Category Archives: France

2007 Ch Lagrange

I told you earlier that the vintage 2007 in Bordeaux generally does not appear to be that good, but of course there are exceptions. As is sometimes claimed: good wine makers always make good wine, regardless of the particulars of the given vintage. Well, there is at least some truth in that saying. However, looking at the disastrous vintage of 2002 in Italy, parts of Spain, Portugal and the Rhône, not even the top producers manage to parry the cool weather. For instance, most Barolo grapes were declassified into the simpler Langhe appellation.

Left Bank Bordeaux 2007 gets 85/100 in Wine Spectator’s vintage chart, which is the lowest rating since 1997, and many of the wines simply appears to lack in fruit, which naturally is a problem for a region which is known for producing austere wines; if there is no fruit, the tannins becomes too evident. However, 2007 Château Lagrange is good. Actually, it is very good. Lagrange is located in St Julien, right in the middle of the Médoc peninsula, just south of the more famous Pauillac and quite similar in style albeit somewhat smoother. Lagrange was ranked as a third growth in the 1855 classification.

The blend is 68% Cabernet sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 7% Petit verdot. Very subtle on the nose: plum, cedar, burnt sugar. Gentle palate with soft tannins. Light to medium bodied. It may be a bit too toasty, but on the other hand it is really enjoyable. It you’re highly sensitive too oak, this may not be your cup of coffee. It was a nearly perfect companion to roast of elk, baked root vegetables and a caprese. 90p.

1996 Mailly Grand Cru Champagne La Terre

Mailly is a cooperative located in the village with the same name. The village is grand cru, and the cooperative members sit on the best vineyards. Area under vine for Mailly is 89% Pinot noir, 7% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot meunier, so if you are into Pinot champagnes, this is not a bad choice. The Mailly cooperative has a terrific Blanc de Noirs standard cuvée which is recommended should you get your hands on one.

The 1996 La Terre is lovely. 75% Pinot noir and 25% Chardonnay. The color is golden and the smell is intense, as could be expected from a Champagne from the mighty vintage of 1996. 1996 is generally regarded as the best vintage in a very long time, only dwarfed by the vintage of 1990 since 1985 (or 1982 according to some). The wine smells of apples, minerals, brioche and almonds. I had it yesterday with my wife as an aperitif and thought it was good then. This evening, we had it with chicken stuffed with chevré and chorizo. As accompaniment we had stir-fried noodles with sugarsnaps, shallot and garlic. This was a truly perfect companion. Not to say that this particular dish set off the wine better than any other choice, but I do believe this Champagne should be enjoyed with food rather than be used as aperitif. That is my general opinion for most Pinot Champagnes.

Mailly La Terre

The wine tastes of apples, minerals, mushrooms, bread. Fantastic structure and balance. Very mouth-filling with a long and nice aftertaste. Nice acidity. This has certainly not passed its best-before date. I bought a couple of bottles at Systembolaget many years ago. You are not very likely to get your hands on this one, unless possibly on site. Unfortunately, that is the case for most 1996s (unless you are willing to pay obscene money). This is truly a collector’s vintage. 92p.

2007 Château Haut-Bages Libéral

Château Haut-Bages Liberal, ranked in group #5 in the 1855 classification and neighbor to more famous Château Latour (they inform us on the bottle…brand mooching, anyone?). This Paulliac wine blends 65 % Cabernet Sauvignon with a 35 % share of Merlot.

Light vintage. Cedar tree, black currants and fresh herbs. A 35 % contribution of Merlot gives it an indefinable autumn sensation. Medium bodied, slightly short but with nice tannins albeit a tad too non-rugged to really appeal to me. After all, it’s a Pauillac. It improves palpably with food as compared to when just sipping pre-dinner. Not a surprising feature for Bordeaux, of course. Subtle, but slightly lacking character.  The cellartracker community asserts the drinking window to be 2012-2022. I strongly doubt that. Given the weak texture, I’m not sure what will be left after another ten years. For 280 SEK, I’d put my money elsewhere. 85p.

2008 Domaine Grand Veneur Châteauneuf du Pape is a different animal. A blend of 65 % Grenache, 25 % Syrah and 10 % Mourvèdre normally does not account for a wine lacking in texture, and this one certainly doesn’t. I bought this when visiting the estate outside of CndP this summer. Great estate. I paid about €24 which amounts to about 220 SEK. Nice value. Blackberries, plum, cured meat and herbs. Powerful, full-bodied, long and well-textured. Usually, the Domaine makes three different cuveés of their CndP grapes. However, this year, due to difficult weather conditions, all the grapes went into the “basic” bottling. Thus, this one contains the noble grapes usually intended for their prestige cuvées. 90p.

CNdP Revisited (Again)

I told you a couple of weeks ago about the 2007 Les Callioux Châteauneuf du Pape. Rather noisy when unaired but very enjoyable after 2-3 hours out in the open. Well, I bought a case of the 08 as well; I thought of it as a case for drinking now while storing the 07, at least for a couple of years. I also bought a case of the 08 Mordorée CndP and 08 Vieux Telegraphe CndP. I’ll get back to those two later.

