We met at the ICC on Thursday 14th June to taste wines from six Mediterranean islands. We started with whites from Corsica, Crete and Santorini, then moved on to reds from Mallorca, Sicily and Sardinia.

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Here are my notes:

Domaine d’Alzipratu Fiumeseccu Blanc 2016 – 13.5% – The Wine Society (£13.50)
This Corsican white from Corse-Calvi in the northwest of the island, is made from the Vermentino grape. Stone fruit and floral notes on the nose. Peach and some mango on the palate with a fresh minerality and good balance of fruit and acidity. This was the favourite white of just under half of the group and the favourite overall wine of about a quarter. Very enjoyable!
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Domaine Douloufakis Dafnios 2016 – 13.5% – Maltby & Greek (£17.40)
From the Dafnes region of Crete and an altitude of 350m, this white is made from the local grape, Vidiano. Floral and stone fruit aromas on the nose. Honey and floral notes accompany apricot and a slight nuttiness on the palate. Slightly oily. The finish is a little shorter than the Corsican.
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 15/20

Santo Wines Santorini Assyrtiko 2016 – 13.5% – Maltby & Greek (£17.40)
This Santorini Assyrtiko comes from the island’s large co-operative, Santo Wines. Fresh and complex with distinct floral and citrus flavours complemented by hints of smoke and salinity. Full bodied with a long finish. A very good wine!
Quality: 17/20                    Value: 16/20

Mesquida Mora Sincronia 2016 – 13% – Great Western Wines (14.95)
This Mallorcan blend of local grapes and international grapes is biodynamically produced. Slight prickle or hint of a fizz on the palate at first. Forest fruits and some earthy notes but lacking the complexity or finesse of the other two reds.
Quality: 13/20                    Value: 13/20

Planeta Mamertino 2015 – 13% – Great Western Wines (£19.95)
This Sicilian blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Nocera has pronounced cherry and plum on the palate with herbal notes and a hint of tar. Very well balanced with defined tannins and acidity and a long finish. Very good!
Quality: 17/20                    Value: 15/20

Santadi Noras Cannonau Di Sardegna 2014 – 15% – Great Western Wines (16.50)
This Sardinian red is made from the Cannonau grape. Pronounced aromas of black fruit and herbs on the nose. Blackberry, herbs and some wood on the palate. Good acidity in balance with firm tannins and well-integrated alcohol. For me, it had a shorter finish than the Sicilian. Marginally came out on top as the best wine of the night when the group voted.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 16/20

A really interesting range of wines. It was very close for the best wine of the night with roughly equal numbers voting for the Corsican Vermentino, the Santorini Assyrtiko, the Sicilian blend and the Sardinian Cannonau.

See you soon,

Brigitte. x

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This theme was last explored by the ICC group back in February 2014. Before the tasting, Corkmaster asked whether the wines from these islands could be said to have anything in common, and afterwards concluded that one shared characteristic was ‘big’ flavours and the need for a prolonged line of acidity. Just over four years on and we’re revisiting the islands to try some different wines, and possibly see if much has changed.

Last time, the only two whites of the evening came out on top: an Assyrtiko from Santorini and a sweet Malvasia of Crete. The best red was a Nielluccio (Sangiovese clone) from Corsica.

We will be trying a different Santorini Assyrtiko on Thursday along with two other dry whites from Crete and Corsica. Our reds come from Sicily, Sardinia and Mallorca.

medsea

So let’s refresh our memories about winemaking on these six islands…

As the biggest island in the Mediterranean, we’ll start with Sicily. Sicilian wines have featured in other tastings over the years, but (partly for that reason) didn’t feature in our last look at Mediterranean islands. Sicily is an enormous wine region and one of the top producing regions in Italy in terms of volume. Historically, the majority of Sicily’s output has been in the form of bulk wine and its reputation for quality hasn’t been great, but this is slowly changing. White wine is still the major output, but it’s generally some of the island’s reds, particularly from the indigenous, Nero d’Avola grape that are more highly regarded.

