Club Des Sommerliers Bordeaux 2005 (review)

84 points

Bordeaux, France. 13%

My first taste of 2005, this ultra cheap (2.7 euros) half bottle (with screwcap) is a dark shiny wine with magenta flashes. Obscenely young fruity aromas lead to powerful, if simple, flavours. I bought this to have a taste of the fruit from the “perfect vintage” and I have to say I’m impressed. My experience with cheap Bordeaux in the past has been mostly thin weedy wines. This is very respectable, and would beat many similarly priced wines of Southern France and Australia.

Drink in 2007.

Domaine de grand Chemin 2001 (review)

86+ points

Vin de Pays d’Oc, France 13%

A blend of Cabernet and Pinot Noir (hence the Vin de Pay appellation, the wine comes from near Nimes.

Very dense dark colour, with similar aromas. Baked, but dry baked, flavoured wine. I suspect the Pinot was added to lighten and give some acidity, probably successfully too. Not over the top, nor syrupy. One of the better wines of Southern France.

Domaine de Boede ‘Les Gres’ 2001 (review)

85 points
Coteaux Du Languedoc. 14.5%

Weird tarragon, herby (mercaptan ?), slight smoky, and very dense rich touch burnt nose. And creamy rich palate. I’m guessing this is a blend that includes merlot or cabernet. It’s not unlike a South African or Californian blend.

Very interesting, and pleasing to see such diversity in this region. Though it isn’t my style of wine. Too baked, lacks elegance.

Chateau Pavie 2001 (review)

80 points
St-Emilion, Bordeaux 2001

tasted: May 2006.

This is the controversial chateaux of Bordeaux with the 2003 vintage pitching Clive Coates, Jancis Robinson and other (English) critics against Robert Parker. Parker is a great fan of this Chateau in recent years. Known for a big ripe style, in 2003 (the ripest vintage ever) Coates and others described it as undrinkable while Parker continued to lavish praise.

From this I decided Pavie probably wasn’t a wine for me, but seeing this 2001 vintage (a very good, and not super ripe vintage) on discount in a French supermarket I decided to take the plunge for intellectual purposes at least. Actually I was expecting a very big ripe plummy wine, a bit over-the-top, but enjoyable for once at least.

But what we got was an over-extracted dumb ultra- ripe wine. Ripe flavours that go beyond fruit-cake plummy merlot, with no attack, no grace. Plenty of dumb ripe tannins too. Anne hated it immediately, and she normally likes St.Emilion wines and knew nothing of its reputation, all I’d told her was the price (89 Euros – discounted but still expensive).

It reminded me of dull, dumb cabernets from California, South Africa, and Barossa Australia. But in this case at a much higher price.

Now regardless of his critics Parker seems a fairly competent winetaster; his ratings of Bordeaux usually correlate highly with other critics – but his strong support for Pavie makes one wonder if all he is rating with other Bordeaux wine is their concentration and ripeness (and price).

That said, I’ve just found this Oct 2007 (i.e. after mine) review by Jancis Robinson of the 2001.  She is far more complementary than I, giving it 17.5 points (out of 20).  Though we concur on the style of the wine:

“Richly enveloping nose. Borderline overripeness. Hot chocolate! Thick and sweet and sort of carved out of stone. Quite porty but with some freshness of fruit. Exaggerated but pleasurable. Drying tannins on the finish. Pretty luscious.”

Condado de Haza 2001 (review)

89 points

Ribera Del Duero, Spain. 13.5%

The 2001 vintage stands out after a fairly long run of average/good vintages in Spain. Unfortunately we didn’t see a lot of this vintage in Australia (I guess we were classed as less knowledgeable about Spainish wine so they sent us other vintages while looking after their more traditional markets – I bought this in Zurich Switzerland).

Smokey dense tempranillo, the house style. With substantial whack of alcohol and acid. Drinkable now but I suspect that this will cruise on for some years. Pretty good for a wine that has a pretty overt, yet savoury, style. For some years I’ve thought this is an interesting wine. I like it, its dense ripe and approachable, a bit rough rather than pure and fine, a personal interpretation of Tempranillo by Alejandro Fernandez designed to be drinking within a few years – perfect restaurant wine. BUT only if you like savoury wines, it’s a confronting wine for many.

Saltram 8th Maker Shiraz 2001 (review)

88 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14%

This new premium brand celebrates the 8 winemakers of Saltram. I received it as a gift, I’m grateful for the chance to try it as I wouldn’t usually pay this much for a local wine, and a new label at that.

Clearly it’s a wine built for the long haul, Saltram’s attempt at a Grange competitor. It deep and dense, rather dosed up with added acidity. It reminds me of Peter Lehmann’s Stonewall, and interestingly Peter Lehmann is one of the “8 makers” as he was winemaker at Saltram’s during the 1970s.

Not really my style, unless the wine is rather old when interesting savoury characteristics (lots of leather) will develop.

Rust en Vrede ‘estate’ 2000 (review)

81 points

Stellenbosch, South Africa. 14.3%
58% Cabernet, 33% Shiraz, 9% Merlot.

The top wine from this producer, regularly listed in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year. As was this vintage and rated 92 points.

Smokey vegetal aromas appear to be a house style (see my previous review of their shiraz) but are quite extreme on this wine. I was sure it was mercaptan spoilage – offputting to say the least.

Or was it just the combination of this style with this particular grape blend ? So I compared it to Tin Shed’s 2002 similar blend a syrupy fruit bomb of a wine but the flavours did suggest that this Rust en Vrede’s weird taste isn’t necessarily mercaptan, but a due to the blend plus some smokey vegetal characters.

No matter what the cause it’s an odd drink. Thick quite sweet/syrupy as many South African reds are, with the fruit unable to shine above the vegetal characters. Had to drink/stomach.

PS A blend of this with the Ten Shed was better than either wines alone.

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2004 (review)

89+ points

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 14%

Extraordinary that New Zealand can now make shiraz/syrah wines this ripe and complete. This is dark, shiney, very young, with lashings of French oak giving a very supple texture. In spite of the youth there is some intruiging complexity, while weighty it has some Rhone like spice.

A wine to watch age with interest.

Apparently Te Mata has been making this (fairly quietly, probably smll production) for over a decade.
http://www.temata.co.nz/TemataSyrah.asp

Blockbusters

The mistake that many people, myself included, make when first encountering fine wines is to expect that a wine that is expensive and/or famous should taste like “the most amazing wine I’ve ever tried”. This sort of over-the-top experience is most likely encountered with sweet wines or perhaps something like a Barossa shiraz. But you are less likely to have this experience with Bordeaux or Burgundy, German Rieslings, Champagne etc.

But rather these are wine one learns to appreciate with time, ie practice 🙂

Claret’s fame, in particular, is not about blockbusters but rather intruiging wines that you’d (always) like to drink more often. Blockbusters generally aren’t anywhere near so exciting the next time they are tasted, and the love affair seldom lasts for years.

Unfortunately too many wine writers write as if blockbusters are the thing consumers should be looking for, and winemakers striving for.

Chapel Hill Shiraz 1998 (review)

83 points.

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 13.5%

Dark colour, very classic traditional aged shiraz aromas (eg leather), rather obvious added acidity. On the palate too. Rich but simple, annoying added acid flavours. Plain, and manufactured.

In the 1990s Chapel Hill was a pretty hot new brand, with Pam Dunsford the winemaker. Interesting to see how this wine has turned out, at an age that it should be drinking very well. 1998 was a very good vintage in South Australia.

Robert Parker, for all his faults, was right to criticise the excessive use of added acidity by Australian winemarkers. It is amazing that local wine critics almost never ever notice it.