Amateur Tasting Notes

Ok so the title may be a bit misleading. These are in fact the oldest tasting notes I still have in my possession but are not my earliest. While looking for something I came upon my first tasting pad and thought I might as well share a few of these early notes for fun. But there’s also another reason, to help illustrate a path. My evolution as a taster. 

I often receive notes from folks telling me how they just can’t pick out things like distinct fruit flavors in a wine. Well, as it so happens back in 1985 neither could I, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t a good taster nor did it mean that my notes weren’t helpful or informative. They were simple, and because of that simplicity maybe even more useful than some of the more complex notes that I write today. Notes with more detail, though using language that is less consumer friendly.

Consider these first two:



Nose – slightly hard, not open, bricky, vinous but particularly rooty, of good quality, under-developed but may not live. Taste – good tannins, good acidity, pruny or dried fruit, medium body, peppery aftertaste and long warm finish 14.5/20



 Nose- rich, full, hot, peppery, well developed, very good. Taste – med-full to full bodied, good balance, tannic, refreshing, vinous after taste, good finish 16/20


Not great but helpful, if revealing a fundamental inability to really grasp what the wine is telling me. That inability is something almost all of us share. We shouldn’t be discouraged by it. In fact it should motivate us to work hard to hone our skills and become better tasters.  Here are two of the wines that helped me to do just that.



Nose – alcoholic, immature, clean, very little fruit, odor of rotting meat, smells like at least 80% cabernet Taste – dry, full body, good soft tannins and acid, very little fruit, beginning to mature, well balanced, will age very well, extremely smooth aftertaste and finish, try again in 1991, 14.5/20 when mature could be 18/20



Nose – heady, thin, earthy, seemingly immature, clean,little fruit taste light body, heavy tannins and good acidity, good aftertaste, moderate finish slight taste of cherry and prune 13/20


That Poujeaux was one of my epiphany wines. The first very young wine that gave me a clear picture of where it was going in my mind. I still remember that moment. I can’t believe how expensive it was, but I know that when I bought a case elsewhere it was 1/3rd less. Still have 3 bottles left from that case and yet oddly enough I can’t find a more recent note in any of the digital databases I’ve used during the intervening years. It would have been fun and instructive to watch both the evolution of this wine as well as the evolution of my ability to appreciate it and describe it. Sadly, many of the bottles were consumed back in the days of paper notes, and while I have them somewhere, packed away in a box, the likelihood that they’ll ever be transcribed is low at best.


So much has changed since I first took these notes but the biggest change, the one that most fundamentally affects us all is the digital revolution. Having your tasting notes stored, indexed and available not only allows you to follow the evolution of any wine in your cellars, but offers you insight into how other folks are perceiving that wine, and lets you keep track of your own growth as a wine taster! Drinking wine and tasting wine has not changed, only the way that information is stored, accessed, and shared. 


So to all of you out there who have difficulty putting your vinous experiences into words, fear not. It is the way we all have started. Back in the day we would suffer in silence, our primitive words kept secret on pages of paper. Today they are shared, and we suffer in public for it. We suffer through comparison with those around us, but it’s good to recall that were our paper pages shared freely, we would all be revealed as the novices that we were. 


I had written amateur instead of novice, but amateurs we remain. Amateurs who pursue wine for the love it. Don’t let your inability to find raspberries of chocolate, or creosote in a wine squelch that love. Keep on tasting, recording your notes, and reading up on your favorite wines and you’ll eventually get to be where you want to be. All you need to do is take that first step. 


A final thought. Don’t forget that none of this should impact that love of wine. This is all a bit of fun and nonsense, the true beauty of wine is simply enjoying it for what it offers you. Sharing it among friends and family. Recording what it reveals to you is also fun, and helpful, but really doesn’t make the wine better!

Origin: Snooth – Articles


Bordeaux under $15

I’m kicking off this year’s series on value wines by taking a look at one the regions least commonly associated with value: Bordeaux. Now that’s not because Bordeaux doesn’t offer value, it’s just that their value wines get little attention from the media. I’m not sure why that is. Why the big names glom all of the media’s attention. I think back to my formative years with wines and how fortunate I was to have Meyney, Poujeaux, and Patache d’Aax as my introduction to Bordeaux. All remarkable values at the time, and while Poujeaux and Meyney are well into the $30 range these days, Patache d’Aux can still be found for under $20 and is worth seeking out.

Those wines, smaller scaled but classic Bordeaux, served as my introduction to what Bordeaux was and what it can become. When young, classic Bordeaux is a little stern, and moderately tannic. It possesses fine acidity which contributes to it’s early rigid feel. With time, say three years in the cellar, even a modest little Bordeaux begins to flesh out as the tannins soften. The aromas of herb and black fruit are joined by hints of earth, leather and spice. They never will become big, fruity and jammy, and that is their appeal.
These wines are destined to remain lean, elegant, and with a wonderful affinity for food. Simply prepared beef and lamb is a classic pairing but the structure of Bordeaux really serves to refresh the palate and is worth experimenting with at the table. You see what unites Bordeaux, both cheap and dear is their terroir. While many expensive wines strive to overcome what is seen as a limitation, these more modest wines tend to celebrate it. They celebrate the edge of unripeness that comes from a cool climate like Bordeaux. They celebrate the edgy structure that can come from a normal sized crop. They celebrate the complexity and elegance that one can achieve when skillfully blending varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.


