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Happy New Year

The twelve months of the Monkey are over and the Rooster’s throaty cries signal the dawn of a New Year. Whatever your desires, dreams or aspirations, Sniff hopes that they all fall within reach and that as always the wine in your glass is good. Happy New Year!

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A Merry Christmas

Somewhat belatedly Sniff wishes you and yours a very merry Christmas. With more than a full year of posts under our belt and with the number of regular visitors to our blog growing exponentially, both Michael and Mark want to thank you all for finding the time to engage with our site, we appreciate your attention.

 

 

 

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Louis Jadot: Return of the Gagey

It is the nervy nature of great Chardonnay from Burgundy that makes it more thrilling than the majority elsewhere. With Thibault Gagey back in Taipei for the second time this year the opportunity to taste through another raft of Jadot wines was too good an opportunity to miss. Having started with vineyards based round the town of Beaune it is of little surprise that however impressed I can be by their reds it is their whites that I find have the power to move. Not that this tasting was necessarily a fair reflection. In classic regions where vintage variation is often quite marked, the whites were better placed to demonstrate their class being from the distinctly superior vintages of 2013 and, in particular, 2012. The majority of the reds were from the high acid 2008 vintage whose saliva inducing nature was a hallmark that some wines managed to carry off better than others. These were accompanied by wines from 2007 whose overall structure was pleasing as long as there was enough fruit concentration to add flesh to the sinew rippling beneath the surface.

There are more detailed notes below but it is worth pointing out the consistently high quality of the village wines on show. Whatever the global demand for Burgundy, any justification of high prices for insipid Burgundies that flaunt their famous labels whilst being miserable little buggers once the cork is drawn simply won’t wash. Jadot like to remind everyone (and Thibault was sticking to the script) that they often declassify/sacrifice a portion of their wines that are entitled to 1er Cru status to help bolster the quality of the village wines. Here the rhetoric was proved to be true by the pleasure exhibited in the glass. Whether it was the Chambolle, Puligny or Chassagne, these wines were deliciously representative and whilst not remotely inexpensive they waved the flag for their appellations’ without necessitating the need for a loan.

 All wines listed below are from Louis Jadot and St. Finesse in Taiwan.

Oaking for village through to Grand Cru wines is more or less the same: One third new, one third one year old and one third two years old French oak barrels. 

The Prices listed include some exceptional offer prices on the 1er Crus but there are limited stocks. 

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 80% Gamay & 20% Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in steel
Note: Red cherry and red currant nose, brisk and bright with just a touch of spice. Ideal lunch time wine as it requires little cogitation. Gentle tannins leave your mouth feeling refreshed rather than assaulted.
Price: 900NT
Score: 15/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Rouge 2012, 12.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: Matured in both oak barrels and vats
Note: Proper Burgundy Pinot nose that is red fruit driven but with a touch of clove spice. Shows the ripe fruit style of the vintage whilst also having just enough grip to fix the memory of the wine on your tongue.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 2008, 13%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: The beginnings of some earthiness and proper Pinot perfume that adds complexity to the subtly spiced red fruit. Has the juiciness of the vintage with the bright acidity the dominant structural element. Yet the fruit is no shrinking violet lending a strong voice, that makes up for its relative lack of volume with an elegance that is classic Chambolle.
Price: 2,770NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Delicate and perfumed nose and the palate is brisk with more sinew than the village but the pronounced acidity is a little strident for the fruit making it a less obvious pleasure than the village Jadot.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Sentiers, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak.
Note: Bright but with enough fruit concentration to balance. Classic Chambolle that has the prettiness associated with the AOP but with the requisite spine.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru ‘Les Baudes’ 2008, 13.5%
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking:18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed and floral with concentrated fruit and a depth that marks this out as a prime site. Deliciously virile and appetising with the ability to age gracefully for another 5-8 years.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Earthy and more closed than the Les Baudes but still with some subtle floral quality percolating through. On the palate this has the sinewy nature and precision that we associate with this part of Chambolle but I prefer this premier cru in warmer and less ‘classic’ vintages when its obvious refinement is supported with a little more fat.
Price: 2,580NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Baudes, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Interesting to compare my favourite 2008 in this flight with the 2007. This has less concentration and therefore finishes a little short. Remains a decent effort however.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, 2007
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Almost transparent so delicate and precise is this wine. Yet lurking beneath the layer of chiffon is a toned physique that manages to persuade you to forgive the lack of density (a result of the vintage) and instead focus on the pretty.
Price: 2,090NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2011
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: A little dumb but there is no masking the muscle that makes itself felt immediately on first sip. This feels Grand Cru-ish; dense and tannic with good (for 2011) levels of fruit concentration.
Price: 3,545NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw) 

