Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Hotel Piesporter Goldtröpfchen and the wines of Kurt Hain

I can't believe it is just a month since TLD and I returned from our short break in the Mosel Valley - it all seems like a distant (but lovely) memory now. Furthermore, I can't believe that it has taken me this long to share some of my impressions about the country, the region, the scenery, the people, the food and (very importantly) the wines. And although we only actually visited 2 wine growers for tastings, they both turned out to make wines of a very high standard indeed. Actually, one of these visits wasn't really a "visit" at all, since the Kurt Hain winery is situated underneath the Hotel Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, which (rather conveniently!) happened to be our base for the duration of our stay. Indeed, the hotel is owned by the Hain family - current winemaker Gernot Hain looks after the wines side of things, whilst his wife Susanne runs the hotel.

The hotel is situated in the old part of Piesport (the newer part is on the other side of the river), which sits snugly between the north bank of the Mosel and the magnificent amphitheatre of the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen vineyard. It isn't hard to find, since there is really just one road, with the hotel, a church and a few houses dotted along the riverbank. It really is a lovely, peaceful setting.
Old Piesport, viewed from the main town on the opposite side of the River Mosel -
- the hotel is between the bridge and the church

And the hotel itself really is rather lovely, too, offering an extremely comfortable level of accommodation. Our room was really spacious and airy and had a delightful view over the river, with patio doors and small balconies, from which to view the vineyards behind.

The Hotel Piesporter Goldtröpfchen

A room with a view - and so comfortable, too

Breakfast was served in the main restaurant area, with a variety of breads, charcuterie, cheese, conserves, cereals, boiled eggs and unlimited fruit juices, tea and coffee. One never need go hungry! 

A hearty breakfast - enough to see us through until dinner

Our total bill for 4 nights bed and breakfast came to just 280 Euros - which has to be a cracking bargain, in anybody's book. We'll certainly go back there one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a base from which to tour the Middle Mosel region. Full details of both the hotel and the winery can be found on the Hain website.

So....what of the wines? Well, I have to say that they turned out to be every bit as good as I expected. The Hain family has been growing wine since 1600, and today has holdings in Piesport’s top sites of Goldtropfchen and Domherr, with a total of around 5 hectares under vine, producing approximately 35,000 bottles a year. Gernot Hain began managing the estate in 1988, and no less an authority than Hugh Johnson has described him as “one of the most talented young wine producers on the Mosel.” A little Rivaner, Weißer Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is grown here, but most of the vineyards are given over to what I personally consider to be the greatest white grape variety of them all - Riesling. And Riesling is what we concentrated on for our tasting. All of the wines are vinified in a traditional manner, using mostly very old oak foudres, plus some stainless steel tanks. These are wines of substance, well-structured, with fine fruit and mineral tones and great aging potential. Because there were so many wines on offer (getting on for 50, in all) we stuck with the traditional fruity (or "fruchtige") versions, rather than the increasingly fashionable trocken and feinherb wines, which I personally find less attractive.

Here are my notes - some of them just brief impressions jotted down in the Hain cave, others a bit more in-depth from a recent tasting session at the Nottingham Wine Circle.
Hain Weißer Burgunder 2009
This was dry, but nevertheless quite rich and full, with good structure and subtle oak-ageing. Could turn out very interesting.

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2009
We enjoyed 2 or 3 bottles of this during our stay and I could never tire of it. Limes and wet slate on the nose, with a touch of herbaceousness - even herbiness - including aromas of nettles and cut grass, even fresh peas. Oh, and loads of fruit, with apple, lime and mandarin orange. It is fairly rich for a Kabinett, almost like a Spätlese, with flavours of mandarin and lime and a touch of honeyed richness and oiliness, all held together with truly mouth-watering acidity and a taut, mineral streak. Delicious, long and lovely. 

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2007
This is softer and mellower than the 2009, with the acidity softening, yet still oh-so fruity and delicious.

