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What's in Store?


What's in Store?

It has been some time since I updated the blog. I always knew it was going to be difficult to keep it up though. I could say that I have been too busy, which is true, but that is a bit of a cop-out. Performance anxiety is a much truer explanation. What little I have put up has been read at a degree I never dreamed of and scrutinized, commented on and either lauded or hated. How was I ever going to top that? Enter complete writer's block. The solution? Bring back the concept of the blog. A blog is not supposed to be a forum for lengthy discussion that requires brainstorming, rewriting and proofreading. A blog should be short comments on everyday actualities. That does not mean some subjects will be tackled more in-depth, but every post should not be an effort to top the last one.

So, an easy way to get started is to share some goals and overarching plans I have for the next time period.

Like any workaholic, when I reach a goal I feel invincible and take on a bunch of new things. I knew this was going to happen and allowed myself time to say yes to everything and sort out the mess afterwards. So here I am a few months after being able to call myself Europe’s best sommelier. Apart from that, I can add to my CV a couple of new lecturing gigs, a regular column in a wine magazine plus a bunch of bits and pieces (like judging at the upcoming Decanter World Wine Awards in April). However, I have no plans of going freelance, and I remain working as Wine Director and sommelier on the floor as well.

Now, the principal goal for the next couple of years is pretty easy to formulate: I want to be crowned the World's Best Sommelier in 2016 at the competition held in Mendoza, Argentina. I would be a total fool not to go for it now. But how to best go about it?

You may think "why not just prepare like you did the last time, it seemed to work out alright? Why fix it if it ain't broken?" You're right, but maybe the formula is broken, even though it might not appear so. Basically, the mode I have operated in for the last few years leading up to the 2013 competitions builds on setting unattainable standards and goals, intense self-deprecating and sacrificing sleep and happiness for results. It is something you grow mighty tired of, and not something one can keep up forever.

So what is the glorious future like? A state of Zen-like clarity and mindfulness of course! Probably not, but one can always dream. I do intend to seek balance in a different way than before. If I will achieve it or not is obviously not clear yet, but where I in the past egotistically put aside friends and family to dedicate myself more fully to the craft, I hope to do the opposite and in turn be in a happier, more harmonious state. Hopefully that will lead to having more energy and motivation when the going gets tough.

Much of the groundwork has been laid and I can focus on updating and adding on to what I already have, especially in terms of preparing for the theoretical tests. I know this part of the competition is usually downplayed, but make no mistake: A strong theory knowledge is usually the key to advance to the podium. It is also, by far, what requires the most time in training. This means I can focus more efforts on the other disciplines: tasting and service. Blind tasting needs to be done continually to stay good at it. Service too, but much of that is kept up by just working the floor. But there are things I could do better. For example, I am toying around with ideas like doing some bartending, which is a huge hole in my game.

Another clear way to expand my understanding of the wine world is travel. Being in the vineyards and cellars is an infinitely better way to learn what is special about a place than reading about it. With record low prices of airplane tickets, there really is no excuse to not do it. For the price of decent night out, you can get to Paris, Frankfurt or Milano and back from most of Europe and from there it's only a few hours by car to some of the main wine regions in Italy. My plan is to visit the vineyards once a month for a few days. It may seem optimistic, but so far it seems doable. I cannot recommend travelling enough, especially to all you young professionals, if you just plan ahead and buy when tickets are cheap.

Perhaps the biggest change I am attempting is that I am trying to make practice a part of my everyday life in a much more integrated fashion. Even though my employers encourage my competing (careerwise, I wouldn't be where I am without it), there is an inherent conflict in the allocation of time and energy. I believe that this can not only be mitigated, but that we can create synergy by prioritizing staff training on all levels and building stronger, larger sommelier teams on the restaurants.  The goal is to create a self-feeding system, where new people can enter easily from the bottom and people on the higher rungs better themselves by educating and challenging each other.

So this seems like a good place for a plugs: I am looking for ambitious and intelligent sommeliers who want to evolve and challenge themselves and in the process teach others. If this sounds like something for you, let me know.

So, I'm not gone just yet. Expect more content and perhaps some fun  news soon. Until then, drink well!


Oh yeah, the image has no relation to anything in particular, except lightening up this block of text. That awesome dog is "guarding" a pretty famous vineyard, visible in the background. Can you name it?


Europe’s Best Sommelier – The Showdown (part 3)


Europe’s Best Sommelier – The Showdown (part 3)

This is a long one. I apologize beforehand, but it felt weird to cut it up even more. Maybe my mom will be able to read through it without falling asleep. If she does, I will be happy! Read part 1 and part 2 here of this report here.

