Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block 2012 Franschhoek South Africa

Already a lot of Whiskies are covered this year, so why not divert to a nice Wine again. There is a lot around to enjoy! Today we’ll be looking at a nice blend from South Africa, but first, an introduction:

The winery was founded by Hugenot settlers in 1776. A group of wine-enthousiasts bought the farm in 1993 and major development took place since 1996. Boekenhoutskloof today has around 20 hectares of vines. 75% are red grape varieties (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot), and thus 25% are whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier). Boekenhoutskloof is farming organically and has plans for bio-dynamic wine making. The winery produces around 3 million bottles per year of which 95% is branded as Porcupine Ridge and Wolftrap, the other 5% are marketed as Boekenhoutskloof and Chocolate Block. Chocolate Block we’ll be looking at is made with 70% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Grenache, 6% Cinsault and 1% Viognier. The Syrah grape variety is grown in Malmesbury where it has deep-rooted vines and gives a lot of color, flavor and tannins. Grenache is grown in Citrusdal which has a sandy terroir, excellent for Grenache. Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier are grown in Boekenhoutskloof and Cinsault is grown on granite soils in Wellington. So quite a complex blend.

The Chocolate Block 2012Franschhoek Valley is a broad valley in the south-east corner of Paarl, Western Cape. Franschhoek is warm and produces robust red wines (and fruity whites). The surrounding mountains (Wemmershoek to the north and Groot Drakenstein & Franschhoek to the south) cast shadows which help reducing the temperature and hours of sun the grapes get. They also reduce the influence from the sea. On the other hand, the mountains also hold the cooler winds from the south. Terroir is alluvial sandstone (doesn’t hold water well) and in the north some granite (in the mountains). On the hillsides there is some clay to be found.

Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Spicy, sweet red fruits, very nice and very appetizing. Fat (sweet) fruit notes, like plums, apple skins with a hint of Tobacco, but also fruity strawberries. Lots of creamy vanilla. Excellent warming nose.

Taste: Dark fruits, although none of them leap out my glass specifically, slightly unripe strawberries and some red berries maybe. A sort of “total” taste. A mild and very nice acidity that transforms into the oaky bitterness that is in the finish. Spicy wood, and no shortage of soft tannins. Next a hint of licorice. Hint of oaky bitterness in the finish.

Definitely a Syrah, although the Cabernet Sauvignon is detectable too. Excellent stuff. The wine has an ABV of 14.5%. The bottle was from Lot No. L13/252 and this vintage yielded 1735 barrels.

Points: 87

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Agostón Garnacha & Syrah 2013

Bodegas Virgen del Aguila, Paniza Agoston-Jabali lies at the foot of Iberico mountain range in Carinena (a DO), in north-east Spain. The Ibérico mountain range has a wide variety of landscapes and eco-systems. Half is used for vines, the other half is still forest or rocky mountain slopes

Agostón was first made in 2008. The maker calls it “daring, young, fruity & loved by everybody” All wines in this series are blends of two grape varieties. Here we’ll review the “yellow” one that is made with Garnacha and Syrah. The “red” one is made with Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both red wines are true 50/50 blends. The “green” one (a white Wine) is a blend of Viura and Chardonnay and last but not least a rosé Wine that has an orange label is made with Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon. As can be seen, all are blends of a “typical” Spanish grape and an International grape. Very daring and modern…

Agostón Garnacha & Syrah 2013Color: Deep red with purple.

Nose: Fruity and jammy. Very modern and accessible. Not very complex. Extremely likeable, like one likes a lemonade. Bold fruit, cherries, with cream and vanilla. A little bit of dairy, at first some acidity but after moving the wine around a bit in the glass, some typical notes from Syrah emerge. Obviously grapes that have seen a lot of sun. Warm but not dry or dusty. The red and black fruits are pretty aromatic.

Taste: Again very fruity and jammy but here the thick fruits are helped along with some nice acidity. Hardly any tannins to be found. I can’t imagine this has seen wood, although a little bitterness is there, also some vanillin seems present. Although very easily drinkable it will hold the fort when combined with cheeses and meats. Will do nicely too on its own.

