A Grand Annual Tasting 2016 full of surprises!

Back from a second year of exploration of the wine planet, suitcases full of bottles –  one more intriguing than the other – we were impatient to share our discoveries with 120 fine wine connoisseurs!

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It was a difficult choice for the selection, with a final list of 35 wines from 14 countries (1). True heart strokes for some wines, nice curiosities coming from climates both extreme and diverse, each wine tasted on June 13, deserves special attention for its quality and unique personality.
To follow is the summary of a tasting far away from the beaten tracks, organized on the beautiful terrace of Duclot-La Vinicole.

(Northern) Europe seduces with the freshness of its wines

A Swedish white wine on top of the ranking, followed by a Belgian wine, was the first highlight of the tasting!
Made from interspecific varieties (cf. PIWI) – 100% Solaris for Hällåkra Vingard in Sweden and 100% Mossiat for the Belgium Château de Bioul – these wines have “seduced with their freshness and surprised with their aromatic potential”. And although these new varieties (still unknown to the general public), can sometimes lack complexity, they could – thanks to their high resistance to cold – rapidly become the future solution for “Northern” climates, where harsh winters and a lack of sunshine make the production of Vitis vinifera wines (very) complicated.

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Speaking about red wines, Slovakia and Austria are two European nations to follow closely. The Slovak “Cuvée 2012” from Mrva & Stanko (made of 4 indigenous varietals: Hron/Vah/Rimava/Rudava) & 100% Blaufraenkisch “Alte Reben 2011” from J. Heinrich have been described as “providing immediate pleasure with a lot of finesse and an elegant and complex tannic structure”.

TOP 5 – WHITE WINES
1 – Sweden : “Solaris 2014“, from Hällåkra Vingård
2 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Muskotály Réserve 2003“, from Château Dereszla
3 – Indonesia (Bali) : “Aga White 2016“, from Hatten Wines
4 – Belgium (Côtes de Sambre et Meuse) : “Mossiat 2014“, from Château de Bioul
5 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Tokaj Szamorodni Sec 2007“, from Samuel Tinon

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Exotic destinations in front of the scene

Who would have believed it?… Two Balinese wines on the podium: undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the tasting!
Imagine Bali (the only wine region of Indonesia): a tropical country where one can harvest up to 3 times a year, where the vineyard has no dormancy period, where it is never less than 23 ° C in winter and where the vines do not live more than 12 years, because of incessant labor…
Yet the wines “made in Bali” have astonished many guests. Described as “very aromatic, pleasant on the palate and with a certain freshness”, these wines showed that with suitable grape varieties (here Belgia and Muscat St Vallier), advanced technology and specific expertise, it is technically possible to make good wines here.

The top 50 studios pics of the tasting !

The top 50 studios pics of the tasting !


As for Brazil, an increasingly recognized destination, with varied climates (equatorial in the north, continental-temperate in the south), it is a country where great “terroirs“ are emerging. As in the Valle dos Vinhedos in the south, where the “Quorum 2006” from Lidio Carraro (40% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Franc) was unanimously recognized as incredibely elegante.

The production of sparkling wines of high quality is booming worldwide

Germany, England, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Hungary… all these countries have something in common: they play in the big leagues in terms of production of sparkling wines.
Blind tasted around a game that consisted of finding the country of origin (not that easy…), seven sparkling wines, all from different countries, have literally amazed our guests!

JBA with John Leroy, winemaker @ Ruffus Estate (Belgium)

JBA with John Leroy, winemaker @ Ruffus Estate (Belgium)


In fact, more and more wineries, located in regions of the world with suitable terroirs – predominantly calcareous/chalky soils and cool/temperate climates – prove that with suitable varieties, grapes harvested with good maturity, using the traditional method (2) and with long and rigorous ageing, it is possible to produce fantastic bubbles around the world – able to compete with the French production, for example.
Even Bali moved up on the podium with it’s Moscato d’Bali from Sababay, an aromatic and slightly sweet sparkling wine.

TOP 3 – SPARKLING WINES
1-Belgium (Wallonie) : “Cuvée Franco Dragone 2011“, from Ruffus
2 – Brazil (Serra Gaucha) : “Terroir Nature – SAFRA 2009“, from Cave Geisse
3 – Indonesia (Bali) : “Moscato d’Bali 2015“, from Sababay
Special mention : England (Kent) : “Blanc de Blancs 2010“, from Gusbourne

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[NB : congratulations to Paul Dunleavy, from Te Motu (NZ), the only guest at the blind tasting who identified the origins of the 7 sparkling wines!]

Hungary honored and present in all categories

Hungary was in all conversations on 13 June. First with the famous Tokaj region and its sweet wines : 260g of residual sugar for the delicious “Muskotály Réserve 2003“ from Château Dereszla of which remained not a single drop!
But also with dry white wine, like the amazing “Szamorodni Sec 2007” from Samuel Tinon : a wine made from botrytis grapes, fermented in open tanks without residual sugar (unique in the world)… a wine of meditation.

THE TEAM !!

THE TEAM !!


Lesser known than other Hungarian wine regions, Etyek-Buda (25 minutes west of Budapest), with its mild continental climate, turned towards the production of juicy Pinot Noir wines in recent years. A nice example : the “Pinot Noir 2013“ from Etyeki Kuria – n°1 red wine of the tasting. Again, a nice surprise!

TOP 5 – RED WINES
1 – Hungary (Etyek-Buda) : “Pinot Noir 2013“, from Etyeki Kuria
2 – New Zealand (Waiheke Island) : “Bordeaux Blend 1999“, from Te Motu
3 – Australia (Tasmania) : “Cab. Sauvignon/Merlot 2000“, from Freycinet
4 – Brazil (Serra Gaucha) : “Quorum 2006“, from Lidio Carraro
5 – Austria (Burgenland) : “Alte Reben 2011“, from J. Heinrich
Special mention : 
 “Cuvée 2012“, from Mrva & Stanko – Slovakia

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Oceania never ceases to surprise

We all agree, Australia and New Zealand don’t have to gain one’s spurs.
However, two regions particularly intrigued us by their cool climate, particularly suitable for the production of long ageing “Bordeaux style“ wines:
-Tasmania (South of Australia), with the “Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2000“, from Freycinet Winery, a model of elegance and freshness ;
-and Waiheke Island, in New Zealand (near Auckland), where the “Bordeaux Blend 1999” from Te Motu (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc), 2nd on the podium and WINE EXPLORERS’ Heart Stroke, impressed with its vitality and youthfulness.
Finally, our guests said they tasted some of the most finest Syrah from Hawke’s Bay (north of New Zealand), home of real Syrah gems like the great “Jewelstone Syrah 2013” from Mission Estate, as well as from Australia, with  “Syrahmi Dreams… 2012“ from Adam Foster and “Basket Press Shiraz 2011“ from Rockford Wines, without forgetting a legendary Grenache, with “The Tri-Centenary 2008“ from Yalumba.

The wine planet (still) remains to be discovered…

WineExplorers’cheers,
Amandine Fabre & Jean-Baptiste Ancelot

 

Thank you to Jean-Luc Lavatine and the team of Duclot-La Vinicole for having made available this beautiful place for our Annual Tasting.
Thank you to all producers for having participated in this event by offering us the wines. We were also very touched by the presence in Paris, on June 13, of some wineries which came to support the event : Hatten Wines (Bali), Ruffus (Belgium), Sababay (Bali), J. Heinrich (Austria), Te Motu (New Zealand) and the Château de Bioul.
Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the success of this beautiful evening : Catherine Ancelot-Savignac (who also prepared a wonderful buffet!), Prune Meunier, Ode Coyac, Alexandra Schneider, Clara Laurent, Victory Dauviau ; as well as Amandine Fabre, Ludovic Pollet and Stephane Diné from the WINE Explorers’ team.
 

