Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Grenache, Four Ways

A few days ago, it was World Grenache Day, whatever this means. At least, Grenache is grown in many parts of the world. It is most famous as the dominant blend in Chateuneuf-du-Pape, but as a single variety, Spain would be its most famous origin.

The winery Capcanes has come up with a fascinating exercise of producing in the same manner 100% Grenache wines grown on different soils: there is sand, limestone, slate and clay. If you are skeptical about the influence of terroir, I suggest you try these four wines.
The key are the crosses at the top showing different soil types

I tried these wines over the last few days. The Grenache grown on sand was beautiful:  pretty raspberry fruit, flavoursome, but not sweet, lush, fragrant and aromatic. I had more trouble with the limestone wine. The minerality was very strong and not matched by the fruit flavours. This wine lacked some balance. The wine grown on slate was very different: dark fruit, muscular, with great intensity and a long finish. The Grenache on clay was also concentrated, but this wine lacked some definition. It was quite broad and a little fat in the mouth (like the soil is).

The outcomes were what one would expect from the soil. Was I biased? I wish I had tried these blind, but even so I am confident of my descriptions. My favourite soils were slate and sand. Clay was a little boring and the limestone soil did not seem to work with this wine.

Most wine is grown on clay and limestone, I think. Makes you wonder. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Giaconda Chardonnay

Giaconda produces the most complex and Burgundy-like Chardonnay in Australia. I get hot and cold over it, find it sometimes too overworked. In 2014, Rick Kinzbrunner got it right.

The 2014 Giaconda Chardonnay delivers a complex flavour profile of ripe stone fruit, in particular yellow peach, almond and vanilla. The wine has good intensity, but is not heavy nor too big. New oak and malolactic fermentation deliver a wine round in the mouth, yet with good drive and cereal type minerality on the back palate. The finish is nutty rather than acidic.

Score: 96/++

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Castel Rift Valley Chardonnay

Ethiopia’s claim to fame is its invention of coffee. When monks threw wild growing coffee beans into the fire, they were pleasantly surprised by their pleasant aroma. The rest is history. What is less well known is that wine has also been made here since the 16th century. It is grown in the famous Rift Valley ( famous for its runners) at 1600m altitude.

The number one winery is French owned Castel. They produce an astonishing two million plus bottles each year after they imported 750,000 vines from France in 1997. The vineyard is unusual, as it is surrounded by a two metre high wall to deter pythons, hippopotamuses and hyenas - not your average environment for grape growing. I tasted the Cabernet Merlot and the Syrah from their red grapes. These are not wines that would succeed internationally as fine wine, although 50% is exported.

The Chardonnay, only 10% of total production, is a different cattle of fish. The 2017 Castel Rift Valley Chardonnay is a crisp wine, with citrus and passionfruit flavours. The fruit is finely balanced by an attractive level of acidity. This wine is not complex, but perfectly suited to equatorial climates. It finishes dry.

Score: 85/++

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Domaine des Senechaux Blanc, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

95% of the grapes grown in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are red, and this is what the region is known for. However, there are also some interesting white wines made there. In keeping with the philosophy of the region, many varieties are blended together.

Only 1000 cases were made of the 2016 Domaine des Senechaux Blanc. The property is owned by the Cazes family of Chateau Lynch-Bages, so you can expect good quality. The main varieties in this wine with about a third each are Roussane, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc. The first two undergo a cold soak before fermentation to extract more fruit.

On the palate, this wine has grapefruit, pear, and hazelnut. The wine is quite fresh and has more acidity than many Rhone whites. This gives the wine a bit of drive while retaining food friendliness. The year was very successful. This shows in the smoothness and balance of the wine, and the good line to the well-rounded finish.

Score: 93/++