Author Archives: Magnus N

2010 Château d’Armailhac barrel sample

New wines were launched at Systembolaget last week, and I tasted 13 selected ones this Monday: 2 whites and 11 reds. Three top-Bordeauxs were among the reds. I’ll get back to the launch tasting in another blog post within short. 2008 in Bordeaux is considered a medium vintage; slightly better than 2007 but slightly less than 2006. In general, left bank is regarded as somewhat higher in quality than left bank for 2008. As always, there are better and worse performers. When barrel samples were tasted, many critics regarded the 2008 vintage as bad. Fortunately, it seems to have pulled itself together in time for release. In my opinion, it is a very decent vintage. I attended the Winefinder Bordeaux 2010 barrel sample tasting at Berns on 1 September and tried a number of good 2008s as well. It just goes to show that the art of barrel tasting is tricky. However, the 2010s appear to be in great form.

On that note, I would really like to recommend 2010 Château d’Armailhac. I had a barrel sample (actually a full bottle shared with my wife) this evening, and if it’s not the alcohol talking, I really have to say it has great potential.

This is a Pauillac fifth growth which is relatively inexpensive (in a Bordeaux context, that is). At SB, the 2007 is 325 SEK. In contrast to many of the other 2010 barrel samples I’ve had (me and my wife had Clerc Milon last weekend and Beychevelle yesterday which both were good, and I tasted a great deal of other 2010s last Monday), it is not just about the sweet fruit which always seem to get the attention of the barrel tasters. d’Armailhac sure possessed structure, grip and flesh. Not overly tannic, but still rugged enough to maintain lots of character when it is released in about two years. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and the remaining part Petit Verdot. I believe it has the potential to score 92 points (or even more). One can only speculate about 2010 prices on release, but as I said, this is in comparison not an expensive left bank-wine.

Keep your eyes open for the 2010 d’Armailhac when it launches in two years.

Philippe Chavy

When on vacation in a rented house just outside of Roanne in central France last month, I took the opportunity to visit Burgundy. My friend Lars who joined me for the tasting had spotted producer Philippe Chavy in Puligny-Montrachet. I am glad he did.

Puligny-Montrachet is a top-notch wine appellation where you are unlikely to find anything else than good producers. The top vineyard in the village of Puligny is the Montrachet, where four hectares are under vine, hence the name of the appellation. Chardonnay is almost exclusively the base for the wines in Puligny-Montrachet. The village is arguably considered one of the finest white-wine producing appellation in the world.

When arriving at the estate, Philippe guides us into his backyard, trough his garage/workshop and into la cave. Needless to say, this is a fairly small-scale operation. Nevertheless, he has prepared a basket with no less than fourteen perfectly tempered unopened bottles, which just about covers his complete range. It is obvious that this is going to be a great tasting.

His father, Monsieur Albert Chavy, sits in on the tasting at a table a couple of meters away from us. Me, Philippe and Lars are holding the tasting at the top of a turned-over wine barrel, and while Philippe is spitting the wine the whole tasting through, his father doesn’t. I don’t speak French and old man Chavy doesn’t speak English, so the opportunity of making conversation is slim, but I sure like this guy. A man just doesn’t get more French than this.We start out with the simpler Aligoté and Bourgogne appellations, which both are very good and makes a promising start for the higher appellations. All of the wines tasted in the following are 90+, possibly with a few exceptions immediately below the nineties. Philippe does not promote an overly use of oak. Not more than 30% of the barrels are new in any given wine.

First out of these is the 2009 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien. The appellation of Saint-Aubin just west of Puligny-Montrachet is generally regarded as somewhat simpler than its more famous neighbor. But these can be very good, and certainly a good bang for your bucks, in particular if they are from the premier cru of Les Murgers, which is considered to be the finest vineyard in the AOC together with En Remilly. This is by no means accidental; both these vineyards are located in the south-east part of Saint-Aubin, bordering on Puligny-Montrachet. At €22, this is very good value. It is delightfully oaky on the nose, with butter, toast and nuts. And that fruit! The sensation of apples is so clean and crisp. This is what really strikes me about Chavy’s wines; the fruit is so clean! In most wines there is always something in-between the fruit and your nose, a veil of overtones covering the fruitiness of the wine. I just love the fruity nose of this wine along with the notes of minerals it carries. But it will get even better.

Second up is the 2009 Meursault. The Meursault appellation is almost as regarded as neighboring Puligny-Montrachet, even though it does not have one single grand cru vineyard. Rather, it is the generally high quality of the wines from the appellation which accounts for its reputation. Chavy’s commune level Meursault is no exception. Rich, full-bodied with almond notes, yet with a nice and good acidity. And the fruit! The sense of apples and citrus is crystal clear. Smooth, round and powerful. We also got to try the 07, which has all this but also a more meaty tone to it. There is certainly a good reason to cellar these wines for at least a couple of years. If you have the discipline.

From the commune level Meursault up to the 2009 Meursault Narvaux, the leap is nevertheless certainly detectable. The Narvaux is a so called lieu-dit, which effectively means that it is regarded as a vineyard of higher quality than those making up the commune level wines but which still has not qualified for premier cru. Promotion for these sites is possible although classification reviews are not frequent. The Narvaux is bigger and bolder but still more complex than the commune Meursault. It also displays a greater mineral tone. In my opinion, it is one of the best of Chavy’s wines. At €24, it’s a bargain.

Last of the Meursaults is the 2009 Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes from one of the most well-known premier cru vineyards in Meursault. This is from the less-esteemed lower section of the vineyard. Although showing much of the same characteristics as the previously tasted Meursaults, my personal opinion is that this is minor to the Narvaux, and perhaps even the villages.

Then it is time for 2009 Puligny-Montrachet. There is a lot to be said about the terrior in Puligny (which is the name of the village, “Le Montrachet” is its most famous vineyard), but a distinctive characteristic is that the soils around Puligny-Montrachet have a high content of limestone. Thus, the wine tasted has a very mineral sensation, in addition to the very present streak of green apple and citrus. Still a baby.

The 2009 Puligny-Montrachet Les Corvées des vignes from the vineyard of the same name is just fantastic. Not of premier cru status, this villages wine is nevertheless of high quality, and it may very well be my favorite among the Chavy wines. Slightly less oaky than any one of the previous wines, with a minerality comparable to a Champagne, it’s like smelling a granite rock. Still lots of green apples but perhaps with a hint of more tropical fruits. Balanced and elegant. Good body and a long, lingering finish. At €25, this is a bargain.

The 2009 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières and 2009 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles finishes off the Pulignys and are fantastic. They have all the characteristics of the previously tasted wines but are more mineralic. But what is really distinguishable is the floral characteristic. Nice, elegant and rich. these could be stored for many years, but they are also instantly drinkable. As a side note, the Pucelles is one of the finest premier cur vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet, being a continuation of the Grand Cru sites immediately south of it. These are Philippes most expensive wines at €38 and €44

Last out, we have the 2009 Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru Sous le Dos d’Âne, which vineyard actually is located in the village of Blagny. The 09 is tight-knit and slightly austere. It certainly needs time to unfold and I personally think it may be unfair to try this wine at such an early age even though it certainly is drinkable now. Philippe suggests that we have a go at the 04 instead, and maaan is this a different ballgame: red apples, toast, almonds, spices and minerals. Balanced, contiguous, complex and long. This may be the best wine tasted. Just brilliant.

It shows that many of Chavy’s wines really should be stored for a couple of years. It’s just so damn difficult, since they are also very drinkable right now. I got away with 20 bottles purchased directly from Philippe, so I’m hoping to have at least a handful left five years away from now.

Philippe Chavy appears to be a relatively well-kept secret in Puligny. Hospitable, skillful and crafted….you should certainly try out his wines should you have the opportunity. I’m hoping for a Swedish distributor soon. These wines are just too good to be ignored.

