Posts Tagged ‘beaucastel’

Learnings from the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 9, 2016

A week late, but here are 5 things I learned from this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival:

1. The VIWF remains one of the best wine events anywhere

Year in, year out, regardless of the feature country/grape, the VIWF is outstanding and can compete with any festival in the world. It gets great producers, and they actually pour some of their best wines, which this year mean lots of Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos and Chianti Classico Riservas!

2. Young Barolo doesn’t have to be tannic

What a nice surprise! I love Barolo, but find it hard to taste/evaluate young…after 10+ years it is amazing, but young…except this year! I tasted a number of 2010’s and 2011’s that were really ripe…still with tannin, but way fruitier than usual. A much more enjoyable experience!

3. My favourite producers continue to be…my favourite producers!

Call it bias if you want, but it was great to see that some of my favourite producers once again made some of my favourite wines! Case in point? Averill Creek and their Pinot Noir…Andy continues to make unbelievably good wine on Vancouver Island, a gorgeous cross between Cali and Burgundy. The same goes for Famille Perrin and their Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. Yes, it is expensive at about $90. But simply stunning, and having been drinking this wine since the 1981 vintage, I can tell you it is almost guaranteed to produce an orgasmic experience after 10 – 15+ years.

4. Its nice when expectations are exceeded

Argentina hasn’t been a big focus of mine for a while when it comes to fine wine, with too many producers using too much oak in their red wines (particularly their Malbecs). But Decero and Colome had beautiful wines, including a 100% Cabernet Franc that was as good as I have had in many years.

5. Its too bad when low expectations are met

Have to say it…sorry…but when I saw Mission Hill had some new single vineyard wines with fancy names (and price tags), I bet myself they wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Tasted them and…no surprise, I was right!

There you go…short but sweet for a rainy Wednesday night!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

5 Things to Focus on at 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 23, 2016

Can’t believe it is here again…the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Italy is the host country this year, and they have pulled out all the stops. But with so many wines available to taste, what should your focus be? Here are 5 ideas (both Italy and beyond):

1. Barolo

I love Piedmont’s biggest wine, but it has become stupidly expensive, with most bottles over $60 (and I mean well over). But the Wine Festival provides a relatively cheap way to taste a dozen or more Barolos! Look for great producers like Damilano, Cesare, Conterno, Vietti. The only caveat — they are all young and will probably be very tannic…so watch out for a bad case of purple tongue!

2. Brunello di Montalcino

Same advice regarding Tuscany’s big red wine! There are numerous producers pouring 10 or more wines, and you can look for wineries like Argiano, Marchesi and San Polino. Brunellos tend to be not quite as tannic, so a little easier to enjoy young!

3. BC Wineries

I can’t leave out my homies…at least a couple of BC wineries warrant some attention, with Averill Creek leading the way! Andy is famous for his Pinot Noirs, but don’t miss his Pinot Gris as well. Burrowing Owl doesn’t have their Syrah, but try their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc…a bit “Bordeaux like” for me, but nice wines. Finally,
Quails Gate makes nice — if expensive — Cali style Pinot Noir.

4. California

Not a lot of wineries this year, but some of the biggies are here. Mondavi, Beringer, Signorello, Seghesio…all are worth checking out.

5. France

Even fewer from France, but one of my favourite wineries is back…Famille Perrin, which makes Chateau de Beaucastel (which they are pouring, along with their Coudoulet and Vacqueyras). Definitely worth a trip!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A WINE IS TOO OLD?

July 15, 2015

I have blogged before about “how to know when a wine is off”…but a couple of experiences this week made me think that another good topic was how to tell if a wine is just too old!

The first? I was down in my cellar on Sunday…it was finally cool enough to open the door after weeks of scorching heat! I was moving bottles around, creating space, when I saw something…a 1994 Cotes du Rhone! Now, that made it 21 years old…and even for the producer – Coudoulet de Beaucastel – that is pushing it! What it really meant is that I had somehow forgotten about that wine. So I opened it and…

But wait! The second example. The ongoing white Hermitage debacle! Those who read my blog know about this conundrum…I bought a number of highly rated white Hermitage from the northern Rhone before ever having tasted them. Then, when I did…aack! More like Retsina than wine! So I just left them in the cellar…until now.

So what happened? Well, second example first (as I drink another glass…).

The white Hermitage – a 1990 Chante Alouette by Chapoutier – was so deep in colour it was almost orange! Did it have a resiny nose? Yes…but also nuts, wax…and in the mouth huge body, with no oak or obvious oxidation. Was it my favourite style of wine? No. But was it too old…certainly not (as today’s glass shows).

