Friends and neighbours

Geoff and I live on the same road and we take turns to host wine tastings. Usually the wines are tasted blind so we have no idea what to expect. This most recent tasting – with the wine below, by remarkable coincidence, featured wines from the same region, made within a few kilometres of each other, not that I picked up on this.

‘Not pinot’ I confidently exclaimed. Certainly the colour – a pale clear red – was typical but the nose with lots of strawberry and raspberry led me to think it was a differently vilified southern french variety. In the mouth, rather firm and tannic, lacking complexity and without the flavour the vivacious smell led you to expect. But certainly moreish. Needless to say the wine was pinot. Perhaps I’ve tried too many New World pinots recently…

As you can see, quite a classy bottle. I leave Geoff to explain the geography.

[Geoff: Aloxe is the first Cote de Beaune village you come to driving south; it sits underneath the hill of Corton. Traditionally the wine has been thought of as having a fine bouquet but rather robust on the palate and I would say that is what we found. This wine was one of several different Burgundies I bought from M & S after they had been considerably reduced – to clear stocks – from the normal retail of £35. At full price it would definitely not have been VFM, as Richard’s description implies. It was good with some rich flavoured boeuf bourgignon, however.]



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A myth in the making?


Vin Cognito is an on-line wine supplier who can both supply good quality wines and, nearly as important, write about them in an engaging way. But you have got to be in the mood to sit and read the cleverly crafted screed. The essay that accompanied Decelle Villa’s Bourgogne 2014 re-worked Jason and Golden Fleece fable, i.e. initial disappointment followed by a wonderful, last minute find of white Burgundy at a (just about) affordable price. And it was good, as we found on Sunday night.

A weighty-looking green with hints of lemon, the wine proclaimed youth – and body – but it was an initially shy youth. It started to come out 15 minutes after being poured (needed decanting, I thought) and started to reveal some very classy notes of lemon zest with a slightly creamy (oak?) aroma. This, to me, smelt of a quality white Burgundy – lovely. The flavour was intense, long and dry. All fresh lemons backed up with green hazelnuts, this wine was “not a sipper”, it needed food, the flavours were so intense. I thought it still had plenty of development to come and Richard later decanted it – but he can write about that. It was a very good for an entry level Burgundy

One small statement in Vincognito’s thesis about the wine was worth noting. They said of the producers Decelle Villa,  “Well, here’s a producer whose wines defy that logic, at least for the time being, while they are making a name for themselves.” A touch of realism in the myth-making, perhaps?

[Richard: we’ve blogged on wines from Vin Cognito before and they are a reliable supplier, especially if you want something different. I purchased a couple of bottles of the above after getting an email saying how good the wines were, limited quantity, hurry, hurry, hurry, etc. Experience with The WS has taught me that such emails can often be a little over-enthusiastic  – but not in this case. A classy wine which improved with decanting becoming rounded and creamier, as you would expect. Worth keeping the other bottle for a couple of years, I think.]

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A delicate Aussie?


This wine exudes power – its most significant characteristic. Kooyong chardonnay 2016 from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia is made from grapes grown on sandstone and ironstone, as the website states “adding a characteristic firmness and masculinity to structure already present”. Sand, loam and clay are also present in varying quantities and the wine certainly reflected this complexity. It wasn’t all Aussie machismo. It was very enjoyable – a good find by Richard.

Pale lemon green in colour with medium viscosity, there was a delicate, floral note to the understated nose which took a while to open up and reveal some typical match-stick notes. The ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ analogy was exhibited on the long, dry palate which showed after some initial fruit sweetness. Then the power was turned on – intense, focussed and battery-charged for a long drinking window which will show more pleasing complexities. The wine had no hint of the fat buttery notes of the out of condition old-style Oz chardonnays. It was really enjoyable.

[Richard, from TWS as part of a mixed red/white Mornington case. Geoff deduced the location once he realised it was a New World wine. A very classy wine with some Burgundian overtones.]



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Who needs en primeur?



Claret from Bordeaux was the first wine to be offered en primeur and it is still the biggest market for those of us who like to buy wine in advance of shipping or even bottling.

But, for a while now, dissenting voices have been heard. Unless you are after a particular chateau which may sell out early there is now little point in using the en primeur market since, firstly, there is an awful lot of claret around and, secondly, prices of newly released claret are much the same, or even more expensive than, mature wines.

Tonight’s wine – Chateau Coufran 2004 – is a good example. Around £17 from MWW, fully mature with the tannins integrated, classic claret nose – savoury, meaty, some eucalyptus. Big mouth feel, in a rich, not austere style doubtless caused by it being Merlot-dominated. A bargain and I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy a similar 2014, say, as much.

[Geoff: Given my recent views about old red wine this was a great example of how they can taste. Not expensive and from a seemingly endless supply that Majestic possess, this wine is drinking well right now. Two years time may see it a little tired as the CS proportion is only 15%. As the better wine critics write ‘snap’ or ‘grab’ it now, ‘before it’s all gone’.]

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At home with a Rhone


In Crozes-Hermitage, the largest appellation in the northern Rhone, the focus is on Syrah whose vines occupy the best granite terroir. However, the two white grapes, Marsanne and Rousanne, are also grown and blended or produced as the mono-varietal Marsanne. They are relatively easy to spot and this Sunday’s offering was no different.

Domaine Belle’s Les Terres Blanches 2014 (13%), comprised 70% Marsanne with 30% Rousanne, had been aged for 10 months. Interestingly, only 20% of this was new oak, the rest being old oak and stainless steel. I assume that this was to maintain acidity levels which can be an issue for white grapes in the south.

The result was a delicate wine, a very bright, pale straw in colour. An elegant bouquet of stone fruits and blossom with lemon acidity was very attractive. The palate confirmed its refreshing delicacy and lightness. Medium length with a slight yoghurty creaminess, lifted by lemon acidity, the wine was not quite bone dry and would make an ideal – and unusual – aperitif or pair well with fish.

This was a very pleasant, gently attractive white wine.

[Richard: very well made wine with lots to interest the nose and palate. From The WS as part of a mixed white Rhone half case, no longer available so I’m not sure of the price but decent white Rhone is never cheap.]

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Two oldies – no, not us – the wines


The Wine Society had recently made available some 1994 Argentinian Malbecs from Weinart, a traditional producer based in Mendoza.  Richard and I tasted some on Friday evening. The wine had been decanted.

The colour was an intense ruby with a brick-tinged rim and some viscosity. The dominant aromas were plum, vanilla and tertiary notes of licquorice. There was both acidity and a slight spirit smell. The palate was repeat of the above with the addition of spiciness and some alcohol heat.

WS’s claim of complexity was interesting – we must have been missing something. To be fair, the sellers did claim the drinking window to be in 2019 so it might be still too young which may account for the presence of alcohol. In other words the wine may not have ‘settled down’ yet. However, 23 years is a long time and I would have thought that some more interesting notes might be beginning to show.

I’m wary of old red wines that have been ‘unearthed’ by buyers. Some of them taste just what they are – old red wines. Not all wines age graciously – or indeed gain more layers of flavour – we both hope this isn’t one of those.

[Richard: I bought 6 of these, en primeur, on a whim having failed to spot the 15.1% alcohol. The WS say ‘can be drunk soon after bottling’ and also ‘drink from 2019’ which is rather contradictory since the wine must have been bottled about three months ago. As Geoff says, the WS claim ‘remarkable complexity’ which passed me by. Nor can I see that holding it for another 15 months will make much difference. Come back next year…]


Talking of older wines improving – or not, as the case may be – I grabbed two bottles of Cluver Elgin chardonnay 2011 from a basket of discontinued wines at Vin Neuf in Stratford. These were a bargain and had improved.

Very bright, intense, deep lemon in colour, the aromas of lime, sweet melon and pineapple were fabulous. This was New World chardonnay at its best – rich tropical fruits balanced by acidity for the freshness with a little vanilla cream providing the bass notes.

I’ve the other bottle left, I don’t think there’ll be any more. What a pity.

[Richard: quite a while since I’ve tried a non-French chardonnay and this was a good one. Tropical but not too tropical.]

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Classic Claret – Chateau Sénéjac 2011

A nice ruby red tint with medium intensity. Not tasted blind but a big blackcurrant and menthol nose (smelt easily over a heavy cold) made it unmistakeable. As ever the taste was not as rich as you initially think it might be, quite austere, moving towards dry and tannic, with medium length and savouriness. Some improvement in the glass made it a lovely drink, albeit one needing food.

[Geoff – traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef, gravy – sorry, jus – sprouts and roast potatoes demanded a traditional wine. And it was a perfect match. It had just enough black fruit richness, which was enhanced by the natural red meat salts, whilst not being jammy. Good winemakers can make good wines in poor years; this was an example. Great value from the Co-op at about £13.]

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