TN: A BYOB blind tasting where everything was permitted

Reporting from a BYOB tasting we threw last summer. The theme was “whatever you want to bring”. No limitations whatsoever. All the wines were served blind, as is quite customary to our tastings.

Some of the wines we had were quite fantastic. Even if I’m not really a rosé person, I’m first to admit that that Sijnn Saignée was one of the most characterful rosés I’ve had in a long time - definitely a wine I’d love to age and see how it develops. Château Le Puy’s rosé was also very impressive and characterful, but perhaps a bit blocky due to the vintage. I’d love to see how the wine performs in a cooler vintage.

However, the two wines that impressed me the most were DEF RED, a special project of Andreas Lenzenwöger, Domaine du Pegau’s winemaker, and Podere della Civettaja’s Pinot Nero, which is probably the best Pinot Noir I’ve had from Italy. Nobody guessed anything outside of Burgundy at first, and when told the wine was not French, people started guessing places like Germany, Oregon and New Zealand. Nobody ever thought of Italy!

Podere delle Civettaja is Vincenzo Tommasi’s project through which he makes only one wine: this Pinot Nero. Tommasi originally got enamored by Burgundy’s Pinot Noirs and he decided to try to replicate the wines in his native Italy. He looked for the perfect terroir for his wines, but couldn’t find any in any of the famous appellations. Finally he found a suitable place in the valleys of Alto Casentino, a spot well outside any wine appellation in the Tuscan Apennines, where the soil composition and temperatures were as close to Burgundy as seemed possible. There he farms his organically farmed Pinot Noir vineyards which he both harvests and destems manually, vinifies all the parcels separately, ferments in open-top fermentors, ages the wines in old oak barrels and lets the wine clarify naturally in concrete tanks.

The friend who brought the bottle told that he found the producer on his holiday in Tuscany by just grabbing a random bottle in a wine shop. When tasting the wine in the evening he was so floored by the wine that he returned to the shop to buy a case, but the shop owner told that Tommasi has strictly forbidden to sell more than two bottles per customer - and since he had already bought one the day before, he was allowed to only one bottle more. This was that bottle.

Although he also told that he made his wife to go and buy two extra bottles that he still has in his cellar!

It was also fun to taste 2016 Musar, just to see where it was at this young stage.

FWIW; I brought that 2017 Chignin-Bergeron and 1969 Vino Nobile. Wasn’t too happy with either of them.

  • 2016 Chateau Musar - Lebanon, Bekaa Valley (14.7.2022)
    A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsaut, one third of each. The vintage 2016 in Beqaa started with a good deal of rain and snow, followed by a warm April. The May was relatively rainy as well, boosting vine growth. June and July were very warm and pretty dry, resulting in accelerated ripening. Cabernet was harvested first, in mid-August - earlier than ever before. Carignan and Cinsaut matured at a slower pace and were harvested in early September. The wine was fermented spontaneously, all varieties separately in concrete tanks. The fermented varietal wines were aged in oak barrels for a year, blended in February 2019, then left to marry for a few months and bottled unfined and unfiltered in the summer of 2019. 14% alcohol. Aerated in a decanter for an unknown period of time before tasting the wine blind.

    Deep and dark ruby-red color that permits a little light through. Juicy, ripe and quite sunny nose with aromas of wizened blackcurrants, some raisiny tones, a little bit of sweet red fruit, light lifted notes of VA, a hint of exotic spices and a touch of smoky phenolic character. The wine is dry, juicy and slightly lifted on the palate with a moderately full body and slightly reticent flavors of peppery spice and ripe redcurrants, some bitter phenolic notes, a little bit of tart red plum, light raisiny tones, a lifted hint of balsamic VA and a touch of coniferous forest. The overall feel is quite firm and structured, thanks to both high acidity and firm medium tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is dry, slightly lifted and somewhat grippy with a long aftertaste of phenolic spice and peppery notes, some raisiny dark fruit, a little bit of tart red plums, light bretty notes of leathery funk, a hint of ripe redcurrant and a touch of tobacco.

    A quite classic example of young Musar - and so recognizable that my first guess without much hesitation was "a young Musar". Feels very similar to the 2014 vintage tasted at the same age, but perhaps showing slightly less sauvage qualities, subtly more volatile lift and coming across as a bit closed and reticent now - even after a bit of aeration. As almost always, there's great promise here, but it's still quite hard to assess in which direction the wine is going to go from here, ie. whether it'll be a great wine, an exceptional wine, or something in-between. Whatever way it'll go, it is already pretty great already and I have a feeling it won't go south from here. It still needs age, though - the wine is quite closed and tightly-knit at the moment, which seems to be something that only a bit of additional age will fix. Remember to decant the wine and give it enough air (at least an hour or two) when serving it. Solid value at 44,95€.
    (92 points)

  • 2012 WILIXL Cuvée One-Off - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc (14.7.2022)
    The only vintage of this white Wilixl, hence the name. A blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, aged in an old foudre. 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Pale lemon-yellow color. Quite sweet and fragrant nose with aromas of acacia honey and apricot, some banana tones, a little bit of creamy oak, light perfumed floral notes, a hint of savory wood spice and a musky touch of something reminiscent of Muscat. The wine feels round, mellow and fruity on the palate with a rather full body and quite lush flavors of sweet white peach, some ripe nectarine, a little bit of creamy oak, light banana tones, a floral hint reminiscent of Muscat and a touch of apple jam. The wine is medium in acidity, which doesn't make the wine feel particularly fresh or structured, but still lends some sense of balance to the mouthfeel. The long finish is round, juicy and fruit-driven with balanced flavors of white peach, some creamy oak tones, a little bit of ripe apricot, light floral nuances and a hint of exotic spices.

    A nice, balanced and fruity Southern French white. Enjoyable and quite drinkable, but ultimately a bit of the soft and voluptuous side. What was interesting, though, was how youthful the wine was for its age - I was quite adamant the wine must have Muscat or some other similar variety in the blend and I guessed it can't be more than 5 years old. Well, it turned out to have no Muscat or any other similarly aromatic variety in the blend and it was twice as old as I guessed it could be at its oldest! Live and learn. I did enjoy the vibrancy and purity of fruit here and how the wine was rather modest in alcohol for the varieties (that typically tend to produce higher-alcohol wines), but it was still perhaps a bit too soft and sweet-toned in character. I'm quite positive the wine will age gracefully and most likely develop some interesting tertiary notes over the years, but I suspect it'll remain quite soft and mellow, no matter how old it gets.
    (87 points)

  • 1995 Murad Rahims Penedès Blanc - Spain, Catalunya, Penedès (14.7.2022)
    A blend of Xarel-lo (60%) and Macabeo (40%). 11% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Pale and somewhat evolved straw yellow color. The nose feels very old and tertiary with some grainy notes, a little bit of dry hay, light nutty notes, a sweeter hint of honey and a distant touch of ripe citrus fruits. The wine is very evolved, tertiary and quite tired on the palate with a light body and rather complex but also quite senescent flavors of nuttiness, some pithy citrus fruit, a little bt of hay, light cardboard notes, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of cooked cream. The wine is high in acidity. The finish is crisp, acid-driven and very tertiary with old, tired flavors nuttiness, some pithy citrus fruit notes, a little bit of honeyed richness, light stony mineral notes and a hint of cardboard.

    This was already quite goners. I guess this might've been a pretty lovely, fresh and crisp white some 15 years ago, but now the wine offers very little to no pleasure. Now this is nothing more than a substitute for Sherry or dry Madeira in cooking - not really for drinking purposes.

  • 2016 Sijnn Saignée - South Africa, Cape South Coast, Swellendam, Malgas (14.7.2022)
    A blend of Mourvèdre (50%), Syrah (25%) and Trincadeira (25%). Made with a portion of juice bled off (saignée) from a batch of red wine. Fermented and aged in old oak barrels. The producer calls this "pale red wine", but I guess saignée rosé is appropriate as well. 13,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Translucent, somewhat evolved and quite luminous pomegranate or red onion color with a pale rim. Complex, dark-toned nose with aromas of ripe cherries, some woody notes of savory oak spice, a little bit of something I'd describe as "Pinosity" (making me think of Burgundy immediately), light notes of pipe tobacco, a hint of exotic spice and a touch of juicy black raspberry. The wine is ripe, textural and even somewhat meaty on the palate with a medium body and complex flavors of savory spices and tobacco, some wild strawberry tones, a little bit of ripe black raspberry, light umami notes of raw meat, a developed hint of wizened dark plums and a subtly bretty touch of leathery phenolic character. The wine is high in acidity with no tannins to speak of. The finish is ripe, long and juicy with quite dry flavors of strawberries and black raspberries, some leathery notes, a little bit of tobacco, light meaty notes of umami, a hint of phenolic spice and a woody touch of savory wood spice.

    Tasting this wine, it's perfectly understandable why the producers prefers to call this a "pale red wine" rather than a rosé - even if it is made like a saignée rosé, it is surprisingly substantial and complex effort in its genre. There's lot of substance, complexity and depth of flavor here; even if the wine is starting to show some signs of age, it is still obviously on its way up and most likely will keep on improving for years more. It was pretty impossible to guess the wine correctly as it really didn't remind me of any style of wine - it certainly had some Pinosity, but Pinot Noir was very quickly ruled out. At that point basically everybody was more or less lost. Superb stuff, highly recommended for people who like their rosés structured and full of character.
    (93 points)

  • 2019 Château Le Puy Rose-Marie - France, Vin de France (14.7.2022)
    100% biodynamically farmed Merlot that has been bled off (saignée) from a spontaneously fermenting red wine batch. Aged for 6 to 8 months in used oak barriques. 15% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Medium-deep salmon-red color. Quite characterful and slightly wild nose with complex aromas of ripe red apple and fresh redcurrant, some wild strawberry tones, a little bit of gravelly minerality, light smoky and subtly funky phenolic tones, a hint of brambly raspberry and a salty touch of ocean air. The wine is ripe broad and surprisingly substantial on the palate with a full body and vibrant flavors of strawberries and red cherries, some leathery funk, a little bit of gravelly minerality, light woody notes of savory oak spice, a hint of alcohol warmth and a touch of wild waxy character. The wine is moderately high in acidity, which keeps the wine pretty much in balance, lending it even some sense of structure. The finish is rich, juicy and somewhat warm with bold and lengthy flavors of strawberries and sweet black cherries, some gravelly minerality, a little bit of raspberry jam, light woody notes of old oak and a hint of waxy funk.

    A rich, substantial and - truth be told - quite massive rosé wine with lots of everything. The wine seemed like a deep rosé in the glass, but I started doubting myself when tasting the wine, because it was so much bigger and more powerful than the nose led to believe. I couldn't come up with anything else than Tavel and Priorat rosé, because I couldn't think of any other style of wine that could be both a rosé and such a big, bold and noticeably ripe (yes, the high alcohol does show to some degree) at the same time. I honestly wasn't expecting a (saignée) rosé from Francs Côtes de Bordeaux. I must say, I'm impressed - this is truly a rosé wine unlike any other. I would rate it even higher had it shown a bit less alcohol and a bit more acidity, but this is a superb wine all the same. Definitely a wine that warrants a revisit from a cooler vintage. Worth the price at 44€.
    (92 points)

  • 2017 Les Fils de Charles Trosset Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron Symphonie d'Automne - France, Savoie, Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron (14.7.2022)
    100% Roussanne from Chignin. 13% alcohol.

    Youthful, limpid straw-yellow color. The nose feels very green and almost unripe with aggressively vegetal aromas of grass and asparagus tips, some peanut skin, light crunchy notes of greencurrant, a little bit of tilled soil and a hint of unripe apple. The nose has a rather unpleasant overall quality, most likely showing geosmin taint. The wine feels broad, ripe and quite full-bodied on the palate, but also oddly vegetal at the same time with flavors of green asparagus, tilled soil, some grassy green notes, a little bit of peanut skin, light juicy notes of golden apples, a hint of fresh nectarine and a mineral touch of wet rocks. The medium-plus acidity feels high enough to keep the wine in balance, but doesn't bring much freshness or structure to the mouthfeel. The finish is ripe, soft and juicy yet still quite vegetal with flavors of grass and green asparagus, some greencurrant tones, a little bit of freshly turned damp earth and an autumnal hint of leaves and forest floor.

    Ugh. A rather odd wine, as it feels quite ripe, juicy and relatively low in acidity, yet at the same time almost unripe with its green, vegetal flavors. As the wine is not only herbaceous, but shows some aromas and flavors of freshly turned earth, it seems quite obvious that this wine is suffering from geosmin. I wonder if 2017 was as lousy and rainy a vintage in Savoie as it was in Jura? If it was, it would explain a lot of things. All in all, this was a major disappointment - the wine was not entirely undrinkable, but quite unpleasant all the same. Definitely not worth the 18€.
    (68 points)

  • 2013 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Auksinis - France, Loire Valley, Upper Loire, Sancerre (14.7.2022)
    Late-harvested Sauvignon Blanc, vinified dry and made from grapes (from a very low-yielding (2000 l / ha) 60 yo vineyard) of which approx. 50% have contracted botrytis. The wine is aged on the lees for at least 24 months in old, neutral oak pièces of 228 liters and for another 6 months in bottles before release. Unfiltered. No sulfites employed at any point. 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Unappetizing murky yellow-orange color that appears almost completely opaque. Dull, very wild and rather malty nose with aromas of Weetabix, some earth, a little bit of stale bread, light vinegary notes of acetic VA, a hint of something animale and a touch of Tripel beer. The wine is ripe, sweet-toned and quite dull on the palate with quite oxidative and very sauvage flavors of grainy Weetabix character, some oxidative notes of roasted nuts, a little bit of salinity, light sharp vinegary notes of acetic VA, a hint of green apple and a touch of ripe grapefruit. The wine seems to be only medium in acidity, making the overall feel somewhat soft and lacking in energy. The finish is just horribly mousy. You really can't taste anything else as the mousiness appears out of nowhere (well, one could see it coming already when sniffing the wine) like a huge tsunami that overwhelms everything else and makes you gag instantly.

