Wine Review: Franciacorta Brut ‘Le Terre’, Arcipelago Muratori

This is more of a mini-review as I was not able to gather much information about the wine from the restaurant (a small neighborhood restaurant in Milan) where I had it as they did not speak any English and I do not speak Italian. Looking at the bottle I did however quickly see that it was a Franciacorta sparkling wine so made with the traditional (champagne) method and that it was a Brut. It is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but I could not see any information regarding the percentages.

The wine was pale yellow color and the aroma was one with nice lemon and lime with only the slightest hint of toastiness. It has a pleasant acidity and a slight citrus flavor. It lacks complexity and the flavor falls pretty flat. I would say that it works well as an aperitif and especially when it is hot (and that it was when I sampled it – Milan was a steaming +37 Celsius). Not a bad wine but not something I would necessarily seek out. Quality rating it deserves a 2.5 but it was attractively priced, €4.5 for a glass in a restaurant and that I think makes it great value for money so there it rates higher at 3.5

Wine Review: Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2013

Wines from the Abruzzo region are perhaps not the most exciting to come out of Italy or perhaps it is just my rather limited knowledge of the wines that makes me feel like that. I was however at a restaurant serving regional food from Abruzzo so it seemed fitting (and the wine list sorted of forced me) to sample some wine from the region. I ended up sampling a wine from the winery Masciarelli. The winery was founded in 1981 by Gianni Masciarelli and it has several vineyards spanning over 300 acres in all provinces of Abruzzo. It is a fairly large operation these days and the produce around 2.5 million bottles spread over 18 different labels and five product lines (Classic Line, Gianni Masciarelli, Villa Gemma, Marina Cvetic, and Castello di Semivicoli).

The wine I tried was from the classic line and is called Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2013. This is one of their entry level wines and it is made from a 100% Montepulciano. The winery produces around 500 000 bottles each year, so not really something rare. The wine is deep ruby colored. The nose is full of dark berries, cherry as well as more subtle hints of tobacco and violets. The flavor is dominated by blackcurrant, plum but also with some pepper notes and tobacco in the finish. To me this is not a bad wine at all but it just does not excite me one bit. Too simple and slightly boring and a typical mass-market wine. It is non-offensive and works well with the regional foods, for example it went pretty well with the grilled lamb skewers. Quality wise it is only worth a 2.5 but value for money is pretty decent and deserves a 3.

Wine review: Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Elyond DOC

I have left much of the wine writing to S recently but have now found some new inspiration for other drinks than coffee. I recently spent some time in Italy (for business) and managed to sample some interesting wines. First out of the reviews is a Gewürztraminer from the very north of Italy in Alto Adige. The wine is Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Elyond DOC. The winery is the Laimburg Estate Wines located at the foot of the mountain called Monte di Mezzo in the South Tyrol. Wine has been produced and traded for a long time in the area, there are even recent discoveries of grape seeds that are 2400 year old. The current winery has been producing for more than 40 years.

The winery is actually a branch of Laimburg Research Centre of Agriculture and Forestry that works for the advancement of viticulture in South Tyrol. The winery is a half public institution, not sure how that influences their work but I could imagine that the fact Laimburg grows and produces the entire spectrum of South Tyrol’s wine varieties is connected to it. There are numerous wines produced and they are divided into two broad categories. The Estate Wines are vintage wines with a focus on varietal character, matured either solely in stainless steel or partially in large oak barrels. The Manor Selection are wines with distinctive personality: they are mostly aged in oak barrels or are specially selected.

The Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Elyond DOC is not what I would normally go for but I felt a bit adventurous so opted for this powerful white wine. It belongs to the Manor Selection and is high in alcohol content at 15%. The grapes of Gewürztraminer Elyònd come from one hectare of vineyard, situated at 350 meters above sea level, on a limestone soil, gravel and with a mixture of clay located in the town of Sella, Tramin, according to the winery one of the best areas for this varietal. The grapes have been harvested manually followed by aging for 8 months in steel tanks and for 12 months in bottle.

