Full Circle Bevcon held a little get-together to taste wines from the Southern Hemisphere at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco on September 7. Over 200 wines were selected by Master Sommelier & Master of Wine Doug Frost, and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, and billed as “the largest collection of Southern Hemisphere wines in one place at one time”. After seeing and tasting from the layout of wines at this happening, I have no doubts. Simply stated, this was an important wine tasting. A splendid opportunity to sample the variety of the latest wines produced from the Southern Hemisphere. And good wines they are!
In these wines, several themes are exposed. Not in every wine, but overall there are some takeaways.
The first and most obvious is high quality. These wines are on the mark. A variety of styles appears in the wines. The wines do not come out of a mold.
Most are well-balanced and approachable. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir tend towards slightly lighter weight when compared to styles from California and France. For many of the wines, the character leans towards a lighter touch focusing on elegance as opposed to forward fruit, muscle, or size. None of these directions is right or wrong. They are just stylistic differences.
Countries with wine represented at the tasting, along with that country’s signature grape are as follows:
▪ Argentina – Malbec, also prominent in Cahors, France, called Auxerrois, and one of Bordeaux’s six grapes
▪ Australia – Shiraz, called Syrah in the France’s Rhone Valley where it is generously planted
▪ Brazil – not yet established
▪ Chile – Cabernet Sauvignon today; also noteworthy is Carmenere from 19th Century Bordeaux; most widely was planted Pais until the 21st Century
▪ New Zealand – best known for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, many varieties grown today
▪ South Africa – Pinotage, although other grapes receive far more attention
▪ Uruguay – Tannat is most prominent at over one third of all plantings
Quite a few grape varietals are represented in the wines. The most prevalent varietals are:
▪ reds – Malbec, Shiraz (Syrah), Tannat, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon
▪ whites – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling
Sundry other grapes are scattered about in the wines:
▪ more reds – Pinotage, Carmenere, Pais, Bonarda (Charbono, Douce noir)
▪ more whites – Pedro Ximénez, Semillon, Pinot Gris, and various red and white Rhone and Bordeaux varietals
My tasting notes
91, Carmenere, Casa Silva Los Lingues, Colchagua, Chile, 2015, $20
Radiant ruby color and medium-light-weight. Aromas of flowers, especially peony with green forest. Ripe fruit with red and black currants in a mineral setting. An elegant character, silky-smooth texture, with a lasting finish.
91, Cabernet blend, VIK, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, 2011, $140
This six-year-old is blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Carménère, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, and 4% Syrah. Billed as “high precision viticulture”, the sourcing vines are on six different densely planted, parcel-matched rootstocks approaching 10,000 plants per hectare. Grapes were gravity-fed to small stainless for a five-week maceration and native-yeast fermentation. New French oak barrels housed the wine for malolactic, 23 months of aging, three-month racking, and a light finishing filtration. Ruby-purple color with medium-weight and good intensity. Delivers ripe, focused, tangy red and dark fruit, mulberries, tobacco, and truffles, with a vein of acidity running through. Possesses a harmonious, precise, focused character on a mineral background with good length. Definite quality and uniqueness.
90, Tannat, Familia Deicas, 2015, $24
Deep black-purple in color. Medium-heavy weight, with a thick texture and rich, ripe dark plums and berries. Although this is quite a sizeable entry, the tannins are ripe and mild, and the character remains approachable, harmonious, and delicious with good length.
90, Malbec, Pascual Toso Reserva, Maipu, Mendoza, 2015, $25
Deep-purple in color. A medium-heavy weight with plenty of extract and a thick texture. Dark fruit, black plums, and blackberries, all in a mineral setting. Structuring tannins, sufficient acid, and a persistent finish.
89, Pinot Noir, Giesen The Brothers, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2014, $25
The pale red-purple color and medium-light-weight belies the intensity of this Burgundy-styled Pinot Noir. A blend of several vineyards in the Wairau and Southern Valleys. Mulberries, clove, and spice permeate this wine. Refreshing, smoothly textured, and a long finish.
90, Sauvignon Blanc, Giesen Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016, $15
Pale straw in color. A sizeable Sauvignon Blanc with full-weight. Shows passion fruit and grapefruit, with a style towards the sweeter end of the fruit spectrum.
94, Sauvignon Blanc, Giesen August, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016, $40
In dazzling platinum with golden hues, this high-end Sauvignon Blanc is extremely complex, well integrated, and displays an exceptionally animated flavor profile. A three-dimensional kaleidoscope in tiny points of flavor instead of light, whispering dry grass, lime, jalapeño, white peach, bell pepper, gooseberry, and further fruited and faintly herbaceous nuances. This mid-weight-plus was fermented in French oak, and possesses notable intensity with a light texture. Delivers outstanding vibrancy with fine balance. A real piece of work!
90, Chardonnay, Robert Oatley Signature Chardonnay, Margaret River, Australia, $20
Radiant near-white-gold in color. Aromas of anise and melon followed on the palate by hints of apple and almond. Boldly textured, luscious fruit, juicy and wet, sensual and hedonistic in character, with good balance.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, Harewood Estate Reserve, Great Southern, Australia, 2011, $33
A lighter, more elegant style of Cabernet Sauvignon. This medium-light-weight wine shows good intensity. Red-purple in color, this wine yields quantities of ripe and sweet dark fruit, peony, with hints of cedar, green peppers, and black peppercorns. Refreshing, with mild tannins and a lengthy finish.
91, Tannat, Familia Deicas Mar de Piedras, San José, $40
This black, purple-tinged Tannat from Uruguay is a big, chewy, mouth-filling, food-oriented wine. No mistakes, this heavy-weight is also fine for sipping without food, but it’s made to mate. Offers black plums, raspberries, and spice box. The copious, rich, black fruit, is in harmony with the considerable, slightly coating tannins, which add size and structure to the wine.
91, Malbec, Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentina, $29
The opulent fruit in this dark-purple Malbec has a penetrating nature, but also a soft side. Rich Laroda plum and blackberry immerse the palate, while the acid level is refreshing. A sensual character, texture of velvet, solid tannic frame, and fine length add to the complexities of this wine.
90, Pinotage, Painted Wolf, Guillermo, Swartland, South Africa, 2013, $20
This signature variety of South Africa displays as purple in color with bronzed hues. Delivers tangy aromas of mulberries and red cherries with a whisper of tobacco leaves and green tea. A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault early in the 20th Century by Perold, at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and often cultivated as bushvines (untrellised goblet), this effort is smoothly textured showing good roundness, and just the right intensity. Shows brightness, mild tannins, excellent balance, good length, and definite elegance.
90, Pinot Noir, Leyda Las Brisas, Leyda Valley, Chile, 2015, $22
Transparent red-purple in color, and medium-light in weight. Quite delicious and approachable, this wine delivers sweet fruit with tangy mulberries and elderberries on the palate. Well managed tannins, smoothly textured, and a very long finish.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tarapacá, Gran Reserva, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2014, $18
A velvety texture and elegant touch in this purple with ruby tinged, Cabernet. This wine yields red-currants, chocolate, and fresh roasted coffee. The ripe tannins are well managed in this mid-weight wine.
91, Malbec, Cantena Alta, Mendoza, Argentina, 2013, $60 Dense ruby-tinged purple color. Luscious, rich, sweet, blue and black fruit. Mid-weight, a smooth texture, ripe tannins, and very good presence from this Malbec.
90, Shiraz, Campbells Bobbie Burns, Rutherglen, Australia, 2013, $23
Semi-transparent ruby-tinged purple color. This medium-light-weight shows structure from well managed tannins and a vein of acid. Aromas of berry fruit and hickory, with fruitcake and black fruit on the palate. Smoothly textured with good length, this is an inviting and well-flavored Shiraz
91, Klein Constantina Estate Red, South Africa, 2014, $27 Vivid deep-ruby-purple in color. This silky smooth, Bordeaux-style blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Shiraz, 14% Petit Verdot & 9% Malbec receives malolactic fermentation in 50% new French oak barrels, and then 12 months of aging before bottling. Delivers plenty of ripe, opulent fruit with mild tannins. Violet, tea, and cassis aromas, with black and red currants and a hint of toasted walnuts in the mouth. Good balance, seamless construction, and a harmonious character.
90, Pinot Noir, Giesen Estate,Marlborough, New Zealand, 2014, $20
Pastel ruby-purple color. Full of ripe, sweet fruit with a Burgundy style bias. This medium-light weight brings tangy mulberries with a hint of raspberries to the palate. Bright with smooth tannins and good length.
90, Riesling, Mitchell’s Watervale, Clare Valley, Australia, 2012, $22
This very pale-gold Riesling delivers a unique flavor profile boasting lemon-lime, crème brûlée with a smoky touch, and mineral. Well balanced, medium-light weight, focused, firm and bright, an elegant character, and good purity of fruit.
92, Riesling, Mitchell’s McNicol, Clare Valley, Australia, 2012, $47
Brilliant platinum with golden-green hues in color. Grown on a high hillside abundant with quartzite, this single vineyard, dry farmed Riesling is aged in 3,000 liter oak vats, and see time on the lees before bottling. Delivers intense aromatics of lemon curd and spice-box, with green apple, with traces of honey and lime on the palate, surrounded by a distant backdrop of wet stones. Medium-light in weight, this Riesling is seamless, lifting, highly complex, and emanating a unique character, notable presence, and great length. A real piece of work!
90, Pinot Noir, Harewood Estate Reserve, Great Southern, Australia, 2014, $38
Pale rose-pink in color. In the Burgundy style with a Down-Under touch. Delivers red-cherry, rhubarb, green-tea, mineral, and a nuance of oak. A light-weight with very strong presence, purity of fruit, focus, and definitely displaying a unique character.
91, Shiraz, Meerea Park Aunts, Hunter Valley, 2014, $44 Deep, royal-purple in color. A single vineyard wine from the old-vine Kindred family ‘Homestead’ vineyard planted in 1965. After open-vat fermentation, the wine was aged 16 months in French oak, 45% new. A big, muscular Shiraz, richly fruited, with structuring tannins, vibrant acids, and a reasonable alcohol level of 13.5%. This wine will age awhile. Delivers blackberries, blueberries, hickory wood, and a hint of coffee, all with a smooth texture and good length.
92, Cabernet Sauvignon blend, Yeringberg, Yarra Valley, Australia, 2014, $90
Vivid crimson-hued purple in color. Unique aroma and flavor profile, delivering tobacco leaf, toast, and coco aromas, and red and black fruit with fruitcake to the palate. This delicious Cabernet showcases an elegant entry with great balance of components and taste. Just the right intensity with a velvet touch.
92, Chardonnay, Yeringberg, Yarra Valley, Australia, 2014, $50
Brilliant light-straw in color. Lush, sweet, ripe fruit, round and thick with a glycerol-like texture. Honey and pineapple in the aroma, with a whisper of toasty oak. On the palate, tangy melon and ripe apricot. Complex, delicious, rich, medium-weight-plus, and great length.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, Edgebaston GS, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2013, $50
Dark ruby-tinged-purple in color. This mid-light weight is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single clone. Planted on Malmesbury Shale over deep red clay, it is fermented in stainless and aged 18 months in large, 300 liter, medium toasted, new Nevers and Allier French oak. The wine delivers appealing black currants, forest floor, cedar, and tobacco leaf. Well managed, smoothly textured, quality fruit, structuring tannins, freshness, length, and a unique character.
91, Shiraz, d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2013, $65
A big one, this Shiraz, also in its dense, black-purple color. Fermented in small batches, this wine sees both foot treading and basket pressing. After fermentation in partially new French and American oak barriques, the wine is aged on its lees without fining, filtration, or racking. Rich blackberry with dark plum aromas, and in the mouth, coffee, black fruit, minerality, and a whisper of tar. Copious quantities of intense, rich, black fruit, enveloping ripe tannins, and a lengthy finish. Massive, balanced, and very nicely tied together.
91, Tannat, Massimo Deicas Progreso, Canelones, 2013, $190 Vivid purple with ruby hues in color. Aromatics of flowers and red and black brambleberries, with dark fruit, plums, and hints of spice on the palate. Big and coating, a silky-smooth texture, and notably elegant. The elevated acid level and substantial tannic frame balanced with the fruit will move to the background with time, and this wine should cellar long.
90, Pinot Noir, Giant Steps, Yarra Valley, Australia, $30 Transparent red-purple in color. Delivers tangy strawberries and mulberries with hints of rhubarb, green tea, and rose petal. A light-weight bringing good intensity, sweet fruit, brightness, and a lengthy finish.