Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pio Cesare Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese 2009

Grignolino is a new grape for me. Reading up, I find it is one of the tribe of 'lesser' red grapes of Piedmont. Now quite rare in Piemonte, plantings cluster between Asti and Monferrato. The name refers to the many seeds found in grignolino grapes. Grignolino is sometimes described as making rose-like wines, of light fruit, freshness and often a somewhat orange colour. This 2009 grignolino from Pio Cesare is not like that at all.

The fruit is mainly fresh strawberry and sour cherry to smell and taste, and sparkles in the glass rather than blocking all light. In fruit character it somewhat resembles village beaujolais, but the tannins and acid say Italy to me. The integration of fine, grippy tannin and acid is excellent, stretching out together from start to finish, without dipping or coming apart. Genuine refreshment here. Not for drinkers looking for fruit-forward styles of lighter red wine, but well-suited to cut through a plate of lasagna or sliced smallgoods.

$33.25 at Dan Murphy's in a mixed six-pack, sealed with natural cork (about to fail, this one), 13% alcohol.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The numbers on Italian wine imports

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released March quarter 2011 data on wine sales and imports earlier this week. So what do they tell us about Italian wine being brought into Australia?

Annual figures have 6.607 million litres of Italian wine cleared for Australian import in 2009-10. The 2011 March quarter showed 1.604 million litres, up 23% from the 1.301 million litres of Italian wine imports for March quarter 2010.

New Zealand provided 63% of Australian wine imports by volume for the March quarter 2011, Italy the 2nd ranked source at 12.6% of imports by volume, just ahead of France at 12.5%.

By customs value, New Zealand had 59% of March quarter 2011, 25% for France and Italy at 8.5% share.

Underlying trends for Italian wine imports into Australia are positive for wine by volume (growth of nearly 20% in volume between 2001 and 2010). But over the same period Italian wine imports into Australia grew 29% in customs value.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Noble' grapes

I attended the 7th ANU Wine Symposium yesterday, which continues with Canberra District vineyard and winery tours today, concluding with a gala dinner tonight at which James Halliday is the after dinner speaker. The speakers at the symposium included Brian Croser talking riesling, Dan Buckle from Mt Langhi Ghiran talking shiraz, Nick Stock on why alternative varieties aren't a path to great wine, Libbie Tassie on alternative varieties suited to Australian regions and an excellent presentation on climate change (Andy Pitman).

Lots to think about and discuss, including content relevant to Italian grapes and wines in Australia. But to start, a few comments on some ideas threading through the day, as well as through discussions out of session. Brian Walsh from Yalumba tugged at some of the inconsistencies of wine thinking, especially that the arguments valuing single site wines of 'terroir' often advocate avoiding winemaking interventions that efface diversity, yet also hold that those single sites should be managed for consistency (rather than diverse expression across that single site, or over time). So managing for consistency to express vineyard terroir, then swinging round to avoiding managing for consistency in the winery to also express vineyard terroir.

Threading through some of the day, especially conversations I had out of session, were continuing ideas that some grapes are 'noble'. This can be an inherent claim to nobility (the genetic argument), a claim that only some grapes have made 'great wine' (the historical argument), and a muddy two-step starting with the idea that great wine is basically French wine so therefore the noble French grapes are the path to making great wine.

For me, when people argue for terroir expression as how great wines are made (akin to Andrew Jefford's 'wines of place' category) and argue that only some grapes are 'noble', there is a rift through the middle of their arguments. If great terroirs and wines are found and made through a lengthy process of trial and attunement, surely the starting point can be the broadest possible set of grape varieties capable of optimal expression of that terroir? Wouldn't starting with a small set of 'noble' grapes to try against and within a terroir actually reduce your chances of finding best fit?

My own small experience since 2005 has been that at Quarry Hill sauvignon blanc is less of a good fit that savagnin; shiraz a better fit in most seasons than pinot noir. The 'noble' grape thinking, for this specific site, has to me effaced what's positive and distinctive about our terroir. The ignoble, here, speak more clearly. Perhaps this means we can never produce 'great wine'?

[The Francophile list of 'noble grapes' is usually riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon & merlot. If the categorical belt goes out a notch, nebbiolo, sangiovese (Brunello mode) and shiraz might sneak in.]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Primo Estate Joseph Moda 1999

The cork on this has worked so well the wine shows barely any development. This could be a three year old wine, instead of one past its 11th birthday. The 10% merlot (Coonawarra & McLaren Vale) is quite evident, especially as a hit of olive & plum to taste. The tannins are still to soften - a full wall of drying grip - but the fruit has weight and stability enough to wait it out. All the cabernet for the 1999 Moda 'amarone' came from McLaren Vale, and it is good fruit. Assuming you have a good cork, this is a Moda to leave until 2015 before re-trying. 14.5% alc.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Last look (Gran Sasso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008)

What did I think of this wine in 2009?

This is very tasty. Great colour and good fruit intensity. Cracking value at $120 delivered for a case. Dangerously easy to drink with barbecued food, or pizza.

Where is it now, with my last bottle from a case?

Still good fruit, but less of it than previous bottles. As the fruit drops away, notes of astringency and bitterness sound out more clearly. Drink up now, if not already.

Top-notch value Italian drinking over a couple of years from a case delivered for $120. Not much more to ask for, really.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Silverfish (Primo Estate Moda 1990)

The silverfish clearly appreciated this bottle of 1990 Primo Estate Moda 'amarone' cabernet merlot. A beautiful example of how the Moda wines can age, this was expressive and distinctly cabernet from opening. Resolved tannins with a touch of bitter-sweet to them, this was excellent drinking and showed no sign of being near the end of its life. Unlike the label.