Monday, 16 November 2015

Domaine de Montesquiou - a fabulous quartet of dry and sweet Jurançon

My Facebook friends (no doubt some of whom are also readers of this blog) will have seen a post from me a few weeks ago, extolling the virtues of a rather fabulous wine, which was a sample sent to me along with my previous pallet of wines from Domaine de Montesquiou. Problem was that it arrived in December 2014 - and I only actually discovered it a couple of months back! Furthermore, the label told practically nothing about what was in the bottle, and I was reluctant to open it until I knew a little more about it. A flurry of email correspondence with winemaker Fabrice Montesquiou eventually revealed that it was a (almost) dry white, essentially a Jurançon Sec, but with more residual sugar than allowed for it to qualify for that particular AOP. Hence, it is labelled as a "humble" Vin de France. Of course, as I have often opined, some of France's very best wines are - for a variety of reasons - labelled as such. And this was a very special wine indeed. And although that wine was from the 2013 vintage, I have managed to get my hands on some of the 2014, which is every bit as good! I'll explain in more detail a little later.

Meanwhile, here's a photo which illustrates what I have been occupying myself with, over the last few evenings.................

Yes, my latest pallet from Domaine de Montesquiou has arrived this week! All are from the 2014 vintage, and mostly bottled less than 2 months ago, so surely yet to really get into their stride. But boy are they good already! Here are my tasting notes.............

Domaine de Montesquiou l'Estela 2014 Jurançon Sec
50% Gros Manseng, 10% Petit Manseng, 40% Courbu. Clear, pale, shiny silvery-gold colour. The nose offers a complex array of freshly-cut lime, orange peel and hay aromas, delightfully prickly and with an almost palpable minerally, smoky depth - a fabulous nose! Hints of peach/apricot add just a suggestion of richness, which manifests itself on the palate and offers a generosity that I haven't encountered in previous vintages of this cuvée. It really is delightfully concentrated and intense, yet wonderfully fresh and mouth-watering, in a zesty, appley, earthy, mineral sort of way. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a wine of this sort of structure and class at twice the price. An absolute delight and by some distance the best vintage of this cuvée that I have tasted. 13.5% abv. £9.95.

Domaine de Montesquiou Cuvade Préciouse 2014 Jurançon Sec
60% Gros Manseng, 30% Petit Manseng, 10% Camaralet. Bright, medium-pale, limpid gold colour. Intense! And very complex, too - aromas of lime oil and orange peel, with a generous portion of apple pie with raisins and hints of exotic fruits, not to mention a pot-pourri of herbs and spices. Having been bottled in September 2015, at the time of writing (November 2015) it takes a full day or more after opening to really open-up, but one's patience is richly rewarded. Although this wine spends 10 or so months in barrel, the oak influence is ever so subtle, allowing the fruit to shine through on the palate. It is concentrated but bone-dry (with just 2 g/l residual sugar), beautifully balanced, taut and structured, full of zesty lime/orange fruit, herb and spice and even a hint of grape tannin. As ever, though, the qualities that shine through more than anything are the intense, stony/steely minerality and tab-tingling acidity, which carry the fruit all the way through to a very long finish. Another truly life-affirming wine. 14.0% abv. £11.95.

And now, a little background information about *that* wine............

To qualify for the Jurançon Sec appellation, the residual sugar in the finished wine must not exceed 4 grammes per litre. Depending on picking dates (the harvest is carried out in several tranches or "tries" - sometimes by necessity, as they have a limited number of vats) the potential alcohol levels in the grapes can be anywhere between 13% and 16.5%, especially for Petit Manseng. For the later-picked grapes, converting all of the sugars to alcohol can prove problematic, at least at the relatively low fermentation temperature Fabrice prefers. Because of this,  they occasionally experience a "stuck" alcoholic fermentation with at least one of the vats intended for Cuvade Préciouse. And whilst it is possible to kick-start the fermentation again (by increasing the temperature) Fabrice feels that this would not be true to the style of Jurançon Sec he is looking for. The upshot is that, with a little blending, as and when necessary prior to barrel ageing, he is able to make two distinct cuvées; Cuvade Préciouse, from (mostly) earlier-picked grapes, with 2 g/l of residual sugar and 14.0% abv, and Terre de France, from the later-picked grapes, with 10 g/l of residual sugar and 14.5% abv. Just a few barrels of the latter are made (no more than 4, so by my calculation, around 1200 bottles) and then only when the vintage conditions dictate. 2013 was the first vintage, and it was made again in 2014, but none was made in 2015 - so if you want some, don't wait too long!

