Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Méo-Camuzet Bourgogne Rouge 2006

Méo-Camuzet make some of the finest wines in Burgundy. Their premier crus often fetch grand cru prices. I have very fond memories of their '91 Clos Vougeot, drunk when I graduated from the University of St Andrews, as the first fine Burgundy I ever had the pleasure of tasting. But previous vintages of this wine - their entry level red - have disappointed me. I found them too backwards and unyielding. Perhaps they were a little too young. I know a local merchant with few bottles of the '04 kicking about. I might have to revisit it.

Rich, translucent burgundy with youthful violet on the edges. Quite dark at the core, but still good clarity and brilliance.
Slightly sour cherries and cranberry fruit on the nose - heady and perfumed with a touch of sweetness.
The palate is a touch backward - tight tannins with all that fruit from the nose still gripping those tannins. Textured and a hint of the savoury about the mid-palate. Youthful and needing food but great structure with zingy acidity and more-ish red fruit. Lovely length. Will soften with cellaring but there's a crispness to its youth that I really like.
Tasted at The Seafood Restaurant St Andrews, 9/12/08

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dom Perignon 2000

Landmark vintages are a funny thing. Both 1900 and 2000 produced some remarkable Bordeaux (Chateau Margaux from the former is meant to be exquisite) and some remarkable prices to boot. At the time of the en primeur releases (and the first proper review tasting notes) there were quite a few cynical wine merchants scratching their chin stubble and wondering aloud whether it was somewhat convenient that such a landmark year produced such a landmark vintage. They still bought buckets of the stuff, obviously. And they made a packet. Until the hype surrounding 03's and 05's chipped away at those blue-chip 00's, proving that in the modern wine world a vintage is only great until the next great vintage. The prices more and more reflect exclusivity, desirability and a sense of get-it-before-anyone-else-does rather than actual quality of the wine. That's just a matter of points, apparently.

Recent economic disasters seem to be changing all this somewhat, and prices - while still outrageous - appear to be dropping daily, even for vintages hyped beyond all boundaries of common sense.

2000 sticks in my mind for a number of other reasons. It wasn't all that great throughout France, or Europe as a whole. The Rhône Valley didn't do too badly, Italy was still smiling about '97 and '99 and Burgundy was a bit of a minefield. The port houses all declared, but that's to be expected. They have the luxury of picking and choosing and 2000 was good enough to choose. I was just entering the wine trade while all these reports were coming out and it fascinated me. The ever-increasing hyperbole, prices and frenetic buying opened my eyes to the bewildering world of wine. Could a case of 12 bottles really be worth £4,000 while the wine was still in cask? Could I be offered the same 12 bottles 2 hours later for £5,000?

I'm older, wiser, grumpier and considerably more cynical now. En primeur season bores the shit out of me. My spam mailbox fills with brokers desperately trying to push case after case of 95-100 pointers at more money than I would ever, in good conscience or otherwise, pay for wine.

Champagne eluded the 2000 vintage hype, and for good reason. It wasn't a great vintage in Champagne. The wines are ok. Moët 2000 is particularly lovely, though that's more due to a radical (and long overdue) reform in winemaking and assemblage rather than the year itself. As it happens, I have no doubt that Dom Perignon 2000 will sell in vast quantities. It is the benchmark luxury champagne and - when it's great - it's one of the finest wines in the world. That perfectly round number on the label may even make it some form of collector's item. Well, even more of a collector's item than usual.

Dom Perignon 2000
Fresh green gold colour with an exciteable mousse composed of pinprick, hyperactive bubbles.
The nose is bursting with pear and white stone fruit with the barest hint of lemon citrus on the edges.
Silky palate of conference pears - not just in terms of flavour but texture as well, that graininess on the tongue. Nice finish. But it's a bit too youthful and pleasing for my taste. There's not a great deal of structure or acidity here. It's decadent, but in a light way. I'd call it elegant - but it doesn't have the structure for that. Perhaps it needs time, but I don't even get hints of a great future - just a pleasant now. I will come back to this in years to come, curious rather than eager.
Tasted in excellent and generous company at Naughton, 6/12/08

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chateau Gruaud Larose 1986

I'm sitting on a deck, staring out to where the Med would be, were the darkness of night not concealing its azure grandeur. There's a bit of a breeze. My body aches and stings with the injuries of vintage at the fantastic Coume del Mas. Nine days of back-breaking blood, sweat and tears and the hardest work I've ever done are over, and my understanding of where fine wine comes from has never been richer.

