Winemaking in Greece dates back thousands of years. However, for a very long time the wine being produced was unexceptional; it is only since the second half of the twentieth century, and in particular since Greece’s entry to the European Union, that the Greek wine industry has seen new investment and innovation and has started producing the great range of quality wine that its climate, terroirs and indigenous grape varieties are capable of.

Many people still look at me with scepticism when I recommend a Greek wine to them, imagining Retsina and other such rustic offerings that they may have experienced on holiday, but there really are some great wines coming out of Greece these days. Hopefully we’ll experience some of them on Thursday evening.

Greece’s vineyards lie between the latitudes of 34 and 42 degrees north. They are not all as hot as their latitude might suggest, however and can have greatly differing mesoclimates. Whilst southern vineyards such as those on Crete can be very hot and dry with irrigation a necessity and harvests taking place as early as July, other vineyards such as those in the northern region of Macedonia can have a much cooler climate, with grapes sometimes failing to ripen fully. Altitude in mountainous areas and proximity to the sea both have a moderating effect on temperatures.

Naoussa

Greece has around 110,000 hectares under vine, with vineyards found in many different mainland areas and on many of the country’s islands. However, only about half of the vineyard area contributes fruit to wine production as table grapes and dried fruit are also important industries in Greece.

Greece has in excess of 300 indigenous grape varieties. They are not all used for wine production and there is still a long way to go in terms of exploiting the potential of this wealth of native varieties, but there are certainly some grapes that are now making a name for Greek wine.

About 70% of Greece’s annual wine production is white. Probably its most famous and currently most successful white grape is Assyrtiko. On its home island of Santorini it is grown on black volcanic soil known as ‘aspa’. To protect the grapes from the island’s strong winds, vines are often trained into basket shapes on the ground. The assyrtiko grown here is renowned for its minerality. Assyrtiko is now grown across Greece and its success has even encouraged plantings abroad.

Malagousia is a white grape that was pretty much unheard of before being rediscovered less than 30 years ago by Evangelos Gerovassiliou; it is now being used by many Greek producers across the country to create full bodied, aromatic wines.

Other important indigenous white grapes include the Cretan grape, Vidiano and Cephalonia’s Robola. We’ll be tasting wines made from all of these grapes on Thursday, either as varietal wines or as part of a blend.

Among many indigenous red varieties, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are two of the best known on export markets. We’ll by trying a varietal Xinomavro from its home in Naoussa, Macedonia as well as a Goumenissa wine which is a Macedonian blend of Xinomavro and Negoska. We’ll also be tasting a Cretan Liatiko.

In addition to this wealth of native varieties, about 15% of Greek vineyards are planted with international varieties. French varieties are particularly popular amongst Greek wine drinkers, who account for about 95% of Greek wine consumption, but the appellation system is very much in favour of championing indigenous varieties, making a higher classification more difficult to obtain if the focus is not on Greek grapes. Often international varieties are blended with native grapes, but as our tasting is ‘Greek Indigenous Grapes’ we’ll be sticking entirely to native varieties.

See you there!

Brigitte. x

Advertisements

On Monday 7th October Rob treated the group to six classic red Bordeaux. Serving blind in 3 pairs, Rob challenged us to guess from which Bordeaux bank they originated and which of each pair was the older. This proved more difficult that it sounded, I think for everyone – although I personally found the former question much easier than the latter, or to more exact – a proximate question of which wines were Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon dominated? Part of the reason – I’m sure – for inaccurate guesses was the distraction offered by the pleasure of the wines…
Here are my notes:


CHÂTEAU BATAILLEY Pauillac, 5ème Cru, 2009 
Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) 70%; Merlot (M) 25%; Cabernet Franc (CF) 3%; Petit Verdot (PV) 2%.
Nose of dark fruit and a slightly smoky wood hint, a faint floral (lily?) hint too with some pungency. The palate is quite grippy with damson fruit prominent, a little grainy… satisfying in a heavy sort of way.

CHÂTEAU HAUT BAGES AVEROUS Pauillac Cru Bougeois, 2005
CS75%; M17%; CF6%; PV2%.
More restrained but typical claret nose, sharper fruit and some cedary herbs.and a lighter touch. Palate is sweeter and more supple than the previous wine with a lighter feel supplied by the fresher acidity. Very balanced and pleasurable.

