Sunday, December 26, 2010

R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Tinto Cosecha de 1991

As I write this, I'm finishing my last shift at work before driving down south for Christmas. Conditions are not great at the moment and I'll be transporting my cat long distance for the first time. I'm going over several checklists in my head, hoping I don't forget anything, fretting about presents and how safe the roads are. Tasting groovy and interesting wines is a welcome comfort.

This looks like mature Burgundy with just a touch of amber/garnet. Remarkably brilliant for its age.

Raisins, dried currants and peanuts with the skins on - the nose is subtle, with cured meats coming through with some coaxing.

The palate is so sensual. Those dried fruits and nuts, cured meats, wild herbs - both fresh and dried. There's orange zest as well, roasted with cinnamon. The acidity is vibrant and provides a structure that is beautiful as it's almost undetectable. Such a great measure of fine wine - everything is in such harmony that you barely notice how it all fits together. It's long on the finish and quite ephemeral. Brilliant.


Tasted 21/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco Cosecha de 1987

How many top-name, quality wineries really do still kick it old school? Laying their wines for a decade in barrel, or more, and then bottling, only to keep hold of it in their cellars for another decade, until they think it's ready? Not many. These wines regularly rate close to the top of many top wines in the world lists. The Lopez family have stuck to their guns regarding tradition and it's paid off. They are anything but commercial - there's not a lot of new oak and ripe fruit, nor is there a massive amount of alcohol.

Tarnished brass and gold. Oxidative, but not criminally oxidised.

The nose is at once honey-roasted nuts and tea leaves, with edges of copper.

It changes with every sip. At one point it's briny, with chopped hazelnuts and then it's honey and maple syrup with flecks of cocoa powder and lemon iced tea. For all these things there is great harmony and balance, with superb length and richness. There's textured grip as well, leading you to a brilliant finish. This is showing age but still incredibly vibrant and bright. Exceptional.


Tasted 21/12/2008 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, December 24, 2010

Consolation Banyuls "Coume del Mas" 2008

This is a good time of year for Banyuls. Of course, every time of year is a good time to drink Banyuls.

Very dark with purple edges and a nigh-impenetrable core.

Dark cocoa, cherries and blueberries on the nose. There's also some mint and wild herbs.

Quite intense on the palate - big and initially fruit driven - both ripe and juicy plums, cherries and blueberries moving somewhat to more dried and raisiny notes as the secondaries and tannins kick in. Those secondaries are earthy, spicy and dark. The tannins aren't too sweet and grip nicely. In spite of the richness and intensity - this is a big wine - it never seems laden. Great stuff - very sexy and flamboyant but for pure hedonistic yumminess, it's hard to beat.


Tasted 20/12/2010 at Shorehead

*Please note - I spend harvest at this winery and help out. They pay me only in wine, though I bought this bottle myself. I review their wines as objectively as I can, but I score them all fairly highly and think they're awesome.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

2007 Vintage Ports

So in the middle of a relentlessly busy Christmas season, we have decided to taste a slew of 2007 Vintage Ports. Because we can. I'm not going to bother mentioning the colour as I think it's fairly obvious that Port this young will be dark and impenetrable and purple. And there's only so many times I can write that before I start describing wine as 'mauve'. And no one wants that, trust me.

I'm also not going to comment on the alcohol 'heat' of these unless it seems aggressive/disjointed. It's young Port, and prone to a touch of heat. These things mellow with time. Hopefully.

Croft 2007

Quite meaty on the nose, with ripe, sweet plums and liquorice. There's a wee note of winter spice as well.

That savoury meatiness from the nose comes through right at the beginning. Cured, smoked meat that then sheds into a honey glaze, roast plums and cinnamon. The tannins have grip, but they're not quite as backward as I was expecting.


Niepoort 2007

Spearmint and blueberries on the nose. Quite herbaceous.

Ridiculously sweet fruit and tannin - bursting with blackberries and plums, right up until the underbrush backbone of tannin kicks in - there's also a hint of struck match in the middle. Needs eons.


Delaforce 2007

Fresh on the nose - bright cranberries and glacé cherries.

Crunchy fruit on the palate - gives great mouthfeel and crisp, defined berries and plums. That cranberry-ness gives good definition. Structured.


Quinta do Val Meao 2007

Winter fruit salad on the nose with earthiness on the edges.

The most closed, youthful and bitter on the palate, which strangely enough gets me kind of excited about it. That winter fruit salad comes through on the nose - classic berries and plums but also red apple skin and poached pears. Then comes this intense, backwards wall of nutmeg, bark and cinnamon - rasping and close to bitter. Complex, interesting and groovy.


