2007 La Massa

This 2007 La Massa is solid Tuscan blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a very nice red, rustic in style, and will probably get better in the bottle.  It is not overly fruity, smooth and Bordeauxesque in the nose.  The wine almost reminds me of one of the Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc.  This is due to the owner, Giampaolo Motta’s fascination with Bordeaux which makes La Massa a true undervalued wine in Italy.  I have to admit though that the 2006 La Massa which I reviewed  a while back here is still more impressive:


The 2007 vintage marks the first vintage where proprietor has eliminated Sangiovese from his top wine Giorgio Primo, and use only his best Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot for it.  All the Sangiovese now goes into the second wine La Massa and thus more La Massa and less Giorgio Primo.  Giorgio Primo review to follow, but it is a wine to definitely look out for as it no doubt will get more expensive.  You can still find it for about 50-75$ a bottle, but not for long.

The 2007 La Massa is a lovely wine, but not as good as the 2006 so if you can still find some ’06 at a reasonable price definitely grab it.  La Massa is widely available for only about 15£ in the UK and $20-25 per bottle in the US.  Try Decorum Vintners in London and Sokolin in New York. my rating 89pts, drink from 2011-2015

Antonio Galloni from Wine Advocate:

Wine Advocate # 184
Aug 2009
Antonio Galloni 91 Drink: 2009 – 2017 $22-$30 (28)
The 2007 La Massa reveals unusual harmony and grace. This expansive, generous La Massa offers plenty of perfumed red fruit, licorice, new leather and spices in a seamless, opulent style. The wine’s balance and sheer class are impeccable. In 2007 La Massa is 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 12 months in oak, 10% new. La Massa remains one of the top relative values in Tuscany. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2017.

2006 Mas d’en Gil Priorat Coma Vella

Happy New Year!  I have tried some wonderful wines over this holiday season of which I will be sharing my thoughts and reviews with you over the next coming weeks. I bought a  parcel of Spanish wines recently from a Christie’s auction, and have discovered some real gems most notably from Ribera del Duero and Priorat.  This Priorat, Coma Vella is a gorgeous blend of predominantly Grenache, Cabernet, Carignan and Syrah. While Grenache is the major focus here, the Cabernet smoothly bounces off the glass much like a Napa Cab Blend does, but softer.  This is a superb, big and luscious red from Spain, and should be sought out.  The Priorat wines don’t have much of a following, which is a shame.  As Grenache is such a big component of most Priorats, I would say they are kind of like the Chateauneuf du Pape of Spain?  I love Chateauneuf du Pape, and it looks like I will enjoy Priorat as well. my rating 92 pts. Coma Vella is available in the UK at Waitrose for about 23£ per bottle.  In the US you can find it for about 40-50$ per bottle.

link to winery website:   http://www.masdengil.com/

1997 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione


 (Alongside the magnificent Il Carbonaione is another one of my Supertuscan favorites, Terrabianca Campaccio, but review on that wine to follow in due course.  I put that bottle in the photo for size comparison to the double magnum.

I was fortunate to buy a Double Magnum of this gorgeous Super Tuscan at a Christies auction a couple of years back for a very affordable sum of 65£.  Bear in mind a double magnum is 3 liters so 4 bottles, also known as a Jeroboam.  Big bottles are tons of fun and actually keep the wine better provided the bottle is stored properly.  This one has been in my Eurocave for about 3 years, and was bought from a pristine cellar.   Well I finally decided to crack open this beauty with my family up in snowy, Newcastle a few weeks ago.  We had it with traditional Caribbean cuisine: Jerk, Brown Stew and Curry chicken with Rice and Gungo Peas.   It actually went very well and would’ve been fine on its own.  Il Carbonaione is made from an ancient clone of Sangiovese known as Lamole which is unique to the hills of Greve in Chianti.  The wine is luscious, and surprisingly still bursting with fruit even after 13 years in bottle.  It could easily be kept for another 5 years or longer, but was absolutely delicious now.  Hints of cherry and cloves on the nose and smooth velvety tannins.  You can find more recent vintages of this wine for about 30£ in the UK and between $50-60 in the US.   It is not what I would consider an inexpensive wine by no means, but compared to the likes of other big name SuperTuscans like Sassicaia, Tignaello, Solaia, and Ornellaia, it looks like very good value.  These retail for 2 and 3 times more per bottle.  If you are looking for a special Italian red wine to share this holiday season, without spending a fortune well Il Carbonaione might not be a bad choice.  My rating  94pts.    Antonio Galloni from Wine Advocate also likes it:

