Sunday, July 3, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 3 July 2011

A bit late this week, but last weekend I was in Paris tasting 6 decades of Penfold’s Grange and other Special Bin wines, starting with Penfolds Grange 1953 (stupendous) and the even rarer Grange Cabernet 1953 (outclassed by the shiraz-based Grange on this occasion, but it was the other way round when I last tasted both in 2003). Other highlights were the 1962 Bin 60A (dubbed ‘Australia’s greatest red’), 1990 Grange, 1996 Grange, ‘96 Block 42 Cabernet… to be continued in a full report in Decanter magazine. I’ll keep you posted when I know which issue. Oh, and the view was to die for – 7 floors up in the Australian ambassador’s residence looking straight out to the Eiffel Tower and over the Paris rooftops. Tony Bilson, from Sydney, cooked. Even without the wine, it was the best meal I’ve had this year (and one of the largest…). As I’ve said before, it’s a hard life.

Early Sunday morning I was heading back to London for a quick bag swap before heading to Gatwick to meet the rest of The Wine Gang for a flight to Croatia. We spent four days there doing benchmark tastings in Zagreb and visiting producers and wine regions. We tasted some really good wines and encountered some fascinating grape varieties – malvazia istriana, debit, graševina and gegić among the whites, and teran and plavac mali among the reds. If I find any are on sale, I’ll be recommending them in the coming weeks. If not, expect to start seeing more Croatian wines in the UK by the end of this year. The fruits of our tasting will be shown at the Croatian tasting in London in September. More details later.

On Friday, I was doing a food shoot all day for House & Garden Gourmet, our new food and wine magazine, coming out with the December issue of H&G. Yes, we work a long way ahead. And on Saturday… whatever happened to Saturday?

Coates & Seely Britagne Rosé Brut NV, England

Delightful, elegant English sparkling rose – the first release from a new producer, but an established vineyard, in the chalk downlands of Hampshire. It’s a pretty pale salmon, has lovely, fragrant raspberry fruit with a whisper of brioche in the background and zingy acidity, but not the tartness that sticks out like a sore thumb in some English sparkling wines. It’s a 65:35 blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier, made by the champagne method, or Méthode Britannique, as Coates and Seely refer to it. Britagne (pronounced brit-an-ye/Britannia) is the term they’ve coined for English champagne-style wines and they’re hoping other producers will adopt it. ‘They’ are Christian Seely, MD of Axa Millésimes, the wine-estate portfolio of Axa, the insurance giant, and Nicholas Coates, ex-banker, Hampshire resident and friend of Seely’s since their business school days in Fontainebleau.