Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Georges Vesselles NV Champagne

Country: France
Region: Champagne
Alcohol: 12%
Price: 27,95
Closure: Cork

I was never really a big fan of Champagne until I completely the WSET Intermediate Certificate where we were required to taste a number different sparkling wines including Champagne. The Champagne served at the course was an eye-opener; lovely bready aromas. Wow! I then realized that the average Champagne sold at supermarkets, and served at the average New Years, is generally Moet & Chandon et. al. mass production.

Generally the better known, and higher quality Champagnes are also those that cost a little more, in many cases a lot, money. Fortunately, there are a number of smaller Champagne houses that, though not well known, offer an excellent product that is well worth seeking out. Georges Vesselles is one of these smaller, lesser known Champagne houses.

The house of Georges Vesselle is one of the oldest and highly ranked “Grand Crus”, its vineyards covering some 42 acres. The estate has been owned and operated by the Vesselle for a number of generations. The estate produces Champagne as well as a red Bouzy based on the Pinot Noir grape that is only produced in good vintages.

The various Champagnes produced by Vesselles are all around 90% Pinot Noir with the remaining 10% being Chardonnay. This is the Brut Champagne, a wine that is a blend of 2 and 3 year old cuvees. Here's what I thought of it:

Light golden colour.
The bead is tight and small; clearly finer than the Spumante. On the nose apple and pear along with light bread-like aromas. The palate is delicate and fresh. Very dry with smooth apple and citrus fruit. Nice complexity. Dry citrus on a finish of good length. A lovely wine and certainly a class above the Spumante.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2003 Casa Pedro Domecq Reserva Magna

Country: Mexico
Region: Valle de Guadalupe
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: €33,00
Closure: Cork

I visited Mexico on vacation for a couple weeks and purchased this at the airport on the way home. There wasn't that much available, but trapped in amongst the various Tequila's and other spirits were a couple of wines including the Casa Pedro Domecq Reserva Magna. I picked up two of these based purely on price, label and general gutfeel.

Casa Pedro Domecq, producer of this wine, was the first commercial winery established in the Valle de Guadalupe. It was a part of the Domecq group, started by Irishman Patrick Murphy in Spain, that has been taken over by Pernod Ricard in 2005. Domecq has been a driving force behind the modernization of the wine industry in Spain, and is doing likewise in Mexico. Domecq Mexico is based in the Valle de Guadalupe and is the Napa valley of Mexico. In fact the Valle lies just a couple of hours drive south of the Napa Valley and has the same capacity to produce high quality wines.

While Mexico is not a power in the wine world wine has been made here since 1590's when Spanish missionaries and settlers settled in the Valle de Parras. While it's history does not stretch back that far Valle de Guadalupe also has a relatively long and interesting history with wine production dating back before the 17th century. It was in 1834 that Dominican priests began growing grapes at the Northern Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mision de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Norte). This despite the ban placed on vine planting by the Spanish Crown which feared the competition from the new world wineries. The name was later shorted to Valle de Guadalupe.

Reserva Magna is a relatively new release by Pedro Domecq and is their attempt to produce a world class wine that at its best will match the best wines in the world. Since the wine is a recent release it probably has some time to go before it will ever rival the worlds best wines. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (20%) and Nebbiolo (20%). It has been aged for eighteen months in new French oak and bottled aged for a minimum of one year before release.

Here are my thoughts on it:

Beautiful deep red with purple hues. A powerful nose that really springs out of the glass with plenty of dark cassis fruit and hints of vanillan oak. On the palate there is plenty of juicy, sweet dark berry and cassis fruit; really silky and smooth. Evidence of french oak though it's not overpowering. Fine-grained tannins that do stand out a little now. Plenty of length on the finish. This is a lovely wine now and it will improve with some more cellaring time. Fantastic effort.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2005 Divinica Reserva

Country: Portugal
Region: Douro
Alcohol: 14%
Price: unknown.
Closure: Cork

Produced by Quinta da Arnozela a quinta that I could find no further information about. This is a wine produced from a blend of Touriga Nacional (70%) and Tinta Roriz (30%) arguably two of the most important grapes in port production.

Here is what I thought of it:

Dark, deep purple - teeth-stainingly youthful - in colour; shows it's youth in the intensity and consistency of colour. The nose is quite powerful with plenty of dark berry fruit, spice and hints of french oak poking through here and there. Very much fruit-forward on the palate with plenty of rich black berry fruit, some vanillan oak and plenty of tannic grip. This wine is still very youthful and powerful that needs time to settle down, mature and integrate.

1980 Chateau Carbonnieux Rouge

Country: France
Region: Graves
Alcohol: 12%
Price: €50,00
Closure: Cork

Chateau Carbonnieux is an estate located in the Graves subregion of Bordeaux. The chateau was constructed in the late 14th century at a time when the Hundred Years' War was in full swing. For a long period of time it was under the ownership of the Benedictine monks from the nearby Sainte-Croix abbey.

For forty years, between 1910-1950, Carbonnieux was left abandoned and uninhabited. The vineyards and cellar equipment were in states of disrepair. The year 1956, however, saw the Perrin family take over the chateau. First run by Marc, who passed any in 1982, and later by son Anthony, who passed any in September of this year, the chateau was graudally restored to top condition. The estate is now in the hands of the next generation Perrins: Philibert and Eric.

The chateau has 90 hectares under vine is divided almost equally between white and red varieties. Red varieties dominate slightly with about 47 hectares, whereas the red vines average 32 years of age, these being 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. leaving 43 hectares for the white. Average vine age is 26 years for the whites, which are 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 34% Semillon and 1% Muscadelle, It would be fair to say, however, that this estate is better known for it's white cuvee than the red.

Typical of Bordeaux-style blends this wine has a cepage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. I'm not sure what the exact percentages are but the more modern day red cuvees are made up something like this: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

This wine is the red cuvee and has been resting in the cellar since the date of purchase back in the early 1980's. The 1980 vintage is considered an average vintage, one which should be drunk now. I guess there is a fair chance that this wine will be over the hill. At the very least wines from this vintage will be well and truly showing their age.

This is what I thought of it:

Brick red-brown in colour fading rapidly towards the edges of the glass. Lack of real colour depth reveals this wines age. The nose is not powerful but reveals tabacco and cigar box characters with some dried red fruit and mineral-like elements. On the palate it's the dried red fruit that dominates, almost sour cherry with hints of smooth cedar-like oak. The tannins are fully integrated - all components are nicely in balance. Sour cherry hangs in there desperately on a finish of reasonable length. Despite this wine being right at the end of it's life I still really enjoyed drinking it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2006 Domaine Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc



Country: France
Region: Rhone
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €20,00
Closure: Cork


Domaine Chante Cigale is located in the famous Chateauneuf du Pape sub-region of the Rhone Valley. The soils of this area are a mixture of sandy clay (40%) and limestone (60%) covered with what are known in France as "galets"; round, smooth stones (almost river stones).
The stones are typically quartzite and remnants of Alpine glaciers that have been smoothed over millennia by the Rhône River.

