Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 43, the wines of d’Arenberg, Australian wines worth knowing, March 23, 2017.

I love the d’Arenberg lineup of wines offered by the Osborn family. When I researched this blog before writing it I was amazed to learn that d’Arenberg makes 63 different wines, of which I had tasted only 14 prior to writing this blog. That means they make 49 more different wines that I had not yet tasted, wow.

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The Osborne family, led by Chester Osborne, 4th generation winemaker, have been making wine at the d’Arenberg estate in the McClaren Vale area of South East Australia (just south of Adelaide) since 1912. Chester took over from his father d’Arry in 1984. The estate took its name from d’Arry’s mother Helena d’Arenberg in 1959.

D’Arenberg produces both single grape varietal wines, and blends. They produce whites and reds, they produce sparkling wines, sweet dessert wines, ports, and they produce a lot of single vineyard Shiraz reds. The single vineyard reds are meant to showcase the different flavors brought out by different soils (terroir). The estate produces all organic wines, with little or no use of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. To control weed growth in the vineyards they use sheep, which also do double duty as a natural fertilizer source. The winery uses traditional production methods, including foot trodding (see photo at end of this blog) to crush the grapes, basket pressing, no fining or filtration prior to bottling, and very minimal use of oak so as not to mask or artificially enhance the natural grape flavors.

This all sounds delicious and very healthy, but there is more. The estate produces grapes from up to 33 different grape varieties, and includes in the whites Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and in the reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Mourvedre, Merlot, and others in various blends.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this estate is the very unique names given to the various wines they produce. Names such as “The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne”, “The Footbolt Shiraz”, and “The Custodian Grenache” are all unique enough, but many of the others are hilarious. Take for instance “The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Arneis” or “The Noble Botryotinea Fuckeliana Semillon Sauvignon Blanc” in their sweet dessert wines, or “The Feral Fox Pinot Noir”, “The Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc”, “The Witches Brew Chardonnay”, or how about some of their many single vineyard Shiraz wines such as “The Fruit Bat”, “The Swinging Malaysian”, or “Shipster’s Rapture”. All these names have a specific meaning, which the estate explains on their website in a one page summary about each wine. I particularly enjoyed the explanations behind some of their more colorful wine names such as “The Daddy Long Legs Extremely Rare NV” and “The Old Bloke and The Three Young Blondes Shiraz, Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne”. Check them out for yourself by visiting their website at www.darenberg.com.au .

D’Arenberg does not publish any breakdown of production levels for each their 63 different wines produced, so it is difficult to know how much they produce and sell of each different wine. They do buy a lot of fruit from other growers in the region (from 120 other growers covering 700 hectares of vineyards) to supplement the 200 hectares of their own under cultivation. Their total annual production is about 4,500 tons of grapes.

In two of my previous blogs I have tasted and rated three d’Arenberg wines. In my blog # 7 February 23, 2016 I rated the 2012 d’Arry’s Original, a 50/50 Shiraz/Grenache blend, and one of their flagship products. A steady performer year after year, I rated the wine at 17/20. In my blog # 37 December 21, 2016 I rated the 2012 Stump Jump Shiraz at 17/20, and the 2011 Laughing Magpie, a Shiraz/Viognier blend at 18.5/20. In fact I judged them to be the top two wines of the tasting, giving the edge to The Stump Jump for being the best price/quality wine of the evening at $17.50 per bottle.

So I decided it would be a good idea to host a tasting totally dedicated to tasting the wines of d’Arenberg, which was held recently on March 10th. We tasted 10 wines, 4 white and 6 red, with dinner. The only repeat wine tasted on this evening was The Laughing Magpie, all the others were new to me. The wines were all priced between $20.00 and $31.50 CDN, and the idea was to give our tasters a wider appreciation of the many different styles of wine made by Chester Osborne under the d’Arenberg label.

We tasted the following wines in order, see my comments below:

  • The Dry Dam Riesling / 2016 / $19.95 / SAQ # 11155788 / citrus and lemon, not too steely and dry, just the right level of sweetness and residual sugar, goes great with shrimp cocktail, very pleasant / 90 pts.
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  • The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne / 2015 / $20.60 / SAQ # 10829269 / citrus without acidity, full fat and round, ginger, nuts, soft delicate fruits with a spicy trailer / 88 pts.
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  • The Olive Grove Chardonnay / 2015 / $20.55 / SAQ # 11950360 / full thick Chardonnay with olive taste and citrus, nice offsets and balance between the citrus and olives on the aftertaste, leaves a light and refreshing aftertaste, not oaky or overpowering / 89 pts.
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  • The Money Spider Roussanne / 2015 / $22.70 / SAQ # 10748397 / rich and loaded with fruits of all kinds, soft fat and rounded, great legs on the glass, the combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual taste components, this was the best white / 92 pts.
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  • The Galvo Garage / 2011 / $29.00 / SAQ # 11155876 / the wine has good legs but was harsh, astringent and thin, this was a major disappointment and most likely a bad bottle / 85 pts.
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  • The Twenty Eight Road Mourvedre / 2011 / $31.50 / SAQ # 10250804 / you can taste the iodine on the palate and smell it in the nose, comes up flat on the finish in spite of a rounded fleshy grape feel, very odd and off balanced wine, again could be a bad bottle / 86 pts.
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  • The Custodian Grenache / 2013 / $22.65 / SAQ # 10748389 / thick, chewy, great legs, cherries, spicy on the aftertaste and keeps improving in the glass, definitely a wine to buy, to drink now or hold for improvement / 91 pts.
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  • The Footbolt Shiraz / 2013 / $21.95 / SAQ # 10959717 / spice and smoke covering the rich Shiraz fruit, more supple flavors of mushrooms, leather and tobacco, chewy round tannins, pairs nicely with beef, will take more age, buy to drink now or hold / 90 pts.
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  • The Love Grass Shiraz / 2013 / $24.75 / SAQ # 12882864 / very dry, mouth puckering tannins make it hard to cut through to the underlying fruit flavors, there is evidence of earthen tones, smoke, and sour cherries, but any elegance and balance you might expect in this wine is overshadowed by the oh so very dry tannins, maybe time will improve the balance and tone down the tannins / 89 pts.
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  • The Laughing Magpie / 2012 / $27.95 / SAQ # 10250855 / dark fruit with earth, spice and herbs, sits full and fruity on the palate, balanced and young, will age and open up more to further secondary aromas and tastes in 3-5 years, buy to cellar / 90 pts. (Note that in my blog # 37 from December 21, 2016 that I rated The Laughing Magpie 2011 vintage at 92.5 points, similar but more evolved in the bottle being one year older).
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To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the reds, there were three I did not like at all, being The Galvo Garage, The Twenty Eight Road Mourvedre, and The Love Grass Shiraz. That was a surprise given they were all more expensive wines. The wines were all opened 6 hours before the tasting so they had plenty of time to breathe and open up, and given that The Custodian Grenache was still improving in the glass, the weaker reds cited above should have been opening up by the time they were tasted, and they did not.

The best performing wines of the evening were, in order:

  • The Money Spider Roussanne 2015 – $22.70 – 92 pts.
  • The Custodian Grenache 2013 – $22.65 – 91 pts.
  • The Dry Dam Riesling 2016 – $19.95 – 90 pts.
  • The Footbolt Shiraz 2013 – $21.95 – 90 pts.
  • The Laughing Magpie 2012 – $27.95 – 90 pts.
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Buy any of these five wines now to drink or hold, they are all reasonably priced.

Prior to this tasting I have had the pleasure of tasting 14 different d’Arenberg wines, with this tasting I have added another 9 wines to that total (having previously tasted The Laughing Magpie in December). It amazes me that even though I have now tasted 23 different d’Arenberg wines, there are still another 40 of their wines that I have yet to taste. Some critics think that winemaker Chester Osborn is scattered too thin by managing the production of so many different wines, and having tasted three reds above that did disappoint, I can understand how some critics might think that way. However, we cannot blame the winemaker for those poor showings when they could just as easily be caused by poor transportation or storage.

I have tasted some of Chester Osborn’s top of the line products, including The Dead Arm Shiraz, The Ironstone Pressings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, and The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon from various vintages. These retail today at between $50.00 and $55.00 per bottle in the SAQ (Quebec) and the LCBO (Ontario). In fact The Dead Arm Shiraz 2012 vintage, rated by James Suckling at 94 points, is available now at the SAQ for $50.00, and at the LCBO for $54.95. These wines represent great value for the money, easily the equivalent of a $150.00 to $200.00 California Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux classified growth. They also reward medium term aging of 5 – 10 years in the cellar.

 

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So with d’Arenberg’s excellent value in their Stump Jump wines (there are 7 of them: the Sauvignon Blanc, the Riesling, the White, the Lightly Wooded Chardonnay, the Shiraz, the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, and the Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre), all priced in the $17.00 – $18.50 price range, along with their very reasonably priced top quality icons, d’Arenberg is producing great wine at eye opening attractive prices.

Personally, I find it very refreshing to find a talented, prolific winemaker and producer like Chester Osborn pumping out a full lineup of high quality and reasonably priced wines.

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Cheers to Chester (that is him on the left raising his glass), keep up the great work!

Reg.

