This Week’s Wine Tasting
Macedonia and France
Imported by European Cellars
Macedonian Wine– “The tradition of wine-making in the Macedonia region of Greece dates back thousands of years. Evidence of ancient grape seeds have been found during excavations, along with storing and drinking vessels. Throughout early history, during the Greek and Roman empires, Macedonian wines have been carried and sometimes traded throughout Europe. There was much “worshipping” of the wine gods Dionysus in the Greek era and Bacchus during the Roman Empire. Although such things were forbidden in the Christian age of Byzantium, sacramental and table wines were still important to Greek culture. Crusaders brought back Macedonian wines to their respective countries, and brought Greek vines to plant at home, which is why so many varietals throughout Europe have Greek origins. The culture survived throughout the Ottoman Empire, finding places where wine was still enjoyed despite Muslim restrictions. But the Phylloxera blight in the late 1800s was a terrible blow to the Macedonian wine industry, along with wars and general unrest. The vines were slowly replanted, but the quality of the wine suffered largely until the late 20th century.”
Tikves Winery (pronounced “tick-vees”)– “Hand-crafted with passion and patience, Tikveš wines are emblematic of Macedonia’s ancient tradition of winemaking. Located in the heart of Macedonia’s wine country, their wines reflect over 120 years of a culture that celebrates the entire wine experience – from growth, to harvest to fermentation to the most significant part, enjoyment with family and friends. The Tikveš winery is the oldest winery in Macedonia; it began in 1885. Today is the exemplar of a modern and innovative winery. The winery uses sustainable practices throughout its operations including limiting the use of treatment of the vines, reducing consumption of both energy and water, building solar panels for self-sustainable energy and a commitment to recycling waste and turning it into natural fertilizer. Philippe Cambie is an advisor for the property.”
Robert Parker says of Tikves– “Coming from Macedonia and a project with Eric Solomon and Philippe Cambie, these efforts are full-throttle, decadently styled wines that remain beautifully drinkable and balanced.”
Tikves Rkaciteli Special Selection (white) 2013– Tikves, Republic of Macedonia. 100% Rkaciteli (pronounced “rkah-tsee-tely”). “This ancient vinifera originates in Georgia and is one of the oldest grape varieties. In Georgia, clay vessels were found with seeds of Rkatsiteli grapes which date back to 3000 BC.” “Originating from the Barovo Vineyards, situated at an altitude of 1800 feet on the Kozuv Mountains, this wine has a golden-yellow color giving away scents of fresh mango, peach, grapefruit and pineapple.” “Yellow gold in color with pineapple, orange rind and citron on the nose. This unique variety astounds by its extremely delicate flavors of pear and peach. In the mouth it is a perfect balance between freshness and strength, which makes it ideal for just about any drinking occasion.” $10.99
Tikves Vranec Special Selection (red) 2011– Tikves, Republic of Macedonia. 100% Vranec (pronounced “v-rah-netz”). “Vranac is considered one of the most important in the Republic of Macedonia. As it is a local specialty and due to its localized geography, it produces a dry red wine of a unique taste and character that is synonymous with the Balkans.” “Aged in premium quality oak barrels this dry red wine has luscious aromas of overripe berries and dry plums, with hints of oak, smoke, chocolate and fresh spices. The taste of the wine reveals excellent balance of alcohol, acids, tannins and extracts that reach their peak in a perfectly harmonious finish. The vineyards are located at an altitude of 1500 feet so temperatures remain cool, due to a constant breeze. Humidity is very low, averaging 30% in the summer months.” “The wine possesses gorgeous fruit, medium to full body, supple tannins and outstanding purity as well as length. This remarkable value exhibits a deep ruby/plum color, abundant black currant fruit, and an unmistakable personality.” $10.99
Tikves Barovo (red) 2011– Barovo Vineyard, Tikves, Republic of Macedonia. A blend of 65% Kratosija (pronounced “krah-toe-shi-ya”) and 35% Vranec. “The vineyard of Barovo, located high in the mountains of South Macedonia, enjoys the fresh temperatures of the mountain at night. This enables the vines to produce a perfectly balanced blend of Vranec and Kratošija, extremely rich, powerful and long lasting on the palate with delicate fruit flavors on the nose.” 93 Wine Advocate– “The 2011 Barovo is a blend of 65% Kratosija and 35% Vranec (both indigenous grape varieties) that was aged half in new barrels and half in concrete tank. Coming from vineyards lying at 1700 meters and inky black in color, it offers decadent aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, earth, melted licorice, chocolate and ripe herbs. Made in a pedal-to-the-metal style, with full-bodied richness, layers of sweet fruit and no hard edges, it’s a smoking value to drink over the coming 3-4 years.” $19.99
Domaine Lafage– “One of the oldest viticultural areas of France, vines in the Roussillon were cultivated by the Romans, and perhaps even before that. With some of the most dramatic topography in France, many of the zones are composed of extremely steep hillsides – resembling the Priorat in Spain in many ways.
