Monday, October 02, 2006

Silly Tasting Dinner

The Naughton Dining Club met last evening and drank some extraordinarily fine wines and cognacs.

Krug 1995

Colour: A deep, dark gold. Darker than expected, considering it's a new release.

Nose: The nose is dominated by pinot noir - beautiful and luscious but focussed, tightly knit. There's toast and scones on the edges with notes of sweet citrus.

Palate: Possibly the best young Krug I have ever tasted (at eleven years!). Beautifully structured - luscious and sexy but with elegance and poise. The mouthfeel is superb and the mousse is in perfect balance. The table agrees - this is a great wine. Pete C is doing grannie impressions. Very long, lingering finish. Brilliant start to the evening.

It's so good now - I'm not sure what it will age like. I don't even know if I want it to age well. Because I don't want to wait to drink it.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1997

Colour: Fitting of its age - still deep, but not impenetrable - slight lightening on the rim.

Nose: There's just so much one can take. The nose is remarkable, almost sensory assault - it justifies the reputation and status as a first growth. Powerful, yet elegant and boasting remarkable purity - piercing blackcurrant and blueberry wrapped in cedar wppd. cigar box, forest floor and hints of mint. The table's in rapture.

Palate: After the nose, the palate's something of a disappointment. The wood's a bit more aggressive and the secondaries overpower the fruit. But this is nit-picking. There's beautiful stuff here, the palate carresses, the fruit comes forward with air and it's lovely. Just not quite up to what the nose suggests. Perhaps it needs another five or so years?

The nose is five stars, the palate's three and somewhere with age they might meet.

Solengo 1999

Colour: Beautifully brilliant - deep ruby though slight lightening at the rim.

Nose: Rain on hot asphalt, tar & charcoal with dark, candied cherries.

Palate: Incredible with the bolognese. This is a food wine in spite of its super tuscan status. Rustic in the most wonderful way. Old school but not overbearing. Rich, toasty cherry fruit with some spice notes as well. Brilliant night, meal and company.


Hennessy XO

Nose: Big, gooey and caramely (yes, that's what I wrote)

Palate: Big dark & sticky and quite nice with the chocolate - burnt butter & butterscotch, though slightly hot and untempered on the finish.


Hennessy Paradis

Nose: Soft roasted caramel and butterscotch with cloves and allspice.

Palate: Elegance with sexiness. Brilliant with choc and far superior to the XO. Poise, balance and beauty. The heat is soothing. Christmas spice and fruitcake. Gloriously supple. I love this. Lingering, gentle finish.


Richard Hennessy

Nose: Candy spiced cloves with cinnamon - perfumed and elegant with a hint of citrus

Palate: Massive but totally in control. Far bigger and brasher than the Paradis. The component parts, large though they are, are in perfect harmony. Very fruity on the mid-palate. Extraordinary complexity. This is remarkable, but very, very expensive. Hence it loses a star.


We drank an excellent oloroso as well, but my notes for that are almost illegible. Then Kirsty D made gin & tonics, distracting us from raiding the cellar in a state unsuitable to appreciate any more fine wine.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

shiny and new

Enjoy the new design. The wine hasn't changed.

Anselmi Capitel Croce 2001

Colour: Deep, tarnished gold - nice brilliance to it.

Nose: Heady & honeyed with a bit of minerality in the background.

Palate: Really quite rich, great honey and roast melon flavours, pushing almost towards sweetness. The minerality from the nose forms a backbone, giving it good structure. Perhaps the odd bortytis note. Excellent with both the mussels and roast chicken - mouth filling and with a long finish. Aged well, though I miss the freshness that it has in its youth.


Tasted at Manuel House 27/9/2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chablis William Fevre 2005

Colour: very pale yellow with edges of green and gold.

Nose: citrus zest and fantastic flinty, chalky, minerality that suggests a hint of smoke.

Palate: everything the nose promises but more - the fruit is tightly knit, moreish but not sweet, held in line by fantastic minerality that leads to a long and complex finish. This is intelligent drinking wine. And if you know what I mean by that, then you'll like it too. To think of the rubbish Aussie/Kiwi/Southern French/Anywhere-In-The-World chardonnay that you could pay more for that would be samey, oaky, vanilla bollocks. I like this wine. I will drink more of it. But not tonight.