Churchill's 2007

Very soft on the nose - touch of mint and plum skins.

The fruit and tannins are surprisingly integrated. A more rounded palate with cocoa notes and great mouthfeel. Again, very soft, though with a bit of bite on the finish.


Taylor's 2007

Again, good integration on the nose. Mulling spices and glazed plums.

Very much 'together' already. Everybody's playing nicely with one another. Candied plums and poached pears that go into a spicy, apple skin finish. Not quite as complex as the Meao, but still compelling.


Fonseca 2007

Ripe and juicy on the nose. Quite intense - certainly the most fruit-forward but with a wee tarry bite.

Savoury meat - cherry-glazed ham follows through to eucalyptus and cloves on quite a surprisingly light and clean palate. This is more elegant than I was expecting.


Warre's 2007

Very clean and pure nose - crisp glacé cherries and rosemary.

Good lift on the palate - youthful but not cloying. The balance between fruit and herb is quite refined and there's a nice structure there too. Light in style, which is no bad thing.


Graham's 2007

Sexiest nose - the fruit of the Fonseca but with all manner of compelling winter spice as well. Red apple skins, roasted glazed plums and cloves and a hint of flint. Brilliant.

The structure is reminiscent of the Delaforce, though it's holding far sexier components together. Linear and integrated and very dark, the fruit and tannins seem pulled taut together giving a layered palate that's still quite closed, but leaves the impression that when everything comes, it will come in the right place.


Overall, I think this has the hallmarks of a classic vintage. I was pleased how tame the alcohol seemed to be and how relatively balanced it was. House style pervades each of these wines and, for the most part, I think they're showing as they should. My favourite two to taste now were the Meao and the Graham's. They certainly had the most chat and seemed to have the most in place to stand the test of time. All of these are going to last decades, most of them easily and happily reaching a half century. If you're looking for a class vintage to lay down, I would certainly choose this above the 2003s.

Tasted 20/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coume del Mas Banyuls 'Galatheo' 2009

This wine is normally called 'Galateo'. The 2009 was renamed in honour of Theo Cook, born that year and the newest member of the winemaking team at Coume del Mas.

I think I might have helped fortify this. Or something. I was there, though. So, obviously, my review is biased and you don't have to trust it, and that means there's more of this wine left for me.

Dark, cherry-ruby, right down to the deep core.

Cherry, dark chocolate and blueberry on the nose. It's also wildly herbaceous with a touch of wet stone.

It starts with big bunches of blackberry fruit on the palate but as it goes on there's a honeysuckle sweetness that comes through on the middle, all while there's this herby, almost minty note on the edges. As it gets to the finish the berry fruit shifts more to fleshy plums with winter spice. Good stuff.


Tasted 18/12/2010 at Shorehead


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Lustau VORS Selection

I love sherry. I've mentioned it before. I'm also very fond of Emilio Lustau's fantastic wines. I've mentioned that before as well. Many people use Christmas as an excuse to drink sherry. I need no such excuses - it's just a happy coincidence. These wines aren't cheap - £60 for a 50cl bottle.

The term VORS is often mistaken for "Very Old Rare Sherry" - it's actually "Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum".

Lustau Amontillado 30yo VORS

Bronze and pale maple.

Salted almonds and tea leaves with notes of caramel and pecans on the nose.

Remarkably salted palate. I would almost think this came from Sanlucar and started life as a Manzanilla Fino. Getting past the salt is crushed nuts and tobacco leaf. Quite intense, though in desperate need of food. Can't quite get my head around it.


Lustau Palo Cortado 30yo VORS

Bright maple and copper.

Far richer nose. There's rich mixed nuts with a hint of marzipan, some pimms-soaked mint, salted caramel and ground coffee. Compelling.

Tremendous structure on the palate. It kicks off with dry raisins, almonds and salted peanuts. Then comes the dry tea leaves - Assam or something cool like that. It's huge and rich and dry and complex and damn I love it. The finish goes on and on.


Lustau Oloroso 30 VORS

Darker with more varnish, but no less brilliance.

Sweet dried fruit with cocoa dust, maple syrup and pecans. Classic rich, dry sherry throwing that sweet nose curveball.

The palate, as it should be, is much bigger than the other two. It's quite hedonistic and rich, with sweet caramel edges to that dry fruit and nut core. There's also iced tea with a touch of citrus. Every taste reveals a little more. The depth lasts through on another lingering finish. Brilliant stuff. Better than the Palo? I'm liking it more at the moment, but I think they could easily trade places from time to time.


