Hello? Anyone? Wine blog to reader, Roger, out. 2014 were, by far, the most inactive year in the history of Wine Virtuosity. The focus was put on Mad about Madeira although the activity hardly impressed there as well. But I did wine travel last year, I did drink the best wine I’ve ever had. And I did write. Just not here.
It all comes down to a matter of adaptation. During the first half of 2014 I contributed on a weekly basis for the Swedish online wine site of Vinbanken and during the fall I started writing more lengthy stories for a printed wine magazine, Livets Goda. I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me and I just love going in depth to a given subject and commit to it. You see, I quite fancy this writing thing.
I have two new year’s resolutions. The first one’s easy and I’m probably already a part of the top flight among consumers – I promise to drink more sweet wines. The reason why? They rock. It’s as simple as that. Secondly I’ve promised myself to activate my two sites again, to post frequently. I simply have the honor of tasting so many good wines that deserve much more than a quick instagram photo, or a Twitter tweet. A wine worthy of attention needs a post and some SEO if the message is to be forwarded to others. Using easy channels such as instagram is at first quite amusing but quickly turns in to grown ups punchline chats, which is fun, but interesting wine stories gets lost. More posts here instead!
2015 has the potential becoming a great wine traveling year. Some trips are already booked, others planned. France, Hungary, Italy and Portugal are main targets. But most important though; the countdown for the annual trip to Madeira has started. After all, I am mad about it, Madeira.
Thanks for being here, thanks for being at my Madeira site, thanks for reading my printed articles. Enjoy my personal A-Z take on 2014!
Ambrosiac of the year. So I finally have it in front of me, the 1945 Croft’s Vintage Port. From a pristine cellar. The dream of a fortified freak, this transparent ruby colored wine from the legendary victory vintage. The feeling when sniffing it, tasting the wine and swallowing; so difficult to put words on. Only a true nerd will understand the emotions running through the body. The impeccable balance, the ethereal air surrounding it, its aliveness. Never have I tasted such perfection, never have I had a wine with this elegance. I must stop now. Otherwise I will start crying when writing this….
Best friends of the year. This is Andrea & Sandra, sisters in wine. And Esther. Just like her dad, she likes to hang with cool winemakers from the Douro Valley. She has the most sensitive nose and when the scents of the home cooking doesn’t please her, Esther runs to her room, closes the door and refuses to come out before the displeasing aromas are gone. When Sandra’s wines are in my glass I never run. No need to as she’s a brilliant winemaker. Her Quinta da Manoella, Pintas & Guru are all among my references for the potential of Douro table wines. Just taste the 2011 Pintas. It’s easy to understand why Wine Spectator went crazy on this one. Last year she also poured me yet a glass of hers & Jorge’s stunning 5G. Few will ever afford to buy this century old Port, me included. But hey, my young Esther is best friends with Sandra. Think that will ensure me a free 5G pour every now and then.
Chum of the year. Meet Moritz. He’s nice. Also, he’s my friend and a fellow fortified wine passionate. Last year he put together this amazing tasting of truly great Vintage Ports from 1945 to 2011. He wanted me to join the full day event at two star Michelin restaurant FG in Rotterdam. After two nano-seconds of consideration I accepted. Wines were decanted, the air in Rotterdam has most likely never smelled sweeter (!) and the wines, they were just amazing. Between the flights chef Geurds and his team prepared the courses for us and I can easily say it was an honor hanging with the Dutch wine pros, eating the creative dishes of FG and drinking some decent Port. Every wine would be a Port, if it could. Right Moritz? PS. If you want to buy some smashing Port or Madeira from him, just visit Wijnhandel Peeters in Rotterdam.
Decision of the year. One of the best things when dining out is to read the wine list. Together with a nice appetizer you scrupulously process the list, page by page, to find a great bottle or, in your favor, a wrongly priced top wine. Actually the latter never happens to me but all my friends seem to have more luck in that particular field. But sometimes you don’t have to go through this process, sometimes you find the wine list on the internet and spot the bottle you want to drink. This was the very case last summer as we entered the restaurant, me and my brother. Food? We’d love to, but first one of your 2008 Domaine de la Grange des Pères please. And what a great wine it was, this my first take on a 114 points Parker rated wine. I’d actually give it a few more points….
