Monthly Archives: December 2015



Ed McCarthy hosted two memorable Champagne tastings and lunches in December for wine journalists in New York City. For the Wine Media Guild event at Felidia Restaurant, Ed spoke about 26 Non Vintage Brut Champagnes. Three weeks later, Ed hosted the second event, held at the Brasserie, where he presented 16 Prestige Cuvee Champagnes for the NY Wine Press. Ed, author of “Champagne for Dummies,” is known as Champagne Ed.


Champagne Ed Mc Carthy

Harriet Lembeck chair of the NY Wine Press, announced that this was the last year this event would be held at the Brasserie as it will be closing shortly. She thanked Sharon Colabello, the Brasserie’s Director of Catering, for all her help over the years.

Introducing the wines, Ed told us that Prestige Cuvees are made from the finest and the most costly grapes from the best vineyards, usually from all Grand Cru or a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages. They are aged longer in the producers’ cellars than other Champagnes. The typical Prestige Cuvee ages for five to eight years before release.

Ed said that 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 were excellent vintages in Champagne. He also believes that 1996 was the best vintage of the last 20 years.

First Flight with Hors d’OeuvresIMG_9426

Lanson “Extra Age” Brut NV magnum It is a blend of special vintage years 2000, 2002 and 2004 bringing together the best Champagne Crus using traditional vinification methods. The Pinot Noir comes from the best plots of Verzenay and Bouzy. The Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs, Chouilly, Avize, Oger and Vetrus. Nice citrus flavors and aromas with a touch of white peach and pear. $190


Bethany Burke and Champagne Andre Jucquart

Andrê Jacquart Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature Grand Cru NV. No malolactic fermentation takes place, a minimum of 5 years on the lees before disgorgement and zero dosage.  70% of the wine is aged in old Burgundy barrels. Ed said that the grapes come from the best villages in Champagne. This is a elegant champagne with hints of pear and peach with a long and fruity finish. Ed was very impressed with this champagne and it is a bargain at $60.IMG_9427

Lamiable “Les Meslaines” Grand Cru 2008 made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from 30/35 year old vines from the Grand Cru terroirs of Bouzy and Tours-sur- Marne. The soil is clay and limestone, the parcel is 6 hectares and the exposure is south. It is at 162 meters with a gentle slope of about 10%. Fermentation in enamel and stainless steel tanks and then malolactic fermentation takes place. Aged for 18 months on the lees. Two to four barrels are used. No new oak. Dosage 8g/l. It had hints of apple, brioche, spice and a hint of ginger. Ed said it needed more time $60

Second Flight with Vegetable CarpaccioIMG_9428

Piper-Heidsieck “Rare” Brut 2002 made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from twelve 100% rated Grand Cru Villages. This needs at least 15 years from the vintage date to develop fully. It was interesting because I found aromas and flavors of spice and ginger with citrus fruit and good acidity. $155IMG_9429

Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siecle” NV made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from 3 different vintages. 12 of the most prestigious villages supply the grapes and only the best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. The blended wine is aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for about five years. It has tiny bubbles and complex aromas and flavors that make it go very well with food. $135IMG_9430

Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” 2006 made from 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay. Verzenay/Avize are the two dominate crus in the blend of eight grand crus from Ciicquot’s own 100% rated Grand Cru Vineyards on the Còte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. It has hints of white peaches, apricots and brioche. It needs two or three years from release in order be at its best. $155


Christina L. Jacobs Champagne Specialist  Moet Hennessy

Dom Ruinart Blanc De Blancs Brut 2004 Made primarily with premier crus from the Cöte des Blanc and Montagne de Reims. Has both elegance and finesse with hints of fresh fruits, citrus and white peaches. $135

Third Flight with Halibut with Braised Leeks and Champagne SabayonIMG_9432

Taittinger “Comtes de Champagne” Blanc de Blancs 2006. The grapes are pressed immediately in presses located in the vineyards. The first pressing, known as the “cuvee” is followed by two more pressings known as the first and second “tailles”. Only the juice from the “cuvee” goes into this wine. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and about 5% of the wine is matured for a few months in 225 liter new oak casks. Prior to disgorgement the wine is aged for 9 or 10 years. This is their flagship Champagne. Ed described it as being full and rich.  It was toasty with hints of white fruit, good acidity and a long lingering finish. $130IMG_9433

Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut 2007 made from  55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay with grapes from Roederer’s own vineyards, almost all of which are Grand Cru. Ed said it needs 15 years from the vintage date before it is really ready to drink, $200IMG_9434

Perrier Jouet “Belle Epoque” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2002 This was by far the most expensive Champagne at the tasting. The grapes come from the best vineyards and Ed believes that it is worth the money and one of the best Blanc de Blancs made. He also said that 2002 was an excellent vintage for Champagne. $350


Cathleen Burke Visscher with Pascal Doquet and Lamiable

Pascal Doquet “Le Mesnil Sur Oger” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2002 The vines range from 3 to 77 years-old averaging around 37 years as of 2014. The soil is chalky in the Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the heart of the territory. It is a 1,67 ha parcel with an eastern exposure. The training system is Taille Chablis. The yield is 30% lower than the maximum permitted by Champagne. Malolatic fermentation takes place. Aged for 6 months and then 5 months on the lees. 36% aged in barrels. It has hints of toasted brioche, raisins, spice and apple with good acidity. Ed said that this wine needs more time and I agree. Dosage 5g/l. The winery is certified organic, indigenous yeast is used and the grapes are hand harvested. $85

Fourth Flight — Duck á l’OrangeIMG_9436

Moet & Chandon “Dom Perignon” Brut 2006 made from equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes come from five Grand Cru villages and one Premier Cru village. Ed wrote in his book Champagne for Dummies – the wine’s “…trademarks are its exquisite balance, its creaminess, its elegance, its very fine tiny bubbles and its complex flavors.” He was also right on the mark when he said, “With age, Cuvee Dom Perignon develops aromas and flavors of toast, coffee and honey.” $150IMG_9437

Bollinger “ La Grande Anneë” Brut 2004 made from 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay. This was one of my top wines. Both Ed and I felt that it would age very well. It is intense, concentrated, rich Champagne with aromas and flavors of toasted brioche. This is the Champagne that I drank the most. $125 IMG_9438

Henriot Cuvee “Des Enchanteleurs” Brut 2000 made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from six of the most prestigious Grand Cru vineyards.  Ed said it was excellent and one of his favorites. It was also one of mine. It is rich with citrus aromas and flavors and hints of wild peach, hazelnut, and a touch of honey. It is aromatic with a great finish and aftertaste. It was Tom Maresca’s favorite. $165.


Odila Galer-Noel with Pol Roger, Assistant Vice President Fredrick Wildman

Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill” Brut 2004 made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30 % Chardonnay from their Grand Cru vineyards. The remuage (riddling) is done by hand, a rarity in Champagne today. Ed felt it still needs at least 4 or 5 more years to be ready. He described it as being rich, firm and austere but also with finesse and complexity. Ed said that it was created in homage to Sir Winston Churchill mindful of the qualities he sought in his Champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. This was another of his favorite wines and I have to agree. $250


Nicole Burke   US Brand Ambassador Krug

Krug Brut Grande Cuvée NV made from 45/55% Pinot Noir, 15/20 Pinot Meunier and 25/35 Chardonnay–the percent depends upon the vintage. They blend about 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages and it is aged for at least 6 years in the cellars. All of their Champagnes are aged in used small oak barrels. They are all prestige cuvees made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages and are aged longer before release. The overall rating for the vineyards is 98% with Krug’s own vineyards rating 100%. As Ed said obviously this is not just another NV Champagne. It is Michele’s favorite. $135

Though we all have preferences in style, I would be more than happy to enjoy any of these excellent Champagne


Filed under Andre Jacuqart Champagne, Champagne, Christal, Dom Perignon, Dom Ruinart 1966, Henriot, Krug Champagne, Lanson, Laurent- Perrier- Grand Siècle, Perrier-Jouet, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Prestige Cuvee Champagnes, Tattinger Comtes de Champane, Veuve Clicquot

A New Discovery: Champagne Forget-Brimont

Champagne Forget- Brimont  Brut Premier Cru NV made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. Between 20% and 40%of reserve wines are used to ensure consistency. The vineyards cover 18 hectares and are located for the most part in Montagne de Reims, Mailly-Champagne and Verzenay for the Grand Cru and Chigny les Roses, Coulommes la Montagne, Ludes, Montbrè, Sermiers, Taissy and Villers- Allerand for the Premier Crus.IMG_9467

This is a true artisanal grower/producer with enough vineyards to supply year round continuity of Brut NV Premier Cru. Pinot Noir reigns supreme in this area.

