Sunday, 31 May 2015

Olivier Leflaive 2014's with Franck Grux

This is my notes from a tasting and presentation of the Olivier Leflaive 2014's by the winemaker and Olivier's right hand man Franck Grux. Franck is a great man to listen too as he manages to combine Terroir, humour and realism - a rarity.

One note, these are samples and it is very early to be judging these wines, most Burgundy tasting starts in September following harvest. Scores are therefore very much a loose guide.

Bourgogne Aligote - Primary, very pure, not overtly green on the nose, surprisingly alluring. Gooseberry and green fruits do then appear on the palate but are not sharp, some pear and dry lychee. 15.5

Bourgogne Blanc "Les Setilles" - This sees 10% new oak for ageing. For the fermentation it is 20-30% steel tank and 70-80% is fermented in barrel which can be up to 6 years old. Grapefruit and some yellow fruits. Good weight and presence, lemon citrus on the finish. 16 (+)

Montagny 1er Cru Bonneveaux - Slightly briney, good balanced fruit, white and yellow, a lovely balanced finish, the most complete yet. 16-16.5+

Rully 1er Cru Rabource - From 4-5 producers and 85% barrell fermented (not new oak). Good nose with a little reduction, nicely weighty richness, then a nice mineral palate, pretty special for Rully. 17 (+for value)

Pernand-Verglesses - Good salinity here, great drive and energy, so obviously further north than the Rully. Lemon and lime somehow manage to meld with a lovely oystershell finish. 16.5-17(+)

Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly - A village that has seen crazy levels of demand for both land and crop now. 100% barrel fermented. A more yellow fruit flavour, more unctous and rich, a shade reduced, serious again, this sample only finished malolactic fermentation two weeks previously. As always one of the standouts. 17.5

Puligny-Montrachet Les Meix - Olivier owns this along with one other supplier. 100% barrel fermented. More toasted with more sweetness of fruit and intensity, cropped at 38hl/ha rather that the allowed 50. 17.5 

Meursault Narvaux - Saline, quiet closed, more richness and generosity on the palate. Not as easy to judge now. 16.5-17 

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts - From two different sites within Referts, 40-50 yrs old. Drier and more serious than Les Meix. Franck reports this is on the Meursault side of Puligny. 100% barrel fermented. 17-17.5+

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot - Always a touch of class here, depth and freshness in equal measure, ripe green fruit. Impressive. 17.5-18

The overall impression at this very early stage is of a vintage with more of everything than the nice but earlier drinking 2011 or 2013. It strikes me as a year with good fruit and texture but also the drive to be classical...encouraging.

Biserno...7's and 11's...

Over the course of a Thursday and Friday last month I was lucky enough to taste, well drink actually which is much better, the same two line ups of wines, once with customers at No1 Lombard Street and once with press and a couple of retailers at Zucca. Both times it was great to have Lodovico Antinori in attendance to talk through his last great project - Tenuta di Biserno. It is a project I have written about before both here at the launch and also when the team from work made a visit there.

With the No1 Lombard event we started with the dependably lovely Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV from magnum at Zucca it was Franciacorta! Bothe restaurants looked after us so well. Lodovico could not comprehend that Zucca Sam (Harris) was not Italian! 

The estate is planted with the following varities: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. But it is the first of these that is the signiture of the estate.

As the line ups were the same I'll just work the two sets of notes and observations in together as they showed consistently across the two meals. We started with the two vintages - 2007 and 2011 - of Il Pino di Biserno which is the second wine of the estate and as you would expect drinks that little bit earlier.

Il Pino di Biserno 2007 - Really lovely and open, enticing nose with cedar and sweet tobacco and so much dark fruit but not thick rich dark fruit it is medium in weight and just so drinkable. If I had some I'd drink it in the next 2 years or so, it'll age well but I can't see what more you would want.

Il Pino di Biserno 2011 - More brooding, more serious and more dense. Succulent black fruits with a dash of lifting saline. The tannins are good and not over the top, there is more weight than the 2007 and I think it'll will be bigger than the 2007 even with age. Good, best in 2-3yrs and well beyond.

Then we were onto the estates main wine - Biserno, they never actually reveal the precise blend but it is a Cabernet Franc heavy one.

Biserno 2007 - Close knit and intense, there is sweetness to the attack but then behind this it it just starting to show a little more savoury. With 2007 being a warm year I had expected more development but actually it is the freshness and balance that impresses so much here. Cracking effort. (very consistent notes with another bottle 2-3 months ago).

Biserno 2011 - Great nose, quite serious, then behind that an almost red fruited freshness, good lift and acidity, I love the fact that this is so true to Cabernet Franc but also manages to have that classically acidity based profile that is all Italy.

And then to Lodovico, the wine that is made from 94% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot that is from one specific site and released in only suitable vintages. There was no 2009 or 2010.

Lodovico 2007 - Serious brooding, a little bell-pepper, some saline also, more tar and savoury than fruited. Iodine is also in the mix. This is impressive. To me I prefer the Biserno 2007 at the moment but can't wait to review both in 3-5 years.

Lodovico 2011 - Rich and full fruited this is excellently extravagant as well as showing superb depth. It some how manages to be very dense but not heavy, tight on the palate and clearly one to be patient with.
Everything with Lodovico has a lovely balance of seriousness with a magic twinkle in the eye. I am coming to think that the wines are a very good reflection of the man...

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The "Lads" at The Greenhouse…

So a gathering of what - for reasons of confidentially - I seem now to refer to as "The Lads". The Greenhouse was the venue and sadly we were five not seven but with Nobby shuffling the deck winewise we had a hell of a line-up.
Salon 1997 is always a good place to start, it is showing a lovely balance, Lemon, citrus with a little shortbread, good life, it has a slightly saline edge...very long future ahead but it is no waste to drink now. Interestingly the sommelier served it decanted in the Zalto white wine glass…both of those things showed the wine well at this stage. The menu had been prepared specially, you don't get 2 stars easily...
Beef, Avocado, Wild Mushroom

Cornish Crab
Mint jelly, Cauliflower, Granny Smith apple, Curry

Veal Head
Mint, Peas, Herbs

Native Lobster
Potimarron, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Tarragon

Dover Sole
Beetroot, Red Wine, Vadouvan spices

Erbette, Snail, Wild garlic

Thyme, Sesame, Milk

So now it was time for the line up to go up a notch. We did the three whites one by one and blind, only blind for a few moments that is.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Boucheres 2011, Chateau Genot-Boulanger is a wine I do not know at all. I'll be totally honest and say I had an inkling towards white Bordeaux so fresh was this. That was never going to be likely but "nothing ventured" and all that. The freshness was from a nettley "good greenness". This looks to have a good future and when it was revealed as Meursault it made me think of the tight, mineral styles like Roulot, nice wine.

Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2011, Francois Carillon was the bottle I took, only the second time it has been made. Francois Carillon as an estate being first made (fully) in 2010. This is from a tiny 0.045 hectares. It was good to have it after another 2011, it opened up more and more with time as you'd expect. There is a slight lemon sherbet element but also some of the saline quality, clearly it is a "nipper" now but has a good future and it was fun to keep re-visiting it. Pretty classy.

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 1986, Ramonet was so obviously much more mature, it was in now way tired, it was unctuously classy and moreish, there were elements of toffee and butterscotch but always with a drive and liveliness, really lovely, propper breadth too, it wasn't afraid to be Batard, full and quite masculine, the empty glass smelt like a sweet wine. Splendid.

The three Burgundian reds were served in turn so that we could look at each but also look at them together:

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1993, Rousseau was absolutely delicious straight "off the bat" with red black fruits and a soft persistence, a lovely freshness went through the wine that kept it lively and airy, rose petals showed and a delightful balance. Very good indeed, very 1993 and very Pinot.

Chambertin Grand Cru 2001, Rousseau was every bit as good as I have dared hope. My note reads: Orangey tang and delicious, delicious brooding rich red and black fruit, a "puppy", very primary with a stunning palate but delicious now, does have a savoury edge, cheese and smokiness, love this...  

Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2001, DRC - followed the Rousseau (not easy) brilliantly, lots of flavours, good fruit but also herbs, pencil shavings, less obviously so young, a little spice and herbs again, the some power too, graphite and just a dash of white pepper. Very complex.

It was a truly glorious trio, just what those two producers and Burgundy are, and should always be, about - complexity and drinkability. We then had two pairs of Bordeaux. It was one of those splendid occasions when nobody was bothered about a "winner", a real treat all round.

