Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 21 December 2011

1988 Hugel Alsace Riesling Vendange Tardive, France
This 23-year-old, late-harvest riesling was one of the joint highest scorers, with 94/100 points, in The Wine Gang’s November report It’s a fascinating, food-friendly wine, not least because it doesn’t actually taste sweet. It has honey, beeswax and apricot flavours and a rich, almost oily texture, which all indicate noble rot, but the lemon and lime intensity, the petrolly mineral notes and zesty, crystalline acidity make it taste little more than off-dry (12.5% abv).  
To prove the point, at The Wine Society’s annual festive dinner in London last week, at which the wines of Hugel were matched to the cooking of Emile Jung (3 Michelin stars when he was at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg), it was served with zander and mousseline of pike with crayfish tails in a riesling sauce. (I know what you’re thinking: what a tough life I do lead. Thanks, it’s nice to be appreciated.) You could also drink it as an aperitif or with a hard cheese such as Cheddar or Parmesan. Etienne Hugel said that the reason Hugel still has stock of this (The Wine Society shipped it only recently) is that the vintage was overshadowed by the more showy 1989 and 1990 vintages. The other wine served with the zander-pike-crayfish dish was Hugel’s 2005 Riesling Jubilee – a brilliant match. It's not currently on the Society’s website, but you can order it by phone (01438 741177; code AL6301, £22 a bottle).  
Another useful (and delicious) discovery was pinot gris with artichoke, a veg which can be so tricky with wine. The 2005 Hugel Pinot Gris Jubilee (£11 for 37.5cl; 14% abv) was seamless with the artichoke which accompanied pressed duck, ceps and celeriac purée. The 2009 Jubilee Pinot Noir, also served, was particularly good with the bird itself (the Society has bought this wine but isn’t listing it yet – it has plenty of time to go).

A few more festive treats.
2007 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana, Italy
If you haven’t bought your red for the goose or turkey yet, this lush, velvety Tuscan would do the trick, although you could equally well serve it with beef or venison (I had it with beef cheeks braised in red wine with shallots and chestnuts). Or put it aside for Christmasses to come. It’s cabernet franc and merlot (half the blend), with cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, alicante, syrah and petit verdot from biodynamically cultivated vineyards in the hills behind Cecina. Apart from being fleshy and supple with soft tannins, it’s fragrant and spicy with fresh blueberry fruit and touches of herbs and chocolate (14.5% abv).
£39, Berry Bros & Rudd

2010 Atalayo do Mar Godello, Monterrei, Galicia, Spain
Godello is probably never going to make waves like albariño – there’s far less of it planted for a start – but it’s a dry white to look out for. This one, from old vines fermented with wild yeasts and aged on its lees for two months, has a light spritz and mouthwatering saline freshness, citrus peel, peach and apricot fruit, creamy texture fruit and lemon/lime finish (13% abv).
£10.99, Virgin Wines

2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut, Champagne, France
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at how good this vintage Veuve is, but I was. The honeyed, toasty nose leads into a palate that balances freshness with sweet, elegant fruit, rich, spicy, toasted-hazelnut flavours and fine, appley acidity. Perfect now, but with years in it (12% abv).
£45.29, selected Sainsbury’s, and Ocado; £48.88, Fortnum & Mason

2010 Blind River Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Dark, full and rounded with succulent, sweet cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, a satin-smooth texture and a more savoury, nutty, spicy character that, given some age, will probably become more gamey. 
£14.99 if you buy any 2 bottles of New Zealand Wine (otherwise £18.74), Majestic

Sunday, December 18, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 18 December 2011

As usual the Co-op, or The co-operative, as it brands itself, has some very good Christmas offers. Below are four of the reds; prices valid until January 3 inclusive.

2006 Marqués de Valido Rioja Reserva, Spain
Attractive, mature, soft-textured Rioja with sweet, spicy fruit set against savoury, smoky, meaty, notes and nutty, slightly resiny oak. 13% abv.
£5.49 (down from £10.99)

2009 Château Brassac, Bordeaux Supérieur, France
Easygoing, modern-style, Merlot-dominated Bordeaux. Ripe, smooth black fruit with a soft, dry, cedary edge; clean and supple. 13% abv.
£6.99 (down from £11.99)

2005 Château Saint-Paul, Haut-Médoc, France
Nicely dense, harmonious cru bourgeois with textbook blackcurranty fruit, savoury, spicy, cigar-box flavours and modulated tannins. Balanced and well sustained. Perfect now, but it’ll be on form for another three or four years. 13% abv.
£9.99 (down from £14.99)

2010 La Grange St Martin Côtes du Rhône Réserve, Rhône, France
Rounded, juicy, peppery red with an undertow of spiced hot-chocolate. Made largely with fruit from their own vineyards by the Perrin family of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate Château Beaucastel. £13% abv.
£5.99 (down from £10.99)

And now for something completely different:
2011 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Superb new vintage from Kevin Judd. Tinglingly fresh, juicy elderflower, herb and lemon flavours with a mouthwatering saline, mineral character and a fine chalky texture. Great length and presence. Just one criticism: a bottle weighing 727g when the average is abut 500g. This wine is far too good for a macho, heavy bottle.
£15.99 from independents (Swig, Taurus Wines, The Secret Cellar and many more)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 7 December 2011

Two of the wines I tasted from The Wine Society’s Small Wonders 6-bottle case of reds from around the world have already run out and been replaced by others, so if you want a case – and I highly recommend it – you’d better be quick. It costs £89, which is great value. One of the replacements, 2008 Katnook Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, I haven’t tasted, but here are brief notes on the the other five. All can be drunk now, but there’s no hurry over any of them.

2004 Château Ampélia, Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France
Cedar, cocoa, spice and black fruit. Dry, soft but structured, polished and fresh on the finish. Perfect for drinking now and over the next two or three years. 13% abv. 

2007 Lanzaga, Rioja, Spain
Lovely cherry perfume and fruit on the palate, with liquorice, spice, chocolate and vanilla. Supple and fleshy, but with a firm central core. Impressive modern Rioja that will provide a good five years of drinking pleasure. Made by Telmo Rodriguez. 14% abv.
(£14.95 by the bottle)

2009 Mount Koinga Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Fragrant red berry and bergamot nose with honeyed redcurrant fruit on the palate and refined chocolaty richness. Pure and clean-edged. A single-vineyard made for The Wine Society by Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock. 13.5% abv.
(£17.70 by the bottle)

2007 Meandro do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal
The second wine of Quinta do Vale Meão, and very good it is. Deeply scented with violets and black fruit and touches of black olive and liquorice. Full and concentrated palate with dark fruit, chocolate and black pepper underscored by oak. Long, silky, supple. Drink any time over the next five years. 14.5% abv.
(£16 by the bottle)

2009 Mascarello Dolcetto D’Alba, Bricco, Piedmont, Italy
Full, succulent dolcetto packed with plum and cherry fruit and sweet-earth and undergrowth notes underpinned by fine, grainy, dry tannins. From the top of Mascarello’s Monprivato vineyard. Drink over the next three or more years. 14.5% abv.