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Château Verdignan Haut-Médoc 2005

Château Verdignan Haut-Médoc 2005

Last May, I reviewed a very decent Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009 and gave a broad overview of the red blends of Bordeaux in general, and the wines of the Haut-Médoc AOC in particular. Today’s selection is another Haut-Médoc and is a good representative of the typical left-bank blend, being made up of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It cost me a few cents under $40 at an LCBO outlet in Ottawa and was thus a bit more expensive than my usual upper limit of thirty dollars or so. Because of that, I was a little more critical than I might have been with a cheaper bottle, but I still found it a decent purchase.

The nose features sour plum and faint hint of strawberry along with notes of cedar, sharply herbaceous undergrowth and an underlying musky barnyard funk. It is medium bodied, with tannins that are very dense, gripping, and bordering on astringent. Happily, the harsher effect of the tannins is fairly well balanced and rounded out by the moderate acidity. The palate mirrors the fruit in the nose but with more sour cherry than strawberry and the whole is very aromatic with notes of wood, coal smoke and tobacco. There is also a very faint oily quality with hints of petroleum here and there, which while unusual (for a red Bordeaux, at least), wasn’t unpleasant at all.

Overall, I was left with the impression that this selection probably won’t find much favor with those who shy away from very densely tannic wines, but will be enjoyed by those who do both as a sipping wine in its own right and as an accompaniment to rich, hearty foods. At a lesser price, I would likely give this vintage a very high rating and make a personal note to purchase more bottles for ageing. However, when taking the actual price into consideration against the quality, I will probably spend my wine allowance trying something else.

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Château Haut-Bages Monpelou Pauillac 2015

Château Haut-Bages Monpelou Pauillac 2015

Today’s wine is another ‘left-bank’ Bordeaux and I am featuring it because it turned out to be very nice, and something I will likely purchase again if I can. It is a bit expensive, running for $56.75 at SAQ in Montreal, but I was very happy with it thought it well worth the price.

As you may recall from previous posts, red wines from the so-called ‘left-bank’ region of Bordeaux are mostly blends, which mostly have Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary varietal. This particular wine is from the Paulliac AOC, in the famous Medoc wine-making district, and it is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 27% Merlot, and the final 3% rounded out with Cabernet Franc. It is a dry wine, with just 2.1 grams per liter of residual sugar, and the alcohol level is about 13%.

The nose here is a bit muted with the fruit component being dark plum and blackcurrant. It has a very earthy quality, with a faint touch of the barnyard, and there are very strong mushroom notes interspersed with highlights of violet. On the palate, it is smooth and fully bodied with lively acidity and rich tannins, and the blackcurrant on the nose is supplanted with sour cherry against the plum. There are rich woody tones of both oak and cedar, with some spice in the finish, but what I really liked here were some interesting notes of ripe grains and light toast.

Overall, I found this a complex and very enjoyable sipping wine as is, but I am sure it has great prospects for becoming even better with a little more ageing. If I can lay my hands on a few more bottles on my next travels south, I will certainly ‘cellar’ at least one for a few years or so. The 2016 vintage is also supposed to have been a stunning one for Pauillac, so I will keep my eyes out for those as well…

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Wine: Château Mondésir-Gazin Blaye 2014

Château Mondésir-Gazin Blaye 2014

In my last post, we had a brief discussion about the red wine blends of Bordeaux, and the differences between the so-called Left and Right banks regions. The wine I featured in that post was a Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009, and you may recall that it is a left-bank wine and that the dominant varietal in the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, our selection comes from the Blaye AOC, which surrounds the town of Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde River and, as such, it features a blend in which Merlot dominates. Unusually though, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is quite often the secondary varietal, in this wine, there is no Cabernet Sauvignon at all and the blend is an interesting 65% Merlot, with the remaining 35% being Malbec.

