Tipping the Tappit Hen

Have you ever been inclined to drive over 1.150 kilometres (715miles) to go to a wine tasting?  Well, me neither but I did just manage that. An invitation to visit and taste at Bodega (Viña) Cobos was taken up immediately on 15th July 2021, and how well worth it all was too. The going home was of course also 1.150 kilometres so we could ask, have you ever driven 2.300kms to do something like this?

‘Los Andes con nieve’ .. ‘The Andes with snow’

It was indeed great to be back in my second favourite Argentine city, Mendoza and the provence with the always looming Los Andes ever-present and most welcoming. It is mid-winter here and I was a little surprised that there was no snow to be seen on the mountains. Okay a little upon the top of Aconcagua and her neighbours but otherwise, and hauntingly enough, no snow! I have no idea what this will mean for the 2022 harvest or for that matter the subsequent harvests in Mendoza. The Mendocino’s are 99.9% reliable on the snow melt from up top, to grow their grapes. As you can see here in the NASA (Nice Attitude Sensible Attire) aerial image, the snow cover is usually everywhere. Then there’s my photo which was taken from my last visit back in 2016, again snow everywhere! as you can see. I think we even went skiing that year.
Anyway, a super warm welcome was offered on arrival at the bodega. Big smiles and also the news that I was the first person to visit since March 2020. Almost a year and a half since their last outsider, pre C19, professional tasting. So we got stuck in straight away, and even dear Andres Mono Vignoni, their young and highly talented local winemaker popped in for a schlurp and a chat. Big stuff is happening at Viña Cobos. We kicked off with a new wine, 2020 Viña Cobos Vinculum Chardonnay (97pts) and then the first of the day’s red, 2018 Viña Cobos Vinculum Malbec (95pts).

El Chardonnay 2020 was clear yellow with green hues. The nose is expensive & fruity, expressing tropical aromas like mango, pineapple, and citrus. On the palate, there are delightful flavours of green apple, peach, and subtle notes of vanilla. There is freshness balanced with power, elegance as well as structure and persistence.

The Vinculum Malbec 2018 was showing tension and freshness, but without losing power or concentration of fruit. A very relaxed wine, great balance between the use of wood (a little) and the pure energy of the fruit that drives the wine. Super!

A horizontal 2017 tasting then followed of their two Estate Malbecs, named Bramare Estate (not to be confused with their readlily available Bramare non-estate), Zingaretti (Villa Bastias) and Marchiori Vineyard (Perdriel) and the fabulous Estate Cabernet Franc, Chañares (Los Arboles). Two Malbecs and one Cabernet Franc. This work is really not easy you know.

2017 Zingaretti (96pts) Complex, herbal and with a fine touch of cigar box, spices and herbs as a prelude to a rich, fresh and enveloping palate, with the velvety trace of fine tannins. Long, very long indeed, and pleasurably classic!

2017 Marchiori (95pts) Deep and firm tannins, plums and leather (NOT SWEATY) backed up by subtle cocoa and more plumyness. Unctuous wine!

2017 Chañares (97pts) One of the strange things that I really like about this wine is that it gives off notes of a local tree they call ‘Chañares’.This vineyard is surrounded by them and the ripe almost malty berry aromas blend seamlessly with the blackberry, cassis and mixed herb finish and of course oaky notes of mocha, coffee and toasted berry, if you like. An exquisite non-Malbec! for a change.

Another little shlurp of the Vinculum Chardonnay, to clean the palate and then out came their big gun, el 2018 Grand Cru Classe (recently described by our North American friends at Wine Advocate as the Harlan Estate of Argentina) but simply known here as Cobos Malbec 2018. My rather dishevelled tasting note read: Deep violet red in color with complex aromas of black fruits, spices, and graphite. Elegant notes of blue fruits and wild thyme lead through to a velvety mouthfeel, with well-integrated tannins and a long finish. Everything to like here! and my recommendation is buy what you can find.

That is, if you are actually looking for a South American Harlan Estate then please look no further. The production of the big stuff is about the same as Harlan but you can buy here a lot more Cobos for your buck, as it where. Three to one? I believe.

Now, one of the benefits of going away from home for a few days is that one can get inspired, reflect and of course refresh. In this case, I was thinking of how many Large Formats of good wine I have in stock, and also what have I enjoyed over the decades. When on earth did this larger format obsession begin for me? Well, it was not around the family Sunday lunch table, for sure, where one litre bottle of Nicolas (Victoria Wine) Spanish Red Plonk where drunk in copious quantities (do you remember it with the 3 stars and a plastic stopper, really not bad at all at the time). Nope, my interest sparked off with my first Tappit Hen purchase at a Christie’s auction sale back in 1980s. Dear old D.Elswood (RiP) was in charge of the room in Souff Ken! and two lots came up of a 1975 Pauillac, Ch.Croziet-Bages described in the catalogue not as bottle, halves or magnum but as a Tappit Hen. I had never heard of this format before then, but was curious enough about them so bought both lots for 15 quid a hit plus the Christie’s sweetner. I finally got the two wooden cases home, opened one and fell in love immediately with larger format. All 2.25 litres of the first Tappit Hen where demolished at dinner the following night and I kept the other one for Christmas lunch that same year. I know that in Oporto they have been fiddling around with 2.1ltrs and 2.25ltrs Tappit Hen bottle size for donkies now, but to open a Tappit Hen of Claret really works it’s magic! for me. A perfect dinner/lunch party Claret format.

Then the following year, Christie’s sent me a catalogue of an Oxford country house wine sale, the complete cellar was up for grabs, of magnums and double magnums only. No 75cls here. I bought the magnums of 1982 Cos d’Éstournel for peanuts, not because there is anything wrong with the wine of course but the wokie pokie, even back then, didn’t like the fact that the wines where the ex-property of press tycoon Robert Maxwell (RiP). I think the local council where trying to recuperate some taxes, rent or fees from the large Oxford house/estate. Also nearly a decade later having had some children and being a total Sassicaia freak from it’s outset, I did buy some double magnums of Sassicaia of the birth year of each child and then took a photograph of the nipper, in baby PJs, alongside the large format of Sassicaia. The idea being that when they got to the unripe age of 21, I would gift them the double magnum and the photograph together at the same time. They would finally then be holding the baby, and not the other way around. So how big does all this format stuff get? Well look at this. In stock today at Vinotheque there are Magnums, and there is one Tappit Hen, some Double Magnums, a few Jeroboams, three Methuselahs, two Salmanazars, one Balthazar and even a Nabuchadnezzar.

‘Los Andes sin nieve’ …  ‘The Andes without snow’

If you need more information on any of these, no forklift truck needed for the Nabu, so please be in touch with me or check out the wine list, as usual, here: