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Posts Tagged ‘Bordeaux blends

In a glass darkly

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Valle del Maipo 2004, Gran Reserva Blend, Viña Chocalán (NLA)
Our bottle came from Steve’s cellar; the 2011 is currently available at the SAQ ($30.25, 11447588). A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Malbec (24%), Merlot (15%), Syrah (13%), Petit Verdot (10%) and Cabernet Franc (8%) from vines averaging seven years old and grown in chalky soil. Manually harvested. Destemmed. The whole grapes were cold macerated for five days. The juice was then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (28°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels. Lightly filtered and fined before bottling. Residual sugar (per the winery): 1.8 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: LCC/Clos des Vignes.
Powerful nose of roasted coffee, resiny dried herbs, “asphalt shingles” (per another taster), leather, plum and a hint of “something decomposing.” Less punishing in the mouth than the nose might lead you to expect. Full-bodied, velvety, very dry and, in its way, balanced: heady but not hot and impressively structured, the mass well shaped by round, firm tannins and surprisingly vibrant acidity. Tertiary flavours are beginning to dominate the dark fruit, which nonetheless persists through the long chocolate- and eucalyptus-inflected finish. Really needs a hunk of grilled red meat. (Buy again? Not my style but if it were, sure.)

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

April 12, 2016 at 14:06

COS and effect

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The second half of the April 14th tasting was led by Giusto Occhipinti, one of the two partners of Azienda Agricola COS. Giusto’s last name contributed the O in the estate’s acronym (current partner Giambattista Cilia contributed the C, while the S comes from former partner Cirino Strano). Though the wines made by Giusto’s niece Arianna Occhipinti arguably have a higher profile these days, it was COS, founded in 1980, that showed the way, that spearheaded the revolution in winemaking in the region. (Back in 2010, when she she led a MWG tasting, Arianna herself said it was Giusto who initiated her into winemaking.)

The estate is located in Acate-Chiaramonte, outside of Vittoria in Ragusa province in southeast Sicily. Originally owing only three hectares, COS acquired the nearby Villa Fontane estate and its nine hectares of vines – which they have since expanded to 17 hectares – in 1991. In 2005, they purchased a neighbouring estate with an additional 20 hectares of vines and an 18th-century wine cellar. They renovated the wine cellar and built new winemaking facilities, with 150 in-ground amphorae, which they inaugurated in 2007.

Early experiments with then-modish international varieties led them to focus – though not exclusively – on local varieties, especially the Nero d’Avola and Frappato for their flagship Cerasuolos. The partners also adopted biodynamic practices in the early 1990s, as they consider them the best option for expressing the region’s terroirs. Clay amphorae were first introduced in the fall of 2000. Cellar practices are non-interventionist: ambient yeasts; no additives except for a small squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling; no fining or filtering. The unusual shape of the squat bottles is inspired by an ancient flask unearthed during excavations on the property.

Our tasting began with the estate’s three entry-level wines.

IGP Terre Siciliane 2013, Il Frappato, Azienda Agricola COS ($28.20, 12461488)
100% Frappato from organically farmed vines around a dozen years old. Macerated and fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts for 10 days. Matured 12 months in glass-lined concrete tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Fresh nose of crushed raspberry, light spice and pumice. It’s a supple wine, on the lighter side of medium-bodied, with pure sweet fruit, sustained acidity and lacy tannins. As the fruit dries and fades, background minerals come to the fore on the long, bitter-edged finish. Very elegant and drinkable. Food friendly, too (think pasta, rabbit stew or grilled tuna). (Buy again? Yes.)

IGP Terre Siciliane 2013, Nero di Lupo, Azienda Agricola COS ($29.30, 12538561)
100% Nero d’Avola from organically farmed vines around a dozen years old. Macerated and fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts for 10 days. Matured 18 to 24 months months in terracotta amphorae and glass-lined concrete tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Reductive at first, then yielding a fresh nose of red fruit, slate and sandalwood. Medium-bodied. Supple but more structured and dimensional than the Frappato. A fundamentally dry and savoury wine, remarkable for its dark, tart fruit, mineral underlay, overall balance and lightly spicy finish. Delicious. About as far as you can get from the run-of-the-mill Nero d’Avola. I’ll drink to that. (Buy again? Yes.)