The wines were not that far apart, the first wine slightly “muddier” and a browner rim (falsely) leads one to the think it’s older…

LE GRAND CHAI  Montagne St. Emillion, 2015
M / CF – probably about 70:30.
Sweet nose, with red fruit and an earthy hint. Palate is sweet plum fruit with a long acid line. Easy quaffing – which probably implies maturity or simplicity…

CHÂTEAU LAROQUE St. Emillion Grand Cru Classé, 2010
M87%; CF11%; CS2%.
This has a heavier, darker nose with crunchy darker fruit. Palate is firmer with much deeper flavours and a chocolate hint, quite rich with a spicy element… not quite integrated yet but very nice…

This pair clearly have a Merlot imprint, and the not-quite-ready depth of the second wine is a function of its quality and the excellence of the year, not of relative youth….

CHÂTEAU CAMBON LA PELOUSE Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2005
M52%; CS44%; PV4%.
Fragrant red fruit with some floral hints. Palate is soft and sweet but with a drying underlying structure, which frames the fruit well. Very well balanced with a plum finish. Classy though – it turns out – quite soft for the appellation.

HORTEVIE St. Julien Cru Bourgeois 2009
CS70%; M25%; PV5%.
This is more forest floor and mushrooms on the nose, and a darker overall impression. The palate is drying with a harder edge. Slightly lighter bodied and very different fruit/tannin balance. A little hard – is that youth or vintage or appellation?

This was a hard pair to resolve, if anything I thought the first was Merlot  and the second Cabernet Sauvignon ((in fact they were – but not from different side of the rivers), but the former wine certainly seemed more evolved.

A very enjoyable tasting showing many aspects of classic claret. In the end, for me the tasting spoke more of the vintages than the areas. The 2005s (2 & 5) were lovely: ready, enticing and complex. The 2010 was a lovely wine but a little young IMO. The 2009s (1 & 6) quite big, a little “hot” and unresolved maybe, very enjoyable but probably not in line to attain the elegance involved in the other 2 vintages.

Thanks Rob  for a generous and interesting tasting.

À Bientôt

The September Sock Club in 2019 fell on 27th – coincidentally a significant (if you work on decimal numbers) Birthday for Corkmaster, and so formed a double celebration! A suitably (or coincidentally?) wonderful evening ensued

Here are my notes:


AMONTILLADO “NAPOLEON” (Hildago)   –   Welcome Wine
The evening started with a Sherry, an Amontillado – but from famous Manzanilla house “La Gitana“. Coming from Sanlucar this gives an extra salty edge, and some savoury quality to expand the usual richness of an Amontillado. 15 year old with rich flavours of fruit, peel, seeds and nuts, and some spice – offset with floral hints, a citrus zest acidity and that warm saltiness. Moreish, balanced and versatile with food… just a great wine.

ALSACE RIESLING GRAND CRU KAEFFERKOPF 2008 (Martin Schatzel)   –   Kim
Hints of diesel, citrus, soft fruit and elserflower – give this away at once. But the palate has a limey acidity and a mineral dryness enveloping a soft – greengage? – fruit that endures and entwines with the structure. Long and supple this wine comes from an “austere” GC and was tight in it’s youth but now is wonderful…

PULIGNY-MONTRACHET PREMIER CRU “CLOS DE LA GARENNE” 2013 (Domaine Duc de Magenta – Jadot)   –   Ann
A buttery nose, prickly citrus, herbs and some subtle woody notes. Palate is supple with an underlying line of minerality, pale stone fruit, creamy texture and drying chalky minerality entwine in a delicious spiral, wonderfully deep and complex, it developed with time and must be approaching peak. A very very good, classic White Burgundy – a delight, and the wine I keep remembering (several days and bottles later)!

John, one of our hosts, and Corkmaster are enraptured by a Puligny-Montrachet of indescribable complexity.

JURANÇON PETIT MANSENG 2017   –   Yvonne
Usually dry Jurançon is made, predominantly, from Gros Manseng – with the smaller variety’s thicker skins and higher acidity kept for Late Harvest Sweet Wines (more on this later… as it turns out). The nose indeed has green notes, herbal tones and some honey. The palate has an oily hint and some peachy fruit gesturing towards Viognier, but the acidity is fresher with citric and saline hints and drives the wine to a sweeter apricot-tinged finish. Rather good and a much better bet than similar price Viognier, IMO.

