Saturday, 20 September 2014

Trotanoy at La Fleur-Petrus...

Now the title may seem a little odd but there is an easy explanation. Last Tuesday (16th) as part of a whirlwind two day tour to Bordeaux we, a team of 11, dropped into to see Edouard and Christian Moueix as well as Laurent Navarre. Ets JP Moueix own both the properties as above.

It was an exciting time to visit as the weather was very good, September going a long way to making up for a cool August (especially the first half) and actually the Moueix had picked two very small plots on two of their other properties that day just to see how things were. We saw the optical sorting machine and the vats at La Fleur-Petrus as well as discussing the potentially promising 2014 crop - no vintage of the century scenarios here but certainly a good chance of a good to very good vintage.
Optical sorting machine

Having had a good look around it was time to focus on the wines of Trotanoy and taste the 2011 (bottled for one year), 2012 (just bottled) & 2013 (from barrel). With a deliciously simple dinner that followed we had the 2009 and 2010 alongside each other followed by the 1995 from magnum.

Plateau of Pomerol map with the Moueix properties highlighted.
I have written about Trotanoy many times. It is a Chateau that, although I am biased, produces amongst the best wine of Bordeaux and crazily still seems to be on the up. In total it is 7.2 hectares of mixed gravel and clay with an average vine age of 35 years and 90%Merlot with 10% Cabernet Franc. 
Pre-dinner tasting

2011 - From a season of drought and a very long, 3 weeks, harvest. There is a very precise clarity about this wine with almost crisp red fruit. It is tight and with very focussing acidity at this stage. Lovely to taste now a medium weigh Trotanoy.

2012 - Bottling can have a funny affect on a wine but not the case here. Serious and stoney with a mineral nose, ultimately brooding and masculine but with a good lift, complete tannins, I feel this wine will tighten up despite showing well here, I would be leaving 5-6 years before looking again, very good.

2013 - Good attack, a real fruit purity, then the palate is drier and there is still a lot to happen there but it is a wine that has not followed a recipe (that would be a mistake in 2013), I like its freshness. Will be fascinating once bottled.

Dinner wines
Dinner was a very relaxed affair, all sorts of different conversations though unavoidably there was a 2009 "vs" 2010 debate/vote…in a stroke of unplanned diplomacy it concluded 7 all. As you would expect the 2009 will have a broad and long drinking window with little evidence of tightening up, the 2010 in contrast is a classic beauty that demands time. I am ever so slightly in the 2010 camp but it's splitting hairs. The 1995 from magnum was delicious - two different mags both from the same case - showed a little differently, the first was open and ready the later a tighter more taught, more a true Trotanoy expression. Either way both disappeared as the old stories came out…happy days!

Flag flys high at LFP!

Madeira - Blandy's tour and tasting - quite something

To follow on from the previous day, and post, that was all golfing and fun we woke early to get checked out and head on over to the Blandy's wine lodge for a look at the wine making and tour of the Canteiro lofts all follow by a brilliant tasting. I am not going to turn this into a blog about how Madeira is made because that is best left to the experts and there are many good sites on line that cover this including Blandys very own. I'll split this into two halves, the tasting and then a gallery of pictures with a few captions.

Before launching into what was an incredible 29 wine tasting I must just say, in my defence, that the vocab you use for this is difficult, it is so easy for any aroma or flavour that someone mentions to just suddenly appear. These wines are amongst the more complex anywhere and writing about them is, for me at least, difficult so prepare for repetition and unscientific notes. I drink a fair bit of madeira anyway and love the wines which arguably makes them even more difficult to analyse, anyway enough excuses.

This was one of the most enjoyable and informative tastings for some time. Everything was tasted from ISO's and at room temperature. Cask samples are complete wines but incredibly young and obviously will have much time ahead of them for the fortification to meld into the wine etc. The Vindima wines are pre-fortification and from 2014 (coming into the winery as we tasted). For the actual tasting I reverted to an old scoring system of up to three ticks of varying lengths, for this I will try to translate that to "out of 20" with 10 being good to 15 very good and beyond. There are no scores for the Vindima and casks. Right, enough waffle:

Unfinished "wines":
Sercial cask sample - very high acid, piercing even, clean and green with little length.

Verdehlo vindima wine - grapefruit and lemon/lime, very intense, acid high.

Verdehlo cask sample - peary but also oxidised. Very interesting it not yet at a stage where it can be called enjoyable.

Bual vindima wine - grapefruit but with some brown sugar on it, pineapple almost, a touch of pear tannin, good.

Bual cask sample - has a nose of half spirit, half wine, delicious in a savoury complex way, peaty with a saline edge can see why they use this for the whiskies that have a "Madeira cask" finish.

