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.

Australia, a country of all possible contrasts

What is better than starting the year in the Southern hemisphere, in Australia, where the weather is nice and (very) hot? Furthermore, by renting our first camper van and enjoying a new way of traveling, we expected a lot!
Being able to take the road to our liking.  Going wherever we want, to the sandstone of our desires and our wine travels. Lunching in front of a lake, having dinner facing the sea, sleeping near the desert… A real taste of freedom.

d'Arenberg - McLaren Vale

d’Arenberg – McLaren Vale


The route was drawn : we would spend one month between the Yarra Valley, Lethbridge, the Limestone Coast , McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and Heathcote, before heading to Tasmania for two weeks.

The Yarra Valley, primarily pre-phylloxera

Camper van keys in hand, we headed down South of Melbourne, just a few kilometers away from the ocean.

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This is one of the coolest parts of Australia. They grow mainly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Here, as in many Australian regions, the vineyards are pre-phylloxera (1). A rare enough fact to be highlighted. Before entering one of Mac Forbes’ vineyard plots we were therefore requested to clean our shoes in an aqueous solution ; to avoid any risk of contamination. Such a wine heritage must be preserved!

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Another essential recommendation : sunscreen. Upon our arrival to Onannon estate – where the production of Pinot Noir is as delicious as it is confidential – recommendations about protection from the sun were very strict. Because above Australia, the ozone layer is permeable and the UV rays are highly carcinogenic.
Whatever. The wines had a taste of adventure.

Lethbridge Wines, a case study

Continuing our route westwards, we encountered Lethbridge Wines.

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What a beautiful meeting with the couple Maree Collis/Ray Nadeson. Two scientists who wanted a change of life after many years of working in the medicine industry. They did three years of research to find the best terroirs in their region. As a result, they set their sights in 1996 on a plot of 6 hectares belonging to an old Swiss farmer based in Lethbridge for four generations – and who for the record, managed to sell the parcel to them at three times the original price. ” When one loves, one does not count “,  Ray explained.

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Planting vines was a complex and dangerous mission. Lethbridge’ soils are composed of two layers of basalt, about two meters deep. Yields don’t even reach 0.5 tons/hectare, testifying of the difficulty of producing wine here. But what a terroir ! Maree and Ray are passionate and real purists.  They also travel  to France every year to the Tronçais forests to choose the plot of oaks that will enable the making of their next barrels… Remarkable.

Photo shooting of kangaroos along the Limestone Coast

We were now following the Limestone Coast. The region is not a usual tourist stop for wine lovers. Among the hundreds of hectares bordering the coast, we were aware that only a few wineries open their doors to the public. Other than that, there is not a soul here for kilometers around.

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We tried our luck at Wangolina, a pretty 11-hectare farm, unpretentious and charming. We were warmly received by the parents of Anita Goode, the winemaker of the family estate, 5th generation working on the property. The next day they promised us that we would see kangaroos. They are living near the estate. Excited as ever, I had trouble sleeping. The day after we went exploring, after a big breakfast. Kangaroos were waiting for us, as if by magic. Photo shooting could begin. The moment was timeless…

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Wine heart strokes from the 1st part of the trip :
Pinot Noir 2013 from Onannon, Mornington Peninsula
EB07 Riesling 2013 from Mac Forbes, Yarra Valley
Indra Shiraz 2012 from Lethbridge Wines, Lethbridge
Tempranillo 2012 from Wangolina, Limestone Coast

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McLaren Vale, the d’Arenberg’s case

450 hectares of fully organic vineyards spread over 11 sites. Welcome to d’Arenberg, Osborn’s family vineyard! To put you in the context, imagine that they rent up to 1,300 sheep during winter time (from April to September), in order to eat the grass between the rows of vines and maintain a sanitary condition. As natural as possible of course. Since I would like to see that…we will have to come back.
Some old Shiraz vines are more than 100 years old (from 1902 and 1905 for the oldest). Because what counts most for the Osborn’s is to develop the most authentic wines possible. Moreover, nothing at d’Arenberg is left to chance ; from the use of mainly concrete tanks and old barrels for aging the topping wines, to the selection of Chester’s shirts (mythical). But that is another debate.

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During our epic tasting – where over 30 wines were served – we sympathized with Tanya Ward, head of the tasting room and originating from New Zealand. In the evening, we were invited for dinner by Tanya and John, her husband, with some other friends. A memorable kiwi evening (2) during which many more bottles than guests around the table were opened, and which ended the next day with a gargantuan brunch. Lovely!

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On the way to the Barossa, we discovered Deviation Road and its incomparable expertise for sparkling wines. We learned how to disgorge « à la volée » during a sunny afternoon. An impressive experience, claiming cool and precise gestures. Adrenaline guaranteed.

