Tag: Matt Kramer

Oct 10 2011

The Joy of Drinking Aged Wines

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Before I boarded the bus to Orange, I enjoyed some terrific aged wines over lunch at the Wine and Food Society of NSW. One of my favourites was the Leasingham Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon 1992.

What struck me most about this wine was that you couldn’t mistake it for anything but a superbly aged cabernet sauvignon. The bouquet was alluring – blackcurrant fruit subtly enhanced with tobacco, dark chocolate and cedar aromas. The dark stone fruit flavours were still fresh and full, delivering complexity and great length. And while the tannins were now soft and silky, the wine still had excellent body and structure.

In his reviews of first growth Bordeaux wines, the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker will often remark that the wines need a decade or more of cellaring. Not only does bottle age help to soften the tannins and make the wine more accessible, but cellaring gives the wine time to evolve and, if it’s really good, to transform into something quite extraordinary or even transcendent.

Today, of course, most wines are made for immediate appeal, and well north of 90% are consumed within the first year of their release. Interestingly, Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator argues that, “We must age wines today not merely to tease the genie out of the bottle, but rather, to see if it’s in there at all.” Kramer asks, “Will the modern Argentine Malbecs that are so delicious today, become with 20 years of bottle age as profound as they teasingly suggest? No-one knows.” (Why We Age Wines. And Why it Matters by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator, 30 April 2010)

In my post, Cellaring Australian Pinot. How long do they last?, I mentioned that the longevity of many great pinot noirs were defying critics’ expectations. Wines expected … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Great Advice from the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer on Interpreting Wine Scores

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator recently wrote an article about what he likes to tell people who are new to wine appreciation. (What Should Newbies Know? If you were teaching newcomers to wine, what would you tell them? by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator, 15 March 2011) It’s a great read, and I thought I would share with you his advice on how to interpret wine scores because it struck a chord with me.

Deduct two points from any score over 90 and add three points to any score over 80. This always gets a laugh. And sure, it’s meant only half-seriously. But it’s not bad advice all the same.

Everybody knows that only scores of 90 points and higher have power in the marketplace. So an awful lot of really good, worthwhile wines find themselves in the limbo of, say, 88 points. Like the Federal Reserve, folks who give scores have to worry about inflation. So they try to hold back on that precious 10-point spread between 90 and 100 points.

Consciously or otherwise, an awful lot of really good wines don’t get the benediction of a 90-point-or-higher score. Inevitably, perceptions get skewed. Life is unfair.

So my advice to newbies is to muffle the siren call of those 90-point scores by deducting two points and to increase the potency of the 80-point range by adding three points. Voilà! That delightful Bourgogne rouge that received “only” 88 points suddenly becomes an irresistible 91-point beauty—one that probably has an invitingly low price, too.

Sure, it’s a game, like choosing the third least-expensive bottle on a wine list. But I don’t see much of a down side (the 90-pointers will still be in the running), and there’s a helluva upside for many of today’s best wine deals.

Sometimes I still … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Australia’s Old Vine Wines

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The list of acclaimed wines made from old vines in Australia are many and would include, to name a few, such renowned names as Henschke Hill of Grace, Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, Torbreck RunRig, Wendouree Shiraz, Chris Ringland Shiraz, Clarendon Hill AstralisD’Arengberg The Dead Arm and Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Old Vine Shiraz.

So what makes old vine wine so special? Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator addressed this very question in his article If it Says “Old Vine,” Will You Buy?: The benefits of old vines are debatable, particularly to those who don’t have them, 15 June 2010.  “Of all the many ambiguities of wine”, Kramer said, ” ‘old vines’ seems to be one of the more troublesome. Every grower I’ve met, everywhere in the world, who has old vines insists that older vines are better. Yet I’ve met a fair number of growers who suggest that “old-vine admiration” is, if not bunk, then certainly overstated and overrated. Not coincidentally, these same scoffers are not in possession of old vines.”

Before launching into a discussion about the merits of older vines over their younger counterparts, here’s a few points about old vines that are beyond dispute.

Old Vines are Fairly Unique

Wine-making is thousands of years old but surprisingly old vines, or at least the really old vines of 60 to 100+ years, are in fact not that common. Their scarcity is due to a number of factors, but most importantly is a consequence of the damage caused by the vine destroying Phylloxera louse, which at the turn of the 20th century wiped out vine stocks throughout Europe and especially in the wine-making centre of France.

Fortunately, Australia was spared the full force of the Phylloxera curse. Phylloxera hit Victoria and New South … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Argentine Malbec: The World’s Best Value Red Wine?!

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Wine Spectator recently released its Top 100 Wines for the year. Argentina was well represented with five wines (Australia had six), and all of the Argentine wines were malbecs, mainly from the Mendoza region at the foothills of the Andes in Argentina.

According to the Wine Spectator’s wine critic Matt Kramer: “There is no greater value in red wine anywhere in the world today than Argentine malbec.” (Augustus Weed, 2010 New World Wine Experience: Miraculous Malbec, The Wine Spectator, 1 November 2010).  Of the five Argentine wines in the Top 100, only the Trapiche Mendoza Vina Fausto Orellana de Escobar 2007 (rrp $US48) was more than $US25.

Malbec is one of the accepted varieties in Bordeaux. The Cahors region in south-west France was granted appellation controlee status in 1971. Due to the ravaging effects of phylloxera and changing tastes, until recently malbec plantings in Cahors were in decline. But perhaps spurred on by the export success of the variety in Argentina, some outstanding producers are now making fine examples of this big, rich and darkly coloured ‘black’ wine.

The spotlight, however, is on Argentine Malbec. Here the variety thrives in the high altitude and semi-desert landscapes of Mendoza and the surrounding regions. One of the wines in the Top 100, the Bodega Colomé Malbec 2008 (ranked 66th), from the Calchaqui Valley of the Salta province, holds the record for the world’s highest vineyard at 3000 metres!

The combination of high altitude, long days of bright sunshine and the warm, dry La Zonda winds, which bring warmth to the high altitude vines, produce vivid fruit of intense flavours, good acidity and fine tannins. Many of the better wines are made from 100 plus year old vines.

In contrast, French malbec is subject to a shorter growing season, which produces … Read the rest