Monday 16 January 2017

I've moved this site...(see below)

This has been a long time in coming but after almost 400 posts the content on here has been moved to:

I will continue to write when I can, about what I want, but all new posts will be on!

 I can also be followed on


Saturday 10 December 2016

Tardieu-Laurent dinner @ 28-50 with Bastien Tardieu...

This dinner ten days ago was one I had been massively looking forward to. I love the wines from The Tardieu family. 28-50 Fetter Lane did a really great job of hosting the dinner, efficient but understated service and cracking food - menu below!

You can see some other Tardieu-Laurent posts that show the range of the wines. This family firm with father and son team of Michel and Bastien at the helm on the wine side just do a great job. They work with, often in the vineyard as well as cellar, a whole series of producers from Condrieu to Bandol. Producing about 80% reds and 20% whites. They are just what a quality focussed micro-negociant should be. The firm started in 1994 and the 1994 and 1995 vintages were aged in Burgundy (hence the "Laurent" bit) and then from 1996 onwards in Lourmarin where they are based now.

We started this evening with Condrieu 2015 as an aperitif. Now I don't really "do" Viognier in the same way that some people don't like pistachio ice cream (they are insane) but this I did like, and not just because I am biased. Full rich texture but a good bit of acidity and a nice oak integration, I imagine this doesn't see much new oak. It worked well as an aperitif but has plenty about it to be a great food wine. Bastien said it was from a new producer to them, based in Vernon with a parcel facing full south and on thin soil.

It was then time to be seated.

Goose and mustard terrine
Norfolk Horn lamb rump
Cheese and Pudding
Chocolate Cremeux and Fourme d’Ambert
As Bastien said a few words we were served the Hermitage Blanc 2007 en magnum. This was a real star of a wine. This sees 24 months in oak but not much new. One of the key aspects to this wine being the fact that it is possibly the most long-lived of all their wines. One important point of the ageing being that it is done on the fine lees, Bastien noting that this is crucial to the character and complexity. There is a lot going on here, waxy with notes of petrol and pear then lanolin and beeswax, a rich wine but not heavy, more intense than heavy, a little white truffle...splendid just splendid.
As we moved from Terrine to lamb (which was superb) so we moved to reds, all from magnums:

Gigondas 2004 en magnum this is from a higher part of the Gigondas area known as les dentelles, meaning silk or lace as opposed to teeth as one might think. It is an area known for grace and elegance. As an aside, if you get the chance to go to Gigondas then go. It is a beautiful village and has a great restaurant - Oustalet - as outlined in this trip. Back to the wine, this is perfect now, good slightly degraded character and nice earthiness to combine with red back fruits.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale 2006 en magnum what a wine this is. Year in, year out I love this. 100% Grenache ("as Chateauneuf should be!"), made with 100% whole cluster from 100year+ old vines in La Crau on a sandy soil (only really shared by Rayas, La Crau and Pignan). There is no pumping over, it is what Bastien described as a tea-bag wine. The colour, as Grenache should be, is not too deep. There is an extremely elegant freshness to this wine. I just love the poise and balance, the slight white pepper but mainly the redder leafy fruits. Spot on. All this from a decent, but not more than that, vintage. I have some mags of 2010 but Bastien made me promise I will leave them for a while.

Côte Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 1999 en magnum drinking a wine that is special for a particular reason is always great. The reason this is such is that it was only made in magnum and never sold. It was only the 3rd time Bastien had drunk it! Only three times have they made a Vieilles Vignes Cote Rotie and this was just 300 magnums (2 barrels). There was a "normal" Cote Rotie 1999. The nose is just classical Cote Rotie, all bacon fat and dark spiced fruit. The palate had a more ferrous feel, a savoury bite that left you wanting more. I would say it is mature now, clearly it will continue to age but is spot on at the moment.
When it comes to planning dinners one of the trickier areas is the last course, especially if the producer in question is white or red wine dominated. Here we had a great option. The other "first world problem" is whether you have cheese or pudding first so we served a fortified red with cheese and pudding alongside each other.

Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel 2014 this was a production of just 600 bottles and 2014 was only the second time they had made this. The only Rhone village that has an official appellation for Vin Doux Naturel (or Rhone Port as we simplified it to on my table) is Rasteau. This village, 50 years ago, made almost exclusively VDN. The vines are 80 years old. There is an insane drinkability to this, I am delighted that I bought some. It is redder in fruit than Port, elegant, more drinkable in volume at an early stage, also "only" 17% rather than 20%. Splendid!

