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La Braccesca 2005 Antinori Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Had this wine in my cellar since 2008 when I bought two bottles. First bottle was served almost two years ago, but did not take any notes. This second bottle was served very chilled – I actually forgot it in the freezer for about one hour. The wine warmed gradually in the glass during a pleasantly sunny SAT afternoon with 29 Celsius outside.

La Braccesca 2005 Antinori Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Deep dark red color with plenty of sediment left inside the bottle. A developed and still oaky nose, with initial stinky-earthy aromas, well blended with small black and blue berries, and coffee. Dusty tannins in the mouth, with definition and flavors of earth, barnyard, black tea and black fruits on the palate. Medium black tea-coffee bitterness on the finish. (87/100)

While there is not a pronounced complexity, the wine drinks well right now and compliments food very well. Had it with shrimps saganaki and Greek style pasta with shrimps and tomato sauce.

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Categories: Italy

The wines of Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du pape

August 24, 2011 1 comment

Another producer visited this June at Vinexpo 2011 that impressed me with its wines, was the Perrin’s booth with its famous Chateau de Beaucastel located in Chateauneuf du pape. This property can qualify as one of the Grand Cru’s of the Chateauneuf du pape – if one would make such a selection.

Their booth was spacious and really nice, with plenty of natural wood used for decorating. It was the only booth that had an ingenious sink like spitting device that made life easier for everybody and did not need a manual emptying. One of the best looking booths of this fair.

The Perrins make also wines labelled as simple Cotes du Rhone. The most interesting and with a great quality/price ratio is the Coudoulet de Beaucastel red and white. Even though the vineyards of Coudoulet are just east of Beaucastel on the other side of the A7 autoroute and the soil is very similar to Beaucastel, the Coudoulet is bottled as a simple Cote du Rhone. The high proportion of Mourvedre insures a good aging potential.

The wines that stood apart during this tasting were the grand vins of Beaucastel. I had the chance to taste three different vintages of red Chateau de Beaucastel and one vintage of whites.

2010 Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc

80% Roussanne and 20% Grenache Blanc, whose vines are between 10 and 40 years old. Pale yellow color, the wine impresses immediately on the nose with its rich aromas of roasted hazelnuts and nuts mixed with acacia, honey, lime and exotic spices. Amazing nose. Rich and expressive on the palate, full bodied, with complex flavors of tropical fruits, spice and a nutty character, the wine shows good balance and freshness. The finish is long and intense. I just loved this wine and it was one of the best whites tasted at the fair. (93-94/100)

2010 Chateau de Beaucastel Roussanne Vieilles Vignes

This “Vieilles Vignes” cuvee is produced in a small quantity entirely from Roussanne vines of at least 65 years of age. Intense yellow color, the wine has a reductive nose. It doesn’t have the rich aromas of the regular Chateauneuf du pape white on the nose at this stage. There is good concentration on the palate, but the wine still seems to be very closed at this stage. It shows good freshness and elegance, but needs a few more years to develop and open up. Medium to long finish. (90/100)

The price of Roussanne Vieilles Vignes is almost double the price of the regular Beaucastel Blanc.

2009 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du pape (rouge)

The wine possess the mark of the 2009 vintage: concentrated, with big alcohol: 15-15.5%, but balanced and incredibly rich. Opaque, dark purple, almost black color, a rich and complex nose, full bodied, with depth and round ripe tannins, multiple layers of flavors on the palate, well mixed fruity and animal flavors, and a long finish. Young and restless for now, but will develop well. (92-93/100)

2008 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du pape (rouge)

Lighter in color than the 2009, exhibiting a deep dark red garnet color. The nose is developed, but less expressive – 2008 was a lesser vintage in Chateauneuf du pape. The wine sports classical aromas of ripe cherry, pepper, garrigue and spices. Medium to full bodied with ripe tannins in the mouth, less concentrated than the 2009, but showing good freshness on the palate and flavors of licorice, graphite and black fruit. Medium to long peppery finish. (90-91/100)

After finishing all the new vintages available for public tasting, the lady that guided me through this tasting, generously brought from the back an unexpected bottle of red 1998 Chateau de Beaucastel and offered me a glass. Great way to observe the differences and see how a Beaucastel can age. Plus, 1998 was a great vintage in Chateauneuf du pape.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du pape (rouge)

The wine has a nice red garnet color with a light brick meniscus. The nose is well developed and mature, very complex and intense, with big aromas of fruit, garrigue, anise, cinnamon and a bit meaty. Full bodied, rich, fleshy and balanced, it sports depth and freshness on the palate, with ripe tannins and flavors of black cherry, pepper, old leather, musk and earth. Long and lingering finish. Gorgeous mature wine that can hold on like this for a long time. (95/100)

Beaucastel’s top cuvee is Hommage a Jacques Perrin, produced only in the best vintages and made mostly from very old Mourvedre vines yielding tiny quantities of intensely ripe and concentrated fruit. It was made in 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Don’t ask about the price. Unfortunately I did not taste this cuvee.

Categories: France

Some old Burgundies: ’70, ’85, ’86 and a 1969 Brane Cantenac

August 19, 2011 5 comments

A good friend invited me to celebrate his birthday. As he is also a wine geek just like me, he organized a really impressive line-up of old wines. As he honestly said it himself, and I totally agree with this statement, the best restaurant is at your place. Especially when you have high quality products and you are passionate about cooking. It was certainly not a vegetarian based meal, but the foie-gras with truffles, the smoked duck breast, the Bellota Iberian ham and the wild rabbit cooked in a vinegar based sauce were truly delicious. The food complimented the wines in a happy manner I would say.

My friend called me yesterday around 5:00pm and told me that he opened a bottle of 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin from Joseph Drouhin in order to let it breathe for a few hours. His first impression was that the wine was dead. I am a fan of Mr François Audouze’s writings and I find very useful his tips on how to prepare a bottle of old wine for drinking. Therefore I advised my friend to Audouze the bottle: put a clean cork back just after uncorking to let the wine aerate very slowly. Not being sure that this method will work and just to be on the safe side, my friend opened another bottle also: a 1969 Chateau Brane Cantenac from Margaux that had a very low fill level. His first impression on this bottle was of a dirty nose of pickled cabbage. Not a good sign either. I advised him to do the same for this bottle: Audouze it, hoping that by the time we meet for dinner at 8:00pm there will be signs of life again.

My wife and I arrived around 8:00pm at our friend’s house and to my surprise there were additionally two more bottles of old Burgundies open – I guess you can never be too cautious – that my friend feared to be gone as well: a 1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau by Bouchard and a 1986 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru by Champy Pere et Fils. The bottles were recently uncorked and none was decanted. The 1986 seemed initially odd on the nose, while the 1985 had an interesting one. It is important to mention that the fill level for the 1986 was pretty low, but no problems for the perfect fill level on the 1985. We decided to decant the 1985 Bouchard Vosne Romanee du Chateau as, while uncorking, big parts of the cork fell into the bottle. It is important to mention that most of the corks on the bottles did not go out easily and only one went out in one piece.

After decanting this wine, we went back to taste the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertain and the 1969 Brane Cantenac. Total surprise: the wines completely changed, came back to life and no longer smelled bad. They actually started to slowly open showing very nice tertiary aromas. Notice the color of the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin:

1970 Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin

We started the meal with this wine, then put half of the bottle in the fridge and resumed drinking it at the end of the meal.

1970 Gevrey-Chambertain Joseph Drouhin

Light red-copperish, mature, a bit oxidized color, that evolved during the evening and got darker as we finished the bottle. A mature nose, discreet at the beginning, with gentle aromas of orange peel confit, figs, a very light shade of wild strawberry jam, musk and a light touch of earth. Overall a sweet nose. Light to medium bodied initially, it gained more in body as we drank it. With sustained acidity and already mature, it has light flavors of orange peel, with almost no remaining fruit, being more earthy and gamey. The finish is medium with a sour aftertaste and fresh. There is still structure maintained by the lively acidity, but the tannins are completely dissolved. It is on the downhill already, but it still offers drinking pleasure. It opened more after 5 h and gained more gamey aromas: the animal fur mixed with the orange confit were really nice. (87-88/100)

1986 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru Champy Pere et Fils

The wine opened nicely after being uncorked and left for about 2 h in the fridge. A pale red color with a brick meniscus. The nose is mature, with a damp cellar dominating aromas initially, than revealing mixed aromas of cough syrup, smoke, light strawberry, earth and interesting wax. Medium bodied, very lively on the palate, the tannins completely dissolved, earthy, with discreet red fruit flavors and a bit mineral. Medium finish with lingering earthy red fruit. Already feels on the downhill and it should be drank sooner than later. (85/100)

1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau Bouchard Pere et fils

The only wine that was decanted this evening and kept in the fridge for about 45 min. Red ruby with an orange-brick colored rim. The nose is well developed and mature, expressive, with baked red fruits, fig paste sweetness, orange peel freshness, smoke, earth and tobacco. Medium bodied, with lively acidity and still youthful on the palate, with flavors of fig and cigar ash in the mouth. Dissolved tannins, but the acidity keeps everything in balance. There is a touch of heat but nothing disturbing. (87/100)

I believe that the 1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau needed more time to aerate, as it felt there was something more still hidden underneath that waited to be revealed. Unfortunately the bottle was gone too soon.

1969 Chateau Brane Cantenac Margaux

While it had a low fill level, the wine had no fault. Red garnet with an orange meniscus, slightly oxidized. A well developed and mature nose, showing plenty of tertiary aromas, but still preserving some of the primary red fruit. There is a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon typicality, with big green vegetables aromas: asparagus and green bell pepper mixed with cigar box, burnt charcoal, truffles, subdued red currant, earth and coffee bean. Medium bodied and well structured, with dissolved tannins and red currant flavors mixed with mocha, tobacco, graphite and a lively palate. Medium finish, with pleasant light green coffee bean bitterness. The wine is not a blockbuster, but has charm and elegance. While it already had its peak and is now going downhill, the wine can still go on in this phase for more years. It should however be drank sooner than later.  (89/100)

As a conclusion on the wines: the stars of the evening were undoubtedly the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin and the 1969 Margaux. I would place the 1969 Brane Cantenac as the Wine of the Night as I really enjoyed its preserved Cabernet Sauvignon typicality.

It was a really interesting experience from the old wines point of view – it is important to know how to prepare an old bottle of wine before drinking it -, a very entertaining evening with good friends and a delicious culinary experience. Thanks a lot C. for sharing this wines and Happy Birthday again.

Categories: Bordeaux, France

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1978 and 2004

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

During the 2011 Vinexpo in Bordeaux I had the chance to taste a lot of wines. I’m  finally starting to write about some of the wines that impressed me at this fair. Today is all about Marques de Murrieta’s wines. Out of the 5-7 wines they had available for tasting at the booth, there were 3 wines that shined out.

Dalmau 2005

Retailing for about 80 Eur in the Spanish wine shops, this wine is made in an International style. A very dark almost opaque purple color. Oaky on the nose, with opulent aromas of dark fruits and spice, this full bodied wine is made in a Modern-style, to please the crowds. Big tannins, rich flavors and concentrated, the wine has a medium to long finish with sweet black fruits. (86-87/100)

The wine that made famous this Bodega is the interesting Castilo Ygay, both in red and white. Produced only in the best years, the wine is made from a separate vineyard and aged for a minimum of 36 months in American oak. I had mixed feelings about Ygay because, as much as I liked the 2001 Castillo Ygay, I was really disappointed by the Ygay 1989. I was however curious to taste the new vintage released. Oddly enough, Castillo Ygay sells for a lower price than the Dalmau.

2004 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

The color is a youthful dark red garnet. The nose seems still tight, with apparent oaky flavors, mixed with red fruits, spice and yoghurt. Medium bodied and well structured on the palate, the wine has charming aromas of red fruit, spice and a light touch of earth. The finish is fresh and fruity. The wine doesn’t impress at this stage, but further bottle aging will do the trick. (88/100)

By far the most interesting wine of this producer and a serious contender for the Wine of the Fair for me was the 1978 Ygay. The lady from the booth was very kind and offered me a glass of this old bottle of wine she was keeping hidden in a drawer.

1978 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

Blend of 75% Tempranillo, 12% Mazuelo, 10% Garnacha Tinta and 3% Graciano, this wine was aged in barrel for an insanely amount of time: 216 months – that’s about 18 years and another 10 years in the bottle.

The wine has already a light red almost copper color. The nose is mature, but beautiful and complex. Aromas of autumn forest floor mixed with sweet red fruit, earth, smoke and a touch of spice seduce you instantly. At least that’s how I felt. The wine is very youthful in the mouth, medium bodied, with integrated tannins, smoothly textured and elegant, it exhibits sweet red fruit, cedar, vanilla and earth on the palate. Perfect integration of the oak and a really nice mouth-feel. The finish is a bit sweet with good freshness. The wine has an amazing drinkability and surprises with its elegance and its intense aromas. Rioja at its best that can go so well with food. (92-93/100)

Unfortunately not available for sale, not even at the winery as far as I understood.

Categories: Spain

2007 Cuvee Charlotte Terra Romana

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I received this wine from Serve during my December 2010 visit at the winery. Mr Aurel Rotarescu, the winemaker, gladly gave me a tour of the winery and also offered a wide range of wines from bottles and barrels for tasting. The most interesting wines, as I remember, were the 2007 and 2008 Cuvee Charlotte, and the Cuvee Alexandru 2007.

I got to open this bottle about two weeks ago to pair it with grilled beef. While the weather was still very warm, not to say hot(31 Celsius), the wine showed pretty well. It was served a bit colder than the recommended serving temperature. Unfortunately I lost my tasting notes I got when I had the wine, so my notes below are from memory.

2007 Cuvee Charlotte Terra Romana

Blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Feteasca Neagra and 21% Merlot aged for at least 12 months in oak. (14.5% alc)

A dark red garnet, youthful color. The nose is already developed, with traces of elevage but without being in excess, mixed with black and red fruits, and a touch of spice – nutmeg and cinnamon shine out. More aging in the bottle should integrate better the oaky flavors. There is a firm tannins structure and moderate depth on the palate, well balanced, with mixed flavors of fresh red fruits, plums and spice. The finish is lifted by assertive tannins with a bit of dryness that points out the young age of this wine. Balanced and charming, should evolve well over the next 3-5 years. (88-89/100)

Categories: Romania

Two bubbles and an interview

August 16, 2011 2 comments

Last week I had Vali from Vinul.ro at my home as a guest. He came over to take pictures of my cellar and also to make an interview about the investment in wine. We talked about wine as an alternative financial placement, about the criteria of choosing a wine as an investment, about how to structure a wine portfolio and what type of ROI can an investor see from his placement in wine. It is the very first time I am interviewed; so far I was the one asking the questions. I am both thrilled and curious how the final article will be in the September’s edition.

As the weather was still hot outside(32-33 Celsius), it seemed a good idea to have some cold sparkling wines. Plus, I long wanted to compare the sparkling from Stirbey(I am a huge fan of this wine) to a genuine Champagne. So this was a good opportunity to do it.

Stirbey Sparkling extrabrut

While this is labelled as a Non-Vintage(NV), the wine is actually made solely from the 2009 Cramposie Selectionata harvest. The color is pale yellow with intense small bubbles. The nose is fresh and rich, with plenty of citrus and floral aromas, while the palate is focused, fresh, with discreet minerality. Fresh and vibrant on the finish. (87/100)

Demiere Ansiot Blanc de Blancs Champagne Grand Cru Brut NV

Also a NV wine made of 100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vines in Oger-Marne. Deeper yellow gold color with rich smooth bubbles. The nose breathes butter, and it is the very first thing that hits you after tasting the Stirbey. There are additional citrus, mineral and floral aromas, but it is the butter that steals the show. Creamy, rich, with good tension on the palate and full bodied, the quality of the terroir and the richness of Chardonnay is undeniable in this Champagne. The taste is fuller and more complex, while the finish is medium, with good balance between creaminess and freshness. (89/100)

As a conclusion on the wines: while there are considerable differences, I still believe that the Stirbey’s sparkling is a really good wine and an affordable competitor to the more expensive Champagne.

Stay tuned for the September’s interview.

Categories: France, Romania
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