Chianti Rufina from Fattoria I Veroni: 2011-2014

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The I Veroni Vineyards

I Veroni is one of the premiere wineries of the Chianti Rufina appellation. We review the latest releases and a vertical of the I Veroni Reserve. Continue reading

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Ten Astounding Things We Learned About Chilean Wine

We recently traveled to diverse parts of Chile to learn what’s new in Chilean wine. We saw vineyards being planted in extreme locations, adventurous young winemakers experimenting with new grape varieties and winemaking techniques, and a Chilean wine industry that continues to expand and, now, produce premium and ultra-premium wines that compete with the best in the world. To find out more, read our just published Report #60 Chile’s Premium Wine Revolution which includes reviews of over 300 wines. Astounding things #1 – #4 are given below. We’ll update this blog on a regular basis until all ten are listed. Continue reading

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Tuscan Coast Selections from I Giusti & Zanza

I Giusti & Zanza Vineyard in the Costa Toscana

I Giusti & Zanza Vineyard in the Costa Toscana

Located in the Fauglia Hills of the Tuscan Coast, 30 km north of Bolgheri and due west of Florence, I Giusti &Zanza Vigneti has 17 ha of densely planted, organically cultivated vines. We review their latest releases below.  Their vineyards benefit from the maritime influence of the Tyrrhenian Sea, just 25 km to the west. Paolo Giusti and Fabio Zanza bought the estate in 1995. Continue reading

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Twenty-Five Years of Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon: 1988-2013

Don Melchor de Concha y Toro

Don Melchor de Concha y Toro

First made in 1987, Don Melchor is Chile’s original icon wine. We recently tasted several vintages between 1988 and 2013 as part of our research for Report #60 Chile’s Premium Wine Revolution.  The surprising results of the tasting are given at the end of this article. The wines were tasted at the Concha y Toro estate in Pirque in the Maipo Valley and at our offices in Washington DC.

Concha y Toro created Don Melchor in 1987 from its 700 m high Puente Alto vineyard, naming it after Don Melchor de Concha y Toro, who planted French varieties in the Maipo in the 19th century. The vineyard is located near the Maipo River with stony soils that provide excellent drainage. The site is also known for its large diurnal temperature variations during the growing season.

The vineyard that produces the fruit for Don Melchor has a rich history[1]. In the mid 19th century, Manuel Antonio Tocornal planted French varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Noir, and others—on his estate in the Alto Maipo called Mariscal. In 1942, Alfonso Chadwick, father of Eduardo Chadwick, owner of today’s Errazuriz winery, purchased the Mariscal estate and planted about 400 hectares of Bordeaux varieties and produced a wine called Tocornal Fond de Cave. Concha y Toro purchased most of this vineyard from the Chadwick family in 1968, and since 1987 it has provided the fruit for Don Melchor. [Today, the original Tocornal vineyard provides the fruit for Don Melchor, the Amelia Chardonnay, and Viñedo Chadwick.]

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The 1988 Vintage

Today, the Don Melchor vineyard is divided into 7 blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 of Cabernet Franc, and each block is divided into parcels of 1 ha or less, resulting in 142 different lots, each of which is harvested and vinified separately. The winemaking is traditional, and elévage is done in mostly new French oak, with the percentage of new oak decreasing in recent years. The 1987 Don Melchor was the first Concha y Toro wine to be aged in French barriques. After aging in barrique, Concha y Toro sends about 150 vials from the different lots to Bordeaux where Eric Boissenot does the final blend. Eric’s father, Jacques Boissenot, helped define and blend Don Melchor beginning with the first vintage in 1987.

The making of Don Melchor has changed over time. From 1987-89, grapes were fermented in raulí wood foudres; from 1990 only stainless steel was used. The first vintages were all Cabernet Sauvignon, but later Enrique Tirado introduced Cabernet Franc to the blend. The oak regime has remained relatively constant, rising from 12 months in 60% new French oak in 1988 to 15 months in 76% new oak in 2010 and back down to 15 months in 66% new French oak in the most recent vintage, 2013. Perhaps the most notable difference over time is the level of alcohol: ranging from 12.2% in 1993 to 14.8% in 2008; recent vintages have been about 14.5%.