I aired the 08 Les Cailloux for 2 hours before drinking. When compared to the 07, it’s much softer. Very smooth and not as animalic. Blackberries and a predominance of licorice/aniseed. Not really inferior to the 07, just different. 14 % ABV as compared to the 07 which is 15 % ABV. I prefer the less alcoholic one. In my mind, a slight problem with (at least before they have calmed down a couple of years) the 07s is that they exhibit TOO much power, thereby somewhat lacking in elegance and balance. I’d definitely drink my CNdP 08s during the next couple of years before turning to the 07s. An upside is that the 08s are cheaper than the 07s. I paid about €23 vs. €28. Rumour has it that 09 is another “great” year, probably meaning steeper prices. 91p.

2006 Tenuta Belguardo from Mazzei Winery in Maremma, Toscana is one nice wine. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. It’s always nice NOT to experience the sensation of cherries in an Italian wine for a change. This one has blackberries, plum and a slight touch of tobacco on the nose. Powerful without being overwhelming. Long aftertaste and very balanced with well-integrated tannins. 89p.

I had this one the beginning of this year as well, and remembered it as a lot harsher. They have a couple of cases left at the Systembolaget for 239 SEK. Recommended. You already know it, but the sweet taste of Bordeaux lingers in Maremma and Bolgheri!

Tim Hardin

Ever heard of Tim Hardin? No? Well, unless you’re not very into music, the chance you’ve heard about this greatly overlooked singer/songwriter is fairly slim.

Tim Hardin is overlooked and forgotten to an extent of Nick Drakeian measures, at least when reviewing Drake status 20 years ago. Nobody but true connoisseurs had heard about the tall, sensitive, mythic and charismatic Englishman who allegedly committed suicide by swallowing a handful of antidepressants about a hundredandtwentyeight years ago back in November 1974. At the first half of the 1990s, something happened to Drake’s reputation. Deservedly. During his brief lifetime, he only released two albums, but they are both truly peerless. Nick Drake – Five Leaves LeftNick Drake – Bryter Layter. Start out with Bryter Layter. It’s Drake’s definitive party record…

So how come Tim Hardin is so overlooked? He wrote great originals, in particular at the end of the sixties, before heroin made him incapable of being anything more than an addict: “Don’t Make Promises”, “Green Rocky Road”, “Black Sheep Boy”, “It’s Hard to Believe in Love for Long”, “Tribute to Hank Williams”….the list goes on. Many of his originals were transformed into masterpieces by others: “Reason to Believe” by Rod Stewart, “Red Balloon” was recorded by The Small Faces, “If I were a Carpenter” was covered by Johnny Cash (no, I’m mentioning the Top 10 Bobby Darin version which probably by far filled Hardin with more royalty smack than any other of his self-penned songs). He even turned out to be a great interpreter of other artist’s material, the most (and only) renowned being Bobby Darin’s “Simple Song of Freedom”, but Jesse Winchester’s “Yankee Lady” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” are even better (even though Johnny Cash made the ultimate version of “Bird…” on his first Rick Rubin cooperation “American Recordings”).

While Nick Drake was a beautiful loser, Hardin was just a loser. He hardly had the good looks of Drake, there is nothing romantic about him other than his music, and he doesn’t appear to have been very sympathetic (probably owing to his heroin abuse). Beating your wife and neglecting your children just isn’t charming. He travelled to England to receive a miracle cure for his smack addiction by trying to make a soft landing on barbiturates. And turned out an addict for that particular substance as well. While he was at it, he started a tour in England, but fell asleep on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, shortly after firing his backing group in front of the audience. But damn was he good during a brief stint around 66-68.

He died of a heroin overdose in 1980, 39 years old. Do yourself a favor and check him out. You don’t even have to do some extensive searching. I’ll give you a link. For free. My own playlist on Spotify: Tim Hardin. “If you got a carpet on your floor/you never get to Baltimore…”

So what’s with the wine…? Me and my wife had a 2007 Château d’Armailhac. Ok nose: black currants, cedar tree, tobacco, meat, mouldered leaves. Medium bodied with slightly too light tannins. Bordeaux 2007 is allegedly not a great vintage. I’m having a hard time seeing that this one will improve given its non-ruggedness. Very light for being a Pauillac. Drink now. A decent wine but not for 325 SEK. 87p.

So how did the wine pair with Timmy…? Great. But so would a sixpack and a pizza.

Châteauneuf Revisited

I’m sure you have not missed out on the fact that 2007 is an alleged classic in the Rhône valley, in particular in the southern Rhône, and particularly particular in Châteauneuf!

I have had the opportunity to buy a number of cases of this particular vintage. I travelled to the area when on vacation in Provence in June and paid a visit to Domaine de la Mordorée and Domaine Grand Veneur. DGV is a good producer, but Mordorée is just outstanding.