Our other Italian island, lying 200km west of mainland Italy, is Sardinia. Nowhere near as significant in terms of wine production as Sicily, its main agricultural outputs are milk and meat. There’s less area under vine on the island than there used to be and this reflects a shift from quantity wine production to an improved focus on quality. Unlike Sicily, basic bulk wine only accounts for 15% of the Sardinian output, but DOC and IGT classification doesn’t always equate to high quality on an island where production zones can cover the whole island and maximum yields are set very high. The most popular grape varieties on the island are Vermentino and Cannonau (a clone of the Spanish Garnacha).

Directly north of Sardinia is the French island of Corsica. Like Sardinia, Corsica has seen a shift from quantity to higher quality wine production in recent years with vineyard area now about a fifth of what it was in the mid-1970s. It’s a mountainous island and vines are cultivated up to an elevation of 300m above sea level. Niellucciu, Sciacarellu and Vermentino are important Corsican varieties. Rosé wine accounted for just under a third of the island’s production in 2003, it’s now more like two-thirds. White wine production has also doubled from 10% in 2003 to 20% more recently. Reflecting this shift, it’s a Corsican white we’ll be trying this time from the Vermentino grape, as opposed to the Niellucciu we tasted in 2014.

corsica

Lying some 500km west of Sardinia and 200km off the Spanish mainland is the Balearic island of Mallorca. Mallorcan wine has been revived since the 1990s and wines are now being produced using both local grapes such as Manto Negro, Callet and Moll as well as international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. The wine we will taste on Thursday is a red blend of local and international grapes.

Moving on to Greece and arguably its two most important wine producing islands: Crete and Santorini. Crete is the biggest producer in terms of volume and Santorini is probably the island with the best reputation for quality.

Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and has Greece’s second largest wine district. Phylloxera came to Crete as late as the 1970s and the subsequent replanting tended to favour the international varieties demanded domestically and by tourists. That has changed more recently however, with the recognition that the island’s range of indigenous grape varieties have more to offer on the export market. Despite the island being very far south, vineyard altitudes of between 200 and 900m serve to moderate temperature and Crete produces more white wine than red (around 68%). According to wine writer, Andrew Jefford ‘The indigenous star among Cretan whites is a grape variety called Vidiano’. Let’s hope the one we taste on Thursday lives up to this praise.

Finally, Santorini, famous for its whitewashed holiday cottages carved into the picturesque coastline. But in addition to tourism, which is Santorini’s main economy, winemaking provides an alternative income for the island. Its volcanic soils make the island safe from phylloxera so vines are ungrafted; their extremely old roots dig very deep for nutrients in the ‘aspa’ soil of volcanic rock and pumice. Santorini’s vineyards are also known for their vines being trained into a low basket shape to protect the grapes from the island’s extreme winds. Assyrtiko is the main grape variety on Santorini, producing white wines with a good combination of minerality, acidity and alcohol.

santorini-vine-cultivation

It should be interesting to compare and contrast the six wines which mostly feature grape varieties indigenous to their respective islands. Will we find much in common between the wines? And will we discover anything different from the tasting four years ago?

Looking forward to it. See you on Thursday,

Brigitte. X

Naturally (!) – the May Sock Club occurred this year on 1st June. So the June Tutored Tasting followed only 72 hours later. So as to ensure that the information stays as the leading page I have united both sets of notes into one post. It should be top-post until the next Monthly Theme post (Mediterranean Islands) goes up on – about – 15th June.

Starting with Sock Club – the group met and Matt & Kathryn’s on Friday first of June for an evening of blind Tasting…

Here are my notes:

“CUVEE JEAN LOUIS” CHAMPAGNE BRUT (Bredon)         Welcome Wine
This has a citrus nose with a quite persistent but light sherbet mousse, palate has a grapefruit tinge. Rather light bodied and frothy with soft peach and lime hints. Very light for Champagne – definitely a party or aperitif style.

ALICANTE “LA TREMENDA” 2016 (Enrique Mendoza)          Sue T  
Nose is all soft fruit – apricot? Palate also shows apricot with a slightly chalky feel. Some Chardonnay signs: weight, apple acidity… but recessed under the soft Merseguera fruit.. It’s 50% each grape!

RIBEIRO “AILALÁ” TREIXADURA 2017         Kathryn   
Peach nose, this time, with a creamy impression… Palate the same with a ginger element and some saline, savoury hints – then peach again, and a citrus backbone… Quite interesting – showing some complexity!

