Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Two Tenutas - Passopisciaro & Trinoro

The wine world is full of passionate winemakers and characters and a few people who market their wines very well. Andrea Franchetti is all, and none, of these things at once. He tries to keep things simple so when asked "what have you changed at Trinoro recently in the wine making, in the cellars?" he pauses for 45 seconds or so (that's quite a while in a room of twenty five people) and just replies "nothing". He's a thinker and a do-er at the same time. More hands on than ever in both Tuscany (Tenuta di Trinoro) and in Sicily (Tenuta di Passopisciaro). Having Andrea in the office to show some of the new releases was great and massively informative. The wines from the two estates are very different and should be dealt with as two different estates, something Andrea himself is keen on. So to the wines:

Tenuta di Passopisciaro (Etna)
"Sicily is one thing Etna another". This is a unique environment it can be cold in August due to altitude. So although you have sun and heat you also have freshness. The wines:

Guardiola 2012 from 100% Chardonnay. As an interesting aside Andrea really doesn't like discussing grape varieties very much, in fact he loves it when a wine has become a wine alone rather than a wine made from a specific variety. This 2012 is the best yet from this plot or Contrada as they are called in Sicily. A Contrada is specifically termed "a terrain that is different", this is 1000m above sea level. The 2012 is the result of 19 passes though the vineyard. The 2013 will be released in 2015. This wine has a richer denser texture than the previous vintages but at the same time somehow still has an elegance of fruit. 17.5-18/20.

Passopisciaro 2011 from 100% Nerello Mascalese. This wine is perfumed, persistent, light and lithe. In technical terms it is made like a white wine with juice not skins. The 2011 is a great vintage as everything went smoothly. The wines comes from a variety of sites at 500-900m above sea level. I often think of these wines in a simple way as approaching Pinot Noir fruit with Nebbiolo structure. I think they will eveolve but Andrea feels they are not wine for the long term. Say 2-6 years. 17/20.

At Passopisciaro there have been single vineyard sites "Contrada's" made since 2008. For 2011 there is a new addition with Guardiola making a red (not to be confused with the white above). These brief notes are actually from a separate tasting but I wanted to include them here:

Rampante 2011
Fresh, reddish fruit, nice savoury and sweet balance, acidic lift to the finish. Nice. 17/20.
Chiappemacine 2011
Slightly darker, more meaty with deeper fruit, more bramble, less sweet. 17.5/20.
Sciaranuova 2011
Classy, poised, refined, more red than black fruit with great focus. 18/20.
Guardiola 2011
Softer, looser, less refined, a good finish after a less stunning middle. 16.5/20.
Porcaria 2011 
The most complete of all the sites, very balanced and together. 18.25/20.

These are fascinating wines and any wine lover should try to do this range. Especially those who love the concept of terroir and in looking at the small differences that result. Right, off to Tuscany now...

Tenuta di Trinoro (Val d'Orcia)
"Like being on a larger planet than being at Passopisciaro" is how Andrea put it. Four wines from this site:

Le Cupole di Trinoro 2011

This is essentially a second wine in Bordeaux terms. A rich, hot year with high levels of alcohol. From a plot on Limestone and Clay. A little like a hot year on the left bank on Bordeaux but with redder and higher toned fruit. A little like the 2007 was but even better in balance terms. Less extreme that the 2011 Trinoro. 17-17.5/20.

Magnacosta 2012
This was first made in 2011. It is 100% Cabernet Franc from a vineyard that went into Trinoro in most years, a specific site by the river. The cuttings are from Vieux Chateau Certan in Pomerol. The translation of the name is "eating the ridge", as it is from the remainder of the erosion. The 2012 was picked in Mid-October but was in no way over ripe. The wine is richly expressive with a slight savoury dryness, the tannins are there but in balance, impressive. 17.75-18.25/20.

Palazzi di Trinoro 2012
100% Merlot picked in one single picking. Only 13.5% Alcohol (very low for Palazzi). Juicy with less tannin that the Magnacosta, almost a sweetness, this has a very vibrant fruit. 17.5-18/20.

Tenuta di Trinoro 2012
As Palazzi and Magnacosta were made in 2012 this has a much higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than usual (60%). The resultant style is deeper and darker in fruit character, the nose is classical Cabernet but with no extrovert mint or eucalyptus. A very classy structure, more savoury. A slightly different style of Trinoro than previously. Amazing wine 18.5-19/20. I think this could be an absolute star.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The run-in to Christmas - Coche, Soldera, Dujac, Cappellano, Monfortino, Rinaldi, Rousseau...

The last ten days has seen three particularly good lunches: Burgundy at The Ledbury, Italian at Zucca and then a mixture at Theo Randall in the Intercontinental. All three were "end of year" catch ups with customers who are also friends.

