Archives for posts with tag: Tutored Tasting

On Monday 9th October Anna and Paul led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in tasting Austrian wines from two producers: Wiengut Holzmann from the Weinviertel; and Weingut Ilkerl from Kremstal. These are two famous areas, both North of the Danube in Eastern Austria – the former in the North East Corner, and the latter further West – just before the Wachau if going up-river. The wines were (sort of) in pairs.

Here are my notes:


GRÜNER VELTLINER PRIVAT 2011 (Holzmann)
The Privat is only made in better years. The nose shows some fruit, perhaps apricot, underneath the citric notes, some warm spice too. The nose has a fuller version of the grapefruit and pepper archetype. The palate is similar – showing richness and fruit a little beyond the acidity, but mineral, saline elements on the finish…

GRÜNER VELTLINER KREMSLEITHEN RESERVE DAC 2011 (Ilkerl)
This nose is quieter with warmer, oily hints and white orchard fruit. The palate has some warmer honeyed notes, lower acidity and a bigger finish. The mineral element is more loose-limbed and the expected pepper element mounts later.

ROTER RIESLING 2012 (Holzmann)
Roter Riesling is a colour mutation of Riesling – rather than another grape. The mutation is caused by the insertion of retrotransposons (small DNA pieces which can move in the genome). According to Jancis, Holzmann is a leading producer of the grape. The wine has a rather herby, slightly resinous hint above more usual sharp Riesling notes, and a peachy fruit hint. The palate has some acidic lift, pomegranate suggestions (Andrew) but lacks the “zing” of a good Riesling, a little dull overall by the highest Riesling standards…

RIESLING KREMSLEITHEN RESERVE DAC 2011 (Ilkerl)
This has a much more normal Riesling profile: an oily, pre-diesel, note then some citric hints and soft fruit. The palate starts with acidity, progresses through a richer middle-palate to a mounting mineral and lip smacking finish…

GRAUBURGUNDER LILIENFELDBERG 2011 (Ilkerl)
Pretty typical nose, smoky hints – soft fruit and a lighter floral perfume. The palate has a balance between elements of residual sugar and acidity that resolves with a soft impression (surely not really Trocken) that would work well with spicy food.

GELBER MUSKATELLER KREMSLEITHEN 2012 (Ilkerl)
Gelber Muskateller is the German name for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, I think the use of Gelber is used to distinguish it from other variants of Muscat. A lovely grapey nose with floral elements and soft fruit. The palate is quite soft and with sweet fruit but with a warm pithy bitterness acting as balance. This is lighter than the other wines (12% abv) and has a satisfying balance, again suggesting spicy food.

An interesting tasting in which all the wines showed more richness than expected and (the Muskateller excepted) 13½% or 14% abv. It is quite usual to find Grüner Veltliner gaining richness with age, though perhaps not as quickly as the second wine here. Apart from that wine and the Roter Riesling (I have no idea what typicity is here) the wines did show varietal character, and the last 3 wines stand comparison with Alsace examples – albeit from growers towards the richer end of winemaking there. I preferred the Riesling and Grauburgunder marginally, but all were good.

Thank you so much to Paul and Anna.

Finally a note that the previous week, a contingent of 7 WING people attended the annual Call-My-Wine-Bluff dinner at Perkins, organised by Peter Bamford. Our group has won the last couple of years and has had several top 3 finishes but we all failed to do that this year – tripped up by a Sparkler from a variety of grapes showing apple notes that didn’t denote Chenin, or a Tokaji that seemed much too light to be true – but was actually just that! … Nevertheless we had fun and a lovely meal – we’ll be back!

À Bientôt

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On Monday 10th July WING met to taste Beaujolais Cru. Led by Yvonne.

Yvonne presented a tasting giving a rare opportunity to sample 6 different Beaujolais Cru: all from the same vintage – all produced in roughly the same way, and to the same price point, by the same grower.

The vintage in question is 2015, a warm year (though for good growers without the stress of the 2003s) giving – in careful hands – ripe, full yet balanced wines. The grower is Frédéric Burrier, making wines at the family domaine: Château de Beauregard and for the négociant business Domaine Joseph Burrier. The first and last wines are labelled “Château de Beauregard” the others are Domaine Joseph Burrier wines.

