Project Grenache

Grenache is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world and is again gaining popularity after a period of decline in the 1990s. It does exceptionally well in warm, dry and windy areas, partly because it takes a long time to ripe. The result is normally a very fruity wine which is relatively sweet.

It doesn’t necessarily age well, unless grown on poor soils and with a focus on quality rather than quantity. Chateauneuf du Pape, which typically contains a large percentage of Grenache, is an excellent example hereof and I have frequently tried Grenache wines from over 20 years old that still tasted amazing.

The grape is also tremendously popular in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha. It is generally assumed that this is where the grape originates from, although Sardinians claim that it comes from their island.

Last week I was so lucky to open a bottle of La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo from Proyecto Garnachas de España. The idea behind this “project” was to celebrate Grenache from Spain by making wines from this variety in three different parts of the country to demonstrate how the soil and climate have an influence on the end result. Now, I would love to try all three next to each other someday, but I definitely enjoyed just this one from the Ebro Valley which matured on new French oak for 5 months.

It boasted an impressive nose with finesse, ensuring a fun evening taking out my Le Nez du Vin aroma samples to make sure I got my tasting notes right for you. La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo can be bought at Majestic in the UK, but is also distributed in many other European countries. At £8.99 this is quite simply a bargain!

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Country: Spain
Region: 
Ribera del Queiles
Wine: La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo
Vintage: 2014
Producer: Proyecto Garnachas de España, Vintae
Grape(s): Grenache

Appearance: somewhere between light purple and red
Nose: dominated by black fruit, including blackcurrant, bilberry and blackberry, also a bit of raspberry, prune and violet; truffle, cedar, clove, pepper and chocolate; the oak aging has given it toast, caramel and furfural
Taste: not too sweet in the beginning, then a leathery arome de bouche, not very thick in structure, yet enough body with pleasant tannin and a caramel aftertaste with some alcohol which lingers on for quite long

Winose rating: ★★★★★

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Chateau Cantemerle

One way of identifying the best Bordeaux wines is to rely on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. This classification was ordered by Napoléon III to identify which Bordeaux wines would be displayed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. Although arguably outdated since it was last changed in 1973 when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was promoted to first “growth” (the classification consists of 5 categories), one can still expect a very high quality wine when opening a Grand cru classé. Be prepared to pay a high price though, as some of the first growth can be worth more than a thousand pounds, certainly for wines from the best years.

I had the opportunity to try a fifth growth from 1988 last night: a Chateau Cantemerle. This wine was only recognised as a Grand cru classé in 1856 after the owner of the chateau had lobbied hard to have her wine be acknowledged as such. It’s the only wine that was ever added to the list and, if you ask me, this late addition was well deserved. It is one of the best wines which I have ever tried.

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Country: France
Region: 
Haut-Médoc, Grand cru classée (5th growth)
Wine: Chateau Cantemerle
Vintage: 1988
Producer: Chateau Cantemerle
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc

Appearance: pomegranate red with a brown rim
Nose: leather, viola, coffee, tomato, red berry, lavender, brimstone, black cherries, thyme and oregano
Taste: dry and gentle intro, leathery arome de bouche, sweetness in the middle with very round tannin, meaty structure; medium intense, but very long finish

Winose rating: ★★★★★

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MMM…what a surprise

Have you ever enjoyed a Malbec, Merlot or Mourvèdre? Not unlikely. But have you ever had a blend containing all three of them? Chances are you never have, and the same was true for me until I tried M.M.M. from Bellingham, South Africa.

A gimmick then, to combine these three M’s in one blend? Not quite! I was pleasantly surprised by the  quality of this wine and particularly it’s fine balance and beautiful harmony between three varieties which have a very different background: Malbec, producing “black wine” and extremely successful in Argentine, Merlot, despised by the main character in “Sideways”*, but still very popular and producing quality wines around the word, and Mourvèdre, known as Monastrell in Spain. However, the question I now ask myself is: why haven’t these been combined more often?

This wine is still very recognisable as South African, although less leathery then I am used to. It’s incredibly subtle, yet fairly complex and full of taste.

