Monday, 16 May 2011

Weekend wines - a nine year-old Mosel Riesling, a 22 year-old Minervois(!) and a rather lovely 2005 Banyuls

Domaine La Combe Blanche Minervois 1989
Never let it be said that Languedoc reds don't age. I may even have blogged about another bottle of this wine, sometime in the past, since I have (or had) more than a dozen bottles, which I picked up for around 10 Euros a bottle from winemaker Guy Vanlancker's private "library" collection. To be honest, it is probably now a few years past its absolute peak, but it still provides enjoyable drinking. The colour is blood red, with a definite amber hue, whilst the nose offers secondary red and black fruit aromas with hints of polished old wood, incense, soft spices and forest floor. The palate is a gentle mix of aged raspberry, bramble and cherry, with subtle herby/spicy/savoury notes and a hint of eau de vie, with a slight bitter cherry kernel finish. For a humble Minervois at the grand old age of 22 years, which undoubtedly was not designed to age for decades - and which, incidentally, received very little in the way of oak-ageing - it is quite remarkable. Even more so, considering we drank this over 2 evenings, and it was still going strong by the time we finished the bottle. 12.0% abv.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese 2002 Mosel Saar Ruwer
I sold a few cases of this in the none too distant past, but kept just a few bottles back for myself. It has a lovely, complex nose of lime zest, orange, apricot, nettle and wet slate, with a hint of fresh root ginger and just a suggestion of petrol. There's even an enticing note of fresh emulsion paint - which I find rather alluring. Swathes of lime and lemon fruit caress the palate, with a core of intense, tingling acidity and slatey minerality that is simply mouth-watering. Yet there is also an underlying richness, courtesy of some beautifully ripe fruit, with suggestions of apricot, clementine, sweet apples and subtle spicy notes. There is purity and focus, with lovely acidity combining beautifully with ripe, only fleetingly sweet fruit. This will undoubtedly evolve for a good few years yet, taking on more of those classic Mosel Riesling mineral and petrol nuances, but I love where it is at right now, whilst it still retains some of that lovely fruit. 8.0% abv.

It is difficult to compare and contrast this particular vintage with the 2003, because they are quite similar in so many ways. Then again, 2003 was such an unusual vintage, due to the (in)famous heatwave, that the full-on richness inherent in such a vintage would be hard to replicate. Having said that, the fact that this wine is matured for no less than 4 years in old barrels, outside and exposed to the elements of all four seasons, means that there really isn't that much difference. And make no mistake, this is another delicious Banyuls. Bonfire toffee, Christmas cake, roasted mocha, prunes in eau de vie, Seville oranges, marmalade and polished old wood are just a few of the aromas which greet the senses on the first sniff, along with a definite hint of damp earth/forest floor. And whilst the flavours are a shade less dense than the 2003, there's a degree of subtlety and elegance in their place, with the aforementioned toffee and fruitcake qualities accompanied on the palate by flavours of crystallised red and black fruits and almost fresh orange acidity, whilst whatever tannin remains is tempered by a level of sweetness that is comforting, rather than cloying. There's a warming touch of eau de vie on the finish, but you almost don't notice it, because it gets buried beneath those fruit flavours, which go on and on for an age - and at just 16% abv, this is a fortified wine which majors on fruit, not alcohol. In fact, as I write this note, I'm tempted to say that I actually prefer this vintage to the 2003 (I have a bottle open, by way of comparison). It really is a quite wonderful wine, and a relative bargain at £18.79.

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