Saturday, January 24, 2009

2005 Chateau Rocher Calon

Country: France
Region: Montagne-Saint-Emilion
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Cork

This wine was picked up for a bargain price of 5 euro in the bargain bin of one of my local wine stores. I love a bargain as much as anyone, especially when it comes to wine, and will often take a punt on a wine that I don't know. This one being a 2005 from St. Emilion I was more than willing to give it a go at that price. Rightly, or wrongly, 2005 is considered by many as one of the best vintages of the decade in Bordeaux.

Chateau Rocher-Calon is located in Montagne-Saint-Emilion, the largest satelite region surrounding Saint Emilion. The region characterized by it's production of exclusively red wines, produced from the grape varieties Merlot (75% of vines grown), Cabernet Franc (20% of vines grown) and Cabernet Sauvigon (10% of vines grown). Two other grape varieties allowed in the region, but very rarely used, are Malbec and Carménère.

Clay and limestone along with some sand over a calcious limestone base (also known as roche calcaire, or asteries) make up the ground in which the vines are grown. The summer drought is softened by the inflow of water that rises through the porous limestone allowing the growing of high quality grapes.

Chateau Rocher Calon is an estate 12 hectares in size from which 80,000 bottles are produced with traditional winemaking methods in stainless steel vats with a long maceration of 20 to 25 days and ageing over 18 months. Michel Rolland and his team are used as consultants during the winemaking process.

This wine is typically a Merlot based red (95%) along with a small percentage of Cabernet Franc (5%). Here's what I thought of it:

Dark, deep and purple/red in colour. Nose is very clean; dark plum and current. Some evidence of oak there too. The palate is very closed at time of opening and needed quite some time to even begin opening up. Still it reveals some punchy, juicy black berry fruit on the palate. Quite big and powerful. Quite a lot of acidity in there too. Tannins are evident but not overpowering for a wine this youthful. This one really needs a lot more time in the cellar. A good effort that is value for the normal 12 let alone 5.

Friday, January 09, 2009

1995 Chateau Musar

Country: Lebanon
Region: Bekaa Valley
Alcohol: 14%
Price: 30,00
Closure: Cork

Chateau Musar is the most famous, and in the eyes of many the greatest, of all the wineries in Lebanon. Though it is not the oldest or the largest estate, Musar has a cult-like following the world over. Since the 1979 Bristol Wine Fair, where Michael Broadbent described the wine as the discovery of the fair, the estate has not looked back. And this despite the civil war that tore Lebanon apart in the 1970's and 1980's.

There is so much information about the story of Chateau Musar, its history, the wines it produces etc. that I will not go into further detail here. A great starting point is the Musar website which has a great number of articles for download. Then there are two interesting articles written by Andrew Jefford that are worth reading as well (The Magic of Musar and Understanding Musar). A quick search on google will produce even more.

If two words could best typify Musar it would be uniqueness and individuality; both of these qualities coming from the man behind the creation of the wine for so many years, 1984 Decanter Magazine's Man of the Year, Serge Musar. After his oenology degree in Bordeaux, Serge took over the winemaking in 1959 immediately putting his own unique stamp on the wines making Musar into what it is today. Even though he no longer makes the wine, he still has an enormous influence on this unique wine.

Not only the situation in which wine was made, and to a lesser extent still is, is unique. The processes used to produce the wine, and the resulting wine are also unique. For a start the wines are fermented in cement vats and not stainless or oak. Then some of the winemaking rules are slightly relaxed allowing the wines to have a certain amount of volatile acidity and, in many cases, brettanomyces. The Musar philosophy is that of respect for nature and ecology which is the reason the wines are neither fined nor filtered. There are no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum necessary dose of sulphur. Natural yeasts are also used during fermentation while the bottles are individually hand filled. Everything to attempt to translate what natures intends.

The resulting product are the wines are of superb quality, albeit in particular Musar style, that have the ability to age and mature for long periods of time. This does not only refer to the red wines, as the whites also have the amazing capacity to age, and are considered by Serge Musar to be his greatest wines. No two vintages are the same, each vintage (or in many cases bottles) has it's own individuality. This makes Musar such in interesting, and valued wine for many wine drinkers.

The 1995 vintage yielded 30% less fruit than normal, although the fruit was of an excellent quality. The assemblage of this wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan in equal portions. This is the first time I have tasted a Musar, something I was looking forward to for a long time. Here is what I thought of it.

Nice red in the core fading to brown. The nose is complex and very interesting; quite powerful with cherry fruit, cedar and a shoe polish element. The palate begins candy-like with sweet, soft strawberry, cherry fruit. As the wine opens up it reveals earthy, tobacco and mushroom characters giving the wine a great degree of interest. There is also an almost leathery meatiness to the wine. Like a iron fist in a velvet glove, the structure beneath the fruit is firm with great acidity and good tannin. A long sour cherry finish completes an amazing wine. All I can say is wow.

Chatour Latour on the market

Chateau Latour, located in the Pauillac region, is one of the most famous chateau in the region, if not in Bordeaux and the world. The estate is located in Pauillac region also home to two other world-reknowned estates Chateaus Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild.

The last years has seen the wines of all these estates rise quite dramatically so that today they all cost in excess of 700 euro per bottle and are all inaccessible to the average wine drinker. These are astronomical costs for 750 ml of liquid. While I would love to try these wines one day, if only in an attempt to taste whether they are really that much better than all the rest. I, however, just can't justify that much money for a wine, even for such a one-off event. There is simply too much other good wine available to enjoy that are much better value for money.

With interest I read that Chateau Latour is on the market. Apparently the winery and vineyards will be on the market for anything between 200 and 600 million euro. An amazing, and possibly stupid amount of money for 78 hectares of land with some vines, even if they are considered to be some of the best in the world.

It's a shame that many of these estates have aligned themselves exclusively with the rich and the famous. I wonder what the future brings for them, especially with the current financial crisis giving ample evidence that our decadent, growth-at-all-costs, consumerism is not sustainable.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2005 Heartland Directors Cut Shiraz

Country: Australia
Region: Langhorne Creek & Limestone Coast
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: €19,00
Closure: Cork

I plan on moving back to Australia within the next two years so I am busy trying to sort of the wines to drink, give away or move with me. It's an interesting job as you find wines hidden away in boxes that you forgot you had purchased. This was one of them, a single bottle of the 2005 Heartland Directors Cut Shiraz.

Heartland Wines is the creation of a small group of South Australian wine identities and friends who all share a passion for making great wine; second generation winemaker Ben Glaetzer and wine industry professionals Grant Tilbrook and Vicki Arnold. All the wines are made by Ben Glaetzer a member of a family as synonymous with the Barossa as Shiraz.

The Shiraz grape was brought to Australia by the father of the Australian wine industry, James Busby, in 1832. Since then it has become the "Australian" grape and has been the driving force behind the industries amazing growth over the past ten years or so. Australia is also home to some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world with a number of wineries having vines older than 100 years.

This wine is Heartland's flagship wine and is 100% Shiraz produced from fruit grown in Glaetzers own vineyards
. In this case 60% of the final wine is Langhorne Creek fruit with the remaining 40% coming from the Limestone Coast. Here is what I thought of it:

Dark, deep and dense opaque purple in colour. Great nose with plenty of dark plum and berry fruit along with some coconut.
The palate is big and full-bodied with plenty of upfront, almost velvety, fruit. Ripe rich plum, peppery spice with a fair dash of oak. Really good fruit concentration and intensity. Tannins are there but are not too obtrusive. The finish is quite lengthy with spicy dark berry fruit. I really enjoyed this even though it really deserved some more time before consumption.