar per litre in the dosage.
Note: Buttered brioche with a little nectarine and citrus fruit, this was a decidedly precise yet still vinous glass of Franciacorta. If you like Champagne then the wines from this part of Lombardy offer similar levels of quality with a touch more generosity.
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan

Bibbiano, Chianti Classico DOCG, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Sangiovese
Wine-making: No oak
Note: Benchmark Chianti Classico, all crisp, pithy and with the scent of sour cherries gives this a thirst quenching quality that makes it alarmingly easy to drink.
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

La Raia, Gavi DOCG, ‘Pisè’, 2012, 13%
Grape: Cortese
Wine-making: 12 months on lees
Note: This shows how good Cortese can be. Leesy, firm but with apple, almond and a subtle floral quality that is almost reminiscent of a good 1er cru Chablis. Break out the oysters.
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbaresco Tradizione, 2011, 14.5%
Grape: Nebbiolo
Wine-making: Short maceration (helps retain fruitiness) and 18 months in large oak.
Note: This is as juicy and approachable as young Nebbiolo gets. Fruity, floral and generous and tame enough to enjoy without food.
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan

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Champagne: Greater than the sum of its parts

Where is Champagne? Assuming you know that it is in northern France, most fans of the world’s finest fizz would identify Epernay as the heart of the region. Journey south and any visitor would quickly find themselves in Chardonnay territory, the aptly named Cote des Blancs. Head west and Meunier production dominates in the Vallee de la Marne and if one were to look up in a northerly direction, the most famous hill for the growing of Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, would frame one’s view; the ambitiously named Montagne de Reims. Yet in the same way that London exists beyond the streets painted on a Monopoly board, Champagne encompasses much more than the three ‘vineyards’ that envelop Epernay.

Some 130km further to the south, beyond the city of Troyes and closer to Burgundy than the rest of Champagne, lies the Cote des Bar. This is Pinot country and is as significant as the more famed Montagne de Reims producing as it does 50% of Champagne’s most coveted dark skinned variety. The Champagne house and bastion of the Cote des Bar, Devaux, were in Taipei last week represented by the excellent Jean-Noel Girard. Monsieur Girard managed to do what seems beyond the reach of many of the reps that reach these shores in that he both engaged and entertained the crowd. Jean-Noel’s party trick was really no trick at all, he just informed and educated those assembled through an excellently worked tasting. This included ten samples of vin clair, ‘raw’ Champagne, bereft of bubbles, age and the mollifying effect of sugar. You cannot buy this raw wine (believe me your teeth will thank you, so high was the level of acidity) but you can buy them in assembled form and it is these Devaux Champagnes that receive attention below.

Devaux, Ultra D, Extra Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 2g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: I’ve had too many lean and scrawny ‘ultra’ Champagnes but this is not one of those. Positively generous and vivid with great purity of fruit and a saline tang.
Price: 2,800NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

Devaux, 2006 Vintage D, Brut
Grapes: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 6g/l dosage. A minimum of seven years ageing.
Note: Still young and relatively closed, this needs a little time for the fruit to reappear, but your patience will be rewarded with a Champagne of persistence and definition.
Price: 3,600NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw 

Devaux, Cuvee D, Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 7g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% of reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: Relatively inexpensive yet decidedly cheerful, by virtue of the costly and lengthy ageing. Good aperitif style sparkler, lighter and more featherweight than the rest.
Price: 2,550NT
Score: 15.5
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

 

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Post 101

Today Sniff is 101 posts old, a mini-milestone for us and an apt number on which to pause, as any of you remotely familiar with Taipei’s most famous landmark will appreciate. We will not dwell too long on what has come before as nine months work does not justify the hanging of bunting or any great retrospective. All we want to do is thank the wine producers and makers that have allowed our visits and generously fielded our questions, and to thank our small but growing readership; we promise to continue to try and justify your faith in us.

Having spent Sunday morning in the company of the famous wine critic, Allen Meadows aka ‘Burghound’, it was good to hear him advising those assembled to ‘Be loyal to your own impressions, that’s what counts the most.’ Whilst this is a sentiment I preach to my students, the ever-increasing demand for Burgundy’s best allied to their expense makes their appreciation that much more complicated. How does one trust one’s ‘own impressions’ in the face of such luxury? This is the conundrum of Grand Cru Burgundy. If money is no object then there is little need to worry, you can afford to be disappointed by your two hundred euro wine. But staying true to Mr Meadows’ maxim and having the confidence of your own palate when the perceived wisdom is that the wines should be magnificent, remains a challenge to all but the most assured of individuals. It would have been interesting to take a poll of today’s tasters to see if their preferences had mirrored those of Meadows’ scores or whether people were comfortable enough to follow the advice of their own tongue; advice that might have seen them deviate from the expert opinion.

