Archives for posts with tag: Tutored Tasting

On Monday 9th July Janine showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group wines from DOMAINE GAUBY.

This is a biodynamic Domaine of around 45 hectares of vines near Calce in Roussillon. They are mostly between 150 and 200 meters of altitude in wild, arid, steep and hilly terrain, with some influence from the sea – less than 20km to the East. The geology is composed of limestone, marl and shale – with limestone more in the North and primary schists further south, they are sometimes intimately mixed, arranged in vertical strata, which allows a deep rooting of the vine. The wines are hand picked, low yielding and only use indigenous yeasts.

Janine showed us 3 whites and 3 reds.

Here are my notes:

LES CALCINAIRES BLANC 2015
This IGP Côtes Catalanes is made, with low yields, from Muscat 50% (15-50 yo); Macabeu 20% (30-50 yo); – Chardonnay 30% (20 yo) grown on limestone soil. It has 8 months in vat before bottling.
The nose is slightly spirit with floral and citric hints, quite clean and linear. The palate has a chalky feel underneath some lighter touches – acidity and stone fruit. Fresh and with developing interest

LES CALCINAIRES BLANC 2011
This has a much deeper nose with citrus and an oily perfumed nut element. Both higher acidity and more richness on the palate, more interesting than the 2015 and showing both subtlety and secondary characteristics. Good

LE SOULA BLANC 2011
This is made principally from Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino and Grenache Blanc but there are eight varieties in total, grown at even higher altitude on poor more granite soils.
This shows oak and a slightly oxidised note reminiscent of old Burgundy. Palate is creamy with a spicy melon hint and some sherry-ish notes and goes over a little into white Rioja territory. Long and interesting but rather too many secondary-flavours for great versatility.

LES CALCINAIRES ROUGE 2015
This is a Côtes du Roussillon Villages made from 10-20 yo: Syrah (50%); Mourvèdre (25%);  Grenache (15%) & Carignan (10%) grown on Limestone, clay-chalk and shale soils aged 10 months in barrels (20%) or vat (80%).
This has rather a Syrah nose with blackberry slightly hot fruit. Palate is quite simple with a tannic undertow and spicy woody elements too much to the fore IMO. Rather like a Syrah-heavy Southern Rhone from (say) Cairanne?

LES CALCINAIRES ROUGE 2014
This has a more perfumed nose with oak showing through, but not as prominently as the younger wine. The palate is better integrated with some cinnamon hints. More supple than the 2015 but a little less acidity.

CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON VILLAGES ROUGE VIEILLES VIGNES 2004
This is made from 125 yo Carignan (35%); 55 yo Grenache (25%); 25 yo Mourvèdre (10%) and 20 yo Syrah (30%) grown on sedimentary limestone and shale. Aged in barriques for 24 months.
Nose is mature with slightly sour plum with some sous-bois notes. Palate is well structured with a long acidic and slightly jammy plummy fruit, some start of leather and non-fruit hints. Rather nice but again seemed rather like a good Southern Rhone – Gigondas for example at almost Chateauneuf price.

An interesting tasting – these are well made wines with some poise, but the whites speak of the area more eloquently than the reds, and were – in general, much more interesting. The reds although enjoyable, especially the last, seem more generic Southern France: Rhone; Languedoc… rather than anything specifically Roussillon.
My favourite was the 2011 Calcinaires Blanc.

Thanks so much Janine

À Bientôt

Advertisements

Naturally (!) – the May Sock Club occurred this year on 1st June. So the June Tutored Tasting followed only 72 hours later. So as to ensure that the information stays as the leading page I have united both sets of notes into one post. It should be top-post until the next Monthly Theme post (Mediterranean Islands) goes up on – about – 15th June.

Starting with Sock Club – the group met and Matt & Kathryn’s on Friday first of June for an evening of blind Tasting…

Here are my notes:

“CUVEE JEAN LOUIS” CHAMPAGNE BRUT (Bredon)         Welcome Wine
This has a citrus nose with a quite persistent but light sherbet mousse, palate has a grapefruit tinge. Rather light bodied and frothy with soft peach and lime hints. Very light for Champagne – definitely a party or aperitif style.

