Wednesday, October 27, 2021


One of the newbies in the store this week is A Lisa Malbec from Bodega Noemia of Patagonia.  The finest wine region in the world is Burgundy, France and according to the narrative, Patagonia, at the opposite end of the globe, is supposed to be the new Burgundy.  Or something like that.  Anyway, we have yet to taste anything from there that lives up to the hype.

In our research we have learned that Patagonia is huge; as in, twice the size of California.  And it extends 200 miles over both southern Chile and Argentina, reaching almost to the Atlantic Ocean.  It's a huge desert relying on meltaway from the Andes for sustenance.  

Two rivers define the Patagonian wine country, the Neuquen and Rio Negro.  Our A Lisa vineyards lie near the borough of Mainque on the Rio Negro which, looking at the map of Argentina, puts it pretty much dead center.  Going back to our assertion in the last paragraph - This place is so huge, maybe you have to find a place like Mainque in the vast desert to make world class wine.  Like I said earlier, much of what we have tasted from there doesn't particularly impress.  But then again, they're comparing it to Burgundy.

Patagonia lies below Mendoza on the map and altitude-wise.  Mendoza is a plateau featuring the highest vineyards in the world.  Patagonia comes in at barely 1,000 feet above sea level.  Like Mendoza and every other great wine region, the diurnal effect of warm days/cool nights works in Patagonia to extend the growing season, slowly ripening grapes and accentuating varietal character and acidity.

Patagonian wines are said to be more European in style than what Mendoza does.  This one has a plum violet color; a nose of minerally dark berries and cherries; a structured medium body; a balanced vibrant palate of cherry and cassis with fine acidity and a long fruity finish.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from organically farmed old-vine vineyards.  They are fermented for ten days in stainless steel before the wine is aged by rotating it between oak barriques and stainless steel barrels.

We have sold A Lisa in the past but had never tasted it.  Now we have and it's quite tasty.  It doesn't hurt either that the pricing on this one has moved in the right direction.  Think of A Lisa as a Thanksgiving dinner option.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

2018 Alex Foillard Cote de Brouilly

What's better, more information on the wine label or less?  It depends on the wine.  If a level of quality has been established for the wine as is the case with French Burgundy, then less is better.  It's from the finest wine appellation in the world, after all, therefore we know it's going to be good and that's the case with our subject today.  The Alex Foillard Cote de Brouilly has an attractive label depicting red grapes but spares us unnecessary verbiage.   The back label indicates its reputable importer and that's really all we need to know.

Cote de Brouilly is one of the ten grand crus of Beaujolais, the southern end of Burgundy.  It lies just below Morgon, one of the best Crus.  Cote de Brouilly is the southernmost part of that southern section and it produces the softest red wines of the appellation.

Jean Foillard is the father of Alex, the winemaker we're talking about today, and Jean put Cote de Brouilly on the map by producing low intervention, "natural" wines.  This novel category is actually not novel at all; it is the traditional way wines have been made through the centuries.  It's taking what the vineyard gives you and working solely with that with nothing extraneous added to the process.  While Alex is very much in the mold of his father, this wine includes "a small dose of sulphur."  

The Gamay grapes for this wine are organically farmed on a single hectare of Chateau Lieu-dit land in the La Folie a Odenas region of Cote de Brouilly.  The vines are thirty to sixty years old, planted in north facing vineyards of granite and sandy schist soils.  The fermentation is done using the traditional carbonic maceration (whole bunches) method over a twenty-one day period in cement tanks using natural yeasts.  The wine is pumped over every three days during the process.

The wine is unfiltered and sees a year of aging in French oak.  Its texture has been characterized as silky and satiny with structured well-knit tannins.  It also has a tangy acidity, minerality, juicy freshness with sweet and savory spices and potpourri.  Fruit flavors may include raspberries, blood orange, strawberries, kirsch and perhaps candied cherries.

Here's your Thanksgiving dinner wine, folks.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Don Melchor and Massal Selection

We have successfully sold Don Melchor, the premier wine of Chile, since its inception in 1988.  When our vendor told us the current 2018 vintage was critically acclaimed, we thought, yeah, sure, it always is.  It turns out she understated things a bit.  James Suckling, one of the most reputable critics, gave the wine 100 points.

So that means it's perfect, right?  After reading a half dozen other reviews we think it may be.  All of the scores we found were close to 100.  Numerical review points are b-llsh-t, by the way, in the same way awards shows are and competitions that judge by purely subjective standards.  You either like something or you don't.  After reading up on the vintage and knowing this wine the way we do, we think the wine is probably as good as advertised.

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the pre-Phylloxera Puenta Alto vineyards of the northern Maipo Valley appellation.  The estate vineyards lie on the north side of the Maipo River, a region that should be considered Chile's Grand Cru.  

Concha y Toro is one of the five largest wine companies in the world.  Don Melchor is its flagship offering.  We think the label originally represented the best wine they could make in a given vintage, kind of like what a lot of California companies piece together as their Meritage wine.  Over time the estate has become more closely defined to the point where they have now erected a state of the art winery on the property.

Enrique Tirado has been the Don Melchor winemaker since 1997.  As the estate has been more tightly defined so has the viticulture.  Against the prevailing wisdom of the modern era, clonal selection of grapes is no longer the practice there.  Massal Selection is the  propagation of grape vines using the cuttings from older vines in the vineyard.  It is the way things were done prior to the improvements out of UC Davis in California.  Massal selection assumes the unique individual distinction shown in exemplary old vines will carry over into the budding newly planted offshoots.  Since the French wine industry was so successful for so long using this practice,  it only makes sense to go with it.  Especially if you have pre-Phylloxera vines.

The 2018 Don Melchor is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are hand harvested from the estate vineyards including the lower yielding massal selection vines.  

In his 100 point review, Suckling uses terms like "stunning, vibrant, energetic, complex aromas and flavors (flowers, black currant, raspberries, peaches), full-bodied, refined, polished, impeccable texture and beauty, lengthy flavors, balance, harmony and transparency."  He also advises holding the wine for a few years.  All in all, this one's probably pretty good.