Archive for July 2007

Marcarini Barbera D’Alba 2004

July 31, 2007

img_3001.jpgIf there is one wine that I should drink more often now it’s Barbera d’Alba. This variety can be really attractive when the climatic conditions are absolutely right but the wines that I’ve seen from the wet 2002 and scorching 2003 vintages were either too thin and diluted or baked and high in alcohol. Luckily producers got back on track in the big and cool 2004 vintage resulting in a new supply of typical wines with vibrant fruit and high acidity. I think there is even more reason to be optimistic now that a lot of growers regard Barbera as a serious variety: the grape is planted in far better sites, yields are lowered significantly and grapes are only picked when fully mature. Marcarini cultivates 2,5 hectares of Barbera on two sunny sites in La Morra and Neviglie so that the grapes attain optimum ripeness. The resulting wine shows a fragrant nose with lovely ripe cherry, raspberry and plum aromas complemented by sweet oak. The same whistle-clean and pure fruit is offered on a palate that is marked by well integrated oak, velvetly tannins and a finish with lots of zingy acid. This is a very good modern wine that hasn’t sacrificed any of its typical features. 91 points.

Source: Trembath & Taylor/Dave Mullen  Price: $39  Drink: Now-2010



Cillar de Silos Joven 2006

July 25, 2007

Looking for a clear aroma and flavour profile in Tempranillo can be literally fruitless. This is even harder when the fruit is masked by oak although a lot of Joven wines also tend to be dominated by earthy and leathery characters. The Cillar de Silos Joven 2006 is a completely different wine in which fruit plays the starring role. Fragrant cherries, plums and blackcurrants leap out of the glass while liquorice and earthy nuances play a more supporting role. This clear defined fruit is found back on the palate that is round and supple with grainy tannins while a lively mineral acidity keeps everything fresh and balanced. The long, concentrated and satisfying finish  shows that this modestly priced wine really has a lot to offer. 89 points.

Source: The Spanish Aquisition  Price: $29  Drink: Now


Jean-Luc Colombo ‘Les Méjeans’ Cornas 1999

July 19, 2007

img_3005.jpgThe appellation of Cornas is one of the smallest in the northern Rhône where its terraced vineyards are situated in a protective amphitheatrical basin. Hot temperatures in combination with granitic sand/clay soils produce Syrah-based wines that are sturdy yet pure and intense. Although the wines get solid attention, the appellation only recently revived from decennia of decline combined with conservative and backward winemaking practices. It was Jean-Luc Colombo who changed this by introducing modern techniques like total destemming of grapes and ageing in (partly) new barriques. He not only applies this to his estate-grown fruit, he also acts as consultant-négociant for numerous other domaines and growers in most of the Rhône-appellations, Côtes du Rousillon, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Languedoc. Les Méjeans is one of Colombo’s wines made from purchased old vine fruit. It hasn’t got the grandeur of Les Ruchets or La Louvée but it’s still an excellent expression of Cornas moulded by modern winemaking. The deep purple colour of the wine didn’t give away any clues and only the sediment left in the bottle after decanting underlined the age of the wine. With lots of raspberries, blackcurrants and chocolate the nose is still fresh and fragrant with little signs of ageing. In the mouth the wine starts with supple and round primary fruits while rustic tannins, earth, leather, tobacco and game dominate the mid and back of the palate. With primary and secondary characters all balanced, fresh acidity and solid tannins this wine is in the prime of its life and offers genuine but civilised, somewhat polished Cornas. 90 points.

Source: Domaine Wine Shippers  Price: $70  Drink: Now-2009


Williams Crossing Pinot Noir 2004

July 17, 2007

img_3007.jpgA lot of Australian wineries produce a second label wine next to their premium bottlings. These “entree level” wines sometimes give a reflection of what the premiums are about, but mostly they offer nothing more than uncomplicated, instantly enjoyable drinking. A few labels are really good though, especially the ones that are made from estate grown fruit which a winery chooses to exclude from its first label like the 2004 Williams Crossing Pinot Noir, “junior” label of Curly Flat. The intense colour of the wine suggests a serious Pinot and that’s exactly what you get with a concentrated nose of plum, cherries and black berries, all wrapped up in spicy and vanilla oak. The same characters run through the equally impressive palate where fine but firm tannins and great acidity define the excellent structure of this wine. Although more open and approachable than its big brother, the Williams Crossing clearly shows the benifits of dedication to quality. If you happen to come across this wine don’t hesitate, buy it by the case and drink it over the next 5 years or so. 91 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $22  Drink: Now-2012


Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2004

July 13, 2007

img_3008.jpgIt can be said with certainty that exciting things are happening on the Australian Pinot scene at this moment. Especially in the cool Macedon ranges some very handsome wines are being produced by small and dedicated producers. Bindi’s stunning Pinots are drawing a lot of attention for quite some years already, while the wines from Epis and Curly Flat are receiving critical acclaim more recently making them fast rising stars. For Curly Flat success didn’t come overnight and has everything to do with long-term meticulous vineyard practices which include a unique canopy management, heavy crop thinning and hand-picking of fruit that is being processed in a new state-of-the-art winery. When all this is combined with nearly perfect growing conditions the outcome is terrific as is shown in the 2004 Pinot Noir. This dark ruby coloured wine combines power, density and depth with subtle refinement. The nose offers intense red berry fruit, plum, bacon and spicy aromas and the complex, richly layered palate has firm tannins and fresh acidity leading to a long and spicy finish. I think this wine should be left alone for at least another year to open out and show its true potential, however, if you can’t resist – perfectly understandable – make sure you decant the wine well before you drink it. 94 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $55  Drink: 2009-2016


