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2012 Bordeaux

On Wednesday morning, beneath grey skies lamenting President Elect Don T.’s ascension to power, I inched across London in the relative comfort of a black cab. With the MW award ceremony beckoning later in the day, my state of nervous excitement meant that I eschewed early eating deciding a better breakfast would be claret rather than cornflakes.

My destination was Vintner’s Hall and the IMW’s ‘Annual Claret Tasting’. The vintage to be tasted was the 2012 and on entering the long and airy Livery Hall, the sight of ninety-five of the best bottles, Bordeaux has to offer was the first part of my reward for journeying the six thousand miles from Taipei.

In a previous post in March 2015 (http://sniff.com.tw/?cat=83) I had mixed feelings about 2012 finding it inconsistent and typically a little too herbaceous for my sensibilities. This was an altogether more comprehensive tasting and was without the distracting presence (however pleasant) of the Chateau owners. I was really interested to see whether a further 18 months in bottle had helped ease any of the vegetal funk into a more perfumed, elegant iteration. ‘Possibly’ was the answer.

The first thing to say is that no famous commune tasted was without some issues but those areas more obviously associated with Merlot were definitely more consistent. Pomerol and Pessac Leognan provided the wines with the most charm and if anyone is offering I’ll gladly take delivery of six Haut Brion as this was my wine of the day. However one needn’t take out a bank loan to experience the particular elegance and eminence of this first growth as there is more than enough pleasure in less expensive offerings with the likes of Malartic Lagraviere providing perfumed precision without a whiff of green. In Pomerol, the best had this AOP’s hoped for richness as well as freshness, with La Fleur-Petrus and Trotanoy my personal picks.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there was also real excitement to be found in the colder soils of St.Estephe with Calon Segur and Montrose being both bright, lively and assured and the altogether more closed Cos d’ Estournel promising pleasure in the future if you can wait another decade for it to shed some of its scaffolding.

Communes where there was definitely more miss than hit included Margaux, St.Julien and Pauillac. Apart from the ever elegant and beguiling Chateau Margaux, the rest of this famous AOP is disappointing, with the best examples showing some prettiness on the nose but unfortunately too much stodge on the palate. Wandering further north and the story is similar with too much oak and extraction for the quality and relative delicacy of the fruit. These wines feel like they’ve been forced into clothes that are just never going to fit, like a boy in his dad’s suit.

Sometimes all the aspiration in the world cannot produce inspiration and a gentler touch would have allowed the herbaceousness present to appear less angular and less marked. One can only hope that on the day that saw a man with orange hair take control of the most powerful country in the world that Donald takes a similar view, dialling back on the protestations of self-aggrandisement and instead displays an as of yet unseen restraint and magnanimity in victory. Then, like the best of this uneven 2012 vintage, we may experience more pleasure than pain as we move forward into our uncertain future.

2012波爾多 

週三早晨,天空灰濛濛地哀悼著川普成為美國總統的事實;同時間的我,正坐在黑色計程車中,緩慢地於倫敦市區中前行。由於今天即將出席葡萄酒大師(Master of Wine)的授頒典禮,既緊張又興奮的我,決定跳過穀片早餐,改以波爾多紅酒(Claret)墊胃,心想後者大概適合作為這一天的早餐。

我要去參加的是葡萄酒大師協會(Institue of Master of Wine,即IMW)於Vintner’s Hall舉辦的「年度波爾多紅酒品飲會」(Annual Claret Tasting);這一天要品嚐的是2012年。當我走進長型而挑高的Livery Hall時,95瓶波爾多最優秀的酒款映入眼簾;這是我從台北飛了9000多公里來到倫敦的第一個犒賞。

去年三月,我曾在部落格中提到,2012年波爾多表現不夠穩定,草本味也過濃()。相較於去年的品飲,這一次想必會是更完整的體驗,也比較不會受到酒莊主人的干擾(雖然有時這些「干擾」還挺愉快的)。我很想知道,暨上一次品飲後又經過18個月瓶陳的2012年,是否能褪去原本的植蔬怪味,展現出更多香芬、優雅的特性。