Actually a very likeable and very nice wine, that has won some prizes along the way. Still I feel it is a very modern wine. Taylor-made for the modern, fast-forward and demanding market. No fuss, just grab-n’-buy, or buy-n’-drink or drink-n’-forget. Very fruity and just needs the drinker to sit back and enjoy himself/herself. It will not terrorize your conversation or hinder you while apping away on your phone. Nothing overly complex, no talk about tannins or how long you should put it in your cellar. Nice stuff though and not too expensive to boot. Good pick for bars and restaurants. Hip!

Points: 81

Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore DOCG 2006

Cleaning out the Wine Closet I found another Santa Cristina. I already reviewed the Toscana IGT 2009, the Cipresseto 2007 Rosato Toscana and the Umbria IGT 2011. This time the oldest Santa Cristina of the bunch, a Chianti Superiore DOCG 2006. The Chianti is made with 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot for balance. 13% ABV.

Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore DOCG 2006

Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Spicy with fruity jam. Black fruits like blackberries, blackcurrants but even strawberries found their way into this wine. It smells sweet and thick, as I said, jam-like. Deep and brooding, very typical for a wine from a warm climate. All in good balance. It has body and there sure is some flesh on the bone, musty and meaty.

Taste: Nice first sip with earth and a lot of depth. The fruits are all present too, but this time around even hint of plum are present in the “confiture”. A little bit of acidity balancing the whole out, and giving it a bit of zest and life. Some soft tannins and chalk, but nothing much. Tannins and a hint of vanilla from wood. The wood also adds structure to the wine. Good finish and even a while after swallowing, a nice taste remains in my mouth. Good balance and maybe not the most complex of wines, but who cares, just enjoy it.

I thought earlier that I ended a trilogy of Santa Cristina’s claiming that the red from Tuscany was easily the best. This Chianti Superiore, shows us again that as far as I am concerned the reds are the way to go with Santa Cristina. This Chianti is maybe even the best of the bunch and did well with some ageing. Recommended.

Points: 83

Gabbiano Solatio Toscana IGT 2011

The surroundings of Tuscany in Italy are breathtaking, and I know that people who live there should be inspired too. I expect wine makers in Tuscany must be especially inspired since they make wine from the fruits of this land. This is the fourth bottle from this region, amongst others with two decent reds, but up ’till now, not a real stunner yet. I now got a bottle from a real wine specialist so I have high hopes for this Gabbiano Solatio from 2011 (Picture shows the 2010 vintage). I like the label, the orange color really stands out on the shelves and the knight and the sun, really look appealing, The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Sangiovese. Not a lot of Sangiovese for a Tuscan blend, and compared to others no Merlot. That leaves more room for the character grapes of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess we may be on to something…

Gabbiano Solatio Toscana IGT 2011Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Smells spicy and most definitely of Syrah and a bit less of Cabernet Sauvignon, no sense in mentioning the Sangiovese. Although Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon can be pretty full-bodied, this blend smells fresh and lively. Sweet jam of red fruits, and the slightest hint of fresh acidity, yes all that on the nose. It leaps out at you from the glass. Very appealing, and appetizing fruity Wine. Strawberries and cherries, ain’t that lovely! Great balance. The nose alone is way better than the previous contenders!

Taste: Not heavy, but with a fair amount of body and soft tannins. Some slight wood influence matches the tannins. Not as heavy on the sweet fruits as the nose suggested, but very appealing never the less. I did suit our dinner fine, grilled chicken with rice and a creamy tomato sauce. It would have been less complementary to it, if it would have been much sweeter.

Just like the other Tuscan Red Wines I review earlier, this is an entry-level wine. Nothing very fancy, but even with pizza and pasta I’d like to drink something I really like without breaking the bank. A great Tuscan with easy drinkability and easy food pairing qualities, and in the first 24 hours after opening, very suitable for drinking by itself. Good one. Recommended!

Points: 85

Short Stories: Chateau de Mendis Premiéres Côtes de Bordeaux 2003

Hey another short story. So no introduction, no research (or nothing to research), just a short (tasting) note about something (in most cases, a wine I had with dinner), so without further ado…

Chateau de Mendis 2003Color: Extremely dark ruby-red

Nose: Nicely spicy and warming. Oozes hot earth. Spicy and somewhat woody. Nose is nicely balanced. Again lots of earth, dusty, meaty and with deep red fruits, mainly cherries. Very pleasant nose. I don’t know why, but smelling this, I have a craving for Pizza.

