Monthly Archives: August 2018

Whatever happened to Muscadet?

Forty years ago, if you wanted a drink a French white wine with a meal chances are it would have been a Muscadet. White burgundy was seen as expensive, Rhone and Alsace whites were hard to find in England and the production of white wines from southern France was small and not exported at all. But Muscadet fell out of fashion, swamped by the rise of less acidic whites like chardonnays from Australia. Then sauvignon blanc followed on, leaving Muscadet way behind. Beaujolais Nouveau suffered a similar fate, albeit for different reasons.

And now? Well, a 2014 article in Decanter claims it is ‘all the rage’, a massive overstatement, not uncommon in the wine press. A 2018 article in Wine Enthusiast talks about a ‘fresh start’. Searching this blog I find that, in six years and nearly 500 posts, we have tasted just one, also from MWW, as it happens. But, I’d tried one a couple of weeks ago, from Tanners, so it was easy for me to recognise the style (Dmne Haut Ferrie Monniere-Saint Fiacre 2014), with the chalky nose a giveaway. A very pale lemon, quite sharp and lemony in taste as well, medium length, gaining complexity as it warmed up – decanting might have been worthwhile – although given it’s age it wasn’t quite as interesting as one might have hoped. But a decent wine, if slightly overpriced at £16 (MWW).

[Geoff: It is interesting how wines go in and out of fashion. In a few years we might be asking whatever happened to Prosecco? Is it over-production leading to a decline in quality or not enough profit generated to incentivise growers. Is the market volatility always at the bargain end, where rewards are closely linked to volume?

Anyway, the Muscadet growers are aware of the need to produce fuller more complex wines whilst still maintaining the recognisable style. This came some way there but there is a fuller one in MWW named Le Pallet, which I found more enjoyable. However, this wasn’t bad and with the right food would be acceptable.]

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Miles Mossop’s Max 2008 (and Malbec)

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Following the two Italian reds last week we tried another duo on Friday, this time from the New World – an Argentinian Malbec and a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ from Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Miles Mossop is a noted wine maker in South Africa; this wine was his Max 2008. He brings in grapes to the Tokara winery and vinifies them under his own label – an arrangement he has with the owners of the winery. His grapes can be drawn from good sites in the Western Cape but the wine we tried was from grapes solely from the Stellenbosch region. Cabernet Sauvignon made up half of the blend, the other two grapes were Petit Verdot (27%) and Merlot (23%). Richard’s comment “everything you hope for in a claret” pretty well summed the wine up.

Ruby red with some ageing evident, this had slight menthol notes but the dominant aromas were of non-specific dark fruits, but a well-balanced blend of plums, blackcurrant and blackberry. The ageing had introduced a cooked, concentrated quality which was really attractive. There was also a “hint of volatility” (Richard) which was beguiling. The tannins were just right, providing enough drying ‘grip’ to prevent the jamminess. This had big, rich flavours and a good mouthfeel; I detected slight heat at the finish (14% ABV).

This was a quality wine which was drinking well just now; ideal for the steak which was to accompany it.

[Richard: Geoff has encapsulated how we felt about this wine. A very nice drink which did, indeed, go well with steak and chips. We blogged another vintage of this wine (the 2006), 18 months ago and weren’t quite so impressed, perhaps because I didn’t decant for three hours, as here. From the WS, now out of stock, about £20 and certainly as good as a similarly priced claret.]

From Max to Malbec. We don’t try Malbec on this blog and those we have tried – all comparatively upmarket – have not impressed.

I tasted this one (Vinalba Gran Reservado 2014) blind and was unable to recognise the grape. A very different appearance to the Max with the colour a glass-stain purple. A green nose with some fruit, leading into a supple, rich, smooth taste and good mouthfeel, albeit one with no real defining characteristics. I’m not sure what ‘Gran Reservado’ means in an Argentinian context – the Vinalba website has no information.

[Geoff: I believe (but can’t confirm) that Gran Reservado entails a minimum of two years ageing but agree that the terms ‘reserve’ and ‘grand reserve’ seem to be used with no actual legal definition of ageing, yield, alcohol levels etc.

I find Malbecs a little uninspiring unless they have a whack of acidity and freshness (which means high altitude vineyards) to balance their full and leathery qualities. This was a better one, and reasonably priced at about £12. The usual blueberry notes came through as it developed.]

 

 

 

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It’s a Ghemme.

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There are 200 kilometres separating the two northern Italian reds we tasted on Sunday; one wine from Piedmont and the other from the Valtelline, an Alpine valley. They showed quite differently despite both being dominated by the Nebbiolo grape and having undergone a fair amount of ageing in wood and bottle.

The Toraccia del Piantavigna 2007 is a DOCG Ghemme from Piedmont and is made from two grapes, Nebbiolo and Vespolina (10%). It’s ABV is 14%. It has to be aged for a minimum of 34 months. 18 months min.  in barrel and 6 months min. in bottle which makes me wonder where the other 10 months could be spent. No matter, but if anyone can venture a suggestion ….

It had the typical Nebbiolo colours of brick rim and red core. The nose was a powerful smoky and farmyard mixture (slightly oxidised?) that was certainly attractive and sweetened by a mature cherry fruit smell.  The palate was definitely dry, tannic and again reminiscent of sour cherries. It is difficult to pin down these flavours and smells but I thought it like unripe black fruits, picked just before they’re ready – an amalgam of the sweet and sour. Unlike the older Valtellina, this had some power left and will get finer; Nebbiolo is always worth waiting for. Bags of character and certainly a food wine – game meat would be ideal.