我首先發現,即便是知名酒村的酒款,也免不了有些問題,至於那些使用較多梅洛(Merlot)的酒款,表現則普遍較為穩定。玻美侯(Pomerol)與貝沙克-雷奧良(Pessac-Leognan)魅力十足;其中Haut-Brion是我當天最愛的酒款,如果有人願意出價,我很樂意收上六瓶。還好,我們不須要向銀行貸款就能體驗如一級酒莊般的高雅與卓越,因為像是Malartic-Lagraviere這類價格親民許多的酒款,已經能為飲者帶來極大的享受。這款酒不但香氣精準,還不帶任何青澀風味。至於玻美侯中最濃郁又兼具新鮮風味的,則非La Fleur-Petrus與Trotanoy莫屬。

另外,有些出乎意料之外的是,這年份在聖愛斯臺夫(St. Estephe)較冷的地塊──如Calon Segur與Montrose,都端出了出明亮、鮮活、風格明確且領人興奮不已的酒款。相較之下,Cos d’ Estournel目前嚐來雖然較為閉鎖,十年後、待銳利的稜角軟化,同樣能為飲者帶來許多樂趣。

不同於聖愛斯臺夫,瑪歌(Margaux)、聖朱里安(St. Julien)與波亞克(Pauillac)等酒村則表現欠佳。除了向來優雅、誘人的瑪歌酒莊(Chateau Margaux),其它的AOP酒款都令人失望。最好的例子擁有漂亮的香氣,但口感過於厚重。一路往北,其它酒款們也都展現了類似的狀況,不是桶味太多,就是萃取過重、果味偏輕。這些酒款像是穿著父親西裝的小男孩一般,硬被套上了不合身的衣服。

有時候,再多的志向也釀不出鼓舞人心的美酒,唯有輕柔的釀酒手腕,才能降低青澀感,並帶出酒中圓滑的一面。我們只能期望,在橘髮川普成為全球最強勢國家領導人的這一天,他也能像一些釀酒人一樣,在面對勝選時,少一些個人膨脹,多一些過去我們不曾見到的內斂與謙容雅量。如同品質不定的2012年中最好的一些酒款,我們也許也能夠在不確定的未來中,少經歷點痛苦,多享受點樂趣。(編譯 / 艾蜜・emily)

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Bordeaux 2011

Following on from Wednesday’s missive that discussed the merits or otherwise of Bordeaux 2012, fate guided me to an unexpected comparison with 2011. Taiwan is great, but awash with fellow MW wannabes it is not. Finding ways to prepare for my second attempt at the practical exam that looms large this June, relies on me being creative. My latest plan involves the Taiwan Wine Academy, who, being extremely generous as always, have agreed to send me six samples a week from wines they use in some of their classes. I had my first delivery on Wednesday night, the small brown phials arrived alone and by taxi, carefully cosseted in giant bubble wrap and accompanied by nothing more than a sealed envelope marked ‘Answers’.

Having set my timer for one hour, seven minutes and thirty seconds (MW exams consist of double this quantity of wine and time) I scribbled myself a range of MW style questions, including a requirement to identify the vintages, poured the wines and off I went. Having nosed my way through the six wines that consisted of two whites, three reds and a sweet, it was instantly apparent that they were from Bordeaux. I’d be lying if I said that I knew that the sweet wine was from 2011 and although I was confident that the whites were indeed from this vintage it was the reds that spoke loudest of their birth-year. Being bookended by the markedly richer vintages of 2009 and 2010 on one side and the leaner tasting 2012 on the other, the youthful, still purple hued, ripe but not bumptious nature of the fruit in these 2011’s was transparent.

After 2009 and 2010, the lack of enthusiasm within the wine world to splash the cash on the good but not great vintage that followed, has led many to discount the merits of this more precocious year. Yet 2011 is classic Bordeaux with many wines providing delicious drinking now and over the medium-term. Overall, choosing between 2011 and 2012, is a no-brainer; give me ripeness over greenness any day.

Below are three of the very representative examples tasted from the 2011 vintage.

