Saturday, December 17, 2011

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2009

In spite of the oceans of wine Chile produces, I've never taken it seriously as a wine country. There was a time in the early 2000s when they excelled at cheap and cheerful, but somewhere along the way they lost the cheerful. The cheap wines morphed from fruit forward and inoffensive to jammy and over made or filthy and confected. There are the occasional exceptions but they are few, far between and not really worth the effort of sifting through the dross to find them.

There's also the small matter of institutional fraud that comes with one of the more popular varieties in the cheap and cheerful(?) crowd. Wines advertised as Sauvignon Blanc from Chile are unlikely to be so. More likely than not, they are mostly Sauvignonasse/Sauvignon Vert. However, there is no repercussion for this fraud because once this oversight was widely realised, the Chilean wine governing body simply refused to accept that any grape planted as Sauvignon Blanc in Chile was anything other than Sauvignon Blanc. According to them, Sauvignonasse simply does not exist in Chile.

What a bunch of bullshit, huh?

There are some decent wines at a high level - Don Maximiano, Almaviva, Seña etc, but they tend to be quality in kind of a boring way. Delicious, but lacking a sense of place.

The pinots are a minefield - either too candied, sweet and confected or riddled with hot, off farmyard notes that seem to be an attempt at manufactured complexity. Structure in particular seems to be a fairy tale when it comes to these wines.

Which brings us to tonight's wine. Montes's top range, the Montes Alpha wines, are not bad. I've sold them on and off for years. American golfers used to love pairing the Cabernet with a delicately grilled fillet of halibut and I could do nothing to stop them. This 'Limited Selection' branding is new to me. It can't be that limited as Majestic have them on sale for £7.99. This wine in particular has received rave reviews on their site, suggesting many a happy customer.

Dark ruby but still with pinot translucence. Good brightness.

Nose is pulped red fruit and cook berries. There's a greasy savoury-ness and a barn and matchstick hit that follows the fruit. Subsequent sniffs and the order gets mixed up.

What should I expect from £8 pinot? Am I being too critical? Is my sore shoulder and head ruining this wine for me? Because this doesn't have any definition. It's jammy, unpleasantly savoury and inconsistent. There's an oiliness to the finish that reminds me of eating junk food. Liquorice comes and goes. It could be far worse. I'm not recoiling with each sip.


I hate this wine. I can think of better bottles for a fiver. They won't be Chilean and they won't be Pinot Noir, but there you go.


Tasted at Shorehead 17 December 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Madeira Barbeito Malvasia 1994 Colheita Cask 232c

The single cask series from Barbeito are some of the most extraordinary wines I've ever encountered. I still have one bottle left of the Cask 18a, which is one of the single best wines I've ever drunk. A good future would be one in which Barbeito released several more of these gems.

Honeyed brass.

Smoked hay dunked in toffee and pepper. Hot and somewhat steamy.

Orange peels roasted in a muscovado crust. Toffee and salted caramel, with cigar smoke and pipe leaf. The notes of most wines like this read the same, but they're not the same. This is juicy, piercing, intense and explosive, but rich and voluptuous all at the same time. I've never really considered dessert island wines before, but one of these casks would surely be one of them. Incredible stuff.


Tasted at Naughton, 6 November 2011


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny 2002

My love for these wines is well-documented. They form a valuable chunk of my cellar. I wish I could afford to drink them more often.

Quite young, beautifully translucent Burgundy.

Sweet nose of underbrush and confit strawberry. Pithy notes. Full and somewhat leathery. Hint of cocoa.

Feels incredible. Strawberry & cranberry laced suede and leather that drifts into silk and satin, then flutters along into a finish that leaves more feeling than flavour. Warm Burgundy, elegant and ephemeral. There are are wood spice and forest like notes as well, but the harmony of all somewhat obscures the individual notes.


Tasted at Naughton, 6 November 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1995

I've become more and more convinced that Champagne goes through a pronounced intermediate phase towards the end of its teenage years. The vibrancy of youth and the rich, toasty-ness of age meet for a time and mute each other. I don't really know the technical term for this or even the science behind it. But I know it when I taste it.

Bright gold. No brass or green.

Bready and savoury on the nose.

Sourdough and nameless citrus and fibrous fruit. Long-lovely, but more sensuous than flavourful. Spiced quince. Intense but under-developed. Needs a long time.


Tasted at Naughton 6 November 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tio Pepe

Given my love and devotion to the wines from Jerez, it's a bit of a surprise that I've never bothered to post a note for this benchmark Fino. About six years ago my mate Broomie and I toured the impressive Gonzalez Byass bodega. The scale was staggering. They never commented on just how many bottles they produced, but given the seemingly endless barrels in the solera, I imagine it's quite a lot. Yet the quality, regardless of scale, is extraordinary. This is a good thing. Tio Pepe is ubiquitous throughout the UK. It's nice to know that, theoretically at least, you're never too far from a decent glass of Fino. Sadly, far too many of the bars and restaurants that stock it leave it open too long, dooming it lose its freshness and zing to oxidation. Ah well.

Silver and bright with green highlights

Nose of hay, flint and sourdough bread with limes soaked in olive brine.

Imagine tearing a chunk of sourdough bread, squeezing lime juice onto it, dipping it in olive oil and then smearing it with green olive tapenade. This wine is like that. But then it finishes by crunching oyster shells with lemon peel. Benchmark fino.


Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop, 1 November 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Aldo Conterno Barolo 2004

I bow to whimsy more than occasionally. Today that whimsy is a bottle of something I've been wanting to try for sometime, and a grey October Friday seemed the perfect time to do it. Autumn and Barolo go together like, well, like Autumn and red Burgundy - they are almost perfectly suited. That rusty, rustic crunch sits well with the falling leaves and slow-cooked stews of the season.

Stained-glass red - pale, rusty and bright.

Dusty nose with dried strawberries, raspberries and cranberries. It tugs at the nostrils and gets the mouth watering. There's hay and leather on the edges as well.

My goodness. Stunning palate that starts softly but quickly shrieks with juicy, crunchy, soured red berries - cranberries, raspberries and strawberries - all so juicy that you wince, squint and blink a bit. Then, beneath the juicy fruit, the dust, leather and tar-like tannins assert themselves, balancing that juiciness with a firm grip that goes from silk to suede to a prickly hint of sandpaper. Structure, charm, grip, fruit, earth, poise and balance, this pretty much has everything I wanted it to, and perhaps a bit more. Still incredibly youthful.

There is no hint whatsoever of the 14.5% alcohol.

Fantastic stuff.


Tasted at Shorehead 14 October 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Chateau Margaux 1990 from Imperial (600cl)

Fortune smiled upon me this morning when a restauranteur friend of mine invited me around to taste the remains of something remarkable. It's important to resist the 'awe' factor of such wines - to not let their reputation and price precede them and potentially cloud your judgement. As a self-confessed Bordeaux cynic, my guard was up, but it's difficult not to be intimidated/impressed by a six litre bottle worth somewhere in the region of £8,000. Especially from such a legendary estate.

I should note that this had been opened and decanted the night before, though seemed none the worse for it.

Mature colour, but no amber - red rust and deep leather.

Quite a lot going on here. Cedar, licorice, saddles and Christmas spice. Glazed game, compote blueberries and currants - both red & black. Sugar-coated dust, pipe leaf tobacco and candied violets. All this on the nose and it's all intense, pervading and powerful. It's also quite addictive - I keep shoving my face in the glass.

Still young. Piercing, fresh, juicy berries - cherries, raspberries, with real crunch to them. Bright, vibrant and incredibly focused. The grip and tannins begin to take hold mid palate, at first softly, like suede or velvet, though growing more assertive by the finish, which is dark, tight and suggests a very, very long future ahead. Beautifully layered.


Tasted at The Seafood Restaurant, St Andrews, 4 October 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 1970

One of the first big tastings organised by the Naughton Dining Club (oft-referred to wine-swilling gang of trade and ex-trade mates) was a vertical of Ducru dating back to 1955. If memory serves, and subsequent tastings are any indication, the 1966 was the wine of the evening. But we all loved the 1970 as well. In those days, and up through to the 90s, Ducru provided the poise and elegance of St Julien. Nowadays it tends towards the bigger style of claret, which is a shame. As such, revisiting old Ducru is not something that needs to be forced upon me. I'll sip willingly.

Mature, but not old, and classic claret tones at 41 years.

Soft nose, with bunches of tangy berries - the dried ones you find in a good muesli, and hints of cloves on the edges.

This is almost aperitif claret. Sadly ill-suited to the lamb shanks. Perhaps the acidity of the tomato in the sauce is cutting into it a bit. Tasted away from the food, it's delicious. Supple and textured, it's not quite as big and vibrant as the La Chapelle, nor as poised as the Barolo, but sits somewhere between the two. Is it a touch too old? Nah. I'd keep drinking it over the next five years or so. Perhaps longer.


Tasted 20 August 2011 at Shorehead.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Jaboulet Hermitage 'La Chapelle' 1972

The search for good wines from our birth year is almost and endless task for those in the wine trade. I'm a 1976 baby myself, so Champagne and Germany have yielded the best results. A friend in the trade was born in 1972 and has searched for years in vain for a decent wine from that year. His most recent acquisition was this, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Rusty red edges, but quite dark blueberry compote at the core.

The nose is meaty, savoury with cocoa-laced stone fruits - plums - and a whiff of stewed blueberry.

That savoury, meatiness follows through on to the palate mostly with a nice, mature saddle leather mouthfeel that guides cocoa and confit blueberry on the mid-palate. There's still a nice, rich vibrancy to this. The fruit is youthful while the texture and mouthfeel enjoy the luxury of maturity. Nice depth, too. Fantastic - possibly wine of the night (though I do love the Barolo).


Tasted 20 August 2011 at Shorehead

Saturday, September 03, 2011

already routine

My alarm sings the marimba at 530 in the morning and I fiddle about trying to turn it off. I avoid 'snooze'. The snooze button is not allowed during harvest.

By 630 we're at Coume del Mas, rinsing and assembling the press and loading the first comports (big plastic tubs holding about 50kg worth of grapes). It's a small bag-press, so it only takes about 18 comports. We don't talk much at this point. We've said bonjour and possibly ça va and that's about it. Yesterday's wine will be racked from cool tank into barrels in the cool room (cool, huh?) while we fill the press. Apart from a few barrels of fermenting Syrah, it's only white at the moment, with the wines that will be Folio, c'est pas de Pipeau and Catala just starting their ferments. Grenache Gris, Roussanne and Vermentino all bubbling away.

