2011. The end of the world for some, or at least one guy who predicted a day in May to be the final call for all of us. When failing to calculate the judgement day it was revised to the 21st of October. Again, nothing happened. Sorry to break the news Harold, but the world is still alive and kicking.
So. Yet an apocalypse failure accomplished. Yet an year to sum up. Don’t expect a list of the best I’ve had (how fun is that to read about…), more a personalized summary of what made my wine world rock, stumble or just reminded me why I’m doing this. Here’s to 2011. Cheers!
2011. The year when I fully understood what greatness Blaufränkisch can achieve. The year when I switched to my very own domains and spent long nights trying to understand how code could be poetry. The year when I ended the feeling of being like the last of the mohicans, joining Facebook. The year when my Madeira passion got a most necessary injection, a re-visit to the island that is, after one and a half year’s awayness. The year when I realized how neglected Greek wines are. The year when I post-poned my dream of a very own wine cellar. The year when I became known as the volcano guy.
2011. A to Z. This is what I will ask my brain to remember and stuff away for future references. Again, thanks for reading, commenting and contacting me. Please continue doing so.
Austrian of the year. When I had that sip of his Gemischter Satz I knew this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. ‘This is the kind of wine I want to drink and tell the world about’, I thought. This is what keeps a site like this running. Stefan Hajszan in Wien was a, for me, totally unknown name before that evening in late May. Wines with personality, lots of mineral feel and impeccably clean taste. You just gotta love this; before a meal, with the meal or after. I don’t need world famous wines to get the necessary kick. I just need Stefan Hajszan’s Gemischter Satz.
Bastard(o) of the year. Some bastards coming my way this year. Three actually. In five days. One rare barrel sample at Vinhos Barbeito, the 1954 at the Blandy’s tasting and the 1927 at Pereira d’Oliveira. When something becomes rare and hard to find, it sometimes gets more attention than it might deserve. Afterall, something that is great and requested shouldn’t just disappear. Right? Still, Bastardo in Madeira (Trousseau in France) fascinates and can’t be accused for lacking personality. So why did it more or less become extinct?
Control+V of the year. Some names are tough to spell, some impossible to pronounce. Then there are those who combines the two categories. I’ve often thought about this, if a wine’s name might prevent people from buying. Not the Chateau Condom reason, teehee, but more the fact that you don’t have a single clue how to pronounce it, nor spell it.
Kövérszőlő. That’s a grape. I just copy pasted the name. A grape used mostly in the Tokaji blends, but in 2009 Gróf Degenfeld decided to produce their first single grape variety Kövérszőlő. It is sooo delicious and awesome with a peach pie. But how to prononce it I don’t know. I just drink and write about the stuff…
Dust of the year. Gimblett dust. A character found in wines from the Gimblett Gravels Vineyard in Hawke’s Bay. New Zealand you know. The stony soil results in red wines with richness, ripeness and an elegant dusty tannin finish. I love the Gimblett dust character and Hawke’s Bay in general. Both Syrah and Bordeaux blends have outstanding potential and a classy feel. Simply put; a wine region to follow closely. Know your dust. You will be rewarded. Why not start with 2007 Le Sol. That’s French for soil. Stupid me thought it meant sun.
Event of the year. 23rd of September. 12 wines in front of me. The oldest from the year of 1811. We’re around fifty people attending the bicentenary tasting that Blandy’s are arranging in Funchal. Quite a cool birthday party to throw huh? Then, after a truly memorable tasting some food and more wine. Great wines. Great surroundings. Great atmosphere. But most of all; great people. For a few hours I’m in heaven and am enjoying every second of it. Madeira, the most breathtaking wine in the world!
Forgiveness of the year. It started with the great 2009 vintage when the region’s hidden treausures were rediscovered by many. 2010 followed up. Beaujolais; bemocked and even ridiculed, by court cases, nouveau wines and for buying too much sugar. Everything’s now forgotten about. Just continue doing what you do guys; lip-smackingly, seductive, to-die for gorgeous Gamay wines. Brouilly, Chiroubles, Fleurie and Morgon; we love you!
Greek of the year. Perhaps the toughest one to write considering all the great Greeks I’ve tasted during 2011. But now I’ve put myself in this situation so here goes. Gentilini. That’s a name to remember. Before being introduced to their Robola and Mavrodapne, I would never have guessed that wines of this quality and great personality were produced in Cephalonia. Yes, it’s been a while since I was there and much has probably changed but still, this is really impressive stuff. The almost cool climate feel the Robola oozes of, is nothing but drop dead gorgeous. Track it down. Buy it. Love it!
How is it possible of the year. I will now reveal how far away I was from an engineering graduate diploma. I don’t get it, how can a boat, made of millions of tonnes of steel, float? If I throw a little coin in the water it sinks. Yes, I know of Archimedes’ principle but still don’t get it. The same goes for the 1850 Verdelho which Luís d’Oliveira poured me at my last visit in September. Yup, no typing error there. 1850. How can a wine, at the age of 161 years, be pure perfection? Madeira is the longest lived wine we have, but still, longest lived and also tasting divine after so many years…I simply can’t understand. Guess this is why Madeira wine is the most magical and mystical glass for me. It’s like the floating boat, I just don’t get it and that’s the beauty. Thanks for pouring one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted Luís!
I need more of this of the year. What’s your every day wine? Have you found that special one that really does it for you, day in and day out? Sure, If I had the dough I would be drinking LaLaLa every week but now I don’t. Have that kind of money that is. Then again, wouldn’t I get tired of La Turque after a while, just wishing for a wine with that instant drinkability and one that didn’t call for a philosophical moment at every sip?
Naaaaaahhhhhh! Who am I trying to convince here? Still, when I had that Kadarka from Egri Borvidék, Orsolya Pince, I really felt that this is exactly a wine I want to be able to serve whenever I want to. Just a fab every day drink, love at first sniff and love at first sip. Less than ten euros in Hungary. What more can one ask for? Oh yes, mass production but with the quality kept. É possibile?
Judas of the year. What’s up with this guy you might think. Judas times three for the corks now. Is this some kind of personal vendetta? No, I just don’t get it. So many tainted wines at all levels that it amazes me. Again, why? Who’s the one benefitting from a cork closure in a bottle supposed to be consumed within five or six years from vintage? The consumer? The producer? Tell me, I’m curious to know.
Don’t tell me the consumer wants it. Come on, if it is something we’ve learnt, it’s the fact who’s directing who. A more reliable closure is in the interest of the producer. I mean, why use a cork and risk that five to seven per cent won’t buy the product again because of a strange taste and smell? After all, not many do recognize a tainted bottle but settles with “This wasn’t good. I’m not buying it again.” Wine producers; skip the cork closure in all of your wines not intended for long aging!
Kermit of the year. As a co-blogger said a few years ago when tasting a Danish red wine; “Greener than Kermit himself!” I don’t want to mock all the enthusiasts out there, struggling to produce wine in extremely cold climates such as Sweden or Denmark. But the fact remains; why should any serious wine lover pay three times as much for a bottle of wine which isn’t even close by in quality when compared to less expensive stuff from wine regions around the world? Grapes adjusted for the climate just to be able to make wine at this latitude, says it all. Sure, it’s great people dare and follows there dreams but someone’s gotta buy the bottles right? Sorry, but I’m putting my money in enjoyment, not being loyal here.
Lava love of the year. Giuseppe Russo is a man of passion. He loves his wine and his region; Etna. His Nerello Mascalese wines speaks to your heart and have that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ feeling written all over them. They’re ethereal and will most likely appeal to all of you who are dead-tired of concentrated brutal monster wines in desperate chase of points. This is the stuff you want to drink. This is the guy you want to support. Giuseppe, you lava. Sorry, you rock!
Mug shot of the year. “Take a mug shot” he said. Charles Smith. An ex rock manager that switched career – and Copenhagen- to become winemaker in Washington State. You might think that he is all about image and design when you see the labels and names of his wines; Kung-Fu Girl. The Hustler. But no, some of his stuff is simply put world-class!
A cold January he and his wife visited Stockholm and the tasting showed some truly outstanding Syrah wines. Especially that magnum of the 2006 K Syrah Wells that Charles brought was heaven. Would love to have it blind next to a top Cote-Rotie. Why not next to the d’Ampuis from Guigal? Yes, it is just as good. Charles, you rock as well!
Nerello of the year. I’m the volcano man. Can’t come to the letter N without mentioning Nerello, the Etna pride. But in all its glory it is easy to forget they are two; Mascalese and Cappuccio. Most of the cheering goes to Mascalese so when finding a seducer like Tenuta di Fessina’s 2009 Laeneo, pure Nerello Cappuccio, it feels good to lift it out from the shadow and givet it a big, big horrah:
Pale red color. Youthful aromas almost reminiscent of a high class Beaujolais Gamay. Right from the start the wine has caught your attention. Wet rocks in abundance, red sour cherries, wild strawberries, flowers and a note of licorice and clove. Just lovely. On the palate it has that coolness that is so delightful. Red dry berries, spices and wet rocks. Fine balancing acidity and soft mature tannins. Refreshing taste and pure finish. This speaks directly to your heart!
Overrated of the year. I’m no critic yet I do publish a score interval when I rate a wine. Sometimes I hate myself for doing that because it does take away a bit of what makes wine so great. Then, at other occasions, I feel I really need a tool in order to organize and compare tasting impressions. Since I do think highly of my readers I assume that those who wish the points, read it and those who doesn’t want it, just skip it.
Points are overrated yes, but here to stay. It’s an endless debate but I am thinking of inventing my very own rating system which should have a more soft approach. Just waiting for that great idea to hit me. Points, overrated or not; we’ll never find out…
Publication of the year. Boy, have we been waiting. The fifty or so Madeira afficionados of us, around the globe. Waiting and longing for Mannie Berk’s new edition of Madeira, The island vineyard. First released in 1984 and written by the late Noël Cossart, it was published by Christie’s in just a few copies. Yet it was the reference point for many of us and Mannie has done a huge work updating the book and adding new chapters. I’ve had my copy for half a year now and already I have read it twice. Think it is soon time again.
Anyway, you don’t have to be a Madeira nut to read this. This is just as much a historic retrospect told in a way that should interest more than us fifty fortified fans. Buy it!
Question of the year. “But Niklas, tell me. What shall I do to sell my wines here?” Sometimes you just don’t come up with any clever answers. Perhaps because there aren’t any? Miguel Montero from Bodegas Real Tesoro has just guided me through some truly great wines and he is very pleased to see my reaction. I love Sherry and share the frustration that Miguel expresses. Why don’t we drink more Sherry? Prejudice? Not cool enough? Or is it just too much character? Perhaps we have become used to stream-lined products that doesn’t demand one’s attention.
Have a glass of the Amontillado del Príncipe. It is drop dead gorgeous and love at first sip, but will call for your attention as well. Sherry. It’s not Madeira but it is still damn good!
Ribera del Duero of the year. What happened to Ribera del Duero? A few years ago it was THE REGION, but nowadays it doesn’t get as much attention. Too much oak? Too styled wines? Or are they simply too expensive? Anyway, thirty euros for the 2007 La Navila from Vina Pedrosa is nothing but a great buy. Elegantly built stuff, harmony and seductive fruit. Sure, there’s oak in it but when handled this way it is just the trademark of a region. 2011 seems to be the year when oak treatment became foul language. Well, not in my world. I like oak. I like Ribera del Duero.
Self-confidence of the year. Some would say it’s complete madness, serving the Gernot and Heike Heinrich 2006 Salzberg next to the 2006 Chateau Mouton-Rotschild in a blind tasting. I say it’s a sign of confidence.
Ok, I have had some really fine Austrian reds before but if it wasn’t for the trip to Burgenland earlier this year, I wouldn’t have realized that there are so many of them. Fine, no great, Austrian reds. And although the Mouton is a better wine than the Salzberg, in my opinion, the Austrian wasn’t steamrolled by the Bordeaux. Not at all. When it comes to white wines Austria don’t need to proof they are true world class. But start checking out the reds, especially Blaufränkisch, and you will realize that the country is a serious competitor at both entry- and top level when it comes to red wines.
