Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Shed…with 3 bottles

Last Thursday saw my first visit to The Shed Restaurant in Notting Hill. The idea was that of a customer/friend and we were joined by another wine lover. The format was a simple "bring a bottle" scenario. After a couple of beers at the bar we moved to our table. The glasses are large tasting glasses, which is ok, but would be the one thing I would change (or have a better range as an option).

The menu is great, the format is what is best described as "British Farm Tapas" of "Farmers Market Tapas", you just need to order lots and see how you go. I wish I had taken more pics as the dishes are not only tasty but also very good visually. If you go then do not miss the Chorizo dish, we had it twice!!
Nice Line-up
The white we had was As Sortes Godello, Valdeorras from Rafael Palacios, a wine that was new to me, it had definite structure and good acidity with a combination of gooseberry and stoney minerality on the palate. There was a nod to Aliogote and Irouleguy I thought, nicely taut.

The wine I took will be no surprise to anyone - Barolo Cascina Francia 2008, Giacomo Conterno - It only had a brief, one hour, decant but showed really well. It's probably the last time I'll have the 2008 for 3-4 years as I anticipate it'll be a little closed now until it's at least 10 years old. I love the feminine classicality of the 08's, this was very aromatic with lovely fruit and a little grip.

Leoville Barton 1997 - This performed just as you'd hope, very classical cool cabernet nose, a few funky whiffs of cedar and then a little mellow bruised blackcurrant before a nice new leather savoury side, the palate was not so much faded and just mellowed out completely, the same for the structure that just makes this an enjoyable drink...

And as a massive shower finally blew itself out it was time for a cab home…I'll definitely be back!
Beef Cigars, Mustard Mayo, Tarragon - Lamb Chips with Harissa

White Wine and Seafood in Suffolk

A quick bottle of rounded but poised Horizon Blanc de Blancs NV from Pascal Doquet set the day off nicely as we found ourselves on the mid-morning train to Ipswich. On arrival a quick change before a slower ride to Melton. We were in Suffolk and off by cab to The Butley Orford Oysterage, a cracking fish restaurant linked to a great smokery. With the menu, of which I think we had everything, being solely fish and seafood it was always going to be a day of whites. A great array of wines it was too.
A new one on me!
Brut Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Selosse (Nov 2013 disgorgement) was next out of the blocks and the not quite chilled temperature was actually no bad thing, the wine had enough focus to balance the sparkling Meursault-esque nature of Selosse. Slightly oily with a little whiff of reduction, probably the best Selosse I have had.
A rather lovely way to start the meal
As the delicious food started to arrive - everything from Salmon to Eel to Mussels and Oysters - we were on to the first still white which was served blind. One of our number knew the capsule but we were all fairly quickly in the Loire. Sancerre Les Mont Damnes 2006, Francois Cotat was the wine in question. I'd never had anything of his before and was both pleased to have the chance and impressed by the wine. In a lovely phase. The flavours and aromas were light and almost airy, green but "good" green with some white flowers, a ripe green apply freshness…in a great zone right now.

We then ventured to the opposite end of the scale really and had Belle Cote 2004, Peter Michael, again blind. I was in a warm vintage Meursault sort of place and am not unhappy with that…for some it was just too glupey and textured, I actually quite like it though a glass would have been enough. The fruit character was slightly bruised tropical fruit that matched the opulent texture, not a wine to have anything but well chilled. The only other Peter Michael wine I have had was a rather impressive Chardonnay Cuvee “Indigene” 1991, Magnum at the Paulee at Bovey Castle in early 2013. That seemed to have aged very well and lost the oak so who knows the same may happen here.
The two Will's conferring.
A welcome non-blind wine followed - Gaia & Rey 2005 from Gaja - it's a savoury wine that has aged well, the fruit is a littler spiced too, the saline finish balances things. at 9 years of age I'd say it is certainly not on the way down.

We were then served Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2002 from Raveneau blind again from a bottle with only a 1971 next label - this can be off putting. I was fairly sure it was Chablis but I was thinking a little older. It had lovely notes of cheesecloth, creme fraiche and goats cheese that then went on to be nougat and gooseberry…really good as is always the case with this great producer in my experience.
A splendid "spread" and that's for starters!
My bottle was up next - Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2001, Bonneau du Martray - and I can already sense the "what so young" comments. I have had this wine to drink rather than taste twice now and it is delicious, not in an over-opulent way but in a balanced loveliness way, a little bit of very classy oak shows alongside the fruit, I think it'll be a wine that drinks well for quite some time but without closing up…If you own it I really think you should have a bottle soon just to see what it is like.

21yrs apart but equally lovely
The last white at actual lunch was - Morey-Saint-Denis Blanc 1er Cru Monts Luisants 1990 from Domaine Ponsot - This was really lovely, very generous in a 1990 way. A little pineapple and a dash of reduction, then a tiny bit of cocoa and mocha…really lovely. It has a very definite character, the only other time I have had it was the 2002 vintage from magnum at a magnum, bbq and poker day/night organised by the very fine chap who brought this along. What I had not hoisted in at all was that a lot of the unique character comes from the fact the wine is made (exclusively as far as research will show me) from Aligote! If you've not had it then you need to put it on your list...

We finished lunch with a sticky toffee pudding of epic proportions then had a wander down the road to pick up some smoked goods before pudding number. This was served with - Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1990, JJ Prum - this was in hedonistic form, a little over developed may be but very very good and much enjoyed. 
Diet? What diet?
Needless to say the return train journey was a more mellow affair than the way up…what a great day! Well done all…and special thanks to Uncle Ju-Ju...

