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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.

A selection of May launches at Systembolaget, Part II

This is Part II of a blog post relating to the tasting I attended on 2 May. Part II deals with red wines of said tasting.

The second round of reds of the tasting contains two real roughnecks, both from the southern parts of France; namely 2007 Un Jour from Cahors and 2008 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes from Madiran. Cahors is original Malbec country, and this 100% Malbec has little in common with its Argentinian counterparts. The Argentine wine makers have more or less taken over this variety and many of them sure deserves credit for it, producing fruit driven, still elegant and sophisticated wines, while the Cahors wines on the other hand nowadays lead a languishing life. Back in the days, the near-black Cahors wines were used to boost the wines of their more famous upstream neighbor, Bordeaux. The Un Jour oozes of tobacco, leather and coffee. There are fresh herbs and plum on the palate, with a nice acidity and still evident tannins. The Bouscassé is even more austere, which is to be expected with 95% Tannat, one of the most acrid grapes to ever see the light of day. If Malbec nowadays means Argentina, Tannat finds a new home in Uruguay, even though they have not been able to refine the grape as good as the Argentines have with Malbec. Behind the Bouscassé is the king of Tannat: Alain Brumont. He never puts his name on the label of a bad or even ordinary wine. Leather, eucalyptus, tobacco and spices. Should be stored for a couple of years. I would think that this one can stand extensive cellaring since it has the fruit to survive a good tannin smoothing.

For wines no. 11 and 12, we turn to the southern Rhône and arguably my favorite wine appellation: Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The first wine in this flight is something so unusual as an “old” CNdP: 2001 Clos du Mont Olivet. Unfortunately, I can’t link to this one since it’s out of stock at Systembolaget. However, please refer to one of my old blog posts for a vertical tasting of the Mont Olivet. Nevertheless, the 2001 is complex with notes of pine, spices and red berries. Nice. But I have to confess…..I sure do prefer a younger CNdP. 2008 Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Tradition has everything I like about the appellation: blackberries, sweet licorice, spices, minerals. Good intensity, excellent balance, great length, warm finish. I’ve told you before that 2008 in southern Rhône is an underestimated vintage. This one confirms that hypothesis. One of the benefits of the vintage is that the wines in general is a good deal cheaper than the 2007s (or 2009 for that matter), which has been subject to serious price boosting. If I would choose a vintage to drink today, I would without any hesitation select the 2008. And this one is certainly a bargain. Get your hands on it while it’s still in stock.

The final flight of the evening contains no less than three wines. First up is another creation of Alain Brumont: 2008 Château Montus Cuvée Prestige. This time, there’s 90% of Tannat plus the two varieties of Cab. Full-bodied. Big tannins. Notes of plum, herbs, vanilla, licorice. For the cellar. Next up is the perhaps finest wine of the evening: 2004 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Cherries, rosehip, leather. Has a slight and nice bitterness that can be compared to that of cherry seeds. There’s a trace of almond as well. Medium-bodied with a nice length and acidity. Very complex and elegant. Highly recommended. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of Sangiovese and particularly not a fan of Chianti. Of course, Brunello is a different clone and the area certainly has a different terroir than Chianti. But still. Maybe this is what Sangiovese is capable of with some maturation. Could even a Chianti evolve like this? I don’t know, but please let me know if you have a theory on the subject. Fantastic! The only downside is that it starts getting expensive here. The last wine of the evening is 2006 Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté from Elio Grasso. Big and bold. Roses, asphalt, herbs. Very sharp notes of mineral and stone. Well-integrated tannins for being a relatively young Barolo. Great wine. I may get back to you with a blog post about Elio Grasso. I tried a bunch of their wines at Vinitaly.

To sum up the tasting; for the whites, go for the two Rieslings. Both of them are nothing less than great. They are also relatively moderately priced (they’re German for Chrissake). Of the reds, I’d recommend the Bosquet des Papes. Great wine, nice price. If you want to splash out, go for the Brunello. We’re talking weltklasse.

A selection of May launches at Systembolaget, Part I

Monday 2 May was launch day at Systembolaget. I participated in a tasting Monday evening where 15 of the launched wines were offered.

First up were two white wines. 2010 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie from Gadais Père & Fils has a slight taste of melon. Nice acidity. Ok. 2009 Novaserra Greco di Tufo from Mastroberardino in Campania is sweet. Very pleasant smell of almond and apricots. Robust with a good body. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk a bad wine from Mastroberardino. Great producer. Good value.

Next flight starts with 2008 Pouilly Fumé from Jacques Lurton in Loire. Needless to say, it’s a hundred percent Sauvignon blanc and it is terrific. Citrus, nettles and black currant leaves on the nose. Clean and crisp with a thin waist and slightly austere finish. Second wine of this flight is 2008 Arbois Sélection from Domaine Tissot in the Jura. Deliberately oxidized, which is typical for Jura. Me don’t like.

Then comes the arguably best pair of wines of the tasting: German Riesling at it’s best. First off we have 2009 Würzburger Stein Riesling Grosses Gewächs trocken. From Juliusspital in Franken. Apples and citrus fruit. Very pure, nice attack. Powerful yet with a medium body. Very intense. Highly recommended. The next one was also killer: 2009 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Alte Reben Riesling trocken. From Leitz in Rheingau. Equally good but with a lot more body. Even though it’s still young there is some petrol in the nose and rubber on the palate. These are two top Rieslings for a very reasonable price. It just comes to show that few countries can match Germany when it comes two quality wines for decent money.

Next up were the evening’s first two reds. The 2009 Château des Jacques from Louis Jadot is nothing less than a nice Beaujolais (I’m not kidding). Raspberries, cherries and a slightly grassy sensation. Young and subtle with a light body. Should be drunk a little chilled. Surprisingly good. 2008 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Jean Grivot just confirms my thesis that it is useless to buy a Pinot from Bourgogne for less than 300 SEK (if even that’s enough). The taste is promising: cooked root vegetables, plum, spices. The taste is a disappointment though. Thin and ungenerous. Are these grapes even ripe? Go for an NZ Pinot instead. I strongly recommend 2009 Gumfields Pinot Noir which I had at a mini tasting at work the other night. Beats the Grivot any day with one hand tied behind its back.

That’s it for now. I’ll get back to you within a couple of days with Part II.

A selection of February launches at Systembolaget

Tuesday 1 February is launch day at Systembolaget, and it really is a good bunch of new bottles! I attended a tasting Tuesday evening where 12 wines were offered.

First up were two white wines. 2009 Quinta do Ameal smells of pears and apples. Good acidity but a bit thin. Dry wines at 11% ABV is not that common, and my regards to the wine maker for keeping the levels down. However, I don’t think this is a particularly good wine.

1989 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese from the Rheingau reeks of petrol, peaches and mineral. It’s like sticking your nose into a rubber boot. Semi-dry but after 21 years in the cellar almost bordering on dry. Comes across as small sensation. And then I haven’t even told you about the price. 139 SEK. Yes, 139 SEK. Somebody puts an already high-quality wine in the cellar for us and stores it for 21 years. And then sells it for AHUNDREDANDTHIRTNINE CROWNS. Do yourself a favor and go rob the SB on this one. It sold out quick but I notice that Passagen has made a top-up. 125 bottles in store as we speak.

Second round is two Spanish wines starting with 2008 Petalos from Descendientes de J Palacios. Very herbaceous with blackberries and licorice. Way to bitter for me. You really have to enjoy a chunk of grape fruit to appreciate this. Barely ok. Number two were 2008 Triton. 100% Tempranillo and this comes on as a good old Rioja in style, but it is actually from Castilla y León. Very fruity; strawberries and plum. Lacks in tannins. To jammy for me, and they certainly have made an all-in move on the oak. I imagine it is a pleasant wine to get drunk on. Have a cheeseburger while you’re at it.

Then came two South African wines, both Bordeaux blends. First off we have 2006 Max which blends 54% Cabernet sauvignon with equal parts (23%) Merlot and Petit verdot. Smoke, black currants, chocolate, grass.  Balanced with good length and nice tannins. A very good wine. The next one was a killer: 2007 Kanonkop Paul Sauer. 68% Cabernet sauvignon, 17% Cabernet franc and 15% Merlot. You’d have to go through all kinds of hardships to find a Bordeaux like this in Bordeaux for the same price. Black currants, cedar, coffee, slightly smoky (after all it’s from SA). Good fruit, well-integrated tannins, nice length. Incredibly balanced. I strongly recommend this wine.

The fourth flight contained two wines from the south of France, one Coteaux du Languedoc and one Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The 2008 Château de la Negly La Falaise is nice. Fruity notes showing plum and cherries. Good wine. Like a less expensive CNdP. However, the 2008 Domaine de la Janasse is incredibly good. Blackberries, spices, meat, pepper. Way more complex than the CdL. Janasse did not bottle their prestige cuvée Chaupin this year so all the grapes from that vineyard went into the standard CNdP. Nice body, texture and length. Still quite young. I’d guess you have to air this one for a couple of hours unless you put it in the cellar for a couple of years. 319 SEK at SB, but I have bought it from Franskabolaget SARL for 276 SEK. Sign up for their news letter. They have really nice wines at good prices. They also arrange regular tastings at cost price. Prices include delivery to anyone out of a number of places in Stockholm City.

Fifth pair out is Italian: 2001 Bricco Manzoni Langhe and 2007 Asinone from Poliziano. The Piedmontese shows sloe, tar, roses, chocolate. Very good Nebbiolo character. Allegedly, it is a Nebbiolo/Barbera blend, but I can’t tell. It’s quite rare that you get your hands on a Nebbiolo which is ten years old for this kind of money. Unfortunately, the SB is almost out of it. I don’t know whether they will get a refill or not.Very nice and smooth tannins, great length, medium body. Strongly recommended. I won’t even refer to it as a Barolo Light. It’s that good.

Poliziano is one of the finest producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and the Asinone is a landmark wine. It literally subscribes to the Three Glass-award in Vini d´Italia. I’d told you that I more often than not have problems with Chianti. But this is a different animal albeit comprising 100% Sangiovese. Cherries, chocolate, herbs. Pure and beautiful. Recommended.

Finally, we have two more Italian wines, one of them being one of the finest wines Italy has to offer; the first Super Tuscan to have its own DOC…2007 Sassicaia. In fact, Sassicaia is the only wine from a single estate in Italy to enjoy this privilege. Bordeaux blend with 85% Cabernet sauvignon and 15% Cabernet franc. Needless to say, this is good. Black currants, leather, herbs. Medium bodied, austere, pure. Still a baby.

I actually prefer 2005 Dagromis Barolo from Gaja. This shows the best of Piemonte in my opinion. As in the simpler Langhe, there are notes of sloe, tar, roses, chocolate, cherries, but much more intense. Complex, concentrated, balanced with still not fully integrated tannins (of course). If Sassicaia is a baby, this is still in its embryonic stage. So good. The SB has filled their shelves this evening with 120 fresh botellas. I’d rather buy two of this than one Sassicaia. But I guess it’s a matter of taste.

So go get your bottles now.