Archive for October, 2016

Mascota Vineyards Argentina Cabernet Franc 2013 Excellent Value

October 31st, 2016

Mascota Vineyards Mendoza Argentina
Logo courtesy: mascotavineyards.com

Experienced master winemaker Rodolfo “Opi” Sadler of Mascota Vineyards in Mendoza Argentina is producing some interesting wines at reasonable prices. This has been recognized already by The International Wine & Spirit Competition in London selecting them as Argentine Wine Producer of the Year 2014. Their portfolio of wines uses estate grapes from vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Maipo, and Uco Valley. Following on the heels of their Decanter Gold winning Cabernet Franc 2012 is the excellent 2013 from one of their best Estate vineyards Finca La Mascota in Cruz de Piedra of the Maipo Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. When you speak of Argentina you immediately think of Malbec but this vineyard provides amazing fruit for both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The latter from an old vineyard averaging 40 years of age (some 70) provides cool fruit yet with a good ripeness aged 12 months in used big barrels (preferred by Opi over smaller 225 litre) that results in a smooth textured structured elegant touch of licorice impressive wine. It is also really excellent value at $15.99 in the Vancouver BC market and worth seeking out as a bargain for the quality delivered wherever you live. Enjoy.

Opi is 3rd generation with his grandfather Austrian who did viticulture in Italy followed by his father buying a winery in Argentina initially for Italian varieties of Nebbiolo and Pinot Grigio. The name OPI is becoming a well known acronym on line for Other People’s Incompetence but that certainly doesn’t apply here where it is affectionately meant as Grandfather in German.

At the same price as the superb 2013 Cabernet Franc are individual varietal wines to check out produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Shiraz (Opi says it should be called Syrah). Check out the popular $14.99 oaky 2014 OPI Chardonnay (French & American oak of 2nd/3rd use). Prefer at $16.99 their first effort at Sparkling Champenoise Method 12 months on lees from 100% Pinot Noir Extra Brut (4-5 grams dosage) from a cooler windy region of Mendoza at 800 metres on clay soil with lots of stones. Labelled non-vintage but it all comes from the 2014 year. Some 2000 bottles are left in the winery still on their lees receiving more bottle aging. I encouraged them with this quality to do some magnum size next time. The 2013 Unanime Grand Vino Tinto Red ($28.99) shows Opi as a brilliant blender from deep stony San Carlos in the Uco Valley fruit of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Franc spending 20 months in new French oak barrels. The Malbec provides a “bigger mid palate” juiciness to the tobacco chocolate cassis flavours. There are also 30 cases of 2013 Big Bat a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon ($61.99) from sandy Altamira at 1100 metres in the Uco Valley with 20 days skin contact spending 18 months in 3000 litre French oak resulting in dark fruits full bodied that will be better with further aging but already received 94 points on JamesSuckling.com

This is a winery from Argentina worth checking out now. Particularly so as our last blog posting of October 28 pointed out that projections this year show Argentina wine production down 35% due to El Nino droughts and flooding. Have you tried any of the Mascota Vineyards wines?


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A taste of things to come?

October 28th, 2016

wine is down 5% in 2016

By Joseph Temple

Attention all fans of South American wine—you’ve been warned!

That’s because the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) just released its annual report estimating that global wine production is expected to fall to 259.5m hectolitres (mhl) this year.  This represents a drop of approximately 5 percent making 2016 one of the smallest vintages over the past two decades.  Climate change combined with violent and erratic weather patterns are the two main reasons for this year’s slump, which is resulting in a disparate impact globally. As countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand see increases in their output (New Zealand is reporting a 35 percent increase), other nations are not so fortunate.

In France, the world’s second largest producer of wine, they are anticipating a staggering 12 percent decrease this year.  The reasons vary: drought, fruit rot, hailstorms and spring frost are all listed as culprits for this year’s decline, which has led to an output of 41.9 million hectoliters—nearly seven million less than Italy, the world’s top producer.  However, this may be just the tip of the iceberg as the Burgundy region bears the worst of these changes.  Two years ago, some winemakers lost up to 90 percent of their crop while chardonnay and pinot noir were down 30 and 50 percent respectively in 2013.  If this situation becomes the new norm, some are even questioning whether Burgundy’s climate can produce its signature grapes anymore.

