Zoltan Szabo

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A Day at Osteria

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By Zoltan Szabo

Wednesday, so I get to the resto at around 1:00 PM.

There's a local magazine waiting for me, atop of the bar, opened to this page, below link...I look at it...and smile...!


At 1:30 PM a wine agent comes to see me, Queenie, to taste the Chain of Ponds wines, from Adelaide Hills, and to also discuss and set up a winemakers' dinner with them in late February, after I get back from Canada.

At 2:30 PM another wine agent showes up, Peter, one of my favourites, with no other reason than to have lunch and hang out with me.

A journalist comes to meet me and ask me a few questions, he also follows up with an email:

Zoltan, good to chat with you just now at Osteria.

As I mentioned, I am doing a (very) little piece on sweet wines for City Weekend (the small “bottle column” that appears just above your photo in the current edition!).  Could you give me the basic info on the Tokaji you carry at Osteria, the price (bottle/glass), and a sentence on the characteristics that make it a good lovers’ wine?  I also need a straight bottle photo – I’m happy to liaise with your supplier if that’s easiest.
Oh, and needless to say, I am on a tight deadline!

Thanks and best regards,


As my laptop is in front of me while having lunch I answer: Great to meet you as well, Patrick!

I am attaching my whole wine list, the Tokaji is listed among the sweets, and the supplier is ASC.
It is a sweet and luscious "nectar", so flavoursome! Think of orange marmalade, honey, dried apricots...spiked by nuances of camomile flower and minerals...Its weight, flavours and sweetness uplifted by a superb acidic vibe...finishes almost dry actually...! Fairly low in alcohol as well...! Having this wine with a piece of rich, chocolate based dessert on Valentine's Day...well, the effect will be "panty removing"...gastro-orgasmic, for sure! You can also have it with "liba maj"...foie gras that is...! Lust & desire...! Ooh la la...!
Finest regards,
Zoltan Szabo

At 4:00 PM the representatives of a Hong Kong-based wine merchandizing agency pop by...and we taste about 20 wines.

At 5:30 PM two young fellows insist that I taste their wines...

At 6:30 PM I start service, people start coming in, I pour plenty of wines, encouraging having them by flights of 3 or more, instead by-the-bottle.

Another wine agent brings his friends, among them a winemaker from California, and have dinner, so I taste his Gerard Bertrand wines...and others...

Cigalus Blanc 2007...what a superb wine! So intense! Chardonnay with a bit of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc...minutes long finish...! Clearly, the best white I've tasted in recent weeks! Sweet, ripet fruit and delicious oaking, viscous, and so flavoursome...!

Le Viala, Minervois La Liviniere, 2003...simply marvelous!

I have mushroom Gnocchi for dinner, sitting at the bar, so I can watch the door. I taste a Catalan red, Monastrell and Petit Verdot blend from Torres, 2006, pretty good, plummy, soft and juicy. Also taste Vina Alicia's Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso de Piedra, from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza...both from the 2006 vintage...well made wines, but for some reason I've expected more...

A Sommelier colleague comes for a "night cap"...I show him the wines I've tasted today...He says..."Zoltan, you taste more, and better wines a day than the rest of us in a whole month!"...

I smile...

The dinig room fills up, I am walking around, instructing the servers, pouring wines and having fun with my customers.

Things slow down at around 11:00 PM and I finalize Osteria's award application to be sent to the Wine Spectator by UPS tomorrow.

I get in a cab at around midnight and go home...

After getting home I turn my computer on and follow up with all these agents, send them my notes and comments...Oh well, just another day...


Lovely wines yesterday, Victoria, thanks for coming by!
My favourites, top to bottom, considering value to quality ratio.
Perhaps Eduardo to consider these wines...?!
The Borsao wines...each and every one of them...! Perfect for by-the-glass pour....Very well made wines, modern, but maintaining "old school" flair. The "Tres Picos" is stunning, but not cheap, good for "reserve" lists...!
The Selbach Riesling...lots of sugar, but balanced by laser-sharp acids and plenty of juicy, stone fruit flavours.
Wild Rock's "Cupid's Arrow" Pinot Noir is a perfect Valentine's Day Pinot...! It has some (sex)appeal, and structure....My kind of Pinot...with the "umf" effect galore! The Sauvignon Blanc is also good, let's say 3 + stars out of 5...
Charles Melton's rose, "Rose of Virginia" Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinot Meunier blend...ripe, juicy, tutti-frutti, with touch of sweetness, and delicious! Highly food-friendly!
Domaine de Servans...tight right now, but makes sense with food...roasts, steaks, shanks and such. Decanting will help its cause...!
Craggy Range and Mr. Riggs wines...simply outstanding, although the Mr. Riggs Viognier does not justify the price...!
Graggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah Block 14 has an unique style...cassis, spicy-floral, white pepper and oak-smoke...bold and pretty goddamn serious...!
Charles Melton's "Nine Popes"...focused, not a blockbuster...a wine that is growing on you after every sip...!


