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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


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.


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


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



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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Morning Glory?


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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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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