Lustau Pedro Ximinez 30yo VORS

This is a cracking PX. But they all kind of taste the same to me. Enormous, viscous, Raisin-y, treacle-y goodness. I could only drink a glass, but it would be a big one.


Tasted 18/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clos du Marquis 2000

I remember finding some odd bottles of the 1986 at a shop in London. They were about thirty quid or so and I took a punt and did not regret it. These days its status as one of the the super-seconds-seconds has been eclipsed, as have all good second wines, by the ridiculous rise of Carruades de Lafite (which is so stupidly and undeservingly expensive I can't even begin to rage about it). Still, I've fond memories of these seconds, be it this or Les Forts or Carruades; amazing introductions to class Bordeaux.

Very young colour. No garnet to be seen. Nice ruby, though.

Spiced meat on the nose, with jammy fruit. Nice conserves, though, not Smuckers.

The palate irks me. It's a bit soupy or stewed, but without being cooked. It could be a phase, some transition between youth and maturity, from berry fruit to stone fruit, but I'm not sure. It certainly lacks the definition of the '04s and that's a shame. I don't think it's passed it, nor that there's taint or that it's an off bottle. There's just a bit of ho hum about it. Still, there's nothing that tastes wrong with the wine, per se. It's just a little disappointing, especially considering the vintage and wine.

**(**?) - those are some generous, optimistic parenthesis there

Tasted 17/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chateau Leoville Barton 2004

2004 is very much growing on me as a vintage. There's an elegance to it that reminds me of 1985 or 1988. I should note that 1985 is probably one of my favourite vintages of my lifetime.

Dark. Purple with smatterings of ruby.

The nose is far headier than the Talbot. More intense and mildly intoxicating. Brambles with crushed mint, wet stone and plum skin.

Rich, tight fruit of bramble, blackcurrant and cherry laced with cigar box, unbeaten leather, nutmeg and maybe a little tar. The integration and mouthfeel are fantastic. For all this flavour, this is not a big wine - it never feels heavy. Showing surprisingly well. Almost so forward as to arouse suspicion, but I really like it.


Tasted 17/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chateau Talbot 2004

It's been busy. Claret is required.

Lovely colour on the rim. Deep ruby to the core.

Cedar and mint on the nose, with savoury notes and strawberry compote. There are darker fruits underneath the strawberry, but the sweetness of the perfume is definitely strawberry.

Light and elegant though not without weight on the palate. Ripe cassis (no strawberry), earthy and gravelly with leather textures. Quite pleasing and soft. A sensory delight, though not awesomely complex.


Tasted 17/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, December 17, 2010

Allegrini 'Palazzo Della Torre' 2007

So this is kind of an accidental tasting. My flatmate bought a bottle, unbeknownst to me, and so I'm revisiting this old favourite. This decision required no deliberation. I thought as I'd just written, or over-written, about La Grola I'd scribble something down about this. I haven't had many '07s from the Veneto yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing whether they have that same exuberant juiciness the Tuscans from '07 are showing.

Purple rim with a dark core and ruby highlights.

Sweet dark fruit on the nose with hints of toast and fresh-roasted coffee.

Rich, full, dark fruit on the palate. Black cherries with dark chocolate, coffee grounds and a pleasing dustiness to the mouthfeel. There's also quite a groovy nuttiness - pecans, almonds and walnuts. Not juicy, but certainly as forward and immediately enjoyable as the Tuscans. Good length and somewhat decadent structure, allowing all that ripeness and richness to reach every corner of the mouth and linger. Not quite as serious as the '06 La Grola, but in general I find the '06s more serious. Tasty.


Tasted 17/12/2010 at Shorehead

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Allegrini 'La Grola' 2006

This wine is one of two siblings. The other is Palazzo della Torre, and both used to be - technically - Valpolicella. This is the more expensive of the two, but it doesn't mean it's always the better of the two. Originally, this was made 'ripasso' and Palazzo was not. Now, they're both 'ripasso' and even a little 'apassimento'. Intriguing and obscure (and now oft-imitated) Italian vinification techniques aside, it's always amused me that in spite of the price difference, the wines have always been equals. They've also always been excellent. The last time I tried the pair together, Palazzo was the better.

Italian broody - intense ruby edges with a deep and broody core.

The fruit is cherry and cranberry on the nose with cocoa and some sweet-cured ham.

