Grape cocktail

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Le Soula 2010 is a white wine from Cotes Catalanes, the eastern end of the Pyrenees, inland from Perpignan. A hot, dry climate means that white wines can sometimes lack the freshness – and longevity – that acidity brings. The vines for this wine are grown in vineyards 320 – 535 metres high (it’s cooler higher up) and on poor soils so the vines’ roots have to search hard for water; less water content in the berries means lower yields and more flavour.

There is a mix of six different grape varieties in the blend: Macabeo (59%), Sauvignon (18%) and Grenache Blanc (13%) dominate; Chardonnay (6%), Malvoisie (3%) and Vermentino (1%) also play a part. That’s quite a blending operation which, when added to 21 months in oak barrels, shows a fair attention to quality by the producer Gabriel Gauby.

Our notes mention its deep, lemon/gold colour, indicating some ageing, and medium levels of viscosity. The low acidity showed through on the nose where the predominant smell was of bruised apples rather than fresh picked fruit. We could see why, on the nose, it may be (mistakenly) considered oxidised. The gentle acidity showed on the palate which was dry, of medium length and characterised by stone fruit and minerality (Richard). The alcohol was in balance.

This was another good southern French white, our third in recent tastings, which would match strongly flavoured white meats. We had it with tinned octopus pieces,

[Richard: from Waitrose Cellar Online, £28. As Geoff says another classy white from southern France. Ready to drink and it might have been better decanted as it continued to develop over the evening. Interesting that this winemaker can make comparatively (13.5%) low alcohol wines with plenty of flavour, something those in the Rhone claim climate change makes impossible.]

 

 

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Syrah Primer

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On Monday, R & I attended a WS tasting in Leicester devoted to two grape varieties – Riesling and Syrah. Richard thought that it would be a perfect preparation to prime our palates with a Gimblett Gravels NZ Syrah from Craggy Range. This was Le Sol 2009 and cost £38; I tasted it blind.

The colour was an intense ruby red and it showed some viscosity but not overmuch. The nose, initially an alluring menthol, was dominated by black fruits but, surprisingly, no pepper notes which steered me away from Syrah. The flavour of very ripe cherries was long; it had a great depth with well-integrated tannins and some fresh acidity which lifted the wine. A very enjoyable wine which surprised me with its fuller style – a contrast to the lighter style of NZ Syrah recently tasted.

The age of this wine certainly contributed to our enjoyment unlike the WS Syrahs at the tasting many of which I thought were much too young. They needed decanting to take away some of their raw edges but, credit to the WS for putting on an interesting niche tasting.

[Richard: as you can see from the label I took this out of the rack many times, wondering if it was ready (purchased 2012 from the WS). Finally it was and it proved a useful reference to the wines tasted on Monday – better than all except a 1989, £220 Hermitage. Very well made, classy and easy to drink.]

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Gaillard and daughter

This wine (Gaillard’s Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2015) was tasted blind. Had a nose which reminded me of riesling, then chardonnay – it was neither. Rather short, rather lacking in fruit – I think it had been open some time –  but it developed well in the glass and became an attractive drink. I eventually figured out it was a Rhone white but I find it hard to distinguish the grapes, apart from viognier so couldn’t get any further. Perhaps I should have done since we tasted another, different,  Rhone white only seven days ago.
The name on the bottle reminded me of a Cote Rotie (not blogged) by a maker with the same surname. This turns out to be the father of Jeanne Gaillard.

[Geoff: I liked this wine which I bought from Vin Neuf in Stratford (cost circa £10). Just off the main street, this independent shop is well worth a visit for its range of wines and the knowledge of James, the owner.

I think the wine needed time to open out into the full style of stone fruits and low acidity which are the hallmarks of the wines of the grape from this area. It was an interesting follow up to the St Peray, not quite as classy but excellent value.]

