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.