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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

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As it was near her Birthday holiday week, Kim and I took ourselves off to a wine weekend (29th June – 2nd July) in Bordeaux organised by 3D wines [for more information on 3D wines see below].

The attractions of a wine tour are obvious: appointments already made; no driving; food and accommodation organised… However those advantages only apply if the itinerary is well organised, the food and accommodation good; the planning done by knowledgeable wine-enthusiasts; and – above all – the wine any good!

The 3D tour (you can see the Programme by clicking<) was definitely all those things, and our general impression of the whole tour was of having a great time.

Andrew Bennett gave a witty and informative commentary to the trips, enlightening us on the geography and geology; the classification systems; the architecture; the influence of critics (esp Parker); consultant wine makers, garagistes … in an entertaining well paced fashion. Another advantage is – from the vantage point of an air-conditioned coach (essential since it was mid 30s outside) it was much easier to get an idea of the geography and geology of the areas than ever possible when driving.

The whole schedule worked flawlessly thanks to the organisation of Debbie Bates, and – as normal with wine lovers – the group (about 30) was convivial and friendly. The accommodation was excellent and the meals very good, showing many of the copious amounts of wine to good effect.

In fact for someone who likes to keep track of the wines (at least for a while) and write notes, I confess I was swept up in the pleasure of the meals a little too much to do that properly. (*Note to 3D, a tasting sheet, or just a little list – even approximate – of the wines to be tasted at each visit or meal ––  as an aide memoire, would be a great help). As it was I think (roughly) we tasted (drank, usually) something like 23 wines plus some repeats (at the winery and then at a meal later, sometimes with different vintages). I only have written notes of a few, some general impressions of most and only a hazy recollection of the rest.

Here’s my – rather uneven – account of the weekend:

The trip started with an early evening visit to Château Monconseil-Gazin. This Blaye estate is run by  run by Jean-Michel  and Françoise Baudet and is situated well: the limestone escarpment of Blaye on the hill above the village of Plassac

Clay-limestone soils and stony subsoil give excellent drainage and allow the vines to develop deep root systems, protecting against dry summers and encouraging complexity. The estate,which is TERRA VITIS certified has 35 hectares planted with Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Malbec (10%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) and 2 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Welcome to Monconseil Gazin
After a short viewing of the vines we looked through the winery and had an aperitif tasting of the Estate’s Classic Sauvignon Blanc [fresh, not so in your face as NZ examples but with mellower fruit (apricot?) smoothing out the SB acidity – rather good] and dry Rosé.

We then repaired to a hall for dinner: a Lobster mousse with the estate’s Prestige Blanc. A SB / Semillon (80/ 20) blend, raised in oak (a third new) for 6 months. The wine and food interplay was brilliant and the increased depth of the wine showed some complexity, spice and exotic notes but integrated into the breadth of the palate.

I confess the rest of the evening is increasingly hazy as different reds of the estate’s and the 3D 2014 blend arrived at the table with the stuffed chicken and cheese courses. As was to become a feature of the weekend it seemed that one could easily consume a bottle at the table… I do remember thinking that the Estates own basic 2015 went brilliantly with the chicken and I since looked up it technical details [Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Malbec (10%) on clay/limestone soils and stony subsoil; 12 months in French oak barrels (25% new)]. However the 2014 (3D blend) maybe due to age, helped with the creaminess and acidity in the cheese…

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The Second day began with the short Ferry ride from Blaye on the Right Bank, to Lamarque on the Left Bank. Then a coach tour starting North through the famous Communes of the Medoc, St Julien and Pauillac and into St Estephe before circling back through Moulis to Margaux. Several things struck me, including how relatively flat and featureless the terrain is, compared to the Right Bank. In addition the size of the Estates is clearly large. In fact Andrew informed us that the average Estate size in this part of the world is around 70 hectares, roughly ten times the average on the Right Bank or in Burgundy! Finally how near all the famous names are to the Gironde. Château Leoville Las Cases is an example…

Glimpse of the Gironde over the vines of Leoville Las Cases

Our original sweep North took us past many famous Châteaux (Beycheville; the Ducrus; the Leovilles, Baron and Comtesse Pichon-Longueville; Latour; the Bages’ Chateaux; Mouton and Lafite and turning round near Cos…) we circled back passing Poujeaux to the Margaux Commune for a tasting at the 3D partner producer Château Mongravey, and then lunch with their wines. As the Mongravey tasting was in the morning I was able to make some (semi?) coherent notes, those are below…

After some time mellowing… we returned, taking in Château Margaux to complete a pretty full set of impressive-Châteaux-which-we-can’t-get-in – here are some pictured (Petrus was actually the following day).

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Château Mongravey
We were greeted at the winery by the owner Karin Bernaleau, who showed us round the vat room – where each parcel of grapes are vinified in stainless steel with exact temperature control.  Then into the cellar where they have 450 barriques from 10 different coopers and led us to the tasting room.

The Estate have holdings in 3 places:

13ha in the Margaux appellation, on gravel soil from which they they make 2 wines: the Cru Bourgeois Château Mongravey wine which is blended and aged in oak (60% new) for about 16 months; and a Cuvée Spéciale –  the best selections raised in 10 new oak barrels, 1 from each cooper, for 2 years.

7ha in the Haut Médoc also on gravel soil where they make 2 wines: Château de Braude which is blended and aged in oak (45% new) for about 18 months and a cuvée spéciale, “Fellonneau” –  made from the best parcels raised in new oak for 2 years.

1 hectare in the Moulis appellation, on gravel soil with some clay. Château Galland has more Merlot planted and raises the wine for 16 months in barriques – 45% new.

We tried 5 wines – the 2015 vintage of each

Château de Braude, Haut Medoc (75% CS, 25% M) had a floral nose but slightly dried fruit, the palate is rather tight atm, with a lot of acidity and a slightly rustic quality. Very young seeming

Château Galland, Moulis. Similar blend as the previous wine but Merlot seems more upfront on the slightly lighter nose, with a much softer palate with fruit more prominent, the tannins also show more against this background, by way of contrast.

Château Mongravey, Margaux Cru Bourgeois (65% CS, 23%M, 2% CF) had a floral delicate nose with subtle fruit – cherry and damson. Palate is round with a spirit lift, good structure and long – very promising for 5-8 years time!

Château Braude Fellonneau (70% CS, 30% M – all new oak) Darker both in colour and fruit, heavier nose and flavour, palate is closed and the oak is showing – needs time

Mongravey Cuvée Spéciale (65% CS, 23%M, 2% CF) This is also quite closed atm sharper darker fruit hints. Palate also has high acidity with a brooding structure of power and body waiting to unfold. Right now – not as “Margaux” as the Cru Bourgeois but one for the future – 10 years?

We came away having bought the Cru Borgeois 2015, to approach in a few years time…

We then repaired for a lunch with Karin on a (hot) terrace of a nearby Country club, where we were served another 4 or 5 wines, a white that escapes me but went very well with Gravalax and older vintages (2011 I think) of the first 3 wines to accompany a brilliant lamb dish, which did indeed show off the wines very well. In particular the grip in the older Braude showed very well I thought…

This lunch was so indulgent I remember much less of the evening meal, a vague recollection of a white wine going well with a cod dish… and a refreshing thunderstorm about the time of dessert!

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On Sunday we set out to St Emilion and a Tasting at Château Franc Mayne, a Saint Emillion Grand Cru Classé. Where we were given an interesting and polished tour of the whole facility.

We then tasted some wines in the Tasting room, a current vintage of the their Medoc holding, a Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois, Château Paloumey; and their second wine made from younger vines – Les Cedres de Franc Mayne. Finally we tasted the Grand Vin, (hand picked, vinified mostly in oak, raised in new barriques) in the 2007 version. Now I’ve tasted in this Château before, in 2000 or 2002 I think. On a little jaunt trying the 1998 (a fabulous year) along the plateau where the various Grace Dieu wineries, Laniote and Laroze are also located. I found Franc Mayne a little tight (not too bad a thing with the opulence of St Emilion) and a bit woody (less to my taste), and we ended up buying the Grace Dieu Les Minuts, and Laniote… Now the 2007 (90% M 10% CF) showed better balance with age, still some plum fruit and wood, a grainy tannin and liquorice hints but still had a slightly narrow impression, IMO… So as you’ll see later we picked a slightly bigger, less oak influenced year…

After time dodging the blistering sun in St Emilion, helpfully achieved by visiting the catacombs, we returned to the hotel to cool off before…

… A fabulous concluding dinner at the hotel. Showcasing the wines of the 3D Côtes de Bourg partner Château Rousselle. Before we got to that we reprised the very first pair of wines of the weekend – the Monconseil-Gazin white and Rosé. The latter wonderfully accompanying the pastry wrapped vegetable starter. Then a wonderful slow-cooked beef dish with the Rousselle wines… I think there were 3, but I found the basic wine a wonderful accompaniment with the beef. There were other vintages, other cuvées, wines in Magnum, wines with more – and more still – Malbec in the blend, some – I think – from Monconseil-Gazin again… and I remember finding one particular that went with the cheeses course, but – of course – not what it was!

Conclusion

A fabulous weekend when on several occasions the pleasures of wine and food, and general bonhomie overtook analytical interrogation of the wines – a very good thing. When my analytical faculties were still engaged, the wines showed very well – I can’t recall anything I disliked and several I thought very desirable – at all price points. The other factor was increased estimation of 3D. They are, in effect, in a curatorial role with these producers, and the wines they choose to offer. The examples we had showed a lovely balance between typicity and character, and Andrew’s taste seemed very trustworthy to me. Over 8 years of tasting the wines on offer I think I might be half a notch (on, say, a 20 point scale) more inclined to leaner, more delicate wines but that’s a tiny amount in the grand range of wines. I found the approach, very heartening and the weekend superbly enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone

Post Script –  While at Franc-Mayne Kim decided to buy a mature bottle to celebrate her upcoming Birthday. I remembered we had once conducted a 2000s Vertical Tasting of Château Moulin-Saint-Georges, a GC but definitely of GCC quality (it had in fact been excluded from promotion entirely on the grounds that they didn’t use their own equipment for making the wines – which are in fact made by Ch. Ausone as the same people own both Châteaux). That tasting had picked out the 2006 from the 6 we tried – so we made off with that…


A few days later the Birthday arrived and we opened the bottle with a leg-steak of lamb. Much more opulent than the 2007, the wine showed a spirity damson nose, with a slightly undergrowth element so typical of Right Bank Claret. There were mushroom/truffle hints too. The wine seemed soft on its own with a restrained grainy soft tannin and acidity entirely in the fruit, which reappeared at the finish with more loganberry hints. With the food though the wine took on more dimensions: the sweetness of the lamb showing both more acidity and more grip in the wine, as if the structure had been hiding under the opulence! We followed with a cheese course with the rest of the bottle and the reverse happened, the acidity in the cheese brought out the chocolate finish in the wine. Fantastic, and a wonderful rounding off of the Bordeaux experience.

3D Wines
3D Wines is basically a wine buying Club. It is run by Andrew Bennett from a base in Lincolnshire and covers wines from 30 producers: right across France with 3 in Tuscany and 2 in New Zealand.
When I joined in 2011 the idea was you notionally hired a row of vines for a year from one producer, this granted you the right to buy wines from that producer at as good or better than cellar door, often with a Members’-only Cuvée 3D.
Now the wine-makers are grouped, usually 3 together, in regional sets. One can buy wines to collect from the winery, at Calais (at a little more) or directly Imported. In addition if one selects one regional group one year and another the next one can still be offered the wine from the previous year’s area as well.
I have stayed a member since I joined, finding the wines of good quality and value (even when factoring the annual subscription), and visiting 3D-selected Vignerons an almost universally convivial and informative experience. For more info click here.
I recommend them with increased confidence following this trip.

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

On Thursday 17th May the ICC Group to taste some wines from Provence.

We tried wines from 3 famous small appellations: Cassis, Bellet and Bandol; a top Côtes De Provence Rosé and a Rosé and a Red from the slightly more International area of Aix.

