Sunday, 27 May 2012

Muller, Coche, Roulot, Goodwood and a Cigar

Last Thursday I made the short train journey down to Petersfield for lunch and racing with a legend of the wine trade (Bazdad), his wonderful and long serving wife Dot and fellow "fourwaller" Chas. Having been picked up it was off to my very kind hosts for lunch in his garden under some brilliant sun. It was a Seafood feast - Oysters, Crab and Lobster, all with salads and Dot's mayonnaise - and to go with these treats we had three mature white wines from three very special producers.
Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese 1997, Egon Müller - a great time to drink this, fresh but developing, I think it will be best from now and over the next five years. The 1997's are a little flashy sometimes and I see them as mid-range wines from the Mosel. This was very balanced, a lovely sweetness level (Kabinetts and Spatleses are my sort of thing!) that means it is very flexible, before or with food. Revisiting at the very end it was still terrific, with almost mint leaf freshness still there.
Meursault Les Rougeot 2001, J-F Coche-Dury - The greatest producer of White Burgundy in my book, others come close on occasion but never consistently. This had a dark colour (the premox pessimist brigade would have written it off) but it was all Meursault on the nose, smoked bacon fat and depth, not light but not heavy either, the palate was weighty and textured but the finish was lifted and had a citrus kick. I would say it was a little more evolved than you might expect from 2001 but it was good maturity if that makes sense.
Meursault Les Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 1999, G.Roulot - This was a fascinating contrast to the Coche as in many ways the wines appeared to be the wrong way round. You would have had this as younger. It was lovely in its finesse and poise, if I had to criticise (which I don't) it would be to say that it was a touch too lean, like it was picked a wee bit early. It was like a Meursault that wanted to be Puligny. This is picking holes though to be honest. having had the 2008 of this (see a couple of blogs ago) it is the style of the wine.
Gathering, just couldn't quite get it done
So having had a wonderful lunch we were picked up and headed, ten minutes down the road, to Goodwood. Now this is their May Festival, more three days in a row racing than a real festival but the weather was ready for their meeting in July/August i.e. Glorious. I had three bets on the way down as it is often easier and better that way but topped this up with one more on the course and another due to a tip on the 4.05 at Haydock from a reliable source (since supplied Franciscan, a winner at York yesterday). Sadly nothing quite worked out, several in the frame but no winners. "Gathering" was my main bet and he was given every chance under a good ride from William Buick but when the opening came and the race was there to be won he just couldn't see it through...oh well. Yair Hill of John Dunlop's went into the note book as a potential "next time out" winner after a good run for the seemingly out of form trainer, when the race was not won he seemed to be "looked after", we'll see.
One other treat during this cracking day was a cigar - Por Larranaga Robusto (Asia Pacific release 2007) - with a couple of glasses of the very nice, Veuve Clicquot 2002. This is a smoke I know quite well now, this was the last of the five I had, it is a great daytime Robusto, mellow and on the hay/straw side of the spectrum. The Veuve was lovely, quite high dosage I imagine but it gets away with it because that 02 richness is there. What a splendid day, nice to be out of the office in the week and always a joy to go racing, many many thanks to Bazdad and Dot.
I hope La Collina can bring home the bacon in the Irish 1000 Guineas this afternoon.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Until yesterday I couldn't remember ever having tried any wines from Gattinara. As a bit fan of all things Piedmont and Nebbiolo this was an unsatisfactory omission. The chance to taste the range of Nervi wines popped up yesterday, I was keen to grab it with both hands. All four wines are from the estate's own grapes and those grapes are 100% Nebbiolo. The ageing is all in very old (some too old) botti. Gattinara was known well for making long-lived expressions of Nebbiolo in the very northern part of Piedmont about an hour and a half north, north east of Barolo. The area in Gattinara under vine is now considerably smaller than it was as the cities of Turin and Milan proved a bit pull in terms of the workforce in the area. Nervi was set up by Luigi Nevi in 1906 and has one of the best reputations in the area. The wines I tasted yesterday  and re-tasted today are pictured above, they were tasted from right to left.

Spanna del Ginepri 2009 - Spanna is the local name of Nebbiolo in Gattinara. This is the "entry level" wine of the estate. It has a sweet leathery spice to the nose, savoury but with balance, a great restaurant glugger to be slightly patronising. When tasted again today it had stood up well retaining the sweet bruised fruit.

Gattinara 2004 - The main wine of the estate and from the very good 2004 vintage, there is a savoury character but in a pretty way, quite delicate with as menthol lift, impressive. When re-tasted it was again holding up well, a tarry menthol character showing and encouragingly the freshness had been maintained

Molsino 2004 - Molsino is a single vineyard site in the shape of an amphitheatre the middle of which faces south, south west. It is not always made as it is sometimes de-classified "down" into the Gattinara. There is a saline character here (something I like in Nebbiolo) and at the same time a little more richness of texture and intensity.  The re-taste today revealed a more meaty almost stock-like character but still enough poise, very good.

Valferano 2005 - This is a very small site on a different iron-rich subsoil (Valferano means Valley of Iron). The style is more lifted and less dense although some of this could be the vintage and is very different from the other wines. Fleshier in texture. The second day tasting was most revealing here as the minerality came flying out, very hard to describe, marked terroir here.

I was impressed yesterday and remain so today.

Monday, 21 May 2012

White Burgundy 08's - 1er & Grand Crus

Last Thursday night I joined a group of six other wine merchants/traders for a tasting of 2008 White Burgundies followed by a cracking meal. The format was simple, everyone had to bring a 1er Cru and a Grand Cru from 2008. We went, loosely, from north to south and tasted in pairs. First up was Chablis.
Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux, Raveneau & Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses, Dauvissat. I really liked the Butteaux, rich, full, waxy and serious with good length on re-tasting later I might have been a little over enthusiastic (first drink syndrome) but either way it was very Raveneau and very enjoyable. The Les Preuses was, to me, more closed, more primary, green apple and a classical Chablis profile. The second pairing of Chablis were both from Les Clos - Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, Dauvissat & Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, Fevre. Of the two I was definitely in the Dauvissat camp. The Fevre was decent but had an edge of obvious oak that I am not mad on when it comes to Chablis, it was also a little more openly flattering than you necessarily want at this stage. The Dauvissat was excellent and the pick of the four Chablis for me. Spiced white fruit, lovely texture and unctuous on the palate but taut at the same time. It was now Corton time.
Corton Grand Cru, Chandon de Brialles & Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Bize - were the first pair and couldn't have been more different. The Corton Blanc was weird with a yeasty nose and an almost red fruit character, it may not have been clean but either way it just wasn't very good, as a Burgundy anyway. The Bize by contrast was very good, although not obviously Corton-Charlemagne in style to me. It had a smokey, bacon fat richness but also lots of fruit, a generous wine that I think will age well in the mid term. Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Henri Boillot & Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Bonneau du Martray - were next. The Boillot sadly was not right. Not corked just muted and lacking poise and tension, a shame as a few round the table and had it and enjoyed it. The Bonneau du Martray (watch out for bias) was very good with refined, focussed balance, not generous at the moment but all there with good length and a classical profile, one of the more long-haul wines of the night.

The next pairing was the one that I was most looking forward to as Chassagne is probably my weakest village in terms of Burgundian tasting experience. The two wines were Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Blanchots Dessus, Darviot & Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers, Niellon. I liked both but especially the Darviot which showed green apple acidity but was then more rounded in the mouth before having a nicely dry finish and good length, appreciable now but certainly with a long future ahead. The Nielon is from quite young vines and it slightly showed, there was a sweaty old skool edge to the nose which I liked and a citric profile but it lacked a bit of depth. Meursault was up next - Meursault, Boisson Vadot & Meursault Tessons, Roulot. The former is made by a chap who did viticulture with J-F Coche-Dury's son and has become, it is rumoured a great friend. You can see that there may well be some collaboration going on here. The wine was wonderfully rich with the almost perfect young Meursault nose, smokey, nutty, expressive but also with a lot of structure, you could wallow in it now but it will age well. The Roulot was good too but a little more clumsy and not as poised, it was a little savoury with a note of cinnamon, very decent.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Canet, J-M Boillot & Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Combettes Sauzet were the next two wines in what turned into a very disappointing flight of Puligny's. The Boillot was strange with sweaty socks on the nose, not totally gone but just not terribly good. The Sauzet was quite evolved and expressive, a little short, it struck me as possibly being very late harvested, it was quite tarty with a lemon curd character. The next pair promised to be a highlight but weren't, the Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Clavoillon, Leflaive was very corked and Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Folatieres, Leflaive was over-evolved and just not right, one to re-taste soon.

We had taken quite a while to get to this stage so it was decided that we would have the Grand Crus with food and what food it was, delicious lobster kicked us off with The Batard's- Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Gagnard Delagrange & Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Leflaive. These two impressed, the Gagnard Delagrange  was focussed but rich and the Leflaive whilst a little more evolved than I might expect was classically Batard in character with broad shoulders and a no nonsense character. From the richness of Batard it was now time for the Chevalier-Montrachet's. Having just had the Leflaive Batard it seemed sensible to kick on with the Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Leflaive. It was in rich opulent form, expressive but with more depth and refinement than the Batard, the richness was more than I expected.

By this time we were on to the biggest plate of razor clams with bacon that I have ever had, delicious. The next two Chevalier's were Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Sauzet & Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Niellon. For the former I have a good score and a note that says "refined, rich, classy element. Lemon edge, taut, composed." and of the later I wrote "a strange but not unpleasant note of cucumber (not my shout but a good one), elegant, nervy, very fine". So this was the tasting side of things over. Our very kind host then dug into the Eurocave and got out some older bottles but before discussing them, do I have a view on 2008 White Burgundies? I thought the acidity was whilst good not as high as I expected. I think this is a slightly awkward "inbetweeny" time to taste as the wines are neither very young nor nearing true maturity. It did make me think that it is a good vintage and one to follow but as ever with white Burgundy these days it is a vintage to be careful with. I found the actual tasting surprisingly hard, my vocab is not so good with whites as reds anyway but the wines are more easily judged in side your head than on paper. As with all wines it is best and easiest  to judge a wine by drinking a glass/bottle/magnum of it!

And so the older wines and what wines they were too. Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Pucelles 1999, Leflaive & Chablis 1er Cru Chapelot 1990, Raveneau the Pucelles was delightful, elegant, at a wonderful but still relatively youthful stage, lighter in colour than many of the wines tasted earlier. I have, as mentioned in earlier blogs, had a massive amount of joy with the Leflaive 1999's, the Bienvenues being my white wine of the year for last year, they seem to be aging brilliantly. The Chapelot was even more heavenly though with a wonderfully complex nose, honeyed waxy palate and a savoury bite to the finish...serious kit!! These two whites were served with the best Turbot I can remember having. There was to be one red wine Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Clos de la Bussiere 1999, G.Roumier, sadly I had to make a move after only half a glass but it struck me as a lovely, lovely wine, still in its youth but with a lovely combination of red and black fruit and that great balance of density and freshness. What an evening it had been, great fun, lots of interest and as ever lots of good chat, thanks to the host and well done to the chefs! 
The Razor Clams
The Turbot, stunning!
Job done!!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Enrico Santini, humble man, stunning wines...

Back in 1995 Enrico Santini decided to leave his career in retail and pursue his dream to grow and make wine. Having always lived in Bolgheri it was logical to set up there. After 3 years working with another producer he planted his own vines on his own land in 1998. The vineyards for red are planted roughly as 40% Cabernet, 30% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 9% Syrah and a tiny 1% Petit Verdot. There are three wines
Campo alla Casa - Fresh white, lovely young but even better with 12-18months (60% Vermentino & 40% Sauvignon Blanc). This is the field "campo" of the house "casa", i.e. from land around the house.
Poggio al Moro - Main (in volume) red from the above varieties.
Montepergoli - The flagship, not always made.
I was lucky enough to host a Lunch with Enrico (yes at Zucca!!). We tasted/drank:
Campo alla Casa 2010 - Fresh with a lovely textured edge coming in, richness arrived as the wine warmed up in glass, lemon and lime but with a waxy texture...nice.
Poggio al Moro 2009 - I have this wine quite often, it is luscious, rich but with black fruit freshness, very approachable due to the ripeness, a seriously enjoyable glass of wine, a drinker at home, often.
Montepergoli 2006 - Along with the above the last of the current releases, this is rich and dark but with an inviting structure, best in 3-4 years but enjoyable decanted now.
Montepergoli 2000 - Fresh, red fruited and juicy, amazing for a very first wine, lovely now.
Montepergoli 2001The 2001 is a more savoury, gamey and ultimately serious wine with a good structure still showing. If this (and the 2000) is how the two first vintages have come along then the estate is on the right track.
Enrico is not after world acclaim or even critical acclaim he just wants a good price for his very good wines and to be able to leave a lasting legacy for his family, two boys and two girls!!
I certainly enjoy helping put by buying and selling these wines.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Barolo-fest at Zucca

On Wednesday this week I was delighted to join eight other wine merchants/traders/friends and Sam Harris, restaurateur and fellow Piedmont fan in the private room at Sam's Zucca Restaurant in Bernmondsey Street. I can't take any credit for organising this at all. Although comments from others that I "live" in Zucca are only a slight exaggeration. The theme was initially set as Barolo but it was loosened up a bit which was a good thing.

To kick things off we had a couple of bottles of Franciacorta from Ca del Bosco I had never had it before and very much enjoyed it, a creamy lemon flavour with a rich texture was the over-riding impression. As we then sat down to Artichoke Fritti we had a cracking magnum of Clos de Goisses 1992, Philiponnat it was taut but generous at the same time, nicely evolved but still approaching its peak I would say, the best 1992 Champagne I have had. We started the three antipasti with a delicious Tuna Carpaccio with small bits of chilli with another magnum, this time Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2005, Dauvissatembarrassingly this is the first Dauvissat I have ever had, it was very impressive, at a cracking stage in its development, as with great Chablis it is a wine of minerality and texture more than fruit, really great drinking, could have done a bottle myself no probs. Scrambled Egg, white crab & panagratto was up next and this dish was one of the very best of a great bunch, the textures from the crab and panagratto worked superbly with the eggs (from Italy), one of the gathering wants to have it for breakfast every day from now on!! On the wine front we were now onto a pair of Tuscans - Brunello di Montalcino 1985, Biondi Santi & Sassicaia 1996 with San Daniele with Chicken liver and Crostini - The Brunello was interesting and very Sangiovese but slightly on the way down, balanced and fine but no more. The Sassicaia was one I had not had before, I know the 1995 (quite light) and the 1998 (great stuff) quite well. This 1996 was still primary, a young Cabernet nose, a good mellowing structure and medium in weight, I really enjoyed it and if I had some I would wait another 3-4 years, delicious though it is now.

Of the next nine reds, eight were Nebbiolo, always a good thing in my book. First up a pair of 1971's - Barolo Rocche 1971, ViettiBarolo 1971, Giacomo  Conterno with a stunning Red Cow Pamesan Risotto (god I hope this makes it onto the regular menu). The Vietti was good for two reasons, firstly whilst fully mature it was balanced, complex and showed that before the oak-fest that hit Vietti in the 1990's there was a more traditional edge to the wines. Secondly because this very wine had been the only corked bottle in a tasting of 1971's a few year ago The Conterno was more youthful by comparison, good too but may be not the most perfect bottle, delicious over all but the palate out performed the nose. The next two bottles were short of the same wine 40 years apart and were my contribution, the first being a gift from a friend, they were Barolo 1967, Giacomo ConternoBarolo Cascina Francia 2007, Giacomo Conterno, the reason I say sort of is that the estate bought the Cascina Francia vineyard in 1974 so the 1967 will have been from fruit sourced around Serralunga. Both were served with Lamb Agnoloti and broad beans a fresh dish with beautiful green bean flavours and textured up against the light pasta parcels. The 1967 seemed to get several "wine of the night" votes which was terrific, Roberto Conterno particularly likes the 1967 and I can see why, it has that old yet young feel, very vibrant but also fully mature, delicious and very high class. The 2007 Cascina Francia is almost a halfway house between Piedmont and Burgundy at this stage, very fresh red fruits, a lightness of touch seems to have done wonders in this hot vintage. Another first was up next - Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1997, Lafon - very lovely fruit, it's owner suggested it wasn't as stunning as some bottles of it he has had but I enjoyed it, red and black fruit and whilst it won't make "old bones" I enjoyed it a lot, true to Volnay but also very Lafon. 

Having had our three antipasti and two Primi it was time for the main (secondi) Braised Veal Short Rib, Spinach. With this delicious dish it was time for a brace of 1989's -
Barolo Vigna del Gris 1989, Conterno-Fantino Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 1989 magnum, Gaja. I have never had anything from Conterno-Fantino before but you always fall more for a wine when you hear the guy behind the label is a "character". The approach is pretty modern but there was a lightness of touch and a balance that left an overall impression of a very good wine. Gaja I guess is always controversial and in many ways it is too easy to say he is a brilliant marketeer but may be not very true to Barbaresco (or Barolo for that matter). But ultimately what happens in the glass is what matters. This was youthful in a rich way, freshness is not necessarily what you get with Gaja but you do get good well made wines, I enjoyed this for the fact that it was different, in mag it is arguably still not peaking, impressive. Sam decided, sensibly, to add an impromtu cheese course and these were served with two Bruno Giacosa magnums Barbaresco Santo Stefano 1997 & Barbaresco Asili Reserva 2004 now for any Piedmont fan this is one of the big names. You can argue, this was debated, that the wines are not now quite what they used to be but there is an elegance here that is impressive. The 1997 was a little underwhelming but then this I think is more the vintage that increasingly, throughout Italy, is not quite the blanket of perfection it has often been promoted as. I enjoyed the wine but the earth didn't move. The 2004 was undoubtedly impressive, very youthful it had a nose of strawberry, raspberry and blackberry compote, the structure was a little light but then you can get wines in such balance that they age without the structure really showing, I though this was interesting and very enjoyable, will it make old bones? We'll see but I'd like to watch and taste to see, impressive juice.

Before we move on to pudding, a quick word on the food and why I love Zucca so much - I'm going back on saturday for Mrs H's 40th - even after 3 or 4 hours eating and all these wines there was no exhaustion or loss of appetite to eat. This is because everything is so digestible with correctly simple ingredients. A few of the dinners were losing there Zucca "cherry" and they lost it with a lot of pleasure, right dodgy analogies over.

Time for Dolci - Custard Tart, vanilla ice cream, pinenuts & olive oil - I'm not a big pudding person but this was great, the pinenuts were in a brittle and the whole dish, tasted together or separately, just worked. With this we had two sweeties - Lafaurie-Peyraguey 1986 & Vin Santo 1976, Avignonese. Regular readers of the blog will know I've been very spoilt on the Sauternes front recently but even given that I enjoyed the Lafaurie, it was at a lovely stage, not over sweet or over mature, mellow and balanced. The Vin Santo was not in perfect condition but I liked it very much it had an almost milky texture which was unexpected, it had the rancho character of oxidation but I found it interesting in a "this is nearly madeira" sort of way...and so the meal was done and a massively enjoyable 4-5 hours was over. It is great evenings with friends who I guess you could call the competition but basically it just isn't like that, everyone gets along. I love the wine trade for the fact there are relatively few people who you can't put in the same room... 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Barolo 2008's a cracking tasting and nice surprise

Last Tuesday in the private dining room at Zucca I joined a small selection of merchants/brokers to taste through twenty 2008 Barolos (is it supposed to be Baroli?) hosted by my "Barolo Guru". I had been looking forward to this for some time. I am lucky to drink and buy a lot of great Barolo, and given the age-ability of the wine I am trying to buy as much as possible now whilst it still offers great value, but this was especially exciting as it was a vertical of several producers. As a bit of a precursor; the vintage had a reputation as a good but not great vintage, more delicate and classical than 2006, less flashy and more genuine than 2007. As ever the proof would be in the tasting. we tasted in flights of two or three wines, moving loosely from Barolo/La Morra to Castiglione Fallettto to Monforte and then Serralunga, but in places this changed to keep producers wines together.
So, to the tasting, and up first was Marcarini, a producer who's wines I follow personally. I have had great wines from the 1970's, especially Brunate '70 which is a gem, they appeared to lose their way in the 90's like quite a few producers but since 2004 they have been on great form.

1) Barolo La Serra, Marcarini - Very fresh, good very light red colour, raspberry and black pepper on the nose, floral, good structure, ripe and good tannins, lively, pretty and impressive. A good start and the sort of style I expected. 17 out of 20 (2014-2024)

2) Barolo Brunate, Marcarini - A little darker than La Serra as expected, a little closed on the nose, on the palate more masculine and savoury that La Serra, a sleeper, I like this, very Brunate, more muscular, good ripe, big tannins. 16.5-17.5 out of 20 (2016-2038)

The next producer - Francesco Rinaldi - is another that I have stared to follow having tasted the 2006's, there is no relation to Guiseppe (wines 6 & 7). Great to be able to compare so many Brunate's, a site I follow closely.

3) Barolo Brunate, Francesco Rinaldi - A pale but true colour, hint of brown, leather, spice, slightly oxidative style, malty and balsamic on the nose then the fruit comes through, complex and easy to misjudge, not for the Barolo newcomer, I'll buy this. 17-18 out of 20 (2015-2030)

Next reducer is Marengo, not one I know well, more modern in approach.

4) Barolo Brunate, Marengo - Lush, easy fruit, quite high toned, smooth clean finish, not my style but a good wine, a little too polished. 16-16.5 out of 20 (2014-2028)

Vietti are a big name in Barolo, they make good Barbera too. They are very good at ripe fruit but the approach to new oak is not to my style, I was looking forward to being proved wrong.

5) Barolo Brunate, Vietti - Focussed but slightly dump on the nose, classy nose, high toned and a little too polished, big but ripe tannins, for those that like this style this is impressive. 16-17 out of 20 (2016-2026)

Giuseppe Rinaldi is a legend in Barolo, and amongst the top three producers in my book, he is relatively little known outside the region and hardcore fans as he produces so little and like the great Burgundians the wines are snapped up by fans and disappear to be drunk by Barolo lovers later in life. He is very traditional in approach, old oak etc and also a believer in blending. Both wines he makes are a blend of two vineyards to get balance. This is a different approach from other ultra-traditional producers like Bartolo Mascarello (all vineyards into one wine) and Giacomo Conterno (2 single vineyard wines). Buy whatever you can find. So the wines...

6) Barolo Brunate Le Coste, Giuseppe Rinaldi - An instant step up in quality, brine and blackberry, bacon, liquorice, richness but so much fruit density, stunning frankly. Very true to the house style and proves this is a very fine vintage. 18-19 out of 20 (2018-2040)

7) Barolo Brunate Cannubi San Lorenzo, Giuseppe Rinaldi - more red fruited than the Brunate, sweet leather, good tannin but love the acidity, freshness and lift, serious quality. 18-18.5 out of 20 (2016-2034)

Brezza was next, not a producer I know well. You see their Barbera around a fair bit...

8) Barolo Bricco Sarmassa, Brezza - Really unfortunate to come between G.Rinaldi and Bartolo Mascarello, even so it showed well if not excitingly, very well made, integrated and balanced. 16-17 out of 20 (2014-2024)

Little needs be said about Bartolo Mascarello that hasn't been said before. Ultra-traditional, all vineyards blended to make one Barolo, very old oak. Maria Teresa now runs the show and arguably makes even better wines than her father. The results since 2004 or may be 2005 are great, superb.

9) Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello - On balance this probably just pipped the whole tasting for its seamless elegance and balance, feminine red fruit but lots of structure under it too, you could drink it now the balance is so good. 18-19.25 out of 20 (2016-2038)

Brovia have some how stayed a little under the radar. I always buy the Villero as it is arguably their best all round wine. I was delighted to get to taste the two below though because they show how well this house portrays the terroir. We are in Castiglione Fallettto now.

10) Barolo Rocche, Brovia - In its savoury nature there was a cord of connection between this and the Brunate from F.Rinaldi. It is for those that like fruit which is combined with earthy notes. A strange combination of brine notes and almost anchovy aroma was delicious to me. 17-18.25 out of 20 (2013-2032)

11) Barolo Ca' Mia, Brovia - Red black fruit is a contrast to the Rocche, this is more lush, sweeter fruited, couldn't be more interesting as a pair, more obviously appreciable may be, great stuff. 17 out of 20 (2013-2028)

The next wine was from Roberto Conterno of Giacomo Conterno and was a wine I took along purely for interest. Cerretta is a new holding for Roberto. From 1978-2007 Cascina Francia (bought in 1974) was the vineyard all their wines came from. This new acquisition which went through in June 2008 will see a Barolo in time, almost certainly from 2010. In the meantime the 2008 and 2009 will be released as Langhe Nebbiolo - 2008 after 2 years in Botti and 2009 after 3 years, ultimatley the Barolo will have 4 years as Cascina Francia does.

12) Langhe Nebbiolo Cerretta, Giacomo Conterno - I have tasted this several times and it always reminds me of Volnay as a "Barolo" very feminine but with structure, it will be a fascinating wine to follow. 17-17.5 out of (2014- 2024)

Elio Grasso is a more modern producer and not one I know well, I was excited to taste thought as I have seen good reviews. I struggled with them and would like to re-assess at some stage.

13) Barolo Gavarini Vigna Chiniera, Elio Grasso - The fruit was lifted and clear to see it just didn't make me think of Barolo and/or Nebbiolo at all, good wine but.... "16" out of 20 (2013-2027)

14) Barolo Ginestra Casa Mate, Elio Grasso - My note simply says "a bit blunt, not great", may be I need to re-taste but I didn't really see what the game was here. "15-16" out of 20 (2014-2024)

These were to be the very first Clerico wines I have tried, I tasted with an open mind as I have read good things of the estate but not of the 2008's from them.

15) Barolo Pajana, Domenico Clerico - The inital aroma was of violets but then there was a thinness on the palate, I found the wines, stripped and clumsy, like it had had the fruit taken away and too much extraction put in its place, disappointing. 13-14 out of 20 (2013-2020)

16) Barolo Ciabot mentin Ginestra, Domenico Clerico - Much better than the Pajana, decent if a little dried out by oak, strange lack of balance but at least it was Barolo. 15-16 out of 20 (2014-2014)

Fratelli Alessandria are based in Verduno (very north of Barolo as a whole region) and have holdings in the town's top Nebbiolo vineyard Monvigliero. I had not tasted any of their wines before.

17) Barolo Monvigliero, Fretti Alesandria - Arguably the most interesting of all the wines on show in that the style was very unique. A very old style of wine, a dash sherried and oxidative but in a good way. An almond and medicinal note on the nose, this is Barolo for those that love Islay Whisky (I do), fascinating, I might just have to buy a 6pack. 16-17.25 out of 20 (2013-2021)

Guido Porro is a producer I have a tiny bit of experience with, two bottles worth in fact. I bought a case of each of the two vineyards below but from the very different 2006 vintage. He is making a very pure and traditional clean style of Barolo with very fine aromatics and at a rather "bonkersly" low price!

18) Barolo Lazzariasco, Guido Porro - This is a very aromatic, lifted red and black fruited style, there is very good definition and focus, a good structure and much complexity...impressive, the character is similar to the 2006 (a good thing) but the structure a little more finessed (that's just the vintage). 17 out of 20 (2016-2030)

19) Barolo Santa Caterina, Guido Porro - Good again, a little more subdued than the Lazzariasco but as with that wine the DNA was the same as the 2006 I tried recently. 16.5 out of 20 (2014- 2030)

We had just two more wines sadly the Massolino was corked, you could kind of see a nice structure through it but nothing more, a shame. The very last wine was from Cappellano - a very very top producer who is totally uncompromising in when he releases his wines and also in the fact that he does not let his wine get reviewed/scored at all.

20) Barolo Margheria, Massolino (corked)

21) Barolo Pie Rupestris 2007, Cappellano - Very very impressive for having the fruit and full lushness of character that you get from 2007 but also a genuine structure and age-ablilty that make this a very classy wine. I had the 2004 of this recently and it was very classical but closed down, this is a producer to follow when you can find the wines. 17.5-18.25 out of 20 (2014-2030)

Overall impressions of 2008 and where it "fits":
I was very impressed by the wines, particularly the traditional ones, this is my preference but also I think this approach worked best with the vintage. There is a delicacy to these wines but many are also keepers, I think the run of vintages below are all worth buying (I have/will be) as they will be fascinating to watch over the next 20-30 years. Whether 2009 manages to include itself in this run will be interesting as it is reputed to be of less interest if very good for Barbera, we will see this time next year. 2010 however is thought to be of potentially legendary quality...very exciting. My personal ranking of the last five vintages is below from my varied experience of each vintage.

