Friday, 24 December 2010

Two excellent "Best Bottle Blind" wine evenings

The week running up to Christmas is always a busy time in the life of a wine merchant. Busy, busy, busy, and it certainly provides a very welcome end-of-year boost to the Company funds - but I wouldn't exactly say I enjoy it! But the same week also happens to be a busy time in the life of your average Nottingham wine enthusiast - at least for those who are lucky enough to be part of two different wine tasting groups, both of which are populated by like-minded people who are only too glad to share the fruits of some very impressive wine cellars.

On Tuesday evening, a dozen or so of us met for our monthly meal at Le Mistral restaurant, enjoyed with a selection of extra-special wines. Each person brought a bottle, and all were tasted blind. The fact that I was (am) still recovering from my latest bout of cold/man flu meant that I was more interested in enjoying the wines, the food and the company, rather than actually writing down anything worthy of posting here. Thankfully, though, I noticed my friend Andy Leslie had written a few thoughts on many of the wines we tasted, so I asked him if he wouldn't mind typing them into something cohesive for me to publish on the blog. I wouldn't normally do this, because (a) I am a pretty avid note-taker myself and (b) if I am going to publish tasting notes, they generally ought to be mine. That said, Andy and I seem to have similar palates and wine preferences, even down to our mutual disdain for most things Claret and Chablis! So what follows are Andy's notes, with any relevant thoughts I personally have from memory in brackets at the end. I did take a few photos, though the quality leaves something to be desired - my excuse is that I have been ill, so didn't have a particularly steady hand!

Nyetimber Classic 2005, England
I’ve liked this in the past but I found a distinct acetic note to both nose and especially the palate suggesting it was on the slide to vinegar. But I was in a minority of one and others mostly liked it much more. [LS - I loved this wine and think it has a lot of evolution left in it - I thought citric, rather than acetic.]

2002 Champagne, Les Rachais, Extra Brut, Raymond Boulard
Much more the thing! Toasty and lovely – really good balance here and with an encouraging vivacity and freshness. Will keep.

2002 Chablis Grand Cru Bougros, Cote Bourguerots, William Fevre
I’m not much of a Chablis drinker, prefering my chardonnay less austere but my experience is pointing me to GC level being much more to my taste! Real richness to the nose here – butter and fudge, maybe treacle tart too – a descriptor I’ve never used before but the mineral and citrus notes combined with the butter/fudge smells really put me in mind of this. Very appealing. Palate rich and vanilla. This is lovely and plenty of time to go. [LS - I loved it too - cracking wine, like proper Burgundy! If only most Chablis was anywhere near this good......]

2002 Sancerre, Le Chene Saint-Etienne, Henri Bourgeois
We spent a long time trying to work-out what this was – not like Sancerre at all, but striking, individual and delicious in its own way. Rich and buttery, touch of oak, clean and fresh. Delicious. [LS - very Burgundian in structure - in fact, I was convinced it was Chardonnay.]

1996 Hermitage, Chante-Alouette, Chapoutier
Interesting combination on the nose of classic Northern Rhone peaches and blossom notes added to oxidative nutty and peach stone smells. Palate similar, oily texture plus peachy fruit and nutty smoky flavours. Interesting and complex and not OTT. Lovely. Drinking from now, but no rush.

1990 Bourgogne, Jean-Marc Morey
Nice aged old pinot – still has some fruit and has developed nice meaty notes too. Evolved, converging toward the “old wine” mean, but pleasureable now. Good stuff, though it rather faded over the evening. [LS - TLD and I brought this, and I wished I hadn't decanted it beforehand. It's a lot to ask of what is essentially a very basic Burgundy of 20 years of age to stay "together" for 3 hours or more before drinking. It was still lovely, though.]

1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
I had a bit of a “claret moment” here! For genuinely the first time ever, a claret I would be happy to drink again! It was classic claret on the nose but had complexity and depth. The palate has softened and is open and giving now. Yum. [LS - Personally, I thought this was a "modern" Claret, or even a new world version thereof, though it was still very good - though I have had more enjoyable ones. That said, ay 28 years of age, this is still incredibly youthful, though soft and approachable. I'd say it will be better in another 10 to 15 years.]

1994 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds
Lovely meaty BBQ nose, softening nicely but overall still pretty primary. It’s not going anywhere fast, but I guess these wines don’t. Enjoyable.

