Author Archives: Magnus N

1989 Ch Guiraud

Sauternes had a fantastic streak of vintages in 1988, 1989 and 1990. In particular the 89 vintage is great, with loads of botrytis and high sugar content.

I bought a bottle of 1989 Château Guiraud when on vacation in Bordeaux back in 2006 and had it this New Year’s Eve with some foie gras. Unsurprisingly, the combination was great. There is not a more classical match to Sauternes than foie gras. 22 years in a bottle results in great complexity for a (good) Sauternes. Dark yellow colour. A bit musty on the nose immediately after opening, but the mustiness disappears quickly. I didn’t air or decant it. Deep in structure and shows a nose of saffron, apricots, nuts and oranges, but also some spices, which probably were not present when the bottle still was young. Viscous and long with nice acidity and not too much evidence of residual sugar. Great palate of orange marmalade and honey. I was I had more bottles of mature Sauternes. This is really something else as compared to a young Sauternes. 93p.


2008 Malleolus

Ribera del Duero, the home turf of such skilled and famous producers as Pingus, Vega Sicilia and Emilio Moro, is oddly not a top-classified appellation – a DOC. The only two DOCs in Spain are Rioja and Priorat.

However, to have Ribera remain only a DO appears somewhat conservative, as loads of premium-quality wines are made in the area. Ribera’s claim to fame is to region’s treatment of the red grape Tempranillo, or Tinto Fino under which name it is more renowned in the region.

I had the 2008 Malleolus from Emilio Moro with my wife yesterday alongside a toast with mushrooms, bacon and Parmesan cheese and the match was just perfect. This is certainly one of the best matching wines I’ve ever had to mushrooms.

100% Tempranillo. With a nose of cherries, chocolate, coffee and vanilla, it smells fantastic. Still very young but opens up generously in the glass. Medium-bodied, elegant and perfectly balanced. Complex and spicy. It will probably improve with age, but why store it? It’s already fab. Drink it today! 298 SEK at Systembolaget. 91p.


Giro d’Italia

Twelve Italians wines tasted from twelve different regions. To me, Italy is number 2 when it comes to quality wines. However, when doing these kinds of Italian-theme tastings, it is also rather obvious that the reputation of Italian wine rests almost solely on the regions of Piemonte, Tuscany and – to some extent – Venetia. You can find all kinds of wine full of character and personality all over Italy. But make no mistake: many of them are rustic and if not clumsy, than at least non-elegant. But boy are the good wines good. I have been visiting Vinitaly the last couple of years, which only confirms this. You start out by trying the aglianicos, verdicchios, gaglioppos, montepulcianos, but a couple of hours into the fair, you revert to the Big Two: Piemonte and Tuscany. But you truly must admire the Italians for sticking with native grapes to such a high extent. After all, how boring the world of wine would be if we only had the Cabs, Merlots, Syrahs and Chardonnays.

The first pair out contains some bubblies; one from Trentino and the other from Lombardy, both regions located in the north of Italy. Both are made using the method champenoise. The first one is 250 SEK and the other is 215 SEK. That’s a problem. Call me conservative, but if I am going to pay 250 SEK for a bottle of sparkling, it better be Champagne, dammit! The 2006 Riserva del Fondatore Mach from Istituto Agrario Provinciale San Michele all’Adige is alright. Green apples, citrus and minerals. A bit too frizzy. Nice attack but a tad short. 80p.

The second wine is a blanc de blanc from Castelveder, 2003 Franciacorta Brut Millesimato. Almonds, marzipan, minerals and slightly floral on the nose. Nuts, grape fruit and almond paste on the palate. Not bad at all. Talking about Champagne; this certainly matches the quality of a Champagne in the same price segment. Nice work. 85p.

Unfortunately, Tuscany is represented by a grumpy Sangiovese. This is where you start longing for an Aussie Shiraz chockfull of sugar, fruit and alcohol. 2006 Montevertine from the producer by the same name is highly esteemed. It doesn’t matter. Cherries, tobacco and chocolate. Pleasant smell. I’m not sure what to say about the taste. “Nice acidity”. 395 SEK on magnum. 80p.

Fattoria San Francesco from Calabria produces 2005 Ronco dei Quattroventi Ciró Riserva. Made from Gaglioppo. Now that’s a grape you don’t drink every day! Lots of oak, vanilla, plums and dark fruit. Full bodied, nice attack, noticeable tannins. A trace of bitterness burdens it at the end. Not bad, though. 135 SEK. 82p.

