Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Cuvée Silex Sec 2010

I've never found a vintage of this wine I didn't like. It's one of those bottles that brings a smile to my face, regardless. Organic and hand-harvested, it's tremendous value at £13. Today, the first day of British Summer Time, seemed as good a day as any to try a new vintage.

Pale, silver with edges of green.

Focused nose of waxed lime peel and barley grist. Quite intense. Barest sense of flint at the end.

Incredibly youthful. Tightly wound, integrated citrus zing of lime and lemon peel wrapped up with bees wax and the slightest of honey-nut notes. It fills the mouth with an almost squeaky juiciness and as the finish starts comes a faint hint of pear drop. Crazy young and intense, you squint as you taste it, but in a great way. I don't understand how some people can disparage Loire Chenin Blanc when wines like this are so utterly brilliant. This would easily beat a wine twice its price. With age, those honey and nut notes will develop while the citrus will pick up roasted character. Drink now and cellar too.


Tasted at Shorehead 25/3/2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

50 best Portuguese wines as chosen by Tom Cannavan

From Port to Portugal. Tom Cannavan was last year's Portuguese Wine Writer of The Year, and as such selected the 50 best wines out of about a thousand tasted. Tom's a great guy - I've known him almost as long as I've been in the trade. He also has a great palate and understanding of wine, and so I was looking forward to tasting his favourites. I was not disappointed. Two of the wines came out of nowhere and blew the back of my head off with bizarre awesomeness (the Dúvida and the Ameal sweetie) whilst the overwhelming quality of the rest would do any country proud.

There are no scores, but hopefully the quality comes through in the notes.

See if you can guess where the whites end and the reds begin.

Julia Kemper Reserva 2009

Bright lemon nose, pithy with oats.

Confit, juicy palate. Long with bracing citrus.

Casa de Mouraz 2009

Chantilly, creamy nose, touch floral.

Rounded and gentle with nice mouthfeel and bright citrus underneath.

Castrus 2009

Pear drop nose, quite confected but not in an off way.

Again with pear drop on the palate, very much a glacé candy thing.

Alvarinho Dorado Superiore 2008

Toffee and butterscotch, weird but groovy.

Rich and creamy on the palate, nice weight with obvious leesy balanced woodiness.

Arenae Colares Malvasia 2006

Spicy nose, floral but peppery.

Spiced wax on the palate.Most bizarre. Kinda cool though. Lime wax.

Nossa 2009

Very mute nose. Coaxing brings rich toffee.

Manuka honey.Palate much from the nose. Toasty and quite decadent. A bit tropical as well.

Palpite 2008

Lemon roasted in hay on the nose. Nice.

Superb textured mouthfeel - hay and oats rolled in lemons and honey, bright and fresh too.

Herdade dos Grous 2010


Esporão Private Selection 2009

Honeyed nose.

Palate as big and rich as always.

Quinta dos Carvalhais Colheita Seleccionada 2006

Toffeed pineapple and clotted cream.

Rich, toasty and kind of crazy on the palate.

Alves de Sousa Reserva Possoal 2005

Nettles and pine on the nose.

Gripping, bracing palate. Green and peppery. Bizarre but cool.

Quinta Sant'ana Riesling 2009

Mute, rubbery nose. Touch of lime and Flint.

Brighter and juicier on the palate than expected. Nice, but why?

Valle Pradinhos 2009

Rose and Turkish delight with potpourri and eastern spice.

Palate is luscious. All comes through from the nose. Lovely.

Vinhas das Ira 2006

Very plummy nose with a touch of tar. Bright fruit.

Soft and pleasing red fruit though a touch disjointed on the acidity.

Quinta Dona Maria Reserva 2006

Dark and tarry fruity nose.

Broody palate, but crunchy too. Good length. Lovely.

Pera Manca 2007

Chocolate plums.


Beautifully rounded and soft. Bit of tannic grip at the finish, but mostly cocoa plums.

Terrenus Reserva 2007

Spearmint, cocoa, brambles and tar.

Bit aggressive on the palate.

Scala Coelli 2007

Perfumed nose. Dark fruit too, but good perfume.

Rustic, elegant palate, though a touch thin.

Mouchão 2006

Massive fruit extraction on the nose. Stewed? Confected?

More genuine on the palate.

Solar dos Lobos Grande Escolha 2008

Soft on the nose, gentle fruits. Bit of earth.

Big grippy tannic rustic brilliant Portuguese stuff.

Marias da Maladinha 2007

Fruit forward nose - cassis and bramble.

Gentle palate. Bit of a curveball. Subtle and charming.

