Tuesday, October 26, 2010

more wines that I helped make and probably shouldn't be scoring: Coume del Mas 2008

I've mentioned before my involvement with Coume del Mas, Mas Cristine & Consolation wines; one of the directors is an old friend and for the last three vintages (08, 09 & 10) I've flown down to provide an extra pair of hands during harvest. The wines are handmade in the purest sense of the term and it's hard work. Philippe Gard, the winemaker and all-around head dude is a quiet, humble perfectionist. I don't think I've ever seen anyone work harder at anything in my life.

Quite a lot of enjoying wine is about context. Tasting wine in the vacuum of a trade event allows you to assess quality, but there's little attachment gained. These wines are technically brilliant. Their reputation amongst their peers is stellar. I'd like them anyway, without my involvement (however minor) in their creation. Picking the grapes, sorting them, dumping them - 50 kilos at a time - into the destemmer or press, tasting the juice in barrel and tank, taking density and temperature readings: all of these things generate a strong connection to the end product. I'm proud of these wines, and my small part in their making. I can't really open a bottle without smiling a little. So take these reviews with a pinch of salt. I am, once again, biased.

Coume del Mas Quadratur Collioure Rouge 2008

A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre & Carignan.

Deep and purple and perhaps a touch inky.

Stoney nose with violets, blueberry compote and black pepper. There's lavender and maybe even some Balsamic as well.

Juicy plums, blueberries and a deep cocoa. Extraordinarily soft and gentle on the palate - though there is certainly power there. Delicious but somewhat understated at the moment. Lots to come in the future, but this is still rather fantastic right now.


Tasted 22/10/2010 at Shorehead

Coume del Mas Schistes Collioure Rouge 2008

100% Grenache

The purple of its youth has retreated to bright, brilliant ruby with a deep core and the occasional fleck of violet.

Intense rose petal and perhaps a whiff of seaside minerality. The fruit comes though, with pulped bramble and liquorice, laced in cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dark, crunchy fruit bursts on the palate - texture wise it feel like biting into something. The tannins give the mouthfeel fantastic circular structure and also give the illusion of weight to what is really rather elegant. It is elegance with power though, and brilliant focus of fruit. The mineral backbone goes from beginning to end. It's important to note that this wine sees no oak at all. All of the texture, depth and dimension comes purely from the fruit. This wine never ceases to please me.


Tasted 23/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Coume del Mals Folio Collioure Blanc 2008

100% Barrique fermented Grenache Gris.

Good gold. Not overly tarnished. Still lights and brightness.

Roasted melon and serrano ham on the nose. There's a touch of creaminess too, but very light and lingering on the edges. It gets more tropical with air - pineapples soaked in caramel and possibly some guava too. Pretty decadent, really.

Rich, honeycomb-wax palate. That tropical fruit from the nose is never overbearing on the tongue - luscious and soft melons, honey, pineapple. The texture is rounded but with the finish comes cleansing minerality and a touch of oak. That minerality has the barest sense of sea salt about it, bringing back that ham from the nose. There's not a lot of acidity in these parts, and as such these gripping secondaries - the minerality and such - are not just bonuses but necessary to provide structure. It's still decadent and fruity, but never lacking class. Sadly there's not much made and it sells out every vintage.


Tasted 24/10/2010 at Shorehead

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Qupé Syrah 2008

Over-Beaujolais'd. It happens.

Quite deep, though not inky.

Tar and smoke on the nose, with incredibly ripe blueberry coming through as well. Smoked meat? Mulched dark fruit with game? Yeah, it's a big dark nose. Inky.

That darkness on the nose? The mulch and the smoke and the ripeness and all that? Yep, that's here too. There's also burnt sage, more tar, hints of bruised herbs (mint) and some singeing around the edges. It's dark, savoury, broody and mulchy, but with a bit of air those blueberries come through and it doesn't suffer from any flabbiness or sloppiness. Though the viscosity suggests something a bit weightier than 13.5%. There's also some wet stone and waxiness. There is also squid ink. Marzipan? Then this serious liquidized black pepper note shows up on the finish. This is a weird wine. I don't know whether to recommend it or charge it with assault.

