14%

A list of all wines reviewed on the Wine Rambler with 14% alcohol by volume.

Cono Sur, Pinot Noir, 2009

Recently, I have had a lot of cheap, in fact very cheap supermarket wine. As this experience wasn't always enjoyable, I set out to find an affordable wine available on the mass market that I could like, to show it can be done. Remembering some pleasant encounters with wines from the Chilean Cono Sur estate, I grabbed a bottle of their Pinot Noir, sold at £6.49. What can you expect from such a wine?

Making good Pinot Noir is not cheap, and if you consider taxes and duties in the UK this is a very low price. Certainly the cheapest I remember seeing around for a while.

Weingut Bercher, Burkheimer Feuerberg, Weißburgunder Großes Gewächs, 2007

It's been a while since we last talked Pinot Blanc. So gather round me, friends: Pinot Blancs's reputation is generally lacklustre. In Burgundy, it's rather like Stephen Baldwin to Chardonnay's Alec - the younger brother who doesn't quite have the talent and will always be outshone. Mostly though, it is because international drinkers get their Pinot Blanc bearings from Alsace and Northern Italy, where results are often very drinkable, but ultimately rather bland, that Pinot Blanc is still underrated. In Germany, though, where it makes for about 3.5% of vines planted, it can be granted great growth status when grown in the best vineyards, and can indeed turn out distinctive and quite majestic wines. When we last checked in with one of the country's very best Pinot Blanc producers, the Bercher family of Baden's Kaiserstuhl subregion, we were confronted with rather too majestic a specimen: The 2004 great growth dry Spätlese. Impressive for its power, but pulled out of balance by high alcohol content, was our verdict back then.

Well, I'm most happy to report back to you on a younger version of the same wine:

Shinn Estates Vineyard, Malbec, 2007

There is a lot that could be written about Shinn, but as I have done that recently I just point you to my article 'You can't make red wine on Long Island' - Shinn Estate Vineyards, making local wine in a global world. For now just let me say that I bought this Malbec at a recent visit to a beautiful estate on Long Island that is currently being transformed to biodynamic production. Interestingly, the Shinn Malbec comes in a half-litre bottle - they only make Malbec in good years and in 2007 there was only enough for 1344 of those small bottles (selling at $35 each).

In order to avoid any bias I might have had from being welcomed so warmly at Shinn, I figured the wine would have to be tasted blind. So I took it with me to a recent Wine Rambler full committee meeting in Munich and wrapped it properly to hide its identity.

Philipp Kuhn, Merlot, 2007

When the topic of Merlot comes up, most people will think of Paul Giamatti's 'I am not drinking any fucking Merlot' rant from the movie Sideways. Some will leave it at that as they dislike (or think they dislike) Merlot. Others will point out that Merlot isn't actually that bad. The number of people who will look to Germany for Merlot would be rather small though. Since my recent experience with Philipp Kuhn's Merlot from the Pfalz, I am definitely one of them though. Philipp Kuhn is one of those German winemakers who confidently cover what seems like the whole spectrum of wine, from Riesling to Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Viognier, Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Lemberger, a few others - and Merlot.

Knipser, Chardonnay trocken ***, 2003

Knipser is the name of a wine making family from the Pfalz region of Germany who keep impressing us with their polished and tasty wines. They are widely known for their expertise in ageing wine in barrique barrels - red wine, of course, but also white. The other day when I was cooking tarragon cream chicken I felt the time had come to open their premier 2003 Chardonnay, a wine that was only released to market after several years of maturing in the Knipser cellars.

What I was expecting, of course, was a substantial (14% ABV and barrique), creamy wine with the first signs of age. What I was hoping for was that it also kept a hint of freshness to go along with the food.

Prager, Riesling Steinriegl, Smaragd, 2006

Both my co-Rambler and I recently came to the conclusion that we had somewhat neglected Austria - a country that makes some truly outstanding wines. So Julian went off to have an afternoon of Austrian wine, during which he was particularly impressed with a Riesling made by the Prager winery. At about the same time I found myself talking Prager with Damian from Fields Morris & Verdin on Twitter. As I had never tried a Prager Riesling, Damian kindly provided me with a tasting sample, the 2006 Steinriegl Smaragd - a Riesling that is more than just a reminder of how good Austrian wine can be.

Palivou Estate, Ammos, 2006

Read the background story to this wine here (be warned: It's quite a ramble)

A very dark cherry red in the glass, this brought sweet cherry juice, blackberries and a little fruit jam to our noses. The mouthfeel is, again, dominated by marinated cherries, dried fruit, and a chocolate pudding aftertaste.

It's a measure of the quality of the winemaking that this overripeness does not pull it out of balance, but a gentle tannic backbone wraps up the taste in the end.

Bodegas Aalto, Aalto tinto, 2002

If it comes to really powerful red wines, I have come to love what the Spanish do with the Tempranillo variety. At their best these wines are powerful yet not overpowering, bringing the thunder without forgetting the elegance. Bodegas Aalto is one of the wineries that got a lot of praise over the past few years - which is remarkable seeing as the only got into business around 1998. On the other hand, it may not be so remarkable after all as the people behind Bodegas Aalto are well respected wine professionals: winemaker Mariano Garcia (who came to fame at Ribera del Duero's Vega Sicilia) and Javier Zaccagnini (formerly head of the 'Consejo Regulador', the regulatory body of the Ribera del Duero appellation).

With financial backing from investors such as the Sherry company Osborne, they bought vineyards in the Ribera del Duero, some of them with 60 year old Tinto Fino vines (a Tempranillo clone), and started restoring them. The first wine, the 1998 vintage, was not as good as hoped and was never commercialised, but the later vintages put the winery into the premier league of Spanish winemakers.

torsten Sunday, 27/12/2009

Wittmann, Weißer Burgunder trocken "S", 2007

The Wittmann winery recently got a lot of attention from us - and what is not to like? A wine making family with lots of tradition (been in the business since 1663), unafraid to try new things (they went biodynamic five years ago), and, well, more than capable to deliver the thunder to your wine glass. The latest Wittmann in our collection is no exception here, even though it is not entirely without problems.

I opened the bottle of Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) because I was looking for a dry wine with a bit of substance to be strong yet delicate enough to go with roast partridge. What I got was almost more than what I bargained for, because this wine is indeed quite strong.

Postales del Fin del Mundo, Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2008

Here I am, drinking a wine from the end of the world. This is both true in geographic terms, seeing as the wine is from Patagonia, and it is also true as the winery is called 'Winery from the end of the world' (Bodega del Fin del Mundo). This Bodega is a fairly new venture, about ten years old, and they grow a variety of red and white varietals on 870 hectares of land. As this part of Patagonia is fairly dry, the vineyards need a computer controlled irrigation system - the water comes from 20 kilometres away and a complete water channel system had to be built for the irrigation. This apparently took two years, and the first vineyards were planted in 1999 - protected from the wind by a complex system of windbreakers. Scared away by all that technology?