Yes, all that sounds grand, but can you expect it of a value priced bottle of Bordeaux? You bet your sweet bippy you can. In fact, a vast quantity of Bordeaux falls under the value pricing limit I’m using here: $15 a bottle. I chose this price, the actual price I paid for these bottles at retail, because the price of wines vary greatly across the country. You might very well find that $15 bottle for less, either on sale or by taking advantage of the mixed-case discount that most retailers offer. 


So what can you expect from value Bordeaux? First off, as with all value priced wines, expect variability, though in quality more than style. For the most part these wines are pretty simply made. No space in the budget for lots of new oak or fancy machinery tends to do that. Expect fruit that is fruity but not frooty. Herbs and mineral, and hints of bitter cocoa and yes some oak are all part of the package. it can be a bit of shock trying these wines. They are not soft. Not sweet, frankly a bit tannic and hard. But that is, to my mind, what Bordeaux is. 


If it’s not for you, then it simply is not for you. But if you enjoy more traditional styled wines, this value segment is becoming one of your last refuges. I can’t say that these would be my first choice at a party, unless that party was filled with hanger steaks and duck fat fries. But i would say that I would certainly stock up on a few of these to be enjoyed with dinner when the moment is right. As a group they are lovely wines which illustrate the range of today’s Bordeaux and some very affordable, and competitive pricing. Vive la Value!


Where varietal content was listed on the label I have included it in the notes. 



50% Merlot 50% Cabernet Sauvignon


What a big, leafy, herbaceous, black currant driven nose!  There’s some smoke, earthy, and oak in here as well but this is all about classic Bordeaux aromas. Rich if a bit compact and dense on entry. This is gorgeous, a wine with rich fruit that is fresh, precise and powerful yet not sweet, over-ripe, nor weighty in the mouth. The fruit is gently herbaceous, with flavors of wild raspberries, cranberries and red currant all coming together on the palate over nuanced tea and subtle floral notes. the tannins are ripe yet offer some weight, with the acid just where I would want it, refreshing and bright but so very well matched by the fruit. A bit plummy on the back end, then more red fruited on the moderately long finish, this should improve over the short term but is already drinking fabulously today. 88pts



60% Merlot, 30% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc 


Big aromatics of black currant, plum, and mulberry greet the nose underpinned by notes of  candied violets, licorice, and dried rosemary with just a hint of vanilla adding sweetness. Opulent and smooth. This has a graceful richness to it, sweet herb studded blackberry fruit coats the palate supported by supple tannins and well integrated acids. The backend picks up some subtle spice notes and plum skin flavors all with a bitter cocoa cast to them. Finishing with power, fruit and freshness this lacks some of the finesse that is Bordeaux’s strong suit but makes up for it with its sheer intensity of flavor, adding hints of blueberries and spice on the fairly long, chewy finish. Does show a bit of heat though. 87pts



40% Merlot 35% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon


Fairly fruity on the nose with hints of black currants and plums layered over some smoky, sweet oak and vanilla aromas with hints of herbs emerging with time. On entry this is bright, and fresh with lovely balance and a superbly friendly mouthfeel.  A classic glass of Bordeaux, slightly austere, a bit firm, just under medium bodied with crisp black berry and red currant flavors. The finish is tight, and moderately long, showing both the youthfulness of the wine and its potential for positive development. This is a great value. 87pts



A little minty at first on the nose then turning attractively fruity with lovely black currant fruit over tobacco and dried thyme notes. Soft, broad and fairly ripe on entry. This firmly medium bodied wine has a bit of spicy oak early on the palate followed by rather rich candied black cherry and strawberry flavors. Tannins are ripe and well integrated, lending this a nicely rounded feel in the mouth, though ample acids keep this quite bright right through the moderately long blackberry finish.  A lovely bottle. 87pts



Tight and focused on the nose with finely detailed notes of dried thyme, blackberry fruit, old wood and dried rosemary emerging from the glass. there’s a bit of barnyard and a gamy edge here as well as a bit of excessive sulphur. Smooth and a bit tight with a lovely blip of acidity early on the palate followed by a polished, rich and very well balanced mouthful of reticent black currant and blueberry fruit. This is tight and firm and shows the balance for ageing, but probably will hit it’s stride within the year. There’s good depth to the blackberry and black cherry skin fruit with a little mineral edge on the backend that leads to a long, elegant and refined finish which shows lovely ripe tannins and more cherry skin flavors. Mineraly and a bit spicy on the finish, this is a winner. 87pts



