Saturday, 28 March 2015

Pala

The Pala family first began producing wine on the island of Sardinia in 1950 and since then three generations have tended vines and produced wine. Currently run by Mario Pala (son of the winery’s founder Salvatore Pala) – with assistance from his children Maria Antonietta, Elisabetta and Massimiliano, the Pala family winery now carries a reputation for producing some of the best wine to be made on the island each year.

Whilst small quantities of international grape varieties (such as Syrah and Chardonnay) are cultivated, the vast majority of production is concentrated on grape varieties that are largely considered to be indigenous such as Vermentino, Cannonau and Nuragus. The Pala family even cultivate the rare and truly indigenous grape varieties of Nasco, Bovale and Monica - grape varieties that may have died out in the 1960s and 70s had it not been for the stubbornness of Salvatore Pala and a few other growers who chose to protect the historic grape varieties of Sardinia rather than make a “quick buck” by planting international grape varieties.

Today around 70 hectares of vines yield around half a million bottles of wine each year.

The Pala range is not as organised as at some wineries, with two “Silenzi” bottlings forming the entry point to the winery’s range, the “I Fiori” bottlings sitting above these and then an eclectic mix of single varietal and single estate wines clustered at the top of the price spectrum. The good news is that virtually the full Pala range is now imported into the UK, although The Independent Wine Review has only been fortunate enough to sample some of the white wines from this important winery to date.

The quality of the Pala wines that the Independent Wine Review has been able to sample to date has been impressive, with the “entry level” Silenzi Bianco offering clean and zesty introduction to two of Sardinia’s most important white grapes, whilst the “I Fiori” and “Stellato” Vermentino were both lingeringly classy.

A tasting of Pala’s red wines will surely be sought in the near future!

 
Summary of Scores (Updated March 2015)     

 
Vintage
 
2014
2013
2012
2011
Pala “Silenzi” Bianco
 
85
 
 
Pala “I Fiori” Vermentino
 
87
 
 
Pala “Stelatto” Vermentino
 
89
 
 

Reviews from 2015

Pala “Silenzi” Bianco, Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (2013)
This “Silenzi” Bianco (a blend of 50% Vermentino and 50% Nuragus) is nominally the entry level white wine of the Pala family winery, however despite its “entry level” billing this is an impressive wine in its own right, without compensation being given for its relatively lowly price. Hints of lemons and cut grass mingle attractively on the nose, whilst a lean and zesty palate offers a really good level of intensity and refreshment. This is a thirst quenching and attractive white that yearns to be paired with the summer sun! 85 points.

Pala “I Fiori” Vermentino di Sardegna DOC (2013)
This is a single vineyard Vermentino that is produced from the fruit of vines that average 35 years of age. A few months of lees aging and intensely flavoured grapes harvested from low yielding vines have produced a complex and intensely flavoured white of considerable quality. Flavours of lemon underpin the palate, with hints of mandarin and pomelo lending nuance and interest. There is a subtle, lingering finish to this “I Fiori” that is overwhelmingly attractive and just enough of a salty minerality to draw you into another sip. 87 points.

Pala “Stellato” Vermentino di Sardegna DOC (2013)
Pala’s “Stellato” Vermentino is produced from grapes that are harvested from the same vineyard as those used in the “I Fiori”, albeit the grapes used for this “Stellato” Vermentino were harvested significantly later (in October in fact). There is more of a waxed lemon nuance to the nose of this “Stellato” bottling, with a subtly different character also emerging on the palate. Elegant and slightly fuller than the “I Fiori”, this “Stellato” combines hints of almonds and white pepper with the base lemon flavours of the Vermentino grape, before hints of a chalky minerality grow on the finish. 89 points.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Maculan

The Maculan family have been producing wine in Breganze (within Vento, North East Italy) for three generations now. Quite literally born in the winery office, Fausto Maculan, the current patriarch of the Maculan family has been involved in the Maculan family winery business since the age of 13 and still currently heads the company. Ably assisted by his daughters Angela and Maria Vittoria since 2007, the Fausto Maculan and the family winery heads into the second decade of the 21st century with a reputation for quality that is enviable.

Credited for creating a “mini Bordeaux” in the Breganze area of Veneto, the majority of the Maculan family’s red wines are made from the Bordeuax varieties of Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, or blends of the two grapes. The 2009 Maculan “Brentino” blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon was described as hailing from the “best vintage ever” by Angela Maculan when she tasted it with The Independent Wine Review in 2012 and who are we to disagree – an excellent 87 points was the score.

Also impressive is the Maculan range of white and sweet wines. Composed of indigenous grape varieties such as Vespaiolo and Tai (although Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay also get a look in), the Maculan range of still whites offers genuinely interesting alternatives to the vast majority of Venetian whites that are produced.

The sweet Maculan whites are amongst the best of the region, with the Maculan “Torcolato” an unctuously sweet way in which to end a meal. The Maculan "Dindarello" has also impressed and is a great value dessert wine. 

Summary of Scores (Updated March 2015)    

 
Vintage
 
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2004
Maculan Vespaiolo
87
 
85
84
 
 
 
Maculan “Bidibi”
84
 
 
 
 
 
 
Maculan “Pinot & Toi”
 
 
 
84
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Maculan “Brentino”
87
 
 
 
87
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Maculan “Dindarello”
88
 
88
87
 
 
 
Maculan “Torcolato”
92
 
 
 
 
89
94

Reviews from 2015

WHITE
 
Maculan Vespaiolo, Breganze DOC (2013)
Always an individual wine, this Vespaiolo from the Maculan family is a light and dry white that is absolutely packed with intense flavours this vintage. Flavours of fresh nectarines have been combined with hints of honey to form the base of this wine, whilst a bitter twist of green apple skin emphasises the clean and impressively long finish. Completely different is character to so many of Veneto’s cheaper whites, this is the best vintage of Vespaiolo we’ve tasted. 87 points.
 
Maculan “Bidibi” Veneto IGT (2013)
Formed of a blend of 60% Tai (aka Friulano) and 40% Sauvignon Blanc this “Bidibi” from Maculan is a direct and bright white that is genuinely refreshing. A big, fresh nose acts as a prelude to a lean and dry palate that majors in green apple and lime flavours. A relatively simple wine, this Maculan “Bidibi” is nonetheless perfect for many a summer’s day. 84 points.
 

RED
 
Maculan “Brentino” Veneto IGT (2012)
“Brentino” is a Bordeax blend (55% Merlot & 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) but is much more accomplished than most Bordeaux available at this price! Dry and medium to full bodied, this 2012 iteration shows flavours of savoury dark cherries, mint and cloves stop a firm but not austere tannin structure. There is no shortage of length here and this should continue to mature nicely over a decade or so if carefully cellared. 87 points.
 

SWEET
 
Maculan “Dindarello” Veneto IGT (2013)
“Dindarello” is not as unctuous as Maculan’s “Torcolato” but this is still a top quality sweet wine. A wonderfully open nose of white flowers and the Moscato grape’s trademark grapey aromas greet you, before a sweet but clean palate of apricot and honeycomb flavours unfolds. The beautifully integrated acidity is the key to this bottling as it forms the basis of the structure of this wine and maintains its relative freshness. 88 points.
 
Maculan “Torcolato” Breganze DOC (2010)
This is the Vespaiolo grape variety put to its best use. After a period of appassimento-style grape drying, this Maculan “Torcolato” is now gorgeously sweet and richly textured. Flavours of honeyed apricots, over-ripe peaches and candied orange peels simply abound on a palate that goes on and on forever. Nonetheless enough acidity remains to cleanse the palate thereafter and this bottling remains one of Veneto’s benchmark sweet wines. 92 points.
 
Maculan “Torcolato” Breganze DOC (2004)
Maculan’s “Torcolato” is such a great wine when it is young, it is possible to never preserve a bottle for long enough to experience its great aging potential too! This 2004 bottling is now 11 years old and is a rich gold hue as it sits in the glass. Super intense flavours and aromas of apricots, nectarines, honey and even hints of fig fill the glass, with more than enough acidity retained that this bottling could have potentially continue to mature in bottle for another decade yet. This is an astonishingly good wine. 94 points.