Sunday September 29th:

As is customary, we were not told whom the three were who had qualified for the finals after we were done with the semi-finals, even though we knew the judges had already tallied up the score. We were left to cook and try to get a full night’s sleep. The day after the semi-finals was spent in Monaco, with a tour of the city, a gala dinner at the prestigious Hôtel l’Hermitage and for my part at least, a few €16 Campari Tonics at Café de Paris.

About an hour before we were to meet at the Casino on Sunday the 29th the rain was hammering down in a very ominous way. Vicious thunder and lightning. The ten semi-finalists made our way through the crowd for another hour of nervous waiting. If our hearts weren’t pounding before, they sure were now.

God damn it. I am running out of wine here with all this typing. The Clos Rougeard served well, but now it’s time to more onto heavier stuff. How about some Equipo Navazos Amontillado #37 to help with the writers block? Amazingly, complex wine. Perhaps a tad too powerful for casual drinking. But it sure tastes good.

Onward with the story! All 37 candidates were made to wait outside in full sommelier gear as defined and enforced by the international sommelier association: white shirt and bow tie, with apron and an open short-cut jacket. Anywhere else people would think you were heading into a bull-fighting show. The theatre filled up, mostly with proud relatives I would imagine. Sommelier competitions never have been, and never will be a sport for the public. Chefs have an advantage there to be sure. Cooking is at least something everyone can relate to.

The ten semi-finalists were made to go on stage and three envelopes were handed to Serge Dubs, who took the opportunity to make us all sweat a bit more, before announcing:

“Candidate number 12: Julia Scavo, Romania” Julia is a fierce competitor, and perhaps the person I saw as my most powerful competitor should we both get to the stage. She has worked in France for many years on the Riviera, and competes in French. She is a brilliant theorist, a great blind taster and has a level of charm I have a hard time matching. She is also as of now the only woman to have reached the stage in the European championship. (See correction from João Pires in the comments section below.) (Véronique Rivest of Canada did the same feat in the World competition earlier this year.)

“Candidate number 28: David Biraud, France” David is one of the most experienced candidates of all. I have seen him do very well (in Strasbourg 2010 he was my favourite on stage) and not so well (in Tokyo earlier this year where his performance felt forced). He is also a very well rounded candidate, and has that romantic flair the French do so well.

“Candidate number 11: Arvid Rosengren, Sweden” What a feeling. A strange mix of pride, joy and utter fear. I was now going to compete in front of all these people?

David Biraud, me and Julia Scavo - Photo by Pictures Jean Bernard
David Biraud, me and Julia Scavo - Photo by Pictures Jean Bernard

We drew numbers to decide who was going to start out. Me, first, then Julia and David last. Going first can be either a plus or a minus depending on your mind-set. Sometimes I like going later, just to have the nerves calm down by pure exhaustion. But it can also be good to be the first out, ride the wave of excitement and get it over with. I was led backstage; the others into some dark chamber even further below to await their judgement. I am happy there were no cameras back there, as the pep talk I was giving myself might have provided endless embarrassing entertainment for others on YouTube.

When I was brought on stage, I felt focused and ready, if not quite calm. The stage is set up they way a restaurant would look if a crowd came to watch people eat. Two tables of six, a table of four, another table of two, a large service table at the back and a clean table up front - for the blind tasting.

The conferencier, Enrico Bernardo, a legend in his own right as previous European champion and the youngest (and some say most convincing) ever to conquer the World title as well in 2004, welcomed me up, shook my hand and started presenting the first task.

“Your first task will be to select a bottle of champagne and serve to this table of six. They are having beef Carpaccio with truffles as a starter. You have five minutes.

In an ice bucket lay three bottles covered by a napkin. All from one of the main sponsors: Moët & Chandon. There was a regular rosé, a 2002 Grand Vintage Rosé and a 2004 Grand Vintage. The choice was quite easy, and I think all finalists went for it: 2002 Rosé. Moët has stepped up their game lately, and the vintage wines are pretty damn good! And with Carpaccio why not some rosé.

Tasting the wine was another legend: German Markus del Monego MW and the Worlds Best Sommelier 1998. The spacing around the table was tight, and the slippery silver trays didn’t help, but I managed to avoid any accidents and finished the task with plenty of time left.

“Next up, on this table of four, a wine club is gathered. They will have a six-course menu. The theme of the day is thegreat sweet wines of the world. You have seven minutes to recommend sweet wines to go with their meal.”

