Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Cru comparison - 2005 Asili and Montefico...

On friday a couple of weeks ago I got home and thought what to drink? I quite like opening a few things on friday night that I know will be interesting to follow though the weekend and watch them evolve. The fact I have a newly installed and filled Eurocave means that I will probably do this more and more.

I eyed up the possibility of different Brunate 2007's but settled on a look at two of the single Cru Barbarescos from Produttori del Barbaresco - Montefico and Asili. In my eyes, and many others, the greatest co-operative of them all. Some years they just make one Barbaresco and one Langhe Nebbiolo but in good years they release the single vineyards as well (9 of them). There is never a middle ground it is either all 9 single Crus or just the Barbaresco. With a run of excitingly good Piedmont vintages (you shouldn't group Barbaresco and Barolo as one but lazily I am) there is a danger that 2005 is forgotten.

So the format
Both bottles came straight from the Eurocave at 12 degrees and where double decanted at 6.30pm on the friday. From there the wines were sampled alongside each other several times of the weekend and re-corked after each sampling. Essentially a slow oxidation was facilitated.

The Two sites both have 3 growers whose wines go into them:

Montefico  - Grasso, Rocca & Vacca.
Asili - Conti, Giacosa & Viglino.

Friday 7pm - first taste
Montefico - Cherry, berry fruit, rich but with pure violets, grip comes to the fore then, fresh and moreish, impressed.
Asili - Darker fruit than Montefico, deeper, but then a savoury saline airyness. Steel and salt, very "grown up". Taut and closed on the palate. Such a quintessential Nebbiolo nose.

Saturday 5-7 pm
Montefico - Cheery and stoney salt shows more, has opened up well, became quite lush.
Asili - More bruised fruit, an edge of degraded dark fruit and some leather, quite open at this point, almost decadent.

Sunday 6pm
Level in the bottles was very low from saturday evening so there had been a fair degree of oxidation.
Montefico - quite browned off fruit but still mellow and enjoyable.
Asili - Still a defined nose, impressive, tannin does then show through. Balanced

So, my conclusion:
Both good and show lovely Barbaresco Nebbiolo characters exactly what you would want. The Asili is just a shade more refined and regal, very very impressive indeed, the saline edge just adds a little. The Montefico comes across as a warmer spot and a little looser but that is picking holes - it is still lovely.

Montefico     17-17.5      Now to 2025 but best 2017-2020
Asili                17.5-18+   Now to 2029 but best 2018-2024

Gazin with Nicolas de Bailliencourt...1989 to 2011

Wednesday just gone was Gazin at the CafĂ© Royal with owner Nicolas de Bailliencourt and Laurent Navarre of Ets JP Moueix.

We'd long been wanting to do a dinner to celebrate and highlight this sometimes under the radar Chateau. Gazin is brilliantly sited on the Plateau of Pomerol. The wines have always been well received but there seems to be a consensus that they have really "taken off" in the last decade. Without getting to specific about the the estate - Neal Martin's book "Pomerol" does that well - it is planted with 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon (relatively rare for Pomerol) and 3% Cabernet Franc. The 2012 and 2013 will interestingly be 100% Merlot as the near neighbour Petrus usually is. There is a second wine, Hospitalet de Gazin, which can be as much as 50% of the production.

So onto the wines, we started before with a trio tasting of 2009, 2010 & 2011 before dinner.

Gazin 2009 - Rich luscious, good concentration without being too much, has a very balanced palate that makes you want to drink it right now, there is a little spice there, red fruit comes though on the palate also. There is structure but the sweetness of the fruit keeps it quite hidden. If you own a fair bit then definitely worth having a bottle now otherwise I think the 10th birthday will see a delicious Pomerol that will drink for a long time.

Gazin 2010 - More damson and black fruit, more acidity and more obvious tannin, grip but no harshness, more broodingly powerful, this will be a savoury and serious Pomerol, I would be waiting until the 12th or 15th birthday to start drinking this and then it will, like the 2009, drink for many decades. As with a lot of estates it will be very interesting to track the 2009 and 2010 alongside each other.

Gazin 2011 - Red fruit and quite tight, the freshness is evident from the off then there is quite a bit of tannin that just needs to settle in to the wine, this will drink well in 3-4 years and then for quite a time. There was some similarity with the 1995 I thought, an almost feminine Pomerol, finesse over power.

