Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Shed...part 2…blind bottles

This is a follow on from a previous visit to the shed in Notting Hill. It's a great fun place to go and I thoroughly advise a trip to see them. Mr H (not me) had organised the evening, we were four in total. We got chatting away so I haven't written about the food which is a bit soy an error but then you can't do everything. The brief was simple, an old world bottle to be served blind. Mr G was requested to do an aperitif or a sticky. 
Sock vs Foil...
The apertif was served up and the games began. We did pretty well, we settled on Champagne (or posh Franciacorta in my case, think top Ca' del Bosco etc) and we were thinking it was in the 8-12 years old range. It was Dom Perignon 2006 which frustratingly I have had quite recently at a Dom Perignon 2002 to 2006 tasting. It's a lovely wine with a marked savoury seriousness. I think it will become a complex, nuts and mushrooms bottle over time, a generous and good start to the evening.

Now to the reds and it was our co-ordinator to go first. The bottle shape should have been a good clue but this chap is no fool so there could easily have been a change. I plumbed for 1995 top St.Julien and the others were all in Bordeaux. It turned out to be Haut Brion 1994 and thinking back did have some good classicism about it. It's a strong showing from a slightly sub par vintage (always a savvy place to buy rom good estates). The character was very Pessac. Lovely.

Now it was my turn and I was confident it would go down well but I wondered where they might place it. There were a variety of punts…Brunello, Burgundy and Barolo all getting votes or mentions. The vintage seemed hard to place which I totally expected. The wine in question was Barolo Villero 2004 from Brovia, a producer I buy a fair bit. The red fruited purity does make it a confusing one as it is easy to talk yourself into other regions. It's a wine that it good now but will age every well, it's in 2nd or 3rd gear now.

So onto the final red, this bottle came straight out of a suit case as another Mr H had just arrived from Heathrow for dinner. We did pretty well here, Bordeaux was a firm selection and whilst I didn't get the commune, I think someone did, I did get the vintage, Pape Clement 1990 is not a wine I have had before and is an impressive bottle, degraded fruit and lovely elements of tobacco, a little leather and some spice all on top of an easy structure.

Don't miss out on pudding at the Shed!! Then pub for a quick Laphroig and home, a splendid evening, just what wine should be about. Looking forward to another trip…A Shed in Muswell Hill…now that would work…for me anyway...

The Line up

Tenuta di Trinoro 2015's...

Sounds like a "line" but the best yet?
This is a tasting that we do each year, I wrote up the 2014's here. Andrea Franchetti was in town for a Tuscan dinner (write up soon) and to taste with him is always a pleasure. He is not one to get overly technical, he likes to speak common sense rather than science. He did say that the estate was really settling into the phase where super-maturity was not the focus, balance is the aim. "Rich" and "fresh" where two words he used, the harvest was a very protracted one but for good reason, they just picked what they wanted, when they wanted - 42 different pickings in total. The alcohol levels are all around 13.8%-14%.

Cupole di Trinoro - Ripe fruit, blackish in character then fresher and redder, so bright, ripe with a hint of savoury, just assembled by Andrea, big bold structure but not too weighty. Lovely, opulent and unpretentiously delicious. 17

Then on to the Cabernet Franc single vineyards:

Campo Magnacosta - 20 year old vines here. Subdued class then an explosion of red fruits, purity. Vibrant, rich yes but with good chalky tannins, a very moreish finish, some ferrous character on the palate. Fascinating and very good. 17.5-18

Campo Tenaglia - The youngest vines at 18 yrs, creamier and a shade darker of fruit, some tar and more seriousness, delicious savoury palate, big ripe tannins, spice and briary character too. 17-18(+?)

Campo Camagi - Means the "old creek", 25 yr old vines here. More muted on the nose then a little sweeter on the palate, slightly less clean, herbal but then drier, tighter and less easy to taste. 16-17

Palazzi - 100% Merlot as ever. So bright and vibrant, very well fruited not OTT but pretty extravagant. Crimson and red fruits but with creamy strawberries as well. Very good. 18.5

Tenuta di Trinoro - Richness and slightly degraded fruit character, opulent, you can see that this and Cupole are so linked. Bold yet fresh, rich, moreish and but with a saline and savoury side. 18-19

Skipping across to Etna:

Franchetti 2015 - So this is 100% Petit Verdot from Etna and ties into a recent Franchetti vertical we did. Andrea did say he may blend in a little Cesanese d'Affile as he often does. The wine is bold with big tannins, a little more savoury than some other vintages, the fruit though is delicious and definitely there.

