2005 Schiavenza Barolo Prapò

This is the second time around I try out a Schiavenza Barolo. Schiavenza is – at least in Sweden – not a particularly known producer. Hence, my expectations are moderate. But man is this a good producer! 

The Prapò is a vineyard located in the village of Serralunga d’Alba, which generally is known for making powerful and tannic wines. However, this 2005 is not an austere wine, which probably has to do with the vintage; 2005 is regarded as an early-maturing year. Still, this one is better after an hour of airing. Nevertheless, it will not benefit from another two or three hours of decanting. The 2005 Prapò has been stored on large Slavonian bottis for three years, so there is really no evident sensation of oak in the wine. I tasted the 2004 Prapò Riserva some time ago, which is highly recommended. Carlo Merolli sells Schiavenza for competitive prices. Schiavenza appears to be a coming winery: they have presented a wine earning tre bicchieri in Vini d’Italia for three consecutive years in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

So how about the 2005 Prapò? I had the wine with tagliatelli accompanied by salsiccia and roasted vegetables such as squash, mushrooms and peppers along with a homemade tomato sauce comprising garlic, white wine, tomatoes and basil, and this wine was pleasant even without the food. However, the Barolo stood up well against the salsiccia. Nice combination. This is really a textbook Nebbiolo; tar, licorice, tobacco, roses and earth on the nose. There are lots of things going on here. Terrific smell! It is medium-bodied with pleasant tannins. Nice length and attack with a red-berry feeling. Very silky for being a Barolo. 90p.


Janasse Revisited

I had my last in-stock bottle of 2008 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Tradition this evening. Dammit! Is this the best CNdP standard cuvée around?  

Sure, there are other “standard” cuvées that rival this one: Beaucastel, Morodorée, Clos de Papes, etc., but these are generally +500 SEK wines. Again, the 2008 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Tradition is fantastic. One more time, it comes to show that “off year” 2008 beats allegedly exceptional vintages 2007 and 2009; instead of an over-the-top, 16 % ABV jawbreaker, you get an elegant, silky and highly sophisticated wine (well, it’s still 14,5 % ABV…after all, this is Southern Rhône).

Fortunately, I have three bottles of the prestige bottling 2009 Chaupin being a 100% Grenache from the top-notch vineyard of the same name and another three of the even more prestigious bottling Vielles Vignes producing fruit from vines over 80 years old. I am not likely to open these bottles within the next 10 years. In addition to being cuvées worthy of bottle maturation, 2009 is one hell of a sturdy year. Even less ambitious brands are likely to improve with further maturation.

So how was the 2008 Janasse CNdP Tradition this time around? Very   consistent. On the nose, it has blackberries, dark cherries, cured meat, spices. Smooth, round and balanced with well-integrated tannins. It is rather unusual to come across a CNdP as well-balanced as Janasse. Les Cailloux is the closest comparison I come to think of. Silky and elegant. It’s like drinking velvet. Deep red, dense and complex. Black cherries, licorice and white pepper on the palate. Just perfect. 92p.

 

2009 Ch Fourcas-Hosten

The vintage of 2009 is regarded as an exceptional one in Bordeaux: perhaps even better than the near-perfect 2005. July and August were hot, generally producing big, ripe and full-bodied wines.

This is not evident in the 2009 Château Fourcas-Hosten from Listrac on the Médoc, which in my mind is a welcome characteristic. At 13 % ABV, it is not over the top, but balanced and moderate. I opened a bottle this Friday evening and aired in a decanter for an hour before pouring a glass. However, the wine was extremely closed and did not do itself justice. This is not all that surprising, since young Bordeauxs often have that particular characteristic. My wife agreed that it just wasn’t up to par at the moment, so I plugged the cork in the bottle and put in the fridge for another 24 hours. Then, I again poured it in a decanted for another 1-1.5 hours. Now it had opened up more, but it would certainly benefit from another five years in the cellar.

Closed and tight but with rather pleasant tannins. Elegantly vegetal on the nose with nice berry fruit, in particular black currants, and herbs. Medium-bodied, pleasant and not at all representative of the vintage (as I have understood judgements in the press). However, the finish is disappointing with a green and bitter sensation, almost grapefruitish. Leaving me with this green aftertaste, I am hesitant to give it a positive forecast, since the bitter finish is not likely to wear off with bottle maturing. It is unfortunate that it does not have a more generous end. This finish is somewhat surprising given the allegedly ripe and big vintage. 83p.


Blind Tasting at Marcus’s

We are gathered at Marcus’ place on Döbelnsgatan. Five guys each bring their own wines. The instructions are that the wines should display reasonable typicity and be produced from a fairly well-known grape. Needless to say, this is a matter of definition, but your Müller-Thurgaus, Perricones and Bourboulencs won’t qualify. Further, the wine should cost around 300 SEK. And be red.

