I’ve been busy with serious family issues in the last month (and expect to be for the next two or three) and have had little time to devote to posting. So, with some delay, I hope this double post makes up in interest what it lacks in fullness.

On August 16th the WING TT Group met to taste Chablis, and three days later a few of us assembled at Perkins for #7 of their Wine Series – an evening introduced by Peter Bamford and David Perkins and focused on Rioja. These evenings were, respectively, delivered and organised by Ann & John – so massive thanks goes to them.

Here are my, briefer than usual, notes:

At the Monday Tutored Tasting Group we tried 6 Chablis (2 named Cuvées, 2 1ere Crus, and 2 Grands Crus) all from La Chablisienne (probably my favourite Co-op outside Alsace). This producer has large holdings and although modern doesn’t compromise on trying to express terroir by – for example – using too much new oak (although oak is used in some cuvées, especially the Grand Crus) – all in all a good consistent quality producer providing a wide range and good value. As to Chablis itself, in my view it is often better value than similar big names from the Côte de Beaune and I find Chablis’ steely acidity both food-friendly and refreshing. So I anticipated an interesting tasting – which indeed it was….

All the wines were sourced from the producer in 2014, and were from the 2010 vintage, prices are approximate £ equivalents at 2014 exchange rate.

Chablis “Le Finage”   –   12.5%   –   £10
This is made from average 20 year old vines from several (17 or so) parcels all over the Chablis Appellation area.
Quite dark in colour with a heavy nose with linseed and orange peel notes. The palate has warm acidity – round rather than “steely”, good length and a pithy finish.

Chablis “Les Venerables” Vieilles Vignes   –   12.5%   –   £14
This is made from average 35 year old vines from even more parcels than the previous wine.
This has a fuller, fruitier nose with hints of peach and even mango. Sharper acidity with a woody element – both nose and palate seem to get more grainy with time.

Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy   –   13%   –   £15
The Beauroy 1ere Cru is on the West side of the Serein, north of the town.
This has a lighter nose – herby elements and lemony citrus. Tighter, long supple acidity and a warmer mineral note – lovely lip smacking lively long acidity.

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Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent   –   13%   –   £17
The Vaulorent 1ere Cru is on the East side of the Serein opposite Beauroy, just north of the Grand Crus.
Some initial brackish pungency, and then herbal and green notes, and grapefruit. Palate is similar with strong minerality, there is a lot going on but it is all a little restrained at the moment. Some good potential here for a wine that will be better in a couple of years I think. Good value.

Chablis Grand Cru Bougros   –   13%   –   £29
This Grand Cru is at the extreme Western end of the GC slope, quite close to Vaulorent in fact.
Darker colour and a darker nose, aromatic with oaky hints and some honey. Palate has honey notes too, and the acidity is powerful but cloaked, like an iron fist in a velvet glove. The finish is nutty and there is some similarity (although at a much higher level) to the very first wine. Needs some time.

Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot   –   13%   –   £29
This Grand Cru is at the very opposite – Eastern – end of the GC slope.
This has a very interesting nose, some fruit (greengage, apples…) and floral hints. Palate is mouth watering, pithy citrus and white peach fruit with a caramel twist and a long line of mineral. Just coming into balance but some time to go I think. Just lovely!

A very pleasurable tasting with the Blanchot showing most promise and the Vailorent most value.

 

Over to Perkins then and some good food with two white Riojas and four reds: 2 Reserva and 2 Gran Reserva.

The food was a wonderfully balanced tapas-style asparagus and Serrano with honey-drizzled Manchego which were lovely with the whites. A Hake dish with a creamy bean base – which actually went better with the second white than the red Reservas, and a belly pork dish that complemented the 4 reds well… Here are my wine notes:

CVNE Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco 2013
The wine has 4 months in oak and quite an early release – so quite a modern style, This has a lemon first nose, slightly oily woody notes but not really vanilla. Very lemon and apple intense acidity, with a smokey finish and another sharp hit at the finish.

“Viña Gravonia” Rioja Blanco 2004 (López de Heredia)
This has 4 years in wood and 6 years in bottle before release, so a very traditional style.
Amazingly complex nose: nut and seed oils, a vegetal note, sherry notes, honey… stewed fruit. Palate has a woody and sherry tones, some qualities one might find more in a dessert wine too: honey, soft peachy almost tropical fruit, passion fruit maybe – and a rasping acid finish… Just wonderful and fabulous with the honey dressed cheese and asparagus.
Many of the notes on these Viura-based whites reminded me of Chenin – apple acidity, honeysuckle, passion fruit…. Just a thought!
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Maetierra “Gavanza” Rioja Reserva 2007
Forward, sweet fruit nose – strawberry? – and a leafy hint. Surprisingly sharp and spicy palate, quite sweet fruit middle palate with a relatively short finish.

Valenciso Rioja Reserva 2007
Firmer fruit nose, more spirit than the previous wine with forest-floor and cedar hints, later a fig note emerges. The palate has lip-smacking acidity balanced by supple tannins and darker fruit – in a long almost Bordelais package. This 100% Tempranillo is very impressive with the food.

Urbina Rioja Gran Reserva 1996
First nose of leathery age – vegetal hints then a quite spirit plum note. Palate is very drying with plum and herbal notes, long and food friendly but a little short on fruit – good, but maybe a little in decline?

La Rioja Alta “904” Rioja Gran Reserva 2001
First notes of vanilla and cardamom, then some spirit fruit more in the fresher cherry line… Palate has sweet fruit, firm acidity and spicy/clove tannin on the mid palate and a slightly washed-out finish. This improved in the glass and with the food, and became a very stereotypical, and good, Rioja – perhaps not yet at its peak…

I liked all the wines in context with the older Blanco and both Gran Reserva the best Rioja – but the Valenciso is fabulous, and maybe the most enjoyable, while at the same time the least typical.

A lovely evening – pleasurable, illuminating and entertaining.

Dates for the diary: Perkins Wine Series #8 – June 11th: Burgundy with winemaker Mark Haisma;
then October 1st: #9 “Call My Wine Bluff”!

Until next time.

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