Last week (being the end of the month) signalled the latest instalment of our little tasting group at Le Mistral restaurant in Nottingham. Although, as usual, a great evening was enjoyed by all, the sum total in terms of quality of the wines merely added up to OK - in other words, a handful of reasonably noteworthy wines, but nothing really spectacular. Best of the bunch were a delicious Felton Road Chardonnay 2005 from New Zealand, which was a dead ringer for a top 1er Cru Meursault and a slightly "poxed" (short for prematurely oxidised) Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres 1er Cru 1999, which was really good, but on an inexorably downward slope towards "sherrydom". There was also an interesting Abel Mendoza Rioja Blanco 2009, which was very nice, in a light, floral, even elegant sort of way, with excellent structure. You'd never have guessed it was 100% Grenache Blanc, of course. The question was, did it smell or taste like Rioja? Well, not in any way that those present had ever experienced it didn't. Which begs the question, why make a Grenache Blanc in Rioja which tastes like Condrieu from the northern Rhone? This old traditionalist fuddy-duddy would much prefer it to be marketed as something else (anything else, in fact) other than Rioja. For when Rioja is made in the old-fashioned, nutty, slightly oxidative style and aged for a good few years before release, it is without doubt one of the world's great white wine experiences. And, whilst this "Spanish Condrieu" is a good wine in its own right, it is certainly not Rioja, Jim - at least, not as we know it!
As is often the case these days, the wines on offer at the weekly meeting of the Nottingham Wine Circle the night after were another matter altogether. Hardly a week goes by without at least a few gems to be tasted and this week was no different - in fact, there were a whole raft of successes. Here are some cursory notes on the best of the bunch;
Domaine Rollin Pernand-Vergelesses 2008
Young, lemony, with classy oak. The oak dominates a little at present, but that is only to be expected in such a young wine. But there is a wonderful core of bright, minerally Chardonnay fruit lurking in there. Fairly light-bodied, but intense and very promising. Apparently it can be had for less than 12 quid from The Wine Society. Bargain.
Chateau de Vaux Les Haut Bassieres Pinot Noir 2008 Moselle (the French bit)
Reeks of Pinot - in fact, the very essence of that grape. Raspberries and cream, a touch of exotic spice and older wood. It actually smells a touch Californian, with an almost sweet fruit aroma, but then it dances on the palate in a light, elegant way, like a good Burgundy or Alsace Pinot. Quite light, but manages to be generous at the same time. I loved it - andit is another bargain from The Wine Society at £10.95.
Chateau Lynch-Moussas 1985 Pauillac
Wine Circle member Kevin Scott picked this up for a song at a recent auction, and it is a cracker. Smells like aged Claret and tastes like aged Claret, but in a way that really appeals to me (a confirmed non-Claret lover). Cedary, plummy, with hints of blackcurrant. Quite dry and evolved, but the tannins are fine and the acidity is bright. Earthy, secondary aromas and flavours abound, but it still retains a delightful core of rich fruit, with some lovely wild strawberry and forest floor, tea and crystallised fruits - in fact, very complex stuff, with none of the green and red pepper notes that I find such a turn-off in many Clarets. Classy, elegant and really lovely. If only all Claret was half as good, I'd be in danger of becoming a fan!
Vincent Lumpp Clos du Cras Long 1990 Givry 1er Cru
Amazingly deep colour for a 20 year-old Burgundy. Notes of damp earth, wild mushroom and even a hint of cheese, but lurking beneath is a massive core of rich, ripe, glorious Pinot fruit, which manifests itself on the palate in no uncertain fashion. Very identifiable Pinot flavours, but at the bramble and cherry end of the spectrum, rather than raspberry/strawberry. It is earthy, even a touch rustic, but that huge core of fruit, combined with a little bit of tannin and juicy acidity, and a touch of citrus and spice on the finish makes for a complete and very lovely wine, which had many of us in the Cote d'Or. Vincent Lumpp's wines rarely fail to impress, and this was one cracking wine.
Domaine Filliatreau Vieilles Vignes 2003 Saumur-Champigny
The nose is spectacular - tobacco, warm spices, red and black fruits, flowers, minerals. Very complex stuff. In fact, it was perfumed in an almost Burgundian or Cote Rotie way, with some nice earthy notes adding yet more complexity. The palate was creamy and soft, but so complex - oodles of strawberry, raspberry and bramble fruits, with a touch of orange, cedar, tobacco and flowers, and not a hint of capsicum. Uber complex and utterly lovely. Who would have thought it? A 100% Cabernet Franc wine from the Loire which wowed just about everyone around the table - and from 2003, at that. What structure, what fruit.... what a wine! The best red Loire wine (and the best Cabernet Franc from anywhere) I have ever tasted.
Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 1992
Very dark, very rich. Earthy, slightly rotting black fruits, with enormous complexity. Heady aromas of dates, figs, molasses, dark chocolate and mocha. The palate is rich and fruity, in a jammy, mixed fruit and marmalade sort of way. A wine for the hedonist, with not even a hint of alcoholic burn. Just about as good as vintage Port gets, and I loved it.