Monday, 28 March 2016

Magnums...the best by Farr?

PG goes a little "Attenborough"
So the invite to a bit of a trade get together at the new Farr Vintners offices reads:

"It’s "bring a bottle" and there are 17 of us at the moment so don’t bring anything too flash as you won’t get to drink it! In fact, a magnum would probably be better, but either way, there will be plenty to drink."

What followed was entirely predictable, EVERYONE turned up with at least one magnum...just as predictable was the fact that it was a fun evening with everyone interested to try all the wines and the "chat" (banter becoming over-used) was obviously of top quality...So lest I forget, a big thank you to Mark  and Alastair - our kind hosts. Below are just a few notes on the wines, nothing technical, selfishly for my benefit as much as anything. Anything served from bottle rather than mag is noted as such.
Fizz and early whites:
Coeur de Cuvee 2005, Vilmart - nicely balanced from this good if not spectacular vintage, being stuck in and around '02, '04, '06, '07 is a tough gig. 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from 55 year old vines. This clearly has a life ahead of it but is not wasted now. A nice start.

Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2003
- My colleague, Joe Muller, brought this along, definitely best served after the Vilmart, good ripeness and just spot on now. Biscuits just starting to show. Would love to serve this blind to any English sparkling wine sceptics.

Meursault Narvaux 2002, Domaine Michelot - I liked this, has only evolved slowly, magnum factor, good minerality and no overuse of oak at all, mellow and balanced.

Guardiola Bianco 2013, Tenuta di Passopisciaro - My magnum, I figured unoaked Etna Chardonnay might be a niche that nobody would clash with. Saline and stones on the nose, clean and pure not really a fruit wine, more a texture thing.

Those all saw us very nicely through a Salmon and Scallop ceviche.
Reds - roughly in weight order:
Savigny 1er Cru Les Dominode 2008, Bruno Clair - a site I had never heard of. Quite bold colour for 2008, good texture. I liked this, robust but not over the top. Good darker fruits.

Conseillante 2007 - went down very well, balanced and will keep but why would you? Good soft fruit and a balanced light structure, nice wine.

Chambolle Musigny 1991, Roumier (bt) - this was a trickier one to pour round the group. Degraded reddish fruit but with sweetness and a pure enough fruit character. Soft and elegant and right there to drink. A treat and nicely different.

Pesquera Reserva Especial 2003 - good balance of fruit and structure here, no decayed 2003 character, Quite ferrous and earthy but with good fruit and body, a good showing.

Barolo Bussia 2001, Parusso - embarrassingly a producer I do not know at all. Judging by this I should. A good mulled fruit character with good balance, not showing obvious oak, though I think there is some in the background but only framing the wine. Good wine and overall well received as it should have been.

Brunello di Montalcino 2004, Ciacci Piccolomini - this was a ripe, full and bold but not unbalanced Brunello from this good vintage, quite extracted but kept in check. Rich dark fruits and very much still young. Would like to try this again from bottle in 2-3 years.

Ridge Estate Cabernet 2011 - I found this to have good richness, more than I expect from the lovely, always balanced, Ridge wines and certainly more than I'd expect from the 2011 vintage. Impressive for it!

Raymond Rutherford Cabernet 2006
 - "out the traps" this was a little bit of a monster or so it appeared, but actually, it got better and better, full on may be but in really good balance, I'd love to drink it again sometime to see if it was a little bit of a "one glass wonder" but I think not, rich fruit but not over the top alcohol.

Sociando Mallet 1990 - this had an eggy coating of sulphur to the nose. Unreservedly from a time when quality and quantity could go hand in hand. A good decant could have corrected that but regardless this was a good rich, dark fruit and floral lift wine. Really quite typical of Margaux in its own way. 

Lynch Bages 1982 - in a different style to the Sociando this is a wine that speaks of a different generation in Bordeaux, there is a sense, in a good way, of "throw it all in". The fruit is balanced with the structure, there is some "good green" character and a great drinkability, deliciously honest.

Deer In The Headlights Syrah 2003, Two Hands - big bold and uncompromising, I didn't make many notes here. Sorry.

Vouvray Mont Moelleux 1er Trie 2003, Huet  (2 x bt) - very good, bright, orange fruits and lovely with cheese or pudding, good acidity as you'd expect.
Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert 1989, Jaboulet
 - saline, soy, good acidity, a little astringent but good enough, probably a little past it in bottle format but still there in magnum. Propper older wine for all that.

Main course of Veal, Lentils and Spinach
After dinner whites:
Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay 2013, Sandhi - tiny production (only about 100 cases), old vine, planted in 1971, Chardonnay. I have wanted to try this for a while and would love to do so again, good salinity and not over the top fruit or oak, nicely balanced.

Meursault Grands Charrons 2010, Boisson-Vadot (bt) - a very classic B-V nose, not as extrovert as their good 2009's, more classical and focused, a good wine with a long life ahead.

And I think that...was that...good fun! (and nice offices!)

Franchetti Vertical...

