Archives for posts with tag: Vertical Tasting

On Monday February 4th the WING Tutored Tasting Group met for a Madiran Tasting, led by Laurie and showing wines from Domaine Pichard. The featured wines were their Traditional Cuvée from 2007 – 2011 and a special Cuvée from 2004: “Auguste Vigneau”.

Madiran is a wine area in South-West France, North of Pau and about 60 miles East, inland, from the Atlantic Ocean. It is approximately a 25 mile sided square, just South of the Armagnac area and comprises 38  communes and straddles 3 departments (Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées & Pyrénées-Atlantiques). A village in the centre of the area gives Madiran its name, but is the appellation for red wines only – whites from exactly the same area are called Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.


The climate is warm and dry, although less so than further inland, in Gaillac for example. The area is made up of five large, parallel ridges that run roughly north-south, marking the transition between the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Landes, the forested coastal plains just south of Bordeaux. The most common soils here are limestone-rich clay (more to the West, producing robust long lived wines) and relatively free-draining silts, rich in minerals, along the valleys – giving supple more complex wines. Soils often studded with pebbles laced with iron and manganese oxide, which brings a reddish tinge to some vineyards, this soil is more to the East giving (relatively) more delicate wines.  The main river here is the Adour, which lies just to the east of Madiran village. The area has fairly high rainfall, mainly in in the spring, a hot summer, an autumn of still warm days combined with ideal cool nights creating a thermal variation favouring a full maturity of the tannins.

And tannins are the real story here – the main grape is aptly-named Tannat. It has to be 60% or more and it’s main blending partner is Cabernet Franc, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Fer Servadou are used… Ripe Tannat gives big tannic wines that take from 6 to 15 years to come round, and counterpointing or taming the tannins are the job of the winemaker. Small wonder the the practice of micro-oxygenation started here, although it has had more notable (and controversial) use in Bordeaux!

The Estate we tasted was Domaine Pichard – 12 ha (11 red) of vines situated in Soublecause in the East of the area. The soil here is quartz and clay studded with lydiene pebbles. The Estate produces structured long-lasting wines. Auguste Vigneau and then his nephew René Touchouere built up the Domaine from 1955 to 2005 but then sold to Jean Sentilles and his brother-in-law Rod Cork (a Lancastrian living in Paris). They modernised the winery with new foudres and barriques, and replanted some of the vines.

We tasted the last vintage made by René Touchouere – the 2004 Cuvée “Auguste Vigneau”, and a succession of vintages of the new regime: 2007-2011.

Here are my notes:


2004 Cuvée Auguste Vigneau  (13.5%)
This is  70% Tannat; 25% Cabernet Franc & 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The nose has a brackish quality with some hints of damson fruit, quite heavy… The palate has a sustained line of prominent tannins, not too hard but overpowering any fruit, there is a grainy quality and rather a dull finish suggesting the wine is a little too old.

2007 Cuvée Tradition   (13.5%)
This, and all the following wines, are more or less 60% Tannat / 40% Cab. Franc.
This nose is rather closed only revealing some slightly greenish plum notes later. The tannic “hit” of this wine is more striking but less enduring – forming a peak in the early-mid palate. This has higher acidity and is much fresher than the previous wine.

2008 Cuvée Tradition   (14%)
This has a pungent, vegetal, first nose with a vague dried fruit hint emerging. This is smoother and has acidity and tannins balanced and “smoothed out”. Relatively silky but still a big concentrated wine. Quite satisfying.

2009 Cuvée Tradition    (14.5%)
More open nose with a heavy floral perfume and then a prune note. Sweet (slightly over-ripe?) fruit then a massive tannic hit that persists into the rather harsh finish. This is big and seems much too young, but will any fruit disappear before the tannins soften? Judging by this very hot year’s performance in other areas – maybe!

2010 Cuvée Tradition   (14.5%)
Dark fruit on the nose and some floral notes. Good fresh acidity in a line right to the finish, balancing the high levels of  relatively supple tannin.  The is better integrated, firm but enjoyable and hinting strongly at food. Good – my favourite!

2011 Cuvée Tradition   (14%)
A fruitier nose leading to supple but less fresh palate. This is a slightly lighter style than all the rest, perhaps reflecting a difficult year – but still unresolved  and not that successful.

These are all really (I mean really!) tannic wines, but with the profile of the tannins differing between the wines. Some show the tannins throughout; some early and dropping off; some mounting towards the finish… For me the more successful wines (2008 & 2010) cry out for rich Gascony cuisine, and would be enjoyable in that setting – but otherwise they are too much for most occasions. An interesting venture into dark brooding wines though…

À Bientôt

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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…

On Monday 15th February the WING group met for a Vertical Tasting of 5eme Cru Classé Pauillac, Château Batailley, guided by Anna and Paul.

Château Batailley is in the south of the Pauillac area, situated on a gravelly plateau that descends towards the Gironde. The superb soil has excellent natural drainage ideally suited to the estate’s combination of premium grape varieties. Plantings are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The assemblage often mirrors this but annual fluctuations can see the balance change (e.g. 2014 has 82% Cab Sauv.) In bond new vintage prices are usually in the low £30s but mature bottles reaching through the £40s towards £60.

Batailley is a Château some of us have followed for a while, helped no doubt by their regular inclusion on the Wine Society list. Indeed this group has once before has a vertical tasting of their wines – in March 2008 we had such a tasting which featured many of the wines we sampled again tonight. I’ll attach my notes for the, then, 8 year younger wines to remarks this month.

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Here are my notes:

Château Batailley 1995
An open nose with vegetal hints, dark plummy fruit and a lighter perfume, very Pauillac with blackcurrant and woody hints. The palate is drying without prominent chewy tannin “spikes”, a long acid line, a little stalky, but the fruit is dried – plum-skin, and there is a slightly spicy finish. Needs food now and probably a little past its best…
8 years ago: “Very pungent, steel water tank (Franc?) and vegetation. Fruit flavours in harness with an evolved fruit-acid line and integrated tannins 17”

Château Batailley 1998
More pungency, darker with more fruit, perfumed hints. More fruit on the palate, less tannins and a more apparent green pepper tinged acidity. Very pleasant but a more Merlot-inflected balance, maybe? Lacks a little of the grip, power and length one associates with Pauillac but grows a little in the glass.
8 years ago: “Pungent blackcurrant and wood, both oak and cedar. Fruit is a little too sweet and confectionery and appears a bit over produced 14.5”

Château Batailley 1999
Fruit, herby, grainy earth hints and slightly jammy open nose. Very sweet and soft, but rather dilute and simple. My least favourite wine…

Château Batailley 2000
Vegetal and fruit – blackcurrant, plums and black cherry skins – a lighter perfume underneath and hints of cedar, complex and beguiling. Palate has an immediate and very long lasting fruit acid line going right through the wine with warm tannins supporting but not obtrusive. A star.
8 years ago: “Vegetal and black fruit, earth and cedar. Warm soft fruit on the palate giving a sweet gloss to acid and tannins underneath. More fragrance develops with time and the palate integrates. Good 17”

Château Batailley 2001
Relatively quiet nose, with heavier black fruit and damson, lighter notes appear later. Palate is warm with some sour fruit acid, and a rich finish. Slightly less structured than the previous wine but the fresh acidity gives the wine a lift. A little like the 1998 with added freshness from the acidity, is this another year with a more Merlot inflection?
8 years ago: “Pungent but quite complex nose, some higher notes and redcurrant rather than blackcurrant. Fresh with balancing structure and some sweet fruit 16”

Château Batailley 2003
Woody and prune nose with a slightly dusty, quite heavy, almost tea hint later. Palate is warm with tannic leathery texture and a bigger Cabernet flavours, rather more massive than an elegant claret. Slightly “cooked”… but opening well compared to…
8 years ago: “Lovely text book nose of blackcurrant and cedar. Big palate with firm tannins and dry acidity – a bit too straight Cab Sauv. Slightly green finish despite no Cab Franc in the blend this year – 14”

A brilliant tasting which – with the middle four vintages consecutive, shows how the Château coped with different vintage conditions rather more than relatively similar ages of the wines (14-17). In fact Batailley deserves some praise for making interesting wines in very different years. For my part 2000 is both the star, and the most typical – a combination not always found. I rather have a soft spot for the 2001 though…

Thanks so much Paul and Anna!

Until next time…

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