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 42, Your Wine Glass and What It Says About You, March 14, 2017

All seasoned wine collectors have their favorite stemware or wine glass. Is it possible that your personal favorites say something about you as a wine lover, and as some semi cultured, semi sophisticated connoisseur? Wine glasses are something we go through frequently at our house, so I have experienced both good and bad glasses, large and small, all kinds of shapes and sizes, with and without stems, dishwasher safe and delicate requiring hand washing. So here are my thoughts:

  • I prefer a small wine glass in a Bordeaux style that narrows at the top to enhance the aromas on the nose for every day purposes (that does not mean that I use the glass every day). When you attend the Montreal Wine Show in November you get with the price of admission a perfect SAQ 6 ounce tasting glass, so we replenish our supply of these tasting glasses every year at the show. They are also inexpensive, light, compact, durable and dishwasher safe, functional and simple.
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  • You need to have a set of good crystal wine glasses for special occasions. The only problem with that thinking is how many glasses do you need to have – 2, 4, 6, 10 or more? This depends on your family size, but I would suggest at least 8 so you can accommodate guests. Good crystal Riedel glasses will cost between $25 and $50 per glass, but they will come in many different shapes and sizes. There are a few basic types including a champagne flute, white wine, red wine Bordeaux and red wine Burgundy, and a port glass. See the various different types below:
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  • If money and space are not issues for you, then by all means get a set of white, red, champagne and dessert or port glasses. However, if you have the budget and space for just one set of crystal glasses, get a red wine Bordeaux style as it is usually quite functional with all wine types. Do not get the white wine glasses even if you are a white wine drinker because they just do not do the same job that a red wine glass will do with the narrower rim at the top of the glass. At $50.00 per glass you want the best taste experience possible, so a narrow rim at the top is vital to enhance the aromas on your nose as an important part of the tasting experience. Can you really smell and taste the difference between an open and narrow rim glass? You bet you can!
  • Do stay away from overly long stemmed glasses, they break easily and require hand washing, which in itself leads to a higher breakage rate. Also avoid crystal that is too thin, it breaks easily.
  • Save the plastic stemware for the cottage down at the dock or around the campfire, it just does not say much about your level of sophistication if you resort to those on a regular basis.
  • Stay away from fancy designs or etched glassware and crystal, this makes it very difficult to visually assess the wine in your glass, which is part of the overall tasting experience.
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  • Do not go crazy by overpaying for wine glasses. Many years ago I bought six of the “Les Impitoyables” crystal wine glasses (made by Peugeot) in three designs: the white, the young red, and the mature red (two of each glass). Today only two remain, and at $100 per glass all I can say is that I am glad I did not buy 12 glasses as I was originally intending to do.
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  • You always end up with orphans, the lonely survivors of a set of 4, 6, or 8. Often they were gifts and not something that you would buy for yourself because the style is not to your liking. Find a way to get rid of them, ship them off with the kids when they move out, after all they probably broke most of the set anyways.
  • Stay away from the latest fads or gimmicks in wine glasses, they are usually not very practical and will not stand the test of time. I came across a good example of that two weeks ago that inspired me to write this blog. The press carried a story about the Wine Glass Mask and how the product designer was conducting a Kickstarter fund raising campaign to raise $76,000 US to commence production of the Wine Glass Mask. So honestly, this has got to be the ugliest wine glass you will ever see, as the following photos will illustrate. There is something not quite right about creating a wine glass that fits not just your entire nose in the glass, but your entire face. The design concept is meant to engulf the entire face. Come on, this looks like you are wearing an oxygen mask. Imagine you are attending an elegant dinner party for 10, and everyone has their face in their wine glass at the same time. It will look like an airline emergency with everyone inhaling oxygen through their oxygen masks, really quite funny, and hopefully an idea that will expire or run out of gas soon.
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  • There is nothing wrong with finding your own special and unique wine glass that you use frequently whether alone or entertaining. That special wine glass becomes part of your wine personality, it makes a statement about you the wine connoisseur, and becomes identified as “your glass”. This means that it automatically gets special treatment in the glass rack, washed carefully by hand, and otherwise pampered.

 

I love my glass, pictured below. Engraved with my name, the glass is large enough that it can easily hold a full bottle of wine without looking full (in the photo below the glass is holding a full bottle of wine), in fact it can hold over two full bottles of wine. However, with more than one bottle of wine in my glass at a time, I find I need two hands to hold the glass steady when taking a sip, which looks a little ridiculous. I could raise guppies in the glass if I wanted. Since the glass narrows at the rim, it concentrates the wine aromas, this is good. In fact, the rim is wide enough I think it will fit my entire head in it, so I won’t be buying the “Wine Glass Mask” anytime soon. This glass is also very useful as a decanter, in fact I do not have to use another glass, I can drink the wine direct from my “decanter”.

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Perhaps the most amusing part of my wine glass is the endless one liner jokes and comments it elicits, ranging from “But honey, I only had one glass of wine all evening” to “We’ll have to open a second bottle, there was only one glass left in that bottle”. In fact, this glass solves any guilt I may have about opening a magnum size bottle, half the bottle for me and the other half for the rest of our guests. I never get my glass mixed up with anyone else, so I do not need to label my glass with an ID tag. This keeps life simple, and allows me to focus on more important matters like enjoying my glass of wine.

 

It occurs to me that keeping it simple is what life is all about. So as I watch my dinner party guests lose their wine glass, or drink from the wrong glass, or inspect name tags in search of their own glass, I take comfort from having my own full bottle decanted, and served, in what is easily identifiable as “Reg’s Wine Glass”.

Your wine glass does indeed say something about you, so what does your wine glass say about you?

Reg

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Bordeaux price/quality trends, Post # 41, February 28, 2017

A week ago Liv-ex posted a blog update on the 2016 Bordeaux vintage as well as an updated ratings report from several major wine critics on the 2014 Bordeaux vintage now that it has been bottled. I found the results quite interesting and thought I would share my thoughts with you now.

According to Gavin Quinny, himself a Bordeaux grower and winemaker, as well as the author of the Liv-ex blog post in question, the 2016 Bordeaux harvest was the largest since 2006, producing 577 million litres of wine with 10% less vineyard acreage under cultivation. According to Gavin, this was a Merlot harvest, with the Cabernet Sauvignon not performing as well due to severe heat stress June through August. This usually means that Pomerol and St-Emilion will perform better than Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac, St-Estephe, and Pessac Leognan. Often we forget that these prestigious Appelations account for only 10% of overall Bordeaux production, and the sweet wine of Sauterne and Barsac accounts for only another 1%. By far the bulk of production is in the Vins de France and Vins de Pays designated wines, and it is in these categories where production has almost doubled in 2016 compared to previous years. In fact, Gavin also states that this is now the 3rd good Bordeaux vintage in a row, see link below to Gavin’s full article:

http://www.insights.liv-ex.com/2017/02/bordeaux-2016-largest-harvest-since-2006.html?mc_cid=ef2db154dc&mc_eid=d9373685f8

So we appear to be swimming in a sea of high quality Bordeaux wine, and in theory that should mean that prices will go down. Instead, as you know from my previous blog posts 22 and 23 last June 2016, consumers were hit with 20% to 50% plus price increases on their favorite 2015 Bordeaux futures. Ouch, that was cruel, with 1st growth Bordeaux from the 2015 vintage being offered last year as futures for prices ranging from $1,000 CDN to $1,200 CDN per bottle.

Also of interest in the same Liv-ex blog last week was another article reviewing wine critics scores for the 2014 Bordeaux now that the wine is in the bottle. Critics usually rate the wine initially while the young wine is still aging in the barrel, giving it a quality range, such as 91-94 points, allowing for wine scores to either increase or decrease once the wine is finally in the bottle. So this Liv-ex article was interesting because it recapped the critics wine scores for the now bottled 2014 vintage, see link below:

http://www.insights.liv-ex.com/2017/02/bordeaux-2014-scores-bottle.html?mc_cid=ef2db154dc&mc_eid=d9373685f8

Although Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate has yet to review the 2014 Bordeaux since it has been bottled, Liv-ex did report on the revised ratings of James Molesworth (Wine Spectator), James Suckling (ex Wine Spectator and now on his own), and Antonio Galloni (ex Wine Advocate and now at Vinous). James Suckling was the most bullish at raising his ratings on his top ten 2014 Bordeaux wines in bottle. He has scored eight of his top ten wines higher than his initial range, and the other two wines at the top of his initial range. His biggest surprises are Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou rated at an impressive 99 points,

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and both Chateau Cos D’Estournel and Chateau Leoville Las Cases rated at 98 points.

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Antonio Galloni scored his top ten wines at the top of his initial ratings ranges, while James Molesworth was more conservative by rating his top ten in the middle of his original ratings ranges. Worth noting was that both Molesworth and Galloni gave Vieux Chateau Certan high marks (Molesworth 96 and Galloni 97).

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Galloni also gave Chateau Pichon Baron Longueville and Chateau Calon Segur high marks at 97 and 96 points respectively.

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What I particularly like about this Liv-ex article is that we can see the continuing of a trend towards much more choice for the consumer looking for top quality wine at much lower prices. In years gone by you would see the usual first growth wines in the top ten with one or two other Bordeaux wines. By the time the 2009 and 2010 vintages were in the bottle, Parker had rated 19 wines from the 2009 vintage at a perfect 100 points, and 10 more from the 2010 vintage as well. You will recall that 5th growth Chateau Pontet Canet was rated a perfect 100 points in both 2009 and 2010.

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So this trend continues today, with Ducru Beaucaillou, Cos D’Estournel, Leoville Las Cases, Vieux Chateau Certan, Pichon Baron Longueville, and Calon Segur all getting high scores at or above the ratings given to 1st growth Bordeaux.

