Friday, July 22, 2016

Metal Provocateur Nergal Opens Up in Conversational Biography

I took this photo of Nergal at a Behemoth show in 2015.

If you don’t know Behemoth, stop reading this and go listen to “The Satanist,” “Evangelion” and “And the Forests Dream Eternally.” If this music does not speak to you, move along to other, less fascinating things.

If you’re a Behemoth fan, or a fan of extreme metal in general, and know of Nergal’s work, this book is worth checking out. But outside of that context, I’m not sure the book has much cross-over appeal. It represents a niche within a niche, and those without much reference points will be confused by a lot of this.

This “memoir” is structured as a series of questions, posed by two of Nergal’s friends and colleagues. Nergal’s replies make up the meat of the book.

The intro by D. Randall Blythe (Lamb of God) is perfect. He speaks of his respect for Nergal as a “survivor,” a term he admits is overused these days. “For survival to impress me these days, it has to be real, and it has to be done with panache. There are simply too many motherfuckers on this planet for me to be impressed by your mere continuing existence.”
Like all interesting people, Nergal is a collection of diverse and seemingly contradictory elements.

“I actually live in two worlds,” he says. “One of them is mine. I was in it; everything there goes slowly, according to its own rhythm. That part is my actual life. In the second world, on the other hand, I always play some kind of a role. I don’t know who or why I was made to play it, and I end up in the tabloid newspapers as a consequence. It just happened. I don’t care about this. I don't belong there; I’m just a guest. I actually think a lot of people exist on the vague boundaries of these two worlds.”

The interviewers are friends and colleagues of Nergal, but their questions are anything but underhand pitches. The questions are posed in a seemingly random fashion, and many of them sound adversarial, even badgering, in their tone. After one strange question, Nergal simply responds, “What kind of question is that?”

Also, I wonder if the interviewers had even planned out their questions ahead of time, because the chapters are barely coherent. Nergal mentions something about clothing and then the questions turn to whether Nergal does his own laundry and irons his socks. Seriously. Nergal’s responses are almost always great, but he can only do so much. I wish he was posed more substantive questions about Behemoth’s early days, how the band prospered, Nergal’s take on various iterations of Satanism, etc.

Instead, a lot of the book focuses on Nergal’s relationships with various Polish women or celebrities, but there is no background given. So if you don’t know these names (which is likely the case for everyone who isn’t Polish), you get quite lost.

The best parts of the book come where Nergal takes a mediocre to dumb question and riffs on it, producing some interesting quotes. There are a ton of good quotes in here on all sorts of topics. Here are a few of my favorites:

Yes, he's an atheistic Satanist, but Behemoth shows have a stirring and spiritual quality.
On the U.S. being a weird place: “It’s a strange country. You can go to jail for drinking beer on the street but yet everyone carries a weapon.”

“There’s an idiot and a wise man inside each of us.”

“Christian rock is pathology – a classic oxymoron.” “These are sounds of rebellion. The subjective nature of religion and rock's ethos are mutually exclusive.” 

On the word “disturbing” to describe Behemoth’s music: “When somebody says that about our music, I take it as a huge compliment. It’s the same with cinema. The best movies are disturbing.”

On the word “nice” to describe music: “If somebody said that our show was nice, I’d feel like I’d been slapped in the face. Cheap hookers can be nice, but not Behemoth's concerts.”

“Disdain for carnality is a result of 2,000 years of waiting for the kingdom that only comes when we die. I reject this fairy tale, and I reject the disdain for temporality.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer of Jura - These Whites & Reds Pair Perfectly with Summertime

Remember the Summer of Riesling promotional campaign? That was fun, if a bit gimmicky. Riesling in the summer is a no-brainer, and I'm always keeping my eye out for delicious and crisp rose wines to combat the insane heat and humidity here in the mid-Atlantic. 

But this year I've been approaching summer sipping a bit differently: with Jura wines. 

Whites from grapes like Chardonnay and Savagnin provide oodles of minerality, brisk acidity, and tart fruit flavors. And the reds from this fascinating region in Eastern France work well in the heat as well. These wines (made from grapes like Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard) are not dense, heavy, extracted reds. Many of them drink like pink wines, with refreshingly lip-smacking flavors, and they taste delicious when chilled.

I've recently tasted through some beautiful Jura wines from my personal collection during the heat of this summer, and both worked really well.