The third pair out contains the real draw-cards of the tasting. At first sight two assumingly disparate wines, the first being from Sicily and the second from Piemonte. The Sicilian wine is from the Etna DOC: 2001 Etna Rosso from Calabretta. Now, this is not your typical warm-grown, jammy Sicilian brew. At an altitude of 750m and volcanic soil, this is obviously a unique micro climate. An extended ripening period lasting until the end of October gives mature and nuanced grapes. The vines are 70-80 years old and the wines are matured in botti for 6-7 years. You would think from these parameters that this is a top-notch Barolo operation. Raspberries, strawberries, tobacco and floral notes. Elegant. Well-integrated tannins, this must have been austere when young…after all, it’s eleven years of age. Nice grip. From 100% Nerello Mascalese. Not your everyday grape. Fantastic. 135 SEK for a ten year old wine of this caliber is just generous. 89p.

The second wine of the third pairing is certainly the best wine altogether: the 2004 Barolo Prapó Riserva from Schiavenza. The Sciavenza property is know for making austere and long-lived wines. Wines that simply need patience to unfold. From the village of Serralunga d’Alba known for making powerful and tannic wines, this has been fostered on large Slavonian bottis for three years, thus giving it a comparatively lesser sensation of oak than would a more “modernly” raised Barolo. A fantastic nose of mineral, roses, tar, leather and pencil shavings. This is a 2004, but still it’s a baby. After seven years! It will certainly develop over the next ten years and probably live well for another twenty years. It is very intense with an amazing attack, great length, nice balance and, as mentioned, a certain austerity. Needless to say, I ordered a case from the Danish distributor for 315 SEK/bottle. Very nice price! 92p.

The fourth batch comprises a Basilicata wine and one from Marche. I’ve tried some Basilicata reds before – they are usual made from Aglianico – and I have a problem with their rustic character. 2004 Vigna Caselle Riserva Aglianico del Vulturefrom d’Angelo is no exception; this is a powerful and harsh mother. Parker gives this 92 points and numerous reviewers in the Cellartracker community rates it 90+. Maybe they are right or drunk and I am just wrong, but I’d give this 82p tops. And then I’m being generous. It is promising on the nose with sensations of licorice, tar dark fruit and salubrin (only in Sweden…). It suggests a big body underneath all that overcoat. Surprisingly, it flashes a bag of bones…and it’s really skinny, short and slightly flat. Not at all as busty as promised.

Marche is mostly known from Verdicchio whites, but the 2008 Barricadiero from Vini Aurora is 95% Montepulciano and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly smoky with cherries and an earthy/molten leaves sensation. Powerful with good acidity and mature tannins. A generous, uncomplicated and nice wine. 84p.

The biggest surprise of the tasting was the Puglian 2007 Morella Old Vines Primitivo. You rarely drink a Primitivo of this caliber. From vines 75 years old, the wine is very elegant and balanced yet powerful. At 15.5% ABV, it shows no signs of the “too-much-of-everything” problems which so often occurs at this ABV. Blackberries, figs, cherries with a slight hint of vanilla. Full-bodied with great depth and roundness. 250 SEK. 90p.

2004 Marta Galli Amarone della Valpolicella from Le Ragose is traditional Amarone. Dried fruit, raisins, figs and chocolate on the nose. Full-bodied with some residual sugar. Chocolate and coffee on the palate with good acidity.86p.

Finally, two sweet wines are tasted. 1987 Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva from Sardegna is the first. Botrytis, apricots, nuts and dried fruit on the nose. This is very sherry-like with hints of mushroom. I have problems with these oxidized wines. 75p.

The last wine is the 2007 Arroco Albana di Romagna Passito from Emilia -Romagna. Not very different from a Sauternes. Botrytis, apricots and honey. Soft, sweet but maybe a little bit too low on acidity. Still, very good. 85p.

All wines can be ordered from carlomerolli.dk, who has very competitive prices. Further, for Swedish customers, he has a promotion where the prices set in DKK can be paid in SEK, 1 DKK = 1 SEK, which effectively gives you a 20% discount. Highly recommended.


2003 Saint Émilion + Montagne satellite

Is there a great difference in quality between St Émilion and its satellite appellations? Well, I couldn’t really give you an exhaustive or even general answer, but telling from the two wines I had this evening, it certainly is. So is the money.

Both wines are from 2003, which is considered a good to excellent vintage but an irregular one; you generally can’t just pick a wine at random. There are great variations, even among the top châteaux. The vintage is warm, meaning that the wines are generous at their best and jammy at their worst.

2003 Vieux Château Palon is from Montagne-St.Émilion, one of the four so called satellite appellations located north of St Émilion. Montagne is one of two satellites which actually borders on the more esteemed St. Émilion appellation. I bought this and the next wine when on vacation in Bordeaux in August 2006 and the Palon only set me back a modest €13, which is extremely good value, in particular for Bordeaux. After all, these are arguably the finest wines in the world. The price parameter is certainly the upside for the satellite wines: they are generally a good bang for the buck. The 2003 Palon is a quite dense and rich wine, with notes of plum, coffee and tobacco. It actually is slightly smoky, but not in a negative South African manner. It has some attack and is well balanced. Not overly long and complex, though. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Again, amazing value for your money. 85p.

Unfortunately, the Swedish Systembolaget doesn’t have loads of these lesser Bordeauxs. But it’s really worth looking into their e-store (“Beställningssortimentet”) for gems. There’s lots of of them, and you’ll have your e-order sitting in your store of choice within a couple of days. Use the state monopoly to your advantage!

2003 Tour du Sème from St-Émilion is a completely different ball game, in particular when it comes to complexity. It certainly seems to be affected by Brettanomyces, the tiny yeast which is so helpful when it comes in small doses. The wine really reeks of stable. There’s also sensations of tobacco and leather. It is very balanced and elegant with a nearly perfect balance striked between fruits and tannins. It’s a masterpiece in its price range, I paid €20. It just comes to show that you should buy Bordeaux and have them cellared. There is so much to gain in the wines; I strongly doubt that this particular wine possessed this complexity as a baby. 91p.


2005 Mas Comtal Petrea

The 2005 Petrea from Mas Comtal in Penedés in Northern Spain is probably the best monovarietal Merlot I’ve ever had (no, I haven’t tasted Pétrus). Unfortunately, winemaker Joan Milà died the other year and to my knowledge, the 2005 vintage of the Petrea was the last he ever made. And boy what a wine it is. Monovarietal Merlot usually means jammy, strawberry-like and heavy-handed brew. There’s no coincidence Merlot got beaten up in Sideways. However,when it is cultivated with this kind of ambition and skills and is picked at low yields, the result can be pretty amazing. Merlot is not the first grape variety you associate to Spain, but terroir in Penedés is obviously fitting this oftentimes knocked about berry.

Extremely elegant and complex nose; truffles, licorice, black cherries, leaves. The tannins are perfectly integrated, the body is medium to full. The wine is silky but yet with a powerful grip. Long finish. 92p.

At 297 SEK, this is a bargain at Systembolaget and there is plenty of bottles left. I’ve had this a couple of times before but simply forgot how good it actually is. I will get another couple of bottles myself. This is just about as good as it gets.


2007 Domaine Pegau Réservée

Domain Pegau from Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a highly esteemed producer. Certainly one of the best in the area and, judging by the extremely high marks awarded in wine reviews, this may very well be one of the best producers period. They generally make three red cuveés: the Réservée and the Laurence is made basically every year, and are the same wines with the difference that the Laurence is kept in wooden cask for another 18-24 months. The prestige cuvée da Capo is made in exceptional years only. To my knowledge, the da Capo is the only wine to ever have scored a full 100 points by Robert Parker in all its vintages so far (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007).

Their “standard” cuvée – 2007 Domaine Pegau Réservée – is great, but then 07 is considered an exceptional year in the Southern Rhône. This is truly an amazing CNdP. I aired it for an hour, and perhaps it would fare even better with another couple of hours, because this is essentially a powerful wine in a typically powerful vintage. It will certainly improve in another couple of years or even in five, ten or fifteen years. This wine really packs punches and is truly old-school. Not very fruit-driven. Very dense on the nose with fresh herbs, spices minerals and dark fruit. Compact on the palate but still manages to open up and is long and complex and the taste of licorice and garrigue is just magnificent. There is so much going on here. Balanced but still slightly to noisy. Intense. This may be the best CNdP I’ve ever had. Luckily I have another five bottles, but I will stuff them in the cellar for another two or three years. At 450 SEK, this is still good value for money. For the same money in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piemonte, Tuscany or California you rarely get 94p.

Me and my wife also had a
1998 Grand-Puy-Lacoste
 from Pauillac. This is really an old Bordeaux fifth-growth work horse; it always manages to deliver and I don’t think this wine have ever disappointed me. Normally this is as typical a Pauillac as a wine gets with a black currant nose and a chewy, big and dense body. However, this being a 1998, there is not much fruit left, but spices, pencil shavings, cedar tree, game and leather. It can certainly be attributed other characteristics than its ordinary ones due to 13 years of maturation. This is what you really appreciate about a nice Bordeaux. Powerful, spicy, full-bodied and long. I bought this years ago via a negociant (Beyerman) in Bordeaux. Still four bottles left! However, it surfaced at the Systembolaget the other year for about 600 SEK. 90p.


2005 Château Sainte-Colombe

Right-bank 2005s are considered the best since….1961 or so. I bought three bottles at Systembolaget (beställningssortimentet) of Château Sainte-Colombe on chance for 159 SEK each. Extraordinary value. This is from the Côtes de Castillon appellation, which borders on the more distinguished an well-known Saint-Emilion appellation.

Owned by Gérard Perse, who also owns the famous Saint-Emilion property Chateau Pavie. I don’t know how well Sainte-Colombe performed in 2005, but this is a very nice wine. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Black currants, cedar, chocolate and herbs on the nose. Doubtlessly a modern Bordeaux in the best sense; fruit-driven but still not jammy. Certainly not a fruit-bomb. Smooth and silky on the palate. Nice and well-integrated tannins. Medium to full-bodied. A small but pleasant acridity appears immediately before the surprisingly long finish. Strongly recommended. 88p.


Newsflash: Chavy wines available in Sweden

I tasted Philippe Chavy’s wines in Puligny-Montrachet beginning of June, and they are of extraordinary quality. For more detailed information see a previous blog post.

At the time, Chavy’s wines were not available in Sweden. However, Christer Ferm who is located in the Southern Rhône now distributes the wines to Sweden. Christer can be reached on e-mail “ferm@orange.fr”. Prices below include Swedish VAT, alcohol tax and transport to Sweden. These are very competitive prices. Christer does not run a major-margin operation.

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Pucelles”                    460 kr

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatières”                 408 kr

Puligny Montrachet  “Les corvées des vignes”               289 kr

Puligny Montrachet ”Rue Rousseau”                              346 kr

Puligny Montrachet                                                            258 kr

Meursault Blagny 1er Cru “Sous le dos d’Ane”              344 kr

Meursault ”Narvaux”                                                         248 kr

Saint Aubin 1er Cru “Les murgers des dents de chiens” 229 kr

Bourgogne Chardonnay                                                    124 kr


A selection of September launches at Systembolaget, Part II

This is Part II of the Systembolaget September launch blog post published some days ago. Part II deals with the true big guns of the tasting.

The sixth pair out represents the southern Rhône in the form of two Châteauneuf-du-Papes. They are both 2009s, which is considered another great vintage in the southern Rhône. Since 1998, the region has had only one bad vintage (2002). However, this region is not as sensitive to vintage variations as, say, Bordeaux. In fact, the 2008 vintage is the only vintage not to score 90 points or more by Wine Spectator since 1997, but I nevertheless believe 2008 in many ways is better than the allegedly exceptional vintage of 2007. Generally, the 2007s are around 15-15.5% ABV while the 2008 is one percentage unit less in alcohol, which sometimes is preferred in an already sturdy type of wine.

The first wine of the sixth flight is 2009 Le Vieux Donjon from the Domaine of the same name. The nose is just fantastic: herbs plums, bay leaves. This is very spice and herbal. Extremely elegant. Is it only 14% ABV, which should be very low for the vintage. Medium body with nice acidity and good length. Could have had some more weight and attack. This is however highly complex and could very well evolve over the years even though it is enjoyable right now. 90p.

2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Alexis Establet is not as impressive on the nose. More fruit-driven and not the same elegance and complexity; dark berries, sweet licorice, chocolate, vanilla. The palate is great; fiery and powerful. This is 15.5% ABV, and as I pointed out earlier, this is really not my cup of tea. But the balance of this wine….I would’ve never guessed it carried that much alcohol. Full-bodied, structured, nice tannins with a warm finish. Truly mouth-filling. This is all-Grenache from allegedly 100+ years vines. I don’t know how they pull it off, but the wine surely is well-balanced. The high alcoholic content is not at all disturbing. Strongly recommended. 92p.