Once the press is loaded I grab a lift from Coume del Mas in Cosprons to Mas Cristine in Argeles. If all's going to plan, we get to Argeles about 730. Mas Cristine requires more strategy when getting equipment together, as our corner of the ancient co-op is cramped and a bit inhospitable. We move the press outside in order to save space. This is a larger beast than the one at Coume del Mas, and can take - with coaxing - about 35 comports. More often than not, there is wine to rack from tank to tank, and at the moment we've a Roussanne ferment to cool down in the mornings. The first grapes come in about 830. Thus far we've had Grenache Gris, Muscat, Roussanne and Macabeu for whites and a small amount of Syrah and Grenache Noir for rosé.

The standard press cycle takes about three hours, during which we clean, rack and sort out all the tanks and barrels for the grapes yet to come. Quite a lot of winemaking is being ready and quite a lot of being ready in winemaking is being clean. Scrubbing the caps for tanks, the tartaric residue off of stainless steel and epoxy vats, it's all part of the harvest.

As the press clangs and howls through its various pressures and in between all the cleaning, racking and tidying, we taste the juice. We usually switch vessel about 1000mBars, separating the lighter press juice from the harder. The juice from the first presses tends to be fruitier, more elegant, while the later presses boast more phenolics and secondary flavours. In most cases they will ferment and mature independently until the blend is decided late autumn.

Some days, we'll do two full presses, others one. Over lunch we'll chat about the odd variations in grape maturity throughout the vines. The odd cool spell and bizarre humidity levels have led to uneven ripening. Some of the best fruit won't be ready for a month, meaning the much talked about early harvest may also be one of the latest harvests in recent memory, with some reds not being picked until October. The last three years in the Roussillon, most of the ferments had finished by then.

At Mas Cristine, there is usually beer when the shift ends. It's cold and never quite big enough.

Home by 7ish. In bed around 10. The same again in the morning. I'm enjoying it while I can, as when the reds come in it will start to get busy.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fontannafredda Barolo 1961

Sitting on the outskirts of Banyuls, typing up tasting notes from last week, staring out at the steep-terraced vineyards and wondering what the future holds. The immediate future is easy: there are grapes by the millions to turn into wine. The distant future, not so much. Even October is a mystery. I hope, though, that someday a wine I had a hand in turns out as lovely as this in 50 years' time.

Rusty red but no brown.

Stoned, dried plums and strawberries on the nose with dust, hay and a zingy marmalade tang.

Soft, old and classy on the palate. Arguably a touch simple, but elegant and really gorgeous with roast lamb shanks. In spite of the softness, there's still a welcome and firm grip to the tannins whilst that dry fruit ripens up and lifts with the food, still showing off some proper juiciness. Charming.


Tasted 20 August 2011 at Shorehead.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Some notes on winemaking (or how not to hurt yourself too badly while working vintage)

I am by no means a winemaking expert. I wouldn't even say I was at an intermediate level - more an enthusiastic and curious beginner with three years' experience. Along the way I've picked up a few nuggets of knowledge that may help the aspiring young vigneron out. They're numbered in no particular order.

1. There is nothing cuddly in a winery. The tanks are steel, oak, epoxy or concrete. The hoses are reinforced and have stainless steel at each end. The bottles are glass. The pallets splinter. Pretty much everything is heavy or sharp or hard. Some things are all of those. Be careful.

2. If you forget rule one and do hurt yourself, don't bitch. Don't stop if you're in the middle of something. Everyone's hurt themselves. Everyone is bleeding or just scabbed over, with bruises forming and bumps rising. Anything short of a broken bone, lost limb or death can wait. Just try not to bleed into the wine and when there's a pause, find a bandaid.

3. Making wine hungover is something you only need to do once to learn it is the worst fucking thing in the world. Remember: self-inflicted wounds deserve and receive no sympathy.

4. Drink a lot of water.

5. You don't have to be a morning person, but you have to function in the morning, regardless of how miserable and grumpy you are. Everyone around you wanted an extra hour or two in bed and none of them got it.

6. There is no 'are we there yet?' attitude, there is only 'what can I do next?' attitude.

7. If there's coffee, drink it. You'll need it.

8. If there's wine at lunch (and there will be in France), take it easy and match it with water.

9. Try, if you can, to get a bit of breakfast.

10. If someone else is lazy, it's not your job to call them out. Their laziness will reveal itself. Focus on what you're doing.

11. Always double-check the valves. Wasting wine is a terrible, terrible thing.

12. Do your job and be helpful.

13. Learning what not to do is every bit as important as learning what to do.

14. When in doubt, ask. It's better to be annoying than to do something wrong.

15. Nobody likes a smart ass. That's applicable well beyond winemaking.

16. Don't stick your hand in the de-stemmer.

17. Make sure you know where the emergency stop button is on every bit of equipment you use. It's usually big and red.

18. Make sure everything is clean at the end of the day. If you half-ass whatever you're cleaning, you can fuck it up for everyone.

19. Don't fuck it up for everyone.

20. Have fun.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc Vielles Vignes 1996

I've been reading what a pain in the ass Roussanne is recently, how winemakers in the Rhône are grubbing it up and replacing it with the more robust and, arguably, less elegant Marsanne. I don't know if this is endemic, or just something wine writers feel they need to gripe about, as there isn't always very much to chat about in the wine world, and new subject matter is always at a premium (see the constant stream of 'next big varietal'  chat in the wine press - it's pretty dire stuff). The Perrin brothers make this Roussanne and have no intention, as far as I'm aware, of replacing it with Marsanne. That's for the best, as I feel this cuvée is by far the finest wine they make.

The beginnings of brass in with the gold and some green highlights. Still bright in its maturity.

Nutty on the nose, with bread-y star fruit and quince. With air comes honeycomb.

Honeycomb textured mouthfeel - waxy with honey smeared over toast, layers of quince and glazed peaches. There's some orange flower water there as well. As it opens up there's greater harmony, the individual notes fusing into something greater than its parts. That toastiness loses its burnt edges. Really superb stuff.


Tasted 20 August 2011 at Shorehead

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a sense of scale

A bottle of wine is a small thing.

I remember working in a wine shop in the lead up to the Christmas rush, waiting with trepidation for pallet after pallet of wines, whiskies and assorted other festive liquids. A fully loaded pallet is, or should be, 56 cases. If the cases are 6-packs, then it's 112 cases per pallet. It was a small shop. It still is, actually, and the sight of two pallets waiting to be brought into its tight confines in short time could ruin an otherwise cheery morning. It often seemed an insurmountable task. A pallet was pretty much the largest measure of quantity we used. Occasionally there would be chat of shipping a whole container (which holds several pallets), but those chats were rare and inevitably ended with a shrug and a 'nah'.

When I worked as a sommelier, pallets of wine were rare and impractical. We received only two in my 14 months at the restaurant, of wine we shipped directly from France. It took some planning to clear room in the cellar, with various nooks and crannies excavated to stash a 6-pack here and there.

The last 3 vintages I've worked in France, I've grown accustomed to the scale and volume of the wine we make. 50 and 60 hectolitre tanks are filled over the course of a day or two of emptying comports full of grapes into the de-stemmer, which leads to the pump, which leads to the tank. Remontage through fermentation, racking, daily density samples and tastings meant that those tanks were not idle once filled. We continue to interact with them throughout vinification. I grasped their size and dimensions within the boundaries of winemaking.

At the end of a day's work we'd often open a bottle of a previous vintage and maybe comment on how this year would be different. Would it be better? I understood, intellectually, that the liquid in the tank would someday be the liquid in the bottle. It's such an obvious thing, and yet there was a level of comprehension that was missing; a blank spot between the tank and the bottle.

On Thursday and Friday last week, that blank spot was filled in with great detail. The bottling truck arrived and in spite of the occasional  technical difficulty the bottling line was set up. It was modular, with lots of bright stainless steel and more moving parts than seemed practical. Filters, pumps, conveyors, front labels, back labels, bottles, boxes, corks, caps, etc. all present in staggering quantities. A bottle of wine is a small thing, perfectly formed for its task, yet the number of things that go into that, to give that impression and provide that perfect form, is daunting. For me it was, anyway. Our job was to bottle around 15,000 litres - we needed to clear space in the tanks for this year's harvest.

My station on the line was boxes. I had to unfold cases and lay them on the line for my partner to fill with six bottles, then lay down the divider atop those so that the last six bottles could be placed on top of the divider. My partner then folded the case shut and pushed it through for it to be sealed, coded and loaded onto a pallet. We switched places for the last tank, with me handling the bottles. None of this occurred at a leisurely pace. We packed three cases a minute, thus filling a whole pallet in less than twenty minutes. Before my very eyes the tanks I knew only in and of themselves were emptying into bottles and the scale took me aback. Just one of those 60 hecto tanks equalled 8,000 bottles of wine. That's almost 12 pallets worth. Mas Cristine is not a huge winery. A 15,000 litre bottling line in the Roussillon is at best small-to-medium in terms of volume. And yet for this former wine merchant, the one who would sigh in exasperation when a delivery driver showed up outside the shop with two pallets, to bottle and box over twenty pallets worth of wine in the space of a day and a half seemed extraordinary.

After that last day of bottling we went home and, as usual, cracked open a bottle of something. I brushed the label with my thumb and traced the seam of the glass up to the foil cap. The cork removed, I rolled it over in my fingers and squeezed it, feeling it give slightly. I nosed my glass, looked again at the label and thought that a bottle of wine is a small thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vintage 2011

I'm writing this from the luxurious surroundings of the departure lounge at Prestwick International Airport. The wine list is atrocious. Even the Duty Free here is a wasteland of industrial muck. I might have to order a pint to drown my sorrow at this state of affairs. The good news is that I won't be here for much longer. My flight leaves for Spain in a little over an hour. From there, it's just a quick bus ride over the foothills of the Pyrenees and I'll be back in the Roussillon for the 2011 vintage at Mas Cristine, Coume del Mas and Consolation. I'll be working the harvest for five weeks. From all accounts, it's going to be a big one. The vines I saw in July were laden with grapes, which is ace as '09 and '10 were a touch on the small side. If all goes to plan, I'll be blogging the wine-making process as much as possible over the next month and a bit. As usual, the wine-y stuff will be here and various less wine-y adventures will be at my other blog over here.

Right, I'm off for a quick pint.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Clos Pons Costers del Segre

I've not scored these simply because that's how I noted them at the time. This is a range sent to a friend of mine at the request of another friend of mine without the knowledge of the first friend. So when they arrived, no one had any idea what they were. As far as I know, they are unrepresented in the UK. That may have been why they were sent.

