Friday, September 29, 2006


Whew. Black as ink in the glass. Closed nose, but smells inky. It whacks the palate with tannins, tastes austere and here comes the ink again. The Mas des Bressades, Cuvee Excellence, Costieres du Nimes, 2004 is no lightweight. It is tough going by itself but food cuts it down to a manageable level. This is serious stuff, very well made.
I like it.
Koko's comment: "it's got that thickness..."
The verdict: GOOD.
Value: Definitely there at 18 bucks a pop. Why they have to charge double this for a similar weight wine from bordeaux is a mystery. (actually, it's not - it's simply a price gouge!).

PS: This is not a date wine - it stains your teeth BLACK!!!


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cannons Away!

"Futures" are a somewhat cheaper way to buy fine wine - the idea is that you buy the wine before it is bottled, so the price is lower than buying a bottle in the store since the producer gets his money quicker; he then "passes on" the savings to you. This practice has become quite common in Bordeaux. The main disadvantage is that you don't know what the finished product is going to taste like - the critics get to taste it while it is still in the barrels that it will be aged in, and write in their publications such as the Wine Spectator - but you all know what I think about the critics....
Also, there's no guarantee that the final product will taste like the barrel sample.
Why do I bring this up? Because I bought tonight's wine as a future back in 2001. It cost about $20-25 per bottle, and got a "Good-Very Good" rating of 86-88 points. The Canon de Brem, Canon Fronsac 2000 is from a minor appelation in Bordeaux. It actually tasted exactly like the critics said it would - a nice restrained nose, beautifully elegant and medium bodied on the palate (that means it is a smooth easy drinking wine, no overpowering elements, just "well balanced"). There is a mild oakiness to it, the result of barrel aging. The Verdict: A solid good. Value: At the price I paid, good. It would probably sell for $30-40 today in my neck of the woods; would I buy it for that? In a nutshell, no. But I'm glad I have some more left over for the
lower price!
When I popped the cork I got a bit of a scare - if you look carefully you can see "red" staining the sides of the cork - that indicates a poor seal with the wine leaking around the cork. This is usually bad - it means air can get into the bottle, with the potential to oxidize and spoil the wine. Happily in this instance, the wine was not spoilt.
This is one of the reasons a lot of producers are turning to screwcaps....


Saturday, September 23, 2006


Imagine what I'm expecting when I read this:

"a top drop that is very well priced. Plum compote and minty aromas form the entry to this medium-bodied red. A generous fruit attack is spearheaded by Montmorency cherry, ripe cranberry and red currant. There is a lengthy and well balanced finishthat cries out for a cuisine match of grilled lamb tenderloin slathered with garlic. "

Well, I'm getting sick of these damn critics. They waste my money (and yours too...). What the hell is montmorency cherry anyway??? and a wine is supposed to taste like them?

This wine, the Penmara Reserve Shiraz, 2003 is, simply put, disappointing. Their 2001 was good, and I thought I'd try the new release, especially since those that purport to know liked it. It is insipid, VERY medium bodied, lightly fruity, no tannins, no sign of oak...NOT what I expect from an Aussie shiraz and a real lightweight. We tried it with a spiced garlic roast pork and after one sip ditched it for the rest of the deep dark and delicious Italian wine left over from last night. This wine just cannot stand up to food. Ok, enuf said. The verdict: "OK", but for value, gets the CRAP award for the week. At $19, simply a waste of money.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Angelic Aglianico

Went shopping today!!! $450 later, got to open one of the new ones. This is an aglianico, a not too common red wine from the south of Italy. Originally thought to be of Greek origin, this grape has the potential to make powerful wines. The Cappellaccio, 2001 Aglianico Reserva, is fine addition to any red blooded meal. Black stained cork, dense and black in the glass, Koko immediately exclaimed: this is dry and tight! It is a full bodied monster, thick and rich. No new world vanilla oak here - the tannins are natural. Quite the effort, but all you lovers of delicate wines beware.... The verdict: Good, good, good. Value: Buy a dozen to drink with your steaks over the next few years....only $18 each.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Unlikely Pairing

