Wine Tastings & Tours

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Monday, 19 August 2013

Liguria da Bere / Liguria to Drink

Every year at the end of June La Spezia hosts the Liguria da Bere, 'Liguria to Drink', event on it's streets.  This year the Wine Anarchist participated once again, as he happened to be on a brief stay at home during his travels (home being 20km from La Spezia).  At this event Liguria showcases the wines it has to offer, as well as some producers who muscled their way in from neighbouring regions of Lunigiana in Northern Tuscany as well as some intruders from other nearby places.

Liguria is the banana-shaped coastal region of Italy in the north-west of the country bordering France.  It's long and narrow and dominated by coastal mountains.  The region is roughly divided in two, with the port city of Genoa separating the two parts.  In wine terms Vermentino is the unifying factor, with this white grape grown on both sides of the divide.  To the west though, another grape variety, related to Vermentino makes interesting whites called Pigato.  Red wines are also made here from local varieties Ormeasco and Rossese.  The eastern part on the other hand is influenced by nearby Tuscany and makes pre-dominantly whites from Vermentino, often blended with Albarola and Bosco as well as some Sangiovese based reds.  The most famous DOC of eastern Liguria is the Cinque Terre, which is also a popular tourist destination.

We started our tasting with one of the much under-represented western Ligurians with the wines of the Azienda Gualtieri.  Unfortunately they didn't have a card with their details on them, nor do they seem to have an internet presence.  However their wines were very pleasant indeed, especially their reds from Ormeasco.  Here are the notes:
  • Pigato 2012: medium straw colour; nice sweet herbal aromas , floral and fresh; the palate had a pleasant tingling sensation with typical notes of white pepper; a little short on the finish perhaps.
  • Vermentino 2012: pale straw, aromas of yeast and fresh bread; softer on the palate with minerally, elegant, racy notes, which seemed almost Riesling-like.  Very good indeed.
  • Ormeasco di Pornassio 'Sciac-Tra' 2012: a rosé made like a white wine from free-run juice; the colour was an almost obscene pink; the nose was not overly aromatic, but showed some dark cherry fruit; the palate was dry with a marked acidity, nicely understated but with a long quite full finish.  This is definitely more of a food wine than a sipping rosé.
  • Ormeasco di Pornassio 2011: Medium purple in colour, paling at the rim; the nose displayed plums, farmyard and leather notes; the palate was warm, spicy and rich with a good tannic backbone, finishing long.  Very good
  • Ormeasco di Pornassio Superiore 2011: Deep ruby colour with a pale rim; The nose showed intense aromas of eukalyptus, farmyard, dark chocolate, liquorice and mulberry; the palate was warm and rich with plenty of spice and almost espresso coffee-like characters.  The finish was huge.  This wine is still young, but its complexity is promising a serious wine years to come
For the eastern part the Wine Anarchist started with a Cinque Terre winery he hadn't previously come across the Societá Semplice Agricola Begasti based in the Cinque Terre village of MonterossoThe DOC of Cinque Terre only allows for white wines made from Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino, which can be either fermented dry or made from semi-dried grapes to produce a sweet Sciaccetrá.  As the latter is rather expensive and produced in very small quantities, it is not normally freely available to taste, however the Wine Anarchist got to taste the dry white as well as a red, which can only be classed as a Vino da Tavola though.
  • Cinque Terre DOC 2012: This white displayed earthy characters combined with delicate honey notes and some minerally notes; the palate had a touch of spice with warm fruit flavours of peach and almond and a warm, long, mouth-filling finish.
  • Rosso Vino da Tavola: This is made from 50% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The colour is medium ruby with a pale rim; the nose displays an open fruit reminiscent of elderberries and cherries as well as hints of vanilla; the palate was soft and spicy, with some pleasant and elegant fruit flavours.  
 Inland from the Cinque Terre in the Val di Vara is the village of Sesta Godano which is home to the Azienda Agricola Cornice.  This is not a traditional wine growing region, but this winery has made interesting wine since 2000, as well as olive oil and picking chestnuts and mushrooms.

