Saturday, October 27, 2007

Marquee Wine

I’ve heard good things about Marquis-Philips wines, they have a reputation of being full-blown, in-your-face efforts that win major points when it comes to price:quality ratio. So I jumped when I saw their 2004 Shiraz, South Eastern Australia. Check the label out - whoaaa!!! 15.5%. That’s port-like alcohol content…what’s going on there?
On the nose it’s a strong field berry mix dominated by raspberries. Chunky and thick, the berries come back on the palate – raspberries and blackberries. The tannins are supple but ample. Wait an hour or two (or decant) and the fruit kinda fades - a more syrah-like leatheriness takes over. Forget about matching this one to food, just drink it by itself (or with dessert – no wait, make the wine the dessert!!). I like it, but my criticism is that it just feels unbalanced; another taster thought it was “brandy-like” (that’s probably the heat coming from the booze)
For these reasons, it clocks in as a “good” wine, not a “wow’. Fair value at $22. If you like the style, buy it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Wine of the Month"

Wine of the month can mean many things - if you are reading a journalistic article, it usually means they think it's good stuff. In retail, it could mean the (usually) dreaded "we have too much, let's get rid of it". Tonight's two wines were a bit of both, I think. At a dinner, the club/restaurant I was at was showcasing 2 reds and I tried them both. The Baron D'Ardeuil, Buzet, Villes Vignes, 1998 was a whopper of a wine - rich, oaky, smoky, smooth...almost a "wow" wine. I wish I could get more of it, but a quick search of the SAQ list (our local wine monopoly) only yielded later vintages from this producer. So, I think we lucked out - the club had too much of it in it's cellar, it probably wasn't selling (Buzet is not a very sexy French appellation), so they dumped it as the "wine of the month". No idea how much it cost, but the newer vintages go for about $15.
The second wine was the Torre Al Sole, Sangiovese, Toscana. Nice modern label, but there was no vintage on it. This wine was an honest, straightforward effort - fresh strawberries on the nose, uncomplicated lively cherries on the palate, no noticeable tannins. Not a complex effort, but enjoyable. Pales in comparison to the Buzet. If you can get it for less than $10, it would be a good monday night wine. Otherwise, forget it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bargain Brand

Some wineries seem incapable of making poor wines, unless there are special circumstances such as a difficult harvest, etc.
I look for such producers that make uniformly good wines at a good price point - it makes wine buying easy!! One such producer is the Argentine bodega, Trivento (actually owned by the Chilean firm Concha y Toro). I have to say I don't remember ever drinking a wine from their "Reserva" line that was disappointing. And they generally sell in the $12-20 range (at least the ones imported into this neck of the woods). Their Syrah, Reserve, 2005 is a typically good value. This one is on the "pleasure" side of the taste spectrum - a wine for sipping and caressing (not a "foody" wine to sit there and try to food match). It is syrupy, almost sweet, with lots of deep, dark fruit, especially plums. Not a vegetal note in this wine for those who like a bit of veggie complexity in their glass.
So, if you see a Trivento Reserva, if you want a solid wine at a good price, give it a shot. Let me know what you think.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not So Friendly...

These two guys should be similar - they are after all siblings, only 2 years apart, and they have exactly the same tasting notes on the back label.
They must think we're stupid or something.
I had two vintages of the Elderton, Friends, Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003 and 2005. I thought it would be fun to blindly see if I could figure out which was which - I thought this would be tough as the style of the wine should be consistent (why else use the same label and tasting notes??).
These two tasted nothing like each other. The 2003 was oodles better than the 2005 - the nose was full and rich - lots of cedar - I immediately knew I'd like it. Full bodied and tannic but not chewy; bright almost tart cherries. Good finish. A good wine, worth the $20.
The 2005 was very aromatically challenged - faint black fruit (really faint). Medium bodied, chalky with cough syrup and licorice notes and a short finish. A little less cough syrup the next day, but not much better. Not a crap wine, but not in the same league as the '03. Ugh. Save your money.
I smell the marketing rat - lower the quality but use the same package, run away with the profits... but lets wait and see if the trend continues at this vineyard before passing final judgement (ie. we'll check out the 2006 next year...). Please please don't follow the Wolf-Blass yellow label/Rosemount diamond label trend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why? (part 2)

Black as ink - a lot of pigment was extracted from the grapes - with black plums and cloves on the nose...impressively tannic obviously well made wine...14.5% alcohol - the grapes were nice and ripe...but...WHERE'S THE FRUIT???
The Juan Gil, old vine Monastrell (Mourvedre), 2005 from Jumilla in Spain is a dilemma - obviously well made, but it's just not very enjoyable to drink. Is it just closed at this point in it's development? --- I don't think so, I would guess that the fruit will never show itself.
I give it an OK, and would pass on buying any more. Why bother with something that isn't enjoyable?


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fiery Reds

Mid priced, middleweight enjoyable wines are the bread and butter of those of us who like to have a glass or two of wine each night with dinner. We'd be in the poorhouse if we drank $50-100 a bottle wines every night. So, here are two perfect examples of daily drinkers. The Marchigue, Tricyclo, CS-M-CF 2005 has a very aromatic raspberry nose with some palate fruit complexity - bright cherries and raspberries. Medium finish. Quite enjoyable, a good wine and good value for $15 or so.
The Echeverria, Carmenere 2004, also from Chile, is a dark purple wine with a very peppery nose. A mixture of brambles and pepper on the palate, it is a rich, fruity effort that slides down the gullet with a long, olive finish. Also a good/good wine at $15. This has also improved with a year of bottle age - I thought it was very average on opening a bottle last year.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Winners...and Losers

After a week of tasting there were some clear winners and some clear losers. No really crappy wine (we try and avoid those – usually it’s easy), but some were disappointing (especially considering their price).
The clear winner was the Clos du Bois, Marlstone, Alexander Valley, 2003. This is a very approachable, full bodied, lush, rich wine that everyone clearly enjoyed the most (thanks, Joe!). Wow.

Hot on its heels was the Condada de Haza, Ribero del Duero, 2000. Much more old world in style than the Marlstone (as would be expected from Spain!), this was also full bodied but had that dense dirty old barrel richness mixed in with spices such as cloves and nutmeg…yummy, also a “Wow” wine, and very good value as this wine usually retails for about $25. I have to find a bottle of their Reserva from the same year…
The Los Vascos, Grande Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is from the Lafite-Rothschild property in Chile. Perhaps not unexpectedly, this wine tastes more old world than new – medium-full bodied, quite elegant – a good wine. Good value at $19.

Now for the losers. The Domaine de Boiron, Vin de Pays de L’Agenais, 2004 is a mixture of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. On the nose it was promising - a mixed berry compote. The palate is a bit of an enigma – soft but still quite tannic. The fruit is hiding somewhere (I hope it shows up with some bottle age). Not a sipper, this needs some food (a very old sharp cheddar made it somewhat enjoyable). As we kept looking at each other trying to enjoy this wine, I have to rate it as only “Okay”. Try decanting it. Poor value at $25.

We were looking forward to Jarno Trulli’s Podere Castorano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2002 as we had tried his top wine a few months ago and rated it as a ‘wow’. This effort is nowhere near as good – medium bodied with silky mouthfeel, but again the fruit is hiding somewhere. Just not very enjoyable at this stage in it’s development. It needed steak to be drinkable. If the fruit doesn’t come out in a few years (and I predict it won’t), I rate it as an “okay” wine. Not worth the $35 by a long shot.

Now, here comes the fruit – the next two wines had it in abundance. Problem with the Penmara, Reserve Shiraz, 2003 was that there wasn’t anything else! Pure raspberry jam, no complexity, very one dimensional. An “okay” wine, but at least it was enjoyable. At $20, I won’t be buying anymore.

The Santa Julia, Reserva Malbec, 2005 from Mendoza put the Aussie Penmara to shame – this is a medium bodied but still chewy wine with bright, bright cherries and a fairly long finish. Lots of fun to drink, a “good” wine, and the bargain of the bunch at $15.