Past, Present and Future – Tasting New and Old Vintages at Ruinart

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Ruinart´s style is about aromatic freshness, pure fruit flavors and immense drinkability. The wines are always on the gently reductive side, made with zero oak, but 100% malolactic fermentation. Still, Ruinart never shows any malolactic flavors. While the wines are of substance and juice, they are mostly of focus and decent phenolic grip – especially in their youth. A distinct style that shows in all wines from their cellars.

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We visited the Maison to taste the new vintages of Ruinart´s Blanc de Blancs as well as their Rosé Champagne last week. During our stay we also had the chance to taste all other wines of the Maison plus a range of matured vintages.

2006 was a hot and rather wet vintage that delivered plentiful crop of good ripeness with little botrytis. Therefore, strict selection was essential during harvest from 7th to 25th of September.
Dom Ruinart´s 2006 Blanc de Blancs fruit comes mostly from the villages of Chouilly, Le Mesnil and Avize (total of 63% from the Cote de Blancs) and  from Sillery and Puisieulx (total of 37% from Montagne de Reims).

It shows very fresh from the beginning with aromas of citrus, stone fruit, white florals, delicate spiciness, little toasty notes and chalky minerality. Showing the distinct Ruinart fingerprint on the palate with gentle green grip, immense freshness, elegance and, yet, lots of substance and presence. Flavors of yellow fruits, some brioche and fine spiciness stand out. Acidity (6,9gr/l) gives life and focus while balancing the sweetness. Thanks to the natural ripeness of the vintage dosage was low (4,5gr/l).
A beautiful Blanc de Blancs for medium-term enjoyment!

Dom Ruinart 2004 Rosé benefited from a rather hot and dry 2004 vintage. Lots of sunshine, little rain and warm temperatures led to an excellent and healthy crop. The 2004 Rosé champagne is very aromatic and inviting with a nose of guava, lychee, raspberry, rose pedal, some stone fruits and delicate minerality. It is very pure and crisp on the palate as citrus, orange zest and red fruits appear. Herbal freshness and little spiciness create, together with vibrant acidity (7,3gr/l), tension. Great length, complexity and drinking pleasure in a Rosé of 81% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Noir. Even though in its youth, it is already great to drink, but will provide even more fun and fascination over its long future.

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Amongst many beautifully matured champagnes we tasted during our visit the 1998 and 1990 Rosé stood out.
Dom Ruinart 1998 Rosé (MAGNUM) is still youthfully tight, fresh and dense. Tropical fruit, citrus and raspberry, fine spiciness and herbaceous notes create an almost ethereal weightlessness. The wine is focused, precise and vibrant on the palate. Structured for eternity with vital acidity, great length and complexity. An exceptional champagne!
Dom Ruinart 1990 Rosé (MAGNUM) started very dark and ripe, but gained focus and freshness with more aeration. Ripe stone fruit, berries, smoky layers, dried leaves, forest floor, mushrooms and orange peel create a multi-layered, intriguing aroma profile. Ripe and juicy on the palate with a solid backbone of fine acidity and lots of substance.
Everything you would expect from a great champagne from an brillant vintage.

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Tasting Note: Shafer 2009 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

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1. Introduction:
After tasting Shafer´s 2008 Red Shoulder Ranch in this Blog a few months ago, it is now time to try the 2009.
The Red Shoulder Ranch vineyard in the Carneros region offers a long, consistently cool growing season, which is ideal for retaining acidity in Chardonnay fruit.
Shafer uses only wild yeast for fermentation and does not put the wine through malolactic fermentation to focus on the varietal flavors.
Another perfect bottle in condition with a healthy cork. 14,9% alc.

2. Appearance:
Golden- yellow in the glass. Vibrant and bright.

3. Nose:
Ripe Stone and Tropical Fruits, with Peach, Apricot, Pineapple, Melon and little Citrus.
Honey and hints of Lilac. Some spicy Soft Cheese. Mineral notes.
Rich, but precise and filigree!

