Sunday, 6 July 2008

General, 8 June 2008

Three wines with dinner, and a tawny afterwards.

Devils Lair Chardonnay 2001, Margaret River, Australia
Noel Young - £12.50 (bin end sale) A-

A settled New World Chardonnay. Last week, we tasted the 1998 vintage and although I enjoyed it, some of my dinner companions thought it to be too musty/tired for their liking. This Chardonnay still displayed a nice vibrancy to it; there is still remnants of fruit characters here, but its not the fresh, aggressive citrus-driven flavours but has developed into a sweeter, fuller palate like that of pineapples, as opposed to citrus/lime. The oak treatment and acidity, along with the aging makes this wine feel more like a rather young white burgundy/chablis, it has more of an old-world feel than a new-world one. I thought the balance and structure was spot on; caught at an interesting time in its development where the fruit hasnt all disappeared yet, whilst still developing the creamy, more textured feel that comes with age. Wonderful really and good value too.

Independent adjudicator: 7/10
Was had with: Potted shrimps with lime mayonnaise. Went well with the food too. The lime mayonnaise really cried out for a substantial white wine and this one delivered.

Ch. Ramage La Batisse 2000, Cru Bourgeois Haut Medoc, France
Noel Young - £35 (Magnum) B+(+)

First time I've brought a Magnum to dinner; it sure is impressive when placed on a table, shows everyone else that you mean business. Was bought because it was one of a few Magnums that could be found retail at short notice. Vintage is widely regarded as excellent, so no worries there. Again I felt that this wine was caught at an interesting point in its evolution; the fruitiness was still there, displaying plump red fruits, blackcurrants and plums. Towards the back of the palate, this wine begins to display its age and slightly more evolved characters, with hints of wood and cedar coming through. I think its could easily be laid down for another five years at least or even longer should you like your Bordeaux to be settled and mellow.

Independent adjudicator: 7/10
Was had with: Beef olives, new potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Beef and Bordeaux can't really go wrong. The gravy with the beef was somewhat tomato-driven, which is never easy to pair with wines.

Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2007, South Africa
Noel Young - £10 (50cl) B+

Made from a blend of Semillon and Chenin Blanc that has been air-dried to lose its moisture, leading to a naturally sweet, unfortified wine. It displays lovely notes of sweet apricots/nectarines, floral honey and even pineapples; it really reminded me of one of those fruit juice blends you buy in M&S. Sweetness isn't cloying, and acidity provides nice balance. I dont see why it wont age, but nothing too long, perhaps 5-10yrs. My only criticism of this perhaps would be that the flavours aren't integrated/together, which I tend to find in New World sweets. This desert wine doesnt feel as intence or concentrated as say a classed Sauternes would, so I think its suited to light, summery puddings, perhaps an apricot crumble with custard? Good value too.

Independent adjudictor: 8/10
Was had with: Raspberry trifle. Not the ideal pairing, but it still went acceptably well. I drank most of mine on its own, after having finished the desert itself; did more justice to the wine.

Old Redemption Exceptionally Old Tawny NV, Barossa Valley, Australia
Noel Young - £15 (50cl) A

Made by the boutique winemaker David Franz from parcels of his families' vineyards all over Barossa Valley. He is known to make such strange things as Sparkling Cabernet Sauvignons. This tawny was made from a blend from various reserves that have accumulated over the years, so placing an age is not straightforward. The appearance of the tawny struck me as being a rather attractive pink like slightly diluted cranberry juice (cosmopolitan, anyone?), with a slight golden tinge. Mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and elegant, flavours are mainly of raisins and sultanas but it isnt overwhelming, just sorts of lingers and goes on in the background. Another unique thing about this tawny is the spiciness of it, its like caramelised ginger with a nice fiery kick to it. So really, lots of things going on everywhere. Absolutely lovely and quite unique (hence the higher than usual rating), excellent value for what you get.

General, 1 June 2008

Three wines with dinner, a white wine extraganza.

Ombra Prosecco NV
Oddbins - £8 B+

Nice fruity sparkler from Italy. Well made, lots of fruit and freshness, mainly apples and pears. Its off-dry with a residual sugar that can be clearly felt; it drinks well on its own, slightly chilled. Nothing to fault really, its your standard summer drink. Its OK value, but its reliable and my local Oddbins is quite keen on it (that, or they bought too much stock and are desperately trying to flog it off).

Independent adjudicator rating: 8.5/10. He was very keen on this, thats all I'll say.
Was had with: Melon terrine The terrine was rather weird, the food-wine match was alright. Good palate cleanser to start the dinner.

Devils Lair Chardonnay 1998, Margaret River, Australia
Noel Young - £8 (bin end sale) A-

Now this was some wine. I must admit that right after opening, there were suspicions of it being corked. Further sniffings and ten minutes later, this wine just showed what its all about. There is a rather musty/dusty note that you normally get with aged white burgundy/Champagne, in a way, it was almost yeasty. The nose to this wine was incredible: mild ginger, lychee, chamomile, with a sweet floral character to it. The palate was focused yet still generous, the fruit had been replaced by a settled elegance and creaminess (the oak treatment showing through), with a structured minerality and acidity. It ticked all the right boxes for an aged white wine, and much kudos must go to Devils Lair; just shows that cellaring a wlel-made new world white can be rather rewarding, you just get a very different perspective of the wine. I must say I was very impressed, and for the price, what a steal.

Independent adjudicator rating: 4/10. He did not like it at all (prefers the fruit-driven ones, you see). Said that the wine was way too tired and that the fruit had gone 'about five years ago'.
Was had with: Grilled rainbow trout. Food was superb, wine was superb but the combination did not work. My feeling is that the wine has too much character and so did the fish, and they clashed.

Berry's Own Tokaji 4 Puttonyos 1999, Hungary
BBR - £20 (approx) A(++)

This too was something. This decadent Tokaji was meant as a celebratory drink and boy did it perform. Obviously very well made, with a long lingering finish that juts goes on and on and on. The nose was of candied citrus fruits, with that chemical note that is unmistakeably Tokaji. The palate was rich, lush and very very long; the complex well-integrated flavours just sort of dances on your palate; fills each corner of your mouth with a different sensation. Despite its age, it still has lots of vigor and life in it; the acidity and structure will allow aging and development for at least another ten years. I have not tasted many Tokajis in my time (mostly due to cost constraints), but this one I will remember for a long time to come, my only regret is that BBR no longer stock this.

General, 25 May 2008

Two wines with dinner, a relatively restrained affair.

Francis Ford Coppola 'Directors Cut' Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, USA
Noel Young - £15 A-(+)

An excellent brooding Zinfandel. I've heard praises being heaped on FF Coppola's wineries in California, achieving somewhat a cult status. Granted, this wine isn't his best offering, more like the entry level Zinfandel that they do and if this is the little brother, then I can only salivate at the prospect of its more illustrious brothers. The wine had a well-perfumed nose, with some notes of woodiness and cool smoke; the warmth of the alcohol was also apparent. The palate was full of plump red fruits, cherries, blackcurrants and plummy bramble, almost like a berry compote; the flavours were generous and yet vey focused and concentrated, which made me think that a lot of the grapes must have come from old vines or were very heavily selected. You simply cannot make wines with this kind of depth in flavour with young vines. The light touch of French oak contributes to the elegant smoothness of the wine (even at this tender age) and its lingering finish was notable too. In all, this is a serious Zinfandel; OK its not cheap, but you get plenty for the money, and I have no doubts this will continue to mature for at least another 5 yrs, but to be honest, you already get a lot of satisfaction enjoying it now. Somehow I feel that this should be treated like a classed growth Margaux.