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese No.12 2006
This is markedly different to the 2009's, in that it is rich and intense - almost painfully so, when first opened - with lime, lemon, stone fruit and mineral aromas, with a faint but definite whiff of trademark diesel/petrol. The palate is incredibly intense, almost super-charged, with essence of citrus, mango and crystallised fruits, allied to zingy acidity and strong minerality. There's a definite hint of botrytis, too, which adds a rich, honeyed quality. This is many years from being "ready", but shows fantastic promise for the future - and actually softens out nicely over a couple of days after opening. A stunner.
Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese No.12 2005
This is possibly even more mineral than the 2006, yet lighter on its feet and more approachable. Slatey, lemony fruit, with floral notes and no noticeable botrytis. This is one to drink now, whilst the 2005 matures. Long and lovely.

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese No.12 Rotschiefer 2009
Intense aromas of grape and mandarin, with loads of mouth-watering acidity to complement the residual sugar. Clean, pure, focused and delicious.

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese No.13 Grauschiefer 2009
There's a touch of sulphur on the nose, at present, but not enough to mask the intense mineral, lemon and lime aromas, with hints of white pepper, cloves and flowers. The palate shows intense lime and peach flavours, dessert apples and spice. For all its lush sweetness and huge core of ripe fruit, it is incredibly focused, with laser-like acidity. Balanced, poised and very long. Fabulous stuff.

Hain Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese Felsterrassen 2009
Another intense wine. The nose has stone/slate, with an array of fruit aromas including (but not limited to) lemon zest, peach, apricot and mango, along with an interesting toffee/fudge note. And what a palate - the flavours of oranges, apricots and grapes are so rich, so intense, so concentrated, yet once again this is a wine that is so focused and zingy with its backbone of minerality and acidity. It is just this sort of contrariness that  I love in fine Riesling - how can a wine be so luscious and seemingly sweet, yet so utterly bracing, juicy and mouth-watering? Is it worth 2 Euros more than the Rotshiefer and the Grauschiefer? I think it is. A brilliant, delectable wine, with a great future.

Contact details:
Weingut Kurt Hain, Am Domhof 5, 54498 Piesport
Tel: 06507-2442

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Two more brilliant wines from Domaine de La Marfée

Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis (or, indeed, buy my wines) will know that I am a huge fan of the wines of Domaine de La Marfée. I have posted notes on all of the 2007 wines elsewhere on this blog, and also wrote quite a lengthy article about biodynamic viticulture and natural wines, which featured very heavily on the biodynamic (though thankfully not "natural") practices employed by La Marfée winemaker Thierry Hasard. So it goes without saying that when I was offered a few cases of Les Champs Murmurés 2000 and 2001 (one of Thierry's top cuvées) by a previous importer - and at a decent price - I jumped at the chance. I'd enjoyed a bottle of the 2000 a couple of years back, so I knew how good it was, but the 2001 was more of a shot in the dark - and a very successful one. These days, this cuvée is made from Syrah and Mourvedre, but these earlier vintages also included a proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon - hence the Vin de Pays denomination. Here are my notes, from a bottle of each vintage, enjoyed over last weekend (and now available to buy on my website);

Although now 10 years old, this wine still looks remarkably young, exhibiting a fairly deep purple/red colour, and showing only slight signs of age on the narrow, raspberry-coloured rim. This wine contains a proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (which the current wines do not) which means that it had to be labelled as a mere Vin de Pays. Nevertheless, as with the current crop of wines, the nose displays that trademark Marfée nose of crystallised red and black fruits, elderflower and blackcurrant leaf. There are also some savoury, earthy notes, mixed with exotic spices, old leather and cigar box. It really does have the whiff of a truly fine wine - in fact, the more you smell it, the more complex it gets. The palate is simply packed full of concentrated, ripe bramble and blackcurrant fruit, with some savoury, herby garrigue notes and grippy but fine, spicy tannins, offset by juicy acidity. The finish is dry, but laced with spicy, tangy, almost sweet and sour orange peel and black cherry flavours - and it is very long, too. The complexity of this wine is something to behold, and although it is lovely to drink now, I feel it has the stuffing (and the fruit) to age for at least another 5 years before it reaches its peak. It really is a fabulous wine, and does nothing to alter my opinion that Domaine de La Marfée is one of the Languedoc's finest estates - albeit still a very well-kept secret.

