Wine of Syrah, Grenache and Blends – A Contrary Tasting

- Jean-Marc Quarin - Chronicle n°121 (October 24th, 2011)

Last September I had the privilege to be invited to a prestigious comparative tasting in Zurich where 24 world-renown crus, all bearing vertiginous price tags, were lined up. But I am sorry to say that it did not quite meet my expectations. The reasons why are simple enough, even though they may not always be obvious to all: textures lacking in elegance, savours devoid of complexity, absence of taste, not to mention faulty bottles. Many wines evolved dry after the mid-palate, their expression and stimulation in the mouth suddenly cut short. The bottles were tasted blind and in public, in the order of the tasting notes below. All came from a wine enthusiast’s private cellar. I was given Robert Parker’s scores, which I now pass on to you, for each of the wines sampled. On the whole, the tasting was disappointing. Out of the 24 wines lined up, the majority had been awarded between 97 and 100 points – the top 100 point score given to 6 of them. Unfortunately for the wine lovers who were present that evening, none of the bottles actually deserved such high scores - far from it!


1st flight

HERMITAGE 2003 - TARDIEUX LAURENT - France
Score out of 20 : 16,5 Score out of 100 : 90 Score RP : 95
Bright, intense dark-hued wine. Fruity nose of spice, ripe fruits, southern fragrances and a hint of vanilla. Pretty and aromatic entry followed by a beautiful tactile feel on the palate, plenty of taste and fruity lift through to a generous finish - unfortunately a touch short and hot- but with a hint of oak.

ASTRALIS 1996 - CLAREDON HILLS, McLaren Vale - Australia
Score out of 20 : 16,25 Score out of 100 : 89 Score RP : 97
Red brown colour; good intensity. Subdued but deep nose, reminiscent of pinot, pleasantly fresh. Gorgeous and dense on entry followed by loads of fruit and, unfortunately, an increasingly tannic and dry note that hinders its overall charm.

COTE BLONDE 2003 - RENE ROSTAING, Côte Rôtie - France
Score out of 20 : 14 Score out of 100 : 84 Score RP : 97
Brownish red. Subdued and reduced nose, classic French style. Surprising notes of burgundy pinot whilst still very much a southerner. Vanilla and oak touches. Unfortunate acidic palate in need of savours; a bottle that dries your mouth out and leaves you gasping for water.

SHIRAZ RESERVE 2001 - FOX CREEK, McLaren Vale - Australia
Score out of 20 : 15,75 Score out of 100 : 88 Score RP : 94
Bright, intense and slightly browning colour. Fragrant nose of fruit, but excess of oak. The coconut expression points to overseas wood. Firm entry followed by a powerful, juicy, fruity wine, unfortunately lacking finesse. Average length. A caricature of a fine wine.

2d flight
HILL OF GRACE 1996 – HENSCHKE, Barossa Valley - Australia
Score out of 20 : 15,75-16 Score out of 100 : 88-89 Score RP : 95
Brownish red. Surprising nose – somewhat tired and maderized – combining new oak, vanilla and coconut. Very pleasantly soft, fruity and caressing on entry; tastes to match the scents on the nose. Average length and refine tannins. To drink ASAP.

ERMITAGE LE PAVILLON 2000 – CHAPOUTIER - France
Score out of 20 : 15,75 Score out of 100 : 88 Score RP : 98
Intense red, a touch cloudy. Fresh nose of game and ripe fruits. Rounded on entry then crammed with fruit, tight and with firm tannins. Floral fruity finish, a little square. Not particularly sapid. 9 years ago, I graded the cru 16.25 at the château i.e 89.

LA MOULINE 1999 - GUIGAL, Côte Rôtie - France
Score out of 20 : 15,5 Score out of 100 : 87 – 88 Score RP : 100
The colour has evolved to Mahogany. Subdued and really evolved nose, rather simple, with typically southern scents. Soft on the palate but quickly followed by an over-tannic and charmless character. Average length lacking sophistication – a real disappointment. 9 years ago, my score was 17 at the château i.e 92.

LABELS SYRAH 2007 - SINE QUA NON - California
Score out of 20 : 16,75 Score out of 100 : 91 Score RP : 98
Bright youthful purple with dark hues. Subdued floral nose, with liquorice and violet notes that remind me of l’Hermitage. Gorgeous entry followed by a floral, juicy and powerful character, with vanilla. Absolutely delicious, with notes of oak still perceptible. Not before 2015.

3rd flight
Cuvée DA CAPO 2000 - Domaine PEGAU, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 16,5 Score out of 100 : 90 Score RP : 100
Fairly intense brownish red. Subdued nose of fruit and vanilla. Soft, fruity and silky on the palate, if not boasting a terribly tight frame. Plenty of liquorice and spice in the persistence. Pretty, sapid and dainty wine.

Cuvée Réserve 1998 - Domaine PEGAU, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 12 Score out of 100 : 76 Score RP : 93
Fizzy on the palate and dry on finish. The bottle should be re-assessed.

LA CRAU 1995 - VIEUX TELEGRAPHE, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Corked bottle.