A few minutes ago, my host presented me with a decanted red and told me to guess. I'm usually good at blind tastings, but my host pretty much taught me most of what I know about wine and as such I suffer issues of confidence when tasting in his presence. I over-guess.

Anyway - I thought it was either Burgundian or Italian. A strange mix, I know. But that's a topic for another post. I couldn't really see the colour as it was dark. A truly blind tasting, really. Bringing it inside to the light revealed rusty edges but still a dark core. I shrugged my shoulders.

The nose was cherries and leather, with a soft rustic charm. A touch of spice. Perhaps a touch of wood, but old and no longer cedar.

The palate is gentle to start and finish, but robust and a touch wild in the middle. That should have been the giveaway really. Like with all wrong blind tastings, it became obvious once the answer was revealed. The cherries and leather from the nose come through on the palate - the fruit's a touch compote but it's ok because the mouthfeel is lovely throughout and to the last of the fantastic, lingering finish, It's not the perfect claret. It's better. It's old and lovely and honest and after everything, I couldn't want anything more.


Tasted in Collioure, 9/08

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chambolle-Musigny 1985 Louis Jadot

This bottle was a gift from an old friend who happens to own one of my favourite restaurants in the world. Thank you, Mr Jukes

Lovely old colour bit of rust on the edge, with fine ruby at the core. Warming. The nose is farmyardy, dusty old leather with stewed strawberries and cranberries. It smells soft.

The palate is still on form - the fruit's a bit stewed, but pure at the core. The texture is wonderful - supple, soft with velvet tannins and just the remains of grip. It goes surprisingly well with the goose egg carbonara. This is charming. Not much life left in it, but beautiful at the moment.

Tasted at South Street June 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kingfisher Lager & Kingfisher Strong

Just kidding. I'm not really doing tasting notes of the two lagers that contributed to the bulk of my drinking in India. They provided much needed refreshment in the muggy monsoon heat, often at the end of a long and exhausting day. Beware the Kingfisher Strong - it's tasty (possibly double malted - the label didn't say, but the flavour suggested as much), rich and will knock you flat on your arse if you don't treat it with a modicum of respect.

I did, however try some Indian wine during the trip, and found it not unpleasant.

Sula Sauvignon Blanc
I was on holiday and didn't bother to check the vintage. I would assume that it was 07. The colour's quite a rich lemon gold; none of the antipodean pale straw notes that you get used to with this varietal... whatever - it was pleasant and drinkable. Sitting on a balmy evening with a glass of this with a variety of Indian dishes I don't think you could really complain. Is it great wine? No. But I'm not sure there was a point on the trip where I desperately needed a Puligny Montrachet. Or, sticking with the grape, a fine Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé. I wanted to drink the local stuff and see what it was like. It was like tasting wine made in a place that isn't quite used to making wine, but is learning. There was a touch of soupiness, a touch of flab, but some nice grassy notes and it was refreshing. Importantly, it complimented the food - some manner of mutton dhansak I believe.
I would drink it again, were I in India. In fact, I would drink it in preference to paying the outrageous prices charged for European (and Australian, South African, American, Chilean etc etc) wine in India.
I wouldn't buy it over here. It's not ready yet. I'm not saying it never will be, but they need time to hit their stride. Will it be world-beating fine wine? I doubt it. But not every wine has to be. The lower end of the wine market is filling with bland, sweet, mass-produced rubbish - there's space for something new and idiosyncratic.
One word of advice though, drink it cold. Not chilled.

