Into the Bottle – Wine Blends Tasting

On Tuesday, March 14th we hosted an introductory wine class focused on blends from around the world.  We tasted 8 different wines to get a really good idea of what there is to offer, with the majority of them being traditional blends except for one which is just one of my favourites and I wanted everyone to give it a try as well.  I had a great time and it was great to share these wines with such a fun group of people. I will go through the wines in the same order that we tasted them on the evening.

The Lineup

1. Laherte Les 7 Champagne, $112.99
I love starting a tasting off with some bubbles and what a better way to talk about blends than trying some of the most famous blended wine in the world: Champagne.  You can have bubbles from anywhere in the world but there is something magical and wonderful about Champagne.  This Champagne is blended with all of the 7 grape varieties that are permitted in the Champagne region.  This wine was made in a way to try and taste what Champagne might have tasted like 250 years ago.

The Champagne region can be very demanding for viticulture when you consider the climate.  The average temperature year round is 10 degrees and it can be very damp as well.  Due to this, they have found ways to produce amazing products from what they are able to grow.  When you have champagne it will generally be a blend of different grapes and it can also be a blend of wines from different vintages.  By making the wine this way they are able to produce a product that can taste similar year after year, without being as influenced by the vintage.  You can still find vintages sometimes if it is from a good year or if they are a producer who does like to do that.

This Champagne was absolutely delightful.  It was toasty with nice aromas of yeast, mineral, citrus, and exotic fruits.  On the palate, it had an amazing refreshing acidity, creamy tight bubbles, peach, apple, and pear flavours.  It was an amazing wine and always such a treat whenever I get the chance to taste it!  Definitely fantastic for a celebration or just any old reason to drink bubbles.

2. Viña Alicia, Tiara white, 2012, $38.99
So this was my pick that I really wanted to have in the tasting, just because.  This is one of the coolest wines that I get to try.  It is a random white wine from Argentina that is very interesting.  It is from Viña Alicia in the valley of Lujan de Cuyo in the Mendoza region.  It is a very high altitude winery at over 3,500 feet and thought to be one of the first wineries planted in Mendoza.  The blend of grapes that are used are 50% Riesling, 40% Albariño, and 10% Savagnin.  The reason I find this wine so interesting is because of the grapes.  Riesling is a German grape, Albariño is a typical grape from Spain, and Savagnin is normally from the Jura region in France.  However, they have come together from some very old vines in this vineyard in Argentina.  Talk about multicultural!

This dry white wine is a pale yellow in hue. On the nose, it has a touch of floral notes along with minerality and citrus.  On the palate, it expresses a lovely mouth coating oily texture, chalky minerality, a bitter undertone, and nice citrus flavours.  This wine would go fantastic with some slightly spicy Asian food.  If you’re looking for a new wine adventure, this could be the one!

3. Moss Wood, Semillon – Sauvignon Blanc, 2016, $32.99
This is a white wine from Margaret River region in Australia, however, it is done in the traditional style of white Bordeaux, using Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.  Both these grapes are what you primarily find planted in the Bordeaux region for white grapes.  The Sauvignon typically is lighter and refreshing, and generally would be drunk fresh and young, where the Semillon adds a fuller body and more structure.  Having the 2 grapes blended together can create a wine that drinks very well fresh but can change wonderfully with time.

On the nose, this wine has typical grassy notes from the sauvignon but also comes with a touch of honey and dried apricot.  The palate is refreshing with a wonderful acidity blended with fuller mouth feel, nice amount of fresh fruit, and lingering soft finish.  Such a gorgeous wine from a very cool producer!  Perfect for drinking right now but definitely worth trying again in 5-10 years.

4. Chateau Gassier, Le Pas du Moine Rose, 2015, $25.99
This is a beautiful, traditional, dry rose wine hailing from Provence, France – the birthplace of Rose wines.  It is a lovely blend of 8% Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), 32% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 10% Rolle (Vermentino), 15% Cinsault.  Rose wines actually outsell white wines in France.  Rose is made from letting the juice from the red grapes remain for a longer period of time on the skins, this gives them the pale colour that they have.  The longer that the juice remains in contact with the skins, the darker the colour.  In Provence, they have been making rose wines for thousands of years.  The ancient Greeks originally brought wines and vines to southern France around 600 BC and had a major influence all the way to today for making wine.  When the Romans arrived in this area around 125 BC rose wines were very well renowned and even with the influence of heavy red wines. Rose has still been able to keep its stronghold in this region of France which the Ancient Romans called Provincia Romana – today’s Provence.  Rose wine is so popular from here that they have built a centre for Rose Research, the only one of its kind in the world.  If you are in need of something dry, lovely, refreshing, but with a bit of oomph to it you should definitely consider a new Rose!

This wine is light pink salmon in colour with a lovely vibrant nose.  It has fresh fruit, slightly floral, lots of citrus notes.  The palate is delightful and refreshing.  There is lots of citrus and most notable, some pink grapefruit.  This is definitely a wine to enjoy on a patio in the warmer weather that we are now getting!

