Monthly Archives: November 2014

Did Johnson drink Burgundy?


I was looking at the Aldi and Lidl websites the other day, wondering if either were selling legs of jamon, as in previous years. None to be found but I did come across the Aldi Christmas wines page. My local shop had a few, which I bought, including a 2008 red burgundy from Maranges made by Delaunay (12.5 £16). Premier cru on the label but in Burgundy that doesn’t mean very much – better than other wine from the village is all you could really say.

I’m not an expert on burgundy – although we’ve done several blogs – but even Geoff (aka Mr Burgundy, at least in Sutton Coldfield) had never heard of Maranges, although Dave (with whom I’ve shared several disappointing bottles from the region) had caravanned there. Local supermarkets have lots of overpriced, indifferent reds, he reported.

Anyway – what of the wine? Very pale, obviously pinot from the colour but not, unfortunately, from the nose which was just ‘generic grape’. Compare any New World pinot at £16. On the palate, some thinnish raspberry/strawberry fruit, easy to drink, quite savoury but little length. So, another overpriced disappointment which leads us onto Samuel Johnson who spoke of the ‘triumph of hope over experience’, actually in the context of, errr, second marriages but the observation still holds for wine buying. I was almost sure the wine would be a waste of money so why did I spend £16? Some over enthusiastic reviews, certainly. But perhaps also because the greatest wine I have ever tasted was from the region – a Chambertin by Rousseau – and I was hoping this this would be another one to remember, rather than forget.

The great thing about drinking a 12.5% wine is that you feel you can indulge in another glass of something else, in this case a Cotes de Ventoux, Les Amidyves 2007 purchased in 2009 from the vigneron’s shop across the road from our gite in Villes-sur-Auzon, just visible in the background on the linked website. Composition is 60% grenache, 40% syrah, cost €12 and 15%. The wine is big, spicy, as dark as the burgundy was pale but rather clumsy I thought, although not an obvious head-banger. No oak apparent and at least there was none of the jammy taste so common in Ventoux wines, something I’m not keen on. Tasted a day later it was exactly the same. Angie preferred it to the burgundy but for me neither wine was especially good.

(Geoff – this is definitely a three day wine, not surprising really at 15% ABV. Richard played the milkman and left a third of the bottle on the doorstep. No vacuum seal, just re-corked. It was lovely. Rich, powerful and all the clumsiness mentioned above had been smoothed out. Really nice glass of wine, no hint of sweetness at the finish, matched the steak superbly)


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Noah and Deiss, men of the soil


There are a lot of web pages devoted to Domaine Marcel Deiss and, in particular, to the iconoclasm of Jean-Michel Deiss, the son of the founder of this Bergheim winery. You can read it elsewhere; I wouldn’t presume that this little blog can improve on what’s been already said. Suffice it to say that J.M. believes in the soil’s importance in a wine’s character at least as much as – if not more than – the influence of a particular grape variety. Not unreasonable, you might think, but given that we’re talking about the Alsace wine region, where grape varieties have the primacy – well you can understand the controversy. The problem with controversy is that it’s inward-facing – so Richard and I are concentrating on the end product. A glass of wine.

Marcel Deiss 2005 Grasberg 1er cru (13%) is mainly Riesling, with Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer in supporting roles, but none of these grapes are mentioned on the labels.  It originally cost £32.50 from the Wine Society, current price £39. Grasberg has calcareous soil and this was from vines on a north facing site, which, I presume, give them a longer ripening period.

Deep golden in colour, clear and bright it had a lovely nose which gave off slight whiffs of petrol and honey. There were some high notes and, as Richard said, it is one of those wines you could sit and smell, rather than taste, all night. But we didn’t just do that. Almost reluctantly, we took the plunge.

The palate had a tingly acidity which balanced the honeyed flavours. I thought it tasted like ripe pineapples; the off-dry finish was very long indeed. It was a stunning cup of intense fruit – a pleasure to drink.

[Richard:classy drink (as was the previous one we tasted), just on the right side of dry – although Angie thought it was too sweet. Reading up on this grower made me wish we had visited his cave, instead of mixing him up with another Deiss.]

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2014 Beaujolais Nouveau


2014  vintage “The musts have fermented well, and the wines have great aromatic intensity. The tannins are silky, of extreme finesse and perfectly integrated, adding structure and length on the palate. The 2014 vintage should be very elegant.” (B. Chatelet, Beaujolais Research Institute).

“The 2012 vintage was a big challenge for the winemakers in Beaujolais where frost and hail halved the crop.” (Clare Montgomery, Beaujolais and Beyond).

These are a selection of the vintage reports of the two vintages we’ve blogged. Both are from Georges Duboeuf and both are/were sold by Waitrose. The latest, at 12% ABV, was £8.00. We certainly were none too enthusiastic about the 2012 but this year’s offering was quite impressive.

A deep red and purple colour was followed by a ripe red fruit nose with some expected – and not unpleasant – green, underripe, quality.

