Tag Archives: big red

Light and Heavy

No, not something you’d order in a Scottish pub, just two very contrasting wines.

The El Porvenir 2006 came via a Birmingham Wine School tasting of Argentinian wines, in, I think 2009. Around £16? The presenter was offering wines at reduced prices. Geoff may remember more. A rich, powerful (14.9%) wine saved by a refreshing acidity. A near Bordeaux blend (45% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Tannat and 8% Syrah) with the last two grapes adding some complexity. Nearly 2 years in new oak but the tannins were well integrated and it was a pleasure to drink – not in the least heavy – but the bottle was, weighing 1.2k. Since supermarket bottles are normally under half that one can deduce that the producers wanted to add some gravitas, not that it was needed.

The Dolcetto (2016) is a grape we’ve only blogged once before and not a grape I could identify blind. Light, indeed pale in colour (12.5%) with a rather muted cherry fruit taste which was spoilt by a persistent ‘woody’ note. A shame since Burlotto is a respected producer. WS £11.50, out of stock.

[Geoff: The Argentinian tasting was by Ruta 40, the name comes from the main road that travels through the wine regions. The grapes are grown at 1750 metres in Cafayete in Salta Province where the cooler air height helps the acidity that Richard remarked on. The wine is kept two years in oak and then another year minimum in bottle. This one has had ten years in bottle – and it’s still fresh with an attractive mic of richness and acidity. It now costs £35, so expensive but if you like that style – and have deep pockets – it’s a good wine.]


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Miles Mossop’s Max 2008 (and Malbec)


Following the two Italian reds last week we tried another duo on Friday, this time from the New World – an Argentinian Malbec and a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ from Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Miles Mossop is a noted wine maker in South Africa; this wine was his Max 2008. He brings in grapes to the Tokara winery and vinifies them under his own label – an arrangement he has with the owners of the winery. His grapes can be drawn from good sites in the Western Cape but the wine we tried was from grapes solely from the Stellenbosch region. Cabernet Sauvignon made up half of the blend, the other two grapes were Petit Verdot (27%) and Merlot (23%). Richard’s comment “everything you hope for in a claret” pretty well summed the wine up.

Ruby red with some ageing evident, this had slight menthol notes but the dominant aromas were of non-specific dark fruits, but a well-balanced blend of plums, blackcurrant and blackberry. The ageing had introduced a cooked, concentrated quality which was really attractive. There was also a “hint of volatility” (Richard) which was beguiling. The tannins were just right, providing enough drying ‘grip’ to prevent the jamminess. This had big, rich flavours and a good mouthfeel; I detected slight heat at the finish (14% ABV).

This was a quality wine which was drinking well just now; ideal for the steak which was to accompany it.

[Richard: Geoff has encapsulated how we felt about this wine. A very nice drink which did, indeed, go well with steak and chips. We blogged another vintage of this wine (the 2006), 18 months ago and weren’t quite so impressed, perhaps because I didn’t decant for three hours, as here. From the WS, now out of stock, about £20 and certainly as good as a similarly priced claret.]

From Max to Malbec. We don’t try Malbec on this blog and those we have tried – all comparatively upmarket – have not impressed.

I tasted this one (Vinalba Gran Reservado 2014) blind and was unable to recognise the grape. A very different appearance to the Max with the colour a glass-stain purple. A green nose with some fruit, leading into a supple, rich, smooth taste and good mouthfeel, albeit one with no real defining characteristics. I’m not sure what ‘Gran Reservado’ means in an Argentinian context – the Vinalba website has no information.

[Geoff: I believe (but can’t confirm) that Gran Reservado entails a minimum of two years ageing but agree that the terms ‘reserve’ and ‘grand reserve’ seem to be used with no actual legal definition of ageing, yield, alcohol levels etc.

