Posts Tagged ‘sauvignon Blanc’

Pálava mountain range and water basin favorable for botrytis.

I was taken by surprise when I saw the state-of-the-art winery Sonberk in the Morava region in my native Czech Republic. I could be in Chile or Spain looking at a glass/wood high-tech construction of a winery in the midst of sprawling vineyards, but I was in the heart of Europe, the post-communist, yet to this day totally revived country catching up rapidly with its neighbours – Austria and Germany – not only in terms of winemaking. What a shame that most of the wineries there do not have their web sites in English so the majority of the non-Czech-speaking wine population in the world cannot learn about their activities and wines produced.

Entrance to the Sonberk winery

The quality of the wines made in the Czech Republic has been growing at the speed of the Chinese economy over the past 10 years. I remember vividly tasting a bitter, tannic and unbalanced Frankovka (Cabernet Franc), so popular in those days, before I left my country to travel the world (in 2002). I was not a wine drinker then. No wonder, if one drinks such “patok” (drink of a doubtful quality) as we say in the Czech language, then the only form of wine I enjoyed was the fruit boosted sangria or a wine spritz (wine with sparkling water).

Gone are those days, I can happily say now. As my sommelier sister, who introduced me to some exquisite wines from Morava in the past couple of years, would say: “Five, ten years ago, it were only the whites, which were enjoyable, but recently the reds such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon have proven their high potential in the Czech Republic.” And, I believe her. Not though because I got drunk with her during our cheerful family outings and was thus influenced emotionally. The reason for my conversion to Czech and particularly Moravian wines has been both seeing their recent success at international competitions and tasting the 100 winners from selected Czech and Moravian wines at ‘Salon vín’ in Valtice. These experiences recently assured me that the wine production in my native country is taking the right direction.

Tasting room at Sonberk winery

Moreover, there are some producers who are already firmly footed in top quality winemaking. Some are using traditional methods and others the best available high technology.

The later – modern approach – has adopted Sonberk winery near the village of Popice.

Tasting events room at Sonberk winery

The winery and location

The soil of the majority of the vineyards is loess, the loosely fine soil originally deposited by the wind¤. A long time ago there used to be a sea so some minerality is still present deep in the ground. The climate and latitude are similar to Burgundy as many local producers proudly claim. The winters are cold, spring frosts are challenging and summer with early autumn are warm. South exposition of the 40 ha of vineyards is important for achieving the right ripeness of grapes. Hand harvesting in a number of rounds is important for selections of the right and ripe enough grapes.

Sonberk is not a new venture. There are historical documents proving that vines were grown here already in the XIII. century! Over time, its wines reached such popularity that they were served for the Czech kings. As history is not always favorable and the country was occupied first by Germany and later by Russia, the vineyards deteriorated and wines fell deeply down on the quality scale.

The new winery was finished in 2008 by a distinguished Czech architect Josef Pleskot. Its is a marriage of modernity with tradition.

¤Source: Oxford Dictionary&Thesaurus, 2007 edition.

The view from the winery – Pálava & water basin

The wines tasted
On my recent and surely not last visit I have tried six wines, each very different from the other and all of them interesting with some exceeding my highest expectations from this winery.

Ryzlink Rýnský Sonberk

Starting with the whites, the local cross of Muscat Ottonel and Prachteauben, Muscat Moravia 2011 showed to be a nice and delicate aperitif. Candied fruits with apricot marmelade prevailing, medium acidity and a slight zing of bitter almond, this is a satisfying wine one can drink a bottle of with ease. This is also a starting category of wines from Sonberk.

Moving to the German-like Rhine Riesling Ryzlink Rýnský 2008 was a welcome change for me and my tasting entourage. Petrol on the nose can be found not only in the Alsatian or German dry Rieslings, but also in Sonberk’s wine. Dried fruit and wet stone added further complexity to the already intense aroma. Mineral palate, again with wet stone character, dryness, high acidity and citruses having awaking effect and apricot balanced it all. Long finish underscored the high quality of this fine Riesling also suitable for aging.

Now to something more exotic for this part of the world – Semillon, the white Graves favourite found its call at Sonberk. Whether it was a successful choice, only time shows since the 2010 we have tasted was the first good vintage made here. Aged in barriques for between 3-6 months the wood showed slightly on the palate adding depth, bitter touch and warm vanilla spice to the wine.

The staple of Moravian grapes – Sauvignon Blanc could not be missed in Sonberk’s profile. In the case of 2009 it was aged in barriques so the wine got a bit more depth. Typical gooseberry on the nose and palate was accompanied by apricot, black currant leafs and wood tones from the short barrel aging.

