The idea of this Tasting, as so many good ideas, came to me while re-arranging the wines in my cellar! Specifically, the red Bordeaux section, which – after years of removal of bottles to drink and replacement with later vintages – had descended to uncategorised chaos. I reorganised into vintages – mainly 2000, 01, 04, 05, 06, 09 & 2010… However I had 15 bottles – all 1s or 2s – of 11 different wines remaining from the 1990s. So I thought a Tutored Tasting was in order.

While deciding what to show I spent some time looking at the ratings – at release and after 20 years – of the different vintages.

I ended up choosing to show 3 pairs: 1990, 1996 and 1998. But the variation in vintage ratings was note-worthy. Both Left bank and Right Bank ratings ranged from 1/10 to 9/10, and averaged 6.0 for the Left and 5.5 for the Right Bank. If one compares the 2000s: the range is from 6/10 to 10/10 on both banks (although individual vintages do differ, only by 1 point, between banks), and with an average of 7.6 for both!

I looked further into this, and spent some time thinking about the reasons. In fact the stellar, 9/10 or 10/10 , vintages are not much more common – about once every 5 years. What is different is that good vintages (7/10 or 8/10) are much more common (5 years out of 10 in the 2000s as opposed to only  3 LB and 1 RB in the 1990s) and “bad” vintages get 6 at worst not 1s or 3s or 5s as in the 1990s.

So it looks like there is more consistency now, and much greater ability to make good wines in challenging years. This was once considered the unique ability of only the very top wines – but now seems to have filtered down to quite small and unremarked Châteaux – even below Cru Bourgeois status and to less prestegous appellations…

The reasons for this are complex, partly due to real weather changes although that has posed new questions for winemakers, partly due to technological and scientific advances, but – IMO – mainly down to money.


1982 is often thought of as the start of the latest – globalised, free market fundamentalist – phase of capitalism. The removal of capital controls is the landmark, but there are lots of indicators*. This has led to a steep price rises in that most globalised wine commodity: Bordeaux; and with it an influx of investment; foreign and corporate acquisition and more money spent on production. Initially this made differences in viniculture and later in viticulture: Stephen Brook says “If the 1980s was the decade of innovative viniculture, then 1990s and 2000s were the decades of viticultural improvements” (The Complete Bordeaux – 3rd Edition 2017). The wines of the 1990s only caught the beginning of these changes, they were in full swing right down the wine-chain by the 2000s.

So 1990s marks – to varying extents – the diminishing of the importance of vintage; the chances of finding a quirky family Château making wines above its level; the chances of bargains…

So what of the wines? I chose 1990, 96 and 98. The best all round vintage, the second best LB and the equal best RB.

1990 was originally a 10/10 vintage on both banks, later downgraded to 9/10. The second hottest and second sunniest of the Century to that point, it followed a warm winter and was also the driest year since 1961. There was some fear that vines on well-drained soils would shut down, and this was partially relieved by a little rain in August and a slightly cooler September. Cooler soils, more often with Merlot: Northern Medoc, St. Estephe, Right Bank; had less likelihood of this but low acidity affected some wines. A big vintage too, 30% up from the previous year. Although quite approachable, small berries helped acidity and tannin level and hence long-life. Most wines though have been at “drink up” status since 2010-2012… was this pushing too far???

1996 was an uneven weather year, hot initially then a cool and damp early July, a little rain in August and a cool, but on the left bank – dry, September. A better year for Medoc, especially in the North.

1998 was dull in July and hot in August with some vine stress. Rain in early September refreshed the vines and Merlot and Cab Franc ripened well, with small thick skinned berries. Cabernet Sauvignon struggled to ripen and this is undoubtedly a very good right bank year.

I had planned to show two Medoc (so quite Northerly) Cru Bourgeois for 1990, but the second example: Château Roquegrave was corked.

So – to to better illustrate the quality across the whole area I substituted A St. Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Château Grand Pontet (more than a substitute really!).

For 1996 I showed two Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, and for 1998 two St. Émilion: A Grand Cru and a Grand Cru Classé.

Here are my notes:

Château Carcanieux 1990 Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 45% CS; 44% M; 11% CF.
Quite pale with a definite brown rim. Nose is quite typical with cedar, herbs, a mushroom hint and some plum fruit. The palate is similar with slight over-baked fruit note, still enjoyable but a little tell-tale tightening into astringency at the finish. It goes over after a while in the glass so perhaps a little past its best.

Château Grand Pontet 1990 Émilion Grand Cru Classé
This is 15% CS; 70% M; 15% CF.
This is deeper colour with a brick coloured rim. Nose has powdery perfume notes, almost floral darker fruit and a medicinal, something slightly minty, note. This is bigger and the fruit is longer in the palate, richer tannic frame and more to this but a slightly leafy (Cabernet Franc) tinge to the later tannins.

Château Coufran 1996 Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 15% CS; 85% M.
Medium colour with a transparent rim. This has a black fruit and herby nose, quite forward but simple. The tannins are a bit salty and there’s spice showing, so the palate too is simple and pleasing, but although quite succulent this fades quickly, so at the end of its drinking window, but more an instant pleasure wine anyway.

Château Cissac 1996 Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 70% CS; 22% M; 8% Petit Verdot.
This has a perfumed nose with black fruit and an almost text-book array of minor notes: cedar, forest floor. The palate of this notoriously slow-to-mature Château shows tannins still and some lifting acidity, fresh plums, forest floor again and a classic mid palate… Very enjoyable, still fresh, still asking for food – almost a reference Cru Bourgeois?!

Château La Grace Dieu, Les Minuts 1998 St Émilion Grand Cru
This is 5% CS; 65% M; 30% CF.
This had quite a quiet nose, some damson later and a chocolate grainy, going to liquorice, note. The palate shows the same with a heavier emphasis and some tannins which turn harder towards the finish, an unyielding firmness that’s been there since I first tasted it 15 years ago. It fades a little with time but otherwise isn’t looking its age, and certainly would work better with food.

Château Laniote 1998 St-Émilion Grand Cru Classé
This is 5% CS; 80% M; 15% CF.
This seems a little lighter and the nose has subtle hints of plummy fruit, perfume herby and creamy notes. The palate seems fresh and well balanced with plum fruit, some cranberry and integrated tannins and acidity. A pleasure that would sing with the right dish… My favourite!

All in all are these 20, 22, 28 year old wines holding up? The 1990 wines seemed to be just hanging on; the Cofran 96 too, the Cissac 96 now in-the-groove. The 1998 were very enjoyable and I feel the Grace Dieu’s hardness less to do with age than the wine’s (relative) austerity – the Laniote … I just enjoyed. If you have any wines from these times, I’m assuming they’re well cellared – they’ll be worth sampling now!

À Bientôt

*  [My favourite indicator is the graph of % real income growth for the poorest, middle and richest deciles. Until 1982 the 3 lines had been very close, with generally steady growth, for 40 years (after favouring the poorest for the preceding 40 years). Then they began to diverge, climbing quickly for the richest, still growing but more slowly for the middle – and actually becoming negative for the poorest. This is true with minor variations right across all Western Capitalist Economies, but so far it’s only the UK that thinks (?) the correct response to this real social problem is to vote for a project led by free market extremists whose only criticism of globalisation is there’s not enough of it!]
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Regular readers will have picked up that I rather enjoy Indian food, in fact the lack of such cuisine is one of the things on my (rather short) list of what I miss (other than people!) when in France. So I’m naturally interested in how to find wines that go with Spicy food.

Finding wines to go with spicy food.

There is a temptation, when eating spicy – especially Indian – food to be drawn to cool, neutral whites. The idea – I suppose – is to contrast cool with hot to wash the food down. That’s OK, but as a wine lover I want to taste the wine in harness with the food, and – for me – I would as soon drink water as a “neutral” wine.

As with all wine-matching there are a couple of general elements: contrast and complementation – either have the wine frame the food (eg: tannins with a roast meat…) or add another component to the dish (eg: another sweet flavour with dessert), although ideally one can do both. The key issue is that the depth of flavour of the wine should be at-the-same-level as the food.

This is tricky with Indian cuisine – the flavours are both intense and complex, and the heat side of the flavour palate clashes badly with some wine flavours.

The aim of matching depth of flavour leads to thinking of bigger flavoured wines – often red – to hold their own when matched with big flavoured, hot curries. However tannin or spicy elements in red wine usually clash with, rather than complement or contrast, the spice in the food. This leads one to more fruit driven, low tannin, red wines… and another set of problems…

My experience in all this has been sharpened over the last few years by assisting my friend, Amita Sawhney – the proprietor of MemSaab, my favourite Indian Restaurant – compile their wine list.

A new angle on Food/Wine Matching.
Corkmaster and Amita at MemSaab on New Year’s Eve.