Here are my notes:

CASSIS   CLOS VAL BRUYERE 2015 (Chateau Barbanau)   –   12½%   –   Wine Society (£12)
This is Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc with a little Sauvignon Blanc. Light soft fruit and floral nose, quiet but complex! Slightly herby and salty notes on the palate – almost vermouth, some fruit behind too and the many flavours pan out into a long, quite persuasive wine – rather good.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  17.5/20

CÔTES DE PROVENCE ROSÉ 2016 (Domaine De Rimauresq – Cru Classé)   –   13%   –   Virgin Wines (£15)
This is Cinsault and Grenache based with about 8% – 10% each of 4 other grapes. Prickly nose with strawberry and slightly cherry fruit and a higher perfume. Palate is lively and fresh with a red fruit middle and a long line of acidity coming to a mineral finish, Structured and dashing this would make a good food wine, with fish, salad or even something spicy.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20

COTEAUX D’AIX EN PROVENCE ROSÉ 2016 (Chateau Vignelaure)   –   13%   –   Wine Society (£13)
This is Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah and has a pinker, slightly darker colour… the nose is simpler but more powerful with citrus and cherry fruit. The palate is rounder and heavier-seeming than the previous wine, mainly though through a shorter, warmer profile. Well made, but lack the dash of the previous wine…
As I write these notes 6 days later I have also tasted another 5 Rosés at home or in the Loire, including a Sancerre (Pinot Noir), and 4 other Loire: two from the Bourgueil area made with Cabernet Franc (at a quarter of the price!), one from Pineau d’Aunis, one a sparkler. The Sancerre was the clear winner, the Rimauresq next best and this, Aix, the least interesting!
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  14.5/20

“HARMONIE DE PROVENCE”  COTEAUX D’AIX EN PROVENCE ROUGE 2014 (Domaine des Oullieres)   –   13%   –   Yapp (£19)
This is a similar (more Cab less Syrah) grape mixture to the previous Aix Rosé. Nose is rather Southern Rhone Garrigue, slight twist of red berry fruit. Blackberry and black cherry, slightly jammy, fruit a little too sweet and the tannins a little too soft for balance IMO – good for initial gulping but lacking complexity or shape… In many ways a parallel to the other Aix!
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  13.5/20

BELLET: DOMAINE DE LA SOURCE ROUGE 2013   –   13½%   –   Yapp (£27)
Very intriguing nose of vegetal, smoke, spice, forest floor, dark berries… Open, succulent palate without being cloying, with fruit and a long line of warm acidity intertwined for a long complex wine. Very balanced and complete – many people made it favourite but a high price. Excellent though!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

BANDOL LA BASTIDE BLANCHE 2014   –   14½ %   –   Waitrose (£15)
Slightly brackish but fresh nose, with some high notes, over a brooding dark fruit element. Palate is powewrful and full bodied with sweet briar, blackcurrant fruit, and non-fruit component – liquorice (?). Big-boned, long and involving but lacking the lightness and charm of the previous wine. A good, not dazzling, Bandol, but very good value.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  16.5/20

Quite an interesting tasting, I think. For me the star was the Bellet, but close behind – and a real surprise – the white Cassis.  The first Rosé and the Bandol were very good, as expected. In fact all the wines were enjoyable, but I found – in this company – that the two Aix wines were… not bad but a bit pedestrian… chacun à son goût as they say in the Government (!?).

Talking of which… the group were very amused at receiving a letter advising on democratic processes from a certain  Pridirka Putat’, answering a query about American democratic “innovations”, from the Kremlin. I have tried to establish this person’s identity and bona fides… with little success. However transliterating the name into Russian characters, translating to English and using a Thesaurus gives a clue… ’nuff said!

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 Friday 27th April 2018 we were generously entertained for a Sock Party at Ralph and Jill’s home. A wonderful evening with a dazzling supply of great food and wine…

Here are my notes:


JASNIÈRES “L’ECLOS” 2015 (Les Maisons Rouge)         Laurie
Jasnières is an enclave in the general Coteaux du Loir area, about 30 miles North of Vouvray. Pure Chenin, the wine showed some citrus and later peach and apple fruit on the nose. The palate has a hint of honey, and a fresh fruit peak in the centre but a long, strong but warm acidity and a mineral finish. Very clean, refreshing and precise and balanced between searing acidity and richness. Made by biodynamic viticulture on clay, sand and flint topsoil above the tuffeau base in West Jasnières.

COURS CHEVERNY “LE PETIT CHAMBORD” 2014          Yvonne  
This Romorantin wine from the Solonge has a slightly powdery nose with a warm note and a citrus peel prickle. Palate has a fruit start and then a kick-in of acidity, a slightly malic tinge and a ginger hints spicy element. Rounder and a little fuzzier than the previous wine, it’s Loire (50 mile away!) nieghbour.

PECORINO ABRUZZO “BIANCHI GRILLI” (Torre Dei Beati) 2014         Ralph   
Dark colour, nose is quite closed with a slightly spicy, woody, aged quality. Later some balsamic sweet sour elements emerge. Palate smooth, opening to show some rich woody flavours and a clear acidity with some mineral accents. Aged on lees in barrique for 9 months, deliberately to by-pass the vibrant-youth stage and go straight to the evolved complexity. Needs quite a lot of time in the glass still, despite decanting…

MEURSAULT 2013 (Caves de l’Orangerie)           Kathryn
Caves de l’Orangerie is the label of Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune’s own vineyards. This Mersault is almost text-book: slightly oily nose with hints of tropical fruit. Buttery palate with oak notes and a richness based on a hazelnut-oil kick – underpinned by a mineral, citrus backbone. Very satisfying and at good maturity now.

CAMEL VALLEY PINOT NOIR ROSÉ 2014          Ann
This is strawberry fruit straight on the nose with fresh-herb acidity and a hint of pinot character. The palate echoes the pinot line – lovely base acidity with lip smacking red-berry fruit. Well balance, fresh cool and under 12% alcohol. Would be lovely with spicy food!


RONSEL DO SIL MERENZAO “ALPENDRE” 2012 RIBEIRA SACRA           Ralph (again!)
This comes from 2 ha of vines on ancient Roman terraces on the steep banks of the Rio Sil. Merenzao is the local name for Trousseau, found in the Jura. This has a light colour. Nose is slightly herby with a pinot-ish soft red fruit and vegetal touch. Palate is more raspberry sweetness with a herby twist and a clean acidity. Easier to guess the location than the grape I think…

ST-ÉMILION GRAND CRU CLOS VILLEMAURINE 2009     John
This is dark and dense with a fruity – damson and fresh plums with an undergrowth hint. Slight graininess is appearing on the palate, which will soon be chocolate hints… structured, long with palate echoing the nose with darker fruit and warm hints appearing. Long and supple, this has opened a lot since I last tried it –  but, IMO, it will keep improving for a year or two and last another 6. It’s 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc.

MUDGEE CHAMBOURCIN 2012 (Savannah Estate, Aus.)      Rob
This had a slightly gummy, minty (tell-tale Australian!?) nose with some plum fruit. The palate has the same sweet fruit, some oak and an earthy hint… but a tannic line that somehow is both rich and hard. Not quite together…  yet?

“ES LO QUE HAY” GARNACHA 2013               Yuan
An old-vines high-altitude Garnacha from Aragon, NE Spain. The name is a Spanish expression meaning something like “that’s how it goes” – the International translation of a shrug! The wine is pretty big – closed nose at first with dark berry fruit emerging and hints of herbs and some perfume. Palate is fruity with a mineral line and prune, tannin and some suppleness. The altitude airs and lifts the potential Granacha thickness…

BAROLO “CERRETA DI PERNO” 2007 (Sordo)     Kim
This Castiglione Barolo has a nose of soft fruit and a fragrant perfume – possibly even the renowned rose, later hints of cherry appear. Palate has a higher-than-expected acidity with lower-than-expected tannins and tar, although they are present. Rather lip-snacking long and non-fruit flavours. Maybe still a year or two young but getting there!

20 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT (OHSOMM)       Farewell Wine
Ohsomm is a trading name of the parent company that own Offley’s and Sandeman. This Tawny has a big fruit-and-nut complex nose. Palate has some sweetness but in balance with a long line of fruit acidity. Lovely!
 

Thanks to Ralph and, especially, to Jill for providing such wonderful food, great company and hospitality.
Thanks too to Yuan for the wine photographs.

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

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