(1) Complete list of the 35 wines presented on June 13 for the Grand Annual Tasting :
1 – Indonesia (Bali) : “Aga White 2016“, from Hatten Wines – Bali
2 – Belgium (Côtes de Sambre et Meuse) : “Mossiat 2014“, from Château de Bioul
3 – Sweden (Skåne) : “Solaris 2014“, from Hällåkra Vingård
4 – Belgium (Heuvelland) : “Pinot 2015“, from Entre Deux Monts
5 – Switzerland (Mont-sur-Rolle) : “Clos du Couvent 2009“, from Domaine de Maison Blanche
6 – Austria (Wachau) : “Smaragd Singerriedel 2014“, from Domäne Wachau
7 – Czech Republic (Moravia) : “Sonberk Riesling V.O.C. 2013“, from SONBERK
8 – Australia (Eden Valley) : “Heggies Vineyard Riesling 2005“, from Heggies Vineyard (Yalumba)
9 – Germany (Rheingau) : “Riesling Alte Reben QBA trocken 2005“, from SCHLOSS VOLLRADS
10 – Australia (Tasmania) : “Freycinet Riesling 2003“, from Freycinet Vineyard
11 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Furmint Sparkling Wine 2011“, from Gróf Degenfeld
12 – England (Kent) : “Blanc de Blancs 2010“, from Gusbourne
13 – Brazil (Serra Gaucha) : “Terroir Nature – cuvée SAFRA 2009“, from Cave Geisse
14 – Belgium (Wallonie) : “Cuvée Franco Dragone Prestige 2011“, from Ruffus
15 – Germany (Rheingau) : “Riesling Sekt Extra Brut 2003“, from SCHLOSS VOLLRADS
16 – Indonesia (Bali) : “Moscato d’Bali 2015“, from Sababay Winery
17 – Australia (Barossa) : “Sparkling Black Shiraz NV“, from Rockford Wines
18 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Kabar 2013“, from Chateau Dereszla
19 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Tokaj Szamorodni Sec 2007“, from Samuel Tinon
20 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2008“, from Gróf Degenfeld
21 – Hungary (Tokaj) : “Muskotály Réserve 2003“, from Vinotéka Dereszla
22 – Denmark : “Utopia Rondo 2006“, from Kelleris Vin
23 – Austria (Burgenland) : “Alte Reben 2011“, from Weingut Heinrich
24 – Hungary (Sopron) : “Kékfrankos 2013“, from Etyeki Kúria Winery
25 – Austria (Burgenland) : “St. Laurent Schafleiten 2013“, from Judith Beck
26 – Slovakia : “Cuvée 2012 (Hron/Váh/Rimava/Rudava)“, from Víno Mrva & Stanko
27 – Brazil (Serra Gaucha) : “Quorum 2006“, from Lidio Carraro
28 – New Zealand (Waiheke Island) : “Bordeaux Blend 1999“, from Te Motu
29 : Australia (Tasmania) : “Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2000“, from Freycinet Winery
30 – Slovakia : “Pinot Noir 2013“, from Víno Tajna
31 – Hungary (Etyek-Buda) : “Pinot Noir 2013“, from Etyeki Kuria Winery
32 – Australia (Barossa) : “Tricentenary Grenache 2008“, from Yalumba
33 – New Zealand (Hawke’s Bay) : “Jewelstone Syrah 2013“, from Mission Estate Winery
34 – Australia (Heathcote) : “Dreams…2012“, from Syrahmi Estate (Adam Foster)
35 – Australia (Barossa) : “Basket Press Shiraz 2011“, from Rockford Wines 

(2) The so-called classic way (though not the oldest) to produce sparkling wine is popularly known as the Champagne method or méthode classique which is the official EU designation. The wine is fermented once in the barrel and then undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.