    This is pretty repulsive stuff. I've enjoyed Riffault's more classically styled Sancerres that see only a little bit of botrytis, but I've never really understood this Auksinis when I've tasted them soon after release, and now, tasting this with some bottle age, I must say that this wine is a catastrophe. It isn't particularly enjoyable in its youth and apparently it gets only worse with age. A horrible, unclean and excessively natty wine with no redeeming qualities. It was impossible to guess the wine correctly as it was so funky there wasn't anything recognizable. Definitely not worth the 30€, not by a long shot.
    (51 points)

  • 2019 IParcellari Piemonte Albarossa Treparcelle - Italy, Piedmont, Piemonte DOC (14.7.2022)
    Despite its name, the wine is made with Albarossa fruit sourced from Parcel 269 in the Bricco Cantamessa vineyard, harvested in early October. Macerated with the skins for two weeks. Aged for 12 months in 500-liter tonneaux. Total production 2500 bottles. 14% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Dense, inky and basically completely opaque blackish-red color with a youthful blueish hue. The nose feels bold, youthful and slightly reductive with aromas of blueberries, some rubber boot notes, a little bit of ripe dark plum, light vanilla tones, a hint of boysenberry jam and a touch of something inky. The wine is juicy, ripe and very youthful on the palate with a full body and very dry flavors of tart lingonberries and crunchy cranberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of rubbery reduction, light lactic notes of blueberry yogurt, a hint of astringent chokeberry and a ferrous touch of blood. The overall feel is quite stern and tightly-knit, thanks to the high acidity and quite assertive, moderately grippy tannins. The finish is dry, long and crunchy with quite a bit of tannic grip, some alcohol warmth and intense flavors of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of crunchy chokeberry, light lactic notes of blueberry yogurt, a hint of blood and a touch of vanilla oak.

    A very stern, sinewy and positively angular Piedmontese red that is still all too young for its own good. The contrast between the quite sweet and fruity nose and surprisingly lean and practically bone-dry, tart taste was anything but subtle, yet I loved the wine for its serious, unapologetic nature. However, at the moment the wine is still quite dominated by both somewhat candied, estery primary fruit aromas and yogurt-like lactic notes of MLF, making me think this wine needs at least another 3-5 years before starting to show good. However, based on the structure and intensity of the wine, I'd say it doesn't reach its apogee until at least another 10 years, if not even more. Terrific and thoroughly enjoyable stuff for people who don't mind having wines that can bite back.
    (90 points)

  • 2019 Podere della Civettaja Pinot Nero Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT (14.7.2022)
    100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from a producer growing only Pinot Noir in Tuscany, near Chianti Rúfina. Hand-destemmed, spontaneously fermented, aged for 12 months in barriques. 13,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Luminous, translucent and moderately youthful ruby-red color with a pale, almost colorless rim. The nose feels fragrant, somewhat ripe and quite varietally true with aromas of sweet raspberries, some red cherries, a little bit of peppery spice, light meaty tones, a hint of lingonberry jam and a woody touch of savory oak spice. The wine is ripe yet fresh and lively on the palate with a medium body, silky texture and bright flavors of tart lingonberries and juicy cranberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of peppered meat, light brambly notes of raspberries, a hints of game and blood and a woody touch of savory oak. The wine is quite high in acidity with balanced, somewhat grippy medium tannins. The finish is juicy, dry and gently grippy with a long, layered aftertaste of cranberries and tart lingonberries, some ripe raspberry tones, a little bit of gamey meat, light woody notes of old oak, a hint of spicy Pinosity and a touch of smoke.

    A wonderful, harmonious and very sophisticated Pinot Noir - really a dead ringer for a classic Burgundy. The wine is obviously quite ripe, but it handles its ripeness remarkably well, showing great sense of freshness, poise and balance. The overall feel is still so very youthful, making me think that most likely this wine will not only keep, but improve effortlessly for many years more. Excellent stuff; a surprisingly Burgundian effort for a Tuscan Pinot. Highly recommended.
    (92 points)

  • 2006 Bodegas Los Astrales Ribera del Duero Astrales - Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero (14.7.2022)
    100% Tinto Fino from vineyards around the municipality of Anguix in Ribera del Duero. The average vineyard age is around 40 years. Fermented spontaneously and macerated for two weeks in 5000-liter oak vats. Aged for 18 months in predominantly French oak barriques. 14,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Dense, concentrated and fully opaque blackish-red color with a somewhat evolved maroon hue. The nose feels dense, ripe and extracted with bold and concentrated aromas of dark forest fruits and toasted oak, some sweet mocha tones, light evolved notes of wizened black cherries, a little bit of coffee liqueur, a hint of cassis and a touch of ripe dark plums. The wine feels dense, extracted and chewy on the palate with a full body and concentrated, somewhat evolved flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some toasty oak spice, a little bit of minty lift, light sweet mocha tones, a hint of peppery spice and a touch of extracted woody bitterness. The wine is surprisingly high in acidity for the size and ripeness, whereas the assertive, grippy tannins feel very appropriate for such a powerhouse, lending some vital firmness to the mouthfeel. The finsih is rich, dense and grippy with a very long and somewhat sweet-toned aftertaste of toasty mocha oak, some cassis tones, a little bit of savory wood spice, light evolved notes of prunes and wizened figs, a hint of blueberry and a touch of minty lift.

    A modern and quite extracted blockbuster of a wine. The oak use here feels a tad too excessive, but the great structure here keep the wine from coming across as too monolithic, instead making the wine appear as relatively balanced for such a big wine. Although the wine is too big, extracted and oaky for my taste, I must admit that it feels like a well-made high-quality wine. I could live with the big size and ripeness, if the wine would've seen less oak, because even if the wine feels like it can still age for years more, I doubt the fruit will last as long as it takes for all that oak to integrate and disappear. Most likely this wine will keep on getting better as the oak slowly integrates and the bold, assertive tannins resolve, but I have a hunch this will never evolve into something truly elegant and exquisite.
    (90 points)

  • 2017 Andreas Lenzenwöger Definitely Red - France, Vin de France (14.7.2022)
    The second vintage ever of this garagiste wine that is a 100% old-vine Grenache from 40-yo vineyards in Southern Rhône (right outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape), made by Andreas Lenzenwöger, the winemaker at Domaine du Pégau (formerly at Sattlerhof). The grapes are crushed, fermented spontaneously and macerated for three weeks in open-top barriques at the terrace of Lenzenwöger's terrace. After three weeks the wine is racked off the pomace, the pomace is pressed and wine is returned to barriques. The barriques are then moved to age in Lenzenwöger's cellar where the wines age and go through the MLF. Before bottling the wines are racked into a tank to settle and clarify naturally. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Apart from the mechanical bottling machine, all other work is completely manual here - this is truly a handcrafted wine. 15% alcohol. Total production 600 bottles. Tasted blind.

    Luminous, youthful and quite translucent yet still beautifully deep ruby-red color. The nose feels ripe yet savory with wonderfully bright aromas of fresh forest fruits and wild strawberries, some licorice root tones, a little bit of ripe cherry, light smoky tones, a hint of redcurrant juice and a touch of cigar. The wine feels quite ripe, dense and robust on the palate, yet the taste sits firmly on the fresh and savory side with intense flavors of wild strawberries and crunchy redcurrants, some tobacco, a little bit of meaty umami, light peppery tones, a hint of earth and a sweeter touch of ripe dark fruits. The overall feel is firm and harmonious with the rather high acidity and ripe yet somewhat grippy medium-plus tannins. The dry finish is long, somewhat grippy and subtly warm with layered flavors of strawberries, some crunchy blackcurrant tones, a little bit of tobacco, light savory notes of meaty umami, a hint of earth and a touch of licorice root.

    It didn't take us that long to correctly guess this was a Grenache, based on the light color, relatively high alcohol and strawberry-driven fruit of the wine. However, everybody who guessed Grenache were thinking of Spanish wines, either from Serra dos Gredos or Catalonia - nobody was near Southern Rhône! Although the wine is recognizably Grenache in style, the overall character is so much more Burgundian than I've ever had from Southern Rhône! Beautifully fresh and savory with a wonderfully balanced structure and nothing too extracted, excessively ripe or overdone here. This is exactly how a Rhône Grenache should taste. Based on how vibrant and youthful the wine is now, I see the wine evolving and improving further with additional cellaring - expect the score to go up as the wine ages. Highly recommended.
    (93 points)

  • 2015 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Corte Giara La Groletta - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella (14.7.2022)
    I've understood that Corte Giara is Allegrini's fruitier, more approachable and more affordable brand of wines. I have no idea what the La Groletta means, though, but it seems this is the only Amarone in the Corte Giara lineup. The wine is a blend of Corvina (70%) and Rondinella (30%) from vineyards that are 30 years old on average. The grapes are dried for 3-4 months so that they lose approx. 40% of their weight. The wine is fermented and macerated with the skins in stainless steel tanks for 3½ weeks aged in Slavonian botti (50%) and used barriques (50%) for 15 months. 15% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    The wine has a deep and slightly translucent pomegranate color with a youthful garnet hue. The nose feels ripe, rather sweetish and quite fruit-driven with dark-toned aromas of wizened black cherries and juicy dark plums, some alcohol, a little bit of old leather, light balsamic volatile nuances, a hint of boysenberry and a touch of blueberry juice. The wine feels ripe, dense and chewy on the palate with a full body and youthful, rich flavors of fresh dark plums and sour cherries, some sweet boysenberry marmalade tones, light raisiny notes, a little bit of cigar, a hint of peppery spice and a touch of savory old wood. The wine is quite high in acidity for its size, taking care of most of the structure, while the ample yet ripe and rather gentle tannins contribute mainly to the texture while adding to the firmness of the mouthfeel. The high alcohol shows through a bit, especially towards the somewhat warm aftertaste. The finish is long, warm and somewhat robust with slightly sweet-toned flavors of ripe boysenberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of gamey meat, light peppery tones, a hint of pruney dark fruit and a balsamic touch of VA.

    Pretty much a textbook Amarone: the wine is big, fruity and quite voluptuous with lots of everything. However, I must commend the wine for being surprisingly well-behaved for the warm 2015 vintage. Sure, the wine is as ripe and sweet-toned as one could expect from an Amarone, but it packs quite nice acidity which keeps the wine surprisingly well in balance, and while the alcohol feels quite high, the wine never once comes across as boozy or porty. Although I'm not the biggest fan of Amarone, this was a well-made and rather enjoyable example of the genre. Nice!
    (90 points)

  • 2014 Hans Herzog / Hans Family Estate Secret of Marlborough - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough (14.7.2022)
    A naturalist Kiwi wine made by a Swiss winemaker from an Italian grape variety? Righty. So, this is a red wine made with organically farmed Montepulciano from a vineyard planted in 1996, fermented spontaneously followed by extended post-fermentation maceration. Aged for 24 months in French oak barriques (approx. 20% new). Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a minimal dose of SO2. 14% alcohol and 6,0 g/l acidity. Tasted blind.

    Youthful, vibrant and almost fully opaque blackish-red color. The nose feels surprisingly herbaceous and fresh with crunchy aromas of dark forest fruits and freshly picked black cherries, some blueberry tones, a little bit of leafy greenness, light chokeberry tones, a hint of savory wood spice, a touch of redcurrant and a toasty whiff of coffee. The wine is dry, clean and crunchy on the palate with a medium body and bright flavors of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of fresh red plum, light woody notes of savory oak spice, a toasty hint of mocha oak and a herbaceous touch of sappy green character. The structure relies mostly on the wonderfully high acidity, as the gentle medium-minus tannins mainly contribute to the silky structure. The finish is long, crunchy and lively with a bright, dry aftertaste of crunchy cranberries and tart lingonberries, woody notes of savory old oak, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, light herbaceous notes of leafy greenness, a hint of ripe redcurrant and a ferrous touch of blood.

    A surprisingly serious effort, both for a Montepulciano and for a natural wine from New Zealand. Most of the Italian Montepulciano wines I've tasted have been just very simple and straightforward little wines and a great majority of "serious" Montepulciano wines end up being just parodies of so-called "serious wines" with their often too heavily extracted overall character and heavily oaked taste. However, this wine manages to avoid all those pitfalls, coming across as surprisingly fresh and zippy, yet packing enough density and concentration (without resorting to excessive oak) so that the wine appears very focused and well-composed - not just a light and simple bistro wine. What fooled all of us was the slightly herbaceous overall character, which made virtually all of us think of Cabernet Franc and it really took us some time to get our guesses out of the Loire Valley! However, none of us managed to guess either New Zealand or Montepulciano. A terrific wine; maybe not yet at the level of Valentini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - arguably the best Montepulciano in the world - but at 43,99€, this was not priced as such. I think the wine is still a bit overpriced, but not prohibitively so. All in all, I was very positively surprised by this wine and I can imagine it will keep improving even further from here, seeing how youthful it still was! Fine stuff, highly recommended.
    (92 points)

  • 2003 Skerk Carso Malvazija - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Carso (14.7.2022)
    An orange Malvazija Istarska - although I've understood this vintage has seen much less skin contact compared to the more recent vintages. 13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Evolved and quite hazy straw-yellow color. Evolved, quite tertiary and slightly oxidative nose with aromas of hay and nuttiness, some sweet honeyed tones, a little bit of resinous phenolic character, light foresty notes of birch sap and spruce needles, a hint of bruised apple, a touch of almond paste and a woolly whiff of lanolin. The wine feels dry, evolved and rather tertiary on the palate with a medium body and complex, slightly oxidative flavors of chopped nuts and sorrel, some bruised apple tones, a little bit of almond paste, light green notes of spruce needles and minty lift, a phenolic hint of resinous character and a touch of tangy salinity. The mouthfeel is slightly oily and textural and the wine itself is quite high in acidity with no tannins to speak of. The finish is long, dry and slightly oxidative with flavors of sorrel, chopped nuts and bruised apple, some stony mineral notes, a little bit of resinous phenolic character, light nuances of spruce shoots, an evolved hint of browned butter and a touch of cheesy funk.

    A still quite nice orange wine, but one that is slowly getting past its peak. Compared to the bottle I tasted two years ago, this feels somewhat more tertiary, showing more oxidative nuances and less of that vibrant fruit. The overall feel is more or less the same, but feeling slightly more tired. All in all, it's quite safe to say the wine has run its course and is now on its slow descent to the inevitable - any remaining bottles should be drunk sooner or later. Nevertheless, this has still been a great bargain at 18€.
    (91 points)

  • 1985 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet (14.7.2022)
    Tasted blind.

    Evolved, translucent pomegranate red color with a pale orange-yellow rim. Evolved, meaty and somewhat tertiary nose with aromas of wizened dark forest fruits and pencil shavings almost reminiscent of old Bordeaux, some meaty notes, a little bit of old leather, light raisiny tones, a sweeter hint of cranberry sauce, a touch of lingonberry and a whiff of autumnal forest. The wine is dry, quite evolved and somewhat tertiary on the palate with flavors of tart lingonberries and cranberries, leather, some developed raisiny tones, a little bit of earth, light woody notes of pencil shavings, a hint of sour cherry bitterness and a touch of meat stew. The acidity feels quite high, keeping the wine effortlessly in balance and lending it with good sense of structure, whereas the rather resolved medium tannins bring some nice firmness to the silky mouthfeel. The finish is lively, somewhat grippy and very long with a complex, evolved aftertaste of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some wizened sour cherry tones, a little bit of earth, light raisiny tones, a hint of beef jerky and a woody touch of pencil shavings.

    At first many people thought the wine was an old Bordeaux - and I can see why, as the wine nose felt very Bordelais with its complex aromas of wizened dark berries and pencil shavings. However, on the palate the wine didn't seem particularly Bordeaux, but instead something lighter and more delicate. Quite quickly people started guessing Pinot Noir and older Burgundy was one of the first suggestions. However, the guesses ranged from mid-00's to early 90's - nobody ventured into the 1980's! The wine felt quite evolved, yet it was older than people anticipated! I'd say this was not as nuanced and vibrant as the bottle we tasted in 2019 was, but it was still surprisingly alive and full of character. Not really a grand vin but a thoroughly enjoyable example of aged Burgundy all the same. A bargain at 39€.
    (92 points)

  • NV Zoilo Ruiz-Mateos Jerez-Xérès-Sherry Don Zoilo Dry Fino - Spain, Andalucía, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry (14.7.2022)
    If I've understood things correctly, this is a very old bottle, as Zoilo Ruiz Mateos became part of Bodegas Internacionales - a company founded by José María Ruiz Mateos, son of almacenista Zoilo Ruiz Mateos - some time in the mid-to-late 1960s. After this, Don Zoilo Dry Fino was bottled by "Bodegas Internacionales", not by "Zoilo Ruiz Mateos" anymore. Well, up until Williams & Humbert acquired the rights to the Don Zoilo brand name. The label doesn't really say anything, apart from "Don Zoilo Dry Fino Sherry". No alc%, just that the bottle volume is 700 ml. Tasted blind.

    Very murky, dull and rather disagreeable grayish-yellow appearance. One tasting attendee commented how one could find liquid of this color coming from their nose, not from a wine bottle. The nose feels aged, complex and very tertiary with rather sweet and quite concentrated aromas of syrupy richness, some pungent notes of acetaldehyde, a little bit of butterscotch, light nutty tones, a hint of bruised apple and a touch of oat biscuits. The wine feels harmonious and tertiary on the palate with a gentle texture and quite senescent flavors of caramel, aldehydic salinity, some bruised apple tones, a little bit of creamy richness, light nutty notes of oxidation, a hint of syrupy molasses and a touch of salted nuts. The soft medium acidity lends quite little sense of freshness and structure to the wine. The finish is old, moderately oxidative and very tertiary with complex flavors of roasted nuts, some aldehydic notes of sharp salinity, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light creamy tones, a hint of tart Granny Smith apple and a touch of caramel.

    Almost everybody guessed the wine must be a Sherry, based on the combination of pungent, aldehydic flavors and quite modest acidity, but the only question was whether the wine was an old Amontillado or a Palo Cortado. The wine was obviously quite oxidative, so it couldn't be a Fino or Manzanilla, but it had quite a bit of aldehydic character, which ruled out Oloroso Sherries. Well, it turned out to be a Fino Sherry after all - only much, much older than anyone anticipated. The bottle looked quite pristine, which was surprising, but based on the very old overall character of the wine (and how it was made and bottled by Zoilo Ruiz Mateos, not by Bodegas Internacionals), it meant this couldn't be a young bottle despite its well-preserved appearance. For a Fino Sherry, this was quite goners, but for an old Sherry, this was very lovely indeed. Despite its rather ugly appearance, all Sherry enthusiasts loved the wine - before the label was revealed and after it. This was a terrific, old oxidative Sherry with a lot of character. I just heartily recommend keeping the wine vertically for some time and decanting it carefully of all that deposit.
    (93 points)

  • 1978 Bodegas Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja (14.7.2022)
    I've had this wine once before, but back then the bottle looked entirely different than this time around. Anyways, I've understood this is a 100% Tempranillo from Faustino (as Campillo is a winery and a brand of Faustino established in 1990) that has been aged for 2 years in French and American barriques, followed by 3 years of aging in bottles. Tasted blind.

