Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Southern Prelude

Montes is one of the largest Chilean wineries. One of its flagship wines was a recent Wine Spectator wine of the year, so when I saw its new releases available I snapped a few up. The Limited Selection, Cabernet-Carmenere, 2008 is medium red in colour. The nose is plums, spice and grape flavoured gum. Medium bodied, relaxed laid back style, low frequency flavours of very ripe plums layered with English custard. The flavours hang in there for a full 30 seconds. The drawback: it’s not very complex. Still, it’s a good wine, and would be good to serve at a dinner party before eating – and at this price ($15) you can splurge on several bottles without breaking the bank.

A clear step up is the Alpha, Carmenere, 2007. Carmenere is becoming the signature grape of Chile. Heavens knows, nobody else grows as much as they do. This one has 8/10 in colour depth. Subtle nose of spice, oak, plum. Medium bodied palate, on the elegant side with a wonderful balance of fruit and oak. Very pretty wine, this does not taste new world at all – if I was tasting this blind I would say its from Rioja or a good Chianti. So much more complex than the Limited Selection. The first sip screamed “wow”, so this is a bargain at $20. Buy it by the case.

Right, lets hop over the Andes a couple of hundred kilometers and check out the signature grape of Argentina, Malbec. La Posta, Angel Palucci Vineyard, 2007 sports nectar, made from 35 year old malbec vines, that scored 90 points in Wine Spectator. It has a funky nose reminiscent of Chinese food – you know, the takeout chicken fried rice etc. Medium bodied, spicy, juicy with boysenberries and pomegranates, with a hoisin sauce bubbling in the background. Smooth wine, silky texture, glides down nice and easy. Good wine, worth the $16.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


Ya gotta love blind tastings - takes all the bias out of opinions. Case in point - two Italian wines, one costs 10 bucks, the other $25. Quite the difference, cheapo vs. respectable, no contest? Think again. The Pelissero, Piani, Barbera d'Alba, 2006 is from the northern Piedmont region near the French border and aspires to be respectable. Medium depth maroon colour with a slight already bricky edge. Nose of mixed cassis and truffles. Medium bodied, elegant style, the flavours intensify as you swirl it around your mouth. The fruit is ripe cherry and redcurrants. Sharp and focused, made for food such as veal and pork. It's OK, good even, but grossly overpriced at $25.
Now for the surprise - the Farnese, Casale Vecchio, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2008 is from the quite proletariat appelation of Abruzzi to the right of Rome. I have extolled the virtues of these wines for a while now - they are simply unbeatable for value if you like old world wines. The colour of this wine is worth the price of admission alone. Opaque purple - it blackens your tongue and teeth. On the nose there is spice and beef bouillon. Full bodied, take no prisoners palate, this is dense, super-dry and puckering with dusty tannins. Austere and mineral-like (think about licking a slab of granite). Black cherry fruit lingers but in the background. It really needs food - a honking ribsteak would fit the bill. Unbelievable for the money, $10, but stay away if you're a new world wine guy.To support the poor Chileans, rocked by a honker of an earthquake recently, I had to open one of their wines. Did you see the pictures of the damage to the cellars in affected regions? Sstacks, nay, mountains of previously full but now broken bottles that were stored in warehouses. Ugh. At least the vines themselves weren't harmed. The Vina La Rosa, La Capitana, Cachapoal, Shiraz 2008 is truly a shiraz. Dark purple with a rich cassis nose that leaps out of the glass. Fruit bomb deluxe with lush, ripe black plums. Problem is there's no underlying structure or complexity...but then again, it's so easy drinking you just want to keep filling your glass. This is made for quaffing. $17, good wine if you like the style.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Angels and Visions

What's better than steaming, freshly roasted coffee beans that are immediately ground and drunk? Two Hands, Angel's Share, Shiraz 2008, that's what. Nice deep dark purple colour with a nose of strawberries, vanilla and toasted coconut. Medium bodied, seductive, luscious style - not a typical Oz sledgehammer. Smooth as silk, delicious and irresistible with almost sweet redcurrant fruit and milk chocolate supported by beautiful soft oak. Wow. For $28 buy a case, if it was $20 I'd buy it all.
A bit cheaper is the Cono Sur, Vision, Syrah 2007 from Chile. Dark purple also, this is a full bodied, dense, chewy concentrated wine, the kind that leaves you with an ugly purple tongue. Almost the opposite of the the Two Hands shiraz, this more austere style very much reminded me of a Rhone syrah rather than a new world shiraz. Black cherry fruit, crunchy green peppers with a little dirt mixed in. Not bad at all, but it's kinda tough to sip and a much better food wine. Overall impression: "Good" wine, good price too - $16.
Another bargain from Chile (boy I hope their recent whopper of an earthquake doesn't affect their wine...and I hope the country and it's people recover well in general) is the Concha y Toro, Trio, Merlot-Carmenere-Cabernet, Rapel Valley, 2008. The Trio series is usually good value but not what you would call "wow" wine, however Mr. Parker gave this one 90 points. Moderately deep colour with a nose of cassis and spice, it is full bodied, silky with good fruit and lovely smooth tannins. Hints of vanilla. Good wine, and bargain of the month at $15, but not quite a "wow".