The ’94 Cotes du Rhone was an even better example. Still medium red, it had classic garrigue/dried cherries on the nose. And in the mouth? It could easily have been mistaken for a mature Chateauneuf du Pape – smooth, no tannin, dried fruit, herbs, but – again – no signs oxidation at all. Amazing!

So back to the question – how do you know if a wine is too old?

Well, if you take out wines that are just “off”, a big part of the answer depends on the style of wine you like.

If you like fresh, fruity wines the best, then any wine that is not like that will seem too old. That’s not a bad thing…just something to know. So don’t keep your wine too long, or drink wines that are more than 5 years old.

But if you do like mature wines, then look for some tell tale signs. Is there little or no fruit at all? Are there tea-like aromas on the nose? Is the wine dried out – meaning tannic and that is about it? Is there lots of wood and herbs…but that is it?

And, for white wines, has the oak completely overwhelmed the wine, leaving you with a mouthful of what tastes like sawdust?

If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then the wine is probably too old. Bad? Not necessarily. Not worth drinking? It depends on the style you like or can try to appreciate (says the man who is still sipping the ’90 Chante Alouette 2 days after it was opened).

So there is a bit of a guide for you on old wine. An acquired taste? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean it is bad…you just have to be able to recognize it for what it is!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Holiday Blog #1 – Red Wines

December 4, 2014

Alright, three blogs left for 2014, so let’s focus on holiday wines. Today, we will start with red wines, with recommendations for all occasions. White wines next week, and we will finish with sparklers and sweet wines the week before Christmas.

1. Open Houses/Big Dinner Parties

In a lot of ways, this is the toughest category, because while you need to potentially serve wine to a lot of guests – and want it to be good – you also don’t want to break the bank. So you need to try and keep the wines to under $15 if possible.

My first “go to” region is the Cotes du Rhone in the south of France (and the regions around it). Even with the vagaries of exchange rates, there are lots of relative bargains out there. Most of these wines are blends – mainly Grenache and Syrah, with a smattering of Mourvedre and Carignan mixed in – but the big reason they are popular with many people is they lack oak. That means instead of cedary, woody aromas and flavours, you get cherries and berries, herbs, earth and pepper. Up here, my best pick is the Vin de Pays by Domaine la Bastide, a GSM mix that goes for $10.95 a bottle. The Ventoux by La Vieille Ferme is also a good bet for a few bucks more. And don’t worry about the vintage – the style is very consistent from year to year.

Spain is another obvious choice for value reds you are going to serve in quantity. My only caution here is that the main grape used in the cheaper wines – Garnacha (the Spanish version of Grenache) – is often oaked, which can take away fruitiness and add in woodiness. So be careful! A very consistent producer is Castano, which makes La Casona for $9.99 and Monastrell for $12.49. There is no oak in either that I can taste.

2. Small Dinner Parties

If you are having only a few friends over, you can afford to spend more per bottle (since you are going to serve few of them). If you want to keep the tab under $25 a bottle, I have a few suggestions.

Back to the Cotes du Rhone! The 2012 vintage is on the shelves and it is very good, better than the 2011 (if not as good as 2010). Most of the wines – again, made of Grenache and Syrah – are ripe, medium bodied, and have little evidence of oak aging. Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages will cost anywhere from $18 – $25. Look for Famille Perrin (the makers of Chateau de Beaucastel), Chapoutier (including his Bila Haut wines from the Roussillon) and Delas Freres.

If you like Shiraz, this is also a good price point, because you can avoid the overly sweet, syrupy cheaper wines. Personally, I love the blackberry jam and licorice you find in the best wines. Vintage variation isn’t that big a deal (because of the climate consistency). Recommendations would be the wines from d’Arenberg, Shotfire Ridge, Kilikanoon, and Penfold’s.

3. Special Occasions

Last but not least, some special occasion red wines. Here you either want to enjoy a great bottle with someone, or perhaps just show off a bit! The price tag starts at $40 and can go up – way up! The other thing to consider, though, is the maturity of the wine. If you open up a young Bordeaux or Barolo that cost you $75 or more, you (and your guest) may be very disappointed by the harsh, tannic wine.

Instead, I look to California. Cabernet Sauvignon can be a good bet, as most of the wines are made in such a fruit forward style that they drink beautifully when young (as well as aging well). Beringer and Caymus are two famous names to look for… their “regular” Cabs start at about $45 (and their reserves are over $100). But they taste fabulous!

Another option can be old vine Zinfandel. Young wines almost explode with ripe blackberry fruit, but without the jam you get in Aussie Shiraz. Ridge Vineyards is my favourite (look for Geyserville and Lytton Spring blends for about $50), along with Ravenswood. If you want a real treat, try to find a Turley, a cult wine for sure, but can be worth the $60+++.

