Tasting No. 227 (Virtual) – February 22, 2021 – Red Blends from the South Cone

Tasting Overview: This tasting focuses on two red blends, one from Argentina and another one from Chile. These two countries became well known in the wine world until a couple of decades ago for their red varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the beginning followed by Malbec (Argentina) and Carmenere (Chile) lately. However, as new varieties were planted, both countries started taking a greater interest in Bordeaux-type blends made from high-altitude grown grapes that give unique crispiness and freshness to the wines. Both countries have made remarkable inroads in the market of red blends, producing wines of superior quality and complexity, quite often better than to those of the varietals that go in the blends.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Mario Aguilar and Orlando Mason

The wines are:

2017 Clos de los Siete Red Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza

2017 Trisquel Aresti Gran Reserva Red Blend , Rapel Valley

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina,German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2017 Clos de los Siete Red Blend, Uco Valley, Mendoza

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. Clos de Los Siete 2017 is deep red in appearance shot through with purple glints characteristic of Malbec. On the nose, its intense and complex aromatic expression delivers subtle notes of fruit and spice. On the palate, the delicate tannins are ripe and silky, and combine with appealing freshness. Well-balanced in structure, full-bodied and offering typical freshness, the wine showcases the charming, elegant style ever present in Clos de Los Siete. Blend: 52% Malbec, 21% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 7% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc.

Wine Spectator: Deep, rich flavors of roasted cherry, plum tart and dried savory herbs are supported by firm acidity and tannins. Features a tensile frame, with slate accents midpalate. Dusty graphite notes show on the finish. Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2024.

The Winery: The grapes are sourced from seven vineyards located in the UCO valley in the foothills of the Andes, south of Mendoza. The vineyards are owned by four different families. The wines are blended by Michael Roland, the originator of the project.

Uco Valley is considered to be what the Bordeaux area is to France and the Napa Valley to the US. The soils are made up of pebbles, clay and sand. One meter (3.3 foot) down, the vines’ roots penetrate a bed of gravel, which provides natural drainage. Water, which is indispensable in this sun-bathed country, comes from springs fed by melting snow and glaciers up in the Andes Mountains. The weather here is very dry with widely varying temperatures between daytime and night, which is especially beneficial for concentrating tannins and color in the fruit.

The vines are oriented south/south-west and soak up the sunshine whatever the season. The vines are cultivated just like for a Bordeaux grand cru classé with green harvesting, leaf removal, managed 1- to 3-hectare (2.5- to 7.5-acre) plots and very strictly controlled yields.

Read more about the winery here: https://www.closdelossiete.com/en/

2017 Trisquel Aresti Gran Reserva Red Blend , Rapel Valley 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: This wine presents an intense, dark ruby red color. On the nose, it is complex showing fruity notes to plums and blackberries with flowery aromas combine with mocha and coffee hints from the barrel aging. Sweet and juicy in the mouth, it has nice structure and soft, ripe tannins. Ideal for lamb, red meats, aged cheeses and nuts. Blend: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot

The Winery: The Aresti family started growing grapes in Curicó valley in 1951 but it took them almost 50 years to start making their own wine. Today the founder daughters run the show. The Aresti winery and its vineyards remain in Curicó, Chile – about 140 miles  south of Santiago – where they have four different vineyard sites and produce a wide range of wines from rich Bordeaux blends to fresh Semillón.

Viña Aresti is managed by a team of leading professionals with strong commitment and extensive knowledge of the industry including two Agricultural Engineer-Enologists. In 1999 major renovations were undertaken, state-of-the-art technology was introduced in the winery, modern processing techniques were incorporated, and an underground wine cellar was built for premium wines. 2018 marks the completion of extensive investment plan under which vineyards were reconverted, new plantations were developed, new winemaking techniques were introduced and a world-class bottling line was implemented.

Read more about the winery here:  https://arestichile.cl/en/

CV Members Rating

Eleven participants rated the Clos de los Siete. Two found the wine excellent, eight found it very good and one, good. They gave scores between 85 tp 92 with a mode of 90 points.  Overall value for money was split between good and very good. Only three participants rated the Trisquel Gran Reserva with ratings of 85, 90, and 85 (good, very good and excellent)

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Jairo Sanchez and Alfonso Sanchez

Chile – Red Blends

Adapted from:  Wine Enthusiast. Michael Schachner

Chile began to climb the global wine ladder in the 1980s and ’90s, with varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, varietal Carmenère.. But these days, it is Chile’s blended red wines that have emerged as its best wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère remain dominant players in the overall blend, but often Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carignan and Malbec along with other grapes including Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot are included. Chile is in the midst of a red-blend moment, Bordeaux has long been about blends, as has ­the southern Rhône. In the New World, Australian winemakers are known as big-time blenders, while across the Andes in Argentina, blends consisting of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red grapes often outperform varietal Malbec. What a good blend offers are aromatic harmony, textural balance and greater depth and complexity of flavors.

Some of the blends to look for are:

  • Ventisquero’s 2014 Carmenère and Syrah blend called Vertice. It expresses the ripeness and power common to wines from Apalta, but it’s also silky smooth and balanced to a tee.
  • Casa Donoso’s 2015 Sucesor Blue is as solid as a brick house but ideally structured and complex. From Cachapoal Valley come two top-tier blends:
  • Santa Carolina’s 2014 VSC, made from mostly Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Malbec, and
  • Viña Vik’s 2014 Milla Cala, composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, with Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot filling out the roster.

Argentina – Malbec Blends

Adapted from: Andrew Catchpole, at therealargentina.com.

Argentina’s winemakers are increasingly revealing their hand as masters of the art of blending. This is especially true of their top red wines where the aromatic purity of high-altitude Malbec is proving a perfect partner with a host of Bordeaux and other red varieties, delivering world-class, elegant and age-worthy wines.

Argentina’s leading blends are still evolving as winemakers, adding a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon here, a dash of Petit Verdot there, perhaps a slug of Tempranillo or a soupcon of Shiraz elsewhere, in the search for ever greater Malbec-based expressions of Argentine terroir. And this vinous alchemy is producing Argentina’s greatest wines.

It is not that Malbec alone does not stand tall among the great wine of the world. But delve a little deeper into the best of the bunch and often you will discover a spot of judicious blending at its core.

This can be a complimentary partnering of grapes from cooler, higher vines, and a warmer spot, such as Argento’s vibrantly aromatic Reserva Malbec, Septima’s seamless Dia Malbec, or the intensely concentrated Broquel Malbec from Trapiche, drawing on fruit from Uco sites between 950 and 1350 meters above sea level. It is all about bringing extra complexity to the wine.

It turns out that Malbec is a fantastically flexible friend to a host of other varieties too. You would not necessarily know it from the label, but many Malbec wines, like Jean Bousquet’s Reserva, have a modest splash of Cabernet and even Syrah in the blend. However, at the top end, Argentina’s finest red winemakers are unabashedly open minded about their ingredients for introducing elegance and complexity into the final bottle.

Some good examples are:

  • Catena Zapata in with a Cabernet-Malbec blend as top in class. Back at O’Fournier, Malbec-Tempranillo is a revelation.
  • Clos de los Siete opts for Malbec-Merlot-Syrah-Cabernet-Petit Verdot.
  • Italian interloper Masi, , blends Corvina and Malbec in its Amarone-style Corbec to create a skillfully Argentine-flavoured interpretation of this Venetian classic.

Elsewhere, Cabernet Franc, Bonarda, Carignan and even Touriga Nacional have also made their mark.

Blends are without question at the heart of the vast majority of the best Argentina wines. Where Argentina triumphs over Bordeaux, though, is in what Argento winemaker Sebastián San Martín describes as Argentina’s “myriad of microclimates” coupled with none of the arcane European restrictions on blending the best ingredients from complimentary region and micro-climates.

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Tasting No. 226 (Virtual) – January 25, 2021- Red Blends from Washington State



Tasting Overview: This is the first of a series of tastings dedicated to red blends of the Americas. Winemakers have been blending red grapes for ages.  Sometimes it was the result of harvesting and cofermenting different varietals planted in the vineyard (port wines are made this way) but it also has been the result of decisions by the winemaker to blend them, after fermentation in certain proportions to to produce exciting flavors beyond that which can be achieved with a single grape varietal. At times blends were considered low quality wine.  This is no longer the case. In fact blending has become an art and a science to produce superb wines. In fact, most reds contain some blending even though they are labeled as varietals. For example in California, wines only have to have 75 percent of a given varietal to be labeled as such. There are blends that have become famous and traditional. Some examples of them are:

  • Red Bordeaux is traditionally a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, though it sometimes also uses Petit Verdot, Malbec, or Carmenere as well. 

  • Chianti is a famous Italian wine from Tuscany that typically uses a blend of at least 75% Sangiovese grapes, with grapes such as Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc making up the remainder. 

  • Super Tuscan wines come from Tuscany, Italy, and are known as any wine that disobeys Tuscan DOC standards and uses international or unauthorized grapes. These blends can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and many other grapes.

  • Rioja is normally a blend that contains 70% Tempranillo grapes, along with Mazuelo, Graciano, and Maturana Tinta grapes. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Pedro Turina, Germán Zinke

The reference wine is: 2016 B. Leighton – Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices,Pedro Turina, German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 B. Leighton – Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley 

The Wine: Indicative blend: 70% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 5% Syrah.

93 points Vinous:  (a field blend from vines planted in 2009 on volcanic soil at an altitude of 1,200 feet; winemaker Brennon Leighton originally created this wine for his wife, who loves Domaine Tempier; aged in neutral demi-muid and 500-liter puncheons): Medium red with a palish rim. Subtly scented aromas of strawberry, cranberry, spices, red licorice, tree bark and rose petal. Supple, savory and fine-grained, with an essentially gentle texture enlivened by spice and tree bark notes and nicely integrated acidity. This is really quite complex and suave, with its restrained sweetness countered by salinity and a light touch. If this blend doesn’t possess quite the body of the 2015, it has every bit as much energy and spicy persistence, not to mention excellent retention of fresh fruit. Finishes with a firm spine of ripe tannins. Another singular wine from the multi-talented Leighton. (11/2018)

91 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: A blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, the 2016 Gratitude Olsen Brothers Vineyard wafts from the glass with aromas of black and red fruit, with a mineral dustiness and lush flowers. Medium to full-bodied, it’s a delicious wine with flavors of dark cherry skin and blackberry, delivering lively tension and pleasure across the mid-palate, ending with a spicy finish. (12/2019).

The Winery: (from Wine.com) Brennon Leighton is the Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Charles Smith Wines where he oversees all viticulture, vineyard relations and winemaking for all Charles Smith brands, including K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, ViNO, SIXTO, Wines of Substance and Casa Smith. Considered to be one of the best winemakers in the state of Washington by wine critics and connoisseurs alike, Leighton has nearly 20 years of experience in winemaking and viticulture.

In 2012, Leighton created B. Leighton Wines to showcase the world-class terroir of Washington State. B. Leighton Wines are authentic, classic and alive. The wines have received 90+ points by wine critics such as Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, who most recently noted, “If you haven’t heard of Brennon Leighton, now’s a good time to fix that!”

The Region: (From Wikipedia) The Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington state, gaining the recognition in 1983. Part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA, Yakima Valley AVA is home to more than 18,000 acres (73 km2) of vineyards, giving the area the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. The most widely planted varietals in the area are Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, and Syrah.

The Yakima Valley’s borders include the sub-AVA of the Rattlesnake Hills to the north, the Horse Heaven Hills to the south and Red Mountain forming parts of its eastern boundaries. The Snipes Mountain AVA also lies within its boundaries. To the west, the Cascade Range forms a natural border and creates a rain shadow over the area which requires the use of irrigation in viticulture. The appellation covers 600,000 acres (2,400 km2) of land that is mostly contained within Yakima County, Washington with the eastern edge extending into Benton County.

Yakima Valley has an arid continental climate, with annual average precipitation at just 8 inches (20 cm). Irrigation is therefore required to cultivate vinifera grapes, as is true of all growing regions in eastern Washington. Also like eastern Washington’s other growing regions, Yakima Valley soils are strongly influenced by the Missoula Floods, which were a series of dramatic cataclysms in prehistoric times. Moderate to deep silt-loam is layered over gravel or directly onto basalt bedrock. This foundation creates well-drained soils that are ideal for viticulture.