Like the 2000, this wine shows little sign of age, with the same dense, purple red core and narrow raspberry rim. And like the 2000, it displays that trademark Marfée nose of crystallised red and black fruits, elderflower and blackcurrant leaf, but this time with a hint of red meat, eau de vie and polished wood. If anything, it is even riper and more opulent, again with those beautifully savoury, earthy notes, exotic spice, old leather and cigar box, but with a pungency and sweetness of fruit typical of the classic (i.e. hot) 2001 vintage. It has a half degree more alcohol than the 2000, but the ripeness of the fruit and the spicy yet velvety tannins make it feel very balanced, despite a slightly lower level of acidity. The finish has a sweet and sour edge, with flavours of red cherry, raspberry and warming spice. Slightly more Chateauneuf in style than the full-on Languedoc style of the 2000, but a beautiful wine nevertheless. Oh, and the acidity actually get more pronounced with time in the glass, which only serves to heighten the experience. Another lovely wine, from a very (very) fine winemaker.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Domaine Tempier - still worthy of its reputation?

This week at the Nottingham Wine Circle, we were treated to a tasting of wines from the celebrated Bandol estate, Domaine Tempier. Three separate verticals of the estate's single-vineyard cuvées were on offer, kindly provided (and presented) by one of the Wine Circle's long-standing members, Edwin Wood - and all for the princely sum of just £15 per person!
  • La Migoua is 50% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 26 to 28% Cinsault and 2 to 4% Syrah. The vines are, on average, about 30 years old.
  • La Tourtine is 80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. Vines average around 40 years old.
  • Cabassou is 95% Mourvedre, 1% Cinsault and 4% Syrah. The vines average 50 years old.
All of the wines are aged for around 20 months in large, old oak casks, and the wines are neither fined nor filtered before bottling.

The line-up - that's a lot of Tempier!

My notes are all fairly brief, since the tasting was conducted at such a lightning pace (20 wines in a little over an hour and a half!) that it was hard for me to keep up with the wines and write tasting notes at the same time. Frankly, in my humble opinion, these wines deserve more than to be subjected to what amounted to a speed tasting. We began with a rather nicely aged rosé, before moving on to the reds.

1. Tempier Rosé 2000
Orange colour. Creamy. Rich and serious. Fruity, some tannin, dense and mouth-filling. Very nice

2. La Migoua 2004
Meaty farmyard nose. Crystallised fruits later. Lovely acidity.

3. La Migoua 2003
Dense and rich. Harsh tannins follow the fruit quite quickly and linger on the palate.

4. La Migoua 2001
Tobacco and cedar nose. Shows a touch of brett, but lots of fruit too. Dense and spicy palate - rich fruitcake flavours, bramble and raspberry. Very fine tannins. Long and warming. Superb.

5. La Migoua 2000
Bretty, blackcurranty, almost Claret-like nose. Tobacco. Bramble coming through and eau de vie. The palate also shows a lot of alcohol. Unbalanced and not that pleasant to drink.

6. La Migoua 1999
Bretty, tarry, cedar and bramble. Smells hot and tastes hot. Plenty of volatile acidity, but not enough fruit to cope with it. This too is unbalanced and hot. If you have some, drink up.

7. La Tourtine 2002
Lots of fruit on the nose. Floral, cherry, bramble and brett. Light and ultimately fairly simple.

8. La Tourtine 2000
A curious nose of tar and diesel. The palate is rich and spicy, tarry and herby and still quite tannic. Needs time but could be very good in 5-10 years.

9. La Tourtine 1999
Earthy and meaty. The palate is slightly warm and alcoholic. Flavours of cherry kernel, spices and Agnostura bitters. Not sure about this one. Was 1999 a difficult year?

10. La Tourtine 1998
This has a very sexy nose – tobacco, meat, fruit and iodine - very complex. The palate is velvety and sweet with soft tannins and ample acidity. Balanced, rich, long and lovely. The complete Bandol.

