Monthly Archives: March 2015

Change of venue, claret for a change.


I don’t taste enough claret so, because of a quick change in venue on Sunday, I opened and decanted a bottle from Marks and Spencers, their Chateau St Paul 2011. This was a cru bourgeois from the Haut Medoc, with 13% ABV. Opening it so shortly before drinking did not show it at its best but we thought the decanting might soften it a wee bit.

The Cru Bourgeois  appellation is granted – after a very bureaucratic process – two years following the vintage. It represents the respectable middle ground between the more aristocratic Medoc’s crus classes and the paysan quality level. It’s the suburbs between the inner city and landed gentry. It’s the Audi A3 driver – unspectacular, conventional and safe.

And that sums the wine up, really. Deep red with a slight pink rim in colour and Richard picked up a scent of violets on the undeveloped nose. The palate was thin, drying and of medium length. It had a savoury quality and was still structured by tannins. and it symbiotically accompanied a piece of roast beef.  I disagree with M & S’ description of it having a ‘silky’ texture – the mouth feel was too thin for that epithet. Would I re-buy? No, but it’s not a poor wine and at £7.50 it’s what would you expect from a France.

Fact file – Cru Bourgeois 2011 status was awarded to 256 chateau, i.e. 28 million bottles which accounted for 30% of the total Medoc production. They produce a lot of wine down there!

It developed a fruitier palate 24 hours later but still light in style

[Richard: Thanks to Geoff for inviting me round (our kitchen is being done up). 2011 was not a great claret vintage – too cool in the summer months – and the lack of ripeness was evident here. But if you like the style then it’s not a bad price although a similarly priced 2009/10 would be doubtless be a better wine.]


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Domaine de la Rectorie 2012


This wine from Collioure in the Languedoc was tasted after the bad experience with Hermitage. It was a welcome relief. 90% Grenache Gris and 10% Grenache Blanc – and some oak fermentation – combined to make a wine that was rich, full in flavour and possessing a balancing acidity. Light yellow lemon in colour and the nose being citrus made the whole drinking experience a delight – if not a particularly complex one. At £25, it was probably slightly overpriced, but certainly better value than the preceding Hermitage. We’d tried the red version some time ago (pre-blog, I think) and were more impressed by that but both were good wines.

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Rhone – moan and paean.


Two white Rhones, tasted a week apart – and what a difference.

First was from the Wine Society’s (our favourite buying source) Exhibition range, a 2006 Hermitage from Chave, the renowned Rhone wine-maker. Colour and nose were spot on – clear lemon yellow, some viscosity; citrus nose with a rich, almost beeswax notes. But the palate was really disappointing. Dry, unforgiving, hollow and disappearing rather quickly. It seemed to be lacking in any quality. This was tasted blind and, to be honest, we thought a poor reflection on the WS and one of the region’s reputed top wines. At £35 it was a steal – from the customer.

This Sunday, we tried another WS offering – Domaine Saint Prefert 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape white (13.5% ABV), retailing at £30. This wine is a blend of 85% old vine Clairette, red (gris?) and white, and 15% Rousanne. The research tells me that Clairette is a grape, declining in popularity, that adds crispness to a blend whilst the fussy Rousanne gives the aroma. Neither grape seems easy to manage but the result, in this wine, was spectacular.  A lovely full lemon yellow in colour it had a fresh, ripe melon nose that was always inviting. The palate was rich, with an almost oily weight but cut with wonderful acidity which kept it refreshing. The really long finish was dry and clean which confirmed a well-balanced, classy wine – one we could happily sip all evening. But, unfortunately, I had to leave it for Angie and Richard to enjoy. It was his wine, after all.

I’d just tweeted about how the name of Chateauneuf du Pape had been spoiled by poor quality reds for some time. This wine made me drink my words – but the criticism of the reds is still valid until proved otherwise.

[Richard:  unforgiving is certainly le mot juste to describe the Hermitage although it did improve when decanted and was at near room temperature. Mixed reviews on the WS website – they’ve moved on to another vintage now – and we were definitely in the ‘anti’ camp. The DSP was a lovely wine and far better value. Only one bottle – part of a white Rhone mixed case – but a maker to look out for. Edit – the purchase price of the Hermitage has been refunded. Well done WS.]

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Apostolos Thymiopoulos – Thymiopoulos Xinomavro (another Greek red)


Geoff bought this round at the weekend. M&S, about £11, 13.5%. Xinomavro (‘acid/sour black’) is the grape. I didn’t spot it, obviously. Not a bit sour or black, Burgundian pale, bright, perfumed ‘Turkish Delight’ nose – probably not what they were aiming for – plenty of soft tannin giving grip and structure. Cherry, plums on the palate but also plenty of savouriness. Needs to be served chilled. Lovely wine. Have ordered the more upmarket cuveé from the WS as a comparison.

