Wednesday, April 29, 2020

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

Traditional Rioja, in particular Gran Reserva, which tends to be matured for many years, is characterized by strong oak flavours. I visited La Rioja Alta, one of Rioja's leading wineries last year and tasted this wine. With more time on my hands at home, I was interested how I would view the 2010 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 now.

The colour is a bright, yet intense ruby. On the nose, red fruited aromas, cherry and raspberry, dominate. There are also secondary notes, such as tobacco and cocoa. This is a complex bouquet.

The same fruits hit the palate upfront. It is a lively wine, even though the fruit flavours are of dried fruit.Then there are earthy notes, mushroom, and vanilla from the oak barrels. The wine has good acidity with soft, fine grained tannins.

Overall, I have slightly mixed feelings about this wine. It is complex, and the fruit still shines through. When I say shines through, there is an oaky cover, which detracts from the otherwise interesting and still fresh flavours.

Score: 93/+ 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Grace Wine Koshu

Grace was founded in 1923 and is one of Japan's top three wineries, all located in Yamanachi province. It focuses, but not exclusively, on the indigenous Koshu grape, a hybrid between a European vitis and one from the Caucasus, brought to Japan more than 1000 years ago. 

This 2015 Grace Kayagatake Koshu is its village wine in the hierarchy, emulating the Burgundy logic. The colour of the wine, even though five years old, is very pale.

The nose is delicate, smelling of white flower perfume, green apple, citrus, and a hint of cinnamon.

The palate is delicate as well. Lime and apple flavours are accompanied by slight spice, and a certain flintyness. This is a light wine, at 11.5% alcohol, but it has medium acidity,  good linearity and a decent finish - a perfect wine for Japanese fish dishes, raw as well as cooked.

Score: 91/++    

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Penfolds RWT Shiraz

The RWT Shiraz can be an amazing wine, as it should be for the price. The 2005 Penfolds RWT Shiraz is not one of those. It is still a good wine, but not as good as the Americano Malbec which I drank a day earlier and reviewed a couple of posts below. Here is why:

The aroma of the  2005 RWT is massive; black fruits, blackberry, mulberry.

There are similar flavours on the palate. Secondary notes as well, meaty and smoky flavours, aniseed. This adds to the very high fruit weight and complexity. The mouthfeel is big, the French oak noticeable. This wine is very ripe and heavy. The firm tannins lead to a long, slightly heavy and rough finish.

The structure is holding up well at 15 years, but this wine is a bit too brutal for me, while the Americano Malbec manages a full-bodied palate with elegance.

Score: 94/+ 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tasting Notes

There are basically two ways to write tasting notes. The first is to identify as many aroma and flavour descriptors as possible. This is the favoured approach by professional wine writers. This has two issues, in my opinion. If you read a large number of descriptors, you may actually not have a good picture of how the wine in question tastes. The second is that you may not know a substantial number of the fruits or spices mentioned. Five minutes ago, I read a review which mentioned prominently 'Meyer lemons'. Sorry, I have never heard of it. The objective here seems to be how differentiated someone can taste and how smart they are in comparison to the consumer.

The second approach is the one I favour. It describes the main features of the wine, for example citrus or stone fruit or tropical fruit in Chardonnay, oaked or not, level of acidity; red or black fruit, intensity, ripeness, secondary notes, tannins in Cabernet or Shiraz. The reader then gets a picture, and if he tastes the wine, can flesh it out as he/she would experience. Also, at the end of the day, we are drinking wine, not eating a fruit basket. In France, some people just stick to masculine vs. feminine.

What do you think? What do you prefer to read?   

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino

April 17 is World Malbec Day. Well, this means Argentinian Malbec, doesn't it? There is no better way than celebrating with the Penfolds of Argentina, Catena Zapata. I have a bit of a soft spot for Malbec, but it has to be high quality.

The 2012 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino is built around an interesting blending concept. The component from their leading 1400 meter Adrianna vineyard is co-fermented with Viognier, the component from the 1000 meter Altamira Nicasia vineyard is co-fermented with Cabernet Franc. The wine is matured in new French oak for 2 years; wild yeast, no fining, no filtration - high class, no expenses spared.

The wine shows a deep purple colour, no signs of ageing, even though under cork.

This is a full-bodied wine, complex and layered. It is as mouth-filling as Grange. This wine tastes built like a skyscraper, maybe 50 levels (Grange would be 70). Blackberry, plum, and mulberry fruit give way to meaty flavours, but the wine is neither caked nor overripe. While the flavours are powerful, the tannins are only medium. This gives the wine an elegant feel, as the fruit/meat combination sails down the palate to the end.

This is a terrific wine which will live for at least another 10 years.

Score: 96/+++   

Friday, April 17, 2020

Woodlands 'Margaret' Cabernet Blend

Woodlands 'Margaret' is a second tier wine if you like. The 2014 Woodlands 'Margaret' is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and 8% Malbec. The maturation took place for 18 months in French oak, 50% new.

On the nose, there are fragrant and redcurrant notes. Redcurrant is the dominant fruit on the palate. What stands out in this wine is the purity of fruit and its elegance. The wine is very balanced and seamless, oak only in support. The palate weight is only medium, but the flavours expand beautifully in the mouth with hints of dried herbs. Fine grained, but firm tannins round out the polished feel of this wine. It may not have the complexity of a Moss Wood or Diana Madeline, but it is a most enjoyable wine at less than half the price.

Score: 94/+++ 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir

The Estate Pinot Noir is Bass Phillip's work horse wine. This is really bad wording. It is their higher volume wine, but it tends to be very high quality none the less. Bass Phillip is known for funky wines, and the 2014 Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir is funky alright. There is not much on the front label, so here is the back label.

Bass Phillip wines are not filtered and not fined. It is therefore no major surprise that the colour of the wine is a bit cloudy; still pink, a little developed. On the nose, a lot of perfume and forest notes.

On the palate of this medium-bodied wine, red cherry and spice is quickly followed by very prominent earthy flavours. They linger on the palate. The wine is smooth, but a little hollowed out. Very fine tannins, a little shy, develop on the back palate. This is not a wine from the southern hemisphere as you would expect it.

I would definitely drink this wine now.

Score: 93/++

Monday, April 13, 2020

La Chablisienne 1er Cru Léchet

As a fine wine drinker, you normally want to stay away from co-operatives. Mostly, they are volume focused. The resulting high yields produce diluted wines of little interest. However, there are two co-operatives with world-wide distribution, which want to make the highest quality wines they can. One is Produttori del Barbaresco (reviewed here before), the other is La Chablisienne.

There are 40 premier cru sites in Chablis and 7 grand cru.

La Chablisienne has a 1er cru from Cote de Léchet, which sits opposite from the grand cru plots. The history of this vineyard goes back hundreds of years and the current vines are quite old, not sure how old, maybe up to 100 years.

I tasted the 2016 Chablisienne 1er cru Léchet. The colour is golden, looks a bit developed. 

There is citrus and green apple on the nose. These notes translate to the palate. This is quite a racy wine with an attractive intense mouthfeel - not developed at all. The wine has a very strong mineral component and good length on the finish. 

Some Chablis is all citrus. This is more complex with earthy and chalky mineral flavours prominent. This is an attractive, very dry and complex wine.

Score: 94/+++ 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Valenciso Laderas De Cabama

Valenciso is one of my favorite Rioja producers. It is a small operation lead by the highly experienced Luis Valentin and Carmen Enciso. I like it, because all the wines have precision and finesse, something not often associated with Rioja, frankly.

The 2014 Valenciso Laderas de Cabama is a single vineyard wine from 35 year old Tempranillo vines. The soil is the typical clay and limestone mix of Rioja Alta. The wine has been matured in French oak, followed by some time in concrete tanks. It is somewhat of an entry level wine, but you would not know it.

This is a fragrant and aromatic wine, due to the maturing in concrete, I think. Red and black cherry fruit and sandalwood deliver a smooth and velvety mouthfeel. There is not as much intensity as in the other Valenciso red wines, instead you get freshness, purity and finesse. Chalky tannins lead to a medium to long finish. 

This wine is utterly delicious right now. Great value for money. Not easy to find, but I highly recommend it.

Score: 94/+++

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Balnaves 'The Tally' Cabernet Sauvignon

A leading producer from Coonawarra, their flagship wine, a great vintage. What can go wrong? Not much, as it turns out.

The 2012 Balnaves 'The Tally' Cabernet Sauvignon is a big wine. The colour is deep purple, almost ink-like.

The big terra rossa redcurrant bouquet is present, but this is not what 'The Tally' is about. Yes, the wine is full-bodied. However, at eight years of age, there are subtle earthy flavours which balance the fruit. French oak plays only a supporting role. The key is the energy on the palate and the elongated rather than round shape in the mouth. The complex flavours are locked in by dry tannins which linger for some time. This is a sophisticated wine requiring reflection. This Cabernet can match almost all in the world. It will be good for many more years.

Score: 96/+++

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Priorat Granacha Blend

The 2017 Blai Ferré Billo is a great introduction to the schist terroir of Priorat. The wine is a blend dominated by Grenache and Shiraz. 

This wine has a ruby colour. The wine is fresh, aged in stainless steel. On the palate, it has fruit characteristics of raspberry, red cherry, and plum. The fruit weight of this medium-bodied wine is good. Mocca flavours on the back palate, minerality and smoky notes, typical of the low vigour terroir, add to complexity. Medium acidity and tannins deliver a balanced and elegant mouthfeel before finishing dry.

This wine is quite easy, as perhaps indicated by the label, yet serious drinking and has settled better on day two after opening.

Score: 90/++ 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Caelum Torrontés

I visited Caelum, a white wine specialist in Mendoza, several years ago. However, this bottle comes from Untapped Fine Wines, an importer who went into liquidation a couple of months ago. Their stock is auctioned by Graysonline in batches every week.

Argentina hoped that its indigenous white grape Torrontés could achieve the same world recognition as Malbec has achieved for red wines. It has not happened. However, it is a very distinctive grape variety.

This 2015 Caelum Torrontés already has quite a developed golden colour. This is not unusual for this aromatic variety which should be drunk quite young. The nose has appeal with floral and spicy aromas.

On the palate, the wine delivers flavours of yellow peach, apricot and a bit of pineapple. There are earthy notes as well. The wine gives a round mouthfeel. Acidity is light to medium. Interestingly, the finish of this aromatic wine is extra dry.

Score: 88/+

Saturday, April 4, 2020

By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir

Well, there is plenty of time to write blog posts now; and plenty of opportunity to drink wine. Wine purchases in Australia are up over 200%, but please stay sober and enjoy what you drink.

Yesterday, I tried the 2014 By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir. I am hesitant to put the bottle shot up, as it shows nothing I have not already mentioned, but here you are:

As expected, this wine is complex on the palate. Sour cherry and strawberry flavours mix with mushroom and savoury notes, filling the mouth nicely. The acidity is medium, the tannin level surprisingly low. As a result, the wine does not stand up on the back palate as much.

Overall, the wine is high quality, but it could have been exceptional. I suggest to drink this wine now.

Score: 94/+