Archives for posts with tag: ICC TASTING

On Thursday 15th February the WING group met at the ICC for a Tasting of wines from Rioja. This theme came out top in the Group’s voting for what to cover this season. I wonder if this is – at least partly – down to the knowledge I was holidaying there last summer, and would personally source the wines. This of course renders a set of wines averaging over £20 at UK prices much more affordable. The prices, and value for money scores, are for the UK (if possible).

Here are my notes:


VIÑA GRAVONIA CRIANZA BLANCO 2006 (R López de Heredia)    –   12½%   –   UK £21 Oldbridge wines
This is from the height of the Alta near Haro, and is 100% Viura aged for 4 years in oak and 6 in bottle. A very sherry like nose, showing stewed apple, nutty and some pungent vegetal elements, a slight honeyed tinge… Palate has all this with sherry salty dryness and an undertow of passion fruit (aged Chenin?) honeyed richness. This has a sharp acidity contracting the palate at the end, a little more than the 2004 tasted in March 2015 (see below). A small sample remained which I tried as an aperitif the next day, before a good Soave. The acidity had slackened a little and the palate more rounded – so it may be a little young? The more interesting observation is that ignoring the sherry overlay, how similar the structure was to the Soave – with acidity and peachy fruit common to both! A very unusual style which radically divided opinions. But for me a great example of a nearly-lost style.
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

OLARRA CERRO AÑON MAZUELO 2105        –    14%   –   n/a UK, about £16
This is from Mazuelo (Carignan) grapes from near the Alta/Baja border, and I suspect the fruit comes from both. It has 6 months in American oak, it has the redcurrant aroma common to low-cropped Carignan, with some oak in an identifiable Rioja weight. The palate has some acidity and is round, pliant but a bit simple.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

OLARRA CERRO AÑON GRACIANO 2014   –   13½%   –   n/a UK, about £16
This fruit for this is from Alta and Alava and has 14 months in French and American oak. This has a more complex nose – floral elements, some woody acidity and a spice hint. Powerful palate, with warm tannin but with lighter cherry fruit and a long line of flavour. The wine suggest a little of Mourvedre to me, power but subtlety and light aromatics… good!
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

MAYOR DE ONDARRE RESERVA 2013   –   13½%    –    £24 Hallgarten
This (92 point rated) Reserva is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Mazuelo. It has 20 months in American and French oak and then 18 months in bottle before release. Bright sharp fruit nose – cherry? – with a woody but not vanilla hint, Palate has sweet and sour plum fruit with a mocha grainy creaminess, a lifting acid frame leading to long slightly spicy finish– quite lip-smacking and food friendly.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

CAMPO VIEJO DOMINIO 2015   –   13½%   –    £23 Ricard
This is 90% Tempranillo with 5% each of Graciano and Mazuelo. It comes from 5 or 6 Alta plots – vinified separately with 11 months in all French (Troncais and Bertranges) oak. This is a lovely wine, with a subtle but complex nose – suggestions of  non-fruit and savoury notes – leather came to my mind but others thought of liquorice. There is dark fruit, maybe blackberry and well-contolled oak. The palate echoes the nose but with great refreshment, structure and length. A lovely wine with a Bordeaux-ish inflection to Rioja flavours. Very good – but is it a bit International?
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

COTO DE IMAZ GRAN RESERVA 2011   –   14%   –    £22 Liberty
This is 90% Tempranillo (mostly from Alta with 10% from Alava) and 10% Alava Graciano from near the winery in Oyon, on Agrilo-Calcaire soil. Voluptuous open nose with herbs, floral notes and blackberries. The palate is very recognisable GR Rioja showing everything from the nose with warmth and a chocolate-grainy body, very sensual – in contrast to the more cerebral Dominio. Lovely!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

A tasting showing good range of styles, grapes and oak use in Rioja. The Gravonia is very much an acquired taste I think, but I had it pretty close for top wine with the Dominio and the Coto de Imaz. If I had to pick one – I would find it difficult. I am tempted by the white for its sheer unorthodoxy, but in the end that counted against it – it is a great wine but only useful in a narrow set of  situations. The Dominio was the most popular for the group, is beautifully crafted and will be better in 2 or 3 years I think – but does it express Rioja specifically? So in the end my wine-of-the-night is the Gran Reserva.

