Valminor Davila 2004

Valminor Davila 2004I've been looking for some new white wines from Spain, so I ordered this in. It's Valminor's upscale wine from Rias Brixas, made from 55% Albarino and two other local grape varitaties, loureiro (30%) and treixadura (15%).  I'd never heard of them either, but this blend makes for a very interesting wine.

The packaging is quite good too, it describes the relationship between the elements that go into the making of the wine.  Quite well done.

Very different on the nose, apples, apricots, and cucumber with a bit of fennel seed.  There is a bit of a spritzy feeling in the mouth, citrus, white peach and minerals with some white pepper.  Its quite powerful with noticeable acid and a persistent finish.  An interesting wine,  perhaps it needs a few years to show its best?  89 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: Around $40 Closure: Conventional Cork


Cillar de Silos Joven 2005

Cillar de Silos Joven 2005Unoaked Joven wines like this really show the quality of a vintage and from the couple of 05 jovens I've seen so far, it looks like 2005 will be a very good year indeed.  This has got to be the best joven wine I've ever had, so full of ripe fruit but with good acid and full of flavour. 

I had two bottles of this in Spain in February, it had only been bottled a few days earlier but it looked fantastic.  It looks even better now.  If you are looking for the subtlties of old Rioja, this probably isn't for you, its quite a full on wine.

A brilliant but dark ruby red in the glass, the nose is very perfumed with ripe blackberry that evolves into blood plums and currents with some air time.  There is some earth and undergrowth in there as well.  Very expressive and almost full bodied in the mouth, dark cherry and river rocks with a touch of  bloody/animally complexity.  A nice finish with a minerally tang.  I will be drinking a lot of this over the next year or so. 91 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: Around $29 Closure: Conventional Cork


Pondalowie MT Tempranillo 2005

Pondalowie MT Tempranillo 2005I thought I had the latest release with the 04MT, but those clever people at Pandalowie have already put out the 05 MT.  Of course I had to have a look at it straight away…

Quite different in style to the 04, a lot less of the cola/sarsaparilla aspects but beautiful, silky tannins that give the wine a great texture. I'm not sure if the change is a stylistic change in the vineyard/winery or just vintage variation.

Dark red fruits on the nose, herbs and spice with a bit of funk.  Great texture and weight in the mouth with blackberry, dark cherry and a hint of peeper and spice.  Quite a long finish. I don't see a lot of acid here, but the great tannins are the main attraction.  Different, but still very good.  88 Pts.

Source: Retail RRP: $25 Closure: Screwcap


Vega Sicilia Dinner

The Vega Sicilia TeamI went to a great event hosted by Randalls and Negociants on Thursday the 27th with almost the entire Vega Sicilia team including the owner, Pablo Alverez, and his son, Pablo Jnr.  The guys had been ensconced in the big private room out the back of the Botanical on Domain Rd, South Melbourne.  To start with, the food was outstanding, a fantastic egg and truffle dish and a glorious beef cheek dish where the highlights for me.  The service was also excellent, professional and friendly. 

But really the main focus here was the almost complete range of wines produced by Vega Sicilia, Pintia, Alion, Valbuena and Uncio.  Plus two Tokaji wines form their estate in Hungry.  The only wine missing was Unico Reserva Especial.

The commitment to producing great wine is clear in every thing that they do. Apparently the guys turned up, opened and checked all the wine, checked the glasses and found a hint of something not right, so we rinsed all of our glasses in Pintia.  They don't belive in second wines here, all unused grapes go off to the distillery and if its not a good year for Unico, they don't make it.  In 2001 the Unico vineyards had some frost issues and the first buds were destoryed.  The decision was made not to make Unico for this year, so much of the fruit went into Valbuena that year.

I had a chat to Javier Aujas, the Technical Director/winemaker for the Vega Sicilia group, about their white wine project, they planted marsanne, rousanne, viognier and chardonnay in the late 90s and have dropped the fruit each year up until 2004.  In 2004 they produced a test wine, testing will continue on until 2009 and if the team believe that the wine is up to the Vega Sicilia standard they will release the wine commercially.  If not, they'll stop production and move on to something else.

The comment of the night would have to go to Pablo Alverez (Snr) who was asked what other wines they drink at home and if they drink Burgudy.  The answer was "Yes, white.  Montrachet is very big in our house." Nice.

While it was a great night, I don’t think that these type of events are the best environment for tasting and evaluating wine.  I’d prefer to have a couple of hours and half a bottle of each wine to write a good tasting note, the follow is just a brief impression of the wines on the night.

