Wednesday, 24 February 2016

HV Wines: Dominus Estate 2001, Napa Valley USA

I had this wine sleeping for quite some time as I got the chance to buy a couple of these bottles from someone who didn't like American wines and most likely did not had a clue the value of them. I bought them for a bargain and new that the 2001 would become to splendour pretty soon. Now I was hoping that it would still be great as all indications do tell me so but one can only be assured once the cork is popped. But first......

California, Napa Valley USA
Californian wines have risen in the last thirty years or so from pretty obscure (I do speak on a global level here) to pretty much amongst the leading areas in world in producing world class wines with world class prices. 90% of the wines in America are produced in California. If California would be a nation it would the third leading wine producer in the world. 
California is divided in several regions; North Coast, Napa county, Sonoma county, Mendocino county, Lake county. North Central Coast, Monterey county, Santa Clara county, Livermore county. South Central Coast, San Luis Obispo county, Santa Barbara county. San Joaquin Valley, known for jug wine, a little bit the old Languedoc style of wine, which were low cost easy drinking wines, of course today Languedoc wines have become very sophisticated and crafted. 

Californian wines dominates American wine consumption, equaling 65% of all sales in the USA. There are more then ,60,000 wine labels alone are registered in California. In 1970 there were 240 wineries, in 2010 2,347 wineries. There are more then 214,888 hectares of vine planted in California of which 18,274 hectares in Napa. in 1970 Napa had 27 wineries, in 2010 it counted 400 wineries. The first grape planted in Napa was in 1838. 

Top grape planted in Napa. 
1. Cabernet Sauvignon 7,372 hectares 
2. Merlot 2,522 hectares
3. Chardonnay 2,709 hectares

Less than 10% of wines comes from Napa valley and Sonoma. The bulk of Californian wines comes from San Joaquin valley where mostly jug wines are produced. This region counts for 58% of the wine grapes planted. 

Viticultural zones A.V.A in Napa, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley District, Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, Spring Mountain District, Stag Leap District, Wild Horse Valley, Yountville. 

Dominus Estate 2001, Napa Valley

Dominus grew out of love for Napa valley by Christian Moueix, when he came to California in 1960 attending the University of California. Christian returned in the 70's to manage the estates the family was holding and still do, and not just any estate, the infamous Chateau Petrus, La Fleur Petrus, Trotanoy (also called the little brother of Petrus, one of my favourite wines) and Magdelaine(now gone and merged into Belair Monange 1er Grand Cru Classe B Saint Emilion). In 1981 he discovered the Napanook vineyard, he started in partnership but in 1995 he became sole owner of the estate named Dominus or Lord of the estate to underscore his long standing commitment to the land and region. 41 hectares of vines counts the estate, grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. A gravely and clay loam soil provides with clear and precise identity of the wines, climate is warm dry summers, tempered by cool breezes from the San Pablo Bay, cold wet winters, with mid-valley location it provides with moderate temperatures. 

Price: €199 £155 $220 

Alcohol: 14%

Grapes: 81%Cabernet-Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 5%Cabernet Franc 10% Petit Verdot

Drinking window: 2011-2036 

Visual:  Warm dark ruby red colour, shining class and craftsmanship, legs are smooth but heavy, a good brilliance and excellent transparency. A wine with great composure and posture. Stands out from the crowd  without a shred of a doubt. 

Nose: Dark and red fruits explode on the nose, blackcurrant, black berries, dark cherries, followed with smooth chocolate and spices, with layers of coffee floating amongst, giving you plenty and complexity. A swirl of elements that come and go, giving you the indication of purity and style, a wine that leads the way to the top. Opulent and intense making no mistake of the class in the glass. 

Palate:  A burst of black fruits followed by spices, the tannins are getting rounder but still well present indicating that this wine is going the distance, the roundness and balance between aromas and acidity is just great and directing to a finish just perfect. a lingering to dream of. With touches of chocolate and spices keeping your senses tantalizing. 

Conclusion: Although that this wine isn't coming cheap it is an absolute blast and a sure hitter to the top of the pile in what is called "amongst the best wines in the world". It is one in a lifetime moment if you can afford it and make sure you don't drink it all alone, this need to be shared as the experience and the moments are just priceless.

