Penedes, Spain. 14%
Best vintage in a while, for Spain, and for Mas La Plana. At first my nose was hit with varietal cabernet but then as the wine opened up there are warm (tad burnt) earthy woody aromas (not leathery aged). Lovely wine, approachable now with many years ahead of it. Ripe, indeed a bit burnt but with acceptable freshness and acidity to be a very good food wine. In style it reminds me of bordeaux 2003 which many people have called “more New World” and yet they clearly are not New World wines – well this Spanish cabernet may be the closest thing to them.
Expensive wine but good value as it is only now appearing on retail shelves at 6 years old. I will buy another bottle to try against other similar vintage wines from around the world, it really is a benchmark for Spain. Tasted against Pasanau Finca La Planeta 2001 another top notch Spanish cabernet the Torres is a much finer, better, more elegant wine and less baked.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia. 13.5%
Shows good promise for Kangaroo Island. This is a well made wine, not to heavy cosmetic or sweet, somewhat like a Coonawarra in style but without the minty/eucalypt characters. Well priced too. Drink now and over the next 3 years.
Clare Valley, South Austraia. 13.5%
I found this 10 year old bottle in my local wine store and was rather pleased with myself.
Dark solid colour. This is, I think, a dry grown old vines wine. The back label says that 14% Malbec was included this year, which perhaps explains the good colour. It’s a big firm wine, with a seam of tartaric acid that runs from beginning to end. Nice structure, but old fashioned flavours. Very much Australian, but not sweet or porty. I quite enjoyed it but my wife thought it weird and certainly not wonderful – she particularly spotted the American oak (the back label says new and old French oak with 5% American), she often likes American oak, much more than I do, but thought that this was a bad decision.
So there you have it, dry, solid wine, none of the flair one might expect with Cabernet but interesting. Enough for me to try the 1999 which is still in the same store.
Southern Rhone, France. 12.5%
Dark, youthful colour with magenta flashes. This is a ripe savoury black olive shiraz, slightly muddy, oddly dilute. I say oddly because the good colour doesn’t suggest it, but the acid is lacking, it’s all a tad dull yet there seems to have been some excellent fruit somewhere in this blend. Not expensive.
Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France. 13.5%
This is a dark fairly extracted wine with highish alcohol and plenty of oak. New World oak and blackcurrent aromas on the nose, but more enjoyable drinking with food than this suggests. A reminder that although 2002 is a rather classic vintage with a seam of green and acid it is not dilute vintage. Cabernet shines through.
Not fine, but robust and concentrated. Acceptable for this price level, though in general I’m not a fan of this new winemaking style in Bordeaux.
This Chateau is owned by Chateau Faugeres of St Emilion.
Napa Valley, California, USA. 13.5%
Both these wines are deep, concentrated, quite luxurious. I think they would stand out against most cabernet dominant Bordeaux, they have less prominent acid, less verve, much softer tannins, they are warmer riper, but not so much as Barossa cabernet. Closer to Chilean cabernet than perhaps anywhere else in the world (though a Don Melchor tasted alongside was much sweeter). The oak is warm, towards the cafe latte style, as if the winemakers have taken the characters they like most about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and applied these to a Californian wine, which indeed probably was the recipe.
The Opus One house style was very consistent across these two wines, it was obvious they were related wines. The differences were that the 1997 was fresher, a bit more concentrated. It’s shaken off its youth but hasn’t built much of the complexity that comes with age. The 1993 is more rounded and a bit less forceful, more enjoyable to drink now. But it too is really one just out of its youth.
I like how these wines aren’t pungent cosmetic cabernet fruit bombs, they are deeper, more rounded and complete. That said I prefer a bit more elegance and complexity. These are hedonistic wines to be sure, but less intellectual than one might hope for given their price.