Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1996

I've accidentally drunk a great deal more Mouton-Rothschild than I ever intended to. This isn't a bad thing.

The barest hint of fading on the rim, but still deep and dark.

Nose is savoury and minty and kind of brutish, with plums and wild herbs on the edges. It gets headier as it opens up.

The palate is backwards and ungiving at the moment. With coaxing, the ripeness of the fruit comes through, coated with sandy tannins. Leaps out with the food, but still seems to lack a bit of lift. I want to re-taste, as I was somewhat underwhelmed.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Friday, June 29, 2012

Leoville-Barton 2000

I tasted this with some trepidation. I have a case laying down and thought, 'you better be bloody good'.

Dark and unremitting.

Fantastic nose. Dark fruits with smokey edges and a tar note that opens to anise and cinnamon. The fruit is sweet.

Larger than life on the palate - big, rich, structured claret. Hints of all on the nose, but they're still all tripping over each other. Incredibly young, dark and unyielding. There's more to come. This was clearly infanticide, but the exciting kind. Years and years left.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chateau Palmer 2000

I think Palmer's overrated, but it has a sexy label. I think they know they're overrated and so they try to get more out of their wine than it can give. 

Chocolate and violets on the nose with lavender and blackberries. Is nose feel a thing? Because it feels felt-y on the nose. Weird.

Soft, supple and complete. There's maturity there already and everything seems to have 'arrived' - there are no dark corners of the palate leaving question marks. It's all there to see/taste. Roasted violets and berry fruit with cedar bark. Incredibly sexy, though somewhat simple.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Williams & Humbert Collection 12 yo Amontillado

I've no idea why Williams & Humbert decided to put a specific year stamp on this Amontillado. I thought that age statements on sherry were restricted to the VOS and VORS classifications. The youth and freshness of the wine seems to undermine whatever qualitative determination the statement has, so I can only assume it's a marketing decision. I don't think it's a good one, either. Sherry drinkers know the solera system and its age-defiance. Slapping a year on it - one I assume is either the mean or minimum age of the wines within the solera - doesn't do anyone trying to wrap their head around sherry any favours. Especially, in this case, as the wine is fairly atypical for an Amontillado.

Unless that's the point; to show that your average Amontillado is actually much older than you might think, and that at only 12 years, it's just barely in its post-Fino state. But that's not explained anywhere - you just get told it's 12 without any context.  

Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe I'm over-thinking the labelling. I don't usually care about labels, unless they're awful. In any case, this banter is distracting from what is, actually, an incredibly tasty sherry. Maybe they should have called it that.

Very pale. A light, golden brass, looks perhaps a little low on the filtered side of things.

Brine, salted nuts and chestnut mushrooms on the nose. Lively and fresh.

I said on Twitter that this was far more Fino-like than Amontillado-y. The front of the palate is lemon rind riding chalk dust, with a fresh saltiness. It's a bracing start that doesn't pick up that expected nuttiness until midway through, and even then, the zing and citrus pervade throughout. Blind, I might have guessed a Pasada. I wonder if the flor maybe wasn't quite dead yet? Regardless, this is a truly fantastic sherry. Ignore the label, as it claims to be medium dry. Nonsense. Bone dry, and brilliantly so.


Tasted at Shorehead, 27 June 2012 

Ridge Monte Bello 2000

You don't need me to tell you Paul Draper is a genius, but Paul Draper is a genius. I've posted a fair bit about Ridge on this site, and I hope to continue to do so. I really love their wines. 

Rich, dark fruit on the nose, wrapped in cedar, tobacco and dusty leather. Lovely, bright, ripe nose.

The palate is fantastic - savoury, balanced and with great lift. Tasting this amongst some 2000 vintage Bordeaux and this is the most old world and claret-y of the bunch - great, tensile rope-like structure with saddle leather, cocoa powder, prosciutto or speck with integrated oak grain that comes right at the end. What an amazing wine. Long. 


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lustau Almacenista Oloroso Pata de Gallina (Matured by Juan Garcia Jarana)

This comes from a 38-barrel solera somewhere in Jerez de la Frontera. I think it's an absolutely awesome wine. I've been drinking it quite a bit recently. 

Light for an Oloroso. Nice brightness and brilliance. 

Nose of salted caramel with a bit of cocoa. But not heavy - quite elegant nose.

