Some recent standouts and old favorites

July 23, 2018

Lots to cover, so let's jump right in with a lovely, affordable Bila Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages from Michel Chapoutier. RRs know I follow M. Chapoutier carefully because I think he is one of France's best oenologists who produces fairly priced wines through the spectrum. He acquired high-elevation Domaine Bila Haut, an old farm with some old vines, near the Spanish border where Grenache, Carignan and Syrah are grown biodynamically. Many contend that the hot, dry, summer climate and the cool winters are better suited for these varietal types than areas along the Rhone. I think that is a bit broad brush. Chapoutier is an adept at working the terroir and extracting the best qualities the vines can deliver. This wine is deep, dark garnet-colored, shows black cherry, violets, black pepper, under $19 gets 91 points.

Go upscale to $30 for his CdRV L'Esquerde de l'Esquerda 2016 for 93 points. Deep-purple lovely with a mixed bouquet of plum, berries, crushed flowers, licorice and minerality driven by the granite schist riven soils. These 60-year-old vines literally grow through granite schist and clay. They endure extreme heat and drought. Many claim this provides character to the wine. Ya think? I've seen these offered by the case under $300. RP, 96 points, loves this wine. It has rated above 92 points since 2011 vintage, yet maintains its $28 price tag. The 2015 label, which reads CdRV l'E de la E Rectificando Venie, is off the scale. Costs $100 and worth every penny. Try to find some for your cellar. Should store easily through 2030. Just entered its window last year, but patience will be rewarded. The 2010, '11 and '12 Don Melchor are drinking well now. Stunning but will improve if you can wait five more.

What can I say about Marques de Casa Concha products from Chile? I've been a fan of these folks since 1976 when I started building my very first Cab vertical at the Old Garden at 145th Street In Ocean City. Habitués of Garden Gourmet in Rehoboth may remember I continued to build quite a cellar there with the able help of Tim Wood. In fact, we won Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and Best of Awards of Excellence several years in a row. You can look it up. All those lists contained a vertical of Concha's best Cab, Don Melchor, along with Chateau Mouton, Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru, a couple of vintage Ports, Martinelli Jackass Hill, Mondavi, yada, yada, yada. Just a trip down memory lane. Indulge an old guy.

Anyhow, the 2016 Marques de Casa Concha Chard, $22, and Cab, $25, deserve some ink. The Cab shows dark-red color, mixed berry, currant and cherry nose with a bit of road tar. Concentrated flavor supported by appropriate acid/tannin frame. This is ready to drink with only a hint of tannic aftertaste letting you know it will cellar. Try it with tomato/herb sauce or dry-rubbed, slow-smoked barbecue. The Cab is remarkably consistent, rating around 88-90 in most vintages back to the 2000. The curious could likely get a mixed case of four vintages, three bottles each well under $400. I recommend 2008, '11, '13 and '16. Don't let the wine snobs put you off.

A consistent winner. The Chards from Maipo Valley are also consistent around 88 points. The 2016 had mixed reviews, which I am passing along in support of the two-part story recently here.

Decanter – "Clementine, grapefruit and toasty oak aromas welcome a rounded, textured palate with notes of baked apple and pithy grapefruit." 5/2018. WS 89 points – "Shows touches of richness to the delicate flavors of dried apple, cherry and peach, fringed by shiso leaf notes. Spicy, with a slightly creamy texture on the finish." 5/30/2017. WE 89 points – "Oaky aromas of bacon and ham blend with vanilla on the nose of this plump, melony wine.

"Flavors of resiny oak, Animal Cracker cookies and melon turn overtly spicy on the finish that includes a hint of clove." 11/ 2017. Suckling 91 – "A layered and luscious white with cooked apple and cream character. Full and flavorful." 5/2017. WA 89 – "Fresh and mineral, with good structure, matured in 22 percent new barriques for 12 months. More freshness, towards Maycas de Limari, and even if this is always a little oakier, it shows more the austerity and the salinity of Limari, more Meursault than Puligny." 4/2017.

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