Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Guigal or two

I've been aware of The Sampler for some time, though fear for my wallet led me to avoid it. This was pure idiocy on my part, and I can only hope that the wine gods look down on my attempts at fiscal responsibility as a mere temporary lapse of reason. Bizarrely, I didn't browse much, but what I saw suggested a meticulous selection - names that were familiar brought glee, while the unfamiliar looked exciting and seemed to be screaming 'buy me'. That's about as good as it gets with wine shops.

The reason I didn't browse was because I was there to taste. The Sampler has several banks of enomatic machines. These machines keep wine bottles in a neutral atmosphere, allowing samples to be dispensed pretty much indefinitely without the wine oxidising. They're pretty much the most awesome thing since bacon. 

My mate Pete and I decided on two rather epic cuvées to kick things off. 1992 was not the greatest vintage in history of the Northern Rhône, but it was better than in Bordeaux.  

Guigal Côte Rôtie La Mouline 1992

Mature but no amber. Faded purple and ruby.

Nose is dusty and sweet, with piercing juiciness on the end, as though to remind you that there's still life there.

Intense, concentrated on the palate. The fruit is dark, ripe and knit tightly to the wood and secondaries. You don't just taste them together, you feel how they mesh with each other. Oak apparent, but feels old, tempered. Very long, with quite a fresh juiciness to it. 


Guigal Côte Rôtie La Landonne 1992

Darker than the La Mouline. More purple and less ruby.

Nose has a nice earthiness to it. It's a bit more rounded - less dust and more suede, softer fruit.

Palate follows the nose. More rounded and supple, with greater harmony between the fruit and the secondaries. It's like silk, plums and bitter chocolate. It seems gentler, but as the finish arrives it reveals a tight stoniness underneath. 


Both impressive wines, and ageing with elegance. I think perhaps the Mouline wanted a bit more for food, though the Landonne was the sexier at the moment. The Landonne had me discovering more, hence the extra star, but scores are stupid anyway.

Tasted 28/7/2012 at The Sampler, South Kensington

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mas des Masques 'Les Silex' Chardonnay

So I've got a job at the moment, with a small wine importer/retailer/wholesaler in West London. I've always liked their wines, and have noted a few up here before. One of my favourites is this little number. Far finer wine writers have already noted their approval of this cuvée, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in nonetheless.

It's a strange wine; an NV blended from 2007 & 2008 fruit. 

Quite a rich, young gold. 

Full, fleshy nose with quince, pineapple, biscuits, roasted walnuts and buttered toast. It's a nose that makes you want to take a sip, maybe even a gulp.

You'd be forgiven for thinking it's a fat wine. It leaps out from the mid-palate, rich and bursting with fleshy, fibrous pineapple and lashings of toasted, buttered nuts. But then there's this great lemon-citrus that tugs back as the finish begins and pulls everything with it, leaving the tongue pleasingly stuck to the roof of the mouth. Lingering, but never sticky. Folks keep comparing this to Burgundy, and I see where they're coming from, but I feel this is of its own. There's a lot of Southern France in this glass, in the best possible way. 


Tasted a lot, but most recently 28 July 2012 at Miller's Court.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lilbert-Fils Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru à Cramant NV

I loved the Olympic opening ceremony. It managed to be nostalgic while still connecting to why people love Britain; why Britain is fantastic now. I also loved the Champagne I drank. I hope to drink more. 

Silver and pale gold, with fast, pinprick bubbles.

Pears, apples and walnuts with a hint of butter and shortbread.

The palate begins with a pleasingly sharp tang of lemons and green apples, grabbing with a hard, angular tug. That leads to the mid-palate and that quick, fine mousse dissolves itself across the tongue, bringing out a beautiful fibrous white fruit fleshiness. Its gentle lusciousness then falls away, revealing a hard, stone-like core. Great finish. Superb wine.