We worked on the list originally in 2013 and to renew it in 2017. During this process I have personally tasted well over 200 wines in conjunction with MemSaab food, so it seems timely to discuss my thoughts on the process, and the new wines on the MemSaab list.

General Principles

Not all Indian food is curry (meaning dishes in a strong-flavoured sauce), of course – and MemSaab is far (very far indeed) from a standard curry-house. This Restaurant shows food which builds on the flavour traditions of Indian Cuisine towards a modern fine-dining ethos. In this context a wine list is a crucial factor. So it’s important to design the list around the food, and we have worked hard to choose the wines with the food in mind… (or indeed in mouth!)

There are some elements that help a wine match Indian Cuisine, ideally responding to a key feature of the dish. These are:

  • Crispness (meaning clean and long, but not very steely, acidity)
  • Aromatics (to compliment the food)
  • Creaminess (to counter-point sauce texture)
  • Sweetness (to offset salt, sourness, heat in the food)
  • Fruit (to balance the strength of flavour in the dish)

          +   Absence of strong tannin or spice

If a wine shows the last of these points together with, at least, a couple of the others – it stands a good chance.

My own favourites – applying these principles – are off-dry “old-fashioned” Riesling; not-fully-dry Gewürztraminer and other Alsace wines; similarly aromatic whites with some sweetness; Champagne; better quality Rosés; light fruity reds whose grip is from acidity rather than tannins; big New World “fruit-bombs” (of the sort I would never drink otherwise) with some fresh acidity to go with the out-and-out strongly-sauced curry!

However because of the challenge of the food – sometimes it is not enough to specify types of wine – one has to find specific products that fit the bill.

An example is Syrah. One might think that a spicy, big fruited Syrah/Shiraz would be just the thing for a hot lamb curry, but so many have a salty twist to the tannins that completely clash with chilli flavours…. So it is a matter of finding an individual version that shows the flavours without that element… This is what we have done with many of the wines, especially the reds, listed at MemSaab. Sometimes too, we think we have found the answer only for the supplier to de-list it after a year or so…

Of course the evolution of the wine list has to take into account many factors other than simple wine pleasure. There is the existing list to start from, as well as: customer favourites; saleability; reliability of supply; price…

So after some considerable time trying wines the new list is up and running. You can see it here…  New Wine List

Highlights.

I want to highlight some new additions that I think work really well.

The new Sauvignon Blanc (Founders Block) has enough crispness to frame the food and enough depth of fruit to complement it without tipping – as many SB do – out of balance to one side or the other.

The newly listed Grillo is a surprise. It has some floral aromatics, a level of fruit and freshness to go with the cuisine, a slight hint of sweetness and ginger that matches but doesn’t clash with the food.

Torrontés is a grape we have considered for a while and this example is very good. It offers aromatics, tropical fruit and a zingy acidity – a package that works with the food in the same way as Gewürztraminer – but with a lighter, fresher approach!

The big red find is the Nero d’Avola. This is supple and succulent with sweet fruit and a crisp cranberry lift that ticks all the boxes… I tried this with both Chicken Tikka and Lamb Saag – perfect.

Of course there are many other brilliant matching wines that continue from the previous list: the Pinot Gris (and a new White Rioja which does a similar job with different flavours); the Shiraz/Viognier; the Sparklers, Sweet Wines and Sherry; the Riojas and Pinot Noirs; and – IMO – the outstanding Provence Rosé…

I could go on – why not go and try for yourself?

 

À Bientôt

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Kim hosted the Festive end-of-year Sock Club gathering on Friday 29th December. A very lively and enjoyable evening marked by some rather nice wines…

Here are my (decreasingly coherent??) notes:


ROYAL CARLTON BRUT RIOJA CAVA      Welcome Wine
This has a toasty nose with rather nuts & seeds, slightly oily, notes. Palate is citric, with a frothy mousse and a grapefruit tinged finish. It comes from Haro in Rioja rather than the usual Catalonia, and features Viura and Malvesia grapes…

CHABLIS GRAND CRU LES PREUSES 2011 (La Chablisienne)     Laurie   
First nose is caramel with a slight coconut oil tinge and then mounting citrus takes over. The palate shows similar elements – butter caramel shot through with a warm citric acidity. Long and quite rich but with mounting mineral texture shaping the finish. A wine with many of the elements of very good GC Chablis not quite integrated – maybe another 3 years?