I find Malbecs a little uninspiring unless they have a whack of acidity and freshness (which means high altitude vineyards) to balance their full and leathery qualities. This was a better one, and reasonably priced at about £12. The usual blueberry notes came through as it developed.]




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Magic or medicine?


Ixsir, produced from vineyards high in the Lebanese Mountains, is, to me, typical of Lebanese wine. Made from a blend of Cab Sav and Syrah it is drawn from various plots but then matured for at least 12 months in French oak, presumably to soften what would be pretty fierce tannins.

The intense ruby colour and noticeable legs suggested heat but the nose was surprisingly quite dumb. It may have needed longer opening than the 45 mins Richard gave it. There were faint notes of menthol and liquorice but no strongly varietal hints. Tannins were to the fore as was a richness but I was struggling to find the freshness which I like in red wines. The ‘funky’ cliche that is applied to Lebanese wines I take to be a slight whiff of oxidised fruits which wouldn’t be surprising in that hot climate. There was a slight heat at the finish, from only 13% ABV.

This really is a food wine and, I suggest, food with Middle Eastern flavours. Btw the word elixir is derived from the Arabic iksir and means ‘a magical or medicinal potion’ – Paul Daniels (RIP) or the NHS, take your pick.

[Richard: Chateau Musar, from Lebanon, is one of my favourite wines and has been blogged here several times. But I’ve never tasted any other wines from that country. So when TWS offered a mixed case of Lebanese reds I placed an order.

A decent wine which certainly needed food and a long decant. I’ve vacuumed sealed the remains of the bottle to try later in the week. But, as it stands, I’d rather have Musar – made from different grapes of course – at much the same price.]



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We’re really trying.


It must appear to our reader that we’re waging a two-man campaign against Chateauneuf du Pape. On this site and on the Wine Society web-site we have both posted negative comments and, to be fair, others have done the same. To possibly right a wrong (and before we are banned from the southern Rhone region of France), Richard smuggled in a decanter of 2006 Raymond Usseglio’s offering. It had been decanted on Friday – so it had 48 hours breathing time. I was tasting it blind.

The appearance was a dense and slightly opaque black core with a brick rim and evidence of viscosity. The aromas were an intriguing mix of meat, soy sauce (really strong, for me) but not much fruit was in evidence. There were black fruits on the palate, light/medium tannins and evidence of oxidisation.

So, it was a twelve year old wine which needed double decanting and 48 hours to become approachable. That tells of some power to be dissipated but if you like your wines big, beefy and bold CNdP is the wine for you. It was a blend of 80% grenache, the remaining 20% divided between mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and counoise.

[Richard; a second bottle of this wine and vintage – Geoff missed out on the first one. From Big Red Wine Co, about £22. Not a ‘great’ vintage – too cold and wet, which probably worked to our advantage as the wines would be, you’d expect, lighter and fresher. But this is CdP so those are relative terms. Certainly not as ‘porty’ as a 2005 Usseglio I really disliked but still big, heavy and powerful, even after a long decant. As with the previous bottle I could find qualities to admire but I didn’t finish the bottle and I’d be surprised if I ever drink another CdP, once I’ve finished off the 3-4 left in the cellar.]



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Trinity Hill Homage 2009


This wine was the second, fortunately, of two red wines tasted on Sunday. And what a lovely drop it was. From the noted Gimblett Gravels, sub region of Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ, the Syrah grape produces a drink in the same style as the northern Rhone. It is made only in years when the conditions are ideal.

We have written about a less expensive Gimblett Gravels which were also good because they retained the lightness of style and peppery quality that makes northern Rhone Syrahs so attractive. However, this was a considerable step up in quality and, it must be said, a more powerful and intense wine.

My notes mention a brick rimmed wine with an intense red core and sweet, stewed black fruits on the nose. At first it was difficult to identify the fruit but the blackberry notes came through bringing with it the slight firm ‘greenness’ you get with blackberries. This rescued it from being unattractively jammy. The velvety mouth feel was notable, as were the wine’s tannins and its lengthy dryness. There was a pleasing bit of tar in its richness. Richard summed it up well with the phrase “restrained power”; we got a sense of it being rich and firm rather than broad and wallowing. Lovely.

The Trinity Hill web site is very informative about the soils being not fertile and low in moisture making the vine less vigorous with less berries means greater concentration of flavours. It worked for us.

[Richard: from Great Western Wines. Intended as a homage to Rhone reds, made from vines which were grown from cuttings of older vines on the Côte Rôtie. An addition of 2% viognier adds to the complexity. Very classy, elegant and fragrant with great mouth feel and persistence. A pleasure to drink. Not cheap but worth the money, I felt.]

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A bully of a wine


I think it must be a function of my ‘advancing’ years that my liking for big red wines has waned. However, this is not happening to my fellow sipper who just happens to be more ‘advanced’ than me. Richard has stash of these wines and he’d decanted this 14.5%er for Sunday’s tasting 24 hours beforehand. Domaine Lafarge’s Bastide Miraflores 2015 is hewn in Roussillon (it has a Cotes Catalans AC) from Syrah (70%) and Grenache (30%). The flores part of the name seems a misnomer as there are no floral notes to this chunky brute.

The expected intense ruby colour with distinct viscosity was to be expected as was the ripe black fruit aromas with deeper notes of chocolate, suggesting some early maturing elements. What was surprising was picked up by Richard; a slight underripe, green, sappy quality which was its saving grace for me. The palate had weight and obvious alcohol as well as the expected tannins and some spices. There was also a tarry quality to the long dry finish – no hint of sweetness, thankfully.

Without a doubt this wines needs food and big flavoured food too – cassoulet would be perfect. It was a well made wine and, although not something this wimp of a wine drinker would pick, I appreciated its quality.

[Not so much of a bully for me – that would be any Chateauneuf-de-Pape – more a rather assertive, sure-of-themselves individual. I liked the purity of the plummy fruit and the complex nose, not so keen on the alcoholic strength. From Vin Cognito (£15) who sent out a ‘must buy’ email, now sold out.]

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Kissing frogs.


New Zealand Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec – the phrases trip blithely off the tongue as easily as the wines slip around it.  They have all become big money-making New World regions, eclipsing the original regions of the grape, France. Commercially successful, they are all the standards against which other wines made from those grapes are judged. Hats off to the New World, then, in having succeeded in shifting the wine-drinking public’s reference points.

We tried an Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza on Sunday night, Francois Lurton’s Piedra Negra 2008. I find Malbec falls into two categories, the largest category being that of the big, alcoholic, tannic, dry, heavyweight. The wine style with which someone delights in finishing the bottle at the end of a meal (including the pudding). There is a finer, and smaller, style, however. A style showing lighter red fruits, higher acidity and of gentler persuasions. And  you can find them, but you have to kiss a few frogs to get there.

Lurton’s belonged to the former group. An intense red colour showing high viscosity with tertiary smells of coffee and a slightly burnt nose. Tannic, wanting of fruit and seemingly underdeveloped, this might be better in another five years but I doubt it. It will get older and less refined, I think.

So, not for me, sorry. It was frog – not a handsome prince.

[Richard: Geoff and I had been looking at some WS member reviews and saw one on a red Cahors which was rather uncomplimentary – ‘just another red wine’ – which, in turn,  made us realise we don’t drink much malbec. In Winchester a few days later I visited Wine Utopia and saw that they had a bottle of an upmarket Argentinian malbec which I thought would make an interesting tasting. Actually, not so much, because firstly, neither of have much idea what malbec should taste like, even allowing for the different styles Geoff mentions. And secondly, it was really ‘just another red wine’, albeit well made, without much to distinguish it. Interestingly both the malbec and the red in the previous post were the same price (£27.99). The reduction on the Hermitage made it decent value, not so the Piedra Negra.]


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