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Light and Heavy

No, not something you’d order in a Scottish pub, just two very contrasting wines.

The El Porvenir 2006 came via a Birmingham Wine School tasting of Argentinian wines, in, I think 2009. Around £16? The presenter was offering wines at reduced prices. Geoff may remember more. A rich, powerful (14.9%) wine saved by a refreshing acidity. A near Bordeaux blend (45% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Tannat and 8% Syrah) with the last two grapes adding some complexity. Nearly 2 years in new oak but the tannins were well integrated and it was a pleasure to drink – not in the least heavy – but the bottle was, weighing 1.2k. Since supermarket bottles are normally under half that one can deduce that the producers wanted to add some gravitas, not that it was needed.

The Dolcetto (2016) is a grape we’ve only blogged once before and not a grape I could identify blind. Light, indeed pale in colour (12.5%) with a rather muted cherry fruit taste which was spoilt by a persistent ‘woody’ note. A shame since Burlotto is a respected producer. WS £11.50, out of stock.

[Geoff: The Argentinian tasting was by Ruta 40, the name comes from the main road that travels through the wine regions. The grapes are grown at 1750 metres in Cafayete in Salta Province where the cooler air height helps the acidity that Richard remarked on. The wine is kept two years in oak and then another year minimum in bottle. This one has had ten years in bottle – and it’s still fresh with an attractive mic of richness and acidity. It now costs £35, so expensive but if you like that style – and have deep pockets – it’s a good wine.]


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Whatever happened to Muscadet?

Forty years ago, if you wanted a drink a French white wine with a meal chances are it would have been a Muscadet. White burgundy was seen as expensive, Rhone and Alsace whites were hard to find in England and the production of white wines from southern France was small and not exported at all. But Muscadet fell out of fashion, swamped by the rise of less acidic whites like chardonnays from Australia. Then sauvignon blanc followed on, leaving Muscadet way behind. Beaujolais Nouveau suffered a similar fate, albeit for different reasons.

And now? Well, a 2014 article in Decanter claims it is ‘all the rage’, a massive overstatement, not uncommon in the wine press. A 2018 article in Wine Enthusiast talks about a ‘fresh start’. Searching this blog I find that, in six years and nearly 500 posts, we have tasted just one, also from MWW, as it happens. But, I’d tried one a couple of weeks ago, from Tanners, so it was easy for me to recognise the style (Dmne Haut Ferrie Monniere-Saint Fiacre 2014), with the chalky nose a giveaway. A very pale lemon, quite sharp and lemony in taste as well, medium length, gaining complexity as it warmed up – decanting might have been worthwhile – although given it’s age it wasn’t quite as interesting as one might have hoped. But a decent wine, if slightly overpriced at £16 (MWW).

[Geoff: It is interesting how wines go in and out of fashion. In a few years we might be asking whatever happened to Prosecco? Is it over-production leading to a decline in quality or not enough profit generated to incentivise growers. Is the market volatility always at the bargain end, where rewards are closely linked to volume?

Anyway, the Muscadet growers are aware of the need to produce fuller more complex wines whilst still maintaining the recognisable style. This came some way there but there is a fuller one in MWW named Le Pallet, which I found more enjoyable. However, this wasn’t bad and with the right food would be acceptable.]

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Not this time…

Having mentioned recently how easy it was to spot Gamay in a blind tasting I failed to identify it last night. Hardly any aroma on this wine – which is the usual giveaway, although after a few minutes there was the merest hint of a Beaujolais nose. Pale red too and obviously not Pinot, so another indicator missed. Strawberries on the palate which should have helped but didn’t.

Another of Geoff’s purchases from his recent holiday in the region and a very nice wine – fresh but with some character. A pleasing balance between fruit and acidity with some length.  Add in an attractive bottle and a 12.5% ABV and you have a perfect Sunday night wine.

[Geoff: I’m coming round to Beaujolais thanks mainly to the three bottles I picked up one a holiday visit to the area. The obvious Gamay notes that didn’t attract me have been muted and the wines subtly fuller than I can remember. This was in that mould and, as Richard has stated above, it was a wine of some character. It went well with some Italian meatballs in tomato sauce later in the evening.]

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After last week’s googly Geoff served up a nice full toss, namely a Fleurie made by Henry Fessy whose Brouilly was blogged a couple of years ago.