Chateau Pessac La Garde, Pessac Leognan, 2011, 13%
Grape: 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sauvignon Gris
Wine-making: 10 months in French oak
Note: Sweet oak, aniseed aromas and citrus peel dominate. This has real drive and minerality with a supporting seam of high acidity.
Price: 1,950NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: www.finese.com.tw 

Chateau d’Issan, Margaux 3eme Cru, 2011, 13%
Grape: 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot
Wine-making: 18 months in French oak
Note: Heady with the scent of hyacinths, this is classic Margaux with an open and approachable texture that flatters yet has the requisite silky and fine grained tannins that promise continued positive evolution until the early 2020’s.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Chateau Wine and Cigar 

Chateau de Fonbel, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: 63% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 7% Carmenere
Wine-making: 10 months in 30% new French oak
Note: Blackberry and exotic spice, thick tannins and with an opulence that made me think this was Pomerol, this is great value St. Emilion.
Price: 1,150NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: New Century Wine

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An Afternoon with Bordeaux 2012

This was my first significant encounter with this somewhat maligned vintage but I will try to resist the temptation to repeat all that has been said before.

The positives are that I enjoyed the whites from Pessac and Graves. The majority had the perfume and verve one hopes for from this bastion of the Sauvignon/Semillon blend, and many promised a rosy future with a drinking window for the best that starts now but extends well into the 2020’s.

For the reds the picture is much more patchy. People will tell you that it is a year for Merlot, so difficult was it for the Cabernets to fully ripen. This is true…kind of, but if you are expecting clear delineation between an austere and green tasting left bank and a miraculously plush, ripe and round right bank you will be disappointed. On the evidence of this tasting of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, nowhere can claim to have produced greatness but some have produced much more alluring, if not outstanding wines than others. Those estates that reigned in extraction in the search for precociousness fared best. The mineral, somewhat looser structured wines of Pessac and St. Julien managed to reveal a perfumed charm and subtley of tannin that make many enjoyable short to medium term drinking. In the communes of St. Estephe and Pauillac where structure and power make these the bullies of Bordeaux, the struggle for ripeness is revealed in tannins that feel a little terse and fruit that is often threadbare.

So to the right bank where the more flattering and easier to ripen Merlot was meant to save the day. The likes of Canon La Gaffeliere in St.Emilion have produced one of the wines of the vintage, approachable and without a whiff of greenness…but here they have 50% of Cabernet Franc in the blend. Just up the road in the normally hedonistic Pomerol, much of the wine suffers a similar tell-tale under-ripeness experienced by their bretheren across the Gironde but Chateau Gazin and La Conseillante proved that well balanced and seductive Pomerols could be produced.

Overall, the reds should be enjoyed now and over the next 10 years. These are not investment wines, they are wines for drinking. The question that might be asked is whether one should look to other parts of the world where the index between affordability and pleasure is perhaps more closely aligned.

Below are three wines that represent the positive side of 2012 and that are both sensibly and sensitively priced.

Chateau Kirwan, Margaux 3eme Cru, Bordeaux, 2012, 13%
Grape: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon – 20% Merlot – 7% Cabernet Franc – 5% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 40% new French Oak
Note: Perfumed and lilac scented like ‘proper’ Margaux should be. This is not haunted by the lack of ripeness that pervades some of the Cabernet dominated wines of this vintage and the tannins are already approachable and fine grained. Should prove delicious drinking over the next ten years.
Price: Approx. $50USD
Score: 16/20
Available from: Globally

Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien 2eme Cru, Bordeaux, 2012, 13%
Grape: Approx. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot
Wine-making: Approx. 60% new French oak
Note: I’ve always been a fan of this Chateau that produces very typical Claret that reflects the best aspects of every vintage. Floral and elegant with delicious super fine tannins that caress rather than bully. This is a classic of 2012.
Price: 2,600NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Cigar

Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, St. Emilion
Grape: 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 80% new French oak for 15 months.
Note: Ripe blackberry, perfumed and with a dollop of toasty oak that sits comfortably alongside the plush and fine grained tannins. Not perfect but provides much more immediate pleasure than most.
Price: 2,300NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Cigar

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Angelo Gaja: The Wines from his 'other' Estates

The wines of Barbaresco’s infamous Angelo Gaja are delicious and often profound, the prices are less easy to stomach.

