Aah, memories. Those of an industrial looking town in south Alsace (Thann), standing in a carpark looking across the Thur river to a 60 degree sloped vineyard on which crouched a chapel with a cross. That was, and still is, the Grand Cru Rangen vineyard. It is the most southern of the Alsace Grand Cru vineyards and sits on volcanic rock – quite unique in Alsace. The wine R kindly opened was Zind Humbrecht’s 2010 offering Clos Saint Urbain Riesling.
It was luminous green-yellow coloured and very bright with a very fresh, aromatic nose of honeysuckle, lime and jasmine. Interestingly, it had none of the petrol notes one associates with older Rieslings. The palate was a beautiful rich concoction of both sour and sweet notes, not completely dry with a lower acidity level – presumably because of its age. All was in balance and what was significant was its low alcohol level yet it still had bags of flavour. This and the Chinon belied the modern idea of high alcohol is a prerequisite of flavours. Two older wines, really well-made and not a fuzzy head to be had. Lovely.
(Even Richard, who bridles at any sweetness in wine, liked this. Even more remarkable)
[Richard, lovely wine, fully mature and well balanced. If you were fanciful a flinty note from the volcanic soil was evident. Not sure where I purchased it or what it cost. Possibly one of the last wines brought back from Alsace in 2013. The Rangen is a famous vineyard site in Alsace and has been recognised as producing quality wine since about 1300.]
It’s not often we taste lowish alcohol wines (apart from champagne/sparkling wine which is always 12.5%), but this Sunday we tried two.
The first was another cabernet franc (Chinon Cornuelles Domaine Sourdais WS £20), and as last week, I was able to identify the actual bottle. Not difficult because the grape is distinctive in aroma and taste. Together with the appearance of the wine in the glass – clearly mature, slightly muddy – that suggested a wine we have blogged before and so it proved. A classy drink with loads of flavour and length. A shame the WS sold out so quickly although we have a couple of bottles left.
[Geoff: Those of you with excellent eyesight will have seen this is vintage 1996, showing that Cabernet Franc can be a long-liver. I’d had some the night before when it was almost sweet but certainly fragile. I then put it in the fridge (to slow down the ageing) and we tasted it slightly cool. This accentuated its green notes and gave it the ‘bite’ it lacked on first opening. An interesting difference over the two days. Full marks to R. – two tastings, two exact spots. Master of Wine standard, that.]
Juhfark are not just the letters that may be seen in a line on Specsavers’ eyesight testing poster but the name of an old Hungarian grape variety which, translated, means ‘sheeps tail’. It’s the shape of the bunch, evidently. The wine we tasted on Sunday was from the Somlo region (in north Hungary) which is dominated by the volcano’s soils. Somloi Juhfark 2015 made by Kolonics is 14% ABV and available from The Wine Society at about £17.
Light gold with green hints – some acidity there – and quite viscous in the glass it had a dumb nose initially. This later developed lemony, smoky notes and something like slightly burnt rubber. It reminded me of the southern French whites which also have the burnt smell (from the Bourboulenc grape, I think). ‘Interesting’ was our word. The palate was a repeat of the nose but with a touch of richness/sweetness at the finish. It was short/medium in length.
The Wine Society don’t do the wine or themselves any favours by liking it to a “good Meursault”. It builds expectations which are not fulfilled. It’s an interesting wine that certainly needs decanting, not served too cold and strong food flavours. Link to wedding nights? If you drink these wines you’re more likely to father male children. What’s the result if your partner also drinks it I dread to think.
[Richard: another wine recently discussed and admired on TWS Community Forum and, once again, we are in a minority. Given the praise I expected something more and I’m struggling to get past ‘interesting’, despite Geoff already having used the word. It has made little impression 24 hours on. Perhaps ‘restrained’ could be added. Apparently Queen Victoria was a fan although, given that she had five female and four male children it didn’t have the desired result.]
It’s not often you can identify the actual bottle, when tasting blind. But I managed it with this one (L’Orangeraie 2016), firstly because I knew Geoff had ordered some from TWS and secondly because the smell and taste of Cabernet Franc was unmistakable. The wine has attracted some comment – mostly favourable – on TWS Community Forums but I wasn’t much of a fan. Quite a simple, rather short wine which prompted the reflection that grapes grown outside of their traditional area often make disappointing wines.
