Over the last few years I’ve tried most of the big names in English sparkling wine – Chapel Down (quite often), Ridgeview, Three Choirs, Camel Valley – but never Nyetimber. This was remedied yesterday when we tried a bottle of the non-vintage. A powerful mousse led into an equally powerful aroma which was no different from any well made champagne. The full, rich taste had plenty of depth and length – this is not really an aperitif champagne – although it is certainly elegant. All three champagne grapes are used but the proportions are not revealed. Probably the best English sparking wine yet. This was a present but I think it came from Waitrose.
Many years ago I purchased three bottles of vintage Deutz, I think it was the ’95. They sat in John’s cellar for a while and eventually got drunk. In my memory it was one of the best champagnes I’ve ever had.
Thus I was pleased to see a bottle of the non-vintage in a mixed half dozen of ‘name champagnes’ offered by the WS at Christmas, especially as a small producer like Deutz is hard to find. Champagne growers often offer ‘assistance’ in December so I paid £147 for the six bottles, which is around £25 each. It is now selling at £38 which indicates the depth of the discount.
This was a lovely drink, an attractive mousse, well balanced (one third each chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot menuier), refined – lots of reserve wine, apparently, quite light. A great aperitif and a wine I’d buy next December, if available. However I think it is a little overpriced at £38.
We tried this a couple of days before a trip to Amsterdam (no Dutch wine seen), on the same evening as the Chinese wine, but I regret I can’t find the notes I took.
Anyway a red made by a renown gin producer. We’ve tried a few ‘amphorae’ wines before but this one made no claims, as far as could see, to be ‘natural’. I’ve been to the Luberon many times and – although I guessed southern French – this seemed to me to be rather attenuated for a wine from that region. indeed their (overly dramatic) website describes the nose as ‘subtle’. Grenache/Syrah but I didn’t’t get much sense of the latter.
It’s easy to think that grower champagne is a recent phenomenon – only in the last few years have the Wine Society been offering it in mixed cases – but I can recall driving through France thirty years ago, armed with an explanation of the bottle codes, looking for interesting bottles in hypermarkets not made by the big names. Then it was more hit and miss – and, as I recall, there weren’t many labelled RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) which is the code for grower producers – those that farm the vines and make their own wine, rather than selling the grapes on to a co-op or a grande marque. Part of the problem is volume with supermarkets looking for more bottles than most growers can produce. Even now English supermarkets sell hardly any grower champagne. Another issue is that some of the growers, like Agrapart, have become very popular and sell out.
This is all prompted by the purchase of some grower champagne from the WS, just before Christmas when champagne prices are always keen. We’ve blogged on one of these, now out of stock which illustrates the supply problem. Actually all of them have been very good, albeit in different styles. For example last night we tried the Laherte which is very unusual in the Pinot Meunier predominates (60%) in the blend, resulting in a rich, full-flavoured drink. Laherte also make a champagne using all seven allowable grape varieties which sounds interesting.
[Edit: just checked the bottle and the Laherte is actually an NM – Nêgociant-Manipulant, which usually describes bigger champagne houses who buy in some or all or their grapes. However the WS website gives the impression that Laherte only use grapes from their own vineyards. A mystery.]
[Further edit (email from TWS): the reason that the company is registered as a Negociant-Manipulant is due to the nature of the landholdings in the family and is a bureaucratic requirement. It seems that the members of the family, the brothers and their mother, each own a portion of the vines and the company Laherte Frères ‘purchases’ the grapes from the family members and therefore have to register as a producer who doesn’t own all its own vines. Apparently, if they were registering today they would be able to name themselves as SR (societé de récoltant), but that designation didn’t exist when they registered.]
Previously we opened the Benoit Lahaye which was 90% Pinot Noir and had a strong fresh acidity and was better on day 2.
Given the choice I will always prefer champagne (English and French versions) over cava, prosecco, sparkling wine and so on. If you agree then grower champagnes provide quality and style and at a cheaper price than that charged by the grande marques.
I tasted this (Chateau du Cedre 2009) blind with Geoff on Sunday. He’d decanted it and initially I thought the nose was rather cabernet like. Wrong. Intense purple/red colour and thus, I thought, a young wine – also wrong. The taste was pure and clean, black fruit, rather thin in the mouth and intensely tannic. Definitely a food wine. I suggested various French regions with little conviction which were also wrong. In fact a Cahors – 90% malbec, 5% merlot, 5% tannat – and a region I have little knowledge of. Nothing like an Argentinian malbec. After a while the wine started to lose elegance and was rather short and hollowed out. This was a present to Geoff but I’ve seen it listed in the UK for around £13.
[Geoff: I have to admit to a little disappointment with this wine. Its tannin I expected but not the way it faded into a rather ordinary drink. There is a better version, I believe, but this showed its lack of class IMO].
Completely unplanned but this Christmas we were mainly drinking Italian reds, as follows:
Chianti Riecine 2014, £18 from Tanners. The best chianti around under (and possibly over) £20. Rescued from the recycling, not drunk in the garden. Pure, delicious cherry fruit. I’m tempted to say linear but I’m not totally sure of what that means in a wine context. Blogged before and liked just as much.
Angehi Donnafugata 2012, £20 from Waitrose. Described by their own website a ‘a soft red with an international taste’, which would have put me off had I seen it before purchase. It’s merlot and CS, which I think explains what they mean. Not the least bit Italian but a lovely mature wine. Very drinkable.
Chianti Brolio 2013, also from Waitrose, about £22. Harder with less fruit than the Riecine so not as enjoyable and rather overpriced. You’d be better off with the chianti that Ricasoli make for Waitrose’s own label, at half the price.
This was a Christmas present from Geoff, sourced from MWW. Rather surprisingly I tried a different vintage (1991) about five years ago, as part of a mixed WS case of Italian reds. Very tarry/leathery on first taste – the wine is kept in barrels until a few months before bottling – but it soon comes round to deliver another easy-to-drink red yet with some complexity and depth. No DOCG classification because of the long barrel ageing.
Garagistes, meaning people who make wine in garages, or similar, were a phenomenon of the 1990s. Not seen so much now, although in Alsace we visited a couple of growers who would qualify. However after the recent post on old cava and this post – we can propose a new meaning, namely people who drink wine found in garages. This latest was a present from Liz. No one has any idea how long it had been stored among the garden furniture and the half empty tins of paint – like many people Liz doesn’t actually keep her car in the garage. Incidentally her garage is part of the house structure and thus has, I would think, a more stable temperature which has helped keep the wine in very good condition.
Nor has anyone any idea where the port came from or the cost, although a 2001 article in The Scotsman shows the 1987 as costing £16, from Oddbins. There is also a Cellartracker review of the same wine in the same year. So it’s probably been garaged for at least ten years. Not a make I’ve ever seen before. There is some (conflicting) information on the net but it seems to be grapes selected by de Zellaer (who he?) and vinified by someone else.
After all that, a medium weight vintage port, very smooth, light red, fruity nose, rather one dimensional but very drinkable.