Because it is made from mostly red grapes it is Champagne that goes very well with food.

The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in whole bunches. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at 17 degrees C and malolatic fermentation is done in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is then horizontally aged in traditional chalk cellars for at least 24 months on the cork. The wine is left to rest an additional two months after dosage before release. The dosage is 10 grams per liter.

It is elegant complex Champagne with hints of green apple, hazelnuts, ginger and spice. At around $40 a bottle it is a very good buy.

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Filed under Champagne, Champagne Forget-Brimont Brut

Award Winning Wines from Concours Mondial De Bruxelles

It was my pleasure to host a tasting and lunch to celebrate the announcement of the medal winning wines of the Concours Mondial De Bruxelles international wine and spirits competition. It was held at the well-known Armani Restaurant in NYC.

Mr. Thomas Costenoble is the Director of the Competition and the man responsible for its success. He said that the competition is organized by Belgium, a country that does not produce much wine, so the completion can guarantee total independence. He called it “A United Nations of Fine Wines.” Though they do not produce much wine, Belgians are recognized for their great knowledge of wines. In Belgium, when you are thirsty you drink beer. Wine drinking is about culture.

Louis Havaux first organized the completion in April of 1994 in Bruges. There were 861 entries from 29 participating countries. Today there are almost 8,220 wine and spirit entries from 48 countries.

Thomas Costenoble and Charles Scicolone

Thomas Costenoble and Charles Scicolone

Mr. Costenoble said that the primary ambition of the competition is to provide consumers with a guarantee that it will single out wines of quality, offering a truly pleasurable drinking experience, of wines from across the globe and best price points. While the Concours Mondial De Bruxelles is well known in Europe, Asia and South America, it is not familiar to wine lovers in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Costenoble, this is about to change as consumers, journalists, and wine experts become familiar with this prestigious international competition.

Over 300 professional judges take part from 50 countries. The tasting conditions are of the highest standards under the best conditions including the correct humidity, temperature and monastic silence. The blind tasting takes place over 3 mornings and 50 tasting panels are made up of 5 to 7 judges. There are 50 samples tasted each morning in flights of 4 to 6 wines.

This is the only wine competition that I know of which conducts a palate preparation exercise for the judges to harmonize and calibrate the marks that they give for the wines. If all the judges vote a wine as excellent it will get a score of 100.IMG_9423

The EU recognizes the competition and the Belgian Federal Service Economy does the inspection. Officials are on hand to make sure that all the rules are followed and the total number of medals awarded does not exceed 30%.

It is the first international competition to Introduce post event checks on award winning wines. Broad selections of wines are analyzed to compare them with wines available commercially. The Catholic University in Louvain supervises this process.

The awards are as follows: Grand Gold Medal and Gold and Silver. In addition Best Wine Trophies are awarded to products with the highest ratings in a category beside their gold medal.

Mr. Costenoble said the CMB medal is great exposure for the producer and a reliable buying cue for the consumer when they see the CMB symbol on the label.

The Wines

Domaine Bessá Valley Winery, Bulgaria. Enira Reserve 2009 IGP Thracian low lands made from Merlot 55%, Syrah 35 % and Petit Verdot 10%. The wine is aged in 50 new oak barrels and 50 one-year-old oak barrels. Silver Medal $ 20


Vollereaux Champagne Brut Reserve France Gold Medal made from 34% Chardonnay, 33% Meunier and 33% Pinot Noir. Sugar content 9g/l and the wine remains for 3 years on the lees. Gold Medal


Chateau Burgozone Chardonnay 2014 IGP Danube Plain Bulgaria, made from 100% Chardonnay. Fermentation and maceration in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on the lees. Mr. Constenoble said this wine was a gold medal winner 5 years in a row. It is well deserved. Gold Medal $15


Vinzavod Ad, Assenovgrad Version Plaisir Cabernet Franc 2013 Thracian Valley Bulgaria 100% Cabernet Franc. Fermentation and aging takes place in stainless steel. Silver Medal $16