Sula Cabernet Sauvignon
Not quite as developed as the Sauv Blanc. Stewed, hyperactive fruit on the nose and palate. Room temperature doesn't help it as the room is very warm (well... the room is a patio, and it's hot out). It is, however, wine and I'd say there are a few cheap Aussie cab/shiraz blends that may pale to it. Drinkable, but pass me some more of the white please...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2000 Domaine Denis Mortet

I have been remiss of late. Life has taken over much of my writing, tasting notes included. I've just vacated a flat and in the midst of the maelstrom I found a note I made on birthday - I treated myself.

Be warned - this isn't quite a return to regular posting. I'm off to India for three weeks and can only write so much about Kingfisher...

Lovely colour - a violet tint to the classic Burgundian hue. Still youthful, deep and brooding with a touch of lightness at the edges.

Forest floor on a sunny day - ripe red and black fruit with a perfumed, floral edge. Touches of spice, cherries and mint. Intoxicating, elegant and ephemeral.

This is classic, weighty, masculine Burgundy - elegant still, but with rustic, meaty undertones. The fruits and forest are wild, rich and textured with notes of saddle leather. The tannins are soft, but still grip. Remarkable combination of rustic and refined. Wonderful.

Tasted 27 May 2008 at South Street.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella 2003

Amarone's a big part of me being in the wine trade. In a roundabout way, it's how I got my first job selling fine wine. I'm sure some of my other spectacular personality traits helped, but my love of Amarone was the only one that's ever been mentioned. My first vintage of Allegrini's Amarone was the 1988, tasted in summer 2001. I didn't take notes, sadly, but I do remember loving it. I remember the first time I tried Quintarelli's incredible (and incredibly expensive) wines and the aftermath of that tasting. I felt guilty. I decided, foolishly, that my love of Amarone held me back as a taster. I needed to seek elegance, refinement and complexity - the rustic glories and awesome power held in the Veneto's finest red could not improve my palate or knowledge. 

It was not my first, nor will it be last, bad decision. It was, however, easily rectified. 

Amarone done well is a raucous wine, summarily dispatching so many new world pretenders boasting about their super-ripe dried grapes. It balances bitter and sweet, rustic and refined, power and the antonym of power. When it's done well. Poor Amarone is a travesty - stewed, unstructured, occasionally oxidised but mostly unfinished. You get this big hit and then... woosh, gone. The big hit isn't even fruit, or flavour, but booze. Avoid poor Amarone as you would any mucky factory produced wine.

The colour's still dense, though fading slightly at the edges it's still dark and brooding at the core. 

Bramble and pepper on the nose, followed by rich dark chocolate and cocoa powder with hints of glacé cherries.

Massive palate, matched by a tight structure. Bramble and cherries, ripe but with a pleasant savoury tang, then comes the chocolate - not only in flavour but in texture too, almost to the grain. Bittersweet, slightly meaty with beautiful but never overbearing weight. The dustiness of the tannins reminds me of cocoa powder and the term chocolate leather comes to mind in terms of mouthfeel. This is great stuff and drinking a treat at the moment. Perhaps not as classy as the '04, but a real blinder nonetheless.

Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop 09/04/08

Pieropan La Colombare Recioto de la Soave

Bronze at the core, though gold and a touch of silver throughout. 

Candied apricots, peaches and all manner of stone fruit on the nose. It's not all sweetness though - there's a flinty, minerality to it - hint of cereal, touch of grist and a nice spiciness all there. Almost overwhelmingly heady, with a touch of perfume too.

This is a great wine. The palate is rich, honeyed - pure stone fruits from the nose with gripping texture and a hint of botrytis. Minerality of the wet pebble variety, with clean structure throughout and a long finish that drifts into the ephemeral. 

Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop, 9 April, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chateau Pontet Canet 1998

The colour is just beginning to show its age, lightening at the rim, though still deep at the core - no rust and still quite intense.

Fresh currants with cedar wood, coal dust and unsmoked tobacco on the nose - everything that classed (and classy) claret should smell like - the warmth of old wood and old leather with shelves of old books.

Palate shows how young this is - tight and restrained with some grippy oak - good structure and nicely layered fruit and secondaries - bit of a meaty, savoury note but still elegant. 


