Finland Celebrates 100 Years of Independence with Champagne Ayala

2017 is a special year for all Finns. The country celebrates 100 years of independence on December the 6th. It’s actually quite overwhelming that the time finally here. I remember Finland turning 90, and the countdown to a round hundred has been going on ever since. So there is a lot of celebration to be done, and what I find impressive is that Finland has chosen champagne Ayala for making an iconic 100 year celebratory drink for them. Actually this post will be mostly about Champagne Ayala: who they are and what kind of champagne do they make etc. However, what I am hoping for is that it builds some interest and trust in the Finland 100 bubbly. It is not always these marketing things come out good you know.  Continue reading “Finland Celebrates 100 Years of Independence with Champagne Ayala”

My Three Favorite Wines of July

July is the hottest month of the year for us in the Nordics. To be honest its seldom actually hot.We are lucky if we hit 25C. Regardless of the mild weather, the summer has an effect on my diet. And now I don’t mean just food, but wine as well. I like my wines light in July. Ok, so I like my wines always quite light. However, I could not gulp down any heavy Barolo or Cabernet in this weather. Those I reserve solely for cold fall or Christmas evenings when I actually feel like something thicker. As I have tasted some great new stuff this July, I thought I would share with you my favorite new discoveries.  Continue reading “My Three Favorite Wines of July”

Wine Review: Maison Nicolas Potel Chassagne-Montrachet Vielles Vignes 2007

Recently I have been talking a lot about white Burgundy (recent post here). It is the wine-obsession of the year. So last weekend we took out a recent acquisition from the cellar to enjoy with food. The bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet from Nicolas Potel is a 100% Chardonnay from Côte de Beaune, so we reckoned that it could hold its own with a mushroom risotto. How right we were. It was a perfect match.  Continue reading “Wine Review: Maison Nicolas Potel Chassagne-Montrachet Vielles Vignes 2007”

The First Wine Review of the Year: Vang Dalat Excellence Chardonnay

Happy New Year! What better way to start a new year of blogging than a wine review. I haven’t written those in a while. This time you are in for a treat as I have been tasting some Vietnamese wine. Yum yum…perhaps not, but interesting nevertheless. We picked up two bottles at Saigon airport just before departing to Singapore and a few days ago mustered up the courage to open a bottle. As white wine seemed like the safer choice we decided to open the Vang Dalat Excellence Chardonnay.

Like with most other Asian countries, wine is not the first drink that comes to mind when thinking about Vietnam. Nevertheless, Da Lat city, with its cool central highland climate and strong French heritage is an anomaly producing wine. The grapes come from nearby Phan Rang which is Vietnam’s main grape-growing region. The wine is said to be made according European wine making practices, but I did not find very much information about it online.  What is nice is that the wine is made affordable for locals, but this specific bottle of Chardonnay was produced for the export market and set us back 13 US dollars at the duty free.

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Tasting the Vang Dalat Excellence Cardonnay
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The seal of approval for Vietnamese wine

The wine was straw colored and the initial sniff fresh. The nose of the wine was actually quite pleasant in this hot weather with tropical fruits, lemon and honey. The taste of the wine had white fruits and lemon, accompanied by that oxidized taste of cooked fruit that I associate with spoiled wine. It was faint, but nevertheless it was there. I cant really put my finger on it where it comes from. Perhaps late harvest or over heating during the fermentation process. It is however quite common, and as I have understood it even preferred by locals in China and Vietnam. Taste is taste, what can you do.

Vang Dalat, is available in most cities and provinces in Vietnam and its exported to China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia and Switzerland. It is also available to buy in Germany, however the price tag really does not match the quality (~20€). I would not recommend buying it for the quality. However, many decisions these days come down to interesting versus delicious. So if you are into new things – why not!

Although I would like to give some points for a good attempt, I just cannot do that. Otherwise I would not be true to the scoring system. So both quality as well as value for money get one point out of five (even that is a bit generous). We drank one small glass and poured the rest.

xx Soile

Wine Review: Benoit Badoz Cremant du Jura

I always get excited when I find an excellent value for money -wine to share on this blog. That is kind of the purpose of it all, to build a wine-community and share ideas and information. There are thousands and thousands of wines out there, how to otherwise know which one to pick of the shelf?

