Tag Archives: chardonnay

A myth in the making?

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Vin Cognito is an on-line wine supplier who can both supply good quality wines and, nearly as important, write about them in an engaging way. But you have got to be in the mood to sit and read the cleverly crafted screed. The essay that accompanied Decelle Villa’s Bourgogne 2014 re-worked Jason and Golden Fleece fable, i.e. initial disappointment followed by a wonderful, last minute find of white Burgundy at a (just about) affordable price. And it was good, as we found on Sunday night.

A weighty-looking green with hints of lemon, the wine proclaimed youth – and body – but it was an initially shy youth. It started to come out 15 minutes after being poured (needed decanting, I thought) and started to reveal some very classy notes of lemon zest with a slightly creamy (oak?) aroma. This, to me, smelt of a quality white Burgundy – lovely. The flavour was intense, long and dry. All fresh lemons backed up with green hazelnuts, this wine was “not a sipper”, it needed food, the flavours were so intense. I thought it still had plenty of development to come and Richard later decanted it – but he can write about that. It was a very good for an entry level Burgundy

One small statement in Vincognito’s thesis about the wine was worth noting. They said of the producers Decelle Villa,  “Well, here’s a producer whose wines defy that logic, at least for the time being, while they are making a name for themselves.” A touch of realism in the myth-making, perhaps?

[Richard: we’ve blogged on wines from Vin Cognito before and they are a reliable supplier, especially if you want something different. I purchased a couple of bottles of the above after getting an email saying how good the wines were, limited quantity, hurry, hurry, hurry, etc. Experience with The WS has taught me that such emails can often be a little over-enthusiastic  – but not in this case. A classy wine which improved with decanting becoming rounded and creamier, as you would expect. Worth keeping the other bottle for a couple of years, I think.]

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A delicate Aussie?

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This wine exudes power – its most significant characteristic. Kooyong chardonnay 2016 from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia is made from grapes grown on sandstone and ironstone, as the website states “adding a characteristic firmness and masculinity to structure already present”. Sand, loam and clay are also present in varying quantities and the wine certainly reflected this complexity. It wasn’t all Aussie machismo. It was very enjoyable – a good find by Richard.

Pale lemon green in colour with medium viscosity, there was a delicate, floral note to the understated nose which took a while to open up and reveal some typical match-stick notes. The ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ analogy was exhibited on the long, dry palate which showed after some initial fruit sweetness. Then the power was turned on – intense, focussed and battery-charged for a long drinking window which will show more pleasing complexities. The wine had no hint of the fat buttery notes of the out of condition old-style Oz chardonnays. It was really enjoyable.

[Richard, from TWS as part of a mixed red/white Mornington case. Geoff deduced the location once he realised it was a New World wine. A very classy wine with some Burgundian overtones.]

 

 

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Two oldies – no, not us – the wines

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The Wine Society had recently made available some 1994 Argentinian Malbecs from Weinart, a traditional producer based in Mendoza.  Richard and I tasted some on Friday evening. The wine had been decanted.

The colour was an intense ruby with a brick-tinged rim and some viscosity. The dominant aromas were plum, vanilla and tertiary notes of licquorice. There was both acidity and a slight spirit smell. The palate was repeat of the above with the addition of spiciness and some alcohol heat.

WS’s claim of complexity was interesting – we must have been missing something. To be fair, the sellers did claim the drinking window to be in 2019 so it might be still too young which may account for the presence of alcohol. In other words the wine may not have ‘settled down’ yet. However, 23 years is a long time and I would have thought that some more interesting notes might be beginning to show.

I’m wary of old red wines that have been ‘unearthed’ by buyers. Some of them taste just what they are – old red wines. Not all wines age graciously – or indeed gain more layers of flavour – we both hope this isn’t one of those.

[Richard: I bought 6 of these, en primeur, on a whim having failed to spot the 15.1% alcohol. The WS say ‘can be drunk soon after bottling’ and also ‘drink from 2019’ which is rather contradictory since the wine must have been bottled about three months ago. As Geoff says, the WS claim ‘remarkable complexity’ which passed me by. Nor can I see that holding it for another 15 months will make much difference. Come back next year…]

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Talking of older wines improving – or not, as the case may be – I grabbed two bottles of Cluver Elgin chardonnay 2011 from a basket of discontinued wines at Vin Neuf in Stratford. These were a bargain and had improved.