***** (Remember on the third note of this blog I said that star ratings are relative to the wine - this is no Montrachet, nor do I claim it is, but for a basic Chablis this is a gem, and worth five stars)

Tasted 13/9/2006 at Manuel House

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Vertical

These wines were tasted at an event hosted by the Earl & Countess of Elgin, Broomhall, Fife, on behalf of Pol Roger UK

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1996

Colour - pale gold with glimmering yellow edges.
Nose - heady, with fresh apple, hints of apricot and mango touched by a bit of toast and caramel.
Palate - luscious, fresh fruit, well structured - restrained and refined on the edges. There's a touch of the exotic and superb underlying richness. The mousse is vigorous but elegant.This will be incredible with time, but is delicious now.

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1995
Colour - greener on the edges than the '96 - and disgorged only 4 1/2 months before it.
Nose - subdued. Notes of brie and grape skins with a hint of spice, but not open.
Palate - sleeping. The fruit and secondaries are dumb at the moment, making the mousse a bit overpowering. Needs 2 years to wake up.

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1993
Colour - far deeper gold, maturity here is evident.
Nose - rich, mature notes - the fruit is candied and there are wild mushrooms on toast as well.
Palate - very nice depth and richness, the nose follows through, but ageing quickly. The finish comes to a bit of a halt. Drink soon and with food.

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1990
Colour - Slightly lighter than the '93, with excellent brilliance and lively bubbles.
Nose - still very fresh, with apples and a bit of citrus. On the edges the age presents itself; toasty, mushroomy notes.
Palate - late adolescence, a bit drowsy - still fresh and vibrant enough for oysters, but with a pleasant richness that would suit foie gras. It's lovely, but not yet at its potential. Lay down for another 2 or 3 years.

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1988 (from Jeroboam)
Colour - deceptively youthful, bright polished gold.
Nose - honey-fried mushrooms with fresh fritter batter & candied fruits.
Palate - exceptional. Lovely pastel fruit - gleeful and moreish with exceptional richness, though I don't think the depth of the nose has been released yet. Very sexy and moreish though. Would have happily drunk it all night.
****(*) - It would be 5 stars flat out, but I really think it's going to get better.

Tasted 5/9/2006 at Broomhall

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Salon Vertical

At the beginning of May, myself and fellow Naughton Dining Club founder Pete Crawford travelled to the Great North Eastern Hotel by Liverpool Street to taste my favourite Champagne, Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil. Corney and Barrow hosted the tasting; a dinner with a selection of vintages to match the different courses. Overall, I was unimpressed. Not with the wines, but with the course selection and the behaviour of some of our hosts. With tickets priced at £200 per head, I feel I'm allowed to nitpick on the finer details. Salon make superb, beautiful wines that only get better when matched with the right food. As such they deserve food that highlights the best of the wine. It is not the place for a chef to throw down a gauntlet to the wine, or worse, ignore it entirely.

The two reps at the table seemed intent on corralling opinion, making what were blatantly bad choices seem inspired and relentlessly going for the hard sell, not just on Salon, but on C & B's entire list. This felt inappropriate. I didn't pay £200 for you to sell me something, I paid £200 for the wine to sell itself.

The highlights of the evening were the exceptional canapés, served with Delamotte (Salon's sister house) Blanc de Blancs NV and the chat from winemaker Didier Depond - a lovely man clearly enthusiastic about his job and product. He's rightfully proud of the wines he crafts.

Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV
One of the stars of the evening. Clean & fresh and very moreish - ideal to start the evening. Luscious citrus fruits curbed by joyous effervescence. Lively, but not overly so. An incredibly fun and drinkable drop.

Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 1997
Nose is a bit metallic, then toasty. The fruit is subdued, more texture on the edges. The palate is all about mouth-feel, and the texture is lovely, supple & subtle. Not a great deal of depth but lovely nonetheless. The scallops bring the citrus out a bit more.

Salon 1996
The nose is pure mineral brilliance with lemon on the edges. Floral notes follow. Eventually toast but not brioche as of yet. The palate is large - larger and more forward than expected. The tart zing on the finish is typical young Salon - I think that may be to do with the recent disgorging. Amazingly, with air, it becomes younger, more vibrant acidity, the toast retreating to a more lees-y flavour - incredible complexity and length with great texture and minerality. Fantastic now, but far greater with age.

