Reflections of a wine lover – report #56

15


“Chile? I don’t even need to taste the wine. You can just stick a bottle up my arse and I can tell you where the wine’s from.”

You’ve read it before – the words of André van Rensburg at Vergelegen. Prejudices? Or is it a fact that Chilean wines are that easy to identify? Certainly the words of a man taking the chance to gain more publicity but come on – we all have prejudices against certain wines, wine styles, regions or even countries. I do. And I need them! Without my biased approach I wouldn’t get any chances of modifying my beliefs and constantly be surprised!

Every now and then you need some eye-openers; just a reminder on the complexity of the wine world, that famous sites or Chateau’s aren’t a guarantee when paying high bottle prices, southern wine appellations can produce wines without heat and scorched earth, Amarone can be taken for a high class old school Chateauneuf-du-Pape – or just how much the point of view differs between tasters.

Thank you for reading newsletter no. # 56 – let’s open some eyes!

 

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Wine battle! A
2006 Corton from Domaine Rapet versus the 2007 Spätburgunder from Fritz Becker. 50 Euro’s vs 10. This will get ugly you think and boy are you right! Being the evil conférencier I know what’s in the glasses but I am curiously awaiting the judgement of the experienced tasters gathered around the table.

Now, I have tasted the wines before and have my opinion ready but can really a 10 Euro wine compete against a Grand Cru Burgundy? Both bottles were given a fair amount of time in the decanter before poured back in the covered bottles. In glass number one the Corton and then the Fritz Becker.


Rapet’s 2006 Corton shows fine and noble red berries character and plentiful of new mascara – oak that is. It’s a nice bouquet but for a Corton you want just more than good cellar work. Personality? In the mouth it is quite balanced but lacks stuffing for a Grand Cru and is a bit monolithic. A touch of bitterness and the aftertaste leaves only disappointment. Nice but the general feeling is more of the character ‘Have I been pickpocketed?’. On a good sunny day it’s worth a 88 points rating.

The Spätburgunder from Becker is represented with the great vintage of 2007. But on the other hand it is the most simple wine from the portfolio of the German Pinot master family. Retailed in Germany at around 10 Euro it shouldn’t have a chance against a Corton normally – but I suspect it will.


The bouquet is definitely more interesting with classic Pinot’ish scents such as the strawberries, wild strawberries, earth, compost, saddle leather and floral features. Yes, you can notice it doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi but still it’s catching your interest. Fine acidity, mature fruit and tannins it is maybe more easy going but it has personality and some length. Just a touch of oak to it adds character. At the moment my choice as the everyday Pinot and rated 86-87 points on three occasions now.

Sensmorale: Famous and classic names aren’t a guarantee when buying an expensive bottle. Nothing new to that but that the difference is miniscule as in the battle above can only be considered embarrassing if you’re name is Rapet. Know your Burgundy – if you don’t then keep away! And do open your eyes and accept the fact that Germans can win the Pinot lover’s favor as well!

 

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Amarone - a wine for the bourgeoisie? Or –
do you want to start a conversation at the dinner table of the landlord and landlady? -say you love Amarone! Prejudices? Me? When oceans of crap emerges from a wine district just benefitting from a grand name it is easy to become biased, but the Saturday evening’s agenda was breaking prejudices.


In the glass a dark red wine with a mature brownish brim. Starting a bit cautious with notes of mushrooms, soy sauce and dried figs together with dark plums. Then by a sudden nostalgia! I am sent decades back in time and finds myself being a little boy again playing soccer on the sunny warm and sandy road! Wow! The wine opens up and the bouquet is most complex; I’m adding scorched earth, tar, tobacco and a feeling of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

In the mouth the wine confuses. At the same time it gives the feeling of emerging from a hot wine region the fruit sends signals that the topography is high above the sea level. Elegant and at the same time powerful.The dark plums and its skins, the sandy road, compost, tar makes me jumping from the southern of Rhone and Piemonte. But the tannins are not Nebbiolo like and finally my guess lands on a great mature Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintage 1998.

The bottle? A 1995 Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella! 95 points for its greatness and the bonus point for sending me back to my childhood! Even if I thought I had tried it all from Amarone I admit this wine was my eye opener of the evening sending me back to the school bench.

 

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How can a wine from the southern of France send a bunch of tasters to Austria? The
2006 Domaine du Mas Blanc Cuvée Junquets from the appellation of Collioure managed to trick even if Syrah was recognised as being the dominating grape variety quite fast.