A French winemaker from Alsace-Lorraine named Charles Schanno is credited with planting the first vines in the area in 1869. Schanno purchased the cuttings from a vineyard in The Dalles, Oregon and the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Fort Vancouver. In the early 20th century, an attorney from Tacoma named William B. Bridgeman pioneered the modern wine industry in the Yakima Valley. Bridgeman helped draft some of the state’s earliest irrigation laws for wine growing and planted his first vineyard in 1914. Many of the vineyards established in the Yakima Valley during this period came from Bridgeman’s cuttings. Following the repeal of Prohibition, Bridgeman opened Upland Winery and hired Erich Steenborg as winemaker. Together they were influential in promoting the use of varietal labelling for wines made in the Yakima Valley, including the state’s first dry Riesling.

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 226 Summary of Scores

Technical Notes 

Jairo Sanchez compiled the following notes from the sources indicated.

The Oxford Companion to Wine. Jancis Robinson

 Blends. A blend is a product of Blending but specifically a wine deliberately made from more than a than a grape varietal (which can contain only a small proportion of other varieties).

Blending different batches of wine, or coupage as it is known in French, is a practice that was once more distrusted than understood. In fact, almost all the world’s finest wines are made by blending the content of different vats and different barrels; Champagne and Sherry are examples of wines which are quintessentially blends. It is often the case, as has been proved by the most rigorous of experiments, that a wine blend is superior to anyone of its component parts.

Blending earned its dubious reputation before the mid 20th century when wine laws were either non existing or under-enforced, and “stretching” a superior wine by blending it with inferior wines and was commonplace. Blending of different lots of the same wine as it is commonly practiced today to ensure the quality is maximal and consistent was not possible before the days of large blending vats; before then wine was bottled from individual cask or vats, which is one explanation of the much higher degree of bottle variation in older vintages.

Modern blending, important in the production of both fine and everyday wines, may combine wines of different but complementary characteristics: heavily oak-influenced lots aged in new barrels may be muted by blending with less oaked lots of the same wine; wines that have undergoing malolactic conversion may be blending with crisper ones that have not. In the case of ordinary table wines, blending is an important ingredient in smoothing out the difference between one vintage and its successor. Such practices are by no means unknowns in the realm of fine- wine production, whether legally sanctioned or not. The wine regulations in many regions permit the addition of a certain proportion of another vintage to a vintage-dated wine, as they frequently do a certain proportion, less than 15%, of wine from a region or even grape variety other than that specified on the label.

In today’s competitive and quality-conscious wine market, motivation for blending is more often improvement than deception.

Perhaps the more enthusiastic blenders are the Australians who regularly blend the produce of two or more different wine regions, probably many hundreds of miles apart. There are philosophical differences between them and the Europeans authorities but a compromise solution to allow the importation of such wines into the EU was reached in the mid of the 1990s.

Solera, a fractional blending used for Sherry wine, is also an alternative approach to blending wines.

Red Blends. www.vinepair.com

Red blend is a kind of term, it tells you everything and nothing about what’s inside. Put simply, a red blend is a wine made with a blend of red wine grapes. The category has come to signify a particular type of New World red wine, often from California, that has been blended to resemble classic European regional wines, such as Bordeaux. (No, Bordeaux, although a classic blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is not considered a “red blend.” Yes, we need to come up with better terminology around red blends).

If your red wine preferences tend toward monovarietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, it’s time to give red blends a chance. The fact that they are tailor-made to suit individual winemakers’ preferences and goals means that there is a wide range in flavor profiles — and prices — of red blends.

Washington State Red wines. Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine https://greatnorthwestwine.com

Washington is often thought of as a white wine state, probably because we’re famous for our Rieslings and Chardonnays. But, in fact, Washington has been a red wine state for a long time.

The last time Washington produced more white wine than red was during the 1980s. And since 2001, winemakers normally harvest about twice as many red grapes as white grapes. This is because of increased consumer interest in such varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. During the 2016 harvest, those three grapes totaled 127,000 tons out of the 270,000 tons of wine grapes picked.

While we certainly see marked increases of these varieties made by large wineries, this doesn’t account for all of the grapes being harvested. What’s taking up the slack is red blends, which make up a popular segment o the Washington wine market. At the 2017 Cascadia Wine Competition, 160 of the nearly 1,000 entries were red blends.

As European winemakers have known for centuries, blending red wines often makes the most interesting wines, certainly true in Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, two of France’s most famous regions.Blending gives winemakers the flexibility during winemaking to produce wines full of flavor and balance.

We Need a Better Way to Talk About Red Blends, Internet, Courtney Schiesse, www.courtneyschiessl.com

I tend to like a red blend, so what should I drink?” In the last two years, more wine drinkers have begun to use the term “red blend” to indicate their wine preferences in the same way that one might use the words Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. But although it’s excellent to be able to verbalize and ask for a preferred style of wine, there’s one problem: A red blend isn’t one single style of wine. In fact, red blend doesn’t really mean anything at all. So why do more and more wine drinkers proclaim that it’s their favorite kind of wine?

When a red wine that is a blend of more than one grape this definition does not specify any particular grapes that must be used in the blend, meaning that any grape is fair game, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Trousseau and Poulsard. Therein lies the problem: A category of wine cannot reliably indicate one style if it can potentially include any permutation of red grapes.

The rising popularity of the American red blend category likely has something to do with the so-called style that is now commonly associated with red blends. The concept of blending is certainly not foreign to U.S. winemakers, as blends of wines allow producers to combine and complement favorable qualities from several different grape varieties, stretch a more noble grape by blending it with a higher-yielding, easier-to-produce grape, or hide undesirable grapes in minute blending percentages. In fact, California wine law even allows for a single-varietal wine to blend in up to 25 percent of other grapes, meaning that a quarter of your California Cabernet Sauvignon could theoretically not even be Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the past five years, however, more big-brand wineries have started to make inexpensive California wines marketed specifically as “red blends.” The trend really took off in 2015, when Nielsen estimated that red blends comprised 13 percent of all off-premise wine sales, second only to Cabernet Sauvignon in red wine categories. Based on grapes like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, these red blends are typically full-bodied, round, rich, and juicy, providing full flavor and drinkability at a low cost. This is the flavor profile that most self-proclaimed red blend lovers have come to expect, even though the style encompasses far more.

Even wine publications list “red blend” as a wine “varietal” along with the world’s most important international grapes. But the discrepancy becomes increasingly clear when viewing the category in this context. Just the first of over 500 pages of Wine Enthusiast red blend ratings includes wines from Piedmont, Italy; Rioja, Spain; Burgenland, Austria; Walla Walla, Washington; and regions of California from Livermore Valley to Paso Robles. All of these wines taste markedly different, emphasizing the point that “red blend” is not a reliable indicator of a single style of wine.

That doesn’t mean that red blends should be tossed aside, however. On the contrary, even more attention should be paid to the category of red blends. Some of the world’s most famous wines are, in fact, red blends, particularly those with difficult grape-growing conditions. Take Bordeaux, for instance: Because the wet maritime climate can create a difficult growing environment and significant vintage variation, winemakers don’t typically place all their bets on a single grape variety. Rather, they grow several grape varieties and blend them together to create a complete wine, each grape making up a piece of the puzzle. This is also why certain wines throughout the world are referred to as a “Bordeaux blend” — they are made from some of the six classically blended Bordeaux grape varieties. The Rhône Valley is another famous region for blending, but again, no one would argue that a Bordeaux blend and a Rhône blend are the same style of wine.

So what’s a red blend lover to do? The key is to break this gigantic category down. Find out what grapes are in your favorite red blends or where they come from, and look for other blends that have similar qualities. After all, Nielsen’s 2015 report noted that half of all those surveyed felt that red blends allowed them to confidently experiment with wine, and there’s no reason to quash that experimental notion. But there’s a way to take on a more guided exploration within the red blend category, and that’s what these wine lovers should embark on next.

Rhône-style Blend Following for reference is a brief description of the Lower Rhone GSM wine main grape components contribution that resemble the B. Leighton 2016 Gratitude. Olsen Brothers Vineyard, Yakima Valley Red Wine Blend for Washington Club del Vino taste No. 126.  

Grenache“What Grenache is going to bring is bright red fruit—strawberries and cherries,” says White. “You get nice richness, especially in the mid-palate. In hotter vintages, you’ll get some characteristics that are a little more savory. In cooler vintages, you get some spice.”

Syrah.“Syrah is such a chameleon,” says Macmorran. “It has a very broad spectrum of aromatic and flavor profiles where you really wouldn’t even think it’s the same grape.” Aromas and flavors can range from raspberry, blueberry and blackberry to smoked meat and olive.Syrah also changes the appearance and structure of a wine. “Syrah adds color,” says Carter. “It also tends to add a little bit more tannin and also add finish.”

Mourvèdre“For Mourvèdre you’re going to get raspberry, but you’re also going to get leather and pepper,” says White. “In some of the hotter vintages, it’s going to go more toward black pepper and in the cooler vintages, you’re going to get more of that white pepper.”

Carignan“Carignan can bring in some of the herby, wild aspects, that for me is such a charming thing with the Rhône varieties,” says Mantone. “It’s herbs and spices and savory things.”

Cinsault“[Cinsault] can be a little light on the palate but a very intense flavor profile,” says Mantone. “It can help reduce some of the heaviness of the palate.”

Read more about blending here: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/wine-blending-why-certain-grapes-are-blended/







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Annual Tasting Summary 2020

Annual Tasting Summary 2020


Year 2020 was a challenging one for the Club. The Covid-19 pandemia forced us to suspend our tastings in person starting in March. In June we decided to go virtual with only one wine or two per session to evaluate.  We were able to carry out our cycle of varietal wines.

A  summary of the tastings is here: Tasting Summary 2020

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Tasting No. 225 (Virtual) – December 14, 2020 – Pinotage

Tasting at Capri Restaurant


Tasting Overview: Pinotage is a red grape  a variety emblematic of South Africa but has made inroads to other regions in the world.  A hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (Hermintage), hence its name, can produce bad to excellent wines depending on the vineyard and fruit cropping management and on the wine making techniques.  It has had ups a downs as explained in the technical notes below but recently there are excellent Pinotage wines in the market.  This is the result of wineries increased focus on quality rather than volume.

 Pinotage is host to a wide variety of styles. This large spectrum includes cheap, light-bodied wines with strange aromas like paint, banana, rubber, and acetone. However, it also includes full-bodied wines that exhibit elegance, balance, and fully developed fruit flavors with a smoky, sweet finish.  This tasting’s  objective is to asses the features of the variety in two highly rated wines. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine Presenter: Jaime Estupiñán

The reference wine is:

2016 Beaumont Pinotage, Walker Bay, South Africa

The presenter recommended another wine for comparison

2018 Neethlingshof Estate The Owl Post Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: TBA

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Beaumont Pinotage, Walker Bay, South Africa

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. This is still an elegant style of Pinotage with red berry and ripe fruit flavors with fine tannins and lovely fruit on the palate. Matches very well with bobotie (a South African dish made with minced beef, curry and a savory custard), game and curries, spare ribs and pepper steak or try snoek and grape jam.

Tim Atkin (90 Pts): Located squarely at the fresher, lighter end of the Pinotage spectrum, this 10% new barrel aged is floral, appealing and well balanced, with some spice and subtle wood notes, smooth tannins and bright summer berry fruit. 2019-24.

Robert Parker: The nose of the 2016 Pinotage is mainly red-fruited, with a precise core that wafts with white and red spiced tea, fresh black cherry and dark dusty plum. The palate is honest with precision and focus not typically seen with Pinotage. The wine shows a remarkable balance of fruit, earth and florals, with a medium body. The finish is still grippy and lingers with well-structured tannins. There are none of the tones of the “funky Pinotage” to be found here. After fermentation in concrete tanks, the wine was moved into barrel and aged for 18 months. If you are not familiar with Beaumont, it is time to explore some of their wines. Sebastian Beaumont, owner/winemaker at Beaumont, has a talent for making unique and expressive wines in Bot River. Based in a historic building, with the original cellar built in the 18th century, Sebastian makes hand-crafted wines that show grace, elegance and focus. They are worth the out-of-the-way drive to visit. (AM) 

The Winery: Beaumont is a family owned and managed farm situated in the heart of the town of Bot River (“Botter Rivier”) in the Overberg. The farm, home to the region’s oldest wine cellar, was originally established in the 1700’s by the Dutch East India Company. In the 1940’s the wine business was initially started but wine production was discontinued in the late 1960’s. Jayne and Raoul Beaumont bought the farm Compagnes Drift in 1974 and set about replanting the vineyards.  However, the legacy of creating wines in the farm cellar under the family name was only initiated years later.