The front but technically the back!
Possibly the wine that Andrea Franchetti is least well known for is the very one that actually bears his name. Andrea is famous for his Tuscan wines at Tenuta di Trinoro and for the wines made from Nerello Mascalese at Tenuta di Passopisciaro on Mount Etna. BUT there is another red made on Etna from a combination of varieties that Andrea brought with him from Tuscany. Franchetti is an ever-oscillating blend of Petit Verdot (richness and depth) and Cesanese d'Affile (lift and elegance). It was a wine first made in 2005. With Andrea in town last week for a dinner and another tasting, more on which in later blogs, it seemed a good chance to taste four vintages.

Franchetti 2008 (60% Petit Verdot, 40% Cesanese d'Affile)
Some rubber and cheesecloth here, a savoury degraded fruit, a definite food wine. There is good but bruised dark fruits on the palate. An intense and rich quality with lots of leather, some iodine and a good dollop of tar. 15-16/20

Franchetti 2009 (80% Cesanese d'Affile, 20%  Petit Verdot )
A much lighter colour which reflects the switch in varietals in the blend. Brightness and violets on the nose then a good bit of citrus and grapefruit. There is a grippy feel and a definite nod to Nebbiolo here. To my mind a far more vibrant wine than the 2008 but then the 2009 vintage was not a blockbuster on Etna. 17/20

Franchetti 2010 (100% Petit Verdot)
Just to show Andrea doesn't follow a particular plan, 2010 is almost the opposite in blend to 2009. Very dark, tar and leather, a wine for the Northern Rhone fan...there is depth and some sweetness on the palate which has a red-berried freshness to the finish. I like this. 17.5/20

Franchetti 2011 (50% Petit Verdot, 50% Cesanese d'Affile)
And then the "middle ground" in terms of the blend. Cooler fruits on the nose, a little muted, then a lovely texture on the palate. There is a lot of the three crucial components here, ripe sweetness, good tannin and then a vibrant drive of acidity. It strikes me the two varieties complement each other well. 17.5-18/20

I feel I understand the wine far better now. For me, the drinking window looks to be in the same zone as serious Barbera i.e 4-7 years after production. Thanks for the tasting Andrea.

The back but technically the front!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Lunch in the office

We had a rather special guest(s) in the office for a tasting and as he came from Bordeaux we couldn't serve him anything from that fine region.

Instead we served the above wines but not before we started with Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002 which is drinking superbly now, just the beginning of a bit of biscuit appearing but essentially still focussed and fine with a linear drive. If you own any then you've done well to keep it, just let me know if you need a "hand" drinking it.

We then went for Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009 from Domaine Leflaive which was both very much a Chevalier and very much not a 2009. Real focus and saline, slight reduction but tightly wound. No goey-ness here which was good. Opening white Burgundy can be a game of roulette and I would still recommend a read of the guest post by my colleague Sara on premox. The wine got better in glass and the remnants smelt lovely, white fruits.

So to the reds, the Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Cuvee Duvault-Blochet 2006 from DRC is a wine I last had here - it showed just as well this time but a little more focussed and a little less rich, slightly less 2006 ish you could say. Lovely elegance and drive with a core of darker red fruits and a real lift, clearly a wine with a long future but certainly not a waste to drink it now. Obviously always a bit of a treat given the name of this blog!

Soldera 2008 - was next up and not a wine our visitors knew. I last tasted it here, on a brilliant visit to Case Basse (mind you they all tend to be). The wine has such incredibly purity with slight spice behind that and a wonderful energy. There is a salinity that makes it just about the most drinkiably moreish wine I know. I am biased, and I've said this before, but I really don't think anyone gets near Gianfranco when it comes to Purity from Sangiovese.

Our final wine was Corney & Barrow 2010 Sauternes which comes from an address that stands up well in this company and I am saying no more than that...if only everyday was like this...

Friday, 25 March 2016

Clos de Tart 2014

It's Easter and there are a lot of blogs to write up, a brief one to start. Having had the first Clos de Tart day back in November last year with a brilliant tasting of all the Sylvain Pitiot's vintages (1996-2013) before he worked together on the 2014 with Jacques Devauges this was a chance to taste that very 2014. The estate is one of the seven Grand Cru monopoles of France (can you name all of them? See the bottom*) and I last visited during a very special trip burgundy in May 2014. In size terms it is actually very similar to La Tache.
La Forge de Tart 2014
The second wine on a selection basis.
Full colour, fuller than I normally associate with La Forge. Darker fruit too, serious wine, more currant-like fruit than red berries. Some good spice comes through and then more berried fruit with a herbal element. Good, quite bold structure, good tannins, present but ripe. 17.5-18/20

Clos de Tart 2014
Immediately sweeter fruit than the Forge. More depth, a rich feel, serious berried fruits. Quite a dark fruit character but with good lift. Depth and properness, made for the medium to long term I would say. The best since the 2010? Quite possibly, actually, yes it is. Long finish with dark cherry character coming through, very Cote de Nuits, good wine. 18.5/20

*The 7 Grand Cru Monopoles of France
Romanee Conti
La Tache
La Grand Rue
La Romanee
Clos de Tart
Chateau Grillet
Coulee de Serrant

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Marquis d'Angerville 2014's and a look at Champans...

Last Wednesday saw the London Press tasting of the 2014 d'Angerville wines. A repeat, in format, of the 2013's at the same time last year. The setting was Home House in the West End. The order of the day is to taste the 2014's in the same way one would typically do so in Burgundy, i.e. to finish with the white. The aim for me here is to give my own, admittedly biased, views. But a few words from Guillaume d'Angerville to start seems fair.

"We had a superb potential crop ahead of the June 30th hailstorm. The hail reduced the volume of the crop, but quality was preserved and is intact. The wines are classy and powerful, clean and complex at the same time" October 2015.

That Volnay should have seen hail again in 2014 really was unbelievable. The last full harvest having been 2009. This is true of all of Burgundy but the exaggeration of difference was by far the most savage around Volnay over this time. So to the tasting:

Volnay 2014 - Lovely pure red fruited freshness with poise and a crunchy energy, lovely length and easy to appreciate.

Pommard 1er Cru Combes Dessus 2014 - Darker fruit character and some lovely, proper grip, depth two but not crudely so, sweetness joins on the mid palate and leads to a good long finish. Impressive. 

Volnay 1er Cru 2014 - Bright red fruits and considerable focus. Lovely drive through this and some grip but less than the Pommard before it. Very correct and pure.

Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Angles 2014 - Ripe nose, markedly so, more sweetness and life. Then a very grown-up grip and structure, makes you pay attention. Red fruit yes, but seriously so. Very impressive, the best Angles I have had and a surprise in a very positive sense.
Volnay 1er Cru Fremiet 2014 - A little deeper of fruit, some darker fruit making itself known. Freshness balanced by a little more flesh, you could even say a little rounder or lusher. More density and tannin also.

Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets 2014 - A little more muted on the nose, which could be seriousness. Then the palate is actually more giving before again being a little tight. You get a sense of more power and strength but no real feel for whether this is the character or a phase. A little less flesh, intriguing.

Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds 2014 -  Crimson fruited drive, cranberry even, real focus. More generosity and ebullience than Caillerets but still with a certain seriousness of structure. Very long, classy.

Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2014 - Darker fruit, to try to quantify it I'd say 30% red and 70% ripe black fruits. There is a lovely streak of saline to this as well. All in all it suggests a little more savoury character and seriousness than some of the crus at this stage. Sweeter creamy fruits on the palate slightly contradict this. Good overall structure and a very impressive Champans.

Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 2014 - Crimson fruit on the nose more akin to the Taillepieds than any other site. A little graphite and almost stem-like character too. The acidity, grip and fruit in good balance.The savoury edge of Champans also shows but with a mineral (stones) follow through rather than heading towards savoury decay. Serious but appreciably good even now.

Meursault 1er Cru Meursault-Santenots 2014 - Salted white fruits, lean (by which I mean focussed) with a briny energy. The palate shows more ripeness and depth. Best of this that I have had. The impression here (backed up by the 2012 at Lunch, see below) is that this white is being taken more and more seriously. 

Over-riding impression - The 2014's here are serious in quality but appreciably enjoyable even now. It strikes me that 2014 plays to the strengths of Volnay, red fruited drive and lift with grip and stuffing tucked away to be deployed later. The sites I think showed as clearly as ever and certainly more so than tends to be the case is a vintage of more consistent heat. I can't see that these will close down either for too long or in too serious a way. Large, wide, drinking windows.
Having tasted it was time for a few bubbles before lunch, that honour fell to Wiston Blanc de Blanc 2010. Made down near worthing this is a property to watch and 2010 manages to combine clear ripeness with a good amount of poise. Lunch was designed to play a good second fiddle to the wines and so it did. I could have eaten quite a lot of the middle course which was delicious with the five reds.

Wood pigeon salad, caramelised onions, soft grilled crostini
Escalopes of veal, truffle mash, morel mushroom cream sauce

Aged comte cheese, thin charcoal crackers, quince jelly

The wines, as with the tasting, were all served cool and poured nice and early (without any decanting) so they could develop in the glass.
The first flight was a trio of Champans all of very different vintage character:

Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2009
Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2011 en magnum
Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2012

The d'Angerville parcel in Champans is the largest holding with 4hectares of the 11 and right in the middle, Guillaume observed that the rows in this site are very long, as long as 300metres at times. It is the one site he feels you would show someone the wines from if you were to try to explain the typical Volnay.