In the Cellar # 0708
Jul 2008
Antonio Galloni 93 Drink: 2008 – 2017 $49-$70
The estate’s 1997 Carbonaione is sweet, ripe and full-bodied, but with plenty of supporting structure underneath. Complex notes of tobacco, leather, sweet herbs and spices have developed in bottle, rounding out this soft-textured, caressing Carbonaione. As is often the case with wines from warm vintages, provenance is especially critical. Impeccably stored bottles have as much as another decade of prime drinking ahead of them. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2017.



2008 Altesino Rosso di Altesino

From this stellar Brunello producer, comes this lovely 2008 Rosso di Altesino wine which is perfect as an everyday red.  It is made with about 75% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet.  Luscious fruit on the palate with hints of cinnamon and cherry on the nose. This is an extremely affordable quaffer which will leave you wanting for more.  Spaghetti Bolognese anyone?   Widely available in the US for only $15-20 a bottle and in the UK at Bordeaux Index for under 10£  per bottle.  Highly recommended.  Buy this by the case load.  My rating 89 pts.



2007 Meo-Camuzet Marsannay

I have never really been a big fan of red burgundy, but have decided recently to give it another chance.  I just want to make sure that I am not missing something special.  In the past if I was going to buy a Pinot Noir, I would look to the big new world Pinots from Central Otago in New Zealand or the big muscular reds from Oregon and California.   For the most part red burgundy that I’ve tried has reminded me of that awful cough syrup you were forced to take as a child, like Robitussin in the US.  I don’t know why but that has been the impression I’ve always had.

Now let’s turn to this simple red burgundy from Meo-Camuzet’s production in Marsannay.  Let’s make no mistake, good red burgundy is not cheap.  This one sells for 25£/40$ a bottle, and this is actually considered decent value in relative terms.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with the strawberry aroma and smooth aftertaste.  The wine is not too light, but could be bigger for my palate.  Decent color, subtle rich tones and fruity.  I am pleased with the taste, and am curious to try more red burgundy from different regions.  I bought this particular wine from Uncorked in London. (Thanks Zoe. )Burgundy is a very complicated area, which is another reason why I have stayed away.   I am still not convinced but wanting for more. Surely there must be a bigger style Pinot Noir from Red Burgundy which can stand up to the likes of Felton Road, Amisfield, and Mount Edward from New Zealand.  I still prefer these for the moment…Stay tuned though as more to follow on this subject… My rating 87pts..

Allen Meadows:

An earthy red berry fruit nose introduces round, rich, supple and relatively forward flavors that possess enough depth to be interesting on the acceptably long and delicious finish. Drink 2010+.

85-87 points, Allen Meadows, burghound.com, Jan 2009

Link: http://www.meo-camuzet.com/pages/fiches.php?lang=en&vin=marsannay

2000 Meerlust Rubicon

 I was fortunate enough to find a Magnum of this 10 year old South African beauty at Uncorked in the UK for only 40£.   Magnums are always fun, and especially so since wine tends to age better in larger formats. This stunning South African bordeaux style blend almost tastes like it came from Napa Valley.  Dark rich color and smooth tannins of sweet raisins.  Chocolate fudge aromas on the nose.  Very serious indeed.   This particular vintage of Meerlust Rubicon is 70% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.   It is not overpowering either, at an avg 13.5% alchohol which works well.   While you will probably struggle to find the 2000 vintage of this wine, Meerlust Rubicon is widely avaiilable for about 30$ a bottle in the US and 20£ per bottle in the UK.  (available in the UK at www.uncorked.co.uk and www.slurp.co.uk)   It is well worth buying if you see it.  They also make an outstanding Chardonnay which is reminiscent of White Burgundy and worth seeking out.  Review to follow,   stay tuned……..


