Wine review: Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2013

I will not repeat the story on Kloof Street and Mullineux as I have written more about it in a previous review of the Kloof Street Swartland Rouge, read it here. What can be said about this Chenin Blanc is that it is not your run of the mill entry level wine. The vines used for this are over 40 years old so this is actually really interesting wine for this price level.

The Kloof Street Chenin Blanc is reminiscent of a Loire Chenin Blanc, or at least that was part of how it was described to me by the knowledgeable sommelier at Monvinic where I sampled it, and I can see what they mean. It is pale straw yellow in color but the nose was a bit strange to me, it had notes of ripe pear and apricot but also a bit of wet granite. There was however a scent that somehow was a bit stale about it, and at first I thought something was off about the wine. With some air it did however disappear but I was almost on the verge of checking with the sommelier if it corked. The wine is fresh and clean on the palate with dry pineapple and mineral but combined with a nice creaminess.

Despite my initial hesitation the wine won me over when it had some air. It rates as a 3.5 for quality and price wise it will set you back between €13-17 and that is decent value for money so also there a 3.5 rating. Pleasant, drinkable and would consider having it again.

Wine review: VallDolina Brut Nature, Organic cava

We are always on the lookout for wine makers that use organic/ecological methods when producing. many of the producers we work with and/or have visited largely follow what is required to be organic but they are not willing to spend the time and money to be certified (the certification can include several audits a year and certification fees). We did however recently encounter an interesting cava that is marketed as organic.

The cava is called VallDolina and is made by producer Celler-Masia Can Tutusaus. The winery was started in 1987 by Joan Badell Badell, who decided to bottle his first wines and to plant his first trained vines. It was not until 1999 when Raimon Badell Rosés, the son of the founder, who was then studying oenology and already involved in the winemaking process, turned the focus to ecological and biodynamical production. Since then, in 2006, oenologist Ferran Gil García has also joined the team.

The winery has 10 hectares where they currently produce one white wine, one rosé wine, three red wines and three different types of cava. the entire production is done with grapes from their own estate. The vineyards are boardering the natural park at the Massif of Garraf, with an altitude of between 240m and 360m and have limestone and reddish clay soil and produce, on average, 3500l/h. The climate is Mediterranean, strongly influenced by the vicinity of the sea. The winery produces only around 20 000 bottles a year and the small scale also mean that they just like for example Rimarts still can make the disgorging manually, without freezing the sediment. I am not knowledgable enough to know whether it produces a superior cava but I know it is cool to look at the manual process so if you ever get the chance to see that it is great fun.

The specific cava that we now tried was the Brut Nature Reserva. It has made with traditional cava trio of grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada) but also a touch of Chardonnay. It has been aged for 24 months. I must also inform you that I tried this side by side with a champagne (Pierre Gimonet, 2008 Non Dosage) so some of the impressions may be influenced by that comparision. I have tried to give it a fair rating so have hopefully managed to remove any comparison.

The VallDolina Brut Nature is very pale yellow in color. The nose is very fresh with some citrus, mineral and earthy aromas. As it is Brut Nature (no sugar added) it is very dry, nice acidity and a touch of citrus. To me it lacks some complexity and I would have liked a bit fuller flavor. As it is, the cava is pleasant enough as an appetizer but it lacks the complexity to be paired well with foods. It is however still good enough for me to be interested to sample their other wines and especially the Gran Reserva. Pure quality rating I would give it a 3, value for money is a 3.5 as I had it for €7 a glass at a wine bar in Helsinki which is a pretty good bargain. If I however look at the price at Alko (the Finnish Monopoly) it is almost €110 for a case of 6 (not sold by the bottle) and that is not good value for money (more like a 2). Looking at the price level in Spain and elsewhere in Europe it is however possible to find it at better prices and I would not doubt trying it again as it is a pleasant enought cava and compared to most other organic ones I sampled this is one of the better, so I recomed trying it as an example that it is possible to produce good organic cava.

Wine review: Faccoli Franciacorta Extra Brut

Faccoli is one of the many sparkling wine producers in Franciacorta . The founder was Lorenzo Faccoli who in 1964 acquired land on the hills of Mount Orfano, in Coccaglio. At this point in time Franciacorta was in its infancy as a wine region. That year Lorenzo obtained 12 hectoliters of wine from grapes of an existing vineyard, making wine on his own and sold by measure. Soon he realized he wanted to do more so he arranged the terraces and planted vineyards of chardonnay and pinot blanc, according to the recommendations of the new registered designation of Franciacorta origin. Already in 1970 he bottled part of his own wine and in 1979 he produced 300 hectoliters from his own wine and grapes.