The palate was surprisingly rich with depth and medium length, the tannins giving it a definition. There was some fruit on the middle palate; it ended with the edgy firmness, typical of a sound Beaujolais.

We were both pleasantly surprised by this wine (it takes a lot to convince me about Beaujolais  – in general, not just Nouveau) although I have been recently tipped off about some impressive offerings (thanks, Jim Hopper).

It’s well worth the asking price – equivalent to two pints of beer!

[Richard: don’t know where Geoff buys his beer but £4 a pint?.]

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Back in the groove


At last, a joint wine tasting! The old routine – five pm Sunday with Saturday’s Times crossword. Not to mention a decanted red wine to be tasted blind. Opened 45 minutes earlier.

Colour: dense, opaque red, almost black, with a purply red rim. Some legs, but not particularly obvious. Bottle had a fine sediment which you can see in the photo.

Nose: slight menthol whiffs (Syrah?), some high notes, not really obvious. Changed into a more farmyard smell after twenty minutes. (effect of oxidising?)

Palate: really sweet, delicate, feminine, wine with a more-ish dry fade. Good length and complexity. Certainly soft tannins with medium acidity. A refined wine. Richard “some heat”.

Put ‘on the spot’, I declared Syrah and the refinement suggested French? Correct. Northern Rhone? Correct. St Joseph? Wrong. Hermitage? Wrong. It was a 2006 Cornas Granit 30. (13% ABV) Wine Society £19.

There you have it – the bones of the tasting.  We love these northern Rhones, and how often do they defy the Rhone caricature of big wines with the sweet finish. They’re delicate wines, in many ways quite lean but very inviting. It’s great to be back.

[Richard: a lovely wine and the rare thing, a comparatively low in alcohol Rhone. Perfect for Sunday night with (in our case), ribollita. I think the wines of Cornas are generally under-appreciated and I prefer them to St Joseph or Crozes Hermitage.]

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Wine in Paris

faugsaummetissebinn jura     beb collmerc

Since the last post I’m now a very happily married man and we are back from our honeymoon, three days in Paris. So a few thoughts on what we drank while we were there. No notes taken so the descriptions will be basic. It’s not news, of course, that Paris is expensive. At our local bistrot (we were staying in the Latin Quarter, 6th arrondissement) a 14cl glass of ordinary Cote de Rhone was €3.60, a 25cl 1664 Kronenborg was €4.50 – both waiter served. The mark-up on bottles of wine served with a meal was around double retail (unlike London where it is typically treble retail).

Actually the best wine of the honeymoon was drank in London, at Galvin’s Bistrot de Luxe. This was a 2011 Faugeres, Leon Barral (£50). Beautiful pure but complex nose with a persistent savouriness. Both the sommelier and a waiter commented on the wine and said how much they liked it. This choice set a theme for the visit – although we didn’t realise it at the time – of natural, or at least biodynamic wines. Very good food at the Bistrot as well, by the way.

On our first night we went to the local bistrot mentioned above and had the ‘wine of the month’ (with chicken and steak). This was a red Saumur Ch de la Durandiere, I think 2011, at €18. Not a bad price (around £10 retail in the UK) A typical cabernet franc, well structured and easy to drink. One UK seller claims it contains some cabernet sauvignon but I couldn’t taste it.

On the following night we were treated to a meal at La Pulperia which has a wine list full of natural wines (unfortunately the full list won’t load when viewed on the website). Following the Barral we went for another Languedocian maker, Magnon in Corbieres. This was his Metisse 2013 (€50). No UK seller that I can find. A coincidence is that, as I found out later, Barral is a mentor to Magnon. This wine was a very pale red, indeed pinot like in appearance and is listed as a rose by some sellers. The nose and taste took a while to develop but were quite seductive when they appeared, albeit in a light style. With dessert we had a glass of 1997 Binner Riesling, selection de grains nobles. This was a deep orange, mature but not past it with a wonderful sweet/dry finish. An interesting maker and I have a memory of Geoff and I driving round Anmmerswhir trying, unsuccessfully, to find their cave. As we were leaving the restaurant we were offered that rare thing in France, a drink on the house. This was a cremant from Jura, made by Ganevat (no UK supplier of this wine). Been open a while, I think, so very little mousse and very dry. Better as an aperitif.

Our room at the hotel (recommended unless you need reliable internet) had a very small kitchenette so we were able to eat lunch in and try a couple of wines from local shops. These were La Croix de Bebian 2010, from Nicholas and a Collioure 2013 from Monoprix, about €10 each. Both pleasant enough but I think you could do better for the same price in the UK.

Finally on our last night we went to another local restaurant specialising in food from the Lozere, which is hearty and unsophisticated. The wine was another Faugeres, Caumette’s Ancient Mercerie 2011, a biodynamic wine and at €27 quite highly marked up as the 2012 is around €9. No UK supplier. The wine was an assemblage of the main grapes of the region. Easy to drink but not memorable.

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