I can’t remember having ever tried a white Minervois before last Sunday. That’s not surprising because only 3% of the production is white (85% is red, before you ask). The Hegarty Chamans vineyard is in the north-west of the Languedoc, high in the foothills of the Montagne Noire. Generally speaking, the higher the vineyard the better quality the wine; the lower, flatter Minervois vineyards produce that lower shelf, flatter red wine that can be found in French supermarkets. This generality was certainly proven with this 14% beauty from Vin Cognito (15.95).
Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Clairette (40/40/20%) is the blend, the colour beings solely yellow rather than green-tinged, possibly indicating a hot climate and lack of acidity. This was followed through on the complicated nose which told of stone fruits particularly apricot, burnt honey and some honeysuckle. Gradual exposure produced more aromas – fascinating. The palate was big mouthful of flavour, dry, long and rich rescued by some acidity. Again, there was a slight caramel note which Richard picked up.
I’ve tried whites with these same full-on characteristics, notably Costers de Segre from Spain; they are wonderful kaleidoscopes of flavours with some power behind them. Great.
[Richard: a classy wine, well worth the asking price, which went well with some prosciutto wrapped haddock and romesco sauce. Lots going on, in a harmonious way. A pleasure to drink.]
I was listening to a podcast the other day about a dictionary maker who had a reverse word index. Every headword – 315,000 of them, was spelt in reverse on the card. Want to know how many grape names end in ‘o’? Simple.
That was pre-computers, of course. Now it is much easier, especially if you have the ebook version of The Big Book of Grapes – we don’t. Anyway, if you are struggling to think of any, here are a couple, neither of which I could identify.
This was the first – susumaniello (little donkey), from the Salento region of Puglia, in Italy. Open 24h it had a faint note of vanilla which soon faded, a rather raw, green and spicy taste with a hint of sour cherry. Quite attractive, if not especially distinctive.
The second was a grape we have previously tasted – Geoff thought we had actually tried this bottle before – but I can’t recall it and it wasn’t blogged, although we tried a wine with the same grape from the region in 2016. This is aghiorghitiko, by Skouras in Nemea, Greece. Pale ‘pinot’ red in appearance, some vanilla and raspberry on the nose, a fresh taste, rather short and uncomplicated but drinkable. Quite different to the wine tried two years ago.
[Geoff: the Susamaniello was better the first day and suited Saturday night’s flavourful pizzas. Quite lean, light and refreshing, made from a grape I’d never heard of. The Greek wine was not a million miles away in flavour from the Puglian, not surprising really, given their location.]
I remember reading somewhere about a car which was described as ‘a car driver’s car’. An intriguing quote and one easy to add to with some sarcastic remark. Well, I’ve borrowed this quote to highlight Jancis Robinson’s remarks about Sunday’s wine – from Ribeiro, north Spain – Teira X 2015. It is made from a blend of four Iberian grapes, all vinified separately then blended, Treixadura, Alvilla, Loureira and Albarino.
Our notes mentioned the unctuous appearance (Richard – “gloopy”) and bright lemon, slightly green colours. It was difficult to get much varietal character from the nose (the usual issue with blends) apart from ripe melons, fresh greenness but low acidity. The intense palate was long, dry and complex with a good blend of the rich and the balancing acidity. It was, in Richard’s words, “made with care”. But, for me, there was a distinct lack of any hallmark flavour, nothing on which to hang my hat and say “Aaah, you can’t beat the distinctive flavour of…’
Jancis Robinson said of this wine: ”I am left wondering what more one could ask for in a wine, after tasting this.” Can I suggest a bit of character, Jancis?
From our friends Vin Cognito, again, or rather their Sutton branch at Richard’s house.
[Richard: I think we would probably have enjoyed this more on a warm August evening, perhaps with food, rather than a chilly, snowy January. As I think back to last night I’m struggling to remember the wine – no notes taken – so it didn’t make much impression. However, I’ve vacuum sealed the rest of the bottle to retaste on Thursday.]
Another week, another claret. This time it was a 2011 from Chevalier de Lascombes, the second wine of Chateau Lascombes, a Bordeaux second growth in the 1855 classification. The Chateau blend is roughly 50/50 cabernet sauvignon and merlot whereas the Chevalier has more merlot, though I couldn’t discover how much. Certainly there weren’t any typical CS characteristics. Dark red, brown rim, sweet fruit nose, lots of tannin still, plenty of black fruit as well with a slight tarry note. Because of all the fruit I at first thought it was New World. A nice drink but one without much subtlety, even when decanted.
[Geoff: Ch. Lascombe’s history is chequered, to say the least. I won’t bore our reader with the details but there has been much grubbing up and replanting of vines due to the wrong vines being in the wrong soil. As a result the clay-loving Merlot proportion of plantings has increased. This wine’s heft surprised me – it’s not something I associate with claret. It does suggest that there’s some way to go before maturity but the Merlot proportion would mitigate against that (brown rim?). A good wine if you like your wines full on. I think it was from Lidl.]
This was our second tasting of a wine (La Long Bec, Domaine Echardières. Loire Valley 2014) from a comparatively new (2011) appellation – Chenonceaux. A rather mature, dense looking wine, with a smokey, dusty nose and a hint of mint. Dry with dark fruit and a longish finish. A 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the second grape recognisable but not the first – we don’t drink much Malbec. Clearly well made and very drinkable.
[Geoff: I had tried another bottle of this red wine only a week previously and it really impressed me. There is a good blend of the very slight farmyard aromas of an ageing CF together with its trademark raspberry nose. the Malbec (Cot in the Loire) gives firmer, fuller body to the blend. This makes the taste a balanced blend of firmness, body and fruit. It is available from Vin Neuf at Stratford.]
This wine was the second, fortunately, of two red wines tasted on Sunday. And what a lovely drop it was. From the noted Gimblett Gravels, sub region of Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ, the Syrah grape produces a drink in the same style as the northern Rhone. It is made only in years when the conditions are ideal.
We have written about a less expensive Gimblett Gravels which were also good because they retained the lightness of style and peppery quality that makes northern Rhone Syrahs so attractive. However, this was a considerable step up in quality and, it must be said, a more powerful and intense wine.
My notes mention a brick rimmed wine with an intense red core and sweet, stewed black fruits on the nose. At first it was difficult to identify the fruit but the blackberry notes came through bringing with it the slight firm ‘greenness’ you get with blackberries. This rescued it from being unattractively jammy. The velvety mouth feel was notable, as were the wine’s tannins and its lengthy dryness. There was a pleasing bit of tar in its richness. Richard summed it up well with the phrase “restrained power”; we got a sense of it being rich and firm rather than broad and wallowing. Lovely.
The Trinity Hill web site is very informative about the soils being not fertile and low in moisture making the vine less vigorous with less berries means greater concentration of flavours. It worked for us.
[Richard: from Great Western Wines. Intended as a homage to Rhone reds, made from vines which were grown from cuttings of older vines on the Côte Rôtie. An addition of 2% viognier adds to the complexity. Very classy, elegant and fragrant with great mouth feel and persistence. A pleasure to drink. Not cheap but worth the money, I felt.]
On smelling this wine my instant reaction was Cabernet Franc. In fact it was a 2010 claret, from the Montagne St-Emilion region (MWW £16, no 22 in their Parcel Series). They claim ‘plums, black cherry and cedar’, but don’t reveal the blend in the product information. The region is mostly Merlot, with 20% CF. Geoff wondered if there was any CF used but any more information is impossible to find. However, given the planting in the region it is certainly possible and I’m sure I could smell it. MWW do claim that it is made by ‘a great chateau’ – not that there are any in Montagne St-Emilion. Not especially mature or complex given the bottle age which made it into a decent but not outstanding drink.
[Geoff: The Montagne St Emilion AC of Bordeaux is dominated by Merlot but the vine second to that is Cab Franc which is better suited than Cab Sav to the clay/limestone soils. Richard did well to spot the raspberry notes typical of this grape. As regards the wine maker, the best known chateau is Beausejour but Majestic aren’t letting on.
There is a lot of the ‘faux secrecy’ in patronising wine blurbs e.g. “Our well connected resourceful buyer has unearthed/been tipped off about some wines, we can’t say where from, but they are made just over the road from a well-known premier cru etc. etc.” In reality, a winemaker has got some excess stock, the sale of which will help their stricken cash flow and have used brokers to find a buyer who has bought at a very advantageous price. The winemaker doesn’t want their name associated with low priced wines therefore the wine is vaguely labelled .]