IGT Sicilia 2010, Maldafrica, Azienda Agricola COS ($31.00, 12465155)
When I asked about the origin of the name, Giusto explained that, in Italian, maldafrica is, among other things, a kind of homesickness for an exotic place. In this case, the non-Sicilian varieties were planted by a régisseur who hailed from Bordeaux. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Merlot (45%) and Frappato (10%) from organically farmed vines around 20 years old. Fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts in terracotta amphorae. Matured in Slavonian oak barrels and in the bottle. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cassis, slate, hints of tobacco, red meat, leather and spice. Medium- to full-bodied and, like every other COS wine, balanced, civilized and supple. The ripe, solar, savoury fruit is intense yet lithe, the acidity smooth, the tannins round. Work your way through the layers of flavour and you’ll find a substrate of minerals. Tobacco and cedar scent the long finish. True to both its Bordeaux and Sicilian roots, this elegant wine is the “kind of pure and racy warm-climate red that should have New World winemakers seriously questioning their modus operandi (looking at you, Napa),” to quote my note on the 2009. Unfortunately, there is very little left in Quebec. (Buy again? If the opportunity presents itself, absolutely.)

MWG April 14th tasting: flight 4 of 6.

Written by carswell

August 18, 2015 at 17:13

Party wine

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Côtes du Marmandais 2013, Le vin est une fête, Elian Da Ros ($20.65, 11793211)
A blend of organically farmed Abouriou (40%), Cabernet Franc (40%) and Merlot (20%). Manually harvested. The Merlot and Cabernet were destemmed, macerated for ten to 15 days and gently pressed. The Abouriou clusters were kept whole and vinified using semi-carbonic maceration. All fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. The wine was matured 12 months in old barrels. Unfined and lightly filtered before bottling in December 2014. Sulphur is added only on bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Attractive nose with a pronounced lactic note: cassis, blackberry and a whiff of wildberry yogurt along with faint pencil shaving and red meat notes. Medium-bodied, supple and silky. Fruity yet dry. The fruit is ripe but tart, the tannins raspy but light. There’s plenty of follow-through, with black pepper and slate colouring the long finish. Maybe a little less acidic – and thus a shade less fresh and lively – than the excellent 2012 but still a joy to drink, especially lightly chilled. If Bordeaux made a Beaujolais cru, it might well taste like this. Food pairings for this food-friendly wine? Roast fowl, rabbit stew, grilled pork, portobello burgers, bavette aux échalottes and more. (Buy again? Yep.)

This showed up a couple of weeks ago and stocks are already dwindling. If you’re interested, act fast.

Written by carswell

April 9, 2015 at 09:23

MWG July 17th tasting: EGBB shoot-out

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EGBB = easy-going Bordeaux blend.

North Fork of Long Island 2010, First Crush Red, Bedell Cellars ($25.30, 11040180)
Merlot (76%) and Cabernet Franc (24%) from young vines. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Vinified and matured in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures.13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: ???.
Black cherry cordial, cassis and a hint of graphite and a candied note that led one taster to remark “sports card bubble gum.” In the mouth, it’s a smooth-textured middleweight that somehow also manages to be light-bodied. Juicy, bordering-on-overripe fruit, light dusty tannins, sufficient acidity. The noticeable residual sugar weighs on the palate and rules out refreshment. A wine for people who don’t care much for wine? (Buy again? Nope.)

Côtes du Marmandais 2012, Le vin est une fête, Elian Da Ros ($20.65, 11793211)
A blend of organically farmed Merlot (60%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Abouriou (20%). Manually harvested. The Merlot and Cabernet are destemmed, macerated for ten to 15 days and gently pressed. The Abouriou clusters are kept whole and vinified using semi-carbonic maceration. All fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. The wine is matured 14 months in old barrels. Unfined and lightly filtered before bottling. Sulphur is added only on bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Closed, initially funky nose showing lots of Bordeaux qualities – pencil shavings and cigar box, for example – but also exuberantly un-Bordeaux-like fruit along with some black pepper, red meat and a vegetal edge. The young, lightly raspy, appealingly rustic tannins notwithstanding, a fundamentally supple, silky-textured wine. The fruit – so pure and juicy – shines bright against a backdrop of dark minerals and lasts well into the tart finish. True to its name, this fresh and lively wine is a celebration of wine-making and wine-drinking. Drink slightly chilled. (Buy again? In multiples.)

Written by carswell

August 17, 2014 at 13:12

Bordeaux blend (ma non troppo)

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The remaining sets of Somewhereness 2013 notes will be posted soon. In the meantime, a heads-up on a newly arrived first-timer at the SAQ. There’s not much around and the monopoly is quickly blowing through its stock, so if you’re interested, act soon.

IGT Sicilia 2009, Maldafrica, Azienda Agricola COS ($29.40, 12098228)
Biodynamically farmed Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Merlot (45%) and Frappato (10%) from vines averaging 16 years old. Fermented at 30ºC in glass-lined concrete tanks with punch-downs and pump-overs. Matured 12 months in tanks and at least six months in the bottle. 13% ABV. Reportedly, only 600 cases are made each year.
Gorgeous, nuanced nose: black currant, dried oregano, sandalwood, hints of red meat, tar and earth. Medium-bodied with a supple, fluid texture, yet also substantial and intense. Vibrant acidity sets the juicy fruit aglow and lightly sours the bitter-edged finish. Fine-grained tannins structure the mid-palate and add terminal grit. Despite the fruit’s inherent sweetness, a savoury wine. Fresh and delicious – if young – now. What will happen in five or ten years? (Buy again? For sure.)

The most un-Bordeaux-like Bordeaux blend I’ve ever encountered? In any case, the kind of pure and racy warm-climate red that should have New World winemakers seriously questioning their modus operandi (looking at you, Napa). Will have to inquire about the origin of the name.

Written by carswell

January 13, 2014 at 13:59

Tricked out or treat

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Margaux 2009, Château Charmant ($42.25, 00868620)
Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Cabernet Franc (20%). Destemmed. Cold soak is followed by “traditional” vinification: Fermentation with selected yeasts (Davis 522) in concrete vats at 28 to 30ºC for about 21 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in vats, after which the wine is transferred to oak barrels (25% new, 25% second fill, 50% second or third fill). 13.5% ABV.
Nose dominated by cassis and graphite. Plush and round on the palate. Dense, ripe fruit and a layer of sweet oak cushion the considerable tannic structure and acidity. Still quite primary. Broad and long, not so deep. Well made if modern in style. Probably fine with, say, a leg of lamb but, for now at least, a little heavy and cloying on its own. (Buy again? Probably not.)

IGT Toscana 2011, Guidalberto, Tenuta San Guido ($45.25, 10483384)
Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%). Fermented separately in in stainless steel tanks at 30 to 31ºC. Macerated 15 days. Spends 15 months in oak barrels, French and a few American. Bottle-aged an additional three months. 14% ABV.
Cherry, cassis, some background pencil lead and tobacco-ish herbs and a whack of spicy oak. Medium- to full-bodied. While ripe and radiant, the fruit is admirably restrained. The tannins are firm but sleek, not at all rebarbative. The acidity is fresh and energizing. Surprisingly, oak doesn’t dominate the clean, layered and persistent flavours. This elegant, balanced, beautifully proportioned wine is the best of the several vintages I’ve tasted and the only one potentially deserving of the oft-applied “baby Sassicaia” moniker. (Buy again? Yes.)

Both wines had been carafed for about six hours. On opening, the Guidalberto was reportedly tighter than a drum.

Written by carswell

October 31, 2013 at 20:42

Posted in Tasting notes

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