Thursday, May 14, 2015
Reported by Irene van Rossum
18 wine lovers gathered in the tasting room of the Vendange Institute for the fifth edition of the Century Club; all eager to sample a few more elusive varieties and tick those off on their lists. Director Sean O’Regan was our guide for this evening during which we sampled 14 wines, dominated by crisp whites.
The first flight of four white wines all came from Italy. Who knew that there was still so much to discover there! Most of us had not tasted any of these varieties before and there were two definite favourites in this flight. The Fazio Levantio Insolia 2011 from Sicily, which displayed aromas of toasted nuts and tropical fruit, had a pleasant acidity. It would make a great companion to a summer seafood platter. The Statti Mantonico Bianco 2010 from Calabria also had fans thanks to its fresh citrus and crispy apple aromas; the flavour of white grapefruit resulted in a not unpleasant bitterness to balance out the acidity. This is a versatile wine that would pair well with seafood, salads and chicken. Rounding out this flight were the Cantine San’Isidoro Pausula Maceratino from Le Marche (red apples, tropical fruit, brioche, flinty minerality, good with appetizers) and the Ribolla Gialla by Ferruccio Sgubin from Friuli (guava, ash, herb and, according to some, cat pee, probably good with fried smelts).
The next flight consisted of five more white wines, one from Spain and the rest from France. This flight had a few surprises, although not all were new to everyone in the room. The Spanish Verdejo by Mayor de Castilla (2012) was not the favorite, but could still hold its own as a pleasant patio sipper with flavours of citrus, white pepper, and minerality. The 2012 Jaffelin Aligoté from Burgundy failed to wow, but this might have been caused by the larger personalities of the other three wines in this flight. The Savagnin by Rudisbourg Klevener De Heiligenstein (2012) – you know we have moved into Alsace when the names start growing exponentially – blows you away with its aromas reminiscent of Gewürtztraminer: honey, flowers, spice and warm apricot. Not half as sweet as expected, but pleasantly off-dry, this wine won the most votes. It is a good aperitif wine and would also pair well with spicy food. The Rolly Gassmann Weingarten de Rorschwir Sylvaner 2009, also from Alsace, had much more subtle aromas in comparison with the Savagnin. It had a slight nuttiness and minerality on the palate and enough body to pair well with grilled fish, charcuterie and cheese board or fondue.
The wine that really divided the room in this flight was the Chasselas by Rijkaert Les Vercherres Vieilles Vignes Viré- Clessé 2010 from Burgundy. Where one taster detected aromas of coconut bread pudding and pineapple, another smelled rancid fudge. For a handful of tasters this was the best wine in the flight (or was a very close tie with the Savagnin); a few others abhorred it. There is no accounting for taste! It most definitely displayed some history on lees and characteristics of oak aging. Seafood seems again to be a natural companion.
The final flight also consisted of five wines, another white along with four reds. Contrary to expectation, it was not immediately evident which one was the white. The first three were definitely reds. The Angel Organic Giorgio & Gianni Nero D’Avola 2010 from Sicily was a good value pick for the price: a pretty decent table wine that needs food. It had black cherry, vanilla, black pepper, some sweet tobacco and a bit of leather on the nose and palate. In short, an easygoing and undemanding partner for a meaty stew or penne arrabbiata. The only New World wine this evening was the Cline Ancient Vines Carignan 2011 from California. Dark fruit, vanilla, bacon and smoked meat aromas were noted, as well as black cherries and black pepper. This wine will improve in time but it can be enjoyed nowwith BBQ. Churchill’s Estates Touriga Nacional 2009 from the Douro region of Portugal was the priciest of the bunch and showed complex aromas of raspberries and strawberries, cedar and menthol and it smelled quite ‘hot’. It had good structure with pronounced tannins, and was the favourite in this flight. It would go well with hearty food.
The final two varieties came in the form of fortified wines, one of which had to be that last white. It was not the Kourtaki Mavrodaphne from Patras, Greece, which was close in aromas and flavours to a Tawny Port and would do well before and after dinner. The final wine had to be the white but you could have fooled us all. This Osborne 1827 Premium Sweet Sherry made from Pedro Ximenez grapes was a deep brown with a turmeric yellow rim. It looked like a thick sweet soy sauce and was said to smell a bit like that as well. While very sweet, thick, and rich with date and raisin flavours, some us did not actually find those qualities unpleasant (think raisin pie). Sweet desserts with nuts and caramel or salty and rich blue cheeses would probably make good pairings.
All in all, the evening confirmed there are more varieties out there worth exploring, and makes me, at least, look forward to the next edition.
- Cantine San’Isidoro Pausula, Maceratino, 2012, Italy, Marche, $15.95, 362947
- Ferruccio Sgubin, Ribolla Gialla, 2010, Italy, Friuli, $15.75, 314393
- Fazio Levantio, Insolia, 2011, Italy, Sicily, $16.95, 339119
- Statti, Mantonico Bianco, 2010, Italy, Calabria, $14.75, 317644
- Mayor De Castilla, Verdejo, 2012, Spain, Ribera del Duero, $10.95, 318956
- Rudisbourg Klevener De Heiligenstein, Savagnin, 2012, France, Alsace, $18.95, 350272
- Rolly Gassmann Weingarten DeRorschwihr, Sylvaner, 2009, France, Alsace, $18.75, 296665
- Rijckaert Les Vercherres Vieilles Vignes Vir-Clesse, Chasselas, 2010, France, Burgundy, $26.95, 354621
- Jaffelin Bourgogne, Aligote, 2012, France, Burgundy, $16.45, 53868
- Angel Organic Giorgio & Gianni, Nero d’Avola, 2010, Italy, Sicily, $10.45, 254888
- Cline Ancient Vines, Carignan, 2011, USA, California, $20.95, 32177
- Churchill’s Estates, Touriga Nacional, 2009, Portugal, Douro, $30.95, 351643
- Kourtaki Mavrodaphne, Mavrodaphne , NV, Greece, Patras, $14.95, 208413
- Osborne 1827 Premium Sweet Sherry, Pedro Ximanez, NV, Spain, Jerez, $17.95, 47944