Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 45, tasting 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages and 1991 Graham’s Vintage Port, April 21, 2017.

In February this year we had the good fortune to taste the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages, and last month at my son’s birthday dinner we opened a bottle of 1991 Graham’s Vintage Port, from the year he was born. Both were great wines, and worth looking at in more detail.

I bought the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages in 1992 or 1993 at an LCBO Vintages outlet in Ontario at $43.45 per bottle. This was the last of 3 bottles I had bought. The 1988 vintage at the time was not viewed by critics as outstanding, but it was respectable. It was much better than 1987, which was a complete washout. It was not as tannic or meaty as 1986, but it was more traditional than the softer and fruitier 1985 vintage. And of course it got completely forgotten when the wonderful 1989 and 1990 vintages were harvested. The key adjectives I would attribute to 1988 Bordeaux would be “traditional” and “classic”. I did not buy a lot of wine from 1988, but those that I did buy were meant to mirror or compliment those characteristics, and Chateau Lynch Bages fits well.

The 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages in February 2017 was fully mature and in perfect harmony and balance, showing no signs of advanced age or going downhill. Still a strong rich ruby black in color, long tears ran down the glass after swirling the wine in your glass. On the nose there was wonderful cedar, smoke, black cherry, raspberry and currant aromas. On the palate the wine was in perfect balance, soft, fleshy, round and plump. The classic cedar and cigar box flavors took over, then emerged the fruit, with black berries and currants, figs, and raisins. After the fruit came hints of leather, wet damp earth in a forest, ending with  nice spicy cassis on the finish.

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This was not an overwhelming wine, this was not a blockbuster. This was a mature, rounded, balanced wine, in perfect harmony. The wine improved in the glass, even after having been decanted for over an hour. No sign of being over aged or in decline, but pleasantly parked on a plateau basking in the late afternoon sun. At 29 years of age, I would easily expect this wine to last another 10 years effortlessly, and at least 5 of those years in the current condition. My rating was 93 points, well deserved.

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I was really disappointed when I went to check tasting notes on this wine on www.winesearcher.com while researching what the critics have said about this wine recently. Wine Searcher has 5 critic scores ranging from 93 points to 80 (4 of the 5 over 90 points), the 80 point revue was from La Revue du Vin de France done in June 2000, nothing from Robert Parker (in spite of the fact that he has reviewed this wine 3 times, the latest in June 2000 where he gave it 92 points) and nothing from the Wine Spectator. I don’t know about you, but when I go to check critic reviews I want to see what the best critics are saying, and it is pretty clear to me that when 4 critics appraise the wine at 90 + points and one gives it 80 points, La Revue du Vin de France has clearly goofed, especially when Robert Parker tasted the wine at the same time in June 2000 and gave it 92 points. So what do you think www.winesearcher.com is doing with their sketchy and poor selection of critic reviews? In my opinion they are doing a pretty poor job.

In Parker’s June 2000 review of this wine, where he rated it at 92 points, he expected this wine to keep going strong for another 10-12 years. Well it has been almost 17 years since that date, and this wine is still pristine, and showing all the signs of going another 5-10 years. My reason for going on and on about this is to simply point out that you, as a wine collector and consumer, need to be careful to pay proper attention to the information you get from information websites like www.winesearcher.com or you can be easily misled. Mixed reviews leave doubt, which generally results in one moving on to something else, and in this case you would be really missing out on a classic mature claret in great shape now and for years to come. Too bad that was my last bottle!

The 1991 Graham’s was tasted in late March 2017 on the occasion of my son’s 26th birthday. Eight of us polished off this beauty in record time, so it must have been very good. The 1991 was the first declared vintage port by Graham’s since their 1985, and it was considered to be a small but high quality vintage. This wine has been reviewed in 1993 by Clive Coates for The Vine (magazine) where he rated it 97 points, in 1994 by James Suckling for The Wine Spectator (magazine) where he rated it 93 points, and by Robert Parker for The Wine Advocate (magazine) in 1995 where he rated it 94 points. Parker noted in his comments that the 1991 Graham’s was without a doubt the best port of the vintage. He described the wine as “…explosive nose of black fruits, licorice, spring flowers, and tar. Thick and full bodied, with a satiny texture and a blockbuster, alcoholic finish, this is a top-notch vintage port.”

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When we tasted this port 3 weeks ago, we observed a dark ruby color in the glass, no longer purple/black as it was in its youth. Great glycerin legs in the glass. On the nose this wine was nicely perfumed with aromas of sweet dark berries, grapes, and tar. On the palate any coarse tannins that may have once been present (as noted the last time I tasted this wine 8 years ago) have  faded away, leaving rich fruit flavors of berries, and plums, as well as licorice, tar, tobacco and chocolate. Sweet without being overpowering on the mid palate, giving rise to a long satin smooth chocolate finish. There is still a little sharpness in the alcohol on the finish, but you can tell that this is diminishing as the wine ages. A very pleasant wine that is now only middle aged, and will continue to improve over the next 10 years before it reaches full maturity. This wine will easily last another 20 years, and will only reach its peak in roughly 10 years by 2027. A very fine port that I rated at 94 points. Drink now and hold for further development.

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Unfortunately, once again when I was researching ratings and critic scores for this wine on www.winesearcher.com I ran into bad information. WineSearcher rated the wine at 89 points on the strength of 3 ratings of 80 points from Jancis Robinson (date not mentioned), 92 points from Cellar Tracker, and 93 points from The Wine Spectator. No mention of the Clive Coates rating of 97 points, or the Parker rating of 94 points.

So what is the big deal about ratings and wine scores you might ask? Poor data collating by WineSearcher (not properly compiling critic reviews and scores) causes them to rate the 1991 Graham’s as the second worst Graham’s Vintage Port of the 18 Graham’s Vintage Ports declared since 1990, at 89 points. This is just plain wrong, simply because they included the Jancis Robinson rating and excluded two other much stronger ratings. Bad data leads to an inaccurate rating and a bad rap for a really good wine. The moral of the story, and the message behind this blog is twofold:

  • Old wines properly kept live much longer than the critics expect them to. A wine critic when he/she forecasts a wine’s lifespan will always err on the younger side, they never want to overestimate a wine’s lifespan, and they never want to assume the consumer has state of the art storage conditions. So properly kept, you should expect your wines to last longer than the lifespan predicted by the critics.
  • Do not blindly believe what an information collating site like www.winesearcher.com reports on a wine’s statistics. Do your own homework, use them as just one of several information sources. Their stats are often selective, incomplete, and lead to the wrong conclusions. If you trusted their information to be accurate and complete, your logical conclusion would be to avoid the 1991 Graham’s, and what a mistake that would be. Similarly, you might think the 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages was too old to be bought safely today, and again how wrong you would be.

30 years ago you had no access to online information about critic tasting reports and scores, about latest auction prices, or what wine the Chinese were now buying. Liv-ex and www.winesearcher.com did not exist, and if you wanted tasting reports and scores you subscribed to The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate publications. You also relied more heavily on your own tasting experience, and that was very important because it taught you more about what you yourself like, not what a particular wine critic likes.

So do yourself a favor, do not rely too heavily on what an information and search website like www.winesearcher.com says about a wine, because inaccurate or incomplete information will often lead you to the wrong conclusion. My suggestion is that you use it as only one source of information, and that you do your own analysis of the facts it presents to you. I will write another blog soon to give additional pointers on how to research wines on an information collating website. But above all else, always remember that there is no substitute for trying these wines yourself. So drink wines young, old, and in between. Learn to recognize the difference between young and tannic verses fully mature, soft and rounded, and decide for yourself which you prefer. This is all part of your wine learning and appreciation experience.

Learning what you like can be so much fun!

Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 44, 2016 Bordeaux – Best Wines and Best Buys

Wine critic reviews of the 2016 Bordeaux wines have started, with James Suckling releasing his thoughts at the end of March, and most recently James Molesworth the first week of April. So far critics are very high on the vintage, especially James Suckling who says this is a strong year for Medoc and Grave wines, especially in Pauillac and St.Estephe. Suckling rates an astonishing 23 wines between 98 and 100 points. Within that group of wines there will be some relative bargains that you should watch closely for.

By contrast James Molesworth is more conservative with his praise and his ratings, rating 15 wines at 95 points or higher. In total, we have seen James Suckling review 92 different Bordeaux wines from the 2016 vintage (both red and white), and he has rated all but one of those wines at 90 points or higher. That is high praise indeed. James Molesworth has released ratings so far on only his top 37 wines which all range from 93 to 100 points. But oddly enough Molesworth has either not included yet or has not sampled yet all the first growth wines and all three of the wines that James Suckling has rated at 100 points.

Missing in action so far are some important wine critics such as Neal Martin, Jancis Robinson, and Antonio Galloni, so it is a little early yet to form any final opinions.

In my earlier blog # 41 on February 28th I noted that Gavin Quinny, Bordeaux grower/winemaker and frequent writer for Liv-ex, has described the 2016 Bordeaux vintage as an especially good year for Merlot, therefore favoring Pomerol and St. Emilion. Now we have James Suckling describing 2016 as a Left Bank Year, meaning the best wines are from the Medoc and Graves regions, particularly in Pauillac and St. Estephe, where Merlot is not as prevalent. So we clearly have differing opinions, and therein lies opportunity for consumers and investors.