And that was it really...a thoroughly enjoyable evening, Bastien throwing great nuggets of information into the mix and everyone just getting stuck in. Wine as it should be...

Saturday 26 November 2016

Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera Vertical - Beppe Rinaldi

There is a sort of sibling feeling to this particular evening in the form of this - Brunate - Le Coste vertical. In reality this tasting was planned first and the other evening queue barged. We were 8 people, Eric (who had done all the hard work) myself and six wine lovers. The venue was a repeat - Medlar Restaurant. Chris Delalonde and the team doing a great job as ever. The upstaors room there is a real asset 6-12 people with lots of space.

Champagne to commence as we all assembled. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV En Magnum was a terrific start…this magnum having been disgorged in 2014. There is a easiness but also a freshness, good purity and just elegant drinkability about it.

The menu was a nice compact choice, as above, I went as below:

Spicy tomato nahm jim marinated stone bass with prawn tempura, avocado, coriander and cucumber
Sautéed gnocchi with white onion purée, eryngi, wet walnuts and homemade fresh ricotta
Roast hake with squash raviolo, violet artichokes, roast lettuce, walnut and marjoram beurre noisette and pesto

We actually started the dinner with a white of Eric's. I have had Miani a few times and it has to be one of the great whites of Italy.

Miani Friulano 2008 - A cracking wine. I think if I were to have had to guess blind then I may have been in serious dry white Bordeaux country. There is a lovely waxy texture and a nose of dried gym socks (one's own socks before this is seen as negative!). The fruit is more yellow than white. Mellow maturity but no lack of drive. Spot on now.

And so, it was time for the meat and drink of the evening. This wine is a blend of two vineyards - Cannubi San Lorenzo and Ravera made from 1993 to 2009. From 2010 it is essentially called Tre Tini as it now includes some Le Coste from what was the Brunate-Le Coste before there was a ban on more than one Cru name appearing on any label (see the other post for a little more info here). For better pics and some data on the wines do see Ken Vastola's site Finewinegeek - RinaldiAll these Barolos (excepting the 1961) wines were opened around 3pm and gently double decanted at 5.30. The flights are more in vintage style that pure age range, this seems to work better - especially, in my view, for wines from Piedmont and Burgundy.

Flight 1 – Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera - The warmer vintages

2000 – This had a very heady initial richness that quite quickly degraded into a bruised nature. There was a little mushroom quality, some iodine and smelling salts. The shame was that the palate had none to the quirky (not necessarily positively so) nature of the nose. It faded quite quickly. I’d be intrigued to try again.

2003 – A good surprise here, good richly intense red cherry fruit and good energy, no sense of the heat other than in a good depth. A good, quite bold structure with good grip. There is a slight lushness but this is kept in check on the palate. A good wine that is starting to peak.

2007 – As with the 2003 this was a good surprise. The fruit character was again around the red cherry area but with more vigour and freshness. This has a good future, I don’t think it will close down, it is what it is and is all the nicer for it. A good wine with which to introduce someone to this estate. Very consistent with other bottles I have had. 

Flight 2 – Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera - Some classic vintages

2008 – I keep my love of 2008 as an underrated Barolo Vintage very badly hidden. It is a cracking year, it might not have the verve and all-rounder status of 2004 and 2010 or the uncompromising nature of the 2006s but it has typicity and charm in spades! This wine has a persistent tenderness, the fruit combines red and black with saline and earth, very Nebbiolo. It is a wine that is very balanced, very happy in it's skin. A long future and an elegant one. If you see it, buy it, but dont miss out on trying a bottle soon.

1996 – I find 1996 in Europe almost always has a strictness, an acidity and a sternness, not necessarily a mean nature but certainly a lean one. This is no different. The nose has a slight tar and toffee character and whilst the feel of the wine on the palate is true enough there is a lack of fruit. It may well makes great “old bones” as they say  but the contrast in lack of charm with the 2008 is stark. May be I am being harsh.

1999 – Was a very good example of classically proportioned Barolo, in third gear maturity-wise, some brown fruits and degradation to go with enough deep red fruit. Saline and frazzles come through. Not a waste to drink now but no rush. Good good wine.

Flight 3 – Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera - Classicism with flare?

This was going to be 2001-2004-2006 but the 2001 was not perfect so we went for 2004, 2005 and 2006 with Eric then generously adding the 2009.