Don Melchor has only had three winemakers. The early vintages were made under Concha y Toro’s lead winemaker at the time, Goetz Von Gersdorff. Beginning in 1992, Pablo Morandé made Don Melchor for a period of four years, and Enrique Tirado has made the wines since 1997. Our tasting of Don Melchor includes one vintage (1988) made by Von Gersdorff, one vintage (1993) made by Morandé, and four vintages (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013) made by Tirado.

These are very different vintages. The 1988 vintage was an unusual, wet El Niño year, while1993 vintage was normal in most respects; 2008 was relatively dry and hot, 2010 was relatively cool, 2012 was very warm, and 2013 was the coldest vintage ever for Don Melchor.

The US Importer of Don Melchor is Excelsior Wines.

Tasting Notes

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The 1993 and 2008 Vintages

Concha y Toro 2013 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) ($110) 95 The 2013 Don Melchior is more evolved than might be expected from this cool vintage. The wine is fresh and spicy with dense cassis and hints of toasted oak, chocolate dust and violets. It’s especially elegant and finely structured with a focused finish. Aging in new French oak contributes spice and tannins, which should soften with time. Concha y Toro 2012 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) ($110) 93 Opaque ruby. From a warm vintage, this Don Melchior is accessible now. Lushly textured, it’s big, black and voluptuous with suave tannins and notes of blackberries, black olives, and dark loam. Has lots of power but lacks the refinement of the 2013 vintage. Concha y Toro 2010 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) 94 Opaque ruby purple. Reveals lively aromas of black currants and cassis with notes of graphite, spice and cedar. The mouthfeel is silky, and the wine is densely flavored, but it’s still backward and in need of time to evolve. Should be double decanted at a minimum. Concha y Toro 2008 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) 95 This wine shows Don Melchor at its best. The wine is rich and fresh with excellent concentration, fresh aromas and flavors, and perfect balance. While it can clearly age another decade or so, it’s drinking beautifully right now. Superb. Concha y Toro 1993 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) NR The 1993 vintage has lost some of its fruit, but it was surprisingly rich and dense with good balance. It showed secondary aromas and flavors of dark loam and dried mushrooms with green tobacco notes. It was of good length and ripe tannins. Concha y Toro 1988 Don Melchor Puente Alto (Alto Maipo) NR The first Don Melchor produced in a wet El Niño vintage, we did not have high expectations for this wine, so we were blown away when we tasted it. This wine is all about finesse, in contrast to the power of the 1993 vintage. While it showed some of the expected leathery notes of age, it also retains a surprising amount of fresh, dark red fruit. The wine is beautifully balanced with a layered palate and fine-grained tannins. It is silky in texture, showing complex aromas and flavors and finishing with good length and lingering freshness. One would never guess this wine is almost 30 years old.

 

 

[1] This historical information comes from Patricio Tapa’s 2011 article., “Almaviva and Don Melchor, 1987-2007”, Fine Wine.

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Eben Sadie’s Very Old Vine Wines from South Africa: The 2015 Vintage

IMG_8686Eben Sadie is often proclaimed as South Africa’s most original and talented winemaker. 2015 is cited as one of South Africa’s greatest vintages ever. And the vineyards that Eben sources fruit from for his Ouwingerdreeks [Old Vine Series] are among South Africa’s very oldest. Taken together, these factors should result in some of the most special wines he has ever produced, and that’s saying a lot. While visiting South Africa earlier this month, I tasted five of these old vine wines: Skerpioen, ‘T Voetpad, Kokerboom, Pofadder, and Soldaat. Reviews are given below. For reviews of older vintages of Sadie Family Wines see our Special Report # 55 Wines of South Africa: White Blends and Old Vines and Report # 30 The Wines of South Africa. Also, see our recent article on this blog, De Martino and Sadie Family: Old Vine Cinsault from Two Outstanding Winemakers in Chile and South Africa.

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Eben Sadie

Thanks to the investigative powers of famed viticulturist Rosa Kruger [see box at end of this article], Eben has access to uniquely sited, dry farmed, old bush vines that produce infinitesimal yields. He treats them with great care, practicing non-interventionist, gravity-flow winemaking. He uses wooden and concrete open top fermenters and ages the wines in old foudres, concrete eggs, and amphorae. The result is pure wines that show their terroir as well as the exceptional growing conditions of the 2015 vintage.

Broadbent Selections imports these hard-to-find wines to the US. Continue reading

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De Martino and Sadie Family: Old Vine Cinsault from Two Outstanding Winemakers in Chile and South Africa

img_8738In preparing our Chile and South Africa reports over the years, we’ve been privileged to meet and taste with Marcelo Retamal of Chile’s De Martino Winery and Eben Sadie of South Africa’s Sadie Family Winery. These outstanding winemakers seek out the best terroir and the oldest, dry farmed bush vines and make their wines naturally, using native yeast, often fermenting and aging in cement and amphorae, and adding minimal amounts of SO2. Marcelo sources his fruit from the Western Hemisphere’s oldest vineyards in Itata and some of the highest altitude ones in the upper Elqui Valley in the Andes. Eben has worked with South Africa’s preeminent viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, to identify that country’s oldest vineyards in the Swartland, Olifants River, and Piekenierskloof regions. [See our video interview with Rosa Kruger on the International Wine Review channel on You Tube.] Continue reading

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Dutton Goldfield: Outstanding 2014 Releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County

art-dutton-logoThe year 2014 was a rich, ripe vintage in Sonoma County, resulting in some absolutely outstanding wines like the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs we recently tasted from Dutton Goldfield. The highly successful Dutton Goldfield winery is the product of a partnership between Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield that was launched with a handshake in 1998. Located in Russian River Valley, Dutton Goldfield sources grapes from several vineyards throughout western Sonoma County. It produces outstanding vineyard-designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs mainly from the Russian River and Green Valleys. The bottlings from Dutton Ranch are among their best. Steve spends most of his time in the vineyard, and Dan spends his time in the cellar. The tasting room is located just outside Sebastopol, and that’s where we tasted the wines for our earlier report on The Wines of Sonoma County. Continue reading

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The Farm Winery: 2013-14 New Releases from Paso Robles

the-farm-wineryThese six new 2013 and 2014  releases from The Farm Winery in Paso Robles are terrific.  We are enthusiastic about them because they reveal outstanding vineyard management and restrained winemaking.   As a group these wines offer fruit forward purity, a silky texture and excellent balance. They are also round and mouth filling with good density and just the right amount of ripeness.  Oak-aging is relatively long but is well-done thanks to  the employment of used oak barrels and puncheons. Continue reading

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Holiday Toasts: Sparkling Rosés from Champagne and America

SPRK RoseChampagne and sparkling wines are festive by nature and perfect for holiday toasts. Lively and effervescent, they literally “sparkle”. Rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines are especially festive. They not only have bubbles; many have a touch more fruity sweetness and creamy texture than other sparklers. They are the perfect drink to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. With this in mind, we give our reviews of some rosé Champagnes we recently tasted. We also include our reviews of some of our favorite rosé sparkling wines from California and Oregon that we tasted for our report on North American Sparkling Wines as well as an interesting sparkling rosé from Chile made with the país (mission) grape that we feature in our upcoming report on Chile. Prices, when given, are approximate. Continue reading

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A Magnificent Wine Dinner for the Holidays by Two Outstanding Chefs

dris-and-domenicoTwo outstanding chefs, Domenico Cornacchia of Assaggi Osteria (right) and Driss Zahidi of Evo Bistro (left)  joined forces last evening preparing a magnificent holiday dinner for their customers.  The dinner was held at Assaggi Osteria in McLean, VA.  Continue reading

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