Monday, June 6, 2011

Report from ... Exclusive Concha Y Toro Tasting at Select - May 12, 2011

What a day ... it started out in the morning where a few select writers joined the folks at the office of Select Wines to taste wines alongside Gabriel Salas, brand ambassador for Concha Y Toro, for a tasting of something so new from Concha Y Toro, that few had actually experienced these wines yet: A new line of Gran Reserva wines from this Chilean powerhouse.  Now to many of us North Americans the words `Grand Reserva` means as close to nothing, when it comes to wines, as our shell-shocked great uncle Charlie`s fears about Area 51 and the Ruskies ... but in Latin America, where these wines were initially released, it means a great deal.  So here in North Ameria the wines will be released as the River Bank Series (Serie Riberas) because all of these single vineyard wines can also be tied to a river that flows right beside, or very near, to the vineyard - in fact the vineyards that supply the grapes that go into these wines are specifically influenced by the rivers they lie near.  Interesting to note that because all rivers are short and flow east/west in Chile, they start in the Andes Mountains and reach the Ocean within 4 days (talk about fresh water) ... I am sure you did not come to read about the river and water flow of Chile, you can get that on a number of other sites, as for the reviews of these wines ... well, that you can get here.  Seven wines were tried ... all were very good wines, some got higher star ratings then others, here they are in tasting order:

All Wines below are Concha Y Toro Serie Riberas (River Series) ...

The Whites ... (only two)
2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Rapel
Citrus, grapefruit and melon lead the charge on the nose, while the palate was refreshing but with real cutting acidity.  Grapefruit-citrus notes that mellowed to grapefruit cocktail through the mouth and ended pleasantly with a long melon-grassy finish.  Weighty mouth-feel that delivered a nicely fat (but not flabby), full, and fruity wine. (*** 1/2)

2010 Chardonnay ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Rapel 
The big 14% alcohol might carry you away here, but there is a nice balance of fruit and oak.  The nose is grassy, herbal and grapefruit-ish with a nice hint of vanilla.  There is some very pleasant acidity along with vanilla, hazelnut and mineral notes on the tongue.  Lemon-melon and slightly tropical nuances finishes it off nicely.  This is a lively Chardonnay that went thru no malolactic fermentation (to keep it fresh and yes, lively). (*** 1/2)
Merlot and Carmenere shine in Chile ... as for Malbec ...

The Reds (five wines)
2009 Merlot ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Maule
A slight blend here, Merlot is the lion`s share of 95% and Syrah (5%); Merlot is the obvious star of the show.  Blackberry, plum, vanilla along with other sweet dark fruited aromas, are all over the the smell of this one, really alluring, the way good Chilean Merlot should be.  The palate really shines with dark fruit: blackberry, spiced plum and firm tannins, which gives it a rather chalky finish - but you can mellow this with some aging.  You can`t avoid the chocolate/mocha like flavour that real rounds out the finish.  Bigger than your average Merlot and one that can age nicely for 2-5 years or more; so well-structured that the 14.5% alcohol is imperceptible. (****)

2009 Malbec ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Tinguiririca
At the moment Malbec is the IN grape and Argentina`s shining star ... but I have often called Chile the great copycat of the world because they can grow anything, here they try their hand at Malbec.  My feeling is they need more time with this one.  The nose is brambly black fruited and red plum, while the taste has a blackberry creaminess along with black cherry and spice, soft fruit, good acidity with decent tannins.  Leave this grape in Argentina because you do much better with your own signature grape. (***+)

2009 Carmenere ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Cachapoal
Carmenere is Chile grape of choice (signature) and they seem to be getting better and better at being able to handle it; as Malbec is having it`s day soon we`ll see Carmenere shine its own light on the world, at that time Chile will have cornered the market on making great Carm and this is a delicious example.  The aromas lure with mint-chocolate, raspberry and blackberry jam.  The palate is juicy raspberry with hints of chocolate, nice blackberry and other juicy dark fruits ... Concha seems to have a real handle on the making of good Carmenere.  A friendly, drink-now kinda wine that`s gulpably good.  There is a sweet element that really adds to the enjoyment, some described it as humbugs, black licorice, or vanilla - whatever you call it, it is delicious.  The addition of 10% Cabernet Sauvignon helps carry the wine to its ultimate conclusion. (****+)
The two stars of the tasting

2009 Syrah ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Loncomilla
100% Syrah and loving it ... make no mistake, this was the star of the show, at $16.95 (if it sees the market) is a steal.  The nose is white pepper, red raspberry, black licorice, vanilla and sandlewood (oh papa you could smell this wine all day and get more from each sniff).  But a wine is nothing without a great taste and this one has it in spades.   Juicy entry then pepper and spice take over before surrendering to black cherry fruit; then in a magical mouth moment it all melds together with the pepper coming back into the fruit and voila, mouth nirvana.  Good acidity makes this an excellent food wine, but I could sit and sip on it all evening without a scrap to eat.  Sitting on it for a few years will mellow it and make it even more of a sipper. (**** 1/2+)

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.95)
The River: Ribera del Tinguiririca
As the Cab helped the Carm with 10% so the Carmenere helps the Cabernet with 10% and it works beautifully.  Had it not been for the excellent Syrah this would have been the star of the show, it just delivered everything one looks for in a Cabernet Sauvignon and then added a little extra to push it over the top.  The nose has black raspberry, chocolate and vanilla along with a touch of cedar.  The palate was full of juicy red berries, more chocolate and vanilla, and silky tannins.  The best thing about it was that there is real balance here: lots of fruit with the acidity and tannins keeping it from being just being another fruit bomb of a wine. Great value. (**** 1/2)


1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My take (wasn't that Hector at the tasting?) ....

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2010 Ribera del Rapel, Ucuquer Vyd, Colchagua: barrel-fermented, aged nine months in French oak, no malo-lactic, mild and fruity, sweet-oak ripeness and slight tropicality, some Burgundian elements (e.g., hazelnuts). 14% ABV.

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Merlot 2009 Ribera del Maule, Mariposa Vyd, San Clemente: 5% syrah added, extractive, plums and US oak, a big wine, mouth-coating palate, very American with currently tight tones, chocolate. 12 months in half French and half US oak. 14.5% ABV. Vineyard planted in 1990s. Definitely lay down at this point.

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Ribera del Tinguiririca, Palo Santo Vyd, Marchigue (Colchagua): red clay helps make this a big wine (but drinking well now), with some herbaceous quality (10% carmenere added), lovely wine, good detail, red fruit, sweetish finish, not hot despite 14.5% ABV. 13 months in 80% French oak, balance US oak.

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Ribera del Rapel, Ucuquer Vyd Colchagua: three clones used, sur lie, vivid nose, lemons, minerals, long finish. 13.5% ABV.

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Carmenere 2006 Ribera del Cachapoal, Peumo Vyd, Peumo: 10% cabernet sauvignon added. 13 months in half French and half US oak. Bright, lively nose, woodsy flavour, some fennel, mocha too, black fruit. Food wine. 14% ABV.

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 Ribera del Tinguiririca, Palo Santo Vyd, Marchigue (Colchagua): reticent nose needs time to open, good structure and body, close concentration, blueberries and black fruit, food wine, hot finish, 13 months in 80% French oak and 20% US oak. 14.5% ABV.

-Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Syrah 2009 Ribera del Loncomilla Villa Alegre Vyd, Maule: lacks syrah nose initially, not a full bodied syrah, dry, with a higher acids finish, plums, chocolate, jammy but maturing early? Restrained? 14.5% ABV.