Friday, 31 January 2014

Zucca - first of 2014

It didn't take long to get back to Zucca in 2014 although this blog has taken longer to publish that I hoped. With there having been a few Burgundy tastings in town "Halifax" (he's in several entries on here) had decided a trip was a good idea. When we arrived Sam (Harris) said "how about you just pick a main course each and I'll do the rest" - perfect! I've never been a big fan of menus.

Zucca Friti
Lardo, Salami and Bresaola
Seabass Carpaccio and chilli
Clams with Broccoli/Cauliflower Hybrid
Burrata with Artichoke and cress
Ox tongue with Cauliflower pickle
Linguine with Bechamel and pistachio
Corda with spicy veal ragu
Pork Belly / Veal Chop
Panna Cotta / Custard Tart

Clams with Broccoli/Cauliflower Hybrid
So how better to start the drinking than "Sussex's" Salon 1996? With the 2002 release just around the corner this was very timely. The 1996 has a taut lemon sherbet core and is still a puppy but one that is enjoyable now and will just carry on evolving for some decades to come. Our northern organiser had brought the next two wines - Maxim Grunhauser Herrenberg Spatlese 1995 & 2007 - clearly he feared the amount of alcohol there would be and decide to lower things. The two wines showed just as you would expect, the 2007 gorgeously vibrant and youthful but so drinkable. The 1995 was that bit drier with petrol notes just starting to appear, a little lychee too. Sadly the Meursault Villages 2005, Lafon lost the game of oxidative roulette, a real shame. A bottle was bought of the list to replace it and that was Tocai Fruilano 2009 from Miani, it was very young but really delicious in my view with a weighty waxy texture but some how not heavy…it opened up in glass well.

We were then onto a pair of Burgundy's Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2002, Domain Pierre Roche and Nuits St George 1er Cru Boudots 1989, Leroy. You could look at these a few ways the Roche was a headier richer more decadent wine, a little more evolved than you might expect but not in a bad way. A quite viscous texture, I don't know the estate well but from those who knew it better this seemed to be the style of the wines and lets face it 2002 is quite a rich vintage anyway, nice. The Leroy was leaner, fresher (especially given the age) it was focussed and very enjoyable without being in anyway extrovert.

Barolo now and two at very differing ends of both the maturity and style scales. The Barolo Pie Franco 2006 from Cappellano is very traditional and uncompromising but is actually just incredibly delicious too. I fully expect it will shut down a little but there is no sign just yet. It has an exciting nervousness and a fruit style that is slightly darker than some traditional wines. The Barolo Villero Riserva 1982 from Vietti was interesting but in honesty had gone slightly too far down the "bacon and frazzles" road, there was some reddish fruit there but the bricky chalky texture had started to show. Drinkable and in a fully mature way decent but it is tired. 

With pudding we had a cracking desert wine - Malvasia Passito 2008, Vigna del Volta - that had good sweetness but also a vibrant and very clear acidity, a great little discovery!

One of the great things about Zucca being something of a haven for wine lovers is that there are often other people trying interesting wines and the odd glass gets passed over. We sent a few glasses to our friends next door but you can safely say we got the best of the deal as they sent samples of the 4 wines below:

Montrachet Grand Cru 08 Marquis de Laguiche, Drouhin - so clearly Grand Cru.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 99, Leroy - stunning, brightly vivid.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 99, Lignier - slick sexy, quite hedonistic, smart.
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 66, Leroy - fully mature, still sweet, fascinating.

Brilliant evening!