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The blood wine analogy

sang   Drinkers of a certain age may recall a Hungarian wine called Bull’s Blood. A common choice in the seventies when the range available to consumers was much smaller than it is now. Visitors to Spain may have tried Sangre de Toro, an always reliable purchase. And if you take communion then the concept referenced in the title will be familiar. I’m not religious myself. I don’t have the Latin as Peter Cook once put in a different context, so I’m not sure if any red liquid, say Ribena, would do as as a simulacrum for the events of 2000 years ago or whether it has to be wine. All this is a preface to a red tasted recently, a 2004 Pic St Loup (14%, WS, no longer available about £25), the top wine of Cazeneuve, with, to me, a bizarre name -‘Le Sang du Calvaire’. Quite why a wine should be linked with a crucifixion is beyond me. Made in very small quantities if that is relevant. The Cazeneuve website offers no explanation, although, by the way, it seems that the name was once Casanova. Anyway, the wine is 95% mourvedre, 5% syrah, soft brambly nose, quite high in acidity, thinish in the mouth, rather like a Rioja, with a different taste. Not much tannin despite 24 months in oak. I didn’t experience a revelation and a churchgoer was unimpressed so the mystery of the name continues. But a decent midweek drink nonetheless.

(Geoff: Homer consistently referred to the ‘wine dark sea’ in the Odyssey, so it’s a pre-Christian analogy. Anyway, this wine, tasted on the second day, was excellent. Certainly Rioja-ish – vanilla, acidity, lightness and delicacy and very drinkable. It had a beguiling delicacy that drew you to it. Was it the Monastrell? It certainly had siren-like qualities)

[Richard: retasting with Geoff – and even allowing for the powers of auto-suggestion – I think I underestimated this. A classy day 2 wine.]

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The future’s not orange?


I thought this would be ideal for a Sunday night tasting. Unusual grape and production method, controversial style and, most important, low alcohol (10.5%). The orange in the post title refers both to both the colour of the wine in glass and the style – ‘orange wines’ being a synonym for natural  or minimum intervention wines. I  really only purchased this to make up a half case from Highbury Vintners as I wanted some of the fabulous Faugeres we drank in London on our honeymoon. So, this is Azienda Agricola COS Pithos Bianco IGT, 100% Grecanico, fermented in 400l terracotta amphoras buried in the soil. Some fascinating pictures on their website. Quite a build-up but we weren’t greatly impressed. The predominate smell is stewed apple, which Geoff identified as too much malic acid. Not unpleasant, just a bit dull. In addition the low alcohol gave a thin mouth feel. Apple taste as well with some bitter almond. ‘Old champagne’ was another comment, although without the richness or complexity. An interesting wine but not one I’d buy again, especially at £23.

(Geoff. It was interesting to drink an unusual wine but the dullness, as Richard described it, came from it being one-dimensional. Once we’d got used to its flavour that was it. A simple wine, rustic; possibly a wine you’d bring back from a holiday then, six months later, wonder why you’ve still got five bottles left. One review on Cellar-tracker rated it very highly so it has its fans.)

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Playing catch-up – late notes


Mock exam season, so lots of marking. Apologies to our reader. Having declared my favourite wine is a white Burgundy, Richard retrieved a Bachelet Chassagne Montrachet 08 from his fast diminishing stocks.  Whilst it was appreciated, it was a touch disappointing. 08 was a light year with not too much sun and this was reflected in the dominating acidity and the rather one dimensional palate. It hadn’t the richness I look forward to and the complex nose promised a lot more than was delivered in the mouth.  The appearance also promised weight in the lemon yellow colour but it just wasn’t there. At £45, we both thought it overvalued. The second wine of the evening was the Ridge Geyserville  09 – a cocktail of Zinfandel (74%), Carignan (19%) and Petit Syrah (7%). It cost £26 from the Wine Society and packed a whacking 14.5% ABV. The colour was black with a slight purple rim and plenty of legs. The nose was fruity fresh, attractive with some quite subtle smokiness. There was a spirity aroma to it. The front and middle palates were attractive but it vanished quickly after a beguiling spicy almonds taste. I can’t get on with Zin, unfortunately, it always leaves me disappointed, promising so much but never going the full distance. Anyone out there to disagree?

[Richard: the burgundy was a bottling for Berry Bros, the last of a mixed case bought about four years ago. Nowhere near as complex as I had hoped and, as Geoff indicates, poor value for money. I’ve always liked Ridge, although I’ve only had a few bottles. I remember spending what seemed an enormous amount of money (probably £50 – a present from my grandmother) on some bottles from the MWW store on Hagley Road, in those far off days when one had to drive miles to find interesting wine. Actually it’s not so easily available now with the WS no longer stocking the brand although I see that MWW have the 2012 of this wine at £32. Not worth it I’m afraid.]

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