Santiago Ruiz Ablariño 2009

img_6085It’s been a while since I’ve seen this wine around, which is a shame as it’s a very good rendition of Albariño. Plus I’m a sucker for a kitsch label. It is also quite a bit cheaper now. Given the heat wave we’re having in Melbourne at the moment, this was perfect with a bacon, leek and zucchini frittata. The importer is The Wine Company.

The overwhelming flavour here is ripe, but still a bit crunchy pear, which is just how I like my Albariño. In the leaner, acid driven style, yet has the texture and mid palate flavour that just makes it so easy to finish the bottle. Classic aromatics of white peach, pear, jasmine and kaffir lime leaf. Not the most complex of wines,  it’s refreshing, tasty and moreish, what more could you ask from a $30 import?   91 Pts.

Source: Rathdowne Cellars Price: Around $33 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasantiagoruiz.com

Other Vintages: 2004

Toscar Sauvignon Blanc 2009

img_5802Looks like summer has finally decide to rear it’s ugly head in Melbourne. While I don’t mind the heat, I don’t go out of my way to spend days on end in high 30s/40 degree heat. Much better off spending the day in a restaurant with good air conditioning, which is what we did yesterday. An excellent lunch at La Luna, washed down with a nice selection from the small but well thought out list. La Luna has to be one of the most consistently excellent joints in Melbourne, best steak for my money too.

I am going to be lazy here, this wine is fairly much exactly the same as the 2008, so I’ve just reused the notes here. I must say however, cool fresh, understated white wine at 11% is a refreshing change on a 40 degree day…

The nose shows plenty of herbal and grassy notes, with some fennel bulb and cucumber over the top of lemony fruit. Tight and driving in the mouth, it’s fresh and light and easy to drink. More of that lemon and herb fruit on the palate, the acidity keeps things humming along. More of a food style for my money, but definitely a fun, budget alternative to either NZ or French Sauv Blanc. 86 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $14 Closure: Conventional Cork

Toscar Tempranillo Crianza 2008

img_5795To be honest, this is very similar to the 2007 that I reviewed last year. Consistently good quality and well priced wines are always good in my book. Sure, it’s not the most exciting thing to drink, but for 14 bucks I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better wine to go with those Tuesday night lamb chops…

The important things are all there: warm, ripe plums, dark cherry, vanilla and wood shavings, a bit of chocolate. Round and supple, slightly raspy tannins on the finish, length and a bit of acid to drive things along. 87 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $14 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.salvadorpoveda.com

Other Vintages: 2003, 2007

Latente Crianza 2006

img_5766A quick one today. A very handy wine from Ce Soir, I had the 2004 a while ago, a lovely wine. Just like the 2004, this is made from 80% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 10% Mazuelo, 12 months in, what I’d guess is older American wood.It’s a classic formula, so why change it? In fact, this perfectly shows some of the things that are going on in Rioja at the moment, it’s modern, yet traditional, well packaged and good value..the binary labels of modern or traditional thing just doesn’t apply in most cases.

One of the things I really enjoy with this wine is that is comes sprinting straight out of the blocks. Cherry and blueberry fruit, vanilla, thyme and cinnamon. It’s not rustic, but not totally refined either, fresh and hearty with plenty of texture and life. Sappy cherries and plums on the palate, I’m finding the 06s quite sappy and I like it a lot. Good finish of herbs and fruit.  90 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $29 Closure: Conventional Cork

Camino del Pelegrino Albariño 2009

Camino del Pelegrino Albariño 2009This is the ‘regional’ wine from Pazo Senorans, in fact it’s mostly from their neighbours. Excellent value and highly enjoyable…

Straight into it with a nose of pear and apple, kaffir lime leaf and lemon. Packed full of flavour, a good spike of acid and good length. Textured. In the mouth there is some gooseberry, fresh pear and a little sage for interest on the finish. Very tidy drinking. 91 Pts. $28

Source: Echalon wines RRP: $28 Closure: Screwcap

Toscar Monastrell Crianza 2006

Toscar Monastrell Crianza 2006I haven’t had a bottle of Monastrell for quite a while. I like the stuff, but it always seems to get pushed aside. Time to remedy that…Toscar Monastrell has to be one of the best value wines from Spain available in Australia, and this is it’s older brother. A year in wood, smooths out the edges and lends a little finesse to the wine, while keeping the freshness and bold spirit. In fact when I had a look at the range a few months ago, this really stood out as a favorite.

The nose opens up with figs, bloody meat and earth, it only gathers interest from there. Pencil shavings, some wild thyme and olives. Lovely. Easy to drink in the mouth, balance is good and the acid drives things along nicely. More of those figs and meaty notes on the palate, this would go well with some lamb shoulder. Tangy and long its a joy to drink now…plenty to like here, and as usual the price is excellent. 90 Pts.

Source: Ce Soir Imports Price: $20 Closure: Cork

Telmo Rodriguez El Transistor 2008

img_5976A new wine from the Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez, a premium Verdejo from Rueda.  Personally, I’m not sure there is a huge market  $60 a bottle Verdejo (or $90-100 on a wine list), but I do admire their spirit in attempting to get the best possible wine out of old vine Verdejo from Rueda and lift it to something more than a Sauv Blanc alternative.

So, what do you do when you are trying to make the best wine from Rueda. Old bush vines are essential, no idea on the age of the vines used here but they are older than those used for Basa. Once the grapes are off the vine, leave the wine making kit bag at home and let it the wild yeast do it’s thing. Sure there might be some cooling used to keep everything fresh during fermentation, perhaps just some concrete tanks for example. Then give it some texture. Let it mature on lees for an extended period or stir it up a bit…but basically leave it alone.

Finish it off with a cool label and name and you’re done. The name is a reference to how they keep the wild pigs out of the vineyard, that old favorite of shopping centres and train stations has been used here: place a radio in the vineyard and play boring or bad music at high volume and they’ll keep clear. I’m told wild boar is good eating, so personally I’d take another approach and live high on the hog.

Lively nose of subtle, tropical fruits, rocky/mineral type notes and a bit of the ol’ mountain herb. Lovely, mealy texture, lees notes, with a bit of old hay and earth. Savoury and super long finish, a shake of minerals, lemon, guava and an apple that’s been in your school bag a couple of days longer than it should have (I  like this). Walks a fine line between texture and acid, you could call it chubby if you where so inclined, but just right for me. This won’t be for everyone, but with some good food (thinking corn fed, free range roast chicken) it will really lift. 92 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $60 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.telmorodriguez.com

Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2009

Pazo de Senorans 2009I have a bunch of notes for samples that importers have sent in over the past 6 months. Poor form on my part for not writing these up sooner, but they’ll all be up over the next couple of weeks…To be honest, I don’t know a hell of a lot about this wine and it’s story. It is one of the most popular and written about Albariños around however, and a bloody good drink.

This is the ‘estate’ wine, there is also a regional wine from bought in grapes from growers sourounding the estate. These guys are most famous for their Selección de Añada, an aged release that sees about 3 years in tank before it’s bottled, which is quite a rare thing for an Albariño based wine.

Super aromatic nose, loaded with pear, apple, jasmine, a slight lemon twist. Nicely textured, more in the fuller figured camp than the striking acidity crowd, but not flabby though. Pear and white peach in the mouth, long finish, talc and minerals. Tangy white peach leaves a lovely after taste. 92 Pts. $38

Source: Echalon wines RRP: $38 Closure: Screwcap

Alion 2005

Alion 2005It’s always good to start the year off with an exceptional wine, and this 2005 Alion fit the bill nicely. I had a look at the 2004 and 2005 Alion at the Vega Sicilia road show in March 2009, and at the time I thought the 2004 had a slight edge over the 2005. But it’s irrelevant really, Alion is a fantastic wine even in poor vintages, which 2005 certainly was not. It ages like a champ, gaining complexity and finesse, but can be enjoyed young with a bit of breathing time.

I did have a short lived affair with Bordeaux and Priorat for a couple of years, before the prices got way out of control. These days I just buy more Alion and Vega Sicilia Valbuena. No it’s not the same, and that the point. I got sick of finding old and tired wines in the cellar after 5 years (Priorat) and spending a month’s pay on a case or two of wine (Boardeaux). Sure these wines aren’t cheap, I’d be lucky to buy a 6 pack of each these days, I do however feel I get better value for money and more enjoyment from the wines of Ribera del Duero.

On this tasting the 2005 is showing more fruit and herby undergrowth than last time, with a grab bag of other notes showing up as the wine gets more air: olives, violets, blackberry, mulberry and some cherry. Oak is in a supporting role, a bit of sawn wood and freshly ground coffee in the background. Long and layered in the mouth, I would almost call this lean at the moment, needs time to develop that lovely texture shich shows up by the last glass. Structured, but enjoyable at the moment. Give it a big sleep to get the most out of it, 10 years is perfect, this will easily go 20+ years in the cellar. 94+ Pts

Source: Boccaccio Cellars Price: $139 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.bodegasalion.com

Telmo Rodriguez ‘LZ’ 2009

Telmo's 2009 LZLast year was a write off in terms of blog postings, but it’s almost the new year and time to get back on the horse…I had hoped to see this wine in tank when I was in La Rioja in Feb last year, but alas the snow and conflicting schedules got in the way. Now it’s in bottle and here in Australia, I’ve a very happy boy indeed.

LZ comes from one of the two vineyards that is fully owned and managed by Compania del Vinos de Telmo Rodriguez, this one located just outside the small village of Lanciago on the Basque side of the Rioja. (The other one is in Galacia, where the Gaba do Xil wines are made). Its basically one hill side just outside the village, you could call it and estate if you like, that is loosely modeled on the burgundy quality pyramid of village wines in the lower areas, 1er Crus at the top and Grand Grus in the middle. And I do mean loosely, it’s not quite as hard as that. Setup to be biodynamic (and now certified as such)and modern, but keeping the old traditions in the back of mind, the vines are all trained in goblet (or en Vaso in Spanish).

Up top there is a modern winery that looks like it’s straight out of a Bond film, well a modern, sustainable Bond film. Recycled barrel staves, compressed earth walls, natural temp control and gravity flow instead of pumps, the bodega ticks all sustainable, low input buildings, yet still manages to look like a something out of the thunderbirds (very cool in my book). Built low into the hilside, you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. But at the heart of the bodega are these huge concrete fermenters. Custom made, trucked up the impossibly small road to the winery and lifted in place, these big grey silos are the key to making LZ the wine it is. Concrete provides excellent temperature control, and in combination with the building itself, keeps fermentation temps low and preserves all of that lovely fruit flavour. Whatever they are doing, it is surely working. I think this might just be the best young wine from Rioja I’ve ever seen…

The wine itself is a joy to drink. I’m a fairly harsh critic of  joven wines from Rioja, I often find them full of green herbs and sulfur, preferring the riper offerings from Ribera del Duero and Toro usually. But this is the polar opposite, lively with a core of red and blue fruits, wild herbs and an earthy quality. Sappy and meaty, lengthy finish that leaves the taste of minerals, ripe fruit and herbs. Middle weight with soft tannins,  spot on for summer and autumn drinking. Just the kind of thing I could drink every day for a month and be totally happy with. Grill up some mushrooms with garlic and oil, lovely. Clearly the best LZ yet. 91 Pts.

Source: The Spanish Acquisition Price: $25 Closure: Conventional Cork

Web: www.telmorodriguez.com

Other Vintages: 2005, 2006