Archives for posts with tag: Tutored Tasting

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, 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:

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!

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!

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.

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…

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…

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:

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!

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…
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:

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…

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.

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!

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.

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!

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:

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…

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 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…


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:

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.

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…

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…

On Monday 5th December the WING group met to taste English Sparkling Wine, a very seasonal topic led by Ralph.

There is a long history of wine-making, and particularly sparkling wine in England. However it is only since the 1950s that there have been significant commercial plantings, and it is only very recently that production has warranted attention by wine-lovers. This has been more pronounced in the case of sparkling wine and the prominence of a few well-known award winning domains (Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Camel Valley…) and a host of small niche ones…

Here are my notes:

This wine is from Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc (a part non-Vinifera hybrid often planted in England).
A very pale redcurrant pink. A sweet fruit cordial nose with a herby hint (fennel?). The palate has a sharp green, rather malic, acidity which crosses over the mousse creating a frothy feel… leading to an early slightly bitter finish.

A “Champagne” blend. This is paler and slightly more orange colour. Early pungency – vegetal leading to a dark red fruit note. The palate is not bone dry, a firm acidity but more flexibly integrated with the fruit and mousse giving a lighter feel… but short…

Meunier dominated Champagne blend. Quieter nose, slightly honeyed, bready, sherbet opening to hints of orchard fruit. Palate has a good warm mousse, good open integration but a sweet pear finishing spike. Quite good though…

GIFFORDS HALL 2013 (Suffolk)
Champagne grapes again… Nose is rather confectionery, sherbet and a floral hint. Palate is surprisingly sweet with a separate bitter – quinine? – element.

Mostly Chardonnay. Nose is over-ripe, even shading to rotting-, apples… later some chardonnay notes. The palate is dominated by sharp, even aggressive, acidity. This seems to destabilize the mousse and only later leads to elements of fruit: Greengage (with the emphasis on the green?). Length and structure but so tart that one suspects some malic acidity…

All Chardonnay… This too has firm sharp nose but creamy elements too, and warm bready notes. The palate is in balance, with the creamy mousse and citric acidity entwined, fruit is citric and orchard… Quite long, balanced and satisfying – the best!

The main factor in this tasting for me is the offset between the acidity and the mousse in these wines. To me the wines’ acidity seem to conflict with appreciation of creamy mousse, strong acidity almost knocking out the mousse and unbalancing the wine. Only wines 3 and 6 seemed to overcome this, and indeed only wine 6 led me to think of the acidity as citric rather than thinking of apples…

I imagine the fact that this conflict arises in English wines must – in some way – reflect a cooler climate, or how that inflects the issue of the handling of malolactic fermentation…Whatever – it’s only a tasting like this that can gives rise to these thoughts…

Thanks so much Ralph

Until next time…

On Monday 10th October the WING group met to taste 2005 Red Burgundy, led by Kim and Laurie.

2005 Red Burgundy has been feted since the outset, and as recently as last year was still scoring highest of all the 21st Century vintages (followed most closely by ’09, ’02 and – very unevenly – ’10). Initially thought to show a combination of ripeness and structure, the trouble-free vintage was likened to 2002 “but with more minerality”. Early estimates of maturity showed a drinking window, for the level of wines we are to taste (£20-£42), commonly centred on 2009-2013, but when that period arrived the wines still seemed firm and slightly closed. Now the wines are 11 years old and may have reached the start of their predicted peak. Is that so, or are do the wines still have time to go? More importantly do the wines give pleasure?

Here are my notes:

VOLNAY (Buffet)
Still very bright in colour, with a light nose of farmyard and plummy fruit. Palate is also light with a dashing redcurrant / raspberry acidity, but a rather fleshy plum note underneath the lifting acidity. I rather liked this, showing Volnay lightness of touch with some underlying richness, still not at peak I don’t think – but not far off…

This too was bright, but darker with a tinge of mature brown-ness to the rim.This was more pungent with dark pickled-onion and compost underneath a more ethereal floral hint. Palate is more savoury with a definite plum set of flavours and a tannic backbone. Still not quite ready(?) but good.

SAVIGNY-LÈS-BEAUNE (Rollin)                                               
This was faulty with a cork taint that was almost imperceptible on the first nose, but clear on the end-palate and taking over the nose with time. A pity, I had checked another bottle from the same batch only 10 days earlier – which, from memory, was quite similar to the previous wine but with slightly heavier tannins and spicy character and definitely not fully mature – though excellent with roast dinner!

SANTENAY 1er CRU CLOS ROUSSEAU (Potel)                   
This showed a meaty nose with floral hints too, though to my nose a little more rustic, but also more evolved scents… The structure is quite brawny with dark black fruit on the palate to give a quite tannic finish. Quite well balanced, pleasurable and nearly ready, but – to me – a little rustic.

Nose of black fruit with an initial dark brooding earthy tone. Dense palate with strong, but supple, tannins – an over-ripe plum hint among black fruits and a line of acidity. Balanced, long and very good (it is nearly twice the price of the average of the first four wines). I think this is young but the balance and depth makes it enjoyable now – still a couple of years from peak I reckon, but – for very different reasons – my favourite alongside the Volnay.

NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES (Jean Chauvenet)                         
This is dense, with farmyard blackberry and liquorice notes and a hard, inky note… The palate is all that too – firm with high acidity and recessed fruit leading to a dark chewy tannic finish. There is power and density to the wine which needs … 5 (?) years.

So quite an interesting and complex set of issues with these wines. First the maturity – the wines are showing signs of opening, none were too old but are not at their peak yet either,  IMO. Also notable is how uneven and diverse are styles and winemaking even allowing for already complicated village divergences.  Burgundy shows the subjectivity of wine to the highest degree….  and (apart from the corked example) all the wines had supporters. Even though the status of the vintage showed in the high class of the wines, the old adage of Burgundy is writ large – “unless you know what you’re getting you might get anything”!

Until next time…

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