What is line that forms that separates fun wines and serious wines? Aside from price? The darkness of the palate reaches out before the fruit comes. The fruit comes with richness and depth. Ripe, but not jammy. Oddly, no hint of the raisins. The backbone is dry, textured to the point of rasping, but not coarse. It brings the finish along and keeps it going. It's complete. It's young. I think a lot of people would think this was just right. The secondaries and the primaries are both big, balanced and provide a lot. But I think there's more to come - there's a sense of complexity in the passing of the palate that isn't nuance, it's the flavour memory of what just passed. An echo. I think that happens a great deal with big wines these days. It's not new points of flavour coming out - it's the echo of such big flavours lingering. This isn't like that - there are hints of that, but there's stuff underneath. It will bear out the weight of age. And there is more to come. I'm pretty sure of that. This got serious. And for this vintage, it's better than the Palazzo.


Tasted 11/12/2010 at Shorehead

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dr Loosen Riesling Eiswein 'Blue State' 2007

The astronomical prices some of the rare, hardcore Mosel sweeties can reach would make you cry. So £26.99 for a bottle that's only 187ml is actually tremendous value. Honest. Really. Scout's honour*.

More silver than green on the gold.

The nose is more earthy than the BA. More fruit flesh than fruit perfume. A bit heady - it bears weight.

Intense on the palate. Like a laser beam of sweet roasted limes, nectarines and honeysuckle-coated green apple. Underneath the fruit is a touch of flint. I asked with the Beerenauslese where could these fantastic wines go - this is an eloquent answer: more intense, more complex and more elegant. Finer structure.


Tasted 11/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

*I was never a scout.

Dr Loosen Riesling Beerenauslese 2006 (Gold Cap)

Sweet wines are important for wine merchants at this time of year as the sugar rush is essential to get through the day.

This comes in a very cute 187ml bottle. And by very cute, I mean 'affordable'.

Green gold with silver highlights.

Explosive nose. Ripe apricots and nectarines with a touch of candy apple. Maybe some marzipan and chilis.

Remarkably fresh and pure. Bright and brilliant white fruit, with the crispness of freshly chopped chillis. You can almost hear the knife slicing them as you sip it. Or maybe that's just me. Light and elegant to boot. This is entry level, as far as the class of wine goes, and leaves you kind of wondering how it could get better. Yum.


Tasted 11/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVIII

Weirdness in wine is definitely relative. Idiosyncrasy should be embraced, especially as modern breakthroughs are enabling more wines to taste exactly the same regardless of grape or region than ever before.

This wine has no vintage and possesses a staggering blend of varietals. Those listed are Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet, but apparently that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Lovely colour - reminiscent of Burgundy or Piedmont.

Salted caramel and blueberry on the nose one minute, mulling spices and cherries the next.

The dichotomy of the nose exists also on the palate - one sip and there's bunches of blueberries and cherries with cocoa powder and buttered cinnamon. The next sip is herbal; wild forest plums with cloves, cinnamon and allspice. After a few they all blend together and the spiciness comes out a bit more. It's like a winter fruit salad. There's fantastic sense of the complete on the finish. This is cool stuff. I like it a lot, and would really like to try some of the earlier releases. There are slightly oxidative notes, but as it's a multi-vintage blend I assume that's intentional. It certainly adds to the softness.


Tasted 10/12/2010 at Luvians Bottleshop

Saturday, December 11, 2010

L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Semillon 2008

I am not one of those wine dorks who tries evangelise under-appreciated grapes or regions. It's not due to lack of appreciation, it's due to selfishness. Their obscurity protects the wines somewhat from the ridiculous inflation of price that follows hype. Every time a wine pundit preaches the wonders of Vouvray or Alsace or Piedmont, I want to gag them. Those great value gems won't stay great value if everyone knows about them. So do us all a favour, guys, and keep a lid on it.

Great Semillon is not easy to find. The Bordelais are grubbing it up and planting yet more Sauvignon Blanc (or Merlot). In Australia they use it to bulk up cheap Chardonnay.

This particular gem hails from Washington State and is blended with about 11% Sauvignon Blanc.

Straw gold with glimmers of silver. Youthful and bright.

Quince on the nose, with beeswax and citrus pith. There's also a touch of pecorino.

Remarkably fleshy and textured, with a mouthfeel somewhere between quince jelly, grist and fleshy white fruit. It's bright and juicy. There's a whole bunch of exotic white fruit and honeysuckle that fills the palate. There's a lot going on with this and it's fun to drink. Tremendously more-ish.