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop 29/3/2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ostertag Gewurztraminer 2003 'Vignoble d'E'

Rose petal, lychee and fresh ground black pepper with a touch of flint on the nose. 

Quite sexy on the palate - lipid, soft and silky but with a bit of a hot finish. Great with Thai food a few weeks ago, but we don't have any Thai food right now. 


Tasted at Naughton 23/3/2008

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Spätlese 2003

The room's too dark to really judge the colour - still pale gold though.

Nose is honey and ripe pineapple with slices of lime, fresh green apple, honeysuckle and flower water.

All that comes through on the palate with more. Juicy melon, more pineapple - ripe and sweet on the mid-palate but with brilliant candied lime peel acidity on the finish that keeps it clean. The texture is fresh honeydew and this is a fine, sexy wine. More, please.


Tasted at Naughton 23/03/2008

Niepoort Vintage 1970

Dirty brown with touches of rust. Not the most attractive colour of port I've ever seen.

The nose is stewed chocolate, caramel and edges of esther.

Leathery on the palate, soft - almost no fruit to speak of, but pleasant texture. A bit boozey on the finish.

Pleasant, but not great. Drink now.


Tasted at Naughton 23/08/2008

Bollinger La Grande Anée 1996

Rich gold in the glass - not dark yet, still with hints of green.

Hugely toasty on the nose with buttered mint and a touch of strawberry, nettles and summer hay. 

Honey buttered toast, mouth-filling and textured with a luscious mousse, still slightly rambunctious bubbles. The finish is perfumed, coming through with the strawberry, nettles and mint. Then it shuts down, bizarrely, and becomes quite simple. Bizarre. I think it may be a touch too young perhaps still? There is greatness to come. Wait a bit.


Tasted at Naughton, 23/03/2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Louis Jadot Pernand-Vergelesses Clos de la Croix Pierre 2003

I first tasted this from barrel in November 2004. It struck me as a bit of a gem. The vineyard is a favourite of the winemaker, Jacques Lardiére and offers great quality at great value. 2003 though, was hot - damn hot. I've ranted here before about it being a terrible waste of money, how it was far too hot for decent wines, how better wines from better vintages could be bought at better prices. There are, of course, exceptions.


Quite dark with vague violet on the edge. 

The nose is confusing but enticing. Meaty, with floral edges and a touch of candied cherries more reminiscent of Tuscan sangiovese than Burgundy. Behind the cherries are the cranberries and raspberries and its burgundian roots appear.

Ripe, juicy, red fruits erupt on the palate. This is what a heatwave does to Burgundy - femininity and elegance evaporate and what's left is sexy, perhaps even tarty. The fruit becomes a touch stewed with air - over an hour or so. That doesn't make it bad though. It's more-ish, slightly simple, but incredibly compelling and drinkable with soft, dusty tannins ensuring that it isn't just a one night stand. It lingers longer.


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop 20/3/08

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Louis Jadot Côte du Nuits Villages "Le Vaucrain" 2005

What brilliant colour! Vibrant, youthful Burgundy with a touch of violet. 

The nose is both intense and tight knit at the same time. Focused. Raspberries and cranberry fruit edged by newly tanned leather, wild herb and a dash of spice.

The vibrancy of the fruit follows through all the way to the palate. It's almost juicy, but the structure keeps it in - I get the sense that the newly tanned leather of the tannins will soften brilliantly to that fantastic beaten saddle-leather texture that good old Burgundy gets. It's pleasing and more-ish now, with dark, tarry notes on the finish and surprising grip. I think five years or so and this will be truly incredible.


Tasted 15/3/08 at Luvians Bottleshop

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Crater Rim Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Very pale gold with shimmering silver edges.

Great kiwi sauvignon nose - fresh, crisp green pepper first, then gooseberry and stone fruit - intense aromatics that get the mouth watering.

All that intensity comes through - the crispness, the green peppers, the gooseberries and the fleshy white fruit, but then there's a surprise. A sweet, rounded, rich, mid-palate with fine honey notes and razor balance reminiscent of good German riesling. The finish that follows is long and lovely.

Apparently a percentage of the fruit was late harvested. If so, well done. The margin for error with something like this is daunting, and the winemaker's success has resulted in a cracking New Zealand Sauvignon that manages to stand out from the crowd - no mean feat.


Tasted at South St, 10/3/2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lustau Añada 1989 Rich Oloroso

I first tasted this wine at the Lustau bodega in Jerez. It was a charmed holiday and this wine was one of the great surprises along the way. We liked it so much we shipped about a pallet back to Scotland. 

The nose is smoked nuts and marmalade with loads of Christmas spice and fruitcake, candied cherries and butterscotch. Basically, there's a lot going on here, and I'm happy to be a part of it. 

All that came before on the nose follows through on the palate, but moreso. It's extraordinary. Fat, sweet caramel with figs, honey coffee grounds, roasted oranges, cloves and nutmeg all rounded beautifully, with a touch of saddle leather and dusty oak drifting into the long and ephemeral finish. It all happens in check - the structure's remarkable; sweet but never gooey, as some of its PX cousins can be. Delightful.

Tasted often, but most recently 23/2/2008 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, February 01, 2008

Louis Jadot 2006 En Primeur Tasting

Burgundy, it turns out, is a fine way to start the day. It's elegant, and provides a lift that bolsters the soul. 

This morning we tried a few selected cask samples from Louis Jadot; offerings from their 2006 vintage. 2006 turns out to have been an odd year - an intense heatwave in July led to fears of a repeat of 2003. A wet August restored balance to the vines and the dry, warm September meant that there was balance and harmony to those who trusted their vines enough not to panic. Whites tend to be sexier and more forward than the reds, and overall it tends to be more of a 'terroir' vintage than 2005. What this means, apparently, is that the more expensive, premier and grand cru vineyards show their mettle, while the lesser wines are not the incredible value and superb quality of the previous year. With 2005 in Burgundy a basic AC Vosne Romaneé from a good producer will be spectacular whereas with 06 you may be better off getting the 1er Cru Beau Monts. If you can afford it. And that's assuming you can find much 05 Burgundy still kicking about - if you can, best of luck to you.

But I digress.

We tasted a nice cross-section of wines - it was not comprehensive. All scores are in brackets - they're cask samples that travelled from Beaune to Scotland and such they're not 100% indicative of the wine to come.


Louis Jadot Savigny Les Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Les Vergelesses 2006

Soft nose and palate - creamy and supple. There's decent mouthfeel, though no minerality to speak of, while the wood seems unruly at times - especially on the finish. Bit simple. (**)

Louis Jadot Pernand Vergelesses Blanc 1er Cru Clos de la Croix de Pierre 2006

Big, spicy, exotic vanilla and pineapple nose that comes through to the palate - there's a lot going on here. Nicely layered tropical fruit and spice, but still a good underlying elegance and a touch of the ephemeral on the finish. (****)

Louis Jadot Meursault 1er Cru Les Gouttes d'Or 2006

Not showing well at all - flabby, which befalls many a Meursault, but without the compelling sexiness to resurrect it. Is it the sample or the wine? Beaten soundly by the Pernand at half the price. (**?)


Louis Jadot Chateau Des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent Clos de Rochegrés 2006

An old favourite with an excellent nose of mint, briar and violets that follows through to palate - this is earthy, rustic, well-knit and remarkably deep. Still shocked that gamay does this. The secondaries are remarkable though obscure the primaries slightly. There's little core fruit at the moment, though I assume that will come out with time. It's just too expensive for a Beaujolais though, greatest Beaujolais though it may be. (***?*) - the question mark is due to price.

