Further to this blurb just posted onFrenchMediterraneanWine.com:It's tomorrow folks, Wed 17 April, and I'll be busy at an Argentina tasting in Dublin sampling as many Malbecs as I can no doubt (report on that to follow after the event). This 'special Malbec happening' is the latest in a curious fashion for lesser-known grape varieties to cheekily book themselves into everyone's diary once a year (well, for wine geeks at least). As for my other southerly French blog, well, I wrote a mini-series of quite long pieces about aMalbecroadtrip aroundCahorscountry not so long ago, so you could amuse yourself with those I suppose:
Cahors:Malbec roadtrip part 3- Châteaux Haute-Serre, La Caminade, Armandière and more... Back toArgentina,here's a fruity little "Malbec of the mo" tip to be going on with until my full report from said tasting sees the dark of night:
Viñalta Malbec 2012Mendoza - attractive easy-going 'modern' fruity style with lots of lively berry fruits and spicy vs liquorice hints, soft and rounded palate with a little substance and grip just to finish it off.Marks & Spencer £7.49
Happy, erm, Malbec day then. More Malbec from Argentina HERE.
With the prices of top Bordeaux reds spiralingeverupwards (except for the 2012 vintage perhaps, which the trade and critics are expressing misgivings about quality-wise) making these wines for well-offinvestorsonly, it's nice to find a few tasty bottles for under a tenner - and one, the last red featured below, for £15 from M&S though it's very good. The first three tasting-noted here, a red white and rosé trio, are available from a fairly new on-line specialist called www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk, picked pretty much at random off their website which looks like it deserves closer inspection. The second two reds are part of Lidl's new upmarket "wine cellar" range (more of those to follow in a separate piece).
Château Ballan-Larquette2011 Bordeaux blanc (50-50 Sauvignon blanc - Sémillon, 12.5% abv) - intense zesty green fruit, citrus and gooseberry vs oily honeyed rounded texture, quite concentrated with crisp and tasty fruity finish. Lovely dry white. £8.65Bordeaux Undiscovered.
Château Ballan-Larquette2011 Bordeaux Clairet (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot;13% abv) - rich vibrant colour and red fruit cocktail on the nose / palate vs oily creamy flavours and texture, fairly full-bodied with 'sweet' cherry / berry fruit vs crisp fresh bite on the finish. Serious foodie rosé. £8.45 Bordeaux Undiscovered.
Château Puyanché2005 Cotes de Castillon (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc;13.5% abv) - deep colour still for its age, fairly complex nose with developing savoury notes vs 'earthy' cassis and smoky peppery edges even; quite concentrated and lush vs herbal cedary undertones vs fairly meaty and dark, nice firm dry vs ripe tannin combo, thick textured with a bitter twist yet well-balanced. Tasty red with dried cassis fruit and maturing savoury flavours vs funkier 'inky'side;started to oxidize quite quickly a day after opening, so drink now I'd say. Good value at £9.40.
Puisseguin - Saint Emilion 2011, Leroy Chevalier (Merlot,Cabernet Sauvignon,Cabernet Franc; 13% abv) - a tad mean and firm perhaps (probably a symptom of this not spectacular vintage in the region), but otherwise not a bad example of a Merlot based 'Bordeaux right bank' red at a reasonable price, I suppose. £6.99 Lidl ("Wine Cellar" range so not all stores).
Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2010, Union de Producteurs deSaint Emilion(mostly Merlot, 14% abv) - quite big and blowsy actually showing ripe damson and black cherry/currant fruit layered with toasted coconut and vanilla oak, wilder smoky rustic notes too; chunky tannins and palate weight, quite extracted and dry yet has good depth of fruit vs lightly charred and 'rubbery' oak. The tannins and oak are a little clunky, but underneath it's surprisingly lush (2010 was a warm ripe vintage) with dark fruit and that wilder smoky side too; I guess it might soften up with 6+ months in bottle. £9.99 Lidl("Wine Cellar" range so not all stores).
Château Saint Paul 2010 Haut-Médoc (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot; 14% abv) - rich dark colour and full-on nose of cedary coconut oak vs ripe cassis and plum fruit, pretty serious structured wine with a subtle oak coating adding nice texture to its quite firm dry yetroundedtannins; concentrated and dense with lovely fruit actually, closes up on the finish. Sumptuous wine, drinking ok now (with steak or duck at least) but should keep and improve over a few years. The label's reminiscent of a top estate but I can't remember which one... Marks & Spencer £14.99.
Here are a couple of Cape Grenache reds worth mentioning, discovered at the World Grenache Competition held in the south of France earlier this year... More on that here (overview), here (Roussillon & Chateauneuf), here (Sardinia), here (Spain) and here (Australia).
2012 Waverley Hills Grenache, Tulbagh region (13.5%) - aromatic floral liquorice and pepper on the nose, quite soft and tasty palate with attractive aromatic fruit, touch of tannin adds grip vs nice rounded mouth-feel. Silver Medal winner.
More on Waverley here(goes to South Africa archive page).