Another country expected to take a gigantic hit is South Africa, which will lose about 19 percent this year.  But this pales in comparison to South America whose two top wine producing nations, Chile and Argentina, are set to lose 21 and 35 percent respectively.  In addition to the warmer temperatures, the El Niño phenomenon, which is one of the strongest ever recorded, has caused massive droughts and flooding throughout the continent with Argentina’s famous Mendoza region experiencing four times more rain than the average in April, resulting in massive crop losses. Unable to adapt (Brazil might lose up to 50 percent of its vines this year), fans of Malbec might want to stock up as Latin American winemakers enter a very tumultuous time.   According to one Chilean wine executive, “This drop in production will affect the supply of Chilean entry level wines, and will speed up the premiumization process of our industry for export. We should also see an increase in the price for top Chilean wines.”

Overall, with annual demand between 239.7 million and 246.6 million hectoliters, unless you are a fan of the regions mentioned above, these recent events shouldn’t tip the scales too much.  However, this report is a stark reminder of just how weather intensive the art of winemaking is.  “If there is one product that is vulnerable to weather events, it’s wine,” said OIV Director General Jean-Marie Aurand.


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Ask Sid: Best Service Temperature for Ports

October 26th, 2016
Ask your question here

best temperature for serving port
By liz west from Boxborough, MA (port) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Should I serve my Vintage Port and Tawny Port at the same temperature?

Answer: You could but I wouldn’t. Both types should be served not too cold to mask the bouquet and the flavours nor too warm as the alcohol of 20 degrees will show too prominently. It is a personal choice as to the exact temperature that suits you best for both but most of us prefer Tawny port to be served at a couple of degrees centigrade cooler (say around 10-16) than our Vintage Port (between 12-18). I prefer the lower end of the range for both. Enjoy.


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50 Year Old Single Harvest Tawny Ports by Taylor Fladgate

October 24th, 2016

50 Year Old Single Harvest Tawny Ports

The Taylor port house dates back to 1692 and has never been bought or sold still carrying on now by their 7th generation. The quality of all their ports is impressive. Last week Jorge Ramos the Sales & Marketing Manager for The Fladgate Partnership (www.fladgatepartnership.com) that also includes Fonseca and Croft (acquired from Guinness in 2001) showed 4 rare consecutive Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest Tawny Ports at 50 years of age all selling at just under $260 Canadian per bottle presented in a special wooden box. They all are fortified at 20 degree alcohol from one specific year that has been aged in neutral seasoned wood barrels of 600 litre size for a longer time than the 10/20/30/40 year tawny ports on the market.

Our discussion noted that since the 1990s the better quality of grape brandy allowed from world sources has helped make Vintage Port more approachable earlier on. There is increasing demand for Vintage Port in the half bottle format. Jorge indicated 2 big issues that they are continuing to deal with in the Douro are erosion (angled terraces help with this and to collect water as no irrigation is allowed) and weed control (planting clover helps). They are following organic practices but don’t label the bottles as such. The 2016 vintage is just concluding where their 10 properties utilized 425 workers for the harvest and the hard work endurance test of traditional foot-trodding of the grapes in the lagares.

1964: 112 g/dm3 residual sugar & 3.68 g/dm3 total acidity (tartaric) – first released in 2014 this has a lighter colour, drier with less sweetness of these four, lovely apricot and coffee notes are enticing.

1965: 163 g/dm3 residual sugar & 4.67 g/dm3 total acidity (tartaric) – greener year with warm but wetter conditions has produced a lighter colour like 1964 but shows wonderful smooth fine flavours now.

1966: 183 g/dm3 residual sugar & 5.55 g/dm3 total acidity (tartaric) – Acclaimed impressive Vintage Port year with the dry hot conditions (including near record May) and shows here as a darker mahogany green olive rim 5o year Tawny with most sweetness of residual sugar with refreshing acidity balance. Complex.

1967: 163 g/dm3 residual sugar & 5.10 g/dm3 total acidity (tartaric) – Irregular flowering and less ripeness than 1966 produced fewer bottles but has a similar deep mahogany look with freshness. There will be a special bottling of this 1967 to celebrate the upcoming 1867 Canadian Confederation.


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Book Review: The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine

October 21st, 2016

book review of the billionaire's vinegar soon to be a movie

Over the past few years, the issue of wine fraud has been a hot topic of discussion amongst collectors and seasoned oenophiles. Earlier this year, a message board posting on the popular website Wineberserkers.com raised serious alarm bells about several supposedly rare bottles for sale in Geneva. The evidence turned out to be so convincing that the auction house embarrassingly had to pull several lots from the collection, casting a dark cloud on all future auctions. In the realm of documentaries, a new film titled Sour Grapes debuted this summer chronicling the story of notorious fraudster Rudy Kurniawan. Currently residing in a United States Correctional Institution for selling fakes on a grand scale, when his home was raided back in 2012, law enforcement found “17,000 labels and bottles soaking in the sink to soak the labels off,” according to the FBI.

