Category Archives: posted by Geoff

Upside down wine

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The title is apt for two reasons. One, in that it comes from the Antipodes (literally, from the Classic translation of feet the other way up) and secondly because it uses a Medoc/Bordeaux blend but in the opposite proportions. It’s Petit Verdot 47%, Merlot 37% and Cab Sav 16%.

The wine is Plane Turning Right 2013 which Richard bought from Vin Cognito (£27). The high proportion of PV is only made possible by the heat which is needed to ripen this grape of high tannins and high acidity. It is becoming increasingly planted, but always in hotter areas (I had a mono-varietal PV from Spain, via Aldi, about ten days ago). When PV does ripen it has a distinctive violet smell as well as intense colouring.

From the intense, consistent red colour it was just right in its development – no blue or brick colours here. Very fruit-forward – and violet scented – on the nose, there was high acidity and a slight sappiness which could come from either the PV or CS. No wonder it needed the softening Merlot.  The palate was savoury, soft in tannins, very rich and heavy but with a lot of power. It had a medium length. I’d have been interested to see the changes after two hours decanting, which I think it needed.

A lovely wine, needing food. Needless to say, I didn’t spot it but picked the violets and stabbed at Nebbiolo.

[Richard: a fascinating wine with lots of complexity both on the nose and in the mouth. Good mouth feel, rich and savoury, quite high toned, lots of acidity with plenty of balancing red fruit. Really interesting and one I’d certainly buy again.]

 

 

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Beer or wine?

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I’d seen this in Waitrose and, to be frank, thought what an unfortunate handle. It reminded me more of a low-alcohol beer rather than a wine, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Richard presented the last of the bottle on Sunday and  …… I was rather impressed.

It hails from the Loire, Anjou, and, more precisely the Coteaux de Layon, an area more associated with sweeter wines from the later-harvested Chenin. The grape is the same but picked earlier, maintaining acidity and with the sugars fermented out. I like Chenin in its multiplicity of forms and enjoyed this also.

Made by Domaine Cady from the 2015 vintage, it is organic and costs £16 (£12 on offer) from Waitrose. The colour is deep lemon with some viscosity (the Chenin does develop sugars easily) whilst the nose repeats the lemon acidity with the addition of a chalky note, also reminiscent of the classic Chenin ‘wet wool’. The palate was complex – almonds, acidity, richness with bags of character and the ability to develop in the bottle.

Getting a thumbs up from me, this wine would be great with veal, chicken, river fish or a quality cheese.

[Richard: no thumbs up from me, more a shrug. Too sweet and I didn’t find it as complex as Geoff did. Worth a punt but I wouldn’t buy it again, even on offer which this was.]

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Never knowingly underhyped

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Mas de Daumas Gassac is east of Montpellier in the Haute Vallee du Gassac, Herault and achieved fame – or notoriety with local traditionalists – by using Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape more often associated with Bordeaux. Their informative and slick web site could not be accused of hiding its light under a wine bushel, proclaiming the 2005 vintage as having “finesse, it’s friendly and elegant, soft, fruity and mouth-wateringly rounded. Thoroughly enjoyable and seductive … and designed to wine you over with its affability … genuinely great …. truly outstanding!” Wow!

More prosaically, in colour it had a brick rim with an intense red core and medium viscosity. The nose was sweet cassis with tertiary notes of stewed fruits and pleasing acidity. So far, so good. The acidity came through nicely on the palate which was long and dry, with liquorice-like richness. After the nose, the palate was a tad disappointing.

Overall, although a well-made, pleasant wine we found it lacking a little character and any real sense of place. Richard gave the sobriquet ‘a lunchtime Languedoc’ which I though quite apposite (it’s 12.5% ABV).

[Richard: had this one a while – since 2008 (£24, WS), hence the rather tatty appearance. Certainly ready to drink and a wine which, as Geoff suggests, failed to deliver in the mouth what the (very appealing) nose promised. That is quite a common phenomenon when drinking claret, with which this wine is often compared (it’s 63% Cabernet Sauvignon,8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot plus lots of other grapes, mostly not indigenous to the Languedoc either.]

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Stunning wine

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I was completely fooled by this wine, proclaiming it to be a high quality vintage champagne. In fact it came from the birthplace of that quintessentially English game of cricket – Hambledon.

We tried their Premier Cuvee, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (58%, 24% 18%) on Sunday. It’s not cheap at £42 but Waitrose Cellar occasionally have offers on their site – if they do, buy some. You’ll see a very fine, persistent mousse, a subtle light gold in colour and beautifully bright.

The taste is bruised apples with a lovely lemon freshness which lifts the slightly vegetative notes. There is great complexity and all suggests vintage champagne. The palate is certainly dry to the point of saltiness, long and quite piercing in its acidity.

This wine is one of those that we taste and remember the significant experience.

[Richard: I got 25% off on one of those periodic Waitrose deals which made the price a just about bearable £32. Let’s hope they do it again before Christmas. An extremely classy English sparkling wine, easily the best I’ve tasted. An ‘old’, vegetative nose – they blend in cuvees from earlier vintages to give an aroma which I’ve only really noticed on vintage champagne. High in acidity but balanced and absolutely delicious.]

 

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Old grapes

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Dafni is a vey old grape variety, its name being inscribed on Bronze Age vessels found on Crete. Its fortunes were revived by the maker of the wine we tried, namely Lyrarakis, in his 37 acres Psarades vineyard. This was the 2016 vintage. Descriptions tend to focus on the wine’s herbal aromas as well as bay and eucalyptus leaf smells.