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Sager & Wilde my first trip (and certainly not my last)

This evening made it's way into the diary a good two months earlier. It was with three like minded wine lovers. The venue was always going to be Sager & Wilde and having heard a lot about this place (all good, which is rare) there were no protests from me. They have a wonderful list put together by several of the team there but all from wines they love and want to drink. The Wine List just makes you want to trade up and the fact that the wines have the same (very modest) cash margin has the same effect. They must be selling a lot of the best actual bottles from "off the list" in London these days. The food offering is basic in a good way. Cold meats, great toasties and more simple dishes, all deliciously wine friendly without ever becoming fussy and certainly no need for cutlery.

The format of the evening was a sort of "your turn" scenario with all the wines coming from the list. There were several people who wandered over and shared bottles during the evening which is one of the great things about a place like this…it attracts kindred spirits... 

So, we were off and running with a little blind red…

Wetzer Kekfrancos 2011 Sopron, Hungary - Totally new on me and I guessed Cru Beaujolais…lovely aromatic blackberry and black cherry fruit with a real lift. The palate is round in shape rather than linear and the only way you could criticise this wine would be to say it is a little hollow but then, there is a lovely elegant finish, mellow with a dose of wet stones, impressive. We were then on to the whites for the next few bottles.

Enviate "Taganan" Parcela Amogoje Blanco 2012, Jose Paster Selections, Canary Islands - Ok so a long wine name (and the list of grape varieties is even worse!) and a rather smart Raveneau-esque capsule. This actually had a lovely Chablis-like character with a sort of waxy grapefruit. This showed a maturity (not tiredness) that would make you think it was 5 years older.

Barraco Catarratto 2012, Sicily - This I thought was absolutely delicious, a herbal wine with citrus and then a complex texture but never heavy…lovely…good choice Mr R.

Bourgogne Aligote 2000, Pierre Morey - Ok so this was my first pick with some help from Michael (owner)…I just thought that as we were doing things blind it's nice to watch and let people try when you know it is almost impossible (not in a cruel way just a fascinating one). The nose was mature and apple-like but NOT bruised apples, then the apples became toffee apples, good acidity…a great experience if not an "everyday tipple".

Hermitage Blanc 1997, Chave - This had a bit of time in a decanter but if truth be told it could have been there for hours. A rich texture without becoming heavy, a nose of honey and flowers a substantial palate…superbly hedonistic…have a look at the picture, annotated by DB to leave nobody in any doubt about who the bottle needed to be drunk by.

We ten thought "it's time for some red"…already this evening was building well…you need 4 whites before moving to the "serious" stuff!

Barbaresco 1970, Produttori del Barbaresco - I spotted this when looking for my white so had it decanted then. I have a massive love for this Co-op, the best anywhere. I have also had considerable joy with Piedmont wines from 1970 so this just seemed too good to miss. A wonderful expression of deep Nebbiolo in a very traditional style. Good dollops of Iodine in amongst a beautiful bruised black fruit, a cracking acidity to keep the freshness, tarry and perfect now.

Volnay 1er Cru Mitans 1988, Domaine de Montille - Mr P then struck with a very clever choice that had us all searching around Piedmont again only f0r it to be Volnay…what's that expression about being wrong for the right reasons? After the "reveal" I wish I'd been a bit more logical about things but hey the wine was good, fully mature and autumnal but in an elegant way.
Hermitage Le Greal 1983, Sorrel - My notes on this wine are rather hard to read given the rather vulgar doodling by DB but then he chose the wine. Exceptional and probably wine of the night all in all. aged tobacco and leaf tea, very fine red fruit too. Then a meaty mid-palate of liquid beef stock and dry Oxo cube before ending with a white pepper balance. Clearly of full maturity (certainly not on the way down though) but I was struggling to say Northern or Southern Rhone and went for the later - wrong of course. Very good wine!

Mas de Daumas Gassac 1989 - I found myself back in the hot seat and went for this for two reasons, Firstly I had a case of the 2000 that I drank ridiculously early on, never a bad thing if you're drinking it because you simply like it. Secondly, I have never had it when mature. This was dense and black in an "Iron meets cool climate Cab Sauv" sort of way, did I like it? Yes, was it charming? Not really. I'd love to try it again as the only red and with a great steak.   

The numbers around our table seemed to have swelled now and the next couple were wines we were very kindly given tasters of... 

Windgap Pinot Noir (not sure of vintage) - A very rich and high octane style of Pinot…may be a little "worked" but good, so much fruit…

Clos de papes CNDP 1998 - a "puppy" of a wine…it's all there and brooding in intensity and fruit, good minerality but a wine that definitely will be even better with time, not because "it" isn't all here now but because when the fruit is looser and the structure more organised it'll be superb…made a mental note to try this again in 7-8years…very good. 

Nuit-Saint-Georges "Aux Saint Julien" 2000, Daniel Bocqueret - I remember liking this but little more…taxi to North London please!!

Great evening that will be repeated….interesting cycle in the next morning...

Monday, 23 June 2014

Pol Roger - Launch of Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2002

Last Thursday I was very lucky to get the invite from Pol Roger UK to attend a lunch for the launch of Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2002 at The Square. The whole meal - menu below - worked brilliantly from the, predictably, superb food to the wines, company and beyond. 

Lasagne of Dorset Crab with a Cappuccino of Shellfish and Champagne Foam
Iberico Pork Cheek with Creamed Potato, Spring Cabbage, Turnips, Apple,
Bacon, "1000" Flower Honey
Caramelised Wafers with Raspberries and lemon Verbena

Quite a trio!
The wines started with Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2002, a wine in a lovely place right now, generous rounded fruit but in no way too bold or too round. Biscuity but not biscuits with lots of butter in them...elegant. If you own it then drink some soon, I have no doubt it will age very well but is too good now to be missed.

Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve 2004 followed on and as you would expect showed a little more youth and focus. There was a lovely element of white flowers, I put in my notes that it would be best in 2-3 years. It opened out nicely in glass which is always such a good sign.

Next up was the main "man" - Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2002. My experience with this great Cuvee is limited to a couple of small tastings but I have always liked the way it tends to combine minerality with richness. We were given some very good background to the Cuvee. It was first made in the 1975 vintage (note to self to find a way to try this - my birth year!) to commemorate the death of Sir Winston 10 years earlier. Essentially Pol Roger had been thinking of creating a "Prestige Cuvee" for some time and this seemed to tie in perfectly. The style - the cepage and production is kept a secret - is very much as Sir Winston would have wanted. He drank his Champagne from a tankard with at least 20 years of bottle age and a great deal of what he will have drunk would have been from the legendaryl 1928 vintage. So how does this - the 14th Vintage - taste? It is a big wine, more in depth than breadth, the overwhelming feeling is of intensity and minerality, a savoury biscuity edge combines with a saline seriousness, there is almost a chew-able element to the wine. I can imagine taking time of this in a biggish glass, even decanting it. A seriousness...deeply impressive.  

With some cheese we were onto a red, Robert Sinskey Cabernet Franc 2010. A totally new producer to me, I have to say I was impressed. A real dark chocolate freshness (not sure that this is possible but hopefully it means something) and a light alcohol made this a most drinkable and intriguing wine. Black fruits that somehow manage to have a floral lift about them.
A quite brilliant pudding was accompanied by Gew├╝rztraminer VT Grand Cru Hengst 2001, Josmeyer which showed well if a little lacking in "zip", maturing and unctuous with generosity.

But this meal was all about the Sir Winston and "he" did steal the show, just as he should have done... 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Monfortino at Alloro...

The has been a massive amount of Giacomo Conterno activity in London of late. Some inspired by the Vinous Monfortino Magnum Monday 1970-2006 either way any chance to taste and drink these wines must be grabbed. The format here was eight people, a Monfortino each and then one other bottle. The venue as Alloro in Mayfair. The food was good, highlights being the Pasta and probably the best Tiramisu I've had!

Mixed Antipasti
Crab & Avocado Salad with Fresh Tomato Dressing
Octopus Salad
Taglierini with Black Truffle
Roasted Duck breast with Rosit and onions in a red wine reduction

The wines all came in flights, mostly pairs:

Krug 1988 Very good, got that Krug-like to me, almost delicate, very poised and elegant. Defies the richness and the house style. Citrus and backbone really clear to see. Impressive.

DP 1996 - I really like bottle aged DP (even at the same money I would prefer it to Oenotheque). I love the 1996 but for whatever reason (quite small glasses would be one of them) this bottle just did not quite have the focus it can have. Nice bit of biscuit though. Still good just not as good as it can be.

Perrieres Pair - Really interesting pair as such contrasts.
Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 2004, Roulot - Very good, great focus, touch of reduction, delicious, long lived. I was really impressed by this. Even the tiny warmed-up remnants in the glass where delicious (a great sign). Tessons 2004, Roulot I had recently would seem to confirm that Roulot "nailed it" in 04. Very fine wine.

Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 1993, Roche de Bellene - Rich and full, quite tropical, creamy and waxy. Not loose or gloopy but opposite to the Roulot. If this once had a lot of oak it has gone (I would imagine it saw very little new oak). Fascinating.

The "youth"
Monfortino 2006 - Just brilliant, incredible intensity but with an almost elegant lack of weight. Tannin and acidity in perfect balance with lots of fruit. I'd almost say the archetypal Barolo. Power, focus, refined, very long . I can't say there is anything I'd change about it

Monfortino 2001 - Quite rich and with definite weight, a little muted on the nose but with a savoury intensity, a real sleeper. In persona I think this is a person with serious intellect and ambition, may be ever so slightly lacking that glint in the eye. I like the wine, would love to own the wine BUT will I ever "love" this wine...I hope to find out.             

The "adolescents"
Monfortino 1999 - Not the very best bottle in my view, bold, very expressive and open. Slightly degraded but sweet brown fruit. as a stand alone bottle this would be a real treat it just lacked some precision on this evening.

Monfortino 1998 I was delighted about this bottle. It showed really well, a little evolved, secondary aromas coming in. Mellowed in the glass. My delight was in part because I have found the 1998 a tad underwhelming from two different magnums recently. The acidity seemed a little "separate" from the fruit. This bottle however was hedonistic and delicious from now onwards. May be it is a wine that suits bottle better than magnum??

The "young professionals"
Monfortino 1993 - Stunning as this had been from magnum at the Vinous event, balanced almost gentle, elegant and just so drinkable. It is a wine made with a light touch and all the better for it.

Monfortino 1990 Wow, precision and power, very fine, very serious but also with that 1990 hedonistic element. The magnum a few weeks bag had been ok but not a patch on this bottle. It’s the sort of wine you would want to decant and pour then just drink over a long time with very simple food, a real treat.

The "Old guard" (pre Cascina Francia ownership era)
Monfortino 1974 - Fully mature and a little dry but it is very good because it has a lovely mouth filling,  but not heavy, texture and a real lift, some of which is good acidity and the rest of which is just “life”. I would imagine that some bottles of this have faded a little but this was delightful.

Barolo 1970, G.Conterno - I took this as a few of us had had the Monfortino 1970 at the other dinner (an amazing wine!). It is a vintage that seems, oddly, to be slightly under the radar. Most 1970’s I have had have been very good. This is the “basic” 1970. There was a Riserva as well. This bottle was fully mature in both colour and nose. There is a refreshing quality to the wine which comes from the acidity and purity of fruit. It got better with air as well.

Monfortino 1961 - This was very light in colour, a “bricky” orange, very feminine and gently aromatic with some herbs, cinnamon and a little tea, fascinating and very drinkable.

One other Barolo:
Barolo Prapo 1993, Cerretto - This was meant to be served with the 1993 Monfortino but nice as it was that might have been an unfair match. It was honest and with good fruit. The structure was about right and on it’s own a good wine.

Doisy Vedrines 1989 - I tend to find that I appreciate freshness in sauternes more and more these days especially when it comes at the end of a long dinner or tasting. I really loved this, it was not OTT at all just spot on with freshness and zip balancing the maturity.

A really cracking evening that further confirmed Monfortino's place at Wines top table with many thanks to "Sussex" for organising!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Monte Bello Dinner 1981-2005 at "you know where"

This was a really cracking dinner. A motley true of mostly die-hard Zucca-ites gathered to taste (drink!) through a lovely array of Ridge Monte Bello and one other treat all provided by our splendidly generous host - Mr Ross! I also have to say many of the facts and background on Ridge and the wines below was also courtesy of the very same man.
John, one of Sam's chefs at Zucca produced a great menu which included many old school Zucca (or Malting's for those that remember) classics.

Vitello Tonnato
Tropea Onions, Burrata, Hazelnuts & Basil
Mushroom and Castelmagno Frittata
Grilled Sirloin, Bagna Cauda & Celery
Spinach, Stichelton & Walnut Lasagna
Pappardelle, Pigs Cheek Ragu
Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder
Bobby beans, Anchovy and Tomato with Yellow Polenta and Salsa Verde
Marmalad Tart, Sourdough Ice Cream

Now to the wines:

Monte Bello is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, at an elevation of 2300 feet, on the Monte Bello ridge. The first wines were grown here in 1892 but it was when a group of Stanford University students bought the land in 1959 that the serious winemaking started. 1962 was the first vintage of Monte Bello. Paul Draper, former Decanter "Man of the Year" and greatly respected winemaker, joined in 1969. The defining elements of the site/wine are that it is made at serious altitude, from Bordeaux grapes, on a limestone-based soil from low-yielding vines by one of the greatest wine-makers there is. It's the sort of combination that works.

We started the evening with 2009 Estate Chardonnay as an aperitif. There was no Monte Bello Chardonnay in 2009 so all the fruit went into Estate bottling. The main reason for this was that drought early during vintage then late spring rains so yields were just too low to make both Monte Bello and Estate Chardonnay. There is a savoury edge to the wine that doesn't entirely match the quite high octane Californian Chardonnay nose and slightly sweet palate. I didn't mind the wine but nor did it excited me. Better with food though. 15.5-16

Then onto the business of the reds which were served in pairs:

2005 Monte Bello - 70% Cab Sauv, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cab Fr. 13.4%. The Lowest yields in 10 years due to rain and wind. The vintage as a whole was saved by a warm summer. A mellow cassis nose with tannins on the palate that are a touch grainy. The fruit character is a little sharp but fresh and bright. Good to enjoy now and will keep. Given the trickiness of the vintage this is good. 16-16.5

2001 Monte Bello the 40th Anniversary Vintage - 56% Cab Sauv, 36% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot. 14.2%. A cool and rainy vintage. Early spring gave moderate heat then hot spikes, which helped Merlot followed. Quite muted on the nose in a serious sort of way, lots of depth and complexity, multifaceted. It demands more time. Definitely black fruit but a very complex combination of different types. Long. 18  

Tropea Onions, Burrata, Hazelnuts & Basil
1997 Monte Bello - 85% Cab Sauv, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. 12.9%. The growing season started badly with a very rainy winter, ultimately saved by long, mild spring. Overall the earliest vintage since 1962. All in all a tricky vintage. A slightly degraded wine in a sort of "Mitjavile" style. There is a opulence there but nicely counter balanced by the saline side. It has a quite lush texture, good to enjoy now. 17 

1996 Monte Bello 80% Cab Sauv, 11% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot. 13.2%. 
A very stormy year with 40% less production. Interestingly Paul Draper feels this is one of the best of the ‘90s. I was impressed, has a nice gritty grip, poised with good focus and more clarity than the 1997. A young wine even now but not overly tight. A little way to go to its peak, very promising. 18

1992 Monte Bello - 80% Cab Sauv, 11% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot. 13.4%. Good weather and a quite rare "bumper" crop which therefore lead to a savage selection (40%). This caused quite a stir at the table as it was served with the 1991. Both wines are very impressive. There is a quite saline, seaweed "stink" that disappeared with one swirl of the glass…then there was a purity of fruit with a real lift, good acidity, very fine, something about it reminded me of the 1996. Serious but very easy to enjoy as well. 18.5

1991 Monte Bello - 85% Cab Sauv, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. 13.1%. Pretty much "drought" which was then followed by lots of rain. Another large yield and an even more strict selection required (50%). Very fine. Where the 1992 reminded me of the 1996 this reminds me of the 2001. Just love the texture which is a way of saying it's bloody good but I don't quite have the words to say why. It just works and makes you smile. On the savoury side too may be. It's NOT a competition but just shaded the 1992 on this night. 18.75-19 

John and the Lamb Shoulder
1985 Monte Bello - Not totally sure of blend but very high Cab Sauv. 13.1%. A hot year with very ripe fruit so strict selection (45%) for different reasons than above. Merlot was little used as it was on the "flabby" side. There is fully maturity here, soy and asian spice, lean but lovely with herbs and cedar. Very good, very complete. 18.25

1981 Monte Bello 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot. 12%. A good vintage which Paul Draper says, even today, is one of the most ‘Bordeaux’ like wines made at Ridge. This bottle was good, fully mature, may be a tad over mature but with a saline quality and a precise acidity that kept it lively and enjoyable. 17

We did have one other Ridge wine which Mark kindly opened for us - Geyserville Zinfandel 1992 - which was very generous and fascinating. It was though, sadly, on the vegetal side and a little like jam that wasn't sweet. Colour still good and I am sure that there is  case for letting Zinfandel from this great team "mellow" but may be 22 years is beyond mellow? who knows?

We weren't, however, fully done for quality wines.

1905 Verdelho, d’Oliveira - This was stunning. I have always loved Madeira and I am going out there in September, this made me even more excited about that prospect. If I had to use three words for this (and I don't it's just that I don't have the words to describe Madeira fairly) they would be - Salty, dates, acidity - now for those that read my ramblings a bit they will realise why, for me that Combination really works…

I left, we all left, with smiles on faces and happily full bellies…can't ask more than that. Well done Zucca, well done Mr Draper and Thank you Mr Ross 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Tenuta di Trinoro 2013’s

While Andrea Franchetti was in town to show the Passopisciaro 2012 Contradas wines we also did a smaller tasting of the Tuscany 2013’s including a wine from Andrea’s cousin Carlo, more of which later.

Le Cupole di Trinoro 2013 – The estates second wine in a classical Bordeaux sense. This had not yet been racked and as a result was hard to judge as a fully finished wine. Tannin definitely there, quite black fruit, good acidity.

Magnacosta 2013 – 100% Cabernet Franc from 3 separate vineyard plots. Berry fruit and a little dryness, then a lovely expressive nose. Quite tight with good structure. Good wine 17.5-18.

Palazzi di Trinoro 2013 – 100% Merlot. Quite high-octane, very much sweet berry concentrated fruit. How will it age? 17-18.

Trinoro 2013 – Very good, serious nose, depth and dark fruit to the fore. Good balance with some definite structure. 18-18.5

I am liking the style of the 2012 and 2013 wines from Trinoro there is a cooler refinement and a lovely balance. The 2011’s are amazing but very highly toned (the vintage). A recent vertical (Tenuta di Trinoro from magnum) shows how great this estate is...

Tenuta di Passopisciaro - The Contradas 2012

Tenuta di Passopisciaro Contradas 2012

Having Andrea  Franchetti in town to talk through his wines from Sicily is always fascinating. Here we are talking about Nerello Macalese from the slopes of Mount Etna. The work Contrada means “cru” though technically they can’t be referred to as such.

Picked 6/7th November

Passopisciaro 2012 – Andreas generic wine from Etna, from various different parcels and may include de-classified selections from the Contrada’s. Light colour and delicious fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit. Made in an almost white wine way and it shows. 16/20

Contrada Chiappemacine 2012 –A site near the river. Berry fruit and with some sweetness and fruitness also. Very good but not too defined stylistically. 17/20

Contrada Sciaranuova 2012 – A very high, 850ft site. Quite heady, more full more round, quite a bit of tannin and acidity…good all round really. 17.75/20

Contrada Guardiola – 900 ft up , this is an amphitheatre where the winery sits, deep gravel with 80-100 year old vines. Lovely nose, balance with a good fruit side as well as a very good savoury seriousness. 18/20.

 Contrada Rampante – The very highest site and picked 2 weeks later. More depth than some, red fruit still but generous roundness, a dash of grapefruit acidity. Good. 17.5

I am sure I have a picture but I just can't find it anywhere!!!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

And on the third day…several Cantina Giacomo Conterno wines...

Following on from the Monfortino Magnum Monday 1970-2006 and then the Dinner at Zucca the morning of day three we had a very special tasting in the office. We showed the wines below, all double decanted that morning:

Barbera Cerretta 2008
Roberto only took over the vineyard in June 2008 so there this wasn’t fully under his control. Has a nice acidity (that a few people have told me they aren’t mad on) that gives it a precision and nervousness. The fruit is good in a cherry way.

Barbera Cascina Francia 2008
A darker fruit than Cerretta as always. Has the saline “Cascina Francia cool vintage” feel to it. A serious Barbera.

Barbera Cascina Francia 2007
Another bottle from the dinner the night before and a great counterpoint to the 2008, warmer darker more intense with more opulence so less acidity showing.

Barbera Cascina Francia 2011
In many ways a young 2007 but to my mind there will always be an amazing ripeness to this wine and a cleaner less funky note as well. Very good. I’d love to own this and drink a bottle a year for 12 years!

Then to Barolo:

Barolo Cascina Francia 2009
Another fine showing exactly as the previous evening but possibly even better in the morning as you just get the purity. An “insider’s wine” and one I’ll keep track of. (A friend, I respect greatly, who knows Barolo "inside-out" has suggested that Cascina Francia is the very best 2009 Barolo.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2008
I love the 2008 as I see it as the sister to the 2006 (often across the whole region but especially in Cascina Francia). There is a classical earthy, minerality to the fine but with fine features and a poise. I think it may be a modern day 1982. Never a showy wine this will give a lot of pleasure if given the time it deserves.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2007
Like 2009 a warm vintage in which there is no Monfortino. I think this is a wine that has more ripeness than the 2009 and is an excellent example of Roberto knowing when to use a lightness of touch. It is delicious now. The warmer vintages are best served cooler as it accentuates freshness and tightens up a wine that could be too loose. The fruit is starting to degrade a touch which is nice. The strtucture is pretty easy. It will age but to a degree why wait, if you own it I would look to drink half of what you have by the age of 10. Impressive.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2006
Love this, tannin and masculine structure to chew on, very proper. The wine is best left 4-6 years as the strength of this wine will be in its meatiness and savoury aspect. A real treat for the future.

Barolo Cascina Francia 2005
I have always liked the 2005 but find it hard to pin a persona on the wine. The saline side to this is lovely and you get a cool vintage feel. It is a slightly shy and retiring person with intellect. A good performance for a tricky and slightly erratic vintage.  I would leave 2-3 years and then drink. There is good fruit purity here even if it is slightly reticent at the moment.

Barolo Cascina Francia 1990
Really, really lovely, bruised dark fruit and an easy structure, I have had this a few times now and love it’s easiness. I often wonder if my perception of most 1990’s being easy and opulent clouds my judgement but I think not. I think this is perfect now.

Barolo Cascina Francia 1982
A decent if not great bottle of this wine. A little oxidated and frazzle-like but with vibrancy of sweet leather. I like it but you have to like earth the acidity for this bottle of this wine.

Barolo Monfortino 2004
So so elegant, I’ve pinned my colours to the mast of this being perfect and the freshness of red fruit combined with elegant but firm structure give me no reason to change that.

A fascinating tasting.

NB - Since then I have had the Barbaresco 1971 from Conterno…a wine very rarely made and it was lovely, amazingly fine grained sediment that you couldn’t get rid of gave this a chalky “bricky” texture which I like. The colour was holding up well as was the acidity…fascinating wine. I’d love to know where it was sourced from. The winemaking must have been as for Barolo as this did taste like "Conterno".

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A very special trip - Burgundy May 2014

This was an epic trip to Burgundy, unrepeatable I'd say. If it had a sponsor it might have been "Rennie". The combination of wines, food, people and location was exceptional.

Wednesday 14th May
I actually missed the very start as the team - EW, EB, JW & FVDB - all got cracking the night before we left.

DINNER - Oxfordshire
Obviously I can't supply tasting notes for wines when I wasn't there but the wines as a point of record were cleverly chosen by our prime co-ordinator FDVB! 

Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevieres 2004, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (PYCM)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2006, PYCM
Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru 1998, Ponsot
Chambertin 1998, Trapet

It sounds as though they all went down very well!

Thursday 15th May
A quick flight over the channel was nicely accompanied by Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs Halves – good if very youthful, creaminess on the top of white fruits. As soon as we landed our driver/fixer (Daniel, photo below) picked us up and straight off to lunch we went.

LUNCH - Le Chambolle, Chambolle-Musigny
Very good simple food and nice service all very relaxed. A list with younger good value vintages from many big names. A very enjoyable first meal to get everyone settled into the routine, the "banter" already in full flow this was going to be quite a trip. There was a slight feeling children on Christmas eve...

St.Aubin 1er Cru Charmois 2011, Mark Colin – the first of many good St.Aubins, lovely vibrancy but not without substance and great texture.

Chambolle-Musigny Villages 2009, Roumier – very good, dense fresh black fruits, good balance of opulence and refinement.

Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2008, Mugnier – featured high on my list of wines of the 
whole trip, uber-elegant, crisp red fruits but with structure there if effortlessly hidden. Delicious.

Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2008, Roumier – More depth and texture than the Mugnier at the expense of a little freshness, a different “shape” to the Mugnier. Promising.

Beaumes de Venise, good with the apple tart!

After lunch and en route to tasting at de Vogue we stopped off at both Bonnes Mares and at Musigny to have a nose around and get a feel for the terroir…so rare to be able to drink a wine then look at exactly where it was from.

TASTING – de Vogue
We were greeted by Francois Millet and tasted the 2013’s from barrel. They were at the pre-malo stage so a tricky tasting but there was real personality to the different Crus. The 2013’s were picked late – October 5th – with the entire crop in by the 13th October.

Chambolle-Musigny Villages 2013 – Pure ruby colour and very clean bright cherry and crimson fruit, feminine but with real focus.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru 2013 – A bit deeper in colour, red fruits again though, raspberry and pomegranate, then on the palate more pungent darker fruits and some black pepper.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 2013 (older oak) – Really cleanily persistent, very long, just four barrels, poise and focus to the cherry fruit. Impressive.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 2013 (100% new oak) – Redder fruit with a sweeter attack but a drier palate, a darker colour, a little nutmeg, less energy.

Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2013 – A rounder shape and as Francois put it a “brother of Chambertin”. This has bigger shoulders and is darker, blueberries and cloves.

Musigny Vieilles Vignes 2013 – Very complex, delicious but at the same time very hard to define, quite a bit of grip and very very long, depth, impressive.

From De Vogue Daniel took us to drop our bags at Hotel Le Cep a good spot with everything you need and good for walking to any of the restaurants we had booked in Beaune. A couple of beers slipped down nicely while we waited for our table at dinner...

DINNER - Ma Cuisine, Beune
Good dinner, great list of epic depth, no corkage allowed (we tried!). There was a very funny moment when JW did see fit to return to a coke zero as it was not “full fat”!! The ceremony of JW trying to have a coke at the start of a few meals became a point of smirking from there on...
Meursault Villages 2007, Lafon – Citrus and some opulence, very “Lafon”, good elegance to match the richness, nice wine that pushed the Coche hard!

Meursault Villages 2007, Coche-Dury – Very refined but a dash less “Coche” than I might expect, a good showing and perfect to drink from now onwards.

Gevrey-Chambertin Villages 2010, Rousseau – Excitingly pure and good, a great vintage and a great producer, so much to like. The 2010's are amazing in being very proper but at the same time gorgeous now.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Saint Jacques 2006, Bruno Clair - A decent wine but not as exciting as what went before. The vintage is not one that I “go to” as it can be a 
little muddied, this was fine but slightly clumsy and lacked the drive it needed.

Beaune Clos du Roi 1959, Chanson – Some real sweetness, I liked this, very much alive and well, pepped up with something when it was made? Bovril edges and then a little mint and almost eucalyptus. Heather and spice. Long and not “browned off”.

Friday 16th May

Having resisted the red wine at breakfast and survived the rather taxing buffet layout we headed, promptly, up the road north to Gevrey-Chambertin... 

TASTING – Trapet
We were met by Mdme Christine Trapet a lovely, charming and energetic host. After a good tour around the cellars we had a tasting of four 2011’s.
Gevrey Chambertin Villages 2011 – Elegantly red fruited with a backbone, I really liked this, has precision and makes me think of good Volnay with a darker fruit profile, can drink now.

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Capita 2011 – A combination of 3 different 1er Crus. A deeper darker fruit and will reward a few more years.

Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2011 – Taughter, tighter and larger, lovely berry fruits but black, quite serious.

Chambertin Grand Cru 2011 – Silky richness, volume of darker fruits, mulberry fruits also. Splendid!
Having bid Trapet good bye we had a little time to drive to our next visit via Chambertin to have a look at the vineyard.

TASTING – Clos de Tart
Sylvain Pitiot was a great guide here at the Domaine he runs. The tour was fascinating from seeing the vineyards to the winemaking and onto the cellars and a tasting. The improvements here, over 10 years or so, are staggering. There are 23 separate plots that then make up 7 parcels for the final blend.

Clos de Tart Grand Cru 2013 (Parcel 1) – Very cherry fruited and precise with some apple like aromas (pre-malo).

Clos de Tart Grand Cru 2013 (Parcel 4) – Deeper more blackcurrant in fruit style.

Clos de Tart Grand Cru 2010 – From bottle this is absolutely splendid and very very refined but at the same time bold and with some force…I think a potentially very great wine. 

LUNCH - Restaurant Simon, Flagey-Echezeaux
A cracking restaurant. They took a little while to warm tyo us but once EB had visitied the chef and assured him he could have some Yquem they allowed us to do Yquem 1990 vs Yquem 1989…Foie Gras all round then!

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos-St-Jean 2011, Amiot – I really liked this but sadly didn’t make any notes, it had a green apple acidity from memory.

Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2008, Groffier – This was a more “made” wine that either of the Grand Cru 2008’s at Le Chambolle a little forced and slightly disappointing.

Yquem 1989 – Superb, has the richness, opulence and intensity you expect but with real drive and definition.

Yquem 1990 – A more rancio style and more developed, very good but not as poised as the 1989, more of a tarte tatin also. Goof with the sweetness of pudding.

There was potential for our time keeping to slip here but with impeccable discipline (hich oddly remained with us all trip) we headed off just in time... 

TASTING – Chateau de la Tour & F.Labet
A wonderful 2 hours spent with the very engaging Francois Labet, first tasting 3 wines from Francois’ Negociant business (not to be under-rated). Then a very generous line up from Francois’ brilliant – and very on form – Chateau de la Tour Clos Vougeot (his is the largest holding). There was then much discussion about hunting...most of which went over my head. This visit really embodied how generous the Burgundians are. Francois managed to resist our plea to join us for dinner... 

The wines:

Beaune 1er Cru Marconnet Blanc 2012, Francois Labet – A generous wine with fruit that stops just short of being tropical, mellow structure with a nicely sensitive use of oak, just adds a little weight and spice.

Beaune 1er Cru Marconnet 2012, Francois Labet –Richness and violet fruit with nice depth, an easy wine to enjoy.

Beaune 1er Cru Coucherias 2012, Francois Labet – Darker fruit and has a lightness as well as quite saturated fruit, then good grip, lovely.

Then on to the Chateau de la Tour (the most extensive tasting of this great property that I have done):

Clos Vougeot Cuvee Classique Grand Cru 2012 – Complete, has a dark fruit core,
With big bold tannins, richness, masculinity, savoury with good grip. A keeper!

Clos Vougeot VV Grand Cru 2012 – Pungent and powerful, very impressive, real density but without leaving the Pinot Noir aromas behind. A real Vin de Garde.

Clos Vougeot Cuvee Classique Grand Cru 2009 – Wrong time to taste this wine (for which we were to blame as we had taken it with us), all the parts are there but it’s a sleep now. (When re-tasted the following day it was loosening up).

Clos Vougeot Cuvee Classique Grand Cru 2008 – Degraded fruit, richness then bold, a little leather, give it 3-5 years more, impressive.

Clos Vougeot VV Grand Cru 2008 –Just a step up in refinement, then more power, good acidity, high quality.

Clos Vougeot VV Grand Cru 2007 – Really, really delicious, quite feminine for this estate and for Clos Vougeot, has poise and balance, will age well but delicious now.

Clos Vougeot VV Grand Cru 2002 – Really, really decadent but with good freshness for 2002 (I often find this lacking in 2002 generally). Sweet fruit and just very complete, I don’t see it closing down so if you own this then try a bottle and enjoy it over the next few decades. So good that one of our party proclaimed "this is love!"

It had been a very good day, a little "rest" and then...

Bistro L’Hotel de Beaune, Beaune
Very nice setting with a cracking wine list, good friendly service (they thought I said a bottle was corked and had a replacement ready instantly – it wasn’t) and some traditional French dishes. Not small portions! (see below). I look forward to going back.

Chablis La Forest 2011, Dauvissat – Good, very Chablis, in honesty impressive but way to young.

St.Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly 2012, P-Y C-M – Very nice, nervous balance with a bit of richness that will come out.

La Forge de Tart 2004 1er Cru, Clos de Tart – Good especially for a 2004, a lightness of fruit and a gentle hand which is a good approach.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er cru Les Vaucrans 2007, Chevillon – Good, quite dense for a 2007, nicely “Nuits” in style, good earthiness.

Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds 2010, d.Angerville – Very good indeed, really energy drive and poise as well. Another prime example of what I said about 2010 at Le Chambolle. Just beautiful now at what seems like infanticide.
Not small!! 
Deep sleep and no late night drinks...

Saturday 17th May

En route to Chassagne-Montrachet for the tasting below we decided to stop off at “Combettes Corner” to have a look at things – Meursault to the left and Puligny to the right etc. We then went to the top corner of Le Montrachet (pic below) to have an early morning loosener  - Krug 1988, deliciously decadent, rich but not overly heavy – while then walking across the bottom of Le Montrachet and on towards Chassagne. To accompany this stroll we had a bottle of Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011, Bonneau du Martray which showed some real poise and elegance, balanced white fruit and strangely not too young but still very youthful (if that isn't a contradiction). A quick hop back into the “van” and we were at our tasting.

TASTING – Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (PYCM)
A brilliant tasting it was too, a really up and coming producer and very nice man, he has a lot of drive and makes wines with some richness but mainly a real focus and length that lean more to elegance than power. His desire to use 350 litre barrels where possible also shows he wants the oak to be subdued.

St.Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly 2012, P-Y C-M – Lots of texture, a nice bit of nervousness, serious.

St.Aubin 1er Cru En La Chateniere 2012, PYCM – From 2 different sires in the same vineyard, very refined, may be not the density of the En Remilly but a very steely core.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Baudines 2012, PYCM  - Very generous, good bite of citrus, almost opulent nose, perfect in 3-4 years, very good.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2012, PYCM – Very mineral, fine almost Chablis-esque.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2012, PYCM – More roundness but still clean and focussed. Will be generous wine, just a matter of the time.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevieres 2012, PYCM – More refined than the Charmes, may be longer lived, just has a little more lift.

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2012, PYCM – Broad and powerful, just what you want from Batard, so much texture, very good indeed.

Santenay VV 2012, PYCM  - I think this is the only red P-Y does. We tasted one older bottle (open 4 or 5 days) at the tasting then took a “fresh” one to lunch. The opened one was nice, the fruit a tiny bit bruised but good.

We then wanted to open and taste 2 wines to leave with P-Y.
Passopisciaro, Contrada Sciaranuova 2009 – delicious, openly, grainy tannins (in a good way), nice fruit, red with dollops of black.
Comte Armaund, Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux (1mag) – This was showing really well, more sweetness than I associate with either 1996 or with Pommard, lovely and very open but not loose, delicious. The other bottle is the aforementioned Clos Vougeot 2009.

Le Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet
Wonderful meal, good list and they allowed us to take many wines in (after Daniel and EB had done their negotiation). This was very kind as it was all the wines that were open from tasting with P-Y C-M.

The top corner of Le Montrachet on a beautiful morning!
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009, PYCM – This was chosen to go alongside the 2012 Batard. It was very in check for a 2009, richness and generosity with a saline butteriness. Very good.

Santenay VV 2012, PYCM  - This was far fresher than the one we had at the tasting and a very impressive wine, dark fruits. The site is just below the 1er Crus. Nice.

La Tache 2007, Domaine de la Romanee Conti – Now you might on the face of it see this as infanticide but it isn’t, delicious, poised fruit and so much focus, I am a massive fan of the 2007’s and this is one of the very best. There is structure and acidity but neither show over the fruit. Just lovely.

Clos de La Roche Grand Cru 2005, Rousseau – Getting a little lax on the note taking at this stage other that the fact that my book says “delicious” a wine with a real texture and potential, far nearer infanticide than the Tache, mighty fine though.

Rieussec  1978 – Very good and quite like the 1975 Rieussec’s I have had, very full, not over sweet, quite rancio flavours, a good wine.
With brief respite and a little shopping or the odd beer and it was time for dinner…in honesty the system was starting to feel it but the energy was still there...just

DINNER - Bissoh, Beaune
Great list of value options, a really good list to explore. The food also was good but the service really quite slow. After a series of bigger French meals this does work well though…
Aligote de Bouzeron 2012, A&P de Villaine - A choice that I made here, I wanted to show the Aligote grape and also maker another link to DRC, albeit through Aubert de Villaine’s own estate, a gooseberry wine with great attack, a livener…

Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2010, Raveneau – I’ll be back to buy this again at a meagre 115 Euro (the 2011 was 105 Euro) this has a little bit of everything, really rather refined, textured and just delicious.

Meursault Les Narvaux 2011, Roulot – Probably a dash too young, the acidity will mellow but a good bottle of refined and focused Meursault.

Morey-Saint-Denis 2002, Dujac – Really enjoyable, generous but not a degraded 2002 which many can be. The fruit is quite black but the freshness balanced well.

Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2008, H.Lignier – This was higher-toned than the Dujac but still good, darker fruit a bit of structure and acidity. Best in 2-3 years but good.

Le Corton Grand Cru 2009, Bonneau du Martray – Very good, a different “shape” from the MSD’s. The roundness is nice and the 2009 takes away the sometimes crude “Corton-ness” you can get from this vineyard.

All in all a very "memorable" day.

And that, as they say, is that…very nice flight back (no Champagne drunk) and a very memorable few days behind us...where to next year?

Quite an outfit...not mine!