Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A very special and totally memorable wine tasting

So once again, my plans to publish the next instalment of my Vinisud adventure have been scuppered. But when one experiences the kind of vinous heaven that the lucky few who attended tonight's meeting of the Nottingham Wine Circle were treated to, then what does one do?

Mike Lane is one of the "originals" - a founding member of the Wine Circle, who has probably tasted more great wines than I have had hot dinners. Indeed, he probably still has a good many of them in his cellar, judging by the line-up he threw together tonight, to help celebrate his latest birthday (he didn't say, so I didn't ask!). I say "threw together" because he called me around midday to check I would be there and to ask me to email the group to confirm the tasting was going ahead, although he had no idea what the wines would be. By all accounts (due mainly to a rather trying day for Mike) he still hadn't decided by 5pm - and considering we start at 7pm, that didn't leave much time(!) Well, I can only dream that I might one day be able to put together a line-up of wines like this, whether carefully considered or otherwise. What follows isn't just any old bunch of tasting notes - it is my (at times hazy) recollection of probably the best 2 hours of wine tasting I have ever experienced.........

Heidsieck & Co Monopole Silver Top 2002 Champagne
Lovely - smells like a fine white Burgundy with bubbles. Tastes like it, too - rich, biscuity, minerally, fruity and considerably complex. Showing a little bit of evolution, but still with many years to go. A lovely Champagne.

Yiaskouris Xinisteri 2010 Lemesos, Cyprus
A pleasantly fruity, herby nose, with a touch of honey. Dry and minerally on the palate, yet with a touch of oily richness and some nice fruit. Not particularly complex, but an intersting wine, with a long, peppery, slightly warming finish.

Chateau de La Roche aux Moines Clos de La Coulée de Sérrant 1992 Savennieres Coulée de Sérrant
A lovely straw-gold colour. Classic Chenin Blanc nose, with minerality by the bucket-load, wet wool, lanolin, stewed quince, cinnamon and cloves. The palate is a complex and contrary combination of richness and austerity, quite steely and dry, but with a great breadth of (fruit and non-fruit) flavours, spice, minerality and bracing acidity - and very long, too. Another wine with many years (or even decades) of life ahead of it. A real stunner.

Henri Coulardin 1992 Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons
Heaven forfend! A Chablis that gives me real pleasure! The colour is dark gold, but nice and clear. The nose offers a combination of mandarin, sweet apple, peach and a hint of toffee, with oodles of complex mineral/stone aromas. If anything, the palate is even more compelling and complex, with some genuine richness, more of those apple and mandarin flavours, a subtle spiciness and loads of other non-fruit things going on. Massive length, too. A fabulous wine.

Philippe Bouzereau Les Casse-Tetes 1989 Meursault
Struck matches/flint and soft citrus aromas. Although not complex, this is a really nice wine - it just lacks the finesse of the Chablis and therefore suffers a little by comparison. But who am I to complain?

Ridge Chardonnay 1991 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
This reeks of perfectly aged Californian Chardonnay, with a touch of that Meursault-like struck match, classy (and beautifully integrated) oak, with lots of peach, apricot, marmalade and spice aromas. Marmalade on the palate, too. Rich, gently oaky, spicy, with a touch of alcoholic warmth and a bitter orange peel finish. Complex, long and really lovely.

Chateau du Galoupet Rosé 2006 Cotes de Provence
Lovely onion skin colour. Lots of structure, quite rich and warm/spicy, but with plenty of secondary fruit flavours and decent acidity. Bitter oranges again, with a hint of raspberry. Refreshing and rather nice.

Domaines Ott Château Romassan Rosé Cuvée Marcel Ott 2007 Bandol
This has more in the way of fresh fruit - redcurrant, lemon and lime, with a touch of vanilla and lashings of garrigue herbs. Delicate and charming, rather than in your face, but with a touch of richness and loads of complex red fruit, spice and herb flavours, and very long too. This is serious rosé.

Vincent Lumpp 1985 Givry 1er Cru Clos du Cras Long
A glorious combination of red and black fruit compote, beetroot, pickled red cabbage, cheese, fenugreek and caraway seed. It may not sound like a great combination, but it is. There is still a good deal of sweet, opulent red/black fruit, with a touch of orange peel and myriad secondary aromas and flavours and mouth-watering acidity. Even at 27 years of age, this has plenty of life and fruit in it. Long, spicy and utterly lovely.
(Sorry, no photo of this, as the label had all-but disintegrated).

G. Prieur 1987 Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roy
A strange nose of iron filings to begin with, followed quickly by some enticing redcurrant and raspberry aromas, earth, rotting leaves and polished old wood. Plenty of secondary fruit flavours, too, quite woody and even a touch tannic and austere, but with a great deal of charm. A real wine lover's old Burgundy.

Paul Jaboulet Ainé La Chapelle 1987 Hermitage
Dark and brooding, but with an abundance of meaty, floral and red and black fruit aromas and a touch of balsam. Powerful and quite unyielding on the palate. Medium-rich, spicy, still quite tannic, but with a huge core of sweet/sour/tangy red and black fruit and massive acidity. This is a brooding wine, but it possesses all the ingredients necessary for the long haul. I imagine it will be an absolute cracker in another 10 years or so.

Chateau de Beaucastel 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape
For a moment, this seems strangely reticent, before a wave of crystallised fruits, meat/gravy and even something slightly vegetal (in a positive way) hits you. And the palate is even better - rich, deep and dark, very savoury, but with oodles of bramble and raspberry fruit flavours and a decent (if not high) level of acidity, with hardly a hint of heat. It is bordering on elegant - which is unusual for Chateauneuf - and really very complex and lovely. One of the best Beaucastels I have tasted.

Château Haut-Brion 1981 1er Grand Cru Classé Graves Pessac-Leognan
As far as I can recall, this is my first ever taste of a "First Growth" Claret. The nose really hits the spot - a lovely combination of rotting red fruits, polished wood, red capsicum and mint/menthol. But for me, the palate doesn't quite deliver on the promise. Whilst the nose suggests opulence, the feel is quite austere, still with some decent fruit, but also some quite stalky, slightly green tannins. There is some complexity and some nice earthy/cedary flavours, whilst the length is impressive. It clearly has plenty of breeding and is actually very enjoyable, but ultimately lacks a "wow" factor.

René Renou Domaine de Terrebrune 1952 Bonnezeaux
The colour of Irn Bru! Hints of herbs, stone, wet wool and orange marmalade. I could sniff this all night long. The palate is still very definitely moelleux, with intense flavours of seville orange marmalade and all manner of mineral and animal flavours and great length. Some were less impressed with this than me, but I thought it was really lovely - and still very much alive at 60 years of age.

Winzergenossenschaft Wachtenburg-Luginsland Wachenheimer Gerümpel Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 1976 Rheinpfalz
Wow! Wow! Wow! The nose on this wine is just something else - a volatile, heady mix of marmalade. key lime, dried apricot and all sorts of things. Wave after wave of complex flavours and textures coat the palate. It starts very sweet and intense, with flavours of preserved citrus, apricot, toffee aple and fig, with more than a hint of clove and root ginger, but the acidity just keeps on building and carries all of those intense flavours through to a long, long finish. Forget Eiswein - a great TBA from a great vintage is for me the pinnacle of Riesling intensity and complexity and complete loveliness. I've been lucky enough to enjoy quite a few TBA's from the fabled 1976 vintage, and this is up there with the best of them. A great wine.

Commandaria Xinisteri 2007 Sweet Liqueur Wine
In its own way, this ain't half bad either. Mike says that this is the oldest style of sweet wine and is a bit like a cross between sweet Oloroso Sherry and Tokaji. Although not fortified, it actually has a Sherry-like tangy/salty quality to it, with intense orange peel/marmalade, spiced Christmas cake and cocoa flavours. Spicy too, again with a hint of root ginger, and a surprising level of acidity. Whilst it doesn't quite match the wow level of the Riesling, it is a very lovely wine indeed, with a length that goes on forever. I love it.

Taylors 1960 Vintage Port
Talking of Christmas cake, this has it in spades on the nose, along with clotted cream fudge, dark chocolate, forest floor, tobacco and incense. Granted, there is a good deal of spiritous warmth to the palate, but the tannins are pretty much resolved, whilst the fruit is subtle yet complex and laced with all manner of toffee/fudge/caramel/chocolate/coffee flavours. The finish is earthy, spicy and warmly alcoholic, but crucially the fruit lingers too - as do all those other flavours. I've never been a huge fan of Vintage Port, but this really is a wine for contemplation and enjoyment - and in its own way, every bit as impressive as the wines that went before it. Glorious stuff, and a fitting end to an absolutely wonderful tasting.

And the cost to those of us lucky enough to taste these wines? Absolutely nothing - Mike said it was his treat and he was happy in the knowledge that he had shared some great wines in the company of like-minded friends.

Mike, I think I speak for all of those present in saying thank you for sharing with us - it was a real privilege.


Anonymous said...

Very well-said Leon - many thanks for pics and notes of a memorable evening. But of course special thanks to Mike for the extraordinary and generous line-up of wines. Every single one had something of interest and many were downright thrilling. What a night!

Anonymous said...

Beats me how that went in as "anonymous"! It was me!

Andy Leslie

Vinogirl said...

Sounds like a fabulous tasting, what variety. Not being a big fan of Chardonnay I must admit to noticing some similarity between Ca. Chardonnays and Mersault - only the better made Ca. Chardonnays however.
Personally, I would have just slunked off to the nearest corner with the bubbly :)

Bernard Caille said...

Yes,great night and amazing wines.
I've just pulled the glasses from last night where I'd kept some TBA and some Commandaria,they're both still fresh as we tasted them last night.

AlanM said...

Wow that was some tasting! Great notes Leon I really enjoyed reading about some old and special wines. I'm with you on Chablis though :)

Leon Stolarski said...

Thanks for all the comments. I do indeed feel very lucky to have taken part in this tasting. Mike Lane is a lovely chap and his generosity and desire to share in fine (and often agreably old) wines is typical of the Nottingham Wine Circle as a whole. It is a privilege to belong to such a wonderful group. :-)