Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

A bunch of wines from the weekend

March 26, 2013 Leave a comment


SUN was a very good day for wine. I had lunch at home with a friend and cooked fresh fish from the new shop opened in Pta Dorobanti, but also received an invitation from a different friend to pay him a visit later on. There was a very important event to be celebrated and he uncorked some special wines. Knowing my passion for old vintages he thought about me when he opened Vega Sicilia Valbuena from the late ’70s.

At home I had 2011 Serve Cuvee Amaury that sports a fresh and floral nose, with clean and enticing aromas that shift from white and yellow flowers , to citrus and pear. Lively and rich in the mouth, it is a great success. (88/100)


It took a lot of effort to uncork the 1969 Chateau Nenin Pomerol that had a mid-shoulder level. So far it proved to be the most demanding experience to uncork an old bottle of wine. As much preparation and care I took, the cork did not want to get out. I had to take it out piece by piece, but fortunately there was limited amount of cork that fell in the bottle.

The wine has a good saturated ruby red color with brick rim. It also had an oxidized appearance as soon as it was poured in the glass. I am not sure if it was because I moved the bottle a lot during my efforts to uncork it or was the contact with air. What is certain is the wine was absolutely clean and transparent in the bottle prior to my efforts to uncorking it.

The bouquet is very nice, clean and still preserves discreet primary aromas of red and black currant. As it breathes the fruity aromas increase their intensity and get more nuanced. There are intense aromas of new leather, truffles, tobacco and cedar. Medium bodied, fully resolved tannins, outstanding acidity and balanced, it offers good drinking pleasure. Medium finish and fresh. It is a maturing wine and now on a downside slope, but the wine is surprisingly good considering its age and the quality of the 1969 vintage. (88-89/100)

After lunch I accepted my friend’s invitation and paid him a visit. Over there a merry group was waiting and challenged me to a blind tasting contest which I accepted. They had 5 wines opened for a couple of hours: 4 reds and a white. I did manage to impress:

– I guessed the first red by country, region and grape variety: 2007 Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino. This had the sunny and warm nose that I find in Tuscany wines. Intense on the nose, sweet, with plenty of red fruits and toast. (91/100)

– the second as being the oldest on the table based on its color and cloudy appearance: Vega Sicilia Valbuena from the late ’70s. This is Non vintage Valbuena (it does exist yes !) bottled in 1979. It was a bit cooked and smelled like a Madeira. Such a pity. Not rated.


– the third had the most intriguing nose with pronounced aromas of earth and dill. Somebody said dirty socks. 🙂 I would call it earthy, with a little bit of brett. I thought initially old Rioja, but then the purity of its flavors and its medium body made me think about Pinot Noir from Germany. Managed to recognize the wine down to its producer and vintage: 2007 Philip Kuhn Steinbuckel Pinot Noir Grosses Gewachs Pfalz. At this moment the group was deeply impressed. This was one of the wines of the evening. It is a wine with such a great personality, intensity and focus that you cannot remain unimpressed. (93/100)


– fourth wine was more challenging. Due to some signs of oxidation, it initially sported dry fruits similar to an Amarone. In the mouth it was still good and eliminated the suspicions of an Amarone. I said initially Italy based on the nose, but based on the taste I said South Africa. It was indeed SA. Could not guess more but it was quite close. Hanneli R 2005 has some problems on the nose, but it is clean and intense on the palate. A very good wine if it would have not been the signs of oxidation on the nose.

– the fifth wine was the white. The moment I smelled the glass I said German Riesling Auslese or Spatlese. The wine had strong and sweet aromas of pineapple, peach and apricot, ripe citrus fruit and very discreet signs of petrol. Based on the nose it was an Auslese. In the mouth it fooled me because the outstanding acidity made it taste less sweet than an Auslese. I said Spatlese from Germany. It was 2001 Weingut Dr Crusius Riesling Auslese. Such a beautiful wine. It has amazing purity, richness, intensity and mouthwatering acidity. (94/100)


The evening was still young so 2 more red wines followed but not blind this time. I suggested to try 2007 Meerlust Rubicon which I absolutely loved. It strongly resembles a red wine from Medoc. Youthful, well developed and intense on the nose, it has rich aromas of green bell pepper, cedar, violets, black currant and a distinguishing peppery aroma. Fresh, powerful, balanced, seamless texture and great tannins structure, the wine is very convincing. It has deep and intense flavors of blackberries, dark chocolate and spices, and the structure to last. Long finish, with long aging potential. I was seduced immediately. (92/100)


2006 Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino Campo de Drago is a huge, concentrated and well structured wine. Not very expressive on the nose for now, but the wine has all the attributes of becoming very interesting in time. It has depth, richness and huge amounts of tannins in the mouth, but it also has balance and layers of flavors. Long chocolatey finish. (91/100)

Great day for wine.