JASNIERES “ST JACQUES VIELLE VIGNES” 2011 (Gigou)          Anna
A surprising smoke, cinder tinged nose, then some creaminess and only later some honey and apple. The palate is cleaner with apple and honeyed fruit again and a warm but rather sharp acidity, a combination that is typical of this appellation. A food wine of great attraction…

MERSAULT “L’ORMEAU” 2011 (Coche-Bizouard)           John
Vanilla, caramel and a nutty line, with citrus wafting through the nose- complex and lovely! The palate shows a full bodied Burgundy but with a surprisingly steely citric line – long and warming. A well-structured Mersault that has great complexity and supporting acidity. Seemingly nearer peak than the Chablis!

ALBORIÑO RESERVE 2016 (Garzon – Uruguay)            Sue T
The nose shows immediate greengage fruit, and a strong lemon note. Sharp acidity with plump fruit and a slightly oily texture lifted by citrus acidity.

ALTO-ADIGE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2016            Rachel
Nose of grapes, roses and tropical fruit. Palate has a ginger spice note, and a warm hint of bitterness to lift the slightly oily texture. A text-book Gewürz!

NETTIE VIOGNIER (McManis – Central Valley, California) 2016            Yvonne 
Pungent nose, with peach hints and some vegetal hints. The palate follows the nose, with a warm but long acid line that lift the slightly rich peachy fruit. A typically Californian take on this grape, which, IMO, needs a spiced dish to set it off….


ULTIMA EDIZIONE NV QUATTRO UVE (Farnese) 2009     Mike
A prune nose, with spicy wood notes. The palate has light tannins and sweet black fruit and a liquorice twist. The Quattro Uve in question are Montepulciano, Primitivo, Sangeoves & Negromaro. Made in Abruzzo but with some Puglian grapes. Succulent!

PINARD “CLASSIQUE” – IGP Comté-Tolosan 2014                 Ann
A black fruit nose, converging onto blackberry. The palate has sweet black fruit too, focusing more at the finish. This is a near-Gaillac – made from Duras, Braucol (Fer Servadou), Syrah & Merlot.

CHATEAU GRAND TAYAC (Margaux) 2005            Paul   
Clear old-claret nose (perfume, forest-floor…) with a slight cardamom hint. Palate has a tannic backbone with a sweet fruit and an evolved complexity of non-fruit flavours. This isn’t a monster but balanced and showing some elegance…

RIOJA GRAN RESERVA 2009 (Marqués de Cáceres)          Rob
Oaky nose, with red fruit and a hint of spice. Palate has some spice too but soft red fruit and a woody hint. This is warm, voluptuous and long with the structural elements slightly peripheral… maybe 3 years more would improve this impressive wine?

ORAMA CABERNET/MERLOT (Dionysos – Peloponnese) 2013     Sue Mc
Damson fruit, a soda-ish tone, bay leaf notes and a higher-perfumed zephyr. Palate is sweet black fruit, but a herby line emerges and a sharp finish.

JILABA TRASOTOÑO BIANCO VENDIMIA TARDÍA 2015 (Cosado Araba, Rioja)     Kim
This 100% late harvest Viura, from very (very) old vines, shows quince and a spicy note. The palate has supple soft fruit acidity but with a lingering sweetness entwining it, rather than being at the fore. Lovely long flavours which cope well with mince pies….  I wonder what this wine would be in 10 years?

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening, and to Kim for her hospitality and food… I think I enjoyed this Sock gathering rather too much. But the run of 2011 whites at the start was a lovely set of wines to delight the most exacting oenophile!   Happy New Year!

 

As this is the end of the Festive season, I thought I’d just give you a glimpse of the vinous components of Xmas Chez Corkmaster:

“Bookend” halves – Wine Society, £11 ish
Full bottles, all from grower – from left: £9; £11; £15; £13; £19; £15; £15.

This wines all did their job really well with the food. The halves (Hugel Riesling and Pieropan Soave) to wash down light lunches. The Morgan and Gewürztraminer served with Turkey (curried for the latter). The La Fagotière Châteauneuf Blanc (2012) was gratifyingly, and surprisingly, balanced and great with Paté and the Givry 2009 (Ragot) just perfection. The La Fagotière Châteauneuf Rouge (2010) was wonderful with a cider glazed ham, but tasted alone seemed a little young, maybe 2 or 3 years. The same could be said of the St. Emilion GC 2010, Château Cardinal Villemaurine, but it was perfect with roast goose served with a gooseberry stuffing and sprouts flash fried with lardons and chestnuts.  I know some readers may have these wines so I thought I would share….