“Domaine Badoz” is located in the town of Poligny, in the heart of the Jura region. Its origins date back as far as 1659 and Benoit Badoz represents the 10th generation of winemakers at the family domaine. He cultivates 10 hectares of vineyards with the aim of maintaining a natural ecological balance; grass is planted in every other row and no chemical are used in the fields. The production process, grape reception, vinification and aging are also efficiently organized and environmentally friendly. The wine is not classified as ecological or bio dynamic, however the focus is on making great wines by taking good care of the land and grapes. A good grape will speak for its self, and the Benoit Badoz Cremant du Jura is proof of that.

A simple but elegant label
A simple but elegant label
Light golden color
Light golden color

The wine is made from 100% Chardonnay and it has a lemony and sweetly refreshing nose. The taste is crispy, with yellow apples, pear and minerals. The sweetness in the aroma is deceiving as the wine its self tastes very dry. The wine has a persistent stream of teeny tiny bubbles contributing to a pleasant creamy mouth feel. All in all a very refreshing appetizer.

I got this wine from last years Christmas wine calendar (remember that? I hope I will get one this year as well) so I am not sure what price was paid for this specific bottle. After some (google) research I found the wine available in the producers web-shop for 8,90 EUR (!!).  That, I must say, is a great price. For pure quality, I give this wine a 3 (it’s good, but nothing amazing), but value for money I would say is a 4.5. I wonder if they deliver to Sweden…

Wine Review: Rimarts Reserva Especial Chardonnay

Being a wine merchant, you seldom drink your own wines. You take a sip in tastings to make sure the wine you are serving is ok, but you do not open a bottle that often to relax. It’s a bit silly, as the wines in our selection are some of the best I know. Perhaps it is just the continuous thirst for new things that seduces me to open something different every time. Last Friday we stayed firm and cooled down several options from our own lot and the one that called out to me most was the fresh and pearly, Rimarts Chardonnay.

The Rimarts label design is crisp and simple
The Rimarts label design is crisp and simple
The black cava-label is a guarantee of  a long ageing.
The black cava-label is a guarantee of a long ageing.
Light straw color with lively bubbles.
Light straw color with lively bubbles.

I have written to you about Rimarts before (story here). The cava house is owned by two brothers and they do everything by hand. Rimart’s produces true artisanal cavas. They source their grapes from trusted growers and handle the rest of the process by themselves (with a little bit of help from their mother). Bottles are aged to their peak and disgorged (re-corked) upon order. The Rimart’s cavas are perfect to drink now and require no additional maturation. The Reserva Especial Chardonnay has been aged for minimum 40 months and is a Brut Nature with less than 2g/k residual sugar.

Chardonnay is not an indigenous grape to Penedes. It has however become more popular recently with the growth of specialty cava as a premium drink. Chardonnay is a grape often used in the production of champagne, so it’s reputation has made it an attractive option for adding as an ingredient also in cava. Chardonnay, when aged properly, gives sparkling wine some of those brioche and nutty flavors that is one of my favorite characteristics in a good bubbly.

The Rimarts Chardonnay has a fresh nose with some citrus, green apple and baked bread. The taste is bone dry with light acidity and mineral freshness. After some time and air the wine gains some body and the yeast and brioche flavors take over. It is almost worth the price of some bubbles waiting for the wine to breathe. This is a wonderful cava and it resembles more champagne in the taste than other sparkling wines. I would recommend pairing it with some lightly salted snacks, charcuterie or hard cheeses (parmesan, comte or gryuere).

All in all, I give the Reserva Especial Chardonnay a 4 in pure quality and a 4.5 in value for money (242 SEK per bottle/ 1450 SEK per box), from our webshop of course. Our customers seem to agree with me as we actually sold out of this wine immediately when we received a shipment in May. It is a real star in our collection and a given favorite for years to come. Thank you Ricard and Ernest for making such a wonderful wine!

