Monthly Archives: May 2015

Three Bank Holiday wines

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These days it seems rare to read a wine column in an English newspaper that doesn’t recommend English wine, often English sparkling wine. I’ve enjoyed most of the few I have tried and thought we’d start our four day break with a glass or two. We’ve got some old friends who live near the Chapel Down vineyard in Tenterden and the Pinot Reserve 2008 (£24) came from the on-site shop, bought when we were down a few weeks ago. I always prefer sparking wine/champagne (come the revolution people saying ‘fizz’ will be taken out and shot) with some bottle age – even laying down non-vintage is worthwhile if you have the patience –  and the benefits are evident here. Very well made with a fine mousse, evident in the photo. A pinot noir/blanc mix, complex nose, slightly sweet with a dry finish. Very classy and as good as a comparably priced champagne. Lasted well into a second day.

The Pichon Condrieu 2010 (WS £26, no longer available) is actually approaching the end of its conservative WS designated drinking window (2012-15) but tasted very good and will last a while yet. Lots of stone fruit, powerful, some acidity with a hint of bitterness that added to the balance. Rich mouth feel. Another wine that drunk well on day 2.

Finally, when looking for a lighter wine for Sunday night, what better than a village burgundy? Low alcohol, not much taste. Little to say about this wine. In fact I nearly didn’t bother blogging it hence the outside photo –  the bottle was retrieved from the recycling. It’s a Nuits-St-Georges Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Robert Chevillon, 2007 (13%) from a WS 2007 mixed burgundy case. About £23, no longer available. Bought when I knew even less about burgundy than I do now (2007 was not a good vintage). Drink by 2013 was the WS advice and it’s clearly not going to improve. Their sparse note ‘sweet, soft, strawberry-like fruit’ tells it’s own story. Shy nose, just about recognisable pinot taste.

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Chablis Fourchaume Domaine William Fevre 2007

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Another wonderful glass of wine – the second in one night.

Chablis is a much-abused name – promoted heavily by the big stores and so often thin, mean and disappointing as a consequence. But this was very much the opposite.

So green in the glass to be almost luminous it yelled acidity and freshness. The nose was surprisingly slight, but it probably needed more time – Richard can confirm what it was like later. Again, the freshness was there – even in an eight year old wine.

It had a pronounced weighty mouth-feel, rich in flavour but we could not detect any oak. A beautifully balanced mineral-driven wine, the acidity was not overpowering but always there to tempt another glass. It had loads of life in it – and would still be going strong for another 5 – 7 years. I bet this was superb later in the evening.

Over to you, Richard.

[Richard: fabulous wine which did change and improve through the evening. Very easy to drink – didn’t need food. I bought 6 from the WS (£25 each – a real bargain) in 2013. However the average price was raised a bit by a recent bottle being oxidised. I think this is the last of them, certainly the best. All those Chablis characteristics like slate, wet stone and minerality in evidence.]

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Superb wine

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Currently, sherry articles emphasise what great value it is. So, we decided to test this opinion. I’ll let Richard write about the pricing but this was a wonderful wine and befitting of the occasion of my declared retirement from full-time teaching. Thanks, Richard.

La Bota Olorosa no.28 is from Fernando de Castilla in the Jerez barrio of Santiago. Made in very small quantities – 900 hundred bottles, to be precise, from one barrel – la bota, usually on the left end of a row. This was a superb drink.

Beautifully clear and bright, it had an amber/orange hue and the expected viscosity. The nose was all citrussy, orange peel, but deep and rich – so complex we wanted to revisit the experience. On the palate, it had spice and acidity and a weighty mouth-feel. The middle palate was sweet but the extremely long finish was dry. The whole taste was redolent of power – but beautifully so.

This was a memorable bottle of wine.

[Richard: As Geoff has recently decided to forsake the wage slave life and do something else I wanted to open something special for our latest Friday evening tasting – and this was a bottle I’ve been looking forward to for a while. We’ve blogged on Equipo Navazos before with the La Bota De Manzanilla Pasada (No 40) being the best sherry I have ever tasted. A shame we didn’t blog that one! Anyway this was the first oloroso we’ve tried from EN and it was nearly as good as No. 40. Amazingly complex and long, just as good the following day. Which brings us onto the question of value Geoff alludes to. Only 900 (half) bottles suggests a premium price and so it was – £62 – which makes it the most expensive bottle (per centilitre) I’ve ever bought. From this supplier who knocked the price down from £75 as a different, cheaper palo cortado wasn’t available.

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Another Stolarski stonker

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Domaine de le Marfée 2000 vdp de l’Heraut has an intriguing sub-title of ‘Les Champs Murmurés’.  We translated this as ‘whispering grass’, bringing back memories of Windsor Davies & Don Estelle from ‘It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot Mom’. Sing up, Lofty – this was certainly a wine to warble about. It was supplied by Richard’s merchant in Nottingham, Leon Stolowski, a merchant who specialises in the more under-sung areas of France. The colour wasn’t particularly promising – opaque, brown-rimmed and viscous, but the nose changed our opinions. Herby and spicy, it had the smell of a powerful wine that was ‘medicinal’. All the power and the attractive cough-medicine sweetness was cut by some superb acidity which balanced the sweet mid-palate. It ended long and dry. A lovely wine. I thought I detected Syrah but we could not find the blend and had to guess it might be Grenache, Syrah and Carignan or Mourvedre. [Richard – it seems to be 50% mouvedre and 50% syrah]. Whatever it was, it was excellent and no doubt better for having been opened 60 mins.

