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23 January 2015

Spain: Bodegas Larraz, Rioja

Just in case you were wondering (yeah, right), I first tasted one of these Caudum Larraz wines last year, which is featured in a Rioja mini-focus looking at the 2007 and 2009 vintages: Spain: Rioja 2007 and 2009.
The 'Caudum' wines were launched over ten years ago as a limited edition range sourced from a half-hectare vineyard called Finca La Cuesta in the Cenicero area, which is still planted with very old un-grafted vines apparently (they're keeping a bit hush-hush on which varieties though). These reds are aged for at least a year in French and American oak barrels and aren't fined or filtered. Winemaking wise, I'd say they perhaps represent the more "modern" face of Rioja, using more new oak and building a denser, more structured and maybe more export-focused style (only available in Canada as far as I can tell...). There's nothing necessarily wrong with that at all, although I found their 2010 tasting-noted below a little oak heavy when I tried it. However, if the probably finer 2008 is anything to go by, it shows these wines do need a few years before they come together and start to develop. Same goes for their 2009 "Special Selection" red, also reviewed below, which is serious wine: denser and more concentrated still and has coped with the oak treatment better. € prices quoted are in Spain.
More info (although not much in English) @ www.bodegaslarraz.com, or try their Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Caudum-Bodegas-Larraz where I pinched the photo from.

2008 Caudum (14% abv) - deep and dense and still pretty purpley black in colour for its age, same goes for the initial oak notes on the nose (purple oak haze man?) - coconut, cedar and vanilla - blended with smoky cassis fruit and liquorice undertones, lightly floral even as well with intricate savoury meaty edges; fairly firm and dry in the mouth with more subtle coconut texture/flavour than on the nose, quite fine tannins though and powerful finish although balanced in the end; tangy vs lush berry fruit with lingering oak too, beginning to develop attractive mature savoury flavours. 2nd day - still quite oaky but has lovely richer sweet berry, cherry and blackcurrant fruit, nice texture with coconut hints and 'chalky' tannins, firm but not over-extracted vs good concentration, powerful finish with sweet vs savoury flavour mix, lightly grainy yet the oak has diminished leading to a fairly fine finish. 4th day open - yes, it did last that long! Still surprisingly alive, more sweet fruit and oak coming through layered with complex 'cheesy' and savoury notes, dark cherry/berry and black olive vs that fair grip, nice dry texture and oomph vs a hint of freshness too. Quite serious wine, was obviously still too young when first opened. Now, that was an essay almost! €11-€12
2010 Caudum (14% abv) - coconut oak dominates the nose, rich colour and lush fruit vs pretty extracted and solid mouth-feel, oaky finish bolstered by ripe berry fruit. One day open: still showing as rich and extracted, has good substance underneath although the oak hasn't yet blended into the wine... Mind you, I thought that about the 08 which did develop nicely through the oak, so just "let it lie" for the time-being. €11-€12
2009 Caudum Selección Especial (14% abv) - seems less oaky than the other two (although...), or has absorbed it better probably, with a lush and punchy palate, more blackberry/cherry with liquorice and prune edges even, grippy and extracted layered with lots of fruit vs coconut grain, dry yet fine tannins, powerful and concentrated. Showing some savoury development yet solid and quite closed up, although turned softer and rounder after a while despite its grip, bite and punch. Good stuff, should continue to improve in bottle for a few years. Left open for a couple of days or so: not oxidised, a tad smoother and less oaky yet still has that nice thick texture and concentration. €15-€17

03 January 2015

Bordeaux mini-focus: Château La Tulipe de la Garde & Château Guiraud

These two châteaux don't actually have anything in common, as far as I know, apart from being loosely "in Bordeaux" albeit about 70 km from each other; one to the north-east of the city near the Dordogne river and the other a good trek south-east along the Garonne...

Château de la Garde was bought by Ilja Gort in 1994, a rather ramshackle wine estate dating from the 13th century apparently; and it took him 10 years to restore and re-equip the property, which is located on 20 hectares of vineyards in a little place called Saint Romain La Virvée (on the way to Libourne). In 2010, Ilja decided to change its name to Château la Tulipe de la Garde, presumably to give it a Dutch twist. I'm told "the vineyards are divided into 30 blocks, which are vinified separately... and made up of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc." Well-known consultant winemaker and Pomerol estate-owner Michel Rolland has been working with them since 2009, to refine the wine's style using less oak and bringing out the fruit, paraphrasing Ilja, who's obviously not publicity shy: in 2008, he had his nose insured by Lloyds of London for five million Euros!

Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur (13.5%) - a touch more Cab Sauv and touch less Merlot than the 2012 below. Light cedar and herby red pepper notes vs darker cherry / damson fruit, quite powerful with a hint of grip and bitter chocolate tannins, black cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavours; nice freshness vs weight with a lush touch and some developing fruit vs dry structured bite on the finish. It was a little softer after being open for 24 hours with subtle ripe vs crunchy fruit finishing with dark chocolate bitter twist. Attractive modest modern claret, if you like, and fairly good value too.
Château La Tulipe de la Garde 2012 (13.5% abv) - 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc; aged for 12 months in new French oak. Much softer wine and 'lighter' (although still similar 13.5% weight) with nice plummy fruit and light cedar edges, crunchy fruit too vs soft and sweet mouth-feel vs a hint of dry grip and subtle cedar/coconut texture, rounded and full finish with more immediate fruit and drinking-now style.
UK: Sainsbury's £10. More info: www.tulipe.co.uk


Château Guiraud probably needs less of an introduction, which is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in sublime sweet wine country, found in Sauternes itself, and is ranked as a Premier Grand Cru Classé in the (in)famous 1855 classification. And apparently the only one belonging to this royal elite that's certified organic. Winemaker and estate manager Xavier Planty embarked on a subtle style change from the 2000 vintage, to give "grip and structure but... cleaner, lighter and more elegant..." In any case, here are a few words on three very different vintages, plus one of Petit Guiraud, the "second wine", and 'Le G' which is their new-ish dry white.

2013 Le G de Château Guiraud - produced from certain 15 ha plots with 70% Sauvignon blanc and 30% Semillon (no noble rot), half of it fermented in barrels used to make Sauternes. Lively citrus and gooseberry aromas vs a more exotic, rounder and creamier side; nice intense lively palate with yeast lees notes then richer finish, lovely dry white.
2011 Petit Guiraud - described as "a modern Sauternes... refined sweetness given extra freshness by a high proportion of Sauvignon." Gorgeous exotic nose with dried apricot and spiced honey, lighter and fresher on the palate with attractive concentrated vs crisp finish.
2008 Château Guiraud - beginning to get enticing marmalade aromas tinged with orange peel, lush yet very crisp mouth-feel with a touch of coconut oak, good balance of sweet exotic botrytis fruit vs that fresher side too.
2001 Château Guiraud - almost restrained for its age with subtle butterscotch notes, rich lush and exotic with lovely 'bite' underneath, beautiful balance of concentrated and long finish with spicy and still lively tones. Classic.
1996 Château Guiraud - orangey brown colour with caramel and marmalade on the nose, lush and concentrated with attractive honey flavours; probably already peaked but a lovely wine anyway.