‘Great Burgundy is not just about their ability to endure but their ability to transform’. Our hope for the next 101 posts is that Mr Meadows’ assessment is as relevant for Sniff as it is for the world’s greatest Pinot; we certainly intend it to be so.

Below are three very different but equally alluring examples of the wines tasted with both mine and the Burghound’s scores included.

Pierre Damoy, Chambertin Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Approximately 80% new French oak
Note: The best wine of the day. This was dense and dark, brooding yet virile with a muscular and mineral palate that was the epitome of the velvet gloved fist. Fine.
Price: 9,375NT
Score: 18/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei 

Olivier Bernstein, Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2010
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 50% de-stemmed and aged in approx. 50% new French oak
Note: Deliciously spicy and structured with a profound depth to the dark fruit that promises years of further development to come.
Price: 11,250NT
Score: 17.5/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei 

Nicholas Potel, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 13.5%, 2006
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 50% de-stemmed and aged for 18 months in 30% new French oak
Note: A wine that is showing some earthy and undergrowth aromas as it approaches its tenth year. Beautifully rich and with considerable depth this is supple, velvety and generous.
Price: Available in magnum for 8,750NT
Score: 17.5/20. Burghound 93/100
Available from: Domaine Wine Cellars, Taipei

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Austria: A Statement of Intent

On Wednesday, Taipei hosted the ‘Best of Austria’ the most impressive attempt so far by this bijou European to win the hearts of Taiwan’s wine cognoscenti. The turnout was as impressive as the importers, who were enthusiastically doling out wine to guests following the introductory seminar and guided tasting. These are the true champions of the wine world, their desire to spread the word of the under-appreciated to the uninitiated takes guts. Whether Taiwan is quite ready for Gruner Veltliner and Zweigelt (nevermind Rotgipfler) is open to debate but for the development of a true and sustainable Taiwanese wine culture to thrive, the likes of Austrian wine needs to gain a foothold.

In stark contrast to this rather grand event, the evening brought the opportunity to attend a much smaller yet equally excellent BIVB (Burgundy Wine Board) live tasting, hosted by the hugely knowledgeable Ingrid Lin. Burgundy is well represented in Taiwan and the Austrians can only hope that at some point in the future their wines are talked about with as much reverence as the best from the home of Pinot Noir. Ms Lin, a certified educator for the BIVB, gave our group three pairs of wines from the famous neighbouring villages of Gevrey Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle Musigny. Each pair consisted of a village wine and a premier cru and all six wines were from the 2011 vintage. As an exercise in benchmarking stylistic traits inherent to these villages, it proved extremely worthwhile and outlined a model that the Austrians would be wise to imitate; education is, after all, key.

Burgundy’s reputation is borne on the back of just two varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and although the Austrians lack a red variety with the same nobility as Pinot Noir, they do have Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. The biggest issue for these two grapes is their colour; not being red remains a hindrance in this part of the world. Yet if the Austrian Wine board can craft a well-funded education programme (like the BIVB’s), the inherent high quality of these two noble varieties, allied to the enthusiasm of the importers, can bring Austria the attention its wines so readily deserve.

Below are four wines from Austria and Burgundy.

Hiedler, Reserve Thal ‘10TW’, Kamptal, 2013, 13%
Grape: Gruner Veltliner
Wine-making: Matured in stainless steel
Note: This was ‘proper’ Gruner, it was a little spicy and peppery with a mouth-coating oiliness (in a very pleasant way) and had drive and intensity through the citrus tinged palate. Very clean, very pure and very delicious.
Price: Approx 35USD
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

F.X. Pichler, Smaragd ‘Loibner Loibenberg’, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: Matured in old oak
Note: Magnificent. Intense and concentrated with a restrained stone-fruit nose and a salty, mineral-like and hugely persistent finish. Yes please!
Price:
Score: 18/20
Available from: www.eslitegourmet.com.tw 

