Mon 24 May 2010
Michel Rolland has been criticized, demonized and vilified, but on the occasions I met and chatted with him, he seemed pleasant and humorous. (He won’t remember this, but we got sort of smashed and had a long witty conversation — so it seemed — at a lovely dinner at the late, lamented La Caravelle back in, oh, 1997 or ’98.) Still, the ubiquitous French enologist and consultant has more than ruffled feathers through his emphatic and technological style of winemaking, a fashion that I don’t normally countenance. I was surprised, therefore, at how much I enjoyed the Clos de los Siete 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, on the label of which Michel Rolland’s name appears, though the wine is a collaboration among Rolland and six other winemakers, hence “siete.” Writing about the 2007 version of this wine, another blogger called it “a poster child for the over-extracted, over-ripe, and over-oaked wines that [Rolland] has popularized.” My impression of Clos de los Siete 2008, however, is completely the opposite; the wine struck me as classic Bordeaux, beautifully grained, deeply fruity yet restrained, even close to elegant. I doubt that the intention and style of winemaking would change from one vintage to the next.
Clos de los Siete 2008, from Mendoza’s Uco Valley, is a blend of malbec (56%), merlot (21%), syrah (11%) cabernet sauvignon (10%) and petit verdot (2%). Far from being over-oaked, the wine ages 11 months, one-third in new French oak barriques, one-third in one-year-old barriques, and one-third in large oak vats. The bouquet seethes with scents of black currants and black plums wreathed with briers, brambles and walnut shell. Give the wine a few moments of swirling and sniffing and touches of black tea, orange rind and baking spice add complexity. Flavors of cassis, black cherry and plum are permeated with accents of cedar, tobacco, black olive and dried thyme supported by finely-knit tannins, a transparent wash of oak and dusty granite-like minerals, all layered with bright acidity. While it’s true that these tannins, oak and minerals coalesce into a rather formidable notion of framing and foundation for the wine, the flavors remains dominant and ultimately expansive and generous, with final notes balanced between ripe and macerated black and red fruit and a disciplined, dignified and almost rational sense of structure. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $19, a Great Value.
Imported by Dourthe USA, Manhasset, N.Y. A sample for review. Image of Michel Rolland from vintages.com