One family have managed and owned this vineyard since two years before the French Revolution which, considering the French laws of inheritance, is a feat in itself. Situated in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, south of the Loire below Angers, this is a wine well-known for its sweetness and, surprisingly Richard liked it!
The Chenin Blanc grapes are harvested early (20%) for acidity, the balance being picked when the grapes have developed sweetness and it this superb balance of the sugars and acids which makes the wine so attractive. The wine is kept – in bottle – for 10 years before release thereby maintaining freshness as it slowly matures over the long period. The result – a beautifully balanced wine of 14% ABV which is a delight to drink.
Colour? Think Lucozade, deep orange, but bright as a button and with minimal viscosity.
Aromas? Slightly oxidised, slightly toffee, not particularly complex.
Taste? Sweet honey, long, acidity for freshness, light weight and relatively simple, beautifully made.
Absolutely superb with the salty andsweet Dolcellate which brings out its richness. Not so good with salty Roquefort as it makes the cheese appear acidic.
Great experience. A dessert island wine.
[Richard: from the WS, £30, not unreasonable for a 34 year old wine. Sold out unfortunately. Can’t add to Geoff’s comments except to emphasise that the wine really comes to life with a blue cheese. There is still plenty left so I’ll try with another variety next time.]
I’ve never liked pinotage and it’s rare I find a bottle of gewurtztraminer enjoyable – some tasted in Alsace were exceptions. But there is another – a grape I actually like but rarely think of when blind tasting. That is semillon, a grape often used in blends, less often seen on its own. I can only think of one bottle I’ve ever bought.
Thus I had a job identifying last night’s wine, even though Geoff spoke highly of it and I know he likes the style. A bright Rose’s lime cordial colour with lime on the nose, viscous/oily in the glass, high acidity, rich but rather short – although it had been open 24 hours. I got as far as New World but no further.
In fact we’ve tasted this wine before when we weren’t greatly impressed. I had no idea then, either. This was better no doubt due to the extra 2.5 years in bottle.
[Geoff: This was unrecognisable from the previous tasting, the downsides of drinking too early. I’m really impressed with this grape’s style but it does need bottle age to develop. Have ordered a few recently, so will no doubt blog more. Rather pleased that R. enjoyed its full but not quite bone-dry style. Flavours I picked up were ginger, lime, peach and beeswax. Tesco’s supply but no more around, alas, but WS have just advertised the 09 vintage.]
Richard and I visited Alsace in 2012, staying in Colmar and touring round the wine districts. We visited Domaine Schoffit and became acquainted with the family (brother and sister) who own the Clos St Theobald site in Rangen (pictured). Bernard Schoffit (their father) cleared the site some 30 years ago and started planting vines on the steep slopes, Pinot Gris at the top, Riesling in the middle with Gewurztraminer at the base. Rangen has now become a famous white wine site, the wines are in much demand, commanding prices of £40 upwards – Bernard Schoffit obviously saw the potential.
Schoffit’s Rangen Clos St Theobald 2011 was what we tried on Sunday. Richard had purchased it in Alsace (he thinks just one bottle, but you never know, there could be more squirrelled away) so it was good to check on the progress. Btw it’s a whopping 15% ABV.
Colour: pale green, minimal legs. Nose: a very much restrained citrus, very slightly perfumed, austere and no hint of the typical kerosene smell. Palate: very weighty, richer citrus, but much too alcoholic which dominated the taste so all subtle flavours were lost. This wine is too young and needs at least another five years to start showing at its best. It’s a pity that it didn’t stay under the bed/in the sock drawer/at the bottom of the wardrobe a little longer.
[Richard: researching the visit to Alsace I came across this sentence, ‘if I were forced to select one wine to drink the rest of my life, it would very well be Riesling Grand Cru Rangen Clos Saint-Théobald…’, so when we realised that Schoffit was only a few minutes drive away from our apartment we had to visit. I bought a bottle – possibly more – of this wine. Can’t remember the price and it is not available in the UK. A shipment for Russia was being readied when we were there. It wouldn’t be my desert island wine being slightly too sweet for me, not to mention too alcoholic. It was more typical when first opened – Geoff tried it 24h on – but, as you might guess from the just-about-legal bottle shape, Schoffit is nor a typical Alsace producer. Ultimately disappointing and if I do find another bottle I hang on to it for a while. Edit: found two more, Geoff has taken one off my hands.]
Last Saturday I had the very great pleasure of opening a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2012 from Roland Rapet. M & S were selling them off relatively cheaply and I had bought some in a mix with other Burgundies and some claret. When M & S do this there are bargains to be had because they also throw in 25% discount for 6 wines; this cost about £15.
PV is a village west of Aloxe-Corton and thus one of the most northern of the Cote de Beaune. It produces both red and white wines and represents good value for money – if that epithet can be applied to Burgundy wines at the moment. However, speaking personally, I’d rather have one of these bottles than two wines of average quality.