A typifying characteristic of the terroir in the Chateauneuf du Pape sub-region, "galets" fulfill a two-fold purpose in this regions. Firstly, the stones absorb heat during the day and at night slowly release this warmth which aids the ripening of the grapes. Secondly, the stones can also serve as a protective layer to help retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months.

The domaine encompasses a total of 40 hectares of which 5 hectares are white varieties with an average age of 30 years. These 5 hectares equate to around 20,000 bottles of white wine per year. Fermentation takes place in two separate batches using the natural, or wild, yeasts. The majority (95%) was fermented at 16°C in stainless steel tanks for a period of 3-4 weeks. The remaining 5% was fermented in new barrels at 20°C for a period of 8-10 weeks. No malolactic fermentation took place in order to keep the wine fresh.

Cepage of this wine is Bourboulenc (25%), Grenache Blanc (25%), Roussanne (25%) with the remaining 25% made up of varieties native to the region such as Picpoul and Clairette. This is what I thought of it:

Straw yellow in colour with tinges of green coming through. Very fragrant and fresh on the nose with hints of apple and pear. On the palate its quite rich with plenty ripe, almost juicy fruit - pear, apple along with hints of citrus. A soft roundness probably stemming from the partial oak treatment complements the high acidity beautifully. Finishes strongly with a burst of citrus long with some mineral qualities. Really classy, well balanced wine that I really enjoyed. For me this is something that I will definitely drink again in the future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1998 Bodegas Riojanas Vina Albina Gran Reserva

Country: Spain
Region: Rioja
Alcohol:
12.5%
Price: around €20,o0
Closure: Cork

This wine is produced by Bodegas Riojanas, a bodega with over 100 years of history in the Rioja region.
The Rioja region is divided into three main regions one of which one is the Rioja Alta where Riojanas is based (the others being Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja). The Rioja Alta region has higher elevations than the other regions is famous for its concentrated, fruity, smooth textured wines.

Bodegas Riojanas currently has more than 300 hectares of vine under direct control of which the majority is Tempranillo. Interestingly enough, however, is that the bodega also has one of the largest vineyard expanses dedicated to both Graciano and Mazueo in the Rioja region. From this they produce a number of wine ranges with the most serious being the Gran Albina, the Monte Real and the Vina Albina ranges. Most of the ranges include a crianza, reserva and gran reserva depending on the vintage and fruit quality.

In Rioja wines are categorized as either joven, crianza, reserva, and gran reserva. This system has everything to do with ranking according to the aging of the wine; in the last three the length of time the wine was aged in oak. This wine is the gran reserva which means that it must, at a minimum, have aged for two years in oak and at least three years in the bottle. Currently Riojanas has 25,000 barrels plus a stock of 4,500,000 bottles stored in a purpose-built installation of more than 35,000 square meters in size.

As you would expect from a Rioja, the majority of the wine is made up of the Tempranillo variety (
80%) blended with Mazuelo (15%) and Graciano (5%). Here's what I thought of it:

Cherry to brick red, browning towards the edges of the glass. Really nice soft, fruity nose with some funky, earthy aromas. An attractive, almost velvet, palate with stewed ripe, red cherry fruit and tones of American oak. Also some interesting savoury characters in there. Grippy tannins are still evident but well integrated and not too obtrusive. A classy, mature wine that, though definitely in the later half of its life, is still really good drinking now and probably will be for a couple of years yet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

2001 Chateau Villars

Country: France
Region: Fronsac
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €13,95
Closure: Cork

Fronsac is a hilly,
picturesque region located along the Dordogne and L'Isle rivers to the west of the much more famous Pomerol region. A part of what is known as the Libourne satellite appellations - appellations that surround more famous wine regions - it's wines are recognized as some of the best value in Bordeaux. The soil on the right bank of the Dordogne contains a high percentage of clay which is a marriage made in heaven for the Merlot variety.

It is in this region that Chateau Villars has a history spanning more than two centuries and has shown itself to be one of the better performing chateaus in the Fronsac. Le Guide Hachette des vins has long rated this chateau as one the gems of its appellation which gives you an idea of the wine quality produced here. Had this chateau been located a little further east it would have a much bigger reputation.

The Gaudrie family has run chateau since the beginning of the 19th century with Jean-Claude and his family currently in control of operations. Thierry Gaudrie has managed to successfully combine the ancestral traditions of his forefathers with today’s modern methods.
This wine (the Chateau Villars) is the flagship wine, a blend of predominantly merlot (75%) along with some cabernet franc (15%) and cabernet sauvignon (10%). Here is what I thought of it:

Despite being seven years old, this wine is still a very youthful, deep purple in colour. Nice mature nose with red strawberry and cherry-like aromas. Some earthy, yeasty, bread-like characters in there as well. On the palate it's smooth and soft with earthy, red berry fruit and hints of cedar. The tannins are quite soft and well integrated. It is full bodied but well balanced and nicely structured. All-in-all an honest, nicely matured red that is very good value for money and shows what Fronsac is capable of.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Casa do Raposo Fine Ruby Port


Country: Portugal
Region: Douro
Alcohol: 20%
Price: €19,95
Closure: T-Cap

Casa do Raposo Fine Ruby Port is produced by Casal dos Jordoes, one of the first organic port producers. This producer is one of the smaller producers in the Douro producing around 140,000 litres of port, of which they bring 35,000 litres onto the market under their own labels, and 275,000 litre of table wine from their 50 hectares. Alongside this they also produce olives from 13 hectares of olive grove.

This ruby port is produced from a blend of the Touriga Franca (Francesca) (60%), Tinta Roriz (20%), Tinta Barroca (10%) and Touriga Nacional (10%) grapes.  These four varieties along with Tinta Cao and Tinta Amarela make up the most important grapes in port production (of the forty eight grapes types permitted).  Touriga Franca provides structure along with a mix of fruit and floral characters, Tinta Roriz (tempranillo) provides firm structure and flavors/aromas of dried cherries and spice, Tinta Barroca provides a high sugar content, floral aromatics, black cherries, plums and purple flowers, and finally the Touriga Nacional provides deep colour, structure and rich flavours of black fruit.

Ruby Port is the most basic of port styles and is generally made with a blend of red grape varieties and blends from several years. It is generally a drink now port, although there are examples of unfiltered Ruby ports that will allow some bottle aging.  This port is port is one of those unfiltered examples with the etiquette suggesting that decanting is required.  Not too sure how long it will age, but after more than a week in the bottle it was still going strong.

