The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday

Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir Rio Negro Barda 2010

The 2010 vintage from Bodega Chacra is simply outstanding, and their entry-level Pinot called “Barda” is a stunner, especially given that it’s only $26.  New and old school Pinot Noir fans alike will enjoy the bright fruit, refreshing acidity and soft tannins.

The Barda is a great wine for entertaining.  Its easygoing personality coupled with its ability to pair with food mean that this is something you want to have access to all the time.   It is hard not to enjoy this wine because you can serve this with just about anything under the sun: salami, cheese, grilled chicken, tuna steaks and roasted pork, just to name a few pairing suggestions.

Since purchasing the vineyards in 2004, Piero Incisa della Rochetta is on his way to producing Argentina’s best Pinot, if he’s not already doing so.  Every year his wines get better and better, and it has been fun to track them over the last few years. The 2010 Bodega Chacras are unique in the fact that these are the leanest wines made to date.  Alcohols are low, acidity is bit higher than previous vintages, and the aromatics are very pretty and high toned.  The elegance and pedigree of this estate really come through in this vintage. If you have ever had doubts about Argentinean wine  in general or Patagonian Pinot in general, this Barda is a wine that will change your mind.


Wine Supply and Wine Demand in Asia

Thoughts, questions and solutions from Josh Rubenstein

An interesting article by Malcolm Moore, published in the London Telegraph last week, shares with us the mindset of one of France’s first-growth chateaus during this 2010 En Primeur season. Moore writes in his evocatively titled piece “Not Enough Wine in France to Satisfy Chinese Thirst”:

Xavier de Eizaguirre, who manages Chateau Mouton Rothschild, one of France’s five “Premier Cru” estates, said it has been a “huge struggle to stay fair” to his customers. “When the Chinese are willing to buy your entire year’s production, it is difficult to resist,” he said.

The five Premier Cru estates, which also include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut-Brion, produce just 180,000 bottles to 200,000 bottles of wine each year, and there is only so much to go around.

Moore’s article clearly points out the practical ways that demand for wine in China outstrips its production, and the implications of this supply/demand quandary are myriad.

In Hong Kong, we love to speculate, and the recent explosions of the fine wine and real estate markets show that if there’s money to be made, we’re interested. As Moore notes in the case of 2009 Lafite, a point that I have personally witnessed at live auctions, buyers often have no qualms about acting irrationally in the name of sport and exclusivity.

It is refreshing to see the concern of the winemakers that while high prices can be commanded and easily received in China that there are loyal customers around the world who deserve allocation. And yet this recognition raises a host of questions: At what point do wines become priced so highly, or allocated too much to any one region, that you risk antagonizing your most tried and true supporters? At what point are we just flipping commodities, and wine simply becomes widget?

The suggestion that making more wine in China is a possible piece of the solution is a fair assessment. Certainly wines made in the USA and Australia are most in-demand by wine lovers in those countries, whether by sense of patriotism or brand familiarity.  If wines produced in China can achieve the brand esteem of first-growth Bordeaux, whether real or perceived, this may satisfy some of the local demand for such wines.  But ultimately, the chateau will need to put their feet down on how far out of touch they are willing to get with the rest of the world in the name of commanding highest possible prices and at what point it does more harm than good to their own reputations.

Follow Josh on Twitter and keep up with his Hong Kong exploits on an almost daily basis.

Wines for Memorial Day

A salute to red, white and you

This weekend sees the official start of summer, which means the first day that anyone with a grill is contractually obligated to fire it up. While beer may be the go-to beverage of the hot summer months (and trust us, we have nothing against the beauty of hops, malt and barley), not everyone loves beer, and some foods, some people and some moments simply call out for wine. In celebration of those foods, those people and those celebrations, here’s a brief list of some of our favorite summer wines.

Cima da Conegliano Prosecco Extra Dry NV: there’s nothing like a sparkler on a national holiday, and this Prosecco has the cutest little bubbles, a wicked dry palate, and pretty floral aromas. Let the kids write their names in the night with that kind of sparkler, this one is for you.

La Pietra Tommasone Ischia Bianco Terradei 2009: like a trip to Capri in a glass, this Bianco shines with Southern Italian sun. Crisp, citrusy, fresh and pellucid, this is a wine for your pesto, crab salad, or clam bake. Not everyone likes a burger.

