Thursday, 30 May 2013

Peter Sisseck and his line of travel...

Around this time of year each year Peter Sisseck pops into the office to show the upcoming vintages of his wines as well as the last release. This was a really good tasting and one in which the questions flowed. As one colleague commented often winemakers say "tell me what you really think of the wines" and for whatever reason you often don't or feel may be you shouldn't. The opposite is true of Peter, you know he wants the feedback and doesn't think he is necessarily right. I think the success he has had does mean he can be more confident with trying things and less fearful of getting things wrong.  To my mind this come across in the Pingus wines especially.

We started elsewhere with only the second vintage - 2011 - of Peter's St.Emilion property Chateau Rocheyron which will be released soon. The 2010 was a great success and you can see why this estate has a great future. The estate will be bio-dynamic from 2013 and uses the same consultant for this as Pontet Canet. The 2011 saw only 30% new oak, Peter has also started to fine the wine with egg whites as well (something we spoke of at length). The 2011 will be bottled in June 2013. The colour was a redder colour than you might expect, a good thing, no over extraction here. Lovely refreshing acidity and cherry fruit, lovely tannins that are soft but not too soft, a remarkable length and most importantly a wine that has not tried to over egg, pardon the pun, things. Impressive.

We then headed south for Peter's Ribera wines. The Psi project is all about retaining old vine fruit against the greedy commercialisation and higher, less interesting, yields that have started to become commonplace in Ribera.
Psi 2011 is a fresh and red fruited wine with cherry and almost blueberry fruit, proper tannins and a very primary feel, good grip. This is a wine that Peter is happy really reflects the way the Ribera wines should be, great now but better in 1-3 years, not overly polished. The 5th vintage of Psi and may be the best? Mind you 09 and 10 are pretty damn fine...

Flor de Pingus is a wine made from separate plots to Pingus so NOT a second wine. It is made from 22 hectares, 7 of which are "En Fermage", in La Horra and on a range of soils. Over the time from the 2006 vintage to this wine the % of new oak has dropped (a theme in Peter's wines) from 100% to 40%. Tasting the 2011 & 2012 side by side was fascinating as comparison is tricky when one is essentially an early cask sample and the other not far from bottling.
Flor de Pingus 2011 - A creamy texture on the initial taste, fruit is redder and crunchier than I remember of Flor, less coffee. A complex and serious wine already. Good acidity, amazing length.
Flor de Pingus 2012 - Lusher and darker but still on the red fruit spectrum as opposed to black, some damsons too, stunning, really lovely, long.

From Flor we moved to Pingus where arguably the biggest changes have been made with the a drop in new oak to only 10-15% and the increasing use of whole bunches, almost 40% in the 2012. Now this is not supposed to be about oak but it is a very interesting point. Peter doesn't feel less oak changes the wine ultimately as that "shell" of new oak fades anyway but it allows a slower maturation of the wine in cask and to my mind makes for a more true and honest translation as well as adding elegance.
Pingus 2011 - Kirsch and mulled intense fruit, dense but not heavy, staggering texture in the mouth, big structure but not overpowering, great lift, very long...seriously everything...
Pingus 2012 - Amazingly pure and primary - a baby - bold but not harsh, couldn't be any more fruit in there...I'm already looking forward to tasting this next sounds daft to talk about a wine like Pingus going up a gear and I realise I am biased but it feels like that is what is happening


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Ornellaia - 1990-2010

An invite from the UK agent to a tasting of Ornellaia from 1990-2010 was only ever going to get one reply...a big YES. The wines were presented by General manager Leonardo Raspini and Winemaker Axel Heinz at Sotheby's. I am not going to launch into background here as Ornellaia is well known and there are a lot of good profiles etc "out there". They also have a good site

The tasting started with two vintages of Le Serre Nuove which is a true second wine in the same sense as Bordeaux. It is a blend of sites that don't quite make it into the first wine and production is circa 30,000 bottles. The first vintage was 1997.
Le Serre Nuove 2010 - Leather and spice, dark fruit that is subdued and then tobacco. It is big and rich, expressive in the savoury sense, cocoa, mocha and bruised brown fruits. Good length, good grip that is may be overly dominant right now. It possible needs more clearly defined fruit but for a second wine in what was a tricky (cool and damp) vintage it is good, 15/20.
Le Serre Nuove 2004 - Lovely ripe fruits as well as sweet tobacco. Soft palate, lovely, open with great balance, nothing harsh but some gentle grip, drinking well now and over the next 3-5 years, really lovely, 17+/20.
Ornellaia 2010 - Closed but serious, brooding even, deep and savoury. Big classy tannins, nothing lush here, masculine. Elements of mocha and cocoa but no harshness. 17/20. The cool climate shows and I think it is crucial that they didn't over-oak. Interesting to follow this wine.
Ornellaia 2009 - Could not have been more different from 2010 in vintage character. 2009 harvest was end of August to 12 Sept where 2010 started on the 13t Sept. This was obviously a very hard wine to make and control. I may possibly have got this wrong but to me it was the weak link. Bruised but stewed fruit, some warmth and volatility (not necessarily a bad thing). On the palate is was a bit spread out and loose which meant the tannins were a bit exposed. 15/20. Decent but not expressive or exciting.
Ornellaia 2008 - Lovely dense but expressive nose, good life and vibrancy. Has a nice softness to the mid-palate. Power and tannin at the end of the palate. Needs 2-3 years, nice sweetness after a while in glass. 17+/20.
Ornellaia 2007 - Bruised sweet fruit and new leather sweetness. Open and out there. Quite sexy and approachable without being too much (many 07's are too much!). It has structure but a nice easy soft one. A savoury finish, good length. An Ornellaia for the decadent. 17-18/20.
Ornellaia 2004 - A decent production in 2004 as 2003 had been so small. This was my wine of the tasting. Having had the 2004 Serre Nuove it was always likely to be good. The fruit is redder and sweet, the leather and oak a perfect balance for the fruit. Very fresh and vibrant, acidity frames it well. It will age well but if you have some have a bottle now, too good to miss. 18+/20. Very fine and very complete.
Ornellaia 2001 - This wine was in a different place and profile from the 2004. Beef stock and soy on the nose, browned bruised fruit, a touch of bacon fat (frazzles) in there too. Tastes like Sangiovese (none present). Not for everyone but the most Italian for me. Francois Mitjavile of Tertre Roteboeuf would call this "degraded". 17/20. 
Ornellaia 1999 - Refined, darker fruit, slightly saline character, very smooth, softened with a lovely texture. A little dry but it is a food wine, very honest and now showy. Refined and a little stern may be. 17/20.
Ornellaia 1990  - With the vineyards only planted in 1982-1983 this is very much from the early stages of Ornellaia. A light expression, a nice nose of soft sweet leathery fruit but then the palate is really strange and drier, faded some how. This is not a wine I will score as a whole, no need. Lovely nose, not much there on the palate.

A really interesting tasting. An estate that it Iconic in terms of Tuscany and Italy and deservedly so...I'd happily drink several of those with my own money.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Port 2011's blind...the Corney and Barrow way...

At Corney & Barrow every time there is a Port declaration we have a full tasting, totally blind, with scores recorded in a log of various tastings that have been done. The longest run of accurate reports relates to Port so it is important to keep it going. Many of the companies other records were sadly lost in the war. The last entry was for the 2009's but to be honest that was only a part declaration. My last report of a fully declared vintage is here 2007 PORTS. I have always had a soft spot for Port as it is what got me into wine in the first place. The full tasting team was:

Alison Buchannan
Tim Stanley-Clarke Widely regarded as one of the leading Port experts in the UK with strong links to the Symington group of Ports.
Godfrey Spence - Author of the Port Companion and a very experience Port taster and lecturer.
Adam Brett-Smith
Paul Masters
David McClaren
Will Hargrove
Tom Bird
Guy Seddon - MW student.