À Bientôt

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Rioja is perhaps the most famous wine region of Spain. It produces over 400 million bottles every year – but that’s only (!) about 8% of all Spanish wine. It is mostly red (88% in 2016, usually 1 or 2 % lower) with some Rosé (5%) and White (7%).

The Red is made in four quality levels, from the highest: Gran Reserva; Reserva; Crianza; Generic. This [Wine Folly] graphic shows the rules, with the % of Red wine made at each level:

 

 

Gran Res’va 3

Reserva 19

Crianza 42

Generic 36

 

The Signature red grape is Tempranillo which accounts for about 80% of red plantings – followed by Garnacha (7%) and Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) about 2% each. White is almost as focused on one grape: Viura (which is 73%) with only one other white grape Tempranillo Blanco (10%) taking up more than 5%.

Rioja exports a lot of its wine – around 37%, a little more of the red and only 27% of the white. By far the biggest destination for that wine is the UK which takes in almost precisely a third of those exports – so nearly an eighth of all Rioja, twice as much as the next biggest importing country, Germany! So the British Rioja market should be a good sample of the styles, quality levels and innovations in Rioja.

The Rioja DO Wine region of Spain straddles the Ebro River for some 100 kms as it flows South East towards the Mediterranean. It is – mostly – in the central, Northern province of similar name: La Rioja. Not entirely though – roughly half – the Southern half – of La Rioja is mountainous and makes no wine at all, and some of the North bank areas are in Álava (which is Basque and accounts for about a quarter of all Rioja) or Navarra (about 5%).

Here’s a map:


You will see that Rioja is split into 3 sub-regions: Alta; Baja and Álavesa. The Álavesa sub region conforms to the administrative boundary  of Álava, and North of the river the Baja boundary conforms to Navarra’s. South of the River the Baja /Alta border follows the same general line just East of Logroño, with a few deviations to allow influential wineries (Marqués de Murrieta…) to be in Alta!

In general Baja is warmer, lower and better suited to Garnacha and maybe Mazuelo, as the Mediterranean influence moves up the Ebro. The Alta (and Álavesa) are higher (400-500m is typical), cooler and better suited to Tempranillo, Viura and Graciano. However the distinction seems pretty arbitrary near the actual borders and soil types and wine-making are much more important – here’s a soil map:

In the past the categories of red Rioja stood for clear stylistic divisions. Generic was plonk – Crianza was lightly oak-affected and showed strong tannin and acidity – Reserva was rounded, still woody but with a voluptuous fruit and Gran Reserva was getting towards an oxidative and secondary-, or tertiary-, flavoured style. Although Reservas had to have at least 1 year in oak, 2 or more was common – and GRs typically had 3 -5 years, and often the same again in bottle.

Now there is a trend to less oak, and fresher (modern!?) styles… The Wine Society categorises the wine styles thus:

Traditional: fragrant, silky and delicate wines from long ageing in cask (usually American oak) and bottle. These are mostly ready to drink on release.  Bodegas La Rioja Alta are an example of traditional style .
Modern-classical: younger, rounder wines that retain the delicious character of Rioja through cask ageing (often a mix of American and French oak) with the structure to develop in bottle. Bodegas Muga and CVNE,  fall into this category.
Modern: richer, velvety wines aged for less time in newer (usually) French oak, which are released earlier and mostly need keeping.

 

In fact I think the wine forms a wide spectrum and these three headings are but reference points. But it is true that there is a trend to more site-specific wines. Some growers are vinifying their better grapes from better sites in special Cuvées and using exclusively French (Tronçais or Allier…) oak for the time thought appropriate for the wine rather than the time set by the Gran Reserva (or even the Reserva) rules. The result is more elegant and more structured (and more Bordeaux-profiled) wine – a sort of super-Reserva!

Part of this is indeed soil (and more generally terroir), particularly the Agrilo-Calcaire found also in Bordeaux, Loire etc. This seems to be the soil in the most highly prized sites: for Tempranillo and Graciano; for carefully maintained older vines; vines used for single vineyard or restricted source wines (still a minority– though becoming more common in Rioja); and for more serious white plantings of Viura.

