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Taste Test: #3 : revisited with updates

Taste Test: #3 : revisited with updates

Damn these emotions.

When we first visited this clutch in April/May strongly emotive precursors were in play due to a combination of still being in ‘Red mode’ and recent sufferings induced by us having to test some poor wines:  wines had been returned from a particular shop, who, lacking product knowledge and product care, ceased to be supplied by us and returned everything, some in terrible condition, despite my reservations. I should have said, ‘no’. (Don’t get me started on the number of people in the service industry who are insulting the name, or this objective reflection could easily morph into an emotional gripe). Blah blah blah. Water (wine?) under the bridge now.

  • Some 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) and are out of 20.
  • We also take into consideration security of supply, accuracy to type, presentation, versatility, maturity and our ‘Wow versus Price’ view.
  • Embedded links take you to those wines with their own pages for further detailed descriptions/opinions.

All wines were paid for, in full. We don’t blind test. Read our views on that pseudo-science here.

No other agent was involved in our choices or tastings or opinions, nor have they been sought. We just don’t care what our suppliers think about our reports, as we have no vested interest in their opinion. Independence rocks!

Anyway, here we go…complete with embedded updates.

Whites: We are not having much luck with whites at the moment…

Italy-national-flagSella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino Di Sardegna DOC 2009 Sardinia, Italy ¥110La Cala

What a shame. This wine was also just a bit too old and probably killed off by the same shop keeper I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, who returned it to us (he , who turned off the aircon last summer 2013 (when we put it in his shop) and he didn’t mend the fridge when it packed up. But, try as I might to lay all the blame at their useless feet, if honest, we can’t. Just most of it. This wine was probably getting long in the tooth anyway. 10.5pts (usually a 15-16.5pts)

HOWEVER (Big Fanfare), now that the fresh 2012 vintage has arrived we can relax and go back to the beauty of what was there before, zippy acidity & marine saltiness, somewhere between a Chardonnay & Sauvignon blanc (nearer to the latter?) and not a million miles from a Pinot Grigio, but with less ‘grapey-ness’. We hope to say that the 2012 will restore that crown.

Bronze Decanter

NB: September 2014 update: A fabulous return to form with the 2012. An multiple award winner, this wine is now stunningly beautiful. Fresh, elegant, and light with lemons and minerals. Mrs. Wine Man managed to get more of this bottle than myself. That says something, as she really prefers red wine. Now with it’s multiple award stature: 19pts

As a fresh Vermentino it was an award winner in multiple publications/competitions (commended in 2013 at Decanter Magazine, it has now won a Bronze Medal in 2014!).

Santa digna GewurztraminerChile flag thumbSanta Digna Gewurztraminer Reserve (with a dash of Riesling) 2011 Chile ¥135

I was loving, loving, loving this a year ago, though on reflection that was the 2012 vintage (which was absolutely fresh as a daisy and oh-so-powerful). Maybe the summer heat is needed to really achieve the same reverence?

I had another 2011 back in February and was disappointed by the lack of acid then, and power overall. Then a month on I thought I’ll try it again just to see! No worse. No better. Lacking acid; and it’s the acid that makes this brand unusually sublime when combined with the massive flavours of the Gewurztraminer grapes.

Generally, neither as pungent nor as off dry as the Alsace versions (these days), these drier versions nonetheless usually have oomph. This one still didn’t. So, look to the 2012’s and 2013’s, for that instantly massive flavour fix. Just 14pts (this time).

NB: September 2014 update: Interestingly, the next 2011 bottle we enjoyed was just perfect. Better acids and freshness. Still Mrs. Wine Man won’t touch it due to her problems with the Gewurz floral qualities. Shame. I really think she has some serious issues to work through. 16.5pts

Sparkling: Emperor’s..?

france(*) Ayala Brut Majeur NV Champagne NV France ¥540Ayala Champagne thumb

And here is a (French) Champagne. Remember, by law ‘Champagne’ only comes from that region in France. Anything else is not champagne. There are a few cheaper champagnes coming to market these days and this is not one of them. I am always in a minority of 1 when I appraise champagne. I forever think of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

I too often find many Champagnes a little boring and too dry; in away that Prosecco, for example,  isn’t. When I add-in the ‘premium’ that champagnes ask over other ‘traditional method’ sparkling wines I am forced to score them lower. And for me, I am never terribly sure the method isn’t just a hyped up irrelevance these days, anyway.

The only (true, affordable) Champagne I really like is Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Yellow Label, with its addition of Pinot Noir grapes into the blend. Generally Chardonnay only champagnes leave me unimpressed. Perhaps because I have never felt able to splash out on higher echelon bubbles: sour grapes? This wine ain’t Cliquot. And it isn’t priced that much lower than Cliquot either.  15.5pts

Reds: Yum yum, that’s better…

Chile flag thumbBodegas Alina Emblema Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Chile ¥80emblema-cab-ssauv-40x150

Our top seller red. An older 2010 vintage was revisited with wonderful success: still lovely and fresh with plenty of acidity and herbal notes. Then (for experiment) it was also pleasantly blended with another top seller (Callia Alta Shiraz/Malbec). Great complexity was achieved (as is almost always the case with self-blending). This created a delightfully intriguing set of flavours matching wines twice the price, for inevitably, half the cost, (given that one ends up with twice the volume). Let the fear go, readers; and blend your own wines! One of the greatest things this Wine Man ever started doing. What have you got to lose? Life is for living.

I wonder how long we’ll be able to hold this wine at current price levels given the nagging pressure to raise this early drinking gem almost double to around ¥140. The vintage currently being offered is the 2012 but we expect that to change soon to 2013. 16pts

NB: June 2014 update: still no price rise on this from us yet, though it sells for ¥138 online!

