France > Crozes-Hermitage > M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers

M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers

Country: France
Region: Crozes-Hermitage
Producer: M. Chapoutier
Grape variety: 100% Syrah
Vintage: 2009
Found at: Co-op Wines and Spirits, Willow Park Wines and Spirits, Superstore (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $21.99

About the region: Although Syrah aka Shiraz is most commonly associated with Australia these days, its origins reside in the Rhone valley, where (most likely) it descended from several indigenous, wild grape varieties. The Northern Rhone valley in particular has been known for its high-quality Syrah as far back as Roman times. Over the centuries it became so popular that other regions (most notably Bordeaux and Burgundy) even used small portions of Syrah from the Northern Rhone to boost their wines during difficult years in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Some of the best Syrah in the world comes from a particular hill, towering over the town of Tain on the bank of the Rhone river, called Hermitage. Due to its fame, wines from Hermitage will set you back at least $100 (and considerably more than that for most). So if we want to get a a sense for Syrah’s character from vineyards where this grape was first grown, we have to travel down the hill and consider the flatter lands around the hill. This region of the Northern Rhone valley is Crozes-Hermitage. Less prestigious than Hermitage, but much more affordable.

A quick note then about Australian Shiraz vs Northern Rhone’s Syrah: Australian Shiraz is known for being soft and full-bodied with lots of dark, ripe fruit characteristics. Syrah from the Northern Rhone on the other hand tends to be closer to medium bodied with higher tannins, showing a more complex combination of black fruit, spicy (peppery), and earthy characteristics. These differences can be explained by differences in climate and soils, as well as in vineyard and winemaking practices. Although there is clearly variation within each region as well, the general characteristics of Syrah/Shiraz across the two regions provides a great example of how the same grape variety can produce wines with rather different characteristics.

About the wine:

At age 24, Michel Chapoutier went to have a chat with his grandfather, who at that time still owned a majority stake in the Chapoutier wine business. Even though he had only been working in the family business for a few years, he had come to realize that the quality of the family’s wines (made by his father at the time) was well below their potential. He indicated to his grandfather that he would leave the family business unless he could have a majority stake in the business (including his father’s minority stake) and thereby, control in the winery. His grandfather agreed, which resulted in a new beginning for the Chapoutier business (as well as Michel and his father not talking for quite some time).

Over the next 10 years, Michel vastly improved the quality of the Chapoutier wines while buying additional vineyard land and tripling production. Historically, wines from the Northern Rhone had been blends from different vineyards in each appellation (sub-region). Michel’s vision was to start producing “pictures of the terroir” instead; that is, wines that reflect the unique characteristics of each of the individual vineyards. His single-vineyard bottlings have since become some of the Northern Rhone’s most renowned wines. The mention of L’Ermite, Le Méal, and Le Pavillon are enough to make any Northern Rhone fan’s mouth water (as a side note, if anyone is still looking for a belated birthday present for me, the L’Ermite is only $450…). Meanwhile, Michel continues to hold strong opinions about wine making, whether it pertains to Riesling’s characteristic whiff of petrol or the natural wine movement.

The Meysonniers comes from south-facing, gentle slopes. It’s hand harvested and matured in concrete tanks (so it doesn’t touch oak). So there are no oaky or vanilla-y aromas to be found here. Instead, earthy and peppery notes dominate, which makes this wine such a good example of Syrah from France’s Northern Rhone region. There are notes of red cherry and blackcurrant. The acidity makes this wine very food-friendly (think nicely-peppered steak).

In Susanne’s words: It’s okay.

For an interesting experiment, pick up a bottle of your favorite Australian Shiraz and the Meysonniers, open both up, and taste them side by side. Both are made from the exact same grape variety, so will have characteristics in common, but you will find that both are very different in some aspects as well. Cheers!


United States > California > Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon

Country: United States
Region: California (Mendocino and Lake Counties)
Producer: Bonterra
Grape variety: 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, and 3% Carignane
Vintage: 2009
Found at: Costco, Co-op Wines and Spirits, Real Canadian Liquorstore, Willow Park Wines and Spirits  (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $16.49 – $21.09

About the region: We’re back in California. Last time we enjoyed what’s considered California’s “own” grape variety, Zinfandel. However, the grape variety that put California on the map and that forms the basis for some of California’s most famous (and expensive) wines is the Cabernet Sauvignon: it was the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that beat all of the French wines at the Judgment of Paris in 1976, building credibility for California’s red wines.

California is far from a homogeneous wine growing region: climate and soils vary greatly across the state. Close to the coast, the weather can be too cool to grow grapes while inland the weather can be unsuitable for grape growing due to the heat. In between lie many different micro-climates, each different and each better suited for certain grape varieties than for others.

The general rule that applies here, as well as for wine growing regions elsewhere in the world, is that the more specific the indication of the wine’s origin, the higher the presumed quality of the wine. For example, the “Napa Valley” indication on a wine label denotes a much more specific (and prestigious) designation of origin than the more generic “California”. In turn, the “Rutherford” indication denotes an even more specific designation of origin, which indicates that the wine comes from one of Napa Valley’s most famous sub-regions. There are exceptions to this rule (e.g., Penfold’s Grange), but as a general rule of thumb it can prove to be quite helpful.

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon hails mostly from Mendocino County, which is the north-eastern most region in California’s wine country. It can be divided into two parts: the areas East and West of the coastal mountain range, whereby the West is quite cool due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, while the East is shielded from the ocean’s influence by the mountain range and as such is much warmer. The fruit for this wine is clearly sourced from the Eastern part of Mendocino county, since Cabernet Sauvignon needs warm conditions to ripen.

About the wine: Bonterra is best known for its organic vineyard practices. This entails that they avoid the use of synthetic pesticides in their vineyards, which are under constant attack of many different pests and diseases. Instead, they rely on integrated pest management strategies to stave off these attacks. These strategies include attracting bluebirds and swallows which consume unwanted insects, free-roaming chickens which thrive on cutworms and insect pests, and keeping a colony of honeybees which pollinates flowers in the vineyard and helps attract beneficial insects.

To clarify, organic vineyard practices does not mean that no additives are used in the winery. Sulfites in particular are still used at organic wineries to preserve the wine’s freshness and to prevent it from oxidizing and turning into vinegar prematurely. Most organic producers will try to minimize their use of sulphites, but this can be said for most high-quality wine producers.

Do organically grown grapes produce better wine? Opinions are divided. My two cents is that organic vineyard practices don’t produce better wines per sé, but that organic practices (and biodynamic practices for that matter) require a substantial amount of extra diligence in the vineyard to monitor the condition of the vines and deal with any signs of pests or diseases right away. Vineyard managers simply don’t have the luxury of noticing an issue a few days late and then resolving it by spraying it with synthetic pesticides. This diligence to guard the vineyard’s health often translates into higher quality fruit, which in turn translates into higher quality wine.

So how does this Cabernet Sauvignon stack up? It’s showing the hallmark characteristics of a California Cab: ripe, dark fruit (blackcurrant, plum, and cherry), white pepper, hints of oak, soft tannins, and medium acidity.

Note as well that, as discussed in last week’s article (“To blend or not to blend“), even though the wine is labelled as a Cabernet Sauvignon, it contains  9% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, and 3% Carignane, which you won’t find being mentioned on either the front or the back label, but adds some balance and character to the wine.

In Susanne’s words: It was good.

Italy > Chianti Rufina > Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva

Country: Italy
Region: Chianti Rufina
Producer: Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi
Grape variety: 90% Sangiovese / 10% Others (Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
Vintage: 2008
Found at: Costco, Co-op Wines and Spirits, Real Canadian Liquorstore, Willow Park Wines and Spirits  (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $17.99 – $21.69

About the region: A few weeks ago, we visited Tuscany and described the rise of the Super Tuscans in response to stringent wine legislation and below-par quality standards in Chianti. Thankfully, practices have improved drastically in Chianti over the past several decades. In the vineyard, grape growers started looking for Sangiovese clones that would provide higher quality as opposed to higher volumes. Legislation also changed to allow any red grape variety to be added to the blend (at up to 20%) and local white varieties are now no longer allowed in the blend. In the winery, modern winemaking equipment was introduced.

