jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, February 13, 2009

Video: Cheval des Andes, Mendoza, Argentina

Here's a short film from my visit to Cheval des Andes in Mendoza, Argentina. This is the one where I get on a horse, kindly filmed by Chris Losh. It's a companion video to the write-up on the website, here.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Enough about the weather, and another Malbec

First ten minutes of the BBC evening news tonight was devoted to one subject: the weather. It's getting a bit boring, but the conditions here have been pretty unusual.

Found out today that I had to go and pick my son up from boarding school. It's a long drive and I wasn't looking forward to it - the Highways agency advised against non-essential travel, and on their advice I almost packed a spade. But that seemed a bit extreme, so I didn't.

Actually, the journey was better than I'd feared. Just a couple of flurries of heavy snow, and in the bit of Devon I was in most of the snow had thawed. The journey back was also relatively straightforward, although it was still quite tiring driving, with a particularly crazy blizzard just before Reading.

Back to wine. I've opened another Argentinean Malbec tonight. It's the Salentein MCM Winemaker's Selection 2004 Malbec/Cabernet/Merlot. It's fresh and aromatic, but there's probably a bit too much oak imprint here: it shows itself in tarry, toasty, slightly bitter notes along with the sweet berryish fruit. 8.59 from Tesco - reasonable value, but not something I'd rush out to buy.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Great value from Argentina - can we forgive some spoofiness?

Tonight's wine is from Argentina, and it's delicious. It actually won the trophy for best varietal wine under 10 at this year's Decanter World Wine Awards. It's really impressive. But, if I'm honest, it tastes a bit spoofy. Like it was made to win awards. The colour is a little too dark, the fruit a little too sweet, the tannins a little too smooth. In fact, it almost tastes like it has been tweaked a little with grape juice concentrate, just to add a little sweetness and colour. I'm just trying to find out how the winemaker could have got the colour this dense and the fruit so deliciously sweet. I'll try to find out from the agent.

Can spoofiness be forgiven? This is the sort of wine that will be adored by people new to wine, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, very tasty in a hedonic sort of way, and I'm enjoying it. It's just that for an intelligent audience like mine, I wanted to point out my concerns: delicious, really impressive, but perhaps spoofy.
Vinalba Malbec Reserva 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
Deep coloured. Amazingly sweetly fruited, alluring nose with very ripe blackberries and a hint of blackcurrant jam. The palate is lush and sweet with ripe, dense, pure fruit and some savoury, spicy notes. Lots of impact here: a dense, full, sweet red wine with lovely purity of fruit and real flavour impact. It's unashamedly new world in style and will be sure to win lots of fans. 90/100 (9.99 Majestic)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A couple from Argentina

I'm currently writing up my Argentina trip from last year (why has it taken me so long? Must try to reduce lead times...) and so I thought it would be nice to open a couple of Argentinean reds. The connection between the two is that they are NOT made from Malbec. Now Malbec is a great variety, but we mustn't forget that Argentina also does well with other red varieties. Sometimes really, really well.

Benegas Finca Libertad 2005 Mendoza, Argentina
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Cabernet Franc (32%) and Merlot (13%). Michel Rolland is the consultant winemaker here, and there's some similarity in style to the Clos de Los Siete, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It shows lovely, smooth, refined pure blackberry fruit with some plummy notes, as well as spicy new oak. It's rich and modern, but not totally over-the-top. As well as the sweet fruit, there are notes of chocolate, coffee and spice, and I reckon it could age quite nicely over the next few years. 90/100 (12.99 Virgin Wines)

Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Mendoza, Argentina
This is a really impressive inexpensive red. The nose shows sweet, pure red berry and blackberry fruit. The palate is smooth and refined with accessible blackberry and blackcurrant fruit which flirts with jamminess but stays fresh and well defined. A lovely easy drinker. 87/100 (7.07 Bibendum, on sale at 5.49 3-13 February)

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Nicolas Catena Zapata, a first growth from Argentina

Tonight's wine is a serious effort from Argentina, in a grand bottle that weighs 1.2 kg empty! Actually, I opened it last night, but was confused. Either this was a top class wine being judged very early in its life, or it was a rather grotesque misjudgment on the part of the winemaker. The problem was the extremely ripe fruit profile allied with masses of new oak. Was this a spoofulated modern wine, or actually something quite serious? I witheld judgment until tonight, when I went back to the wine. My verdict? While it currently shows spoofy tendencies, and could potentially be even better with a little less overt ripeness and oak, it is an Argentinean first growth.

