Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2001

This wine was the topic of discussion in the comments to the post on the Fuligni Brunello. All sorts of professionals have given it high scores: Wine Enthusiast gave 92; Wine Spectator gave it 93; and most glowing of all, Stephen Tanzer gave it a 94(+?). So I splurged and bought a bottle for Kelly's birthday. I figured this is a chance to try a really good Brunello at a reasonable price (at least by Brunello standards).

It didn't live up to the hype, for either me or Kelly. Excellent structure, well balanced, and while it did open up after an hour or so, there just wasn't a lot of interest or complexity. I'd have to score it around 88 or 89. It's comparable in some ways to the Montus, in having great structure and balance with not a lot else (although the particular style is very different).

I'm not sure what's going on here. I don't think it's over the hill, as WS says best after 2010. Could it have been poorly stored? I know there's good wine standing upright on the shelves at Prospect St that has been there for more than a year, so that I know that storage isn't ANBL's forte. Or maybe the flavours of Brunello are just too subtle for my palate. But Stephen Tanzer talks about a "vibrant nose" and "intesity. . . of flavour" that I just can't find. Maybe it's a combination of all of the above.

Bottom line: I don't know what's up, but I won't be lining up to pay regular price for a Brunello, no matter how highly it's rated.

Here is what Kelly had to say:

"The nose is very promising, with dried flowers, stewed dark fruit, fresh berries, herbs, spices, licorice, and cedar. It is unmistakably Italian. On the palate it is full and clear, with firm tannins and plenty of acidity, but with few of the flavours that the nose promised. It is very long, but ends on a bit of a hard, sour note. It started a bit closed, but opened after about an hour. Very good with roasted duck.

I enjoy Sangiovese, but haven’t had a lot Brunellos - although I think it was a Brunello that originally got me excited about Italian wine. I found this one disappointing, mainly because I found that it didn’t offer much of interest on the palate."

Price: $64.72 (on Sale)
Score: 88
Value: 2/5
Region: Italy
Grape: Sangiovese
Tasted: March 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ribeauville Prestige Pinot Gris 2005

When Iron Chef sent me this review something looked familiar. I did search of the blog (upper left hand corner) for "Ribeauville" and sure enough, Kelly and I had reviewed this wine a few months ago, right after the Wine Expo. I'm posting this as a separate post anyway. The consistency between our review and Iron Chef's is quite astonishing - the same score, the same value rating, and much the same description, down to petrol / turpentine and mineral notes. Maybe we're not just making it all up.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

Had this with some Curry dishes last weekend. Really liked the Mango and tropical fruit that was balanced by flint-y minerals and petrol notes. The finish was long with fun fruit flavours of pineapple with good mineral acidity. A balanced wines that shows a bunch of class.

Price: $22.99
Value: 3.9/5
Score: 89
Region: France, Alsace
Tasted: March 2009
Alcohol 13.5%
UPC: 3156090316143

Saturday, March 28, 2009

St Francis Old Vines Zinfandel 2005

Here's a review from Tancred that I've stolen from the 'Make a Suggestion' thread. He didn't give it a value rating in his initial comment, but in a private message he said that for value "I would say 3/5, because it was quite an interesting wine and I think I am suffering from wine-price bracket creep." Hmm. From the description it sounds more like 2/5. Price bracket creep must be fought at all costs. And the Colonial Estate Explorateur is in the same price bracket, and we scored it 85 with 2/5 for value. So as blog-meister, I say the score is 2/5 for this one too.

--- Tancred's review ---

I recently tried the St Francis Old Vines Zinfandel 2005 ($35.78). I'm quite interested in new world grape varieties in new world locations, such as SA Pinotage and California Zin since I know so little about them. The Zinfandel is a genetic clone of a Croatian grape that is also the probable origin of the Primitivo grape in Italy. Unfortunately our liquor store does not stock much at all in the way of dry red Zinfandel, but the St Francis looks to be a recent arrival.

The wine had a great nose - lots of red and dark fruit - cherries, plums, blackberries - that I really enjoyed. The palate was similar although I noted quite a harsh finish that I did not think of as 'grippy tannins'. The harsh finished softened a bit by the second glass but was still detectable. At $36, I would say this wine is not great value for money, though it is certainly a solid enjoyable wine. It makes me wonder what a really good Zin would be like. I'm going to keep looking.

Price: $35.78
Score: 85 first glass - 87 second glass
Value: 2/5
Region: USA, California
Grape: Zinfandel
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 088534001434

Friday, March 27, 2009

Upcoming Wines

Here’s a list of the upcoming reviews:

St Francis Old Vines Zinfandel 2005 $36
Ribeauville Prestige Pinot Gris 2005 $23
Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2001 (Sale wine) $65
Dona Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $14
Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2000 $40 (no longer available)
Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $20

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Colonial Estate Explorateur 2005

"The cheap wine style, without the nasty cheap wine taste." That was my comment to Kelly after having a glass of this wine. I didn’t enjoy this wine at all. I suppose they were going for the big, bold Aussie Shiraz style, but to my taste it came across as unbalanced and garish. I don’t know what the residual sugar is, but it certainly tasted cloying sweet. And while Kelly says “fresh cherries, with a hint of evergreen,” I’d say cherry cough syrup with menthol. Maybe it will mellow with age, but there are less expensive wines with more to offer in the same style (for example the Wynn’s Coonawarra.) I can’t understand how this wine and the Envoy came from the same winery in the same year. This wine is making me seriously second guess the high score we gave to the Envoy. But Kelly thinks it really was just a lot better. Anyway, we agreed on the score; while I didn’t enjoy it, it was well enough made in the style.

Here's what Kelly had to say. Note that we agreed on the score:

"The nose is predominantly fresh cherries, with a hint of evergreen and spice and also a bit of hotness. There's more fruit on the palate, which is clear and fresh, and a bit sweet, and ends with firm tannins. It is lighter and clearer on the palate than I'd expect from shiraz, which tends to be more rich and spicy. This wine is very difficult to score. It has some very nice flavors, and a decent structure and clarity on the palate, but it also has some objectionable flavours and qualities, such as sweetness and a funny cheapish edge. I'd like to pay under $20, although I could easily see it being as much as $30."

Price: $28.10 (on Sale)
Score: 85
Value: 2 / 5
Region: Australia, Barossa
Grape: Shiraz
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 9338498004301

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Giotto Rosso Chianti 2006

Here's sale wine review from Michelle -- and it looks like we might have a winner in the 'value wine' category.

--- Michelle's Review ---

Everyone loves a sale. Slap a "discount" sticker on anything and someone will buy it. This especially rings true when it comes to wine. On this occasion I was happy to find a Chianti smack dab in my price range. What a treat. It was Friday, I had a bad week and this was the light at the end of my dark tunnel. I was almost salivating at the thoughts of drinking this wine.
I opened this bottle but did not decant because I thought I would be drinking this alone. I let it breathe in the bottle for about 1/2 hour then poured into my glass for another 15 minutes. I love doing the initial smell as soon as the cork is pulled versus after breathing. The first nose I got...vanilla (????) Where was the oak, dirt and earth? Then once it had been in my glass the aromas came forth! The first sip I got the oak, light and slightly earthy. Very nice smooth finish. Picture a sitting under an oak tree after a summer rain shower. :-)

Price: $14.09 (on Sale)
Score: 89
Value: 4 / 5
Region: Italy, Chianti
Grape: Sangiovese
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 8004401000500

Monday, March 23, 2009

Château Montus Madiran 2002

I was quite keen to try this wine as I generally like the Madiran style and this one is made by the same produceur, Alain Brumont, as the Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes, which I love. And the style was great. Rich, full and dark, with excellent structure - a ‘manly’ wine, as we like to call this style. I wouldn’t say ‘firm’ tannins as they weren’t obtrusive - maybe ‘round’ tannins is the right word. Beautifully balanced, in whatever the right word might be. But unfortunately, it lacked the fruit or complexity to go along with that great structure. Very enjoyable with food, but not a wine I would spend time savouring on its own. I’m a bit torn because there are things I loved about this wine, but in the end Kelly and I both agreed on a score of 88.

