Monthly Archives: June 2012

Podere Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo 2009

I ♥ tannins.  It’s not everyone’s thing, but my palate loves the tactile, gritty feel of bold, chewy, drying tannins in my reds.  So the other night, I decided to venture into Italy’s own Nebbiolo.

Nebbiolo is apparently problematic to grow  – some growers and winemakers consider it more difficult to manage than Pinot Noir.  In terms of maturity, it requires good exposure, ripens late, is judgemental about soils, and can vary widely in tannin and acidity.  Even after being crafted into a promising wine, it can still get moody and changeable in the cellar.  Sounds like a challenge I’m up for!

I tried Podere Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo DOC – 2009 – heralding from Piedmont, the traditional home of this varietal, if not the original one.  It’s a tad young, but being a tannin lover I was prepared for a woody experience.

On the nose, there were hints of violets, roses and anise intertwining with cherries, licorice, and an almost pungent earthiness.  On the palate, dark, sour cherries dominated the fruit spectrum, with toasty vanillan oak.  To be honest, I didn’t really notice any strong bitterness – which is a trait of Nebbiolo – but I was drinking it with food (pork ribs marinated in terriyaki sauce), which might have masked this.  The promised tannins were certainly grippy, even a touch green, and delivered the experience I was looking for.  The alcohol was quite high (14.5%) but it was well balanced, even unnotable, on the palate.

The next day brought a surprisingly clear head, which I didn’t expect from a wine with such a bold, brooding reputation!

I imagine another 3 years in the cellar would certainly tame the tannins, but for my money ($30-35AUD), I loved it in its young form.  The only thing I might do differently with the next bottle would be to pair it up with some strong, bitey cheese.

Overall, this wine was easy to drink, loved by all who shared the bottle, and something I will look forward to revisiting in another 3-5 years to see if it developed attitude over time.

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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Wine Reviews


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Visiting Cellar Door: The Czech Republic

I’ll bet you’re surprised that there actually IS a wine region in the Czech Republic.  Bet your life there is – and it’s one of the most stunningly unique and historic wine regions I have ever seen.

I first visited the wine region in southern Moravia in the deep winter of 2006.  New-found friends drove me from Olomouc to Mikulov – just before the Austrian border, stopping at deserted cellars along the way.  The vision of ice-covered vineyards appearing like spectres remains one of my favourite memories of Cellar Door roaming.

Not far from Mikulov, is Valtice, where in the majestically restored Chateau Valtice, you’ll find the Národní vinařské centrum (National Wine Centre).  This majestic chateau belonged to the Liechtenstein family from the 1100’s until the communists siezed it post WWII.  The real Baron von Liechtenstein used to stage his jousting tournaments here, and the floors on the first floor are still covered with original Afghani hunting rugs.  At the National Wine Centre, you are able to taste the finest wines of the Czech Republic all in one place in the cellars of the old chateau.

If that’s not historic enough for you, head over to Palava, a short distance from Valtice.  Palava is a rocky outcrop of pure, hard, and white limestone of Upper Jurassic origin.  Needless to say, they produce some fine white wines here.

Hectares of vines spread around Palava’s gentle slopes, and the hills themselves are crowned with no less than two castle ruins.  If I remember correctly, they date back to 11th and 15th centuries.

Winemaking goes back much further than that.  They say the Celts brought viticulture to Palava, but there’s no tangible evidence. There is, however, archaelogical evidence that Roman legions brought the practice here in the first century AD.  And they weren’t the first inhabitants.  The Věstonická Venuše found here dates back over 25,000 years BC.  It’s the oldest ceramic statue in the world.

Yep, this place is a wonderland of exploration and ancient history.  I feel so lucky to have stumbled across it.

I loved the place so much, I went back in 2007 and lived there for 3 years.  I was also honoured to lecture at the NVC in wine marketing and tourism in 2008/09.

There’s little industry consolidation in Moravia, and in its 16,000 hectares of vines, you will find 10,000 producers.They were very appreciative of the information I shared with them.  It was the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my wine career.


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Organic, Bio or Preservative Free?

Reaction to SO2 is something I am very familiar with.  I am clinically allergic to anything remotely resembling sulphur – which is serious misery for a vinophile.  The truth is, although I taste a lot of wines, I can’t actually have long sessions of wine drinking without shocking migraines the next day. The more heavily-sulphured ones give me cheeks resembling Santa, and sinuses stuffed with cotton wool within a single glass.

In the past six months, I’ve noticed a lot more customers asking for preservative-free wines.  I thought this was reflection of the demographic around the particular store I was in, but a few weeks ago I moved to a store on the other side of Melbourne, and the trend continues there – albeit to a lesser degree.

When they first come into the store, they are certain of one thing – they don’t want stuffy sinuses and headaches from their wines. What they don’t seem certain about is what all the different claims are on the bottles.  So, let me offer some advice:


Organic wines are made from grapes grown without the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides.  However, this does NOT mean the wine is preservative free. Sulphur can be added during the winemaking process to stabilise and preserve the wine, and chemicals from neighbouring vineyards can be carried in the wind to the otherwise organically grown grapes.  If you’re sensitive to sulphur, read the back label.  It MUST list any preservatives, and the one you’re trying to avoid is 220.


This takes ‘organic’ to a whole new level. It’s not just about the absence of chemicals, but espouses a ‘holistic‘ approach to raising grapes by emphasising the interrelationships between plants, animals, and soils.  And it goes further – using an astronomical calendar to indicate plant sowing times, and I’ve even heard of farmers  dancing naked among their crops under full moons … however, having seen a few winemakers over the years, I’m not sure that’s something to either believe or get excited over.   Biodynamic is sustainable, environment-friendly and very new age.  But again, check the back label for information about any 220 added during winemaking.

Preservative Free

Fermenting grape juice actually contains a small amount (10-50mg/L) of sulphur dioxide – a natural preservative – produced by the yeasts.  Thus, technically speaking, there’s no such thing as preservative FREE wine.  Those claiming to be preservative free are referring to the absence of ADDED preservatives.  They really should be labelled “lower preservatives“.  Regardless, most customers who try them seem to come back for them – although they do admit the wines are somewhat ordinary.  The few that I’ve tried at tastings confirm that, and are often a little oxidised.

Personally speaking, to restrict oneself to a small range of wines, when there are tens of thousands out there to enjoy, seems a bit depressing.  As I said, I can’t handle sulphur myself – so, how do I deal with it, and still enjoy a wide variety of wines?  There’s a few considerations I make:

Close to half of the organic producers around the world are French. Admittedly, I don’t appreciate a lot of French wines, but I am working on that, as I have personally found that French wines give me less/no reaction.

I try to avoid mass-produced wines, or wines from hotter regions – where SO2 is added as a fermentation-control measure as early as harvest. No, this doesn’t mean cooler regions DON’T practice this, just less so.

Finally, I carry a bottle of Pure Wine around with me.  That way, I can drink any wine being poured by friends, ordered at a restaurant or given as a gift.  One drop per glass.  Yes, people look at me with suspicion when I pull the bottle out of my bag and ‘spike’ my wine – but that doesn’t worry me – it makes me look cool.  😉

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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Wine & Health


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