Score: I rate this wine 19.8/20 98/100 (rated as an exceptional wine)
rating system
19.6-20 exceptional
19-19.5 excellent
18-18.9 very good wine
17-17.9 good wine
16-16.9 fair wine
15-15.9 drinkable wine
14-14.9 acceptable wine

 Till next time please drink responsibly. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

HV Wines: Berta Franquet Priorat Spain 2010

Spain has been producing great wines and the world knows about it, here is another little treasure you have to discover
Berta Franquet,is a family business founded by Enric Sabate Vendrell. The two sons of the founder Enric jr and Josep Maria Sabate are also part of the enterprise.

Image result for priorat
But first a little bit on the region Priorat. Priorat lays in the district of Catalonia, with as major city Barcelona of course, Steeped in tradition and pride it is also a region with much wealth and stubbornness, although much to their credit it still sits these days better inside Spain then outside.

Before the reunification of Spain in 1492 (interesting date, year of Columbus discovering the Americas) Catalonia, was an independant state, as there were so many around Europe at that time. It is from around the 12th Century that the region is referred to as Catalonia. Priorat lays to the south of Barcelona about two hours drive and yet the rocky hills of Priorat region makes you feel miles away from any civilized city. Here wines express pronounced and intense notes, even so I find it always a bit strange to use the term minerality in red wines, here cause of the slate soil (in certain parts of Priorat) the term mineral is used to express the wine.
The vines here are planted on steep slopes so machine harvest is all but not possible, so those poor men and women who have to harvest those grapes must have backs of solid love for these wines. If you have ever been to the Douro valley then you should know what I mean by steep?

Here vines are planted from 100 meters above sea level to 700 meters above sea level. The Garnacha and Carinena grape thrive here but international grapes such as Syrah, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot are used as well.
Priorat's best wines are concentrated and intense full of character, due to the low yield from the harsh condition the region has to endure. Priorat has grown to become one of the most searched and expensive wines in Spain. Some of the top winemakers have vineyards here and many young talented wine makers look for land to grow vines as here you find a character in the wine rarely found anywhere else.
Berta Franquet Priorat 2010 
All the land from this domain is situated within the municipality, inscribed in the Denominacio d'Origen Qualificada Priorat, and it takes extra pride into have its wine been qualified as "Vi de Vila" a new quality seal approved in 2009. Here they elaborate the wines still according to some old methods and traditions, and the house produces only about 14,000 bottles a year for domestic and international markets. 

Price:  €31 $35 $24.50

Alcohol: 14%

Grapes: 40% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, 30% Caberent-Sauvignon. Organic farming

Visual: Intense dark almost black red colour. Powerful, very masculine, once swirling around in the glass, beautiful warm dark reds appear, giving the wine great elegance and dominance. The brilliance is fair(not expecting too much acidity), the transparency looks very good. At sight a wine slightly intimidating due to its presence but on the other hand it stands there with open arms inviting you to dare. 

Nose:  First notes are big, leather-like, with waves of warm ripe dark fruits, black cherries, plums, black tobacco and cacao following. It smells rich and good balanced oak (American oak), leading to spices and hints of coffee. A nose that changes the more it receives oxygen, with fruits and spices in abundance, a wine not backing off and from its first glance certainly so far not a disappointment.  

Palate: the attack is vivid and intense, with black fruits, blackberries, black cherries as prime, followed by spices and chocolate. Tannins well present but soften, acidity not strong but predicted, mid palate the wine is warming up nicely and intensifying, it pulls well down to the back of the palate with a very longer linger, with cacao and coffee, little liquorice making the final touch. 

Conclusion: Yes another wine I did not heard of since recent and it sweeps you off your feet, with charm, character, identity and emotion. All a wine should give, and more really, this sits well with all meats, wild, even some intense cheeses (although white wine with cheese is a preference). A pleasant surprise from a region in Spain certainly setting its mark in the world of wine with pride and style. Not cheap on the buy, but for what's inside the bottle, is truly remarkable and so price is more then justified. 

Score:  I rate this wine 19/20 90/100 

Until next time please do drink responsibly.  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

HV Wines: Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir, New Zealand 2012

It is so often heard from people when it comes to Pinot Noir, that this is a fact of  "you love it or you hate it". There is no greater split in a wine drinker then the Pinot enthusiast with the rest. It is very interesting to observe the type of person adoring Pinot compare to the others, which are mostly  the Bordeaux band of brothers/sisters grapes. There are some ultra Shiraz/Syrah fanatics but Pinot versus the rest is what most debated around tables.

