Trapiche make an almost bewilderingly wide range of wines, with around twenty different labels that vary from a single variety to a choice of thirteen for the “Vineyards” label. Their “Terroirs Series” has three single vineyard Malbecs from different sites around Mendoza, an exercise in showing the effects of terroir has on the same grape. Ambrosia comes from Gualtallary in Tupungato, the highest of the three at 1,307 metres above sea level. The other two in the series are Suárez Lastra at 1,072m and Orellana de Escobar at a “mere” 990m.
Disclosure: this bottle was a sample, but opinions remain my own
Even before the first glass is poured, on opening this reveals itself to be a serious wine, with a left bank Bordeaux sensibility: French oak rules the day. The smokinessand hints of vanilla on the nose are joined by pencil shavings, leather, and bold black fruit. On the palate, there’s ripe black fruit on the attack along with tangy oak. Beautiful mineral notes join for the long, elegant finish. Although this is a “fruity” wine, it’s far from jammy and confected; rather, it’s beautifully balanced and serious, though doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ambrosia is well worth its status as a single vineyard wine.
There seems to be a wine-related celebration of some sort on virtually every day of the year, but World Malbec Day is definitely one of the most keenly observed by wine aficionados. Started in 2011 by Wines of Argentina to celebrate the country’s signature grape variety, it has grown each year (always on the 17th of April); last year there were 120 events held in 100 cities across 60 countries.
Terrazas de los Andes was founded as recently as 1996, but there is a long history of Europeans – especially French and Italians – heading to South America and taking their grape-growing and winemaking expertise with them – and of course their home varieties. Terrazas is a part of well-known drinks group Moët-Hennessy so remains in French hands, and doing well – it was the winner of the Argentine Wine Producer of the Year 2018 Trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.
Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions remain my own
Terrazas de los Andes Malbec 2017 (14.0%, RRP €25.70 at independent wine merchants)
There are two important facts about the vines from which this wine was produced:
High Altitude Vineyards – which is important enough to be stated on the front label just below the grape. There is something of an “arms race” in Argentina to have the highest vineyards. The Mendoza vineyards are just over a kilometre above sea level!
Old Vines – the age of the plots varies between 20 and 80 years old, giving some concentration to the flavours.
Most Argentinian Malbecs are big, bold, fruity wines that pack an unmistakable punch. This is no lightweight, but the high altitude has definitely given it some elegance and a (relative) lightness to go with the power. Plumsdominate the palate, with blackberryand vanillafrom ageing in French (80%) and American (20%) oak. There are some fine grained tannins on the finish which give a nice savoury edge. This would actually be better with the ubiquitous steak than many cheaper commercial style Malbecs, and so it’s definitely worth your consideration – whatever you might be eating on the 17th of Aprl!
An unusual grape for Argentina, Pinot Noir is much more often seen on the western side of the Andes, but this is a remarkably drinkable example from Bodegas Salentein. Although it’s their entry level Pinot, it has plenty of upfront but elegant fruit, and is nicely balanced – quaffable without being either jammy or thin. There’s more complexity further up the range but this is the ideal mid-week quaffer!
9. Loggia Della Luna Morellino di Scansano 2014 (13.5%, RRP €15.00)
This Tuscan treat is predominantly Sangiovesi and comes from the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Morellino is (yet another) synonym for Sangiovesi with differing stories over the origins of its name. However, given the prominent cherry flavours and high acidity I think the story of it being named after the morello cherry is the most likely. This isn’t a hugely complex wine but is more likeable than many lower priced Chiantis so it gets a firm thumbs up from me. Would make a great party wine that you’re not afraid to drink yourself!
Chilean Cab Sauv is something of a commodity nowadays, so it’s nice to find one that stands out from the crowd for its intensity of flavour and balance. In addition to cassis so vibrant that you can almost feel the individual blackcurrants popping in your mouth, this wine also offers the cedarwood and pencil shaving that are more often associated with left bank Bordeaux.
This was one of the standout value wines at Liberty’s 15th anniversary portfolio tasting. Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre, aka Mataro) is a grape which needs plenty of heat – and gets it in south east Spain – but crucially this is grown at altitude so the vines get to rest at night and acidity is preserved. This has some structure behind the big and bold fruit but can happily serve as a tipple on its own.