Javier Aujas talked us through each bracket of wines, the history of Vega Sicilia itself and each of the other projects.   Here are the wines:

Mandolas Dry Durmint 2003 - A good start to the night, a most unusual wine that reminded me of aged riesling.  I didn't look too hard at this one, just enjoyed it.

Pintia 2003Pintia 2002 – Deep red in colour, as are all the Vega Sicilia reds.  Blackberry, espresso, woody herbs and a little oak on the nose.  Very smooth and integrated in the mouth, very well balanced and refined.  There are some serious tannins in here with a healthy kick of acid towards the finish. 14.5% alc. 93 Pts

Pintia 2003 – Very intense nose of blackberry and ripe plums, some spice, cola with some light florals.  Ripe and juicy in the mouth, showing the heat of the vintage. Very concentrated dark berry fruit, with some coffee and cola type flavours. Good finish. The 15% alc is well hidden.  I think this needs a bit more time in the cellar.  91 Pts.

Bodegas Alion 2001 – Very different to the previous two wines with dark fruits (cherry and currents), roasted nuts, dried herbs, pipe tobacco and a floral aspect.  Very smooth and integrated, a bit more acid than the Pintias with the classic Alion tannins. A real gem. 95 Pts.

Bodegas Alion 2002 -Very similar to the 01, however this seems much more open but slightly lacking a bit of the 01's structure.  On the nose dried herbs stand out, with some dark cherry and espresso.  Warm and inviting in the mouth with silky tannins.  93 Pts.

Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 2000 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 anos 2000 – Dark plum, vanilla and cigar box on the nose.  Plenty of pure, fresh fruit in the mouth, quite complex and structured as well.  Balanced and well integrated.  Looks like this will age very well.  94 Pts.

Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 anos 2001 – This is one complex wine.  From here on in it is difficult to get a good sense of the wines as they change every few minutes in the glass.  There is a lot of fruit from the Unico vineyards in this wine, as Unico will not be produced in 2001. Loads of red berry fruit on the nose and oak influences like roasted coffee beans, cedar and toasty oak.  Dark berry fruits in the mouth with a huge finish and gorgeous tannin structure.  Needs time in the cellar, but a classic wine.  96 Pts.

Vega Sicilia Unico 1994Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 – This has everything you could ever want in a wine, ripe fruit, great structure and complexity, perfect balance, and finish that is about a minute or so.  I was lucky enough to get an extra pour of this and look at it over an hour and a half.  It changed its spots a couple of times, but seemed to settle after an hour or so.  A great nose of blackberry, cherries and currents with highlights of cigar tobacco, vanilla, liquorice with some truffle and rose oils.  Layers of flavour on the palate, dark berry fruits, minerals, vanilla and liquorice are just a few of them.  Noticeable, but great tannins.  Full bodied and powerful, yet restrained with harmonious balance.  A very long finish with some extra minerals.  This is great wine.  97+ Pts.

Vega Sicilia Unico 1995 – Very different to the 94, a bit rounder and more open with loads of fruit and complexity.  Dark fruit notes on the nose with old leather, spice, liquorice and some herby/floral notes.   Very generous in the mouth, if a bit tannic at this stage.  Dark berry fruit again in the mouth, with a bit of coffee/chocolate.  Lacks some of the structure of the 94, but is still a great wine. 96 Pts.

Oremus Tokaji Aszu 1999Oremus Tokaji Aszu 1999 – I didn't really look at this too much, but it is a great wine none the less.  Sweet, but the acid keeps things nice and fresh.  A great way finish of the night.

I think the guys from Vega Sicilia got a good look at Melbourne nightlife during the night: the Botanical back bar and the restaurant were heaving with people, with a back beat of Doof-Doof later on in the night.  As they where leaving, it looked like Pablo Jnr. was up for kicking on with some of the ladies in the bar.  Pablo Snr had other ideas.  A great night overall and one I won't be forgetting in a hurry.


Martinez Bujanda Conde de Valdemar Crianza 2002

Martinez Bujanda Conde de Valdemar Crianza 2002The 01 of this wine was pretty good, if a bit daggy in the packaging stakes.  For the 02, looks like the marketing guys got a bit more in the budget and could flash things up a bit. 

Given the huge differences in vintage conditions, 01 is seen as the "perfect" vintage and 02 was one of the coldest and wettest ever, this wine is in impressively consistent.  Having vineyards in all three sub-regions of Rioja would certainly help these guys ride out the low points of vintages like 02 and produce a solid wine year in and year out.