CHENONCEAUX 2016 (Domaine de Vaux St. Georges)           Yvonne
This Touraine Sauvignon has initial quince fruit and then round Sauvignon Blanc profile on the nose. The acidity is rounder, warmer and less green than many SB, but has some green herbal hints, some mineral and a fuller body with more tropical complexity. Good!

POUILLY FUISSÉ “COLLECTION” 2015 (Sophie Cinier)          Kim
Citrus first, some toasty notes, a medium-weight palate shows citrus and soft fruit with a supple creamy texture, but no oak. There is a warm acid line and a lingering melon hint. Made from 60 year old vines with only old oak this has a clean but rich depth – very engaging!


DENARIO PINOT NOIR 2013 (Patagonia)           Matt
Very pale, translucent colour, slight vanilla and red fruit nose and palate has a lifting acidity with a bitter component… Clean and cool fruit with a slight herby element, very food friendly and good!

CORNAS 2004 (Alain Verset)      Laurie
This is the latest in the Cornas Verset story for me. I was fortunate enough to have bought the 1998 vintage of the great, late Noel Verset (see post of 26 Oct 2014 – below, I still have a couple left btw) and also had the good fortune once (in 1997 I think) to taste the 1991 Yvonne Verset (although allegedly made by Noel’s brother Louis). This 2004 completes the set with Alain (Louis and Yvonne’s son). More recent vintages are about £26, though this is now £45.
Without the ethereality of Yvonne’s, or the wonderful elegant completeness of Noel’s this is an amazing Cornas: slightly earthy nose with quite light fruit – blueberry and strawberry. Palate is supple, and for a Cornas rather subtle, with a lovely fruit acid line that builds for ages to a slightly drying crescendo and a spicy lift at the very end. Speaking as a Syrah-sceptic this was balanced, satisfying and not-at-all salty – lovely!

SCHOLA SARMENTI NERIO RESERVE NARDÒ DOC 2012               Yuan
Nose shows fruit, some spice and a woody, forest-floor note. Palate starts with a black “fruit pastille” sweetness and backed by leathery hints and some warm prune, spice returns too… a clear warm climate wine with some succulence. This Puglian wine is from Nardò, between Salice Salentino and the SW Coast of the heel of Italy. Like Salice it is made with 80% Negroamaro & 20% Malvasia Nera.

BURGENLAND ZWEIGELT 2015 (Heinrich)     Mike
Quite light with a herby cherry/berry nose. The palate is similar – slightly drying sour cherry acidity and then the green herb quality appears again. Quite mouth-watering and fresh.

AMARONE 2011 (Cantina di Negrar)       Rob
Plum skins and prune notes on this nose, with a surprisingly sweet fruit attack on the palate. The palate then opens up a bit to show oily texture, a slight prune depth to the fruit, a hint of bitterness and a warm finish.

A great evening of wine and, though it may seem inappropriately self-serving, I was most moved by the Cornas! Thanks to Kathryn and Matt for their wonderful hospitality…

 

Only 3 days later the TT group assembled again for a Vertical Barolo Tasting led by Kim.

The Barolo in question was “TREBAVIO” BAROLO DOCG (TENUTA L’ILLUMINATA). The winery is in the La Morra, in fact on the North West edge of La Morra (and hence the whole Barolo appellation) in the Sant’Anna Menzione (cru). It appears the wine is a cru wine from Nebbiolo in that Menzione. La Morra is the largest of the Barolo Communi, and is said to produce the most supple, seductive, and “Pomerol-like” Barolos. Although comparisons with Burgundy are more common…

La Morra: L’Illuminata is in the Centre of the navy-blue (Sant’Anna) Cru – top left.

L’Illuminata is a moderate-modern wine maker. Not the most iconoclastic but applying some modern methods. For example the maceration and aging: Temperature-controlled steel, then a year in barriques (½ new), then a year in older Slovenian oak botti (10 x times the size of the barriques).

Kim showed the 6 vintages from 2005 – 2010.

Here are my notes:

2010 (Barolo General Vintage Rating 97, ABV 14.5%)
Nose is slightly Burgundian, with vegetal hints, some tar and a perfumed element opening out with time (…or a bigger glass!). High acidity on the palate with round tannins, fruit – plums coming to the fore later. Silky but with restrained power. Very promising and quite typical, but needs a couple of years…

2009 (90, 15%)
This is hotter altogether – the nose is quieter at first, with a slightly cheesy note and spirit hints. The palate is softer, the fruit stronger and the structure majors more on the tannins… slightly sweet impression. Not my favourite….

2008 (94, 15.5%)
Pungent dairy-(?)-farmyard nose with some plum fruit. A slight warm alcohol burn on the palate but there is acidity and grainy tannin all at equal (but not exactly “balanced”) levels. Very atypical – the fruit is sweet and the acidity almost citric. Later curry spice elements (Cumin? Fenugreek??) appear. Least liked by most – I actually preferred its weirdness to the over-heated 09 or the dilute 05….

2007 (95, 15.5%)
More perfumed with some fruit influence and a cherry spirit note. Palate is supple with integrated tannins and a very long fruit acid, the flavour is plum but the acidity reminds me more of raspberry. Good.

2006 (95, 14%)
A fruit and mocha nose making me think of cherry and raspberry again with a slight late herb note. The palate is powerful and gives the impression of more to be revealed, built around a long fruit-acid line the tannins brood beneath without distracting from the velvet mouthfeel… This will last, but right now it’s full, round and complete… a very satisfying wine!

2005 (91, 14%)
Nose is quite quiet with a little pretty fruit and some cheese hints again…The palate seems a little washed-out by comparison to all the previous wines, and the acidity rather green.

An amazing set of wines, which – despite their similarities – showed amazing variety. I think this, at these levels of maturity, has more to do with vintage than age – but who knows? I think one would pick Nebbiolo as the grape in them all, maybe some more quickly than other, and I would enjoy a bottle of any with an appropriate meal.

With most people 2010, 2007 & 2006 were the most favoured –  I concurred. To me it finally came down to a (large glass) taste-off between the ’07 & the ’06… and (then and there)… the 2006 shaded it for me – a wine I would pay the £35 for…

Thanks so much Kim for the Tasting and Ralph for the tip to source the wines…

À Bientôt

On Thursday 17th May the ICC Group to taste some wines from Provence.

We tried wines from 3 famous small appellations: Cassis, Bellet and Bandol; a top Côtes De Provence Rosé and a Rosé and a Red from the slightly more International area of Aix.

Here are my notes:

CASSIS   CLOS VAL BRUYERE 2015 (Chateau Barbanau)   –   12½%   –   Wine Society (£12)
This is Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc with a little Sauvignon Blanc. Light soft fruit and floral nose, quiet but complex! Slightly herby and salty notes on the palate – almost vermouth, some fruit behind too and the many flavours pan out into a long, quite persuasive wine – rather good.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  17.5/20

CÔTES DE PROVENCE ROSÉ 2016 (Domaine De Rimauresq – Cru Classé)   –   13%   –   Virgin Wines (£15)
This is Cinsault and Grenache based with about 8% – 10% each of 4 other grapes. Prickly nose with strawberry and slightly cherry fruit and a higher perfume. Palate is lively and fresh with a red fruit middle and a long line of acidity coming to a mineral finish, Structured and dashing this would make a good food wine, with fish, salad or even something spicy.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20

COTEAUX D’AIX EN PROVENCE ROSÉ 2016 (Chateau Vignelaure)   –   13%   –   Wine Society (£13)
This is Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah and has a pinker, slightly darker colour… the nose is simpler but more powerful with citrus and cherry fruit. The palate is rounder and heavier-seeming than the previous wine, mainly though through a shorter, warmer profile. Well made, but lack the dash of the previous wine…
As I write these notes 6 days later I have also tasted another 5 Rosés at home or in the Loire, including a Sancerre (Pinot Noir), and 4 other Loire: two from the Bourgueil area made with Cabernet Franc (at a quarter of the price!), one from Pineau d’Aunis, one a sparkler. The Sancerre was the clear winner, the Rimauresq next best and this, Aix, the least interesting!
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  14.5/20