First, Marcus encodes the wines without anybody else looking, and then I re-encode the wines – also without anybody watching – meaning that I have a note in my pocket which only can be deciphered by Marcus. This is true geek business. As consequence, all wines are tasted blind, even your own.

So what we have in front of us are five wines tasted blind. Or at least four is tasted blind, while one is half-blind. We start be smelling and tasting the wines under relative silence for 20-25 minutes, even though Marcus is having trouble big-time keeping his big mouth shut, as always. That guy truly is annoying.

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First out is a light red wine with a nose of spices, cherries, oak and dark berries. It doesn’t really have a distinct nose. What strikes you the first is the acidity and intensity of the wine. The taste is long with a fair amount of (still unsettled) tannins.

This is a tricky one. Niclas, who is the most prominent expert in this silly bunch, suggests that it is a Pinot Noir from the New World (and he comes across as rather sure), however without getting any overwhelming support from the rest of the group. France is suggested as country of origin by others, even though nobody manages to substantiate the (French) grape variety. Yours truly actually suggests that the wine appears to be Italian in style, partly due to the clear scent of cherries. Due to the high acidity in combination with the cherry scent, your favorite blogger suggests a Sangiovese. As it turns out, it is a 2009 Sito Moresco from Gaja, the top-of-the-line Piemontese producer. This is a blend of 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, thereby indicating why it is so difficult to pinpoint. Italian: yes. Sangiovese: certainly not. Nice wine, though. 89p.

No. 2 is very light in colour and has a characteristic smell of raspberries and wild strawberries. Very, very red-berry-driven on the nose. Extremely pleasant and generous scent and you would expect such a mother-in-law’s dream to be light-weight, juicy and to lack character. Without any doubt this is a Pinot Noir. We all agree on that. But it also has structure and grip enough to impress on the palate. Very pleasant yet not without complexity. The 2008 Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir is one of my favorites. Amazing value for being a PN. 91p.

The third wine is very characteristic; black currants, cedar tree, green peppers, vegetative tones. Long, balanced and complex. This is clearly a Bordeaux blend. The characteristic greenish tones make us all agree that this actually must be a Bordeaux blend from Bordeaux (as opposed to a Bordeaux blend from, say, Tuscany). After all wines have been tasted, we all agree that this is the best wine. Bordeauxs having this particular character are simply bench-mark as fa as we are concerned. This is a 2000 Château de la Garde from Pessac-Léognan. A wine of this quality selling at a price like this is nothing short of a bargain. Plus you get a mature Bordeaux. For your own good: buy it while it’s still in stock at Systembolaget. 92p.

Wine number four is a Liedholm Vino Tavola di Rosso. Unfortunately, it is defect. We can’t agree on whether it is corked or has some other defect, but it is beyond drinking. Luckily, Lars brought another wine which will be tasted as number six.

The fifth wine out displays black fruit, plums, licorice and cured meat. Very round, powerful and full-bodied on the palette. Spicy and long with a slight chocolatish feeling. This is not easy to pin down and we speculate (except for Niclas who brought the wine) that this has its origin in Southern Rhône, and that it either is a Syrah or a GSM blend. Unfortunately, nobody spots the slight burnt smell that could’ve made us place the wine in South Africa. I would like to emphasis that the wine smells burnt but is not smoky as so often is the case in South Africa. Nevertheless, this is a 2001 Kanonkop Pinotage from Stellenbosch. At first, I find this very pleasant. After a while, it becomes slightly overwhelming. 85p.

The sixth and last wine, acting as a substitute to Lars’ wine in position four, which was defect, is a mature wine. Very, very light red. Red fruits and licorice on the nose. This takes a lot of time to open up, and the first 20-30 minutes, we are all very uncertain (except Lars, of course) what this really is. Pinot? After having discussed all other wines in detail, we are left with this. And now, notes of asphalt and tobacco appears. It’s a Nebbiolo! Personally, I do not find it all that attractive. It has lost all its fruit and frankly, to me, I think it is past its peak. This is not a fruit-driven wine in the first place, but I still enjoy some fruit left even in a mature wine. Nevertheless, I sure appreciate Lars brought this 1995 Bersano Barolo Nirvasco. It’s always nice to drink a truly mature wine. 83p.

 

Bordeaux wins and the US comes in second (even though it was a draw with the Sito Moresco)!


Mordorée Rosé

Could the Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé Cuvée de la Reine des Bois be the best still rosé wine ever made? From the Tavel appellation just across the Rhône river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, sometimes regarded as the finest region for producing still rosé wines.