Nicolas Catena Zapata 2005 Argentina
Approximately two-thirds Cabernet and one-third Malbec, this is a serious effort from one of Argentina's top producers. A concentrated, dark coloured wine it is currently extremely oaky: on opening, there's a big waft of vanilla and spice, along with ripe, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. After a while, this oak subsides a little, revealing more interesting floral and mineral notes under the super-ripe fruit. The palate is dense, smooth, ripe and rich with concentrated sweet fruits and some smooth but spicy tannic structure hiding underneath it. Currently quite oak dominated, all the ingredients are here for a long, graceful evolution. Don't open this now, but in five, ten or fifteen years, I reckon it will be quite special. It's 'new world' in style, and I'd probably prefer a little less ripeness, but it's serious. 93/100

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Catena Malbec rocks!

Just drinking Cantena's 2006 Malbec (from Argentina's Mendoza region), which, at just over 10 a bottle (UK agent Bibendum) is a really superb value wine.

It shows lovely purity of ripe, sweet, but well-defined raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose. In the mouth, this sweet, pure fruit is joined by a bit of spicy structure. Tannins are really smooth and, while present, mesh with the fruitiness really well. Overall, it's quite an elegant wine: indeed, my view is that Argentinean Malbec at its best has more in common with Pinot Noir than it does with Cabernet Sauvignon - it's an elegant, ripe, yet expressive wine. This is sourced from four vineyards, all at altitude: Adrianna (5000 ft), Angelica (2850 ft), Piramide (3100 ft) and Nicasia (3870 ft). For the benefit of those used to metric measures, a foot is about 1/3 metre (this was a sample destined for the US market). It's 14% alcohol, and I rate it at 90/100.

Picture is a tasting I had in March at the Adrianna vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Clos de los Siete, take six

'It is already the sixth vintage from Clos de Los Siete', says Michel Rolland, the famous consulting winemaker who has worked with Bordeaux-based Dourthe to produce this new (now not so new) wine from Mendoza.

The larger project of which Los Siete is a part is called 'Campo de Vista Flores'. A large area of 850 hectares, 90 km south of Mendoza city and previously unplanted, was divided into seven plots - one for each of the main partners (there are now just six - one left). The land had to be prepared and then planted. With a high planting density (5500 vines/hectare) the vineyards are managed like a Bordeaux first growth, with double guyot pruning, vertical canopies, crop thinning, leaf removal, hand-picking into small crates and triage on a sorting table. Then, in the winery there's a cold pre-fermentation maceration, pumping over during fermentation and maturation in new French oak (2/3) and vat (1/3).

Altogether, 430 hectares of the 850 are now planted. The altitude is 1100 metres and the soils are sand and clay, with large pebbles. Yields average 34 hl/ha, which is quite low. And here is my note on the just-released 2007 vintage.

Clos de los Siete 2007 Mendoza, Argentina
A blend of 48% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Syrah, harvested from the end of March until the end of April. Deep coloured, this has lovely floral aromatics together with ripe but not jammy summer fruit aromas. There's a bit of spice, too. The palate is nicely poised with sweet but well defined dark fruits and good acidity. This isn't jammy or super-ripe, which is a good thing. But the alcohol (14.5%) is evident, and the tannins are a little drying and grippy in the mouth, and they clamp down the finish somewhat. It's a beautifully packaged wine that offers great value for money, and without those rather drying tannins it would get a higher rating. 90/100 (10.99 Waitrose, Majestic, Oddbins)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Steak at Gaucho and City Hall

Had a nice lunch at Gaucho Tower Bridge on Monday, with Trapiche's single-vineyard Malbecs.

