Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Question of Price

A lot of those getting into wine wonder if price and quality have any correlation. I, too, have wondered this. So, I decided to periodically check my ratings in relation to price and see what I came up with. I thought the data may be interesting to readers, so here it is:

Percentage of Wines Rated Excellent or Higher

May - 08

$20 and under: 0%
$20-$30: 20%
$30-$40: 40%
$40-$60: 45%
$60+: 85%


$20 and under: 0%
$20-$30: 12%
$30-$40: 33%
$40-$60: 49%
$60+: 73%

So it seems that, at least for me and based on my subjective ratings (which includes my general knowledge of the wine’s price), price doesn’t guarantee quality, but it suggests it. I think this is only true with careful selection as I think the decrease in quality at the $60+ price point over the two periods was due to exploration. As soon as you explore, the risk you won’t like a wine increases. But, then again, if you don’t explore, you can’t find out what you like! Also interesting is that the biggest jumps in quality of the bottle seemed to occur when moving from the $20-$30 category to the $30-$40 category, with 20% or over jumps in the number of Excellent ratings over both periods, and from the $40-$60 category to the $60+ category, with between a 24% and 40% jump in the number of Excellent ratings. What does this say? Maybe it's worth it to push up slighty over the $30 level if you want something a bit more special. But there is less difference when the price goes above $40 until you reach the stratospheric $60+ level.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Frederic Magnien Vieille Vignes Nuits St. Georges 2005

Magnien is a quality producer with a huge range of wines. This had a very roasted nose, with strong aromas of Hazlenut. The palate had a really nice texture, with very fine grained tannins. The cranberry tartness had a fantastic purity and a touch of spicyness. The medium length finish rounded out this perfect early drinking '05 pinot with depth and complexity. Elegant to the T - 2005 is a great year for France indeed.

$70 at Kits Wine Cellar

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Muller Catoir Riesling Kabinett 2006

After opening 2 corked wines in a row, I decided upon this Pflaz grown semi-dry Riesling. This was another classic German riesling, with very nice balance between the sugar and the acid, a low abv (10%), and a palate consisting of lime, clay and petrol. This wonderful example flits in the mouth like clouds and combines lightness with body and an incredible mouthfeel (perhaps my favourite component of German Rieslings). Overall, very well done.

Very Good+
$40 (purchased for $28 on sale) at BCLDB

Neyers 'High Valley Vineyards' Zinfandel 2005

I find Zin to be a spotty grape. It can be standard berry forwardness with little complexity, or it can be full, deep, and filled with flavour. Generally I seem to prefer the Napa zins over those from Sonoma - but I have yet to try many from other areas of California (not to mention I have an old vine Sinean Washington zin to give a whirl at some point). What I like is the refinement in the Napa zins. I won't deny that Sonoma has a little more of a rebelious spirit with their zins. Yet I prefer the Napa refinement to the Sonoma wildness. Sometimes Napa Zins can enter into the realm of the over-manipulated. Yet, if you choose wisely, this can be avoided.

With that preamble out of the way, this particular wine had a big nose of red berry, with a wiff of alcohol. This dissipated on the palate, which introduced Indian spice, candied orange rind (reminds of Christmas), sweet plum and raisin. I also detected some pepper. This was very nicely balanced for a Zin, and I found this simple and yet very pleasant and robust. Also, if you happen to be having Lamb and tomato sauce - this is the perfect pairing.

$40 at Marquis

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daniel Dampt 'Cote de Lechet' Chablis Premier Cru 2006

Chablis is a special region for me in the world of wine. Good prices and yet outstanding flavour, complexity and depth can be found consistently here, and 2006 was a fantastic year.

The nose on this Dampt suggested pineapple and fresh citrus. The palate expanded dramatically to introduce apricot, pineapple, pear, banana and dried coconut. This wine had such beautiful viscosity while also maintaining a texture that remained light on the tongue. Full bodied, but not oaky, this paired superbly with affidelice cheese (washed in Chablis) from Burgundy.

Excellent (verging on Excellent+)
$38 at Marquis

McKinlay Pinot Noir 2002 Willamette Valley Estate

This came as a somewhat aged pinot noir and recommended as peaking well right now. The nose was very bright, with classic strawberry and rhubarb components. At 13% abv I found htis very fluffy and silken with a polished mouthfeel. Despite not being overly excited by the flavour profile, this wine was really all texture and balance, with the simple fruit drawing well from nose to mid-palate and then the finish.

Some might be tempted to call this a typical 'new world' pinot, but it has so much more than average in its elegance and structure. Very well made and drinking nicely right now. It loses some marks for the lack of complexity in the fruit.