2004 - 19 - classic balanced, legendary potential.

2005 - 16-18 mixed with some very fine wines, very good in Barbaresco I hear.

2006 - 17.5-18.5 - very fine, masculine, balance the key.

2007 - 16-17.5 - showy and more forward, enjoyable if not profound.

2008 - 17-18 - very under-rated and like 06 very true if feminine to 06's masculine style.

A great tasting!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Wine Trade goes Darts mad

The Theatre of Dreams!!
After about a year of chat Mr Richardson and I finally managed to get the 1st Annual (that does make sense) Darts Night to actually happen on Tuesday night. I can't claim to have been the main driving force and certainly didn't sort the venue - The Horse & Groom on Great Portland Street, a good london boozer with one dart board in it's own sub-section which was dubbed the "Theatre of Dreams". The line up was 24 Players Strong with a few spectators too. A lot of merchants/brokers/others were represented. Sadly the team of two from BBR couldn't make it but rumour has it they have Phil "The Power" Taylor working with them as darts consultant with a view to a strong showing next year. The standard was as mixed as you can imagine which is what it is all about, amazingly nobody turned up from a "long/proper" Lunch and made a fool out of was almost a shame. A lot of crisps were eaten and pints drunk. The rough format was, if you won your first match you were in the main competition if you lost it you were in the "plate", this guaranteed everyone two games. Richardson was favourite (2/1) from the off, he plays the most and this is his "home ground". So what was the line up and how did they do?

The main competition finalists
Albany Vintners: Marcus Edwards (2nd round of the main comp).
Armit: Ed Burns (2nd round of the main comp).
Around Wine: Dan Primack (2nd round of the main comp).
Bibendum: Steve Maunder (1st round of the Plate).
BWI: Clive Ashby (1st round of the Plate), Ashley Register (2nd round of the plate) & Kevin Narborough (Plate Semi-Final).
C&B: Tom Bird (1st round of the Plate), Luke Lupton (3rd round of main comp), Joe Muller (2nd round main comp), Graham Mossy (Plate Semi-Final), Guy Seddon (3rd round of the main comp) & Will Hargrove (Main Comp Semi-Final).
Falcon Vintners: Ian Richardson (Winner) & Eric Sabourin (Plate).
Jeroboams: Matthew Edwards (Winner of the Plate), James Wormall (Losing Finalist, main comp), & David Standfield (Plate First round).
J&B: Julian Campbell (main Comp Semi Final) & Toby I'Anson (2nd round of the main comp).
Magnum: David King (Losing plate finalist).
Quintessentially Wine: Nick Daniel (2nd round of the plate) & Ed Gerrard (Plate First round).
Wine Networks: Dan Haigh (2nd round of the main comp).

The "Plate" Finalists!
Other "honourable" mentions:
Getting lary in the scorers corner.
Over-celebration of the night: Luke "Lulu" Lupton for a ludicrous bout of high fives after beating Ed "the shirt"Burns (see below).
Shirt of the night: Ed "The Shirt" Burns, pure quality and to be applauded and remembered.
2nd Place Shirt of the night: Ashley Register...a glorious creation that featured strawberries.
Scoreboard operator: Tom "That's not your actual score" Bird, a crucial role played well, Maths would help though.
Accessory of the night: Graham "Mossy" "The Tattoo sleeve" Moss, really good work here, a shame it wasn't on his throwing arm but I am sure a few people had a good second look.
Top 3 dart score: Ian "already won something" Richardson (140). There was a while where Falcon had this covered as Eric struck an "unconventional" 108 early on.
Number of 3 dart "Tons": 10, not bad but next year we need 20!!

Burnsie wins the shirt award!!
The evening was a lot of fun with some great inter-firm grudge matches!! For anyone asking Richardson is 11/10 in the antepost market to retain his crown, Wormall 5/1 & Narborough 6/1...all others "odd on request!".