Monthly Archives: January 2016

Does anyone actually like Chateauneuf de Pape?



A rhetorical question posed after trying the bottle pictured. And one with an obvious answer since they sell millions of bottles every year and have a very solid recognisable brand for which they seem to be able to charge a premium price.

So why is it that I can never find a bottle (of red – the whites are much better) I’d ever consider repurchasing? We’ve blogged on a few here, finding one pretty drinkable, another much less so. The negatives for me (apart from the taste) are the lack of a quality structure coupled with too much alcohol – 14.5% is the norm, 15% not unusual. The CdP above was bought ages ago and I can’t remember from where or how much. Cellartracker opinion was favourable but I found it heavy and clumsy with a bitter aftertaste – too much grenache? I still have a couple left from a Usseglio mixed case but doubt if they’ll change my mind.

The first wines I ever bought, other than from a shop, was a selection of Beaujolais cru from the recently closed Roger Harris, as it then was. This was in about 1975 – all done by post in those pre-internet days. I’ve always liked beaujolais – even nouveaux – but realised that I hadn’t opened a bottle for over a year. Which led me to buy the above Brouilly, from Waitrose, £12, even though it’s really a summer drink. Like CdP, quality in this area lacks transparency but the wines from Fessy have always been well regarded. Tried after a couple of pints it tasted thin and uninteresting but was much better on day 2 with all the characteristics you’d expect from good gamay.


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Pigs and priories



The quirky label and handle of this white wine did not detract from its quality. Lard, des Choix les Champs Libre 2013 from Lebosc was a tasty drop, from the first subtle aromatic nose of sweet peaches to its long, dry finish. The peachiness gave away its origins as being a hot climate white yet it still retained a pebbly, mineral twist on the palate. It has an IGP ranking from the Ardeche department, near the Rhone. Tasted blind, this wine had rich, big flavours and a quality that would show up many AC wines of, supposedly, higher ranking. It would match stronger white meat and sauce flavours. Pork, perhaps?

The Languedoc produces the largest volume of wine in France, not surprisingly most of it is red and 63% IGP. However, 19% does have AC appellations though, as can be seen from the white wine above, AC/IGP labels are not necessarily a guarantee of quality distinctions. The Prieure St Jean de Bebian has previously appeared on this site; this was the 2007 vintage. The wine is from Pezanas (now AC Coteaux de Languedoc) and, according to the blurb, is constituted from all thirteen of the permitted grapes. Whilst the Carignan grape is in decline because of its perceived lack of quality, the Languedoc plantings of Syrah and Grenache are on the increase with the resulting increase in finesse over power.

This wine had an intense black/red colour but a brick rim followed by a rich nose. The fact it was the right time to drink this was underlined by its soft tannins leading to licquorice notes and a drying finish. It was a well-made wine, polished, au point, and a beautiful accompaniment to the stronger food flavours of the area.

[Richard: the name of the white is apparently a French pun, based on L’Ardechois or, possibly, L’Art depending on which website you read. Hilarious, non? From Highbury Vintners, at a slightly ambitious £16. Geoff’s notes are spot on and I ought to mention that he identified the grape – Grenache Blanc –  blind. Probably the best natural wine I’ve tasted.

I didn’t think the ’07 Bebian (bought en primeur from the WS in 2008, about £20) was quite as good as the ’08 tasted recently. A shame as I’ve got more of the former. But a good drink with plenty of terroir – it couldn’t really be from anywhere else.]

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Fragrant, scented…





Oloroso, as translated from the Spanish. Here’s two good ones. No need for two notes as they are both conceptually similar and leave the same impression. Not tasted together but I like them equally. Both fabulously complex on the nose and palate, with the trick of smelling sweet but tasting dry. Very long, savoury and moorish. Drunk slightly chilled – they soon warm up in a copita, although given the nose a wine glass would probably be better.

They are: Williams and Humbert 12yo from Waitrose, £8.69 and Very Rare Oloroso (made by Lustau) from M&S, about £9. Both half bottles.


One week on I tried another in the M&S series, a manzanilla pasada.


Not as likeable as the oloroso. Given the name some oxidisation is to be expected – even desirable –  but I thought there was too much. In principle the pasada style is a good thing, not least in this country where it is very hard to get recently bottled manzanilla, but this wasn’t much to my taste.