Panic. Well, not really, but my wits certainly left me momentarily. All of a sudden you stand there thinking: “Sweet wines. Well, there is Port… and… Sauternes… and what else?” I take a moment to compose myself, recommend a sweet champagne to start with (and get some brownie points with the sponsors) and then set out explaining my method: I will go gradually up in sweetness, starting light and moving to very sweet. I start out with a 1995 Riesling Kabinett from Fritz Haag with Foie Gras. In retrospect, with my wits about me I should have good for Spät- or even Auslese. Next up, a powerful scallop dish. I go for Demi-Sec Vouvray from Domaine Huet. Then 15 y.o. Verdelho Madeira with a Lobster dish with curry and coconut milk. 1985 Dow’s Port to go with Venison. And 2000 5 puttonyos Tokay from Oremus with a dessert I don’t even remember. I do my whole spiel with coffee and tea recommendations, sweet digestives and cigars and finish ahead of time, feeling like I’ve spent an hour rambling.

Food and wine pairing (I think) - Photo by Pictures Jean Bernard
Food and wine pairing (I think) - Photo by Pictures Jean Bernard

If I was to go back and re-do it, I would certainly put more emphasis on the great sweet wines of the world. Sure, I love Vouvray, but when someone wants “great” they are probably expecting Sauternes. I would also not use the same country of origin more than once. It was not spelled out specifically in the task, but with so many great wines out there, why not include a Vin de Constance, a Ruster Ausbruch (which would have been magic with that lobster dish I am sure) or a Vin Santo?

Next up: “Decant this magnum of 2007 Barolo for a table of six. You have five minutes.”

Five minutes is not a lot, but just about enough to do this in a gracious way. When the wine is poured for taster Serge Dubs, he asks “Wouldn’t you agree this is a great expression of Sangiovese?” Now, the task is not to know that the grape of Barolo actually is Nebbiolo, that’s kindergarten stuff. The task is to in a diplomatic and gracious way correct a guest (or not). I try to explain that I myself often mistake the two in blind tastings, but that the two are quite different. With a 2007 Barolo, the tannins shouldn’t be too Nebbiolo-like anyway, and if the guests were expecting a Sangiovese, they might very well enjoy this quite a lot.

Next up, four wines to be tasted blind in twelve minutes, and then six beverages in three minutes.

Twelve minutes to taste and describe four wines will make anyone sound like a blabbering idiot. The first one is a tricky white wine. I re-taste it after describing and it hits me: Stone fruits, nuts and honey. Rhône Valley! Marsanne and Roussanne! Number two is a modern red with a certain kind of elegance but a serious tannic structure, plenty of oak and an alcoholic punch. I feel uncertain, but go for 2009 Ribera del Duero. Number three is a dead-ringer for Nebbiolo, and it’s a pretty one too. I lose too much time here, going off about how lovely this stuff is and what I would like to serve it with. I end up going with 2004 Barbaresco, as it is so light and fresh. The last one is a fragrant sweet wine. I am stopped before I am able to conclude anything. Not to give too much away but I would have gone for Málaga Moscatel and still wouldn’t have been close!

The spirits are fairly straightforward, and at this point I am confortable and not too nervous (which I feel really hurts my blindtasting abilities, especially the quick spirits tastings where you have 30 seconds per glass). The first is an aromatic pomace brandy, I go for Italian moscato grappa, the second a Gin, with the third I go for Bourbon. After that an elderflower liqueur. Next: A heady sweet red wine, I go for Jumilla Monastrell Dolc. Finally a bitter, semi-sweet thing, I go with Amaro, knowing that is not quite right.

Then there is another classic task: Correct a winelist carefully planted with errors. I won’t get into details here, but you can see if you can find the errors yourself (even though the picture I found is of pretty poor quality). The list is about 12 items long, with wines from China, Japan, Thailand as well as classics like Shafer and Bindi Winegrowers. I manage to find most of the errors, but miss a few ones that should be obvious, like a 2013 Grace Koshu from Yamanashi. The 2013 has not even been made yet!

Photo shamelessly stolen from Eric Boschman -
Photo shamelessly stolen from Eric Boschman -

“Finally: This gentleman wants your help to source some great wine for his birthday. Please give the current market price in euros for 2001 Harlan, 1989 Petrus and 1994 Penfold’s Grange”

Certainly a relevant task. Sommeliers need to stay updated and keep an eye on the market. I was pretty close with my quotes on the Harlan at €700 and Penfold’s at €250, but I am apparently not quite up to date with my Petrus, guessing only €1500 (a better estimate would be double that). I blame my guests for not asking for it more!

