Huasa de Trequilemu, Cauquenes, 2012


Pale garnet in colour.  Intense nose that is dominated by Elastoplast, with some fragrant horse manure. It’s a bit of a brett bomb, but there is also red fruit – perfumed cherry notes.  Maybe rubber and menthol aspects.  Medium high acidity, and low but detectable astringency. Intense, light and delicate. Lifted and refreshing.  Great complexity, and great length. Tingly, fragrant, bretty finish. This still primary, but I don’t think I would let it age further. It is best slightly chilled. Difficult to rate, but if pushed I’d give it ****

This is a challenging wine in more than one way. I first came across it at L’Enclume, offered as a match for their venison with charcoal oil. I thought it was a great dish with great wine, and the pairing was superb. One of the best introductions you could hope for, but I still love the wine after drinking a few bottles in more modest surroundings.  However, my enthusiasm is not shared by everyone, and I can understand that. By any standards the wine is weird, and technically it is faulty. The dominant smell of Elastoplast is the result of a brett (short for brettanomyces) infection, which is perhaps better known for its farmyardy smells.

But is it a fault if you like the result? Some would say not, by definition, while others argue that brett is always negative. In practice, I am not sure how it would be possible to have the same wine, but without the brett, to compare. So will we ever be sure? This is in marked contrast to the situation with a corked wine, where you can often open another bottle to compare, and the clean one is always better. For more on brett, see also this blog post of mine. Ultimately, unless you get into an argument with your sommelier when you try to return it, I am not sure it matters whether you call it a fault or not. If you like the wine, buy it and drink it. Also buy it if you want to be challenged. If you want an easy ride, there is plenty of other Chilean wine to be picked up at supermarkets.

The producer is Agricola Luyt Ltda, the grape País, it’s 13.7%, and I bought it for around £18 from Buon Vino in Settle. See also this blog post on Luyt and Clos Ouvert by Rob from Buon Vino for a bit of background.

Cheap reds from The Wine Society – Lascar

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.

Lascar Merlot
Intense fresh eucalyptus. Medium acidity and lowish astringency.  Sweet, juicy dark fruit.

Lascar Carmenère
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.