May 29, 2012

Chateau Musar 2001 - drinking beautifully right now

Ladies and gentlemen,

Image from
announcement on an opening of a drinking window: Chateau Musar 2001 is drinking beautifully right now. The wine has developed really well showing those developed maturation elements which entice you to open any bottles left right now - however the wine has a lot of promise for even longer maturation. And what a price - quality ratio.

What a nose. Rich and matured, full of cherry cola mixed with really ripe plum, in addition to leather and cigarbox (secondary notes from longer maturation), black pepper and some burned rubber -> giving a feeling of a mature 1970s nebbiolo. However Musar is a bordeaux blend from Bekaa Valley in Libanon and from early this millenium.

The wine is in very good balance where big tannins have almost entirely been integrated, the mouthfeel is initially silky however the strong acidity runs over the silky feeling on the mid-palate, leading to a long finish full of dark fruits and nicely mixed with the acidity of the wine. Fruit has not dried yet thus indicating potential for further, even long cellaring. The components are there - sweet alcohol, tannins and fruit content as well as the great acidity. It is a big wine, one I could enjoy almost for the rest of my life (save for some pinot noir and nebbiolo).

I am glad for the fact that I still have some left in my cellar.

May 17, 2012

1990 La Mission Haut Brion, 1998 Ornellaia, 2002 Tassanaia, 1993 Flaccianello della Pieve, 1989 Produttori del Barbaresco

A Wednesday and free from work tomorrow, so why not organize a tasting? Together with other wine enthusiasts, we gathered in a cellar in Helsinki for a treat. First, a mature bordeaux and a prized bordeaux blend from Tuscany, then off to other Italian treats.

1990 La Mission Haut Brion (Graves)

The bottle had been placed upwards and cork removed for some hours now, however the wine was still a bit murky initially. A beautiful medium intensive ruby color which was surprisingly young for a mature wine. And while the wine is already 22 years old, i.e. should be mature, the La Mission is so long-lived that the 1990 had not reached its peak yet, so think carefully if you want to open your bottle. 

Dominated by red fruits, the nose is superb with nuances of ink, minerals, herbs and some leather. The mineral  notes seems to be a trademark for Graves comparing to other bordeaux appellations. With the ink in nose, it gave you a world of blue colors mixed with red fruit should you close your eyes and just feel it. 

However the palate was initially hard and steely, fortunately developing in the glass into a really smooth and velvety wine but not being able to shed all of the steely feeling. A slightly harsh aftertaste too. A problem with the bottle? You really need to decant this wine. Loads of syrapy fruit dominated by blueberries, sweet tannins, a great amount of fruit underlying there, and notes of chocolate and mocha developing after an hour. 

Overall feeling is that it is a beautiful and maybe the most velvety wine I have ever tasted, however the steely and harsh aftertaste was somewhat disappointing. Need to try another bottle of these at some point.

Blend in 1990: 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

1998 Ornellaia (Bolgheri DOC, Tuscany)

Next up, a bordeaux blend from Tuscany, i.e. Supertuscan by Tenuta dell Ornellaia. The 1998 Ornellaia was WineSpectator's Wine of the Year in 2001 (96p). However a mixed review from Wine Advocate which gave it only 91 points. Well, we had to try and taste it ourselves.

The ruby color was more intensive than in La Mission Haut Brion. Nose was intensive with balsamico, sweet black cherries, chocolate and herbs dominating. The mouthfeel was like velvet. So smooth, the sweet cherries linger in your mouth a long time, tannins are present however nicely integrated. Palate follows the nose with licorice in the taste in addition. I will lean more to WineSpectator in this one. So did other tasters.

The blend in 1998 was 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernt Franc.

1993 Flaccianello della Pieve, Fontodi (Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT) 

This is interesting. I have 2001, 2004 and 2006 Flaccianellos in my cellar, however now it is time to taste a mature Flaccianello, a 100% sangiovese IGT from the Chianti region in Tuscany. The result of the tasting: do not even think of opening the 2001-2006 vintages in long time. 
The 1993 Flaccianello was still youthful, altough had matured a bit. A medium intensive color, with some mature brownish mixed with ruby and an orange hue. 

You could really notice olives in nose, which is so prominently Tuscan - just like you are able to notice lavender in many wines coming from Provence, France. Also sangiovese's trademark cherries which had developed into an almost syrapy feeling (although the wine being totally dry red). Got to love that. 

Initially the mouthfeel was tight however opened up within over an hour. Both nose and taste got broader in the glass as time went by, the wine really needs air. 

Loads of ripe fruit underlying there. A lot of acidity too, this is like eating a cherry containing a lot of acidity. Combining these factors, the wine feels at the same time like sweet ripe fruit and totally dry at the same time, the acidity obviously taking away the sweet feeling. Acidity maintains in the mouth really long, actually longer than what fruit is left. 

Could be enjoyed now, however will absolutely get better with more cellaring (give it another 3 years). So enjoy this one at 22-25 years of age. So my 2001, 2004, 2006, see you in 20 years. 

2002 Tassanaia (Toscana IGT)

Due to a very challenging year in 2002, Castello del Terricio did not make its flagship wine, Lupicaia, while the grapes were used in this Tassanaia.

Thus the 2002 Tassanaia could be better than other vintages, albeit poorer growing conditions. The producer achieved 14% abv although the vintage was marred by poor weather. 

Already showing some age in the glass with slightly brownish and medium + intensive garnet color. The nose is full of blueberries, smoke, tobacco, spices and italian herbs. Really tannic too. Needs a lot of time for the abundant tannins to integrate, if they will ever. A really fruity tuscan, with blueberries taking the pole position in mouth accompanied by notes of plums, "cloves and pepper". 

However the aftertaste is short, indicating that fruit was not totally ripe when picking. Blame it on weather. This is a blend of 30% CabSav, 30% Merlot and 40% Sangiovese. 

1989 Produttori del Barbaresco (DOCG Barbaresco)

Medium garnet / almost brownish colour with orange hues, as in mature nebbiolo you would expect.
Some burned rubber in the nose, a trademark for mature nebbiolo too, along with tryffels, almonds, fried chestnuts and black fruit. Some slightly chemical notes there too, which however do not disturb at all.
Tannins are still big and tight in this one, and not nearly enough ripe fruit to balance it out. 13.5% abv. Some peppery feeling in mouth too.

Nose develops into licorice and burned sugar after spending over hour in the glass, increasing the enjoyment of sniffing this mature wine.

Mature Champagne: 1966 Albert Le Brun Cuvee Reserve, 1985 Bollinger Grande Annee

Mature champagnes cannot be missed if you find them. So when the opportunity presented itself yesterday, we came across two nice mature bottles: 1966 Albert Le Brun Reserve and 1985 Bollinger Grande Annee.

When champagne matures it is full of nuances of an extremely full-bodied white wine, as the case is when bubbles are gone. However the long maturation of the wine is very evident and as they are mostly made of grapes grown in very good crus, they offer really interesting experiences. Champagne from the 1980s seem to have evolved to a state now in which you have the mature elements present while still holding some bubbles - a very enticing combination.

1966 Albert Le Brun Cuvee Reserve 

This one had already seen its best times as a sparkling wine, i.e. how champagne is usually enjoyed. However what a beauty in the oxidized-madeira-driven-taste sort of way. 

Color is intensive golden with no bubbles left. Nose is really thick, nicely oxidized (not too much!), fruity and toasty, like fried chestnuts, other tasters commenting "chestnut honey", "damp woolen stocking" and madeira wine. The wine was thick, almost oily in the mouth while having still big acidity. Citron peels, "apricot and sour orange" notes dominating the palate. 

1985 Bollinger Grande Annee 

The Bollinger Grande Annee is the flagship wine of the house, ok R.D. is their most prestigious wine - however where to find a bottle? So let's stick to Grande Annee then. And 1985 Grande Annee was a success still today. 

The 1985 vintage is hailed as a "miracle after Siberian conditions" by Bollinger itself as winter temperatures reached -25 celsius, and although part of the vineyards had to be replanted the surviving crus gave really good fruit. 

Golden yellow color and with really, really small bubbles. Slightly toasted nose, characterized by being full of fruit & sour apple notes, as well as honey, small oxidation component and some "mushrooms" as commented by another taster.

How about the taste? The mouthfeel is that of Big Fruit while being tight, really condensed, with citrus and sour apple notes dominating further backed up by high acidity. When enjoyed straight from bottle without decanting it seems like the taste has like a tight perimeter - like doors waiting to be opened with some air. Acidity dominates the mouth feel while alcohol takes a back seat and does not present itself big here like in a new non-vintage (N.V.), not even when the wine warms in the glass. By the way, 12% abv in this one. When the wine warms up in the glass after some air contact, apple and dark spices come through first, followed by beautiful floral notes. 

The Grande Annee 1985 was like a combination of 1966 Le Brun and a freshly new Bollinger N.V. Beautiful mature champagne. However personally I have to say that 1982 Deutz has a lively edge on its side.