One of Mas Blanc’s prestige wines the 2006 Junquets reveals funky notes of white pepper, red berries , kirsch, spices, earth and a bouquet more on the elegant side. Currently a bit restrained but nevertheless it didn’t send out any hot signals which explains the Austria track.


Fine acidity, elegant fruit and still an extremely young wine, this really appeals to my taste buds. Never powerful, more like a fine Cote Rotie it amazes with its grace and floral touch. Quite long finish. (92 p)


So, how did the tasting group find its way back to France? Well, it was a battle and the glass next to the Collioure was a Cahors - 2005 Lou Prince. Dark as a winter night, packed with blueberries, new oak and plums it finally revealed the theme and the Junquets were then identified. (90 p)

 

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Plague or cholera? No, it wasn’t that bad but the battle between the
2006 Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion from Pessac-Leognan and the 2006 Le Cupole from Tenuta di Trinoro was a fine example on how difficult it can be buying classic Chateau’s without disappointment taking over. The Tuscan competitor on the other hand showed how different we think of wines.


Starting with the Bordeaux wine it sent out a message of being overworked and besides lacking personality and being a bit austere it also had a strange feeling of over extraction considering the grape materiel brought in. I have noticed this is becoming more and more common in Bordeaux, with over extraction in more difficult years, and it just erases all typicity of the wines.

In a strange way I actually preferred the 2007 from the same Chateau tasted half a year ago. Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion benefits not only from its name but also the fact it is situated close to the two world famous Chateau’s in the suburb of Talence; Chateau La Mission Haut Brion and Chateau Haut Brion. The choice of Les Carmes for the battle was simply the composition of grapes – high percentage of Cabernet Franc complemented by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The overall feeling is a wine that is trying to seduce with its quite developed and fragrant bouquet but fails miserably in the mouth. At least considering the price at around EUR 35 and a final rating saying 88 points.

Checking out the copycat – well not trying to resemble a Les Carmes Haut Brion but rather the Cheval Blanc which is the favourite wine of the owner at Tenuta di Trinoro. 2006 Le Cupole is an assemblage containing 47% Cabernet Franc, 30 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 13,5 % Merlot and the rest being Petit Verdot.


In The Wine Advocate #177, Antonio Galloni rated the wine a 90 and made the following comments: “The 2006 Le Cupole is an explosive wine. Ripe Fruit, crushed flowers, smoke and bacon fat emerge from this deep, richly flavoured wine. It is an unusually complex wine at this level.” Anticipated maturity: 2009-2014.

And it doesn’t stop there. In June 2008 D’Agata & Comparini gave the wine a 92 rating with the following comments: ”Andrea Franchetti, an enological genius” and “Le Cupole is amazingly rich in ripe fresh fruit and has to be considered a true masterpiece also in view of its fair price. You won’t find a better bottle of red wine anywhere.”

Besides being far from resembling a Cheval Blanc, or having it on the pedestal, it didn’t smell and taste like any other red wine! The strangest dominating scent of rhubarb I’ve ever felt in a red wine mixed with licorice tar and overripe sweet jammy plums and cherries. In the mouth overwhelmingly sweet with notes of spices, jammy fruit and high alcohol. In some bizarre strange way there is a kind of balance in it.

My pour so I knew what was in the glass but should I have guessed blindly I would have stayed with my prejudices and placed it as a South African Pinotage due to the wine’s burning bakelite smell. Not unpalatable but just a wine i have serious issues in drinking. Price? EUR 30!

The general judgement was also a wine very hard to like – at least if you’re gifted with a Scandinavian palate. For me the ratings on 90 and 92 points are very well illustrating how different we approaches wine and why it is so easy to question a judgment and if the wine reviewed is the very same i have in my glass. My score: a hesitating 85 points.

Sensmorale: Trust only your own palate and don’t drink points. Furthermore we have the same issue with Bordeaux as with Burgundy. It’s simply too easy to pay a lot of money for nothing. Stick with less famous chateau’s and give for example Lalande-de-Pomerol, Montagne-Saint Emilion and Cotes de Castillon a chance – if you’re not sure what you have in the bottle. And you get 2 for the same price as 1….


Thankfully Johan had brought the 2004 Eagles Trace Latitude 38 from Napa Valley to set us back on track again! With 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and the rest being Merlot he tricked some that placed the wine in Bordeaux.

Lovely floral note mixed with black currants, dark cherries, a touch of tar, wet earth and finely integrated barrique’s. Starting to indicate some maturity but this baby has plenty of life ahead. Still with loads of fruit, massive tannins, fine currant notes, a floral touch and expensive oak. Great balance and long finish.