In 1983 a lot changed for the Faccoli house, the sons Mario and Claudio stepped into the business. The decision was made to make sparkling wine the focus. In 1989 the production was 45 000 bottles (15 000 still and 30 000 sparkling) but the company still struggled as returns were too low. They also made the decision to manage the sales themselves and to focus even more on bubbles. To facilitate the growth they invested in an expansion of the cellar and added a higher end vintage cuvee to the selection, the Vintage 10 Anni. In 1990, they uprooted the old red vines of Cabernet Merlot Barbera and Nebbiolo and reduced the production of still wine to 10.000 bottles of white wine. In 2000 they stopped producing still wine and made the sparkling the only focus of the company. Today the company produces over 50 000 bottles of sparkling wine and have added several cuvées to the selection, today these are: Rosè brut, Extra Brut, Brut, Dosage Zero and Vintage 10 Anni.

The Facolli Franciacorta Extra Brut was the one I sampled (at Monvinic). It is grown on the hills of Mount Orfano and it is a blend of 70 % Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Blanc and 5 % Pinot Noir. Facolli uses the méthode champenoise for producing their sparkling wine. No surprise as they are in Franciacorta , the only Italian sparkling wine appellation that must be made by méthode champenoise. This specific cuvee has been aged 21 months on the lees. The extra brut has minimal extra dosage and is very low in residual sugar (2.5g/l).

I have previously not been very impressed by Italian sparkling wines but this one I did find pretty decent. I sampled it side by side with a Pehu Simonet Champagne and a Albet i Noya cava and from that trio this was clearly the best (reviews of the others to come)

The color is pale yellow with fine bubbles. The aroma has nice brioche and bread notes as well as yeast and hints of mineral. On the palate it is very clean, bright with mineral and citrus. It works excellent on its own, as an aperitif, but also with some lighter food. As I did not have much expectations on it, I felt pleasantly surprised. Looking at quality I would rate it as a 3 (S was pretty fond of it, so she might say its a 4). It is nice but would perhaps not go out of my way to find it. It can be found online (mainly from Italian wine shops) for €13 to €20. In the lower end of that segment it is good value for money (a rating of 3.5).

Wine review: Quinta do Perdigao Colheita 2009

Continuing on the Portugal theme but this time not connected to my recent trip there but still about Portuguese wine. I visited one of my favorite wine bars, not only in Barcelona but in the world, Monvinic. They always have an interesting selection of wines as it rotates as soon as a bottle is finished. In Spain it is not common to find Portuguese wine so I was glad to find this one from Quinta do Perdigao.

The vineyard was planted in 1997 at an altitude of 365 meters, in the area around Viseu and covers 7 hectares. The soil is granite based and the vine density is close to 5 000 per acre, they mainly have Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro as well as some Encruzado. Production is largely done sustainably and pesticidies are avoided. Not sure if they are organically certified as I have heard differing stories, but they are trying to produce in a sustianble and ecological manner. It is a small family winery so no huge volumes produced here so perhaps something for my list to visit next time around.

The wine I sampled was the Quinta do Perdigão Colheita from 2009. It has 20% Touriga-Nacional, 35% Tinta-Roriz (Tempranillo) 35% Jaen (Tinta Mencia) and 10% Alfrocheiro.

I am not that familiar with Alfrocheiro. Wines made from it are often rich in colour with firm but ripe tannins and a good balance of alcohol, tannins and acidity. Flavor is often ripe with berry fruit, particularly oblackberries and ripe stawberries. They are somehwat prone to attack by oidium and botrytis and require a lot of attention. Origin is somewhat debated as it originally was thought to be related to Pinot Noir but now the consensus appears to be that it is an indigenous Portugese variety. This specific wine only has 10% of Alfrocheiro but I will try to seek out some wines where it is more dominant.

