Monday, 8 February 2010

A few highlights from recent tastings - plus one real shocker

Whilst I certainly don't want to fall into the trap of posting endless tasting notes, at the expense of other more topical (and hopefully interesting) content, I do seem to go through periods where I attend a lot of tastings - and boy, do we get to taste a wide range of stuff! So I think it is always useful to post notes on selected highlights, if only to give them their due, ahead of the also-rans, as it were. Here are just a few of the more interesting ones from the past few weeks. The notes are pretty much as I wrote them at the time - I do get fed up with constantly re-arranging ad-hoc notes into something more fluent!

Henri Giraud Hommage a Francois Hemart Ay Grand Cru Champagne NV
70% Pinot Noir, 30 % Chardonnay. Limes, mandarins, brioche and butter, coffee - and fruit! Rich, intense, fruity and very glycerous. Very long and very lovely. This is the sort of wine that (for this doubter) give Champagne a good name. One of the finest Champagnes I have ever tasted. Not, as far as I know, available in the UK. Though I might be tempted!

Comtes Lafon Clos de Four 2006 Macon-Milly Lamartine
Smoky, oaky, minerally - sort of like a really good Meursault. Rich stone fruit and honey aromas and something a touch tropical. Rich, quite full-bodied and hedonistic, with fabulous weight and structure. I love it now, but it could turn into something really sensational.

Domaine Fichet Terroir La Cra Macon-Ige 2006(?)
A huge, heavy bottle, with a punt you could almost hide a hand in. Why do some growers use these bloody things? Nevertheless, the wine is a cracker. A lot of oak, but with the fruit to stand up to it. Lemon pie, cheese, lanolin, even some vegetable notes - a real 3-course meal in a glass. Richly structured, with flavours of lemon oil, honey, exotic fruit - almost Californian, but in a cool-climate sort of way. Not typical Burgundy, but spectacularly good.

Domaine Guillot-Broux La Myotte 2007 Bourgogne Rouge
Earthy, secondary aromas in perfect harmony with the fruit - classic Burgundy. Tarry, earthy flavours, but again lots of fruit, along with white pepper and spring flowers. Lovely, sexy wine.

Jean Thévenet Domaine Emilian Gillet Quintaen 2000 Macon-Villages
Apples, quices and caramel on the nose - late harvested, I guess (Thévenet is a whacky grower). Very richwith some noticeable residual sugar, almost like a Vouvray demi-sec in style. Disticnt flavours of toffee apple, countered by lovely acidity. A style of wine that really appeals to me.

Auguste Clape Cornas 1991
My friend David Bennett said about this wine "Proper Syrah. Lilies and violets in spades, delicious, mouth-filling, round wine with seamless integrated tannins. Everlasting length and poise given to it by such lovely acid balance." In the absence of my own note (though I tasted it along with David) I can confirm that he is spot on - for once!

Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Chardonnay 1991 Russian River Valley
Will I ever taste a Swan wine that is anything less than utterly lovely? At 19 years of age, this smelled and tasted like a young-to-middled-aged 1er Cru Burgundy. So fresh, pure, rich, yet delicate and complex - and very long. God, these Swan wines are good!

Domaine Alquier Reserve Les Bastides d'Alquier 1997 Faugeres
Woodsmoke, bramble and plums, violets and lilies, pepper, a lick of brett and a good dose of schiste minerality. Still a bit of a baby, with lovely weight of bramble and redcurrant fruit and a touch of bitter chocolate, slightly rustic tannins and lovely acidity. Come to think of it, it is even a touch reminiscent of Bordeaux. Then again, no - there's just too much flavour and fruit! And with such depth of fruit, it will certainly go for another 5+ years. Lovely wine - and it cost me all of £7.50 at auction! ;-))

And here's a real disappointment;

Penfolds Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 1999 South Australia
Banoffee pie in a bottle - not my idea of a good Chardonnay. Seems to have been made in a slightly oxidative style, perhaps due to the obviously lengthy stay in new oak - or perhaps it is just not lasting the distance. Not much in the way of fruit, and completely lacking in complexity. This may be the "white Grange", but - let's face it - to a lover of traditional wines like me, Grange is nothing to write home about either. In fact, the more icon wines I taste, the more I realise that the success of so many of them is down to marketing and reputation.

And finally, a monumentally spoofy (and monumentally expensive) wine. There are an awful lot of "Emperor's New Clothes" wines out there, and seemingly plenty of people with more money than sense, who are happy to perpetuate the myths. But of all the over-oaked, under-wined, over-hyped and over-priced "wines" I have ever tasted.........

Guigal La Mouline 1997 Côte-Rôtie
........was perhaps the worst of the lot. My first ever "La-La". It smelled and tasted of oak, more oak, and yet more oak. I'm sure there was some really good fruit in there somewhere, but I couldn't get to it. At almost 13 years of age, any decent Côte-Rôtie would at least be starting to shake off the puppy fat and be showing off those classic lily, smoke, violet and red fruit aromas. But this was more akin to a Barossa oak bomb - but without the fruit. In fact, it was so woody, I'm sure I must still have some splinters in my mouth. I'm prepared to accept the claim of Guigal officianados that these wines need 20 years to shake off the oak and blossom - but they always seem to add the rider "in great vintages". Trouble is, I'd never be prepared to spend the money to find out. At £200-plus a bottle, I'd rather give it a wide berth. 1997 was a decent vintage, but far from a great one, so why bother giving what (at best) would have been an average wine the full treatment? An absolutely rubbish wine, which - in my humble opinion - does nothing for the reputation of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. For the price of one bottle, you can buy a full case of proper Côte-Rôtie.


Graham said...

Interesting about the Clape Cornas 1991 - drank this in a restaurant in 1998 and it doesn't seem to have changed much since. One of those wines that's been good whatever the age (like other 1991s from Cote Roti up the road).
For the record it was about £20 at quite a posh up and coming place in Cancal.

David Bennett- Optometrist and Contact Lens Practitioner said...

Re: The Cornas. Cheeky boy. ;-)

My notes are always on the money - on fruit days. :-))

Giles said...

I've also been underwhelmed by the Yattarna whenever I've had it, and I'm a fan of Australian chardonnay. The Reserve Bin 07A chardonnay is much better value (being half the price of Yattarna) and a better drink, IMHO.