Louis Jadot Cote de Nuits-Villages 'Le Vaucrain' 2006

The most obviously 'sampled' wine, with a bunch of residual CO2 kicking up a bit of effervescence on the mid-palate. However, there's beautiful purity of fruit and nice secondary notes of tobacco and forest floor - not hugely complex, but lovely nonetheless. (****)

Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Les Avaux 2006

Big, juicy, premier cru Beaune with surprisingly mature integration between the tasty cranberry fruit and oak. Quite more-ish and sexy. (****)

Louis Jadot Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Barre 2006

Far darker fruit on the nose than any so far, with a touch of leather. Beautifully integrated oak with good depth and fine mouth feel. Fine structure. This is going to be a lovely wine. (****)

Louis Jadot Vosne Romaneé 2006

Good fruit and nice balance but a bit dumb. Would like to try it again after bottling (**?)

Louis Jadot Vosne Romaneé 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts 2006

Intense berry fruit on the nose - brooding and perfumed. The finest wine so far today. Integrated, complex and boasting elegant structure. Look forward to following up on this (*****)

Louis Jadot Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Fuees 2006

Bit dumb - four Chambolle fans in the room looking despondent. There's a hint of more, but it's muted. Must come back to this. (**?)

Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2006

Lovely colour, though the nose is a bit closed - there's a lot of oak as well. Very good length on the palate and remarkable tightness. It's closed, waiting, but not dumb. (****)

Over all the wines tasted lovely. It was not one of those earth-shattering en primeur tastings you read about, with critics scrambling to get down as many adjectives as possible, trying to out-superlative and odd-fruit each other. Instead it seems to be one where you'll have to pick carefully for greatness, if that's what you want. I enjoyed the overall elegance - they weren't showy wines, even the sexy ones. I'd like to have tried some finer whites, but I'm sure I'll get the chance. The wines that excited me weren't the most expensive - the white Pernand and the Vaucrain (£20 and £16 respectively), should they live up to these samples, will be cracking wines at good prices. The outrageous 05 prices mean that people who've been priced out of Burgundy for a year could get some excellent wines at much better prices for 06, but they should choose carefully. 

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Vin de Constance 2002

If South Africa has a flagship wine, then this must be it. Its legend dates back three centuries and there are reports of bottles ageing beautifully for over 100 years or more. Once upon a time it stood proudly next to Yquem, the great Tokaji's, and Germany's finest in the pantheon of the world's great dessert wines. 

The first time I tried it I didn't like it. I didn't think it lived up to the hype that the producers, Klein Constantia, were trying to instil in the brand. I thought they were trading on past glories, that their great experiment was doomed to failure, that I would stick to France for great sweet chenin blanc. I don't remember that vintage. It may have been late nineties. 

Trying the 2002 is a very different story. 

Incredibly deep gold, with hints of brass and possibly copper at the core. Delightful brilliance - genuinely beautiful to look at as it captures the light. 

The nose is such that were I only to have smelled it, I could take some small comfort. The nose is beautiful. Spiced marmalade, flint, lemon, heather honey and a touch of marzipan edged with floral perfume and a hint of minerality.  

Honey and marmalade come alive on the palate - such brilliant purity of sweetness and fruit - oranges, lemons and a touch of peach. It isn't flabby though - there's a classic flintiness and minerality that keeps it from all going crazy. It gives structure and texture that makes me want to try this wine with some fantastic food - creamy Loire goat's cheese perhaps, or a tarte citron? The finish lasts a good couple of minutes. It's ridiculously more-ish, and surprisingly elegant, considering the intense concentration of flavours. 

It will keep for a decade or two at least, though I look forward to trying one of their centenarian bottles.


Tasted 31/1/08 at Luvians Bottleshop.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dönnhoff Riesling 2006

The hype of Germany's 2006 has sent quite a few waves through the wine world. London merchants staged hugely successful en primeur campaigns, selling top wines from top producers at top prices in large quantities. What does it all mean to the average consumer, to whom most German wines are a mystery, who don't know Bernkasteler Doktor or the significance of a gold capsule, or why a half bottle of eiswein is worth over £100 in bond? 

It means a lot. It means a lot because, hopefully, this great vintage and heightened attention will increase the profile of some of the greatest white wines on the planet. As is the norm with these things, it doesn't matter how good the top tier wines are if those at entry level drag their heals. Look at Bordeaux - millions of gallons of unsold garbage sitting in warehouses next to the some of the world's greatest wines selling out before they're bottled. 