2005 Remhoogte Estate Wine Simonsberg Stellenbosch

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment


It is the second South African wine I have in less than one week that gives me great drinking pleasure. First one was 2000 Saxenburg Pinotage I had last FRI that impressed me with its youthfulness in spite of being 12-13 years old. South African wines are an uncharted territory for me, that is well worth exploring.

Last night’s South African wine is made by Michel Rolland and is a Cape blend (red wines with a proportion of Pinotage blended with other grapes) of 53% Merlot, 35% Pinotage and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon being made in Mr Rolland’s style: big, bold, but yet pleasant and exciting.

2005 Remhoogte Estate Wine Simonsberg Stellenbosch

Popped and poured in the glass, it took about 45 min to fully open and shine and, as usual, the last two sips from the last glass were the best. I am not sure if Murphy is too be blamed for this often seen behavior in wines.

The color is dark red garnet. The nose is well developed, youthful and interesting, showing pleasant complexity and intense aromas of ink, spices, very ripe blueberry and blackberry, with a light touch of tar. Full bodied, big and bold, ripe tannins, enough flesh and structure to give an outstanding balance that completely hides the 15% alcohol, making it a very pleasant wine that can be enjoyed with more than just one glass. Medium finish with spicy black fruits aftertaste. (89/100)

An extraordinary culinary experience

January 21, 2013 1 comment

I attended a discreet private party last FRI evening organized by Mr Cristian Preotu and Le Manoir, that represented one the most decadent (in the most positive way) culinary and wine-pairing experience I enjoyed so far. The event had Mr Roland Birr as a guest chef that put up a mind blowing 8 hours cooking session called “Grill to Thrill” for almost 12-15 people present at the party. Mr Roland Birr is an international winemaker that produces wines in Languedoc, in Pays de l’Herault, and South Africa, and together with his Swiss company: Vive Group, specialized in events and special activities in the wine business, is touring the world cooking and introducing his wines in a unique pairing experience. Other special events organized by Vive Group are Wine & Spices, Ocean Feast, David & Goliath, Wine meets Chocolate, Meat to Steam. More information can be found here. Another similar event was held by Metro Baneasa on Oct 1st, 2012.


Most of the wines served this evening came from Mr Birr’s properties from France and South Africa: Chateau Capion from pays de l’Herault and Saxenburg in South Africa. On the side we were served for appetizers a very satisfying Champagne Duval Leroy (89/100) that is clean, mineral and full of citrus fruit, with good tension on the palate. I also had an excellent 2004 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champagne (92/100), delicate and elegant, with plenty of tiny bubbles, hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts, long aftertaste and mouth watering acidity.

“Thrill to Grill” was prepared and started 4 h prior to guests arrival when the meat was placed on special barbeque devices brought by Mr Birr so it can be slowly cooked at lower temperature for almost 5-6 hours. Mr Birr’s aim was to prepare authentic food that reminds people of their childhood and the simple things in life. We started the evening with grilled coquelete cut in small pieces and served as finger food. A real treat paired by a fresh rose 2011 Capion Fiona produced by Chateau Capion.


The menu continued with veal carapaccio with fresh marjoram and olive oil produced from the 200 olive trees they have at Saxenburg in South Africa; a hot and spicy salad prepared on a large frying pan with oyster and soy sauce; grilled rack of lamb and the star of the food menu: a huge paella made with prime ingredients: fresh King prawns, chorizzo, baby squid, rabbit, mussels, clams and plenty of other ingredients. I wish I would see similar ingredients used in restaurants that prepare paella.



2011 Chateau Capion Le Colombier (90/100) blanc was served with the veal carapaccio and what a great combination it was. Spending big part of the night outside watching Mr Birr cooking while he was keeping a close eye on the 4 bottles of Colombier to remain untouched, I confess it was a real struggle to touch that wine before the carpaccio was served. I did however manage to have a few sips of the wine as a reward for resisting outside on the cold evening.

2011 Chateau Capion Le Colombier is produced in a limited quantity every year – around 9000 bottles, and is sold based on  allocation to the 58 partners that distribute Capion’s wine all over the world. A blend of Viognier and Roussanne this wine happily combines freshness and creaminess. I enjoyed a lot its pronounced white flowers character, its lemon and pineapple aromas, the mango spiciness on the finish and its freshness.


With Paella, the options of red wines served were more than generous: 2008 Chateau Capion Le Juge (88/100) that comes from 25 years old vines from a plot in one of Languedoc’s Grand Cru’s – Terrasses du Larzac, predominantly Syrah (70%) blended with Grenache and Mourvedre, the wine is serious and is drinking well now. It has structure, soul and a medium long chocolatey finish.

