Sunday, 13 January 2013

A couple of "hot year" wines of very different persuasions

It has been a while - around 5 weeks, actually, so happy Christmas and a happy New Year all in one go to all of my readers (if you haven't deserted me)! I guess my New Year resolution ought to be "must be more organised". For although I have been busy on the wine front (Christmas orders, end-of-year sale, etc) and other stuff (Christmas with the family, mother in hospital with pneumonia - thankfully now recovering well), problems with Internet connection and so on, I can't honestly say that I haven't had any opportunities to post on my blog. I've simply been either otherwise engaged or too damn disorganised/lazy to bother. Sometimes, I just think "sod it - life is too short to worry about it too much". Anyway, I'm back, and will hopefully find time to post more regularly in 2013.

For starters, here are my thoughts on a couple of rather interesting wines - both from very hot years - enjoyed over the past week........

Domaine Sainte Rose Barrel Selection Alicante Blend 2003 Vin de Pays d'Oc
Those of you with long memories may remember that I used to import a range of wines from this estate a few years ago. Unfortunately, once the larger retailers discovered them (Majestic and Waitrose, for example) I realised that it would be impossible for me to compete, so I gave up - another grower that I had championed (or at least tried to) only for the big boys to move in. I happened to see the owners, Charles and Ruth Simpson, at the Outsiders tasting in London in November last year. And Charles paid me the great compliment of saying he thought I had a great palate and that I wrote such excellent notes on his (and presumably othr) wines. So when I spotted this lurking under the satairs, having been there for a good few years, since Charles gave it to me, I thought what the hell, let's give it a whirl. And I am so glad I did, because it provided a lovely surprise.

To the eye, it is almost frighteningly dark - opaque purple/blue, almost black, with barely even a perceptible rim. And yet, and yet...... the nose is almost perfumed, crammed full of aromas of raspberry, plum, blackcurrant leaf, wild garrigue herbs and a touch of polished wood. To be honest, if I were smelling/tasting this blind, Iwould swear it was Carignan. There is just the merest hint of meaty/bretty savouriness, countered by notes of elderflower, crystallised fruits and orange and spice-infused pot-pourri. It really is a lovely nose. OK, we are talking 2003 here, so this wine is no shrinking violet (though come to think of it, there is a whiff of violets) and it is still quite tannic - indeed, it could probably do with another 5 to 10 years to really soften. And the sheer depth of fruit, with plenty of underlying acidity to back it up, will ensure that it will certainly last that long - and perhaps much longer. It has wonderful flavour and depth, with an immense core of bitter-sweet black fruit, cherry, garrigue herbs and lapsang tea. It really is a lovely wine, and will no doubt get better and better. I'm somewhat disappointed that I didn't buy a few cases when it was available, because although it would probably have been one of those wines that nobody bought, I would have been happy to keep some for myself. And I don't see any reference to this cuvée on the Sainte Rose website, so I suspect that the vines may even have been ripped out and replaced by more commercially popular vines. Which would be a shame, as Alicante is clearly capable of being made into something rather special.

Maison Louis Latour Aloxe Corton 1976
Mid tawny/brick colour, quite hazy (though I poured it straight from laying down) but still with a vibrant hue. Aromas of wild strawberries, forest floor, orange and leather confirm that this is still very much alive, with some beef gravy and herby notes adding further interest. OK, so it isn't exactly youthful, but there is still more than a semblance of fruit on the palate - cherry and strawberry, veering towards cranberry and citrus - making for a distinctly aged but still vinous wine. And though from another hot year, there is no sign of baked fruit or rustic tannin - indeed, it is nicely soft, with mouth-watering acidity and a gentle spiciness. I doubt that it would have been elegant, even in its prime, but I have had many worse Burgundy experiences, for a lot more money. So at around £7 per bottle (at auction) this provides remarkable value for money. After all, it isn't every day that one gets to enjoy decent 37 year-old Burgundy for the price of an everyday wine.

That's it for now - more soon (I promise)!

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