“HARMONIE DE PROVENCE”  COTEAUX D’AIX EN PROVENCE ROUGE 2014 (Domaine des Oullieres)   –   13%   –   Yapp (£19)
This is a similar (more Cab less Syrah) grape mixture to the previous Aix Rosé. Nose is rather Southern Rhone Garrigue, slight twist of red berry fruit. Blackberry and black cherry, slightly jammy, fruit a little too sweet and the tannins a little too soft for balance IMO – good for initial gulping but lacking complexity or shape… In many ways a parallel to the other Aix!
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  13.5/20

BELLET: DOMAINE DE LA SOURCE ROUGE 2013   –   13½%   –   Yapp (£27)
Very intriguing nose of vegetal, smoke, spice, forest floor, dark berries… Open, succulent palate without being cloying, with fruit and a long line of warm acidity intertwined for a long complex wine. Very balanced and complete – many people made it favourite but a high price. Excellent though!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

BANDOL LA BASTIDE BLANCHE 2014   –   14½ %   –   Waitrose (£15)
Slightly brackish but fresh nose, with some high notes, over a brooding dark fruit element. Palate is powewrful and full bodied with sweet briar, blackcurrant fruit, and non-fruit component – liquorice (?). Big-boned, long and involving but lacking the lightness and charm of the previous wine. A good, not dazzling, Bandol, but very good value.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  16.5/20

Quite an interesting tasting, I think. For me the star was the Bellet, but close behind – and a real surprise – the white Cassis.  The first Rosé and the Bandol were very good, as expected. In fact all the wines were enjoyable, but I found – in this company – that the two Aix wines were… not bad but a bit pedestrian… chacun à son goût as they say in the Government (!?).

Talking of which… the group were very amused at receiving a letter advising on democratic processes from a certain  Pridirka Putat’, answering a query about American democratic “innovations”, from the Kremlin. I have tried to establish this person’s identity and bona fides… with little success. However transliterating the name into Russian characters, translating to English and using a Thesaurus gives a clue… ’nuff said!

À Bientôt

Provence is a relatively small wine area, producing under 300m bottles a year, compared to about 1bn from the Rhone, but it has about twice the production of Alsace or Beaujolais and about 30% more than Burgundy.

Provence is the home of Rosé, over 80% of the wine is pink!  The majority of the rest is red (over 13%), in fact white wine only makes up 5% of the total.

Apart from a few obscure traditional grapes in the fringes (see below) the main grapes are similar to those in Southern Rhone, the big 5 reds: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan; and on the white side: Grenache Blanc, Rolle (Vermentino), Clairette, Roussanne and Marsanne.

Most Provence wine, 68%, is AOP (AOC) while 30% is IGP (Vin De Pays). At this top (AOP) quality level Rosé is even more dominant: 87% Rosé; 9% Red and 4% White. In fact nearly 40% of all French AOP Rosé  comes from Provence.

That makes it a niche area – in two different ways: it’s a big player in the Rosé world (but that’s rather a small world (less than 10% of all still wine worldwide); and a very small player in the overall French Red & White wine world (about ½ of 1% of the total).

So to sum the region up: a lot of Rosé – usually based on Cinsault and Grenache; reds a bit like Southern Rhone, but with some specialties; unusual and rare white wines… Any further general assessments about styles is difficult – it seems to be more about very particular growers or small appellations…

There are 9 AOP areas, they are:

Côtes de Provence
The largest AOC /AOP, producing over two-thirds of Provence AOP wine. The most varied regional also, with soil and climatic differences across the area…
There are four geographical “Sub Regions” in the Côtes de Provence: Sainte-Victoire (Some of the better Reds); La Londe (Cinsault based Rosé); Fréjus (at the eastern edge – bigger wines); Pierrefeu (near Toulon, focused on Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. producing Garrigue inflected reds and rosés).

Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (nearly 15% of AOP wines)
There is more red here (up to 10%!) and more influence of Cabernet and Syrah – carrying over to the Rosés.

Coteaux Varois de Provence (9%)
Rosés, mainly from Cinsualt, Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah are in the majority, but there’s even more red (a third) here, it’s relatively cool and even Pinot Noir is grown.


