A tutored tasting in Nottingham themed, roughly, on pairs of wines featuring Bordeaux grapes from places other than Bordeaux.

The first pair were from Vina Maipo’s higher end range Gran Devoción, we tried the Carmenere/Syrah and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah both from 2008. The Carmenere has 25% Syrah in the blend, the Cabernet only 15%. Both were 2008 vintages.

The Carmenere had herby, woody and tobacco notes backed by sweet fruit and some floral notes on the nose. Fruit on the palate, blackcurrant – but tannic, sharp and earthy, seeming both rustic and young. A sweet spicy finish amplified by the heat of 14.5% alcohol.

The Cabernet had mint and other herbs on the nose, a little stalky-ness and less intense fruit. Warm, sour blackcurrant fruit, long line of acidity and better integrated and more rounded tannins.

I had the impression that one perceived the Syrah component of the first wine in the final spicyness, which was a negative for me, whereas the Syrah influence in the second was in rounding the middle-palate. Making a subtler and more satisfying wine, and not bad for the retail £13ish.

Next up, the – slightly off topic – Napa Valley, St Supéry “ÉLU” 2006. This is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Immediate hint of soap bubbles, then sweet plummy fruit on the nose, liquorice and some herby tones – quite a complex but rather sweet nose. On the palate grainy tannins, sweet fruit again – Victoria plums, persistent tannins and some lifting acidity but not enough to overcome the over-sweet, over-rich balance. Three times the price of the Chilean Cabernet, apparently, and although “more” in it, maybe less interesting…

Back to pairs and a couple of wines from Domaine des Creisses in the Languedoc. “Les Brunes” 2000 and 1999 are made with “15-20 year old vines; over 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with some Syrah and Mourvèdre”.

The 2000 had a raspberry jelly nose with slightly rotting apple fruit. The palate was loganberry with some tannin and a line of acidity but the overall balance is sweet again.

The 1999 was completely different, a tad browner at the rim and the palate was a heady vegetal/floral character, like decaying lilies. The palate much cleaner and with good acidity. The acidity and tannins are better integrated than the 2000 and under the dark fruit, some leathery and woody elements. Quite satisfying and at 13.5% a % less than the 2000. Good

Finally to Spain and the very old name of Marqués de Griñón, one of the early quality Spanish wines from back in the 1970s when the Marquis, a Davis graduate, planted Cabernet Sauvignon in the Montes de Toledo, adding Syrah and Petit Verdot in 1991. We tried the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (which has 10% Merlot too) and the 1999 “Emeritus, a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot.

The 2001 Cabernet was very untypical, a nose of sweet fruit, some oak and other woody notes – and underneath…strawberry (!) and then touches of soda and softer lighter fruit: peach, maybe nectarine. The palate reflects the same – weird and freaky – the only red it reminded me of is Morgon, a Beaujolais that shows peach fruit with age sometimes, and once recollecting that the whole wine seemed a bit bojo!

The Emeritus had a big dark nose, woody but better integrated with black fruit, both blackcurrant and blackberry. Very rich, (and 14.5%) but with deep set tannins and fresh acidity supporting it. Quite a successful package, certainly moreso than the Napa wine at the same price.

Overall I (and at least some of my fellow tasters – please comment if you disagree) seemed to like the 1999 “Les Brunes” best. In my view a  reflection of most of the wines tendency to overdo it a bit…. The Chilean Cabernet and the Emeritus were good wines at either end of the price spectrum but – in the middle  – the “Les Brunes” was my favourite, however that the 2000 is so different is a worry…

Thanks to Ralph.