Thursday, 30 May 2013

Another delicious red Burgundy

No matter how good a Pinot Noir from the Mâconnais happens to be, the French A.O.C system in its infinite (but often questionable) wisdom dictates that it can only qualify as a humble "Bourgogne Rouge". Indeed, your average Burgundy snob will usually insist that "proper Burgundy" is only made on the Côte d'Or (or Chablis), completely oblivious to the fact that the Mâconnais and the nearby Côte Chalonnaise are capable of producing some pretty fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (not to mention excellent Gamay). Still, it is their loss, and those of us who are willing to experiment with these lesser-known regions and growers can be richly rewarded. One such grower is Domaine Guillot-Broux, of whom I have written on several previous occasions. I hope to visit Guillot-Broux once again in a couple of weeks, to taste some more wines and with a view to possibly importing some of them later this year. I fear it will turn out to be another of my follies (ref; Mosel, Provence, Loire, etc) but I rarely take the easy route - I like a hard sell! And if wines like this are anything to go by, if I can't sell 'em, I'll be happy to drink 'em myself!

Domaine Guillot-Broux La Myotte 2011 Bourgogne
100% Pinot Noir, from vines planted on 1956, with yields of just 30 hl/ha. Aged for up to 18 months in oak (depending on the vintage). This actually took a day or two to really get into its stride after opening, being initially rather understated and dumb. But boy was it worth the wait, for it blossomed over that time into something quite beautiful - intoxicatingly fragrant, with all manner of red fruit aromas (notably, wild strawberry, redcurrant and even something darker, like blueberry), augmented by myriad secondary aromas like orange oil, damp earth, curry spices and woodsmoke, all wrapped in a cloak of very subtle oak. Really very alluring and sexy stuff, with a finely structured palate - a kernel of sweet and sour fresh and compote red fruits, juicy soft citrus acidity and a touch of leafy herbaceousness, all held together by just the right amount of fine-grained tannins. It really is a completely lovely, charming, delicious wine. Bourgogne Rouge simply doesn't get any better. 12.5% abv.

Watch this space (or make sure you are on my mailing list) for further developments on the coming months..........

Monday, 27 May 2013

Some lovely wines at Nottingham Wine Circle last week

After the many themed/tutored tastings over the Autumn and Winter months, the Nottingham Wine Circle is now firmly into its Spring/Summer series of "bottle blind" tastings. Basically, these are free-for-alls, in which we bring anything we like - so long as it is (hopefully) drinkable! And this week was one of those weeks when more than a few wines exceeded those expectations. These days, I can't be doing with writing too many on-the-spot tasting notes, but here are my notes from a quartet of the best or most interesting wines from this tasting, all written a couple of days later, from what remained of my samples. And they had all held up remarkably well......

Jean Francois Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2010 Cotes du Jura
Pale yellow/gold, with mealy/nutty, apple and lime/lemon aromas, with a hint of under-ripe peach. The oak, which was fairly prominent at first, has fully integrated. And although the wine doesn't quite have the power, intensity and grip that it had 2 days before, it is still a lovely drop, with gorgeous apple and citrus flavours, deep minerality and completely mouth-watering acidity. A really cracking wine, which would give many a 1er Cru from Burgundy a run for its money.

Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Sec 2000
I ask you - what's not to like in a wine like this? Intense, almost floral and perfumed, with aromas of minerals, wet wool, lime oil, quince, subtle spicy notes and a heady richness redolent of molasses. Not that it is anything but bone dry, with an almost steely intensity and searing lemon acidity. The flavours are quite subtle, yet very complex - at the same time rich, yet delicate, full of citrus and tree fruits, with a delightful earthiness and great length. Utterly mouth-watering and lovely.

Domaine Florentin Clos de l'Arbalestrier Blanc 1989 Saint-Joseph
Crikey, this is good wine - possibly even great wine. A blend of Marsanne and Roussane, I believe. Even at 24 years of age, it is chock full of life, fruit, complexity and hedonistic enjoyment. It shows all manner of aromas and flavours, notably flowers, honey, clarified butter, peach and apricot, petrol and minerals, with just the merest hint of toffee to betray its maturity. It is rich and focused in the mouth, yet pretty dry and zesty, with more in the way of citrus/orange/lemon flavours than the nose would suggest, with a gentle earthiness and hints of old wood. And the finish just goes on and on. A glorious, ethereal wine!

