Monday, August 26, 2019

Deutzerhof Spätburgunder

There are not many wine categories which are undervalued in total. Albariño from Northwestern Spain, as reviewed in the post below, may be one. Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Germany is definitely one. These wines are well made and have become attractive as the climate in Germany is warming.

The 2007 Deutzerhof Caspar C Spätburgunder, from the Ahr, from a very good vintage, tastes of black cherry and forest floor. As a 12 year old wine, the tannins have softened and deliver a well-rounded mouthfeel. This is a medium bodied wine with a silky texture. This wine is still fresh and dynamic, but the finish does not hold as long as the palate suggests at the start.

Score: 92/++

Friday, August 16, 2019

Castro Martin Sobre Lias Rias Baixas Albariño

Chardonnay has had its ups and downs (more ups lately), Pinot Gris is going down the commodity pass of Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling is loved by critics, but not consumers. There is room for more white varieties. Up steps Albariño, native to the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain. Rias Baixas is known as the subregion where major investments into quality have been made.

This 2016 Castro Martin Sobre Lias is a fresh and crisp wine, with citrus, peach and hazelnut flavours. While a light and refreshing wine, there is some complexity on the palate. Acidity is prominent here, and some minerality on the finish. A summer wine with interest

Score: 90/++

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Two Very Rare Australian Cult Wines

The first of these wines has the highest alcohol content of any wine I have ever drunk. The second comes from the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the world. Both are Barossa wines. The first wine is the 2004 Chris Ringland Shiraz, the second the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chris Ringland is the most meticulous winemaker I know; in the vineyard, in the winery and in record keeping. This wine used to be called Three Rivers and came from what is now Torbreck's Laird vineyard. Later it was simply called Shiraz, Dry Grown, and came from the home vineyard Stone Chimney Creek in the Flaxman (Eden) Valley, a 100 year old vineyard, which Chris Ringland  restored.

So here it is: this wine has 17.7% alcohol. Before you stop reading, hear me out: this wine has incredibly powerful pristine, pure fruit. It can match the alcohol. There is of course 100% new French oak as well. This is a wine on steroids. While many wines at 14-15% alcohol taste more alcoholic, I have a major gripe with this wine. It does not taste like Shiraz. It tastes like a dry red, not clear which variety. And ultimately the alcohol dominates the fruit on the finish. As an aside, the wine is still fresh and vibrant.

I find it difficult to rate this wine. It is extreme, well made at that, but is it typical or enjoyable?

Score: 94/++

The Penfolds Block 42 comes from a section of the famous Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley. The vines were planted in the 1880s. It is only released as a separate wine in exceptional years, otherwise the fruit goes into Grange and Bin 707. There is an incredible blackcurrant fruit intensity in this wine. It is very ripe and generous, with chocolate and licorice rounding out the profile. The wine has a big mouthfeel and no gap in the middle. The 100% new oak is noticeable, but well integrated. Alcohol is labelled at 13.3%, but this is clearly a lie. One is allowed to have a variance of 1.5%age points from the mentioned level, so lets add this to the 13.3%. The tannins are dry and have softened a bit. This wine leaves a lasting impression and will easily live well for another 15 years.

Score: 97/+++ 

Both these wines are characterized by big fruit, oak and alcohol, and are structured well. They almost form a different category of wine.   

Friday, August 9, 2019

Taste Champagne: The Major Houses Are Back

Taste Champagne is a very large tasting of Champagnes with over 40 Champagne houses pouring their bubblies.

It is a bit overwhelming. Champagne is the most manipulated wine in the world. You get a house style, mainly along the axis of Pinot vs. Chardonnay composition, ageing sur lies or not, and residual sugar. While there are premier cru and grand cru fruit going into Champagnes, terroir cannot easily be detected.

Over the last few years, so called Grower Champagnes made big inroads into the traditional leaders. Partly on the back of the fabulous 2008 vintage, the major houses have fought back.

Crowds gathering at Bollinger and Billecart-Salmon

My Champagne of the night was the Bollinger La Grande Année 2008. Great purity of fruit, caressing the mouth, very fine and fresh, with yeast underneath the fruit, delivering moderate bread and toast flavours - beautifully balanced (97 points). The Bollinger R.D. 2004 was finer and very delicate, and long on the finish (95 points).

