Let’s come to terms with the fact that Robert Parker is hands down the most influential wine critic of our day and age. Period. You may not like him, you may think he’s overrated, you may not care at all, but one thing is for sure – he created a cult and, in that cult, his word (or points) comes first. After that comes the Bible.
The world of wine we know is divided on nerds (what we nowadays call professionals), infants (those who want to learn, but keep shitting themselves) and snobs (people that don’t know anything, but like humiliating the waiter for not giving them the screwcap on inspection). The nerds form this tiny, tiny group of chaps that know the ins and outs, have priceless connections for the latest fire wine tasting (read: gossip party) and recognize who’s going to be the next blindly followed striker in the justice league of somms, critics and influencers. The other 99% of people have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s why we’re going to leave it that. I’m not going to get into the history of Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni and James Suckling and many, many others who have trudged through this cut-throat competitive wine trail, because it’s just too bland and it has been covered endless times by people much more relevant than me. What I do have to mention though, before we start with the highly anticipated tasting notes, is the term Parkerisation.
Some think that Parker imposed his personal liking pugnaciously onto consumers and winemakers during his reign, having wines made for him as a result. He did promote a ton of smooth, ripe and concentrated wines in the past, but does this make him a frenzied authoritarian of taste? Maybe. Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, editor-in-chief of Robert Parker Wine Advocate, defends the godfather by stating that he mirrored, rather than steered, American wine tastes. Well, I wonder who he was mirroring when he was the main guy calling the shots. It is well known that he scored wines of the earlier mentioned style with absurdly high points, while limiting his criticism on (at times, even bashing) pure, pristine styles of, for example, Alsace, Burgundy and Germany. During the early 2000s, the term Parkerized was heavily used all over Europe, Australia, South America and the US. There was a sea of unified, plump wines which just became monotonous over time. Winemakers were chasing those 90+ points like their lives depended on it. But after 2015, things started slowly changing. More and more winemakers started to rebel, figuring out that their product born in their own backyard was more important than what one person, regardless of how influential he was, had to say about it. Today, the shift is evident, both in the wineries and with Parker’s disciples. They seemed to conclude that shit is fleeting, so better bolster the appetites than become irrelevant in 10 years’ time.
Attending Matter of Taste 2018 was exciting, to say the least. I needed to refresh my memory on certain grape varieties, meet some Instagram friends, but also check out the new editions in Wine Advocate. Different people are rating the wines now and, as I heard, the tastes have changed. We started off with Grail of Grenache, a dinner held by Joe Czerwinski at the Regent Hotel. Impressive wines were poured, nice food was served, but the pairings were just silly. It was like a rent-a-somm put this together last minute and thought nobody will notice. Well, sonny boy, pairing a 15.5% Chateauneuf-du-Pape with baked cod and rocket salad is like going to Bangkok to enjoy the trannies. It might seem attractive at first, but be assured that your soul and manhood will be scarred for life. The whites at the exhibition were scarce. The German wines that I tasted were proper, but everything else was destroyed by oak (leave Albarinho alone, goddamit). One winemaker that received a ludicrous 97 points score even said, “Well mate, that’s Chardonnay for you – Australian and oaked. If it’s not like that, it’s just ordinary white wine.” Lord, save us from these uncultured hordes and lead us to the light.
Luckily, the styles of red were more “flexible” and even if you’re a freshly printed flower child that exclusively derives pleasure from musty natural wines and armpit hair (also musty), you simply can’t deny that some of these wines are the epitome of greatness. You can choose not to drink them, of course, but the quality clearly speaks for itself. Let me guide you through it all*.
Philipponnat Royal Reserve Brut NV (Champagne, France) RP: 91
Minerality is the name of the game here. It appears in every pore of this wine, but is mixed deliciously in with notes of freshly baked bread, lemon rind, grapefruit juice and peach. Mousse smooth as a motherfucker, acidity glowing.
Famille Brechet Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf-du-Pape Le Clos du Belvedere Blanc 2016 (Rhone Valley, France) RP: 93
Complex immediately on the nose. Tropical fruit blended in with brioche and caramelised walnut. Medium-bodied with exquisite brightness. Grenache Blanc all the way. Interesting stuff, definitely not for solo drinking.