Coming soon, a post on matching wines and Indian cuisine…

À Bientôt

The image of sherry in the UK market is (or was) very much associated with grandparents and bottles of Harvey’s Bristol Cream that linger in the drinks cabinet from one Christmas to the next. In any news article on the subject of sherry in the UK, it is inevitably referred to as ‘Grandma’s favourite Christmas tipple’ or something similar. This stereotype of the typical sherry drinker isn’t without its basis in fact; research from 2016 by market researcher Wine Intelligence showed that only 10% of 25 – 34-year-olds in the UK drink sherry compared to 34% of over-65s.

Sherry has certainly been undervalued in recent years and sales have been struggling. In 2009, the UK was still the main global market for sherry with 14 million litres sold and this was already after several years of declining sales figures. By 2016, UK sales were down to 10 million litres, falling in line with a global decline and making the UK the second biggest global market for sherry after Spain, where it is mainly drunk in the Andalucia region that it comes from. In Spain the most popular sherries are the dry Fino and Manzanilla styles, often drunk long with soft drinks such as Sprite or 7 Up. In the UK it’s the sweeter cream sherries which far outsell the other types and it’s these sales that have fallen considerably.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association blames falling UK sales on increasing taxation. According to the WSTA, the 53% increase in fortified wine duty since 2007 has added £1 to every bottle of sherry. Brexit and the fall in the value of the pound, both of which will make importing sherry more expensive, are other factors which will put further pressure on sherry sales in the UK.

However, 2017 has brought some good news for the sherry industry in terms of what seems to be the beginnings of a sherry revival in the UK. This revival isn’t being driven by grandparents finally replacing the Bristol Cream in their drinks cabinets, but by a new generation of sherry drinkers, enjoying dry sherries such as Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Amontillado.

There are now a number of trendy sherry bars and tapas restaurants springing up in the UK’s major cities and sherry is becoming quite ‘hipster’. In London, you can follow ‘The London Sherry Trail’, enjoying sherry in a range of bars across the capital.  Sherry has an affinity to tapas but also pairs well with a wide range of foods and also works well in many cocktails, all factors which, along with its growing hipster following, are aiding its UK revival.

sherrytrail_map_1
International Sherry Week took place in early November in over 25 countries, including the UK. This annual celebration of sherry is now in its fourth year and sees a range of events taking place for sherry-lovers around the world.

The sherry revival is in evidence in off-trade sales as well with Majestic Wines’ recent figures showing a 41% increase in fortified wine sales in the year-to-date and Majestic boss, Rowan Gormley stating that ‘Sherry is making a big comeback’.

So, if you want to be a hipster or just want to enjoy a fantastic, complex and versatile type of wine, what do you need to know about sherry in order to get the right glass or bottle to suit your taste and the occasion?

Firstly, a bit of background: the word ‘Sherry’ is the English version of ‘Jerez’, which refers to the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia, where the drink comes from. Dry sherries are made from the Palomino grape which produces a fairly neutral base wine. This is suited to sherry as the wine’s character comes from the winemaking and maturation techniques that it undergoes, rather than from the grapes themselves. Sherry is famous for its solera system of fractional blending and ageing, a process which sees wine being transferred between barrels as it ages.  This ageing can be biological or oxidative, leading to the creation of a range of different styles of sherry from pale, bone-dry Finos and Manzanillas to darker, richer Olorosos to lusciously sweet Pedro Ximenez sherries, made from grapes of the same name. And of course, there are also cream sherries which contain no dairy whatsoever but are actually sweetened sherries, made by either blending dry and sweet or by sweetening dry styles with Rectified Concentrated Grape Must.

As a brief explanation, Finos and Manzanillas are dry sherries which have been biologically aged. This means that they have aged under a layer of yeast known as the ‘veil of flor’ from which they derive much of their character. They tend to be pale lemon in colour and feature flavours such as almonds, apples, herbs, hay or fresh dough. Manzanillas are made in exactly the same way as Finos but derive their unique character from the particular climate of the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda where they are matured.

Oloroso sherries age oxidatively rather than biologically, without the veil of flor. The wine’s exposure to oxygen as it ages means that its colour is much deeper than that of a Fino and its flavours are oxidative flavours such as leather, toffee and walnut.

Amontillados start out as Finos and undergo a period of biological ageing under the veil of flor, but then lose the flor in order to undergo a further period of oxidative ageing, hence their character lies somewhere in between that of a Fino and an Oloroso.

