Quinta do Vesuvio is a vineyard high in the Douro valley, a hot area well away from the wetter and colder Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Two of the three grapes in the blend Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela are difficult to grow in cooler, wetter climates but, presumably, they thrive here. The third, Touriga Nacional, is considered to be Portugal’s finest grape, giving tannins, body and fruit flavours to the blend.
This wine of 13.5% ABV was certainly black at its core and stained the glass with its tears. It had lots of freshness from the acidity and the dominant notes were dark fruits though it was difficult to identify a particular one which does happen with blends. There was licquorice and vanilla on the palate along with a pleasing tartness, the finish being long and dry.
This was a well made full flavoured red wine, capable of ageing and certainly a good accompaniment to strong flavoured foods. I’m unsure of the price, so Richard can decide on its VFM
(btw a pombal is the local name for a stone dovecote.)
[Richard: very highly praised in a WS staff tasting, so I bought three (£18.50 each). I thought the first was ordinary but this was much better, being rich savoury and balanced. Slightly overpriced, I would say.]
There are 200 kilometres separating the two northern Italian reds we tasted on Sunday; one wine from Piedmont and the other from the Valtelline, an Alpine valley. They showed quite differently despite both being dominated by the Nebbiolo grape and having undergone a fair amount of ageing in wood and bottle.
The Toraccia del Piantavigna 2007 is a DOCG Ghemme from Piedmont and is made from two grapes, Nebbiolo and Vespolina (10%). It’s ABV is 14%. It has to be aged for a minimum of 34 months. 18 months min. in barrel and 6 months min. in bottle which makes me wonder where the other 10 months could be spent. No matter, but if anyone can venture a suggestion ….
It had the typical Nebbiolo colours of brick rim and red core. The nose was a powerful smoky and farmyard mixture (slightly oxidised?) that was certainly attractive and sweetened by a mature cherry fruit smell. The palate was definitely dry, tannic and again reminiscent of sour cherries. It is difficult to pin down these flavours and smells but I thought it like unripe black fruits, picked just before they’re ready – an amalgam of the sweet and sour. Unlike the older Valtellina, this had some power left and will get finer; Nebbiolo is always worth waiting for. Bags of character and certainly a food wine – game meat would be ideal.
[Richard: from a mixed vintage half case of Torraccia wines (WS). We blogged the 2003 a while ago. I didn’t think this vintage was quite as good but it was still an appealing drink with lots of interesting flavours.]
The older wine was a Valtellina Valgella Balgera 2001 which Geoff picked up in Loki Wines. This was another Nebbiolo, called Chiavennasca in this region. The Valgella subdivision is reputed to produce the most delicate wines in the area but I drink very little Nebbiolo and couldn’t confidently identify it. Nonetheless, a brick red appearance with obvious age on the rim, a clean fruity/floral nose leading to a long, savoury flavoursome dry finish which was slightly less impressive than the nose led you to expect. Quite lean in the mouth in the style of a Rioja and definitely a food wine.
[Geoff: At the risk of sounding like an old fashioned wine critic, the Valtellina was an old Lady of a wine. She has grown old gracefully, become lean, beautifully – but subtly – fragranced, and yet still entertaining. I enjoyed sipping what was left with food and it did not pall. Most of the nebbiolo (especially in Barolo) we drink is sold and consumed way too young; it’s not a big wine but many people think it is. I’m generally not a lover of old red wine but old nebbiolo is one I do enjoy]
After last week’s googly Geoff served up a nice full toss, namely a Fleurie made by Henry Fessy whose Brouilly was blogged a couple of years ago.
Pale, garnet red but with a mature appearance, obvious Gamay nose, rich and fruity with some grip, a perfect summer red.
[Geoff: Ha, Richard’s cricket analogies are very topical.
This was an impromptu purchase from Waitrose who had it as an introductory offer at about £9.50. I’m a touch cagey about Beaujolais, finding it one-dimensional, but the older vintage attracted me. Fleurie is known as being a long-liver and fuller than some other crus and so it proved.
It was quite rich and the trademark Gamay strawberry notes had developed concentrated, cooked flavours – still strawberry but quite subtle. These tertiary notes reflected the bottle ageing but it still retained freshness. It’s drinking very well just now so, at that price, it is very good value. Worth picking some up, dear reader.]
Richard is much more prepared to try different wines than I am. Recent Sunday tastings have involved organic and biodynamic wines from France in particular and this was another of those. Tout Nature Sans Soufre Ajoute (transl. Totally Natural No Added Sulphur) by Xavier and Mathieu Ledogar is a wine from the Languedoc, classed as a Vin de France – the lowest classification. Vintage 2014, it’s a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre and has 14.5% abv.
That’s the intellectual part dealt with – how did it fare sensually?
Opaque (fine sediment) with a slightly purple/red rim, it had a high viscosity and was an intense colour. The nose was pure, with no varietal qualities and very slightly oxidised. Considering it had been opened only the day before – as well as having 14.5% abv. – perhaps the lack of stabilising sulphur means it ages prematurely. Highly tannic and fresh fruit notes of unripe plums and damsons, it had that fresh quality which shone through the oxidised notes. This freshness is the hallmark, to me, of organic wines.
Whether it’s worth the price paid, I’m not so sure.
[Richard: we often talk about wine tasting better on day 2 – this one tasted worse, despite vacuum sealing and storing in the fridge, although there was no change three days on from that. So Geoff didn’t taste it at it’s best. On opening it was fruity, vibrant and quite complex. An enticing wine which Angie really liked. Value is a always problem with natural wines – they are invariably more expensive – this was £20 (Buon Vino) – and, as Geoff suggests, you could do better for the money, although I’m glad I tried it.]
This wine is classified as a Vin de France, the lowest tier of the French classification system. It sits below IGP and AOP, both of which give some indication of the geographical origin of the wine. This tier is applied to simple wines used for everyday drinking.
Poivre d’ane (“donkey pepper”) comes from Herault, the Mediterranean coastal region around Montpellier and Beziers; a hot plain which rises to the Cevennes hills in the north where most of the vineyards are located. The grapes used are Syrah and Grenache which are the permitted grapes. This poses the question as to why it only has the lowest classification – and I can only guess it has something to do with yields, lack of sulphites (less then 50 mg. per litre), defiance or inertia on the part of the makers? Who knows?
Anyway the wine looked good – clear, clean, of medium intensity – and smelt of sour cherries (Italian in style, I thought). There was a purity and cleanliness in the mouth as well as a softness, which also exhibited some gentle tannins and, eventually, some peppery Syrah.
It was exactly as the VdeF classification describes – a simple wine for everyday drinking – but did not have much character or sense of terrroir. Maybe that is the reason for where it sits in the hierarchy.
[Richard: another low/no sulphur from Buon Vino (about £13). Biodynamic with no chemicals used. Clean pure taste. A simple wine I enjoyed.]
Which country has the most indigenous grape varieties? Possibly a question with no definitive answer but Italy must be a possibility. Here’s another new one, from MWW – Albarossa. Apparently a cross between Nebbiolo and Barbera although it didn’t taste anything like the former to me. Anyway, slightly soupy appearance, rather spirity nose with a hint of acetone and red fruit. Fruit – MWW claim cherry which is too specific for me – also on the palate but a rather simple taste with no development in the mouth and rather short. The sort of wine you find on holiday at a bargain price and drink loads of. For the money (£9 if you buy 6) good value.
[Geoff: As Richard has written, an okay (not oakey) red, easy drinking, crowd pleasing, pasta accompanying, slurping red. A hybrid grape made in 1937; not strictly Nebbiolo.]
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.]