Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lunch then some Pingi then lunch again...

Some time in the middle of last week a day sort of sprung up out of nowhere as a very good wine day. Following a fascinating morning meeting (can't say "fascinating" and "meeting" appear together in too many sentences in my life) we went down to Zucca for lunch and following a glass of Franciacorta we had three reds, all good, all very different. Clos de Tart 2003 led the way and was, as it always seems to be, a very good wine but also an atypical one that could (and I am saying could with some bias) be a legend in as much as it is all there and often the legendary bottles come from vintages with a degree of excess, we'll see. It sits somewhere between Burgundy and Rhone in its rich density, if you get the chance to try it then do, Andrew Jefford wrote a good article about the wine but I can't find it. Next was Barbaresco Crichet Paje 1988, Roagna which was a little gem, savoury but fruited too, at its peak but not fading one bit I would say, delicious. From one block in Paje, "Crichet" in dialect means hillock. The 3rd wine was a wine I have had many times Barolo Brunate - Le Coste 2003, Guiseppe Rinaldi, it like the Clos de Tart is from a vintage of excess but those traditional producers (i.e. no new oak, in fact deliberately old oak) did well and Rinaldi is, as is Roagna, amongst these and one of the best. This is such but savoury..it was a cracking trio, as ever surrounded by simple food executed so well.
On returning to the office it was time to taste the Flor de Pingus and Pingus 2010 and 2011. Now this was tricky as the 2010 is as near as dam it the finished wine and again I am biased but Peter Sisseck seems to get more from these wines each year. The 2011's have seen less oak and as a result are more fruit driven at present. The Flors are excellent and if it weren't for Pingus itself they would be top top wines as they are. They become appreciable to my mind after 4-6 years and age well beyond, the 1996, the first Flor, is still singing. The Pingus is a much longer term scenario, 10 years plus, there is an amazing density. The 2010 and 2011 were very very hard to split on quality, may be 2010 is more rich the 2011 has more freshness and poise?
Just as I was about to post this I had a great quick lunch with a mate in the trade and enjoyed two bottles, 2005 Gracher Himmelreich Auslese Goldkap, JJ Prum and Barolo Garblet Sue 2004, Brovia. Both were decanted, I would argue Riesling is the best grape variety for decanting, it makes such a difference, they showed their relative charms really well. The Prum was elegant, not over rich for an Auslese, this is the 2005ishness, the wine developed in decanter and glass really well, always linear, no edge to it as yet, a lovely wine to own and drink over the next 40 years!! The Brovia is obviously not at an optimal time but has a primary and focussed nose that makes it a classical interpretation, the structure is definite but not overwhelming, the grip is lovely, as with many young wines the key is the balance and the texture, both of which make this a lovely bottle, appreciable now but great for the future...job done...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Grands Echezeaux DRC 14 vintages from 1959-2008

Last night I was very kindly asked to a "50 years of Grands Echezeaux, DRC" dinner at Christies in conjuction with Linden Wilkie's Fine Wine Experience. The setting was the directors dining room, the food hearty and well chosen so as not to overshadow the wines but compliment them. Duck, Mushroom Risotto, Beef and finally Cheese. The bottles had been double decanted (younger wines only) and all sourced in Europe. Many from the UK agent (who I work for so watch out for bias). The wines were all at a perfect "cool" temperature and served in flights as shown by the lines below.
All wines (except 1989) where true examples. All showed well. The "assembled" felt that the balance and lightness of touch was excellent. The vintage shone through well and everyone loved the fact there appeared to be little or no effort for there to be a “house style”. My scores reflect my thoughts on the bottles on the evening, those in brackets are what I have guessed at as a potential final achievement. I was very impressed by the range as a whole. This is the first vertical tasting of anything like this scale that I have done with the DRC wines. So on with the tasting notes and observations.