After generations of farming and partnering with nature, the land now offers some of the finest vineyards in the area. Together with a non-conformist approach to winemaking, these vines produce notably balanced, classical and artisanal wines. The farm also grows pears, almonds and olives surrounded by fynbos and abundant birdlife. It still supplies produce to visitors wanting fresh pears, apples, almonds and delicious olives. Beaumont Family Wines are proud members of the IPW, Global Gap and the BWI initiatives that encourage and support sustainable farming. Read more about the winery here: https://www.beaumont.co.za/

2018 Neethlingshof Estate The Owl Post Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The Wine: Ripe fruit aromas with vanilla oak and a rich and velvety palate with ripe fruit and vanilla flavors.

Total Wine: Ripe berry and banana aromas with vanilla oak perfumes give way to a rich and velvety palate of black cherry, plum and vanilla flavors. This single-vineyard Pinotage is excellent served with grilled meat, game, or hearty stews.

Tim Atkin 92 Pts.

Cell Tracker 91 Pts.

The Winery: The history of Neethlingshof Estate spans more than 300 years.  In 1692, Willem Barend Lubbe, a German settler, began farming the site he had been granted by Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel on the Bottelary Hills overlooking False Bay.  He named the farm De Wolwedans, “The Dance of Wolves”, having mistaken for wolves the packs of jackals roaming the countryside. Since 2003 Neethlingshof is following an active biodiversity orientated strategy in its farming practices. 

The farm has 8 distinguishable terroirs, each of them characterised by unique slopes, aspects and altitudes and inducing different phenological, physiological and growth pattern reactions in the vine. These occur on a complex soil type pattern. Most soil types, e.g. Tukulu and Oakleaf, are of high to very high potential for viticulture, but a relatively small percentage of medium to low potential soils, e.g. Kroonstad and Katspruit, also occur. The latter soils are mainly used for grazing while the better soils are planted to vineyards.

The predominant climate aspects are South and South-west (open to cool sea breezes every afternoon). Clearly the locality of Neethlingshof enables cool sea breezes from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans to penetrate the vineyards and cool down the grapes during hot summer days. The subsequent slow ripening processes enable all grape components to reach full maturity.

The different grape varietals grown on the farm are: Red: Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Shiraz White: Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Weisser Riesling, Chenin Blanc

Read more about the winery here: https://neethlingshof.co.za/

Other Wines Tasted 

Two participants recomended the follwoing wines:

2018 Kaapzicht Pinotage. Dark deep depth of black plum with an opulent, slightly reductive nose of black cherry, mulberry and stewed plum. The oak is very subtle and integrated playing to the strengths of the fruit purity and precision emphasising the wines wild edge. Texturally there is impressive focus, balanced finesse and a classy, cool, elegant mouthfeel punctuated with soft supple black fruits and oak spice. This is an impressive expression of this uniquely South African variety.

2018 Seaward Pinotage, 2018, Stellenbosh. This Pinotage emphasizes elegance in its dark ruby color with aromas of roasted almonds, fresh cherries, hints of tobacco and a soft creamy palate. A perfect selection to pair with meat, poultry and roasted vegetables.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sanchez, Jaime Estupiñán and  Alfonso Sánchez


South Africa’s wine production is concentrated in the southwestern tip of the country and more specifically within a radius of about 60 km around Cape Town (Western Cape Province).. The climate of this region is much cooler than other places in the world at the same latitude due to the cold Atlantic Benguela current that bathes its coasts. The result is a typically Mediterranean climate with cold and rainy winters and hot. summers.  The proximity to the sea softens these extremes. The mountain ranges of the region channel the dry and cold winds of the southeast (Cape Doctor) that moderate the climate and minimize fungal infections, although sometimes they also damage the vineyards.

You can see a map of the wine regions of South Africa here: https://wandercurtis.com/south-africa-map/

The Biodiversity and Wine Initiative seeks to maintain the balance between the rich regional ecosystem and wine production by managing crops that preserve natural vegetation and promote the eco-tourism. This increases the costs wines that must compete based on quality.   After the end of “apartheid” and international sanctions, the industry has had outstanding development in terms of quality and volume. All grape varieties grown in South Africa were imported from Europe and are therefore very prone to phylloxera.  That is why they are currently grafted into American stock resistant to this insect. There are 11 wine regions in the area among which the main ones are Stellenbosch and Paarl followed by Oliphant River (Chenin Blanc, Colombard) and Klein Karoo (port and fortified Muscatel wines).

It is worth mentioning two types of special wines from South Africa.  One is ROODEBERG, made only in South Africa (in Paarl) that exhibits a ruby, garnet colors. It has been produced for 50 years or more and is the result of mixtures of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.   Aromas of red fruits, grass and tobacco.  Strong in tannins, somewhat astringent. The other is the PINOTAGE, a variety created in 1925, by the hybridization of the Pinot Noir and Cinsault strains (also called Hermitage – hence the name Pinotage).). This variety is characteristic of South Africa and has become the symbol of the country’s wines even though it is not the most cultivated variety.


Stellenboch, about 45 km east of Cape Town is the capital of South African wines  where50% of the wineries are found. The region produces the most famous reds in the country.  The city is home to the South African Academy of Wine.

The Soils. The soils are residual decomposed granite and sandstone and well drained. The mountainous topography to the east produces a wide variety of soils and microclimates but the wines do not exhibit the characteristics of “terroir” because they almost always come from mixtures of grapes from various places.

The Climate. A mediterranean climate with adequate amounts of rain and slightly warmer summers than those in Bordeaux.  That is why Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz are surpassing the Chenin Blanc which was the predominant grape in the sub-region. The types of wine are more like those of the old world (Bordeaux type) than the varietals of the new world. There is no need for irrigation in this sub-region and therefore production per hectare is lower with a higher concentration of flavors than in the others.

Varieties. Mostly the French varieties mentioned above are grown in addition to Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay in the colder areas.

Olyphant River

This is the northernest sub-region of West Cape and comprises the river valley that gives it its name.  Its main agriculture is citrus. It produces grapes in bulk mainly for distillation of juices by cooperative companies (Vredendal which is the largest, processes 40,000 tons of grapes annually).  The region also produces wines for export.

The Soils: Soil profile ranges from sandy alluvials (near the river) to alluvium with gravel, silt, and clay on the slopes.  The latter produce the best reds while the sandy ones are excellent for whites.

The Climate: Due to its location, the climate is more influenced by the Atlantic and is milder than in other sub-regions with sunny and misty days.

Varieties:The main ones are Merlot, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.


Pinotage is the South Africa’s signature red grape variety and its contribution to the history of the vinifera vine. It is Pinot Noir and Cinsault also called Hermitage. Hence the name Pinotage. It typically produces deep red wines with smoky, blackberry and earthy flavors, sometimes smelling to acetone.  

The Birth of a Grape: Pinotage grape variety was created in South Africa in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. Perold was attempting to combine the best qualities of the robust Hermitage with Pinot Noir, a grape that makes great wine but can be difficult to grow it up. The first wine was made in 1941 at the first commercial plantings at Myrtle Grove near Sir Lowry’s Pass. The first recognition came when a Bellevue wine made from Pinotage became the champion wine at the Cape Wine Show of 1959. The Bellevue wine would become the first to mention Pinotage on its label in 1961.This early success, and its easy viticulture, prompted a wave of planting during the 1960s.

The Ups and Downs of Pinotage. Despite the reputation for easy cultivation, the Pinotage has the tendency to develop isoamyl acetate during winemaking resulting in a sweet pungency that often smells like paint. A group of British Masters of Wine visiting in 1976 were unimpressed by Pinotage, calling the nose “hot and horrible” and comparing the taste to “rusty nails.

The grape has seen its plantings rise and fall due to the current fashion of the South African wine industry. In the early 1990s, after the end of Apartheid, the world’s wine market was opening to South Africa wine and winemakers ignored Pinotage in favor of more internationally recognized varieties like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Towards the end of the 20th century, the grape’s fortunes began to turn, and by 1997 it commanded higher prices than any other South African grape.

It has been suggested that part of some South African winemakers’ disdain for Pinotage stems from the fact that it is a distinctly New World wine while the trend for South African wine is to reflect more European influences and flavors. Despite being a cross from a Burgundy and Rhône grape, Pinotage reflects none of the flavors of a French wine. While not a critique itself, outside of small plantings most notably in New Zealand and the United States, Pinotage has yet to develop a significant presence in any other wine region.

Pinotage grapes grow quickly, and they’re easy to cultivate with very little maintenance. This led many producers to make commercial wines of very low quality that didn’t taste very good but were cheap. They stretched their grapes as far as they would go to sell more wine and make more money, which led to the idea that Pinotage wine wasn’t very good

Pinotage remained relatively obscure internationally until Beyers Truter from Kanonkop won the 1987 Diner’s Club Wine of the year for his Pinotage. Pinotage has since experienced a renaissance in South Africa, with an increasing number of producers exploring a bright and juicy expression of the variety that shows off the fruit rather than oak and showing real finesse with less ripe extraction.

From 2007 to 2017, the quality, demand, and supply of Pinotage grew significantly. From around 3 million liters of Pinotage a year at the turn of the century, domestic sales have increased to over 5 million liters, and exports since 2001 have gone from just over 8 million liters a year to close on 19 million liters.

Where is it Grown. The majority of the world’s plantings of Pinotage are in South Africa, where it makes up 6% of the vineyard area and is considered a symbol of the country’s distinctive winemaking traditions. It is a required component (30-70%) in “Cape Blends”. Here it is made into the full range of styles, from easy-drinking wine and rosé to barrel-aged wine intended for cellaring. It is also made into a fortified ‘Port wine’ style, and even a red sparkling wine. The grape is very dependent on the skill and style of winemaking, with well-made examples having the potential to produce deep colored, fruity wines that can be accessible early as well as age 

In addition to South Africa, Pinotage is also grown in Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States and Zimbabwe. In New Zealand, there are 94 acres (38 ha) of Pinotage. In the US, there are plantings in Arizona, California, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia. German winemakers have recently begun experimenting with the grape.

How it is Grown The vines are vigorous like their parent Cinsaut and easy to grow, ripening early with high sugar levels. Pinotage can be grown via the trellised system or as bush vines (untrellised). The older Pinotage vineyards are predominantly planted as bush vines and it is perceived that these lend to more concentration of fruit and depth to the wine. It has the potential to produce yields of 120 hl/ha (6.8 tons/acre) but older vines tend to lower their yields to as low as 50 hl/ha. Yield restriction is managed through water stress and bunch thinning. In winemaking, controlling the coarseness of the grape and the isoamyl acetate character are two important considerations. Volatile acidity is another potential wine fault that can cause Pinotage to taste like raspberry vinegar. Since the 1990s, more winemakers have used long and cool fermentation periods to minimize the volatile esters as well as exposure to French and American oak. The grape is naturally high in tannins which can be tamed with limited maceration time but reducing the skin contact can also reduce some of the berry fruit character that Pinotage can produce. Some winemakers have experimented with letting the grapes get very ripe prior to harvest followed by limited oak exposures as another means of taming the more negative characteristics of the grape while maintaining its fruitiness.

Paring. If you love a bold barbecue-friendly wine, Pinotage wine is worth investigating.

What a Great Pinotage Tastes Like:

Pinotage association member and winemaker Danie Steytler Jr. says it’s common to find purple fruits and black fruits in Pinotage, but occasionally you’ll taste amazing red fruit flavors of raspberry, red licorice and even red bell pepper (on optimal vintages).

On great bottles of Pinotage, you will be delighted by the flavors other than fruit. A wide array of other flavors includes rooibos, dried leaves, bacon, sweet and sour sauce, hoisin and sweet pipe tobacco. 

You should expect tannins to be bold but to have a sweet note on the finish –almost like flavored smoke. As far as acidity is concerned, the grape is typically high pH (low acidity) so most winemakers will acidify their wines early in the fermentation process, so the acids are more integrated. Many wineries in hot climates, including California, Australia, and Argentina, acidify their wines. Well-integrated acidification is unnoticeable although some tasters appear to be more sensitive to this trait than others

Pinotage can go very wrong because it is so volatile. When it is bad, it will smell very pungent and sharp, almost like nail polish remover. This smell is a clue that the wine has high levels of Volatile Acidity (VA) which is caused by a high proportion of a ‘bad acid’ called acetic acid. Besides the sharp smell, some of the wines can become over-extracted which is a process where the wine spends too long on the skins and seeds. Over-extracting Pinotage will make the wine taste like burnt tar.