Wine Review: Quartz Reef Chauvet Method Traditionelle

Quartz Reef is a winery in the Central Otago part of New Zealand. The slightly odd name is taken from the largest Quartz rock deposit in New Zealand that lies below the winery. As many Otago wineries they are strong with Pinot Noir but in this instance I sampled their Brut Sparkling wine. The winery was formed in 1996 by Rudi Bauer an experienced winemaker who has worked in Germany, Oregon and Champagne. He was also one of the people behind creating the Central Otago Pinot Noir celebration and he has multiple Pinot Noir wines available. I must try to sample some of those as well in the future. The winery has around 30 hectares near Cromwell in Central Otago. In addition to several clones of Pinot Noir they also have Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Back to sparkling wine though. Rudi was one of the pioneers of sparkling wine production in New Zealand. He made his fist attempts with sparkling wine in New Zealand in 1990 and before that he had spent time in Champagne with Champagne-maker Clotilde Chauvet and Jacques Peters of Veuve Clicquot to master the process. I am not sure if that is where he learned all of his skills but I was impressed by his wines. The fact that more than 70% of the total production for them is sparkling wine suggests that consumers also like it.

The one I sampled was the Quartz Reef NV Brut Method Traditionelle. It is blend of 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay, it has been aged for 24 months and has 8g of residual sugar per litre.

The wine has a nice nose of lime, melon, brioche, lees and fresh green apples. It is refreshingly dry with clear acidity, pleasant if that is your thing. There are clear notes of citrus and the finish is full of mineral and chalk.

A very good wine that I would not hesitate to have again. It makes me want to sample the rose as well as the vintage sparklings. It is in between a 3.5 and a 4 in quality rating but being generous I give it a 4. I had a glass at the excellent wine bar Monvinic in Barcelona and there a bottle was a bit more than €50 and a half glass was €6.5. From the producer it is possible to buy it for 30 New Zealand Dollars which is about €21 and that would be really great value for money. In Europe it is likely to set you back a bit more (if you can find it) but I have seen it available for around €25 from Winedirect in the UK and that is great value for money. Very good value for money at €25 so a 4 for that.

Wine Review: Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs

These days I seldom find much of interest at airport duty free shops but occasionally there are some real bargains to be made so if I have the time I often at least browse what they have. I stumbled across the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs at Schiphol airport where it was sold for around €45 which to me is a really great value for money.

Mumm is one of the old champagne houses. It was officially founded in 1827 but already in 1761 the family produced wine in Cologne under the name P.A. Mumm after its owner Peter Arnold Mumm. The family also had ownership of vineyards in the Rhine valley and as they were business minded they also realized that there was a great business opportunity in the excellent sparkling wines produced in the champagne region. They then decided to establish a branch of the company in Reims in 1827. The focus was decided to be on quality with the motto of Georges Hermann Mumm “Only the best”.

Mumm’s own vineyards cover an area of nearly 218 hectares and they are Pinot Noir heavy (78% is Pinot Noir). The Pinot Noir is mainly in and around Montagne de Reims with the Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant and Avize. They do however also have vineyards dedicated to Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs and in the Vallée de la Marne Pinot Meunier prevails.

The prevalence of Pinot Noir makes the Mumm de Cramant sort of an oddity being 100% Chardonnay. Historically it was only made for friends of the family and was sent with a folded business card. This history can still be seen in the label that has integrated the folded part in the top right of the label and an old style bottle. The wine is made from a single Grand Cru vineyard that Mumm acquired in 1882. This champagne is actually only aged for two years on the lees. The idea is to preserve the fresh, citrus flavors of the Cramant Chardonnay, before disgorgement and not to give too much away but it works. This cuvée is bottled under lower pressure than normal (4.5 atmospheres of pressure vs the normal 6) and this creates a more delicate wine with tiny bubbles that sort of melt in the mouth.

The color is pale yellow and it has a wonderful aroma of brioche, lemon, fresh fruit and white flowers. The palate is creamy with fine texture and a pleasant acidity. The aromas present in the nose are also present in the flavor but there are also hints of almond, ginger and pleasant mineral note to it. A really excellent Blanc de blancs and to me by far the best that I have sampled from Mumm. Actually I have not been that impressed by what Mumm has produced in Champagne, I have even preferred Mumm Napa above the champagnes but this really changes all that.

