Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-02-2017

This week I have another catch-all report, sourced from various samples received from wine regions around the world. The stars of the show for me are the Don Melchor, which is true to form and so suave, and a killer Merlot from McLaren Vale’s Hickinbotham. Oh, and Spanish producer Arinzano makes another appearance. We also have some more budget-friendly wines from France, Spain and Italy.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Achával-Ferrer Malbec- Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $23
Deep ruby color. Aromas of sweet plum, black cherry, roses and violets, mocha and sage. Full-bodied on the palate with medium-light tannins and fresh acidity, this wine goes down easily. Red plums and black cherry fruit, juicy and delicious, with some tangy cranberry spiced jelly, roses, coffee and mocha notes. Accessible texture and flavors but well-built and shows impressive balance. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Chardonnay Blass Reserve Release- Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Bright yellow color. Aromas and yellow apples, apricot, honey and butter notes, some almond and vanilla. Medium-bodied (13% alcohol) with juicy, creamy texture and medium acidity. Rich apple fruit, but there’s a shot of lively citrus, too, and notes of honey and clove. Tasty, balanced, good value here. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Red Blend Blass Reserve Release- Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of cola, cocoa, vanilla, on top of sweet plums, blackberry jam. On the palate, this has a plump mouthfeel, medium-body, light tannins. Black cherry and plums mix with smoky charcoal, cocoa, black pepper glaze. Rich fruit but the acidity helps it stay fresh. No grape variety info available. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Blass Reserve Release- Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Vibrant purple color. Aromas of sweet red and black currant jam, charcoal, eucalyptus, sweet coffee, mocha. On the palate soft tannins, moderate acidity, rich and fruity but fresh. Full of black cherries, raspberry jam, cola, mocha. Accessible and fun but maintains some depth and complexity for the price point. (87 points)

2014 Hickinbotham Merlot The Revivalist- Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $75
Crimson color. Unbelievable nose of gushing red and black currants and plums, such depth and purity of fruit with notes of sweet roses, menthol, eucalyptus, cola, cigar box. Full but suave on the palate with surprisingly crisp acidity that keeps the wine fresh, with waves of red cherries and gushing blackberries. Complex notes of cola, violets, charcoal, sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus. Gorgeous, velvety, fresh, vibrant now but this will be even better with 5-7 years. All Merlot aged 15 months in French oak. (94 points)

2014 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor- Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
SRP: $125
pvjUto6NyZll_d4KhdD7GxhvT1AuK-X0obcca3XvFy4pX92IBBold purple color. Gorgeous aromatic complexity with tart black currants, black cherries, loamy soil, a host of sweet and spicy herbs (lavender, rosemary, black pepper, elements of graphite and smashed rocks. Bold presence on the palate with grippy tannins, lively acidity, such balance and depth in this wine. Crisp black cherry, juicy plums, blackberry, the fruit is bold but vibrant. Earthy, charcoal, black tea, mocha. Beautiful stuff but will be even better in 10 years. Wow, what a gorgeous wine. The 2013 is showing well young while this vintage sleeps. Tar, mocha, cedar and vanilla woven in well. Includes a combined 10% Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and the wine is aged 50% new French oak. (94 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée- France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Yellow color. Aromas of floral perfume along with almonds, apricots, lemon curd and limestone dust. Crisp and zippy, so focused, with a brisk and mineral-heavy presence. Lemon, orange, grapefruit mixed with toasted nuts, chalky minerals, saline. Good depth but a racier, fresher style. About 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, 6 g/l dosage. (90 points)

N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne La Cuvée- France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Aromas of buttered biscuits, salted almond, chalk dust, on top of baked yellow apple and quince paste. Nervy acidity frames the palate nicely, with flavors of apple, lemon curd and apricot blend with notes of buttercream, fresh biscuits, bread crumbs. Elements of white flowers, chalk dust and minerals add complexity. Creamy but so zesty, with impressive depth for a Champagne at this price. 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, aged four years, contains about 30% reserve wine. (89 points)

