Sunday, December 30, 2007

2006 Honore Lavigne Pouilly-Fuisse

Country: France
Region: Burgundy
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €7,99
Closure: Cork

Honore Lavigne is a wine range offered by wine négociant J.C. Boisset, the second largest exporter of wine in France. This Pouilly-Fuisse is another wine recommended by the Supermarkt Wijn Gids. Pouilly-Fuisse wines originate from the Bourgogne region, and are not to be confused with the Sauvignon Blancs from Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley.

Pouilly and Fuissé are two distinct villages in the Mâconnais. The larger wine area actually encompasses 4 villages to produce a white wine based on the Chardonnay grape, and sold under the name of Pouilly Fuissé. Most Pouilly Fuissé can be drunk when relatively young though the best can possibly be cellared for 20 years or more.

Here is my tasting note:

Gold straw-like in colour. Powerful, yet elegant, nose with intense aromas of peach and melon. The palate is quite lean and mineral with the same peach and melon. Some creaminess is the only indication of oak handling. Tart and cleansing on the finish with good length. Simply delicious Bourgogne Chardonnay at an excellant price. I love it!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2006 Aliwen Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah

Country: Chile
Region: Central Valley
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €4,95
Closure: Cork

One of the gifts I received this Christmas was the Supermarkt Wijn Gids which rates the wines sold in the supermarkets in the Netherlands. My intention is to slowly work my way through some of the wines that were highly recommended in the book. A number of Aliwen wines are highly rated including this Cabernet blend.

Aliwen is a range of wines produced by Vina Undurraga, a fifth generation company with around 1011 hectares of vineyard in the Maipo and Colchagua valleys. It was founded in 1885 by Don Francisco Undurraga Vicuña one of the pioneers of winemaking in Chile. Don Francisco was a man of many colours including lawyer, politician, writer, painter and ofcourse farmer.

The name Aliwen is taken from a local Mapuche legend where the Machi (shamans who represent good as opposed to the kalkos or sorcerers who represent evil) joined her Aliwen (sacred tree) forming a single being a mystical bond that symolized the connection of human beings with the universe. The most important rituals are performed around the trunk of the tree (it is a fundmental element in the rituals). The wines of Aliwen are concieved as pure beings, a composition of elements that have evolved out of the experience of nature and the diversity of human spirit.

This wine consists of 75% cabernet sauvignon and 25% syrah. Here is my tasting note:

This wine is a deep ruby red in colour. Lovely and elegant nose with aromas of cassis and hints cedar like oak. This is a well-structured wine with plenty of upfront fruit; currants and blackberry fruit. Mouthfeel is good with firm, grippy tannins. With good length on the finish this is an excellant value for money Cabernet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Cheer

Well Christmas is here, along with the presents, food and ofcourse plenty of wine. These are the wines that we had with our Boxing day dinner that we held at home. An interesting note here is that all the wines were at least 13.5% alcohol but this did not show in any of them. Anyhow, here are my tasting notes:

2006 Montana East Coast Unoaked Chardonnay

This a wine from New Zealand. The vineyards is quite far inland as thus avoid the cooling influence of the sea. In the summer months leaves are plucked from the vines in order to increase sun exposure of the grapes in an effort to improve flavour and ripeness. This is an unoaked Chardonnay (stating the obvious there I suppose :)).

Pale gold in colour. Nice fresh nose with grapefruit and pineapple. Fresh and crisp on the palate with citrus, melon and some pineapple. Though fresh, it's suprisingly creamy for a Chardonnay that has not had any oak treatment. Nice crisp finish. An allround good value quaffer.

2006 Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay

This is the first of the Chilean Chardonnays. Emiliana Orgánicos is dedicated to producing environmentally responsible wines It has started as an organic producer with the goal of adopting biodynamics. I understand this is something of a rarity in Chile at this point in time. The Adobe range is the value for money range.

Bright gold in colour. Nice fruity, creamy nose with cirtus fruits, melon and some cashews. On the palate the same fresh citrus and tropical fruits are again evident. Oak treatment has taken place, but it has been handled well. This is quiet a light, elegant style of Chardonnay. Not a top Chardonnay, but a good value for money drink.