I bought my bottle for $29.75 from one of the SAQ stores in Montreal. It has an alcohol content of 14% and contains 1.7 grams of sugar per litre. It is very dry with moderate acidity, has a nice full-bodied silky texture, and a smoothly tannic finish. The nose is surprisingly aromatic with black plum and blackcurrant and floral highlights, and there is also a little cedar, some herbaceous notes, and just a faint touch of barnyard muskiness. This last may signal the influence of Brettanomyces but, if so, the effect is not pronounced enough to be considered a flaw and, in any event, did not seem to come through in the taste.

On the palate, the blackcurrant gives way to sour cherry and the faint floral notes on the nose resolve into a very definite violet quality, with the cedar being a little more pronounced. The herbaceous notes are less noticeable but there is a little peppery spice near the finish that is very pleasant. Overall, I thought this excellent for the price and I would say that it is a wine worth buying and aging for a bit in order to see what else develops.

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Wine: Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009

Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009

About seven or eight months ago, I began something of a virtual tour of the Bordeaux wine-making region. I say ‘virtual’ because, being several thousand miles away, I am restricted to just tasting the wines as I find them locally, but I have managed, thus far, to work my way through quite a few of the locales that feature in the Bordeaux naming control system.

I am not going to attempt a thorough explanation of the regional naming regime that exists in Bordeaux, as it is really quite complex, but will rather limit myself to saying that, generally, you can divide the wine-making regions into three separate areas… first, the so-called ‘Left-Bank’, being the western side of the Gironde Estuary and Garonne River, then the ‘Right-Bank’, which is to the east of the estuary and the Dordogne River, and final the ‘Entre-Deux-Mers’ region, which covers the area in between.

In Bordeaux, almost all the wines produced are blends and, on the Left-Bank, the red wines are blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon predominates, with some mix of Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot being included as well. Today’s selection is a Left-Bank red from the Haut-Medoc AOC, and is a simple blend comprised of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 42% Merlot.

The wine is full-bodied and quite dry with a mere 2.7 grams of sugar per liter. It has a nice smooth mouthfeel with moderate acidity and fairly robust tannins. On the nose, the fruit is quite muted with some blackcurrant and a little cherry, along with notes of forest floor, dried grass and a faint floral quality. The palate is a little fruitier with plum and sour red cherry, and there are very nice woody notes of oak and cedar with some leather, dark toast and aromatic spices in the finish. Overall, it was very interesting, nicely rounded and pretty decent value at $29.95 from SAQ in Montreal.

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Wine: Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Those with a passing familiarity of Italian wines will tend to think of Chianti when the name Tuscany comes up (or perhaps one of the ‘Super Tuscans’), but a slightly lesser known, but just as prestigious,  group of wines from the region are those from the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita).

Like the Chianti’s the Brunello di Montalcinoi wines are based on the Sangiovese grape but, here,  the DOCG rules require that only Sangiovese be used.  Now, while I very much enjoy a good Chianti, and wouldn’t want to make any blanket comparisons, I have to say that this particular bottle has trumped any of the Chianti’s I have had thus far …

A certain level of quality was probably only to be expected given the almost $50 price tag, but one can easily be disappointed with a relatively expensive wine and that certainly wasn’t the case here. After I had sampled it, I read a few reviews and saw that several people recommended that the wine be decanted for at least a couple of hours and served slightly chilled. My sample was at a cool room temperature, and I only let it breather for about 30 minutes or so in a decanter, but I don’t think I lost much thereby.

The nose is very pleasant with raspberry and cherry for fruit, along with notes of strawberry jam, cream, cedar and vanilla, and some faint floral highlights. It is full-bodies, with a smooth, almost creamy texture, and a moderately high acidity, robust tannins, and a nice long finish. On the palate, the floral component is much more pronounced and the fruit tends to the sour red variety with a slightly unusual apple-cider quality towards the end. There is some spice and a slightly resinous woody effect that rounds out the other qualities nicely.

A few critics have suggested that a few more years will improve this vintage (and I can’t really do much more than guess on that point) but I felt this was a very nicely complex and interesting wine. It might be a bit tannic for some tastes, and probably suited only for pairing with very hearty dishes, but it makes a very different sipping wine if you are going to splurge just a little bit…

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Wine: Vina Laguna Terra Rossa 2016

Vina Laguna Terra Rossa 2016

Today’s wine selection is the last of a series of obscure wines I purchased at the end of last year, some of which I have featured in past posts already. This one is a little special as it is Croatian (and I have never had a wine from Croatia as yet), and also because the dominant grape in the blend is Teran, a new varietal to me. The other grapes in the blend are the familiar Merlot, and Borgonja, which, I believe, is just another name for Gamay. In any event, the blend works very nicely indeed…

The wine is a very dark ruby, and it is medium bodied with a silky mouthfeel. It is pretty dry, with bright acidity, smooth tannins and a finish that persists somewhat but weakens quite quickly. The nose is quite rich with dark berries and plum jam at the front, and there is dusty wood and some floral highlights over a faint forest floor quality, and some barnyard notes underneath.

The palate has plum, cherry and blackcurrant, with just a little citrus, and there some fairly aromatic floral notes and a little bit of wood and leather. This isn’t a hugely complex wine but, at $17.50, I thought it pretty good value for the price.

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Wine: Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012

masi costasera amarone della valpolicella classico 2012

Most people have at least heard the name ‘Valpolicella’ in connection with Italian wine before, and this is chiefly because the Valpolicella DOC ranks as only second behind the Chianti DOC in terms of total production for the entire country.  Within the general Valpolicella DOC, however, there are several smaller name-controlled areas, including the prestigious Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG.

Most of the wine from the whole Valpolicella region is typically a blend of the Corvina grape, along with Rondinella and Molinara. Today’s selection, a 2012 vintage from the Masi Costasera winery in Amarone della Valpolicella, is also one of these blends, but it is also augmented by a lesser known varietal known as Oselet. I picked up a bottle of this past October or November and I would have to say that this one of the nicest wines I tasted all year.

Amarones are known to be bold, very alcoholic, full bodied wines. This one is 15% alcohol, and actually quite dry at 11 grams of sugar per liter, while the body is indeed full, with an almost chewy texture. It is moderately acidic, thus offsetting the sweetness somewhat, with tannins that are bold, yet smooth, and last well into the finish.

On the nose, there are fresh dark berries with hints of blackberry jam, cedar, earth and musky notes of forest floor. The palate is every bit as rich and features dark plum, sweet tobacco, chocolate and woody notes with a curious, but very pleasant popcorn quality. At the very end, there are also grass and herb highlights which round out the overall effect very nicely. Generally, this is the sort of rich, robust wine that pairs well with strong, hearty dishes, but I found it to a truly lovely sipping wine all by itself…

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Cave St-Pierre Dôle du Valais 2016

Cave St-Pierre Dôle du Valais 2016

Over this past Christmas vacation, I sampled a number of wines from some of the less celebrated wine producing regions, including a couple of interesting ones from Switzerland. This one I am featuring today is a red, Pinot Noir blend from the Valais AOC. The blend includes Gamay (which is blended with Pinot Noir in other regions, including Burgundy), but it also contains a varietal I have not had before called Diolinoir. I had to look this one up, but it turns out to of Swiss origin and is a cross between a Pinot Noir and a grape called Rouge de Diolly. I have been unable to find out much about it as yet and I do not know if there are any single varietal wines made with it.

In any event, this blend has resulted in a medium full-bodied wine that has a pleasant, almost satiny texture. It is off-dry, with low-medium acidity, and has very smooth tannins, making it an easy sipping wine.

On the nose, there are muted red berries, with a touch of raspberry jam, along with notes of cedar, some spice, and a rather curious hint of buttered toast. Plum comes through on the palate, along with sour cherry, just ripened raspberries, and a hint of pepper. There is also an earthy quality, with background notes of herbaceous undergrowth and dried leaves.

Overall, this is very interesting, quite complex and decently rounded. I paid about $21.00 CDN for this (Quebec prices) and found it very good value for the money.