Quinta do Francês 2008

Classic nose.

Good balance and mouthfeel. Nothing jumps out but the general harmony.

BTT 2009

Meaty and rubbery nose.

Meaty and rubbery palate. Weird.

Quinta das Bageiras Garrafeira 2001

Big and briary, minty, forest floory nose. Tired?

From bottle - better fruit, still mature, but more complete. Leathery, gripping but gentle, lovely red and black stone fruit. Brilliant.

Quinta dos Termos Selecção 2007

Black cherries and general secondaries.

Not grabbing me. Dusty.

Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional 2008

Cherries, cassis, woodland.

Quite warm. Big brash beautiful beast.

Quinta de Lemos White label 2007

Touch jammy on the nose.

Rich, enormous palate. Big, juicy stuff. Touch stewed but in a nice way. Saddle leather.

Munda Touriga Nacional 2008

Cherry nose again but with candy floss.

Lovely palate layered with cherries and tannin and a bit of candy.

Quinta da Falorca Lagar Reserva 2004

Touch fermenty on the nose.

Soft cherry palate with nice rounded notes. Still big, but gentle. Bright fruit.

Cabriz Reserva 2008

Nice nose and palate, but again, not jumping out.

Quinta do Corujão Reserva 2007

Dark nose, minty and brooding with black stone fruit and berries of darkness.

Again, lighter on the palate. Elegant, balanced and tasty. Dark fruit, polished tannins, nice perfume and lift. Great balance.

Meruge 2008

Not getting much on the nose. Dusting of fruit.

Gorgeous, gentle palate. Mature notes. Rounded. Lovely.

Adelaide 2008

Tar and bramble nose.

Ripe and dark fruit on the palate. Polished. Bit super-portuguese

Poeira 2008

Juicy nose.

So good, such balance of ripe fruit and tannin. Great elegance, juicy. Fantastic.

Batuta 2008

Closed nose. Dark though.

Touch thin and hot, but perhaps needs time.

Chryseia 2008

Heady, jammy fruit on the nose.

Big, but a touch simple.

Quinta do Portal Touriga Nacional 2009

Violet, flowery nose. The first of the day. Tea leaves and flowers.

Crunchy candied violets, purple flower petals.

Quinta do Noval 2007

Fleshy cherries.

Lovely mouthfeel, texture and structure that cradles the fruit.

Quinta da Romaneira Reserva 2008

Broody with mint herbs and dark fruit.Balanced, polished palate. Why does polish irk me so?

Pintas 2008

Quite ripe nose. Juicy, gets the taste buds going.

Intense juiciness, bursting stuff. The tannins take awhile to come through from it.

Quinta do Vale Meão 2008

Perfumed cherry and basil, sage and forest.

The palate is at another level. Soft and nuanced mouthfeel with stones and stone fruit slowly revealing over a long progression.

Quinta de Tecedeiras 2008

Minty pine and forest.

Pretty on the palate. Good balance, soft and long.

Quinta do Infantado Reserva 2008

Very deep nose.

Intense, concentrated dark fruit with touches of tea leaf and pipe tobacco on the finish.

Afros Vinhão 2009

Barn yard. Nose and palate.

Hexagon 2007

Soft, gentle. Nose & palate.

Vale d'Algares Selection 2008

Meaty, fruity nose.

Starts light and then builds, to bursting point.

Dúvida 2005

Fruit and wood varnish.

The palate explodes like a supernova and then collapses like a black hole, sucking all matter in the mouth and face back down the throat. Awesome and crazy.

Quinta do Ameal Special Harvest 2007

Yellow plums soaked in honey. Spearmint.

Tensile structure of a table wine. Sinewy and brilliant honey, figs and apricots with plum skin, baked lemons and a nice, textured stoniness underneath. Awesome.

Moscatel de Setúbal Supierior 10 Anos

Nice example of the style

Tasted at The Balmoral, 8/6/2011

Friday, March 23, 2012

Taylor's 2009 Tasting (with some 1985s and other odds and ends as well - woohoo!)

Nobody's talking about Port at the moment. The immense non-event of Bordeaux 2011 teeters above all of us in the trade like the sword of someone far more boring than Damocles and so most vinous thoughts are focused on the Gironde and not the Douro.

Pity, that. Port's awesome. I tasted some last summer and they were rather nice. I'm not sure why I've taken so long to post this, but there you go. With everyone dropping heaps of cash on re-scored Bordeaux, the savvy might find a bargain here.

