Monthly Archives: January 2017

“Nectar? No ta.”

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Sunday and the usual blind tasting rules applied, R. decanting 30 mins before pouring an inch into two glasses. Look, discuss, smell, discuss, taste, more discussion. “Well?” Richard inquired. “Old world.” Correct. “Is it Italy?”. No. “Southern French?” No. “Has to be Bordeaux, then.” Correct. Then we trailed off into Left/Right Bank source.

The wine? Chateau de la Grave Nectar 2010 14% ABV (90% Merlot, 10% CS)

Now my defence.

This was probably the most unlikely candidate for a claret that I’ve ever tried. Intensely black/red with a slight brick rim; very viscous, violet-perfumed with spicy black cherry notes, it yelled out hot climate from the glass. (2010 was a hot year; now being called a classic by some, controversial by others). The palate was a bruiser. Heavyweight, long, very concentrated, the tannins well-integrated but into the red fruit sweetness that dominated. Not a twig of cedar, a shaving of pencil or smudge of graphite could be detected. Great with a big stew, barbecue or cassoulet.

Absolutely nothing wrong with the wine but certainly not typical of the region. And, unfortunately, not for me. It might be more subtle given a few years but Merlot is not known for its ageing.

[Richard: every six months TWS send out a Fine Wine list which includes a page of ‘small wonders’ – the unnecessarily cute name denoting fine wines under £20. The above was only £12.50 which is low-end for fine wine although the heavy bottle and pretentious name/label seem to be an attempt to position the wine a bit higher up the scale. As did the taste – too sweet and international in style, with no sense of place. Given the way TWS promoted it I expected more than was delivered. Fine if you like Merlot, although you could probably better spend your money on something from Chile.]

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We also tasted the above – not blind as Geoff had to do a detailed note on it for WSET. A claret we both know well, although it’s only been blogged once. In terms of typicity this was the complete opposite of the Nectar. Unmistakably claret, even though the nose was more red fruit rather than black (it’s 50-50 cs/merlot). Complex, interesting, structured with ageing potential. All the things the Nectar wasn’t and at around the same price. No contest.

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Muga Seleccion Especial 2004

 

 

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Firstly, I have to  to being a little underwhelmed by this wine but perhaps my expectations were too high. I opened it, tried a sip and thought that’s interesting, there’s a lot of complexity – I’ll give it an hour and return to really taste it. Mistake. I decanted it, left it alone and ….

The colour was an intense red with a very slight brick colour on the rim, there wasn’t much evidence of viscosity. The nose had lost the various aromas from my first, brief encounter and had become very slight and rather one dimensional – an aroma of intense stewed sweet strawberries. It was very attractive but not complex. On the palate, tannins dominated the long, tobacco leaf dryness. Of medium weight, there were some spice notes in the flavour but it returned to the strawberry sauce sweetness that was obvious on the nose.

I wonder if, by opening and decanting, the wine had too long to develop; it may have been better perhaps after 30 mins. Having said all of that, it was a lovely wine which matched beautifully some rare roast beef in a red wine sauce.

The curse of the wine taster strikes again, looking for complexity when it’s not required.

[Richard: Muga is one of my favourites and I bought a bottle of this at the same time as Geoff. I’ll try it without decanting.]

 

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Baden wein? Nein.

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Baden is  the southernmost German wine region and the one with the biggest wine consumption per capita, “a tribute to its winemakers’ it is claimed. Mmmm, they obviously don’t feel as we did about this example. Made from the Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) in Germany, we were trying the 2015 from Aldi, coming in at 13% ABV.

A very pale lemon in colour, almost watery, which prefigured an equally understated nose of light citrus fruit, notably lemon. We both could detect some white pepper aromas and Richard commented on the chalkiness. The freshness of primary fruits dominated but it didn’t shout at us.

The citrus carried through on to the palate which had some weight. There was a slight sweetness to offset the acidity but the wine lacked real depth and it certainly wanted for complexity. After a while, this wine started to pall and a second glass did not appeal. It would attract those who don’t regularly drink wine and it has its merits of simplicity, sweetness and freshness. Not for me, I’m afraid. Sorry, Aldi.

[Richard: another from the Aldi Lot Series, at the usual £9.95 and the second of the unusual wines tried on Sunday. We’ve tasted, and enjoyed, most of the series but this one wasn’t for us. Partly the style – a sweet core with dry edges – but it was also disappointingly one-dimensional given the promise of the nose.]

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Two unusual wines…

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The above (Amigos 2011 Margaret River) was tasted blind. A very bright, yellow appearance with an appealing rich nose – lemon, oak, matchstick – which lead to a slightly off-dry taste, a limey acidity and a rich mouth feel. I could identify chardonnay and thought it was New World but couldn’t get any further. In fact, an unusual blend of marsanne, chardonnay and rousanne made by McHenry Hohnen in Western Australia. About £12 from Tanners.

Just the sort of wine I like – not dissimilar in style to the Chateau Pesquie last week – but after a while the full-on taste began to pall and we all thought the wine needed food. And a new label.

This week we were graced by the presence of two guest tasters – Amy and Liz –  and their views on the wines were gratifying similar to ours.

[Geoff: Very well-made wine, aimed, I suggest, to at those who like a fuller style of white. I think Hohnen knew their market with this. It was still good the following night and stood up to a spicy soup of big flavours. It probably would benefit from being decanted for at least an hour to round some of the acidity and develop a subtler style. It certainly was a ‘shouty’ wine

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“…seldom anything of interest…”

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These were the words of Tom Stevenson in The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia when describing the white wines of the Cote de Ventoux. Fortunately, he used the word ‘seldom’ because Richard had brought back from holiday this wonderful Chateau Pesquie 2010 which he had opened (30 minutes earlier) on Sunday. I tasted it blind and it was certainly impressive.

Made from the fussy Rousanne grape (80%) and Clairette, with a little Viognier, the wine showed a intense deep yellow colour, beautifully clear and bright, with only medium alcohol showing (it was 12.5% ABV). The nose was  particularly memorable – ripe melon fruit with apricots – as it suggested a lusciousness which was certainly noticeable in the heavy mouthfeel on the palate. It was both rich and balanced with acidity with floral honeysuckle flavours – possibly from the Viognier – and, again, apricots. The flavours were complex and very long.

There are lots of wonderful words about Rousanne, especially as to how the grape was revived from a decline and how it is favoured by the Perrins of Beaucastel fame and Jaboulet. This grape (not its more vigorous partner, Marsanne) is allowed in the white southern Rhone blends which, in the past, I have found a bit hollow. That was certainly not the case with this wine. It would make a wonderful accompaniment to stronger flavoured fish, white eat and cheese dishes.

[Richard: our second wine from this classy chateau, to the east of Carpentras. The cave had more red wine than anything else and most of the white was of recent vintage. However I spotted a few bottles of the above and wish I’d bought more, especially as the lady on the till said it was ‘the best’. I think it was around €18. A really delicious, complex, fully mature taste and, yes, the best white wine I’ve tasted in ages.]

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Still not a fan…

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When you share a wine blog for a few years you appreciate the tastes of the other blogger. Of course, Geoff and I have differing (albeit similar) tastes. However one thing we definitely agree on is that we don’t like Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP), both finding that the overbearing grenache tramples over the other grapes in the blend. But plenty of others love it and I was interested to read that sales over CdP were up 8% at Majestic Wine over Christmas.

With that in mind I opened, then decanted, another bottle from Domaine Usseglio – the 2006 (14%). This came from a mixed case purchased from The Big Red Wine Company four years ago. They still have plenty left (as do I). This bottle would have been about £22, which is pretty reasonable as CdP goes. The blend is 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 2% Counoise, 2% Cinsault (60-year-old vines) and while the grenache certainly predominated I found this a much more enjoyable drink the a previous bottle blogged on, the remains of which went down the sink. Part of that was due to the texture which was leaner and less port like although a warming port-like sensation was evident as it went down. Spicy, with some peppery notes. So, not bad, but would I buy another bottle? Not a chance.

[Geoff: It seems we are not alone in our disaffection. Benjamin Lewin writes “My general impression is that CDP would be a more interesting wine – and a better match for food – if producers pulled back a bit further on the Grenache”. There is a another problem looming: global warming leading to higher alcohol levels and a lack of water in vineyards, which has led to greater use of Syrah and Mourvedre grape varieties. The southern Rhone, however, is “too warm for Syrah” says Chapoutier who is advocating adding back water to reduce alcohol levels. At the moment it is illegal but he says “lots of winemakers do it” and the practice should be legal, “out in the open. It’s the future of wine. ” according to Chapoutier.]

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A hearty Rhone wine

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‘Mon Coeur’ Cote du Rhone 2010 is made by the noted J L Chave winemaker family of the Rhone valley. Just a brief piece of research tells us that the family have been making wine since 1481 and that the business has passed down the family line for 16 generations. That’s some tradition. Although Dmne. Chave is based in Hermitage, the wine we tried on Sunday was drawn from villages in the southern Rhone; Richard mentioning Cairanne, Vinsobres and Rasteau. The wine had been opened for 45 mins.

Its development was showing in the slight brown rim which edged a garnet, rather than purple, glassful but the intensity of colour was there. The nose was surprisingly slight and not showing any varietal characteristics which, to me, tasting blind, suggested a blend. Fortunately, the palate flavours were there – a touch of Syrah was obvious. It also contains some Grenache. The tannins are well integrated (12 months in oak) and the wine was nicely in balance, big (14% ABV) but not overly so. It developed some farmyard notes the longer it sat in the glass, but was none the worse for those.

A well-made Southern Rhone wine, then, pas exceptionelle, but a good mouthful. The latest vintage, 2014, is available from Yapp, who are very keen on its quality.

[Richard: I think this was from Yapp, at £15, which I thought was a pretty good price until I saw they are selling the 2014 for £14. A very approachable, well balanced wine].

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