Covered in the pages of Wine Spectator and on numerous websites and blogs dedicated to wine, this fascinating subject is poised to break out into the mainstream when The Billionaire’s Vinegar, a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey hits the silver screen. Based on Benjamin Wallace’s 2008 book of the same name, the movie will highlight one of the most notorious cases of wine fraud in the United States when in 1985 a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite allegedly owned by President Thomas Jefferson went for an unheard of $156,000—an accomplishment later tarnished after it was discovered that this and a series of other “Jefferson bottles” were all forgeries. So before you go out to buy a ticket, be sure to get your hands on a copy of this captivating story. After all, it’s much cooler to read the book before seeing the movie!

Written as narrative nonfiction, the author uses a template similar to the 2003 mega bestseller The Devil In The White City, where as the reader eagerly turns the pages of this true crime mystery, they will simultaneously soak up a ton of historical knowledge. As Wallace mentioned in a talk to promote the book, part of his inspiration for writing The Billionaire’s Vinegar came from the lack of wine books appealing to a casual crossover audience. Unlike some dry technical guides that deal with climate and topography or the latest edition of Wine for Dummies, this is the definitely the one to get if you want to learn more about wine. Even if you just like to have the occasional glass with dinner, by the end of this book, you’ll be able to cite all sorts of interesting anecdotes to your friends about famous estates like Château Pétrus and Château d’Yquem. There’s no need to memorize a bunch of banal facts; this story will do far more to advance your appreciation of wine.

While many see the whole issue of wine fraud as nothing more than a rich man’s problem, The Billionaire’s Vinegar is interesting in that it shows us that anybody can be duped, no matter how much money they have or what their status is in life. In fact, it is simply amazing how former rock band manager Hardy Rodenstock, the man who claimed to have “discovered” a series of bottles in a walled-up Paris cellar containing the engraved initials “Th.J.” was able to play many in the wine community like a violin. Trading in a top hat for a fine tailored suit, this glorified carnival barker succeeded in creating the illusion that buyers, which included the Forbes family, were “drinking history” by bidding on bottles purportedly owned by America’s most famous oenophile.

Even more intriguing is despite the fact that alarm bells that were ringing nonstop in the aftermath of this auction, bidders decided to simply ignore them, treating Rodenstock’s assurances as undisputed dogma. Wallace writes, “[Monticello research associate Cinder] Goodwin further noted that Jefferson had requested that the marking take place at the vineyard, which didn’t explain how wines from four different vineyards seemed to have been engraved by the same hand … When Goodwin’s report came out, [Christie’s auctioneer Michael] Broadbent and Rodenstock reacted not with gratitude … but with rage.”

It was this rage, combined with denial, abstraction, and their respective reputations in the wine world that kept this myth alive for nearly twenty years. Desperately holding on to the notion that they owned a rare piece of Americana, many buyers developed tunnel vision, refusing to listen to any facts that contradicted the Rodenstock narrative. And as the book demonstrates, back in the 1980s and 1990s, before the Internet explosion when information was more compartmentalized and not as widely available, it was difficult to put all the pieces together in order to create the big picture. After finishing The Billionaire’s Vinegar, it makes you happy that we live in an era of instant communication where citizen journalists can use websites, message boards and social media as giant megaphones to inform the masses. Had those means existed back in 1985, the Jefferson bottles would have probably been exposed as a gigantic fraud in matter of days, not decades.

Like any good detective, the reader follows along as a rock solid case is built against Rodenstock and his wine bottles. Although there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence throughout the story, you can’t help but feel a great sense of gratification when you finally learn about the smoking gun courtesy of billionaire Bill Koch and his team of high-priced investigators. Sparing no expense in uncovering this mystery, it would take the efforts of Scotland Yard and the FBI to finally prove this fraud beyond a reasonable doubt.

By combining wine history and true crime together into an irresistible blend, Wallace has created a riveting story that has attracted the attention of both wine lovers and Hollywood. Appealing to a wide cross section of the population, his book introduces the casual audience to the major players, estates and vintages in the industry, forming a bedrock of knowledge in wine appreciation that makes people want to go out and learn more.


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