This certainly isn't your typical "super cuvée" - it is a wine made largely by necessity, rather than design. And although the residual sugar means that it can only qualify as a "humble" Vin de France, it exhibits all of the qualities of Cuvade Préciouse - only with the volume turned up to 11(!) Yet despite its inherent richness and concentration, it possesses all of that wonderful acidity and minerality so typical of great Jurançon Sec, so it should (in my humble opinion) be treated as an essentially dry - albeit extremely versatile - table wine. Here's my tasting note................. 

Domaine de Montesquiou Terre de France 2014 Vin de France
65% Gros Manseng, 30% Petit Manseng, 5% Camaralet. The nose offers masses of honeyed, sweet-smelling quince and apricot aromas, laced with aromatic herbs and spices, orange blossom, honeysuckle and a judicious lick of oak. And yet it still has that lifted lime oil and mineral quality so typical of Jurançon Sec - you can literally smell the acidity and immense freshness, even before you take a sip. Indeed, for a wine with such immense concentration (and an abv of 14.5%) it really is quite staggeringly juicy and refreshing, with barely a hint of alcohol, and the most complex array of flavours you are ever likely to encounter in a young, dry white wine. It manages to combine the same zesty lime/orange fruit, herb and spice qualities as Cuvade Préciouse, not to mention similar levels of acidity and minerality, whilst achieving perhaps even more depth and elegance. I'm not sure if my enthusiasm for this wine is quite clear enough, but just in case it isn't, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it is the loveliest white wine to have passed my lips this year - indeed for many a year. If it were Burgundy (for there are indeed certain structural similarities) it would be a top 1er Cru at the very least. It really is utterly wonderful and more-ish. And at the price, a really quite remarkable bargain! 14.5% abv. £11.95.

And last but certainly not least..........

100% Petit Manseng. The grapes for this wine are harvested deep into November, by which time they have begun to dry on the vine, concentrating the flavours, whilst retaining all of the bracing acidity which is the hallmark of Petit Manseng. The colour is a very enticing shiny, rich yellow-gold. Goodness me, what a fabulous nose! The intensity pricks (or more appropriately caresses) the senses, offering a veritable orchard-ful of sweet apple, apricot, mango and passion fruit aromas, with further notes of dessicated orange peel, root ginger, cove and fig. Trust me, it's all in there! Take a sip and you are transported to vinous heaven. It is palpably sweet, luscious and full-bodied, whilst at the same time supremely balanced, courtesy of the most glorious, tangy, citrussy acidity and earthy minerality. You could *almost* imagine drinking this as a main course wine (think chicken, duck or sweet and sour pork), but the rich, sweet/tangy palate makes for a match made in heaven for starters such as patés, fois gras or smoked mackerel. Or of course it is equally suited to desserts (lemon or apple-based tarts and puddings) or soft cheeses. A stunning wine! 13.0% abv. £15.95.

Fabrice Montesquiou amongst the vines - taken during my visit in June 2006.
Time for another visit in 2016, methinks!

Incidentally, during my recent flurry of correspondence with Fabrice, I asked him about Camaralet. This is a grape variety mentioned on most of the back labels of Domaine de Montesquiou's wines (except Terre de France, which doesn't mention any varieties), although I had never seen it listed in any of their "fiche techniques". Indigenous to south-west France, Camaralet is apparently very rare, these days, even in its home region, to the point where it has recently been on the verge of exctintion. Although known to have a fine aromatic and flavour profile, it has small berries in loose clusters and generally produces low yields, and is also susceptible to grey rot. But with the high trellising favoured by Domaine de Montesquiou (which allows the air to circulate freely around the vines) this is obviously less of a problem, although yields are unpredictable and vary from vintage to vintage. They planted more Camaralet vines in 2014, which should come into production in 2017 or 2018. It's great to see such passion for reviving these old, almost-forgotten grape varieties, from one of the finest growers it has ever been my privilege to be associated with.