 They use a mixture of local and international grapes to produce wines of real character:
  • I Piani Liguria di Levante IGT Bianco 2012:  Made from Albarola and Sauvignon Blanc, the colour is medium straw; there are delicate aromas of gooseberry and hawthorn blossoms; on the palate there is more delicate gooseberry fruit combined with some herbal characters. The acidity is a little angular though.
  • Pein 2011 Liguria di Levante IGT Rosso: A blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 5% Ciliegiolo, the colour is a deep ruby; the nose displays dark cherries cobined with forest-like damp leave characters; the palate is rich and spicy with some lovely spice and a touch of spice and herbal notes on the finish.  A lovely and rich wine.
  • The Imara 2011 is grown on a higher altitude near the village of Zignago at 500m asl on clay soils.  The blend consists of mostly Merlot with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and the local Pollerá.  The colour is deep ruby to almost opaque, the nose was big rich and spicy with underlying dense fruit; the palate was deep, rich and long with hints of chocolate.  This is not your typical soft Merlot, but a real hunk of a wine.  Great wine of real character!
 The 'home DOC' of the Wine Anarchist is the Colli di Luni, which comes in Vermentino, straight Bianco (Vermentino plus other grapes) and Rosso (Sangiovese plus other grapes).  As The WA already knows this area well and should write a separate blog post sometime, he did come across a winery he hadn't known before, the Casa del Frate.  Whilst their speciality is olive oil and renting out holiday apartments on the the pretty island of Palmaria at the entrance to the Gulf of La Spezia, they also produce a little wine at their vineyards in Masignano di Arcola, just around the corner to where the Wine Anarchist himself owns some land.  Their big and full Vermentino Frascoforte 2012 (14% ABV!) displayed a pale greeny gold colour; the nose was big, rich and spicy with notes of gooseberry, whilst the palate was warm and rich, with plenty of acidity to balance the alcohol, finishing very long.  A big wine that could stand up to some serious food.

From the same village the winery of Mésuéto (Via Masignano, 61, 19021 Arcola, tel: 0187 987418) also produced a Vermentino Colli di Luni 2012.  This offering was pale gold in colour; the nose was rich and honeyed with a touch of clove-like spice; the palate carried on in the same vein with some nice apricot fruit and a soft finish.

Of course the Wine Anarchist said hello to his friends at Federici as well, but on this occasion only stopped for a quick glass and chat, as he already knew the wines well and there was so much more to taste.