Other Champagnes in the 94/95 point bracket were the Billecart-Salmon Vintage Extra Brut 2007, the Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2011, Pol Roger Vintage Brut 2012, Agrapart & Fils Grand Cru Terroirs Blanc de Blancs NV, Brimoncourt Extra Brut Grand Cru NV, Henriot Brut Millésimé 2008, Palmer & Co Amazone de Palmer NV, Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2009, Charles Heidsieck Millésimé Vintage Brut 2005. 

Krug and Dom Perignon were not present. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Four Vintages Of Penfolds Grange

The week of indulgence continued with a comparative tasting of some Grange vintages. Now, Grange is the opposite of what you would do if you were to design an ultra premium red wine today. You would pick a single vineyard; Grange is not only a blend of vineyards, but even regions. You would focus on one variety; Grange has some Cabernet blended with the Shiraz in most years. You would use French oak; Grange, of course, is matured in American oak. Your label would be more eye-catching. Yet, Grange is Australia's icon wine.

The tasted wines were 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2010 Penfolds Grange, with a 2002 Clarendon Hills Astralis thrown in for good measure. A lot has been written about these wines. Therefore I will just stick to my highlights. The best wines were the 1990 and 1996 Grange.

My wine of the night was the 1996 Grange. It was a little fresher than the 1990, the fruit a bit more generous now - a lot of complexity, smoke and spice and a firm grip (98 points). 

The legendary 1990 still shows this incredible layering of fruit. It has become more delicate, as the tannins have softened. The finish is very long and so is the life ahead (97 points).

The 2001 demonstrates what happens if the fruit is not powerful and weighty. Licorice takes over on the palate, there is a bit of heat, and the mouthfeel is not as round. This is still a good wine, but Grange has quite a lot of vintage variation (92 points).

The 2010 is back to form. This is an inky wine with dark fruit flavours (the 1990 has red fruit, also), firm, but silky tannins. The structure is balanced with a long finish. This wine is too early to drink and should develop more differentiated characteristics (95 points).

Grange is not everybody's favorite. Some find it too powerful and overwhelming. If you are aiming for a top shelf Australian Shiraz, the other choice would be Hill of Grace, for most. But an equally attractive choice could be Clarendon Hills' Astralis wine.

The 2002 Astralis is not as big and powerful as Grange, yet it is a full-bodied wine. The mouthfeel is very harmonious, with great balance and silky tannins. Next to its blackberry and plum fruit, it delivers attractive mocca flavours (96 points).

This was a great tasting and a rare opportunity to taste different Grange vintages side by side. Vertical tastings always deepen one's understanding of a particular wine.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Standish Wine Company The Schubert Theorem

A week of indulgence kicked off with the 2010 The Standish Wine Company The Schubert Theorem. This wine takes branding to another level. First, the label. You cannot actually read anything. If you use a magnifying glass, you will identify a mathematical formula ( The Schubert Theorem, which is about knot theory and states that every knot can be expressed as the sum of prime (indecomposable) knots).


When you look at the back label, it has the regulatory requirements on it, but again, it is very hard to read. I am surprised Dan Standish gets away with it. As to the name, well the fruit comes from a Marananga vineyard which was owned by the Schubert family.

Barossa Shiraz has come under a lot of fire lately because of the wines often being overripe and alcoholic (more by critics than consumers). Dan Standish has largely avoided this criticism, because his wines, while very big, seem balanced and controlled. And so it is with this wine.

As I pour this wine, it looks like I pour black ink. I am worried. On the palate, there is a huge mouthfeel, there is black fruit, mulberry, marmalade, olive, but also vibrant red currant. The fruit is layered, and the wine has drive and acidity. The tannins are firm, and the whole package covers the alcohol well. This is a big wine, no doubt, but it does not feel heavy. The finish is perhaps a little thick.

Those that are skeptical of Barossa Shiraz should try this wine (it is $100/bottle). It is a great example of a well crafted wine in a unique Australian style.

Score: 96/+++  

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Goisot Chardonnay

I do not drink much French Chardonnay, and if I do, I try to find good value matched by quality - not easy.

This medium weight wine almost gets me there. The father and son team Guilhelm and Jean-Hugues Goisot make wine near Chablis in the less highly regarded Yonne area. The 2015 Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Blanc has an attractive profile of citrus, grapefruit and passionfruit flavours. There is a small oak influence on the palate. This wine is perhaps a little broad (2015 was very warm), but it goes well with chicken or salad.

Score: 91/+