On a Riesling roll…

We’ve tried a few Rieslings recently and here’s another one. Very pale with a lime – sour apple nose, instantly recognisable. German, so sweeter than the nose suggested but very well balanced with plenty of acidity. Rather more one-dimensional than I expected – minerality is claimed –  but I liked it a lot, despite my aversion to sweet wines. (Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett, Dönnhoff, Nahe 2018).

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A puzzling pinot

Given that Pinot Noir is our most tasted grape it’s surprising how often we fail to recognise it. This week it was my turn. A pale translucent red – it actually looked like pinot – but the hint of green grassiness on the nose sent me down a cabernet franc track from which I couldn’t deviate, influenced, no doubt, by Geoff’s love of the grape. The ‘idée fixe’ is another problem when tasting blind which shouldn’t have happened here since the wine didn’t actually taste of CF. Rather raw and rusty, some fruit, quite hard and tannic – it didn’t much taste of pinot either so I was stumped, although I liked the wine. In fact, from Germany (Weingut Jülg Spatburgunder Trocken).

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Callejuela Manzanilla en rama

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This sherry is made by two brothers, Pepe and Paco Blanco, who inherited the wine business from their father. It is situated in El Hornillo outside Sanlucar, a part of their 28 hectares covering the four vineyards of El Hornillo, Macharnudo, Anina and Callejuela all of which are high quality albariza soils. They make about 200,000 litres but only bottle half of that, selling the remaining wine to other bodegas. Since 2005 they bottled Manzanilla themselves and make three styles. We tried the en rama, which has an average age of nine years, and a bottle run of 490 x 50cl.

The colour is distinctly orange with gold flashes, and a slight burnt caramel aroma. They acidity was certainly there as the wine started to breathe and my initial thoughts of a fino were modified to a manzanilla. That gives some idea as to big flavour of this wine. The lemony acidity was certainly there on the palate along with the trademark chamomile notes. It was long and dry (hint of salt, maybe?) and had a real tang. This was an excellent sherry, very well made from a small producer – try one, it’s good.

[Richard: if you can, these wines are hard to find so I was pleased to see that Iberian Drinks had stock (£20 for this – the price in Spain is €20). Expensive but a really well made, expressive, powerful yet refined manzanilla. Makes me regret not trying harder to find their shop on Sanlucar beach when we visited in 2018.]

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The Fourth Rioja…

Talking to Geoff about this wine and then doing some research led us to something we didn’t know, namely that there are four different wines allowed under the DoC. Red, White, Rosé and Clarete, the last being, uniquely, a mixture of red and white grapes (rosé is 100% red).

We didn’t taste it together, or blind, and it is an unremarkable table wine, pleasant enough but of no great character. Definitely a curiosity though. From Caves de Pyrene.

[Geoff: The grapes are vinified together (and often they are from the same vineyard – a field blend then). These come from the Rioja Alta vineyards. Clarete is popular in the area and it’s understandable, given the heat, as the wine is refreshing from the high acidity viura grape, light with just a hint of sweet fruits from the Garnacha. For me, it didn’t seem ‘together’, probably a sign of rushed fermentation and ageing. It was okay.]

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Alternative albariño

Albariño has been grown on the Iberian peninsula for centuries (we tried a very good one recently), most famously as Vinho Verde but in New Zealand the Waimea estate first planted a wide variety of vines in 1993, including this one. In Australia the growers were incorrectly sold savagnin cuttings – which is a very different grape – so beware if you see any Aussie bottles labelled ‘Albariño’.

When tasting I thought this (Waimea Albariño 2019) was an Old World wine. Pale yellow, slightly sour, chalky nose with faint aromas of fennel and grapefruit – apricot is claimed but I couldn’t get it. Richer and sweeter to taste than the nose led you to expect but with a balancing high acidity to counter the residual sugar. A nice drink but not your typical albariño.

[Geoff: I think this is a wine to be had in small doses. Very strong flavours with not much subtlety after the first glass. The Alabarinhos of NW Spain match sea foods well but this dominated – you’d need some pretty big flavoured food to match this with. Plenty of character then so grab it if you like that ‘in your face’ style.]

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Districtus Austriae Controllatus

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From the 2008 vintage 14 Austrian wine appellations (DACs) have strict conditions for the grapes grown and the methods used in winemaking. Each DAC should show the purest expression of the grape; the wines becoming ‘region typical’. There are two allowed in the Kampstal DAC, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. The wine we tried on Friday was the Riesling Reserve from Weingut Rabl Ried Schenkenbichl 2017. The reserve must be a minimum of 13% ABV and have a ‘strong style, distinct regional and varietal aromas, dense and long finish …’

… And did it? Yes, definitely. An appearance of bright yellow with some viscosity. There was a subtle lime hit on the complex nose but also honeysuckle, sweetish pear and sour apple. The palate was long and dry, but with the taste of sour apples and a slight sweet edge. It was both rich and sour.  You sensed the wine had plenty of power with the richness and tropical fruit flavours so ageing it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it was great now, very enjoyable. This Austrian Rieslings had the richness and mineral qualities that can sometimes go missing in German Rieslings, which are lighter.

The Kamp is a river in Niederosterreich which joins the Danube east of Krems and, although the vineyards face south the nights are cool which means the wines are lively. Langenlois, Gobelsburg and Zobing are the three important towns.

[Richard: from Waitrose in the recent 25% off promotion, so about £15. A characterful wine, balanced, drinkable and highly praised by a Gruner lover who tried it after Geoff. Our second wine from Rabl, although this was better.]

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St Chinian Clos Bagatelle La Terre de Mon Pere 2015.

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The 60 ha Clos Bagatelle property is on the outskirts of St Chinian, north of Beziers. Evidently it had been passed from mother to daughter for five generations before the current owners’ mother bough it and started renovating, replanting etc. It is now owned by Christine Deleuze and Luc Simon (brother and sister); the wine we tried is dedicated to their father. The vineyard is a model of sustainability for which they have many plaudits.

The care taken certainly showed in the wine, right from its dense ruby colours. The nose was surprisingly sweet, red fruits with some plums. More stewed red fruits came through on the palate along with tannins, a long dry finish and a definite richness. Languedoc can show rusticity but this hadn’t got that style, it was more polished and certainly worth the care taken in its production. Great bottle btw – also with thinner glass.

The grape blend is not specified but we suspect the usual GSM – I could certainly detect Syrah – but there may be some Carignan in there. A good wine.

[Richard: from Terroir Languedoc as part of a mixed case, about £25 and decent value. Fully mature and drinking very well. 14% alcohol well disguised. It is a classic Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache blend. Certainly  the tallest red wine bottle I’ve ever seen and a stylish presentation for what is the top cuveé of this producer.]

 

 

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Our annual sherry update

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The Gonzalez-Byass Fino en rama is a regular blog and, having had these bottles sitting in our respective wine ‘cellars’, R decided that it was time to try the 2020 release. The details are the same as previous i.e. minimal filtering. Incidentally, GB’s first release of en rama was in 2010 and intended as a one-off to celebrate their 175th anniversary.

The wine writer Walter McGee opined “So long as the English people expect their wines to look bright, natural wines must be fined repeatedly in order to make them clear. The result being is that they lose a great deal of delicacy.”

How about this year’s? Clear golden yellow, subtle oxidative notes with citrus and a very slight hint of caramel. A full complex palate, dry, long with depth and freshness. It tasted clean (yes, a strange word to use but there was a focus to it which was attractive). A well-made wine which we preferred to last year’s.

Walter McGee would have approved. Btw his comments were made in 1876 – very prescient.

[Richard: I think we tried the 2010 en Rama but it was pre-blog. We’ve tasted most years since. For a style which, through the solera system, aims for year-on-year consistency, this particular wine is surprisingly variable. This year the nose was very faint and had less presence than the regular TP bottling. Made up for by the taste which was powerful and persistent with enough acidity to make it a perfect aperitif. From Tanners, £15.]

 

 

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Another Arbois…

Wines from the Jura (apart from the crémant, an Aldi standby) are not easy to find in the UK, especially on the High Street, but this one has appeared as part of the MWW giant re-stocking. We’ve only ever blogged two still wines from the region, one made with savagnin, their signature grape and an acquired taste.

A very yellow, yellow, stone fruit on the nose with some reduction, lanolin and fresh lemon on the palate, best served quite cold I think, as this was. An untypical chardonnay but very drinkable and certainly a bottle I’d consider purchasing. (Domaine Rolet Arbois Chardonnay 2016, Jura, £15).

[Geoff: Dmne. Rolet farm 65 ha spread over three different plot in the Jura; the bottle back label states the soils are gravel and marls. Hand harvesting and barrel ageing are also used. It made for a rich wine with some nice balancing acidity, and on the first day, quite reminiscent of a Cote d’Or Burgundy. Which was my initial criticism – where was the Jura element? However the second day’s tasting with R. showed more individual character and a tang not found in Burgundy. It’s interesting that the web-site makes a point of stating ‘non-oxidative’ which would attract more customers who may not like those pronounced flavours of Jura wines. We’ll be blogging a quality distinctly Jura sparkler soon, can’t wait.]

 

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1579 out of 2004

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The bottle of Simpson’s On the QT Bin 18 was the 1579th from a run of 2004 bottles from the hot 2018 vintage. The use of these figures infer how ‘small is beautiful’ which is a valuable marketing tool when you’re up against the volumes produced by other countries. So exclusivity-  and its quality implications – are how Simpsons wish to be seen. Then factor in Waitrose Cellar retailing and a price tag just shy of £16 and you’ve got the complete picture. There’s hardly enough to go round and, yes, Waitrose are now out of stock.

This Blanc de Noirs from a single vineyard, in the Kent North Downs, of Pinot Meunier. The colour of a lemon, the smell of a lemon mixed with a richer pear and some chalk and the taste of lemon zest may not sound particularly interesting but this was a well made wine. There was the expected high acidity (chalk soil has that effect on grapes) but also some minerally, chalky notes and brightness as well as body to the palate. A pleasure to drink.

[Richard: our second wine from Simpsons and just as good, possibly better, than the first.

Having had a look at past blogs this is the first time we’ve seen the Pinot Meunier grape in a non-sparkling context which is a surprise because it makes a good table wine, easy to drink with some complexity. The back label proclaims that the grapes come from a ‘hush-hush’ source, in Kent. I wonder if it is Hush Heath?]

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