2004 – This was always going to have a task on its hands to come close to the Brunate - Le Coste 2004 of the previous tasting. It was very good, nice vigour and drive – good young red fruits with some black in the background. Very well balanced, still primary, “splendid” appears a few times in my notes. I’d be sitting tight for 5 years before trying this again. Just as it should be. V.nice!

2005 – Saline and dark cherry, a really odd note (not negatively so) of cool sausage meat. I have found wet raw steak a useful note at times. Good acidity and a good wine, simpler than the 2004 but almost equally enjoyable on this night. Not to be overlooked.

2006 – A deeper wine, a more savoury wine too, a line to the 1999 possibly? There is a sense of leather and tobacco and tar, not a fruit wine, there are hints to the Monfortino style. Properly uncompromising and all the better for it. Splendid.

2009 – It was good to have this here as it is almost the polar opposite of the 2006. Fruit and red fruit at that, juicy, lighter, fresher. I think this is a nicely tender and unpretentious portrayal of a tricky vintage. There is an easiness about the wine. Leafy and fresh.

Once you're in the the flow of things...

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinet 2007 – Eric had brought this along as a refresher and it worked well. I remember “demolishing” a case of Prum’s Graacher Himmelreich Kabinet 2007 some years ago – it seemed to almost drink itself! This was the same, extrovert but fresh…delicious

Barolo 1961 Rinaldi – It was very generous of Edward to have brought this along. An amazing bottle before you even get onto the contents, 720ml and hand blown, extraordinarily heavy. The wine was fully mature as you’d expect, rich but ferrous with a iron and stones feel, the texture carried the wine. There was a sense of fruit rather than fruit itself. Fascinating. A wine from another era!

And that was that...with these two tastings done I feel I know the estate and the wines better. I will continue to buy them and to drink them whenever I can. I feel the younger vintages (2007 onwards) will last and age well but ceratinly repay exploration early as the balance is superb! For instance a bottle of this wine from 2011 recently was gloriusly vigourous.

Keep up the good work Beppe and family!
Spicy tomato nahm jim marinated stone bass with prawn tempura, avocado, coriander and cucumber
Sautéed gnocchi with white onion purée, eryngi, wet walnuts and homemade fresh ricotta

Sunday 13 November 2016

Cantina Giacomo Conterno “Paulée” with Roberto Conterno

Back in May I made the annual trip to see Roberto Conterno and taste the new releases at Cantina Giacomo Conterno along with a few other wines (I love my job) you can read about that trip HERE.
One of the things we discussed with Roberto and his, ever helpful, assistant Stephanie was getting them over to London, this we finalised while we were out there, setting dates for July. They had a very busy time while they were here and I have briefly put notes at the bottom of this post about the wines we showed at a press lunch and a private customer dinner.

One of the main things I wanted to do, with not a hint of self interest you understand (much!), was to get some customers together for a small (we were 12 people) Paulee at 67 Pall Mall. The team there, headed by Gareth, did a great job with endless Zalto Burgundy glasses and lots of pouring.
The team in the kitchen did exactly as asked and came up with a simple and non-clashing menu as below. In the nicest possible way I don't think we even noticed the food much!

Fillet of beef Carpaccio, rocket, capers and sourdough croutons

Somerset organic spelt and girolle risotto

Fillet of beef Wellington with beef dripping roasties

Girolles on toast

People were asked to bring along a magnum or two bottles of a wine of Roberto's. I did a little bit of "steering" on the selections and we came up with a cracking combo.
As the guests assembled we started with some Wiston Blanc de Blancs 2010 which is drinking very well right now, a nice combination of zip and a little toastiness showing, the sort of thing I will regret not tucking a few bottles aside of to see what it is like in 5 years or so.

Flight 1 - "Nobody puts Barbera in the corner"
Ok so that's a naff title for a flight but as Roberto never tires of saying "you are not opening a bottle of Barbera or Barolo of even are opening a bottle of CONTERNO". The Barberas are given every bit of love and attention that the Barolos are and I would say (well I would wouldn't I) that the Conterno Barberas are the most consistently high quality you will find anywhere. I wanted to use this as a chance to show not only the two sites but two different stages of evolution:

Barbera Cascina Francia 2008 - this is a wine I know very well, moreish and becoming more savoury, good mellow grip and dark but not deep fruit. There is a lot of balance here, pretty seamless. Quite serious as Francia always is.