11. Cabassou 2005
Smells like new world Shiraz - mint and herbs, rich upfront fruit and lots of oak. The palate is super rich, with sweet fruit. Very soft, very drinkable and very modern – but not typical Bandol.

12. Cabassou 2004
This has a sweet, extracted, Chateauneuf-like nose - alcohol, sweet fruit and VA. The palate is rather lovely, in a Chateauneuf sort of way, but is undoubtedly big and rich, rather than elegant. Nice crystallised fruits and balsamic flavours, with ample acidity. I like this.

13. Cabassou 2001
Another Chateauneuf nose. Beef gravy, bramble and blackcurrant - like a Vieux Télegraph in style. The palate is again quite rich, but also quite hot and alcoholic – and very extracted. Needs 10 years or more to peak. It could be good, but that alcohol is very intrusive.

14. Cabassou 2000
Brett and iodine. tobacco and spice on the nose. The palate is lighter and slightly less alcoholic and consequently more elegant. Quite Claret-like in structure with plenty of tannin and acidity, tar and even a hint of greenness. This is ultimately quite austere and tough and I am not sure it will age well.

15. Cabassou 1998
This is more like it. High-toned, with aromas of herby garrigue, polished leather and savouriness. The palate is rich, but with a lot of complexity. Fruit, iodine, cloves, tar, spices, orange peel. Still warm, but complex and almost elegant in a big sort of way. It has years left in it.

16. Cabassou 1997
Sweet nose of fruit pastilles and new leather. The palate is soft and rich and elegant but still with some unresolved tannins. This needs a few years to show its best.

17. Cabassou 1995
Unfortunately, this was corked.

18. Cabassou 1994
Chateuneuf again – meaty, leathery, crystallised fruits and garrigue herbs. The palate has some sweet fruit but also some very stalky tannins. Not a great wine - drink up.

19. Cabassou 1992
A nose of iodine, emulsion paint, leather and pencil shavings. The palate has some lovely fresh black and red fruits, but the acidity is on the low side - and the alcohol is very definitely on the high side. Ultimately, it is an OK wine, but too hot for its own good.

We finished with a delicious old wine, which I believe was made from 100% Cinsault, from the La Louffe vineyard, the grapes from which are now incorporated into the Cabassou blend;

20. Cuvee Special La Louffe 1987
Smells old and fully evolved but with lots of interest. Sweet fruit and leather, raspberry vinegar and pickled beetroot - a lot nicer than it sounds! Flavours of soft, sweet fruit, with hints of herbs and VA. Finishes dry and savoury. A lovely old dame of a wine.

This was a tasting that many of us were very much looking forward to, and it was indeed very educational, with a fairly clear distinction between the three different cuvées. Unfortunately, though, there appears to be a clear distinction in quality and style, between the wines from around 2001 onwards and the preceding vintages - no doubt due to the change of winemaker/winemaking at around the same time (you can read more about the history of the estate here). And clearly the pre-2001 wines seem better and more balanced. Which begs the question, has Tempier lost its way? I guess it is too early to tell, but the later wines do not bode well for the future, in my opinion.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A real pick-me-up - another fabulous Mosel Riesling

Kurt Hain Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett 2009 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
I opened this a couple of nights ago, but thankfully (and quite amazingly) there was still a generous glassful left in the bottle, nicely chilled, when I arrived home from the weekly tasting at the Nottingham Wine Circle. Which is just as well, because this wine was just what the doctor ordered, following what I can only describe as a speed tasting of Domaine Tempier Bandols. No less than 20 wines were tasted in just over an hour and a half - and not all of them as good as one might hope, I might add. I will publish my notes on those wines in the next day or two. Meanwhile...........