Adrian Bridge, the Managing Director of Taylor Fladgate, was our host. Informed and charming, he explained that 2009 was special enough a vintage for the group to break with the '3 Declarations per Decade' tradition and declare a fourth vintage. I bit my pedantic tongue with regards to 2000 technically belonging to the previous decade due to there never having been a year '0'. Apparently, 2009 was a hot summer and harvest but never excessively so. It was also very dry, with low-yields and high concentration. Which is perfect for Port, as during ferment you have a very small amount of time to get maximum extraction.

There are no scores here - I rarely use them for a tasting like this. Also, there's no mention of colour for the 2009s, because they were all crazy dark.

Taylor's Skeffington 2009

Nose of plum and spiced apple with a nice mealy-fleshiness. Very apple-y.

Fleshy fruit but with a touch of bitterness that starts at the end of the mid-palate. Simple, pleasant, but probably wouldn't lay it down for more than 20 years.

Croft Vintage 2009

Dark and sweet on the nose, quite brooding. Hint of varnish. With air there's more apple and less varnish.

Big purity of fruit burst on the start, with all the secondaries and tannins coming through from that ripe, brash dark bramble and cassis. Intense and structured. 20-30 years before I'd really start enjoying it.

Fonseca Vintage 2009

Glazed meat with black cherries and plums. Quite stony. Floral notes as well- apple blossom on a warm, spring day.

Utterly delicious. Rich, layered fruits with superb purity that just flows from juicy to floral to rustic and back again. And then there's this awesome, bracing grip. The tannins lock down on the tongue, reminding you of its youth and that it's going to take time to come round. The first half of the palate is decadently drinkable. The second half reminds you that patience will be a virtue.

Taylor's Vintage 2009

Brighter fruit. More flower petals.

The palate is so elegant. Light, crunchy dark fruit crushed with violet and apple blossom petals. Superb structure and poise. The tannins kick in a touch earlier but they're sweeter than the Fonseca.

Taylor's Vargellas Vinha Velha 2009

Not a lot coming through on the nose. Bit of apple, bit of stoniness, bit of meat.

Um. Wow. Quite enormous. The grip jumps in from the start. The fruit and savoury just match each other step for step. Flower petals, cassis, pata negra, ground cloves and anise and all the bits and pieces are kind of turned up to 11. Depth, complexity and great stoniness. Incredibly intense, but also brilliant.


We then moved onto some older vintages, starting with a couple from my favourite vintage harvested in my lifetime, 1985.

Very large harvest in 1985 - 25,000 cases of Taylor's - as the weather was hot and the fruit abundant.

Interestingly, Taylor's still source from small holders who tread themselves. Fladgate still foot tread 2000 tons a year themselves - just for vintage though, not for 'wood ports'. There is three and a half days between picking and fermentation and all extraction has to come in that period.

Taylor's Vintage 1985

Slightly lighter than the Fonseca, but still intense and bright.

Quite hot on the nose, surrounded by glacé cherries and plums with red apple peel.

Creamy on the palate. Very luscious, with nice softness of the fruit. Cherries and strawberries with clotted cream surrounded by wood spice and cloves. A bit of tobacco leaf, touch of leather. The booze pops up on the finish, but a bit of cheese would sort that out no problem. Delicious.

Fonseca Vintage 1985

Lovely colour of ruby and translucent purple. It's lightened, but not rusted. Intense.

More perfumed, soft on the nose with a soothing spiciness to it. Still cherry-like.

There's such beautiful harmony and integration. Candied cherries, roast plums and toffee apples, coated with cinnamon and spearmint. There is still that lovely creaminess and again a hit of booze on the finish, but it's softer and more liqueur-y. I think this pips the Taylor's to the post.

Croft 1991

Still deep colour, though a bit stewed looking (no bits or anything, just a bit)

Like a massive slab of cured ham or beef glazed with a cherry jam.

Nice, fleshy palate. Dark cocoa and plums, with quite soft tannins and really nicely integrated fruit. There are some bitter tones that come out with coaxing, but not unpleasantly. Minty. Quite charming.

Croft Roeda 1997

Dark. Ruby edges.

Black fruits and caramel on the nose.

Quite simple, dark and pleasant. Doesn't go anywhere in particular, but it's nice.

Fonseca Panascal 1998

Nice maturity on the colour.

Hot and savoury nose. Hot salt beef and roasted red apples, laden with plums.

Very much follows through from the palate. Savoury, meaty with stewed fruit. Not a huge amount of structure. Small hit of mint on the finish.

Fonseca Guimarens 1996

Youthful colour.

Bit mute on the nose. Touch of mothball.

