Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Amontillado de Jerez, Solera matured by Miguel Fontadez Florido, from the Lustau Almacenista range

I have some other notes, older, to post; but they can wait.

I love sherry. It's great value, it's complex and savoury, it seems to defy convention. I chuckle as folks turn their nose up, muttering about granny's favourite tipple and paying too much for something far more popular.

The mere process of its creation fascinates me. Its maturation is paramount - the soul of the wine is not so much in its viticulture, but in the vast bodegas that store barrels upon barrels (literally) in their towering soleras. Titans of the booze industry blend thousands of barrels - Domecq, Gonzalez Byass & Harvey's all produce ridiculous amounts, their names ubiquitous with the wine and region.

As far as I know, it is only Lustau that champion the Almacenistas: the garagistes of sherry country. Hobbyists: doctors, authors or tradespeople with space for a few barrels and use it to make their own wines. Unburdened by producing definitive styles for a global market, they produce some classic wines. They're individual. This particular Amontillado comes from a 30 barrel solera. I don't know much else about it - average age or anything - but I do know that it's rather tasty.

The colour is brilliant amber.

The nose has roasted citrus, figs, salted & toasted almonds, salted caramel, beaten leather, cured ham and a touch of chestnut. There's also a savoury dustiness that's rather compelling. It's also a touch spicy, prickly almost.

Rich, dry sherries are such a curveball. The nose suggests sweetness, but there's none. As bone dry as a Fino, but with the curbing nature of oxidation, it becomes softer, nuttier with an almost creamy finish. All that remarkable complexity from the nose follows through. Without food, it is a touch sharp, but it should be. That zippy raking that it gives, that jolt to the saliva glands, the delightful cleansing on the palate that follows, all of these things are an acquired taste.

I'm glad I acquired it.

Tasted 23 December at Miller's Court, whilst avoiding Christmas tree responsibilities

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pio Cesare Barolo 2004

I'm pretty sure we were on our way to or from the Schooner Wharf Bar. Probably from. I think we'd just had lunch - probably fish-of-the-day grilled sandwich, washed down with couple of Red Stripes. The fish of the day was probably snapper, or mahi-mahi (otherwise known as dolphin, but not the cute, squeaky kind). So we wandered home and, as happens in the Keys, there was a sudden downpour. The sun had been beating down beforehand and suddenly there was that peculiar aroma - that rain on hot asphalt whiff. Former wine-merchanting legend (and current wine-making legend) Andy turned to me and said, 'Now there's a tasting note: rain on hot asphalt.'

The problem is, not a lot of wines smell like that.

Young Barolos, however, do often smell a bit of tar, and from there you can possibly arrive at rain on hot asphalt. With a little imagination.

The colour pleases me. It's that dark and brooding Nebbiolo that kind of looks like rust, but isn't, with illuminating brilliance at the core.

Earthy, smoky, meaty, tar-like nose with a core of sweet cherries, a touch of cranberry and perhaps just a whiff of rain-on-hot-asphalt. Truffles and wet fresh soil come through a bit with some air. Broody, youthful and enticing.

Incredibly tight knit on the palate. Those cherries and cranberries are inseparable from the secondaries - tar and liquorice, big mouthfeel and mouth-filling. This is so young and there's so much to come - it hums with its structure and those blank spots, those markers that hint at what's to come - that tar will soften to leather and that liquorice will fade to tobacco. At the risk of sounding a bit new-age-y, there's brilliant energy to this.

Needs about 10-15 years and it will be glorious. Very fun now.
Tasted 27/11/09 at Luvians Bottleshop.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chave Selection Saint Joseph 'Offerus' 2002

I am in-between jobs at the moment. It's only been a few weeks. I'm not watching daytime television and I'm not panicking yet. To occupy my mind and keep my palate nimble I'm spending a few hours a week developing a staff-training curriculum for one of Scotland's finest independent wine merchants. One of the most important things about teaching is determining what needs to be taught. In that sense, I suppose I've got quite a curve to attend to myself.

Faded violets on the edge without the light, with it there's a glimmer of ruby, and the violets lose their purple. And what's a violet without it's purple?

The nose is green pepper, muted olive tapenade and a smattering of forest floor. The fruit has turned stoney and there are plums and perhaps a fig or two lingering there. A tingle of minerality.

The palate is very much as it should be. 2002 was a bit of a shambles in the Rhône, and as such this is not going to last much longer. That said, it's not fading. Chave doesn't release rubbish. It's just made that shift, that twist from berry fruit to stone fruit, where the line is blurred between secondaries and primaries and you're not sure where the fruit ends and the tannins and phenols begin. There's that green-ness from the nose, that tang of black olive and the plums and figs, all wrapped in those velvety, plum flesh tannins and an underlying stone-yness. It's a nice, charming Northern Rhône with a bit of age.

*** (Part of me wants to give it ****, just for being true to itself)
Tasted 23/11/09 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tedeschi Rosso La Fabriseria 2001

It was with deep sadness that I discovered Tedeschi are no longer producing this fantastic wine. A classic Veneto red blend with just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon (about 5%) to give it a bit of backbone, this was one of my true favourites during my early years in the trade. When I started it was £11 or £12 a bottle and by its last vintage I think it was about £17. I always lamented the price rising, but never resented it.

The core is deep still, though the edges begin to wane.

Broody nose with Christmas spice, cocoa and candied cherries. Touches of woodspice, dust and more savoury fruit. Candied hams, figs and more cherries.

At once complex and deep - dark fruits with sandalwood, bright bunches of summer cherries just beginning to soften. Mouthfilling and layered. The mouthfeel is reminiscent of cocoa with a touch of that dryness you get with good cured meats. Good length and good memories. A shame it's gone.

****(and an extra * for some good years and good memories)
Tasted 20/11/09 at Shorehead among good friends

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Fontodi Vinga del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva 2004

The first time I tried this was, I think, the 1998 vintage. I'm pretty sure of it. Andy popped it open on a quiet night at the shop, probably six or seven years ago. He'd tried it at VinItaly and loved it, proclaiming it to be the best Chianti he'd ever tried. We swirled and bantered and read up on the estate and decided, damn; that was fucking good Chianti.

I bought this particular bottle in the vain hope of laying it down for a wee while, or longer. 2004 is meant to be fantastic and I've always liked giving good Chianti a wee bit of age, to let some of that tar turn to leather. Sadly at a dinner party recently I had been remiss in purchasing appropriate wine. A raid of my fine wine shelf ensued and thus we were treated to this old friend.

Crimson to the core - held up to the light it showed spectacular brilliance, gem-like, ruby.

The nose is intense, dark chocolate cherries with the dust that collects at the bottom of an old wooden wine box. The secondaries are still more about the feel; prickling the nostrils and surrounding that intensity of fruit, underlining it and putting two massive exclamation points behind it.

That dark chocolate cherry intensity follows through to the palate - it pierces with laser-like focus, the fruit and cocoa dominating the beginning and middle of the palate with perfect, proper tannins, dry as a bone and not a hint of green, cleaning up afterwards, stripping every spare lipid up from the tongue as it goes down. Delicious with the bangers n' mash but suited to even more hedonistic, rich, rib-sticking meals. Roast leg of lamb with a nice bit of crispy fat and such, adorned by roast tomatoes. That's classic, proper, old-world dryness, none of your sweetened tannins, no velvet yet, but with time it will come.

Tasted 5/11/09 at Shorehead

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Musigny Grand Cru 1999 Jacques Frederick Mugnier

This was tasted recently in the company of old friends including two wine-makers, a wine merchant and a chef/restauranteur. It was an extraordinary evening and this was the highlight.

Colour is youthful but possibly showing its first grey-temples. No rust, just beginning to pale a touch. To be fair, it's rarely the darkest wine in the world.

Purity & perfume pervade on the nose. Crushed wild strawberries and raspberries with a touch of dusty pomegranate. Whiffy gorganzola. The cloud of herby dust in a forest step. Balsamic starts coming through later- more savoury, caramelised onions and hints of bacon fat. Leather.

On the palate, the tannins just caress. It's soft. A touch muted to start. Incredible compote fruit. Beautiful but kind of shy. Those beguiling red fruits from the nose all follow through but become so deeply entwined with the secondaries - perfumed herbs, sweet dusty leather that it just becomes feeling more than flavour. Lasts and lasts...

Tasted 21/10/09 at Shorehead

Friday, September 18, 2009

Domaine Olivier Pithon Cuvée Laïs, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes 2008

I'm in France, making wine. In Collioure. Well, Argelés sur Mer is where I'm staying, and we're making wine in both Argelés and Cospron, which is nestled in between Collioure and Banyuls. The wines we're making will be Collioure, Banyuls, Muscat de Rivesaltes and Côtes du Roussillon. And maybe a few Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. It's hard work, and tonight my mate Andy and his wife Kirsten are hosting a wee meal. It makes a nice change from the constant baguette-cheese-paté combo that forms the cornerstone of our diet at the moment. There are vegetables for a change. So we opened a bottle I bought. Pithon is right next to Domaine Gauby, one of the region's truly great winemakers. He's organic and, I think, other marks of being a generally forward-thinking and hip wine-maker. Biodynamic? Dunno. The guy at the groovy wine shop in Collioure, Vins d'Auteurs, said he was cool and my mate Andy concurred.

The colour is pale, but the gold still yellow.

Malt, oats and green rhubarb hit the nose first, then developing into a bit of peach skin with apricots and just a touch of gunsmoke.

The palate is huge. Woody but curbed white fruit with a youthful zing and granola texture accompanied by dried, caramelised green apples. Long, mouth-filling finish. This is fairly huge stuff, perhaps lacking a bit of finesse.


Tasted 18/9/09 in Collioure

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chateau Thénac Côtes de Bergerac 2005

I was at a trade tasting once, a big one. Supermarket buyers were out in force, every major retailer, wholesaler, wine-writer and hanger-on was milling about, swilling and spitting, small-talking and flattering while shippers, wine-makers, middlemen and me were all trying to impress, make a sale or even just get some interest. It wasn't the most fun in the world, but it was ok. I ate a lot of free water biscuits and drank a lot of free water. I tasted, for the first time, a wine I'd made. In fact, I'd foot-trodden the bloody thing.

Standing next to me at the time was a wine-maker from Bergerac. Well, kind of. He was English. But he'd made wine in Bergerac for quite awhile. And, having done so, he had no fucking time for any of the rubbish surrounding him. There was no fake smile, there was no recycling of nonsense yields or percentages, no quaint hook to drag people in; he looked with disillusioned disdain at those around him and shot grins and winks at the women walking by; he poured because he had to, and he was almost daring you not to like his wines.

I didn't like all his wines. I liked some, disliked others. But I liked the attitude. I enjoyed the chat. I learned a bit. I poured, and smiled and tried not to screw up.

That was my introduction to the wines of Bergerac. I remember more about the maker than the cuvées. So I'm revisiting the region, on a whim, with a wee sample a friend passed my way. I'd never heard of it, but I trust the shipper.

The label brags about using Bordeaux techniques. To be fair, Bordeaux is awfully close. It's a bit harsh to criticise for piggy-backing, but it's also kind of a cop-out on their part. Surely building their regional identity will only do better for them in the long run?

Deep and brooding with just a hint of purple on the horizon. The rest seems black.

Dark forest fruit compote on the nose with just the barest hint of cedar and mint - some more fresh herbs begin on the finish as it were. Fairly simple but very pleasant.

The palate boasts a compelling dustiness that I want to say is its quintessential Bregerac-iness. But I've only tasted a couple of them, and so I can't. But I really like it. Dusty fruit compote with a wee touch of black olive and fresh rosemary. I like the tannin structure and the roundness of it. It claims Bordeaux technique and it tastes a bit of it. Blind, I would have said Bordeaux because I wouldn't have known much better. To be honest, the black olive notes would've flummoxed me a tad too - that always sends me Northern Rhône. But it's not a claret. It is different. It should celebrate that, as opposed to grabbing at the glories of another region.


Tasted at Shorehead 21/7/09

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Consolation Gris de Gris Rosé 2008

The Consolation vineyard lies in the hills just South of the village of Collioure in South-West France. It is terraced, and ridiculously steep. While the majority of vines (and there aren't many) are Grenache Gris, there are a few oddities thrown in, including one vine of San Sebastian - a varietal I had never heard of before.

We picked it about lunchtime, our second vineyard of the day. My head pounded with dehydration and I worked slowly. The French pickers laughed at me and smoked rollies. They made fun of my pace and my idea of a holiday. I left a fair few rotten bunches on the schistes terraces to rot in the sun. I fell behind a lot.

The vineyard went quickly. It's tiny, and there were a lot of us.

Andy - who owns the vineyard - and I sorted the fruit by hand, bunch by bunch, trying to rid ourselves of pervasive rot. We destemmed them and left them in tank for a night, lightly crushed, making rosé the old fashioned way, drawing a touch of colour from the light pink of their skins.

In the end, there wasn't very much. Had we used a barrel, there wouldn't have been enough to fill it. So it rested in tank, without malolactic fermentation, until Andy liked it enough to put it in bottle. And now there's a wee amount in Scotland and I drink it with as much regularity as I can afford.

So once again I'm writing up a wine that I've helped make, once again casting objectivity and integrity aside. I took more part in this wine than any of the others I helped make. As such, it's rather close to my heart. When it first arrived I was curious, excited and filled with trepidation. Now I've tried it three or four times I think I can attempt a description that leaves some of that behind, and respects the wine for what it is.

The tint is salmon pink - reminiscent of Provençal rosé with a touch of copper at the core.

Strawberries and peaches on the nose with a prickle of mineral freshness. Then some melon and more exotic fruit comes through later.

Most people will drink this very cold. When done so, there's a crisp freshness and tightness that come through as incredibly refreshing and quenching. But they're missing so much. With just a little bit of time at room temperature the fruit and mouthfeel reveal strawberries, peaches and watermelon with just enough citrus zest around the edges to keep everything in line. Waxy-textured with fine-grain minerality just underneath, stretching to a finish that lingers with the memory of fresh strawberry pips.

I don't really get rosés. I enjoy them crisp and fresh on a summer day, but I don't often find writing notes on them of any value. Nepotism aside, I think this is a brilliant wine - textured and rounded with lovely fruit and not a hint of confection.

***** (unabashed affection, I don't care that it seems nepotistic and biased)

Tasted always at Shorehead, most recently 15/07/09

Note: as far as I know, only two cases of this wine exist in the UK at the moment. And I've drunk the better part of one of them. If you see it anywhere, buy it. Even if just to prove me wrong.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Roederer Brüt Premier & Cos d'Estournel 1996

Pre-gaming is an interesting concept. It's drinks at home before a night out - an attempt to get a bit of a buzz on before the having to shell out on overpriced, rubbish booze. It is especially essential before balls, as the booze is that much more rubbish and that much more overpriced. At least, that's what I think pre-gaming is. All this is told to me by younger people, in the prime of their partying age, with hundreds of hangovers in their future.

So I decided to go to a ball with some of these young folks - and they decided to pre-game. Standard fayre for pre-gaming is Smirnoff and a 2 litre bottle of coke. Jack Daniel's often plays a significant role as well.

I'll be honest, neither of those really pique my interest. Fortunately, the folks coming over for pre-gaming also included a mate in the trade, and so our apero (French for pre-gaming) consisted of Roederer Brüt Premier and St Estephe's super-second pagoda-clad Cos d'Estournel - 1996 no less.

The Roederer was less of a revelation than a happy reminder of just how good their non-vintage offering is. I don't really care for their new, streamlined packaging and branding, but that's not really my thing in any case. I marvel at Champagne marketing and the impatience they have for their image. It seems a label must be changed every few years or so, especially if a close competitor has had a makeover themselves. So yeah, I think the new Roederer labels are pretty ugly. Fortunately the wine still tastes ace. Quite rich and toasty with classic apple and perhaps a touch of pear? The bubbles are soft and a little lively. Refreshing and classy.


St Estephe - particularly Cos - produces the most exotic wines of the left bank, in my humble opinion at least. Always heady on the nose with crazy spicy fruit on the palate. Cos '96 is no exception. I always feel that the winemakers in Coonawarra are trying to make St Estephe-style wines. They don't often succeed.

The nose is fairly explosive - dark tar and nutmeg surrounding piercing, dark confit fruit. The edges find hints of cedar and leather and a touch of savoury smoked meats.

That piercing dark confit fruit punches big on the palate, but it's never jammy. It's rich, forming the centre from which all the secondaries blossom. Exotic woodspice, nutmeg and cinnamon, a hint of tar with a finish of saddle leather all follow on from that fantastic, heady, exotic fruit. This is not a cerebral wine. There is no lingering, ephemeral dovetail finish. This is an emotive, decadent beast which, were it not for its superb structure and phenolics, I would probably mistake for a new-world blockbuster. I like it.