This particular Gaucho restaurant, which, like the others, is lavishly decorated with cowhide, is in an interesting location. There are great views of Tower Bridge and also the remarkable squashed egg- or scrotum-shaped building called City Hall. Indeed, the Gaucho is part of the 'More London' development that includes City Hall, home to the Mayor of London and his recently pruned band of staff. Administrators and governing types always tend to be particularly well housed. If you are ever on a university campus, for example, and are looking for the administrative building, it's usually easy to find. Just head to the tallest and grandest construction, and there you will find them.

I always enjoy eating at the Gaucho, which specializes in huge hunks of very nice Argentinean beef, and has an extensive (if slightly expensive) list of Argentinean wines. They've got the ambience just right, and with all that cowhide there's a sense of irony that liberates you to enjoy tasty, simple hunks of meat without feeling bad.

Initially, I thought the 2006 Trapiche single vineyard wines we tasted were a bit obvious and made in a very modern style. But then trying a 2004 version of one of the wines with lunch, I suddenly saw what the point was. Aromatically, it was singing, and was just beautiful, with sweet, expressive, harmonious red fruits. There's something to be said for just a little patience with reds like this.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vintage time at Achaval Ferrer winery, Mendoza, Argentina - a short film

Here's a short film from my visit to Argentina in March. It's vintage time at one of Mendoza's leading boutique producers, Achaval Ferrer. We get to see the press, the winery (where wine is being racked and returned) and then a small segment of the tasting with Santiago Achaval.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Raspberries and Malbec

18 months ago I decided to plant some raspberries in the garden. I think it was a good move, although I didn't realize quite how prolific the 15 canes (three different varieties) would prove to be - we're now facing a raspberry invasion problem.

But of all the things you can grow in your garden, raspberries have to be one of the most useful. They're delicious, you eat all of them, and to buy them would cost a lot of money. Plus they are really easy to grow. Other things I'm growing this year: tomatoes, a salad crop, spring onions, coriander, basil, thyme, tarragon, courgettes. I'd love to grow more. There's something very healthy about growing stuff.

This year it looks like we have a bumper raspberry crop, and I quite enjoy spending a few minutes grazing, selecting the most delicious-looking berries and devouring them. What's interesting is that they all taste a bit different. There are some that are under-ripe, and taste a bit sharp; there are some that are a little over-ripe, and taste a bit soft, sweet and characterless. The key is picking them at optimum ripeness, where there's some sweetness, but also some acidity to keep them fresh and complex.

I guess it's very similar to wine: you should pick the grapes at optimum ripeness, where there's some fruit sweetness, but also good acidity. Easier said than done. The modern tendency is to pick late to get the sweet, lush fruit and then add acid. People have rather differing views on what 'balance' looks like in practice.

Tonight's wine: Catena Alamos Malbec 2006 Mendoza. There's lots of sweet, pure fruit here, with notes of raspberry jam backed up with a bit of spice. It's pure and focused, with really good balance. Yes, it's a modern, commercial style, but it avoids over-ripeness and doesn't taste at all forced. This is one of the wines in the forthcoming Bibendum sale, which starts early july, when it will be reduced from its normal price of 7.55 to 4.55/bottle, at which price it's great value. 86/100

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Thoughts on blind tasting, and stuff...

So I spent the day in the office. When I went freelance I thought I'd be spending a lot of days working from home. It has actually been much busier than I'd envisaged, so I haven't had all that many days when I've not been going out to work elsewhere.

The way I prefer to work is in bursts. I like to work really hard, and then take it a bit easier. I aim to try to get some work/life balance where I'm not crazy busy all the time. To make this work with the family, I work unusual hours - quite often, I'm working late at night simply because this means I'm more available when the kids are around. The other factor is the 'muse': when you are writing, some times are unpredictably much more fertile than others - you have to run with this.