2006 Casillero Del Diablo Chardonnay

Casillero del Diablo means Cellar of the Devil. Legend has it that more than 100 years ago Don Melchor of Concha y Toro, founder of the winery, reserved for himself an exclusive batch of the best wines produced. To keep strangers & light fingered workers away from this special private reserve, he spread the rumour that the devil was living in his cellars, hence the name. Casillera del Diablo is owned y Chiles largest wine company Concha y Toro.

Light, pale gold in colour - almost straw in colour. Crisp, yet creamy, with plenty of sweet, tropical fruit and pineapple. This is more upfront fruit than the other two; more in the mould of the creamy new world style Chardonnay but not at all over the top. Decent citrus fruit length. I liked this the best of the three Chardonnays on offer.

2003 Boschkloof Syrah

I don't pay any attention to awards but for interests sake this wine was rated highly by wine Spectator (91/100) and won a gold medal at the Michelangelo International wine awards. I decanted this a number of hours before consumption as we started with the whites.

Lovely deep purple, red in colour. Superb nose with spice, blackberries, currant and cedar. On the palate it is full bodied with a nice concentration of spicey blackberry and bramble along with some hints of mint. Excellent mouth feel with nicely integrated tannins. Nice lengthy finish with some toasty caramel character. This is a serious wine and by far the best of the night.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2000 Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz

Country: Australia
Region: Barossa Valley
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €19,00
Closure: Cork

Sparkling Shiraz is quintessentially Australian. Living in Europe it was actually quite difficult to source any at all. A number of wine store owners informed me that there wasn't enough demand for sparkling reds which confirms that outside of Australia sparkling Shiraz is not really accepted or understood. Eventually I finally found a small quantity of Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz in a small wine store of which I purchased the majority.

Sparkling Shiraz was first produced in the 1880's in South Australia. The early 1930's-1950's saw the Seppelt winery at Great Western in Victoria become known as the home of Australian sparkling Shiraz, or sparkling Burgundy as it was commonly referred to at the time. Today Seppelt is still Australia's largest producer of sparkling wines, though there are numerous other wineries also producing sparkling Shiraz. More information about the history of Sparkling reds in Australia can be found in this well researched article by Dr. John Wilson of the Wilson Vineyard.

Peter Lehmann initially started with the production of a small number of cases of sparkling Shiraz for personal consumption in the 1980's. The first serious sparkling shiraz for public was released almost twenty years later in 1999 (from the 1994 vintage). The wine is produced using the method champenoise where secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. It has spent 6 years cellaring on tirage (or on the lees) before disgorgement which allows the wine to gain further complexity.

The wine is named after the Queen of Sheba (also depicted on the label), member of the Ethiopian royal family. Not all that much is known about her, although she is mentioned in a number of key religious books such as the Bible and the Koran. In the limited literature references to her she is described as a mystical, exotic, dark beauty; as "dark [am I] and comely". As wise as she was beautiful, she was blown away by the wisdom of Solomon, even converting to his God. It is also possible that more took place considering Solomon was quite the ladies man.

Here is my tasting note:

Pinkish, brown head when poured. This is black, red in colour with brown towards to the edge of the glass. Rich, fruity nose of ripe blackberries and some hints of American oak. Plenty of sweet rich blackberry and plummy palate with a lovely fine bead and some hints of tannin. Nicely balanced with good length on the slightly bitter finish. Certainly dark and comely, this is a lovely example of Sparkling Shiraz.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Person of the Year 2007

It was (and still is) my intention to keep this blog purely wine-related. However this is something I feel very strongly about and so I felt compelled to blog about it.

Vladimir Putin was recently announced as the Time Magazine person of the year for 2007. Nothing wrong with that as he fits right in with a number of previous 'winners' including Osama Bin Ladin and Adolph Hitler. What really ground my gears, so to speak, was the reasons behind Time Magazines choice.