Rich on the nose with scents of tobacco, vanilla, dried herbs, plums and black currant fruit. Rather supple on entry, with a fairly rich mouthfeel. This is fairly fruit driven but the fruit is fresh and precise. Red plums, red currant, and some lingonberry fruits all come together on the palate over soft tannins and supportive acids to give this a rich feel. There are subtle oak, mineral earth and dried herb accents adding detail in the mouth with some strawberry flavors that lead to a moderately long, slightly chocolaty  finish. Showing just a bit of heat and extraction, this still manages to impress and the tart cranberry flavors of the finish show sneaky length. A bit of a powerhouse at the price. 86pts



Soft on the nose with a delicate raspberry tone  woven together with subtle hints of caramel, wood smoke and dried bay leaf. On entry this comes off as decidedly fruity in a classic Bordeaux style. Raspberry fruit is followed by red currant and an attractive hint of minerality and old wood. The texture is supple without being soft, supported by small, ripe tannins. This has a nice mineral note on the mid-palate, river stones that recall Graves. Finishing with freshness and austerity, and even a bit of elegance, this is a subtle wine but one that is quite charming with good length to the finish in a medium lightweight style.  Charming. 85pts



50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot


Dark, plummy and chocolatey on the nose with hints of candied berry fruit, something a bit pruny, and subtle peppery spice notes. Rich and chewy in the mouth, with lovely ripe tannins and integrated acids all supporting a somewhat chunky core of plummy, mineral edged fruit. This is medium plus bodied and in a fairly plush and polished style. Modern Bordeaux that shows a bit too much extraction and a fairly heavy load of tannin on the moderately long finish. the flavors here tend to the inky and plummy side of things and while this is pretty big it lacks a bit of elegance and clarity on the palate. 84pts



Faint aromas of cigar box and herbaceous herbs greet the nose followed by creamy and toasty aromas of black currant fruit with hints of ink and ash. Fresh and moderately rich on entry, this has some inky and bitter notes early on the palate, showing a bit of extraction that follows through the midpalate layered over blueberry and plum flavors. For all their bitterness the tannins are moderately soft and the finish does have an attractive bitter/fruity thing go with fine persistence to the black raspberry fruit.  A little forced and slightly chunky but in a firm, strict way that may appeal to lovers of classic Bordeaux. 84pts



55% Merlot 45% Cabernet Sauvignon 


Stemmy and a little weedy on the nose with some clay soil tones over candied floral and cherry fruit aromas. This shows some spicy cherry wood tones as well. Sort of cedary, though with a little more spice notes. Smooth on entry with licorice laced black fruits. this is polished but not complex, with rich fruit flavors that are a bit indistinct. A touch of wood and an herbal flourish adds some detail  as this moves to a brief, fruity finish that does offer an appealing sweet/tart quality to the  black curranty flavors.  This has decent structure and an attractive texture, medium bodied and focused, but it lacks definition in the mouth. 83pts



Smoky and sweet on the nose with more than a passing resemblance to fish sauce. There’s some holiday spice here and faint shadings of blackberry fruit but mostly spicy, BBQ spice savoriness. Bright and clean on entry with some early raspberry/not fully ripe strawberry fruit. Medium light bodied with right acids and a nice base of powdery tannins that leads to a modest, red currant toned finish. A bit coarse and dull,  but fresh and bright. 82pts



A bit weedy on the nose and sharp with spicy pink peppercorn edges to the astringent red fruit aromas. Softer than expected on entry, with a lovely roundness in the mouth. rather nondescript but at the same time easy to drink with gentle raspberry and blackcurrant flavors. The modest tannins emerge on the backend and add a bit of spice to the modest finish. A touch soft on the palate, but eminently drinkable and friendly. 82pts



60% Merlot/ 40% Cabernet Sauvignon 


Decidedly fruity on the nose with jammy overtones to the plum and blueberry fruit that is wrapped up in licorice, caramel and violet aromas. Plump, round and juicy in the mouth this offers up attractive flavors of spicy black fruits famed with subtle vegetal notes. There’s something about this, both on the nose and in the mouth that reminds of Syrah. The edgy blue fruit and blend of floral and spice accents. Fairly rich, impressively so at the price, this is a lovely table wine, just a touch rustic, with a hint of sweetness, and a modest. astringent finish. It’s hearty and ready for anything. Quite the value. 81pts



Smoky and dense on the nose with jammy aromas of black fruit and accents of maduro tobacco. Soft and broad in the mouth, with a touch of a creamy texture. the acids here do lend an accent to the flavors of tart red fruits, but they don’t really perk up the plate. Dark, chewy and soft, this flows across the palate with hints of dried plums and berries wrapped up with bitter chocolate on the backend before dropping off on the short finish. Easy drinking if a bit anonymous and only the tannins on the finish talk to be of Bordeaux. 80pts


By: Snooth – Articles

5 Great Destinations for 2014

I’m very fortunate in that my work involves travel. Well that’s not the fortunate part, the fortunate part is that my work involves travel to places that are conducive to growing vines. Those happen to be some pretty spectacular places. However, the longer I do this the more difficult it becomes to reconcile where I want to visit with where I have to visit, not that I am complaining!

Sitting here planning out my travel for 2014 gets me to daydreaming about some of the great visits of the past, and thinking about how to incorporate them into my upcoming travel schedule. Now while I may or may not be able to fit them all in, I certainly wish I could, so allow me to share some of my dream destinations with you all. perhaps if I can’t get there in 2014, I can motivate some of you to start making plans!

Via: Snooth – Articles

Great Rosso di Montalcino

I took some heat last week for my less than glowing review of Brunello di Montalcino. While those wines were attractive, if you’re suggesting to people that they spend money on wines from Montalcino this year, my money is on the Rossos. I’m here to try and present the value proposition to readers. Sure values come in shapes and sizes, may they are not often as clear cut as the distinction between Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. I went into some detail in last week’s article, but suffice it to say that great vintage Rosso has, for my palate, so much going on that I prefer it to many vintages of Brunello.


The notes that followed were taken during the walk around tasting part of Benvenuto Brunello in NYC this past month. There are pros and cons to this sort of an event. Too many wines and not enough time to get a read in great detail on the wines chief among the cons. But one great pro does stick out. You can easily find the outliers in a tasting like this. This is where many people feel that the bigger is better style of winemaking had it origin. A bigger wine will stick out on a day like this, impressing with it’s power and richness. If you’re into that.

At the same time, a wine of uncommon finesse or complexity will also stick out, so I think one tends to see outliers of all stripes at a tasting like this. And you can get excited about those that ring out bell, and easily point people to other styles that have their own audience. So yes, you could say that an outlier of sorts ‘wins’ on a day like this, but ultimately that is what we all are looking for. The wines with more. Whether that is richness, elegance, complexity, or funky flavors and aromas is ultimately your personal decision. Tasting a heck of a lot wine just makes them easier to see.


So the standouts were obvious to me. Overwhelmingly from the very impressive 2012 vintage, they all captured the essence of both the time and the place With varying degrees of power, but mostly elegance and clarity that delivered rich fruit and subtle herbal, mineral and floral aromas with enough power and tension in the mouth to reward 3 to 5 years of ageing. A point that is often lost on drinkers of Rossos. Yes these are the easy going interpretations of the Brunello clone, but it’s a clone that imbues a certain richness and power into even light hearted expressions. That is why I love it, and in particular these wines.  A vintage like 2012 makes me look forward to the Brunellos of 212, and while I wait i am more than happy to wait with these Rossos. 


As far as pricing goes, these wines have generally settled in to the $20 to $30 range. Certainly not inexpensive, and pushing the limits of value in some cases, though the top wines here do offer compelling value, especially since most of my top wines are priced towards the lower end of the range. You can certainly find attractive wines for less, but if you want a glimpse into Montalcino, what makes the wines special and so attractive, there is no better place for value than with these Rossos. 


As this was a trade tasting, and in keeping with the purpose of the day, many of these wines have yet to reach retail channels. In addition several producers are between importers, showing their wines in the hopes that someone might pick them p. As a result there are quite a few wines without prices here. I apologize for that but I would rather omit a price than post one that is misleading.



Bretty with aromas of leather, and gamy animal scents. It’s off-putting for some but complex and intense, with aromas of beet root and medicinal herbs. Big, powerful and packed with tannin this is a rich, deeply flavored and extracted Rosso with impressive complexity on the palate and impressive detail. Long, chewy and admittedly fabulous this needs some time in the cellar to reach its peak. Give it 2 to 4 years.   lots of tannin, rich and deep with impressive complexity, lovely detail, big dry extract, powerful and long and fabulous. 92pts  



Hard on the nose with tight aromas of something mineral and vaguely earthy with lovely medicinal herb and rusty soil tones over some cranberry fruit. This is gorgeous on entry, with rich flavors of rhubarb, raspberry, mineral and a hint of dried herb that all come together perfectly and remain well supported by soft tannins and finely integrated acids through the long, juicy sour cherry pie and mossy herb tinged finish. 91pts



Tight on the nose, and floral in an earthy way. Clear and fresh on the palate with an attractive purity to the with rich flavors of tart red fruits, all underpinned with bright acids and small raw tannins, so fresh and bright. There’s a nice mineral streak on the back end that drives through the long,  tenacious finish. A bit small scaled and certainly lacking the richness of some of these wines this has amazing energy and vibrancy. 91pts



Lipstick, earthy and mineral aromas greet the nose followed by the faint sweetness of a range of fresh, herbal aromas. This is complex and perfumed with, rhubarb and beetroot laid over ripe berry fruit. Rich with fruit and great energy in the mouth, this shows off bright lingonberry, cherry, wild raspberry flavors that gain a fine mineral note on the back end, turning earthier and with hints of tobacco on the  long finish. Everything is in place. This is just lovely with richness and balance. 91pts



Floral, absolute perfumy and tense with fine raspberry fruit,mineral tones and vaguely herbal aromas. All this detail and complexity comes through on the palate as well. Rich and tense, there’s a lovely core of lovely red fruit, cherries and spice, her with with great acids and fine, angular tannins that are rough but not dry. Classic tannins that really linger on the long finish. 91pts



Sweet and floral on the nose, with a blend of sweet and smoky newer wood and austere old wood tones. Fairly ripe on entry, this is smooth and polished with nice poise, lending finesse to the late arriving tart red fruits, mineral and herb flavors. Decidedly zesty and red fruited, this pulls of the neat trick of being modern and yet typical. 90pts



Taut, lean and minerally on the nose, turning very floral and feminine with just a bit of air. This is  lovely in the mouth, elegant and fresh with lovely purity and clarity to the sweet tart red fruits. Featuring well judged tannins and  supportive acids, this finishes with purity and good length in a cranberry fruited vein. Superbly drinkable. 90pts


Smoky, earthy and laced with sour cherry fruit on the nose with hints of rosemary and coriander. On entry this is nice and bright, juicy and transparent with gentle hints of spice and flowers framing the core of raspberry and almost watermelon fruit. Everything is underpinned with fine ripe tannins that add length to the impressive finish. 90pts



Deep and ripe and quite aromatic on the nose with wild cherry, tree bark, leather and beetroot all coming together with a hint of jamminess. With impressive energy and cut on the palate, this opens with really clear flavors of strawberry and cherry fruit that gain power on the palate but remain well defined. Nice ripe tannins and juicy acids bring everything together nicely. Perhaps a touch simple today but I can’t imagine this not improving. 90pts



Liquory and deep on the nose, though it lacks a little lift but what is here is lovely, very Sangiovese in a dark, earthy vein. Voluptuous and rich on entry, there are some charry overtones here and some cocoa accents from time in wood but there’s also a gently softened and rounded palate impression with nice depth of flavor and good length on the finish. This lacks a little bit of detail but is really quite attractive. 90pts



A bit stinky on the nose, earthy, with lots of macerated herb and Chinato like aromas. This is a big wine, rich with earthy fruit accented with attractive minerality and textural verve.It’s a bit chunky but offers up  lovely big cherry raspberry fruit with good austerity and length on the finish. perhaps inelegant today but baby Brunello all the way. 89pts



Dark with earthy,  floral and powerful black fruit aromas framed with a hint of pencil lead. This is intense, smooth, polished, and focused. It’s a mouth filling wine, jammy and rich with dark cherry fruit, nice herbal and floral accents, all wrapping up with a big fruity finish. A very generous and modern styled wine. 89pts



Lovely aromatics all floral and red fruit driven with sour accents and a light milk chocolate edge. Bright, sapid and focused in the mouth with mineral edged sour cherry and wild raspberry fruit supported by modest yet austere tannins and decent acids. This all comes together nicely on the modest finish, small scaled but beautifully done. 89pts



Funky on the nose, and  stemmy, and savory in a barn kind of way with hint of black tea. Rich in the mouth and chewy with tannins. This is rustic but exuberantly so, with gorgeous earthy fruit, bright acids, and  soft flannelly tannins blending richness and tension in the mouth and through the moderately long finish. 89pts 



Deep macerated herb, wild berry, and mossy aromas slowly emerge on this gently perfumed nose. Smooth and rich in the mouth and packed with fine tannin and good acids, there’s lovely depth to the fresh and slightly austere fruit here. A bit rich, dark and earthy but with good energy in the mouth this finishes with sour cherry and fine earth notes. 89pts



A bit leafy on the nose floral with hints of oak, camphor, and something a little shiny. Bright fruit, blackberry and nice creamy cherry fills the mouth along with lots of herb and gentle mineral details. This has good acids and soft tannins in a  rich and pretty powerful style that finishes on the short side. lovely fruit but the texture is a bit creamy at this stage of the game. Give it two years. 88pts



Leathery on the nose with complex aromas of camphor and fennel. Round, fruity yet taut on the palate with  big fresh red fruit, wild cherry and earthy spice flavors. This has focus and depth with very attractive ripeness and a refreshing counterpoint of austerity on the moderately long finish. 88pts



Heady scents of incense and candle wax greet the nose followed by slightly floral, reticent aromas. This is a bit tough on entry, firm and nicely tannic in the mouth with incisive mineral accents to the sliced cherry and earthy fruit. Today it comes off as a bit foursquare but entirely agreeable with attractive minerality. Very well balanced and fairly perfumed on the finish, I’d look for this to improve. 88pts



Fruity and slightly exotic on the nose with hints of pomegranate and liquory black cherries. Smooth, rich and polished in the mouth with lots of blackberry and black cherry fruit streaked with herbal and astringent red fruit notes. This is pretty creamy, if powerful with an abundance of soft tannins that clip the finish.Creamy and powerful on the modest finish, 88pts



