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Taste Test: #7

Taste Test: #7

It’s better to have loved and lost…’ and some of these offerings and are now lost forever, but there are always going to be more ‘fish in the sea’….some, even without web pages….

We don’t blind test : who would, except for a laugh? (read our views on that pseudo-science here.)

Here is thehorizontal storage bright and shiny btls fourth instalment of our 2015 report series. A baker’s dozen of wines this time because I just hate leaving any out. Same rules: All wines were paid for in full. 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. The points given at the end of each entry are based on usual tasting criteria (appearance, aroma, taste, cost) and are out of 20.



Chile flag thumb

Baron Philippe de Rothschild Anderra Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Chile Guide Price: ¥118-¥130 NEW 15.5pts (no web page)

At last we get to try a wine Baron Philippe de Rothschild Anderra Sauv Bl. 63x190that we can say with ‘hand on heart’ there is little reason to buy. You see, Anderra SB has a problem: It’s not any better than the wines that are cheaper from the same place and without that often name-checked Rothschild baggage: overpriced wines aimed at nobs.

The wine itself is fine. Nothing to decry. Not overpriced. It’s nicely aromatic, nicely weighted and nicely refreshing to drink… hitting all the relevant yardsticks; a perfect SB in every way.

santa-digna-sauv-blanc-reserve-newlabelBut, the problem this wine has, is that we can get all those things elsewhere, at lower cost and with an ethical edge (evidently lacking here) thrown in. Hemisferio SB, for example, donates towards a fund which preserves Patagonian Wilderness. Santa Digna uses Fair Trade sourced grapes (ok, that one is more expensive).

Add to that that San Medin SB, and even Emblema SB are better value; the latter doubly so and any point in even looking at this Rothschild offering is kinda moot. I’ll give it one thing that is ahead; the bottle shape is very pleasing, but that’s not enough to cut through the forest of competitors. 15.5pts

australian-falgLindeman’s BIN65 Chardonnay Australia ¥145/¥165 BIN END 17.5pts. (no web page: long list only)

Another classic in Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnayits own right is this, particularly genre defining Aussie Chardonnay from Lindeman’s who are undeniably one of Australia’s most consistent, large operators. This legend in its own price bracket was first sipped by this writer some 20 years ago. It was indeed of satisfying status then and it remains that way today. Year after year it has been a regular and dependable tipple at mealtimes, on the deck, in front of the telly and on picnics (so important here is the screw cap).

I can’t remember vintages or location, or food matching ever making the slightest alteration to the extremely positive experience here. Now, that is what I call consistency.

So what does it taste like? Being thwacked with a lemon, wrapped in a pineapple and melon barrel during a tropical fruit melée on a sunshine evening at Harvest time on a yacht under light winds entering a fabulous harbour with kids jumping off rocks into a crystal azure ocean. Really. Wow. Bargain. 17.5pts.

And now it’s Bin Ended! We have had to find a suitable replacement: that replacement will take the shape of Rosemount Estate’s Diamond label Chardonnay. A bit pricier, but wow; such glittering elegance.

NZ flag thumbOyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 New Zealand ¥210-¥235 17.5pts (long list only)

In New Zealand there’s a Oyster Bay SB x150penchent for some words to end -nz, such as Split Enz (the pop group) or similar plays on words. With Oyster Bay, and its upmarket tour de force, Cloudy Bay, we have essentially what has become an incredibly profound and forthright antipodean play on the Sauvignon Blanc’s very expressionz…: ‘Notice meSauvignonz of aromatic herbs, zesty freshness & tropical lushness.

Oyster Bay is so full of the herbaceous grasses, vegetal ripenesses and tropical layers flavours it has become almost its’ own genre. And that is no mean feat in a world of homogeneity and corporate-style blanding: one of the many negatives of Globalization, some might say? If freedom and independence of thought could be brewed up; individualism bottled and effervescence labelled, it might  look (and then taste) a lot like this. Oyster Bay never fails to leave its impressive and long lasting impressionz.

If you have never tried a kiwi SB, you can begin at Fernway (found on our site and a top seller, though currently understocked) and gradually move up the ladder in neat little price bumps via Sacred Hill and Oyster Bay to Cloudy bay. We are here to help and you can always ask us for directionz. 17.5pts


Italy-national-flagChiaro Prosecco Extra dry NV  DOC ¥115/¥150 17.5pts.

Is the world at all confused chiaro-proseccoabout what ‘dry’ means? Yes. And even more so about ‘Extra Dry’? Certainly.  And don’t even get me started on the true meanings of ‘dry‘, ‘sweet fruit’ and ‘residual sugar‘. We’d be here all day and still make little impact on the  ‘dry only’ snobs, who generally disinterested, throw their baby out with the bathwater, by misinterpreting once the dastardly word ‘sweet’ is uttered; perhaps simply incapable of listening to what the terminology actually means while ironically looking daft among peer company they most want to ‘feel’ superior to, they never grasp the actual simplicity within: that we ALL like sweetness with acid balance. Brains limited by blinkers. As I said, we dealt with that many times before.

For brevity, in a nutshell, ‘Extra Dry’ is less dry than ‘brut‘ or ‘secco’ beverages (which sounds mad to native English speakers, I know; apologies). This example is actually drier than the recently tested and soon to be reviewed Movida ‘Extra Dry‘, described a few episodes back, yet less dry than the world leader Zonin ‘Black Bottle Prosecco’, there is something to be enjoyed here. I’d say we can say that the nose lacks warmth, come across a little chemically. The taste seems dry and freshly acidic at first then drifts off to the extra dry zone on mid-palate.

All in all this budget Prosecco indeed helps prove that even within a budget there are pleasures to be had, albeit in a designation which has demonstrated there are variations of sweetness to be experienced. 17.5pts.


Chile flag thumbSanta Digna Estelado Rosé NV Chile ¥185-¥210 18pts.

After the previous article looked at Santa Digna Estelado Rose Sparklertank method‘ Fizz, we now find ourselves, (without prejudice) and like ping pong balls of wine-making opinion, well inside the South American sphere of the trad camp ideologue.

Before (and instead of) opening that envelope too far, we’ll simply note a couple of things first. This memorable sparkling rosé is made in the traditional method from traditional Fair TradePais‘ Grapes. I read that somewhere and I am not sure what it quite means. However, the wine was recently featured written up at Snooth.com.

This wine is made with the Pais wine grape, which used to be a mainstay in Chile but fell out of favor due to the rise of Bordeaux varietals. It produces low-tannin, easy-drinking red wines from incredibly old vines that were brought to Chile by the Peruvians in the 16th century. The success of this beautiful wine has help put the grape back on the map. Pais was a damsel in distress, now rescued – how romantic.  The nose is a bit austere and the palate perfectly dry with tenacious red fruits, loads of spice and a memorable finish. It’s a perfect wine to kick-start a celebration!

This wine was an absolute revelation when it was recommended to us to sample 2-3 years or so ago. Pink Fizz from South America? Who cares, right? WRONG.

So much was our interest piqued that we set about making it our ‘go to’ fizz for ‘out of the home’ events. Then we started making sure we always had a bottle here…just in case. It saw us through a lovely Christmas meal out with friends in Shanghai 2013 (where, thanks to us, at least 2 bottles disappeared from the restaurant’s inventory).

The wine featured as the very special lubricant for another very special event in 2013, involving our own kids and a certain graduation. Since then we have settled it in amongst our other sparklers to enjoy it around 4 times a year. Outstanding Sparkling wine as it is, we don’t want it to become ‘over familiar’. 18pts.


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Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mapu Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2013 Chile ¥88 16.5 pts

Simple. Complex. Cheap. Well made. Rich fruit. Soft tannins. We just call it Mapu Red and it flies out the door. say no more?

Your chance perhaps to have your first glimpse of Carmenere. We would have to say that The Rothschild forays into Chile have been great for the consumer. They are, in the Mapu range, producing the golden bullet wines we seek: low cost wines punching above their weight in a sturdy, consistent and agreeable way.

Very attractive ruby red with a violet tint. Rich and generous, an explosion of red fruit, blackcurrant and blackberry mingled with subtle, spicy notes. A fresh, round and fruity attack.

Elegantly structured by the Cabernet Sauvignon, on the mid-palate the wine displays the velvet, silky tannins typical of Carmenère picked at optimum ripeness. Very pleasant overall balance, the harmonious finish lingering on the richness and freshness of the fruit. A best seller by word of mouth and is the white blend, affectionately and accurately called Mapu White, which is so full of an NZ style Sauvignon thrust as to be a threat to that nations style. 16.5 pts

Italy-national-flagEnrico Serafino Dolcetto D’Alba DOC 2012 Piedmont, Italy ¥119/¥150 (new vintage) 18pts. 15pts All Gone

When I wrote this review, Dolcetto D'Albaall this was true:

It is lovely to see that this wine didn’t disappear (from the China marketplace, as we were told it would by our suppliers) when our stocks were depleted early 2014. Instead, it has returned from that low ebb with a nice vintage bump of 2 years, ‘rebounding’ even, by managing to retain the same ‘artesanal’ qualities but with a new invigorating freshness, that we were starting to see fade into a more mundane exemplar after what was four years in bottle. Now, 2 years bottle time has resurrected the perfect age.

There are few wines that better meld with a pasta or a pizza at this price point. Dolcetto just loves to be glugged and studied alongside tomato based foods. It’s both a simple bit of inexpensive fun and a seriously proper wine all at once. Outside Italy, and particularly here in Shanghai, it might take on a higher merit due to the large proportion of either over-prices or underwhelming Italian wines which can make it to market here.