Italy-national-flag(Φ) Branciforti Nero D’Avola Rosso IGT 2011 Sicily, Italy ¥95Branciforti Sicilia Nero D'Avola 2011

Two reports in a row now we have featured wines that we have sold for ages which we feel embarrassed about previously deciding were not worthy of their own web page. Mne. Time to amend that. This is a lovely, warm red with great presence (to match my meat pasta sauce and taglietelle the other evening) made from the Nero D’Avola Grape, the grape of the hot island of Sicily.

Against the norm, the whole bottle was emptied (by yours truly) in one evening…and it was a Monday. We must have really liked it. 16.5pts

NB: June 2014 update: Another month, another revisit…with another pasta meal. What was most striking was that between myself and Mrs. Wine Man, we again emptied the whole bottle in one go. I am going to have to upgrade the wine to a 17pts for being so utterly irresistible at such a nice price point.

NB: September 2014 update: and another curious return reveals yet again a great everyday wine. Just can’t keep away from this one. Nero D’vola just might be becoming a favourite new grape to explore.

Italy-national-flagEnrico Serafino Barbera D’Asti DOCG 2011 Piedmont, Italy ¥110Barbera D'Asti

This has been our flagship wine since we started this business. Rare. Great value. Out of fashion. Left-field. Fantastic. That’s what we wanted to drink. That’s what we found. A year ago we heard this wine would disappear, so we bought 60 bottles to tide us over a long drawn out goodbye.

Though it did vanish for 8 months (except in our cellars), we finally managed to confirm it’s resurrection. Just like that. Now it’s said to have been re-birthed. It was probably just an error in translation. Ah, well. All’s well that ends well. Just 3 days ago, the 2011 arrived and my, what a breath of fresh air. Old world Italian mastery at work for great value. 16.5pts

September update: this wine just took on a 60% price rise, so it would have to jump up to ¥147 for it to be worth our while selling. We will be complaining about that: Never done any good before. So, we’ll probably stop offering it in future. Shame.

NZ flag thumb(^) Fernway Pinot Noir 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand ¥135 Fernway Pinot Noir thumb

This is a steal at the price, given the price of most NZ Pinots. It’s sister wine; a Sauvignon Blanc is very popular indeed with our customers. Well made wine, yet in a low cost bottle keeps the overheads down and makes this great value.

I still can’t decide which style of Pinot I prefer: New World or Old. Truth be told, I drink very little Pinot Noir. It’s not a wine I can claim to understand the point of, unless its one of the Burgundian juggernauts I seldom have the cash laying around to delve into. I have tried far too many Pinot Noirs made in the wrong region, by the wrong producer, jumping on bandwagons. Consequently, rather cross about it, I generally don’t bother messing about at the lower end of the market.

In so many ways, this example  is very unlike the French Pinot Noir from Drouhin that we looked at in the first of this series of taste tests. Here there’s a lot more lightness, strawberry tones, warmth: Less earthiness. And I have to say, for me, it works. I have to be in the mood for it though: Maybe chilled, maybe not. Maybe food, maybe not. It remains an enigma to me I can’t quite grasp. 16.5pts

 spain-flag(#) Santo Cristo Garnacha DOC 2009 Ainzon, Spain ¥150Santo Christo

This was a real treat. A Spanish red with less oak aging than many we are accustomed to seeing and hearing about through Rioja’s fame. More like a Ribero del Duero (but without Tempranillo) and lots and lots of fruit with a rich body and refreshing acidity. A great new discovery from a region with which many will be unfamiliar.

A great wine any time of year but with summer coming and a likelihood that red wine drinkers will be looking for less tannin, these styles offer a refreshing and intriguing option. If this wine was say RMB30 lower in price it would get a correspondingly higher score to around 17.5. But at this price, its pretty much attached to a still credible 16.5pts

Uruguay Flag thumb 60x40(Φ)Pisano RÍO de los PÁJAROS Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Uruguay ¥185Pisano cab sauv thumb

We rushed straight to this one, excitedly, after the lovely Tannat blend from the same producer, last week. High expectation were met with muted applause, however. This wine was guilty of not delivering the same ‘wow’ that we enjoyed with that blend: found here instead was a rather understated Cabernet that to us lacked a little excitement.

We tasted the bottle over 3 days, but found that the beverage didn’t really go anywhere; we tried it in various blends with other Cabernets, Shiraz and Spanish Garnachas too, but with little success. In each case it was kinda lost in the mix and we chalked it down as a mild disappointment after the tremendous sibling’s offering, the previous week. To make up for the disappointment we got ourselves some more of the Tannat blend… 15.5pts

Austria Flag thumb(¡) Tschida Magnat 2009 Apetlon Burgenland, Austria ¥485Tschida apetlon Magnat 2009

This wine rolled in on a perfect wave through a perfect storm of pleasure. Austrian wines have had an uphill battle for 25 years because of poor decision-making leading to a scandal. Adding dodgy compounds to wine which shared some of the elements of anti-freeze went public and led to the near destruction of the industry. 30 years on they’ve cut out the deadwood and the ‘additions’ and produce pleasant, if over-priced wines, that have a place in the global jigsaw.

This example we enjoyed at a local Austrian restaurant. Compared to the above champagne it was worth the money. However at retail, I’d pay no more than ¥200 for it. At the time, in the restaurant, it was priceless with the steaks, which the chef does to perfection. (@ ¥200) 17.5pts

That’s all till next time, when we will have another ten wines under the microscope.

Those without links are either:

  • too new (*),
  • too niche (#),
  • we haven’t got around to it (^) located on our longlist only,
  • we didn’t think were worthy (Φ), or are
  • not available from us at the moment (¡)

The exciting development for us, is how many wines we either never got around to making pages for, or didn’t think were worthy, and have actually fared really well.


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