Another factor is grape variety. Red Rioja can contain Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan) and Garnacha. We tend to think of Rioja as a Tempranillo wine with some minority blending partners – a bit like Chianti and Sangiovese… But that’s not accurate at all. There are no rules about how much of each grape can be in a Rioja. So it’s possible to have 100% Graciano, 100% Mazuelo or 100% Garnacha! Indeed these seem not too difficult to find as growers move more to site-based wines, and single vineyard Graciano is a style to watch for…

I confess I am interested to see the outcome of these stylistic changes, and hope they don’t end up entirely “Internationalising” a lovely distinctive wine style. There is room for development of course, but there are still many beautiful examples of  Reservas and Gran Reservas, and I for one still enjoy the depth and voluptuousness of well-made classic Rioja, retaining a warmth, richness and sense of place.

Meanwhile the picture is very varied and flexible, for a while yet it will be a bit like Burgundy: it’s quite hard to know what you’re going to get! – so find a producer (or 3 or 4…) you like and follow them…

Very old Álavesa Viura Vines

For this month’s tasting we’ll start with a very old fashioned white (a very rare style nowadays!) – aged for 4 years in barrel and 6 in bottle.

Then we’ll try a couple of varietals – Mazuelo and Graciano; and a more classic Reserva and Gran Reserva, sandwiching a “modern-classic” “super-Reserva” highly rated wine.

Graciano Vines at Coto de Imaz, Oyon, Álava

I hope the tasting illuminates some of the issues discussed here. Anyway, notes on the tasting will be posted in 6 or 7 days, a little later than usual.

À Bientôt

On December 14th the WING ICC Group held its Annual Xmas Blind Tasting Competition. Six Wines were served blind, and each accompanied by three explanations of what they were; one each from Kathryn, Kim and Carrie.

WELCOME TO 2017 CALL-MY-WINE-BLUFF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The explanations were of three real wines – all available in the UK – however two were Bluff, one was True. The rest of the group had to guess which was true. After 6 rounds the person with most correct guesses won a (Xmas compliant) bottle!

The first Round was Unusual European Sparklers.
The Wine showed quite a recessed nose, citrus hints emerge but no “yeasty” notes. Palate has a slightly “gluey” note, some sweeter fruit elements and an light apple-tinged mousse… But was it:

  • Austrian Sekt from Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling;
  • Blanquette de Limoux (100% Mauzac);
  • Fruili Brut from Collio – mostly (92%) Ribolla Gialla?

RIBOLLA NOIR, SPUMANTE BRUT, (PRIMOSIC) (Vini Italiani £22)

I’ve no idea how one would guess this –  darker than one would expect from Mauzac or GV, but the apple notes could have come from all three…

My Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  14.5/20

 

The Second Round was Alpine Whites
A light fruity nose with some floral elements. A grainy, surprisingly full bodied palate, with a pepper hint that turns to a mineral finish … But was it:

  • Rousette de Savoie;
  • An Alto-Adige blend from Terlano;
  • Fendant from Valais in Switzerland?

FENDANT CLASSIQUE DOMAINE DES MUSES 2014 (Wine Soc. £20)

Again quite difficult, but I think the body and low acidity in the wine might have been the clue.

My Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14/20

 

The Third Round was Alpine Reds
Light in colour, herby nose with cherry fruit. Herbs and red fruit on the palate too, quite short but some acidity and mineral giving some structure… But was it:

  • A Mondeuse from Savoie;
  • A Schiava from Alto-Adige near Bolzano;
  • A Garamet-Garanoir blend from Vaud, Switzerland?

SAN PIETRO SCHIAVA, VITICOLTORI ALTO ADIGE 2013 (Vini Italiani £13)

I think the hardest of all to guess, partly because all three are rare, and the structure is quite good. I would have guessed the Mondeuse, I think…

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15.5/20

 

The fourth Round was Italian Grapes on the Pacific Coast
Pungent nose at first, then spicy elements kick in. Palate has richness and drying tannins and a woody element. Quite a fresh fruit lift at the finish which is food demanding… But was it:

  • Zinfandel from Lodi, California;
  • Sangiovese from Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
  • Nebbiolo from Baja California, Mexico?

L A CETTO PRIVATE RESERVE NEBBIOLO, BAJA CALIFORNIA 2012 (Tanners £15)

This had the scale of a Zin, but heavier tannins – so that might direct one towards Nebbiolo?

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

 

The fifth round was Reds from South-West France
Slightly fruit-cake aromas, then fresher red fruit hints. The palate has even more (but slightly rounder) tannin than the previous wine, and later a supple red fruit comes through. There is a fresh herby acid line right to the end, and with food the tannins recede and supple red fruit emerges. My favourite red … But was it:

  • Gaillac – mainly Syrah and Braucol (Fer Servadou)
  • Irouléguy – a Basque wine made from Tannat and Cabernet Franc
  • Cahors – mainly Malbec?


IROULÉGUY: DOMAINE ILARRIA ROUGE 2014 (Yapp £19)

The tannin levels, though not harsh, point towards Tannat, I think, so perhaps the easiest to guess.

My Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

 

The final Round was Dessert Wine
Complex nose, with peach, honey, passion fruit and quince. Some lightness on the palate and the same set of flavours are not overwhelmed by Noble Rot. A lip-smacking acidity adds a fine quality to this luscious wine … But was it:

  • Hunter Valley partly botrytised Semillon;
  • Jurançon, late-harvested Petit Mansang;
  • Sweet Chenin Blanc from Savennières, Loire?

JURANÇON MOELLEUX: DOMAINE CASTERA ‘CUVÉE PRIVILIGE’  2008 (Grower – UK £22) 

This surely has too much complexity for even a good Australian, little botrytis and the passion fruit might suggest Loire but the lightness of touch and the quince hints surely suggest Jurançon!

My Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  15/20

Overall a tricky, certainly the most difficult so far, tasting. However the wines we actually tasted all showed quite well and the bluffs constituted an  interesting set of wines. The excellent prize was won outright by Catherine, with 4 correct! Congratulations and a bottle of 1986 Vintage PX DO Montilla-Moriles Gran Reserva (Alaba) to her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be the last post before Seasonal Festivities begin, so it only remains to wish très bonnes fêtes de fin d’année to all my readers!

À Bientôt

On Thursday 19th October the ICC / WING group met for the first tasting of the 2017-18 Season. The new season will (roughly) have alternate presenters: yours truly, Corkmaster and – new to this blog – the extremely talented brigittebordeaux.  So I kicked off with the 4th most popular Theme: Italian White wine.

I decided, following the discussion in the previous post to further trim the candidates for the Tasting by omitting Fiano and Pecorino – as being too well-known or too obscure, respectively. This left me with two wines of rare quality in denominations known for plonk: Soave and Orvieto; two Piedmont specialties: Gavi and Roero Arneis; and two Campanian whites…

Here are my notes:


SOAVE CLASSICO CALVARINO (Pieropan) 2015   –   12½%   –   Wine Society – £18
Quiet nose – with blossom hints: acacia and elderflower, some herby hints and a start of fruit. The palate has very long citric acidity with a chalky mineral finish, later some peach hints develop on both nose and palate. This is a couple of years too young, but very classy, balanced and elegant.
Ratings: Quality:  15.5/20   Value:  15/20

ORVIETO CLASSICO “TRAGUGNANO” 2015 (Sergio Mottura)   –   13½%   –   Vini Italiani – £17
Immediate nose of floral and pear notes. Soft fruit on the palate, with a softer acidity too. Some warmth in the later palate and increasingly herby (thyme?), but fades quite quickly too. Rather one dimensional.
Ratings:        Quality:  13.5/20   Value:  13/20

GAVI DI GAVI 2016 (Tenuta Olim Bauda)   –   12½%   –   Virgin Wines – £15
This has a fresh nose…lemon and a hint of pear. Clean palate with a lovely acidity growing in warmth and extending the finish. Quite good typicity and a very satisfying food wine…
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

ROERO ARNEIS “LE FAVILLE” (Brjnda) 2014   –   13½%   –    Vini Italiani – £15
Nose has some floral elements, and a hint of a darker – nutty? – flavour. The palate has saline and that darker note (fenugreek), some warm acidity and a thicker food-friendly finish but a bit short…
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20

GRECO DI TUFO, LOGGIA DELLA SERRA 2016 (Terredora Di Paulo)   –   12½%   –   Tanners – £17
Lovely nose of white fruit, citrus and sweeter fruit notes. Palate is very well balanced with evolving acidity that energises fruit elements and some richness. A poised wine with great food capacity, and close to peak, and the groups’ favourite!
Ratings:        Quality:  15.5/20   Value:  15/20

FALANGHINA “PRETA” (Capolino Perlingieri) 2015   –   13½%   –   Vini Italiani – £17
Very pungent menthol / Eucalyptus first nose… Other herby notes mount but never overwhelm the mint dimension… Palate has grapefruit acidity and a sweeter fruit – doughnut peach (?) – gaining ground. Quite rich and unusual, and pretty good.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14.5/20