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Barossa, a region full of treasures

One Friday afternoon, while we were having lunch in the middle of pastures, destiny placed  a couple of farmers on our roadtrip. She is German. He is from the Barossa. Together, Silke Hülsheger and her boyfriend raise sheep and produce a little “home made ” wine for fun. A sweet Shiraz slightly above 15.5% alcohol. We were cordially invited to their home for the weekend, and with their friends, the Abbott family, we recharged our batteries while enjoying the charm of the countryside of the Barossa. We improvised petanque games, BBQ and enjoyed the pool. Another lost corner of paradise where I would love to bring my suitcases for a while…

Australie, South Australia, Eden Valley
Starting our winery visits again the next Monday, we had two heart strokes in the Barossa : Yalumba and Rockford Wines, both recommended by our friend Alex Dale (3).

Yalumba, created in 1849, is the oldest family estate in Australia. We were welcomed by Robert Hill Smith, the owner, for a bit of history. The place is gorgeous with its large red stone buildings and its own cooperage factory. Yalumba proudly keeps the heritage of the house through a nursery and a library of clones. We concluded the visit in the Eden Valley with a tasting in the vineyard leaded by Jane Ferrari. Nothing better than having your feet in the vineyard to better understand the wines that you are tasting!

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Rockford Wines, another winery with outstanding wines, is a place for purists, vinifying exclusively in open vats during fermentation (half in concrete, the other half in wood). Created by Robert O’Callaghan in 1984 in order to preserve the heritage of the Barossa – while the government was encouraging wineries to rip out vines – Rockford Wines sells most of its production throught a membership system. Rare wines of great finesse, orchestrated by winemaker Ben Radford. To be tasted urgently.

Adam Foster, the rising star of Syrah

We met with Adam Foster at his new property in Lancefield (Heathcote region). Amateur of fine wines since forever, Adam had a first career as a chef in England for a few Michelin star restaurants before becoming a sommelier in Australia. In unconditional love with Syrah , he worked four vintages in the Rhone Valley with some of the best wine producers (Michel Chapoutier, Stéphane Ogier, Pierre Gaillard) to better understand this delicate grape variety.

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For now, he buys his grapes. But Adam dreams, ultimately, to plant a few hectares on the granite soils of his property. We tasted precise, elegant and very fine wines. Superb.

Wine heart strokes of the 2nd part of the trip :
J.R.O. Afflatus Shiraz 2010 from d’Arenberg, Mc Laren Vale (20 months in old barrels – Shiraz vines from 1910)
Beltana Blanc de Blancs 2009 from Deviation Road, Adelaide Hills
Heggies Riesling 1999 from Yalumba, Eden Valley (Barossa)
Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Rockford, Barossa
dreams… 2012 from Syrahmi (Adam Foster), Heathcote (100% all bunch Syrah)

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In the suburbs of Melbourne, it was in Beaconsfield that we finished our stay. More exact at Carlei Estate, an estate exclusively practising biodynamics. This was also the first winery visited in the one year of our project where Sergio Carlei, winemaker and owner of the domain, proposed a blind tasting of grapes to us harvested according to “fruit days“ and “root days“. The same vintage, the same varietals, the same plots, the same ageing in barrels… but two distinctly different tastes. Amazing. The juice from the barrel harvested on a “fruit day“ was more expressive and rounder. That of the barrel harvested on a “root day“ was closed and a bit more rustic. Bluffing. Of course you can believe it ; or not…
Anyway, the tasting was there as proof and it was an incredible experience. 
We learn every day, and to our delight !

Now let’s go to Tasmania for ending our Australian tour.

WineExplorers’cheers,
JBA
 

Thank you to Onannon, Stonier, Mac Forbes, Lethbridge Wines, Wangolina, d’Arenberg, Deviation Road, Yalumba, Rockford, Adam Foster and Carlei Estate for their warm welcome. Thank you to Brice Camelin, Nick La, Camilla Camelot Bassi, Tanya and John Ward, to Silke Hülsheger and the Abbott family for their accommodation and their extraordinary hospitality. Finally, thank you to Joshua Elias, chief editor of Alquimie magazine and to Rory Kent, founder of Young Guns of Wine for their precious advices.

 

(1) pre-phylloxera : qualifies a vine planted before the appearance of phylloxera.
(2) kiwi evening : the kiwi is an endemic land bird of New Zealand, unable to fly. This term is used to describe how frendly and welcoming are people from New Zealand.
(3) Alex Dale, co- owner of The Winery of Good Hope in South Africa, our first winery visited in January 2014 at the launch of the WINE Explorers’ project. 

For more information on Australian wines: https://www.wineaustralia.com