On a cold November weekend, we met this year for the ninth time in Lucerne, Switzerland. As it is for many a yearly reunion, good conversations are most important, apart from stunning wine selections and excellent food provided by the hotel Wilden Mann.
The wine-weekend started off as a quite traditional gathering, usually featuring a Bordeaux and a Burgundy estate. Four years ago, we slightly opened up our focus and started with a Port producer (Symington Family Estate), a classic Rioja (Tondonia) and a mythic Lebanese producer (Musar). For the 2019 edition, we definitely reached new shores: Argentina. Well, with Bodegas y Cavas de Weinert from Mendoza, we have chosen a rather traditional winery, not very much what you expect from there. However, looking backwards and connecting the dots, Weinert perfectly fits the “file rouge” we introduced four years ago.
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” (Christoph Columbus)
Christoph Columbus’ words are somehow the motto of this year’s tastings. Our first guest, Hubert Weber of Bodegas y Cavas de Weinert, left Europe in 1996 in direction Argentina, left everything behind and started off in a New World. He became an intern, than assistant of the legendary winemaker Raul de la Mota; to be promoted only one year later as head winemaker, as Raul left the Bodega. Together with a nicely garnished autumnal salad, an Argentinian beef, a delicious Swiss Cheese and a Crema Catalan we tasted the first round of Weinert wines. As Hubert does not produce a white wine, we had our first sip from Argentina with a Mendel Semillon 2010; a wonderfully developed, almost creamy textured wine still showing a lively freshness. Roberto de la Mota, Raul’s son, is co-owner and winemaker at this estate. We thought, a nice story to start with.
Weinert wines were then served with the main course: Carrascal Corte Classico 2015 (a Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend) was a delicate delight, combining fruit and the charm of a developing wine; certainly the price-value-winner (a bottle is around CHF 15!). Cavas de Weinert 2007 was served from the magnum bottle: spicy, intense and rich, quite controversly seen by the guests, somewhere on the way of development, not in an ideal stage yet; whereas Cavas de Weinert 1994 was at peak: plum, cinnamon, black pepper, liquorice and together with the meal a match made in heaven.
Back to good tradition, the evening ended in the early Saturday morning with Château la Tour Blanche 2001 and a selection of Vintage Ports: Dow’s 1994, Warre’s 1994 and Warre’s 1983.
The masterclass on Saturday morning was fully dedicated to Weinert’s single varietal and top wines, the Estrellas (stars). Hubert agreed that we were able to put together the most extensive and exclusive tasing ever. Indeed, some wines disappeared from the market, but one thing at the time:
Weinert Malbec 2010 is probably their classic; complex yet refreshing with spice and mature fruit. The Tonel Unico 1994 Malbec: an astonishing 23 years in cask, showed oaky vanilly flavours, is rich, intense, expressing personality; stylistically quite unusual for Weinert, therefore separated and bottled individually. From the same year, the top selection Malbec Estrella 1994: minty and flowery on the nose, lovely fine grained tannins, polished on the palate with a delicate candy finish, elegant, still a good way to go to peak, not yet there!
The Malbec Estrella 1977 is a legend, it is said to be the best wine ever produced in South America. For Weinert, it is from the first commercially available vintage after the reopening. Harvest was delayed as the winery was not ready to receive grapes. The two bottles – 42 years old! – were brought from the winery to the tasting. For me, it was the second time I could taste this wine, it was one of the touchy moments of the tasting: this is a wine, I get watery eyes while looking and smelling the wine. Incredibly complex, raisin fruit, eucalypt, sweet Havanna tobacco, black Maracaibo chocolate, plums and cumin… A wine, that takes you to a journey and every five minutes shows a different picture.
Four years ago, I tasted – rather drunk – a bottle I got from Hubert in a Parilla in Mendoza. I searched for the tasting note, here we go (from my facebook timeline) – It seems like this wine will keep a special place in my wine memory:
Reto Thörig is at Parrilladas Facundo – Mendoza. November 27, 2015 · Mendoza, Argentina ·
There are those rare moments in live, where you have the chance to taste wines that became legends: In this case, I was hunting for this wine quite a long time and I finally got a bottle right at the bodega. This bottle never left the place, and for a 38 years old wine, this is remarkable. Thank you very much Hubert Weber for the opportunity.
This Malbec Estrella 1977 was a perfect bottle with an astonishing lively and deep color, a slight garnet rim; the wine took about 10 minutes to open up and started with a perfume of cuban tobacco, cedar wood and cigar box. Behind those tertiary flavors were dried figs, black cherries, licorice and sweet spices, underlined with toffee, mocca, crème brulée; after another few minutes there were malt, roasted meats as well as magnolia and violets.
What a concentration on the palate: incredibly dense with a delicious sweetness, chocolate, coffee, maduro tobacco in such a harmony, still very fruity, shear endless nougat finish…
If this is not perfection, it becomes very close: appeal of a mature first growth, a living legend – outstanding in every dimension.
Well, who thought this was it, we marked the peak might not be absolutely right. There were two more flights to come. The first pair was the Cabernet Sauvignon Estrella 1997 and 1979. The younger one showed everything a Cab should have: Black currant flavours, dried fruit characters, chocolate, herbs, roasted red bell peppers, smoky spices and an incredible freshness for such a big wine. Superb… However, there were these two mystic bottles of the 1979: eventually the last two outside Argentina. A wine bottled in 1982, the first Estrella edition that left the Bodega, $20 at this time in good restaurants in Buenos Aires, hence quite something. These bottles were in outstanding condition: very flowery on the nose, delicate magnolia, red currant, an elegant fruity fragrance; beautifully aged wine, sweet tobacco on the palate, mint, chocolate and cappuccino, absolutely delicious! My personal highlight of this tasting!