The 2009; the last "volume" vintage, with yields of 36/38hl/ha, did show the "Sexiness and class" that Guillaume mentioned. The coolness of serving helped emphasise the saline side but there was a nice subtleness to the darker fruit as well. The class was so evident on the nose with the sweetness and more extrovert side on the palate, lovely. 2011 was a vintage that was overshadowed by the 2010 that preceded it. A "lovely pinot vintage" with a very early picking date. There is a drive to this and a clear red fruit side with the focus being elegance and vigour over lushness. I liked it and found it moreish which is always a good sign. 2012 was the most heartbreaking of vintages with a quarter of the normal crop and Guillaume observed that the wine had been concentrated by nature. This was immediately evident by the colour, much darker. Guillaume also observed there is a compressed nature to the wines, like the 1999's he said. I loved this finding an odd note of ripe graphite, for me there was a nod to the northern Rhone in its masculinity but then freshness drove through on the palate and I immediately wondered what I meant. The word "serious" appears three times in my note. A special wine for being true but Atypical at the same time. 

The next flight saw a different comparison, that of site rather than vintage. Both served from magnum it was Volnay 1er Cru Champans 2007 alongside Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 2007. I have been enjoying a lot of red Burgundy 2007's the last few years but if truth be told the first one I really loved was Champans 2007. This wine has a lovely mid-development now with good fruit but a lovely cheesecloth side, like the rind on a brie. The palate is far more fruited with good sweetness and that all important "drink me" moreishness. Clos des Ducs is more forward here than almost any other vintage I can think of and I am lucky enough to have had a few. It is going to age well but when it tastes this delicious now you can to a degree start to wonder what you might be waiting for. Great balance.

I slightly gave away, above, the fact that the Meursault 1er Cru Meursault-Santenots 2012 was rather good! There is a nice whiff of reduction, gunflint, to this that just, for me, adds seriousness and counter-balances what is a lovely ripe yet restrained palate. I would struggle not to drink this if I had it at home but can well imagine in 2-3 years this will be even better.

And with that the lunch came to a nice close. Cracking wines and much fun. One of Burgundies big names showing exactly why that is so.

A proper gathering...Macellaio's with friends...

This was a very fun lunch. Mr S co-ordinated us and foursome was completed by Zucca Sam, Mr Mann and myself. Having not seen Sam since the closing (not a dry eye in the house) of Zucca it was a long overdue Lunch. We also had Mr Mann's engagement to celebrate. The venue was to be Macellaio in Exmouth market. Not a place I knew. They specialise in sharing plates with a focus on Tuna (aged 7 days) and Beef (aged 7 weeks). It's a fun place.
Everyone brought a bottle or two and away we went. The starting point was Dom Ruinart Rose 1996 which has a bright colour but certainly more tizer than Salon pink, on the nose it was fruited and balanced no real signs of age barring a certain sense of roundness. The palate was generous and a little lush, the parts having fallen nicely into place. We then moved onto Meursault 2008 from Coche-Dury, a refined nose, focussed and very true to 2008 if almost more like Grand Cru Chablis than Meursault in its drive and elegance, very impressive indeed. There was that dash of reduction but no more than that. Long and elegant and certainly a wine to treat like a great red, plenty of air and plenty of time to appreciate it.
My bottle was next - Ausone 1975. A very kind 40th gift last year from a friend and customer who appears in these pages rather a lot. Sam and I are both 1975er's so it seemed a good moment. We decided to pop the cork, it broke but not badly, and pour straight into the four glasses as you never quite know how these older wines will be. We could in fact have been decanted as it got better in glass rather than fading. There was a ferrous smoothness to the palate, the texture of tannins remained but not dryness. The fruit character was darker than you might expect with a definite Cab Franc character at times. Velvety and whilst fully mature not on the way down.
L'Eglise-Clinet 1985 was the second Bordeaux and reminded me, in quality rather than style terms, of a brilliant bottle of the same estates 1989 some years ago. This was a wine that got better and better with air. Soft and voluptuous but in no way lacking definition. Darker fruits initially that got redder and more expressive with time, a wine at it's early peak. Such a treat, exciting!
Now to a more expected region, given this crowd, Barolo. Two vintages of the same wine - Barolo Sarmassa from Brezza. Brezza are a good producer based in central Barolo with good holdings and well worth a visit. On one trip we dropped in for lunch and had some fun as you can see here. The two vintages were a real treat as well - 1990 then the 1989. I felt they performed as you might expect though this was exaggerated by the 1990 having been double decanted with some time and the 1989 just decanted at the restaurant and served. The 1990 had more opulence and more "mass" the 1989 had more drive, vigour and energy, more definition. Less bruised fruit more saline. I like both but you would always pick the 1989 if being fussy. They both have time ahead but as with all the wines here they are mature.

Mr S wasn't that pleased with the other wine he bought but Sam, Tom and I were all happy enough to drink it - Barolo Villero 1978 from Giacosa (white Label) is a wine he knows well. The nose was a little bruised and aged but the palate had a sweetness to add to the slightly grainy texture. An expressive mature Barolo may be not but a good, interesting, glass of aged Nebbiolo, oh yes!
A predictable ending...
From there things became predictably Negroni based before a beer on departure...happy days. Macellaio's I will be visiting again. Chaps...thanks for the bottles and the laughs.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Bordeaux 2005's - a little look...

Last Wednesday a small collection of friendly wine traders got together, thanks to Alistair's organisation, to drink some 2005 Bordeaux. This followed on from two previous sessions with different themes Tuscan 2004's & Barolo 2004's.

The brief was to bring a bottle that released at under £50 a bottle. The venue was the Portland Restaurant. They did a good job in the private room. All the bottles had been double decanted in late afternoon.

My notes below are not as in depth as they might have been as frankly it was a fun crowd and we did a wonderful job of distracting each other. It was though very useful as an exercise:

Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux - Our only white, and apparently the 5th or 6th bottle of this that had to be opened to get a "good one". There was a warm vintage Sauvignon feel and a slightly sweaty edge, a character I quite like in these wines. Lanolin and cheesecloth too but the finish is not quite what I should be. 15/20

Lafon Rochet 2005, Saint Estephe - Soft and pretty supple but not lacking in a bit of grip and a slightly rustic edge, no criticism. Ready from now on for sure. 16.5/20

Clerc Milon 2005, Pauillac - Quite polished but not in a disjointed way. This was classy and a little glossy, another 2 years or so the oak on the nose should integrate. Good fruit there. 17/20

Grand Puy Lacoste 2005, Pauillac - More berried fruit and sweeter, more intense with a savoury and iron like side to it, more energy, very good, a step up and whilst good now this has more to give, really nice. 17.5-18.5/20

Lagrange 2005, Saint Julien - Smokey, quite sexy and easy to appreciate. Dark fruits. A good hedonistic glass of claret, will age but I am not convinced there is more complexity to come. 17/20

Malescot Saint Exupéry 2005, Margaux - Always just "Malescot", It struck me that there was a little more extraction, a little more inkiness. There was a real youth to it, high acidity and high tannin too. Served blind I would have thought this a 2010 not a 2005. For that reason alone I wonder if it is totally balanced. 16.5/20 (this may be harsh).

Rauzan Ségla 2005, Margaux - I thought this was good, my notes just have a tick which is good news if rather unhelpful. Supple with good balance and not over-worked. 17/20

Domaine de Chevalier 2005, Pessac-Léognan - This really impressed me and along with the GPL might just have been the top two wines. There was a good combination of red and black fruits. This is serious with a good savoury edge and a very proper feel about it. Long and balanced. 17.5-18.5/20

Roc de Cambes 2005, Cotes de Bourg - A wine I know really well, mostly because I keep drinking it. Good freshness and not too much volume then that trademark "Mitjavile Mocha" note. Ready now but no rush. 17-17.5/20

Latour à Pomerol 2005, Pomerol - This was less good bottle than the really good one I had here. A real shame. Very muted. No score

Canon 2005, Saint Emilion - Very ripe, good richness too, nose very encouraging the palate was a little extracted and possibly a little drier than you might want. Time will tell, a keeper? 16.5-17.5(?)/20

We then had two "imposters" - Le Dome 2000 which had been opened but not drunk the previous night. I wondered it is might be an 2003 but I think that might have been more down to the air it would have seen. Colleagues were much closer. A wine with a long life ahead I think and a more savoury character. The second was Volnay 1er cru Champans 2012 from d'Angerville which I had brought on from a press Lunch for the d'Angerville's 2014's (blog to follow soon). I was a little unfair after so many richer reds because a lighter, arguably more elegant, wine will always show well and so it did.

So conclusions from the 2005's - proper vintage, good balance in general, no overriding impression on tannin, acidity and alcohol. It was not a waste to have opened any of these but I would certainly say that 2005s need a good decant at this stage.

Good stuff...what next chaps?

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Francois Labet - One man two estates!

It was great pleasure back on the 3rd of February to host a Dinner with Francois Labet at No 1 Lombard Street. A venue I've used several times for events we have done with people like Peter Sisseck, Domaine Trapet, Tenuta di Biserno, Phelan Segur and many, many others. It is a good venue in a good central location.
Myself with Mr H and Francois Labet
Francois is best known for running, in every way, Chateau de la Tour, the largest owner of Clos Vougeot which in turn is the largest Grand Cru in the Cotes de Nuits. This dinner was to showcase both this estate and Domaine Pierre Labet, DPL, with Pierre being Francois' father. The wines under both labels are made at Chateau de la Tour with the same fastidious attention to detail. The DPL vineyards, which is 16ha in total, are farmed organically where Chateau de la Tour, 6ha, has been run Bio-dynamically since 1992.

The aperitif before dinner was Savigny 1er cru Vergelesses 2011, a flattering and expressive wine from a vintage I love drinking now. The site is opposite Corton-Charlemagne and is one of those that people are looking at more and more seriously as they are with Pernand Verglesses, Auxey-Duresses and St.Aubin.

We then made our way though for dinner of:

Seared scallops, black pudding and roasted cauliflower purée
Mini Cumberland sausage and mash
Honey roasted Gressingham Duck breast  Boulanger potatoes, Baby carrots, Purple sprouts broccoli and currant  jelly
Cheshire with charcoal crackers

We kicked off the dinner wines with Beaune Blanc Clos du Dessus des Marconnets 2010. Francois described 2010 as the vintage of reference, for both reds and whites. This was tighter and more serious than the Savigny, with a vibrant citrus note and is clearly a wine that there is no rush with.

Beaune 1er cru Coucherias 2009 in magnum was up next and had a lovely decadent richness, it opened up more and more in glass and is more rich than heavy.Francois is a fan of whole bunches and this is 100%. I think this works really well, especially in the riper vintages.
As we moved to the main course we were solidly into the Clos Vougeot zone. Francois knows the Clos, which was created in 1098, inside out. These wines are always ones that, for me, need time to shine their brightest but what I think has become really a great feature of almost all great red Burgundies is how brilliant they are young which is why I was delighted Francois chose to show the Clos Vougeot Château de la Tour Classique 2013 from magnum. It was juicy and generous with good balance and purity. There is a certain easy cool, stoneyness with a crunchy fruit. I picked up a marked note of digestive biscuits at the end. This is a good interpretation of a vintage that some people might have slightly underestimated. The Clos Vougeot Château de la Tour Vieilles Vignes 2009 that we had next is made from the parts of the holdings that were planted in 1910 so you could certainly add a "tres" in front of the Vieilles Vignes. The nose is quite muted and closed, there is a warmer vintage feel here in the decadence of the serious, darker fruit. There is a density to the sappy fruit character. Whilst a tad closed this is classy. Clos Vougeot Château de la Tour Vieilles Vignes 2002 was stunning to put it simply. Combining elements of the 2009 and 2013 but adding the beginning of the secondary aromas. This is really starting to go through the gears. The sort of wine you wish you could just wallow in a bottle of with simple food and no rush. A gorgeously sweetly degraded fruit and a dash of saline…delightful. For those that like factoids - 1986 was the first time the Vieilles Vignes was made and 1987 was the first year of 100% whole bunch fermentation.

Fine de Bourgogne, Clos de Vougeot 1979 - I can totally understand those who see Fine or Marc de Bourgogne and think "oh no, a by-product of vinification and a bit of easy money" BUT this is a little different as it is an exception not a rule. I had no idea there was such a story but then I should have realised as I had never heard Francois mention he does a Fine because essential he doesn't. The 1979 is the only time. The reason being that there was a small second harvest in 1979 in November, I think due to the fact there had been hail damage earlier in the season. Anyway these grapes harvested in November would only have been any good for litres and litres of very acidic rose so they made an Fine instead. Just three barrels and only bottled 3 years ago. It was really rather splendid, I didn't write a note - I was not in note taking mode by this stage.

A really special dinner with terrific wines and lovely insights from one of the most modest, but not to underestimated in any way, men of Burgundy. I will leave you with a link to two very generous bottles Francois opened back in 2009 - 1990 and 1959. Oh to taste many of the wines from tonight in 50 years time!!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Masterclass & Dinner - Latour a Pomerol & Trotanoy...

"Wine is not for sharing"

The above is a quote from Edouard Moueix and those that know him will know it is very much "tongue in cheek", he was referring the fact that often the very end of a bottle in the kitchen late at night or the next morning when your guests have gone is the most delicious, and that glass is only for you...Quite the opposite of the not sharing idea!

A few months back we (C&B) were looking at which of the Moueix estates to focus on, to me it was a matter of going for two very special ones that compliment each other well - Latour a Pomerol and Trotanoy. I have written a fair bit on each in the past as the links below show.

The format for this evening was a Masterclass and then dinner, both at St Pancras Renaissance HotelThe wines for the Masterclass were all served straight from the bottle and the dinner wines were double decanted gently late in the afternoon. Edward gave a good insight into both properties. I will not repeat these - I strongly recommend that people read the profile chapters on each in Neal Martins book "Pomerol". One point of particular interest was that when asking if anyone had questions Edouard said "the blend, which is the most asked question, is Merlot with more Merlot". In fact both properties are planted with 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, he was not trying to be awkward - merely pointing out that a blend is so much more that just grape varieties; different parcels, differently aged vines, different picking times, different clones and many other factors go into it".

Latour à Pomerol 2009 - Succulent richness, soft yet deep, nothing over the top or overblown at all, mouthwatering and persistent. The fruit is both red and black on the nose with a redder side to the finish. Juicy but contained and good. This has all the positive (and there are many) aspects of 2009 with none of the bruised or overipe elements that there can be. Delicious. 18-18+

Latour à Pomerol 2010 - Edouard commented on the 2010's when talking about them and the 2009's that "everytime you open a 2010 you see something else". This was really superb. Initially more muted on the nose, needing more coaxing and swilling. A cool nose with a power packed palate, tannin and acidity in abundance but so balanced. Ever so slightly saline to compliment the fresh intensity. A shade darker in fruit character than the 2009. Special. 18.5