So yesterday we opened Dönnhoff's basic Riesling 2006. Dönnhoff's pretty much the best producer in the Nahe and I expected it to be good, as it always is, regardless of vintage. 

I was, we were, blown away. This wine retails at £10.99 and it's incredible value for money. The nose alone gets you salivating. Fleshy white grape, fresh pear and a hint of lime with a fresh effervescence. It tickles. On the back is a hint of flint.

The palate is pinpoint balance between residual sugar and acidity. The fresh, fleshy (though never flabby) fruit continues from the nose - juicy white grapes, pear and a touch of citrus. That incredible acidity cleans the palate leaving you wanting more, lingering on the refreshing minerality. It's bursting with flavour, but never weighty - poised and balanced it manages both sexiness and elegance. Kind of like Scarlett Johansonn in a svelte ball gown but fuck-me pumps and sexy lingerie underneath. 

I look forward to drinking this and many other German 06s over many years to come. 


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop, 24/1/08

Thursday, January 24, 2008

a visit to Coume del Mas

My thumb and forefinger are purple, stained into the grooves of my fingerprints. It's the mark of a tasting in this neck of the woods, and in this case a very good tasting. Phillippe Gard, winemaker and owner of Coume del Mas, is vaulting barrels and stacks of wine cases with a wine-thief, drawing samples, occasionally shouting something about the vintage, the cuveé, wine in general or the region in particular. I try to follow the French, to little avail, though it's all said with such quiet conviction that I feel I understand regardless. My friend Andy translates to help out and sometimes Phillippe switches to English. 

The cáve is perfect. It's January and all things are happening. Stainless steel fermentation tanks line the walls, stained barrels lie here and there and every gap is filled by stacks of crates, the recently bottled vintage preparing for shipping, empty bottles awaiting the bottling truck, rolls of labels not-yet-afixed, flat-packed crates, more packaging, more cases, more barrels - it is a small winery and nothing shows that better than the clutter I see before me. Phillippe apologises for the mess but I couldn't be happier - it's a rare sight, a genuine behind the scenes look, and the wine geek in me drinks it all in. 

All the while the wine thief does its job, and we try some wines.


Coume del Mas Folio 2007

This is always my favourite white of the region. Mouth-filling, waxy white fruit, a touch of clotted cream and a great mineral backbone. Very quaffable. This is barrique aged but then Phillippe takes a sample from one of the stainless steel tanks, telling us it's an experiment. It's tight, with more intense minerality and a more angular structure. I ask if it will be blended with the wine from barrique and Phillippe shrugs. He's constantly experimenting, looking for the best way to express his wines, and he hasn't made his mind up yet.

We then try a rousanne/vermentino blend that's only sold locally - easy drinking table wine, that's a real delight. Fun wine for the porch on a warm summer's day. The effervescence of young white samples excites the palate and readies us for the reds.

Coume del Mas Schistes 2007

Straight from tank, this wine sees no wood, no racking, and as little air or interference as possible. The result is remarkable, especially at this young stage. It is dark purple with vivid edges. The nose is fresh crushed violets, plum and allspice, with wild fresh herbs on the edges. The palate follows through entirely from the nose. The complexity is astounding, as is the depth and darkness - that it is all coming from the fruit (100% very old vine grenache), without any wood, seems daunting. Essence of plums and violets run over stones and pebbles - such brilliant minerality - words like purity and authenticity come to mind. This is a remarkable wine. ***(**)

From then we tried a barrage of barrel samples, compenent batches to be blended into either Quadratur, Abysses, Quintessence or some yet un-named cuvée. Late harvested syrah, old vine carignan, a blend of syrah, mouvedre and carignan. All of them were big, yet that purity of fruit, a total lack of confection, pervaded, as did that backbone minerality, the heart of the region's terroir. 


