Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Truth In Wine Labeling

Unprecedented Coalition of International Wine Regions Joined By Notable Chefs in Effort to Protect Wine Place Names

NEW YORK - October 19, 2011 - Leadership from 15 of the world's premier wine regions came together along with renowned chefs from around the globe to call on policymakers to heed growing consumer demand for wine truth-in-labeling.

Results from a recent poll of U.S. consumers, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, released today found that Americans, in particular, have very strong feelings about the role of location in making wine-purchasing decisions. Key findings from the poll of 1,000 U.S. wine drinkers include:

79 percent consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying a bottle of wine;

75 percent report they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned that it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but in actuality was not;

84 percent think that the region a wine comes from is extremely important in determining its quality;

96 percent say that consumers deserve to know that the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels; and

98 percent support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require that they accurately state the location where wine grapes are grown on wine labels.

"In over 20 years of polling, rarely have we seen such strong feelings on an issue like this," said Rob Autry, partner of Public Opinion Strategies and the lead pollster on this project. "Consumer sentiment this strong is a clear signal that Americans care a great deal about the location a wine comes from and clearly want ready access to that information when looking at a bottle."

Perhaps most troubling was the fact that despite broad interest in wine location from all sectors of the U.S. wine-consuming populace, when presented with two labels to compare side by side, most consumers were unable to determine the correct origin of the wine. This underscores the challenges winemakers face with current labeling laws.

"The research released today shows consumers are more focused on product origins than ever before and it isn't just a passing concern, but one they feel extraordinarily strong about," said Linda Reiff, executive director of Napa Valley Vintners. "When a place name is misused, a part of the identity of that distinctive wine region is lost and consumers can be misled. This poll shows that U.S. consumers understand this and are looking for clear labeling of wine place names when they purchase wines."

"The 15 regions gathered here today agree that great wine is made in unique places all over the world and that these unique place names must be protected. A failure to do so undermines all of these wine-growing regions and, as the research shows, runs counter to the expectations of the consumer," said Bruno Paillard, representing the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne. "People want to know where their wines come from. The Declaration signatories have taken a global stand for truth-in-labeling and we are committed to working together to maintain and protect the integrity of wine place names."

The poll was released by the signatories to the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition first formed in 2005 when the initial global declaration was signed. The organization has since doubled in size, welcoming its two newest members - Rioja and Long Island - at this year's meeting in New York.

In addition to the growing number of wine regions joining the campaign to protect place names, some of the world's preeminent names in food and wine have joined hands with the coalition as well. An open letter was released today signed by chefs and sommeliers lending their support for truth in wine labeling. Signatories include Thomas Keller from Per Se and the French Laundry; Ferran Adrià from El Bulli; Daniel Boulud from Daniel; Alexandre Ferrand from Alain Ducasse; Wolfgang Puck from Wolfgang Puck Restaurants; Antoine Hernandez from Joël Robuchon; Michel Richard from Citronelle; José Andrés from Jaleo and minibar; Pontus Elofsson from Noma; Charlie Palmer from Charlie Palmer Restaurants and many others from around the globe.

"We support the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin because place names are central to understanding the foods and wines we work with every day," says José Andrés, a James Beard Award-winning chef with restaurants in Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas and Los Angeles. "We celebrate foods and wines from all over the world every day, because they bring special elements to the table and we believe that clear labeling is central to this experience."

"Americans care about where their food and wine are from more than ever before, so we must stand together to ensure that consumers accurately receive the location-driven products they desire," says Chef Ken Frank of Napa Valley's landmark restaurant, La Toque.

The coalition hopes that the clear and resounding results of consumer survey data, combined with the accelerated interest on the part of chefs and other food and wine experts and an overwhelming majority of the world's leading wine regions now working in unison will push lawmakers and others around the globe to better protect wine place names in the U.S. and beyond.

By signing the Declaration, the 15 wine regions have collectively affirmed that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the wines from specific wine-growing areas. In their meetings today in New York, the regions renewed their commitment to working together on the consumer education and public advocacy necessary to ensure that these names are protected and respected worldwide.