Barbera Cerretta 2012 - this is, like 2008 above, from a cooler, more classically Nebbiolo vintage. The vibrancy of the violets and dark cherry fruit is superb. If I was to drink any Conterno without food as an "aperitif" it would be Cerretta Barbera. Cool stoney minerality seems to get in there too.

Flight 2 - two by two...
So this is a cracking way to get to know two sites. I was keen to show these as they are two different vintages and then the two sites. The site differences showed very clearly. The vintages did too but a little less so. I think this is often the case with great producers.

Barolo Cerretta 2010 Magnum - this is the first Barolo from the site, 2008 and 2009 both being released as Langhe Nebbiolo (the 2008 is stunning right now!). This has a super-charged feel, rich and fruited and with a big structure, there is density and concentration here, lusciousness even sucrosity. This will be fascinating to follow.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2010 Magnum - my note for this features the word "serious" twice. There is a density but this is a linear wine, with drive and poise. I like this a great deal, it is just as I would want it to be, introvert, saline, tight and proper.

Barolo Cerretta 2011 Magnum - this really typifies Cerretta for me, it is friendly and approachable, begs to be drunk. Sweetness and succulence. There is a very Nebbiolo character but also a warm vintage intensity. If you own this it would be a great shame not to try it in youth.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2011 Magnum - my note just starts "Superb wine". Delicious fruit, good grip and drive that makes this less overt than the Cerretta. Reassuringly savoury and grippy but with fruit that roles over the tannin, great balance to the nose, red, black, soil and salinity. You can really sense the input of what would have been the Monfortino barrel.

It was every bit as good a flight as I hoped, as expected the 2011s are showing more now but the 2010s would appear to have it all.
Flight 2
Flight 3 - One site, four vintages... 
If I was asked to name my favourite vineyard, from a pure drinking perspective it may very well be Cascina Francia. Now planted to 9hectares of Nebbiolo (to give you a perspective Clos de Tart is a little over 7 hectares and La Tache is around 5hectares) and 5hectares of Barbera.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2008 Magnum - I am a massive fan of 2008. I really feel that those who may have bought Barolo in 2004 and 2010 (the most lauded vintages) but not 2006 and 2008 have made a mistake. 2008 is a vintage of sweetness and elegant feminity but with no lack of classicism, 2006 is the older brother to 2008, grip and texture, a wine of sternness and complexity. Roberto was very interesting on the 2008 as a growing season mainly because there was a seven-day spell towards the end of September when the temperature fell to zero...this was about a month ahead of the Nebbiolo harvest. Somehow this s
eems to have left wines with less obvious tannin but no lack of complexity. This wine is a lovely example of Cascina Francia, fruited but not overly so, red bramble like hints with brine and leather grip in there.

Barolo Cascina Francia 1994 - this was "gone", badly stored I am guessing, like bovril and PX sherry then tobacco leaf. It is a wine I have had before, a few years ago, it is ok but not much more. In Roberto's own words "from 1995 it is pretty difficult to find bad vintages".

Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 - A wine I know pretty well and last had with Roberto when I visited back in May. It is also a wine I have had a few other times over the last 5 years. Saline, soy, degraded darker fruit and some bacon fat are real signatures of this wine. We did while tasting this superb wine get onto talking about 1989 vs 1990 and I remarked that I'd never had the 1989. There was also no Monfortino in 1989 which would seem odd for a vintage that many label as a comfortable 5stars. The reason is that only 4000 bottles of Barolo was made from the Cascina Francia vineyard due to a hailstorm. It remains I wine I crave to try.

Monfortino 1955 - now this is an experience and one I have had a couple of times before. Notably here during a splendid lunch. This was good showing. From 20 years (ok 19) before the Cascina Francia site was bought. Frazzles, bricky, briney nose with richness. There were a couple of funny conversations over this wine but the over-riding memory was that Roberto simply commented how totally ludicrous his predecessors would have found the idea of people in London enjoying this wine nearly 61 years after it was made!
Flight 4 - Mighty Monfortino...for now and for later...
Monfortino is an iconic wine in the correct sense of the word i.e. because it has proved itself to be a beacon for Barolo and not because the estate or someone in marketing department calls it such a thing. Iconic status can be difficult as it comes with expectation. I genuinely believe that the Monfortinos of the last 15 years (01, 02, 04, 05, 06, 08, 10 & 13*) are amongst the greatest. * The 2013 will be just Monfortino (i.e. no Barolo Cascina Francia), a move not seen since 2002. Simply put, the quality is that good.