Scoring, in a departure from the norm, is out of 10 which in itself led to much debate. 8 out of 10 being a better score than 16 out of 20 in my view. Anyhow on with the ports. Listed below are my notes and mine alone. I think the over riding patern in this tasting was the absence of any "shockers". I have put the other tasters scores at the end of the note and then a comment after knowing what the wine was.
The line-up with Alison giving instructions
1) Quinta do Vale Dona Maria - 6/10 - Aromatic fresh, not overly Port-like, richly viscous on the palate, good but a little simple, not quite my style. Other scores 6, 4.5, 7, 6.5,4.5,5,6.5,7.25. I was a tiny bit disppointed after the reveal here.

2) Skeffington - 6.5/10 - Slightly animal with a dash of frazzles on the nose but then a lovely vibrant palate, tannins a little over hard and aggressive. Other scores 6,4,6,7.5,5,8,7,7. Not a house I know well but a decent effort.

3) Pintas - 7/10 - A very "Bordeaux En Primeur nose", fresh and not savoury. Good fruit on the palate. Overall high-toned with balance and elegance but not masses of depth. Other scores 7,6.5,6.5,6.75,8,8.5,6.5,7.25. A good and consistantly well scored Port. Potentially very good value.

4) Smith Woodhouse - 7.5/10 - Deep and dark nose but with freshness, nicely lush on the palate, a "bit of a tart", flashy. Not overly complex but good. Other scores 5,6.5,5,6.25,6,8,6,8. A port that has shown well early on before (like Gould Campbell does, not made this year). Good.

Everyone actually listening
5) Quinta do Roriz - Corked - sadly no back up bottle.

6) Offley Boa Vista - 8.75/10 - Savoury, taut and big, may be a shade closed. Mouth coating but also fresh. Dark fruit to the fore, very good, serious, built to last, classical and uncompromising. Other scores 6,7,7,7.25,8,7,8.5, 6.75. I was the highest scorer but there was consistency amongst the score and two others were 8+.

The team (and aprons) in action.
7) Quinta di Noval - 8/10 - Nice, slightly green (not unripe) note amongst the fruit. Soft but with good structure, different from many, almost drinkable. Other scores 6,7.5,7.5,7,7.5,6,8,7.5. I, may be, expected more here. I like this and liked it's own personality. Worth noting that there was a Nacional made in 2011.

8) Cockburn - 9/10 - Serious but beautiful nose, so so balanced. Dark fruit and savoury complexity on the palate. There is almost marked tannins but not quite, the balance means the tannin is good not OTT. Other scores 9,8.5,7,6.75,6.5,6.5,7.5,9. A good surprise given the perceived status of Cockburn. I like surprises.

9) Croft - 6/10 - A slightly rubbery almost dank nose, not that great a start. Good weight on the palate but otherwise not a complete port. A little forced? has someone tried a little too hard here? Other scores 8,4.5,8.5,7.25,6.5,7.5,7,8. No real consensus here and not my favourite. Croft is often thought to be lighter, this is not that at all.

It's a sticky business!
10) Warre - 7.5/10 - Lovely nose, no rough edges, nice palate a little bit too red on the fruit side, a little spirity too. Other scores 8,7.5,8.5,8,6,8,8,9. My note doesn't really match my score here which is strange and it seems to have gone down pretty well with the others so may be taster error (it was the last sample I tasted).

11) Churchill - 6.5/10 -  Dark, brambly, savoury and rich but dry and rich. Lacked balance but then a good length...slightly hard to be sure about.  Other scores 6,9,?,7.75,7.5,6,6,8.75. No real consensus at all here with scores from 6 to 9 and a ? Judgement reserved.

12) Sandeman - 6.75/10 - Initially hi-toned, then a little green, on the palate an explosion of fruit, a little crude and clumsy also a little hot towards the end. Other scores 9,8.5,9,6.75,8.5,6,7,8.5. Clearly I missed something here just didn't seem very together to me.

13) Ferriera - Brambly black fruit and some savoury edge, good. Dense peppery and big with good grip but not harsh or dry. Refined in fact. Richness and length are great. Big, serious but poised. Other scores 9,6.5,9,7,7.5,6.5,7,7.25. My 9 was joined by 2 others, I was really impressed, nice to be surprised again.

14) Niepoort - 8.75/10 - Pepper and a little spirit, very primary and peppery character stays. Serious, dense and savoury, a powerhouse where the black fruit comes through on the palate. Other scores 8,8,6.75,6.75,7.5,7.5,9,8. I liked this for it's power, no compromising.

15) Quinta do Vesuvio - 8/10 - Lovely lovely nose, very complete, not over big, almost drinkable now, some richness but a quieter style, low key. Other scores 6,9,6.5,6.75,5.5,8,8.5,9.25. Varied scores here but from a decent base, did well and if people have a run of Vesuvios this is not one to miss.

16) Dow - 7.75/10 - Refined, not extravagant on the nose, subdued? Good fruit on the palate, nice combination of red and black fruit, lively not heavy. Tannin appears lower but I think that may just be the fruit. An early drinker? Other scores 7,7.5,6,7,6,6,9,9.25. I have an emotional attachment to Dow, always have, just like the style which confused me here, the nose was subdued in a Dow style but the palate was far fresher and showier than I expected.

17) Graham - 7/10 - Waxy and slightly unpromising on the nose. Palate is ok but not expressive even a little medicinal. Balance ultimately but not exciting. Other scores 8,8,6.5,7.5,8,8.5,8.5,9.75. I must have missed something here just didn't do it for me.

18) Fonseca - 7.25/10 - Fresh even elegant and racy. Mulled spices and fruit. Then on the palate the fruit is so red, almost no black, almost candied. A totally different style good length too but where's the grip?
Other scores 9.5,9,9.5,7,9,6,9,9. With 6 people giving this a score starting with 9 my fear over the grip and slightly strange fruit profile is obviously not a problem.

19) Taylor - 8/10 - Serious, has fruit and savoury balance. Deep big and rich but not OTT. Mighty and masculine without charm (as yet). Other scores 6,7.5,8,7.25,7.5,7.5,8,9. In retrospect I am glad taylor showed this way, uncompromising and I fear I may have been a tad mean.

20) Niepoort Bioma Vinha Velha - 8/10 - Lovely black fruit, lively freshness, with some aniseed, I like, quite forceful, has personality. Other scores 8,9.5,8,7.5,9,8.5,9,9. Not a port I have had before, good.

My usual scribbles
21) Capela da Quinta do Vesuvio - 6/10 - Exotic, almost weird melon like freshness, a bit strange. All in all this was ok because there was good weight on the palate but I just didn't really like it. Other scores 7,9,7.75,8.25,8,7.5,9,9. May be, again, I missed something here but I think not. I started tasting by tasting Port number 11 so that there wasn't too much of a squeeze to reach samples so this was half way through my tasting where others were nearing the end.

22) Graham - The Stone Terraces - 9/10 - Lovely nose, decadent, expressive with just a drop of savoury seriousness. Some slightly candied fruit. All in all very fine, big tannins but in balance.  Other scores 9,9,7.5,7,6.5,8.5,9.5,9.25. It is great that this Port scored well but a pain as there is so little of it.

So my verdict - well going into any tasting expecting a lot is always dangerous but I thought the amount of fruit and the balance was very good in general. There were very few if any poor wines and that in itself is a very good sign. I enjoy the tasting massively. Two things struck me. Firstly, all wines really need tasting several times to make a sure assessment but I would say if you are only going to taste once then blind is sensible. Secondly the overall standard of Port seems on the rise, I loved the 2007's as well when we did this tasting.
I think everyone needs to re-assess when to drink Port. It is too often either not touched for years, if you have a case why not have at least one bottle when it is young or it is left to the end of the evening when the senses are battered by all that has gone before. Give it a bigger glass too when drinking it! Now for a glass of Tawny I think.
The Port Log!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Moueix 2012's and a few others

Having not travelled to Bordeaux to taste the 2012's I was delighted to have a chance to taste the Moueix 2012's at Home House (this included some other vintages).

Moueix 2012's

La Serre 2012 - Quite modern in style but not over the top, flashy and lots of fruit, not too saturated, good. 16+/20.

Plince 2012 - Berry fruit, very primary and pure, not over complex but good. 16-16+/20.

Bourgneuf 2012 - Quite closed on the nose, more serious than those above, quite exotic fruit character on the palate. The best Bourgneuf I have tasted. 17-17+/20.

Providence 2012 - Lush and open fruit on the nose and then more mineral and savoury on the palate, good. 17/20.

Certan de May 2012 - Restrained but very good nose, black with some red fruit, quite a big wine but not over the top, very good (it might be the labelling but I always find this has something in common with Trotanoy, masculinity I guess). 18-18+/20

Hosanna 2012 - Rich, cherry and deep crimson fruit, a fruit wine, the savoury edge well hidden. 17.5-18/20

Belair-Monange 2012 - Real freshness, medium weight no more than that, red cherry fruit, lifted and elegant. 17.5-18+/20

La Fleur-Petrus 2012 - The best I can remember LFP being, utterly balanced, dense but fresh, fruited but savoury, very impressive. 18-19/20

Trotanoy 2012 - I am biased as I have always loved this estate. This year the savoury masculine side is all there as ever BUT then the lifted exotic fruit and heady notes made me think of Petrus. Very serious. 18.5-19.5/20

Vieux Lartigue - Good value, earthy but fruited, ready now and for a long time, nice. 16/20

Cote de Baleau - Not a style of St.Emilion I am a fan of, a little coffeed. 14-15/20

De Sales - Savoury, cheesey note which will resolve, good weight of red and black fruit on the palate. 17-17.5/20

Plince - Saine and savoury nose with red fruit and then grip, needs a little time but nice. 17/20

Rouget - Very good and showing as very young. Red and ripe, quite modern but very good. 17-17.5/20

Croizet Bages - Grippy gutsy and old school, very Pauillac, very much in need of food. 16/20

Rauzan Gassies - Gamey and high and then rich with fruit on the palate before a leathery edge, not perfect now but it is all I there. 16-17.5/20

Prieure-Lichine - Almost sweet richness of the fruit, needs to mellow but ripe, ripe, ripe. 17/20

Napanook 2009 Dominus 2009 were both on display. The Napanook as ever hits the ground running and is exotic, expressive and glycerol. The Dominus is a cracker, very ripely balanced now but has ages of development to do. Always a wine with a massive drinking window, depends how you like it as when to open.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A few smokes now the weather has turned...

What a joy to get out in the garden with a drink and a copy of the racing post now that we have something approaching some sun and warmth. It's been a good week on the cigar front. Last Sunday started with the Bolivar Royal Corona MUR JULY 2012 - see right - a chunky and rich even slightly heady and dense smoke. It is often said that when starting to "lay down" a cigar stash that you should start with some Bolivars. I can see why. This was full bore and as young as the date suggests. I will be leaving the rest of these that I have for 18 months or so. If I had to liken it to a wine it would be Cornas or a traditional Cote Rotie, hard and dense with a long life ahead of it.

Tuesday evening saw an early evening trip to The Mayfair Hotel's cigar bar, where Mr Sabourin brought along a couple of Por Larranaga Belicosos Extra's (see top and bottom). A limited edition for The Asia PacificRegion from 2008. These, as all Asia pacific releases are supposed to be, are meant to improve with age and I would say these are just starting to hit their stride now, there is that hint of caramel you should get from Por Larranaga but also a great depth and a lovely amount of heavy silky smoke, overall they are on the rich side of medium...really cracking. Thursday evening was just one of those when you get back home and go straight to the fridge for cold, and not especially serious white wine then after dinner want a smoke that requires little if any concentration. I went for a Saint Luis Rey Regios and it turned out to be a great choice, straight into stride and just under medium, lovely weight, great mellow tobacco on the tea and straw side flavour wise. The smoking equivalent of a pint you know you like and that flies down quicker than it should.
All three smokes were good, Bolivar to lie down, Por Larranaga for those more serious moments and the SLR Regios for instant gratification..I need to buy more of the latter as a priority!!