Not that Angelo will be unduly concerned, there are plenty of people willing to pay the required, necessary to secure a bottle. Today’s post, however, casts an eye over the more affordable wines that herald from Gaja’s other properties in both Piemonte and Toscana. Too often, subsidiary estates acquired by very successful producers can seem like nothing more than vanity projects with little purpose other than to increase profits. My biggest gripe being that the wines from these subsidiaries appear unable to deliver quite the profundity of the offerings from the more famous original. Yet acquisitions by Gaja have his stamp of quality running through them meaning few will be disappointed by the end product. Angelo describes himself as an artisan and once you stoke his metaphorical embers, by asking him questions concerning the methods used in his wine’s production, you realise that this is not an estate owner going through the motions; this 74 year old’s inner fire remains undimmed.

The purchase of estates in both Montalcino and Bolgheri gave Gaja production capability in Italy’s three most prestigious wine regions. The Rennina is a deeply pleasing Brunello and the Magari a fine example of how well the coastal vineyards of Bolgheri and Maremma suit Bordeaux varieties. Further purchases in Piemonte allowed Gaja to extend their offering and provides the consumer with some wines that are more forward and easily broached in their youth such as the elegant Sito Moresco. The aim is to produce wines that reflect a sense of place, a commonly heard mantra much easier to say than to achieve, yet these bottlings have seen that goal successfully attained. None of the wines below could ever be described as inexpensive but on the whole they impress and are worth the efforts required to seek them out.

Sito Moresco, Langhe, 2012, 14%
Grape:
35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: 18 months in small barrels
Note: Delicately perfumed, sweet red fruit, floral, touch of cordite. Lovely palate, fine powdery tannins (very Nebbiolo) but with a plushness to the palate that is surely the result of the relatively high Merlot content. This may not have the same density or concentration as other Piemontese wines from Gaja but this is not a wine to be under-estimated. Delicious drinking now but with the ability to age over the medium term.
Price: 2400NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Sergio Valente (Sergio.com.tw)

Rossj Bass, Langhe, 2013,13.5%
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: 100% Stainless steel fermentation and a little new French oak maturation for 8-10 months.
Note: Fresh, very limey, apricot, taut, crisp and mineral with some complexity provided by a little nutty creaminess. Intense fruit character and persistent but this needs some time to develop. Still a baby.
Price: 3400NT
Score: 17.5
Available from: Sergio Valente (Sergio.com.tw)

Magari, Ca’ Marcanda, IGT Toscana, 2012, 14.5%
Grape:
50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc (young vine)
Wine-making: 18 months in French oak
Note: Black and red fruit dominate on the nose but are amply supported by spice, perfume and some toasty oak. A freshness provided by the fine acidity lets you know that you are in Italy and the elevated alcohol that warms the mouth without setting it alight is an expected marker from these costal Tuscan vineyards.
Price: 3000NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Sergio Valente (Sergio.com.tw)

Pieve Santa Restituta, Rennina, Brunello di Montalcino, 2007, 14%
Grape:
Brunello (Sangiovese)
Wine-making: 12 months in small oak followed by 12 months in large oak (botti)
Note: Bright ruby/garnet in colour this has a deliciously alluring, complex and savoury nose of tomato soup, beef bones, porcini mushrooms and sandalwood. Rich and concentrated, dens and persistent. Brilliant
Price: 7200NT
Score: 18.5/20
Available from: Sergio Valente (Sergio.com.tw)

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Something for the Weekend 11: Merlot

Poor old Merlot. Even before Miles spat the now infamous ‘I am not drinking any fucking Merlot’ in Sideways, this variety was rarely spoken about with love and affection. Yet this is the second most widely planted wine grape in the world so why the lack of respect? Well some of it comes down to the promise (real or not) that the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir can deliver a more thrilling wine experience. Hmmm. Whilst this may be true (lovers of Pomerol look away now) too often it is a fallacy. I have spent far too much time, effort and money, hunting for that elusive bottle of Burgundian Pinot Noir that will make me cry like a baby as it reveals its haunting and ethereal charms. Equally, varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is often anything but charming, all edges and bones with a hole in its middle where the guts should be. No, Merlot is more the girl (or boy) next door, with flesh, sweet perfume and an alluring curve to the belly.

With this in mind I chose seven Merlot dominant wines to taste blind (or semi-blind in my case) with some of my students and sommeliers of Taipei. All the wines were of good if not superb quality and represented regions as diverse as Napa and Walla Walla in the States, Pomerol and St.Emilion in Bordeaux as well as Bolgheri (Italy), Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) and Stellenbosch (South Africa). Below are the three wines that I felt best-demonstrated Merlot’s comeliness.

Chateau La Dominique, St.Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2009, 14.5%
Grape:
86% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: 70% new French oak
Note: Meaty, ripe blackberry and with just enough tobacco savouriness to add some complexity, this is concentrated and full bodied if a little hefty to be considered elegant. Enjoyable and should improve over the coming decade.
Price: 2,200NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

L’Ecole No 41, Estate Merlot, Walla Walla (Washington), 2008, 14.5%
Grape:
80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: 40% new French oak
Note: Developed in the glass to reveal both red and dried fruit, vanilla and a concentration that hinted at a warmer climate. The tannins remain firm (more old-world in style) but this has a certain charm that will again reward patience over the next five years.
Price: 2,500NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

Clos du Val, Napa Valley Merlot, 2010, 13.5%
Grape:
85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot
Wine-making: 25% new French oak
Note: My favourite of the seven wines tasted and the third cheapest. Tutti-frutti nose always brings to mind the West Coast of America. This has just enough of everything; up-front fruit, tannin, spice, body and persistence to achieve a harmonious and satisfying whole.
Price: 1,700NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: icheers.com.tw

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Something for the Weekend 10: Jonathan Maltus

Jonathan Maltus describes Bordeaux as the ‘Formula 1’ of wine-making regions. Bordeaux is famous for good reason, it is capable of producing superlative, age-worthy wines both white, red and sweet and it is the spiritual home of the most widely planted and well known varieties on the planet: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Unusually, Jonathan has had his greatest success with a wine that contains the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc of any of the ‘Grand Vins’ of Bordeaux: Le Dôme. This wine was one of the original ‘garagiste’ wines of the mid 1990’s that, depending on one’s point of view, were ridiculously priced, over-oaked, super-concentrated, low volume, Parker friendly monsters; or a breath of fresh air for all of the same reasons. The garagiste movement demonstrated that it was not a pre-requisite to be bequeathed a chateau in order to make good, even great wine within the hallowed AOC’s of Bordeaux. Even interlopers from England had a chance…although the buying of three hectares of land in St. Emilion (the size of the Le Dôme vineyard), did not come cheap. Le Dôme is but one part of Jonathan’s ever expanding portfolio that encompasses another 50 hectares in St. Emilion as well as some prime Napa Valley real estate. Yet Le Dôme is Jonathan’s jewel and has a   guaranteed fan-club following Robert Parker’s 100 point seal of approval for the 2010 edition. Having only limited experience of the wines from the Maltus stable (yesterday, I tried five of them for the first time) I am loathe to pronounce definitively on their style. Yet they appear more obviously oaked than some and exude a richness that will either make you purr, or perhaps ponder, on whether you really are tasting the best of Bordeaux.

Whatever your conclusions, Jonathan produces wines that range from the affordable and approachable to the more expensive and cerebral. Below are three wines to broach with friends this weekend.

Pezat Rouge, Bordeaux Supérieur AOC, 2011
Grape:
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: Small percentage of new French oak.
Note: Delicately scented with both ripe red fruit and a little Bordeaux savouriness. Enough grip and body to suggest this might be best with some food. Simple but satisfying.
Price: 1250NT
Score: 14.5/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

Château Teyssier, St. Emilion Grand Cru 2010
Grape:
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 12 months in French oak, 20% new.
Note: An alluring nose of juicy blackberry, spiced plum, licorice, and some floral perfume. Good levels of intensity and supple tannins make this both easy to appreciate now but suggest continued improvement over the medium-term.
Price: 2500NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

Le Dôme, 2007 (the 2010 was awarded 100 points by RP)
Grape:
80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot.
Wine-making: 80% new French oak.
Note: Undoubtedly oaky with oodles of spicy toastiness. The Bordelais would describe 2007 as a ‘classic’ year meaning that it was very challenging but this has no herbaceousness on the nose. Instead there are the beginnings of some tertiary development; mushroom and some floral perfume. Mineral, grippy but ripe mouth-coating tannins. Generous in both intensity and body with ample persistence on the finish.
Price: 7350NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Oriental House, 02-2873-3433

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Something for the Weekend 9: The effectiveness of Blind Tasting

Blind tasting is controversial. As an importer it was the final and most critical part of my selection process. Having spent time visiting producers and tasting wines in situ; it was only on my return home that a reliable assessment could be made. The blind-tasting of wines of a particular price point or region against their neighbours or competitors, helped remove some of the bias to which I was prone. I never bought wines from people I didn’t like but blind tasting also prevented me from buying wines from people I really did. It removed the emotion and romanticism I might have attached to people and places and left the raw product exposed for what it was. It is this reason why so many returning from holiday clutching their favourite wine of the trip end up being disappointed. Most wine tastes good when the sun is high and the serotonin is flowing. In the more prosaic surroundings of home, these same vinous ‘joys’ are often much less rewarding.

In the classroom, blind-tastings are frequently used as a method of torture rather than one of learning. There should always be a clear reason as to why one is tasting blind otherwise it becomes a game with too many crestfallen ‘losers’ and no real ‘winner’ – not in an educational sense anyway. Last Sunday my class enjoyed a flight of four wines (conducted blind), that worked particularly well as an exercise in varietal differences. Attempting to ‘bench-mark’ varieties or regional expressions of certain grape types is not always successful, but the Syrah, Carmenere, Malbec and Cabernet/Merlot we tasted proved deliciously up to the task. As an MW student I am keenly aware of making tastings illuminating and relevant; and these four wines, none prohibitively expensive, are worthy of some home study of your own.

Marques de Casa Concha, Syrah, D.O Buin (Maipo), Chile, 2011, 14.5%
Grape:
Syrah
Wine-making: 18 months in French Oak
Note: Classic Syrah. Blackberry fruit and fresh acidity that helps preserve this wine’s sense of purity. The oak does not get in the way and the ripe tannins complete the harmonious palate. Good value
Price: 1050NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Creationwines.com.tw

Marques de Casa Concha, Carmenere, D.O Peumo (Rapel), Chile, 2011, 14%
Grape:
Carmenere
Wine-making: 18 months in French Oak
Note: There is a little pleasant herbaceousness here but no under-ripeness that can leave Carmenere feeling green and mean. Chocolatey and supple tannins with a touch of spice from the oak.
Price: 950NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Creationwines.com.tw

Catena Alta, ‘Historic Rows’, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009, 14%
Grape:
Malbec
Wine-making: 18 months in French oak
Note: It is rare for me to drink any one wine more than a couple of times a year but this is one of the few I could happily have a glass of every day. It smells of cherry pie, vanilla, citrus peel and has silky, super-fine tannins. Persistent and delicious, exceptionally good.
Price: 2400NT
Score:18.5/20
Available from: icheers

Cape Mentelle, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Margaret River, Australia, 2012, 13.5%
Grape:
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 14 months in 20% new French oak
Note: Mint, chocolate and tar (three of my favourite smells) accompanied by a structure of fine-grained tannins help give this wine more than just a sheen of elegance. Very good value.
Price: 1200NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: P9.com.tw

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Bordeaux - Tradition & Innovation

This is understandable considering the long history of quality wine production that has flowed from the gates of Chateaux lining the banks of the Gironde. Yet Bordeaux has innovated, most obviously, in raising the standard of the once uniformly miserable generic ‘Bordeaux’ – wines that were often green (herbaceous) tasting and devoid of any vinous charm.

