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Interesting wines from Chile, Greece, Moldova, Romania, and more!

There is no shortage of diversity in the wine selections available in Washington, DC.  If you can only try one wine in today’s post that should be the 2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile.  Garage Wine Co., produces attractive and unique wines.  While the Cabernet Franc appears to be sold out (the empty bottles were packed in the move so I am not timely) the Carignan is still available.  From Greece, I certainly recommend the orange citrus flavors of the 2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece.  Continuing with the indigenous vein then you should check out the exotic nose of the 2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania.  Finally, the 2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa offers bitters like flavors making it a Pinotage like no other. I’ll grant that it is a bit polarizing but any intrepid drinker should pick up a bottle.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Garage Wine Co, Carignan Lot #34, Maule Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  Aromas of raspberry candy made way to dense flavors with the texture of an unfiltered wine.  This showed more acidity with tart cherry flavor and red fruit through the end.  The wine built flavor with time showing both ripe and citric flavors including raspberry followed by a lipsticky finish.  *** Now – 2018.

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2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The raspberry aromas mixed with herbaceous notes and tobacco.  In the mouth were ripe and dense flavors that combined an herbaceous hint.  This savory wine had a lot of chewy flavors accented by chocolate before the not too bitter finish.  With air it showed complexity in the way of forest notes and perhaps tar.  ***(*) 2016-2022.

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2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa – $18
Imported by Kyslea Pere et Fils.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a complex nose of bitters and red fruit.  The aromas echoed in the mouth with ripe then dry, grippy flavors.  The structure came out as rather fine, drying tannins.  The wine was simultaneously tart, ripe, grippy, and creamy with greenhouse notes and cocktail bitters.  It morphed towards blue fruit in the finish.  Ultimately, the wine showed a ripe core of fruit surrounded by powdery, dry, and finely textured tannins.  Different! *** Now-2018.

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2013 Et Cetera, Cuvee Rouge, Moldova – $19
Imported by Sarego Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Saperavi, and 5% Rara Neagra that was aged in Hungarian and American oak barrels. Alcohol 13.0%.  In the mouth were ripish, red fruit around a core of watering acidity.  As the wine progressed it came dry with black flavors, textured tannins, and a dry, graphite finish.  Overall this is a young that develops a strong nature.  ** Now – 2018.

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2012 Groot Constantia, Shiraz, South Africa – $17
Imported by Indigo Wine Group.  Alcohol 14%.  There were smoky aromas of black fruit.  In the mouth the wine was tight with ripe flavors that built in strength.  The black fruit continued with some camphor and fresh, greenhouse notes.  This young wine textured, floral impressions.  ** Now 2019.

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2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania – $11
Imported by A&M Imports.  This wine is 100% Babeasca Neagra.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was different and exotic with both floral and citrus note.  In the mouth the dry, blue and black fruit was supported by a drying, black structure.  The wine was spritely on the tongue tip with some baking spices, young tannins on the gums, and good texture.  The finish was a bit short before the refreshing aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.

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2013 Chateau Vartely, Sec Rosu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moldova – $8
Imported by Salveto Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose smelled of slightly inky bell peppers.  In the mouth were flavors of ripe, blue fruit, and green peppers.  With air the cool, blue fruit fleshed out a bit.  While not indicative of any particular place, it is a solid drink for the price.  * Now.

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2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece – $20
Imported by Oenos LLC.  This wine is 100% Limniona.  Alcohol 13%.  The wine developed tart, red fruit with just a slight, liveliness on the tongue despite being acidity driven.  It developed a fine ripe set of light, orange-citrus flavors and black fruit that left impressions of ripeness on the gums.  The wine had a lighter, lift of creamy flavors towards the finish and ultimately, an attractive bit of ink.  **(*) 2016-2019.

Drinking by the Liter

We tried a pair of one Liter bottles over the long holiday period.  First was the 2013 Stift Kloster Neuburg, Grüner Veltliner, Hofkirchner.  The nose was amazing, from the very first glass to the last and this was closely followed by the flavors.  I did not recall the price until I started typing up this post.  At the equivalent of $10 per bottle this is shockingly good for the price.  The wines of Louis-Antoine Luyt continue to offer my favorite new perspective on Chile and the big bottle of 2014 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Pipeño, Portezuelo continues the trend.  It is a fresh, balanced wine that leans towards blue and black fruit with minerals.  There is no hint of unsulphured danger.  The style of the wine and its low alcohol make this a serious, drinking wine that you should also try.  You will be pleased drinking both of these selections, whether it is during the workweek or after you have opened scores of them at a party.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Stift Kloster Neuburg, Grüner Veltliner, Hofkirchner – $13 (1L)
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a killer nose right upon opening.  In the mouth were dry, floral pretty fruit flavors that were driven by acidity on the sides of the tongue.  The wine took on a nice, powdery ripeness to the fruit in the finish.  The shorter aftertaste still managed to offer a lipsticky, ripe lemon hint.  ** Now.

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2014 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Pipeño, Portezuelo – $18 (1L)
Imported by LDM Wines.  This wine is 100% Pais sourced from 150-200 year old vines located on granite and clay..  Alcohol 12%.  The nose bore serious youthful fruit aromas and fresh, floral spices.  In the mouth were blue and black fruit with minerals with a fresh, non-menthol, aspect.  There was a fresh, ripe structure supporting the almost dry flavors.  The wine wrapped up with a hint of tart, black fruit.  There might be some short-term development but why wait? This wine offers good, solid, pretty fun!  ** (almost ***) Now.

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Highs and Lows from Louis-Antoine Luyt

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

The wines of Louis-Antoine Luyt can provide an experience that no other wine from Chile can.  The 2012 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan, Trequilemu, Maule is one such example.  This was clearly not fined for the fine sediment dusted the neck of the bottle.  The lack of fining let every component contribute to this wine.  It was strongly aromatic and flavorful, immediately engaging in a way untypical for Carignan.  I had high hopes for the 2011 Louis-Antoine Luyt, El Pais de Quenenhuao, Maule which Erin Scala recently wrote about in her post Uvahuasa, El Pais de Quenenhuao 2001 (Cauquenes, Chile).  On the first night, my bottle was fairly tight with prominent spritz, an odd but enjoyable popcorn note, and that dreaded hint of Pilsner beer.  I saved the rest for the second night to let the flavors expand.  Instead, the spritz had disappeared but the wine became piercingly high-toned with prominent popcorn and Pilsner beer flavors.  It had self-destructed.  This was my first bad experience with Luyt’s wines so while important to note, do not let it put you off from trying his wine.  These wines were purchased at Weygandt Wines.

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2012 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan, Trequilemu, Maule – $28
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were lovely aromas of earthy berries and musk.  In the mouth the red fruit was balanced by both citric tartness and weight.  The harmonious citric flavors and tannins moved on to a long, earthy and tart aftertaste.  A wine to smell and drink.  *** Now-2018.

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2011 Louis-Antoine Luyt, El Pais de Quenenhuao, Maule – $28
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 12.9%.   There were high-toned, unripe raspberry aromas.  The mouth showed a fair amount of spritz followed by a right core of tart red fruit.  There were notes of popcorn and a hint of Pilsner beer.  The second night there was wood polish on the nose followed by unpalatable flavors of Pilsner beer and a popcorn aftertaste.  Flawed/Poor.

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The Pure Aromas of 2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Caquenes Cinsault

July 30, 2014 2 comments

It was almost two years ago that I first tasted The Wines of Louis-Antoine Luyt.  While I have drunk several bottles since then, I must admit I have not tried any new vintages in the meantime.  The 2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Caquenes Cinsault, Coelemu revealed beautiful aromas that were more generous than the flavors in the mouth.  The aromas of delicate red berries and flowers will crush any conception of what Chilean wine smells like.  I recommend you grab a few bottles to surprise your friends.  Just make sure to hold on to let several develop through the winter. This wine is available at Weygandt Wines.

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2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Caquenes Cinsault, Coelemu – $25
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 14%.  There were pure aromas of delicate red berries that became floral with air.  Lovely.  In the mouth the delicate red berries continued with a strawberry note, watering acidity, and a little structure.  The nose opened more compared to the flavors.  These developed a combination of strawberry and vintage perfume.  *** Now-2019.

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New Chilean Wines

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I spent yesterday working on a new historical project which is based on some of my recent research.  I am very excited and would love to stay submerged in research but I figure I should recommend some wines.  The 2010 Santa Laura, Laura Hartwig, Carmenere, Reserva is a good value, evocative of Carmenere with a robust nature.  The 2010 Garcia + Schwaderer, Facundo is a brighter wine which should integrate and relax with a little cellar age.  The 2010 Clos Des Fous, Cabernet Sauvignon is also a brighter wine with smoky flavors.  It was a little split in personality between the young fruit and intensity.  Perhaps it just needs a few months in the cellar.  Lastly, the 2011 Garcia + Schwaderer, Pinot Noir, Special Selection Sofia was just odd.  The acidity, tannins, and integration were all good but the raisin and dried fruit aromas and flavors continued to develop.  They were the last thing I expected in a Pinot Noir.  We did not finish the bottle.

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2010 Clos Des Fous, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alto Cachapoal –
Imported by Vine Connections.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 15 year old vines on soils of granite and volcanic round rocks at 2000 feet of elevation.  It was aged for 18 months in wood and cement vessels.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was a little smoky with red fruit, eventually becoming pungent red and black fruit.  In the mouth were riper, rounder fruit with powdery ripe then tarter red fruit flavors.  It was generally brighter, leaving the impression of younger vines or cooler climate.  It then ramped up in intensity with gum coating spices, tart acidity, and an earthy hint in the finish.  ** Now-2018.

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2010 Santa Laura, Laura Hartwig, Carmenere, Reserva, Colchagua Valley –
Imported by Oasis Wine.  This wine is 100% Carmenere.  Alcohol 14%.  There was black fruit in the mouth with a hint of the vegetal Carmenere flavor.  Then there were firm black fruit flavors which were a little spicy, powdery, controlled ripeness and a little structure in the finish.  It had a good aftertaste with some gentle spice flavors.  It has some youthful robustness which makes it a pleasure to drink now.  *** Now-2018.

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2011 Garcia + Schwaderer, Pinot Noir, Special Selection Sofia, Casablanca –
Imported by Vine Connections.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 14 year old vines at 1030 feet of elevation.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in used French oak. Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was a mixture of dried raisins, raspberry candy, and some fresh fruit.  In the mouth was red fruit with ethereal flavors of dried fruit.  There was nice acidity with both black and red fruit near the finish and an aftertaste with some candy sweet.  With air the dried fruit and raisin aromas and flavors developed to become heavily distracting.  * Now.

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2010 Garcia + Schwaderer, Facundo
Imported by Vine Connections.  This wine is a blend of 50% Carignan, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec sourced from 30 year old vines on granitic soils at 325 feet of elevation.  It was aged for 24 months in French oak.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was slightly pungent with black fruit.  In the mouth were tart red fruit, slightly smoky black fruit, more acidity then some tar.  It became brighter with salivating acidity flavors.  It was a little dense with both the structure and acidity noticeable on top of the tongue.  It had some grip, drying tannins, and citric hint.  **(*) Now-2020.

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Very Old Vines and Old Tinajas

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Just a quick, belated post for today.  The wines of Louis-Antoine Luyt continue to define a new style of Chilean wine for me, including the 2010 Luyt, Huasa de Pilen Alto featured below.  To this group I would add the 2012 De Martino, Viejas Tinajas which is minimally produced in rather old earthenware tinajas.  Whereas the Luyt was a little earthy and animale the De Martino was more clean and delicate with its red fruit.  Try them both! These wines were purchased at Chambers Street Wines.

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2010 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Huasa de Pilen Alto, Maule – $23
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  This wine is 100% Pais sourced from 180 year old vines located on soils of clay and decomposed granite at 580 meters produced using carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was earthy with a little pepper note.  The mouth follows the noe with tart red fruit that mixes with citrus.  The flavors were dry with acidity on the tongue and a woodsy note in the finish.  With air there was a hint of raciness, a little ethereal flavor, and brighter red fruit.  It was a little animale with grapey tannins and a hint of yeast.  *** Now-2014.

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2012 De Martino, Cinsault, Viejas Tinajas, Secano Interior – $24
Imported by Opici Wines.  This wine is 100% Cinsault from old bush vines on granite soils fermented with indigenous yeasts in 100-year old earthen ware amphora.  No pumps are used to remove the wine from the tinajas.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was of red strawberries.  In the mouth the red fruit showed some hard candy and a good, ripe core.  There was watering acidity, inky notes, and a generally cool aspect.  There were moderate and ripe tannins in the structure, some levity, and it eventually developed approachable notes of baking spices.  This was best after one hour of air.  *** Now-2015.Chile3

The Wines of Louis-Antoine Luyt

October 8, 2012 2 comments

A week ago we drank four different Chilean wines by Louis-Antoine Luyt.  These were fun wines to taste.  I might have my preferences for current drinking but I want to start by suggesting you buy all four wines.  They are each unique, clearly exist with a purpose, and will surely change how you view Chilean wine.

Carignan for Primavera, the Comavida Parcel, Image from Clos Ouvert

The fruit for Louis-Antoine’s wines are literally rooted in over three centuries of history.  The grape vine is not indigenous to Chile and was first brought over in 1548 by Francisco de Carabantes.  Just three years later the first recorded vintage in Chile took place.  By the 1640s grapes were so abundant that they could not be disposed of.

Ovalle, in his History of Chili, says that grapes were so plentiful in 1646, that they could not be disposed of… White wines were made from that species of grape called Uba Torrontes and Albilla which were much valued; red wines were made from the ordinary grape and a species called Mollar.  The bunches of grapes, he says, were enormously large; and he mentions one that filled a basket, and served as a meal for a numerous convent of friars. The branches of the vine he describes as very large, and the trunks of the trees as thick as a man’s body.

Morewood, Samuel.  A Philosophical and Statistical History of the Inventions and Customs of Ancient and Modern Nations in the Manufacture and Use of Inebriating Liquors.  Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Company, 1838. pp 307-308.

Louis-Antoine’s oldest vines have roots dating from 120 years back to 350 years or 1660.  These vines are of the Pais varietal, also known as Mollar, which is a clonal variation of Listan Negro.  Listan Negro is a Spanish varietal which was brought over from the Canary Islands by the Spanish missionaries.  The vineyards in Chile do not suffer downy mildew nor phylloxera.  As we have seen with the ancient Assyrtiko vines of Santorini, the old roots will live for centuries.  The vines are periodically cut off at the base and a new vine regenerates.  Perhaps the combination of abundant vines along with pest and disease free soils allowed such old vines to survive into the 21st century.

Argentina Cile Uruguay, Instituto Geographico di Agostini, 1952, Image from David Rumsey Map Collection

Louis-Antoine also produces wine from vines dating back 100 years.  These are of varietals such as Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Syrah.  In the 1840s French varietals were first imported and specialists from Bordeaux and Rioja were brought over as well.  But it was the devastating European phylloxera of the 1870s which brought an influx of winemakers, viticulturalists, and coopers.  Thus over several decades the use of French varietals spread throughout the country.

The wines featured in this post are all made by Louis-Antoine Luyt.  He is a Frenchman who moved to Chile  some 14 years ago.  During his return trips to work French harvests and go to school he met Mathew Lapierre.  Matthew became his mentor and eventually visited Chile with Louis-Antoine.  Together, along with a third-partner, they began the Clos Ouvert project.  The Clos Ouvert wines are produced from parcel Louis-Antoine rents and tends.  In the devastating earthquake of 2010 the entire production of Clos Ouvert was lost and his partners pulled out.  Louis-Antoine decided to continue the label himself.  The Pais wines are made from purchased fruit which highlight specific parcels.  The Louis-Antoine Luyt wines represent “fun wines” which are made from purchased fruit.  For further information I recommend that you start by reading the interview on the Louis/Dressner website.  You may find it here.  For additional images please view the Clos Ouvert website.

In short, these are unique and engaging wine which I recommend you try.  Many thanks to Jules Dressner for answering my questions.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan, Trequilemu, Secano – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 12.9%.  The color is medium purple, cloud with bits.  The light to medium scented nose is of delicately ripe, red and blue fruit.  In the mouth there is fresh fruit with density, ripe textured flavors, and acidity from the beginning.  There is an earthy hint to dark red fruit with energy coming from the acidity.  There is a lipstick bit along with fresh orange-juice acidity which causes the mouth to water.  *** Now-2017.

2010 Louis-Antoine Luyt, El Pais de Quenehuao, Valle de Maule – $24
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The color is light to medium purple with hints of black cherry.  The nose is of floral red fruit, a hint of grapefruit, and an overall brighter, finer scent.  In the mouth there is pure red fruit with more noticeable structure than the Carignan.  The flavors start with a modest prickle.  There are drying red grapefruit flavors and an overall dry nature by the finish and a drying quality on the cheeks.  This wine shows more tannins.  It develops a note similar to pepper.  *** Now-2015.

2009 Clos Ouvert, Carmenere, Cauquenes, Valle de Maule – $27
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose bears a little greenhouse, floral note.  In the mouth the flavors are lively on the tongue with earthy, bramble fruit.  This wine is minerally with sweet spices and very lifted in the finish and aftertaste.  There is lively acidity, balance throughout, and ripe tannins.  The long aftertaste is a bit racy and earthy.  *** Now-2019.

2010 Clos Ouvert, Primavera, Secano, Valle de Maule – $27
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose is of red fruit, citrus, and a yeast note.  In the mouth there is tight, red brambly fruit which is lively on the tongue.  There are chalky minerals, orange juice acidity, and red concentrated fruit which remained tight over two nights.  This is a structured wine with citric tannins and comes across as the youngest of all four.  *** 2015-2020.