Lots of sweet cherry fruit greets the nose along with hints of leather and espresso. Quite rich with cherry fruit early on the palate this seems quite rich at first then strong acids kick in lending a mineral cast to the palate and driving the long, vibrant and modestly complex finish. 87pts



Macerated herbs greet the nose along with hints of dried pork sausage. Also very herb tinged in the moth, though with lots  of tart austere red fruits along with a bit of licorice. There’s a creamy edge to the red cherry fruit, covering soft acids and tannins that are present and a little spiky with some spice on the backend leading to a short finish dominated by small red fruits. A bit chunky in texture.  87pts



Floral on the nose with a lovely array of red spices, crushed flowers and almost peppery spice notes over dried beef and leather tones. This is a touch soft on entry but with admirably pure flavor of wild berry fruits, a little watermelon rind, and a touch of white pepper adding some detail. Good acids drive the modest finish, but the tannins here leave this a bit too supple in the mouth and while the aromas and flavors are attractive the texture is a bit nondescript.  87pts



Very complex on the nose with just a hint of mushroom and forest floor accenting the core of wild cherry in alcohol fruit. On entry this shows a snap of  cranberry, slightly jammy and high toned and slightly peppery. Fairly large scaled this is a bit chewy in the mouth with lots of fruit but after the nose it comes off as a bit simple. Friendly and approachable. 87pts



Veneer greets the nose. this smells shiny with some vanilla and wood spice framing a core of fresh, dark berry fruit. Smooth, rich, and fairly powerful in the mouth this is made in a chunky, ripe style that features soft tannins and modest acidity to keeps this rather plump. On the finish there’s a nice violet note but then this turns raw and a bit sticky.  87pts



Spicy and leathery on the nose with complex floral and wood accent notes. this is very floral in fact, and very austere on entry with an initial burst of tart red fruit settling into a slightly cocoa spiced, and round mid-palate groove that fades into a moderately long finish.  The nose is really lovely here but in the mouth his lacks some intensity. 87pts



Tight on the nose. This is really reticent with light herbal base notes accenting a hint of cherry fruit.  Surprisingly polished on entry with nice density in the mouth and modest mineral tinged flavors of jammy cranberry and orange rind leading to a fruity, modest finish with an attractive hint of blackberry. This might come together nicely. 87pts 



Earthy with old wood richness complemented by mineral and savory complexity. Rather smooth and polished in the mouth, though with lovely transparency and a fine blend of savory and cherry fruit supported by soft acids, with nice slightly austere finish that shows a gentle hint of sweetness. 87pts



Perfumy and floral on the nose with a well defined base of rust and limestone supporting astringent red fruits. rusty, limestone. This lacks some detail up front, a little lumpy on entry before showing some nice rusty, cranberry fruit. there’s good length here, and a nice pop of fruit on the finish but this is definitely more about finesse than fruit. 87pts



Savory on the nose with smoky aromas of old wood, rhubarb and beet root. Very complex on entry, smooth and fairly rich, with some chewiness still here. There’s good detail to the slightly meaty and peppery herb framed fruit that wraps up in a short finish with a bit of wood tannin sticking out on the back end.  86pts



Leathery, earthy smoky, and deep on the nose with impressive complexity and lovely floral tones over dark berry fruit. Decidedly less interesting on the palate. In a ripe plump but simple with soft tannins and acids, and a modest, austere finish. Bonus points for the nose. 86pts



Smoky on the nose with aromas of stemmy herbs, minerals, and austere red fruits. Rather friendly in the mouth with a ripe, round texture and lingonberry fruit supported by polished tannins and juicy acids. there’s some savory accent notes here, along with a bit of a chunky mouthfeel as well. 86pts



Bright, floral and red fruited on the very pretty nose. In the mouth this is slightly round and easy in the with  soft tannins and acidity. Nicely put together for immediate consumption, with nice red fruits and a modest finish that shows a hint of spice. 85pts



A little spicy with rusty red fruit, cranberries on nose. In the mouth this is a little jammy with a touch of wood ripe, and yet a little lean with  mineral flavors and a touch of a creamy texture. This has an odd blend of textures, chunky and juicy. Sort of an under-ripe/over-ripe thing going on on the palate. 85pts



Reticent on the nose with suggestions of spice and tobacco. fairly soft in the mouth with modest intensity, thi is not making much of an impression. It’s fairly tannic for its size, showing some light, creamy cherry fruit on the palate in a simple and easy style. 83pts


Source: Snooth – Articles

2009 Brunello di Montalcino

Readers of these pages will know that I have not been the biggest supporter of Brunello di Montalcino. I had some harsh words for the wines as a whole in the pre-Brunellogate era, and have often been left wanting by many of the wines. Unfortunately I am here today to report a bit of the same. Granted I am going to be discussing the 2009 vintage, one that is being promoted for it’s precociousness and fragrance. These are attributes that in an earlier era might have been referred to as elegance.

