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...