Taste Test: #1 revisited & updated

a sample gaggle of the wine-club-standard-12 mixThis is the first of a series of reports into the latest wines tasted and (more importantly) tested. LOOK OUT FOR EMBEDDED June and September 2014 UPDATES, including news about Decanter Magazine’s annual awards winners… hint: there are some here too.

At the time of writing the transition out of the winter months had seen a lot of new experiences: Happily most of them were ‘hits’, with just the odd ‘miss’ to report.

The Year of the Horse has found the Wine Man exploring some new ground as well as revisiting old favourites. Whilst the focus has inevitably been on reds this last winter, there had also been a number of forays into whites, Sparkling and fortified wines.

Some of the wines tasted/tested were among our top sellers at the time, and most frequent subjects for analysis.Wine blending Others had long been pleading to be tried, but until now, had not made it onto the tasting calendar.

Finally, we made some lovely discoveries through the ‘art’ of blending at home; always fun and usually with positive results. Brief comments about that are embedded and in some cases continued further on their individual web pages.

  • No entries were blind tested. Read my views on that pseudo-science here. All wines were paid for, including all taxes.
  • No other agent was involved in our choices or tastings or opinions, nor have they been sought.
  • We don’t care what our  suppliers want us to write.
  • Some other wines mentioned in these reports, we don’t even sell! But we’d like to mention them anyway for general interest, plus for current and future reference.
  • We are always looking to add value to what we do by building a better picture.

Tasting with friends movieThe points given at the end of each entry are based on usual tasting elements, such as appearance, aroma, taste, plus the cost (and some pleasure criteria: ‘Wow versus Price’). We also take into consideration security of supply, accuracy to type, presentation, versatility and maturity.

Embedded links take you to those wines with their own pages for further detailed descriptions/opinions.

Those without links are either

  • too new (*),
  • too niche (#), or
  • we haven’t got around to it (^) or
  • we didn’t think were worthy (Φ) or
  • are not available from us (¡).

Whites: a hit and a miss

australian-falg(Φ) Copperstone Semillon/Chardonnay 2011 Australia ¥75Coppestone Semillon Chardonnay thumb

High hopes were simply dashed here. Underwhelming and unexciting. Not my cup of tea at all (yet I do love a Semillon/Chardonnay blend) but just so… so disappointing after the well appointed Shiraz from the same producers (see below). In fact, this wine is as lacking in basic acceptability to me at this price point as the Copperstone Shiraz is abundant in it. It’s a pity that we don’t, but out there in the world, as with all things in life, there will be someone who would simply love it.

All we have to do is find that person who might take it off us at a knock down price. We’ll just put this one down to bad luck on our purchasing side.

Sept. 2014: We still have around 12 bottles left…

Someone make me an offer and I’ll let you take the whole lot off me below cost price. I expect someone will tell me its ‘right up their street’! 11.5pts

South Africa flagn thumbKleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc (Barrel Fermented) 2010 South Kleine Zalze VINEYARD SELECTION Chenin Blanc_Barrel Fermented 07Africa ¥155

This award winning, barrel fermented personal favourite joined roast chicken and steamed veggies at home last evening and went on to wow me through an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Pineapples out in force in a tropical melange of power and grace. Sublime!

Still lovely, still gaining accolades and yet a murky cloud about whether it will de discontinue has become a dark reality. My main problem is that I am running out of it. Not Star Trek: I can always watch that from the beginning. The rumours are now confirmed: it’s being delisted. On first hearing that news, I bought a case, so at least I will be cushioned for a while.

Remember, in 2013 it won a Gold at The Concourse de Bruxelles awards, a Silver Medal at the International Wine a Challenge and a Bronze at Decanter Magazine Awards, then it was Commended at Decanter’s awards in 2014). Long will it live in my memory. 17.5 pts

Bronze DecanterSeptember 2014 Update: If only I could get to the nub of how much I love this wine. Maybe I can: Recently an annual customer asked for 6 bottles. We had only 5 left of the dwindling bottles remaining in Shanghai and for a second there I though about saying we only had 2-3 bottles left in stock. Know what I mean? Rarity value, international accolades 2 years in a row and my desire to secure them all for myself, ups the rating to 18pts.

Sparkling: always a hit

Italy-national-flagZonin Sparkling (Dry Spumante) Rosé NV Italy  ¥135rose spumante

Always consistent. Always pleases. Always creates smiles. This is our g0-to Sparkler for @home ‘events’; we open this whenever there’s a celebration to have. Sometimes just because it’s the weekend, other times, when we do well in life, someone has a milestone. Don’t get the wrong idea about ‘spumante’ it’s a place; NOT a sweet wine.

Apples and dry acidity prevail with persistent bubbles and a gorgeously enticing aroma a colour. A perfect package for us. Can be found in 4 different Mixed Cases on this site.

With this wine, I seriously believe I get more satisfaction knowing it’s 20% of the cost of my favourite Champagne and I love the way Rose Spumante tastes around half as much. No contest. Too often Champagne causes its’ drinkers to try sooooo haaaaaaarrrrddd to enjoy it due to the small fortune it costs. That’s not a healthy way to consume a drink. Still, 16.5pts

June 2014 update: Hint; it’s in the fridge again for Friday night Bubbles, as Mrs. Wine Man like to call it.

Reds: what variety

spain-flagCastillo De Manza Tempranillo 2012 Spain ¥60 castillo de manza

So flexible and with so many applications; whether it be for cooking, for inexpensive self-blending with other wines or even for Mulled wine in winter, at 65, you can’t go wrong, even if it goes off before you manage to finish the bottle. Adds fruit and a sense of ‘Frenchness to any glass. Not a bad trick for a Spanish red: it remains an enigma, though.

I use it personally mainly as a blending wine with other tempranillos to deepen their herbaceous and fruit profiles and in many sauces. A member of several mixed cases .14 pts

September update: Price reduced to 60.

australian-falg(^) Copperstone Shiraz 2012 Australia ¥75 Coppestone Shiraz thumb

Hits the correct markers in ‘doing nothing wrong’, similar, as some say is a doctors first duty (do no harm), so it is with a wine… In no way ‘stratospheric’ but certainly ‘capable’. Soft but lively. Fruity enough to drink on its own. Firm enough to compliment tomato dishes and tapas nicely.

Unworthy of its own page still? We just never got around to it, and now we can hardly keep up with everything else, developing new products on the website is always, sadly, the last thing we get around to. However, a very good, pleasant and popular table wine, nonetheless. 15.5 pts

Chile flag thumbHemisferio Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Chile ¥99hemisferio Cabrenet S thumb

Now; this wine is being featured in the Wines and Spirits Education Trust course (WSET) which already says enough about it’s worth. But it deserves a revisit, to figure out exactly ‘why?’.

What was rediscovered after an absence of a year or so was a truly happy experience: We found a powerhouse of herbals and fresh acidity over-pinning soft, assertive fruit and gentle tannins with a generous silkiness.

There is really everything going for a wine like this: cabernet familiarity that the public understands, soft warm fruit with refreshing zip, an easy to pronounce name, a keen price point. Proceeds even go to support for endangered wilderness projects. Indeed this wine ticks so many boxes it is almost unique.

Thaose are some of the resons why the WSET people include it in their study of Cabernets. Many, many reasons to look here for budget minded cabernet aficionados too. Hemisferio’s Carmenere won a BRONZE medal at the Decanter 2013 awards. won’t be long before this gets that recognition too.  15.5 pts

 france(Φ) Michel Chapoutier Cotes Du Rhone AOC 2011 France ¥125mchapoutier-cotes-du-rhone-48x150

Chapoutier is one of the legendary greats of France, never mind the Rhone Valley. He moved mountains to turn around an ailing house. he set the tone. He innovated. He watched, listened and learneed and then improved on the model forging ahed in his style. Others followed.

A very pleasant accidental tasting here. We were in the process of removing this wine from our site as it wasn’t really selling that well, hence the ‘not worthy of its own page’ assertion. It was selling OK through shops and restaurants (it’s the target market). As it was the last bottle we had, and had been returned unsold from a shop, we wanted to make sure the shop conditions had not hampered the wine.

What we found was lots of peppery spice and southern Rhone earthiness, more than had been hoped. If anything time in bottle had really helped this wine develop. lovely surprise. 16 ptsM. Chapoutier Belleruche x230

Whilst we have removed it’s web entry and replaced it with the upmarket Chapoutier C-D-R Belleruche AOC (17pts; which is even better and now a reduced ¥160 and a member of our Vive La France Mixed Case) we will keep it on our longlist and revisit from time to time, due to it’s good value.