Unfortunately I must say that the alcohol was very present in both the nose and the flavor of it. The color was however nice golden yellow. The nose had hints of dried figs and raisin and there were clear floral notes of rose petals and lavender and a, to me, unpleasant hint of the alcohol strength. The flavor is however unfortunately also influenced by the high alcohol level. There is a lingering acidity and some spices in the flavor. I am not at all a big drinker of Gewürztraminer and this one did not convince me to change my opinion. I would rate it as a 2.5 in quality and the same for value for money (it costs around €12 for a bottle in stores and I had a glass for €5 in a restaurant in Milan).

Wine review: Faccoli Franciacorta Extra Brut

Faccoli is one of the many sparkling wine producers in Franciacorta . The founder was Lorenzo Faccoli who in 1964 acquired land on the hills of Mount Orfano, in Coccaglio. At this point in time Franciacorta was in its infancy as a wine region. That year Lorenzo obtained 12 hectoliters of wine from grapes of an existing vineyard, making wine on his own and sold by measure. Soon he realized he wanted to do more so he arranged the terraces and planted vineyards of chardonnay and pinot blanc, according to the recommendations of the new registered designation of Franciacorta origin. Already in 1970 he bottled part of his own wine and in 1979 he produced 300 hectoliters from his own wine and grapes.

In 1983 a lot changed for the Faccoli house, the sons Mario and Claudio stepped into the business. The decision was made to make sparkling wine the focus. In 1989 the production was 45 000 bottles (15 000 still and 30 000 sparkling) but the company still struggled as returns were too low. They also made the decision to manage the sales themselves and to focus even more on bubbles. To facilitate the growth they invested in an expansion of the cellar and added a higher end vintage cuvee to the selection, the Vintage 10 Anni. In 1990, they uprooted the old red vines of Cabernet Merlot Barbera and Nebbiolo and reduced the production of still wine to 10.000 bottles of white wine. In 2000 they stopped producing still wine and made the sparkling the only focus of the company. Today the company produces over 50 000 bottles of sparkling wine and have added several cuvées to the selection, today these are: Rosè brut, Extra Brut, Brut, Dosage Zero and Vintage 10 Anni.

The Facolli Franciacorta Extra Brut was the one I sampled (at Monvinic). It is grown on the hills of Mount Orfano and it is a blend of 70 % Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Blanc and 5 % Pinot Noir. Facolli uses the méthode champenoise for producing their sparkling wine. No surprise as they are in Franciacorta , the only Italian sparkling wine appellation that must be made by méthode champenoise. This specific cuvee has been aged 21 months on the lees. The extra brut has minimal extra dosage and is very low in residual sugar (2.5g/l).

I have previously not been very impressed by Italian sparkling wines but this one I did find pretty decent. I sampled it side by side with a Pehu Simonet Champagne and a Albet i Noya cava and from that trio this was clearly the best (reviews of the others to come)

The color is pale yellow with fine bubbles. The aroma has nice brioche and bread notes as well as yeast and hints of mineral. On the palate it is very clean, bright with mineral and citrus. It works excellent on its own, as an aperitif, but also with some lighter food. As I did not have much expectations on it, I felt pleasantly surprised. Looking at quality I would rate it as a 3 (S was pretty fond of it, so she might say its a 4). It is nice but would perhaps not go out of my way to find it. It can be found online (mainly from Italian wine shops) for €13 to €20. In the lower end of that segment it is good value for money (a rating of 3.5).

Wine bar review: Monvinic, Barcelona

Monvinic is a lovely wine bar located in the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona. It looks really sleek and classy from the outside and the feeling is the same when entering. The entire place is designed by interior designer Alfons Tost and it does feel like it is a fitting design for an upscale wine bar. I must however say that while it looks nice the chairs at the tables are not very comfortable so I always prefer squeezing together in the sofa instead.

There is an extensive wine library along one of the walls and it is from what I understand fine to browse the books. I have never really found a reason to do it as I have most of the wine books I want at home. While the books are impressive the reason to come here is the wine list. The wine list by the glass is constantly changing. Most of the time there are around 30 wines available by the glass and several hundred more by the bottle.

The list by the glass is a nice mix of both Spanish and International wines. There is usually three different sparkling wines, around 10-15 reds and whites respectively and then some sweet wines as well. The wine list is presented on tablets (not iPads but some other brand) and that is of course nice but I do wish they would have made better use of the technology. There is very limited information on the wines and the producers and it would be so easy to have something more there when they have the tablets. The use of tablets does however make it very easy to change and update the wine list and that means that they sometimes change the wine list by the glass during the evening.