This may be one of the most elegant Oloroso's I've ever tasted. Blind, I may call it for a Palo Cortado. Like the nose, you have that salted caramel, cocoa and a pervasive nuttiness, but it's so gentle on the tongue. It's somewhat contradictory: rich but light, powerful but elegant. It lingers for some time. I feel better for having a glass.


Tasted many times, but most recently at Shorehead, 25 June 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Richebourg 1998, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Quite early in my wine trade days, I was given the task of sourcing a selection of Richebourgs from different growers for a tasting. It was fun. I cracked several tomes and scoured the web in search of the best growers and vintages. Wine merchants from all over this small island had me pestering them on the phone, sorting shipping and payment details, clarifying provenance. The tasting was for someone's 60th birthday and time was of the essence. In the end there were six bottles - 3 x '95s and 3 x '97s from growers such as DRC, Leroy, Meo-Camuzet and Anne Gros. It was not easy to hand those wines over to the customer, not easy at all. And sadly, I was not invited to the tasting. 

Dark in the glass, with just a hint of ruby on the rim.

The nose is pungent - savoury and masculine Burgundy with perfumed edges and stewed cherries, layered with a hint of lacquer and beef jerky. It's never the same twice. 

Meaty on the palate, layered with ripe, sour, bright red fruit and just-softening tannins. There's so much there - it cascades across the mouth and then grips it in all the right places. Cherries and cocoa, beaten saddle leather and wood spice. Beautiful. Wine of the night. 


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Newton Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1987

Keep your eyes peeled. I found this bottle in a liquor store in Arcata, Humboldt County, way-Northern California. It was dusty, seemingly long forgotten. It was on a shelf next to a display of beef jerky, Doritos and dips. The price tag on it read $20. The clerk, a white guy with dreads who smelled as though he'd been doing beer bong hits in the back room, gave me a big cheesy grin and said something like, '87 man, hella cool. Far out  - you gotta drink that ****, man'. It was like being in a Kevin Smith movie.

It was a bit of a risk - a 23 year-old bottle from a package store - but I figured it was worth it. Worse that could happen is that I get a dud bottle and a fun story. 

Still very youthful colour. Dark.

Smoked cherries with a bit of green stalkiness on the nose - there's a bit of debate as to whether it's very slightly corked. 

The palate is soft and charming with supple stone fruit and good texture. Then, sadly, it disappears, going totally hollow. There's still some nice vibrancy there. Just past it and maybe a hint of TCA. Fun to buy though.

Oh, and only 12.5% abv. 


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jean Luc Colombo Cornas Masterclass

I attended this masterclass last year, following Hatch Mansfield's acquiring of the agency for these wines in the UK. I'd known of Colombo for years, but had never really tasted the wines. This masterclass brought us through their single parcel Cornas cuvées. Cornas used to be considered the scruffy cousin of Hermitage and Côte Rotie. Now it's considered the expensive scruffy cousin of Hermitage and Côte Rotie. The wines are all 100% Syrah. 

Jean Luc Colombo Cornas 'Les Méjeans' 2007

Sort of a breakfast Cornas, though I'm not sure I'd pair it with cornflakes. A blend of younger vines from their holdings in the appellation.

Nicel floral on the nose, that are quickly followed by some bloody, more savoury notes and maybe a touch of mint?

Lovely grip - bright red and black fruit with a touch of liquorice. Good unity between the fruit and the structure. Interesting - a light style of dark wine. 


Jean Luc Colombo Cornas 'Les Terres Brûlées' 2007

This parcel of vines is between 20 and 60 years old, and the cuvée is said to be their 'prettiest' expression of Syrah.

The fruit is more intense on the nose, as is the black olive tapenade and crushed rose petals.

Serious stuff. Young. Dark, tight and tight knit with fantastic grip. Grabs hold of the tongue and all parts of the mouth. Great structure but still waiting to blossom. One to lay down.


Jean Luc Colombo Cornas 'Les Ruchets' 2007

From 90 year old vines in the heart of the appellation. 

Jammy, menthol-y and a touch stewed. No floral notes.

It's a bit of a beast. Big, bramble (not stewed on the palate, just the nose), backed by very rustic tannins. Hugely backwards. Not entirely sure what to make of it. Needs time.


Jean Luc Colombo Cornas 'La Louvée' 2007

The name means 'she-wolf', which is kind of cool. The vines are around 70 years old, with great south-eastern aspect. 

More ephemeral, floral and elegant on the nose. Roses, strawberries and some darker blueberries as well.

Fantastic integration. Soft and pretty to begin with that then deepens as the palate goes on. Not as rustic as the others. Fruit, structure and secondaries all in great harmony. You could probably crack this one open now.


Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1985 (from half bottle)

Wine geeks should read widely. No two palates are identical and you should get as broad a view as possible when learning about wine and seeing how certain tasters react to certain wines. I read too much Parker when I started out. It was easy to do, as there were so many notes to read. But I thought that I was doing something wrong. I disagreed with him on a lot of wines and what did I know? 

Now, it's a different story. I don't tend to check specific notes on anything I taste, unless it's awful and I need to determine whether it's a fault or just a terrible wine. When looking for new things, I look to folks like Jamie Goode and Jancis for some guidance, but mostly winemakers and old friends; folks who get excited about new, brilliant wines.

In any case, I've had this a fair few times, and always liked it a lot more than Parker seemed to.

Showing its age in the colour - no amber, but some rusty ruby. Looking a touch Burgundian.

The nose is simply beautiful, though there's nothing simple about it. Floral and stone fruit notes with rounded herbs. Soft, elegant and balanced. I could smell this all day.

The palate started off a bit dumb - blind I doubted my call of a first growth from the nose. With time, it blossomed in the glass, becoming charming and ephemeral. It's faded somewhat from its glory days, but boasts elegance and balance that you don't find very often. It's a shame that it doesn't quite live up to the its aromatics - a little past its prime, but lovely nonetheless.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Y'quem 1996

I remember the first time I tasted Y'quem. I was at Number 9 Park, in Boston, with my sister. The one that I like. They were pouring the '99 by the glass for $25. My sister was doing a wine-tasting course at the time and I was like, 'I guarantee you that they won't give you this to taste', and so we split a glass. It blew my mind. As far as I was concerned, it was to your average Sauternes or Barsac what an Aston Martin DB5 was to a 1988 Ford Fiesta. It's a comparison that should separate all truly extraordinary wine from the average bottle in every instance, and I know that similar metaphors are often used in the trade, but with Y'quem it seems like anyone could smell and taste it and realise that it exists at a different level. Its concentration and intensity seem too much for its physical form.

So, you know, I liked it.

This bottle was a gift to the Naughton Dining Club from a lovely couple. They gave it to us the day before they got engaged. They have since divorced, which is very sad. 

The wine, however, was excellent.

Gold. With its own light.

I always get pine resin with Y'quem's nose. Rich, resin-y, laden with pineapple and candied melon, chantilly, white chocolate and flecks of spice.

Young, with a palate that pops like the bubbles of an aero bar. Caramel coated pineapple, wood varnish, fresh chilli spice and maybe a bit of rubber. Not rubber in a bad way, but a sort of rubber tree plant rubber. Not petrochemical rubber. Piercing, intense sweetness. Which goes without saying, but still. Awesome.


Tasted at Naughton, 29 April 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Henri Fuchs Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé SGN 1989

I used to drink more Alsace. Not exactly gallons, perhaps, but a healthy amount per week. I always felt the consumer's loss was the wine-geek's gain in that the wines are spectacular and, more often than not, a bit of a bargain. Some whiney chardonnay/sauvignon swiller complaining that they were 'too sweet' made every sip that bit more delicious. 

I need to drink more Alsace, and perhaps focus more on VTs and SGNs, thereby ensuring no bargains whatsoever.

We drank this in between our main - a roast lamb - and dessert - a ridiculously decadent crumble. I don't know the grower at all, thus enabling me to giggle at his name in a juvenile fashion without feeling too guilty. 

Quite young to the eye, though deepening on the edges.

Nose of tinned pineapple with botrytis must and a bit of dust. Opens to more brightness. 

Palate comes straight from the nose. Quite tight and sweet and dirty and pineapple-y with a nice oiliness. Long and decadent finish.


Tasted at Naughton 29/4/2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Barolo Vigna Cicala Bricco Bussia 1990, Aldo Conterno

We opened this at a dinner a few months ago. I pushed for it to be one of the centrepiece wines, and I'm glad I did. The bottle was in perfect condition, and as you can see from the notes, it still bore a great deal of youth and life. Probably my red of the year, so far.

Lovely rusty brown ruby Barolo hue. Great clarity.

Wild brambles and bright cherries, crunchy, exciting nose. Compelling, heady and perfumed.

