Rioja, pronounced Ree – oaker

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This is another notable area from whence are emanating a lot of average wines, at the moment. Some producers seem to be mixing up the two words ‘old’ and ‘quality’, even inferring they are synonymous in meaning. They aren’t. (btw have you tried Faustino I Gran Reserva 2005 – available from Tescos and Asda? And you can get the 1996 from Amazon. There’s much of it around, obviously).

Anyway, we tried the much less flaunted Contino Reserva 2007 – another old rioja. But this was different, it was good. Dense in colour with a slight brick rim and with the vanilla/coconut aromas which told of oak maturation. However, there was a delicate fresh red fruit aroma with higher acidic notes balancing out the older notes. The palate was dry and long with super freshness – an old wine but made yesterday.

Now that’s how I like my rioja.

[Richard: Geoff had lent me the latest issue of Decanter and flicking through  I noticed that Tim Atkin had complied a list of his favourite Rioja producers. Contino was one of these and it’s a maker I also like and one we’ve blogged on three times, though not this vintage. This bottle came from a half case purchased in 2011 for about £22. Not the best year – quite a cold winter, in Spanish terms, which meant the wine has stayed fresh – see Geoff’s comments above. I liked it a lot – not super old school like López de Heredia – and probably all the better for that, having both fruit and savour.]

 

 

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We’re really trying.

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It must appear to our reader that we’re waging a two-man campaign against Chateauneuf du Pape. On this site and on the Wine Society web-site we have both posted negative comments and, to be fair, others have done the same. To possibly right a wrong (and before we are banned from the southern Rhone region of France), Richard smuggled in a decanter of 2006 Raymond Usseglio’s offering. It had been decanted on Friday – so it had 48 hours breathing time. I was tasting it blind.

The appearance was a dense and slightly opaque black core with a brick rim and evidence of viscosity. The aromas were an intriguing mix of meat, soy sauce (really strong, for me) but not much fruit was in evidence. There were black fruits on the palate, light/medium tannins and evidence of oxidisation.

So, it was a twelve year old wine which needed double decanting and 48 hours to become approachable. That tells of some power to be dissipated but if you like your wines big, beefy and bold CNdP is the wine for you. It was a blend of 80% grenache, the remaining 20% divided between mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and counoise.

[Richard; a second bottle of this wine and vintage – Geoff missed out on the first one. From Big Red Wine Co, about £22. Not a ‘great’ vintage – too cold and wet, which probably worked to our advantage as the wines would be, you’d expect, lighter and fresher. But this is CdP so those are relative terms. Certainly not as ‘porty’ as a 2005 Usseglio I really disliked but still big, heavy and powerful, even after a long decant. As with the previous bottle I could find qualities to admire but I didn’t finish the bottle and I’d be surprised if I ever drink another CdP, once I’ve finished off the 3-4 left in the cellar.]

 

 

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It’s Riesling, Jim…

Completely fooled by this one (Jurtschitsch 2014). Beautiful appearance, bright lemon green with plenty of viscosity. Slight reduction on the nose and I thought it might be a chardonnay. Great mouth feel, heavy, dense with a lot of power. Lots of fruit and very long. In fact an Austrian riesling, a combination never before tasted. Perhaps lacking the grape typicity of a riesling from Alsace. Delicious and very drinkable. One I’d look out for but it’s not listed on their website and I can’t see any UK stockists.

[Geoff: This was purchased from Tanners in Shrewsbury on the recommendation of a member of staff who knew I liked a richer style of white wine. I’m pleased I took his advice and wish I’d bought more as I think Tanners are out of stock. The price was about £17, great value.  It improved through the evening with the vague notes of kerosene becoming more obvious. It’s from the Kamptal region, north Austria where the grapes benefit from warm days and cool nights thereby producing a balance of richness and fresh acidity. I can’t find any stockist either. Back to Tanners to see if there is any left.]

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Hegarty Chamans ‘Les Nonnes’ 2013

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I can’t remember having ever tried a white Minervois before last Sunday. That’s not surprising because only 3% of the production is white (85% is red, before you ask). The Hegarty Chamans vineyard is in the north-west of the Languedoc, high in the foothills of the Montagne Noire. Generally speaking, the higher the vineyard the better quality the wine; the lower, flatter Minervois vineyards produce that lower shelf, flatter red wine that can be found in French supermarkets. This generality was certainly proven with this 14% beauty from Vin Cognito (15.95).

Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Clairette (40/40/20%) is the blend, the colour beings solely yellow rather than green-tinged, possibly indicating a hot climate and lack of acidity. This was followed through on the complicated nose which told of stone fruits particularly apricot, burnt honey and some honeysuckle. Gradual exposure produced more aromas – fascinating. The palate was big mouthful of flavour, dry, long and rich rescued by some acidity. Again, there was a slight caramel note which Richard picked up.

I’ve tried whites with these same full-on characteristics, notably Costers de Segre from Spain; they are wonderful kaleidoscopes of flavours with some power behind them. Great.

[Richard: a classy wine, well worth the asking price, which went well with some prosciutto wrapped haddock and romesco sauce. Lots going on, in a harmonious way. A pleasure to drink.]

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Ending in o…

I was listening to a podcast the other day about a dictionary maker who had a reverse word index. Every headword – 315,000 of them, was spelt in reverse on the card. Want to know how many grape names end in ‘o’? Simple.

That was pre-computers, of course. Now it is much easier, especially if you have the ebook version of The Big Book of Grapes – we don’t. Anyway, if you are struggling to think of any, here are a couple, neither of which I could identify.

This was the first – susumaniello (little donkey), from the Salento region of Puglia, in Italy. Open 24h it had a faint note of vanilla which soon faded, a rather raw, green and spicy taste with a hint of sour cherry. Quite attractive, if not especially distinctive.

The second was a grape we have previously tasted – Geoff thought we had actually tried this bottle before – but I can’t recall it and it wasn’t blogged, although we tried a wine with the same grape from the region in 2016.  This is aghiorghitiko, by Skouras in Nemea, Greece. Pale ‘pinot’ red in appearance, some vanilla and raspberry on the nose, a fresh taste, rather short and uncomplicated but drinkable. Quite different to the wine tried two years ago.

[Geoff: the Susamaniello was better the first day and suited Saturday night’s flavourful pizzas. Quite lean, light and refreshing, made from a grape I’d never heard of. The Greek wine was not a million miles away in flavour  from the Puglian, not surprising really, given their location.]

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A wine critic’s wine

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I remember reading somewhere about a car which was described as ‘a car driver’s car’. An intriguing quote and one easy to add to with some sarcastic remark. Well, I’ve borrowed this quote to highlight Jancis Robinson’s remarks about Sunday’s wine – from Ribeiro, north Spain – Teira X 2015. It is made from a blend of four Iberian grapes, all vinified separately then blended, Treixadura, Alvilla, Loureira and Albarino.

Our notes mentioned the unctuous appearance (Richard – “gloopy”) and bright lemon, slightly green colours. It was difficult to get much varietal character from the nose (the usual issue with blends) apart from ripe melons, fresh greenness but low acidity. The intense palate was long, dry and complex with a good blend of the rich and the balancing acidity. It was, in Richard’s words, “made with care”. But, for me, there was a distinct lack of any hallmark flavour, nothing on which to hang my hat and say “Aaah, you can’t beat the distinctive flavour of…’

Jancis Robinson said of this wine: ”I am left wondering what more one could ask for in a wine, after tasting this.” Can I suggest a bit of character, Jancis?

From our friends Vin Cognito, again, or rather their Sutton branch at Richard’s house.

[Richard: I think we would probably have enjoyed this more on a warm August evening, perhaps with food, rather than a chilly, snowy January. As I think back to last night I’m struggling to remember the wine – no notes taken – so it didn’t make much impression. However, I’ve vacuum sealed the rest of the bottle to retaste on Thursday.]

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Big and Beefy

Another week, another claret. This time it was a 2011 from Chevalier de Lascombes, the second wine of Chateau Lascombes, a Bordeaux second growth in the 1855 classification. The Chateau blend is roughly 50/50 cabernet sauvignon and merlot whereas the Chevalier has more merlot, though I couldn’t discover how much. Certainly there weren’t any typical CS characteristics. Dark red, brown rim, sweet fruit nose, lots of tannin still, plenty of black fruit as well with a slight tarry note. Because of all the fruit I at first thought it was New World. A nice drink but one without much subtlety, even when decanted.

[Geoff: Ch. Lascombe’s history is chequered, to say the least. I won’t bore our reader with the details but there has been much grubbing up and replanting of vines due to the wrong vines being in the wrong soil. As a result the clay-loving Merlot proportion of plantings has increased. This wine’s heft surprised me – it’s not something I associate with claret. It does suggest that there’s some way to go before maturity but the Merlot proportion would mitigate against that (brown rim?). A good wine if you like your wines full on. I think it was from Lidl.]

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