2011 DiemersdalGrenache,Durbanville valley (14%) - herby and peppery aromas, quite intense in the mouth with a touch of sweet oak, firm dry mouth-feel vs sweeter wild fruit on the finish.
Further to thisWine Education Service courses & tastings Marchupdate: "There are four Wine Education Service NI events scheduled in Belfast city centre over the next few weeks, tutored by RMJ..." Here's anApril update: Le Tour de Franceone-day wine workshophas been rescheduled to Saturday 1st June:£80 for the day including lunch, about a dozen wines for tasting, course notes and tuition. More details about this and other workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop
And don't forget the hotWines of Southern France tutored tasting on Tuesday 30 April (£30 or £50 for two) -"Tasting and talking about 8 wines in all colours from across the 'big south' featuring classic styles from e.g. Bordeaux, Cahors, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and the southern Rhône Valley." Full listing of wine tastings and courses running in Belfast to end of June 2013 and on-line booking are here: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast
As a gentle warm-up to more in-depth reflections and mypick ofwines and wineries from a recent tour in and around Chablis land (including a day's cellar hopping
on foot, as is easy to do in Chablis town), we'll whet our appetite for the
region's distinctive, possibly unique even, take on the Chardonnay grape by featuring all 22 medal-winners from this year's Chablis Wine Awards, which we sampled at a tutoredtastedon 4th March. So, for what it's
worth (as the fanfare has already been heralded), this is what I thought of them, mostly 2011 vintage wines plus a trio of Grands Crus from the excellent 2010. More info @ chablis.fr. And more words willfollowon the Chablis area (including hotel and restaurant tips), vineyards, vintages and some of the podium-topping producers below (Fèvre,Moreau,Chablisienne,Geoffroy,Droin,Long-Depaquit, Bordet...); all cunningly packaged into enticing instalments to appear over the next few weeks...
2011 Domaine Savary - a touch reductive/SO2 (sulphites) from its light lees edges, floral
'mineral' touches with subtle buttery notes, reasonably concentrated with
lightly creamy flavours vs nice steely bite, has a little richness vs crisp
fresh finish; nice style, quite fine for Petit Chablis actually.
2011 Domaine Millet - a bit closed up, more citrus and flowery notes, 'gummy'
and steely mouth-feel with very crisp acidic bite vs lightly oily buttery
tones / texture, zingy with a touch of SO2 still on the finish?
2011 William Fèvre - light citrus aromas, 'gummy' steelier palate with a bitter
twist, a tad bland and dilute perhaps but it's easy going enough. €9.30
2011 Domaine Alain et Cyril Gautheron - floral and ripe citrus, quite tight and
fresh palate vs subtle concentration and rounder fruity buttery flavours, crisp
steely and quite long; attractive now although will benefit from a few months in
2011 Louis Moreau - slightly riper and richer style vs underlying aromatic greengage
tones, attractive mix of lightly buttery and toffee-ish to start vs leaner crisp
side on the finish; fairly light and tight still, fades a little perhaps. €9
2011 Bernard Defaix - a touch richer and creamier (and hints of SO2 still) vs
ripe green fruits vs savoury nutty side, enticing subtle buttery and nutty
flavours / texture underpinned by fresh acidity vs a bit of palate weight too;
reasonably concentrated nutty creamy fruit vs tight and refreshing finish. Good
2011 Domaine de la Cornasse - floral melon and slightly 'chalky' tones, aromatic
and zesty vs gentle buttery touches, tight and steely too with long elegant
finish; more 'modern' in style perhaps (whatever I mean by that!) but good in
2011 Jean-Claude Courtault - lightly floral nose, a bit stripped by SO2 perhaps,
lean and steely palate, subtle and tight finish; needs a few months maybe?
2011 Vieilles Vignes Domaine Christophe et Fils(=old vines) - fuller fruitier and creamier
up-front, nice butter and nut characters vs tangy crisp side, a touch more
toffee-d and weight/alcohol (?), good although loses focus a tad.
2011 Domaine Daniel Dampt et Fils - a touch of SO2 at first but it turns more
buttery and richer, quite concentrated and towards toffee-d hazelnut flavours vs
tangy and lightly zingy; has a little character style and length, even if it's
pretty typical of these more acid-structured and less 'generous' 2011s.
2011 Isabelle et Denis Pommier - wilder 'reductive' nose, hints of creamy
richness vs a tad stripped or just plain tight and closed up? Subtle underlining
acidity vs restrained fruit, I guess it needs a few months in bottle as it was
tasting a little awkward today.
Chablis Premier Cru
2011 Beauroy, La Chablisienne - nice fruity buttery nose, light toasty/leesy
notes but it's well done adding texture and weight vs that juicy fruit, fair
length and attractive style. €15
2011 La Foret, Domaine Pinson Frères - 'fatter' richer nose and toasty palate with quite exotic lush fruit, fairly oaky but it's young and it adds grain and roundness vs underlying zesty 'gummy' mouth-feel; quite concentrated with attractive fruit, grainy coconut texture and crisp steely bite. Well-made, will be better 6-12 months down the line.
