Saturday, 28 November 2009

Highlights from a recent tasting

This week was Le Mistral week, when (as with every last Tuesday in each month) a bunch of wine nuts gathered at Le Mistral restaurant in central Nottingham, for some good food and lots of good wines. And this one was a bit of a cracker, with some really good stuff, all tasted blind. I didn't take notes on all of the wines, but here are some of my favourites.

Billaud-Simon 2000 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu
Struck match, lemon and ice cream, but little oak influence. The palate is generous for a Chablis, but supremely balanced – lovely, minerally fruit and fabulous acidity. Praise be – a Chablis that actually floats my boat!

Chateau Musar 2001 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
My work colleague Richard Mitson brought this. As we were tasting blind, my first thoughts were either white Graves or a traditional white Rioja such as Tondonia, with lots of weird and whacky things going on. Toasty, oaky, struck match aromas and a rich, lemony, minerally palate, with just a hint of tropical fruit. When Richard was asked if it was new world or old world, he wasn’t quite sure how to describe it – which led me straight to Musar. I love this wine, and should certainly drink more of it.

Frank Cornelissen Munjebel 4 2006/7 Etna, Sicilia
This is called ‘4’ because it is the 4th release of this cuvée. It is, strictly speaking, a non-vintage wine, since it is made from grapes from two vintages, although the years 2006 and 2007 are prominent on the label - stretching the rules a bit, perhaps? Made from 100% Nerello Mascalese, it is a fine example of what tends to be called "extreme natural winemaking", with the absolute minimum (in most cases zero) intervention in the winemaking process, followed by ageing in large amphorae and bottling without the addition of sulphur. The result is a wine which is indeed natural in the extreme, with lots of volatility, but also incredible fragrance, freshness and not a little complexity. The nose offers complex aromas of cherry, strawberry, acetone, beetroot, farmyard and baked red cabbage (the sort that is adorned with apples, onions and mixed spice). Some of these descriptors perhaps don't sound too inviting on their own, but - when they are all smelt together - they are delicious. Importantly, the main impression is of fruit - and lots of it. The palate has Parma violets, cherry kernel, red berries, lemon sherbert, Oriental spices and a refreshing hint of spritz. All-in-all, this was a truly delicious wine. Andy Leslie (who I think brought it) noted that it started to fall apart rather quickly in the glass (and I would venture that it is not a wine to keep) but it is utterly delicious stuff, to drink right now. Not cheap, at approaching 20 quid, but definitely worth it, in my opinion.

Domaine du Fogolar Collet de Bovis 2005 Bellet
This wine was a bit of a revelation for me. I'd read about the wines of Bellet (a tiny appellation on the fringes of Nice) and assumed that they were nothing special. Not that I'd ever tasted one - until now. This is a beautiful, clear, light ruby red colour. As we were tasting blind, I guessed that it might be a Pinot Noir (and a really good one) with a touch of richness and warmth suggesting southern France. In fact, the grape varieties are two local varieties, Folle Noir and Braquet, together with Grenache and Cinsault. The wine has delicious Pinot-like aromas of roses, wild strawberries and forest floor, with hints of spices and herbs thrown in for good measure. Above all, it is very fragrant, very elegant and very complex. The palate is so silky and lusciously fruity, but with spicy notes, decent tannins and stunning, mouth-watering acidity. A hint of saline (no doubt from the proximity of the sea) adds an interesting savouriness to the red fruit flavours. At 4 years of age, it seems to be drinking really well, but I suspect it has the structure to age nicely for a good few years (as does Chateau Simone, another Provencal wine, to which I would compare this wine most closely). A fabulous wine - ultra clean and ultra lovely!

That's it for today - Match Of The Day is on!

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