2008 Crunchy red fruit, ginger and a dash of white pepper, a lightness of touch, vibrant colour, redcurrant and cranberry in there, will be serious now it is enticing, good refined grip at the end, long. 18 (19)
2006 More dense than 2008, deeper darker fruits, more black than red, a sleeper? Less spice than 2008, more brooding, the overriding impression is of depth and complexity to come. A fascinating future. More in the mould of 2000 or 2002 than 2008 or 2001. 17.5 (18)
2005 Like a two year old colt that you know will be a great three year old, one to leave and let develop. This wine is a little closed on the nose but the palate and the texture says it all, depth and precision at the same time, very fine. 18.5 (19)
2002 Very typical and just as expected, very 2002, a dash of degradation, developed, a wine that will open out in time, a touch of cheesecloth, bruised fruit, good acidity, profound rather than pretty, very masculine. 18 (18.5)
2001 Refined, poised, focused and rapier like, a softer 2008? Feminine and balanced very pure red fruits but depth too. Very complete and as typical of 2001 as the 2002 is of that vintage. 18.5
2000 A little more spread-out on the palate, reveals it character now, open and expressive, mushroom development and little good decay, a drinker for the hedonist. 17
1999 Very much a class act, that slightly cheesecloth nose but so much depth and focus, lots of fruit, rich but so weightless at the same time, velvety texture without being simple and too easy a very fine wine, appreciable now but with masses to give. 18.5 (19)
1998 Loose-knit, a little evolved, decent fruit, grip a little marked, good but no more. 17
1995 Fresh red fruit and considerable poise, at the crossroads between young and mature. 18
1991 Simply delicious, multi-faceted fruit, red, black and in between, silken texture but grip too, at the beginning of what I think will be a long peak, harmonious to the very end, long and very fine. 19
1989 Colour was good, nose acetic and very “funky”, waited for that to “blow off” but it didn’t. A strange bottle. No score.
1988 A developed and mature example, mushroom and chestnuts on the nose, sweetness of fruit still there. Good now, fully mature to my mind.18
1969 A fully mature wine. Still with life, colour now pale. Fruit was there but in the background. Tertiary aromas prevalent but still elegant, enjoyable and very interesting but not for the longer term. 18
1959 A great wine and I could see elements of the 1991 about this wine. It is mature but still only secondary in aromas, my note says “like a 21yr old who has lived a lot”, there was an almost caramel edge on the very tipoff the tonue and after time in the glass a little delicate coffee two, very impressive and not in decline. 19

A really wonderful tasting and one I feel sure I will never repeat.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lunch then Labet!!

Last Tuesday was a great wine day with a lunch and then a dinner. First up was lunch with “Hailfax” (he features elsewhere on this blog) at Zucca - yes, yes I know but if you love somewhere keep going. The wines were not supplied by me and I knew the second would be blind. First up was a delicious bottle of Billecart Salomon Cuvee Francois Billecart 1996 which had a foot in both camps, youth and age. This went well with the normal array of starters – you must get many and share when you go to Zucca. The white was up next, I liked it and it released more and more as it warmed up that little bit, there was waxiness and a lot of texture so I was off to the Rhone, thinking mid 1990’s. As it turns out I was right for the vintage, which was 1994 but in the wrong region. The wine was Laville Haut Brion 1994, for what it is worth this wine is now called La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. It was fascinating and I was disappointed not to have spotted it, it is was rich yet fresh and very complex. It did remind me of the 1983 and 1990 I had a few years back (also courtesy of Halifax). For Bordeaux the 1994 vintage was certainly best in the dry whites. This was a real treat and went brilliantly with the swordfish. Halifax then went off for cigar before meeting more members of the Northern mafia for a dinner that having heard the wines from was somewhat immense.