The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin was originally signed on July 26, 2005, and now has the support of 15 international wine regions including Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Long Island, New York; Napa Valley, California; Oregon state; Paso Robles, California; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County, California; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia. These quality wine regions have come together to foster the growing global recognition that location is the most important ingredient in wine. To lend support and read the full text of the Declaration, visit protect place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wines of Campania: Donna Chiara Wines at Il Gattopardo

photo above by Alan Watts from Eat Italian

Last week Ilaria Petitto from Donna Chiara Winery guided us through an evening of tastings from the Campania region of Italy at Il Gattopardo, a fantastic Campanian restaurant in NYC owned by the legendary Gianfranco Sorrentino. The winery is located in Montefalcione, a small town in Avellino, where her family has been since 1885. Winemaking is a family tradition, tied closely to the land, where typical white wines like Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino are well structured and long aging, as well as tasty reds like Aglianico and Taurasi. Ilaria pointed out "It is said that Taurasi is the Barolo of the south, but in fact can be better, after all Aglianico is a much more ancient grape than Nebbiolo."

Here are my tasting notes along with the wonderfully paired menu:

Donna Chiara Sante Spumante Brut IGT
a sparkling 100% Falanghina, made using the Martinotti lungo method of fermentation to maintain traditional flavors of the region, fine perlage (smaller, more numerous bubbles), floral aromas, fresh fruit, citrus, minerality and a tropical bouquet.

Paired with arancini di risotto con piselli, mozzarella e sugo di vitelli, bruschetta di fiocco di burrata e basilico.

Donna Chiara Falanghina Beneventano IGT
Fermented for 40 days, straw yellow colors, toasty, pineapple, buttery smooth, even toned, beautiful full bodied, good minerality and acidity and long aging potential.

Donna Chiara Fiano d'Avellino DOCG
2 month fermentation using wild yeasts, vulcanic soils giving layered texture, late harvest imparts an intense ripeness, showing in the aromatics of dried fruit, pear, apple, mild acidity, smooth and long finish.

Both paired with parmigiano di zucchini con provola e salsa al pomodoro.

Donna Chiara Aglianico IGT 2008
No oak touches this one, aged 6 months in bottle, light, fruit aromas, a palate of sour raspberry, glycerine, blackberry, and sour cherries linger on the finish.

Donna Chiara Irpinia 2008 DOC
6 months in French oak, using wild yeasts, structure & body, non-filtered, touch of oak (2nd and third usage barrels not so aggressive). Medium to full body, cherries, prunes, spice, glycerine, raspberry. Charles Scicolone, (a passionate oak-hater) commented on how these reds did not exhibit much oak)

Both reds paried with paccheri alla genovese napoletana

Donna Chiara Taurasi 2007 DOCG
12 months in French barrique, non filtered, ruby violet colors, bouquet of beautiful raspberry and blackberry aromas, with chocolate undertones, ending with a delicious long finish.

Carre d'agnello arrosto con patate e spinaci saltati.

Greco di Tufo DOCG
Apricot, summer fruits, pear lemon rind, pineapple and a fresh finish.


Campania is truly a diverse region with lots to offer. I suggest you try to experience some of their wonderful foods and wines here in the Big Apple or on your next trip to... Campania.

For another perspective on the event see Charles Scicolone On Wine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wines of Cloudy Bay, Marlborough New Zealand

Marlborough, New Zealand's South Island seems to have a handle on Sauvignon Blanc. I recently had a chance to sample a few along with a Chardonnay, Riesling and a Pinot Noir. Cloudy Bay’s thoroughly engaging winemaker Sarah Burton was our guide at an outdoor dinner featuring their wares at The Elizabeth Street Gallery, an outdoor antique garden in New York City’s Nolita, with beautifully matching cuisine by Silkstone.

Sarah is one of three winemakers at Cloudy Bay (teamed with Tim Heath and Nick Lane) in Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand. “No traffic lights, no people and 1 coffee shop.” She’s been at Cloudy bay for 2 years and it’s just celebrated it’s 25th year anniversary. They’ve come a long way and their focus is on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. “Marlborough is a family region, where animals are important, people are close knit.” Their wines are about science and art but especially about people.

2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
This one is close to her heart, she and her team spent hours of fine tuning, they take it seriously, and they’re proud of it. I especially loved this one. Sarah says, “It reminds me of Christmas, with a vibrancy, fresh fruit, texture, herbs, capsicum, grapefruit, a palate that’s smooth, creamy, with a crisp finish. We slipped in a 2% controlled barrel fermentation which adds fleshiness, aged it 4 months in old barrels with some barrels from as far back as 1986 so they’re neutral, with no oak influences and more aeration than influence from the barrel. The point is to get flavors from the grape directly into the bottle. It’s all about climate... it’s the cool nights that give fresh vibrancy and acidity that make it special.”

Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2006
From the same vineyards as above, left to ripen a bit longer, they press the grapes but play around with the solids and the juice to give more texture and weight later on, then it’s 100% barrel fermented with 10% new oak and 90% really old (neutral) French oak. Complex, showing individual personality, and as this wine opens, the changes are apparent and amazing. Savory, with orange blossom characters, some citrus notes, but more nuttiness, creaminess from the barrel fermentation. The fermentation takes place using only wild yeast, followed by a partial malolactic fermentation, left in barrel for 18 months, then another 18 months in bottle. 2 words: Minerality & Texture!

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2009
The next big varietal coming out of Marlborough is Pinot Noir. Early on in NZ these grapes traditionally were planted on the plains and now planted on slopes which improved quality of fruits. Pinot Noir is gently handled, hand picked, then fermented for 2 weeks with natural yeasts, the use of “whole bunch” makes spicy green characters from the stems. 2 more weeks on skins impart more color and tannins, press off to 40% new oak barrel and 60% 2-3 year old oak, all French, and aged for 8-10 months, Complex, fruity, raspberry, strawberry, funk, spicy, chocolate, expressive, smooth, soft, supple tannins with minerality. I also get hints of white pepper, aromas of red licorice, a good long finish, and a clean earthiness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Wines of Chile: Casablanca Valley at Puro Chile

Pablo Morande first planted vines in Casablanca Chile in 1982 where he introduced Chardonnay, Riesling and in 1986 the first Sauvignon Blanc. He did this in a time and place where no one would have believed he would succeed. There was virtually no rainfall, poor vegetation, frosts in winter and extreme swings of temperature between day and night. But Pablo saw the similarities to Carneros California, and took the calculated risk. The qualities Casablanca had in its favor was its terroir. It is one of high humidity, 75% to 65% because of the proximity to the coast. And the valley forms with the Andes to create a perfect climate for fog which blocks solar radiation, especially in the western regions. In general the soil is clay and granite in the west and sand and loam in the east. The rest is history.

This past week we gathered at Puro Chile to sample 4 Sauvignon Blancs and 3 Pinot Noirs from the Casablanca valley, here are my tasting notes:

Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011
21 miles from the coast in the eastern section known as Alto Casablanca, visibly clean and clear, on the nose vaguely pineapple, honeydew melon with citrus lime, and refreshing flavors especially banana, some spice, verdant herbs and a creamy factor. 13.7% alcohol, a bottle costs $12 to $15.

Casas Del Bosque Pequenas Producciones Sauvignon Blanc 2011
In the western region about 10 miles from the ocean, the air is cool and soil is ancient composed of granite, volcanic matter and clay. After hand picking the juice is in contact with skins for 4 days, fermented in stainless steel then on the lees in barrels for 2 months. Liked this one quite a bit, showed earthy aromas of cat pee, with briny salt water, and passion fruit with flavors of spice, toast and melon. $25 per bottle with 13.7% alcohol.

Kingston Family Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc 2010
With vines first planted in 1998 this Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in combination of small stainless barrels, small jacketed tanks (that hold about 6 barrels worth of juice) and a few new oak barrels, just to add a little texture, and aged on the yeast lees.
Showing aromas of raw wood, a pleasant minerality, muted tones of grapefruit and citrus, good body and grassy flavors, and a good long finish. $17 per bottle, 14.3% alcohol.

Cono Sur 20 Barricas Sauvignon Blanc 2009
In this cool climate 2009 was apparently a hot year, yielding subtle aromas and clean fresh flavors exhibiting a tree bark green, which makes sense since this winery won an award as “Green Company of the Year” in 2011. Stainless steel fermentation, a nice bouquet of melon, ripe grapefruit, spices and a minerality with fresh fruit flavors. $15 per bottle.

Emiliana Gran Reserva Novas Pinot Noir 2010
The first Vineyard to go organic, sustainable and biodynamic, Emiliana produces this expressive Pinot Noir. They do a 4 day maceration using wild yeast, aging 8 months in French oak to yield a wine with strawberry aromas, soft clean fresh red fruit on the palate.

Quintay Q Pinot Noir 2010
Three different clones coming from farms in different regions of Casablanca, but preserving the identity of each terroir, 80% of the yield is aged in barrels. Red berries, fresh fruit, strawberry, cherries, floral hints, wet slate with an herbal finish.

Morande Edicion Limitada Pinot Noir 2008
15 months in half new barrel make this Pinot sing aromatically! It’s rich and complex with a perfume that’s intoxicating, red berries, cherries, licorice, strawberries, and raspberry. Outstanding Pinot Noir for the $22 pricetag.