Overall a tasting showing the range of white styles in Italy. With strong, food-friendly, acidity present in most – even from the warmer climes. All had some attractive elements and clean acidity…That freshness is most apparent in the Soave and the Greco, and although the Greco has persuasive charm, I liked the Soave as much and felt its restrained elegance would better reward cellaring. On the other hand, the Orvieto was slightly dull, and I have sometimes found the slightly sweet Amabile style shows more depth at lower price points…

À Bientôt

On Thursday 18th May 2017 the ICC group tasted 3 Alto-Adige varietal wines (Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer) against “reference” equivalents from Alsace. The idea being to see if the “lighter, drier, cleaner” reputation for the former was justified – and/or if it implied a “less characterful” other side to that coin? I chose mature Alsace wines to emphasise this, and to ponder if the Alto-Adige wines would ever develop to a similar degree.

The wines were served in pairs, so the notes below will contain both-way comparative comments. However only the first pair were served blind as I thought the relative ages of the wines would make the other pairs too obvious anyway.


Here are my notes:

KAEFFERKOPF RIESLING 2008 (Schaetzel)      –   13%     –     Grower €17  (Approx £25 in UK)
Only showing a slight hint of diesel, despite its age – floral hints and an apple blossom note in a more aromatic wine. Palate is rounder and richer with a long warm acidic line supporting a fruit phase reminiscent of dried apricots. Rather satisfying and still quite young.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

PACHERHOF RIESLING  2012 (Valle Iscaro)   –   13%     –     £15 Le Langhe
The nose has a light but more evolved diesel element, but is quite quiet overall with a hint of citrus. The palate is actually less dry than the Alsace wine, clean with warm acidity and a pear hint – but a mineral, slightly bitter, line grows through the wine, supporting the middle but somewhat unbalancing the finish.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

It seemed the older wine was on a much longer evolution, and had more depth and interest. However I felt the A-A was not shamed by comparison, and would work as well or better in some contexts.

BRAND GRAND CRU PINOT GRIS 2005 (Turckheim)         13½%    –      £19 Noel Young
Instantly recognizable Alsace PG, much darker than the Alto Adige but still fresh. Hints of flowers (roses?) and ginger with smoky notes. The palate only a little off-dry with an integrated fruit-acid line (passion fruit, quince, mango) held well together for a long time. Long and complex – a lovely wine…
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  17/20

ERSTE + NEUE PINOT GRIGIO 2015    –  14%   –      £15 Noel Young / Highbury Vintners
This has a some PG character but only about a third as intense as the Alsace. Similar profile to the AA Riesling: clean; warm acidity; fruit (peachy in this case); mineral at the end… not all that interesting and certainly nor compared to the Alsace PG.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20

This was even more telling a comparison than I imagined. With ten years between the wines, I wondered that the Alsace might be too old… Far from it – it positively shined with flavour and complexity and supported its slight sweetness well. The A-A certainly paled by comparison, although not a bad wine – I thought it had more interest than most Grigio, but here the least interesting of the A-A wines anyway…

HEIMBERGER “SOL GRANITIQUE” GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2007 (Beblenheim)     –    13%    –      Grower €12
No lychees on this nose but ginger and (surprisingly) pear. Palate is rich and viscous with some sweetness and a gingery spicy warmth and a “granitique” mineral line. Long warmth and a food-demanding grip.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15.5/20

ELENA WALCH GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2015   –   14%      –    £16 Bottle Apostle
Slightly nutty nose with a slightly bitter herb notes. Palate has citrus and peach, with a hot spice line giving structure and a chalky (tending to creamy) mouthfeel. As long but cleaner than the Alsace and equally food-demanding…
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

This seemed the closest comparison – both had clear Gewürztraminer characteristics – focusing on the ginger and floral more than the stereotype lychee. The A-A was a hotter wine, both in the foregrounding of its ginger flavours and its alcoholic weight. Also the mineral character was different: the A-A chalky, whereas the Alsace had drying salinity that held up the relatively low acidity.

Overall an interesting comparison in which the reputation of the Alto-Adige wines is justified: vibrant, leaner with a mineral frame. They are good wines with preference a matter of taste for most of the pairs we tasted. However the Alsace Pinot Gris was a long way ahead of the A-A Grigio (IMO) – maybe one needs to go up a notch to find a really characterful example… Also I can’t imagine any of the  Alto-Adige wines have as long a development time in them as the Alsace, so – personally – in most cases I’d rather buy Alsace and wait a while…

Until soon!

