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