2000 Saxenburg Pinotage Private Collection (91/100) was a superb surprise as the wine shows no signs of aging or being tired. It has a well developed nose, fully open and still on primary (fruity) aromas with beautiful spiciness, structure of smooth and ripe tannins, balanced and a long fresh finish. It is probably the oldest Pinotage I tried so far and I loved it. There was another red wine that I did not get to taste.




To end this Gargantuan dinner, French cheese assortments, chocolate and cigars were served next to a 2000 Graham’s Vintage Port (93/100) that continued to open up in the glass for the rest of the evening. There is abundant richness both on the nose as on the palate for this wine, and it smells and tastes like the chocolate candies filled with dark cherries and rum that I used to eat in my childhood. Long finish, good balance and overall such a great wine. For me, this wine was a very close and personal experience as it had the power to take me back in time and bring back such warm memories.


This type of event that brings together so much passion for cooking and wines, shared by the small group of people present deserves to be promoted, repeated and repeated again so everyone can sample it at least once. Every wine lover should look up for the next time it happens and do whatever it takes to be on the guests list. The question is not whether one will like it, but how ecstatic will one be after.

P.S. Mr Roland Birr will be back on February 10th to cook for a larger group of doctors at the Parliament’s House.

Rolland’s Collection with David Lesage

November 23, 2012 Leave a comment

I was invited to attend a very interesting tasting organized by Le Manoir, the Romanian importer and distributor of Michel Rolland’s wines. I believe, or would like to believe, that any person that likes and consumes wine, or at least is interested in wine, heard about Michel Rolland. As debatable as his wines are perceived for being too extracted or too oaky, most of the prestigious Chateaux in Bordeaux employ his consulting services. He is definitely a great blender.

Last night Mr Rolland’s son-in-law, David Lesage, presented some of the wines included in the so-called Rolland’s Collection. I actually met Mr Lesage one year ago when he conducted another wine session presenting the same Collection but some from different vintages, session organized also by Le Manoir. His presentations are interesting and engaging, filled with technical details but also spiced up with “behind the curtain” information.

I found out last night that in Bordeaux it became mandatory to mention the alcohol level on the labels starting with the ’70s. If the alcohol level is above the appellation’s rules a producer might not be able to use the AOC for that particular vintage. Mr. Lesage mentioned how Michel Rolland had the initiative to measure the alcohol level in a legendary wine: 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc and the result is just staggering: 14.8%. Should the 1970s regulations have been in place in 1947, Cheval Blanc would have not carried the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appelation. Interesting information for a wine geek. So the blamed high alcohol levels we see often today on Bordeaux wines are not a first.

We started with a white wine made from a 1 ha plot from Lussac-Saint-Émilion, normally a red wine appellation, labelled as a Bordeaux Blanc and produced in a relative short supply. The wine is aged for up to 12 months in new French oak barrels. The use of new French oak barrels is a common thing to all wines in the Rolland’s Collection. Chateau La Grande Clotte 2009 is a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gris, Semillon and up to 50% Muscadelle. The wine is opulent, both on the nose, as on the palate, oaky and elegant is the last word that comes to my mind when describing this wine. A wine that grabs your attention immediately but a bit too much for me.

Next two wines were 2002 and 2005 Chateau Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol served in parallel from two separate glasses to better compare them. The 2002 is completely open and ready to drink, showing pronounced aromas of green vegetables, green bell pepper and grass, (2002 was a rainy and hard to ripe vintage in Bordeaux) mixed with smoke, red fruits and a touch of minerals. Full bodied and filling the palate, fresh, structured, with assertive tannins. The wine is a pleasure to drink right now and has no problem holding further years. (90-91/100)

2005 Le Bon Pasteur is at a different stage. The wine feels tempered and restraint compared to 2002, but it has a depth and a complexity not matched by its older brother. Well structured, grippy tannins, fresh, ripe, full and hiding a lot of potential. Long and best to be left alone for now. (92/100)

Next wine was Le Defi de Fontenil, a 100% Merlot made only 5 or 6 times since 1999: 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 (if I understood correctly). Even though the property sits in Fronsac, the wine is labelled as a simple Vin de Table because INAO  did not approve the experiment started  in 2000 by Dany and Michel Rolland to place plastic sheeting on the soil between the rows of vines on some plots in Château Fontenil to prevent rain penetration during the month preceding the harvest. It is probably one of the most, if not the most expensive Vin de Table produced in France. The berries are fermented in open oak barrels custom made for the Chateau, while the temperature is controlled by the use of dry ice. Aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, this is an opulent, super concentrated and hedonistic expression of Merlot. We had the 2005 vintage which is extremely youthful, oaky, concentrated, structured, with fine sweet and fully ripe tannins. Long finish with opulent aromas and flavors of plums, cassis and prunes. Too young to be fully enjoyed at the moment. Probably a guy on steroids would mirror the image of this wine. A style that has its own fans.