The colour was pale yellow, very slightly green, beautifully clear with some viscosity showing. The complex smell was lemon and quince, pungent, concentrated and slightly smokey. The abiding impression from the palate was one of power. The very long dry finish came after the lemon/lime mid-palate and a rich quality that was balanced by the acidity. Freshness, finesse and full of flavour were all the ‘fs’ I could think.
The white Burgundy characteristic I struggle with is ‘hazelnuts’. I could never apply it to Burgundy I had drunk – until I bought and tried some green hazelnuts (cobnuts). And there it was, that Burgundy note. So, roasted hazelnuts are not applicable but fresh nuts are. The PV had this quality. A superb wine from a good vintage.
The second wine of our retro-Friday was the Trimbach Clos Ste Hune 2005 vintage (12.5%). Most of the literature I’ve read state that this wine is the pinnacle of Alsace Reisling. Who are we, mere oenological foot-soldiers, to argue with that? Stunning it was. And surprisingly, not obviously Riesling in style. Or, more likely, all previous Riesling tastings were banally typical compared with this. (All the background info. can be seen on the previous blog).
Looks: lemon yellow colour, beautifully clear and bright with some viscosity.
Bouquet: lemon freshness but not overtly so, a strong whiff of waxy flowers. I thought jasmine but also quite a ripe melon note. No petrol, which was a surprise and would have been a giveaway. Very slight honeyed edge.
Taste: very long, acidity balance, powerful but restrained, dry but again with slight richness, weighty. A wine to sip and roll round your mouth.
Re-reading the above I feel I don’t do this wine justice as other tasting notes (and there are a lot) list so many smells and tastes as to cover a flower and fruit market on a hot Saturday. My offerings seem so curt as to be rude. I need to brush up on my descriptions. However, this was a wonderful wine, balanced, powerful and obviously with a very long life in front of it (Well, not this bottle, but you know what I mean). Richard, the last one, I believe?
[Richard: still four left, from three different vintages. I can’t help but think we drank this too young but it was still wonderful. Objectively, even subjectively – it’s overpriced but that doesn’t take into account the rarity and the demand.]
Like Odysseus, we return to Greece after travels around other wine regions. And back to our old comrade Assyrtiko, the white grape grown on Santorini. The more I read about this island and its wines the more I’m fascinated by what the vineyard owners have to do in a difficult environment. The vines are low-trained like nests to protect the grapes from the winds; the vine is cut back to the root stock after 75 years and a new graft made (this makes some of the roots hundreds of years old therefore able to find water); the soil is volcanic and limestone hence the wines’ minerality; no phylloxera louse took hold here.
The wine we had on Sunday, Thalassatis, was from three vineyards on the island. In ancient times, the wine was mixed with sea water and although now discontinued that salt/mineral quality is still evident – rather like manzanilla sherry. Limpid (I love that word), light green in colour with medium alcohol, this wine smelt of greengage fruit but it wasn’t a strong nose. The flavours were both lemony acidity and rich with pronounced minerality so we had the sense of it being bone-dry but rich – a lovely combination. It’s recommended to be decanted for at least an hour but, as we’ve noted before, this is a day two white wine – the minerality softens to reveal rich, powerful flavours of stone fruits.
Not quite as fresh as the Gaia wild ferment but still a lovely wine.
[Richard: from the excellent Greek deli, near New Street station, about £18. Classy wine which I’d buy again.]
We tasted two very interesting wines on Sunday. The first wine because of the country of origin – Canada; the second wine because of the grape variety – Grenache. Firstly, the Canadian wine.
The received wisdom is that the modern Canadian wine industry was ‘born’ in 1988 when a free trade agreement was signed with the US and competition sharpened the wine makers’ focus. The Canadian equivalent of AC, the Vintners Quality Standard (VQA) was created in Ontario in the same year. Two regions dominate the production – in the east, around Lake Ontario, and, to the west, in British Columbia. The grape varieties used are the international reds and whites.
The 2013 Norman Hardie County Chardonnay has the VQA of Prince Edward County, an area on the north shore of Lake Ontario, east of Toronto. The potentially hostile climate is tempered by the water, there is a layer of limestone soil and the Chardonnay appreciates a cooler climate to maintain the acidity levels. Even so, protection from deep snow in the harsh winters is important (surprisingly, this is on the same latitude as Tuscany!)
Beautifully clear and bright, the lemon yellow hues looked attractive and the wine didn’t disappoint on the nose – a little lemony, smokey and oaky. All very balanced. The palate was a step up – very long with some weight (and only an amazing 12.2% ABV), whilst maintaining its focussed lemony qualities. This is an excellent wine, a new release from the Wine Society.
Coincidentally, we also tried its stablemate, the ’13 Niagara Peninsula Unfiltered Chardonnay at the WS tasting on Monday night but found it much richer with lower acidity levels. It was still well-made but without the same balance.
First time for me with Canadian wine – save the odd glass of the ubiquitous Ice Wine – and a very favourable start.
[Richard: I had some credit at the WS so blew it as a contribution to this which was part of a Hardie chardonnay case (the other selection was the wine Geoff mentions above). At £23 not especially cheap for a wine from such a marginal and unheralded region but the quality is there.]