The next day: I decided to leave it over night and see what happened. Right off the bat, the nose is sweeter and more concentrated - still blueberry, but with cassis as well. In fact, the blueberry is bordering on Creme de Myrtille. The palate is more focused, but has lost some of that complexity and the burnt notes have intensified. All of that sweetness on the nose is nowhere to be seen on the palate and the tannins are far more aggressive. It's almost acrid. It's lost loads on the palate and gained no harmony.


The score is based on the first tasting - it wouldn't be fair to judge it the next day.

Tasted 21/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, October 22, 2010

a couple of 2009 Beaujolais

I was in Beaujolais in the Autumn of 2004, tasting 2003's out of barrel. It was fun. It's a pretty, pastoral neck of the wine world. I've been enjoying the renaissance of small growers doing fantastic things in the region. Shrugging off the mass-produced, high-yielding, bubble-gum and candy-floss reputation much of the region has been mired with (much like the consumers were mired in their rubbish wines), these growers are making some cracking wines that sit just a bit out of the norm.

Domaine Alain Chatoux Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes 2009

Remarkable light in colour; shades of ruby and violet with a nice brilliance as well.

Floral strawberries and cranberries with a good meaty, savoury note as well. Kind of like beef fat. It's kind of like a red fruit and beef stew, but in no way 'stewed', if you get my meaning. Neither do I. There's also a wee touch of black pepper.

This is kind of cool. All those crazy red fruit beef stew notes are there - big flavours with an almost greasy or oily texture. Strawberries and Cranberries cooked in bacon fat? It's very country-ish - the texture past that is soft and light. Quite a surprising depth of flavour considering its lightness. I like it for what it is, and imagine that, for a big meal - such as Thanksgiving - it would go with pretty much everything on the table. At £10.49, it's pretty good value.



Domaine de la Chaponne 'La Forge' Chiroubles 2009

Right off the bat, I must confess that of all the Beaujolais Cru, this is the one with which I am the least familiar. It's also the one I tend to forget when occasionally asked to recite all the Cru. Long story.

Intense purple and violet - dark, but still translucent.

The nose is floral and mineral all at once - violets crushed with rocks or some such. There's also a touch of hedgerow. Very Zeppelin. The fruit is cranberry.

Very crunchy, bright cranberry palate. Quite a bit more weight than the Chatoux, with darker fruit notes and far deeper tannins. The acidity is forthright - not bracing, but bringing a good juiciness to it. That hedgerow on the nose comes across more as a wicker basket and sea salt on the palate. This is even better value than its predecessor - it's got complexity, good mouthfeel and an impressive length. Great for the money and the sort of thing people should be drinking more of. Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition; I feel no guilt.


Both tasted 21/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel 2005

Chateau de Beaucastel stands quite tall amongst the lexicon of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Owned by the Perrin family, it's never far from a list of the top 5 estates in the region. The family have taken their knowhow to California and purchased an estate (in partnership) in Paso Robles. I've been curious about the Perrin's Californian venture for sometime. The curiosity consumed me like an incendiary flame (is a non-incendiary flame even possible? Discuss). Had I been a cat, it would have been death. So I decided to open a bottle.

44% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Counoise

Quite bright ruby with touches of pink as it fades on the edges.

Restrained on the nose to start with, giving only dark berries and roots. Touch of chemically liquorice and boot polish as well. There's sweet berry-ness that comes out later, as well as a meatiness; kind of like cherry-glazed ham. the chemical gibberish thankfully fades to a more natural anise.

The sweet berry-ness starts things off - bright and juicy but still dark. Like shady strawberries and mysterious raspberries - red fruit, but dark red fruit. In their wake comes underbrush-like tannin and a firm, mineral core. There's cinnamon and anise with a dry, not-quite-rasping bark quality. The texture is growing on me. That journey from juice to rounded, hedgerow-y rustic tannin is a good one. I think it's a little pricey, but the earthiness and rusticity are a welcome departure from some of the more polished wines kicking about with a similar assemblage.