Anyway, what do I think of this Ruby Port:

As expected a really deep purple in colour. Plenty of fruit on the nose with spirit coming through as well. Smooth on the palate with plenty of good, juicy, concentrated, sweet fruit. Really quite sweet but the acid combined with the grape spirit gives the wine a good balance. Tannins are quite light on, as expected, which means a really easy drink exactly as a ruby port should be. I really enjoyed drinking this and in my opinion this is a lot better than your average ruby.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2007 Leasingham Magnus Riesling


Country: Australia
Region: Clare Valley
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €12,00
Closure: Screwcap


When I think of Riesling I cannot help but think of the steep, hilly regions of Germany along the Rhine and the Mosel rivers.  The riesling, originating in Germany (Rhine region), is a very versatile grape which can produce wines in many different styles.  In fact it is one of the reasons some commentators, such as Jancis Robinson (and many others I may say), refer to riesling as the king of the whites.  

Riesling is possibly one of the most underrated white varieties after it's reputation was destroyed by wines such as Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch and Niersteiner.  Thouge these wines 
often contained little or no riesling in them riesling was tainted by association.  These wines gave riesling the reputation of sickly sweet wines; beginners wines that were not to be taken too seriously.  Over time Riesling is winning back some of the lost ground, although there is still a lot of ground to be made up.

In Australia the Clare Valley is one of 'the' places to produce riesling and is home to some of the best producers such as Leo Buring, Petaluma and Grosset.  
With an average rainfall of 632mm and an average winter temperature of 13 degrees, the Clare Valley is one of Australia's coolest wine growing regions.  The long, warm summer days and the cooling nights allow the grapes to develop flavour as well as maintaining the crisp acidity Australian rieslings are known for.  In general Australian riesling is drier than those produced in Germany for example where a little residual sugar is often left in the wine left fermentation.  

This wine is the 2007 Leasingham Magnus Riesling produced in the Clare Valley.  Against all advice Leasingham was the first winery in the Clare to plant the riesling variety in the early 1950's.  The variety flourished and the rest they say is history.     

Here is what I thought of the wine:

Light; almost straw-like in colour.  Typical floral nose with a dash of green citrus.  Quite dry on the palate with juicy, lemon, lime citrus fruit and plenty of mouth drying acidity.  A little short on the finish but a nice, varietally correct wine.  While very clean and correct I do think it lacks that little bit of interest for mine.  I would, however, be interested in tasting this with some bottle age.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2003 Monasterio Del Pueyo Reserva

Country: Spain
Region: Somontano
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €6,99
Closure: Cork

I purchased this wine at the Aldi without having a clue what I was really purchasing.  The little advertisement on the left-hand top corner of the label stating "90 point Robert Parker" did catch my attention even though I am neither a fan, nor a reader of this particular wine critic.  I was, however, interested enough to grab two bottles just to have a look see.

On arriving home wack the wine name into good old google.  Nothing much available about this wine.  Certainly not what I would have expected from a 90 point Parker wine.  Anyway, after further searching I found that, according Aldi marketing and advertisements, this wine is a 
Marboré produced by Bodegas Pirineos located in the Somontano region.  According to the Aldi it was not possible to use the original labelling so it was labelled as Monasterio Del Pueyo Reserva.  Of note was that the Marboré was not actually rated by Parker, but by Jay Miller.

The wine comes from the foot of the Pyrenees in Spain, from a region called Somontano.  Somontano, which actually means under the mountains, has a long oenological history with grapes having been grown since at least since the beginning of 2nd century BC.  The region is generally known for its full-coloured, rustic reds with high tannin content, good acidity and good cellaring ability.

The cepage of the Monasterio is temperanillo (60%), cabernet sauvignon (20%) and merlot (20%) according the etiquette.  However, if this is really the Marboré then it also includes lesser known local varieties parraleta (5%), and moristel (5%) at the expense of the same percentage of temperanillo.  Whether this is so remains to be seen.

Ok, now to what I thought about this wine:

Deep, dark purple in colour.  Powerful nose, especially when the wine was first opened and poured.  Definite vanilla on the nose along with plenty of red and dark berry fruit and some spice.  Plenty of power, yet quite elegant, on the palate with sweet, black, spicey fruit.  Some tannin in there which probably needs a little time to settle down.  A nice drop, certainly for the price, and certainly worth stashing a few away in the cellar.  Whether the 90/100 is justified remains to be seen.  I'm not such a big fan of this system myself; you either like the wine or you don't.

Monday, September 15, 2008

WBW#49 A toast to the end of the Bush Era


I got married last month which is the reason that this blog has been neglected over that same period. This will then be my first post for quite some time; hopefully of many more to come.

The current
Wine Blogging Wednesday topic, a toast to the end of the Bush Era, is hosted by Dhonig of 2 Days Per Bottle. This is an interesting topic, and one that I could not let slip by. My bottle of wine for this theme is one from France seeing they were one of the few countries stand up the US when it counted (despite much criticism). I have great respect for that, thus a French wine.

Well, like the citizens of most countries world-wide I've never been a Bush fan, and over the term of his office he has proven himself to be worse than I imagined when he was elected the first time around. The fact that he got a second term boggles my mind and probably says volumes about the majority living in the United States. Needless to say I won't sad when he leaves the Whitehouse for the last time.

Domaine du Jas Le Chevre d'Or

Country: France
Region: Cote du Rhone
Alcohol: 13%
Price: 14.95
Closure: Cork

Anyway, onto the wine. The wine I have chosen is the 2004 Domaine du Jas La Chevre d'Or produced in the Rhone Valley. This wine is 100% Syrah and produced by organic and byo-dynamic methods.

Here's what I thought of the wine:

Dark, purple-red in colour. Nose is not all that powerful, but is distinctive with red and dark fruit, hints of wood and dusty, earthy aromas. Again plenty of concentrated red and black fruit on the palate. Oak is hidden away nicely behind the fruit. There is also some earthiness there too along with nicely integrated tannins. A lengthy, dark fruit finish to a very good wine. I really like this wine; very concentrated but not over the top in power.

Friday, August 15, 2008

WBW#48 Back to Our Roots

For a variety of reasons I started this post but never managed to finish it. This was a milestone in Wine Blogging Wednesday; it had been four years since Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours fame kicked off WBW.

Unlike many I never started on white, sweeter wines; whites have been something of an investigation project later on. I started with the lower end reds. Jacob's Creek, Hardy's Nottage Hill etc. were all names that served me well at the beginning of my wine journey. I couldn't find any of these, even though I have previously seen them floating around the supermarkets previously, so I purchased the Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz instead. Here's what my thoughts on it are:

2006 Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz

Country: Australia
Region: Multi-Regional
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: €9,00
Closure: Cork

Deep purple red; quite dark and dense in colour. The nose shows red fruit and spice along with vanillan aromas. On the palate the red fruit is ripe, sweet and upfront and exhibits plum and dark berry flavours. Typical of Shiraz it also showed plenty of spice too. The oak was also evident but not overly so. Tannins were soft and velvety.  A very decent, albeit commercial, drop and pretty good value for money.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2005 Niepoort Vertente Tinto

Country: Portugal
Region: Douro
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €19,00
Closure: Cork

In my eyes Portugal, along with Italy, is one of the most exciting wine producing countries in the world today. With the many indigenous grape varieties available at their disposal the potential is there to produce interesting, unique wines that could differentiate Portugal from many other wine producing countries.