My evening was to be at the Zetter Town House with Fran├žois Labet, a friend did a guest blog on the C&;B blog that has more precise info (Here), I will deal with my views on the wines. First up we had two whites from Dom Pierre Labet both from the good but not immaculate 2009 vintage (for whites that is) – I like them both. Meursault Les Tillets was rich on the nose but with freshness, the oak showed but in a classy way, good texture, nicely Meursault, lots of medium term pleasure to come. Beaune Clos du Dessus des Marconnets Blanc was more subdued, lighter softer structure, it was well balanced just holding back a little something. From here we stayed with the Domaine Pierre Labet but moved over to the reds, also 2009’s. Beaune Clos du Dessus des Marconnets had good red/black fruit in a saturated and rich style, good tannins, ripe but grippy. It was paired with Beaune 1er cru Coucherais which was definitely a step up, had a savoury edge to go with the fruit, will age really well, integrated power and grace, really promising. Arguably we then moved onto the “real deal”, although this is a little unfair on the lovely Pierre Labet wines, that is Chateau de la Tour Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Francois has the largest holding in this most complex of Grand crus, with 6 of the 50 hectares. There is 100% new oak (the cooper tastes the wine before selecting the barrels) and 100% whole pressing. The wines are unapologetically made for the long term. The 2010’s have had rave reviews and rightly so. On this occasion we were to have the Vielles Vignes from 2001, 1998 (in mag) & 1999. We started with the 2001 and 1998. The 2001 has a lovely balance of flavour aspects with a dash of everything, ripe richness, dark black fruit with a little element of redness, a dash (and no more) of evolution. On the palate the wine is tighter than the nose suggests there is proper grip here, where many 2001’s are generally more feminine and pretty this is more masculine and serious. Very impressive. The 1998 could not have been more of a contrast while still having the same DNA, there is a soft decayed decadence, this is a hedonists wine, bruised fruit and slightly sweaty it is both savoury and sweet, I loved it and for drinking now it is excellent, reminded me ever so slightly of Chambertin. So having had these contrasting vintages it was time for a vintage about as serious as they come, 1999. Francois described it as the “prototype for a large sunny vintage”. Again rich, dense and decadent on the nose, structure shows well, big but balanced, this is a serious wine for the long-haul, a “do not touch” for 10 years scenario in my book. Francois spoke very well and his full run down of vintages from 1998 to 2011 was fascinating. I just wish I could remember it all!!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Champagne in Barcelona with Salon & Delamotte...

I've not done this format before but there was so much to photograph on a wonderful trip to Barcelona last weekend for a meeting of all the agents for Champagne Delamotte and Champagne Salon that I though it might be easier and different. I have put a few notes on wines (& Cigars) tasted at the bottom.
The first evening it was drinks on the roof time, the sun was out and the city looking terrific, so what better than Delamotte Brut in magnum. A couple of Negroni's and a Montecristo No4 went down well afterwards too!
The new packaging for the range.
The first of a few "Team Photos" this one at the Miro exhibition, well worth a visit.
One of many great dishes at our beach side lunch, all washed own with the very "proper" Delamotte Rose.  
And the main course...Siesta time after this!!
One of the views from the top of the amazing Torre d'alta Mar restaurant on the beach front looking back up at the city.
The Delamotte "Collection" 1988, serious Champagne that was the climax of the dinner at the above.
One of the most brilliant breakfasts I have ever had (including the tripe!) at La Bouqueira with Delamotte NV.
We had a wonderful tour round the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia..will be finished by 2025 or so...
The inside of Vila Viniteca (Spanish agent) one of the most amazing wine shops I have ever been in, if in Barcelona you must go...
A very happy president of Delamotte & Salon - Didier Depond, the hats were a  great touch!
Lunch outside Vila Viniteca, wonderful produce and very generous wines from Quim Vila (see bottom of blog). 
Quite literally our "Chariots were waiting", these took us all back to the Hotel in great style.
It is a shame there wasn't a toga party!! May be next time.
One of three cheeky Cigars, it is a great city to buy smokes but also to walk around whilst partaking!!
The final evening was here.....2 Michelin stars!!
The last night line up with one wine (red) missing, again, see below.
I will keep this picture of Jean-Baptiste, could be "useful", it is sorbet rather than Lipstick!!
Wines tasted (drunk!):
Delamotte Brut NV - Showing really well at the moment, as ever, always love it that little bit more from magnum.
Delamotte Blanc de Blanc NV - had two different disgorgements of this one from 1988 in magnum which was staggeringly youthful but showed classy evolution of the texture and the other the usual release, which I love, elegant, white flower, superb the best value Champagne I know (yes I am biased but...).
Delamotte Rose - Was great by the beach with assorted seafood and Jamon, gentle and elegant a wine not to be underestimated!
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV 2002 - In bottle this is just starting to open out, it is a serious wine that is best left 12-18months, in magnum I would say 3-5 years. So much the savvy buy, great.
Delamotte Collection 1964 (M) - From Didier's vintage! Very good, evolved and with richness but NOT old for the sake of it.
Delamotte Collection 1970 (M) - This was may be the one wine I didn't "get" others loved it so it's probably just me, too much coffee and cocoa for me. Very youthful colour.
Delamotte Collection 1988 - Really good, liked it a lot, generous nose and rich texture, complexity came more and more as it loosed up with the chill going. Has further potential but why wait?
Salon 1983 (M) - Amazingly youthful from mag, more so than the 1990 and definitely from the bottle. Elegance in spades, poised classy, very "Salon"!
Salon 1990 - The "bang on the money" Salon for right now, refined nose gives way to generous Meursaultesque palate, very long. In a vintage where a few Champagnes disappoint this does the opposite, decadent for Salon too, Bravo!!
Salon 1999 - A "nipper" really, lots of minerality and Chassagne like character as it develops, needs time now but J-B says it is the sibling of the 1990 and that is good enough for me!!  
L'ermita 1997, A.Palacios (M) - As with the next four reds this was served by the very generous Quim Vila, this was charming, it had softened but was still focussed and youthful, very classy.
Vega Sicilia 1998 (M) - A little more oak showed on this than I expected but the balance otherwise was lovely, not an estate I know as well as I should. Note to self!
Dominio de Pingus 2006 (M) - Rich and full with a savoury enormity than means it is a decade or more from it's peak. So much of everything...will be quite something.
Marques de Riscal 1962 - Old wine? Yes but good too, elegant and balanced with fruit.
Gran Reserva 1935, Palacios - This was served blind as a competition and two people went for 1934 so shared the prize, I went 1955. It was old for sure but a dash of red fruit showed and some mushrooms before it had escaped, a treat regardless.
La Faraono 2006, Bierzo, Desc de J Palacios - A kind donation from Alvaro Palacios, this went perfectly with the Pigeon at Abac. It is made from Mencia (related to Cab Franc). I love the white and pink pepper that shows through the poised dense compote fruit.
Punch Punch - The first I have had of these, lovely afternoon smoke, hay, straw and a touch of cream for the first half and then it gradually built up to medium bodied with a dash of leather.
Montecristo No4 - Due to the large production these can be variable but this was lovely, dark roasted coffee, good balance, nice smoke.
Hoyo de Monterrey Short Robusto - Perfect for the stroll back to the hotel after a bit of shopping, the best of these that I have had, medium bodied, classical Habanos.

