Sunday, 3 May 2009

Some of the best wines tasted in April, Part 1 - a selection of Rhones, plus Gaillac, Cotes du Roussillon, Givry and Sancerre

As a wine merchant, I am sent a good number of samples throughout the year, mostly from wine growers looking for merchant outlets in the UK. But I rarely accept the offer of samples from growers unless I have a genuine interest in tasting them with a view to possibly adding them to my list. The only samples I ever accepted grudgingly were from a fairly large grower in Corbieres, who was fairly insistent that I should taste his wines. As this coincided with a tasting event put on in London by ASDW, I promised to take the wines along, so that my colleagues and I in the Association could give them an honest appraisal. I had a gut feeling that the wines would be nothing special, and my original reticence was confirmed when we endured some of the worst wines imaginable. Suffice to say that I was somewhat less than "honest", when the grower contacted me later, to see what I/we had thought. How on earth do you tell a grower that their wines are awful? In the end, I simply told him that the wines were OK, but that they weren't really what we were looking for and - mercifully - never heard from him again!

Nevertheless, most of the samples I am sent hold plenty of interest and a proportion of them do eventually find their way onto my list. Here are notes on some of the samples I have tasted in April, starting with a selection of northern and southern Rhones from Stéphane Vedau and Jeannine Boutin at La Ferme du Mont;

Jeannine Boutin "Les Hauts Granites" 2006 Crozes Hermitage
Vivid purple colour, aromas of raspberry and blackcurrant, herbs and spices and even a hint of exotic white fruits, more reminiscent of Grenache than Syrah, heightened by the evident use of carbonic maceration (as opposed to a more traditional fermentation). A bit more Syrah-like on the palate - ripe, juicy bramble and raspberry, pepper and spice, with some black cherry and beefy/gamey notes adding complexity. Lovely acidity and ultra-ripe tannins make for a silky wine, with a warm, peppery finish. Nevertheless, it really doesn't scream Crozes Hermitage and is really quite international in style. I like it a lot, but it is probably not representative enough of its appellation for me.

J. Boutin "Parcelle de Jean" 2006 Saint-Joseph
Another deeply-coloured wine, but this one is much more Syrah-like. A dense, spicy, deeply fruity nose and palate - blackcurrant and bramble, eau de vie, spices, black cherry and even a touch of toffee apple and dark chocolate. Quite extracted, but elegant as well as hedonistic. Rich and savoury, sweet and sour, with ripe tannins and more than adequate acidity, again with a long, warming finish. A Northern Rhone wine with a Southern Rhone warmth, this is again not hugely typical of the Saint-Joseph appellation, but is nevertheless absolutely delicious. Should retail for around £14.95.

La Ferme du Mont "Premier Cote" 2007 Cotes du Rhone
This has a lovely bright blood red colour, and a simply gorgeous nose. Briary and wild strawberry, redcurrant and cherry aromas abound, with notes of incense, undergrowth and polished wood. The palate is crammed full of redcurrant and cranberry flavours, countered by savoury/meaty notes and dark, bitter chocolate. Gentle tannins, lovely acidity and a warming finish. 2007 was a truly great year in the Rhone and I can hardly imagine there being many better examples of humble Cotes du Rhone than this one. Absolutely brilliant wine, which drinks brilliantly already, but will also age nicely for a few years. And at a projected selling price of £8.95, I'll be adding this one to my list!

La Ferme du Mont "Le Ponnant" 2008 Cotes du Rhone
A lovely pale straw colour, with orange tinges. The nose displays fresh white stone fruits, citrus, herbs and spice, with some lovely floral nuances. The palate is crisp and zesty, with a riot of apple, peach and mandarin flavours. Unlike many a white Cotes du Rhone I have tasted, this has no harsh edges and none of the sometimes overt aniseed flavours that I find can overpower a wine. Indeed, this remains zesty, fresh and full of vitality, not to mention a good deal of elegance and complexity. This may age for a good year or two (perhaps more) but why wait, when it is so delicious now. Another cracking wine, which should sell for around £9.95.
And a few other wines of interest..............

Domaine Treloar "One Block Red" 2007 Cotes du Roussillon
A typical young Grenache nose of blackcurrant pastille, black cherry, liqourice and eau de vie. Unlike the 2006 "One Block Grenache", this is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, which has been aged in oak for 12 months, and though the oak has no overt influence on the flavours, there are some interesting notes of spice, leather and even a whiff of orange peel. Rich and savoury/spicy, almost meaty on the palate, but with bags of dark and red fruit flavours. Perhaps a touch tannic at the moment, but these are finely-grained and classy, and there is lovely acidity. This will be even better after a few more months in bottle, and should also age nicely for 5 years or more. This is the first of the 2007 reds I have tasted from Domaine Treloar, and will be in stock by mid-April, priced at £9.95. It also bodes well for the quality of the other red cuvées, which will be released later in the year.

Chateau Maresque "Elevé en Futs de Chene" 2006 Gaillac
I had already tasted a decent, if unremarkable, white 2007 and the standard bottling of the red 2006 from this grower. The standard red is full of rich black fruit flavours, but is currently rendered virtually undrinkable by huge, impenetrable tannins. I have every reason to believe that there is a really good wine lurking in there somewhere, but it really needs keeping for a good few years for those tannins to soften. I was therefore rather reluctant to open the oak-aged version, for fear that it may be similarly closed for business - but what a lovely surprise! 70% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels (30% of which are new) for 11 months, it is still a virtually opaque purple/blue colour, and somewhat closed on the nose, with just hints of black fruits, chocolate and eau de vie. The palate, though, is much more open for business, with those big fruit flavours more able to express themselves. Rich and savoury, with ample acidity and chocolatey tannins, making for a mouth-watering bitter-sweet style. The tannins are still a little dominant, and on its own, this is still quite a challenging wine. But the oak-ageing has helped it to soften and fill-out nicely, and it really does come into its own with food (we enjoyed it with roast beef). Still on the young side, but beautifully poised and very promising. A keeper - and a really good one, at that. I'm not sure I have seen a price list from this grower, but I imagine I would need to sell it at around the £10 mark - which is good value for a wine with a really good future.

Domaine Raimbault-Pineau 2008 - Sancerre
100% Sauvignon Blanc. A nose of pea pod, freshly-cut grass and honey, with notes of asparagus and citrus lurking in the background. It has a lovely, rounded palate of citrus (lemon, lime, even a hint of clementine) melon and even a touch of honey, with tongue-tingling, minerally acidity and fabulous length. Beautifully dry and zingy, this is classic Sancerre - and mouth-watering stuff. Available now from my online shop at £12.25.

Vincent Lumpp La Grande Berge 2007 Givry 1er Cru
100% Chardonnay. Light-ish gold/straw colour, with a nose of citrus fruit, honey, mineral, spice and tropical fruit, with some well-judged toasty, slightly coconutty oak. Very racy and packed with flavours of lemon and lime, apple and allspice, with a lovely mineral streak. Pure, elegant and refreshing - and very long, too. An excellent introduction to white 1er Cru Burgundy and available now from my online shop at £14.95.

Next, I'll post notes on some of the highlights from April's white wine offerings at Nottingham Wine Circle and other tasting events.

Leon Stolarski


Mark Temple said...

hi Leon

Seeing your note for the Gaillacs made me wonder why you don't stock any of these often extrenmely individual and interesting wines. I had a couple of really good ones at Easter, inc one form Ch des Salettes (I think) - not sure how much they cost, but my Dad bought them in situ and ten euros would be a big spend for him.

Leon Stolarski said...

Hi Mark

Nice to see you on here - I hope you find it an interesting read. My list is indeed in need of one or two Gaillac wines, and the Chateau Maresque "Elevé en Futs de Chene" 2006 is a definite contender. I hope to add this wine (or something very similar) towards the end of the summer. The only problem with Gaillac, of course, is its relative remoteness from other wine regions. So, for a small merchant like me who tends to import mixed pallets (often with wines from more than one grower) it is a bit of a logistical problem. Still, there is always a way around such a problem.