Since so many different grape varieties are allowed to make up 20% of the blend, Chianti comes in a wide variety of styles. Winemaking practices contribute to the variety of styles as well: some producers still use the large, old wooden casks (known as botti), which are usually made of Slavonian oak, while other producers that are looking for a more modern, concentrated style are using smaller (225 litre) barrels made from French oak (known as barriques).

Most Super Tuscans display an international style of wine: that is, many aren’t necessarily an expression of Chianti’s unique qualities, but instead show characteristics that we find across the globe. Chianti, carried by 80-100% Sangiovese, will typically show blueberry, cherry, and savoury flavours with high acidity and tannins.

About the wine: The Frescobaldi family initially made their fortune in banking, after having moved to Florence at the end of the 11th century. Around 1300, the Frescobaldi’s inherited some vineyards and started producing wine, which soon got picked up by England’s royal family and others belonging to Europe’s upper echelon. Over the course of the next several centuries, the family continued to combine their winemaking business with other commercial activities, which ensured a distribution network that included the pope, Henry the VIII, King of England, and Donatello (the artist; not the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle).

The Castello di Nipozzano was built in 1000 as a defensive fortress, but at the start of the 16th century the Frescobaldi family converted it into a residence and winery, where it produces and cask-ages its red Chianti Rufina wines even until the present day.

The Chianti Rufina Riserva is one of those wines. It’s made in a modern style, spending 24 months in barriques and another 3 months in bottle before being released. There is blueberry, red cherry, black pepper, and cedar notes. Well-balanced, with some solid acidity holding it up and smooth tannins. It receives rave reviews year after year and regularly appears in Wine Spectator’s Top 100.

In Susanne’s words: I have loved this wine for years.

Italy > Tuscany > Villa Antinori

Villa Antinori

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany
Producer: Marchesi Antinori
Grape variety: Sangiovese (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Merlot (15%), Syrah (5%)
Vintage: 2008
Found at: Costco, Co-op Wines and Spirits, Real Canadian Liquor Store, Willow Park Wines and Spirits  (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $17.99 – $22.99

About the region: Wine is grown all over Italy: from the top of the boot to the tip of its toe. Annual production sits at nearly 5 billion litres, so it’s no surprise that local wine stores usually carry a generous selection of Italian wines. The Italian wine landscape can be difficult to navigate though: instead of the more common international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, we are served with hundreds of native grape varieties like nebbiolo, corvina, sangiovese, and primitivo (if they are even mentioned on the label). This is also what makes Italian wines so exciting though: they’re often unique and will taste different from wines you find anywhere else. Their uniqueness can be further explained by winemaking methods varying widely across different regions, often based on centuries of winemaking traditions.

Those traditions have not always benefited the quality of Italian wines though. A classic example is Chianti, in Tuscany’s heartland: in 1872 Barone di Ricasoli noted that Sangiovese (Chianti’s principal black grape variety) would be more drinkable when blended with local white grape varieties. As an influential winemaker, this then became common practice, which meant that when wine regulations were put in place in 1967, these honoured the local winemaking tradition by stipulating that in order for a wine to be considered Chianti, it had to be a Sangiovese-based blend plus 10-30% white grape varieties. In reality, the large amount of white grape varieties further diluted an already less-than-stellar wine, since many winemakers were simply trying to produce as much Chianti as they could to meet demand, without paying much attention to quality, resulting in some pretty horrible plonk.

In the 1970’s, a group of winemakers came onto the scene, who were more quality-focussed than their predecessors. They were faced with a rather large dilemma though: make sub-par wines within the current regulations and be allowed to call the wine Chianti (which despite its declining quality still had some remnant of a brand name), or ignore the regulations and no longer be allowed to refer to the wine as Chianti: ignoring the rules meant that the wine would have to be marketed as a simple “table wine” without any reference to the region it came from. That dilemma brings us to the producer of today’s wine.

About the wine: In the late 1960’s, Piero Antinori started tinkering with the traditional Chianti recipe, which in 1971 led to his Tignanello being blended with Cabernet Sauvignon instead of the required white grape varieties. This in turn led to a visit from the local wine regulators, who made sure that there were no references to “Chianti” anywhere on the wine label, so Antinori had to market his wine as a simple “table wine”. His wine became an instant hit with wine critics though, who soon started to coin the term “Super Tuscans” to describe this category of wines that Antinori (and others who soon followed suit) produced. As a result of its popularity, Tignanello steadily increased in price over the following decades and now usually retails for just over $100.

Thankfully, Antinori also produces an entry-level Super Tuscan, which is the Villa Antinori. Similar to the Tignanello, the Villa Antinori was originally produced using the classic Chianti recipe (starting in 1928), but in 2001, Piero Antinori increased the percentage of international grape varieties, thereby moving it from the Chianti to the Super Tuscan category. It’s a beautiful wine, the 2008 being somewhat fuller bodied than previous vintages, with lots of dark fruit, well-integrated oak, some spice notes, and medium acidity. Very well balanced, making you want to come back for more.

Note that the wine regulators came around eventually and created a new category for these wines, now known as “Toscana IGT”, which explains why Villa Antinori’s label is able to reference this designation.

In Susanne’s words: goes really well with dinner.

Argentina > Mendoza > Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza

Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza
Producer: Bodega Catena Zapata
Grape variety: Malbec
Vintage: 2010
Found at: Costco, Co-op Wines & Spirits, Willow Park Wines and Spirits, Real Canadian Liquor Store (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $12.99 – $19.99

About the region: We’re staying in Argentina this week, but now make our way from last week’s visit to Salta in the far north of Argentina to Mendoza, which is situated more centrally in the Eastern foothills of the Andes mountains. Mendoza produces ~75% of all Argentinean wine and with about 400,000 acres of area under vine, it’s one of (if not) the largest winemaking region in the world. Conditions here are arid and hot, so two conditions are required to produce quality wine: melt-water from the mountains and (similar to Salta) altitude. In general, the higher the vineyard is situated, the higher the quality of the wine it produces.

About the wine: Over the course of the last few years, Malbec has slowly but surely started to push Shiraz aside as the red grape variety of choice for many. And what’s not to like? It’s generally full-bodied, loaded with dark fruit, spicy notes, and often more balanced than Shiraz. Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and several others, Malbec was brought to Argentina from the Bordeaux region in France, where it is now hardly grown anymore, since it doesn’t always fully ripen in Bordeaux’s cooler climate.

Nicola Catena planted his first Malbec vines in Mendoza in 1902, after having moved there from Italy 4 years earlier at age 18. He, and his son after him, expanded from there and mostly produced high volumes of Malbec for the domestic market, same as every other winemaker in Argentina. In the 1960s, Nicola’s grandson, Nicolás was pursuing an academic career when Nicola and his wife were killed in a car crash. Nicolás decided to abandon his academic ambitions and returned home to help his father in the family business. It was his academic approach that put Argentina on the map: he tirelessly experimented with different Malbec clones, at different altitudes, and in different micro-climates to figure out which combination would produce the best quality grapes and as such, the highest quality wine. His impact on Argentina’s wines cannot be exaggerated. As recent as 2003, Wine Spectator wrote:

“Catena’s portfolio, from the value-priced Álamos line up through the Catena, Catena Alta and Catena Zapata wines, provides the country’s broadest and best-scoring range of quality, with many of the wines made in ample quantity. The question facing Argentina now is, can Catena’s colleagues follow suit, or will the wine industry there be a one-man show?”

Over the past decade, others have followed suit, but Catena’s pursuit of affordable quality still stands out, which explains why this wine makes it into Wine Spectator’s annual top 100 wines year after year (the 2009 sat at number 58). It is sourced from several of Catena’s high-altitude vineyards and aged for 12 to 14 months in a combination of French and American oak. The 2010 lives up to the reputation of its predecessors, showing a beautiful dark purple color, blackcurrant and blueberry fruit, licorice, and subtle cedar notes. Smooth tannins and solid acidity, medium bodied, and very well balanced.

In Susanne’s words: Smells yech, tastes like things I don’t like, but not horrible. (can you tell she hasn’t gotten on the Malbec bandwagon yet?!)

France > Burgundy > Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne

Country: France
Region: Burgundy
Producer: Joseph Faiveley
Grape variety: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2007
Found at: Willow Park Wines and Spirits and Co-Op Wines and Spirits (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $15.99 – $17.99

About the region
: This week we’re staying in Burgundy, but are now turning toward its black grape variety: Pinot Noir. Virtually all red wine from Burgundy is made from the Pinot Noir grape, so even if you don’t see the grape variety being mentioned on the label of a bottle of red Burgundy, it contains 100% Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is known as the “heartbreak grape” since it has a thin skin and grows in tight bunches of small berries, which makes it prone to rot and therefore difficult to grow. Similar to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir was originally planted in Burgundy and (in my humble opinion) succeeds better in Burgundy than anywhere else in the world. The halmark characteristics of Pinot Noir are low tannins (the astringent stuff in red wines that makes your mouth feel dry) and high acidity. Burgundian Pinot Noir will display red fruit favours (e.g., cherry, raspberry, strawberry) as well as vegetal and savoury notes, especially as the wine matures. The complexity of red Burgundy and the high acidity make this one of my favourites.

If you think of Southern Alberta as vast stretches of land with farmers owning thousands of acres of land, as far as the eye can see, Burgundy is the exact opposite. As an example, one of the largest and most famous vineyards in Burgundy is the Clos de Vougeot, which is a mere 125 acres, which in turn is shared by over 80 producers. So every producer owns a few rows of vines at most, with the rows to their right being owned by a different producer and the rows to their left being owned by yet another one. This is the case in most of Burgundy’s best vineyards: most producers own a limited number of rows of vines in vineyards spread out across Burgundy.

Since Pinot Noir is difficult to grow and because of limited supply and large demand, Burgundy Pinot Noir is expensive. Several high-end Burgundies will run you 5 figures per bottle. We’ll stick to the entry-level wines though…

About the wine: Domaine Faiveley has been around for the past 186 years and its vineyard holdings are among the largest in Burgundy. In December 2004 (at age 25), Erwan Faiveley took over the controls from his father, François. Since taking over, Erwan expanded the domaine’s vineyard holdings and started making changes to the style of wines. Under François, the wines had been more reserved and austere. Erwan’s main objective was to make the wines more accessible. The changes he instigated included lowering yields in the vineyards, installing a grape-sorting table in the winery, and holding back the release of selected wines until they are ready to drink. The 2007 vintage is the first where the reds fully reflect the changes that Erwan put in place.

Their entry level wine provides good value and is a good reflection of what Burgundy has to offer. There’s redcurrant, black pepper, mushroom, and forest floor on the nose. On the palate, there’s above-average acidity, low tannins, red cherry, and cranberry. It’s light-bodied, elegant, and quite pretty.

In Susanne’s words: Easy but not slutty. I like it.

United States > California > Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel

Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel

Country: United States
Region: California
Producer: Bogle
Grape variety: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2009
Found at: Superstore, Co-op Wines and Spirits, Willow Park Wines and Spirits
Price: $16.69 – $19.99

About the region
: For those of us (like myself) who have only been drinking wine for the past 15 to 20 years, it is difficult to imagine the extend to which the production of quality wine has increased in California over the past several decades. Up until the mid 1960’s, California mostly produced high-volume, low-quality jug wines. Much has changed since then and today California produces some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Once several pioneers started producing higher quality wine, it took some time for California to overcome its less-than-stellar reputation though. The turning point came in 1976, when California’s red and white wines beat France’s top wines in a blind tasting conducted by 10 French judges, now known as the “Judgement of Paris”.

Today, high-quality wines are produced all along the Californian coast from a wide range of grape varieties. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find good value, as producers are prone to increase prices once their wines catch on. As an example, Screaming Eagle was first released in 1992 for $50 per bottle. After years of rave reviews from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, the wine has steadily increased in cost and now sells for $1,500 per bottle.

