My role in this tasting was making notes on Soave, namely Pieropan’s La Rocca 2010. This is a celebrated producer which we’ve previously blogged and been impressed with and its prices (circa £30 -40) [Richard: I paid £20] reflect its fame. Or, in this case, its notoriety.
The expected appearance of a viscous wine, moving like oil in the glass, with a deep lemon colour was followed by a surprisingly muted nose of sour stone fruits. This could favourably be termed ‘delicate’ or ‘uninteresting’ in its lack of aromatics. The palate was rich with obvious lemon acidity but, unfortunately, little else. A simple wine which would justify a price tag of about a tenner.
An article praising the staying qualities of Soave Classico in The Wine Enthusiast included this observation “Over time, the aromas become multifaceted and exhibit creamy textures and intense minerality. ” It then went on to specifically mention as “compelling” a 1996 vintage La Rocca. Well, some minerality might have saved this from being just a one-dimensional tasting experience. Interestingly, there are some negative comments on Cellartracker (and some good ones) about this wine. Maybe there is some bottle variation?
[Richard, we’ve previously blogged the 2010 and the 2009. On both occasions we were impressed. When tasting the 2010 four years ago I thought it would be interesting to taste it in 10 years time but this latest bottle suggests that there is no benefit to ageing here. This is rather contrary to received wisdom although, as Geoff says, there are quite a few reviews which suggest the opposite. The 2009 was tasted two years ago and was drinking very well, so this wine was a disappointment, being totally uninteresting and lacking the Alsatian characteristics, like mouthfeel and aroma, previously noted. Could be bottle variation, could be I kept it too long. We’ll never know.]
We tried two dull white wines at the weekend from different countries made with different grapes and sold at very different prices.
The one I blind tasted was a Pinot Gris from Alsace (Pinot Gris Lieu-dit Muehlforst MWW at £15/£9 for a single bottle/six bottles), which I eventually recognised through a process of elimination. Pale straw yellow, limpid in appearance, shy nose. So far so good but on the palate – much too sweet for me, albeit with a rather bitter finish. I’ve found that, as I’ve got older, I’ve lost interest in sweet or dessert wines, especially if, as in this case, there was no balancing acidity, making for a simple, rather cloying drink which is not worth even the lower price. MWW claim the vineyard used is ‘approaching grand cru quality’ which is a considerable exaggeration on this evidence. A shame because the wine was produced by the Hunawihr co-op, one of the best in France. We had a memorable visit there in 2013 – Geoff bought a map.
[Geoff: Yes, I agree with Richard. The attraction of a richer/sweeter wine lies in the acidity otherwise it can be likened to drinking a sugar solution. The lack of refinement on the finish was also a minus point.]
We’re getting back into the Sunday evening routine, readers, so you can look forward to some more ‘ahead of the curve’ tasting notes from Richard and myself.
Sunday’s wines were both a delight in their different ways. Richard had the (inevitable) Cab Franc to comment on while I had a white whose grape I got nowhere near identifying after having guessed the location i.e. the Languedoc. Mas Coutelou’s origins are close to Beziers and this wine is made from 100% Macabeu aka Viura (in Spain). It was the 2015 vintage and had been oak-aged which had not left the tell-tale notes of vanilla.
The colour of light gold suggested an older wine and it had some viscosity. The nose was of gentle stone fruits but with a honeysuckle bouquet. I noted it as quite intriguing especially as the acidity was quite muted. By this stage I’d started firing out varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussane, Vermentino but was nowhere near the Macabeu.
The palate was big in flavour and the citrus acidity (a hallmark of the Macabeu) started to come through along with a oooked apple sweetness although it finished dry. There were spicy notes in the mix which made it a complex wine to savour and one you could drink sans accompaniment.
Both this wine and the red were a pleasure to drink, even more so considering they are not from hugely fashionable areas of France. You could almost call them good country wines but that would be doing them a disservice. It’s available from Stolarski in Nottingham (only 2 bottles left), which has an interesting selection of wines.
[Richard, from a mixed case of Mas Coutelou, around £18. A very interesting wine with lots of flavour and balance and one I’d buy again when the new vintage arrives.].
Forty years ago, if you wanted a drink a French white wine with a meal chances are it would have been a Muscadet. White burgundy was seen as expensive, Rhone and Alsace whites were hard to find in England and the production of white wines from southern France was small and not exported at all. But Muscadet fell out of fashion, swamped by the rise of less acidic whites like chardonnays from Australia. Then sauvignon blanc followed on, leaving Muscadet way behind. Beaujolais Nouveau suffered a similar fate, albeit for different reasons.
And now? Well, a 2014 article in Decanter claims it is ‘all the rage’, a massive overstatement, not uncommon in the wine press. A 2018 article in Wine Enthusiast talks about a ‘fresh start’. Searching this blog I find that, in six years and nearly 500 posts, we have tasted just one, also from MWW, as it happens. But, I’d tried one a couple of weeks ago, from Tanners, so it was easy for me to recognise the style (Dmne Haut Ferrie Monniere-Saint Fiacre 2014), with the chalky nose a giveaway. A very pale lemon, quite sharp and lemony in taste as well, medium length, gaining complexity as it warmed up – decanting might have been worthwhile – although given it’s age it wasn’t quite as interesting as one might have hoped. But a decent wine, if slightly overpriced at £16 (MWW).
