Monday, October 22, 2018

Wines of Portugal visit NYC with delicious variety on display

If you only think of Port when you think of Portugal's wine - you're sorely missing out!

Don't get me wrong - Port (which is only made in Portugal) is wonderful.  It's actually a fortified wine, i.e., has the addition of a neutral spirit added to it which amps the alcohol and adds to the longevity. The creation was made to better preserve the wine on ship voyages.  I am a huge lover of port and partial to tawny - which, like its name implies is a rich amber color.  There are also wonderful ruby ports available.  At the recent Wines of Portugal tasting in New York, I had the good fortune to try a number of 10 and 20 year old Tawny ports. 
The best-kept secret at the tasting was a special vintage Port from Kopke, the oldest Port wine house established in 1638 -- their Coheita port from 1978.  

But Portugal has so much more to offer. From the far north, white wines of sizzling acidity: Vinho Verde.  From the Douro Valley, fantastic dry red wines made from mixes of indigenous grapes including the distinctly aromatic Touriga Nacional.

As one looks further south, big red wines of bold character are found in regions such as Alentejo - where Esporao is one of my favorite producers. But this hot climate also makes fine white wines.  Their reserve-level white is a wine of great richness and length at an outstanding price point.

Look for wines of Portugal for reds and whites that will wow your palate at a very agreeable price. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Donnachiara Campania wines please with structured reds, satisfying whites

The wines of Campania, Italy, are not well known by most Americans, but that seems destined to change, thanks, in part, to efforts by winery owners such as Ilaria Pettito of Donnachiara winery.  Ilaria passionately extols the virtues of Campania's indigenous grapes, and she's committed to improving the quality of the native wines of the region.  Donnachiara was established in 2005 and is named for Ilaria's grandmother.  

I had the great pleasure of meeting lovely Ilaria and tasting through her current releases at a media event at Il Gattopardo

Falanghina Beneventano IGT 2017 - The event began with a crisp, white wine of high acidity with notes of lemon and minerality. A refreshing pour with assorted stuzzichini sul tavolo. 

Greco di Tufo DOCG 2017 -  This white's freshness can be attributed to its creation in stainless steel tanks and the fact that it does not undergo malolactic fermentation.  This limited production wine has depth of flavor and richness from twice weekly battonage. Lime on the attack gave way to herbs such as dill -- with a mouthwatering salinity rounding out the flavor profile. Tufo is a porous volcanic stone found in the region. 

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2017 - Fiano is Ilaria's favorite white grape. This DOCG wine is structured, offering acidity, ripe pear, and a backbone of minerality.  It was a great match with the first course of clams with buckwheat pasta. 

Beneventano Falanghina IGT "Resilienza" 2016 - This wine represents a new project aimed at building the reputation of Falanghina -- considered a less important grape from the region.  The idea of resilience came to Ilaria from her father's work in the steel business. This wine was aged on lees and then spent a year in bottle.  The fruit was allowed longer hang time to develop more intense flavor.  With a deep gold color, this wine offered rich fruit including apricot and pear along with typical crisp acidity of wines from this hilly region. 

After the first course of seafood pasta, we were served the spectacular Colorado lamb and a quartet of reds from the region. 

Campania Aglianico IGT 2016 - This wine won a prestigious Tre Bicchieri award and it's no wonder.  I found it to have a wonderful nose of ripe plum. On the palate, there were black and red fruits supported by a firm tannic structure and good finish.  The fruit retains liveliness from stainless steel fermentation followed by malolactic in barriques. 

Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2015 - A Wine Spectator Top 100 Wine of 2017, this red was rounder with fresh cranberry and blackberry notes, and good grip. While many people consider that young Aglianico is too tannic and rustic, winemaking is improving and now these wines have far greater balance than 20 years ago.  According to Ilaria, "We believe it's important to wait, but also to enjoy." She aims to make wines that can be pleasurable when released - or when aged. 

Taurasi DOCG 2013 - This 100% Aglianico was an elegant red that has matured into a lovely wine. It has an intensely perfumed nose of violets and blackberries with a round mouthfeel and rich blackberry and sour cherry on the palate.  I gave this wine four stars.  

Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2012 - This 100% Aglianico grown on clay soil was more subdued than the 2013, with fruit profile of pomegranate and cranberry and minerality. It had an elegant balance of acidity and fruit and had a long satisfying finish. The Taurasi Riserva is only produced in best vintages. 

The take-away from this lunch is that the wines of Campania are improving in quality with careful winemaking, vineyard selection, and grape growing.  More specifically, the team at Donnachiara has proven that they are serious about creating top quality white and red wines from the hilltop vineyards of this southern Italian region.  Get them while they're still affordably priced! 


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The state of wine blogging examined at 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference

Wine bloggers hard at work at the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference
At the 11th annual Wine Bloggers Conference (this year in Walla Walla, Washington,) a question was posed to a panel of experts: should the name of the conference be changed? On the panel was Tom Wark, the man who created one of the first wine blogs, Fermentation - which he continues to publish today. Tom answered, “Yes.”

In the 2018 online landscape, is “blogger” a qualifier that’s no longer necessary among wine writers?

Tom traced the early development of blogging, when it was looked upon as either “cute” or “annoying” by members of the wine industry. At that point there was a sharp divide between bloggers and journalists. As wine blogging grew, it enabled many voices to compete inexpensively with traditional media. For example, consumers could choose between reading blogger Alder Yarrow or New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov. By 2009-2010, interest in wine blogging hit its peak.    

I started my first blog in 2006, soon followed by this one in 2007.  I recall the "us versus them" dynamic of the aughts. Print journalists declared they had legitimacy (and fact-checking and copyediting) on their side, and bloggers insisted on .... well, our right to exist. We had an alternative viewpoint that made the conversation about wine richer. But even as we attended the same media tastings, wine dinners, and press trips as traditional journalists, we were aware that there were some who questioned our right to be there.  Underdog status pushed many of us to try harder, strive to write better stories, and look for fresh angles. In my own life, the urge to prove myself prompted me to pursue the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) level three certification -- which I was proud to pass with distinction. 

But now, according to Tom, “We’re all members of the wine media.” For him the word “bloggers” in the conference name is a distinction that no longer needs to be made. I’ve been in the blogger community as long as we’ve been having conferences, and I recall when the European Wine Bloggers Conference shifted to the Digital Wine Communications  Conference. It felt right to me, because there always seemed to be a mix of traditional writers and bloggers at that event.

As for this Wine Bloggers Conference -- I can see both sides. I like to be considered as part of a larger group of wine communicators that includes journalists, podcasters, vloggers, and more. But, in my heart, I still embrace the word. There is something bold in it – the fact that no one gave us permission to do this, the very chutzpah it takes to create your own platform for opining about wine. 

Part of me wonders, isn’t being a blogger enough?

Then again, maybe it’s not the word, but the spirit of blogging that I hope is preserved. Because it implies boldness, creativity, and a commitment to sharing one’s vision. As I looked around the crowded ballroom, where many new bloggers had joined the ranks of more seasoned writers, one thing was sure: the passionate drive to write about wine online – no matter what the name -- is alive and well.