On Thursday 16th March, in my absence, Kathryn led the Group in an appraisal on Wines of South Australia.

I was in the Loire, drinking Chenin Blanc, at the time – so the notes that follow from what I understand was a very successful tasting, are Kathryn’s own:

KILIKANOON MORT’S BLOCK RIESLING 2014 CLARE VALLEY              EWGA  £16.50
From the centre of the Clare Valley, about 15 km South of Clare itself… The vineyard is 400m asl and has light brown earth over limestone. This had some petrol on the nose; lime; good acidity; good value.

SKILLOGALEE TREVARRICK RIESLING 2012 CLARE VALLEY         Great Western Wine £25.50
This is from 7 or 8 km further North and a little higher (480m asl) than the previous wine. Lots going on; lime and floral notes; some petrol on the nose; develops and changes in the glass; orange notes come in later. The favourite wine of quite a few people…

HEIRLOOM VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY 2015 ADELAIDE HILLS             Waitrose Cellar £19.99*
This is raised (85%) in French oak barriques (30% new) for 12 months, but they claim it’s light, a European-style Chardonnay with stone fruit and melon flavours and gentle oak integration.
Not what we were expecting from an Australian oaked Chardonnay. Actually more like a Chablis. No overt oak flavours. Pale in colour; citrus, apple with mineral notes. Enjoyable!


LOU MIRANDA ESTATE LEONE SHIRAZ 2013 BAROSSA VALLEY                    EWGA £15.25
Barrel matured in medium toasted American oak using 15% new barrels in the blend
The preferred Shiraz of just under half of the group. Some interesting complexity; quite a lot going on in terms of flavour. Some found a bitterness on the end palate. More tannic than the Gnarly Dudes.

TWO HANDS GNARLY DUDES SHIRAZ 2015 BAROSSA VALLEY                        Majestic £17.99
This has the same oaking proportions as the previous wine, and the grower claims “freshly crushed dark berries, and complex notes of black pepper and incense” but that the “tannins are quite gritty…”
We agreed about black fruit flavours, but not about tannins (perhaps they had softened). Very smooth wine. Very drinkable. The slightly more popular Shiraz.

BERTON VINEYARD RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 COONAWARRA    Wineman £13
This wine was voted Best [96 points – Outstanding] “New World Cabernet under £40″ in a Decanter tasting last month! This is aged in equal parts of 1-, 2- and 3- year old French Oak barrels. According to Alistair Cooper MW it shows: “blackberries and liquorice… which flow onto a mineral drenched palate with wonderful salinity, mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained tannins. Cool, elegant and effortless”.
A very nice wine. Lots going on in terms of flavour. Cassis, sage, liquorice. Good complexity, good finish. Very good value.  The favourite wine of about a third of the group!

Many thanks to Kathryn for so meticulously planning and delivering this tasting. We hope there will be more…

A reminder that there is less than a week for Members to enter the “200 Post Competition” over on the Members’ Page. It’s just a guess – must be worth trying?

Until soon…

When I looked through my archives I was surprised to find that the WING group had not had a dedicated tasting on the precise subject of Portuguese Wines for over 8 years! Of course, Portuguese wines have featured every now and then and we have focused on Port specifically (most recently in April 2015 – see posts of 2nd and 5th April 2015, below:). However it’s quite a while without a general look at the 10th= biggest wine producing country…

Portugal is a bit of an enigma, which isn’t surprising as most of the country was more-or-less feudal under the Salazar dictatorship that was only overthrown in 1974! Many very old indigenous styles and grapes persist – for good or ill – but the sudden growth, “European-isation”, and influx of investment has opened Portugal to development similar to that in a new world country. So it is with wine: Port is complemented by famous and sometimes great wines from Douro, Bairrada, Dao, Setebul…  and they are being supplemented by new world wine-making in Lisboa, Ribatejo and Alentejo. Sometimes this is sensitive development of indigenous grapes, sometimes a new world formula and sometimes a bit of both.

In addition Portugal seems to suffer more severely from a trend that to some extent besets all wine imported in the UK – we tend to get the cheap rubbish and the very top wines, but most of the interesting, good value, upper-middle-budget stuff… they keep at home… wise people. I have tried to use the upcoming Portugal tasting, in part, to look at this price/quality level.