Was had with: Roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Cant go wrong really; I didnt pay much attention to the food, it was the wine that really took centre stage.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8/10. General nods of approval.

Familia Zuccardi Torrontes Tardio 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
Oddbins - £7 (50cl) B+

Came highly recommended from the people at my local Oddbins. This was made using partially dried Torrontes, which explains why there is still alot of racy acidity in this supposedly desert wine. The flavours were still citrus-dominated, even sweet grapefruit; the sweetness rather pales in comparison to the acidity which in my mind was too cutting and wasnt integrated into the wine. Most desert wines sort of lumbers on your mouth, it feels heavy due to its sugar, this one sort of dances on the palate, tingling the tastebuds. Its interesting drinking, and would probably go very well with things like lemon tarts or any desert which has a significant sour tang to it. Doesnt have the finesse of Sauternes, but for the price, its hard to complain.

Was has with: Peach tart and cream. Desert needed something more sugary and substantial, this one danced on your palate and sort of fleeted away quickly too.
Independent adjudicator rating: 7.5/10. Lacked sweetness.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

General, 11 May 2008

Three wines with dinner and a fortified wine afterwards.

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2006, Marlborough, NZ
Oddbins - £8 A-

Wonderfully fruity nose, full of raspberry and strawberry goodness; the palate is fresh, clean and leaves you wanting more really. It is quite alcoholic at 13%, but it still feels light and nimble on the palate, especially if you have it slightly chilled; the colour doesnt hurt either, a deep pink hue means its not only pretty to look at, but it also has substance and structure behind the wine. Not completely dry, some residual sugar balances the soft acidity. I cannot for the life of me find any fault with this wine; it wont keep perhaps, but rose isnt supposed to keep in any case. Drink slighty chilled with light food, think poached salmon salad with light vinaigrette dressing.

Was had with: Gazpacho (cold tomato based-soup, description can be found here). Complemented the soup really well; the acidity and sweetness was just right.
Independent adjudicator: 8.5/10. They loved it too.

Tenuta del Portale, Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2004, Basilicata, Italy
BBR - £10 B

Nose doesnt give much joy, seems rather closed when tasted. Palate was of light berries and cherries, slowly developing into cranberries at the end. The notable feature was the silky and supple tannins, much in the style of proper Margaux; mind you theres still enough structure in there for it to accompany anything but the most hearty of foods. Its a pleasant enough wine, glad I tasted it; but unfortunately, not one which I would buy again.

Was had with: Roast pork, crackling and apple sauce with mashed potatoes and sauteed provence-style vegetables. Went alright, could've been better.
Independent adjudicator: 7.5/10 (I think they're being generous here, or maybe its the 14% abv talking)

Campbells Rutherglen Muscat NV, Victoria, AU
Oddbins - £9 B-

Bought this because it won Decanter Gold and I cannot see why. It was incredibly sweet: I wouldnt stop short of saying that it was like drinking concentrated solution of brown sugar, like drinking alcoholic raisin juice (yes raisin, not grape). Funnily, it did have osrt of a bitter finish, like marmalade? I wouldnt be surprised if sugars were near the 200g/l mark. The nose only smelled of raisins and molasses. Mouthfeel was unbalanced, the cloying sweetnesss dominated on the palate with hardly any acidity to speak of, maybe it got scared off by the sugars, I dont know. And for the price, I would get BBR's Own Sauternes made by Ch Suduiraut any day. I really disapproved of this; read the winemakers comments here. Or better still, buy a bottle in your local Oddbins and leave me a note. I could however, imagine this as a sauce to drizzle over ice cream / waffles / pancakes; who needs syrup?

Was had with: Rasberry mousse. The desert felt light and refreshing compared to the wine; just downright wrong.
Independent adjudicator: 7.25 (again, being polite; or the 17.5% abv?)

Graf Hardegg 'Forticus' Port style Merlot 2000, Blauburger, Austria
NYW - £13 (bin end sale) B+

Fruit dominated, cherries and strawberries; very unusual style. It has the restrained, firm tannins like port but none of the associated licorice / blackcurrant nose. This had a lighter nose than most tawnies, let alone vintage port. Very unusual and yet so drinkable; I dont think it would go with sweet deserts just because it lacks the sugar; but with cheeses perhaps?

Saturday, 10 May 2008

CUWS Easter 2008 - Regional Australian

CUWS Easter 2008 - Regional Australian
Peterhouse Upper Hall, 6 May 2008

A tasting held by CUWS and led by Chris Stroud, a representative from Fosters who own all the wineries featured in this tasting. He wanted to showcase wines from the 'premium' end of the portfolio, instead of the 3 for £10 stuff you get in Tesco, not that there is anything inherently wrong with those; also there is an attempt to show regionality and the effects this may have on the wine - you see, I've tried to be clever by not using the word terroir, but essentially thats what they're trying to show. Wines were tasted in pairs and prices indicated are approximates; most of the wines, bar the Devils Lair, should be widely available in major wine merchants.

Annies Lane Riesling 2006, Clare Valley
£8 - B(+)

Strong fruit characters coming through on the nose, lots of lime and tanginess; palate is clean and straight forward, mostly of white fruits. Its relatively light, aromatic, quite floral perhaps even slight solvent-like smells too. Its basically a good, light and happy; not completely devoid of class. Good drink for summer, slightly chilled perhaps. Drink now to 3 yrs.

Penfolds Reserve Bin Riesling 2005, Eden Valley
£10 - B+(+)

As of 2007, rebranded as Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling. Wonderful floral and kerosene-driven nose, there is sort of a gunmetal / metallic smell too. Theres flavours of marmalade, sour apples, mineral almost astringency (in a good way); its not fruit driven, there is something more developed and subdued. The only thing I thought was out of place was the cutting acidity, its just a bit too sharp for me, but hey, it might allow the wine to develop in the bottle. I'll be optimistic here, drink in 3-7 yrs

Devils Lair Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River
£15 - B(+)

Good expression of fruit, with vanilla / creamy characteristics form the oak treatment (a touch too much for my liking, its like they're trying too hard). Its a cool wine, body is structured, firm and rather wound-up, its not expressing itself that well yet; finish is unexpectedly quite classy and lengthy. The fruit is not at the fore yet, the oak is still overwhelming which is why I think it'll be a good candidate for aging, perhaps 5 yrs. I have a 1998 and 2001 vintage stored away, will post a tasting note when I decide to drink them.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2005, Adelaide Hills
£13 - B

I must admit I've never understood the various labels offered by Wolf Blass, theres just too many and it gets confusing to know whats what. This wine has a rather attractive nose thats almost sweet and honeyed, albeit rather alcoholic (I should've checked the abv, but in any case ita rather to get white wines displaying alcohol on the nose). Palate reveals good forward fruit, grapefruitish and some oak treatment; its pleasant enough but wholly forgettable.