1991 Domaine de Trévallon, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence
The first of two lovely Trévallons this week. The 1991 has given soooo much pleasure and this is a perfect bottle. More evolved than the 1990 below, meaty and earthy, just a touch of cherry fruit left. Classic stuff, spot-on. On the whole, I think drink these over the next 2 or 3 years – not going to get any better. [LS - again, TLD and I brought this, our last bottle of the 1991, and it was really on form. As Andy says, this particular vintage has given so much pleasure, and was actually the first purchase we made, a few years ago at an auction. Not bad at around £16 per bottle!]

1995 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Big primary stuff still – bonfire note on the nose and lots of deep rich fruit. It’s tannic and alcoholic in the mouth at the moment. The overall impression is that this needs lots more time. And on the track-record of the producer I guess it will turn-out well, in the end.  

1986 Chateau St Helene, Sauternes
Others liked this more but I couldn’t get past the barley sugar on both nose and palate. For me, over-the-hill and cloying.

2001 Chateau Climens, Barsac
Much better! Fresh orange and brioche nose – clean as a whistle pear fruit with honey botrytis. Delicious classic Sauternes. [LS - lovely wine, but still not a patch on my Jurancon!]

1983 Graham’s Vintage Port
Oh dear, I just don’t get Port. Spirity and crude for me and I feel churlish as a result. The Port-lovers liked it. [LS - I'm not particularly a Port lover, but I really enjoyed this. It was soft, rich, mellow, and not as spiritous as many I have tasted.]

The next night, various members of the Nottingham Wine Circle gathered in the rather grand residence of Professor Glenn McDowell, situated in the grounds of the Nottingham University campus. Again, all wines were tasted blind. Not all the wines are listed here, but a selection of the best (again, with notes courtesy of Andy Leslie):

2005 Ravenneau, Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre
Fabulous white Burgundy and again it’s the richness that I find seductive compared to more humble examples. Delicious. [LS - agreed. It looks like we both have a tolerance only for the finest 1er Cru and Grand Cru Chablis!]

2000 Bouchard, Le Montrachet
My first-ever Le Montrachet, and it lived-up to its billing, and then some. The nose is buttery and oily and shifting, ethereal and complex. The palate is stupendous – successive waves of flavours. Intense and long, long, long. Fabulous+++ [LS - After the initial oakiness had blown away, the sheer quality of this wine shone through. A very fine (and to me quite rare) example of a wine in which the fruit is in absolute harmony with the oak. Masterly winemaking.]

2005 Vallet Freres, Gevrey Chambertin, Clos de la Justice
Nice firm Gevrey structure, solid fruit core, meaty kernel, just a touch of floral perfume. Palate is firm too with good structure and length. Maybe this has retreated into itself a little at the moment.

1995 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Ovello
Unmistakeably Nebbiolo on the nose and is developing maturity. For me, on the palate it’s still a bit tannic and I think it needs another 10 years to shine. But others liked it more.

1996 Sorrel Hermitage Le Greal
I loved the nose on this – volatile and savoury, earthy forest floor complexity. Palate still has lovely sour fruit as well as more evolved non-fruit flavours – delicious and drinking really well now, though no rush.

1989 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
Clearly seriously structured wine and amazingly youthful and primary, such a contrast to the previous Hermitage. This needs at least 10 years, and I’m predicting that it’s structure and density mean it will be amazing when ready. [LS - This actually seemed overly rich and a bit baked, to me, without the elegant streak I was expecting. Then again, I guess my palate was beginning to flag, by now, and I'm not about to pass judgement too early on a wine which clearly still has a very long way to go.]

1990 Domaine de Trévallon, Coteaux d'Aix-en-ProvenceClearly Trévallon – has the all the classic hallmarks of the producer; by some distance the best bottle of 1990 Trevallon I’ve tried, the palate has fantastic presence – long and mouth-coating and very delicious. [LS - Agreed, a very good bottle of wine, though for me less enjoyable than the 1991 from the previous night. Then again, this has years of evolution left in it.]

1996 A. Rousseau, Le Chambertin
 Profound. I’m not going to try & describe this. Makes everything else look simple. Easily WOTY. Drink now? Why not. Keep? Oh yes. [LS - Bugger! Why did the finest red Burgundy ever placed in front of me have to come at a time when I was unable to appreciate it fully? That said, it was still very clearly a pretty damn special wine.]

1995 Josmeyer, Riesling Vendange Tardive, Grand Cru Hengst, Alsace
Lovely off-dry aperitif wine.

1990 Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes
Another Sauternes (see the Climens above) with no barley sugar – hoorah! Nose of honey and fine herbs, interesting and appealing. Palate sweet without being cloying, long. Very good.

Thanks to all who attended the above two events for your company - and of course your generosity in sharing such wonderful wines. We are very lucky people!

Happy Christmas!

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