The last two wines were the Merlots: A barrel sample of the Tonel 241 and the Merlot Estrella 1999. Tasting a sample of a 15 years old wine is quite unique, if not strange. A very promising wine, charming, red fruit, spices, vanilla custard, very long; very likely a next Star.
Whereas the Merlot Estrella 1999 is already a star: this wine got very high ratings in Europe. It is wonderfully complex, rich, with refined tannins, a huge wine but showing a juicy freshness and a herbal thyme note, very long indeed, yummy.
We finished this morning with a buffet lunch and some refreshing Riccitelli Chardonnay 2014 and Malbec Carrascal 2015. We needed a break to be ready for the evening.
The evening started with fireworks: a Champagne Lahaye collection. A non vintage blend, 2007, 2008 and 2013 vintage wines for the festive reception.
Lahaye is a family estate consisting of 4.8 hectares of vineyards, focussing on Pinot Noir in Bouzy (88%) and some Chardonnay in Ambonnay. The grapes are grown organically and from 2010 even bio-dynamically. It is a non-interventionist, hands-off style with natural ferments in 205-litres barrels, about 50% of the wines undergo malo-lactic conversion.
We than moved to the historic building “Zöpfli” on the other side of the river Reuss for the dinner, featuring some game dishes. We started off into the dinner with a fish dish accompanied by Château Fieuzal 2001, a white at peak found in a recent auction in Zürich. Creamy, waxy Semillion allied with some aromatic Sauvignon blanc all wrapped in good oak, a reasonably good introduction to Bordeaux. For the second main guest of the weekend, we changed the side to the right bank to St Emilion. Myriam Ruer represented Troplong Mondot with passion, emotion and insights. We started off with a smaller vintage, Troplong Mondot 2002: perfect to drink now, charming fruit, juicy tannins, medium body. 1999 was served from the magnum, a more austere, slightly restrained wine at the moment, not at its best perhaps, showing quite some structure and backbone, needs more time to open up. Next to it, a not yet ripe, but super charming delicious 2006; full, rich, spicy, tobacco, round with a light edge, finishing long and just wonderful with the dear-dish. As a surprise, Vinzenz brought two magnums of 1989: and this was a surprise for Miriam and again a very emotional moment. Christine Valette, the former owner and driving mind of Troplong Mondot, died 2014 at the age of 57 years. The last wine, Myriam and Christine had together, was the 1989, a touching coincidence at this moment.
By the way, René Gabriel did not like the 1989 at all and awarded very low points to this vintage. However, this was certainly not true for our two bottles: perfectly matured, balanced, delicate, flowery, lively and fresh.
The evening ended in style with Taylor’s Vintage 2003; way to young, but who cares…
For the second morning, Sunday, we have planned a vertical tasting of eight vintages of Troplong Mondot. In the past, we ordered the wines straightforward from young to mature, but for this year, we approached the tasting differently. We arranged the bottles in pairs of vintages, showing similar challenges or opportunities. To take it beforehand, I believe this was a smart move and certainly led to a more in-depth understanding of how different Bordeaux vintages can be. Myriam gave as a fantastic and detailed introduction into the terroirs of Troplong Mondot, which very much helped to understand the wines.
The first pair was 2013 and 2007: My thought was “per aspera ad astra” or “through hardships to the stars”. I had my challenges with 2013, this was a rather austere and restrained wine with firm structure, slightly underripe with a drying palate, a bit lean at the and, well a tough cookie… However, 2007 was an excellent example how charmingly a small vintage can develop: open bouquet, tobacco, bacon, cedarwood, more integrated structure, compared to 2013, juicy. Excellent to drink now, not too sophisticated.
Further, two very charming and captivating vintages: 2014 and 2012. Both showing an appealing fruit, 14 more red cherries, whereas 12 showed more black berries and roasted meat flavours. It was medium bodied, finely structured, a truly gastronomic wine to be served by the glass in a decent restaurant. Whereas 14 had a slightly firmer still juicy delicious structure.
2011 and 2006: we already appreciated the appealing stage of 2006 the night before and it showed very similarly. Red cherries and plums predominantly, allied to rich coffee and mocha flavours, fine grained tannins just about to start to dissolve. Hence, this would be my Sundy luch wine… On the other side 2011: much tighter in structure, but elegant medium body, black berries, cherries and toffee. A wine with huge potential.
And finally, a very controversial pair: on one side the 2015. Eventually the wine of the morning, very dense, chocolatey, coffee, plum, full bodied, lifted alcohol, mature tannins and a surprising freshness; an incredible approach to a Merlot based wine in a very warm year. In the other glass the 2010. Much loved by some aficionados, for others it might be just too much, going over the limit of what Merlot can do. Raisined fruit, rich, huge body, burning 16.2% alcohol; a wine, that shows on one side the issues we might face with global warming, on the other side, it is so different of all we know from Bordeaux. I think, it has to be assessed on its own, with the particular qualities of an outlier, with somehow quite some personality.
The fact, that we will see more Cabernet Franc in the blend in the coming years is eventually one lesson learned from this 2010.
We ended on a lighter note for lunch with the second label Mondot 2014; appealing, very drinkable and juicy wine, perfectly fitting the slow roasted pork.
In 2020, we meet for the 10th time, from November 6-8. Be assured that we plan at least one firework!