–submitted by Mike Wilson; photo by Pete Christianson
The Wine Fellowship met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s for a “different” tasting. We tried fortified wines and added three Single Malt Scotches to show the effect of a REAL aftertaste. I love the aftertaste of wine and I score it very highly on my rating assessment of individual wines. A 20-second aftertaste is superb in wine, but Scotches and Cognacs have aftertastes that last all night, and welcome you the next morning.
We first tried Sherries from that small triangle in Southern Spain right at the Straights of Gibraltar. These fortified wines were at their popularity peak in the 70’s when I left NZ and I had often drunk Tio Pepe and Harveys Bristol Cream – bone dry and sweet examples – aperitif and dessert wines. This time we tried the Tio Pepe Fino and a Lustau Oloroso – the latter a more complex wine. The latter was the preferred wine but I warned everyone the Fino is great as an aperitif. These wines are aged in the Solera system
Next we tried two Ports – the nearest thing to usual dinner wines among those tasted. Here we tried two styles that are the best bargains – a Kopke Tawny 10 year old port and an unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) from Quinta do Noval. The Kopke is the longest family run Porto in Portugal dating to 1638. Both were very good and were well liked by most tasters.
These 4 wines averaged about $25 and are all available from Steve’s on University.
Next I tried to make a case for Marsala not being relegated to a cooking wine. Here there was an interesting tale about this old wine being confined to the Trapini region near the NW corner of Sicily. When Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773 was forced by a storm to land in Marsala, he fell in love with the wine and recognized the similarity to the popular Port in England, and decided not to collect the load he was to pickup in Sicily and rather filled his ship with Marsala. He came back in 1796 and set up a winery. In 1806 he was followed by fellow Englishman Benjamin Ingham who even built the first Anglican Church (Church of England), the only church of the Diocese of Europe, across the road from his mansion. These wines use the Perpetuum system – similar in concept to the Sherry Solera system. We tried a Florio Dry wine (the oldest Sicilian producer of Marsala -established 1833) fino (Aged 1 year), and Marco de Bartoli Vigna La Miccia 5 year riserva which is medium-dry,. These two represent the range of Sicilian Marsala’s – the first a “post-English” and oldest Sicilian Marsala winery and the latest a very serious wine maker Marco de Bartoli producing what he describes as a “pre-English” Marsala – predating Woodhouse’s arrival. What drama! These wines were not favorites of the tasters but Mike had fun reliving his trip to Palermo where he and Patty stayed in the Bingham residence, now the Grand Hotel de Palmes in Palermo, Sicily.
Next we tried two fortified wines being located on distant islands. First we tried a Madeira from the island of the same name some 600 miles from the home land Portugal, and an Isle di Pantelleria closer to Tunis than Sicily.
The Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419 by Portugese explorers and became the first requisitioning station for travelers/explorers to India, the America’s, and the East Indies. This was likely the first fortified wine as such, and there the best wine was that that had traveled the “round trip” – vino do roda – to and from the “Hetherlands”. To simplify production the Madeirans invented the cheaper and more efficient “hothouse” system where the stored wine in large rooms heated by the sun with the wine in large barrels raised on trestles. They are stored for 20-100 years – and many old wines are still for sale. I personally liked this very much and recounted how a 100 year old sample was brought to a Bring Your Own Wine Rotary Wine Fellowship once.
The other Island DOC is the Moscato/Passito from Isle di Pantelleria. This is made by the new Powerhouse Marco di Bartoli who is restoring Marsala’s name. He also started this Passito production on the Island, now followed by other major Marsala producers. This wine is a Passito (slightly raisanated) where the heating of the grapes is done in the field where the grapes are handpicked and left in fields between natural rock walls and allowed to dry out and concentrate sugar and flavors for two weeks before the rest of the grape crop is picked then the Passito is added. This is like brother-sister Italian Passito wines of Valpolicella in the Veneto, and the Montefalco in Umbria.
Last we tried Single malt Scotches. I selected three of the six regions where Single malts are made. First we had Auchhentoshen Three Wood from the Lowlands (less than 10 producers) and this example I think of as one of the mildest Malts. Then we tried The Glenlivet as the first legal distillary (1824) after the Excise Act of 1823. This distillery sued other producers in the valley (Glen) of the Livet river (hence Glenlivet), and the judge determined they could call themselves “The Glenlivit” and the others could include the Glen Livet component as they were also in the Glen of the Livet river – a real Solomon decision that The GlenLivet has exploited since. This is said to be a light delicate Malt. Last we tried one of the few Isle of Islay Malts – Laphroaig. A Smoky blockbuster that was a shock to most of the wine imbibers tastebuds. A good experience of a Great Long Smoky Aftertaste.
Breads, cheeses, olives, almonds and chocolate covered strawberries were provided.