2000 Meerlust Rubicon, My rating 92 pts


2009 Pazo de Senorans Albarino

For a nice change to mass produced Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, you should give Albarino a try. I have always been a huge fan of the Albarino grape along with Pinot Blanc and Viognier as interesting alternative white wines.  This lovely Albarino (pictured above) from Rias Biaxas in Northwest Spain is a real joy to taste. Apple, honey and  pear are ever present as the full luscious texture flows out of the bottle into your glass.  Gold sunshine in color and yummy. Highly recommended, and available for about 14£ a bottle at Uncorked in the UK and in the US for about $20 a bottle.   They also make a reserve wine called Albarnio Seleccion de Anada, but retails for much more.  This is serious value, and I have to agree with Jay Miller from Wine Advocate on this one:



Wine Advocate # 188
Apr 2010
Jay Miller 93 Drink: 2010 – 2014 $19-$26 (24)
Pazo Senorans’ 2009 Albarino beautifully displays the high quality of the 2009 vintage in Rias Baixas. Light gold in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of mineral, honeysuckle, lemon, and tropical aromas. Round, creamy, and remarkably concentrated, this outstanding effort will provide much pleasure over the next 4 years.Note: formerly known as Pazo de Senorans, the “de” has disappeared from the label starting in 2009. 


 My Rating: 90 pts, ..recommended pairing: serve with Grilled Jerk Salmon and Fried Plantains.


Link to website: http://www.pazodesenorans.com/eng/vino1.htm

2001 Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux


I had big expectations for this wine, and was saving it for a special occasion so I decided to open it when my mom was visiting us in London.  For a wine with such a prestigious reputation,(Classified 3rd Growth) I was thoroughly disappointed.  Now I’m not saying the wine was bad, but it is simply not worth the 30+£ I paid for it.  I thought maybe it was just because it needed more time to air out, so I decanted it.  There was still no improvement, and even the next day, the wine still lacked fruit and the spark I was expecting.  There are better wines in Margaux to go for if you want to spend the money.  Boyd Cantenac, Lascombes, Malescot St-Exupery are just a couple I would turn to before Cantenac Brown.  It could be that this wine is just had its best days already.  Available in the UK for 35-40£  a btl and in the US for $50-60.  Just because a wine costs more, doesn’t mean its good.  I don’t agree with Mr. Parkers 88 score either:  

My rating 79 pts



Wine Advocate # 153
Jun 2004
Robert Parker 88 Drink: 2004 – 2014 $49 (25)
This estate is finally getting the tannin under control, as previous vintages have always been a bit rustic and astringent. The 2001 offers chocolate, espresso, and sweet black currant fruit characteristics in a medium to full-bodied, charming, structured, well-textured, seductive format. Enjoy it over the next decade.

Which wines go best with Pork?

Below is a recent bloomberg article by John Mariani which gives some insights into pairing pork and red wine….Big red zinfandels or the Italian version, primitivo are suggested.  Amarone from Veneto also works according to him….I will just have to give it a try:



Wines to Go With That Smoky Roast Pork in Backyard

By John Mariani – // Oct 4, 2010 5:01 AM GMT+0100

Americans may still eat more beef than pork — about 63 pounds per capita each year versus 48 — but the current foodie fascination in the U.S. with all things porcine has crowned the pig king.

Whether it’s roast Italian maiale or a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich stuffed with slices of ham, pork hasn’t had better press since Charles Lamb wrote “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig” back in 1823, in which he nailed the appeal of the savory porker as a kind of “animal manna.”

Yet unlike beef, which demands a big, brawny cabernet sauvignon to match its mineral-rich, juicy flavor, roast pig, sausages, and ham require a bit more thought as to what wine truly enhances the meat.

This year, I decided to find out which wines would go best with a backyard roast. I collected a dozen bottles of various varietals. I had already eliminated a few I knew wouldn’t work, including those big cabernets, expensive pinot noir-based Burgundies and Super Tuscans.

To some extent I relied on cultural tradition, that is, I asked myself what wine would be drunk by people who historically do pig roasts — Italians, Spaniards, Central and South Americans. I eliminated the Chinese, who tend to sweeten the meat with soy sauce, caramel and ginger.

