Monthly Archives: May 2013

In the corner …. and nervous


“The Southwest [corner of France] does not have a single wine of truly classic status ….” , so claims Tom Stevenson in Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. Damning words? However, he continues “….yet it probably offers more value for money and is a greater source of hidden bargains than any other French region.” Zero to hero, then, in a single sentence. And the latter sentiment is what Leon Stolarski of Nottingham would want us to believe. His company, Leon Stolarski Fine Wines, waves the banner for the less well-known areas of France. This post concerns a wine from Stolarski, a Jurancon, the area south of Pau, in the shadow of the western Pyranees. It is L’Estela, Jurancon Sec AC made by Montesquiou, vintage 2012 – so we’re drinking a very young white wine. Richard  purchased it in February/March 2013, so it hadn’t been in bottle for very long. 13.5%.

L’Estela is a blend of 50% Gros Manseng, 40% Courbu and 10% Petit Manseng grapes – all varieties, it would be fair to say, that don’t claim a vast amount of growing space in France. Being brutally reductive, the qualities of each grape seem to be power, acidity and aromatics respectively – although I’m quite prepared for a challenge on those descriptors. The consistent word used for these wines is ‘nervosity’, a wine trade buzz-word. We’ll see.

Trembling, I poured a glass. Green-gold in colour, bright and clear with some evidence of viscosity, the wine had a very slight spreckle, which might be expected in such a young wine. Initially, the nose was not strongly varietal but later developed a pronounced lime quality (yet again prompting talk about the benefits of decanting white wines). I also detected a peppery aroma, but this faded. Positively shaking, we sipped. The wine was high in acidity, refreshing and of good length, distinctly dry and weighty in the mouth; it was a full, rather than light, wine. It was a well-made wine, good to enjoy with seafood and chicken dishes that had stronger-flavoured sauces. And yes, it did have an ‘edge’, which made it attractive. Good quality and value. Thank you, Leon Stolarski.

[Richard: LS is a good source of wines from under-appreciated parts of France and this is no exception. Very well made wine – apart from a tartaric crystal deposit –  which reminded me a little of a superior gros plant or muscadet. About £10.50.]



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Attila’s vines

A curious title – but, no, it’s not some bushes planted many centuries ago by the infamous Hun. My Attila is a young Hungarian wine-maker, a relative of a work colleague, who recently spent a few days in Birmingham. Richard and I spent 90 minutes talking to him last Sunday morning; he gave us a fascinating insight into Hungary’s vineyards and wines. Attila spoke about technical details in good English (certainly better than my Magyar).

He bought with him a bottle of Pinot Noir made from grapes grown on his, and friends’, private smallholdings. I thought you’d like the provenance and analysis of the wine.

Vintage 2012 picked at the end of September, the wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grown on vines between 10 and 12 years old.  The soil is described as ‘brown forest’ but could be limestone or sandstone based. The region is Neszmely, close to the Danube and overlooks Slovakia. The area is more noted for its whites so, as Attila confirmed, the red Pinot was a challenge. It was stored in a barrel (225 litres) prior to being moved into a tank which was to happen soon. He couldn’t be precise about the alcohol level but its tasting suggested quite a high level; he thought it might be 14%

To the tasting. The colour was a light red, with a purple edge (indicating its youth) and it had a slight haze – not surprisingly, as it was poured straight from the barrel. There wasn’t a strong presence of ‘legs’. It had a sweet fruit, but not obvious, nose and there was a very slight whiff of alcohol spirit. The palate was rich and sweet, smooth rather than acidic or tannic but it had a full-bodied, medium weight feel in the mouth. It wasn’t a light wine and the long flavours were overladen with a slight spicy quality. It suggested that it would benefit from keeping a year or so.

For a privately made, non-commercial wine it was very good. It was fuller and richer than the Pinots we had in Alsace. I’m tempted to try and grow Pinot Noir in Sutton Coldfield. What are the rules about growing produce on an allotment?

Sok koszonet, Attila

[Richard, fascinating wine, albeit without much pinot character and a rare chance to try a cask sample. Attila, didn’t actually bring a barrel over of course but decanted a sample into an old chardonnay bottle, hence no photograph.]

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41 years old wine


Richard purchased, from Yapp Brothers of Wiltshire, a selection of older vintage Rhone wines. We’ve previously posted about the Cote Rotie 1984 (March 23) – now it’s the turn of a 1972 Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine was labelled as the reserve of M. Gabriel d’Ardhuy, a French author, who owned interests in vineyards in both northern Burgundy and the Rhone.

There was very little staining to the cork and only a slight ullage so we thought this may have been re-bottled at some more recent date but it did have some fine sediment pressed to the side of the bottle, just above the shoulder.

The colour was an expected brick red but still garnet at the core and completely clear but, as we worked through the bottle the wine became cloudier from the loosened sediment. There were still noticeable windows on the glass – reminding us that the alcohol was 13% and that the wine still had some life to look forward to.