Sisquella 2010

Garnacha Blanca & Moscatel

White flowers, petals & peaches - touch of Flint.

Fat & waxy on the palate. Fleshy and a bit fibrous, with that White fruit giving way to orange flower water and then orange peel for a bit of bite and grip on the finish. Bright, summery stuff.

Roc Nu 2008

Baked red fruits, warm forest and summer fields. Bit of hay and earth.

Palate is soft, briary with a polished woodspice to it. No hard edges until the end, where a bit of a dirty bite reveals itself.

Alges 2009

Quite jammy red and dark fruit on the nose. Pulpy.

Lots of bright, dark fruit on the palate. More restrained secondaries- simpler but more pure and less dirty than the Roc Nu.

Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop 28/6/2011

Friday, August 05, 2011

Dedicato a Walter Cabernet Franc 2005 Poggio al Tesoro

Sometimes, quite often in fact, I wonder why some Super-Tuscans exist. I don't question their inherent quality. Off the top of my head I can reel off 20 or so wines I feel are genuinely fantastic. But too often I'm finding they taste of two things - what they're made of and how they're made. That's fine for entry level, varietal wines. But wines at the higher end should express so much more than that - there should be a nuanced sense of where they come from - and so many of these Super-Tuscans fail to do that. Technically they are excellent, but quite a few of them lack soul.

I've never met a wine named Walter, by the way.

Just beginning to show some age on the edges.

Sweetened spearmint and blueberries on the nose.

The palate is like having a paintbrush loaded with dark fruit, tobacco leaf, dust and compote swiped across your tongue and then shoved in your mouth. Not in a bad way. This is delicious, but a little too perfect. It could be from anywhere, and I find that a little unnerving.



Thursday, August 04, 2011

Blaufränkisch Burgenland 2009 Moric

The first time I tried this wine was at SITT 2011. There were many fantastic wines tried that day, though this stood out. I'm not overly familiar with Blaufränkisch, and novelty combined with quality is one of the holy grails of, not just building a good wine list, but really enjoying wine and broadening the palate. This is their entry level offering - some of their cuvées can be quite pricey, but based on this introduction I reckon they're probably worth it.

Violet edges but quite dark at the core.

Ripe cherry and strawberry wrapped in a dusty cloak.

It starts floral, violet-y, then those bunches of crunchy, juicy red cherries  come bursting through followed by dark, gripping backwards dusty saddle leather, squid ink and then a sour tang of more cherries. Reminds me a touch of Bierzo. Love the contrast between the brightness of the fruit and the darkness of the secondaries. Also never heavy. Powerful but light. Brilliant wine.



Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Fonseca 1983

Tired port is one of the sadder things in fine wine, up there with prematurely oxidized white Burgundy and sherry's continued lack of respect.

Quite faded, but still purple shades.

Oops. Snorted it by accident. Weird. Light strawberries soaked with vodka and plum schnapps.

Hot, very spirity and sadly unbalanced. Shame.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Vin Santo Vertical

Not going to lie: I'm a big Vin Santo fan. I'm also a big Isole e Olena fan. This wine is a lot more expensive than it used to be, but so's petrol and a pound of beef. All things being equal, sometimes I'd rather spend a little more and enjoy a little more.

Splitting hairs between these two wines bothered me. They're both good. I'd be happy with either of them at the end of a meal.

Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1998

Biscotti and salted caramel nose. Peanuts and toffee.

Bursts with dried figs and nuts - toasted and roasted, but perhaps a bit short.

Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 1999

Deeper, richer and sweeter than the 98. Sexier. Rich. Dripping with caramel cashews, biscotti, toffee. Very rich. Delicious. Possibly heart attack inducing.

Both **** - *****

Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Monday, August 01, 2011

Inniskillin Sparkling Icewine 2002

It is a source of endless amusement that this wine even exists. In fact, there's quite a lot of Canadian sparkling ice wine kicking about. I remember an old friend and colleague once joking that everything tastes better with bubbles. 'Oh sure, '82 Lafite is great, but give me '82 Lafite through a soda stream and then you'll have a fucking wine' was his common refrain. I only think he was half joking.

Apparently, Inniskillin use the Charmat method to carbonate, meaning a secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks before bottling. I have absolutely no idea how that is chemically possible. Inducing secondary fermentation with residual sugar levels between 180 and 320 grams per litre is quite a feat. But these guys managed it, and have been doing so for a fair few years now. The results are deliriously fun but stupidly expensive.

Polished brass with lazy bubbles..

This is just silly. It's utterly delicious, and quite good with the tart. But it's still silly. I suppose any wine that leaves you giggling like an idiot is quite good. Not worth £55 a half bottle good, but good.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese 2006 (from magnum)

Magnums are awesome. Large-format bottles, in all their shapes and sizes, hold the wine trade in child-like glee. Show me someone in the trade that doesn't get at least a small thrill at trying a wine (or whisky, or brandy, or beer) from a big bottle and I'll show you someone that never deserves to drink from one. I remember selling double magnums of Delamain XO, complete with their own decanting cradle, to a restaurant where it was not uncommon, after hours, to find myself, the owners and my colleagues lying on our backs, underneath the bar, waiting for the trebuchet (because cradle doesn't really do it justice) of cognac to pour that sweet nectar down our throats.

It hurt the next morning.

Anyway, magnums are awesome. Even when the wine isn't all that great.

Still quite a lot of green to that gold.

Rolled oats, honeysuckle and citrus flowers on the nose. Sandy.

Palate is big, rich and a touch sweaty. Fleshy and quite delicious but lacking a bit of grip. As it opens, that flabbiness asserts itself a bit more, sadly. There's a lack of vibrance, a lack of hum, a lack of acidity and structure that lets this down and makes me question its age-worthiness. Bummer.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/06/2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cos d'Estournel 2002 (from magnum)

St Estephe intrigues me. For all the chat about garagiste right-bank extraction and new oak and whatnot, for me the new world of Bordeaux can be found in this Northern Medoc appellation. I often find it to be the Coonawarra of Bordeaux - with great big bunches of exotic spice and expressive, juicy fruit. Arguably, this is the wrong way round. Surely Coonawarra is more reminiscent of St Estephe. Possibly. In fact, probably. But for some reason, in my head, new switches places with the old and it's St Estephe that seems derivative.

Incredibly dark in the glass; a hair's breadth to impenetrable.

Dark wet pipe tobacco, roasted black currants, cherry jam glazed ham and tons of winter spice.

Very dark and savoury. Grippy and meaty - pepper salami and pipe tobacco. Wild and exotic spices abound. Underneath all that, wrapped tight, is some bright, tar-coated cassis. It sucks the mouth back in on itself with a finish that goes on for a fair few minutes. Lots of life ahead, though whether that fruit will outlast the tannin is open for debate.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Volnay Premier Cru 2002 d'Angerville

The more 2002 red Burgundy I try, the more it charms me. 2002 was a big deal at the time, though the hype of 2005 and 2009 have gleefully eclipsed it. This is a good thing. It leaves well-aged Burgundy at reasonable prices for me.

Ruby wrapped in black velvet.

Fleshy, wild strawberries on the nose, coated in fresh tarragon and sage. Touch of citrus.

Brilliantly pleasing. Piercing and pure bright red fruit, sexy but still with toothy tannins. Loving that brilliant silkiness. So good. Lovely integration. Rises up with the lamb as well, reaches a kind of superb harmony. Not too flabby. Delicious.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste Hune 1997

My very first month in the wine trade, I was shown a bottle of this wine and told, 'this is the greatest dry Riesling in the world'. It was the 1994 vintage. I didn't really understand what I had been told. Academically, I suppose, it made sense to me, but I had so little understanding of the context surrounding it that its place in the pantheon of wine never really sank in.

I have never had a mature Clos Ste Hune: a bottle at its peak. It remains a goal of mine.

My goodness that looks young. Nowhere near 14 years old. Still flecks of silver and pale gold - the light dances through it.

Nose of Flint and lime with oats. Whiff  of honey.

Palate is a little teenager-y, just on the cusp of shedding it's lean, crisp and crunch side and just beginning to show deep, rich roasted oats and limes with stone running through the seams. The structure is still precise, running from youth at the beginning of the palate to young adulthood and just the beginnings of maturity at the end of the palate.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Corton Charlemagne 2000 Bonneau du Martray

I am fortunate enough to have tried this wine a few times. I even noted it once. Every time I try it, it seems young. I have a friend who's convinced that wines from this domain need a minimum of 3 hours decanting before they reveal just how much there is and I believe him. Sadly, I've never really had the luxury of time for such ritual.

Still very young, bright gold.

Toasted and nutty nose, with an almost sherry-like zip to it.

Still quite closed and young on the palate. Piercing, intense and incredibly tight knit. Almost knotted. Ripe and bone dry all at once, with the creaminess and richness all waiting while tightly wrapped with spiced pineapple in crushed seashells and chalk. Will come back to this.


Tasted at Shorehead 20/6/2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado 2000

Aged rosés are not my area of expertise. I'm familiar, thankfully, with quite a few aged rosé Champagnes, but still rosés with age are another story. Quite a strange story, at that. As wine-drinkers it seems almost like heresy. Rosés are meant to be youthful and fresh, drunk chilled and in great quantity during the summer. Age them? You may lay them down for a nap, but not for much longer. So this is very much uncharted territory for me. I have no point of reference, and as such can only really judge this wine on how it fits with the rest of the Tondonia wines, which tend to stand alone anyway. As such, it is the weakest of a strong range but still remarkable in its own right. Real wine geek stuff.

Salmon pink and pale copper with a hint of green. Really nice brightness.

Nose of Seville oranges and mulched strawberries. There's a touch of mushroom cap and earth as well. Raspberries and their pips.

Seeringly dry. Freeze dried strawberries with stems, ceps and turf. There's orange peel as well, with some notes of cured ham. It's precise, with good structure. Bracing, and certainly needing food.


Tasted 16/6/2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Burgundy 2009 tasting at The New Club with Justerini & Brooks

January saw me visiting the New Club in Edinburgh to taste Burgundy at the invitation of one of the world's most famous merchants. Now, six months later, I'm sharing my notes. Why did it take me so long? I'm not entirely sure. I could claim that I wanted to avoid the tedious hype that surrounds En Primeur, but that would be fibbing. I'll chalk it up to laziness, I suppose.

The tasting itself was straight-forward. There was no deep mulling on my part regarding the vintage: it's very good when it's good and very disappointing when it isn't. The whites are not, on the whole, for keeping.

My note format is a bit different here. I grade on a 3 point scale rather than 5. This is a system I use when tasting in an official 'buyer' capacity, and can be fairly flexible. Plenty of perfectly reasonable wines get no score just because I don't think they fit whatever list I may be buying for - in this situation it was for a merchant with an extensive Burgundy range in need of refresh. I also had a few private clients in mind. The stars represent how strongly I feel we should buy something, with one star being the 'it would be nice', three stars being 'we have to buy this' and two stars sitting somewhere in the middle. Three stars tend to be wines I'll fight for, and they are not necessarily the most expensive.

Table 1: Les Heritiers de Comtes Lafon

Mâcon-Milly **

Bright and juicy on the nose

The palate is a touch tropical, but avoids flabbiness. Great value.

Macon-Chardonnay, Clos de la Crochette

Bit more candied fruit on the nose, with a hint of anise.

Fatter in the mouth, though still kept in line by the acidity. That anise note comes through as well.

Vire-Clessé *

Sweeter on the nose than the other two, almost honeyed.

The palate comes in waves of lemon drops and honey with great mouthfeel and texture.

• A really impressive range that delivers Cote d'Or quality and yet remains true to the Macon.

Table 2: Bachelet Monnot

Santenay Blanc **

Butter and spearmint nose. Quite fresh.

Continues to the palate with fresh mint minerality wrapped in soft butter.

Puligny-Montrachet, Les Referts 1er Cru Les Referts *

Quite a fat nose of boiled sweets and cardamon.

Still lively, with a bit of bottle-shock perhaps? Nice finish though.

Puligny-Montrachet, Les Folatières 1er Cru ***

Candied with a mix of eastern spices.

Far more developed structure - gripping but balanced acidity that puts all that rich pineapple and citrus fruit in the right place. Makes the Referts look flabby.

Santenay, Les Charmes *

Powdered sugar and rhubarb with strawberries on the nose.

Really lovely mouthfeel - textured like strawberry pips.

Maranges, La Fussiere 1er Cru **

Dark, intense cranberries on the nose.

Great texture and depth, wrapping up that dark cranberry fruit rather beautifully.

• These were a happy surprise. I don't think any of these would be out of place on our list. That's not saying we should buy the range, but that maybe a red or a white here and there would be good.

Table 3: Jean Noel Gagnard

Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Chenevottes 1er Cru

Flinty nose with edges of pineapple.

Fleshy fruit texture of quince, orange and pineapple. The flint from the nose never appears.

Chassagne-Montrachet, Morgeot 1er Cru

Richer on the nose - white fruit and butter.

Disjointed on the palate with an aggressive, coarse finish. Not ready to write it off as it could just be a bad bottle.

Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Caillerets 1er Cru

More harmony on the nose - balanced pineapple

The palate is bright and fleshy but no flabbiness - the acidity keeps it in line.

Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru **

Very tight nose - piercing lemon and pineapple fruit.

Already signs of good integration. Waves of citrus and rich, fleshy, textured secondaries cascade one after the other. Really fine, but it should be.

Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 'L'Estimee' *

Nose is floral, but a touch confected.

Quite exotic on the palate. More-ish. Better than Clavillon? More approachable, but not as structured.

Santenay Clos de Tavannes 1er Cru *

Quite simple, though pure, red fruit on the nose.

Good, classic, juicy, crunchy cranberries, raspberries and strawberries on the palate. Nice, fruit-forward stuff.

• As a range, it's solid, but not overwhelming. The Batard was lovely.

Table 4: Vincent Dancer

Bourgogne Blanc 2009

Fresh nose with toast and oyster shells.

Clean and crisp with mint, flint and green apples.

Meursault Corbins

Bit dumb on the nose. Perhaps a touch of cheese?

Surprisingly light & simple. Unimpressed.

Chassagne-Montrachet Tête du Clos 1er Cru

The nose and palate seem tainted by off ewe's milk. Poor.

Meursault Les Perrières 1er Cru

Better, but not great. Lemon and rocks. Little definition.

Pommard Perrières

Big nose, confected edges

Too light on fruit and heavy on tannin. Very disjointed.

Pommard Pezerolles 1er Cru

Sweaty nose

Agressive, stalky palate.

• Considering how universally awful the rest of the wines were, I'd like to retaste the basic Chardonnay, just to make sure it's not shit.

Table 5: Martelet de Cherisey

Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 1er Cru

Seems to have refermented. Smells and tastes of scrumpy.

Puligny-Montrachet Chalumeaux 1er Cru

Less like scrumpy, but still very much apple-y.

The palate is nicely textured. Seems a touch expensive.

Meursault-Blagny La Genelotte 1er Cru *

More apples, but not fermenting. A touch of spice as well.

Nicely rounded on the palate and quite rich. Are their holdings all near apple orchards?

Blagny Rouge La Genelotte 1er Cru **

Red apple skins on the nose with loads of eastern spices.

Savoury, textured and backwards. Promising stuff.

• They're expensive and taste of apples. That makes no sense to me. The red was really good though.

Table 6: Follin Arbelet

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

Quite light on the nose, surprisingly.

Candied palate. Not showing well at all. All glycerol and boiled sweets. Shame.

Aloxe-Corton *

Red apple and cranberries on the nose.

Crisp and crunchy palate of red apple skins and ripe cranberries and red currants.

Aloxe-Corton Clos de Chapitre 1er Cru

Bit dumber on the nose - similar but perhaps a touch more floral.

Backwards but compelling red fruit and crushed rose petal.

Corton Bressandes Grand Cru **

Punchy soured cherry jumps into the mix now, riding the crest of bright red berry fruit on the nose.

Morello cherries, chantilly cream, cranberries all knitting together nicely and showing great length.

Romanée St Vivant **

Craisins (yes, I just used Craisin on a tasting note. Awaiting cease & desist order from Ocean Spray) with bright cherries.

Ripe, rich, sweet red fruit with flower petals and a solid, dark backbone.

• Very disappointed in the Corton Charlemagne, but the reds were strong. The village Aloxe Corton could very well fill a gap.

Table 7: Robert Chevillon

Bourgogne Rouge ***

A touch backwards and farmyardy on the nose.

Lovely, rounded, generous but not flabby palate. Soft and delicious.

Nuits St-Georges Vieilles Vignes **

Fantastic nose. Bright and perfumed.

Gorgeous palate of floral red fruit - feminine red Burgundy and damn fine at that.

Nuits St-Georges Les Bousselots 1er Cru ***

The bright red trio: cherries, cranberries & strawberries in boisterous abundance. Perfumed edges.

The palate is compelling; peppermint tea wrapped around those berries from the nose with a great, dark backbone.

• We should buy all of these. The most impressive range of the bunch.

Table 8: Bruno Clair

Marsannay Blanc **

Nose is bright, pithy lemon.

Great, zingy acidity with lemon and lime rind texture. Gripping, zingy and impressive.

Marsannay Rouge Les Longeroies

Fleshy & forward. Lacking structure. Disappointing. Any chance of Vaudenelles?


Light, floral nose.

Soft and pleasant on the palate, with crushed red berries and a gentle finish.

Chambolle-Musigny Véroilles

Slight hints of mint and cedar on the nose.

Comes through on the palate - good integration with the fruit and nice length.

Gevrey-Chambertin Petite Chapelle 1er Cru

Good nose with soft fruit - simple but suggesting more to come.

Ripe strawberries with powdered sugar (is this an aspect of the vintage?) and great, vibrant acidity.

Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers 1er Cru ***

Very deep on the nose - dark and foreboding. Exciting in that.

Fruit a touch light at the moment, but there's an underlying power there. This will grow into greatness as there's a brightness and promise of things to come. Hard to explain, but this will be legendary stuff.

• Some great wines - I feel the Santenay Blanc is well worth buying in quantity, and the Cazetiers is far and away worth the premium.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Consolation 'Petit Gris' Carignan Gris/Blanc Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes 2010

I need to place my usual disclaimer here - I have helped make the wines here since the 2008 vintage and am intending to continue that tradition. With this particular cuvée, my involvement included monitoring its fermentation, taking its density readings and making sure it didn't get too hot. So, really, I had very little constructive to do with it. Still, these wines are close to my heart, and there is a certain amount of bias in my notes. Take everything I write with a pinch of salt. You should probably do that anyway.

Carignan Blanc is a mutation of Carignan Gris, which is a mutation of Carignan, which doesn't need a 'Noir' after it because that's just what it is.

Light silver with greenish gold highlights.

Melon and limes on the nose with notes of lemon rind. Perhaps a touch of hay and sea salt. Cool and fresh.

That melon and mixed citrus comes through richly on the palate but then draws back in, tightening with a nice, precise, acidity. Fleshy mouthfeel that treads that line between waxy and fibrous. I see this as kind of an exotic, Mediterranean 1er Cru Chablis. The length is superb.

Enjoyed this with homemade fajitas on homemade tortillas and it was a fantastic match, able to hold its own and shine with the spice of the food.


Tasted at Shorehead 24/7/2011

Chateau Haut-Brion 2001

I must confess, I'm in-between jobs at the moment. This has staggered my tasting somewhat. Fortunately, I have good friends who persist with tasting and against all odds continue to invite me to join in on some of them.

Should the wine world and my income continue along along their current courses, notes like this will get rarer for me. I can't afford First Growths anymore (to be honest, I never really could) and not many of my friends can either. Those that can have different priorities - mortgages and their children's education for instance - than I do. So I'm enjoying what I can, and grabbing every opportunity that comes up.

Touch of rust to the rim, but ruby rust, not amber. Still very deep at the core.

Graphite, charcoal and a touch of pipe tobacco wrapped around plum plum skin and brambles on the nose. Hints at juiciness.

Pure, bright plummy fruit filtered through granite, pencils and cedar. Bright, gripping acidity and integrated tannins provide firm, but never mean, structure. The fruit and secondaries cascade from the beginning to the end. Classic and poised with lovely lift. Still eons to go, but surprisingly lovely at the moment.


Tasted 11/6/2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eugenio Collavini Broy Bianco Collio 2003

Sometimes, through no fault of its own, a wine just sits there. It's not a comment on its quality or even the quality of the folks selling it. The wine slips out of sight and out of mind. There's a charm to it, and from experience the discovery of those bottles can lead to a wine merchant's fondest vinous recollections. Of course there are all sorts of stock-control systems in place to prevent this, but those are the stuff of mere mythology in certain small wine merchants in North-East Fife.

I didn't expect this to be one of those fond memories. A small glance through the archives of this blog will show my deep suspicion of the 2003 vintage in Europe. I feel I'm justified with this view. But dogma is a terrible thing in wine, and there are no absolutes. I'm happy to say that this was an exception.

