Thursday, 29 September 2016

HV Wines: Screaming Eagle a legend from America

There are wines that any wine enthusiast would love to put there hands on, or at least their lips even just for a sip. Screaming Eagle has become such a wine, a wine that has build such a hype and recognition by all wine pro's in the world. To be able to buy a bottle a case even harder, you have to be on the list (there is a waiting list, so the younger you are the greater the chance will be you might be able to be on the list, only when someone dies or pulls themselves out of the race can someone new come onto the list).

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Napa Valley California
It is amongst the most famous wine regions in the world, and it has since its commercial creation in the '60 really come to live and produces exceptional wines. For a long time (and that is from a European point if view) American wine (not californian in particular but it counts for almost 90% of the American wine production), was considered as not good or great, do not be angry at the European as the culture if wine is so engraved in the dna of most Europeans that for a long time any wine from outside Europe could not be better or as good.  But since quite some time (about a good 16 years) many Europeans speak with a different note regarding American wines and Napa in particular. It is a shame that due to governmental agreements and egos, American wines here in Europe are not that easy to find, I speak of course for that craft driven American wine. Do not misunderstand here, there is a lot of CRAP European wine on the market which includes French as well.

Napa has steadily been growing to a status that today undoubtedly holds 5 stars. It has over 172,000 hectares of planted vines (427,000 acres) North coast, Central Coast, South Coast and Central Valley. The seven leading grape varieties are, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel. While some Californian wine makers to craft wines like the old world style, most Californian wines (as much as for Australia, Argentina, Chile, New-Zealand) makes wines with a more fruit dominant and in ways a simpler to grasp wine. The weather conditions permit to produce more riper style of wines with a fruit dominant, rather than earthy, mineral, vegetable style of wine. Although California has some of the largest wine companies, producing buckets of wine, there are since decades many boutique wineries producing the real and true Californian terroir. 

Some of Californian top wines are:  Araujo Estate, Colgin Estate, Dominus Estate, Harlan Estate, Pahlmeyer Estate, Joseph Phelps, Scarecrow, Schrader Cellars, Staglin Estate, Shafer Hillside, Kistler Vineyards, Peter Michael, Ramey Vineyards,  J.Rochioli, DuMol.......

Screaming Eagle
Screaming Eagle is one of Californian cult wines and when in 1992 Jean Philips, started the production, as before she sold her grapes to Napa valley wineries, she could never imagine the impact her wine would make on the global market and the prices this wine fetch today. Then at the time she was wondering if her homemade wine was any good? She brought it to Robert Mondavi (the pioneer of Californian wines), to sample it and they thought quite enough of her dark, liquored, rich in cassis flavoured cabernet sauvignon that they encouraged her to bottle it, though they snickered at her proposed name for the wine. In 2006 she sold her estate to Stan Kroene and Charles Banks, he is also owner of the promising Jonata winery in Santa Ynez Valley. Screaming Eagle holds about 20 hectares of planted vines (not all is used to make Screaming Eagle), it is 100% Cabernet-Sauvignon the soil is literally a rock pile on a gentle slope facing west, east of the Napa river. Drainage and exposure are excellent, and the vineyard lays just perfect for the Cabernet grape to receive enough heat through the day and cool down perfectly at night due to the cool breeze from the north. About 500 cases a year are produced although with the replanting they are looking to increase the production.
The wines are brimming with, deep plush layers of flavour, echoing currants, cassis, blackberries, and black cherries. The tannins are round soft and polished, yet firm enough to give indication that Screaming Eagle is set to age beautifully. In most vintages it is a blend of 90% cabernet sauvignon and tiny percentages of Cabernet franc and merlot. 

Screaming price per bottle.

Screaming Eagle 1992:  €9,531 $10,681 £8,216 Score:  98/100
Screaming Eagle 1993:  €3,405 $3,816 £2,935   Score:  91/100
Screaming Eagle 1994:  €3,182 $3,566 £2,743   Score:  94/100
Screaming Eagle 1995:  €3,200 $3,587 £2,759   Score:  96/100
Screaming Eagle 1996:  €2,760 $3,093 £2,379   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 1997:  €4,443 $4,979 £3,830   Score:  96/100
Screaming Eagle 1998:  €2,268 $2,542 £1,955   Score:  93/100
Screaming Eagle 1999:  €2,357 $2,642 £2,032   Score:  96/100
Screaming Eagle 2000: no vintage 
Screaming Eagle 2001:  €2,859 $3,205 £2,465   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 2002:  €2,680 $3,003 £2,310   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 2003:  €2,559 $2,868 £2,206   Score:  94/100
Screaming Eagle 2004:  €2,562 $2,872 £2,209   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 2005:  €2,421 $2,713 £2,87     Score:  96/100
Screaming Eagle 2006:  €2,406 $2,696 £2,074   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 2007:  €3,132 $3,510 £2,700   Score:  98/100
Screaming Eagle 2008:  €2,274 $2,548 £1,960   Score:  94/100
Screaming Eagle 2009:  €2,310 $2,588 £1,991   Score:  97/100
Screaming Eagle 2010:  €2,839 $3,181 £2,447   Score:  98/100
Screaming Eagle 2011:  €2,093 $2,345 £1,804   Score:  95/100
Screaming Eagle 2012:  €2,501 $2,803 £2,156   Score:  98/100
Screaming Eagle 2013:  €2,334 $2,616 £2,012   Score:  98/100

So as you can see cheap it aint. Also once again if you look at an investment plan, wine is truly one to look into. Ever tasting this wine, well, the waiting list is numbered by the thousands, so getting on it is like winning the lotto. But if you have a very wealthy friend and likes to give you the experience; 1 do call me please and 2, give your friend a huge hug (even if it is male to male) and enjoy it sip by sip. 

Until next time please do drink responsibly. 


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

HV Wines: Penfold Grange legend, class made in Australia

I am sure that many of you have herd of Penfold wines. An Australian wine with panache and style, the flag bearer for down under wines. Since the years the brand has been expanding with many different bins (many of their wines are bin labelled) adding to the collection and also limited editions. I had the opportunity to taste a couple Penfold grange wines, absolute stunning, mesmerizing a fairytale, I had the lucky not to paid for them as the price for a bottle hits the stratosphere (check prices below).
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South Australia.
Victoria may have more wineries and regions, New south Wales more zones and Western Australia the largest single zone, but South Australia still rightly still calls itself the wine state. It has 44% of the nations vineyards is responsible for 47% of the annual crush, and makes 48% of the annual wine output. It has 18 wine regions with some famous ones like Barossa valley, Clare valley, Adelaide hills, Coonawarra, Mclaren Vale.

It all started in 1836 with a German settler who saw the potential here to make great wines and Barossa valley was the region it all started, quickly expanding and Adelaide hills followed. The settlers did not just plant vines into the ground to see what would happen, no they had a clear vision of producing world class wines, wines to be challenging any, especially the old world wines. Here the terroir was more a Rhone valley style then a Bordeaux or Burgundy for that matter, but nevertheless they knew that outstanding quality could be produced here. It is not just for nothing that 8 out of the 13 oldest brands are based in South Australia. between 1841 and 1853 were established brands like, Penfold, Orlando, Seppeltsfields, Yalumba, Bleasdale, Normans, Sevenhills Cellar and Oliver's Taranga. Yalumba is the nations oldest family owned winery and founding member of Australia's first family of wine.One thing that never did happen here due to strict quaranteen measurements was Phylloxera.

Penfold
Image result for penfold wine
Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary, purchased the historic Magill estate in 1844 and started growing grapes. They made fortified wines that Dr. Penfold prescribed to his anemic patients for medical purpose. Mary handled the wine making while Dr. Penfold tended his patience. Penfold wines have always been respected in Australia, and in 1951 wine makers Max Schubert made the first vintage of grange, giving the company international recognition. Today Peter Gago is the the head winemaker, and Jamie Sach is the Penfolds ambassador.  Penfold is usually a district blend south australia, significant Shiraz contribution from, Barossa valley, Clare valley, Mclaren Vale and Magill estate. Cabernet sauvignon from, Barossa valley, Coonawarra, Mclaren vale, Padthaway and Robe.

They let their wine mature for 18 to 20 months in new American oak.  Penfold is arguably the most celebrated wine from Australia and is officially listed as a celebrated icon from South Australia.

Some of Grange top vintages 


First vintage 1951  worth €46,032 $51,147 £39,344

1953 96/100 score  worth €213.510 $23,901 £18,385

1955 95/100 score worth €3,358 $3,731 £2,870

1971 95/100 score worth €1,057 $1,174 £903

1986 96/100 score worth €672 $746 £574

1990 95/100 score worth €546 $607 £467

1991 95/100 score  worth €455 $506 £389

1994 95/100 score worth €431 $478 £368

1996 95/100 score worth €420 $467 £359

1998 96/100 score  worth €482 $536 £412

2001 95/100 score worth €428 $476 £366

2002 96/100 score worth €449 $499 £384

2004 97/100 score worth €463 $515 £396

2005 95/100 score worth €419 $465 £358

2006 96/100 score worth €464 $516 £397

2007 95/100 score worth €446 $495 £381

2008 97/100 score worth €556 $618 £475

2010 98/100 score worth €538 $598 £460

As you can notice from 2000 on this house has been keeping well inline with its scores, with 2010 to be the best vintage so far in its history, nonetheless the price for a bottle as you can read is surely not for the faint hearted. Penfold is truly up there with the most expensive wines on this planet. When you drink a penfold, you will be taken through a journey of Rhone style down under with much muscle and spice, balance and depth. A wine that need to be consumed with care as it will erase this dreadful thought about Australian wines and make you realise that they do understand how to make top class wines.
Every country has dope wines, even France, Italy, the United States for that matter, so next time before casting a bad eye to the Auzzie wines on the bottom shelves of the supermarket, have a moment of reflection as not all and far from it will hit like a bad brick your stomach.

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

HV Wines: Champagne Egly-Ouriet outstanding!!!

I have encountered Egly-Ouriet in 2006 for the first time and back then it was at the verge of grand recognition by all wine critics and bubble enthusiasts. It was also around that time that more and more of us were looking at alternatives instead of the grand marques (Moet, Veuve, LP..) not that they are not important or not good for that matter, as a matter of fact they are super important towards the Champagne market. As we all know how many bubble producers outside the region of Champagne would love to call their product Champagne! It is the power and strength of the grand marque that keep Champagne the way it is today, a unique brand. It stand in a league on its own and there is nothing more fantastic than a true Champagne. So with the success of Champagne growing (the financial crisis gave a serious hit but the market is recovering pretty well), there are more and more smaller Champagne houses that have been working around the clock to guarantee that their Champagne is loved adored, appreciated and wanted
Many top restaurants have also been adding more Champagnes to their wine lists as more and more customers want to drink that little house so unique not all can experience. Today some of those house can not even keep up with demand and waiting lists are the only chance to get your hands on one of these great terroir, boutique champagnes, I call them.
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So who is Egly-Ouriet

 Egly-Ouriet Ambonnay 
The house was born in 1930 and the current member of the family Francis who took over from his father in 1980 is the fourth generation. Initially his grandfather and father sold their grapes to other houses as many do but since Francis took over he stopped doing that, as he knew the potential the terroir held to make exceptional champagnes. Today he holds about 12ha of land, 8 of which grand cru in  Ambonnay, 2 ha premier cru in Vrigny, 1ha grand cru in Verzenay and 1 ha grand cru in Bouzy, so beside Vrigny which is still premier cru all his champagnes are Grand cru.  He works with 65% Pinot Noir, and 30% Chardonnay 5% Pinot Meunier. He is also like a few other total biodynamic, organic or as they say the living soil principle of viticulture. He is also one of the few that harvest his grapes quite ripe and at times 12 to 13 degrees alcohol, which changes the dynamics of the champagne into a fuller richer but greatly balanced style, creating Champagnes for dinner tables and not for dripping it over naked females to impress the crowd. Also his yields are very low and he cuts excess bunches before final ripening and vines average aged over 40 years are all aspects that are truly important to him.

His vision is "lutte raisonee" (reasoning thinking) to reduce a maximum use of potential chemicals. Good work in the vineyard to control yield and maximise ripeness is the absolute key to make great champagnes. He is a man that worked on a vision of making champagnes long time ago while many considered then it to be lunacy and ridiculous. Today many wine growers in Ambonnay would like his practice to be spread throughout the whole commune, but mr Egly is a very single minded man and believer in what he knows doing best, creating a champagne so unique and so crafted it envies many today.

The collection of Egly-Ouriet has such great variation and character that there is a bottle for every palate.

Egly-Ouriet Champagnes 

Egly Ouriet 1er Cru Brut Vignes de Vrigny

Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru "Les vignes de Vrigny" NV
100% Pinot Noir  from 40 year old vines in the premier cru village of Vrigny, 50% 2011 and equal parts 2010 and 2009.
This is the first time that the wine is blended from three different vintages, giving the wine more complexity than ever before. Of course each year the vintages will change.

Egly Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut tradition NV
70% Pinto Noir 30% Chardonnay.
90% coming from Grand Cru Ambonnay with the rest coming from Grand Cru Verzenay and Bouzy
Partly fermented in barrels (50%).
50% 2010 and equal parts of 2009,2008 and 2007.
48 months aged on its lees.

Egly Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rose

Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Rose NV
70% Pinot Noir, 30% chardonnay with the addition of 5% Ambonnay rouge 2009.
90% Grand Cru from Ambonnay with the rest coming from Grand Cru Verzenay and Bouzy.
50% 2010 with equal parts from 2009, 2008 and 2007.
48 months aged on its lees.

FEO063

Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru Vintage 2005
100% Grand Cru from Ambonnay.
75 Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from 50+ year old vines.
Vinified in barrels, 25% of which were new.
Aged for 96 months which is 8 years on its lees.

Egly Ouriet Extra Brut VP Grand Cru

Egly-Ouriet extra Brut Grand Cru V.P NV
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.
90% coming from Grand Cru Ambonnay and the rest coming from Grand Cru Verzenay and Bouzy.
Equal parts from 2007, 2006 and 2005 harvest.
V P stands for vieillissement prolonge or extended ageing, aged for 84 months on its lees.

Egly Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Les Crayeres

Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru  "Les Crayeres" NV
100% Pinot noir from the legendary Les Crayeres vineyard in Ambonnay.
Sits only on 30 cm top soil before hitting pure chalk.
70 years old vines.
Completely barrel fermented.
This cuvee is 60% 2007 and 40% 2008.
Aged fro 60 months on its lees.

There are a few houses that stand in line with Egly-Ouriet as truly outstanding and pure identity of terroir and vision of a wine maker. For those who have not yet heard or heard of it but haven't had the chance to taste it, it is about time as production isn't big and not easy to get your hands on.

Knowing that in 2015 Champagne produced 312.5 million bottles and Egly-Ouriet's productions is about 100,000 bottles, we truly speak here of a micro stunning cuvee production.

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

HV Wines: Viento Aliseo Gracia Cabernet-Sauvignon Dominio de Punctum La Mancha Spain

I came across this wine a couple of weeks ago and was really intrigued by its label which stated bio -dynamic winery, finding out that they hold 200 hectares of land in La Mancha. I could at first not believe that all the 200 hectares could be cultivated under biodynamic, but it came quickly clear that this winery produces a whole family of wines differently named and also parcel adapted to produce that particular wine. So I delved deeper into this unknown winery...... till today.