In a loft in the back of the winery sits a selection of barrels of various sizes. Phillippe explains this is where, when the time is right, his attempt at Banyuls Grand Cru will come from. To blend a great Banyuls Grand Cru is an art few still possess. While the law stipulates that it must simply stay in barrel for three years before achieving Grand Cru status, the reality is more complicated. Selection and blending are paramount to achieve the best results, which can be heavenly on the nose and palate. We sample some of these barrels - glorious honeyed red fruits with still gripping tannins. One particularly wonderful mouvedre from an unfeasibly small barrel nearly brings tears to my eyes. With such incredible components I have no doubt that Phillippe's first Grand Cru will be a triumph. I mention this and the shrugged response is reassuringly honest and humble. 


Coume del Mas Quadratur 2001

We drank this with a lovely, simple lunch of pasta and fresh truffles at Phillippe Gard's home in the village of Banyuls. 

The nose is christmas spice - cinammon and cloves, fresh woodspice. Wonderful and different. This follows through to palate where those spices balance against rich plum and forest fruit. It's a remarkable fine wine, complex and rustic, beautiful to sip, brilliantly structured. A total sensory delight - as good excuse as needed to lay Quadratur down for a good few years. 


I left lunch with the sense of excitement one gets knowing that the best is yet to come. Phillippe Gard makes great wines, that much is true, but he's not content to stand still. That can only be a good thing, and I look forward to trying what comes next.

Stella Bella Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

We tasted this sample in Luvians on a slow, hungover Wednesday in January. Wines have to work hard on such days. They need to provide lift, they need to be authentic. We're bored already, we don't want anything else to bore us. 

Sadly, the Stella Bella bored us. 

It's nose was dense, brooding, quite powerful but undefined. It smelled like a big red. Blind I would have said it was Australian... and red. The blackcurrant from the cabernet overwhelms any cherry notes from the sangiovese. 

We spoke about the palate for a good 15 - 20 minutes. It was big, unctuous and again, blackcurrants overwhelmed some of the subtler notes. The sangiovese came through on the finish, with a green tannin bitter bite that stands as a hallmark for new world pinot noir and sangiovese that's been overextracted. That said, it isn't a terrible wine - it bears hallmarks of quality. But it's faults leave it exposed. There are better wines from this part of the world at this price. It's uniqueness, as a sangiovese blend from Western Oz, is undermined by it not being a good sangiovese from Western Oz. Most of our chat was apologetic, searching for plus points, rather than shouting about them. 

That's not a good sign.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chambolle Musigny Les Fuees, JF Mugnier, 2000

The colour is why I love Burgundy - one of the reasons anyway. That perfect pale brilliance that deceives you. You think it's going to be wishy-washy, but the brilliance gives it away. It generates it's own light. 

The nose is more feel than flavour, fruit essence rather than defined - red fruit flower water, if such a thing exists. Perfumed and incredibly sexy.

The palate is sensuous, beautifully textured with wonderful mouthfeel, but the fruit's a touch muted. As though it is entirely ephemeral. Lovely, elegant, sexy, yet simple in the pleasure it gives, though not a simple wine. Pinpoint perfect fine Burgundy, though quite a shock to the system after barrel samples of old vine carignan, old vine grenache and several samples of fine Banyuls earlier in the day.


Tasted in Collioure, 11/1/2008

Monday, January 07, 2008

Quadratur, Coume del Mas, 2003

The colour displays deep purple or ruby, depending on the angle of the light. It's still dark to the core, but brilliant nonetheless and bearing more translucency than a couple of years ago. 

The nose is pure, driven, perfect old vine grenache - ripe plum and blueberry fruit wrapped in dark woodspice, forest floor and tar aromas. Well balanced on all counts and hugely inviting.

All the fruit and peripheral notes from the nose come through on the palate - it's beautiful. Ripe plums, blueberries and bramble fruit with such intensity and purity - avoiding the stewed, overcooked aspects prevalent elsewhere in the vintage. Then that dark earthiness comes through, rich, tactile and gripping. The tannins are becoming supple. This is about pleasure - it's sensuous. Mouthfeel is a tad suede and velvet, lending to its more-ishness. The structure isn't rigid but it also isn't lacking. This is great stuff - a definitive example of fine grenache and a fine wine in general. 


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop, St Andrews 7/1/2007