A selection of May launches at Systembolaget, Part II

This is Part II of a blog post relating to the tasting I attended on 2 May. Part II deals with red wines of said tasting.

The second round of reds of the tasting contains two real roughnecks, both from the southern parts of France; namely 2007 Un Jour from Cahors and 2008 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes from Madiran. Cahors is original Malbec country, and this 100% Malbec has little in common with its Argentinian counterparts. The Argentine wine makers have more or less taken over this variety and many of them sure deserves credit for it, producing fruit driven, still elegant and sophisticated wines, while the Cahors wines on the other hand nowadays lead a languishing life. Back in the days, the near-black Cahors wines were used to boost the wines of their more famous upstream neighbor, Bordeaux. The Un Jour oozes of tobacco, leather and coffee. There are fresh herbs and plum on the palate, with a nice acidity and still evident tannins. The Bouscassé is even more austere, which is to be expected with 95% Tannat, one of the most acrid grapes to ever see the light of day. If Malbec nowadays means Argentina, Tannat finds a new home in Uruguay, even though they have not been able to refine the grape as good as the Argentines have with Malbec. Behind the Bouscassé is the king of Tannat: Alain Brumont. He never puts his name on the label of a bad or even ordinary wine. Leather, eucalyptus, tobacco and spices. Should be stored for a couple of years. I would think that this one can stand extensive cellaring since it has the fruit to survive a good tannin smoothing.

For wines no. 11 and 12, we turn to the southern Rhône and arguably my favorite wine appellation: Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The first wine in this flight is something so unusual as an “old” CNdP: 2001 Clos du Mont Olivet. Unfortunately, I can’t link to this one since it’s out of stock at Systembolaget. However, please refer to one of my old blog posts for a vertical tasting of the Mont Olivet. Nevertheless, the 2001 is complex with notes of pine, spices and red berries. Nice. But I have to confess…..I sure do prefer a younger CNdP. 2008 Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Tradition has everything I like about the appellation: blackberries, sweet licorice, spices, minerals. Good intensity, excellent balance, great length, warm finish. I’ve told you before that 2008 in southern Rhône is an underestimated vintage. This one confirms that hypothesis. One of the benefits of the vintage is that the wines in general is a good deal cheaper than the 2007s (or 2009 for that matter), which has been subject to serious price boosting. If I would choose a vintage to drink today, I would without any hesitation select the 2008. And this one is certainly a bargain. Get your hands on it while it’s still in stock.

The final flight of the evening contains no less than three wines. First up is another creation of Alain Brumont: 2008 Château Montus Cuvée Prestige. This time, there’s 90% of Tannat plus the two varieties of Cab. Full-bodied. Big tannins. Notes of plum, herbs, vanilla, licorice. For the cellar. Next up is the perhaps finest wine of the evening: 2004 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Cherries, rosehip, leather. Has a slight and nice bitterness that can be compared to that of cherry seeds. There’s a trace of almond as well. Medium-bodied with a nice length and acidity. Very complex and elegant. Highly recommended. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of Sangiovese and particularly not a fan of Chianti. Of course, Brunello is a different clone and the area certainly has a different terroir than Chianti. But still. Maybe this is what Sangiovese is capable of with some maturation. Could even a Chianti evolve like this? I don’t know, but please let me know if you have a theory on the subject. Fantastic! The only downside is that it starts getting expensive here. The last wine of the evening is 2006 Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté from Elio Grasso. Big and bold. Roses, asphalt, herbs. Very sharp notes of mineral and stone. Well-integrated tannins for being a relatively young Barolo. Great wine. I may get back to you with a blog post about Elio Grasso. I tried a bunch of their wines at Vinitaly.

To sum up the tasting; for the whites, go for the two Rieslings. Both of them are nothing less than great. They are also relatively moderately priced (they’re German for Chrissake). Of the reds, I’d recommend the Bosquet des Papes. Great wine, nice price. If you want to splash out, go for the Brunello. We’re talking weltklasse.