Salon 1988
This was served with fillet steak and an incredibly rich jus with caramelised onions, a gross disservice to the wine. It held its own, barely, but shouldn't have had to - how much better would this have been with a fine seafood course or even game bird? I won't know. Throughout the meal people marvelled at how the wine stood up to the meat. This irked me. It shouldn't have to stand up to it, it should compliment it and be complimented by it.

The nose has an edge of toasted caramel but again flinty, minerally, still youthful and very, very sexy. The palate is voluptuous and every bit as sexy as I remember - the bang comes at the finish, or the beginning of the finish - the forward palate is still a bit subdued. Mouth-filling and luscious and like the palate, very, very sexy. The texture and secondaries are well knit and there's great nuttiness. Great memories as well, from the first time I tried it.

Salon 1976 from magnum
And now to the greatest crime of the evening. This fantastic wine, one very dear to me as it's my birth year and tied with Dom Perignon 1966 as the greatest champage I've ever tried, was served with dessert. A fresh mango based dessert that had no place next to a 30 year-old champagne. It's simple chemistry - the sugar in the dessert overcomes whatever sugar remains in the wine and strips it down to its acidity. You're not tasting the wine as it's meant to be drunk. As such, what was the greatest wine of the night was treated as a curiosity - with people questioning its age-worthiness and quality. These notes were written tasting around the dessert.

Nose of lovely wild mushrooms laced with honey & butterscotch - there's a dark cocoa powder kind of nose coming through as well. The palate seems to be sleeping. Will come back after dessert.
Coming back to it... incredibly dry - fruits dried apricots, peaches, roast lemons and lime come out with air. Incredible fruit considering the age. Layered and textured with the opulence of great white burgundy but with the tightness, structure and minerality of great Alsace Riesling. This wine, like myself hopefully, will age for many, many years to come. Possibly more youthful than the 96. Quite amazing. Does not go with the dessert, which annihilates any richness.

Quite a few people walked away wondering what the fuss was about. With so much emphasis placed on how ageworthy Salon was, to pair the two oldest vintages so poorly defies belief. Would they have paired Le Montrachet with sticky toffee pudding? No. Well, after that, I'm not so sure. They all seemed so caught up in selling the wines they forgot about the wine itself.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

a little glimpse at heaven

I have been dipping my toes back into the wine trade recently. Tastings with Isabel Estate from New Zealand and Finca Allende from Spain, courtesy of Fields, Morris & Verdin, have been interesting, both for the wines and the surroundings. I will get around to posting my tasting notes eventually, but first I wanted to share a little pic I took surrepticiously while rooting around the Berry Brothers cellar after the Allende tasting.

First of all, the cellars were incredible. Every nook and cranny held ancient, crusted bottles that would never appear on their list - they existed simply to be drunk eventually by directors with visiting VIPs. Neck tags, not labels, described their contents and I remembered why wine fascinates me so much, why I've bankrupted myself several times over in the fervent desire to taste the sublime, and sometimes the disappointing. So what, in this web of catacombs, could pound my heart like a gong? Well, it was a selection of ancient Tokaji Essence, dating from the start of the 20th century. I didn't really have time to check all the vintages and feared I would get in trouble for taking a shot, but they were a sight to behold. It was sad to see them caged up. I'd be more than happy to take part in their liberation.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chateau Giscours 1988

Colour - that beautiful transluscence that claret gets when its just come of age, but still deep, dark blood red with no amber and great brilliance.

The nose is hedonistic and forward with fruit - cherries and cassis with a roast herb earthiness in the background that dwindles to a nice perfume.

The palate is quite full and sexy - great fruit, again with cherries and cassis - pretty juicy stuff on the mid-palate. The tannins are supple and pure velvet. Fantastic mouthfeel compliments the fruit - the herbs on the nose are more subtle in the mouth, coming through on the finish with some violet undertones. Not the most deep or complex fine wine but still more balance and elegance than some superstars you'd find at twice the price. Ace, actually.


Tasted at Manuel House 29/6/2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

more notes soon

There are some more champagne tasting notes to come, just got to get myself organised.

Which is more difficult that it should be.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

And then the Champagnes

Bollinger R.D. 1982

A deep burnt gold that catches the sun gloriously.

There's a bit of smokiness & richness with a bit of cooked peaches of all things.

Big & boisterous palate with quite a hyper mousse. Very dry, some really nice, earthy mushroomy flavours. Might need food. Good long finish.


Louis Roederer Cristal 1979

Molten gold and luminous in the late afternoon light. Active tiny bubbles.

Custard creams on the nose with citrus edges - burnt orange as well. Very creamy.

The palate is enhanced by the finest mousse of any champagne I have ever experienced - a beautiful, elegant, tickle - an amazing sensory experience. The fruit is perfumed, almost like orange flower water, it's elegant and balanced in the true sense of the words. There's loads of sweet incense & bits of smoke - sort of like good pinot gris. All coated in rich devon clotted cream. The finish lingers on - an amazing wine.


Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1976

The colour is polished brass with gold flecks

Nose is very creamy with good floral notes. Slight hints of creamy cheese as well.

Palate has a wonderful, rich, sweet creaminess - very sexy. The fruit has edges of mango chutney. Amazing length - both luscious and fun and much better than the last time tasted.


All tasted at Naughton 23/4/06

Barolo Pio Cesare 1977

Colour's lovely rust & amber with a still-crimson core - classic aged Barolo.

Nose is leather and tar with a bit of smoke and dried cherries.

The palate's impressive cherry fruit is laced by dark, supple tannins. Very dry and splendid with the roe deer.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Vougeot 1er Cru Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot Monopole

Nose has lovely pastel notes with aromatic smoke on the edges; must be the miniscule Pinot Gris & Blanc that go into the cuvée.

Palate is lovely, with well-balanced oak and lemon and melon notes lingering on the palate. Most impressive, especially as it followed 7 vintages of port.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 2000

Impenetrable crimson with purple rim.

The nose is meat, blood & violets.

The palate is extraordinarily balanced - this has a wonderful future ahead.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 1994

Colour opaque purple with a violet rim, clearly still youthful

Nose very meaty and gamey.

Palate is very forward and quite sexy. Hugely approachable, making me a tad suspicious. I’m not sure if it will have the staying power of the ’55 or even the ’70. But a lovely drop nonetheless. Sometimes you need a porno wine.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 1985

Colour – Still opaque but not for much longer

Nose – slightly dead; I think there may be some form of taint.

Palate – as muted as the nose. I think there’s something wrong with this and it’s a shame, for I have many fond and beautiful memories of this wine. When it’s on form, it’s *****, sadly, it gets nary a star today.

No stars

Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Tasted again 24/4/06 - the extra time had done wonders and once again it was **** or *****. Weird, huh? Of course, sadly, it had been open a bit too long at that point.

Graham’s 1970

Deep, dark crimson with a shade of purple at the core – very sexy looking

Nose – There is a dark, deep brooding to this nose – dark forest fruits, earth and maybe a bit of sweet candied brambles. There’s a hint of slight heat on the end.

Palate – quite enormous, rambunctious fruit, the sweetness beautiful and pure, the tannins supple and elegant. There is a touch of heat but it’s still a favourite and the heat is tamed by food.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 1966

Colour is light crimson with hints of rust

Nose- quite hot and a bit syrupy

Palate – bit too simple for my liking and there seems to be something out of kilter between the tannins and the fruit. Slightly disjointed but still pleasant.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 1960

Colour similar to the ’55 but less pink

The nose is simple, broody with real meaty notes

The palate is slightly more sweet and a tad simple compared to the 55 – more pure fruit, less tannin, less complexity. Possibly more fun, but loses something with air. Any other time it would have delighted. In this company it’s a bit of a disappointment.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Graham’s 1955

The colour of crushed strawberries

The nose is tremendously elegant – strawberries, forest floor, rustic notes and then something deeper, darker, and slightly spicy with a touch of licorice

The palate is remarkable, vigorous, intense and with focused fruit. The tannins still grip but have a lithe quality. As it develops a dark backbone emerges, deep spices and black licorice serve as a foil to the fruit, balancing the sweetness and bringing remarkable length and complexity. A monumental wine.


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Dom Perignon 1988

Colour – pale gold with small, fast bubbles and hints of green at the edges

Nose – intense lemon nose with effervescent minerality on the edges, coated by light butterscotch notes as well

Palate – intensely juicy with tight citrus fruit. There is a mineral backbone that gives great structure and lends a bit of seriousness to the proceedings. There’s fun there as well – loads going on, in fact. Will become more luscious with time. Wonderful!