Does that mean it is time to stop buying Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild? No, not necessarily, if you have $1,000 or more to spend per bottle then by all means go right ahead and do so. But honestly, if you can get the same quality of wine out of a bottle costing you $250, would you not rather prefer to have 4 bottles of great wine for the price of one bottle of first growth?

The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) just ended their last futures offering of 2014 Bordeaux last week, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were several great values still to be had from their list, including the following, to name but a few:

  • Chateau Canon                                                       95-96               $109.00
  • Chateau D’Armailhac                                            93-94               $ 79.00
  • Chateau Gruard Larose                                        93-94               $112.00
  • Chateau Lynch Bages                                           95-96               $199.00
  • Chateau Pichon Baron Longueville                   95-96               $199.00
  • Chateau Rauzan Segla                                          94-95               $125.00
  • Chateau Talbot                                                      94-95                $ 89.00

 

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The 2014 vintage will start hitting store shelves later this year, and when it does you can expect to see the above prices 30% higher. And that will be the last time that you see the 1st growths at or near $1,000 per bottle. The 2015 1st growths will hit the shelves in late 2018 at $1,300 – $1,500 per bottle. If I had to guess on how the trade will price the 2016 vintage, I would think most owners will price their wines similar to their 2015 prices. They will not lower prices, because that would simply cannibalize and hurt their 2015 sales in 2018. I also do not expect they will raise prices very much because they have a lot of good quality wine in the system, and they do not want to price themselves right out of the market. Besides, I think a lot of retail sticker price shock is yet to come when the major price hike last year on the 2015 vintage finally hits the retail shelves in September 2018.

Smart buyers will be buying high quality cheaper 2014 Bordeaux as the last of the futures offerings close out now (if still available), and snapping up the best 2014 bargains that hit retail shelves later this fall. They will also be watching closely for the odd bargain when the 2015 futures get re offered again this year. There is no doubt that 1st growth prices are going to be driving more and more people to look for the same quality in a cheaper bottle. Fortunately, there is an ample selection of high quality cheaper alternatives, and plenty of critics and advice to guide you towards those alternatives.

Ah, the free enterprise system is alive and well. Happy hunting!

Reg.

 

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – The Wine Collector’s Dilemma, Drink or Hold? Post # 40, February 17, 2017

So when do you drink your best wines? Do you have a plan when it comes to drinking your prized possessions? In case you forgot, you cannot take them with you when you go, so unless you plan to pass them down to your children or have them auctioned off in an estate sale, you need a plan.

I know at least 3 friends of mine who have more wine than they can ever drink, and no plans to drink most of it. As I have said before in earlier blogs about the need to drink the wines from your cellar, if for no other reason than to keep an eye on how well they are aging, many people are collectors without any proper plan to drink it. Are they collectors or hoarders?

There is no benefit to holding onto a wine in decline until it becomes vinegar, so drink it. There is no glory in hosting a dinner party and serving up that special wine you have been saving and cellaring for the last 30 years, only to find it has lost all the fruit, and it is now thin, dull and very astringent.

Here are some suggestions for managing your cellar, and developing a disciplined approach to your wine acquisitions, sales, and consumption:

  • Based on your age, your wine tasting and cellaring experience, and your cellar capacity, you need to make some basic decisions as to where you are in your own life cycle, and your own collecting objectives. At 30 years of age you are a young collector, so your cellar is growing. At 80 years of age you should no longer be buying young first growth Bordeaux that will take 20 years to reach full maturity, and your cellar should be shrinking in total number of wines.
  • Be very careful to maintain a balance of different wines in your cellar all through your life span. You need both red and white, you need wine for everyday consumption, you also need special wines for special occasions. You need some specialty wines like vintage port or vintage madeira, along with some dessert wines like Sauternes, German, or Alsace late harvest. Even if these are not wines you like or enjoy, there will be times when they are the right wines to serve.
  • You should consider having different sized bottles, in particular the ½ bottle and magnum sizes. Half bottle size is often appropriate for dessert wines, or if a couple want their own wine (for example the husband drinks a red while the wife drinks a white). Magnums are clearly for dinner parties, and wine will age more slowly in larger bottles. Try to stay away from much larger sizes such as double magnums, because they are really only practical for larger dinners. Also, for most collectors a double magnum of Chateau Lafite 2010 at $6,000 is very difficult to justify opening at your average dinner party.Reg's Wine blog - photo 40-6 You do not want to be agonizing over the decision of whether the upcoming dinner party is worthy enough to warrant you opening so expensive a bottle. However, having a double magnum of Chateau Pontet Canet 2010 worth $1,300 Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-7 or Chateau Beaucastel 2010 worth $540 Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-8 will certainly generate the “wow” factor and impress your guests without breaking the bank.
  • As a general rule do not buy wine as an investment with the intention of selling it later for profit. This was much easier to do 30 years ago when you could buy 1982 Chateau Lafite for $40 US per bottle and sell it today for $4,800 and make over 80 times your purchase price in profit (don’t forget the auction house takes 30%). Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-4 But the easy money has been made, if you bought the 2010 Chateau Lafite when it was sold as a future in 2012 at $2,100 per bottle, you are down about 35% today, since it can be bought today at auction now for about $1,400 per bottle. Fine wine prices have increased so much in the last 10 years (the Chinese effect?) that you should abandon any thoughts of buying wine as an investment to resell at auction.
  • Know your own cellar’s aging capacity. Every cellar is different, and even with temperature and humidity controls, you need to know how well wine ages in your cellar, and once you know how well your cellar is performing, you need to constantly be testing the wines in your own cellar. Do not assume just because your temperature and humidity gauges register a constant level that your wines are fine. You need to check your wines for fill levels, for dried out corks and seepage in drier cellars, and for soiled labels from excess humidity. Do not just assume everything is fine. If you have a compressor powering your cellar cooling system, make sure you top up the compressor with freon every few years. You do not want to go away on vacation for 2-3 weeks and return to a cellar at room temperature because your compressor ran out of freon.
  • Taste your wines regularly. If you have a case of fine Bordeaux bought as futures, that is forecast to take 15 years to mature, and last another 15 years after that, do not wait 20 years to open a bottle. Instead, taste one bottle after 7 years (it will now be 10 years old), taste another bottle 5 years later. It should now be fully mature, but if your cellar is state of the art, your wine may still not be fully mature, and you need to know this before serving it prematurely to guests.
  • Read the latest reviews and tasting notes from wine critics on wines that you own and continue to cellar. If that 1986 Mouton Rothschild is still hard and tannic and needs more aging time according to recent tasting notes, then let your bottle keep aging. Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-5 Conversely, if a critic says a certain vintage is aging faster than expected and beginning to fade, then take notice and try a bottle of your own. This is especially important if you only have two or three bottles of that special wine, you do not want to open your last bottle and find that it had not yet peaked.
  • Have a consumption plan and stick to it, especially for your special occasion wines. If you bought a double magnum of 2010 Dom Perignon Champagne planning to celebrate your daughter’s wedding engagement at some unknown future date, then tell her and use it for leverage to get them to commit before the bubbly gets too old.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-1
  • Be prepared to make adjustments to your consumption plan should health issues arise. As we age, declining health, medication, changing tastes and lifestyles may seriously alter your ability to drink the wines you had been saving for your retirement. If that happens, then you will have to revisit your consumption plan. If you do not revise your plan, then your wines may kick the bucket before you do.
  • You need a succession plan for your cellar. Leaving your wine for someone else to settle as part of the estate without specifying who gets which bottles is going to be a mistake. If you have three kids and only one enjoys wine, the other two will not appreciate their share of the wines at all. So is a 3 way split the right way to go? Is this what you want to have happen? Then you should decide who gets the wine. In fact, why not progressively gift your excess wines to your children while you are still alive, and enjoy the odd bottle with them, and give them your assessment of when they should be drinking those wines. That can actually be quite a lot of fun, an unregistered transfer of your wine assets to your children, along with your advice, pearls of wisdom, fanciful wine stories, and done slowly and progressively over time, making a special and memorable occasion out of every such event.

There is a lot more care involved in managing your cellar assets as you get older. There are several ways that your consumption habits can be forced to change over time, and you need to assess the impact that changing consumption habits has on your cellar contents. So you need to take charge of the situation, and constantly be prepared to change your wine collecting habits. Above all else, manage your liquid assets carefully.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-3

Know how well your cellar ages wines, taste your wines regularly. You have to know when to hold them, and when to drink them.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 40-2

If this article gets you thinking about your own cellar, why not open a nice bottle now and give it more thought, cheers!

Reg

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 39, 1968 D’Oliveiras Reserva Boal Vintage Madeira to toast a dear departed friend, January 26, 2017.

At Christmas dinner this year, with both sides of the family present, after our meal I opened a bottle of 1968 D’Oliveiras Reserva Boal Vintage Madeira to toast our dear departed friend George, who passed away from cancer some 4 weeks earlier. George was a long term friend to all of us, a good natured and kind soul who loved wine, and loved sharing it with us at Christmas and other special occasions. George was featured in my previous blog # 11 entitled “Do I like this Wine”, and of course again in Blog # 33 about wine cellars with his “shoe box cellar”.