Phew! I survived. And it felt pretty damn good. Now I get to go sit in the crowd, and being the first out on stage I actually get to see the others compete.

Julia is next. She works through the practical elements with speed and although she seems a bit stressed at first, panting and walking back and forth, she compensates with beautiful language and charm. I am getting worried. Her food and wine matching were good, although I felt like there was no red line through it all. She started out too heavy and then actually moved back in terms of sweetness. Her tasting sounds so good that I seriously begin to doubt my own conclusions. She goes for Austrian(?) Riesling, Sangiovese, Barolo and much like me, is stopped before she can conclude on the last wine. Spirits in order; Grappa, Gin, Scotch Whisky, Elderflower liqueur, sweet red wine (can’t remember precisely) and something I can't recall on the last one.

Her wine list correction is good, she finds quite a few things I did not, but also misses a lot. Above all; she has that female charm. And she speaks French! Someone from behind whispers to me: “Everything just sounds better in French.” Yikes, I am seriously getting worried now.

David is last on stage. I have never seen him this good. He has speed, grace and he is quite charming. He is not getting lost in the language like he sometimes has in the past. He finishes the champagne service, the decanting and the wine and food pairing on time. Much like with Julia, I am not in agreement with all his choices on the pairing, again lacking a harmony in the menu, and he forgets both aperitif and digestives recommendations. Those extra points can mean a lot.

Duilio Rizzo - PhotoGraphic
Duilio Rizzo - PhotoGraphic

In the blind tasting David manages to finish on time and goes for an all-Italian conclusion: Vermentino from Sardinia, Sangiovese from Tuscany (much like Julia), Barolo and Malvasia di Liparia. Could it be? In my head, it kind of makes sense. He goes for Eau de Vie de Coing on the first spirit, Gin on the second, Scotch Whisky, Elderflower Liqueur, Crème de Mûre and some sort of liqueur. Seems kind of sketchy, given mine and Julia’s conclusions.

Afterwards, I feel uncertain. I think the audience got their moneys worth. Out of all the competitions I have seen, there has always at least been someone who was a clear third. Not today. If feels incredibly close.

While the jury goes through deliberations, Serge Dubs takes the time to present the beverages tasted blind. I unfortunately was too beside myself to get proper vintages, producers etc. They were in order:

  • 2009 La Rodeline, Marsanne, Valais, Switzerland (Decent enough, correct grape, and the correct river)
  • 2009 Rudeles, Ribera del Duero, Castilla y Léon, Spain (Score! All but producer correct)
  • 2007 Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo, Piemonte Italy (Wrong vintage and appellation, but elsewise OK)
  • 2010 Yarden Gewürztraminer Icewine, Galilee, Israel (A good wine, but impossible to pinpoint blind)

Relief! The conclusion on number one and two is enough to earn me a few points, and missing the conclusion on the last one is meaningless, as I would never have guessed it anyway.

The spirits were (again, I am missing the exact brands for some of these things):

  • Traminer Tresterbrand (pomace brandy), Austria
  • Bluecoat Gin, USA
  • Heaven Hill Bourbon Whisky, USA
  • Vestal Elderflower Liqueur, Poland
  • 2007 Pisano Liqueur de Tannat, Uruguay
  • Jägermeister Bitter, Germany

With that result, I felt like I was ahead. I had been worried about the blind tasting before the competition, as I know nervousness impairs my tasting quite a lot, but it actually turned out much better than I could have hoped for all throughout the competition.

The winelist is also presented with the errors corrected. I also manage to squeeze in a few more points than the other two here.

The decision comes alarmingly quickly, and we are called on stage once again. Shinya Tasaki, world champion in 1995 and president of the association is handed a white envelope from the jury and opens it carefully. The suspense is horrible.

“Meilleur Sommelier d’Europe 2013: Sweden, Arvid Rosengren.” I honestly don’t even hear what he is saying. But I hear the familiar voices roar from my girlfriend and friends down below. What a trip!

Victory - Photo by Arunas Starkas, Lithuanian Sommelier Association
Victory - Photo by Arunas Starkas, Lithuanian Sommelier Association

Next up: What now?


Europe's Best Sommelier - My Story (part 1)


Europe's Best Sommelier - My Story (part 1)

First off, a warning. This post will be about me. Me, me, me! I am sorry, I really am not a very narcissistic person. Promise... As I am writing this, it is only about 48 hours ago that I was crowned the winner at Concours de Meilleur Sommelier d’Europe, the competition of the Best Sommelier of Europe 2013, organized by ASI, the international sommelier association. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it, and the last couple of days have been non-stop congratulations and celebrations. But I thought it would be good to get my memories and thoughts down before they fade into nostalgia.

With me tonight to help with the recollection is a bottle of 2008 Clos Rougeard, an absolutely beautiful wine based on the notoriously difficult Cabernet Franc grape from Saumur-Champigny in the Loire valley, France. This is one of my very favourite wines and although the 2008 is still a baby, it is quite approachable. Aromas of wild dark berries and floral notes mingle with a suave texture, while the sleek acidity carries it all the way through. A very pretty wine, and it will only get better with some age. It should still be available in many markets. I urge you to seek it out! Anyway, back to business.

Blind tasting practice - Picture by Sören Polonius
Blind tasting practice - Picture by Sören Polonius

The competition this year was the 13th in order since the first one was organized in 1989. It has been held every two years, but seems to be moving into a triennial programme as of late. One candidate from every European country with a certified sommelier association competes for the title of Best Sommelier of Europe. The candidates have to win the right to compete in their own country first. This time there was 37 in all. The competition is fierce, and the roster is pretty much the same as in the competition for the World title. In fact, the last four world champion sommeliers have all won the European title first. the list of previous winners include luminaries like Paolo Basso, Gérard Basset, Isa Bal, Andreas Larsson and Serge Dubs.

This year the competition was hosted by the Italian and Monegasque associations in San Remo, Italy. For someone from the cold north (who also just came back from the cold early spring of New Zealand’s south island), getting some late season sun and warmth was a very welcome treat. There was sense of faded grandeur about San Remo, like a sun-bleached photo. Walking its narrow streets, it was easy to mentally travel back a century to the golden years of the Riviera.

The competition was held in the Casino in San Remo, Liguria
The competition was held in the Casino in San Remo, Liguria

Day one of the competition started with a theory test to be finished in 60 minutes. Let me go off on tangent here. Many people who witness these spectacles never understand how much preparation and work goes into making it to the stage for the final showdown. Studying for the theory test is by far the most time consuming and difficult part of the preparations. This is also what normally separates out those who are willing to dedicate themselves to the study and those who aren’t. Personally, I estimate that I have spent around 2500 hours over the last three years just on theory studies. What does the test encompass? Well, just about everything related to wine but also spirits, coffee, tea and service related things like cheese, chocolate and cigars. A few of sample questions from this years test, just to let you get a feel for it:

  • What is Sotolon in relation to wine?
  • Which two appellations from the Rhône Valley are based on Muscat?
  • What grape is Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau rosé based on?
  • Name the communes of the Swiss region Chablais.
  • Name all the subregions of Niagara Peninsula.

There was also a large questions relating to the more practical aspects of working as a sommelier, pricing and stocking for a wine list. I ended up spending too much time on this, going perhaps too deep in to the answers, and ended up being quite pressed for time. I did finish all the questions though, leaving only a few answers blank. My worst performance was probably on a large question on liqueur ingredients. I need to spend some more time behind the bar… XUXU liqueur anyone?

Next up was a written blind tasting of two wines and three spirits. This exercise is not so much about guessing the right wine as it is about describing the wine in proper fashion, recommending how and with what to serve it. But getting it right doesn’t hurt of course. The wines were (I unfortunately don’t know exactly what they were) a rather neutral, young Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which I was able to pick out. The red was a Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder rather) from Baden, Germany. I debated with myself whether it was German or New Zealand, but in the end decided to go for New Zealand due to the rather high alcohol. I always struggle with the more rustic kiwi Pinots and Spätburgunder. It must be something about the clonal material (and the oak handling I think). The spirits were an Italian grappa, a scotch whisky and dark, heavy Jamaican rum. At least I think so, as I haven’t managed to get any more information on that.

The practical test in the quarter-finals consisted of decanting and serving a bottle of red wine in four minutes tops for a table of two. Fairly standard fare. But there was also a hurdle thrown in, as the guests complained the wine was too warm upon tasting, to judge the sommeliers diplomatic skills and ability to solve problems during service.

The happy semi-finalists
The happy semi-finalists

The semi-finalists were announced later that day. Proceeding to the next day of competition was:

Aristide Spies, Belgium

Christian Jacobsen, Denmark

David Biraud, France

Julie Dupouy, Ireland

Matteo Ghiringhelli, Italy

Rodolphe Chevalier, Luxembourg

Francesco Azzarone, Norway

Julia Scavo, Romania

Eric Zwiebel, United Kingdom

Very, very dangerous competition. Six of us had also been semifinalists in the competition for the world title in Tokyo earlier this year, and many had several years of competition more than me. This would not be easy.