With that said, it is possible that we didn’t give it enough time to breathe. Normally we let a wine breathe and spend a couple of hours with it, but we popped this open at the end of a long day and it disappeared faster than usual. And that was only the first half bottle - we still have the second half waiting for us. But no tasting is perfect, so we’ll just have to stick with our initial impression, with those caveats tacked on.

Price: $28.72 (on Sale)
Score: 88 - first tasting / 91 second tasting, comments (see below)
Value: 3 / 5
Region: France, Madiran
Grape: Tannat (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
Tasted: March 2009
Alcohol: 14.5%
UPC: 3372220021019

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stoneleigh Marlborough Riesling 2007

Here's a quick review from Iron Chef. I've picked it off the "March Madness" post to make it searchable - remember, you can search the posts from the 'Search Blog' box in the upper left corner of the blog. Unfortunately, this function does not search the comments, which is why I like to post reviews into their own posts.

Also, remember that not every review has to be long, and it worth reviewing wines that you didn't much like: knowing which wines to avoid is as important as knowing which ones to buy. A quick review of a mediocre wine is very welcome.

With that said...

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

I had this sale wine last night- It had some fun wet stones and Petrol tastes but it was completely forgetable. The palate had light pineapple and some crisp-ness, but boring- really not much there. I was pass this wine by.

Retail Price: $14.62
UPC: 9414505982005

ANBL 'March Madness' Sale 2009

We've had a few wines reviewed already that are featured for ANBL's "March Madness" sale. I'm not sure how long the sale is on for, but I'll give priority to any reviews of the sale wines. I'll label them with "March Sale 2009" so you can find them all by clicking on "March Sale" under Discussions in the sidebar. Kelly and I have a couple of reviews of sale wines in the pipeline, but we'd certainly like to hear about as many sale wines as possible. If I get enough reviews I'll post every day rather than every other day to make sure I get them all up before the sale ends. If you a review or short comment on sale wine, you can post it under "Make a Suggestion" or send it to me directly at nbwines / at / gmail /dot/ com.

Here is the price list for the sale wines.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Casa de la Ermita Jumilla Crianza 2003

By coincidence I received two separate reviews of this wine today (Friday) so obviously it had to go up next - in fact, I’m going to break my ‘every other day’ rule and post this Saturday. I'm very enthusiastic about this development - the point of the this blog is to try and get a variety of opinions, on the theory that "two heads are better than mine." In this case it is interesting to see that both reviewers independently gave it the same score and pretty much the same value rating!

— Peanutman’s Review —

This wine was suggested to me by one of the NBLC sommeliers. For the price, I was very pleased. I had a hard time with the smell. I wasn't blown away by the smell and I swirled and swirled. Jam, maybe, forest, maybe. I just couldn't tell. My wife and I both like big bold wines, and we both felt this one met our criteria. It is full and flavourful. There are some sweet tannins, but nothing to bug you. There is a decent length to it and it seems that I could actually chew on this wine. In addition, it obviously spent some time in oak, with a hint of vanilla somewhere in there. Basically, we just really liked this wine and it was as good on the second day.

For $23, I would say it is a 4 out of 5 for value. At $17.50, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5. My score, 89 (for whatever that is worth)

— Vasco da Gama’s Review —

Viva Espagna! Iron Chef was looking for a review of a more moderately priced wine, so here you go.

Picked up a couple bottles of this in the wine sale, and was not disappointed. This is quite the concoction of several varietals. This wine is fairly dry, but still juicy (and fruity) and has moderate tannins and quite a bit of acidity...probably will hold up for another couple of years.

This wine reflects a bit of everything; nice and fruity (after it opens up a bit)-cherry strawberry, but not overly. You get some of the benefits of the aging, with the 6 years bringing some light earthy characteristics. The key is that everything is very well integrated. This is a very nice and enjoyable wine for the mere $18.