Port, Portugal's most famous of wines, has long been the king-pin in the Douro. Over the last ten to twenty years, however, this has all been changing as consumers tastes changed from drinking Port and Sherries to table wines. The rise of a new generation of winemakers in the Douro, and Portugal as a whole, has seen many producing table wines in addition to their ports. As a result many have released a range of table wines.

Among these is van Niepoort, a wine producer of Dutch origins. Van Niepoort is run by a 5th generation Niepoort, Dirk. Over the years Dirk Niepoort has established a reputation as one of the most skilled winemakers in the Douro. While he is also a tradionalist he was one of the first in the Douro to start dabbling with table wines.

This wine, named the Vertente, is a tinto produced from a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional and others. The vineyards producing the grapes are quite mature with vine ages ranging between 20 and 70 years. Here's what I thought of it:

Great depth of colour with the deep purple showing it's youth. The nose is powerful and shows dark berry fruit. On the palate there is plenty of fresh, dark berry along with good, dying tannins and really good acidity. The wood is nicely integrated behind the fruit. This is a wine that is more about elegance than power. Nice length on the finish. I really liked this wine though at the moment of tasting I'm unsure whether this good value at €19.00.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

WBW#47 Today’s Wine Brought To You By The Letter “S”


This months Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is presented by the guys at Grape Juice. An interesting theme this one; Today’s Wine Brought To You By The Letter “S”. Well all I can say this wine was definitely brought by the letter "S". Read more to find out why.

NV Pertaringa The Full Fronti

Country: Australia
Region: McLaren Vale
Alcohol: 18.%
Price: €16,00
Closure: T-Cap

The liqueur styles Tokay (Muscadelle) and Muscat/Frontignac (Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains / Brown Muscat) are classically produced in Australia, especially the Rutherglen area in Victoria. This one, however, is not from Rutherglen but from McLaren Vale where the Hardy and Leask families have been fortifying grapes for well over 150 years. Today they own and run Pertaringa Vineyards releasing the Full Fronti for fun rather than necessity. The Liqueur Fronti is a blend of liqueur frontignac that averages to around 20 years in age.

These are my thoughts on it:

Amber-brown in colour with hints of olive green. Very thick and viscous. Powerful on the nose; the aromas almost leap out of the glass with ranchio aromas, raisins and currants, spice and just a hint of spirit. Thick, luscious and powerful on the palate with the same ranchio characters, raisins, currents, apricot, caramel along with hints of spirit. A spirited long, lengthy finish completes a seriously superb drink; stupendously spectacular, sensuous, and sublime. Oh heck why not? It's SUPER­CALI­FRAGI­LISTIC­EXPI­ALI­DOCIOUSLY good.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

2005 Churchill Estates Tinto


Region: Douro
Country: Portugal
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €15,00
Closure: Cork

Churchill Estates is a relative newcomer to the world of port, having been founded by Johnny Graham in 1981.  Like many other producers in the Douro, Churchill has also started producing tables wines based on the traditional port varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz and Touriga Franca.   This is the second of their table wines, the 2005 Churchill Estates Tinto. 

The wine is produced from the Tinto Roriz (60%) and Touriga Nacional (40%) varieties.  Tinto Roriz, also known as tempranilla in Spain (the star of Rioja) and aragonez in Portugal, has small grapes with a thick skin which produces wines of intense colour depth.  It generally produces wines with lower acid and tannin in warmer climates such as the Douro.  Touriga Nacional on the other hand is a grape producing wines with massive colour and big tannins.  The real star of the Douro, it provides structure, generally high acidity, powerful tannins and deep, powerful aromas.

Anyway here's what I thought of it:

Really great colour; deep, dense and purple.  On the nose it's powerful with red and black fruits, and gives the impression that this will be a big wine.  The palate is, however, more elegance than power and exhibits smooth, soft, sweet black fruit backed by cedar-like oak.   Fruit is fresh and grippy tannins quite elegant.  Nice black fruit finish completes a really elegant wine.   Churchill aims to produce elegant, balanced wines rather than over the top, overripe fruit bombs which is exactly what they have achieved.  Attractive and impressive wine that I definitely recommend.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

1964 Chateau La Burelle


Country: France
Region: Saint Emilion
Alcohol: 11-13%
Price: Unknown
Closure: Cork

My father-in-law (to be) took this one out of the cellar - as far as I know it's been there for all of it's life bar the first 5-6 years or so. Of interest was the brown wine bottle - it was certainly the first time I have seen one of those from Bordeaux. Also of interest was the alcohol percentage being displayed as between 11 and 13 % .

Now I always like to know a little more about the wines I drink. In some cases, however, this is nigh impossible especially where the wine is old and the estate or chateau no longer exists. In this case I couldn't find anything about the chateau which is a bit of pity.

1964 was an interesting vintage. It followed the superb 1961, the variable, underrated 1962 and the rain-ruined 1963. While plenty of rain fell in 1964 it fell primarily during the harvest. In general the summer months were warm and dry which allowed the earlier ripening grapes such as Merlot to fully ripen. Merlot ripens a few weeks earlier than does Cabernet (left bank Bordeax) and many right bank properties harvested just before the rain came down to ruin whatever was left including the left bank harvest. While I have no idea as to the quality of this Chateau, the chances are the grapes for this wine were harvested before the rain came and that it is more than likely largely (if not soully) Merlot.

The words of one Ellen Eller sum up the right bank vintage: "It was such an exquisite 1964 Bordeaux that one sip was more like inhaling a soft fragrance than imbibing a liquid"

Here's what I though of it:

The Orange-red clearly indicates an older wine; the core is still has good depth of red with light orange at the edge of the glass. A little funky at first but then opened up to show plenty of red cherry fruit and some cigar box aromas. On the palate it still has quite a lot of red fruit backed by soft and well integrated tannins. Acidity added some freshness. Good length on the finish. This wine has aged beautifully over the years. It certainly tasted a lot younger than a 44 year old wine. Really enjoyed the experience.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

2006 Matahiwi Pinot Noir

Region: New Zealand
Country: Wairarapa
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €12,00
Closure: Screwtop

This wine has been produced by Matahiwi Estate from Wairarapa. At 75 hectares Matahiwi Estate is one of the largest family-owned estates in the region. Located on the Southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand, Wairarapa was "discovered" as a wine possible wine region in the 1970's making it quite a young region. It contains the Martinborough sub-region home to some of New Zealands best Pinot Noir producers among others Dry River, Ata Tangi and Palliser.