And even though there is a dominance of French or “semi-French” sommeliers here, it is a huge achievement to have three Scandinavians in the semi-finals. A fantastic feat! And to add to that, Christian Jacobsen is my colleague who runs MASH in London, having been my assistant sommelier in Denmark and training partner for long. This is probably the first time there are two sommeliers from the same employer going this far in an international competition.

Part 2 is here.



Aussie oldtimers

Travelling is an integral part in learning about wine. There is only so much you can learn from books and tastings at home. Some say that you can only taste truly objectively that way, comparing only ”what’s in the glass”, but I disagree. Wine as all about context, and to understand the context of a wine, you really need to see the place and meet the custodians of the vineyards. Visiting vineyards all over the world has made me question my prejudiced opinions many times. In my early career, like many young sommeliers, I was prone to statements like ”South Africa can not make real wine” or ”Australian wine is all overextracted and alcoholic”, statements I today find not only ridiculous and embarrasing but downright dangerous, as I still see them propagated throughout the world of wine, by some quite imposing figures at that. The solution the problem is to take every chance to question yourself, and the best way to do that is to travel the world, which fortunately is getting easier and easier. My travel schedule this year has, admittedly, been extreme. The year started out with two trips to Italy, Piedmont and Tuscany respectively. After that I spent two weeks in Japan where I competed in the World’s Best Sommelier Competition and explored the very different realm of sake. Then there was a wonderful trip to Galicia, a weeklong exploration of Pinot Noir in Oregon, vacation in the spanish Basque country and a packed tour of California. Needless to say, I’m glad I don’t have a family to care for.

But this last trip takes the cake: five days travelling Victoria, Australia and after that almost two weeks in New Zealand. These two countries have had to take a lot of flak in the wine press and trade, after quickly becoming immensely popular in the 80’s and 90’s with cliché styles of oaky Chardonnay and heavy Shiraz for the aussies and lean, green Sauvignon Blanc for the kiwis. But there is so much more that they have to offer. I hope to be able to share with you some of the clostest kept secrets of wine ”down under”.

Vineyards at Mount Mary

First day kicked off with visits at two of the most iconoclastic wineries in Victoria. First up was Mount Mary. In very rustic, but cosy facilities some of the most special wines in Australia are made. These are definitely not blockbusters. Robert Parker, the famous wine reviewer could not get his hands on these wines for a long time, but when he finally did, he gave their flagship wine, the Bordeaux-style blend ”Quintet” a scathing 78 points. But there is a cult following, especially on the domestic market. The wines are lean, low in alcohol and elegant. Best in show today was 2011 Triolet (a white Bordeaux-style blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle) which will age beautifully, and the very lightly coloured 2011 Pinot Noir that surprised with intensity of structure and flavour. Winemaker Sam Middleton explained that trends was nothing they concerned themselves with at Mount Mary, they defined their own style, as they have since 1971. Sam is the third generation of Middletons to make wine here, and we can only hope they do not give into trends and pleasing critics anytime soon. This is great wine.

Mount Mary tasting

Next up: Another Victoria favorite – Yarra Yering. Much like Mount Mary, Yarra Yering was founded by a doctor,  Dr. Bailey Carrodus in the 1970’s and they have carved out their own following by making wines that no one else can copy, under some of the most easily rememberable labels in the world of wine. There are no bad wines here, but best of show today was the 2001 Dry Red Wine #1 (Cabernet Sauvignon) and the 2010 Carrodus Merlot, a hommage to the late doctor, who passed away in 2008.

One of the most unique and beautiful labels on the planet

We were also able to loot the gigantic cellars of the great doctor, and brought a few halfbottles to a local restaurants for dinner. The 1987 Pinot Noir was meaty and full of dark fruit, the 1986 Dry Red #2 (Shiraz) elegant and floral, but the real showstopper was the 1982 Sémillon, golden and full of stonefruit and honeysuckle. I am glad to hear they are reviving the Dry White #1 (Sémillon and sometimes a bit of Sauvignon Blanc), which also tasted great from barrel. Incredible performance, especially from halfbottles! Those that think Aussie wines can not age need their heads (or palates) checked.


Vacation Wine

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Vacation Wine


Tomorrow me and the missus (or girlfriend rather) head out to her family's summer retreat on the Danish west coast. This is how we usually start our vacation and strange as it may sound, this is usually the best part. Even though I love travelling far and discovering new cultures, languages and first and foremost: places to eat and drink, that week on our own in the small house near the cold North Sea is just such an amazing way to start the vacation with. Usually the weather is not even that good but it does not matter. The fresh air, sunlight until late at night and the sweet smells of food on the grill and wine in the glass is something that keeps me longing for the whole year and really sets the tone for the summer.

