Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wines for Christmas 2012, part 2

2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart, Champagne
Pale gold, fine bubbles, beautifully developed aromas and flavours of honey, biscuit and toast, candied orange and grapefruit and a hint of exotic spice. Supple texture supported all the way by a core of fine, lively acidity. Mature and delicious.
£78–£79.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, Jeroboams, Roberson

2011 Paparuda Pinot Noir, Timisoara, Romania
Pinot noir bargain of the year. Aromatic, fresh, juicy, cherry and strawberry fruit; clean, soft and more or less tannin-free; Beaujolais-esque.  A good wine for boxing day and a good party red. 13.5%.  There’s a Paparuda pinot grigio, too, which is not in the same league, but it’s good value, has some character and makes a useful party wine or aperitif.
£6.50, Tanners (Wine Rack and Adnams are currently out of stock online, but you might be lucky and find the odd bottle in a shop).

Brilliant Beaujolais:
Berry Bros & Rudd has a terrific range of 2011s. I’ve highlighted just a handful below, The L C Desvignes Morgon Côte de Py really deserves to be kept another two years for the densely packed exotic black fruit, savoury mineral notes and firm tannins to unfold. The first three are all delicious now but could be kept at least three years – even the Chatoux if you wanted to.
2011 Alain Chatoux Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, 12.5%. £10.95
2011 Château Grange Cochard Morgon Vieilles Vignes, 13%. £13.95
2011 Domaine Julien Sunier Fleurie, 12.5%. £19.50
2011 Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes Morgon Côte de Py, 13%. £17.25

In contrast to the youngsters above:
2009 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly, Les Griottes de Bulhie
Griottes by name, griottes (cherries) by flavour and burgundian in style. Rich, ripe, velvety Beaujolais that has develeoped a red burgundy sweetness and savoury flavour as it has matured – and it still has three or four years in it. 12.5%.
£16, The Wine Society

2009 Churchill’s Estates Douro, Portugal
Stylish, oak-matured red from port producer Churchill’s. A nose of violets and black fruits and a full, rounded, very silky palate with vanilla-framed fruit underpinned by classic Douro mineral notes. Could be one for Christmas goose. 14%.
£10.95 Tanners

2010 Tanners Douro Red, Portugal
A smart move by Tanners – an own-label Douro red made for it by Duorum, a joint venture between João-Portugal Ramos and José Maria Soares Franco. Medium-bodied with a fresh, smoky aroma, flavours of blueberry, liquorice and cocoa and soft tannins.
£7.90, Tanners

2008 Miguel Torres Cordillera Carignan Reserva Privada, Maule, Chile
Fruit from carignan vines up to 80 years old blended with a little merlot and syrah. Concentrated, ripe and peppery with ripe black fruit, a rich texture, and velvety tannins lifted by fresh acidity on the finish. 14%.
£12.95, Amps Fine Wines

2007 Torres Mas La Plana, Penedès, Spain
Very young, but an excellent Mas La Plana and a benchmark cabernet sauvignon. A rigorous but fine-boned structure and polished oak underscoring deep cassis fruit, liquorice, spice and sweet cigar-box flavours. Great ageing potential. 14%.
£30, Majestic (fine wine range)

2010 La Báscula Turret Fields Monastrell & Syrah, Jumilla, Spain
Warm, full and fleshy, oak-aged red with blueberry fruit, vanilla, peppery spice and very soft tannins. What makes this stand out from the big-bold-ripe crowd is its definition and freshness. La Bascula is a Spanish collaboration between Bruce Jack from South Africa and Ed Adams, a British Master of Wine. 14.5%.
£9.95, The Old Bridge Wine Shop
There’s a white, too, which is just as good, again combining flesh with freshness: 2011 La Bascula Catalan Eagle Garnacha Blanca Viognier from Catalunya (13%), £9.99, Noel Young Wines.