This wine is a 100% Pinot Noir produced from a variety of clones and rootstocks (over 40 I read somewhere) grown at the Estate. The Pinot Noir variety makes up the 30% of the vines with the remaining 70% being Sauvignon Blanc. Here's what I thought of the wine:

Typically of Pinot it is quite light red in colour. Attractive, youthful and quite pronounced nose with the ripe cherry fruit along with some earthy tones. The same ripe, soft, young cherry fruit on the palate along with smokey oak. Not complex but a well balanced wine with good acidity. A nice length completes a really attractive wine that is lovely drinking right now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WBW#46 Rhone Whites


This month the theme is Rhone whites and is presented by dr debbs of goodwineunder20. I chose two wines one Australian and the other a Rhone. The wines ended up being totally different in style which made for interesting comparisons; one was quite fresh with good acidity as opposed to the other which was fatter and rounder with clearly less acidity.

2005 Yering Station M.V.R

Region: Australia
Country: Yarra Valley
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €16,00
Closure: Screwtop

Yering Station has some of the oldest vines in Victoria and was one of the first wineries in Victoria having been established in 1838 by the Scottish-born Ryrie brothers. While certainly better known for it Pinot Noir, Yering Station have a reputation for quality across the entire range. This wine has been matured for 3 months in oak of which 22% was fermented in oak
and the remaining 78% in tank. The cepage of this wine are the classic northern Rhone varieties of Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne.

Pale, straw-like in colour. Really fresh on the nose with plenty of peach and pear fruit. The same pear and peach fruits show up on the palate along with some citrus and mineral characters. The wine is lean and very fresh with good acidity. A lovely wine for a warm summers day.

2003 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Mule Blanche

Region: Rhone
Country: France
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €19,00
Closure: Cork

This estate also have a long history with evidence suggesting that winery was found in the early 19th century. Until 2005 the estate was in the hands of the Jaboulet family when it was sold to the Frey family, who also own Chateau La Lagune in Bordeaux.

Of interest is that the comes from the days when mules where used as pack horses in the vineyard. The wine is a blend of Marsanne 50% and Roussanne 50% sourced from a 7 hectare vineyard where vine age is between 40 and 60 years. It spends nine months in oak.

Bright intense yellow-golden in colour. Butter and honied melon on the nose backed up with some hints of oak. The palate is quite thick and oily with the same buttery creaminess and plenty of honey-like fruit. Acidity is quite low but the wine is not flabby. Oak gives the wine structure. Interesting, attractive wine that I would be more than happy to drink again in the future. Good stuff.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

2003 Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico D.O.C.G.


Region: Toscana
Country: Italy
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: €20.95
Closure: Cork

Castello Dei Rampolla is situated close to Panzano in central Tuscany and has a long history going back to the 13th century. The 42 hectare vineyard, farmed biodynamically for the past ten years, is situated on calcareous soil about 360 meters above sea level. The sangiovese variety thrives in this environment. Quality is further increased by high-density planting of vines and ensuring low yields.

While Castello Dei Rampolla's main claim to fame is their cabernet-based super-tuscans like Sammarco and D’Alceo around 60% of the total production is Chianti Classico (around 100,000 bottles). The remaining 40% is divided between the D’Alceo, the Sammarco and the Trebianco. This wine is the Chianti Classico, a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Here's what I thought of it:

Garnet in colour fading to orange at the rim of the glass. Almost a little smokey on the nose with red cherry, berry fruit and a hint of mushroom. The same red fruit reappears on the palate backed up by firm, dying tannins and some toasty oak. Nice length completes a wine where all components are nicely in balance with one another. All-in-all a really delicious, well structured wine that matched nicely with the wild mushroom and truffle ragu we had for dinner.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2007 Thorn Clarke James Goddard Shiraz


Region: Barossa
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €9.99
Closure: Cork

Thorn-Clarke Wines was launched in 2002 as a result of the 37 year marriage between David and Cheryl Clarke (nee Thorn). The Thorn family have a long history in the Barossa having grown vines in there since the 1870’s. They still proudly own and manage some of the oldest vineyards in the region.

Thorn-Clarke abides by a strong philosophy of over-delivering in terms of the quality at every price level. They strive to ensure that whether people buy the Sandpiper range at $15 or the Shotfire range at $23 they are drinking wines that are excellent value for money. So far that has definitely been the case.

This shiraz is a tribute to the ambitious James Goddard, an ancestor of the Clarke family, who found gold in the Barossa Valley in the 1870's. Having migrated from England in the 1850’s, he moved to the Barossa during the gold rush, developing and managing the Lady Alice mine in search of riches. Here are my thoughts on the wine:

Dense, deep, inky purple-red in colour. Nice nose with plenty of black fruit and hints of vanilla. Full-bodied on the palate with black berry, plum and some sour cherry backed by toasty oak and fine-grained tannins. A lengthy, drying finish completes a nice wine that punches well above its weight class.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

2007 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay Pinot Noir


Region: Franschhoek
Country: South Africa
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €13.50
Closure: Cork


An interesting, unique blend that caught my eye at a local wine store - a still wine produced from the grapes of one of the traditional Champagne blends, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This wine is produced by Boschendal Wines a wine producer in the Franshoek region in South Africa. One of the oldest producers in the franschhoek region it has a rich history dating back over 300 years to the arrival French Hugenots in the area.

While the early history has strong links the the French Hugenots the name Boschendal is an old Dutch name which literally means forrest (bosch) dale (dal). The strong Dutch influence continues with the magnificant manor house that has been built in the Cape Dutch style. Completing the estate is 200 hectares of vines consisting of wide range of different varieties.

This wine, from the 1685 range, honours the arrival of the Hugenots in the area, and the beginning of winemaking, in the year 1685. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in equal portions barrel-fermented. Here's what I thought of it:

Interesting colour with an orange-yellow-brown, almost a light copper in colour. The nose with tropical fruit - pineapple etc. though there is some hint of cherry/strawberry too. Full bodied and powerful on the palate with the same tropical fruit as on the nose along with a spicy, fresh cherry finish. Really fresh with some bitters on the finish. Not bad, although I am not blown away by this one at all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

2004 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Adelaide, Coonawarra, and Robe
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €9.99
Closure: Cork


It was Thomas Hyland's hands that took over the reins after the passing of Penfolds founder Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold. Hyland was married into the Penfolds family and, together with his mother-in-law Mary Penfold, saw the company develop into one of Australia's most famous wine names.