2011 Vau Ligneau, Domaine Alain Geoffroy - creamy vs citrus notes, a fair mouthful of ripe and buttery fruit with subtle lees notesvs steely and crisp undercurrent, concentrated tight and long with nice touch of weight too. Very good.
2011 Fourchaume, Domaine Alain Geoffroy - pure nutty buttery nose with very subtle lees / toast almost (this wine's unoaked though apparently), perhaps a little rounder and more intense, tighter still with steely finish and elegant length with lingering gentle buttery fruit; less obvious maybe, although it offers an enticing mix of drinking now vs needs time. 2011 Vaulorent, Nathalie & GillesFèvre- hints of SO2 vs quite exotic fruit, juicy and buttery with crisp tight 'chalky' mouth-feel, steely and zesty; that rich fruit closes up on its pretty long finish, needs time in bottle. 2011 Mont de Milieu, La Meulière- a tad awkward with reductive/lees nose, moves on to a very rich buttery palate though with toasted nut flavours, zingy crisp and tight finish vs that subtle lush side. Needs a year or two to open out, will be very good. 2011Mont de Milieu,William Fèvre- again I got SO2 on the nose; nice mix of steely zesty vs gently creamy mouth-feel though, gets fuller and more forward with attractive fruit vs tighter and crisp acidity on the finish; has some depth to it yet quite approachable now. 2011 Montée de Tonnerre, Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin - gentle buttery notes and more aromatic/exotic to start, then turning zingy and 'gummy' with tight acidity, nice weight though with attractive mix of rich vs steely and 'mineral', very long finish; lovely wine, will improve over time. ChablisGrand Cru 2010 Vaudésirs, Domaine Long-Depaquit - nutty buttery and rich with towards toffee-d notes vs very crisp green fruits, weighty vs steely mouth-feel showing complex wilder edges, very ripe yet tight and 'mineral'; delicious mix of lush and ripe vs crisp steely and long, good stuff indeed. Our tutor, prompted by comparisons I was making, amusingly yet aptly described it as "Meursault with acidity!" 2010 Les Clos, Domaine Long-Depaquit- complex nutty nose looking "older" even with those very nice Fino-tinged maturing notes and oatmeal/flapjack (the latter coined by a fellow Chablis taster!) aromas/flavours too; more forward in some ways yet still tight and crisp too, smells/tastes a couple of years older than its age but it will keep. Lovely wine. 2010Les Clos,DomaineGarnier et Fils - there was something wrong with this bottle methinks: a touch musty or is it clunky wood? Slightly 'unclean' wood grain or just not integrated at all? Would have liked to try another bottle. I'll update this with more prices when I find them... Hectares more on Chablis HERE (goes to archive Burgundy page inc. Grand Cru tasting and links to the rest of my "Chablis on foot" series).
According to their site, LuigiFabbro,KatiaNussbaumand familypractise "permaculture and biodynamic-organic farming..." at their four hectare estate (10 acres divided roughly into two thirds / one third of vines and olives, which are made into their own extra-virgin olive oil) up in the pretty Montalcino hills. I've never seen or heard the former term used by a winery before, which apparently implies an element of sustainable design or building within a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly farming model (man). The vineyard is planted entirely with theSangiovese grape, and their first Brunello, as they call this variety here or rather the local 'clone' of it, was released in 2001 following several years of restoration and replanting work between 1991 and 1998. Winemaker and viticulturistAlberto Gjilaska, originally from Albania, has been on the team since those early days. Importers include Integrity Wines in the US, Vintage Roots (£ prices below) and Dynamic Vines in the UK; € prices quoted are approx. cellar door. So, chill out and enjoy the view (copied fromwww.sanpolino.it)!
2011 Sant Antimo Rosso di Montalcino - lovely fruity vs 'inky' red with dark morello cherry flavours, easy going and tasty. €7
2008 Brunellodi Montalcino - light toasted coconut tones, rich vs firm palate, quite extracted and chewy yet has nice tannins and plenty of ripe 'sweet/savoury' fruit, some fresh acidity lingering too on its balancedlongfinish. €20 £27-£30
2008Brunellodi Montalcino Helichrysum- perfumed floral wild herb and minty notes vs dried fruits, attractive maturing fruit yet still firm and dry mouth-feel, tasty concentrated'sweet/savoury'finish. €30 £52
2007Brunellodi Montalcino Riserva - similar profile but more developed and softer, lovely dried fruits with meaty edges, still structured with subtle concentration but riper tannins and long finish.