This gorgeous Riesling has pungent aromas of apricot, lime and apple, with definite notes of cinnamon and clove. The effect is a bit like piercing the pastry on an apple pie, fresh from the oven. It also displays some nice floral and herbaceous notes - how is it possible to encounter so many wonderful aromas in a single wine?! The flavours are equally as intense, concentrated and really quite rich, with palate-coating flavours of lime oil, nectarine and dessert apples, the sweetness of which is offset by spine-tingling acidity, slatey minerality and a refreshing spritz (courtesy of some residual CO2) and again a distinct, though gentle spiciness. The intensity of the fruit is more akin to a Spätlese (i.e. late picked) than a mere Kabinett, but I guess that is the beauty of the 2009 vintage in the Mosel - the Kabinetts are more like Spätlesen, and the Spätlesen are more like Auslesen. In other words, you get more bang for your buck in this vintage. Not that I'm about to complain, because every 2009 Mosel Riesling I have tasted - from the basic QbA Estate wines right up to the single vineyard QmP Auslesen - has been stunning. And this is one of the best of them - it is utterly, utterly gorgeous, and a true bargain at just 6.50 Euros from the cellar door. I'm glad I have a few more (not to mention several other wines from this estate's 2009 offerings). If I ever decide to import from Germany (and I may well do so, sooner or later) the wines of Kurt Hain will almost certainly figure in my plans.

Incidentally, a friend who has far more experience of German Riesling than I do suggests that the 2009's aren't ready to drink yet and should be left for at least a few months (if not years) before drinking. I sort of know what he means, because the wines are in their very first flush of youth and need a little while to settle down and begin their long evolution. But to my mind, they are so delicious right now, they are extremely hard to resist. That said, I will do my very best to keep some for at least a few years (especially the Spätlesen and Auslesen) because great Riesling ages beautifully - and 2009 was undoubtedly a great year in the Mosel.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

An evening with Beth Nielsen Chapman

I first discovered the music of Beth Nielsen Chapman in 1997, after the release of her third album "Sand And Water". The title track, plus one or two other songs from the album, were getting lots of air play on Radio 2, mostly via Terry Wogan and Bob Harris. Beth had lost her husband Ernest to cancer in 1994, which rendered the content of the album (much of which had actually been written prior to that time) even more poignant than it might otherwise have been. I was totally blown away by it, in every way imaginable. Musically, lyrically and melodically, it was packed full of achingly beautiful songs - some sad, some happy, but each one very uplifting in its own way. 

The release of Sand And Water was all part of a long healing process for Beth, and subsequent albums have continued the trend. Not that things have always been plain sailing for her since then - her own battle with breast cancer in 2000, plus the removal of a (thankfully non-malignant) brain tumour in 2009 means that she has been dealt more than her fair share of setbacks in life. But those setbacks seems only to spur her on to keep producing music of the very highest order. Beth isn't prolific - at least in terms of her own album releases, of which there have been eight, plus a "greatest hits" compilation since 1990 - but there is not one song on any of them that isn't a worthy one. She also writes songs for other artisists (perhaps the best-known being "This Kiss" by Faith Hill and "Strong Enough To Bend" by Tanya Tucker).

But it is as an artist and live performer in her own right that Beth Nielsen Chapman excels. She has a very loyal (and growing) following in the UK and tours regularly these days. I first saw her perform live at an intimate little venue in Nottingham that holds barely more than 200 people. It was a truly magical evening that I will remember for a very long time - and I got to meet her afterwards! That was in 2004, and I have been lucky enough to see her perform a further three times, the most recent of which was last Friday at the Warwick Arts Centre. This time, she was accompanied by her trusty old friend Maartin Allcock (formerly of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull) on bass, plus two delightful young Irish ladies whom Beth had discovered via one of her songwriting workshops; Eilidh Patterson (pronounced "I-Lee"), on guitars and harmony vocals and Ruth Trimble on piano, keyboards, bass and harmony vocals. And I'll tell you what - those two ladies between them have more talent than all of the so-called "talent" discovered in umpteen series of X Factor. They were brilliant, and I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them go on to have very successful solo careers as singer-songwriters. In fact, Beth gave them their own mini set in the middle of the performance and I was so impressed, I bought both of their CD's after the show - and I got to meet them, too (as well as Beth, once again)!

