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Taste Test Report: #2 c/w updates

Taste Test Report: #2 c/w updates

 This time; some pleasant surprises and 2 disappointingly faulty wines. Zut alors!An interesting theme concerning poor label design emerged, so the wine simply must have been better than that (?).


  • 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.

The points given at the end of each entry are based on usual tasting criteria (appearance, aroma, taste, cost). We also take into consideration security of supply, accuracy to type, presentation, versatility, maturity and our ‘Wow versus Price’ view.

Argentina Flag thumb 60x30Callia Signos Chardonnay 2012 Argentina ¥78

Not 100% sure yet signos chard chenin blancwhat has happened here, but have to say that after testing 3 bottles of this vintage, there is a problem. This faulty 2012 wine needs to be avoided. Some in-bottle process is at fault, related to an airborne contaminant causing oxidisation or similar and leading to a fairly unpalatable result, without any severe adverse effects (I hasten to add) except an unusually strong unwanted flavour. Maybe the wine was left out in the harsh sun on a dockside too long…(?)

We’ll never know that, but we have replaced all and any that have asked: unlike the local supermarkets, who refuse refunds on faulty wine! The recently identified problem was with the 2012 vintage. 9.5pts.

Everything from Callia has been the epitome of well made, good value wine with simple presentation; keeping costs down. (We now see that the 2013 vintage is fine. Phew! that scores 15pts)

Mannenberg Chenin Blanc thumbMannenberg Chenin Blanc 2012 South Africa ¥95South Africa flagn thumb

A yum yum port of call in those sensible restaurants around Shanghai which have the comprehension to stock it and it’s equally satisfying at home.

In short, it’s a dependable, refreshing wine with in-built food friendliness. Chenin can do that quite easily. South African Chenin is making waves around the testing circuit worldwide, though many people are unaware of this and have no idea what Chenin is like.

In France, it reaches its greatest heights as a sweet wine. Not so in South Africa, where instead it has plenty of zingy acidity and warm tropical fruit note , yet is fermented to off dry with a dash or residual sweetness. 16pts

Sparkling: Value reigns, quality does NOT suffer…

DeBortoli Family Selection Sparkling Brut NVaustralian-falg Australia ¥90 (nee Sacred Hill in a DB Sacred Hill Sparkling2different package, which is where the link points).

For years, I have lamented how poor the Family Selection labels design was. (The Sacred Hill bottling on the left, being not much better either). This is a shame, as the wine experience inside that bottle often loses out to more attractive styling; the bottle doesn’t often get picked off shelves because the label design was a bit, err, boring.

A recent repackage is a stroke of genius, for which we are yet to upload a picture. Now that the package is complete: Sturdy weighty bottle, classy styling on the label AND the same dependable fizz inside, at between a fifth and a tenth of the price of French Champagne, this constitutes a resounding hit. 16.5pts

Reds: mixed Bag; some disappointments some euphoria…

france(*) Armand Dartois Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC 2012 France ¥85

A nice find, this, cotes du ventouxif only as a charming foil to Chapoutier’s ever present (and predictable?) brilliance. We absolutely Loved it with a curry, of all things. To be accurate, it was consumed before, during and after the curry but nonetheless there were no palate-jarring moments as Grenache fruit spice met and interplayed with the heat and savoury spice. In fact, it all went down rather well. Then I set about mixing it with a Cabernet Sauvignon which was a waste of both wines! Some blends you win; Some you lose. At least it was a pretty low cost lesson; the one’s I like to learn from…

Sorry we have no pic yet. Here’s Armand’s Ventoux (a best-seller). The wine in question is however a Cotes Du Rhone Villages, which elevates it somewhat. 16.5pts

South Africa flagn thumb(Φ) Mannenberg Shiraz 2011 South Africa ¥95

Well, well, well. This bottle was opened on a night when I felt really adventurous. Mannenberg Shiraz thumbVery, very surprisingly good and for little money. The stable-mates both do a great job for little money also, and turn up in restaurants at very reasonable prices too (especially the Chenin Blanc), but due to it’s south African origin, few are aware or interested. Pity.

For me South African red wines can be summed up as ‘Australian with a Earthy French centre’. That’s a broad sweeping statement, true, but that’s my take. The whites are splendidly New World, with Chenin outshining many other (all other?) parts of the world. We found this as the house wine last night (April 2014) in one of our local restaurants (La Mesa in Gao Jing Lu, although we don’t supply it) and it’s great value in such places, too, much like the Chenin Blanc featured earlier from the same producer). What I found in this wine was a new go-to sub ¥100 wine, and worth every bit it’s 16.5pts

June 2014 update: It is always an interesting note worth mentioning when a Wine Man deliberately returns to a wine shortly after testing it formally. Just did that here again with a 2010 bottle. Same response, yet with a little more bottle develop0ment really adding up to produce awesomely well integrated wood to give it a nice elegant polish. 17pts.

australian-falgDe Bortoli Family Selection Shiraz Cabernet 2012 Australia

WOW. DB Family Shiraz_CabernetDe Bortoli’s restaurant-packaged label design version (left) of the entry level reds has always left a little to be desired, with it’s uninspiring labels, but with the repackaging in recent months and this vintage 2012 they have a winner on all fronts.

The beautifully balanced wine looks and tastes the part now, more than ever; way, way ahead in value for money terms than many in the genre. It has, of course, won many awards over the last few years, mainly in it’s retail packaging (Sacred Hill).

The last vintage was awarded a SILVER medal at the AWC event in Austria. We imagine it will do so again (Gold?) when the awards seasons come around. With the extra bottle weight and subtly up market redesign of the label this wine now offers the complete package. 17.5pts

September Update: Aha! A commendation at the Decanter 2014 Awards. NB: it’s sibling Family Selection Cabernet-Merlot won a Bronze in 2013 & was Commended this year.

Chile flag thumbSan Medin Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Chile ¥100

Its a very long time since this wine fell into my glass too, and what a delightful surpriseSan Medin CS thumb it was just a couple of weeks back, due to a serendipitous stop for a lovely early evening drink on the way home from ‘work’ at a bar we once supplied it to, so it’s one of the originals we were bandying around a couple or 3 years back and it really impressed with its competent, confident warmth.

Nice when a bar can ‘keep a wine well’ (as per instructions): laid down, not too hot, nor too cold. Didn’t matter so much with the screw-top on here but all the same they had kept the wine well. So much so, that we had to open another tonight just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

The label design has always been a little underwhelming as far as I am concerned and sadly, it does affect this wines ongoing sales, but that should not detract from its pleasurable characteristics in the glass…and it doesn’t (for those who know about it). 16.5pts

June 2014 update: That wine bar I mentioned is once again requesting the wine from us. Now it’s a 2012 vintage. Still a lovely drop but that bottle age made the 2009 all the more special.

Uruguay Flag thumb 60x40(Φ) Pisano TSV thumbPisano RÍO de los PÁJAROS Reserve TSV 2009 Uruguay ¥185

Boom! Fantastic. Excellent first Uruguayan wine taste and the most dynamic new wine tried this year. Hits all the marks and then some for this price. Silky. Complex. Warm. Reminiscent of what a Southern Rhone blend might be from South American soils and South American freshness.

In case you wondered: T= Tannat, S= Syrah/Shiraz and V= Viognier ( a Rhone Valley / South West France ménage a trois. What have we been missing out on all these years? In fact, so popular we returned to it within a fortnight and this time it was to partner various food styles over 3 days; Indian Curry, Cheeses and meats and roast beef. It was absolute perfection on day 2 with the meats & cheeses. 17.5pts

franceJoseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Pinot Noir AOC 2010 France ¥195

Old Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2010World style Pinot with that mineral, earthy ‘French’ palate and medium weight body, which I simply refer to as ‘Frenchness’, and many New world Pinots don’t have in their structure at these prices, if at all really. That up-market battlefield is fought on greater weight and depth of flavours and each country’s best offerings rarely have a similar disposition to flavour profiles:- just more flavours.

