Sunday, 26 July 2015

White, red and orange - Giulia comes to Zucca...

Giulia Negri was in town for a few days, a young producer in Barolo who I think has a bright future. She has featured in these two blogs already. One of her great passions outside of the wines of Piedmont is, unsurprisingly, Burgundy. She spends a good amount of time there so I thought what better than to introduce her wines to Sam Harris at Zucca and also have lunch there with four customer friend's - Irish Pete, Andrew, Colin and Winerackd. The drill was simple bring a bottle - Burgundy if you like.
A lovely line-up
We started with the ever poised Delamotte 2002 - showing good focus, a little richness but overall balance, lovely now but no rush…

We had two whites to follow or rather a white and an orange. Meursault 1er Cru Goutte D'Or 2004 from Lafon was the white, this got better and better and fresher and fresher in the glass, initial opening suggested it might be a tad weary but actually 20 minutes or so later it was just rich but still fresh, nice! The orange was Winerackd's bottle - Contra Soarda's 121 BC Vespaiolo 2012 a Veneto Bianco IGT. Now this is more a wine of skin contact that a "natural wine" (not a debate I am getting drawm into). I really liked it - the nose was very reminiscent, as Giulia particularly highlighted, of tomatoes, like cool passata. The plate had more fruit, a little apricot even and it was moreish, I would definitely have it again!

Then it was time for the "main action" - Giulia's wines. We had the 2013 Barbera d'Alba which is such a supple and fresh red, lovely such fruit but with real lift and edge. The Barolo Tartufaia 2009 was next, a blend of fruit from 70% Brunate and 30% Serradenari (where Guilai is based and the highest vineyard in the whole Barolo region). This wine gets better and better with air there is real depth and, I think it is fair to say everyone was impressed. With a good, serious, 2010 to come followed by a beautifully poised 2011 things look good.

So what were to be the final reds? Well a rather lovely pair. Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets 1996 from d'Angerville and Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Cras 1993 from Ghislaine Barthod. The Fremiets had a taut and quite serious nose of cheesecloth and reserved fruit but opened up more and more, it never quite shed it's 1996 straightjacket but was absolutely lovely, savoury but delicately sweet. The Barthod which had come direct from the estate about 2 month earlier was spotless, everything you want from Chamboll really, succulence but also elegance with lovely supple, velvet fruit, it'll keep and it will develop but was just lovely now. As a duo they functioned well just as the whole lunch did…as, almost, always you get good people round a table and bring and bottle and much fun is had! Onwards...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Barolo 2004 dinner at Zucca

2004 Barolo Dinner – Zucca - Tuesday 7th July 2015

This was an invite I was more than a little delighted to accept. Get to Zucca for several dishes and with them review a load of Barolo 2004's. Just my sort of thing. 2004 is a great vintage for Piedmont and most specifically for Barolo. It is the first of the run of exciting "even numbered" vintages. For me a small summary would be:

2004: Superb overall balance and grace, top wines certainly need time but the balance is such that enjoyment earlier is not hard. Long lived with a wide drinking window.

2006: Uber-classical, structured and masculine vintage that is brilliantly uncompromising at times, wines of quality here are worth waiting 15 years plus for and many wines will be 30-40 year wines.

2008: A little like the younger talented sister of 2006, a big mistake to overlook this vintage, still classical but with a wider drinking window and a lovely sweetness.

2010: Potentially a little like 2004 with 25% of 2006 added, so very exciting. It has been the most hyped of all the vintages and that can of course lead to disappointments.

I still firmly believe that in Piedmont, as in Burgundy, you find the producers you like and buy the wines every year. Anyway enough waffle...

This was dinner of wine merchants and brokers full of much loud comment and no lack of opinion, topics in and well outside of wine all got a good airing. This all cumulated in a game of "Cards against humanity" - a great laugh but possibly a game to play with those you know, or that know you rather than any strangers...

We kicked off with a rather splendid looking magnum of Soave Classico La Rocca 2011 from Pieropan that our organiser kindly brought along. I like these wines a lot, unpretentious, balanced and just so good. This was waxy, oily with some lovely lemon fruit and what feels like just a little sweetness, delicious. I never new the mags came in totally different bottles.
We were off an running on the food as well. One of the very few downsides of this dinner was that Sam (ZuccaSam) couldn't make it…his team though did us well as ever. The menu was as below, I've put a pic or two at the bottom of the blog.