The wine has been aged in French oak barrels (225 litres) for 12 months. The color was deep ruby red. The nose has a nice touch of red fruits and herbs. The Aromas include a touch of smoke, dried and fresh herbs, and savory fruits. The wine has a nice acidity but with some tannins. There are clear falvors of red and dark fruit. For the price range I think it is a good wine (available for around €8-10 in many places), the quality is not exceptional but still good so rating it a 3 for quality and a 3.5 for value for money.

Wine Review: Kloof Street Swartland Rouge Vintage 2012

An interesting little number from Mullineux Family Wines, a small wine producer in the Swartland region of South Africa. They are based in the village of Riebeek Kasteel and their range of products include both red and white wines. The wines are generally hand-crafted and try to display the specifics of the terroirs of the Swartland Region. Kloof Street is one of their two ranges, the other one being Mullineux.

I was drawn to this specific wine mainly based on the interesting looking label. It stood out when I saw it in the shelf at Handford Wines and when I started looking at wine it peaked my interest enough to pick up a bottle to take home.

It is a typical Southern Rhone blend with 83% Syrah, 13% Cinsault and 4% Carignan. Interestingly enough subsequent vintages have much more varieties in the blend (the 2013 has Mourvedre and Grenache in addition the ones from 2012). The wine has been aged on French oak for 11 months with 13,5% alcohol content and 2,8 g/l of residual sugar. The grapes for the 2012 vintage comes from five vineyards, all in the Swartland region.

The color is dark ruby red so when seeing it I expected a much heavier wine. The nose is however fairly light but clear notes of raspberry, blackberry, violet, spice and also hints of chocolate and vanilla tones. The palate is full of red and black berries but with creaminess. There is a nice spiciness and herbal character to it as well and it lingers nicely in the mouth.

Looking at the quality it is a good wine but for me it does not reach the top class. It was however pleasant to sip with the nice piece of steak we had, but I could imagine it’s also fine on its own. Quality wise I would rate it a 3.5. We paid around £12 at Handford wines in London and that appears to be the going rate (Berry Bros charge something similar) and in that price range there are a lot of good wines. So while this is not at all bad I would rather spend that money on something else so the value for money rating would be 3.

Wine Review: 2010 Miette Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Barossa Valley, Australia

While hanging at one of our new favorite spots, Verre, in Singapore we explored the wine list a bit and came across an interesting red from Barossa Valley in Australia. Miette Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro from 2010. This red wine is from the winery Spinifex in Barossa. They were established in 2001 so compared to many other wineries in Barossa they are still just getting started.

The man behind the project is Peter Scheel, New Zealander who has spent considerable time working in France before establishing Spinifex. He runs this together with his wife Magali Gely. The influences of France can be seen in the selection of the grapes, so a lot of focus on Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (for those not familiar with Mataro it is also called Mourvèdre or Monastrell). They do also use other traditional French or Mediterranean grape varities such as Cinsault, Carignan, Ugni Blanc, Grenache Gris.

This specific wine has 100% Barossa valley fruit. It has been sourced from a variety of vineyards, the Mataro from one old (90 year old bush vine vineyard) in Koonunga Hill region of the valley and the other Mataro competent from the far south of the Barossa valley. The Shiraz part also from Koonunga Hill as well as the far west of Barossa valley. The Grenache part came from three different old vine (30, 50 and 90 years old) vineyards in the east and north. All wines are made in small open fermenters, using indigenous yeast, and are basket pressed. The 2010 Miette Grenache Shiraz Mataro has been matured in French oak.

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The color of this wine is deep red. The nose is a pleasant mix of red fruits (strawberries and raspberries), dark plums and spice. The flavor is full of red cherries, plum but also leather and tobacco notes mixed with hints of something herbal. The relatively high alcohol level (14.5%) is not at all apparent on the palate and it also relatively refreshing and avoiding the sweetness that may come with a lot of the high alcohol and fruit driven reds.

We had this wine by the glass at Verre and since it was happy hour it was very decently priced at 18 SGD for two glasses (when not happy hour it is 18 for one glass). Prices for a full bottle in Australia appear to be around 22 AUD (approximately €15) and while it is difficult to get hold of in Europe it is sold in the Netherlands and Belgium for €17. I think this is a very pleasant wine and while I would not necessarily run out to snap up several bottles of it, I would happily have it again. So I give it a quality rating of 3.5. Price wise this makes this wine pretty decent value for money but for reds one can often find similar or better value with other wines so it is a solid 3 in rating for value for money. It is a nice and approachable wine to enjoy now and for the coming year or years but not anything for long term storage.

