Alko: Malbec Barrel Select 2009 by Norton (Argentina, Mendoza)

This is a wine that has been long available in Alko. For many years I remember that the vintage on sale was 2007. It only recently changed to 2009. Nowadays Alko announces 2010 on its Internet site but 2009 is still widely available.

The Malbec Barrel Select 2007 was a very interesting wine and considering the winemaking of this category of wine, I did not expect the 2009 to be too far from the 2007: which means, a bargain. Unfortunately I was proved wrong.

This wines feels first pretty unpleasant in the nose with dominance of fermentation and dairy aromas. The mouth feels unbalanced and diluted. There is not a lot to add, the wine is unpleasant to drink, not really well done. I don’t expect it to get really better considering the lack of structure. Is it just a problem with this bottle? The wine did not change in three days. In my opinion, this is a major pass.

Wineops’ rating: 54/100 ; 0 0

ALKO: Malbec from Chile vs. Malbec from Argentina

Earlier this week I had the idea to compare two wine from ALKO which were close to each other in many aspects: they are made from the same grape, they cost the same and they are more or less made the same way. These wines were two Malbecs.

They were Malbec Reserva 2009 by Viña Montes and Malbec 2010 by Alamos.

It is indeed sad that the vintage was not the same but it is less a concern as when it comes to « old world » wines. The big, the main difference between the two is geographical. Viña Montes is a prominent Chilean winery, located in the Colchagua Valley. Their Icon wine are Montes Alpha M or Montes Folly. Alamos is a winery located in Argentina, Mendoza and is connected to the prestigious Catena Zapata winery. They can arguably be considered as one of the very best winemakers of whole Argentina. Basically, we have in front of us the entry level of two of the best wineries of South America.

My opinion about these wine producers, I shall give you right now. I really love the work done by the Catena family. They work quite in the old world way, stressing on terroir and trying to make wines that are true to their origins. Also these are wines not designed to be award winers, with for instance a clever management of the ripening process and a reasonable use of oak. I cannot but advise you to taste, at least once, the top wines from this estate. On the contrary Montes wines are much more modern. They are very demonstrative, concentrated fruit bombs. Always on the top in wine tasting panels (when you  taste without food), they tend to be very awkward on a table. The reasons for that is a choice to pick extremely ripe fruit and make an extensive use of new oak (both French and American). As a result these are often wines that will blow you mind with the first glass and then get you bored or tired because of their lack of balance.

The confrontation was very interesting. First, Montes:

The Malbec Reserva 2009 by Montes is a little big wine. Little because this is not the top range wine but big by the mouthfeel. In the nose, it is very ripe dark fruit, almost jammy. There is a strong oaky dominant: cacao, vanilla and a touch of coco. The wine is far more pleasant than 6 month ago. In the mouth we are struck by the alcohol level and the residual sugar (maybe 3-4 g/l). The wine displays little awkwardness and is not so great in the long term. However it was much better after 6 to 12h opening. The main difficulty with this wine will be to find a good pairing. It will go along many meals but it will not be perfect with any.

Wineops rating: 64/100 ; 0 0 (69/100 after 6h)

Overall the Alamos Malbec 2010 proved to be much more balanced. The nose presented a dominant of fresh red fruit underlined by a nice vegetal touch. Mouth was fresh and balanced, completely dry and with very pleasant tannins. It is a good and food friendly wine. It will fit well with grilled meat and stew. On the opposite of the Montes, it did not improve after opening. In my opinion this is a prefect example of the connexion between a grape and a location. Mendoza definitely IS the place for Malbec whereas Chile is just a possible match.

Wineops rating: 70/100 ; 0 0

Link to ALKO: HERE and THERE

Alko : Urban Malbec-Tempranillo 2009 by O. Fournier (Argentina, Mendoza)

The Malbec-Tempranillo Urban is produced by one of the big wine companies of Mendoza: O. Fournier. I was intrigued by this blend because it is really clever, at least from an intellectual point of view.

Malbec is a grape that brings a lot of color, aromas, alcool and sweetness. It is easily concentrated, full bodied. The drawbacks are this high concentration, rather high alcool and high tannic structure, as well as a slight excess of power in the youth. In Cahors, France, they blend the entry level wines with Merlot (up to 20%), a grape which has the ability to bring out the fruity side of the Malbec by making it softer and more friendly to the palate. This doesn’t really work in Argentina because of the very warm climate, which tends to have the Merlot more concentrated or sometimes under ripe… in both cases badly suited for the goal of blending it with Malbec to get a more enjoyable wine.

Tempranillo is the grape from Spain, it is versatile, able to sustain a very warm climate and has the characteristic of keeping a very high acidity whatever the warmth. Also, it can give decent result even with high yields. Blending a very concentrated powerful grape with a more delicate and acidic one is definitely a good idea and that is why I had a good feeling about this wine.

And truly this entry level wine really manage well. The Urban 2009 is very pleasant on the nose : red fruits and a hint of toasted aromas, very classy. The mouthfeel is on the fresh side with a very good acidity as well as enough power from the Malbec. It is slightly too simplistic but the overall result is good. In other words, this is a wine I would recommend for the summer, perfect for barbecue or any simple food like that.

Wineops’ rating : 68/100 ; 0 0

This is not a GREAT wine, but at that price point (8,85€) it is a really value for money wine. The only drawback is a little too light mouth. Otherwise a nice product.

Link to Alko : Urban 2009

Alko’s: Alamos Chardonnay 2009 by Catena (Argentina, Mendoza)

Today we travel to Argentina with a wine from Mendoza. Mendoza is the leading wine region in Argentina, in terms of quantity as well as reputation. Most grape varieties grown are red: Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah. But some good results are to be found with Chardonnay and Torrontes. Sauvignon blanc and Viognier have also been experiented however I still did not have the opportunity to taste some of these rarities.

The characteristic of Mendoza region is the altitude. It is a very warm vineyard but it is situated between 450m and 1,700m of altitude therefore making it possible to grow vines. The climate is extremely dry, desertic. However the Andes provides with an unlimited water supply used to balance the lack of rainfall. Best vineyards are naturally the highest ones because of the lower temperature and the more important variations between night and day.

Alamos Chardonnay 2009 is sourced from this region and more specifically, high-altitude vineyard. The result is a very interesting wine.

In the nose, it is quite expressive without any of the excess, which is common in South World white wines. The main aromas are stone fruits and a hint of mango-passion fruit. One can find a touch of oakiness but nothing too powerful. The balance in the mouth is good. Same aromas are displayed with a medium long finish. In the end, it is a very serviceable value Chardonnay. It is much better than any Chilean Chardonnay I tasted until now. Very recommandable!

Wineops’ rating: 75/100 ; 0 0

Very pleasant and easy-drinking Chardonnay. Textbook, a reference of what can be made from this grape with decent winemaking technics. Will be paired with all kind of not too spicy food, like Karjalanpiirakka ja munavoi.

Link to Alko page: HERE. I would add that the Alamos collection is in general very drinkable. Enjoy!

Quick contest : Santa Ana, Reserve Malbec-Shiraz 2006 vs 2007 (Argentine, Mendoza)

Extérieurement, ces deux vins sont strictement identiques, jusqu’au titre alcoométrique (!). Il était pertinent de les comparer afin de voir ce qu’il pouvait rester d’effet millésime sur ce type de vin.

Y a-t-il une différence ? oui. Est-elle signifiante ? non. Voilà donc pour la synthèse en deux phrases.

L’aspect « marque » de ce vin est flagrant à l’ouverture. A l’exception des tannins plus présents dans le 2006, le vin est le même. En revanche, en s’oxygénant, l’effet millésime ne ressort toujours pas, mais l’effet vieillissement est marqué. Clairement, le 2006 est déjà oxydé. Le fruit disparaît très rapidement tandis qu’il persiste sur deux jours dans le 2007 et il ne reste qu’une asséchante trame tannique. C’est dommage car en bouche, il avait une jolie matière.

Nous ne ferons donc qu’une seule description.

Santa Ana Reserve Malbec-Shiraz est un vin qui rassemble les principales caractéristiques du vin du Nouveau Monde que l’on s’imagine : acidité en berne, arôme sûrmuris atypisants, tannins légers (2006) à absents (2007), longueur inexistante. Un vin technique, donc, où l’élevage est plutôt bien géré (avec sa petite touche vanille/coco pas trop présente), qui n’apporte ni grand plaisir, ni grand déplaisir.

Ma note : 52/100 ; 0 0 (2007) et 48/100 ; 0 — (2006)

Une comparaison instructive qui montre un vin à consommation réellement immédiate, où l’on ne se souciera donc du millésime que pour choisir le plus récent possible.

Pinot Noir Oak Cask 2008 by Bodegas Trapiche (Argentine, Mendoza)

Entrons dans le vif du sujet de cette dégustation :

Pinot Noir Oak Cask 2008, Trapiche ; au nez, pas mal de fruit et… pas mal de fruit. En bouche, acidité désagréable, amertume en finale. Arômes très verts. Plaisir = 0, typicité = 0… Rien à ajouter, ce vin est un échec. Non seulement je n’aime pas (comme les Pinotage), mais ça n’est même pas intéressant (au contraire des Pinotage).

Ma note : 43/100 ; 0 0

J’ai été extrêmement généreux sur ce vin. Ma note est moins sévère que le compte-rendu ne le laisse penser car j’ai pondéré celle-ci du fait que si l’on ne sait pas ce qu’est un Pinot Noir, on est un tout petit peu moins sévère. Vous comprendrez donc que le choc de ce vin c’est son absence totale de conformité au référent. Ce vin ne sens ni ne goûte ABSOLUMENT RIEN du Pinot Noir. C’est tellement évident que je me demande si 1/ ils ne se sont pas planté sur les greffons 2/ c’est un mensonge éhonté et quelques pourcentages de Malbec ou autre Merlot ont été versé au breuvage.

J’avais, en décidant de goûter ce vin, conscience du risque que l’expérience comportait. La Syrah est déjà un cépage qui supporte mal le climat de Mendoza, le Pinot Noir confirme qu’il est sans doute impossible de réaliser ce type de vin dans la région. Trapiche et son PN Oak Cask est un pur produit marketing (avoir un Pinot Noir car c’est demandé en ce moment). C’est en revanche la seule véritable déception que j’ai eu sur cette série… to be continued…