Alain and Isabelle Hasard (which means chance or coincidence in French, appropriately perhaps as I did indeed just happen to stop by at their table at Millésime Bio organic wine show a few weeks ago in Montpellier, France) own a few little vineyards in different sites in theCôte de Beaune and (mainly)Côte Chalonnaise (the latter being that chunk roughly in the middle of Burgundy's wine-lands, between theBeaune and Macon vineyard areas). They're based in the hilltop village of Aluze -and have two vineyards here called Clos de Roches and Les Gardes -which lies to the southwest of Rully where they have one plot called Les Cailloux, and slightly northwest of Mercurey where they own two more sites called La Brigadière and Les Marcoeurs. Les Sous Roches in Monthélie (between Volnay and Meursault) completes the Hasard family's patchwork picture; and they also make sparkling wine in addition to the whites and reds sourced from the aforementioned appellations. They've been certified organic - or rather their vineyards have! - since 1999 and are "inspired by biodynamics." I like their nice and simple explanation of organic farming and why they do it: "It teaches us to search for the origins of problems that may arise rather than simply treat the consequences, and to establish harmony rather than fight against it." Otherwise, it looks like their winemaking is pretty traditional and towards 'minimal intervention' (to use a rather overused cliché) for both reds and whites, which in general are aged in 25% to 50% of new oak barrels, "because our wines are so concentrated," as it says modestly in their profile blurb! These are bottled "without fining and filtration... our wines are living products." Here's what I thought of them then:
2010 Rully blancLes Cailloux (Chardonnay) - enticing creamy vs citrus fruit with a touch of toasted oak, quite subtle and elegant with fresh acidity vs some weight too; still a bit closed up, quite fine and needs more time. 2011Rully blancLes Cailloux (Chardonnay) - more aromatic with nutty and peachy fruit, more forward than the 2010 and a touch richer and more buttery already, showing subtle toasty notes vs freshness too. Attractive now actually. 2011Mercurey blanc La Brigadière(Chardonnay)- a tad richer and fuller with peachy vs toasty flavours, again it's quite delicate and tight on the palate, promising though. 2011Mercurey rouge La Brigadière(Pinot Noir) - subtle red fruits with lightly funky edges, juicy and soft with a little grip and elegant fresh acidity. Nice wine, drinking well now.
Raeburn Fine Wines (Edinburgh and London) imports their range into the UK, priced at £21.50-£22.50 for some of the wines tasted above or earlier vintages; Leon Stolarski also expressed an interest in them on his blog following a trip there. They cost about €15-€20 cellar door; and you can get some of them in Dublin too according towww.sourgrapes.ie(from about €15). They export to "the US and Far East..." as well, Alain told me at the fair: contact him on email@example.com more details.
You've guessed it... "aka further adventures from the World Grenache Competition..." held in France a few weeks ago, where I was one of the (many) judges. This time, the limelight neatly shifts continents to Australia and a guy called Nathan Waks in particular, who came over from Oz for the event and brought a few Grenache wines and some interesting stories with him. Nathan, who speaks pretty fluent French by the way (much to the pleasant surprise of the probably majority French audience),I guessthanks to a career as a professional musician having travelled extensively around Europe on tour, is one of the owners and directors of these two wineries and associated brands; the rather famous Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley and perhaps less well-known Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley. The latter was only established in 1997 by Kevin Mitchell; the former purchased (literally lock, stock and barrel by the sound of it) from the Fosters Group in 2007, although has been around since the mid 19th Century...
Seppeltsfield specialises in fortified Grenache-based wines, some of them very old indeed. Nathan told us they have over 100 ha (250 acres) of "mostly old Grenache, about 50 to 80 and some 100+ year-oldungraftedbush vines, as there's no phylloxera in South Australia." There's also Shiraz plus some of the Port variety Touriga and Sherry variety Palomino planted here. The historic winery was built in 1888 and was then the world's largest 'gravity-flow' winery (now the norm for most new-build cellars where you have the space to do it, constructed into cut-out hillsides or huge excavated holes to create different levels/heights to allow a natural winemaking process going from top to bottom), with 120 concrete open-fermenters on six storeys! There are seven million litres stored here, "although not all ours - some of it is Penfolds, which was Fosters' when they sold it... complicated..." There are all sorts of styles found there; some are aged in "loft-like (spaces) for a 100 years, or incorrugatediron (sheds), which get very hot and cold (over the course of the year) so the wine gets very oxidized, with lots of evaporation; sometimes it reduces down to 10%-15% of the original amount. It's not very economical!" he explained.
Presumably that's why they sell the 100 year-old (see my note on their extraordinary treacley and intense1913 Para below) for $1000 (Aus) a bottle! Production of this wine started in 1878, "and we still have everyvintage for over 130 years." Other fortified wines they make include classic Tawny styles such as their Para Grand Tawny (also see below) - from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre with a minimum average age of 10 years, "although much older due to the solera system we use (as for Sherry production), but we can't prove it..." - and Colheita wines too (Vintage Tawny). AtKilikanoon in Clare, they make two varietal Grenache reds (plus a couple of GSM / SG blends and a rosé), one of which won a Gold medal in the competition - again, I've tasting-noted these below. I've also got a bottle of their 2009 Riesling under the stairs - will report back with my impressions on that (I'm keeping it for a special tasting). These wines are distributed byNegociants International in Australia, so presumably are via their UK and US offices too: more info @ www.seppeltsfield.com.au.
1913SeppeltsfieldPara("100 years in oak", 21% alc.) - bizarre cocktail of cooked molasses, red Madeira and roasted/charred walnuts; very rich sweet and intense, super concentrated and long on the palate with power, warmth and very complex flavours. Wow: not sure I'll be able to taste anything else after this!
ParaGrand Tawny (20% alc.) - aromatic and nutty with intense rich nose and palate, again some of those complex aged/oxidized flavours with a bit of oomph and extracted caramel finish; delicious. About $30.