A selection of May launches at Systembolaget, Part I

Monday 2 May was launch day at Systembolaget. I participated in a tasting Monday evening where 15 of the launched wines were offered.

First up were two white wines. 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie from Gadais Père & Fils has a slight taste of melon. Nice acidity. Ok. 2009 Novaserra Greco di Tufo from Mastroberardino in Campania is sweet. Very pleasant smell of almond and apricots. Robust with a good body. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk a bad wine from Mastroberardino. Great producer. Good value.

Next flight starts with 2008 Pouilly Fumé from Jacques Lurton in Loire. Needless to say, it’s a hundred percent Sauvignon blanc and it is terrific. Citrus, nettles and black currant leaves on the nose. Clean and crisp with a thin waist and slightly austere finish. Second wine of this flight is 2008 Arbois Sélection from Domaine Tissot in the Jura. Deliberately oxidized, which is typical for Jura. Me don’t like.

Then comes the arguably best pair of wines of the tasting: German Riesling at it’s best. First off we have 2009 Würzburger Stein Riesling Grosses Gewächs trocken. From Juliusspital in Franken. Apples and citrus fruit. Very pure, nice attack. Powerful yet with a medium body. Very intense. Highly recommended. The next one was also killer: 2009 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Alte Reben Riesling trocken. From Leitz in Rheingau. Equally good but with a lot more body. Even though it’s still young there is some petrol in the nose and rubber on the palate. These are two top Rieslings for a very reasonable price. It just comes to show that few countries can match Germany when it comes two quality wines for decent money.

Next up were the evening’s first two reds. The 2009 Château des Jacques from Louis Jadot is nothing less than a nice Beaujolais (I’m not kidding). Raspberries, cherries and a slightly grassy sensation. Young and subtle with a light body. Should be drunk a little chilled. Surprisingly good. 2008 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Jean Grivot just confirms my thesis that it is useless to buy a Pinot from Bourgogne for less than 300 SEK (if even that’s enough). The taste is promising: cooked root vegetables, plum, spices. The taste is a disappointment though. Thin and ungenerous. Are these grapes even ripe? Go for an NZ Pinot instead. I strongly recommend 2009 Gumfields Pinot Noir which I had at a mini tasting at work the other night. Beats the Grivot any day with one hand tied behind its back.

That’s it for now. I’ll get back to you within a couple of days with Part II.

Aldo Conterno

Vinitaly. Day #1, Thursday April, 7, 2011 at 16:12. In the same booth, Poderi Aldo Conterno from Monforte d’Alba is back to back with Renato Ratti from La Morra. It’s like dying and going to Barolo heaven. Did I mention Elio Grasso in the neighboring booth? Or Paolo Scavino a cork’s throw away? There’s no shortage of premium wine here, I tell you. 

Barolo is arguably the finest wine-producing area in Italy and thus also one of the best districts in the world. There are so many high-end Piemontese wine producers at Vinitaly you really have to make a tough selection to able to try a handful or two of them. Of course, the Nebbiolo grape reigns here, but there are also nice wines made from Barbera and the oft-overlooked Dolcetto.

Aldo Conterno is one of the best producers in Monforte d’Alba. Located in Bussia, Conterno holds 25 hectares.

First out is the amazing 2008 Conca Tre Pile Barbera d’Alba. 100% Barbera with notes of butter, oak and black cherries. The taste is long and full of minerals and tobacco. This one is oaky in the best sense. Very drinkable.

Next up is the 2008 Il Favot Langhe Nebbiolo. 100% Nebbiolo. This has seen an additional 6 months of oak as compared to the CTP which has been stored in oak for 12 months. Still, there is no barrique sensation in the Il Favot. Sloe, asphalt and tar. Slightly chewy and tannic with a long finish. Could use some calming down in bottle.