So on to the Reds


CHÂTEAUMEILLANT GRAPPES 2016 (Jacques Rouzé)   –   John
Slightly spirity nose with hints of herbs and spice. Palate has some dryness, a slight bay leaf bitterness with an eau-de-vie hint, but a long slightly jammy fruit, succulent with a hint of spice, emerges. Rich and slightly reminiscent of a Passetoutgrains – it turns out to be a similar blend (80% Gamay & 20% Pinot Noir) from Châteaumeillant, a Loire wine making commune in Cher about 60 miles SW of Sancerre, and 110 miles SE from Bourgueil – a new one on me…

RIOJA GRAN RESERVA BOURDÓN 2008 (Bodegas Franco-Espanolas)  –   Carrie
A very fragrant nose with plums to the fore, recalling Merlot. Palate has spice and sweetness but more grip than found in usual Merlot plum-flavoured wines, and a wider flavour frame. The palate has some crunchy darker fruit and a slightly woody/smokey hint under the softer fruit, and a spicy note mounting to the finish. A lovely GR with the woody influence detectable but the grainy vanilla elements absent, possibly a higher than average Graciano content balancing the Tempranillo. Supple and satisfying!

VOLNAY 2005 (Buffet)   –   Laurie
Red fruit and citrus peel notes on the nose. Palate has an integrated acidity and still firm tannins underlying quite soft fruit. Integrated and balanced around a richer point than most years. Still fresh and good – in most months a star wine!

GRANDE ALBERONE “BLACK BIO” 2018 (?)   –   Rob
This has a red fruit and currant nose – but on the palate has a rich plum fruit sweetness and a slightly oily character. Very much a warm climate wine this Puglian has [apart from the amaro (bitterness) itself] many common features with Amarone, to which the name sort-of refers. The makers say it is made from a secret blend – but surely Negroamaro (!) and Primitivo feature.  It has succulence and length with some porty sweetness – an excellent cheese wine.

JURANÇON LIQUOREUX “SELECTION” 2000 (Labasse)   –   Dessert
This wine – from Domaine Bellegarde – is only made in very good years. As well as the late Harvest Jurançon Moelleux, which is blended from both Manseng varieties, they have an even later picking of the Petit Manseng and make a much richer and deeper vin liquoreux. This has quince and citric acidity with a candied peel and fruit cake sweetness – succulent and not-too-sweet it’s a lovely foil for a lovely fruit cake to celebrate my Birthday – a fitting conclusion!

Thanks so much to everyone present for a wonderful evening and Ann and Yvonne for their culinary endeavours. I hope I am not betraying too much bias by saying the overall quality of wines at this tasting was probably a new high for a Sock Club gathering – with any of the wines at top-wine level on a quieter tasting. I don’t usually score at SPs, but I imagine average scores for a whole night would usually be around 15/20 – this night 17  !!!

It’s hard to pick top wine, the opening trio of white classics in very different styles was like a symphony… but the star among the stars was the Puligny.

Thanks again everyone.

À Bientôt

The Group visited Cropwell Bishop for a blind-Tasting party on Friday 23rd August, hosted by Sue and Johnny. The evening was a very convivial with lovely wines and food… I confess in the interval I have been distracted by the effort and organisation of transportation to France (not to mention the antics of a UK “Government” that seems entirely likely to re-introduce transportation to further climes!).

Here are my notes, first the whites:


SEGURA VIUDAS BRUT RESERVA HEREDAD nv                 Welcome Wine
Lovely tell-tale gluey nose of cava with a very fine mousse. Palate is lively and refreshing and (for a cava) long… citrus and some floral notes – slightly smokey and quite elegant – very good!

SOAVE CALVARINO 2014 (Pieropan)        Laurie   
Fresh and lively nose with citrus and a floral hint – some stony and herby notes too. The palate is very long and structured rather like a good Chablis with some oily character and a very late nutty hint – but wearing its richness with vivacity and lightness… lovely

CHABLIS  PREMIER CRU 2013 (Morrison’s “Best”, made by Les Chablisienne)      Ann  
And – as if by magic – the very thing to use as a comparison with the previous. Again citrus and nutty nose but a deeper fruit, apricot? Palate has a lot of fruit and some spice, good length and a mineral finish – a little richer than the Soave and a little less dashing but lovely too…

ARINTO  2018  (Lisboa)       Yvonne 
An uncommon grape also found in Vinho Verde (by the name of Pederna). This has fresh, slightly grassy, citric dash with other herbs and a slightly sappy feel. The palate has warm acidity and a nettle note recalling a light old world Sauvignon Blanc

On to the reds…


MARZEMINO DELLE VENEZIE 2017        Kim
Very Beaujolais profile – cherry and darker fruit but a light body and acidity. Slightly greenish herbal note – asks for a pasta / pesto dish IMO.

KNIGHTOR PINOT NOIR 2017   Cornwall           John
Red fruit nose with hints of Fenugreek. Palate has a red fruit base with an acidity tinged with grapefruit peel – moving to a leaf and indeed leaf-mould hint, herbal hints and a vaguely Alsace profile… clearly a cool climate Pinot with a light but food-friendly structure.

CHÂTEAU LA CROIX DE PEZ 2014  Saint-Estèphe         Johnny
Nose is quite hard with  later fruit and forest-floor flavours. Palate is dry with a red fruit line tannis and some acidity… A little young ( 2 or 3 years?) but very good…

ISOLA DEI NURAGHI BOVALE IGT “U TABARKA CIÙ ROUSSOU” 2015       Rob
Bovale is the grape in this clearly Italianate wine from Sardinia!  This is a bit confusing as Bovale Grande is Mazuelo/Carignan, whereas this wine is Bovale Piccolo which is Graciano. Both varieties came to Sardinia from Spain and here the wine has clearly an Italian accent – oily, warm plum and liquotice nose and a palate with firm tannin and a dried prune note: drying, satisfying and structured – very good!

L’AURA DE CAMBON MARGAUX 2016          Sue
This has a clear Cabernet flavour profile, but is much softer than that suggests – and in fact is a 50:50 blend with Merlot. Replanted in 2006 this is quite luscious with a classy Margaux profile. Definitely modern in style – but very well done.

TRAMINER  SPÄTLESE 2015 (Winebau Wartha)  Burgenland Austria                  Farewell Wine   
A very sweet fruit and honeyed wine with a dash of acidity. Just pleasure with cheese or dessert….

An interesting evening where I liked every wine – an uncommon occurrence. Thanks to all and especially Sue.

À Bientôt

On Monday 5th August Kim showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group wines from Valpolicella.

Valpolicella is a Demoninazione in the Verona region of the Veneto in N. E. Italy. The area is about 70-100 kms West of Venice, and forms an arc of about 15kms radius North and North East of the lovely town of Verona. So its eastern border is with the Soave wine region.

Italia & Valpo redux.jpg
The area produces getting on for 80 million bottles a year in four styles, of which Kim showed a pair of each of the three most common.

Grapes for Valpolicella centre upon the Corvina, and to a lesser extent its cousin Corvinone. Recent regulations require 45% – 90% Corvina of which up to half can be Corvinone, so the regulations recognise the latter grape but only does so as a “version” of the former. Rondinella is the other main grape which can comprise 5% – 30%. Together Corina/Corvinone & Rondinella must make up 75% of the grapes. Other grapes which can make up to 25% (but rarely exceed 10% in better examples) include Molinara (which used to be compulsory); Oseleta; Dindarella; Rossignola and Negrara. “Other” in most cases below are varying amounts of these last 4.

Wine labelled as simply “Valpolicella”, “Valpolicella Classico” or “Valpolicella Superiore” are made as any other wine. Until early in this century the only other wines of note were made by drying the grapes for at least 2 but commonly 4 months after harvest and crushing the resulting dried grapes. This allows a potential alcohol of getting on for 16%. Most of the wine is fermented to dryness, emphasising the bitterness in the dried skin and labelled “Amarone della Valpolicella”. A small proportion of these wines have fermentation stopped at normal alcohol levels leaving substantial unfermented sugar and yielding Recioto, an impressive sweet wine – at impressive prices unfortunately; a sort of cherry-port wine with normal alcohol levels and some acidity.

Recently winemakers have taken to adding the lees (or “pomace”) of the Amarone or Recioto to the younger normal wine – as it were: re-passing over the lees and imparting some of the dried grape flavours. This is called Ripasso and now is the most common form of Valpolicella.

