Category Archives: 60 Second Reviews

60 Second Wine Review — Graham’s 1985 Vintage Port

A few quick thoughts on the 1985 Graham’s Vintage Port.
Graham's Vintage Port 1985

The Geekery

William and John Graham founded their eponymous Port house in 1820. Since 1970, it’s been part of the Symington family’s extensive portfolio along with Dow’s, Warre’s, Cockburn’s and Quinta do Vesuvio.

Five vineyards provided fruit for this vintage. The most notable is Quinta dos Malvedos, located on the border of the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior regions. Acquired in 1890, this was Graham’s first estate vineyard.

Peter Symington, widely considered one of the all-time great master blenders, crafted the 1985 as part of a 45-year career that lasted till his retirement in 2009. Still involved in winemaking, Symington tends to his estate, Quinta da Fonte Branca in the Baixo Corgo.

I couldn’t find the exact blend of this wine. Looking at the plantings of the vineyards gives some clue. It’s going to be primarily Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz–as most Ports are. But there are varieties like Sousão and Tinta Amarela (from Malvedos and Quinta do Tua) as well as Alicante Bouschet (Malvedos)–along with assorted “old mixed vines”–that could be in here.

The Wine

Black peppercorns by Jonathunder. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Not sure if the black pepper note is from grapes or fortifying spirit. Since Port uses a 77% abv grape spirit (as opposed to 95% abv used for Sherry and Madeira), you pick up more of the spirit’s influence.

High-intensity nose. An intriguing mix of fresh black fruit–plums and cherries–with dried spices like anise and cinnamon.

On the palate, the fresh fruit is still lively with medium-plus acidity. But there are more concentrated fig flavors. The medium tannins are incredibly soft, wrapping around your tongue like velvet. Still quite full-bodied with the concentrated fruit. The spices from the nose carry through but are accompanied by very distinctive black pepper. Long finish lingers on the spice.

The Verdict

Remarkable freshness and life for something approaching its 35th birthday this year. But that’s vintage Port for you.

In the US, this is averaging around $108 and is worth every penny.

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60 Second Wine Review – Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira

A few quick thoughts on the Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira.

The Geekery

Cossart Gordon Rainwater
Though now part of the Madeira Wine Company (along with Blandy’s and Leacock’s), Cossart Gordon is the oldest Madeira shipper still in existence. Founded in 1747 by Francis Newton, it’s possible that this house originated the Rainwater style of Madeira that was once incredibly popular in the United States.

In his book, Madeira, The Island Vineyard, Noel Cossart claims that Francis and his brother, Andrew Newton, developed the style in the mid-18th century while shipping barrels of Verdelho to Virginia.

During that time, casks of Madeira were transported between boat and shore with strong swimmers floating partially filled barrels in the water. Once the barrels reached shore, they were topped up, resealed, and awaited carriages to take them to the market. Occasionally the barrels were left unbunged sitting on the beach. This made them susceptible to rainfall diluting the wine. The Newtons discovered that their customers liked this lighter, less concentrated style and began deliberately producing it by blending.

While originally Verdelho, today Tinta Negra is most often used–as it is in this Cossart Gordon.

The wine is fortified only 4 days into fermentation to retain 55 g/l sugar. It spends 3 months heated to 45-50°c in estufas. Cossart Gordon then ages the wine 3 years in American oak barrels.

The Wine

Candied orange by Sebastian Koppehel, Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-4.0

The acidity amplifies the confit, candied orange note and balances the sugar.

Medium intensity nose. A mix of toasted almonds and candied oranges with some salt brine.

On the palate, the oak is more noticeable with vanilla mingling with caramel and some clove baking spice. Medium-plus acidity is not as mouthwatering as many Madeiras but carries the citrus tang well. Medium-plus body balances the sugar and alcohol. Moderate length finish brings back the brine but lingers most on vanilla.

The Verdict

For around $15, this is a tasty bottle with a fun bit of history. But it’s not anything that will particularly blow you away. However, it’s worth trying if you see it.

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60 Second Wine Review – La Cuvée Mythique Sparkling Chardonnay

A few quick thoughts on the La Cuvée Mythique sparkling Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc.

The Geekery
La cuvee Mythique

La Cuvée Mythique is the flagship brand of the Vinadeis group (previously Val d’Orbieu), which is a consortium of growers and co-ops in southern France. Tom Fiorina of The Vine Route describes it as “a cooperative on steroids.”

As Jamie Goode notes, each domaine is run mostly independently with the consortium sharing resources and providing marketing support. The exception is La Cuvée Mythique. The wines for this label come from a collaborative project among several growers made at a central location.

Founded in 1967, the group has been a fixture in the Languedoc wine industry, even earning the first 90+ score of a Languedoc wine from Robert Parker.

The name change to Vinadeis came about in 2015 when the company secured more holdings in the Bordeaux merchant firm Cordier Mestrezat Grands Crus. Between their Cordier interest and own growers, Vinadeis owns over 17,000 ha (42,000 acres) of vineyards throughout southern France. Most all of the vineyards are at least sustainably farmed with a significant portion being certified organic.

La Cuvée Mythique Brut Reserve is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vineyards throughout the Languedoc. It’s fermented in the traditional method with the wine spending at least 12 months aging on the lees.

The Wine

Lemon tarts by Ruth Hartnup. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Very rich and ripe lemon pastry in this sparkler.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Citrus and green fruit driven-lemon, pear and even a little Sauv blanc-like gooseberry. Ripe but not as much as I would expect from a Languedoc sparkler. There’s also some brioche, but overall it’s not very autolytic on the nose.

However, on the palate, the script switches. Full-bodied weight with much riper fruit. It has a lemon tart pastry feel. Very creamy with medium-plus acidity helping but could use some more. Relatively dry but not bone-dry, so guessing a dosage around 8-10 g/l. Moderate finish lingers on the pastry notes.

The Verdict

For $12-15, this is a decent sparkler with some complexity. It’s definitely for folks who like riper and weightier style bubbles.

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60 Second Wine Review – Georges Vesselle 2009 Grand Cru Brut

A few quick thoughts on the 2009 Georges Vesselle Brut Champagne.

The Geekery
Georges Vesselle Champagne

Georges Vesselle was an icon of the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, having served as its mayor for 25 years as well as vineyard manager for Perrier-Jouët, Mumm and Heidsieck Monopole.

Taking over the family estate in 1951, Vesselle used his label to focus on single village, Grand Cru wine. Today the house is run by his sons, Bruno and Eric, who tend to the family’s 17 ha (42 acres) of vines.

Located on the south end of the Montagne de Reims, the Grand Cru village of Bouzy is noted for its Pinot noir, which makes up almost 88% of plantings. The warm south-facing slopes produces riper fruit with Bouzy being a major producer of still red Coteaux Champenois as well.

Georges Vesselle, in particular, was a long-time proponent for Bouzy Rouge–being interviewed in 1971 by The New York Times about the style while he was mayor.

A powerful presence and weighty mouthfeel characterize Bouzy Pinot. Champagne houses that prominently feature Bouzy fruit include Paul Bara, Bollinger, André Clouet, Duval-Leroy, Benoît Lahaye, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Pierre Paillard, Pol Roger, Camille Savès and Taittinger. In addition, many houses use red wine from Bouzy to add color to their roses.

The 2009 Brut is 90% Pinot noir and 10% Chardonnay with 5 years aging on lees. Bottled with 8 g/l dosage.

The Wine

Almond cake photo by Michal Klajban. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The roasted almond and pastry elements add complexity to this excellent Champagne.

High-intensity nose–lots of yellow fruits like Golden Delicious apple and lemons. Noticeable autolytic and tertiary notes of pastry dough and honey-roasted almonds.

On the palate, those fruit notes carry through and are very ripe. The high-acidity keeps the full-bodied and creamy mouthfeel well balanced. Long finish lingers on the tertiary almonds.

The Verdict

In France, this 2009 Georges Vesselle is around 40-45 euros. However, in the US, it’s unfortunately closer to $90. (Before extra tariffs!)

So while it’s very well made with subtle complexity, it’s hard to say that this is a great deal. But if you can get it for $60-70, grab it.

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60 Second Wine Review — Frank Family 2013 Blanc de Blancs

A few quick thoughts on the 2013 Frank Family Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine from Carneros.

The Geekery
Frank Family bubbles

While today Frank Family is known for big Rutherford Cabs and buttery Chardonnays, its origins were actually sparkling wine. In 1992, Rich Frank, a Disney exec, bought Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars with Koerner Rombauer.

Hanns Kornell was a German immigrant who survived the Dachau concentration camp during World War II before founding his eponymous sparkling house in 1958.

Using the methode champenoise, Kornell helped innovate many new sparkling wine techniques in California. His wines earned high praise with Marilyn Monroe reportedly being a fan.

Rich Frank later bought out Rombauer’s interest in the winery and changed the name to Frank Family Vineyards. To honor Kornell, they kept producing sparkling wines.

The 2013 Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Carneros. The wine spent 3 years aging on the lees with 500 cases made.

The Wine

Meyer lemons photo by ChaosNil. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under ) CC-BY-SA 3.0

Lots of ripe lemon notes in this wine.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Very citrusy with ripe lemon notes coupled with floral orange blossom. Apples with a toasted pastry element follow.

The palate echos the nose but also introduces an intriguing spiced pear note that adds more depth. Creamy mouthfeel enhances the toasted element and “California Chard” feel of the wine.

Medium-plus body. The medium-plus acidity is enough to feel balanced with the dosage (likely in the 10-11 g/l range). But it could use a little more zip of freshness. Long finish lingers more on the tree fruit, especially the spiced pear.

The Verdict

For around $45-55, it’s a decent value. It certainly offers more complexity and depth than many of your typical mass-market Champagnes in that range like Veuve Clicquot & Moet.

But it’s not going to knock your socks off and there are certainly better values out there. I also got a chance to try their 2011 Lady Edythe Reserve Brut (aged for 6 years on lees), which sells at the winery for $110. That was very tasty as well, but not that drastically different from the Blanc de Blancs.

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60 Second Wine Review — Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée NV Brut

A few quick thoughts on the Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée NV Brut Champagne.

Note: This wine was a sample.

The Geekery
Bruno Paillard NV

Bruno Paillard founded his eponymous house in 1981 when he was just 27 years old. Right away, Paillard forged his own path, pioneering the use of back label disgorgement dates in 1983.

He also took a considerable gamble for a young house by forgoing the tricky 1984 vintage because the quality didn’t meet Paillard’s standards. In her book, Champagne, Master of Wine Serena Sutcliffe noted that this hard decision cost Paillard over 1 million francs but solidified his quality-minded reputation.

Today, Bruno Paillard owns 32 ha (79 acres) of vineyards, which covers about 60% of their production. These include choice plots in the Grand Cru villages of Oger, Le Mesnil and Verzenay as well as highly esteemed Premier Cru vineyards in Cumières. All estate vineyards are farmed sustainably, with many plots organic and biodynamic.

The Première Cuvée is 45% Pinot noir, 33% Chardonnay and 22% Meunier, partially fermented in oak barrels with MLF allowed. The blend includes up to 50% reserve wines aged in a modified solera system that Paillard developed in 1985. This is impressive considering many NV usually only have 20-40% reserve wine.

Paillard treats his NV like a vintage Champagne with 3 years on the lees before disgorgement and dosage of 6 g/l.

The Wine

Lemon custard pie photo by Prayitno. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

The zesty citrus nose morphs into a round custardy mouthfeel.


High-intensity nose. Ripe apple with zesty lemon rind. Roasted almonds add a smokey note.

On the palate, the ripeness of the apple comes through. But the creaminess of the mouthfeel makes the lemon more custardy. Very well balanced with the dosage and lively high acidity. Long finish keeps the smokey notes and adds a little ginger spice.

The Verdict

This is truly an NV that over-delivers at vintage Champagne level. Exceptionally well made with excellent complexity. It’s averaging around 46 euros ($51), but if you can find this in the US for under $70, you’re getting a steal.

