Hello and welcome to my periodic digs into the sample pile. I'm happy to bring you the latest installment from Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the best bottles that have come through my door recently.
The weekly dive into press samples has its ups and downs. Some weeks I have to taste a few cases of wine before I end up with the eight or ten bottles I choose to showcase here each week.
Sometimes when I take bottles from the cellar I get really lucky, and this week was one of those weeks. I opened wine after wine this week to find some great tips to share with you.
Let's start with a positively shimmering example of Sauvignon Blanc, and quite possibly the best I can remember from Oregon of any place. Beautifully zippy, green and deliciously mouth-watering, I highly recommend you look for this bottle in J. Christopher cellars.
I have long enjoyed Gundlach Bundschu's (GunBun to their friends) interpretation of the Gewürztraminer, which is floral and crisp and quite light on the feet. Gewurtz calls it too easily to be turned into a syrupy or bitter phenolic mess, and so it takes a confident hand to direct it to where it achieves greatness: either as ambrosia or, in this case, as beautifully aromatic. and refreshing. bite.
Last week, I presented a charming Williams Selyem Chardonnay and this week I present to you its companion, from the estate's vineyard. It's a bit leaner in expression and wonderfully floral, but also crackling with acidity. If you're looking for some top California chardonnay, this is the one to add to your list.
Now, I'll admit I'm a bit of a Riesling nutcase. Overall, your average Riesling is better than a lot of other average wines. But when it really starts, world-class Riesling is quite another thing. I'm happy to say that I have three examples of this form today, two from Robert Weil and one from Dr Loosen.
Robert Weil is a venerable producer from the Rheingau region of Germany, and I have two expressions from the same vineyard to share with you this week. The vineyard in question is the Gräfenberg vineyard in the small town of Kiedrich, which has been one of the richest vineyards in the region for hundreds of years. It is one of Fat Lage sites, the equivalent of this country's Grand Cru, and it is owned by Weingut Robert Weil, who makes several wines on his approximately 25 acres.
The two Gräfenberg wines I'm sharing this week are the totally dry Grosses Gewachs Riesling and the Spätlese Riesling, picked later. These are two incredible interpretations of what German Riesling can do in the right place and in the right hands, light, crystalline, appetizing, and capable of aging for decades. If you don't mind a little sweetness, try the Spätlese, or if you prefer perfectly dry things, go for the GG. You can't go wrong either, however.
The Erdener Treppchen vineyard is also a household name in the Moselle valley, literally translating to "The Little Erden Staircase", so called because the angle of the hillside required steps to be dug to allow workers to access its heights. Ernie Loosen is one of Moselle's rock-star winemakers, so it's no surprise that his interpretation of what Treppchen has to offer is magnificent. There is so much acidity in this wine that despite its sugar level, it does not taste particularly sweet.
After all this hair-raising rhapsodic about Riesling, it will be hard to imagine how excited I am about the two Zinfandels I am sharing with you this week. Once upon a time, I tasted a lot of Zinfandel every year, but I fell out of this habit. It's nice to remember how this spectacular grape can come from the right site and in the right hands. And my boy, what a combination of those two things offers the Limerick Lane bottling of the 140 year old Banfield Vineyard offering. This is one of the best Zinfandels I have had in years. It's just amazing, and there isn't much to say.
The Carlisle Vineyard Zinfandel is also quite fantastic, and if I hadn't tasted the Banfield right before it would have easily overwhelmed me too. Both are fantastic examples of what old vines can do and the freshness and balance of Zinfandel, even if its alcohol content reaches 15%, if made correctly.
Unfortunately, both Zinfandels don't get widely released due to their small production, so you'll have to call Limerick Lane and try to persuade them to sell you some if you're interested.
As a little coda to all this excitement, let me finally draw your attention to the modest Cabernet Sauvignon from Gundlach Bundschu. Their Sonoma Valley bottling is what most people look for in a rich, ripe and supple Cabernet.
2018 J. Christopher Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold, almost colorless in the glass, this wine smells of green apples, cut grass and gooseberries. On the palate, deliciously crisp flavors of green apple and cut grass mingle with kiwi and electric lime juice, fantastic acidity that makes your mouth water. A hint of salinity results in a salt margarita that satisfies perfectly. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ 20. click to buy.
2019 Gundlach Bundschu “Estate Vineyard” Gewürztraminer, Sonoma Coast, California
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of orange peel and orange blossom. On the palate, water notes of orange blossom, lychee and white flowers have a wonderful crisp crystalline quality thanks to excellent acidity. Fresh, bright and silky. Dry as a bone and very refreshing. Highly recommended. 13.5% alcohol. Score: approx 9. Cost: $ 25. click to buy.
2018 Williams Selyem Chardonnay “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard”, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale yellow gold in color, this wine smells of lemon marrow, cold cream and buttered popcorn. On the palate, wonderfully saline flavors of lemon curd and lemon marrow mingle with a hint of bitter grapefruit and white flowers while the wine sparkles crystalline thanks to excellent acidity. Lively and bright with lingering grapefruit pith on the finish with just a touch of toasted oak and a burst of heat. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ 100. click to buy.
2018 Robert Weil “Kiedrich Gräfenberg Spätlese” Riesling, Rheingau, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, honeysuckle and tangerine. On the palate, phenomenal acidity vibrates the flavors of mandarin, honeysuckle and Asian pear with electricity as the salivary glands go into overdrive. Magnificent acidity and minerality of wet pavement. Slightly to moderately sweet. 9% alcohol. Score: approx 9.5. Cost: $ 95. click to buy.
2018 Robert Weil “Kiedrich Gräfenberg Grosses Gewachs” Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany
Pale greenish gold, almost colorless in the glass, this wine smells of paraffin and mandarin oils. On the palate, beautifully light flavors of tangerine zest, white flowers, Asian pear and rainwater float ethereal through the palate on crystal clear wings. Magnificent acidity and phenomenal balance. Regal, and as required for the GG designation, dry bone with no trace of softness. 13% alcohol. Score: approx 9.5. Cost: $ 70. click to buy.
2018 Dr. Loosen “Erdener Treppchen” Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and tangerine zest. In the mouth, crystalline flavors of honeysuckle and gardenia mingle with the juiciness of Asian pear. Fantastic acidity makes the sugar levels seem lower than they are, so this wine only tastes slightly sweet as wet stone minerality and white flowers linger on the finish. 8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $ 27. click to buy.
2018 Limerick Lane “Banfield Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet purple in the glass, this wine smells of candied blueberries, exotic flowers and blackberries. On the palate, magnificent berry flavors are a technicolor rainbow of red, blue and black flavors. Blueberry, then blackberry, then cherry, then acai and more. Want to know what old vines give you? In short: complexity. This vineyard was planted in 1880, and damn if it doesn't sing like a rockstar yet. Zero traces of alcohol at 15.1% of this wine. Snappy, balanced and “delicious” frikkin. 100 crates manufactured. Score: between 9.5 and ten. Cost: $ 60
2018 Limerick Lane "Carlisle Vineyard" Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium purple in color, this wine smells of dusty road and blackberries. On the palate, the magnificent blackberry bramble is mouth watering thanks to a fantastic acidity. Notes of blueberry and blackcurrant persist on the finish, but the wine is so light despite 14.9% alcohol. Quite delicious. This vineyard was planted in 1927. 100 cases made. Score: approx 9.5. Cost: $ 60
2016 Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis and green herbs. On the palate, flavors of black cherry, blackberry and chopped green herbs give off a slight bitterness of espresso as they move towards a licorice-infused finish, softened by the vanilla of the new oak. Excellent acidity keeps the wine lively. 14.8% alcohol. Score: approx 8.5. Cost: $ 48. click to buy.
We would recommend either Wineworks Premium or Wineworks Superior as your first 30 Bottle Kit Wine. Both of these ranges are designed to produce a good quality wine that is ready to drink within 2-4 weeks but will benefit if left up to 6-8 weeks. Furthermore, they also have a great selection of wines to choose from.
If you’ve never made wine before or you simply don’t have any of the equipment or ingredients any longer then you could purchase one of our bundles. These bundles combine all the required equipment along with your prefered wine coffret so that you can have everything delivered to your door and just get started. The Wineworks Superior Starter Bundles are a great choice if you want to keep the equipment budget down but still choose the quality of wine you’d like to go for. Whereas, the Wineworks Luxury Starter Bundles offer a better quality equipment pack and still let you choose from a great choice of wine packs.
The two most important critères of making wine are Cleanliness and Temperature. Firstly remember everything that comes into contact with the wine should be cleaned and sterilised ( see below ). Secondly maintain a constant temperature between 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ). It is much better to be on the cool side and constant than hot one minute and cold the next. Airing cupboards are definitely no, no’s. ( See below )
Clean and sterilise all equipment. Here’s a selection of Sterilisers you can use and if you not quite sure which steriliser to go for then you can take a look at our Beginners Wine Making Part 1 - Cleaning, Sterlising
Wineworks Superior wines : These usually take 10-15 days to ferment, and a further week to clear. Again the wine can be drunk immediately but we recommend ageing it 4 weeks but you can leave it up to 12 months. The time you will leave it will depend very much on your stocks. So get plenty built up. The reds benefit more than the whites with ageing. Certain kits ( see the list below ) are suited more to the experienced wine maker and take around 4 weeks to ferment and then left for a further 2 weeks. These products does really benefit from ageing. All the packs we list in this section require little ageing.
As it’s new to you it will probably take in all 2 hours for your first batch. However, once you are used to it 1 hour is about the maximum amount of time needed. We would also point out bar the bottling side; it takes just as long to make 6 bottles as it does to make 30 bottles, so we strongly recommend you make the larger quantity. After all 6 bottles doesn’t go very far as we said before !
From our experience it is much better to maintain a constant temperature than a fluctuating one. We suggest 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ), although if it is cooler than this, it is not a problem, it just takes slightly longer to ferment. If you can’t maintain this then we supply three different forms of heating equipment : Brew Belt / Heat BeltThis is a simple insulated electric cable that wraps round your container and provides a gentle heat. It is very flexible and extremely easy to use. Heat Tray ( 4 demi/5 Gallon Fermenter ) This is like a flat tray that provides a gentle continuous heat that goes under the fermenter. Immersion HeaterThis drops into the conteneur, through the bung and can be thermostatically controlled to maintain the juste temperature. Similar to a fish tank heater. All these can be added to our starter pack packages. See our video showing the types of heating equipment available for your fermentation.
It is important to clean
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully understanding a bit of what we’ve said, then you’ll want to know how much it will cost to get started ! As you may have noticed, we’ve put together a couple of equipment kits which include everything you need, and take the confusion out of buying. You can make your first 30 bottles of Wine for approximately £65. 00. That’s all in ( Equipment