Grape Nomad’s Top 10 Cellar Picks of 2016

When reviewing 2016, I can’t help but think only one thing – what a shitty year for the world. Alan Rickman, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen died, Donald Trump became president of the US, refugee crises overflowed the news, people still think that sweet wines are cheap rubbish that should solely be paired with poor life decisions. Oh well, at least true wine lovers have been drinking some nice stuff to drown their sorrows and enter 2017 in style, like Kanye West did at the MTV Awards a few years back. But before you go anywhere and start analyzing the trends of next year (which you probably won’t follow), allow me to introduce you to the first Grape Nomad annual recap! Here, you’ll read about MY highest rated wines of 2016, wines that have blown me away with their sexiness and helped me rethink the complexity of this business. Because I decided to discover Italy in detail this year, you’ll see that their wines are pretty dominant in the selection. As a side-note, these are not bottles necessarily released during the year, nor are the scores something you have to blindly follow. I urge you to explore, be open and enjoy whatever gems you find from these top 10 picks. Continue reading “Grape Nomad’s Top 10 Cellar Picks of 2016”

There’s Never a “Right Time” for Rosé

With certainty, I can say that most people who are reading this article do not think of rosé as their first option at dinner and there is a very good reason for this. It is well-known that some producers have the constant goal of throwing rosés onto the market because it’s chic now to have a meek wine and call it “an aperitif” for sipping by the pool without blacking out on the burning sun. But fortunately for us, everything has its positive side; you just have to make a hell of an effort to discover it. Continue reading “There’s Never a “Right Time” for Rosé”

Il Più Grande: The Art of Marchesi Antinori

The fact that every serious winelover knows at least one wine from this immense selection displays how big the Antinori brand actually is. Opened in 1385 (yes, you read it right), this winery developed its roots in beloved Florence (Tuscany, Italy) and is currently active in three other countries – Romania, Hungary and the US. However, it is most recognizable for its historic role of shaping one of the most famous Italian wine styles, the so-called Super Tuscans.

In 1971, Marchesi Antinori decided to stand up against Italian wine laws that allowed mixing white grape varieties with red, but forbade blending in international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (*facepalm*). He got stripped of his DOCG status, with the Italian government laughing in his face and assigning him the vino da tavola label (table wine, the lowest rank you can get in Italy). Our young hero did not wither and soon received a reward for this brave act – a recognition in the US press as a rebel with a cause. Today, his Tignanello for example, has a mere IGT status (regional wine), even though it meets all requirements for DOCG. This is a perfect symbol of dissent against the rigid Italian wine tradition that began 45 years ago and managed to launch Antinori in the crème de la crème of iconic brands today. Continue reading “Il Più Grande: The Art of Marchesi Antinori”

Around the World in 18 Wines: Wine Point, Belgrade led by Frank Smulders MW

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). Continue reading “Around the World in 18 Wines: Wine Point, Belgrade led by Frank Smulders MW”

Must-Try Wines from Campania, Puglia, Calabria & Sicilia

Airplanes and hotels have never been my first option when traveling. It’s not that I don’t like the commodity, it’s just that I like the adventure and looong philosophical window sessions a lot more. But besides all the fun and games I create for myself, every once in a while I get to be part of something profoundly professional fused with a colossal amount of enjoyment. This time my destination was Belgrade, Serbia where a Masterclass of southern-Italian wine was held by Barbara Tamburini (consultant oenologist for more than 15 Italian wineries) and Igor Luković (editor at Vino & Fino) in the Hyatt Regency. The trip was organized by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), which is spread out in more than 65 countries and works strongly on the promotion of high-quality Italian products.

This two-day hedonistic trip was opened by a visit to the gastronomically acclaimed Madera restaurant in the heart of the capital. Our group was served a 5-course wine & food pairing consisting of local cheese, beefsteak, chocolate mousse, Malvasia Nera and other delicacies. But the true enjoyment started the next day. Continue reading “Must-Try Wines from Campania, Puglia, Calabria & Sicilia”

Vertically Discovering Dingač with Vicelić Wines

This vertical tasting was not just an everyday work task with a due date attached to it, but rather an event proving why we’re living such a beautiful life. It was the first time I organized an official tasting for a group of close friends interested in the world of wine, but quite hesitant to put their finger on what exactly they like about it. We sniffed and tasted four wines from the same winery, grape variety and region, but of different vintages (2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010). They enjoyed it so much, that my very good compadre Adin even wrote a passage about the whole experience and sensory escapade he went through. Here’s a small excerpt that I’m most proud of:

At the beginning of the evening, Saša told us that Dingač 2011 was probably the best one in the flight. For me, it was not only the best one in the flight, but the best red wine I’ve ever tried. So I say to Saša, “I just lit a cigarette after a meal, but I can’t remember which dish preceded the cigarette”. He laughs, turns around and pulls out three Cuban cigars out of the drawer. After the third sip of wine, I remember what came before the cigarette and finish my imaginary dinner with a perfect chocolate souffle. And yes, the cigars and wine enhance the intensity of this blissful moment which I could’ve sworn I’ve experienced in a past life.

Plavac Mali is a grape variety well-known to the majority of Slavic people living in the Balkans. It is highly appreciated for its robust wines marked by high fruit concentration and tannins. Its kingdom is the Pelješac peninsula (Dalmatia, Croatia) where it thrives on sandy soils and receives optimal sun treatment on south-facing slopes. Why particularly wines from this area? Well, there’s this young winemaker Continue reading “Vertically Discovering Dingač with Vicelić Wines”

Heaven’s Gates: Tokaj, Hungary

Binding the Tokaj wine region with Budapest in one trip could be compared to a perfectly arranged dinner – you receive an exciting appetizer, which intrigues just a tad, and then you wait for the main course that nurtures a slight tremor to your senses’ core. The final class of the WSET Diploma study was completed with visits to the Disznoko and Szepsy wineries, the giants of Tokaji wines. Their best creations, bursting of botrytis flavours, explained why iconic Tokaji wines have been a privilege and a definition for diversity in the wine world for centuries.