Rosemount Show Reserve Shiraz 2002, McLaren Vale
£12 - B

Nose is very jammy, full of dark berries almost like cough mixture; the alcohol is apparent but the palate is not as big and punchy as it can be, there is a degree of reservedness about the wine. For Aussie Shiraz, the body of this wine is actually quite light; finish is not sustained enough though, its like a hit and run really. Again, nothing remarkable.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2002, Barossa Valley
£11 - B+(+)

Again, dark berries and jammy nose, with strong hints of licorice and smoke. Flavours here are developed with some secondary characters like mocha and cassis. The mouthfeel just seems slightly bigger and fuller than the Rosemount; the weight on the palate and sustained finish gives the wine a slight edge in terms of class and potential. I felt they got this one spot on (I've got a feeling it was a good year), flavours were generous without being dilute, it was forward without being punchy and intrusive. Liked it and I do think it may keep for a few more years just yet, 5 yrs or thereabouts. I wouldnt waste this on a barbie; a good accompaniment to heavy meat-based dish, specially with redcurrant sauce or something.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2004
£? - A-(+)

I dont know anything about Australian vintage charts but I've got a feeling this one, like the Kalimna above, was a good one. The fruit flavours are that of ripe berries, licorice and some smoke; its more elegant than the Kalimna, sort of the more mature and reserved of the two. There are more interesting secondary characters here with wood and light spices coming through; these normally only get reflected in the wine when the grapes ripen slowly and fully (hence a good, cool year). Taninns are more apparent and will definitely lend itself to aging; I feel there is more to be gained from this wine in due time, perhaps 7-10 years for this, peaking at 15 yrs.

Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
£12 - B+(+)

The palate didnt quite live up to the enticing nose. Nose displays nice alcoholic warmth; leather, wood and some tobacco notes. Palate was straightforward, it didnt have a weighty mouthfeel, too fleeting if anything. I cant find fault with this wine because it is well made, but theres nothing memorable either.

Wolf Blass Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
£20 - A-(+)

Nose is dominated by eucalyptus and mint; its like cherry flavoured cough mixture. I'm told the Langhorne Creek which they use to irrigate the vines has eucalyptus trees growing on its banks, hence the nose. The only other time I've experienced this strong eucalyptus nose was when the vineyard was directly next to a eucalyptus forest; you almost half expect a koala to jump out of the bottle. Fruit is mainly blackcurrants and berries and winegums / pastilles. Body is structured, but could do with a litle more length; it is classy but it doesnt linger. I'm told 2003 was a bad year for Cab Sauv in Aussie. Even then, this might reward cellaring up to 10 yrs, it'll be interesting to see how the eucalyptus develops. I would've rated the wine similar to the Wynns above if not for the highly unusual and memorable nose.

Overall impressions

Credit should be given where credit is due; I was skeptical when I first saw the tasting list, I felt rather cheated. But it proved to be an interesting exercise in showing regional characteristics, short of actually saying terroir. Sure Australian wines are very reliable in providing drinkable bottles in the £5-£7 range, or even the 3 for £10 range; but some areas are finding their own niches. It is not a coincidence that I've had numerous quality Rieslings from Eden / Clare Valleys (thinking of Pewsey Vale and Petaluma, respectively; both available in Oddbins), as well as classy reds from Coonawarra. Wine of the night was the Penfolds Riesling and the Penfolds Bin 128; good value in my mind and lots of character; the Wolf Blass Langhorne Creek deserves a mention for the beautiful nose.

Monday, 5 May 2008

General, 4 May 2008

Two wines with dinner and a fortified wine afterwards.

Magpie Estate 'The Thief' Mourvedre Grenache Rose 2006, Barossa Valley, AU
NYW - £8 [B+]

A rather deep coloured rose, made from unusual varietals. This off-dry rose displays plenty of fruity characteristics, with notes of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. Its not completely devoid of body, which is why it will go with light dishes (maybe chicken caesar salad). Its got slightly too much body for me to drink on its own, not to mention 14% alcohol.

Was had with: Prawn and salmon in parsley sauce with cheesy crust. Went alright with the food, but shouldve chosen a different wine.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8.5/10

Dona Dominga 'Gran Reserva' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Oddbins - £10 [B+(+)]

A big, powerful new world wine. The nose reveals lots of attractive fruit, plenty of secondary flvours to savour. Palate is dominated by juicy blackcurrants and dark berries; there are touches of smokiness / toast, licorice and also of spices, specially cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg too. This wine really punches its way through your palate, and why not too at 14.5%. There is definitely some oak treatment, but I thought it was tastefully done; tannins should allow some maturing over 3-5 yrs, but its drinking beautifully now. I really liked it since there is so much flavours to savour, tasting this is like biting into a bunch of alcoholic berries. But it must be said that others might find it slightly too big, punchy and showy. Imagine having this for a barbecue, lovely.

Was had with: Roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and horseradish sauce. Classic beef and Cab Sauv combination really cant go wrong.
Independent adjudicator rating: 7/10

Burge Family Winemakers 'Vintage' Shiraz Touriga Souzao 2003, Barossa Valley, AU
NYW - £10 (37.5cl) [A-]

A fortified red wine, made with 40% Shiraz, 40% Touriga, 20% Souzao; the latter two are varietals commonly found in Port. This wine displayed lots of fruit, ripe blackcurrants and dark berries; I always feel that fortifying Shiraz always gives a slightly Ribena-like quality where the end product sort of tastes like fruit pastilles and wine gums. The mouthfeel is sweet, rather dense but not as heavy as vintage port; the lack of tannins probably makes this ideal for early drinking, perhaps even slightly chilled. I can certainly see it with fruit based deserts. A drawback I thought was that the alcohol level of 19.5% was very evident on the nose, wasnt disguised at all. Otherwise, a well-balanced and well made fortified wine.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

General, 27 April 2008

Two wines had with dinner. This should be a weekly affair for the next six weeks.

Margrain 'Home Block' Pinot Noir 2006, Martinborough, NZ
Oddbins - £14 [A-(+)]

Absolutely lovely Pinot Noir; its got a delicate and silky texture that happily slips down with grace and moreish finish. There is a ripe cherry nose, like that of a berry coulis / compote (you know, the bit of fruit you get with a Muller Corner?) with some smokiness, like lightly smoked bacon, and woodiness too. Fruity but not overly so. The concentration of flavour is notable and although its quite alcoholic at 14%, it doesnt punch you out. Balance and juiciness is the key here. There isnt much tannin to speak of, but I feel this will develop in the bottle for at least another 5 yrs, maybe more. A bit pricey, but love it. Read the winemakers notes for this particular release here; and I thought I was abstract.

Was had with: Roast lamb (and mint sauce), roast potatoes and creamy cauliflower. Went very well, the wine complemented the lamb.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8/10

Nieto Senetiner 'Don Nicanor' Tardio 2004, Mendoza, Arg
NYW - £7.24 (50cl) [B]

A late harvest Torrontes, made by a reputable people, liked by the chaps at Noel Young. The palate was like candied oranges, sweet marmalade. There was a decent dose of sugar, nothing too cloying or heavy; but I thought the sweetness wasnt integrated with the acidity. When tasted, it felt sweet, rather sour then a slightly bittery (again, like marmalade) finish, in that order; it just didnt express itself as a single entity. For the price, one can't complain. Dont think there is any point in keeping this.

Was had with: A lemon tart with meringue and vanilla ice cream. Although I'm not thta keen on the wine on itself, it went very very well with the desert. The sweet ice cream and meringue found its match with the sweetness, the zingy acidity of the lemon tart found a partner with the acidity in the wine. The compartmentalisation of the flavours just made it better, paradoxically.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8.5/10

Friday, 25 April 2008

NYW - Jean-Claude Boisset Tasting

Jean-Claude Boisset Tasting
Noel Young Wines - Trumpington
16 April 2008

Tasting run by Noel Young Wines in Trumpington HIgh St, Cambridge. Its the first time I've been to a tasting in NY Wines, its not exactly smack in the middle of Cambridge you see, getting there and back is rather complicated. However, this tasting was really excellent, I ran out of superlatives at the end of it. Prices are retail at NYW.

The speaker, Gregory Patriat, is the head winemaker at JC Boisset; a man who knows and obviously loves his wine, is an excellent and captivating speaker (with jokes I really shouldnt repeat in a public domain such as this). He started off working in the vineyards, gradually moving up to become winemaker. JC Boisset used to be thought of as a run of the mill kind of winery, making basic and overpriced Burgundies; but this has changed under Gregory. They now make small parcels of many different wines, focusing on the true and pure expression of the terroir; they dont own much land themselves, instead choosing to buy in parcels of fruit from all over Burgundy. They are very involved in the actual grape growing (they are foremost a wine grower, not a wine maker - nice soundbite eh?). This is rather important as wine growers tend to have a farmers' mentality, that is, trying to make as much fruit as possible as they get paid by the tonne; this unfortunately makes poor wine as the fruit will be flavourless, diluted, and very often under ripe - farmers get real twitchy at the sight of bad weather near harvest time, so left to their own devices, they would rather harvest early and secure the crop. By forging long term relationships with the wine growers, JC Boisset has the pick of the crop and they say in the actual wine growing; in many ways this is a good business model. If its a bad year, they simply make less wine and only buy fruit from areas which performed OK; in good years, they just buy more fruit and make more wine. Hence they have a massive portfolio of different wines produced in very small quantities, ranging from 600 to 10,000 bottles, which is nothing compared to the massive negociants in Burgundy. Enough background, on to the drink itself.

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2006
£11 [B+]

The entry level white from JC Boisset, they tend to think that the entry level wine is where most of the big negociants get it wrong: its normally overpriced and/or rubbish. Here, we have a fruit-driven wine, full of white fruits, peaches and citrus peel; its very fresh, with crisp minerality and light acidity. There is some tartness towards the end, lending to a balanced, perfectly acceptable mouthfeel. I felt that this was a good wine to start a tasting, awakens the tastebuds with its light, tingly flavours. Its not one to keep, but a few years wont hurt it at all. I think its wonderful if you just wanted to show what a properly made white Burgundy should taste like. Value isnt bad either.

Marsannay Blanc 2006
£16 [A-]

From vineyards just north of the Cotes de Nuits. This was sort of the entry level, taken to the next step. The purity of flavour and fruit-dominated palate is similar to above, but this wine had a slightly heavier mouthfeel; it was more expansive, just slightly more fulfilling. Whereas the first wine above was light and tingly, this was more assured and lingered for a while, enticing you a bit. I loved the balance and togetherness of the wine. This may keep around 5yrs if you could keep it that long.

Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Sur Gamay 2006
£25 [A-(+)]

Despite the name, this wine is all Chardonnay, from an up and coming area (Saint-Aubin); the 2002 vintage won an IWC white burgundy trophy some time back, The main distinguishing feature from the two above is the weight on the palate, this one feels creamier, heavier, larger and fatter. A slight departure from white fruits, into more developed complex notes. There are more attarctive secondary characteristics, here I detected some organic chemistry-related notes (turpentine etc); the wine itself doesnt slip through quickly, it almost beckons you to stop and take notice. This will most certainly develop in the next 5-10yrs. Absolutely lovely, balanced and complex.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2005
£45 [B+(++)]

The most expensive white on tasting tonight, but not my favourite. There is an overriding acidity that will supply the backbone for aging, but now, its just a bit too aggressive and cutting; its also almost tannic (yes, I know it sounds weird). Dont get me wrong, its still wonderful, there is a creamier, buttery and largeness about it that I just know will be perfect in due course. Fruit wise, we're moving from citrus to grapefruit and lime. At the moment, its a bit too exuberant and lively for me, its not yet 'together' flavour wise; the different aspects (acidity, fruit, weight and motuhfeel) are still pulling the wine in different directions. I have no doubts thil will develop very well with time; its not short on class either. Keep 10+ yrs.

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006
£11 [B+]

Entry level red from JC Boisset, made much in the same spirit as the white. Its an honest Burgundy, made properly from decent grapes. Its dominated by light red fruits; tartness reminiscent of cranberry and raspberry. Tannins are a bit out of place for my liking, I like my Pinots to be smooth and rounded, this one had some edge to it. Its a vibrant and happy wine, to be had with food (pork or even lamb). Drink now, no dont think it'll keep.

Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits 'Les Dames Huguettes' 2006
£15 [B(+)]

This I thought didnt express itself well during the tasting; it may be on a bad day. It seemed rather closed and astringent, which I thought was strange. There is some red fruits though, but the tannins just needed some time to soften and develop. My rating reflects the hope that it will get better with time, perhaps 5yrs just to open a little?

Santenay 1er Cru Grand Clos Rousseau 2006
£25 [B+(+)]

The appearance of this wine was lightly darker than the prvious two, an indication as to its flavours as well. There is certainly greater concentration of flovaours in this wine, red fruits still readily apparent with a sprinkling of secondary caharcteristics of wood / herb. The mouthfeel was slightly heavier and larger and the finish just that bit classier. It should keep, the tannins could do with some time 5-10yrs.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Greves 2005
£28 [B(+++)]

Another potentially great wine which didnt perform during the tasting. My lasting memory of this was how tightly wound this wine tasted, the tannins were astringent almost to the extent of being raw, grips like tyres on a hot tarmac. The shame is that there are great secondary flavours here: light spices, licorice and floral nose were all there, the fruit was hidden behind the tannins. I'm told by the winemaker that this wine has a tendency to enter a 'closed' phase where it just shuts down for a few years and he wasnt surprised that this wine tasted like it did. Time should take care of it though. I'm sure this tasting note would look different in 5yrs time; maturity and full complexity wont be till 12-15yrs time. Once won the IWC Burgundy trophy, cant doubt the pedigree.

Chambolie Musigny 2005
£32 [B+(++)]

This was a really serious wine, from the first sip you could tell it meant business. The concentration of flavours, even at this stage, was impressive; the nose was strong yet delicately perfumed. Taninns are present but not harsh; there was a hidden power behind this wine that you could feel will serve it very well in due course. There is a layered, structured feel that is so seductive; the savouriness is just brilliant. I apologise for being so abstract, but I absolutely adored this wine even now; I shudder to think what greatness could be expected in, say, 10yrs time; maturity probably after 15yrs.

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2005
£67 [A-(++)]

Alright, this cost twice as much as the previous one but I honestly cannot say it was twice as good. The good points from the wine above are obviously here, I couldnt detect much difference bar the fact that this wine was drinking better now, compared to the Chambolie Musigny, hence the grade difference. Whats notable is the layered palate; the hidden power and structure is appealing; the finish is slightly more sustained. Maybe 5-10yrs to start tatsing interesting bits; 15yrs for maturity. Honestly though, I'd rather get two bottles of Chambolie Musigny.


Incredibly impressed with the JC Boisset portfolio. All wines showed pedigree, they didnt muck about with the grapes; there was no excessive oak treatment, whatever oak they used was tasteful and elegant. The clarity anf purity of expression of the terroir is absolutely first class. I honestly cannot say anything bad about the wines here. Notable white was the Saint-Aubin, as probably guessed from the notes, for its balance and expression. Notable reds were the Bourgogne Pinot Noir, for its value; the Chambolie Musigny for its elegance and potential.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The grading system explained

This entry just tells you more about my ranking system thats normally indicated next to the price of the wine. Of course one cannot be completely objective about what 'grade' a particular wine gets, but you can sort of try. I am fully aware of the perils of giving grades, particularly if the grade / point given can make or break a wine (cue Robert Parker). To me, the grading system is a guide - should I have the opportunity to buy some of these wines, I know where to look for a quick glance and thats how I suppose you ought to treat it. I must also admit that this grading system is adapted from Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Guide.

Firstly, there is an actual grade as to how the wine performed during the tasting. I try my best to take price out of the equation, but this is often not possible. Alternatively, if I thought a wine was of particularly good or poor value, this should be in the actual tasting note. The grade ranges from A+ to C-, I dont think I have ever rated a wine C-, though some have come close. They correspond roughly to:

A* : Buy a few cases, at least. Now.
A+ : A case in the cellar will make me a happy man.
A : Definitely re-buy a bottle, at least.
A- : I'd happily drink most of a bottle.
B+ : I'd drink a few glasses.
B : I'd drink a glass.
B- : Probably wont finish whats in my glass.
C+ : Half a glass is plenty, thanks.
C : I'd finish the tasting pour only to be polite.
C- : Wheres the spittoon again?

If I ever find the occasion to award lower than a C- (lets hope not), then I will say so in the tasting note, probably followed by a string of expletives too. In addition, there are ratings next to the grade to indicate aging potential as I am aware many wines tasted are not at their peak and would benefit from bottle aging. This will be written in brackets; the extent to which the wines will develop is indicated by the number of +s. So a wine with [A-(++)] may one day, at its peak, be [A+]; this will be a thing to look for especially in Bordeaux tastings.

So thats that, my grading system explained.

Addendum Nov 2011

For en primeur tastings, a 20-point scale is used, with the number of (+) an indication as to how it might develop. This would roughly translate as:

A*  20pts
A+  19-19.5pts
A  18-18.5pts
A-  17-17.5pts
B+  16-16.5pts
B 15-15.5pts
B-  14-14.5pts

General - 16-23 April 2008

Various wines that were tasted during this week, all with food.

Cliff Edge Shiraz 2001, Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards, Australia
CWM - £14 [B+]

Its quite rare to be able to taste a big aussie shiraz thats been aged abit, I must admit, this was why I bought it. This wine was no pushover, I think the alcohol level was upwards of 14%, but somehow you didnt feel the burn as much as usual. There is a fantastic fruitiness to it, the nose reminds me of blackcurrant cordial / ribena / berry pastilles, there is a mintiness perhaps eucalyptus nose as well. It really was a big wine, voluptuous even, but it didnt have the same kind of kick compared to a young aussie shiraz; its lost the punchiness to it and gained a smoother texture too. I actually like it very much (not for everyday drinking, mind) and it went really well with spaghetti and italian sausages.

Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2006, France
NYW - £11 [B+]

This is the entry level red bourgogne by JC Boisset; a full tasting note from a Boisset tasting will be uploaded shortly, I bought this wine on its own for dinner. This wine displayed much forward fruit, ripe cherries and raspberries dominate; there is some tartness as well, like drinking cranberry juice. The tannins are enough to support the body. I was impressed by the purity of expression; its not some Grand Cru stuff, but you feel that this wine was well made, they didnt muck about with too much oak etc. Its a vibrant, happy wine really; and great value for what is a decent Bourgogne to drink now. I had it with a roast belly of pork in a white wine and garlic reduction sauce and it was lovely; the fattiness of the pork didnt overcome the wine at all. Drink early though, this entry level wine is not for keeping.

Finca Antigua Merlot 2004, Martinez Bujanda, La Mancha, Spain
Restaurant price £16, Retail unknown [B]

Ordered this wine for a curry dinner at the famed Shish Mahal Restaurant in Glasgow's West End; they recommneded it, and apparently this wine won a medal at the IWC 2005? The wine itself is everything one would expect of a pure Merlot; large, round and juicy fruit; the nose is deep with cassis and red fruits. There is a woodiness and smokiness to it, I would imagine this had some new oak treatment, but cant be sure. Often one finds such pure Merlot (esp New World) to be quite dilute where the flavours are not concentrated, this wine didnt suffer from this problem; the soft tannins are ripe and if you try hard enough, there is even some secondary chracteristics with spices etc. Overall, this wine complemented the curry dinner nicely, if sometimes slightly overwhelmed. Cant complain.

Magpie Estate 'The Salvation' Gewurztraminer 2007, Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia
NYW - £9 [A-]

Made by the good people at Noel Young Wines, this is only the second white wine they have made in 10 years and I feel they got it spot on. The floral, slightly perfumed nose is enticing; the palate is full of white fruits, citrus, pineapple, some candied ginger and even the elusive lychee. There is still some sweetness (to an Auslese level?), but this is balanced by the fruity acidity that runs through, leaving a clean, lip-smacking finish. I think its wonderfully balanced and shows good expression of a Gewurztraminer. I dont know whether this will evolve in bottle, it might just gain a bit more weight and lose some of the freshnes of youth, but its wonderful now, honestly. I had it wine some simple sweet and sour pork; the spiciness/sweetness of the dish was complemented very well by the wine. Very impressed and will definitely consider buying again.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

General, 12 April 2008

Ch Cru Cantemerle 2003, Bordeaux Superieur
Oddbins £8.5 [B]

This Merlot dominated wine (88%) showed excellent fruit-driven characteristics and juiciness, undoubtedly due to its high Merlot content. The palate is dominated by fresh light fruits and a hint of toast/woodiness; the palate is firm, welcoming and plump, if perhaps a touch dilute (I imagine its something to do with the ripenes of the grapes when picked, but that could be complete bollocks). Its a decent drink and reasonably priced if bought in bulk, what with Oddbins' 20% off any dozen offer - £8.50 is the retail price, without the offer. The tannins are present, and I think they are as refined now as they are ever going to be, this wine is not a Bordeaux you buy to keep and enjoy ten years down the road. Have it with your sunday roast, or any meat-dominated dish.

A note of interest: Ch Cru Cantemerle actually neighbours Ch Cantemerle, a fifth growth classified winery in Haut-Medoc, which often makes people think that this wine is the second wine of Cantemerle. Its not, the second wine of Ch Cantemerle is Les Allees de Cantemerle. Just thought I;d make that clear.

Monday, 31 March 2008

General, 30 March 2008

Ch de l’Engarran Gres de Montpellier 2004, Coteaux de Languedoc
Oddbins £9 [B]

A blend of 39% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 28% Carignan & 5% Mourvèdre, this wine has a rather cool feel unlike most Languedoc wines of this price range; the 14% of alcohol is masked behind the burst of fruit flavours dominated by cherries, plums and sour prunes. There is also a nice smokiness to it, perhaps even a touch of licorice. The tannins could do with some softening out, but overall, this wine has got a nice body and structure to go with food. I had it with a meaty pizza and it went well, I would imagine pork or lamb in some gravy would be fine too. It could be kept to see whether it’ll develop, but its drinking well now.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Northern Italy - CWM Mill Rd

Northern Italy Tasting
Cambridge Wine Merchants - Mill Rd
27 March 2008

Tasting run by the Cambridge Wine Merchant team at Mill Rd, must say that the new tasting room / cellar in their branch is kinda cramped for 30 people in a tasting; ventilation wasnt very good either. Wine wise, there was a nice mix. Prices indicated are retail prices in the shop, insofar as I know, correct at time of tasting. Lets start.

Prosecco Extra Dry, Cantina Beato Bartolomeo £9 [B]

Lightly sparkling wine, with a nose of apple. grape juice and sweet pears, generally fruity and pleasant. This is a light-bodied, quite sweet, very drinkable wine; its a simple, uncomplicated, cheerful drink. Chill it for the summer months to drink on its own or with any light dishes.

Soave Superiore Classico 2005, Vigneto Montegrande £8 [B]

Nice nose of white peaches, nectarines, and the tang of grapefruits too. The acidity in this wine is quite pronounced, gives it an interesting zing and crispness to the wine on the fore of the palate, giving way to some tartness at the end. There is also a slight hint of creaminess, most probably from some oak treatment. Body wise, this wine was fairly two dimensional and just didnt have much to offer. Drinkable but not memorable.

Vinnae Servus Cella 2006, Jermann £18 [B+]

There is an unusual earthy / yeasty nose to this, a smell normally more associated with Champagne; also reminds me of burnt matchstick / sulphur and stony minerality. This feels like a cool wine grown in temperate areas, flavours are restrained and composed. The oak treatment enhances the wine, gives an extra complexity to it. The fruit, acidity and tartness is not integrated at this point, perhaps could do with a few years to see how it develops. I think its a good wine, but at the moment, not worth the price tag and not presenting itself well either.

Gavi di Gavi 2006, Fontanafredda £11 [B-]

Struggled to get any aromas out of this, taste wise, its fresh, crisp and leaves a drying sensation at the finish. Again, there is oak in this which lends some oaky / woody / vanilla touches. The body is understandably lean; flavour wise, its not giving up very much. I do apologise for the sparse tasting note, I really struggled with this one.

Barbera d'Asti 2002, Ca' Del Matt £7 [B]

Nice fruity nose, with a dash of sweet spices (cinnamon etc), there is also a sourish nose, like that of a berry compote (cherries, raspberries). This too feels like a cool wine, though rather dilute; the body is slender to weak, lacks structure. Dont get me wrong, I do think that this wine is well made, just that its rather too light and cheerful for my liking. Food wise, lightly / simply cooked game meats or even lamb might work well.

Barbera d'Asti Superiore Tere Caude 2003, Ca' Del Matt £11.75 [B+(+)]

Theres a nice warmth to this wine, its quite alcoholic on the nose, some burnt clay and earthy notes. Curiously, this wine has what I consider to be a hot nose but a cool feel / palate; fruit flavours include dary cherry, plums and chocolates, its quite exotic in a way that I cant quite pin down. The tannins needs time to soften and develop, coupled with the relatively high alcohol and balanced acidity, this will pobably age well.(~5yrs).

Dolcetto d'Alba Boschi de Berri 2005, Marcarini £11.75 [B-(+)]

Flavours here are very much dominated by the unripe, green and very astringent tannins; there are touches of licorice, perhaps prunes and dark cherries, but its quite hard to get beyond the tannins. This wine needs food and above all else, time to soften the tannins out. From the balance and intensity, I think there is more to this wine to be had, but not at the moment. Its like tasting a decent but very tannic Bordeaux.

Barolo Brunate 2003, Marcarini £25 [B(+)]

This pale-coloured wine has a strawberry, unripe cherry and cooked berries nose; a fellow taster commented that there was a sweet spices here too, like that of cinnamon and licorice perhaps. The alcohol levels can't be hidden, and neither can the unripe and harsh tannins; it is actually a rather powerful wine, with a good structure, balance and lingering finish to it. I have no doubts that this will improve with age, perhaps it'll open up more in 3-5 yrs. Excellent with hearty meat dishes, I suppose the kind you find in Northern Italy? Just a guess...

Bosan Ripasso 2004, Cesari £15 [B+(+)]

There is a red fruits, sour cherry and berry nose to this; on the palate there is a most satisfying burst of flavour on the fore, quite juicy in a way. The tannins again need to flesh out a little, but even now, there is a hint of sweetness peeking through. I think with time his could be a good maybe even great wine, theres just something about it that I personally like. Try game meats with this; keep ~5yrs.

Amarone della Valpolicella 2004, Cesari £22.50 [B+(+)]

Attractive nose to this wine: exotic spices, white pepper, maybe even a hint of incense? This wine is intensely-flavoured, concentrated whole flavours, something I really approve of in a traditionally styled and made Amarone. Ripe cherries, strawberry and plums are apparent fruit-wise; at the moment, sweetness is masked by the alcohol (not light at 15%) and the tannins, which need time to ripen and mellow out. Already, this wine displays excellent balance and smoothness; it just seems poised, ready to impress. I'm sure this wine will age supremely, developing complexity and layers of flavour as it goes along. 5yrs minimum to open up, perhaps peaking at 10-15yrs. If you have dark meats with cranberry sauce, this will fit like a glove.

Recioto della Valpolicella 2003, Cesari £18 (50cl) [A-]

Sweet desert wine, unfortified. Unsurprisingly, nose of dried fruits (the ones you sprinkle on cakes etc) and some raisins. Flavours are integrated and smooth; chocolate, cassis and dark grape juice Its drinking well now, there arent that much tannins that need time to flesh out, so I have no reservations drinking this young. The sweetness is not cloying, its balanced by the fruitiness and acidity, again, obviously well made. Mind you, this wine is not light (because of the sugar) but will go wonderfully with berry-containing desert dishes or chocolates (as was served during the tasting).

Overall report

An interesting tasting but quite disappointing in a way too. The whites didnt impress me, it just tasted rather bland and unremarkable; lets just say I wont be buying any of them for future personal consumption, bar the Vinnae Servus Cella perhaps. The reds were largely still very tannic, needing time to develop and just soften out; still, a couple of gems in there, particulrly the Bosan Ripasso and the Amarone, its a shame that they are just out of my budget for normal consumption.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

AXA Millesimes Tasting

Cambridge University Wine Society
AXA MIllesimes Tasting, 4 March 2008
Robert Gardner Rm, Emmanuel College

A tasting run by the Cambridge University Wine Society (CUWS), led by the Managing Director of the AXA MIllesimes group, Christian Seely. The group itself is owned by the insurance giant AXA, but they do have a significant wine branch, if you will; the MD did say that the insurance group sees it more like investment in property, very much long term and the actual running of the wineries are left to people who love and know their wine. The portfolio of AXA MIllesimes is quite diverse, as evident from the variety of the wines tasted on this occasion. The wines are presented in the order they were served during the tasting, on specific instruction of Mr Seely himself. Here we go.