Lite Beer

Pig roasts are certainly a part of the American South’s culinary tradition, but wine has never played a big role in that history. Rather like in the hillside barbecues called lechoneras outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a cold Medalla Light beer seems to work wonders.

Because I basted with a puree of garlic, onion, chili pepper, and orange juice, I needed a wine with tannic backbone and an undertone of sweetness to complement the richness of the meat. Those two characteristics happen to be part of the appeal of the best California zinfandels and their Italian counterparts, primitivos.

A Joel Gott Zinfandel 2008 ($18) from Lodi and Amador had the right intensity, spice and peppery notes, providing a counterpoint to the smoke and basting juices.

Primitivo is the Italian name for the same grape as zinfandel (both came from Croatia), and a 2007 example from Piana del Sole in Puglia, where the varietal has flourished, had a perfectly pleasant, cherry and raspberry component. Yet overall the wine didn’t do much for the roast pig’s big flavors.

Spanish Blend

More complex but still a bit pale were two other Italian bottlings, a Masi Campofiorin Ripasso 2005 ($18) and Tre Roveri Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti 2007 ($25), while a Spanish Mas de Can Blau 2005 ($42.50), a blend of carinena and garnacha, had the depth and brawn those grapes are known for, marrying well with the meat.

My favorite match-ups were two Amarone della Valpolicellas. These wines from Italy’s Veneto region are made from corvina, rondinella and molinara grapes left to dry out on straw mats to achieve a raisin-like status, intensifying the sugars.

A decade ago this traditional process resulted in unique, high-alcohol wines that tasted of leather, with more than a hint of sweetness and oxidation. Today the wines are better made, cleaner and intended to be drunk earlier, and the result is a wine of enormous body and 15 percent alcohol, but without the musty oxidation.

Two Amarones

I tried two Amarones, a Vaona 2006 ($44) and a Speri Amarone 2004 ($92). The former was right on target to match the big flavors of the smoky meat, melding fruit and soft tannins with fat and smoke. It is a silky, sensual wine and the meat seemed blessed by it.

The Speri, considered one of the finest Amarones now made, has the benefit of aging, and its layers and layers of dark ripe fruits and its Port-like bouquet seem tailor-made to go with my backyard meal.

At $92, it’s one you save for a special occasion — such as a major meal like this or a birthday — which it was: mine.

Speri Amarone 2004

A bottle of Speri Amarone 2004. At $92 a bottle, Speri Amarone might seem expensive to serve at a pig roast, but its velvety complexity and dark fruit make such a meal a grand feast. Photographer: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery via Bloomberg

Mas de Can Blau 2005

A bottle of Mas de Can Blau 2005 from Spain. Spain’s Mas de Can Blau 2005 is a blend of carinena and garnacha that lends brawniness and fruity complexity to roast pig. Photographer: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery via Bloomberg


(John Mariani writes on wine for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)


The Chinese are buying California Grapes Now?

I knew the Chinese were driving up the price of 1st Growth Bordeaux, but apparently they are also buying grapes to make their own wine.  Interesting….This could be huge for Califorinia and the Governator is even getting involved.  Cali certainly needs a boost in revenue.


California Grape Demand Grows in China
Chinese shoppers preferred California grapes over other sources, including Chinese-grown.
Published: Sep 30, 2010 in the California Farmer

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent trade trip to China for the California Grown program highlighted the importance of the Chinese market for California products.

In a 2009 survey, the majority of Chinese grocery shoppers preferred grapes from California over any other source, including Chinese-grown grapes.

“From the beginning, we knew China had the potential to be a great market for California grapes,” says Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, Fresno. When the market first opened in late 1997, California grapes were available in just three cities in that country. “Since then, we’ve expanded access to California grapes and promotion programs into all regions of the country.”


While visiting a market in Hangzhou, China, the governor posed with a basket of California-grown grapes (pictured) showcasing the high-quality California products available to Chinese consumers.


Last year, China was the number two export market for California grapes with nearly 4.2 million 19-pound boxes of grapes shipped to that country. Canada was the number one export market.

 The California Table Grape Commission was created by the California legislature in 1967 to increase worldwide demand for fresh California grapes through a variety of research and promotional programs. More at grapesfromcalifornia.com.