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