There are other styles of sherry too, including naturally sweet sherries such as PX; blended sherries such as Cream, Pale Cream and Medium sherries as well as variations on the different dry styles. I’ve just had a glass of ‘Antique Fino’ which has been aged for longer than a classic Fino. It’s slightly deeper in colour, fuller bodied and features more nutty flavours. Delicious!

It does look like the image of sherry in the UK might finally be changing. If the trend for younger consumers drinking drier sherries gains momentum and it becomes seen as a drink for hipsters rather than grandmas, it could well become the next ‘gin’ or ‘craft beer’ of the UK drinks market.

Remember, you (possibly) heard it here first! Sherry Christmas Everyone!

On December 14th the WING ICC Group held its Annual Xmas Blind Tasting Competition. Six Wines were served blind, and each accompanied by three explanations of what they were; one each from Kathryn, Kim and Carrie.

WELCOME TO 2017 CALL-MY-WINE-BLUFF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The explanations were of three real wines – all available in the UK – however two were Bluff, one was True. The rest of the group had to guess which was true. After 6 rounds the person with most correct guesses won a (Xmas compliant) bottle!

The first Round was Unusual European Sparklers.
The Wine showed quite a recessed nose, citrus hints emerge but no “yeasty” notes. Palate has a slightly “gluey” note, some sweeter fruit elements and an light apple-tinged mousse… But was it:

  • Austrian Sekt from Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling;
  • Blanquette de Limoux (100% Mauzac);
  • Fruili Brut from Collio – mostly (92%) Ribolla Gialla?

RIBOLLA NOIR, SPUMANTE BRUT, (PRIMOSIC) (Vini Italiani £22)

I’ve no idea how one would guess this –  darker than one would expect from Mauzac or GV, but the apple notes could have come from all three…

My Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  14.5/20

 

The Second Round was Alpine Whites
A light fruity nose with some floral elements. A grainy, surprisingly full bodied palate, with a pepper hint that turns to a mineral finish … But was it:

  • Rousette de Savoie;
  • An Alto-Adige blend from Terlano;
  • Fendant from Valais in Switzerland?

FENDANT CLASSIQUE DOMAINE DES MUSES 2014 (Wine Soc. £20)

Again quite difficult, but I think the body and low acidity in the wine might have been the clue.

My Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14/20

 

The Third Round was Alpine Reds
Light in colour, herby nose with cherry fruit. Herbs and red fruit on the palate too, quite short but some acidity and mineral giving some structure… But was it:

  • A Mondeuse from Savoie;
  • A Schiava from Alto-Adige near Bolzano;
  • A Garamet-Garanoir blend from Vaud, Switzerland?

SAN PIETRO SCHIAVA, VITICOLTORI ALTO ADIGE 2013 (Vini Italiani £13)

I think the hardest of all to guess, partly because all three are rare, and the structure is quite good. I would have guessed the Mondeuse, I think…

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15.5/20

 

The fourth Round was Italian Grapes on the Pacific Coast
Pungent nose at first, then spicy elements kick in. Palate has richness and drying tannins and a woody element. Quite a fresh fruit lift at the finish which is food demanding… But was it:

  • Zinfandel from Lodi, California;
  • Sangiovese from Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
  • Nebbiolo from Baja California, Mexico?

L A CETTO PRIVATE RESERVE NEBBIOLO, BAJA CALIFORNIA 2012 (Tanners £15)

This had the scale of a Zin, but heavier tannins – so that might direct one towards Nebbiolo?

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

 

The fifth round was Reds from South-West France
Slightly fruit-cake aromas, then fresher red fruit hints. The palate has even more (but slightly rounder) tannin than the previous wine, and later a supple red fruit comes through. There is a fresh herby acid line right to the end, and with food the tannins recede and supple red fruit emerges. My favourite red … But was it:

  • Gaillac – mainly Syrah and Braucol (Fer Servadou)
  • Irouléguy – a Basque wine made from Tannat and Cabernet Franc
  • Cahors – mainly Malbec?


IROULÉGUY: DOMAINE ILARRIA ROUGE 2014 (Yapp £19)

The tannin levels, though not harsh, point towards Tannat, I think, so perhaps the easiest to guess.

My Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

 

The final Round was Dessert Wine
Complex nose, with peach, honey, passion fruit and quince. Some lightness on the palate and the same set of flavours are not overwhelmed by Noble Rot. A lip-smacking acidity adds a fine quality to this luscious wine … But was it:

  • Hunter Valley partly botrytised Semillon;
  • Jurançon, late-harvested Petit Mansang;
  • Sweet Chenin Blanc from Savennières, Loire?

