Monday, 28 July 2014

A Barossa Beauty - The Chookshed from Rusden Vineyards

Having done that fantastic tasting with La Rioja Alta, it's time to head back down under to the southern hemisphere, and review an old vintage from Rusden Vineyards that had been given to me by a friend.

In 1979 Christine and Dennis Canute bought 40 acres of run down vineyards right in the heart of the Barossa, initially as a hobby farm with plenty of room the kids to run free around. Believing in the quality of the fruit they were growing Dennis and his friend Russell decided to make a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, that was not just good enough for personnel consumption, but good enough to put a label on it. This was 1992 and Rusden (the amalgamation of Russell and Dennis) was born.

In 1997 they bought 5 second hand barriques and started to experiment with Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon keeping the pressings and free run juice separate to see the different maturation of each wine in different styles of oak. 1998 saw them make them make their first commercial wine from Chenin Blanc crushing 7.5 tonnes of grapes grown on their estate, 1999 saw them crush 10 tonnes of fruit including from red varieties such as Shiraz, Zinfandel and Mataro. Today the estate is still family owned and crush between 80 - 100 tonnes of fruit to produce wines from fuit that is all grown on the estate.

The bottle I was given was a 2005 Chookshed Zinfandel, I've not seen any Zinfandel produced in Australia before, you tend to see it mainly from America or Italy where it goes under it's other name Primitivo, but where ever it comes from it is a grape I adore. After having a quick read of the back label, the first thing I noticed was the 16.5% vol, now this got me a little worried and a little intrigued as to how this would work.

In the glass it had an opaque red/purple colour with wonderfully pronounced aromas of sweet/jammy fruit and spice, on the palate you got lashings of juicy, jammy dark fruit that was inter laced with sweet spice of Liquorice, Clove and Cinnamon. The tannins were soft and juicy, not that their was left, and you got just a touch of acidity that all combined perfectly, you also didn't notice that it was 16.5% which amazed me, I was expecting to really feel it on the back of my throat.

Unfortunately you can't get hold of this vintage any more, unless some merchant has a case or two squirrelled away at the back of cellar, but if you spot another vintage I'd definitely grab a bottle and give it a go.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Tasting with Francisco Corpas from La Rioja Alta

The other week I got the chance to meet Francisco Corpas from La Rioja Alta and have a taste through their range of wines. La Rioja Alta, S.A. was originally founded in 1890 by five growers from the Basque and Rioja regions, in the Haro Station district of the north western corner of the Rioja region.

In 1988 they purchased and renovated the Lagar de Fornelos winery, which produces the Lagar de Cervera Albarino, 1989 saw them make the the decision to fund a new winery based in Ribera del Duero, Aster, then in 1995 saw the addition of the Torre de Ona winery, which is located in the heart of La Rioja Alavesa.

Their are many traditional aspects that they still employ throughout the whole group of wineries, they only use grapes that are grown on each estate, nothing is brought in. Originally they had their own coopers in the winery to produce their barrels, in 2002 they decided to re-establish this tradition and started shipping in wood from France and America, which they season over a two year period. They also still hand rack all the barrels every six months by candle light.

On to the wines;

2013 Lagar de Cervera
100% Albarino all from their own 100ha estate, where only 77ha is currently in production, the wine in the glass has a bright yellow colour with just a tinge of green to it. You these wonderful aromas apples and citrus which come through on the palate balanced with a lovely acidity which helps the flavours to linger on the palate that little bit longer. Have to say this is a great example of Albarino from Galicia, definitely worth trying.

2009 Aster Crianza
Produced from 100% Tinta del País (Tempranillo), the wine is aged in 100% French oak, 70% new barrels and 30% two year old barrels and bottled in July 2012, 50% was allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation giving it a slightly softer acidity. In the glass it had a deep ruby red colour, with pronounced aromas of dark fruit and spice. These came through on the palate with the spice separating out into Liquorice, Cedar and Mocha, it also had wonderfully fine and silky tannins and a lovely soft acidity which were all perfectly in balance with one another.

2009 Torre de Ona Reserva
This wine is a blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo, it is aged for 24 months in 70% French oak (40% new barrels and 30% two year old barrels) and 30% Russian oak, the 70% in French oak was allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation, then a further 24 months in bottle. In the glass it had a bright ruby red colour, with pronounced aromas of dark fruit and spice. On the palate the spice again separated out into Liquorice, Cigar box and cedar with loads of dark fruit, cherries and blackberries. It had a lovely silky tannic structure and a soft acidity which again  just made your mouth water and help the flavours linger on the palate. I have to say this is a stunning wine.

2007 Vina Alberdi Reserva
100% Tempranillo which is fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in new American oak and then a further year in 3 year old oak barrels before spending a further 24 months in bottle before release. In the glass you got this lovely bright ruby/cherry red colour, you got aromas of red berries and coffee with hint of balsamic coming through. These all came through on the palate with soft/silky tannins and a perfectly balanced amount of acidity, which again all go to produce another stunning wine.

2005 Vina Ardanza Reserva
Made from 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha, these are aged for three years in three year old american oak before blending and bottling. It had a ruby red colour in the glass with a slight garnet rim to it. You got these wonderful aromas of jammy dark fruit and spice. On the palate the spice was dominant with Pepper, Vanilla and a touch of balsamic, while through the dark fruit came through from the background. Again it had these wonderfully soft, silky tannins and a perfectly balanced acidity.

2004 Gran Reserva 904
This one is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, the wine as with all the others is allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation before ageing for four years in four year old American oak barrels, then a further 5 years in bottle. In the glass it has this deep cherry red colour with a garnet rim to it, on the nose it had an abundance of spice, balsamic and cocoa. These all came through of the palate with a touch of Vanilla added in, lovely tannins and a perfectly balanced acidity. The length of flavours just kept on going, depth and complexity of the flavours was just absolutely stunning, but you wouldn't expect anything else from a wine of this quality and price.

1998 Gran Reserva 890
This wine is only produced in exceptional vintages, roughly three out of every 10. It is a blend of 95% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, and the vines are all a minimum of 40 years old. After Malolactic fermentation the wine is then aged for six years in American oak and then a further six in bottle. The cherry red colour wasn't as deep in this wine as the 904 and it had a much more orange rim to it. On the nose their were pronounced aromas of smoke, spice, leather, cocoa, tobacco and a touch of vanilla with some gentle, almost candied fruit coming through from the background. Again the tannins were silky and soft, and balanced out with a soft but plentiful acidity, the length of flavour was just amazing, as was the one, but you really wouldn't expect anything else from a wine of this quality that's aged for 12 years before it's released for sale.

I have to say it's hard to find my favourite wine out of all of these, the two Gran Reserva's, as they should be were absolutely stunning, but their not your everyday drinking wine, definitely for that special occasion. For me though I have to say my favourite was the 2009 Torre de Ona Reserva, but if I'm honest you can't wrong with any of their wines, they're definitely worth taking one or two of them home to enjoy. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

An American Chardonnay with a Difference - Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs

After stopping off in London for the Wine Fair, I thought I'd head west and pay a visit to California and review one of the wines from Paul Hobbs, who Forbes magazine describe as 'the Steve Jobs of wine' and was named as the most influential winemaker in California.

Paul is the second oldest of 11 children, he grew up on a working farm near Lake Ontario in western New York, where his father had him taste the same variety of apples grown in different orchards from all over, giving him the first hand experience of 'terrior'. In 1969 his father let him taste a 1962 Chateau d'Yquem which captured his imagination and inspired his interest in wine, from that evening he and his father decided to start planting vines on their apple farm and start learning about wine.

Paul moved west, and studied winemaking at the University of California, and where he did an internship at Robert Mondavi, who he would later go and work for, eventually becoming the winemaker of Opus One, probably America's most prestigious wine. In 1991 he decided to go it alone and setup the Paul Hobbs Winery in Sebastapol, then in 1999 he started Vina Cobos in Argentina, he also consults all over South America, in Cahors and even as far as Armenia.

His Crossbarn Chardonnay is produced from fruit carefully selected from selected vineyards from all over the Sonoma Coast appellation, where careful management of the yields is maintained to maximise the ripeness and concentration in the fruit. All the harvest is carried out by hand to ensure the fruit arrives at the winery in immaculate condition. 80 % of the harvest is fermented in Stainless Steel with the other 20% in old French oak, all the wine is then left to go through Malolactic Fermentation to soften the acidity and give it much more of a rounded mouth feel.

The wine has a wonderfully bright golden colour with a slight hint of green it, on the nose it had quite pronounced aromas of citrus, pear and honeysuckle. On the palate the fruit came through beautifully, with the pear becoming much more apple, a touch of white peach/nectarine and a delicate touch of lemon oil, it has a lovely rich mouthfeel that wasn't too intense and a well balanced soft acidity. Combine all these together and you really do get such a well crafted wine that takes a step away from the big heavily oakey Chardonnays that California produce so well. Would I recommend this wine, absolutely, but if I'm honest, it's hard to find a bad wine that Paul has had anything to do with.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A South African Tasting with Gary Jordan

The other week saw the wine world descend on London's Kensington Olympia exhibition hall for the London Wine Fair, bringing together producers and agencies both large and small showing off their wares and trying to extend their current reach. While spending the day tasting several great wines/producers, many good producers and bulk producers whose wine is likely to and up on supermarket shelves on some half price offer, which is all it's worth to start with, their is one producer who stuck in my mind the whole day, and that is Jordan from Stellenbosch in South Africa.

The 146 hectare Stellenbosch property was bought in 1982 by Ted and Sheelagh Jordan who embarked on extensive replanting, selecting varieties suited to. Then their son Gary and his wife Kathy returned to the estate in 1992 to build a new cellar, and since 1993 have been producing world class wines.

They have a comprehensive range producing single varietals from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and several blends to round of the range, and I have to say it's pretty hard to find a poor wine. For the moment though I want to look at their Chardonnays, but I definitely would recommend anything from their range, the reds are as fantastic as the whites.

2013 Unoaked Chardonnay

The fruit for this wine comes from vines that are 28 years old which gives the fruit much more depth of flavour to start with. It is all Stainless Steel fermented and kept on the Lees for 4 months to help develop the leesy characteristic.

In the glass you had the wonderfully bright pale lemony/green colour, with aromas of tropical fruit, citrus and some delicate floral hints coming through. On the palate these all shone through with the citrus coming through as lime and the floral characteristic being elderflower, along with this you got a lovely racy acidity which just made your water and helped the flavours linger around in your mouth. I have to say one of the best unoaked Chardonnays I've tasted for a while.

2013 Chardonnay

The fruit for this wine comes from vines that are between 11 - 28 years old, which are situated on the cooler east and south facing slopes. It's then fermented 228 litre French oak barrels (51% new and 49% second fill) and where it stays for another 9 months on the lees which occasional rolling of the barrels to accentuate the leesy character. They then blend in around 8% of tank fermented Chardonnay to help balance the citrus flavours, and both wines allowed to go through Malolactic Fermentation to soften the acidity.

In the glass it had a beautiful golden colour to it, with aromas of citrus, green fruit, sweet spice and a toasty/buttery character coming through. You got these flavours coming through, with the toasty oak being quite dominant but not overpowering. It has quite a rich/creamy mouth feel and a soft, but plentiful acidity which all worked perfectly in balance with one another, this will also develop over the coming months getting richer and creamier. I'm not usually a fan of rich, oakey Chardonnays, but this is definitely one that I would happily buy and drink.

 2013 Nine Yards Chardonnay

This wine is produced in the same fashion as the oaked Chardonnay, except the the fruit comes from a 23 year old specific vineyard and it aged in barrel for 13 months not 9, a small proportion is also allowed to go through natural fermentation helping to give it different characteristics to oaked Chardonnay.

This wine had a slightly richer golden colour to it, with wonderful aromas of Citrus, Butterscotch and a touch of spice coming through. These all came through on the palate with the citrus and butterscotch coming beautifully, while coming through there was a touch of stone fruit, it had a wonderfully rich mouth feel and a soft acidity to it. While this is still young and wasn't very forthcoming with the aromas and flavours, give this 12 - 18 months so everything can integrate together and this is just going to be a big, rich, opulent and a stunning wine.

I just want to say a massive thanks to Gary for taking the time to go through his wines with us, and would definitely advise you giving his wines a try, whether you go for the whites or his reds, your not gonna go far wrong with them.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A Tasting with Alexandra Curatolo from Curatolo Arini Part 2

Having first spoken about their Marsala wines, we should also have a look at some of the other wines they produce;

2012 'Coratto' Inzolia
This had a pale straw yellow colour, with delicate aromas of citrus and white flowers, these came through on the palate with a touch of stone fruit and melon coming through. It has quite a steely minerality combined with a racy acidity that worked very well together, a very refreshing wine that would be great for hot sunny lunch time drink, even more so at 12.5%.

2011 'Coralto' Nero d'Avola
This wine had a bright ruby colour with pronounced aromas of spice, red fruit and violets. On the palate these came through, the red berry aromas turning into more sour cherry that is so typical of Italian reds. It had a good amount of fine grippy tannins and a balanced acidity which helps wash away the tannins and let the flavours linger that little bit longer.

And finally, the one that really caught my eye;

2013 'Curatolo Arini' Zibbibo
This is produced from 100% Zibbibo, which also goes under the name Muscat of Alexandria, is fermented in stainless steel to help preserve the flavours and freshness of the wine. As with the Inzolia it has a pale straw yellow colour, with pronounced aromas of grapefruit, orange blossom with hints of sage coming through. These all came through on the palate with grapefruit still the dominant flavour, it had a crisp and fresh acidity which was well balanced with the fruit. This for me was the star out of these three wines for me, and one I'd say was worth grabbing a bottle and giving it a try.