7th December: The SWAS Christmas AGM/Quiz/Tasting
"A Christmas Dinner Tasting"
The SWAS AGM/Quiz and Tasting was very kindly hosted yet again this year by Lyn & Dave in Henfield.
3. Whilst the members enjoyed the usual chaos of the SWAS AGM , Peter served us a glass of 2017 Chardonnay from the Kumeu River Estate, Auckland, NZ; 100% Chardonnay; 13.5% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £18.50 and originally intended as a 'Dinner Wine' hence the number '3' despite it being our first wine of the evening...! Wines are presented numbered according to Peter's Wine List.
The Brajkovich family own the highly regarded Kumeu River Estate near Auckland. Although Kumeu is a rather less fashionable wine district than some on New Zealand’s North Island, the Brajkovichs have proven that it is possible to make wonderful wines here. Michael Brajkovich, who was incidentally the first New Zealander to become a Master of Wine has been the winemaker since 1982. His non-conformist and forward-thinking approach has been particularly successful in creating wines that show the hallmarks of New Zealand although there is a definite Old Word inspiration throughout. Michael’s brothers Milan and Paul look after the vineyards and sales respectively so it is all a real family effort.
Peter's Notes: "Hand-picked and gently whole-bunch pressed, this lovely white is fermented and aged for 11 months in French oak giving a rounded full texture. With apple and lemon on the nose and peach developing on the palate,this is a great New Zealand Chardonnay".
The SWAS 2019 Annual General Meeting
The AGM this year was Chaired by Mike in his usual chaotic way. The business was thankfully swiftly concluded by 7.40pm.
It was then time for the evening's Quiz which was entrusted to Sioned as a reward for winning last year. Sioned, very sensibly, delegated the task of presenting the Quiz and the wines to husband Peter Vos. This year, the Quiz was duly won by Peter Holmes who will now have the onerous duty to set and run the 2020 AGM Quiz . Congratulations, Peter (...and many thanks to Peter Vos for his and Sioned's interesting Quiz...!).
[Your Secretary, incidentally, managed to score just two correct answers which might be some sort of record or he cheated...].
Sioned & Peter's 2019 SWAS Christmas Tasting
1. The Society's Cava Reserva Brut NV; Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes (the traditional Cava grapes) plus a touch of Chardonnay; 12% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £8.95
The Society's Cava is made by Sumarroca, a small family estate in Penedès, who use the traditional cava grapes (parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo) plus a touch of chardonnay to add finesse. It is made using the Champagne method whereby the second fermentation, which adds the sparkle to the wine, takes place in the bottle. What makes Sumarroca stand out from other cava producers is that they age the wine on its lees for an extended period of 30 months. This is a fragrant, appley fizz with great brioche richness, a lovely delicate fruit flavour and mouthwatering finish. Voted Best Value Cava at the Wines from Spain Awards.
2. Wiltinger Riesling Dry, von Kesselstatt 2018; Riesling grape; 12.5% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £ 14.95
The von Kesselstatt estate, dating back to 1349, owns the finest spectrum of sites in the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys. In 1978 the Reh family acquired the estate from the Reichsgrafen (imperial counts) of Kesselstatt. Annagret Reh-Gartner, a great and true friend of the Society who died in October 2016, was at the helm of the business, supported by her husband Gerhard, and was a welcome and regular presence at Society tastings. Since taking over the couple particularly concentrated efforts on lowering yields and improving quality to great effect.
The 36 hectares of estate-owned vineyards are planted exclusively with riesling on steep, stony soils where the warmth is maintained in the marginal German climate. Leading holdings include Scharzhofberger in the Saar, Kaseler Nies’chen in the Ruwer and Josephshöfer and Piesporter Goldtröpfchen in the Mosel. These are wines characterised by clean, ripe fruit, impressive balance of acidity and minimal intervention in the winemaking process. Fittingly, the wines are fermented with natural yeasts adding to their individuality and fragrance and kept on lees for extended ageing.
The ever popular Society’s Saar Riesling is also made by von Kesselstatt from grapes grown on the Scharzhofberger and Wiltinger Braunfels sites. The baroque-style Palais Kesselstatt in Trier’s old town houses a restaurant and wine bar where visiting members can enjoy the wines of von Kesselstatt. In summer, the terrace provides the ideal setting for appreciating both the wines and the historical surroundings of Trier itself.
With a bouquet evocative of Wilting's steely slate slopes and clean-cut, distinctive and refreshing flavour, this is a classic dry Riesling from Germany's Saar.
