WINE OF THE WEEK #112
Hi everyone, my easter wine is here!
We are going today to “the” place where Syrah really can show it’s full potential and where absolutely magical and legendary Syrah wines are made : the northern Rhône. I am sure that appelations like Côte-Rôtie , Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage sound familiar to you. I’ve got a wine from Saint-Joseph in store : cuvée Les Pierres Sèches 2010 (the dry stones) from Yves Cuilleron
The Northern Rhône is located south of Burgundy and is basically a prolongation of Burgundy. But with the big difference that the area is hotter in the summer and the mid-seasons are a lot harsher due to the mistral. The mistral is a cold wind that blows from the alps to the Mediterranean sea during spring and autumn, and can really shake things up when you don’t expect it. Apparently, Syrah is the only red grape that happens to survive these more extreme conditions, and they are the reason why nowhere else on earth you are able to make a copy of a Northern Rhône wine.
A guy who became master in working in these conditions, is Yves Cuilleron. He took over the domaine from his father in 1987 and has since that day improved year after year the quality of the wine making, and the expression of his wines. His success made it possible for the family to own vineyards in almost every appellation in the region, and each and every single wine he produces tends to be a winner.
I am very curious about this one!
Think dark red cherry juice. Actually, this is what I would drink if I’d figure in a gothic music video.
The nose is not really what I was expecting. Northern Rhône Syrah really tends to smell like incense : ashes and herbs. This nose has more fruity and veggie notes : plum, beetroot, raspberry and even something orange like parsnip or butternut squash. I do get the ashes a little but, but they come in a more friendly and softer version : black pepper, dried oregano and mint.
The nose is complex, but a bit too sunny or happy for my expectations. Smelling a Northern Rhône nose is a often a closed moment of reflection. This nose is very open, but maybe I should not be judging about what I expect.
Stay open minded , Jelle!
Ah, what I was looking for in the nose is exactly what I get in my mouth. Freshness, acidity, delicate tannins, a closed but very well trained character, a wine that is intriguing and difficult to grasp. Earthy notes, together with hot stones and the beautiful perfume of beetroot are very present. And the wine really tastes like an old world wine. Crunchy, crisp, sophisticated, mineral, earthy and delicious.
I am liking this wine very much!
Instead of evolving to secondary and tertiary flavors, this finish goes back to the source : pure fruit juice. Earthy, acid, fresh and very tight. It trains the muscles in your cheek and it makes you thirsty.
What more could you expect. This wine is an adventure that gives you more energy every time you take a sip.
Beautiful how simplicity and complexity work together.
Well done Yves Cuilleron!
WINE OF THE WEEK #111
Any Aussies in the house?
Because I’m about to taste a wine from the temple of Shiraz : Barossa valley. The shop where I bought my wines was particularly proud about this one : Rolf Binder, 2010 Hales Shiraz.
So what is it about this marriage between the Barossa Valley and Shiraz?
The Barossa valley is the oldest wine making region in Australia, but believe it or not, it used to be well known for white wines and sweet wines. A lot of Riesling and Semillon was planted, next to Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Later on, Cabernet Sauvignon became such a popular and important grape that no-one cared about the white wines or the Shiraz wines from the Barossa valley, until the ’80s. The vineyards of the valley became old, very old, but they still produced lots of grapes and wine makers started bringing “old vine Shiraz” to the market to compete with Cabernet Sauvignon. And that’s how Shiraz and Barossa Valley became such a famous couple.
I’m about to find out if they are any good together, are you in?
This is dark juice my friends, really dark juice. When I poured it in my glass, it even reminded me of coffee. The legs have a nice color, as well as the sides of my glass after a rinse. I guess there’s enough material present to write something interesting!
Wow, what a pretty nose. The oak gives this wine a very vibrant vanilla and menthol note. Both are on the greener side which shows that the wine maker was not going for the “commercial” oak experience but rather for something more natural and earthy. iLike!
Believe it or not, but I also get coffee beans, with licorice, chocolate and blackberries.
I absolutely adore this combination of ripe fruit, with a certain development, and the crunchy, spicy flavors of stems and nature. Good job Mr. Binder.
The great vibrance and balance on the nose is nowhere to be found in the mouth. You almost have to bite and chew on the wine to loosen some energy and activate some tannins. After which it feels like there isn’t so much rock ‘n roll after all.
Don’t get me wrong, there is some acidity and the flavors on the nose come through, but something is “off”.
The finish on the other hand performs a lot better. I taste the black fruits again, with the creamy flavor of a roasted macadamia nut and the sweetness of licorice. The finish is great.
