Archive for April, 2017

Ask Sid: Best Style of Tawny Ports?

April 5th, 2017
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styles of tawny port

Question: I have become a big fan of Tawny Ports. What is the best style?

Answer: There really is no best style of tawny ports but it comes down to your subjective personal preference. This was clearly shown again at a Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP) tasting I recently attended. Tawny comes in 3 main types: Reserve, Vintage Colheita (with a minimum of 7 years in oak) and those with an indication of age usually 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old. This last type is becoming very popular for interesting current drinking. At my tasting the 10 year old tawny still showed some aged pink colour at the rim with a hint of red fruits combined with figs and dates. Two 20 year olds (which usually offer the best value for the quality) showed completely differently. Graham had a deeper bronze look with woodsy spicy roasted nuts & coffee showing richness & weight in a long finish. The 20 year Sandeman was a much lighter amber colour displaying more citrus orange peel apricot notes with more acidity for freshness. Votes were evenly divided for a preference of the two opposite styles. A 30 year Taylor had a deep brown mahogany look showing the result of a longer oak time with older complex flavours but it is much more expensive than the 20 year old. While I don’t always agree that the best wine is the wine you like best when it comes to tawny ports that definitely is the case.

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Château Léoville Las Cases Vertical

April 3rd, 2017

Château Léoville Las Cases
By BillBl (Flickr: Chateau Leoville Las Cases) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most respected properties in Bordeaux is Château Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases in St. Julien ranked a second growth in the 1855 Classification. In fact many collectors feel strongly that it is the best of the super seconds even giving the first growths a competitive run in most vintages. The late Michel Delon did a remarkable job during the eighties and nineties to raise the quality of this property starting what is now a common practice of strict selection of the best casks for the Grand Vin. Their second wine Clos du Marquis has developed a loyal following and is now recognized as an excellent St Julien in its own right at a fair price – check out the 2000 vintage! Michel’s son Jean-Hubert carries on this tradition and all their wines remain so consistently elegant.

Your scribe follows this château closely and enjoyed the opportunity to try 9 vintages of same at a dinner vertical on March 28, 2017. Some brief impressions:

2003: Good roasted fruit showing full ripe extraction. A bit atypical for the property in a variable hot vintage. Actually prefer the excellent developing Pauillac Château Duhart-Milon 2003 over this one.

2000: Deep colour with a more classic still somewhat subdued nose expressing some cassis cedar and lead pencil notes. Like the full smooth textures with harmonious balanced pure flavours. Showing well indeed!

1998: Also dark but shows cooler fruit from a vintage that favoured the Right Bank in a fresh lively more herbal style just coming into its own.

1995: Very dark and deep look. Impressive concentration of mineral fruit in a textbook St. Julien style. Tried against the riper sweeter more highly regarded 1996 last year where the 1995 was of at least equal quality. Another excellent showing here where the strict selection for the Grand Vin clearly shows. No rush to consume.

1990: Surprisingly mature paling rim. First wine in vertical that has a compelling bouquet of aged complexity. Charming delicious more forwardly with a softer lower acidity concentrated profile. Popular.

1986: Impressive still young colour. Like the classic very Léoville Las Cases cabernet structure and easy to see why this was a favourite vintage of Michel Delon. Still showing fresh vigour in a drier still tannic mode. Be patient because the future looks very bright for this one.

1985: Interesting to compare with the 1986. This is lighter and showing more herbs from this merlot favoured year. The elegant balance and more supple tannins are lovely for earlier drinking before the younger year. 

1982: Fond history memories of this beauty. Recall trying it blind on initial release in the mid eighties at those exciting Vintner’s Club tastings held every Thursday at Café Bedford 761 Post Street in San Francisco. Just think about this wonderful club concept and foresight of always serving most Thursdays 12 quality wines double blind for the member’s amazing price of $6.50. One of them turned out to be 12 St. Julien wines of the 1982 vintage where your scribe was blown away by the impressive depth of power plus elegance of the 1982 Léoville Las Cases. This was confirmed shortly after that by another tasting in Vancouver by the Commanderie de Bordeaux of 12 wines from 1982 where Las Cases again showed best over Ducru, Lynch Bages, Palmer and worthy others. Been on a continual search for bottles of this wine ever since those tastings and have enjoyed many of the treasures collected. Here coming in with high expectations again the bottle was excellent & magical with extra dimensions but after 35 years there is inevitable bottle variation resulting in this one not being one of the top ones tried in the last 10 years. Not hedonistic enough! Still it can score close to 100 with a well stored best bottle.

1979: High fill bottle with red young colour preserved by the higher acidity. Leaner simpler from not a heralded year but was the surprise of the night. Holding so well and matches a slow roasted leg of lamb course brilliantly. Tried another 1979 last year against the 1978 with more fruit and the still tannic concentrated 1975 both of which showed more depth than 1979. Encouraging nonetheless to see how all these older vintages of Las Cases dependably age.

Have you tried Château Léoville Las Cases and do you have a preferred vintage?

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Chile beats France: The Berlin Tasting of 2004 and its impact on the world of wine

April 1st, 2017

Vinedo Chadwick 2000 berlin tasting 2004

By Joseph Temple

Due to a series of articles, books, and even a major motion picture, most wine drinkers probably know something about California’s upset victory over France during a 1976 blind tasting known as the Judgement of Paris. Dismantling the perception of French superiority widely held across Europe (as well as in America), the Stephen Spurrier organized event proved to be a watershed moment in the history of wine, turning the spotlight away from Bordeaux and Burgundy and onto the Golden State. Red in the face after such a high profile loss, many in France believed that the whole debacle was nothing more than a wild fluke—a fluke that would never be duplicated.

However, at a blind tasting held twenty-eight years later at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Berlin, Francophiles were shocked to learn that two Chilean wines had beaten Château Latour, Margaux and Lafite, all first-growths considered sacrosanct to oenophiles. At the time, it seemed surreal that the Republic of Chile, seen by many as a backwater region and described by one British writer as the “Volvo of the wine world” could pull off an upset arguably greater than the Judgement of Paris. But for new-world enthusiasts who felt that French wine was becoming increasingly banal, the 2004 tasting became their coup de grace.

While America had Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, the Chilean equivalent became Viñedo Chadwick, a wine harvested in the foothills of the Andes. Possessing a Mediterranean climate, the 15 hectare vineyard built on a former polo field became known as one the country’s best places to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. And it’s 2000 vintage, which stole the show in Berlin was described by one wine writer as “voluptuous and full of ripe plum, prune and blackberry flavours, with notes of vanilla and coffee.”

Taking this wine on the road to compete against the very best, vineyard owner Eduardo Chadwick faced some stiff competition in Germany. In front of Stephen Spurrier and 35 other judges, 16 cabernet-dominated blends from France, Italy, and Chile squared off in what was being promoted as a repeat of the famous tasting held in Paris. Competing for the top prize included Lafite-Rothschild 2000 (Robert Parker score: 100), Margaux 2000 (RP: 100), Latour 2000 (RP: 96), Margaux 2001 (RP: 93) and Latour 2001 (RP: 95).

Despite this impressive collection of Bordeaux, the upstart Viñedo Chadwick and its cousin Seña 2001 took home first and second place respectively, making a milestone in the Chilean wine industry. As one observer described, “What they [some judges] told us was that if they had seen the labels beforehand, they wouldn’t have chosen the wine.” Riding this whirlwind of international publicity, Chadwick took his wines across the world for nearly a decade, competing in twenty-one different tastings. During this period, people’s perceptions would change dramatically, ending the idea that all Chilean wines were “Volvo.” The country hasn’t looked back since.


Clarke, Oz. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. London: Pavilion Books, 2015.
Crosariol, Beppi. (2004, July 3). Chilean underdogs beat French. The Globe and Mail.

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