There were quite a few representative of wineries from the Tuscan side of the Lunigiana, and as they always surprise with their characterful wines made from local varieties.  One of the Wine Anarchist's all-time favourite wineries of that region is the Fattoria Ruschi Noceti (Piazza della Republica, 1 54027 Pontremoli, tel: 0187 830153, e-mail:  Here they produce seriously traditional wines from some weird and wonderful grape varieties of the region such as Pollerá, Duralla and Luagda.  Their approach is stubbornly anti-modern, making wines in old barrels designed for ageing and to be paired with the rustic local dishes.
  • Marchesa Caterina Rosé IGT Val di Magra 2012: this deep salmon coloured rosé is made from 70% Pollerá plus a hotchpotch of other local varieties, which may or may not have names.  The nose is of water paints and strawberry and cream; the palate displays more of the same with some interesting herbal notes, a great balancing acidity and some good length.
  • Otto Ottobre Bianco IGT Val di Magra 2011: This blend of the local Durella and Luadga grapes is so named, because it traditionally gets picked around the 8th of October, as both are very late ripening varieties.  The alcohol level usually ends up at around 15% and for a white it is capable to age really well.  The colour of ths offering was medium gold, whilst the palate was rich and honeyed with notes of spice and ripe autumn apples, balanced by some lively acidity; on the palate some residual sugar was evident, but all in all it was very well balanced displaying more of the characteristics of the aromas.  The finish was long.  A beautiful wine, that in the experience of the Wine Anarchist will age gracefully.  In fact he could not resist buying a magnum of the 2007, which he may open for a special occasion.  Watch this space! :)
  • Pollera 2009 IGT Val di Magra: Made from 100% of what is arguably the most exciting grape variety of the region.  The colour was medium ruby, showing some garnet tinge on the edge; the nose and palate consistently are rich in warm herbal characters with notes of liquorice and elderberries; the palate has a big backbone and finishes rich and long.  A great wine, which does not easily fit into any category, but works really well with some wild boar for instance.
  • Bigoncio 2011 IGT Val di Magra.  This is exactly the same wine as the Otto Ottobre, except the fermentation was finished early by fine filtration to result in a medium sweet wine with only 11.5% alcohol (with a further potential alcohol level of 3.5%).  This wine shows far more honeyed characters and some rich marzipan in addition to the flavour profile of the dry version..
Their neighbours in the town of Pontremoli, the Cantine Belmesseri (Via C.S. , Vignola di Pontremoli, tel: 335 7752116), have a more modern approach with a combination of local and international grape varieties on their just 1.6ha of vineyard.  They produce 3 different wines, all very nice.
  • Caras Delicias Bianco IGT Toscana 2012:  This is a blend of 40% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Durella and 20% Albirola, the colour is medium straw; the nose revealed fresh gooseberry notes as well as herbs such as nrosemary; the palate was fresh, yet rich with some nice yellow plum fruit with a long spicy finish.  A nice quite full wine, which do nicely with a creamy sauce.
  • Belmesseri Rosso Toscana IGT 2010: A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% a mixture of unnamed local varieties, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, this offering had a deep ruby colour; on the nose there was some rich redcurrant fruit, a touch of spice and hints of milk chocolate; The rich fruit carried through on the palate, also incorporating some herbal notes.  A very attractive, lively, modern wine.
  • Tafuri Rosso Toscana IGT 2010:  This blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Merlot, and 10% Pollerá has been aged for 8 months in French barrique.   This is a serious wine deeply coloured; the nose reveals intense herb and spice notes combined with liquorice and elderberry fruit; the palate is dominated by a big tannic backbone, supported by more of the rich fruit and a long chocolatey finish.  Great wine, but still needs a few years in bottle to come around and soften out a bit.
 From the town of Licciana Nardi in the Lunigiana hails Azienda Agricola La Vigna di Manolo Luchini (Loc. La Vigna, Licciana Nardi, tel: 0187 471187, e-mail:, a small organic producer.  The Wine Anarchist came across them a few years back, but they have gone up a step since then, even if the names of their wines are a little over-elaborate:
  • Amore e Psyche Val di Magra IGT 2012: A blend of 40% Merlot, 60% local grape varieties, including Pollerá, the name does not need translating...  The colour was deep purple; the nose displayed some lovely ripe blackcurrant fruit; the palate was very clean and well defined with some more of that nice fruit balanced by some spice.  A well balanced, long and attractive wine.
  • Diversamente dal Solito IGT Val di Magra 2012.  This translates as 'different from the usual', it is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and local grape varieties (the exact percentages were either not known, or the Wine Anarchist was too drunk, this being the last stand he stopped at).  Unfortunately it seems he was even too drunk to make notes either, but the wine is worth the inclusion for its name alone ;)
 The next edition of Liguria da Bere should be at the end of next June in the centre of La Spezia, if you happen to find yourself in the area and are curious about what Liguria has to offer.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Wine Village of Sasbachwalden

The Wine Anarchist has traveled the length and breadth of Europe recently and is struggling to keep up with his posts, being constantly on the road.  On his travels he visited his parents in the south-west of Germany and took the opportunity to visit the 'Wine and Flower' village of Sasbachwalden on the north-western edge of the Black Forest as it opens up towards the Rhine Valley with sweeping views across the French border and the Vosge Mountains beyond in the German wine region of Baden.

