Le Mistral, 2-3- Eldon Chambers, Wheeler Gate, Nottingham NG1 2NS
So to the wines. The theme rarely strays from "bring an interesting bottle", and last night was no different, so the 10 that came along brought no less than 17 wines between us - we never go thirsty!
Verus Vineyards Riesling 2007 Ormoz, Slovenia. Floral nose, a hint of talc, grapey with a nice touch of spritz. A nice wine to get the evening started.
Stags Leap Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Napa Valley. Very clean, racy, zippy, elegant. Some loved it, but I thought a touch...... well, boring, actually. A nice wine, but France (and indeed New Zealand) does it better.
Terre Blanche Alghero Torbato 2007. Very floral and perfumed on the nose, but the palate doesn't really deliver - it is a bit flabby, with relatively low acidity and even a touch of caramel. Pleasant, but ultimately a let-down.
Grand Régnard Chablis 1998. Smelt and tasted a little like a Chenin Blanc, but once I knew its real identity, I realised why I thought it was unremarkable. It takes a damn fine Chablis to impress me - and this wasn't one of them. The most "impressive" thing about it was the bottle - far too wide to fit in any sensible drinker's wine rack!
Weingut Brundlemayer Gruner Veltliner 2007 Kamptal, Austria. A floral nose, with pronounced notes of white pepper, spice, toffee and mineral - it could only be Gruner. Spritzy on the palate, very refreshing, grapey, spicy and slatey. Lovely stuff.
Miolo Vineyards Chardonnay 2008 Brazil. I've only tried a handful of wines from Brazil, but this was an excellent example. Another wine with distinct aromas of flowers, and quite elegant, but also smoky and minerally. Not your typical Chardonnay (and we guessed at a good few varieties beforehand) but all the better for it. A real surprise and a really nice wine.
Domaine Saint Rose "La Canicule" Chardonnay 2003 Vin de Pays d'Oc. I brought this one - a remnant from a grower I used to list, before they started selling to Majestic (whose buying power and pricing policy I cannot hope to compete with). 100% Chardonnay, partly barrel-aged. A rich gold colour, with notes of honey, rich fruit and even a hint of pineapple. Rich and powerful on the palate, balanced by good acidity. Seems "hotter" than it did in its youth (a result of the heatwave vintage and 14.0% abv) but still a well-made Chardonnay and a pleasant drink, if slightly past its peak.
Dario Princic Sauvignon 2002 Venezia Giulia. This is from the same grower as the weird and whacky "blush" Pinot Grigio I reported on recently and - for me - is a far better, more complex wine. Aromas of orange or even lime marmalade, toffee, smoke and minerals - reminiscent of a rich Pinot Grigio or even some sort of Austrian TBA - but again the palate is almost bone dry, though with odles of richness and concentration, offering flavours of lime zest, rotting apples, a certain yeasty/leesy quality and even a chalkiness (in an attractive way). Oh, and never in a million years does it either smell or taste like Sauvignon Blanc. But who cares? It is brillant, outstanding stuff!
Hugel Gewurztraminer Jubilee 2001 Alsace. Rich and spicy, laden with aromas and flavours of turkish delight, roses and toffee, but not in any way cloying, which is often what puts me off this variety. This is a lovely example - elegant, restrained and beautifully balanced with lemon and lime flavours and really decent acidity. One of the nicest Gewurztraminers I've had in a while.
Time for some food - though some still can resist the note-taking!
After the mains (many of us opted for the very good rib-eye steak) we moved onto the reds.......
Domaine Bruno Clair Marsannay "Les Longeroies" 1996. Much as I enjoy white wines, it is always nice to get onto the reds, and this was a lovely one to start with. Spicy, a touch rustic even, but lovely and tart, with aromas and flavours of wild strawberries and forest floor. Light and elegant and perfectly mature and lovely. Real Burgundy.
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 Margaret River, Australia. Mint and eucalyptus, bramble, toothpaste - and more eucalyptus. How many tins of eucalyptus extract did they bung in this one? Actually, not as awful as it sounds, but the majority of Australian wines really don't do it for me anymore. Decent, but unremarkable.
La Giola 1997 Vino di Tavola di Toscana. A Supertuscan wine which was rich, elegant, refined and delicious. So much so that I seem to have had no time to write a proper tasting note, which is a shame, because it was delicious. I do remember thinking it might be some sort of Provencal Grenache/Syrah/Cabernet blend, but the extra acidity should have given it away -once you knew it was Sangiovese, everything fell into place. Lovely stuff - anyone else got a proper note?
I then sent round a pair of wines, to be tasted side by side......
Paul Jaboulet Ainé Domaine de Thalabert 1983 Crozes-Hermitage and Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1983 Saint Estephe 2eme Cru Classé. The only connection, of course, was the vintage, but I rather fiendishly decanted the Cos d'Estournel into another "Rhone-shaped" bottle, just to throw them off the scent (we taste all wines "blind"). It is amazing what people's preconceptions can do to their minds (and palates - and that includes me). I rarely, if ever, take a Bordeaux wine to a tasting, since I'm really not a fan, so nobody really suspected what the second wine was, although the first was pretty obvious (though most were way off with the vintage). Anyway, the tasting notes; The Thalabert was a lightish red colour, with notes of smoke and earth, with telltale hints of bacon fat and lilies and even a touch of Band Aid sticking plaster. Quote light on the palate, but recognisably northern Rhone, and losing some of its sweet fruit and richness. An enjoyable wine, but my remaining 2 or 3 bottles will be consumed fairly quickly. As for the Cos, it was a bit of a revelation (though it is a second growth, so I suppose it should be good). A rich, deep-ish uniform blood red colour, with only a touch of browning at the rim. Quite a masculine wine, with a pronounced cigar box aroma and notes of clove, black fruits, capsicum and earth. The palate has a firmer structure than the Thalabert and more fruit, too - again, quite masculine and still slightly tannic, with flavours of blackcurrant, cherry kernel and grilled peppers. You wouldn't call it elegant, but it was a lovely wine - and still perhaps with a little more development left in it. I don't often give Claret a big thumbs-up, but this was a rare exception. And I have 2 more bottles left!
We finished off with 3 dessert wines.........
El Aziz Fina Late-harvested Chardonnay N/V (from Sardinia, I think). Again, I neglected to write a proper note on this, but it was a fair ringer for a decent Austrian dessert wine. Lovely acidity and balance.
Taylors 10 Year Old Tawny Port. I thought it was a reasonable sort of Rivesaltes and quite liked it (but more than a few sips would be too many). A bit hot and lacking in real fruit. Some thought it horrible, but I just thought it was average.
Weingutt Schmitt (Something)steiner Orbal Trockenbeerenauslese 1953 Rheinhessen. I think it was Riesling. This was quite literally brown as a brown thing - almost black, in fact, and totally opaque. It also looked dead as a dead thing, but was actually very drinkable, almost like a Madeira or ancient Rivesaltes. It smelt of old, polished wood, orange peel, toffee, coffee, marmalade and chocolate. Frankly, it was totally weird, totally whacky and totally shot - but still complex and almost hedonistic. Dead wines rock! (Well actually, they don't usually - but this was an exception).
And this is what the room looks like at the end of it all.........
From the left; David Bennett, Bernard Caille, Andy Leslie....... and me! I really don't know what that expression is saying (I really don't!) but I had obviously enjoyed myself immensely!
Tomorrow, I will mostly be dining at The Ledbury in London, in some rather lofty company. Watch this space....................
Leon Stolarski http://www.lsfinewines.co.uk/