6. Frères Laffitte Le Petit Gascoûn Rouge 2016 (12.5%, RRP €13.50)
Yes the label is cute, but the wine is pretty nice as well – an easy drinking Tannat-dominated blend which is surprisingly quaffable (or “smashable” in modern parlance). The lighter alcohol also suggests that this would make a great picnic wine in the warmer months – it’s exactly the wine to have on hand in case of an impromptu barbecue.
5. Casa De La Ermita Lunatico 2015 (14.0%, RRP €18.99)
Another Spanish Monastrell shows that there is lots of good value wine being made from the grape – and Spain is one of the few European countries with a climate hot enough for it to fully ripen. 12 months ageing in French oak adds structure to blueberries and blackberries.
4. Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2011 (14.5%, RRP €22.99)
Rioja wines are generally easy to like, but, on reflection, not all of them are easy to admire – some have have too much wood at the expense of fruit, some have a big bang of strawberry fruit from Tempranillo but not much else, and some are just plain weird. As with most European wines, the region is most talked about but the producer is key to what’s in the glass. This is one of the most accomplished and well rounded Riojas I have tasted at any price – wonderfully rich red fruit with delightful vanilla in support. As an aside, it was also given the stamp of approval from DNS Wineclub!
3. Fog Mountain California Merlot 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.95)
It’s sometimes said that Sideways killed California Merlot (and gave a big boost to Pinot Noir). There’s an element of truth in that statement as the trajectory of the grapes’ sales moved in opposite directions, but the reality is that it was the poorer Merlot wines which lost out, leaving the good stuff behind. The name of this wine alludes to the cooler sites from which the grapes are sourced helping to preserve acidity and balance. The presence of 14% Petit Sirah in the blend adds a touch of backbone and complexity.
2. Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge 2016 (11.5%, RRP €23)
The assemblage of this wine – 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Gamay and 5% Malbec – would rarely be found anywhere else but the Loire. It’s made with minimal intervention from organic grapes, resulting in a light but fruity red which tastes more alive than almost any other wine. It’s like having freshly squeezed orange juice after a glass of squash!
I had sung the praises of the contrasting 2009 and 2011 vintages of this wine during the year (with my personal preference being for the 2009), but on tasting the 2010 at SPIT Festival I found that put those both in the shade. It’s a rare thing that Bordeaux is classed as good value nowadays, but this bottling from the De Mour group is the most superior Supérieur around!
As most regular readers will know, I’m very lucky to receive sample wine bottles on a regular basis, in addition to invitations to trade and press tastings. While spitting at tastings is de rigueur (and, quite frankly, necessary if you want to maintain both your palate and the ability to walk unaided), sample bottles are drunk without spitting chez moi.
So what do you do when you have a good few samples that you need to try, but you’re cutting back on the booze for a bit? Share them with wine friends is the obvious answer! Thus, at an informal dinner with friends from the DNS Wine Club I produced four bottles of relatively inexpensive red wine all wrapped in foil – for a mini blind tasting.
The objective of the blind tasting wasn’t to see which was the best wine, but rather to see how good we were at guessing the vintage, main grape(s), country of origin etc. And we were painfully average at that! However, one wine was agreed to be the tastiest – and happened to be the go-to bottle of one of the tasters:
Finca Las Moras Dadá Art Series 1 2016 (12.5%, €10.00, widely available at SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and all good independent off licences)
There are actually lots of different wines in the Dadá Art Series, but this Bonarda / Malbec blend is the most widely available. It’s actually quite an unusual blend, as Bonarda in Argentina is the same grape as the obscure Deuce Noir from Savoie in France (and formerly part of Italy) rather than the slightly better known Bonarda Piemontese. Malbec is of course Argentina’s signature black grape.
Obscure or unusual don’t matter in the end, it’s what’s in the glass that counts – and this is lovely! Blackberry crumble with lashings of custard, it’s that kind of lovely – black fruit from the grapes with plenty of vanilla from the American oak. And for a tenner in Ireland, this is great value for money!
As most people know, Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina. It’s become the classic match for steak and anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s one of the few red wines that casual wine-drinking blokes are prepared to pay a little more for.
But as so often is the case, when a signature grape becomes almost synonymous with a country, other varieties are unfairly overlooked. Here are a few examples of Life After Malbec:
Regular readers may be quite flabbergasted by the inclusion of a Pinot Grigio, and it’s true that I rarely like wines labelled as such, but for me this wine is leagues ahead of the cheap “chick water” that flows out of Italy. Compared to Alsatian Pinot Gris it does exhibit some of the varietal characteristics such as stone fruit and spiciness (particularly ginger) and has decent acidity, but it isn’t at all oily (which I like but isn’t for everyone). Just so nice to drink!
Amalaya Torrontés / Riesling 2016 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Martin’s Off Licence; Red Island Wine Company; Red Nose Wine; World Wide Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s)
Apart from a few exceptions I rarely enjoy varietal Torrontésas I find it a bit too full on – too perfumed, too flowery, and in all honesty better suited as air freshener rather than wine. The Hess Family have a solution with their Torrontés / Riesling blend – 85% of the former is freshenedby 15% of the latter, and it really is more than the sum of its parts. This is one of my go-to Argentinian white wines.
Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Grande Reserve 2014 (13.5%, RRP €23.99 at Searson’s)
The Bousquets are a southern French wine-making family, now into the fourth generation of vignerons. They began looking into vineyard sites in Argentina in 1990 and took the plunge with a purchase in 1997. This is a fairly full on Chardonnay with eight to twelve months maturation in French oak, depending on the vintage. I found the 2014 still a little young so would benefit from being decanted; when I tasted the 2011 in 2016 it was already well-integrated. This level of quality costs much more in other countries!
Alta Vista Premium Bonarda 2012 (15.0%, €20.00 at Mitchell & Son)
Italian wine fans might be saying “Oh, Bonarda in Argentina? Makes sense with all the Italian migration to Argentina in the past”, and they’d be partially right – this isn’t the same grape as the Bonarda of Piedmont, but has been found to be the same as Deuce Noir which originated in the (formerly Italian, now French) region of Savoie. This is a fairly big wine (15% abv!) with lots of red and black fruit but enough acidity to keep it fresh.
Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.3%, €12.99 at Wines On The Green; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Fresh, Stepaside; McCabes, Blackrock)
Although widely planted in Chile, Pinot Noir is not that common in Argentina; it’s a finicky grape that needs fairly cool growing conditions and much of Argentina is just too warm. Bodegas Salentein make several Pinots at different price points, and this is the entry level from their Portillo range. Despite the low price tag this is proper Pinot Noir – it’s amazingly drinkable for the price.
Callia “Magna” Shiraz 2014 (14.5%, RRP €18.99 at Redmonds Ranelagh; Vintry Rathgar; World Wide Wines Waterford; Bradley’s Cork; Sweeney’s; McHughes)
Callia’s “Magna” range sits above their “Alta” (see Pinot Grigio above) and “Selected” ranges. All of Callia’s wines come from their home San Juan province, but for Magna wines the grapes come from specific sub-regions – in the case of the Shiraz (also labelled as Syrah in some markets) this is the Tulum Valley (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either). This Shiraz is round and full bodied with lots of delicious black fruit, but also some black olive / tapenade notes.
Leading Irish off licence chain O’Briens have some excellent premium wines and some are on sale (in store only) for a short time. Here is a selection of my favourites:
Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Viognier 2012 (14.5%, €31.95 down to €25.56)
I had tried this wine previously and, although it was pretty good, I wasn’t overly impressed. Tasting is such a subjective pastime that I’m always ready to give a wine another try – and I’m so glad I did! I didn’t find this as oily as some Rhône Viogniers but it was peachy and rich – the abv of 14.5% should be a hint that it’s on the dry side. More of a food wine than a quaffing wine, but very well crafted.
Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d’Antan 2014 (13.5%, €45.00 down to €36.00)
This upmarket Sancerre is not for the casual drinker; it’s pricey but excellent. If I bought it I’d stick it away for a few years at least – it’s still fairly tight and closed up, but undoubtedly has fabulous potential.