Elegant wines. She has a great personality. Really.

So what is my beef with Brunello di Montalcino? It is rarely special. And I know I just made some enemies so let me explain myself. The problem, as it were, does not lie solely with Brunello. One of the issues I have with Brunello is that the so-called second wine of Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, offers far better value at times. Consider today. I am comparing the 2009 Brunellos with Rossos from 2010-2012. Both 2010 and 2012 are superior to 2009, and while 2011 may be comparable to 2009 in quality , the Rossos of one are far different from the Brunellos of the other.

Don’t get me wrong. Brunello can be a fabulous wine, certainly among the world’s finest, but it happens more rarely than we might want to admit. To a large degree the quality of the wines relies on weather, though Brunello does have a varied enough meso-climates to produces qualitative outliers in most vintages. Vintages such as 2006, 2004, 1995, and 1988 produced a bevy of beautiful wines. What about all the remaining vintages? Well, for starters there were and are the Rossos from the greatest vintages still to drink. Wines that can challenge the quality of many a basic Brunello for significantly less money. Then there are the Rossos from the greatest producers which might be priced like a basic Brunello, yet deliver more depth, complexity and nuance bang for the buck. Here’s a short list of some of the Rossos that I look forward to trying:








But that brings us back to Brunello. So I often prefer a Rosso from a  great vintage to a Brunello from a lesser vintage. I also sometimes prefer a Rosso from a lesser vintage as well. The fundamental difference between the two wines is the mandatory ageing period that each requires. 24 months in wood for brunello, a period that for my palate seems to be excessive in all but the best vintages and finest properties. Rosso on the other hand requires no wood ageing, though the best do see some, and are ready for sale a year after harvest.


Sangiovese is not a grape that necessarily works well with extended ageing, or heavy doses of new oak for that matter. Herein lies my biggest issue with Brunello. It frequently lacks some freshness, and shows more of a winemaking signature than does a comparable Rosso. Not to paint with too broad a brush, but I personally get more of a taste of terroir with Rosso di Montalcino than I do with Brunello. Brunello does often speak loudly of its variety, that special clone of Sangiovese known as Brunello. But it also speaks loudly of wood ageing, and specific woods at that. Call me a curmudgeon if you will, but I find that few vintages in Brunello have the sheer brilliance that allows them to transcend the techniques involved. When they do, look out, because brilliance is indeed what they offer, though when they don’t they are simply excellent wines. As are the great Rossos.


So it’s really a matter of degree. I find plenty of Brunello to love, but more Rosso, and the Rossos, fresh, and lively and pure, work better with most of my meals. Brunello, for better or worse tends to be reserved for more important meals. And that will bring me back to the subject at hand. 2009 Brunello. 


2009 is a vintage where the ability of the producer to manage their vineyards, and be strict in selecting fruit, was vital to success. The summer of 2009 was fairly warm, and the wines reflect this with their moderately lower acidities. Autumn was quite attractive with lingering warmth during the days and cooling nights preserving the acidity that the grapes did have. The resulting wines show some of the opulence of a warmer vintage, though with the attractive perfumes that come from a more classic growing conditions. What really distinguishes the wines though are the tannins. Rather soft, and while able to support ageing, not requiring much, unlike vintages such as 2004 and 2006.


So the party line is that 2009 is what we would call a restaurant vintage. One that offers immediate satisfaction, perfect for consuming young, which is typically what is featured on a restaurant wine list. I would tend to agree. Ignoring for the moment the preceding screed. if you are faced with a selection of Brunello on a restaurant list and you would prefer to enjoy your wines this evening as opposed to having an intellectual experience, then 2009 could be the perfect choice.


As to those intellectual experiences. Most of the vintages of the 00s have yet to really hit their strides, thought he 2001s are drinking very well indeed. Of the recent vintages it’s worth noting their states of evolution.


2006 remains the most impressive vintage of the 00s. Big, powerful, a tad over-ripe at times but with impressive depth and structure they will be wines for the long haul, and ones we have to continue to wait for.


2007 is the most highly acclaimed of the recent vintages, though the 2010s will assume that role when they hit the shelves. Rich, opulent, and powerful; 2007 was a warm vintage from start to harvest and the wines show that. It’s a flamboyant vintage, yet quite structured, but without the elegance and finesse of 2006.


2008 was a cool, classic vintage. Rich with red fruits, austere tannins, and plenty of acidity; these wines are sleepers that need age to blossom. Never as impressive as they opulent 2007s or chiseled 2006s, these will evolve into elegant Brunellos, perfumed, medium bodied and with excellent cut and energy in the mouth.


And finally we are back with 2009. Softer than the preceding vintages, though with darker fruit than all but 2007. These are generally plump, aromatic, and friendly wines. Whether they are right for you is a personal question, though there are of course stand out wines from the vintage. i recently attended Benvenuto Brunello, the annual reveal for the newest releases of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. Before the event, a large scaled walk around tasting,  there was a seminar featuring the Brunello of 2009. I tasted my way through these eight wines and include my impressions of each below. During the walk around portion of the tasting I focused not on Brunello, which will no doubt be very well covered, but rather on the Rossos that are so dear to my heart. I’ll be following up with notes from that portion of the tasting next Tuesday, but I wanted to share these impressions of Brunello with you before moving on to that tasting.