This cabernet is one of a trio of wines that form the Thomas Hyland range honouring the enterprising, pioneering spirit of Thomas Hyland. Typically of many of the Penfolds range it is a multi-regional wine that draws its fruit from Adelaide, Coonawarra, and Robe. Here's what I thought of it:

Deep, dark dense red with purple hues. The nose is not super powerful but shows nice ripe red plum fruit, some black olive and hints of vanillan oak. Soft, round and fruit forward on the palate with the oak nicely tucked away behind red plum and berry fruit backed up by fine, grippy tannins. Decent length completes a drink-now wine that is well made, but is not all that exciting.

WBW#45 Old World Riesling


Region: Ahr Valley
Country: Germany
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €12.00-15.00
Closure: Cork

The wine blogging wednesday theme (hosted by Tim at winecast.net) for this month is old world Riesling (in essence Germany, Austria and France's Alsace). Of all the white varieties I can't think of a variety that I love and hate (at the same time) more. When well-made Riesling wines are superb, when done badly they are terrible. C
heap brand names such as Blue Nun and Black Tower, as well as wines designated Liebfraumilch, have really given the reputation of Riesling a hammering in the past. Thankfully things have changed since then with Riesling now some of the world's most undervalued wines.

For this theme I decided to pull out a bottle that I have had lying in the cellar for quite some.
I purchased this wine when travelling on a wine tour to the Ahr Valley in 2001. It was at Weingut H.J. Kreuzberg, one of the stops on the tour, that I tasted a lovely 10 year old Riesling that really caught my attention. I ended up buying a half case of the 2001 Dernauer Pfarrwingert Riesling Auslese Trocken based on that experience. This wine is interesting in that it is an auslese (late harvest) trocken (fermented to dryness) - where late harvest (auslese) fruit is fermented out to dryness. Here are my thoughts:

Pulling the cork revealed some tartrate crystals typical of aged wines. Nice clear, intense gold with some hints of green - it almost reminds me of a dessert wine. The nose is almost botrytis-like with hints of petroleum. Quite powerful and full-bodied on the palate with green apple and steely, mineral-like characters. Quite a dry wine with good acid balance that reminded me somewhat of a dry tokaji I had in Hungary a few years back. All-in-all an interesting style that I thought went quite well with the homemade fish and chips we ate with it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2004 Borghese Barrel Fermented Pinot Noir


Region: Long Island
Country: U.S.A.
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: €22.00
Closure: Cork

I recently spent some time visiting a friend in New York. The wine freak in me meant that a visit to Long Island was always going to be on the cards. The Long Island wine region is around 90 kilometers from New York city and at around 25 years a relatively young wine region. The region has warm, humid summers and cold winters with moderating influences in the form of the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay.

Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery (formerly known as Hargrave Vineyard) is located on the north fork of Long Island. The vineyard, established in 1973 by the Hargrave family, has 84 acres under vine and produces around 10,000 cases per year. With the selection of Pinot Noir as their flagship wine the owners, Ann Marie & Marco Borghese, have gone away from the trend of using Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes as primary red varieties.

This wine is the Barrel Fermented Pinot Noir, a wine that I was most impressed with when tasting at the winery. Here is what I thought of it:

Light cherry red in turning to orange at the glass rim. Lovely nose of red berry fruits; primarily cherry along with hints of strawberry and toasty oak. On the palate it is quite earthy revealing the lovely crisp, fresh cherry and strawberry fruit along with some hints of tobacco. Fine, almost powdery tannins give the wine some backbone. Decent length completes a really interesting, well balanced wine that I thoroughly enjoyed drinking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WSET - Week 2

This weeks topics:

Viticulture
Winemaking
Wine Labels.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2004 Penfolds Bin 128


Region: Coonawarra
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €13,00
Closure: Cork

Penfolds has been around since 1844 and over the subsequent 160-odd years has done much to put Australian wines on the world map. Their most famous wine is undoubtedly their flagship bin 95 (otherwise known as Grange), creation of the brilliant (and stubborn) Max Schubert. The naming of wines after bin numbers stems from the days when the wines were still stored in numbered underground storage bins at Penfolds Magill winery.


Penfolds has continued the tradition of labelling wines with bin numbers, among them the Bin 128. Formerly known as Bin 128 Claret, Bin 128 could be described as an oddity among the Penfolds range as it is one of the few wines where the grapes do not come from multiple regions; all grapes are sourced from the Coonawarra region. The wine is a cool climate Shiraz that is matured exclusively in Franch Oak.

I purchased this to assess whether I like it enough to purchase a case to stash in my cellar for a few years. This wine is, in my own humble opinion, a little too young to drink now.

Here's what I thought of it:

The first thing that hit me about this wine is the whimp of a cork used by Penfolds - what a joke. Anyway on to the wine. Really deep, dense red in colour with purple hues. almost black. The nose shows dark plummy, almost cassis-like fruit with some oak there in the background too. Medium in weight on the palate this wine shows nicely ripe dark berry, curranty, plummy fruit along with some hints of white pepper. This is all nicely framed with toasty oak. A lengthy, drying finish completes a really nice wine (though you need to appreciate some oak). Given the quality this is really quite decent value for money.

Monday, March 31, 2008

WBW#44 Cabernet Franc from France


I really enjoy wine blogging wednesday as it really pushes you to taste something that is a little off the radar. This wine blogging wednesday theme, hosted by Gary Vaynerchuck, is that of French Cabernet Franc. For this theme I have decided to do two wines since neither of the wines I reviewed is a straight Cabernet Franc. Co-incidently both of these wines are entirely contrasting in style. So here goes.

2005 Villebois Cabernet Franc Malbec

Region: Loire
Country: France
Alcohol: 12%
Price: €9,00
Closure: Screwtop

Domaine La Chardoisie is based in the Loire Valley and is owned by four Dutch wine-crazy investors. They produce four wines including this Villebois Cabernet Franc Malbec (2005) which is a blend of Cabernet Franc (60%) and Malbec (40%) and is produced from 15-40 year old vines. While these grape varieties are of lesser importance in Bordeaux in the Loire these varieties play an important role.

Here is my tasting notes:

This wine has a deep purple red in colour. The nose is delicate with hints of raspberry and strawberry. The colour fools you as this is is a lighter-bodied wine with raspberry / strawberry jam, hints of cherry and some earth too. This is a very fresh with good acidity, balance and grippy tannins. A tasty lighter, fruity wine perfect for a warm summers day.

2005 Mas Champart Vin de Pays d'Oc

Region: Languedoc
Country: France
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €9,00
Closure: Cork

Mas Champart is owned by Matthieu and Isabelle Champart who took over the then run-down Languedoc (St Chinian appellation) domaine in 1976. Since then the estate vineyards have doubled in size from 8 hectare to 16 hectare. After initially starting out as grape growers selling their produce to the local co-operative they soon turned to producing their own wines. This is blend is primarily cabernet franc along with some syrah which is generally unusual for the Languedoc region.

Here is my impression of this wine:

Intense deep red with purple hues. Quite closed on the nose initially it opened up to reveal black berry fruit and violets. Medium to full-bodied on the palate with plum, black berry and solid almost chewy tannins. Quite a lot of spice in there too, almost paprika. Quite good length on the finish. Overall a really nice wine, that probably deserved some laydown time in the cellar before consumption.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2005 Campolargo Vinha Do Putto Tinto


Region: Bairrado
Country: Portugal
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €5.95
Closure: Cork

Mention wine from Portugal and chances are people will be thinking Port. The production of quality tables wines, however, is definitely on the rise. Couple this with a wide range of indigenous grape varieties (over 500), a variety in wine regions, and in general very reasonable pricing can set Portugal apart from many other wine producing countries. In my opionion two words that can best describe Portugal as far as wine goes are exciting and individual.

Bairrado is one of the three wine regions (the other two are Douro and Dao) located in northern Portugal. Production is 80% red with the native variety Braga synonymous to the region. Of note is that the region has a huge number of growers, some 4700, with an average vineyard size of 0.2 hectare. The region was officially demarcated in 1979.

This red (Campolargo Vinha Do Putto Tinto a name that would possibly be found offensive in Spain) has been produced by Manuel dos Santos Campolargo a wine maker located in the Bairrado region. It is not made from the Braga grape, but is a blend that can comprised of some or all of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Syrah depending on the year. The composition is determined on a year-by-year basis. This is what I thought of it:

Deep ruby red in colour with an attractive nose of red berry fruits and some hints of tabacco. The palate is fruit forward and probably medium weight at best with the same red fruit and some savoury, green pepper elements. A dry finish completes a decent entry-level quaffer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WBW#43 Comfort wine


Region: McLaren Vale
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 15%
Price: €15,00
Closure: Cork

Initially I felt that this is one the toughest WBW topics so far. I'm not really all that sure that I drink wine as a comfort drink, although I certainly do drink it when I am unwinding. Anyway here is my effort at this months wine blogging wednesday theme (presented by Joel over at Wine Life Today).

The past weeks have been pretty hectic for me; a wedding to plan for August and a new freelancing world (it's my second week). Initially I thought maybe a nice bottle of vintage port or a bottle of Tokaji. Living so far from home, however, I could not go past relaxing with a good glass (highly likely a few more than that!) of Aussie Shiraz.

My choice of wine for this theme is the Gemtree Uncut Shiraz from the low yielding and excellent 2003 vintage. Here is my tasting note:

Really good colour; deep red with tinges of purple. Nice nose with plenty of plum and berry fruit. Big and full bodied the palate is smooth with concentrated plum and black berry. Some spice in there too. Oak is there but definitely takes a back seat. Fine grained tannins provide for a nice lengthy, dying finish. This is delicious wine that really is great value for money.

Friday, March 07, 2008

2005 Leasingham Magnus Clare Valley Shiraz


Region: Clare Valley
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 14%
Price: €11,95
Closure: Screwcap

The Stanley Wine Company was established in 1893 by Joseph Knappstein (a merchant), Doctor Wein-Smith (a general practitioner), Magnus Badger (a solicitor), and John Cristion (a noted brewer). Now known as Leasingham (changed in 1984), and run by the Hardys Wine Company, it was started by the quartet in order to produce high quality wines in the Clare Valley.

Around one hundred and fifteen years later Leasingham has certainly shown that their vision for quality wine in the Clare Valley has certainly been realised. This is the Magnus Shiraz, a relatively new range, named as a tribute to solicitor Magnus Badger. Here is my tasting note:

Really dark, teeth-staining purple-red, almost black in colour. The nose is made up of peppery black fruit, along with some herbs. Quite tight and elegant on the palate with plenty of black berry fruit and nice firm tannins. Some vanillan oak comes through on the lengthy finish. This is the real deal, a lovely and good value for money wine.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

2006 Calvet Reserve Du Ciron Sauternes


Region: Bordeaux
Country: France
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €10,50
Closure: Cork

Calvet was founded in 1818 by Jean-Marie Calvet, and was where the great Emile Peynaud started his illustrious career in the wine industry. The company was once one of the best family-owned negotiants in Bordeaux although this changed in 1982 when the company become a subsidiary of the Whitbread group and was subsequently consumed by the giant multinational Allied Domecq.

1997 saw the company once again become an independant French-owned company under the leadership of Jack Drounau. There was limited success and the 188 year old Calvet went through several restructures in an attempt to move into profitability, selling off its property holdings and bottling line, making a large number of redundancies and finally being taken over by H Mounier. In 2006 it was finally sold off to Grand Chais de France, a wine company based in the Alsace.

Anyway, lets get to the wine. This wine is a blend of semillon (80%), sauvignon (15%) and muscadelle (5%). The aim behind this blend is as follows: the semillon forms the base of the wine and provides the wine with body and sweetness as it lacks in acidity and aromatics. The sauvignon blanc, on the other hand, gives the wine these aromatics along with lively acidity. Last but not least the muscadelle gives wine the more elegant, subtle aromatics. Here is my tasting note:

Yellow-gold in colour; maybe some tinges of green too. The nose is more elegant than powerful; lightly floral with honey and some hints of botrytis. More honey on a palate that is not all that sweet and a lot lighter than I expected it too be. Some flabbiness too which is kind of dissappointing. Finishes with the sweetness giving way to some slightly bitter characters. A lighter style that really lacks the weight. Disappointing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

2001 Tatty Road Cabernet Pertit Verdot Merlot


Region: McLaren Vale
Country: Australia
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: €15,95
Closure: Screwcap

I've read many good reviews about the wines produced by Gemtree Vineyards and have been looking forward to trying their wines. The vineyard is owned and run by the Buttery Family, and the wine made by Mike Brown (who is married into the family).

Mike Brown's winemaking philosophy is all about quality fruit and minimal intervention in the wine making process. He aims to produce wines that are powerful, concentrated, and express the true characteristics of each variety and the region.

The wine is a Bordeaux blend of cabernet (70%), petit verdot (25%) and merlot (5%) from a good year in 2001. According to the information on the wesbite cabernet dominates the blend and creates the platform and base, petit verdot gives the aromatics structure and tannin, and merlot the juiciness.

Here is my note:

Terrific colour: very deep, dark red in colour with purple hues. The nose is not that powerful but shows some olives, black currant and hints of oak. The palate is full-bodied and all about the fruit with spices, plums, and sour cherry. Oak takes a definite back seat as it should. Grippy tannins complete a solid wine that for some reason doesn't really do it for me.

Friday, February 29, 2008

2002 Franciscan Oakville Estate Merlot


Region: Napa Valley
Country: U.S.A
Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: €19,95 (on sale from 39.00)
Closure: Cork

Since the movie Sideways, merlot has certainly come across some tough times (especially in the U.S.A). Miles, one of the major characters in the movie Sideways, gives wines produced from the grape an extremely hard time. "If anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any fucking merlot." was probably his most famous line in the film. As a result merlot sales plummeted (mostly in the U.S.A I might add).

There is not doubt that there is plenty of poor to average merlot being produced (as per wine from pretty much any other grape variety). However, it should be noted that some of the worlds most sort-after, and costly wines are also made from the varietal. One only needs to think of the great wines from the Pomerol in Bordeaux such as Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin. I just wish more people would trust their own palate rather than follow a trend started by a bleeding movie.

Anyway, this wine is a merlot and is produced by the Franciscan Winery which was founded in 1972 by a group of lawyers and doctors from San Francisco who decided to try turning their passion for wine into a business. The wine is a blend of 87% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is my note:

Dark, dark red/purple in colour moving more to brick-red at the edges. Powerful nose initially quite funky sweet medicinal though it settles down nicely to reveal plenty of ripe, sweet cherry and black berry fruit. Good mouth-feel with plenty of intense curranty, black berry / cherry fruit. Initially little evidence of oak, but the finish shows a lot of drying, chalky tannins that really dominate the finish way too much which in my view ruins the wine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2006 Vina Errazuriz Pinot Noir Wild Ferment


Region: Casablanca Valley
Country: Chile
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: €15,95
Closure: Screwcap

This Pinot Noir is part of the Speciality Range from Vina Errazuriz. This range is produced by using the natural grape yeast present on the grape skins at the time of harvest. Francisco Baettig, winemaker at Vina Errazuriz, believes that wines vinified using natural yeast have more complexity and flavour. So each year a small portion of the premium grape production is fermented in this fashion.

I must admit I don't have much tasting experience with Pinot Noir, and quite often I haven't really enjoyed them all that much. Anyhow, lets see what I think of this one:

Dark red in colour; a lot darker than I would have expected. Nose is a little restrained but shows some berry fruit; maybe a little cherry and strawberry. The palate is very smooth, almost silky, with plenty of red cherry and berry fruit along with some hints of creamy, well-integrated vanillan oak and good tannins. Good complexity. The finish has reasonable length, though does have a little heat. Lovely wine.

Monday, February 25, 2008

2004 Chateau Livran


Region: Medoc
Country: France
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: €6,50
Closure: Cork

Chateau Livran has a very long history with vintages dating back to 1310. During this time the chateau has been owned by a number of famous names including chevalier Arnaud Gargie de Goth (brother of Pope Clement V), Comte d’Armagnac, the De Bordeaux family and the Du Perrier de Larsan family.

The chateau, now owned by the Godfrin family, has some 52 hectares under vine with an average age of around thirty years. I read in another source that the varieties planted in the vineyard are made of merlot (50%), cabernet (35%), and cabernet franc (15%). This is atypical Medoc as the norm would be wines dominated by the cabernet variety. Whether this is totally correct or not I am not sure.

Here is my tasting note:

Ruby red in colour; very clear. The nose is attractive with cherry, smokey bacon and some hints of barnyard. Cherry and some plums along with hints of caramel on a palate that is also quite earthy. After a good start the finish is where this wine lets itself down badly as it just disappears into nothing; some bitter, spicey fruit maybe but very little indeed. Disappointing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2006 Chateau de Luc Cuvee Cecile


Region: Corbieres
Country: France
Alcohol: 13%
Price: €3,99
Closure: Cork

Corbieres is located in the Languedoc region one of France largest wine regions producing a quarter of all French wine. In general it is a largely underrated region producing primarily red wines (around 90% are in fact red wines). The region has a history of producing wines that could best be decribed as quite rustic. However, over the past 5-10 years many producers in this region have been focusing on inproving the quality of the wines, and improving the sense of place (or terroir) in the wines.

The region has around 4285 ha. under vine with the allowed grapes for red and rose: carignan, grenache, mourvedre, syrah, cinsaut and for the whites: clairette, grenache blanc, bourboulenc, ugni blanc, roussanne, rolle, maccabéo and marsanne. The maximum production is 60 hl. per ha.

This wine is the Cuvee Cecile which is a blend of Carigan (45%), Syrah (20%), Grenache (20%) and Cinsault (20%). This is quite typical of Corbieres where the majority of the grapes grown (around 50%) are in fact Carignan. Here is my tasting note:

Purple almost maroon in colour. A very attractive nose with cherry and bramble. Full, round and soft on the palate with good mouthfeel. Ripe red berry fruit; cherries and red berries with a little caramel-like oak influence. Some spice in there too. The tannins are very soft and well integrated. An elegant, and very nice quaffer especially if you consider the price.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2006 Domaine de la Pigeade Muscat de Beaumes de Venise


Country: France
Region: Southern Rhone Valley
Alcohol: 15%
Price: €1.99 (severely discounted)
Closure: Cork

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is a sweet muscat-based Vins Doux Naturel produced in the Cötes de Rhöne. Vins Doux Naturel is basically a fortified wine produced in a similar fashion to port where the fermentation is stopped by the addition of neutral grape spirit which kills the yeast. Whereas ports reach alcohol levels around the 19-20% mark a typical Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is normally fortified to just over 15%.

There are currently 489 hectares under vine in this AOC producing Muscat blanc à petits grains (small berried Muscat), also known as ‘Muscat de Frontignan’. The grapes must have a sugar content of at least 252 g/l and the mutage (or stopping of 95 proof. The wines must contain 110g/l of sugar and have a minimum alcohol percentage of 15%.

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise has a long history with sources mentioning a muscat-based being produced here in the 1st century A.D. (Pliny the Elder descried the Muscat of this region as this lively and fruity wine, long cultivated at Balme in his natural history). Later, in the fourteenth century, Pope Clement V, had a 70 hectare muscat vineyard planted on the slopes of the Beaumes-de-Venise. In 1945 the decree dedicating the title of A.O.C., backdated to 1943, was awarded to Beaumes-de-Venise Vin Doux Naturel Muscat.

Thierry Vaute is the name behind Domaine de la Pigeade, a family domaine located at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain ridge in Southern Rhone. Thierry's family vineyard was formerly part of the local village co-operative until he took over the domaine in 1996. He decided to go it alone and has spent the past seven years improving the vineyards, renovating the winery buildings, reducing the yields and increasing the quality of his wines. It certainly appears to be paying dividends as my tasting note will attest:

The colour is a very pale gold in colour; almost straw-like. On the nose it is powerful with absolutely gorgeous honey and apricot tones. Very smooth, sweet honey and apricot fruit on a palate that is more about finesse and elegance than power. Acid balances the sweetness beautifully. Reasonable length completes an elegant wine that was an absolute steal.