Barolo night at Zucca (just for a change)

A splendid bunch of chaps from a well-known Suffolk wine merchant (that’s all I’m saying) had been threatening a trip to Zucca for a while. Their passion (to an extent new found) for Barolo meant it had to be the wine theme.
We kicked off with a really lovely bottle of Tattinger Comte de Champagne 2002. I think this was the first time I have had it. It had a lemony focus but was very easy to drink. I would imagine a mag would have gone quickly, the bottle “evaporated” at speed. The only thing that surprised me about the Comte was the relatively high level of “sweetness”, it must have a decent dosage, either that of the vintage is just so expressive. It will be fascinating, and enjoyable, to see how it evolves over the years.
The six Barolos (I’m trying to give up on the phrase Baroli) were book-ended by Germans. The first was Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Spätlese 2001 from magnum a very low, for Spatlese, alcohol of only 7%. The wine was good, nice but not more than that, a little “spread out” and loose, lacking focus. I feel I am being overly harsh bt it was just that a little bit of the zip had gone. Others who knew the wine from other bottles certainly suggested this.
So with the food coming at a good pace we were onto the Barolos in 3 pairs. First: Barolo Brunate 2004 from Marcarini and Barolo Santo Stefano 2004 from G.Mascarello. The Brunate was a slightly odd bottle, not so much faulty as just not a great one, I liked the sour cherry fruit to start but it did seem to "split" a bit, one diner noting it just showed too much alcohol. I have had the wine from magnum twice and both times it showed better than this. Not a disaster but a little outclassed by it's partner.  The Barolo Santo Stefano 2004 is a wine I have never had before, exciting, it is a lovely dense but elegant wine, it wasn’t showing masses but what it showed had focus and class, quite floral notes, very persistent. If you own it you have done well!
The next pair was a lovely contrast Barolo Pajana 1998 from D.Clerico and Barolo 1999 from Bartolo Mascarello. The former is a high toned very oaked wine, not a bad wine but just, to my mind , not a Nebbiolo and not a Barolo. The clean dense fruit is to be admired and when judged purely as a wine it is impressive. At 16 years of age though the oak is still quite separate from the wine and will become more so with air. What would it have been like with half the oak? We’ll never know but it’d be interesting were it possible to know. The Bartolo was the opposite "old school", starting to mature with a little bacon and savoury edge joining the gentle bruised red fruit, it was quite easy and approachable for a 1999, nice wine. 
Ridiculous expression but there we go...
The final pair was quite something Barolo Monprivato 2005 from G.Mascarello and  Barolo Monfortino 2004 from G.Conterno. The Monprivato was like a cross over between Barolo and Volnay, really lovely lifted elegant red fruits, very focused and streamlined. If you have this wine it is definitely worth having a bottle soon as it is a delightful. The Monfortino was decanted from 2.30pm-5.30pm then put back in the bottle. On opening it had been hard as nails, tight. It then opened up more and more without ever revealing the full array that will come with time and was there from barrel. One of less than a handful of the only wines I have ever given 20/20. It is a great wine and that’s that. The texture being wonderful now, if I owned some (sadly I don’t) then I’d look again in 6 or 7 years. 
One wine remained and it was a little gem that just bought everything back into focus - Graacher Himmelreich Auslese 1999, W.Schafer (8.5%) – a little spritz and still primary Riesling. I am a bit of a “cheap date” on Germans generally as I love Kabinetts but this was an example of a spot on Auslese.

There was a lot of good chat and many laughs…what’s the theme next time chaps?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Late Christmas at Planet of the Grapes

Having not managed more than a beer as steam before Christmas it was time for a gathering and the venue was to be Planet of the Grapes at Bow Lane a great venue with proper grub, good glass and a very wine friendly attitude. There was no real brief on what to bring but we ended up with a nice selection. It wasn't a night for making many notes so the below are more recollections than anything.

The whites
Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2005, V.Dampt - a wine I know well, oily and a complex, drinking well.
St.Joseph Les Granits 2007, M.Chapoutier MAG - a waxy wine of weight and structure, delicious with the food, a mighty effort for a hot year, impressive 
Clos du Papillon Savennieres 2006, Domaine de Baumard - really lovely and received very well all-round. Savennieres is such a good drink. 
Langhe Riesling 2012, Vajra - A first for me and a welcome one, an easy mellow feel, wonder how it'll age? not that it needs to.
Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2009 - Really decadent number like a ripe vintage Meursault, not OTT but quite hedonistic.
Corton-Charlemagne 2011, Bonneau du Martray - Love this wine and showing well even now, well ahead of time.

The reds
Percarlo 2009, San Giusto a Rentannano - I love Percarlo but this needs time to mellow and for the oak to knit in, I just hope that does happen as the fruit is clearly very good.
Blagny Sous le Dos d'Ane 2002, Domaine Leflaive - The last vintage of this wine. A beautiful, delicate nose and then good rich but medium bodied palate, cracking.
Barolo 2007, Bartolo Mascarello - Showed very well, great estate in great form, quintessentially elegant Nebbiolo from a vintage where that was difficult.
Barbaresco 2010, Gemma - Interesting if to my taste a tad too dry, the 2010's are great in barolo, may be less so in Barbaresco. Good with the steak.
Potensac 2003 - I was really impressed here, I'm not a 03 fan generally but this was more "good drinking Bordeaux" than it was an "03".
Hermitage 2002, Chave - This has a nose to die for, such purity, it reminded me more of Rousseau than of Grenache.
L'Aurage 2008 - drinking beautifully in the degraded Mitjavile way.

The "others"

Gewurtztraminer SGN 2002, Clos St Landelin - I wish I'd made more notes here, I remember really loving it's waxy but sweet texture and refreshing finish.
Mossy's magic Ice wines - 3x200ml - Riesling, Vidal, Cab Franc - Very very sweet!
Fonseca 1997 - drank really well, still puppyish and young.
Delamain Pale "n" Dry - not sure I needed that but it was rather splendid!

Until next time...

Vertical of Tenuta di Trinoro from magnum

On thursday just gone I was delighted to join Andrea Franchetti in a tasting given for the Oxford University Wine Circle. The tasting was, two trios of the great estate but ten years apart. The wines were in magnum and had been sent to Oxford one week prior to the tasting:

After giving a low down on the estate and the ideas behind it we were off and tasting. Going from the youngest and most recently bottle wine (2011) back to the first vintage of Trinoro (1997). The wines were all severed cool having been opened 15-30minutes in advance and not decanted.

2011 - Decadent, black fruit but not heavy fruit, creamy in texture, a little light spice, good acidity, there is an opulence. A red element to the fruit character as the wine opens out. 18/20.

2009 - Almost impossible to discern between the red and black fruit. The fruit is dense but not heavy, the savoury side is there but in no way overpowering. A hard wine to describe as the balance is exquisite (something I found only yesterday with Dominus 2010). Almost any flavour you can think of, from damsons to bacon, can be found. Very serious 19/20. (see comment regarding 2001 below).

2007 - An almost Amarone like note on the nose. This is hi-octane. A little smokiness gives way to a bright red fruit. Bruised fruit and a little leather is evident on the palate. It is a heady wine to drink with big food or even after dinner. If Francois Mitjavile made wine in Tuscany there is a chance it would taste like this, a touch "degraded". 17-17.5/20. This may be in an every so slightly adolescent phase.

2001 - Wow, superb. When Andrea said he feels it is the best wine he has made I was worried that expectation may cause disappointment. I was wrong. There is a sweet ripeness but also balanced by a gentle leather and tobacco. The structure has just started to mellow and whilst it is here it is "in" the wine. Very long, splendid, really superb. In so many way the bother of the 2009. I need some of this for my son (born in 2001). 19.5/20

1999 - Some ripe green bell-pepper and a funky stink that soon blows off. Lovely acidity, fresh fruits, on the red side. The savoury element of this wine is fascinating like a vitamin B pill. Has a real easy complexity about it, really enjoyable. 18/20.

1997 - So drinkable, easy going, mellow, lovely fruit but also a little beef stock and cheesecloth. A wine that is in a lovely phase two of it's life. Really showed well, when you think how young the vines were this is quite remarkable. Lovely. 18/20.

I have been drinking and tasting Trinoro or quite some time now but this tasting really exceeded my expectations in both the way the wines had aged and the overall quality. I must admit bias as I do work for the UK agent but the way the older trio had evolved but retained their sweet fruit is very encouraging or a Andrea described it "rewarding".