JURANÇON MOELLEUX: DOMAINE CASTERA ‘CUVÉE PRIVILIGE’  2008 (Grower – UK £22) 

This surely has too much complexity for even a good Australian, little botrytis and the passion fruit might suggest Loire but the lightness of touch and the quince hints surely suggest Jurançon!

My Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  15/20

Overall a tricky, certainly the most difficult so far, tasting. However the wines we actually tasted all showed quite well and the bluffs constituted an  interesting set of wines. The excellent prize was won outright by Catherine, with 4 correct! Congratulations and a bottle of 1986 Vintage PX DO Montilla-Moriles Gran Reserva (Alaba) to her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be the last post before Seasonal Festivities begin, so it only remains to wish très bonnes fêtes de fin d’année to all my readers!

À Bientôt

On Monday 4th December Ralph led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Collio DOC, an area of Fruili (North East Italy) quite close to the Slovenian border. The area is in the Gorizia Hills, which extend over the (geographically arbitrary) border into Slovenia. The general soil type is calcerous marl and sandstone. Production is about 85% White Wines.

The wines were all from the leading producer in the area: BORGO DEL TIGLIO.

The wine-maker Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 when he took control of his family’s vineyards. Low yields, strict vineyard selection and meticulous cellar work result in some of the most powerful, intensely ripe and textural wines in Friuli. Monferrari describes his style as ‘beautiful and kindly’.  Some wines are fermented and aged in 250 ltr barrels.

Here are my notes:

COLLIO BIANCO 2013
This is mostly Friulano with some Riesling and Sauvignon. Slightly (by suggestion?) lime hints on the nose – nutty tinges and some herbs too. Quite complex interweaving of the elements. Palate has a spice warmth, a chalky mouthfeel and a mineral acidity that goes on for a while into a pithy dry finish. Structured, fresh and food-friendly even though big-bodied.

SAUVIGNON 2013
The nose is quiet big, with green fruit – greengage rather than gooseberry – and even a red or white currant hint with a leafy character, again complex. The palate has a creamy texture (from barrel aging?) but restrained within a well-contained, long, warm acid line with a slate mineral finish. Very good SB, bigger than a good Sancerre but with a similar, scaled-up, balance and structure.

CHARDONNAY 2013
The nose of this wine is creamy, with butter / caramel hints and a later citrus line. The oak effects are, again, supported by the weight of the wine and the linear acid mineral counterpoint. The balance is so well judged and fine it might be called poised, and reminds me of some better Southern Côtes-de-Beaune whites. This is big but with an extremely long acid line lightening the wine to reveal a soft fruit, warm but mouth-watering finish.

MALVESIA 2013
This is aged in 2nd use oak and has a floral, almost cosmetics nose. Later some herby elements appear. The palate starts off quite softly, then tightens through mounting acidity and a peppery spice note, and then a soft-ish (comparatively) short finish. There is honeyed fruit but this wine seemed the least satisfactory to me, by the high standards set by the others…

FRIULANO 2012
This was in some ways similar to the first wine. More restrained with a nutty and herb start. Palate undulates between a sharp attack, soft peachy fruit, clean acid line and warm saline, slightly bitter finish. Knowing of Friulano’s tendency to flabbiness, it almost seems that this is a good wine-maker fighting to develop structure supporting it, and enjoyable journey but slightly unresolved… maybe it’ll all come together in a few more years?

COLLIO ROSSO RESERVA 2008
This is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pungent first nose, then cedar then black berry fragrance and a higher, perfumed note… Palate has a black fruit line within quite light pointed tannins. There is a woody component that tightens the wine again to show a minty herbal element as it approaches a pithy, bay leaf finish. An adventure that suggest rather restrained and elegant Syrah, more than claret. Another good food wine…

An engaging tasting of engaging wines, all seemed to develop and reveal things within each mouthful – the very epitome of complexity. Although very different the wines all showed dynamism in the way texture, especially, but also acidity and balance developed in the mouth. All are quite big but wore their weight in an elegant package with mineral and acid lines taking one through the journey. A very interesting tasting of which – just – I found the Chardonnay the most involving.

Thanks Ralph for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

Kathryn and Matt (with a special guest appearance by Áine) hosted a lovely Sock Club gathering on Friday 24th November. A very enjoyable evening ensured by our hosts’ hard work, the good company and – of course – the quality of wines…

Here are my notes:

CLASSIC BRUT LIMOUX (Denois)      Welcome Wine
Nose is citrus, a slight herby element and crisp – very Champenois, but missing a tell-tale bready tinge. The palate confirms a mainly Chardonnay feel, a sherbet mousse, clean acidity and hints of warmth, long with a pithy saline finish… a good aperitif bubbly.