Latour à Pomerol 2011 - A trickier vintage and only the 2009 and 2010 to follow on from! If wines could get nervous then this one should have been! Leaner and a little leafier on the nose, a little more standoffish. Then the palate has both more depth and a greater sense of properness, this wine has some grip and would love to be drunk with food. 16.5-17.25
Latour à Pomerol 2012 - It is quite a while since I had tasted or drunk this wine. I would say it was one of the big discoveries of the night for me and something I plan to add to the cellar pronto. The nose had a lushness but this was kept in check by a cool freshness, possibly that is a contardiction that just means it was balanced. It did not seem showey, just nicely complete. The palate in contrast was an explosion of lovely rounded open freshness and red fruits, really delightful. I asked Edouard, hoping he'd say "no not really" if the wine would shut down and he said "they all close down but for varying times". 17.5-18 

And so we moved to the same four vintages of Trotanoy. Edouard made one general observation on Trotanoy and that was that the wines can be "quite a ball" in youth, tight and sometimes hard to access. I found this the case, to a degree, with the stellar 2010.
Trotanoy 2009 - Bold, serious, delicious, more depth, darker fruits with flashes of red. Succlent without over doing it. The acidity it good but the over-riding impression is of generosity and depth. 18-18.5 (+)

Trotanoy 2010 - Big fruit, if muted, great acidity (can acidity be ripe?) bold but defined and perfectly ripe tannins. Other than the amount of time you will need to wait to see this at its best there is nothing not to like here. Boldly classy, like a novic chaser that you know will go on to compete in the Gold Cup one I overdoing it? Possibly, but I really don't think so. 19

Trotanoy 2011 - More closed on the nose then a little cherry as well as black fruit in a compote style. More red fruited on the palate and quite viscous. Almost like there has had to be a lot of selection. 17

Trotanoy 2012 - Saline, classical Trotanoy nose as my mind's eye sees it. Then on the palate wave upon wave of fresh fruited intensity, long on the finish but so fresh and moreish. When it comes to scoring this wine, it really highlights the silliness of doing so because in a many ways I feel it is as good as the 2010 just entirely different but then to give it the same score doesn't seem correct, anyway I'll sort of dodge the issue and go for 18.5(+).

I really enjoyed the tasting - 2009 and 2010 is a debate that will go on for decades but the 2012's are wines not to overlook and the 2011's will gve pleasure while one "tries" to be patient with the others. Being able to chop and change amongst the 8 glasses was brilliant.

We then had a brief interlude and short talk from a historian who spoke about the background to the hotel whilst we drank some Wiston Blanc de Blancs 2010 from Sussex, and rather splendid it was too.

We were then seated for a dinner of:

Roast quail, warm spring pea salad and game consommé
Oven-Roasted Cornish Beef Fillet, 5 hour braised beef cheek, wild mushrooms, soft mash
Blue monday and Cornish yarg cheeses

The first two wines served, in drinking rather than tasting measures(!) were Latour à Pomerol 1990 and 1998. I found the 1990 to be so elegant, right in the drinking zone now, sure it'll go on but you have everything where you want it now.The fruit was relaxed and balanced by the ripe tannins, there was just a shade of the soy arriving, a wine to just drink and enjoy. The 1998, in many ways still an insider's vintage on the right bank - Merlot worked, Cabernet largely didn't - was more primary, a wine moving into third gear, poised and whilst open it is still coiled quite tight, this will be luscious very soon I think.
With the beef it was time for the Trotanoy pair of 1989 and 2000. My note for the 1989, and notes were getting more basic by now, starts "wow, sexy and seductive", this had such vibrant energy and hightoned fruit, some tar and sweetness, a lovely degraded extrovert character. This is a purely hedonistic wine that picks you up and demands you enjoy it, sweet and succulent. The 2000 is, accounting for the age difference, always going to be a more savoury, mineral and, arguably serious, wine. This has darker cooler fruit and is possibly a more clasical Trotanoy, either way a lovely pair and a real treat. 

There was one more wine - C&B Sauternes 2010 - served from halves. It's from a rather top-end address but little more than that can be said!!

When you expect a lot - and I do from these two great Properties - you can often be left a little flat. Not a chance here!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Clos St.Jacques Masterclass @ 67 Pall Mall...

Now the last thing I am going to do is launch into a monolog on the merits of Clos St.Jacques. This area has been covered really well by a number of writers who have walked the vineyards and got under the skin of this site. What seems to be accepted is that, along with Les Amoureuses in Chambolle, here is a vineyard that is Grand Cru in all but name.

This tasting was held at 67 Pall Mall and hosted by Jasper Morris MW alongside Jordi. The focus was the vineyard rather than producer comparisons so, with one exception that came about by a reserve being used, there was no same producer and vintage side by side. There were some lovely anecdotes and Jasper added very well to the tasting with insights and tales. 

