I first came across Lascar last year when a friend brought a bottle to a meal at Aladdin. Unfortunately I was not in tasting-note mode, and I even forgot which varietal it was. I was impressed, and even more impressed when told it was not expensive. Only recently did I finally get round to buying some bottles of Lascar from The Wine Society, one each of the three varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère.
What they all have in common is that they are Chilean, of the 2010 vintage, contain 13.5% alcohol, produced by Sur Andino SA, imported by The Wine Society, and cost a little under £5.00. They also all have Central Valley on the label, but that is really a catch-all region akin to South Eastern Australia or the Western Cape, and offers few geographic clues. If it matters to you, the packaging is rather classy – an understated label, elegant bottle that is slightly tapered toward the bottom, and a punt to boot.
More importantly, the other thing that they all have in common is that they are rather yummy *** wines in my book. That rating may sound mediocre on my 5 star scale, but they all rather solidly fall into that category, and there are very few red wines under a tenner that even scrape 3 stars. I was impressed, and one or more of these wines is bound to be my house red for a while to come. Somehow more expensive wines just do not seem appropriate with a mid-week plate of pasta, but these fit the bill admirably. They are all clean, intense, fresh wines, with good length, and good with food – certainly not cloying, or clumsily oaked, as many cheaper wines are. I might even try keeping some of these a few years, as I don’t think they will fade quickly.
I am tempted to say they are varietally correct, but I cannot hand-on-heart say I have a clue what Carmenère should taste of. The Cab Sauv is certainly a good example of its variety. As for the Merlot, I would not use the common “plummy” descriptor, but it shares characteristics with other Merlots I have tried, namely nice fresh aromatic dark fruit. It is in my opinion a much under-valued grape in the post-Sideways era.
Lascar Cabernet Sauvignon
Intense, slightly sharp, fresh blackcurrant. Merest hint of something that might be oak. Medium acidity and astringency. Sweet fruit. My least favourite of the three, but then I am not a great fan of Cab Sauv.
Intense fresh eucalyptus. Medium acidity and lowish astringency. Sweet, juicy dark fruit.
Intense, very slightly green, but not unpleasantly so. Bordeaux-like. Rather elegant. Medium acidity and astringency. Sweet dark fruit. Almond on finish. Rather good with a ribeye steak. This is my favourite so far, but I am going to buy more of each.
Update 24/04/12: TWS is now out of the 2010 Carmenère , so when reordering my newly-discovered house wines I tried the 2011. It seemed to lack the elegance of the 2010, and was a bit heavier on the fruit. Still a good ***, but slightly less enjoyable for me. Of course, it is perfectly possible that it is the extra year on the 2010 that made the difference, rather than the vintage as such. Of the three varietals this is still my favourite, even in its 2011 incarnation.