BONUS GEEKERY

Really enjoyed this Bruno Paillard interview with Lisa Denning of Grape Collective about organic viticulture in Champagne.

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60 Second Wine Review – Renzo M. Erta e China Rosso di Toscana

A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Renzo M Erta e China Rosso di Toscana from the Renzo Masi family.

Note: This wine was a sample.

The Geekery
Renzo M Erta e China

Renzo M is the negociant label of third-generation winemaker Paolo Masi. His family estate, Fattoria di Basciano, is based in the Chianti Rufina DOCG subzone of Tuscany. Located in the hills east of Florence, Rufina is a higher elevation with vineyards going up to 1600ft (500m) compared to the average 1000ft (300m) elevation in Chianti Classico.

Because of this higher elevation combined with a continental climate, there’s a wide diurnal temperature spread. As a result, Sangiovese from the limestone soils of Rufina tends to ripen slower with well-integrated tannins and fresh acidity.

For the Renzo M wines, the Masi family supplements their estate fruit with grapes grown by their neighbors in Rufina and surrounding areas. The Erta e China is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged 14 months in a mix of 2nd year French & American oak barrels that were previously used for the family’s estate wines. In 2017, Masi only produced 40,000 bottles of this wine.

The Wine

Photo by ShakataGaNai: Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Juicy red cherries linger on the finish of this Sangio-Cab blend.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Lots of floral and bright red cherry notes. There are some noticeable vanilla and oak spices.

On the palate, those cherry notes carry through with juicy medium-plus acidity. However, the Cab flavors of red currant and tobacco leaf become more pronounced. Oak is present but well integrated with the medium-plus tannins and medium-plus body of the fruit. Moderate length finish lingers on the fruit and tobacco leaf.

The Verdict

My previous experience with the Masi family’s wines was with the Il Bastardo Sangiovese that Paolo Masi consults on. While that wine is enjoyable, as was the 2018 Renzo M Chianti that was also sent as a sample, this 2017 Erta e China is definitely a step above.

For between $10-15 USD, this Rosso di Toscana certainly has great structure & complexity that can stand alone or with food.

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60 Second Wine Review — Gonet-Médeville Extra Brut Rosé

A few quick thoughts on the Gonet-Médeville Premier Cru Rosé Champagne.

The Geekery

Gonet-Medeville rose Champagne

In 2000, Xavier Gonet started the Champagne house with his wife, Julie Médeville, in the premier cru village of Bisseuil in the Grande Vallée de la Marne.

Gonet hails from the notable Champagne family of Philippe Gonet in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger with that house now run by Xavier’s siblings. Médeville comes from Bordeaux where her family owns several estates in Graves and Sauternes including Ch. Respide Médeville, Ch. Les Justice and Ch. Gilette.

Gonet-Médeville farms all 10 ha (25 acres) of their vineyards sustainably. The vines are located entirely in premier and Grand Cru villages and include the Champ Alouette and Louvière vineyards in Le Mesnil as well as La Grande Ruelle in Ambonnay.

For many years, Champagne Gonet-Médeville has been brought to the US by legendary importer Martine Saunier. The 2014 documentary film, A Year in Champagne, features Xavier Gonet prominently along with other Saunier clients–Stephane Coquilette, Saint-Chamant and Diebolt-Vallois.

The Extra Brut Rosé is 70% Chardonnay and 27% Pinot noir with 3% still red wine added for color. The wine was aged for seven months after primary fermentation in neutral oak barrels before bottling. Gonet then matured the wine three years on its lees with around 8000 bottles produced.

The Wine

Photo by 4028mdk09. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The rich pomegranate adds some savory complexity to this Champagne.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Tart cherries and pomegranate with an interesting ginger spice note.

On the palate, the red fruits carry through and add some ruby red grapefruit as well. Here, the spice morphs into a toasty gingerbread note. The medium-weight of the fruit balances well with the silky mousse. But what’s most remarkable is the long saline/minerally finish that is almost lip-smacking.

The Verdict

This is a charming Rosé that’s very solid for around $65-75 retail. The restaurant I enjoyed this at had it marked up to $130 which is still a good value for its quality.