FESTIGIA VINA LAGUNA 2015 CROATIAN MALVASIA     Kathryn  
Rather a neutral palate with a vaguely peachy hint. The palate is initial sweet with a warm tinge, the middle washes out before a later opening out with a citrus counterbalance. Rather disappointing…

CHABLIS 2007 (Billaud-Simon)          Paul
Lovely typical citrus nose with a floral tinge… complexity without easily identified elements, showing the integration of age…Palate has the warmth and richness of a good 1er Cru, but is a basic wine (from a very high rank grower – the current vintage is well over £20) – a slatey citrus backbone with a soft fruit undertow. Long succulent and at peak readiness… Lovely!

LYME BAY “SHORELINE”  2015         Sue T
Mandarin, honey and elderflower on the nose, rather pungent. Palate has gooseberry and stone fruit and a chalky texture. The flavours a big, but there is enough acidity to support them. Although the flavours differ somewhat the overall balance has a Sauvignon Blanc nature, and some character. An English wine made from a blend of Bacchus, Pinot Blanc, Seyval Blanc & Reichensteiner sourced and vinified separately.

CONDRIEU (Pichon) 2014            Ann
A nutty warm nose with hints of stone fruit spirit. Palate is warm with a rather grappa bitterness at first, soft fruit then appears and then a long spicy finish. Much more pungent and bigger than the 2013 which we tasted six months ago (see post of April 5th 2017). Time integrates the flavours and makes a rather impressive wine, but not a typical Condrieu – maybe there isn’t such a  thing?!

DRY TOKAJI (Royal Tokaji) 2015            Yvonne
Fresh slightly floral nose, with a slightly bitter spirit note emerging… Palate is full bodied with a warm acidity and yellow fruit flavours with a later smokey hint developing. Worked wonderfully with the smoked salmon canapés…

CHEVERNY (Tessier) 2009     Laurie
This is pale, with a fragrance of red and black berry fruit, and a slightly woody tinge. Palate has the berry fruit, with a soft tannic frame and the slightly mineral finish of  a minor Burgundy but with a little herby twist. This has aged from a tough start to be just right now, pliant and characterful. A barrique aged wine from old vine Pinot (75%) Gamay (20%) and Cabernet Franc.

LUSCA IRISH WINE 2014                 John
OK – who knew? Irish wine (FFS): an un-guessable Sock Party Wine. After closing dropped jaw it’s worth noting the cherry and plum spirit nose, very high tarry tannin levels with spice and mouthwatering acidity. This is made in tiny quantities (500 bottles) by Llewellyn’s Orchard in the village of Lusk, 12 miles North of Dublin. The grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dunkelfelder, and Rondo.

BRENNAN TEMPRANILLO (Central Otago) 2015            Brenda 
Red fruit: raspberry and strawberry; with a savoury, slightly herby tint. Palate has a supple acid mineral and soft tannic line supporting bright fruit, the oak recessed under the other flavours – a lovely fresh Tempranillo.

SALICE ROSSO 2014 (Albrizzi)          Mike T
Nose has red fruit, slightly plummy, with sweet oak and a mocha note. Sweet fruit first on the palate, then a supple acidity with hints of rhubarb and blackcurrant, a grippy finish showing some Cabernet character within a big (Zin-ish) Primitivo package…

CHERUBINO “LAISSEZ FAIRE” PINOT NOIR 2013     Matt
Pungent nose – quite Burgundian with sweet fruit bubbling up in this Porongurup (WA) wine. A warm cherry fruit and spice palate with a turn of structure, acidity a little light…

DOMAIN ROAD PINOT NOIR (Central Otago) 2012     Helen
Slightly sweet nose with hints of vanilla and toast. Red fruit with a clean fruit acidity with a herby – almost Vermouth – twist towards the end of the prolonged finish. Balanced and quite typical Otago pinot, good!

INFINITUS RIO NEGRO MERLOT (Fabre Montmayou) 1999     Anna 
Plum nose with a sharper fruit (Mulberry?) spirit note. Palate has some wood and evolved but firm tannins supporting surprisingly firm red fruit, herb elements present too, all reflecting the cool Patagonian origin.

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening, and our hosts for their hospitality.

À Bientôt

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