At the same price it's fighting Bonny Doon's La Cigare Volant, perhaps a touch more elegant than the Esprit, though both have their time, place and mood.


Tasted 20/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosso del Gello Montecucco Sangiovese 2006

So I'd never heard of the Montecucco Sangiovese DOC before today. It's half the size of Chianti and several times larger than Montalcino, though this may only be a matter of geography. Googling it bears little fruit, though the impression I get is that up until recently it was for parochial consumption only, and didn't travel very far. The idea of a youthful DOC appeals to me. It's kind of a blank slate.

I think this wine is organic.

Rusty colour - touch misty.

Cherries and pebbles on the nose. Maybe some pecans? I could have sworn I got pecans. Some manner of sweet nuttiness, anyway.

The palate is a touch shabby. There's a bit of country bumpkin to it, complete with a netted baseball cap advertising fertiliser and a mullet. Slightly soupy cherries with earthy tannins. And walnuts - those pecans have turned to walnuts. There's fruit, there's tannin, but there doesn't seem to be any acidity to polish it all up. So maybe there's some stubble with that mullet.

The thing is, I like it. It's peasant wine. I think it's sadly slightly overpriced peasant wine, but fun nonetheless. This is the sort of wine that, if I was travelling through Tuscany and stopped at a local restaurant and they brought this out, I would be happy to drink it by the gallon. Over here I can do better for the money, from Italy; from more famous DOCs. This is just too expensive (£15.49) to justify it. Maybe £7.49?

Still, I'm curious to see what happens here. I'll be keeping on eye (nose? tongue?) on the wines from here regardless, to see how they develop over the years. I wonder if that nuttiness is indicative of the region?


Tasted 19/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chapoutier Saint-Joseph 'Les Granits' 2000

Bought by and shared by a generous customer new to fine wine. I sent him in this direction, as I knew his hippy-ish nature would appreciate the organic/biodynamic viticulture. And it's fairly awesome stuff.

Nicely mature colour. Rusty but without any amber and still dark and deep at the core.

Deep, savoury peppered black olives with whiffs of smoked game meat and bramble sweetness.

Big, tar-like mouth-feel. It hits first with a tannic bramble bush, then softens into sweet blueberry and plum fruit and finally a soft, sandalwood and leather brushed tannin finish. Maybe some mulling spices kicking about there? There's a poise and perfume to it that gives lovely lift. Fine stuff indeed. I'd drink it now and over the next 2 years or so.


Tasted 15/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Saturday, October 16, 2010

secret wines revealed and thoughts about the whole shebang...

So the Secret Wine Deathmatch Apocalypse is over and the winner is...

Not me.

Costière de Nîmes was the crafty appellation behind the the PR extravaganza and shame on hoards of wine-bloggers for not seeing it sooner. Not really. With all our votes plainly available on the above-linked site, I think it's fair to say we all tasted rather well. There was certainly consistency among most of the responses and with a couple of exceptions (couldn't see either Australia or Cahors, really) I think there's a good, blind argument for the lot. I'll confess that of every appellation that was voted for, Costière de Nîmes is the one I'm least familiar with. I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years.

The actual wines are here.

I feel quite pleased that I spotted the Syrah in 390 and the Chateauneuf-y-ness of 714 (though the latter's youth, being only a 2008, suggests it's not long for this world or my bottle was perhaps a touch oxidised due to recorking for anonymity's sake). I'm astonished that 079 is mostly Syrah. There was very little varietal typicity coming out, suggesting the terroir favours the 20% Grenache in the cuvée. I'm glad 390 is the most expensive (€13) as it was also my favourite. I also recognise its label, so it may be available in the UK. If I wasn't writing this in the wee hours, I'd check.