Baccala, Tomato and Olive

Pork ribs with Porcini and Cauliflower
Agnolotti in Brodo

Maltagliati, Pork and Radicchio
Grilled Veal Chop, Summer Griolles and Spinach
Formaggio - Toma, Gorgonzola Dolce, Hazelnuts and Honey
Chocolate Semifredddo, Pecan ice cream and a Caramel

The format for the Barolos was to serve them in flights with the more traditional wines first (1 & 2) and the more modern to follow. Refreshingly there were no modern monsters on display, 2004 is probably in the phase when many of the more modern producers were starting to moderate the use of barriques etc…anyhow...

Flight 1
2004 Barolo Rocche, Brovia
2004 Barolo Villero, Brovia
2004 Barolo Bussia, G. Fenocchio
The Rocche was lovely - clean and bright but still with good intensity. Very much on the red fruit end of the spectrum, some saline but essentially just pure and fresh. The Villero immediately had a darker fruit type, much more salinity and was a little more masculine, my notes rather unhelpfully just say "I like this…propper!". Then the change from Brovia to Fenocchio who one hears has been on great form of late, especially in 2010 and 2011. This had a slightly odd nose of Islay whisky, peatiness, then a heady cherry fruit before lacking stuffing. The nose and initial palate I can see as just a phase but the lack of a middle is a little more of a concern, it was perfectly good but just a little incomplete.    

Flight 2
2004 Barolo Brunate (mag), Marcarini
2004 Barolo Monprivato, G. Mascarello
The Marcarini Brunate, which I always buy, showed well. Good clarity, roses, some cherry fruit and then a good saline edge, slightly drier in a nice grippy way, this is focussed rather than fleshy, should age nicely but good from now. The Monprivato was a wine I was really looking forward to trying. A couple of people had had this recently and seemed a little disappointed with this particular bottle. It has a slightly caramel-like nose which I thought was odd. The palate was strange but not unpleasant - judgement deferred.

Flight 3
2004 Barolo Bricco Fiasco, Azelia
2004 Barolo Big ’d Big (mag), Rocche dei Manzoni
Bricco Fiasco was a little glossy but good on the nose, the plate did show a little more saturated dark fruit of the modern style with an almost shortbread note as well, there was richness and overall enjoyment. The Big 'd had a full nose, quite extracted but not too much, a little iodine. The palate was impressive, succulent and sweet enough to carry off the generous texture, nice wine.

Flight 4
2004 Barolo Bricco Ambrogio, Scavino
2004 Barolo Rocche dell' Annunziata Riserva, Scavino
I was not familiar with the Ambrogio, it had dark, quite rich fruit with a little soy, it was quite straightforward but very enjoyable. The Annunziata was both opulent, rich and also serious, good savoury notes and a wine that will need time. 

Flight 5
2004 Barolo Lazzarito, Vietti
2004 Barolo Rocche, R. Voerzio
I had a good bottle of the Lazzarito 2007 in Piedmont recently and this was also lovely, good for just drinking now really, quite open and opulent. The Rocche from Voerzio was rich and full with a lot of texture and more dense than flamboyant at this stage.

Conclusions: I think this was a very encouraging tasting, there was a lot of good fruit and most wines were well balanced and starting to struct their stuff, there was a certain consistency of quality of not necessarily an overriding vintage character (yet). When you consider that this was mostly good to very good second tier producers (no Bartolo,  Rinaldi, Giacosa or Conterno) I think it is all the more encouraging.

A big thank you to Alastair for bring this together and to everyone for their bottles

There was one more wine - 2014 Terlaner Classico - which is a blend of 60% Pinot Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, it was almost spritzy and served as a good end of evening lift!
Agnolotti in Brodo
Baccala, Tomato and Olive

Grilled Veal Chop, Summer Griolles and Spinach

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Magnificent luncheon at Medlar

So the Friday after the spectacular Rousseau at Riverside there was another wine feast planned. This time at the Medlar Restaurant in the King's Road. The group of five included two chaps - Betrand, the chief organiser, and Jordi - who have great cellars and love opening older bottles - both being expert in this area. The menu had been specifically put together and is below:

Crab Raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce

Cornish Turbot with Truffle Veloute, Pak Choi, Enoki, and Potato Galette 

Salad of Confit Quail legs, Iberico Ham, Sairass Ricotta, Baby Green Peaches and Pea Flowers
Anjou Pigeon with Mint and Coriander Pesto, King Oyster Mushroom, Chargrilled Broccoli and Endive

Rare Grilled Ox Heart with Veal Sweetbread, White Asparagus, Pomme Anna and Confit Onions

48 month Gouda and 36 month Comte 

English Strawberries with Prosecco Jelly, Mint and Lime Granita, Strawberry Sorbet and Meringues

So to the wines, which were splendidly served at good temperatures by the Sommelier Clement. We started with:

Dom Perignon Oentheque 1996, having had the "normal" 1996 Dom Perignon the week before this was interesting. I tend to prefer the normal bottling but this Oenetheque is good, more richness but not in a clumsy way, good toast, a lovely start.

The two whites we started with were any thing but aperitifs being terrific to follow through the next hour or so - Meursault Perrieres 2004Coche Dury and Meursault Narvaux 2004, D'Auvenay. The D'Auvenay had one of the most expressively explosive noses I can remember. A whiff of bold reduction then a little toffee, then a very marked and persistent note of popcorn, both popped and unpopped. That sounds like a silly note but it is so precisely what the aroma was. A bold and masculine white. The Coche was wonderfully subtle, young, more taut than the D'Auvenay (almost impossible not to be) it developed really well. It was an unfair fight when they were opened, the D'Auvenay taking control, but an hour on it was almost the reverse - a terrific pair.

Next we were having wines from possibly the other two big names in Cote d'Or whites. They were Chevalier Montrachet 1996 from Leflaive and Meursault Perrieres 1989 from Lafon. Sadly, as happens, they didn't live unto their predecessors. The Lafon was corked, it seemed fully mature but wasn't mildly corked so we moved on immediately. The Chevalier, which I have had a couple of times before, is a good wine. This bottle was a decent one if unexciting. It has a saline and salty almonds aroma, there was fruit but slightly bruised. Good length but just slightly missing a bit of "zip".   
The next flight was a splendid trio:
Echezeaux 2007, DRC
Lovely elegant colour, some orange rind, spices, a dash of graphite, with time it actually got more dense. I love the purity of the gently made 2007's. Very pinot.

Bonnes Mares 1976, Clair Dau
I had not heard of Clair Dau before but I was quickly told it is what is now Bruno Clair. This was mature. Animal, good, a little soy, some green but good green. Balanced and complete, possibly missing the excitement of sweetness. There is that mature mushroom water aroma, good and interesting.

Chambertin Clos de Beze 1971, Clair Dau
This was initially served blind, it was a really exciting bottle, dwarfing the previous wine exactly because it did have the sweetness that older wines need to counter balance the complexity of age. Brown sweetness, leather and undergrowth - absolutely stunning.  
From Burgundy we were off to Bordeaux:
La Tour du Pin Figeac 1961 had an orangey hint, mulled, bruised fruit, a little milky in texture, some tin. It was a little "murky" and impure, not bad for it but not perfect.
Cheval Blanc 1952 This was served blind and had come from parcel that also included 1948 which I have had before. Black fruit and saline, great intensity, there was a spice dimension as well, extremely good wine!
So with so many of the great names of wine already having appeared we still had a few to come. 
Petrus 1966 and La Mission Haut-Brion 1966 were next on the "agenda". I had not had either before. The Bordeaux 1966's that I've had have been pretty special though. The Petrus was superb, so Petrus-like in character, extrovert and high-toned, succulent. There is something unique about Petrus, especially about it's texture and showiness. The La Mission was initially a little dusty and a shade metallic by comparison, but it got better, sweater and cleaner over time, there was a little smokiness.
Two last bottles awaited us and both the enjoyment I got from them and the styles could not have been more different. Masuizumi 2008 Sake was, I am afraid, just not for me. It was served blind and I had no idea what it was. It was a little like hazelnut and white chocolate but with no sweetness at all, odd, I clearly need educating. Quinta do Noval Nacional 1967 was simply brilliant. I have had "Nacional" twice before, once it was also the 1967 and once the 1983. Both times I have been incredibly impressed. This tastes so young but not in a one dimensional fashion, it has developed but just at a snails pace. Dates and sweet spiced fruit, power but so graceful, I would put Nacional up there as a wine that any wine-lover has to experience.
It has been a very special lunch, lots of brilliant conversation and so many good bottles, very well pulled together from both a food and wine standpoint. Bravo and thank you!

