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.