George 1

The 1968 D’Oliveiras Reserva Boal is now 48 years old, but still considered young for a vintage Madeira. A fortified wine from the island of Madeira, this wine was great. A little short on the aftertaste, but that will improve with a little more aging. Parker rated the wine at 93 points, and described it as “rich aromas of roasted nuts, caramel and raisins backed by a strong citrus note. Flavors of almonds, walnuts, orange and vanilla dominate the smooth palate and linger through a long savory finish.” The Wine Spectator rated this wine 96 points in April 2016. WineSearcher.com gives the wine an average price of $280.00 CDN. I bought this wine several years ago at the LCBO at $42.65 per bottle. Obviously an excellent buy that has appreciated nicely in value.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 39-6

This wine had everything you look for in a vintage Madeira, the roasted nuts, caramel, raisins, orange and vanilla. As I said already, the aftertaste was a little sharp and not as smooth and long as I was looking for, and was not as long as other critics have described. This resulted in the orange on the palate tasting a little tangy. The aftertaste will improve with more aging, and I would expect this wine to require at least another 5 years to reach that plateau. From there the wine will easily last another 25 years, and if you have any in your cellar I would recommend you wait until at least 2020 before opening one, it is still young even at 48 years of age.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 39-5

The wine is produced by the Pereira D’Oliveira company that was established in 1850, currently owned and managed by Luis D’Oliveira, the 5th generation of the D’Oliveira family to operate the business. The company is a combination of five old Madeira wine producers who combined together in 1850 under this new company banner. Pereira D’Oliveira has the largest cellar and collection of old Madeira wine on the island. They have over 1.5 million liters of wine in cellar, most of it not bottled. Vintage Madeira wine is usually stored and aged in cask, and it keeps improving with age, so every 20 years or so the company will draw off and bottle another 10% or so of their older wines. The 1968 D’Oliveira Reserva Boal that we drank was bottled in 2009 at 40 years of age, and more of it continues to age gracefully in cask in their cellars, probably to be released again in 2029.

 

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the island of Madeira, you must visit Pereira D’Oliveira to taste and buy some of these older bottles. You will not find any selection of older bottles at the other Madeira producers that can be tasted or purchased.

A great wine for toasting and celebrating the life and memory of a dear old friend, goodbye George, we will miss you! I was very happy to serve such a fine wine at Christmas, I know George would approve.

Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – What Music Does Your Wine Like? – Post # 38, January 4, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a wine show on the television, appropriately called “The Wine Show”. One segment of the show caught my attention, it was all about sound assisted wine production in Chile. It featured the Montes Winery in Chile that played recorded Gregorian Chants in the barrel room to the wine, claiming that the music helped improve the aging of the wine, and they have been doing this for 12 years since 2004. Well I nearly fell out of my chair, not knowing whether this was a joke or for real.

The next day I decided to investigate further, so I checked into the Montes Winery on the internet, and much to my surprise this appeared to be real. So I researched further into other wineries doing the same or similar music assisted production or aging of wine. Here is a selection of what I learned:

  • Montes Winery in Chile plays Gregorian Chants (choir music) to the aging barrels of wine in their cellar room. Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38-1Above photo shows barrels arranged in amphitheater style for best listening. The wine gets to listen to only this choir music 24/7. Of course the wine ages faster, it wants to get the hell out of there fast.
  • At Seven Stones Winery in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, winemaker George Hanson plays classical music to his wine in the barrel room, using surround sound that plays continuously 24/7. Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38-2George’s wine prefers Mozart, and George claims that the Mozart sound waves influence the behavior of his wine molecules. When you next have the opportunity to try a bottle of his wine, follow the directions on the label carefully and play Mozart while you drink the wine, otherwise the wine molecules will behave badly and give off strong sulphur fumes.
  • In Austria one winemaker plays music during the fermentation process to stimulate his yeast. He claims there is a vibrational match between Baroque style classical music and wine aging, and that as the music stimulates his yeast, the yeast eats more sugar and the wine ages faster. Well I deliberately left this winemaker’s name out of this article so as not to embarrass the man, because stimulating the yeast during fermentation may eat more sugar and speed up the fermentation process, but not the aging process. Aging the wine is a secondary process and our Austrian winemaker is only playing music to the fermentation vats, not the wine in barrels or bottles. So he is not accelerating the aging process. I was left wondering what chemical changes his Baroque music had made to the quality of his wine, since the overstimulated yeast had voraciously demolished more sugar than it normally would. Will his poor wine fall totally out of balance with a lower sugar count, which results in an alcohol percentage similar to beer?
  • Christian Butz from Hochstadt in southwest Germany plays Brahms and Bizet to his grape juice during fermentation.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38-5 This is interesting, and left me wondering if grapes from different terroirs, soils, regions, and countries respond to certain types of music or different composers better than others. Will German grapes respond poorly to French composers? Will French grapes respond to Vivaldi or Tchaikovsky? Will Bordeaux grapes turn their nose away from the composers used with success in Burgundy and the Rhone?
  • In Chile Juan Ledesma at Vinas Ineditas uses waterproof speakers in his barrels to play music to his wine to make sure that he zaps all those wine molecules. I am not sure of the details to his installation, are the speakers wireless or if they are not wireless then does he have speaker wires protruding from each barrel. Imagine 500 barrels, each with speaker wires connecting to his barrel room stereo. There is a business opportunity here somewhere as “sound technician” to the wine industry!
  • In Piedmont, Italy, Rocche dei Manzoni cellars produce a special Metodo Classico that is aged for 8 years on its lees (with the grape skins, unfiltered) while the wine listens to music 3 hours per day.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38-8 The winemaker claims that playing music 24/7 to his wine would be too much because the wine needs to rest. This winemaker clearly views his wine molecules as living entities, working out 3 hours daily to the sound of music, then resting up for the next 21 hours. This has got to be some pretty lazy wine, it needs to get a job somewhere, or clean the wine cellar, and lying around the house for 8 years must be very expensive to our winemaker. I wonder if the winemaker gets more money for his tenants when he sells them and gets them out of the cellar for good.
  • At the Paradiso di Frassina winery in Montalcino Tuscany, owner Giancarlo Cignozzi organically farms his vineyards and plays Mozart 24/7 to his grape vines, piped through 80 Bose speakers placed throughout the vineyard. The speakers were donated to him by Amar Bose, past Chairman of Bose Corporation.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38.12If you look closely at the above photo you can see just above the grapes a speaker mounted on a pole in the vineyard. Cignozzi notes that pest attacks on his vines have been dramatically reduced since Mozart started playing. However, I wonder if vineyard attacks from disgruntled neighbors, tired of hearing Mozart 24/7, have increased.
  • The DeMorgenzon Winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, owned by Hylton Appelbaum, takes the prize for total dedication to music throughout the entire winemaking process. Winemaker Carl van der Merwe has speakers in the vineyard, in the fermentation room, and in the cellar room, playing Baroque music from various artists and composers to his grapes 24/7. Carl claims that the music helps to regulate growth in the vineyard, resulting in later budding, later ripening by about 2 ½ weeks, and sadly, lower alcohol at 12.8% verses 14%. If you want more details, visit their website at demorgenzon.co.za where you will find an entire section dedicated to music. The wine names and labels are musical, see below.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38.15 You can even review their playlist and listen to the specific works by Mozart, Bach, Handel, Corelli, Biber, Haydn, Telemann, and others on their site. Reg's Wine Blog - photo 38.13As I listened to some of the music I could feel my roots growing deeper, my molecules flexing their muscles, and I wondered what would become of me if I had to listen to Baroque music 24/7 throughout my entire life.

So let’s summarize what these guys are doing. Some wineries play music to the grapes on the vines, some play music during fermentation, some play only to the finished wine in the barrel room and cellar, and some play music everywhere. Some play 24/7, others believe that this is too much because the wine needs to rest. Some play only Mozart, others only Baroque style, and some play choir music. These guys are all over the place, and clearly there is no consensus.

In my opinion, sound travels very well in a liquid, as any scuba diver will know, so the idea of submersible speakers is a good one. On the other hand, playing music to wine in barrel or bottle in the barrel room is going to be a lot less effective because the wood or glass that the sound must pass through acts as a filter (unless you use submersible speakers). Next time you are at a pool, a lake, or the ocean, put your head under the water and have someone on the surface talk to you while you are under water. You will hear them saying something, but it will be muffled and you will not hear it clearly. Now just imagine adding wood or glass as an additional filter, and don’t be surprised if you do not hear much at all.

In the vineyard sound can be transmitted effectively, but it will be subject to periodic disruptions from wind, rain, overhead planes, outdoor machinery, etc. But who knows, grapes do not have ears, so maybe they will be absorbing the sound in some other non human manner that we are not familiar with. What we really need to see to add credibility to what these winemakers are doing is some science, and some experimentation specific to the wine industry.

 

Nevertheless, as a gimmick, there is a business opportunity here for the right entrepreneur. Some enterprising sound engineer will have the opportunity of a lifetime to pioneer an entirely new industry as sound and sensory consultants to the wine sector. I see our sound consultant publishing science articles that summarize the positive effects of baroque classical music on wine in vat and in barrel, probably with small mini submersible wireless speakers. Scientific studies will determine whether the music should be played 24/7, 12 on 12 off, 4 on 4 off, or on some other cycle. Of course our consultant will really earn his pay with the playlist, which will vary to suit the type of grapes, type of soil, drainage, sun exposure, and altitude. The high thin air vineyards of Argentina and Chile will need different tunes compared to the lower altitude vineyards of France and the Mediterranean. A separate system will play customized (and different) music in the vineyard, a system designed to play to both the grapes themselves, and the rootstock, perhaps even designed to emit gentle vibrations that strengthen the vines and deepen the root structure, giving 5 year old vines the maturity equivalent of a fully matured vine at age 20.