Very bright, intense, deep lemon in colour, the aromas of lime, sweet melon and pineapple were fabulous. This was New World chardonnay at its best – rich tropical fruits balanced by acidity for the freshness with a little vanilla cream providing the bass notes.

I’ve the other bottle left, I don’t think there’ll be any more. What a pity.

[Richard: quite a while since I’ve tried a non-French chardonnay and this was a good one. Tropical but not too tropical.]

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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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ABC – Argentinian best Chardonnay?

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This was Zaha’s 2015 Chardonnay made in Mendoza, Argentina. Made from vines grown at 1200 metres, the wine is sold by the Wine Society, who, amongst other descriptions, describe it as ‘taut’. The cost is £20 which puts it into the white Burgundy price bracket.

A pronounced green colour suggested acidity but the viscosity also hinted at richness. There was a very slight smokiness on the nose which smelt predominately of stone fruits. (R. thought there was burnt match smell, possibly a sign of reduction). The big mouth feel was attractive as was its richness, dryness and the expected acidity. It didn’t shout Chardonnay to me – not that it needed to – but it was a good wine, nevertheless.

If I was pushed to liken it to a classic Burgundy it was certainly more southern but not as broad as the Maconnais wines. Another good wine on this weekend of good wines.

[Richard: I thought this was very good. £20 for a South American chardonnay might seem ambitious but, as Geoff has implied, it compared well to a Burgundian equivalent.]

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Fifth out of six.

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The numbers reference the fifth bottle out of a case of six white Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Burgundies Richard purchased “as a single man” (his words). We’ve blogged them all and Sunday was the turn of  Les Combettes, a premier cru vineyard abutting the Meursault AC. The vintage was 2011.

A pronounced yellow, with a green  tinge, in appearance, the wine showed some languid viscosity in the glass as it swirled. A nose of fresh lemons was the initial hit but the longer it sat the more smokiness came through. The palate was of medium weight, long, rich with a beguiling aftertaste of honeysuckle and fresh green hazelnuts. These wonderful flavours started coming through after about fifteen minutes sitting in a broad bowled glass; the warmish late-afternoon temperature certainly helped. A refined wine, certainly.

Burgundy’s high prices are well documented and this premier cru wine certainly was expensive. In a restaurant I suppose we may not begrudge spending £50+ for a really good wine but that is certainly a top price in the retail market, in my opinion. Our discussion spun around ‘value for money’ of these wines and whether the demand has put these excellent wines out of range of many wine lovers’ budgets. My estimation of this wine’s true price (if there is such a thing) would be about £35. That’s not denying its undoubted quality but “too much money is chasing too little product”.

[Richard: wines like this are the equivalent of what, in the sightseeing context, has been described as ‘worth seeing but not worth going to see’. I’m certainly glad to have tried top quality white burgundy – and prices are even more expensive now – but I can’t see I’d ever buy another bottle of premier cru. From the nose through to the taste this was clearly a very classy wine which Geoff had no trouble identifying. For me there was rather too much richness and not enough acidity although the many and varied smells and tastes made it a very enjoyable ‘vino da meditazione’, as the Italians put it.]

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Le Matchstick (the French have a word for it).

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A (man made), flinty aroma of freshly struck matches is, for me, the most instantly recognisable wine smell. As ever, Jancis Robinson explains it well. She quotes an Australian producer, ”over the last three to five years or longer we have seen winemakers of high-end Chardonnay actively seeking to emulate the reductive “struck match” characters found in so many Burgundian whites including Domaines Leflaive and Coche Dury.”

And so it was with this wine. Pronounced struck match nose which followed through onto the taste, a rich mouth feel, lots of tropical fruit flavour but slightly too sweet for me. I had no hesitation in identifying New World chardonnay, which was correct, from Australia, which wasn’t. In fact it was a 2015 New Zealand  from Dog Point, a wine I’ve tasted before, although I don’t remember it as being so sweet.

[Geoff: I have to admit looking forward to this wine because of my liking for well-made chardonnays. Only a few days before I enjoyed an excellent Newton Johnson chardonnay from South Africa; the Dog Point, I assumed, would be at least as good. Richard’s notes sum up my experiences, everything spot on until it came to the finish which was sweet and seemingly out of balance with the relieving acidity. Can’t help but think the Marlborough region must have been very sunny and/or hot that year. Even a spell in the fridge couldn’t up the acidity notes and Claire, my wife, remarked on the sweetness. I recall  having the same issue recently with a Pinot Gris from Kumeu River, so much so I returned it. What a pity! Got another bottle to go.]

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