Entrepreneur of the year. This is Mr. József Szentesi. He’s one of the greatest winemakers in Hungary. Hanging with József is such fun and the dull moments, well they don’t exist. What else to expect from a man that has represented the Hungarian national team in badminton, successfully sold pool tables to the east, owned restaurants and now works as a winemaker. Besides promoting ancient Hungarian varieties you can’t pronounce, csókaszőlő for example, he’s also the sparkling producer which many in the country consults. But if you’re only going to find one wine from Mr. Szentesi to taste it has to be the drop dead gorgeous and almost ethereal Kadarka of his. I’m crazy about his wines and I can’t wait to meet again.
Fact of the year. I know. Some will think I’m being mean, jealous, lacks a palate – or that I at least should support my fellow countrymen. But here’s the thing; I can’t promote poor stuff. I live in Sweden, a country which is not supposed to produce wine. At least not wine made from vinifera. Cherries and other berries, yes please. That’s just natural. That goes for other beverages such as beer and spirits as well. We’re among the best in these fields, but could become even better. Instead we try to identify ways to produce an average wine at its best, in a climate that during our lifetime will continue denying any traces of quality result in the end product. I hear advocates saying that if they could make it in England, we can as well. I say, look at the map. It is said that 2013 was an excellent vintage in the south of Sweden. Hence I’m glad the wines I had last year weren’t from a weak vintage.
Grape of the year. I’ve always had a weak spot for aromatic wines. Not the too intense ones but rather the restrained versions of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Viogner for example. Last year I added the Argentine Torrontés to my preferences after enjoying several high-altitude versions from Cafayete in Salta or Mendoza. Not only are they seductive and difficult to resist, they also work excellent with food. Just take this lovely example from O. Fournier in Salta. For less than ten euros it’s delivering nothing but a big smile. The question is if quality Torrontés ever will reach the audience the wines deserve to have. Floral stuff seem to bring out prejudice in people.
Hipster drink of the year. First you have to find a thimble made out of chocolate. Preferably dark. Then you go out in your garden and harvest the figs. Slice them thinly and put the fresh figs in a jar. Add one of your late harvest wines made from the rare Kéknyelű and allow the figs to soak. After a few weeks they’re ready. Put some slices of the figs in the thimble and pour some sweet aszú wine over them. Cin cin. Heaven. Served by Szalai Attila at Nemeth Pince in Badacsony, a region on the north shore of Lake Balaton. And yes, visit him not only for the shot. The wines are also worth looking for.
Importer of the year. I’m lucky to know Maria. She’s really great. Maria runs and owns Oinofilia, importing great Greek wines to Denmark. She always puts together nice cases of stuff she thinks I should taste. Karanika (love them), Tetramythos (yes!), Manousakis (mmmm…) and Hatzidakis (gaaah..) are some of the wineries she represent. In 2014 I was introduced to Aidani, one of the minor grapes in Santorini and Assyrtiko’s sidekick. It was such a fun wine to drink. Lots of personality, lots of inspiration. Aidani, you rock! And by the way Maria, I need a new case.
Just can’t get enough of the year. This is the top wine of Quinta do Vale Meão in the Douro Valley. The 2010 is such a beautiful wine and gorgeous already. I have none left. You see, we had a break-in last year – by a corkscrew. Those of you with better self-control will probably be hugely awarded when you start drinking it within five to seven years but I can’t help pushing for drinking great wines also at a young stage. What they gain with age is complexity and integration, what they lose a bit of is the vivacity and the pure fruit feel. A different kind of minerality as well. So there you have it; I’ve just convinced myself I did the right thing.
King of the year. As you can see we have a slushie machine. I made one for Anselmo and Fernanda Mendes when they visited last year – on the 1996 Madeira Verdelho he’s holding. He liked it. No one had a brain freeze. If you look closer you’ll also note the amateur photographer mirrored in the window. Still trying to learn my camera – or perhaps rather my positioning. Never mind. Cooking for Anselmo and Fernanda is great fun and a good way to say thanks for making such nice Alvarinho. It’s one of my favorite grapes and last year’s eye-opener was the 2002 Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho that Anselmo brought to Stockholm. 12 years old and still youthful in its structure. One more evidence that many wines are had way too young. No wonder Anselmo’s Mr. Alvarinho. I prefer king though. Hey, let’s make a slushie on the 2002 next time!