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2008
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Perfumed, brisk and sinewy. This amount of structure requires time…the only caveat being whether the acid will always sit a little above the fruit rather than knitting harmoniously together. Time will tell.
Price: 3,795NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru 2001
Grape: Pinot Noir
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak.
Note: Lovely nose showing some of the leafy, spiced complexity of mature Pinot. The tannins retain some of Vougeot’s chewiness and there is a lack of fruit concentration that may come to haunt this as it ages further. Still good but is it Grand Cru good?
Price: 4,260NT
Score: 16+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Whites

Coteaux Bourguignons, 2013, 12.5%
Grape: 55% Chardonnay, 45% Aligote
Winemaking: Fermented and matured in steel.
Note: Crisp and whistle like in its cleanliness. A simple but satisfying wine with which to wet your appetite for the region.
Price: 1,030NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Eight months ageing in both wood and steel
Note: Simple but with good levels of intensity and concentration that lifts this above more insipid and gutless examples from this basic Burgundy AOP. Good value.
Price: 1,000NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Pouilly Fuisse 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: Both vat and barrel
Note: Ripe apple & citrus sits alongside something a little more savoury. There is a richness that betrays its provenance as being from the best part of Macon whilst retaining enough acid giving freshness to suggest this will continue to age for up to another five years.
Price: 1,620NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny Montrachet, 2013, 13%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in barrel
Note: A sudden jump in aromatic presence and complexity with a mealy, nutty character accompanying the toasty oak, citrus and physalis style fruit. Firm but not oppressively so, this again shows the quality to be had from Jadot at village level.
Price: 2,825NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 2013, 135
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18 months in oak
Note: More closed and will benefit from another year or two before broaching. Dense, rich and with good length, this Chassagne amply illustrates its pedigree whilst not having quite the same drive/precision of the village Puligny. This though again is an excellent example.
Price: 2,870NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru La Garenne, 2012, 13.5% (High altitude over 300m)
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Mealy, toasty and tangerine like. Brilliant acidity gives the wine great line and poise on the palate. A long finish completes the picture of a fine wine fit for a further decade in the cellar…if you can wait.
Price: 2,030NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 12-15 months in oak
Note: Another excellent lesson in Puligny precision. This Folatières has the struck match character, the chiselled structure and tongue tingling acidity that makes Puligny so popular and unfortunately expensive. Delicious.
Price: 2,400NT
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:12-15 months in oak
Note: Slightly riper style after the precision of the two Puligny 1er Crus but the little extra fat on show here is supported by a grapefruit style pithiness that helps balance the extra girth. Very good.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Mersault, 1er Cru Les Genevrières, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 15-18 months in oak
Note: Dense and delicious with a complex interplay between citrus (grapefruit), oak, nut, power and precision. Impressive stuff.
Price: 2,560NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking:18 months in barrel
Note: Smoky and powerful, creamy, full bodied chardonnay but with that grapefruit finish that provides freshness. Whilst being a long way from disappointing this clearly needs time to morph from its somewhat gauche teenage temperament to a more considered young adult. Try again in five years.
Price: Price on request
Score: 17.5+/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

Montrachet, Grand Cru, 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Winemaking: 18-20 months in oak
Note: Mealy, rich, nutty and mushroom like aromatics are accompanied by an apricot skin like perfume that suggests ones nose is not in the company of everyday Chardonnay. This is not an easy wine to appreciate with plenty of restrained power growling beneath a serene exterior but as yet it is not in the mood to give too much away. Give it another ten years and it may begin to repay the ransom that you will have paid for ownership.
Price: 13,300NT
Score:? If you drink it now then 16/20. If you wait a decade perhaps 18/20
Available from: St. Finesse (finessewines.com.tw)

D93 The return of Gagey bottles

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Something for the Weekend 14. 15% Plus: A Barrier to Balance?

A good wine should keep two people entertained and engaged to the bottom of the bottle. More than an inch or two remaining suggests either an abstemious streak on the part of the drinkers or that something is not quite right with the wine.

The sommelier group of which I’m a part meets once a month to discuss and taste on various matters of a vinous nature. Choosing the topic is my responsibility and this month it concerned wines with an alcohol content in excess of 15%. This choice of subject was a response to our warming climate. Increased sugar levels in grapes (a result of greater heat summation) will ultimately result in a preponderance of wines featured in this high alcohol bracket.

Wines with these elevated levels of alcohol can feel unbalanced. Without sufficient fruit concentration, high alcohol gives a sensation of heat, even sweetness that can render the wines hollow. There are of course, exceptions, the perception of the unbalancing effect of alcohol does not follow a linear path so it quite possible for a wine at 13.5% to feel ‘wrong’ whilst a similar example at 15.5% feels ‘right’.

The seven wines selected were tasted blind (by all but the sommelier who chose the wines) and featured examples from France, Italy, Spain, Australia and the USA. The very pleasant, if unexpected conclusion, was that the reason we were tasting these wines was soon forgotten as the alcohol was as it should be; virtually invisible.

Below are the notes for four of the wines, any of which I would be happy to share and finish.

Domaine Giraud, Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition, 2010, 15%
Grape: 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre
Wine-making: The Syrah is aged in barriques and the wine is neither filtered or fined.
Note: Super ripe with an almost Port-like chocolate, damson and slightly raisined character. Perfumed, powerful and with good levels of concentration from this excellent vintage. Delicious.
Price: 2,100NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Oriental House

Seghesio, Home Ranch, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, 2006, 15.7%
Grape:
Zinfandel with a small portion of Carignane and Petite Sirah
Wine-making: No overt oak evident.
Note: I have not tasted many Zinfandels this old but this was still showing very well. There were some signs of maturity with an oxidative, leathery aroma accompanying the red and black fruit. Even at 15.7% the alcohol was well integrated. Very good.
Price:
1,750NT
Score:
17/20
Available from: A3 Cellar

Domaine Tempier, Cuvee La Tourtine, Bandol, 2001, 15%
Grape:
70-80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Cinsault
Wine-making: 18-20 months maturation in old oak and bottled without fining or filtration.
Note: This was the only wine out of the seven that I thought tasted a little hot. The mushroom and soy-like aromas indicated that this was no longer young but there remained some balancing sweet and spicy red berry fruit. Good complexity but perhaps slightly cumbersome.
Price: 3,900NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Oriental House

Mitolo, G.A.M, Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, 2010, 15%
Grape:
Shiraz
Wine-making: Matured in 70% new French and American Oak for 18 months.
Note: Opaque, tarry and with mouthcoating tannins and great concentration of black fruit, this was quintessential South Australian Shiraz. The power on display was balanced by some sweet and sour acidity and very good length; intense but not wearing.
Price: 2,100NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from:  Wooloomooloo

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Spain: Producer of the world's best value wine?

It is normal, on returning from an enjoyable and fruitful trip abroad, to feel overly enamoured with what was discovered. As a wine merchant I used to guard against such emotional extravagance by subjecting any bottles I thought excellent in the field to a trial by blind tasting at home. My most recent trip to Spain (Ribera del Duero and Rioja) has again left me pining for the best of Iberia. There is no doubt that the food was good and the people I met were, without fail, both gracious and hugely accommodating, but it was the quality of the wine that really grabbed me.

We all know that Spain produces some iconic wine styles from Gran Reserva Rioja to the great fortified wines of Sherry and Montilla but it is easy to forget just how damn inexpensive some of these wines can be. The most persuasive argument supporting the title of this piece came on my visit to Juan Carlos Sancha’s home on the edge of the small town of Banos de Rio Tobia that lies within the Rioja Alta. This professor of enology and all round viticultural colossus, has dedicated much time to preserving the rare grape varieties of the region (he will receive the space he deserves in a fully illustrated post later this winter/spring). Juan Carlos’s wines should be much more expensive as he makes so little (often just a barrel or three), but he prefers to share his passion making them affordable to everyone. On tasting, the Garnacha from the barrel was a lesson in purity and profundity – surely the concientious winemaker’s ultimate goal. These wines, called Pena El Gato, can be had for a little over ten quid in the UK or approximately 15 euros on the continent…this might just be the best value wine in the world.

Below are three Spanish wines that demonstrate remarkable value for money.

Bodegas Juan Carlos Sancha, ‘Pena El Gato’, Garnacha, Rioja, 2013, 14.5%
Grape:
Garnacha
Wine-making: Matured in oak but with no malolactic conversion, which helps protect both the purity of the fruit and retains a little more acidity.
Note: Floral, mineral, earthy and strawberry like. Dense yet lively, refreshing acidity and with great intensity. Truly stunning value (and only about 1200 bottles made each year).
Price: Cheap as chips
Score: 18/20
Available from: Wherever you can find it

La Rioja Alta, Vina Alberdi Reserva, 2008, 14%
Grape:
Tempranillo
Wine-making: Two years in American oak
Note: Vastly different style from the Pena El Gato with a more relaxed persona that has the perfumed, sweet vanilla and strawberry nose that pervades the wines of this great stalwart of Rioja.
Score: 17/20
Price: Globally between 20 and 25 USD
Available from: Everywhere

Alvear, CB Fino, Montilla, NV, 15%
Grape:
Pedro Ximinez (PX)
Wine-making: Produced like fino sherry under a veil of flor (yeast) for five years that both protects the wine and imbues it with that ‘sherry’ like nose.
Note: This bone dry Fino is delicate and salty making it the perfect pre-prandial quaffer. I could drink this everyday.
Score: 17/20
Price: In Spain about  4.5. A little more in Taiwan
Available from: P9.com.tw

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A Merry Sniffmas to all

Sniff’s inaugural Christmas message is one of thanks. Thanks to those of you who deem us worthy of being read and thanks to those winemakers who have managed to light up our luxurious lives with bottles of vinous charm.
Whatever or whomever is your god(dess) or figure of devotion, we at Sniff wish everyone a very merry Christmas and healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

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