Twenty oh-nine of the year. Holy sweet jesus! I shouldn’t get surprised but I can’t believe how good the single vineyard wine is. Lavender. It smells of lavender. Lots of mineral feel, cool restrained ripe red berries and impeccable oak treatment. Young yes, but highly promising. On the palate the oak is a bit more evident. Still never intrusive, although it’s a young wine. Lavender, strawberries and dark cherries in a fine mix. Plum skin, wet clay and again that cooler feeling. This is pure class. Precision and delineation. One of the best kiwi Pinot’s I’ve ever had. Ask me again in two or three years time and it might be top three. It’s that good. 2009 is just awesome in Waipara and The Gradient is the best ever from Mountford Estate!
URL(s) of the year. They say code is poetry. Well, try to run your own domains and basically learn it all from scratch; then poetry is a strong word. My vocabulary those late nights, probably sounded like something Charles Bukowski would have been proud of. But I made it and slowly I am getting it. Perhaps, after all, code is poetry? Mad about Madeira and Wine Virtuosity. My marks in cyberspace. Sorry for being selfish there for a minute…
View of the year. When I get old I will make sure to have a few vine rows on my own in Madeira. A little house and why not a view like this? The north side of the island is nothing but stunning and I will never get tired of just watching it. People say it is an isolated island but who cares with a view like the one at Quinta do Furao, close to São Jorge? Madeira is fantastic in every sense and if you haven’t been yet you know where to go in 2012. Man, I get goose skin just of watching the photograph again and thinking back!
Winemaker of the year. Humbleness seems to be a trait of character when it comes to great winemakers. They don’t need to shout loud and say stupid things in order to get some attention. Anselmo Mendes, the master of Alvarinho, belongs to that category of humble and intelligent winemakers.
During our meeting he kept saying “My wine is made in the vineyard.”, not wishing to take credit for the job he had put behind it. Well Anselmo, I like your humble approach but come on, you deserve the cred. I just hope more will follow in your footsteps. And to you dear reader; are you drinking these gorgeous Alvarinhos of his?
Xanadu of the year. Some moments are just perfect and although nothing special happened, you will still remember them for a long time. Like that summer evening at the island we live on. Fine weather, kids were playing at the waterside, my father-in-law preparing the bbq while we were sipping the latest vintage of a Moscato d’Asti. For some reason there were only a few at the beach making the evening even better. While eating our bbq we had Californian Pinot, slightly chilled. And to just make that evening perfect; a magnificent sunset. Summer in Sweden is short but beautiful. The only part of the year when I don’t feel I was born at the wrong latitude.
You’re kidding me right of the year. Müller-Thurgau. For long believed to be a crossing between Riesling and Sylvaner. I remember already 15+ years ago, in my early fumblings in the world of wine, that I didn’t get it. That is; take two quality grapes (yes, I do consider Sylvaner being one), cross them and you have the goodies of each grape. But how on earth could Riesling and Sylvaner end up in a Müller-Thurgau! Come on; Müller-Thurgau is Liebfraumilch! Reading with ten years delay I’m therefore quite happy to see DNA fingerprinting determining a crossing between Riesling and Madeleine Royale (a table wine grape which ripens extremely early). I knew it!
So what a great surprise it was to taste the 2008 Feldmarschall from Tiefenbrunner in Südtirol. Müller-Thurgau cultivated at 1,000 meters altitude and with low yields. Minerals en masse and restrained floral fruit. God, I loved it! Note to self; never mock Müller-Thurgau again.
Zoom of the year. Nussberg. One of the coolest located vineyards in the world. Pretty cool feeling with the panorama view over beautiful Vienna and yet standing in a vineyard. Perhaps most known for the Gemischter Satz wines but you will also find Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay of high quality. A couple of centuries ago this was not a part of the capital, more on the countryside. But with urbanization and the expansion of the cities you get this, Nussberg.Or as Frietz Wieninger says: Ganz Wien in einem Wein.
Thanks for following me in 2011. Se you in 2012 where I will focus on Hungarian wines and even more Sicilians.