So there you go…some red wine options.

Next week, the whites!

Stephen

MUSINGS ON THE 2014 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL

March 5, 2014

Well, it is over for another year…and what a festival it was once again! While it is fresh in my mind, here are my key observations of the 2014 Vancouver International Wine Festival.

1. Chateau de Beaucastel Dinner

My festival started with the Beaucastel dinner at Pastis restaurant, and it was a very good – but not great – start. Very good because the food was excellent, the guest – Monsieur Perrin from Chateau de Beaucastel – wonderful, and most of the wines very nice.

But it stopped short of being great because of the showcase wine – the 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape. First of all, it wasn’t decanted (much to the chagrin of many patrons, some of whom ended up with a lot of sediment in their glasses). More importantly, however, there was significant bottle variation – my glass was completely oxidized! And with no extra wine, that left me with – literally – an empty glass (I can’t drink oxidized wine) and a less than satisfactory experience.

2. Chapoutier Tasting

Interestingly, it was kind of the same experience at the Chapoutier tasting. I went because it featured a number of great wines (including two red Hermitages, which are among my favourite wines). And the fact that Monsieur Chapoutier was there was a bonus!

Again, most of the wines were very good. White Hermitage is not my style, but there was nothing wrong with the version they poured. And the 2010 Hermitage Monier La Sizeranne was amazing! But the showcase wine of the night – the 2010 Ermitage le Meal – was again a disappointment. It wasn’t “off” this time, but just didn’t have the concentration of fruit I would expect from a 98+ wine.

3. International Tastings

As always, however, the international tasting event was outstanding! France was the featured country and some of the 2011 Chateauneufs really surprised me. While lighter than the 2010s or the 2012s, they are still nicely ripe – I tasted no greenness! If there was a criticism, it was that they were a little tannic, but they were also young.

A small contingent of BC wines also had a couple of stellar showings. Blue Mountain poured their 2009 Brut Rose, which would blow away most Rose Champagnes. Tantalus’s Old Vine Riesling was also very good, showing a classic Alsace style. And Averill Creek’s Pinot Noirs – both the regular bottling and the reserve – were outstanding!

Other highlights were a couple of 2009 Barolos from Damilano, the 2011 Cotes du Roussilon Bila Haut Lapidem by Chapoutier, 2009 Cote Roties from Delas Freres and Durvernay, the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert by Jaboulet and a 2011 Vintage Port by Warres.

All in all, then, another great festival, and kudos to the organizers! I can hardly wait for next year.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

An Evening with Thomas Perrin – the Greatness of Beaucastel

October 9, 2013

What a fabulous experience tonight, so much so that I changed my planned blog for this week!

Marquis Wine Cellars, Vancouver’s premier private wine store, sent out an invite last week announcing the Thomas Perrin, the head of the legendary Chateauneuf du Pape producer Chateau de Beaucastel, was going to be in town and would be hosting a tasting of some of his wines. From the original message, it didn’t look like that big a deal – but with Beaucastel being my favourite wine, I arranged my work schedule to attend.

Before I go further, a few words about Perrin and Beaucastel for those not familiar with them. I won’t try and repeat the accolades lauded on them from the likes of Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, etc. Arguably, they are the greatest Chateauneuf du Pape producer in the world, and one of the leading Rhone wine negotiants (making Gigondas, Vacqueyras and other fabulous wines). Their regular Chateauneuf du Pape is one of the few that uses all 13 allowed grape varieties, and it regularly gets scores of 90+ points. The reserve wine – the Hommage de Jacques Perrin, named after the legendary proprietor – is generally accepted as one of the greatest red wines in the world, often rated at 100 points and costing over $400 a bottle.

I have only tasted the Hommage once (at the Vancouver International Wine Festival; it was almost a religious experience), but have had the chance to collect and drink many vintages of the regular Chateauneuf du Pape, mainly by buying them in half bottles in Calgary at ridiculously low prices. They are stunning examples of Chateauneuf du Pape, capable of lasting 15 – 20 years in good vintages.

So that’s the set up for the tasting…why I went, regardless of what it was going to be like.

Then I walk in, and…there were 10 different wines to taste, including 8 vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape and one of the Hommage! Most of the older bottles were brought by Monsieur Perrin.

I was stunned…the quantity, quality, and hospitality…and it was FREE!!!

Below are my tweet reviews of the wines:

2010 Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages – “50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache, the former dominates with ripe black cherries, pepper, earth, no wood. Good deal for $21.”

2010 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone – “A serious wine! Similar blend to the Chateauneuf (mostly Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre/Carignan): really taste the Mourvedre with its earthiness. Tannic; years away, 5+”.

