Category Archives: posted by Richard

Unmistakable

Some wines, like Chateau Musar or Vina Tondonia are generally easy to spot from the aroma. Another is (most) white burgundy. And so it was that I confidently pronounced this wine (Saint-Aubin Champs Tirant, 2014) as such, despite it being opened twenty-four hours and double decanted. As it turned out I’ve got a bottle, as yet undrunk, Geoff having picked up a few marked down in Waitrose. A classic supple, spicy nose, with a hint of struck match, rich smooth mouth-feel followed by a complex lemony taste. A bargain at the reduced price of £16.99.

[Geoff: I’m delighted to hear that Richard has another bottle – this wine was excellent and certainly a bargain. I’m becoming an advocate for decanting all wines, regardless of colour, as it certainly paid off with this wine. Pre-aeration it was closed, slightly reductive on the nose and dominated by lemony acidity. When tried 40 mins after decanting it became broader, livelier and had lost those dominating aromas and flavours. After enjoying it on Saturday night I returned it to the bottle where I vacuum sealed it with the result Richard has described. Decanting is a must]

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A new appellation…

Namely Touraine Chenonceaux. Actually created in 2011 but in French wine bureaucracy terms that is as yesterday. The link has lots of useful information if, like me, you had never previously heard of this area or tasted their wine.

Speaking of which: a French style sauvignon blanc, that is to say lacking the sharp, sometimes piercing nose of a New World equivalent. Quite shy in fact with some melon or similar – a rather ‘sweet’ nose which led you to expect an off-dry taste. In fact, on the palate and wine was rich, slightly raw with some good acidity and length. Not tasted blind which was just as well as I’m not sure I would have picked the grape. Geoff found it not to his taste so I took the bottle home where Angie liked it a lot.

The wine: Domaine des Caillots 2014 ‘pur sauvignon blanc’.

[Geoff: The hospitality of three French vineyard owners (husband and wife teams) in Chenonceaux  was infectious. All essentially rivals, but also keen to promote their new AC, they provided a tasting of a selection of their wines and then gave us two bottles each to take away! They’d have liked us to stay longer but we had a tunnel time to meet. We did feel guilty about not doing them justice – only 90 minutes for 9 wines.

I’m glad Angie liked it. For me it had the hallmarks of Sauvignon – albeit much muted – namely acidity, lack of richness and breadth with little complexity. However, I did appreciate its difference to the vast majority of Touraine wines which can be rather anonymous. A Chenonceaux white is stocked by Majestic.

We’ll try a Chenonceaux red soon which is the AC’s standard blend of Cabernet Franc and Cot (Malbec). I enjoyed these more than the whites.

I wish the new region well.

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A return to riesling

First riesling for a while. Decanted and tasted blind on a warm sunny evening, in Geoff’s garden. It was Domaine Saint-Remy’s Grand Cru 2009 from the Hengst site.

Bright yellow. I recognised, but couldn’t quite place the nose, which was lemony and smokey. The taste was lemon again, quite rich, of medium length, a good mouth feel, but with not quite enough acidity or complexity. I was sure it was from Alsace but the off-dry edge persuaded me it was pinot gris rather than riesling. As the wine developed I think I caught some of the well known ‘petrol’ aroma the grape produces but that may have been auto-suggestion. As the wine warmed up it started to cloy and we both felt it needed to be fridge cold to show at it’s best.

[I bought this from Gauntleys in Nottingham. It was lying rather forlornly, alone and slightly dusty in a wine rack. To me, it was not off-dry just rather rich in body and I can see why it could be mistaken for a PG. Later on, and cooler, it was still full-flavoured with little of the characteristic ‘petrol’ nose – or limes for that matter – but more cooked apple and pears, moving into more tropical fruits; I enjoyed this richness. 2009 was the third of three successive good vintages in Alsace – it showed in this wine.]

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Tio Pepe Fino En Rama

I’ve bought quite a few bottles of TP the en rama fino over the years but it’s never been blogged, to my surprise .

The wine was bottled on the 21st of April, this year, unfiltered and unclarified. The claim made is that because of this what you are drinking is as if ‘straight from the cask’. As you can see it is still a very bright, clear wine with an unmistakeable aroma, even at a distance. However the taste had a slightly sweet edge – fino is usually bone dry – which was rather disconcerting, although there was a dry finish with the usual sherry flavours. In an ideal world I’d have a bottle of the ‘normal’ Tio Pepe open as a comparison. I don’t but my memory is that has a drier taste. Nevertheless the wine went well with Geoff’s fish soup, where the sweetness blended well with the richness of the dish.

From Tanner’s, about £15.

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The other cabernet…

This (Les Cornuelles, Chinon, 2012) was tasted blind, at Geoff’s, last night.

Dark and purple the wine had a polished appearance, a rather shy nose, smooth tannins and some refreshing acidity balancing the red fruit. A silky mouth feel completed a very drinkable glass.

There were just about enough indicators for me to suggest cabernet franc from the Loire which proved correct. Missing was the characteristic leafy, currant bush aroma the grape often produces.