The notes that follow are the wines shown at this event in the order they were tasted.



On the southern side of the appellation in a relatively warmer zone at 900 feet of elevation , 10 to 12 days of maceration followed by three years in large slavonian oak


Old wood and sour berries layered over tarry earth, forest floor, coffee and a little minty greets the nose.A bit austere smelling and spicy on the nose which turns rather tobacco scented with air. Just a hint of fruit sweetness on entry is joined by some sweet oak and high acids on the palate. There’s attractive fruit here, cherry and strawberry toned and a bit austere. Finishes modestly with the acid driving the fruit. Simple and open. 88pts



The furthest south of these wines, also at about 900 foot elevation, 18 to 20 day maceration, highest alcohol of the bunch


Perfumed and gently spicy on the nose with an accent of oak and sweetness layered over strawberry and mineral fruit, turning a bit smoky with nutty oak. Smooth and polished in the mouth with nice strong strawberry fruit on the palate. The tannins are rather soft here with good acids supporting this modest wine. The backend shows some hints of jammy wild strawberry fruit. Gentle and small but rather attractively fruit driven right through the modest finish. 89pts



high vineyards at 1600 feet


Good depth on the nose with some pencil lead and wild cherry aromas. This smells fairly modern though with good intensity. Ripe and moderately full on entry with lots of rather bold and intense raspberry fruit. Theres plenty of tannin here, lending some focus to the palate and driving the rather long, sweetly fruited finish. Ripe and slightly modern in style but quite successful for the vintage 91pts



Located at 1050 ft with a  southeast exposure,


Leathery and a little bretty on the nose with lovely aromas of old wood, dried tart cherry fruit, moss and minerally earth. Perfumy and attractive. Lovely texture in the mouth with ripe tannins, nice depth to the palate, and incipient complexity under the small strawberry and raspberry fruit flecked with mineral notes and laid over a base of savory old wood and prosciutto flavors. The Brett will turn many off but this lovely, if slightly rustic. 90pts



North of the village of Montalcino at 900 ft of elevation


Tight on the nose and quite floral with a bit of milk chocolate and a hint of nutty oak. A bit sweet smelling and matte on the nose. Round and a bit plump in the mouth with nice acids supporting lingonberry and wild tart cherry flavors. There’s some complexity here but this is rather straightforward with a hint of oak on the palate and woody tannins on the finish. Smells of flowers and herbs, just doesn’t follow through on the palate. 90pts



A blend of fruit fromt he northwest (Casale del Bosco) and the southeast (manachiara). Typically a blend from 20 vineyard plots


Tight and focused on the nose.  Reticent but with lovely hint of sour cherry and a tight little herbal notes over some gentle raw wood tones.  Bright and vinous on the palate with lots of austerity and minerality adding detail to the tart cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s some oak here and gentle floral accents to the red fruit with a moderately long, simple yet attractively fruited raspberry finish. Tart and mineral with a hint of oak makes for a nice blend of modest richness and structure. 91pts



West of San Angelo, slight west of Capanne Ricci


Sweet, rich and powerful on the nose with deep leathery, slightly jammy wild cherry fruit, hints of flowers, wood spice and a bit of pork sausage. Very nicely done. Moderately rich and ripe on entry with lovely density and ripeness to the tannins. The core of fruit is a bit chunky and darker than most of the wines in the lineup. Finishes a bit short but this has the potential to age well with very nice acid drive and fine tannins, supportive but supple. 92pts



From the far south east just east of Casale Nuove dell’Abate


Sweetly oaky on the nose with somewhat spicy dark raspberry and cherry fruit on the layered over clay earth and streaked with vanilla.  Rounded and polished on entry with cherries in alcohol on the palate, this freshens up a bit on the midpalate with slightly candied cherry flavors. The tannins are a bit on the soft side and the acid nicely present within the cherry fruits. 89pts


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5 Tips for Becoming a Wine Expert

We all would like to believe that there is some magic shortcut to becoming an expert in something. Really applyingourselves should suffice. But it doesn’t. There’s that 10,000 hour rule which seems to hold true for most things but with wine there are experts and then there are experts.

Being an expert simply means that you have a very good understanding of something. Being a wine expert means that you have a very good understanding of wine. All of them. There are painfully few wine experts out there. I certainly am not one of them. I am well versed in a few wines of the world, while familiar with most. I do know more than most of the folks who ask me questions about wine, and can speak moderately intelligently about them, but that an expert does not make. I am more of an aficionado, and that suits me just fine. Even becoming an aficionado requires time and effort honing one’s skills.  If you want to hone your vinous skills here are five approaches I’ve adopted to help make it happen!

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