Domaine Du Chapitre 100% Sauvignon Blanc 2014 France Loire Valley. This is an excellent example of Sauvignon Blanc. Grand Gold Medal $18   

Mattia Morelli of Omina Romana

Mattia Morelli of Omina Romana

Omina Romana Lazio, Italy Chardonnay 2013 Lazio IGT 100% Chardonnay. At the end of fermentation, 50% of the wine remains in stainless steel tanks and the remainder in oak barrels where it matures for 5 to 6 months.  Silver Medal


Janus Geminus I 2011 made from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. The wine is aged in French oak barrels fro 12 to 18 months and then assembled. Gold Medal IMG_8821

Alessandro di Camporeal “Kaid” 2012 IGT Sicily, Italy 100%  Syrah  Maceration is for 12 days at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques and tonneaux and 6 months in bottle before release. This wine was not available for the tasting but it was the only wine I had tasted before and met the wine maker. Grand Gold Medal $25


Borgo di Colloredo Biferno Rosso Riserva DOC, Italy. “Girorn” 2008 made from 80% Montepuliciano and 20% Aglianico. The wine is aged for 24 months in large oak barrels and barriques. Grand Gold Medal $20


Colline San Biagio “Sancti Blasii” 2009 Carmignano DOCG, Tuscany, Italy made from 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. The wine is aged in new and second passage French barriques for 12 to 15 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. Silver Medal

Fleury Family Wines “Château Haut- Badon” 2013 Sain Emilion Grand Cru AOC, France.   Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Fermented in stainless steel and aged for 6 months in oak barrels. Grand Gold Medal. $40IMG_9346

Les Vignerons de Buzet Baron d’Ardeuil Rouge 2010  AOC Buzet, France made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Silver Medal $10


Vignobles ChatonnetIMG_9341

 Château Haut-Chaigneau 2012, Lalande Pomerol, France, made from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Silver Medal $40


L’ Arch Angle 2010 St. Emilion France Grand Gold Medal $30


Grand Crus of Western Algeria Company “Koutoubia” Western Algeria made from Grenache and Cinsault. The wine is aged for 15 months and 6 months in bottle before release. Gold Medal



Plan b International Sack Rum 40% alcohol Belgium. Grand Gold Medal


Tequila Orendain de Jalisco“ Grand Orendain Bianco, Mexico Grand Gold Medal $45

NB: Where there is a $ sign it means the wine is imported to the United States and if there is a price it is an approximation.

NB:Luc Sougné from Domaine Boyar in  Bulgaria was present but the wines did not make it in time for the tasting. That was unfortunate as they  had 4 wines that won medals : Elements Chardonnay (Gold Medal)  Quantun  Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (Silver Medal)  Quantum Chardonnay (Grand Gold Medal) and Quantum Merlot  (Silver Medal).



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Filed under Concours Mondial De Bruxelles

The Best of Non-Vintage Brut Champagnes

The Wine Media Guild’s annual tasting and lunch at Felidia Restaurant of non-vintage Brut Champagne was a greatly anticipated event, thanks to the efforts of Ed Mc Carthy. Ed, the author of Champagne for Dummies, organizes and hosts this event, and this year managed to line up 26 Champagnes so that the guests were able to tastethem side-by-side.

Ed Mc Carthy and Michelle D. DeFeo, President Laurent-Perrier

Ed Mc Carthy and Michelle D. DeFeo, President, Laurent-Perrier

Ed did not begin to speak until he had tasted all 26 of the wines at least once. Ed said they are the standard of the house style and must be consistent from year to year. He also said that the Blanc de Blancs are lighter in style and more Champagne Houses are now producing them. Non Vintage Brut Champagnes are a good value for the money and priced between $35 and $60 a bottle.

The Wines:

Ayala Brut Majeur $40 made from 43% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. Bollinger owns this company. They only use up to 20% of their reserve wine in the NV. Complex and elegant with hints of apple, pear, bread crust and a touch of spice.IMG_9306

Marion-Bosser Premier Cru Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs $56 This is one of the few biodynamic houses in Champagne. The winery is on the right bank of the Great Valley of the Marne, against the peaks of the Montagne de Reims. The vineyards are all Premier Cru. The soil is chalk. The wine spends three years on the lees. The dosage is 5g/l. It is an elegant Champagne with hints of apple and good minerality. Ed liked it.