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The wine from hell

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Inferno, the Italian word for hell, is a sub-region of the dramatic Valtellina region in the north of Piedmont, close by the Swiss border. A look on the Internet will reveal just how dramatic this small wine producing region is. Steep slopes (necessitating hand-harvesting), terracing and kilometres of stone walls are the oenological facts of life in this region. Inferno is the warmest part of the Valtellina (hence the name) but the south-facing slopes enjoy a huge diurnal temperature range, giving both ripeness of fruit and delicate acidity levels. The dominant grape (min. 90%) for this DOCG is the Chivanesca, AKA Nebbiolo.

Inferno DOCG, Valtellina Superiore 2013 (13.5%) is an impressive wine. Richard purchased it as part of a mixed Italian case and if the others are as good – and as interesting – as this he should be well-pleased with the WS. (Will he admit it, though?). Very light red in colour with a slight brick rim and a nose slow to develop, it rather underplayed itself at the start. However, the typical Italian cherry-tartness flavour was polished and stylish with very delicate floral notes. What was remarkable was the lack of obtrusive tannins that young Barolos (same grape) have; it was as if a 40 year old Barolo had aged in four years.

A new one for me, I’ve not tasted a Valtellina before. Really interesting, well worth trying – I’m looking forward to the others!

[Richard: I wasn’t quite so keen as Geoff. Certainly an interesting expression of the nebbiolo grape which developed over the evening but I felt the whole thing was rather too delicate, especially at £19.50.]

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Unmistakeable

Probably the most reliable indicator for spotting a particular grape is white pepper on the nose and taste. This invariably means syrah.

Given the taste and appearance I felt confident that this was a syrah from the Old World, that is France, Rhone valley. Right, wrong and wrong. In fact from the Gimblett Gravels region in New Zealand. Not a style I know very well but this was certainly an excellent example, being light and youthful in appearance, lean and savoury on the palate.

[Geoff: This was a purchase from a recently discovered wine shop in Ledbury called Hay Wines. Just over £10, it had all the characteristics of a gentler Northern Rhone syrah with bags of refreshing flavours and weighing in at a lightweight 12.5% ABV. Ideal for us oldies and rather nostalgic as this is the alcohol level we grew up with. A lunchtime syrah, no less. It was the first of two good wines this Sunday]

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“Touched by class”

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These were the words used by my drinking chum to describe this wine and – I echo those sentiments. I tasted this blind and it was a very enjoyable experience. St. Peray, the small, southernmost AC of the northern Rhone region, only produces white wines – still and sparkling – by using various combinations of the Marsanne and Roussane grapes. Pre-phylloxera, this area was famous for sparkling wines (a tipple of Napolean, no less) but had declined to circa 50 hectares before building back to around 70.

The Domaine de Tunnel by Stephane Robert 2011 can be bought from the WS for £22 and is worth it. Clear, lemon yellow in the glass, there is a heavier look to the wine (13.5%) which suggests some richness. The lemon aroma is present but mixed with subtle floral notes and the stone fruits so redolent of the Rhone white grapes. I did not get any smell of oak – the fruit shone through. The palate was dry, spicy and long with an almond quality. There was some refreshing acidity but the impression that lingered was one of understated power and a very slight – and very attractive – fruity sweetness.

This was a quality wine that is in one of my favourite styles. Very enjoyable indeed.

[Richard: from a mixed case of Rhone whites. Hope they are all as good as this.]

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Right place, wrong grape

This wine had a grassy nose I felt sure was cabernet franc from the Loire. It wasn’t. The taste was silky and textured but I couldn’t get a distinctive grape. I was pretty sure it was New World/Australian but couldn’t get any closer – my knowledge of Australian wine regions is rudimentary at best.

In fact a cabernet sauvignon but one which, for me, lacked classic CS characteristics. Good wine though – recommended. The M&S webpage (£90 for 6) says there is 20% Merlot which may account for my puzzlement.

[Geoff: I bought this because of the reputation of the Margaret River area for Bordeaux blends. I wasn’t disappointed and expected the forward-fruity style. What was attractive to me was the edge of unripeness/herbaceousness (Richard’s “grassy”) that saved it becoming too plump and sweet (my issue for with Oz wines). A good wine, well made and easy to drink – if a little lacking in complexity.

Aah, the search for complexity – the curse of the wine buff.]

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