One of the most sought-after winemakers of Europe at the moment, Jean-Marc Lafage lends his expertise with Southern European varietals to several top estates in both France and Spain (he makes Evodia with Eric Solomon among other custom cuvee projects) and also in South America. However, his best work is perhaps at home at his estate in the hills of the Roussillon with his wife, Eliane, also a highly accomplished winemaker.”
Robert Parker says of Domaine Lafage– “Located outside the town of Perpignan, Domaine Lafage is run by the talented Jean-Marc Lafage and covers a number of diverse vineyards spread through the Roussillon. These three cuvees are a joint venture between Jean-Marc and importer Eric Solomon. The all represent fabulous values that warrant attention.”
Domaine Lafage Cote Est Blanc 2013– Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Roussillon, France. “A blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Marsanne. 80 years–Grenache, 20 years–Chardonnay, 10 years–Marsanne. Stainless steel tank on lees. The Côté Est vines are located on the eastern side of the hill exposing the grapes to more sunlight in the morning with cooler temperatures in the afternoon, which is ideal for producing a fresh wine. A stunning perfume of dried apricots, honeyed citrus and white flowers. The lovely aromatics are followed by a crisp, elegant, slightly more textured, medium-bodied white with wonderful purity, freshness and length.” 88 Wine Advocate– “Made only for the U.S. market, the 2013 VDP Cotes Catalanes Cote d’Est (50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Marsanne, aged in stainless steel on lees) is beautifully crisp and pure, with juicy acidity giving lift to notions of buttered citrus, green herbs and honeyed minerality. Medium-bodied, lively and certainly delicious, it’s a fantastic meal starter and should drink nicely for another year or two.” $10.99
Domaine Lafage Tellessae Carignan 2012– Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Roussillon, France. ““Tessellae” is the word for “mosaic” in Latin. 100% Carignan from Maury and Les Aspres Vineyards from 70 year old vines. Aged 80% concrete tanks and 20% demi-muids. It displays copious notes of blueberries, raspberries, spring flowers and damp forest floor. The fragrant aromatics are followed by a lush, gorgeously textured, medium-bodied, elegant, complex wine.” 92 Wine Advocate- “The 2012 VDP Cotes Catalanes Tessellae is 100% old vine Carignan, aged ten months in concrete tank, that comes from vineyards in Maury and Les Aspres (both of which have schist soils). An old-world styled fruit-bomb, with its massive and decadently-styled blackberry fruit, spice, licorice and plum, this full-bodied effort has no hard edges, beautiful purity of fruit and a seamless texture that stays nicely focused and clean.” $12.99
Chateau Peuch-Haut– “One needs to glance only briefly through the notes of Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, Andrew Jefford and David Schildknecht (among many others) to discover their love affair with the Languedoc. And by that, we mean head-over-heels, butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of love. We have held affection for the region since the humble beginnings of European Cellars when our motto was “unknown…and unsold” – an affection that remains as exciting to us today as it did 20 years ago.
We are happy to add another outstanding producer to our Languedoc stable, a producer that just weeks ago lit up our phone lines and clogged up our email server when a certain someone (RMP) professed on the boards: “One of the Greatest VALUES” with a preliminary 94 point rating for an under $20 wine.
CHATEAU PUECH-HAUT has been on the critic’s radar for some time – which makes sense since the property has employed Michel Rolland, Claude Gros and now Philippe Cambie as their consulting enologist. Visionary owner Gérard Bru spares no expense in his quest for excellence.”
Robert Parker says of Chateau Puech-Haut– “This superb estate is owned by Gerard Bru, who has hired some of the finest winemakers in the world as consultants (Michel Rolland, Claude Gros and now Philippe Cambie). Bru makes a number of cuvees (some too expensive for this value report) including two terrific rose offerings.”
Chateau Puech-Haut Coteaux de Languedoc La Prestige 2012– Languedoc, France. “A blend of 55% Grenache and 45% Syrah from vines that are 40-75 years old. Aged in concrete vats.This is a special bottling custom cuvee for Eric Solomon, made with Philippe Cambie for the US market. Château Puech-Haut occupies 170 hectares including 100 hectares of vines in Saint-Drézéry, a small village 15 km northeast of Montpellier, in the foothills of the Cevennes and belongs to the AOC Coteause du Langedoc. In Provence, a “Puech” means a small hill (or mountain), a “Puech-Haut” is a hill higher than the others. This position, “on a hill higher than the others”, is conducive to exceptional drainage for the vineyards.” 91 Wine Advocate– “The inexpensive 2012 Prestige Coteaux du Languedoc is a blend of 55% Grenache (60-75-year-old vines) and 45% Syrah (40-year-old vines) aged 12 months in concrete. It is a disarmingly juicy, complex, full-bodied, dark ruby/purple-colored effort displaying a sweet kiss of lavender, acacia flowers, pepper, black raspberries and kirsch. Round, generous and medium to full-bodied with elegance as well as flavor authority, this pure, beautifully textured 2012 should continue to drink well for another 3-5 years.” $19.99