Côtes-du-Rhône (Villages)

July 11, 2007

When it comes to the wines from the Rhône Valley most reviews are about the great crus from illuster appellations like Hermitage, Côte Rôtie or Cornas. However, the commodity of this region consists of wines made within the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône, an area of 40,326 hectares that is spread over no less than 171 communes between Vienne, Valence and Avignon. With different soil types, climes, more than 20 permitted varieties and 6000 growers it’s a heterogenous region that produces wines of various style and quality. Most wines are blends of the main varieties Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre although secondary varieties as Carignan and Cinsault are commonly used supplements. According to the regulations Grenache should constitute at least 40% of any blend while the secondary varieties may not exceed 30% of the total. Because of the relatively low price generic Côtes-du-Rhône is a pre-eminent good value introduction to the wines from the Rhône Valley. Even better value and quality can be found in the appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Villages which allows 18 villages to use their name on the label. With a significant lower basic maximum yield of 42 hl/ha – rather than 52 for generic Côtes-du-Rhône – and compulsory minimum components of 50% Grenache and 20% Syrah-Mourvèdre these wines generally show more structure, depth and concentration.

Although the heartland of the appellation is the southern Rhône most négociants from the north produce their own Côtes-du-Rhône. They often bear the distinctive mark of Syrah because the regulation doesn’t prescribe a minimum quantity of Grenache when the winery is based north of the town of Montélimar. This is clearly shown in the Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2003 ($27, Negociants Australia) in which Syrah dominates the blend. It gives the wine a fragrant nose of raspberries, cassis and plum supported by spicy and vanilla oak characters. The palate opens with round and smooth red fruit that gives way to a rather fleshy mid-palate with just enough weight and tannins to carry it to the finish. This uncomplicated medium-bodied wine may be miles away from Guigal’s top cuvées, it still gives a hint of what his wines are about: the highest quality. 88 points.

Another good drink is the Perrin Réserve Côtes-du-Rhône 2004 ($29, Negociants Australia) made by Domaine Perrin & Fils from the famous Château de Beaucastel. With 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre this wine is moulded in the typical southern Rhône style. The nose of this deeply red coloured wine runs through dark berries, cherries, cinnamon and pepper but the real bonus is the incredible velvetly palate with a very fine tannin structure and full, fleshy fruit flavours. I reckon this wine is best enjoyed with a good steak aux poivre. 88 points.

The 2004 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages (Valreas) from Clos Petite Bellane ($30, James Busby Fine Wines) is one of the best I’ve had so far. Entirely crafted from 70 years-old Grenache vines this inky coloured wine has a nose of ripe plum, liquorice and spice. The initial roundness of the highly concentrated dark plummy palate quickly gives way to firm, mouthdrying tannins that never get too harsh. The finish is equally firm and concentrated with lots of cracked pepper and a hint of dried herbs. 89 points.   

Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago 2005

July 4, 2007

One of the most fascinating aspects of Tempranillo is the adaptibility to the environment it’s grown in. Because this variety has been cultivated in Spain for a long time on innumerable different sites in various regions, no less than 552 clones have developed. Each region claims to have its own unique clone of Tempranillo, all given local names and all supposed to be different. Particularly in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro a lot of research has been done on the differences between clones within and between these regions. Researchers of the Instituto Technológico Agrario de Castilla y León in Valladolid have carried out an interesting comparison trial with certified clones of Tinta del País, Tinta de Toro and Riojo clones that were selected in their area of origin. The vines were planted on the same plot and the same growing techniques were applied. The trial showed that the Tinta de Toro and Tinta del País clones maintain a close genetic similarity to clones from any of the regions. The genetic differences between clones from the same region were greater although the Rioja clones were closer to themselves. With the characteristics of the grapes at harvest being all similar this study clearly showed that Tempranillo vines adapt very well to their circumstances. It therefore remains the question if different Tempranillo clones attribute to differences in the tast of wines at all, even more so when the significant variation of climate, soils and winemaking traditions in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro are taken into consideration. The climate in the latter is so warm that excessive alcohol levels are easily reached while the relatively short growing season adds rustic tannins. Many bodegas sooth their wines by a lot of extraction and oak with blockbuster wines as a result. Although there is no oak involved in the Dehesa Gago fermentation at 28 degrees Celcius and skin contact for 10 days ensure the wine has a lot of  punch. Inky red in the glass the wine released earthy, leathery, mocca and chocolate aromas and only after about half an hour after decanting the wine opened up and showed dark red fruit and floral tones. The palate is chunky and meaty with smooth tannins and enough acid to keep it clean and fresh. With such an  intense and concentrated palate this rather ‘simple’ joven really over-delivers. 88 points.

Source: The Spanish Aquisition  Price: $27  Drink: Now-2008