Friday, 30 December 2011

Seven Deadly Zins 2008: Surprising depth and decent at the price

I've just opened a bottle of this to have with dinner tonight. It was a Christmas gift brought back from the US. I hope the flight has not affected it too much.

The 'tasting notes' (sales copy) claims:

"Notes of sweet plums and pepper dominate the nose while flavors of blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and black pepper pack the palate from start to finish. The silky-smooth tannins hold the wine together and deliver a soft, fruit-driven experience."

That's overselling it in my view. The reality, as so often, has elements of the above, but not all of them.

One definitely picks up the plums, raspberry and a hint of black pepper. The tannins are smooth, in that they are not really there :). But in my experience (which is very limited), that's par for the course with many of the younger wines from the USA.

The wine seems to retail around $10-16 a bottle. And at that price, I'd say it's worth drinking.

There's enough depth and length to push it miles ahead of the usual Gallo brothers stuff one finds in this price range.

I know I'm not sounding overly enthusiastic. I should say, despite the silly name, it's got enough about it at the price to beat most other competitors if you are looking for something strong and smooth.

I still believe Mouton Cadet '08 to be a better, more finessed bet as a mainstream wine in the same price range, but for a reasonable American night in (hard to do given the over pricing of US wine), this is worth exploring, if the notes suits your tastes.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Cuvée Spéciale Médoc 2006

I bought a mixed case of various Rothschild wines from Laithewaites a few weeks ago.

So far I'd only tried the Amancaya Gran Reserva Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, which is a nice smooth Argentinean. Nothing too special and lacks any real bite but very quaffable.

Tonight I opened the Barons de Rothschild Lafite Cuvée Spéciale Médoc 2006.

An hour after opening it's really impressive. Lovely smooth blackcurrant with a lengthy finish and not a hint of tannin. Classic Medoc, if still very young.

I'm not sure how much it is per bottle when not in a mixed case of 15 for £160 but I'm guessing it's pretty good value. Recommended for any Bordeaux fan.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Château la Rivière: An worthy experiment under £20

Château la Rivière is a corker of a drinking merlot. It's not my favoured grape, but sometimes it can be really quite good, as long as one does not over pay.

Adnams, a UK retailers with impressive ethical credentials to boot, has some excellent offers on Château la Rivière right now.

At £18 a bottle, it's not the bargain of the year, but if you are looking to experiment with a fine drinking merlot at under £20, it's worth trying a bottle for sure.

Claret Les Sources Fronsac 2005: An £8 gem of a wine

I'm not sure where you find this wine online, but Claret Les Sources Fronsac 2005 is worth noting.

Here's the 'closest' web link.

At just £8 a bottle in the UK it's a delicious, powerful tangy right bank bargain.

Being right bank merlot is clearly dominant.

At the price it's clearly a gem. The long, nearly-tannic-but-not finish follows a deceptively mellow and aromatic nose and some big smooth raspberry fruit in the middle.

I tried what you might call the big brother of this wine on Monday, Château la Rivière. I'll post separately on that.

Mouton Cadet 2008: Silky and poweful

I tried Mouton Cadet this week for the first time in years.

It could be as long as a decade since I've tried it. As a more 'mainstream' shop wine I've instinctively avoided it.

However I found myself on the right side of a couple of glasses of the 2008 this week in a hotel bar in Brussels. I'd imagine it ages well as a Graves wine, so am now looking forward to the earlier years.

I'd definitely recommend the 2008 at the price. Prices vary from £8 to £11 a bottle, perhaps depending on whether you want the reserve or not.

Here's one source to buy it from.

That website linked above says it tastes thus:

Nose: Both dense and elegant, opening on ripe fruit, especially blackcurrant and strawberry. A wine of great class and character.

Palate: A massive attack sustained by well-rounded, remarkably textured tannins. Great overall harmony between forward fruit and a high quality structure. Fine tannic length and an elegant finish.

That seems an accurate assessment from what I can remember. It's 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc.

More merlot than I would usually like, but I did enjoy the powerful deep smoothness of this wine.

It may not suit the terroir/geography, but I'd love to try this wine with a little more Cab, just to see how it works out.

Here's a link to Wine Searcher so you can find it wherever you are in the world.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Chateau Meyney 1989: Hard to beat for £42

Even at around £42 a bottle, this is a seriously under-rated wine.

For a 1989 wine this good, you'd usually have to pay a lot more, in my humble view.

It's not even close to being on the way out. I think this wine will drink for another decade.

The balance of fruit and age is pretty much perfect. Simply a corker. For me this is almost a perfect St Estephe (given the price). Just a perfect balance between minerality and dark fruit.

Parker gives it over 90 points, and according to this site, describes it thus:

"The 1989 Meyney is one of the finest Meyneys ever produced. The opaque, black/ruby color, a bouquet of minerals and damson plums, the alcoholic, massive flavors and the mouthcoating tannins all combine to create a sensory overload. The 1989 will prove uncommonly long-lived as well as profoundly flavored. Anticipated maturity: 1995-2020."

You may be able to buy it here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Bonnachi Brunello 2006 and Zind Humbrecht Gewurz VT 2005

I'm not sure if you'd call Bonnachi Brunello 2006 a red wine gem at nearly £30 a bottle.

For me it just slips into that category given the powerful nose, lush deep colour and big bold dry fruit with excellent tannins and that Brunello smokiness/tobacco hints.

It's classic Brunello, fast becoming a favourite wine area of mine.

The Sampler (UK) has it for £28, although in the store itself the cost is around £31.50.

Not the cheapest bottle, but with a discerning wine fan friend of mine coming around for dinner, it seemed worth the 'investment risk'.

It went wonderfully with sirloin steak. Here's where you can buy it, at least in the UK.

The Zind Humbrecht Gewurz VT 2005 we had with dessert was a stunner.

Not remotely cheap, (£40 for a half bottle) but for a white wine, it was a perfect finish to the meal:

"Gorgeous nose of honeysuckle, exotic spice, subtle lychee and tropical fruit. Full-bodied and rich yet incredibly balanced with a long finish" is how the Sampler describes it. Bang on.

Highly recommended if you want to splash out for friends. A very special wine indeed.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

My retailer of the year:

I've used a variety of online wine retailers this year.

Whilst I buy wine to lay down with Berry Brothers, for every day drinking I haven't found them to be the best value.

The Wine Society, if you are a member, is an excellent place to find well priced drinking wine.

Virgin Wines, as I mentioned, is a real disappointment., which I also used, has shut down.

My top two picks are Laithwaites for range (Los Vascos 2007 and their Rothschilds Christmas selection as highlights) and for mid-range bargains.

The Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne from their site, with 92 Parker points, is a perfect accompaniment to strong cheddar. At £11 or so a bottle, it's fabulous value, a velvet bomb of a wine. Not for the faint hearted but a stunner.

But the best value wine of the year is their Rosso del Palazzone Montalcino. It's simply stunning at the price. I've had £30+ bottles that couldn't touch this. Let it breathe for an hour or so and the bold aromatic nose, wonderful hints of slight smokiness/tobacco and elegant, ongoing finish are superb. I've blogged on it before, but having had several bottles it only get's better. At £140 a case it's my value for money wine of the year, at least so far.

Dow's Trademark Finest Reserve Port

I picked up a bottle of this yesterday at half price from UK retailer Sainsbury's.

Usually around £14 a bottle, at £7 it's a real bargain. Wine-searcher shows you the price variations.

Not the finest port you'll ever taste of course, but a lovely entry level bottle at the price, for a novice such as myself. I enjoyed the slight spice and a dry-ish finish.

Snooth gives it three out of five, which feels about right to me.