Then comes the 2007 Barolo matured on Slavonian oak barrels for 26-28 months. Roses, asphalt and minerals on the nose. Sweet, surprisingly soft taste of cherries and tobacco. A truly amazing wine. Long, round and silky texture. Extremely pleasant. Buy it if you get the chance. The 2005 is 579 SEK at Systembolaget.

Finally, the 2007 Cicala Barolo is tasted. This is one of the finest wines of Monforte and perhaps the whole Barolo appellation. But man is it young. Hazelnuts, tar and tobacco. Jeeeesus, this one is austere. If the Il Favot was slightly chewy, you could use a knife and fork to consume the Cicala. Or perhaps a hammer and a mortise chisel. I have my tounge slip over the inside of my teeth to make sure they’re still there. This power house of a brew will most likely stand up for at least another 20 years. I will certainly buy a couple of bottles when it shows up at Systembolaget. Nevertheless, this is still a tannic monster. There is no other way to put it. This year, the 2006s are out and this will not hit the market until next year.

I think it will be fantastic in time.

Mamete Prevostini

Vinitaly. Day #2, Friday April, 8, 2011 at 12:06. The sun is beating down on Verona. Mamete Prevostini has been placed on the 2nd floor of the Palexpo hall and the air condition is finished singing. Stressed-up Italian wine journalists are aimlessly moving around the hall and the air is thicker than polenta pudding. If the jacket is kept on, it sure will have to stay there the rest of the day. The sweat stains on shirts in my surroundings are the size of South Italian Mortadellas.

Mamete Prevostini is located in the valley of Valtellina not far from Lago di Como in Lombardy bordering on Switzerland. 160,000 bottles are produced from 18 hectares of vineyards. The area is fairly difficult to cultivate with steep slopes and terraces. It is not that unlike Mosel, but these are certainly more mountainous environments. Adjacent plots will most likely have different character.

The reds are exclusively made from Nebbiolo. A comparison with the more famous wine region of Piemonte is thus unavoidable, and in particular with the Piemontese majesties Barolo and Barbaresco. A common generalization holds that Barolo is the more austere and tannic of the two, while Barbaresco has a lighter body with less structure but in return offers a more approachable wine, and the Nebbiolo based wines of Prevostini are closer to the Barbarescos.

We sampled all their wines but the Passito. Every one of them will be discussed in the following apart from said Passito and their single white and rosé wine. However, we start with a glass of white followed by a glass of rosé. These are nice wines and primarily used by us to kick some sense into our taste buds. The draw card of Prevostini is certainly the reds.

First up is the 2009 Botonero IGT Rosso matured 6 months in steel tank. This is a young and fresh wine with good acidity that should be drunk chilled due to its freshness. Notes of red berries, in particular strawberries. Possibly, the producer would not agree, but this very much resembles a Pinot noir (in a good sense). A nice wine to be drunk in the summer, at least if you are located in Sweden like me. Prevostini proceeds by pouring a 2009 Santa Rita Rosso di Valtellina (DOC) stored another couple of months in inox.  This is of course similar to the Botonero but has a slightly bigger body. This should also be consumed chilled to be at its best. These wines will most certainly match well with lighter fish courses. They are both macerated for 5 days, which explains their light bodies.

The third wine is the 2008 Grumello Valtellina Superiore (DOCG). Maceration is now 8 days followed by a year in oak and 8 months in the bottle. One can sense different notes on this wine, even though it has a very pleasant smell of strawberries. There is a slight note of violets and tobacco. This is a medium-bodied wine with nice acidity.

These characteristics are further intensified with the fourth and fifth wines: 2008 Sassella Valtellina Superiore (DOCG) and 2008 Inferno Valtellina Superiore (DOCG), respectively. In the latter, time of maceration has been increased to 12 days. The process is otherwise the same as the Grumello. On the nose, darker fruits, tar and tobacco are present. On the palette, there are fresh herbs, minerals and licorice. These are simply more complex than the Grumello even though the differences should not be exaggerated given that the Grumello too is a DOCG. Up until now, the Inferno is probably the only wine that I would have placed in Piemonte in a blind tasting. Of course, the differences are in themselves not surprising; the terroir in Valtellina is different, and the Nebbiolo clone used is probably also a different one.