Part of the equation is of course the lack of responsibilities. There is only one thing on my list; bring the wine. Naturally, this falls on me, and it's a job I wouldn't delegate to anyone else (I've had my fair share of "Buy-3-get-1-for-free" Riojas and it's just not worth the stress on my liver).

You would think this is an excellent opportunity to clean out the wine cabinet, but instead of that, I have been bringing home more bottles over the last couple of weeks, to the point where cases line up against the wall in our tiny metropolitan apartement. However, there's a limit on how much we can consume over the course of a week, so I have to exclude a lot, and the selection needs to be perfect. I am getting close...

Where to begin? And what to leave behind!?!

Highlights include:

* A perhaps not-so-surprising number of bottles of Burgundy. What is surprising is that most of it is red. I am more of a white wine drinker, but everyone else prefers red (and this is the in-laws after all, an important demographic to please). What am I most excited about? After drinking what I'm drinking tonight; the 2003 Volnay Champans from De Montille seems alluring.

* Germans, all of it with residual sugar. Some staples like the fantastic 2008 Kabinetts from Schäfer-Fröhlich and Zilliken  as well as some sweet stuff from Schäfer-Fröhlich and Müller-Catoir to go with (or be) light summer treats.

* A handful of Loire wines. Red from Clos Rougeard, white from the nephew at Domaine de Collier and monumental Sancerre from Gerard Boulay.

*A single Bordeaux (05 Conseillante) and a single new world wine (05 Mt. Langhi Ghiran Shiraz). Outstanding producers in regions that generally do not excite me as much. Also, just a single bottle of Piemontese red, which is probably suitable for the season, but the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo from Beppe Rinaldi is just a beauty that I have been enjoying a chilled of almost every day over the last weeks.

* Some Fino Sherry from Equipo Navazos. Just one bottle. I reckon I will get to keep this for myself, which is just fine.

So what do you drink with packing? I bought a fair amount of aged Domaine de Montille recently, and although I trust the producer and admire the style immensely, I have had dissappointing wines before, probably owing more to my inexperience with at what stage of maturity to approach them than the producer. This was one of the bottlings and vintages I had least experience with and also at a point where it would probably be great or gone, so I figured it would serve as a good benchmark. It was, in every sense of the word.

2001 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru "Les Pèzerolles"

2001 Pommard "Les Pèzerolles", Domaine de Montille, Bourgogne, France

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Wine is nothing more than alco-juice, however pleasurable that may be, without context. The hedonistic pleasure is infinitely heightened by knowledge of what made the wine what it is; the terroir and cultural heritage it sprung from. So I can not refrain from some background information:

Hubert de Montille is one of the most iconic proprietors in Burgundy, forever immortalized as one of the protagonists in Jonathan Nossiter's controversial documentary Mondovino (which, despite its shortcomings and sensationalism, I can highly recommend to any wine romantic). Hubert, vigneron by birth but lawyer by necessity (being born at a time where a 3 ha vineyard was nothing you could make a living from), made wine in his spare time. These wines were usually light in style, austere and needed long bottle age to blossom. They had a cult following, but lost out in the post-Jayer era of boom in Burgundy. His children, Etienne and Alix helped out although they also persued supplementary careers until the 1990's. 2001 was actually the first vintage made by Etienne as full-time winemaker. The vineyards are biodynamically farmed today, but was in conversion from organics at this time. Hubert always included a proportion of stems. Etienne is more pragmatic and in vintages like 2005 there was no destemming, whereas in 2004 no stems were left. The wines rarely go above 13% alcohol, and somewhere between 20% and 50% new oak are used on the best premiers and grands crus. Etienne also owns Château de Puligny which has been improving in quality over the last years and is now making very impressive wine, as well as the  Deux Montille négociant with his sister Alix, that produces some great value wine.

The premier cru Pèzerolles lies above the exceptional premier cru Les Petits Epenots in Pommard and is generally regarded as good. The topsoil here is white marl, which makes for a lighter wine than the village is otherwise known for. The vintage, 2001, is most remembered for the hailstorm that ravaged Volnay and also hit southern Pommard on August 2nd. Thankfully, Pèzerolles lies is the northern sector and was spared. To generalize, the wines of the vintage are fairly light, low in alcohol and fruit-forward. I find a lot of 2001's to be drinking well, right now, but admittedly my experience is almost exclusively Côte de Nuits. They are generally good, but not great wines. I fact, I drink Côte de Beaune reds far too seldom.