Wine review: Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reseva Brut

With snow piling up and temperatures hitting minus degrees in the Nordics, who wants to read about Thailand all the time? No one! Luckily I saved up a few juicy wine reviews for posting in between the sunny reads. Cellers Carol Valles is a producer we checked up on in Cavatast last October. They were recommended to us by some friends who live in Barcelona (and are serious about cava), and they did not disappoint. So we picked up a few bottles from the Cavatast store to enjoy home in Sweden at a later date. One of these bottles, Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reserva Brut was opened with friends over Christmas holidays and rated by the Winecurious.

The cava is a mix of the familiar grape-trio: Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo plus Chardonnay. It is said to be aged minimum 60 months and the dosage (how much sugar is added) is 5g. I am a fan of zero-dosage wines as I feel sugar is often added to hide something in the taste. But hey, sometimes thats what is needed for perfecting the taste. So I will not be prejudice.

The look of the bottle was not something I would necessarily go for, if I would just look solely at the label. Perhaps the aim was to make it look classic or traditional, but to me it looks a bit cheap, it just does not scream quality. However, its what is inside that counts. The color of the wine is intense gold and the bubbles are very small. The wine has a scent of cinnamon, honey and apple, almost like an apple pie or cake. Mmmm! The taste is of yellow apples and cinnamon with some yeast and sherry. Sounds a bit weird for a cava, but it was not at all overly sweet. It was actually a perfect winter cava. Or I could just skip dessert some day and have this instead.

Quality-wise I would give this wine 3.5 points. It’s not for every occasion, but correctly matched it can be a wonderful companion for a dinner. Value for money takes the score a tiny notch down to 3 points. The price in Spain was around €16-18 at Cavatast. It isn’t very expensive, but not a real “bargain” either. I tasted a few other wines from Carol Valles and I actually thought they were much better (note that the tasting took place at Cavatast after several glasses of wine), or at least more my style. So I am intrigued to taste the other bottle we have waiting in the fridge and comparing it to this one. Anyhow, if you run across wines from this producer, give them a try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Wine review: Chandon Brut (Australia)

As promised in a previous post, the review of @494, the wine at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok we are following with a review of the Chandon Brut from Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley of Australia. As I may have mentioned before I am often not a fan of Moët Chandon but they should be given credit for what they have done to develop the Australian sparkling wine industry. The Chandon Brut is part of their basic assortment from Australia. I would not characterize it as a bad wine, just not a very memorable one. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with the méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). The grapes are from various cool climate vineyards in the southern wine regions of Australia (according to Chandon from the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie, the King and Buffalo Valleys (Victoria) and Coonawarra (South Australia). I have been trying to find out what the mix between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is in the specific one I had but not been successful yet. In general the mix is around 60% Chardonnay and the remaining 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is aged on the yeast lees for 15 to 18 months and there is a small amount of dosage added. After an additional 3 months of bottle aging the wine is released. The color is perhaps best described as straw yellowish. The bouquet (nose) is influenced by the Chardonnay and is somewhat fruit driven with citrusy notes and hint of pear and nectarine. I could also sense a slight whiff of yeast but very faint. It is a dry wine but not overly so and retains a fairly nice balance with a creamy character and zest to the finish. Lacks complexity and the finish is a bit short. Nice to drink properly chilled but not at all a remarkable wine. It is however nice to enjoy cool on a hot day. While not at all a poor choice, I would not actively seek this out. However, here in Thailand this seems to be one of the better options at a reasonable price level. We had it the @494 wine bar for 349 THB (roughly €9-10). A bottle in a store would set you back around 800 THB. From what I can see online it is otherwise mainly available in Australia and Hong Kong at prices starting from €17 and up to around €25. In that price range I would rather have some very nice cava but as that is not really an option at my current destination this is a decent option. Quality wise I would give it a rating of 3 as it lacks some of the complexity I like in a sparkling wine. Looking at value for money it is a 2.5 but it is of course relative as I find it excellent value for money in Thailand (more a 4 or even a 5 compared to what else is available, see for example our most recent Wine warning ) while the rating of 2.5 is how i view it if in Finland, Sweden or the UK.

