April Vintages Pre-Release Tasting

April 24, 2014

Reported by Rod Story

The last Vintages release of April featured value Bordeaux mostly from 2010 and large selection of sparkling wines. Unfortunately none of the Champagnes had arrived so the assembled group had to make do with only sparklers. The tasting started with a flight of one still white and three sparklers followed by two flights of red with five and four wines each.

The first white was the Yalumba Viognier and it garnered two votes for favourite wine of the flight. It had a nose of tropical flowers and papaya that followed through on the palate. It had good body and mouth feel in addition to being a bit warm from the alcohol. The first sparkler was the Tawse Spark which is made from Riesling grapes. It garnered five votes as favourite for its zippy apple and tangerine notes. Given its high acidity, many suggested that it is a sparkler that requires food. The second sparkler, the Blanquette de Limoux was the favourite of the flight with 7 votes. People liked it for its balanced fruit (apple) and oak integration. It was much softer/ rounder than the first sparkler with the characteristic yeasty/brioche nose associated with Champagnes. At $17.95 (the crowd guessed 22-25), it was a good value wine that would work well on its own or with food. The final sparkler of the flight was the Spanish Cava and only one person picked it as their favourite. It had considerable more oak than the Blanquette and more citrus notes, but it wasn’t as complex though it did have a longer finish.

The second flight consisted of four Bordeaux and a ringer from South Africa which won the flight with 10 votes. The first wine was Château de Maison Neuve, a 2010 Saint- Émilion. It was definitely old world with a nose of game, spice and dark plum. Its youthful astringency was dominant on the palate along with dark fruit and smoked bacon. It’s a wine that is quite young and needs time to soften. It didn’t garner any votes. The second wine was Château la Croix Chantecaille, a 2009 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. It had some earth and barnyard on the nose and the palate was more leather but not much fruit. It was less astringent than the first. Maybe it would open up more with time. It didn’t garner any votes either. The third wine of the flight was the Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa. It was the favourite of the flight for its sweet cedar and black currant nose. It was ripe black fruit on the palate with good acid but soft tannins. The alcohol was a little bit noticeable but not unpleasant. It was great value considering a number of people were willing to pay $24 and it was only $15.95! The fourth wine of the flight was a right bank wine (Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, therefore mostly Merlot) that didn’t taste like a Merlot. It was more Syrah with black and white pepper and a hint of green pepper (Cabernet Franc?) and cedar. The various pepper aromas came through on the palate with good astringency. It would improve over the next four years. It received 1.5 votes. The final wine of the flight came a close second with 9 votes. It was the darkest of the five wines. It was a great example of an inexpensive Graves that would age well over the next 5 to 10 years. It had a nose of dark fruit and smoky wood that comes across the palate with the addition of spice, sandalwood and a very long finish. It was well balanced with good acidity. The crowd guessed it at $24 which was just a bit above its $21.95 price.

The final flight was a mixed bag of more expensive wines. The first wine only one person guessed as a Pinot Noir. It was a very dark wine (more cab than pinot) with a somewhat closed nose (a bit of black plum). On the palate it was a mix of ripe dark fruit, little bit of sweetness and heat from the alcohol. It received the most votes with 7. Everyone enjoyed it even though they never would have guessed it as a Pinot. The second wine (Cabernet Sauvignon from Arrowood) had a nose of leather, spice and plum that came through on the palate with the addition of vanilla and well integrated oak. It was surprising how similar it was to the much less expensive South African wine of the second flight. It received 5 votes. The third wine of the flight was the 2001 Faustino. It was surprisingly youthful considering it was over 12 years old. It still had the characteristic bright acidity typical of Spanish reds. It received 5 votes. The fourth wine was a huge and warm wine with bold aromas of blueberry and stewed fruit that followed through on the palate. For this taster, the alcohol was too noticeable on the palate and overpowered the fruit. It received two votes.

1st Flight: Whites and Sparklers

  • Yalumba Viognier, 2012, Eden Valley, South Australia, 954644, $24.95
  • Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling, 2012, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, 370361, $19.95
  • Domaine J. Laurens le Moulin Brut Blanquqette de Limoux, Midi, France, 180323, $17.95
  • Conde de Haro Brut Cava, 2010, Rioja, Spain, 168559, $19.95

2nd Flight: 4 Bordeaux and a Ringer

  • Château de Maison Neuve, 2010, Saint-Émilion, 365791, $23.95
  • Château la Croix Chantecaille, 2009, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, 349936, $29.95
  • Pepin Condé Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012, Coastal Region, South Africa, 365981, $15.95
  • Château le Grand Moulin Grande Réserve, 2010, Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux, 307363, $16.95
  • Château Haut Selve, 2010, Graves, 738120, $21.95

3rd Flight: Other Reds

  • Dierberg Pinot Noir, 2009, Santa Rita Hills, CA, 363903, $47.95
  • Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Sonoma County, 985408, $36.95
  • Faustino I Gran Reserva, 2001, Rioja, Spain, 976662, $32.95
  • Alvaro Palacios Velles Vinyes les Terrasses, 2011, Priorat, Spain, 977843, $46.95