The "producers" roll call is a tricky one as barrels have been sold and deals done in the past. Now there are 5 owners who, significantly, all own a strip the length of the vineyard, this is so important as there are three soil types from "top" to "bottom":

Rousseau 2.21 ha

Esmonin 1.6ha
Bruno Clair  1ha (essentially the same as Clair Dau for notes below)
Louis Jadot 1ha
Domaine Fourrier 0.89 ha

The notes I have made on the wines are, as ever, written in a way I can relate to, I hope they may be of some interest. It is also nice to be writing a post where I have no agenda whatsoever. I always try to be honest but so often I have a bias, however hard I try not to. Wine is a people business and to think that knowing, or even wanting to sell, a particular persons wine does not have an effect is naive on my part.

None of the wines were double decanted, all just checked and poured. I think this is 100% the correct approach but it does mean that you find people's opinions of a wine (top, middle, bottom of the bottle) does vary:

1970 Clair Dau - A quite thick, cloudy, degraded colour. Soy and mushrooms, this has a slightly yeasty character. There is a shade of bacon about this and not bacon fat. Rustic and a little gloopy. Not much sweetness but nothing harsh. I feel this note comes across too negatively, it was a decent wine just fully mature.

1976 Clair Dau (magnum) - Developed colour but not too much so. Spicey, meaty, a little leathery, sweetness too, this is intense. It is a wine fully on the tertiary characteristics. Meaty and animal like. I liked it.

1976 Clair Dau (bottle) - This was fresher than the magnum, unusually, bricky and good with a long finish. Nice.

1978 Drouhin - Clean clear brown colour but finely precise. Poised and lifted on the nose, at its peak I imagine. Almost a note of coconut water which slightly reflected a feeling of a little overoaking. The aromas then became prettier and more poised, tea and pure evolved pinot notes. Good wine.

1979 Rousseau - A saline edge to this, a tiny bit of tangerine, mature, has a moreishly gritty (only a little) texture. Good right now. There is that Rousseau minerality.

1980 Clair Dau - Tea aromas, bricky, quite scrawny, has a dryness. On the palate this is, weirdly, much more masculine, rich and animal. Another wine that shows 1980 to be so much better than people might think.

1985 Fourrier - Slightly toffee'd, more texture to the palate here, very good if grippier and also grittier.

1986 Rousseau - A vintage where Jasper Morris noted it rained at picking time, and therefore some wines (the first picked) are rather better than others. Delicious in so many ways. Gentle, persistent and very fine. Red fruit shows well, the nose is stellar the palate also good but as can often happen it is not quite what the nose suggests.

1993 Fourrier - This has a markedly younger feel, more red/black fruit. Quite exotic in a a way, extrovert, in middle age if that, impressive.

1993 Esmonin - Easy to enjoy, not too grippy, lusher than many with almost a liquorice edge.

1994 Rousseau (magnum) - The vintage here is one that was nearly very good, growers being excited and then? It pissed down. This is super; saline, red fruits and balance, moreish and driven, superb nose, may be the weather shows in the mid palate, you could be very picky and say it is a little hollow but frankly I'd drink this whenever I could.

1998 Fourrier (magnum) - The quality of the grapes in 1998 was very mixed and required much sorting. Tea and oranges, this is light in texture and slightly divided the room, I was a real fan, it's a "drinkers" wine for sure. Very delicate but all the better for that.
2000 Jadot (magnum) - The inverted snob in me really wanted to like this. A very warm vintage. This is richer and cruder, a little heavier but somehow lacks class sadly, not bad but not clearly deserving of its place in this line up.

2002 Esmonin - A very sweet, slightly oaked and toffee'd nose here. Serious fruit as well though on both the nose and the palate, I find it a little covered in oak but many others didn't. If it integrates it could be quite something.

2007 Esmonin (magnum) - For me this was more driven than the 2002, it still had a marked cloak of oak but I would rather drink the 2007 now. There are elements of the easy enjoyment that this unsung vintage gives. This is a darker fruit character than I associate with 2007 but not the worse for it necessarily.

2008 Rousseau (magnum) - Just lovely. I almost feel I could leave it there. The 2008's I think will be a very pleasant surprise for many, it is a more classical vintage to my mind, very pinot, not lush, more focussed. There can be a grip too which I like (the Nebbiolo man in me may be?). Anyway back to this wine, its just very good, red fruit, grip the early hint of saline, very Rousseau. The room was, I sensed, half hoping that possibly Rousseau wouldn't dominate. Dominate may be too far to go but, as producer, it did show pure class.

That was the tasting done. I have one more note to add from a bottle that a customer and friend very kindly served a colleague and I last week. This was:

2000 Fourrier - Lovely bold but mellowed colour, pungent nose of all the right things, red fruit with a little mellow black fruit underneath, a tiny dash of spice...a complex wine in a lovely place, drinking well now but, to my mind, no rush at all. A lovely bottle to just drink, not showing the warmth of 2000, but may be a little of the richness that the season added.
So after all that tasting what are my thoughts on Clos St Jacques? Well I would argue the quality is definitely very worthy of Grand Cru. It is also true to Gevrey-Chambertin but without trying to be a look-a-like of the masculine "creature" that is Chambertin. Sure it isn't an easy wine to buy these days but to drink? All I would say is "yes please"...

A lot learnt...well done Jordi and Jasper