For me it deserves a 4.5 in quality rating and when I bought it at €45 it deserves a 5 in value for money. That is perhaps not entirely fair as it was a sale on and normal price would between €70-90 (in Sweden it would cost 799 SEK approximately €85-90) and at that price the value for money rating would more be like 4. I am however glad I managed to pick up two bottles and will have a look next time I pass through Schiphol.

Wine Review: Oyster Bay Brut Sparkling Cuvée

When arriving in Singapore we were treated to a bottle of sparkling wine by our friends. This having been a trip largely without quality wine we were excited to try some sparkling even though it was not something we normally would have bought. This was a New Zealand sparkling called Oyster Bay Brut Sparkling Cuvée and is made with the Charmat method on 100% Chardonnay grapes. For those who do not know the Charmat Method it involves the wine undergoing the secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks instead of in individual bottles, and after that it is bottled under pressure. It is a method commonly used in Italy for making Prosecco and generally produces fruity and fresh wines. What is often missing for me is the toastines and brioche-like characteristics more commonly found in Champagnes and occasionally Cava. So it is both an unusual choice of country and method for us but we are happy to try new things.

Oyster Bay is probably more known for their Sauvignon Blancs at fairly modest prices for the quality than their sparkling wines but it was interesting to try it. They are a family owned company with a vision to became a premium wine maker and they make a full range of white, red and sparkling wines.

The color is light golden with persistent bubbles. A bit bubbly for my taste but not overly aggressive so nothing disturbing. The nose has hints of grapefruit and floral notes. On the palate it had clear flavour of crisp apple, zesty citrus but also creaminess and in the finish minerals.

For me it was a pleasant surprise (both coming from New Zealand and a sparkling made using the Charmat Method) and it works really well as an aperitif on a hot day or as a companion for some Asian food. It is however clearly a fairly basic cuvée so for me I was surprised when I saw the price in stores here in Singapore. At Cold Storage it was almost 70 SGD (and that was a special promotion, approximately €45). It is available in the UK for around £14 (approximately €19) and that is of course a lot less but for me it would have to be around €10 to be decent value for money. Quality rating it is a nice basic wine so a 2.5 but value for money in Singapore is 0 and if looking at the UK it would be a value for money rating of 2.

Wine review: Chandon Brut (Australia)

As promised in a previous post, the review of @494, the wine at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok we are following with a review of the Chandon Brut from Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley of Australia. As I may have mentioned before I am often not a fan of Moët Chandon but they should be given credit for what they have done to develop the Australian sparkling wine industry. The Chandon Brut is part of their basic assortment from Australia. I would not characterize it as a bad wine, just not a very memorable one. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with the méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). The grapes are from various cool climate vineyards in the southern wine regions of Australia (according to Chandon from the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie, the King and Buffalo Valleys (Victoria) and Coonawarra (South Australia). I have been trying to find out what the mix between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is in the specific one I had but not been successful yet. In general the mix is around 60% Chardonnay and the remaining 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is aged on the yeast lees for 15 to 18 months and there is a small amount of dosage added. After an additional 3 months of bottle aging the wine is released. The color is perhaps best described as straw yellowish. The bouquet (nose) is influenced by the Chardonnay and is somewhat fruit driven with citrusy notes and hint of pear and nectarine. I could also sense a slight whiff of yeast but very faint. It is a dry wine but not overly so and retains a fairly nice balance with a creamy character and zest to the finish. Lacks complexity and the finish is a bit short. Nice to drink properly chilled but not at all a remarkable wine. It is however nice to enjoy cool on a hot day. While not at all a poor choice, I would not actively seek this out. However, here in Thailand this seems to be one of the better options at a reasonable price level. We had it the @494 wine bar for 349 THB (roughly €9-10). A bottle in a store would set you back around 800 THB. From what I can see online it is otherwise mainly available in Australia and Hong Kong at prices starting from €17 and up to around €25. In that price range I would rather have some very nice cava but as that is not really an option at my current destination this is a decent option. Quality wise I would give it a rating of 3 as it lacks some of the complexity I like in a sparkling wine. Looking at value for money it is a 2.5 but it is of course relative as I find it excellent value for money in Thailand (more a 4 or even a 5 compared to what else is available, see for example our most recent Wine warning ) while the rating of 2.5 is how i view it if in Finland, Sweden or the UK.