Sunday, January 19, 2020

2015 Brunello on release - at Casanova di Neri in Montalcino

The 2015 Brunello vintage is now being released (after the obligatory 5 calendar years of ageing) and is being presented by around 160 wineries at the much-celebrated event in February Benvenuto Brunello (anyone can join - tickets can be purchased online on the Consorzio website). There is much anticipation as the vintage '15 was rated 5 ⭐️ - a welcomed rating after a difficult 2014 vintage.

We follow winemaker Giovanni Neri as he shows us his wonderful family winery in Montalcino, Casanova di Neri. The winery has earned multiple awards and carries a great name among the prestigious Brunello producers, all whilst keeping a humble work ethic with the simple goal of making the best possible Sangiovese wines.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Study Italian Wine Scholar at the Italian Wine Institute

In March 2020 the very first boot camp in Italy for the Italian Wine Scholar certification by the Wine Scholar Guild will kick-off. It'll be 4 intense days of reviewing 10 northern Italian wine regions, plus tasting wines from every region. The boot camp is going to be in Florence at the Italian Wine Institute and the class will be for a max of 10 students. The sessions will be held by Rebecca Christophersen Gouttenoire, a certified Italian Wine Scholar instructor. More info on

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Free the Grapes!

This year we decided to head over to France (from Florence, Italy) for the holidays. As some of you may know, Pierre is French from the region of Aveyron. And as we also have the Danish connection (mine) to keep, we try to split our family holidays between these two countries.

Aveyron is an area north of Montpellier. It's a huge plateau with large parts of natural reserves and charming old villages and sheep...lots of sheep! In fact, it's famous for producing the world's best blue cheese: Roquefort!
See my very short video about the cheese here.

French Christmas usually involves a lot of oysters, duck, and patés (and liters of wine!). It didn't fail to deliver just this so with very full tummies and aching livers, we then headed towards our happy place, Nice, from where we run wine tours and rent a couple of apartments.

As it is sort of on the way, we decided to stop in Avignon to check out the southern part of the Rhone valley where many exciting wines are made. On a friend's recommendation, we went tasting at Domaine de Mourchon (the owner Walter is in the picture above holding a local newspaper that he showed us). Locals are worried about how French wine and cheese have been taken hostage in a political tax war between countries.

Already some cheeses (like the aforementioned Roquefort) and the French wines (under 14% alc by vol) are subject to an extra 25% import tax in the US since October. Walter explained that to protect the consumers some producers deal with it by lowering their prices somewhat, and perhaps the importers do the same. But it's not sustainable in the long run.

And soon it may touch a bigger segment of import products. It seems a tax increase of 100% is being considered. This would be a disaster for many European producers who rely greatly on foreign markest as major buyers and likewise sad news for all the American wine lovers who drink European wines who will have to spend double on their beloved products.

So much more reason, of course, to travel to Europe to indulge on wine tours with Grape Tours, as ever before...

Onwards, from Avignon, we headed down to the southern coast close to Marseille. There are two fantastic AOCs here. One is Cassis where a small quantity of great white wines are made, and then there is Bandol. My favorite reds of Provence come from here, so we had to stop at a winery to load up on a few bottles! Bandol is one of France's oldest AOC (1951) and makes concentrated wines primarily from the grape Mourvedre. See how it looks like on this video:

Monday, December 16, 2019

Podere Carnasciale - Caberlot

We had the Grape pleasure of visiting Podere Carnasciale earlier this month. Even though it is December and leaves have perished on the vines, it's still magical to visit wineries. It's quiet and the atmosphere is very special. Moritz runs the winery that initially was the dream of parents but also has become his own project and passion. See my video here (blow it up to the full screen) and enjoy it!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A journey through Slovenia discovering its wines

In April I was so lucky to join Shannon of GrapeHops on a weeklong wine adventure in Slovenia. It was so enjoyable to go on an organised and well-planned trip without the worry of not hitting the exact right spots at the right time, and (even more importantly for me) getting to try the right wines & foods. Personally, I had not had the time to study up on anything before going, so it was simply perfect. Besides, Shannon's awesome and knows the right people in every place, so everything's hands-on with just the right amount of info and local experiences.

So I'll give you an overview of what we did each day along with some pictures of the highlights. Even though I've mentioned the names of the places Shannon took us to, you won't find addresses or links to them, so google them if you like. This account is also absent of information about the exact wines that we tasted, as I don't want to go into too much detail (it would be too time-consuming at this moment of the season) and frankly, if you want to explore Slovenia you'll learn as you go if you keep an open palate - and probably taste other wines than we did anyway.
And you know me, I like to take pictures, and I couldn't really sort many out so you get a whole lot to scroll through if you like. At the end of each day, a little heading with what we did on the following day. 
I hope this gives you the inspiration to visit Slovenia - either on your own or perhaps with Shannon!

Day 1 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!


We arrived in the capital city Ljubljana on a Saturday afternoon and got a wonderful welcome package from Shannon that included maps, info, special Slovenian salt, alcohol (as if we would need that with the week ahead of us of wine tasting!), postcards and so forth. 
After an icebreaker drink in the lobby, we embarked on a city tour that included several food spots so we were sure to get all the flavours of Slovenia in all at once. 

Day 2 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!

Lake Bled and Skofja Loka

North of Ljubljena, around an hour by car, is the famous Lake Bled area. First, we went for an hour-long hike along a lovely riverside with waterfalls and tight (but safe) railings. If you go, make sure to get there early to beat the crowds - it takes around an hour and is very much worth it.
. We then headed to Lake Bled a short distance away and boarded a traditional “pletna” boat and had an amazing picnic on the island (Shannon is the picnic master, just in case anyone wondered how that happened). 
On our way back to Ljubljana, we visited the picturesque village of Skofja Loka, where we wandered around for a bit with our lovely guide and ended up having a glass (or two?) of white wine in a quaint square.

Dinner was back in Ljubljana at a wonderful restaurant enclosed in Ljubljana castle.

Day 3 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!

Maribor & Ptuj

Again we boarded the van with our wonderful professional driver, this time heading to the northeastern section of Slovenia. First, we visited the historic city of Maribor, where we did a city tour and found the oldest vine in the World (around 500 yrs old)!!  
Then we headed to the Horvat winery, where we tasted countless wines and had a lovely home cooked lunch. 
We then visited the super pretty town of Ptuj, followed by a tasting at Kobal winery which is right in the heart of town  - again many many wines were tasted, all of which were absolutely delish - and quite a few bottles made it with us back home ;)

Day 4 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!

Slovenian Istria and Piran
Direction southwest to the Slovenian part of the Istrian peninsula. The peninsula is shared with Croatia, with similar vines grown on each side of the border. We first stopped for a tour and a tasting at Lisjak, an olive oil producer who also offers fun tours in vans all targeted "Oliver". We saw the modern press and got to taste a variety of olive oils, the flavored ones were surprisingly good and high in quality.
We then had time to see the pretty seaside town of Piran that also has lovely little shops and great views over the Adriatic, before we lunched at an "Osmica" a traditional, seasonal tavern in a winery - something very special that only a local or someone like Shannon could find!
Then we visited the family-run winery Bordon - their speciality was Refosk (Refosco in Italian) which we had quite a lot of! 

Day 5 of our Slovenian🍷adventure! 

Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle & The Vipava Valley
We packed our bags and got on our tour van because today we were headed to the winegrowing area of Vipava Valley and we were going to sleep in this really cool underground eco hotel called Majerija
Before the first wine tasting we got to rest our livers and visited the Predjama Castle which is a cool castle-cave you can visit and walk around (but careful, it's slippery!) and the adjoining Postojna Cave - Europe's largest caves that are super impressive. 
We then had a lovely light lunch at a restaurant in the park with a fish-shaped bottled (that I photographed and got to keep).  
In the afternoon, we checked in to our underground lodging - beautiful rooms though with open toilet bath area (so if you're travelling with someone you don't want to share the intimacy get two rooms) and then learn about the traditional grapes used in the area on a short walk through the vineyards around Slap and a visit to Vino Marc winery. 
Dinner was paired with more wines well chosen by Shannon in the village of Vipava at Gostilna Podfarovz.

Day 6 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!

Gorizia Brda
This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we boarded our van to head northwest to Gorizia Brda, a wine region on the border of Italy and famous for its orange wines. Our visit was at the Movia winery where we got to hang out on a beautiful terrace and tasted the wines of Aleš Kristančič – the winemaker that helped put Slovenia on the international map - all followed by a delicious lunch. 
After lunch, we headed back to Majerija for a rest, and then visited the Žorž winery with the lovely wife of the winemaker and lots of great cheeses and cold cuts....and grappa! We were so full!!!

Day 7 of our Slovenian🍷adventure!

The Vipava Valley and Ljubljana
On our final day, we were headed back to Ljubljana with a visit to the Tilia winery en route. And, oh my, was this ever a special treat!
Owner Matjaž Lemut produces excellent Pinot Noir along with several other varietals. He took us on an amazing winery tour and explained everything with his great wit. 
After a tasting of a row of really lovely wines, we had lunch back at Majerija where we had overnighted underground, which was mind-blowingly good. And what we didn't know, these guys make the most amazing jams and distilled beverages that you can go discover in the underground cave!! So don't miss this place - it's really fabulous!
Back in Ljubljana we had dinner at the “Open Kitchen” where we could crack open a couple of the bottles that we had bought during the week. In fact, on Friday nights in the main market square of Ljubljana, local chefs and restaurants prepare dishes from the World to enjoy al fresco, along with wine, beer and cocktails. 
This was the perfect ending to a fabulous week that I'll be remembering for a long time!