So … what happened there?
I could compare this wine with a meat substitute, like a vegetarian burger. It looks like a burger, you cut through it like a burger, it has the aromas of a burger and it tastes like a burger. The only problem is, you know you didn’t eat a burger but something else.
I absolutely love the flavor profile of this wine, and actually it is a pretty nice bottle. But for a price of €15, I want my wine to deliver and to grab me when it matters the most : when the wine is in my mouth. And that didn’t happen… so Mr. Binder, you are going on the silver pile. Good, but not performing like you should.
WINE OF THE WEEK #110
let’s have syrah number 2 as winter has rebooted here in Belgium.
Today we are tasting the youngest wine of the bunch :
Cuvée Essentielle, 2011 Syrah from Domaine des Masques, IGP Bouches-du-Rhône.
Domaine des Masques is a collaboration (as you can almost see on the bottom of the label) between the belgian couple Carl & Sophie Mestdagh and one of the top wine makers of the Northern Rhone, Yves Cuilleron.
Typical about the IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) Bouches-du-Rhône is the terroir. The area is packed with plateaus made out of chalk at different heights. The vineyards of Domaine des Masques (as you can see on the picture below) has a height of 550m above sea level. A rather high plateau, which means lots of wind and cool nights, so I expect the wine to have a nice freshness and some structure.
I think the ingredients stack up : A nice terroir, a guy who knows how to grow Syrah, and a passionate family behind it.
I have never seen such a dark but girly wine. The edges on the surface are so alive, dark pink and jumpy! Really cool how much energy a wine can have and how feminine it can look.
On the nose, the energy continues. This syrah is vibrant, smells like raspberry, violets, black pepper and fresh beetroot. The nose is pointy, yet very wide, rich and even mineral. In a blind tasting, I would say it’s a Morgon or a Fleurie from a very good winemaker: pure, fresh, herbal and fruity.
The mouthfeel however makes it very clear that we are not dealing with a lighter grape like gamay, but indeed with a lot more power and structure. The attack is grippy and the juice is meaty, ready to chew on. But once you start chewing, the show is already almost over. But on the mouth, the wine stays fresh and tasty.
What you got on the nose is what you get on the finish. Fruity, juicy flavors of raspberry, violets and black pepper.
This wine is very poppy, easy to understand and one dimensional. Usually, I like my wines to have more than one dimension, and the wine should add complexity while going through the different stages of tasting.
But I just don’t care when drinking this wine. It is super fun, delicious, easy drinking and very very enjoyable. Who cares for complexity, this is pleasure, and at €7,90 an amazing!! drink.
Thank you Mr. Mestdagh and Mr. Cuilleron!!
Theme of the month - SYRAH - March 2013
this month will be a first. After blogging for almost 2,5 years , I am going back to my first ever theme : Syrah.
My first introduction ever is really fun to read (link), and you can sense that I had no clue whatsoever where this blogging thing was heading. 2,5 years further down the road, it strikes me that I have actually come a long way, although I will always have that feeling that I’ve just started the journey of discovery. The feeling of full accomplishment will never be there I guess.
So, why did I decide to go back to Syrah? There are 3 reasons.
- Syrah is a fantastic grape : It combines a very athletic body with a sophisticated fragrance of herbs and black pepper.
- I have already tasted great examples and very bad ones at the same time in almost any price range. Tasting a great Syrah is pure heaven, tasting a bad one (very fleshy and animal-like) sucks and makes my love-hate relationship with the grape grow. High expectations you know…
- Last week, I visited the new wine shop of Chai & Bar in Brussels and asked them to propose me a theme, and we ended up having a long conversation about Cabernet Franc and Syrah … and I got so curious to taste Syrah again that I bought the 4 wines for this theme.
Here are the soldiers of Syrah:
1. MOOIPLAAS - Stellenbosch - Shiraz 2003 €13,90
2. Y. CUILLERON - Saint-Joseph - “Les Pierres Sèches” 2010 €19,90
3. DOMAINE DES MASQUES - Essentiele, Syrah 2011 €7,90
4. R. BINDER - Barossa Valley - Hales Shiraz 2010 €15,00
I have to admit that it is difficult to find a good Syrah for around €10. You can easily find them under €10 as a Rhône valley wine, but if you want a “real” Syrah or Shiraz you are immediately at €14 or more…
I hope I will be able to put a lot of LOVE at the end of every review, and very little HATE. See you soon with wine #109!