Pinotage Profile (1 to 5 scale)

Body  5; Sweetness  1; Tannins  4; Acidity 1; Alcohol   5

How to drink Pinotage Wine: Decant 60+ minutes. Cellar: 5-15 years

Sources:The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson & Julia Harding, Wine Folly, the Master Guide, Magnum Edition. Madeline Puckette and Justing Hammack, WineFolly.Com 





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Tasting No. 224 (Virtual) – November 23, 2020 – Aglianico


Source: Wkimedia By poltronafrau – https://www.flickr.com/photos/destabile/3717853719, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Tasting Overview: Aglianico is together with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese one of the three main varietals of Italy. The aim in this tasting of the varietal program is to assess and discuss the character and properties of this less known varietal and the style of wines it produces.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz

The reference wine is:

2015  Gudarra, Aglianico del Vulture, Azienda Bisceglia, Basilicata, Italy 

The presenters recommended another wine for comparison or as a substitute in case the Guaddra is in short supply

2013 Tenuta Del Portale Aglianico Del Vulture

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta.

Information on the Reference Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2015  Gudarra, Aglianico del Vulture, Azienda Bisceglia, Basilicata, Italy 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is guadarra.jpgThe Wine: Winemaker Notes: Gudarrà is deep ruby-red in color with violet hues and enticing notes of red cherries, cassis, blackberries, and sweet spice. On the palate, balanced tannins and integrated alcohol make for an elegantly smooth wine that is truly “to be enjoyed.” Pair this wine with roasted game, spicy tomato-based sauces, southern Italian pasta dishes, and slow-cooked beef stews.

RP: You get terrific value with this red wine from Southern Italy. The fruit in this warm vintage comes together with precision and balanced intensity. The 2015 Aglianico del Vulture Gudarrà is a generous and opulent expression with a thick layer of black fruit. In addition, you get delicate and territorial notes of campfire ash and exotic spice. This is a contemporary expression from a deeply traditional wine region. On the finish, you get touches of black olive and grilled herb.

The Winery: (From Wine.com) The Bisceglia estate is situated on the lower slopes of the extinct volcano, Mount Vulture, in the splendid district of Lavello. This old farming community is officially recognized as “Wine Town” in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy. The winery itself was designed by internationally acclaimed architects Hikaru Mori and Domenico Santomauro, and has state-of-the-art winemaking facilities and aging cellars. The estate extends over pristine hillsides rich in flora and fauna, characterized by a Mediterranean mesoclimate. A natural balance of temperature shifts characterizes this terroir, conferring remarkable fertility to calcareous and clay loam soils. Bisceglia comprises forty hectares of vines in the heart of the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG appellation, which include local varieties – Aglianico, Moscato and Fiano – as well as a selection of international vine varieties.

Read more about the winery here: http://www.vinibisceglia.it/en/

The RegionNotes taken from Wine-Searcher.comBasilicata, in southern Italy, is a region whose name crops up only very rarely in wine circles. It is best known for red wines from the Aglianico variety, and in particular the Aglianico del Vulture appellation. It is home to just four DOCs, which collectively cover only two bottles in every hundred produced here. The remaining 98 percent is sold either under IGT titles or – more likely – Vino da Tavola. Compared to other Italian wine regions, total wine production in here is very small at less than 50 million liters. Basilicata’s 10,000 square kilometers (3860 square miles) of land are bordered to the north by Campania and Puglia and to the south by Calabria. Predominantly landlocked, with the Ionian Sea on one side and the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other, it features stunning mountain and hill ranges. In fact it is one of the most mountainous regions in Italy, with around 47 percent mountains and a further 45 percent hills. Only 8 percent of the surface area is classified as being flat. The three main peaks dotted across the region are Monte Pollino at 2238m (7375ft), Monte Sirino at 2005m (6578ft) and the extinct volcano Monte Vulture at 1326m (4350ft).

The main area for viticulture lies in the heart of the fertile Vulture Massif in the north. Vineyards are located around Mount Vulture on volcanic soils. The mountainous terrain and harsh weather makes vine-growing a challenge. But the area still enjoys an abundance of sunshine throughout the growing season and cool temperatures around harvest, thanks to climatic variations. Cool Balkan breezes, travelling across the Adriatic and Puglia, help moderate the temperatures. In addition, the Apennines create a barrier to the mild currents from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. In this hilly territory the local variety, Aglianico del Vulture, reigns, producing quality wines which exhibit fine aromas and flavors.

Winemaking in Basilicata dates back over a thousand years. In central and northern Italy it was the Etruscans and Romans who pioneered local winemaking. However, in the south this task was largely undertaken by seafaring Greeks. Basilicata was also influenced by the Byzantines, who ruled the area during two distinct periods in both the 6th and 9th Centuries. They gave the region its current name (from the Greek basilikos, meaning prince and governor). Aglianico has the leading wine grape variety here for many centuries. Recent theories suggest it was introduced (known as vino de llanos, or “wine of the plains”) under Aragonese rule during the late Middle Ages.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez


The Grape: 

Aglianico is a dark-skinned top-quality Southern Italy grape variety. For long it was thought to be of Greek origin although DNA profiling has failed to find a relationship with any Greek variety. It retained the name Ellenico until the end of the 15th century, when it took the current name of Aglianico. First Planted around the Greek colony of Cumae, this early-budding vine variety is cultivated mainly in the mountainous center of Italy’s south, mostly in the provinces of Avelino and Benevento in Campania, and in the provinces of Potenza and Matera in Basilicata. It is found also in small quantities in Calabria, in Puglia, Molise, and in the island of Procida near Naples. Italy total Plantings were 25.000 acres in 2010. The vine can ripen so late even this far south that grapes may be picked in November. Attempts to pick it earlier, or increase yields, invariably lead to a failure to tame its rather ferocious tannins. Aglianico seems to prefer soils of volcanic origin and achieves its finest in the two DOCs of Taurasi in Campania and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata where elevations are lower and the wines rather softer and earlier maturing.

Aglianico is considered with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo to be one of the three greatest Italian varieties. Aglianico is sometimes called “The Barolo of the South” due to its ability to produce highly refined, complex fine wines like the famous Piedmont wine, Barolo.

History:  Oenologist Denis Dubourdieu has said “Aglianico is probably the grape with the longest consumer history of all”, claiming that Aglianico was used to make the Falernian wine famed during Roman times. Along with the white grape Greco (today known as Greco di Tufo), the red grape of the region was regarded favorably by Pliny the Elder. Traces of the vine have been found in Molise, Apulia, and also on the island of Procida near Naples,.

Wine Regions. In Basilicata, Aglianico is the basis of the Aglianico del Vulture DOC and the region’s only DOCG wine, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, concentrated in the northern area of the province of Potenza. The most sought-after productions come from the vineyards located in and around the extinct volcano Mount Vulture. In Campania, the area in and around the village of Taurasi in the Province of Avellino and the area around the Monte del Taburno in the Province of Benevento produce Aglianico wines bearing the DOCG designation. Taurasi was designated DOCG in 1993, and Aglianico del Taburno in 2011. More Aglianico can be found in the province of Caserta, as the principal grape of Falerno del Massico.

The grape has also recently been planted in Australia and California, as it thrives in predominantly sunny climates with a long ripening season. In Australia it is being introduced in the Murray Darling region with some success.  Producers in McLaren Vale, Margaret River, Mudgee and Riverland are also experimenting with plantings. Elsewhere in North America, it has been trialed in Texas and Arizona, and in Ontario, Canada.

Viticulture: The Aglianico vine buds early and grows best in dry climates with generous amounts of sunshine. It has good resistance to outbreaks of powdery mildew, but has low resistance to botrytis. Since it is too tannic to make a worthwhile dessert wine, the presence of this noble rot in the vineyard is more of a viticultural hazard than an advantage. The grape tends to ripen late, with harvests as late as November in some parts of southern Italy. If the grape is picked too early, or with excessive yields, the grape can be aggressively tannic. The vine seems to thrive in particularly volcanic soils.

Wine styles:  Aglianico’s best wines are deep in color with full chocolate and plum aromas, fine-grained tannins and marked acidity on the palate. Wines produced from Aglianico tend to be full-bodied with firm tannins and high acidity, endowing them with good aging potential. The rich flavors of the wine make it appropriate for pairing with rich meats such as lamb. In Campania, the grape is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the production of some Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines.  In its youth, Aglianico is very tannic and concentrated, requiring a few years of ageing before it can be approachable. As it ages, the fruit becomes more pronounced and the tannins more balanced with the rest of the wine. The trademark coloring of the wine is a deep garnet. In well made examples of the wine, it can have chocolate and plum aromas.

Aglianico del Vulture is a potentially superior wine, one of the handful in Basilicata, based on the tannic and age worthy. The DOC zone consists of close to 1000 acres, all on soils of volcanic origins in the northwest of the zone and benefiting from cool nights at 600 mt. The area was given its own DOC as early as 1971, as the Superiore and Riserva versions of the wines were elevated DOCG in 2010. Minimum vine density for both DOC and DOCG is as low as 3350 plants/ha while the high permitted yields of 10 tons/ha for the DOC is lowered to 8 ton/ha for DOCG. Legal ageing for DOC version is one year and while DOCG requires 24 months of ageing, of which 12 must be in oak.

Aglianico Wines Profile

Fruit: Low

Body: Full

Tannin: High

Acidity: Medium High

Alcohol: Medium to High

Flavors: Aglianico: White Pepper, Black Cherry, Smoke, Game, Spiced Plum

Aglianico del Vulture: Blackberry sauce, Licorice, Smoke

A savory wine like Aglianico goes well with gamey dishes or even Texas style barbecue.

Recommended Video on Aglianico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oFGe7DM5-8&list=WL

Sources: Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia.




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Tasting No. 223 (Virtual) – October 26, 2020 – Valpolicella


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is valpolicella_region.jpg

By Aaron Epstein – Flickr: *Italy 28, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32520084


Tasting Overview

This tasting is part of our varietals tasting program but is not strictly about a particular grape variety. Instead is about a particular kind of wine, the Valpolicella, that is always made of the same handful of varieties combined in different proportions.  There are five types of Valpolicella wines (see the Technical Note Below) some of which share the common feature of starting with the sun drying of the grapes to concentrate sugars.  The sun dried grapes or raisins are then fermented with wine.  The young dry Valpolicella Classico wines exhibits punchy flashes of spicy, tart, and sweet flavors, often referred to as having a “sour cherry” note and considered to be the Beaujolais Nouveau of Italy.  It felt a bit in disrepute in the 70s/80s because of excessive production. To be considered Superiore, the wines must be aged for at least a year and are therefore darker in color and more concentrated. Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is produced by macerating the pomace (grape skins and stalks) leftover from Amarone production with Valpolicella Classico. Resulting in a much richer, denser, and higher alcohol content. Yet even more exciting than the ever-improving array of dry red wines are the area’s sweeter creations. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Ricardo Santiago, Jorge Requena

The reference wine is:

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

The presenters recommended two other wines for comparison , the first is one notch above and the second is one notch below in terms quality and price than the reference wine:

2015 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella

2017 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Clara Estrada, Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina 

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is zenato.jpg

The Wine: Zenato’s Ripassa style wine is a lush and powerful red. The color of the Zenato Ripassa is deep ruby ​​red. It has lots of dark fruit on the nose. The bouquet is intense, fine and persistent, with hints of black cherry and plum. It has a rounded, velvet-textured palate with an impressive lengthy finish. The taste is harmonious and velvety, with good structure.

This wine is closely connected to Amarone, the greatest wine of Valpolicella. After pressing the dried grapes from which Amarone is made, the Valpolicella wine is passed over the still warm marc of Amarone. A second alcoholic fermentation begins which increases the alcoholic content and the wine becomes richer in color, bouquet.  The wine is aged for 18 months in oak casks and barrels.

The Zenato Ripassa is a blend of grapes with 85% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone.  The recommended serving temperature is 18 ° C. It has 14.5% alcohol content.

It is an excellent companion with game dishes, grilled meats and roasts, cold cuts and aged cheeses.

The winery: Zenato is an important producer in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, with estates in the Lugana and Valpolicella regions. It is particularly known for its Amarone della Valpolicella wines, although it makes a range of other wines, from Pinot Grigio and Soave to varietal Corvina wines. Sergio Zenato started the winery in 1960 and today the family tradition in winemaking is carried on by his children Alberto and Nadia.

The vineyard is in a hilly area of ​​Valpolicella with South-East and South-West exposure. The average altitude of the land is 250-300 meters above sea level.  The soil type is mainly cretaceous, calcareous. The average age of the vines is 10/15 years with an average load of 8/10 buds per plant. The yield per hectare is about 100 quintals. The harvest is manual and it takes place the first half of October.

Read more about the winery here: https://www.zenato.it/en/our-wines.html

The region: The Veneto is the leading wine-producing region of the north of Italy in terms of volume. The most important Veneto wines are Amarone, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella.

The Valpolicella wine zone is in the Veneto region. Straddling Lombardy and Veneto a few steps from the southern shore of Lake Garda, is one of the most original wine areas in Europe. It has a particular climate tempered by the mass of water of Lake Garda.