The nose shows raspberry, old leather, coffee bean and undergrowth on the nose.  Tart red berry fruits, licorice, and a bit of vanilla oak on the palate.  Good texture thanks to the smooth tannins. While the acid is down a bit on the 01, there is still a good wack of acid towards the finish.  All this for around $20 bucks, great value.  88 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $20 Closure: Conventional Cork

Valminor Albarino 2005

Valminor Albarino 2005Traditionally wines from this region are drunk fairly quickly after fermentation.  This wine is out to distribution about 40-60 days after picking.  This is starting to change now with some producers leaving the wines in storage for a year after bottling, many wine critics agree with this saying that the wines are much better for it.  I don't think anyone is jetting out fresh Albarino as with Beaujolais Nouvea, so we'll have to make do with the 1 year old stuff.    

Peach blossom and white flowers on the nose, with a dash of lemon, melon and hay in there is well.  Plenty of acid and freshness in the mouth with some complex flavours: white peach, citrus and minerals.  The finish is quite long and has a white pepper and anise thing going on.  This should be great with shellfish, I drank it with seafood paella and it was a treat. Drink over the next 3 years. 90 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $30 Closure: Conventional Cork


Valenciso Reserva 2001

Valenciso Reserva 2001Valenciso is a modern operation that was founded about 15 years ago. They produce just this one wine, the Reserva, from old, low yielding tempranillo vines.  The oak treatment is a light touch approach, a mix of 75% French and 25% American oak, one third new each year.  The wine is styled after traditional Rioja reservas, soft, light to medium bodied and full of flavour.  If you like Roda II, you will see some similarities between the two wines, with the Valenciso perhaps a bit lighter and less oak impact.  Do give this an hour or so in a decanter if you are going to open it now.

Deep red in the glass, bright pink at the edges.  The nose opened up with ripe blackberries, roast meats, licorice, some spice and varnish.  Soft with a depth of flavour and the classic combination of ripe red berry fruit, cedary oak and smooth, fine tannins. Very elegant, think classic Rioja or perhaps Burgundy if that is more your thing.  A few of these in the cellar for 3 to 5 years would be very nice. 91 Pts.

Source: Retail Price: $55 Closure: Conventional Cork


McHenry Hohnen Tiger Country 2004

McHenry Hohnen Tiger Country 2004 This is a venture by David Hohnen and Murray McHenry.  Murry is an ex wine retailer, David was the winemaker at Cape Mentelle for many years.  David also has an organic pig farm from what I hear; the guy must have some Spanish heritage to grow Tempranillo and raise pigs for a living!

Deep red in the glass. A nice nose of red currents, dark chocolate, raspberry and spice. Medium bodied and savory in the mouth with dark berries, earth, and a touch of black tea and soy.  Ripe tannins on the finish.  I like the balance on this wine, very interesting in the mouth as well.  Not your typical Aussie red blend, very European in fact. I'm not sure how it would age, I'd drink it over the next couple of years. 88 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork


Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2004

La Vendimia 2004A joven style from Rioja Baja, very different from the Pondalowie I had before it. It's 100% Tempranillo, but compared to the Pondalowie, this one is much lighter and rounded.  You could drink a lot of this, its fresh fruity and lovely. Rioja baja is lot warmer than Rioja alta. Its only a 30 minute drive between the two, but you can really see the difference in the vegetation and soil types, plus the big change in altitude.  2004 is looking beter and beter each time I drink a wine from this vintage.

Ripe red berries on the nose, undergrowth, leather and a bit of roasted coffee.  It is on the lighter end of medium bodied, but open, warm and inviting.  Mulberries and other red berries with some fine tannins.  I like this a lot, a classic tapas bar wine, drink it now with snacks.  88 Pts.

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $24 Closure: Conventional Cork


Pondalowie MT Tempranillo 2004

Pandalowie MT Tempranillo 2004

I think there is a big future for Tempranillo in Australia.  I bet this is not the first time you've heard that, but its wines like this that make you think "why aren't people planting this stuff like crazy?"  Oh yeah, that huge over-supply thing.  Regardless of all that, in 10 to 20 years time, I think we'll have some great tempranillo based wines produced in Australia.  Not the same as Rioja or Riberia, but our very own and very good Australian Tempranillo.

This wine is two firsts for Tinto y Blanco, the first Australian wine and the first wine under screwcap.  I hope to see a lot more of both.

Deep, dark red in colour.  Dark cherry on the nose with nice animally complexity.  Full of juicy, mouth coating fruit: blackberry, dark cherry and a sarsaparilla aspect that morphs into cola and florals with a bit of time in the glass.  Nicely balanced with smooth tannins.  The dry finish is a good length and leaves you wanting another sip.  If I was served this blind, I'd think it was a joven from Toro in a hot year, its a just bit lower in acid than it's Spanish mates. Muy bueno! 89 Pts.

Source: Retail RRP: $25 Closure: Screwcap