Domaine Michel Gros Hautes Cotes de Nuits 2005
I brought this one, and it went down a storm - and for such a "lowly" denomination (at least in Burgundy terms) it really does punch above its weight. Unlike many Burgundy vintages, which tend to go through a closed phase at this sort of age, I have tasted very few 2005's that are not pretty much open for business. And this one is still singing, with delectable red cherry, wild strawberry and forest floor aromas, and even a hint of something darker and richer, like damsons/plums. The palate is delightfully subtle, deceptively light and airy, with bags of ripe, tangy red and dark fruit flavours, countered by a hint of apple tartness, yet with a certain creaminess, countered by ultra-ripe tannins and abundant acidity, making for a grippy yet really elegant wine. If you have some, then I would suggest you can drink it now, or age for another 5 years or more. Either way, it is a cracking little wine.

More soon....................

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nebbiolo and Beaujolais - what's not to like?

Here are a couple of reds that went down very nicely over the last few days. Note to self - must drink more Beaujolais and Piedmont wines!

Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2011
A pleasingly light cherry red colour, with light, bright cherry fruit aromas to match. Certainly not one-dimensional, though, with oodles of wild strawberry, forest floor, fresh orange peel and creamy aromas, with subtle hints of mixed herbs and soft spices. Even at this stage, it is deliciously drinkable - not overly complex, but fresh and fruity, with creamy tannins and loads of cherry skin bite and acidity. It might not be profound, but at £12.50, it is pretty good value for a more than decent Piedmont Nebbiolo, and a credit to what is by common consensus one of Europe's top wine co-operatives.

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Py 2010
I used to drink quite a bit of Cru Beaujolais, as I imported wines from a couple of growers who produced some pretty good Morgon, Fleurie, Chénas and Regnié. Then again, I had to drink quite a lot of it, since it proved to be a hard sell to my customers! Suffice to say that I gave up in the end. That said, good Beaujolais seems to be making a comeback, so perhaps I should look to start importing from the region again - especially if they are anywhere near as good as this one. It is certainly at the darker/richer end of the spectrum, with a medium/dark cherry hue and a nose more at the bramble rather than red fruit end of the spectrum, yet wonderfully earthy, spicy and high-toned, again with a lick of orange peel. On the palate, it is classic Beaujolais, with a touch of sweet redcurrant and bramble fruit, countered by juicy, tangy, sour cherry acidity and just the right level of grippy tannin. Add to that a hint of pepper, spice and damp earth and you have a wine that is a real delight. Delicious on its own, but so food-friendly too - the other night it went well with a home-made ox-cheek and kidney pie, whilst last night the remainder was an excellent accompaniment to some Cumberland sausages and pasta, with a rich, spicy, herby, garlicy, oily tomato sauce. This will set you back around 11 or 12 quid, which is again excellent value for top-notch Beaujolais.

Next up will be my report on a brilliant tasting of Rutherglen stickies.........

Friday, 17 May 2013

What I've been up to, plus a few interesting recent wines

Oh dear. Looking at the date of my last post, it would appear I have written precisely naff all for over 6 weeks. Not good enough, I know, though the reasons are manifold - with downright laziness being just one of them. To be fair, it has been a strange (and occasionally difficult) few months.

I seem to have spent a good part of my time in hospitals and doctors' surgeries, partly for checks on my own health (thankfully everything seems to be OK again) and partly due to the fact that my Mother has been in hospital on 3 occasions since December, firstly with pneumonia and latterly due to the ongoing after-effects. Seems her heart is a bit weak now, but with a few more trips to the doctor, and an ever-increasing daily coctail of drugs (warfarin next, I believe) she is still alive and kicking. And long may it continue - even at 84, she is certainly not the sort to let it get the better of her. She still lives on her own, in her own house and, whilst we have all been a lot more attentive since her illness, she manages pretty well. That said, I go to see her most days, either to do a few odd jobs or just to keep her company, which (having probably not done so as much as I should have in the past) has been really rewarding for me. Whatever happens, she isn't going to be around forever, so I'm glad it has whipped me into shape now, rather than when it is too late. After all, nothing else in life is as important as the ones we love.

Plenty of other things have been going on in my life, too. Much of March and early April were taken up driving around the country doing wine tastings, whilst May has been spent mostly in the garden - including (to borrow the phrase from Spinal Tap) a bizarre gardening accident, in which I tore some muscles in my side and cracked a rib or two. Of course, I have also been drinking a few decent wines and writing my tasting notes on them as I go along. Indeed, this post has been literally weeks in the pipeline. Problem is, with all the other stuff going on, and the resulting lack of time (not to mention the necessary drive and energy) typing everything up has, until now, simply been a chore too far. Let's face it, I don't earn any money from this blog - I do it for my own enjoyment (and hopefully to help my readers pass a pleasant few minutes!). And believe me, transcribing written notes is just about the most boring job in the world, especially since I am no touch typist! I'm actually considering buying one of those fancy tablets with a stylus pen, which would (if everything I read about them is to be believed) enable me to write on a screen and use an "app" to convert it into a text document. It could transform my dull existence and obviate the need for me to sit at the computer so much. Of course, if any of you have some useful advice on alternatives, please do let me know.

Anyway, for starters, here are my notes on some of the best or most enjoyable wines from the past few weeks (with more to come in future posts)...........

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut NV Bio Bio Valley, Chile
Rich, leesy, lime and lemon aromas and flavours, with a a touch of fresh, sweet apple ripeness, all underpinned by a strong mineral streak. Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling all work in perfect harmony, in a bottle that is just in the right place, although I doubt that another year or two more would do it any harm. A lovely friday night aperitif.

This is a wine that really does take time to open out and show its true colours - in this case, my note is written a full week or more after it was first opened. A hugely complex nose of white flowers, violets, mint, herbs de Provence, mixed spices, lime marmalade, old leather and all manner of white fruits (quince, peach, apricot) and even a suggestion of delicate red fruits. It really is a gloriously complex and flavoursome bottle, with myriad fruit and non-fruit flavours, a touch of tannic grip (even for a white wine) and tangy acidity. Add to that a spicy, herby, southern warmth and you have a quite wonderful wine, with real charm. For a wine that has little added sulphur, it is quite remarkable that it should smell and taste so good, more than a week after being opened. I still have a handful of bottles of this left at £12.95, but once they are gone, that's it.

Domaine La Combe Blanche Pinot de l'Enfer 1998 Vin de Pays des Cotes du Brian
For those of you unfamiliar with Guy Vanlancker's wines, Cotes du Brian has nothing to do with a Monty Python film. Brian (basically pronounced "bree-on" - though you may wish to add a bit of French spit for authenticity) is the local river - though doubtless no more than a trickle in summer - which lends its name for the most local VdP denomination. Indeed, "a local name, for local wines"! This (along with a 2001 Tempranillo from the same l'Enfer vineyard that also showed excellently) was a bottle I had been keeping for a tasting of unusual grape varieties from Languedoc that I presented a couple of weeks ago to Nottingham Wine Circle. It showed very well on the night, but once again (a full week after opening) the last glass was a real treat - which is quite amazing for any Pinot Noir, in my experience. The colour is a quite evolved brick/tawny. It has a wonderful aged Pinot character, more in the way of Claifornia in style than (say) New Zealand or Burgundy, but with a good degree of elegance. Lots of forest floor and rotting red/black fruit aromas and flavours, with classy oak and floral nuances, hints of garrigue herbs and white pepper and lots of secondary/tertiary flavours and a welcome touch of volatile acidity. In fact, after a week, it takes on an almost Musar-like quality. A really lovely wine and even mildly surprising - at least for a 15 year-old Languedoc Pinot Noir. Actually, it is (to my nose and palate) really just coming into its prime drinking window. I wish I had a few bottles left. I must ask Guy if he has any tucked away that I could buy!

Finally (for now at least) I thought it would be nice to try a much younger Pinot from the same stable - in this case an unoaked Pinot from the lower slopes near the village of La Liviniere. I must admit that (for me at least, and the above wine notwithstanding) Guy has yet to really "nail" Pinot Noir. In the Languedoc heat, it tends to have a bit too much of everything for its own good - especially alcohol. And yet....... and yet......

This really is rather enjoyable. A pot-pourri of polished wood and leather, damp earth, red cherry, raspberry and bramble, and a whole load of pepper and spice. Even despite the noticeable streak of warming alcohol, it almost seems right for the wine, which (in a curious and totally irrational comparison with Burgundy) is less about the grape than the terroir. A less Burgundian Pinot Noir would be difficult to imagine, but it is full of life and charm and rich with the warmth of the south. And it went beautifully with a barbecued/griddled selection of rump steak, lamb chops and Lincolnshire sausages, with balsamic tomatoes and a pasta salad (remember that nice wether we had last week?). A very yummy wine, which may even get better over the next few years - after all, Guy Vanlancker's wines often reward patience! £10.50 (but only a couple of cases left).