Wines produced in Valpolicella in 2018 vintage - millions of bottles [Source: Regione VENETO, AVEPA, SIQURIA] (click to enlarge)
Kim showed us 2 exampes each of Valpolicella; Ripasso and Amarone

Here are my notes:

VALPOLICELLA 2017 (ALLEGRINI)   –   £12 Wine Society   –   13%
Corvina/Corvinone 70%; Rondinella 30%.
This has a slightly spirit and oily note on the nose, quite a lot of red fruit, some of it cherry. Palate is warm with sharp cherry and plum notes, slightly bitter but tasty tannins and some toasty hints, a little simple but pleasing and chill-able.

VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2016 (TEDESCHI)   –   £12 Wine Society   –   13.5%
Corvina 35%; Corvinone 35%; Rondinella 20%; others 10%.
Rounder nose with some similarities on the nose, fruit more recessed and some woody notes. Palate has more non-fruit elements: leather? And more vinous complexity, more serious, more food-friendly acidity and very good value.

VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO SUPERIORE 2016 “CAPITEL SAN ROCCO” (TEDESCHI)   –   £18 Wine Society   –   14.5%
Corvina 30%; Corvinone 30%; Rondinella 30%; others 10%.
This nose has significant wood and alcohol on the nose, giving a slightly grainy note too. Palate is a bit bitter, shows a spirit element and a tendency towards muddiness again and sweet fruit not-quite-integrated in a drying palate. Too young and a little unbalanced right now, but may open.

VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO SUPERIORE 2016 “LA CASETTA”   –   £18 Majestic   –   14%
Corvina 65%; Corvinone 15%; Rondinella 10%; others 10%
Much fresher Ripasso nose – some red fruit, dusty herbs and plums… Palate is sweeter, a little linear but showing hints of fruit cake and round tannins. Very satisfying and well balanced – a cheese wine?


AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA “MARNE 180” 2015 (TEDESCHI)   –   £32 Fareham   –   16%
Corvina 35%; Corvinone 35%; Rondinella 20%; others 10%.
This has the full fruit-cake, Xmas-pudding nose, plum and a hint of alcohol. Palate has a big texture, warm with some spice and slightly grainy tannin, again an impression of youth and slightly unintegrated. A big wine with great food matching potential.

AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2013 (TOMMASI)   –   £48 Millisema   –   15%
Corvina 50%; Corvinone 15%; Rondinella 30%; Oselta 5%
Nose has a much softer fruit, berry fruits even blueberry! A better balanced range of vinous elements too – some sharper notes and some light spices. Palate is rounder and softer without unintegrated components, some spice again warm acidity, velvet tannins and a lovely twist of bitterness. The overall impression of the fruit recalls a summer berry fruit salad made a couple of days before and starting to show hints of fermentation. A well-integrated gentle giant of a wine – very impressive but quite expensive.

A very interesting tasting, showing that the styles offer a series of different quality/price conundrums. The Tedeschi wines all seemed a little young to be fair, and all had a big-boned quality, that might mean time was envisaged by the makers.. The other 3 seemed more subtle – but sometimes that speaks of a shorter future. The exception is the – older – last wine which was just lovely, although not showing, what I have come to think of, typical Amarone size. I liked that wine best, then and there in the tasting – but the Tedschi Superiore was great value and the Ripassi (especially La Casetta right now) were a great compromise!

Thanks so much Kim for a thought provoking tasting.

À Bientôt

The Group met for a blind-Tasting party on Friday 26th July, hosted by Kathryn and Matt. A lovely evening with, as it turned out, a unusual link between half the wines…

Here are my notes:


KAIKEN BRUT nv   Argentina                       Welcome Wine
A citric nose with a frothy mousse. Nose and palate develop towards grapefruit acidity and open to a slightly sweet orchard fruit. A light and lively Brut with an aperitif profile!

GRÜNER VELTLINER 2012 (Holzmann)    Weinvertel          Anna   
Nose has some deeper fruit flavour – apricot? Green apple notes and the usual tell-tale pepper hint. The palate has richer, creamier notes showing its evolution, Good length and underlying refreshment…

PECORINO 2017 (Umani Ronchi)    Tuscany       Sue T  
Nose has pear fruit, and some floral notes that deepen to a hint of almonds in a very Italian style. The palate is rich with a, slightly mealy, fruit profile and warm, round acidity.