Ever since the WA's parents moved to that part of the world it became kind of a family tradition to go to Sasbachwalden every now and then, not for the wine. but... for the most amazing Black Forest Gateaux at the Gasthof Hohenrode:

14 layers of chocolate and cream doused in kirsch eau de vie, served lying down on a dinner plate, should get anyone knowing what's good for them driving 100km across the mountains!!!

Anyway, always on the lookout for his news hungry readers, the Wine Anarchist also investigated the vineyards and wineries of this most picturesque of wine villages.  Apart from wine (and Black Forest Gateaux) the village is also famous for it's half-timbered houses decorated with an abundance of flowers.

And it is surrounded by vineyards, most famously the location 'Alde Gott', Old God in the local dialect.  If you think of Germany as mostly a white wine country, you'd be surprised that you would find more red wine in this region, which is one of the warmest spots in Germany and Pinot Noir or
Spätburgunder as it is known in Germany, leading the way.

Walking around the small town you can't fail to realise that wine plays a major role.  We strolled through the vineyards.  In the town we learned that the local wine queen also went on to become the national wine queen.

Sasbachwalden is also twinned with the Beaujolais village of Morgon, to which this little monument is dedicated to:

This old large wine press is displayed outside the council offices:

Anyway, it was time to taste some wine.  The Wine Anarchist had previously tasted some wines from the local cooperative and found both Rieslings and Pinot Noir most excellent.  So following his nose he decided to check out one of the smaller producers.  He happened to find the Weingut Richard Vierthaler, a small (7ha) 2nd generation family run operation.  

A very cheerful Richard Vierthaler welcomed us to his premises and a few wines were tasted.  85% of the vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir and it was clearly the strong point of this winery.  However we started with whites, as you do.  

The Rivaner Trocken 2008 had obviously been open for a couple of days and was loosing a little of its typical grapefruit and floral aromas.  The WA declined an offer to have a fresh bottle opened, so it shouldn't be judged to harshly.

Next came the Alde Gott Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2011.  It was quite an elegant dry wine, but with earthy undertones and fairly full-bodied.  

The Alde Gott Badisch Rotgold Kabinett 2011 was a deep-coloured rosé made from Pinot Noir.  The nose displayed pleasant wild strawberry and raspberry nose, but the slightly excessive residual sugar in this wine threw it a little out of balance.

The Alde Gott Spätburgunder Kabinett 2009 Jubilaeumswein was without a shadow of a doubt the star of the tasting.  It was bottled for the 50th anniversary of the company.  Medium bodied with good concentration and great Pinot fruit, starting to show some nice maturity.  It finished long and satisfying and is a great example what Germany can do with this grape variety.  

Noticing that the estate also produced some spirits or 'wasser' as they innocently call them around here, the WA had to taste the 'Topanimbur', a clear spirit distilled from the roots of the Jerusalem artichoke.  It had all the flavours of this divine vegetable, so he was ready to part with some cash to buy a bottle from his new friend Richard.  It turned out that the tasting bottle was the last one in stock, so the WA bought a bottle of Mirabellenwasser instead, an eau de vie made from the mirabelle plum, which was rather good too, full of lively fruit flavours.

Whilst the Wine Anarchist is of the opinion that the wines from the local coop are actually better, this winery and the whole village are definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to taste the most fantastic Black Forest Gateaux anywhere (did I mention it before...?).

Should you be planning to visit the area, there is a guided tour of the vineyards organised every first Saturday of the month between May and October at 1pm starting from the Alde Gott Winzer eg in the centre of town.  If you happen to pass this year, there is a big Wine festival or Winzerfest from the 3-6 October 2013.

Finally if you stuck for somewhere to stay, why not sleep in an 8000 litre wine barrel (minus the wine of course) like old Dyonisus. There is a farm above the town offering this unique experience with all mod-cons.