I still think this whole thing was pretty cool. I'm not entirely sure how it helps the appellation, but that's not my job. You could argue that instead of showing how ace Costière de Nîmes is, it just showed how it tasted a lot like a lot of other Southern French appellations, but I feel that would be a touch cynical. I think it would have been better if it didn't have to go to a second round of votes, as dragging it out somewhat cooled my enthusiasm, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Not much you could do about that, I suppose; we should have tasted better.

It surprised me that it provoked questions of integrity on one of Jamie Goode's comment strings. I decided not to respond there, as it's not my place, but here I'll call it as I see it. I don't feel it compromises any manner of journalistic integrity to participate in this as a wine blogger. Yes, it was run by a PR company in hopes of regional promotion, but the way it was run favoured the writer. We got three wines to taste that we were under no obligation to like, or even judge qualitatively. We weren't burdened with brand or supplier affection (which we shouldn't be anyway), as the wines were all blind. And it was fun for us. Suggesting we were manipulated is idiotic. They sent us wine, we tasted it, and then we got it wrong. And I'd be shocked and astonished if any of the bloggers involved suddenly started waving a Costière de Nîmes banner and swearing by their bottles. Because that's just fucking ridiculous. I don't even think the appellation is the big winner here. I'm not sure who is.

As such, I think it's the concept that wins. And probably Clair de Lune, as they made a packet, no doubt. But I'd take part in a Secret Wine again. At the drop of a hat. It was cool to be a part of and fun to taste.

PS - Congrats to the winners. I'm only a little jealous.

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2007

So we couldn't open the Fontodi without revisiting the Isole e Olena.

Chianti - good Chianti - is such a pretty colour. Bright rubies with dark, clear hearts.

Far more floral on the nose than the Fontodi - fresh violets and roses with cherry and raspberry jam. All on a dusty road. Or maybe that's my cold. Or maybe it's the shop. I'm getting dust though.

Juicy cranberries and crushed flower petals on the palate. This is sexy stuff. I've found that juiciness in quite a few '07 Tuscans. They might not be as serious as the '06s or '04s, but they're really drinkable. Great restaurant vintage as well. The tannins are very soft and quite understated. It's also lacking a bit of acidity. I like it - it's delicious in a lot of ways - but it seems really rather simple compared to the Fontodi. It used to be the other way around.


Tasted 15/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2007

I've written about this wine's big brother before, the Vigna del Sorbo. I was introduced to this cuvée that same evening. I'm a big fan. There's always been kind of a divide in this neck of the woods - those who prefer the Isole e Olena Chianti Classico and those who prefer this one. They're similar in price and quality but the styles are subtly different. The Isole e Olena tends towards the more ephemeral and elegant while the Fontodi always seems more weighty; savoury.

Quite dark, though there's quite vibrant brilliance at the core.

Dusty nose with crushed, dried rose petals and strawberry maraschino. Perhaps a touch of creaminess too.

Gripping, bone dry tannins suck back on the tongue but with a slice of pizza (or any food with tomatoes and cheese) those cherries and strawberries leap forward with juiciness and a nice crunch. In the background floats a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg and a wee touch of gaminess. A nice balance of rusticity and polish.

Tasted 15/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mazèr Inferno Valtellina Superiore 2006

This wine used to have a funky label. It played on the name: black with a ball of fire and the word 'Inferno' in all caps emblazoned across the flame. It was attention-grabbing, but a little tacky. That it was a Valtellina from Nino Negri was definitely insignificant compared to the name 'Inferno'. It caught my attention quite early on, when I first started in this wine malarky. I read up on the region, a mostly forgotten area in the North West of Italy, specialising in the sublime but occasionally perturbing Nebbiolo grape, just like its more famous neighbours. I tried it and really liked it. I've followed it since. I've always felt that it scratches the Barolo itch without costing the earth. It's not as fine as a good Barolo, don't get me wrong, but it's often just what the doctor ordered.

The colour's just perfect for Nebbiolo - or Chiavennasca, as it's called in Valtellina - rusty but vibrant. The youth is in the brilliance, not the shade.