Read more about the region here: https://www.cellartours.com/italy/italian-wine-regions/valpolicella

Technical Notes 

Presentación Valpolicella by Jorge Requena

Compiled by Jorge Requena and Ricardo Santiago

Valpolicella varieties. The Valpolicella Ripasso wines are based on blends of native red grapes. The main varieties are Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone.  Corvina and Rondinella are mandatory grapes and can form the entire blend by themselves. Corvina participates with 45% to 95% and Rondinella with 5% to 30%.  Corvinone is permitted to the maximum of 50%, replacing an equal percentage of Corvina. Additionally, other traditional varieties of Verona, such as Molinara and Oseleta, and international varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, can contribute to the blend with very small percentages.

Corvina is the backbone of the blend.  It confers aromas and softness to the wines. It has low tannins and low anthocyanin content: its color is never ultra-dark. A good Corvina will remind you of violet, blackberry, and red cherry, with a delicately aromatic touch of herbs.

Rondinella is the second most grown variety. It contributes with color and aromas. Some producers claim that it is an invaluable part of Valpolicella as it confers color and a lovely herbaceous note. For other producers, it is rather neutral, and its only real virtue is its reliability being the strongest of the local grapes against diseases and adverse weather.

Corvinone is a particularly important allowed variety conferring aroma complexity and structure to the wine. It supplies Corvina with the tannins it is missing, and the result is much better than the single components on their own.

Molinara was historically a major contributor to the blend. It gives supporting acidity. It contributes aromas and flavors of red berries, citrus, and delicate herbs and spices. Its participation is declining because of its rosy, light color “…is not liked by producers looking to make the biggest, blackest wine possible.”

Oseleta, old native variety rediscovered in the 1980s and now used in very small amounts by some producers. Gives great tannic concentration and exceptional color.

Styles of Valpolicella. There are five styles of Valpolicella; Classico, Superiore, Superiore Ripasso, Amarone Della Valpolicella, and Recioto Della Valpolicella.

A) Valpolicella Classico, everyday wine, is the largest quantity produced ($13-$15).

B) Valpolicella Superiore, minimum 12% alcohol and 1 year in wood. Darker color than Valpolicella Classico ($15–$20).

C) Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, one of Italy’s best values. Made by macerating Amarone pomace (grape skins & solids) with fresh Valpolicella Classico. Medium – full body. Rich, soft, complex ($20–$25).

D) Amarone della Valpolicella. Made with grapes that are dried for 4-5 months. Minimum 2 and up to 5 years prior to release. Can cellar 10+ years. Minimum alcohol 14%, usually 15-16%. Full bodied, dried fruit, firm tannins, high acid ($50 or more).

E) Recioto della Valpolicella is a dessert wine. Same grapes as Amarone, same process, but fermentation is halted before completion to leave residual sugar in the wine. Extremely concentrated, spectacularly complex. Rich dried fruit, lots of tannin and bright acidity. 12% alcohol. Can cellar for 20-30 years ($40+ 375ml bottle).

Vinification: Because Valpolicella’s wines generally lean towards the lighter end of the scale, for centuries the local winemakers have employed various techniques to improve the depth and complexity of their cuvées.

The passito and ripasso methods have been the most successful: the former is used in the Recioto della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella, while the latter is used to make Valpolicella Ripasso. For a passito wine, the grapes are dried out for weeks or even months prior to fermentation, during which time their natural sugars and flavors become sufficiently concentrated to produce deeper, more alcoholic wines. The ripasso method is to ‘re-pass’ (re-ferment) the passito grape skins with standard Valpolicella wine, creating a deeper, more character-laden result. The style was granted its own independent DOC title in 2007.

Valpolicella is the most famous red wine to come out of the Veneto wine region (Bardolino is the only other contender). The defining character of all quality Valpolicella is its fragrant, tangy cherry aroma, a quality which is carried through into the ripasso wines.

You can see a PowerPoint presentation on Valpolicella wines (in Spanish) here:


The Zenato site: https://www.zenato.it/it/ripassa-valpolicella-ripasso-doc-superiore.html

Valpolicella Wine Pyramid: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/valpolicella-wine-pyramid/

About the grapes: https://www.amaronetours.it/wines/amarone/grape-varietals

About Ripasso and Amarone methods: http://wineandabout.com/basics/ripasso-amarone-methods/#.X2-SMpNKjeo




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Tasting No. 222 (Virtual) – September 28, 2020 – Petit Verdot

Club del Vino


Tasting Overview

Courtesy of winesofchile.org

The  tasting is limited to two wines proposed by the presenters as part of the tasting series on varietals. The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific features of Petit Verdot and the character of the wines made of this grape.

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favor in its home region. When it does ripen it adds tannin, color and flavor, in small amounts, to the blends.

Even though Petit Verdot is mainly used in blends, it is also used to produce varietal wines like the ones included in this tasting. Petit Verdot wines exhibit aromas of black fruit ranging from plum, blackberry and blueberry to slightly lighter black cherry. Flavors reflect the aromas with added complexity of herbal and floral notes such as violet, lavender, sage, and dried herbs. Most producers will oak age this wine to soften it and add flavors of vanilla, hazelnut and mocha. And occasionally, the wine can be a bit smoky and rustic, like smoked meats. The wine is dry and full-bodied with high tannin, bold fruit and medium-plus acidity.

Petit Verdot pairs extremely well with lamb. Other suitable meats include roast pork, burgers, and Chinese BBQ pork and beef. Petit Verdot also works well with Mexican dishes such as adobo and mole.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Jorge Claro, Cristián Santelices

The reference wine is:

2016 Ruca Malen, Petit Verdot, Mendoza, Argentina

The second wine is:

2014 Perez Cruz Chaski, Petit Verdot, Maipo Valley, Chile

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada, Michelle Fryer,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Carlos Silvani.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016, Ruca Malen, Petit Verdot, Mendoza, Argentina 

The Wine: The intense aromas of fresh plums and cherries are harmoniously balanced with subtle notes of sweet roses and spices and soft hints of caramel, vanilla and moka. A full-bodied wine, concentrated fruity flavors, a balanced acidity and a velvety texture. Sweet tannins last through a long and persistent finish. Ruca Malen Petit Verdot is aged in new and second-use 80% French and 20% American barrels for 12 months.

Variety: 100% Petit Verdot; Store in Barrica: 12  months,  80%French barrel and 20% American; Alcohol: 13. 4%; Location: Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza

The Winery: Ruca Malen’s dream began in 1998 when Jean Pierre Thibaud and Jacques Louis de Montalembert confessed the illusion of having their winery in Mendoza with a portfolio of premium quality wines. With the addition of Noelia Torres in 2017 as an enologist, the winery began to travel a path of innovation presenting a completely renewed wine portfolio. Combining grapes from Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco in most of its lines, Noelia proposes wines of cosmopolitan palate and local value that reflect the restless and bold spirit of the winery, and bets on the conquest of curious consumers by nature, for whom wine is synonymous with enjoyment.

Read more abot the winery here: https://www.bodegarucamalen.com/en/

The Mendoza Wine Region: See notes about the Mendoza Region here: The Mendoza Wine Region

2014, Perez Cruz Chaski, Petit Verdot, Maipo Valley, Chile 

The Wine: The 2015 Petit Verdot, under the Quechua name of Chaski, which means “messenger”, is complex and elegant, with grapes harvested by hand in the Fundo Liguai de la Viña, in the Maipo Alto, has notes of red and black fruits, herbs, tobacco, black pepper and species. On the palate it is structured, fresh and balanced, with a particular mineral note, silky and firm tannins, and a delicious and powerful harmony. Ideal to serve at 18oC, and enjoy it with red meats, Italian food, ripe cheeses.

The grapes that give rise to Chaski Petit Verdot were harvested during the second week of May, seeking the correct maturation of the tannins and aromas of the variety. Clusters and berries were manually selected at special tables, and then the grapes were introduced to the pond gravitationally.

The extraction was performed by cold pre fermentative maceration for 5 days at 9oC. During the alcoholic fermentation careful pumpings were made to obtain a soft but concentrated structure. Finally, the total maceration period was 25 days. Malolactic fermentation took place in French oak barrels.

Other Tasting Notes: The aroma is complex and elegant, highlighting its character and identity, with notes of red fruits, herbs, tobacco, black pepper and species. On the palate it is well structured, fresh and balanced, with a particular mineral note, its tannins are soft and the final is long and persistent.

Variety: 100% Petit Verdot; Store in Barrica: 14 months, 100% French barrel (50% new and 50% first use); Yield: 4.5 ton /ha; Alcohol: 14. 5%; Harvest: Mid-May. Total Acidity: 3.66 gr/l; Method: Harvest by hand; Maceration: 25 days.

The Winery: Pérez Cruz is a family vineyard specializing in red wines produced and bottled in origin, reflecting the character and identity of Maipo Alto. Located in Fundo Liguai, Huelquén s/n, Paine, Maipo Alto, Chile. On the foothills of the Andes range, its soils are deep, stony and low in nutrients. The climate is Mediterranean, with dry summers of great luminosity and thermal amplitude. Ideal combination to produce high quality wines.

With more than 12 years of experience, Viña Pérez Cruz continues to stand out for its wines from Maipo Alto, where the quality of the vineyards has achieved the elaboration of great exponents today recognized worldwide. Robert Parker gives great ratings to Viña Perez Cruz. The latest edition of Wine Advocates magazine on June 30, Robert Parker delivers 92 points to three wines from the Vineyard.

A 50% jump in your wine shipments around the world is what you hope to give the Pérez Cruz Vineyard – linked to the family of the same name – between this year and 2021. According to the company’s general manager, José Ignacio Laso, the plan is to go from exporting about 100 thousand boxes, and reaching the end of the decade at 150 thousand boxes. The investment was US$ 15 million to increase its production capacity.

Read more about the Winery here: https://www.perezcruz.com/en/vina/

The Maipó Valley: (Wine-Searcher.com) The Maipo Valley is the home of viticulture in Chile. The first vines were planted around Santiago at the city’s birth in the 1540s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that viticulture began to expand significantly, as an indirect result of entrepreneurial Chileans growing rich from the mineral wealth found in the Atacama Desert to the north. It became fashionable for these wealthy individuals to travel to France, and they inevitably returned home with vines to plant in their new, French-influenced wine estates. The vineyards of Cousiño Macul, Concha Y Toro and Santa Rita were developed during this period, and they remain today important names in the Chilean wine industry. Read more about Maipó Valley here: https://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-maipo+valley

Similar Wines

Two participants tasted different Petit Verdot as follows:

2015 Terre Di Talamo Per Cecco, Marema, Toscana, Petit Verdot. The color is dark purple, strong in tannins. A full bodied wine with 14.5% alcohol content. It has a good long finish. It benefits from opening and airing the wine a few hours before drinking.

James Suckling (93). “This is a linear and tight Petit Verdot with black berry, licorice and ink character. Full yet tight and very polished with fantastic focused fruit and precision. Long and flavorful”. US$ 35  at Total Wine.

 Hello World Petit Verdot, La Mancha, Spain. The cork is  champagne-like with a larger head and a short neck; the cork cover had a small strip to pull it and break the packaging, and then the cork could be easily removed by gently pushing it upwards. No corkscrew or sharp instrument is required to  open the wine.

The color is a deep ruby. The aroma and initial taste were unpleasant. Barely open, the aroma struck me as very unpleasant (drugstore). The taste very acidic and strong. A half hour later I tried it again and the initial unpleasant sensation had disappeared while it felt unscented, with a distant smell of wood. The acidity had also disappeared. Then I tried it with two cheeses, a French Comté and a Manchego, that paired very well with the wine. The quality of the wine improved markedly as did the value for money. The wine had long legs or tears and a reasonable finish. US$ 10 at Total Wine.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jorge Claro and Cristián Santelices

Originating in Bordeaux, where the soil produces light wines, the Petit Verdot grape was always used to enhance them, thanks to its structure and supplementary color,it is used in small quantities when it comes to providing character to some of the most important labels of Médoc. But without a doubt it is the grape less appreciated by the bordeleses, since in Galic lands it provides a rustic, vigorous and quite herbal character. This, however, does not detract from merit or importance. Quite the opposite.

In the New World, however, it is increasingly cultivated and appreciated in areas such as Argentina, Australia, California and Chile to achieve an opposite effect: softening the power of Cabernet Sauvignon.

La Petit Verdot grape demands work in the vineyard, because it is a high yielding strain. Hence many prefer to avoid it. However, when given due attention and care, petit Verdot develops a very different personality in dry and sunny climates. This allows another ripening point, which makes your wines voluptuous, but at the same time rounded.  A common feature of the New World Petit Verdot is The aging in barrels for a period never less than the year, time that these reds demand to round their character.