Monfortino 2004 - one of only about 5 or 6 wines I have given a perfect or near perfect 20 out of 20 to. That was when I tasted it at the estate back in May 2011. It is a wine I have had a few times since and it is profoundly good. Such drive and persistence, grace and at the same time fathomless structure. It has red fruit as well, no deep dark monster just a great wine. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Monfortino 1999 - a slightly volatile example compared to the ones that the note below refers to. The was good, rich and full with a lot of salinity.

Monfortino 1997 Magnum - This is a cracking example of a mature Monfortino. It has soy and a little ginger as well as nicely degraded fruits. Of the Monfortinos from the last 30 years this is the one to drink right now. I think it will age well but why would you?

Monfortino 1995 - This is a leaner vintage for me, not quite the round degraded elements that you can find in the 1997. A little stricter. I have a feeling it will make a good older wine, I have nothing but gut feel to base that on. 

It was a wonderful evening - to get the chance to sit and discuss this many wines with Roberto and hear the passion was incredible. I'll leave you with one comment from Roberto, said in the most heartfelt way imaginable "We do not make wines for other people, it is only in making wines for us that satisfy us, that we can be satisfied, that is what drives us".

All that really remains is, as ever, to thank Roberto (and Stephanie) for the time, energy and wonderful wines...I am looking forward to my next trip to the Langhe already!
A great nights work!


Also in the same visit we hosted both a press lunch at the office and a dinner at Sartoria in Mayfair. On both occasions we showed the same four wines, my notes below:

Barbera Cerretta 2013, En Magnum - "Intensity" and "pleasure" are the watch words here. This is a great vintage for Barbera, expressive and rich but with the necessary acidity and focus. More extrovert than the 2012 mentioned above. To my taste this will be in the zone in 2-3 years. Very true to its site. 

Barolo Cascina Francia 2001 - Saline, salty, a zesty texture with bacon fat and soy, mellow fruits, some ginger appearing. This is just shifting from 3rd gear into 4th. Classical - 2001 being a serious vintage of intensity.

Monfortino 1999 - This is a very typical Monfortino for me, a vintage you "Chew", rich but vast, full and focused at the same time. Hard to write a note for actually. I have always liked this wine.

Barolo Cerretta 2011 - More clay here in this site and it shows there is a lusher texture. Notes from all three times (including the above) are very consistent. Vibrant energy.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Irish makes his half century..."The Lads" celebrate...

So a meeting of "The Lads" was called to celebrate Irish turning 50. The line up being Irish, HalifaxRonaldinho, Woo, Monty (new name on account of hints dropped) and myself. We were sad to unavoidably lose the presence of Chewy but we drank to him and I am sure he'll be back with a bang next time. 
This group is a joy. A few of the previous outings can be seen below, were I more IT savvy then maybe there would be a section of this site dedicated to the group...the same could be said of the May trips group.

The venue and co-ordination was chosen and orchestrated by Irish. Kitchen W8 is a great spot and one I have always enjoyed - if you've not been you must go. The brief was a simple one "bring a great bottle or two and NO meaningless volume". I tell you what, it worked as you'll see. But first the menu which was faultless - pics at bottom of this post.

Warm Baked Celeriac, Autumn Truffle,
Roast Chicken Skin and Hazelnuts
Risotto of Cepes with Aged Parmesan
Fillet of Turbot, Autumn Roots, Iberico Lardo,
Smoked Potato and Red Wine
Haunch of Venison, Bulgur Wheat, Swiss Chard,
Creamed Chanterelles, Liver and Onions

So let's start at the beginning, Halifax (aka Nobby) is almost always in charge of the Champagne which is fine given he has good stocks and loves it BUT has the one downside of being served first, Nobby is almost always late! Only 15 minutes this time so having discussed the state of the world over a glass of water and got the first of Ron's dodgy jokes out the way we were on. 