Cuvée de cadettes 1999 - château LA NERTHE, Châteauneuf du Pape- France
Score out of 20 : 15,25 Score out of 100 : 87 Score RP : 91
Lightish brown red. Hot nose of jam and raspberry –reminding me of Grenache. Rounded, juicy and aromatic on the palate; touches of old oak and an over-simple character after the mid-palate.

4th flight
BASKET PRESS CHIRAZ HOFFMAN 1996 – ROCKFORD, Barossa Valley - Australia
Score out of 20 : 15,25 Score out of 100 : 87 Score RP : 98
Gorgeous, intense and brownish colour. Nose of vintage port. Beautiful tactile feel on the palate but unfortunately lacking in taste. Well-coated tannins. Average length.

THE FACTOR 2002 - TORBERCK, Barossa Valley - Australia
Score out of 20 : 15 Score out of 100 : 86 Score RP : 99
Intense, brownish colour. Nose of fruit, with whiffs of stewed leeks, becoming overripe after stirring. The palate is surprisingly fresh but the excess oak gives the wine a simplistic and massive character. In need of savours.

ERMITAGE LE MEAL 2003 – CHAPOUTIER - France
Score out of 20 : 15 Score out of 100 : 86 Score RP : 99
Over-simple nose lacking liveliness. Fruity on the palate but quickly turning dry. Average length.

LA TURQUE 1999 - GUIGUAL, Côte Rôtie - France
Score out of 20 : 14,5 Score out of 100 : 85 Score RP : 100
Fairly intense, brownish red with dark hues. Subdued nose of coconut and southern fragrances. Dry and bland on the palate - a real disappointment. 9 years ago I graded it 16.75-17 at the château i.e 91-92. Could well be an example of bottle variation.

5th flight
CLOS DES PAPES 2001, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 17 Score out of 100 : 92 Score RP : 95
Clear brick colour. Pretty nose of ripe fruit and vanilla –clean and refine. Silky on entry then revealing layers of tastes, fruit and refine tannins; gradually building up to a beautifully savoury and long persistence – really hard not to swallow. At its best now. The best wine in the line up.

VIEUX DONJON 2001, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 15,75 Score out of 100 : 88 Score RP : 93
Brownish colour. Subdued nose of spice and oak. Rounded on entry then more tannic. Quickly becoming a touch dry and lacking complex savours on the mid palate. Better expression of fruit in the persistence. Probably best to enjoy it over a fat-rich dish.

Château DE BEAUCASTEL 2001, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 15,25 Score out of 100 : 87 Score RP : 96
Not terribly intense. Aromatic and reduced nose . Round entry followed by a quickly drying character, a greenish note and taste of old oak through to an average length. In 2007 I graded it 15.5 i.e 87-88.

CHAUPIN 2001 - Domaine de LA JANASSE, Châteauneuf du Pape - France
Score out of 20 : 16 Score out of 100 : 88 – 89 Score RP : 95
Fairly intense, brick, clouded colour. Extremely aromatic and unusual nose – a mix of fruity, animal and cocoa scents. Broad entry followed by a caressing, juicy, fat and chocolaty character. The fat fades away after the mid palate giving way to a slightly more bitter and oaky wine – a shame, really. Best to drink it over a meal.

6th flight
SHIRAZ ROENNFELDT ROAD 1996 - GREENOCK CREEK, Eden Valley - Australia
Score out of 20 : 16,25 – 16,5 Score out of 100 : 89 – 90 Score RP : 100
Brick colour with dark hues. Oak in excess on the nose, with coconut. Round on the palate, mellow, pleasant and soft, with a touch of coconut. Well made, spicy wine, but average length.

LA LANDONE 1999 - GUIGUAL, Côte Rôtie - France
Score out of 20 : 16,5 – 16,75 Score out of 100 : 90 – 91 Score RP : 100
Fairly intense, brownish wine with dark hues. Refine nose of ripe fruits and cocoa. Caressing entry followed by plenty of fruit and aromas. Juicy and polished through to the long and sapid finish, with slightly marked tannins. 9 years ago I graded it 17-17.5 at the château i.e 92-94.

GRANGE 1998 – PENFOLDS, Barossa Valley - Australia
Score out of 20 : 16,75 Score out of 100 : 91 Score RP : 98
Intense deep red with brick hues. Refine and fresh nose of fruit – pleasantly mellow. Dense and broad on the palate, laden with fruit, full, boasting structure and taste. Gorgeous and deliciously savoury persistence – powerful and with refine tannins.

HERMITAGE 2003 - Jean Louis CHAVE - France
Score out of 20 : 15 Score out of 100 : 86 Score RP : 100
Intense, brownish red with dark hues. Nose of oyster that immediately points to a faulty bottle. Soft on the palate but lacking in depth – nothing to do with the bottle we tasted and graded 18.25, i.e a mighty 96 points, 6 months ago!

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Jean-Marc Quarin

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© Copyright 2011.
This publication is the original work of Jean-Marc Quarin Sarl, 10 allée de Ginouilhac, BP 40, Le Taillan-Médoc. France. - E-mail : jmquarin@wanadoo.fr.
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