5. Massena, Moonlight Run Grenache/Shiraz, 2012, $37.99
This is a typical blend that you are now able to find in different areas around Australia.  Originally this blend would come from France but they can do a fantastic job in Australia especially with the amazing Shiraz’s that they are able to produce.  You might hear this blend referred to as a GSM blend, that just means it is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz(Syrah), or Mourvedre (Mataro).  We were lucky enough to taste 2 styles of this blend tonight, this one from Australia and then the next one, which was from France.  We were also lucky enough to taste this wine before it, unfortunately, sold out from the store.

The workers at Massena would always put in a big full day and at the end of the days work they were craving a soft and quaffable wine to relieve the hard day’s work.  Due to this, they decided to make a Grenache based blend to be enjoyed at any time.  This vintage was a blend of 57% Grenache, 31% Mataro, 7% Shiraz, and 5% Cinsault.  The vines that the grapes were selected range from 45 – 120 years old in the Greenock Creek sub-district of the Barossa Valley.

This was the favourite wine of the night and it was definitely a killer wine.  It was a lovely dark purple, red colour. On the nose, it was full of berry, dark fruits, eucalyptus, and fresh cracked pepper.  The palate had a lovely soft pepper spice, with a medium body, well-balanced acidity, a touch of herbs, and soft blackberry, plum flavours.  This checks all of the boxes for anytime wine!

6. Raymond Usseglio, Chateauneuf du Pape, 2014, $59.99
This was our second GSM blend and it was very cool to be able to compare them one right after the other.  There are definitely differences that you can tell but there are also quite a few similarities.  Chateauneuf du Pape originally takes got its name in 1309 when the Pope moved there.  Translated it means “the Popes new castle”.  In total 8 Popes ended up staying here until 1378, all of them having a different influence on the wine making of the area.  There are quite a few different rules for this region, including that there are only 15 permitted grape varieties available for planting, vines must be at least 4 years old to be included in the wine, irrigation is only allowed in extreme circumstances and wine must be over 12.5% abv.  Also, no Rose wine is permitted to be made in this area, as well the main grape in the blends must be Grenache.  Approximately 95% of all the wines made from this region are red, with only 5% white.  The Chateauneuf area is approximately 14 km long by 8 km wide or 3,231 hectares.

This wine is from 3rd generation winemakers.  Their grandfather was originally from Italy but after the war received a plot of land and has since then been making wine.  That original piece of land went to Raymond’s Brother but he was able to get this property which is 18 Hectares, with 5 of those being dedicated to white wines and 3 to IGP wines.  They have been organically growing since 2012 and Raymonds son, Stephane has been in charge of the winery.

This is another gorgeous fuller bodied wine made with 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 3% Counoise, and 2% Cinsault.  It is dark red/purple in colour.  The nose reveals loads of berries and black cherries, some earthiness, mushroom, tobacco and light leather.  On the Palate, it is round and full with lovely full tannins but not too harsh, more black cherry, well-integrated acidity, slight fresh fruit flavours with a touch of earthiness.  Great value Chateauneuf and would drink great now or can hold for a few more years.

7. Fattori Amarone, Col de la Bastia, 2012, $64.99
Amarone is a typical style of wine from the Valpolicella wine region from Northeastern area in Italy in the Verona Province.  Amarone wines are made using mostly Corvina(45%-95%), Corvinone(up to 50% can be used in place of Corvina), Rondinella(5%-30%) grapes and then can also use a few other (up to 25%) approved grapes.  The grapes are picked and then traditionally dried on straw mats.  This process helps to concentrate the flavours and sugars.  This process is called Appassimento.  Generally, when you have an Amarone it can have a higher alcohol content and can be a very big, full-bodied wine. This Fattori does not disappoint in any of these features.

The Amarone, Col de la Bastia comes from a family owned winery on 12 hectares.  The blend is 65% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, 10% other varieties.  It is deep and rich in colour, dark ruby red.  On the nose, it smells of spice, leather, and dark berries.  The palate is rich and round with lots of ripe blackberries, black cherry, and a lingering on the palate that is delightful!  This is a big wine but worth every penny!

8. Osoyoos Larose, Le Grand Vin, 2012, $59.99
This is an awesome blend that is from British Columbia but it is done in the traditional style of Bordeaux.  When making a Bordeaux red wine there are six permitted grapes.  Osoyoos Larose uses five of those grapes in this blend.  It is a mix of 50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec.

The winery is located in BC however, it is now owned by the Merlaut family from Gruaud-Larose in France.  The winemaker is also French.  There is a lot of French influence in this wine, mixed with modern technology and Osoyoos climate we come out with a gorgeous wine!

This wine is bright ruby red. The nose is loaded with vanilla, red currant, cassis, vanilla and tobacco.  On the palate, it is rich with lovely fuller tannins, nice touch of acidity, black fruit, and some earthiness. This wine will do lovely to drink now but should be able to age for quite a few more years. We recently had a magnum of 2005 vintage Osoyoos Larose at a staff party that still showed nicely.

This was a cool tasting to be able to try some wines that are all done with traditional style blends from around the world.  Everyone enjoyed the tasting and was able to learn a thing or two2 as well.  I always love the opportunity to try new stuff and if the wine isn’t new at least I get to try it with different people.

Thanks to everyone who attended and I hope to see you at the next one!

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