Bandol (5%)
On the coast in the South West corner of Var is the most famous Provence area of all: Bandol. Home to some white (from Clairette and Bourboulenc) and Rosé, the main attraction is the Red. Based mainly on the Mourvèdre, with a little Cinsault and Grenache, the best wine combines subtle fragrance, delicacy, power and longevity.

Cassis (1%)
Along the coast, West of Bandol, is the rare white-dominated AOP of Cassis. Marsanne is the main grape, with Clairette, the wines have a reputation for intense aromas of citrus, peach, honey and dried herbs.

Les Baux de Provence (1%)
This is predominately red – fitting to this very hot enclave within Aix en Provence, with Granache, Syrah, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon common, and more unusually Tibouren and Calitor. It’s home of the most famous wine – outside Bandol at any rate – the (£60 ish) Domaine de Trevallon!

Pierrevert (1%)
Pierrevert is the newest (1998) and the most northerly of the Provence AOPs, next to the Luberon,  and has a S. Rhone style. Rosé here differs from the other parts of Provence: the rules dictate that a minimum of 50% of the wine must be made in the ‘saignée’ method, the only place in Provence where this technique is allowed.

Bellet (0.2%)
Bellet is set on the steep hillsides surrounding the city of Nice, so it’s tiny and expensive. Cooled by the sea influence the area produces Red and Rosé from interesting Italian-ish grapes like Braquet and Folle Noir – at a price!

Palette (0.2%)
Nestled below Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and coming in at only 100 acres, Palette is the smallest AOP of Provence. The vineyards were planted on the limestone and clay soils by the Romans around 100 BC and the area is now home to over 25 grape varietals (some obscure), all hand harvested and subject to specific blending rules and aging requirements. Very esoteric, and expensive!

Is there an overall Provence style? Well the Rosé could be called a style of its own – the best examples are fresh, herby, dashing and food-friendly. There are also, certainly, unique reds: Bandol and Bellet are styles that one won’t find elsewhere. However many other reds are versions of the Southern Rhone formula with a Cabernet twist. Are they truly distinctive?

We’ll see – the May tasting will be a Cassis white; two very highly-rated Rosé; and reds from Aix, Bellet, and Bandol.

My notes will be published next week…

À Bientôt

May this year is a strange Month: the end-of-Month Sock Party will be on June 1st; and the beginning-of-Month Tutored Tasting actually took place (due to an English Bank Holiday) on April 30th! Rest assured the middle-of-the-month May ICC Tasting will be indeed be in May….

So it was the WING group met to taste Mosel Rieslings guided by Andrew. Andrew had been partly inspired by a travels to Traben-Trabach very near the centre of the Mosel wine area. I too have stayed there and we both heartily recommend the area.

Regular readers will know my liking for Riesling, it’s probably my favourite white grape – especially in its traditional form from Mosel (or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as the overall region was known until 2007). Andrew had noted the increasing propensity for Trocken and Feinherb (=Halbtrocken, sort of) wines in the area. When I first went there in 2001 only perhaps 10% of production was so labelled – last time (2015) I also had noted the change, then nearly half were.

(See my reflection on these issue in my post of September 17th 2015 – below>).


Andrew sought to explore the differences by showing 3 trocken wines  the first of each pair) against 3 more “traditional” wines with some residual sugar…

Here are my notes:

FINESSE TRABENER KRÄUTERHAUS RIESLING SPÄTLESE TROCKEN 2015 (Weingut Trossen)
Rich oily nose with elderflower and peach, and a later honey hint – all classic Riesling notes but seems a bit dull, by that classic standard. The palate has a zingy acidity, quite rounded by soft fruit – but a little short.

RICKELSBERG STEILLAGE TRABENER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING AUSLESE FEINHERB 2015 (Weingut Trossen)
This is an interesting wine, with 26 g/l residual sugar and 12% alcohol…so right in-between a traditional Auslese (50 -75 g/l and 9% ish) and a trocken (1 g/l and 13.5%). So, IMO, if the “Feinherb” styling means anything this is it! This had spicy hints on the nose, I would say Fenugreek, with citrus and peach. Palate has warmth, some sweetness and a mineral note with a citrus peel, slightly bitter tinge. Longer and more satisfying in my opinion than the previous wine. This has the acidity / sweetness balance of a traditional Kabinett but over a much richer fulcrum.