The first vintage I tried of the Mordorée premium rosé was 2009 a couple of years ago when visiting the Domaine just north of Avignon, and I was instantly hooked. The Domaine is in fact located in the region of Tavel, even though their claim to fame is based on the reputation of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape produced. The RdB rosé has been consistently good in the three vintages I’ve tasted it. The RdB is their top selection, but they also have another Tavel rosé cuvée; the La Dame Rousse. In fact, they also produce a Côtes-du-Rhône rosé and a Vin de France rosé. Both the LDR and the CdR score consistently good in the Cellartracker community.

The 2011 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé Cuvée de la Reine des Bois has a fantastic deep ruby colour, not significant to your ordinary rosé. The 2010 RdB was a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Clairette, 10% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and 5% Bourboulenc. Strawberries, minerals and slight sensation of fresh herbs. Dry and unusually structured. Crisp, fresh and balanced. A full body rosé. There is nothing I would rather want to drink on a summer’s day. This is also a perfect food rosé due to its structure and dryness. 90p.

Note that the second-in-line rosé selection from Domaine de la Mordorée, the La Dame Rousse, is in stock at Systembolaget. I could imagine that the LDR is great too.


Firriato

When visiting Sicily for vacation the other week, I took the opportunity to taste some local wine. The very majority of the wine produced on Sicily appears to be bulk, but there are quality producers. Particularly on the western part of the island, you must be picky.

Me and my family rented a beachfront house outside the city of Marsala on the south-western tip of Sicily. In this westernmost part of Sicily there are one or two handfuls of top producers, whereas at the eastern part of the island, particularly around Etna, quality is allegedly higher, at least according to Vini d’Italia and Parker. When blindly picking a wine off the shelf at the local supermercato, it frankly wasn’t very good, not even at €18. I visited Donnafugata, which is top-notch and was located just about 7 kilometers from our house, and Firriato in the small town of Paceco just outside Trapani.

Firriato started out as a wine producer as late as in 1985 with the attempt to produce high-quality wine from indigenous grapes. It has to be said that this is not your small,charming and romantic wine producer but an industrial plant which pumps out 4,5 million bottles of wine each years. The facilities are spick and span and with industrial robots participating in the production. So don’t expect to meet up with your average small-scale Burgundian grape farmer when visiting the premises.

Nevertheless, Firriato makes some good wine, there is no doubt about that. They also get consistently good reviews in Vini d’Italia, and even the Mighty Parker is not unimpressed.

Unfortunately, at Firriato, tastings could only be offered to parties of 10 people or more, meaning that I had to buy all the wines I wanted to taste, which certainly made for a severe restriction on the wines I could review. Nevertheless, I bought some of the medium-priced wines such as Santagostino, Quater and the Cavanera Bianco. Of these wines, I would particularly recommend the red Quarter and the white Santagostino.

Further, I bought a couple of bottles of the top-end bottlings as well. These include the Ribeca, the Harmonium, the Camelot and the Etna Rosso Cavanera. Of these four top-end wines, the Cavanera may be the best. I did not take any tasting notes when trying it out, but I fortunately have a couple of bottles left, so I may return to it later. One of the very reasons I chose to visit Firriato is that they are one of few (the only?) west-Sicily growers that also has vineyards at Etna and consequently makes Etna wines.

The 2009 Harmonium (€19) being a monovarietal Nero d’Avola is deep, deep red, almost inky with a nose of black-berries and plums. Slightly hollow in its centre part. Full bodied. Big and powerful with a slight bitterness at the end. 14.5 % ABV. In my opinion, this could have traded some power against balance to perform better. This is a tad too powerful to me. Gets the Three Glass award in Vini d’Italia more often than not. 85p.

The 2009 Camelot (€22) is a classic Bordeaux blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Black currant, autumn leaves, fleshy, animalic with a slight sensation of fresh herbs. Great and classic Bordeaux nose, in particular after having spent some time out in the air. 14.5 % ABV. Nice length, decent balance and good power, albeit not top-heavy. Medium to full bodied. 87p.

Finally, the 2008 Ribeca (€19) is the finest of the bunch. Exclusively from the indigenous Perricone grape, which you certainly don’t have everyday outside of Sicily.  Blackberries, spices, cured meat. Lots of character. Intense yet balanced and with a nice length and smooth finish. It lacks the slightly bitter finish which is present in both the Harmonium and the Camelot. Not completely different from a souther Rhône wine. Well-built with a good structure. 89p.


2009 Les Cailloux CNdP

I have a bought a case of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Les Cailloux each one of the last three years, and this producer has yet to disappoint me.

