A wine critic’s wine


I remember reading somewhere about a car which was described as ‘a car driver’s car’. An intriguing quote and one easy to add to with some sarcastic remark. Well, I’ve borrowed this quote to highlight Jancis Robinson’s remarks about Sunday’s wine – from Ribeiro, north Spain – Teira X 2015. It is made from a blend of four Iberian grapes, all vinified separately then blended, Treixadura, Alvilla, Loureira and Albarino.

Our notes mentioned the unctuous appearance (Richard – “gloopy”) and bright lemon, slightly green colours. It was difficult to get much varietal character from the nose (the usual issue with blends) apart from ripe melons, fresh greenness but low acidity. The intense palate was long, dry and complex with a good blend of the rich and the balancing acidity. It was, in Richard’s words, “made with care”. But, for me, there was a distinct lack of any hallmark flavour, nothing on which to hang my hat and say “Aaah, you can’t beat the distinctive flavour of…’

Jancis Robinson said of this wine: ”I am left wondering what more one could ask for in a wine, after tasting this.” Can I suggest a bit of character, Jancis?

From our friends Vin Cognito, again, or rather their Sutton branch at Richard’s house.

[Richard: I think we would probably have enjoyed this more on a warm August evening, perhaps with food, rather than a chilly, snowy January. As I think back to last night I’m struggling to remember the wine – no notes taken – so it didn’t make much impression. However, I’ve vacuum sealed the rest of the bottle to retaste on Thursday.]


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Big and Beefy

Another week, another claret. This time it was a 2011 from Chevalier de Lascombes, the second wine of Chateau Lascombes, a Bordeaux second growth in the 1855 classification. The Chateau blend is roughly 50/50 cabernet sauvignon and merlot whereas the Chevalier has more merlot, though I couldn’t discover how much. Certainly there weren’t any typical CS characteristics. Dark red, brown rim, sweet fruit nose, lots of tannin still, plenty of black fruit as well with a slight tarry note. Because of all the fruit I at first thought it was New World. A nice drink but one without much subtlety, even when decanted.

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Rebonjour to Chenonceaux

This was our second tasting of a wine (La Long Bec, Domaine Echardières. Loire Valley 2014) from a comparatively new (2011) appellation – Chenonceaux. A rather mature, dense looking wine, with a smokey, dusty nose and a hint of mint. Dry with dark fruit and a longish finish. A  50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the second grape recognisable but not the first – we don’t drink much Malbec. Clearly well made and very drinkable.

[Geoff: I had tried another bottle of this red wine only a week previously and it really impressed me. There is a good blend of the very slight farmyard aromas of an ageing CF together with its trademark raspberry nose. the Malbec (Cot in the Loire) gives firmer, fuller body to the blend. This makes the taste a balanced blend of firmness, body and fruit. It is available from Vin Neuf at Stratford.]

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Trinity Hill Homage 2009


This wine was the second, fortunately, of two red wines tasted on Sunday. And what a lovely drop it was. From the noted Gimblett Gravels, sub region of Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ, the Syrah grape produces a drink in the same style as the northern Rhone. It is made only in years when the conditions are ideal.

We have written about a less expensive Gimblett Gravels which were also good because they retained the lightness of style and peppery quality that makes northern Rhone Syrahs so attractive. However, this was a considerable step up in quality and, it must be said, a more powerful and intense wine.

My notes mention a brick rimmed wine with an intense red core and sweet, stewed black fruits on the nose. At first it was difficult to identify the fruit but the blackberry notes came through bringing with it the slight firm ‘greenness’ you get with blackberries. This rescued it from being unattractively jammy. The velvety mouth feel was notable, as were the wine’s tannins and its lengthy dryness. There was a pleasing bit of tar in its richness. Richard summed it up well with the phrase “restrained power”; we got a sense of it being rich and firm rather than broad and wallowing. Lovely.

The Trinity Hill web site is very informative about the soils being not fertile and low in moisture making the vine less vigorous with less berries means greater concentration of flavours. It worked for us.

[Richard: from Great Western Wines. Intended as a homage to Rhone reds, made from vines which were grown from cuttings of older vines on the Côte Rôtie. An addition of 2% viognier adds to the complexity. Very classy, elegant and fragrant with great mouth feel and persistence. A pleasure to drink. Not cheap but worth the money, I felt.]

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Cabernet or Cabernet?

On smelling this wine my instant reaction was Cabernet Franc. In fact it was a 2010 claret, from the Montagne St-Emilion region (MWW £16, no 22 in their Parcel Series). They claim ‘plums, black cherry and cedar’, but don’t reveal the blend in the product information. The region is mostly Merlot, with 20% CF. Geoff wondered if there was any CF used but any more information is impossible to find. However, given the planting in the region it is certainly possible and I’m sure I could smell it. MWW do claim that it is made by ‘a great chateau’ – not that there are any in Montagne St-Emilion. Not especially mature or complex given the bottle age which made it into a decent but not outstanding drink.

[Geoff: The Montagne St Emilion AC of Bordeaux is dominated by Merlot but the vine second to that is Cab Franc which is better suited than Cab Sav to the clay/limestone soils. Richard did well to spot the raspberry notes typical of this grape. As regards the wine maker, the best known chateau is Beausejour  but Majestic aren’t letting on.

There is a lot of the ‘faux secrecy’ in patronising wine blurbs e.g. “Our well connected resourceful buyer has unearthed/been tipped off about some wines, we can’t say where from, but they are made just over the road from a well-known premier cru etc. etc.” In reality, a winemaker has got some excess stock, the sale of which will help their stricken cash flow and have used brokers to find a buyer who has bought at a very advantageous price. The winemaker doesn’t want their name associated with low priced wines therefore the wine is vaguely labelled .]


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Wines without boundaries – regional, varietal or stylistic.


This post’s title uses the mission statement/claim of the Alpha Box and Dice web site. They describe themselves as being “a laboratory for viticultural exploration” and have used the alphabet to create a wine brand name for each of the twenty-six letters. I’m passing over their word “laboratory” for a moment, but it appears as though they are winemakers who buy grapes from various parts of South Australia – mainly Maclaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills and create wines of “unique personalities”.

I clicked on the letter F and the noun ‘fog’ emerged. This was the wine – 100% Nebbiolo (which is surely a “varietal boundary”?) – we tried on Sunday. It was 2014 vintage and they hadn’t made this wine since 2008. The blurb makes a big play on the fog that descends on the Langhe region in Piedmont, Italy where the Nebbiola (nebulous, geddit?) grape originates. There is, however, no claim for foggy conditions in South Australia.

The colours, pale red with a slight brown rim, and the fragrance of red cherry and violets typify the grape. The palate was ripe, savoury, nicely tannic with a dry medium length finish. Its distinguishing feature was a mid-palate, almost confectionary, sweetness which, although immediately attractive, tended to pall after a couple of tastes, in my opinion. We were tasting it without food; Richard said it improved with something to eat.

The “laboratory” has certainly made Nebbiolo – which can be very unapproachable when young – a drinkable drop, especially given its age. For me, not the king of wines, rather a playful Prince Hal whose extravagances you could tire of.

[Richard: seductive on first taste, with lots of unfolding flavours and smells but it really needs food to balance it out, then it becomes moreish and very enjoyable. From Vin Cognito, £22.]

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They used to make chairs…

The name means “ravine of the Boekenhout” which is an Cape beech tree used for furniture making.
Nothing woody about this (2004 Boekenhoutskloof Semillion, WS, out of stock) wine, though. Dark yellow with some green, ‘shoe polish’ nose gaining floral notes, sweetish and waxy, with a burnt, rather hard finish and little complexity, which you might expect from the bottle age. This grape is much more to Geoff’s taste than mine and I found it enjoyable without being compelling.

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