When tasting wines like this I somehow regret a bit having concentrated so many years on buying Bordeaux. Not a cheap bottle – retailing around USD 95 – but put this next to a Bordeaux with the same price tag and a majority would have issues catching up. One of my very favourites and also a wine establishing that the best Bordeaux this evening came from Napa Valley (94 points)!

 

 

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  • andersuw

    >Now you're talking! Reversed your perspective on German Spätburgunder from last week have you? ;-)

    I hardly ever buy Burgundies for less than 15 € but there are quite a few German Pinots in my cellar at that price level. And OK, they are not Burgundies (and not all that Burgundian) but at least they are good.

    Liked your take as a whole. Although morals are not really for wine drinkers, yours make a lot of sense.

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >Anders, I'm a true fan of Spätburgunder and has so been since my very first meeting with Fürst in 1998!

    Since then I have followed German Pinot and that accelerated on our engagement trip to Berlin in 2006. Some really great Pinot's on that journey! Especially I remember a top notch Salwey Eichberg from Baden.

    At the moment I'm trying through a case of mixed PN's from Germany and the general feeling is good stuff!

    Best

    Niklas

  • Claes

    >OK, I give up. Highly enjoyable despite choice of language. :)

    I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph. Ever since I came in contact with the swedish corner of the wine bloggosphere I have been stunned by the incomprehensible focus on european wine. If ever a wine from outside that realm is tasted and found to be good, there is usually a hint of surprise in the comments.

    Please, let the language lead the way and keep broadening your view.

    /Claes

  • Anonymous

    >Yeah!

    Lets here about that Pinot Noir from Sula! It must have been something!

    ;)

    //MW

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >MW, the Indian red wine was a Syrah and not a Pinot! Don't even dare to think how a PN would taste considering the horrible Syrah!

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >Claes; I am a big fan of California! In our BDX vs Cali tasting in September last year I had a Cali on top of the list and there´s no secret to it they are as good as the original – and many times even better.

    And that's not stopping there. Kiwi Pinot is high up on my list and I always feel more secure when buying a Felton Road Block wine rather than a Burgundy at same price.

    More? I prefer Malbec from Argentina to Cahors. Far superior than the often quite monolithic wine of southern France.

    I will try to write some more on these as well…just has to drink up the Europeans first ;-)

    The coming weeks will however be solely Portuguese wines and those are a bit neglected – even if they're European! For example, had the absolute brilliant wine of Filipa Pato recently – the 2008 Lokal Silex! Top notch winemaking without conservative views and even if she sticks to local grapes it was a fact her experience from outside of Europe shone through the wine. But how many will even consider buying a wine from Portugal priced as a BDX (but far better than most at same price)?

    Best

    Niklas

  • andersuw

    >Niklas,

    Haven't yet had a chance to taste any Salwey (although I've been long been looking for an opportunity to do so). And although my acquaintance with German Spätburgunder goes even further back in time than yours (early 1980s), it wasn't until this summer that I found a chance to try Fürst either. These bottles are not all that easy to source. Not many around at SB and in Germany, much depends on exactly where you are.

    Of course, things have improved quite a bit with Internet shopping. That mixed case of yours sounds interesting. What's in it (roughly speaking at least) and where did you get a hold of it?

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >Hi Anders,

    The case was a mixture of classic names such as Jean Stodden, Deutzerhof, Becker, Salwey, Adeneuer, Meyer-Näkel, Hensel, Wassmer, Duijn to name a few. And some names never heard of as well just to hope for a new discovery!

    And i must confess, it was more than a case ;-)

    Bought at Belvini, Gourmondo and Wein-Bastion.

    Best,

    Niklas

    One with an impressive amount of Fürst's are the Kölner Weinkeller. And do you feel tempted to try the very best – the Hunsrück that is – it's here: http://www.koelner-weinkeller.de/index.php?id=128&product=11745

  • Niklas Jörgensen
  • andersuw

    >Thanks Niklas,

    Sounds like you could have some fun with that (enlarged) case. We've liked the Meyer-Näkels we have tried and Adeneuer was for a while our favorite Ahr producer but has fallen out of grace: impressive at first, at least to us, but boring in the long run. Other Ahr producers that we have tried with good results include Sonnenberg and Kreuzberg.

    A long-time favorite, always in our cellar, is Julius Wasem in Rheinhessen. This is really traditional German stuff (no barriques as a rule) but very good QPR if you like the style. Curiously, they hardly appear on the modern wine scene (wine press, wine guides) but always come home with a busload of medals from "Bundes-" and "Landesprämierungen" (38 altogether in 2009, of which 16 gold). As "Erhaltungszüchter" for Frühburgunder, they have also helped save this Pinot clone (which is now cultivated by quite a few, including Fürst) from extinction. The "Spätlesen" usually cost about 10 € and the "Auslesen" less than 15 €. More info here:

    http://www.weingut-wasem.de/

    Our recent trials include bottles from Bernhard Huber (Baden) and Markus Molitor (Mosel). We found both Hubers much to our liking and well worth the money (Alte Reben 2005, 23 €, and Malterdinger Bienengarten R 2005, 34 €). We were less impressed with the Molitors (Haus Klosterberg 2007, 11 €, and Brauneberger Klostergarten *** 2004, 50 €), at least from a QPR point of view (although Molitor is a big favorite on the Riesling side).

    P.S. Just ordered some Italian stuff from Belvini but overlooked their Spätburgunders. As you have already noticed, they have quite decent fares for shipping to Sweden: only 10 € if you buy for at least 75.

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >The Kreuzberg is a very nice producer as well, yes! Last visit to Berlin brought back to Dernauer Pfarrwingert on Auslese lever- '05's. Had the last bottle a year ago and it was truly a great one!

    Huber I have followed for some years and like a lot. Actually the wines of Huber has developed even more the last decade and are now amongst the very best Spätburgunder's in Germany.

    Wasem I have never heard of! Thank you for that name. Will set out to find them!

    Mosel Pinot is yet to convince me. I am not at all a fan of the red wines emerging from here. Molito I have visited and also like their wines a lot but -did not get the chance to taste the reds.

    And Belvini – yes, they are not only cheap with the transport, they also have a very good selection of German Pinot's. I know ;-)

    /N

  • andersuw

    >Niklas,

    Yes, Wasem is really under the radar. My impression is that they remain very "old school" even as far as marketing is concerned. I am pretty sure most of their wine is consumed rather locally, where they are already very well known.

    Interesting to hear about your impressions regarding Mosel Spätburgunder. Which reds have you tried from here?

    If I recall correctly, red wines were not even allowed in the "appelation" until 1987 (although Mosel was once upon a time predominantly a red wine district) and until very recently, the production was very limited. So I guess most wine-makers may have a bit left to learn as far as reds are concerned. But the external preconditions (geology, climate) should, as far as I can see, be pretty similar to those of Ahr, which suggests that the wines should eventually become just as good. Or what do you think?

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >Hi Anders,

    I did have some red's when visiting Mosel in 2006. The most pleasant surprise was a Gessinger Blauer Spätburgunder** with quite a lot of typicity. Otherwise i mostly remember running in to a lot of Dornfelder which was so so..

    Mosel red's tasted otherwise – mostly in Mosel:

    Martin Schömann – ok. Not more.

    Später-Veit – quite good. Worth following. (Piesport)

    Müsterter Hof – Lehnert Veit: not as good as the one above. OK.

    Klaus Lotz – too experimental.

    I also have a vague memory of having a some red's from the red baron – S.A. Prüm. He does Pinot because I tasted a white Pinot last year. But since I do not remember them they weren't that good.

    Still to be convinced but who knows with the coming heat from the new highway through Mosel ;-)

    I've heard that Clemens Busch do a Spätburgunder and if that is near his great Riesling's it should be worth checking up.

    Best

    Niklas

    PS. Strange that i've missed Molitor red's!

  • andersuw

    >Thanks for the review Niklas. Well, if some of them were Dornfelders, I have no difficulties understanding your lack of enthusiasm. My impression is that this is a grape that is appreciated by the Germans merely on account of being more similar to ordinary French, Italian, and Spanish plonk of the red kind than anything else they have to offer. ;-)

    Sorry to hear that the Pinots of S.A. Prüm didn't win your heart. He is another old favorite of ours (although it's a long time now since we last drank any of his wines and we never had a red or "blanc de noir" from there). I'll try to remember to look out for Gessinger and Clemens Busch though.

    As to Molitor, he was the only representative from Mosel at this recent and illustrious Spätburgunder tasting in NY:

    http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=215778&highlight=Sp%E4tburgunder

    But how could they omit Fürst (and Franconia). Scandalous. ;-)

  • Niklas Jörgensen

    >Most of the wines/wine producers mentioned below was Pinot's! If you find the Gessinger, it will most likely be in Zeltingen, it is the ** Blauer Burgunder you should try out.

    It's quite a lot ups and downs with S.A. Prüm but as long as he sticks to sweetness he's good at his job! Have a look at this one we had quite recently…

    http://gutsabfullung.blogspot.com/2009/11/den-rode-visar-vagen.html

    Best

    Niklas

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