2007 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Millésimé- France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Light gold color. Zesty aromas of lemon, apple, apricot, chalk dust and sea spray, mixed with biscuits, salted almonds, some honeycomb. Lovely creaminess, brisk acidity, precision is impressive. Lemon curd, green and yellow apple, apricot pits, with elements of yellow flowers, cut stems, chalk dust, saline, toasted baguette and flaky biscuits. Delicious now but will evolve nicely over the next few years. 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourced from all Grand Cru vineyards and aged seven years on the lees before disgorgement. (91 points)

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière- France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
SRP: $23
Dark plummy color. Smoky and full of charred herbs and earth, along with sweet plums and black cherries. Medium-bodied with some medium/soft tannins. Juicy black cherries and plums mixed with peppercorns, charcoal smoke, some eucalyptus. Tasty, lighter style for near-term consumption. (87 points)

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns- France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
SRP: $14
Bold purple color. Nose of tart black cherries, red currants, smoky herbs, spicy pepper and violets. Full-bodied with some surprising grip to the tannins, medium-low acidity. Tangy black currants and red cherries with notes of charred herbs, cedar, mint, pine resin. Super fun stuff that has some interesting complexity for a wine at this price point. (88 points)

2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc- France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Aromas of white flowers, sea breeze, clean laundry, on top of green apples and peaches. Pleasantly waxy texture but bright acidity, nice balance, and I get papaya and green apples drizzled with lime. Notes of chalk dust, dandelion, cut flower stems. Delicious, crisp, a reliable buy each vintage. Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu.(87 points)

2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge- France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
SRP: $15
Bright purple color. Smells of old black cherries, plums, gushing fruit, mixed with sweet violets, roses, sweet coffee and rich earth. Plump and juicy on the palate but some medium tannins and fresh acidity keeps it together well. Smoky charcoal and grilled herbs accent the chewy plums and black cherry fruit. I get notes of violets, loamy soil, clove. Lots going on here for the price. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (88 points)

2015 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem- France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour
SRP: $30
Deep purple color. Deep, complex, savory aromas, with black cherries and dark plums, laced with smoky herbs, leather, mushroom and fallen leaves. Full-bodied with serious grip on the tannins but the acidity frames it well, and the black cherry and dark plum fruit is rich but tangy. Tons of earthy-mineral, clove, spice, leather, black olive, charcoal – complex and savory and delicious, this has a lot to show in the cellar. Consistently one of the best $30 red blends I find coming out of Southern France, and this vintage is no different. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (92 points)

2016 Kellerei Bozen Kerner- Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. Aromas of peaches, apricot, lychee, orange blossom and honeysuckle. Plump but crisp on the palate with a medium+ body (14% alcohol), fresh lemon, apricot and lychee fruit. Notes of white tea, chalk, salt mineral notes. Not a lot of depth but quite nice. (87 points)

2014 Cantina Andriano Lagrein Tor di Lupo Riserva- Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol
SRP: $50
Deep purple color. Aromatic waves of tart black currants, blackberry, dark and spicy with notes of smashed rocks, anise, spiced black tea. Lively acidity and tight tannic grip frame the palate nicely for the tart black currant and roasted fig fruit. Notes of charcoal, black tea, rocks, minerals, anise. This is spicy, complex but pretty stuff. I’d love to cellar this for five years, but it’d also be a great addition to any dinner table now. (91 points)

2016 Tasca D’Almerita Sicilia Tascante Buonora- Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $20
NenwJKq7o16T67bf26Gow4Tcp5ipEZUbyiZ-OQ7dNFgpX92IBPale lemon color. So pretty on the nose with lots of peach and pineapple, lemon, along with wildflowers, onion grass, and salty sea breeze. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture supported by bright acidity, with generous helpings of sliced pineapple and green melon drizzled with lime. Notes of seashells and chalk dust and lemon verbena, lovely mineral depth. Plenty of fruit and non-fruit complexity to make it delicious and accessible but serious and worthy of some dynamic food pairings. Made from 100% Carricante. (90 points)

