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