Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cahors - Back on Track?

Cahors is an appellation in the south of France that fell onto hard times this century. It made strong, tannic, unforgiving "black" (deeply coloured) wines made from malbec, which had largely been given up by Bordeaux. Perhaps things are changing for the better, as I sampled two good wines recently, one cheap and the other relativley expensive.
The Chateau Famaey, Cuvee X, 2003 comes from a low yield (2000kg or so/acre) vineyard that uses no chemicals and is made of malbec (95%) and tannat (5%). This could be the best Cahors I have ever tasted. Dark but not opaque. Nose shows dark chocolate, violets and fresh spring mossy notes. On the palate, it's full bodied, rich warm and soft. Fruit is a mix of pomegranates and raisins. Hits all the right notes without being in your face overblown. Tannins are smoothly integrated. Wow. Take that, Bordeaux! $36. BTW, don't waste this wine on pizza!

On the lower end of the scale is the Chateau de Gaudou, Tradition, 2005. This is 80% malbec with a splash of merlot and tannat. This is black. Very interesting nose of exotic spices and dark plums. Full bodied, firm, tannic, dense, wet stone, sharp black fruit. A little rustic. Needs time. Good wine, well worth the $15.

Jacob's Creek is one of those mega wineries from Australia that makes millions of cases per year. They don't get much respect from the snobs, but their South Australia sourced Reserve Shiraz has been surprisingly good for a number of years. The latest version available here is the 2006. It's primary flavour is eucalyptus - lots of it. Peppery with firm, ripe, black fruit and a rather intense blackcurrant finish. The tannins are well hidden in the background. Tastes exactly the same 24 hours later. It's a good wine, but definitely not as good as past vintages. A little too minty for me. $19.
Cheers, and Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strange, Bad and Terrible

Strange - this South African "joke" - the Goats do Roam Wine Company makes tongue-in-cheek fun of the "Cotes du Rhone" appellation in France. This is supposedly one of their best wines, so it is called Goat-Roti (if you don't get it, it stands for Cote-Rotie, one of the premier northern Rhone syrah-based wine appellations. The best Cote-Rotie's go for hundreds of dollars. What I find strange about this wine is that for twenty bucks they think they can compete. This 2004 vintage clocks in at 15% alcohol - and is possibly the lightest 15% wine I have ever tasted. Light berry nose. Medium density, medium bodied, juicy black fruit with dried currants, a little pepper and little else. Fades fast. Tastes unoaked. If you do buy it, decant and wait - the next day some richer dark plum flavours come out. Still, disappointing. Koko factor: "the most uninteresting wine of the week" (as you can see from the photo above, that week was in the summer!). Final rating: OK wine.
One of the prominent Ontario wine critics gave the Pilliteri Estates, 2008 Cabernet-Merlot, Niagara wine a four star rating (out of five). Well, if it cost $2 like two buck chuck, I can see where they are coming from. But it doesn't, it costs $13. Not much, true, but you can buy a nice steak for that money. And I don't believe in rating wines like that...I don't care how much it costs, crap is crap and good is good. OK, so this one has a pretty perfumed, floral nose but it is tainted by candy notes. Light to medium bodied, somewhat sweet but in a cough drop hard candy style, rhubarb and a few strawberries. No green cab franc notes (it's 48% cab franc). No oak (I mention this because they state on the label "the oak balances the body and length of the wine beautifully". Choke....). I wanted to like this Canadian wine, but in the end it is too fake and candyish. Not really enjoyable.
But it is better than the RH Philips, Syrah, 2007 from California. These guys used to make good wine, but appear to have gone down the tubes (I've noticed their "Toasted Head" brand has also gotten worse). They probably buy inferior grapes to ferment (or horror, cheap bulk wine to bottle) and slap their recognized label on it, then laugh all the way to the bank. Horrible fake bubble gum nose on this one - you know, the one that lots of home-made kit wines have. If you hold your nose and don't smell it as you drink it, it is palatable. If you like Welch's grape juice. Soft attack, fake fruit, finishes with candy. Crap wine, waste of $14. Will NEVER buy this brand again. Oh, and very strange - I often freeze wines I don't finish, as it actually preserves them well (just put them in a lukewarm water bath when you want to revive them). This one wouldn't freeze, it stayed liquid. Oh oh...what the hell do they put in it??? Antifreeze?? (and yes, I know ethanol is an "anti-freeze" due to its lower than water freezing point, but in my freezer, most wines less than 15% EtOH will soldify).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Good Stuff

Right on time for the holidays come three winners. Two from the other side of the Atlantic, the third from the other side of the Pacific.
The Spaniard Alejandro Fernandez makes pretty much good wine year in, year out, in the appellation of Ribera del Duero (the same river that flows to the ocean through Portugal as the Douro, famous as the home of Port). Pesquera is one of his vineyards. The Tinto, 2004 has an absolutely gorgeous pungent nose - smoke, mushrooms, earth and moss with hints of dried montmorency cherries. Take a sip - wow! Full bodied, deep, dense but gentle and smooth. Concentrated, meat, ripe dark plums and cedar. Long 30 second finish. $29, note that the vintage available at the SAQ is now 2006. Boy, I love good Spanish wine. BTW, at the recent "private import" tasting salon in Montreal, I had a tasting of the Balbas, Reserva, Rioja, 2001. It is apparently available at the SAQ Signature stores for $45. Expensive, but this was one of the best wines I have tasted in 2009...
From Australia comes the Magpie Estate, The Sack, Barossa Shiraz, 2005. Medium priced and well worth it at $21, it is a burly, full bodied wine. Creamy texture, cola (but not sweet), toffee, coconut - yet the brambly black fruits shine through. Yum. A word of warning though - drink it all up, it thins out by the next day.