Friday, 12 August 2011

A handful of lovely wines enjoyed over the past week

Prior to my publishing a big write-up on Domaine de La Marfée (hopefully tomorrow) here are my thoughts on some really nice wines tasted/drank over the last week or so.

Bodegas Castano Monastrell Ecologico 2008 Yecla, Spain
Made from 100% organically-cultivated Monastrell (better known in France as Mourvedre) not too far from the coast in south-eastern Spain. On opening, there is a strong whiff of funkiness - beefy, barnyardy and herby - allied to some really rich, almost sweet-smelling bramble and cherry fruit. That funkiness soon blows off with some air, to reveal a really quite complex wine, crammed full of red and black fruits steeped in eau de vie, but with an alluring savouriness and herbiness and background notes of damp earth, tobacco and allspice. In the mouth, it has all the concentration you could wish for, but still exhibits a degree of elegance, combining rich fruit flavours, soft, ripe tannins and mouth-watering acidity, all of which makes it a joy to drink on its own, whilst also being a brilliant food wine. We paired it with some herby sausages and mustard mash, although I suspect it would go equally well with spaghetti bolognese, pizza or barbecued red meats (lamb chops or a peppered rib steak spring to mind). This has got to be worth a tenner of anybody's money, but at £7.50 a bottle, it is a cracking bargain. Drink now, or keep for 5+ years. 14.5% abv.

Domaine de La Marfée Rosé 2010 IGP Pays d'Hérault
This was a gift from winemaker Thierry Hasard, following my recent visit. To be honest,  I have no idea of the grape mix - I must find out. It is a fabulous colour - ultra-pale onion skin pink, with orange glints, and with a lovely nose, too - lightly zesty, forest fruits and orange blossom, apples and flowers, with hints of sweetly aromatic herbs. The flavours are wonderfully delicate and understated, rather than showy, with myriad red fruits, herbs, minerals and beautifully integrated acidity of the juicy (rather than pithy) kind. The flavours are long, spicy and gently warming, though without even the merest hint of alcohol. Most rosés can perhaps be dismissed as lacking identity - a sort of confected halfway house between red and white wine. But for me, this lovely wine is the very definition of the style, and worthy of real appreciation and contemplation - a wine of real structure. It may well age for a few years, and if I had any more, I'd be tempted to tuck a few away for a year or two, but it is just so lovely now, and it would give the very best Provence rosés a real run for their money. A truly lovely rosé.

Alain Graillot La Guiraude 1995 Crozes Hermitages
This wine still has an amazing core of rich, fresh bramble and blackcurrant fruit. In fact, for a northern Rhone wine of 16 years' age, it is remarkably fresh and vibrant and not yet imbued with those meaty, bacon fat notes that one would expect. It has a touch of rusticity about it, but that is one of the things I love about this appellation - it is a real un-polished diamond. The palate is more than equal to the nose, with wonderful flavours of bramble, blackcurrant, citrus and mineral, with a tannic structure that should see it age for at least another 5 to 10 years. Problem is, this was my last bottle - damn and blast! A fabulous Crozes, which is easily on a par with most vintages of the benchmark Domaine de Thalabert.

Luis Pato Casta Baga Vinho Tinto 2007 Beiras, Portugal
My friend Andy Leslie brought this round to an impromptu get-together at my house the other evening, and it was a sheer delight. Maybe it's because we'd just enjoyed a really decent red Burgundy, but I swear that I was back in the Cotes de Nuits again with this one. When told categorically that it wasn't Burgundy - or indeed Pinot Noir - we (that's David Bennett and I) were scratching about for other grape varieties that occasionally showed similar characteristics. But no, it wasn't Tempranillo, not Sangiovese, not Nebbiolo and not Syrah. But to be told that it was the indigenous Portugese grape variety known as Baga came as a big surprise. Don't get me wrong - my experiences (albeit limited) of Baga have all been good. Indeed, one of my "house wines" over the last few years has been 1990 Luis Pato Baga - several cases of the stuff, in fact, picked up for a song at a certain well-known auction house. But that is a 20 year-old wine, and the tannins are still somewhat evident, even though the fruit is still there too. But this is a 2007 wine, though to be fair, it is blended with the somewhat more forgiving, sweet-edged Touriga Nacional variety. But sniffing it now, as I type, this wine still smells like a rather masculine Burgundy, with strawberry/raspberry fruit, cream, exotic spices and damp earth. And it tastes like Burgundy - tart red fruits, maybe even citrus, spice, damp earth again, and essentially fairly light-bodied and really quite elegant. I guess the biggest giveaway is the slightly rustic tannin, although some lesser Burgundies can have rusticity too. I guess I'm just amazed that a wine made from Baga (don't you just love the name!) can be so utterly lovely and drinkable at such a young age. And for about £9 (apparently from D Byrnes of Clitheroe) I'd say it is a wine of real character and interest - and an absolutely cracking bargain. 12.5% abv.

Domaine du Garinet Futs de Chene 2001 Cahors
Bramble fruits, dried orange peel, smoke, damp earth, mushroom/truffle and some pretty attractive polished wood.... and what seems like an unmistakeable - though completely harmonious - touch of brett. The fruit is bright and still relatively fresh, although perhaps heading towards secondary. The tannins are present, even slightly grippy, but certainly not drying. Flavours of cherry kernel and red and black fruits, with lovely acidity. My first impression is that this is mature and needs drinking within the next 2 to 3 years, but tasting the rest of the bottle on day 2, it remains fresh and really quite delicious, so perhaps there's still life in it yet. Andy remarked how much he liked this (on day 2, that is) and that it was one of the most enjoyable Cahors he'd tasted - soft, but with real character, and well worth the £14 or so I would need to sell it for. Which really is not a bad price for such a lovely, mature wine. I might get some. 13.0% abv.
The colour is a fairly opaque deep blood red, with a narrow ruby rim. The nose exudes class - indeed, it is quite beguiling, with heady black fruit aromas, a touch of meat, polished wood, garrigue herbs and incense. As you might expect with such a young wine, it is quite big on the palate, but it certainly isn't foursqare. The tannins are present, though undoubtedly very fine - in a slightly dusty, chocolatey fashion - whilst the core of rich, ripe, almost sweet bramble and blackcurrant fruit really is impressive, though there is a bitter cherry quality to it that keeps it fresh, in a sweet and sour sort of way. There is a certain amont of oak influence, not charred or toasty, but rather more in the way of old polished mahogany - integrated, subtle and beautifully aromatic. Again, it is ever-so-slightly savoury, herby, even meaty, whilst the mouth-watering acidity provides a perfect foil for the sweet fruit and the tannins - so much so that it is almost drinkable now. Then again, this is a wine built for the long haul and I would say it has at least a decade of evolution ahead of it. Not cheap, at £42.95, but a magnificent wine.

Domaine de la Semellerie 2010 Chinon
This is from a new grower to the list of importer Richards Walford, from whom I buy a few bits and bobs (notably those wonderful Joseph Swan wines from California and the Rolly Gassmann Alsace wines). Loire wine buyer (and all-round Loire aficianado and expert) Richard Kelley MW describes this wine as "a complete joy and everything I want my Chinon to be; pure, red-black fruit with excellent Cabernet Franc definition and bottled straight from the tank." And I tend to agree with him. I've never been a huge fan of Cab Franc, but this is a beautifully light, sappy, fruit-filled wine, with reatively soft tannins, but just enough stalkiness to give it a touch of grip. Add to that a little peppery spice, some delightful cherry and redcurrant/blackcurrant fruit and a delicious backbone of lemon-tinged acidity and you have a perfect summer red wine. It is is a joy to drink on its own, although I fully expect it to be a great match for the spaghetti carbonara and fresh home-made bread I am cooking up. Edit; Later...... it did! I think I may take some of this for my list, and it should retail for around £10.50. 12.5% abv.


Domaine de la Semellerie Rosé 2010 Chinon
This is the rosé version of the above wine, again made from Cabernet Franc, with two-thirds "saignée" (i.e. free run juice) and one-third direct pressing of the grapes. It is high-toned, again full of bright red fruits and a touch of citrus and herb, with a nice streak of earthy minerality. The palate is fresh, zingy and beautifully clean - perhaps the merest hint of pear drops, but otherwise majoring on red fruits, juicy apple and lively acidity. The palate is long and slightly peppery. A really nice rosé, but I fear that I can't make much of a margin, unless I sell it for a tenner or so - and that isn't cheap for a rosé. Nice wine, though. 12.5% abv.

More, very soon. Meanwhile, I need sleep!

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

Cracked open bottles of the Garinet 2001 and 2003 Futs de Chene last night to accompany BBQed lamb steaks and they were both delicious, and will continue to keep for a good while yet I think.