Author Archives: wineyg

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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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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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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Magic or medicine?

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Ixsir, produced from vineyards high in the Lebanese Mountains, is, to me, typical of Lebanese wine. Made from a blend of Cab Sav and Syrah it is drawn from various plots but then matured for at least 12 months in French oak, presumably to soften what would be pretty fierce tannins.

The intense ruby colour and noticeable legs suggested heat but the nose was surprisingly quite dumb. It may have needed longer opening than the 45 mins Richard gave it. There were faint notes of menthol and liquorice but no strongly varietal hints. Tannins were to the fore as was a richness but I was struggling to find the freshness which I like in red wines. The ‘funky’ cliche that is applied to Lebanese wines I take to be a slight whiff of oxidised fruits which wouldn’t be surprising in that hot climate. There was a slight heat at the finish, from only 13% ABV.

This really is a food wine and, I suggest, food with Middle Eastern flavours. Btw the word elixir is derived from the Arabic iksir and means ‘a magical or medicinal potion’ – Paul Daniels (RIP) or the NHS, take your pick.

[Richard: Chateau Musar, from Lebanon, is one of my favourite wines and has been blogged here several times. But I’ve never tasted any other wines from that country. So when TWS offered a mixed case of Lebanese reds I placed an order.

A decent wine which certainly needed food and a long decant. I’ve vacuumed sealed the remains of the bottle to try later in the week. But, as it stands, I’d rather have Musar – made from different grapes of course – at much the same price.]

 

 

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New venue, New Zealand.

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I was very pleasantly surprised by Steve (our guest contributor) when he offered up this wine. I can be a bit sniffy when it comes to NZ’s Marlborough branded wines but this Wither Hills PN from the Wairu Valley is excellent value at £10 (WSoc). It is matured 16 months in French oak which lends smoky, spicy notes to the nose. It is a hefty 14.5% ABV but wears it well – much better than many wines of the same alcohol level.

Trying it ‘blind’ there was the soft red fruit smell of ripe cherries, made more serious by the oak ageing. The colours were very slight purply red with quite pronounced legs. Initially sweet with gentle tannins, it had medium length and a dry finish. Not particularly complex, this wine would be ideal with ham, duck, cooked beetroot. It is much better quality value than many High Street PN’s – managing to combine gluggability with  gravitas. Thanks, Steve.

[Richard: Steve, our friend and neighbour invited us round to try something from his recent WS case. I saw the bottle before Geoff arrived but, even if I hadn’t, the wine was unmistakably pinot, from the appearance to the nose to the taste. Lots of sweet red fruit with some acidity and length. Very easy to drink, despite the ABV which was surprisingly high. I always try to catch Geoff out with New World pinots but it didn’t work on this occasion as he identified the New Zealand origin instantly.]

 

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