According to the magazine Putin was chosen because he has brought Russia much needed stability despite the costs of freedom. Apparently he has brought Russia back the brink of world power. The Time goes on to say that "if Russia succeeds as a nation-state in the family of nations, it will owe much of that success to one man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin." And that is exactly what really gets me. Apparently the West has no problem with stability over human rights issues such as freedom of press, ideas, democracy etc. On the issue of Checnya Russia is allowed to do whatever it likes hiding behind the excuse that it is fighting terrorism and the West seems to have no problem with that. And just because Russia has oil?

Some time ago I read the book Putin's Russia and I was both amazed and horrified at the way things are handled in Russia. It would not surprise me if the average citizen would feel that they would have been better off under Communism than the current democracy. And while the Checnyans are not totally innocent, their fight is a legitimate one.

Anyway since 2007 is drawing to a close I would like to nominate my person of the year for 2007, Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya who was shot to death on the 7th of October 2006. I feel it is appropriate to remember her a little over a year after her death.

Politkovskaya, a fearless crusader for human rights who deserves far more recognition for her fight.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2006 Miolo Cabernet Savignon

Wineries are popping up all over the world these days and wine is being produced in even the most remote and unlikely places. I rather enjoy tasting wine from unknown places even though this often leads to dissapointment. Anyway this Brazilian wine caught my attention in the local supermarket, and seeing I had not tasted any wine from Brazil before I grabbed a bottle.

Initially I thought Brazil was new to wine production. However, that could not be further from the truth. Wine production in Brazil has as long a history as Australia albeit not as illustrious or successful. The late 1800's saw the vine introduced by Italian migrants who brought a wine tradition when they settled in the southern half of the country. While wine has been produced in Brazil since this time, it only started to develop in the 1960s. The 1990s saw serious exports including to the US. It was around this time that the Brazilian Wine Institute was established.

The past decades have seen a lot of investment in wine technology, and there is no doubt that the wine quality continue toimprove in the coming years. How much improvement remains to be seen. The big hurdle for the Brazilians to overcome is climate. According to Jancis Robinson the climate is too tropical meaning that rain and fungal diseases are perennial problems. As a result it is to difficult to allow the grapes sufficient hangtime to fully ripe. There are also critics that say two harvests in a year weakens the vines. How true this is I am not sure.

Miolo wines is a family owned winery that is known as one of the better producers in Brazil. Established in 1847 it has vineyards in all five of Brazils wine-producing regions: Vale dos Vinhedos, Vale do São Francisco, Campanha, Campos de Cima da Serra and Serra Gaúcha. The winery is modern and employs modern winemaking techniques and technology.

This Miolo Cabernet Sauvignon wine comes from a vineyard located in Vale dos Vinhedos - the first Brazilian denominação de origem contralada (DOC) or appellation. Vale dos Vinhedos is a sub region of the largest wine region in Brazil, Serra Gaúcha, which has 8000 hectares under vine and produces 90% of Brazilian wines. Here is my tasting note:

The saignée process was used to increase colour depth and it has certainly worked as this wine is a deep red / purple with excellent depth. The nose, although not powerful, is a nice combination black cassis fruit and some oak. Soft and round on the palate with some nice cassis fruit and soft tannins. Balance is good. It finishes with the same cassis and some caramel-like oak. Not a bad effort for a country not known for quality wine. However, it lacks complexity and doesn't really do it for me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #40 - Que Sirah Sirah

This month the Wine Blogging Wednesday theme chosen (by wannabewino) is Petite Sirah or Durif depending on who you talk to. The wine I chose to review for this theme is the Westend Estate 3 Bridges Durif 2003.

Westend Estate is a small family-owned and operated vineyard with around 20 hectares under vine. The estate was established in 1945 by the the Calabria family who still own it today. The vineyard is located in close to the town of Griffiths in the Riverina region in New South Wales. Chief winemaker is Bill Calabria, who cannot consume his wines but is limited to taste and spit as he has allergy to acids in the wines.

Anyway now to the wine.

Typical of the durif grape, this wine is a very deep, dense, inpenetrable purple in colour. The is nose powerful and attractive with plenty of sweet fruit: plum, black berry and hints of vanilla. Massive is the only way to describe the wine on the palate. Plenty of fruit here with plums and black berries; also a little vegemite. American oak contributes some toasty vanillan flavours. Tannins are big and grippy but don't dominate the fruit. Thick legs sliding down the sides of the glass give testament to the high alcohol content which is nicely tucked behind a wall of black fruit. Still a baby this is a big wine that packs plenty of punch, just as Bill Calabria would have done in his amateur boxing days.