    Evolved, somewhat translucent pomegranate color with a brick-orange rim. The nose feels evolved and somewhat tertiary with classic Rioja aromas of dill and ripe strawberries, some wizened cranberries, a little bit of dried figs, light woody notes of savory old oak, a hint of cherry and a touch of vanilla. The wine is dry, evolved and quite sinewy on the palate with a medium body and aged, complex flavors of wizened sour cherries and tart lingonberries, some savory notes of meat stew, a little bit of dill, light woody notes of old oak, a hint of earth and a briny touch of olive. The overall feel is still surprisingly structured, thanks to the quite high acidity and moderately grippy tannins. The finish is very long, quite grippy and relatively lively with savory flavors of sour cherries and wizened cranberries, some tangy notes of salinity, a little bit of dill pickle, light earthy notes, a hint of tart lingonberry and a woody touch of savory oak spice.

    An evolved and still quite firm and structured Rioja Gran Reserva that was quite instantly recognizable for the style - almost all attendees guessed that this must be an aged Rioja. However, people thought "aged" here meant perhaps mid-to-early 1990's. The wine is surprisingly youthful for its age, but I'd say the wine has finally reached its apogee and won't evolve much or at all here - it's possible the still quite grippy tannins will resolve to some degree from here, but I feel that aromatically the wine is not going to develop any additional complexity. The wine feels somewhat more evolved and complete than how it was seven years ago when I tasted it previously. All in all, a classically styled, savory and structured old-school Rioja Gran Reserva. Nice, although nothing truly mesmerizing.
    (91 points)

  • 1969 Bigi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Speciale - Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (14.7.2022)
    The wine has a slightly hazy and noticeably evolved appearance with a moderately opaque dark plummy color turning toward a tertiary, syrupy-brown hue. The nose feels aged and quite tertiary with complex aromas of wizened black cherries and raisiny dark fruits, some coffee tones, a little bit of old sweaty leather saddle, light earthy notes, a hint of tobacco, a sweet touch of dried dates and a whiff of pine tar. The wine is very evolved on the palate with a silky texture, a medium body and tertiary flavors of wizened cherries, some metallic notes of copper coins or iron nails, a little bit of tart lingonberry, light nuances of old leather, a hint of sour cherry bitterness and a woody touch of old oak. The wine is high in acidity with gently grippy medium tannins. The finish is dry, slightly grippy and very tertiary on the palate with old flavors of tart lingonberries, tobacco, some sweeter notes of wizened red fruits and raisins, light earthy notes, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, a metallic hint of rusted iron and a touch of old leather.

    A very old, tertiary and slightly tired Vino Nobile. I honestly had no expectations of this wine, but it turned out to be quite alive for its age, against all odds. Sure, the wine came across as pretty senescent, yet it was still quite complex and thoroughly enjoyable. I guess it hadn't even ventured too deeply into the anonymous old wine territory, as people started very quickly guessing older Italy (and Tuscany soon after) when I poured this wine blind - although nobody guessed the wine was as old as it was! Perhaps the only real beef I had with the wine was its somewhat metallic metallic taste, which took at times its toll on the pleasure. Fortunately not too much, though. All in all, this was a nice little example of old Italian wine that was in surprisingly good shape, considering it was already 53 years old! It was worth its price at 16€.
    (86 points)

  • 2002 La Cave de l’Abbé Rous Banyuls Hélyos - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Banyuls (14.7.2022)
    This Rimage ("Vintage") is the highest-tier Banyuls by La Cave de l'Abbé Rous, made only in exceptional vintages. Of the 900 hectares of Grenache, only 7 ha (aged 25 to 60 years old) are employed in making this wine. The grapes are fermented and macerated with the skins for three weeks - although fermentation is halted by fortification once the residual sugar content reaches around 100 g/l. After maceration, the wine is pressed into once used barrels, in which it is aged for 10 months. 16,7% alcohol, 120 g/l residual sugar and 5,1 g/l acidity. Total production 18,000 bottles. Tasted blind.

    Very deep and completely opaque dark red color with a slightly evolved maroon hue. Very dense, concentrated and quite sweet nose with somewhat evolved aromas of cherry licorice root, some minty green notes, a little bit of cherry marmalade, light savory notes of earthy spices, a hint of pruney dark fruit and a touch of anise. The wine is sweet, rich and slightly hot on the palate with a full body and intense, somewhat evolved flavors of dried dates and prunes, some licorice root, a little bit of peppery spice, light raisiny tones, a hint of blueberry jam and a lifted touch of something minty. Although big, concentrated and chewy, the wine feels surprisingly balanced and structured at the same time, all thanks to its moderately high acidity and quite firm and grippy tannins. The finish is rich, sweet and moderately grippy with a long and complex aftertaste of raisins, some dried dates, a little bit of peppery spice, light earthy notes, hints of anise and licorice and a touch of blueberry jam.

    An impressively big, concentrated and complex Banyuls that goes beyond in body and power what is typical for Banyuls. The wine has evolved wonderfully, lending great sense of depth and complexity to the flavors without making the wine appear particularly aged even at 20 years of age. Based in the impressive power, depth and structure of the wine, it is easy to say it will continue to improve for years and years more. Excellent stuff that is great now and will only get better with further age. Not affordable for a Banyuls at approx. 45€, but really delivers for the price.
    (93 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

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