Light lemon in colour with medium viscosity it certainly had an aromatic nose with a fresh lemon and peppery bouquet. The nose was certainly inviting but, unfortunately, the taste disappointed us. It was short, lacking in intensity with very high acidity. It started to cloy the palate and would have benefitted from some food accompaniment, though Richard said it did improve through the evening.

Much preferred was the Santorini wine made from the Aidani grape by Sigolas (2015). Kept in stainless steel for nine months, this wine had a Viognier-like, herbal and floral quality. Full-flavoured, the wine was quite nutty and would have really suited strong food.

Two more Mediterranean grape varieties: it’s certainly been interesting trying these more obscure grapes.

[Richard, we’ve blogged on Lyrakakis wines before – they specialise in resurrecting forgotten indigenous varieties on Crete. The dafni came from the duty-free at Chania airport, about 12€. More a curiosity than anything else which I didn’t see anywhere else for sale on the island. Despite the small production I see that both M&S and Berry Bros carry stock. Like Geoff I preferred the Aidani which had much more tropical fruit character. This was part of a mixed case of up-market Greek wine from the WS. No longer available, around £20, I’d guess.]

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Kissing frogs.

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New Zealand Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec – the phrases trip blithely off the tongue as easily as the wines slip around it.  They have all become big money-making New World regions, eclipsing the original regions of the grape, France. Commercially successful, they are all the standards against which other wines made from those grapes are judged. Hats off to the New World, then, in having succeeded in shifting the wine-drinking public’s reference points.

We tried an Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza on Sunday night, Francois Lurton’s Piedra Negra 2008. I find Malbec falls into two categories, the largest category being that of the big, alcoholic, tannic, dry, heavyweight. The wine style with which someone delights in finishing the bottle at the end of a meal (including the pudding). There is a finer, and smaller, style, however. A style showing lighter red fruits, higher acidity and of gentler persuasions. And  you can find them, but you have to kiss a few frogs to get there.

Lurton’s belonged to the former group. An intense red colour showing high viscosity with tertiary smells of coffee and a slightly burnt nose. Tannic, wanting of fruit and seemingly underdeveloped, this might be better in another five years but I doubt it. It will get older and less refined, I think.

So, not for me, sorry. It was frog – not a handsome prince.

[Richard: Geoff and I had been looking at some WS member reviews and saw one on a red Cahors which was rather uncomplimentary – ‘just another red wine’ – which, in turn,  made us realise we don’t drink much malbec. In Winchester a few days later I visited Wine Utopia and saw that they had a bottle of an upmarket Argentinian malbec which I thought would make an interesting tasting. Actually, not so much, because firstly, neither of have much idea what malbec should taste like, even allowing for the different styles Geoff mentions. And secondly, it was really ‘just another red wine’, albeit well made, without much to distinguish it. Interestingly both the malbec and the red in the previous post were the same price (£27.99). The reduction on the Hermitage made it decent value, not so the Piedra Negra.]

 

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One size fits all.

I first worked in a wine shop in 1970, helping out at Christmas time. As an impressionable young man, I found it fascinating enough to inspire a life-long interest. One of the things I remember was the different bottle sizes, something that would be inconceivable in today’s standardised world. I was reminded of this when I picked up Alex Lichine’s Encyclopaedia of Wines and Spirits, 1967 vintage, sorry, edition. I thought the appendix on bottle sizes it would interest our reader, as it did me.

I list all the sizes designated as bottles below.

German 70cl; Alsace 72cl; Anjou 75cl; Beaujolais 75cl; Bordeaux 75cl; Burgundy 75cl; USA 75.72cl; Port 75.75cl; Sherry 75.75cl; Champagne 80cl.

The last three were also called Quarts which meant that, for Champagne, a half bottle was 40cl, also called a Pint (Two pints making one quart, remember?). Didn’t Pol Roger make a pint of Champagne – and are thinking of doing so again.

Why was 75cl (mostly French regions) decided upon as the standard? How did all the 0.072 and 0.075 sizes come about (local glass blowing, perhaps?). Why was the three-quarter litre size adopted instead of the half and full litre?

Other interesting names were a Pot of Beaujolais (50cl), a Fillette of Bordeaux (37.5 cl), a Marie-Jeanne of Bordeaux (250cl), a Split of Champagne (20cl), the wonderfully named Tappit Hen of Port (227 cl). The US called their half bottles Tenths and their bottles Fifths.

Dear reader – if you’re still awake – think how the supermarkets would love this array of sizes on their shelves.

More gems from the old book later.

[Richard: when I started drinking wine in Nottingham Rioja could be bought in 210cl bottles. And one peculiarity still exists – Chateau-Chalon (and certain other wines from the Jura) which uses 62cl bottles called clavelins. Not, as you might uncharitably assume, to rip off the consumer but because, apparently, that is what 100cl of wine evaporates to in 6 and a quarter years, which is the minimum ageing period for the appellation. Sold by the Wine Society, but I’ve never tried it. However the grape used – savignan – is also used to make vin jaune, also sold in 62cl bottles, a rather sherry like wine which I recall we tasted once, without blogging.

I think the standardisation was due to what would then be Common Market rules. The large Spanish size vanished after they joined. Be interesting to learn how Chateau-Chalon escaped. See Annexe XVII of this document giving legal recognition to odd bottles shapes and sizes.]

 

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