Thursday, September 29, 2016


San Francisco, September 2016

At a tasting recently organized by the Barossa Grape & Wine Association we had the opportunity to learn more about this high-powered Australia appellation and it’s wines, especially those savory signature Shiraz reds. According to the group:

“Geographical Indication (GI) is an official description of an Australian wine zone, region or sub-region. The GI system is designed to protect the use of the regional name under international law and is governed by the Geographical Indications Committee, overseen by Wine Australia. The Barossa (zone) is located north of the city of Adelaide in South Australia. It comprises two distinct and complementary regions, Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, which were formalised in 1997. High Eden is the only officially declared sub-region. The GI is purely geographic in concept, similar to the European Designation of Origin system.
The Barossa Zone has 13,634 hectares under vine.
  • Barossa Valley = 11,370 hectares under vine.
  • Eden Valley = 2,264 hectares under vine.

Barossa Old Vine Charter

Barossa is home to some of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in the world.
In 2009, the Barossa Old Vine Charter was instituted to register vineyards by age, so that older vines could be preserved, retained and promoted. Under the Charter, vines are grouped into four categories by age: (in ascendant order) Old; Survivor; Centenarian and Ancestor.
The Barossa Old Vine Charter makes a strong stand about protecting these gnarled old vines so that no one considers pulling this priceless treasury of viticultural heritage from the ground again.

Barossa Old Vine

Barossa Old Vine – Equal or greater than 35 years of age

These old vines have grown beyond adolescence and are now fully mature. They have a root structure and trunk thickness that encourages diversity of flavour and character. Their worthiness has been proven over many vintages, consistently producing the highest quality fruit for Barossa wines of distinction and longevity.

Barossa Survivor VineBarossa Survivor Vine -Equal or greater than 70 years of age

These very old vines are a living symbol of traditional values in a modern environment and signal a renewed respect for Barossa old vine material. They have weathered the worst of many storms, both man-made and naturally occurring, including the infamous 1980s Vine Pull scheme. A Barossa Survivor vine has reached a significant milestone, and pays homage to the resolute commitment of those growers and winemakers who value the quality and structure of old vine wines.

Barossa Old Vine Charter - Centenarian Vine

Barossa Centenarian Vine – Equal or greater than 100 years of age

These exceptionally old vines serve as a witness to Barossa’s resilience in the face of adversity. Barossa, unlike many other of the world’s great wine regions, is phylloxera-free, which allowed these vines to mature into their thick, gnarly trunks and naturally-sculptured forms without interference.
Noted for their low yields and intensity of flavour. Planted generations ago – when dry-farming techniques demanded careful site selection – Centenarian Vines have truly withstood the test of time.

Barossa Ancestor Vine

Barossa Ancestor Vine – Equal or greater than 125+ years of age

An Ancestor vine has stood strong and proud for at least one hundred and twenty five years – a living tribute to the early European settlers of Barossa. Their genetic material has helped to populate this region with irreplaceable old stocks that underpin the viticultural tradition. Tend to be dry-grown, low-yielding vines of great flavour and intensity, and are believed to be among the oldest producing vines in the world.”

Read our reviews of Barossa GI wines here  –
2013 John Duval Wines Entity Shiraz Barossa

2013 Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz Barossa Valley

Read more about Barossa GI – visit Wine Australia website.

Friday, September 23, 2016

LABOR OF LOVE - Wine Family Women of Piemonte

Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative
Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto
Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative


Suzanne Hoffman first visited the northern Italian region of Piemonte with her second-generation Sicilian mother, Frances Castrogiovanni Manale, in 1999 while her husband was away in China. Upon arrival, they found it cold, wet, foggy and not very inviting. At table, however, the real pleasures of this region unfolded, with the discovery of local specialties  vitello tonnato (poached veal with tuna sauce), carne cruda (raw chopped Fassone veal) and tajarin (thin, egg-rich ribbons of pasta) with brown butter and sage, all paired with Barbera and Nebbiolo-based wines.

On a visit in 2000 with her husband Dani she had the good fortune of being advised to visit Jeffrey Chilcott, the English speaking winemaker at Marchesi di Gresy. Not only did he educate the couple on the local wines, he set in motion the 14-year exploration and discovery of 22 local families who are featured in this book.

The emphasis is on the local women, much admired by Alberto di Gresy, who says, “I believe greatly in women; they know how to be tough and gentle, and when they want to, they have more insight and are more quick-thinking than we men.”

Aside from the gritty and heartwarming stories, the lavish artwork and photography makes this a must have coffee table book as well.

Labor of Love, Wine Family Women of Piemonte by Suzanne Hoffman, with forward by Maurizio Rosso, Under Discovered Press, Vail, Colorado, Hardcover, 298 pages, $55

Read our reviews of Piemontese wines here:

and our grape profiles of Barbera and Nebbiolo here:


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Kick starting the week was a delicious and informative tasting with Chateau la Nerthe Export Manager Christophe Bristiel and Pasternak Wine Imports West Division Manager Ben Cuaresma at the San Francisco home of Planet Grape Wine Review co-panelist Deborah Parker Wong.

Christophe explained that Chateau la Nerthe owns Prieure de Montezargues and Domaine de la Renjarde as well, and that all three wineries produce Certified Organic wines now. Wines tasted included a Tavel Rose, a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, and several Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, both red and white, including a stunning 2006 Chateau la Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape which was so beautifully open, expressive and seamless with its ten years of bottle age.

I asked if I could enjoy the leftovers with the 49ers vs Dodgers football game that night but unfortunately was turned down. What is one to drink after tasting something so lovely first thing in the morning? I suppose its like the restaurant guest who after ordering Rombauer Chardonnay and being told there wasn't any decided to have Jack Daniels instead.
Bristiel explained the different grapes used so often in Rhone wines, Grenache being the easiest to grow and transform into delicious wine, adding, "Where olive trees stop, Grenache stops." Tavel AOP only produces Rose, with 8 grapes allowed, while Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOP allows 13 grapes and can be red or white. Chateau la Nerthe works with Grenache vines that are up to 120 years old, giving incredibly expressive wines at below-market pricing. Other grapes used include Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan, and for whites, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourbolenc.

Read our reviews of these wines here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


By Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis

Last week the Planet Grape Wine Review team attended a tasting of New Zealand wines at 1760 in San Francisco hosted by Chuck Hayward with Marcel Giesen and Giesen's Chief Winemaker Nikolai St. George. The title was "Searching for the Crus of Marlborough" and through four flights of wines it was clear that the focus on sub-region and vineyard (cru) was the way forward, not only for the iconic Sauvignon Blancs, but for the elegant, expressive, fruity and balanced Pinot Noirs.
img_1324Like other wine regions moving towards protecting their regional names, New Zealand is in the process of launching their own Geographical Indication system, so that other countries may not use them. They look at this as more of a trademark protection than appellation system.
The wine industry there, as well as the government, business communities and society practice the concept of kaitiakitanga - guardianship, started by New Zealand's original settlers, the Maori, to protect the resources of their small island. Today there is nearly universal adoption of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand program.
Check out our faves from New Zealand here:

Kia ora, be well!