Friends round for a meal last night and, by coincidence, we tried two red wines from the 2009 vintage.
Muga is one of my favourite Riojas and this (Muga Seleccion Especial 2009) didn’t disappoint. Mature with ‘old school’ Rioja characteristics, like tar and leather with a lean savouriness. Very good and seemingly much better than the 2004 Selection Especial blogged earlier in the year.
The other wine was a claret, the Ch. Sociando Mallet 2009. Many years ago when I bought claret en primeur this was one of the standout purchases, reckoned to be of fourth or fifth growth quality at a lower price – ‘the Latour of the Northern Medoc’. Now it’s much more expensive but I found (in 2012) a half case at Tesco online for about £32 a bottle. This was decanted, unlike the Muga. As expected this was not quite mature (Rioja tends to be released only when mature) but was still very drinkable, despite the owner wanting to make a long-lived wine. Firm, weighty, minerally, still some tannin and just as unmistakeably Bordeaux as the Muga was Rioja.
The wines from this premier cru vineyard are described by Clive Coates as ‘rather foursquare’ and lacking the elegance found in other Volnay wines. Other critics, in 2016, have stated how it needs some development. I’d be blunter and say this wine was not overly enjoyable.
Decanted 40 minutes previous to tasting, the brown rim and medium intense colour pointed to age and a cooler climate. The overwhelming vanilla aromas masked the slightly past-its-best smell (Richard called it ‘vegetal’ and ‘leaf mould’) which was not appealing to me. I did not pick Pinot Noir at all.
The taste was dry, long and cherry-like with high acidity but it wasn’t a generous wine at all and, to be frank, disappointing.
Evidently, 2006 produced patchy wines in Burgundy and this was certainly proof of that opinion.
[Richard: a poor wine lacking any redeeming characteristics. No improvement over the evening. I placed a negative review on TWS website (not published because the wine is no longer stocked) and received an emollient reply, suggesting that the wine is out of it’s drinking window (2011-16) and had lost the ‘charm of youth’. This is doubtful in my view, not least because a similar wine from the same maker and vintage was much better. I’m reminded of a phrase an old friend uses when we ‘enjoy’ a similar experience – ‘another disappointing Burgundy’.]
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.
A few years ago Geoff and I attended a wine tasting in Lichfield arranged by Worth brothers, the Lichfield wine merchant, mentioned here. We weren’t much impressed with the wines but did like a Corbieres – Chateau D’Aussières. The blog mentions a 2007 but this was a 2008. I bought it in 2011. Not sure of the price as the WS records don’t go back that far. Not sure also as to why I hung on to this for so long since we thought the 2007 was very drinkable two years ago. Anyway a mature spicy red with lots of forward fruit flavour but not much excitement or complexity, despite it being a GSM blend plus carignan.
I have just spent four days in the Loire wine region of France with five fellow wine-educators, three of whom are currently studying for their Master of Wine exams. We visited seven wine makers who gave us tours of the vineyards and wine-making facilities as well as arranging tastings of their wines. We tasted about thirty wines per day and asked technical questions about the wines.
It was my maiden AWE trip; my thoughts are below.
When tasting for commercial reasons, it must be difficult for a wine buyer to remain objective and not ‘go native’. In a cellar, in front of an enthusiastic grower and trying the twelfth Cabernet Franc of that morning, the wine can taste and smell wonderful. “It’s so much richer than Cabernet number three, not as mineral as number one because it is grown in clay, hand harvested and kept in oak for twelve months”. However, will all this be experienced by Mr Jones taking it from the shelf at Asda on a Friday night? Probably not. How do buyers (and I’ve never bought commercially) remain ‘end-user focussed’?
The enthusiasm – not to mention their generosity – of wine growers is contagious. Proud of their produce and eager to share knowledge with an interested audience, small vineyard owners must be the hardest workers in the wine business. Their tasks are endless, very repetitive and often physically demanding. We’ve got the easy job – drinking it and then writing and talking about it.
There seems to be a lot of wine sold direct to the public who live close to vineyards. That would make a great study for a budding MW’s dissertation “Compare and contrast the local sales profile of vineyards?” The Parisian on-trade got mentioned a few times but all the vineyards had payment and collection facilities for customers. Are there any local wine shops in wine regions? Why would someone go to a wine shop rather than the vineyard to buy their wine?
Lastly, what’s in it for the growers? Why spend time, money and resource on putting on tastings for wine educators? There were a few times when I felt guilty about not buying some wine after the time spent on us by a grower. Maybe it’s just my naivety of the whole experience but I wondered what the grower’s private response was as they saw the minibus pull out off their premises without a few cases of their produce.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed the experience and would jump at doing it again.
Another interesting wine from Richard’s Italian case. This time from Puglia – the ‘heel’ – a region that contributes most wine to Italy’s production (17%); the majority, over 80%, being red. Its largely flat landscape means that the cooling sea winds on three sides of the region are very important as are the techniques to help protect the grapes from the direct sunshine. The grape Nero di Troia, previously Uva di Troia, has no link to the legendary city but refers to a Puglian village of the same name. It makes an early maturing wine of high tannins and is often blended.
The wine was from the makers Rasciatano, from the 2011 vintage, and had the IGT Puglia designation. The colour indicated the early-maturing trait being distinctly brick red on the rim with an intense red core. The Italian giveaway to me was the sour cherry nose (I posed Sangiovese and Nebbiolo first) which was then confirmed on the palate. Tannins and acidity were nicely in balance, there was a slightly graphite initial taste but the wine ended long and dry. Definitely a wine to enjoy with strong flavoured foods, this was another good wine on our Italian trip.
[Richard: another good one from TWS (£21). Lots of fruit married with some complexity made for an enjoyable, if slightly overpriced, drink.]
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.]