Tasted two wines this weekend that are worth writing about. My buddy Joel brought one he thought I might like, I brought one that I thought he might like. The history behind this is that I as a rule love Bordeaux, he as a rule hates it and loves new world wines. So, I guess we surprised each other with our selections. The Beau Site Haut-Vignoble, St. Estephe, Cru Bourgouis 2001 is from a pretty austere region of Bordeaux, one that I am quite impartial too, and from an OK vintage. This one is very approachable for a young cru bourgois Bordeaux, pretty nose, quite elegant on the palate with nice restrained oaky tannins. Went very well with a Montreal spiced big fat BBQ'd chicken. The verdict: A solid "good". Value: therein lies the problem with Bordeaux - at over 30 bucks this struggles to hit any price quality ratios.
The counterpoint was a strangley named wine - the La Baume, The 2001 Selection, Shiraz-Cabernet. Now what the hell is "Shiraz" doing on a french label, you say. I said the same thing, but in this case, it's a good thing - the winemaker is Australian and he makes this one like a new world wine. Wines like this show the french that it is possible to make a high quality full bodied fruit driven tannic juice bomb (to compete with the rest of the world) from a region not generally renowned for such intensity. Good winemaking skill here. This is a definite try if you can get your hands on it (actually, try ANY wine these guys make, from any vintage, and make your own judgements). This one gets a solid "good" also, but when you factor in the cost ($16), gets an "outstanding" for value. Buy as much as you can get your hands on.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Checking the Critics...

Our local newspaper wine critic uses a "5 star" rating system, which is a tad better than the "100 point" scale. What he does different is rate the wine with respect to its cost - that is, a 4 star wine that costs 10 bucks should not be expected to taste like a 4 star wine that costs 100 bucks. What he gets wrong is that I have no idea what he expects a 10 buck bottle of wine to taste like...I want to know: is the damn bottle crappy, ok, or good. Then I make a judgement as to value - would I buy this wine at this price?
Alright, he rated the Estola, La Mancha, Reserva, 2001 4 stars. It costs $13. He raved about it, actually. Well, it's an OK kind of wine, nothing really wrong with it, actually went nicely with pork chops, but don't think for a minute it's what you would expect a "4 star" wine to taste like. If it cost $7-9, I'd say buy a bunch and drink it during the week. Don't keep it open in the glass or bottle too long though, it gets weedy fast. So, I would rate it "OK", and as for value, it's certainly questionable as to whether I would buy it again. Try it yourself, see if you think it's good value for the price. You gotta love the often colourful little labels the spanish put on the back of their bottles - it tells you where the wine is from (La Mancha in this case - check out the little guy on the horse, he thinks he's Don Quixote) and the quality level (Reserva in this case, means aged in wood then bottle a minimum period before release).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beck's It Is

No, not that Becks...he plays soccer for Real Madrid. This is the Graham Beck, Gamekeepers Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004. This was a highly regarded wine (how many times have I said that?) and for once (just kidding) I actually tend to agree with the critics. This is a complex medium-full bodied wine with elegant tannins - not overpowering at all. Would eat up a big fat steak. Nice nose too. I give it a solid "good", and at $20 is good value. Buy a few and try them. It feels like it would last a while if you shoved it in a nice cool dark corner for a few years too.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Mish Mash

This was supposed to be a "dry" weekend so didn't take a lot of wine with us up to the country. Turned out it wasn't so dry after all. We opened up everything we could get our hands on. The star of the evening was the Condado de Almara, Bodegas Macaya, Crianza 2002. "Crianza" just means "aged", and this designation usually means a better wine than a vineyard's bottom label, but not as good as the "reservas" and "gran reservas" which are generally better. Nevertheless, this was a smooth easy drinking wine with fine tannins, medium-full bodied. The verdict: Not a blockbuster but a solid "good". Value: definitively there at $15-20. The next best was a wine produced in the south of France by Quebec owners, from the very hot 2003 vintage. The Le Loup Blanc, La Mere Grand 2003 is made from syrah and grenache, checks in at 14.5% alcohol, and spends 20 months in oak barriques...quite the care for a Minervois. This is a nice wine, smooth and also an easy drinker, not as good as the spanish effort. Definately has some character though. A "good" wine, value fair at $18-20. This vineyard makes a better wine that is worth seeking out.
The disappointments were the 2003 vintages of wines that were very good in 2002. The Castello di Nipozzano Chianti Rufina 2003 is just plain "ok", poor value at over $20 a bottle. The 2002 bottling was a bit of an abberation - Frescobaldi apparently didn't bottle their superstar "Montesodi" Chianti that year and a lot of what would have gone into this premium wine went into the Nipozzano. The Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella 2003 was also just "ok", also poor value at over $20. Too bad - the '02 was delicious.