What wines feel like this, other than old Barolo? Wrapped in tar or anise balls or forest floor is this remarkably young, bright, crunchy, juicy cherry fruit. In every sip, there's this to and fro between the two but always that sense of biting through something to get to something else. They all meld into a fruit laden savoury saddle leather and wet tar grippiness kind of thing. Brilliant.


Tasted at Naughton, 29/4/2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baccarìa Frappato 2010

This native Sicilian variety always makes me think of milkshakes. Nothing to do with how it tastes; just the name. You don't often find it on its own - usually it's blended with Nero d'Avola for Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

Quite a light ruby on the edges with deepening purple to the core.

Herbaceous nose, with flower petals and some earthy, meaty notes.

Bushels of juicy red summer fruits on the palate, that seem to really kick off with a bit of food (I'm having lasagne). Very light on tannins, but quenching acidity provides nice grip without any aggressive astringency. Not much to write home about on its own - pleasant enough and all that - but really great with food. Imagine there's not much it wouldn't lift to with that acidity. Lovely, and a bargain.


Tasted 17 June 2012 at Shorehead

Friday, June 15, 2012

favourite wine

'What's your favourite wine?'

Not the best wine you've ever drunk, but your favourite. It's not as easy a question to answer. Or maybe I'm making it too complicated. Maybe you can answer it just fine and I'm over thinking it all. It wouldn't be the first time. For me, best wines are easy. I've got them categorised and everything, and can reel a list off counting by finger with very little effort. 

Favourite, to me, is different. A favourite wine is a bottle whose moment, or moments, pierce through the memory of palate, heart and mind. It may have been a revelation or a comfort, or both. It comes to be something that we consider defining as who to we are - not just wine, but food, music, art, movies, architecture. Often the story of how one particular thing becomes a favourite becomes one of the defining stories of our life. 

Again, maybe it's just me. It could be that I weigh down these moments with significance in hindsight, turning the odd moment into something far more than it has any right to be.

The first wine I tried from Freddie Mugnier was his 1997 Musigny. It was March 2003, and my flatmate at the time brought the bottle back from a trip to Beaujolais and Beaune. I cooked some lamb gigot chops from the farmer's market and decanted the bottle into my prized decanter (sadly broken a short time later). I didn't know anything about Mugnier and Musigny was almost as much a mystery. Andy paid €75 or something close to that for it, so we expected something good. What we got was something tremendous. The purity, elegance and precision of the wine blew me away. 

I spent the next seven months pestering the MD of our wine shop, demanding he find the importer and order vast quantities of every cuvée he could. It took awhile, but he did, and they stock those wines to this day. They're a bit pricier these days, sadly.

So that's my favourite wine. I love it. I wish I could afford to drink it more often.

Musigny 2000, JF Mugnier

Pale, translucent, rust with no orange. Bright to the core.

Bushels of cranberries, redcurrants, dried spice in bushes and some forest floor. Some cured, savoury notes come through with coaxing.

Bursting with crunchy, red, juicy fruit on the front side of the palate. It's no longer cranberries or redcurrants but cherries and cherry stones. There's a light dusting of cocoa that coats the cherries like leather. As it passes from the middle to the finish there's a soft heather note that slips into that perfumed, ephemeral dovetail.


Tasted with good friends on Greyfriars, 7 November 2011

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chablis Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos Moreau 1991 (from magnum)

These magnums used to litter the wine merchant I worked for: they were everywhere. Not just from 1991, but spanning the whole of the decade, from 1990-99. Grand looking labels but shoddy cardboard boxes that disintegrated as though the inevitable entropy of the universe focussed the entirety of its attention on that sad packaging. A forage around the warehouse would result in the discovery of yet another '94, bin soiled and draped in corrugated cardboard that had been soaked and dried so many times that a light breeze would most likely reduce it to dust. Stock-counting was never easy.

Their ubiquity, for some reason, counted against them. I never tried one, in spite of some really lovely vintages laying around. Our director swore by them, and bought them every year without fail, and every year without fail we would attempt to stack the new boxes in the hope they would not collapse, releasing an ocean of Grand Cru Chablis. 

I never sold one. I don't think any of us did. But someone must have drunk them, because they all disappeared, but one. Bin-soiled, but great levels and no sign of premox. That's not a bad sign for a 21 year-old Chablis.

Nice, rich gold with still a touch of green edges.

Peach Wensleydale on the nose. Soft and gentle. Whiff of beeswax.

