Friday, 25 June 2010

An Oaky Chardonnay from Sonoma California

I was sent a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2006 the other week to review. According to the press release that came with the wine, it has gained a loyal following with sommeliers and restaurateurs alike in America, and is now available on these shores from Waitrose and Ocado.

The grapes used to make this wine come from all of their sites across the Russian River and Sonoma Valleys in California, this helps to create a more balanced and complex wine. Fermentation takes place in oak barrels and it is allowed to complete Malolactic (MLF) fermentation as well; this is where the tart malic acid is converted into the softer lactic acid, giving it a more rounded and buttery feel. The care and attention given to the wine making process has resulted in it winning a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2009.

On pouring the wine you got a bright, lemony gold colour, while on the nose it had aromas of citrus, green fruit and cedar with a touch of ginger coming through in the background. To taste you got the same flavours as the aromas, classic of Chardonnay, green apple and citrus, you got really pronounced flavours of cedar which comes from the oak ageing. Unfortunately you didn’t get the usual butter feel as I would have expected, as it had gone through the MLF process, the only way you could tell was the very low level of acidity. There was a good length of flavours in your mouth, which all went on to produce a very well balanced wine.

This wine for me was too oaky in flavour for my taste, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it is a very good wine. The only disappointing fact was that I was expecting a more creamy/buttery feel to the wine due to the MLF, but if you didn’t know it had gone through that process you wouldn’t have been disappointed.

If you like your whites oaky then this is definitely one to go for, if you don’t then stay well away from it.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Little Piece of Australian Heaven

I’ve never been the biggest fan of fortified wines, except for the odd glass of Manzanilla sherry; luckily for me though I was bought a bottle of Morris Rutherglen Liquor Muscat as a Christmas present last year. I’ve only had the opportunity to taste this wine on two previous occasions, the first being in my Fortified exam for my WSET diploma, the other at a wine tasting I hosted in New Jersey last year.

It hails from around the towns of Rutherglen and Glenrowan, in the hot, North West corner of the state of Victoria, and is produced using the Muscat Blanc Ā Petit Grains, which also goes under the guise of Brown Muscat in Australia. The grapes are left to semi-raisin on the vine before being pressed; it is then partially fermented with grape spirit being added to fortify it, before being subjected to an unusual wood ageing process. This ageing process is a cross between that employed by Sherry (Solera) and Madeira (Estufagem) under a hot tin roof.

Several years ago the producers joined forces to produce four tiers of quality, with Rutherglen Muscat at the bottom, followed by Classic then Grand, with Rare being the top classification. This is a voluntary and self regulated system, with each style getting richer and more complex as you go.

On pouring the wine the first thing you notice is its dark amber colour; on the nose you get pronounced aromas of dried fruit and grape spirit. On the palate it’s lusciously sweet, coating the inside of your mouth with the flavours of dried fruit and you get a warming sensation from the fortified level of alcohol. It’s almost like drinking Christmas cake that’s been soaked in brandy for months; the sweetness of the wine is balanced perfectly by the acidity, making it a stunning desert wine.

As an entry level Liquor Muscat this is an excellent wine that I really enjoyed and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a different kind of desert wine.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

New Jersey Wine Tasting

For my birthday my girlfriend took me to New York to visit my sister and experience the thrills of the Big Apple. And yes, before you say it, I know I’m a very lucky man. Whilst there, we were invited to a wine tasting, with me as the knowledgeable expert....

On arriving, we found Jackie the host for the day had really thrown the boat out and organised food too, which was absolutely amazing. The dishes that had been prepared included crab wontons with a mango salsa, Moroccan chicken with a crème fresh and horse radish dip, coconut shrimp and hush puppies with maple butter. I have absolutely no idea what the last ones actually are, but wow! They were amazing! I could go on about the food for a lot longer, as it was so delicious, but, back to the task in hand – the wine.

We started with an old vs. new world comparison: Roger Champault Sancerre vs. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Unsurprisingly the Cloudy Bay won hands down, showing a refinement and complexity of flavours that was unmatched; even by the other New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s we tasted later on, Cottesbrook and The Crossing.
We then moved on to the reds; starting with Bordeaux tasting wines from Chateau Aney (Haut Medoc), Chateau Bel Air (Lussac St Emillion) and Chateau Dubrand (Premiers Cotes de Blaye), all had the aromas and flavours of Blackcurrants, Cherries and Brambles as you’d expect from this region.

And so, on to Italy, and an Amarone della Valpolicella, which was just absolutely fantastic. Flavours of baked fruit and plums, juicy ripe tannins and just the right level of acidity, made the wine beautifully balanced.

Our next stop was Chile, with Anakena Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This had flavours of black and red currants, ripe tannins and a good acidity producing an excellent wine, all for $10 (£7).

Having made a stop in South America, we moved further north to California, where we compared two 2005 Cabernet Sauvignons. The first came from Baldacci, which had flavours of dark berries and cedar, with a touch of spice coming through in the back ground and juicy ripe tannins. The wine tasted wonderful; however, it would have been even better with another three to four years ageing. The wine from Provenance had all the flavours of the Baldacci, as you would expect with both being from the same region and grape. Yet, the Provenance won more people round, with a bit more complexity of flavours, and a touch of cocoa coming through with the spice.

Having gone round the world tasting these fantastic wines, we had one style left to sample: The fortified. We started with Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) 2003 Port; a good example of LBV, with Dark Cherry, Black fruit and herby notes coming through on the nose. Next we moved over to Spain, tasting the Lustau Dry Amontillado, Los Arcos Sherry, which had aromas and flavours of almonds and dried fruit. The only word to describe this was: Beautiful. Final stop of the day was Australia with its Rutherglen Muscat from Chambers Rosewood Vineyards. This lusciously sweet wine had flavours of almonds, dried fruit, marmalade and honey which were just out of this world.

Finally I’d like to say big thank you to everyone who was there and made us feel very welcome, with birthday cake and gifts, particularly the lovely Jackie for organising everything and opening her home to us all! It was a great, unforgettable day. Get ready for this year ladies!