I have also been talking in Blog # 41 and earlier blogs about how Bordeaux first growths have been pricing themselves right out of the market for the average Bordeaux collector, and therefore the need to migrate to other less expensive alternatives where the quality is almost as good as first growth at 10% to 20% of the cost. First growth Bordeaux from 2015 and 2016 is going to hit retail shelves at an estimated $1,000 to $1,200 CDN per bottle. So with Bordeaux 2016 futures soon to be offered, where will the smart money get the best quality for the lowest price?

I looked at the ratings from both James Suckling and James Molesworth for the 2016 Bordeaux vintage, specifically looking for the cheapest wines with the highest ratings by comparing the 2016 ratings against today’s prices for the not yet released 2015 vintage on www.winesearcher.com. I think this is a fair comparison because I expect the 2015 and 2016 vintages to be similarly priced. I came up with my top ten suggestions for 2016 Bordeaux futures, check out my list below:

  • Chateau Leoville Barton – rated 95-96 by Suckling and 96-99 by Molesworth at $100 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 94 points. This price is only 10% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Calon Segur – rated 98-99 by Suckling and 94-97 by Molesworth at $100 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 93 points. This price is only 10% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Clos Fourtet – rated 95-96 by Suckling and 96-99 by Molesworth at $130 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 94 points. This price is only 13% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Haut Bailly – rated 98-99 by Suckling and not yet rated by Molesworth at $130 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 96 points. This price is only 13% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Pontet Canet – rated 98-99 by Suckling and not yet rated by Molesworth at $145 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 95 points. This price is only 14.5% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Lynch Bages – rated 98-99 by Suckling and 96-99 by Molesworth at $150 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 93 points. This price is only 15% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Pichon Baron – rated 98-99 by Suckling and 96-99 by Molesworth at $170 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 95 points. This price is only 17% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau La Conseillante – rated 99-100 by Suckling and 93-96 by Molesworth at $205 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 94 points. This price is only 20.5% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Figeac – rated 96-97 by Suckling and 95-98 by Molesworth at $210 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 95 points. This price is only 21% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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  • Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou – rated 97-98 points by Suckling and 97-100 points by Molesworth at $215 per bottle. The 2015 is rated at 95 points. This price is only 21.5% of the price of first growths at similar scores.
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Well I don’t know which you prefer, snob appeal or value for your money, but I would much prefer getting 10 bottles of Chateau Leoville Barton or Chateau Calon Segur for the price of one bottle of Lafite or Latour, especially if the critics view them to be of similar quality. So while first growth estates have raised their prices relentlessly, lesser chateaux have been busy focusing on raising the quality of their wines to the point where today they are very similar in quality to the big names. We as consumers therefore have a tremendous opportunity here to send a clear message by switching to much cheaper 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th growth wines without sacrificing much in quality. Hopefully, if enough people switch to better value the first growth producers will stop raising prices as much as they have been doing over the last 5 years.

30 years ago the 1982 vintage was on store shelves, Chateau Lafite, along with Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, and Haut Brion were all selling retail for $40 US per bottle, and all rated 95 points plus by Parker. At $25 you could get all the super 2nd growths like Leoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande, and Palmer. At $15 to $20 you could get everything else like Ducru Beaucaillou, Cos D’Estournel, Figeac, L’Evangile, etc. Super seconds were rated at 92-95 points, just one rung down the ladder and frankly for the additional $15 per bottle it was much easier to just buy the best.

By contrast, today the difference between second growths and first growths is completely different. In terms of price the first growths are going to hit store shelves at over $1,000 per bottle, while second growths will cost about $400 per bottle. So that price differential is going to be $600 per bottle, that is very significant. But, as this article clearly demonstrates, there will be many high quality 3rd, 4th, and 5th growth wines in the $100 to $150 range. Perhaps the biggest and best surprise is that several of those have upgraded their quality so much that some of them are equal to or better than the 1st growth wines. My how times have changed!

My personal favorites among my top ten suggestions above are Calon Segur, Leoville Barton, Pontet Canet, Pichon Baron, and Ducru Beaucaillou. In great years these are all fabulous wines.

Watch for these names when the 2016 futures become available, I expect these will sell out quickly. Happy hunting.

Reg.

 

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.
  • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 42-14
  • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 42.16
  • Reg's Wine Blog - photo 42.15
  • 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”.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 42.22

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 42.20

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,

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.2

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

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.3

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.4

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).

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.8

 

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

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.6

 

Reg's Wine blog - photo 41.9

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.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.7

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

 

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.15Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.10Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.11Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.12Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.17Reg's Wine Blog - photo 41.16

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.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-4

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.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-5

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!

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-6

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.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-2

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.

Reg's Wine Blog - photo 36-1

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

Reg.