Just imagine the benefits:

  • All vineyard insect pests are eliminated, they vacate the area, they cannot stand Baroque classical, the sound vibrations hit them like a truck.
  • With no insects to eat, the birds vacate the area as well, so grape damage from hungry birds is eliminated.
  • All vineyards will be organic as no pesticides and fertilizers will be required.
  • All wines will become better: grown, produced, and aged under harmonious musical conditions. Happy wines will all drink better, causing fewer headaches and hangovers.

Looking into the future I see the following new trends for the wine production industry:

  1. A new international wine classification system, where wines produced with musical assistance will need proper identification and labeling. First growth status will be reserved for wines musically enhanced in the vineyard, in the fermentation process, and in the cellar, with submersible speakers to ensure true sound quality.
  2. First growths will also require music 24/7 (no more lazy wines with music limited to 4 hours daily, those will be relegated to 5th growth status).
  3. First growths will all have to publish their play lists, which must consist of at least 33% Mozart, 33% mixed baroque chamber music, and the rest customized to suit the terroir, soil type, climate, and location of the wine. This is where the musical consultant recommending the playlist becomes an essential part of the wine production team.
  4. For that extra edge, wineries may get an extra category boost from say 2nd growth to 1st growth if they use top quality recording artists and labels. The most sought after performers will be people such as The London Philharmonic, Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony, The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, etc.
  5. Wineries will have to certify that they do not play any of the following: acid rock, disco, country, R+B, hip hop, rap, polkas, and opera.
  6. Artists/Performers may also be deemed either acceptable or not acceptable, and specific application by each winery must be made to the newly formed International Wine Industry Music Academy to get their own unique play lists approved. It will be illegal for any winery to copy or duplicate another winery’s play list, after all this is what will guarantee diversity within the wine world. Performers like The 3 Tenors will be approved, singers like Frank Sinatra will be approved, while others like Elvis Presley and Dean Martin will not make the grade (Elvis because of his suggestive dance moves, this stimulates some grape types the wrong way, Dean Martin because he drank martinis and not wine, so he is deemed to have been a bad influence). The Academy will make their own rules, which will be highly controversial. This is why a whole new job category as “Musical Consultant to the Wine Industry” will become big business for some people.
  7. One must remember that grapes and the wines they produce will now be classified as living entities and therefore subject to stress and mood swings, mostly due to the weather, storage conditions, etc. Think of music as a drug prescribed by our Musical Consultant to either sooth or stimulate our grapes and vines, in recovering from weather shock. In the barrel room our Medical Consultant will prescribe a different play list that is customized to suit each particular vintage’s strengths and weaknesses. Lots of work here for our Musical Consultant.

Well enough of this nonsense, the real action is going to take place in the home wine cellar sector. Since your wines have been raised on a steady diet of Mozart and Baroque chamber music, you will be advised to continue playing music to your wines in your own cellar. So for best cellar results you will need your own play list and your own cellar sound system. You will of course need your own wine cellar music consultant to recommend a play list suitable for your own cellar and wine collection (perhaps this is a new expertise that your local wine retailer will provide). If your cellar has more red Bordeaux than anything else, you get one type of play list. With cellars containing mostly California, Australian, or South American you get a different play list. For those collectors with large cellars you will need separate rooms for whites and reds, and for different regions, all with slightly different play lists to ensure happy wines aging peacefully the way they should, based on what music they were born and raised to. Perhaps play lists will be provided on the back label of your top wines for the discriminating consumer.

If this sounds a little fanciful to you, I agree, of course it is. But the wine industry is so large, and so competitive that you can be sure there is a business opportunity here to be developed and exploited. And every large industry needs a new gimmick once in a while to get everyone talking about it and buying the latest accessories. Ah, I think this may be my next career move.

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

Reg

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Cheap Red Wines for the Holidays, Post # 37, December 21, 2016.

Three weeks ago we held a simple red wine tasting event for about 25 people, the idea being to taste about 12 different red wines priced $25.00 or less from various countries, and hopefully for everyone to find something new in the lineup that they enjoyed enough and would buy for the holidays. So a big part of the night’s theme was to find wines that most people had never tasted before, and therefore to expand their wine tasting experience.

In selecting the wine list I went with wines priced between $17.50 and $28.00. I selected two wines from Argentina, two from Chile, one from Bordeaux, two from California, and five from Australia. There was no special reason for concentrating on Australia, just that the selection of wines in that price range from Australia was much better, and most people have very little tasting experience with Australian wines beyond Wolf Blass and Penfolds.

I have listed below the wines we tasted, in the order we tasted them, along with the Quebec Liquor Board product number, year, price, my score on 20, and my tasting comments. I will then summarize with additional comments on my own favorite wines and why I liked them best. I will also make some general observations about the performance of our expanded Reg’s Wine Blog tasting panel, all 25 of us at this tasting event.

  • 1) Nieto Sentiner Gran Reserva / Mendoza Argentina / 12176249 / 2013 / $19.35
    • Score: 15.5/20
    • Comments: Malbec, Petit Verdot blend –still young, will soften with age, attractive mint
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-11
  • 2) Matias Riccitelli The Apple Malbec / Mendoza Argentina / 12882549 / 2012 / $24.95
    • Score: 16.5/20
    • Comments: a big Malbec wine full of fruit, needs 2 years to age, huge dry tannins, rich and fat
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-4
  • 3) Michel Rolland Boredeaux / Bordeaux France / 12825894 / 2010 / $21.65
    • Score: 15/20
    • Comments: woody, watery, light, will not improve with age, disappointing for the year and winemaker
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-6
  • 4) Mayu Reserva Syrah / Chile / 12568998 / 2011 / $21.70
    • Score: 14/20
    • Comments: harsh and out of balance, fruit and tannins are at war with your palate and you lost
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-7
  • 5) De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon / Chile / 642868 / 2013 / $18.15
    • Score: 16/20
    • Comments: young, lots of fruit, quite pleasant, let it age 2 years
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-12
  • 6) Vina Robles Red 4 / California / 11882336 / 2012 / $23.00
    • Score: 16/20
    • Comments: good body, spicy and well balanced, a Rhone blend, solid effort
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-5
  • 7) Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon / California / 12257014 / 2014 / $25.10
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: a fruit bomb, fat, fruity, thick and chewy, full throttle California Cab.
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-9
  • 8) The Stump Jump Shiraz d’Arenberg / Australia / 12505815 / 2012 / $17.50
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: nicely balanced fruit and tannins, easy to drink now, best value for price
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-10
  • 9) Tahbilk The Tower Shiraz / Australia / 12512450 / 2013 / $18.95
    • Score: 15.5/20
    • Comments: light, not a good Shiraz, dull fruit, not robust, nothing to get excited about
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-1
  • 10) Brother In Arms # 6 / Australia / 10866730 / 2012 / $22.35
    • Score: 17/20
    • Comments: very well balanced fruit and tannins, a Shiraz Cab Sauv blend, lovely
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-8
  • 11) Tait The Ball Buster / Australia / 10768451 / 2013 / $23.50
    • Score: 18/20
    • Comments: the full monty, great fruit (Shiraz Cab Sauv Merlot blend), spice, balance, tannins and will age nicely, a top performer
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-3
  • 12) The Laughing Magpie d’Arenberg / Australia / 10250855 / 2011 / $27.95
    • Score: 18.5/20
    • Comments: Shiraz Viognier blend, good spicy fruit, balanced and refined, smooth aftertaste, will age very well, worth the higher price
    • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 37-2

My top wines in order for the evening were as follows:

  • 1) The Stump Jump, 17/20, $17.50
  • 2) The Laughing Magpie, 18.5/20, $27.95
  • 3) Tait The Ball Buster, 18/20, $23.50
  • 4) Brother in Arms # 6, 17/20, $22.35
  • 5) Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon, 17/20, $25.10

My favorite wine was The Stump Jump as it represented the best value by far, it did not get the highest score but it did score well. This was the cheapest wine by far, ranging anywhere from 30% to 60% cheaper than the other 4 top performing wines above. If you want to bring a solid wine with you to visit over the holidays, this wine will perform very well, and it will appeal to the majority of people you serve it to. It is also fully developed and ready to drink now.

Also of interest is the fact that both The Stump Jump Shiraz and The Laughing Magpie are produced by the Osborn/d’Arenberg family of Australia. D’Arenberg produces a wide range of wines, including D’Arry’s Original (which was previously reviewed by Reg’s Wine Blog in post # 7 earlier this year). The Stump Jump is d’Arenberg’s bottom of the line product, The Laughing Magpie is a mid-priced, mid-range product, and wines like The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon and The Dead Bolt Shiraz, both priced in the $55.00 range, are their top of the line products. D’Arenberg wines will be the topic of a future Reg’s Wine Blog post in 2017.

Tait The Ball Buster is produced by the Tait family, it is a blend of 78% Shiraz, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot. The Ball Buster has the distinction of being rated 90 points plus by Parker every year for the last 11 years, so they are obviously doing something right, and at $23.50 per bottle this wine is reasonably priced given its consistently high Parker ratings for so long.

Both the Brother in Arms # 6 and the Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon are so full of fruit with nice balance, spice and acidity for longer term aging that these wines can be consumed over the holidays, or given as gifts and laid down in the cellar for further development, making them very versatile.

I would buy all these top 5 wines, they can all be consumed over the holidays. The only one of the group I would not bother to cellar is The Stump Jump, that wine is clearly made to consume now.

