This champagne, Jean de Foigny NV (12.5%), is made for the Wine Society by de Castelnau, a 100 year old champagne house. The house being named in honour of a WW1 general who commanded French forces in two Marne battles. de Castelnau make a range of champagnes – as well as a pretty impressive web-site. [Edit: it turns out that de Castelnau was acquired by a co-op – the Co-op Regionale de Vins de Champagne – in 2003. No mention of this on the Castelnau website but the bottle, above, gives the Co-op as the maker. Doubtless why it is such a good price.]
The WS blend is 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Meunier with Pinot Noir making the balance thereby producing a surprisingly gentle drink. The mousse was very fine in the pale straw coloured wine and had no hint of green, which suggested older rather than younger wines. This was confirmed by the distinctly rich caramel nose redolent of a vintage champagne. The palate was definitely dry, however, with an almost salty quality and of medium length. Although uncomplicated, with slightly bruised apple flavours, this was a lovely champagne and gentleness was its abiding characteristic. Many cheap champagnes – and some expensive ones for that matter – can be very aggressive in terms of bubbles and acidity but Jean de Foigny can definitely be excluded from that dubious category. Definitely recommended.
[Richard: very nice – not dissimilar to the WS English sparkling wine made by Ridgeview. Well balanced, easy to drink. A bargain at £19.50.]
Some wines, like Chateau Musar or Vina Tondonia are generally easy to spot from the aroma. Another is (most) white burgundy. And so it was that I confidently pronounced this wine (Saint-Aubin Champs Tirant, 2014) as such, despite it being opened twenty-four hours and double decanted. As it turned out I’ve got a bottle, as yet undrunk, Geoff having picked up a few marked down in Waitrose. A classic supple, spicy nose, with a hint of struck match, rich smooth mouth-feel followed by a complex lemony taste. A bargain at the reduced price of £16.99.
[Geoff: I’m delighted to hear that Richard has another bottle – this wine was excellent and certainly a bargain. I’m becoming an advocate for decanting all wines, regardless of colour, as it certainly paid off with this wine. Pre-aeration it was closed, slightly reductive on the nose and dominated by lemony acidity. When tried 40 mins after decanting it became broader, livelier and had lost those dominating aromas and flavours. After enjoying it on Saturday night I returned it to the bottle where I vacuum sealed it with the result Richard has described. Decanting is a must]
This was Zaha’s 2015 Chardonnay made in Mendoza, Argentina. Made from vines grown at 1200 metres, the wine is sold by the Wine Society, who, amongst other descriptions, describe it as ‘taut’. The cost is £20 which puts it into the white Burgundy price bracket.
A pronounced green colour suggested acidity but the viscosity also hinted at richness. There was a very slight smokiness on the nose which smelt predominately of stone fruits. (R. thought there was burnt match smell, possibly a sign of reduction). The big mouth feel was attractive as was its richness, dryness and the expected acidity. It didn’t shout Chardonnay to me – not that it needed to – but it was a good wine, nevertheless.
If I was pushed to liken it to a classic Burgundy it was certainly more southern but not as broad as the Maconnais wines. Another good wine on this weekend of good wines.
[Richard: I thought this was very good. £20 for a South American chardonnay might seem ambitious but, as Geoff has implied, it compared well to a Burgundian equivalent.]
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.]
The numbers reference the fifth bottle out of a case of six white Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Burgundies Richard purchased “as a single man” (his words). We’ve blogged them all and Sunday was the turn of Les Combettes, a premier cru vineyard abutting the Meursault AC. The vintage was 2011.
A pronounced yellow, with a green tinge, in appearance, the wine showed some languid viscosity in the glass as it swirled. A nose of fresh lemons was the initial hit but the longer it sat the more smokiness came through. The palate was of medium weight, long, rich with a beguiling aftertaste of honeysuckle and fresh green hazelnuts. These wonderful flavours started coming through after about fifteen minutes sitting in a broad bowled glass; the warmish late-afternoon temperature certainly helped. A refined wine, certainly.
Burgundy’s high prices are well documented and this premier cru wine certainly was expensive. In a restaurant I suppose we may not begrudge spending £50+ for a really good wine but that is certainly a top price in the retail market, in my opinion. Our discussion spun around ‘value for money’ of these wines and whether the demand has put these excellent wines out of range of many wine lovers’ budgets. My estimation of this wine’s true price (if there is such a thing) would be about £35. That’s not denying its undoubted quality but “too much money is chasing too little product”.
[Richard: wines like this are the equivalent of what, in the sightseeing context, has been described as ‘worth seeing but not worth going to see’. I’m certainly glad to have tried top quality white burgundy – and prices are even more expensive now – but I can’t see I’d ever buy another bottle of premier cru. From the nose through to the taste this was clearly a very classy wine which Geoff had no trouble identifying. For me there was rather too much richness and not enough acidity although the many and varied smells and tastes made it a very enjoyable ‘vino da meditazione’, as the Italians put it.]
These were the words used by my drinking chum to describe this wine and – I echo those sentiments. I tasted this blind and it was a very enjoyable experience. St. Peray, the small, southernmost AC of the northern Rhone region, only produces white wines – still and sparkling – by using various combinations of the Marsanne and Roussane grapes. Pre-phylloxera, this area was famous for sparkling wines (a tipple of Napolean, no less) but had declined to circa 50 hectares before building back to around 70.
The Domaine de Tunnel by Stephane Robert 2011 can be bought from the WS for £22 and is worth it. Clear, lemon yellow in the glass, there is a heavier look to the wine (13.5%) which suggests some richness. The lemon aroma is present but mixed with subtle floral notes and the stone fruits so redolent of the Rhone white grapes. I did not get any smell of oak – the fruit shone through. The palate was dry, spicy and long with an almond quality. There was some refreshing acidity but the impression that lingered was one of understated power and a very slight – and very attractive – fruity sweetness.
This was a quality wine that is in one of my favourite styles. Very enjoyable indeed.
[Richard: from a mixed case of Rhone whites. Hope they are all as good as this.]
Cote de Bourg, situated on the Gironde’s right bank, is well known for its red wines which dominate the AC’s production. There are, however, 25 hectares (out of 4000 +) devoted to white wine production and this wine is one of the results. It is a blend of Semillon (70%) and Colombard and has an ABV of 13.5%. It’s available from the Wine Society at a bargain £9.75.
The Semillon grape, widely grown all over the world, then just as widely uprooted, earned a reputation for basic, characterless white wines of high acidity and minimal flavour. It is notable in two areas – Bordeaux (particularly for sweet whites) and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Colombard is a grape favoured by brandy producers but now finding devotee growers and makers of still wines where it raises acidity levels and adds peach flavours.
The colours were a medium intense lemon yellow with a very slight green tint. It was particularly clear and bright. The nose was a blend of citrus and yellow peach but with a fascinating, and unusual, smell of ginger spices.
This was not a wine shy of flavour. Peach dominated, broad, dry and long, it is a wine with bags of character. To be critical, it could be said to be lacking in refinement but – and this is only a theory (don’t groan, Richard) – I think it needs to be given time. The Semillon famously develops after 8 -10 years therefore the dominant flavour at present is from the Colombard. It’s good now but it’s also one to put down, I think.