About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our Wine Group Goes Blind

I have been telling our wine group about the sensational and authentic Neopolitan pizza at Bivio Pizzeria Napoletana in Little Falls, NJ for quite some time.  As you might imagine the group could not wait to try it.  Since this evening would be in addition to our regular monthly gathering, we thought it would be fun if each of us brought an inexpensive bottle of wine to enjoy with the pizza. We also decided, much to my chagrin, to make it a blind tasting event.  I am very much opposed to blind tastings as they inadvertently lead to attempting to pick winners as opposed to appreciating each wine in the context of the occasion.   Terry Thiese, the highly regarded importer of Alsacian, German and Champagne wines, says “Blind tasting is to wine what strip poker is to love.  I could not agree more.  But as I am only one of 6 and blind tasting was agreed upon, I put aside my prejudice and eagerly participated.  In addition to drinking each wine blind, the other criteria were that the wine could not cost more than $30 and we would score the wines on a 10-point scale.  You know my feelings about assigning numbers to wine. Thus I decided that as opposed to attempting to rate each wine per the Parker scale which considers bouquet, color, palate and overall impression, I would give the wine 9 points if I would purchase it and 6 points if I would not.

Pizza Margherita
I have sung the praises of Bivio in my blog Bivio e Bovio in November of 2011.  In addition to his remarkable pizza, on occasion owner/chef Tom Colao makes Manicotti as a special for the evening.  My request to have it made for us to enjoy prior to the pizza was cheerfully met by Tom.  His Manicotti are the real deal, an incredibly light crepe stuffed with a creamy & perfectly seasoned Ricotta cheese filling.  They are as good as I have ever had.  Marc A. says he judges all Manicotti against his aunt Tessie’s and these he put in the same league as hers.  As for the pizza, the praise was unanimous, amongst the best pizza this side of Naples.  It is the perfect balance of dough, San Marzano tomatoes, homemade mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil.

Okay, lets get to the wines.  The first wine was poured blind into our glasses.  This was without question a modern styled wine with an oaky palate and somewhat tannic back end.  I did not try to guess the grape or origin of the wine.  After 10 minutes in the glass the tannins softened and the wine improved quite a bit.  While the wine was not bad, It was definitely not my style and I would not buy it.  Thus I rated it a 6.  The group was in agreement and the wine received a total score of 34.5 points out of a possible 60.  The wine was 2005 Lamborghini (La Fiorita) Campoleone Umbria IGT.  This is a decidedly modern style Super Tuscan blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot.  It is also the estate's top wine. The estate uses famed Italian winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, known for his love of modern style wines, to make their wines.  Malolactic fermentation takes place completely in new French barrique, and then is allowed to rest another twelve months in the same barrique, keeping the two grape varieties completely separate prior to blending.   If you like modern wines this is a wine for you.  Oh, in case you are wondering, yes this is the same Lamborghini of the Lamborghini car family.  In fact I have heard that if you purchase a new Lamborghini, they will include a case of this wine.

The second wine, which appeared to me to be a Burgundy, possessed a lovely earthy bouquet with a pure and elegant palate that I find to be characteristic of Pinot Noirs from Burgundy.  The wine was full bodied and finished with considerable length.  It was in fact a 1993 Daniel Bocquenet Nuit St. Georges Aux St. Julien, a basic village red from Burgundy.  At 20 years of age it once again demonstrated that estate level, inexpensive wines can age very nicely.  This wine, the 1993 vintage, can probably only be found at auction which is where Jeff got it.  An experienced auction buyer he was able to “steal” this wine for under $30, when in fact it usually goes for twice that much at auction.  Not only did I like the wine, but I would buy it if I could find it, so I scored it 9 points.  The group score totaled 46 points out of 60.

Our third wine for the evening was very, very good and was definitely made by an artisan.  While the wine reminded me of Nebbiolo it also had hints of a Pinot Noir from Burgundy.  It possessed a gorgeous transparent red hue, and was fresh, with lively and harmonious fruit on the palate.  It also had a soft elegant finish.  It was definitely a wine with soul. The wine was 2009 Ar. Pe. Pe Rosso Di Valtellina.  It was in fact 100% Nebbiolo, but not from Piedmont, rather from the Valtellina region of Lombardy, Italy near the Swiss border.  I scored it a 9, as I would definitely purchase it (in fact I plan on it).  It was the perfect compliment to the Manicotti.  Our group was in agreement and scored it 45 points out of 60.

The fourth wine was in our collective opinion a return to modern style winemaking. Unfortunately this bottle was closed and never really opened up, suggesting that the bottle itself was off, which impacted the scoring and true experience of the wine. There was no bouquet to speak of and and was rather flat and nondescript on the palate.  The wine was 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva, which is one of the better known and respected Chiantis of Tuscany. It is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and spent 16 months in French oak, 40% of which was new, before being aged in the bottle for 3 to 6 months.  It is a wine I would not purchase, thus I scored it a 6.  The group scored it 36 out of 60 points.

Wine number five was unmistakably a Nebbiolo from Piedmont as it had that Piedmontese earthy bouquet and soft, elegant palate.  It was young, possessed gorgeous young fruit and was extremely well balanced.  A wine with great pedigree.  It evolved in the glass and finished with good length.  It was in fact a 2009 Guido Porro Langhe Nebbiolo from Piedmont.  Importer Kermit Lynch says of Guido Porro, “Reviews and notes on Guido Porro regularly refer to him as “under the radar”: the wines he makes are worthy of a stellar reputation, but he is too easygoing and unassuming to worry about whether the general wine-drinking public recognizes his name. He rarely bothers to send samples to wine writers”.  Here is an entry-level wine that can hold it’s own with may Barolos and Barbarescos that sell for two to three times the price.  A wine I would buy, I scored it a 9.  The group scored it 44 out of 60 points.

The sixth and final wine of the evening was also unmistakably a Nebbiolo from Piedmont.  Like the Guido Porro before it, this had great pedigree also.  On the nose the earthy bouquet was intoxicating, while on the palate the fruit was pure, focused and elegant.  A round and delicious wine.  When it was revealed to be 2008 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco I was not surprised.  The Produttori del Barbaresco, a cooperative of 56 Barbaresco owners of Nebbiolo vineyards was put together in 1894 by Domizio Cavazza, headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba and a Barbaresco resident. Each family is in full control of its land, growing Nebbiolo grapes with centuries old skill and dedication. These wines are traditionally made and outstanding examples of old world wine making and represent one of the greatest wine values in the world today for both their entry level wine, as this one was, and their riservas.  Again a wine that I would buy (I have many bottles in my cellar) so I scored it 9 points.  The group scored it 48 points out of 60, making it the highest scoring wine of the evening.

With the exception of the 1993 Daniel Bocquenet Nuit St. Georges Aux St. Julien, these wines can be found on Wine-Searcher.com at or near $30 a bottle.  For those number guys out there here is the scoring of the six wines.

2008 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco - 48 points
1993 Daniel Bocquenet Nuit St. Georges Aux St. Julien – 46 points
2009 Ar. Pe. Pe Rosso Di Valtellina – 45 Points
2009 Guido Porro Langhe Nebbiolo – 44 points
2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva – 36 points
2005 Lamborghini Campoleone Umbria IGT - 34.5 points

The scores really are secondary as we had lively and insightful discussions about all of the wines. Our group definitely leans towards old-world, traditionally made wines, thus it was really no surprise that those wines outscored the more modern styled wines.  In reality we all won. Great food, wine and friendship.  It is what life, my friends, is all about!


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