Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1985

I'm more familiar with the Comtesse de Lalande, but I do have very fond memories of '90 Baron at a stylish restaurant in north Kensington in the company of friends. The '90 was the laughable price of £60 on the wine list. So we had two. I don't know how afforded my lifestyle in my mid-late 20s, but it could go some way to explaining why I have no savings and still rent, rather than own. 

Colour is perfect for the age. Fading a touch, but still bright and playful in the light.

Nose is glorious, rising from the glass in all directions. Cedar and herbs, dark stone fruit, cocoa and leather.

Harmony. Fruit and secondary integration flows across the mouth effortlessly. From beginning to end, everything is in its proper place. All the nuance of the nose comes through but with more ephemeral notes, and small pinpricks of wood spice along the way. Lovely, proper claret.


Tasted 28 July at The Sampler

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bourgogne 'Cuvèe Halinard', Bernard Dugat-Py 2009

I know these wines only by reputation, the reputation being exceptional. I picked this up as an introduction to the domaine as it was the most modestly priced of those available. And by 'modestly priced', I mean no such thing. It was hilariously pricey for AOC Bourgogne, at over the £30 mark. Still, with more senior village offerings well over twice that, I figured dipping my toes in at £30 would reward a Burgundy nut like myself, or prevent me from spending more on a disappointment. 

Dark Burgundian shade, laced with purple and a deep core. Broody looking.

Bushels of sweet red fruits with some darker plum and savoury tones on the nose. Very heady and quite floral - bit of violet to it. Intense.

The fruit has a piercing, juicy intensity to it, but it's surrounded by lush, soft gently textured tannins that don't show off their serious side until the beginning of the finish. The fruit gives way to the youthful hints of savoury notes, but they're still a bit under-developed at the moment. And just like they lingered on the edges of the nose, those violets linger and drift on the edges of the palate. This is luscious, sexy style Burgundy from the most luscious and sexy vintage in sometime. That focus of the fruit provides a great line to hold everything to it until it gives way to secondaries and tannin. Very long on the finish. Decadent, delicious stuff. 

Frightened to say it's worth the money. I know 1er Cru wines from lesser growers that cost more and deliver less. Horrifying, as it means I'm going to wind up buying more of these, and I can't really afford to.


Tasted 21 August 2012 at Shorehead

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sassicaia 2001 (from half bottle)

I feel this is a good but not a great wine. I think maybe it should be priced around Tignanello level, and it isn't. I've tried four or five vintages of it now, and have enjoyed them, but feel its fame and status spring more from the incredible change it wrought, rather than the liquid in the bottle every year. Maybe I'm just grumpy. 2001 was a lovely year in Tuscany, the end of a great run of vintages that started in '95.

I've never had the '85, which is meant to be immortal. 

Dark. Young. A bit bloody.

Crazy nose. Butterscotch, toffee followed by dark black currants and chocolate.

Sexy palate. Everything is there from the nose, with it starting quite sweet and generous. The fruit appears mid palate, quite juicy, but it softens a bit too quickly in the mouth. Good length. 


Tasted 28 July 2012 at The Sampler

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gaja Barbaresco 1995 (half bottle)

I wish I had made it my New Year's resolution to drink more wines from Angelo Gaja, because that's what seems to be happening this year, much to my delight.

Still quite young looking. Pale, but vibrant. No Nebbiolo browning as yet.

Nose is forest and forest fruits that turn to cherries, with a bit of roasted herb. Beguiling stuff.

The palate doesn't follow through. It's good. There's that crunchy grip, but it seems a touch dried out. The finish does not linger, and stops a bit short. It's still charming and has bright spots, but is past it, sadly.


Tasted 28 July 2012 at The Sampler

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ardbeg 1975

Not a lot of people know this, but as well as being a wine nerd, I am quite an epic whisky geek. My old employer specialised in single malts, and stocked over a thousand different bottlings, from the most basic Grouse right up to rare expressions worth tens of thousands of pounds. For well over a decade, I tasted, studied batch numbers, noted wood finishes and peat parts per million and noticed the sea-change that has run through the industry. Fewer whiskies are filtered these days, and younger expressions, barely over the legal age of three years a day, now crowd the shelves at specialists. First-fill bourbon casks are used extensively to tame with wild heat of young malt, and whiskies that ten years ago would have seen at least 7 or so more years of time in the cask are bottled. Thus distilleries see a faster return on their investment, not having to wait a decade or more for spirit to reach acceptable maturity. There are endless 'finishes' that see whisky go into various casks that once held Madeira, or Sauternes, or Rum, or Burgundy.

Quality, as with all things, varies. Wood finishes are marketed as adding something extra, but more often than not are used to hide faults, flaws or simply youth. If you aren't deeply cynical of whisky marketing, you should be. Don't listen to a word of it. 

I rarely note whisky. Like beer, I was really into it before I worked in the business, and so for some reason never felt the need to interrupt my enjoyment with notation. I made an exception for this particular dram as it was so special to me. Ardbeg released two bottlings of 1975 after Glenmorangie PLC bought the distillery in 1997. One was bottled in 1998, the other in 2000. The recommended retail price was £44.99, or about £2 more than the RRP on their current 10 year old. It's one of my all time favourite whiskies. It was the sort of whisky that could make a whisky lover out of anyone. On a recent visit to Ardbeg, we were told that the only remaining pre-1997 stock left at the distillery was 3 barrels of 1975. I assume they will be bottled in three years time as a 40 year old, and priced at several thousand pounds. Times change, I guess. 

This particular bottle was a gift to me from a former employer; a hoarder who knew its value to collectors. He gave it to me on the promise that I would drink it and enjoy it, and not 'collect' it. This note is from the very last dram poured from the bottle. 

Very light caramel. Only just past gold.

Nose is hot one second, warm the next. All manner of brine, burnt honey, wood smoke. Sings somewhat.

Whisky like this doesn't really get bottled any more. Or if it does, it's thousands of pounds. Most importantly, there's structure. It starts, has a middle, then finishes. The fire and smoke start it all off, before it all tightens up and closes in, grabbing the palate before spreading like a brush fire. Then it tucks in again with white pepper, and all the caramel sweetness that the nose promised. You'll taste it for too long. And never again.

Tasted 8 July 2012 at Miller's Court

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1986

I overlook Rioja frequently. It suffers, in my mind, from ubiquity and (ironically) its general high quality. I shouldn't do that. I should try to drink more of it. But then I realise if I were to drink more of everything I say I should drink more of, I'd be a gibbering drunkard unable to string two sentences together.

Rubies and amber.

Perfumed with old lavender and cherries. There was a hint of mothballs, but I worked out that this was just remnants of the neutral gas used to keep the wine - it dissipated quickly.

Very gentle palate. Soft red stone fruit and suede. Lingers with charm. Utterly sensuous. Feels lovely in the mouth.


Tasted 28 July 2012 at The Sampler

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Domaine Bunan Bandol 2007

The wine section at M&S always flusters me. I know their buying has great strengths, and there are, as supermarket wines go, some good bottles. But I don't know many of the producers and so I always feel I'm flailing about, unable to make an informed decision.

We're having lamb shanks, and so I thought lamb shanks in the summer would be great with a Bandol. So I took a punt on this. Mostly Mourvèdre with a bit of Grenache and Syrah.

Dark core with ruby going to purple on the edges.

Touch hot on the nose, with garrigue, herby notes of rosemary and a bit of sage. Fruit takes some coaxing, but when it appears, it's blueberries with edges of redder fruit.

That heat from the nose disappears on the palate. The fruit is nicely integrated with those herbal notes, and there's lovely, modern mouthfeel to it; polished garrigue if such a thing exists. The only thing that's lacking is a touch of structure. It doesn't seem to have any edges and without anything to pull it in, it feels too heavy in the mouth. The flavours compliment the food, but its weight makes an already rich meal a bit too much. Seems to put on weight with air. Not worth £15.

Tasted at Miller's Court, 29 July 2012