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.]
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.]
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.]
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.]
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.]
Claire and I visited Nuits St Georges during our recent Burgundian holiday. The D974 skirts the small, rather quiet shopping area which is given over to private shops and cafes; I guess most people are pulled to Dijon to the north or Beaune to the south.
The vineyards rise gently on the western escarpment and flatten to the south and east. Nuits has no Grand Cru (top Burgundy vineyard) but 147 hectares of Premiere Cru and 175 ha. of village Nuits vineyards. Jasper Morris’s Inside Burgundy describes the classic Nuits style as ‘chunkier’. We tasted Dmne. Chauvenet’s village Nuits (13% abv) from the difficult but lately proclaimed 2010 vintage.
Brown rimmed but with a core of medium intensity red, the wine had the aromas of cooked black cherries These tertiary notes suggesting bottle age; there was also an aromatic maturity to the nose. The mouth feel was soft, the tannins identifiable but not obtrusive being accompanied by a light acidity. It had an attractive sweet/sour then dry finish but the full flavours I would describe as tight rather than generous. A lovely wine, not particularly complex, but quite in keeping with Morris’s description.
I find these pinots more interesting than the NZ because of their restrained quality but I can appreciate why they cause not a little frustration. Over to you, Richard.
[Richard: from TWS whose offer brochure said ‘lovely dense and soft Burgundy offered at a remarkably low price basically because of the sheer volume he has to sell. He has over 6ha of this wine! Take advantage!’ The last sentence, being, I assume a translation of ‘profitez-en’, often seen in French supermarkets under special offers. £18 in bond which is indeed a reasonable price for village burgundy. I’ve sometimes thought that WS tasting notes prefer enthusiasm to accuracy but ‘dense and soft’ sums it up. Not especially varietal but unmistakably pinot noir and nice to try one that didn’t disappoint. On a hot evening the wine started to become ‘soupy’ but 15 minutes in the fridge when halfway down the bottle helped considerably, something I can remember a Beaune restauranteur doing during the 2006 heatwave.]
Richard’s passion for ‘a good sherris sack’ (Falstaff, Henry IV part 2) is well-documented on these pages. The Wine Society recently promoted, at the relatively high price of £24, a manzanilla made by Bodega Alonso named ‘Velo Flor’. Sherry, like champagne, is chiefly about process rather than the raw materials and part of that process is the marketing. As the photograph shows, this wine was dressed in a low-shouldered bottle with a waxed cork stopper, quite different from the more conservative look.
The wine had a light gold colour, some viscosity and was bright and clear. The usual floor polish smell along with roasted nuts was obvious on the nose, as was the relieving fresher lemony high notes. We had the impression of an intensity, more so than normal. The palate showed the difference from previously tasted manzanilla styles. Yes, it had the trademark dry saltiness but this was rounder, richer and very long. A bigger flavoured wine than normally is the case, this could not be called a fresh style from the taste alone. (It had been opened 72 hours)
To return to Sir John F. (in The Merry Wives of Windsor). ‘Wilt thou, after the expense of so much money, be now a gainer?’ It’s a fine drink, but I question its VFM.
(Exeunt stage left)
[Richard: one of the golden rules of fino or manzanilla drinking is that it should be consumed as quickly as possible after opening, because of the speed of oxidation. This wine was unusual, in that it improved after three days in the fridge becoming more aromatic, more full flavoured. A very classy manzanilla, I’ve seen it suggested it is a pasada (older) style – which it tastes like – and that it is en rama, but neither is claimed on the label.
Clearly vinified with care but I did wonder if it was made up to a price – cork closure not a stopper, waxed capsule – very rare, unusually shaped bottle with a designer label. At £15 throughly recommendable but at £24 I think I’ll be sending my other bottle back.]