Yours truly, with the lovely and very talented Eilidh Patterson after the show

......and with the equally lovely and talented Ruth Trimble

.....and with the amazing Beth Nielsen Chapman

I'm not a music reviewer, so I won't go into detail about the show itself, other than to say that Beth was on top form and performed many of her best-known songs, plus a good number of songs from her latest album, "Back To Love", in a set that lasted two hours. All-in-all, it was a great night. If you want to know more about Beth Nielsen Chapman, check out her website. You can also hear some of the songs from the latest album on the music page. In an ideal world, she would be a very (very) big star. But in the real world, Beth Nielsen Chapman remains a well-kept secret amonst her loyal legion of fans.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Celebrating 25 years of marriage with good friends, good wine and good food

TLD and I celebrated 25 years of marriage whilst on holiday in the Mosel Valley last week. A couple of days after we got back, we gathered with a few close friends at Amarone Restaurant in Nottingham, for an evening of wines primarily from the 1980's, including three from 1985 itself. And a lovely evening it turne out to be. With us were Bernard Caille, David and Lucy Bennett, Andy Leslie and Jo Fitzhenry, and our long-time friends Anton and Diane Lambert. Anton was Best Man at our wedding, whilst Diane was one of TLD's bridesmaids, so it was a real thrill to meet up with them again. Although we still meet up occasionally, it doesn't happen nearly enough.

Anyway, Amarone once again treated us to some nice food (and indeed offered free corkage, which is always welcome). But the food was almost incidental, as the company and the wines were what it was all about.

Clockwise, from the front; Anton, Leon, Diane, TLD, Jo, Andy, Bernard, David and Lucy

Diane Lambert with TLD - two beauties who have stood the test of time!

So what of the wines? Well, since the evening was all about enjoying ourselves, I resisted the urge to make any tasting notes, so any comments are purely from memory (except for a couple, which I took home at the end) - as is the line-up, which included;

The Wine Society Champagne NV
I was part of a team that won a "Call My Bluff" tasting competition held by The Wine Society at the Albert Hall in Nottingham a couple of years ago, and we each received a bottle of this as our prize. A bit of bottle age has seen it mature into a very nice wine, which got the evening off to a nice start.

Hurst Fehres-Willems Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese 1985 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Believe it or not, I picked this up only last week at the Brauneberg Wine Festival. Aromas of wet slate, lime oil and marmalade. Although the palate may have lost its youthful gusto, there is still some fruit left, with nice marmalade flavours and bags of acidity. Not a great Riesling, but a nice one. And, of course, from "our" year. And a complete steal at 9 Euros!

Chateau de La Roche aux Moines 1986 Savennieres Clos de La Coulée de Serrant Madame Joly
One of the great vintages from this famous Loire estate, and still full of steely minerality, with lemon and herb-infused primary and tertiary flavours and a very long finish. Indeed, it is a very fine wine, but absolutely bone dry, so the preceding (off-dry) Riesling probably did it no favours on the night. A wine for contemplation.

Agricola Querciabella Batar 1996 IGT Toscana
This is a wine that always impresses. An Italian take on Burgundy, with lots of secondary, oaky, toffee aromas and flavours and plenty of complexity. Lovely wine.

Torres Gran Coronas 1985 Penedes
Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, which is undoubtedly entering its dotage, but still with plenty to offer in the way of secondary red and black fruit flavours, cedar and tea. Holding up well (like TLD and I) after 25 years!

Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1985 Rioja
In terms of sheer quality and vinous enjoyment, this was probably the wine of the night. Still full of forest fruits and hints of spice and wood, it was fresh as a daisy, yet complex and oh-so elegant. It deserves a proper tasting note, but I don't have one. I just know that, at 25 years old, it was absolutely bang on form and a joy to drink.

Chateau Musar 1990 Lebanon
Not a good bottle at all - cheesy and cabbagey, and clearly somewhat oxidised. I'd like to think that it was bottle variation (for which Musar is notorious) rather than vintage. Pity, because I love Musar.

Chateau Musar 1991 Lebanon
This was much more like it. In my opinion (though David seems to disagree) this was on good form. In fact, I took the remnants of the bottle home and enjoyed it several days later! Stewed fruits, beetroot and tobacco aromas, with a vey healthy waft of volatile acidity. Loaded with secondary fruit and citrus flavours, hints of wild herbs and a subtle savouriness. And lots of VA. Trademark Musar, with years of life left in it. Lovely!

Domaine de Trévallon 1988 Les Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Les Baux
Unfortunately, I have little in the way of detailed recollection of this bottle, except to say that it was on good, if not great form. One of my favourite vintages from one of my very favourite growers. perhaps Andy Leslie (who brought this bottle) can elaborate.

Domaine de Trévallon 1990 Les Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Les Baux
I brought this one, which I had been saving for just such a special occasion, and I have to say that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. There certainly wasn't anything particularly wrong with it - it just didn't have that "wow" factor. Again, perhaps Andy (who is as big a fan of this estate as I am) can add something.

Kuentz-Bas Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive Cuvée Caroline 1990 Alsace
I also took home the remnants of this half-bottle, so actually have a tasting note(!) Not an awful lot on the nose, with perhaps just a touch of orange and honey. The palate is much mor expressive, and nicely rich, with seville orange, caramelised peel and again a touch of honey, with some really good underlying acidity. It coats the tongue with velvety flavours of toffee apple, stewed plums and apricot. It isn't hugely complex, but the balance is superb and the length impressive.

Quinta de Vargellas 1988 Port
Not a "declared" vintage, but a "single quinta" Port from a nonetheless good year. It does exactly what it says on the bottle, and is actually a very good wine, if you are a Port lover - which none of us necessarily are (I think we all agree that Port is just too spiritous, per-se). Having said that, I think that this could be really good in another 20 years, when the fruit has rotted-down and the alcohol will be more subtle and integrated. For the moment, it is all very primary and young(!)

There were a couple of other wines that I didn't note the full details of - a 1999 red Burgundy (David - please fill in the gaps) and a rather intense sticky from the Loire (Bernard - ditto, please).

All-in all, a lovely evening, enjoyed with some lovely people. Let's do it all again in another 25 years! ;-))

Friday, 1 October 2010

A rather disappointing Languedoc wine

Having drunk nothing but fine Mosel Riesling over the last few days (how could we not, when it is so abundant and so relatively cheap where we've been?) I thought it was time to open a bottle of red to enjoy with yesterday evening's spaghetti bolognaise. I have half a case each of the 2004 and 2005 vintages of this wine, and this one had been winking at me from the under-stairs cupboard for some time, so I thought it would make a nice (though not cheap, at around £15) weekday treat. Having enjoyed a bottle or two of each wine over the last couple of years, I expected this to be rather good.

Domaine de Montcalmes 2004 Coteaux du Languedoc
60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, aged in one and two year-old barrels for 24 months. The first thing that hits you on the nose is the oak - vanillin and wood, with a noticeable element of beef stock, but not a lot in the way of fruit. Which is surprising, since my previous experience of this wine had left me with a strong impression of red, black and crystallised fruits and an almost northern Rhone - or even Burgundian - elegance. The palate is also dominated by oak. Not toasty and rich, but somewhat austere and even raw, as if the oak has been under-seasoned and under-toasted and is beginning to eat the fruit (rather than the other way around). The style of this wine clearly aims to be relatively light-bodied, rather than hugely extracted and rich, but it currently seems to lack the elegance and depth of fruit that it once showed. It felt raw and harsh to begin with (even to the point where I thought it might be a faulty/corked bottle) but I thought some air would help to open it out a bit. Half an hour later, though, and the fruit is still not really there - subtle hints of raspberry and redcurrant, perhaps, but with a bitterness that suggests that 24 months in relatively new barrels has stripped some of the vitality and fruit from it. Perhaps it is going through a "closed" phase. I hope so, as I have several more to get through. We shall see.

Tonight we are dining out in Nottingham with a few close friends and some (hopefully) fine wines from the 80's and early 90's, by way of celebrating our Silver Wedding. I'll report back soonwith my thoughts on the wines.

After that, I have loads to report on our trip to Germany. Not an awful lot in the way of thoughts on individual wines (it was a holiday, rather than a tasting trip, after all) but lots of photos and plenty of commentary.