Tasted at Naughton 22/4/06

Moet & Chandon 1943

– last vintage that Moet & Dom Perignon were the same cuvee

Colour – unpolished brass with lingering sediment.

Nose – sherried

Palate – Weird; there are some notes of dry, aged Riesling – still technically wine but well passed its best. Oddly, the structure is still rigid and tight, it’s just everything else has fallen down around it. Would have been interesting to add some current vintage to give it a bit of mousse.

No stars

Tasted at Naughton 21/4/06

Chateau Ausone 1988

Colour is deep & bloody, but no amber on the edges, rather crimson

Nose has pure perfumed elegance, sweet herbs, cherries & blackberries

Palate – silk & velvet texture in perfect harmony with the quite luscious though elegant fruit – great mineral backbone to it – elegant structure with a whispering dovetail finish that lingers beautifully.

Very happy I have 2 more bottles.


Tasted at Naughton 21/4/06

Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1988

Colour – Pure gold, amazing brilliance with tiny, fast bubbles

Nose – Vibrant, slightly floral notes – light heather & hint of mint with a core of honeyed butter

Palate – Delightful, luscious, compelling juicy fruit – reminiscent of its blended sibling. Manages to be both serious & fun at the same time – great depth with a good, rich, mouth-filling finish. Will mature gracefully, but I fantastic now.


Tasted at Naughton 21/4/06

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Veuve Clicquot 1961

Colour: Tarnished brass with brilliant flecks of gold. Slow bubbles rise lazily from the bottom of the glass. A wine relaxed in its maturity.

Nose: A bit heady and dare I say past it? Quiet notes of mushroom but there's something a bit too aged about it.

Palate: Quite remarkable considering the nose. Rich, butter-fried wild mushrooms with hints of caramel and butterscotch. This is rich and mouth-filling and quite fantastic. Sadly, the finish shows too much age with some strange acidity kick-back coming through, though this may have been contained by food. When good, exceptional, but there are balance issues.

***(**) Probably 5 stars 10 years ago

Tasted 14/4/06 at Naughton

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ch Lagrange 1995

Bloody corked bloody bottle. Somewhere beneath the musty rubbish was probably a very good wine.

(taster grumbles to himself and pours an uncorked pint of Fuller's ESB)

Tasted 6/4/06 at Staithe House

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet 1994

Nose has sweet cedar with a bit of smoke and deep, brooding cherry notes that fade slowly to a pot pourri of red fruit with a hint of dark chocolate.

The palate is both massive and elegant. Big, beautiful luscious juicy fruit balanced by a backbone of subtle, soft tannins - the purity of fruit is reminiscent of fine Burgundy, though the Rhone comes through in the focused finish that lasts for ages. With air loads of secondaries start coming through; roasted herbs, meat, licorice, all tightly knit and well structured. Pure, clean and elegant and quite wonderful with the lamb. I'm very, very happy I have another bottle.


Tasted 4/4/06 at Staithe House

Monday, April 03, 2006

Chateau Guiraud 1999

Nose - burnt honey & lime on the nose with rich, nose-filling caramel notes. There's a hint of summer hay as well.

Palate - An eclectic mixture of honey & burnt caramel with roast lime - good mid-palate richness and a lot of depth. Well balanced but unctuous and decadent to boot. Finish is long and more elegent than the mid-palate suggests


Tasted 1/4/06 at Staithe House

Chateau Domaine de L'Eglise 1995

Nose - bit of smoke on the nose with nice, plummy blackcurrant & forest floor and sweet herbs on the end.

Palate - there's a bit of acidity at the back - tamed by the food and really quite nice; classic claret and more left bank than right bank. Good backbone; the fruit seems a bit lean to start but opens up, especially with food. Goes from being rather good to fantastic. Second bottle opened seemed a bit more harmonious. Long finish with the tannins just beginning to soften. Long life


Tasted 1/4/06 at Staithe House

Chateau Coutet 1994

Nose has a real lemon sherbert tang with a dash of botrytis dirtiness and a touch of eucalyptus.

Palate has nicely balanced sugar and acidity - tangy lemon and lime notes with a bit of acacia honey sweetness - really good minerality running through it as well. Nice long finish - hints of spiciness. Good layered complexities; not overly unctuous, possibly a bit thin?


PS Really enjoyed it but my critical palate may be astray at the moment - 4 star enjoyment, 3 if I'm being strict.

Tasted 31/3/06 at Staithe House