Taste: The mouthfeel is a bit thinner than I expected from the nose. It still is warming and has quite the body. Fruity again with some added acidity (but not much). This most definitely is a wine that needs to breathe. It was aged for quite a bit and has developed well. I imagine this wine wasn’t made for keeping. The soft tannins are there, on the tongue, but not as much in the taste. Again a bit meaty, but in no way unforgiving. Will do well with most foods. Meat and cheese and anything in between.

Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, but blended with a little bit of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. 12.5% ABV.

Points: 84

Casa La Teja D.O. La Mancha Tempranillo – Merlot 2009

Next up is this rather cheap Spanish Wine. My mother made us a very good Moussaka with the recipe she used came the advice to combine it with a Tempranillo from the La Mancha region. So looking around on the many shelves in my “cellar” I spotted this Wine. This is a blend of Tempranillo (85%) and Merlot (15%). How unusual. Casa La Teja is a brand owned by Coop. Jesús del Perdón, and when Jesus loves it, who am I to think otherwise.

Casa La Teja 2009When looking for information about this cooperation, I can find that it is located in Manzanares, and I am led to the www.yuntero.com website. On this site I cannot find this Casa La Teja wine, so I don’t have a lot of hope this will turn out to be something good. Let’s have a go then.

Color: Deep ruby red.

Nose: Very fresh and fruity, the Obvious vanilla-like black currants and cherries, but also the smell of fresh apples. Very likeable and light. Easy, young and very pleasing. It gives off a feeling of warm, dusty soil and silence. Fleshy, buttery and bold. After this a little more on the black or rather red fruits and some more acidic freshness start to play a role. When it gets more air from swirling in the glass a more typical and fleshy Tempranillo smell oozes out of my glass. It’s not very complex but very enjoyable nevertheless.

Taste: Again easy, yet very refined. As the smell predicted, this is not very complex, but it has great body and harmony to it. Not very heavy on the acidity and certainly not a lot of tannins (at first). Given some time to breathe and develop a little, same more tannins emerge, but still not a lot. The apples return as well. Dark cherries, sweet cherries, and come to think of it, it is actually sweeter than I expected. Fruit Sugar and syrup with a hint of licorice. Great easy drinker this is. Lots of blackberries in the finish (the sweet and the sour).

Very easy drinkable and will do good with everything. Good birthday wine, because it will do well on its own. As I said before, the first time I had this was with a very tasty Moussaka and it accompanied that well, so this turns out to be a rather unknown wine, of pretty good quality that is very versatile to boot. Buy by the box.

Points: 84

Bodegas Ramón Bilbao Rioja DOCa Edición Limitada 2009

Today, Bodegas Ramón Bilbao is a modern winery with a long history dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. The property is located in Haro, Rioja Alta, in the heart of the DOC Rioja region, and therefore Ramón Bilbao is considered to be one of the best. The soil is calcareous and loamy. The vineyards are located there, where the warm wind from the dry Sierra de Cantabria collides with the cooler Mediterranean breeze. This makes for modern, fresh and fruity entry-level wines and a classic ripe, vanilla and wood-scented Gran Reservas, and lots in between. Obviously, these Rioja’s are made with the Temperanillo grape variety.

Color: Deep ruby red

Nose: Bourbon vanilla, creamy, chewy, brooding and nice spiciness from the barrel ageing. It has that much vanilla I would say, American oak barrels or maybe the feisty Temperanillo grape variety overpowers the tannins of the French oak that could have been used in stead. Probably both are used at the same time. Dry leather and some dust. Red fruits, cherries, strawberry and raspberry. Lovely stuff.

Taste: Dark wine, dark spices, but with an added spiciness and a killer vanilla finish. Dry blackberry. Perfect woody spiciness comes through, late in the finish with no off notes whatsoever. The only beef one could have with this wine is that the finish is too short. It doesn’t have a short finish, but the wine is so good and the aftertaste is so pleasant as well, it should have gone on forever. Very mild in the tannin-department, which again makes me think that most of the barrels used for ageing is made from American oak.

Highly versatile wine. Is probably good with a lot of foods, but most certainly drinks very well on its own. For me a great Rioja! 14% ABV. Advised not to keep lying around for a long time, but another year or two can’t hurt this. Recommended.

Points: 87