Friday, December 07, 2007

2004 Quinta Grande Touriga Nacional

Quinta Grande Touriga Nacional is a red wine produced from the Touriga Nacional, a grape native to Portugal. Touriga Nacional is generally considered one of Portugals best, and most expensive, wine grapes. The grape plays a big part in the production of the Port wines produced in the Douro region. The wine produced from the Touriga Nacional is generally typified by its deep colour, intense fruity aroma, and powerful tannins. This is my tasting note:

Nose: Initially kind of wacky sweet nose with sweet American oak and hints of plums and prunes. Once it opened up it was very much dark red berrys and plums.
Colour: Lovely colour; dense, deep reddish brown.
Palate: Full bodied with plum and black fruit with nicely integrated tannins. Nicely balanced.
Finish: Plums with a slightly bitter, grippy finish.
Comments: A very young wine that is nicely balanced wine and excellant value for the 6.95 it sells for.

List of Australian Durif Producers

While doing some research about the Durif / Petite Sirah grape I came across quite a few winery websites. This got me thinking perhaps it might be interesting to provide a list of all producers in Australia who grow Durif. Please let me know if I have missed any.

919 Wines (Riverland)

All Saints Estate (Rutherglen)

Anderson Winery (Rutherglen)

AT Richardson Wines (Grampians)

Battely Wines (Beechworth)

Beelgara Estate (Riverina)

Bellarine Estate (Geelong)

Big Barrel Vineyard and Winery (Queensland Coastal)

Boyntons Feathertop (Alpine Valleys)

Brown Brothers (King Valley)

Brumby Wines (Swan Hill)

Buffalo Mountain Wines

Buller Calliope (Rutherglen)

Calais Estate Hunter Valley

Campbells Wines (Rutherglen)

Cape Horn Vineyard (Goulburn Valley)

Casella (Riverina)

Cassegrain Wines

Ciavarella (King Valley)

Cofield Wines (Rutherglen)

Connor Park (Bendigo)

Currans Family Wines (Murray Darling)

Date Brothers (Swan Hill)

Dos Rios (Swan Hill)

Drinkmoor Wines (Rutherglen)

Eumundi Winery (Queensland Coastal)


Gapsted (Alpine Valleys)

Gehrig Estate (Rutherglen)

Golden Grove Estate

Granite Belt Heritage Estate Granite Belt

Jaengenya Vineyard Goulburn Valley

John Gehrig Wines (King Valley)

Judds Warby Range Estate (Glenrowan)

Jones Winery & Vineyard (Rutherglen)

Kama Sutra Wines (Mudgee)

Kingston Estate (Riverland)

Lake Moodemere (Rutherglen)

Massena Wines (Barossa Valley)

Melange Wines (Riverina)

Michael Unwin Wines (Grampians)
Miranda Riverina

Morris (Rutherglen)

Morrisons of Glenrowan

Mount Prior (Rutherglen)

Mudgee Wines Mudgee Murray River Wines (Murray River Region)

Myattsfield Vineyard and Winery Perth Hills

New Glory Goulburn Valley

Normanby Wines Queensland Zone

Nugan Estate King Valley

Patrice Wines

Pieter van Gent Wines ()

Petersons Glenesk Estate (Mudgee)

Piako Vineyards (Murray Darling)

Piromit Wines (Riverina)

Pyren Vineyard (Pyrenees)

Reedy Creek (Northern Slopes Zone)

Renewan (Swan Hill)

Riverina Estate Wines (Riverina)

Roland Kaval

Rothbury Ridge (Hunter Valley)

Rusticana (Langhorne Creek)

Rutherglen Estates (Rutherglen)

Sam Miranda Wines (King Valley)

Scion Vineyard (Rutherglen)

St Petrox (Hunter Valley)

Stanton and Killeen Wines (Rutherglen)