We tried out much of their range, and of course their CNdP is great, but do not miss out on their Lirac either, or the Rosé for that matter! According to Parker, everything labelled Cuvée de la Reine des Bois is a must-buy, and it’s easy to agree with that assessment. Their 2007 CNdP CdlRdB is rather steep at €45 but it is still a good buy.

I managed to get my hands on 24 bottles of their 2009 Côtes du Rhône La Dame Rousse which is one of the best CdR I’ve had. It easily deserves its 90p. This is just €10. A bargain. Very decent house wine. It is sold out at the producer. Should you find it in a store, do not hesitate to buy it. It’d still be a good buy for €15 in my opinion.

A producer I did not visit but nevertheless had a chance to buy a case of CNdP from is Les Cailloux. A bought a case of the 2007 and the 2008, respectively.

I drank a first bottle without airing. Everything was there: structure, attack, fruit and power. Still, the nose was rather one-track and showed almost only black current notes. I missed out on the meat and stable sensation. It was hard on the alcohol and still a bit too fruity. I’ve experienced this in other 2007s as well. I have to say, though having a limited experience on 2007, even though it is a great vintage and most experts consider it drinkable now, the wines appear to need decanting for at least a couple of hours to reach balance and smoothness. Or even better: store for another two years. This wine has the potential of a champion.

I tried it a month later and…Now we’re talking. I did not repeat my mistake from the last time and this time aired it for 2-3 hours before drinking. Everything now seems to be in harmony. Blackberries, licorice, tobacco and game on the nose. A fantastically complex CNdP. It kept changing from one sip to another (and I wasn’t drunk….). Very balanced and looooong. This is an exquisite wine, and the price is really ridiculously low. Bought a case for 28€/bottle. Also bought case of the 2008 for 23€/bottle. I haven’t tried the 08 but simply do not expect it to be up to this standard. A great, great wine where all of the components appear to be in place. 93p.

I would guess that the 08 is good for drinking now, while the 07 easily can be stored for 10-15 years. As far as I’ve heard, the only problem with 2008 is that it sits between the monstrous vintages of 07 and 09.

Vertical tasting: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Saturday evening: Fredrik, Martina, Håkan, Jessica, my wife Kristin and me are having a dinner. I have managed to scrape together three different vintages of Clos du Mont-Olivet, being a well-respected southern Rhône producer. I bought the 07 at the Systembolaget and a 94 and an 04 at the Maison du Vin in the village of CNdP when visiting this summer.

94 is allegedly a decent vintage in southern Rhône, whereas 04 is very good and 07 is supposed to be a KILLER. The bottle of 07 was aired a couple of our due to its youth.

But first of all, an artichoke soup and a glass of N.V. Palmer & Co, a nice champagne for the price.

The 94 shows a nice, round texture with blackberries, sausage and peppers on the nose. There is almost a salty sensation. Very complex. It is not every day you get your hands on a 16-year-old CNdP. However, if you are sitting on this one, enjoy it now. It is not likely to improve with further cellaring. Most of us agree that this is the best wine of the tasting. It also paired well with the subsequent cheese platter. 90p.

The 04 is quite similar in style to the 94 but of course do not show the same maturity. I am not totally convinced with this one even though it is a good wine. I’d give it somewhere around 85-86p.

Finally, the great vintage of 07 is tasted and…..I am pretty disappointed. Very sharp and alcoholic on the nose. Shows fruit but no earthy/meaty tones. At 15 % alcohol by volume, it is simply unbalanced and overwhelming in a negative sense. It is possible that this one will improve with cellaring, but I doubt that it ever will be any good. I would put it away for at least a couple of years if I had any more bottles. Oddly enough, the 04 has much more in common with the 94 than this headlock of a wine. Both the 04 and the 94 are 14% ABV. The 07 is indeed over-the-top and CdMO has not been able to balance the alcohol. Too much of a good thing (which in this case I presume spells S-U-N) has obviously been troublesome for the winemaker. 80p. I give it that it improved with the main course of file of ox with rocket pasta and rosemary sauce. But so would a glass of tap water as well. This is just not a great wine.

I will get back to you with reviews of the Les Cailloux of the same vintage, which was magnificent. A completely different animal.

Now, the draw card of the evening turned out to be a 2005 Bodega Mendel Unus. I am not surprised in any way. This is a serious wine. Me and my wife visited Mendel in Mendoza back in 2007 when on vacation in Argentina. I bought this particular vintage at the Systembolaget for 199 SEK which certainly is a decent price. Actually cheaper than at the estate. They only make two wines; this prestige cuvée and a somewhat simpler 100% Malbec (which is also very good). If you get your hands on this one: BUYBUYBUY! It is usually launched once every year at the SB.

The blend is 65% Malbec and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentinian Malbec sometimes has a tendency of being too fruity, in contrast to its native in Cahors in southern France which by no means is a friendly wine. I would guess that they use the Cab to rough it up a bit. Give it some more backbone. It is in every sense balanced with well-integrated tannins; black cherry and plum from Malbec and cedar tones from the Cab. So beautiful! I’d drink it every day. 92p.