2009KilikanoonThe Prodigal Grenache - touches of oak with savoury and peppery edges, ripe sweet fruit vs grainy firm and solid mouth-feel still; good wine. Gold medal.$30
2009KilikanoonThe DukeGrenache - still showing a fair bit of oak but this is richer yet firmer too with attractive sweet vs peppery fruit, nice grip and power on the finish.$59 Other World Grenache Competitionmedal winners fromAustralia (all three Silver medal):The Absconder 2010, Wirra Wirra Vineyards, McLaren Vale;The Blewitt Springs Grenache 2009, D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale;Yangarra High Sands Grenache 2010, Jackson Wine Estates Australia, McLaren Vale.
More on the WGC on my blogs: part 1(overview), part 2 (Roussillon & Chateauneuf-du-Pape), part 3(Cannonau di Sardegna), part 4 (Spain). And a couple from South Africa to follow...
And forthcoming Wine Education Service events at different venues in London, Aberdeen, Brighton and Manchesterinclude:
Five and eight-week introductory courses; intermediate courses on France, Classic Grape Varieties and Italy; special interest courses on Burgundy and Scotch Whisky; as well as a variety of Saturday workshops and evening tutored tastings. Full details of London events are here:wine-education-service.co.uk/course-dates with links to other cities on that page.
Following in the red-stained footsteps of my 'World Grenache Competition' series (part 1,part 2, part 3), this time we're turning the spotlight on Garnacha/Garnatxa from different parts of northeast Spain (Rioja,Aragon, Catalonia)with a little vinous wandering beyond the timeframe of the WGC event, which took place in Perpignan, south of France (Catalan side) recently.My favourites from theGarnacha-basedrosadostasted in the competition are highlighted below, along with a few reds sampled/enjoyed in the afternoon or evening with food and some background info on this sumptuous variety in the regions of Aragón and Catalunya. I've noted any medals awarded and/or my 100-point style score as appropriate. Some of the other wines crossed my path last year but haven't seen the on-line light of day yet.
Rosé /rosado -Rioja
2012 Castillo de Albai Felix Solis Avantis - full-on cherry nose, fresh lively and lees-y with plenty of aromatic red fruits, zippy long finish with nice lingering fruit. Gold Medal winner. My score 87+ 2012 Valcaliente rosado Ruiz Jimenez - fresh lees-y nose with attractive cherry fruit, crisp and zippy mouth-feel with long ripe vs tart finish, nice weight too vs tight and crisp. Silver Medal. 87 2012 ArneguiFelix Solis Avantis - almost red, rich and aromatic with ripe cherry fruit, full-bodied 'sweet' vs crunchy palate, impressive big rosé style even if a little heavy on the winemaking (then again, that is rosé, no?!). 85 2012 Vina Herminia Garnacha - even richer in colour than above, has plenty of extract and fruit, rich and full-on yet fresher and more elegant than above. Gold. 87
2010 Las Rocas Garnacha viñas viejas Calatayud (Bodegas San Alejandro co-op winery, from 80 year-old bush vines) - lovely ripe minty blackberry fruit and spice, concentrated and powerful with 'sweet' vs peppery profile, silky tannins layered with tasty dark lush fruit and savoury-edged finish. Yum: 'modern' style but good with it. Silver Medal. UK/Ireland importer: Liberty Wines (I copied the photo above from libertywines.co.uk).
2009 Aquilon Garnacha Campo de Borja - lots of sweet coconut and chocolate oak vs lush fruit and layered tannins, rounded and ripe vs a touch of firmness; nice but rather oaky.
2010 Coto de Hayas Garnacha CentenariaCampo de Borja - touches of oak grain, lovely tobacco notes vs ripe sweet fruit, powerful yet with some fresh bite and grip too. Nice old-fashioned style. The 2011 vintage won a Gold.
Whereas only 10% of Spain's vineyards overall are planted with Garnacha, there's "much more in Aragón..." (also suggested as the variety's origin), Juan Cacho told us giving an overview of the region (professor of winemaking at Zaragoza University). Looking at the main 'DO's (appellation areas) within this province, Garnacha accounts for at least half of varieties planted in Calatayud andCampo de Borja (both on the western side), and nearly a third of the surface area in Cariñena yet just 5% of Somontano (more mountainous zone to the northeast). "Garnacha was declining but now we're replanting it," Juan explained, "it suits dry climates and low-yields. Old vineyards are now sought after. I think the increased investment in technology and winemaking have had a very positive effect onGarnacha in particular, in qualityterms, and especially for the co-ops." There's also a new emphasis on export marketing e.g. joint Grenache promotions in North America. "We're looking for EU funds to work with people in the Roussillon etc. Home wine consumption is falling, so we have to look elsewhere," he concluded logically. More Garnacha wines from Aragón here("wines of the mo" Oct 2011) and here (Spain archive page).
Catalunya 2011 ViladellopsGarnatxaPenedès - nice 'sweet' aromatic floral minty and spicy blackberry/cherry fruit, firm and peppery vs ripe and soft palate, powerful yet fairly easy going with tasty fruity finish. (The 2009 vintage won a Silver Medal).