Burgundy at The Ledbury:

The three wines were Meursault 1er Cru Rougeots 2002 from Coche-Dury, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St.Jacques 1979 from Rousseau and Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Aux Combottes 2006 from Dujac. The Meursault was lovely, has mellowed that little bit so the distinctive "reduced/struck match" nose you get with Coche was in the wine rather than in front of it. Certainly that bit more complete now that the stunning yet youthful 2004 I had not that long ago. The 1979 Clos St.Jacques was a really strange wine, very cloudy and muddy, the nose was fine, evolved obviously but very much Rousseau (not that I would quite know how to describe that moniker). The palate was initially a little chalky and to be honest very subdued but as the wine had time in glass the nose became better and more clear and the palate improved as well. This was a bottle that could have "turned turtle" but was pleasantly surprising from a tricky vintage. There was just time for one more half bottle and the list at the Ledbury had an interesting candidate in the Dujac 2006. This was quite tight, dark fruited and very primary. A good drink but a wine to probably re-assess on it's 10th birthday (even in half). I do like the 2006's but I would rather drink the 2007's or even junior 2005's right now. The food was as good as ever!

Italians at Zucca:
A glass of Perle 2006 from Ferrari gave way to Soldera 2006 (the last bottling i.e. "Toscana"), this is a wine I have had a few bottles of on three different occasions now. It is simply brilliant, elegant, clean, crisp, focussed, perfumed wine that is without doubt the best expression of Sangiovese I have ever had. There is amazing precision of fruit and a density of flavour but with no heaviness at all. It is one of those wines you feel you could plough though a magnum of all alone, stunning. Next was a, sadly corked, Barolo Brunate 1990 from Voerzio a real shame but actually it allowed us to continue on the 2006's and next up was Cappellano Barolo "Piè Franco" 2006  this is from a parcel planted on its own roots with Nebbiolo's "Michet" clone in 1989. Cappellano does not allow his wines to be scored, I have had a few and I am buying whenever I can afford to. This was delicious, focussed and taught but even in a masculine vintage like 2006 it is not too hard to enjoy now, this will be serious. There was just about time for one more Barolo, and that was another great name in traditional production - Beppe Rinaldi and his Cannubi S.Lorenzo 2006 the wonderful thing here is that the wine is so different from Cappellano but  has just the same integrity and interest. The texture is richer and the wine more savoury. Both great Barolo's with a long life ahead of them. The food was, as ever, a perfect foil for the wines.

Two "M's" at Theo Randall:
A new restaurant to me and good flavoursome food. There isn't quite the atmosphere of Zucca but I really liked it. The two wines both showed well. Meursault 1er Cru Sous Le Dos d'ane 2007 from Domaine Leflaive is a halfway house between the poise of Leflaive's Puligny and the more heady richness of Meursault. The real deal for this meal was to be Monfortino 2001 from G.Conterno. The wine is big in density, still has that lovely clarity of colour that you can only really get from Pinot, Nebbiolo and Grenache from the very best names. The fruit is tight but there in spades, I would say ultimately this is a wine of weight and density rather than tannin. If I had a case (sadly I don't) then I would be waiting 5 years to try it again…not because it is too young to drink, just because there are layer and levels to follow. A mighty wine.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Some Mitjavile Magic...

I am very late writing this up but last month there was a visit by Francois Mitavile and the main focus was a Masterclass and Dinner given at Mossiman's to look at Roc de Cambes and Tertre Roteboeuf. Jamie Goode was a guest and did a good write up on his blog which can be found here
Pre-dinner it was 2012 and 2011 of both wines. To hear Francois speak, and I have had the pleasure several times, is always fascinating, there is a logic to what he says but also a very easy delivery that means you find yourself agreeing with things you wouldn't normally. It is always a challenge to perceived "truths" about wines and winemaking.

So, the wines:

Tertre Roteboeuf 2011 - Lovely clean and precise fruit, quite delicate, fine even. 17-18/20.
Roc de Cambes 2011 - Slightly in it's shell, good texture but a little subdued on the fruit, has a delicate touch and is fresh which is always good, there is more to come. 16-17/20.
Roc de Cambes 2012 - This is a gem and a wine that would take several more "grand" scalps if tasted blind. There is  juiciness to the fruit but never a jaminess. The black fruit is lush but fresh, very rounded and delicious, not yet bottled but you could drink this now. 17.5-18.25/20.
Tertre Roteboeuf 2012 - Elegant, bold, fruited and fresh and potentially very great wine. There is just more layers than the Roc 12, it is not necessarily "bigger". 18-19/20.

When tasting Francois' wines the conversation often turns to how well the wines show when so young and how that makes people think they may not age well, they do though and amazingly well.
After a glass of Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002, which is lovely now but will be improving further for the next 2-3 years and will then drink like a gem for some time, it was time for Dinner. The food at Mossimans is always good and this was no exception.

Game Liver Parfait with Red Onion Compote.
Roast Loin of Highland Venison, Juniper Berry Sauce, Market Vegetables.
Croute Belfry.