I was really impressed with my expanded tasting panel of 25 friends and family. I have been encouraging them to be open and forthright with their comments at tastings. At this tasting I found it very interesting to hear the varied opinions from different panel members, it was clear that different palates have vastly different preferences in wines. For example, when we tasted the two Argentinian wines back to back, half our tasters preferred the first wine while the other half preferred the second wine, and there was nobody who said they liked them both. The most important lesson to learn from this is that there is no right or wrong choice – to each his own, meaning all that really matters is that YOU like the wine, not what other people think of the wine.

The purpose of tastings like this one is to give you 12 more wines that you have tasted, and if there are 2 or 3 within that group that you really like, then mission accomplished, you have discovered something new. Conversely, there were 3 or 4 wines in this tasting that nobody liked (#’s 3, 4, and 9), so we now have good information on those that are worth avoiding.

As for my tasting panel, they have by now lost all their inhibitions. They are self confident, vocal, in fact by the 4th wine even boisterous (usually that level of jocularity was reserved for the 8th bottle and after – so they have evolved, or degenerated, depending on your point of view). This bodes well for 2017, because we will be able to set them free on their own tasting journeys where they too, as master of ceremonies for the evening, will be confronted with their own boisterous, and of course, highly opinionated tasters.

Tastings are fun, educational, and entertaining. Try this yourself over the holidays, maybe search out one or more of our panel’s top 5 wines, and see for yourself if you like our recommendations.

Cheers,

Reg.

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – 1970 Mouton Rothschild and 1995 Grand-Puy-Lacoste tasting, post #36, December 9, 2016.

On November 13th 2016 we had the opportunity to celebrate my wife’s recent birthday and some of the family gathered for dinner, we were 7 adults. I had taken it upon myself to prepare the dinner and select the wines. I had elected to go with lamb, marinated for 48 hours in a creamy herb marinade of my own creation, and cooked with a honey garlic sauce. I decided that Bordeaux red was the wine of choice, but I wanted to taste the 1970 Chateau Mouton Rothschild which I had in the half bottle size, so I also needed to have a full bottle of something else as we were 7 people. I wanted to serve the Mouton last, so I went with a younger and fruitier Bordeaux to go with the lamb as the main wine, and the Mouton, being last, could be consumed on its own after the main plate was done.

As a plan this was both logical and sound. I had no recent tasting experience with the 1970 Mouton, and my half bottle had a medium shoulder fill only. I remembered that half bottles age faster than full bottles, and given the evaporation in the bottle there was a good chance that the wine was well past its prime and in full decline. Tasting the Mouton last would therefore be less disruptive to the dinner, and less offensive to the palate if the wine was dried out, because it would not be competing with the sweetness of the honey garlic sauce in which the lamb was to be cooked. I had also done some homework looking at tasting notes of the 1970 Mouton on line, and noticed that some tasters had variable tasting experiences, running into bottle variation and tough tannic bottles of wine.

Some other tasting notes online also indicated the 1970 Mouton was lighter and drier, so I had decided not to decant the wine before pouring it. My thinking was that if the wine was in decline, and if evaporation in the bottle had oxidized the wine, aging it further, then decanting it for an hour or two before serving it might just push it right over the edge, making it sour and lifeless to consume. After all, I thought, the wine is 46 years old and not from an outstanding vintage, even though the 1970 Mouton is arguably the top Bordeaux red of the vintage.

The lamb preparation was perfect, the sauce was just right, and the combined taste was bursting with flavor, not sweet, just the right touch of garlic, which enhanced the flavors of the lamb. Now it would be up to the pairing with the 1995 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste to see if one would complement the other, or if they would clash and engage in open warfare on our palates. I had opened the wine an hour ahead of time allowing it to breathe.

The wine was a rich dark red in color in the glass, showing nice glycerin content as the tears of wine seemed to hang there forever on the side of the glass. On the nose, there was lots of full ripe red fruit, strawberry and raspberry, followed by spices, tobacco, mushrooms and mild earthy tones before the cedar emerged. This was just loaded with young expressive aromas. On the palate the fruit was fuller and more intense, again mixed with spices, cedar and tobacco. There was a fresh acidity, medium tannins, and a full bodied fleshy texture to the fruit flavors as they rolled off the tongue. There was great balance and a long smooth aftertaste to the wine as it left you with a lingering cedar taste in the mouth.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-3

A fabulous wine, still young and vibrant, and at only 21 years of age, this wine is easily good for another 20 years and probably will need another 5 years at least to reach full maturity.

This Grand-Puy-Lacoste seemed to pair perfectly with the lamb, the honey garlic sauce was slightly sweet, and the richness of the fruit in the wine only served to enhance the combined taste on the palate. There is no doubt that a drier, less fruity Bordeaux red, like the 1970 Mouton Rothschild to follow, would have been completely overwhelmed by the honey garlic sauce. So the decision on which wine to serve with the lamb appears to have been correct. Our tasting panel certainly agreed, and before long both the wine and the lamb were all gone.

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Moving on to the Mouton Rothschild, I was well aware that the 1970 vintage was not rated that highly in Bordeaux, that the vintage was generally soft, light in fruit, and most properties did not produce great wine. On the other hand the Mouton Rothschild has consistently performed very well in tastings, continuing to be viewed as the best Bordeaux of the vintage. The Mouton Rothschild is the only Bordeaux that I ever bought from the 1970 vintage, and so I was anxious to try it. As I said earlier we were trying a half bottle with only a mid shoulder fill, so I had a legitimate concern that the wine might be oxidized and spoiled, or just tired and ready to turn quickly in the glass, which is why I did not decant the wine.

The critics have generally rated the wine quite highly, Parker gave it 93 points, but that was in 1996. The Wine Spectator gave it 96 points in 1993, and more recently Stephen Tanzer gave it 94 points in 2011. So I was hopeful that this bottle would perform the same way, in spite of the mid shoulder fill of a half bottle.

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In the glass the color was significantly lighter, an orange red, but no signs of any browning around the rim of the glass. On the nose the aromas were subtle, light but well knit together. You initially smelled plums, black currant, oak, cocoa and flowers. None of this was full, fat, or forward, instead it was delicate and tightly packed together, but all still there. Was this wine waxing or waning, that was yet to be determined.

On the palate cedar and citrus joined the ensemble, together with mint, minerals, spice, dried herbs and leather. The wine was medium bodied, light and perfectly balanced. There was nothing to indicate this wine was past its peak and in decline.

The wine had a silky smooth texture to it, leading to a long soft and delicate aftertaste. My palate picked up flint, a little saline, and more soft tannins on the aftertaste. Nothing harsh, nothing dried out, just light delicate and tightly woven aromas and flavors – classic Mouton!

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As we relished the wine and hung on every sip, the wine improved in the glass over the next 30 minutes, showing more coffee on the palate. The aromas and flavors opened up and became more pronounced. It was immediately apparent that this wine was still in great condition and in need of decanting and aeration for at least an hour before consuming.

There is no doubt that even with a mid shoulder fill in a half bottle size, this wine is still no older than middle aged, and should be a great drink for at least 10 more years. I think the wine is fully mature, but not showing any signs of moving into decline. Color and appearance in the glass, presence of fruit on both the nose and palate, balance and structure, are all still there.

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This wine was made in a classic older style Bordeaux manner with more subdued and delicate fruit, not your typical modern style fruit bomb aimed at competing with thick chocolaty California Cabs. And at the time, in 1970, Mouton was in the forefront and perfecting that style. So this is in fact history in a bottle, an excellent example of what Bordeaux used to be. I would score this wine 92 points, to drink now and over the next 10 years.

In my opinion, critics complaining about bottle variation and uneven performance with this wine are probably experiencing one of the following two problems:

  • The wine needs decanting for at least an hour to fully open up and show at its best, and
  • This wine will show best on its own, not within a flight of full, fat, fruity, and younger style Bordeaux wines at a large tasting, where so many of these wines are tasted and judged.

I did the right thing by not serving this wine with the lamb dish because the honey garlic sauce would have destroyed this wine. If I were to pair this wine with food, I would suggest a veal with light herbs seasoning, or something similar of light delicate texture on the palate, in order to allow the wine to demonstrate its full array of aromas and flavors.

I was very pleased with how both wines performed, and I was also just as pleased with the decisions I made on pairing with food. Had I served these wines in the opposite order they both would have been less effective and less enjoyable. A little bit of thought and preparation clearly goes a long way in enhancing the experience.

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Cheers, I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Reg.

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 35, December 3, 2016, The Montreal Wine Show, La Grande Dégustation, Part 2

In this post I will cover the remaining wines we tasted from Zuccardi wines in Argentina, Leon Beyer wines from Alscae, and George Vigouroux wines from Cahors. What great wines, not one weak entry was tasted all evening.

La Grande Dégustation de Montréal 2016 took place a month ago, the Reg’s Wine Blog team attended on Friday November 4th. Part one of this report was published earlier this week on November 29th.

Wine critics just love Zuccardi wines. At the wine show Zuccardi had 7 of their wines available for tasting, ranging in price from $21.00 for the Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2014 (rated 89 points by Parker, and 92 points by James Suckling), to $93.50 for the Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 (rated 93 points by Parker).