2008 Viognier, Viniterra, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietally precise, slightly oily texture, and not shy in alcohol. Ripe and with plenty of sweet fruit flavours, and a touch of heat on its finish
2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Altosur, Tupungato - Mendoza, Argentina
Clean and typical. Lime, minerals, fresh basil notes. Zesty and with a long finish.
2007 Malbec Rose, Melipal, Mendoza, Argentina
Little signs of oxidation. Fuller style. However, drink now!
2006 Pinot Noir Select, Saurus, Schroeder, Patagonia, Argentina
Blue fruit, raspberries, earth, musk notes. Light and fresh, gentle tannins, cherry-berry finish. Serve slightly chilled.
2006 Tempranillo, Tempus, Mendoza, Argentina
Medium to full, rustic, but with balanced elements. Can age short to med term, decant for drinking now....Also needs a big chunk of protein...!
2005 Merlot, Saurus, Schroeder, Patagonia, Argentina
A pleasant Merlot, juicy and soft, medium bodied with black fruit, herbal notes mixed with chocolate, caramel and well toasted oak-wood nuances.
2006 Bonarda, Vista Flores, Familia Mayol, Mendoza, Argentina
Aromatic and plush, easy-to-be-enjoyed wine, lots of savoury fruit aromas and flavours here, fair alcohol, very likeable.
2006 Carmenere Select, Viniterra, Lujan de Cuyo - Mendoza, Argentina
It would rival many of its Chilean counterparts, for sure...!
2006 Malbec, Familia Mayol, Lujan de Cujo - Mendoza, Argentina
Rich, spicey, gamey, medium to full with an obvious, but non-obtrusive tannic grip.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Paso de Piedra, Vina Alicia, Lujan de Cuyo - Mendoza, Argentina ... sadly, it was a corked bottle!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Altosur, Sophenia, Tupungato - Mendoza, Argentina
Medium to full, fruit-forward with spicy floral aromas atop. Lots of juicy fruit flavours and pleasant, chewy tannins. Great, fruity, herbal finish.


2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Black Thursday, Chain of Ponds, Adelaide Hills, Australia
Aromas of gooseberries, kiwi, passion fruit, honeydew melon, and with underlying grass and fresh herbs nuances. Light and zesty with almost effervescent acidity and a long lime pulp, mineral finish. Perfect with oysters.
4 stars out of 5.
2007 Semillon, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pilot Block, Chain of Ponds, South Australia
Apple puree, pear and white blossoms accents on its bouquet. Light and juicy, great in its simplicity and fun to drink. Try with seared scallops with apple chutney and lemon-balsamic drizzle. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
2005 Sangiovese, Barbera, Grenache, Pilot Block, Chain of Ponds, South Australia
The nose comes with scents of plums, raspberries and blueberries, nescaffe and oak tar, floral-fresh and dried petals. Light to medium bodied with plenty of ripe, juicy fruit flavours and sweet oak notes. The finish is herbal, spicy with an interesting musky, gamey taint. Pretty appealing wine! To go with duck breast with cherry, red wine reduction. 4 stars out of 5..
2006 Shiraz, Grave's Gate, Chain of Ponds, Adelaide, Australia
Interesting label with contrast between the proprietary name = "Grave's Gate" and the image of a butterfly...! you go figure...!
Big, into-your-face notes of cassis, herbal, eucalyptus and fresh mint here. Not too heavy, juicy, very expressive with fresh acids, integrated tannins and a persistent savoury finish. Lovely with rosemary crusted rack of lamb.
4 stars out of 5.
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Florence Vineyard, Chain of Ponds, Kangaroo Island, Australia
A complex, but not a blockbuster, well structured and focused red, with well managed oaking. Aromas and flavours of red plums, currants, herbal, deep spice, earth and pencil shavings. Great pairing with hard and semi-hard cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, smoked gouda and such. 4 stars out of 5.


2004 Le Cupole, Rosso di Toscana, Tenuta di Trinoro, Tuscany
Made by exentric, but incredibly talented winemaker, Andrea Franchetti. The label is bright, striking red depicting a swan...that looks like an angel...or something like that anyway...suggesting graceness and elegance, harmony and smoothness, and rightly so...! The bouquet of this fine red comes with aromas of raspberry, pomegranate, plums, herbal notes, dried cranberries and cherries and dried flower petals. Light to medium bodied with silky-soft texture and a long-lingering finish. A suave and elegant, "feminine" vino! Drinking so well right now, so don't waste your time holding it any longer! Try with rare-seared Muscovy duck breast with cherry-natural jus reduction, clarified butter-sauteed morel mushrooms and pureed salsify on the side. 4 1/2 stars out of 5. (92 out of 100). Zoltan Szabo, Jan., 2009


2005 Chardonnay, Maple Ridge, California, USA
Fully mature, drink now! 2 1/2 stars out of 5.
2006 Pinot Noir, Balletto, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, California, USA
Bright nose of red currants, raspberry, five spice, oak-smoke-vanilla. Light plus bodied and sweet fruit-packed with silky-soft tannins and a pleasant, cranberry, cinnamon, pomegranate-flavoured finish. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
2006 Pinot Noir, Old Schoolhouse Vineyard, Bird, Marlborough, NZ
Floral, spicy, raspberry, herbal, earth-musk-Marlborough-terroir aroma and flavour nuances here. Juicy and soft, and delicate. Long finish.
4 stars out of 5.
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, Buffalo Grove, California, USA
In its secondary "stage", "old world"-style, plummy, spicy, earthy with a dry, softly tannic finish. Drink now! 3 + stars out of 5.


2001 Rioja Riserva, Beronia, Rioja, Spain
Sweet and sour nose of driend cranberries and herbs, oak, coconut. Medium bodied with tannins still very much alive, and with a dry, candied orange, spicy, herbaceous finish. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2005 Politi Riserva, Il Borro, Tuscany, Italy
Second label of the Ferragamo Il Borro estate. I remember meeting Salvatore years ago at Il Mulino, a very nice guy. This red is Sangiovese with 20% of Cab. Sauv. "Old school", dry and tannicy, good, but will improve with some time.
4 stars out of 5. 

2007 Frascati Superiore, Fontella, Lazio, Italy
Great in its simplicity, with apples aromas and flavours, fresh and with a pleasantly tart finish. Great with seafood. 3 + stars out of 5.


My wine list at Osteria recieved a bold comment the other day in one of the most popular Shanghainese magazines..."Arguably the best wine list in Shanghai!".


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