Brazil, promised to a bright future

We are only a few hours away from Rio de Janeiro, its frenzied beaches and electrical atmosphere. Yet, it is to discover a wine industry undergoing a revolution that we are in Brazil. Here the production of quality wine – although promised to have a bright future – just turns 25!

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It is in the south of the country, in Serra Gaucha, that we have an appointment to visit the country’s largest producing region (1), where the vine was introduced by the Jesuits in 1626 (2). Arriving by bus from Montevideo, we were expected in Porto Alegre by Joana Monteiro, a team member of Schenker Do Brasil, who accompanied us to discover the Brazilian vineyards.

A young viticulture to be taken (very) seriously

No sooner than we arrived in Bento Gonçalves, the capital of viticulture, we were invited to lunch by the team of Wines of Brasil for a brief lesson of history and the opportunity to enjoy a delicious Churrasco (3). The round of servers, with their meat dishes one more appetizing than the other, was relentless. What a wonderful welcome!

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We learned that Brazil is the fifth largest wine producer in the southern hemisphere and has been cultivating vines since the beginning of its colonization. However, it was only with the opening of the market to imports in the early 90s – which allowed consumers to realize what was considered as “good” wine on an international level – that Brazil began to turn to serious quality. “Without prior references to other wines of the world, it was difficult for Brazilian wine producers to know how their wines compared in the global market place and to pull their quality of production upwards”, one said.

The Vale dos Vinhedos, an air of Tuscany

Our program of visits were largely concentrated in the Vale dos Vinhedos, the first Geographical Indication recognized in Brazil since 2002.

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The landscape is of a wild and naive beauty and is curiously reminiscent of Tuscany – the region from which many Italian immigrants came from. Here we were facing steep hills. A fragmented topography with small hills culminating to 700 meters where vines are mostly planted on the hillside, requiring arigorous manual labor.
It was late December and can one could feel the excitement of the harvest which was to begin soon (4).

Perini

Perini


The Vale Trentino, 1 hour east of here, is also a region with great potential, where wineries like Perini, bordered by vast wilderness and forests, take production forward.

World-class sparkling wines

The conclusion is clear, the Brazilian bubble is a fine wine. And we feasted with it! Whether made from the traditional or Charmat method (5) (more industrial, but able to give very nice results, like at Chandon for example), we were amazed by the consistency and the freshness of Brazilian sparkling wines. With a promising future, they are today at the center of attention.  Just at Casa Valduga, no less than 12 effervescent wines are produced in the range!

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Heart stroke for Cave Geisse, a beautiful estate in the heights of Pinto Bandeira, that produces exceptional bubbles, on volcanic and basaltic soils of the Jurassic. Daniel Geisse, the winemaker, is a perfectionist. You can judge for yourself : average aging between 2 to 5 years (going up to 15 years for magnums!), a maximum of 30-days stock, disgorging every day, traditional riddling and manual harvest in cases of 3 to 5 kg. When you realize that the winery stocks 600,000 bottles in the cellar while it produces only 200,000 per year…we are speaking about world class bubbles.

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Our Brazilian heart strokes in sparkling wines:
Extra Brut 2011 from Cave Geisse  (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay ; 3 years on lees)
Gran Nature 2009 from Casa Valduga (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir ; 5 years on lees)
Safra Nature 2009 from Cave Geisse (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay ; 5 years on lees)
Brut 2011 from Miolo (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay ; 18 months on lees)
Excellence Prestige Rosé NM from Chandon (20% Chardonnay, 80% Pinot Noir, Charmat method, 3 years old based wine ; 12 months on lees)
José “Bepi” Salton Nature NM from Salton (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay ; 4 years on lees)

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Aurora, the wine cooperative with a thousand winegrowers

Located in the center of Bento Gonzalvez, the Aurora wine cooperative – which represents 10% of the Brazilian wine production – is a tremendous economic lever that preserves the rural history of the region. Established in 1931 with 16 farmers, the cooperative  now has over 1,100 families of winegrowers, all shareholders and spread over 3,000 hectares of vineyards. Each winemaker is a co-owner of the entity. Buying grapes thus depend on sugar levels rather than mass, in order to encourage families to focus more on quality. Brillant.