Upon looking, I see that there is none left in Fredericton, but lots in other cities. May be worth getting some shipped in. If anyone gets their hands on some remember to let it breathe for a couple hours to fully appreciate what this wine has to offer!

Overall 89pts
5/5 for value (complexity normally seen in the high $20s low $30s)

Price: $17.47 (on Sale)
Score: 89
Value: 4.5 - 5 / 5
Region: Spain, Jumilla
Grape: Tempranillo, Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
Tasted: March 2009
Alcohol: 13.5%
UPC: 8435053323035

Friday, March 20, 2009

Feudi San Gregorio Falanghina 2006

Oz Clarke calls the Falanghina grape “high quality but little planted,” and says that it may have been responsible for Falernian, the most famous wine of ancient Rome. I’ve never tried it before, and while Wine Spectator hasn’t rated the 2006 vintage, this wine usually rates in the 88 to 90 range. So I jumped at the chance when I saw it was on sale for $20.

Unfortunately, at the first sniff I realized it was very lightly corked. Too bad, I thought, but a little bit of cork taint can ‘blow off’ and I can still get an idea of what the grape is like. When I tasted it the second “unfortunately” hit - it was insipid and empty. I had been half expecting this, as WS always recommended “drink now” for other vintages, so this wine is a couple of years past its prime drinking date. But still, I was hoping for a bit more.

I was writing up a post saying “don’t buy, this is over the hill.” At the same time I was searching WS to see what they had to say about cork taint generally, and I came across this comment: “At lower levels, TCA taint merely strips a wine of its flavor, making normally rich, fruity wines taste dull or muted, without imparting a noticeable defect.” This made me realize that I can’t rate this wine, even on a ‘this is how it rates now’ basis, since the lack of flavour may be due to the cork taint. But I thought I’d post this anyway, since the experience was an education for me. I’m familiar enough with the obvious musty smell of cork taint, but the more subtle effect of robbing a wine of flavour is something I hadn’t known about.

So, is this wine over the hill, or is it just that the low level cork taint robbed it of flavour? My bottle was uninspiring either way, but I’d certainly be interested to hear if anyone else tries this wine.

Price: $19.32
Score: No score
Value: No value
Region: Italy, Campania
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 8022888650018

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aresti Late Harvest Gewurztraminer Reserva 2007

Iron Chef asked last week for some more reviews of value priced wines - and now he has answered his own plea. (Well, value priced for a desert wine, anway). Too bad it wasn't a winner - but for the rest of us, a tip on wines to avoid is as important as a tip on ones to buy.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

An odd wine. Thick and sticky without the alcohol.
Nose of Spicy fruit- very Gewurzty and honey honey honey.
The palate was sugary with Pineapple and Citrusy notes and heavily textured. But most of all it felt clumsy and over ripe. There must have been a ton of residual sugar. It represents a lot of what I don't like in wines- bombastic and sweet without the structure or refinement. Not enjoyable.

Price: $11.49 / 375 ml
Score: 78
Value: 2/5
Region: Chile, Curico Valley
Grape: Gewurztraminer
Alcohol: 13%
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 7809579800379

Monday, March 16, 2009

2001 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino

This wine isn’t fully bloggable - ANBL has the 2000 vintage, not the 2001. But that’s close enough - call it quasi-bloggable. (BTW, I say ANBL has the 2000 vintage, but that’s only from the website, which isn’t always accurate with respect to vintage. Anyone know if it really is the 2000 that is in stock?)

— Tancred’s Review —

While visiting a relative in the US, I tried the 2001 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino, a wine that WS rated at 95. It turns out that NB Liquor carries the 2000 vintage that WS rated at a 90, so I figured I would say something about the 2001 edition.

This was a superb wine that had aged very nicely. No longer tight and concentrated as WS noted when they reviewed it on release, the Fuligni was big and lush and had layers of complexity. Finely balanced, excellent mouthfeel and a finish that went on and on.

