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.]
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.]
With the increased interest in wine has come a greater exposure to new regions and grapes. Looking back forty years ago to when we drank Liebfraumilch and dull blends like Hirondelle, when supermarkets carried little stock and when wine merchants were seen as elitist it would have impossible to envisage the massive choice now available. It is very easy to try something new, as this wine shows. I’ve been to Spain many times, I especially like Rioja but I’ve never tried a wine from the Toro region and couldn’t say with any certainty there it is located.
In fact it is in the north west of Spain, near the Portuguese border. A sandy soil means that there are still some pre-phylloxera vines.
This wine (Pintia 2007) was made by Vega Sicilia, one of Spain’s most respected bodegas, using old vine tinta de toro as tempranillo is called in the region. Certainly not an rioja lookalike, in fact I was reminded of a Chateauneuf (it’s 15%) although the taste is purer and ‘thinner’ in the rioja style. After decanting lots of spicy fruit was evident with the tannins integrated. A classy drink which I enjoyed. The bottle was a present, several years ago but I’m pretty sure it came from Laithwaites where it is now sold out, despite mine being bottle number 115,613. Toro wines (not to be confused with Concha y Toro, from Chile) are hard to find in the UK so it may be a while before I try another.
A nine point scale is used by the Wine Society, and possibly others, to rate sweetness in a wine, with 1 being the driest. Geoff had warned me that this wine might be too sweet for me and so it proved. Bright, darkish lemon in colour with a caramel nose. Good, rich mouth feel, off-dry to medium with a rather one-note taste and a clean, non-cloying, rather dry finish, I found myself repeating what I invariably say about wines of this type – ‘well made, but…’ Just too sweet for me (even though it wasn’t that sweet).
[Geoff: I bought this bottle on a recent ‘official’ visit to the Loire. This wasn’t lusciously Sauterne sweet and I decided to try it with some roast pork in sweetish, apple-rich gravy. I very much enjoyed it, finishing it with some Bleu d’Auvergne cheese later. My wife agreed with Richard, saying it was too sweet. I also think something slightly less sweet would have been an equally good match.]
Completely fooled by this one (Jurtschitsch 2014). Beautiful appearance, bright lemon green with plenty of viscosity. Slight reduction on the nose and I thought it might be a chardonnay. Great mouth feel, heavy, dense with a lot of power. Lots of fruit and very long. In fact an Austrian riesling, a combination never before tasted. Perhaps lacking the grape typicity of a riesling from Alsace. Delicious and very drinkable. One I’d look out for but it’s not listed on their website and I can’t see any UK stockists.
[Geoff: This was purchased from Tanners in Shrewsbury on the recommendation of a member of staff who knew I liked a richer style of white wine. I’m pleased I took his advice and wish I’d bought more as I think Tanners are out of stock. The price was about £17, great value. It improved through the evening with the vague notes of kerosene becoming more obvious. It’s from the Kamptal region, north Austria where the grapes benefit from warm days and cool nights thereby producing a balance of richness and fresh acidity. I can’t find any stockist either. Back to Tanners to see if there is any left.]
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.]
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.]