It is interesting how the wines performed exactly as the vintages "read". The 2009 easiest, the 2010 more strictly but very correct and the red fruit of the 2011 with a good degree of freshness...

We then broke for a glass of Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV which as always was drinking superbly, all precision but without being at all astringent. Lovely, must get a magnum for Christmas.

With a first course of Denham estate venison Carpaccio, hibiscus and chocolate marshmallows we had the L’Hospitalet de Gazin 2009 & 2010. The first vintage that there was a second wine was the 1986. The 2009 was quite opulent and open with a mellow structure. The 2010 had blacker fruit and a more ferrous and iron-like density, probably best decanted if drunk now, delicious though and very proper with a touch of sweet fruit on the finish.

Optical illusion, both double mags...
The main course of Rump of English lamb, lardons, spinach with butternut squash puree and market vegetables was really very good indeed and matched the wines really well. Both these two wines, the 1995 & 1989, were served from Double magnum. The 1995 was quite stringy and a little mean when I first opened it but 2 hours later it was delicious, delicate red fruit with a lovely saline refreshment this went down really very well on my table. The 1989 was more variable across the three magnums. There is an exoticness to the wine that the vintage often displays, there is also more texture too, I like it but I am more excited by the 2005 onwards vintages, this coincides with the arrival of Mickael Obert as winemaker from Clos l'Eglise.

The final course was Selection of hard cheeses with rye crackers we had Gazin 2005. I loved the 2009 & 2010 but if I was forced to name a wine of the night it would be the 2005. I thought it was delicious and not a waste to drink now much as I would leave it 2-3 more years before really tucking in with gusto. It had sweet fruit and just enough of a savoury edge to balance. A very complete wine that has a very bright future.

So what was the lasting impression? This is a real wine drinkers estate. It is not showy or aiming to shock it is just very good indeed the wines have real balance and I anticipate the 2005, 2009 and 2010 all ageing in a very exciting fashion. In real terms it is out performing it perceived place in the Pomerol pecking order and that is exciting. Bravo Nicolas!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Clos des Ducs 1920-2002 @ La Trompette...

What a line-up
A Grande way to start!

This was an a unique opportunity, set up by the hard work of Jordi Orriols-Gil to taste so many different vintages of the Clos des Ducs a 1er Cru monopole belonging to Marquis d’Angerville. It was wonderful to have Guillaume d’Angerville there. Guillaume is the 6th generation of the family to head the estate that by common consent is the pacesetter in Volnay. The Clos des Ducs itself is a 2.15 hectare site (Volnay 1er Cru is 110 hectares as a whole) and has a unique exposure in Volnay being the most northerly of the vineyards and facing East-South-East.
The dinner was held at La Trompette in Chiswick, the service and food really worked well. We started with Bollinger Grande Annee 1982 from Magnum – A little spritz on the attack then the wine gets quite mellow pretty quickly. Some toffee and richness, dry but nutty, quite a foody Champagne, very much Pinot based. Good.
Flight 1
Pot roast pheasant , root vegetables and chestnuts - A beautifully clean dish with just the right about of flavour, reminded me how much I love chestnuts in things.
Legend in the making?
2002 – A dash of cheesecloth, very red cherried purity, some lovely minerality to the palate, showing very well if dense and taut. Serious wine with really lovely balance. If you own it you’ll be best off being patient and excited!
2000 – A little darker in the fruit character than the 2002, with a little spice and black pepper, very typical of 2000 red burgundy in being balanced, easy and really quite accessible, there is a warmth. Nothing like the seriousness of the 2002 but a lovely bottle.
1999 – The last wine of the first flight. I often, almost always, prefer the 1999’s to the 2002’s. This had a very vibrant red fruit core with a little grip to the finish, serious for a 1999 when often they show less structure. Possibly not quite the potential of the 2002 but nicely different and very good.
Flight 2
Hand rolled macaroni with Vacherin mont d’or, ceps and burgundy truffle – A rich dish with flavours that complimented the age development the wines are starting to show.
1996 – Richness here and density but as with many 1996’s is there charm? I think the room was divided, I like the strictness of the wine but I think it is something of an acquired taste, may be my Nebbiolo obsession helps here. There is a nervous intensity, if it were a person it would be an academic.
1995 – This was a surprise package, balanced and approachable, really lovely actually, just easy to enjoy, there is structure but it has started to mellow.
1991 – This bottle had a little seepage and on tasting sadly it showed, not fair to comment really as there had been definite oxidation. Other reports on the wine from those who have tasted recently were glowing so a shame.
1990 – Deep colour and rich texture, the most savoury yet. I could see the 2002 developing this way. There is power but also hedonistic opulence, very impressive and very true to the vintage.
1993 – This was a late addition and a splendid one. I had the Taillepieds 1993 recently and really enjoyed it. This had a similarly, al be it more concentrated, feel to it, red currant fruit and crunchy freshness, really lovely right now, almost crisp which is amazing for a wine of 21 years old.
Flight 3
Fillet of John Dory with smoked lardo and creamed potato– A fish dish that didn’t really behave like one, delicious use of texture.
1989 – Quite savoury with an opulent texture, hazelnut, chocolate and mocha all appeared on the nose, amazingly different in style. There is fruit but it is secondary, a sexy vintage and a very impressive wine. The 1980 vintage flight as a whole was very strong.
1988 – To my mind this was not a perfect bottle, a dusty slightly metallic nose. With the flight being so good though, I just moved straight on…
1986 – A strange nose initially that reminded me of cucumber water, disappeared with a swirl. Thereafter the wine settled into a secondary aroma of cep and other mushrooms with an undertone of oyster shell, impressive.
1985 – Delicious even given the high expectation, lovely balance of fruit and a savoury sweetness, in a lovely phase right now…a little chestnut shows on the nose…special
1983 – Sweet leather and spice, brown slightly degraded fruit, good volume, very fine. A tricky vintage on the face of it but this really outperformed that…very complete, may be the pick of the flight for me but it had competition from ’89 and ’85 – a lovely problem to have…
Flight 4
Suckling pig belly with golden turnips – lovely dish with great fat that worked well…
1976 no1 – the first of two bottles of 1976, a crazily hot vintage, referred to as a “sauna” vintage by Guillaume (a phrase I plan to “steel”) who commented that Clos des Ducs never suffers hydric stress as there is a natural well in the Clos and when you combine this with there being woods above the site as well there is always a natural retention on moisture. This first of the two 1976’s was a little more subdued than…
1976 no2 – quite opulent and open, lovely now, just enough sweetness, slightly resinous, from all the chat around the table it would appear this has taken a while to open up.
1972 – Cocoa, mocha and a brown fruited nose, some people saw this as over-mature and on the palate I can see their point but on the nose is just very tertiary and a shade madeirised but fascinating, with ones eyes shut you could almost image this was old sauternes. I loved it.
1971 – Instantly good and enjoyable. Sweet and in impeccable condition manages to combine lightness of touch and a persistent brilliance of balance, very pure and with red fruit still there.
Flight 5
Pressed shoulder of Pyrenean lamb with Jerusalem artichokes
We then had 1953 Champans and Clos des Ducs served side by side – we were asked to guess which way around, amazingly it was fairly clear that we had Champans first and then Clos des Ducs.
1953 – Champans – Super, lightness of touch, a little dash of Soy which is just a slight sign of age but a good bottle.
1953 – Clos des Ducs -  Depth, even quite bold, my note says “becoming quite farmyard, delicious”, impressive definition. What struck me here was that the wines from this site age so well but never with a feeling that they needed to be big in youth to age, there is a balance at all times.
1920 - memorable to say the least
1947 – This didn’t quite show as well as expected by some, caramel, quite bold and opulent with decent concentration but it quite quickly started to tire.
1920 – This was served blind and comes with a fascinating story about how Guillaume acquired a “few” bottles of the 1920. The wine showed so well, full of life, the fruit was orange rather than red but that is as expected. The nose had an amazingly fresh aroma of tangerine rind but even the empty glass had a lovely sweetness and life…a truly memorable experience but not a novelty as these old bottle can be.
With some cheese we had the last wine of the evening – Meursault Santenots 1990– this was by far the oldest stage at which Guillaume has tasted his white wine. The nose was unctuous and nutty after a little air, it showed well and worked with the cheese.

And sadly a wonderful evening had to end, I think even those who came with high expectations, always dangerous, left very excited. There were many anecdotes and wonderful comments…exactly what these great evenings are all about! Bravo Guillaume and Bravo Jordi!