 

VON BLAUEM SCHIEFER RIESLING TROCKEN 2013 (Heymann-Löwenstein)
This is an artisan curiosity from the very North of the Mosel, near its confluence with the mighty Rhine. This pays little service to the old style classifications and is just crafted to make a dry wine with depth added by a proportion of botrytis-affected berries in the press. It shows hints of diesel already and orange peel (from botrytis) and some herb notes… Palate is gingery and rather dry, with the acidity rounded and softened by the complexity and depth of flavour. Similar weight to the previous wine and successful on its own, less-well-trodden path…

GRAACHER HIMMELREICH RIESLING KABINETT 2012 (Joh. Jos. Prum)
This is a traditional style and probably has a bit more sugar than the previous Feinherb. However the nose is dumb and the wine a little recessed too, so this sweetness sticks out rather at the moment – especially when slightly warmer than optimum… Against this the acidity is stunning:  piquant, lip-smacking and very, very long – leading to some mineral, slate tones… Unbalanced right now (some traditional Rieslings do seem have a “dumb” period from 3 or 4 – 7 or 8 years from vintage) but give it 3 or 4 years to open up again ….

 

ABTSBERG RIESLING ALTE REBEN TROCKEN 2012 (Maximin Grünhaus)
This is a basic Qualitätswein fermented to dryness, but ripeness must have been between Kabinett and Spätlese levels. The nose has diesel and orange peel hints with some peach, but quite restrained. The palate seems a bit astringent – a thinner, more bitter acidity. This shortens the experience. Well made, clean… but my least favourite in this company.

ABTSBERG RIESLING SUPERIOR FEINHERB 2012 (Maximin Grünhaus)
This is a Große Lage wine and the Feinherb finished product is very like a dashing old fashioned Spätlese. So in many ways this is a counterpoint of the very first wine. Nearly diesel, vaguely furniture polish hint, some fruit blossom and herb hints. Palate has warmth, good supple acidity with soft fruit, long and lip-smacking it is well balanced and very pleasurable now.

I found this an incredibly interesting tasting. First I love this grape, and even my least favourite wine tonight would beat many other wines from many other areas – including, probably, the majority of New World Rieslings!

However the tasting re-enforced an issue I’ve had with German dry Rieslings since it began its forward march 20 years ago – I call it the trouble with trocken. This is the apparent effect of fermenting Riesling to dryness, particularly in cool areas like Mosel, doesn’t just reduce the sugar, but in some way also reduces the rounder flavours in the wine and the acidity. True the acidity, with less counter-balance, seems more fierce, cooler and more bitter – but those long, lip-smacking, zingy, zesty lines of warmer acidity seem curtailed.

This was aptly illustrated by the last trocken (my least favourite)… which seemed shorter, aggressive and bitter in comparison to the wines with some sweet impression, The very first wine suffered a little, much less, from the same syndrome. The middle trocken is – eccentrically – made with 10% – 20% botrytis-affected grapes in the press… and balanced the acidity with the flavour-twist that is thereby imparted: orange peel, ginger…

In contrast the acidity in the Prum is exceptional, long (the most enduring by far), round, warm, lip-smacking, dashing, dazzling… The wine is currently unbalanced by a closed nose and the higher sugar “sticking-out”; although I would guess that, after 4 more years’ development and served a couple of degrees cooler, it could be the best wine of the six?!

However right now the middle trocken and the two  Feinherb wines were lovely – with the last just shading it, IMO.

Thanks so much Andrew for a captivating tasting!

À Bientôt

On Friday 27th April 2018 we were generously entertained for a Sock Party at Ralph and Jill’s home. A wonderful evening with a dazzling supply of great food and wine…

Here are my notes:


JASNIÈRES “L’ECLOS” 2015 (Les Maisons Rouge)         Laurie
Jasnières is an enclave in the general Coteaux du Loir area, about 30 miles North of Vouvray. Pure Chenin, the wine showed some citrus and later peach and apple fruit on the nose. The palate has a hint of honey, and a fresh fruit peak in the centre but a long, strong but warm acidity and a mineral finish. Very clean, refreshing and precise and balanced between searing acidity and richness. Made by biodynamic viticulture on clay, sand and flint topsoil above the tuffeau base in West Jasnières.

