The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2013

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Larger Than Life VINTNERS FROM MADEIRA, TORO AND THE MOSEL by Deborah parker Wong Q PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG Chris Blandy. PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG uick, name one trait the wines of Madeira, Toro and the Mosel have in common. Of course there's more than one answer to that riddle but, without a doubt, in all three regions you can find wine styles that make no excuses for being larger than life. From umami-laden Madeiras that are being dialed in to modern palates by producers like Chris Blandy, blockbuster Tinto de Toros that remain balanced and lush and Rieslings that express the tension between acid and residual sugar with impunity, these wines have more than their share of history to boot. Modern Madeira might sound like an oxymoron, but after ten minutes with seventhgeneration vintner Chris Blandy, the 33-year old CEO of the Madeira Wine Co., who took the helm of the family business last fall, the vision behind contemporary products such as Alvada comes into focus. Alvada, with its fuchsia label, spicy lime attack and obvious quality, breaks all the rules. This blend combines the richness of Malmsey with the dried apricot notes of Bual and is steadily finding its way onto by-the-glass lists, into cocktails and is even showing up on dessert menus in ice creams and sauces. On the table, Alvada straddles Malmsey pairings like dried fruit dipped in bittersweet chocolate and the dry, hard cheeses that work with Bual. "A fiveyear old blend like Alvada is a wine style that consistently over delivers," said Blandy who, if he could, would declare 2012 a vintage year for the island, which had the largest, least humid harvest they've seen in a decade. Balance is the mantra of Numanthia winemaker Manuel Louzada Manuel Louzada. 30  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2013 PHOTO: KATHI HANEL PHOTO COURTESY OF WINE AUSTRALIA SAN FRAN INSIdER whose visit to San Francisco provided a rare opportunity to discuss the extreme winegrowing conditions in Spain's Toro region. One of only 34 or so wineries in Toro, Numanthia's visibility means that expectations about wine quality and style are established by wines like Termanthia defy any stereotype. Numanthia was founded with the intention of producing the finest wine in the Toro region and Louzada has found Sofia Thanisch and her the key to unleashhusband, Ulrich. ing the power and beauty contained in single-vineyard sites like Termanthia which are planted to 120-year-old ungrafted vines. "Our biggest challenge to winegrowing in Toro is to balance the vineyards," Louzada said. "We receive one-half inch of rainfall each season, which means canopy management is key to protect the grapes, and the window to harvest is within two to three days." Mosel Riesling and wines from one of the world's most valuable vineyard sites, the Berncasteler Doctor, have been produced by the Thanisch family for eleven generations, the last four of which have been under the direction of a female member of the family. In late February, Sofia Thanisch, who is currently at the helm of Weingut Dr. H. Thanisch, presented, along with Dade and Petra Thieriot from Dee Vine Wines, six extraordinary wines at Spruce restaurant including a rare '95 Berncasteler Doctor Beerenauslese auction wine from the Thieriot's cellar. "Our emphasis is not on dry wines," said Thanisch in reply to the German market's demand for dry wines. An understandable position when you're able to bottle liquid electricity.

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