Its aromas dance around a bit. It was stoney and flinty with tar to start with. My flatmate noted that it tasted better than it smelled, as it was a bit unyielding. As it opened, the fruit came out; bright sour cherries with walnut dust, liqueur cocoa and a bit of a savoury meatiness.

The juiciness on the palate is compelling and more-ish. It grabs the tongue and tugs with that big, crunchy Italian sour cherries slathered on a bit of leather. The fruit is bright, with great lift, turning slowly towards strawberries and cream as it heads to the finish. The length is good too. I'm a little surprised at how consumed by the fruit the tannins are - they're soft, merely a whisper on an otherwise loud palate. They make an appearance at the very end, contributing to an appetite-pleasing dryness on the finish. It's not a bad thing. It's still a joy to drink over the course of a meal.

This wine has nearly doubled in price since I started drinking it almost a decade ago. There are lots that have. I still think it's good value. There aren't many others that I can still say that about. We drank this with a duck-egg carbonara that had huge chunks of wild mushrooms (ceps - yum) and it was just awesome. Proper food, proper wine.

****(and ***** for still being awesome after all this time)
Tasted 13/10/2010 at Shorehead

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tormaresca Masseria Maime Negroamaro Salento 2005

Dark & impenetrable.

The nose is dark and intriguing - wet coffee grounds, cocoa, tannery and quite savoury, meaty. Horse hair.

This is certainly from southern Italy. Meaty, both roast & grilled. Permeating cherry fruit. A touch stewed, but in a nice way. Nice, rustic backbone.

Tasted at Broomie & Sheep's, but Sheep wasn't there 14/1/10

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ostertag Riesling Heissenberg 2001

Intense gold - looks older than 9 years.

Nose of pineapple, orange peel, marmalade, barley water & a smattering of spice. There's stone and flint as well.

The minerality provides a parallel backbone to the acidity, which is not overwhelming. Soft, fleshy and waxy with flecks of gunpowder, flint with lime. Immensely complex, long, layered and generally ace.

Tasted at Broomie's 14/1/2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

a note on notes

I'm a little tasting noted out. It's not just because I'm fighting a cold or that I had the misfortune to sample some of Tesco's more deplorable offerings recently, though the latter certainly gave me reason to pause. It's more the repetition. As a writer I find myself cringing with every mention of 'citrus' or 'forest floor' (the latter is certainly one of my crutches). As a reader I find them increasingly boring. How many times can you type or read 'pencil lead' and 'cassis' before you want to crack open a bottle of Budvar and be done with it?

Tasting notes didn't used to be like this. They weren't a list of other things that the wine in question smelled and tasted like. Instead they were meaningless metaphors about picnicking at Easter or wandering the moors on a midsummer's eve. Immensely fun to read but of no use to anyone who wanted to know what the wine actually tasted like. Like, you know, the consumer. Parker called them all on this, screamed bullshit and did his own thing. So instead the whimsical wine metaphor was replaced with lists of fruits, herbs, condiments and in some cases none of the above (manure). And while more people know what blackcurrant and bramble tastes like than what wandering the moors on a midsummer's eve tastes like, I feel there's a sad rut that that this almost entirely unimportant literary genre has reached. So broken down are wines becoming within these lists of fruit and whatnot that you can't see the forest for the trees. You get a hint as to what a wine tastes like, but not how it tastes. There are exceptions: Jamie Goode's occasional 'complete' tasting notes, in which he describes not only the wine, but the surroundings and situation in minuscule detail are fun and fantastic in how they acknowledge that situation is essential in how a wine tastes. Gary Vaynerchuk's Wine Library TV isn't everyone's cup of tea, but he's done more to explain flavours in wine to the masses than a library full of fruit salad tasting notes. But the vast majority could be cut-and-pasted from one wine to another and no one would notice.

And maybe there's something to that. Perhaps wines just taste too much alike these days and their differences are too minute for the limitations of wine vocabulary. Is the vocabulary itself to blame? Is it too limited? It seems whenever a wine-writer strays back towards the old metaphor-style, they catch all manner of hell. When Andrew Jefford describes flavours as 'helicoptering', people call bullshit. Andrew Jefford is one of the best booze writers in the world. His New France is among my favourite wine tomes. Then he turned around and wrote Peat, Smoke & Spirit, the best whisky book I've ever read. Have we come so far from those whimsical wine-writers of the past that we cannot see some of the positive points of their writing? Is it time for another upheaval within our writing and wine assessment? Michael Broadbent still waxes the whimsy rather beautifully and his notes are a joy to read (though often fill me with a wrathful jealousy) but it's as though he's the exception that proves the rule. Once again I look at Vaynerchuk's style and content to see what might be coming next. He uses an extraordinary number of descriptors, from classic fruit salad to the geological with healthy doses of the flavours of childhood. But he also chucks in the odd metaphor - ugly girlfriends and WWF heroes - a far cry from picnicking at Easter, but people do seem to respond to it.

Of course, that brings up a question of who these tasting notes are for? Are they purely for the consumer? If so, how interested are they, really? When I host tastings for people just getting into wine and guide them through the nose and palate, their first response when I ask what aromas and flavours they get is always 'wine'. Sometimes it's 'red wine' or 'white wine'. Which is fair enough. I sometimes think that there are those in the wine trade who feel that you can't even casually appreciate wine without an understanding of the vocabulary that comes with it. And a lot of wine writers seem to be writing only for their peers and their paycheques. If that's the case, then there's even less of excuse for mundanity and repetitiveness of tasting notes these days. Am I the only one seeing this?

 I write my notes for me, to provide some manner of written record of what I'm tasting. From now on I'm going to stray into the more ambiguous, whimsical and metaphorical because a) it's more fun to write and b) it's more personal for me. That's not to say there won't be a dusting of fruit salad here and there, far from it. There'll just be a touch more garnish to go with it.

William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2008

I found some old notes lurking about and thought I'd share them.

The colour is dark & clear & vibrant.

Great strawberry/cranberry notes on the nose, plus a touch of wild forest fruits as well. Touch of cured meat on the nose to boot.

Beautifully soft on the palate, glycerol coated strawberries, touch of jolly rancher. Rich & moreish. Lacks acidity but makes up for it with massive body. This isn't normally my style of Pinot, but I must confess to being rather smitten.

Tasted 14/1/10 at Luvians Bottleshop

Fontodi Case Via Syrah 2004

Opened on a quiet night.

Certainly not showing much age. Youthful, almost opaque. Ruby-rimmed.

Sour cherries with a touch of balsamic on the nose. There's some darker fruit and pepper there as well.

The palate is polished. Sour cherries and ripe blueberry with olive brine and balanced tannins. It's complete and delicious, but it's a little boring. Tastes more of impeccable wine-making than great wine. I've grumbled about this before. It's just the sort of mood I'm in these days.

*** (would be **** but for the price and lack of place)

Tasted 5/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Secret Wine reboot

Apparently, nobody's guessed the correct wines for the Clair de Lune Secret Wine Ultimate Death Battle (that's what it should be called), so they're re-opening voting. Interesting. I did have a couple of alternative choices scribbled on a stickie lurking here on my desktop somewhere.

My original guesses were
079: Gigondas
390: Cornas
714: Chateauneuf-du-Pape with some age on it - 2004?

My original notes are here.

Shame they can't send another three bottles; it would be interesting to re-taste the wines.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Chapoutier Les Varonniers Crozes Ermitage 2004

Busy Saturdays sometimes inspire a touch of decadence.

Pale, with quite a lot of maturity on the rim (though no amber) - it looks almost Burgundian.

Forest fruit & forest floor with hints of wild mushrooms - ceps? Or are they just on my brain? It's heady, intense, brambly, perfumed and fun to sniff.

Briars and brambles on the palate, with sweet dust and black olive tapenade. The finish shows off light back pepper. Rustic and perfumed all at once, with great grip. There's rusticity and elegance that great Syrah shows with aplomb. All-in-all, it's a light wine, lighter than you'd expect, and possibly the better for it. It also tastes younger than it looks, which is neither here nor there, though it suggests you should drink it sooner rather than later.

Tasted 2/10/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 1995

There are aspects of working and living here that I would have trouble trading. A couple of days ago, one of my bosses brought a paper bag full of fresh ceps and a few chanterelles. I love wild mushrooms. I made a risotto and chose a wine that I thought would be ideal.

Golden and aged, with depth and brilliance and some edges of green.

Beeswax pervades on the nose, coating grist and porridge that slowly turn to roasted limes. It's quite heady and mature with an enticing savoury-ness. The odd sniff shows of a touch of mint. It takes awhile to get to this. I plead patience. It needs to breathe a wee bit. There's a touch of mustiness and age that disappears after a bit of air.

I love old Chenin Blanc. The palate is remarkably textured - rich, honey-roasted limes with rolled oats and demerara sugar. The structure comes from an acidity that begins subtly and then asserts itself on the finish. All the flavour seems to radiate from it. It reminds me a touch of a good old dry oloroso or palo cortado in that there's always a suggestion of sweetness that comes from the richness and honeyed aspects of both the nose and the start of the palate but then there's no sweetness on the finish. It's gloriously dry and lengthy, and immensely versatile with all manner of food. It was perfect with the risotto.

Tasted 1/10/2010 at Shorehead

Grand-Puy Ducasse 2000

Classed-growth claret from a stellar vintage all in the name of staff training? Sign me up.

Looking perhaps a little old for its age - the ruby rim looks on the verge of rusting. The clarity's a bit off too - slightly smoked.

Pulped stone fruit on the nose - cassis edged plum with a meaty core. A little mossy.

Very soft. The acidity is more vibrant than I expected, drawing back the tannins and giving the fruit more crunchiness than I expected from the nose. Those tannins are soft, brushing gently on the tongue. There's not a huge amount of complexity, but it's a very sensual drop. Drink now, with food. Not the best 2000 I've ever had but good value and incredibly pleasant.

Tasted 30/9/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

first stew of the season with two wines

Autumn is a good time of year for cooking. It's probably my favourite, as it's an excuse to get stuck into proper, rib-sticking comfort food. The first stew of the season was venison, slow-cooked in port with onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and parsnips. It was ridiculously rich and while it probably needed another half hour or so, we were hungry and the odd chewy bit of meat was a small price to pay.

Passadouro 2006

Opaque purple, dark core. I need to buy some new candles as these energy saver bulbs are rubbish for determining the subtleties of wine tint.

Nose is focused, intense dark bramble fruit wrapped in cocoa powder and nutmeg. There's almost a touch of mulling spice to it.

Rustic but focused - you sip it and there's an impressive acidity balanced with that crazy cocoa, nutmeg and black tea tannin. It's tight. Crushing your tongue against the roof of your mouth and squeezing brings out a good juiciness, a fruit focus that can be hard to notice with all those brambly, underbrush-like tannins. It comes out more with the stew, that dark juicy fruit of brambles edged with raspberries. Very Portuguese.


Consolation 'The Dog Strangler' Mourvedre Collioure Rouge 2008

Nicely dark. Good brilliance. Can't really tell in my dining room. *jots down 'candles' on an imaginary shopping list*

Nose is intense blueberry compote, plum and liquorice. Heady and perfumed with surprising floral edges. There is a darkness as well.

Have you ever bitten into a properly ripe mourvedre grape? The skins are thick, chewy and full of tannin - they burst with juice - blueberries, honey and plum-like juice. This wine tastes just like biting into a ripe mourvedre grape. The tannins are thick, dusty and a touch sweet; they hit first and then comes this compote fruit that manages at once to be dark berry and lightly honeyed all at once. It's all incredibly rounded and textured, hitting every part of the mouth with grip and nuance. Full disclosure: I help at this winery during vintage and have yet to meet one of their wines that I haven't liked. 


Tasted at Shorehead 27/9/2010