** The Riesling was voted the Best White of the evening **
Between the Whites and the Reds Lyn served Tomato Bruchetta
4. Château Canada, Bordeaux Superior 2017; 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £8.50
Château Canada is a 5-hectare vineyard situated north of Bordeaux in Cubzac les Ponts next to Château Terrefort-Quancard between Côtes du Bourg and Fronsac. Local tradition has it that it was named after a Canadian farmer who lived in the area and fell in love with the piece of land where the château was built. Château Canada was built in the 18th century by Victor Louis, who also built the Grand Théâtre in Bordeaux in 1780. The vineyard is planted 70% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon on a clay/calcareous slope with vines averaging 20 to 25 years of age. The wine is made by Nicolas Quancard, owner of Terrefort-Quancard.
5. Susana Balbo Chacayes single-vineyard Malbec 2017; Mendoza, Argentina; 100% Malbec; 14% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £12.50
The heart of the Argentine wine industry is Mendoza, in the far west of the country, where more than 80% of Argentina's wine is made. Altitude is a great marker of quality, and above 900m the climate is cool enough to produce fine wines. Within Mendoza, sub-regions to look out for include Luján de Cuyo in the Upper Mendoza Valley, and the Uco Valley, to the south-west of the city of Mendoza.
One of the strengths of the region is the quantity of old vineyards, planted to a relatively high density. The climate here is semi-desert and vines could not survive on the low levels of rainfall alone. The Huarpe Indians, who were in the area before the arrival of the Spanish, long ago built a sophisticated system of irrigation channels, many of which form the basis for the modern structures. What rain there is has the unhappy habit of falling in February and March and the harvest takes place in late March, so many vineyards are planted on free draining soils to mitigate against the effects. Flood irrigation is used where the land is flat enough and drip irrigation is increasingly used to give large but infrequent doses of water to the vines. Hail is a significant risk too, with 30% of vines damaged every year.
There is less regional diversity in Argentina than you might imagine, because the climatic differences are often negated by the effects of altitude. For example, the region of Salta, in the north of the country, has some of the highest vineyards in the world, at around 2,000m, but the region's northerly location means its climate is similar to Mendoza. The altitude here, and in Mendoza, provides the vines with plenty of ultraviolet light which encourages the development of anthocyanins and therefore colour in the red grapes, hence the rich, deep colour of many Argentine malbecs. When these anthocyanins combine with tannins during fermentation the result is the velvety, opulent texture one associates with the best malbecs. It is one of the chief reasons for the difference between the Argentine malbecs and the firmer, drier versions from the grape’s natural home at Cahors in south-west France.
Salta province, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Mendoza, also makes very fine malbec and other reds at altitudes over 1,500 metres, but is also the heartland of torrontés production in Argentina. This cross between país and muscat is a source of wonderfully aromatic and fresh white wines. Many vines here are pergola trained, allowing the grapes to hang down beneath the canopy, shaded from the sun to prevent burning.
Soils throughout Argentina’s wine regions vary: alluvial soils such as gravel, silts sand and clay are common around Mendoza and in the Rio Negro area in Patagonia, Argentina’s other major wine-producing area.
** The Malbec was voted the Best Red of the evening and the overall Best Wine **
7 . Chianti Classico, Fontodi, 2016; Central Tuscany, Umbria, Italy; 100% Sangiovese; 14.5% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £19.00
The Fontodi estate is found in Panzano in the heart of the Chianti Classico region where vines have been cultivated since Roman times. Its owners since 1968, the Manetti family also have many centuries of history here, not as wine producers but as manufacturers of the terracotta tiles for which the region is also famous. Since they bought this great estate they have invested much time, effort and money in making it one of the most highly regarded of all Chianti Classico producers.
The Fontodi vineyards, now fully mature, are centred on the magnificently placed conca d’oro (golden shell), an amphitheatre of sun-soaked vineyards to the south-west of the village of Panzano. Lying at 400m above sea level, which is relatively high for Chianti, they are well placed to ensure that that the fruit has fresh, balancing acidity to balance its richness. The grapes are all organically grown, as is increasingly the case with neighbouring growers in Panzano, thanks to the pioneering Manettis’ powers of persuasion.
Currently in charge is Giovanni Manetti helped by his cousin Marco and respected oenologist Franco Bernabei who was hired by the family to assist with winemaking. Together the trio has been active in upgrading many practices at Fontodi including the construction of an ultra-modern winery and barrel cellar. All the wines are aged in French oak for between 12-24 months with the best cuvées aged in a high percentage of new oak and the second wines going into the older barrels.
Whilst always looking forward and modernising Giovanni Manetti is a respecter of tradition, evident in a portfolio of stylish wines that unmistakably reflect their sense of place. They include Chianti Classico, the Riserva bottling Vigna del Sorbo has now been designated as Gran Selezione, Chianti's recent classification above Riserva, and is predominantly old-vine sangiovese with around 10% cabernet sauvignon, and Flaccianello della Pieve, made from pure sangiovese, rigorously selected.
8. Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chorey-les-Beaune 2008; Beaune, France; 100% Pinot Noir; 13% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £25
The less grand wines from 2014 are mid-weight, pretty and approachable, 2011s are attractive from a ripe year whilst the village and premiers crus from 2009 (a warm year) and 2008 (a cool year) are lovely now, if you don't have any put away, a search of the internet will reveal some stock of Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Chorey-lès-Beaune, 2008 a lovely approachable red Burgundy showing some nice maturity now.
Wine Society Members in the know love this domaine for its accessible, unpretentious wines and attractive prices. This is a typically plump, fruity and altogether appealing red Burgundy from another excellent Beaune satellite for afordable drinking pleasure.
9. Château Cantemerle Grand Cru Classé, Haut-Médoc 2009; Left Bank Bordeaux; 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot; 7% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc; 13% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £34
Château Cantemerle 2009 Grand Cru Classé, Haut Médoc, France. Robert Parker 91+ Point / Maturity: 2015-2040
Readers looking for the more ethereal, elegant side of Bordeaux need search no further than Cantemerle, one of the estates in the very southern end of the Médoc.
Dense ruby/purple (nearly opaque), this wine offers up notes of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, raspberries and black cherries. The wine is ethereal, medium-bodied, and by no means a blockbuster, but long and intellectual. However, the tannins are present, and the wine is certainly capable of putting on weight with time in the bottle.
Spicy, plummy nose with hints of cedar wood. Rich and fleshy on the palate with masses of fresh fruit and very ripe tannins. Medium to full-bodied, this will show well relatively young but has the depth to age gracefully.
Lyn prepared and served for Supper...
Chicken Cacciatore with Potatoes and Italian Salads. This was followed by an excellent Tiramisu and then Cheeses and Biscuits. Vegetarian options were also available.
3. Kumeu River Estate, Auckland, Chardonnay 2017; 100% Chardonnay; 13.5% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £18.50 (see above)
6. Muga Reserva, Rioja 2015; 100% Tempranillo; 14% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £16.00
This consistently excellent Rioja reserva has hit new heights in the 2015 vintage. Sometimes Mother Nature deals a helping hand at the right time during the ripening stages of the vine – enough water and enough warmth for an easy, gradual ripening where all the vine's efforts go into flavour and balance. 2015 is one such vintage. Pure, layered and beautifully textured.
Muga, the most traditional of Rioja’s bodegas, with not a stainless steel tank in sight, is based in the old railway quarter of Haro, capital of Rioja Alta. Founded in 1932 by Isaac Muga Marínez and his wife Auro Caño, both from winemaking families, it is run today by their three sons.
Winemaker Jorge Muga leads from the front with his meticulous attention to detail in all areas of production. The cellars not only include the usual fermentation and ageing rooms but also an in-house cooperage which makes the barrels, from a variety of oak sources, which are so key to the Muga style. At any given time, there are some 17 thousand barrels here, of which around 60% are French – mainly Allier and Tronçais – while the rest are made from American oak shipped from Kentucky and Ohio. Whatever its origins, it is all air-dried here for two years before being profiled, compressed, shaped and toasted by the Muga coopering team.
Two 'Cheese & Pudding' wines were provided by Peter:
10. The Society's Exhibition Sauternes 2015; 93% Semillon, 7% Sauvignan Blanc; 13.5% abv; bought from The Wine Society for £20
11. Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat. 12 years old; Victoria, Australia; Muscat á Petits Grains Rouges; 18% abv; (a half-bottle) bought from The Wine Society for £17
Stanton and Killeen Classic Rutherglen Muscat has an average age of 12 years old. Stanton and Killeen is a family-owned wine company located in the Rutherglen wine growing region of Australia. They are famous for their red wines and Port-style wines but are arguably most famous for the superb dessert wines they produce from Muscat and Topaque. Topaque is the new-ish name for the Muscadelle, which was previously known locally as Tokay! Now in their seventh generation, the company can trace its origins back to 1855 when Timothy Stanton arrived in Australia from England in search of gold. Stanton and Killeen are part of the Rutherglen Network, a group of 8 Rutherglen winemakers (along with All Saints, Bullers, Campbells, Chambers, Morris, Pfeiffer and Rutherglen Estates) who market and manage the promotion of (and ensure quality is maintained) the famous fortified wines of the region. Stanton and Killeen have around 86 acres of vineyards the oldest of which were planted in 1921. The Muscat grapes for this wine are crushed and fermented on the skins for only one day. Fermentation is then stopped using high, strength, neutral grape spirit after which it is clarified and aged in large old oak barrels for 2 to 3 years. Finally the parcels are blended and then returned to smaller oak ageing for further ageing.
The Xmas Raffle:
1. Gnarly Head 2017; Lodi,California USA; Old-vine Zinfandel; 14.5% abv; The Wine Society - won by Bryan
2. Pepp Riesling, Weinviertel 2018; 100% Riesling; 12% abv; The Wine Society - won by Sue