Piper – Heidsieck Brut $38 this is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. It is a well-structured wine, fruit forward with hints of pear, citrus and grapefruit.

Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvèe $45 Made from 22% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. The grapes are a selection from 32 villages vinified separately in stainless steel or in barrel. There is a systematic use of reserve wines from previous vintages from 25% to 48% when needed. The wine comes from the first pressing of the grapes. The wine is aged in bottle on the lees for 3 months. This is almost double the legally required minimum. In all of Bruno Paillard’s Champagne, the dosage is kept very low, 5 to 6 grams of sugar per liter, so as to produce an authentic and pure wine, a true Brut. This is the flagship of the house and must remain true to itself in the good and bad years. One very large tank is used for the assemblage so there will be consistency.  The wine has aromas of citrus fruit, especially lime and grapefruit, that is so typical of Chardonnay. There are also aromas of red fruits like cherry and raspberry, so typical of Pinot Noir. This in one of Ed’s favorites and also mine.IMG_9413

G.H. Munn Cordon Rouge Brut $38 made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The wine has hints of orange peel, almonds and a touch of smoke with a nice long finish.

Lanson Black Label Brut $44 made from 35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier. It is aged for at least 3 years and the dosage is 8/10g/l. The wine has hints of citrus fruits and a gentle touch of toast.

Perrier-Jouēt Grand Brut $37 Made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. It is crisp with hints of citrus fruit and a touch of toast.




Christina L. Jacobs, Champagne Specialist, Moet Hennessy USA

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV $68. Chardonnay is the very soul of the winery with grapes coming mainly from the Cote des Blancs, and Montagne de Reims terroirs. This is a Champagne with nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of apple and apricot.IMG_9296

Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV $55. This is one of Ed’s favorite houses and one he feels does not get the attention it deserves. It is a blend of grapes from the Cote de Blancs and the villages of Mesnil- sur – Oger, Avize, Chouilly and others. The assembly consists of 30% reserve wine, the percentage can change depending on the vintage. This is wine with hints of orange blossom, honey, apricot and a touch of brioche.

A.R. Lenoble Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru NV $55. Ed said this was one of the few independent and family run houses in Champagne and arguably the best value in the tasting. The 18 hectares of vines are all situated on Grand Cru and Premier Cru lands. The cuvee contains 13% of reserve wine aged in oak barrels for 5 to 8 months. The wine spends 4 years on the lees. This is Champagne with hints of apple, pear, lemon and a touch of toast.

Champagne Brut Reserve Billecart-Salmon NV. Made from 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has tiny bubbles and a fruity delicate freshness.IMG_9294

Champagne Premier Brut NV Louis Roederer is made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier from 50 different crus. It is aged for 3 years in the cellar and 6 more months after dègorgement.

Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Zero Dosage $60 Made from 55% Chardonnay and 45 % Pinot Noir. It is aged for at least 4 years on the lees.

There is less than 3g of residual sugar per liter and no addition of sugar syrup after bottle fermentation. It is crisp with hints of citrus and honeysuckle with nice minerality and acidity. Because it is bone dry, it is an excellent Champagne with food.

Tattinger Brut “La Francaise” $40. This is a blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir from 30 different vineyards. It has hints of apple and lemon with a touch of peach and almonds.

Deutz Brut Classic Champagne $45 made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in equal proportions. It has hints of apples and brioche with a touch of pear and lemon.

Duval-Leroy Premier Cru Brut $50 Mostly Chardonnay from premier cru vineyards in the Cote des Blanc in Vertus where the winery is located. It is aged of at least 3 years and has hints of pear, pastry dough and almonds.

Bethany Burke with Andre Jacquart

Bethany Burke with Andre Jacquart

Andrè Jacquart Brut Experience Premier Cru $50 Ed said they only make Blanc de Blancs. The Chardonnay grapes are from Premier Cru Vertus (vinified in stainless steel) and from the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur- Oger (Vinified in older Burgundy oak barrels). No malolactic fermentation and the Champagne is aged for 5 years on the lees before disgorgement. It has hints of pear and toasted brioche with nice minerality

Leclerc Briant Les Chevres Pierreuses Premier Cru Brut $60. Made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier from the Les Chèves Pierruses vineyards in Cumieres. It has 4.5 g/l sugar. Ed said only 3,000 bottles were made and he really liked it. The Champagne has hints of lemon and lime with a touch of cherry, peach and almonds.

Cathleen Burke Visscher with Pascal Doquet and Lamiable

Cathleen Burke Visscher with Pascal Doquet and Lamiable

Pascal Doquet Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut Le Mesnil -Sur- Oger $54. The winery is in Vertus near Avize. The vines average around 36 years old, the soil is chalky in the Le Mesnil sur Oger. Harvest is by hand. They farm organically and the yields are 20% to 30% less than appellation standards. Indigenous yeast is used. A minimum of 3 vintages makes up the cuvee. The wine usually goes through malolactic fermentation. An average of 50% of the blend is vinified in small, old oak barrels to oxgenate the wine. It is aged on the lees in bottle for over 8 years. Production is only about 6,000 cases. The wine has hints of yeast, marzipan and apple with a touch of lemon.

J P Lamiable Brut Grand Cru Blanc De Noix $50 made from 100% .They farm 6 hectares where the Montage de Reims, Cōte de Blances and Vallèe all converge. Primary fermentation takes place in stainless and enamel tanks to preserve freshness. Maturation is in enamel tanks for 6 months. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and is aged on the lees for 5 years. It has hints of pear, peach and almond with good acidity and minerality. It is Champagne that can age and goes very well with food.IMG_9292

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve $60 Made from 75% Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay. This is full-bodied Champagne with hints of brioche and almonds.

Moēt and Chandon Brut Imperial $40 made from 50% Pinot Noir 40% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay. It is medium dry with black fruit flavors and aromas with a touch of toast.IMG_9295

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut $45 made from 56% Pinot Noir, 16% Pinot Meunier and 28% Chardonnay. Ed said it is very easy drinking Champagne with dark fruit aromas but improves with a year or two of aging.

Paul Roger Brut White Label $42 Made from equal parts of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay from the first pressing. Each final blend contains a minimum of two vintages with the youngest components being a minimum of three years old. Average dosage is 12 g per liter. This is a complex creamy Champagne with aromas of fruit and toast.IMG_9291

 Gosset Grand Reserve Brut $60 made from 46% Meunier, 38% Pinot Noir and 16% Chardonnay from Grand Cru and Premier grapes. It is a well full-bodied Champagne, complex in aromas and flavors that will age very well. Ed said that this house founded in 1584 is the oldest continuing wine firm in Champagne. The Gosset family no longer owns it but Ed said it is a Champagne house that should be better known.

Bollinger Special Cuvèe Brut $60 made from 60% Pinot Noir 15% Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay. Reserve wines of up to 15 years in age are added to the base wine and it is aged 3 to 4 years before release. This is a dry, full bodied champagne with rich, complex flavors that become more toasty with age.


Filed under Ayala, Billecart- Salmon, Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Bollinger Champagne, Bruno Paillard, Champagne, Henriot, Lanson, Non- Vintage Brut Champagnes

Fibbiano and Sangervasio: Wines from the Hills of Pisa

Fattoria Fibbiano and Azienda Agricola Sangervasio are two wineries from the hills around Pisa. I had the pleasure of hosting a tasting of these wines at a luncheon at Lupa Restaurant in NYC. Matteo Cantoni from Fibbiano and Luca Tommasini from Sangervasio were present and spoke about their wines. They are very good friends and agree on most aspects of wine making but they do have their differences. Though the two wineries are not far from each other, each has its own microclimate.IMG_9314

Fattoria Fibbiano is located in the town of Terriccola in the province of Pisa. Matteo said that the identity of this family-run winery “lies in their land. This is why we respect the local wine growing traditions, using only local grape varieties that we tend meticulously to obtain wines of the highest quality.
We maintain a number of manual processes, and treat our soils only with organic, non-chemical substances. Some of the vines are over 100 years old (2.5 hectares) and others are up to 20 years old (12 hectares).



Matteo ages all of his red wines in concrete tanks at some point. He believes that the concrete tanks lets the wine breathe and that helps the wines to develop. When I asked him if the tanks were lined with glass or epoxy, both he and Luca answered that the insides of the tanks were painted with a special paint.

Matteo also said that one couldn’t plan for the future unless one understands what was done in the past. This is a theme I have heard recently from a number of producers and Luca agreed.

Matteo said that Fattoria Fibbiano is also an agriturismo, a working farm that hosts guests.

The Wines of Fattoria FibbianoIMG_9317

Chianti Superiore “Casalini” 2011 DOCG made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Ciiliegiolo from the hills around Pisa. The soil is mostly clay. He believes that a “green harvest.” is very important. Harvest is in late September or early October.
The grapes are manually harvested and go through a gentle destemming process. Then they are placed inside specialized stainless steel tanks. In the tanks, the must goes through rotary agitation during the first 7 – 9 days of the fermentation process in order to obtain maximum extraction and separation of seeds to reduce harsher tannins. The must gets fermented by yeast that naturally collects on the grape skins at controlled temperatures and oxygen levels. The wine ages for 8 months in Slavonian oak barrels where malolactic fermentation takes place, and then is placed in bottle for 3 months for refinement. Matteo said that all of his red wines spend time in concrete tanks but he did say for how long. This is an easy drinking wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and blackberry.IMG_9315

Le Pianett 2011 IGT Toscana made from 70% Sangiovese and 30% Colorino. The wine is aged for 6 months in Slavonian oak barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red and black fruit with a hint of spice.IMG_9319

L’Aspetto 2010 IGT made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Canaiolo. The wine ages for 12 months in tonneaux where malolactic fermentation takes place with an additional 6 months in cement tanks and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of ripe red fruit, spice and a touch of blackberries.IMG_9322

Ceppatella 2009 IGT made from 100% Sangiovese. The harvest is in early October. The wine spends 6 months in tonneaux where malolactic fermentation takes place and 14 months in Salvonian oak barrels and five months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of tobacco, leather, and ripe red fruit.

Some of the vineyards are close to one 100 years old. They have adjusted to the land and have roots that go very deep. New vineyards are planted from the cuttings of the older vineyards. At one time, different varieties were planted in the vineyard so you are not always sure of the blend.


Luca Tommasini

Azienda Agricola Sangervasio is owned by the Tommasini family and Luca is the wine maker. It is in the ancient village of San Gervasio, in the province of Pisa.

Luca Tommasini said the winery is located in the hills of Pisa 25 Km from the Tyrrhenian sea. They are certified organic and follow the philosophy of biodynamic viniculture. The estate is 400 hectares of which 22 hectares are vineyards, at 160/200 meters. The density of vines are 6,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, there are low yields per plant, organically grown with a technology which respects nature. The wine making process is natural without any chemical additives. Only natural yeast that is on the skins of the grapes is used. Like Matteo, Luca believes that concrete is going to be used by more winemakers in the future.

Luca blends international grapes with native varieties and uses barriques. However, all of the wines show that he knows how to integrate the wine with the barriques so that the aromas and flavors of the grapes dominate. They are also an agriturismo with 12 apartments on the property.

The Wines of Azienda Agricola SangervasioIMG_9320

A Sirio 2011 IGT Tuscany 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon The vineyard is at 200 meters. Alcoholic fermentation is with natural yeasts and malolactic fermentation takes place in the same barriques where the wine is aged. Aging is for 14 months in barriques and at least 18 months in bottle before release. The wine is named after Luca’s grandfather. The wine has hints of red and black berries with a touch of spice.IMG_9324

I Renai 2008 100% Merlot Toscana Rosso IGT  Harvest is by hand the last week of August, and there are 10,000 plants per hectare. Alcoholic fermentation is in concrete tanks with natural yeasts. Malolactic fermentation is in the same barriques where the wine has been aged. The wine ages for 14 months in new 225-liter barriques and spends at least 18 months in barrel before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry with a touch of spice.IMG_9316

Chianti 2014 DOCG 100% Sangiovese There are 6,000/10,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand the 3rd week of September. Fermentation with natural yeasts in temperature controlled concrete tanks. It is aged 6 months in concrete tanks and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has  hints  of wild berries with a touch violets, and good minerality.IMG_9331

Recinaio 2004 DOC Etruria Central, Vin Santo made from 70% Sangiovese, 15% San Colombano and15% Sangiovese from 35 year old vines. There are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of October. The grapes dehydrate naturally until February and are manually pressed, fermentation is in new 112 liter barrels and it is aged for 8 years in the barrel and rests for 12 months in a temperature controlled environment before release. This is a subtle dessert wine with flavors and aromas of figs, almonds and honey. I could not stop drinking the wine with biscotti.

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Filed under Azienda Agricola Sangervasio, Chianti, Fattoria Fibbiano, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Luca Tommasini, Matteo Cantoni, Wines of Pisa

Visiting Tiziana Settimo

Tony Di Dio of Tony Dio Selections first introduced me to Tiziana Settimo of the Aurelio Settimo winery when he invited me to a tasting and dinner a few years ago. Tony told me that it is a very traditional winery and he thought I would like their wines. He was right.


Tiziana Settimo

Tiziana invited me to visit her winery in Piedmont. This November I took her up on her offer. As we walked through the vineyards, Tiziana told us something about her family history.IMG_9179

The Settimo family first settled in Annunziata in Piedmont in 1943. In the beginning they practiced mixed farming (as did most of Italy), having vineyards, fruit and hazelnut trees, and breeding hens, rabbits and cows.  They sold off almost all their grapes.  When Tiziana’s father Aurelio took over the winery, he decided to grow only grapes and expanded the vineyards.  At first they continued to sell 50% of their grapes but in 1974 Aurelio decided to keep all of the grapes and vinify the wine on site.


Concrete Tanks

Tiziana said she had worked at her father’s side for twenty years until his death in 2007. The winery is now a family affair run mostly by women.  The only man involved is Tiziana’s brother-in-law.IMG_9166

Every time I see Tiziana she makes it clear that this is a very traditional winery and that she uses the same methods as her late father Aurelio. They only use natural cork for the wines. She did say that one thing is different: her father used Slovenian oak for his barrels and she is using French oak from Allier. She feels that the French oak gives the wine a more elegant character.

We tasted some of the wines at the winery and some we had with lunch.IMG_9171

We started with a Rosè Sett made from 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Dolcetto. Short fermentation on the skins and the wine is aged for 6 months in concrete tanks. The wine is not available in the USA.IMG_9172

Dolcetto D’Alba 2014 DOC 100% Dolcetto Exposure is east, the soil is calcareous. Harvest is by hand. There is a short fermentation on the skins, with submerged cap for 7 days and frequent pumping over of the must. Malolactic is in concrete and it is aged in concrete for 6 months and 3 months in bottle before release. It has hints of cherry, blackberry, and plum with notes of violet and almonds.IMG_9174

Langhe Nebbiolo 2011 DOC 100% Nebbiolo  Tiziana explained that this wine is produced from grapes grown from younger vineyards facing south-east, the same area as the Nebbiolo used to make Barolo. The maximum yield of 8,00kg is also the same. Compared to the Barolo it under goes on shorter maceration ( 7days) on the skins and is aged I concrete tanks for 46 months. It is normally ready to drink without needing to age. It has hints of blackberries, raspberries, liquorice and a touch of violets.IMG_9176

Barolo “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2010 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo (Lampia) The exposure is south, southwest, the soil is calcareous and the harvest is by hand. Fermentation takes place on the skins for 15 to 20 days with submerged cap, with frequent breaking up of the cap and pumping over the must, followed by maturing in oak casks of 2,500 and 3,500 liters. Malolactic is in concrete. Aging is for 24 months in big oak casks. The age of barrels is 10 to 15 years and they are French oak, Allier and Nevers, and the barrels are not toasted. The wine in aged in bottle (natural cork) for at least 6 months before release. This is an elegant and full-bodied wine with all the classic Nebbiolo aromas and flavors.IMG_9177

Barolo 2010 Aged for 12 months in concrete tanks and 24 months in big French oak barrels. It has hints of tar, faded roses, tea and red fruit.IMG_9193

Barolo “Riserva Rocche” 2004 100% Nebbiolo (Lambia) Aged for 36 months in big oak casks and 12 months in bottle before release. It can age for 20 to 25 years. The wine has hints of spice, liquorice, red fruit and a touch of truffle and is drinking very well.IMG_9187

Tiziana invited us to lunch at Osteria Veglio.

We had been there before and enjoyed the experience. Tiziana said that it was under new management and that the food was even better. She was right.IMG_9191

I had ravioli del plin, small meat filled ravioli, with white truffles followed by cotechino sausage with mashed potatoes.IMG_9189

Tiziana’s wine was an excellent accompaniment with the food.



Filed under Aurelio Settimo Winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Rose