First point of interest, it all fits once again into one country; France. Not that it should make a difference, as these days Pinot Noir is planted pretty much all over the  world... but very few come close to the Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Even in France not one other region comes close to how the Burgundians make their wines. All over the world everyone looks in envy at how this nectar is made from this part of France, also the Burgundian seem to be a race on its own inside France. It steeps in a long winding history going back for thousand of years.

But since, "I would say" a little over ten years there is a country that creeps up and gets global attention, in making to me the second best Pinot Noir's after Burgundy......New Zealand.
Yes, here I might have some people shouting at their screen reading this, or I hope many that do agree. But let me be clear I did not say make as needs time something we humans do not always have time for. But in a natural cycle New-Zealand should in time (excluded natural disaster) be the main contender of Burgundy.
How SO?
Well, climate splays a big role and the soil in certain parts is very similar to that of Burgundy and the terroir is very well preserved. Central Otago is where Pinot Noir reigns in New-Zealand, also Pinot Noir is the most planted red grape with about 15% of all the vineyards (Sauvignon blanc is the queen with 65% planted vineyards and Marlborough as its center), but other places like Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Wairarapa, Gisborne, Nelson and Waipara. The conditions and environment has made it just right for this grape to flourish here.

Ata Rangi Estate

Founded by Clive Paton in 1980, Ata Rangi translates as "new beginning" or "dawn sky". The business expanded in 1982 when Clive's sister Alison bought the adjoining land and again in 1987 when Clive married Phyll Pattie. The family brought in wine maker Helen Masters, and together the team makes about 15,000 cases of great quality wine each year. The estate is about 35 hectares of planted vines, realising that it all started as a cow shed and Martinborough then had little to offer beside a shop or two and a couple of pubs. So it wasn't a smooth ride as Clive and the team encounter the harrowing character of nature and step by step learned to adapt and improve the land to become the creation of what is Ata Rangi today. Now this estate wins awards and recognition world wide and for those who did not know it, it is about time you do as it produces exceptional wines

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2012

Price: €23 £18 $26

Alcohol: 13.5%

Visual: a beautiful dark cherry red with a perfect transparency, sways elegantly in the glass and represents a wonderful shine and brilliance. when swirling the wine you perceive a beautiful array of colours red. elegant and poetic. legs are smooth and masculine.

Nose: A rich bouquet of dark red fruits, black cherries, currants but also a meat aspect to it, rich in spice and hints of herbs and little truffle. The balance between the aromas is well perfected and the layers of smells are good conducted. Its oak is subtle and carefully balanced, reaching a depth only well made wines do.

Palate: The wine burst open onto the palate, with red cherries and currants at first instance, followed by well controlled tannins and a not to dry feel. The acidities lay well, giving the wine a good freshness and elegance, midway the palate the wine holds very well and shows sings of a classic made Pinot noir with little hints of modernity. The spices come in buffers followed by oak and earthy feel. It lingers on for quite some time and will work well with meats and cheese (although white with cheese is mostly recommended). A truly great and wonderful made wine. This is not the top cuvee of the estate and yet it feels like one, definitely a place in the cellar.

Conclusion:  I know this estate for quite some time, but never tasted the crimson Pinot noir. It shows and proves the professionalism and dedication at work here in every drop of this wine. Price wise this sits perfect and I would have no problem to introduce it at any occasion if I want to surprise anyone with proof of how well they make wine in New-Zealand. An estate to be reckon with as one of the primes in New-Zealand.

Score:  I rate this wine 18.5/20 85/100 (rated as very good)

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

HV Wines: La Gravette de Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol 2012

It is not so often that when you drink a wine a surge of emotions and wow factor emerge from your deepest inner self or guts if I may place it that way. Vieux Chateau Certan is surely one of them but when their second wine La gravette already gives you the shivers what must the estate wine then do?

Yes, today I want to elaborate on the domaine Vieux Chateau Certan, which is the oldest Cru on the plateau of Pomerol, their second wine La Gravette de Certan 2012.

First of all a little bit more about if not the most prestigious appellation in Bordeaux. To many it is here that the mos adored and demanded wines from Bordeaux are coming, it ls also the smallest of the major appellations of Bordeaux, with only 800 hectares under vine. Currently close to 150 different ch√Ęteau that produce Pomerol wine. The largest Chateau holds 47.5 hectares and the smallest 5 hectares. Compares to some Medoc Chateau this is really tiny. Approximately 300,000 cases are produced in Pomerol each year.

A little bit of history.....The closest region to Pomerol, St Emilion was already under vines during the Roman times, Pomerol was far from anyone's thought, it was totally ignored. Still there are records of the first vines planted around the 1300's, in Pomerol but no significance was attached to this region back then.
It was in the 1700's that Pomerol stated to develop itself into a wine region. Everyone around considered Pomerol as not important and was just there to produce simple wine. It took Pomerol over 100 years to really start to get notice for the exceptional terroir and for wine with great potential. As it was very close to the bustling city of Libourne, wine was very easy to be shipped out to Britain and further afield.
It were the Dutch that started to take notice of the wines from Pomerol and La Conseillante and L'Evangile in particular.

So in 1936 the appellation Pomerol AOC was created,  The grapes under AOC in Pomerol are first of all Merlot, then Cabernet Franc, Cabernet sauvignon and Malbec.

Facts you need to know about Pomerol

  1. Pomerol is the only major appellation not to be classified ( as in 1,2,3,4,5th Growth or Grand Cru Classe A or B)
  2. Pomerol is home to the three most expensive wines in all Bordeaux, Petrus, Le Pin and Lafleur.
  3. Pomerol is the only wine region in the world with a huge concentration of bleu clay in its soil (Petrus is entirely made of it and truly unique)
  4. Pomerol is almost always the first major appellation to be harvest in Bordreaux.
  5. Pomerol was the last major Bordeaux appellation to reach world wide fame with prices to match after the legendary 1982 appellation.  

Vieux Chateau Certan

This Chateau was founded by Jean Demay de Certan in the 1700's, the original Chateau was constructed around 1770 and the Demay's were well known for their trade in wine. The land originally from this chateau was much larger, but after the French revolution land was split up and so other Certan domains were born (like Certan de May). Vieux Chateau Certan is rated amongst the best Pomerol wines and amongst the best in the world. In 1924 Vieux Chateau Certan was sold to the popular Belgian merchant Georges Thienpont, and till this day it stays in the hands of the Thienponts. They were already owner of Troplong Mondot in St Emilion, but Vieux Chateau Certan was on Georges mind for quite some time. 
Thienpont wanted to know who of his clients were buying Vieux Chateau Certan, but in all discretion, reason why he made the capsule pink so it stood out in the cellars and so didn't had to ask.

Since Alexander Thienpont started to manage, he changed the wine making facilities in 1988 and in 2003 renovated the whole chateau to modern standards, it was also his decision to create La Gravette de second wine, the wine I want to talk about today. 
The Chateau holds today 14 hectares of wine with Merlot as the dominant grape planted 60%  then Caberent Franc 30% and 10% Cabernet sauvignon. 

The wines from Vieux Certan are rich, complex ageworhty and majestic. It is an elegant Pomerol, rich in black fruits, spices, floral, chocolate aromas. the texture is silk and smooth, dense and dreamlike. 
The yearly production is around 4000 to 5000 cases.

La Gravette de Certan 2012

Grapes: 60% Merlot 40% Caberent Franc 

Alcohol:  14% 

Price: €41 £31 $43

Visual: from the first pour, a glance and smoothness of this wine catches your eye, the colour is beautiful dark ruby red with elegance and style, the legs glide down in perfect harmony, as if they talk to each other, the transparency is excellent. The wine stands out and shows good composure, a slight hint to what the bigger brother might be like... one can not wait to smell and taste this classy example of a Pomerol. 

Nose: On the nose the elegant composure of black fruits, blackberries, plums, blackcurrants hints of well blended spices, and oak that is measure made, like a saville row suit. The complexity of this wine is great as it takes you over and over again through different stages, urging you to take a sip of this elegant and class driven wine. 2012 was a merlot driven vintage and here it certainly does come to show. 

Palate: From sip one to the last drop in the glass, this wine will take you onto a discovery of why most likely you are in the most famous and best appellation of Bordeaux. The fruits burst all over the palate and the spices cutting though, peppers, Cacao, Vanilla and tonka bean (little), a lingering who doesn't stop. joy after joy, makes you think what the first wine must be all about.

Conclusion: this is a estate with real punch and guts, working the terroir to its max and best, I can only smile and say how wonderful this wine is and how nice it is to know that after all those years writing, tasting, studying discovering wine, there are wines constantly proving that there is no other product that touches your emotions and feelings as much as wine. Price wise good even very good value, for those who want to discover greatness, run and get some of La Gravette as soon this wine will reach prices as the likes of Carruades, Pavillon, Forts and others. True talent at work here. 

Score: I rate this wine 18.75/20  93/100 

Till next please do drink responsibly.