If you are interested in Andrea and his wines and want to find out more there there is a very good interview on this podcast i' (and lots of other fascinating ones too).

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Salon 2004 Launch

My kinda bath...
Champagne launches tend to be a bit of a show-off moment and you could argue that we did a bit of that with the Salon 2002 Launch week. The launch this week of the, sadly smaller, 2004 Salon was a lower key affair, deliberately so. A few tastings were put on for press and restauranteurs of course but possibly the main focus was a small, 40 people, dinner at  The Victorian Bathhouse in Bishopgate. Now I had nothing to do with finding this venue but it's a cracker.

Before launching into the evening's activities there are a few other Salon and Delamotte posts you may enjoy:
The food for the evening was good, nicely understated. I am a firm believer that there isn't room for a chef's ego on a plate alongside great wine. One or the other has to be the focus. We were served up a lovely menu of:

Smoked Scottish salmon, wheaten toasts, lemon and samphire tartar 

Broad bean blancmange, golden crispy broad bean crumbs 
Pea gougère, pine nut and parsley butter 
Crispy whitebait, with herb mayonnaise
Hen’s egg starter with asparagus tips
Pan fried John Dory with roast radishes, Jersey royals and lemon thyme oil
Cheese - Gruyère, Manchego, Parmesan

Champagne is a flexible food wine, in fact you often hear of people who go to the top experimental restaurants, be it in Denmark, Spain or anywhere in between, comment that Champagne is about the only wine you can drink the whole way through.
The line-up
So, enough waffle, what did we drink? Well, the kick off was Delamotte Brut NV en magnum, a Chardonnay-heavy blend (55%) that includes both Pinot Noir (35%) and Pinot Meunier (10%). This blend interestingly used to be an equal third split between the three. But under the guidance of "Mr Salon/Delamotte" Didier Depond, our host for the evening, the blend has been swayed towards the house strength - Chardonnay. All Delamotte Brut sees 36 months on the lees rather that the 15/16 months of many houses. It was drinking beautifully, open expressive but with a good focus, a great all rounder. Totally dependable in the good sense of the word.

Once we moved through for dinner and saw the "Champagne Bath" we had a Delamotte double to greet us, starting with Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV which is made from purely Grand Cru fruit. I did not know that of the 320 villages (yes, seriously) that can produce Champagne only 17 can produce Grand Cru. This Non-Vintage (though Multi-Vintage is a better term generally I think) is made from fruit from Les Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Cramant. It has a little toasty element from the longer lees ageing but is so very moreish, it's probably the one wine that for me most sums up what Delamotte is all about. From here we moved to the Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2007. The 2007 is a slightly more complex wine than the Non-Vintage and follows on from the 2004. The fruit comes from four villages, the three mentioned above and also Cremant. Cremant only makes up 10% but Didier feels it is an important element. I found this to have a slight note of cocoa bean and then lovely white fruits and delicate toastiness.
A bit of fun...but clever...
We were now firmly into the "Salon Zone" with Salon 2004 and Salon 1997 served side by side. The 2004 was the focus, it is only the 39th vintage produced. 2004 as a whole was a rather vast, record-breaking even, vintage in Champagne but at Salon it is small at only 42,000bts as opposed to an average, but still insanely minute, 60,000bts This is due to two green harvests done in the vineyard. I am borrowing Didier's word but it is an intense serious and saline Salon, there is so much to come, in many ways it reminds me of Grand Cru Chablis in youth and yet it is, one has to remember, a 12 year old wine. Intense and serious for sure. The 1997 alongside it is from the same DNA but is, and always has been, more open, more flirty, the "Audrey Hepburn" vintage as it has been called. I think those with 1997 in the cellar can be very happy and, if they haven't already, open a bottle. When you drink Salon, or almost any Champagne, please use a decent, tulip shaped glass.
Then with cheese on the way it was time for a wine that the House only has a few handfuls of bottles left - Delamotte Collection Blancs de Blancs 1985. These bottles were disgorged a year ago. In general there is a disgorgement every 6 months of a few wines to form the Delamotte Collection for the next year. Listening to some facts on the 1985 was very interesting. The 84/85 winter was a savage one, -20 for two solid weeks, then spring was cool/cold also but summer was hot with the temp hitting 40 at times. The proverbial "roller coaster". Production was minute with Delamotte making 20% of a normal crop. In many ways Salon making 32,000 bottles was a great effort. This wine was just delightful, some good depth from the ageing but then a lovely biscuity dried fruit edge and as a friend commented, an element of "Flor" a salty, zesty, freshness...delicious.

