It’s not often you can identify the actual bottle, when tasting blind. But I managed it with this one (L’Orangeraie 2016), firstly because I knew Geoff had ordered some from TWS and secondly because the smell and taste of Cabernet Franc was unmistakable. The wine has attracted some comment – mostly favourable – on TWS Community Forums but I wasn’t much of a fan. Quite a simple, rather short wine which prompted the reflection that grapes grown outside of their traditional area often make disappointing wines.
[Geoff: I sense we’re returning to our old topic of the over-hyping wines that are perfectly okay but not greatly interesting. There is nothing wrong with this uncomplicated, really bright purple little number but it did not have the subtleties of a Loire CF and certainly not the depth. A ‘Bistro Wine’ for serving with a light lunch. Enough said.]
Despite a liking for wines from Southern France, and spending many holidays there, I’d never previously been aware of this company, formed by a French/Australian merger. Quite a polished website – they have a philosophy – which tells us they buy in grapes, rather than own vineyards, and they make a lot of different single variety wine.
100% mourvèdre wines are not common, (although we have blogged a few) so I didn’t know what to expect from this – it was not tasted blind. In fact – pretty good. Light and bright cherry colours, cherry nose, lots of red fruit, medium length, pure and balanced. Very easy to drink and a bargain at £8, so much so that we are back to MWW wine for some more.
[Geoff: A pleasant surprise and good value. Most books – as well as the website – describe this grape’s flavours as black fruit and herby. We got none of that. To us, red fruits dominated; Richard noted cranberries, I thought ripe red cherries. One book does mention red plums which I could agree with. Whatever the flavour profile this was a fruity red of some style. AKA Mataro and Monastrell, the European grapes are grown never more than 50 miles from the Med. and are particularly difficult to get right.]
A nine point scale is used by the Wine Society, and possibly others, to rate sweetness in a wine, with 1 being the driest. Geoff had warned me that this wine might be too sweet for me and so it proved. Bright, darkish lemon in colour with a caramel nose. Good, rich mouth feel, off-dry to medium with a rather one-note taste and a clean, non-cloying, rather dry finish, I found myself repeating what I invariably say about wines of this type – ‘well made, but…’ Just too sweet for me (even though it wasn’t that sweet).
[Geoff: I bought this bottle on a recent ‘official’ visit to the Loire. This wasn’t lusciously Sauterne sweet and I decided to try it with some roast pork in sweetish, apple-rich gravy. I very much enjoyed it, finishing it with some Bleu d’Auvergne cheese later. My wife agreed with Richard, saying it was too sweet. I also think something slightly less sweet would have been an equally good match.]
I was listening to a podcast the other day about a dictionary maker who had a reverse word index. Every headword – 315,000 of them, was spelt in reverse on the card. Want to know how many grape names end in ‘o’? Simple.
That was pre-computers, of course. Now it is much easier, especially if you have the ebook version of The Big Book of Grapes – we don’t. Anyway, if you are struggling to think of any, here are a couple, neither of which I could identify.
This was the first – susumaniello (little donkey), from the Salento region of Puglia, in Italy. Open 24h it had a faint note of vanilla which soon faded, a rather raw, green and spicy taste with a hint of sour cherry. Quite attractive, if not especially distinctive.
The second was a grape we have previously tasted – Geoff thought we had actually tried this bottle before – but I can’t recall it and it wasn’t blogged, although we tried a wine with the same grape from the region in 2016. This is aghiorghitiko, by Skouras in Nemea, Greece. Pale ‘pinot’ red in appearance, some vanilla and raspberry on the nose, a fresh taste, rather short and uncomplicated but drinkable. Quite different to the wine tried two years ago.
[Geoff: the Susamaniello was better the first day and suited Saturday night’s flavourful pizzas. Quite lean, light and refreshing, made from a grape I’d never heard of. The Greek wine was not a million miles away in flavour from the Puglian, not surprising really, given their location.]
Another week, another claret. This time it was a 2011 from Chevalier de Lascombes, the second wine of Chateau Lascombes, a Bordeaux second growth in the 1855 classification. The Chateau blend is roughly 50/50 cabernet sauvignon and merlot whereas the Chevalier has more merlot, though I couldn’t discover how much. Certainly there weren’t any typical CS characteristics. Dark red, brown rim, sweet fruit nose, lots of tannin still, plenty of black fruit as well with a slight tarry note. Because of all the fruit I at first thought it was New World. A nice drink but one without much subtlety, even when decanted.
[Geoff: Ch. Lascombe’s history is chequered, to say the least. I won’t bore our reader with the details but there has been much grubbing up and replanting of vines due to the wrong vines being in the wrong soil. As a result the clay-loving Merlot proportion of plantings has increased. This wine’s heft surprised me – it’s not something I associate with claret. It does suggest that there’s some way to go before maturity but the Merlot proportion would mitigate against that (brown rim?). A good wine if you like your wines full on. I think it was from Lidl.]
This was our second tasting of a wine (La Long Bec, Domaine Echardières. Loire Valley 2014) from a comparatively new (2011) appellation – Chenonceaux. A rather mature, dense looking wine, with a smokey, dusty nose and a hint of mint. Dry with dark fruit and a longish finish. A 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the second grape recognisable but not the first – we don’t drink much Malbec. Clearly well made and very drinkable.
[Geoff: I had tried another bottle of this red wine only a week previously and it really impressed me. There is a good blend of the very slight farmyard aromas of an ageing CF together with its trademark raspberry nose. the Malbec (Cot in the Loire) gives firmer, fuller body to the blend. This makes the taste a balanced blend of firmness, body and fruit. It is available from Vin Neuf at Stratford.]
On smelling this wine my instant reaction was Cabernet Franc. In fact it was a 2010 claret, from the Montagne St-Emilion region (MWW £16, no 22 in their Parcel Series). They claim ‘plums, black cherry and cedar’, but don’t reveal the blend in the product information. The region is mostly Merlot, with 20% CF. Geoff wondered if there was any CF used but any more information is impossible to find. However, given the planting in the region it is certainly possible and I’m sure I could smell it. MWW do claim that it is made by ‘a great chateau’ – not that there are any in Montagne St-Emilion. Not especially mature or complex given the bottle age which made it into a decent but not outstanding drink.
[Geoff: The Montagne St Emilion AC of Bordeaux is dominated by Merlot but the vine second to that is Cab Franc which is better suited than Cab Sav to the clay/limestone soils. Richard did well to spot the raspberry notes typical of this grape. As regards the wine maker, the best known chateau is Beausejour but Majestic aren’t letting on.
There is a lot of the ‘faux secrecy’ in patronising wine blurbs e.g. “Our well connected resourceful buyer has unearthed/been tipped off about some wines, we can’t say where from, but they are made just over the road from a well-known premier cru etc. etc.” In reality, a winemaker has got some excess stock, the sale of which will help their stricken cash flow and have used brokers to find a buyer who has bought at a very advantageous price. The winemaker doesn’t want their name associated with low priced wines therefore the wine is vaguely labelled .]