Pale, garnet red but with a mature appearance, obvious Gamay nose, rich and fruity with some grip, a perfect summer red.

[Geoff: Ha, Richard’s cricket analogies are very topical.

This was an impromptu purchase from Waitrose who had it as an introductory offer at about £9.50. I’m a touch cagey about Beaujolais, finding it one-dimensional, but the older vintage attracted me. Fleurie is known as being a long-liver and fuller than some other crus and so it proved.

It was quite rich and the trademark Gamay strawberry notes had developed concentrated, cooked flavours – still strawberry but quite subtle. These tertiary notes reflected the bottle ageing but it still retained freshness. It’s drinking very well just now so, at that price, it is very good value. Worth picking some up, dear reader.]

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Tanners’ teaser

Geoff and I made our annual visit to Tanners Wine Merchants last week and picked up a few bottles each. Geoff actually showed me this bottle as we were wandering round but I didn’t make the connection when we tried it (blind) at Steve’s. ‘You’ll never get this’, he said – and we didn’t.

Very pale yellow, almost watery appearance, sweet melon nose. Not enough acidity, length or complexity for me so more a curiosity than anything else. Jancis Robinson reviewed the 2015 very favourably but I didn’t get the ‘massive grip and flavour explosion’ she experienced.

I can’t recall trying the Mauzac grape before although apparently it’s a compulsory component of Blanquette de Limoux which we used to drink in France years ago an alternative to champagne, always preferring the latter.

[Geoff: “This is fragrant, with light, tantalising flavours of apricots and peaches” ” A nose with  herbal notes, and a salty fruit on the palate, with a typical bitter finish of Mauzac …. subtle touch of oak to give complexity.” “This is a brilliant, rewarding wine full of preserved lemon, flint and ripe pear.” We added ripe melon.

The above are the tasting notes of the wine from three different critics. Fruits’ list: apricot, peaches, preserved lemon, ripe pear. Other specific flavours listed: herbs, salt, bitterness, oak, flint. General descriptors’ list: light, tantalising, typical, subtle, complex, brilliant, rewarding.

Any flavours missed? Welcome to the wonderful world of wine tasting. For me, okay but not complex, a touch sweet with a tendency to be claggy after a couple of mouthfuls. Lacking complexity, it probably needs the bubbles to make it memorable.]

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JS Jura

I’ve never been quite sure about the kind of wine drinker Decanter Magazine is aimed at but one thing is sure. It’s not people who buy wine from supermarkets. However even wine merchants, critics and plutocrats can’t drink first growths and grand crus every day so there is a column at the back which reviews a handful of ‘everyday’ wines, a few of which are widely available.

One such was a Jura chardonnay, from J Sainsbury’s, at £11. Wines from the Jura region of France are rarely seen in the UK. The WS list a few, but no chardonnay, which is not a preferred grape in the area.

So we thought it worth a punt. Not tasted blind. Pale lemon colour, typical of the grape. Typical nose too – just about – but rather hard and coarse. No oak which some may prefer. A rather ordinary one-dimensional taste, quite short (only 12%). For me there wasn’t enough varietal character.

[Geoff: I did not find it as ‘hard and coarse’  as my mate (bit austere maybe?) but it certainly wasn’t complex. Its light lemon notes were refreshing (only 12% abv) and it went well with some chicken piece and salad  later. Certainly not a vin du garde, I can imagine it being swilled back quite easily in this eastern region. Full marks to J Sainsbury for finding it ‘off the beaten track’ – good value at £11 because of this fact alone. Try it.]

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Basic Beaujolais

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Domaine de Sandar 2017, purchased by Geoff in the region.

Pure Gamay nose, distinctive and identifiable even as the wine was being poured, bright, clear ruby red, supple mouth feel, juicy, some length. Perfect summer red.

[Geoff: Yes, purchased from a roadside wine outlet (Cave Mathelin, resembling a converted petrol station) in the southern Beaujolais area. The range of choice was  quite remarkable and it could have been an expensive visit. This wine was made by the family who owned the outlet so I felt duty bound to buy some of their wine. I also bought a Beaujolais (Gamay) Rose and wished I’d bought more of it – really flavourful and nicely dry. I thought the above wine was great value and fuller than the light, bubble-gum flavoured wine I associate with the area. I also bought some Moulin au Vent and Cote de Brouilly which I’m sure we’ll blog about.]

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