Poderi Aldo Conterno Conca Tre Pile Barbera d’Alba 2007: but for people who do like a burger, there’s Aldo Conterno and Barbera to the rescue.Cheery, fruity, and acidic, this is a Barbera that could only come from the King of Barolo, Aldo Conterno. It’s great with meat, especially BBQ. Zesty and yummy.

Agricola Punica Montessu 2008: if you like wine that strides the line between wild and wooly and cool sophistication, look no further than this Sardinian gem. It’s a gorgeous, velvety, wine whose upbeat, unique personality reflects its pedigree of wine nobility and Sardinian coop. Check it out with a grilled steak. You’ll become a convert.

No matter how you celebrate this three-day weekend, we at IWM wish you a happy, healthy, and fun one. May all your glasses be half full and completely delicious.

A Few Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Champagne

The more you know, the more you love

Before my interest in wine turned into more than just a hobby (and got a little bit out of control), I had other plans; that changed, and it was all the fault of Champagne.  I admit: I hadn’t given much thought to bottle fermentation or yeast autolysis, and I wasn’t much interested in vineyard management or microclimates.   After I fell head over heels for Champagne, I found it difficult to justify drinking anything else.  The depth and elegance that erupted behind the transparent, bubbly curtain transposed my interest into a far-away, Pandora-like place.  In juxtaposition to our upcoming Champagne Salon event, I thought I’d toss out some interesting facts about Champagne.

• Despite the fact that the process of making Champagne requires considerable investment of money and time, there are approximately 3,750 growers that sell their own Champagne.

• The very deep foil around the neck of many bottles of sparkling wine is there because in former times, when the wines were not topped up after disgoregement, the foil was used to hide the large gap between the wine and the cork.

• The term cremant used to be applied to wines with a less-than-full sparkling wine pressure, and hence a more “creamy” mousse.  It has not been permitted for Champagne since 1994, when the Champenoise agreed to leave the term for other sparkling wines from France and Luxembourg in return for their forfeiting the right to say that they were made by the méthode Champenoise.

• The average temperature during the growing season is 16 degrees Celsius.  In such a climate, it is difficult for the grapes to achieve full ripeness, and they might have no more than 8.5% alcohol by volume of natural potential alcohol.  For a vintage wine, 9.5% abv is needed.  In the new world, grapes would never achieve flavor ripeness with such low degrees of potential alcohol.

• By law the word “Champagne” must be branded on that part of the cork that enters the bottle.

For a more complete idea of the Champagne Salon events in New York City and in Aspen, read Chris Deas’s blog post on what he’s dishing up and pouring out.


Go-To-Wine Tuesday

Muri-Gries Lagrein Rosso 2009

I try to cook dinner as often as possible; in fact, my roommate from college and I try to get together at least twice a month and put our chefs hats on.  My being the wine guy of the duo presents me with the challenge of selecting the wines to go with the menu, which I spend ample time doing.

One very important thing I feel people overlook when in my position of chef/sommelier is what to drink while cooking.  It has to be something delicious that doesn’t necessarily need food, but that will go with the food if you are tasting to make sure your flavors are spot on.  One other thing to consider is that it needs to be at a price point that will prevent guilt from setting in if you happen to improvise and sacrifice a splash or two to enhance the meal.

This past weekend’s drinking/cooking wine was the Muri-Gries Lagrein Rosso 2009. For those who don’t know, Lagrein is genetically related to the more well known varietal Syrah.  It shares many qualities with its cousin, but what sets it apart is its higher natural acidity as well as higher toned fruit.  It is a native varietal to northeast Italy, and it thrives in its cooler climate, making very rich and vibrant wines.  Muri-Gries has fashioned a textbook Lagrein that was perfect for our cooking; it was extremely fresh and floral while maintaining a rich and full body with ripe fruit and very soft tannin.  Luckily for us, no sacrifice was needed for the cooking process and we had some left over for our meal of chicken and rice (my buddy forgot to pick up the broccoli).  At $21.40, this wine is one that we could have drunk all night long.

Now we know, and isn’t knowing is half the battle?

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