Soft and light on the palate, relatively speaking. There's a lot of secondary mint and mothball and a bit of heat too. It's also a bit drier than expected. Not in a bad way, but all of it results in being a touch thin.

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2001

Young and dark.

Quite serious on the nose. Young, dark and a bit broody. Dark fruits.

Palate is superb, bright but dark fruit integrated with youthful but curbed tannins. The structure is table wine like. Good length and spectacular purity. Nice one.

Taylor's Quinta de Terra Feita 1999

Quite earthy and rustic on the nose. Berries and brush, forest floor.

Nice dominance of sweet secondaries surrounding the fruit, giving it structure and providing a nice elegance. 

Tasted at The Bonham in Edinburgh, 14/6/2011

Thursday, March 22, 2012

revisiting Ausone 1988

I *think* I have one of these left in my cellar. I hope so, as it's rather lovely.

Good red-rustiness on the rim with nice brilliance and depth at the core.

Black pepper and tobacco leaves on the nose that give way to cassis and cherries. There's a nice dustiness to it as well as stained leather. Great secondaries.

Harmony on the palate - cedar and cinnamon roasted pipe tobacco wrapped around red cherries and blackcurrants. The fruit rises quickly with still-gripping acidity and juiciness but it's quickly followed by savoury notes and winter-spiced tannins that don't linger on the edges but instead ride the fruit along the tongue - which is what gives that fantastic feel of harmony. It leads to a finish of both fruit and spice that lingers with a dusty, leathery touch. Long and warm.


Tasted at Shorehead with a cracking roast chicken and trimmings, 30 October 2011

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vin Jaune Clos des Grives 1998 Claude Charbonnier

My knowledge of the Jura is limited to the whisky of its namesake in the Hebrides, basic winemaking techniques (flor is encouraged, as in Jerez) and that they have a grape called Savignin, which I try very hard not to pronounce 'Sauvignon'.

Vin Jaune (literally, 'yellow wine') interests me because of its superficial sherry-like qualities. I love sherry-like qualities, superficial or not.

Jaune. Huge surprise - quite rich as well.

Oaty, porridge-y, Fino-y nose.

Hay & biscuits and salted shortbread. Touch of damp mint leaf as well.
Intense and mouth-filling. Like salted gravel wrapped in hay and roasted limes. Tasty stuff, but pricey. Not sure I 'get' the wine style yet, and it's a big investment to further discover. Any Jura-heavy tastings out there?

Tasted at Luvians Bottleshop, 23 November 2011

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lambrusco, the next big thing, bored wine folks and the circle of life

It's not their fault. There is a low ceiling of subject matter for wine writers. I've grumbled about this in the past, finding myself bored with tastings and my own tasting notes to the point despair. Wine exists in cyclical form, the growing season to the harvest to the winter and pruning and back to the growing season. The trade and press exist also in a cyclical form. The year starts with Burgundy en Primeur, followed by Bordeaux en Primeur. By the time Bordeaux en Primeur is finished you have, in alternative order, rosé, zingy summer whites and BBQ reds to cover, before slipping in maybe a light reds that go great with salads and seafoods. Dotted throughout will be Champagne releases. If it's a really fun year, some Vintage Port releases (with the standard explanations of declared vintages, the three a decade rule guideline, the difference between ruby and tawny etc) may be available.

And then autumn comes. Hark the Nebbiolo sings, with the sneak previews of Burgundy en Primeur peeking around November. After that we have the top billion Christmas wines list, endless nonsense about detox and we're back at the Burgundy en primeurs. Like high-priced, limited quantity, endlessly appellation'd phoenixes from the ashes the prices soar and reactions range from delirious excitement to calloused cynicism and everything in between.

It gets repetitive, it gets boring and even the most enthusiastic of wine writers/tasters/buyers/merchants grow weary. We need something new to write about, read about and taste. The Next Big Thing becomes the next big thing and so here, there and everywhere, throughout the press and blogosphere Lambrusco emerges, not for the first time, as the world's most criminally neglected wine suffering from consumer misconception and if-you-don't-get-in-on-it-quick-then-my-goodness-the-price-will-double-once-the-masses-rush-out-and-demand-high-quality-sparkling-Italian-red. Ancient sales ledgers are inevitably produced, showing how top Lambrusco once matched Champagne in price as it was held in similar regard. To be fair, ancient sales ledgers are used all over the place for such things, be it in Beaujolais to prove top Crus once cost as much as top village Côte d'Or or in the Rhône to show people bought new oak before Parker, but there you go.