[Geoff: It is interesting how wines go in and out of fashion. In a few years we might be asking whatever happened to Prosecco? Is it over-production leading to a decline in quality or not enough profit generated to incentivise growers. Is the market volatility always at the bargain end, where rewards are closely linked to volume?
Anyway, the Muscadet growers are aware of the need to produce fuller more complex wines whilst still maintaining the recognisable style. This came some way there but there is a fuller one in MWW named Le Pallet, which I found more enjoyable. However, this wasn’t bad and with the right food would be acceptable.]
The Campania wine region, situated on Italy’s west coast, close to Naples, is hot but benefits from sea breezes and vineyards at high altitudes thereby cooler. These cooling elements are vital to maintain acidity levels in the wines which keep them fresh. The Fiano grape, a native of Campania, is recognised for its robust qualities as well as its waxy style. The wine we tried on Sunday had both but, rather disappointingly, lacked character.
Clear, hay yellow with very subtle green tinges, the weight was quite evident in its ‘tears’. The aromas were of lemon curd and with subtle ginger spice smells (Richard) but the ensuing taste was an anticlimax. Certainly dry and forthright in taste, there was a hint of almonds but it wasn’t very appealing and didn’t improve either, according to Richard. It just lacked some quality and some memorable flavour.
It’s 100% organic, available from the Buon Vino company at £14.95.
[Richard: low sulphur and organic, as well as natural, only 12% but all that wasn’t a substitute for the lack of character – something often missing, as Geoff remarked, in Italian whites. Not unpleasant and with a slight smokey aroma but, ultimately, not very interesting and thus, overpriced.]
Juhfark are not just the letters that may be seen in a line on Specsavers’ eyesight testing poster but the name of an old Hungarian grape variety which, translated, means ‘sheeps tail’. It’s the shape of the bunch, evidently. The wine we tasted on Sunday was from the Somlo region (in north Hungary) which is dominated by the volcano’s soils. Somloi Juhfark 2015 made by Kolonics is 14% ABV and available from The Wine Society at about £17.
Light gold with green hints – some acidity there – and quite viscous in the glass it had a dumb nose initially. This later developed lemony, smoky notes and something like slightly burnt rubber. It reminded me of the southern French whites which also have the burnt smell (from the Bourboulenc grape, I think). ‘Interesting’ was our word. The palate was a repeat of the nose but with a touch of richness/sweetness at the finish. It was short/medium in length.
The Wine Society don’t do the wine or themselves any favours by liking it to a “good Meursault”. It builds expectations which are not fulfilled. It’s an interesting wine that certainly needs decanting, not served too cold and strong food flavours. Link to wedding nights? If you drink these wines you’re more likely to father male children. What’s the result if your partner also drinks it I dread to think.
[Richard: another wine recently discussed and admired on TWS Community Forum and, once again, we are in a minority. Given the praise I expected something more and I’m struggling to get past ‘interesting’, despite Geoff already having used the word. It has made little impression 24 hours on. Perhaps ‘restrained’ could be added. Apparently Queen Victoria was a fan although, given that she had five female and four male children it didn’t have the desired result.]
We have to give credit to Richard’s wine supplier, Vin Cognito. Their wine descriptions leave all the rest in the deepest shade. And this is some accolade, given the propensity of many wine lovers/sellers/makers to revel in purple prose, never eschewing the florid and rococo style that adorns ….. ok, I’ll shut up.
2016 Versante Nord is made by Eduardo Torres Acosta from vineyards on the north slopes of Etna in Sicily. It is described by Vin Cognito as ” ….. this truly amazing wine. Not for the faint-hearted, but a wine that will leave you wide-eyed and trembling from the astonishing G-force of its flavours.” Well, I must be faint-hearted, for I still blinked but didn’t quiver when I drank it.
Gold yellow, clear with a slight viscosity, the wine’s aromas were very muted lemon when we tried it. I found it rather ungenerous in taste, short, dry with an almond finish and certainly not complex – let alone possessing G forces.
Richard said it improved and thought it would have been better decanted to open it up.. So, a message to Vin Cognito’s writer: to advise, clearly, how to enjoy this wine at its best. Decant for an hour, chilled (but not too much). It is young, fresh, clean and crisp, but not worth £26.
[Richard: an interesting wine which, uniquely as far as I can recall, changed colour – becoming more orange – as I drunk it. The taste changed as well, becoming more complex as it oxidised and warmed up, although the earth didn’t move. Geoff is right – it would have been helpful to have had some serving information. Organic and a small production (2,000 bottles) undoubtedly added to the cost but the price charged is very ambitious for what you get and certainly high enough to deter a repurchase. Another new grape incidentally – Minella Bianca]