I open Youtube, start playing Prince, pour a glass of white and type the first words of this article. It all kind of falls into place and goes with the flow of a stupendous experience I had in Belgrade this past weekend on Wine Style’s Wine Point. Aleksandar Duković, the leading wine expert in Serbia (both in my perception and according to the certification he holds), created something worth all the praise in the world – a six-hour event led solely by the finest people in the industry. Now, you readers living outside of the Balkans will probably think „oh, come on, MWs have presentations every other week in my city“, but for us this is a serious step forward and not at all an easy task to accomplish.
Basically, Wine Point was a WSET/MW seminar followed by a grand tasting of Antinori wines. Frank Smulders, a Dutch Master of Wine (MW) and one of the principal educators in the business today, guided 30 people through the classic systematic approach of tasting, explained what it takes to receive the highest title in this trade and guided us through all the levels of the largest wine institute in the world – Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). After that, export manager Alessandro Leone led a tasting of six epochal Antinori wines, among which were iconic Tignanello and Solaia. Everything, from the organization to the teachers, was of exceptional quality, so let’s sincerely hope that this becomes a thing in our region and helps put aside all the nonsense that’s been suffocating many consumers to this day.
Below are my tasting notes followed by subjective scores to help you get a better idea of the good, the bad and the badass. Because the first tasting included 12 wines, Antinori will be evaluated in an additional article (link below).
Cascina Lo Zoccolaio Barolo 2008
Barolo, Piemonte, Italy
Even though this is the first wine I’m describing, it was the last one in our tasting before grande Antinori, but a definite cherry on the top. Clear medium tawny red. Big earthy funk blends beautifully with sweet maraschino, tar and fresh leather. The complexity is immediately detectable on the nose, but this Barolo shows its true character with the very first sip. Abrasive tannins carry the whole structure of expressed acidity and high alcohol across the finish line. Solid fruit comes in in the shape of raspberry and dried fig. Dense and wonderful structure which simply begs for a juicy beef steak and large doses of hedonism.
Radovanović Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
Krnjevo, Šumadija, Serbia
When you try Cabs at a blind tasting, 99% of the time you have no idea who the producer is. All you can guess is whether or not it’s Old or New World style. This was a proper screamer from Serbia. Deep ruby red. An intoxicating spicy nose, with tones of green pepper, black fruit and sweet spices (vanilla, cloves). In the mouth, I feel big luscious oak, alluring acidity and beautifully integrated alcohol. Lean and mean, vivacious and complex, showing a definite Left Bank model in the heart of the Balkans.
Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, Chile
Don Melchor was Chile’s first icon wine to receive unswervingly high praise and appreciation year after year since it first hit the market. The vineyards used to grow this wine’s grapes are situated at the foot of the Andes Mountains (Puente Alto, Maipo Valley) at 650m altitude, which gives them the essential cooling effect needed to balance out the sugars and acids. The wine is characterized by a deep garnet red with a nose showing tones of black fruit (blackberry, plum, blueberry) with tons of secondary and tertiary notes (tobacco, paprika, mint, smoke). Chewy tannins, balanced out nicely with the acidity and alcohol. Just enough New World intensity and just enough Old World backbone.
Markus Molitor Wehlener Klosterberg Kabinett Riesling 2014
Wehlen, Mosel, Germany
This fellow took over his father’s winery at age 20 and made some classic examples of Mosel Riesling. The wine is medium lemon color in the glass and highly refreshing on the nose – ridiculously reminiscent of a freshly washed public bathroom with a tad of rubber/wax in the background. I’m getting an off-dry palate with shocking acidity, low alcohol and juicy green/citrus fruit. Exceptional varietal and regional expression, bull’s-eye.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2013
Medium garnet color. The nose is showing nice varietal expression, jumping out with tones of red fruit (raspberry, strawberry, cherry), charred wood, caramel and cloves. In the mouth, an eerie delicateness catches you off-guard and drags you in for another glass. Well-rounded, displaying beautiful fruit (raspberry, cherry marmalade) followed by patent-leather caramel sweetness. Even though I know that this is objectively nothing more than a good everyday wine, I adore it and would gladly come back to it more often.