First of all La Mancha where the winery is situated is the region of Don Quixote, the figure that had his battle with the windmills.... it is situated south central spain so a very arid landscape and hard to believe that wine would here be cultivated but La Mancha is the largest wine field in the world about 190,000 hectares of vines planted. Much of La Mancha is flat, so space to cultivate, with extreme climate variations, winter up to -15, summers up to 45 degrees. 

Little rainfall here and over 3000 hours of sunshine, an irrigation systems have been set in place due to the lack of water as there is a minimum of water needed to feed the vines, gives this climate in some ways a tough one to cultivate. 
La Mancha cultivates a large number of grapes, Airen (a white grape) is the most planted in the region and 32% planted in Spain, then there are 11 other white grapes such as Parellada, Verdejo, Torrontes, Maccabee....for the red grapes Tempranillo, Graciano are the major players, then the global players such as, Pinot noir, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah.....La Mancha knows its challenges but knows also its quality, so for some time now and with the wines from around the world hitting our shelves there is more than ever time to strengthen the knots and show what it can.


Dominio de Punctum La Mancha

An organic estate & winery, that is what they state as their identity. It is situated in the town of Las Pedroneras, at the north end of La Mancha. The estate distinguished itself from others by its exclusive estate production and its singularity of its organic and biodynamic wines.
Founded and owned by the Fernandez family, "Finca Fabian" estate currently includes over 200 hectares of vineyard. The winery is located adjacent to the vineyards allowing the maximum quality of the grapes to be maintained for their red, whites and rose wines.

The whole philosophy is to maintain a constant relation with the terroir, understand it and nourish it free of any chemicals and intend to leave the land in pristine conditions for the future and future generations. By that they hope to create a distinguished character and identity. The biodynamic culture is another way to be in harmony with the local ecosystem, and to produce top quality fruit and top quality wine.

Viento Aliseo Graciano-Cabernet-sauvignon 2012
Image result for viento aliseo graciano cabernet sauvignon 2012
In this family they have a white, rose and red wine. The white is made of 100% viognier, the rose 50% Grenache and 50% Bobal.

The red has an equal split between Graciano and Cabernet-Sauvignon. They harvest at night to preserve freshness in the grapes, hand harvested and selected in small crates. They age for 9 months on oak and deliver a wine full of character and personality.

Grape: 50% Graciano 50% Cabernet sauvignon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: €12 $13 £10

Visual: A dark purple red colour, very masculine, very beasty, still a good punch of youth although already four years old, there is a hint of power and maturity, a wine with distinction. The legs are heavy, it is bold and holds a good transparency, the brilliance is fair.

Nose: Vanilla, spices followed by red and black fruits (berries, black cherries, plums) is the first thing that hits the nose, although here and there you get a whiff of alcohol, which is a bit disturbing. peppers and hints of chocolate make their appearance. A wine with good elements and clear presence.

Palate: soft tannins, and many black fruits hit the palate, it is somewhat round and not overly dry, it has a good power and medium last, but this wine has a certain charm that the likeability factor is well above average. The acidity is holding just well to give the wine a fair amount of freshness but this vintage is truly to drink here and one year (or go the a younger vintage)

Conclusion: Twelve euros for this wine is surely not to much, three euros more it would have been a slight rip-off. It is pleasantly enjoyable and for organic/bio-dynamic it sits certainly not bad at all. This is a wine that will score with wild duck or game, a very juicy steak with some lard would not go amiss either. Out of a region I would consider a bit too harsh these days to make something very descent I was pleasantly surprised that these talented winemakers proved me wrong. nice discovery.

Score: I rate this wine 17.25/20 72.5/100. (rates as a good wine)

Until next time please do drink responsibly.