Like the other offerings from Serafino here in SH, it oozes affordable class, old world charm and Italian Dolce Vita.

Since I wrote this review: the price doubled. We stopped acquiring it and now the 5 year romance is OVER! Boo Hoo. Here’s another 3 Italians! 18pts. 15pts


Zonin Nero D’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT Sicily, Italy ¥120/¥145 New PIC soon? 17.5pts

Delicious. A low cost masterpiece with spicy hints of anise on the nose (which was just lovely over violets and cherry). We think its a better bet than the slightly more costly Chianti that’s coming up next time and as good as the mightily impressive Valpolicella we did a review about recently. Sorry there’s no picture yet that’s even remotely up to date.

100% Nero d’Avola. Used as part of the liberal Siciliane IGT designation.

Relatively dark but brilliant ruby-red. Broad and persistent, with evident and intense spicy scents as well as notes of almond blossoms. Dry and structured and showing outstanding roundness, the wine offers a sensation of complex fruitiness resembling that of cherries preserved in spirit, alternating with pleasant and highly persistent hints of spices.

This Nero d’Avola is an example of modern Italian wine-making on the historical wine-making island of Sicily.

Like many regions, Sicily fully experienced Italy’s dismal post war viticultural bane: A long and glorious tradition unintentionally thwarted and terribly tarnished by Government over-subsidy and investment, which led mainly, to greater yields and lower associated quality wherever it took place. The decades long recovery, from the harm done to this region and the entire country’s reputation, has, at last, been restored. 17.5pts

Italy-national-flagIcario Rosso Toscano IGT 2009 Montepulciano, Italy ¥170/¥220 17.5pts. BIN END

The wine world can be frustrating. Rosso Icario Tuscany 285x72In Shanghai, doubly so. Idiots who know nothing about their products, and even less about dealing with customers run businesses they know little about until they fail, or move on to the next thing. Such contacts have been a common irritation and theme in my gripes over the years. I am sure anyone who has been visiting for a while and read any of our grapevine entries will be aware of my misgivings on quality of local ‘service’. This wine is a symbol of those hassles. Beautiful but constrained by ineptitude.

Not only did our counterparts fail to tell us about this wines’ arrival: Once we spotted it and added it to our portfolio, they were slow to deliver and then failed to tell us was being deleted again. No sooner have we trumpeted our delight at finding a decent Rosso from Montepulciano, especially one at low cost (trust me, this is a low cost); we are informed it will no longer be available. I am keeping the remaining 4 bottles, for er…personal research.

There’s little to be achieved in completing this report, as I know the real reason I am keeping the bottles for myself; but I will never know the reason someone decided to axe it’s importation into China. Forgive them for they know not what they do. 17.5pts.

Italy-national-flagSella & Mosca Terre Rare Carignano Di Sulcis DOC Riserva 2008 Sardegna, Italy ¥190-¥230 18.5%pts.BIN END

Yum Yum Yum. We drink this A LOT! Sella& Mosca-Terre-Rare-Carignane-del-SulcisRuby red with a nose that suggests vanilla and well-articulated fruit. Harvested from old bush-trained vines in the harsh, dry conditions of the Sulcis district on the south-western Sardinian coast. Aged for three years in oak barrels, with a palate that is fruit forward and lightly spicy, medium bodied with complexity on the finish.

Original notes went like this: ‘Oakier than Medeus more like a Tanca Farra (2 other Sella&Mosca Wines) but I’d say the feeling is of a truer wine than Tanca Farra (its elder statesman-like elder sibling) meaning less ‘wine-making’, ‘make-up’ in Terre Rare and more of the vineyard (a positive) talking to us. Terre Rare is certainly a lot less expensive than the (just a tad too young soon to be reviewed) Medeus; which may be ‘sleeping’ and therefore needing a little while more in bottle to become a truly great wine. I guess we all do a little judgement by comparison as I did there; and what that has led me to is that compared to it’s stablemates, Terre Rare is a goldilocks wine: Just right. 18.5pts.


Chateau Lamargue Cuvee Aegidiane Costieres de Nimes AC 2006 ¥190/¥230 16.5pts. BIN END

Not enough folks make wineslamargue-cuvee-aegidiane-new like this, anymore. Maybe too may folks don’t want to drink it. Me, I think it’s got to survive for the sheer ‘theatre’.

This is a Big Wine, man, I mean, really big. Sneakily big. Like a spanner in a leather glove. It looks big. It smells big. It is big flavoured. The pretty impressive bottle underscores that. So even though it tells you it’s going to be big; it manages to surprise us because it’s even bigger than that. And it panics some imbibers into altogether gentler experiences. Pity.