2014 Tasca D’Almerita Sicilia Tascante Ghiaia Nera- Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $20
Gorgeous cherry color. Wow, beautiful depth of fruit (red cherry, cranberry, wild raspberry), along with rose petals, chewing tobacco, mint, white pepper. Medium-bodied with nice grip to the tannins, fresh acidity, and lots of tart black and red fruits. Complex elements of leather, spiced coffee, rose petals, chewing tobacco and clove. (88 points)

2014 Tasca D’Almerita Nerello Mascalese il Tascante- Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $50
Red cherry color. Bright red cherries, tart red cranberries, lots of clove and earthy spice and leather, with some rose petals and cola. Bright and zippy but some serious grip to the tannins, on a medium-bodied frame. Bright and tart red cherries and cola with spicy herbs and clove and pepper. Really tasty stuff with fun appeal, but impressive complexity, too. Delicious now but this will improve for quite some time. (91 points)

2016 Bodegas As Laxas Rías Baixas Laxas- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $16
Medium gold color. Nose shows peaches and lemons with sea salt and cut flower stems. Creamy but super zesty with flavors of peach, apricot and papaya, topped with flavors of floral perfume, nettle and honeysuckle. Fun, lively stuff. (86 points)

2016 Santiago Ruiz Albariño Rías Baixas- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $19
Pale lemon color. Aromas of peaches, orange blossom, sea salt, cucumber and rainwater. Zesty on the palate with pleasant creaminess, and delicious flavors of sea salt, white flowers, chalk, sliced cucumber, on top of lemons, white peaches and nectarines. Lovely stuff, goes down easy, but quite complex as well. (89 points)

2010 Arinzano Arinzano La Casona- Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
SRP: $40
Rich ruby color. Beautiful aromas of bright red and black cherries, crunchy plums, laced with cocoa, cedar, forest floor, clay pots, chewing tobacco. Full and tannic on the palate but lively acidity lends balance to this young wine. Sweet cherries, dark plums, currants, the fruit is loaded with cocoa, chewing tobacco, eucalyptus, charcoal, and a long, lingering, mineral-laden finish. Still very young with a long life ahead but can show well now with a good decant. 75/25 Tempranillo/Merlot. (92 points)

2012 Arinzano Hacienda de Arinzano- Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
SRP: $20
Bold purple color. Nose is packed with currants and plums, complex elements of incense, charcoal, clay pots, cigar smoke, violets. Grippy tannins, serious structure, but acidity stays fresh, balance is on point. Plums and currants, bold fruit but mixed with complex elements of earth, eucalyptus, pepper, fallen leaves, spicy tobacco. Concentrated but lively with a long life ahead. Tempranillo with 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stellar for the price. (92 points)

2017 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc- New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
SRP: $15
Pale lemon color. Nose shows explosive grapefruit, lime, bell pepper and honeysuckle. Zesty acidity on the palate with all the classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc elements firing: grapefruit, lime, white peach, jalapeno and bell pepper. I get some clove and white pepper elements as well. A reliably fun example of this style. (86 points)

2016 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir- New Zealand, South Island
SRP: $19
Medium ruby color. Aromas of spicy red cherries and wild raspberries, along with rhubarb, tobacco and white pepper. Light tannins on the palate, bright acidity, this is a fresh, zesty, food-friendly style with lots of fresh cherries, raspberries, red apple peel. Notes of spicy green herbs, white pepper and tobacco leaf. Reliable, easy-drinking, tasty stuff. (87 points)

<85 points

2016 Abbazia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift) Müller-Thurgau- Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Valle Isarco / Eisacktaler
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. Aromas of lemons, limes, peaches, flower stems and quinine. Salty and brisk on the palate with tart lemon and under-ripe apricot fruit. Tart, light, underwhelming and watery with a short finish. Pass.

N.V. Delia Tempranillo- Spain
SRP: $7
Medium ruby color. Aromas of spicy red cherries, raspberry leaf, tobacco and dandelion greens. Light/medium-bodied with bright acid and lean tannins. Sour cherries and raspberries blend with tobacco and some coffee. Good for the price but simple and slightly out of whack.

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