Tasted 26/6/2009 at Shorehead

Chateau Phélan Ségur 2000

A recent jaunt down to London allowed a wee peak at my parents' wine stash. As usual, I shook my head at their indifferent whites and smiled at their groovy selection of Bordeaux. My mom and I cooked up a nice dinner - lamb noisette with baby roast tatties, some spinach and a bowl of pomordorini (tiny tiny tiny tomatoes).

Deep tar and cedar on the nose with a touch of cough syrup and damsons. Quite heady and fun to nose.

The palate is a bit simpler than the nose, but it has a nice hedonism to it. The tar on the nose forms the backbone and the finish - and with such dark, decadent fruit rides on the top of it. This is a big wine, fairly two-dimensional, but there's a lot in those two dimensions. This wine will soften, but probably not deepen, with age. So you could cellar for another 10 years easily. But it's fairly yummy now.


Tasted at Miller's Court, 09/07/2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mas Cristine Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2008

This tasting note is morally bankrupt. I kick over the spittoon of vinous detachment and neutrality, I turn a blind eye to scruples and sneeze in the direction of journalistic integrity.

The thing is, I have an interest in this wine. Not financial, sadly, but an interest nonetheless. I helped make it. In a disused corner of a seeming silent co-op near Argeles, we crafted it with blood, sweat, tears and the tools of the trade. I named the ancient press 'the battleship' as we rolled it out and hosed it down after crushing fruit. I took samples from frothing, fermenting barrels, scratching down temperature readings and specific gravity notations. I tasted the juice pre-ferment, closing my eyes and trying to imagine what the future held. Julien and Andy made sure I didn't screw up and in the late summer heat we all dreamt of the beer to come.

So this is a wine I am predisposed to like. This is a wine that I've put on the wine list at the restaurant because I MADE IT. So there.

Slivers of platinum run along the pale gold - there's a nice shimmer and brilliance to it.

Decadent on the nose - fleshy white fruit and honeysuckle with a hint of nettles. Beautifully heady.

Very more-ish on the palate - all that fleshy white fruit is there with lovely minerality providing an exquisite, rounded texture. It hits every part of the mouth. Judicious and careful use of oak gives it good grip also making it a hedonist's delight. It's supple, and while there's a touch of heat - as it is 14% - it's well-balanced and never overbearing. Good length as well. This is tasting brilliant now and it's only been in bottle a fortnight. I imagine it will get better over the next year and taste ace for at least another 5 or 6.

***** (did I mention I helped make it?)

Tasted 30/4/2009 at Shorehead

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marsannay "Les Vaudenelles" 2005 Domaine Bruno Clair

Bruno Clair make some stunning wines; indeed their Gevrey Chambertins and Morey St Denis are prized by Burgundy fanatics and wine lovers in general. Those are pricey however, and deservedly so. This is one of their entry-level wines from their home village of Marsannay. I'm always on the look-out for good value Burgundy. It can be hard to find.

I like the idea of good value wines from houses better known for their stratospheric prices. The Mâcon-Verzé from Domaine Leflaive or the Cuilleron Syrah Vin d' Pays are good examples. When those wines come from a vintage as hyped as 2005, it piques my curiosity.

I've had a long week followed by a long weekend. I cooked some sausage casserole and mash and looked forward to popping the bottle.

The colour is dark burgundy (funny that), with a hint of violet. The rim is beginning to pale.

Touch dusty on the nose, with raspberries and forest floor. There's a bit of maturity there, which is surprising. I was expecting more youth, though I suppose it is four years old now.

The palate is gripping but not harsh. The tannins have softened. The fruit still has that crispness to it, with a backbone of slightly tart raspberries and cranberries. It's not very complex but then it isn't necessarily simple either. It's a bit old fashioned - no overripe fruit or over-extraction - and all the better for it. Tastes great with the food (which I'm rather pleased with).


Tasted 27/4/2009 at Shorehead

Monday, March 16, 2009

Martinez Vintage 1927

Kevin, the dude at the cheese shop, warned us off Stilton. He was bored of it. To be fair, we were bored of it. I think everyone's bored of Stilton after Christmas. But Kevin had an alternative. An exquisite goat's cheese called St Maure de Touraine. I was sceptical, but trusted him. He is, after all, the dude at the cheese shop.

Old coffee, cold coffee - the colour is discouraging.

The nose, however, is alive. Spiced blueberries, heather, underbursh and bramble.

I cannot fathom this being 82 years old. Layered, fresh and confit fruit - brambles, blueberries, blackcurrant and a touch of plum. Unbelievable with the cheese - they play off each other - fireworks. It brings the weight and the structure of the wine and tones down the heat a bit. Such a marriage of cheese and port I've never enjoyed so much. Divine.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Chateau Suduiraut 1967

There are wines whose names are spoken in hushed tones, with looks of wonder on the faces of those dorky enough to care (guilty as charged). They are on some manner of list, or perhaps several, be it 'Greatest Wines of the Twentieth Century' or 'Wines to Try Before You Die' or some such arbitrary honour roll of wines too expensive for normal wine geeks such as yours truly to be able to afford. Biondi-Santi Brunello 1955, DRC 1959, Mouton 1945, Palmer 1961, Yquem 1921... they're wines that billionaire collectors share with the upper echelon of wine writers in the name of hedonism and posterity. And validity. They need the writers there to assure them, to assuage their egos that yes, spending the annual wage of your butler on a case of wine was indeed worth it.

Well, the Naughton Dining Club managed to get a hold of one of these legendary wines. The only wine writers present were myself and Pete. No billionaire invited. Had they arrived their price of entry would have been one magnum each of the above listed wines.

The colour is luminous - vivid polished brass.

Quite closed on the nose to start with, but opens beautifully - hints of mint and dry grass, that musk of wild honey, roasted lime peel, honeysuckle, peach pits and apricots. Almost overwhelming.

Like the nose, the palate is slow to open. As it does however, all the nose promised comes through and more. The texture itself is remarkable - gripping and layered, providing structure for all the riot of flavours - roasted stone and citrus fruit, confit fennel, honey and mint. Incredibly intense and lasts forever. I don't know if it's a wine of the century, but it's fucking amazing.

Delighted we have another bottle in the cellar.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin 1995

You say Mazis, I say Mazy... such peculiarities in wine make it that much more engaging. And confusing.

Deeper and broodier than the '93 Faiveley - far more intense on the nose as well. Classic FM in the background gives it a touch of bombast.

Palate is savoury and rich. Is it over the hill a touch? Perhaps a bit of stewed stone fruits but still wonderful. This may have been a 5 star wine 6 or 7 years ago. Touch short on the finish. Still lovely, but a touch past it.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Ducru Beaucaillou 1966 (again)

I love this wine. I always have. The fruit is berry and stone. It is still at its peak: sublime, subtle and lingering. That perfection of textures - leather, mahogany and cedar wood. Utter comfort and delight.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton
My other tasting note on this wine is here.

Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin 1993

Disaster struck the meal. I dropped the whole stew pot onto the kitchen floor. This was not a 30 second rule situation. This was an oh-my-god-I've-just-ruined-dinner situation. Fortunately, we had a contingency plan. A tasty one. Still stew, but roe deer instead of lamb. No harm, no foul. We opened the two Burgundies. One needed to decant for awhile.

Beautifully rustic Burgundian tint - I hold it against the candle light to see that incredible brilliance and clarity.

The nose is strawberry, heather and leather.

All of the nose comes into the palate in sort of a compote - youth and grip on the finish with that savoury, soft leather and a touch of meatiness right in the centre. Excellent with the food, a touch ephemeral and certainly at its peak. Shame it's my last bottle.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Chateau Palmer 1973

Six or seven or so years ago the founders of the hibernating Naughton Dining Club outdid themselves on birthday presents. We found bottles from birth years - brilliant bottles from some of the greatest names in the wine world - Krug, Dom Perignon, Pol Roger, Chateau Palmer & Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Sadly, not all of us were born in brilliant years, and our knowledge of vintage gems was not as encyclopaedic as it is now. All but one of the bottles has been opened now. Memories of my '76 Dom Perignon are still fresh and fizzy in my head. The pen-ultimate bottle, the Palmer '73, was cracked open New Year's Day.

Rusty on the eyes, stewed on the nose.

The palate is aged, pleasant but no great thing. It's tired, but charming.


It's probably only one star to be honest, but it brought on such a tempest of chat and reminiscence - when we all started off in the trade, those first days of discovering fine wine and the blistering enthusiasm we sought to learn everything we could. To score it only one star would be criminal. A bottle of wine is no more just about how it smells and tastes than it is just fermented grape juice.

Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Moët & Chandon 1959 (from magnum, disgorged '08)

New Year's came a day late in 2009. I had to work New Year's Eve, so my celebrations were put off a day. They were, however, worth the wait. A remarkable selection of fine wines, the best of friends and some spectacular food. The table crackled with banter, some shedding their hangovers of the night before, some suffering but surviving. The last of the bleary departed at the sound of a champagne cork popping.

Stunning colour - fresh, green gold. No brass. Fifty-years old and it certainly looks fresh and inviting.

Very wild & chestnut mushroom on the nose, followed by the creaminess of melted butter soaking through toast. Then there's a hint of green - apples, perhaps? The balance of freshness and maturity is remarkable.

Rich, luscious, decadent and fresh on the palate - the mousse is almost like the crema on a good espresso. Soft, gentle with fine hallmarks that would be noticeable only by there absence. Everything fits here - the structure and elegance provide a balance and completeness that forbids nitpicking the details. Exceptional, at its peak and while it may last a few more years, you probably ought to drink it now.


Tasted 1/1/09 at Naughton

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Warre's 1977

Nose is forest fruit, cassis, tar, bitter cherries, licorice, allspice, cinnamon and quite incredible mulled notes. Beautiful to sniff - a bit of heat but not too much.

Tasted while gorging on Christmas Stilton. Delightful and more-ish. Why fine port should lay down for a time. Balanced and a perfect compliment to the cheese. All those complexities from the nose in perfect harmony on the palate. Delightful - the ideal Christmas Port.


Tasted at Miller's Court 25/12/08

Chateau Pontet-Canet 1995

The edges are just beginning to crimson. Held up to the light and it's pure brilliance, deep and bloody and reflective of its character.

The nose is cedar wood and savoury with a touch of nuttiness, smokey with confit cassis compote. Potent and punchy on the front, softening as it lingers.

The palate is all the nose promises - a class Christmas claret that leaps up to the food - particularly good with the roast beef. Texture is silk and sandpaper - right at the middle of its maturity. Still some of the grip and aggression of youth but some softness creeping through. Lovely.


Tasted at Miller's Court 25/12/08

Barbeito Verdelho 1980

Tasting notes from the latter half of the evening tend to get shorter, more direct. Possibly due to the effect of all the wines to come before.

Smells of roast nuts & toffee, marzipan, financier cake and all manner of goodies. All of that follows through to the palate from the nose, but with salted oats and excellent gristy texture. Epic length with a lingering finish. Brilliant wine.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Warre's 1985

Reductive and tasting sadly of cough syrup. Needs a few years to wake up. Pity.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moulleux 1971 1ere Tres

Toasted honey and roasted lime with hints of winter spice backed by gripping acidity - beautifully balanced with sweet zing. The underlying minerality and flint provide great depth. This is a treat of a wine, fresh in spite of its age and truly fine. Lovely with the apple crumble.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Chateau La Lagune 1985

A touch of Victorian office about the nose - mahogany and leather with hints of cigar box.

Very soft on the palate - gentle stone fruit with supple texture. Slightly simple, but lovely nonetheless. Definitely at its peak.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1995 & 1996

These two wines caused a debate at the dinner table, dividing the diners. Some preferred the classic restraint of the '95, others the hedonistic opulence of the '96. Both were spectacular, reflecting their vintages, rendering the debate simply a matter of personal taste, rather than a judgement of quality.

I remained neutral.


Roast meat, eucalyptus, blackcurrant and cedar - a classic claret nose with edges of licorice, spearmint, cloves and nutmeg.

The palate is not as expressive. Remarkably closed but promising - it's mostly mint coming through, with dark chocolate cherry & currant. Sinfully young, yet hard to resist.



Very spicy on the nose, much livelier - sweeter smoke with a touch more eucalyptus. Far headier.

The palate is almost monolithic - tar and glacé cherries with a touch of mint. Long and tactile, but still extraordinarily immature.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tache 1998 (bottle no. 7198)

There's a point - for those in the wine trade - where you decide whether you're a Burgundy person or a Bordeaux person. It's hotly debated. Arguably the two most influential wine writers in the world are Bordeaux people - Michael Broadbent and Robert Parker. They just don't like Burgundy as much. The latter openly admits that he just doesn't get Burgundy.

I fall on the other side of the fence. I'm a Burgundy person. I love them and seek them out. Often I'm disappointed. Sometimes they just aren't good enough. The fickleness of Pinot Noir and the high prices the wines command sometimes combine to fall short of expectations. There are few guarantees. Claret can be a safer bet: a more defineable quantity. Because when Burgundy's good, when it exceeds expectations, it's hard to describe. It's not necessarily a linear or quantifiable pleasure. It goes more for feeling than flavour, and it's wonderful.

High expectations are dangerous in wine. The more you want something to taste good, the more likely you are to find fault, to be disappointed. Especially at the very heights of wine. There is the tendency to think that a constantly evolving agricultural product must be perfect when it's opened, regardless of what phase of maturity it has reached.

Being a Burgundy fan puts La Tache quite close to the top of my must-drink list. I'd never tried it before, and in the lead up to the dinner where we opened this bottle I tried to keep my hopes down to prevent any disappointment. What if it was corked? What if it was too young? What if it was going through an irksome 'reductive' phase (the wine equivelent of an annoying adolescent)?

The nose is explosive, gamey with a hint of smoke, forest floor and wild berries. There's a touch of stewed fruit but that clears with a bit of air. Aromatically intense, at actually bursts behind the eyes.

Sweet and hedonistic on the palate - cherries and cranberries with a touch of pipe tobacco. The finish goes on for ages, fading into the ephemeral and leaving its sensation long after the actual flavour has departed. This is a masculine style of Burgundy, with savoury game notes as well. There's something a touch reductive and enclosed though, not as much lift as I was expecting. Mouth-filling, beautiful, but something lacking?

It would be worth 5* if it weren't so bloody expensive. It also needed to be closer to perfect. Was I disappointed? Maybe a little.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Corton Charlemagne 2000 Bonneau du Martray

There's something about great whites from terroir that lends itself more often to reds. I don't know what it is, but the result tends to be fantastically exotic. Jadot's Beaune Gréves Le Clos Blanc, Roy's Marsannay blanc, and this, the banner wine of the vineyard, all boast some underlying connection. It's getting to the point where I may not be able to spot blind whether a wine's from the Côte de Nuits or Côte de Beaune, but I could possibly spot whether the surrounding vineyards were Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

Rich and toasted and touched by hints of caramel and spiced vanilla on the nose. Deep and intense. The palate is big and exotic - textured oak notes backed by zingy structured acidity. Clotted cream. cloves and cinammon provide fantastic secondaries. The fruit's tropical but tempered by pristine structure. This is mouth-filling, decadent, brilliant Burgundy. Still quite young. Drink with hand-dived scallops or perfectly seared foie gras. Or both.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Pieropan La Rocca Soave 2006 (from magnum)

I've never been disappointed by any of Pieropan's wines. They sit atop the whites of the Veneto, proving to the wine-swigging snobs out there that Italy's native varietals can compete without conforming to the increasingly boring international quality white paradigms. Pieropan makes Soave - not garganega (though garganega is the grape he thrives with) - and he makes it beautifully.

There's a touch of licorice and flint, backed by perfumed pineapple on the nose. The journey to the palate turns that perfume into spice, with fresh vibrant pear drop and a lovely richness that leads to a long finish. There are some cracking and far more expensive wines being drunk this evening. And while this may be one of the more simple and pleasing wines, it is in no way out-classed. Lovely.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08

Salon 1990 (from magnum)

Salon has long been my favourite Champagne house. Long-lived and exceptionally fine, they achieve depth and poise equal to great white Burgundy. I've written about their wines before - they are a rare treat. I wish I had the means to enjoy them more often.

Brilliant platinum gold colour - youthful but classy.

Young, slightly spiced green apples on the nose. No toast or butter yet, no hint of wild mushrooms, just a touch of citrus zest and a fullness of body that pervades with a whisper of honey on the edges.

The palate seems slightly closed, young and tight. Incredibly promising though - textured and lingering with a remarkable finish that goes on and on. Erupts with food (a saffron & Prosecco risotto served pan-fried medallions of pork loin) - all the blank spots, those closed and quiet points in the mid-palate, open and a brilliant view of this wine's future pours in - rich with fresh blossom honey, candied apples and fresh baked croissants. Youthful, vigorous and promising. This will keep and improve for decades to come. Glorious.


Tasted at Shorehead 7/12/08