So what did I do today? I finished a piece on the perception of wine that looked at studies investigating what happens in the brain when we taste wine. I did some invoicing. I wrote an annoyed email to a car hire company who were being arseholes about a one-day rental Fiona made last month (a long story). I spent a while on the phone to Susanna from Imbibe magazine who is doing a really interesting piece on wine preservation devices, and wanted some technical input. I walked RTL. I helped Fiona bath RTL (a traumatic process). I played three games of Top Trumps with younger son, losing 2-1. I mowed the lawn. I fired up the barbie. And I responded to Fiona's challenge and tasted three wines blind.

The blind tasting was difficult, as it often is. The first wine was tricky: it was red, and sweet enough to be new world, but then again it was savoury enough to be ripe old world. There wasn't the complexity for it to be serious old world, but then it wasn't sweet and simple.

It was impossibly hard to place. I guessed South Africa, then Chile, then Italy, then France, before hitting the mark with Australia. It was the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Shiraz Viognier 2004. Tasting it unblind, though, I'm getting lovely dark peppery cool climate Syrah fruit that I didn't get blind. Blind, I got more of the ripeness/greenness contrast. [So is this the power of suggestion at work, or just that when I taste unblind my perception receives input from my memory and knowledge of wine that then helps me to make more of the sensory information I am getting?] It was the greenness that led me to Chile and South Africa, but because I now know this is from the Yarra, I'm not as afraid of the greenness.

The second wine was white, but it wasn't obviously Chardonnay or Sauvignon. I couldn't spot oak, but there was a rounded texture. It was actually a Chardonnay Reserve from Finca Flichman, but, almost bizarrely, it tasted like a rich unoaked Italian Pinot Grigio. Really tough blind. Finally, I was poured a vile, slightly oxidised Chardonnay - it turned out to be a supermarket entry level Chilean Chardonnay fro 2005 that hadn't survived well.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wines at home, from Argentina

Digging around on my sample racks recovered three Argentinean wines that I felt like trying. Two inexpensive reds were successful, offering great value for money. And a more expensive Chardonnay proved a fine match for a Spanish tortilla served with garlic prawns.

Aside: after a dismally damp day on Saturday, we had a taste of spring today. I spent a few luxurious hours pottering in the garden, doing some tidying up and planting. This year I'm determined that our garden should be pretty and productive.

Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2007 Mendoza, Argentina
From Familia Zucchardi. Sweet, pure, ripe berry and black fruits dominate here, and there are some autumnal, foresty flavours, too. There's a hint of sweetness, but the dominant feature is the attractive pure fruit. Over-delivers for the price. Just 13% alcohol, too. 83/100 (3.99 Somerfield)

Finca Flichman Reserva Shiraz 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
A dark, spicy, slightly meaty wine with lovely fruit intensity. This is joined by a subtle roast coffee edge, perhaps from the oak. There's some grippy structure on the palate which adds savouriness: I reckon this is a style best with food. Some substance here. 86/100 (5.99 Waitrose, Stevens Garnier)
Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
From high vineyards, at 1200 m altitude. This initially strikes me as very ripe, with tropical fruit, honey and vanilla to the fore. It's smooth, nutty and rich-textured, but there's also a brightness to the fruit, with some citrussy notes. It's a rounded, well integrated sort of wine of real appeal, although some might prefer their Chardonnays to have a bit more in the way of 'edges' and contrast between the various flavours. I like the way it is so 'together'. 89/100 (10.99 Harvey Nichols)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Tasting at Bibendum

Hsien Min, a wine chum and fellow Man City fan, was in town on a visit from Singapore. So we grabbed a bit of lunch and then headed over to a mini-press tasting at Bibendum. Forty or so wines on show in an informal setting. The highlight for me was Catena's Alta Malbec 2004. This is concentrated, extremely refined and has lovely structure. It's not terribly new worldy, which I think is usually a good thing. This is a wine that I reckon will age gracefully. It might lose out in a blind tasting of Malbecs because it isn't the most assertive or spectacularly aromatic, but it is pretty grown up and sophisticated.

Bibendum are one of that rare breed of merchants with a decent blog.

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