The wines dinner wines were deliberately chosen to showcase different strengths of the two estates.
Roc de Cambes 2003 - This was delicious right now, a little dash of coffee but good fruit and not burnt at all as you may fear for 2003. 16.5-17/20.
Roc de Cambes 2005 - Serious as you would expect, quite taut and tight but with texture that shows the class, refined and best left for 3-5 years then very much enjoyed. 17-17.5/20.
Tertre Roteboeuf 2003 - Good balance for this monstrously hot vintage, drinking well now but with plenty of legs and a future. A quite savoury wine. 17.5/20.
Tertre Roteboeuf 1995 - This had a lovely saline edge, it took a few moment in the glass for the fruit to then appear, once it had you had a moreish and balanced wine at a lovely stage, a savoury salty finish made this one to keep coming back for. 17.5-18/20.
Tertre Roteboeuf BLIND VINTAGE - Now this was interesting as the blind element was very deliberately to show that Tertre Roteboeuf does such splendid things in the "lesser" or more "difficult" vintages. The vintage was 1997 and to me if showed a similar character to the 1995 albeit a looser and more open wine. Really lovely, soft succulent and easy to drink. 17/20.

Bravo Francois!
No shortage of glasses
Every bottle gets checked but NO decanting
The dining room 
Delicious Venison

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Two very different vintages - 2001 Grand Crus & 2003 1er Crus

This was a very interesting tasting that followed on from two similar but different "exercises"; 2010 White Burgundies and 2008 White Burgundies. The format was similar in as much as we did half as a tasting without food and then the other half at Trinity Restaurant in Clapham. The difference came as this was two vintages (2003 and 2001) and  also red Burgundy rather that white. The 2003's were all 1er Crus, the 2001's all Grand Crus. There was one exception in each flight both caused by the same person…oh Woo!!

There was much debate about scoring and whether it was supposed to be in context of the vintage or not…I went with not and tried to just rate them overall. 


Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Ursules 2003, Jadot Quite a rich, brownly fruited nose, a little stewey which was as many expected. It was quite savoury already and dry on the finish. This may well have been ok when very young but is pretty uninteresting now. 13/20
Monthelie 1er Cru Les Duresses 2003, Lafon – Deep in colour, slightly lacked clean focus but in fairness had weight without any stewed element, got better in the glass and would have been one to decant. Not necessarily Pinot purity but a good wine. 15.5/20
Volnay 1er Cru  Taillepieds 2003, d’Angerville Deepish in colour, a little raisined on the nose but not unattractively so, a little bit of freshness and some licorice on the palate, quite good. Had enough refinement. 16/20
Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers 2003, H.Gouges Corked and not only a little bit!! No Score.
Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Murgers 2003, Meo-Camuzet - Frazzles and bacon fat, a totally different shape and size to the earlier wines, more northern Rhone than Burgundy, a decent wine but not a charmer at all. It is easy to say so now but I'd have said "turn the winemaking volume down" in such a vintage. 14/20 (as a Burgundy), 16/20 (as a wine)
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Corbeaux 2003, Serafin - This was tasted later on but is recorded in context here, it was soft fruited, juicy, nice, a soft touch that suits the ingredients. 16.5/20
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 2003, Fourrier - A slightly menthol note on the nose but a good one generally, red fruit peering out through a little bit of cheesecloth, impressively primary. My note ends "I like this". Never a bad comment. 16.5/20
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 2003, Rousseau - Lovely fruit especially in the mid palate, then a nice tautness. Redder fruit than the others, classy actually, made you forget the vintage. 17/20
Charmes Chambertin Tres Vielles Vignes Grand Cru 2003, Roty - Bizarre at best. Nose quite decadent and high toned with a saline character. Then on the palate a lack of charm let it down, clunky and OTT in extraction and dry fruit. All a bit forced. 15/20

To start dinner we then had three Chablis from Dauvissat:

Like a beer at the end of a day tasting "Primeurs" in Bordeaux they were bliss. Are the wines of Raveneau and Dauvissat still a shade under appreciated given the prices for what can be more ordinary (in terms of Grand Cru white) a little further south? I think may be they are. 
Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon 2008, Dauvissat - Lovely, open and generous, crackingly ripe but also mineral, properly delicious. 17.5/20
Chablis 1er Cru Le Forest 2008, Dauvissat - Clean and very classy, many seemed to prefer this to Vaillons but actually, right there right then I preferred the generosity of the Vaillons. I'd be delighted to own either! 17/20
Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2005, Dauvissat - I have had this before but then it was from magnum. It is full on and rich, drinking really well now, it has a bit of oiliness to it and very real Chablis ripeness. A keeper? I am not so sure but a lovely wine. 17.5-18/20

