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.]
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]
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.]
“This is a Burgundy.” I declaimed. “It’s firm but nicely aged and serious.” Richard laughed and produced the Ata Rangi 2009 from Martinborough, on the other side of the world to Dijon. He’d done it again. So much for the skills of the wine taster!
The colour was an intense brown-red with a distinctive brown rim. The nose was pure and sweet with the aromas of bitter cherries giving it the ‘come-hither’ attractiveness of Pinot Noir at its best. This was followed by a big mouthful of serious wine, mature and of medium length – surely typical of a well-matured Cote de Nuits?
Nope. And after Richard had enjoyed his revelation and my embarrassment we then got to discussing how lacking in complexity this wine was. It’s easy to be wise after the event and start developing theories once you know the result.
[Richard: as you can see from the dust, another from the depths of the ‘cellar’. Purchased about 5 years ago for £37, so certainly Burgundian in price. Compared to the Chambolle of a couple of weeks ago this was bigger, richer but less complex and nuanced. Unfortunately I’m running out of New World pinot so this is a game that hasn’t got much longer to run.]