The Brunels at Les Cailloux produce subtile and gentle CNdPs, not overpowering and top-heavy as some of their competitors in both vintages 2007 and 2009. This is in the style of for example Domaine de la Janasse and Le Vieux Donjon. Expressive without being intimidating in sheer power-fulness. Notes of blackberry and raspberry jam with licorice, pepper, and spices. Mouth-filling with a medium body. Balanced and smoothly integrated tannins with a sensation of dark fruit. Instantly accessible. Just a pinch of Grenache bitterness at the finish, which in this case is desirable since it lends the wine some more grip and structure. Elegant. Perfectly approachable right now. I do not think this will benefit much from prolonged bottle maturing. 91p.


1999 Brezza Barolo

Me and my wife visited Piemonte in 2008, traveling through the Langhe area. In the village of Barolo, the picturesque Brezza winery is located hosting a terrific restaurant as well as producing a high-quality range of wines.


The Brezzas have vineyards in a number of different areas in the Langhe, but the majority are located in Barolo in the crus of Cannubi, Sarmassa, Bricco Sarmassa and Castellero. I bought a bunch a bottles when visiting the winery, and their prices are highly competitive. To my knowledge, the Brezza wines have not been on sale in Sweden.

The 1999 Brezza Barolo Cannubi is magnificent. I wish I had another couple of cases of mature Barolo, ’cause this is just amazing stuff. It only set me back for about €28. Tobacco, asphalt and black cherries on the nose. It is slightly floral with sensations of roses and undergrowth and has a very deep and expressive scent. Terracotta-coloured as can be expected from thirteen-year old Nebbiolo grapes.

It still displays a good grip and could certainly be stored for another five years without losing its structure. The tannins are perfectly balanced and it tastes of tobacco, dark fruit and cinnamon. Very dense with a medium body and a long finish. Intense and complex. 93p.


2008 Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Tradition

Domaine de la Janasse is a relatively young estate, started by Aimé Sabon back in 1973, and can be regarded as a producer of a “modern” style Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

The 2008 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Tradition is just fantastic. One of the best standard CNdPs I have ever had. One of my other absolute favorites is Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservé, and it would be difficult to find two CNdPs which are more dissimilar. While the Janasse is easy-going and fruit-driven, the Pegau is meaty and bretty; a barn in a bottle. Speaking of “standard” cuvées in this context may be a bit silly, the 2008 Janasse is 329 SEK and the 2008 Pegau is 399 SEK (released in March) at State-owned Systembolaget, and 2008 is considered a lesser vintage selling at lower prices, so we are not talking inexpensive wines.

However, both Pegau and Janasse come in two premium cuvées in favorable vintages; Pegau produces the Laurence and the Da Capo (for details click the above referenced link). I had the opportunity to try Janasse’s 2009 Tradition as well as the Chaupin being a 100% Grenache from the top-notch vineyard of the same name and the Vielles Vignes producing fruit from vines over 80 years old. These are amazing wines and really something else. Highly recommended. There are a few bottles left at SB. The 2009 vintage produced powerful wines similar to the year 2007. However, I believe most 2009s will benefit from cellaring, because they are generally quite noisy.

2008 on the other hand is instantly approachable and I think most of the 2008s I’ve tried won’t benefit from more than 5 years of cellaring. And there is really no need to store them, many of them are perfect today. The temperature of the vintage was between 1.5 and 2 ° C below season average, giving many of the wines a more elegant – and less edgy- note. Further, it appears as if many of the wines of 2008 has an ABV which is about one percentage unit lower than 2007 and 2009, where the ABV reaches 15.5 and even 16%, which in my opinion simply is a tad too much. However, you may have to go for well-reputed winemakers for the 2008s since not all producers are likely to produce great wine in this relatively difficult vintage.

So…how is the 2008 Janasse CNdP Tradition? On the nose, it has blackberries, a little meat, spices; garrigue and white pepper. Very round and balanced. Perfectly integrated tannins. Deep, deep red and dense with a lovely and gentle taste of licorice. A killer wine. 92p.


2008 Ch du Tertre

Château du Tertre – classified as 5th growth back in 1855 – was long considered an underachiever. However, new owners came in and in 1999 things turned around.

Great nose of black currant, cedar tree, pencil shavings, tobacco and undergrowth; it is vegetal in the best sense. It’s color is very light red. 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot och 26% Cabernet Franc. Steven Brook wrote “concentrated but not massive”, and that truly sums this wine up. Very soft and elegant yet with evident backbone and structure, but still barely medium-bodied. This is a gentle and sophisticated wine. In my opinion, it has most of the characteristics I seek in a Bordeaux; subtle but not light-weight, concentrated but not massive; vegetal but not green. Strongly recommended unless you find beefy Aussie Shirazes to be your wine of choice. 92p.