Saturday, 24 March 2012

Champagne Tarlant

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

I came across Champagne Tarlant during a trade tasting organised by their UK importers / agents Charles Taylor Wines. I hadnt come across Tarlant before and the five Champagnes I tried on the day were singularly superb and I can heartily recommend every single one of them. I dont know where you can find them retail;  I'm sure their UK agents, Charles Taylor, will help you. Apologies for the poor picture quality.

Champagne Tarlant Brut Zero Nature

Good freshness; plenty of vibrantacidity but it isnt overdone / piercing, just fresh and steely. Slight bready / brioche nose; focused and nervy.

Champagne Tarlant Reserve Brut

An equal blend of Chard / Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier, mostly from the 2006 vintage, dosage 6g/l.
Slightly nutty / oxidised on the nose, more secondary notes of yeast and bread; fatness on the palate, good acididty still but its wider and isnt as linear as the Brut Zero. Well balanced.

Champagne Tarlant Tradition Brut

Only 6% Chardonnay, remainder predominantly Pinot Noir; mostly 2004 vintage, dosage 6g/l.
Rich flavours; theres bready and yeasty notes; but the mouthfeel is very plush and rounded, decent weight too; very seductive style; all tempered by a nervy, focused acidity. Such purity and generosity of fruit showing; really love this style.

Champagne Tarlant 2000 Vintage Cuvee Prestige

Golden in colour; nose is developed with bready and brioche notes, along with a slight oxidised note; also quite creamy / buttery. Palate is generous, perhaps a touch savoury; much more nerve and backbone here; not as plush but has longer, persistent finish; more structured and grown up. Complex, very composed.

Champagne Tarlant Cuvee Louis

From one single plot 'Les Crayons' in Oeuilly; equal split Chardonnay / Pinot Noir; blend of vintages 96, 97, 98; dosaged at 3g/l.
Nutty and creamy on the nose, with oxidative notes. Rich flavours, quite nutty, fat generous acidity, such presence and complexity on the palate; great concentration and weight, really makes you linger and mull over it; very very long finish. Exceedingly gentle mousse, just reminding you its a Champagne not an aged Grand Cru Burgundy. Unusual style, but astonishingly good.  

Friday, 23 March 2012

CUWS Annual Dinner 2012 - Cos d'Estournel

Saturday, 17 March 2012.

The Cambridge University Wine Society Annual Dinner 2012 held at Magdalene College, Cambridge warmly welcoming the wines of Cos d'Estournel and its President Director, Jean-Guillaume Prats; along with a short introduction to Bordeaux by Serena Sutcliffe MW.

1999 Pol Roger Vintage (magnum)

Golden in colour, with fine mousse. Bready and yeasty, lots of developed character, creamy and savoury at the same time; feels substantial. Theres a richness and generosity on the palate but still lots of nervy, focused acidity; yes, this was served as an aperitif but I feel there was plenty of complexity and presence there for this to be a food wine.

Pan Fried Scallops with Pancetta, Garden Pea Puree & Lemon Oil

2008 Cos d'Estournel Blanc

Green notes, along with citrus and a waxy, almost oily note; smells weighty, if thats possible. Palate is dominated by the citrus freshness, but its tempered with judicious use of oak, adding weight and mouthfeel, even a slightly struck match note; good concentration, lemony intensity showing. Couldn't ask for a better match with the food.

2005 Les Pagodes de Cos (magnum)

Dark fruit on the nose, blackberries mostly, with a green bellpepper whiff; also secondary notes of sweet spice, tanned leather and smoked tobacco, theres something that smells like ash, like something thats been recently burnt. Fruit forward, ripe red fruit which has settled, showing a rounded, but measured approach; touch of rusty / bloody note to this, and also a nice savoury tinge. Very together, but rather underwhelming, to be honest; I probably wouldnt be able to pick this out from a high quality Cru Bourgeois; doubly disappointing that it came from magnums and seemed somewhat tired. Drink now - 2015+.

Oven Roasted Fillet of Norfolk Venison with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Rich Red Wine Jus, Dauphinoise Potatoes, Celeriac Puree & Green Bean

1989 Cos d'Estournel

Green beans, green peppers and okra, with a slight woody edge to it; plenty of secondary notes of fragrant incense, sandalwood and cedar, then some spices too; was very lifted and fragrant. Palate is soft and yielding; red fruit dominates, still sweet and ripe; tannins have softened out, barely showing; plush and generous on the mid palate; all so very together. Has probably entered its optimum drinking window; drink now - 2020.

1995 Cos d'Estournel

Dark fruits on the nose, with green pepper and a slight burnt note again, like something caramelised / been barbecued / grilled; then theres the aromatics of tobacco, cedar and sandalwood again, sweet spice with star anise; wonderful aromas. Palate is restrained, almost holding itself back; but theres an opulence and generosity of fruit hidden behind it; also great depth of flavour in the wine, beckons you in. Fruit is concentrated and structured and doesnt hit you in one go; some grainy tannins towards the finish just to remind you its not at its peak just yet. Properly good stuff; drink now - 2025+.

Selection of Cheeses

2003 Cos d'Estournel

Dark fruits and cassis with smoky overtones; bellpeppers and again, a slightly burnt / barbecued note; theres savoury spices, like curry / Bombay mix snacks; also some burnt incense. On the palate, theres lots of dark fruit; but its fresh and doesnt feel heavy despite its susbstantial concentration; mouthfeel is generous and wide but feels very integrated and together; spicy on the finish. Grainy but ripe tannins towards the end; incredibly well-knit; powerful yet seductive. In terms of absolute quality, this is the best Cos d'Estournel of the night and its still unfurling in its youth, this has a couple of decades ahead of it; drink 2015 - 2035+

Traditional Crème Brûlee, Shortbread Biscuit & Seasonal Berries

2001 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 puttonyos

On the nose, its honeyed with dried fruits (apricots and nectarines) along with sultanas; quite lifted, with floral tones of acacia; smells properly sweet. On the palate, it actually feels light; theres a lot of sugar, but I'm guessing its on the lighter side of a 5 puttonyos. Dried apricots and marmalade, along with a decent lick of acid; feels fresh; somewhat lacking in concentration though; good balance.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Wednesday, 14 March 2012.

A tasting of CVNE wines for Cambridge University Wine Society, led by Brigitte Hennesy of Hatch Mansfield, CVNE's UK agents.

2010 Monopole Viura

White stone fruit, white peach also red apples; fresh and fruit forward, possibly even floral; lifted nose. Cool, low acid; fruit is there, but unremarkable, touch of green apples; rather neutral.

2010 Cune Barrel Fermented Blanco

Nutty oak, slight developed nose; savoury touches. Palate is larger and fatter, the acidity is more persistent and generous, theres white fruit but also buttery, savoury tones. Quite interesting on the palate, better texture..

2011 Cune Rioja Rosado

Vibrant, bright attractive red hue. Fruit driven, notes of strawberry and sweet raspberries, lifted freshness, lively. Clean, fresh red fruit; lifted, a touch off dry, shows the ripeness of fruit; medium acidity. Such a bright and vivacious Rose, great summer quaffer; drink as soon as possible, you dont want to miss out on its brightness.

 2009 Monopole Tempranillo

Red plums and red cherries; sweet spices with a touch of woody licorice. Palate is filled with soft fruit, red plums; not fully extracted, crunchy red fruit; freshness is dominant, not tannic at all. Almost made in a Beaujolais style, you could perhaps even chill this.

2008 Cune Crianza

Still plums but getting darker, more sweet spices and sweet vanilla; some secondary notes of leather, woody too. Fresh acidity on the palate; red fruit, plums and cherries; vibrancy about this, good fruit with a noticeable tannic grip at the end; everything is integrated and balanced. Nice expression.

2007 Cune Reserva

Red fruit, slightly more volatile with notes of liqueur; warming sweet spices and a good whack of vanilla, fragrant. Palate shows good fruit though perhaps a touch hot / alcoholic; lots of fruit; slightly more weight and extraction, a bigger wine than the Crianza. Still freshness runs through; actually feel less balanced than the Crianza.

1999 Imperial Gran Reserva

Quite muted, sour cherries and red currants; volatile sweet spice, not fully expressive and forward. Rather tart acidity; sour raspberries, tart currants; flavours are more focused, almost linear; the spice and development can be felt at the back. Not sure this is showing as well as it could.

2005 Vina Real Gran Reserva

Sweet spice to the fore, developed secondary notes of tanned leather, cedar and mahogany; big, expressive, also sweet vanilla. Good fruit concentration; darker berries and plums, still good freshness and acidity; very together. Ready now but will reward further cellaring, drink now - 2020+.

2004 Pagos de Vina Real

Dark fruit, sweet spice and woody licorice; quite alcoholic, brooding wine. On the palate, dark fruit of black berries, dark plums; quite woody, linear tannin grips; more extraction and concentration of flavours; lashings of sweet oak and ripe fruit. Theres maybe a bit of freshness from the acidity, but its getting awfully close to being unbalanced. Big bold wine, dare I say Parkerised? Drink now - 2020+

2005 Contino Graciano

Red plums, nice fragrance coming through, sweet spice, vanilla and even dried herbs. Good concentration, acidity on the higher side, giving it a good freshness, dark fruit looms in the background, ripe tannins. Though the tasting note seems entirely normal, theres something unusual in the palate which I cant exactly point out...

2008 Contino Vina del Olivo

Red fruit of plums and cherries; kirsch / liquer like nose too; then secondary savoury notes of game and cured meat, a ferral / earthy note with sweet Chinese five spice; old school nose, very attractive. Nice acidity, plenty of dark fruit; extracted and concentrated mouthfeel; woody licorice notes on the long finish; very good structure showing in the wine; fruit, oak and spice all integrated. A great, classy wine, my favourite of the night (by a good distance); will reward cellaring; drink now - 2025+.

Formal Hall

Four wines with dinner, Sunday 04 March 2012.

2009 Redoma Douro Branco, Niepoort
Noble Green Wines £12.99 | B+

White stone fruits on the nose, as well as slightly herby nose; lots of mineral, almost like smelling chalk; also a smoky (but not oaky) aroma; its a weird nose actually. Palate is textured and thick; mineral component is ever present and dominating; feels large and filling; plenty of white stone fruits again, but also slight nutty / savoury flavours; reminds me a lot like olives. Complex, but perhaps an acquired taste.

1999 Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge

On the nose theres a good dose of red fruits, plums and currants; also theres a herby / stalky nose, garrigue and  wild herbs; touch of peppers too; feels settled. Palate is very rounded; fresh and lively; red cherries and plums; yielding; a bit of spice at the end. Not particularly large, but does sustain a long mid palate. Drinking very nicely; now - 2019+.

2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Cantina Negrar
Waitrose £17 | B+

Thick, heavy almost port-like nose; sweet, black cherries and kirsch nose; with a woody, almost licorice tones. On the palate; its filling and quite unctuous; lots of bramble dark fruit, jammy, with morello cherries. Not fully extracted, still retains a bright acidic streak; its heavy and yet still fresh, perhaps just on the verge of being out of balance. Will probably develop with time; drink now - 2015+.

Calem 1990 Colheita Tawny Port
Wine Society | B+

Thursday, 8 March 2012

CUWS L12 - Villa Maria

Wednesday, 07 March 2012.

A tasting of Villa Maria wines for Cambridge University Wine Society, led by Fiona Mottershaw of Hatch Mansfield, Villa Maria's UK agent. Wines are widely stocked by national retailers Majestic and Waitrose Wine

2011 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc

Tropical nose, passion fruit, maybe guava, even white stone fruits; but theres a wet stones, pebbles by the river nose too; quite muted and only a touch leafy, which I must say is most unexpected for a NZ Sauv Blanc. Fresh acidity, clean and simple fruit on the palate, citrus; not particularly generous on the fruit front, bit mean.

2011 Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc

Cooked (not raw) asparagus; vegetal, really aggressive and overwhelmingly so; also over-ripe / slightly rotten stone fruits; weird nose, quite off putting and not attarctive to my liking. Palate is fatter, vibrant yet generous acidity, quite filling; more passion fruit and tropical fruits showing on the palate; decent intensity of fruit.

2011 Private Bin Riesling

Lemon, maybe some apples, slight air-freshener like spritz, really hard to pick the nose. Fat lemons on the palate, width, acidity is generous and is the most dominant thing and as a result feels a bit aggressive and mouth contorting.

2011 Private Bin Gewurztraminer

Apple, elderflower, white flower, maybe lychee and passion fruit, also spritz on the nose. Not much by way of acidity, elderflower and apple carries through, touch of spice at the end; unfortunately rather flat, the fruit is unremarkable and rather insipid.

2010 Cellar Selection Chardonnay

Nose is mostly butter, creamy oak; almost quite sweet. Palate is quite large and generous, decent fruit concentration; no savoury touches (unexpected given the overtly oaky nose), its only white fruits. Good fruit hit at the beginning but disappears quickly.