Malmsey vindima wine - pear tannins again but wit a little honey apple acidity, a certain dryness on the finish.

Malmsey cask sample - really needed to meld together, almost the most incomplete now that the spirit is there, a grape of such richness obviously needs time.

Tinta Negra before Estufagem - dates and dry wood aromas almost a little nuttiness, drier palate than I expected.

Tinta Negra after Estufagem - coming together, delicious for the dates and figs then a little odd on the finish.

The Wines:

Alvada - very good, has enough savoury richness to go with the sweetness, fruit is bruised dates and figs has good volume - 14.5.

Sercial 10yr old - lovely nose of nuts but clean and crisp, not heavy, a little white fruit. lovely long dry, tangy finish, impressive - 15.

Verdehlo 10yr old - such a lively and moreish nose, has a lovely bit of dry grip on the palate that is counterbalanced by just enough sweetness. really very good - 16.5.

Bual 10yr old - very classical Madeira, by which I mean archetypal in terms of what ones thinks of Madeira as. A nutty core but with bruised fruits - 15.5

Malmsey 10yr old - not overly sweet on the palate which is good, I might have gone for bual if tasted blind, more dates and figs than any nuts - 15.5. 

Bual 15yr old - concentrated but calm and complete nose, nuts and certainly hazelnuts in the main come to the fore. Very complete - 16.

Malmsey 15yr old - hedonistic, an almost "high" note the the nose, some peatiness as well lush dried fruit intensity, an elegant finish, very good wine - 16.5

Terrantez 20 yr old - tangy, oranges and saline, lovely enticing nose. The palate has a dry energy but this is also a "fruity" wine. Nuts but dark fruit everywhere. It's different somehow but I love it. Herbal even - 17.5  

Sercial 1998 - clean, fine and concentrated, delicious, bright, fresh with a few nuts but more an unctuous "flor" character, could sip this for hours, so different from the previous wine but not better or worse -17.5

Verdehlo 1998 - very bright and lively with an almost citrus fruit, nearly just drank this there and then, high but lovely acidity that keep this so persistent, very focussed and very very long, finish had a nutty tangy my side note just says "great work!" - 18.25. (this may also have been the time when i realised that if, god forbid, I was only allowed one grape from Maderia it would be Verdelho)

Bual 2002 - decadent richness without being overly sweet, a little peat in the middle, potent acidity is good, rich with poise, palate was more open than the nose - 17.25

Malmsey 1996 - some pine resin and a lovely Speyside note here along with sweet fruit on the nose. Texture is rich but not sweet, keeps it's focus well - 17.25

Malmsey 1988 - very fine nose, very complex, hard to describe actually. Yeasty unctuousness with a honeyed element, really very good. I loved the lively and persistent finish that made be think of Verdelho - really pretty special - great all-round Madeira - 18.25

Terrantez 1976 - One of the favourites amongst the team. No lack of interest or complexity, that's for sure. Eucalyptus, medicinal nose, quite herbal, palate similar but lifted, a really tangy acidity, a little smokiness and a slightly degraded animal finish - undoubtedly good, unique…17(+) 

Sercial 1975 - complex, old nose, dry and moreish if a little muted, all about the palate here. The tongue loves this wine, there is a grape tannin and pithy lemon about it my summary is: nose is ok, plate is delicious - 17.5 (first Madeira I've had from my birth year)

Verdehlo 1973 - wow, just beautiful nose, very very complex, hard to describe, tangy on the palate and so lively, then crisp and long a dash of light nuttiness but more a set of dry honey, so good - 18.75-19

Bual 1969 - almost a dash of toffee, very fine, has a nose that suggests even more air would be good (I love the fact that they say with Vintage Madeiras that a day per decade is the best guide for decanting), not too savoury on the nose, Richness on the palate but such a lightness of touch also, very precise the finish is splendid, very high but very good acidity - 18+

Verdehlo 1968 - great nose, almost worthwhile just or the aromas, the finish is then perfect, energy and acidity are brilliant, an incredible vibrancy to this wine, very young and very very tangy, brilliant - 18.75-19

Bual 1920 (bottled 2006) - rich mahogany, has such amazing depth and energy, Nose is decadent, some dates, figs and dark sugary fruits, some savoury edge but mostly real dark energy. there is a brooding and serious side too where Bovril and almost stock appears but then live again, delicious for wallowing in - 18+

Verdehlo 1887 - this was served totally blind and there were a few guesses. I was pleased with my "stab" of Verdehlo 1905. There was a tangy edge that made you unsure if this was sweet or not. Saline is there and such moreishness, very real focus to this, amazing given the age but not amazing for Madeira! Herbal citrus may be the tag line here - 18.5

After this amazing tasting we went to the north of the island to look at vineyards, and with over 400 producers supply the Blandy's team there are a lot of them. The views and countryside is incredible. A great lunch of chicken rice and cabbage with a refreshing Croal beer rounded things of perfectly…it was a real shame to leave the island. Many thanks to Mr Girling, but especially to Chris Blandy and his great team!

Trucks of grapes arrive for inspection and pressing in Funchal
Older vintages, all stood up - the acidity would go through the corks otherwise.
If I remember correctly this is Malvasia.
Nice big barrel of Verdelho.
One of the Canterio lofts, just like the deck of a ship.
Labelled barrels all going through ageing.
Wines resting in demi-johns - sadly under lock and key.
On the north side of the Island - not the worst spot!
The head man - Chris Blandy - inspecting a newly planted vineyard.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Maderia - lots of hard "Work"…and the odd "ninja"...

Team strip
Last weekend was an amazing trip to Madeira with the shippers for Blandy's and some wine trade colleagues. As so often happens on visits, sports tours and other escapades everyone got on well, the laughing and joking grew through the weekend and I think I can safely say a great time was had by all.

Cracking BBQ
Nice long ash
Two of us had to join the party late and that meant a three hour stop off in Porto Santo on the way, now I'd never even heard of this island and thanks to the fact we weren't allowed to leave the plane I have little to report other than there is a golf course there (look left as you come in to land, it looks pretty good). So having finally landed in a very wet Madeira- apparently the 1st time in 20 years it has rained like this in the early part of the harvest - we dropped bags (Hotel Enotel Quinta do Sol) and met up with the rest of the gang for a BBQ at the Blandy's Wine Lodge. Some great meat and a few beers later all was well with the world.
A Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure 2 - courtesy of our organised and fully committed tour leader - smoked very well. The next morning it was time for one of the two main reasons we were on the Island - The Madeira Open Golf @ Palheiro Golf Club. The other reason is to see and taste the amazing Madeiras - that appears in the next (more serious) post. The team were is decent enough form for the trip up to the course but seemed positively on fire once we had a fried breakfast and had been handed our two 20cl bottles of Blandy's Alvada (to be consumed during the round). 
Pre-golf - that's a breakfast

The format was stableford four ball better ball in teams of 2. There were also prizes for mens and women's longest drive and nearest the pin (which amazingly I won but didn't deserve to - don't tell anyone that and yes I missed the birdie putt). We had the added detraction of playing snakes (three putts), camels (bunkers) and Monkeys (trees/scrubs), essentially you do not want to be left as the last player to do or visit any of these things as you'll get left with the cumulative payout from the whole round. It made for a last hole in our four that will live long in the memory (to nightmares for those involved . The team, decked out in their Blandy's shirts, did well, we wilted a little in the muggy heat but it was a great way to spend a few hours. The local brew - Coral beer - never tasted so good after the round.

After a dinner and prize giving - both of which got progressively more boisterous - we had a lovely few hours on the balcony over looking Funchal and talking an increasing amount of enjoyable nonsense.

Funchal - not the worst view of post golf drinks!
Amazingly sense seemed to kick in and later we had a mellow dinner (more good stories) back in Funchal over looking the sea before a relatively early night…nobody wanted to be on anything but great form for the tasting the following day. A few pictures below will give you a better ideas than my words above. Blog part two of the trip is in progress.

Chris Blandy leads the way

Captain Girling and his shorts!
Not sure my slight miss-hit deserved this!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Square on a Wednesday...a great dinner...

None to shabby for a Wednesday!
So for this dinner we were six. I had done nothing to organise it, just turned up with a bottle, I knew everyone coming and knew the ingredients were there for a lot of fun and some rather splendid wine…I was not disappointed. We were:

- A collector / drinker with a passion for older/mature wines. (Many of these wines!)
- A collector / drinker with a passion for most wines and mainly in magnums!
- A wine writer and enthusiast.
- A Chateaux owner/producer, Wine merchant & Negoce.
- A broker/negoce.
- Me.

The venue also helped massively - The Square - as it was on top form. I regret not picturing the food as the Crab Lasagne (a Square classic) and the Grouse (possibly the best I have ever had) were both spot on and complemented the wines perfectly.

We started with - Clos de Goisses 1990, Philiponnat - A deep colour for Champagne, almost a slight pink orange hue, I have heard of Clos de Goisses being decanted and as this spent time in the glass I can see why. As with good white Burgundy this grew from a delicately biscuity but quite oxidative nose into something sweeter and easier with time.

As the first courses arrived we then had a pair of white Burgundies to contemplate.
Meursault 2004, Coche Dury Le Montrachet 1991, Ramonet. A very good contrasting pair. The Coche was a delight, lemon and citric acidity with a small dash of reduction, it's cleanliness made me think of sorbet. It got better and better in glass but was linear to the end, a young wine but starting to open, very 2004, taught and poised, impressive. Never "just" a "village" wine from that man. The Ramonet was fascinating. I have looked back through the blog and realise now (one of the main reasons to do this exercise!) that I have been very privileged in having this wine from 198819901993, 1994 before. There is a commonality but also the desired vintage variation. The 1991 is a savoury wine to sip and think on, not gregarious or showy. A savoury almost saline hazelnut is in the there as well as tea and pine resin. Traditional and all the better for it…what a start.

The next three wines were served blind, all we were told was that there was a link and it quickly leaked out that all these wines were older than everyone at the table. Bordeaux was obvious. There was an even split of guesses for left and right bank. I was one of the wrong ones. The wines right to left as we drank them were Cheval Blanc 1949, 1948 and 1966. It was great to have three wines showing well, only the 1949 did not show much on the palate but the nose was superb. 1949 was deep in colour with a rich nose, lovely and hard to believe it is the age it is, the palate was just muted and tight. 1948 had a high-octane nose of exuberant cherry and compote fruit. There is a volatility that made this so extrovert and a little quirky, there was no way you couldn't like this wine, spice, herbs and a meaty density on the plate just made it amazing. It only started to fade when there was very little wine left in the glass (a stage I found myself at easily!). 1966 was incredible, cepe and other mushrooms initially but this left with time. There was a darker fruited succulence about this, I so wish that more St.Emilion was like this. Incredibly youthful in colour and wonderful fruited plate. Long and persistent, so complete that it is hard to write about. As mentioned above the Grouse with these older wines was just perfect. The character of Cheval Blanc was there to see, such a great site, it just makes you all the more sad about the pricing of the estate these days. People should be loving this estate and buying it almost blindly ever year but so wrong has been its positioning been that that is almost certainly insanity.

Next up was the bottle I took - Musigny Grand Cru 1998, de Vogue - alongside another red Burgundy - Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 1990, Drouhin. This was a lovely pair, briefly the wines were blind and people got close. I was really impressed by the 1998. I had thought it would be too closed. The 1995 that I had recently thanks to one of this evenings attendees was delicious on the nose but very tight. This 1998 put on weight from the moment it hit the glass, the purity of dark cherry fruit initially was trademark de Vogue. The Drouhin had a lovely soft easy sweetness, "persistent finesse" I have in my notes, fully mature but in a fruited way, really delicious.

With several petit fours we had a pair of "sweeties" - Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 2002 6 Puttonyos and Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Beerenauslese 2009. The Tokaji was really good, oranges, creme brûlée and finesse, not too much rancio character but the trade good acidity to lift these flavours. The Schaefer was precise but at the same time generous, a dash of spritz and some real energy, white fruit. To only think that BA etc needs endless time to mature is a mistake, the vast majority are not a waste to drink young.

A delicious dinner and lots of good conversation, some quite vociferous as a debate should be…this dinner will live long in the memory. Many thanks especially to our organiser who provided the lions share of these wonderful bottles.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Biserno 2011's

Following a really great and fairly recent trip to Biserno. I was very pleased to be told the 2011's (not offered for a few months) were in the tasting room and ready to be sampled.

Il Pino di Biserno 2011 - Has a restrained and poised nose with a classical (by which I think I mean savoury) profile. Very good tannins that are as smooth as they are definite. This manages to be both the most serious Il Pino I have tasted to date as well as obviously the best, those two things often don't go hand in hand. The length is very good and also complex...a great effort here.

Biserno 2011 - Quite dense on the nose but not heavy, ever so slightly saline. The fruit is 70% black, 30% red with some cherry notes - I like this balance of fruit it gives a good lift to the wine but takes away none of what will be a long-lived savoury side. A very light winemakers touch here is a great thing. The correct elemnets are pushed forward and the rest remains backstage. Very good and as with Il Pino quite possibly the most complete rendition so far.

Lodovico 2011 - Not made in 2009 or 2010 Lodovico returns here. A little more high-octane and expressive than Biserno, this is an extrovert! There is a lot of red fruit boldness. The structure is there but what is so good is that there is no extraction for the sake of it, nothing OTT. I feel it will need a little time to knit together and become more serious, right now it just has stunning fruit. Good +

The point I make in the Biserno about less winemaking I think may well just be less oak (which was never an issue here but just seems so perfect this year) or may be 2011 is just an amazing vintage. Either way I left the tasting room smiling.