Thursday, 6 August 2009

Just another week at Nottingham Wine Circle(!)

What can I say? This was just a normal "bottle blind" tasting at the weekly meeting of the Nottingham Wine Circle. Rarely does a week go by without one or two cracking wines cropping up. After all, this group has been meeting for around 25 years (and many of the older members have been collecting wines on a serious basis for a good deal longer). But this week was, to put it mildly, a bit of a "vintage week". There were almost too many lovely wines to mention, but here are my thoughts on a few of the the most note-worthy ones;

Louis Chapuis Corton "Languettes" Grand Cru 1984
A very mature garnet colour, browning at the rim. OK, so this was probably a few years past its best, but it was certainly still clinging on very nicely. Notes of undergrowth, tobacco, mushroom and fading red fruits. All the flavours were secondary, but there was still some sweet fruit in there, along with a certain savouriness and absolutely bags of mouth-watering, sherberty acidity. A grand old dame of a Burgundy.

Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 1985, Maipo Valley
Yes, you read it right, this is a 24 year-old Chilean Cabernet. Tasted blind, we were all over the place with this one, with suggestions of Bordeaux, Australia and California. Indeed, it had some of the best attributes of all of those, with classic, aged Cabernet aromas and flavours - black fruits, tobacco and cedar, and hints of orange, sweet red pepper and toffee. Perhaps lacking the "austerity" of classic Bordeaux, but all the better for it, in my book. Medium-bodied, supremely balanced, elegant, with soft tannins, a good deal of still-luscious fruit and wonderful acidity - and right up there with some of the finest Cabernets and Clarets I have tasted. And just 12.0% abv. I remember when I first started to get really serious about wine (around 20 years ago) when just about every so-called wine writer or journalist was decrying "old style" wines from countries like Chile and Spain (see my note on the fantastic 1981 CVNE Rioja from a few days ago) and saying that they needed to start making more "modern" wines. Some of those writers and journalists are still around now - though I wonder why. Well shame on them, because the world is now awash with those "modern" wines, most of which I would not cross the road to taste - and would certainly never buy. This grand old Chilean wine may be "old style", but it certainly ticked all of the boxes as far as I was concerned. A lovely, lovely wine, which shows what the New World could (and did) do. If only it were still so.

Pascal Michon Moulin A Vent 1999 "Vin Non Filtre"
"Crikey", I thought, "this is bloody good Burgundy!" In recent months, I have been lucky enough to find out first-hand what is often said about really good, aged Cru Beaujolais (i.e. Gamay) - that it truly can take on some very Burgundian (i.e. Pinot Noir) characteristics. For all the world, this smelt and tasted like a really good Burg! Cherry notes (both red and black) with hints of darker fruits, cedar, forest floor, some savoury notes and all manner of other things going on. Succulent fruit on the palate, too, with fantastic acidity and a touch of tannin. Hugely complex stuff, and one of the most beguiling Beaujolais I have ever tasted. Wonderful stuff.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone 1995
This was sent round the table as a pair, with Domaine de Pegau Chateuneuf-du-Pape 1995 - and the Coudoulet won, hands-down. For me, a classic, aged Cotes du Rhone of this pedigree can often take on the nuances of a good Burgundy, with the high-toned red fruits, light-bodied texture, notes of undergrowth (again!) and mouth-watering acidity that can lift them above some of the more savoury, alcoholic, low acid wines of the more celebrated appellations of the southern Rhone. Don't get me wrong, the Pegau wasn't a bad wine (far from it) but - tasted alongside the Coudoulet - it just tasted dull in comparison. I myself am not a fan of Chateau de Beaucastel (and I have tasted many vintages of said wine) but its little brother Coudoulet is right up my strasse - a cracking wine, year-in, year-out.

Chateau Leoville Poyferré 1988 St Julien (2eme Cru Classé)
This was good - very good, in fact, with typical Claret structure and a great deal of finesse. Perfumed (polished wood, red and black berry fruits, capsicum, black cherry), elegant, perhaps even soft, with fully resolved tannins and nice acidity. I can see why the Claret-heads love this sort of wine (and I agree with their sentiments about it showing even better with food) but - in all honesty (and shoot me down in flames for saying so) - I slightly preferred the Santa Rita Cabernet. Horses for courses, I guess. This was still a lovely wine, though.

Clos du Clocher Pomerol 1994 also deserves a mention, since it was another Claret I enjoyed, though this wasn't exactly a stellar vintage. Savoury, with slightly more of the green pepper notes I find in a lot of Bordeaux (despite, I assume, being predominantly Merlot) and a touch of mint, also with hints of toffee, mushroom, wood polish and tobacco. Complex stuff, definitely of the old school and I imagine it would make a great match for (say) a leg of lamb.

Lindemans St George Vineyard Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1989
I correctly guessed Australia, Coonawarra and Cabernet Sauvignon. Not such a great feat, I don't think, since this is undoubtedly one of Australia's greatest terroir/grape combinations and one that a Europhile (in wine terms) such as me can really identify with and enjoy. It couldn't really be anything other than Australian, with that distinctive combination of blackcurrant and mint (and perhaps just the merest hint of eucalyptus), but there is such elegance and finesse here, it almost seems light in comparison to many of its warmer-climate cousins. And that is certainly no bad thing, in my book. There is sweet Cabernet fruit, and even (if you concentrate hard enough) a hint of peppery greenness, but it also possesses an almost citrus-like acidity that is most refreshing and elevates it to another level. An Aussie wine for Claret lovers - and me. Delicious!

How lucky am I to taste so many wonderful wines on such a regular basis?!

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