The nose had sweet tones, was medium-deep and smelt of strawberries.

The palate was quite thin but had some length and had maintained a structure. The sweet fruit was present but balanced by a savouriness. Just like the Cote Rotie, we could drink this red wine without the need of food.

It wasn’t as stunning as the Cote Rotie but still remarkably good for its 41 years – and it was, of course, 12 years older.

[Richard: as these things go, not too expensive. £23 I think. It’s high risk, of course. But worth every penny, if only to try and remember what you were doing in 1972. A novice ‘old red wine’ drinker commented, ‘dry, complex flavours, no fruit, green and earthy, with a surprisingly smooth finish’.


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Pierre Schueller Eichberg Grand Cru Riesling 2010


Why can’t we buy Alsace Rieslings like this in the UK?

The wines we can buy in this country are well-made, balanced wines that have a richness and a varietal flavour that make them attractive and certainly worth spending between £8 – 11 on. So far so good. So why the plea ‘Why can’t we …?”

Well this wine had all the above plus a real zinginess that made it mouth-wateringly dry, like biting into a really fresh apple that can make you suck in breath – because of its freshness. And yet it was still ‘bottomed’ by the Riesling notes of richness and musk that reined in the tongue- edge tartness. It had clear, sharply defined flavours that you know will improve as it obtains more bottle age. It’s green colour shouted of youth and hinted at what was to come whilst the nose had that lemony-lime acidity that Riesling-lovers crave. But it was the taste that stood it apart and made all those bottles standing, rather forlornly, on supermarket shelves seem …. well, forlorn.

This was purchased from Paul Schueller’s son, in their bottling garage in Husseren. Cost €9. Drive over and fill the boot – you won’t regret it

[Richard: lovely wine. We had read that Schueller in Husseren made great gewurtz so we drove around the village looking for a sign and found Schueller, P. Turns out this was the wrong Schueller, a mistake we made on two other occasions in other villages – lots of extended family wine making in Alsace. Nonetheless, very friendly welcome and we did buy some gewurtz as well.]

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Collection Clos Colombu



This white wine had us flicking through wine books, pouring over the names of more obscure grape varieties that are to be found on Corsica. The wine is classed as a Vin de France which allows for blending across regions but Clos Colombu appears to be purely of Corsican origin.

The grape that dominates white Corsican wine is the Vermentino (a synonym for the southern French Rolle); it’s the most widely planted variety on the island. It can be blended with the other popular white grape, the Ugni Blanc – also known as the Trebbiano Toscano in Italy. There you have it – I warned you we’d been doing a lot of research.

To the wine’s tasting. It was a clear lemon yellow with some evidence of its 12.5% alcohol. The nose was quite aromatic to begin with but faded after it had been opened for a while. The palate was attractive in its softness without being soupy, it kept some structure but again, rather like the nose, it betrayed its humbler origins after a while. There was no outstanding characteristic of the wine. Very drinkable, pleasant, nicely structured and interesting – a wine you’d be happy to part with £8 – 10 for.

Wine Society price is closer to £20. Yes, well. Enough said, I think.

[Richard: Geoff and I are both fans of the Wine Society and often recommend it but sometimes I think they oversell their wines. This is a decent wine but much too expensive for what you get, which isn’t, as Geoff indicates, a great deal.]

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Have you missed us?


No, we haven’t gone away. So to prove – we’ll post on Santenay.

The 2005 Premier Cru, Les Gravieres, to be exact. This was drunk, and enjoyed, on Friday night, after an evening at Birmingham Wine School. It accompanied cheese on toast, some cold Italian meets and savoury biscuits – which were all very welcome after a long evening.

Santenay is a village towards the southern end of the Cote de Beaune which boasts around 16 Premier Cru vineyards. These account for a third of the total of 1000 acres of vineyards, only 10% of which is white wines. The grape variety permitted for AC red wines is, of course, Pinot Noir. Les Gravieres is regarded as one of the finest Premier Crus in Santenay. It certainly promised a lot.

The colour was a brilliant, bright clear cherry red – neither overly light nor dark. It had the legs to remind us of its 13.5% alcohol level. There was only a slight farmyard rich whiff (hallmark Burgundy, by the way) on the nose which vanished quite promptly and it was not particularly beetroot, either. The nose was one of strong fruit, slightly sweet.

It was of medium length on the palate, where the sweet fruit was balanced by a delicious savouriness and was still firmly structured, suggesting it still had plenty of life ahead of it. At the finish, it tasted slightly of violets but this disappeared after a while. It was a well-made, delightful wine. Even Richard, a Burgundian sceptic, was impressed.

[The Wine Society used to sell ‘mystery’ Burgundy cases which purported to offer big reductions on what were, I suppose, bin-ends and stuff that didn’t sell. This came from one of those so it’s hard to price. Maybe £20 which for the vintage and the quality is  pretty good value in Burgundy, if nowhere else.]

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