PIGATO RISERVA 2018  (Laura Aschero)    Liguria          Kathryn  
Pigato is a grape found quite commonly in Liguria, and DNA profiling shows it is the same grape as Vermentino despite finding their homes independently (Vermentino is also sometimes known as  Rolle in France). This example has a pungent nose with slightly pithy and oily notes. Palate follows the nose with a lifting round acidity and a slightly bitter note.

FIANO IGP 2017 (Maree d’Ione)     Puglia     Yvonne  
Fiano is perhaps better known from Avellino or the Sannio area of Campania. This shares those versions lightness and verve, making it a very fish-friendly wine – however this example has a slightly herby and exotic fruit tinge making it seem a little bigger flavoured. Crisp acidity and quite long lasting, a surprisingly poised hot-climate white!

JACKSON-TRIGGS OKANAGAN ESTATE RIESLING 2016   British Columbia          Paul
Forward diesel and elderflower nose – very reminiscent of some Oregon examples. It turns out this is not that far away to the North. Very Riesling with a Mosel style level of sweetness in a richer package – succulent, supple and lovely!

TRINITY HILLS MARSANNE/VIOGNIER 2017   Gimlett Gravels N.Z.         Kim
Very nutty, creamy nose, with a hint of oak in a very white-Burgundy style. But is isn’t that – the palate has an oily profile with some olive and herb notes and a rich, warm length. A Rhone-ish blend done well on the gravel in Hawke’s Bay.


VIGNETI DELLE DOLOMITI PINOT NERO 2014   Dolomites                       Ann
This has a light red-fruit nose with a light peppery tinge. The palate has fruit and a sharp-acid, food-demanding, line. This wine has the mark of some cooler growing sites, would be lovely with a roast pork dish.

CHIANTI RISERVA  2006 (San Colombano)    Tuscany           Laurie   
Red fruit but earthy nose, with fruit cake (spice and dried fruit) elements appearing. Palate has some liquorice and an echo of the nose. Clearly a mature, and very typical, Chianti.

“ALTITUDES” 2013 (IXSIR)    Lebanon       Sue Mc 
Another earthy nose, darker fruit and some warm spice. Palate has the same profile with sweeter-than-expected fruit and a wide tannic line.

VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2015  (Boscarelli)    Tuscany          John  
Herbs and cherry fruit at first with the fruit broadening into a softer note. The palate is similar with an acidic line, plum-prune fruit and a warm long finish. Some Chianti-like character and complexity with a rounder fruit base and a slight mineral hint lifting the very end… This is 85% Prugnolo – the Montepulciano clone of Sangiovese! And it’s lovely (my favourite of the night).

XINOMAVRO 2016 (Alpha Estates)     Amyndeon, Greece     Matt 
Sweet plum nose, leading to a grenache-like sweet plum tomato line, offset – at least in part – with a supple acidity. If the Pinot Nero showed its cooler origins this speaks of warmth!

PISANO “CISPLATINO” TANNAT 2017    Uruguay          Mike
Pungency with nutty elements, some prune and spice notes underneath. The palate is very supple and rather different from Madiran tannic monsters, with a little woodiness and a blackberry fruit within a (relatively) gentle tannic frame.

CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2015 (Sertosso)   Tuscany                   Rob
Rather leather/liquorice, typical Italian, nose with a Xmas cake hint – baking spice more than dried fruit at this stage. Some sour fruit and a warm tannic frame persisting longest. A food wine that maybe needs another year or two.

PAULINSHOF RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2014     Mosel                  Farewell Wine   
A diesel, peach, sweet fruit and honeyed wine with that lovely lifting Riesling acidity. A pure pleasure and a fitting vinous conclusion to a lovely evening.

An interesting evening when Italy played a surprisingly large part: not a single French wine and seven Italians! Three from Tuscany, three Italian whites and a North Italian Pinot. Very unexpected and very enjoyable…

Partly because I have been unable to attend a Sock Club Tasting since February, I particularly appreciated and enjoyed this one. Faultlessly welcomed by our knowledgeable and generous hosts, it was a real pleasure to indulge in the sociable hedonism of the group – my profound thanks to everyone and especially to Kathryn and Matt.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 18th July the ICC Group met to compare Wines from Victoria and Burgundy – both white (Chardonnay) and red (Pinot Noir). This tasting partly followed an eye-opening tasting of Antipodean Pinot (see post of March 8th 2017) a couple of years ago, and the Jancis Robinson quotation cited in the Theme post last week. Both of these showed Australia can make wines in cooler climates from Burgundy grapes very well – but how well?

For each grape 3 wines were served blind one each from the Yarra Valley, Gippsland (both in Victoria) and Mercurey, (in the Côte Chalonnaise). The wines are all around £20 in UK. I chose the same wineries for both red and white wines.

Hoddles Creek Estate, established in 1997, is located in the Upper Yarra, which is higher, cooler and more marginal than the lower Yarra, The Estate is planted with 10ha of Pinot Noir (five clones), 6 ha of chardonnay, Being in a marginal climate, requires extensive canopy management. Over the last decade it has been focusing on minimal chemical use in the vineyard, and claim they are starting to see the benefits of health soils and vines with more balanced wines. It works the vineyards for low yields (below 33 hl/ha).

Wickham Road is a 8 hectare vineyard planted solely to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is cool, free draining and the vines are 17 years old. During the winter months, sheep are used to reduce the reliance on chemical control for weeds and grasses. The resulting wines require no acidification or fining.

Domaine Pillot is a family wine business over 150 years old in Mellecey a village in the Mercurey commune. The domaine has 17 hectares throughout the appellation and practice La lutte raisonnée (a sort of minimum intervention) in the vineyard. Appropriately the wines have a reputation for lightness and delicacy.


The serving order was random – so the following notes follow the order in which the wines were served (before their identity was know). First, the Chardonnays:

WICKHAM ROAD 2017   Gippsland, Victoria   –  12.8%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly nutty nose. Palate has fresh acidity with pithy note – seeming to tighten with time. There is orchard fruit, bright but slightly soft. Acidity persists and eventually becomes the main character.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20

MERCUREY 2016 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
This has a more citric and lighter nose, some oak giving a creamy texture building to a slightly bitter mineral end. The fruit line is hidden in the acidity making the wine develop more in the glass than the other example. Less striking but more subtle???
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016  Yarra Valley,Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £22
Nutty notes again, with a palate more restrained and lighter than the first wine, but clearly in the same style. Balanced, long and correct – very well made…
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best white (9 votes) followed by the Mercurey (7) and the Gippsland (6)

Secondly the Pinots:

MERCUREY 1er Cru “En Sazenay” 2015 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
Light and bright colour with a herb and plum nose. Quiet but insistent palate with soft red fruit (hints of cherry) a line of warm acidity and subtle grip with a spice note accentuating a very Pinot character. Very good and my favourite…
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  16/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016 Yarra Valley, Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £23
Darker with a herbal nose, red fruit too and again on the palate with a slightly bitter bay leaf twist to the acidity. To my taste a good but slightly one-dimensional red.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

WICKHAM ROAD 2017 Gippsland, Victoria  –  13%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly brownish colour and a quiet nose, fruity palate but little else. This had little vinous quality and as a consequence I would probably avoid it!
Ratings:        Quality:  12.5/20   Value:  11.5/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best red (10 votes) followed by the Mercurey (8) and the Gippsland (5). Though, funnily enough, no supporters of the Gippsland red followed through to choosing it a best wine overall – despite two-thirds of those present choosing a red. Clearly those that liked the last red are white wine drinkers!!??

Wine-of-the-night voting went (in serving order) 1 – 2 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 0

So the Yarra Valley estate won the night overall (as well as the separate white and red votes) with 13 supporters, the Mercurey 9 and the Gippsland 1.
For me the whites very much closer, although I can’t help thinking – for the price – a decent Chablis (or maybe a Pernand-Vergelesses) might beat them all. I thought the Yarra Pinot surprisingly good but lacking just a little subtlety and complexity compared to the Burgundy. The Gippsland red showed the worst qualities of New World Pinot, IMO although their white was much better. My scores have Mercurey leading 32 to 31 for the Yarra, with Gippsland trailing in with 27.

An interesting tasting – I was impressed by the Yarra – though not enough to seek Victorian wines out, especially considering one can get £20-in-UK wines in Burgundy itself at around the €13 mark… must go there again soon…

À Bientôt

%d bloggers like this: