Thursday, 29 September 2011

Monprivato 1970-1990...

Wednesday night was Monprivato night at the Maltings Cafe run by Sam Harris of Zucca fame. The tasting was attended by a familiar collection of merchants & brokers and hosted/organised by Eric “Barolo Guru” Sabourin. For me as a Barolo fan this has been looming large in the diary for a fair while. My knowledge of Monprivato being fairly limited to recent bottles of 1986, 2003 & 2006. I guess what I wanted to know was how good is the vineyard and is it in my opinion, when mature, a first growth/Grand Cru?

The format was 6 pairs of wines with just some bread to keep the palate going. I scored out of 20 which I have put below, I found scoring them tricky because you have to be aware that amongst wines of this age some bottles will show differently from others. There was one curve ball thrown in but a very interesting and totally logical one.

So Monprivato, the info is essentially here - but it is interesting to note that it took from 1967 to 1970 for Mauro Mascarello to convince his father that a single vineyard wine was a good idea, they had always blended this in with other vineyard holdings. This tasting was of wines from between 1970 & 1990 so was all “like for like” from 1993 there has been a wine - CA' d' MORISSIO – made from a part of the vineyard in some vintages but this is not relevant here.

Before staring we had some Ayala NV sans dosage, decent and Moreish. So the tasting…oldest to youngest, all the wines had been double decanted and had time (2hr or so to settle).

1970 Rich strong firm colour, surprisingly so, a savoury bacon edge to the nose but also fruit and freshness. Structure good and masculine too, fruit more black than red. Impressive, will keep but I don’t think it’ll change or evolve much more as the structure and fruit seem locked in the same balance. Good start (18).
1976 Lighter, browner, slightly “bricky” colour. Bovril and frazzles on the nose, fully mature and a nice example of aged Nebbiolo but a bit out of its league here (15-16).

1978 Dense colour with a little brown. Deep and darkly rich nose. Reminded me of struck matches and mushrooms. Brooding and masculine in style, has grunt to it. Very good (18+).
1979 Fascinating to have this next to the 1978. Lighter more feminine, fragrant and very good. Like Volnay next to Chambertin. Redder fruit, impressive especially for the vintage (17).

1982 Mid colour with a touch of everything about it. This was deeply impressive. Red fruit and gorgeous balance, everything in check, lively acidity, great wine (19).
1984 An awful vintage but this was a more than decent wine. A bit of soy and Worcester sauce. I put “no faults but no charm”, probably one of the best 1984’s I’ve had from anywhere! (16.5).

1985 The curve ball – this was Monprivato 1985 from Brovia – they sold their tiny (less than an acre) plot to Mascarello in 1991 so 1990 was their last vintage. This had a different texture/profile to the Mascarello’s which is no problem (I am a big Brovia fan). It had a dash of Christmas cake and spice with a finish that reminded me of Palo Cortado (17.75)
1985 The “real” Monprivato 1985, a lighter redder colour, a salty tangy to the wine that I liked. Like the 1982 in profile and made you want the 1982 again, good if rougher round the edges than the ‘82 (18).

1986 A spicy soy-ish edge to the nose, green pepper and more spice too. “Feminine but butch” someone said and I get the idea. My note here doesn’t do it justice, very good (18.5).
1988 I have written “dash of ketchup” which is strange, this was more than decent but not in the top few wines (17.25).

1989 This final pair was very good as you’d expect. I got a lovely balanced nose but with a definite crème brulee element to it. Vibrant and fresh it gave a slightly immortal feeling, very hi-toned, a star (19.25).
1990 A more evolved nose, still complex, good fruit but it was the palate that this wine took off, very impressive and expressive, sweetness and depth (18.5).

As an aside there was also a bottle 1971 that Eric felt was not good enough to show, it was not perfect but it was interesting, closewst to the 1970/78 in style, so a more masculine wine.

So what of the Monprivato vineyard? As far as I am concerned it is definitely a Grand Cru, the quality was very high and there is a real sense of place to the wines…it was deeply impressive.

After the tasting we had a great selection of food that Sam had created, I ate far too much to quickly but then that’s just my greed. We had a double mag of Fontalloro 1997 to accompany it, this was delicious, balanced, vibrant but mellowed from the bit of age…a good choice.

Bravo all round Eric & Sam!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cigars and Lunch

Yesterday was a busy but good day...after clearing the decks in the office I headed over to the West End to meet up with Nick Hammond, a cigar journalist and blogger amongst many other things, for a discussion about wine and cigars and what we could do togther...a few good ideas for articles and tastings popped up and more will follow. After that coffee I still had 20mins before needing to head off to lunch so accompanied nick to Sauters of Mount Street (a great bunch of people with a website well worth viewing if cigars are your thing). The trip there was made all the better by the fact that Berta Corzo was there rolling cigars on the spot. Nick fired one up but as I had a lunch to follow I have mine for the next available smoking slot. A Robusto in size from a blend (the tobacco was flown in for Berta's arrival) similar to Cohiba but a little richer in flavour and aroma. I can't wait to smoke it, it smells awesome and looks immaculate.

Having left Nick herfing away I jumped on the jubilee line to London Bridge and walked to Zucca, my favourite restaurant (see Decanters October issue for glowing review) to have lunch with a customer. The food was great as ever, if you go make sure you order at least 2 starters a head and share, it is the only way to do it. The wines were St.Peray 2009 from Michel Tardieu (Tardieu-Laurent) a blend of 50:50 Marsanne:Roussane, it has great fruit, a balanced nod to oak and good acidity. I am not famed for my love of Rhone whites but that is changing and the reason is wines like these (I still can't "do" Viognier though). The red was obvioulsy Barolo, one I have not had before - Capellano Gabutti 1996 - at a lovely stage now, just opening up, good fruit, great balance and a wiff of healthy decay...great stuff. I was delighted when my friend said he couldn't eat cheese as Zucca's tarts (and other puddings) are great! Didn't need much supper after all this...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Solaia @ Massimo's thanks to "Sussex"

Sussex (referred to in other posts) decided very generously - he supplied almost all the wines with a couple of bottles from the UK agents - that a Solaia Verticle at Massimos (pictured below) was a good idea. You won't find me disagreeing with that. For several reasons; I've very little experience of the wine, that is a fair sized omission for an Italian-wine-ophile, several of the people going are good buddies and thirdly I've not been to Massimo's before despite several people saying I should.

The evening started, as is only sensible!!, with a Jero of Krug Grand Cuvee. But not just any Jero, this one was signed by Olivier Krug. It was still quite taut very good for getting the hunger going but will still improve, youthful but very Krug. This was served with a selection of Mixed Crudo, all delicious. We then had the first of two Italian whites an oaked but balanced and good 2009 Miani Banel Sauvignon Blanc, it had good dose of freshness but also a waxy element. The second white was, richer but not with the desired freshness, a 2008 Jermann IGT Were Dreams. Interesting but no more than that. The two whites were served with Lobster with cherry tomato salad Crispy scallops with lentils and delicious Octopus.

We then moved on to Pasta with Ragu and the first flight of Solaia’s – 1990, 1997 & 2004 – The 1990 was a little funky, sweaty and a little bricky a good bit of proper Italian decay but then actually went t Bovril aromas a little too quickly. It may well have been great straight out the bottle but the more air it saw the more it lost any fruit. The 1997 was one of the two wines on the night that was a little closed and angular but that did improve in glass (the 1996 being the other), I liked this without there being any major wow factor. The 2004 (from magnum) was a very proper wine, quite decadent and lush but also tightly structured, a bit of green pepper, very Cabernet…impressive

With the delicious secondi Piatti - Rack of Lamb (see right) with spicy fregola, chickpeas and passion fruit sauce – we then had the 1994 & 1996 – the 1994 was the most pleasant surprise of the evening and apparently is a wine Piero Antinori often uses when showing off the estate. It had superb balance, was really moreish, complex and at a lovely stage. The 1996 was, as mentioned above, a little more taut but it did over time give more aroma away, it was the one wine that really needed the decanting.

The last trio was 1978, 1982 & 1985 with cheese. The 1978 was the one wine of the night that had elements of tertiary character, it had a more Burgundian feel (relatively speaking), very balanced and elegant. The 1982 was disappointing, a slightly strange confected nose of almost marshmallowiness and then a dried out finish, this is a little too negative but against the 78 and 85 this was the lesser wine. The 1985 was interesting as there were two bottles but one very much better that the other, luckily I had the better one and it was lovely it had a weird note of almost toffee without being sweet, good length and very slick, not quite the balance of the 1978 but very good.

The overall feeling in the room was that the 1978 was the pick and the 2004 had great potential. I love the 1994 for its balance and would love to try the 1985 again. My overall feeling on Solaia from this one tasting (that is not enough for a definite view) is that it is a very good wine but not necessarily a great one.

I haven’t majored on the food or venue but both were excellent, the private room comes highly recommended as the cooking is all done in there against you.

Thanks again to “sussex”

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Some days you just have to...

There are some days when the wine trade is like any other trade, spreadsheets and problems but I'm lucky and most days have things to really look forward to. That was definitely the case last monday. I've been looking forward to a dinner in November with Katharina Prum @ Nobu but when the chance to go with Alison (Buyer) and taste the menu with a couple of Prums - Kabinett 2007 & Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2009 - I amazingly managed to clear my diary!

En route I managed to drop in on Sautters of Mount Street to say hello. This all came about after a bit of bantering on Twitter. I picked up a Bolivar Petit Belicoso LE 2009 and a Flor de Cano Short Robusto. Been wanting to try the former for a while and the later again - even if it is a stupidly small smoke.

So on to lunch, we had 6 courses to go through and had chosen the two wines above as they meant we could cover all bases of sweetness. The dinner in November will feature 9 wines - an aperitif and 4 pairs. The six courses were:

Seabass Tiradito - in essence a carpaccio with lemon and seas salt and some coriander, lots of flavours, I loved it but was worried about it with the wines, it was even better with the wines, a great start.
Lobster salad with spicy lemon dressing - a few mushrooms thrown in too, the salad was spot on, the muchrooms had a little warmth and the lobster was chilled, worked very well and was good with either wine, very good.
Rock shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce - any one who finds Tempura stodgy or heavy needs to try this imply delicious, dangerously moreish.
Black cod with miso (soaked 72 hrs) - An amazing dish which is very rich but also fresh, the soaking makes the sweetness all encompassing but not OTT, went very well with the sweeter style (Auslese). You then have a good chunk of a specific ginger root that cleans the palate.
Beef Kushiyaki - Kushiyaki basically means skewer, this was delicious and went well with either style of Prum.
Assorted Sushi - I thought this would be strange timing but the thinking is that it cleans the palate and I don't now disagree. I loved it but then I love sushi.

A wonderful monday lunch!!