1995 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Still seems young! Medium red, garrigue on the nose, classic Grenache dried cherry fruit, still firm tannins. Still 5 years in it.”

1998 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Looks older/tastes more mature than the 1995. Still tannic, but fruit is drier/more mellow. Drink now after decanting for 30 minutes.”

2005 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Maybe a bit riper than the ’06, but same Grenache fruit. Tannins still there, and another 5+ year wine.”

2006 Chateauneuf du Pape – “With the ’05, maybe the best of the older wines? Good colour, garrigue, dried cherries, earth, pepper, tannin; still 5+ years.”

2008 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Surprisingly young and ripe¸ sweet (ripe) cherries. Quite tannic – 8 – 10 years?”

2009 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Best wine of the night? Super, super ripe dark cherry fruit, very tannic still, but lots years left in it.”

2010 Chateauneuf du Pape – “So young it is hard to judge; really tannic, but a core of ripe dark fruit underneath. 15+ years?”

2011 Chateauneuf du Pape – “Can you taste the vintage? Less sun, more rain…and the grapes don’t seem as ripe.”

2011 Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage de Jacques Perrin – “Even the Hommage can’t escape the vintage ! Unbelievable nose, and the fruit is ripe, but it is lighter than you would expect.”

There you have it – an unbelievable evening! Thanks and kudos to both Marquis Wine Cellars and Thomas Perrin!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

A Quick Guide to the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 27, 2013

Hard to believe it is that time again, but the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival is on this week! With 176 wineries pouring over 600 wines, it can be a pretty intimidating evening of tasting, to be sure. So here is a quick guide to some of my recommended wineries and wines.

California

California was the only winery represented at the initial festivals, and it is great to see them back as the feature wine area! While prices have soared in the past years, the quality – and ripeness – of many wines continue to be very high. Here are five wineries to visit:

1) Antica Napa Valley – a venture by the Antinori family of Italy, this relatively new winery is producing fabulous Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays
2) Joseph Phelps – one of the most reputable and established wineries in California, Phelps is justifiable famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines, especially its Insignia blend
3) Paul Hobbs – another relatively new winery, but Paul Hobbs has been growing grapes/consulting for cult producers for years. Try his Cabernets, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs
4) Ridge Vineyards – one of my favourite wineries, led by legend Paul Draper. A Zinfandel specialist – check out their Lytton Springs and Geyserville bottlings – Ridge also makes very nice Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
5) Wagner Family of Wine – the new name for the winery that makes Caymus (among other wines), and go to taste the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignons. Year in, year out, they represent all that is great about California Cabernet – super ripe black currant fruit, just enough wood, and the structure to age well!

Argentina

Not as many wineries as in past years, but still a few that make really nice Malbec (the signature grape of Argentina). If you only go to one winery, visit Catena Zapata, which makes rich, ripe Malbecs in all price ranges, as well as some nice Cabernets and Chardonnays.

Australia

Disappointing to see so few Australian producers this year; not sure why (they are among my favourites). Of those attending, I would recommend visiting Gemtree Vineyards (nicely valued Shiraz), Inland Trading Company (they own Turkey Flat Vineyards, which can make great old-vine Shiraz) and Yalumbia, which makes the full range of wines (I particularly like their Grenaches).

British Columbia

By comparison, I was very happy to see so many BC wineries attending, including some of my favourites. That includes Averill Creek from Vancouver Island (Andy Johnson makes amazing Pinot Noir in Duncan), Blue Mountain (not sure if they will have their Reserve Pinot Noir, but it is one of the two best made in BC; also try their Gamay and Sparkling Wine), and NkMip Cellars (a First Nations winery making very good Pinot Noir and Syrah).

France

I am also disappointed by the low number of French wineries this year! Even so, there are a couple of very good ones from the Rhone Valley – Chateau de la Gardine and Les Halos de Jupiter (both of which make very nice Chateauneuf du Pape). And, of course, the Perrin Family, which makes perhaps my favourite wine – Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape – as well as great Gigondas, Cotes du Rhones Villages and others.

Italy

Italy has also sent a smaller than usual roster of wineries (am I sensing a trend here?). Worth checking out, however, are the Chianti Riservas from the likes of Antinori (as well as their Tignanello if they have it), Fontodi, Ruffino and Rocca della Macie.

Portugal

Finally, a great way to end the evening is with some Port! Three of the “biggies” are there – Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft – so it will be interesting to see if they bring any of their vintage wines.

So have a great time at the festival! My final advice, as is the case every year, is two-fold – spit if you can (to avoid getting drunk) and get out of the way once you’ve tasted (to avoid causing a line-up).

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

PS I will once again be “tweeting” my Festival experience, so feel free to follow me at @sbwinepage.