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Our heart strokes in Brazilian still wines:
Grande Vindimia Merlot 2008 from Lidio Carraro (100% Merlot)
Raizes Corte 2010 from Casa Valduga (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Tannat)
Sesmarias 2011 from Miolo (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
Talento 2009 from Salton (40% Cabernet  Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Tannat)
Merlot Reserva 2011 from Pizzato (100% Merlot)
Pinto Bandeira Pinot noir 2013 from Aurora (100% Pinot Noir)
Quatro 2009 from Perini (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tannat, Ancelota)

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Wine tourism, the charming asset

Brazil has it all, oenotourism is everywhere! In a world where overproduction and competition are raging, the key to success and recognition begins with a strong (and positive) image. Otherwise, any new wine – however good it may be – can never receive the recognition it deserves.
Already at Casa Valduga, Maria Valduga, the caring grandmother, was a pioneer in terms of wine tourism in Brazil : she loved offering dinner to every passing visitor.

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Today Brazilian estates compete for creativity and tourism initiatives, as at Miolo with the “Winemaker’s project”, where wine lovers come five times a year to learn how to make wine and leave with ten cases of it with their own label. At Salton we enjoyed an unforgettable visit of the “Cave da Evolução” on lantern  8 meters deep underground and amid religious songs that captivated us. At Don Giovanni, the seven-bedroom hotel has no television and no internet, to fully recharge your vitality and to better learn to live in the community.
At Lidio Carraro, one of the wines from the estate was chosen in 2014 as the official wine of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. A friendly hand to a winery that began in 1998, the year of the famous 3-0 for France against Brazil. A sweet memory, which already seems far away.

Miolo

Miolo


With our harts heart full of emotions and discoveries, we finished our stay with a brief passage in São Paulo for an interview with the national channel Globo. We stayed with our friend Janaina Costa Pereira and her family. The moment was touching because it was the first time they invited strangers home. All their family and friends made the trip to dine with us. Despite the language barrier, we spent a wonderful time where grilled meat, caipirinha and laughs punctuated the evening until dawn.

 

 WineExplorers’cheers,
JBA

 

Thank you to Casa Valduga, Miolo, Lidio Carraro, Aurora, Cave Geisse, Salton, Perini, Peterlongo, Pizzato, Don Giovanni and Chandon estates for their warm welcome ; to Joana Monteiro for having accompanied us, to Wines of Brazil for the great organization of our stay in Brazil and for the planning of visits and tastings ; to Schenker Do Brazil for their support and time, to Janaina Costa Pereira and her family for their extraordinary welcome and accommodation in São Paulo despite the language barrier ; to Vino e Arte and Barbarella Bakery for these beautiful tastings in Porto Alegre.

 

(1) In addition of Serra Gaucha and Campanha regions in the South, the state of Bahia, far north, defeated the laws of nature in terms of wine production, only 1,050 km from the equator, in the Vale do Sao Francisco (9° parallel South) .
(2) The first vines were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese Martim Afonso de Souza in 1532, with an agricultural foremost goal. It was only in 1551 that the first Brazilian wine was made. But it was not until 1626 that the industry really started, spurred by the Jesuits (for religious celebrations).
(3) Churrasco : Brazilian barbecue
(4) Harvests in Brazil are from the end of December to early January for sparkling wines, early February for white wines and from late February to early March for red wines.
(5) The Charmat method forces the second fermentation to happen in a large stainless steel tank prior to bottling, rather than in the bottle like the traditional méthode champenoise. The Charmat method is a cheaper means for pushing a wine through second fermentation and is best used on sparkling wines that are meant to be consumed young and relatively fresh. 

For more information on Brazilian wines : http://www.winesofbrasil.com.