Quite a rich gold and yellow - mature, but not over the hill looking.

Quite buttery, toasty and tropical nose. Mangoes & pineapples. Sweet lemon.

Intense butter soaked pineapple on the palate, with waxed candied lemon peel and mouth-filling, rich, toasted biscuits and brioche. I'm surprised at the balance, considering the year. Puts to shame a 1er Cru Chassagne-Montrachet '03 tried yesterday that had no life, only flab. Still too pricey, perhaps, but decadent, balanced and reflecting of its vintage without being rubbish.


Tasted 15/06/2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Schloss Johannisberg Grünlack Riesling Spätlase 2007

So this is the second time I've drunk this in the last two months. The first was as part of a masterclass that included wines dating back to 1964. I recognised it's potential then, but considering the circumstances, I graded it more for it's potential than anything else. Masterclasses are awesome, and provide incredible opportunities to taste extraordinary wine. They are a perk of the trade. But they can somewhat undermine the pleasure in drinking wine. Tasting this was entirely about pleasure. It was wonderful.

Silver and green with gold highlights.

Nose is that crunchy bit of honey that collect on the corners of proper honeycomb. Lemon and lime pastels. Granite and flint. You have to concentrate to get it all though, because when something smells that good, you just want to say, 'fuck, that smells fucking good'.

Rich, decadent palate. Incredibly giving. That honey is so clean, so honeysuckle-like, with flower petals and it's so mouth-filling. There a classy, light, lipid quality that somehow runs along with that mouth-filling richness. The sherbet lemon and lime are there too, running on that bright, lively acidity. And underneath it all is rock, stony flint atop granite. Again, it tastes awesome. Seeking all these notes for it is simply distracting from just how awesome it is. So, you know, just drink it and enjoy.

***** (will remain 5 stars for at least three decades)

Tasted at Shorehead 16/6/2011

IMG 0395

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Conundrum 2009

This is apparently a blend of Cardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier. I'm not sure how much of each, mind, and it doesn't really matter too much. I get the impression that this is meant to stand outside its varietals as it were, to be something of its own, rather than pieces of something else. That's not meant to be as grand as it sounds - Twinkies, for example, exist as something other than the sum of their parts, which is for the best.

Quite a rich, Californian gold.

Mangoes and apricot soaked in lemons with hay. Fleshy nose. Rich.

Very much a 5-Alive or Lilt. This is not rocket science wine. It's fleshy, juicy, ripe and bright with peaches, mangoes, apricots, and lemon peel. There's toasty shortbread and a touch of hay. Ripe and bright, this is fun stuff. There's a crowd-pleasing hint of residual sugar. You could possibly drink this by the pint.

This is not an easy style of wine to make. It's also quite difficult to assess critically. It's utterly drinkable and yet in no way confected. It reminds me of something you'd find at a spectacular juice bar rather than something you'd find in a wine bar. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's a lot of money (£25) for something so pleasing and, let's be honest, unchallenging. But at the same time, it's not easy to do, and it's a lot of fun to drink. And so I find Conundrum a bit of a - wait for it - conundrum.


Tasted 15/6/2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bandol Tasting

Bandol is one of those regions where my fondness is not reflected in my frequency of consumption. I don't drink it often enough.

Domaine Tempier Bandol 2008

Ruby with violet highlights. Dark but still translucent in the light.

Briary, spicy and herbal on the nose. Smells of the Garrigue if that makes any sense. Peppered salami appears with a bit of coaxing.

Wow, that's like getting punched in the face with a bunch of dirty blueberries. In a nice way. Earthy, wild blueberry and cherry fruit with fistfuls of violets and rosemary, seemingly stuck together with elegant tar. This is big, rustic and right at the end there's a burst of juiciness. More forward than I remember it.


Domaine Tempier Bandol 'La Migoua' 2008

Darker, but still ruby and violet - the core is nearly impenetrable.

More fruit-forward on the nose - plums, cherries and blueberries, and then there's more meatiness. The herbal notes take more time to come through.

The fruit is softer here, more plummy and surprisingly forward compared the the basic Bandol. There also seems a touch less structure. It's more full in the mouth, which is saying something, but the tar-y, sinewy grip is somewhat less so. That said, there's a cool stoniness that comes through on the finish, bracing and dry, that suggests there's probably more to come.


Tasted 31/5/2011


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Veuve Clicquot Le Grande Dame 1979

I've never really been grabbed by this wine. I tend to prefer Veuve's standard vintage releases.

Quite brassy. Not Amber yet though.

Nose is more amontillado than oloroso. Pickled walnuts and almonds. Grilled limes.

Tired, but pleasant. Old wood and leather. Not too dried out though and with a bit of life left. Charming. Rich and toasty with pleasing nuttiness.


Tasted 29/5/2011 at Naughton

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Krug 1996

While not wanting to advocate irresponsible drinking, I should probably say that I'm a big fan of drinking Champagne hungover. Not that I'm a fan of being hungover, or even drinking heavily on back-to-back days. But if that is going to be the case, if events have unfolded in such a manner that my life choices lead me to having a glass the day after, let's hope that glass is bubbly.

Proper gold. Rich and bright.

Rich, fresh melted butter and honey with roasted apples and toast. Lots of toast. Intense. Touch of gruyere cheese, touch of roast orange.

Powerful stuff. Rich and intense roasted oranges smeared on buttered toast. Layered and textured and deep. Gripping, dry and moreish. That fruit is intensely ripe and rounded. Lemons, limes and oranges go from ripe to to roasted to confit as it goes through from the start to the finish. It's very long on the finish. Tis is far better than the last time I had it. Delicious.


Tasted 29/5/2011 at Naughton

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gruaud Vertical at Naughton

This tasting wasn't really planned - it was more a happy accident. The notes are simple, for which I apologise, but I was concentrating more on having a good time at dinner than writing notes. I should say that while the scores are all respectable, I wasn't really feeling it at the time. The points are as objective as possible - it was an evening for bubbly and fortified and wedging a flight of claret in there, even one of my favourites, did a bit of disservice to it.

Gruaud Larose  1990

Lots of eucalyptus on the nose with candied cherries and spice.

Palate is toasty and earthy with that plummy fruit. Sinewy and rustic with good grip and a nice, long, spicy finish.


Gruaud Larose 1995

More pencil on the nose. Brambles.

Quite elegant and sweet, plummy fruit. Charming and lengthy. I don't think I'm in a Bordeaux mood.


Gruaud Larose 2000

There's a touch of cocoa and ripe confit dark fruit.

Tight knit and gorgeous. Sinewy but showing nice balance of fruit and secondaries.


Gruaud Larose 2006

Caramel on the nose, toasty.

Palate understated. Needs time. Nice balance, but still pretty much one dimensional.


All tasted 28 May 2011 at Naughton


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pol Roger 'PR' 1971

When I drank this, I was unaware of a curious tidbit of information: 1971 was the first vintage of 'PR' Pol Roger released, and it was released in 1976. It's neither here nor there, but it's nice to know. I think 1990 was the last vintage of PR that was released, but I'll have to confirm that with my fizz-geek friends.

The beginning of brass. Touch of green.

Classic - roasted buttered mushrooms and apples with brioches and biscuits amid toffee and caramel notes.

Serious Oloroso tones. Crazy complete on the palate - just so much richness, toastiness and decadence bordering on sinful. Rich to the point of a heart attack. Roast caramelised apples with pecans and brown sugar. Wood spice and pretty much perfection of mouthfeel. So long and supple. Tastes very much of Christmas. Truly wonderful. Brilliant.


Tasted 28/5/2011 at Naughton

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Salon 1979

Salon is pretty much my favourite Champagne house. It's ridiculous. It's like saying my favourite place to pop out for a bite is El Bulli, my favourite book is Ulysses and my favourite car is the 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. Exquisite things all, but not a practical favourite among them. But there you go.

Deep, but bright gold. Still very young looking.

Candied apples and pineapples with baked oaty biscuits. There's cinnamon. Cloves. Oatmeal raisin cookies. Filling nose.

Fantastically vigorous. Lemon zest and candied apples - still so young and fresh. Practically crunchy. The mousse is youthful as well. Mouth filling with sherbet and winter spice on the edges. Orange flower water too. Then some shortbread texture comes through as it settles in the glass a bit. My goodness. Quite remarkable. So very young.


Tasted 28/5/2011 at Naughton

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dom Perignon 1996

I first tasted this in the summer of 2004. I said at the time that I felt it was the finest young Champagne I had ever drunk. I remember opening a bottle with friends on the 28th of October 2004, pouring out glasses in celebration of the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in 86 years. I had two in my cellar and opened one. It has gone from being the finest young Champagne I've ever drunk to being the finest teenage Champagne I've ever drunk.

Bright and young - the bubbles are plentiful, but slow, rising with weight.

Lemon and flint with biting cheddar and white flowers. Lively. Elegant.

Silky and seductive, good lord that's a pretty wine. Roast lemons with spearmint wrapped around Flint and granite with grip and power underneath. This is a snapshot, having tried this when it was young, pure citrus and stone, now with a bit of weight and so elegant and perfumed. Light, biscuity shortbread. Stunningly textured mouthfeel. Gorgeous.


Tasted 29/5/2011 at Naughton

Birthday Blind Pinot Noir Tasting

I'm odd about birthdays. They can run hot or cold for me. Regardless, it's nice that people want to do cool things for you on a given day of the year. Especially when one of those things is handing you three different glasses of splendid wine and asking you what they are.

Volnay 2006 Domaine Michel Lafarge

Quite perfect brilliance with that light, bright Burgundy translucence.

Fresh strawberries, cranberries and raspberries on the nose but with dark, woody spice as well. There's savoury roast ham that comes out with a bit of time. Bit of dried herb. Cinnamon.

Bracingly dry on the front palate - gripping but not rasping and incredibly tightly knit structure that releases those brilliant red berries right in the middle. That is serious stuff with a long life ahead. The sinewy bonds between the fruit, the tannin and the peripherals coat and grip the mouth. Then, as it finishes, it lifts. Very long.


Sean Thackrey Andromeda Pinot Noir 2006

Quite a deep Pinot tint, with crimson and maroon.

Intense, exotic nose of stewed rhubarb, confit strawberries, cinnamon and vanilla pods. There's something very pleasing on a primal level about it. It makes me smile.

Quite hedonistic on the palate, with pithy confit red fruits and soft, supple, layered tannins. All of the exotic spice from the nose comes through as well, and the impression is one of a rich, beautifully rounded wine. I would say this will keep, but I'm not sure how much better it will get. I think it's made for now, and I'm happy to oblige.


Flowers Andreen-Gale Pinot Noir 2006

A little more rusty than the other two. Not by any means looking mature, but in relative terms, the oldest looking of the three. Still very pretty.

There's some lovely red fruit on the nose, but it seems a touch mute.

Not so the palate. In many senses, it is the reverse of the Lafarge - ripe red fruits arrive first, practically bursting still in their bunches. As that bright, juicy fruit fills the mouth, then comes the grip, not as firm as the Lafarge but still quite serious. Superb texture right through to the finish.


Tasted 27/5/2011

I guessed the Volnay correctly, but went against my gut instinct on the following two and thus got them mixed up. Ah well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Schloss Johannisberg Masterclass

So there was this tasting, recently, that I was um-ing and ah-ing about attending as it was before work and I need to be focused on other things at the moment and spare time is precious and all the other things that translate into, quite simply, 'I can't be bothered'. It was nothing to do with that tasting in particular, it was just my own laziness.

That was, of course, until I discovered that there was to be a masterclass from one of Germany's oldest wineries. Mentions of the estate date back to the 9th Century (by Charlemagne's grandson) and they claim to have invented the idea of late harvest. They also use the term 'First Growth', a convention started when they noticed that was how Berry Bros. marketed their wines to the UK market. It gave them context, treating them with the same deference as they did top flight Bordeaux which were, at the time, cheaper.

So, yeah. I was really excited to try them. Just to make clear, all of these wines are Rieslings. They don't grow any other varietal.

Schloss Johannisberg Silberlack Erstes Gewachs 2006

Nose of honey, lime, white flowers and rolled oats with spearmint and hints of green apple.

Layered flint on the palate - it hums with energy. Mouth-coating and long with all from the nose coming through on the palate.


Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Gelback 1970

Pale and youthful. Doesn't look 41 years old.

Roasted mint and charred flint on the nose, with a touch of maltiness as well.

Still remarkably fresh and young on the palate - simple perhaps, to a point, but quite beautiful nonetheless. A touch oily but the lime is still zesty and fresh with an energetic, almost electric, flinty grip


After tasting and complimenting, we were informed that 1970 wasn't that great a vintage, and that this was their most basic, entry-level wine from that year. That it showed so well and so youthful in such circumstances blew many a wine-geek mind.

Schloss Johannisberg Grünlack Spätlase 1964

This has the same sort of colour that a 10 year-old Burgundy might have. That it's a 47 year-old Riesling is remarkable.

Burnt flint again, with whiffs of diesel, but also caramel, citrus shortbread and brioche. With a bit of coaxing, a honeyed sweetness comes through on the nose as well.

Gently explosive, with confit limes, clarified butter, flinty spiciness with that gripping electric hum zinging through from start to finish. Superbly elegant.


Schloss Johannisberg Grünlack Spätlase 1975

Rich, gorgeous nose - there's confit lemons, limes and toffee apples, all coated in manuka honey.

Such harmony on the palate - it starts big and brash, with floral honey and then that rich confit lime comes in and draws it all through with flint, toffee apple skin and more honey, all becoming more and more gentle as it passes onto an ephemeral finish. Age has consumed any overt sweetness and left something far more complex and compelling.


Schloss Johannisberg Grünlack Spätlase 1996

Woah. Quite brash on the nose - curried limes and mango chutney.

The palate is wild and exotic. All that eastern spice is there, but kept in check by that brisk acidity. Fun.


Schloss Johannisberg Grünlack Spätlase 2007

Young and minty on the nose with limes and white flower petals.

So pleasing on the palate - rich but elegant with moreish, balanced sweetness. Beautifully clean and long. Still very young.


Tasted 12 May 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

wines at the end of the world...

The lack of rapture has upset some and surprised few. While the internet drowned in a sea of sarcasm, the clock struck 6 in various time zones and, as expected by all reasonable people, nothing happened. Rapture playlists sounded out and people listened to a lot of R.E.M.'s 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)' and AC/DC's 'Highway To Hell'. I know I certainly did.

A true tasting of wines for the end of the world would probably have fewer budgetary restraints. The vintages would stretch back further. An 1811 Tokaji Essencia may make an appearance. Magnums of 1976 Salon certainly would, I can assure you.

It wasn't the end of the world though. It was a drizzly Saturday afternoon in May, so we opened some good wines - a top Gavi and one of the Douro's greats.

La Giustinianna Gavi Montessora 2008

Bright, light honey gold.

Honeysuckle, White flowers and kind of a pencil shaving thing on the nose, but not graphite. Just a whiff of melon. Those corners of beeswax where the honey has crystallised.

The palate is like honeysuckle-soaked hay, with a lovely brightness and lift. Quite oaty on the mid-palate, giving great texture. Long on the finish with good balance.


Quinta de Macedos 2005

Quite dark and deep, with a purple/ruby rim. Quite foreboding.

Ripe, spicy dark fruits surrounded by dust and savoury leather on the nose. Cedar and a hint of spearmint followed by sweet pipe tobacco. Briary and warm. Very Portuguese.

My goodness, that is intense. Tightly wound dark knit fruit with fragrant wood spice and wild herbs. Fresh cured leather and bitingly, moreishly dry. Almost rasping and dusty. There's eucalyptus and lighter mint notes as well. As it opens, that sweet, leafy pipe tobacco asserts itself more and adds depth. Quite wild when you get down to it. Brilliant stuff.


Both tasted 21/5/2011 in anticipation of the Rapture.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bollinger 2002

There have been several reports on this cuvée, and the consensus has been pretty much one of universal adoration. Never one to shirk being a touch mischievous with a sprinkle of iconoclast, I was ready to be critical. I was also grievously hungover and sleep-deprived when I tried this. None of it worked; this wine charmed me utterly, and sits with Dom Perignon 1996 as one of the finest 'young' Champagnes I've ever drunk.

Deep, yet youthful gold. Slow, big bubbles.

The nose is rich, biscuity, toasty, bright and with edges of strawberries and apples. There's also a touch of chalk dust and roast citrus. Very rich. Heady. Hugely enticing. Coconut flakes and marzipan come out with coaxing.

Toffee apples and baked lemons kick things off, bursting at the front of the palate but the back of the tongue, if that makes any sense. That rich, luscious fruit is surrounded by brioche and shortbread with a subtle note of strawberries on the edges. It is mouth coating, filling every nook and cranny of the palate and ranging from sweet to almost brine-y at points, with oyster shell grip and texture. This is, I'm pretty sure, worth every ounce of hype it has received. Stunning champagne.


Tasted 14/05/2011 for Anne-Martine's birthday.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Epic Naughton Blanc de Blancs Tasting

The title really says it all. Myself, Pete and Pete got together and drank some truly stupendous and ridiculous wines. No rhyme or reason. It wasn't a birthday or wedding or wake. We just felt thirsty for the extraordinary, and optimistic that our lives would someday pay for such extravagances of youth

Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs

Bright silver gold with feisty bubbles

Dusty lemons on the nose with conference pear and chalk.

Confit lemons form a great rich core to what is a beautifully balanced champagne. There's a soft chalkiness and gentle minerality that keeps that richness in check and brings good lift with lovely elegance. Hint of spearmint. Great stuff.


Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1959 (with some '96 to refresh)

Dark, Oloroso-esque. Mousse sadly departed.

Salted caramel on the nose, heady, dense.

The palate just arrives with that richness. Caramel, toffee, quince and roasted oranges with cocoa powder and a bit of leather. Butterscotch. Gripping, but not violently. Gentle, with hints of lemon grass. There's quite a lot that I can't describe about this, as it's just about feeling. The length is glorious and lifts some of the heavier, richer aspects up at the end. Sublime.


Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979

Just a hint of brass creeping into the gold. Vigorous bubbles, though still fine.

Nose of sweet, gentle creaminess. Roquefort and sweetened Brussels sprouts. Caramelised onions. Quite simply one of the most remarkable smelling champagnes I've ever tried.

Rich and robust palate. Lemon-soaked pears with the texture of quince and really rather luscious the way it's all delivered. Intensely buttery. It's not quite showing as much complexity as some of the others but it's a fabulous wine. Still incredibly youthful.


Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 1990

Such a lovely gold. Lazy bubbles.

The nose is rich, baked apples with cinnamon. After awhile the biscuit-iness becomes far more apparent.

Shortbread with raisins.
Just so pretty. Brioche and shortbread scented with lemons and orange flower water. The mousse is perfect, setting down a beautifully textured and structured wine. This is so good. Is this the wine of the night? Easily. Blissful harmony.


Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1996

The most youthful colour. Lively bubbles.

The nose is young cheddar baked into fresh shortbread. Pinch of chalk dust.

Still so incredibly young on the palate. This will rise in years to come and may well turn out to be the greatest of the bunch, but at the moment it's just tightly knit chalk and citrus with a touch of pear and toasty biscuits. Tasty, but will be extraordinary - perhaps equalling the remarkable 1972.


Pol Roger Chardonnay 1996

Rich gold with just the odd fleck of green. Fine, but active bubbles.
The nose is lemon and chalk.

The palate is wonderful. Bursting, bright citrus fruit rolls in on that sexy mousse, while that grippy chalkiness lies underneath, keeping it clean. Incredibly drinkable.


Tasted at Naughton, 26/3/2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

A. A. Badenhorst Family Wines 'Wine'

Quite often I find myself drawn to the interesting rather than the delicious. Adi Badenhorst is making awesome wine in South Africa. Jancis likes, Jamie Goode likes it, and pretty much everyone with a decent sense of awesome in wine likes it. He's a bit of a nutter, but in a groovy, lightning in a bottle kind of way. He's frequently described as a 'surfer dude' even though he doesn't surf.

He makes a couple of brilliant entry level wines, 'Secateurs' and he makes his 'Family Wines' which are his top blends. And then he makes this. Which I think is 100% Chenin Blanc that's barrel fermented and aged with flor. But without fortification. So it's kind of like that weird Niepoort Navazas thing. But with Chenin and in South Africa.

Weird. And awesome. Which pretty much makes it par for the course.

Quite golden - with a kind of sherbet-y brightness to it. A real, glowing yellow.

Beeswax with lemon curd. There's also summer hay and roasted limes. Quite the lovely nose.

Cool. That's like biting into a lemon dipped in beeswax and honey, only to find it's been stuffed with oats and roast lime rinds. It begins with big, fat generosity - mouth filling and boisterous but that citrus net keeps it all in check. That rich lemon, honey, oat and hay rounds out on the mid-palate and then, as the finish approaches the roast limes come through and tug back, leaving a bracing dry finish. This is a groovy wine. I plan on drinking quite a lot of it this summer.


Tasted 28/3/2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Naughton Dinner with Burgundy

I love Burgundy. So we had a dinner where we drank a few awesome ones. I also, for the first time, cooked venison Wellington, which turned out quite brilliantly, if I do say so myself. The dauphinoise less so. Ah well, you can't have it all.

Rousseau Clos de la Roche 1995

Not rusty, but close. Mature. Great brilliance, though.

Sinful nose. Spiced cherries, red apples and plums. Wild forest and maybe a touch of heather.

Perfect balance on the palate. Still so lively - bright acidity lifting soft fruit. Incredibly gentle structure that softly places every note of plush red fruit in the right place. Take your time with it. It's still juicy. Then there's that lift on the finish that drifts into the ephemeral. Wow. I will not be upset if this winds up as my wine of the year.


Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin 1989

Pale and bright.

There's a vegetal touch to the red fruits. Bit smokey. Soft, though.

Bit more cinnamon and spice - the fruit's a bit drier but there's still fantastic grip and life to it. Strawberries and black pepper come to mind. There also a pleasing oiliness/brininess to the mouthfeel.


Joblot Givry 1er Cru Clos des Bois Chevaux 1999

Incredibly dark and brooding. Almost un-Burgundian.

Smoked sour cherries. A touch meaty on the nose.

Still very young. Hot and ripe and full of briary secondaries. Lacks a touch of the finesse that the others had in spades. Makes up for it with rustic charm. Must come back to it in a year or three.


Tasted 5 Feb 2011 at Naughton

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ridge En Primeur Tasting

I might have mentioned it before, but Ridge is beyond a shadow of a doubt my favourite 'New World' winery. It's one of my favourite wineries, period. Ridge Monte Bello 1991 remains one of my top wines ever tasted. So when the opportunity arose to essentially try the range available in the UK, new offerings, older vintages and a peach of a barrel sample, I made the ultimate sacrifice and showed up at work on a day off.

I should say that I'm kind of bummed that the 'Santa Cruz Mountains' wines are now simply referred to as 'Estate', but it's a minor quibble.

Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 2008

Lemon skin, biscuits & butter on the nose.

Quite big, but balanced and with better oak integration than in previous vintages. Still a little youthful simplicity, but there are signs of a long life ahead and there's a nerve to it that suggests it will gain complexity as it ages.


Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2009

Melon & citrus on the nose.

Lovely, ripe and full palate with juicy melon fruit and a pleasing, grippy gristiness. There's biscuit and lemon rind as well. Lovely.


Ridge Geyserville 06

Big, roasted black fruits on the nose with loads of savoury, cured meatiness as well.

Tasting ace. All that fruit is right where it should be with good structure and secondaries of wild old forest. Quite awesome.


Ridge Geyserville 09

There's notes of mint on the nose, surrounding that fantastic dark berry core.

Forward and juicy but with a cooling mintiness on the back. Really tasting good already


Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains 2007

Bursting cassis on the nose. Very bright.

Incredible purity of fruit, almost piercing, with fantastic layered tannins and a touch of shaved cinnamon. Powerful, but impeccably balanced. Brilliant.


Ridge Estate Cabernet 2008

More subdued nose. Soft and spicy.Tight and dark. Balanced. Needs a couple of years.


Ridge Lytton Springs 2009

Something a touch dirty on the nose. Bit animal.

Ripe and sweet on the palate, but thin. Lacking something though. Not sure it would be fair to judge as I think it's a bad bottle. Bummer. Is that brett?


Ridge Monte Bello 2005

Good lord that nose is good. Berries and spice and incense. Like a hippy fruit salad.

Still young and tight but goodness that's extraordinary. Glorious integration, depth and balance. Fresh ripe berry fruit, allspice, cloves and Christmas with gripping, toothy tannins. So glad I've one of these laying down.

****(*) Probably 5 stars now, but I know it's going to get better

Ridge Monte Bello 2010 barrel sample

Bright youthful, wood & berries.

Huge at the minute, but incredibly promising. Raw oak, brash tannins and huge bunches of dark, crunchy berries. Will look forward to following it's progress.

Too young for stars, but (****-*****)

All wines tasted 2/5/2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Friday, May 13, 2011

Penfold's Grange 1998

The first time I tasted Grange, I almost guessed it blind. I guessed an Aussie Cab/Shiraz and it turned out to be an Aussie Shiraz/Cab (that particular vintage still included a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon). That was quite awhile ago now. I tried Lafite for the first time ever that evening as well.

Incredibly dark, broody core with brushed ruby edges. Touch of soupiness to it. Not the clearest wine in the world.

The nose is pipe tobacco drenched in cassis and blueberry. Cedar-like and almost old world-y but for the sense of warmth that comes through. There's quite a lot of peppery spice and exotic herb action as well.

Gripping, bright berry and plum fruit that tugs the tongue back as the tannins, still with a touch of edge to them, scrape it clean. The fruit isn't stewed, but it is in that mid-point between berry and stone. The acidity is still fresh, holding everything quite well and giving the wine youth now and legs for the future. There's a lovely softness there too.

I feel its weight though. After a small tasting glass, there is a heaviness that lingers. It tastes delicious but after its finish there is a weight, as though tasting it and processing it required a Herculean effort. Big wine. Possibly too big for me.


Tasted 27/04/2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chateau Angelus 1995

This was one of the first top St Emilions I ever tried, in my very few first months in the trade. It was the first really youthful wine I found unpleasant to drink but convinced it would get better. It was leafy, backwards, bitingly tannic and with almost no fruit to speak of - to be honest, it was like drinking leafy tar. But for some reason, I thought it was going to be ace with time. I tried it again, a couple of years later. It had not aged a second. Same backwards, impenetrable beast.

Needless to say, I was rather curious when an open bottle appeared last month.

Still very dark in the core, but with pretty, fading ruby rim.

Quite pencil-y on the nose. Bruised plum and allspice. Kinda rusty. A rustic sweetness as well, with leafy notes.

The last time I drank this, it was impenetrable. Dark and grippy and hardly showing any fruit; now it's come out of its shell. Rich, crunchy plum and plum skin with a deep, layered, velvety tannin structure lifted by surprisingly bright acidity. The periphery brings that nice leafiness from the nose. Very well integrated and quite classic. The sweetness balances beautifully with the more serious, bitter and savoury side of things. Still brilliant grip.


Tasted 26/04/2011 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meandro do Vale Meão 2008

The first wine from this estate is making its own legend at the moment, grabbing huge scores and rising in price commensurately. Fortunately the second wine is still under £20 and well worth it.

Dark, with purple edges

The nose is violets and wild herbs - thyme and rosemary you've just pulled out from the bush. Underneath that is red apple skin and plums. Quite intense.

All that wildness from the nose comes through on the palate - intense wild herbs - rosemary and sage surround a mouth-filling and grippy dustiness. Violets, cocoa and  dark stone fruit emerge with some coaxing. Intense, brashly Portuguese. Brilliant.


Tasted 27/3/2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sean Thackrey Pleiades XIX

I loved version XVIII of this wine. It very much opened my eyes to Thackrey as a wine maker. I jumped on the chance to try his latest release.

Rusty rubies with a touch of amber on the rim.

Nose of sweet & sour sauce and sour cherries with cocoa butter and cut chillis. Now there's capsicum.

The palate is quite the impressive explosion of fruit. Not jammy, or overripe, just expressive layers of red berries and apples, soft herbs and just the barest grip on the finish, a little bite to let you know it's got a touch of the serious to it. For the most part, it's deceptively gluggable. That juicy, moreish aspect can distract from its delightful nuances. This is better than the XVIII. It changes and develops and, oh look, theres some cinnamon. Now there's mint chocolate chip ice cream. Now I'm pouring another glass.


Tasted 15 March 2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle Domaine du Duc de Magenta 2002

The first vintage I ever tried of this wine was the 1995. It was part of a big Burgundy promotion we were holding at the shop and we'd knocked about £5 off the price. I loved it instantly. I revisit it whenever possible. The only disappointments I've had were from corked bottles.

Gaining a deep gold but still bright and glowing almost.

The nose is subtle at first, chantilly and wild mushrooms on toast, giving way to exotic, spiced pineapple. Heady, decadent. Small whiff of vanilla oak at the end, though this seems to be consumed by the everything else as the wine opens.

Every sip is different. There's a sweet ripeness of fruit hat hits first, softening and stretching into layered pineapple with cinnamon toast and chantilly cream. Buttered mushrooms as well. Rounded. Everything develops and flows beautifully, with wild woodland notes on the edge of all that's within. Tremendous lift, balance and length. Stones in a stream as it ends. This is delicious.


Tasted 12 March 2011 at Luvians Bottleshop


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pontet-Canet 1995

A wine I know well, and have probably noted before. There you go.

Still dark with ruby rims.

Smoked cassis with tones of cedar and leaf tobacco.

Tasting brilliant - softer and more harmonious than last time I tried it. juicy cassis and blueberries wrapped in tea leaf-velvet. Rather scrumptious.


Tasted 6 Feb 2011 at Shorehead


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oops, I did it again.

Fell totally out of step with blog updates. Really sorry. I am also sorry for using a Britney Spears song title to apologise. Quite a lot upcoming, however, so please keep checking in. Ta.

Morgon 2008 Marcel Lapierre

Low sulphur and sans sulphur wines have been a mixed bag for me. Fourrier is the only domaine I've tried that seems to consistently triumph with his techniques. Others have been re-fermenting, off-putting messes. I'm curious about some of the wines that Jamie Goode has tried, as he's all over the natural wine thing.

The colour on this is fantastic. It shimmers with bright rubies and violets, depending on how the light hits it.

I get something different with each sniff. At once it will be earthy with coffee grounds and then on the next whiff bright cherries and cranberries with notes of violets.

The palate is light and rustic, flower-laced red fruits, a bit of wet stone and a good, earthy mouth feel. The fruits are bright, and while there's not an enormous amount of power, there's a tremendous sense of energy and lift. Nebulous, eh? It's difficult to explain, but there you go. Perhaps the best example is that the finish is more an echo of the mid-palate than any sort of end palate. What lingers longest is the humming brightness of the fruit and the grip that's wrapped around it. Impressive, and probably the finest Morgon I've ever tasted.


Tasted 4 Feb 2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Petalos Bierzo 2008

The first time I tried this (2006 vintage, perhaps?), it was a gift. It was a calculated gift from one of my favourite suppliers. Calculated gifts are very different from samples. Samples can be any old rubbish that needs to be sold. Calculated gifts, however, are things that people believe in, and want you to believe in too.

It worked. We stock the wine. I cracked this open to teach a promising young staff member about Spain's upcoming groovy region.

Violet-edged and quite dark.

The nose is floral and dusty with crushed violet petals and a juicy dark fruit lingering behind them.

Gentle dust coats the palate with dried flowers, violet and lavender and then the fruit emerges, quite juicy and purple - plum and blackberry. Really a joy to drink and kind of a wine of itself. Not terribly derivative or reminiscent of any other region. Bravo.


Tasted 2 Feb 2011 at Luvians Bottleshop.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A touch of Grace (or My Introduction to Ace Wines from Japan)

It is the season of samples - a time when odd and interesting new labels appear and old, oft-rejected old labels think they can sneak in again without being noticed. It is a time when unspeakable damage is done on one's palate, because samples tend to be what need to be sold, rather than what I want to drink.

That makes the exceptions all the better, especially when they come out of left field. Or, in this case, the Far East. Which I suppose would be right field if I were looking at a map of Great Britain. In any case, I'd heard of these wines, but never tasted them.

The Koshu grape is indigenous to Japan, which is kind of exciting in a way that only wine geeks can appreciate. Grace is meant to be one of the top producers, and the examples we enjoyed, I believe it.

Grace Koshu Kayagatake 2009

Quite pale. Almost clear.

Perfumed and bright on the nose with lemon peel and pith. There also a soft, tropical note on the end.

Really rather pretty on the palate. Bright, lemony acidity with tropical, perfumed edges. Textured and balanced with great length - wet stone and a touch of fresh spring rain. Yep, I just wrote that. Damn, that's tasty - good village Chablis tasty (without the cheese and grist). And refreshingly different. Groovy.


Grace Koshu Hishiyama 2009

Again, very pale. Silver highlights.

Fleshier on the nose; richer with lemons and kiwis.

A lighter touch - more ephemeral and elegant. The acidity isn't quite as bracing. The mouthfeel is extraordinary. It's gripping, but softly so. Grapefruit, lemons, mirabelle nuances. Kumquat? Long and fine on the finish. Really rather impressed with these.


Tasted 1 Feb 2011 at Luvians Bottleshop

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Ransom Selection Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2006

This may be the only note I took on my trip to California, though I tasted a lot of cool wine. Hey, it was a holiday. The restaurant, by the way, was fantastic.

Dark forest & black cherry nose. A touch of farmyard, but not overbearing.

Full, proper, new world Pinot- brambly, river edge type stuff with bruised red cherries - not jammy. Not hugely elegant but makes up for it with rustic charm. Touch toasty on the finish with a hint of sinewy structure. Not really for cellaring but yummy now.


Tasted 30/6/2010 at 3 Foods Cafe, Arcata, Humboldt CA

brief pause...

I actually have several notes, some of them typed and everything, but other writing that needs to take precedent. Apologies. There should be new notes and even a big Burgundy 09 thing up sometime this week.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Beaune Grèves 1er Cru 2006 Bernard Morey

White Burgundy has been plaguing my thoughts of late. Not in a terrible way, but certainly in a pervasive one. I'm not sure whether it's my belated 2009 report or just that pretty much whatever glass I raise at the moment, I'd prefer it to be white Burgundy. In any case, I spent all bloody day counting stock with my colleagues and at the end of it all, I wanted some wine. Good wine.

I can't tell if it's the light or just the wine, but there's quite a youthful greenness to the gold.

So the nose is buttered cotton candy with notes of pear and fresh toffee popcorn. Pineapple perfume on the edges sits with fresh cut chillies. After awhile there's an exotic, curry edge to it.

Nice, fleshy, textured palate. It feels bright but not overburdened by acidity. In fact, if it weren't for the lightness of touch, it could be called flabby. But it's not. It's lime jellies and fresh melon that slowly gives way to cardamom and a gentle touch of lemon rind and anise. Not a rocket science wine by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly scratched the itch. For now.


Tasted 30 January, 2011 at Shorehead

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pol Roger 1988

This may have been the wine that founded the Naughton Dining Club. We tasted it together, in the cellar of the old St Andrews Oddbins, and it blew all of us away. On New Years Day, Pete Crawford decided we should revisit it, and see if was still the bottle of awesomeness that we tasted nearly a decade before.

It is bright and youthful by candlelight.

The nose is rich, balanced, with clotted cream and lemon zest. Perhaps meringue but without the egg.

The palate is pure with great lift and brightness. Bright lemon pith citrus with rich toast and a wee bit of flint. It fills the mouth with a soothing mousse that gives a great sense of creaminess. I love 88 Champagnes, and this one in particular. Delighted that nostalgia aside, this is still an absolutely cracking drop.


Tasted New Years Day 2011, Naughton


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997 Conti Constanti

I opened this vaguely hoping to chart its progress in the last 4 years since I last tasted it. I was, however, hammered. I also wrote that babbling preamble that I'm including on this note for posterity or maybe out of a sense of guilt.

So what do you do at 230 in the morning on New Years Day? I'm hiding in the cellar, surrounded by my wine and my friends' wine. I would normally drink Amarone. That is my drop, not just at this time of year, but at this time of day. Sadly, I've no Amarone left in my part of the cellar, and Pete's not given me permission to open his Quintarelli.

Dark but with bright ruby edges. It has maturity.

Spiced, black forest fruit.

Almost like I'm tasting it for the first time: Dark and with notes of smoked meat. It's somewhat crazy.Far more backwards than 7 years ago, the first time i tried it. Every sip seems to fold in on itself.


Tasted New Years Day 2011, Naughton

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Moët & Chandon 1961 (from Magnum)

I had this wine once before, in the cellars at Moët. It was disgorged then and there for that tasting. And it was nowhere near as good as on New Years Eve.

The colour is ridiculously young. The Port should be ashamed of itself. The barest hint of brass.

How many times can I taste old champagne and think of hot buttered toast and mushrooms? Theres also coffee and cocoa. Crushed, powdered and sprinkled on everything. On the back of that is a light, caster-sugar whiff on the finish, almost cotton candy.

I love drinking this. It's sinful. The palate is all the old champagne notes of wild, buttered mushrooms, brioche and hazelnut but wrapped in that caster sugar from the nose. Not confected, but pure. I don't think I've ever tasted something that smacked so much of sugar but wasn't sweet. Quite amazing. Welcome, 2011. Be better than 2010.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010 going into New Years Day 2011, Naughton

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dow's 1970

Why are the 1970s looking so old? Really? 40 is young for you lot! It's the new 10 as far as good vintage Port compared to most other class wines is. Usually. But these 1970s have all gone a bit mature. Not amber or garnet, mind, no - but pale. Pink on the edges. Not hunting pink either. Ah well.

Cocoa crushed espresso with winter spiced plums. And a touch of smoked ham.

The palate is much the same - the secondaries are intense - spicy, charred with plum stones and cloves, cinnamon bark and rose petal. This is lovely, and still young on the palate regardless of colour. Port is a remarkable thing, really. There's a bit of booziness on the finish - 70s have always shown a bit hot to me - but great stuff. And maybe I need a bit of booziness.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010, Naughton

In retrospect, I didn't need a bit of booziness.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vega Sicilia Valbuena 1998

I opened this for a friend's birthday, though the friend was nowhere to be seen. One of the quirks of living in a University town is that it's transient by nature. People come here for a stage of their lives and then leave. You become used to it. You joke about it. But the truth is that those people leave a mark. This particular friend watched the final out of the 2004 World Series with me. For those people, you raise a glass.

Nice warm ruby on the edges, though the core is still dark.

Rich, dark stone fruit wrapped in oak-smoked game on the nose. Sour cherries. Cocoa. There's some cedar BBQ spice as well. Perfumed though, not weighty.

There's a lot of oak here. But it all starts with a big hit of fruit - plum skins and cherries and a nice bracing bright fruit acidity that the grip, tannins and wood seem to integrate with as the palate progresses. Kind of like chewing on a grape until you're left with just the skin and the pips. With air the finish becomes more like dusty leather and old office. The oak continues to integrate as the wine breathes and after awhile all comes together and harmony abounds. Fine stuff.


Tasted at Shorehead 24 Jan 2011 (Happy Birthday, Malia)


Crown Estates Svarzas Tokaji Aszu Essencia 1993

It occurs to me that typing these notes into my shiny new iPad in the midst of a jubilant New Years party was pretty much as geeky as it gets, but there you go. I should warn the reader that these are being posted in order of tasting and as the night went on - the latter notes may be abbreviated due to heightened drunkenness. Apologies.

Bronze with gold highlights.

Butterscotch and caramel on the nose, with figs and baked pepper.

Intense, sweet roast fig with just the barest edge of rust on the palate. Then it melts and bit, there's a creamier aspect and some lighter, herbal notes come through - there's a touch of mint and wild heather. The finish is clean and lingering going from rich to perfumed and back again.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010, at Naughton

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tour de By 2000

In retrospect, among the other Bordeaux we drank that night, this was easily the wine of the evening. We opened six bottles and not a one had any problems. Cracking stuff.

Tip-top drinking. Balanced, but not boring. Still youthful, and could do with some more ageing, but this is really brilliant, and tasting great with the food. No nose or colour notes because I'm too busy eating.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010, Naughton

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chateau La Dome 2001 (from magnum)

This bottle was kindly brought by my friend Sam, who felt he'd drunk to much of our fine wine over the years not to contribute every once in awhile.

Quite bright, middle-youth Bordeaux. Not dark and broody, but no hint of amber, rust or garnet either.

Green pepper and cassis with bramble leaves kiwi skin. So, you know, not your average Bordeaux nose.

Exotic palate - there's eastern spice an almost a note of curry. Blind, I'd think it was a St Estephe. The spice coats the cassis and blueberry fruit, giving it texture and feel. It's still a touch young, but fun to drink nonetheless. A pestle and mortar of a wine.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010, Naughton

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1990

This last New Year's Eve was a bit of a return to form as far as wine drinking goes. There were some cracking bottles and perhaps some disappointments, but overall it was a blast. I'm looking forward to 2011.

Looks mature. Rusty. Older Bordeaux-y.

The nose is stewed plums and blueberries with tea leaves. Perhaps a touch of leather.

Aggressive green tannin suck the life from the palate. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most disappointing first growth I've ever tried. A poor wine regardless of classification. Even the food doesn't help it (a shepherds  pie by made by yours truly). The fruit isn't all dried out though. Theres a touch of cherry/cassis ripeness. But it's so fleeting as to merely fluster the drinker. Unpleasant.


Tasted New Years Eve 2010, Naughton