It is unarguable that those with less fortunate terroir than the most famous chateaux, have benefited from the rising temperature trend (helps ripen the grapes) so marked in the last 25 years. Yet the increase in quality is not due to this alone. Countries such as Australia, were able to produce a plentiful supply of fruit forward wines, that were easy to appreciate. This resulted in an ever-decreasing global market for those Bordeaux wines that were shabbily made. So producers had to change, they had to make wine that was both affordable and that people wanted to drink.

The relatively recent success of white wines emanating from Bordeaux is a boon to the region’s producers. They of course have plentiful access to the world’s most loved white grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc, a brand in itself and a doubly powerful one when intertwined with the cachet of Bordeaux. Yet as Bordeaux is most famed for its red wines (however great their white and sweet wines can be) it was important that the consumer be able to drink red Bordeaux that was both inexpensive and still representative of the region. They should act as an incentive to taste more expensive Bordeaux not hi-jack that thought permanently. Only in this way can Bordeaux hope to continue through the immediate future with its pre-eminence intact.

Below are notes on four wines that are decidedly representative of Bordeaux. All are from Axa Milliseme properties.

Cap Royal Blanc, Bordeaux Blanc, 2013
Grape:
90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: Fantastically pure nose of fresh pink grapefruit. Obviously Sauvignon Blanc with citrus, pointed acidity and a lovely texture – no obvious lees influence but either they (the lees) or the touch of Semillon just gives some fat, a little weight. Drink over next two years.
Price: 900NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co.

Cap Royal Rouge, Bordeaux Superieur, 2011
Grape:
70% Merlot, 30% Sauvignon Blanc
Wine-making: 50% new oak French oak but only for six-seven months.
Note: Pure nose, very Bordeaux with some fresh berry, black cherry and a little leafiness and pencil shavings. Supple tannins with just enough grip on the palate to be interesting, medium weight, and moderate acid give an easy to appreciate wine with a hint of new oak.
Price: 900NT (a bit of a bargain for Taiwan)
Score: 16/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

Chateau Tour Pibran, Pauillac, 2010 (2nd label of Chateau Pibran)
Grape:
50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine-making: A proportion of new French oak
Note: Blueberry, with some floral character (violet) and mineral (tarry). Great acidity provides drive, generous body, moderate alcohol 13.5%. The supple tannins point to a significant proportion of Merlot with some latent richness and power suggesting Pauillac. Obvious use of spicy French oak and although young it is still very approachable. Drink over the next 5 years.
Price: 2100NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

Chateau Pichon Longueville, Pauillac 2008
Grape:
71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot
Wine-making: New French Oak
Note: Now this is a different beast altogether, graphite, spicy, coffee grounds, super dark chocolate, nice balancing fresh acidity, layered tannins, fine grained – must be Cabernet, and exudes classed growth finesse. Excellent length. Elegant but powerful a serious wine that needs time.
Price: 4500NT (This is very reasonable)
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Chailease Resources Tech Co

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Something for the Weekend 4

Familiarity may breed contempt…or respect.

Shaw & Smith’s M3 Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills is a wine that features heavily both in my fridge at Sniff headquarters but also in classes that I teach. The reason is simple, it is benchmark stuff. It is also very reasonably priced – not something we can always say about wines in the relatively heavily taxed market of Taiwan. Like all very good wines, the M3 likes to entertain and reveals more of itself the longer it is outside the bottle. When first poured it is good but over the course of the next 15 -30 minutes its aromas develop leading to respectful nods from those with a glass anywhere near their mouth or nose. Where possible try and get the current 2012 vintage, it is still young and will reward further cellaring (if you have that luxury) or decant, as you would a good white Burgundy, and mark the start of the weekend.

In Bordeaux, lesser Chateaux from better vintages can be the source of pleasurable and inexpensive reds. This week saw my first taste of Chateau Grandis of the Haut Medoc in Bordeaux. From the ripe 2009 vintage this has plenty of signature Bordeaux appeal (gravelly tannins, pencil shavings on the nose etc) and won’t break the bank.