La Comtesse de Pazo Barrantes Albariño 2013 (13.5%, €42.00 down to €33.60)
This is a fine wine to sit and sip, and to reflect upon the world. It has lees work and some oak, so it’s unlike most Albariños on the market, but it’s no Chardonnay clone either. Probably my favourite Albariño ever tasted!
Chanson Puligny-Montrachet 2013 (13.5%, €55.00 down to €44.00)
Top class Burgundy isn’t cheap, so why not try it when it’s on offer? This is another youngster that really needs putting away for a while, or at least decanting for a few hours if drinking now. Oak is noticeable on the nose (which I like, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) and adds depth to the palate. Don’t drink it too cold, and only share with friends who appreciate good wine!
Caro 2013 (14.5%, €50.00 down to €40.00)
This is a serious Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon blend which is the result of collaboration between Bordeaux’s Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite and the Catena family. At this young age it still has lots of oak and tannin and primary plum and blackcurrant fruit characters, but also cedar and sandalwood notes. Far better value than most posh Bordeaux reds, keep it for as long as you can bare!
Marqués de Murrietta Gran Reserva 2007 (14.0%, €34.95 down to €24.95)
When it comes to Rioja I normally go for a Crianza or Reserva style where the fruit is more prominent than the longer aged Gran Reservas. They can be too dry and “woody” (for me “oaky” can be good but “woody” rarely is). Marqués de Murrietta have a beauty on their hands with the 2007 – it’s exactly how Gran Reservas should be: lots of fruit (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry) with vanilla, all in a soft and cosseting package. Get in!
Delheim Grand Reserve 2013 (14.0%, €36.95 down to €29.56)
This is of course a South African wine but – tasted blind – does a great impression of a classy left bank Bordeaux. The main difference is that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape which never ripens sufficiently to be used as a varietal in Bordeaux (though can be a very high percentage of some Pauillacs). It’s definitely a dry wine, with pencil shavings and cedar notes that you’d associate with a more mature wine – so treat yourself to a bottle and a big steak! More info here.
Gérard Bertrand Cigalus 2014 (14.5%, €38.95 down to €29.95)
Probably the best wine in Gérard Bertrand’s portfolio, this is a biodynamically produced blend using both Bordeaux and Languedoc varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Caladoc (a cross between Grenache and Malbec). Interestingly, the Syrah and Carignan undergo whole berry carbonic maceration (similar to Gamay in Beaujolais) which adds a little approachability – it’s a big wine, but not too intimidating.
If Argentina’s wine producers can be said to have a certain nobilityabout them, then Bodega Achaval Ferrer is royalty.
To my shame I hadn’t tasted their wines before the Wines of Argentina event earlier this year, but they made a big impression. More precisely, they didn’t make an impression by just being *big* (though there are very few 12% light-bodied Malbecs made in Argentina), but rather due to their elegance – probably the most elegant wines I tasted at the whole event.
Elegance doesn’t come without a cost, of course; apart from the pair featured below the range includes more expensive wines such as:
Quimera, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (RRP around €35)
The Fincaseries, three single vineyard expressions of Malbec with a RRP of €85 – €90
The Mendoza series are blends from different vineyards across the Mendoza wine region. Based on the idea that blends can be more than the sum of their parts, they are designed to highlight the qualities and characters of their varieties rather than be a transparent window onto the terroir where they are grown. Though to be honest, given the strength and power of Malbec, wouldn’t translucent be more appropriate?
This is a 100% Malbec wine made from 60 hectares of vines in the Perdriel (3,150 ft), Medrano(2,790 ft) and Uco Valley (3,608 ft) subregions. Close to opaque in the glass, it has a highly perfumed nose, with a range of red and black fruits and a twist of spice. The fruit is also present and correct on the palate, but elegantly presented rather than the punch in the gob which most Malbecs give you. It’s hard to describe accurately, but this is a classy wine.
The companion Cabernet Sauvignon is also a 100% varietal, but made from just 15 hectares in the Agrelo (3,215 ft) and Medrano(2,790 ft) subregions of Mendoza. It also has a beguiling nose, outrageous amounts of elegant fruit coming through. On the palate it could almost be mistaken for a serious Pauillac, with black and red fruit plus hints of cedar and tobacco – though I don’t think a Pauillac of this class could be drunk so young! Fine grained tannins also add a bit backbone against which the fruit is framed.
Conclusion:Yes, this pair do showcase their respective varieties as intended – but I think far more than that, they showcase the care and attention taken in the vineyard, low yields and high altitude setting. These are wines fit for a king!
Altitude is even more important than latitude in Argentina – in terms of the weather patterns in the vineyard and the perceived quality of the wine. The search for good vineyard sites continues in Argentina, with new parts of the wine heartland Mendoza Valley being tried, plus further north in Salta such as in the Colchaqui Valley (pictured above).
The DNS Wine Club met to examine both whites and reds from Argentina, both varietals and blends. The whites were published on The Taste here: Hi Ho Silver(I wonder how many people got the pun in the title?) Now it’s the turn of the reds:
Susana Balbo Crios Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Mendoza) (€16.25 down to €14.65, Wines Direct – Arnotts & online)
14.0%, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Susana Balbo is the most recognised and celebrated oenologist in Argentina and has been at the forefront of innovation and quality improvements for decades. Key notes are plum and redcurrant (surprisingly more than blackcurrant), joined by a touch of vanilla from oak barrels. The soft tannins and silky smooth texture make this a delicious wine to enjoy in front of a roaring fire, or perhaps with a big juicy steak. Great value.
Amalaya produce a fantastic range of wines (also check out their Torrontés Riesling blend) of which this is a fairly modest member. Based in the highlands of Salta, the vineyards start at a mile high (1,600m) and keep climbing. Warm days and cool nights promote thicker skins than in lower vineyards (giving more intense flavours) and help maintain acidity (making the wines taste fresher).
This blend is more than the sum of its parts – ripe plum from the Malbec, pepper and spice from the Syrah plus a savoury edge from the Cabernet. Narrowly missed out on the best red of the tasting.
At “only” 850m – 1,100m the vineyards for this wine are considered to be in the foothills (for reference, Croagh Patrick’s summit is 764m). Although located in what is usually referred to as the New World, the Estate dates back to 1895 which makes it fairly old in my book. The vines for this bottle are 15 years of age or older giving classic Malbec characters.
If anybody, anywhere, tells you that “all Malbecs taste the same, there’s no point spending more than xx Euros on one” then you have my permission to shoot them (not that I think it would be a valid defence in a court of law). The Colomé winery dates back to 1831 – older than many Rioja Bodegas, for example. There are actually four separate estates at altitudes between 1,700m and 3,111m, each adding something to the blend of the Estate Malbec.
For such a big, alcoholic wine it is remarkably refined, delicate and long. Blackberry, blackcurrant and black cherry characters are the key, with supple tannins supplying the structure. A fantastic wine!
The first grape that many people (especially my friend Ciaran) suggest for a barbecue red is Malbec, particularly the fruit-driven style Malbecs that come out of Argentina. Others take a different view and insist that Cabernet is King, and the extra tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon is required to tame a protein feast.
Well of course neither are wrong – it’s personal preference after all – but there is a way to keep both parties happy – a Malbec Cabernet blend, the best of both worlds:
Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013 (€12.99, Aldi Wine)
This is a foray upmarket for Aldi, the discount Supermarket chain. Now that we are gradually emerging from the depths of despair recession, wine drinkers are gradually willing to spend a little more, but still keeping an eye on value for money.
Aldi recently launched their Lot Wines collection, premium wines with a limited production of 25,000 – 35,000 bottles per wine. That might still sound a lot, but in the context of the number of outlets they have in Ireland and the UK (at least) then it’s actually not that many. Each wine in the series has its own label designed by artists local to the producing region and a tag with information about the consulting winemaker for each one. Each bottle is individually numbered which adds to the premium look and feel.
For Lot #01 the man with the plan was José ‘Pepe’ Galante, head winemaker at Bodégas Salentein. Most of the grapes are sourced from higher altitude sites in the Uco Valley subregion of Mendoza – the altitude gives cooler growing conditions enabling the vines to produce grapes with ripe flavours and a balance of acidity and sugar (sites further east at lower altitude might be too warm and produce jammy wines). The grapes are hand-picked from selected parcels and matured after fermentation for twelve months in oak.
As well as the two hero grapes, there’s also a dash of Petit Verdot in here (less than 15% otherwise it would be on the front label). As in Bordeaux, it’s added for seasoning and a bit of extra backbone – as a grape it’s very high in tannin.
So how does the wine taste?
This wine has lots and lots of fruit, plum and damson from the Malbec intertwined with blackcurrant and blackberry from the Cabernet. But it’s no fruit bomb, the tannin and acidity keep it well balanced. It’s smooth to drink, but not so smooth that the taste jades after a glass or two. The oak is there but accompanies rather than dominates the fruit, adding vanilla and spice notes.
I shared this bottle with French and Irish friends at a barbecue and it was very well received – one French lady almost falling off her chair in delight!
Disclosure: Sample was provided, but opinions are entirely my own (and Sabrina’s)
The Wine Society is a mutually-owned wine buying club based in Stevenage in England. Since its inception in 1874 as The International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society Limitedits aim has been to buy wines direct from growers to ensure their authenticity and quality and to offer them to members at fair prices.
The Society has over 120,000 active members in the UK and Ireland which gives it great purchasing power and a licence to list more unusual bottles. They run various tasting events throughout the UK and one in Dublin most years. The most recent one focused on wines from the Americas, and below are my personal highlights. Our hosts were the charming Simon Mason and the lovely Isobel Cooper.
Viña Litoral Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile 2013
Leyda is situated close to the Pacific coast (as you might guess from “Litoral”) with its cooling sea breezes and thus is well suited to Sauvignon Blanc. This example has ripe grapefruit and gooseberry balanced by refreshing acidity. The 13.5% abv gives it a generous roundness in the mouth.
Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Riesling (Chile) 2013
From a very cool, top vineyard in western Casablanca, this is a
medium-dry riesling with about a third of the harvest affected by
noble rot, overlaying a lovely light honeyed aroma and flavour
over a bright, fresh palate. Drink now to 2018. 12%
Primus Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) 2011
A textbook example of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, not terribly complex but bursting with fruit and the beginnings of cedar and tabacco notes. Drinkable on its own mid week or with a medium rare steak.
Faldeos Nevados Torrontés (Argentina) 2013
Torrontés is Argentina’s signature white grape, with aromas and flavours somewhere between Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Viognier. At 14% abv it has plenty of body to match the bold grape and stone fruit flavours.
Norman Hardie Chardonnay Unfiltered, Ontario (Canada) 2011
The first Canadian wine I have tasted that wasn’t an Ice Wine. The aim here is more Burgundy than California – it has a modest 12.5% abv and a streak of minerality through the middle. It reminded me most of Premier Cru Chablis. In my view a little less oak would let the fruit shine more.
Weinert Carrascal (Argentina) 2008
This is a blend of 40% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, all Bordeaux varieties, although of course Malbec is mainly reduced to a minor supporting role in Bordeaux nowadays. No shrinking violet, this is a big, rich, in-your-face wine with a velvety finish. Great for cold nights or with red meat.
Ravenswood Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel (USA) 2011
Ravenswood make some fantastic Zin; big, bold and very gluggable. Their Lodi Old-Vine is slightly more expensive but more concentrated, higher in alcohol and will live for longer. It’s a world away from “blush” white Zinfandel.
Ridge Geyserville (USA) 2011
Ridge is almost legendary among Californian producers. This is a Zinfandel-Carignan(e) blend based on some of California’s oldest vines; the youngest are 10 years old, the oldest over 120 years, with 60% 40 years old or more. It is very dense at first – takes a while to open up in the glass – then the powerful dark black fruit comes through, wrapped in vanilla. This will surely continue to develop over the next 10 years.
Quartet Anderson Valley Brut Roederer Estates (USA) NV
For me this was the star of the whole event. It is a traditional method sparkling wine from Mendocino County in California. The grapes are sourced from four separate vineyards (hence the name) in the northern Anderson Valley, cooled by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. On the palette the 30% Pinot Noir initially gives lots of soft strawberry flavours and then the 70% Chardonnay comes through as bright citrus. The finish has classic brioche richness from ageing on the lees. Wonderfully balanced and put together.