Things were supposed to end here but there was one last surprise - Delamotte Collection Brut 1970 En Magnum. Now those paying close attention will notice "Brut" rather than "Blanc de Blancs". That is because this is a 50:50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I thought it was fascinating, far weightier than the other wines and richer. I liked it but possibly find the 1985 more to my palate - I am spoilt!

Alas a lovely evening amongst friends has to end somewhere...this had been a lot of fun and whilst I am biased the evening flowed and so did the Champagne...Bon!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Tasting the Bordeaux 2015's - Picture (mostly) blog!

Having spent 6 days in Bordeaux tasting the 2015's I wrote the following - my first impressions Bordeaux 2015 - for the Corney & Barrow blog but wanted to add a picture blog here as well, a little like I did last year with this one - a week in Bordeaux tasting the 2014's.

This year's trip was a day shorter with 269 samples tasted and about 29 other wines drunk (and the odd beer), 4 camera flashes and a chipped windscreen! The vast majority of the quality wines that were drunk rather than tasted were courtesy of a customer and friend who lives in St.Emilion and who hosted us to a brilliant dinner - separate blog coming on that as it really warrants it, as did the food!

Day 1 - 2.40am alarm call to get the 6.50 Gatwick-Bordeaux Flight.
A nice touch at Haut Brion...
Delicious wines - we squabbled over HB vs LMHB
We did NOT order this water!
Superb tasting at L'Aurage but alas no time for Fuss ball
Now that's a number plate...
No suits and marketing jargon at Tertre Roteboeuf...
Francois Mitjavile - the main man - on great form
The best Rocheyron yet and three "imposters"!!
What has become known as Bryce's wall...
Day 2 - A more leisurely start time meant I could have a romantic walk with Mr Marus

The "snug" driveway to our hotel!
Rooftops of St.Emilion.
Wonder where I am going...
A morning's work, Moueix-style
"Uncle Paul" at work
Edouard's trademark...
Some of the wine of the vintage.
Superb "lunch wines", just lovely.
Above and below - lessons from the master during an hour in the vineyard.

If you don't then you should!
In the minute cellar at "CSM"
Quite a wine!
The first of two cats...
Dinner in St.Emilion and Mr Fraser!
Day 3 - Airport and the Grand Tasting...

Rowdy in the back
Your average Sunday morning?!
A few of my picks from the dry whites...
Alison at work...
An Italian imposter!
Sammy the wild cat - and my tasting companion at L'Avocat.
Sunday evening at Picque-Caillou...stellar value AGAIN.
Day 4 - The Stade and the working week

Lion and Las Cases
Grand Vin and Petit Lion...
Rauzan-Gassies a real favourite...
Lovely range...
Dinner wines at Les Noailles in town!
Day 5 - Ships, and Chateau Visits

Indeed - but some great pics to follow in June once an "opening" has happenend.
Always a star, almost boringly so!
The Scots and Mr Marus
Mellow Yellow
A highlight...
Some hype...
Mr Muller gets an impersonation at Palmer...

Well someone had to wear it!
Thibault Pontallier - presenting brilliantly and bravely at a difficult time.
Lion d'Or for lunch, more Italian than Bordelaise but good tasting fodder nonetheless
I picked the lunch wine but alas my French could not get it served blind.
Really great tasting at Calon-Segur with Laurent Dufau - an interesting view on things.
Adam gets interviewed at Cos d'Estournel.
The tongue scrapper...useful.
Important cargo..I could tell you but I'd have to kill you.
The sunsets over St.Emilion.
Stunning dinner - click HERE to read about it!
Day 6 - The final climb!

Rouget - pushing boundaries, superb too.
Breakfast after tasting...
The Big "P"
Foggy in Pomerol
A lovely pair
The team arrive at Figeac...
Dotting I's and crossing T's