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.