At first glance, Tokaj, this epochal region, does not give off any meticulous charm; you’re driving along the road surrounded by meadows and gentle hills, without any fascinating landscapes, monuments, unusually planted vineyards. But after a few minutes, spontaneously and almost imperceptibly, the thought hits you – this area has an amazing history of independence, economic meltdown, historic intrigue and phoenix winemaking, in which the verb to give up does not exist.

Tokaj, Hungary’s wine region located in the northeast of the country, is so highly respected that it even managed to get a spot in the national anthem, in which the people give gratitude to God for providing them with this sweet vineyard nectar (Tokaj szölövesszein nektárt csepegtettél). No wonder, because once you try liquid gold, reasons become irrelevant. All that matters is that unwavering pleasure that lasts and lasts and lasts… Continue reading “Heaven’s Gates: Tokaj, Hungary”

5 Wines to Keep on Your Travel Radar for 2016

Last month, the Prowein International Trade Fair for Wine and Spirits, the largest in Europe, was held in Dusseldorf, Germany. Some 52,000 visitors, 6,000 exhibitors, and 1,000 journalists from 47 countries came to the industry-only event. Even for people that make a living from wine, arriving at the gates of this fair for the first time feels a bit like Frodo in front Mordor; you get a jolt of excitement mixed with pure bliss and a hint of anxiety. Rows and rows of exhibition halls stretch in every direction, displaying every type of vino imaginable: European, New World classics, and exotic destinations such as Bolivia and Lebanon.

My task to readers—as a wine shop owner, sommelier, and devotee of reds and whites—was to find the five wines across the planet that travelers should keep their eyes on this coming year. The results of that mission are below. I hope your discovery of these wines adds special meaning to your journeys this year.

Colio Estate Prism Vidal Icewine 2013
Lake Erie, North Shore, Canada

Canada is COLD. Living there for six years, I completely understand why Canadians are famous for their luscious icewines, better known as “liquid gold.” Producing since 1985, Ontario proves, year in year out, why it has ideal conditions for these types of wines: warm summers to ripen the grapes and cold winters to leave them on the vines until late January for temperatures of 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in order to fully concentrate the juices and flavors and get a beverage with high sugars and low alcohol. Awarded gold at the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada, Vidal’s icewine lives up to this reward fully. Putting my nose inside the glass was like putting it in a jar of granny’s apricot jam—fresh, fruity and sweet. On the palate, it’s pure syrup, with notes of orange zest, ripe nectarine, dripping honey and pineapple. The acidity creates the backbone of the wine and is carried out gorgeously in the lasting aftertaste. Continue reading “5 Wines to Keep on Your Travel Radar for 2016”

How to Create a Successful Wine List

The wine list is a very important part of communication between the restaurant and the guest, so its quality is mostly placed head to head with the restaurant’s menu. Although most restaurant owners engage into the selection of wines themselves, I believe that it is never a bad idea to listen to the advice of those who are professionally occupied with wines.

Head to a restaurant and ask the owner what’s the most important thing for a good wine list. Most will tell you that it’s definitely a wider selection of prestigious and expensive wines. Consumers think differently. With the exception of a few wine lovers, the most important thing is that the wine list is readable, understandable, and well designed. There is truth in both statements, but the goal is to take a little from both worlds.

When I consider the essential purpose of a wine list, a few general principles come to mind. First, it should be presented as a precise catalogue of available wines and an effective tool to improve sales and service. Look at it as free marketing of the wine program. The design and organization tell a lot about a restaurant. If the wine list is dry and plain, it is likely that the restaurant will be the same. On the other hand, if it is creative with inventive descriptions that are dedicated to pairing wine and food, it will set priorities in a totally different way. Wines should not be listed by prices, because guests will feel inferior, as if they will be judged by how much money they spend. Descriptions should be the same length for each wine. If the staff devotes itself only to premium labels, neglecting, for example, medium-quality wines, they give the impression of being condescending or arrogant. The difference between a good wine list and excellent wine list is in focus. It is necessary to take into account the food being served. Wines on the list may be good, but if they do not go with the food, the point is missed. Continue reading “How to Create a Successful Wine List”

Prowein 2015, Day 1: From the Balkans to the Balkans

I don’t usually blindly trust someone, especially when they’re discussing events and/or architecture. When people talked about the size of Prowein, I shook my head and said to myself, “Ok, I believe that exhibitions are big, but that they are boundless, yep, let’s slowly re-evaluate this step by step.” But what I saw in Dusseldorf was totally unexpected, so to say Prowein is big is an understatement. As soon as I set foot on the escalator, I saw what awaited me in the next three days. It was a bit like when Frodo approaching Mordor – excitement escalating from minute to minute, combined with immense happiness and a hint of fear.

I was lucky that I visited this wine attraction at 24 for the first time, which is a great age, because the visitors were, in average, between 30 and 60. Being a newcomer at an event like this is no easy task. Expectations are high and days are short, as with everything in life. For the first day, I made a plan – to visit Italy, France and Southeast Europe. Seven hours is just enough. At least I thought. I cannot help saying that I was not able to meet even one-third of my set plan. Continue reading “Prowein 2015, Day 1: From the Balkans to the Balkans”

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