Love of the year. Of all releases in Madeira last year, three stood out. From Vinhos Barbeito the two 20 Years Old Ribeiro Real wines; one Boal, one Verdelho. From Blandy’s the 1988 Malmsey Vintage. Drinking these wines are such an honor considering both their class and rarity. Just take the 1988 for example. It was the first Vintage Madeira released by Blandy’s in five years. Around 1500 bottles. It kind of makes you think if there’s a future for wines spending more than two decades in cask – if it’s financially sustainable. I hope so; that we will never forget about the fortified greatness out there. Still, I am a bit worried what it will look like in the coming decades. Are you supporting Madeira?
Mama, I’m coming home of the year. I know, it’s a lame song and has nothing in common with Mr. Osbourne’s earlier grandeur. But it pretty much describes my relation to the region that started it all for me, back in the 1990’s. Bordeaux is and will always be my reference wine number one. Not only because my first wine job almost brainwashed me to the belief that the commandment of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” actually was referring to Bordeaux; no I really did love the wines from the first sip. Still do. But somewhere along the way Bordeaux pissed me off with their pricings of the en primeur wines and I left, safe in the knowledge that others out there wanted me. There were. But Bordeaux missed me and thanks to a lovely payday 2007 Ch. L’Evangile we became best friends again during 2014. Everything’s forgotten about. But please, Bordeaux, throw away the archaic en primeur sales once and for all.
Not jealous of the year. See those cars in the middle of the photo? Just where the road turns. See the vineyard below? It’s quite steep and at the lower rows there’s this cliff section. Are the risk worth one euro, maybe 50 cents more, per kilo? Somebody thinks so and for once I’m actually content with only drinking my Madeira knowing how dangerous it is to produce. So to all of you harvesting on the island; please accept my endless gratefulness. Saúde!
Opium of the year. So I get this dinner invitation and my gut feeling just tells me it’s one of those occasions when you’re rescheduling the calender of the year, just to take part. I was right. Especially when the host lines up the quintet of 1966 Ch. Haut-Brion, 1966 Ch. Haut-Bailly, 1970 Ch. Cheval Blanc, 1970 Ch. Figeac and 1970 Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion, I felt like high-fiving myself. Great wines should be enjoyed, not tasted or spit. Hence it was a blessed feeling having those wines in front of me and for a moment you kind of feel stupid trying to identify a favorite. Forced to I’d go for the Cheval Blanc, for the amazing development in the glass. Or the Haut-Brion. Or the…Bordeaux, je t’aime!
Pinosity of the year. What a great wine world it is! It’s one thing that you can find Pinot Noir in the Rio Negro in Patagonia far away from…anything. Even cooler though is the fact someone thought it to be a good idea already in 1932, to plant the grape here. But the best part; it tastes awesome. Bodega Chacra, owned by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, produces a Pinot Noir from the 1932 parcel, one from a site planted in 1955, a further from 1967 and a young vines version as well. Transparent wines, fragrant and so seductive in their very own style. Try them; they’re the very proof that great wines are produced at places you never thought of! (In the background, our Zalto aquarium)
Quercus wine of the year. Together with some friends we’ve started this tradition where we rent a house one week every summer at Fårö, the island where Ingmar Bergman lived. It’s a paradise with some of the greatest beaches in Sweden. Every evening we share a bottle from our collections, something we think is worthy of extra attention. Blind of course. One of last summer’s best wines was a magnum of 1999 Malleolus from Bodega Emilio Moro. In times when people freak out just knowing their wine might have shared space with a barrique in the cellar, it’s with delight that I homage the god of quercus. This 15 years old Tinto Fino demonstrated, with grace, how elegant Ribera del Duero can be with time – and that oak do integrate.
Realization of the year. By no means not nearby one of the best wines served during 2014, this Txakoli from Txomin Etxaniz in the Basque country of northern Spain. It was more the fact, when sitting at that lovely wine bar in Rotterdam, as we realized this was our very first longer trip away without the kids. Only three days but that didn’t matter; it was just the two of us again, the sunshine, some tapas, no kids talk and that acidity driven sour Basque wine. A great moment in life and I will probably remember this Txakoli longer than several premier crus. PS. I do like my kids.
Smell of the year. Since I’m insanely well respected in Hungary, I always get the biggest glass at wine tastings. Boy should you see the face of the others when this particular glass was put in front of me at a tasting in Badacsony. Then again, I’ve worked hard for it. Although flattered by the huge size of the glass offered to me, I can’t say I’m that excited over the current XXL wine glass trend. Not only do the glasses look like goldfish bowls, they are also flyweights and pretty scary to raise. You kind of expect some physical resistance when lifting it, but when there’s none you instead fumble the glass in the air while watching the fear in the eyes of your dinner neighbours. What happened to good old wine glasses where you couldn’t use them as alternative aquariums?