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop 10/12/2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Coume del Mas 'Abysses' Collioure Rouge 2008

The wine merchant's build-up to Christmas can be fun, fraught or a total fucking disaster. More often than not, it's mix of all three. Today was long, but not without its rewards.

Once again, I have ties to this winery. In fact, I loaded most of the Syrah that went into this cuvée (there's Grenache in it as well) into the de-stemmer myself. I still have a scar on my elbow from trying to stop a pallet-load of the grapes collapsing onto the floor of the winery. Good times.

Dark, inky purple and quite broody. It's almost impenetrable at the core.

Rich blueberry and black current nose, with just a bit of red apple skin as well. There's also something just a little wild and animal about it. Earthy and with maybe a hint of wild herbs on the edges.

Touch viscous on the palate - it's a big wine - but never gloopy. Nor does it seem heavy on the palate. The fruit is focused, pure and rich, with blueberries, blackberry seeds. After the fruit comes winter spice - cloves and cinnamon with a hint of nutmeg. This is serious stuff - proper, linear palate with great structure holding together some awesome wild flavours. After the mulling spice comes a bit of stone on the mouthfeel and a lingering finish. Weight and elegance; great balance.

***** (everyone's probably bored with me raving about these wines but it's my blog and I'll do what I want :-P)

Tasted at Shorehead 8/12/2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1996

So that meal? The one the night before the wedding? That became the barest hint of a stag do. Broomie rocked out on the ukelele while Pete Wood drank absinth (Bohemian - no 'e' at the end) and Pete Crawford sang lead vocals to whatever tunes Broomie was playing on the ukelele. Sean played Wii Golf. Hookers and Strippers were vetoed. We learned that stag do's should not, under any circumstances, take place the night before the wedding.

Krug '88 is a hard act to follow. We opened this with high hopes and before we touched the absinth, thankfully.

Straw and hay-style gold. No brass or tarnish as yet.

Precise nose. Lemon cream with quince and pith. Zingy. Exciting.

Palate is bursting with life. This is young but joyously complex. Bright, gleeful acidity with candied lemons and mushrooms leaping about the mouth and filling it. Long, with perfumed edges and a sensuous mousse that brings a smile to the face. Ridiculously fun to drink. All these things suggest a long life ahead, but I'm not sure I'm that patient. Thus far my Champagne of the year. And there's not much longer to go. Prefer this to the Krug any day. So much more focus and complexity. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.


Pete's stag, Crawford Gardens, 8 Nov 2010


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Krug 1988 (from magnum)

So last month, a mate got married. That mate was Pete, manager of Luvians Bottleshop St Andrews and author of The Tasting Note. Pete's also a founding member of the Naughton Dining Club, the erstwhile slumbering confederacy of decadent wine dorks. The wedding was small, top secret and a touch last minute. So the evening beforehand, in the company of a few friends, we met for dinner and drank some fine wines.

The colour is golden with just the beginnings of tarnished brass.

Buttered brioche, wild mushrooms, toffee apples & chalk dust on the nose. Inviting.

Utter richness and a decadent delight. All from the nose and more - richer, perhaps a bit wilder. It's a huge champagne, but elegant in it's hugeness. I've had it so many times from bottle - from magnum it seems livelier, fresher. Incredibly long finish. It takes a bit out of you. I feel I should say more, but there's no more to say. It's done everything I've come to expect from Krug '88.

**** Tasted at Nahm Jim 8 Nov 2010


Saturday, December 04, 2010

d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2000 (from magnum)

Once upon a time, there were several wine shops in St Andrews. One was independent. The others were chain shops. One of those chain shops was an Oddbins, and it was an excellent one, run by people who were enthusiastic and curious about wine. It wasn't quite as awesome as the independent, but it was fun and separated itself from the other chains kicking about. It managed to be good when being a good Oddbins was one of the most difficult things to do in the British wine trade.

At a dinner party last month some of the former Oddbins staff and yours truly, a former/current independent staff member, opened some odd bottles and this was one of them. It had been a gift, many years ago, and fulfilled its destiny that night: to be laid down for a few years and opened in good company.

We're all, for the most part, old world snobs these days. This was eye opening.

Ruby turning slightly to rust.

Soft, savoury nose with briary plum fruit and a dash of wood spice.

Incredibly pleasant, mature palate. Soft but firm tannins. There's also a bit of pipe tobacco, bit of cedar. It's a revelation to taste well-made Australian Shiraz with this sort of age on it. Delightful and more than a match for the roast roe deer. This wine was 6-8 quid when it was released. Food for thought.

**** Tasted at Naughton 12/11/2010