All of the new wines from Domaine de Montesquiou are now available for you to buy (just click the links above the notes) - and bargains every one of them!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The wines of Domaine Gigou

A good many years ago, one of the members of Nottingham Wine Circle (a big fan of Bordeaux wines and an even bigger fan of the Loire) presented a selection of wines from Le Loir. No, not "La Loire" (the big river) but "Le Loir", one of its tributaries slightly to the north. And I have to admit that, whilst I found the white wines (based on Chenin Blanc) rather delicious, I hated the reds. Or at least I thought I did.

Fast forward a few years and the same person presented a similar tasting and I loved them all. I suspect that, having cut my wine-drinking teeth on the likes of Aussie Shiraz, Cali Cabs, rich southern Rhone blends and, latterly, wines from the sunny south of France, my palate had been incapable of appreciating (or simply too inexperienced to appreciate) the nuances and subtleties of wines grown in the relatively cool north/central part of France where the Loire Valley is situated. Indeed, Le Loir is even further north, being situated midway between Le Mans and Tours.

A couple of years ago, whilst on the way down south, we visited a couple of growers in Le Loir and I tentatively thought about importing some of the wines. It didn't happen - one of the main reasons being that I still had almost a pallet's-worth of German wines sitting in the bonded warehouse that nobody seemed to want to buy. And if I couldn't sell top-notch German Rieslings, how the hell would I sell wines from unknown growers in the least-known part of the Loire Valley, (no matter how much I myself loved them)?!

Anyway, fast forward yet another couple of years to June 2015, and TLD and I found ourselves making an overnight stop at the very splendid Hotel de France in La Chartre sur Le Loir...... which just happens to be situated on the banks of Le Loir, smack dab in the middle of the Coteaux du Loir and Jasnières appellations. Indeed, one the very best growers was less than a mile down the road. And so we found ourselves next morning visiting Domaine Gigou for a tasting of some truly excellent wines - and resolving once again to import them. After all, our mantra (a rather important one, in the fickle world of selling wine) has always been "if we can't sell it, at least we will enjoy drinking it"!

The Jasnières white wines of Le Loir are - like Touraine to the south - based on Chenin Blanc (sometimes known locally as Pineau Blanc de La Loire). The Coteaux du Loir reds are based on a fairly obscure variety called Pineau d'Aunis - which is rather confusingly also known locally as Chenin Noir! Gamay also gets a look in, either as part of the blend of Coteaux du Loir or as simple Vin de France. I'm not sure of its origins (and I have yet to look it up) but Pineau d'Aunis actually has more in common with Pinot Noir than anything else, both aromatically and in flavour/structure - lighter in body, and invariably with a peppery bite, but still with a profile that every Burgundy aficionado would recognise. It certainly won't appeal to everyone, but it certainly puts a smile on my face these days.

The Gigou family (image courtesy of the Gigou website)

The Gigou family have been making wine in the region for over 40 years - Joel and his wife Sylvie created the estate in 1974, with son Ludovic becoming part of the team in 1998 and daughter Dorothy joining a few years ago. Domaine Gigou is without doubt one of the most respected and traditional growers in Le Loir, producing a range of dry and semi-sweet Chenin Blanc white wines and some deliciously quirky, fruity, spicy, sappy wines from both Pinot d'Aunis and Gamay. They farm a dozen or so hectares of vines, from various vineyards dotted around the region, on a variety of soils/terroirs. They farm organically (indeed, they also employ various biodynamic principles) and use only the natural yeasts on the grapes for fermentation. The wines are aged in vaulted troglodyte caves (typical of the Loire valley) in a mix of stainless steel vats and very old oak and chestnut barrels, and are bottled and released only when they are ready to drink - or at least approachable, for they will age for a good few years, especially the whites.