BTW, if you want to check out the trailer for A Year in Champagne, I highly recommend it!

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60 Second Wine Review — D’Oliveira 1908 Boal Madeira

A few quick thoughts on the 1908 D’Oliveira Boal Madeira.

The Geekery

Joao Pereira d’Oliveira founded his namesake winery in 1850 originally to supply wine for other shippers. It wasn’t until the 1970s that D’Oliveira began bottling under their own name.

Still owned by d’Oliveira’s descendants,  the estate produces around  150,000 liters of wines a year. After many acquisitions of other Madeira shippers, D’Oliveira is home to some of the oldest stocks of Madeira. All their Madeira is bottled on-demand, which means that these wines spend a considerable amount of time in cask.

The Bual/Boal grape tends to ripen to higher sugar levels than Sercial and Verdelho. The resulting Madeiras are often sweet though usually not as sweet as Malvasia.

The Wine

Photo by Andrea Levers. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

The savory balsamic note is mouthwateringly delicious.

High-intensity nose–An interesting mix of caramel, ginger and balsamic. With some air, there is also a little herbal note like rosemary and mint that emerges. Crazy complex.

On the palate, those savory balsamic notes come through. As you roll it around your tongue, the tart fruit emerges (citrus, a little fig, and even some tart red cherries). It’s remarkably fresh-tasting given this wine’s age. Intensely mouthwatering and intensely rich–such a textural juxtaposition. The sweetness and caramel also carry through but are balanced so well with the acidity. The more you engage the wine, the more different notes come out.  Even some white floral notes emerge with the long (2 minute-plus) mouthwatering finish.

The Verdict

I had this at a restaurant where I paid $40 for a 1.5 oz pour and it was worth every penny. A full bottle is averaging around $738 and I would honestly say that’s tempting as well.

The beauty of Madeira is how long it last after opening, much like a great whiskey. One bottle could give months, even years, of pleasure. This is definitely something that every wine lover should try.  Well worth at least $40 for a taste of such a complex wine that is essentially living history.

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60 Second Wine Review — 2007 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee

A few quick thoughts on the 2007 Vilmart & Cie Coeur de Cuvee Champagne.
Vilmart 2007 Coeur de Cuvee Champagne

The Geekery

Laurent Champs is the 5th generation vigneron running his family’s estate in the premier cru village of Rilly-la-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims. Despite this region being world-renown for Pinot noir, the 11 ha (27 acres) of Vilmart are majority Chardonnay.

While his father, René, experimented with biodynamics, Laurent practices sustainable and organic viticulture with AMPELOS certification.

The Coeur de Cuvee is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot noir sourced from a single parcel of 55+ year-old vines. Vilmart uses only the first 14 hl of pressing (the “coeur/heart”) instead of the full 20.5 hl allowed. The vin clair is aged in white Burgundy barrels for ten months with no malolactic fermentation taking place.

The wine then spends six years aging on the lees before being disgorged with a 7-9 g/l dosage. For the 2007, only 150 cases were imported into the US.

The Wine

Photo by Brisbane Falling. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Lots of apple pastry action going on with this Champagne with some almond marzipan making as well.

High-intensity nose–lots of apple pastry and vanilla notes with racy citrus peel. A little air lets a white floral note come out that’s a mix of lilies and acacia.

On the palate, those pastry notes come through and are very creamy with an almond marzipan note. Noticeable oak spice is also present, but it complements the spice pear that emerges adding another layer of depth. Very full-bodied mouthfeel but ample acidity keeps it balanced and fresh. Long finish ends with the oak spice and the creamy marzipan.

The Verdict

This is a bloody gorgeous Champagne that is worth every penny as a prestige cuvee in the $140-150 range. Truthfully, it blows many more expensive bottles out of the water.

However, I do suspect with the strong lingering oak notes–even after 10+ years in the bottle–that younger vintages (like their current 2011 release) will be more overtly oaky. While this 2007 was in a beautiful spot right now, this may be a Champagne worth focusing more on older vintages.

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