Harmand-Geoffrey, Gevrey Chambertin, Vielles Vignes, 2011, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 40% new French oak
Note: Perfumed with iris, cherry stone and exotic spice this was the most approachable of all six Burgundies tasted. Powerful and firm of tannin but with a freshness and concentration that elevated this to the ranks of a great village wine. Good value.
Price: Approx 30GBP
Score: 16/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Gevrey Chambertin, 1er Cru ‘Bel Air’, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Wine-making: 12 months in 30% new French oak
Note: Arguably the best wine of the evening if as of yet not the most forthcoming, this was quiet and restrained on the nose with some floral and savoury characters but on the palate it promised much. Concentrated, firm, powerful but bright-eyed, this was still barely out of short trousers but with the structure for further positive development over the next 5-8 years.
Price: Approx 55GBP
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: This exact wine is not available in Taiwan but this producer is represented by www.chateaux.com.tw

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Happy Chinese New Year 2015

The final meeting of our tasting group in this year of the Horse, before we welcome in a year of lanolin based loveliness (It’s Sheep time), concerned the merits of New World Pinot Noir. I have already made clear my reticence for much of the world’s Pinot, as too often it tends towards expensive, two-dimensional dullness. In speaking with any ambitious producer of Pinot, the majority recognise the difficulties inherent in crafting something that has the perfume and personality they so desperately seek. Most admit that the reason they cherish Pinot is for its ability to act as a conduit for the soil that it sits in. This is great when the wine is fantastic, leaving the winemaker to talk about the incredible nature of the terroir, but what about when the wine is not so good?

An old cycling adage states that there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing, well unfortunately, if our tasting was proof of anything, the same cannot be said of making wine from Pinot Noir. No amount of fine ‘clothing’ (low yields, whole berry fermentations, ‘hand plunging’, expensive French oak, heavy bottles etc) can make up for the ‘bad weather’ or unsuitable terroir. And the factor most significant for diminishing the suitability of Pinot based terroir? Heat.

Of the four wines tasted all were from ‘cool’ regions with a reputation for producing qualitatively very good and expressive Pinot. Yet there is ‘cool’ and there is…well…cooler. For us, the cooler areas performed the best, retaining more perfume, and achieving a greater level of overall harmony. Please see the reviews below.

If all this talk of Pinot has left you cold and pining for some alternative to share with your flock during the festivities, then why not try a variety that shares some of Pinot’s attributes; Sicily’s Nerello Mascalese: aromatic, elegant and delicious.

Craggy Range, Te Muna Road, Martinborough, 2012, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 10 months in 25% new French Oak
Note: Delicate, cherry stone and wet wool aromas. Supple and silky showing old world restraint with a little new world purity. Full of pleasure now but also promises a degree of improvement over the next 3 years.
Price: Approx $30USD
Score: 16-16.5/20
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan 

Cristom, Jessie Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2010, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 19 months in 61% new French oak
Note: The best wine of the evening and the most ‘old-world’ in style. Complex and engagingly aromatic with bright red fruit combining with truffle, mushroom and floral characters to create a harmonious whole. Sappy and supple, deserving of a nice lamb chop.
Price: 1,850NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Spirit 02 25065875 

Marimar Estate, La Masia, Russian River, Sonoma, 2009, 14%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 30% new French Oak
Note: Spicy and full bodied with a herbal element sitting alongside the red and predominantly black fruit on show here. Good, but feels a little hollow in the middle and this causes the alcohol to protrude slightly.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 15/20
Available from: Finesse 

Moss Wood, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, 2009, 14%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 14 months in 50% new French oak
Note: Along with the Cristom wine from Oregon, this had the finest array of aromatics. Red cherry, tea leaves and pot pourri allied to a satin-like mouth-feel made this very pleasing. Should continue to improve over the next three years.
Price: 1,850NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: 

Tascante, Ghiaia Nera, IGT Sicilia, 2010, 13%
Grape: Nerello Mascalese
Winemaking: Young vines, planted at 600 metres on the slopes of Mount Etna. Matured in large old oak vats.
Note: Smelling of Chinese medicine, cooked red cherries and with no intrusive oak aromas, this wine delivers on purity. Not overly complex, it is nonetheless a good introduction to this elegant Sicilian native.
Price: 1,400NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Ascent Way 02 2533 3180