Monday, January 17, 2011

Clos de los Siete & The Flying Winemaker

We've already tasted - and I've already added to The List - two vintages of this wine. The 2008 was added back during our Wine Boyz World Cup tasting (#474) and the 2007 was knocked back during the 2010 Aussie Rules Football Final (#602). Both of those bottles were opened more as part of an event though and, consequently, I didn't really spend any time writing about the winery in my posts. This time, the wine is all on its own; so, I suppose it's time to look a little deeper into the winery.

When Boo and I were in Argentina last Fall, I was amazed by the myriad of historical ties between Mendoza, wine and Italian immigrants. It seemed like, every which way we turned, there was more Italian heritage staring us in the face - much of it well over 100 years old. This next wine is not an example of those historical ties; rather, the wine is a product of a whole new approach to Argentine wine - but one that is becoming evermore present.

709. 2003 Clos de los Siete (Mendoza - Argentina)

Clos de los Siete is the result of multi-million venture involving world renowned - and controversial - "flying winemaker" Michel Rolland. Rolland is one of the wine world's most influential personalities. As a consultant to over 100 wineries in 13 different countries (including Canada), Rolland epitomizes the globalization of wine. He's known for a decidedly New World signature style of big fruit and heavy oak and Clos de los Siete was conceived of as a vehicle for personal involvement in the burgeoning Argentine world of wine.

The project originally started as a gathering of Rolland and six other French producers. Indeed, the winery's name refers to the "vineyards of the seven" and, in addition to Rolland, his partners included a Rotschild and the family behind Champagne powerhouse Piper Heidseck. Money seemed to be no object as there's been talk of over $60 million of investment. The unique concept behind the joint venture was that each of the seven partners would have separate sections in the vineyards and their own distinct winery - with their own winemakers and viticulturists - however, one half of the production would go to a "collective" winery, Clos de los Siete, where Rolland would create the branded wine for world-wide consumption.

Two of those original investors seem to have abandoned the project as only five of the planned seven wineries have set up shop; however, things have definitely kept moving ahead. The vineyards are geared towards quality production and low yields so that the resulting wine would be a quality bottling; however, at a million and a half bottles being produced annually, it can hardly be seen as an artisanal project.

Whereas there are plenty of old vines in Mendoza, the planting of the winery's vineyards was all from scratch and only started in 1999. With the first vintage having been released was in 2002, this 2004 is still early indication of what the winery might ultimately be capable of. As you might expect with an Argentine blend, Malbec is the backbone of the wine and accounts for half of the blend. The remaining varietals used are Merlot (30%), Cab Sauv and Syrah (10% each).

Despite all the press and the hoopla surrounding the wine - it continually gets glowing reports and rankings in the wine press - it's never seemed to live up to my expectations. And it didn't tonight either. It's certainly not a bad wine; it just doesn't make me holler for a refill - like now. I'm sure we'll see more bottles at our table in the years to come as it's a favourite for people to bring to dinner parties as a guest, but I'll have to experience a few more "wow" moments before I commit to regularly stocking it in our cellar.

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