And then into the red 2001's:
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 2001, d’Angerville - An element of softness, almost too mellow and easy, poised. Not too much depth  but very fine and good. May be the elegance that 2001 can give to the Cote de Nuits can be a little light for the Cote de Beaune, who knows. It was lovely but not that serious. 17/20.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2001, Lignier-Michelot - My notes here are only really notable by their brevity, saying only "good, silky, rich & good". 17-17.5/20.
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru  2001, Groffier - The first of a Bonnes Mares pair that caused much discussion quite a lot of it based on bias (both ways). The Groffier was spectacular, very Pinot, extrovert even gregarious, open and full, ready and really quite sexy. One of the "real drink me now" bottles. 18/20
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2001, de Vogue - The vote showed that of the "Bonnes Mares for drinking now" Groffier got the nod (me included). The de Vogue had a saline edge (I love that, it's the Barolo man coming out) it was coiled up (for which read closed if you like), dense, taut even brooding, all there and serious. The potential is great (IMHO). Now 17.5/20 could be 18.5/20 easily.
Echezeaux Grand Cru 2001, R.Arnoux - Quite dense and fragrant, red primary fruit, a dash jammy may be or just a bit hi-octane, tarty, good stuff if not massively serious. 17/20.
Echezeaux Grand Cru 2001, Engel - One of the wines of the night by consent, very fine, dense but never heavy, quite savoury or certainly finishers that way. It is in the second stage of development, a little browner and as above more savoury, not salty but nearly, moreish which is always a good sign. Really good. 18.5/20
Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2001, Rousseau - Gorgeous, soft and succulent but with real focus. Very fine, not overly rich, refreshing even, which takes some doing at this stage, does have a savoury edge but is at stage one, may be one and half of its life. You could drink a lot of it. Pretty special. 19/20
Clos Saint-Denis Grand Cru 2001, Dujac - A very interesting selection alongside the Rousseau. This was more dense, had more volume, quite rich, higher-toned, succulent, almost purple fruit, delicious and a treat any day but not with the refinement and class of the Rousseau, a sexy bottle of wine. 18-18.25/20.
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2001, Dugat-Py - Checked and then not tasted. Not in good shape.

The really brilliant food was as below. It is a very generous kitchen, they don't just over load you with food, there is finesse, but they also don't leave you hungry and needing bread. A great restaurant. You should Go!

Game Consomme Dome d'Or, English Wild Mushrooms

Charred Mackerel, Pickled Chicory, pear and Walnut

Saddle of Hare, Hot Pot for the table, Brussel Sprouts and smoked bacon

Welsh Rarebit

Many thanks to Mr H our host and organiser!

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Now I've been lucky to have a few rather splendid meals and wine line-ups in my time (far more than I deserve if I am being honest). This was "right up there".
A 12.30 meet time and a seat at the "Experience" table at Royal Hospital Road was a good combo. Jan (Konetzski, Sommelier) looked after the wines brilliantly and as always Clare (Smyth, Chef) had orchestrated a brilliant menu. The food is at the bottom of this blog and was simply brilliant.
Proceedings kicked off with a magnum of Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 1989 from Bruno Paillard. I used to buy Bruno Paillard NV in France years ago and always loved it. I never knew he had any holdings in Le Mesnil this was a lovely magnum in great shape, at a lovely stage of it's evolution, a little bit of weight from the age but still the focused precision of Le Mesnil.
From here we went to Prum Wehlener Sonnenhur Auslese GK 1949, this was of course fully mature with a definite aroma of Lapsang Souchong and herbal tea, a slightly dry marmalade as well, it has become quite dry but the fruit was still there, fascinating. The partner to the Prum was Auslese 976 from Muller which was amazingly fresh for such a dry and hot vintage, it was soft, mellow lemon and lime with a little light honey edge to it. Really impressive, of the pair I found the Prum more intriguing but I think more of the group preferred the Muller by a shade.
White Burgundy now took centre stage with a Pair of Montrachet's. Montrachet 1992, Lafon had an almost lemon spritz and a lighter colour then there was a mocha note that weirdly I usually associate with older, late disgorged Champagne. I liked it. The Montrachet 1993, Ramonet was more evolved with a dry intensity at the same time as a little honeysuckle, it was good and very enjoyable but possibly not the very best showing of that wine.
Now we had a Red Burgundy extravaganza with three great wines both being represented by the 1991 and 1999 vintages. Two vintages that have a real purity of fruit focus. Each pair was done blind and each time the consensus (and certainly me) got it wrong.
Grands Echezeaux from Domaine de la Romanee Conti was up first. 1991 first, this caused me problems as I know this wine quite well and rave about it on a regular basis as being a (under the radar) gem. This was a looser, less poised and less precise showing, more savoury than "normal". The 1999 was weightier, more dense, just richer actually. This, may be, doesn't quite have the class of the 1991 (on usual showing) but would be great to try again in 3-5 years or so. May be it just wasn't a DRC day as the pair didn't quite sing as they have done.
The next pair was Clos de Beze from Rousseau. Not a wine I know very well but both were impeccable. The 1991 had staggering purity (in fact the clarity and colour of both Rousseau's was a delight in itself), real focus and a tight red fruit that made this a very exciting glass, there was the early signs of the tiniest bit of maturity but the character was still primary (if that makes sense). The 1999 was cracking, amazing depth and seriousness but at the same time had red fruit and clarity, if you own this you should be delighted.
And so the last Burgundy pair was upon us and with Rousseau and DRC drunk what would be the last name? Leroy and namely Richebourg. The 1991 was in "wine of the day" territory. My notes are contrasting in a way but it just goes to show how multi-faceted the wine was. Both savoury and sweet with depth and opulence also. Blackberry fruit , delicious with a little bite, stunning. Refined and with freshness, in a word "complete". Obviously the 1999 followed and was a little more forceful but also completely "left", cloudy and without any pretence whatsoever. There was menthol but also a herbal deliciousness, soft succulent and also young, a very splendid wine now with lots more to come.
What one now needed was Port! Quinta de Noval Nacional 1967 was the bottle in question and once Jan had used the Port tongs we were "in". It was simply staggering, a wine seven years older than me and still in many ways primary, if mellowing. I thought it was simply brilliant, so poised, so harmonious, a puppy in many respects but as with all great bottles it was showing well now. If I had a bottle when would I drink it? I genuinely have no idea, it has everything so drinking it would always and never be a mistake if that makes any sense.
Our host never lets a lunch go buy with one Sauternes and on this occasion it was two wines that I have had before Chateau Yquem 1976Chateau Climens 1971. The former is intense, rancio, rich and not over sweet, hedonistic and like liquid Tarte Tatin and Creme Brûlée combined. The Climens is more elegant, less rich, a lovely glass, they are a perfect foil for each other.
I must list the food as the dishes were glorious, I think we all might have picked different favourites but really there was no weak link.

Venison tartare with beetroot

Seared venison fillet on a Himalayan salt plate with English wasabi and Lapsang Souchong broth

Roast Mallard duck with lavender, honey, fennel and salade Landasise

Pheasant with Albufera sauce and white truffle

Ragout of Hare with pappardelle and chestnut

Roast Loin of Venison with shoulder sausage, polenta and Tasmanian mouton pepper

Vacherin fondue with Krug Champagne and white truffle

Cucumber sorbet, salad burnet, lemon verbena and mint

Lemonade parfait with Honey, bergamot and sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet

So there you have it a simply brilliant lunch with perfect food and exquisite wines. "Memorable" doesn't come close...

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Beef and Bordeaux at Hawksmoor...

With the wine lover who set up this great Lunch leaving London for a while a Bordeaux orientated dinner was called for! Everyone brought a bottle our host brought several!
So to kick things off it was Beef tea which sparked a conversation about the joys of "Bovril & Sherry". It was delicious in a savoury and salty way. The first two whites were then poured 
Cervaro della Sala 2001 which was the lighter and more focussed than the Cervaro della Sala 2007. It was a really fascinating contrast as you would never have had them that way around. The 2007 showed a little bit of yeasty oxidation from what was a hotter vintage. Next up on the food front was Scallops poached in Red wine with Short rib & mash a dish I thought was seriously delicious. We were onto a pair of New world Chardonnays now: Cakebread Reserve Chardonnay 2008 betrayed its 16% in my opinion and was nicely harmonious with the oak, that can show at times, being well integrated. The second wine was Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2008. I had never had this before and I was impressed crazy though it sounds I was solidly in Chablis 1er Cru, the only reason I use to justify this is that the bottle was under screwcap and had a very slight spritz.
We were then into the reds with the Steak Tartare - Beef vs Veal course. Beef won easily to be honest, more richness and better texture plus the egg works better. The two wines for this course were Rauzan Segla 2004 and Clos du Jaugueyron 2004, both from Margaux. The Rauzan had a good classical nose and then a slightly short finish, I liked it but I've found many other 2004's more quaffable and that was the case with the more lush and sweeter Clos du Jaugueyron. The food courses did not need to get bigger but they certainly did with a rather vast Beef shin macaroni. That we ate with Clos du Jaugueyron 2000 & Leoville Barton 1990. The former did perfectly well with a slightly savoury edge and a slightly tough structure, it just needs time. The Leoville Barton by contrast was open, mellow, complex and delicious, really very impressive. Perfect now.
So now it was time for the "main course" of Bone-in Prime rib, Porterhouse, Hawksmoor Sausage, Beef dripping and chips. This was eaten slowly (as fast as was possible by this stage!) with five Bordeaux. Beychevelle 1988 was charming and poised, more open and obviously enjoyable than I associate with 1988's. Tertre Roteboeuf 1997 (my bottle) confused people blind but then FrancoisMitjavile's wines do, it was rich in iodine and a little tar but also had the trademark bruised fruit. Cos d'estournel 1989 was expressive and expansive with a savoury freshness and a showy persona, a little exotic. The Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux 1998 was pure and primary, not overly complex. That is not the way you could describe the last red - Chasse spleen 1955 (re-conditioned in 2007) - when tasted blind we were all thinking 1980's or may be 1970's but certainly not the 50's. There was a lovely saline, bacon fat nature to the wine but still sweetness of fruit and no brown tiredness.
One last course remained - Suet sticky toffee pudding with Clotted cream. A nice light and refreshing ending! The two wines, both in halves, contrasted each other with the Lamothe-Guignard 1989 being a little weary and dried out, drinkable but not so charming. The Lafaurie-Peyraguey 1988 was almost the opposite, fresh lithe and with good focus.
Very little eating happened the next day!!

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Chateau Coutet tasting with Aline Baly

Rather splendidly Aline Baly (whose family have been Chateau Coutet since 1977) came in this morning to show four vintages Chateau Coutet and the second vintage of the estates "new" dry wine - Opalie 2011.

Opalie 2011
They are only ever going to make a maximum if 4000 bottles of this wines and in 2010 it was 3000, for this 2011 just 3600. Where this wine differs from many dry wines produced by Sauternes or Barsac estate is that this is a designated dry wine from a particular site. The blend is 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 45 % new wood is used for 9 months. The wine is a really good balance between subtle but persistent fruit, good minerality and texture and a nice backbone of acidity. The oak is played perfectly - the wine benefits from it but you can't taste it. I nice thing to own. 16.5-17/20.

Coutet 1997
Opulent, generous but focused, the nose is towards oranges and marmalade but not over the top, the palate is then a mellow combination of apricots and ginger, it has a lovely balance and I'd say is just right now. A slightly different blend from normal (as seen for 08/09/10) with this being 75% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc & 5% Muscadelle.

Coutet 2008
A less opulent nose but with great balance, perfect as an aperitif, the fruit is soft white fruit with a medium sweetness, really drinkable. A very small yield in 2008. The blend for this and the next two was the same - 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc & 2% Muscadelle.

Coutet 2009
A very slight whiff of cheese rind about the nose that disappeared very fast, then a beautiful expressive but fresh and clean nose, a more opulent and viscous texture than the 2008, pineapple and toffee but not cloying. I can't see this wine closing down, I think like most things 2009 it will remain generous. 17.5-18/20.

Coutet 2010
Serious style of wine, considerable density, a little rancio in style, a mighty length and the sort of wine to tuck away, many layers to come in the future. Really very good. 18-19/20.

We discussed how long the bottles can stay open in a fridge (3-10days) and  whether to decant (yes!). I did also ask a little bit about Cuvee Madame an ultra rare, ultra selection only made 13 times since 1943. It spends 3 years in barrel and then 10 years in bottle before release and is made from 100% Semillon pretty much selected on a grape by grape basis. The most recent three releases being 1995, 1997 & 2001.

Bravo Aline!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Tardieu-Laurent 2012's

The Rhone is one of the regions I have come to really like later in my wine career. I'll be honest and say that I find tasting the wines difficult at times, Syrah and Grenache being very different, far more so that Cabernet and Merlot in my opinion. The same can be said of the difference between Viognier and the other main white grapes, Marsanne and Roussanne. Drinking rather than tasting however is a different issue, much fun to be had.
One of the Wine Press was in to taste the full range of Tardieu-Laurent 2012's last week and afterwards I took the opportunity to go through the range. Most aren't yet bottled so these were cask samples with a tiny bit of So2.

The Whites
Saint Peray VV - Some pear fruit but also a lovely minerality, really good stuff - 17-18.
Condrieu - A little blowsy (I'm not Condrieu fan sadly), lots of expression, open and quite full - 16
Hermitage Blanc - Eaux de Vie and a little spritz, decent, less oak that some years, an almost Islay Whisky like saltiness, feminine for Hermitage Blanc, not convinced this is the true showing - 16-18
Cotes du Rhone Les Becs Fins - Great value, elegant, fresh, flowers but not OTT, impressive - 17
Cotes du Rhone Guy Louis - Clean and clear, lovely fruit, poised, quite serious, good! - 17+
CNDP Blanc VV - Beautiful nose, fruit and savoury complexity with focus, really lovely, the pick of the whites for me - 18++
The top two whites for me!
The Reds
Cotes du Rhone Les Becs Fins Rouge - Clean red fruit, a little candied, nice richness, lifted 16-17
Cotes du Rhone Guy Louis Rouge - Whiff of oak that will integrate, good texture, a little spice and cream a little "tarty" now but could be a star when it all knits together - 16 (++?)
Rasteau VV - More heady, mulled fruit, nice balance, a little white pepper, berry fruit, a little drier - 17
Vacqueyras VV - Kirsh, heady but not OTT, juicy fruit, like dry port but then quite refined, confusing but potentially very fine - 16-18
Gigondas VV - A little more savoury than the Vacqueyras but also clasily refined - 17 (+)
CNDP VV - A little more overt than the CS that follows, the new oak makes a difference but should knit in well - 17
CNDP Cuvee Speciale - Mulled fruit, not bruised, has compote complexity, very fine with a long and elegant finish, impressive - 18-19
Crozes-Hermitage VV - Pencil lead refinement, not my stye of fruit but impressive, precise. 17
Saint-Joseph Les Roches VV - Heady with crimson and ink to the eye, loved this, more forward and fruited than the C-H, nice finish too - 17.5
Cornas Coteaux - Bacon and berries! Not too savoury on the palate a little dry but this is Cornas - 17
Cote-Rotie - Meaty and a little sweaty, as it should be, root beer (i.e. mellow "deep heat") and rugby changing rooms, more elegant on the palate than I expected - 17.5
Hermitage - Muted nose, "grown-up" texture, real substance, otherwise hard to assess 17-18.

Really interesting tasting, my feeling is most of the white will drink really well straight "out the box". The reds will certainly re-pay 2-4 years in the cellar.
The top three reds, all very promising.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Truffle-tastic at Zucca...

I am delighted to say that something of a tradition appears to be emerging…a November truffle extravaganza at Zucca.
Sam (Harris) organises a great menu, Eric gets a fun crowd along and we all bring wine then eat our way through about nine courses each coated in white truffle. The 2013 Truffle crop would appear to be stunning. The best bit of it all is that people are generous and choose interesting bottles, about half way through you can't work out whether its about the wine or the food - perfect!
As always we kicked off with Perle 2006 from Ferrari, showing well at the moment with a little edge of lemon shortcake then a dry finish it sets things up well.
So, with some Sprat Fritti and Broccoli Fritti it was time of the first white, my white. Meursault Perrieres 2009, Matrot in Magnum, it's my wine so I can say what I like, I took it because I have a lot of time for Thierry Matrot and think that he makes some seriously good wines. This, however, was decent but no more than that, ready now, a little broad and loose, not worth cellaring further. The next white was very poised Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2003 from Raveneau you would not have guessed 2003 in a "million years". Chablis purity and a lovely whiff of old gym socks that you some times also get with White Bordeaux, beautiful texture and very expressive but in no way "of" a hot vintage, very moreish and a perfect combination with the delicious triple header of Pesce Crudo (see pic at bottom).
And so to the red as the Venison Carpaccio smothered in Truffle hit the table, the dishes were all good but this might have been in the top three for me. The red of choice was spot on, lots of black and a little red fruit exploded out the glass, charm with a dollop of extrovert, it was La Dame de Montrose 1990, two bottles served separately. The structure was soft and I would say this was definitely at a beautiful peak now, really great. It is so nice to be excited by a Bordeaux.
The next five reds were all from magnum and were all decanted as the "Dame" had been. We ventured into Burgundy next with Romanee-Saint-Vivant 2000 from R.Arnoux. Open, mellow and fruited without a bite of structure. The 2000's are looking lovely now and certainly it represents one of the vintages to be drinking. A totally new dish to me was served with the RSV -Potato & Mushroom cake, fonduta, Saturday breakfast was being cancelled as I started it and that was only the last of the Antipasti!
The structure of the wines took a bit of a step up from here with Ornellaia 2000 showing next. It showed superbly, ripe and a touch sweet with a dash of tobacco. It was expressive and stopped short of being too much, may be a little tarty but in a good way, just lovely from now onwards. The dish with it was what Sam described as an "old school" pasta dish - Ox cheek Cannelloni, Cauliflower Cheese - slow cooked comfort food with Truffle everywhere? Yes please!
The next wine was the only glass I didn't finish - Voerzio Barbera d’alba Riserva Pozzo dell ‘ Annuziata 2007 - it had been decanted at 4pm and was still almost impenetrably rich and port like. I have not had it before and it'll probably out live me. It would also stand up to chocolate very well. If you own it then forget about it for a decade I'd say, incredible stuff that was just hard to gauge in amongst wines with a different texture and weight.
Risotto Bianco came next and once the "truffle squad" had been you actually couldn't see the Risotto, apparently Adam who did the food with Megan helping as well, doesn't like doing Risotto, well all I can say it that it's pretty awesome. It worked really well with the next magnum, Barolo Brunate 1997 from Marcarini, this is a wine and vineyard I know well but I hadn't had the 1997 before. It can be a tricky vintage as it is often a little open, lush and lacking focus but this wasn't. As "Henry the 8th" my fellow diner said "the cool serving temperature was crucial" to how well this wine showed. Warmer vintages need cooler temperatures. The wine showed tarry red fruit and a little tartness (in a good way). Really very enjoyable.
Pigeon, Hare & Lentils was the next course served and may be it's the fact that I live in North London but I love lentils especially in this sort of dish. It was a prefect foil for one of, if not the, wine of the night - Barolo Brunate Riserva 1988 from Giuseppe Rinaldi. Rinaldi is a wizard of a producer and one whose wines I do anything to buy. My notes are hard to read by this stage but I can tell from their erratic nature that the wine was exciting and exacting. Lots of fruit but a lovely degraded complexity, dense and rich but also elegant and with a cracking saline quality that I love in the best Barolo. Simply put, a brilliant wine.
The main course (yes that's right the rest was just a warm up) of Grouse, Roast Carrot & Wild Mushrooms was now served and along side it the oldest wine of the night. Another legend of Barolo - Cappelano. The wine was Barolo 1964 from 2 different bottles. The wine had a nutty, hazelnuts and walnuts, finish as well as some sweet but degraded red fruit, lovely but I would suggest it has little more to offer from here on in, the savoury bacon and tar edge was delicious, the odd "frazzle" too but not too many.
A fascinating blind white was served with the selection of Italian cheeses, it was a couple of bottles of Clos Joliette 1970, Jurancon Sec. It was like dry toffee apple and one of those wines that was fascinating on the nose but slightly harder work on the palate, really intriguing. And so to a lovely Pistaccio Cake with a cracking couple of halves of Avignonesi Vin Santo 1986. The Vin Santo was brilliant and even at the end of this feast of wines and food it caught the attention for having a beautiful rancio edge to a lovely nutty but fruity nose…as good a Vin Santo as I have ever had.
Staggeringly good evening as it goes - thanks to all for their generous bottles.

Beautiful Pesce Crudo
Potato & Mushroom Cake, fonduta

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Zucca then Golf then...

A slightly chaotic blog this one but a few memorable wines have been drunk so here we go.
Starting with a delicious dinner at Zucca with a great wine lover. Two good bottles were opened. A very nice, if still simple due to its age, bottle of Bernkasteler Badstube Spatlese 2008 from Prum and then a serious bottle in the form of Grands Echezeaux 1991 from Rene Engel. The Prum was decanted which is necessary at this early stage, still simple it had lovely ripeness and vitality, really wakes up the taste buds. There is a long life ahead for this, I would probably next look at it again in 3 years time. The Grands Echezeaux was really something, nothing like a wine of 22 years old in honesty. I would say this was just starting to hit the second phase of it's life, vibrant and complex but still with forceful fruit really beautiful. 1991's along with 1993's really are lovely. The Truffle pasta and then Mallard went brilliantly with these wines.
The following morning it was off to the Wildernesse Golf club in Sevenoaks for a round with friends as their guest. We got lucky with the weather and after a good front nine things sort of fell apart for me this meant it was cigar time. I got out a nice mellow, easy, morning Robusto - Saint Luis Rey Regios from 2012. The round was really enjoyable and after a quick beer we then ventured off to The Vine, also in Sevenoaks for some lunch. The food was spot on, all the dishes tasting delicious and working well with the wines. We hadn't really co-ordinated much and ended up with four reds. They were an interesting selection starting with Charmes Chambertin 2005 from Tortochot, not a producer I know at all. The wine was primary but not closed, clear and clean red fruit with a tiny bit of tannin. Many of the 2005's do appear to be showing more than was the case 6-12 months ago. This is a wine that will age well but I don't see it being an epic. Lovely, relatively simple and a nice drink. Next up was the oldest bottle of the day and both the most unique as well as interesting. Troplong Mondot 1962 is not something you see everyday. I have to admit to having a real mental block over this estate. I am, in polite terms, not a fan. I find the wines they make now to be a little monstrous in character and extraction and just not the sort of thing I like to drink. This though was very different, elegant and with red/black fruit, poured straight from the bottle it drank well immediately and over the next 30 minutes, much longer and it might have faded but it was both fascinating and impressive for a vintage that is decent but not a patch on it's predecessor. The last two reds were both red Hermitage. The first Hermitage 2008 from Tardieu-Laurent, this was my offering and before you think why such a young Hermitage? I'll explain. In 2008 the plot that this wine was from was harvested even later than Chave and the elegance of the wine really impressed me recently so I thought it was time to re-visit and share it. It showed well, very primary but with a lovely feminine red fruit in amongst the more "butch" darkness, it was good but then I was somewhat trumped by the next wine! Hermitage 1998, Chave. Absolutely delicious, only really getting into 3rd gear but very easy to appreciate. I love the wine at this stage because it was mellow but is in now way either primary or older, just in a zone of loveliness, really superb. So two young wines that showed well and two more mature examples that were delicious, you can't ask for much more than that.
After a couple of days of normality it was time for another wine merchant friend to come over. This just means more bottles to open! We started with Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Riesling Spatlese Jubilee Label 2009 from Schloss Schonborn which is a wine I have followed for some time as I think it offers stunning value and lovely richness. This showing did not disappoint. I am trying desperately to leave some for a little while but not managing it very well at the moment. The next bottle was infanticide, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses by Nathalie & Giles Fevre, even decanted it didn't give a way a great deal but did have a lovely texture and was very try to Chablis I just kind of wish I hadn't opened it. On to red and a wine I know very well, Barbera Cerretta 2008 from Giacomo Conterno which was great with Mrs H's brilliant, if labour intensive, chicken pie. It just has guts as well as elegance and fruit, tricky combination to pull off. We then went onto one last bottle and I have to say I was really impressed. The wine in question was Slowhand Pinot Noir 2009 from Muddy Water in Waipara, NZ. The clarity of the red - strawberry and raspberry but in no way bitter - was staggering, not far off the kind of character you get from Felton Road. I will certainly be having more of that!