Reviews from 2013

WHITE
 
Maculan Vespaiolo, Breganze DOC (2011)
Vespaiolo is a grape variety normally used to produce sweet dessert-style wines in Bregsnze, however here the Maculan family have elected to make a dry style. Light on the palate, this 2011 Maculan Vespaiolo shows a notably high acidity (one of the characteristics of the Vespaiolo grape that makes it so suitable for use in the production of dessert wines) but also offers enough fruit flavours to balance this. Zesty lemon flavours lead, with hints of pineapple and fleshier stone fruits also in evidence. A relatively simple wine, this 2011 bottling nonetheless shows an attractive balance and a unique character that is reflective of the grape variety used to craft it. 85 points.
 

SWEET
 
Maculan “Dindarello” Veneto IGT (2011)
Produced from Moscato grapes that were air-dried on bamboo racks for one month (prior to pressing and fermentation) this 2011 Maculan “Dindarello” was then bottled as a sweet wine, before a relatively youthful release. Sweet but not cloying on the palate, a mix of bright citrus fruit flavours (pineapple and blood orange) emerge, along with richer and stickier stone fruit flavours of over-ripe peach and dried apricot. Hints of honey and fig indicate the “passito” style drying of the Moscato grapes used to make this wine, whilst a good level of retained acidity allows these flavours to be expressed cleanly. 88 points.
 

Reviews from 2012

WHITE
 
Maculan Vespaiolo Veneto IGT (2010)
Somewhat restrained but endearing on the nose, a bouquet of lemon citrus, ripe white fruit and a touch of tangerine greets any taster of this Maculan Vespaiolo. Appearing slightly off dry and light in the mouth, these flavours are carried through with Vespaiolo’s trademark high acidity. The palate is fairly long and the finish fades with hints of tangerine again lingering. 84 points.
 
Maculan “Pino & Toi” Veneto IGT (2010)
Formed of 60% Tai (a grape variety also known as Friulano), 25% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Grigio, this Maculan “Pinot & Toi” might be composed in an unusual fashion, but is none the less a subtly accomplished wine. More stone fruit orientated that Maculan’s Vespaiolo, this “Pinot & Toi” is dry and light offering that linger nicely with hints of lemon one the wine itself is swallowed. 84 points.
 

 
RED
 
Maculan “Brentino” Veneto IGT (2009)
Dry and medium bodied on the palate, the fruit of this 2009 Maculan “Brentino” is slightly less ripe than on the palate than the nose might suggest with a Bordeaux-esque savouriness running though it. A nicely defined mixture of red and black fruit notes is fairly lengthy and an overly astringent tannin structure has been avoided. Acidity levels are high and this (along with the stern but not astringent tannins) looks to offer potential for bottle aging. With just 50% of this 2009 Maculan “Brentino” seeing 12 months in oak, the oak influence upon this 2009 Maculan “Brentino” is minimal, but offers just enough spice to generate interest. 87 points.
 

 
SWEET
 
Maculan “Dindarello” Veneto IGT (2010)
Aromatically pronounced, this Maculan “Dindarello” shows aromas of orange blossom, honey and apricots on the nose. The Moscato grape’s typically obvious “grapey” aroma is also quite overt. Sweet, ripe and fairly full-bodied on the palate, this bottling exhibits an unctuous citrus marmalade persona. Concentrated flavours of ripe oranges, nectarines and preserved lemon dominate, with an impressive depth and nuance also on show. Long and lingering, the sweetness of this 2010 “Dindarello” is beautifully offset by a prevalent acidity. 87 points.
 
Maculan “Torcolato” Breganze DOC (2008)
Unctuously sweet on the palate, this 2008 Maculan “Torcolato” is full bodied and sticky. Here more tropical fruit notes emerge with pineapple and mango joining those notes of orange, honey and vanilla identified on the nose. Reminiscent of a wonderful marmalade sponge pudding it lasts an age once swallowed. Not overwhelmingly sticky as a result of the Vespaiola grape’s typically high acidity, this 2008 “Torcolato” does retain just enough stickiness to remain utterly decadent and appealing. 89 points.