All the wines are from old vines in single sites within the Cru they represent – mostly 40-60 years old. They are treated the same way: with careful extraction to avoid too much tannin, and with fermentation finished in barrel. They have 10-14 months in 228 litre oak barrels but (I think) not new… and showing no taste of it….

So the differences in these wines will surely be the terroir… we’ll see…


Here are my notes:

Château de Beauregard Fleurie “Poncié”
From a site with shallow granite soil. Has the slightly floral nose of the cru with plum and raspberry fruit, and only a hint of gummy notes. Palate has soft plum fruit a sharper plum skin twist – warm (it’s 14% abv) and a mineral drying finish… opens with time

Chiroubles “Saint Roch”
This is grown at over 500m altitude in entirely granite soils…It is slightly darker than the Fleurie, the same alcohol – but with a sweeter, lighter fruit nose – strawberry? – no gumminess and a floral (violet?) hint. Palate is lighter, rounder and sweeter with a long warm finish…

Saint-Amour “Côte de Besset”
This is the most northerly cru, where sedimentary soils mix with granite scree, and has only 13.5%abv. A quiet nose at first – with darker fruit that opens with time and becomes rather gummy…The palate is succulent  with a citric acidity and dark fruit combining to hint towards blackcurrant, and some herby notes too… The most stereotypical Bojo maybe?

Juliénas “Beauvernay”
This terroir has poor granite soil over Burgundian clay/limestone – the highest alcohol (14.5%). Very dark wine with a plum, almost plum-tomato Grenache, inflection. Palate is almost Italian – plum, prune, cherry with an almost “vinaigrette” acidity – very big, round and more Southern Rhone than Northern Beaujolais!

Morgon “Grand Cras”
This is from soil with much more clay – helping moisture retention and lessening stress – mixed with decomposed schist and granite. The first nose had an elegant hint of apricot, swiftly passing to redcurrant and then to sour cherry with a banana hint too… The palate is very succulent with a strong fruit acid line – red fruit in general with sour and sweet cherry hints, a twist of drying mineral and tannin. Very classy and definitely in the Burgundian direction. A lovely example of the cru with years left to go….

Château de Beauregard Moulin-à-Vent “Clos des Pérelles”
This is from dark clay soils with high manganese levels, the vineyards sustained by cuttings and not new planting… Very dark and 14.5%. The nose is less fruit, more herbs and mushrooms, higher perfumed notes and forest fruit emerge later. Palate has structure with a saline hint, well balanced power and length, suggesting sweet fruit with a plum and cherry character. Will last longest, in my opinion, and improve the most.

A lovely tasting showing how high above the reputed quality Beaujolais can (sometimes) reach. I liked all the wines in different ways but found the Morgon the star of the night. Always my favourite cru, in its own complex and succulent way it showed a lot of typicality. The wines did show the relative differences of terroir well, I thought, although at a level of richness and quality rather higher than typical from Beaujolais in general. I felt the most obviously Bojo was the Saint-Amour. All in all – lovely wines that might all be approached again in 2 or 3 (or 6?) years time…

Thank you so much Yvonne…

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Before I take my leave this time I have a (half-) report on the Sock Club gathering hosted by Kathryn and Matt (while I was in France) 10 days earlier… “A lovely relaxed sociable night with lovely food and company”, according to reports.

Below is a photo and list of the wines. Now… I could look all the wines up and post the winery’s info –  but you can do that yourself if you are interested. If you’ve tasted the wine or are interested and want to discuss them you can do that via the comments section. If you do then I, and/or the person who brought the wine, will respond…

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Here’s the list (with a few comments from Ann and I):

THE RHONA, BRUT NV, GRAHAM BECK, SOUTH AFRICA     (Welcome)

BOSMAN FAMILY VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY PINOT NOIR PINOT MEUNIER 2015    (Sue)
A still wine produced in 2010s as a result of the grapes being bit riper than anticipated to make their usual sparkling. The alcohol content was a bit too high. It went down well so produced again deliberately in 2015.

HOWARD PARK, MOUNT MOUNT BARKER RIESLING, W AUSTRALIA 2015   (Kathryn)

COLLEFRISIO FALANGHINA AGT TERRE DI CHIETI- ABRUZZO 2015   (Ann).

