TN: Spanish Island Hopping (and lots of random stuff)

In early 2022 a friend of mine who is quite enthusiastic about Spanish wines arranged a tasting on Spanish island wines, ie. wines from the Canary Islands and Mallorca. When it comes to Spanish wines, neither Canary nor Mallorcan wines are particularly well-known and, apart from a few producers, aren’t quite easy to come by - at least around here. I guess it goes without saying that there is no way I’d want to miss an opportunity like this to taste so many interesting wines at one go.

After the tasting proper most of us stayed behind and pulled out a bottle or two (one of the benefits of arranging tastings at offsites with proper tasting rooms). In the end the amount of extra bottles turned out to be so big that it was as if we had two tastings at one go! One with a very specific focus - and one with no focus whatsoever!

The introductory blinds:

  • 2020 Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive di Rua Particella 181 - Italy, Veneto, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (29.1.2022)
    100% Glera from a 35-yo vineyard in Rua di Feletto. Fermented and aged for 8 months on the lees in pressurized stainless steel tanks. 11% alcohol, 6 g/l residual sugar, 6,5 g/l acidity. Tasted blind.

    Pale, youthful whitish-green color. The nose feels very true to Prosecco with its aromas of fresh pear, some floral notes of apple blossom, light leesy nuances, a little bit of bitter almond oil and a subtle autolytic hint of custard pastry. The wine is dry-to-dry-ish on the palate with a very soft and silky mousse and clean flavors of ripe golden apples, some fresh pear, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light leesy notes of cream and brioche and a tangy hint of saline minerality. Moderately high acidity. The finish is clean, nuanced and medium in length with flavors of ripe Granny Smith apple, some apple peel bitterness, light leesy notes of yeast, a little bit of fresh pear, floral hints of apple blossom and a touch of saline minerality.

    When sniffing and tasting the wine for the first time, I immediately said out loud that this feels like Prosecco! I just never thought that anyone would bring Prosecco to a blind tasting, so I started to wonder what could be a sparkling wine that would feel so Prosecco-like. I do have to admit that the wine was more nuanced than your run-of-the-mill Prosecco with a little bit of autolytic complexity and much less emphasis on the dosage sweetness than is typical of the style. However, the wine is still undeniably very Prosecco with its soft, easy carbonation (thanks to the Charmat method) and the fruity pear notes that are quite ubiquitous in so many Proseccos. While a very nice, commendable and thoroughly enjoyable effort for a Prosecco, this still doesn't represent a style I'd choose over Champagne, Franciacorta or high-quality Cava. Feels a tad pricey for the quality at 20,80€.
    (89 points)

  • 2004 Morgadío Albariño Rías Baixas Torre Fornelos - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas (29.1.2022)
    12% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Quite deep golden yellow color with a colorless rim. Very developed and somewhat tertiary nose with complex aromas of browned butter, some burnt sugar, a little bit of bruised apple, light nutty notes of chopped walnuts, a hint of honeyed richness, a touch of smoke and a whiff of roasted chestnuts. The wine is dry, evolved and concentrated by the age with a medium body and intense, rather tertiary flavors of chalky phenolic bitterness, some wet stone minerality, a little bit of pithy grapefruit, light developed notes of cooked cream and browned butter, a nutty hint of roasted chestnuts and a touch of caramel. The overall impression is rather similar to a 30-40 yo Riesling, if it weren't for the surprisingly modest medium-plus acidity and phenolic bitter nuances that feel a bit out of place for a Riesling. The finish is long, dry and complex with quite tertiary flavors of stony minerality, some nutty notes, light pithy notes of pomelo and pink grapefruit, light notes of cooked cream and browned butter, a hint of smoke and a touch of honeyed richness.

    With its evolved, complex and moderately creamy notes this wine reminded me a lot of aged Riesling - many old German Rieslings I've tasted from the 1970's to 1990's have had a very similar aroma profile. Only the surprisingly soft acidity made me think this wasn't a Riesling, but I still had to guess so, just to get it out from my head. When I was told this was not Riesling, it didn't take me much longer to arrive in Albariño and Rías Baixas - this wouldn't be the first time I was fooled to think an Albariño was Riesling (after all, its name "White Rhine" is quite suggestive of Riesling!), but this was certainly the first time I was fooled by an aged Albariño to think it was an aged Riesling. Apparently these Albariños evolve pretty much into the same direction as Riesling, but at a seemingly faster pace, seeing how this 18-yo Albariño felt like a Riesling twice as old. Many people thought this was way past its peak and long gone, whereas I thought the wine was just developed, but still very enjoyable, not showing that much oxidation and still retaining some fruity nuances next to the more tertiary characteristics. All in all, an enjoyable old Albariño!
    (92 points)

The island whites:

  • 2019 Bodegas Viñátigo Vijariego Blanco - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife (29.1.2022)
    100% Vijariego from ungrafted, volcanic vineyards in the northwestern parts of Tenerife. Vijariego is the most high-acid variety in Canary Islands, normally used in blends to boost acidity and to moderate alcohol levels. Aged for 5 months in once, twice and thrice used French oak barriques. 13% alcohol. Bottle #1017 of total 3520 bottles.