2010 Domaine de la Pinte Arbois - France, Jura, Arbois

Funky, medicinal and herbal liqueur aromas (I mean that in a good way), with tart red apple and white cherries. Light tannins at this point in its life, brisk acidity keeps this wine intensely bright and lip-smacking. Love the white and red cherry fruit, but at this point it's all about the earth, tobacco, herbal and spice components. Fun stuff, the Kevins and Ian dug this wine, too. We drank it chilled on a Saturday afternoon beach day in Atlantic City. This was a new, absurd, and awesome experience. Life is good. I'm not sure I'd age this much longer, though, but it's kicking. (90 points)

2012 Domaine de la Borde Arbois Pupillin Côte de Caillot - France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin

Medium gold color. The aromas are KILLING IT: Gorgeous mix of orange marmalade, lemon curd, shaved ginger, sea brine and crushed shells. On the palate, a waxy mouthfeel combines with brisk, bracing acidity, and the presentation is beautiful. Flavors of orange peel, lemon curd, salted lime and green apple glide across the palate with ease. Flavors of chalk, minerals, sea salt, brine, smoked herbs, honeyed tea, dried nuts, ginger - this is a complex ball of goodness that also seems effortless. Gorgeous stuff with a long finish. Must get more for the cellar. I drank this on a sweltering hot DC. (94 points)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wine Myths Debunked

Credit: El Pantera - Wikimedia
The wine world is full of tired maxims, repeated with confidence by people who want to sound wine savvy.

You can't drink red with fish!

All bottles must be stored at a constant 55 degrees or else they will be ruined. 

Soave is crappy wine consumed by old winos. 

While there are some general rules about wine appreciation, rules are meant to be broken. Wine is meant to be enjoyed. Wine appreciation isn't a cut-and-paste kind of thing. It's about spreading joy and loving life. 

For this month's Wine Writer's Round-Up from Snooth, I join a bunch of talented writers in debunking some of the most common wine myths. 

Click here to read the whole piece. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Arinzano: Stunning Wines from a Spanish "Grand Cru"

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Sancho Fortuñones de Arínzano first produced wine in this Navarra site in the 11th Century. So, yeah, there's some history behind this special spot.

Arinzano received a Vino de Pago classification in 2007, a heralded designation for certain estate-grown and produced Spanish wines. The vines are planted in loam, sand and limestone soils in a cooler area of the Pyrennes, and the vines climb to 1,600 feet.

In brief, these wines are exciting and delicious. Vibrant, bright, complex, full of earthy spice and complexity.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2014 Arinzano Hacienda de Arinzano Blanco - Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
Medium yellow color. Lively aromatic bursts of lemon curd, green apples and juicy pears. The oak shows through on the nose with vanilla and toasted almond but I also get some salty air and floral perfume. Creamy texture on the palate but zesty acidity keeps it fresh. Green apples, lemon curd and pear skin flavors blend with a pronounced sense of chalk, minerals and quinine. The oak is noticeable with vanilla and nut flavors, but they're mixed in very well. The wine is long and seamless, Burgundian, dare I say it. Aged 12 months ion French oak (30% new, 70% second year). (89 points)

2015 Arinzano Hacienda de Arinzano Rosado - Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
Ripe watermelon color. Smells of juicy strawberries, white cherries, watermelon, along with some chalky and spicy notes. Very pretty in its creaminess but quite tart and bright in its approach, Notes of crushed chalk and minerals add complexity to the strawberry, red apple and quince fruit. A nice kick of spiced tea, pepper and nettle comes out as it warms up. Crisp and clean but this packs quite a lot of flavor and depth. 100% Tempranillo from a vineyard that is designated particularly for making this rosé. (88 points)

2011 Arinzano Hacienda de Arinzano Tinto - Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
Gorgeous light purple color. Deep aromas of black cherries, red and black currants, violets, cedar, tobacco, roasted coffee, but the wine needs time to open up to show its full aromatic capacity. Full but fleshy with wonderfully vibrant acidity and structured, dry, dusty tannins. Gorgeous tart fruit (black currant, plum skins) mix with a note of roasted fig, all of it backed by pipe tobacco, forest floor, sage, tobacco. A savory, earthy finish, this wine is great for the lover of brightness and freshness in a bold wine. Impressive but accessible now. Tempranillo with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, aged 14 months in 40% new French oak. (90 points)

2008 Arinzano La Casona ­- Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
Vibrant dark ruby color. Loamy, cigar shop and herbal notes roll over red currant and dark cherry aromas. The wine really opens up a lot with air to show spicy and earthy complexity. Pure silky on the palate, sure the tannins are structured but they're fined down around the edges and bright acidity pulls it all together. Full of black cherry and dark plum fruit, some lively red berry fruit tossed into the mix as well. I get a host of cedar, cigar box, dried leaves, charcoal and tobacco flavors. So much going on here, but this is also an elegant and pure expression. I'd love to revisit this in three years. A blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Merlot aged 14 months in 40% new French oak. (92 points)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Energetic & Elegant Champagnes of Bruno Paillard

Bruno Paillard and his daughter Alice. Credit: Champagne Bruno Paillard
Bruno was only 27 years young when he founded his eponymous Champagne house. In 1981, he was a man on a mission: to make precise, zesty, mineral-driven Champagnes.