WINE OF THE WEEK #107
My week has been so busy that I almost cannot think straight anymore. But, I’ve given myself the night off and made some time to uncork this next bottle. I pray to god that I’m going to love this bottle, because I need a bit of sunshine in my head.
This wine, Ebano 6, comes from bodegas Ebano near the town of Nava de Roa.
Ebano is a very “new” kind of winery : they have 43 hectares of vineyards which is quite a lot in the old world, with different grape varieties, different plots and different ways of planting their vines. I’ve got the feeling there is a well thought business model behind the winery and I’m always very curious but also a bit cautious when I approach a wine like this.
I also found out they have an own racing team, which is kinda cool, but you can never own a racing company just by making wine alone…
Like the previous 2 wines I’ve tasted, the ébano 6 is more like a “roble” wine, only aged for 4 months on new to 3 year old french oak.
The biggest difference however with the 2 previous wines is the way tempranillo was planted in the vineyards. The grapes for this wine come from wired vines, while the previous ones were from bush vines.
So let’s see if we spot a difference…
One thing is for sure, tempranillos are dark wines. If you swirl in front of a light bulb, there is a nice cherry red color, but as the wine just sits still in the glass, it’s dark! Scary..
I’ve read that tempranillo often smells like hazelnut and this time, it’s very present : there is a sense of heat, of a grilled nut, but also a more muddy, forest soil aspect. It does have some stinky going on…
But, if you make an effort, you can also smell a very nice cherry note combined with a dark force that tends towards licorice or plum.
All in all , a very interesting yet not overly expressive nose.
Wow, I wasn’t expecting this.
The wine has a great attack and lots of acidity. Just at the moment that you are waiting for the tannins and the structure to kick in, the wine gets all juicy and falls apart. And if that was not enough, it kicks back with a 14% alcohol boost.
It feels like having a fantastic dinner date but the restaurant forgot to serve you the main dish, and thus you only have starters and dessert which is a bit awkward.
What I do like, just as on the nose, is that this is an old world wine. You can taste the stems, the soil and it feels more like eating a grape vine than eating a toast with cherry jam.
The finish is very fun!
I taste cola, hazelnut and cherry. But the balance of the wine (alcohol) is really not well tuned.
It is such a pitty that the mid-section of the wine did not come through, because with these ingredients, it could have been an amazing wine.
I’m tempted to go for silver, because the wine is absolutely a pleasure to drink and if you drink it with food and company, it is a very nice companion. But, when you examine the wine a bit better, there are too many small errors to be happy with it. So sorry ébano, but it’s bronze for me!
WINE OF THE WEEK #104
it’s with a double feeling that I start writing this post. I’m stoked to have another Champagne ready, even a grand cru!, but it’s so sad that we cannot have champagne everyday. 3 golden medals in a row has never happened to me before and there is only one good reason why today we might see our first fully golden theme : Champagne is f**ing delicious.
So, the last one standing is this one from Michel Henriet, grand cru, cuvée Grande Reserve who I got from Peter Vergote, founder of wineblog.be
Just like the other wines I’ve taste this month, this wine is from the Montagne de Reims region, and I think we can conclude that this is the “place to be” to make Champagne. So, if you are ever travelling through the north of France, just aim for the area 10km south of Reims, and you’ll be surrounded by cru champagnes!
This blend is 80% Pinot Meunier, the hidden secret in my opinion, and 20% Chardonnay, who will balance out the more funky aspects of the Pinot Meunier and give the wine a fresher character.
I’m not going to beat around the bush and start tasting instead!
Pour it in your glass and a mega dense white foam fills it up. The color is one of the darkest I’ve had so far and the it is all just picture perfect:
deep gold, lots of bubbles and crispy on the surface. Woot!
Like walking in a pastry shop. Freshly cut apples and pears combined with a very pudding like note: creamy with hints of vanilla and powder sugar. Think of éclair or cream puffs (profiterole) without chocolate but with apple jam.
What happens in the mouth is something different. The nose is all round and soft, but the mouth bites … in a good way.
Remember to chew on your bubbles, and the foam will tell you how good your wine really is. With this champagne, the foam attacks you with acidity from citrus and very young apples. The next phase is chalky. No wonder that the soil in champagne is all chalk, because I can really taste chalk. The texture is comparable with a meringue (dessert).
This wine is really quite something!!
From the first time this wine hits your palate, and the foam fills up your mouth, you know the finish will be long .. very long. There is no particular evolution, but the flavor fireworks just keep on popping for a long time.
This wine is spectacular and is somewhat in the middle of the elegance of #103 and the raw power of #102.