Finally a Decent Glass of Wine

After feeling a sense of despair over the quality and prices for wine in Bangkok we ended up stopping by the @494 bar at the Grand Hyatt. I was a bit skeptical that it would be anything reasonably priced as it is, well, the Grand Hyatt. But as it was a stone throw away from our hotel it was still worth stopping by. Upon entering we first saw a bar with blinking disco lights and young thai women walking in to it. I felt rather skeptical as it looked like a totally different type of establishment. After a bit of looking around we realized that it was however not the bar we were looking for. We had to ask and then found a much quieter and more relaxed bar at the left corner on the ground floor. We were quickly seated and handed menus for wines by the glass. One for regular wines and one for exclusive wines.

Browsing the one for regular wines we found around 35 wines by glass and most ranging in price from 199 THB to 399 THB (one was 999 THB and that was the Moët champagne). It was a big surprise and they had some fairly decent things on the list, normally I would not have been very excited, but seeing that the average quality in Bangkok is so poor this was a pleasant surprise. They also had some decent offers for bottles, several around 1400 THB. We could also see a tasting machine in the corner, which is used for the exclusive wines.

Service in the bar was friendly and they spoke pretty decent English. It was however a bit too loud to have any real discussions about the wine so cannot speak for the level of knowledge. The crowd was otherwise rather mixed, appeared to be both wine interested locals, expats, some hotel guests and some younger affluent Thai. A pretty pleasant atmosphere and despite the music being a bit too loud for my liking it was at least possible to carry on a conversation with the person next to you. It would however not be optimal for a larger group. It may be that it is calmer earlier in the evening but this was a Monday night so hardly the busiest night of the week either. A plus is that they also provide some free nuts as snacks.

After some short deliberation we opted for some Sparkling. The selection was not great but they had 4 by the glass, one Prosecco, two ‘traditional method’ sparklings from Australia and the Moët. The sparkling from Australia was Chandon so same owner as Moët but even though I do not really hold them in high regard I was excited to find something that could be decent at least. We opted for one glass of the regular Chandon Brut and one of the Chandon Rosé Brut. Reviews will follow either from me or S.

In general a pretty nice wine bar and in Bangkok. It excels compared to the competition so will be high on my list when in BKK next time and feeling like some good wine at decent prices..

Wine Review: Champagne Drappier Brut Nature NV

Another find from the Monopolys special-order selection; Champagne Drappier Brut Nature NV ticks all (most of) the boxes for me. It is a 100% Pinot Noir, Zero dosage (no added sugar) and goes in the wonderful price range of under 300kr bottles. All the characteristics for a good Friday champagne.

Reading up on the producer really sparked up my interest. The House of Drappier has a rich history. It was founded over 200 years ago in 1808 in the city of Urville. They grow not only classic grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier, but also rare varieties such as Petit Meslier, Blanc Vrai and the extremely rare Arbane. You might recall Arbane from my review on Oliver Horiot, who also uses the classic grapes in combination with Arbane and Pinot Blac for his Ancient Variety Champagne 5 Sens. The cellars where Drappier store the wine are among the oldest and most extensive in Europe and also were the only cellars that weren’t damaged during the two world wars or the fires that raced through the area in the 1950s. Drappier also specializes in using very low amounts of sulfur in their production. 0,002% as opposed to 5% used by various other champagne houses. After all this information, Drappier is definitely bookmarked for a visit next summer (hope they take visitors).

The Brut Nature NV comes with a stylish, classic label. It felt nice and festive when opening the bottle. The nose and taste are definitely classic champagne toasty with a hint of sweetness. And I don’t mean sugary sweetness, more like sweetness from fresh fruit. There is also a taste of apple and yeast and an interesting residual bitterness. The price of this wine was “only” 259 SEK at the Monopoly. All in all it is not a surprising wine, but I am very happy with the quality/cost ratio.

I have actually found it challenging to give wines only one rating. Many of the wines that I have tried are nothing earth shattering, but I am then torn when I take into account the price. I appreciate a price tag that is affordable but also recognize that some of the better wines can be “a bit” more expensive. It’s not only about brands and marketing (*vague smile*). I am beginning to understand why the 1-100 points system is needed. So, starting from this review, I will start rating the quality of the wine and then value for money separately. For example, as a wine, the Drappier deserves a 3.5. When the price is taken into account the score goes up to 4 stars. So my rating looks something like this: 3.5/4.