[Geoff: I sense we’re returning to our old topic of the over-hyping wines that are perfectly okay but not greatly interesting. There is nothing wrong with this uncomplicated, really bright purple little number but it did not have the subtleties of a Loire CF and certainly not the depth. A ‘Bistro Wine’ for serving with a light lunch. Enough said.]
Sherry is like champagne in so much as the way it’s made is the major contributor to its style. The Palomino grape’s fast fermentation produces a bland wine which is then fortified with no more than 15.5% alcohol and the yeasty flor develops on the wine’s surface. It’s this flor that gives its unique flavour.
This wonderful, subtle collection of smells and flavours was very much in evidence in Equipo Navazos No 32 “La Bota de Manzanilla”. A delicate orange in colour but somehow luminous, this intrigued from the first pour.
The complexity of delicate orange, tangerine and polish aromas reminded us of very expensive marmalade; the analogy continued into the taste where the flavours became broader and took on a more citrussy note. This was some wine.
What was really interesting was the lack of any impression of the 15% alcohol. A light white wine at this level of alcohol would be big, rich and powerful – this was the complete opposite. Presumably the solera ageing process helped its lightening but it also maintained its delicate intensity. That’s an oxymoronic statement, I think, but it somehow describes it for me.
[Richard: this particular manzanilla has now been blogged on four occasions, which is a record for Talk the Cork. When I bought six (from Darley Abbey Wines, for the bargain price of £20, in 2014), I was advised it would age well and so it has. Still fresh, tangy and very moreish. Last bottle unfortunately.]
Despite a liking for wines from Southern France, and spending many holidays there, I’d never previously been aware of this company, formed by a French/Australian merger. Quite a polished website – they have a philosophy – which tells us they buy in grapes, rather than own vineyards, and they make a lot of different single variety wine.
100% mourvèdre wines are not common, (although we have blogged a few) so I didn’t know what to expect from this – it was not tasted blind. In fact – pretty good. Light and bright cherry colours, cherry nose, lots of red fruit, medium length, pure and balanced. Very easy to drink and a bargain at £8, so much so that we are back to MWW wine for some more.
[Geoff: A pleasant surprise and good value. Most books – as well as the website – describe this grape’s flavours as black fruit and herby. We got none of that. To us, red fruits dominated; Richard noted cranberries, I thought ripe red cherries. One book does mention red plums which I could agree with. Whatever the flavour profile this was a fruity red of some style. AKA Mataro and Monastrell, the European grapes are grown never more than 50 miles from the Med. and are particularly difficult to get right.]
We have to give credit to Richard’s wine supplier, Vin Cognito. Their wine descriptions leave all the rest in the deepest shade. And this is some accolade, given the propensity of many wine lovers/sellers/makers to revel in purple prose, never eschewing the florid and rococo style that adorns ….. ok, I’ll shut up.
2016 Versante Nord is made by Eduardo Torres Acosta from vineyards on the north slopes of Etna in Sicily. It is described by Vin Cognito as ” ….. this truly amazing wine. Not for the faint-hearted, but a wine that will leave you wide-eyed and trembling from the astonishing G-force of its flavours.” Well, I must be faint-hearted, for I still blinked but didn’t quiver when I drank it.
Gold yellow, clear with a slight viscosity, the wine’s aromas were very muted lemon when we tried it. I found it rather ungenerous in taste, short, dry with an almond finish and certainly not complex – let alone possessing G forces.
Richard said it improved and thought it would have been better decanted to open it up.. So, a message to Vin Cognito’s writer: to advise, clearly, how to enjoy this wine at its best. Decant for an hour, chilled (but not too much). It is young, fresh, clean and crisp, but not worth £26.
[Richard: an interesting wine which, uniquely as far as I can recall, changed colour – becoming more orange – as I drunk it. The taste changed as well, becoming more complex as it oxidised and warmed up, although the earth didn’t move. Geoff is right – it would have been helpful to have had some serving information. Organic and a small production (2,000 bottles) undoubtedly added to the cost but the price charged is very ambitious for what you get and certainly high enough to deter a repurchase. Another new grape incidentally – Minella Bianca]