Thursday, 31 December 2009
The final day of 2009 - a frantic day to end a sometimes difficult year. But finishing on a high note with some lovely bubbly!
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Monday, 28 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
Domaine d'Estoublon Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays des Alpilles
The colour is a bright yellow gold. The nose is uber complex - notes of quince, apricot, primrose, spices (fennel and clove spring to mind), with subtle hints of lemon, honey and clarified butter. The oak-ageing is subtle, too, with just a touch of vanillin. And the palate is as fresh as a daisy, with flavours of apricot and peach, quince and lemon zest. There is also honeyed, nutty richness that coats the mouth, whilst at the same time being beautifully dry and focused. Restrained power is the order of the day - the sort that manifests itself in a long, mouth-watering finish. In fact, this is a wine that seems effortlessly to combine richness of flavour with supreme elegance. Which marks it out as a great wine, in my book - and I have a cold! White Chateauneuf? White Hermitage? Even white Trévallon? This comes pretty close - it is an absolute star of a wine, from an undoubted future star estate of Provençal winemaking.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
A hard day on the road, collecting my new wines - and a wonderful way to wind down, with a bottle of stunning Provençal wine
Sunday, 6 December 2009
O. Fournier Alfa Cruz 2001 Valle de Uco, Argentina
Despite the relative paucity of wines (14 people would normally mean at least 25 wines at a Nottingham Offline!) this was another very enjoyable evening. And the food was much better than a year ago. My game terrine was gorgeous (and beautifully-presented) and the duck was tender and delicious. Tarte tatin was to die for - although it could have done with being a bit more generous in size. A special mention for the bread - I have never seen so much bread (and it was wonderful) passed around. The waiter must have circled the table on at least 5 different occasions, with 2 or 3 different types of bread! Oh, and that waiter deserves special credit, as he was extremely attentive and efficient, but stayed very much in the background until needed. Really great service.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
If you love great rock music (and just about every other shade of music) then check them out. In fact, here are links to a couple of great videos of live songs, which I found via the excellent Wilcoworld.net website (no need to wait for the whole thing to load - just click play);
"Impossible Germany" from the "Sky Blue Sky" album.
"Monday" from the "Being There" album.
Oh, and just in case you like what you see/hear, you can catch a live live webcast of their show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam tonight (16 November) at 7.45pm (8.45 Central European time). I'll certainly be tuning in!
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Chateau Pradeaux 2001 Bandol
A medium-dark blood red core, leading to a slightly amber/orange rim, with all sorts of shades inbetween. Despite its 14.5% abv, it is relatively light in texture. The nose is initially a little dumb and monolithic, but it then begins to open up and become much more expressive, with notes of black cherry and bramble, dark chocolate, cedar, tobacco and undergrowth. There are also some nice herby notes, particularly oregano and thyme, and a warming whiff of eau de vie. The palate has flavours of bramble fruits and christmas cake, with background notes of chocolate and red meat, herbs and spice. It is full of richness and fruit, but possesses ample acidity and a healthy backbone of ripe tannin. This is a wine which can be enjoyed now, as long as it is accompanied by a rich, meaty dish, but will reward cellaring for another 5 to 10 years. Bordeaux meets Chateauneuf, perhaps? A potentially great wine, from a great vintage.
Chateau Pradeaux 2004 Bandol
This one is from a much more "normal" vintage, as the 13.5% abv proves. Deepish blood red in colour, semi-transluscent. On opening, there is a whiff of farmyard (at first, I thought brett) but this blows off very quickly to reveal some quite Chateauneuf-like aromas of red and black fruits, garrigue herbs and red meat, with further notes of undergrowth, crystallised fruits, vanilla, sandalwood and leather. The palate is packed full of fruit, although - having only just been bottled after 4 years in large (old) oak foudres - the tannins are still very prominent. This is countered by a herby, mineral quality and fabulous acidity. In other words, a beautifully balanced and fresh wine. Again, this can be drunk now, but needs hearty food to show its best. This is excellent, traditional Bandol (from one of the oldest and most traditional estates) which needs time, but will be perfect after 10 to 15 years of ageing.
The projected prices for the 2001 and 2004 will be £25.75 and £19.75, respectively. The 2008 Rosé will be £14.95. I have them on order now (along with new vintages of my other Provence growers, Domaine de Trévallon and Chateau d'Estoublon) and can't wait to get them listed and unleash them on my customers!
Friday, 13 November 2009
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Divin Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne
This clearly has some age, as it is quite a deep gold colour. A decent-ish mousse, though not particularly fine, and the nose and palate were a little harsh and unforgiving at first. But with a little air, it really did soften out and become quite delicious and moreish. Bready and biscuity on the nose, with limes and apples and some attractive slatey minerality, like a decent white Burgundy with fizz (am I allowed to say that?). Tastes like one, too - nicely aged Chardonnay flavours, some richness countered by lovely acidity and a very decent finish. A nice way to start the evening and pave the way for some proper wine.........
Chateau Musar 2002 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Darker in colour than your average Musar - half way between a young Burgundy and an aged Claret - with a deep-ish (but still semi-transluscent) core, fading gradually to a wide, slightly amber rim. The trademark VA is there, but masked by quite a lot of oak - somewhat more than usual, at this stage. Perhaps this was given more "treatment" (or more new oak) than usual. And I can see why, because this is bordering on full-bodied and rich, and built to last - clearly a very substantial vintage.
All the components are there - sweet, rich, slightly raisiny fruit, ripe, soft (but ample) tannins and acidity to die for. It isn't all about richness, though, as there are some lovely strawberry/raspberry, even lemony aromas and flavours, along with herbs, spices, leather and cedar - and oak, presently. Of course, it wouldn't be Musar without that delicious acetone and raspberry vinegar-style VA, and there is plenty of that to see it though to maturity - which may be anywhere between the next 5 and 20 years.
Is Cabernet ever more comely than this (softened by some Carignan and Cinsault)? Personally, I don't think so. This Musar is undeniably young and primary, but utterly delicious - and a very good (potentially top) vintage. Just give it a few years and it will really start to sing.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Chateau de La Roche-aux-Moines Clos de La Coulée de Serrant 1986 - Savennieres Coulée de Serrant was first up and was bang on form, being an early contender for white wine of the night. All nettles, wet wool, lemony fruit and minerality on the nose, still tight and delineated on the palate - long and oh-so complex. I'm pleased that I still have around a dozen bottles left, to enjoy over the next 10 or 20 years.
Francois Cotat Le Grande Cote 2000 Sancerre was lovely stuff - dry, fruity and with nice balance and super length. Perhaps a touch of bitterness on the finish, but (even at 9 years old) with a lot of development left in it.
Willi Brundlemeyer Zobinger Heilingenstein Riesling 1997 was delicious - aromatic, very minerally, packed with flavours of citrus fruit, herbs and spices and huge length. Superb.
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spatlese 1997 was textbook stuff. Tightly-structured, but with some generous fruit and a touch of residual sugar providing a counter to the mouth-watering acidity and steely minerality. A cracking wine.
I didn't manage to take a note on the Zind-Humbrecht Clos Hauserer Riesling 2002 Alsace, but recall that it was somewhat lighter (and less alcoholic) than most Z-H wines tend to be - and all the more enjoyable for it.
Vincent Lumpp La Grande Berge 2007 Givry 1er Cru was on great form, with vibrant fruit, minerality and nicely-integrated oak providing a glimpse of how good Cote Chalonnaise Burgundy can be. Not that I brought it (the 1986 Coulée de Serrant was my white contribution) but you can buy this wine from my website, at the bargain price of just £14.95.
Again, I didn't take a note on the Jean Pascal Puligny-Montrachet 2007, but it was enjoyable village Burgundy, although consumed far too early in its evolution.
Onto the reds, and Chateau Fombrage 1988 St. Emilion was the ideal wine - if only to get it out of the way as early as possible! For me, it was dry, austere and totally lacking in charm.
Domaine Bachelot Vieilles Vignes 1997 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, on the other hand, was proper wine. Amazingly perfumed, combining notes of flowers, fruit, savoury (notably beef) and chocolate. The palate was already soft and silky and approaching maturity. If I'm being hyper-critical, it was perhaps just a touch light (but I'm being picky). A delightful wine.
Torres Gran Coronas Reserva 1985 Penedes was my wine. On opening this, I was somewhat unimpressed, thinking it was a bit dried-out and past its drinking plateau (so much so that I brought another red wine with me). How wrong I was - it is indeed a fading old dame of a wine, but it grew in the glass, revealing some nice secondary fruit flavours, a touch of savouriness and notes of sous-bois and tea. Not a great wine, but a very very good one - and so much more enjoyable and elegant than the other Cabernet-based (i.e. Bordeaux) wines on show. As 1985 was the year Diane and I got married, I am pleased to still have 2 or 3 bottles left for our 25th anniversary celebration next year.
Torres Mas La Plana Gran Coronas 1994 Penedes provided an interesting comparison, if only to further highlight how well the 1985 had evolved. I may be wrong, but I'm not sure there is any mileage left in the 1994, which was still quite tannic, but lacking in fruit and charm.
Next up was another Bordeaux, Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1989 Saint Estephe - and another disappointing wine. There was plenty of the classic cedar and graphite stuff going on with the nose, but the palate was dry, austere and lacking in fruit. Considering this is a Second Growth, it really was not a great advert for expensive Bordeaux.
Chateau La Lagune 1985 Haut Médoc had much more in the way of fruit, along with notes of green pepper, cedar and spice. It has stood the test of time much better than the 1989 Cos, but it is (for me at least) a bit boring.
Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse 1995 Paulliac was next up. What can I say? Basically, it was like sucking on a band aid plaster. Fruitless, joyless and pretty pointless. Which only served to confirm my opinion that 90% of Bordeaux wines (including the classed growths) are Emperor's New Clothes.
And so back to proper wine, with Noel Verset Cornas 1996. An incredible bouquet (almost in the literal sense) of violets, lilies and roses. The palate didn't quite live up to the nose, being a touch on the light side, but there was still plenty of interest, with classic Syrah fruit profile, resolved tannins, minerality and juicy acidity. Not a great Verset Cornas, but a good one, which is drinking perfectly right now.
Les Cailloux 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also drinking beautifully. A touch stinky/farmyardy, and with a touch of acetone - perhaps a sign of the hot year. Packed full of warm, juicy, mouth-filling southern Rhone fruit and spice. Long, warming and open for business - and one of the best 1998 Chateauneufs.
J L Chave Hermitage 1995 was, of course, a real treat. The 1982 and 1983, tasted a couple of years back, rank amongst the greatest wines I have ever had the privilege of tasting - and this 1995 has the potential to rank right up there with them. It took a little time to really open up (it is still on the young side, after all) but it is already soft and seductive, with true complexity and balance. A perfect marriage of fruit, tannin and acidity, with a touch of peppery spice and classic northern Rhone florality. Young, but poised, yet with years of development left in it. A potentially great wine, and I hope I am lucky enough to taste another one some day.
Domaine du Vieux Télégraph 1993 Chateauneuf-du-Pape was my own final contribution and showed really well in such esteemed company. Although not from a great year in Chateauneuf, it is full of fruit, complex and balanced - a touch rustic in comparison to the Chave Hermitage, but what wine wouldn't be? And at 16 years old, it too still has some way to go before it reaches its peak.
Croft 1977 Vintage Port was light, elegant, well-balanced and warm without being hot or spiritous. I'm not a great fan of Port, but this was really nice.
Cockburns 1983 Vintage Port was also quite decent, though a bit clumsy in comparison. A bit young, perhaps, but will never be great.
Finally, Domaine des Baumard Clos Ste. Catherine 1989 Coteaux du Layon. I've enjoyed various vintages of this wine and rarely have they failed to excite the senses. And this one was no different, with an amazing nose - a riot of sweet-smelling fruit, with sweaty cheese and savoury nuances. The palate is unctiously sweet and mouth-coating, but it is held in check by wonderful acidity and classic Chenin Blanc minerality. And at 20 years old, it has literally decades of development left in it. In my opinion, this is Baumard's best sweet cuvée, with slightly less intensity than the Quarts de Chaume, but more elegance. A lovely wine to finish a lovely evening. Happy 60th, Mieke!
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
1. Domaine du Vieux Chene 1998 Cotes du Rhone Villages
2. Domaine Saint Anne 1998 Cotes du Rhone Villages St. Gervais
3. Clos du Caillou Bouquet des Garrigues 1998 Cotes du Rhone
4. Chateau du Grand Moulas 1998 Cotes du Rhone
5. Chateau de Grand Moulas Cuvée de l'Ecu 1998 Cotes du Rhone
6. Chateau du Trignon La Ramillade 1998 Gigondas
7. Chateau du Trignon 1998 Gigondas
8. Cros de La Mure 1998 Gigondas
9. Domaine Le Clos de Cazeaux Cuvée de La Tour Sarrazin 1998 Gigondas
10. Chateau Redortier 1998 Gigondas
11. Domaine Santa Duc 1998 Gigondas
12. Domaine Santa Duc Les Haut Garrigues 1998 Gigondas
12a. Clos des Papes Blanc 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (an un-announced extra)
13. Domaine de Marcoux 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape
14. Les Cailloux 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (André Brunel)
15. Pere Caboche Cuvée Elisabeth Chambellan 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape
15a. Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (another un-announced extra)
OK, so this was (apart from the 1999 VT) a far from a stellar line-up, but there were a good few wines on show from growers whose wines would (in other vintages) provide plenty of enjoyment and would be expected to show well at 11 years of age. But few of these 1998's did show well. And, in my opinion, there is only one way they can go from here - and that is downhill. So if you have any 1998 southern Rhones, my advice would be to drink up - but don't expect great things.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
I bought half a dozen bottles of this biodynamic wine 2 or 3 years back, when they were on offer for around £8 a bottle at Asda. I loved it then, and it is still very enjoyable now, though I can’t help but feel my tastes have moved on since then. It is certainly not a style I would choose to drink too often, these days, but it did seem to hit the spot on this occasion. The nose is quite bretty and a bit monolithic to begin with, although it does eventually open out to reveal subtle notes of bramble, cedar, undergrowth and eau de vie. The palate is rich, dense and bramble-packed, but with some savoury elements too, notably herbs, meat, leather and dark chocolate. In fact, there is an awful lot going on here, though the softening tannins and a decent amount of acidity just manage to keep the richness in check. I’m not sure what it is trying to be, though. Claret with attitude? Almost, although large doses of Mourvedre and Syrah give it extra dimensions. Perhaps a better description might be California meets Barossa meets Languedoc meets Bordeaux. In other words, an enjoyable wine, with a bit of an identity crisis!
Domaine de Montcalmes 2004 - Coteaux du Languedoc
This is a really delicious Syrah-dominated wine, with myriad fruit aromas including raspberry, bramble and cranberry, along with notes of tobacco, herbs, spice and schiste. It isn’t overly cheap, at around £15 a bottle, but is very elegant and classy, with soft tannins, cracking acidity and complex primary and secondary fruit flavours, augmented by touches of herby garrigue and warm-climate savouriness. It is a bit of a cliché, I know, but this wine is almost Burgundian in style, but with more than a nod towards the northern Rhone, too. Complex stuff, and well worth checking out if you can find it.
Joao Pato Vinho de Mesa 1990 – Bairrada region, Portugal
This is a wine composed of 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 75% of the quaintly-named Baga. And what a lovely Baga it is! A lovely pale/medium mahogany core, fading to an even paler orange rim, with some fine sediment floating about - which never bothers me. Squished plum and cherry aromas, cedar, butter cream, crushed pepper and herbs, with some old (but clean) wood and a hint of tar. Hardly "primary fruit", but all in all a quite delightful nose, worthy of contemplation. And for a 16 year old wine - from what I assume is a quite lowly denomination – it never fails to offer enjoyment. The palate is beautifully mellow, with plenty of aged red and black fruit flavours - still with a beautiful sweet core - with soft tannins, a lovely, fresh, acidic backbone and spicy finish. I bought my first lot of this wine 3 years ago, from a well-known auction house, since when it has cropped up with great regularity at nearly every subsequent auction. In fact, it has pretty much become my “house” wine. By my estimation, some merchant or other has drip-fed at least 100 cases of this wine through various auction houses, and the supply doesn’t seem to have dried up yet! And at the going rate of around £5 a bottle, it really is a serious bargain. In fact, if I had paid that price on release (15 years ago?) I would not have been disappointed at how it turned out. And it certainly has a good few years of life left in it. Which is just as well, because I still have a case or two left – and will buy more, given the chance. A remarkable wine for the money. Yum!
J.M. Alquier Reserve Les Bastides d’Alquier 1997 - Faugeres
This is another wine I picked up at auction, around a year ago, for £7.50 a bottle – which is about half the price that the current vintage retails for! It has a deep, dark ruby/blood red core, which belies its age, with only a tiny, slightly bricking rim to give it away. The nose offers up great wafts of woodsmoke, bramble and plums, with all sorts of other things going on - notably violets and lilies, sichuan peppercorn, a lick of brett and a good dose of schiste minerality. Oh so complex and still a relative baby, with lovely weight of bramble and redcurrant fruit and a touch of bitter chocolate. With slightly rustic tannins, lovely acidity and gently warming alcohol (14.0%) this is a wine that manages to be both mouth-puckering and mouth-watering at the same time. Although possessing some nice Grenache notes, this really is all about the Syrah - sort of Cornas-meets-Languedoc. It is a complex and compelling wine, and with such depth of fruit, it will certainly go for another 5+ years before peaking. But it is so lovely, I will find it hard to resist drinking my remaining bottles before then.
Chateau Musar 1996 – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
I wasn’t sure what I should open to accompany roast pork last weekend. OK, so roast pork can be matched with so many wines (of all colours) but I have just brought home from my store a few boxes of mixed wines, since my choices for “drinking” wines were starting to get a bit limited. However, a thread on the wine-pages forum about 2001 Chateau Musar pretty much made my mind up for me. I am a big fan of Musar, so a rather lukewarm note about the (very young) 2001 current release got me thinking about the so-called lesser vintages of this wine, especially as a few other Musar fans were adding their two penn’orth to the debate. All I can say is that “Musar heads” really should know better than to judge or dismiss an 8 year-old vintage, so early on in its development. I have heard/read this sort of snap judgement so many times that it has become a bit of a bugbear of mine. Suffice to say that I have already tried the 2001 (and have a few more bottles tucked away) and would say that it should be kept for at least another 3-5 years before making a more reasoned assessment.
For example, the 1996 vintage has often been dismissed as weak. Nevertheless, I bought a case at auction 2 or 3 years ago and have been enjoying the occasional bottle ever since. I have around half a dozen left, and it seems to get better with every one I open. So, prompted by the forum discussion, I opened another one. Now admittedly, 1996 is a fairly "light" vintage by Musar standards, but it also happens to be one of the cleanest and most elegant vintages I have ever tasted. In fact, if I were tasting this bottle blind, I might even mistake it for a very (very) good 1er Cru Burgundy - it is that good.
I am very much looking forward to enjoying my remaining bottles of 1996 Musar over the next 5 to 10 years, whilst occasionally dipping into the remainder of my stash of the brilliant and classic (i.e. much faultier!) 1991. The 2001 might be a little bit sleepy, at the moment, but its time will undoubtedly come. Patience is the watchword!