From the sweeter wines we started with an absolute siren of perfectly balanced wines – Pálava výběr z hroznů 2008.  Pálava is an indigenous grape for Morava. It is a cross of Traminer and Müller Thurgau. Tropical fruits and black currant on the nose are seductive. Palate of this wine is extremely rewarding with lovely acidity balancing off the sugar in this wine. Delicate start with apricots, exotic spices fruits such as ripe mango is concluded by touch of wood from barrel aging.

Not only Canada and Austria make excellent straw¤ wine! In Morava they know the craft of straw wine making very well. At Sonberk they make it from Traminer. Tramín pozdní sběr had 213 g of sugar, but 10% alcohol making the difference (Canadian straw wine usually has around 8%). It was less heavy, yet dense and concentrated. Raisins and dried pears dominate the nose and honeyed palate shows some apricot jam and raisins with soft touch of acidity.

¤ Straw wine is made by grapes being dried on straw mats.

Another gold medal winner from Sonberk

Multiple award wine from Sonberk

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Michel Rolland: Le gourou du vin

Michel Rolland: Le gourou du vin

Michel Rolland is perhaps the most famous wine consultant on the world. Serious wine drinkers know him for his creations in Bordeaux, Spain, South Africa, South America and I can go on and on until I cover most of the world. A native of France (Bordeaux), he embraced globalisation, packed his suitcase and went to discover the world of wine across the globe many decades ago. I wrote about his involvement in a unique wine project in Argentina’s Uco Valley at Clos de los Siete as well as a more boutique Yacochuya near Cafayate in the North. For many he is a controversial personality (Jonathan Nossiter’s movie Mondovino, which will be screened during the London’s real Wine Fair in its full version, hurt Mr Rolland’s reputation painfully) for other he is a wine genius knowing exactly what wine drinkers want and bringing it to them.

As a guest of Wine and Business Club of Monte-Carlo I was invited to a very interesting gastronomic evening with food prepared by the Hotel de Paris’ executive chef Franck Cerutti and wines “cooked” by the legend of French wine making Michel Rolland.

Wine and Business Club is a members’ club spanning into four French-speaking European countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland – Geneva and Monaco). Since 1991, the Club organises wine dinners at various locations, mostly at gastronomic restaurants such as at Hotel Le Bristol and Shangri-La in Paris. The evenings are not just about wine and food though, There are various guest speakers talking about business-related topics from wine to environment. Today, the club boosts with 2.500 members so it is a great opportunity to discuss various topics with like-minded people.

Chef Franck Cerutti

The special guest at the event held in the cellar at Hotel de Paris hotel in Monte-Carlo I have attended recently, was Michel Rolland himself. The famous wine consultant came to present his new book “Le Gourou du vin”, The Wine Guru, whose English translation we might see this summer. I have got the book in French and currently I am working on it. With my basic knowledge of French it is a tough nut, yet it is motivating to learn about Mr Rolland’s thoughts about most of the wine-producing countries around the world, his personal journey and encounter with other wine gurus such as Robert Parker as well as less pleasant experiences such as being according to him misrepresented by the already mentioned film director Jonathan Nossiter in his movie Mondovino. For me it is an ideal first book in French to read since it is easier to read about the subject of my passion – wine.

Although, I did not understand much of the talking (in French), I know I will catch up once I read the book. Important was that the food was excellent, the wine very interesting and the location was extraordinary. The success of the food has to be granted to the Chef Franck Cerutti, the guardian of the Three – Michelin star restaurant Luis XV at Hotel de Paris, the wine journey around the world to Michel Rolland and his “Rolland Collection” and location right next to the cellar of Hotel de Paris was just perfect for an evening dedicated to wine and food.

The cellar dining room

Food & wine

The first course Royale d’asperges vertes, primeurs à cru truffés was accompanied by an intensely floral Sauvignon Blanc, Mariflor, 2011 from Argentina’s Mendoza region. The delicate, creamy asparagus cream with vegetables and truffle touch was interesting with such an intense Sauvignon Blanc. Named after Michel Rolland’s daughter and its flowery aroma – Mariflor, had hints of white peach petals, elderflower and high acidity on the palate cutting through the creamy nature of the velloutè. If you like it intense, you will love this wine. Rolland pointed out: “I am a ‘terroirist’ (not a terrorist)”, hinting at  the Argentina’s unique terroir for Sauvignon Blanc giving it its typical intensity.