About the wine: The Bogle family started out as corn and sugar beet farmers in 1850’s. In the 1970’s they started planting grape vines, initially selling their grapes to other winemakers before launching the Bogle brand in 1979. The brand has grown tremendously since then under the leadership of husband-and-wife-team Chris and Patty Bogle. Since their passing, the winery has been run and continues to grow under their children’s leadership. Although Bogle produces wines at high volumes, quality is consistently high.

Zinfandel has long been regarded as California’s “own” grape variety. DNA research has shown it to be identical to Primitivo though, which is traditionally grown in Southern Italy. The challenge with Zinfandel is that it ripens unevenly, so as a bunch of Zinfandel grapes approaches ripeness, some grapes will be ready for picking while others will still be green. This is mitigated as the vines get older, which explains the prevalence of “old vine” zinfandel. There is no legal definition of what constitutes an “old vine” though, so buyer beware.

Bogle’s Zinfandel shows ripe berry flavors: savory blackberry, plum, and raisin, combined with black pepper and smoky cedar. There’s a hint of black tea as well. It’s medium-bodied with smooth tannins and medium acidity to balance it out.

In Susanne’s words: Fruity and not upsetting.

Chile > Maipo Valley > Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon

Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon

Country: Chile
Region: Maipo Valley
Producer: Concha Y Toro
Grape variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2008
Found at: Costco, Co-op Wines and Spirits, Willow Park Wines and Spirits  (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)
Price: $15.99 – $21.69

About the region
: The Maipo Valley is almost completely surrounded by mountains. The best vineyards are located towards the East side of the valley, close to the Andes mountains, from which cool air then descends into the vineyards. This increases the difference between day- and nighttime temperatures, which is a hallmark of many great vineyard sites. The Puento Alto vineyard from which this wine is sourced is indeed located on the East side of the valley and experiences these benefits. The Maipo valley has a reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon that can often have a particular minty character.

About the wine: Concha Y Toro is Latin America’s largest wine producer, producing a wide range of wines. Along their whole line up, there is good value to be found. The Marques de Casa Concha line was launched in 1976 and was Concha y Toro’s flag bearing wine in its day (today this honour belongs to Don Melchor). The Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon consistently provides great value and receives great reviews year after year.

This 2008 is another great expression of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s fruit-driven with blackcurrant, black cherry, and raspberry fruit. There are hints of mint, chocolate notes, combined with well integrated oak, velvety tannins, and medium acidity.

France > Bordeaux > Sirius

Sirius Bordeaux

Country: France
Region: Bordeaux
Producer: Maison Sichel
Grape varieties: 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2009
Price: $19.59 – $19.99
Found at: Willow Park Wines and Spirits, Co-op Wines and Spirits (or see Liquor Connect and enter your postal code)

About the region: The impact of Bordeaux on the wine world has always been and still is enormous. It is the home of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (and others), the birthplace of wine brands, and it produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after wines. Bordeaux reds are most often a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot forming the majority of the blend. Many can age for a decade; some even for several decades. Factoid: you can buy bottles of Bordeaux while it’s still in barrel at the chateau (see for example).

2009 was an excellent year for Bordeaux with hot, dry weather throughout the growing season. Unfortunately, this also meant that prices increased sharply again for higher end wines. Entry level wines were affected less by these price increases, so 2009 is an excellent year to shop for value wines.

About the wine: Maison Sichel owns a variety of properties in Bordeaux (including several high-end chateaux). Peter Sichel created the Sirius brand in 1985 to prove that it was possible to apply the same care and methods as for high-end Bordeaux to less prestigious vineyards to obtain a fine, fruit-forward, and rounded wine at an affordable price. The 2009 lives up to this ambition: it has tons of black cherry and plum character, as well as chocolate and cedar notes. The tannins are still fairly firm, so this will last for a good 5 years to come, though it drinks very nicely now already as well, especially after some decanting.

The 2002 Sirius made me realize that a wine can be more than “just a wine” and that Bordeaux is a region I should try more of. It’s not my intention to hype this bottle to such a degree that anyone who tries it will be disappointed, but I hope that each of us at some point comes across a bottle that stays with us and entices us to want to learn and try more, like this bottle did for me.

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