June 1, 2018 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2018 issue
Words Albert Cilia-Vincenti
Red wines for warmer summer days would normally mean wines made from paler-skinned grapes which usually (but not always) means lighter-coloured wines with less robust and more subtle flavours, though deceptively not much lacking in alcohol. The grapes that immediately come to mind are Burgundy’s Pinot Noir, Piedmont’s Nebbiolo and Beaujolais’s Gamay. More recently we would also consider Nerello Mascalese from Sicily’s Etna region and another Sicilian grape, Frappato.
Frappato is mainly used in a blend with Nero d’Avola in south-east Sicily in the DOC “Cerasuolo di Vittoria”, the Frappato adding fruit and freshness to the more powerful Nero d’Avola. A few producers make a 100% Frappato.
Up to a few decades ago the conventional wisdom was that Pinot Noir did not “travel” from its Burgundy spiritual home, until the USA started producing some good examples, then followed by New Zealand, South America, South Africa, north-east Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The latter is now producing some excellent and good value Pinot Noir.
South Africa is producing some high quality white and red wines, including Pinot Noir. In a recent session of our blind-tasting wine club, we tasted Jean-Claude & Carolyn Martin’s Creation Pinot Noir 2013 (14%; €25), Walker Bay, South Africa. This wine had lovely scent and a balanced palate with good length. It was way in front of the others for me, and a majority of our members registered a similar assessment. I couldn’t find an international score for this wine, but so what? It was thumbs up with us.
Arianna Occhipinti’s Il Frappato 2013 (13%; €26), Vittoria, Sicily, was rated overall second preference by the membership, albeit just ahead of Elena Walch’s Ludwig Pinot Nero 2013 (13%; €20), Alto Adige, Italy. I scored Il Frappato into third place, noting a subtle fresh nose with slightly fruity and mainly acidic palate with little length. This wine is scored internationally an average of 92/100. I scored the Ludwig Pinot Nero into second place, way down from the South African Pinot. Ludwig had a lovely Pinot nose but I felt it had something strange and unbalanced with the palate, which was mainly acidic with little length. Average international score across vintages for this wine is 89/100.
Jean Foillard’s Morgon “Côte de Py” 2013 (12.5%; €23) was scored overall fourth preference. I noted a refined complex bouquet which unfortunately led to an acidic unremarkable palate with little length. I scored it alongside the Frappato. One international critic rates it 91/100.
Some of these wines may have been tasted too young. Good Morgon, for instance, may mature into a Pinot Noir look-alike after 10 years. We probably taste most wines too young because that’s what’s available on the market at the time. However, opinions vary about what pleases more as regards wine maturation, some preferring younger fruitier wines while other drinkers prefer the complexity of mature wine when fruit and tannin have been subdued and complexed with other chemical compounds including wood-derived ones.
Opinions and tastes also vary about preference for robust or gentler wines, as with varying preferences for either strongly flavoured or more delicately tasting foods. These are the seeds of discussion and frequent disagreement between diners, including our members. We do not all have the same olfactory senses.
A white wine aperitif was served which was a 2015 Pfeffingen Scheurebe Troken, Pfalz, Germany (13%; €22). Members had some widely varying opinions about it. I found this wine had a most attractive Riesling-like character with added exotic fruit hints. In fact, the Scheurebe grape is said to be a cross between Sylvaner and Riesling. I would prefer this strong-character wine anytime to, say, a Greco di Tufo, which just adds to what we’ve been noting about drinkers’ very different preferences.