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]
A nine point scale is used by the Wine Society, and possibly others, to rate sweetness in a wine, with 1 being the driest. Geoff had warned me that this wine might be too sweet for me and so it proved. Bright, darkish lemon in colour with a caramel nose. Good, rich mouth feel, off-dry to medium with a rather one-note taste and a clean, non-cloying, rather dry finish, I found myself repeating what I invariably say about wines of this type – ‘well made, but…’ Just too sweet for me (even though it wasn’t that sweet).
[Geoff: I bought this bottle on a recent ‘official’ visit to the Loire. This wasn’t lusciously Sauterne sweet and I decided to try it with some roast pork in sweetish, apple-rich gravy. I very much enjoyed it, finishing it with some Bleu d’Auvergne cheese later. My wife agreed with Richard, saying it was too sweet. I also think something slightly less sweet would have been an equally good match.]
I can’t remember having ever tried a white Minervois before last Sunday. That’s not surprising because only 3% of the production is white (85% is red, before you ask). The Hegarty Chamans vineyard is in the north-west of the Languedoc, high in the foothills of the Montagne Noire. Generally speaking, the higher the vineyard the better quality the wine; the lower, flatter Minervois vineyards produce that lower shelf, flatter red wine that can be found in French supermarkets. This generality was certainly proven with this 14% beauty from Vin Cognito (15.95).
Grenache Blanc, Rousanne and Clairette (40/40/20%) is the blend, the colour beings solely yellow rather than green-tinged, possibly indicating a hot climate and lack of acidity. This was followed through on the complicated nose which told of stone fruits particularly apricot, burnt honey and some honeysuckle. Gradual exposure produced more aromas – fascinating. The palate was big mouthful of flavour, dry, long and rich rescued by some acidity. Again, there was a slight caramel note which Richard picked up.
I’ve tried whites with these same full-on characteristics, notably Costers de Segre from Spain; they are wonderful kaleidoscopes of flavours with some power behind them. Great.
[Richard: a classy wine, well worth the asking price, which went well with some prosciutto wrapped haddock and romesco sauce. Lots going on, in a harmonious way. A pleasure to drink.]
I’d seen this in Waitrose and, to be frank, thought what an unfortunate handle. It reminded me more of a low-alcohol beer rather than a wine, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Richard presented the last of the bottle on Sunday and …… I was rather impressed.
It hails from the Loire, Anjou, and, more precisely the Coteaux de Layon, an area more associated with sweeter wines from the later-harvested Chenin. The grape is the same but picked earlier, maintaining acidity and with the sugars fermented out. I like Chenin in its multiplicity of forms and enjoyed this also.
Made by Domaine Cady from the 2015 vintage, it is organic and costs £16 (£12 on offer) from Waitrose. The colour is deep lemon with some viscosity (the Chenin does develop sugars easily) whilst the nose repeats the lemon acidity with the addition of a chalky note, also reminiscent of the classic Chenin ‘wet wool’. The palate was complex – almonds, acidity, richness with bags of character and the ability to develop in the bottle.
Getting a thumbs up from me, this wine would be great with veal, chicken, river fish or a quality cheese.
[Richard: no thumbs up from me, more a shrug. Too sweet and I didn’t find it as complex as Geoff did. Worth a punt but I wouldn’t buy it again, even on offer which this was.]