Magdelaine 1990 and Margaux 1985 formed the first flight. For the Magdelaine I had "Ink-like colour, showing well, bold, iron-like, savoury but with enough sweetness, rich, beefy, stocky, then dates, lovely" it is certainly on the savoury side as Magdelaine always is. A magnum of the Magdelaine 1985  was a real treat recently and much as I understand the reasons why it no longer exists in its own right (it nows forms a large part of Belair-Monange), I do feel it is a shame. We were a long way off with guesses, being on the other bank of the river but I am never unhappy to get this wrong (with a few exceptions). The Margaux was splendid also, a little drier and more reserved initially it somehow it had a bolder core and then became more lifted and aromatic, really lovely.

With "lunchers" energy not even starting to dip we were into the last pair of reds Cheval Blanc 1981 and Cheval Blanc 1959. I have to say I count my lucky stars every time I get to drink these older wines, the 1959 I really mean by that, when knowing they are from good cellars and are genuine. The way things are these days we would (at work) sadly run a mile from the wines from 1945, 1947, 1955, 1959 and 1961. But first the 1981. This was "forest floor" in character but then really quite rich, it was a quite degraded but sweet "naughty" smell, fresh with good lift, a confusingly good Cheval, (fortunately) I can't remember what I though it was. And so to the Cheval Blanc 1959, I always find these very good but fully mature wines difficult to describe but then that is the very nature of complexity. My jottings say "sweet, savoury, leathery, tobacco and soy, more soy, more sweetness, dates, amazing savoury texture, more ferrous than frivolous". It really was quite something, I think I guessed 1955 because the few of those I have had have the same energy and colour.

The final wine of lunch was de Fargues 1986, it was the only wine of the day that may be didn't quite show its full potential, it was still good and not faulty but it lacked energy, there were bruised dried apricots, lots of rancho richness and lots of the brûlée character.
What a lunch it was, wonderful wine, lots of great chat and the chance to look at some try great wines and wines that might go to even more special places…thanks as ever to "The Lads".

nb My only regret is that there is no picture of any labels or a line-up shot, for this I blame Ronaldinho fully, he distracted me…how is another story...
When will I ever learn…I didn't need this delicious Negroni….

Blind tasting dinner at Kitchen W8...

A lovely mix...
This was a really fun evening at Kitchen W8, a good spot that for whatever reason I have never blogged about, despite having been a few times. This is a poor omission, the food is very good, classy and flavoursome and stops on the right side of fiddly. The service too is friendly but not fussy. They are pro-wine and deserve to succeed, which I am sure they will, the only thing I would tweak would be the quality of the wine glasses but that's me being picky. The format of this evening was to enjoy a bottle of Grand Siècle, Laurent Perrier that would then be followed by 5 reds all served blind. The wines then had to be scored, or ranked more specifically, with scores of 10, 8, 6, 4 and 2. This is produces a winner. There had been no instruction other than bring a red.

Now to some this may sound very structured and possibly a little like work but these are keen (and generous) wine people that I am getting to know better and better and actually it is crucial to do this sort of tasting as you have to be honest and really pay attention. We were 6 people in total with a mix of trade and amateur (not that the difference is easy to spot these days) with one MW amongst the gang.

The Grand Siecle was round, rich and quite full without the focus to make it really exciting, in retrospect as I write this I wonder what the dosage was, north of 6g I am thinking. It is not a Cuvee I know well, though I know it became a Non Vintage a few years ago.

So on to the first pair of reds which were: Langhe Nebbiolo Cerretta 2008, Giacomo Conterno and Sori Tildin 1974, Gaja, both suffered a little from being a little warmer than is ideal and a little shaken as a result of tube Journeys  It is fair to say that these two were not that well received and actually came last with Conterno edging the Gaja. I was very surprised and you'll not be shocked to know they certainly were not bottom two in my book. The Conterno is a wine I have written about many times. Roberto Conterno finalised a deal to buy this plot in June 2008 so only had a small involvement in the vineyard for this wine and as a result released it as Langhe Nebbiolo other than the Barolo he could have. The wine is light in colour and to my mind pretty but some of the criticisms were, a warmth and also a greenness, an odd showing. The Gaja was a wine I guessed as a warm vintage Barbaresco, the problem it has was an odd texture. I enjoyed it's degraded iron like richness but I had a good idea what it was and that made a big difference. It was not however 100%. It was a very kind bottle to bring from such an acclaimed vintage.

The three wines served next were:

Shafer Hillside Select 2003
Impostor McCoy 1997, Sine Qua Non
Montrose 1989

My first SQN...
Sadly the Montrose was corked which was a great shame as it was harsh on its generous "bringer" and also I have not had it before. Fortunately  I had another bottle in my bag - Biserno 2007, Tenuta di Biserno - so we added that in, again blind. The Shafer was so primary, so full, rich and the guesses were all over the place. This was mostly due to the succulent black fruit and the slightly indigestible oakiness. My view was that it was Australian, I was hoping it was really young and that would have meant the oak was more logical but as it is 12 years old I feel it will not change and whilst perfectly honest it is not exciting or complex. The bottle was one of the most heavy I have ever come across. It came in mid-division in the overall rankings. The Impostor McCoy was next and ended up winning the evening, I had it down as "weirdly enjoyable", herbs and cinnamon. There was a suggestion of northern Rhone which I came to agree with more and more, possibly out of desperation as I was struggling to place this wine. There was a sense of development but not a degradation. It was good and I was very pleasantly surprised when it was revealed, my first "SQN". The late addition - Biserno 2007 - actually came second with good lush fresh fruit, it is the first vintage of the wine and is mostly Cabernet Franc, it will repay more time but is open and ready for business.

A really fun and well co-ordinated evening, thanks to our hosts. I am already plotting for next time...
A rather delicious veal starter

A pre-Piedmont trip warm-up at Zucca...

In a couple of weeks I am delighted to be heading off to Piedmont with the same rather wonderful gang as I was lucky to go to Burgundy with last May, see A very special trip to Burgundy…

The trip promises to be a good one and the lunches, visits and dinners are all booked. The Piedmont region is virgin territory for the vast majority of those going so I thought a warm-up dinner at Zucca would be a good idea. I mentioned this to owner Sam Harris and he suggested that they do a menu that showcased some of the regions most traditional dishes:

Carne Crudo, from brilliant veal with lemon through it and then Parmesan on top.

Vitello Tonnato, my all time favourite.
Russian salad - which I love but always reminds me of large format Sandwich spread.
Agnolotti - magic stuff
and many more...

It worked really well with Megan rustling them all up to perfection. So the wines:

Langhe Chardonnay 2012, Ca del Baio - fresh Chardonnay with a very slight spritz and no oak influence at all, a good palate preparer and a wine that will gain texture and complexity with age.

Barbera d'Alba Cerretta 2008, Giacomo Conterno - fleshy and supple, lovely fruit, mellow structure, I wanted to show this alongside the next wine as a way of showing Barbera alongside Nebbiolo. Same site, same vintage, same producer.

Langhe Nebbiolo Cerretta 2008, Giacomo Conterno - More focussed and linear than the Barbera this showed just the differences I wanted.

Barolo Pie Rupestris 2009, Cappellano - the big surprise of the evening for me, I was the only one that liked it (I had bought my allocation of 2010 that morning), the others I think found it a little too dry and animal, sure Cappellano needs time (though that should never be an excuse) but for me this was complex and promised much for the future. I plan to serve this blind to these guys post trip and see if they have fallen for the old-school Nebbiolo magic by then.

Barolo Tartufaia 2009, G.Negri - we will be visiting Guilia on the trip and so I wanted to show this wine as a counter-point to the Cappellano but also to show a slighlty more modern style, it worked well showing more fruit and lushness but still not too much. 

Barolo Brunate 2004, Marengo - FVDB brought this and the next bottle, the Marengo really showed well, with an openness and rounded fruit that really showed how good 2004 is and how special Brunate is as a site...lovely wine with propper structure but great balance and crucially that sweet fruited nature.

Barolo Bussia Riserva 2000, Pianpolvere Soprano -is a wine and an estate I know nothing about, it combined the warm (sometimes over) ripe nature of 2000 with a regime of more oak. The bottle was probably the heaviest I have come across in a Piedmoint wine (think Gaja +45%). The wine itself has promise if it can outlast the slightly over present new oak texture. Would love to try this again in the future.

Barolo Cannubi 2003, Brezza - there always needs to be on last bottle and this worked out to be a good choice, 2003 is tricky but (many of) the traditonal producers have done well. Brezza we will visit and Cannubi is next to Brunate so it made a good comparison, I really liked it, am pleased to be buying Brezza for my own cellar.

So that, baring a Limoncello for a couple of the team, was the evening done, just two weeks to wait now!!