Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Morgante, Bianco di Morgante 2015 Sicily, Italy

Summer is just ahead of us and many have already booked or are about to book their holiday. Italy is for sure on many peoples list and choice, (hopefully with the political unrest will there not be any animosity towards foreign visitors now they pushed more to the extreme right, let the past not resurface), as Italy is a country rich in history, splendid in its beauty, with exquisite food and outstanding wines. Today we travel south the island of Sicily, where I discovered the house Morgante.

Sicily Italy
If we have to believe the legend, it was Dionysus, the god of wine, who apparently planted dancing the first: grapevine in Giardini-Naxos. Before the arrival the old Greeks, grapes were not cultivated in Sicily. The Greeks introduced a form of growing vines close to the ground as bushes (named alberello meaning small bush), still used today in windy and dry areas. Of course under the Romans the wine production increased significantly and the Sicilian wines were exported to the Roman eastern dominions, to Gaul ( France today), and the territories that are today Germany and Spain. During the Byzantine period, came two thirds of Sicily under Christian control which innovate and improved the Sicilian viticulture. Under the Arab rule production dropped dramatically, grape production increased but that was for table grapes not for wine making. The Normans and Swabians ( ethnic German people) picked up after the Arabs, but it were the Spanish really who made sure that the thirst for Sicilian wines came back to the interest further then the boarders of the Island. For more then 200 years they ruled and the economy of Sicily prospered.

The sweet Marsala wines was invented by the British merchant John Woodhouse who was supposed to buy soda in Trapani in the year 1773. He did not make it to Trapani as a violent storm forced him to to seek shelter in the port of Marsala. Waiting till the storm blows over he ended up waiting in a tavern where he stumbled across this local wine which he thought was as good as Port or Madeira wine which the British imported from Portugal and who were extremely popular in England then and still now.
So he began to think how it would survive the long journey back home, so he fortified this local wine with alcohol and sent some barrels home to his business partner.
Of course it proved to be a success and the famous Marsala wine was born. He returned to Sicily and in the year 1796 the Baglio Woodhouse opened beginning the commercialization and mass production of the wine.

The Duke of Salaparuta marketed the first bottled wine of Sicily and founded the house of the same name in 1824 which still exist today. Phylloxera even here did its ravage and destroyed a large part of the vines and it took more then 70 years for the complete replacing of the affected vines.
Then it took till the 70's really when new technologies were introduced that the quality of Sicilian wines greatly improved. All before Sicily depended on quantity but due to higher competition of the new world in the 90's did they had to change their views in how they produce their wines.

White grapes: Carratto, Carricante, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia/Ansonica, Malvasia di Lipari, Moscato Bianco, Moscato di Alessandria. All varieties that for most cases only will be used on the island.

Red grapes:  Frappato, Perricone/Pignatello, Nerello Cappucio/Mantellato, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d'Avola/ Calabrese.

Sweet grapes: Moscato di Pantelleria, Moscato di Siracusa.


The Morgante family's employs generations of viticultural experience, the adventure took another turn in 1994, when Antonio Morgante, with his sons Carmelo and Giovanni, decided to vinify their vineyard grapes. This decision represented the beginning of a commitment to achieve the best possible wines made out of indigenous grapes, whilst keeping a firm eye on innovation. In 1997 they hired Riccardo Cotarella as their winemaker. A winemaker who strongly believe in the indigenous grape. The vineyards is sitting between 350 meters and 550 meters above sea level, with the help of the Mediterranean climate makes these terroirs ideal for vine growing. Temperatures vary well enough between day and night for the vine to be given time to rest and so able to produce better fruit.
Morgante winery holds one grape close to its heart " Nero d'Avola" also called Calabrese, and almost exclusively grown in Sicily. They produce three wines all coming from the grape Nero d'Avola and one of them is a white wine, the one I will taste.

Bianco di Morgante 2015

Grape: Nero d'Avola

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: €11 $13 £10 average ex tax

Visual: A deep straw color appears, color intensity 2 out 5, brilliance is brilliant (good acidity presence), limpidity is limpid (perfect), the wine reflects energy, still a fairly young expression, a very southern feel, the legs are fairly thick.

Nose: The attack is very fruity; apple, anise, fennel, floral touches, hints of stone fruit (white fruit), the has a good expressive touch but not overpowering well balanced.

Palate:  The attack is somewhat soft, lively and fresh, mid-palate is slightly of balance, aromas and acidities not in harmony, but fruit appears clearly and neat, apple and pears, at the end a little sharp, its lingering is medium long.

Conclusion: Although that you find yourself way down south and a lot of heat, this house is able to give and make wines with freshness, fruit and character. This is for its price very well made and sure to enjoy with grilled fish and certain pasta dishes. A very nice discovery.

Score: I rate this wine at 19.8/20 89/100 (rated as a very good wine)

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Aldeneyck Heerenlaak Chardonnay 2016 Belgium

These days there are many places where wine comes from and Belgium is no exception. I will blog some more wines from this estate as they have gained reputation in the inner circles (what I mean is that it is more regional and not so international), but I am sure that soon on international level this house will make its mark.

Although that Belgium is neighbouring France it is only since the last 2 decades that making/cultivating wine has started to make an entrance really. First there wasn't the ideal weather conditions and secondly it lays quite up north. All this has changed due to climate changing, the country isn't very big and there isn't much space for vines to grow and produce so it will most likely stay a niche type of market, which if they get it right could be quite beneficial.


In the heart of Limburg (Belgian province neighboring the Nederlands), lays the little charming town of Aldeniek. There has Karel and Tine Henckens-Linssen build their domain, but before they started with the vine they were cultivating pear and apple. They had an orchard and were fruit growers, but on their honeymoon did he discover his real passion, viticulture. First there was the thought to buy a domain in France, but their heart and soul was nested in the beautiful mesh valley.
With ambition, optimism and weaponed with a diploma winegrower (viticulturist) they planted in 2002 their first vines which was previous their orchard. With time the domain has grown to 8 hectares of vines.

Aldeneyck has much to go for thanks to their unique soil. Over the thousand of years the Mesh river has left behind a thick layer of pebble on the shores and mid terrace. With the top layers constructed out of warm loam gives this terroir an ideal combination to produce characterful, mineral and fruity wines. Besides that makes the Mesh river and the ideal plateau a favourable location combined with a micro-climate for wine making. The rainfall here is not as prominent as other parts of the region during the growing season and the area where the vines grow its always a bit warmer than anywhere else around. They chose for traditional grape varieties, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and since 2012 Chardonnay.

Karel and Tine, believe that a selected bunch of grapes on the vines is much more beneficial for producing great wines, opposite to what they were used to when cultivated apples and pears.
The white wines that are mature in steel tanks (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) are bottled after six months. The Pinot gris oak barrel matured for 5 months and the Pinot Noir 10 months on oak. The Chardonnay is kept on its lees in oak barrels of 1.2.3 and 4 years old for 5 months.

Aldeneyck Heerenlaak Chardonnay 2016.

Grape: Chardonnay

Alcohol: 13%

Price: €17 $20 £15

Visual: A pale yellow colour appears when pouring, colour intensity 2.5 out of 5, the legs are thin and runny, its limpidity is limpid and its brilliance is crystal, it appears feminine, elegant and dressed-up with care.

Nose: A good nose not outspoken but not discreet either, anise, peppermint, pear, apricots are the main aromas here, well sampled together and the aromas keep on coming back, here and there little hints of white flower.The oak is certainly not expressive and more in a second plan format.

Palate: The attack feels soft followed by fruit, white stone fruit, very fresh, the acidity a little pronounced, the oak is noticeable in the slight round and somewhat buttery feel, it lingers on for a good time, at the back of the throat there are citrus fruits and the wine feels medium dry.

Conclusion:  I met Karel and Tine last year in November and had a good profound chat with them, and Karel surely knows where he wants to be here and five years time. This is a domain that sits on the right track and produces wines from very high standard, and sure in with a shot to impress the wine world. I have tasted quite a few Belgian wine domains and this one surely so far stick heads out. They have a  couple of other cuvee's and a sparkle. Belgian overall have on many occasion proved to be fairly good when it comes to wine, not only in Belgium of course but domain's Chateaux they own or manage in France. If you dare to try and comes across an Aldeneyck wine, please have a try and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Score: I rate this wine at 18.9/20 89/100 (rated as a very good wine) 

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Bodegas Y Vinedos Artuke Rioja Spain the new generation

It is not often you come across a house that gives you goosebumps, satisfaction and a smile from here to infinity and beyond. I had heard from them already some time ago but never had the chance to taste it, till prowein this year.
We were captured but to be sure we wanted to taste again in serene and more neutral environments.
We had 5 cuvee's from the house and each had their own story to tell today I will talk about Los Locos....

It is Spain's most famous wine region, with about 54.00 hectares of vines spread out into three different communities (La Rioja, Basque country and Navarre). The majority of the region is contained within the La Rioja administrative region after which it is named (itself named after the Rio Oja river flowing through the region).
Although its northernmost vineyards creep over into neighboring Navarre and Pais Vasco (Basque).
The Cantabrian Mountains, which flank Rioja to the north and west, provide shelter from cold, wet influences of the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a significant factor in the locale climate, which is significantly warmer and drier than just the north.