All the waiters serving are also trained sommeliers so it is always possible to get knowledgeable service. Or I would rather say that it should be. At times Monvinic gets very busy and it is then sometimes not possible to really get the attention of the staff. It did not really use to be like that but since the Wall Street Journal piece on Monvinic it does seem like the place also draws in more people (and to some extent more the people that want to appear to be interested in wine). I would recommend coming either a bit earlier (before 19) or a bit later (after 21.30) to get the best service. The wines are usually interesting and the prices by the glass are decent. What i really like is that it is possible to order half-glasses. It gives a good chance to sample more wines and since many of the half-glasses are around €3 it does not have to be very expensive.

Recently I sampled some interesting wines from South African Mullineux (the white Kloof Street as well as the red Mullineux) as well as some great sparklings. Amongst them an Italian sparkling, Faccoli from Francacortia (if this was a blind tasting I would have picked it as a Champagne) alongside some, while not bad, more disappointing champagne from Pehu Simonet and cava from Albet i Noya. The international selection is pretty impressive but I would actually have expected more from the Spanish wines. There are however some interesting local wines there and I have on previous visits sampled lovely wines from Castell D’Encus (they make some lovely unusual Spanish wines in the Pyreenes, their Acusp is 100% Pinot Noir and the Ekam is a 100% Riseling).

Monvinic also serves food and while the quality is pretty good I must say that prices are rather steep for it. The food is a mix of set tapas menus and some larger dishes. I often struggle to find any set menus I like (as they usually contain something I do not want/like) and as I have come with the purpose to sample some wine I do not want a full main course so prefer to eat elsewhere. All in all I do however love popping into Monvinic for a few half-glasses, some wine talk with the sommeliers and then head elsewhere for dinner. It is without a doubt one of the best wine bars in Barcelona. I may not agree with the Wall Street Journal that it is the best in the world but it is clearly a good place for a glass or two.

Wine bar review: Hornstulls Bodega, Stockholm

The area around Hornstull has been missing a real wine-scene for some time and the team running Linje Tio, Tjoget and Bierhaus decided to remedy that with opening a proper wine bar housed in the same space already holding Linje Tio and Tjoget. The space is incredibly small but very efficiently used so in some way they easily manage to squeeze in 30+ people in a space no bigger than most people’s living rooms.

The staff are friendly and relaxed so it feels a bit more like having a glass of wine with at a friends (a very knowledgable one) as a normal question is more like what type of wine you feel like today. The relaxed feeling and cozy atmosphere is really a strength of this place. The wine list changes frequently, and it usually holds around 5-7 whites, 5-7 reds and 1 sparkling by the glass. There is also almost always a few additional wines that are available by the glass so be sure to ask what else they have. With the name I would have expected more of Spanish wines but when I have been here there has been a lot of Italian and French wines on the list. The wines are in general good and it is always possible to have a small taster before ordering a full glass. I have not had spectacular wine here but also never anything close to bad so it is very good wine bar. Prices are also fairly reasonable to be Stockholm (expect at least 80-90 SEK per glass (€8-10), many around 120 SEK (12 SEK) and a few a bit more) but no bargains to be had.

Upon my last visit I sampled a pleasant Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, the producer was Yannick Amirault, region Bourgueil and the wine was called La Coudraye. Very good Cabernet Franc, especially considering the price. In addition I also sampled a Chianti from Montesecondo, fairly nice balance but felt rather young so while pleasant now would probably benefit from som ageing.

They also serve some food. Mainly small plates, tapas style. I sampled the cheese croquetas, the charcuterie plate and the almonds. The food is pretty decent but looking at the amount of food it is not really great value for money. The dishes are small and the prices would make it fairly expensive to fill up on the tapas. So either come here before dinner for some good wine, nice atmosphere and enjoy a small bite or two or come after dinner and have some wine. I will definitly stop by now and then for a glass of wine so it is welcome to a neighborhood otherwise pretty starved for quality beverages (still waiting for a proper coffee place).

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.