Archive

Archive for August, 2016

The 2013 Vaglio Aggie, another fine import by Brazos

After trying the lovely 2013 Rogue Vine, Super Itata Tinto I decided to try another wine from the Brazos Wine Imports portfolio. This time I went from Chile to Argentina.  Vaglio is a “micro-winery” run by José LoVaglio Balbo who is the son of Susanna Balbo.   You might recognize the Balbo name because she has a well known winery in Argentina.  There are four wines produced at Vaglio, each of which focuses in on a single vineyard with a different micro-climate.  The 2013 Vaglio, Aggie, Valle de Uco is made using fruit from vines located at nearly 4,000 feet in elevation!  What you get is a forward wine that engages all of your mouth.  There is tasty fruit, ripe gum-coating tannins, and acidity that causes you to salivate.  Check it out!  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

Vaglio1

2013 Vaglio, Aggie, Valle de Uco – $18
Imported by Brazos Wine Imports.  This wine is 100% Malbec.  Alcohol 13.9%.  The herbaceous nose builts ripeness with air.  In the mouth are ripe red and black fruit, well integrated with an herbaceous flavor.  The wine is almost inky, coating the gums with flavor and moderately ripe tannins.  The structure give some firm support as does the firm acidity.  The later builds until the salivating and puckering finish.  The aftertaste leaves an herbal perfumed mixture in the mouth.  *** Now – 2019.

Vaglio2

Domaine Rimbert in Top Form

The wines of Jean-Marie Rimbert continue to provide moving examples of old-vine Carignan farmed predominantly on soils of schiste.  I have drunk a few bottles of 2013 Domaine Rimbert, Les Travers de Marceau, Saint-Chinian that have shown some variability.  When in top form, this wine will compel you to drink the earthy, red fruit.  It is a rounded wine with fine tannins and integrated acidity that should drink well for a few more years.  Though I do not see any reason to hold back.  The 2012 Domaine Rimbert, Le Mas au Schiste, Saint-Chinian adds Grenache into the mix.  This is a thicker, coating wine with flavors in the kirsch and garrigue spectrum.  It has a bit more stuffing so I would recommend you cellar it a year or two with the goal of the nose becoming more expressive.  Priced at $15 and $18 these are well priced for their uniqueness.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

Rimbert2

2013 Domaine Rimbert, Les Travers de Marceau, Saint-Chinian – $15
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Carignan. Alcohol 12.5%.  The earthy nose bears the slightest yeast hint and develops a green pepper scent with air.  In the mouth is a rounded start that fills the mouth with earthy flavors.  The fine tannins build as earth mixes with fuzzy red fruit.  The acidity keeps the wine fresh but is completely integrated.  This earthy wine continues to have a berry core that eventually morphs into a ripe, strawberry finish with a dry aftertaste.  Nice wine.  *** Now – 2018.

Rimbert1

2012 Domaine Rimbert, Le Mas au Schiste, Saint-Chinian – $18
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 33% Carignan, 33% Syrah, and 33% Grenache with 33% aged in old barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The slightly shy nose reveals kirsch which is soon joined by fruit.  There is a thicker start with slightly savory flavors of kirsch and black minerals.  With air the wine adds garrigue to the mix and seemingly becomes thicker as it takes on more black minerality.  The dry finish evokes the stone soils just before the wine coats the entire mouth. *** Now – 2025.

Mature Champagne from a traditional Bristol merchant

Bristol, England is a major port that has a rich, long history of importing wine.  It is no surprise then that wine merchants founded centuries ago still exist today.  My familiarity with the wine merchant Avery’s of Bristol dates back to the eve of their 200th anniversary in 1993. For centuries past, wine was imported in barrel then bottled by British merchant such as Avery’s.  This practice continued until the mid to late 20th century.  Though British bottling died out due to the rise of domaine bottling, the tradition of these merchants selling wine under their own label still exists today.  The NV Avery’s, Special Cuvee, Champagne Brut is one such example.  For over 50 years the Boizel Champagne house has produced a special Pinot Noir based cuvee for Avery’s.

The Boizel Champagne house was founded in 1834 but it was with the great 1961 vintage that Rene Boizel created the first cuvée spéciale for France.  It is from this period that the Avery’s cuvee was created.  This cuvee is available online at the Avery’s website but the bottle which Mannie Berk recently shared with me is no current release.  Instead it dates to the 1980s and speaks to another great British tradition, that of aging Champagne.  The three decades of age have given the wine a golden color, taken the firm edges off the bubbles, and developed a lovely mature flavor.  With air this Avery’s Champagne shows its strength yet never loses the balance between effervescence, mature flavors, and integrated acidity.  I think it is drinking great right now, just be sure to follow it over a couple hours as it breaths.  I just checked and it appears on The Rare Wine Co website.  If you cannot wait three decades for the current release to mature then snag a few bottles while you can.

Averys1

NV Avery’s, Special Cuvee, Champagne Brut
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  An attractive golden toast color greets the eye.  In the mouth this mature Champagne is almost inky with a good amount of bubbles at the start.  Flavors of dark, yellow fruit mixes with baking spices that come out with the prickles on the tongue.  The mature fruit is eventually replaced by a chalky, finely textured finish.  With air the wine builds attractive spice and toast notes.  **** Now but will last.

A Casual Tasting Involving 2013 Finger Lakes Riesling to 1979 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Earlier this week my brother-in-law and I went over to Lou’s house to taste a selection of primarily American wines.  Lou recently brought back a bunch of wine purchased during his vacation in the Finger Lakes.  The 2013 Forge Cellars, Riesling, Finger Lakes is the first bottle he has shared with me from this new stash.  It is a collaborative project involving Louis Barruol of Chateau Ste Cosme in the Rhone.  It is also interesting because Louis Barruol decided to use old oak when making the Riesling.  This version is crisp and tart but it remained mostly closed throughout the evening.  I would revisit it a few years from now.  Our second white is the $6 dump bin selection of 2006 Barnett Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Carneros.  This is a barrel fermented and sur lie aged Chardonnay which exudes the richness you can obtain in California.  Lovers of this style of wine will gush over it more than I do but I can write that with air it is an enjoyable fully mature wine.

As for the red wines we started with and promptly moved over the 1979 Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Margaux.  The 1982 vintage of this wine still provides pleasure but this 1979 is past any enjoyable drinking window.  We opened it as a vintage pair to the 1979 Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, 125th Anniversary Selection, Rhine Farm Vineyards, Sonoma Valley.  The 1979 is admittedly not the best Californian vintage and it reflects in the aromatic hints that this wine is moving past maturity.  It came from the Earthquake Cellar hence the label arrived stained and is not a reflection of us spilling wine everywhere.  The wine is pretty tasty in the mouth and was not frail.  It really is just the nose holding this one back.  Completely different is the very youthful 1989 Clos du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley.  It is slightly herbaceous in a good way, bright, acidic, and structured.  I like the floral aspect and believe you should drink this up now.

We required one more bottle of wine to finish up our sous-vide then grilled flank steak so the cork came out of the 1999 Ravenswood, Pickberry Vineyard, Sonoma.  It offered up flavorful black, bramble berries with some added complexity from age.  This dump bin find is drinking at its top form right now and would make an interesting alternative as a daily drinker.  In the end, none of the wines blew me away or really captivated my attention but that is fine as I spent a good amount of time talking and not taking notes.

Cali6

2013 Forge Cellars, Riesling, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 12.8%.  The color is a lighter, yellow green.  The Riesling aromas moves to a richer note of petrol flavor in the mouth that exists in a tart and crisp wine.  There is some body but the fruit is largely closed down.  The wine is very fresh and tart with a chalky finish.  It does round out a bit with air but it really needs several years of age to integrate and open up.  **(*) 2018-2022.

Cali1

2006 Barnett Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Carneros
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was barrel fermented then aged sur lie.  Alcohol 14.8%.  The nose is of yeast and toast that speaks to the winemaking.  In the mouth is a round, glycerin loaded, ripe fruit start.  This wine bears a lot of wine with some green apple flavors and just enough acidity.  It actually brightens up with air and reveals its mature flavors.  ** Now.

Cali2

1979 Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Margaux
Imported by Woodley Wine & Liquor.  Alcohol 13%.  There are advanced aromas and roast on the nose.  In the mouth there is a bright start but the wine is too advanced with thin flavors and structure still around.  Past! Not Rated.

Cali3

1979 Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, 125th Anniversary Selection, Rhine Farm Vineyards, Sonoma Valley
Alcohol 13.0%.  The nose speaks of its age and there is a roast hint.  In the mouth this wine has good body and red fruit flavors.  The sweet, powdery fruit coats the mouth leaving ripe tannins on the gums.  Attractive.  ** Now.

Cali4

1989 Clos du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.1%.  The nose is fresh and  slightly herbaceous.  There is still fresh red fruit in the mouth with a balance between fresh floral flavors and an inky hint.  It is a nice wine that becomes a little shy with air.  I believe the structure will ultimately outlive the fruit.  Why not just drink it now?  *** Now but will easily last.

Cali5

1999 Ravenswood, Pickberry Vineyard, Sonoma
This wine is a blend of 72% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvigon, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 13.6%.  There are plummy, black fruit and bramble berries.  Rather flavorful but the acidity and structure balance make for a good feeling in the mouth.  There is a good balance between bottle aged complexity and fruit.  *** Now.

Cali7

A Rare Chateau de Beaucastel Vertical from 1964 to 2001

August 3, 2016 3 comments

Beaucastel11

When the end of Prohibition in America was in sight, the “potent” and “celebrated” wines of Chateauneuf du Pape were mentioned as amongst the “Legendary Potions” that the Europeans were waiting to ship to our shores.  Once the purchase of wines was legal The New York Times published a thorough description of international wines that Americans should drink.  It was, in short, a refresher to the world of wine.  From the Rhone were recommended Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, and Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape soon became an American favorite.  It was always listed for sale typically along with Pouilly Fuisse, at reasonable prices from the 1940s into the 1970s.  These were frequently negociant wines but the occasional estate bottled selection like Mont-Redon was available at a premium price.  In the 1950s a new style of early-drinking Chateauneuf du Pape was developed largely relying on carbonic maceration.  This dip in quality was soon met with a rise in price.

The American wine boom of the early 1970s led to the massive price escalation of the 1971 and 1972 Bordeaux vintages.  These price increases far exceeded the effects of the revaluation of international currencies from the fixed Bretton Woods system to a free-floating system.  This caused most European wines to increase in price some 10% to 20%.  In 1973, however, the favored Chateauneuf du Pape doubled in price in a matter of months.

The popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape plummeted due to price and by 1981 The New York Times called it “France’s Forgotten Red”.  Over the next year wines from such traditional estates as Chateau de Beaucastel and Chateau Mont-Redon were once again available  at reasonable prices.  These offerings began with the recently released and outstanding 1978 vintage.  A few older vintages were available too.

Lost amongst the turmoil of price escalation and carbonic maceration is discussion of the vintage of 1964.  This vintage is considered excellent but yields were significantly reduced by a summertime hailstorm.   Throughout this post-war period, Chateau de Beaucastel is consistently described as a traditional Chateauneuf du Pape estate fashioning wines meant to age.  Curiously enough, it is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.

John Livingstone-Learmonth considered the 1964 Beaucastel “a supreme wine”.   It was recently served as the oldest wine at a tasting of thirteen vintages of Beaucastel.

Beaucastel12

The Beaucastel tasting was organized by Darryl Priest and stocked with wines from a total of ten attendees.  Darryl felt that lamb would be an ideal accompaniment to old Beaucastel.  It was from a single lamb that six out of seven courses were created for us by Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley at Ripple in Washington, DC.  Here is the menu:

*
lamb tenderloin tartare, sicilian pistachio, za’atar cracker
**
glazed lamb rib, corn pudding, crispy squash blossom
***
lamb loin carpaccio, baby heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, smoked labneh
****
lamb neck ragu, roasted potato gnocchi, fillet beans, harissa, parmesan
*****
rack of lamb, roasted leg, charred eggplant, oven roasted tomatoes
******
slow roasted lamb shoulder, merguez sausage, braised rainbow chard
*******
lemon verbena panna cotta, raspberry coulis, apricots, sable

After starting with a very drinkable NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose we launched into the Beaucastel.  We drank the wines from oldest to youngest.  The two bottles of Hommage were decanted and the old bottles were simply popped and poured.  We largely rotated who started off pouring the wines so no one person would be stuck with the dregs.

Though a few bottles were shamefully off, such as 1978 and 1989, there were many excellent wines. My favorites list includes 1964, 1979, 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage.  For this post I will just comment on the oldest vintages as they are the least known.

The biggest surprise of the night was the 1964 Beaucastel. Due to the high prices of Chateauneuf du Pape in the 1970s, less was imported and sold in America.  This in part contributes to the difficulty of finding older vintages here.  This particular bottle came from a parcel that Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Company, purchased several years ago from a European cellar.

The bottle, label and capsule were in pristine condition and so was the cork when I extracted it.  A quick sniff revealed good fruit on the nose and a remarkable amount of fruitiness in the mouth.  Incredibly, the wine opened up with air and continued to drink well for nearly four hours.  David Bloch was reminded of a bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart that he, Lou, and I drank this summer.  They both taste of a similar period and style.  If you review older articles about Chateauneuf du Pape it was at times equated as a less expensive Burgundy.  In fact there are a handful of advertisements in England and America where Chateauneuf du Pape is listed under the heading Burgundy!    Everyone at the table commented on this wine.  Though no consensus was formed, there was discussion of the 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage as being favorites of the night.  I will add one observation.  The bottle of 1964 was the first one finished off including the very last dregs.

This was my second time tasting the 1976 vintage this summer.  Both from bottles Darryl sourced. This evening the 1976 was less advanced but it is still a solid wine at best.  The 1979 vintage proved very interesting.  It is an acidity driven vintage, bright and not ripe like the 1964.  I kept returning to my glass to be consistently surprised at how youthful it stayed.  Bill is spot on with his comment that it is on the same glacial pace of development as the 1964.  In contrast the 1981 vintage is a beautiful, elegant, and gently ripe wine that is drinking very well right now.  Please find my tasting notes below.

Beaucastel6

NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by T. Edward Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good, fruity start followed by the presence of a yeast bit but the fine, ripe fruit soon takes over.  This is a generous wine with balanced bubbles, and even some grip in the finish.  I would not be surprised if some wine saw oak for there is a sense of old wood.  Drinking great right now.  ***(*) Now.

Beaucastel1

1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Though light in color there are plenty of aromas and flavors.  It begins with earthy, garrigue infused aromas that open with air to reveal sweaty, red strawberry fruit.  In the mouth the flavors quickly fill with ample flavor and incredible amounts, for its age, of red fruit.  This wine is very much alive with brighter red fruit towards the finish and lively acidity throughout.  It ends with an ethereal, mineral finish. This bottle drank great over four hours.  Clearly this is a wine from a different era. ****(*) Now but will last.

Beaucastel2

1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Darker than the 1964.  The nose sports more stink and barnyard but does reveal a floral and herbal freshness.  The flavors are controlled with an acidity driven start and short finish.  There is a fair amount of barnyard character here but it is not off putting.  Less advanced than the bottle tasted last month but it leaves a similar impression.  ** Now.

Beaucastel3

1978 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is rugged, smells older and past-prime, eventually of blood.  The palate confirms this is not in the best shape for it is compact and short in flavor.  The acidity and aftertaste are there but this bottle is old and not a good representative.  Not Rated.

1979 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The lively color is promising and fulfilled by the sweaty aromas of leather and smoke.  This is an acidity driven wine with red fruit, structure, and surprising youth.  It is well-balanced with gentle earthiness and watering acidity.  This old-school wine will never be as generous as the 1964 but it will certainly drink well just as long.  **** Now – 2031.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The beautiful and fine nose balances earthy and olive aromas.  In the mouth the fruit, earth, and acidity are well balanced.  This wine has levity with elegant, ripe fruit and a gentle, ripe sweetness that lingers in the mouth.  **** Now – 2021.

Beaucastel4

1983 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A very different wine with aromas of flowers and candy.  With some rough and hard flavors, plenty of acidity, and a tangy finish it is time to drink up.  ***(*) Now.

1985 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Lactic nose.  Not right.  Not Rated.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is some VA on the nose which the palate confirms as a slightly underperforming bottle.  There is however plenty of ripe, strawberry fruit, and strength.  Not Rated.

Beaucastel5

1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a great nose which conveys tension and complexity with fresh aromas of garrigue, fruit, saddle leather, and stink.  In the mouth, this wine has youthful grip, lovely balance, a firm finish, and an inky aftertaste.  There is plenty of flavor in the end.  ****(*) Now – 2035.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There are pure flavors of clean, assertive fruit driven by acidity.  It shows the grip and tang of the vintage.  This is a strong wine with old-school flavors of Kirsch.  A good wine. **** Now – 2036.

2001 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  This is so young with clean flavors of strawberry and cherry fruit.  It is still in early development as it oscillates between flavors of fruit then garrigue and cedar.  Good acidity.  ***(*) 2021-2036.

Beaucastel7

1994 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is subtle with mature, earthy aromas.  The softer and gentle entry brings dark, sweeter fruit and garrigue in the finish.  A fine wine that could use a longer finish, suggesting it is time to drink up.  **** Now.

1995 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Those nose offers animale aromas with bits of berries and Kirsch poking through.  In the mouth the concentrated, powerful flavors of ripe fruit cling to the mouth leaving extract in the aftertaste.  The flavors are also accented by animale notes.  The power is driven by acidity leaving fine, drying tannins.  **** Now – 2030.

The dessert wines were led off by the 1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes.  This is a vintage that Phil Bernstein recently tasted at Baumard, where it is still available, so he imported a small quantity.  It is lovely stuff!  It is complex from decades of age but it is also very lively.  There is even a curious red berry fruit flavor.  The combination of residual sugar and acidity will see this wine through for decades to come. The 1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes is drinking great right now.  I love Sauternes and this bottle did not disappoint.  The 1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray reminds me of an apple orchard but it was too subtle and short in the finish to warrant much excitement.

Beaucastel8

1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes
The nose was stinky at first with cheese and some tuna.  This is a tight and vigorous white wine with flavors of apricots, apple spice, and creme brulee.  It is a little thick with noticeable residual sugar.  It is quite complex and offers surprising red berry fruit in the middle.  There is plenty of acidity that will see this wine through many years to come.  **** Now – 2036+.

Beaucastel9

1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The attractive amber color is followed by a robust nose.  The tangy fruit is matched by well-balanced residual sugar and acidity.  It soon becomes clear there is great sweetness here from ample residual sugar.  Drinks well right now.  ***(*) Now-2020.

Beaucastel10

1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray
The subtle nose is followed by apple and fallen orchard fruit making it the most vinous of the dessert wines.  It is perhaps, a little subtle and short to warrant future aging.  *** Now.

Satirical images of diners in restaurants from 1814-1815

I openly admit I enjoy 19th century French and English satirical images that are related in some fashion to wine.  As I briefly touched on in my previously post, the rise of restaurants began in Paris during the late 18th century.  This led to a series of satirical images of the English eating in French restaurants and vice vera.  The two images featured in this post yield some insight into wine service some two centuries ago.  In the first satire, two English soldiers are acting impolite at their table, behavior which is not missed by the French at their table.  Amongst the three standing bottles of wine and a fourth which is spilling on the ground, is a glas of wine in a tumbler.

Satire on the English in French restaurants. 1814-1815. [1]

Satire on the English in French restaurants. 1814-1815. [1]

In the second image, a large English soldier is sitting at a table loaded with food and wine in the restaurant Véry Frères.  The soldier is full from eating two plates of food and drinking two bottles of wine.  He is unable to continue eating his meal.  The soldier looks at a beggar in the window, remarking to himself how lucky the beggar is to feel hungry.  In this image the soldier drinks wine from a stemmed glass.  In both images, the wine bottles shapes vary.  One bottle is even lightly stoppered by a long cylindrical cork.

Satire of the English in a French restaurant. 1815. [2]

Satire of the English in a French restaurant. 1815. [2]


[1] “Les Français ils vont dire que vou être pas poli, Mylord! Pah! les Français? vous s’havez bien qu’ils n’entendent pas le anglais” by Anonymous.  1814-1815. Museum #1989,1104.62.  The British Museum.
[2] “Suprême bon ton / L’envie réciproque”. Plancher. 1815. Museum #1861,1012.399. The British Museum.