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Country: South Africa
Region:
Coastal Region
Wine: The Bernard Series – Barrel Fermented MMM
Vintage: 2014
Producer: Bellingham
Grape(s): Malbec, Merlot and Mourvèdre

Appearance: red like very ripe raspberries or red cherries
Nose: very refined, yet not easy to unwind and describe; black currant, strawberry, viola, cherries, cocoa, subtle leather, sage and vanilla
Taste: sweet intro, middle very well balanced between sweet, acid, alcohol and tannin, explosion of flavours, red fruit in the arôme de bouche and a long, superb finish

Winose rating: ★★★★★

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I haven’t been surprised by a wine like this for a long time and I hope I’ll manage to find and try more MMM blends in the future.

* Am I the only one who ever noticed the contradiction of a Merlot hater whose favourite wine is a Cheval Blanc…which contains 40% Merlot?

Loving South Africa

South African wines are always very special to me. I love how they are very concentrated and most of them can be easily recognised because of this typical leathery smell which somehow reminds me of the red earth they grow from. South African soil is very acidic and it is common for vintners to add lime to it in order to compensate.

While Pinotage is the most famous South African grape, I generally prefer their more elegant Cabernet Sauvignon or – a personal favourite – Syrah. In fact, one of my all time favourite wines is South African one which I once had the luck of tasting and buying from its producer about two years ago: Haskell Vineyards Pillars Syrah. I will certainly share my tasting notes if I manage to try this wonderful wine again.

More recently, I tried another fantastic and classically South African Syrah from Robertson Winery: Constitution Road Shiraz (their spelling). This wine was first launched 2004 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the country’s democracy under the new constitution. It’s made from grapes grown in Robertson in the heart of South African’s wine land. In line with the country’s meat tradition, we paired it with oxtail, although braised in an Asian sauce.  Surprisingly, this turned out to be a match made in heaven!

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Country: South Africa
Region:
 Robertson, Breede River Valley, Western Cape
Wine: Constitution Road
Vintage: 2012
Producer: Robertson Winery
Grape(s): Syrah

Appearance: dark red with purple impressions
Nose: red currant, black currant, cherries, violet, boxwood, loads of leather, a hint of musk, coffee and smokey aromas
Taste: dry intro, sweet in the middle, meaty structure, dark fruit dominating the aroma de bouche, short and medium intense finish

Winose rating: ★★★★☆

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Alsace mini-tasting

It must have been many months since I had my last Alsace, so I was quite pleased when our guest agreed to a mini Alsace tasting last week. We compared two 2012 wines from Caves Bott Geyl in Beblenheim, situated centrally in Haut-Rhin which tends to deliver the highest quality of the region. We compared a Pinot Gris from the Les Éléments series with a Gewurztraminer from the Jules Geyl range, the latter made from wines bought from smaller producers in the region. Both were produced to express the character of the grapes, meaning it would allow for a clean comparison of varieties.

We found the nose of the rose and lychee typified Gewurztraminer much easier to describe than the nose of the Pinot Gris. After some fun sampling against aroma bottles from our Le Nez collection, we ultimately did recognize a wealth of citrus fruits and a faint yet clear hint of liquorice. However, all four of us ultimately preferred the richer and more welcoming Gewurztraminer, clearly the most aromatic grape variety used in the Alsace and my personal favourite.

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Country: France
Region: Alsace
Wine: Pinot Gris, Les Éléments
Vintage: 2012
Producer: Domaine Bott Geyl
Grape(s): Pinot Gris

Appearance: light yellow
Nose: grapefruit, orange, honey, a faint hint of liquorice (which is actually quite dominant in the arome du bouche), cedar and roasted hazelnut
Taste: reservedly sweet, gentle and very well balanced acidity, intense finish which fills your mouth with richness

Winose rating: ★★★☆☆

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Country: France
Region: Alsace
Wine: Gewurztraminer, Jules Geyl
Vintage: 2012
Producer: Cave Bott Geyl
Grape(s): Gewurztraminer

Appearance: light yellow with golden reflection
Nose: rose, lychee, pear, orange peel, wine lees, a hind of apricot, peach, a touch of pine and nutmegg
Taste: sweet intro, very rich flavor with acidity only developing towards the finish, an arome de bouche dominated by honey

Winose rating: ★★★★☆

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We bought both wines from Henri Bloem in The Netherlands. However, the wines from Bott Geyl (www.bott-geyl.com) are also distributed in the United Kingdom.