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Weekend reds

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Geoff’s got a heavy schedule at the moment educating the masses on the glories of wine so here are a few notes on some recent bottles.

The Faugeres has been blogged before – Ang and I tasted it at Galvin’s (Baker Street) en route to Paris and subsequently bought three bottles from Highbury Vintners, about £20. This is the last, still fabulous – pure fruit, refined and elegant. Not words usually associated with Languedoc but this is a classy wine.

The Madiran  belied its reputation having a lot of sweet fruit and none of the toughness associated with Tannat. A 2007 tasted at Geoff’s last night was even better. Both bought years ago (from MWW?) and seem to have benefitted from long storage.

Also in the cellar for years was the Pombal de Vesuvio, part of a Portuguese case from the WS. Lots of fruit, some structure. A pleasant, easy drinking red. I see it cost £20 which it’s not worth.

Lastly the NZ pinot was ‘reduced to clear’ at Waitrose – £13 to £7. The latter price is more like it, the wine being ‘cheap burgundian’ in taste  – rather thin, not much fruit, although better on day 2.

Geoff – I approached the 2007 Chateau Aydie with trepidation, expecting sandpaper tannins, rusticity and power. How wrong could I be! Red fruits, acidity, balanced power and a well-integrated grip. A lovely wine that got better when drunk with an Italian-style, unctuous beef stew. Lovely. I had decanted it three hours before, then rebottled and left the cork out about an hour before we tried it. The grape variety is grown in small quantities around the world; it will be interesting to try others.



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Happy New Year to our reader



One new year and two renowned wines.

My role was to blind taste the red wine which, I admit, I struggled to pick. The appearance was an intense, almost black colour rimmed with the tell-tale sign of aging – a brick red rim. The legs showed presence of some alcohol but not overmuch.

The nose was wonderful. A great combination of smokey sweetness mixed with tar and some vegetative notes. This wine had been opened, but not decanted, for 24 hours which showed the power of what we were drinking, something I should have picked up on when venturing a Pinot Noir. It certainly wasn’t. My next guess, hinted at by the sweetness (and because I like it) was a Syrah but it wasn’t that either.

The palate showed savoury notes, sweetness matched to acidity and some tannins but the dominant sensation was one of power. The long finish was dry. It also had the (positive) cough mixture notes that added to its complexity. This was a wine which could go on for years – 10, 15, 20 – and yet was approachable now, but it did need the 24 hour breathing period.

It was the second wine of Vega Sicilia, Bodegas y Vinedos; the rather detailed label also proclaiming Tinto Valbuena 5 (meaning 5 years in cask) and its DOC Ribera del Duoro of 2002 vintage and having 14% ABV. The grape varieties are Tempranillo, Merlot and Cab Sav.

This would accompany a rich Spanish stew – but it’s not a fruit brute of wine, despite its power, because of its leanness and attractive acidity. A very good start to the year.

[Richard: many years ago – around 1978 – just as I was getting into wine with my old friend John (who may well be the reader in the blog title above) – we decided, after much hesitation, to buy a bottle of Vega Sicilia. My memory is that is cost £12 (probably from Vintage Wines). I can’t remember the vintage but can recall being rather underwhelmed. These days mature examples of Vega Sicilia are over £200 a bottle and even this second wine was £75 (WS, no longer available). I’d always wanted to try it again so splashed out on this bottle in 2010. Worth it? As an example of absolutely top class Ribera I’d say yes. Unendingly complex on the nose and in the mouth, balanced, savoury with great length. Another of those rare wines where you wish the bottle would never empty. Just heard from John: ‘luscious thick and red, amazing oaky nose, lasted minutes on the mouth. Trouble was we/I had had a few drinks before and did not give such a legend its proper consideration’.]

Richard: the other wine was a white burgundy – which I knew before tasting. Didn’t identify it as a Meursalt (Buisson-Charles, 2010, from Tanners) but should have guessed as Geoff has quite a few bottles from the area. Obviously chardonnay, lemony nose – no matchstick that I could smell – yellow green, brilliantly clear, a rich opulent mouth feel with balancing acidity. Complex, intense and powerful – really a food wine – but totally delicious.





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