Being a Vin de Table the producer is not allowed to mentioned the vintage on the label, however on the back label it is specified differently this information: 2005 appears as 05 and similarly for other vintages.

The 2003 Remhoogte Bonne Nouvelle made in South Africa, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage shows a more classic line, in complete antitheses with Le Defi de Fontenil. It is a style that I like more and it is hard to stay away from its pleasant smoky profile. Really balanced and perfectly enjoyable. At almost 10 years of age it is youthful and capable to hold many more years.

Last two wines were both Malbec’s made in Argentina: Val de Flores 2004 from vineyards sitting at 1000 m altitude, and Yacochuya 2004 from vines sitting at over 2000 m altitude. The climates are completely different as the properties are separated by over 1000 km. Both wines show an incredible high alcohol level: 15% for Val de Flores and a staggering 16.5% for Yacochuya, both are powerful wines but show amazing balance, ripe sweet tannins, structure and concentration to hide the heat.  Yacochuya is massive and super-concentrated, probably one the most concentrated wines I tasted so far and yet silky on the palate. (91-92/100) for Val de Flores 2004 and (93-94/100) for Yacochuya 2004.

There was also a Spanish Tempranillo made in Toro: 2003 Campo Eliseo (Champs Elysées in French), a wine made together with Jacques Lurton. A modern expression of Tempranillo.

The tasting was fun and interesting and after so much alcohol I left home a happy man. Before this event I actually had the chance to taste 3 other great wines: 2001 Masi Mazzano (92-93/100), 2006 Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco showing already a good approachability (91/100) and a very young and woody 2009 Tignanello (91/100).

The International wine round table Bucharest Ep 2

May 18, 2011 2 comments

On May 14, 2011 a small group of wine enthusiasts met at Trattoria Roma in Bucharest for the second round of tasting old vintages of Bordeaux and this time also of wines from Spain. It is the 6th meeting of the International wine round table from its inception, the first four episodes taking places in other cities excluding Bucharest.

I arrived at the restaurant around 17:00, about 45 minutes earlier than the other participants, as the wines for the tasting were stored in my cellar for the last 3 weeks in order to minimize the stress of transportation as much as possible. It is a generally accepted theory that wine suffers a certain stress after being transported for long distances and it is advisable to have a buffer time of couple of weeks to rest before being consumed. The set was already in place: the tables were arranged in a manner that all participants could see each other very well and be able to discuss without having to move from one place to another or bother their neighbors.

Oliver and Raluca were already there and after greeting ourselves, together with Oliver, we started to uncork the bottles. Most of the corks were in a perfect shape this time, just a couple of the Spanish wines had the cork soaked in  wine. Most of the red wines were poured in the decanters, the exceptions being both the 1981 Bordeaux wines and other two red wines. The whites were uncorked and maintained in the fridge until all guests arrived and the wine tasting started.

Oliver uncorked a white Stirbey Feteasca Regala 2003 and a red Stirbey Novac 2007 that were consumed by the participants as they gradually arrived to calibrate the palates before the actual event. The 2003 Feteasca Regala has evolved into a very interesting wine, losing some of the acidity, but exhibiting aged Chardonnay like aromas. The 2007 Novac will be available only in two years from now, during this time it will be let to develop in the bottle. For now the wine resembles Pinot Noir meets old Rioja like flavors.

The main wine tasting started around 18:00 and the first flight was for the three dry white wines.

1991 Vina Tondonia Reserva white Lopez de Heredia

A deep gold color. The nose was a bit closed initially and slowly started to reveal mineral and herbal aromas mixed with vanilla, peach and dry apricots. A medium body wine with a surprising lively acidity, very mineral and herbal. A medium finish, very dry, with mineral flavors of chalk and a big wild green apple like acidity that was felt fully in the mouth. 12% alcohol. 87 points

1992 Meursault 1er cru Blagny Louis Jadot

A medium gold color. Intense aromas of honey, wax and smoke dominate the nose, mixed with roasted hazelnuts, quince and lemon on the background. A medium plus body, a bit fuller than the Tondonia, with flavors of honeyed stones, predominantly mineral and herbal tones and a low acidity. A medium mineral finish. The wine is oxidized and starting to go downhill. Drink up. 88 points

1999 Grand cru classé Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc

A deep gold-amber color with signs of aging. The nose has a good intensity, appears fresh, with aromas of apricots, orange peel, quince and wax. A medium bodied wine, lacking a proper acidity, has little fruit aromas left, mineral with a honeycomb flavor. A short to medium finish and little persistence in the aftertaste. 86 points

Next flight started the red wine series with the oldest vintages available.