Belleruche has a little more depth of flavour and body. Here’s what Jameson Fink said about the Belleruche by the way: “Any good-quality, Grenache-based Cotes-du-Rhone floats my boat. For a price-to-pleasure ratio, still hard to beatMy favorite Grenache.” Jameson Fink

Italy-national-flagZonin Classici Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2011 Italy ¥105

Always a pleasure to return zonin monteulciano d'abruzzohere which seems to be about every 4 months. Any season is fine as the lower tannins ease the drinker into just about any circumstance. The wine made for a very smart pairing with home made Tagliatelle with meat and tomato sauce last week, and this week with Lamb Shanks. I don’t know a wine that underperforms as much as this one in sales that so consistently outperforms at mealtimes.

Some regions are for better or for worse, less well known thatn others and can (as yet) not ask the same prices for their products, regardless of how very good they are. It’s plain old stereotyping at work. This region, Abruzzo, like many in Southern Europe produces year after year of very good wines that just don’t get the hype that expensive wine areas get and that’s why we love them. These places have all the bargains and punch well above their price points with some loively expressions and beating heart eager to please before complacency takes a hold.

Bright acidity, warm Mediterranean tones and plummy/cherry flavours. Just saying the name is evocative. Easy going to a fault, and well worth the lower than expected price tag.

Find it in our Italian Value Pack & Journey through Italy mixed cases. 17 pts

Second ‘test’ (April 6th) the bottle was a 2010 and the whole bottle went in an evening. Nuff said.

spain-flagTorres Ibericos Rioja crianza DOC 2010 Spain ¥165torres, iberico_crianza, a_sense, negre, 75cl, suro

The Ibericos has been a stalwart from the moment we began at LWwines; a perennial favourite ‘go to’ wine from tier 2. However, the 2010 is missing a little bottle age. Try to get hold of the 2008 or 2009, if you can, or simply hold onto the 2010’s for another 6-9 months (next winter?). Then they’ll round out nicely. What you’ll get is a rich warm fruit over a lovely leather and tobacco oak aged core. Plenty of food friendly acid. soft smooth tannins. Umptuous.

Silver DecanterSales are so constant with this wine that we are flying through the vintages, a little too quickly for my comfort. A victim of it’s own success?

September Update: Yippee! Now this is a Silver MEDAL Winner 2014 at Decanter. Find it also in our Spanish Sensations Mixed case as well as the Bilbainas Rioja crianza (¥155, 17 pts) which makes for a very good alternative while you wait and which also won a Silver Award at the same event… 16.5 pts

spain-flagTorres Coronas DOC (Tempranillo/Cabernet) 2008 Spain ¥150

Simply love this lighter oaked, Torres Tres tinto Garnacha Carinenayet well-aged, 2008 Tempranillo, though they do add just a dab of Cabernet Sauvignon for depth and complexity. Great with and after food, as the last traces of the meal fade away into a movie.

It can be even more attractive, when blended 50:50 with Torres Tres (Garnacha, Carinena)^. It became a mouth-wateringly complex and engaging wine. This is why we blend! Once again another great value wine from the increasingly well known ‘secret’ that Spain currently offers. 16 pts

Italy-national-flagZonin Ripasso  (della Valpolicella) Superiore DOC 2011 Italy ¥175

First tried it in an Italian restaurant back in 2010. Sublime then even Zonin Ripassoat restaurant prices and a bargain at these.What an enigmatic wine. 2011 was tested this time and so much better it was too compared to the bottles this time last year. Beautiful presence, silky and fresh. Great with all Italian food. A sensuous wine.

By day 3 it was just edging towards the almond bitterness which many find most attractive, yet I for one, don’t. This taster thought that the typical bitterness in a previous 2013 test had sadly, overpowered the fruit. No repeat this year, though: Perfect harmony, this year though. 17 pts

September Update side note: this wine’s big brother is yet another wine to win a significant award this year: A Bronze Medal for Zonin’s Amarone 

…and with that we’ll leave you for now until next time, when we’ll feature another 10 or 11 wines.


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