Wine Explorers tasting: results announced
The results from the first ever tasting of the Wine Explorers project, which has so far seen over 2,250 wines tasted after a 180,000km journey, have been announced.
It began in January 2014 as a three-year adventure to scour the globe – from Peru to Ethiopia to South Korea with many points in between – to uncover the most obscure winegrowing regions.
The Wine Explorers project, conceived by 30-year-old globe-trotting wine enthusiast Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, aims to visit 250 wine regions and 1,500 vineyards to yield an inventory of every wine-producing country in the world.
With the project now at its halfway stage, with 180,000km travelled and more than 2,250 wines tasted, the results from the first ever Wine Explorers’ World Wine Tasting have now been announced.
On June 16 seven wine experts (Patrick Schmitt MW, Debra Meiburg MW, oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet, Château d’Yquem cellar master Sandrine Garbay, Château Palmer CEO Thomas Duroux, consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and Duclot purchasing manager Rachid Drissi) convened at the Duclot dining room at 49 Cours Xavier Arnozan in Bordeaux to taste wines from 12 countries.
Jean-Baptiste said: “The idea was not to judge these wines, but to assess the potential of each of the selected wine regions and discuss the notion of terroir.” To that end, some wines were tasted conventionally while others were served blind.
Obscure regions of ‘real potential’
Of the more obscure winegrowing regions, Ethiopia was judged to have “real potential” for winemaking, with poor soils at high altitudes and cool nights allowing for slow, gentle ripening and nice maturity, especially for reds.
Brazil was deemed to be “just beginning to reveal its potential”, particularly the Serra Gaucha region.
In Bolivia, vineyards at an altitude of 1,600-2,800m, with drier conditions and a “remarkable” terroir of well drained sandy loam and schist soils yielded wines with “freshness, elegance and some complexity”.
Mexico was judged to be a New World “star of tomorrow”, with the region of Baja California, south of California, one of the biggest surprises of the tasting.
Elsewhere in South America, Peruvian reds, mainly from Petit Verdot and Tannat grown at the foothills of the Andes, were found capable of “very good results”, while Uruguay produced quality wines, especially reds, in selected sites despite relatively heavy annual rainfall overall.
Canada’s Okanagan Valley was found to be “full of treasures”, while 4,400 km to the east: the late-harvest sweet white wines of Quebec made, from hybrid varieties such as Vidal or Seyval, impressed.
In the Asian region, though already the world’s fifth biggest wine producer, China was deemed to have potential to grow far more, with Emma GAO in Ningxia singled out for praise.
The tasting found that Japan “can produce very elegant and aromatic wines”, especially from Koshu, Riesling or Pinot Noir.
Special mention was reserved for South Africa which, the tasting confirmed, “can produce magnificent and elegant wines, especially from the Syrah grape variety”.
South Korea’s high humidity made it unsuitable for growing vitis vinifera, with hybrid vines being necessary, the project concluded.
Viticulture in Namibia, meanwhile, remained “anecdotal”.
Speaking about the project so far, Jean-Baptiste said: “This experience remains a humbling lesson and of open-mindedness, for wines sometimes ‘outside of the usual standards’ but with an undeniable potential and personality.”
After having already explored 25 countries on four continents, the team began the first European tour in early July.
The trip, which will be the basis for a series of documentaries, the first of which should be available in the autumn, is being supported by Videlot, DB Schenker and Diam Bouchage.
1 – Aruga Branca Pipa 2009, Katsunuma Jozo Winery, JAPAN
A 100% Koshu aged for six months in French oak, then two years in bottle. Judges found this a “delicate and subtle” wine with complex notes of vanilla and acacia and a slight smokiness. A food pairing of fish and beurre blanc was suggested.
2 – Virtude Chardonnay 2013, Salton, BRAZIL
A 100% chardonnay aged for six months in French and American oak, the wine had a fresh nose with some floral notes, with pleasant acidity on the palate. A wine that “displays some personality”, judges said, suggesting a pairing of tagliatelle with salmon.
3 – Vignoble du Marathonien Vendange Tardive 2012, Quebec, CANADA
A 100% noble-rot Vidal, was judged a “beautiful wine – dense, rich and sweet but still harmonious” with a “pretty nose” of pineapple, apricot and mango”. A pairing of vanilla ice cream and hazelnut feuillantine was suggested.
4 – Rüppel’s Parrot Colombard 2013, Kristall Kellerei, NAMIBIA
A majority Colombard blend with small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin, this was ”a very aromatic wine – light and pleasant – that seduced by its ‘drinkability’,” the judges said.
5 – Tomi Noble d’Or 1997, Suntory Tomi no Oka Winery, JAPAN
A 100% noble-rot Riesling which the jury described as ”undoubtedly an unusual wine”.
1 – Cuvée Violette 2012, Le Vieux Pin, CANADA
A 100% Syrah aged for 14 months in a combination of new and old oak barrels (19% new).
This was found to be “a wine full of elegance and finesse” with green pepper notes on the nose with herbs, olives and blackcurrant. On the palate, slightly herbaceous with a tapenade and red berries profile. A veal chop was suggested as a pairing.
2 – 5 Estrellas 2009, Casa de Piedra, MEXICO
A blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Cinsault, aged for 12 months in French and American oak.
Judges said this blend had a “lot of finesse”, with a complex, earthy nose, and notes of black olive and plum that would pair well with Chili con carne.
3 – Kerubiel 2005, Adobe Guadalupe, MEXICO
A blend of 38% syrah, 16% Cinsault, 16% Grenache, 6% Tempranillo and 3% Viognier.
The blend was described as seductive and very well made with dense structure and intense notes of jammy plum, strawberry and gooseberry.
4 – Le Grand Vin 2012, Osoyoos Larose, CANADA
Merlot-dominant with some cabernet sauvignon and small amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, aged for 20 months in French oak barrels (60% new, 40% of one wine).
Judges found a nose of spices and wild herbs, combined with ripe black fruits. The wine showed “remarkable density and length” and suggested a pairing of roast lamb.
5 – Pinto Bandeira 2014, Vinícola Aurora, BRAZIL
A 100% pinot noir aged for six months in French oak.
The wine showed a nose of modern Pinot Noir, woody, judges said, with ripe and fruity with notes of blackcurrant, precise extraction and long length. A pairing of white meat or marinated tuna was suggested.