Some pics for the Foodies!
Crab Raviolo - a Medlar signature
Cornish Turbot
Quail legs, Iberico Ham
Anjou Pigeon
Ox Heart with Veal Sweetbread

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Rousseau at the Riverside...

This was a cracking luncheon well orchestrated by Irish Pete. The drill was to eat at The White Oak in Cookham and then have a gaunt on the river post lunch. Five of us gathered on a muggy day with each bringing a bottle and Irish proving the focal point - never a bad thing when that focus is Rousseau. The food we were served was delicious, simple, elegant and just the foil to the wines, well worth a trip.

We kicked off with two vintages of Dom Perignon the 1996 and 1990. The 1996 served first was absolutely delicious, I have often said that prefer the bottle ageing of Champagne to the yeastier and, in my view, clumsier ageing you get on the lees. These were both original release bottlings. The 1996 was just at a lovely stage, youth giving way to the first signs of maturity, there was still plenty of drive and focus. The initial elements are strawberry fresh but then citrus before a little biscuit takes over, in short this is spot on now. I would imagine magnums are worth holding for 2-3 years but bottles, on this showing, are bang on. The 1990 is mature in my opinion, not over mature mind you. More open, more flesh, apples but good apples then a little butterscotch. There is more roundness and consequently less drive to the wine. Both were delicious and cracking start, serving them in big burgundy glasses also helped. As I write this I'd love to have a bottle of the 1996 chilling in the fridge!

From there we were Burgundy-bound, whites first. Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2007 from Domaine  Leflaive and Meursault 2005 from Coche-Duty were the two whites in question. Sadly, there is always a little suspense before opening Leflaive these days and also a thought for Anne-Claude. This was a bright and delicious bottle, a lovely youthful colour (or lack of colour). Great balance, elegant for a Batard, a little whiff of reassuring reduction, it really opened up well in glass to reveal white and yellow fruits, more the classic zip of 2007 that the "broad shoulders" of Batard, lovely, the lunch deserved a good bottle and so it was. Coche-Dury is probably the only producer who make a village wine that would fit at such a lunch. The "supplier" of this has been busily hoovering up the 2005's from Coche. This village wine showed so well and reminded me of another occasion when Irish and I had enjoyed the wine, from 1993 that time, courtesy of Mr G. This 2005 had aniseed and fennel as well as an exuberance, cracking stuff.
Now it was time for the "main course" in all senses of the phrase. Mr H sensibly suggested the next two wines were served in a staggered format to avoid too quick a comparison, very shrewd as there can always be a tendency for instant comparison. In itself this is ok but it is so often to the detriment of one of the wines. This was not the aim here. First out the blocks was Chambertin Grand Cru 1993 from Rousseau. I have been very lucky to have 1990, 1991 and a few other vintages of this genuinely iconic wine. This was gorgeous, poised, it encapsulated the Rousseau signature, for me, of depth and intensity without weight, it was fresh and defined, redder of fruit than I expected. Youthful but not immature. In short stunning. It was then joined by it's sibling Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 1993 from Rousseau. The wisdom of the staggered start was clear to see. In some ways there was more density, more intensity, more fruit, less savoury. This struck me as a little brighter and redder, a little younger tasting. Reflecting back on it later there was a suggestion that the Beze was a 100% bottle and may be the Chambertin a mere 99% or at least that the Beze was a more youthful example. When I did ulimately decided which I "preferred" for me it was the extra savoury dimension added to the Chambertin but both of these wines are extreme examples of what Burgundy can be...

Clearly that pair were going to be a near impossible act to follow. So we had two wines of different style, one still in Burgundy - Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 1990 from Mongeard-Mugneret and my offering, surprise surprise, Monfortino 2002 from Giacomo Conterno. The Clos Vougeot was re-assuringly different from the Rousseau's. Quite chunky, not over the top, not 1990 soupy which can happen it has a good sweetness to go with that Clos Vougeot grunt, it stood up for itself very well. The Monfortino, watch out for the usual bias, was lovely, very young, we actually put it back in the bottle to cool it as it had got a little warm on the muggy day. It is a wine just getting into second gear, there is a good green freshness as well as dark lifted fruit and that savoury saline signature.