First thoughts here were that this wine is a little unexciting; perhaps a little young, still. Certainly, there were more herbals and mineral present than in say a light bodied NZ version. That was later compounded by 2 or 3 days after opening (but storing re-sealed under vacuum) when the wine had shown development. So, another 6 months in bottle or a few hours allowing the wine to breathe are in order. It also paired much better with and array of cold meats and cheeses than previously, when it had been served in the aftermath of an Indian Curry. 15.5pts

Italy-national-flagSella & Mosca Tanca Farra DOC 2007 Italy ¥215

Sadly, this bottle was off (‘Cooked‘ in the vernacular). Tanca FaraA shame. Damned shame. We had this bottle returned to us after the French owner, who had revealed a year previous, that he knew nothing about wines; went berserk one month and so we stopped working with him: Screw loose. Turned out, he was right. He had ruined several bottles, some of it expensive; which we had to pay for, as he was a black belt in some form of martial arts. He and his staff could not seem to grasp that cooling or heating store rooms or shops appropriately matters, with wines: he certainly didn’t care enough to get the fridge fixed when it broke last summer before the 45 degree heat!

On opening, the seepage had almost reached the edge of the (very) long cork; a sign that the shop & bottle had, at times, been far too hot. (We don’t supply them anymore…thank goodness).

We chalk this one down to poor handling/storage and wring our hands yet again at the lack of dedication in the service industry. You can lead an owner to the holy grail of wine but you can’t make them care about it (or something like that).

We tried to make the best of a bad job by blending with a lively Tuscan and Chilean Cabernet to put some oomph back, but it never really made the grade. Whatever we did we still just lacked fruit and acidic interest; the oak fell away speedily and there was a touch of underlying oxidation. That nasty French shopkeeper cost me a lot of pain and misery. 11.5pts

spain-flag(#) CVNE Vina Real Reserva DO 2005 Rioja, Spain ¥280 CVNE Villa Real Oro Rioja Res x250

We sampled this twice over the winter during our Spanish themed promotion, first in November 2013 and later in February 2014. Both times, I hid it from Mrs. Wine Man.

Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano & Garnacha Tinta combine to make a glorious mature full bodied red from one of Spain’s most respected and well known bodegas, Cune. Always a treat to enjoy these rich, well aged wines.

It’s not a wine we normally sell but we thought we’d offer it below retail (¥295) to anyone interested, for a few months. We sold very few, as Spain seems unknown to most despite our trumpeting the country’s quality value ratio. I somehow managed to enjoy 2 bottles all by myself, just to make sure every aspect of it’s flavours and nuances had been captured and critiqued. It was an honour. 18.5pts

Fortified wine: a friend and an ally

spain-flagTorres 10 Y.O. Brandy Spain ¥150

Spanish brandy at a fraction of the cost of French. Click on the link in the tilte for the flowery description I didn’t write: “…with warm hints of spices (cinnamon, vanilla).” etc.

However, truth be told; I drink this most days, after dinner, from September to August. Ahem. The style never changes. Vintages are irrelevant. Nuff said. 16pts

June 2014 update: I bought A French Brandy this week that’s a tad cheaper than this one and it had nothing on the Torres 10. Less aroma. Less colour. Less flavour and of course much, much more harsh.

Portugal Flag thumb 60x40Graham’s Fine Ruby Port Portugal ¥190

This would be about the third Grahams Fine Rubydifferent port this taster has tasted this winter/spring and the third of this particular brand (it’s nice and we have to make very sure its still nice every few weeks). The ruby colour is intense. The aromatics are intense.

We are talking ripe red and black berries. There’s full-bodied, luscious black cherry flavours with excellent balance and an intense finish with medium sweetness. In a word, it’s ‘intense’.

Match it as an aperitif with snacks, with dark chocolate or fruit dessert, or with a blue cheese: English Stilton, if you can get it (plenty of places do it now compared to years ago). 16.5pts

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

Embedded links take you to those wines with their own pages for further detailed descriptions/opinions. Those without links are either:zoom black grapes moist

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

Whites: a hit and a miss again…

That’s all for now. See the next gaggle in a couple of weeks.


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