Portugal nearly doubled production towards the end of the last century, overtaking  Greece, Hungary and Romania. It produces about 2½% – 3% of the world’s wine, vying with Germany and Russia for 10th, 11th and 12th  places in the wine-production league [different years see these countries in different orders, but they are all a way behind Chile in 9th and all produce double the output of Romania in 13th]. Port accounts for about 15% of the vines, and table wine is about 70% red.

Although the real jewel in Portugal’s crown is Port,  given that we have tasted these wines relatively recently we’ll concentrate on other wines in this tasting.

Historically I picture the Portugal Wine Regions a bit  like the map here – The 8 regions mentioned above together with  the great Island of Madeira, plus another offshore area – Açores (Azores); plus Trasosmontes; Tavora Varosa; Beira Interior and Algarve:

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Vinho Verde is a wine area as well as the name of its most notorious product: the sharp, light, slightly spritzy white. Sometimes, and lately often called Minho, the area also grows the Alvarinho grape, famous as Alboriño just over the border in Galicia, with some success.

The Douro (Port) area, where big reds from the Port grape varieties are used. These especially feature Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) for table wines. As you might imagine from the Port connection, these are often tannic wines with the characteristic rich earthy note found in so much Portuguese wine. Often one can detect port-ish nuances too. Whites from higher altitudes are making an appearance too.

Dao: 40-80 kms to the South, with a similar, but slightly lighter style. Touriga Nacional is the best grape and Dao wines must include at least 20%. The pliant, sweet fruit and herby qualities of the Jaen grape (called Mencia in Galicia), and Pinot-ish character of Alfrocheiro soften the wines.

To the east of all this is the little seen Beira region.

Bairrada lying to the west, Atlantic, side of Dao. The area uses the Baga grape, which reminds me – at least – of Sangiovese. Unusually for Portugal, this grape is often vinified on its own, or with some Touriga Nacional. Pure examples show the sour cherry and fruitcake spectrum one is used to in Chianti, but again with that typical earthy twist.

Lisboa, (Riba)tejo and Setebul are near the City of Lisbon – lying to the North, East  and South respectively. Sub divided into smaller regions these areas produce more light gluggable styles and more white wine than the other areas (where red is usually over 70%).

Alentejo: a large area centred about 100km South East of Lisbon, extending East to the Spanish border. This is a hot, modern wine area often basing red wines on Aragonez (another synonym for Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira. This area behaves a bit like a new World area – with a hot climate and modern methods. Although Cabernet, Chardonnay and especially Syrah are creeping in, the old grapes – mercifully – are still in the majority.

More recently some of the areas have been slightly renamed and re-organised – here’s a more up-to-date and detailed map – showing sub-regions, wine types and/or main grapes for each region!

portugal-wine-map

Portuguese wine is dominated by indigenous grape varieties – someone actually counted 248 in production a few years ago. There is also quite a lot of regional specificity – grapes predominantly found only in one or two regions. There is no big national grape variety: Castelão is the most widely planted variety with 7½ % of vineyard area. Unless you count Tempranillo (known as Tinta Roriz in the North and Aragones in the South), which is equal* second most widely planted at 7%, the most common International variety is Cabernet Sauvignon (with about 1% of vines). There are so many grapes used and so much blending that perhaps place, Regionality, is more important than grapes.

*Fernão Pires a high-yielding aromatic white, has roughly equal vineyard area, but probably more wine

 

The proportions of production by each region in 2015 are shown in the graph below. DOC wine is the highest category (like AC in France). In this graph Port is included in the Douro figures…

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This graph tells us a lot – firstly the four areas at the top of the chart  do not contribute significantly to total production or (especially) in DOC production (<3%) . Even if you include the generally prolific regions of Lisboa and Tejo plus Beira the DOC figure only goes up to about 7%. However the high figures of IGP production in Lisboa and Alentejo show an interesting change in production – the growth of newer styles and untypical grapes that haven’t yet set quality standards – especially in Alentejo.

For this tasting we will skip Port as I’ve said, and I’ve tried to track down bottles at that rare – in the UK – upper-middle price/quality level. So we’ll sample: Madeira; a classy wine from Minho; a (rare in UK) high quality Bairrada; a Duoro and take a look at quality and modernity in  Alentejo wines…

Notes will appear in 4 or 5 days.

Until then….

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