Nuria Ruiz from the Catalan Wine Association added that "this vineyard was replanted, or rather grafted 28 years ago so the vines are 'older' than that. The wineries in our association export less than in Spain overall (meaning those thirsty Catalans drink most of it presumably), and a quarter of wine exported is red Garnacha." They promote them in e.g. the US, London, Switzerland, Barcelona and Perpignan (!); the average bottle price is €34, which is pretty high value wine.
2009Domènech 'Teixar' Montsant (Garnatxa "pelut" = furry Grenache!) - showing a fair dose of coconut and vanilla oak, rich and ripe palate though vs nice firm and peppery finish, enticing tasty savoury fruit with layers of coco/choc oak, but not too much in the end.
2009Domènech'Furvus'Montsant (Garnacha & Syrah, 14.5%) - 'sweet' and maturing nose and palate vs grippy and structured, attractive lingering savoury fruit vs solid and tight still; good stuff. Silver medal(I tasted it in the special 'Grenache room' at last year's London International Wine Fair actually). Josep Ignaci Domènech showed his first wine here representing the 'Terra de Garnatxes' group, which is funded by half a dozen wineries including him. Catalunyahas diverse vineyard areas running from the coast right up to 700-1000 m altitude (2300-3300 ft roughly); theMontsant DO region lies inland andnot far from the city of Tarragona.Josep told us "there are 5837 ha (approx 14,500 acres) ofGarnatxa in Catalunya," splitting down as about 3900 of red, 1780 white "...plus the three otherGarnachas..." ('grey', 'furry' and ..?).
El Miracle Cava rosado Vincente Gandia - attractive fruity style with a touch of intense toastyyeast-lees character.
2011 Herencia Altés Benufet Garnatxa Blanca - soft rounded and oily with interesting aniseed flavours, nice food white.
Parés Baltàorganic wine and Cava producer based in thePenedès region.
2011 Indigena white Garnatxa (11.5%) - fromLa Plana Molinera, Finca El Subal at 700m altitude.Juicy lees-y and light, attractive mineral side vs honeyed fruit, crisp and delicate actually.
2009 Hisenda Miret(Finca Cal Miret, 400m)- nice juicy Garnacha style with peppery liquorice notes, full bodied and grippy with a touch of class too.
(Tastedin a special 'Grenache room'at last year's London International Wine Fair). More CatalanGarnatxa here.
The third thrilling installment of my 'World Grenache Competition' coverage brings usback toSardinia featuring my pick of the Cannonau(= Grenache)di Sardegnareds we tasted in the competition, along with a few succinct nuggets and couple more olderCannonaus plucked from a presentation given in the afternoon. Any medals awarded are stated in brackets, and/or my own 100-point style scores come afterwards (for wines tasted blind in the competition at least). You'll find Part 1 with a bit of background and comment on the competition below this post and Part 2on my French Med blog, which focuses on the Roussillon andChâteauneuf-du-Pape. Part 4: Spain, Garnacha/Garnatxa... Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
Something of a mostly enjoyable voyage of discovery for me, this flight of Sardinian reds received my most extreme scores, the highest and lowest of the three flights we tasted! My top scoring five on our table were: Sartiglia 2011 Azienda Vinicola Attilio Contini (Trophy winner) - hints of maturing tobacco notes vs 'sweet' and peppery aromas, lovely blackberry and liquorice; concentrated and grippy palate, powerful with tight long finish; classy wine, needs time to develop. 93. Roberson Wine in London has the 09 vintage of this for £10.95. Olianas 2011 Societa Agricola Olianas (Gold) - attractive nose, lively and spicy with lots of dark fruits; very concentrated with nice tannins and a touch of freshness too, lovely lingering rich peppery flavours with good balance and style. 92 Tuvara 2006 Vitivinicola Alberto Loi, Isola dei Nuraghi (Silver) - enticing developed meaty nose with dried cherries and tobacco tones, concentrated with nice rounded tannins, quite mature with a touch of class. 90
Su'entu 2011 Societa Agricola Varoni - aromatic sweet plum and liquorice, peppery vs savoury vs ripe with attractive lingering meaty fruit, fairly restrained and tight on its long finish. 90
Chio Riserva 2008 Cantina Il Nuraghe-Mogoro (Silver) - lifted peppery nose with nice sweet liquorice fruit, quite soft palate vs a bit of punch, still quite structured though with fairly complex finish. 87 And these two older wines were shown as part of a presentation on the island's big-gun red (get it, ho ho?) by Enzo Biondo (winemaker and author of 'Cannonau Mito mediterraneo', pic. top) and Mariano Murru (winemaker at the Argiolas co-op winery): 2007 Riserva Nepente di OlienaCantina Oliena (15% alc.) (their 2010 non-Riserva won a Silver medal) - very ripe 'sweet' fruit with floral and kirsch tones, 'volatile' maturing edges; savoury leather notes vs 'sweet' dried fruits, dry tannins but not drying, tasty developing finish, a tad cider-y perhaps but good in that old-fashioned 'volatile' way. The northeastern part of Sardinia boasts about 70% of Cannonau/Grenache production, and most of it is concentrated in the Nuoro region a little inland from the east coast, where this wine is comes from. The whole island is made up of over 80% hills and mountains by the way. Here the variety is planted on old bush vines, and the wine sees traditional ageing in large old tuns. Oliena itself has the biggest surface area of Grenache planted at 668 ha/1650 acres (along with star white variety Vermentino): "You hardly find it anywhere else in Italy," Enzo continued, "and I prefer it as 100% of the wine here. It gives less colour but I like all those ripe Mediterranean flavours." So do I Enzo. He also said that picking dates are tricky in this neck of the woods, as ripening isn't even across all the different zones. Mariano showed us the1997 Turrigafrom the Serdiana co-op in the south of the island,found a little north of Cagliari on "slightly west-facing vineyards at 140 metres altitude... we don't get many bunches per vine here." Cannonau/Grenache is often blended here with Malvasia Nera, Carignan and Bovale Sardo (I think he said the latter is the same as Mourvedre, but it'sa clone of Bobal according to Jancis Robinson's guide?). This wine was very ripe and savoury with sweet dark fruit and soft palate, mature with earthy edges; a bit past its best perhaps but interesting nevertheless. The 2008 vintage ofTurriga won a Gold medal.