    Pale, youthful neon-green color. Fresh, fruity nose with bright aromas of ripe white currants, some fresh apple tones, light notes of earthy spices like turmeric or mustard, a little bit of chopped aromatic herbs and a vague hint of flint-smoky character typical of volcanic wines. The wine is surprisingly broad and even slightly oily on the palate, yet wonderfully fresh, bright and light-to-medium-bodied at the same time. Harmonious flavors of fresh red apple, sappy herbal spice, some saline mineral tones, a little bit of smoky volcanic character, light crunchy notes of passion fruit, a hint of incisive steely character and a reductive touch of something vaguely sulfurous. There's a concentrated feel of dry extract to the wine, but the rather high acidity lends great sense of balance to the wine. The finish is quite long with bright flavors of ripe white fruits, some tangy saline notes, a little bit of passion fruit, light sappy herbal tones, a smoky hint of volcanic character and a touch of earthy spices.

    A balanced and still very youthful white with a nice volcanic overall character that complements both the ripe fruit flavors and more sappy herbal nuances. The wine is curiously both ripe and even somewhat concentrated yet fresh with high acidity, quite light body and pleasantly sappy. It's certainly possible that the wine is still just too young and awkward, needing a few more years to get its game a bit better together. Nevertheless, this is pretty drinkable and enjoyable already now, even if there seems to be some potential for future development. Good value at 16€.
    (89 points)

  • 2019 Tierra Fundida Blanco Cercado del Pino - Spain, Vino de Mesa (29.1.2022)
    A blend of Albillo Criollo, Listán Blanco and Verdello from Tenerife, labeled as "Lote 01", Viño de España. Fermented spontaneously, vinified without SO2. 12,5% alcohol.

    Pale-to-medium-deep lemon-yellow color. Surprisingly vegetal, borderline unripe nose with aromas of grassy greenness, some reductive notes of hard-boiled eggs, a little bit of apple peel and a hint of grapey fruit. The wine is very firm, dry and crunchy on the palate with a light body and fresh flavors of grassy and almost vegetal greenness along with flavors of steely minerality, some Granny Smith apple, a little bit of stony minerality, light pithy notes of grapefruit, a hint of fresh greencurrant and a volcanic touch of smoky character. The racy acidity lends great freshness and almost electric feel to the wine. The finish is dry, crisp and acid-driven with bright flavors of tart green apples, some citrus fruit notes of lemon or grapefruit, light leesy tones, a little bit of tangy salinity, a hint of grassy vegetal character and a touch of wet stone minerality.

    An enjoyably fresh, crisp and zippy white that feels a tad too thin and green for my palate. There's also a bit of reduction that's further accentuated by the volcanic character of the wine, but that's something that will blow off with enough age / air. However, I doubt any amount of aging will help with the slightly underwhelming body and green qualities that veer more towards unripeness rather than towards enjoyable herbal character. It is as if the grapes had struggled to achieve required ripeness, resulting in a wine that is a bit too light and green for its own good. There are some nice characteristics here, but as a whole, the wine feels a bit underwhelming - and also rather pricey for the quality at 20€.
    (84 points)

  • 2016 Suertes del Marqués Valle de la Orotava Trenzado - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, Valle de la Orotava (29.1.2022)
    A blend of organically farmed old-vine Listán Blanco (98-99%) with a tiny amount of other local varieties Albillo Criollo, Gual, Malvasía, Marmajuelo, Pedro Ximénez or Torrontés (1-2%) blended in. The vineyards are located in the western reaches of the Orotava valley and can be anything from 10 to 150 years old. Fermented spontaneously in foudres ranging from 2000 to 4500 liters. Partial MLF carried out spontaneously. Aged for 9 months in foudres. 13% alcohol.

    Very slightly hazy yellow-green color. Very recognizably volcanic nose with smoky aromas of gunpowder smoke and flatulent reduction, followed by aromas of golden currants, some leesy creaminess, a little bit of zesty lemon character, light crunchy notes of fresh golden apples and a hint of sea breeze. The initial impression is a bit stuffy, but the nose slowly opens up to become more aromatic. The wine feels silky, ripe and slightly concentrated on the palate with a medium body and dry, lively flavors of tangy salinity, some smoky notes of reduction, a little bit of leesy creaminess, light tart notes of Granny Smith apple and lemony citrus fruits, a hint of golden currants and a touch of stony minerality. The bright acidity lends good sense of balance and structure to the wine. The finish is dry, bright and moderately acid-driven with crisp flavors of tangy salinity and stony minerality, some leesy notes, a little bit of volcanic smoky character, light crisp notes of Granny Smith apple and a pithy hint of grapefruit.

