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]
Sunday tasting. Two wines, the same grape – syrah – from different continents, a similar price with us each opening and tasting one of them the night before. Would we be able to identify them if tasted blind? How good was our taste memory? (Claire, Geoff’s wife did the pouring in our absence). In fact it was pretty easy, even from the nose.
The wines: Cline 2012 (California) and Hermitage 2014 (France, from the Cave de Tain co-op). The Cline has been blogged before. We thought MWW had sold out but a few more turned up, around £16. The Hermitage was from Waitrose, reduced from £28 to £17. I’d tried the Hermitage on Saturday and thought it was restrained and elegant, with a rather reticent nose. The Cline delivered a big blast of blueberry fruit on the nose and was tarry/smokey on the palate with a silky mouth feel and clearly wasn’t the Hermitage. Both wines were very enjoyable and well priced – although I don’t think we’d have paid £28 for the Hermitage – and drank well into the evening. (Geoff was having fish so I got both bottles).
[Geoff: Comparisons are at the heart of wine tasting. We compare in expectation – “I think this wine might be like …”; we compare via memory – “This wasn’t as good as …..”; and we compare grapes, vintages, areas, growers etc. And I especially love blind comparisons.
These two wines created lots of discussions which Richard had summarised excellently above. For me, the Hermitage had the edge on elegance and freshness because of the apparent higher acidity – I’d noted it as tasting like (another comparison) a bowl of summer fruits, both red and black. The Cline, slightly older, had developed some tertiary notes – tar, smoke, vanilla – which was shown up against the fresher Rhone. Both were lovely wines – well-made, layered and great examples of a lovely grape.]
Following my white Burgundy, Richard supplied a red wine from about 150 miles further south, namely the Cote Rotie in the northern Rhone. We have blogged this before but it was great to rekindle an old flame.
The ‘roasted slope’, centred on the left bank town of Ampuis, has south-east facing vineyards that rise vertiginously, sometimes with as much as 60% incline. This makes working the granite based soils very difficult and there is often only two or three vines in the width of the terracing. The slope does get ‘roasted’ but can produce some very fine Syrahs, delicate and perfumed, rather than the heavier styles – although it can produce those as well.
Cote Rotie ‘Ampodium’ 2010 from Rostaing has an ABV of 13.5% and is pure Syrah. The medium intense ruby colour was lighter than I expected. The nose I can best describe as smelling a raspberry-ripple ice cream – all vanilla and light red fruits. There was a warm, comforting feeling about this smell (probably thanks to the vanilla) but little of the expected pepper. The delicate notes changed to blueberry as it sat in the glass. The mouth feel, as Richard stated, had an attractive leanness and purity helped by the acidity which was maintained throughout. I had an immediate flavour of almonds but this did not last. The relative youth of the wine came through in all the attractive fruit but this was underscored with the maturing notes of vanilla; its tannins were present but not obtrusive. This was a really enjoyable wine which will go on for a few years yet.
[Richard: interesting that the white pepper nose Geoff remarked on two years ago has, for him, vanished. I thought it was still there, but only just. Age or bottle variation – who knows? Check back here in 2018. Still a lovely balanced wine – and my favourite syrah – though I marginally preferred it on first tasting.]
We’ve done this wine before but Richard’s seemingly endless [much reduced] stock of wines secreted all over his house [mainly in the loft] has thrown up a later vintage than the 2000 we tried earlier. I was tasting it blind.
This is classified as a Vin du Pays because the vigneron will not conform to the local AC rules; this notoriety has had an amazing effect on the prices of the wines. That and their undoubted quality, of course. These VdPs are commanding prices of £50 upwards for this particular vintage.
A blind tasting then, the wine having been decanted for 60 mins. Colour: very intense black with a brick red rim and pronounced viscosity. The nose was layered into bramble fruits, figs, iodine, menthol but with a refreshing acidity. The menthol gave me the hint of Syrah in the blend whilst the intensity suggested somewhere hot, I ventured the south of France. The palate, to be frank, was disappointing after such intriguing smells. It was very slightly oxidised and had lost the freshness, tannins and drying flavours dominated. It was medium in length. Maybe the decanting had ‘matured’ it too much?
When revealed to be Trevallon’s blend of 50% Syrah and Cabernet, the wine having spent two years in barrel we looked up the previous blog of the 2000 which was much more positive. Other blogs for this vintage were more positive but I did read how there is considerable variation in bottles and some issues with ‘brett’ in the wines. By the following day it had become quite ordinary and lacking in any fruit. What a pity.
[Richard: from Leon Stolarski, £31. The previous vintage tasted (I bought a half case of 6 different vintages) was just wonderful and this didn’t quite measure up, although it improved into the evening with the tannins mellowing – or perhaps that was the accompanying roast chicken.]
Although a small range of thirteen wines, Aldi’s Lot series takes on Tesco’s Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ranges. The neck tag of Chateau Fauzan proclaims ‘This wine is unique’ and emphasises both topography and the vinification from the 10 hectare of vineyards north-east of Minervois in the Languedoc.
The grapes’ blend was 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Carignan.
So, how was the wine? Colour, an intense red with purple rim and significant alcohol indicated. The nose was dominated by fruit, brambles mostly which were quite sweet to smell and low in acidity. There was a structure provided by some tannins which also helped dry the finish which was long. The wine was medium weight and not overly jammy on the finish. In style, this was more like a New World Syrah rather than the lighter Old World style. A good value wine, well-made and with some layers of complexity.
[Richard, I think the latest wines from the Lot series are the best yet and have enjoyed all the reds including the Metairie Du Bois which hasn’t been blogged. Still £9.99.]
We have written about this wine before [Richard: actually the 2007] and claimed that it was well-made but too young. It was, therefore, good to revisit the wine probably 30 months later. The wine is an AC Languedoc from a low lying commune north-east of Beziers. It comprises the classic southern Rhone blend of grapes – syrah, grenache and mourvedre. To be frank, I’m not greatly struck by many southern Rhones but, this was a wonderful exception.
Brick red in colour there was a lack of clarity in its looks but the 14.5% ABV was proclaimed by some fairly thick legs. A red fruit nose suggested Pinot but its richness confirmed the Syrah grape element. It was full on and fruity. The palate was powerful – rich and smooth with well-integrated tannins – and pleasure to drink. It had balance and, although not subtle, had good balance and harmony. Those 30 months had made a big difference to the wine – it was a pleasure to drink.
[Richard: this was part of a mixed case of southern French wines from the WS and probably the most expensive at around £20. The was very enjoyable, excellent varietal nose, more complex than many but with lots of fruit, clearly well made, nicely balanced. I have a few of the 2007s left and should revisit them sometime.]