Archive for September, 2012


September 26, 2012

I’m about to enter dangerous territory here, I know, but the annual Bordeaux release is this Saturday and…I don’t care! Not only that, I recommend wine lovers stay away…far, far away!

Now, I know this borders on sacrilege for the oenophiles and wine snobs around the world. Bordeaux is, arguably, the world’s most popular and valuable wine. And this vintage is being acclaimed by all the critics – including Robert Parker, the Wine Advocate, who I follow almost religiously when it comes to other wines – as a great one. But that isn’t enough for me.

And here are a few reasons why.

First, and foremost, is style. Let me be clear – this is not a “good wine/bad wine” issue. But anyone who drinks Bordeaux on a regular basis knows that the so-called “old world” style is tipped in favour of woody, herbal flavours (instead of fruit). Add in some fairly harsh tannins for many of the wines, and it is – at least for me – not a very enjoyable drinking experience, young or old. Give me those varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, mostly) from California, Australia and even Argentina and some parts of BC instead. Wine is made of fruit, so should taste like fruit…but any of you who read this blog have heard this before.

Even putting style aside, however, there is the question of price. I picked up the 2009 Bordeaux guide and was appalled to see that the so-called best wines were in the $150+ range and up….way up, to well over $1000 a bottle for the First Growths!

Now come on! For less than $50, you can get an amazing California or Aussie Cabernet that will blow your socks off. And don’t give me the “they won’t age with all that fruit in them” argument. My cellar is full of those wines which, at 8 – 10 years old, are still stunningly fresh.

Value is another argument against Bordeaux. Even recognizing that value is a relative term (for millionaires, does it even mean anything?), I saw too many reviews that said $75 wines were “good values”.

Sorry, but for me, that doesn’t fly. Regardless of inflation or currency fluctuation, I find it hard to talk about anything over $20 being a good value. That sounds like a marketing ploy to me (and, as a PR professional, I know all about those).

Next is the argument that you are paying the high prices because Bordeaux will develop into something special. Now, on the one hand, I kind of buy into that argument, because I have lots of Rhone and Italian wines in my cellar that have handsomely repaid the $40 – $50 investment over 10 – 15 years with smooth, mellow, herbal fruit.

But my experience with older Bordeaux – and, granted, I don’t have the money to drink the First Growths – is all you get after 10 years is wood…and lots of it. The fruit (if it was ever there in the first place) is gone, and you almost need a fork to drink the wine. Again, not my style.

Last, but not least, is if you buy Bordeaux for prestige….well, then you are into wine for the wrong reason. To paraphrase a certain American president, “It’s for drinking, stupid!”. If you like the style and can afford it, then let’s agree to disagree. But if you are just doing it for show…

Okay, I’m done. Another year, another Bordeaux rant down the drain. Now if I can just keep away from those highly rated wines in the store on Saturday….



September 19, 2012

I had another experience this week that reminded me of a big dilemma in any wine dweeb’s life – what happens if your tastes in wine can change over time.

The specific example was around a Spanish wine. Highly rated by Parker, mostly Tempranillo (a grape I have liked in the past), it should have been a very enjoyable experience. Instead, though, I kept trying to convince myself how good it was and, more importantly, how much I was enjoying it. Not a good sign. In the end, I gave up, and opened another bottle.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that the wine was bad or off. It just wasn’t the style that I liked, at least not anymore.

This has happened before to me, as I am sure it has for many wine drinkers. Red Bordeaux is the best example. When I first got into wine, it was Bordeaux that I was cellaring and – I think – I liked. But then, when I tried more and more California wines, something happened. Whether it was being seduced by the higher ripeness of the fruit or the rise in prices, Bordeaux gradually became less and less enjoyable. I finally ended up trading much of what I had left to a member of my wine club for BC Pinot Noir and Syrah.

The same thing has now happened over time with most Spanish wines. I used to buy – and drink – a lot of them, but over the last couple of years…well, it just isn’t working for me. A few I still enjoy, like Alexander Fernandez’s Pesquera. But even Rioja, which I used to be a huge fan of, has started to taste woody and herbal to me.

Why is this happening? Well, I don’t know any scientific reason for it. I don’t think the style of the wines has changed, as they have been made that way for centuries. Could be a change in taste buds as I get older. Could be I just like other wines better now. I don’t know.

But the potential implications for anyone who cellars wine are huge. What if your tastes change and you still have dozens or – even worse – hundreds of bottles of a kind of wine you no longer like? Yikes!

I’m not sure what the remedy is for this problem, aside from trying wines before you buy them (which can be very expensive) and drinking from your cellar on a regular basis to make sure you still like them. Then, if necessary, adjust your buying strategy as needed.

That’s what I have done. Bordeaux, Spain – both have significantly decreased, easily overtaken by Rhones, Shiraz’s and BC wines.

But, amazingly, the temptation remains! I picked up the 2009 Bordeaux release brochure today (look for my blog on Bordeaux next week). And, I have to admit, I scanned it to see which wines had the best balance between high ratings and reasonable prices.

Maybe I’ll just stop in next weekend and…no! Stop! I must have control….


The New Wines From Kangarilla Road

September 12, 2012

A break from BC wines today to write about a trade tasting I went to this morning for Kangarilla Road winery, which was hosted by Brix restaurant.

This McLaren Vale operation has been around since 1997, with the name coming from the Aboriginal language (referring to the abundance of local resources). I first came upon them a few years ago, when Parker started to rave about them from a price/quality ratio.

There were two whites to taste. The 2012 Veil was quite unique. Made from Sauvignon Blanc, it was styled after the ‘vin jaune’ wines from the Jura region in France, which are made in the style of Sherry. And you can tell — there was a nuttiness and slight oxidation, big body, little or no oak and just touches of citrus. A nice wine, but a bit of an acquired taste to be sure.

The 2008 Chardonnay was more my style. It was kind of like a cross between California and Chablis. There is the butter and vanilla, but not too much. Fairly big body, nice fruit, a good bargain at $19.99.

Next were Kangarilla Road entry level reds. The ’10 Terzetto is an intriguing mix of Sangiovese, Primitivo and Nebbiolo – Italy in Aus! Beautiful floral/red cherry nose, but a bit light and quite tannic (more than the fruit can take, I think).

The 2009 Zinfandel is nicer. Bang on from an aroma point of view, all ripe blackberries and brush. Smooth and ripe, almost elegant for a Zinfandel, and not an alcoholic powerhouse. But it is just a bit short on fruit…and a bit high in the price tag at $31.99.

The last five reds were the heavy hitters, both price and quality wise. The ’09 Shiraz/Viognier is lovely, very much like past vintages I have tasted – blackberry jam, smooth and full bodied. The ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit funky at first, but then a classic Bordeaux nose developed, with cedar, chocolate and tobacco emerging, followed by ripe black cherries in the mouth. If only most of Bordeaux was this ripe — and under $25!!

Three high end ($40 – $70) Shiraz’s finished things off. Interestingly, I think the cheapest was the best! The ’10 Devil’s Whiskers is a great example of what old vines can give you – super ripe and concentrated blackberries, some kirsch and licorice, big body, and so smooth. Not sure what the alcohol was on this one, but sure tasted great!

The ’10 Scarce Earth Project came from soils with lots of minerals, and they have a (positive) impact on the wine. More French Syrah than Aussie Shiraz in style, it is ripe but a touch leaner, with more pepper and licorice. Kind of like a riper version of Crozes-Hermitage. I loved it!

The final ’09 Q Shiraz is just a baby! The deepest purple and least developed of all the wines, it is also the most concentrated. I would give it 3 – 4 years in the cellar for it to open up.

All in all, a great bunch of wines and very nice event. Kudos to Icon Fine Wines & Spirits for putting it on and Brix for hosting with such great food!