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Sebastien Zuccardi produces 24 different wines, and most of them win awards and very high scores from wine critics on a regular basis. Here is the profile of the seven wines he had available at the show to taste and purchase:

  • Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2014 – $21.00 (in SAQ 12258674) rated 89 by Parker, 92 by James Suckling.
  • Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013 – $22.00 (in SAQ 11218460) rated 91 by Parker.
  • Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – $25.35 (not in SAQ) rated 90 by Wine Spectator.
  • Zuccardi Emma Bonarda 2014 – $41.25 (not in SAQ) rated 92 by Parker.
  • Zuccardi Tito Paraje Altamira 2013 – $41.25 (not in SAQ) rated 90 by Wine Spectator, 92 by Wine Enthusiast.
  • Zuccardi Zeta 2012 – $44.50 (not in SAQ) rated 92 by Parker
  • Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 – $93.50 (not in SAQ) rated 93 by Parker.

Sebastien’s grapes come mostly from the Uco Valley, where different soil and climate variations produce micro climates and noticeable differences in mineral content. The effect on his mostly Malbec grapes is quite pronounced. To their credit Zuccardi had 4 of their premium wines at this show (the most expensive ones listed above), and it was a real treat and an education to be able to taste them all together. It is only when you get to taste them one after the other that you are able to distinguish the difference between them.

The Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 was so good, 100% Malbec grapes, 15.5% alcohol, with a nose of complex fruit including blueberries, prunes, ripe cherries, fresh herbs, violets and rose petals. On the palate the impression was thick and juicy, but perfectly balanced with a lively acidity, ripe tannins adding structure and aging potential, all finishing in a long smooth aftertaste. This wine was every bit as good as the 93 points Parker gave it, and certainly worth the $93.50 sticker price.

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Sebastien’s other specialty wines (the Tito named after his grandfather, the Emma named after his grandmother, and the Zita which is a blend of mostly Malbec and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon) were not far behind the Aluvional in both quality and pleasure delivered. Zuccardi wines are clearly full of character and must be experienced if you want to appreciate what Malbec can do at high elevation in unique micro climate environments.

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I spent some time with Marc Beyer of Léon Beyer wines from Eguisheim, Alsace. Marc is 14th generation Beyer family, who have been winemakers and growers since 1580.

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We had a good discussion about the Beyer family trademark and tradition of making dry wines (even though he does make sweet late harvest dessert wines in the best years when the weather permits). When I tasted his late harvest 2000 Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive wine it was indeed drier than most Alsatian late harvest wines, and that allows for more appreciation of all the aromas and flavors in the wine that shine through.

Marc and I tasted the 2013 Muscat Reserve, the 2009 Riesling Les Ecaillers, the 2008 Gewurztraminer Comptes D’Eguisheim, and the 200 Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive in that order. The Muscat was quite delicate and yet bursting with fruit flavors, a good drinking wine.

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The 2009 Riesling Les Ecaillers was dry, refined, and delicately fruity, mineral and floral on the nose, rich glycerine content in the glass, and on the palate citrus rinds, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, and a mouth watering salinity. A great dry Reisling that Parker scored at 91.

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The 2008 Gewurztraminer Comptes D’Eguisheim delivered ginger and cinnamon aromas on the nose, peach and apricot flavors in the mouth, dry without being sweet, intensity without weight, leaving your mouth perfumed and refreshed – wow! The wine finishes in the mouth long and aromatic, with just a touch of sweetness to balance the acidity. A very nice wine.

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The 2000 Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive was rich, full bodied, well balanced, and lightly smoked. In the mouth you tasted dried fruits, peach and apricot, mid sweet but tangy, leading to a long smooth aftertaste. I am a big fan of Alsace Pinot Gris for the smoky, spiced character delivered by the Pinot Gris grape, and so I have tasted several. I must admit I thought Marc did a wonderful job of guiding me through and explaining the refined craftsmanship that went into producing such a good example of a drier late harvest Pinot Gris.

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Most late harvest Alsacian wines have too much fruit, and as a result the fruit overshadows and masks a lot of the aromas and flavors. By contrast, the dryer style favored by Marc at Léon Beyer wines is a complete success. Congratulations Marc, you made a believer out of me.

I saved the best for last. My first stop at the show was Georges Vigouroux Wines which was hosted by Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux, the main man himself, now in charge of Georges Vigouroux Wines, having taken over from his father George several years ago.

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Their tasting booth was perfectly positioned right at the entrance to the show, so it was both my first and last stop of the evening. Bertrand-Gabriel makes both the Chateau de Haute-Serre and the Chateau de Mercues line of wines from Cahors, plus he has expanded into three other districts under different labels. This evening I was primarily interested in tasting his Haute-Serre and Mercues wines (prior to this evening I had never tasted his Mercues wines).

I had visited Haute-Serre and Mercues in September 1986 (read my blog # 12 for details of that visit), and this was before the Mercues vines were planted and before the Mercues cellar was constructed.

I tasted three vintages of the Grand Vin Chateau de Haute-Serre, the 2011, the 2010, and the 2000. It was a good education in tasting different vintages of the same wine. Comparing the differences, I was already familiar with the 2010, which I have described at length in post # 12, so I will use that as my benchmark, rated 92 by Wine Spectator. The 2011 was similar, well structured, obviously young with lots of development potential ahead of it. The fruits were just as intense as in 2010, but the flavors were different, perhaps more cherry and plum in the 2011, less chocolate, mocha and mint. Again the same dryness in the aftertaste.

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The 2000 Haute-Serre was again different, and showed a more mellow wine, perhaps because the wine had softened with age. It is difficult to assess whether the wine had less fruit because of the vintage characteristics, or because some of the robust fruit has softened after 16 years. I think it is probably some of both. The 2000 is clearly more mature, softer, rounder, no real surprise here, and it will continue to age gracefully for another 10-20 years.

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We also tasted the Haute-Serre Albesco Chardonnay, and this was a surprise, a surprise to know that Bertrand-Gabriel had even planted Chardonnay, and also that it tasted so good. The wine was clean, well made, full of Chardonnay flavors without being overoaked, and as a result was both light and refreshing.

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Not available for tasting were two other white wines Vigouroux produces on the Mercues site, the Chenin Blanc Sec and the Chenin Blanc Doux (sweet dessert wine in the half bottle size). I would have loved to taste that dessert wine.

But alas, I was not disappointed because I next got to taste the Chateau de Mercues Grand Vin 2012, which was new to me. The wine was delicious, every bit as good as the Haute-Serre Grand Vin, but again different in taste from Haute-Serre, was it vintage differences, or was it different terroir or soil? Again I would say it was both, but I think the fruits are slightly different. The only real way to compare the two vineyards and the end product is to taste test both the Haute-Serre and the Mercues at the same time from the same year, and we were not able to do that at the show. Subtle differences like maybe more red fruit in the Mercues, and a little more satin smoothness on the palate.

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We next got to taste what I consider the best wine at the show, and certainly the best wine I tasted all evening, the 2011 Chateau de Haut-Serre Icone WOW. It was quite funny when I tasted this wine because my first reaction and response was to say just WOW! And this was before I learned what the wine was named. So I asked Bertrand-Gabriel why he named his top of the line product “Icone WOW”, and he told he had created such a blockbuster Malbec that he wanted people to respond simply by saying “WOW” when they tasted it, just as I did. So the wine is indeed well named. This wine was available for purchase at the show for $161.00, and believe me it was worth every penny of that price.

The Haute-Serre Icone WOW is 16% alcohol, and that is huge for a non fortified red wine. The wine’s color is almost black, and on the nose you smell intense ripe dark fruit, oak, vanilla, dark plums and cassis, just fantastic. On the palate the taste is concentrated, massive juicy dark fruit with well integrated tannins, rich and fat, Malbec at its best. Long and smooth on the aftertaste with lingering notes of spice and leather. I was just stunned by this wine, it was beautiful. The 2011 is rated by Parker at 92, and by the Wine Spectator at 93, and I think those scores may be too low. I also think this wine will get better with a little more time in the cellar, so you can be sure if tasted again in 5 years by the critics, they will raise their scores above 95. WOW, this wine is well named.

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I had a great discussion with Bertrand-Gabriel about the Icone WOW for at least 10 minutes, during which time he told me he decided to make this wine (2009 was the first vintage) to show how great Malbec can be. He produces much less quantity than his Grand Vin Haute-Serre, and he selects only the ripest grapes for his Icone WOW. The wine has scored well with critics in the 3 years that have been released so far, Wine Spectator gave the 2009 – 91 points, the 2010 – 94 points, and the 2011 – 93 points. Parker gave the 2011 – 92 points. Bertrand-Gabriel also produces a Chateau de Mercues Icon WOW that he also started in 2009, that sells for the same price, and is receiving similar high praise from the wine critics. Unfortunately that wine was not available at the show.

At the end of the night, our team finished up at the George Vigouroux Wines booth on our way out the door. I like finishing these shows by going back to the “best in show”, the wines I liked the best, and I always make it a point to tell the hosts that, in my opinion, their wines performed the best at the show. Growers always appreciate the compliment, and it gives me one last chance to sample the best wine of the night, and then leave on that high note.

I think Bertrand-Gabriel is making the best, most intense Malbec wines I have ever tasted. While the Zuccardi Malbecs are certainly right up there, I think Bertrand-Gabriel’s Icone WOW wines are monumental. My last thoughts on his wines as we were leaving the show was to wonder if consumers would find $161.00 too expensive for a wine from Cahors. If you have never tasted the wine, you might think so. Having tasted the wine, it compares in quality with an expensive Bordeaux classified growth at $300 – $500 per bottle, so in reality the wine is well priced. Congratulations Bertrand-Gabriel, you have nailed it with your “first growth” Icone WOW wines.