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, 2012, 13.5%
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: Nine months in French oak with partial malolactic conversion. This gives complexity and richness whilst not diminishing the pure fruit characters.
Note: Delicious. Nectarine, fresh butter, and a whiff of bacon fat is underpinned by palate cleansing acidity that provides the drive and verve to this savvy south Australian.
Price: 1350NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Chateau Wine & Spirits

Chateau Grandis Cru Bourgeois, Haut Medoc, 14%, 2009
Grape:
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
Wine-making: 12 months in French Oak (but not much new oak)
Note: Simple but ‘proper’ Bordeaux nose that includes a little of the cedar-like character that much more expensive examples reveal. A little spice from time spent in French oak supports the predominantly red fruit character on the palate.
Price: 790NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Carrefour

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Making Wine Easy 2

Having covered the opening of Vinoza last week, with its aim to provide affordable wines to Taiwan, (http://sniff.com.tw/?p=266) I wanted to continue the theme of ‘making wine easy’ by reviewing Direct Wines, another relative newcomer to these shores. Established in the UK more than 40 years ago, the decision by Direct Wines to open here in January, demonstrated that they believe, like Vinoza, that there is money to be made in the mid-market.

Direct Wines have always traded on the idea of trust first espoused by owner Tony Laithwaite ‘trust us to bring you the best wines we can find…trust us that you will enjoy them.’ This is a powerful message and one reinforced by their guarantee of replacing any wines that the customer doesn’t enjoy. On tasting a selection at their offices in Neihu, it was instantly apparent why they have been so successful in selling wine both in the UK, Australia and now Asia. The secret is in the easiness of the wine’s style. Whatever I tasted, at whatever price-point, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied with what was in my glass. Was I moved, shocked or awed by any of the wines? No, but to expect that would be to misunderstand the point of what Direct Wines is offering. Their aim is to provide good quality examples from the wine regions that they represent, affording the wine-consuming majority the opportunity to drink or taste wine daily. This is a more European approach to wine, where wine, traditionally, is treated more like food. For wine culture to become more embedded here in Taiwan the current view has to change. Wine should not be about aspiration or status it should be about the provision of (almost) daily pleasure.

Below are some affordable wines from this recent tasting. To order them (in Taiwan) call Direct Wines at 02 7701 0188

Chateau Toutigeac, Bordeaux A.O.C., 2009,13%
Grape:
Cabernet Franc 60%
Wine-making: Neutral, no obvious oak influence
Note: Chateaux in the Entre-deux-Mers region of Bordeaux are better known for producing white wines rather than reds but this Cabernet Franc dominated red has the benefit of a rich, ripe vintage. Simple but with pleasing black cherry fruit and supple tannins that makes it easy to appreciate even if kept chilled in the fridge.
Price: 729NTD
Score: 14.5/20

Torrevento ‘Vigna Pedale’ Nero di Troia Riserva, Castel del Monte D.O.C, 2008, 13%
Grape:
Nero di Troia
Wine-making: 12 months in oak
Note: I’ve always had a soft spot for this variety which resides in Puglia, southern Italy. This has a little savouriness accompanying the ripe fruit that adds just enough complexity to make this wine genuinely interesting. My favourite red wine here.
Price: 1,199NTD
Score: 15.5/20

Le Prince de Courthezon, Cotes-du-Rhone 2012, 14.5%
Grape:
80% Grenache, 10% each of Syrah and Mourvedre
Wine-making: Old oak and steel, no new oak influence
Note: Another easy to appreciate wine this time made with Grenache. Tasting of strawberry and pomelo pith (I know a bit strange but it works) this has high alcohol but it never gets in the way. Just don’t serve it too warm.
Price: 729NTD
Score: 15/20

Sendero des Santos, Albarino, Rias Baixas D.O., 2011, 13%
Grape:
Albarino
Wine-making: Stainless Steel to preserve purity of fruit
Note: White wines are still second choice to many in Taiwan but this pineapple and apricot scented Galician is perfect for the steamy weather we are experiencing this September.
Price: 699NTD
Score: 16/20

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