[Richard: in late 2012 I ordered a mixed case from Leon Stolarski (not really ‘my merchant’ – just someone who I have bought from occasionally) called ‘A Dozen Mature Red Gems’. As I recall an attraction of the case was that all the wines were claimed to be good, if not better, on day 2. This is something red wine drinkers know instinctively but I thought it would be interesting to try some selected on that basis. Anyway the box got rather forgotten but I unearthed it recently and have been trying a few – see below. The Marfée, at £24 was, after a ’03 Trevallon, the most expensive in the case and comes from a maker that LS is very proud to import, with good reason. As Geoff says – a terrific wine with no chance of any being left to try on the second day. LS does it again.

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I also opened (Geoff not present) an ’01 Cahors, Domaine du Garinet (£15) and an ’07 Domaine D’Archimbaud La Robe du Poupre (£15) Both very good with the Cahors very drinkable on day 3.

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Domaine Bachelet, Gevrey Chambertin 2004

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Burgundy 2004, by all reports, appears to be a mixed vintage; hail in June in some areas, odium mildew, and a wet cold August. Vintage charts are so reductive as to be almost worthless and this wine proved the point.

The colour showed ageing on the rim, being slightly brown, but the body of the wine was still a youthful red hue. There was some viscosity but not a great deal (13% ABV). The nose was pleasantly vegetal, rich and sweet with darker fruit notes but beguilingly aromatic. Like many Pinots the nose is so very attractive and you hope the taste matches it.

The palate had a definite menthol quality, being savoury and lighter than the nose led you to expect. It was not particularly firm or even restrained – it faded in the mouth, if anything – which convinced me it came from either the Beaune or even New Zealand. But no, it was a northern Burgundy.

The wine was made from old vines and unfiltered.

Good wine in an indifferent vintage which, I suppose, is the hallmark of a fine winemaker.

[Richard: another ‘Burgundy mystery case’ purchase from the WS, in 2012. Around £30 I would guess. Lots of positive comments online, which prompted me to open it. I didn’t like it quite as much as, for example Decanter (‘…bright, fresh, spicy and vigourous…’) but thought it pretty good and better than many we have tried.]

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Roughly the same price – roughly the same quality?

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Our kitchen was (nearly) finished on Friday after 6 long weeks. Goodbye to fitters, plumbers, electricians and decorators. Clean-up beginning. Just a bit of snagging left. So I thought we’d celebrate with what I hoped would be special wines.

I picked a red and a white, different countries, vintages and grapes. Only one thing in common – a nearly identical price. Since the law of diminishing returns applies to wine as to any other good I was expecting something a bit better than usual, without being revelatory.

The white was from Jermann, called Vintage Tunina, 2012 (was £36.50, now £39). A food blog I follow is one by Andy Hayler and this is a wine he often chooses or mentions in his restaurant reviews which made me want to try it, as did the unusual name. Hard to find – my bottle came from Great Western Wine, not a usual supplier but they another wine I especially wanted to try (Trinity Hill Homage Syrah, now sold out). Geoff tells me MWW are also stockists

An unusual wine, north Italian (not German), late harvested, an equal blend of chardonnay, malvasia istriana, picolit, ribolla gialla and sauvignon blanc. I could only identify two of those grapes with confidence. The wine is a field blend, something we have blogged on before. We have also previously tasted and enjoyed a Jermann. No blog though. So, how did it taste? Pretty good, rich, honeyed, dry finish, quite spicy, Intriguing would be a good description. But – too expensive for what it was.

The red was purchased following receipt of an excited email from the WS (must try, six only per customer, legendary Shiraz, class of its own, etc, etc). Since cutting back on my WS ordering I don’t get these emails anymore. Probably a good thing. The wine in question is Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2006 (£39, no longer available). Lots of praise for this wine on the web but I didn’t really get it. Certainly I should have decanted although the unusual bottle shape – it has a very high shoulder – lead me not to. I found it smooth, deep, spicy, lots of varietal character on the taste, less so on the nose, but not really memorable. Two bottles left so Geoff can offer a second opinion.

Overall I thought the Tunina was the better value and the quality wine as the Rockford was less interesting and significantly overpriced..

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Oregon to Pinot

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In Oregon, the Williamette River flows north/north east towards Portland and empties into the Columbia River. The river valley south west of Portland area has become famous, since the 1960s, for Pinot Noir, so much so there is an annual Celebration for the grape every July. The climate, wet, rather than cold autumns and winters, and dry summers replicate that of Burgundy and allow the fussy grape to ripen on the vine. This means the wines are full flavoured if a little more forward when compared with the French counterpart. But why compare?

The wine we tried on Sunday had been opened Friday evening but decanted just before tasting. It was Lemelson’s Thea’s Selection of 2012 (a very good year), 14%ABV and cost £19.50 from WS.

Purple/pink rimmed with a deep red core, the wine smelt fruity fresh rather than oaky with very slight menthol notes. Richard suggested it tasted of cough drops (in  an attractive way) and it finished dry after a sweet mid-palate. The finish was long.

Neither of us could pick any of Pinot’s typical characteristics but this was an excellent, if slightly unusual, wine. Some notes suggested it was more cranberry fruit. The wine-makers will no doubt be keen to develop a wine which expresses the local terroir, rather than copy another district’s style. Another good wine from cave Morris.

[Richard: yet another from our recent trip to the WS cellar in Stevenage. I think the longish time open and the decanting helped develop the wine. A good, very drinkable wine with a lot of character but if you want classic pinot – look elsewhere.]

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