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.]
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.]
This was our second tasting of a wine (La Long Bec, Domaine Echardières. Loire Valley 2014) from a comparatively new (2011) appellation – Chenonceaux. A rather mature, dense looking wine, with a smokey, dusty nose and a hint of mint. Dry with dark fruit and a longish finish. A 50/50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the second grape recognisable but not the first – we don’t drink much Malbec. Clearly well made and very drinkable.
[Geoff: I had tried another bottle of this red wine only a week previously and it really impressed me. There is a good blend of the very slight farmyard aromas of an ageing CF together with its trademark raspberry nose. the Malbec (Cot in the Loire) gives firmer, fuller body to the blend. This makes the taste a balanced blend of firmness, body and fruit. It is available from Vin Neuf at Stratford.]
Mas de Daumas Gassac is east of Montpellier in the Haute Vallee du Gassac, Herault and achieved fame – or notoriety with local traditionalists – by using Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape more often associated with Bordeaux. Their informative and slick web site could not be accused of hiding its light under a wine bushel, proclaiming the 2005 vintage as having “finesse, it’s friendly and elegant, soft, fruity and mouth-wateringly rounded. Thoroughly enjoyable and seductive … and designed to wine you over with its affability … genuinely great …. truly outstanding!” Wow!
More prosaically, in colour it had a brick rim with an intense red core and medium viscosity. The nose was sweet cassis with tertiary notes of stewed fruits and pleasing acidity. So far, so good. The acidity came through nicely on the palate which was long and dry, with liquorice-like richness. After the nose, the palate was a tad disappointing.
Overall, although a well-made, pleasant wine we found it lacking a little character and any real sense of place. Richard gave the sobriquet ‘a lunchtime Languedoc’ which I though quite apposite (it’s 12.5% ABV).
[Richard: had this one a while – since 2008 (£24, WS), hence the rather tatty appearance. Certainly ready to drink and a wine which, as Geoff suggests, failed to deliver in the mouth what the (very appealing) nose promised. That is quite a common phenomenon when drinking claret, with which this wine is often compared (it’s 63% Cabernet Sauvignon,8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot plus lots of other grapes, mostly not indigenous to the Languedoc either.]
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.]
This wine is another northern Italian red, part of a mixed case Richard bought a few months back. We blogged the impressive Valtellina recently and now we’ve moved further south, towards Milan, for a Fara DOC. I tried it blind and stabbed at both Pinot Noir and Syrah (its delicate aroma) before fixing on Nebbiola, the grape that dominates (70%) the blend. The other grapes are the waspish Vespolina and Uva Rare. It has spent nearly three years in French oak and a further nine months in bottle before release. This ageing will soften the tannins that can be obtrusive in young Nebbiola.
A distinctive brick colour edged the wine which was of medium intensity red. The nose was very perfumed, delicate, sweet and floral rather than fruity. The tannins were present but didn’t dominate rather giving it some structure, this would be a great food wine. Its lightness belied the 14% ABV. With a long finish that hinted of liquorice, it was a well-made, attractive wine and one worth its £23 price tag (Wine Society).
Two down out of this Italian case and both impressive.
[Richard: this case is turning out to be an interesting buy – although the first bottle tried (Taurasi, Feudi di San Gregorio 2011, not blogged) was ordinary. Still drinking well on day 2. A stylish wine, if a little pricey for what is a an obscure appellation, although production is small and it scored very highly in a Decanter tasting.]
The Tannat grape is native to south west France where it traditionally produces wines described as ‘rustic’, Madiran probably being the most well-known. It has also received plaudits in Uruguay which seems to produce a softer, fruitier style of wine then France. This wine, however, came from the far north of Greece, hard by the Macedonian border. Utopia 2011, made by Alpha Estate, is 100% Tannat and weighs in at 14% ABV.
The pronounced colour left a ruby stain on the glass when the wine was swirled. Some pigment there then. There was a delightful fresh nose, slightly menthol and blackcurrant, with an underlying smokey and vanilla perfume suggesting barrel- ageing. So far so good.
Richard had the palate description spot on – “hollow” – which was a disappointment after the pleasures of the smell. It was lacking richness and depth and could be described as ordinary red wine. The smell was better then the taste. This seems to have matured quickly, quite the opposite to its French equivalent which is, to be kind, rather austere for at least ten years.
[Richard: whenever I’m in Birmingham I try to call in to the Greek shop just outside New Street station. An interesting selection of wine and food and where this bottle was purchased, for around £10. As Geoff says you don’t expect to see Tannat in Greece and this made me want to try it. Alpha wines are always good quality and this is well made, with an enticing nose but the taste is acceptable without being special. An interesting experiment but I think Greek wines are better made with native grapes. Off to Crete shortly and hoping to try a few.]