In Argentina and Chile,more and more people think that this grape has the potential to write its own history from varietal wines, even if these pose a new challenge for viticulture. In this sense, Argentina is taking its first steps in exploring Petit Verdot as a varietal. Lover of the warm climate, it expresses its full potential in Mendoza and La Rioja, where it reaches its optimum maturity. In many respects it resembles Tannat and Malbec: dark color, high doses of anthotians and complex nose. The truth is that it gives rise to wines of great character and elegant finish, but above all,different. As with Malbec, it demonstrated very good adaptability to the climates and soils of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja, where it adds about 600 hectares. Today, in tune with those achievements, many embark on a new challenge with Petit Verdot as a standard.

In Chile, the red grape pichintún (a litlle bit) is expanding. At the last wine fairs, in the midst of the new and old country stars, País and Cinsault, a new force has appeared: that of the Petit Verdot. A red grape strain that has been in our vineyards for decades, but traditionally only a “pichintún” has been used, for its uncontrolled strength of tannins and acidity.

In Chile, Petit Verdot is known to give strength and freshness to the great Carmenére de Colchagua. We know it because it is one of the secondary that form the mixture of the great reds of Bordeaux, in the background always, to leave cabernet sauvignon and Merlot in front.

Why it appears now more forcefully and accessible, and not before, it’s a good question. Answering it leads us to think of the important, if small group of curious people who are always looking for the new and different. For them, therefore, the Petit Verdot was ready to be the protagonist with its great strength of tannins and very rich acidity. These two features are important when you want to make a wine that can withstand the years of keeping in your bottle, but not necessarily wines to drink and enjoy now.

The follwing references have been used for this Blog on Petit Verdot

  1. Historia Petit Verdot (Wine folly). https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/guide-to-petit-verdot-red-wine/
  2. Historia Petit Verdot (MasterClass). https://www.masterclass.com/articles/learn-about-petit-verdot-grapes-wine-region-and-pairings#where-does-petit-verdot-grow
  3. Historia Petit Verdot (WSJ). https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB961160609233601386
  4. Historia Petit Verdot (Wikipedia). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_Verdot
  5. Historia Petit Verdot (intoxreport). https://intoxreport.com/2011/11/15/petit-verdot-goes-gangbusters-in-ripley-ohio%E2%80%94believe-it-or-not/
  6. Historia Petit Verdot (the wine cellar insider). https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/wine-educational-questions/grapes-for-wine-making-flavor-characteristics-explained/petit-verdot-wine-grapes-flavor-character-history/
  7. Vino Chaski. https://massanois.com/product/perez-cruz-petit-verdot-chaski-2015-750ml6/
  8. Vino Chaski. https://www.vivino.com/vina-perez-cruz-petit-verdot-chaski/w/1231597
  9. Vino Chaski. https://www.perezcruz.com/lanzamiento-2011-chaski-petit-verdot-2008/
  10. Vino Chaski Ficha.  https://www.perezcruz.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Chaski-Petit-Verdot-2014-Es-Web.pdf
  11. Uva Petit Verdot en Chile. https://www.winesofchile.org/en/chile-a-wine-producing-country/wine-diversity/petit-verdot/
  12. Uva Petit Verdot en Chile. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/lifestyle/cinco-petit-verdot-para-los-que-quieren-probar-un-vino-distinto-nid2064041/
  13. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.southernwines.com/ruca-malen-terroir-series-petit-verdot-2015/wine-online.cfm
  14. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/ruca+malen+terroir+series+petit+verdot+uco+valley+mendoza+argentina
  15. Vino Ruca Malen. http://opiciwines.com/wines/petit-verdot-reserva/
  16. Vino Ruca Malen. https://www.bodegarucamalen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Ruca-Reserva-Petit-Verdot.pdf
  17. Uva Petit Verdot en Argentina. https://blog.winesofargentina.com/es/petit-verdot-un-tinto-que-conquista-curiosos/


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Tasting No. 221 (Virtual) – August 31, 2020 – Cabernet Franc

Club del Vino


Valle de Uco

Tasting Overview

Cabernet Franc Grapes
Courtesy Bordeaux.com

The  tasting is limited to one wine proposed by the presenters according to the existing program that focuses on varietals.    The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific features of Cabernet Franc and the character of the wines made of this grape. Cabernet Franc is normally found in blends with other red grapes, mostly but not only, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot  (Bordeaux), to contribute aromatic complexity and moderate tannins. Cabernet Franc produces outstanding wines in its own right like the ones found in St. Emilión , the middle Loire and Argentina. Wines made of Cabernet Franc are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, less tannic, with fruity and herbaceous aromas. They pair very well with almost all kinds beef, poultry, fish and hard or semi soft cheeses.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Orlando Mason, Alfonso Sanchez

The reference wine is:

2017 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Jorge Claro, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán,  Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago,  Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2107 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: The Catena Cabernet Franc Appellation El Cepillo presents a purple color with red ruby tones. The nose offers elegant aromas of spices, and fresh herbs as thyme and rosemary, red berries, cassis and raspberries, with layers of cedar. The mouthfeel is full and rich with cassis, raspberries flavors and notes of black pepper and oregano . The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins. This versatile wine is fantastic paired with rich meat dishes such as stews and braises, Latin dishes with heat and a little kick such as enchiladas or moles and lamb dishes and tomato based pasta and sauces. This wine is also delicious paired with dark chocolate and berries and also served alongside a cheese plate.

RP 92 points: “The Appellation range keeps growing, and the new name this time is the 2016 Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, produced with grapes from the most fashionable red variety at the moment. It is from 20-year-old vines in El Cepillo, one of the cooler places of San Carlos in Valle de Uco. Furthermore, 2016 was a particularly cool year, so the wine is really a “cool climate” example. It matured in French oak barrels for one year before bottling. It has tons of black pepper aromas and flavors, balsamic and with perfect ripeness. 2016 has produced outstanding wines in this Appellation range.

 Vinous 91 points: Moderately saturated red-ruby. Aromas of plum, herbs and peppery spices. Silky, fine-grained and light on its feet, conveying a pronounced peppery herb element but also lovely intensity and floral lift to its dark berry, licorice and dark chocolate flavors. Finishes with broad, ripe, tooth-dusting tannins and terrific spicy length. This wine can’t quite match the 2017 version for concentration or suavity but still offers terrific typicity and savory minerality. A superb example of 2016.

The Winery: Bodega Catena Zapata is one of Argentina’s high altitude Malbec pioneers. The Catena family began making wine in Mendoza in 1902. Nicolas Catena, third generation family vintner, was one of the first to see the potential of Mendoza’s mountain vineyards for producing high quality Malbec. In 1994, he became the first Argentine to exprot a world-class bottling of Malbec under the Catena label. Nicolas is joined by his daughter, Dr. Laura Catena, in their relentless pursuit of world-class quality from the family’s high altitude vineyards. Laura has done extensive work in introducing Malbec and other varietal plant selections, soil and climate analysis, and sustainable practices throughout Mendoza. Head winemaker, Alejandro Vigil, has been at Catena Zapata since 2002 and works with Laura and Nicolas to make wines that express the family’s vineyards and palate.

K&L Notes: Over the past five or so years, Catena has been fine tuning their range, producing wines of more specific origin from their vast vineyard holdings. Originally planted in 2007, these 20 hectares of Cabernet Franc (which Laura Catena notes, is the same acreage that Cheval Blanc has planted to the variety!) represent a significant investment, though not a surprising one given the grape’s popularity and proven ability to produce very good wine in the Uco Valley.

The Mendoza Wine Region.

(These notes are compiled and edited from various internet sources mostly Wine Searcher and Wine.com)

Mendoza Province, responsible for over 70% of the Argentina’s wine production, is divided into several distinctive wine making sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. It is the source of some of the country’s finest wines. Most large wineries are in the provincial capital of Mendoza.

For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec. Originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s, here it found success and renown that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza’s main white varieties include Chardonnay, Torrontés, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The pink-skinned grapes of Criolla Grande and Cereza account for more than a quarter of all planting. Criolla is used to produce deeply colored white wine. It is sometimes used to produce a light-colored rosé. The grape is rarely exported outside of Argentina where it is used to produce massive quantities of box and jug wines.

Vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world, in the eastern foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua,  with the average site located 600–1,100 meters (2,000–3,600 ft) above sea level. Altitude is one of the most important characteristics of the Mendoza terroir. The strip of vineyard land that runs along the base of the Andes lies between 800 and 1200 meters (2600 and 3900 ft) above sea level, and it is this altitude that moderates the hot, dry climate of the region. The climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Warm, sunny days are followed by nights made much colder by westerly winds from the Andes. This cooling-off period slows ripening, extending the growing season and contributing rich, ripe flavors to the grapes that do not come at the expense of acidity.  There is barely any variation in climatic conditions from year to year, resulting in highly consistent quality of wines produced regardless of the year. Predictable harvests also afford Mendoza’s winemakers the luxury of increased control over the styles of wine they produce – a factor which has contributed to the region’s international reputation.

The soil of the Mendoza wine region is primarily alluvial composed of loose sand over clay. These rocky, sandy soils have little organic matter and are free draining, making them dry and low in fertility. This kind of soil is perfect for viticulture – vines are forced to work hard for hydration and nutrients, and will produce small, concentrated berries in lieu of leafy foliage. The wines produced from grapes grown on these soils are often highly structured, with firm tannins, and have a distinct minerality that is often attributed to the soil.

Mountain rivers provide ample water supplies from melted glaciers in the Andes. Nearly 17,000 wells provide the equivalent of an additional two rivers’ worth of water flow. A system of irrigation channels, canals and reservoirs (some dating to the 16th century) help sustain viticulture in this semi-arid desert region. Irrigation is facilitated by the rivers that cross the region, including the Mendoza itself, which runs down from the mountains. Warm, dry harvest periods mean that winemakers can pick their grapes according to ripeness, rather than being ruled by the vagaries of the weather.

Similar Wines

A participant tasted another Cabernet Franc wine side by side with the reference wine:

2011 Linden Vineyards, Virginia, USA.  Well integrated with black fruit, tobacco, herbs, earth and spices.  More rounded and a bit more complex than the reference wine.  Very good to excellent.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez

(Sources: Wine Folly internet Profile; Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia).


Cabernet Franc is one of the major red grape varieties worldwide and is the parent grape of both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Cabernet Franc is, with Sauvignon Blanc, one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its origins have been traced to the Basque County of Spain. Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in the Loire Valley long before that time. Across the world Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted grape varieties. Plantings are found throughout Europe, in the New World, Africa Australia, China and Kazakhstan. Close to 90% of world’s Cabernet Franc is produced in France, Italy and the USA with the rest of the world including Hungary, South Africa, Chile and, minor producers like Spain, Canada, Argentine, and others accounts for around 10% of the production.

Cabernet Franc is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style wines, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire’s Chinon and sometimes made into ice wine in Canada and the US.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.


In general, Cabernet Franc is like Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux. Plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an “insurance policy” against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the vinicultural hazard of coulure (a failure of grapes to develop after flowering) early in the growing season. The berries are quite small and blue-black in color, with fairly thin skins.

Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full-bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir-based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus those grown in the limestone slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.

The Wine

Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied red wine loved for its savory, bell pepper-like flavors, medium-high acidity, and mouthwatering taste. It is an ideal food pairing wine. The Cabernet Franc grape has a thinner skin than Cabernet Sauvignon, so the wines made from Cabernet Franc tend to be lighter in color and lower in tannin.

Wine Profile

Acidity: Medium-high

Tannin: Medium

Alcohol: Medium

Sweetness: Dry

Flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Bell Pepper, Crushed Gravel and Chili Pepper

Wine Regions

In many regions, Cabernet Franc is planted as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend such as Meritage, playing secondary role to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In parts of northeast Italy, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and the right bank region of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc both plays a more prominent role in blends but is vinted also as a single varietal.

France. The Loire Valley is known for producing exceptional single varietal Cabernet Franc wines in and around the middle Loire Valley (Chinon, Bourgueil, Anjou and neighboring areas). The cooler climate lends itself to wines with lighter color, lighter body, higher acidity, and distinct herbal flavors.

Italy. Tuscany warmer climate gives Cabernet Franc richer fruit flavors. The region’s red clay soils generally increase tannin. Since Cabernet Franc is not an indigenous variety of Italy, wines are declassified to IGP and labeled by variety or made-up name (Supertuscans). Flavors: Cherry. Leather, Strawberry, Licorice, Coffee

California. Sierra Foothills, (Climate conditions like Mendoza, Argentina). The regions of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, and Fiddletown have warm stable climates that make for ripe, sweeter grapes with lower acidity. Wines are typically fruit-forward and jammy with higher alcohol and subtle whiffs of dried leaves. Flavors: Dried strawberry, Raspberry, Tobacco leaf, Cedar, Vanilla.

