Where does one start?

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I find it difficult to describe sherry tastes and this wine (Equipo Navazos 58, La Bota de Amontillado) highlighted the difficulty.

Appearance – slightly hazy, tan colour. Nose – concentrated lemon, bruised apples and the smell of oxidisation. Okay so far. Then the taste becomes very elusive. Huge flavours, complex, dry, saline, penetrative and very long are my notes but flavours of what? Toffee – but it’s not sweet. So dry toffee? Doesn’t make sense.  Counter-intuitively, molasses have got a dry taste, maybe that comes near.

Whatever it is, this was a lovely wine. Fascinating, and a great accompaniment to the big flavours that Spanish foods can deliver. It makes a mockery of those rather insipid, branded amontillados that range the shelves in supermarkets. Excellent.

[Richard: I thought the colder weather merited a move across from the fino/manza we normally taste – although in Jerez it’s noticeable how many locals drink amontillado, oloroso or palo cortado – always chilled of course. This was a big wine, especially on the palate, with a penetrating taste which filled the mouth. The source is a bodega in Sanlucar which doubtless accounts for the salinity G mentioned. Amazingly fresh for a wine with an estimated age of 22 years. From Gourmet Hunters and reasonably priced as 3,000 bottles produced.]

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“… not without class.”

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Damned with faint praise. Poor old Rully was described as “not without class” in the latest edition of The World Atlas of Wine after being said “to tend leanness in cool years.” We’ve previously commented on the obvious tannins in these Chalonnais reds in this blog but Sunday’s tasting of Rully’s Rois Magis Les Cailloux 2015 by Debavelaere showed how good they can be.

Driving south on the N981 from Beaune, Rully is the second AC in the Chalonnais. The low hills are further west from the road, there is mixed agriculture rather than just vineyards and you see more white Charolais cattle standing, still as statues, in fields.  The countryside could be said to have a more ‘natural’ atmosphere; the obsessive, all-enveloping vineyard culture has been left behind.

This wine reflected that atmosphere. Light red and brown rimmed, it smelt of fresh cherries but still had the Old World restraint and earthiness to the palate. Light, gently sweet ‘edges’ and well-balanced, this was a pleasure to drink to its long, dry finish.  From Waitrose Cellar at £25.99 (nla). Good value – and with some class.

[Richard: I thought it was time to pose G another Pinot Noir based Old/New world challenge. This was a light ‘pretty’ wine, that adjective often used by Burgundy experts and the first time I’ve seen the point of it. Lots of sweet cherry fruit with a richer, very enjoyable finish. The sort of style New World producers aspire to but don’t often reach. Wish I’d bought more.]

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Franciacorta

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These sparklers bubble up from time to time and they’re interesting to taste especially whilst making a mental comparison with champagne and cava. Ferghettina’s Franciacorta has been gathering recommendations since it was established in 1991 by the Gatti family near the town of Adro in north Italy. The blend is 95/5 % Chardonnay and PN, fermented in stainless steel and matured for 24 months. There is a final addition of 7 g/l of sugar.

The result is a pale yellow wine with a light, fine mousse that smells of Granny Smith apples but delicate is the key word. My immediate response to the smell was champagne but the taste changed my mind. The lack of overt acidity on the palate and the attractive lightness said this did not come from northern France. There is not much development/breadth of flavour in the mouth; it’s certainly an easier drink than cheap and medium priced champagnes. Their blurb states “accessible” which is about right. Very enjoyable.

[Richard: from Wood Winters, £20. I’m not sure why it went in the basket as I’ve never much been a fan of any sparkling wine, apart from Champagne (and not all those) and the English equivalent. However this was pretty good. Clearly well made, not the most flavoursome but approachable and gentle and miles  better than any Prosecco you’ll every drink.]

 

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Regulation Riesling

Very pale green, with a characteristic lime/lemon nose – more of the former which made me think it might be Australian but the taste confirmed it wasn’t – none of the piercing acidity you get from that region. Instead a rich, luxurious taste on the palate with good mouthfeel which developed out on the back palate. It felt well matured and the years in bottle had smoothed out the edges of any over-acidity and added a touch of sweetness. Lovely drink, very classy. (Famille Hugel Estate Riesling, Alsace 2012).

[Geoff: This was a test taste; I needed to know how the case was developing. Bags of flavour and power with the slight nuance of kerosene which will become more prominent as it ages. This will go on for years yet but it’s good now. It had that lovely Riesling balance of the sweet with the sour finish. I can leave the case alone for a while. Btw R. identified grape, region and year blind.]

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Something for the ladies…?

Eating out in France, maybe twenty years ago (and maybe today), the choice of an apero for the men in the party was easy – pastis. For women – more difficult. A Kir perhaps or a ‘porto’ or even a Dubonnet – the French don’t do sherry – might be accepted with varying degree of enthusiasm. But sometimes, depending where you were, a Pineau des Charentes was offered, as Geoff did last night. TWS sell this one – Pineau des Charentes, Château d’Orignac at £18.

Similar in appearance to an amontillado tried at the same time, hint of rose on the nose, a bit vegetal and spirity – it’s 18%.

I expected a dry taste but it was quite sweet, rather like white port, although it finished semi-dry. An enjoyable drink with some character which I surprised myself by recognising, despite not having tasted one for years.

[Geoff: Interesting title by Richard; from another time. This has been sitting on our shelf for some time (my wife bought it years ago) and it will stay sitting there. I found it too manufactured and too sweet with a perfumed taste. I might be tempted to try it with a tonic – I’ll let you know.]

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La Bota de Manzanilla 82 Florpower mmxv

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‘Intriguing’ is the word that heads my notes. And I would add the phrase ‘thought-provoking’.

This is both a single vintage 2015 (if you’re weak on Roman numerals) and a single vineyard. So, we have a sherry that has the usual provenance of a still wine, instead of the usual blend of years and vineyards. However, it’s been kept under flor yeast, in a barrel and left to mature without the effects of oxidative ageing i.e it’s biologically aged. These terms start blurring with this wine, I think.

Not surprisingly, given the above, the wine had minimal sherry notes. There was no bread, chamomile or beeswax and very low salinity. The fresh smells of citrus lemon was there, as was richness, dryness and length. It was like tasting a traditional white Rioja and, as such, you can see it would be great throughout a meal.

A really interesting drink, one for the enthusiasts, costing £15. Good value.

[Richard: more growers in the Jerez area are using the palomino grape to make table wine and this was another ‘sherry as wine’ example. Plenty of character from the flor – palomino is a rather neutral grape – resulting in a classy wine.]

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A Cahors encore.

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Hot on the heels of a 2017 Cahors Malbec is 2010 vintage labelled GC from Chateau du Cedre. The reviews of this wine are very positive and suggest drinking after 2018, so we’re in the drinking window.  Evidently the positioning of the vineyards’ terracing to the south of the Lot river determine the wines’ styles – fruity, rich or elegant. If it was that simple, I hear you say. How about the winemaker’s input?

GC was a very deep black, brown rimmed with distinctly red coloured legs. It had an ‘old nose’ – deep, dried dark fruits with some menthol aromas. The taste was gravy/meaty, herby with liquorice flavours, pleasantly acidic, dry and long with the inevitable tannins. I picked up distinct heat which was surprising as it was only 13.5% ABV. Perhaps it wasn’t settled yet. My notes say a bit one-dimensional (Richard) but, given the notes above, that summary doesn’t make sense. It certainly is a ‘food wine’ but I suppose it lacked some elegance which puts it on the third terrace (clay, round pebbles and calcareous subsoils). There you are, this wine tasting is ever so easy.

[Richard: had this one a long time (from Big Red Wine, nla) and, given that it wasn’t cheap, I was rather underwhelmed. A good wine, well made, just lacking in that something special which makes a great bottle.]

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