I should say now that Lambrusco is today's example - others include the Lagrein grape, all the wines in Alsace (which have suffered from the 'how do we get consumers to understand how awesome these are' problem forever), Sherry (mmmmmm…), Hunter Valley Semillon, Savennières and pretty much every other once-lauded-now-less-so region or varietal.

And so we all talk about Lambrusco for awhile - not the bulk rubbish, but the real thing. We taste (But possibly don't drink) a bunch and find it fairly remarkable. Tactile, grippy red fizz that would go brilliantly with this, that or the other. Independent merchants get a few in and push it for a month or two before the dust settles on the last 2 or 3 bottles on the shelf that sit there until it gets put on bin-end before the big Bordeaux promotion kicks off.

Too soon and it's forgotten. Something else comes along, and that's ok because Romorantin and Cour-Cheverny have been overlooked for too long.

Not anymore, though. It's the next big thing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Givry 1er Cru Clos des Bois Chevaux 1999 Joblot

From a cache of bottles I stuck in the cellar years ago.

Just the faintest hint of rust, but still quite dark Burgundy.

Initially very gamey, shitty & farmyardy. This blows off, and rich, cherry/strawberry glazed savoury meats come through.

The palate is as elegant as the nose is brusque. Soft red fruit tied seamlessly with dusty tannins and great, herby, spicy secondaries. The fruit still has great crunch. Nice balance, rustic - but not sloppy. Great sinewy length. Textured, deep, nourishing. Superb, but better with food.


Tasted at Naughton, 16/3/2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Champagne Paul Bara Special Club 2002

So we really didn't know much about this when we opened it. That's a good thing. I like surprises. Champagne that surprises is a bonus. A cursory bit of research revealed the blend - 70% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay - all coming from the brilliantly named Grand Cru village of Bouzy.

Nicely deep gold. Looks a bit more mature than I expected. Medium mousse with a bit of a rush to the bubbles.

Tiny wild strawberry nose, with shortbread and a wee bit of cep dust. Generous and inviting.

Ripe, juicy red fruits - strawberries and currants - that burst and crunch at first, slipping back and picking up biscuit and shortbread flavours and feel. Silky and beautifully put together. The mousse carries it all with a gentle touch - like carbonated clotted cream. Fruit and secondaries are all well integrated and then there's this lovely lift and lightness to it all. Really fantastic. Sexy, elegant, more-ish, balanced and beautiful. Delicious.


Tasted at Naughton 16/3/2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jacques Selosse Lieux Dits Mesnil-Sur-Oger 'Les Carelles' Grand Cru Extra Brut.

Wine tasting is often laden with expectation. Experience does little to assuage this, though it probably should. It's a double-edged sword: experience can enforce pre-conceptions whilst also exposing the taster to more and more peculiarities that don't fit that palate's world-view.

I approached this wine with a degree of expectation. Selosse and his wines are legendary in Champagne circles, both for their quality and their divisiveness. His vinification techniques seem more at home further south, on the Cote d'Or. Devotion to detail in both the vines and the winery is his hallmark.

Information on this cuvée is few and far between. Selosse's Lieux Dits are small parcels of superb vineyards in various Grand Cru villages, parcels he took control of at the beginning of the last decade. Initially released as vintage wines, as reserves have built up he has started using the solera system favoured in Jerez (and that he uses for his 'Substance' cuvée). I couldn't find production numbers, but from what I understand the bottling is infinitesimal and strictly allocated. This particular wine is 100% Chardonnay.

We served this a bit differently. Kept in the fridge for only 15 minutes, the wine was cool, but not chilled, when first poured. We then put it in an ice bucket and it got colder as we topped up. The effect was interesting.

As far as my expectations go, I thought it would be bracing and grippy. Selosse is known to keep dosage to a minimum. So as we were examining the bottle and peeling the foil off, I prepared myself for cerebral, piercing bubbly.

Quite rich and golden colour, medium bubbles with excitement.

Nose is farmyardy in a pleasant way. Mushrooms, strawberries, salt caramel, prickly quince and herbal honey.

Full, broad, rich, toasty palate with bubbles forming the impression of a honeycomb lattice. Roast apricots. Brioche with light butter. Very soft and silky. There's almost a maltiness to it. Strikingly low acidity- luscious, giving and very much a 'now' wine. Foie gras please? My expectations are confounded. Instead of a 'thinking' wine, this is every bit a 'feeling' wine. As it gets colder, it gets racier but far less expressive. There's also a peculiar powdered sugar finish that comes in with the cold. Much of what makes this wine is lost with the chill, and I would say it should be drunk no colder than cellar temperature.


Tasted somewhere in Fulham, 29 February 2012