There are three empty bottles in front of me. Did I drink the contents of them all? No. Did I drink a glass of any of them? No. But I tasted them several times to see if I could work out what the $*$! United Wineries were thinking of when they created the Marques de Concordia Extreme, sorry, Extrême range.
Not that a normal person would have been able to tell the difference between the three wines. To my admittedly short-sighted eyes, the front labels and capsules are identical, while the back labels are almost identical bar the bottle number and the alcohol level. If the helpful Scott Burton of PR company Cube hadn’t stuck on stickers saying which was the Cabernet Sauvignon (13.5% alcohol), which the Merlot (14%) and which the Syrah (14.5%), I’d have had to go off taste. I think I’d have got them right – the Cabernet was leafy and blackcurranty, the Merlot softer and plummier, while the Syrah had flavours of spicy chocolate and berries. But what did they have to do with Rioja? Not much, apart from the thumbprint of American oak. Maybe the overripe 2003 vintage should take some of the blame. Certainly there was very little acidity, plus a fair degree of brett. And they’re £13…
Give them a miss and spend your money either on proper Rioja or on better examples of the three varietals from elsewhere. Current faves for the three grapes are Falernia Syrah from Chile (see here), Mas de Daumas Gassac’s intriguing Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Frizant Vin Mousseux (£10.99 Caves de Pyrene, Green & Blue) and – shit, I can’t think of a Merlot I like. Let’s see what’s on the sample rack….
OK, back with a glass of Casa Lapostolle’s Cuvée Alexandre 2005 Merlot (I’m sure this used to be mostly Carmenere, but the label says its only 15%). Wine writers aren’t supposed to be biased, but my son is called Alex and the wine is usually a bit of a banker. And it doesn’t let me down. It’s classic Chile, rich, earthy, packed with blackcurrants, big but not too pumped up. The wrong wine for a summer evening, but still pretty good, and with a refreshing tang to the finish that was all too obviously absent in the Concordia Riojas. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it blossoming in the next 24 hours.