It had been an absolutely splendid meal, lots of good conversation and a keenness to make sure that those who did not attend knew what they had missed. It sounds like we might set this as an annual event - I do hope so!

As we fragmented three of us, Irish, Mr H and myself headed back to the riverside for a ride up the river. As we were in Henley, not sure how I missed mentioning that before, and the rowing was starting the following week we got a good view of the course and a few crews out on the river practising. Of course you can't do that with an empty glass so we took Ruchottes Chambertin Grand Cru 2002 from that splendid Rousseau chap. It was so wonderfully primary for an "02", several of which I have found (admittedly at other "lesser" addresses) to be a little prematurely gamey. This was not a waste to drink now, so bright and dark red fruited. It was a brilliant end to a really cracking day…just what summer fridays are for! Thank you all from your bottles and for organising.
Stay Left!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Faiveley at The Square…

When Bazdad and Chaz ask you if you are free for a lunch at the Square you do what you have to do, move a few things around, to be there. I have been lucky enough to go racing at Goodwood with them and the lovely Dot for the last few years, it is always a highlight of the summer. We were a four with Thomas Parker joining. The event was the annual Faiveley lunch at The Square. I was intrigued as I do not know the wines and can only find that I have had two of them, as recorded on this blog. There were many familiar faces on other tables all of which made for a lovely atmosphere.
You never have to worry about the quality of the food at The Square, in all the many times I have been it has always been spot on. Some pictures are at the bottom of this post, the menu was:


Seared Bonito with Black Iberico Tomatoes, Hass Avocado and Smoked Salt

Fillet of John Dory with Hand Cut Farfalle, Chicken Oysters, Tarragon and Peas

Breast of Pigeon with Confit of Vegetables and Crousillant of Leg with Apricot

Glazed Iberico Pork Cheek with Coco Beans, Savoury Onions and Morcilla

Epoisses de Bourgogne

So to the wines:

We started with Rully Les Villeranges 2013 as an aperitif, this was good, clean, fresh and with good green fruits as well as a nice lack of oak. Just what you want from Rully. As the food arrived we moved up a notch to Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne 2011. This was really impressive and for me the pick of the whites. A shade reduced - a good thing in my book - this had sweet white fruits and nice focus. Some apples but nicely ripe ones at that, a little decadence too, some smoke from the reduction. A good 2011 which promises to be a rewarding earlier drinking vintage. The final white was from magnum and was Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009. This was rich decadent, quite hedonistic, a little bit of oily reduction, some toffee and a little, slightly over ripe, apple. This is ready to go now, it'll keep but I see no real reason to.

We were then solidly into red country with Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Beaux Bruns 2012. A nicely rich Pinot nose, then a little crushed graphite, a smell I associate more with northern Rhone, Cornas?, than Burgundy, but not in a bad way. The palate had a little dryness but again richness, this felt more like the constituent parts than a complete wine and when it comes together there will be more charm and balance, at the moment it is slightly more Gevrey grit than Chambolle charm. The Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008 that followed is from one of the 10 Grand Crus that they own. In brief it was really delightful, there was depth but also an almost flirty quality to it. All persistence and drive but with slightly degraded sweetness, absolutely perfect to drink now but the balance and sweetness will mean a bright future also. Really enjoyable.

Erwan Faiveley who spoke so well about the wines then introduced the last wine as being very much in his "Father's style". He was very respectful of his family but he clearly has a different idea of how the wines can be - drive, balance and elegance seem to be more his watchwords. The wine we finished with was - Corton 'Clos des Cortons Faiveley' 2000 - the nose reminded me of cheese rind or cheese wash, there was a very slight greenness which I wonder may have come from stems. This was robust and full and partnered the Epoisses very well.

For me it had been a really good look at the wines in splendid company. Bazdad, Chaz, Erwan - thank you!

Glazed Iberico Pork Cheek with Coco Beans, Savoury Onions and Morcilla
Fillet of John Dory with Hand Cut Farfalle, Chicken Oysters, Tarragon and Peas
Breast of Pigeon with Confit of Vegetables and Crousillant of Leg with Apricot