The sixth wine presented is in my opinion the finest of the tasting: 2007 Sommarovina (DOCG Sassella). On the skins for 15 days, a year on oak and 10 months in bottle. This is more austere, tannic and different in texture from the previous wines. Balanced with well-integrated tannins. Tobacco, licorice, minerals and fresh herbs. This is a terrific wine that should score over 90 points.

Thereafter, a 2006 Riserva Valtellina Superiore (DOCG) is served. Maceration lasts for 18 days followed by oak maturation for 24 months and settlement in bottle for another year. After all, this is a Riserva. Very smooth, elegant and balanced. The roughness of the Sommarovina is rounded off. There are stills notes of licorice and tobacco and now also dried fruits. I could definitely stand drinking this at least once a week…

Wine no. 8 is the only wine in the tasting which is a slight disappointment, perhaps because of the expectations that are continuously raised during the tasting. 2008 Corte di Cama Sforzato di Valtellina (DOCG) is a wine made with the appassimento technique, that is the grapes have been picked and put in small wooden boxes for drying until beginning of December. This is a wine difficult to pinpoint. Shiraz from South Africa? Cabernet Sauvignon from California? Grenache from the South of France. This is by no means a bad wine, but not as full of character as the previously tasted. Perhaps the time of drying the grapes is too short which results in a “half” Sforzato.

Finally, a 2008 Albareda Sforzato di Valtellina (DOCG) is poured and this is something else. The grapes are put to dry until the end of January before 20 days of maceration, oak maturation for 18 months and bottle maturing for 10 months. This is really good. A comparison with Amarone della Valpolicella is of course natural. Notes of dried fruit, raisins and chocolate are present in the Albareda as in your typical Amarone. Personally, I would generally regard the Albareda as a more balanced wine. I do not now the level of residual sugar, but this is certainly a Nebbiolo and notes of flowers and tar are present. Very interesting wine.

There is a clear line of progression in the wines of Prevostini, from the inox-maturated via oak to the appassimento wines. It is impressing to have so much character in a range of wine that is comparatively wide.

I’d love to see these wines in Sweden.


On Wednesday, THE wine exhibition of Italy – Vinitaly – with 4,000 exhibitors commences.

Located in Verona in northern Italy and sporting the finest producers in the country, this is certainly the place to be this week. Further, Stockholm offers 5 C and rain while Verona is a different animal with 23 C and sunshine. And I’m not even going to mention the local produce.

At Vinitaly, both small artisanal producers and big-time enterprises are represented. Most of the producers are there, even those producing a mere 10,000 bottles each year, or those flogging their bottellas for €100 or more. One would expect that the top-notch producers would be reluctant to serve their high-end wines, but that is not the case. In fact, most of them want you to try out their whole range. If you don’t spit, you’ll be drunk by lunchtime.

I have done some extensive pre-studies, and these are some of the producers I intend to visit at the exhibition; from Piemonte: Elio Altare, Domenico Clerico and Aldo Conterno; from Tuscany: Le Macchiole, Casanova di Neri and Querciabella; from Valle d’Aosta: Les Cretes; from Umbria: Milziade Antano, and the list goes on. My biggest problem is really how to fit all high-end producers into my scheme.

Moreover, my good friends at Club Amarone has booked tastings in the Verona area at Nicolis who makes a great “standard” Amarone and an allegedly fabulous vineyard-designated Amarone: the Ambrosan. They have also arranged a tasting at Fattoria Garbole who only produces about 15,000 bottles and received Three Glasses for their 2006 Amarone in this year’s edition of Vini d’Italia. Finally, we will meet with their longtime collaborator Roccolo Grassi who really doesn’t need any further presentation in this context but whom, for the record, received Three Glasses this year for their 2007 Valpolicella Superiore.

