Last week a major wine tasting club in town, Munskänkarna, arranged a tasting of various wines, having that in common that they were new arrivals at our “dear” monopoly. Many were new vintages of old classics, rather than brand new items in their range. The tasting featured two white and eight red wines, and three additional reds in a slightly higher price range for those who wanted to pay a little extra. There was a bit of a Rhône focus, since five of the eleven red wines where from that region, and two winnes (one white and one red) from the high-class traditionalist Rioja producer López de Heredia. The wines were served open, in a “show your ticket and pick them up two by two at the counter” format.
1998 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco
Rioja, grape varieties 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia. Sex years in oak with two rackings per year, i.e, would fulfill the requirements for a Gran Reserva with a wide margin.
Medium yellow colour. Definitely an elegant nose, flowery and perfumed, with pronounced beeswax and honey notes, yellow fruit with yellow plums and apples, zest, and vanilla. The palate is medium bodied+, slightly oily, with a hint of wax, strong notes of citrus and zest, high acidity and a hint of grapefruit bitterness. The aftertaste is long, with freshness of citrus and some mineral. Very fresh and elegant, still rather young, 91 p.
As far as I know, López de Heredia is the only remaining producer of traditional white Rioja, using long storage in oak and Reserva or Gran Reserva classification. On the red side, there are a number of other truly traditional producers. Considering how good this wine is, I don’t really understand why the traditional whites have been largely abandoned. This may not be a wine in everyone’s taste, and the many years in American oak make themselves felt as vanilla and wax notes, but those are very well integrated with the fresh citrus character of the wine. I don’t find any disturbing oxidation notes in the wine, which could perhaps be expected from a 15 year old dry white racked 12 times. So those who believe that the old-fashioned style of white Rioja means a highly oxidised, more or less dead wine largely devoid of fruit, could not have based their opinion on this wine! I suddenly realise that I’ve never tasted a white Gran Reserva from Tondonia, so it seems time to remedy that in the near future. 1991 seems to be the most recent vintage of white Gran Reserva on the market.
2010 Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Vieille Vigne, Domaine Billaud-Simon
Chardonnay, 60 year old vines. 40% raised in oak, 60% in vats.
Pale yellow colour. Nose with green apple, some citrus, smoke, mineral, discrete notes of elderflower. The palate is medium bodied+ with green and yellow apple, citrus, good concentration, high acidity, some mineral, and a long aftertaste with green apple and citrus. Definitely young, but all the pieces seem to be in place, should develop well, 89+ p.
This is a rather typical 2010 Chablis in a style begging for some cellaring before it is being drunk. Wait for the 2011s (or seek out the remaing 2009s), drink them first and only start on this type of 2010s when they are all finished. It doesn’t matter if that will take you a while.
2011 Les Galichets, Cathérine & Pierre Breton
Bourgueil, Loire. Grape variety Cabernet Franc.
Medium red, clear colour with some purple. Nose with a fruity cherry note, some manure, some herbs. Fruity palate, medium bodied, cherries, blackcurrants, rather tart, medium(+) tannins with some bite. Fresh style with the typical bite. Young, could benefit from 1-3 years of cellaring to get a bit more rounded, but doesn’t strike me as a wine made for long-term cellaring. 85 p.
To be frank, I found it a little simple for its price (which was the same as for the next wine).
2011 Ro-Rée Saint Joseph, Louis Chèze
Rhône, grape variety Syrah. 12 months in used oak barrels.
Medium red, clear colour, some purple. Nose with cherries, blackberries, tar, mied liquorice and herb tablets, some flowery notes. The palate is medium bodied+ and rather fruity with blackcurrants, good concentration, good acidity, medium+ tannins. Young, reasonably accessibly now, could develop, 88+ p.
The same price level as a reasonably good Crozes-Hermitage, but packs a bit more punch than many of those.
2011 Terre d’Argile Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011, Domaine de la Janasse
Grape varieties Grenache (1/3), Mourvèdre (1/3), and Syrah (1/3). 60% raised in oak (1/3 new oak), and 40% in vats. 15,0% alcohol according to the label.
Powerful nose with blackberries, plum compote, some berry liqueur of dark and red berries, some spice, some volatile acidity (but not really disturbing). Quite concentrated, blackberries, cherries, dark plums, somewhat noticeable alcohol, sweetness of fruit, spice, well embedded medium tannins. Rather Zinfandel-like in style but pleasant, drink now, 89 p.
Rather much wine for its level, but more for those who like fortified wines and liqueurs than those who prefer a red wine with a firm and classical profile. 1-2% less alcohol wouldn’t really have hurted.
2011 Vacqueyras Le Clos, Montirius
Southern Rhône. Grape varieties Grenache and Syrah, vinified in cement tanks (no oak).
Nose with dark berries including blackberries, some graphite and mineral, some barnyard aromas, herbs, spice and oak (well that was my impression despite no oak being used). Fruity palate, red berries, dark plums, good concentration, some sweetness of fruit, rather well embedded medium(+) tannins, a hint of alcohol. Drinkable now, could probably gain some from 1-2 years of cellaring, 89 p.
More typical southern Rhône than the previous wine, with a “drier nose” and rather much Châteauneuf-du-Pape feeling.
Poeira 2009, Quinta do Poeira
Douro, Portugal. Grape varieties Tinta Roriz (more known under its Spanish name Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Barroca, 16 months in French oak of which 1/3 new oak.
Deep red colour with purple. Nose with ripe cherries, blackberries, liquorice, slightly flowery, modern but elegant. Fruity palate of tart berries, cherries, red and black currants, good concentration, embedded medium tannins, fresh finish. Drinkable now, can be cellared, 90 p.
From the website of the producer: “Poeira aims to be a balanced and elegant wine. Douro wines generally rely on their tannins, but Poeira relies on its acidity. A wine that is extremely drinkable and appealing when young but which at the same time has the capacity to develop.” Actually, this fits rather well with my impression of the 2009, if one adds that it comes across as highly modern.
Quinta da Gaivosa Tinto 2008, Domingos Alves de Sousa
Douro, Portugal. Grape varieties: Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Touriga Nacional and others (probably from older field blends, something that is still common in Douro), 6 months in new French oak.
Deep red colour. Nose with dark berries, slightly sweetish notes with dried berries, rubber, slight dusty and a somewhat closed impression. Palate with dark berries, a hint of sweetness of fruit, tart berries, medium+ tannins, aftertaste with tart berries and some tannin. Rather young, 89(+) p.
For a while I was thinking that this wine might have a faint cork taint, although I wasn’t quite negative to the total impression, but it seemed that the same wine poured from other bottles had the same nose. Currently not nearly as charming as Poeira, since it is rather closed. In terms of Quinta do Poeira’s comment on the Douro style, this wine relies on both tannin and acidity.
Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco 2008, Arnaldo Caprai
Umbria, Italy. Grape variety Sagrantino, 24-26 months in French oak.
Dark red colour. Nose of ripe red and some dark berries, some dried berries, some balsamic notes, slightly perfumed, some oak and spice with chocolate, a modern impression. Palate of sweet cherries and dark berries, quite concentrated, powerful tannins that are somewhat balanced by tart berries. Fruity aftertaste with tannins. Drinkable now by tannin freaks, should develop, 89(+) p.
Sagrantino is more a tannic monster than a gentle and pleasant grape, and here it has been somewhat tamed by rather generous oak treatment. The result is a wine in a rather modern style, with aromas of those cherry-filled chocolates that tend to be found in many modern Italian wines produced from domestic varieties. (But few cherry-filled chocolates that I have tasted have been this tannic.) The producer recommends this to roasted meat, preferably with some fat, game or aged cheese.
Brunello di Montalcino 2008, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona
Tuscany, grape variety Sangiovese Grosso. 24 months in big Slovene oak vats (20-85 hl).
Bright red colour. Nose of ripe strawberries, rose hip, red currants, mild spice, fine oak notes, slightly flowery, elegant. The nose actually gives me some Pinot Noir vibes! Palate with somewhat sweet red berries, red currants, cranberries, good acidity, a hint of cranberry bitterness, medium+ tannins. Classical style but still slightly odd! Young but reasonably drinkable now, should preferably develop, 90+ p.
Medium red colour with brick edge. Nose with red berries, classically developed notes with leather, barnyard aromas, dill, spice, oak, some vanilla; definitely elegant and classic. Palate with red berries, some dried berries, discrete sweetness of ripe berries, good acidity, gravelly mineral notes, a hint of cranberry bitterness, very polished tannins. Quite a lot of elegance in an extremely classical style. Clearly developed in the nose, rather young on the palate, should be able to take another couple of decades, 94(+) p.
An old saying is that the varietal character of Tempranillo – which often are filtered even more through the vinification than the case of many other varieties – is somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. (On the other hand, modern Tempranillo often reminds me more of Syrah/Shiraz than any of these, but that’s a different story.) Here, there is a lot of Pinot Noir feeling in the aromas, but the palate also shows some of the characteristics of a mature, classical Bordeaux in its minerality – here we can really talk about graves.
The alcohol level is stated to be 12%! This is surprisingly low for a Rioja, but an excellent proof that wines don’t need extra alcohol to be really good, if anyone really was in doubt. Bordeaux, could you please come back down to the alcohol levels you were at a couple of decades ago! Actually, I’d like to see the same happen for the price levels as well…
Côte-Rôtie 2010, Domaine Jamet
Rhône, grape variety Syrah.
Deep red colour with purple. Nose of blackberries, blueberries, herbs, mint, liquorice, freshly ground white pepper, some animal notes, perfume, well integrated oak, definitely elegant. Palate of tart dark berries, quite concentrated, mineral, good acidity, spice with pepper, herbs and mint, medium+ tannins that are rather well integrated, finishes with berries and tannin. Young, but a fine balance already, 93+ p.
Again proves how good many red French 2010s, and not least those from northern Rhône, really are! Fine ripeness, good acidity and elegance in one lovely package, that drinks well now (on the fruit) and can be cellared quite long. The only drawback is that many of them are likely to go through a closed phase while many 2009s remain “open for business”.
Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réserve 2009
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, grape varieties 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, and 10% of the other varieties of the appellationens, 2 years in large barrels of old oak.
Deep red colour. Nose of red and dark berries, animal notes of meat and blood, dung heap and barnyard, slightly flowery. Quite animalic nose! Palate with red and some dark berries, quite concentrated, some slight sweetness, spice, medium+ tannins, just a hint of alcoholic feeling. Can be drunk now, should be able to take long cellaring, 92 p.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.