What Do You Think of This Wine: “O’Lillo!”?

O’LILLO Baracchi Toscana, 2014

Not often do you find a red wine that has spent 22 days in maceration in cone-shaped oak casksimg_0010 and has then spent 6 months in stainless steel followed by 3 months in bottle before release.  Upon examination, it is as expected: a medium ruby color and shows some smokiness and char from the maceration in oak, adding complexity from the oak cooperage.  The fruit is bright red berries and cherries and is not covered up or dulled by the treatment.

The unusual winemaking procedure makes for a wine that needs to be experienced.  The tannins are soft and well integrated.  One must say that it has elegance, and ratings have soared to 94! 

What do you think?  Is it outstanding or is such a rating too technically driven.  Does the taste and emotion’s appeal suggest a lower rating?  I think the latter.  Although the wine is very well balanced and elegant, because of its lack of depth I would rate it an 89.  A wine needs to make a statement and this one falls short on that count.  It seems a little empty.  The maceration in oak certainly brings out some definite oak character but without the richness of a deep and rewarding complexity.

Rating:  89

Emotional rating: 85

A Perfect Wine – 100 Points!

PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Blocks I and J, McWilliams Oakville Vineyard,PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, 2013

Why is it that we don’t find many wines that we would rate perfect?  Because the journey from bud break to harvest and harvest to release is complicated with all kinds of decisions — some that must follow a scientific path and so many that are the judgments of an artist at work in both the vineyard and winery.  Let’s explore a wine that we would rate at 100 points.  If you get to taste one, you will be most fortunate. 

This PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon opened with an explosion of aromas presented in perfect harmony.  There was no indication that one element was out of balance with the other volatile elements.   This is seldom achieved.  At the same time, the harmony of flavors did not destroy an unmistakable example of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon — truly varietal. 

Inspection of the color, clarity, and brilliance of the wine revealed a deeply opaque core and a brilliant, ruby rim with no indications of any visible issues that would immediately downgrade it.  Of course, no Brett, VA, or other defects were detectable.  Very intense aromas of black currant, blackberry, and blueberry on a backdrop of vanilla, licorice and spice in a perfect marriage of flavors jumped to greet me.  It was truly impressive. 

The taste was where the wine began to distinguish itself and claim its right to an expression of perfection.  It’s attack on the palate was as soft as the feeling of falling into a feather pillow.  The wine’s full luxuriant body was dense, rich, and layered with fruit.  Each wine should announce its character and this one did as it coated the palate, refusing to fade, making the gustatory feeling one to remember.  Fixed and volatile elements were in good balance. And then on the finish, once again it clothed the back palate with a coating of sheer pleasure that was, oh, so fulfilling.  This rich character was also cleansing in its own way and smooth as silk. 

Could I find just one indiscretion, one hint of a fault or suggestion it could be better?  No, not really.  But the absence of a fault does not make a great wine.  It was what it was, what it offered; it was so much fuller and complete than your expectations could imagine.  That was its greatness.  At last, those tannins — unmistakeable, but fine and delicate in texture and already fully integrated — added their forecast of years ahead.  There was no way I could disagree with Robert Parker’s evaluation. 

Rating 100 points

Emotional rating:  Wine heaven

Available — Sold out. 

A Biodynamic, French, Granache with a Lush Texture and Full Body

A Notable Producer to Watch: Chateau Maris 2012 La Liviniere

2012 Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière

2012 Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière

As I have said in other blogs the wineries of Southern France, in this case the Western Languedoc, need close watching.  Biodynamic farming and winemaking is becoming more popular and although the system may raise some eyebrows, the wines are usually good and worthy of examination, too.  The winery at Chateau Maris is gravity fed and allows the fermentation to take place with native yeasts, meaning the winemaker has little control over what happens in the fermentation.  Nature takes its course.  It is thought that the resultant wines are more complex and layered, but only the tasting will tell.

Grenache is a hot grape and runs the alcohol up if left alone.  At 14.5%, this is a warm wine with many of the expected Grenache characteristics.  Full flavors, red fruit, black tea, leather and toast are predominant.  This is a wine where all of the flavors have married, making it a good wine to test your ability to differentiate the flavors and find flavors around the edges, as I like to envision them.  So, go ahead and try it.  The acids are notably refreshing and the wine has a long, long, finish.

As we might also expect, the texture is lush and full bodied.  It would be hard to distinguish this wine from some of the New World regions that show a little minerality.  Watch not just this producer but the region, La Livinière.  It has all the qualities to produce great wine and attract international attention.

Rating:  88

Emotional rating: for a winter’s day the warmth and lush texture would be just right.

Availability: Widely available in well stocked stores.

Pouilly-Fuissé – Chardonnay – A Memorable Wine

Albert Bichot Pouilly~Fuissé

Albert Bichot Pouilly~Fuissé

Pouilly-Fuissé has been more of a rural operation with little ambition, but it is now beginning to change attitude and show ambition and increasing quality overall.  International acclaim now makes this a region to watch and to follow.  Vineyards follow the outcrops of scattered limestone and the Chardonnay grape is planted in approximately two thirds of the AOC.

This Albert Bichot — Pouilly-Fuissé 2014 is 100% Chardonnay and is worthy of our evaluation.  Apple with a fresh lime note dominates the nose.  Then a nice creaminess enriches the palate and gives the wine an immediate depth that was not signaled on the nose, which would have suggested that it might be light or even thin.  Not so.  The rich texture continues and coats the mouth all the way to the finish.  In some seasons, the wines of Pouilly-Fuissé struggle to ripen and in other years, the wines are full and rich.  It adds to the interest of the wine when it suddenly blossoms, recovering on the way to the finish.  Don’t let first impressions bias your judgments.  The wine is very well made.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  Impressive and memorable.

Available widely.

Champagne, The Ethereal World Wine

Veuve ClicquotHow can we conduct a brief survey of French wines without highlighting champagne?  Champagne is an experience bathed in romance.  It breathes into our minds an atmosphere of excitement before it even meets the senses.  Wines can do that, but none do it so convincingly as Champagne.

No where else in the world do the elements of soil, climate and latitude combine to allow a true replica of this wine.  As we find in this Veuve Clicquot Brut, Champagne is vigorous and brisk while delicate and, at times, it can also be spicy.  Champagne is a wine on the move, effervescing and tickling the tongue while it dances around the palette, stimulating our gustatory cells and creating immediate emotional delight.  (Wine is emotion in a glass!  Remember?)

A racy attack, with verve, seeks to hide the gossamer aromas and flavors.  Apple and lemon dominate in this one.  A chalky texture that is not offensive but feels like it belongs to the wine confirms our expectations of Champagne’s expression of its terroir.  Firm acids create a vibrant freshness.  A biscuity note hangs around the edges of the flavors.

I’m enjoying this glass with oysters.  Their brininess marries well with the chalkiness of the Champagne and the lemon livens and frees the richness of the oysters.

The glass is warming up now and acids have tamed somewhat, as they do with rising temperature.  The evening is warm with a whispering breeze, but soon the air will chill at this high altitude and reflect the vibrancy of the champagne.  The mental world Champagne creates and in which we enjoy it so much is ethereal.  The real world fades and the virtual world of thoughts and feelings emerges as I sip.

Some Champagnes are full and bold, such as Bollinger, but this one expounds the meaning of delicacy, freshness and nerve.

Rating:  92

Emotional rating: Stimulating and, at the same time, reflective.

Widely available.  Veuve Clicquot