Thirty-five years later, he has overachieved. These are vibrant, complex, intriguing Champagnes that are prepped for years of cellar aging. 

The Paillards were not new to the Champagne scene — Bruno’s ancestors had been vinegrowers in Champagne since the early 1700s. In 2007, Bruno’s daughter, Alice Paillard, joined the company and became co-director two years later. Champagne Bruno Paillard now releases about 450,000 bottles per year, making it something like a larger small producer or a smaller large producer.

I recently dined with Alice and tasted through her family’s wines. The lineup was seriously impressive, and Alice's knowledge of Champagne production and export markets was incredible.

These wines share a brisk and dry appeal due to their racy acidity, minerality and lower dosage. Although labeled Brut, technically all of the Champagnes would qualify for the Extra Brut label (since they contain a lower dosage of 6 g/l or less). The house only uses a small portion of the first press for its wines. Also, Bruno Paillard ages their wines on the lees for much longer than legally required (36 months for the non-vintage blends, 48 months for the Blanc de Blancs, at least eight years for the vintage-dated wines and about 10-15 years for the cream of the crop, the N.P.U). The house also claims to be the first one to place disgorgement dates on each bottle, which Bruno began doing in 1983.

For the first 15 years or so of the house’s existence, Bruno sourced grapes from a variety of trusted growers. But he wanted his own vineyards. It wasn’t easy to buy the plots, Alice explained, because they rarely come on the market and are in high demand. But her father's work as a vineyard broker gave him an inside track, and he managed to purchase his first plot in 1994. Today, the house holds more than 60 acres of estate vineyards, about half of which are in Grand Cru villages. These estate vines (which are divvied into a 80 different parcels), provide the house with more than half the grapes they need for their champagne.

Below are my notes on the wines I tasted with Alice Paillard.

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Réserve Privée - France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Such a fresh and vibrant nose with lemons, lilies and honeysuckle. Crisp and lively on the palate with lively acidity but an impressive depth and weight to the mouthfeel. Clementines and lemons mix with some rounder, juicy fruit, and it’s all topped with generous amounts of sea salt, crushed shells and that signature element of chalky minerality. Very impressive stuff that unfolds and evolves. This spends four years on the lees and is dosed at 5 g/l, Extra Brut. It comes from several sites in Grand Cru vineyards of the Cote des Blancs. A 2009 base, this was disgorged in December 2014. (92 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Richer yellow color. Some marzipan and peanut on the nose, along with lemon curd and nectarine. Rich body but lovely acidity combine for a great texture, the rounder feel is contrasted with a crisp and mineral-driven aesthetic. Orange pith, white cherry, lemon, touched with toasted bread and honeybutter. This blend comes from 32 different villages, vinified separately, it’s a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Meunier with at least 25% reserve wine. This spends three years on the lees and sees a 6 g/l dosage. Disgorged May 2015. (90 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Rosé Brut Première Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Gorgeous nose of white and yellow flowers, almond, toasted bread and bruised apples. Crisp and delicate on the palate despite some pleasantly rich texture. Oranges, apples, white cherries, add some chalk and toasted baguette. Bright, mineral-driven finish. Mostly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay from the northern part of the Cote des Blancs. 5 g/l dosage, disgorged May 2015. (90 points)

2004 Bruno Paillard Champagne Assemblage Brut - France, Champagne
SRP: $90
So perfumed on the nose with flowers, sea spray, pastry crust, nuts and all sorts of apples and pears. Tart but so elegant on the palate, brisk, bold, very young. A good amount of citrus (oranges, limes, lemons) along with almond, pie crust, also I get some chalk and minerals. Long, lovely, complex, a beautiful wine that will age nicely for a while. Spends 8 years on the lees. (91 points)

2008 Bruno Paillard Champagne Assemblage Brut - France, Champagne
SRP: $85
The aromas are direct, bold and intense, with apples, pears, lemons and floral extract. Bold texture on the palate, this is a young and punchy wine but the acidity is wonderfully intense. The wine maintains a pure and structured aesthetic, a dense boldness but also laced with chalky, salty, mineral-laden goodness. A very intense Champagne, but it has this underlying emotiveness that is so intriguing and exciting. All of this nonsense language to say: this is an exceptionally pleasant experience. 42% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir, 16% Meunier. 5/gl dosage. Aged seven years on the lees, disgorged in 2015. (92 points)