A wonderful weekend, lots of people met and great times had!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Humidor is nearly empty but the plan is starting to work...

I've been "into" Cigars for about 15 years or so and as the blog shows it is a hobby I take relatively seriously, wine is a love and a job but cigars are a hobby. I did though decide about a year ago that a little like building a cellar of wine to drink in the future I ought to apply a bit of logic to my plans for cigars.

The reasons for this are simple. I see cigars going up in price over time and at some stage possibly down in quality (from a high over the last few years) for a while, both of these can be attributed to the fact that the market for Cuban Cigars is likely to grow with the US at some stage coming back into the "fold". This will increase the demand and therefore price and quality may suffer. There are other reasons for looking to build a stock, like wine, cigars age well in the mid-term and it is great to have a stock so you can start to smoke sticks at an optimum time and replace them with younger stocks to smoke later. Another purely cosmetic consideration is the fact that there is a big drive worldwide to enforce plain packaging. I like the look and feel and packaging of cigar boxes and bands so why not grab them now...

So what did I actually do? Well it is pretty much covered by looking at the six points below.

1) Identify what I like now - This may sounds blinding obvious but you have to look at the flavour profile of different brands and decide what you like and what you don't as this is clearly important to what you buy boxes of for later. Also not everything needs or even reacts well to ageing, it something is good "off the shelf" then great, factor that into plans.

2) Consider what I might like in 2, 5, 10yrs - This is harder but I was keen to think about this. I have many wine customers who have cellars full of wines they bought 5-10 years ago that they loved then but are not so mad on now. I figure that it is important not to be too "faddish" or "fashionable" about choices as you'll pay a premium and look to buy the classic smokes and sizes that you can get now and not be too swayed by marketing. Also it would be easy to buy only the bigger, longer smokes for ageing when actually what is just as important is having great "everyday" sizes for mid week treats and when time is short.

3) Consider different Vitolas (Sizes) and where the trend is going - This links to the above, the trend worldwide with all cigars is towards shorter and fatter. So therefore Robustos etc are not a massive priority as they will be available regardless, looking to get long "thinnies" into stock now though is more important than ever.

4) Consider the marketing of Habanos SA and the marques they may remove or re-position - There are brands that you can tell the people behind the Cuban cigar industry (Habanos SA) are right behind and this will not change - Montecristo, Partagas, Cohiba, Hoyo, Upmann etc. Therefore these whilst worth purchasing (and amongst my favourites) they are not necessarily a priority. Where other brands that seem less "secure" including - Rafael Gonzalez, Ramon Allones, Sancho Panza & El Rey de Mundo - are worth buying now just in case.

5) Do a bit of study on Forums and from friends in the know - It is well worth getting advise from those you trust and from those with more knowledge in the same way I would suggest people do with wine. It can be reassuring and an opportunity to know that something perceived as less fashionable of cheaper has a great following amongst those "in the know".

6) Re-assure myself with the fact there is a secondary market - Another parallel with wine is the fact that you can be re-assured that unless you buy "silly" "fashionable" over priced and over marketed gimmicks you will be able to sell them later should something not have the profile, size, appeal that you want later on.

So the list now is: (Box size/Cigar name/Size/Factory code & date)
1box (25) Hoyo de Monterrey - Hoyo du Gourmet (33x170) SOT JUN 11
A great long thin smoke from the Hoyo brand that I like. I figure these are not a core smoke but I wanted to get them as the "thinnies" may be under threat.
1box (25) Hoyo de Monterrey - Hoyo des Dieux (42 x 155) LAG JUN 10
Considered one of the great smokes to age so I had to get a box of these in early so they will get the time they need. love the size too.
1box (25) Partagas 8-9-8 (43 x 170)  MAR 10
Just a favourite in both flavour profile - richer and more spicy than most - and also in size.
1box (10) Partagas Serie P No2 (52 x 156) POL ENE 11
I had one of these on holiday in Spain last year, tried another to check and just loved them, not a core smoke but a box of 10 was just too tempting. Holidays and High days.
1box (25) Ramon Allones Extra LE 2011 (44 x 143)SUB JUN 11
I like the RA smokes and was excited by the LE (Limited edition for 2011). It is a size I love and the profile is stunning - fruitcake, bruised fruit and spice - also the price is not silly or really even a premium considering the LE status. This is a prime candidate for buying another box. Not to be missed.
1box (25) Ramon Allones Specially Selected (50 x 124)POS SEP 11
A great value Robusto and always a cigar that is needed.
1box (25) Ramon Allones Small Club Corona (42 x 110) OGA MAR 12
A great small, quick smoke, great value and will be a real treat to have these with a little age. Those in the know love them!
1box (25) Sancho Panza Belicosos (52 x 140) LTR ABR 10
A cigar and brand I have always found great as a light to middle weight daytime smoke, not too rich but very good, had to be in the mix.
1box (25) Sancho Panza Molinos (42 x 65)AGR JUN 11
As with the Belicosos above I have loved the Sanchos and this size is now discontinued so I had to snap these up.
1box (24) Trinidad Reyes (40 x 110) MSE MAY 11 
Although quite expensive for what they are in size terms I like Trinidad and these Reyes are, in a small convenient size, exactly what the brand profile is about.

The target list:
Partagas Shorts (Cabinet of 50)
Partagas Serie D no4
Partagas Lusitanias (10 box)
Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra
Upmann No2's
R & J Cazadores
Por Larranaga Petit Coronas
Cohiba Behike 52's (just 10 box!)
Getting to know more about Montecristo, Diplomaticos, Bolivar &; Quai D'Orsay

All of this means that right now the Humidor at home is nearly empty and I still want to wait 18months before getting any boxes delivered so in the meantime I will buy samplers (mixed cases in wine speak), look to further my knowledge with single stick purchases and also stock up on a couple of trips I have to Spain coming up...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Koffmans with some Rousseau's

Yesterday's lunch at Koffmans was a cracker, meeting up with a customer who has become a friend to drink some good bottles. Burgundy is his thing (and one of mine too). So after an opener in the form of a lovely bottle of Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux 2007. I always forget it is as classy as it is and also that it is 100% Sauvignon, although the very high quality oak does just enough to stop the Sauvignon being too Sauvignon if that makes any sense. It showed well and mellowed through the meal, the last half glass at the end really revealed it's breeding. White Bordeaux is a bit of a niche but I can seriously see why it is loved by a few. Anyway enough about white Bordeaux this was a meal - the backbone of which was a great Cote de Boeuf for two - about Rousseau and the Chambertin in particular. We had the 1989 and the 1993 alongside each other and it was an fascinating couple of hours. The DNA was clear to see through the two wines, a richness and a masculine weight but also a lovely balance. Neither were decanted, I'm not a fan of decanting Pinot, I'd rather watch it evolve in the glass. The 1989 was lovely straight out the bottle, a little developed but with no tertiary decay as yet, very balanced, very Chambertin and a bottle of fine wine but not one you necessarily had to think too hard about. Optimum drinking now I would say. The 1993 was serious, more dense initially with layers of depth over the time we drank the bottle it ebbed and flowed and really opened out. From a retiring masculine richness (almost Richebourgesque) to a more feminine fine red fruited finish. This was 5 star Burgundy. In terms of drinking, if I had just one bottle (I don't but this is the best way to think of things) I would leave it another 5 years. A wonderful afternoon...what wine is all about!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A few Jubilee Weekend Cigars

As a family, Fran, Charlie and I escaped with lots of wine - good solid bottles rather than the "family silver" - and some great friends up to my parents place in Norfolk for the Jubilee weekend. Other than eating way too much and drinking well one of the things I love up there is that fact that it is about a mile or so of a walk to the local (Brancaster) beach. This means a good guaranteed 60-120 minutes outdoors which means Cigar Time. I like to be considerate with smoking so prefer to do so when out of confined spaces if with others. Favourite spots being while golfing (rare) or horse racing, unless I am lone in the garden at home.As we were away 4 days and I had a good feeling that we'd be walking everyday I took 4 smokes.

1) Montecristo Petit Edmundo (MBA Oct2010) - This is is number 8 of a 10 box. One early on was a bit over the top on the nicotine front (headspin). But since then they have been great. Basically a slightly short Robusto it is 35-45 mins of smoking and as far as I am concerned is the cigar equivalent of the Double espresso, all dark chocolate (80% cocoa and upwards) and coffee bean. I don't think it is a smoke I would reach for that often but definilty worth having in the humidor (88-89).
2) "Blind" Churchill - This was part of a 3 cigar blind tasting competition that I am doing at the moment, I am Zero from two for the first two smokes but I am happy with how I tasted, wrong for the right reasons etc. This had an opening that was mellow and good, vanilla and subtle caramel...hay also. The middle third had a little more spice, settling into a nice stride, well balanced. Then the final third was plagued with a tricky draw and I gave up in the end...86-88...I guessed it may be Quai d'Orsay, there aren't that many marques that have a churchill in their line ups these days.
3) Partagas Serie D No4 (Dic2008) - This is the last of a 10 box that I have had for a little while, the factory code shows they from 2008 and that little bit of age is a great thing as with wine. They have all been good to this point and I was a little sad to be having the last one but then the sun was out and they are there to be enjoyed. It started very well, gorgeous first third, hay, mellow tobacco and caramel shortbread...perfect firm draw too. I was enjoying it so much from that point that I didn't really make many more notes, it didn't seem to need it...there was a little more spice but essentially it was just a very good smoke, 91-93. The PSDN4 can vary a lot,it is one of the biggest selling Cubans, if they could all be this good it would be amazing. Picture at the top.

4) Trinidad Reyes (OUS Sep2009)- On the last day I smoked this little gem of a cigar and as with the SDN4 it was the last from a box, this time a 12 box. For the size of them (40x110) they are expensive, lots has been written on the "positioning" of the marque, but I wouldn't dream of criticising the quality of these little smokes. Along with the Partagas short they are essential in anyone's rotation (like a "cellar" for Cigars). The profile is medium bodied and low in spice but very rich in a savoury honey (if such a think exists) a little bit of creamy coffee too.
And that ended a very enjoyable weekends smoking!