JORDI MIRÓ, GARNACHA BLANCA, TERRA ALTA 2015     (Yvonne)

LA CÔTE DORAL (Switzerland) 2012    (Kim)

A wine I do know a little about: here’s a note on this wine from January 2014:
Doral is a Chasselas x Chardonnay, bred to be more aromatic than Chasselas and with more citrus and apricot than Chardonnay. There are only 27ha in Switzerland – 75% of it in Vaud.
This wine comes from various vine plots between Morges and Nyon. The wine is a bit darker than straight Chasselas, but the nose is quieter with hints of pear and citrus. The same things and sharp apricots on the palate, with hints of green herbs. Much more subtle, integrated and refreshing than Chasselas, good length with the flavours and acidity persisting – quite a satisfying wine…
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ZORZAL EGGO FILOSO  PINOT NOIR (Argentina) 2015    (John)

PALATAIA PINOT NOIR (Pfalz) 2015   (Matt)

SCOTTO FAMILY VINEYARDS LODI ZINFANDEL 2013    (Mike)

RIVE BARBERA D’ASTI IL CASCIONE 2012   (Rob)

 CHATEAU LA BIRONDIE MONBAZILLAC 2013   (Matt)

Until next time…

On Monday 5th June the WING met for a Tutored Tasting of wines from Dão, led by Ralph.

Dão is quite a small wine area situated pretty well bang in the centre of the Northern half of Portugal – between Douro and Bairrada. It produces 4% or 5% of all Portuguese wine. It is encircled by mountains giving it a sheltered temperate climate, where grapes are mainly grown on sandy soil covering a granite base. Most famously it is known for red wines (80% of the production is red) from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro grapes, and whites from Encruzado. Mainly seen in the UK as cheap, supermarket, generic blends (Dão DOC blends have to have at least 20% Touriga Nacional) the area is capable of very good wine if you can track it down…

For this tasting Ralph chose a highly regarded, modern producer called Quinta de Lemos. This winery is located in the Silgueiros sub-region (1 of 7 in Dão), and is reputed to have a “French feel”….

If you want maps and graphs, and thoughts, about Portuguese wine in general, please refer to the February 15th 2017 post below>>>

All the wines at this tasting were from Quinta de Lemos, and sourced from drinkportuguesewine.co.uk, where they retail around £25 (the Roriz is £50!). At the moment they are all on sale at around £16 ( and the Roriz for £35!), with mixed cases available….

I myself was in France – actually driving to the Loire Valley – on the day of the tasting, so all the information and notes below are courtesy of Ralph and Kim,  thanks to them:


DONA PAULETTE   ENCRUZADO 2012    (13%)  -countries top white grape.
This grape, the country’s top white, has high reputation as ‘burgundy beater’ similarities to chardonnay as shows off wine-making technique. We were looking for complexity and minerality; well integrated acidity; good structure and medium body; and aromas and flavours of resinous plants, eucalyptus and mint with notes of hazelnut and tamarillo. Kim felt his example was pale golden with citrus notes on nose. Limes and minerality + resinous notes seeming more like a Semillon to me (Kim), a bit wet wool. Good length and complexity.  High acid – good food wine. Kim’s favourite on the night.

ALFROCHEIRO 2009   (14.5%)
[This wine achieved 89 Parker (P) points and  92 @ Wine Enthusiast (WE)]. Looking for aromas and flavours of blackcurrant and concentrated black fruits. The ripe and integrated tannins without being green or aggressive. Kim found a brown brick rim., looking older than other reds. Ripe fruit flavours cherries plums and tinned toms (Kim). Sweet fruit and nice acidity. Spicy and warming – high alcohol.  Some dark chocolate.  Good but not elegant or complex.

JAEN 2009   (14.5%)
[89 P, 93 WE] Jaen is the same grape as Mencia so we were thinking of structure with red fruits, vegetal and resinous notes. Fresh medium body. Young with long, lingering finale. Kim got a wine that was dense dark red. Very concentrated. Fusty, musty nose (not a fault).  Black berries and dried leaf on nose with some tobacco? Dried fruit and raisin.  Big and soft and not enough grip for my liking. Seems simpler later.

TINTA RORIZ 2009   (14.5%)
[90 P, 93 WE] Tinta Roriz is the Northern Portuguese name for Tempranillo – so expecting a concentrated color with ripe fruit and spices present in the aroma. Complex and spicy body with a good structure and great longevity. In vino veritas: A deep purple hue (not “Smoke on the Water”!)  Bit herby on the nose then smokey bacon. Softer plummy palate. Very smooth modern style. Lower in acid than the previous 2 reds.  I found it bit blousy but quite a few liked it best so far.

TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009   (14.5%)
[92 P, 90 WE] Originally from Dão, this grape is long associated with Duoro for vintage port and latterly big table wines. This is a multiple medal-winning wine, and prefigures a deep ruby colour. Aromas and flavours of ripe blackcurrant and fresh crushed wild berries with notes of Bergamot and Pine. Kim found very inky red. Pungent but less fruit driven. Big and concentrated Savoury and spicey, dates and chocolate later.  High tannins very powerful wine.  The “Bordeaux grape” of Portugal. Favourite red of the night for most.

DONA SANTANA 2009   (14.5%)
This is an indigenous Dão blend of 60% Tourga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Jaen, 10% Alfrocheiro. [90 P, 91 WE]. Another wine with many medals, we were looking for lots of fruit (strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, rhubarb are mentioned in citations) floral notes, full body and tannins
Kim found a purple/ black hue. The blend disguises the individual grape characteristics: slightly stalky nose; big black fruit. Very rich, dry at end of palate. Thought bit bland by comparison with others….

So, a very enjoyable evening according to several of my informants. Thanks so much Ralph for conducting it and the info above – and to Kim, and other contributors, for compiling the notes.

A theme piece on Collioure in about 4 days… until then….

On Monday 3rd April WING met to taste 2013 White Wines from Northern Rhone. Led by Laurie

Northern Rhone Whites is quite an esoteric topic. Only about ½% of all Rhone wine would come in this category. But 2013 is a promising vintage for the whites. The year suffered from a cold spring and early summer starting the season rather late, and even then was quite cool for a long time. Coulure and millerandage reduced yields by about 25% and hail striking some vines caused problems too. The ripening of the grapes was finally produced by a long warm “Indian Summer” through September into October, occurring at a time when the nights are cooler – thereby preserving acidity. Growers were dicing with extracting the last warmth of this period and oncoming rain in mid-October. Those that picked late but before the rain will have good fruit and clean acidity. This avoids the danger for many Rhone whites – North and South – a tendency to become flabby.

We tasted in 3 flights: Viognier/Condrieu; Marsanne/Rousanne blends and pure Marsanne. The wines are in the £19-£37 range, the average around £25! They were all sourced en primeur from The Wine Society – where you may soon find the 2015 versions…

Here are my notes:


CONTOUR DEPONCINS VIOGNIER, DOMAINE VILLARD 2013
Nose is quite quiet at first with peach developing later. The palate has a sharp note that recedes with time and reveals some spice and a slightly bitter note which offsets the growth of fruit. A little clumsy as the initial impression is of (over-aged?) dullness, against a growing peach fruit line indicating under-ageing if anything, a combination (diminishing dullness) that makes me wonder about lack of air (reduction!?)…. A bit off-centre!

CONDRIEU, DOMAINE PICHON 2013
A much more classic Viognier nose, with soft fruit – peach more than apricot – tinged by a green inflection – indeed maybe greengage. The palate has a clean refreshing acid line that lasts through warm fruit to  a creamy finish. Pretty typical, pretty good!

CROZES-HERMITAGE MULE BLANCHE, PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ 2013
This is 50:50 Marsanne/Rousanne, The nose starts slowly but opens to show floral hints, herbs and wood. Palate has a very clean acidity with a green-tinged fruit line. Quite long, refreshing and opening at the finish. A little “international”, but good.

SAINT-PÉRAY LES BIALÈRES, VINS DE VIENNE 2013
This is a darker wine: Marsanne with 20% Rousanne, and a heavier nose: nut oil and slightly apple hints. Oily nuttiness follows on the palate too with a slightly bitter olive tone. This seemed rather the opposite of the previous wine – rather off-fruit development and initially seemed inferior. With time, however, it seemed to gain interest and appeal…

SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC LES ROYES, DOMAINE COURBIS 2013
This is aged for 16 months in mostly new oak and it shows. Furniture polish hints at first, oaky vanilla, herbs and a bit old-fashioned White Rioja stylistically. Palate foregrounds citrus, vanilla and herbs which take us to … a reappearance of the furniture polish…

HERMITAGE BLANC LES MIAUX, FERRATON 2013
Initially quiet nose that opens to show hints of honey and slightly over-ripe soft fruit. Palate is smooth, with understated but clear acidity underpinning a warming floral honey-line, just a hint of soft fruit appearing later. The acid frame becomes even a bit lime and lasts for a long time. Probably the only wine to give an impression of needing more time – maybe a couple of years. Classy and promising.

I thought the wines showed well, and at least gestured at the balancing, required in these types of wine, between depth and freshness. The balance was best brought off – in my view – by the Condrieu (to drink now) and the Hermitage (very satisfying, and with some promise)….

Until next time…

On Monday 6th March the WING met to taste Pinot Noir from Australia and New Zealand. Led by Anna and Paul we tried two wines from Otago NZ, two from Mornington Peninsula, a Tasmanian and one from the Adelaide Hills. In practice these were three flights at different price points: £18-£20; £26-£29 and £35-£40. All the wines were sourced from Great Western Wines.

The evening proved pleasurable, illuminating and a little bit surprising. Here are my notes:

YEALANDS ESTATE WINEMAKER’S RESERVE GIBBSTONE VALLEY 2014 (Otago)
Very purple, mainly strong cherry fruit nose with hard-ish hints of spice and herb. Palate is rather sweet with cherry and plummy fruit, some oak and a salty, slightly bitter, minerality and a warm finish. Dense and enjoyable, but with jammy fruit and mineral acid not fully integrated and a bit simple.

KOOYONG MASSALE 2013 (Mornington)
Nose has a pungent start, similar components to the previous wine, but more restrained, integrated and interesting. Raspberry fruit with an acid line and vegetal hints, drier and better integrated with an elegant finish. Good and good value.

Paul surveys the remains of an intriguing tasting!

CARRICK BANNOCKBURN ESTATE 2013 (Otago)
Farmyard pungency and loganberry fruit nose. Palate is more complicated with a dry structure, grainy tannins and a savoury mineral acid frame, with, slightly simple but contained loganberry fruit. Quite enjoyable and more what I might expect from NZ.

HENSCHKE GILES 2012 (Adelaide Hills)
This has a classic Pinot Noir pale colour and strawberry nose, ethereal floral notes too. Palate is velvety, with spicy warmth throughout and an integrated fruit/acid line and a rounded finish. Very satisfying and enjoyable, I think – although it’s hard to decide – my favourite!

Finally the most expensive flight:

STARGAZER 2014 (Huon Valley, Tasmania)
Initial farmyard, almost acrid, pungency and a then slight minty (though not as sharp as actual mint) inflection, as well as spice and heavier floral hints.  Palate has drier red fruit with balancing acidity, some grainy tannin and hints of spice. Lots going on but perhaps needs a year or two to integrate.

KOOYONG HAVEN 2012 (Mornington)
Initial pungency again and then quite a quiet nose with a crème brûlée hint and dark raspberry. Palate has a saline lead-in and then a big, grainy, herb and spice accented middle, reminiscent of bitter chocolate infused with black raspberry liqueur. Impressive, pleasurable and full but at this (£40) price I think I could track down a Burgundy with more complexity and finesse..

An amazingly interesting tasting which confounded my expectation that the NZ wines would show somehow “cooler” than the Australians. In fact the opposite was the case and even the final, bigger wines showed balance and tension. In fact the “coolest” wine – least alcohol and lightest on its feet – was the Henschke. All the wines were enjoyable and showed quite some variety, a lovely evening…

Thanks so much Paul and Anna

Finally, I note with a surprise that this is the 200th post on this blog. A realization that sneaked up on me only when I made the 199th post a week ago… So I haven’t had much time to concoct a cunning and intricate puzzle for readers as I did when reaching the 100 milestone (it seems) not so long ago.

Apologies for that, however here is a vineyard photograph. If any member can tell me exactly what  Denominación/ Denominação/ Lage/ Denominazione/ Appellation those vines come under the can win a bottle of the wine in question…

Where is this?

Only one guess per person via the comments section to the Members’ page, before 28th March!

Until next time…

On Monday 6th February Kathryn, and her beautiful assistant Matt, showed the WING group 6 wines from Baden. I think this is the first time we’ve ever focused on a German area other than the Riesling strongholds of the Rheinland or Mosel, and that grape didn’t feature in the wines we tasted from this rather more Southern area – lying at similar latitudes to Alsace.

Most of Baden runs along the East side of the Rhine for about 250 miles (400 km): from near Heidelberg in the North – past Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden and Freiberg – to the Swiss border in the South. There is one district (Bereiche) miles to the East on the banks of Bodensee (Lake Constance), and another many  miles to the North-East bordering Franken. The 7 other districts run along that sheltered North-South rift – 5 of them South of Baden-Baden and mirroring the Alsace vineyards on the West side of the Rhein.

Here’s a map of the Baden Bereichen, marked in Purple… Kaiserstühl is probably the best known, and produces the richest wines…
baden
The Baden Wine region is the largest by total area and the third largest by area-under-vine in Germany. It accounts for about 16% of German wine. The Burgunder (Weiß-, Grau and Spät-) [= Pinot (Blanc, Gris & Noir)] are the main grapes here – accounting for about 55% of production. The area is warm, by German standards, and certainly the most promising for red wines…

Kathryn showed a Blanc, two Gris and 3 Noir – representing the region pretty well proportionately.

Again, like last November, I could only arrive at roughly half-time in this tasting so my time with the wines was compressed, accordingly my notes are composited with Kim’s: here they are:

PINOT BLANC 2013 (SALWEY)
This has an over-ripe fruit pungency, passing into melon and then a confectionery hint. The palate has Pinot Blanc softness with a warm citrus acidity and a saline minerality, giving interest. Drier than many Alsace examples but it is Pinot Blanc…

PINOT GRIS KAISERSTÜHL 2009 (SALWEY)
An aged golden colour, showing a hint of sweetness on the nose with typical PG smokey hints. There is some acidity but the wine shows a heavy nutty and oily character with peachy fruit rather overcome. Perhaps slightly dulled with age it shows many secondary flavours.

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GRAUBURGUNDER BURKHEIMER FEUERBERG 2015 (BERCHER)
Very Alsace nose, with smoke, peach, floral… hints. The palate has a vibrant acidity counterbalancing a little sweetness in the wine very well. Fresh, long and satisfying a very good wine!

MARKGRÄFLERLAND SPÄTBURGUNDER 2014 (MARTIN WASSMER)
Bouquet of herbs, some oak, and red fruit – in the cherry spectrum. Palate has juicy fruit, echoes of herb and oak, but a bit “linear” and simple.

KAISERSTÜHL PINOT NOIR 2012 (KARL H. JOHNER)
Darker colour, spicy first on the nose, then some herb and red berries… Palate has mineral and plum-skin tannins, overlaying rather than supporting the red fruit. Interesting though, the oak is unobtrusive and opens a little with time to show redcurrant hints. Very pleasurable!

OBERROTWEILER KÄSLEBERG PINOT NOIR 2014 (SALWEY)
This has some new wood vanilla on the nose with herbs strawberry fruit. The palate has watery fruit and oaky tannins, separate rather than integrated: the acid line giving way to, rather than underpinning, a sweet finish.

The three  Salway wines are from Tanners, and the other three (which on the whole, I preferred) are from the Wine Society…

Thanks so much Kathryn and Matt for such  an interesting exposition of a little known region.

Until next time…

On Monday 9th January the WING group welcomed 2017 with two, 3-year vertical tastings. Ralph stepped in at short notice to show us 3 vintages each of both a Pessac-Léognan Blanc and (rather superior, single plot) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Many thanks to Ralph – both for stepping in, and for what proved to be a very interesting tasting.

First the Pessac-Léognan. Ralph chose Château Lamothe-Bouscaut Blanc, a Château from the Cadaujac on the East, Garonne, side of the Appellation which is just South of the city of Bordeaux. The property has 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon as its base-line blend, although vintage variations are likely – and indeed apparent. The wine is barrel fermented and aged for 8 months, around 30% of the oak is new. I am guessing, but I imagine that the new oak is confined to the Semillon…

The years we tasted were 2013, 2011 and 2010 and, at the age we are tasting (3, 5 and 6 years) the relative age of the wines is a significant factor, although the difference in the vintages may well be more important.

Here are my notes:

2013
This year in Bordeaux is noted for difficult conditions: a very cold start, low fruit set, generally cool and damp and a very wet storm in July… August helped to dry the crop but variable weather didn’t help the harvest. Rot and fear of rot challenged the growers and – one way or another – volumes were down about 25%… a challenge indeed.
This wine shows sharp, greenish aromas, that become more nettley with time, there is an oily floral hint too – respectively indicating Sauvignon and Semillon. The palate has a woody early note and a ripe citrus acidity tending to grapefruit and pith. Fresh and lively but not a 70% Semillon character…

2011
This vintage was a bit “upside down”. The Spring was warm and the summer cool: April was the 2nd hottest for over 100 years; July the coldest for 30! Generally conditions were dry and the early start to the season resulted in harvest up to 2 weeks earlier than usual.
This wine is much heavier than the previous example – with more wood and oily hints on the nose. Palate is drying – even though the acidity is lighter. Warmth, showing higher alcohol, and even tannic hints are prominent, and a toasted nut character. This is a very different wine, obviously more Semillon and more wood… and a bit low in fruit, but would stand up to – say – a smoked fish dish….

2010
2010 was a very good, some say “classic” vintage. Dry, sunny but not too hot (was 2009 too hot in the end?).
This wine shows evolved notes of honey and perfume with hints of vanilla and stone fruit. The palate has hints of wood, acidity and a soft fruit (over-ripe apricot?). There is some of the non-fruit character of the 2011 but better resolved and integrated, more complex, longer and very classy…

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Next – onto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which in my mind is long associated with rather soupy, cheap offerings at Supermarkets or low on Italian Restaurant wine lists – usually to be avoided…

Ralph had chosen an Estate pretty well bang in the centre of Abruzzo, near Popoli which around 50kms SW of Pescara. Valle Reale produce several wines from their mainly organic Estate, which is south-east facing at an altitude of 350m, with poor pebbly soils noted for cool nights. 5 different vineyards produce 5 different crus in good years, and the oldest, highest and coolest is the example we tried: San Calisto. The grower says “The ripening of the grapes is very slow and the harvest is unlikely to take place before the beginning of November. The winds are cold and particularly strong in this corner of the uplands. The temperature difference from day to night, which occurs during all four seasons, gives rise to high levels of acidity. This means that the wine is best consumed after many years of aging in the bottle.”

Here’s what I say:

2011
A sunny summer after early wetness, leading to fewer grape bunches, likened locally to 1997.
Blackberry fruit, hints of baking spice, a perfumed lift on the nose. Palate has a bay-leaf herby dryness, plum fruit, warming spice and a grainy chocolate finish, with a long line of acidity. Overall a bit like a Right Bank Claret dosed with Syrah flavours. Very unlike my pre-conception of Montepulciano (thank goodness?) and rather good.

2009
Reduced by hail in June the year had high temperatures (though not as high as 2003) with 40°C+ through August.
Sharper, red-fruit nose with cherries coming to mind, then a set of bigger, more Italianate flavours, prune and liquorice. Palate is softer than the ’11, with balancing elements provided by grainy tannin rather than acidity. The flavours echo the palate – focusing to a liquorice finish…

2007
Again, lastly a very good vintage – with excellent growing conditions.
This is darker – a brooding dark fruit and leathery nose with a high floral hint floating over it… Palate has a sweet black cherry hint with a prune and tar acid frame. Structured and long with complexity – the lighter notes drifting over the brooding body of the wine. Very good now and still with time to go… An even bigger surprise than the first wine – Impressive.

A very interesting tasting, showing a clear message for each wine: How variable vintages can be in Bordeaux, and how interesting and, if you avoid disasters, rewarding that is; and how good sites and careful winemaking can produce a very worthwhile wine in areas associated, at the other quality end, with – well – plonk!

Thanks so much Ralph

Until next time…

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