[Richard: from a mixed vintage half case of Torraccia wines (WS). We blogged the 2003 a while ago. I didn’t think this vintage was quite as good but it was still an appealing drink with lots of interesting flavours.]

The older wine was a Valtellina Valgella Balgera 2001 which Geoff picked up in Loki Wines. This was another Nebbiolo, called Chiavennasca in this region. The Valgella subdivision is reputed to produce the most delicate wines in the area but I drink very little Nebbiolo and couldn’t confidently identify it. Nonetheless, a brick red appearance with obvious age on the rim, a clean fruity/floral nose leading to a long, savoury flavoursome dry finish which was slightly less impressive than the nose led you to expect. Quite lean in the mouth in the style of a Rioja and definitely a food wine.

[Geoff: At the risk of sounding like an old fashioned wine critic, the Valtellina was an old Lady of a wine. She has grown old gracefully, become lean, beautifully – but subtly – fragranced, and yet still entertaining. I enjoyed sipping what was left with food and it did not pall. Most of the nebbiolo (especially in Barolo) we drink is sold and consumed way too young; it’s not a big wine but many people think it is. I’m generally not a lover of old red wine but old nebbiolo is one I do enjoy]

 

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Morning Glory?

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Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is cool enough to attract growers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – amongst other grape varieties. This was one of those other, a Shiraz from the Paringa Estate, purchased via The Wine Society. The vintage was 2013 and, more typically of Australia, had an ABV of 14%. We tasted it on Saturday and then again on Sunday but the difference was minimal.

The ruby red rim and dense core showed it was mature but also having some ability to age – there was no trace of brick colours. The fruit nose was very slight, if you concentrated hard enough, which was a surprise to both of us. The usual suspects were present on the palate – pepper, liquorice, dark cherry – and it was full with a good mouth feel. However, and this was a big however, it lacked a bit of life, pzazz, vim, oomph, which disappointed. It was an okay-ish red wine but rather characterless. It might be wanting a couple of years yet but the lack of acidity and freshness didn’t bode well for its development.

(We’ll blog a northern Rhone Cote Rotie syrah soon. I have already tried it solo but we’ll taste it together – the difference is quite considerable.)

[Richard: from a mixed half case of Mornington wines, two of which we have blogged on favourably (here and here). This one was less impressive for two reasons. Firstly, not much varietal character and secondly, just a bit ordinary. Disappointing, especially as on opening I thought it was going to be interesting. But it didn’t develop.]

 

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Not this time…

Having mentioned recently how easy it was to spot Gamay in a blind tasting I failed to identify it last night. Hardly any aroma on this wine – which is the usual giveaway, although after a few minutes there was the merest hint of a Beaujolais nose. Pale red too and obviously not Pinot, so another indicator missed. Strawberries on the palate which should have helped but didn’t.

Another of Geoff’s purchases from his recent holiday in the region and a very nice wine – fresh but with some character. A pleasing balance between fruit and acidity with some length.  Add in an attractive bottle and a 12.5% ABV and you have a perfect Sunday night wine.

[Geoff: I’m coming round to Beaujolais thanks mainly to the three bottles I picked up one a holiday visit to the area. The obvious Gamay notes that didn’t attract me have been muted and the wines subtly fuller than I can remember. This was in that mould and, as Richard has stated above, it was a wine of some character. It went well with some Italian meatballs in tomato sauce later in the evening.]

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Stumped

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To continue the cricketing references, I was caught out by Richard on Friday evening. (We must get back to Sunday, it’s obviously a better day for me.) I was served a white wine – blind – which contained a fair whack (14%) of Semillon in the blend. The balance was Chenin Blanc. Richard mentioned the lanolin nose, I noticed the viscosity in the glass but I still didn’t pick my one of my favourite grapes. Shame on me.

Cartology 2015 by Chris and Susan Alheit is a very well regarded (and much sought after) wine drawn from vineyards over the Western Cape of South Africa with the Semillon element more specifically coming from Franschoek. As expected it has a high ABV (14%) but wears it well.

A clear and very pale yellow (no green), the wine looked viscous in the glass and this weight was confirmed when tasted. The smells were complex – lanolin, spice, smokiness all present – but few citrus notes. The palate was initially sweet but with a dry, long finish and definitely robust. I thought I tasted a subtle hardness on the back palate (not unpleasantly so). All these elements pointed to a hot climate but as to where – and what – I was bamboozled.

I can see why this is in great demand – a lovely wine of which I had great difficulty in refusing more. Hope you enjoyed the rest, Richard.

[Richard: not the sort of wine I usually drink but it was highly praised and seemed to be a benchmark for the chenin grape so I thought I’d give a try (from Vin Cognito). Not cheap but of obvious quality and equally delicious the following day. One of those rare wines which induces sip after sip and leaves you wanting more when the bottle is finally empty.]

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Fleurie

After last week’s googly Geoff served up a nice full toss, namely a Fleurie made by Henry Fessy whose Brouilly was blogged a couple of years ago.

Pale, garnet red but with a mature appearance, obvious Gamay nose, rich and fruity with some grip, a perfect summer red.

[Geoff: Ha, Richard’s cricket analogies are very topical.

This was an impromptu purchase from Waitrose who had it as an introductory offer at about £9.50. I’m a touch cagey about Beaujolais, finding it one-dimensional, but the older vintage attracted me. Fleurie is known as being a long-liver and fuller than some other crus and so it proved.

It was quite rich and the trademark Gamay strawberry notes had developed concentrated, cooked flavours – still strawberry but quite subtle. These tertiary notes reflected the bottle ageing but it still retained freshness. It’s drinking very well just now so, at that price, it is very good value. Worth picking some up, dear reader.]

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