I was lucky enough to head off to Prowein again this year, then to Champagne and Italy. As usual Prowein was nuts, with 6800 wineries showing off their goodies from 64 countries spread out over 71000 square meters... I racked up as much as 14ks a day scooting around to meetings. Plenty of time in Champagne too, catching up with Bernard Remy, Champagne Bouche, Le Mesnil and Roger Brun. Found a spectacular producer in Grand Cru Ambonnay too... stay tuned for more on that front. The big news out of Champagne is the deeply held fear within the region that within 20 years there will be hardly any small producers left... and that perhaps this will also bear out in the Bordeaux, what with the big companies paying up to 7 euros for a kilo of grapes, vineyards now fetching 1-2 million Euros per hectare and recent changes to succession taxes. Now is a very good time to buy small producer champagne...
But, enough of the bad news... the emphasis for the trip in terms of potential new wines this year was on Italians, though I found some exceptional Spanish old vine gear too, with samples on the way of all. Particularly delicious was a Mencia off vineyards planted 50-100 years ago and a Tempranillo from 60 plus year old vines.
I tasted a lot of good stuff from Valpolicella too, a region that works with the varieties Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Corvinone making multiple different styles all from the same group of grapes … starting with bright and freshly fruited with their Classicos. Next step up the ladder is the Ripasso styles, where the pressed skins from Amarone production are added back to better quality classiso wine, restarting the ferment and adding richness, smoothness, depth and intensity. Then there’s the Amarones themselves, made after air drying the grapes for several months (Appassimento). These wines are big – on fruit, acid, alcohol and intensity – the best of them balance savoury and sweet perfectly and will cellar for decades. I even stumbled across a producer (Dom Veneti) whose dad accidentally made the first Amarone in the 1960’s, by forgetting about a sweet Recioto wine he had in barrel, and not discovering it again until it had fermented dry. I did get out the Valpolicella later in the trip for some excellent meetings and we’ve got quite a few samples coming out from Valpolicella, many specifically from the Negrar Valley, the best part of Valpolicella.
Also on the way to us is some excellent Cortese, Chianti, Sparkling, Pinot Nero, Sangiovese and blends, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Nebbiolo, Super Tuscans and plenty more. One of the more exciting finds was an aged Barbaresco. Barbaresco along with Barolo are both in the Piedmont region. Barolo has long been the more expensive and ageworthy wine, which takes longer in the cellar to come together. Generally Barbaresco is drinkable earlier and equivalent in quality to Barolo, just different. Good Barbaresco is still and extremely long lived beast packed with spice, truffle, cherries, anise, strong acidity and plenty tannins. We look forward to this and other samples arriving, getting stuck into them on the tasting panel and hopefully sharing the winner with you towards the end of the year.