With the death of Len Evans, August 17, 2006, “Mr. Australian Wine,” an era in Australia’s wine history has ended. Len was the motivation behind his last wine venture, Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley. We have offered Tower wines previously when we had them imported, but now would like to offer the last lot of Tower Barossa Shiraz 2001 which is exceptional and an exceptional monument to Len.
Produced from Barossa grown shiraz grapes from his friend Peter Lehmann’s own personal vineyard, this Barossa Shiraz is everything that one looks for in Shiraz wine: intense black color, graphite and licorice on the nose with mouth filling tannin and flavor. The object behind the Tower wines was to produce only 1,000 cases of any varietal wine from areas and vineyards considered the best for the varietal no matter where in Australia.
We no longer have Len, but his work lives on. ARS LONGA,VITA BREVIS.
For a long time it was considered that New Zealand did not produce serious red wine. At least not red wine other than Pinot Noir. But it has and does. To point this up, I have put on sale two vintages of Matariki Syrah. We need to make room for new wines coming this fall and would like to point out to our customers the attractiveness of New Zealand Syrah grown in cool climate areas. Matariki wines are grown in Hawkes Bay, toward the south end of the north island of New Zealand and have been highly awarded by Cuisine magazine, the most influential food and wine magazine in New Zealand.
Both the 1999 and 2000 vintages are now long sold out in New Zealand and must now leave Corti Brothers to make room for new wines and vintages. With several years of bottle age, these Syrahs are delicious drinking as mid weight wines with perfume and flavor and are not massive red wines suggested by syrah’s reputation. Originally, both vintages sold for $24.99 and we are closing them out at $19.99. With the rise in the euro and even the New Zealand and Australian dollar, these are very good buys in maturing wines for current drinking.
Here is a little gem of a wine. This is a declassified Barolo produced from a noted Barolo producer sold only as the Barolo varietal, nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is a wonderful grape variety making now, not only Barolo and Barbaresco, but on its own a perfume-y, delicious red wine as it did before the invention of Barolo in mid 1860s. Thomas Jefferson visiting Piemonte during his time as ambassador in France, wrote glowingly of “nebiole” wine, probably something like this.
Barolo producers have had a string of remarkably good vintages recently. The Oberto Nebbiolo Langhe shows what happens when a conscientious producer decides to not sell a wine as Barolo. The wine is merely declassed and sold for what it is: a delicious red wine. (I think I can be included in the group that considers Barolo a wine to be made in vintages when it can, not in every vintage. In the other vintages, this is what could be produced.) I recommend this Nebbiolo to you as an example of the variety’s quality.
A Problem with Olive Oil
August, 2007 is really not a pleasant month for some producers of Italian olive oil. Two articles, one written by Tom Mueller in The New Yorker, 13 August 2007 issue, and a commentary posted in the Wall Street Journal on 5 August 2007, have pointed up the legal problem occurring at certain levels of Italian production and sales. As has been rightly pointed out, olive oil has always been a magnet for fraud since antiquity. It is a product that allows for blending fraud, outright faking and other nefarious tricks. This depreciates small, high quality producers in Italy who have for years tried to get government legal action against the more blatant frauds.
The New Yorker article points out two exemplary producers whose oils Corti Brothers sells: Alfredo Mancianti and Marco Mugelli. Mancianti is the taste panel head for the Mastri Oleari, producing his own oil Affiorato, and Marco Mugelli, producer of Cultivar Plus, is the panel head for Florence who won his case against several very large oil bottlers. Tasting extra virgin oil is a more certain method of determining quality than using chemical analysis, but both need to go hand in hand.
The tenor of both articles really is that you must know what you are buying and from whom. The olive oil business done through large, multinational companies is a very “slippery business” if not a very dubious one. Be on the safe side: know your purveyor, and he should know his.
At the end of Tom Mueller’s article, and the supposed “made in Italy” laws to be enacted, Mr. Colavita of the homonymous oil company says, “I say that a criminal ought to make the law, because the criminal knows how to outwit the law.” In Italian, the saying is more succinct: “Fatta la legge, trovato l’inganno.” A law made is a law skirted.
You may well be wondering about the number and % sign in parenthesis after the wines in this newsletter. In October, 2006, I received a letter from an old friend, a noted jurist in Southern California, who wrote the following:
“My problem with buying wine by mail order is that I never quite know what I am going to get. It is a strange and perplexing thing to me that people selling wine will advertise where it came from, the nature of the soil in which it grew, how dark is its color, what the flavor is, whether it has peach, plum, flinty or cigar box nose, and how it is rated on some numerical scale. The descriptions never, however, reveal one of the most important characteristics of the wine: its alcoholic content....I can’t get the Wine Spectator or anyone else to reveal in its descriptions what the alcohol content is. But Corti Bros. is different. You tell it like it is. Can’t you include the alcohol content when you tout a wine?”
Well, Mr. Justice, you have your wish. The idea seems perfectly reasonable. From now on, Corti Brothers will list the label’s stated alcohol of wines it sells in its Newsletter, hoping this will also benefit other customers.