Cuvee Charlotte from SERVE – a vertical of 7 vintages
I was invited this week by SERVE at a preview of Cuvee Charlotte 2008. The invitation also mentioned “some other things also” so I was naturally curious to see what were the other things. I arrived a bit later than scheduled and I was invited by Mr Savulescu to taste a glass of Sauvignon Blanc 2011 taken straight from the tank. I was the only one in the room together with Mr Savulescu so I had the impression that I arrived too late. I found out after a few minutes that the main event was still taking place upstairs where all the other guests were still tasting Cuvee Charlotte.
The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from tank, still on the lees and unfiltered, is a good appearance, as the aromas are intense and well defined, and the wine has a bright acidity and good length in the mouth.
I was finally guided upstairs where a group of roughly 10-12 people: the guys from Vinul.ro, most of the wine bloggers from Bucharest and Catalin Paduraru, in the company of Mr Aurel Rotarescu – SERVE’s winemaker, were tasting a vertical of 7 vintages of Cuvee Charlotte.
For the ones not familiar with the wine, Cuvee Charlotte is SERVE’s flagship red wine and one of the first premium wines ever released in Romania starting with the 1999 vintage. The hosts kindly provided 2 bottles of each vintage, starting with 2001 until 2008, the exception being 2004. The 2008 version of Cuvee Charlotte will officially be launched next week during the Good Wine fair.
It is important to mention a few things about the wines tasted. The typical blend for Cuvee Charlotte is a mix of Feteasca Neagra with Merlot and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. For example, the vintages 2001-2006 were blends of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 2007 was a blend of all 3 grapes, and in 2008 there is only Feteasca Neagra and Merlot. Unfortunately, older vintages than 2007 are no longer available. When they are, they are usually overpriced.
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Merlot. 15,000 bottles produced. Also has a very long story printed on the back-label, while the front label maintains the same design as the original 1999 version.
Deep dark red garnet, with purple hues. Rich, developed nose. Really intense. Very spicy, cinnamon, mix of blue and red fruits, oak, sweet spices, aniseed. Medium plus body, good texture and opulent mouth feel, assertive tannins that just give good freshness, lively palate, chewy tannins. Medium plus finish, balanced, grippy tannins and cocktail of sweet fruits, plums, blueberry. 14.5% alcohol very well balanced. (90-91/100)
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Feteasca Neagra and Merlot. 47,500 bottles produced.
More evolved color still red garnet. Less intense nose, more herbal, spicy and sweet red fruits, cardamon, cinnamon, minty. Medium body, sweet and ripe tannins, sweet palate, red fruits, herbs, spices. Medium finish with grippy tannins. Fresh aftertaste. (88-89/100)
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 34,680 bottles produced.
More evolved color, darker ruby red with signs of development. Developed, medium intense nose, even more herbaceous than the 2007, mixed with red fruit and spices. Light to medium body, more diluted, more aggressive tannins. Medium finish and quite astringent. There are sweet red fruit aromas in the aftertaste. (86/100)
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 33,250 bottles produced.
Evolved color, showing signs of aging, ruby red with an orange rim. Developed but austere nose, maturing, very herbaceous, shows signs of premature aging. 2005 was a difficult vintage in Romania. Light to medium body, mellow tannins, lively acidity, discreet flavors. Medium finish. Elegance prevails, but not very well defined flavors. (83-85/100)
2004 was a poor vintage for this wine, so the host decided to exclude the wine from the tasting. A good initiative.
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 25,328 bottle produced.
Deep dark red garnet color with very light brick rim. Youthful color. Well developed and complex nose. Sweet nose of red fruits, spices and herbs, with aeration bringing raisin and fig aromas. Medium body, lively palate, grippy tannins, spicy, red fruits, earth and leather palate. Medium plus finish with lingering flavors. There is a certain character of over ripe flavors – 2003 was a very hot vintage in Romania just like in the rest of Europe – but the wine maintains a good balance. (88-89/100)
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 21,200 bottles produced.
Deep dark red color and very youthful. A more closed nose, with developed, but discreet aromas. Sweet red fruit, dry plums, figs and herbs with a touch of tobacco. Very sweet attack initially, medium body, raisin flavors, with bright avidity and medium finish. Drying tannins in the aftertaste with mixed aromas: coffee, black tea and sweet red fruit. My favorite older vintages of the vertical and still good potential for this wine. (89-90/100)
Mr Rotarescu explained that 2002 was very much similar to the 2003 in terms of weather, but had a touch more rain keeping things better balanced.
Blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon. 13,320 bottles produced.
Dark red garnet color and very little signs of aging. Maturing nose, secondary moving towards tertiary aromas. Touch of dump cellar and some volatiles on the nose. Sweet attack initially in the mouth, but the acidity is going a little over the board almost vinegary. Slightly unbalanced. Short to med finish and pretty astringent end. Past its peak and going downhill. (77/100)
I am always very happy to try older vintages of Romanian wines as this is certainly the best way to see the aging potential they have. Unfortunately there are not many wineries that can organize such tastings and the reason is that usually they are happy to get rid of the full stock as soon as possible. In my opinion, this is a big mistake as there is no way to keep a track of how your work evolves in time. Or perhaps it is this reason why they are happy to deplete the stock as soon as possible, as those premium wines are not built to last.
For me, the wines of the night were the 2002 and the 2008 Cuvee Charlotte. There are certain similarities between the two wines. 2008 is definitely a wine to follow as the oak is well mastered, the aromas and flavors are rich and intense, and the wine promises a lot.
*all pictures are courtesy to Nicusor Cazan – www.cazancuvin.ro