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MWG March 21st tasting (6/6): Four “cuvées for cellaring”

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Well, that’s what Cellier called them.

Pessac-Léognan 2009, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion ($50, 11378341)
The estate is distant from and unrelated to Château Haut-Brion. Michel Rolland has been hired as a consultant. This 2009 is reportedly 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 25 to 30 years old. Manually harvested and sorted. Fermented on a parcel by parcel basis in temperature-controlled (30ºC) stainless steel tanks, with daily pump-overs and rack-and-returning. Macerated from three to five weeks. Transferred to French oak barrels (50% new, 50% second vintage) for malolactic fermentation and maturation, which lasts a total of 18 months. Fined with egg whites and lightly filtered before bottling. 13% ABV.
Textbook Médoc nose: cedar, graphite, plum, cassis. Rich and suave in the mouth. Upfront fruit and dark minerals smooth the underlying tannins. The sweet-ripe finish has a lingering astringency. On the one hand, a balanced, well-made wine with some apparent depth, though pretty primary for now. On the other hand, it’s modern and a bit cookie-cutter. Wine of the flight for most people around the table. (Buy again? If in the market for a $50 Bordeaux, maybe.)

Priorat 2007, Costers Vi de Guarda, Genium Celler ($45, 11896527)
A blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah from nearly 100-year-old vines. A 48-hour cold soak is followed by 30-day fermentation (at 29 to 30ºC) and maceration in small stainless steel tanks. Subsequently transferred to new French oak casks for 14 months for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Bottled unfiltered. 15.5% ABV.
Complex, savoury, evolving nose: rubber, celery salt, dried salted plums, sawed wood and slate, then soy sauce and smoke, then candied red berries, cedar and Asian spice. Intense, dry and heady. Lots of character. Dense, even chewy fruit, 2×4 tannins and souring acidity. There’s breadth and length galore but not much depth, at least for now. Blackberry tea finish. Hidden by the extract, thick layer of oak and heavy structure, the alcohol is felt more than tasted. A monolithic mouthful, not for the faint of heart. (Buy again? Not my style.)

Ribera del Duero 2006, Finca Villacreces ($37, 11807547)
A blend of 95% Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. After alcoholic fermentation, maceration and clarification, transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and 16 months’ maturation. 14.5% ABV.
Cinders, plum, faint sawed wood. Sweet attack, darker finish. Ripe fruit, ash and slate flavours. Big but balanced, with bright acidity and fine firm tannins. Needs time to digest the oak and, one hopes, gain complexity. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

Pauillac grand cru classé 2009, Château Haut-Bages Libéral ($64.75, 11395909)
A cinquième cru classé, actually. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 35 years of age. Manually harvested. Each parcel is fermented and macerated for 18 to 24 days in concrete or stainless steel vats. Matured for 16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. 13% ABV.
Initially closed and stinky but developing cassis, cedar and sawed wood aromas with an unexpected floral note. Fluid and relatively supple, the structure cushioned by ripe fruit. Good acidity and integrated oak. Tannins linger through the menthol-scented finish. Primary but accessible. While it could be passing through a phase, surprisingly unnuanced, unlayered and undeep for a $65 bottle. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

While this was the most popular flight of the evening, it prompted comments along the lines of “I liked the wines but can’t see myself buying any of them” and “Not that I never drop $50 or $60 on a bottle, but these didn’t deliver the bang required for those kind of bucks.” Looking back at all six flights, others wondered whether such an uninspiring lineup didn’t imply that the Cellier concept had indeed run out of steam. In any case, RIP.

Written by carswell

April 3, 2013 at 16:27

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