The first of its kind, I/they believe (? and set to become a regular event I hope), an international wine competition in celebration of one of my fav varieties, Grenache / Garnacha / Garnatxa / Cannonau: red, white, rosé and fortified wines. And absolutely why not, I hear you say. Ah, yes, Cannonau: it took me a while too to remember that Sardinia's Cannonau di Sardegna red is made from what they call Grenache! I was on one of the tasting panels in Perpignan on 24th January; my table of tasters (two Spanish winemakers - erm, one Valencian, one Catalan - three French and yours truly) sampled and marked about 30 wines: one flight of Spanish rosés, one of Cannonau and one of Roussillon 'table' reds (my pick of the latter appear in part 2 of this report on myFrench Med Wine blog). Being held in Perpignan, there were naturally a lot of local entries, which is probably reflected in the amount of medal winners from this region (and some good wines of course).Then again, most of the world's Grenache is planted in France - split between the Rhone valley, Roussillon and Languedoc - and Spain,Garnacha's spiritual home (I have/found contradictory info disagreeing over whether Spain or France has the most!). There were also some entries fromAustralia(probably not as many as there could/should have been?) andSouth Africa(again, medal winners and my favs are below), accompanied by surprise samples from Brasil and Republic of Macedonia! But what about California? I believe the main criterion applied for the contest was for large-majority Grenache (red, white, grey or 'furry'...) wines, which perhaps also explains the dominance of the Roussillon and lack of Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Languedoc in the 'French category' and wines from Aus and SA (tends to be a lower % of the blend), although you'd still have expected more Rhone wines in the medal line-up.
Talking of which, this is where I might make myself unpopular. I counted 163 Gold andSilvermedals including nine Trophy winners: out of only 364 wines tasted, that's nearly 45% of them, which is too high a proportion compared to other international competitions;and in fact OIV regulations, the organisation that dreamed up thefranklystupid 'official' system used,apparently state that "awards are limited to 30% of samples entered..."I've come across this system before, where you have to allocate a set amount of marks to all aspects of each wine, including e.g. colour and clarity as if that really matters when making a quality judgement. Especially since Grenache isn't naturally known as a variety with lots of rich colour (you can if you really extract it), compared to say Syrah or Cabernet. Anyway, this very long-winded methodology does at least add up to 100, but it's more generous - or the opposite - than the 100 point system used by some wine critics. Scoring works as follows: 84 to 87 Silver medal, Gold 87 to 92 and Trophy 92 to 100 (see what I mean).It's too easy to award too many or too few marks to a wine by adding them all up for each 'category' (visual, olfactory, mouth-feel, overall impression and totally subjective 'typicity'), as you're supposed to. So I judged them applying the 'traditional' 100-pointer in my mind while asking myself: "is this really a silver or gold wine?" Then did the silly math afterwards. Rant over: you have to use some scoring system or other obviously. And I'm certainly not knocking any attempt to promote great wines made from Grenache from around the world.The nine 'trophy' winners were as follows, which include a fair fewVins Doux Naturelsfortified reds and 'whites' from the Roussillon (red highlight = link to profile on my other blog):
Château de PénaHors d'âge AOP Rivesaltes Tuilé, Roussillon.
GT-G2010 LePlan-Vermeersch AOP Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Lafou Els Amelers2011 Roqueta DO Terra Alta white, Catalonia.
Saint RochKerbuccio 2011 Maison Lafage AOP Maury Sec, Roussillon.
Sartiglia2011 Azienda Vinicola Attilio Contini DOC Cannonau di Sardegna (actually my top wine in our flight from Sardinia).
Sur Grains2011 Domaine Boudau AOP Rivesaltes Grenat, Roussillon.