4. Taste:
Accurate, fresh Fruit forward. Again, Peach, Pineapple and also little Banana.
Beautiful Herbal Spiciness and dancing Acidity and Minerality.
Finishes long, but cautious, with nice, crisp Fruit, Minerality, Acidity and little Pepperiness.
Very elegant with a fresh and comforting mouthfeel!

5. Opinion:
Great balance and proportions deliver a wine that is very intense and rich, but very filigree and precise, too. Great play of fruit, freshness and complexity.
The relatively high alcohol percentage (14,9%) is not noticeable at all.
Beautiful and, due to its fineness, a little better than the 2008. Cheers!

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Tasting Note: Wieninger 2012 Bisamberg Gemischter Satz

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1. Introduction:
Fritz Wieninger is properly the winemaker who is responsible for the renaissance of wine from Vienna and the “Gemischter Satz” in particular.
The Gemischter Satz has a long tradition in the viticulture around Vienna and is a field blend from sometimes 10 or more different varietals, which are planted in one vineyard and are all harvested at the same time.
His latest release is from the Bisamberg vineyard, where three Burgundian varietals grow side by side: Pinot Blanc (~40%), Pinot Gris (~40%) and Chardonnay (~20%).
The first release from the Bisamberg Old Vines, which we taste today, comes from the good 2012 vintage.
Bottle and VinoLok closure are in perfect condition.

2. Appearance:
Bright straw-yellow with green reflexes. Vibrant.

3. Nose:
Vital aromas of Citrus- and Stone Fruits with present Acidity. Some Raspberry.
Perfume paired with Spring Flowers. Hints of Soft Cheese and Smoke.
Fresh and inviting nose!

4. Taste:
Fruit forward with Stone Fruits and some Grapefruit. Fresh Herbs.
Finishes medium-long with present Acidity and Spicyness of Anise and Pepper.
Harmonious, medium to full-bodied and complex!

5. Opinion:
Nice and racy mix of three Burgundian varietals!
Even though it´s just been bottled in April, it drinks beautifully now,
but is good for medium to long-term cellaring, too.
A young, but round and well-balanced wine with present acidity.

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@ Weingut Wieninger, May 2013

CellarTV in brief IV.: About Cork and Screwcaps (Part I.)

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About Cork and Screwcaps (Part I.)

Nobody questioned the closure of a bottle of wine 20 years ago; every bottle was closed with a natural cork as a matter of cause. But for years, and especially today again, the question of how to close a bottle of wine has been discussed a lot.
In recent articles in Wine Spectator (written by James Laube) or the Wine Companion (James Halliday) the authors even postulate to totally get rid of corks, but generally the existing views couldn´t be more different and opposed.
This article reflects and discusses the different angles without delivering an absolute decision or answering the question, which option might be the only best, but it gives an explanation, why almost every winemaker has his very own, individual philosophy and view on this topic.
The idea that high-quality wine has to have a natural cork on top is still very common in the heads of the wine consumers in the Old World as well as in the US and in Asia.
Ultimately, cork has a very long tradition and I guess that most (if not all) of the great wines you ever had were closed with a natural cork, right?

It is a ritual to remove the cork from your favored bottle for a special occasion, which is strongly linked to our image of a wine experience.
Futhermore, it is common thought that cheap and bad wine, if not served from a carton anyhow, is closed with a screwcap or with crown cap.

Well, before I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of cork and screwcap closures, let me say, that this matter of fact is not totally correct anymore. The times when cork was a quality indicator are generally over.
Though, cork might still indicate quality on some markets, many producers, mostly in the New World as in Australia and New Zealand, but also premium wineries in Germany and Austria, use alternatives to cork to lock their top wines- mostly with screwcap (twist-off closures) or the VinoLok glass closure.
Therefore, the different types of closures don´t say anything about the quality of the content.
As natural cork comes with shortcomings, which lead to several wine faults, some visionaries started to look for alternative closures years ago.

One central disadvantage results from the emotional advantage that cork is a naturally grown product and, thereby, individually different with varying influences on the wine in the bottle.
Natural cork is (variable) permeable and contains some air in its pores as well.
Thus, wine ages faster under a cork closure than under a hermetic twist-off or VinoLok closure, which isn´t a problem generally, but represents one argument in the decision process for or against cork.
While tannin-rich wines benefit from little oxygen during their maturation process, light and delicate white wines might oxidize in an unwanted and unpleasant way.
Studies in the Australian Hunter Valley examining the effect of the type of closure on the wine showed, that delicate Semillon wines matured perfectly and as the winemaker intended under screwcap, while the wines under cork where oxidized with even 25% defective after five years of cellaring. I don´t know to which extent bad cork was responsible for this drastic number of ruined wines, because there are many great examples of gracefully aged white wines under cork; such as the many perfect conditioned, impressing German Rieslings, which have matured for many decades under natural cork.
If a cork lets too much air into the bottle and doesn´t fulfill his closing function anymore, the wine will oxidize and turn unenjoyable. Natural cork is more vulnerable to variations in temperature and lack of (air) humidity than other closures. If a cork dries out, it shrinks, crumbles and/ or deforms and, thereby, loses its sealing capacity. Oxidation or even leakage are the consequences.

Cork taint still is the main problem in connection with natural cork, when substances from the cork are released into the wine and influence the taste. Many of these taste variations due to cork taint (or random oxidation) are hard to recognize- especially by unexperienced consumers. The wine perhaps tastes dull, pale or bitter.
2,4,6- trichloroanisole (TCA) contamination is the most common reason for cork taint and shows unpleasant musty, sometimes leathery aromas and flavors in the wine, which are similar to wet cardboard. Even though the numbers differ significantly, I assume an error rate of about 4% as realistic.
Winemakers as well as consumers have to decide, whether they can, respectively want, to tolerate a failure rate of 4% for a product.
You should also consider that TCA contamination isn´t always related to the use of natural cork closures. Besides, wine faults can also result from poor winemaking or bad storage of wine, but TCA can develop- without any connection to the usage of cork- in surroundings where, damp surfaces and chlorine-based cleaning products are routine and meet barrels, wooden pallets, cardboard cases or other sources of phenols, because TCA forms through the interaction of plant phenols, chlorine and mold. If TCA remains undiscovered, it can spread and eventually taint the wines.

Obviously, with the decision to use natural cork for your wines you have to be aware of some disadvantages and risks. The reliability of a cork closure remains limited. Although the cork producers have done a lot to increase the quality level of their products, due to growing market pressure – especially when losing almost entire markets (e.g. in Australia and New Zealand) – and, thereby, reduced the chances of flawed products significantly.
As a matter of fact, the striving for quality and the strict screening during the cork selection by the producers, as well as later by the buying wineries, led to an increase in costs.
One single premium cork costs about 0,8€ (1USD) today.

Part II. is online next week!

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Tasting Note: Shafer Vineyards 2008 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

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1. Introduction:
The only white wine in Shafer´s portfolio comes from the cooler south of Napa Valley, Carneros, where growing conditions are perfect for Chardonnay.
Named after the Red Shouldered Hawks patrolling the vineyard, this barrel fermented Chardonnay ages in 75% oak barrels and 25% stainless steel barrels without malolactic fermentation.
Our 2008 Red Shoulder Ranch bottle was cellared well and is in perfect condition!

2. Appearance:
Bright and Golden in the glass.

3. Nose:
Ripe Tropical Fruits, like Mango, Pineapple, Melon and some Citrus.
Characters of Almonds and Vanilla. Some Honey and Floral hints.
Rich, but elegant and inviting!

4. Taste:
Medium to full-bodied with a soft texture and flavors of Minerals, decent Tropical Fruits and Caramel.
Nice Acidity followed by a long finish with Spices as Pepper and Anise.
Comforting and grown-up.

5. Opinion:
A rich, round and perfectly integrated and balanced wine with perfect proportions!
Beautiful and probably best now.

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