ALICANTE “LA TREMENDA” 2016 (Enrique Mendoza)          Sue T  
Nose is all soft fruit – apricot? Palate also shows apricot with a slightly chalky feel. Some Chardonnay signs: weight, apple acidity… but recessed under the soft Merseguera fruit.. It’s 50% each grape!

RIBEIRO “AILALÁ” TREIXADURA 2017         Kathryn   
Peach nose, this time, with a creamy impression… Palate the same with a ginger element and some saline, savoury hints – then peach again, and a citrus backbone… Quite interesting – showing some complexity!

CHENONCEAUX 2016 (Domaine de Vaux St. Georges)           Yvonne
This Touraine Sauvignon has initial quince fruit and then round Sauvignon Blanc profile on the nose. The acidity is rounder, warmer and less green than many SB, but has some green herbal hints, some mineral and a fuller body with more tropical complexity. Good!

POUILLY FUISSÉ “COLLECTION” 2015 (Sophie Cinier)          Kim
Citrus first, some toasty notes, a medium-weight palate shows citrus and soft fruit with a supple creamy texture, but no oak. There is a warm acid line and a lingering melon hint. Made from 60 year old vines with only old oak this has a clean but rich depth – very engaging!


DENARIO PINOT NOIR 2013 (Patagonia)           Matt
Very pale, translucent colour, slight vanilla and red fruit nose and palate has a lifting acidity with a bitter component… Clean and cool fruit with a slight herby element, very food friendly and good!

CORNAS 2004 (Alain Verset)      Laurie
This is the latest in the Cornas Verset story for me. I was fortunate enough to have bought the 1998 vintage of the great, late Noel Verset (see post of 26 Oct 2014 – below, I still have a couple left btw) and also had the good fortune once (in 1997 I think) to taste the 1991 Yvonne Verset (although allegedly made by Noel’s brother Louis). This 2004 completes the set with Alain (Louis and Yvonne’s son). More recent vintages are about £26, though this is now £45.
Without the ethereality of Yvonne’s, or the wonderful elegant completeness of Noel’s this is an amazing Cornas: slightly earthy nose with quite light fruit – blueberry and strawberry. Palate is supple, and for a Cornas rather subtle, with a lovely fruit acid line that builds for ages to a slightly drying crescendo and a spicy lift at the very end. Speaking as a Syrah-sceptic this was balanced, satisfying and not-at-all salty – lovely!

SCHOLA SARMENTI NERIO RESERVE NARDÒ DOC 2012               Yuan
Nose shows fruit, some spice and a woody, forest-floor note. Palate starts with a black “fruit pastille” sweetness and backed by leathery hints and some warm prune, spice returns too… a clear warm climate wine with some succulence. This Puglian wine is from Nardò, between Salice Salentino and the SW Coast of the heel of Italy. Like Salice it is made with 80% Negroamaro & 20% Malvasia Nera.

BURGENLAND ZWEIGELT 2015 (Heinrich)     Mike
Quite light with a herby cherry/berry nose. The palate is similar – slightly drying sour cherry acidity and then the green herb quality appears again. Quite mouth-watering and fresh.

AMARONE 2011 (Cantina di Negrar)       Rob
Plum skins and prune notes on this nose, with a surprisingly sweet fruit attack on the palate. The palate then opens up a bit to show oily texture, a slight prune depth to the fruit, a hint of bitterness and a warm finish.

A great evening of wine and, though it may seem inappropriately self-serving, I was most moved by the Cornas! Thanks to Kathryn and Matt for their wonderful hospitality…

 

Only 3 days later the TT group assembled again for a Vertical Barolo Tasting led by Kim.

The Barolo in question was “TREBAVIO” BAROLO DOCG (TENUTA L’ILLUMINATA). The winery is in the La Morra, in fact on the North West edge of La Morra (and hence the whole Barolo appellation) in the Sant’Anna Menzione (cru). It appears the wine is a cru wine from Nebbiolo in that Menzione. La Morra is the largest of the Barolo Communi, and is said to produce the most supple, seductive, and “Pomerol-like” Barolos. Although comparisons with Burgundy are more common…

La Morra: L’Illuminata is in the Centre of the navy-blue (Sant’Anna) Cru – top left.

L’Illuminata is a moderate-modern wine maker. Not the most iconoclastic but applying some modern methods. For example the maceration and aging: Temperature-controlled steel, then a year in barriques (½ new), then a year in older Slovenian oak botti (10 x times the size of the barriques).

Kim showed the 6 vintages from 2005 – 2010.

Here are my notes:

2010 (Barolo General Vintage Rating 97, ABV 14.5%)
Nose is slightly Burgundian, with vegetal hints, some tar and a perfumed element opening out with time (…or a bigger glass!). High acidity on the palate with round tannins, fruit – plums coming to the fore later. Silky but with restrained power. Very promising and quite typical, but needs a couple of years…

2009 (90, 15%)
This is hotter altogether – the nose is quieter at first, with a slightly cheesy note and spirit hints. The palate is softer, the fruit stronger and the structure majors more on the tannins… slightly sweet impression. Not my favourite….

2008 (94, 15.5%)
Pungent dairy-(?)-farmyard nose with some plum fruit. A slight warm alcohol burn on the palate but there is acidity and grainy tannin all at equal (but not exactly “balanced”) levels. Very atypical – the fruit is sweet and the acidity almost citric. Later curry spice elements (Cumin? Fenugreek??) appear. Least liked by most – I actually preferred its weirdness to the over-heated 09 or the dilute 05….

2007 (95, 15.5%)
More perfumed with some fruit influence and a cherry spirit note. Palate is supple with integrated tannins and a very long fruit acid, the flavour is plum but the acidity reminds me more of raspberry. Good.

2006 (95, 14%)
A fruit and mocha nose making me think of cherry and raspberry again with a slight late herb note. The palate is powerful and gives the impression of more to be revealed, built around a long fruit-acid line the tannins brood beneath without distracting from the velvet mouthfeel… This will last, but right now it’s full, round and complete… a very satisfying wine!

2005 (91, 14%)
Nose is quite quiet with a little pretty fruit and some cheese hints again…The palate seems a little washed-out by comparison to all the previous wines, and the acidity rather green.

An amazing set of wines, which – despite their similarities – showed amazing variety. I think this, at these levels of maturity, has more to do with vintage than age – but who knows? I think one would pick Nebbiolo as the grape in them all, maybe some more quickly than other, and I would enjoy a bottle of any with an appropriate meal.

With most people 2010, 2007 & 2006 were the most favoured –  I concurred. To me it finally came down to a (large glass) taste-off between the ’07 & the ’06… and (then and there)… the 2006 shaded it for me – a wine I would pay the £35 for…

Thanks so much Kim for the Tasting and Ralph for the tip to source the wines…

À Bientôt

May this year is a strange Month: the end-of-Month Sock Party will be on June 1st; and the beginning-of-Month Tutored Tasting actually took place (due to an English Bank Holiday) on April 30th! Rest assured the middle-of-the-month May ICC Tasting will be indeed be in May….

So it was the WING group met to taste Mosel Rieslings guided by Andrew. Andrew had been partly inspired by a travels to Traben-Trabach very near the centre of the Mosel wine area. I too have stayed there and we both heartily recommend the area.

Regular readers will know my liking for Riesling, it’s probably my favourite white grape – especially in its traditional form from Mosel (or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as the overall region was known until 2007). Andrew had noted the increasing propensity for Trocken and Feinherb (=Halbtrocken, sort of) wines in the area. When I first went there in 2001 only perhaps 10% of production was so labelled – last time (2015) I also had noted the change, then nearly half were.

(See my reflection on these issue in my post of September 17th 2015 – below>).


Andrew sought to explore the differences by showing 3 trocken wines  the first of each pair) against 3 more “traditional” wines with some residual sugar…

Here are my notes:

FINESSE TRABENER KRÄUTERHAUS RIESLING SPÄTLESE TROCKEN 2015 (Weingut Trossen)
Rich oily nose with elderflower and peach, and a later honey hint – all classic Riesling notes but seems a bit dull, by that classic standard. The palate has a zingy acidity, quite rounded by soft fruit – but a little short.

RICKELSBERG STEILLAGE TRABENER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING AUSLESE FEINHERB 2015 (Weingut Trossen)
This is an interesting wine, with 26 g/l residual sugar and 12% alcohol…so right in-between a traditional Auslese (50 -75 g/l and 9% ish) and a trocken (1 g/l and 13.5%). So, IMO, if the “Feinherb” styling means anything this is it! This had spicy hints on the nose, I would say Fenugreek, with citrus and peach. Palate has warmth, some sweetness and a mineral note with a citrus peel, slightly bitter tinge. Longer and more satisfying in my opinion than the previous wine. This has the acidity / sweetness balance of a traditional Kabinett but over a much richer fulcrum.

 

VON BLAUEM SCHIEFER RIESLING TROCKEN 2013 (Heymann-Löwenstein)
This is an artisan curiosity from the very North of the Mosel, near its confluence with the mighty Rhine. This pays little service to the old style classifications and is just crafted to make a dry wine with depth added by a proportion of botrytis-affected berries in the press. It shows hints of diesel already and orange peel (from botrytis) and some herb notes… Palate is gingery and rather dry, with the acidity rounded and softened by the complexity and depth of flavour. Similar weight to the previous wine and successful on its own, less-well-trodden path…

GRAACHER HIMMELREICH RIESLING KABINETT 2012 (Joh. Jos. Prum)
This is a traditional style and probably has a bit more sugar than the previous Feinherb. However the nose is dumb and the wine a little recessed too, so this sweetness sticks out rather at the moment – especially when slightly warmer than optimum… Against this the acidity is stunning:  piquant, lip-smacking and very, very long – leading to some mineral, slate tones… Unbalanced right now (some traditional Rieslings do seem have a “dumb” period from 3 or 4 – 7 or 8 years from vintage) but give it 3 or 4 years to open up again ….

 

ABTSBERG RIESLING ALTE REBEN TROCKEN 2012 (Maximin Grünhaus)
This is a basic Qualitätswein fermented to dryness, but ripeness must have been between Kabinett and Spätlese levels. The nose has diesel and orange peel hints with some peach, but quite restrained. The palate seems a bit astringent – a thinner, more bitter acidity. This shortens the experience. Well made, clean… but my least favourite in this company.

ABTSBERG RIESLING SUPERIOR FEINHERB 2012 (Maximin Grünhaus)
This is a Große Lage wine and the Feinherb finished product is very like a dashing old fashioned Spätlese. So in many ways this is a counterpoint of the very first wine. Nearly diesel, vaguely furniture polish hint, some fruit blossom and herb hints. Palate has warmth, good supple acidity with soft fruit, long and lip-smacking it is well balanced and very pleasurable now.

I found this an incredibly interesting tasting. First I love this grape, and even my least favourite wine tonight would beat many other wines from many other areas – including, probably, the majority of New World Rieslings!

However the tasting re-enforced an issue I’ve had with German dry Rieslings since it began its forward march 20 years ago – I call it the trouble with trocken. This is the apparent effect of fermenting Riesling to dryness, particularly in cool areas like Mosel, doesn’t just reduce the sugar, but in some way also reduces the rounder flavours in the wine and the acidity. True the acidity, with less counter-balance, seems more fierce, cooler and more bitter – but those long, lip-smacking, zingy, zesty lines of warmer acidity seem curtailed.

This was aptly illustrated by the last trocken (my least favourite)… which seemed shorter, aggressive and bitter in comparison to the wines with some sweet impression, The very first wine suffered a little, much less, from the same syndrome. The middle trocken is – eccentrically – made with 10% – 20% botrytis-affected grapes in the press… and balanced the acidity with the flavour-twist that is thereby imparted: orange peel, ginger…

In contrast the acidity in the Prum is exceptional, long (the most enduring by far), round, warm, lip-smacking, dashing, dazzling… The wine is currently unbalanced by a closed nose and the higher sugar “sticking-out”; although I would guess that, after 4 more years’ development and served a couple of degrees cooler, it could be the best wine of the six?!

However right now the middle trocken and the two  Feinherb wines were lovely – with the last just shading it, IMO.

Thanks so much Andrew for a captivating tasting!

À Bientôt

On Monday 9th April Yvonne showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group some Hungarian Wines sourced from the Wine Society.

Hungary is a diverse wine country producing only two-thirds of 1% of the worlds wine, mostly from indigenous grapes. They are  little known among UK wine-drinkers beyond Tokaji (famously sweet but recently dry versions too…) and Bull’s Blood – now labelled Egri Bikavér (from its original region Eger) or just Bikavér, a Kékfrankos based blend with other Hungarian or French grapes.

However Hungary has well over 20 wine regions and produced about 70% white wines. Nearly half the wine – mostly dry white plonk – comes from the South East areas of Hajós-Baja, Kunság & Csongrád, near the Sebian border. Many little-known grapes from little known areas are starting to appear in the UK now – we saw some examples together with a dry Tokaji and a couple of Bikavér.


Here are my notes:

SOMLOI JUHFARK (KOLONICS) 2015
Juhfark is a grape now almost exclusive to the small Hungarian appellation of Somló (pronounced shomlo). In North-West Hungary, Somló is a volcanic hill, with unique basalt soils, north of Lake Balaton, though this is grown on more loamy soil. The nose has citrus and oily tropical fruit notes, reminding some of Gewurztraminer. The palate too is oily and rich – dried and balanced by the bitter gingery finish.

DONGO FURMINT (SZENT TAMÁS) 2015
This dry Tokaji has a cleaner citrus nose with a slightly cereal or mealy hint. The palate is clean with a sharp lemon peel, slightly bitter, zing which persists under the fruit and saline touch to a long finish. Complexity evolves with time and the wine opens into a very satisfying package… Very good and by a good couple of points (/20) my favourite, justifying the £27 price tag?!

KADARKA (TIBOR GÁL) 2016
Kadarka is a quite pale Pinot Noir-like grape praised for its gentle qualities and its ability to produce Rosé. It occupies about 1% of Hungarian vineyards. This is a translucent ruby “half-Rosé” wine from Eger. It has the slightly rubbery hint of carbonic maceration and some rhubarb notes. The palate is light, fresh with a slightly drying quality and hints of strawberry and sour cherry that bring to mind (my mind at least) Rioja Rosado. Quite liked this and would be better on a summer afternoon.

KÉKFRANKOS RESERVE (HEUMANN) 2013
Kékfrankos is the same grape as Austria’s Blaufränkisch and Hungary’s most important red, about a third of Hungary’s red-grape vineyards are planted with it. This comes from Villany, in South West Hungary near the Croatian border. This has a pungent, oily nose with a slight eau-de-vie hint and some bright red fruit. The palate is grainy with a slight alcohol burn, some dark fruit eventually subdued by a grainy grappa finish.

 ÁLDÁS EGRI BIKAVER (ST ANDREA) 2015
This is: Kékfrankos 33%, Merlot 28%, Cabernet Franc 18%, Pinot Noir 11%, Syrah 4%, Cabernet Sauvignon 3%, Kadarka 2%, Turán 1%. This has some obvious oak on the nose, berry fruits and peppery tones. The palate has a fruity slightly jammy attack, then a drying, slightly thin, middle and a spirity rather spicy finish. Better than the previous wine but a little incomplete or unbalanced somehow.

HANGÁCS EGRI BIKAVER (ST ANDREA) 2013
This is half Kékfrankos with Merlot and Pinot Noir and just a little Kadarka and Cabernet Franc, and a step up.
This has a very fruity – almost confectionery, jelly-making – first nose, spirit notes and some herbs later. Palate is fruit-driven too but with some evolved flavours (forest-floor, mushroom, chocolate…) later. More elements here, better balanced and evolving, and quite satisfying although the fruit is a little jammy…

A very interesting insight into a little known country. The dry Furmint won hands-down for me, but I quite liked the almost-Rosé… and the last red.

Thanks so much Yvonne.

À Bientôt

On Monday 5th March Sue and Mike led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Bosman Family Vineyards in South Africa.

Bosman are a certified Fairtrade Grower with 3 vineyard sites amid 430 ha of vineyard land. Vines are in two different areas: at Wellington (about 10 miles North of Paarl) and in Hemel-in-Aarde Valley, 70 miles further South at the top end of Walker Bay.

Sue and Mike showed 6 wines, the first two from Hemel and the last 4 from Wellington.

Here are my notes:

CHARDONNAY, PINOT NOIR, PINOT MEUNIER 2015
This is a Champagne blend (66:17:17), originally made into still wine accidentally and then continued. The nose is all citric fruit at first, later a sweeter fruit and a yeasty suggestion. Very sharp attack to the palate, hints of pithy bitterness too, then a warmer, softer though still mouth-puckering fruit. Very bubbly-without-bubbles all round! Needs food –  a short pastry nibble with cheesy or oily fish filling?

SKIN CONTACT PINOT GRIS 2016
This has 5 days skin contact to make a gris Gris: a slightly blush colour wine! Slightly smokey and pithy notes with a hint of rose on the nose. Palate has a pithy note too and a lean profile backed by warm peach fruit. Very good acidity from a grape that sometimes lacks it, giving structure and length. A food wine – I liked this a lot!

OPTENHORST CHENIN BLANC 2015
This is a single-vineyard Wellington Chenin, from 63 year old bush vines; matured in (third-use?) French oak barriques for 6 months. Oak, vanilla, honey and some floral notes stand out on the nose – then some tropical fruits (all very Chardonnay so far) and finally some apple character more indicative of Chenin. Palate has a good citric backbone with balanced core, but it is a big-scaled wine better suited to a big glass. Impressive!

PINOTAGE 2014
Slightly minty nose, a sweet woody underlay and some red fruit, with a hint of earthiness. Palate has a surprisingly supple fresh red fruit note at first and then a slightly sharp middle and a bitter twist to the grainy finish. A little unintegrated as yet, but quite fresh for a Pinotage.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008
Black fruit, cedar and some evolved – forest-floor, vegetal, herb – notes. Palate is very succulent: deep dark fruit with a fresh, slightly spiced acidity. The wine is a little hollow in the middle and then has a long, warm and pliant finish. Almost a text-book varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, with all its charm and shortcomings – but not too big and well done!

EFERNIS 2014
Efernis is a best-grapes-that-year blend, made only when the fruit warrants it and therefore different in composition each year made. In 2014 it is 30% Pinotage and 14% each of Cabernet, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre – all from Wellington. The nose is aromatic with a herby element and woody notes, a little in the direction of the Pinotage. Palate is surprisingly fresh with soft red fruit and a spicy finish – very pliant but a little bit “International”.

A very interesting tasting typified – by South African standards – by restraint, succulence, and some elegance. Only the Pinotage really showed any of the rubbery/earthy/smoky elements that often intrude on SA wines – and even that, by Pinotage standards, was restrained….

Thanks Sue and Mike for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

À Bientôt

*  [My favourite indicator is the graph of % real income growth for the poorest, middle and richest deciles. Until 1982 the 3 lines had been very close, with generally steady growth, for 40 years (after favouring the poorest for the preceding 40 years). Then they began to diverge, climbing quickly for the richest, still growing but more slowly for the middle – and actually becoming negative for the poorest. This is true with minor variations right across all Western Capitalist Economies, but so far it’s only the UK that thinks (?) the correct response to this real social problem is to vote for a project led by free market extremists whose only criticism of globalisation is there’s not enough of it!]

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

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

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

Here are my notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Ralph for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

%d bloggers like this: