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.