Thursday, November 30, 2006

thank you, Nouvelle France

Mr. Depardieu owns several vineyards around the world. This one is from Anjou in the Loire Valley area of France. Not an region known for heavy duty blockbuster wines, but I thought I'd give it a try coz I have been impressed with some of his other efforts and it was, well, relatively cheap at $17.70 a pop. The predominant red wine grape for anjou is Cabernet Franc, I'm not sure which one Gerard uses.
The Depardieu, Chateau de Tigne, Anjou 1999 is labelled "en hommage a la nouvelle-France" meaning, for you non francophones, that it is dedicted to "new France", which once encompassed a good chunk of North America but is now basically down to St Pierre and Miquelon, two tiny islands off Newfoundland. This wine is rusty in the glass, showing its age. Very dry palate, the fruit has faded, a little rough at first but it yelled for food. This is a food wine - a little ham cut right through the roughness revealing a pleasant easy drinking effort. Very old world in style, never mind "new France". Not a sipper while curled up in front of a fire, all you Chilean wine addicts, stay away. The verdict: I give it an "OK". For value, not so good...unless you want a nice aged dry wine to soak up that big fat turkey, then I'd say give it a shot.
Some loose ends: While in BC recently I tried the Finca Flinchman Oak Aged Shiraz 2005 from Argentina. For the inflated BC price of $14 a bottle this is still good value. It is right up there with their malbecs and cabernets - rich, mildy tannic, fruity - buy it by the case!
I also recently re-tried the Candidato Oro, 2003, barrique from Spain; this was better than the bottle we recently had (that had been purchased in ontario). This Quebec bottle was much better - was more what I expected - oaky and medium bodied, quite pleasant and an absolute steal at $9 a pop. So, maybe there is some bottle to bottle variation - and the Quebec bottle is worth every penny and more.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Disappointing Trio

To accompany an early american thanksgiving turkey we tried three wines which we thought would be a treat. Fast forward a couple of hours, turns out it was an average wine night, nothing special here. In other words the anticipation turned into disappointment.
Joel really wanted to try out a wine he picked up in NYC that the owner had recommended. The Jones, L.J. Shiraz, Rutherglen 2000 is from Australia. It promised big things - nice berry nose, plush initial mouthfeel, that quite australian blend of soft vanilla with just dies off soooo quickly. And the second taste was not as good as the first; and the third deteriorated get the drift? So, I'll give it a GOOD for quality, but for value it gets a solid thumbs down at $40US (that means it will cost 60 bucks or more up here in taxland).
Next up was a lebanese wine that someone had recommended. The Tanail, Massaya, Vallee de la Bekka, 2002 was disappointing because it was so ordinary. Really nothing special. Medium bodied, lightly spicy. Gets an "OKAY". Value is poor at 20 bucks a pop.
The actual wine slated to quaff with the big bird was a real disappointment. It was a gift from my old wine drinking buddy Karl (of KJB design) back in the late 90's. It comes from a boutique vineyard in Niagara, Ontario although I understand it has been bought out by a conglomerate (Andre's...remember Baby Uck? oops, baby duck). The wine is the Thirty Bench, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 1996. These are some of the descriptors about this vineyard: “Concentrated wines made from grapes that were thinned while still growing on the vine.” “Committed winemakers.” “Artisanal methods.” “Old vines.” “Hand harvesting.” “Sustainable agriculture". And the back label on this one states "it will improve considerably with age...." I usually take these winemakers up on their offer so I waited until 10 years after the vintage date to crack it. Well, it's an OK wine but tannic & acidic, with NO fruit apparent on first sip. We decanted it for a couple of hours and it became a little more elegant. With the bird it did okay, we needed the food to soften the wine a little bit. The verdict: This tasted a bit like an austere St. Estephe without the fruit (this is a backhanded compliment...). I give it OKAY, mostly because it wasn't crap after the 10 years it spent before being drunk. Value is solid thumbs down...the equivalent wine today on their website sells for $35.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Rosy Night

I recently enlisted 7 fellow tasters to see how well Rosemount Estates is treating their best selling line, the Diamond Label Shiraz. I have harped before about how Wolf Blass have cheaped out on their "Yellow Label" Shiraz, which used to be a good wine and a pretty consistent value. It is so bad now that I won't buy it.
A bit of history first - the Rosemount diamond label shiraz used to be so good that it made the Wine Spectator's "Top 100" of the year list in 1994 through to '96. It scored 90 points but also earned it's place on the list because it was cheap and easily available. I bought cases of each. However, I got the feeling as I tried this wine in later years that the quality was dropping, so I hung on to a few of the older bottles to taste with some of newer ones. My taster-helpers were blinded as to the vintage, but they knew they were getting some older and some newer shiraz's from the same producer. The results were easy to tabulate; only 6 tasters handed in results (one was too busy with screaming kids to give it a good shot, the other stated that he was not a shiraz fan and they were all "too sweet..."). The 1994 and the 1995 tied for number one with two firsts, three seconds and one third place. These were mature, good wines with lots going on, but the fruit was fading and they weren't as in your face as they were in the late 90's. Still, they were considered solid "GOOD" wines. And outstanding values at about $10-12 a bottle at the time. The 1996 came in a close third with two firsts, three thirds and a fourth place. Same comments as the '94-'95. Now, the 2002 was a distant fourth, with one third place and five fourths. A solid "OKAY" wine, questionable value at $15 per bottle. This wine was reasonably fruity and medium bodied. Nothing special but drinkable, certainly a step down from the nineties wines. The 2004 was instantly hated by all tasters, getting a unanimous six fifth places. This had a markedly different nose and taste from the other wines - had that cheap bubble gum nose and horrible tanker-bottled kind of taste. Ugh. A CRAP wine, not worth $5 never mind the $19 they charge these days. STAY AWAY FROM DIAMOND LABEL SHIRAZ...the producer is putting cheap crap in the bottle and trying to get you to buy it based on it's past reputation. I hate this shady marketing.

Here are the corks - four nice darkies and plastic one. The crap wine came dressed in the plastic....

It looks like if you want to buy one of the million case-a-year medium priced aussie lines ($15-20) of wine that are supposed to be more or less reproducible year to year, stick with Penfold's and their Koonunga Hill line (Shiraz-Cab) or maybe the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz (I heard the latest release is verrry good, but haven't found it in the stores yet).