Torre de Ona Rioja Reserva 2010
Rioja Alta, Rioja, Spain
A Tempranillo-dominant wine coming from the most celebrated sub-region of Rioja – Rioja Alta. Deep garnet red. Massive nose displaying sweet cherry, blueberry, dried plum and liquorice with splashes of secondary/tertiary aromas (Vanilla Coke drunk with freshly rolled Cuban cigars). Almost bone dry with medium tannins and acidity. Pure varietal and stylistic expression, showing a deep concentration of plum, sweet spices, coconut and wet leaves. Lot of bang for the buck here.
Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, New Zealand
Dating back to 1895, Babich has a long history and highly important influence on New Zealand’s winemaking scene. Starting out as Croatian immigrants selling gum and digging for a living, the winery today has a status of one of the most admired brands in the New World. Their Black Label Sauvignon Blanc was first produced in 2005, while this vintage marks the winery’s 100-year anniversary and is expressed through textbook aromas of elderflower, tomato leaf, green pepper, asparagus and tropical fruit. Dry with a medium acidity (a bit surprising for this variety), succulent fruit concentration and long finish. A wine just begging for food (goat’s cheese or feta, njam!).
Eugenio Collavini Collio Pinot Grigio Villa del Canlungo 2015
Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Ah, Pinot Grigio, my weakest link in a blind tasting. This one was no exception. Coming from Collio, a fairly mild region in terms of climate, this wine had a stunning acidity, which was the main element to throw me off and lead me to mix it up with Chardonnay. The nose was pretty expressive for a PG, showing notes of peach, tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, lychee), lime juice and hints of butter coming from the MLF. A rather simple wine, well-balanced yes, but nothing too complex, nor deep.
Weingut Bründlmayer Käferberg Reserve 2014
Kamptal is always a precious throwback to the time spent at Austria’s Wine Academy, tasting rows upon rows of Grüner Veltliner. I liked the diversity of Wine Point’s staff regarding the selection. It was not your standard “give ‘em the classic grape varieties and keep it simple”, but rather an intriguing and fun blend of bottles. This Grüner showed one thing on the nose and a complete opposite on the palate. Aromas of citrus fruit, apricot, melon and MLF (biscuit, yeast) gripping every sniff, while the palate was dominated by a great flavour intensity showing flint, marzipan, sweet spices and yellow apple. Juicy, long finish, expressed acidity and medium alcohol. Drink now or keep it in your cellar for the next five years.
Radovanović Cabernet Sauvignon Classique 2015
Krnjevo, Šumadija, Serbia
I never understood why people make or drink utterly young Cabernets. It’s clearly one of those varieties that are destined to be great, if not the greatest. This didn’t even start to show this character with its violet color and floral-fruit nose reminiscent of cheap Beaujolais. The palate was not bad though – good balance of acidity and alcohol, medium tannins and a refreshing juiciness. Prevalent primary notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violets and mint.
Jean Durup Château de Maligny Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2014
Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis, Burgundy, France
Boom, classic Chablis right off the top. Pale lemon color. Flinty-fruit nose showing tones of apricot, lime zest and pleasant herbal hints. Dry with vibrant acidity and light alcohol. Stripped of any excess fat to truly express this exemplary Burgundian appellation. Simple and precise, like a Sunday stroll in the park. The only thing it’s lacking besides complexity is a longer finish. A lesson learned for the next vintage.
Jacob’s Creek Classic Chardonnay 2015
South Eastern Australia, Australia
The way Frank explained the step-by-step process of getting a massively produced New World Chardonnay to your table purely amazed me. This is why education is so important in the wine world, to finally answer your prime question – why is this wine less expensive than a French/Californian/Spanish one? The profile of this bottle showed it all. Medium lemon color. Nose showing tones of stone/green fruit (apricot, peach, yellow apple, pear), flint (but an artificial kind, probably coming from the oak chips) and green olives. Very simple palate, leaving no other impression but that of an easy-drinking weekday wine.
Written by Aleksandar Draganić.
I’m a WSET certified grape juice drinker, and yes, I’m that 1% of people that love their job. I drink wine, write about it, preach about it, even take pictures of it. Find me at @grapenomad