It is not likely that I will have the time to blog from the exhibition, but on the right-hand column of the blog, I have included Twitter. I will keep you posted!

Red & White Northern Italian Dynamite

Angelo Gaja from the region of Piemonte in the northern part of Italy is arguably the country’s most well-known producer of wine. Located in Barbaresco, Mr. Gaja is considered a modernist, and is known i.a. for reintroducing French grape varieties in Piemonte, which was quite controversial at the time. For instance, in 1978, the Darmagi vineyard in Barbaresco, which was premium Nebbiolo land, was replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon (this practice would without doubt still be controversial).

With the 1996 vintage, Gaja chose to declassify most of his wines, leaving only one Barbaresco and one Barolo. Under the Italian DOCG, both the Barbaresco and the Barolo classification stipulates that the respective wine is all-Nebbiolo. Now, these two labels are very strong trademarks, which naturally implies high prices. Gaja meant that the Nebbiolo grape in many cases would benefit from a blend with its less-respected cousin Barbera. As an example, both the Costa Russi and the Sorì Tildìn is 95% Nebbiolo and 5% Barbera, while the Sperss is 94% Nebbiolo and 6% Barbera. Thus, he cannot use the Barbaresco/Barolo label for these wines.

Needless to say, an intentional declassification indicates good self-confidence and conviction of the inherent quality of the grapes and – ultimately – the final product: the wines.

Gaja bottles a relatively large range of wines for being a top-quality producer, and his wines certainly don’t come for free; at the Systembolaget, the Costa Russi 2004 and the Sorì Tildìn 2004 are both 2495 SEK.

However, the 2005 Dagromis Barolo is a lot more inexpensive, even though itDagromis still will make at least a small hole in your wallet. The Dagromis Barolo blends fruit from the Gromis vineyard in La Morra with another Gaja-owned vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba and is just amazing. On the palate it shows tar, roses, chocolate, cherries. Complex, concentrated, balanced. It is very slender and subtle but still highly characteristic. I had this one with game and baked root vegetables, and it was just brilliant. 93p.

This is good value for your money and there are still bottles left at SB. Buy a couple of them and put them in your wardrobe for another five years. Or what the hell: drink them now. It is already awfully enjoyable. You’ll get five bottles of top-quality wine for the price of one ugly-fitting Brothers suit.

Borgo del Tiglio located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, close to the border of Slovenia and about 50 km from the Adriatic Sea, is a totally different operation. Not very well-known outside of Italy, this producer makes fabulous white wines which must be among the finest in the country. I had the benefit to try out their complete range at VinItaly 2010 and will certainly visit the producer again at VinItaly 2011. Needless to say, I will taste whatever they put in front of me. Just about everything they do is at least “good” or better.

A private import of their wines via the SB is highly recommended: they are that good. Fortunately, I got to buy a couple of cases via my pals at Club Amarone.

Studio di BiancoThe regular 2008 Collio Friulano is good, albeit still a bit too oaky. It needs to rest for a couple of years. This is 100% Tocai Friulano, an indigenous grape also known as Sauvignon Vert. The 2008 Collio Malvasia from the grape with the same name is just amazing. The best one we tasted. I have no tasting notes but will get back to you as soon as I open a bottle of it at home, Luckily, I have three bottles in the fridge.

The 2008 Collio Studio di Bianco is a blend of Tocai Friulano, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. To an outsider, this blend appears unorthodox, but man does it work! Tropical fruits, butter and vanilla. The oak is very well balanced as far as I’m concerned. It is very rich on the palate and delivers loads of fruit while still upholding the acidity. I had this with beet roots and chèvre, but it was just as good for pre-dinner sipping. At approximately 300 SEK, this is a find. In the best of all worlds, this producer would be globally renowned for producing knockout whites. 92p.