    A tasty, crisp and slightly reduced Canarian white that shows how remarkably well Palomino (aka. Listán Blanco) - a variety known to be neutral in taste and low in acidity - can perform in volcanic vineyards. This wine shows great fruit intensity, structured acidity and even some sense of concentration without any of the dullness, neutrality or softness normally associated with Palomino. The only thing that might be a bit of a problem is the reduction - very typical of Suertes del Marqués wines - that really needs some air to blow off. This wine was opened and slow-oxed for an hour or two beforehand and it still didn't do much, so I heartily recommend decanting the wine for a few hours or just letting it age for a handful of years more - the wine really can take some serious aging, as it is still fresh as a daisy at the age of 5 years, showing no sense of age whatsoever! Stylish and immensely enjoyable stuff, if you don't mind the reduction. Great value at 15€.
    (91 points)

  • 2016 Vina Bodega Matias i Torres Albillo Criollo La Palma Blanco - Spain, Canary Islands, La Palma (29.1.2022)
    100% Albillo Criollo (unrelated to other Albillos) from an ungrafted 30-50 yo Briesta vineyard in La Palma. Fermented spontaneously in stainless steel but racked into glass demijohns before the fermentation is finished. Aged for 11 months on the lees in demijohns. 13% alcohol.

    Pale and slightly hazy straw-yellow color. Somewhat wild and funky nose with aromas of ripe yellow fruits, some waxy tones, a little bit of leathery funk, light smoky volcanic notes, a hint of beeswax, a touch of resinous character and a herby whiff of vegetal greenness. The wine is ripe, broad and even somewhat chewy on the palate with a supple medium body and rather concentrated flavors of waxy funk, some sweet yellow fruits, a little bit of honeydew melon, light apricot nuances, a hint of bretty leather and a touch of beeswax. The moderately high acidity keeps the wine nicely in balance. The finish is dry, rather concentrated and a bit sauvage with flavors of beeswax, some leathery funk, a little bit of sweet nectarine-driven stone fruit character, light appley nuances, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of gunpowder smoke.

    A very distinctive white that is somewhat funky and surprisingly concentrated, yet at the same time wonderfully fresh, bright and light on its feet. Although funky, the wine isn't particularly natty, but instead immensely drinkable and full of character. Superb stuff, really. It's hard to assess whether this wine will continue to improve, or if it is best drunk in its youth, but at least it offers tons of pleasure right now. Terrific value at 18€, highly recommended.
    (93 points)

  • 2019 Miquel Oliver Pla i Llevant Orig - Spain, Balearic Islands, Pla i Llevant (29.1.2022)
    100% Girò Roz (a pink-skinned mutation of Giró Blanco). 14% alcohol.

    Luminous and quite intensely-colored, youthful yellow-green appearance. The nose is sweet, very tropical and noticeably fruit-driven with heady aromas of passion fruit and papaya, some peach candies, a little bit of honeyed richness, light notes of cantaloupe and almost Northern Rhône-like floral hints of floral chamomile character and a herbal of noble hops. The wine is rich, round and rather fat on the palate with a full body and quite intense flavors of ripe apricots and mango, some pineapple-driven notes of fruit cocktail, light candied nuances of gummi bears, a little bit of banana, a hint of herby character and a touch of perhaps woody spice. The medium-plus acidity doesn't feel high enough to lend the wine necessary freshness and sense of structure, whereas the rather high alcohol shows through a little. The finish is ripe, round and juicy with tropical medium-long flavors of peach and some apricot, a little bit of banana, light candied notes of gummi bears, a hint of apple jam and a touch of papaya.

    A very rich, round and supple that suffers from the same problem as so many Mallorcan wines: too much ripeness, too much alcohol and too little acidity. The wine is full of gras and while the fruit packs quite a bit of intensity, it really doesn't have enough structure to back it all up, so the wine ends up tasting flabby and lacking energy. I really can't see the wine having much upside, so most likely it won't benefit from further aging. Drink now. Starting to feel a bit pricey for the quality at 13€.
    (82 points)

The island reds:

  • 2020 Aguirre, Sánchez y González Listan Negro 40 Días y 40 Noches - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, Tacoronte-Acentejo (29.1.2022)
    100% Listán Negro from Tacoronte, northeastern Tenerife. Fermented spontaneously in concrete, aged in French oak barrels. 13,5% alcohol.

    Youthful, somewhat translucent and very slightly hazy pomegranate color. The nose is very heady and ridiculously candied with cloying aromas of strawberry candies and raspberry marmalade, some perfumed floral notes, a little bit of lavender, light blueberry jam tones and a hint of blackberry juice. The nose feels just ridiculously over-the-top with its explosive aromas - and not particularly attractive at it. Contrasting the voluptuous aromas, the wine is quite crunchy and acid-driven on the palate with a light-to-medium body. However, the flavors follow the nose with quite concentrated flavors of raspberry marmalades and strawberry candies, some bubblegum tones, a little bit of blueberry juice, light gravelly mineral tones, a floral hint of lavender and a touch of acetic VA. At least the overall feel is pretty structured, thanks both to the high acidity and ripe and soft yet surprisingly ample tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is long, acid-driven and gently grippy with candied flavors of strawberry drops and raspberry marmalades, some floral notes of lavender, a little bit of blackberry juice and a sharp, acetic hint of VA.

    Ugh, nope. This was just way too sweet, heady and candied for my taste. Taste-wise the wine was bone-dry with no obvious sugary sweetness, but the cloying candy tones were just too much for me. Although the wine is supposed to be made in a very hands-off approach (and based on its subtly acetic undertones, it most likely is), its lush, candied aromas and flavors remind me a lot of very commercial wines where selected yeasts produce these kinds of candied aromas to support the thin, underwhelming fruit. However, based on the structure and flavor intensity, there was no problems with the fruit quality here. The style is just odd and, in my opinion, rather unpleasant and quite atypical for Listán Negro. I really don't know what was going on here, but hopefully the wine was just way too primary at the moment and opened too soon for its own good. Hopefully the wine will drop its over-the-top candied qualities with age, as in its current condition it really wasn't worth the 16€.
    (78 points)

  • 2017 Tierra Fundida Tinto 1/1 - Spain, Vino de Mesa (29.1.2022)
    AFAIK, this is the first vintage of Tierra Fundida. A blend of Negramoll, Castellana Negra and Verdello. Fermented spontaneously in concrete. Aged on the lees in old oak casks for 7 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12,5% alcohol.

    Pale, translucent and very slightly hazy ruby color with a youthful crimson hue. The nose feels dull, dusty and musty with TCA aromas of mildew and cardboard. The wine is dull and musty on the palate with moderately high acidity and light tannins.

    Corked.
    (NR/flawed)

  • 2018 4 Kilos Vi de La Tierra Mallorca Motor SCRS - Spain, Balearic Islands, Vi de La Tierra Mallorca (29.1.2022)
    100% Escursac, a Mallorcan variety recently saved from extinction, from the comune of Felanitx. As the variety is not approved in the appellation laws of Mallorca, it's not allowed to mention the name of the grape in the label - hence "SCRS". Lot 1, 11% alcohol.

    Pale, translucent and wonderfully luminous ruby red color. The nose feels restrained, yet seductively nuanced with sweetish aromas of wild strawberries and red cherries, some blueberries, light boysenberry tones and perfumed hints of wild flowers. The wine is fresh, clean and lively on the palate with ripe flavors of dark forest fruits, some wild strawberry, light cherry tones, a little bit of blueberry, light earthy tones and a hint of floral character. Bright, high acidity with gentle, easy tannins. The finish is dry, fresh and clean with gentle tannic grip and quite persistent flavors of blueberries, some wild strawberries, a little bit of brambly raspberry, light earthy tones and a hint of garrigue.

    A fresh, clean and poised little Mallorcan red that doesn't suffer from the typical pitfalls of modern Mallorcan reds - ie. too high alcohol, too much oak and too little acidity. On the contrary, this succeeds in all these three characteristics, being quite high in acidity, remarkably low in alcohol and not showing any obvious oak character. An eminently drinkable and very sophisticated effort, solid value at 15€.
    (90 points)

  • 2020 Ve d'Avior (Cati Ribot) Escursac Ve d'Avior - Spain, Balearic Islands (29.1.2022)
    100% organically farmed Escursac. Made in a non-interventionist fashion by Cati Ribot, fermented in ceramic vessels, bottled at Bodegas Galmés i Ribot. The label doesn't mention the vintage, only "Lot-Esc20". 11,5% alcohol.

    Hazy, even slightly murky, purplish-red color. Very sauvage and somewhat unclean nose with aromas of burnt hair, some ripe blueberry, light acetic notes of VA and a hint of gamey meat. The wine is wild, mellow and somewhat unclean on the palate with a medium body and rather off flavors of canned corn and corn taco shells, some metallic notes of brett, a little bit of something grainy, light juicy notes of ripe dark berries and a hint of animale. The medium acidity and modest tannins make the wine appear soft and lacking in energy. The finish is wild, dull and gently grippy with unclean flavors of earth, some ripe cranberry, a little bit of stale bread, light unclean animalistic tones and finally a sesame seed-like hint of mousiness that starts to emerge towards the end of the aftertaste.

    Ugh. A very natural and rather unclean red. I don't know if the wine is supposed to be like this or if it has turned out to be like this with air / temperature / something, but it was very disagreeable already upon opening - and turned only worse the longer it breathed. With its modest acidity, overwhelmingly funky notes of brett, mousiness and what else, it really doesn't paint a flattering picture of Escursac. Feels very overpriced for the quality at 18€.
    (55 points)

  • 2019 Sistema Vinari Vi de La Tierra Mallorca Fato - Spain, Balearic Islands, Vi de La Tierra Mallorca (29.1.2022)
    A naturalist blend of Callet (65%), Manto Negro (20%) Escursac (15%) by 4 Kilos's winemaker Eloi Cedó Perelló. Vinified at Bodegas Galmés. Fermented spontaneously, 25% of Callet fermented in whole bunches, Escursac entirely by carbonic maceration. Macerated with the skins for 15-30 days, depending on the variety. Aged for 6 months in old foudres. Bottled unfined, unfiltered and without any sulfites. Lot F19. 12,5% alcohol.

    Rather hazy and slightly murky violet color. Moderately fruity but also rather wild nose of ripe cranberries and darker forest fruits, some sweet strawberry tones, a little bit of blackberry, light stuffy notes of stale bread, a hint of funk and acetic character suggesting mousiness and a touch of fresh dark plum. The wine is dry, moderately wild and slightly earthy on the palate with flavors of ripe dark berries, some nutty notes of mousiness, a little bit of crunchy crowberry, light brambly notes of raspberry, a hint of humus and a touch of acetic character. The wine is moderately high in acidity with medium tannins. The medium-long finish is ripe and juicy with rather unclean flavors of mousy THP, some earthy tones, a little bit of brambly black raspberry and a hint of tart cranberry.

    Ugh, nope. Although not intensively mousy, the wine was still mousy enough that this dreaded, nutty-grainy flavor emerged in the mouth already before the aftertaste, even though this characteristic should normally become evident only after the wine has left your mouth. Well, not in this case. The overall style is overtly natty and while the wine is enjoyably dry and crunchy, the funky, murky, unclean flavors strip all the enjoyment from this wine. I'm not impressed. Feels expensive for the quality at 20€.
    (62 points)
2 Likes

The extras:

  • 1996 Château Moulin de la Rose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (29.1.2022)
    13% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Deep, evolved and quite opaque blackish-red color with a mature rusty hue. Wonderfully classic Bordeaux nose of a proper claret: fresh blackcurrants, some tobacco wrapper, a little bit of evolved smoky character, light herbaceous notes of red bell pepper and leafy nuances, a hint of cigar lounge and a sweeter touch of wizened dark fruit. Simply beautiful. The wine is dry, firm and quite crunchy on the palate with a medium body and somewhat evolved flavors of fresh redcurrants, tobacco, some woody notes of pencil shavings, a little bit of ferrous blood, a hint of gamey meat and a touch of wizened blackcurrant. Good sense of structure, thanks to the high acidity and moderately grippy medium-plus tannins. The finish is long, dry and moderately grippy with savory, acid-driven flavors of crunchy redcurrants and wizened blackcurrants, some sanguine notes of iron, a little bit of tobacco, light evolved nuances of meaty umami and a hint of forest floor.

    Even though this wine was from the same auction lot as the bottle we tasted a few months ago (which was noticeably volatile with aromas of nail polish and acetic acid), this wine was nothing like the one we had before. Unlike the previous wine, this was a textbook claret with great intensity of dry, savory and slightly herbaceous flavors with good emphasis on high acidity and firm tannic structure. Even though the wine is starting to show some age, it still feels like it is on an upward trajectory and will stay that way for at least a handful of years more. Very enjoyable at the moment and will keep on drinking wonderfully for many more years. A bargain at 24€.
    (93 points)

  • 2010 Riecine Riecine di Riecine Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT (29.1.2022)
    The first vintage ever of Riecine di Riecine. 100% Sangiovese made with the organically farmed fruit sourced from the oldest vines on the estate vineyards in Gaiole in Chianti. Fermented and macerated for 25-30 days in Nomblot concrete eggs, aged for 2-3 years in Nomblot concrete eggs and old (7-10 yo) tonneaux. Bottled in winter three years after the vintage. Annual production 2500 bottles. 14% alcohol.

    Luminous, very slightly evolved ruby red color with a pale rim. Remarkably open and fragrant nose with youthful, vibrant aromas of cherries and licorice root, some blueberry tones, light sweet notes of raspberry marmalade, a little bit of tobacco, an almost candied hint of sweet red-toned primary fruit and a touch of gravelly earth. The wine is ripe, juicy and quite sinewy on the palate with a medium body and intense flavors of bright, brambly red fruits, some tobacco, a little bit of gravelly minerality, light blackberry tones, a hint of bilberry and a touch of smoke. The high acidity typical of Sangiovese lends great intensity and sense of structure to the wine, while the firm medium tannins frame the fruit nicely. The finish is long, somewhat grippy and ripe yet savory with dry flavors of tobacco, cherries, some gravelly mineral tones, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, a hint of salty liquorice and a touch of brambly raspberry.

    A wonderfully vibrant and focused Chianti / Toscana red that manages to combine noticeable ripeness and concentration with remarkable freshness and sense of finesse. What's most striking here is the purity of fruit and remarkably youthful overall character of the wine - even though the wine is already on its second decade, it feels like a recent release, only a few years away from its vintage, still clinging on to its almost candied primary fruit notes. The fruit intensity is remarkable and very much true to the classic Chianti Classico style (most likely this wine would be labeled as Chianti Classico Riserva if it would see 2 years of oak instead of concrete. However, that lack of wood character is what makes this wine so distinctive in its purity. Based on the very youthful nature of the wine, this will keep on evolving and improving for many years more. Highly recommended.
    (93 points)

  • 2009 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella (29.1.2022)
    16% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Dense, extracted and fully opaque deep dark red color with an evolved maroon hue. Very rich, sweet and moderately evolved nose with concentrated aromas of raisins and dried figs, some wizened black cherries, a little bit of old leather, light oaky nuances, a hint of jammy dark berries and a touch of dried dates. Despite showing some age, the overall feel is more raisiny-sweet due to the combination of hot vintage and appassimento process rather due to the age. The wine is dense, chewy and extracted on the palate with a very full body and bold flavors of raisins, dried figs and prunes, some oaky cocoa tones, a little bit of marmaladey sweetness, light notes of wizened red cherries and a hint of extracted woody bitterness. The high alcohol lends some very obvious heat to the palate while the ample, assertive tannins bring some welcome mouth-drying firmness to the palate. The acidity seems to be a bit on the soft side. The finish is rich, off-dry and quite concentrated with pronounced tannic grip and intense flavors of dried dates, some pruney dark fruit, a little bit of mocha oak, light sweet figgy tones and a hint of tobacco. The high alcohol makes the wine end on a somewhat hot note.

    An impressively big, concentrated and tannic Amarone, but also one that feels a bit clumsy and awkward compared to Tedeschi's Monte Olmi Amarone. While Monte Olmi is often surprisingly harmonious, dry and balanced effort for an Amarone, this entry-level take on the same style feels a bit cumbersome with more pronounced sweetness and surprisingly heavy-handed oak influence that accentuates the already rather sweet dried-fruit nuances with the chocolatey undertones. The assertive tannins are surprisingly ample for the style, but not at all out of place when it comes to the balance - the wine is a bit too low in acidity for such a concentrated, big-bodied wine, so at least the tannins manage to take care some of that structure which otherwise would've been left wanting. Nevertheless, I found the wine quite enjoyable for such a big wine, but ultimately nothing too remarkable. It's just too heavy, sweet and oaky for my preference; I hope the wine loses some of that weight (and oak) as it ages. Priced more or less according to its quality at approx. 40€.
    (87 points)

  • 2001 François Villard St. Joseph Reflet - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph (29.1.2022)
    Fermented and macerated for 10 days in stainless steel and old oak tanks. Aged for 18 months in oak barrels, of which a small portion were new. 12,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Somewhat translucent and moderately evolved black cherry color with a pale rim. Somewhat and meaty nose with quite intense aromas of smoke and roasted game, some wizened dark fruits, a little bit of fresh blackberry, light brambly red-fruited notes, a hint of savory old wood and a touch of sweetness brought by age. The wine is dry, dense and moderately chewy on the palate with a medium body and somewhat evolved flavors of wizened blackberries and earth, some game, a little bit of crunchy crowberry, light notes of dark brambles, a hint of leather and a touch of savory spices. Great sense of structure with the rather high acidity and moderately grippy medium-plus tannins. The finish is long, moderately grippy with persistent with rather dry flavors of earth, some peppery spice, a little bit of game, light ferrous notes of blood, sweet hints of wizened blackberries and dark fruits and a touch of savory wood.

    A beautiful, harmonious and surprisingly muscular Saint Joseph with good sense of structure and depth of flavor. The fruit department feels still relatively youthful for the 20 years of age, but there's a lot of developed, tertiary complexity that has added so much finesse and nuance to the aromas and taste. Although the wine obviously isn't young anymore, it really doesn't feel that old yet and I have a hunch this wine will not only keep but also could improve for a good number of years more. A terrific Northern Rhône Syrah and a very complete wine. A steal at mere 24€.
    (94 points)

  • 2016 Weingut Gottardi Südtiroler Blauburgunder - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol (29.1.2022)
    14% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Translucent blood-red color. Fragrant, meaty and somewhat sweetish nose with aromas of wild strawberries, some sunny dark fruit, light beefy tones, a little bit of savory wood spice, a hint of red cherry and a touch of raspberry marmalade. The wine is ripe and rich yet only light-to-medium-bodied on the palate with sunny flavors of cherries and ripe redcurrants, some sweet dark forest fruits and a little bit of savory meatiness. The medium-to-moderately high acidity feels a bit soft and the light, supple tannins don't bring much firmness to the wine either. The finish is ripe, juicy and slightly warm with subtly sweet-toned flavors of redcurrants, some gamey meat, light savory notes of wood spice, a little bit of wild strawberry, a savory hint of meaty umami and a touch of tart red plum.

    A ripe and sunny Pinot Noir that shows nice vibrancy of fruit, but ultimately comes across as a bit too soft and sweetly-fruited for my preference. This is a nice everyday wine, but I prefer my Pinots with drier fruit flavors and more freshness and acidity. The wine might improve over a few years, but I'm not really expecting big things from it.
    (85 points)

  • 2018 François Dumas Le Gamay - France, Vin de France (29.1.2022)
    100% Gamay from two organically farmed parcels in Northern Rhône. Fermented spontaneously. Aged in oak casks. Vinified without SO2. 13,5% alcohol.

    Almost fully opaque black cherry color with a youthful garnet hue. Very open, expressive and slightly lifted nose with somewhat wild aromas of boysenberries, some zesty notes of Campari, a little bit of volatile lift, light blackberry-driven notes of crushed forest fruits, a sappy hint of aromatic herbs, a touch of bubblegum-y primary fruit and a whiff of animale. The nose feels like a combination of naturalist funk and carbonic maceration, but not in a bad way. The wine is dry, crunchy and medium-bodied on the palate with flavors of fresh dark plums, some brambly forest fruits, a little bit of ripe boysenberry, light lifted notes of VA, a hint of bretty funk and a bubblegum-y touch of carbonic fruit character. The structure relies mostly on the fresh acidity, not on the gentle, ripe and relatively light tannins. The finish is dry, wild and crunchy with slightly lifted flavors of ripe forest fruits, some brambly blackberry tones, a little bit of bretty funk, light acetic notes of VA, a hint of sappy herbal character and a touch of animale. The overall feel was "natty" enough for me to fear for mousiness to emerge in the aftertaste, but it never didn't - not even on the next day. The tannins make the wine end on a somewhat grippy note.

    In 2018 most Beaujolais Gamays have been just way too big, ripe and dark-toned for my taste, which is why I was a bit wary of opening this wine. Well, it turned out that my fears were unfounded! This wine is probably fresher and more poised than any 2018 Gamay from Beaujolais I've tasted! The wine is wonderfully fresh and acid-driven in character with a fruit department that leans on red berries and dark forest fruits, not on sweeter dark fruits. And even if it obvious that the wine is from the naturalist end of the spectrum with a slightly lifted overall character, it never becomes a caricature, nor does it turn mousy (unlike so many other similarly wild wines) or excessively funky at any point. Even if the wine could've been a bit less volatile for my taste, it still is wonderfully fresh, pure-fruited and acid-driven in character. A good purchase at 14€.
    (88 points)

  • 2001 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Cuvée Crescendo Clos de l'Echo - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon (29.1.2022)
    The flagship wine of Couly-Dutheil. Made from the fruit sourced from a special parcel located in the Couly-Dutheil monopole Clos de l'Echo, a 17-hectare vineyard. The vines in this parcel are pruned down to produce a yield half to that of the rest of the Clos de l'Echo, resulting in a tremendously concentrated and massive Chinon. The wine is fermented with natural yeasts and macerated with the skins over a period of 30 days, after which the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in new oak barrels. 12,5% alcohol. Tasted blind.

    Deep, quite extracted and only slightly translucent black cherry red color. Somewhat evolved, slightly smoky and enjoyably rustic nose with aromas of wizened blackcurrants, some horse's behind, a little bit of savory wood spice, light juicy notes of fresh red fruits, herbaceous hints of cooked bell pepper and mulchy grass, an oaky touch of cocoa nibs and a smoky whiff of toasted wood. The wine is dry, firm and quite dense on the palate with a medium body and savory flavors of crunchy redcurrants, some sweeter notes of wizened dark berries, a little bit of tobacco, light herbaceous notes of bell pepper, a hint of leathery funk and a touch of sweet oak spice. The wine shows quite a bit of ripeness, yet without any sense of weight or obvious sweetness of fruit. The overall feel is firm, structured and very balanced, thanks to the high acidity and ample yet very ripe tannins that coat your mouth, yet don't feel any bit tough or aggressive. The dry finish is very long, savory and rather grippy with intense flavors of sour cherries and ripe blackcurrants, some tart cranberry tones, light funky notes of leather and merde, a little bit of forest floor, a hint of tobacco and a subtle touch of sweet oak spice.

    A superb, very structured and harmonious vintage of Crescendo that shows the hallmark ripeness and concentration of the cuvée without any of the excessive weight or high alcohol it can show in warmer vintages. I was wondering whether this was a Loire Cab Franc or Bordeaux - the rather noticeable herbaceous component made me think of Loire, but the overall sense of ripeness and faint oaky undertones reminded me a lot more of 1990's Left-Bank Bordeaux rather than Loire, so I went for Bordeaux instead. Well, when I was told that Bordeaux this ain't, my second guess of 20-yo Chinon was spot-on. All in all, this is an excellent, ripe and quite extracted yet not one bit overdone Chinon. I can imagine this might've been a bit clumsy in its youth, but now the wine is approaching a very harmonious phase of full maturity where some of the most obvious fruit notes have evolved into tertiary complexity and most of the oak has integrated with the fruit. This is really a Bordeaux-drinker's Chinon, combining effortlessly the best of the two worlds. Thanks to its intensity, ample tannins and sense of balance, I can expect this wine to continue its evolution for many more years, but it is starting to drink fantastically right now. Drink or keep.
    (95 points)

  • 1995 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (29.1.2022)
    13% alcohol. Tasted blind

    Moderately evolved brick-red color with a tertiary rusty hue. Very classic Bordeaux nose from the rather evolved end of the spectrum; aromas of tobacco, some oxidative notes of beef jerky and soy sauce, a little bit of smoke, light sweet notes of dried blackcurrants, a woody hint of pencil shavings and a touch of beef jerky. The overall impression is quite tertiary, but still recognizably very Bordelais in character. The wine is medium-bodied, quite intense and quite concentrated by the age with evolved, tertiary flavors of beef jerky, wizened dark berries, some gamey tones, a little bit of earth, light sweet notes of prunes and dried red fruits, a hint of tobacco and a touch of soy sauce. The overall feel is quite firm and structure-driven, thanks to the high acidity and still rather ample and grippy tannins. The lengthy finish is dry, tannic and slightly bitter with powerful and a bit tired flavors of beef jerky, some tobacco, a little bit of earth, light savory notes of old leather, a hint of wizened blackcurrants and a touch of soy sauce.

    A still very firm, structured and moderately grippy Bordeaux that is structurally still quite tightly-knit, but flavor-wise already a bit tired and perhaps already sliding slightly downhill. This feels like the polar opposite of 1996 Ducru-Beaucaillou, which was somewhat more youthful compared to this 1995, but showing very resolved and soft structure. This 1995, on the other hand, retained much more structure, but at the same time coming across as noticeably more evolved in character. While neither of these vintages show that much potential for any further cellaring, I'd rather drink 1995 now and keep 1996, if only one vintage would be needed now. This is still very Bordelais in all possible ways and very much recognizable for one when tasting the wine blind, but I suspect it won't be in such shape for much longer - it's high time to drink up. Seeing how tertiary the wine is, I'd say it's rather expensive at 150€.
    (89 points)

  • 2000 Château La Chapelle-Lescours - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (29.1.2022)
    A blend of predominantly Merlot with a little bit of Cabernet Franc in the blend. Aged for 18-24 months in oak barrels (1/3 to 1/2 new). 12,5% alcohol.

    Vibrant and slightly dilute blood-red color with a subtly evolved maroon hue. Quite dark-toned and rather classically styled nose with layered savory aromas of licorice, autumnal notes of rainy forest, some blackcurrant tones, a little bit of mushroomy funk, light woody notes of pencil shavings, a hint of fresh dark plum and a sweeter touch of developed dried-fruit character. The wine is surprisingly stern, muscular and extracted on the palate with a full body and dry flavors of ripe redcurrants and fresh blackcurrants, some earthy notes, a little bit of tobacco, light autumnal notes of sous-bois, a hint of licorice root and a touch of tart red plum. Despite its quite full body and chewy nature, the overall feel is quite fresh and lively, thanks to the high acidity and quite assertive tannins that lend quite a bit of grip and even a little bit of bitterness to the palate. The finish is long, grippy and quite acid-driven with dry flavors of forest floor, some meaty notes of game, a little bit of savory wood, light mushroomy nuances of truffle, crunchy notes of red plums and fresh chokeberries and a sweeter touch of wizened blackcurrants.

    A surprisingly dry, stern and structure-driven Saint-Émilion that is not as supple and fruity as many 2000 left-bankers have been, but instead emphasizes freshness, quite tightly-knit structure and bright fruit that is more about freshness and crunchy qualities than about richness or juicy character. The wine is starting to show some age in its savory, earthy nuances and sweeter dried-fruit notes, but there still seems to be some ground to cover before this wine is at its peak - both aromatically and structure-wise. As most 2000 Bordeaux reds, this really feels like it is built for the long haul. I'd rather wait some more than drink now, even if the wine is pretty darn impressive and enjoyable already now - there's just quite a bit of potential for further evolution here. At approx. 30€ this has been a steal.
    (93 points)

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