Argentina. Cabernet Franc plantings in Argentina have been producing top quality wines in recent years, and the varietal has been claimed as having the most potential in the country after Malbec. Squeeze Magazine has called it “the new, handsome superhero of Mendoza’s wine scene”. In 2014, the highest scoring Argentine wine in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate was a Cabernet Franc scored at 97 points. Cabernet Franc can be bottled alone, making lighter-bodied wines than the country’s typical Malbec or either as a majority or minority in blends.


Franc is a food friendly wine. There are numerous ways you can easily match Cabernet Franc based wines with food. For a few tips, try it with roasted chicken, pork, roasted or grilled, beef, duck, sausage, lamb, veal, hearty fish dishes and even hard as well as soft cheese. Higher Acidity makes it possible to pair Cabernet Franc with tomato-based dishes, vinegar-based sauces like smoky barbecue, or rich black beluga lentils.


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Tasting No. 220 (Virtual) – July 27, 2020 – Mourvedre

Club del Vino

Tasting Overview

The  tasting is limited to only one wine proposed by the presenters according to the existing program that focuses on varietals.  In this occasion, it is a Mourvedre.  The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific variety features and the character of the wines it produces.

By Felloni claire – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Wine Folly states that : “If you love Cabernet Sauvignon then Mourvedre is your bag. Mourvedre (aka Monastrell) is a full-bodied and rustic wine that originated in Spain. Rumor has it that the seafaring Phoenicians brought it over as early as 500 B.C. Seemingly obscure, Mourvedre is actually used quite often as a blending grape in popular wines such as Châteauneuf du Pape. It’s one of the major grapes of the Rhône along with Grenache and Syrah.”

Muorvedre is grown mostly in Spain (called Monastrell) mainly in Murcia and  the Comunidad Valenciana (DOs milla, Yecla and Alicante) that are producing excellent Monastrell varietals. France, Australia and USA  are also big producers areas planted .

Mourvedre is a warm climate grape that produces small, sweet and thick skinned grapes leading to full bodied wines, high in alcohol, big tannins and able to age well.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Mario Aguilar, John  and Lucía Redwood

The wine is:

2016 Tim Smith Barossa Mataro 

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2106 Tim Smith Barossa, Mataro 

The Wine: This wine is a blend of 2 vineyards-the oldest is about 140 years of age, the younger one is about 70 years of age. We are led to believe that the older vineyard is about the second oldest Mataro (Mourvedre) vineyards in the world. The wine is picked typically at about 13.5-14 Baume. The fruit is destemmed and crushed and fermentation commences using naturally occurring yeasts. The fermenting must is kept on skins for between 10 and 24 days, depending on the vintage and extract from the skins. The must is pressed via an air bag press to avoid over extraction. Ageing is done on larger format French puncheons (500 litres).

Winemaker Notes  A blend of 3 different vineyards, aged up to about 130 years of age. All are low yielding, and on 3 distinct soil types. The Kalimna block (130yrs old) is on grey sandy soil, almost like a beach. This provides great fragrance and perfume. The palate is quite light and has soft, fine tannin. The Penrice block (50yrs old) also has great perfume, but a more soulful palate. Soils here are classic Barossa Valley floor, ie rich dark loam. The third block, in Greenock, has great sub-regional mid palate focus, with a slightly less aromatic profile. Notes of black pepper, dried tobacco and flavors of black olive, blackberry bramble with a soft oregano finish. Soils here are characterized by light yellow loam, with ironstone flecks. The sum of all three sites produce a wine with lifted perfume, and great mid palate drive. Old world winemaking methods, larger format French oak, unfined/unfiltered.

James Suckling Tim Smith’s touch with Mataro is a deft one, sending it into ever more fleshy, fruitful and attractive territory. This is packed with red-plum and tarry aromas and moves to a ripe, rich and sweetly fleshy mode on the palate. Plush and sultry

The Winery:Established in 2001, and with 33 years of hands on experience, Tim Smith Wines is a Barossa Valley-based producer of wines that we consider our region to excel at growing. “We make only the wines we genuinely enjoy drinking ourselves (sorry, Rosé drinkers).We are unashamedly influenced by the great producers of both the North and South Rhone Valley in France, but have a New World understanding of the techniques that we believe work best in our region. This understanding comes as a result of working as a winemaker with some of our regions most respected wineries, and numerous overseas vintages in a number of countries; always watching, always learning, and always challenging even our own wine making approach. Our wines are at once rich, polished, and structured for longevity, but with a brightness of fruit that invites early drinking. We are still unashamedly heavily influenced by the wines of the Rhone Valley, but with a very healthy respect for our regional Barossa wine style. We see no point in trying to reinvent the wheel when the wine styles and regionality we enjoy in the Barossa has been around for nearly 180 years; the region must be doing something right. However-the wine geek in me cant help tinkering and responding to our different yearly vintage challenges.

Read more at: https://timsmithwines.com.au/

Similar Wines

Some participants tasted other Mourverdre-based wines these were:

2015 Tesoro de Bullas, Monastrell, Murcia. Very good wine clearly exhibiting the Mourvedre grapes character. Great taste,complexity and balance with nuances of fruits, herbs, tobacco and spices. Long pleasant finish. Perfect match for chorizo and Manchego cheese. Highly recommended, $14

2017  Mourvedre  El Dorado, In Hand, The Whiters Winery, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley. A deliciously rich but vibrant blend of around 70% Mourvedre plus Syrah with around 30% whole clusters for extra spice and structure. $24

2016 Casa Castillo Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain. Excellent balance, aromas to black fruits, leather, and wood, exhibiting the Mourvedre varietal character. Well balanced.  Flavors reflecting aromas and long, semi complex pleasant finish. Highly recommended. $12.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez

(Sources: Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia).

Mourvedre Grape and Wine


Most wine historians agree that Mourvèdre is likely to be Spanish in origin, though its exact history is difficult to pinpoint. The variety was probably introduced to Valencia by the Phoenicians around 500 BC. The French-adapted name Mourvèdre probably came from Murviedro (Mourvèdre in Valenciano, nowadays Sagunt) near Valencia while the Spanish name Mataró is thought to have come from Mataró, Catalonia near the modern-day city of Barcelona. Despite this close association with Murviedro and Mataró, the grape became known in Spain as Monastrell for reasons that are still unknown though Oz Clarke speculates that a “neutral” name may have been chosen so as not to offend the local pride of both regions.

Mourvèdre had a well-established presence in Roussillon region of France by at least the 16th century when still part of Spain (until 1659) where it spread eastwards towards Provence and the Rhone. There it had a well-established foothold until the phylloxera epidemic of the mid to late 19th century decimated plantings. As the French and other European wine regions recovered from the phylloxera scourge by grafting Vitis vinifera varieties to American rootstock, it was discovered that Mourvèdre vines did not take well to the grafting and many vineyards were replanted with other varieties.

Major Producing Regions

Spain and France cultivate close to 94% of total world Monastrell/Mourvedre plantings

  • Spain (~150,000+ acres) Alicante, Jumilla, Almansa
  • France (~25,000 acres) Bandol (Provence), Rhône
  • Australia (~2500 acres) South Australia
  • United States (~1000+ acres) California, Washington

: Bandol(France) and Alicante (Spain) are dominantly Mourvedre. The Rhône, Provence and Corbieres regions use Mourvedre as a blending grape.

What does Mourvedre Wine Taste Like?

Mourvedre is a meaty and full-bodied red wine. The smell of Mourvedre is an explosion of dark fruit, flowers like violet and herbaceous aromas of black pepper, thyme, and red meat. In regions such as Bandol, France and Jumilla, Spain, Mourvedre wine can have a very gamey taste. This smell can be a turn-off. The French call it animale. Some people, confronted with this distinctive odor, will wonder what fell into the glass and died. Mourvèdre also tends to display a leathery quality and a degree of earthiness, and while the wines it yields do not lack for fruit—they are usually marked by plum, raspberry, or blackberry flavors or various combinations thereof—they can be a bit austere.

Some believe the unctuous aromas in many Mourvedre wines are in part due to a wine fault called reduction. Because of this, Mourvedre benefits from decanting and is best enjoyed at around 67-71 °F.

Mourvedre Wine Characteristics

FRUIT: Blueberry, Blackberry, Plum,
OTHER: Black Pepper, Violet, Rose, Smoke, Gravel, Meat
OAK: Yes. Usually medium to long oak aging.
ACIDITY:Medium (+)
COMMON SYNONYMS: Monastrell, Alicante, Mataró, Damas Noir, Pinot Fleri, Mataro, Monastre, Mourves,

Regional Tasting Notes

Southern Spain. Monastrell is a major variety in the regions of Jumilla, Yecla, Alicante and Bullas. The warm dry climate produces wine with bold fruit flavors and even some tart and black olive. That said, there is exceptional value to be found here. Blackberry, Black Raisin, Mocha, Tobaco Smoke, Black Pepper

Bandol France. It’s said that Mourvedre thrives with is head in the sun and feet in the sea, so it is no wonder the grape  shines on the south-facing slopes of Bandol in Provence. By Law, the wine must spend at least 18 months in oak barrels , lending to this wine’s rusting elegance. Black Plum, Roasted Meat, Black Pepper, Cocoa Powder, Herbs De Provence

Mourvedre Wine Food Pairing

Full-bodied red wines like Mourvedre beg for rich foods to absorb the high tannin. Look for meats with lots of umami like beef short ribs, pork shoulder, barbeque, lamb, rabbit, pork sausage and veal. The spices that complement the floral character in Mourvedre are regional spices found in Provence, France such as lavendar, rosemary and thyme.

Vegetarians should look towards lentils, wild rice and shitake/portabello mushrooms for their flavor base to create a dish for any full-bodied red wine. Using black pepper and soy sauce is also a great way to add umami to vegetarian cuisine.

Interesting Facts About Mourvedre Wine

A Perfect Grape for Hot Regions: Mourvedre is a very structured and thick-skinned grape that ripens very late in the season. It is moderately drought-tolerant, making it an ideal grape for warm climates.

Undervalued It’s Super in Spain: Southeastern Spain was hit by the Phylloxéra louse in 1989. The vines have recently recovered and are now being offered in the US for bargain basement prices. You can easily find $10 Monastrell from Yecla, Jumilla and Alicante.

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Tasting No. 219 (Virtual) – June 29, 2020- Zinfandel Old Vines

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Photo by Rolling Bay Winery/Alphonse de Klerk

Tasting Overview

This is the first virtual tasting of the CV.  The Covid 19 pandemia has made it impossible for the Group to meet physically until this awful threat is over.

The  tasting is limited to only one wine proposed by the presenters according to the existing program that focuses on varietals.  In this occasion, it is a Zinfandel.  The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific variety features and the character of the wines it produces.

THE ZINFANDEL GRAPE : The Zinfandel grape is the quintessential California grape where it has beautifully adapted.  Genetic studies identify it as a mutation of the Crijenak originally from Croatia.  Some say they are descended from the Primitivo Italian grape, but the evidence gives that the Zinfandel and the Primitivo are both mutations of the first although there is still some discussion.

It is an extremely versatile grape that can produce from low quality sweet wines to outstanding quality wines.  For example, in the 1980s, white Zinfandel began to show up in California, and many believed that there was a white grape variety, but it was not.  This wine was produced by minimizing the contact of the juice with the skin of the grape resulting a light rosé wine.  The high-quality reds of the Zinfandel are produced with the best techniques and result in intense flavors of red and black fruits, spices and large body.  Wines made of the Zinfandel grape can range in style from those like Beaujolais to strong high alcohol wines reminiscent of Oporto passing through styles similar to Cabernet.  The versatility of the grape therefore gives the winemaker much flexibility in its handling and therefore the quality depends on his/her expertise and tastes.

The grape is resistant, high production,  and vigorous.Zinfandel likes warm climates, so it reaches high levels of sugar and therefore alcohol.  Its management in the vineyard is difficult because the bunches are very tight and can get sick with fungi.  In addition, the grapes tend to ripen unevenly in the same cluster.  Therefore the harvest must be done frequently in several passes through the vineyard for quality wines adding to cost. This trend can be aggravated by poor water management.

Because of its resilience, there are vineyards over 100 years old in various parts of the world.  Its cultivation has spread to South Africa, South America and Australia mainly. Old wines produce less grapes that are smaller than those from younger ones but are much more concentrated in flavors, colors and aromas.

The wines tend to lose their fruit from three or four years and spices and alcohol tends to become more pronounced.  It is therefore recommended to drink them between the three and five years of ageing in the bottle.  They are excellent for accompanying strong roasts and hearty dishes like lamb stew.

Jairo Sanchez compiled a technical note (below) where you can read more about this remarkable grape.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Jairo Sánchez and Alberto Gómez

The wine is:

2018 Bedrock Wine Company, California, Old Vine Zinfandel

The menu is up to each participant discretion


Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupoñán, Michelle Fryer, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, German Zincke

Information on the Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2108 Bedrock Wine Company, California, Old Vine Zinfandel

The Wine: Winemaker Notes. 2018 was a brilliant year for Zinfandel across California, and this wine reflects it. The 2018 is a blend of 85% Zinfandel filled out with Mataro, Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, Carignan, Petite Sirah and scant amounts of the many other varieties that can be found in California’s older, multifarious vineyards. Many of our most venerable vineyards contribute to this wine, including Bedrock, Teldeschi, Esola, Pagani, Papera, Evangelho and Pato filled in with lots from other old vineyards throughout the state. This will provide great drinking pleasure with a decant early on, but as with most iterations of this bottling, will develop nicely for a number of years.

(WS): Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 90 pts.

(WE): Tempting fruit flavors and an appetizing structure combine nicely in this full-bodied wine, making it taste and feel complete. Classic blackberry and black-pepper aromas give way to juicy, berrylike flavors wrapped in just-firm-enough tannins and acidity for a good grip on the palate. 90 pts.

The Winery: Bedrock Wine Co. was started in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson. Working out of a small converted chicken coop in a friend’s backyard, Morgan focused on making personality-filled wines wrought from a small array of thoughtfully farmed vineyards.  The label was created as a way for Peterson to showcase the quality of red and white grapes produced from ancient vines and distinct appellations in Sonoma, California including Sonoma Valley, Carneros, and Bennett Valley.

The winery is first and foremost a mission-driven operation dedicated to preserving and rehabilitating old vineyards around California. These vineyards, planted by California’s viticultural pioneers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, are living pieces of history.

At harvest, grapes are picked earlier than most to retain acidity and better express terroir. At the winery, grapes are rarely sorted or de-stemmed. Fermentation is done with natural, indigenous yeasts and little racking or new French oak is applied to the wines during the aging process.

The winery is also dedicated to taking advantage of the diverse terroirs of California and their capacity to make an enormous range of styles, be it delicate and perfumed rosé, barrel-fermented whites, or violet and pepper-tinged Syrah. We are always exploring—from the heart of Oakville in Napa to the northern reaches of Mendocino and gold hills of Amador, the vastness of Lodi and the beaches of Contra Costa to every corner of Sonoma.

Read more at: https://www.bedrockwineco.com

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez

 From: Wikipedia.

Zinfandel (or “Zin”, as it is affectionately known in the United States) is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety widely cultivated in California. It arrived in the Americas from Europe in the early years of the 19th Century, and was an immediate success in both Napa and Sonomacounties, which remain its strongholds today.

After 30 years of discussion and disagreements (including legal intervention by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), DNA research carried out by Carole Meredith of the University of California at Davis from the early 1990s to 2002 (known as the Zinquest) confirmed that Zinfandel is identical to Italy’s Primitivo. But although this research closed the debate over whether Zinfandel is Primitivo, it opened up an even older chapter of the variety’s history.

Zinfandel Grapes. We know that Primitivo arrived in Italy via Croatia, where it was known by various names including Tribidrag and Crljenak Kastelanski. But the question of whether Zinfandel arrived in the U.S. from Italy or via another route remains unanswered. So the question is now: is American Zinfandel based on Primitivo cuttings, or Tribidrag, or both? Another unsolved mystery is the linguistic origin of the word Zinfandel.

Zinfandel has been used to make various wine styles since it arrived in the USA, including dry and sweet red wines and the famous White Zinfandel blush, created to cater for a white wine-drinking American consumer base of the 1970s. The arrival of this new wine style in the early 1970s led to an explosion of Zinfandel plantings – perhaps ironic given that the style of wine was created to find a use for the swathes of underused Zinfandel vines already in existence.

By the 1990s the popularity of dry red Zinfandel had given these plantings a new raison d’etre, although they were still being used to generate many millions of liters of sweet pink blush every year. Today, red Zinfandel has risen to become the signature wine of the U.S., not due to the quality of wine it produces, but because it is as close to an “American” variety as vinifera vines get. The discovery that it was an Italian variety in disguise led to mixed reactions, including pride at the association with a prestigious wine nation, but also a certain uneasiness that Zinfandel had lost some of its American individuality.

Outside the U.S., the variety is grown in South Africa and Australia, where it has been bottled as both Zinfandel and Primitivo. It hasn’t acquired any particular significance in either of these countries – more a product of a few key producers than an independent grape variety. Also, as Australia has a developed a strong tradition in Shiraz, there is little motivation to bring in and develop a similar variety to compete with it. The Cape Mentelle winery of Margaret River has taken up the reins as an Australian pioneer of Zinfandel.

During the 1970s, various Italian producers began labeling their Primitivo wines as Zinfandel, to cash in on Zinfandel’s popularity in the U.S. market. Now, the reverse is happening; as Primitivo’s star rises once again in Italy (most notably in Manduria), a number of Californian vineyards (mostly those of Italian heritage) now label their Zinfandel wines as Primitivo.

Almost unaffected by the politics and wranglings between Italy and the U.S., the winemakers of Croatia have carried on producing deeply colored, full-bodied red wines from their Crljenak Kastelanski and Tribidrag grapes. Interest in these wines has naturally increased following the Primitivo/Zinfandel debate, so many of them are now available in various countries around the world.

Synonyms include: Primitivo, Crljenak Kastelanski, Pribidrag, Tribidrag, Kratosija.

Food matches for Zinfandel include:

  • Puglian spit-roasted lamb
  • East Texas-style barbecue
  • Dark chocolate cake

 What to expect from a Zinfandel tasting

From: Wine Folly, Magnum Edition, The Master Guide.Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York NY. 2018

 Puglia, Italy: Primitivo. In Puglia Zinfandel goes by the name of Primitivo and the grape expresses similar bright candied fruit, with much more leather and dried herbal notes found in Southern Italian reds. Primitivo di Maduria is one of the finest regions, producing the boldest examples. Strawberries, Leather, Candied Currant, Dried Herbs, Spiced Orange

Lodi, Central Valley, CA: Zinfandel. The Lodi region hums along silently in California’s Central Valley with 100.000 acres of vineyards, many of which are dedicated to Zinfandel.  Wines appear pale in color but are highly aromatic with smoky-sweet fruit flavors and smooth tannins. Raspberry Jam, Peach Preserves, Blackberry Bramble, Hickory, Star Anise

North Coast, CA: Zinfandel. Several regions within Sonoma and Napa are famous for Zinfandel including Rockpile, Dry Creek Valley, Chiles Valley and Howell Mountain. Wines here offer bold tannins, colors, and rustic flavors thanks to the region’s volcanic soils.Blackberry, Black Plum, Crushed Gravel, Allspice, White Pepper

From: THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE. Fourth Edition 2015. Edited by Jancis Robinson. Referenced to Darlington D., Zin. The Story and Mystery of Zinfandel Cambridge, Mass., 2001

Because Zinfandel has not French connection, it had escaped the detailed scrutiny of the world ampelographic center in Montpellier and its European origins rested on local hypothesis rather than internationally accredited fact until the application of DNA profiling to vines in the early 1990s. Only then was irrefutable demonstrated what had been suspected, that Zinfandel is one and the same as the variety known as primitivo in Puglia. Subsequent DNA profiling at Davis established that the Croatian variety Plavac Mali is in fact a cross between Zinfandel and Dobricic, an obscure and ancient Croatian variety found in the island of Solta near Split. This suggested a probably Dalmatian origin for Zinfandel too, and Croatian researchers Pejic and Maletic collaborating with Carole Meredith at Davis intensively searched the coastal vineyards for Zinfandel until 2001 they discovered an ancient and almost extinct variety on the island of Kastela near Split called Crljenac Kastelanski (literally “red grape of  Kastela”) that was established as Zinfandel by DNA. Analysis of this variety’s DNA, showed an exact match with that of a 90-year-old herbarium specimen of an ancient Croatian vine known locally as Tribidrag.

Zinfandel took firm hold on the California wine business in the 1880s, when its ability to produce in quantity was priced above all else. Many was the miner, and other beneficiary of California gold rush, whose customary drink was Zinfandel. By the turn of the century, Zinfandel was regarded as California’s own claret and occupied some of the choicest North Coast vineyard. During the prohibition, it was the choice of many a Home Winemaker but since then its viticultural popularity has become its undoing.

In 20th century California, Zinfandel occupied much the same place as Shiraz (Syrah) did in Australia and for many decades suffered the same lack of respect simply because it was the most common black grape variety, often planted in unsuitable hot sites and expected to yield more than was good for it. Zinfandel may not be quite such potentially high quality grape variety as Syrah but it is certainly capable of producing fine wine if yields are restricted and the weather cool enough to allow a reasonable long growing season, as Ridge vineyards and others have proved. And the fact that so many of California’s oldest vines are Zinfandel means that the best wines labelled with the varietal, sometimes field blends, are exceptionally complex.

Zinfandel Viticultural disadvantages are uneven ripening and thin-skinned berries in compact clusters. Bunches often ripen unevenly with harsh, green berries on the same cluster as those that have reached full maturity, and that once grapes full ripeness, in direct contrast to its great California rival Cabernet Sauvignon for example, they will soon turn to raisins if not picked quiet rapidly. Zinfandel perform best in warm but not hot conditions and prefers well-drained hillsides since it is subject to bunch rot if by autumn rains.

Although Zinfandel has been required over the years to transform itself into virtually every style and color of wine that exist, it is best suited to dry sturdy, vigorous reds that mature rather earlier than a comparable Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma has demonstrated a particular aptitude for this underestimated variety.

In the late 1980, thanks to the enormous popularity of White Zinfandel, Zinfandel plantings, which had been declining, increased by up to 3,000 acres/1,215 ha a year, mostly in the central valley, so that they totaled 34,000 acres/13,760 ha in 1972, just ahead of California total acreage of Cabernet Sauvignon at the time. The resurgence of Zinfandel continued in the late 1990s as red Zinfandel began to enjoy mildly cult-like status (with many examples commanding prices over $30), driving total plantings to 50,000 acres/20,000 ha in 2003, only slightly less than Merlot and two-thirds as much of California most important variety Cabernet Sauvignon.

Zinfandel is also grown to a much more limited extent in warmer sites in other western states in the USA and Mexico. Because its prominence in California, where it is still definitively the second most planted red wine grape, Zinfandel is grown in many of the world’s wine regions, albeit to a very limited extent –quite apart from Puglia where it is known as Primitivo and in Montenegro, on the other side of the Adriatic where it is known as Kratosija. There is some Zinfandel in the Languedoc, south Africa, and Australia where there were more than 100 ha in 2012 and Cape Mantelle in Western Australia has been particular successful with it.

Zinfandel Variety Wine. From the time Zinfandel arrived in the 1850s, Zin flourished in the dry California climate. Virtually a California exclusive for more than a century, the variety for long suffered from an image problem. Apparently lacking any European forebear, let alone a famous one, it had to be taken in his own terms. Few critics had the independence of mind to do so, and so until the 1990sit was consigned to the category of a low priced, honest Italian-American working man’s wine. All that has since changed. Well-made examples from 80 years old and older vines (one of California’s great vinicultural treasures command very respectable prices.

Although sometimes deliberately vinified to minimize this characteristic, Zinfandel can easily be chewier than Cabernet. Beyond its robust textures, Zinfandel at the height of its powers tastes of the strain of raspberry Americans call boysenberry. Although it often have the structure and balance to age well, time does not replace its glorious flavors of berry with anything as pleasing. All the foregoing means that Zinfandel must come from superior vineyard or be ordinary. Much inconclusive, artistic debate turns on vine age, and on trellising versus the traditional bush vines.

The variety find its most congenial home on dry-farmed hillsides originally identified in Parts of California  at the turn of the last century by immigrant Italians. A centerpiece of this cultural community is Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, the Russian River district, Mendocino County, Sonoma Valley and, though the fact is little recognized, Napa Valley. SAnluis Obispo County’s Pao Robles has a long strong history with Zinfandel, as does Amador County in the Sierra Foothills and Lodi and the Delta region of the Central Valley. All of these tend to make headier, riper wines than Sonoma ,and heady, port-style wines made from late-harvested vines enjoyed by a brief vogue in the 1970s. 

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