As for score though, I'm not sure about 95 (and more generally I find WS scoring bemusing sometimes, across the scoring spectrum). I would expect to be amazed with a 95 wine, like I was with the Pio Cesare Ornato 2001 a few years ago. The Fuligni wasn't quite up to that mark.

Has anyone tried the 2000 edition? I would be most interested to hear how it was. And if money and supply were no object, I would love to have a blind pairwise tasting of these two vintages.

— 2000 Vintage —

Price: $75.16
Region: Italy
Grape: Sangiovese
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 726452007786

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Santa Rita Floresta Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Aaron at the Prospect St ANBL recommended this wine to us. He's one of the product advisors there, which I gather is a relatively new phenomenon at ANBL. He seemed very knowledgeable, and this wine is a winner.

The nose is mostly floral notes, kiwi fruit and maybe melon, minerals, and spices. It is crisp and clean on the palate, with great acidity and length. I find that there's a bit of a hard edge throughout, but then I get that with almost all whites, so I can't complain about it. It reminds us of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in style. Our usual "standby" whites are the Kim Crawford and its ilk, and the Floresta is worth the extra $5. We rated both 88, but like this one better.

Price: $26.29
Score: 88
Value: 3/5
Region: Chile
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 086785470344

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Penfolds Bin 128 1998

This wine probably started out as a fairly standard Aussie Shiraz: fruity and peppery and semi-complex, solid and tasty; but the sort of Shiraz you can buy any day at ANBL for around $26 if you choose carefully. But Norman is a bit of a collector. When he finds things he likes - and he likes wine - he squirrels it away for future enjoyment. And so we find ourselves in 2009 enjoying a 1998 Aussie Shiraz.

The nose is lush with ripe blackberries, juniper, tobacco, tar, dried flowers, and a touch of vanilla. The palate confirms the nose, and is long and fullest and the end, which reminds me of the floor of a coniferous forest. This Bin 128 is elegant, fruity, and rustic all at the same time.

I expect that many people would say Australian Shiraz of this style is meant to be drunk young, and that its abundant fruit is its distinguishing and best characteristic. I like those things, but I also like the way the fruit and oak characteristics (which I find can be overpowering in a young Shiraz) develop and mellow to reveal other elements. Penfolds advises peak drinking from 2002 to 2012, and I agree. We would have paid about $30 for this bottle in 2002 or so, but we have also had great success with shorter-term cellaring of $14-26 Shirazes. It can be a bit of a gamble, but if you find an affordable wine you like that seems to have fruit and tannins to support aging, I recommend buying maybe a case and drinking a bottle per year through its drinking window as a worthwhile and interesting experience.

Price: $38.29
Score: 91
Value: 4/5
Region: Coonawara, Australia
Grape: Shiraz
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 012354071704

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

De Bortoli Deen Vat 4 Petit Verdot 2006

I was quite interested when Iron Chef sent me this review, as I've had my eye on this wine for a while, but just haven't gotten around to trying it.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

Colour- Redish Purple, Great Colour.

Nose- Plummy, Vanilla oak, Lavender ??, Dusty Gravel notes. Smells great.

Taste- less than ripe cherries, Aussie Mist Shampoo (coconut) & bananas, a bit candied but not overblown. Surprisingly acidic, fine tannins- some apple crispness- a real backbone to the wine. Smooth Fruit forward wine.

Typical Aussie but something different, not austere, not completely candied overall complex. Of all the PVerdots I have had, it has always the acidity or crispness of the palate and the structure of the wine that sets it apart from the normal. As a primarily blending grape to add structure to a Bordeaux or meritage blend, I am always happy to try it by itself.

Price: $20.49
Score: 88
Value: 3.9/5
Region: Australia- Riverina
Alcohol 14.5%
Grape: Petit Verdot
Tasted: March 2009
UPC #679940000533

Sunday, March 8, 2009

MezzoMondo Negroamaro Rosso Salento 2007

I love dark, chewy wines made from grape varieties such as Tannat and Negroamaro. This one offers lots and lots of vanilla on the nose, and also blackberries, raspberries, and spices. It is long and lush and mouth-filling on the palate, which adds leather and tar and features firm tannins that end with an “oomph.” I find it a tiny bit sweet, but otherwise it exhibits good varietal typicity (by which I mean that it has characteristics of more expensive Negroamaros I’ve enjoyed). It is excellent value at the price, and a great place to start to explore this grape varietal and style of wine.

Price: $10.29
Score: 83
Value: 5/5
Region: Forli, Italy
Grape: Negroamaro
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 8032610311346

Friday, March 6, 2009

Collazzi Toscana 2005

Have I mentioned that I'm keen on Bordeaux blends lately? I believe that this one is also a Super Tuscan. Italian wines that do not adhere to the blending laws for the region in question must be sold as “table wine” rather than, say, Chianti. In Tuscany in the mid 1970s, producers began to experiment with non-traditional grape varieties with great international success, and the term Super Tuscan was coined to describe those wines.

This wine offers lots of anise and dark berry on the nose, and also minerals, cedar, tobacco, spices, and maybe also coffee, chocolate, and oak. It is luscious on the palate, with firm tannins throughout and especially on the finish, which is long. It is distinctly Italian in style. Tasting blind (as usual), I immediately identified it as Italian. Then I proceeded to guess practically every grape variety in the known universe before settling on Bordeaux; and I’m usually pretty good at identifying that blend, whatever its origin. It is delicious, and good value at the price. We have an older vintage in the cellar that should be very interesting for comparison.

P.S. Only after writing this review did I learn that we already blogged this wine. Norman was apparently testing us - he’s cheeky that way - and I think the reviews are quite similar.

Price: $48.99
Score: 93
Value: 4/5
Region: Tuscany, Italy
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 8007425050452

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Colonial Estate Envoy 2005

This is an example of my favourite style of Australian wine. It is fruity, but not dominated by fruit; it is elegant in style, but not austere; and it has all kinds of other interesting flavours. I noted blackberry and plum, minerals, earth, fungus, tar, smoke, maybe sage, pepper, cloves, and violets. Really. It is very well balanced and smooth on the palate, and long. The tannins are fine but firm.

It is possible that the smoke flavor I detected was from the duck breast Norman was roasting at the time, not the wine. (We did have to open all of the doors and windows to clear the smoke from the house.) It is also possible that my 93 rating was influenced by the exceptionally good mood I was in the evening we opened this wine, but in any event I would have rated it at least 92 and it is excellent value at $37.

Price: $37.16
Score: 89 (downgraded from Kelly's original score of 93 in light of comments and subsequent tasting)
Value: 3.5/5
Region: Australia, Barossa Valley
Grape: Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre
Tasted: March 2009
UPC: 9338498004806

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Urban Uco Malbec 2005

Here's another review from Peanutman. On the issue of the ANBL website, I've noticed before that the vintage dates are quite unreliable. My guess is that they put the right vintage up when the product gets listed, but the vintage doesn't always get updated when a new vintage comes in.

--- Peanutman's review ---

Urban Uco Malbec 2005 - Argentina's Uco Valley (It states 2004 on the NBLC website, but bottle is an 05)

I had a bottle of this Malbec last year and I thought it was really good. At that time, it wasn't available in NB, but I noticed it at the Wine Festival in Mct and today at the NBLC. It is a deep dark purple. My nose was working today and it had a hint of a flowery bouquet dominated by blackberries. The taste, intense blackberries and a little spicy. Maybe a little bit of a plum taste, but I couldn't really tell. There is a little acidity and some soft tannins. I thought there was just enough oak to give a little bit of the vanilla taste. I have a feeling this bottle might even be better in 6 months to a year. If you like Malbec, I don't think you can go wrong for the price. I would rate it a 4 out of 5 for value and give it an 87 (I'm sort of stuck on that number)

Retail Price: $12.79
Score: 87
Value: 4/5
Region: Argentina, Uco Valley
Grape: Malbec
UPC: 7798098891053