The vaulted cellars (image courtesy of the Gigou website)
According to Richard Kelley MW (undoubtedly one of the most respected authorities on the wines of Le Loir and La Loire) "The Gigou’s wines are the epitome of the old, traditional style of Jasnières, and they are justifiably proud of the fact. They are the reference point for this style of wine in the region and ........... are great ambassadors for these two appellations."

And if you would like to read more about Domaine Gigou, together with numerous tasting notes which testify to both the high quality and ageing ability of their wines, see Richard Kelley's full grower profile

Meanwhile, here are my notes on a selection of Gigou wines, which are now available for you to buy, via the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines online shop;

Not for lovers of big, rich, jammy wines, this is light, sappy and ethereal, with oodles of tart wild strawberry, raspberry, red cherry and rhubarb aromas and flavours. Beautifully dry and peppery, with lemony hints - really mouth-watering and more-ish, with a long, tangy/spicy finish. Think of a village Burgundy from a cool(ish) year, but with a little less tannin and more fruit, and you're there. Many inexperienced drinkers would find it rather thin and acidic - as indeed I did, a few years ago - but this is a style of wine I have grown to love. It really is deliciously yummy and saliva-inducing stuff! 12.0% abv. £11.40

Although this is 100% Gamay, the resemblance to a minor Burgundy Pinot Noir is uncanny. I guess that has something to do with the traditional maceration (rather than carbonic) and the more northerly climate in which this is grown. Quite a deep colour, with a nose of raspberry and soused black cherry and hints of black pepper and undergrowth. The palate is superficially light and airy, with abundant red and black fruit flavours, plenty of tangy, cherry kernel acidity, just the right level of rustic tannic grip and a gentle peppery, stoney/mineral bite. It isn't a particularly serious wine, but it hit all the right notes when tasted on a pleasant late summer's evening - and was a great match for a barbecued steak and new potatoes with a tomato and green salad. A deliciously light, airy, food-friendly wine. 13.0% abv. £11.95

Medium yellow/gold colour with a slight orange hue. A nose of apple and citrus, with hints of honey and nuts, intense slatey minerality, wet straw and perhaps even the merest suggestion of botrytis - a classic Chenin Blanc nose, full of complexity. There is real ripeness here, but the palate is pretty much bone dry, with citrus and apple fruit flavours countered again by intense minerality and deliciously searing acidity. And that slight hint of botrytis adds a touch of contrariness to the proceedings, whilst the finish is long and tangy. A lovely, classic, old-style Chenin Blanc. 12.2% abv. £12.50

Bright, medium-deep orange/gold colour. The nose offers complex white fruit, citrus, honey and floral aromas, with a pronounced herbaceousness and hints of lanolin and emulsion paint. The palate is beautifully clean, tight and focused, almost bone dry, with intense, juicy, lemon, lime and gooseberry fruit and equally intense, steely minerality. It really is a most wonderfully mouth(and eye!)-watering wine, certainly not lacking in ripeness, but made in a traditional, bone-dry style. The faint-hearted may find it somewhat austere, but I find it dangerously drinkable (with or without food), although it certainly has the structure to age for years, if not decades. The more I sip it, the more I love it! Long too. Another brilliant, old-style Chenin Blanc. 12.0% abv. £14.30

A glorious medium-deep amber/gold colour. The nose is equally glorious - classic late-harvest Chenin Blanc aromas of lime oil, bruised apple, raisin and orange peel, accompanied by pronounced wet stone/flint and wet wool notes and subtle hints of preserved root ginger and beeswax. I'm not sure how much botrytis the 2010 vintage enjoyed, but I suspect this is more in the way of passerillé (grapes dried on the vine) because, whilst the texture is rich and gently honeyed, it is tremendously focused and tightly-structured. With a fair amount of residual sugar, the palate falls somewhere between demi-sec and moelleux. Layer upon layer of preserved white fruits, honey, lime oil and mandarin orange coat the tongue, with the oily/honeyed texture offset by a massive layer of stoney minerality and fantastically eye-watering apple/citrus-tinged acidity. The combination of - or perhaps the contrast between - lush, sweet, raisined fruit, mineral tang and elevated acidity really is something to behold, and makes for a wonderfully contrary wine, with a long, lingering, spicy, bitter-sweet finish. An outstandingly brilliant wine, which will probably be even greater in another 10-20 years - and certainly a match for the very best sweet wines of La Loire. 12.5% abv. £19.99

Incidentally, the delightful Hotel de France (mentioned above) in La Chartre sur Le Loir makes for a perfect stopover, if you are ever on your way to/from the south of France. It is a beautiful Logis de France hotel, with an excellent restaurant, situated in the heart of the town. And since it is only around 20km from the famous Le Mans circuit, it also happens to be a favourite haunt of many race fans and teams, during the week leading up to the 24 Hour race. Which means that you have a chance of bumping into some rather legendary names from the racing world.........

Yours truly, with a certain Derek Bell, 4-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, outside Hotel de France.
Nice chap, though he seemed to question my taste in shirts! ;-)

More soon. A bientot!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ahahr (revisited)! More wines from the Ahr Valley

I know - like buses, you wait for ages for a blog post from me, then two come along at once! Anyway, as promised in my previous post (of literally minutes ago) here's one I wrote earlier, using my new little smart phone gizmos...............

These are my notes from a recent tasting of wines from the (relatively under-the-radar) Ahr Valley region of Germany. This follows on from a similar tasting in November 2010, and the wines certainly seem to be on the up. Just two growers were featured in the latest tasting, namely Weingut Meyer-Näkel and Weingut Kreuzberg, and the prices (from the cellar door) seemed eminently reasonable. As with the 2010 tasting, the wines were presented by Kevin and Ena-Marie Scott, who are regular visitors to the region. Apologies for the standard of the photo, by the way, but it was the only one I took - and is useful, if only to illustrate how Ahr Valley growers for some reason like to put their top Pinot Noir wines into tall bottles!

1. Meyer-Näkel 2012 Illusion No 1 Blanc de Noir
A decent, if rather unremarkable, fizz.

2. Kreuzberg 2013 Blanc de Noir
Nettles and Pears, apples and a touch of wet wool. Lots of acidity, but not a lot else - again, unremarkable.

3. Meyer-Näkel 2013 Weissburgunder
A bit more like it, with some varietal character, albeit in a slightly sicky way. Nice rich, fruity and slightly nutty on the palate, with plenty of juicy acidity and steely minerality. Decent stuff.

4. Meyer-Näkel 2013 Riesling
Cut limes and mineral/Stone. Slightly herbaceous and a hint of orange, which shows even more on the palate. Otherwise, very steely and high acid, but quite enjoyable, though not a lot of Riesling character.

5. Kreuzberg 2013 Spätburgunder
All sour cherries and tobacco, with a tiny hint of oak. Sour red and black cherries on the palate, with a real /asp of lemon juice and quite tarry tannins. Young but promising. €10.80.

6. Meyer-Näkel 2009 Spätburgunder
€10.80. Meat and tobacco on the nose, hints of damp earth. Rich and concentrated, almost sweet, jammy fruit - Stops just short of NZ Style OTT-ness. Quite complex, but a little short on acidity. Decent, but not special.

7. Meyer-Näkel 2013 "G"
This does smell more Burgundian, akin to a Nuits Saint-Georges. Subtle dark cherry and raspberry aromas, with minimal oak influence. Palate is lovely, with Sour Cherry and a slight bitterness that actually contributes to the freshness and structure, with ripe tannins and good acidity. Very good stuff. €14-ish.

8. Meyer-Näkel 2008 "G"
Smoky, slightly bretty nose, almost shitty, with a touch of Band Aid. Palate is really quite dull and flat. Over the hill? I think so.

9. Meyer-Näkel 2013 Frühburgunder
Elegant, complex nose, ranging from red cherry to mandarin Orange, with tobacco and herbs. A nice prickle to the palate, with good acidity and soft tannins, allied to bright red fruits and soft citrus. Manages to be complex and elegant and easy-drinking at the same time. Lovely.

10. Kreuzberg 2009 Unplugged
Ooh, yum! Complex, elegant fruits and damp earth, tobacco and herbs. Lovely palate, pure, high-toned, cherry and raspberry, fine tannins, lemony acidity, elegant and really lovely. Cracking wine.

11. Kreuzberg 2013 Neuenahrer
Dirty, slightly musty nose, but not detrimental to the wine itself. Again, very sprightly, almost lemony, tight, but really quite enjoyable, in a youthful way. Probably wont age, but why wait. Very nice. €13.50.

12. Kreuzberg 2009 Neuenahrer Schieferay
Classy nose, tobacco and earth, subtle oak. Another complex wine, with masses of sour cherry and raspberry fruit, earthy notes, a hint of mixed spice and herb, polished wood and myriad other things going on. This is *really* cracking wine! A stunner. €17-ish, so great vfm. 

13. Meyer-Näkel 2012 Blauschiefer
Equally complex, in a savory, meaty way, with plenty of underlying fruit, hints of flowers. Again, a slight spritzy bite, which heightens the sense of an elegant, complex, fruit-filled wine. Soft tannins, but plenty of juicy acidity, not to mention a really quite Burgundian structure and flavour profile. Really delicious and reasonable value at around €24.

14. Kreuzberg 2009 Devonschiefer
Very Morey-St-Denis, with its exotic spice-laden fruit nose, a gentle meatiness and a touch of damp earth. The palate also reminds me of MSD, with soft spice, raspberry and strawberry fruit, a welcome touch of jamminess and excellent structure. Another winner, which I can see ageing nicely for a few years. Lovely.

15. Meyer-Näkel 2012 "S"
This is another really good wine, which - almost in spite of its similarily to NZ Pinot - hits the Spot in many ways. Tarry, quite rich, but still nicely balanced, if not reaching the heights of the previous few wines. Still very good, though!

16. Kreuzberg 2008 Schieferlay "GG"
Deeper, darker, but with some elegance. Again, more NZ than Burg, albeit very good. I just like it less than some of the more recent vintages.

17. Meyer-Näkel 2006 Demauer Fruhburgunder Pfarrwingert
There is a good wine in here, but the slight oxidation or madeirisation gets in the way.

In conclusion, I would say that (as with the 2010 tasting) the whites from the Ahr region are decent but unexciting. The reds, on the other hand, are getting better and better - and are in some cases genuinely world class.
If you would like more information on these two growers, here are links to their own websites........

Weingut Kreuzberg

Weingut Meyer-Näkel

Isn't technology wonderful?! A pair of new apps that have just made my life a lot easier.

Yes, I know that it has - once again - been a while. But this time I might be back for good, as I have news of a couple of "apps" I have discovered, both of which are free, which will hopefully facilitate much more action on this blog than there has been over the last year or more.

Firstly, Google Handwriting Input is the sort of thing that I have been searching for, for a very long time - namely, the ability to use a stylus (or indeed just my index finger) to write on the screen of my smart phone (in my case, a Samsung S4 Mini, with Android). I simply scribble away at whatever it is I want to write, and - hey presto! - it converts my writing to text in whatever application I am in at the time, be it text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, or indeed anything at all that would normally require me to type into my phone. As with most things that are new to us, it takes just a little bit of getting used to, but it really is quite intuitive, and any errors that it makes are usually down to my terrible handwriting. These are easily spotted, and it only takes a couple of clicks on the backspace button to correct. That said, I find that my mistakes are getting fewer, since it appears to develop something akin to predictive text, in that it seems to recognise unusual words or names that I have written previously - which comes in very useful when I need to write so many foreign wine names and places. It even recognises accents on letters - é, ô, ü, etc. All-in-all, a very useful little application, which renders the keypad (and in many circumstances, the keyboard) redundant.

One of the best things about the Handwriting app for me is that I no longer need to go through the laborious task of writing notes (with a pen and paper/notebook) and then sitting down at the desktop computer and typing them into a document or application. For instance, as my customers and friends know, I write full tasting notes of every single wine I sell via the Leon Stolarski Fine Wines website, which was always a necessary but somewhat painful task. But now I can open a bottle of wine of an evening, take a photo and then swirl, sniff and sip to my heart's content, whilst writing my note into a Facebook post. I can therefore kill two birds with one stone, by boring my Facebook friends about what I am drinking *and* writing a "live" tasting note to add to the website (or indeed this blog). Who said men can't multi-task?! ;-)

The second app I have installed is called Google Keep, which is essentially a note-taking organiser. For those of you who remember the 80's, think Filofax, but without the hassle - or indeed the shame of actually being seen with one (and I never dared buy one)! Google Keep offers me the facility to write notes "on the go", in conjunction with the Handwriting app, which are then recorded for posterity in the cloud. You can also take photos from within the app, which are stored with the relevant note. An even more amazing function of Google Keep - especially for someone like me, who still looks on in wonder, as a large airliner magically lifts off from the ground - is that you can take a photograph of a printed document, press a button and have it "grab" the text. Which comes in very useful when faced with (for instance) a long tasting sheet at a wine presentation. So with the name of each wine already written for me by the app, I then simply write my notes underneath. Isn't technology wonderful?

I should add that - at least from a personal point of view - I don't see the above technology as having replaced the good old desktop computer. Sometimes, it is easier to simply sit down and use a keyboard and a mouse - and I don't see that changing for a good while yet. Indeed, this post was written in that way. But my next post (which will follow almost immediately) will have been compiled almost exclusively on my little phone, before being copied and pasted into Blogger............

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Top Cru Beaujolais - Domaines Piron and Lardy

I have been promising to write-up the notes from this rather excellent tasting, ever since it took place in October 2014. It was the result of a summer visit by Nottingham Wine Circle members David Bennett and Peter Bamford to the domaines of Dominique Piron and Lucien Lardy. I don't have much technical information about the viticultural or vinicultural practices of either grower, though I assume David or Peter might chip-in with some info in the comments section. There are links to both growers' websites at the bottom of this post.

By way of full disclosure, I am told by David and Peter that whilst the Piron wines were sold to them at "trade" prices, the wines from Lucien Lardy were very kindly provided free of charge, specifically for this tasting. Not that there is ever any obligation to publish notes on every wine given away by growers. But in this case, it would be a shame not to do so, since the wines - and especially those from Lucien Lardy - are well worthy of merit. From what I am told, Dominique Piron is hailed as one of *the* stars of the region, whilst Lucien Lardy seems to be flying somewhat under the radar............... 

David Bennett (left) and Peter Bamford (right). Apologies for the grainy photo, taken with my phone. Then again, with these two, the softer the focus, the better!
Beaujolais Blanc, “La Chanaise”, Dominique Piron, 2013 
Vanilla and lemon, like a fresh-from-the-oven lemon layer pudding. The palate seems a bit one-dimensional and flat. Decent enough, but boring. 

Beaujolais Blanc, Chardonnay, Lucien Lardy, 2013 ** 
This is really good stuff and, frankly, knocks the Piron into a cocked hat. Identifiably Macon Chardonnay – lemon, apple, minerality, lovely acidity, floral. Yummy! 

Brouilly, Dominique Piron, 2013 ** 
Carbonic maceration? Boiled sweets and tar on the nose, quite floral, meaty too. Brioche. Lots of dark cherry and bramble fruit, lovely acidity and rich, ripe tannins. A lovely drink. 

Fleurie, Dominique Piron, 2013 **+ 
Totally different to the Brouilly above. Smoke, meat, mushroom, iodine, earth, with subtle floral and mineral notes. The palate is contrary – elegant and fine, with more structure – tannins are lighter but grippier. Sour cherry, steely minerality. Long, warming and really lovely. 

Morgon, “Côte du Py”, Dominique Piron, 2013 *** 
Dark, with cherry, meat and floral aromas. Quite northern Rhone, but also quite Cote d’Or - not a bad mix! Ripe and even rich, but very classy and beautifully made. The range of flavours – savoury/fruit/mineral - is exceptional and the balance is spot on. This will be even better in 5-8 years. A really brilliant wine.

Morgon, “Côte du Py”, Dominique Piron, 2012
Apparently 2012 was a disastrous Beaujolais vintage, and I guess it shows in this wine.Very dumb nose. Sniff hard and you get iodine, raspberry, lapsang tea, earth. The palate has hints of emulsion paint, mineral and earth. There is some fruit, but it is all rather lean and graceless (in comparison to 2013’s). 

Régnié, Domaine de la Croix Penet, “Croix Penet”, Dominique Piron, 2012 
Again, iodine/mineral, earth, a hint of meat, quite tannic and extracted, and seemingly having had too much time in barrel. Decent, but not distinguished. 

Chénas, Domaine Piron-Lameloise, “Quartz”, Dominique Piron, 2011
Earthy, meaty (there’s a trend here), ripe, with notes of blueberry muffin and tar. Earthy, dense; lots of ripe, chocolatey tannins and lots of oak. This needs lots of time, though I reserve judgment. 

Fleurie, “Lardy”, Lucien Lardy, 2012 ** 
Complex, in a way that nothing leaps out, but there is plenty going on. Lots of small, sweet, wild strawberry and raspberry, hints of leather and herbs, flowers. This isn’t a show-off – rather it speaks quietly but carefully. Balanced, beautifully structured and elegant. This really is very classy stuff and was a true bargain at €7 from the cellar door. A cracker. 

Fleurie, “Les Chènes”, Lucien Lardy, 2011 **+ 
What a lovely nose! Elegant, full of subtle berry and red cherry fruits, both fresh and crystallised, yin and yang, with a touch of oak, but very carefully done. This is beautifully elegant, balanced, classy. A really lovely wine. 

Fleurie, “Les Chènes du Vivier”, Lucien Lardy, 2011 **+
Another lovely nose - Love Hearts (remember them?) and a lick of classy oak (new, I suspect), but with lots of earthy, minerally, floral and other things going on. The palate is already so elegant, soft yet compelling. I could drink this now, but it has lots of potential. Another lovely wine. 

Fleurie, “Les Moriers, Vieilles Vignes”, Lucien Lardy, 2012 **+
Smells of seared steak – char-grilled. Once again, some oak is evident, but the effect is subtle, with all of the emphasis on fruit – bramble and cassis, black cherry. Complex and compelling wine. This guy makes great wines! Another to drink or keep. 

Fleurie, “Les Moriers, Vieilles Vignes”, Lucien Lardy, 2011 **++ 
I’m losing track and running short of adjectives. Sweet fruit nose (fresh and crystallised), aubergine (apparently), slow roasted beef / gravy, hints of flowers. The palate is once again so complex, so approachable, yet full of verve and truly multi-dimensional. Again, some oak, but the fruit is more than ample. Hints of iodine, cough medicine, mint, jam, bread. Uber complex and utterly delicious.

In conclusion, though some of the Piron reds showed very well, it is worth noting that the best were all from the stellar 2013 vintage, whilst the 2011's and 2012's were pretty average, at least to my palate. The Lardy reds, on the other hand, were all 2011 and 2012 - and without exception, they were all truly delicious. Suffice to say I would love to see what sort of wines he made in the fabulous 2013 vintage!

All of which goes to show that the old adage rings true - it's not about the vintage, it's about the grower. Having said that, one should never assume blindly that a grower's wines are necessarily worthy of their lofty reputation. Ultimately, Piron may be the star, but the Lardy wines were considered by pretty much all those present to be the purest, most structured and most elegant of the two. Indeed, were I to dip my (commercial) toe into the Beaujolais market again (which is unlikely, since I always found it such a hard sell, for some reason) then I would be banging Monsieur Lardy's door down, in order to get my hands on his wines! 

Grower websites;