***** Tasted somewhere in Fulham, 27/7/2012, whilst watching the Olympic opening ceremony.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

busy times

This is a busy month. I have a new job and am splitting time between Scotland and London. I also have a book to write, which should be taking more time than it is. Then, at the end of next month, I return to Collioure to make wine. It will be my fifth vintage with the fine folks at Coume del Mas and Mas Cristine, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

I like being busy. It beats the alternatives. But I miss my cat, and I've not been running enough. I've also not been blogging enough. I'll try to manage about two posts a week, but if this corner of the wine web seems a bit quiet, I apologise. I'm still tasting and drinking. And even if I'm not ranting here, I assure you that somewhere out there I am ranting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Schiopettino 'la Viarte' 2007

Schiopettino, or Ribolla Nera, came close to extinction during the Phylloxera scourge. New plantings in the '70s saw a small comeback, but it's still relatively obscure. Quite a lot of it goes to make sparkling wine. 

I'm going to be honest, this is one of the most interesting wines I've tried in ages. It's different, and structurally doesn't follow any path that I'm familiar with. Folks set in their ways will probably want to steer clear. 

Dark. Vivid.

Nose is powerful but a touch muted. Coffee grounds, a touch of cranberry. B Bit of wild herbs on the edges. Quite beguiling.

Violets, rosemary and assorted herb by the bushel on the palate. It's almost like bitters. Star anise and cedar, quite hard but there's cherry peeking around the edges. I really like this. It's backwards and rustic, but not dirty. Fascinating stuff. Like a well seasoned black and blue ribeye.


Tasted at Luvians, 16 July 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Manzanilla Pasada 'Pastrana' Bodegas Hidalgo

Single vineyard sherries are uncommon, as are Manzanillas bottled with this much age (hence the 'Pasada' in the name).

My love of sherry is no secret, so I'm just going to let this note roll. A wee side note - I thought this was more Amontillado-like than that Williams and Humbert I tasted a couple of weeks ago. It's still not very Amontillado-like.

Gold but with just a hint of brass.

Nose is lemons with salted hazelnuts and peeled almonds. There's a whiff of something fleshy and tropical just towards the end.

Lean and fleshy all at once. Palate goes right from the very tip of the tongue throughout. There's that briney citrus and then midway through the salted nuts arrive with riper, more exotic white fruit that is bone dry but rich nonetheless. Clean, sea-like salinity on the finish. Perfect for a sip on the balcony in the summer.


Tasted at Shorehead, 16 July 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chambolle-Musigny 2004 Mugnier

I love these wines. This is wearing its age a bit, but I didn't mind. 

Quite mature for only 8. Hints on amber on the edges. Rust too.

Bit aged on the nose. Soft, stewed cherries and general earth tones. Gentle. Basket of fruit on a hot summer's day.

Pulpy, juicy palate with soft and gentle strawberries, cranberries and redcurrants. The tannins have softened considerably. This is mature, drinking now and probably should be drunk quite soon. It's charming, though, and a pleasure to drink.


Tasted at Luvians, 15 July 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trousseau 2005 'Singulier' Tissot

Today was kind of a 'try weird new things' sort of day. Today's weird new thing was the varietal 'Trousseau', found mostly in the Jura region of France, nestled in the Alpine foothills. Trousseau is more famous by its Portuguese name, Bastardo. And from what I understand, it is a wee bit of a bastardo to cultivate in the Jura, needing gravel soils to retain heat from the day's sun. Not many people make it any more, which is a shame. The bottle from Stephane Tissot was quite a revelation. 

Colour's light and a touch dusty.

Pretty, bright, cherry stones and strawberries with a dusting of chocolate on the nose.

Palate is restrained to start, with those light red fruits, then it gets taut and grippy, with dark forest and almost a hint of varnished hardwood. In a good way. It's revealed subtly. Tasty stuff and that little bit different. Elegant rusticity.


Tasted at Luvians, 16 July 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gaja Barolo 2007

Opened recently at my local wine merchant. Don't know what I'm going to do when I don't have them to call on anymore. 

Great colour: dark, translucent and bloody.

Bright red and dark fruit nose with tar and suede and a touch of smoke.

Forward and sexy but in a classic way, which matches up with what I know about 2007 as a vintage. It's taut, fleshy and well-integrated, with the tannins forming a grippy lattice around crunchy dark cherries. This will soften and get more elegant, but I really like its crunchy grip at the moment.


Tasted at Luvians, 13 July 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Erste Lage Grüner Veltliner 2010

This was a wee punt on my mum's behalf. She likes wine and likes to try new bottles. I didn't know the grower, but we bought it at Lea & Sandeman, and their buying tends to be fairly spot on. 
Gold and silver with a bit of tarnish. Bright and light.
Lemon, green pepper; there's melon and a hint of the exotic on the nose as well. Some meal-y, grain-mill notes emerging. 
Both rounded and grippy on the palate. Green fruit and citrus zing to start things off. These lift the palate to the mid point, where that oat-iness from the nose kicks in, grabbing the tongue and setting off a late palate explosion of textured spice. Great structure with good nuance and complexity. I think it's a bit pricey (about £20), but it's a very complete wine. 
Tasted at Miller's Court, 10 July 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gaja Costa Russi 1998

A winemaking friend of mine celebrated his birthday on Sunday, and a few assorted trade folks brought some odd bottles. Some were curiosities, some were donations from absent friends, unable to attend. As wine pot-lucks go, the quality was fantastic. We hid happily under the gazebos, sheltered from the rain, swigging cracking plonk whilst eating as much from the grill as possible.

One wine stood out among some rather daunting competition. This was opened later in the day, after the crowd had thinned.

The beginning of rust on the rim, with a warm dark blood ruby.

Cured meat, truffle, fig and mushroom with forest detritus and a hint of cherries. Heady, rich and promising.

Rich, cured red fruit, knotted and layered with incredible power and delicacy. You tug on it in the mouth, grabbing at each phase of the palate. Tar and evergreen forest wrapped in juicy black cherries and cranberries. Dry and longingly rasping, like a kiss at the end of a long night. Incredible.


Tasted on the Trelawney Estate, Hackney, 8 July 2012

Friday, July 06, 2012

d' Oliveira Boal 1908

We had been planning something like this for awhile. My mates and I wanted to drink old Madeira, and our suppliers were letting us down. We reserved bottles and they were sold to others. We ordered online and were told they were out of stock. We were beginning to suspect some sort of conspiracy. There must have been some plot to prevent us from buying old Madeira. It wouldn't surprise me. True Madeira fans are maniacal in their passion. 

I did some research and we secured this bottle from a merchant who, and I am not making this up, questioned our love of Madeira before letting us buy it. I fucking love the wine trade.

Dark, treacle. 

Dark moscavado sugar with balsamic vinegar, coffee grounds, pata negra. Very savoury. It starts off with an edge of varnish that gradually dissipates. 

Gripping, tight, viscous espresso/ristretto. Intense, savoury with salted caramel sweetness following only at the very end of the palate, though as the finish lingers it very much goes back to coffee. It's quite a simple note, really, but it's not a simple wine. All the flavours work like a fractal, as they follow a similar pattern/flavour profile that echoes on grander and lesser levels as they go on. Every sip it hits you differently. You clasp your lips close and press your tongue to your mouth as though you're sucking on a boiled sweet, trying to squeeze more and more out of it, even though as your mouth waters, your eyes tear up a bit. It lasts for five or ten minutes, but it's sad that I know that, because it means that I finished my glass.

***** wow

Tasted at Naughton, 29 April 2012

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Case Ibidini Insolia 2010

I don't know why these guys don't use the 'z'. Z's a cool letter. I would argue that it doesn't get used enough. But instead of an Inzolia, this is Insolia. So there you go. If it were from Tuscany, it would be Ansonica.

My flatmate grilled some chicken thighs marinated in honey and spices and I thought this may do the trick. It's from a co-op, but a good one. It's also bottled on island, which I feel is important. 

Light and bright, with gilded edges to the silver.

Peach and very light hazelnut on the nose. Small hint of pear drop.

Soft, with that rounded Mediterranean white feel to it that sort of drops in the middle of the palate and spreads out from there. White fruits with a bit of pear, and hazelnuts. This is pretty simple stuff. A good summer white that won't leave scratching your head, looking for nuance. Nice with the food.


Tasted 4 July 2012 at Shorehead

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Le Cigare Volante 2006

The last vintage of this I tasted was the 2004. I think I prefer the '06, though they are quite different. 

A friend and local wine merchant opened this as I prompted that there should be something American opened on the Fourth of July. We dodged a bullet, as he was half tempted by 'Conundrum', a wine that tastes a bit too much like a soft drink for my palate.

The label notes that it is a 'Red Wine of the Earth'. I like that. 

Bright, dark and beautiful.

Deep, dark, intense fruit wrapped in earth and chocolate on the nose.

Blackberries and pomegranate smashed with a velvet glove. All the power and intensity from the nose comes through, but with a bright elegance that slips across the palate, rather than pummelling it. Firm but gentle tannic grip. A bit of pleasingly prickly spice as well as sour cherries. There's an almost Burgundian nerve and harmony to it. Tasting brilliant.


Tasted 4 July 2012 at Luvians.

Egon Müller Sharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2002

It's nice that some of the most extraordinary wine estates in the world have entry level wines priced within the reach of the average punter. Well, maybe not average. Average-incomed. You have to possess a bit of passion and curiosity to go looking for this, a bit more than average. It's not only nice: it's important. Price is not always necessarily reflective of quality in wine, but it's necessary that there are benchmark hierarchies that work, that illustrate the scale and scope of wine from the basic level to its true heights. There should be a noticeable quality progression, for instance, from basic Bourgogne to village wines to premier and grand cru. Or from basic Kabinett to Spätlese to Auslese… etc and so on. Making great wine at every level, not just the top, is the hallmark of not only a great winemaker, but one who understands that quality is not just the reserve of the wealthy. 


Pale silver - does not look 8 years old.

Apple, lime and flint on the nose. Very fresh and youthful. Zingy.

Incredibly bright and young - fresh lime and green apple skins, tasting as thought they're being drunk over stone and flint. Nuanced, layered, long. Great precision and structure and altogether classy. Superb now, but will last an age. I don't know if I'd want the weight it will no doubt gain, though. Thinking drink it now.


Tasted at Shorehead, Winter 2010

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Domaine Cauhape Jurançon 2000

I really like Jurançon. I should endeavour to drink more. You should too.

Nose is roasted apricots with nutmeg and toffee.

So unbelievably good with the lemon posset. Texture, fruit and sweetness all in superb harmony - spices and nutmeg come through as the finish begins and takes quite some time to end. 

****(*) five stars with a good food pairing

Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Monday, July 02, 2012

Chateau Routon Sierratage 2005

A couple of years ago, I went for a holiday in Northern California. It wasn't a wine holiday, just a normal one, but I did wind up touring some of the wineries in the Sierra foothills. The most interesting of the bunch was Chateau Routon (geddit?), a horse farm and winery that specialised in fortified wines (port style) and a few table reds. They also had ice cream. 

They describe this as a 'Cask Port', which we all know is incredibly naughty. It's a bend of Touriga Nacional and a couple of other Port varietals and aged in cask for two years before bottling.

Impenetrably dark.

Candied blueberries with smoked bacon, fresh spearmint and maybe a touch of gun smoke on the nose.

The palate is rich and spicy with all those candied fruits and savoury notes from the nose coming through nicely. There's a circular, rounded structure to the tannins. This is still very young and certainly needs a bit of time, but it's actually fairly delicious at the moment. Quite earthy, too.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer 2010

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Warre's 1970

I'd not tried this in some time. If memory serves, this was their 'tricentenary' bottling, celebrating a staggering 300 years of making Port. 

Dusty looking and pale.

Hot on the nose with sweet cranberries.

Palate is gentle with cinnamon and dried, spiced apples with cranberries and sugar plums and more winter spice. Long and delicious and the best I've had it. Still a fair few decades left in it as well.


Tasted on Crawford Gardens, Summer of 2010