I lived in Nottingham for 10 years or so in the seventies but to my great regret never visited Gauntleys, where this wine came from, despite being a frequent visitor to Weavers, round the corner. It was/is really a tobacco shop – the wine is in the basement – but they have some very interesting stock (I’ve visited, once, since) including the hard to find Equipo Navazos sherry and some rare wines from Boxler, in Alsace.

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A fortnight in Crete

Just returned from a lovely holiday in Rethymno, a large town on the Cretan coast, facing the Aegean Sea.

The town has several good wine shops so we tried to drink nothing but Cretan wine, avoiding, if possible, non-indigenous grapes, many of which, like cabernet, syrah and sauvignon blanc, were planted in the seventies.

The Cretan wine industry has now seen the light and many local varieties are being rediscovered and vinified.

Some general observations:

Many Cretan tavernas or mezedopolío (like tapas bars) don’t have a wine list and only sell ‘bulk wine’ – as it is described on the menu – either red or white, decanted into a carafe, as shown. Low alcohol, undistinguished and around €4 for half a litre.

The better restaurants do have wine lists with a varying range of Cretan wines.

All Cretan wine, including reds, is served chilled.

Good Cretan wine is not cheap, with prices in the €10-20 range in shops, €20+ in restaurants. VAT at 24% is a factor.

 

These are some of the wines we tried:

This was recommended to me in the most upmarket shop in the town (Siganos). Vidiano is a common grape, Plyto much less so. Lots of character but a bit too expensive and not quite enough acidity, around €12. A rather Rioja like red was better.

 

 

There was a classy wine bar round the corner form our apartment, where I tried this. Liatiko grape, a very polished, full flavoured wine. Served chilled, which helped. Around €8 a bottle from a wine shop and excellent value.

 

 

This company (Lyrarakis) specialises in old Cretan varieties  – here Kotsifali and Mandilari, with some (undetectable) Syrah added. Around €10.

 

 

Around 70% of the wine made on Crete is white. There is hardly any rose but we tried this one, at a rather chunky €9. Typical chalky nose, big flavour and another unknown grape – Romeiko, along with Syrah and Grenache. Incidentally I saw a bottle of red made with 100% Grenache but couldn’t bring myself to pay €16.

 

 

Tried this one in a good local restaurant, Alana. Plyto again, reputed to be a very acidic grape but it was nicely rounded. Went well with sea bass and squid. €20.

 

 

I couldn’t resist this one, seen in a local supermarket so broke my self-imposed rule about Cretan only. From Nemea, mainland Greece, €12. Obviously cabernet, very soft, slightly woody but very drinkable. Nearly over the hill. None of the shops we used had air conditioning so I did wonder about the effects of many hot days on wine storage, especially with something like this which I suspect had been on the shelf some time.

 

 

These were both drunk with what was the best meal of the holiday, a tasting menu, in a lovely garden courtyard at Avli. The sparkling wine was compared by our waitress to prosecco but was slightly better, I thought, being drier and crisper. Made on the mainland from Moschofilero grapes. The white was even more unusual, being made with Soultanin – the sultana grape. Our waitress warned us that it was quite reserved but we thought it developed well in the glass with an intriguing spicy bitterness underlying the fruit. No hint of sultana.

 

 

Probably the best red of the holiday – another kotsifali/mandilari blend, from a wine shop I discovered in the second week and never went back to. Soft, complex, lots of fruit and only €9. The black bottle is hard to photograph but the winery is Idaia.

 

 

Finally, no report from Crete would be complete without a mention of retsina, a wine we’ve previously blogged on. This was much more resinous but not unpleasantly so. Made in Chania, up the coast. A half litre bottle with a crown cap. €1.5 in a shop, double that in a taverna. Worth trying but I didn’t feel inclined to repeat the experience.

From someone who had never been to Greece in many years of holidays I’ve now been three times in three years. All visits were different and good in their own way but for food and drink this was the best and I’d like to return.

[Geoff: I really enjoyed reading this blog – thanks Richard. It got me wondering why some grapes become ‘international’ varieties and others never leave the local area. Apart from making the obvious analogy with people, what makes some grapes more popular than others? One idea might be that if a grower in, say, Chile sees how commercially successful the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is in Bordeaux they think that grape might be one to try. If this is the case, then Cypriot grapes just have not had the commercial success to justify others experimenting – and it would be an ‘experiment’ initially. In which case, how many other flavour possibilities are unrealised?]

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Clearly cabernet

Sauvignon, that is. Unmistakeable, an enticing nose with hints of menthol. Open for 48 hours under vacuum when I tried it, very deep red, brown rim, rich taste with lots of fruit and a lovely mouthfeel. Very enjoyable and we both had a second glass. Not French as I first though but Australian (Katnook Estate, 2012, CS), my second guess.

[Geoff: A confession – my prejudiced view of Australian wines has limited my experience of them. Hefty, jammy and clumsy has previously been my opinion. That is, until recently when I’ve been impressed with CSs from western Australia (blogged) and now this beauty from Limestone Ridge’s Coonawarra district. The famous red soil, overlaying limestone, is noted for its Cabernets which benefit from cloud cover and cooling breezes. This was a rich, black-fruit, silky mouthful with some attractive complexity. As Richard said, very enjoyable. Interestingly, Katnook Winery occupies the original sight of the area’s first commercial winery, started by James Riddoch in 1896.]

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