Bright, rich, lemony citrus with a hard, honeyed wax to it as well. Powerful stuff and still with loads of life. Opens incredibly with the food (smoked haddock fish cakes). Fleshy and gentle with a texture that gets silkier as it opens. What an eye opener. I was expecting it to be harder; more bracing. Instead it's savoury, soft and decadent. Brilliant.


Tasted at Naughton, 29 April 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Charles Heidsieck 'Cuvee Champagne Charlie' 1979

Opened along with a previously mentioned Grande Dame '76, as this was my host's birth year. The '76 was the better wine, but I could probably drink pints of this, should the opportunity arise.

Thin streams of bubbles rising quickly in the deep gold.

Sourdough and Cinnamon with quite exotic, slightly sweet chutney notes.

Crisp, rich and crunchy to start with, then softening and gentle on the palate, with a nice caress. There's an odd, zingy hint of quinine. Toasty, and a touch disjointed with the mousse. Almost a session wine, though that's quite a vulgar thought.

Tasted at Naughton, 28/4/2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Baccarìa Nero d'Avola 2010

I had two disappointing beers last night. In itself, it wasn't a disaster. You win some, you lose some; wine, beer or whisky. But they were pricey, small, 'craft' beers that both felt that they were trying too hard. One was just laden with saccharine notes on the finish. Had I something to follow it, i would've chucked them down the sink. Bummer.

Mindful of last night's travails, I decided to grab a bottle of vino for this evening, even though with the baseball on and minimal efforts regarding dinner, beer seemed more my comfort zone. I chose this because it's a vintage I've not tried and if you can show me a wine that Thorman Hunt imports that fails to be excellent, I'll buy you a pint. It also only cost 50p more than my two shitty beers from last night.

It's made at a big co-op. Just above the label sits a silver sticker that proclaims it's made and bottled in Sicily. I like this. Siciliy ships gobsmacking amounts of wine to be bottled elsewhere, including quite a bit to mainland Italy. It gets blended and mucked about with and beefs up thinner wines. It's both legal and disingenuous. So it's nice to have something with a bit of provenance.

Ruby and purple. Quite light.

Flower petals on the nose with plums and a bit of spice. Pleasant and somewhat summery on the nose.

Palate is light, with a good combination of fruit, flowers and a very gentle dusting of rustic tannin. Simple and really rather nice with my unremarkable lasagne. It opens up nicely as well, growing in the glass with more fruit, savoury notes and grip. This is not rocket science wine, but it's just so good at what it does. Very nice.

**** (under a tenner, drinkable, and better than most pub/wedding reds)

Tasted 10 June, 2012 at Shorehead

Friday, June 08, 2012

Clos Vougeot 2005, Domaine Louis Jadot

I don't know when I began to 'get it'. At what point I crossed over from thinking a wine didn't taste very appealing to recognising its youth and promise. Young wines (and old) pop up on this site quite frequently, and I hope I do them justice. I hope the casual reader has a look and trusts that I have some idea what I'm talking about. 

Some fine wines reward the odd dabble in infanticide, and the guilt that comes with it can be, for real wine geeks, a bit of a thrill. Big tannins and sweet fruit and, yeah, it's going to get better but it's so huge and awesome right NOW… you know the deal. Or maybe you don't. If you don't, don't worry. You're not missing much. Wine nerdery's navel-gazing is nothing to envy.

Some young 'uns just don't say anything. Backwards; mute. This is easier to assess if you know the producer, as you can assume it will eventually say SOMETHING (or know that if does say something, it will be gibberish). Youthful strangers may not get a second look.

And then there are the bottles that bring both guilt and excitement, for the moment and for the future. Wines that show so much promise but so little generosity. The tannins might be big but the fruit has not asserted itself yet and tasting it is like untying a bosun's knot with your tongue. Your brain kicks in, grasping and gripping textures, trying to sense the fruit and make heads or tails of it. Wines that aren't ready, but that you know and love better as they age because you knew them when they were young and rambunctious. 

This was one of those.

Light, bright and brilliant with lovely depth to the core.

Floral red fruits on the nose. Strawberries and cranberries with the odd crushed flower petal. Nice purity to it. Coaxing reveals some more savoury, meaty notes, but still with pervasive fruit.

Very young palate. Texture and integration all there but it overwhelms nuance. Bit like drinking rope soaked in strawberries. Lovely grip and would benefit hugely from food, but needs at least ten-fifteen years, probably more. There's an underlying juiciness that's not quite settled with the rest, that rises at the finish. Will be stupendous.


Tasted 8 June 2012