Run-off Heat

This entry covers a handful of wines I’ve drunk the last weeks. Starting off with the white one: 2009 Bründlmayer Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling, this is a beautiful wine with notes of peaches, honey and tropical fruits. Young, fresh but still nicely structured and very balanced. I could drink this every day, it’s an extremely nice wine. Highly recommended as aperitif even though it most certainly also pairs fine with fish. 88p

2006 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage is a killer wine. This is such an evident Northern Rhône-Syrah it’s almost ridiculous! Cured meat, white pepper, black berries. Very gamey. Nice acidity, long, well-balanced, mature, peppery. I doesn’t get much better for this kind of money. This is one of the finest producers in the Rhône valley, or actually one of the finest producers full stop. At 13% ABV and outstanding elegance, this is not your fruit-punch, over-extracted, New Worldish-style Shiraz. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on a couple of bottles while you still can. 90p.

2007 Roberto Voerzio Langhe Nebbiolo is still too much of a baby. You could go to jail for drinking this one. This guy is one of the most skilled producers in Piemonte and surely knows what he is doing. His Barolos sell for the price of a used car, and if you can’t afford them, the Langhe Nebbiolo is an option even though I would assume they do not have more in common than the grape variety. Notes of sloe and tobacco. Very tight and austere. High acidity. Should soften with further maturation. 86p.

I bought a case of 2005 Château Labégorce via Tryffelsvinet from Beyerman, a négociant in Bordeaux. Tryffelsvinet arranges a Bordeaux tasting each autumn at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm. Don’t miss that one! At this event, Beyerman showcases all “his” wines in Bordeaux for peanuts. Labégorce is a left bank-wine from Margaux and is not considered a top wine. However, 2005 is a benchmark vintage in Bordeaux, and many producers made nice wines. Cabernet sauvignon 50%, Merlot 45%, Cabernet franc 3%, Petit verdot 2%. Black currant, cedar tree, minerals. Medium-bodied. Soft tannins. 85p.

Finally, one of the producers (if not THE producer) that got me into being a wine geek in the first place: 2006 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon. Me and my wife visited South Africa back in 2004 with an incipient wine interest, and after having travelled SA for a month with all the wines offered, we were caught. As I remember it, Thelema was one of the best wines we tasted. However, I have great problems with this one. It’s like sticking your nose in an ashtray. Smokey tones are evident in most SA reds, but they are just too predominant in the Thelema. Beneath all the smoke, there are black currants, spices and cedar. It is better the second evening, but the smoke almost comes on as a defect. The smokey sensation is somewhat levelled out with food. But this is not my kind of wine. 80p.

2007 Ch Lagrange

I told you earlier that the vintage 2007 in Bordeaux generally does not appear to be that good, but of course there are exceptions. As is sometimes claimed: good wine makers always make good wine, regardless of the particulars of the given vintage. Well, there is at least some truth in that saying. However, looking at the disastrous vintage of 2002 in Italy, parts of Spain, Portugal and the Rhône, not even the top producers manage to parry the cool weather. For instance, most Barolo grapes were declassified into the simpler Langhe appellation.

Left Bank Bordeaux 2007 gets 85/100 in Wine Spectator’s vintage chart, which is the lowest rating since 1997, and many of the wines simply appears to lack in fruit, which naturally is a problem for a region which is known for producing austere wines; if there is no fruit, the tannins becomes too evident. However, 2007 Château Lagrange is good. Actually, it is very good. Lagrange is located in St Julien, right in the middle of the Médoc peninsula, just south of the more famous Pauillac and quite similar in style albeit somewhat smoother. Lagrange was ranked as a third growth in the 1855 classification.

The blend is 68% Cabernet sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 7% Petit verdot. Very subtle on the nose: plum, cedar, burnt sugar. Gentle palate with soft tannins. Light to medium bodied. It may be a bit too toasty, but on the other hand it is really enjoyable. It you’re highly sensitive too oak, this may not be your cup of coffee. It was a nearly perfect companion to roast of elk, baked root vegetables and a caprese. 90p.