Thursday, 31 January 2013

A glorious dry Jurançon

Well, I was supposed to be publishing my notes on a rather wonderful tasting of no less than 19 wines from Domaine Tempier this evening, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, for events have been rather overtaken by a hastily compiled note on the dregs of a rather wonderful white wine........

Domaine de Montesquiou Cuvede Préciouse 2007 Jurançon
I opened and decanted this on Tuesday evening, just before taking it to our monthly wine and food gathering at a local restaurant. And it showed very nicely..... but not as nicely as it is doing now, a full 2 days after the event. It really has come to life in a most glorious way, showing all of that wonderful Jurançon terrroir that I know and love. At the time (i.e. 2 days ago) someone opined that perhaps it has lost some of its youthful exhuberance and may already be past its peak. But I suggested that, with a stucture like this, it may be a wine that would benefit from more ageing and evolve in a rather nice way. And the fact that it is showing so beautifully, a full 2 days after opening, would seem to back up my theory.

It is almost like a steely dry version of the sweet Grappe d'Or from the same grower - a serious wine, with intense lime oil, toffee apple, raisin and slate aromas, mingled with hints of vanilla, clove, root ginger, star anise and freshly-baked bread. The palate offers the hallmark rich, almost painfully intense Jurançon flavours of lemon, lime and apple, with considerable depth and minerality. There's even a touch of peachy/apricotty richness to it, which gives it a roundness and texture that is rare in such an essentially dry wine, making for a flavour profile that is simply crammed with complexity. And oh, that wonderful, searing lime and mineral acidity - it really does take you by the scruff of the neck and shakes some life into you! It is such a fabulous, thrilling wine, full of restrained power, breeding and sheer joie de vivre! In fact, I am prepared to be bold and suggest that it will evolve nicely for several more years........ if you have any, which unfortunately I don't, because this was my last bottle. In fact, neither do I have any 2008, 2009 or 2010 left, which is a shame, because all have been of a similar quality (and similarly ageworthy). The good news is that I have the 2011 arriving within the next 2 or 3 weeks (projected price around £12.95). So I'd better make sure I tuck some away for a few years!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A tasty little number from Austria

Here's a delightfully fresh, zingy little wine I picked up from a local bin-end supplier just recently, but have only just got round to adding it to the website......

Labelled as simply Niederösterreich (literally "lower Austria"), this is grown in the vineyards of Markus Huber, one of the top growers in the quality Traisenthal region, west of Vienna. Aromas of lemon/lime oil and orange blossom, with hints of white pepper, basil and wet slate. Beautifully poised and focused, light to medium-rich in texture and packed full of citrus and tree fruit flavours and again just a hint of pepper and spice. There's a delightful pithy quality, which stops well short of bitterness and there is perhaps just a gram or two of residual sugar and even a touch of grapiness - definitely dry, but not steely-dry, with loads of minerality and lovely acid/fruit balance. Really mouth-watering stuff, perfect for enjoying on the patio this coming spring/summer - if we get one, that is! 12.0% abv. Available now via the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines website for the giveaway price of £7.50, but only a handful of cases available.

Monday, 28 January 2013

In search of Burgundy value

It goes without saying that a good proportion of the wines we drink Chez Stolarski are from southern France. But life would be rather boring if that was all we ever drank. It amazes me how some people stick doggedly to their chosen favourite region, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there is so much variety to be had out there in the wonderful world of wine. OK, so in my humble opinion, southern France remains one of the best sources of fine wines that don't cost the earth. Which is not something you can say about Burgundy - so many fabulous wines, most of which are made in tiny quantities, from a total area a fraction of the size (in both geographical and viticultural terms) of Languedoc-Roussillon. And with the supply/demand gap ever widening, Burgundy prices continue to rise on an almost mind-boggling scale. Never mind the Grand and 1er Cru wines - when one has to pay more for a decent (and in some cases average) Village Burgundy than, say, Domaine de Trévallon (in my opinion, one of the world's great wines), one has to draw the line.

Not that it is yet impossible to find the occasional bargain. With the right sources (auctions, for instance) and friends with the right knowledge, there are still a few gems to be had at the lower end. It isn't necessarily about the absolute "perceived" quality (i.e. cost), but simply about seeking out and enjoying bloody good wines. By which I mean one doesn't necessarily need to scale the pyramid in order to appreciate the finer points of Burgundy. And being able to appreciate them at both ends (and all points in-between) of their development is such a treat, especially when they are as good as this pair of beauties.

Domaine Guillot-Broux Macon-Cruzille Beaumont 1996
This cost me all of £7 per bottle, from an auction. And for all its cheapness, perceived (over)-maturity and lowly denomination, this is a wine which - with each successive bottle - has given TLD and I a great deal of drinking pleasure over the last few years. My only worry is that it may be our last bottle...... unless I have a few odd bottles still buried at the bottom of a pile of inaccessible boxes at my wine store. I hope I do, for this little artefact is still clinging on to life nicely, and certainly isn't going to fall off its perch too quickly. Much as a good Moulin-a-Vent or Morgon can do, a Gamay from the nearby Macon is more than capable of relatively long ageing and, as it does so, taking on more than a hint of "Pinosity" in its efforts to mimic the aromatic and flavour profile of the more esteemed red wines of the Côte d'Or. And this is an excellent example, possessed of an earthy, forest floor and wild strawberry bouquet, with hints of tobacco and spice, whilst the palate is all about tertiary red fruit and citrus flavours, with the merest hint of fruity sweetness offset by tremendously mouth-watering acidity and a touch of rustic tannin. OK, so it isn't really Burgundy (some Burgundy snobs wouldn't touch this sort of stuff with a bargepole) but I have had many a young, acidic, fruit-frugal wine from the Côte d'Or that will never be a match for this. And perhaps it is a sign of my age that I get all dewy-eyed about a wine that was made when I was in my mid-30's and still (much like me!) has much pleasure to offer. ;-) Oh, and it went very nicely with a pork shoulder joint, slowly roasted on a bed of onions and blackberries (which I then used to make a rich sauce, with the addition of some home-made turkey and chicken stock) and some red cabbage and haricot beans.

Domaine Michel Gros Bourgogne Haute Côtes de Nuits 2005
This wine, on the other hand, is a mere youngster at less than 8 years of age and shows all of the vibrant fruit and relative chunkiness of an immature (or at best semi-mature) red Burgundy. Having said that, it has evolved nicely since my previous bottle, which we drank this time last year. At £16, it is a relative bargain (indeed, I also have some of the 2008, which was even more of a bargain at 10 Euros from the cellar door). And although from a relatively lowly denomination, it is from an undoubtedly excellent grower and vintage - a combination which almost always pays rich dividends. It is certainly a delicious wine, which hints at its Nuits Saint Georges origins, whilst actually avoiding the toughness and rusticity I occasionally find in some of that appellation's more elevated wines. The nose is evocative of mixed curry spices, fine tobacco and polished old wood, mingled beautifully with ripe red cherry, raspberry, wild strawberry and even a hint of dried orange peel - everything that is so sexy about good red Burgundy. The palate perhaps lacks the structure and complexity of the wines from the lower (and much more expensive) slopes of the Village and 1er Cru wines, but certainly doesn't lack for charm. A rasp of cherry and raspberry fruit and once again a hint of dried orange makes for a delightfully tangy, ever-so-slightly spicy and peppery wine, with relatively fine tannins and plenty of juicy acidity. All-in-all, it is high-toned and tangy, but with plenty of depth and enjoyment. And whilst it still feels quite primary and will undoubtedly benefit from another 5 or more years in bottle, it is eminently drinkable now. And it went very nicely with a medium rare rump steak with mushrooms and french fries. Yum!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

A trio of delicious Italian wines - must try more!

The first two were (in my opinion and many of those present) the stars of the show, in a line-up of Langhe Nebbilo presented to the Nottingham Wine Circle by Andy Leslie, whilst the latter was fished out from under my stairs last night. And all three provided much pleasure - so much so that I am determined to add to my pathetically small collection of Italian wines.

G D Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2010
Lots of citric lemon/orange acidity and red fruits on the nose. To begin with, it comes across as loveable but quite simple. But wait...... with a little air, it actually reveals a good deal of structure and complexity, with redcurrant, cherry and cranberry fruits mingled with notes of damp earth, tobacco and spice. I took this bottle home and finished the last glass on Thursday evening, and it was holding up beautifully. Lovely texture, with plenty of tannic grip, but oodles of juicy acidity and an abundance of sweet and sour fruit - totally vibrant and full of interest. All-in-all, and absolute delight, which is so lovely to drink now, but promises to evolve nicely for a decade or so. Cracking stuff, which I believe is currently available from The Wine Society for around £15. And considering that it offers as much pleasure as a very decent Village Burgundy,  a bit of a bargain.

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2007
To begin with, the nose is all about savoury, with meat/gravy and soy aromas dominating the fruit, with subtle notes of Christmas cake and apples steeped in brandy.. The palate is not only very savoury, but also sweet-fruited (almost overtly so), rich and concentrated, with a nice rasp of sour cherry giving real lift. Again, I took the remains of this bottle home to enjoy on Thursday, by which time it had opened out considerably and developed much more in the way of tertiary/secondary non-fruit and forset floor aromas and flavours, with hints of truffle, flowers and polished old wood. Moreover, the overt savouriness has dissipated and the flavours are more sprightly and expressive, less sweet and much more tangy. All of which suggests that this wine also has another 10 years or more to go to maturity. A fabulous wine.

Guiseppe Campagnola Amarone Classico 2005
As one would expect, this one is a totally different animal, but I just fancied something Italian again, and (to my great shame) I only have a handful of different Italian wines in my possession. Having said that, another 5 inches of snow last night had me craving something rich, warming and spicy. And it fit the bill perfectly, with a liveliness and (dare I say it) lightness of touch that many Amarones don't have, with deep bramble aromas mingled with raspberry, red cherry and an almost orange/citrus tang to both the nose and palate. Furthermore, there is little sign of the 15% abv to offend the senses - rather, it caresses with a gentle warmth, showing hints of exotic spices, damp earth, subtle woody notes and masses of juicy red and black fruit flavours. It isn't a glugger, of course, but a couple of glasses went very nicely with last night's pizza, topped with lashings of tomato and herb sauce, caramelised onions, peppers, mozzarella and oregano. A delicious combination. And I have 4 more bottles of this, which I shall enjoy over the next few years.

Pizza, just before going into the oven - delicious with Amarone!

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)!