The full results are viewable here:www.grenachesdumonde.com. My pick of the Spanish rosadosand Cannonau di Sardegna reds (tasted in the competition blind) (will) feature in separate posts (click on highlighted links), along with a few succinct points plucked from the presentations given in the afternoon on Grenache and pen names in Sardinia, Aragon, Catalonia and Australia. Plus more wines worth mentioning sampled / quaffedthat evening at a food & wine tasting bash or the previous night over dinner. Any medals awarded appear in brackets and/or my 100-point style score afterwards...
AND "WGC Part 2" including my favs from the Roussillon and Rhone Valley IS HERE,with the first outing, for me at least, of some exciting Maury Sec dry red wines (the appellation rules were amended from vintage 2011 to embrace 'dry' and fortified sweet reds from the same area based on Grenache)...
Continuing this compelling mini-mini-series on large but good French co-op wineries and their wines, which I started on my other blog with this post:Rhône: Cave de Tain: big co-ops part 1...Cave de Turckheim was founded post-War and is a substantial vineyard owner in the must-tour region of Alsace nestling on France's eastern border with Germany, separated by the River Rhein yet sharing certain grape varieties and a long mutual history(not always a happy one, mind you)and aspects of culture (the hearty local food springs to mind). Anyway, you've probably tried a white wine fromTurckheim, especially their always consistentGewurztraminer available under many different guises and own-labels throughout the world. But the winery's 200+ co-op members also own plots in some stunning vineyard sites such as theBrand (meaning 'burnt' in the same sense as the northern Rhone's Cote Rotie, i.e. it gets a lot of sunshine)Grand Cru,as you'll see from my glowing notes on their superb Riesling and other varietals sourced from this steep slope of vines overlooking the twee town ofTurckheim. And their 'old-vine' wines can be surprisingly good too, even from a scorned and usually rather characterless variety likeSylvaner. The man in charge of winemaking and vineyards here is Michel Lihrmann, by the way.
I tasted these wines with export director Emmanuelle Gallis on their UK importer's stand, Boutinot Wines, at the London International Wine Fair last year (yet more forgotten-about notes...). Prices quoted below are in euros per bottle for cases of three bought in France cellar door or on-line, to give you an idea. In the UK, their 'standard' Gewurz sells for about £7-£8; so the Pinot would be about £6, I'd guess, the Brands about £15-£17 and going up to £18-£20 for their sumptuous late harvest Gewurz.
2011 Pinot Blanc - nice crisp 'mineral' tones vs light honeyed flavours, has a bit of substance too and attractive fresh bite. €5.45
2009 Sylvaner vieilles vignes - nutty rounded and concentrated vs crisp tight mouth-feel, delicious maturing notes with long tasty finish. Surprising. €5.95
2008 Rieslingvieilles vignes- turning oily and mineral edged, intense pure Riesling style with zesty crisp vs oily palate, very long and fine with stylish finish. Classic dry Riesling. €7.95
2007 Riesling Grand Cru Brand - maturing 'kerosene' (!) tones with floral mineral nuances, rich and concentrated, beautiful Riesling style, intense with 'cut' and huge length. Superb. €15.35
2008 Pinot GrisGrand CruBrand - lush and honeyed, very ripe and full-bodied vs lovely bite and length, spicy rich finish. Delicious again.€15.35
2008 Gewurztraminervieilles vignes- intense lychee and rose water aromas and flavours, full and rounded vs tight intense and long mouth-feel, crisp vs aromatic 'sweet' fruit. €10.20
2010GewurztraminerGrand CruBrand - relatively closed up to start with, very lychee on the palate, big and fruity vs again has freshness and class, powerful too then closes up a little. Needs a few years to develop.€15.95
2008 Gewurztraminervendanges tardives- oily honeyed aromas with exotic lychee and mango, rich and sweet vs lovely 'cut' and length, beautiful balance and class with fresh acidity vs exotic fruit. €17.50 50cl. More Alsace producers and wines coming soon: Martin Schaetzel and Eblin-Fuchs.
This latest post carries on the spirit of my slightly obsessive rosé-tinted-spectacles theme started in back 2011 (click there), exploring the perhaps contentious argument that Chile is making some of the best rosés coming out of the "New World", or South and North America even. These two 'serious' food-demandingrosados tasting-noted below came my way recently, one bought from Marks & Spencer and the other a probably widely distributed brand from Torres...
2012 Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon roséMiguel Torres Chile - Curicó, Central Valley. "Fair trade" 13.5% alc.£8.99 Curley's Wine Cellars, NI, and other independents in the UK, Ireland (via Findlater's) and North America (see www.torreschile.com where I copied the photo from).
Pretty deep colour and rich fruity aromas and flavours, creamy rounded palate with lush strawberry and raspberry, quite full-bodied and long with refreshing bite too. Good with salmon and smoked fish.
Having loved the 2010 vintage of this serious pink wine, the 2011 is perhaps even better (it is a rosé that can last a bit longer than most and improve even). Rich rounded and fruity, full-bodied complex and concentrated, lovely ripe red fruits and creamy texture/flavours vs nice weight then crisp intense finish. One of the best rosés I've tried over the past year. Try with a tender veal schnitzel or Thai food.