Sunday, 27 March 2011

Domaine Leflaive at The Greenhouse

Last thursday we were delighted to have Anne-Claude Leflaive over for a wonderful dinner at The Greenhouse (I will load photos when I can). We started with the delicious Bourgogne Blanc 2005 as an aperitif. The wine was just starting to open up and worked well, some balanced richness starting to emerge, no rush at all but if you have a case it is well worth trying a bottle. The plot for the Bourgogne Blanc is very close to the Domaine. Anne Claude later described it as a "wine of energy".

Following an Amuse bouche of crab we were onto Meursault 1er Cru Sous Le Dos d'Ane 2007 and Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 1er Cru 2000. Adam introduced Anne Claude who spoke with real energy and passion swell as lots of humour. She recalled how C&B were the Domaines first customer way back in the 1960's and that, charmingly, there has never been a contract always a "Gentleman's/womans(!) agreement". Of the pair of wines Anne-Claude explained that back in 1995 the "Sous Le Dos d'Ane" vineyard was replanted from Pinot Noir to Chardonnay as she had realised that the soil was just so much more like the Meursault Les Perriers soil next door than the Blagny 1er Cru La Piece Sous Le Bois "Pinot" soil (where as an aside Matrot makes very good Pinot) also next door - it was just made for Chardonnay. So from 2000 a Meursault was produced, this Meusault, 2007, was taut and highly strung having a bright future, it is somewhere between Puligny and Meursault in style to my mind. The Folatieres 2000 was one of the happiest surprises of the night for me as it has no rights to be as good as it was, 2000 being a difficult vintage in burgundy but particularly for the whites. I found the Folatieres really balanced a little enjoyable opulence too, spot on. Interestingly Anne-Claude said Folatieres was a very important vineyard for Puligny as a commune as it is a big 1er Cru but also has many growers so fills the role of standard bearer to a degree. The Meursault and Folatieres were served with diver caught Scottish scallops, sauteed wild mushrooms, cep espuma and cumbawa lime, it was a great combination.

The final two wines from the Domaine were then served; the two wines were both Grand Crus separated by 1 meter - Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet 2006 and Bâtard-Montrachet 1996 they were accompanied by roasted farmhouse veal from Aubrac, cime di rapa cabbage, fondant celeriac and mousseline. It was interesting to taste these tow wines with an age gap of 10 years. Bienvenues was described by Anne Claude as "the fight of her life" because on taking over the Domaine in 1990 it was not in good shape (despite only being the same age as Anne Claude) it should have been hitting its strides but instead it was in bad health so Anne Claude decided to go Biodynamic on that vineyard (the Domaine, as of 1998, is well documented as being fully Bio dynamic) and ultimately it worked.. patience and good vineyard work winning out. I found the Bienvenues structured and youthful, again balanced and with great texture but to my mind there is more to come (some in the room "preferred" it to the Batard but not me) I would be looking again in 2 years. As an aside the Bienvenues 1999 from Anne-Claude was my white wine of the year last year! So on to the 1996, as we had done at the master class with Anne Claude a couple of years ago when we showed the (wonderful) Chevalier, we were keen to show this vintage as it is a highly controversial one. There were those (winemakers and domaines in Burgundy) in 1996 who were scared of the acidity (in the wines) and de-acidified their wines, Domaine Leflaive did not and the Batard showed that this was completely correct, amazingly at 15 years of age it was just starting to hit it's stride. From the very first pour it opened out and was one of those wines that I enjoyed far too much to bother making notes about (even briefly) had I written anything it would have been "complete", if I had a case (I don't!) I would be fascinated to follow this wine by having a bottle a year from now and I would decant it as it just gets better. I have always found the Domaine's wines all repay decanting.

There was a wonderful story that Anne Claude told about the 1996's. In the winery Anne-Claude and team were getting very nervous as the fermentation just would not start, on the monday of one week it was suggested that yeast would have to be added on the saturday if nothing had started of it's own accord. Anne-Claude's face at this stage suggest this might not even have been an option but I suppose it would have to have been eventually. Anyhow, visiting on the friday (nothing had started on the fermentation front!!) was the Society of Tastevin of Tahiti and out came the suggestion of a little song to encourage things, so out came the Yukelele (seriously!) and everyone was singing away, the visit ended and guess what? The next morning, THE saturday, Anne-Claude gets an early call - the fermentations had started bubbling away!! The 1996's will forever be the "Yukelele" vintage at C&B from now on.

The Domaine, Anne Claude and the wines, were on great form for the whole evening it will remain a memorable event!

We did have one more wine - Lodovico 2007 from Tenuta di Biserno in Tuscany - with mushroom Gouèere as a way of balancing the end of the meal, it showed very can read more about that wine on............(link to blog entry). A wonderful evening ended with a palate cleansing desert of Blood orange sorbet with Cointreau mousse.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Trade Lunch...a nice way to spend a friday pm..

Many thanks to Oliver, Tom and Mark of Farr vintners for a great friday lunch time/afternoon/ evening (always the way these things tend to end up). Trade lunches used to happen a lot more often but as the trade had become busier and busier it understandably happens so much less. It was great fun to catch up with people who you speak to so often or more likely email but might not see that regularly.

I was also excited to be eating at Zafferano, a restaurant I have always heard a lot about but hadn't ever been too. Stupidly I left the menu behind but will try to recall most of the wines

Dom Perignon 1996 - as impressive as ever, very fine bubbles, at a lovely stage now, really starting to mellow, a super glass of champagne and given how much they make the quality is staggering.

Moving downstairs for lunch we then had a Jeroboam of Batard Montrachet 2002 from Joel-Noel Gagnard, not a producer I have that much experience of. I thought it was on good form, at or approaching its peak. It was served at a lovely temperature and initially lent towards the mineral Puligny style despite the developed colour but as it warmed up over the next 1-2hours it really opened out and became more Meursaultesque (a good sign in my book) wit bacon fat and richness coming more to the fore, a very impressive wine I thought..great drinking. Went well with the asparagus and seafood medley.

We were then on to the first pair of blind reds, then was one more blind red after the two pairs. The two wines were of very contrasting styles although you could say they were both Cabernet Blends. A bit of added spice was brought out when Tom said that there was a 20 point difference in uncle Bobs score the first wine getting 77. The first was a touch over ripe may be but was full of fruit, if a little one dimensional but 77 points? I think not. This wine turn out to be Ridge Montebello 1988 - amazing fresh fruit for 23 years old, it had not got more complex but was all still there. The second wine was far more "complete" and universally thought to be Bordeaux, there was a minerality and gravelness about it that made me relatively confident it was from graves, having shouted out I was pleased to see this was true so I wisely shut up and quit while ahead. It turned out to be La Mission Haut Brion 1990, a very good wine...I was surprised it was 90 as it seem a little less lush that I would have expected but then it turned out I had had the more muted of the three bottle so that made sense. This was served with a Zafferano signature dish of Pappardelle with Pigs Cheeks - delicious and just my sort of thing.

Next up was the second pair - the common thread here being the vintage, as with the La Mission it was 1990. The first of the pair had an intensity of black currant fruit and an exotic, warm climate richness. I was fairly sure it was not Bordeaux and suggested Coonawarra or California...this proved correct but I didn't anticipate that it was another vintage of Ridge Montebello (1990 of course). I was impressed because the richness made me think that if it were Californian it would have to have been 91 or 94 (both considered better than 1990). Generally the end of the table I was at agreed that it wasn't the style of wine you would want everyday but that it was a delicious bottle for when you wanted something a little decdent. The second in the pair was much more Bordeaux but that was about as far as I was going to risk. My next door neighbour got it first time - it was Leoville Poyferre 1990. A seriously good bottle of wine, really complex and classical fruit, great balance and a beautiful time to drink it. Having had 1995 and 1996 Leoville Poyferre recently (both of which I thought were a bit so so) I was very impressed. They are widely accepted to be on top form again now and if the wines are like the 1990 I can well see why. Probably the good surprise highlight of the day. The full 4 wines lineup below. The later two with a great piece of beef worked really well.
So one more red...this was served from double magnum and was a great advert for just that size of bottle.
It showed really well, had a very grown up and complete texture and a touch of soy but at the same time plenty of fruit, the tannins were not pronounced but there and the colour was holding up well. It was confusing until the bottle size was revealed as putting a date on it seemed very hard. The big bottle allowed you to look a little further was Trotanoy 1970 (as I work for the agent of this wine I will state my bias!) a real revelation for me and having not had the wine before I was so pleasantly surprised, in no decline it was just beautiful, it was a drink in itself but with the cheese it worked very well. There was one wine we had to skip as it was not in god shape and sadly that was Brauneberger Juffer - Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkap 1983 from Fitz Haag..a real shame as on form it would have been brilliant. Not to worry next up was Banyuls 1950 from Pietri Geraud. I really enjoyed this. Fresh and rich but with balance and acidity, I can't think of anything except Madeira that wears its age so well. It was a dried fruit feast with plums, prunes and rasins, delicious. The Coffee and Guiness followed as we moved ot the pub, the rest is standard wine trade stuff...meant to have 1 quick pint 4 pints later I managed to drag myself away...a great afternoon and many thanks again to the generous hosts!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

12 Tuscan 88's....

My knowledge of Tuscan 1988’s is very limited so the tasting laid on last night was a brilliant chance to learn and assess the wines. Set up perfectly as ever by Mr Sabourin we started with a glass or two of Louis Roederer NV which I have to say was on great form. Then we were down to “work”. The tasting was organised into three sections – 1)Brunello’s, 2)Sangiovese based Super Tuscans and 3)Cabernet based Super Tuscans with each section having 2 pairs in it. This set up was stated at the beginning but the wines then served blind. All wine has been decanted out of the bottle and back in. Everyone scored out of 100 so I have done the same.

The Brunello’s
Cicacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Riserva
- Nice Brick red colour. Nose of bruised red fruits, great balance. Very good start. Drink now and over next couple of years. 91pts
Poggio Antico - Fuller darker colour than the Cicacci. A nose with some mushroom notes as the wine opened up. Quite masculine and a little four square. Good if a touch hollow. (Note: this was opened as a replacement for a corked bottle so had no “air time”) Drink now. 89+pts
Soldera Intesti - Corked. Everyone was gutted about this understandably.
Castello di Ama Vigna Apparita – Deep and impressive colour. Richly brooding red and black fruits. A lot of sweetness and ripeness. Quite international, impressive. Drink now-2019. 91+pts

Sangiovese based Super Tuscans
Fontalloro – Deep core to a brick red rim, rich maturity to a Bovril edge, balanced and despite a dash of dryness recovers to finish well. Drink now-2012. 92-93+
Tignanello – Nose similar to Fontalloro but showing a touch more age. Fruit a little battered and bruised but in a good way, plate a touch to simple (not as good as the 2001 tasted recently). Drink now-2012. 89pts
Pergole Torte (from mag) – Slightly cloudy appearance suggested not the greatest bottle, a touch too dry on the finish, not bad but those that know suggested not a true example. Drink up. 88pts
Flaccionello – Very Italian and slightly rustic nose, bruised fruit and a dash of highness, it is a bit tired but I like it. Drink up. 89-90pts

Cabernet based Super Tuscans
Sammarco, Castello di Rampolla – Quite youthful nose, decadent almost heady, savoury palate, good wine. Drink now-2015. 90pts
Sassicaia - Youthful and classy. Rich, possibly to rich and a little over exotic for my taste. Drink now-2018. 89-91pts
Solaia – Youthful dark colour. Rich, full, lovely nose. Good balance of red and black fruit. Only suggestion of age is on the nose. Drink now-2018. 91-92pts
Ornellaia – Dense and brooding, no rush to drink up at all. Very impressive but not quite as good as the Solaia. Drink now-2018. 91pts

Summary: A good vintage, as the scores suggest the wines were very consistent. The wines were all certainly drinking but many going strongly. One small note and possibly something that should be taken into account is that these are all very much food wines, especially in the case of the first two sections.