1981 Grand cru classé Chateau Giscours

A medium ruby red color with a brownish rim and signs of maturity. The nose is fully developed and mature, earthy, saddle leather, black currant, strawberry and mushrooms aromas build on the complexity. There is a hint of dump cellar that suggests a slight corked fault, but the wine can still be enjoyed properly. A medium plus body wine, with lively acidity, resolved and complete integrated tannins, earthy with an interesting complexity. The finish is medium with red fruit and minty aromas in the aftertaste. A wine to be enjoyed now. 88 points

1981 Chateau Batailley Pauillac

A full ruby red color with less signs of aging. A well developed nose, more youthful than the Giscours, less intense in aromas, and as it opens up, it exhibits thyme, rosemary, cedar and subtle red currant aromas. There are both good red fruit and spices aromas, however the wine remains restraint and closed. A medium bodied wine,with integrated tannins and good acidity hinting a few more years of life ahead, with clearly defined flavors of cedar, graphite, red currant and a charming complexity. The wine has lingering aromas of coffee in the aftertaste and drying the mouth. 89 points

1989 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Marqués de Murietta

This was the wine I was the most curious to taste. I had the 2001 Ygay Gran Reserva Especial about 12-16 months ago and I remember liking it a lot. This was an opportunity to see how this wine can age.

A dark red ruby-purple wine, very youthful in color and no clear signs of aging. The nose is intense, still youthful and oaky, there is a minty dominating aroma, mixed with subtle pine wood, ripe red fruits, red cherry, strawberry, raspberry and caramel. The wine is surprisingly light to medium body, showing a lively acidity and a light mouth-feel, with very little flavors in the mouth. The finish drys the mouth with firm tannins and a light to medium mix of red and black fruits in the aftertaste. 85-86 points

It was a disappointing experience.

1989 Reserva “Vina Ardanza” La Rioja Alta

Ruby red with clear traces of aging and a brick colored rim. The nose is fully developed and mature, showing aromas of earth, black currant buds, a touch more greener than the Ygay, leaning towards graphite, red currant, orange peel and green pepper. A medium plus bodied wine, with dissolved and integrated tannins, with touches of green pepper, earth and subtle red fruit flavors. A medium finish with an earthy red fruit aftertaste. 88 points

Old school Rioja showing clearly in a better shape than the oaky Ygay.

2001 Septentrion Bodegas Orvalaiz

A dark red young color. A medium intense nose, developed and oaky, spicy, with ripe red fruit, caramel, sandal wood and mint. A medium plus bodied wine, with alcohol being very present in the mouth; the wine comes uni dimensional with primary aromas of fruit. The finish is light to medium and fruity. 82 points

A wine made in an International style with plenty of fruit and very little complexity, slightly unbalanced with the heat present in the mouth. The least exciting of the tasting.

1999 Merlot “Privat Cellar” Veenwouden

A dark red ruby color. A medium intense and developed nose, very spicy with cinnamon, prunes, black tea aromas. A medium bodied wine with round and integrated tannins, with flavors of black fruit, prunes, dark chocolate and minerals, dominated from now and then by figs and caramel. A medium finish and simple complexity. 86-87 points

1996 Grand cru classé Chateau La Tour Figeac

A dark ruby red and youthful color. The nose is classic Bordeaux: well developed and balanced, greener than the fruity African Merlot, with subtle plums, graphite, boxwood, green bell pepper, asparagus, smoked bacon and leather. It is important to mention that when uncorking this wine, the most dominating aroma that came out of the bottle was the  smoked bacon. A medium to full body wine, voluptuous, with a firm tannins structure and very nicely mixed flavors of red and black fruit, plums, leather and lively minerality. The firm tannins are present also in the finish giving a lift to all the other aromas, with a medium plus long aftertaste and lively mineral aromas. The most interesting wine for me this evening. 90 points

Just like in the 1970 La Tour Figeac from Magnum that I had at the last reunion in March, this Chateau is stealing again the first place of this wine tasting and shows consistence in making good wines in acclaimed vintages. I will seek other vintages made by this producer. 

1998 Alion Reserva Tinto Bodegas y Vinedos Alion

A dark ruby red and youthful color. The nose is well developed, sweet and intense, oaky, with aromas of smoke, black fruit: black berry and hints of vegetables. A medium to full body wine with firm tannins, with primary flavors of red and black fruit dominating, completed by a certain pleasant minerality. Firm grip tannins on the finish as well, with black tea and blackberry aromas. 88-89 points

The last wine was a sweet Sauternes.

1995 Château La Tour Blanche 1er cru classé Sauternes

A medium amber evolved color. The nose is well developed and intense, with rich aromas of saffron, orange peel, sweet caramelized pineapple lifted by a refreshing minerality. Full bodied, unctuous without being sticky, with good acidity and very well defined flavors of tropical fruits and a refreshing minerality in the medium aftertaste. A lighter style and easier to drink. 89 points

My top wines for this tasting:

1) 1996 Chateau La Tour Figeac St Emilion Grand Cru

2) 1981 Chateau Batailley Paulliac

3) 1989 Reserva “Vina Ardanza” La Rioja Alta and 1981 Chateau Giscours Margaux

4) 1992 Meursault 1er cru Blagny Louis Jadot

5) 1995 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes

As a conclusion: Bordeaux shows well again its aging potential and the ability to develop subtle and complex flavors in time, while, with the exceptions of Ardanza La Rioja Alta and the white Tondonia which is released after several years of aging anyway, the Spanish wines should have probably been consumed younger. It is probably debatable whether the Spanish wines should be consumed within 10 years of release as Mr Hugh Johnson states in his Pocket Wine book, however this tasting, I lean towards his statement. There are however exceptions from the rule.

Thanks for reading!

2004 Frans Malan Simonsig and 2006 Stirbey Novac

March 22, 2011 2 comments

After the busy weekend with plenty of good wine and food, my conscience was recommending at least a few days of penitence with light food and no wine. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Visiting the local Mega Image supermarket shopping for the usual groceries and waiting in the queue to reach the cashier, I stumble upon some good friends, Cristina and Dan, a couple that moved recently in the neighborhood. I guess MON is a common day to shop for food and replace the depleted reserves after the weekend for everybody. We haven’t seen each other for some time so we shortly decided to have dinner together at their place. I offered to bring at least the wine, and they gladly accepted.

I went home and picked a South African wine that I bought in 2008 and stored in my cellar ever since. I never tried this wine before so I was very curious about it. I uncorked the bottle and took a sip just to make sure that I do not bring a corked wine to our dinner. Even from the first sip, I was really impressed by this wine.

2004 Simonsig Stellenbosch Frans Malan Cape blend South Africa

Blend of 65% Pinotage, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot aged in French and American oak. The wine won many prices as the several awarding labels from the front of the bottle show.

There is an opaque dark red purple color. The nose is well developed, intense, balanced with fresh ripe dark fruits: raspberry and mulberry, with smoke, cocoa, dark chocolate, licorice and a touch of spices building a sweet but interesting nose. The taste is full body, with good levels of concentration and glycerin, well balanced, with thick layers of dark fruits balanced by a good acidity, a touch of minerality-graphite, cocoa and mocha. There is intensity, multiple flavors, sweet ripe tannins and freshness in this wine. The finish is medium plus with mellow tannins that lift the fruity flavors and a beautiful dark chocolate-coffee bean bitterness in the aftertaste. Great balance of the 14.5% alcohol. 91 points

Our hosts liked the wine a lot. They also prepared a very good meal with Mediterranean dishes and the strong flavors of the wine matched the food well. The bottle finished pretty quickly – I guess this is the characteristic of any good wine- so Dan, our host, offered to open another bottle. It happened that he opened a bottle of 2006 Novac from Stirbey that I offered him as a gift a few months ago. This was another bottle that rested in my cellar for about 2-3 years as well.

The style of the Novac was on the lighter side, but it was really welcoming. This is an easy going wine especially after the concentrated South African blend. There was however a slight touch of cork taint in the Novac.

2006 Stirbey Novac

There is a clean ruby red color reminding of a more concentrated Pinot Noir. The nose is developed, with signs of maturity and showing very interesting aromas of ripe red cherry, red currant and warm earthy forest floor building a nice complexity. In the mouth the wine is medium body, with a great backbone of mellow tannins and good acidity, with soft aromas of red cherry, red currant, earthiness and tobacco. The finish is medium with a red cherry refreshing aftertaste. 85-86 points

I was taken by surprise by this wine and I can certainly say that the Novac has better drink-ability compared to the 1st wine, even though the aromas and flavors are not as intense. The bottom line is that the Novac came as a breath of fresh air. It is nevertheless a less commercial style and more of an Old world wine.

The night finished fairly late for a regular MON. I still contemplate if I should visit Mega Image again tonight or not for what I forgot to buy yesterday. You never know how the evening may change.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Romania, South Africa

2004 Chateauneuf du pape Domaine du Pegau and a Chardonnay from Nederburg

February 7, 2011 1 comment

great Chateauneuf du pape

The wines of this weekend are a South African Chardonnay that I received from Recas wineries (Cramele Recas) to sample and a very interesting wine from Chateauneuf du pape bought from abroad a while ago.

2009 Nederburg Chardonnay the Winemaster’s Reserve

The wine has a pale gold color. The nose is clean, fresh with  medium(-) intensity with butter, lemon and pleasant stony aromas. In the mouth the wine is medium bodied, dry, with a good acidity, has freshness and a short to medium mineral finish. 82 points

2004 Chateauneuf du pape Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee

The wine has a dark red color. The nose is developed with a medium(+) intensity, showing complex aromas of leather, forest floor, dark cherry, smoke, bacon fat and a little bit of musk. In the mouth this full bodied wine is balanced, with great structure and polished tannins, glycerin, starting with a sweet sensation and aromas of red cherry liquor, meat, provencal herbs and spices. There is a medium plus finish with a spicy sweet cherry aftertaste. The wine feels a bit closed and I did not probably decant it enough(only 45 min). There is a touch of heat on the nose once the wine is warming, nothing disturbing and overall a really delicious wine. I would certainly buy more.  93 points

Thanks for reading!

Categories: France, South Africa

The war of the whites

December 10, 2010 1 comment

three dry Romanian whites and an off dry outsider

THU evening we had a lovely home made Greek food dinner prepared by our good Greek friend Christiana. Tasting that Feta and the other dishes prepared with products directly from Greece, brought back memories from our September vacation in Thassos: the shinning sun, the nice warm yellow sand and the clear blue sea. A good way to attack the Yellow code warning for heavy rain and snow issued by those guys from the Weather department for this coming weekend for Romania. Taste and olfactory memories are very powerful and usually underestimated. However man cannot leave only on bread and water, in this case on olfactory and taste memories.

This dinner was a great opportunity to share and do a comparative tasting with a small group of good friends(we were 7 overall and only 4 of us sampled wine) of some of the top white wines from three Romanian producers. Both the Solo Quinta 2009 and the Terra Romana Cuvee Amaury 2009 received directly from the producers for sampling. The remaining two Davino Domaine Ceptura Blanc 2009 and Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2010 were offered by the host so that the comparative tasting can be more extensive. We tasted all the wines from separate glasses during the whole meal and paired each of them with fish, salads, different types of cheese and meat dishes.

One common thing about all three Romanian wines sampled was the lack of concentration of the texture in the mouth. It is important to say that the South African Chenin Blanc from Simonsig was tasted the last and being off dry was a little bit out of place for this tasting. The residual sugar was unpleasant after the three dry Romanian whites. Here are my tasting notes for the wines.

2009 Terra Romana Cuvee Amaury

I do not know what is the selling price for this wine on the market. This was the only wine of the flight aged in oak for 6 months. It is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

The wine has a pale lemon color. The nose shows pleasant hints of oak mixed with discrete yellow flowers, grapefruit, green apple and mineral aromas. In the mouth the wine is watery like, with a good acidity, pleasant freshness and balance but lacking concentration. There is a short to medium finish with mineral flavors. Good wine

2009 Davino Domaine Ceptura Blanc

Price: around 70 RON/16 eur

Also a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling with no oak.

The wine has a deeper yellow lemon color. The nose is fresh with floral aromas of acacia and elder with hints of minerals. In the mouth the wine starts with an immediate off dry sensation, a higher acidity than the Cuvee Amaury and freshness. Notes of yellow flowers, apples and pears make the taste of this medium body wine finishing dry with a fresh medium aftertaste . Good+

2009 Solo Quinta

Price: 60 RON at the producer/14 EUR

Solo Quinta is a blend of four white grapes with the juice from a red grape. For 2009 the red grape chosen was Merlot. The other four white grape varieties are Feteasca Regala, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat. The wine has not seen any oak.

The wine has a clear green-yellow color. The muscat is very strong on the nose from the get go, with a distinct sweet flavor. Floral aromas of linden, acacia, elder and roses, flavors of  grapefruit and apricots come out of the glass. In the mouth the wine is medium body with a lifting acidity, with flavors of red currants, apricots, honey, vanilla and a fresh spiciness that come together to make a round and balanced wine. The wine has a fresh medium finish and felt more concentrated than the first two wines. Very good, potentially Very Good+ wine.

2010 Simonsig Chenin Blanc

Price: 30 RON/7 EUR at the importer Cramele Halewood

As much as I usually like this wine, this evening it felt out of place. Too sweet after the three whites that qualify as dry wines.

With the deepest yellow color of the four wines tasted, the wine has a fresh nose with plenty of spicy aromas, grapefruit, lemon and orange zest. In the mouth the wine is off dry(I didn’t like the sweetness tonight) with balance, good acidity, a medium body and good concentration holding the 14.5% alcohol in great form. A medium finish for the wine with the highest alcohol level for the night. Tonight Good+ wine.

This is my classification for tonight’s dry wines: 1) 2009 Solo Quinta; 2) 2009 Davino Ceptura Blanc; 3) 2009 Cuvee Amaury.

After a gargantuan meal a nice cake seemed like a great ending.

sweets from Chocolat

As much as all these wines are interesting on their own, it is a comparative tasting that gives one the chance to compare and choose the wines one prefers.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Romania, South Africa

Ugaba 2008

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Anwilka is Bruno Prats, former owner of Cos d’Estournel, and Hubert de Bouard, owner of Chateau Angelus, joint venture in South Africa with Klein Constantia. Their first wines were released starting with the 2005 vintage. I did not taste yet their first label – Anwilka, but Ugaba, their second, is a pleasant surprise. This blend of 65% Cab Sauv, 34% Syrah and 1% Merlot is their second label. The wine spent 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels.

Color is deep dark red almost opaque. Nose of a youthful wine, with a slight sweet sensation of ripe red berries and elegant French oak. In the mouth this Bordeaux like wine is medium body with round and firm tannins, good acidity that doesn’t make the wine heavy on the palate and nicely balances the 14.5% alcohol. The aftertaste is medium with a pleasant bitterness finishing with dark chocolate and black tea. The wine gains in complexity paired with lamb chops and a Provencal sauce. Very good- wine.

Price:75 RON/17.5 EUR

Thanks for reading!

Categories: South Africa

Simonsig Sunbird Sauvignon Blanc 2008

September 1, 2010 1 comment

The wine has a pale clear yellow lemon color. This wine has a very green nose,spicy and herbal, dominated by cut hay and green bell pepper. In the mouth the wine is light to medium body, crispy with nice acidity and the similar herbal and spicy flavors as the nose: cut hay, green bell pepper, ginger, green apple and lemon finishing in a pleasant short to medium aftertaste. A nice wine that either you love it either you hate it. I find the wine very pleasant and I like it but this wine will not appeal to the majority of wine drinkers. Good

Price: 5-6 EUR

I prefer more the Simonsig Chenin Blanc as I find it better concentrated, with nice aromatics and pleasant medium aftertaste.

I had this wine paired with a tasty dish of fresh boiled crabs with a sauce made of mayo, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Tasty food and good wine pairing overall.

Update: tasted the wine the second day. The herbal character faded away and what remained is an extremely spicy wine, with a pleasant greenness on the nose and mouth. It feels like biting a fresh green bell pepper together with a strong flavor of ginger that remains long in the aftertaste. This is really a wine that you either love either you just hate. I had the wine paired with a spicy dish of pasta with minced beef and a tomatoes based sauce. The wine really did well in this company. I am upgrading my rating from Good to Very Good.

The spiciness of this wine reminded me of a red wine I had a while ago – Domaine de Ravanes – Le Prim Verd 2002, produced in Languedoc. Le Prim Verd is a 100% Petit Verdot, a grape usually used in small percentages in Bordeaux blends, as its spiciness brings more complexity. This sensation of biting a fresh green bell pepper and ginger is similar to this South African Sauvignon Blanc. Very interesting to try both wines. Domaine de Ravanes – le Prim Verd 2002 sells for 30-35 EUR so a more expensive red wine compared to the 5-6 EUR Simonsig Sunbird SB.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: South Africa

2005 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva and 2007 Simonsig Chenin Blanc

July 12, 2010 4 comments

I had the chance to watch the World Cup 2010 final game together with some very good friends. This was a case for a certain celebration, not just the World Cup game, so the night was accompanied by excellent home cooked food and good wines.

2007 Simonsig Chenin Blanc

I made no mistake by choosing this South African wine for this particular dinner, as my intention was to feel the African soil even if I was far away.

The wine has a beautiful gold clear color. The nose shows honey, herbs, minerals and cream. In the mouth the wine is vibrant, medium body with nice acidity, lime, spicy and some residual sugar showing a discreet sweetness. The wine has a pleasant medium fruity and spicy aftertaste. The 2007 already shows some signs of flabbiness so it should be drunk now.  Good+ to Very good

A nice value wine considering the under 5 EUR price I paid for it.  Would buy more recent vintages for sure.

2005 Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva

I didn’t have any high expectations from this wine as Antinori is a mass(massive is actually a correct term after being shown some statistics and reading more; my bad) producer but after 2 h decanting the wine surprised me pleasantly quite a bit. I received this wine as a gift so I do not know what is the actual price of this bottle. The wine spent 14 months in small oak barrels and an additional 12 months in the bottle before being released.

The wine has a dark red/purple opaque color. The nose is complex with dark ripe sour cherry, cassis, hints of oak, earth, dark chocolate and spices, very nicely balanced. Everything is dark about the nose and very intriguing. In the mouth the wine is full body with lots of dark fruits, black currant, dark chocolate, very Bordeaux style, black pepper and finishes in a medium plus aftertaste with certain pleasant bitterness of dark sour cherry, dark chocolate and tea leaf.Very good+ to Excellent

A very nice and solid wine that cuts well through the richness of the meal: funghi porcini with garlic and parsley, yellow mushrooms cooked in butter and Chateaubriand.

A very entertaining evening overall.

Thanks for reading!

Categories: Italy, South Africa
%d bloggers like this: