Thursday, 22 September 2011

3 very different white wines

Domaine Sol-Payré Albae Blanc 2009 Cotes du Roussillon
Despite the fact that the label says unfiltered, this is as limpid as any wine I've ever seen - ultra-clear, ultra-pale, almost shiny gold in colour. The nose isn't giving an awful lot away, with hints of lemon, peach and a slight herbiness peeping through a fairly strong whiff of sulphur. The palate is a little more open, and whilst not overly complex, it does offer plenty of citrus, peach and apple flavours, again with some herby nuances and a zesty texture that stops just short of the pithiness I occasionally find in young southern white blends. The problem is, it doesn't really get any better than this. I left it in the fridge for a day or two, hoping that it might blossom into something more interesting, but it stayed exactly as it was on opening - frankly, a bit dull. As the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines list is desperately short on white wines from Languedoc and Roussillon, I was hoping that this may be worthy of adding, but on this showing, I'll give it a miss. Domaine Sol-Payré make a cracking range of red wines (and a rather excellent Rivesaltes Hors d'Age) but they have yet (in my opinion) to excel with the whites.

Geoff Merrill Wickham Park Chardonnay 2006 McLaren Vale
This, as the saying goes, does exactly what it says on the tin, and is a classic barrel-fermented and matured Aussie Chardonnay, with just enough oak influence to make it interesting, without smothering the deliciously lime-scented, minerally fruit. Actually, that is damning it with faint praise, for it bears more than a passing resemblance to a decent Maconnaise or Chalonnaise white. I remember tasting one or two Geoff Merrill wines a good few years ago (perhaps 20 or more years, actually) when it occurred to me that they were somewhat atypical for Australia. Which meant - at that time - that I didn't necessarily enjoy them as much as other wines from that country. Of course, I know better now, for I am able to appreciate much more the subtleties of Australian wines made with a sympathetic hand - and this is a good example. It shows a slight butteriness, although perhaps "mealy" would be a better description - I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that, but it seems to fit the bill. Anyway, there's a degree of richness, without it being too mouth-filling, whilst the acidity is ample, and there's a good deal of Chardonnay fruit character (good Chardonnay rarely exhibits "other" fruit characteristics, though there's a touch of orange peel on the palate) and a healthy dose of minerality. I even sense a bit of tannin, which may be a combination of the oak aging and some decent skin contact/extract. All-in-all, it is a rather nice wine - mellow and satisfying, rather than racy and thrilling - and one which I feel will get better with age. I think I'll keep a few bottles by to watch it develop over the next 5 years.

Campillo Blanco "Fermentado en Barrica" 2009 Rioja
As far as I know, this wine is made from 100% Viura (known in France as Macabeu). 41 days of fermentation in oak barrels has imbued it with a quite complex array of floral, earthy, gently woody aromas, which combine beautifully with soft citrus, cider apple and hints of peach and honeysuckle. The palate is delightfully fresh, focused and zingy, offering zesty lemon and peach flavours, with medium weight, good concentration and plenty of earthy, almost stoney minerality. Again, the effect of the barrel fermentation is relatively subtle, with a touch of smokiness and the sort of oxidative, slightly nutty quality that makes good (i.e. traditional) Rioja such a joy to drink. And despite the barrel fermentation, the absence of the term "Crianza" on the back label leads me to believe this has seen little or no subsequent barrel ageing - in other words, a "sin crianza" (which translates as "without ageing"). That said, although it is a delight to drink now, it certainly has the structure to stand a few years in bottle, during which those oxidative (but not oxidised) notes will develop further. All-in-all, a delicious wine, which does great credit to Rioja. I like it a lot.

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