Very Good+
$60 at Kits Wine Cellar

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mollydooker 'The Boxer' Shiraz 2006

Here we have what I would call, extending the metaphor from the last post, a Cyclops of a wine. Brute, stupid, singular, one dimensional and easily fooled. Mollydooker is a sensation in the US wine market, largely created by massive ratings by Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. I do not feel as much vitriol against these reviewers as others, but I have found that I very much disagree with Parker's ratings in Australian wine. The wine advocate gave this bottle 94 points.

While equivalent in power to the Gigondas below, this is essentially the opposite wine. Big chocolate, cassisn, vanilla and a touch of Eucalyptus belie the creamy, artificial, cough syrup texture of this highly manipulated wine. Very fruit forward, and somewhat alcoholic (at 16% abv), this is too sweet and over the top. It is, in a sense, the coca-cola of wine. I think if you like this approach to wine making, this is archetypical of the very sweet approach to wine making and a lot of people will certainly enjoy this. For me, however, this type of wine is exactly why I got out of Australian wines years ago (only to return later to discover all the other wonderful offerings from that region of the globe). I hate to say it, but: yellow-tail on crack. This is like returning to the orphanage you ran away from all those years ago, only to find that sister Molly is still beating you over the head with a stick - wine for the masochist.

$35 at BCLDB

Domaine Saint-Damien 'La Louisiane' Gigondas 2004

I seem to be drawn to Rhone wines, particularly those of the Gingondas region in the Southern Rhone. Something about the rough brambly texture, the dried dusty fruit and depth of concentration in these wines consistently brings me back. Add to that the great value of Gigondas and you can be sure that I will continue to tend in this direction.

It is also interesting, after having consumed a relatively large number of wines from diverse regions, to come back to the region that started it all for me. Consistently I seem to just prefer wines from the Rhone over any other region and it is somewhat comforting to know that even with a broadened palate, I've managed to stake a claim to wines that feel like 'home', despite my never having actually visited the Rhone. I suppose the metaphorical Odyssean in me has found the scent of sea air in a bottle, despite all the siren calls and lotus eaters on the way.

This Saint-Damien is simply put a superb wine. Dusty baked earth and cherry alcohol on the nose. The palate is peppery, slightly tart and savory and has a long, structured and potent development. None the less, this is not over the top, sugary or overly fruity. I love how Rhone wines give power without the cashmere texture found in wines from Napa or Australia. This roughness makes the wine feel more authentic to me. Even at 15% abv, this paired beautifully with wine reduced stewed beef.

Very Good+ to Excellent (and highly recommended)
$38 at Marquis

Ciclos Malbec Merlot 2005

The final wine of the South American terroir trio is this Ciclos Malbec from S. Michel Torino Estate of the Cafayate region in Argentina. Cafayate is a high altitude region, which promised concentration and power. And, this was the best of the bunch with menthol, vanilla, cassis and chocolate. Not refined, but with solid structure and depth of flavour, which make this above average at this price point. Good grippy tannins give the wine bite without detracting from the fruit. Worth a look and taste.

Very Good
~$20 at BCLDB

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alphonse Mellot 'La Moussiere' Sancerre 2006

Sancerre is a wonderful thing: the understated elegant version of Sauvignon Blanc. Alphonse Mellot is one of my favourite good value producers in Sancerre, and this particular wine's tart apple nose became a wonderful blend of pear, apple, river stones, and lime. The texture was smooth, light and very elegant in the mouth. Especially good with Crottin de Chauvignol cheese.

Very Good+
$35 at Marquis

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2005 Bordeaux Tasting

Today I was lucky enough to attend a 2005 Bordeaux tasting. Vintage hype is perhaps one of the more annoying things in wine, but it does have substance behind the superlatives. Sometimes the substance is not equivalent to the hyperbole, however, and so this chance to check out Bordeaux's 'Vintage of the Century' was incredibly useful and fun. I tasted the following 12 wines:

Chateau Cornélie, Haut-Médoc

Long, structured blackberry flavour. Rough around the edges and very tannic, but good value.

Very Good

Chateau d'Escurac, Médoc

Gamey and woody, with a long finish for this price point. Felt somewhat boring to me, though - and it needed more fruit.

Very Good

Chateau Olivier, Pessac-Léognan

Nicely refined, with incredible structure. Cherry and backberry fruit was still very tight, but this has great potential and is a steal at this price.

Very Good+

Chateau Grand Mayne, Saint-Emilion

This had large black current fruit that was well balanced with an earthy briariness. Tasted like dried shrubs and earth. A very nice flavour profile was unfortunately let down somewhat by a short finish.

Very Good

Clos du Marquis, Saint-Julien

The second wine of Leoville Las-Casses, the 05 Clos du Marquis had incredible structure and an endless finish. It's relatively high acidity and muscled but very refined tannins ensure this is one to cellar for a long time. The fruit (classic blackberry and cassis) was very well integrated. Incidentally, this is also the one wine I picked up.


Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac

Very nice aromatics on this gamey and woody wine. Tart and tannic, but perhaps a little simple for the price. Still, if the palate opens up with time to offer what the nose promises, this could be fantastic.

Very Good

Chateau Balthus, Bordfeaux Supérieur

A garagiste operation with extremely small yields. This 100% merlot wine had exceptional structure, with sweet fruit and wood, with a touch of damp earth. Merlot rarely tasted this good. Made in a more forward style for earlier drinking than the classic Bordeauxs.

Very Good+ to Excellent

Chateau Pichon-Longueville "Comtesse de Lalande", Pauillac

Ah, the super seconds. Gamey cassis again. But the higher growths are all about structure and elegance. This was very long and full in the mouth, with all the flavours well matched and brought into a refined finish. Very nice stuff, but didn't blow me away.

Very Good+

Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe

Very big, chocolatey, herbal, but with sweeter riper fruit than the Pichon Lalande. This had what I would call a full structure, with no holes in development and tons of aging potential. I also loved the integration and boldness of the palate.


Chateau Palmer, Margaux

A third growth, but with the reputation to match the super seconds. This was miles beyond all the other wines we tasted. I have rarely tasted a wine with such incredible refinement and balance. The fruit had a beautiful flavour to it and layers and layers of complexity. I could imagine drinking this in 30-40 years and it still being exceptional. If I could afford it I would have picked it up.


Chateau Lafaurie-Peygraguey, Sauternes

Great value. Tons of grapefruit and great acidity make this a beautiful little dessert wine. Perhaps a little one dimensional right now, the complexity will open up with a little time.

Very Good+

Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes

Hands down THE BEST dessert wine I have ever tasted. Stupidly I did not pick any up, but if some survives the rush I may have to go back and get a bottle. This was like white berry and apricot confit made with the perfect balance of sugar and acid. The structure could send this into the next decade. Brilliant!


In the final analysis: yes the wines live up to the hype. Yes you should buy some. Yes they are worth the money.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Grande Cuvée du Chateau Cabezac 'Belvize' 2003

First off, 2003 was not a good year for Minervois, where this wine was made. It was overly hot, which tended to bring alcohol levels way up (the Cabezac sat at a stunning 15% ABV), and this tended to bring baked character to the fruit.

This paricular Minervois was reddish brown and had a nose of plum and dark berry. The palate expanded to include roasted nuts, chocolate and gameyness. The wine was definitely a bit too alcoholic and lacked refinement. However, despite its not having a super elegent structure, it did have a core of intense well extracted flavour that wasn't artificial. So, even with all its faults I enjoyed this wine and would be willing to give it another try in a better year.

Very Good
$35 on sale (normally $55)

Domaine Oratoire St. Martin Haut Coustias Blanc Cairanne 2005

I rarely get the chance to drink Rhone whites, which is a shame. I have yet to encounter an example that elevates Rhone white varietals to the same level as Chardonnay, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, but there is certainly potential.

This Marsanne and Rousanne blend was golden yellow in the glass and very pleasant to observe. It had a nice viscosity, and the palate offered boysenberry and herbs with a touch of oak on the back end. I also noted the smell of apple juice from concentrate, which could be good or bad depending on your perspective. In the end, the Oratoir was certainly a solid white and prompts me to spend a little more time exploring the lesser known side of the Rhone.

Very Good
$33 at Marquis

Antu 'Ninquen' Syrah 2005

The second of my friend's attempt to familiarize me with South American terroir. I certainly get a sense that the Colchagua Valley has a lot of potential for syrah, although the Polkura I had earlier far surpassed this representation.

On the nose I detected some smoke as well as a salami component. The palate was very oaky, with cassis and salami (not the greatest flavour). This wine is definitely oak chipped, which is unfortunate, but it does have decent acidity. While simple and highly sulfered there is a push towards flavour that makes the wine decent.

~$20 at BCLDB

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Felsina Fontalloro 2000

I thought I'd make Monday a little more exciting than usual by opening a bottle of this, one of Tuscany's most respected sangiovese -based IGTs. Felsina is a classic chianti producer who knows how to turn sangiovese grapes into wine that greatly exceeds the norm in quality.

This was dark rudy brown in the glass and had a nose of black currants, cassis and cedar. The palate was tart but well balanced and very nuanced. I detected leather, spice, dried prunes, currants and sweet blackberry fruit. This also had a very long finish with very fine and integrated tannins. So, even though this oxydized fairly quickly after I opened the bottle (probably 2-3 hours), this was a beautifully structured and elegant sangiovese - one of the nicest I've tasted.

$70 at BCLDB