As I have said before, wine shows are great fun, very educational, and a chance to learn so much from the producers themselves. As an added bonus, you get to taste and buy many wines that are not available for purchase in your local wine shop. I am always impressed when I attend a show and find that a producer that I think I know for one or two wines, shows up with 6 more, many of which are better than the ones you already like. Your local wine shop will normally only stock one or two products from any given producer, and usually a cheaper bottom of the line product available in quantity. We normally end up judging the producer on how this cheap bottom of the line product appeals to us, and so often the rest of their product line is so much better, and often never available to taste.

On this night Coppola, Valdivieso, Emiliana, Zuccardi, Marc Beyer, and Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux were on full display for all to appreciate. Very well done by everyone, and very much appreciated.

Cheers, and let’s do it again soon!

Reg

 

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 34, November 29, 2016, The Montreal Wine Show, La Grande Dégustation

On November 4th the Reg’s Wine Blog editorial staff descended upon the Montreal Wine Show to visit with some of the 160 exhibitors from 19 different countries, and to taste as many of the 1,200 different products as we could. Our focus was naturally on the more than 800 products that were not available for purchase in Quebec. This year’s themes for the show were the Syrah grape, Whiskies, and the wines of Chile and Argentina.

The exhibition hall is huge, and it quickly becomes readily apparent that there is no way of covering more than 10-20% of what you want to see and taste. In fact if you taste 30 wines at the show (as we did) over a 3-4 hour period you have tasted only 2.5% of the wines available for tasting. So you have to be very selective, and knowing what you really want to taste ahead of time becomes very important.

I started by selecting 4 or 5 producers that I knew well, and another 4 or 5 who had recently won awards at the show the day before as one of the top ten Syrah wines. We rounded out the other producers by selecting another 4 or 5 that we wanted to taste because we had heard good things about their wines and wanted some good first hand confirmation of what we had heard.

We had short visits with Sterling Vineyards from the Napa Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington, and Osoyoos Larose from the Okanagan Valley in B.C. I have always been impressed with Osoyoos Larose who make the best Bordeaux red style wine in Canada. I visited their winery many years ago on a wine tasting tour of the Okanagan Valley and their red was a standout then, so I am pleased to say that 25 years later their Osoyoos Larose red is just as good, if not better, than I remember.

 

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We spent more time with, and sampled many more wines at Coppola from California, Leon Beyer from Alsace, Zuccardi from Argentina, Vina Valdivieso and Emiliana Organic Vineyard from Chile, and my favorite George Vigouroux Wines from the Cahors region of France. We tasted no less than 5 wines with each of these six producers, and they were all excellent wines, in fact there were no weak or poor wines tasted all evening.

At Coppola’s tasting booth we focused on their Director’s Cut wines. The Director’s Cut 2014 Chardonnay was a great example of California Chardonnay, full, chewy fruit with just enough oak to please most people. On the palate you were treated to the taste of pears, peaches, pineapple, and tangerine coated in toasted caramel, that finished like a crème brulée that lingered on your tongue, delicious. The Director’s Cut 2013 Zinfandel was nice and fruity on the nose with aromas of rum and raison, black currants and ripe cherries, delivering on the palate flavours of sweet raspberry jam, vanilla and exotic spices.

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The Director’s Cut 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was still very young, but showed a lot of class. The wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, and at 14.5% alcohol this wine was packed full of black cherries, raspberries, currants and dark chocolate, leaving you with a smooth polished finish that evolves into a mocha and coffee aftertaste. A great young wine that will be fun to follow as it evolves in the cellar. The best of the bunch was the Director’s Cut 2013 Cinema, a blend of 52% Zinfandel, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Syrah, and 4% Merlot. On the nose this wine delivered very concentrated berries, spices, cinnamon, cocoa, and black pepper. On the palate we found cherries, plums, vanilla and toasted oak, all seamlessly woven together into a silky lingering aftertaste. This wine is young, and with a 14.4% alcohol content there are years of evolution ahead of it in the bottle. Try these wines, they are very satisfying and very solid efforts from Coppola.

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Our next stop was in the Chilean wine section, where we visited the Valdivieso winery and were hosted by Luciano Fioro, their North American Sales Director.

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They had 7 wines available for tasting and we tasted 4 of them. Their 2013 Chardonnay from the Leydo Valley was fresh, medium oak, lots of fruit on the palate without being overwhelming, and well priced at $24.70.

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We then tasted their Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2013 made of 100% Syrah, which as advertised delivered a very distinctive mineral flavor characteristic of the terroir of the Limari Valley.

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We followed that with the Caballo Loco Grand Cru Sagrada Familia 2013 which is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Carmenere, and 20% Malbec.

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The grapes are sourced from the Curico Valley, and it is there that the Malbec grapes thrive and contribute intense and vibrant flavors and aromas to the final blend.

Both these Grand Cru wines retailed at the show for $42.50 per bottle. But to be honest, while they are both very good wines, they were dwarfed by the last wine we tasted, the Caballo Loco Number Sixteen which was priced at $73.25 per bottle. This wine is marketed and sold as a non vintage wine, but this is really a solera type of wine, a solera being a blend of more than one year. Soleras were common in Madeira where you could either buy old Madeira wines from a specific vintage year or from a solera, which typically was a large vat that held wine from several previous years, allowed to mature over many years. In Madeira it was normal to continue a solera for up to 100 years, and every year you would typically drain off 10% of the solera contents for bottling, and replenish the vat by 10% from the latest harvest. So the Madeira wine from this solera vat was never more than 10% of any given vintage, and some could argue the solera contained some small percentage of wine as old as 100 years. The idea was to add complexity, balance, consistency, and maturity to the finished product.

With Valdivieso this product was started in 1994 when vintage Number One was created from a collection of wines from previous vintages, and eventually released for sale into the market in 2001. Today Number Sixteen has been released for sale, and it consists of 50% wine from the 2011 vintage and 50% from Number Fifteen. Next year Valdivieso will release Number Seventeen which will be composed of 50% of the 2012 vintage and 50% of Number Sixteen, and so on. Does this sound complicated? Maybe to some of you, and if so you can take comfort in knowing that Caballo Loco translates into “Crazy Horse”.

So how does the wine taste? The short answer is “great”. The wine is silky smooth, sophisticated, evolved and without the harsh edges associated with a younger vintage, so the solera style is clearly evident. The wine is a blend of several grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenere, the same grape types are not used in every vintage, and the grapes are sourced from several different locations throughout Chile, often not the same locations.

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On the palate there is a wide range of tastes, solid fruit, strength, body, and a lengthy aftertaste. This wine offers up a lot of power and character, but since this is my first tasting of this wine I have no idea if the next release Number Seventeen will taste similar, completely different, or mildly different. If Valdivieso wants to duplicate this style and taste on an annual basis, that would be just fine with me. This wine was offered for sale at the show for $73.25 per bottle. This may seem like a lot for a Chilean red, but this is their top of the line product, expensive to produce, and will age nicely for over 20 years. This wine has been rated by most critics in the 90 point range, and tastes on a par with several Bordeaux 4th and 5th growth wines that typically retail for double the price or more, and those Bordeaux will require many years of cellar time to reach their prime while this Caballo Loco Number Sixteen can be ready to drink in 2-3 years and hold for 15-20 more. A solid, serious wine.

We next tasted across the isle at Emiliana Organic Vineyards, still in Chile. I was completely blown away by the staggering array of wines they produce, 29 different wines to be precise. Their top of the line product is a wine they call Ge which we did not taste, followed by the Emiliana Coyam 2012 which we did taste.

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Coyam is a red blend consisting of 38% Syrah, 31% Carmenere, 19% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Mourvedre, and 1% Malbec. A lovely nose of nuts and dark fruits, followed by cherries, strawberries, tobacco, cedar, spices, smoke and vanilla on the palate, finishing smooth, balanced and long. James Suckling (ex Wine Spectator critic) rated this wine 95 points in 2015, and this wine gets re released for sale in Ontario December 10th where it will retail for $29.95. This wine is well worth purchasing at that price.

Next in their lineup, Emiliana has their Signos de Origen series of wines from exceptional terroirs which consists of a Pinot Noir, a Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Carmenere, a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend, and for those who like whites a Chardonnay/Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne blend. They also have an Emiliana Late Harvest dessert wine that is largely Sauvignon Blanc blended with some Gewurztraminer. Forgetting nothing, they have a sparkling white, and then eight more wines in their Novas series, three of which are whites and five reds, three of those reds are blends and two are individual varietals. The Novas series is valley or regional in focus, as the terroir and climate of each can be so different. Their final series of wines is their Adobe series consisting of eleven more wines, four whites, one rosé, and six reds. These are their base line products, they are all single varietal wines designed to display the purest form of each single grape variety grown on their estates.

We tasted several of these in rapid succession, they were all good, clean expressions of individual grape varieties, and the blends were all balanced and silky smooth. What impressed me the most was the different effect of terroir in the Signos series where a more rocky soil in one valley or more sun in another valley leads to quite different tasting wines. The Emiliana lineup of 29 different wines is really quite amazing, all organic, all different, and so much variety from one producer. This was an education all by itself.

As you can see, there was so much to see, to taste, to learn, that I need two separate blogs to cover that small portion of the show that we were able to visit. Thank goodness for my Reg associates who were generous with their tasting comments, and encouraged me to move along in a timely manner, otherwise I might still be there at that Emiliana booth tasting their lineup of wines.

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In my next blog I will cover Part 2 of the show.

Cheers,

Reg.