May 11, 2012

Errazuriz tasting with "Caliterra" range wines @ Wennerco

Wennerco organised an Errazuriz tasting in Ruoholahti, Helsinki with Rodrigo Plass from Errazuriz presenting the wines and giving insight into Chilean winemaking as well as the different climat and terroir in Chile. The tasting gave good insight into the Caliterra and Estate wine ranges, targeted for pleasant consumption on every meal or enjoyed in good company.

Caliterra is a new vineyard planted in 1997, and the name comes from blending "calidad", i.e. quality and "terra", i.e. soil into a single word, expression of a quality vineyard in the Colchagua Valley 60 kilometers from the coast and 150 meters above sea level, adjoining the Apalta Valley.

In particular the sangiovese project, single vineyard syrah blend and sauvignon blanc look promising. We tasted young vintages, and although these wines are made for early drinking I would be interested to see how they develop in 5 years.

Caliterra Reserva Chardonnay 2010

Medium lime yellow color, the young wine has slightly toasted aromas while its nose is full of exotic fruits and white pepper. Like citrus mixed with green paprika as evident green and green leaf notes are there mixed with vanillin. Nice and crisp acidity keeps the wine fresh and clean all the while the palate is rather thick - a lot of things going on here, and in a positive sense. The rather long aftertaste has an acidic finish. A very nice companion with plate of seasoned chicken, asparagus and young pees on a plate should you require food with it. 13.5% abv.

Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard 2011

Blackcurrant leafs, vanillin and greasiness on the nose. From a rather cold vintage with low yields. Made predominantly in stainless steel tanks with 2-3% matured in used oak for 2-3 months. The oak maturation gives the wine creaminess and the slightly fatty and vanillin feeling. On the palate a somewhat thicker and almost oily mouth feel not typical for a sauvignon blanc. Alcohol comes a bit through on the mid palate, warming the mouth feel. The finish is long and quite full bodied. The partial oak maturation process brings new elements into the wine, setting apart from typical sauvignon blancs. 13.5%. Enjoy with delicate seafood, the winemaker's suggestion was not with fatty fish.

Errazuriz Estate Reserva Sangiovese 2010

The Estate Reserva is a new project for Errazuriz and the best sangiovese I have had outside of Italy. The cultivation of sangiovese is spreading more and more outside of Italy to cover parts of Australia, California, Romania, Argentina and France. And now to Chile. Worth a try then.
Young purple color. The wine's aromas shoot out of the glass as they are plenty with fleshy cherry, licorice and ink in a thick expression. They used 50% French and 50% American oak for maturation.  full-bodied wine's fruit is quite sweet. Ink mixed with cherry fruit and good acidity. Again, alcohol a bit higher than rest of the components. Big tannins however not drying the mouth as you would expect from a young and quite tannic wine. The finish is a little harsh too.
According to Rodrigo, the wine will not mature like a sangiovese in Tuscany, however it would be interesting to taste this wine in 5 years as I have no doubt that the wine will develop nicely within the time period. 14.5% abv.

Errazuriz Estate Reserva Syrah 2010

Mostly syrah (95%) however some cabernet sauvignon (5%) in the mix. Really, really dark purple color. Maturation for 7 months in used oak which was 50% French, 50% American. The aromas go darker in this one compared to earlier wines.  Quite sweet fruit and meaty / game feeling, the nose opens up beautifully. The wine is concentrated however not really full bodied with a quite lean mid-palate, with black cherry dominating. More southern Rhone than northern Rhone should you look for a benchmark, however in a new world package. The finish is long yet a little harsh.

Caliterra Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cabernet sauvignon is the flagship grape of Chile. Given the above wines, it is really interesting to see what Errazuriz does with CabSav in this range, as their most well known and world renowned wines are predominantly cabernet wines.
Fresh blackcurrant leaf, cocoa, chocolate and even hints of leather, in such a young wine. All good indications! Medium+ intensive purple. Again, alcohol is a bit too evident, which makes it a pattern in this tasting. Cassis, eucalyptus and mint mixed with blackcurrants. It is evident that the best grapes go to the Icon wines as the taste is a bit dry and straightforward. However in my tasting notes I wrote that the wine will develop for sure for some years as the fruit will develop into a dry liqueur like feeling, very much anticipated by yours truly in mature wines.

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Syrah 2010

We find ripe cherry and plum fruit with black pepper, truffles and leather. The single vineyard syrah blend shows promise at a young age and is suitable for medium long cellaring. Juicy dark fruit with multilayered expression, fresh basil developing in the aftertaste. Matured 14 months and made of 86% syrah, 8% malbec, 4% merlot and 2% cabernet sauvignon. The grape mix gives character to the wine. Again, I did note the alcohol coming through a bit too much.