“The 2004 Vinsanto 12 Years Barrel Aged is the traditional blend (80% Assyrtiko, 10% each of Athiri and Aidani), aged in used French oak for 144 months. It comes in at 260 grams of residual sugar, 7.44 of total acidity and 13.5% alcohol. The grapes, from very old vineyards (200 years "minimum," the winery says) in Episkopi, were sun-dried for 12 days. The rapidly increasing price references a 500-milliliter bottle, but it is fair to note the very low yields from old vines and the 12 years of aging. Another brilliant 12 Year Vinsanto, this is structured, powerful, burnished and complex. The long and remarkably gripping finish, laced with dried peaches and apricots, a little caramel and maybe a hint of molasses, is delicious. The fruit is beautifully defined by the structure. It lingers endlessly, grabbing the palate, slamming into it and refusing to let go. It might be this wine's best feature, and it might be the most powerful finish of the group this issue. It was actually hard to taste anything else immediately after because this was so intense in flavor—but never in a sloppy way. The fruit is always lifted and surprisingly fresh. This is probably not as rich or as deep as the 2003—or as attention-getting at first—but it has more elegance and freshness, plus the purity that allows it to compete well. Tasting them both over a few days, I changed my mind on occasion as to which I preferred. This was the initial winner, far more precocious, but the 2003 developed well, perhaps better, while this seemed a little compact by comparison. It was quite a horse race. Pick 'em based on your stylistic preferences.”
“Bright yellow-green. The enticing nose offers aromas of stone fruits, white truffle, fennel, crème brûlée and spicy vanillin oak. Broad, creamy and seamless; the lush texture is perfectly supported by harmonious acidity and lifted by noteworthy inner-mouth perfume of white flowers and sweet spices. Super-concentrated but also well balanced, this long wine leaves behind lingering flavors of molasses and rum. This was only the second vintage for this bottling, but the oak was very judiciously used and the wine has aged remarkably well. Starting in 2015, the winemaking regimen at Pievalta changed, and oak is no longer used to age the wine; by contrast, roughly 55% of the 2004 was aged in small oak barrels.”
“The 2004 Pintas Vintage Port is a field blend from very old vines (some 80 years or so) coming in at 110 grams per liter of residual sugar. Very different than its 2003 sibling in character, this shows more complexity from the get-go, as it is less dominated by sugar and better balanced. Tightening fast on the finish, it is beautifully constructed, serious, nuanced and gripping. As it airs out, it fleshes out a bit and becomes much livelier. It has the verve and zest that the 2003 lacked. The next day it was still powerful and tannic on the finish. You can approach it now but give it some air. Notwithstanding the tannins, it was also more expressive. This is young and still evolving. It should have a reasonably long life ahead.”
“Ruby-red. Cabernet Sauvignon aromas of cedar, graphite, tobacco and green bell pepper dominate the nose. Enters ripe with almost stewed plum and black cherry flavors, then turns slightly fresher and livelier, with saline, savory notes of aromatic spices, cedar and coffee complicating violet flavors. Boasts outstanding balance, suave tannins and length; undoubtedly a great wine, but the Nero d’Avola identity is almost completely lost, which I think is a shame (and makes me lower my score); those who don’t mind a lack of somewhereness in their wines will rate this higher than I did.”
Full medium red. Vibrant, expressive scents of cassis, black cherry, licorice and violet. Densely packed and quite firmly built, conveying terrific juicy intensity and a restrained sweetness to its youthful dark fruit flavors. Some peppery acidity gives this very penetrating wine a slight leanness. With its firm vertebral column, this wine still needs time to gain in pliancy. Incidentally, this was the first vintage of the Nicolás Catena Zapata to include some Malbec vinified with whole clusters, and that no doubt explains its peppery element.