Richard and I have been writing this blog for nearly four years and we’ve both enjoyed the tastings and the commenting. We each have our favourite grape varieties, regions and styles of wines and our views can differ markedly. The challenge then is to convince the other of the merits of the wine that normally they would not drink. I like Gewurztraminer which produces a distinct shudder in Richard who, in turn, will enjoy fuller-bodied southern French wines which I struggle with. Here is one of those – a VDP Cote de Catalanes (now an IGP) named Ego, 2006 vintage, from Mas Lavail at Maury. It weighs in at 15% ABV which would pause me not one second if I saw it on a shelf. Not very open-minded, I admit.
This wine had been opened 24 hours previously which had the effect – on a ten year old wine – of producing a distinctly brown rim but yet maintaining an intense red core to the colour in the glass. The nose was red fruits, strawberries in particular but ones that had been stewed; there was both acidity and fruit sweetness which made it very appealing. The taste was wonderfully complex; earth, wood, tar, liquorice and tannins all showed themselves in a wine that went the distance. The palate was not particularly fruity (it might have been 24 hours earlier) but still enjoyable with bags of character and one that spoke eloquently of the area. A lovely drop which carried its 15% very well. And it was … the Grenache grape, 100% we think. An excellent autumn wine – bring out the cassoulet!
[Richard: from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines, about £15, which makes it a bargain. The last but one of a mixed case – Mature Reds – that has featured here before. Not much change in the wine 24h on, still spicy, complex, enticing and above all well balanced, not an alcoholic soup. Wine writers often claim that wines from this region taste and smell of the ‘garrigue’ – the scrubland of the Mediterranean, with rosemary, lavender, juniper and thyme. With this wine you could understand that suggestion.]
Besides writing entries here Geoff has a ‘day job’, although it usually takes place in the evenings.
This is giving talks about wine on behalf of the Birmingham Wine School. These normally take place in central Birmingham but last Friday Geoff gave a talk on Burgundy, upstairs in our local, so I went along. Geoff’s knowledge of the region (unlike mine) is extensive but he wears his knowledge lightly so I knew the evening would be interesting and informative. We tasted eight wines, four each of red and white including the Gevrey-Chambertin above. The wine had not been decanted and I thought the nose muted with no pinot characteristics. The taste was rather closed and didn’t really say pinot to me, either. So a good wine, certainly with ageing potential and at £26 (can’t recall the supplier), pretty good value, for burgundy at least.
The following Sunday Geoff offered me a wine to taste, blind. Pale pinot appearance, unmistakable pinot nose and taste. Drying but with a savoury/sweet edge, some fruit, not too green but still rather young. Very nice. Using what I had learnt at the talk I deduced this was old world/France/Burgundy/northern Burgundy which was gratifyingly correct. It was, of course, another bottle of the same wine, decanted for an hour and all the better for it. So a lesson learnt – it never hurts to decant (and we thought the whites would have benefitted, as well). And if you are looking for an enjoyable evening out try the BWS.
Domaine Chante Cigale is a notable Chateauneuf du Pape wine, whose attributes are sung about in many articles. Owned by the Sabon Favier family, now headed by Alexandre SF, they produce a red and white CdP but more white than any other producer in the AC. The grapes in the blend are equally divided between Clairette, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and Rousanne and, like many whites from the same region, the challenge is maintaining acidity levels. This is achieved by preventing malo-lactic fermentation and bottling early from stainless steel tanks.
So how did we find it? Well, for starters I didn’t get anywhere near guessing the region, let alone the wine. There wasn’t any strong varietal note coming through on the nose, not surprising, I suppose, when there are four different grapes used. The colour was very pale yellow (I detected a ‘grey’ tinge rather than green) but if the acidity is low there wouldn’t be a strong green hue. The nose was quite understated, lemon certainly with a whiff of stone fruit but that tended to come and go.
The palate was the surprising factor – rich but with a very soft mouth feel and sans the acidity you might expect from a white wine. The finish was a medium length and slightly of almonds. Reading about the wine I can see how maintaining acidity levels is paramount especially as the vineyard has a preponderance of large stones which must ensure continual warmth, even at night. It was an elegant, well-balanced wine of undoubted quality and would accompany stronger flavoured white meats.
[Richard: I think this came from Highbury Vintners, at around £22. We’ve previously been very sniffy about CdP reds but the whites are a different matter. Often complex and subtle without the in-your-face machismo shown by the reds. This one is very drinkable, well made and pretty good value if you like the style.]
No chance of me identifying this one although I know the grape – pinot gris – in a mainly Alsace context.
This one is Bolfan Primus 2012 made in Croatia (M&S) and identified as an orange style wine on the back label, as if the colour wasn’t enough.
Rich, quite sherry like, sweet start, dry finish, short but mouthwatering and refreshing – a least for the first glass. Then the palate begins to tire of the flavour. Rather like those beers you can only drink one pint of, before moving on to something else. Interesting but not a wine I’d seek out – and I think M&S have sold off their stock at a reduced price.
[Geoff: I’ve yet to be convinced on orange wines but that may be because those I’ve tried (and there hasn’t been many) have lacked interest once I’ve got used to the different flavour. This wine was no exception, there was little complexity which is what I think Richard alludes to. Each container, be it oak, stainless steel, clay, concrete, etc will influence the taste in some way but to maintain interest there have to be other taste ‘influencers’. This just didn’t have any. I have another orange wine to try and am hoping for a better result.]
Another holiday in the charming village of Villes Sur Auzon. (Not Luzon – thanks Emma). TerraVentoux is the local co-op with two caves in Villes and nearby Mormoiron.
I bought this wine (€7) because it was 100% Grenache and I thought it would interest Geoff, given his antipathy to the grape. Something I couldn’t discover is why a different spelling was used on the label, though I suspect that it is a dialect variant. Anyway, quite light, easy to drink, appealing and moreish (I didn’t take notes). Certainly miles away from the heavy CdP we blogged on recently and all the better for it.
Not wishing to bore the reader with details of every wine drunk on holiday I’ll just mention our favourite. This was a Sablet, Domaine des Pasquiers 2014 purchased from the Leclerc supermarket in Carpentras. Very complex, lots of dark fruit with a big peppery blast on the nose. The website just says syrah/grenache but I thought there was much more of the former. Very drinkable and a bargain at around €8.
Faced with the massive choice of Rhone wines available in Leclerc – none of which you have ever heard of – I went for wines which had won prizes in competitions. I realise this is not a foolproof strategy but the silver and gold awarded to these wines was well deserved.
[Geoff – written after Linda’s comment. Richard and I attended an excellent talk, in Birmingham, by Linda who runs a wine school/hotel in the region.
Her information was interesting and not dissimilar to other, many (?) observations by French wine producers labouring under bureaucratic AOC rules which can stifle local initiative. It seems the opposite to the situation in countries with less developed wine industries who would benefit from the structures a more centralised system imposes. This would make a good field of study for someone.
Anyway, I look forward to the wine at 14% ABV and another that Richard brought back of 15% ABV. One glass and I’ll be off to bed!]
Richard: a bit more on this. Granacha is a made up word combining Grenache and Garnacha, used, apparently because AoC rules forbid the name of the grape on a front label.
Round to Geoff’s to taste a couple after 11 days away in France.
The first wine (Martin Schaetzel’s Grand Cru Kaefferkopf Granit 2011, bought from the producer at about £16) had an unmistakably riesling nose, some petrol, lemony tint and was clear and bright. However the taste, to me, was not classic Alsace. Some acidity, some honey, a little hard but some complexity. So I guessed ‘not French’. This was embarrassingly wrong since the wine was from Alsace and I’d actually bought some a few years ago. In fact – we’ve already blogged on it, this year. We weren’t totally happy with it then but Geoff suggested that it has improved with age – certainly the nose is now more typical – and I think we could have usefully kept it for a few more years.
The second tasted was a red with a perfumed, spicy, rather spirity nose which I was sure I had encountered before. That’s unlikely since I can recall drinking only one Italian merlot and that was completely different. And it was nothing like a Bordeaux. So I had no idea. The taste was a little raw, quite short, with some pleasant strawberry fruit. An interesting wine from M&S.
[Yes, the riesling would have been better given some bottle time; the initial high acidity should have told us that. It was richer, less aggressive and more characteristic of the grape.
As regards the Merlot, it was leaner than the usual plummier Merlot style and better for it, in my opinion. It was quite refreshing, if a little simple and one-dimensional. It went well with the fatty duck breast and damson sauce. The Fruili DOC is in the extreme NE of Italy, close to the Slovenia border.]