Monthly Archives: March 2016

The other Trojan Horse

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I tasted this wine blind – a very interesting experience indeed. The wine is Malagousia Single Vineyard 2013, bought from Highbury Vintners but I couldn’t find it on their current web site. As with other Greek wines I have tried, it produced a ‘wow’ factor with its unusual combination of textures and flavours, especially when tasted blind.

Appearance: pronounced lemon yellow, green tinge. Oily texture apparent in glass.

Nose: Obviously smoky, spicy (tried unsuccessfully to identify), hint of lemon. First thoughts, Chardonnay and then Semillon.

Palate: Rich, nutty, long dry finish, refreshing. Too big for Chardonnay so plumped for mature Semillon.

Overall: Lovely wine, interesting, complex – high quality.

The grape variety Malagousia was ‘rescued’ from extinction by Gerovassiliou, the maker of this wine in Epanomi in Macedonia. The wine won a Decanter regional award, and, after tasting this wine, I can understand why. I am searching for a supplier and have found Vincognito stock it. It’s a really good wine, probably even better on day 2.

(Subsequently established that the wine is stocked by Vin Cognito, an online retailer who stock a very interesting range of wines. It’s worth a visit to their web-site if only to marvel at the descriptions!)

 

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Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes – The Aeneid, Virgil

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Literally “I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts”. Each time we have tried Greek wines, Richard and I have commented on the quality, the unique nature and their value for money – and the two wines we tasted on Friday were no exception. Trojan Horses indeed – ones to enjoy.

Firstly, the Retsina from winemakers Tetramythos. It was non-vintage, organic and only 12%. We can both remember Retsina from earlier times (1980s?) which was heavily pine scented and prone to oxidise but this was much subtler and fresher. The amphora maturation is interesting, as is the use of wild yeasts. The Roditis grapes are grown at altitude by makers who are very environmentally conscious. The result of all this detailed, modern approach was a very pale yellow and slightly petillant appearance which reminded us of Muscadet or Picpoul. Initially very slight, the nose gained pungency as the wine sat in the glass but it maintained its zingy lemon freshness whilst developing slightly herby notes – but little pine resin.

The palate I classed as bold, a little bit hard and easy drinking if a little one-dimensional. Richard opined (pun intended) it was short. However, we both agreed that it was a well-made wine, excellent value (WS £7.95) and would be lovely with sea food. I think that this wine has been made to suit a wider European audience, the distinctive pine flavours toned down to make it commercially appealing. In this, it has succeeded.

(Historical/technical stuff. Originally, the resin was used to seal the stone amphora in which the wine was kept; the wine took on that nuance of flavour. In more modern manufacturing, resin is added to the must to flavour the wine).

 

 

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Rivesaltes 1971

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This wine, Domaine Sainte Lucie 1971, had spent 40 years in oak casks before being bottled in 2011. During that time, no additional wine was introduced to the original blend. This consisted of at least 50% white grapes based around the Grenache variety, both Blanc and Gris being used. The fermentation process had been stopped to kill yeasts and leave residual sugars, the ABV is 16%.

Clive Coates said the ‘rancio’ style is a taste “I have no wish to acquire”. However, this slightly oxidised, oloroso sherry-like flavour is, to me, attractive and similar to a Madeira in taste, though with more obvious fruit. The colour is a deep amber, beautifully clear with the obvious signs of viscosity. There is a notable aroma of orange peel which lends an inviting acidity to the bouquet.

The mouth feel is heavy and the orange marmalade theme is continued on the palate where there is a lovely balance of sweetness and acidity. There is considerable length to the flavour. The wine is surprisingly fresh especially when considering its 45 years.

Foods? Mmm – difficult. Strong Spanish style tapas? I had it with some salty, sharp, slightlsweet Gorgonzola. The two sweetnesses were not quite in kilter but it wasn’t bad. It could certainly stand as an interesting aperitif with some almonds.

[Richard: this came from a mixed case of old vin doux Rivesaltes, previously blogged on here].

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Two from Chile

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Round to Geoff’s this Sunday. After some very good prosecco – three words I don’t often utter – we tried a riesling from Chile. Cono Sur Reserva 2014. Tesco had it for around £8 but it seems to have sold out. Attractive pale yellow with a hint of green, and a very typical ‘Alsace’ nose. However we didn’t enjoy the taste much. Too sweet – for me at least and rather cloying. Geoff went for soapy and hard. Either way, not a wine we wanted to drink much of.

Next was a 2010 syrah from Lucero (M&S, about £10, also out of stock). This had been open for three days but there was still, on uncorking, a massive blast of vanilla. As the M&S website puts it, ‘subtle use of French oak has rounded the texture of the wine…’ Well, subtle it ain’t although the aroma did fade. Very dark – garnet and purple in colour, still tasting fresh and spicy with a hint of the pepper you expect from syrah. Served slightly chilled which helped, I think. A decent wine but with none of the nuances that the Rhone (sometimes) delivers.

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“Fancy a Grenache?” “Er ……”

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The d’Arenberg name in Maclaren Vale, South Australia is a well-established, quality wine producer. But this particular wine – The Blewitt Springs 2009 – weighs in with 14.5% ABV. If I see 14.5% on the label I generally murmur ‘thanks but no thanks’. Add the grape variety – Grenache – and it’s a double whammy for me.

And for others, if the uprooting of Grenache vines in South Ozzie vineyards is a yardstick. The new plantings of Cab Sav and Shiraz edged out Grenache but, evidently, d’Arenberg did not follow the trend and kept the oldest vines. The result ….

….a deep intense red colour, surprisingly light legs with a slight brick rim. A hefty nose of black cherry/brambles, intense and strong. A palate nicely firm (lack of tannins is a Grenache problem),  flavours long with a pleasantly sweet (not jammy) ending. A well-made, quality wine.

I enjoyed this but I suspect it was expensive (R. will enlighten). Perhaps I’ve been drinking too cheaply.

[Richard: yes £38 but only 200 cases made, all taken by The WS. All gone now – I purchased in 2012.Wasn’t sure if this was ready and it would certainly keep but drinking well now and I don’t think there is much improvement to be had. A wine some Chateauneuf producers could usefully taste to see another side of grenache.]

 

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Canadian Chardonnay

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We tasted two very interesting wines on Sunday. The first wine because of the country of origin – Canada; the second wine because of the grape variety – Grenache. Firstly, the Canadian wine.

The received wisdom is that the modern Canadian wine industry was ‘born’ in 1988 when a free trade agreement was signed with the US and competition sharpened the wine makers’ focus. The Canadian equivalent of AC, the Vintners Quality Standard (VQA) was created in Ontario in the same year. Two regions dominate the production – in the east, around Lake Ontario, and, to the west, in British Columbia. The grape varieties used are the international reds and whites.

The 2013 Norman Hardie County Chardonnay has the VQA of Prince Edward County, an area on the north shore of Lake Ontario, east of Toronto. The potentially hostile climate is tempered by the water, there is a layer of limestone soil and the Chardonnay appreciates a cooler climate to maintain the acidity levels. Even so, protection from deep snow in the harsh winters is important (surprisingly, this is on the same latitude as Tuscany!)

Beautifully clear and bright, the lemon yellow hues looked attractive and the wine didn’t disappoint on the nose – a little lemony, smokey and oaky. All very balanced. The palate was a step up – very long with some weight (and only an amazing 12.2% ABV), whilst maintaining its focussed lemony qualities. This is an excellent wine, a new release from the Wine Society.

Coincidentally, we also tried its stablemate, the ’13 Niagara Peninsula Unfiltered Chardonnay at the WS tasting on Monday night but found it much richer with lower acidity levels. It was still well-made but without the same balance.

First time for me with Canadian wine – save the odd glass of the ubiquitous Ice Wine – and a very favourable start.

[Richard: I had some credit at the WS so blew it as a contribution to this which was part of a Hardie chardonnay case (the other selection was the wine Geoff mentions above). At £23 not especially cheap for a wine from such a marginal and unheralded region but the quality is there.]

 

 

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