WOTW: Chateau St Pierre, St Julien, 2011

Chateau St Pierre lies within the Left bank (Bordeaux) appellation of St Julien. Lying sandwiched in between the Pauillac and Margaux appelations, St Julien shares many of the characteristics often associated with its more well known neighbours, including the fragrant Margaux nose and the dense cassis palate of the Pauillac. St Julien is home to a number of classified estates, of which Chateau St Pierre is both the smallest (17 hectares of vines) and probably the least well known of them. Ch. St Pierre was classified as a 4th Growth in the 1855 classification and can trace its roots back to the 17th Century, though as a result of family disputes, the land has been carved up (even for a period existing as two separate vinyards) before being more or less brought back together in the 1980s by the legendary Henri Martin (holding the title of l’Ame du Médoc (The Soul of Medoc)). Due to its relative obscurity, many regard the wines of Ch. St Pierre to be very much undervalued, representing excellent value for money. Typically the wines of Ch. St Pierre consist of 70-75% Cabernet Sauvignion, 15-20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Wines are aged in oak for 18 months.

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Chateau St Pierre, St Julien 4er Cru, 2011

Bordeaux blend (Cab. Sauv, Merlot, Cab. Franc), Alcohol: 13.5%,
Price: £19.99 Aldi (Nov 2016)

In the glass the wine is a day bright claret with a really intense hue. No signs of browning at the edges or other obvious signs of aging. There was an intense nose of dried currants and spices, which after decanting for a couple of hours opened into more discernible black fruit. The wine has medium acidity and medium tannins, contributing to a really opulent and smooth mouth feel, with complex flavours of dried fruit rolling through to a delightfully long finish of dark chocolate verging even on coffee.

There is something distinctly classy about this wine. The craftsmanship is abundantly evident in the wine and for this price it really represents superb value for money, regardless of the fact that it is a classed Bordeaux wine. It would pair well with the usual suspects for Bordeaux, however I had a distinctly pleasurable time drinking this in front of the fireplace with a few pieces of dark chocolate. As far as Bordeaux wines go, 5 years is young to be drinking, though many believe (and certainly I’m convinced) that 2011 was a vintage to be drinking now, rather than for laying down.

Conclusion: This is good enough to deserve the title of Wine Of The Week.  I’ve picked up several bottles of the stuff, and so should you – if there is any left!

Score: 91/100 (MI)

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WOTW: Vinya Carles Priorat Crianza

Now surely what everyone is looking for is a good value red wine for every day drinking. Every few months I check out what Lidl has to offer and pick up a bottle or two if it looks sufficiently interesting. Todays offering was a a “91 point” Priorat – an outrageously high bar to attain for £5.79.  I was drinking my way through this bottle for almost an hour and struggling to write a tasting note – in fact I didn’t write a word . The upshot – this is actually rather good spectacular.

Now why is this supermarket offering making me salivate? The minerality is the answer. There is an article from Jancis Robionson that suggests that Priorat is equivalent to Achleiten for terroir. Given that supermarket wines rarely champion minerality this is something I can well believe on the back of this example. I was so surprised with this wine I sent fellow contributor The Gas Man to pick up a bottle and provide a second opinion.

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Decanting often helps to show a wine at its best

Vinya Carles, Priorat Crianza, Spain, 2011

Cépage: Grenache, Carignan. Alcohol 14%. Purchased from Lidl at £5.79.

Thoughts from The Shrink:

This was pretty heavily oaked on initial tasting with some volatile acidity, it slipped down delightfully and I failed to write any notes. The wine was decanted and left in a cool spot overnight before returning on day 2 determined to write something.

This wine is an intense garnet, tending towards purple with no sign of bricking. Fresh and crunchy blackcurrant lead in to a dry wine of moderate body and tannin. We find notes of coffee, dark chocolate and dried dates fleshing out the mid palate. There is a pretty healthy dose of oak contributing structure but without becoming overpowering. The finish delivers high levels of minerality, holds a moderate length and is kept in focus by a backbone of high acidity.

Conclusions: Surprisingly fresh, crunchy fruit. Given this is a crianza I think it is spot on with the style. An interesting offering and incredible value at £5.79.  I will be purchasing a second bottle to compare further as I am truly shocked by the value of this.

Score: For me this gets a comfortable 90/100 (DT)

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A bargain basement price and a genuine bargain of a red wine.

A Second Opinion from The Gas Man:

What we are presented with, is a bright, clear, deep purple coloured wine. There is no evidence of flocculation in the wine. There is an immediate and quite intense bouquet of baking spices, vanilla, dried red fruit and even some green apple skin like tartness. Even before tasting, the wine doesn’t try to hide the fact that it has been sat in oak barrels for over a year (this is a requirement for the Crianza title).

According to the producer, they use a combination of French and American oak barrels – as the two very different woods produce markedly different aromas and flavours. For French oak, this tends to be subtle spicy flavours, for American, bold, brash, creamy vanilla (sometimes described as cream soda) – imagine the flavours of american bourbon – that epitomises american oak. Its in the skill of the winemaker to blend these two flavours to create a balanced flavour to complement the wine. A really good way to think of the use of oak in wine making, is to think of it as a seasoning. Too much, as with salt to food, ruins a wine (although such practices were seen as rather trendy in the 80s, where body was king). Too little and you don’t really get the effect. It needs to be just right (and of course everyones definition of just right is quite different)! Anyway, I digress…

On the palate, there is a smooth velvety mouth feel courtesy of a generous dose of tannins, a medium acidity, medium body, giving initial red fruit flavours such as red cherries, developing into dried apricots, vanilla and baking spices. As The Shrink pointed out, this wine has a really interesting and distinct minerality that is typical of the region (see my earlier review of another Priorat in Pinxos Party with Casa Rojo). Its almost blood like, from the irony flavour, but not in an unpleasant way. Its quite intriguing, different and you know what? great.

I am a big fan of this wine, especially at this price point. I really struggle to think of a wine that for the money would beat this. To me what lets this down is perhaps a little too much oak, but that is personal preference. In summary, Lidl is open until 8pm weekdays (10pm in some places), get yourself there and grab a bottle or two whilst stocks last!

Score: 90/100 (MI)