Tasting note:

Cherry red with a brick rim. The nose is surprisingly fresh right out of the bottle, I had expected both more funk and more austerity. But no, this is just full of tart red fruit, liqourice, dried mushrooms, violets and sweet tobacco. The palate is so graceful and velvety and although acidity is high and fresh I would be hard pressed to call it a  backbone, the sensation is too ethereal for that. There is only a little bit of heat and soy-sauce like savoriness on the finish to lead the thoughts to Pommard. It's just too fresh.

This drinks very well on its own on this early summer night, but would work very well with dishes that combines elegance with that autumnal earthiness, such as light game birds like pigeon or quail with seared foie gras and cherry sauce. Impressive in every sense, and I am glad I opened it now, because even though I am sure it will live on for 5-10 years, it has hit that point of intermediary evolution where I prefer my red Burgundy.

Hopefully, I can muster enough effort to report on the other vacation wines later this week. Do you have any special bottles lined up for the summer? Is it all fresh whites, or more powerful reds for the barbecue?

I will leave you with this very appropriate gems from the lovely Portico Quartet.


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Sounds of Spring


Sounds of Spring


Something very visceral happens to me when the sun starts to shine through the greyness that descends on this part of the world in early autumn. All of a sudden beauty starts creeping into life again, beauty that had not only been missing, but in many ways had been forgotten for the better part of a year. It really makes me wonder whether people really are designed to live this far north (55˚) and in such a climate. Like many Scandinavians, I speculate that I would miss the distinct seasons if I moved further south. But the older I get, the more certain I get that this is just a rationalization for  cowardice and laziness (if you hate it so much, move!). I've grown aware of my propensity for the winter slump (I wouldn't go so far as to call it a depression), but I still get stuck in it, unable to get my head above the clouds. And bit by bit I forget. Forget that sadness and anger are not default states of mind and that people can actually smile at each other in the street and mean it. I try to combat this with high doses of Vitamin D, training and opening decent bottles of wine (not to mention consuming monopausal doses of dark chocolate). And I am much better at keeping spirits high today than I was ten years ago. But the feeling of the spring sun coming out is still like a miracle; like it's setting you free from some dark, dank underground prison.

In a few weeks as I become accustomed, I guess the intitial glow will fade into the background. Certainly, I am generally more happy during summer, but I am rarely as ecxtatic as in those first days of true spring (and yes, it is a devastatingly late spring). All of a sudden food starts tasting better (I suppose this is not entirely subjective. Even in todays globalized world, going through the winter larder is more survival than pleasure), random people begin looking good and smiles and laughter come more easily. For me however the most apparent sign of change is my taste in music and wine. I catch myself playing songs and thinking "It's been a long time", like I am not receptive of the (objective) beauty inherent in the music until a certain point.

Here are three of the tunes that most apparently start appearing on my playlists again after the long winter, year after year. Most of them are instrumental for some reason. Maybe winter is the time for the verbal, the introspective and intellectual thoughts while spring and summer is the time for the sensual, hedonistic and primal?




And yes, I do realize I haven't spoken much of wine. This is supposed to be a wine blog, isn't it? But I fear I will delve too deep into the land of cliché. Wonderful German Riesling certainly is on my mind more often, as are the complex wines of Jerez, (which finally seem to be on the verge of gaining a critical mass of hype on the internet, although the sherry producers themselves speak of hard times. A recent visit to a surprisingly sunny Galicia certainly helped kickstart my Vitamin-D trip. More on that later...


Today I am drinking this. The 2010 Côte de Nuits-Villages from Denis Bachelet, one of my favorite producers of red Bourgogne, might as well have been an autumn wine, perhaps expressing more spice and in a few years haunting secondary notes to match game, mushrooms and smells of decaying underbrush. But today it perfectly captures the essence of spring, starting out with a slight green tone much like the wild berries I picked as a child, just below the point of ripeness with searing acidity, and yet so delicious. With some air, it reveals a darker blackberry fruit character and that initial harshness morphs into a tarry smokiness redolent of late summer nights like meat on the grill and sweet tobacco. What a perfect wine to symbolize the transition of the seasons.

The bottle is featured against the backdrop of a painting by a very inspiring man, my girlfriend's grandfather, who passed away late last week and is to be buried tomorrow. The painting depicts the rising sun amongst the rosehip-covered dunes of westernmost Denmark where the family spent their summers, and captures the soft Scandinavian sunlight so well.

Do you share this powerful feeling of transition? How does it translate into your perception of art, music and taste?