Monthly Archives: November 2013

A stately Spaniard

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The Marques de Murrieta 2008 Capellania was recommended to me when Richard and I attended the excellent Wine Society tasting of Spanish wines in Birmingham on 5th November. Pierre Mansour, the WS buyer, claimed it had the hallmarks of a traditionally-styled white Rioja – a style I really enjoy. It is made from 100% Viura grapes with an ABV of 13.5%.

The deep lemon colour was tinged with green; its viscosity heralded by quite pronounced windows on the glass. The nose was initially sweet which developed into an oxidised, fino sherry-like style, then, three hours later, turned again to butterscotch. It was fascinating how this wine changed its characteristics.

The thick mouth feel was immediately apparent – as was the dryness. Yet it had an attractive, slight caramel sweetness that meant we could drink it without food but, on the other hand, would prove difficult to match. It may need a sweet, rich, white meat – lobster, turbot, monkfish would be ideal.

The following evening’s glass was just as good but with higher acidity – possibly suiting it by making it more refreshing. The colour had darkened considerably. Lovely with mushroom, walnuts, crushed tomatoes and pasta.

The Joyce Grenfell monologue, ‘Stately as a Galleon’, kept coming to mind. A beautifully made wine, (most definitely) but perhaps lacking a bit of ‘edge’, is how I would describe it. It’s certainly a keeper. It will obtain greater richness over the next two to three years.

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A wine from 1946

imageRichard purchased [Richard: about £50 each, from Farr Vintners] six bottles of Rivesaltes from various vintages dating back to the nineteen thirties. They had all been kept in oak casks until 2012 and then bottled. This was the second oldest of the six.

Rivesaltes produces a vin doux naturel (VDN), a wine whose fermentation is stopped thereby leaving a sweet wine with an alcohol content of between 15 – 17%. Rivesaltes produces the majority of French VDNs and they can be made from red, white or rose wine – each grape colour producing a different characteristic of wine. I think these were from white grapes but there was no indication on the bottle.

This is Chateau Sisqueille 1946 (ABV 16%). The colour is a bright, clear amber/orange, remarkably fresh looking with strong windows, indicating the expected viscosity. On the nose it had some spicy richness and raisins but not strongly so – more restrained than port or sherry. The palate was sweet, but balanced by some orange-peel acidity and of good length. It was slightly oxidised, giving it a sherry quality which added to its character

This would be a good accompaniment to salted nuts or a strong blue cheese.

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Fashion items

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It’s enigmatic how a wine or a particular grape variety captures the general public’s imagination. It seems to rise from nowhere, then, suddenly, opinion formers are drinking it – and the variety takes off. And so it soars, only to fall at some indeterminate time later, seemingly condemned by all. Liebfraumilch, Chianti, Beaujolais, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay …. Sauvignon Blanc?

Sauvignon is everywhere. We all hear about its freshness, its New World vibrancy and its origins in the Loire Valley. We hear of its subtlety in France and its more obvious qualities in New Zealand. The tastings I’ve attended recently have revealed it to be hollow, short, over-acidic, light and unmatchable with any food. So, as an opinion former, it was good to redress the balance with a Chilean, Leyda Valley, wine. This was Majestic’s Santa Ema Reserve 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Its pale yellow/green colours hints at its origins in a cool climate the freshness is confirmed on the nose. However, it has a restrained nose, floral with lemony acidity and more than a hint of peppery quince.

The palate is rich and deep for a Sauvignon – with good length. There is a mineral finish keeping it taught but, I suspect, this would be helped by drinking it quite chilled rather than letting its richness become too broad and fat. Yes, it is more obvious than the French style but it hasn’t the sometimes one-dimensional qualities of the New Zealand style.

It’s on promotion at Majestic at the moment. Great value and a good match for non-too delicate or acidic starters

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