jamie goode's wine blog: A big Malbec and a Black Tower

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A big Malbec and a Black Tower

Three days without rain now. Looks like we're going to get a summer (of sorts) after all. And two rather different but quite interesting red wines to report on.

But first a slight digression about oak. Have you ever noticed that oak is very much more obvious when you open a bottle and pour it immediately, than when you've opened a bottle, poured some wine out and then let it sit (or decanted it)? I wasn't keen on the Lafage Roussillon white I reported on recently immediately after I'd opened it because of the obvious new oak, but it settled down after a night in the fridge. The Torres Gran Sangre de Toro also came across as overoaked immediately on opening, and was better some hours later. Tonight's first red also seemed much more oaky on opening than it does now, some three hours later. Why is this?

First up we have a very good Argentinean Malbec. This isn't a subtle wine: it's extracted, it's very ripe, it's quite alcoholic, and 14 months in French oak were needed to tame the tannins. If I was the winemaker I'd make some adjustments here which I think could turn this very good wine into a superb one. I'm enjoying it, still, and for the price it's good value if you're in the mood for something big.

Salentein Malbec 2004 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Very deep coloured, this inky dark wine has a full nose of ripe dark fruits, spice, some minerals and new oak. The palate is bold, ripe, spicy and quite tannic with sweet spicy oak adding a slightly confected quality. There's high alcohol evident, too. It's a big old wine with plenty of oomph, but there's some spicy complexity, too. Begging for a big steak to go with it. I'd probably have preferred this to have a touch less extraction, a little less ripeness and a bit less oak, because the vineyard is clearly an excellent one, but for the price this is very good value and if you are in the right mood, it's more-ish. 89/100 (8.49 Tesco)

The second wine can be seen to the right of the Salentein in the picture. Yes, folks, this is Black Tower, but not as we know it. This successful German brand, a frequent guest at dinner parties in the 1970s along with its peer, Blue Nun, is back. The wine in question, in the distinctive (and appalling) tall, tower-like bottle with a mottled finish, is a red, made from Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. It's actually quite drinkable.

Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir 2006 Pfalz, Germany
Hideous bottle shape. Deep coloured with sweet red and black fruits on the nose, showing creamy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is summer pudding in a glass - blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants - with some sweetness and a juicy quality. Some residual sugar here? Astute commercial winemaking. 82/100 (4.49 Tesco)

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At 11:40 AM, Blogger Simon Woods said...

Hi Jamie

Greetings from the north. It's even been fine here for 3 days, which probably means we're due for a Monsoon tomorrow.

Fully agree with your comment on wines changing - wrote something similar on my blog a bit ago (http://drinkingoutsidethebox.blogspot.com/2007/07/ten-green-bottles.html). And had exactly the same experience with Gran Sangre de Toro, which is also mentioned on there somewhere.

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Jack Hibberd said...

Wine is all well and good Jamie, but what we really want is your opinion on Sven's recent flood of signings. Not an Englishman among them. Although he should know, due to his previous role!

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Salil said...

I wouldn't fully agree with that statement about oak - while I think that holds true for a lot of wines, I have had a couple where the oakiness seemed to increase with a little time in the glass.

Recntly had a Parker Coonawarra Estate 03 Cabernet - found the oak levels in that making it increasingly unpleasant over the course of an hour.

As far as the rain goes, good news. Hope London's nice and dry at least until the end of the cricket season.
(Still quite shocked by the level of rain - I remember commenting a couple of times in March when I visited on how great the weather was, with only one day of mild drizzle.)

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

I agree with both Simon and Salil on the oak issue, but, on balance, where the oak used is either obtrusive or of cheap quality (or deep toast) then the wine will become increasingly discombobulated the longer it is open.

There is, alas, too much underwined oak on the market. But even good wine can be throttled by unnecessary oak. I entirely agree with you, Jamie, about the Cotes du Roussillon from 100 year old Grenache Blanc vines. Incredible natural quality of fruit and potential expression of terroir and they half smother it. The wine is good enough to battle back, but the question to ask is why did they do that in the first place?

When we taste with our growers in their wineries we ask them to justify the use of oak and whether they truly believe it enhances the wine. Several winemakers use these interventions to please a market or a perception of what the market requires, however, since the majority of our customers seem to be now against extracted, powerful wines this should be less of an issue.

The Salentein Malbec is classic Rolland; the wine is sweeter and smoother and bigger than ever. When you taste it you think "clever winemaking" not "great quality Malbec". I've had lovely Malbecs from Chile where they go for a more understated approach, recognizing that the grape has interesting aromatics - violets, tearose, figs - and that acidity should carry the flavours. In Argentina there is a propensity for having their chocolate cake of Malbec and eating it. With this grape and this style of wine, in particular, less is definitely more.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous hugh said...

On Malbec, I have two questions rather than a comment. Does malbec have a future as a single varietal wine outside of argentinian styles and low end price range? Then, how is wine from Cahors received in the U.K.?

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Simon and Salil, thanks for your comments.

Jack, I reckon Sven has got it right. Very exciting time to be a city fan.

Doug - agree. Thanks for the comment.

Hugh, I reckon Cahors has great potential, which currently is only in part realized. There are several Cahors which I like a lot, but they don't have much visibility in the UK market.


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