Two thousand and two of the year. Bordeaux is the only wine region in the world enjoying the vintage of the century three times every decade. It’s a bless. Or a result of en primeur semantics. But every decade needs a bad boy, a year which everyone can memorize and flash their knowledge at dinner partys. 2002 for example. The funny thing is that quite a lot of premium stuff from 2002 Bordeaux tastes awesome. Like the Pichon-Baron. Even more fun; it tastes exactly how many prefers their claret. So to everyone feeling they don’t recognize Bordeaux anymore; buy some 2002 and 2007 and enjoy it now. They’re delicious. And save those 2009 bottles for a long time while remembering Michael Broadbent’s comments on the 1947 Cheval Blanc in its youth: It tastes like a portwine.
Underrated of the year. Several of the world’s greatest wines are sweet. The most natural of them being Tokaji Aszú. I drink them regularly and they just keep on amazing me with their vintage variation, purity, honeyed sweetness and balancing acidity. Oak on that. When you start to look in to the production of aszú you discover how extremely difficult it is to make and at what costs it comes. There’s no guarantee it can be made every year, but when it’s done rest assured the top players have spared no expenses to give you a memory for life. Last year’s coolest aszú came from my friend László and his Gizella Pince. The 2010 is such a spectacular wine especially when knowing how difficult a vintage it was for the growers. Tokaji is expensive but there’s a reason for it. Try one of the better and join the fan club.
Vineyard dog of the year. Photos of cats and dogs hugely increases traffic to your site. Some proper SEO will make you a star and direct readers to your site, no matter if they like wine or not. I have failed miserably here despite having run in to a barking dog at more or less every winery I visited last year. I even ran in to a cellar cat that scratched me. (Don’t worry dear reader, I’m fine and showing no signs of rabies. Yet.). So here goes; my favorite dog from 2014 I met in Madeira. #cute #dog #wine #winelover #morefollowers #morewineloverthanyou #instafollow #godisthisannoying
Well-being of the year. You’ve heard of the Douro boys but this is the Madeira counterpart. Well, at least Senhor Gonçalves & Senhor Garcês to the left. The guy to the right only likes to hang with the cool dudes. The two senhores are wine growers in São Vicente. That’s on the north side of Madeira. We’re at roughly 700 meters above the sea level, guests at Senhor Garcês’s summer house. The view is stunning as you can see. Our host is offering us to taste his grappa made from Tinta Negra grapes. It’s strong he says, but mix it with our honey and some lemonade. I mix it. It is strong and Senhor Garcês laughs when he sees my face. I’m probably confusing him as he knows I’m Scandinavian. Didn’t they dig strong stuff or how was it? A great day at one of my vinous favorite spots in the world. Although I only had grappa. With honey. And lemonade.
Xanadu of the year. Some places in the world are just better than others. Oporto/Vila Nova de Gaia is one of them. Perhaps you spot more beauty in it if you’re a fortified geek but I’m still pretty sure the city has the prerequisites to charm everyone. Especially when you’re having Ponte Luís I in the background and a rabelo boat or two in the front. Do visit Oporto, if not for the wines then let the attracting force to taste the planet’s potentially most calorie-intense dish, Francesinha, bring you there.
Yeah of the year. It’s getting late and the temperature has finally gone down to a pleasant level. The summer weather of Italy has obviosuly moved to Sweden and that postpones the consumption of Port to elevenish in the evening. But who cares; awaiting us is the last bottle of the greatest find ever, the V.V. Frasqueira Particular. Believed to be a really, really old Niepoort. Bought for a song, delivering at hundreds of euros. Accompanying us is the crickets chirping their love songs and the mosquitos ready to suck up that sweet tawny tasting blood. Wines like this creates silence – the ultimate receipt of greatness. Shared with the family on one of the greatest summer nights in Sweden…I’m 100 p on that!
Zapata of the year. At almost 1500 meters above the sea level you’ll find it, the Adrianna vineyard in Mendoza. From two different blocks within the vineyard, Catena Zapata picks the Chardonnay that represent the premium line of their whites. White Stones and White Bones. They’re quite different in style. One shows more peaches and floral scents while the Bones version is restrained and acidity driven. Both are fascinating and gorgeous wines. I promised myself to buy and drink more Argentine wines in 2014. I’ll gladly continue in 2015.
See you during 2015!