Friday, April 28, 2017

Two Exciting Cabernets To Compare: Achaval-Ferrer and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

I missed World Malbec Day, which was 10 days ago. However, it is a good marketing idea. Therefore, belatedly, I pulled the best Malbec out of my cellar.

Strictly speaking, the 2011 Achaval Ferrer Quimera is not a Malbec, but a Malbec blend, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a bit of Petit Verdot making up the remaining 50%.

This wine is utterly modern, with freshness and superb elegance. It is clean, crisp and very defined, with a shape which runs down the palate, rather than engulfing every possible taste bud. Blackcurrant flavours, black cherry, blackberry and white pepper blend in with fine grained tannins. The finish is very elegant. 

The different grape contributions are seamless. What is surprising is that only the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes come from high altitude, but there is no sweetness, thickness or over-ripeness in this well made wine.

Score: 95/+++

One of the exciting, and still affordable wines I brought back from a trip to Napa Valley around 2010 was the 2007 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. (Stag's Leap Vineyards) Cabernet Sauvignon. This is of course the winery which won the legendary 1976 tasting challenge against Bordeaux wines (with the Cask 23). The 1973 vintage of this wine was named an 'Object that made America' by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Like with Australian Shiraz, there is always some doubt how well Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can age. And in 10 year old tastings, the scores are mostly lower than on release. However, on opening the bottle, the signs are good. The colour is dark and looks fresh.

This wine comes from a warmer climate than the Quimera, and it shows. The wine is darker, richer, and broader. The flavours are quite complex. Red- and blackcurrant, plum, and cedar mix with earthy notes, cinnamon and chocolate. The structure is holding up, and the balance is good. Coarser tannins lead to a full-bodied finish.

Score: 93/++

Choosing between these two wines really comes down to preferences. The freshness and raciness of the Quimera vs. the richness and full mouthfeel of the S.L.V.  

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