North-South divide...
There was an element of "blindness" to almost all the wines. Louis Roederer 1988 from magnum was just splendid. We were on the money vintage wise having been in the 1988 to 1990 range but we were almost all leaning towards a Blanc de Blancs - Taittinger and Salon both being put forward. It was lemony with a little biscuitiness in the mix, no nuts, brioche and toast, great energy, delicious now, will age well but I can't imagine liking it more than right now! The magnum size had a positive effect without doubt. We were off and running in style

With one notable exception we went wine by wine rather than pairs which meant we could concentrate on getting things properly wrong. Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru 2002 from Lafon was up next and bang on the money. A little reduction, some petrol, good generosity, very good, focused but proper and perfect from now on, a taut density and easily of Grand Cru quality.
I decided to go early and get it wrong next, I said Grand Cru Chablis and from the mid-late 90s. I was, kind of, wrong for the right reasons but mainly because the wine was quite cool. It was a cracking bottle of Montrachet Grand Cru 2001 from Sauzet. Once up to temperature it was marmalade, tangerines, rich, with good minerality underneath and opulence (essential in Montrachet I'd say). Lanolin, iodine and full, those that kept a little in their glass just kept getting more and more...lovely.
What came next was the - ludicrously generous - focal point, even in this company. First we had Hermitage La Chapelle 1990 then Hermitage La Chapelle 1978, both these bottles and the next one having come from the estate in original individual wooden cases last year. The 1990 was stinkingly rich on the nose, full, I noted that you could smell the viscosity, whether that is possible or not, I know what I mean, rich bacon fat, so sweet big and bold but balanced and digestible, almost raisined, some soy and aniseed. A brute but a dam good one, mightily good. The 1978 was by contrast all together gentler with a more tender sweet maturity, leaves, forest floor, strawberry leaf and then tea and wood smoke, a delight. A really balanced wine, Burgundian if poised.
The Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 that followed managed to combine all the best bits of both these wines. It was perfect to have then in this order. Having a bottle of this in perfect shape is a dream come true. I was laughed down for suggesting that there was a time or mood when I would pick the 1978 over the 1961. I maintain there is, the 1961 has everything you could want. I just loved the tenderness of the 1978 as well. Looking back to the 1990 I see this as having the structure and DNA of the 1961 rather than the 1978, it has that incredibly rich sweetness. My note for the 1961 was easy to write; "Pine, resinous, oils, savage, a brut, wild, uber-concentrated degraded berry fruit, bovril and sweetness...super...wild, hickory smoke, grip...stunning...complete, Indian spices now, ferrous...magnificent!"
Where on earth do you go from that? Well one thing is for sure, you get the hell out of the Rhone...Burgundy it was and more specifically Clos Saint-Denis Grand Cru 2000, Dujac from magnum. I really enjoyed this and was pleased it was a magnum as it just begged to be drunk. Degraded sweet and feminine. Waxy with palma violets, and some tangerines rind. We were pretty rubbish trying to get this blind as we were in the 1980s mainly, it had an open knit maturity, attractively so.
Another Burgundy mag next, any Rousseau wine is a treat and in magnum even more so -  Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 1988 was everything you would want and expect. So good in fact that it blew a fuse in the restaurant. This was tightly coiled with red fruit power, poised and persistent and with stunning depth. None of the tougher, acidic nature you can get with 1988. Just a super super wine - a treat. A little bit more about Clos Saint.Jacques

As cheese was ordered we went back to white and a crackingly interesting pair of whites. Firstly, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 1991 from Neillon, then the very same wine from the following year - Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 1992Neillon. The 1991 has absolutely no right to be this good, none at all. Oyster-shell and a tinge of green serious focus, spicy with a little nuttiness, some stemginger and a little lanolin, the definition of an over-performer. The 1992 was altogether richer and more decadent, a little reduced, unctuous and superb, spot on with the cheese, toffee apples and hedonistic maturity.

Just the perfect time now for a sugar lift. So where better than Yquem and the 1953 specifically. I've had very few 1953s but those I have had have usually been in verticals courtesy of Jordi. This had an expressive and fully mature nose, creme brulee with a slightly burnt topping. There is a rancio sweetness to this, lifted like PX sherry but then with a drier more intense middle, slightly burning caramel.
The next wine - Mehringer Blattenberg 1989er Trockenbeerenauslese from the wonderfully named Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gynasium - was an amazingly good contrast. So incredibly zippy and energetic, intense yet light as a feather, an amazing liquid. Lemon and even line freshness...superb. 

Then the final bottle, fittingly a birth year wine for Irish - Taylor 1966 - which had been double decanted that morning. Marzipan and full raisined sweetness but a nice medium weight, it just got better and better with air...we had the predictable "why don't we drink more Port" conversation. With that and the sound of a hoover doing its business we managed to depart before anyone arrived for diner!
Another splendid few hours spent with great bottles and great people...long may it continue! It is exactly what wine shouldbe about. Here's to the next 50 Irish!
A wave to Chewy and Newcastle!!

Food pics as promised!
Warm Baked Celeriac, Autumn Truffle, 
Roast Chicken Skin and Hazelnuts
Risotto of Cepes with Aged Parmesan

Fillet of Turbot, Autumn Roots, Iberico Lardo, 
Smoked Potato and Red Wine

Haunch of Venison, Bulgur Wheat, Swiss Chard,
Creamed Chanterelles, Liver and Onions

Monday 7 November 2016

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 2014s - from bottle

Having tasted at Bonneau du Martray and then Domaine Leflaive it was time to head north to Vosne-Romanee and to taste the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 2014s from bottle with Aubert de Villaine. This was his first tasting from bottle. For good measure and as a reference please see my notes from the bottle tastings of 2012s and 2013s (both these tastings were in the February following - so just over 3 months later).
Corton - Good deep nose with red and black fruit that is then followed by herbs and Potpourri. There is real purity here, none of the hardness that you can sometimes associate with Corton. On the palate there is a beautiful touch of sweetness but also some nervous energy and some sappiness. All really rather fine, driven with some stemminess, delicious. Good, good wine, not massively Corton in nature but delicious. 17.5-18.5

Echezeaux - Orange rind and a dash of cloves, quite herbal on the nose. Both airy and complete, lifted. There is a little saline and the wine gets deeper and  more intense with every swirl. The palate has a lovely attack, sweet and then with that driven element. More richness and texture than the Corton. This is a larger Echezeaux than usual, more zip but also more weight, splendid...loved this. So complete. 18-18.5

Grands Echezeaux - A little deeper in colour than the Echezeaux. More spice and a darker fruit type, more introvert, more sinister than the Echezeaux. The nose is then almost the opposite, less deep, dark more nervous and with lift. There is a substantial weight in energy here, also quite a bit of tannin. This is a structured Grands Echezzeaux and should the mid-palate flesh out then a potentially special wine. 17.5-18.5 (the former score is the palate the later the nose - one to follow)

Romanee-Saint-Vivant - A shade deeper again but the differences are genuinely minute. A nose of real intensity but the orange rind character of Echezeaux is there. So pretty, so airy, a very complete nose. A very gentle but proper palate, a sweet attack and then drive. The palate matches the nose perfectly, very complete, elegant but with a certain graceful power, herbal oranges as part of the fruit. There is a certain richness that adds a dimension to this. My note finishes "exactly as it should be". 18-18.5+

Richebourg - Possibly a shade lighter than RSV for a change. A certain brooding nature to this, a little less complex than the Vivant on the nose, fruit a shade more candied, good focus but less dimensions. The palate has a certain stout power, darker fruit, masses of good tannins. Classy, serious, broader all round. Re-visiting the nose it is now more complex, there is almost indefinite ageing potential here. Not the grace of  Echezeaux or RSV but the spice and power is there. Classical Richebourg fans (I tend to be more an RSV man) will be very pleased. Scoring here was difficult  17.5- 19

La Tache - Very complex, a herbal edge, a very together wine, much harder to describe than the others for me. More red than black fruit. Saline comes in, a seriously enticing nose. I was surprised when we discussed the wines after (we tasted in silence) that the others found La Tache more muted, I didn't. The palate has lovely depth and sweetness, good weight too. There is a great element of persistent, elegant power here. The power comes from the layers rather than the weight for weights sake. Returning to the nose my note finishes with simply "that nose!!". 19

Romanee-Conti - At least the colour of La Tache (for a change). Deep nose, more reserved, more power than usual for me. Monumental depth and complexity. More dark fruit than red. Such sucrosity to the palate, intensely primary and redder, driven, spice and a definite herbal edge. Tight, latent, powerful for Romanee-Conti, super-expansive palate. A brilliantly confusing wine, like nailing jelly to a wall when it comes to describing it. "Rather wonderful" is a useless, if moderately accurate, description. 19-19.5

Montrachet - Pale yet golden colour. Brine and pure saline elements but with pure golden fruit. The definition of delicious. Shortbread and drive, energy. The perfect blend of power, richness and classicism. So, so, so generous yet totally true to young Grand Cru Burgundy. So full but so driven. My note here finishes with "I do not know in what way this could be better!" When I said this to Aubert he, smiled and said yes "we are very happy". Quite simply the greatest young white wine I have had. 19.5-20

It had been a great and always re-assuring tasting, these are great wines but you feel that they are great rather than trying to be great. I have a feeling that people have underestimated the 2014 reds just as they may do the same with the white 2015s.

And with this we were off to Dijon and train back to London.
The main man!

Friday 4 November 2016

Domaine Leflaive 2015s...oh and a bit on my "warmer vintage theory"

So having left Bonneau du Martray we headed south to meet up with Brice and the team at Domaine Leflaive. We discussed the vintage and then straight into the tasting.
Brice de la Morandiere
Brice drew some parallels to the 2010s and some elements of 2014 in so far as there was rapid maturity in June and July. As far as harvest goes it was their second earliest start (Friday 28th August) on record at the Domaine. You'd think that the earliest one was 2003, I did, but in fact it was 2011 with 2003 in the bronze medal spot.

Bourgogne Blanc 2015 - Some yellow gold, fresh, generous, not overly lean...nice easy to enjoy, good wine. A dash of spice in there...lots of fruit too, decent acidity giving a nice bit of precision. 16.5 - 17.5 out of 20

Puligny-Montrachet 2015 - A glint of green in the colour, nice sweet attack then a grip of acidity, quite bold. There is a richness and weight to this, a shade heavier than the Bourgogne Blanc. Some lemon sherbet, impressive. 17 - 17.5 out of 20

Meursault 1er Cru Sous le Dos d'Ane 2015 - More gold to the colour, more restrained on the nose. Lovely wine, saline in the mix. Yellow fruits but properly subdued, balanced. Lemon, good spice on the palate, a little prickle of energy. Moreish texture with almost a little tannin. The best Meursault yet from this site and I have loved many of them. 18 out of 20

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon 2015 - Hints of green again a little like the Puligny Villages. This is tasting the youngest of these, a month behind in evolution, a prickle of gas. A few good nuts and greener fruits, nice depth, spicier and serious. 17.5-18 out of 20 

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres 2015 - Less colour here. Steelier...reminds me of Grand Cru Chablis, very mineral. Good weight of sweeter fruit on the palate. Good wine this, long and moreish. 18-18+ out of 20

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Combettes 2015 - Limes on the nose and more to show that Folatieres at first, Again good weight and volume, great acidity. Long and Grand Cru like on the palate, some green spice, nice nice wine this. Lovely precision. Rich but in no way clumsy. 18+ out of 20

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles 2015 - Pure light colour, behind Combettes in maturity to my mind. Primary and very focused. Very tight and mineral, a little cheesecloth, fruit character is more lean, less generous. More serious, more for the longer term. Lovely acidity, lively but with real balance, fruit is more on the green/white spectrum than yellow/gold. Strict and very proper. 18-18.5 out of 20

Bienvenues-Batard-Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 - Pure, Islay nose of brine and saline, very very poised and intense. Delicious palate, there is lively acidity but a sweet fruited nose and delightful richness, all in check and perfectly proportioned. A tiny dash of reduction then a log texture finishes, delicious and serious...pretty special. 18.5 out of 20

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 - An immediately broader nose, weightier palate. More sun, more gourmand, more flattering. Delicious palate very rich, broader shoulders. Good spice and to a degree more of the character I expected in 2015. This is easy to "get" and easy to like. 18 out of 20

Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 - There is, to me, a line from this to Pucelles straight away. Taut, poised. Delicious weight to the palate. There is an understated confidence to it, even a slight smugness. Some brine but a lovely sweetness on the palate. Waxy and very long. My note ends "splendid". 19 out of 20
Domaine Leflaive Holdings
My warmer vintage theory - this isn't so much a theory as a series of observations from a few tastings. I have seen in more recent warm vintages, often the very same vintages that tend to get a better write-up for reds than whites (so 2003, 2005, 2009 and potentially 2015) that actually, by picking early, the great white Domaines can do just as well if not better than in the more classical years. This was born out to a degree in both of these tastings Roulot a good look and Burgundy pairs 2009 & 2010. I can hear the cynics saying... "well you would say that as a merchant about to sell exactly that sort of vintage" but I also happen to think it is true.

Back to Leflaive for a moment and before we headed into Beaune for a very speedy lunch we had a look at the developments in storage they are making and along the way we were shown the two barrels that are talked about in this story. The two, slightly differently sized, barrels will be raised at Domaine Leflaive. What will happen to the wine is not yet decided.