Imagine a deep, dark, inky-hued, bloody, thick, extracted Spicy alcoholic fruit juice. That’s a wine that needs food, right. That’s what we have here. Pair it with rich food for a ‘meal of the month’ experience. But don’t waste it folks who don’t really like wine: It’s a Tarantino movie, not the Sound of Music.

With this wine I inadvertently scared away a guy who it transpired didn’t really like robust red wine. I heard things like, “Oh, that’s sour and dry!” His facial expressions were hilarious. He meant something else, like too tannic or extracted or acidic. I dug deeper but it’s rarely easy to elicit a fuller handle when vocabulary is vacant,. For comparison he tried a cheap, sweet red wine; “That’ s much better.” (translation: I like sugary grape juice). Saves me a whole lot of effort if there’s a next time. 16.5pts.

Portugal Flag thumb 60x40Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008   Portugal    ¥321  GOLD Medal Winner 2014

I really needed to try this wine. Grahams LBV x250My first introduction to LBV was in 1990 (in Oddbins, UK) and wherever I seem to have been in the world since then, and with the money I had available to throw at Port, a rekindling of our liaison seemed destined to keep at bay. Fast forward to August 2014: I noticed a new addition to the wines we were being offered: Graham’s LBV.

Now in the UK, way back when, I was most likely to enjoy Taylor’s or Warre’s or Croft’s, so I was excited to see that the usual Graham’s options had been enhanced by the inclusion of an LBV; and I was, in fact, overjoyed to have access to ANY LBV at all.

I have since November enjoyed (without any pre-planning) something of a Port Period: two bottles of Graham’s 2008 LBV in 2 months. 2 bottles of Graham’s 10YO Tawny Port leapfrogging those and a Graham’s Ruby Port thrown in at the apex for comparisons. And then there was the Croft LBV 2009 for comparison of those 2 Graham’s 2008’s. It all appeared out of no-where but will leave a lasting impression.

LBV remains my long standing favourite: easy to consume, easy on the pocket for the ‘bang per buck’ readers, but with an edge over the Croft that was palpable: just more alive!

Testing of this Graham’s LBV took place in February and April 2015.

Italy-national-flagSella & Mosca Marchese Di Villamarina Alghero DOC 2003 Sardegna, Italy ¥900 18pts BIN END

This is a stellar wine, tMDVillamrina 300xhat’s affordable for those special special occasions; and impressive to boot, for all who meet it. In Italy, it has taken on legendary status.

Currently, I am proud to have collected the award winning vintages from 2005, 2006, 2007.

Deep garnet, with a cherry, pepper, tobacco and coffee nose. Produced only in top vintages, the character of the Cabernet takes on a distinctly Mediterranean slant, from the breadth and intensity of its aromas to the warmth and fullness of the highly complex palate. Intense and mellow with remarkable red fruit tannins. This mature wine shows classic fragrances of Cabernet Sauvignon combined warm notes of hay, balanced by the flavours of Tronçais oak.

It’s really wonderful to find these rare, regularly awarded top of the genre wines that don’t quite appear on too many collectors radars; certainly not enough to cause astronomical prices. The awards I refer to here are:

5 Grappoli – AIS, Duemilavini (2009)
Three glasses – Gambero Rosso, Vini d’Italia (2009)
91/100 – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (2009)
90 – Wine Spectator (2009)
Gold medal – Vinorevue, Prague Wine Trophy (2009)
18° posizione – Cesare Pillon, “Top 100” Migliori Vini Rossi d’Italia (2009)

For this tasting, evaluation was conducted on the 2003 vintage, after food on 3 consecutive evenings. The bottle was refrigerated after all the air had been expelled. This ensured very little ‘bottle breathing’. On day 1 the oak seemed to overpower the fruit. The latter hiding dormant behind a wall of wood. Day 2 saw that oak diminish somewhat into a better harmony and by day 3 the wine was Superb. ‘Sublime’, I wrote. By this experience it would be prudent to suggest 3 to 4 hours breathing prior to drinking. Thankfully, in that scenario there will still be some development in the glass, which always adds interest.

What appeals about these wines is that they are serious enough to care about yet inexpensive enough to actually drink objectively. The wine probably has another 10 to 15 years in the bottle before it reaches its pinnacle, and then can be expected to stay there for another 10. It is, by far, no where near it’s optimal point just yet.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

Prices where shown indicate our Standard price and then the recommended retail price (sometimes called, rather less helpfully; the Market Price). This should give a better indication of what readers can expect to pay if they go to a City Shop or a Pines for example to locate any of the wines we feature (if listed by them, that is).zoom black grapes moist

  • Sometimes 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.
  • 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. Some wines do not have pages and can be found on our PDF lists or just email me, the wine man, and ask.

This will probably be the last report before the long hot summer, though this year I am a little more planned and have some Taste Test drafts already underway for August, September and October release.

Have a lovely summer.


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