Mas Belles Eaux Coteaux du Languedoc 2005 B-

A blend of 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. There is the hot, burnt clay, alcoholic nose that I normally associate with Languedoc Syrahs. There is a rather large burst of red fruits on the palate, but this quickly disappears. Very drinkable, cheerful style of wine, but nothing much worth remembering.

Mas Belles Eaux St Helene 2005 B

80% Syrah, 10% Grenache and 10% old vine Carignan. This is the reserve wine of Mas Belles, mostly sourced from older vines; it has a similar hot, alcoholic nose due to the large proportion of Syrah, with more spice and pepper on the nose. Its slightly fuller in flavour, more civilised, with some tannins that might allow a few years of aging.

Ch Pibran 2004, Pauillac Cru Bourgeois B

60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This Chateau borders illustrious neighbours such as Mouton-Rothschild, Lynch-Bages and Pontet Canet; the wine itself is vinified in Ch Pichon Longueville Baron, another one of AXA's property, and made under the guidance of a Bordeaux big-name Jean-Michel Cazes of Ch Lynch Bages. All of which provde good recipe for success, I must say. Tasting wise, it has a fruity and fresh nose (though not completely opened up yet), not so much of the traditional earthy/musty/rustic Bordeaux nose. What stuck with me is the softness on the palate, though feels rather hollow; the Merlot is really doing the talking right now. The tannins are there, but it doesnt have the structure or body to age long term. Drink now to 5 years.

Ch Pichon-Longueville (Pichon Baron) 2004, Pauillac 2nd growth A-(++)

Probably the flagship of the AXA Millesimes group (with Ch Suduiraut). An underrated vintage I think, somewhat lost after 2003 and forgotten after the hype of 2005. Nice aromatic nose, fruity, with rustic/earthy notes; expressive even at this very young stage, a touch exotic with the spices perhaps? The palate is big, well-rounded and surprisingly smooth; hints of cherry, dark berries and even dark plums. The poised tannins and structured body is still quite lean, almost chewy, very much needs time to soften and open up. The low notes of the wine will develop with time but the wonderful balance can be seen even now. Verdict: impressive and well worthy of classification and dare I say it, price. Will keep for serious lengths of time +10yrs.

Ch Petit Village 2004, Pomerol A-(+)

This one really has an expressive nose, fruity, fresh, and lifted, with hints of woodchips, herbs and smokiness (like that of smoky bacon). It is Merlot dominated (~70%), which gives it a plump and rounded feel on the palate; it is also quite sweet and creamy in a strange way, dont know where that came from to be honest. Style wise, its probably softer and more seductive compared to a traditional Pauillac. The tannins will allow keeping, but I doubt it has the structure for long term cellaring, 5-10yrs.

Quinta do Noval 2004, Douro DOC B+(++)

Quinta do Noval is traditionally a Port house, but this wine is an unfortified, still red which was made in very small quantities (therefore not commercially available) as a fun experiment by the good people at AXA Millesimes. This wine is predominantly (~70%) Touriga National, with other varieties traditionally associated with Port. This wine has a wonderful tannic structure; fruit is still masked, dark berries and almost quite woody. There is an interesting juiciness and shows great potential, but needs lots of time, just like vintage Port, we're talking +10yrs here. Such a shame they dont make this commercially. Comparison and parallels with vintage Port cannot be ignored.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2004 A-(++)

Small quantities made, not a general vintage declaration. Raisin, sultana dominated nose, some alcohol too. There is a strong tannic structure, perhaps with touches of cigars and old leather. The purity of flavour is extraordinary here, they really picked the best grapes to go into this Port; no doubt will age sublimely and will gain complexity. Nothing much to be gained palate wise at this point in time, still way too young for appreciation. Keep 20+ years, 10 yrs just to give it justice.

Ch Suduiraut 2004, Sauternes Premier Cru A(+)

Rapidly considered to be among the top four or five in Sauternes and justifiedly so, I think. This vintage is supposed to be one of the greats for Suduiraut. The nose is nutty, with caramel and some saltiness, like cocktail nuts. The acidity and tang on this wine very much balances and complements the sweetness, which is never cloying; I always think that balance is the thing to strive for in Sauternes; anyone can make sweet wines, but getting the balance right is the difficult bit. The body reminds me of sweet marmalades, citrus fruits, white peach and sweet nectarines, quite exotic actually. There is a layered structure, with waves of flavour lasting quite long. Make no mistake, this is a very good Sauternes which will please now or for the next 20 years. If you are thinking of getting this but cant afford the price tag, the Berry's Own Sauternes sold from Berry Bros & Rudd is made by Suduiraut from the crop that didnt make it into the Grand Vin; I've had it before and it gives a good glimpse of what Suduiraut tastes like at a fraction of the price.

Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 1999, Hungary A(+)

Nose reminds me of the chemistry laboratories, there is the organic chemistry nose, turpentine and organic solvents; smells quite heavy. The palate is really unique to Tokaji, with sweet grapefruits, tart sour apples perhaps. I expect the sugar level in this wine to be well in excess of 100g/l but there is a cutting acidity (lime/citrus) which is counteracted with tartness, again this balance provides a unique freshness to Tokaji and therefore doesnt feel cloying. Balance is supreme, and lingering acidity just holds everything together. This wine will age very well if given the opportunity and will develop further complexity. This represents the pinnacle of winemaking from Disznoko.

Overall report

Very impressed with the AXA Millesimes holding and judging by its MD, it is in very capable hands with the right attitude to winemaking. The notable wines of this tasting were the still Quinta do Noval still red and the Pichon Baron; the Suduiraut is impressive as expected and the Tokaji is a good yardstick to judge other Tokajis by.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Downing College Wine Society - Bordeaux Tasting, Lent 2008

Downing College Wine Society - Bordeaux Tasting
Howard Building, Downing College, 13 March 2008

Whites (in reverse chronological order)

Les Clos de Reynon 2004, Cotes de Bordeaux [B-(+)]

Made by the Dubourdieu family, one of the great names in Bordeaux. This is a Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc blend in equal proportions, but feels rather Sauvignon Blanc-heavy. Crisp, fresh, nice limy tang to it; one can feel the minerality as well. Its a nice, very drinkable white with some white fruits/peachy flavours. The smoothness and stony feel to the wine is notable, but otherwise, nothing exceptional to remember it by. Its oaked (and feels so too) but not excessively. Drink up soon, maybe with light seafood, fishes and salads.

Ch Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 1997, Pessac-Leognan [B+(+)]

Deep golden colour is quite something to behold. This is a matured white Bordeaux from a very reputable Chateau and has developed accordingly. The nose is sweet, honeyed, perhaps even nectar, with a light touch of white pepper. At the moment, the oak is quite prominent, some has integrated into the wine, fruit is masked but is slowly released on the palate (sweet grapefruit, seville orange was mentioned in the tasting). Quite full and rich on the mouth, creamy smoothness and has, dare I say it, a fresh finish? This is good stuff, and will probably keep another 5-10 years.

Reds (in reverse chronological order)

Ch Tour de Beauregard 2004, St Emilion [B-(+)]

The nose was quite expressive, especially given the age, it was fuit-dominated and perhaps even floral. Licorice, cinnamon and spices can be detected, along with black cherry. Tannin is still very green, hence the woody and herby notes. At the moment, the body is not opening up, just feels very tightly coiled, not ready to reveal the flavours hiden within. On the palate, feels flat and somewhat dilute. Definitely needs some cellaring time, at least 5 yrs to even be able to appreciate the potential; just too young to drink now.

Ch Beau Site 2003, St Estephe[B(+)]

This is a good Bordeaux year and Beau Site didnt disappoint. Big, rather powerful and alcoholic nose, not quite as powerful as an Aussie Shiraz at 14.5%, but certainly unrefined by Bordeaux standards. The fruit-dominated palate include ripe cherries and blackberries, but its the largeness and power that is really notable. Tannin is there but is not integrated into the fruit wine: needs time, I would be interested in tasting this in 5 yrs time to see development. Think of large, hearty French food, or a big slab of meat, a barbecue even.

La Reserve de Leoville Barton 2000, St Julien [B(+)]

Stellar year supposedly, and from this wine, one would agree. The second wine of Ch Leoville-Barton, an example of which is tasted later, made from parcels which didnt make it into the Grand Vin. Proper Bordeaux nose: rustic, earthy, nutty. The body is still large, but not aggresively so; tannin has developed, less edgy, helping the wine to open up on the palate. Generous amounts of dark fruits, with a hint of smokiness (someone said smoky bacon, but I think thats going a bit too far). On the palate it is firm, yet quite mellow at the same time, you can tell the wine has good balance. Still has lots of life in it, another 5-10 yrs wont go amiss.

Les Bahans du Chateau Haut-Brion 1999, Pessac-Leognan [A(++)]

Second wine of the fabled Chateau Haut-Brion, again, from parcels which didnt make it into the Grand Vin. Nose is of a proper Bordeaux, with added herby/woody and white pepper characteristics. Some tannins has mellowed out, yielding a smooth settled body with good length; cassis, ripe cherries can be felt, along with aromas of cigar box and old leather. This is poised in terms of balance and structure, somehow I feel that it has not completely opened up yet, and will still develop with time. Lots of life left, about 10-15 yrs mark, I would venture. I dont know what the bigger brother tastes like, but this is seriously impressive and complex.

Chateau Palmer 1997, Margaux 3rd growth [B+]

Nose is leathery, smoky, with a touch of floralness (rosehip?), and those fragrant woods (sandalwood, not sure what wood exactly). Seductively large, with a smoothnes and elegance befitting of Margaux. Tannins have pretty much yielded to fruit and softness. However, this vintage doesnt have the power and firmness to carry it through. It saddens me to say that it wasnt impressive, tasted rather dilute and tired, like a wine on decline, past its best. I have heard very good things about Palmer and I feel this one didnt quite live up to it, perhaps it was a bad bottle, I dont know. Drink up.

Ch Chasse Spleen 1996, Moulis en Medoc [B]

There is a burnt nose to this, like freshly laid tar / coal / graphite leads, must be something to do with the toast of the barrels, quite different, if nothing else. Smoky bacon, oak and smoked cigar can be detected on the nose too, not sure if thats a good thing or not. Tannins still quite drying, hasn't integrated into the body yet, weirdly needs more time or perhaps this is as good as it'll go. The rather large and fruity body hits you on the palate then quickly disappears, like a hit and run. If I had a case of this, I wouldnt know whether to drink or keep or sell.

Ch Batailley 1995, Pauillac 5th growth [A-]

This producer is a favourite of the good people at Berry Bros & Rudd and I can see why, its not expensive but has hallmarks of good Pauillac. Exemplary year, and this Batailley has aged supremely well; tannin has mellowed out and settled, rendering to a palate that is fresh, quite lively and filled with soft red fruits (ripe cherries, raspberry and plums etc). The smoothness and balance is key here, everything is held together very well, there is not a single feature that you would highlight out as being great, its the package as a whole. Loved it. Will keep another 10yrs no problems.

Ch Lascombes 1990, Margaux 2nd growth [A]

Very smooth and seductive wine; Margaux are supposed to be the more feminine style of wine, but this one still has power and largesse to it. Light licorice, leather, some flowery nose too. Think of well ripened cherry and raspberry fruits. The tannins have almost given way to elegance and silky texture; how can I put it, its like drinking velvet silk. It is quite simply stunning, the large body and smooth texture just blends into each other. A wine well worthy of its classification.

Ch Leoville Barton 1982, St Julien 2nd growth [A-]
Ch Langoa Barton 1982, St Julien 3rd growth [A+]

One of the greatest vintages in the last half-century, must say I'm very privileged to be tatsing these wines. The tasting notes for these two wines are put together because in many ways they are similar. The purity of flavour and attractive floral nose is noted for both. There are touches of licorice, cherry, cigar box, leather as well. Tannins for both are very settled, have really gone out of the way, rendering to a smooth and elegant palate. This is where the similarity ends. The Langoa Barton, as reflected in the tasting mark was just more open, lively and vibrant; the Leoville on the other hand was quite tired, nervous and unsure, insipid if I'm being rude. These wines have spent all of their lives in the cellars of Downing College, Cambridge, so provenance and maintenance is undoubted. Still, it could have just been a bad botle of Leoville. The Langoa gave a layered palate, with waves of flavour coming quite slowly but surely, it was poised and ready to impress. I'm afraid the Leoville gave gratification at the beginning then went AWOL.

Desert Wine

Ch Doisy Daene 2000, Barsac 2nd growth [B]

From the Dubourdieu stable too. Nice honeyed palate, with some tartness and bitterness towards to back of the palate. In my humble opinion, not enough acidity / zest to keep it aging, and thus also lacks the balance. I always feel its important for Sauternes to maintain the acid/sugar balance right. If you are thinking of treacle tart or desert with lots of caramel in it, this would go well. By this time, already had a not insignificant quantity of wine, hence the short tasting note. Also because I had previosuly tasted this during a Dubourdieu wines tasting, and wasnt impressed there either.

Overall Report

As anyone would agree, a very diverse tour around Bordeaux and also from different vintages. The organisers simply tried to get the best bottles they could lay their hands on and I'm not complaining. The notable wines of the night were the Langoa Barton 1982 for its decadence; the Bahans de Haut Brion 1999 for the poised structure; the Lascombes 1990 for the seductiive silkiness and I feel the Batailley 1995 deserves a mention too for good balance and graceful aging. This is probably one of the best tastings I have ever had the pleasure to attend. More tasting notes from the past will be published here soon.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Inaugural Post

Testing 1 2 3. This is the first post at Vinoremus; must say that I've thought about blogging my adventures, wine-related and otherwise, in Cambridge for quite some time. Never had the will or intention to crystallise the issue, gotta start somewhere, I suppose. I've had the pleasure (long may it continue too) of tasting many great and not so great wines here, so in a spirit of public service, I've decided to make my humble tasting notes available to those who care to read them. First of all, I would say that wines are very personal matters; one winemaker during a tasting once commented that the configuration of our taste buds are as unique as our fingerprints. Now I don't know whether this is true or not, but you get the general drift. Should anyone feel the urge to comment on the tasting notes, please feel free to do so: agree or disagree to your hearts content.

The first tasting note will follow shortly.