Monthly Archives: April 2017

Full English


Over the last few years I’ve tried most of the big names in English sparkling wine – Chapel Down (quite often), Ridgeview, Three Choirs, Camel Valley – but never Nyetimber. This was remedied yesterday when we tried a bottle of the non-vintage. A powerful mousse led into an equally powerful aroma which was no different from any well made champagne. The full, rich taste had plenty of depth and length – this is not really an aperitif champagne – although it is certainly elegant. All three champagne grapes are used but the proportions are not revealed. Probably the best English sparking wine yet. This was a present but I think it came from Waitrose.



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Chateau de la Grave Grains Fins 2015 Bassereau

Cote de Bourg, situated on the Gironde’s right bank, is well known for its red wines which dominate the AC’s production. There are, however, 25 hectares (out of 4000 +) devoted to white wine production and this wine is one of the results. It is a blend of Semillon (70%) and Colombard and has an ABV of 13.5%. It’s available from the Wine Society at a bargain £9.75.

The Semillon grape, widely grown all over the world, then just as widely uprooted, earned a reputation for basic, characterless white wines of high acidity and minimal flavour. It is notable in two areas – Bordeaux (particularly for sweet whites) and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Colombard is a grape favoured by brandy producers but now finding devotee growers and makers of still wines where it raises acidity levels and adds peach flavours.

Intrigued yet?

The colours were a medium intense lemon yellow with a very slight green tint. It was particularly clear and bright. The nose was a blend of citrus and yellow peach but with a fascinating, and unusual, smell of ginger spices.

This was not a wine shy of flavour. Peach dominated, broad, dry and long, it is a wine with bags of character. To be critical, it could be said to be lacking in refinement but – and this is only a theory (don’t groan, Richard) – I think it needs to be given time. The Semillon famously develops after 8 -10 years therefore the dominant flavour at present is from the Colombard. It’s good now but it’s also one to put down, I think.

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The Telegraph must have heard we were going to blog Chateau Musar this weekend. There was a chunky (and informative) article by Victoria Moore in Saturday’s edition about the Cinsaut grape and its presence in the Lebanon. What Vicky (if I can call her that) omitted was the grape’s growers need to reduce the yield of this vigorous variety – admittedly this is true of many grapes. It is drought resistant but, I suppose, in very dry conditions, the lack of water concentrates the berries’ flavours.

So, Chateau Musar 1998 from Richard’s flight (more like a full staircase) of wines. The low intensity colours of ruby red with a brick rim were clear and bright. There was a slight oxidised (brett?) smell that I’ve noticed before on Musar, but the lasting impression was one of leanness. It’s difficult to place the smell (VM had the same problem) but our thoughts went to spice, mature red fruits, aromatic and – more out there – cherry menthol Tunes. The palate was light and dry, lean again and fresh but the cherry flavour was now sweet.

As my chum says, Musar’s idiosyncrasy makes it one of the wines from which you can discern “the maker from the taste. It’s an unmistakable wine”. For me, it’s one of those wines which I know I should enjoy more but the ‘should’ imperative doesn’t work in wine appreciation.

[Richard:  Chateau Musar has always been one of my favourite wines so I couldn’t resist a half-case of six Musar vintages (WS, about £22 per bottle, averaged.) The’98 was the oldest and had been opened 23h when Geoff tasted it, from a decanter. (The cork crumbled on pulling). An unmistakable aroma and taste and I’d be disappointed if I didn’t recognise it blind. Not many wines you can say that about. It’s never revealed – perhaps they don’t know – exactly what goes into a Musar, although it certainly includes some cinsault which, I think, helps lighten the other grapes – carignan and cabernet. The result is a very lean, intensely savoury wine but one, as Geoff hints, which divides opinion.]

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Gevrey-Chambertin 2008, Le Cave de la Colombe, 13.5%, M&S. As you can see from the dust, purchased by Geoff some time ago.

This had been open 24h under vacuum seal when I tried it. Pinot in colour – pale, brick rim, a big sweet cherry nose but no defining pinot characteristics. As with the taste, medium length, red fruit, not complex and to me, not very pinot either. So I’m glad it wasn’t tasted blind as I think I would have struggled. But a nice, easy to drink wine and I took the remains of the bottle home as Geoff wasn’t a fan.

[Geoff: Now I’m a burgundy fan so maybe I was not in the right mood/expected more/got wrong taste buds in or all/none of the above, I don’t know. It just tasted very ordinary, thin, slightly acidic and characterless all came to mind. 08 wasn’t a great year (wet) in Burgundy so maybe that’s why it was got rid of at M&S about three years ago. Gevrey is purported to be one of the heftier Cote d’Or wines – this wasn’t. Maybe my taste’s changing? Glad Richard enjoyed it]

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Chinon – on and on


This beauty is twenty-one years young; Chinon Cornuelles Domaine Sourdais 1996 was sold by the WS for £20 along with the same wine’s elder sibling, the 1993 vintage. Understandably, the WS sold out very quickly. Richard and I each bought two bottles of both vintages.

Pure Cabernet Franc, the wine weighs in at a good, old-fashioned 12.5% ABV – as was generally the case before the days of red bruiser-weights between 14 – 15%. In my opinion, the lower alcohol give the wine’s more subtler flavours to shine and this was certainly true in this tasting.

Of medium intensity and with some evidence of viscosity, the wine’s core colour was ruby but had a slight brick coloured rim – as would be expected. But the redness of the core said that this wine was still young at heart. On the nose, a gentle sous bois aroma was overladen with pepper, dusty-notes and the developing cherry-tartness which reminded me of Italian wines.

The long taste was a wonderful blend of unripe damson fruit, grippy tannins and earthy notes. What was remarkable was the freshness which shone through after twenty-one years. Research tells me that CF, when grown on limestone – prevalent around Chinon, has the best capacity for ageing because of its tannins and acidity. It certainly proved itself here.

The wine was served at just the right temperature (thanks Richard), i.e. slightly cool. It was one of those wines that stick in the memory. I’ve got a 1993 to try – I’ll probably drink that in another ten years!

[Richard: photo is of the ’93 but they are identical, apart from the date. A lovely wine, still fresh and certainly not tasting – or looking – 21 years old. Can’t add anything to Geoff’s note except to say the it was a pleasure to finish the bottle over the evening.]



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Deutz Classic Brut Champagne

Many years ago I purchased three bottles of vintage Deutz, I think it was the ’95. They sat in John’s cellar for a while and eventually got drunk. In my memory it was one of the best champagnes I’ve ever had.

Thus I was pleased to see a bottle of the non-vintage in a mixed half dozen of ‘name champagnes’ offered by the WS at Christmas, especially as a small producer like Deutz is hard to find. Champagne growers often offer ‘assistance’ in December so I paid £147 for the six bottles, which is around £25 each. It is now selling at £38 which indicates the depth of the discount.

This was a lovely drink, an attractive mousse, well balanced (one third each chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot menuier), refined – lots of reserve wine, apparently, quite light. A great aperitif and a wine I’d buy next December, if available. However I think it is a little overpriced at £38.

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Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG


According to the very informative neck label, this wine’s home is the medieval village of Scansano in Maremma, south-west Tuscany. The blend is 90% Sangiovese (Morellino being its local name) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. With its DOCG status, it sits on the top of the Italian quality ladder. The vintage is 2013 but it has had 24 months ageing, half of which has been in small barrels, presumably made of oak.

The ageing had certainly impressed upon the colour, the body of the wine being an intense ruby but it had a brick-coloured rim. The aromas were an attractive black cherry, at once both sweet and sour, with some deeper notes of spice and leather. This was an impressive wine, so far. The palate repeated all those primary and tertiary notes with the addition of some well-structured tannins adding to its pert, fresh quality. Our criticism was its lack of depth of flavour, immediately appealing but then rather losing it in the mid-palate to end rather short. Well made, it would be a good food wine, if a little simple.

All credit to Aldi for searching for something interesting, slightly off the well-beaten track to Chianti.

[Richard: another in the Aldi ‘Lot’ series, many of which have been reviewed here, still at £9.99. A peculiar foxy nose on opening but that soon went, indeed the wine was improved on day 2 being smoother and richer. One to decant and one of the better wines in this series, my only reservation being that it didn’t taste much like a classic sangiovese.]



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