Humble pie

How many times has this blog criticised Chateauneuf du Pape for being too alcoholic, uninteresting, jammy, one-dimensional etc. etc. Well, it’s our turn to eat  large slice of humble pie. Which I wouldn’t mind if the pie is accompanied by Clos de Pape 08 by Paul and Vincent Avril. This was a very enjoyable blend of GSM (65/10/20%) plus a few other grapes. It wore its 15% well.

08 was not a good year for CdP (rain, hail but some Sept and Oct sun) which possibly accounted for its paleness and early maturing brick rim. There was a subtle perfumed – someone said lavender – quality on the nose but also a savoury farmyard-ripeness which made the experience very complex. The palate had great intensity and length but what was striking was the silk texture and tannic structure. Liquorice also came through in the taste as well as a sweetness, but no jam. It finished dry. This wine still has some years in it, I’d like to try it in 3 to 5 years time. Excellent – thanks, Richard.

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A (very) pleasant Pinot

This (2005 Savigny-Les-Beaune Camus-Bruchon) was a fine example of mature pinot noir. Pale red, light brown rim, an appealing nose which said ‘drink me’, fruity, still quite tannic, some length and complexity. In the glass it became deeper and darker with an attractive cherry note. A pleasure to drink and a reminder that there is nothing quite like a French pinot noir with some bottle age.

[Geoff: If last Sunday’s wines were disappointing, this Sunday’s were a joy. Both French, both classic regions and both red. And they were drunk in the right order! This was a lovely Pinot – even agreed by Pinotphobe Richard -which later went beautifully with pork chops. Very generous, gentle and, although a generic Beaune, it developed character as it breathed. I can’t remember where it came from, but there’s no more alas.]

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Cote Rotie Ampodium Rostaing 2010

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We have blogged this wine before and been very impressed with its quality. Without knowing this fact I tasted the wine blind, approaching it objectively. My notes are below.

Appearance: Dull red, some viscosity, low intensity of colour.

Nose: Perfumed, cooked cranberry, some sweet spice.

Taste: Dry, long, complexity, perfume notes, pure, some gaminess, delicate, needs some bass notes.

My immediate reaction was to claim an organic wine because of its purity and lack of power as well as its rather uninviting, dull appearance. I did identify southern French Syrah but was certainly surprised when the wine was revealed, especially given my previous eulogising.

Awkward teenager? Poor bottle? Over the hill? Whatever it was it wasn’t up to our previous experiences.

[Richard: we’ve blogged this wine in 2014 (absolutely loved it), in 2016 (not quite as keen) and last weekend – even less keen. I had a bottle in 2017 which showed really well. This time: not as elegant, less of a wow factor. No idea why but there are two bottles left so we’ll see.]

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Something wrong?

We don’t taste many wines made from the Semillon grape and I never recognise it when we do. And so it proved on Sunday, despite me knowing in advance the wine was from Australia (Lehmann 2010 Margaret Semillon), where the grape is widely planted. There was a rather generic bouquet and the wine was very dry and acidic, without the richness and complexity you might expect from an eight year old wine. In addition there was a peculiar taste in evidence, rather like sour milk which made me wonder if the wine was faulty. Over to Geoff.

[Geoff: One of my often fruitless searches is Semillon. It’s not stocked, as a mono-varietal, in many outlets but can be found blended with Sauv. Blanc. As a single grape it needs time, probably ten years, before it starts developing the richer, lanolin notes that I, and others, find attractive. This was a part-bottle left from a wine tasting two days earlier and had been vacuumed.

When young Semillon is almost unpleasantly acidic that is why Lehmann will not release the wine until it’s had five years’ ageing in bottle (it never sees oak) and they recommend it can go for another ten years i.e. fifteen years from vintage. The ABV is only 11% so we can assume that the high acidity is critical to its ageing well.

This wine was still way too young but was just beginning to show lemon curd i.e. creamy lemon notes (Richard’s ‘sour milk’ perhaps) and needed more time. I quite liked it but it wasn’t at its best, by any means. I’ve got some older vintages of the grape as well as other winemakers, notably Mitchells from the Clare Valley and Elizabeth from the Hunter Valley. We’ll open those in a few years time and report back.]

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….. then it must be a wine I couldn’t identify.

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We’re getting back into the Sunday evening routine, readers, so you can look forward to some more ‘ahead of the curve’ tasting notes from Richard and myself.

Sunday’s wines were both a delight in their different ways. Richard had the (inevitable) Cab Franc to comment on while I had a white whose grape I got nowhere near identifying after having guessed the location i.e. the Languedoc. Mas Coutelou’s origins are close to Beziers and this wine is made from 100% Macabeu aka Viura (in Spain). It was the 2015 vintage and had been oak-aged which had not left the tell-tale notes of vanilla.

The colour of light gold suggested an older wine and it had some viscosity. The nose was of gentle stone fruits but with a honeysuckle bouquet. I noted it as quite intriguing especially as the acidity was quite muted. By this stage I’d started firing out varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussane, Vermentino but was nowhere near the Macabeu.

The palate was big in flavour and the citrus acidity (a hallmark of the Macabeu)  started to come through along with a oooked apple sweetness although it finished dry. There were spicy notes in the mix which made it a complex wine to savour and one you could drink sans accompaniment.

Both this wine and the red were a pleasure to drink, even more so considering they are not from hugely fashionable areas of France. You could almost call them good country wines but that would be doing them a disservice. It’s available from Stolarski in Nottingham (only 2 bottles left), which has an interesting selection of wines.

[Richard, from a mixed case of Mas Coutelou, around £18.  A very interesting wine with lots of flavour and balance and one I’d buy again when the new vintage arrives.].

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If this is Sunday…

…it must be a Cabernet Franc. and so it proved. A 2012 Domaine de Bel Air from Bourgueil. Old looking, brownish rim, not especially grassy or green but with a touch of farmyard on the nose. A big, pure taste with acidity balancing richness. A refreshing wine which was a pleasure to drink. Further proof that, providing it is well cellared, vintage Cabernet Franc is worth seeking out.

[Okay it was CF – but a good one from Tom Innes of Fingal Rock merchants in Monmouth, remarkable value at about £10. This developed nicely over the course of the evening; it certainly wasn’t one of those one note CFs that you come across all too often. Bourgueil and its neighbour St Nicholas de Bourgueil are the stand out communes for CF and this did not disappoint. No more CF for a while and if I do succumb I won’t report on it.]

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A “pretty” Chianti

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Isole e Olena 2015 Chianti Classico was Sunday night’s tasting, following the SA Cabernet Franc. That was a mistake, the Chianti should have been the first wine. However, in our defence, the Italian wine was unexpectedly light – an opinion shared by quite a few other tasters, “pretty” being the most used descriptor.

Opened 90 minutes then decanted, the wine’s most obvious smell was vanilla followed by red fruits. As a classico this wine has had to spend a minimum of 12 months in oak, hence the vanilla, and red fruits, especially cherry, is  typical of the Sangiovese grape. The colour was a low intensity red.

The palate was fresh, light and pure with a pleasing grip of tannins – the red fruits’ aroma being replicated in the taste. It had a medium length and finished dry. So far, so good. The disappointing aspect was a lack of complexity and typicity – although there are lots of different Chianti styles, not to mention qualities. It was a well made wine but just not very interesting to either of us. It was a red wine.

“The 2015 vintage in Chianti Classico is the best since 1997. The wines show more black fruit flavors than the typical red fruit flavors at this early stage, and are very structured, with both vibrant acidity and dense, sometimes muscular tannins.” (Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator). Well, this wine couldn’t have been more opposite.

[Richard: from a mixed half case of 2015 Chianti and easily the most disappointing. My main complaint was that it didn’t taste of Sangiovese. I also thought it a little raw without the smoothness one would get with, for example, a 2015 Riecine, one of our favourites. I published a negative review at TWS and the cost was refunded.].

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