Monday, November 29, 2021

Penfolds Grange

I am not one who advocates to keep bottles for special occasions. Often, they never come, and bottles become undrinkable. But conversely, if a special occasion happens, it is good to be able to open a special bottle. This happened to me a couple of days ago, and the special bottle was a 1998 Penfolds Grange

Excellent cork, medium to high shoulder

The colour of this wine was still dark purple. This was encouraging. The nose was a bit subdued, smells of cranberry rising slowly.

But on the palate, it all happened. Primary fruit was still there; cranberry, red- and blackcurrant paste, forest berry jam . There were mocca flavours and a whiff of eucalypt, but overall, secondary notes dominated; cedar, tobacco, cigarbox, charcoaled meat. All these flavours evolved in a layered fashion in this big wine. 

This Grange was still quite lively and fresh in the mouth - quite remarkable. The structure is monumental and still strong. This is unmistakably Grange. Muscular dry tannins lead to a very long finish.

It is a good time to drink the 1998. At 23 years, it probably delivers maximum complexity. No doubt, it will drink well for another 10 years if stored correctly. This wine needs protein.

Score: 98/+++

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Wines Of Jura

 Jura wines are relatively rare, representing only 0.2% of French wine production with its 2000ha under vine. They also represent quite unique wine styles, as described below, and they are all the rage in the bars of New York and Tokyo. The authorized grape varieties are Savagnin and Chardonnay for white wine, and Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau (Bastardo) for red. Two third of the plantings are for white wine, and this is where most of the interest lies.

One of the unique styles is vin jaune (yellow wine), only made from Savagnin. The wine juice is matured for six years in neutral casks. It is not allowed to be topped up for five years. As a result, ullage develops, which results in an oxidized wine. The impact is somewhat reduced by the yeast which develops as a thin cover, similar to sherry production. A second group of wines is called sous voile, which means the wine matures under yeast as well, but not for the duration of vin jaune. This can be Savagnin or Chardonnay. Macvin are wines with the addition of a neutral spirit. This wine can be made from all five varieties. And then there is the desert wine vin de paille. This wine is made from air dried grapes. Conventional wines are made as well, red and white. In contrast to other regions, red wines are meant to be drunk young, whereas white wines are mostly aged.

Tasting these wines can be challenging and does not necessarily correspond with expected varietal character, as the production method dominates. I will report briefly on the outstanding four wines from a recent tasting.

The wine on the left is the 2016 Jean Francois Ganevat Les Chamois du Paradis. The flavours in this sous voile wine are exotic. Pear and orange peel and some flintiness capture the palate. This wine has been matured in neutral oak for four years and topped up occasionally. The wine is elegant and balanced (95 points). 

The 2010 Lucien Aviet Savagnin has also been matured sous voile. It is quite an aggressive wine, very yeasty, similar to sherry, with lime and hazelnut flavours dominating. It is long, but I found it a bit one-dimensional (93 points).

The 2010 Lucien Aviet Vin Jeune takes it a step further. This wine is very oxidized, yet still lively and fresh. It is quite salty with a very long finish (94 points).

The absolute highlight was the 1996 Tissot Arbois Vin de Paille. This very rare (not that the others are common) desert wine is oily and melts in your mouth. It is lively and dances on the palate. Caramel, raisin and pepper stand out. The finish is very long (98 points). 


Monday, November 22, 2021

Maude Pinot Noir

 Maude has been a favorite of mine since I visited this boutique winery, located in a small side valley off Wanaka Lake in Central Otago quite a few years ago, and not well known. This changed, when the 2017 Maude Pinot Noir was voted New Zealand's best Pinot Noir of the year. Today, I am tasting this wine.

The Maude Pinot Noir is a blended wine from different sites in Central Otago, and not even the top wine, which, by price, is the single vineyard from the home block. This is quite often the case, and a purchasing opportunity, as the focus is on single vineyard wines and terroir.

The bouquet of this wine does not give too much away, but on the palate, a beautiful red and black cherry flavoured wine unfolds. This wine is bright and very pure. It is lighter and more elegant than the typical Central Otago wine. It has an ethereal and captivating mouthfeel. Fine and silky tannins wave around the fruit. The finish is medium to long.

Score: 95/+++


Monday, November 15, 2021

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery

 The most aromatic wines in Bordeaux come from the subregion of Margaux. The 2009 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery is a very good example. It is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot (rounding).

The nose is intense and perfumed, with forest berry notes. On the palate, blackcurrant, black cherry, graphite and cedar flavours deliver a typical Cabernet Sauvignon sensation. The mouthfeel is elegant with gentle spice.The wine delivers quite a regal experience. There is a bit of a hole on the mid palate, but it is minor, before the wine finishes very smooth. It lingers on the palate with well integrated tannins.

This is a classy wine which deserves more recognition. It drinks well now, and will stay at this level for another 5-10 years for sure.

Score: 94/++ 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc

 As you would probably expect from a blog like this, there are not many reviews of Sauvignon Blanc. But let us not forget that blends with Semillon produce great results in Bordeaux and Margaret River. In New Zealand, a number of companies have released more complex Sauvignon Blancs by maturing them in oak, for example. There are, however, some 'standard' Sauvignon Blancs which should not be overlooked. One such wine is the 2020 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc. This producer has delivered quality for many years.

Yes, there are gooseberry and some herbaceous flavours, but there is more. Peach, mango and lemon curd add complexity to the palate - and there is fresh acidity on the finish, as you would expect.

The wine will benefit from another year in the bottle in order for the somewhat aggressive acidity to settle down.

Score: 90/+

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Top 5 Wine Trends 2021

 As I was reflecting on the major wine trends this year, I came to the conclusion nothing will change them in the next few weeks, so I might as well share them now. This is written from an Australian perspective.

1) The rise of Grenache. 

Grenache has been with us for a long time, of course, first as an input into port, then as a key component of GSMs. But now, high quality varietal wine is made, and the consumers are lapping it up. Grenache suits warming climate, and its flavours and freshness are also well suited to our palates. Key growing areas are the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and some high quality is coming from the Great Southern Region in Western Australia.

2) Value Chardonnay

Value Chardonnay has always been around, but never in the numbers and quality as now. These wines are really narrowing the gap to the ultra premium wines. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic will further develop. Best examples come from the Yarra Valley and Margaret River.

3) Elegance over power

Producing powerful elegant wines can be regarded as the holy grail, but in reality, this is seldom achieved. Powerful wines are often high alcohol, tannic, and a little harsh. Well now, many producers give up some of this power for elegance. Grapes are picked earlier, less new oak is used. This trend applies to many wines, but in particular Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, not all winemakers follow this trend, but it is undeniable.

4) Zero Alcohol, wine in cans

This trend is still emerging, but in quite a powerful way. There are a number of factors at work. The major one is to appeal to young drinkers, many of whom find the wine traditions unappealing. And in general, many consumers want to reduce alcohol intake without giving up wine. Quality remains an issue, but major improvements are likely.

5) More and more varied Rosé

Rosé has become an acceptable drink - it took a while. Now it comes in many styles, from many countries, made from many different grapes and blends.

So there it is for 2021.