O. Fournier is in the House (Part II): Tasting Notes

by Liz Caskey on April 8, 2010

Centaurí Sauvignon Blanc 2009 US$16

Although O.Fournier’s future winery will soon call Lo Abarca home alongside prestigious neighbors like Casa Marin, for the interim as the project takes off, they are making this super fresh Sauvignon Blanc with grapes hailing from the western area of Leyda in the San Antonio appellation.

This wine screams grapefruit. Bright and tangy with mineral notes on the back end, it is lower in alcohol than its other San Antonio cousins, which is refreshing for my palate at least. This wine is a home run for delicate little oysters like the black-lipped variety in Chile, or Kumamoto in the Northwest US.  We also just enjoyed sipping it and letting its juicy, citrusy goodness invade our tastebuds. Ideal for summer 2010 in the US.

Alfa Centaurí Sauvignon Blanc 2008 US$30

Intriguing, in a word. I remember this wine like a charismatic person at a dinner party. First, don’t let the color throw you. The golden hues may hint of a Chardonnay but this is a Sav Blanc to the bone. The nose is mysterious—fresh with whiffs of lemon, rocks, Flint, even blossoms but something distinctively smoky, or is it vanilla?, behind those aromas. In the mouth, the wine explodes. It delivers dry, austere fruit with a velvety, addictive texture. It may be clothed in the texture of a Burgundian Chardonnay but its acidity and explosiveness reveal it’s true identity—it can only be a Sauvignon Blanc. And that mysterious smoky note comes back as an aftertaste and lingers.

The only reference I have to a wine like this was an Austrian Sauvignon Blanc that was 30% aged in oak and then blended. According to José Manuel this is the secret and they actually fermented this wine in 500 liter oak vats and aged it for 12 months. Not yet released, folks, get your order in early since they only made 900 bottles of this first vintage. Sauvignon Blanc lovers rejoice, you must try this. Pure poetry.

Release date in 2011 or 2o12 depending on the evolution of the wine.

Centaurí Blend 2008 US$25

Made from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 30% Carignan, I adored this red blend. I get really, really burnt out on New World wines that are fruit bombs. Not only are they are fruit forward but they gravitate towards a sweet taste and bon bon like style. I want a wine, not dessert thanks. Centaurí blend, in my opinion takes fruit-forward but leverages that sophisticated European DRY style of wine, a nice change in Chile.  Your palate doesn’t get pooped out by the sugar and alcohol after a glass. Quite the opposite.

Carginan is an usual variety that is present in the Maule region with very old vines, which is the case of O. Fournier. Originating in the Aragon region of Spain, it is widely planted in France and the Mediterranean. By itself, Carignan can be hard and astringent and is often blended with Grenache, Mouvedre and Syrah to add length, fruit, and body. However, in the Maule, the terroir is giving birth to more expressive, softer Carignan. When it teams up with muscular Cabernet and feminine Merlot, it is a total power player. On to my notes…

On the nose, loads of berries, cherries, cassis, plums and subtle spicy notes. In the mouth, the fruit bursts with an earthy component, graphite, and minerals. I love this flavor balance—and it’s DRY. This wine is still very young so at first, the tannins were a little unwieldy. As it opened (we tasted at 30 minutes, 4 hours, and next day), they softened and it became like a pussy cat but never loosing that fruity balance. If this follows suit of the B Crux in Mendoza in price point (US$25), it is a Blockbuster in the making for the price-quality ratio and sheer flavor uniqueness.

Alfa Centaurí Blend 2008 US$45

Oh la la, this wine came off, for me, as exotic. I did not see the blend breakdown until now (writing this) and that darn Cabernet Franc had me scratching my head. So here it is: 44% cabernet franc, 40% Cabernet sauvignon y 16% Merlot. This is an inky, dense wine that is deep purple in color. Once again, I felt like this was a preview to its debut down the road as it ages in bottle. This time though, quite aromatic with black berries, plums, and spices like cloves and black pepper bursting forth in a sort of potpourri. In the mouth, the barrel is present and the tannins are scratchy but as it airs it rounds out. This wine comes out in layers revealing its complexity. Every time I sipped it, it changed. A chameleon in the glass. It grew on me–a lot. A lot of potential, keep your eye on this when it comes out.

Release date in 2011 or 2o12 depending on the evolution of the wine.

Urban Sauvignon Blanc 2009 US$9

Made from Maule grapes, this is quite a different animal from San Antonio appellation. It is simple, straight forward and fresh. For my tastebuds, it had a more “grapey” taste but with bright acidity. I think this would be a perfect pool party wine served chilled on a hot afternoon; or a glass with lunch. It’s an easygoing and non-commital “date.”

Urban Blend 2008 US$12

This blend is made from 80% Merlot, 13% Carignan, 7% Cabernet and disappears quickly. First, let’s consider the price point with these wines before starting to compare it to Centaurí, which is another story. Urban retails around the US$10 mark, so we are looking at a great value wine. Urban for me is honest to expressing the varietal without the aging and barrel complexity. It is a well made, honest line of wines.

Fruity and full of strawberry aromas, it has considerable consistency and body (thank you Cab & Carignon). The oak here is not protagonist, it’s not conceived as that kind of wine. It’s a cheerful sip full of vivid fruit. It’s dry too. Simple and elegant, I think it shows itself well, considering the above. Perfect for keeping a case on hand mid-week or great for pouring for a crowd. We loved this with brined pork chops and mashed sweet potatoes.

O. Fournier Limited Edition 2008 US$95

Power in a word. This wine is a force to be reckoned with in every sense. Made of 80% cabernet franc, 10% cabernet sauvignon from their Santa Rita vineyard and 10% carignan, I felt like I committed infanticide by opening the bottle at this point in it’s young life. It barely had a nose after opening it. I aerated it and gave it time to come out of its shell for a few hours. That seemed to help–a little. This is a wine that needs time in the bottle, like great Bordeaux wines, to fully express itself.

The nose is austere, perhaps some black fruit notes and the hint of barrel but it does not sing much–yet. In the mouth, the tannins are gripping and backed by serious structure. Meaty, muscular, wild. Extrapolating five years, I imagined how as everything melded together and the tannins softened a little, this would become a delicious wine. All that muscle was wrapped around a blindingly brillant acidity. It “felt” like a special wine. Something to keep in my collection at least, especially after I found out they only made 300 cases of it. That’s what José Manuel intended with this line of “Limited” editions, on par with his Syrah in Mendoza, Argentina.

My final opinion after two tastings of this wine: it needs a lot more time in the bottle. I would like to taste it again a few years down the road. However, the best analogy I can offer is this: when you can look at your baby, you have a sense what a great adult that little person will become someday, even though they cannot speak nor express themselves to their full potential yet. That was my sensation with this wine. The potential of greatness in evolution.

Release date in 2013 or later, depending on the evolution of the wine.

Final thoughts

As you guys try these wines, please let me know what you think. O. Fournier has excellent distribution all over the US, so please check their website for information. In Chile, you can procure these at Mundo del Vino. Cheers and thank you to José Manuel for bringing this terroir and project to life to share with the world.

Photo Credits: O. Fournier. Pictures taken from Finca La Higuera in the Maule. Vines are 100 year old Cabernet Sauvignon.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Todd Trzaskos April 11, 2010 at 3:48 am

deseo beber…
alas, I do not believe anyone is bringing O. Fournier into VT. Will have to keep the ojos peeled when traveling.
Do they have one, or multiple importers to the US? Did not see on their web site. Might be something we could point one of our state distributors at.
Salut!

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