2003 Bruno Paillard Champagne Nec Plus Ultra - France, Champagne
SRP: $200
Deeply floral nose with blood orange, apricots, honey, chalk, toasted bread – the aromas are intense but so elegant. Rich but bright, full but tart. Yellow apple, apricot, quince paste, the fruit is bold and backed up by honey, almond, candle wax and white tea. A gorgeous wine with tons of texture and richness, but lots of vivacity. The nuanced flavors take time to come out and will improve with a long time in the cellar. Dis 2003 if you’d like, but this wine slays. A 50/50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend, sourced from Grand Crus Oger, Chouilly, Verzenay and Mailly. This wine is fermented in old oak barriques and aged 10 years on the lees and two more after disgorgement. Dosage 3 g/l. Alice Paillard said, “This is only starting to talk.” I agree – long life ahead. (94 points)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wine Reviews: Italian Grab Bag

This post first appeared in the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Recently, I've received a handful of wines from all over Italy, hence this catch-all report. This batch included some solid and relatively inexpensive whites and a kicking Brunello from Gaja. 

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

N.V. Carpenè Malvolti Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 1868 - Italy, Veneto, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
SRP: $19
Pale gold color. Really precise and bright on the nose with lime, green melon and green apples mixed with flower stems, honeysuckle and sea breeze. Crisp acidity keeps this wine crunchy and bright, while the rich flavors of white peach and melon blend with tart lime and apple notes. A sea breeze and salt element contrast the honeycomb and yellow floral notes. A zestier approach with lingering minerality. (87 points) 

N.V. Cantine Torresella Prosecco - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $16
Light gold color. Smells like lemons, limes, apricots with a bit of bread dough and sugar cane. Bright acidity on the palate, medium-bodied, this is a fresh and stylish Prosecco with simple, straightforward flavors of limes, apricot, sugar cane and sweet honeysuckle. Vibrant, tasty, good for the price. (86 points)

2015 Kettmeir Alto Adige - Südtirol - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
SRP: $22
Pale straw color. Light but vibrant aromatics of honeysuckle, dandelion and lemon grass on top of fresh lemon and lime slices. Steely and tart on the palate with brisk acid and a medium body. A sharp sense of lemongrass and dandelion, and a steely mineral kick, all on top of green apples and limes. Interesting flavors — this begs for oysters. (86 points) 

2015 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
SRP: $17
Pale lemon color. Bright and floral on the nose with generous honeysuckle and dandelion to top the tropical fruit salad. Crisp acidity frames the palate precisely but the rounded creamy feel adds to the appeal. Guava and pineapple mix with lime, and the fruit is topped in chalk, white pepper and flower stems. A lingering sense of minerality. Quite delicious but stays crisp and bright throughout. Really solid stuff for the price. (87 points)  

2012 Monte Tondo Soave Classico Casette Foscarin - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico
Pretty golden color. Smells of lime, quince and honeydew, and I get some white flowers, crushed stone and minerals. Such precision on the palate, crisp acidity meets a slightly waxy mouthfeel. A racy mineral spine supports lime and green melon, but there’s an intriguing amount of crushed chalk and sea salt. Slight green herbal kick, a mineral-laden finish. Bring on the seafood tower. 90% Garganega, 10% Trebbiano. (89 points) 

2014 Le Battistelle Soave Classico Battistelle - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico
Light gold color. Love the bright lime mixed with some apricots and green melon, along with some minerals and bright white floral element. Medium-light-bodied, a bright acidic profile but some interesting waxy elements — honeycomb, almond, white tea — a slight green herbal note along with some minerals. Fun stuff with a unique flavor profile. (87 points)

2015 Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani Rosato
- Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $20
Juicy peach and copper color. Aromas of white cherries, strawberries, some pepper and an herbal (arugula?) note. Bright and fresh on the palate, with white cherry and wild strawberry fruit, which is juicy but crunchy. Love the rose, hibiscus and honeysuckle notes. A fun and refreshing wine. A saignee method rose, a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Ciliegiolo. (87 points) 

2011 Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) Brunello di Montalcino - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino 
SRP: $78
Deep ruby color. Lovely nose but it takes a while to open up and show all of the rich currant and plum, along with a mix of herbs, earth and tobacco. Really structured tannins but the acidity is bright. Juicy but fresh red and black currant fruit, which rolls over the palate in waves. Lots of secondary flavors of loam, violets, chewing tobacco, cedar and spiced coffee. Long, luscious finish. Lots of complexity in here, but this needs some time in the cellar for sure, but a gorgeous wine. All Sangiovese aged 12 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle. (92 points)