COURS CHEVERNY “LE PETIT CHAMBORD” 2014          Yvonne  
This Romorantin wine from the Solonge has a slightly powdery nose with a warm note and a citrus peel prickle. Palate has a fruit start and then a kick-in of acidity, a slightly malic tinge and a ginger hints spicy element. Rounder and a little fuzzier than the previous wine, it’s Loire (50 mile away!) nieghbour.

PECORINO ABRUZZO “BIANCHI GRILLI” (Torre Dei Beati) 2014         Ralph   
Dark colour, nose is quite closed with a slightly spicy, woody, aged quality. Later some balsamic sweet sour elements emerge. Palate smooth, opening to show some rich woody flavours and a clear acidity with some mineral accents. Aged on lees in barrique for 9 months, deliberately to by-pass the vibrant-youth stage and go straight to the evolved complexity. Needs quite a lot of time in the glass still, despite decanting…

MEURSAULT 2013 (Caves de l’Orangerie)           Kathryn
Caves de l’Orangerie is the label of Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune’s own vineyards. This Mersault is almost text-book: slightly oily nose with hints of tropical fruit. Buttery palate with oak notes and a richness based on a hazelnut-oil kick – underpinned by a mineral, citrus backbone. Very satisfying and at good maturity now.

CAMEL VALLEY PINOT NOIR ROSÉ 2014          Ann
This is strawberry fruit straight on the nose with fresh-herb acidity and a hint of pinot character. The palate echoes the pinot line – lovely base acidity with lip smacking red-berry fruit. Well balance, fresh cool and under 12% alcohol. Would be lovely with spicy food!


RONSEL DO SIL MERENZAO “ALPENDRE” 2012 RIBEIRA SACRA           Ralph (again!)
This comes from 2 ha of vines on ancient Roman terraces on the steep banks of the Rio Sil. Merenzao is the local name for Trousseau, found in the Jura. This has a light colour. Nose is slightly herby with a pinot-ish soft red fruit and vegetal touch. Palate is more raspberry sweetness with a herby twist and a clean acidity. Easier to guess the location than the grape I think…

ST-ÉMILION GRAND CRU CLOS VILLEMAURINE 2009     John
This is dark and dense with a fruity – damson and fresh plums with an undergrowth hint. Slight graininess is appearing on the palate, which will soon be chocolate hints… structured, long with palate echoing the nose with darker fruit and warm hints appearing. Long and supple, this has opened a lot since I last tried it –  but, IMO, it will keep improving for a year or two and last another 6. It’s 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc.

MUDGEE CHAMBOURCIN 2012 (Savannah Estate, Aus.)      Rob
This had a slightly gummy, minty (tell-tale Australian!?) nose with some plum fruit. The palate has the same sweet fruit, some oak and an earthy hint… but a tannic line that somehow is both rich and hard. Not quite together…  yet?

“ES LO QUE HAY” GARNACHA 2013               Yuan
An old-vines high-altitude Garnacha from Aragon, NE Spain. The name is a Spanish expression meaning something like “that’s how it goes” – the International translation of a shrug! The wine is pretty big – closed nose at first with dark berry fruit emerging and hints of herbs and some perfume. Palate is fruity with a mineral line and prune, tannin and some suppleness. The altitude airs and lifts the potential Granacha thickness…

BAROLO “CERRETA DI PERNO” 2007 (Sordo)     Kim
This Castiglione Barolo has a nose of soft fruit and a fragrant perfume – possibly even the renowned rose, later hints of cherry appear. Palate has a higher-than-expected acidity with lower-than-expected tannins and tar, although they are present. Rather lip-snacking long and non-fruit flavours. Maybe still a year or two young but getting there!

20 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT (OHSOMM)       Farewell Wine
Ohsomm is a trading name of the parent company that own Offley’s and Sandeman. This Tawny has a big fruit-and-nut complex nose. Palate has some sweetness but in balance with a long line of fruit acidity. Lovely!
 

Thanks to Ralph and, especially, to Jill for providing such wonderful food, great company and hospitality.
Thanks too to Yuan for the wine photographs.

À Bientôt

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