Swan Hill

Tamburlaine Vineyard (Hunter Valley)

Taminick Cellars (Glenrowan)

Tinonnee Vineyard (Hunter Valley)

Toolleen Vineyard (Heathcote)

Valhalla Wines (Rutherglen)

Vale Vineyard (Mornington Peninsula)

Vintara (Rutherglen)

Warburn Estate (Riverina)

Warrabilla Wines (Rutherglen)

Watchbox Wines (Rutherglen)

Wedgetail Ridge Estate (Darling Downs)

Westend Estate (Riverina)

Wirruna Estate (North East Victoria)

Yacca Paddock Vineyards (Adelaide Hills)

Yendah Vale

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Petite Sirah aka Durif

Since the next Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is petite sirah i decided to do some research into the background of the Petite Sirah grape. Petite Sirah, Durif or pinot de l’hermitage, respectively if you are American, Australian, or French, is a grape producing wines of massive proportion. It is the only reasonably well-known grape variety to be named after a person, botanist Dr François Durif, who propagated it in the Rhone Valley in late 1800's. Interestingly, the Durif vine was not propagated from cuttings but originated from seed stemming from a Peloursin vine germinated by Syrah pollen.

The main reason for, and importance of, the development was that it demonstrated the resistance to downy mildew, a fungal disease that had been causing widespread damage to European vineyards in the 18th and 19th century. Whilest the grape showed resistance to downy mildew it was very susceptible to grey rot in areas where there is high humidity such as the Rhone Valley. As a result the French, however, were never charmed by the wine produced from the grape and today there is very little grown there.

While never quite taking off in France, Durif did take a hold in the United States (California) and Australia (Rutherglen). Today these two regions are still the primary producers of the Durif variety. Both regions are warm and dry, conditions in which the durif grape thrives without much threat from grey rot. The late 1800's saw much of the Vitis Vinifera planted in both the US and Victoria wiped out by the root louse phylloxera. It was at this time that Durif was introduced in both regions.

Exactly why Durif was introduced in either Australia and the US is unclear. I am inclined to think that, if not the introduction, then the spread of Durif was more often incidental than by design. In the US durif was called petite sirah, and the syrah petite syrah. The two Rhone varieties coexisted and were often mistaken for each other. The Prohibition saw the Durif became a favorite as it was tough and stood up well to cross-country shipping by rail.

On other hand in Rutherglen the gold rush taking place at the time possibly provided a ready market for the wines. Very little is known about why exactly durif grape found it's way there. As in the US it is highly probable that some of the spread can be attributed to the similarities in appearance between the Syrah and Durif vines certainly in old age. Even recently there has been much confusion between the syrah (Shiraz) and durif grapes. This is how Carmen vineyards came to grow Petite Sirah in Chile for example. There is no doubt that this also played a large role in the spread of durif (petite sirah) during the late 1800's and early 1900's.

Typically, the Durif grape produces monumental wines dense, impenetrable purple/black in colour with massive concentration, balanced by a massive palate normally laden with black fruits, licorice, chocolate and vanilla. And it doesn't end there as the the tannins are big, but soft and the alcohol high. Paradoxally it also has a soft side, allowing the wines to be enjoyed right away or cellared for 10+ years. Decanting wines these wines is absolutely essential in order to enjoy these wines at their best, as is a number of years cellaring.

Today the Durif is still not a widely grown grape although it is becoming more popular. In Australia its home is Rutherglen, and it rarely strays from here. Total tonnage for Durif in Australia was 5430 tonnes a mere 0.5% of the 1,023,006 tonnes of red wine grapes crushed in Australia in 2005. In terms of planting Durif covers 402 hectares of a total red planting of 98,112 hectares, just 0.4%). In the US California is home to Petite Sirah. The popularity of the grape is similar in the US (California to be more exact because it grows 90% of all wine grapes in the US) where in 2006 36,281 tonnes, 1.9% of the total red crush of 1,873,892 tonnes, was crushed. The grape accounts for 2640 hectares from a total of 119,003 hectares just 2% of total red wine grape vine.

Durif: a grape producing wines of massive proportion, but miniscule in production.