ALKO : Pinot Noir Limited Edition 2011 by Montes (Chile, Casablanca)

Producer: Montes

Wine: Pinot Noir Limited Edition

Vintage: 2011

Origin: Chile, Casablanca

Price range: 10-12€ (Finland, Alko)

Available at Alko: Yes (09/13), 443697

Montes is a producer with good reputation in Chile. The wines, specifically the entry level might sometimes suffer from quite high ripeness and sometimes a too long oak ageing.

This Pinot Noir Limited Edition 2011 does not display this common defect. The nose is pretty brillant. It is very expressive and quite complexe. It starts with a display of intense dark berries, then comes the spices (a characteristic aroma in Chilean Pinot Noir). Slowly this develops into a touch of cacao and a very pleasant earthyness. At this point I am thinking that Montes nailed it!

However the mouth does not deliver. There the fruits and the aromatic complexity fades. It is a bit watery, very acidic and high in alcohol. Only in the finish dark cherries are coming back. It is not very enjoyable and leaves no desire for a second glass.

So it is a bargain for a Pinot Noir and it is a decent wine but this doesn’t blow ones mind. It might however benefit from a couple of year ageing… but I cannot say for sure.

Wineops’ rating: 59/100 ; 5 ?

ALKO : Pinot Noir Las Brisas 2011 by Viña Leyda (Chile, San Antonio)

Producer: Viña Leyda (belongs to Viña San Pedro)

Wine: Las Brisas Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2011

Origin: Chile, San Antonio & Leyda, Leyda Valley, Las Brisas

Price range: 10-15€ (Finland, Alko)

Available at Alko: Yes (02/13), 475537

Today I change a bit the presentation to make it more clear. Tribute to many a wine blog I know… I must acknowledge that this is more practical and easier to read.

Las Brisas Pinot Noir by Viña Leyda is a classic from Alko. The earliest vintage I tasted is 2008 (not the best vintage ever). It has always delivered and it consistently got better. This bottle is however a little bit problematic as there is a strong reduction in the nose at the opening.

Reduction (as a defect) is not an accurate word but it describes, by opposition to oxidation, the state of a lack of oxygen. Reduction happens in young wines, with specific grapes or specific winemaking… It is usually not « lethal » to the wine, the wine just needs breathing through decanting or just ageing. This reduction issue is more and more common with the growing number of red wines bottled under screwcap. It is all the stronger with reductive grapes (Pinot Noir and Syrah). If reduction is due to the screwcap, it can sometimes be almost unfixable: I had one bottle which required three (!) days of decanting before getting rid of the smell. In the present case, the bottle needed a lot of breathing (maybe a night) but it was drinkable after a couple of hours of decanting.

Besides this very strong smell of wet socks, one could find a very nice red fruit and slight spices (pepper). The wine is well balanced and structured enough. The mouth was much better a nice balance of cherry, aromatic herbs and discrete earthiness. Very balanced in terms of alcohol, acidity and sweetness. In the mouth, it is one of the best Las Brisas I have tasted. This is an inbetween classic and modern style Pinot Noir. It is not over ripe and over extracted as sometimes Pinot Noir can be in Chile (like Ocio 2009, by Cono Sur, which tasted like a Syrah a few month ago) but it is far more fruity than a Burgundy version of the grape. I can only advise this wine and recommend cellaring it for a year or two to get the best out of it. It already improved greatly since the original release.

Wineops’ rating: 76/100 ; 5 + (the rating would probably have been higher without the reduction)


Ocio 2009 by Cono Sur (Chile, Casablanca Valley)

Ocio is THE Pinot Noir of Cono Sur and probably one of the most ambitious of Chile.

The grapes come from the Casablanca Valley, one of the coldest and best place in Chile, with a much cooler climate than most other regions. Soil is sandy with a bit of clay, climate of 2009 was rather good (especially compared to the quite bad 2008). It has been all manually handled and spent 14 month in oak barrels.

First, I must say that I open this wine probably a bit too early as it will probably improve and be at its best in 3 to 5 years.

The color is deep… really deep dark ruby with almost purple reflections (which is not common in a Pinot Noir). It is almost impossible to see through. The nose is very concentrated and shows hints of pepper, dark ripe fruits. Black cherries, plums… it is not overripe aromas but on the verge of excess. The mouth is surprisingly tannic for a Pinot Noir but it is quite soft. We find back the same aromas and the fruit again, but rather on the sweet side. The length is good but not astonishing, and so is the general complexity.

So is it a good wine? Well that is a difficult question. As a Pinot Noir, it is definitely not a good one. The wine is so over extracted and over ripe that it displays none of the character of the Pinot. It rather taste like a Syrah! Otherwise, one cannot say that it is bad. The balance is good, the aromas are pleasant. It is a bit heavy and a bit simple but this should improve. However as an Icon wine of Cono Sur, this is a failure. We do taste a good wine but nothing exceptional. At Alko’s price, it was absolutely a NO-Buy (over 50€), but you can still find it around 35€ at Helsinki-Vantaa airport or on Viking Line.

Wineops’ rating: 75/100 ; 5 +

Ocio 2009 by Cono Sur

ALKO: Pinot Noir Tres Vinedos 2010 by Cartagena (Chile, San Antonio Valley)

During the past year the greatest surprise about Chilean wines has been the consistent quality of their Pinot Noir. Among all the wine I tasted, this is the variety that performed the best. Almost each was pleasant and easy to drink (which is far from being a general characteristic of wines from Chile). Today I will present you one of the most exclusive Pinot Noir of Alko’s selection.

Cartagena Pinot Noir Tres Vinedos 2010 is grown in the cool region of San Antonio. It is in the same place that you will find Viña Leyda which produce also very good Pinot Noir (Las Brisas and Lot 33). The wine is extremely expressive in the nose. Very stong fruit flavour emerge from the beverage, among them cherry and strawberry. Yet, being powerful, it is not so complex and it absolutely lack elegance. In the mouth, this is juicy and also very fruit driven. It has a very strong « fruitiness » in the sense that you feel almost that it is a fruit juice. Definitely the sugar is visible. Also you can find spiciness and little toasted aromas coming from a well managed aging period. But, there is a « but », this is very rough. This is too much, too strong, too forced. It feels like a doll with extra makeup. I don’t get this wine. In the end it is not so pleasant to drink. In my opinion, this is an extremely technical, oenological wine. They wanted to get as much fruit as they could (they succeeded) but as a result, the wine is totally awkward and not balanced at all. And to that extend, this is a failure. I do not recommend this wine and I don’t see it improve over the years. If you are looking for a modern style Pinot Noir, fruity and elegant, you can rather try K1 from Australia.

Wineops’ rating: 64/100 ; 0 0

Link to Alko: HERE

ALKO: Adobe Reserva Syrah-Mourvèdre-Merlot 2010 by Emiliana (Chile, Rapel Valley)

Emiliana is a well known producer of Chile, located in the Central Valley. Here in Finland, it is famous for being an organic (luomu) grower. Previously I have not been totally convinced by their icon wine called Coyam. It is a good wine but nothing extraordinary.

Adobe is their mid-range brand. Wines that are available here around 10€. They are in the category « Reserva », meaning that they aged a bit or a lot in oak barrels.

This Adobe Red is very surprising when you consider the blend. Syrah and Mourvèdre are commonly blended in Languedoc or in the Rhône Valley, but never with Merlot, which is a grape from south-western France. I honestly must say that I doubted the result. Merlot is a common « blend partner » because it has a great ability to smoother the edge of more powerful grapes. For instance, it is known for its quality, when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon like in Bordeaux or with Malbec, like in Cahors. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec being grapes with very powerful structure in terms of tannins and mouthfeel. Merlot has then the effect of bringing out a more soft and expressive fruit while making the tannins less harsh. But when it comes to Syrah and Mourvèdre, these are two grapes not very full of tannins with aromas like spices, aromatic herbs, pepper, game… fruit is only secondary. As a result, blending all of them will make Syrah and Mouvèdre lose most of their personality and thus most of their interest.

This is no surprise in the glass. The wine is very plain. True, the oak aging is very well handled with no excess, but the aromatics are just not interesting. In the palate, the structure is ok, a little bit light, but again it does not work in term of taste. This is extremely boring. I would not advise this wine, even if it is technically well made.

Wineops’ rating: 57/100 ; 0 0

Link to Alko’s page: HERE.

ALKO: 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2007 by Cono Sur (Chile, Casablanca Valley)

The past few years I had the great pleasure to see how fast the Chilean wines improved. First they stopped being over the top fruit and oak bombs. Second, they developed their terroir. One great example is Cono Sur Vision label. In 2009 it was sourced from different locations in Chile. In 2010, it became an only Bio-bio valley wine.

Connected with the first point, they also managed to deal better with the warm and dry climate, which often leads to under-ripped (yes I said under-ripped) wines in terms of flavours and over-ripped in terms of sugar. This has dramatically diminished and a very good example would come from the comparison of wines like Las Brisas Pinot Noir by Viña Leyda from the recents vintages (2006-2010). The difference is stunning. The same with Syrah, another sensitive grape (contrary to what is usually thought).

A few day ago we tasted 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2007 by Cono Sur, which is one of the top range wines of the brand. Dark rubis colour with clay-red reflections, showing that this wine starts to be aged. The nose is a splendid and deep example of Pinot Noir. Fruit is elegant and blended with subtle oaky notes and earthiness. This is layered and structured, very nice complexity. The mouth is rond, silky yet powerful, like any good Pinot should be. Same dominants with a long and tasty finish. As they say, this is great stuff! The style is an in-between modern and traditional burgundy taste and it could easily be mistaken with a Village Pinot Noir from Côte de Nuits. This wine is highly recommandable. One of the very best bottles I tasted from Alko.

Wineops’ rating: 88/100 ; 0 0

A Pinot Noir at his best. Ready to drink. This wine should not be opened long before tasting. A around 25€, it really is a good value for money wine, especially to match a fine Christmas meal.

Link to Alko: HERE

Beware that this is a product from the « sale to order » selection (« tilattavat » listing). To get these wine, it is very easy, you go to your local Alko and order directly the bottle.

Pinot Noir 20 Barrels 2007 by Cono Sur

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