The last round of wine contains three Bordeauxs from 2008. 2008 in Bordeaux is considered a medium-quality vintage, which if nothing else is good for the consumer from a price perspective. As is the case with all vintages, there are always a number of successful producers mastering tricky climate conditions. The hard thing is to find them (and at the same time avoid the less successful ones). First out is 2008 Château Beychevelle (out of stock at SB) from St Julien. Young but already accessible. Blackcurrants, fresh herbs, cedar, tobacco. Traditional, old-school Bordeaux but without any green hints. Medium-bodied, elegant and complex. Fantastic. I’m glad a bought three bottles before SB ran out of it. 92p.

Next up is 2008 Château Canon la Gaffelière from Saint-Emilion, where Merlot is in majority, is fruity showing black currants, plums and oak. Nice length but a bit too warm in the finish. This may need storing. It is maybe slightly over-extracted. There is so much fruit in this St.-Emilion and a richness which is unusual. It would’ve improved with more subtlety. 91p.

Finally, 2008 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (out of stock at SB) from Pessac Léognan is presented. This is very young and still not very accessible. Cassis, cedar, olives. Long with an attack but still too firm tannins. Good structure with a heavy grip. This must be stored for another five years. Could turn out to be a showstopper. 91p.


A selection of September launches at Systembolaget, Part I

Now, back to the September launch at Systembolaget which was held a week ago. 13 wines in total, including two whites and three top red 2008 Bordeauxs.

First up were two white wines. 2010 Roero Arneis from Marco Porello. Piemontese white. Can’t be found anywhere else. The tasting note of SB speaks of “yellow apples, pears and grapefruit”. But I can’t tell. It tastes of “white wine” to me. Not bad, but lacking in character. Slightly nondescript. 78p. White Rioja 1993 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco is mature. No doubt about that. If it had been a blind tasting I almost would’ve mistaken it for a Riesling. Honey, dried fruit, vanilla from the oak and, at least to me, a slight tone of rubber. My tasting buddy Marcus does not agree on the rubber boot feel, and sure, I’ve been wrong before. Interesting wine. And I was close to putting that wording within quotes. Lots of character, just not my kind of character. 80p. I would guess this is better on the dining table than on the tasting bench.

First red flight starts with 2009 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu. Plum, herbs, licorice. Very fruity. Slightly unbalanced. Overextracted? 82p. Next up is 2004 Work of Time from Springfield Estate. Black currants, coffee, chocolate. And smoke. I have a problem with some of the South-African wines. If Marcus would have told me, after I first went to the bath room and then tasted this wine, that he’d knocked off some cigarette ashes in my glass, I certainly wouldn’t have bet my cojones he was kidding. To me, this is smoky bordering on defect. I do think this is a neither pleasant nor correct note in a wine. I’m sure the wine is good under all the smoke, but you can’t really separate that particular highly distinctive characteristic from the others. 75p.

Then comes an interesting Malbec-pairing: 2009 Château La Reyne L’Excellence from Cahors and 2008 Altos las Hormigas Reserve Malbec from Mendoza. They both have dark berries, leather and tobacco on the nose. The Cahors is more structured and tannic than the Argentinian, which is slightly more fruit-driven. They both have a good acidity, yet nice fruit, and a warm finish. Good wines and typical examples of Malbec of their respective region. La Reyne should be matured for some years. My guess is that it then will become a small sensation, particularly if you take price into account. 88p and 84p, respectively.

The evening’s only wholly Italian flight presents two wines for which my expectations were high: a 2006 Brunello di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini in Tuscany and 2005 Radici Taurasi Riserva from Mastroberardino in Campania. The Brunello reeks of plums and cherries. There are also notes of leather and tobacco. Medium-bodied with a certain length. However, it is also tart and way to rustic. To me, this is more similar to a Chianti than a Brunello. Maybe this one have to be given another couple of years in the wardrobe. I know that fully mature top-Brunello is amazing. It scored 93p in Wine Spectator, which frankly is incomprehensible. 84p. The Taurasi from 100% Aglianico is interesting. This is robust! Leather, plums, spices, licorice. Very nice on the nose. Medium-to-full-bodied, complex, structured. Firm tannins and a warm finish. The Taurasi should stored for another couple of years and could certainly be stored for another 10 years. 86p.

Of the wines included in this post, i.e. Part I of the September launch, I would without any hesitation put my money on the La Reyne from Cahors. Very nice wine that will approach 90 points within a couple of years. I’ll get back to you within a couple of days with Part II.