2008 Cellar Selection Syrah

Black currant, black berries too, cordial but rather cool jamminess; wooden stalky notes, smells heavy, almost oily. Fresh, lots of fruit; bright acidity, really zingy and fresh in style and character; lots of sour blackberries; touch of spice on the finish. Not your heavy fruit bomb this; a cooler, fresher and lighter style showing; a nod towards Northern Rhone perhaps?

2008 Reserve Merlot

Sweet, almost cooked compote, blackberries but very sweet and jammy; dark plums; also smoke there, smells like burnt something. Fresh still, fat acidity; lots of fruit but again its bright and juicy; some tannic grip too. Well put together.

2009 Cellar Selection Pinot Noir

Pale ruby, red berries, cranberry and bright raspberry; also some earthy, farmyard, maybe even stalky; some whiffs of savoury bacon. Bright red fruit on the palate, ripe raspberry and red cherries; fresh acidity and lightness is key here, not extracted, clean lighter style.

2007 Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir

Earthy, deep farmyard and truffled nose; savoury touch, cured meats; sweet spice too; really complex and very Burgundian nose. Fresh still, more depth showing, intense and concentrated; dark cherries, theres sweet oak but integrated. Sweet and pure fruit with a nice savoury touch; very together, really rather long finish. Classy stuff.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Formal Hall

Four wines with dinner; Sunday, 26 February 2012.

1999 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay

Medium gold colour. Slightly rancid butter, nutty oak and hazelnuts; slight aldehyde tones and creme fraiche; the maturity shows in the slight oxidative nose. Acidity is wide on the palate, nutty notes comes through; the appley and lemony fruit is to the background; decent length actually, not expansive more of a focused mid palate. The sweet nutty oak is the most dominant flavour here, gradually opens up to reveal a bit more fruit and generosity; complex and structured, but perhaps slightly past its best; drink up.

1998 d'Arenberg 'The Dead Arm' Shiraz

Classic Shiraz notes: black currants, high notes of violets and blackcurrant cordial, wine gums, also eucalyptus; so lifted and voluptuous on the nose. Palate is wide, generous, fruit is extracted but isn't punchy; rounded and settled, sweet blackcurrant and black berries, slight jamminess; good acidity showing too, lingering finish. A touch of tannins towards the end, but understated. Very together; probably at its peak around now, drink now - 2018+.

2008 Ladies who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz

Cooked, slightly jammy dark fruit, woody tones and licorice. Masculine and extracted, the dark fruit here is structured and still very tightly-knit, quite one dimensional still, good amount of tannic grip. Needs time to relax and open up.

2009 Feller-Artinger Beerenauslese
Waitrose Wine £11.67 | B+

Honeyed nose, with floral touches, smells quite heavy. On the palate its full of dried fruits, tinned peaches and the like; nectarines and perhaps some tropical elements; feels a bit light for a Beerenauslese, was expecting slightly more concentration. Felt fleeting and lacking in weight.

Plus several wines tasted during the week which merits a mention.

1978 Chassagne Montrachet, Joseph Drouhin

A mature red Chassagne Montrachet. Wonderful mature, farmyard and earthy nose, along with red currants and cranberries, with a touch of sweet spice and bloody / rusty tones. Soft on the palate, plenty of fresh acidity still, vibrant and not tired at all; needed some air to open up; the freshness was a welcome surprise. Delightful.

2006 Las Moras Three Valleys Gran Shiraz
Naked Wines £17.99 | A-

Depth on the nose; dark fruit compote and bramble, along with a floral touch to this, lots of high notes but doesnt have alcoholic notes. On the palate its fully extracted; such concentration of dark fruits here; blackberries and dark plums, yet feels together, doesnt feel overdone; oak treatment was absorbed into the substantial fruit; touch of grainy tannins at the end An excellent example of a cool, but fully extracted Shiraz.Big and bold and yet still very classy; might improve with time; drink now - 2015+

2010 Casa Defra Pinot Grigio Rose
Cambridge Wine £7.25 | B

Nice pink hue on this wine; its not the most complex rose you will ever have, but it does have decent fruit structure; slightly more fruit and weight to this than your basic Pinot Grigio; fresh acidity. Should go well with salmon and other slightly more meaty fish.