Bonne Nouvelle, Stellenbosch 2004

Bonne Nouvelle, Stellenbosch 2004

Second wine poured was my favorite from all. The Bonne Nouvelle from South African Stellenbosh, 2004 vintage struck me at first as a Bordeaux. I thought, that it was the Chateau Fontenil from Fronsac served next to it, yet it was the other way round. The Fronsac red was flat, a bit stewed and with just fine acidity. On the other hand the South African blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and locally typical Pinotage aged for 12-15 months in French barriques (50% new) was concentrated playful wine where spices, dark fruits and poppy-seed vibrantly jogged over the palate (acidity). They were long runners, indeed, as the prolonged finish was still quite intense, making the race even more interesting.

These two wines were followed by a Risotto aux petits pois et lard paysan. A delicious meal with lard adding a bit fatness to a delicate sweat pea risotto, needed for the big-bodied wines.

Asparagus cream with truffles

Moving to Spain and France with wines, the next course Magret de canard en “dolce forte”, primeurs et pommes de terre nouvelles, Duck with young potatoes, artichokes, carrots, mangetout and leeks in “dolce forte” sauce, was masterfully paired with the wines.

The wines served with our third course were Campo Eliseo, 2005, from Spanish Toro region, which Rolland called suitably ‘extrovert’ and one of the children of his home region Pomerol – Château Le Bon Pasteur, whose vintage (2000) we were supposed to guess in order to win something in a following raffle.

The Spanish wine was 100% Tinta de Toro (local name for Tempranillo). Juicy, bursting with fruit from black currant, blackberry through cassis and dark cherry, this was an exemplary wine for a duck dish, and my second favorite after the Stellenbosch darling.

Château Bon Pasteur is the property of Michel Rolland’s family from his grand farther’s times. A vibrant wine, indeed. Red fruits mingle with black forest fruits and acidity with concentration at the same time add to this swirl of flavors. Again the vehemence of the wine added even more juice to the duck. On its own though, it is not my type of wine – a glass maybe, but two or three would be too much.

Duck with new potatoes

Magret de canard en “dolce forte”, primeurs et pommes de terre nouvelles

The biggest surprise of the evening was the following food and wine pairing – Malbec, Val de Flores, 2005 from Argentina with a creamy dessert Fraisier, crème légère à la vanille and sorbet fraise. Full-bodied, woody and slightly peppery, yet balanced, Malbec with Vanilla scented cream and strawberry sorbet went surprisingly well together. But, who would expect such a match? I love surprises, especially the positive ones and ending a gourmet evening in this fashion was the best I could wish.

Although, the petits fours – small sweets served with coffee at the ultimate finish of the dinner – were so good that they almost overshadowed the previous dessert. These are though better with tea or coffee and not with wine as they are too sugary to overwhelm the palate so any wine would taste like water with them and that would be a shame when one gets to drink such an interesting range of wines as the Rolland Collection.

Mignardises el chocolats de l’hotel de Paris

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Map of Colchagua valley

Viu Manentwhere art meets wine

The winery today produces various wines in different price realms. I fell in love with their range of a very well-priced Secreto during a picnic with friends in Santiago. These wines were a double secret for me. First, my chilean friend shared his personal secret with me about this excellent value-for-money treat at a wine shop, where instead of all the pricier Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs of big names, he put in our basket two Secretos. Second mystery is the actual blend in the wines. The main grape is featured on the label as in the case of the juicy Pinot Noir and aromatic and fresh Sauvignon Blanc we bought. The rest is a well-guarded secret of the winemaker. It is a temptation to guess what might be in it. And, that is what we ended up doing. Relieved though, we concluded: who actually cares? Important is that we all like it a lot!

Once we have visited the winery we were better equipped for the guess-game as we saw the vineyards and grapes planted there. What is more, our journey through the lush green vineyards moved us further into a Viu Manent wonderland, as we were driven in a horse-ridden carriage. Who would expect a romantic touch at a cool, young and modern winery? Besides, we were surprised by the nostalgia of the environment with a historic wine press and other old winery artefacts sprinkled all over the property. The trip is worth the trip from the capital city Santiago de Chile.

Viu Manent

Art is at the centre of Viu Manent attention. Winemaking is conceived there as one form of art, the one enjoyed by our palate. While the visual art is embodied in the colorful drawings on the labels, yet these are less fancy than the legendary Mouton Rotshield commissions. The labels are fresh, playful and stimulating matching to the effect of the liquid content of  all the Secretos.

Artistic wine shop

A ride in a carriage through the vineyards

Old press

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