Sunday, September 23, 2018

Delas Cuvee Marquise de la Tourette Hermitage, 1985

This is 19 years older than the Penfolds Bin 28 and 17 years older than Mast Rare Reserve so it's not a fair comparison. The difference in nuance and complexity, though, is overwhelming and noted by nearly everyone at the table. This is a special wine (as Hermitage is supposed to be).

Lighter in color than either of the Australian wines. Scents of black fruits, spice, leather, juniper berries. (In 1985, it was probably aged in old seasoned barrels.) Same on the palate. But almost no black pepper. More delicate in texture but richer in flavor than either of the Australian wines. Flavors reverberate and dance. Long, long finish. A memorable experience.

My experience with Hermitage is limited--the 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1984 Hermitage La Chapelle, the 1984 Chave and the 1985 and 1988 Sorrel. But this is definitely the best I have had--a superlative example of French Syrah, mature and drinking at its best.

Mast Rare Reserve Block Victorian Shiraz, 2002

This is maybe one of the last great wines made by the legendary Australian winemaker, Trevor Mast.This was about the time that he had sold Mount Langhi Ghiran and before he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which later claimed his life. Like the Langhi wines, it is a noted example of cool climate Shiraz, a style that led to dramatic changes in Australian winemaking.

Tasted side by side with the Penfolds Bin 28 and the French Hermitage (above), it provides some interesting comparisons and contrasts. Shiraz black fruit with black pepper and leather. The black pepper is a trademark of Langhi Shiraz, and it is becoming very predominant in this wine. Oh, and it carries over to the palate. Pepper and spice and everything nice. This is much better than the bottle we had a couple of years ago. Maybe it is French in style, but it is definitely Australian fruit.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, 2004

This is old style Australian warm climate Shiraz at its best. Deep and dark, smells of plums, currants and oak. Warm and full bodied from front to back. Firm tannins; impressive concentration; alcoholic warmth dominates the finish. I won't be in any hurry to drink the remaining bottles of this in my cellar.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Elio Sandri Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2012

On the domaine's website, Elio Sandri calls this wine "a typical expression of the power of the Langhe." To produce it, "we have sacrificed a site of Nebbiolo da Barolo grapes to plant a vineyard of only 1,200 Barbera vines in 1996. A perfect soil for Nebbiolo, used to grow barbera, allows us to produce an amazing wine!"

This is my first taste of a wine for which I have great expectations. Deep ruby with purple tints. The "Superiore" on the label indicates that the wine has been exposed to some new oak. Barbera is typically a low-tannin, high-acid grape, and many traditional producers such as Sandri use new oak for Barbera, even if they avoid it for Barolo. As a result, this is a very large scaled wine: big fruit, big acid, big tannin and big alcohol. Sandri is proud to point out that this is "an extremely robust wine, which touches the 14 degrees (alcohol) almost all the years, and 14.5 in particularly generous vintages." What's important is balance, and this wine has good balance even though it feels a bit aggressive on the palate right now. Five years from now? I can't wait.


Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf du Pape, 1998

Chateauneuf du Pape wines were still relatively inexpensive when the very good 1998 vintage came to market. Even so, this wine was surprisingly cheap--under $10 a bottle, as I remember--when I visited Sam's (now Binney's) in Chicago. "This is one for drinking right away," the salesman told me. I was smart enough not to believe him. Chateau Cabrieres has good vines on rocky soil in the southern part of the appellation. And in 1998 the wine was made according to traditional practices. Now at 20 years of age, it is precisely what I like in a Chateauneuf du Pape.

Brilliant ruby with some amber shading. Powerful and typical CdP nose. Red berries, spice and leather on the palate. More savory than sweet. Unpretentious but worth all the attention you can give it. Long finish. Traditional Chateauneuf du Pape; wish I had bought more.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Notre Dame des Cellettes, 1998

It was 10 years ago when I last reported on this wine, and I said that I would not hesitate to keep it another "5 or even 10 years." I must admit that I did not intend to keep these bottles for an additional decade. I simply overlooked them in the cellar. But I am now glad that I did.

My biggest worry when I first popped the cork was a dryness on the finish, but I soon learned that the fruit is still strong, albeit with the same tannic traits that I noted a decade ago. With substantial airing, the beautiful fruit qualities come through: macerated strawberries with purple flowers and spices.The
Syrah has thrown some sediment, but it is drinking quite well and providing structure for beautifully ripe Grenache. There is also Mourvedre in the blend, and it is just now starting to show its best.

Fortunately, I still have a few bottles and will enjoy them over the next 5 or even 10 years. 30 years for a CDR Villages??? I know that sounds ludicrous and maybe it is. But I see no sign that the wine is falling apart.

La Ferme Julien Rouge, 2017

This $5.99 La Ferme Julien from Trader Joe's is simply a TJ label for the Perrin family's La Vieille Ferme, always an excellent value (at about $8 a bottle). I have been buying and enjoying La Vieille Ferme since their first vintage in 1978. Of course, the quality has gone down as the source of grapes has gone from the Cotes du Rhone to Ventoux to the Languedoc and now to even more generic, unnamed sources. But the Perrins are always reliable in choosing the best grapes they can get for the money and making a wine that measures up to traditional Southern Rhone standards.

On the first night, the wine actually was a bit backward. After being re-corked on subsequent nights, the Grenache/Syrah charms come to the fore. Red and black berries, flowers, and the peppery mouthfeel I love. Just the right amount of warmth. It's hard to imagine that a $5.99 might require a few months' aging, but I intend to buy a few more bottles and not be in any hurry to drink them.