Here Romans have set foot to, Romans objects have been found throughout the region. They were containers used for fermenting wine, subsequently it was as in many places in Europe the monasteries playing an important role in the production of wine. There is a written act by which the King of Navarre donated vineyards to the Monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla. Rioja is part of the Camino de Santiago (Saint James Way). The pilgrims were offered wine while they stayed in the monasteries located along the way. Of course somewhat logic that these pilgrims promoted Rioja wines back home. In 1560 the Rioja wine producers agreed to put a common label to their wines. A first step towards a guarantee the origin of their wines.
Rioja struggled exporting as they were not close to a port, as Loire and Bordeaux wines were which dominated the exposure. Another problem was to transport and the conservation of the wine, the use of oak barrels  for this purpose changed all things as they exported much towards the Americas. The transport got easier but also the preservation of the wine improved hugely.
When phylloxera hit France many french investors (Bordeaux money) looked towards Rioja, huge investments were done and the region and its wines became consolidated and build a reputation that has grown till today.

Classification system in Rioja
Wines are highly regulated in Europe and in Spain the regulations are established at regional level by the "Consejos reguladores" or the regulatory bodies. In the case of Rioja this is the Consejor Regulador del vino de Rioja. They control things like which varieties can be planted, maximum yield per acre permitted etc...

The Consejo established a classification system for Rioja wines which on the criteria of ageing.
The first level of wines in Rioja according to the ageing criteria is the Guarantee of Origin.

The guarantee of origin in a label of Rioja  wine indicates that the grapes come from Rioja region and the wines have been produced there. These wines do spend little or no time in oak barrels. These wines are normally very fruity, the wines in the Rioja-Alavesa sub-region have been traditionally produced following the carbonic maceration process.
Some creative oenologists may decide to make wines which does not fall into any of the categories described, in these cases the wines are included in the guarantee of origin label.

Crianza; means literally  oak aged wines. So when Crianza is labelled this simply means a wine aged in oak barrels. However, in most Spanish wines crianza also refers to a specific type of wine. In the case of Rioja wines, crianza is applied to wines matured at least 2 years at the winery before released onto the market. Partially in oak barrels partially in the bottle.

Reserva wines; wines with this label have spend a minimum of 3 years before releasing onto the market. A minimum of 1 full year spent in oak barrel, this applies for red wines. For the white wines the time before releasing is 2 years of which they have to spend at least 6 months in oak barrels.

Gran Reserva; the highest distinction, the wines need to spend at least 5 years before they are released onto the market. Out of these 5 years, at least 2 years are to be spend in oak and in the case of the white wines 4 years before released onto the market of which 6 months in oak barrel.

Bodegas Y Vinedos Artuke

After many years Roberto de Miguel decided to move away from bulk wine production onto bottle production, his children Arturo and Kike (from there the name Artuke) now leading the winery and shaping this project firmly rooted in its surrounding and landscape.

Artuke belongs to the Rioja'n'Roll, a group of young producers committed in making singular wines which reflect their origins and terroir. Aware of their heritage, they carried out detailed study of the soils they handle, located in Banos de Ebro, Abalos and San Vicente de la Sonierra, these guys fight to preserve it rather than transform it. A reason their efforts to work the 22 hectares they own in the old way, no trellis on site, all bush vines (gobelet) even the newly plant ones.

Such is there commitment that they recovered a vineyards like "La Condenada" ( the doomed one), an abandoned plot with sandy soil and sandstone subsoil purchased by the brothers in 2012 and planted with old tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and some Cagazak or Calagreno vines, (an obsucre variety which resembles Palomino Fino).

Their production is not huge, La Condenada is about 1000+ bottles, a single vineyard, so is K4, 900 bottles production and Finca Los Locos, 8000 bottles. Their bread basket is the Artuke, 55.000 bottles and the Pies Negros, 53,000 bottles.

Recently they took up another challenge and purchased a vineyard El Cerro de Las Mulas (Mules Hill), a windy area on the foothills of Sierra Cantabria. Soon we will able to see what they have made of it and I feel confident they will make something great.

Artuke Finca Los Locos 2016.

Grape: 80% Tempranillo 20% Graciano

Alcohol: 14%

Price: €17 $20 £15 average ex tax

Visual: When pouring a deep purple color appears, with an intensity of 4.5 out of 5, legs running fairly fast, transparency is slightly blur, brilliance is luminous, the wine is definitely masculine, young, handsome, intense, avant garde, a wine with a different attitude.

Nose: The attack is good, fruity, spices, animal hints, leathers, blackcurrant bud, blackberries, black currants, cherries, slight,ivy, subtle aromas.

Palate: A controlled attack not to explosive, fruity, fresh, tannins young and tight, medium body, mid-palate, very good balance between acidity and aromas, dry, good lingering, still very young.

Conclusion: This is the first wine of this house I taste and although it is still very young and has good ageing potential, here we encounter an atypical Rioja as no wood is integrated in this wine and that is done on purpose, as these guys believe to have the grape and the terroir in the forefront, design a vision and image of this house. Kike and Arturo are well on the way to build a name to be reckon with in the Rioja realm and in the world of wine all together. A true great discovery. 

Score: 19/20 90/100 (rated as an excellent wine)