Author Archives: wineyg

Humble pie

How many times has this blog criticised Chateauneuf du Pape for being too alcoholic, uninteresting, jammy, one-dimensional etc. etc. Well, it’s our turn to eat  large slice of humble pie. Which I wouldn’t mind if the pie is accompanied by Clos de Pape 08 by Paul and Vincent Avril. This was a very enjoyable blend of GSM (65/10/20%) plus a few other grapes. It wore its 15% well.

08 was not a good year for CdP (rain, hail but some Sept and Oct sun) which possibly accounted for its paleness and early maturing brick rim. There was a subtle perfumed – someone said lavender – quality on the nose but also a savoury farmyard-ripeness which made the experience very complex. The palate had great intensity and length but what was striking was the silk texture and tannic structure. Liquorice also came through in the taste as well as a sweetness, but no jam. It finished dry. This wine still has some years in it, I’d like to try it in 3 to 5 years time. Excellent – thanks, Richard.

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Cote Rotie Ampodium Rostaing 2010

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We have blogged this wine before and been very impressed with its quality. Without knowing this fact I tasted the wine blind, approaching it objectively. My notes are below.

Appearance: Dull red, some viscosity, low intensity of colour.

Nose: Perfumed, cooked cranberry, some sweet spice.

Taste: Dry, long, complexity, perfume notes, pure, some gaminess, delicate, needs some bass notes.

My immediate reaction was to claim an organic wine because of its purity and lack of power as well as its rather uninviting, dull appearance. I did identify southern French Syrah but was certainly surprised when the wine was revealed, especially given my previous eulogising.

Awkward teenager? Poor bottle? Over the hill? Whatever it was it wasn’t up to our previous experiences.

[Richard: we’ve blogged this wine in 2014 (absolutely loved it), in 2016 (not quite as keen) and last weekend – even less keen. I had a bottle in 2017 which showed really well. This time: not as elegant, less of a wow factor. No idea why but there are two bottles left so we’ll see.]

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….. then it must be a wine I couldn’t identify.

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We’re getting back into the Sunday evening routine, readers, so you can look forward to some more ‘ahead of the curve’ tasting notes from Richard and myself.

Sunday’s wines were both a delight in their different ways. Richard had the (inevitable) Cab Franc to comment on while I had a white whose grape I got nowhere near identifying after having guessed the location i.e. the Languedoc. Mas Coutelou’s origins are close to Beziers and this wine is made from 100% Macabeu aka Viura (in Spain). It was the 2015 vintage and had been oak-aged which had not left the tell-tale notes of vanilla.

The colour of light gold suggested an older wine and it had some viscosity. The nose was of gentle stone fruits but with a honeysuckle bouquet. I noted it as quite intriguing especially as the acidity was quite muted. By this stage I’d started firing out varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussane, Vermentino but was nowhere near the Macabeu.

The palate was big in flavour and the citrus acidity (a hallmark of the Macabeu)  started to come through along with a oooked apple sweetness although it finished dry. There were spicy notes in the mix which made it a complex wine to savour and one you could drink sans accompaniment.

Both this wine and the red were a pleasure to drink, even more so considering they are not from hugely fashionable areas of France. You could almost call them good country wines but that would be doing them a disservice. It’s available from Stolarski in Nottingham (only 2 bottles left), which has an interesting selection of wines.

[Richard, from a mixed case of Mas Coutelou, around £18.  A very interesting wine with lots of flavour and balance and one I’d buy again when the new vintage arrives.].

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A “pretty” Chianti

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Isole e Olena 2015 Chianti Classico was Sunday night’s tasting, following the SA Cabernet Franc. That was a mistake, the Chianti should have been the first wine. However, in our defence, the Italian wine was unexpectedly light – an opinion shared by quite a few other tasters, “pretty” being the most used descriptor.

Opened 90 minutes then decanted, the wine’s most obvious smell was vanilla followed by red fruits. As a classico this wine has had to spend a minimum of 12 months in oak, hence the vanilla, and red fruits, especially cherry, is  typical of the Sangiovese grape. The colour was a low intensity red.

The palate was fresh, light and pure with a pleasing grip of tannins – the red fruits’ aroma being replicated in the taste. It had a medium length and finished dry. So far, so good. The disappointing aspect was a lack of complexity and typicity – although there are lots of different Chianti styles, not to mention qualities. It was a well made wine but just not very interesting to either of us. It was a red wine.

“The 2015 vintage in Chianti Classico is the best since 1997. The wines show more black fruit flavors than the typical red fruit flavors at this early stage, and are very structured, with both vibrant acidity and dense, sometimes muscular tannins.” (Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator). Well, this wine couldn’t have been more opposite.

[Richard: from a mixed half case of 2015 Chianti and easily the most disappointing. My main complaint was that it didn’t taste of Sangiovese. I also thought it a little raw without the smoothness one would get with, for example, a 2015 Riecine, one of our favourites. I published a negative review at TWS and the cost was refunded.].

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Pombal do Vesuvio 2015 from Symington

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Quinta do Vesuvio is a vineyard high in the Douro valley, a hot area well away from the wetter and colder Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Two of the three grapes in the blend Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela are difficult to grow in cooler, wetter climates but, presumably, they thrive here. The third, Touriga Nacional, is considered to be Portugal’s finest grape, giving tannins, body and fruit flavours to the blend.

This wine of 13.5% ABV was certainly black at its core and stained the glass with its tears. It had lots of freshness from the acidity and the dominant notes were dark fruits though it was difficult to identify a particular one which does happen with blends. There was licquorice and vanilla on the palate along with a pleasing tartness, the finish being long and dry.

This was a well made full flavoured red wine, capable of ageing and certainly a good accompaniment to strong flavoured foods. I’m unsure of the price, so Richard can decide on its VFM

(btw a pombal is the local name for a stone dovecote.)

[Richard: very highly praised in a WS staff tasting, so I bought three (£18.50 each). I thought the first was ordinary but this was much better, being rich savoury and balanced. Slightly overpriced, I would say.]

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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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