Weingut Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling GG 2016 (Nahe, Germany) RP: 96
You wanna introduce your friends to Riesling and own their souls afterwards? This is your animal. Nose on this is a crisp spring day on a mountaintop surrounded by peach blossoms. Acidity, minerality and density banging through the roof. Too young, but it doesn’t scare me away for a second.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshofer Riesling Kabinett 2013 (Mosel, Germany) RP: 90
Lovely liquid in the glass. Starts out highly aromatic (peach, orange marmalade, honey), but flushes into a more mellow style in the mouth. Well-balanced, long finish, proper acidity. Could use a stronger kick to be graded as outstanding.
Cantina Terlano Terlaner Classico 2016 (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) RP: 92
I’m always happy to come back to Cantina Terlano for its consistent quality and memorable juiciness. Highly floral on the first sniff, but when it warms up a bit it reveals a world of honeydew melon, ripe grapefruit and hints of grassiness. Saline finish, a bit spritzy. Really pleasing stuff.
Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho 2015 (Minho, Portugal) RP: 94
Don’t call my name, don’t call my name, Alvarinho. If you know your Alvs, you’re familiar with the fact that this grape has delicate aromatics and is destined to express itself without any new oak whatsoever. That’s why this was a winner. Straightforward, juicy acidity, light body. No complications.
Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Chaupin 2015 (Rhone Valley, France) RP: 96
Gorgeous wine. Cherry + dried black fruit on the nose with hints of lavender, spicecake and Earl Grey tea. Opens up on the palate with its silky tannins, delicate texture and violet-spice aftertaste. Insane balance, insane purity. Just WOW!
Eulogio Pomares ‘Carralcoba’ Tinto 2015 (Galicia, Spain) RP: 93
Only 1% of Rias Baixas is commited to Caino Tinto, a dark-skinned grape that gives these amazingly fragrant wines with splashes of minerality to accompany the fruit. This one was blackberry juice on steroids. Super fresh, but with a good amount of tannins to act as a secure pillar.
Torres Gran Muralles 2010 (Catalunya, Spain) RP: 93
This is a wine that makes you call your parents and thank them for giving you life. Sweet berry fruit plays around with the exquisite baking spice-herbal character. Ripe, with a strong savoury character that finishes off in a grippy, bretty note that spikes up your adrenaline through the roof.
FitaPreta Tinto 2015 (Alentejo, Portugal) RP: 90
Three grapes, three faces. Aragonês (Tempranillo) gives it power, Trincadeira gives it colour and acidity, while Alicante Bouschet comes in with this juicy, fleshy character. A very well-made wine, if you want to think about something besides getting slammed and throwing up into the kid’s pool.
Batzella Pean Bolgheri 2013 (Tuscany, Italy) RP: 91
When you see the cute elderly couple that makes this wine, you’re surprised at the might that bursts out of this bottle. A blend of Cab Sauv and Franc that offers juvenescence at this stage of drinking with its crisp, almost green, fruit, expressed tannins and banging acidity. Don’t sleep on this, I beg of you.
Tenuta di Biserno Il Pino 2013 (Tuscany, Italy) RP: 94
Super-Tuscans are taking over the Italian section of every serious wine list today. Brunello was great when my parents started drinking wine, but the kids want more power, more depth, more richness. This is all Il Pino, while still retaining that glorious note of elegance that we all love.
Yangarra Estate High Sands Grenache 2013 (McLaren Vale, Australia) RP: 97
The first thing that snatches me here is the acidity. This is some Blaufränkisch acidity right here, damn. Dense, but not in a cloyingly sweet way. Tannins still a bit harsh, so give it time. Eternal finish. Tear emoticons.
Kaesler ‘Alte Reben’ Shiraz 2013 (Barossa Valley, Australia) RP: 95
At one time of my career, I was a huge fan of Barossa, but a palate changes, love changes and best friends become strangers. Now, this is a Shiraz for people that lost faith in Barossa. It possesses this bright, refreshing character perfectly blended with the strength to create something out of this world.
Yarra Yering ‘Underhill’ Shiraz 2011 (Victoria, Australia) RP: 91
A poor year for Victoria, but YY managed to pull off an excellent wine. I sensed that this was more of a rustic style, made by the example of the Rhone Valley Syrah. It offers great depth, serious structure and just pure goodness all over. Oak is noticeable, but I’ll blame that on the lack of decanting.
Felton Road ‘Bannockburn’ Pinot Noir 2016 (Central Otago, New Zealand) RP: 92
Even though Cornish Point still remains my favourite Felton, I have to admit that they killed it with this more affordable alternative. Sweet cherry pie with lilies, sage and thyme on the nose. Ripe red fruit dominates the palate, bringing out the seductive, warm character of this Kiwi projectile.
Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2015 (Central Otago, New Zealand) RP: 94
Closed down like a mofo in the first 20 minutes, but opens up to graceful aromas of dried plum, dark cherry, raisins, mocha and light gaminess. A lot more complex on the palate than its younger brother Moonlight Race giving an indication in the end that this is a mysterious, yet stunning wine.
Phelps Creek ‘Beehive’ Pinot Noir 2014 (Oregon, USA) RP: 94
I’m not a fan of using the term “one of the best” or “iconic”, but certain situations require this. One such situation is describing Pinots from Phelps Creek. While their Alexandrine Cuvee is the bees’ knees, the Beehive itself is a perfect younger sibling. Silky, rich, mouth-coating beauty of a cool-climate wine.
Senses ‘Terra de Promissio’ Pinot Noir 2016 (California, USA) RP: 91
Good score, bad price. This is one of those warm and highly extracted Pinots that you could usually guess right off the bat. It does have the grape’s freshness, it does have sikly tannins, it does have elegance, but to pay $100+ SGD for it? Sorry Senses, not in this life.
Concha y Toro Carmin de Peumo Carmenere 2013 (Cachapoal Valley, Chile) RP: 95
Proper signature style of New World Carmenere – green pepper, wild herbs, blackcurrant and sweet cherry. Lush texture with some sharp edges that indicate the need for further aging. If you love your reds bold, juicy and with a steak under each arm, this is your animal.
Vina Ventisquero ‘Enclave’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Maipo Valley, Chile) RP: 92
Head Winemaker Felipe Tosso was choosing between becoming a pro tennis player, classical guitarist or winemaker. He logically chose wine and made this beauty. One of those pure Cabs that don’t give a fuck about the oak, but ride their wave solo all the way. Thought-provoking stuff.
Vik La Piu Belle 2011 (Rapel Valley, Chile) RP: 91
A wine that’s very straight-to-the-point, offering tons of fruit, gorgeously integrated oak, power, density and aging potential. One of those crazy, robust NW blends that doesn’t leave anybody indifferent to its voodoo magic. And the label is just…seek it out. Just do it.
Mas Amiel Maury 40 Ans d’Age NV (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) RP: 94
A fortified, oxidized blend of Grenache, Maccabeu and Carignan. Roasted nuts, caramel and Belgian truffle on the nose. I’m blown away by the complexity of this, as it tends to go deeper and deeper by the minute. Dangerously sweet, so don’t go all in on this.
Kopke Port Colheita 1957 (Douro, Portugal) RP: 95
To just think that a 61-year-old port exists out there is insanity, let alone taste the damn thing. This is just pure poetry and I have no idea why Parker gave it such a “low” score. Even though the acidity is banging on the door, the sweetness comes in in just the right measure to create perfect sophistication.
C. da Silva Dalva 40 Year Old Dry White Port NV (Douro, Portugal) RP: 94
Then you have a 40-year-old WHITE port. How this aged so well is still beyond me. Caramel-toffee goodness on the nose with the palate being loaded with freshness and elegance. Dried fruit dominates the aftertaste with notes of mandarin, apricot and fig. Eternal finish. Wow.
*More detailed notes on Grapenomad’s Instagram account.
Written by Aleksandar Draganić.
An inspirational grape juice drinker, professional glass polisher and uncanny cuisine explorer. Find me at @grapenomad