2009 Las Moras Viognier, San Juan, Argentina
Very fresh, lightly honeyed sweet wine with succulent apricot and peach fruit and zesty orange acidity. Good with sweet (but not too sharp) apple desserts, fruit salad and fruit-and-meringue combinations. 11.5%.
£9.99 for 50cl, Virgin Wines

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wines for Christmas 2012, part 1

Champagne and sparkling
2000 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs
An effortlessly complex, elegant but rich, all-chardonnay grand cru. Tremendous length. For me, this was the star of The Wine Gang’s recent Prestige Champagne event.
£140. 75, Corking Wines (Yorkshire), and others

Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs, Avize, Champagne
Fine-boned chardonnay champagne from the grand cru of Avize. Delicately biscuity, creamy and supple with notes of crisp, candied citrus, peach and apple. Good value.
£25.99, Cadman Fine Wines

Krug Grande Cuvée, Champagne
I tasted Krug for the first time in ages recently. I’d forgotten how good it is – such depth of flavour and texture – but even better was the bottle that had been released three of four years earlier. More honeyed and biscuity yet still ineffably fresh.
£127.00, Waitrose

2006 Louis Roederer Brut, Champagne
The pinot noir (70% of the blend) gives a dense, smooth wine-like quality to this Roederer vintage, alongside succulent fruit, flavours of brioche and toasted hazelnut and minerally acidity.
£44.10, Tanners, and others.

2008 Le Soula (white), Pays des Côtes Catalanes-Fenouillèdes, Roussillon, France
Fascinating, complex wine. Lemon, spicy resin and oak aromas. A dry, full, supple-textured palate with stony mineral and citrus flavours and dazzling natural acidity. Long and still quite tight. It’s made from tiny yields of 23-year-old bush vines, grown high up and free from pesticides and chemical fertilisers on decomposed granite. The blend is just over a third each of sauvignon blanc and macabeu with vermentino (19%), grenache gris and blanc, marsanne, roussanne, malvoise de roussillon and chardonnay. Vinification is traditional with natural yeasts. Aged partly in oak (some new) and partly tank, 18 months on lees.  Unfined, light filtration.  
£23.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, and others

2011 Domaine Saparale Corse Sartène, Corsica, France
This is an unoaked vermentino, a grape variety on a roll (yes, I know, one of its synonyms is rolle).  Good examples like this combine a richness of texture with pithy acidity, aromatic herb and lemon flavours and a sea-salty tang, although that could be because it’s often grown near the sea. A great wine for Christmas eve if you’re having fish or seafood. 13.5%.
£13.70, Yapp Brothers

2011 Herdade de Esporão Verdelho, Alentejo, Portugal
Delicate jasmine scent with supple lime and grapefruit flavours. Medium-bodied and dry with a lick of grapefruit on the finish. Attractive, characterful verdelho. 13.5%.
£8.95, The Wine Society

2011 Valle Pradinhos Branco, VR Transmontano, Portugal
Unusual blend of gewurztraminer, riesling and malvasia fina from mature vineyards in the remote, hilly region of Trás-os-Montes near the Spanish border. Aromatic and floral with grape, spice and citrus flavours. Medium-full and smooth-textured, but lively and fresh with a lingering citrus finish. 13.5%. See also the Valle Pradinhos red below.
£10.95, The Wine Society

2011 Guerrieri Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Excellent single-vineyard Soave with some chardonnay adding richness to the garganega. Fresh, elegant, almond-nougat perfume and beautifully textured palate with nutty, lightly flavours. Real depth and length. 13.5%
£14.99, Fortnum & Mason

2011 Seven Springs Unoaked Chardonnay, Overberg, South Africa
It’s good to find a successful unoaked chardonnay outside Chablis. Not an easy to style to get right, but this works well. It’s round and soft-textured, but reassuringly crisp, with bright, well-defined, pineappley fruit framed by a gentle cashew-nut flavour and a hint of vanilla, although not the vanilla you get from oak. 13%. See also the syrah below and try the sauvignon blanc, a very pure, clean-cut, cool-climate style. Went well with a risotto which included fennel bulb.
£11.95, Bijou Bottles (Norfolk)

2012 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
The fourth vintage and another benchmark.  Intense, fragrant sugarsnap pea and lemongrass flavours with a minerally, slightly salty undertow. Very fresh and nervy, but with textural depth and breadth.
£16.49, Noel Young Wines, and others.

1999 Château Grate-Cap, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Mature Pomerol at a modest price. Perfumy and floral on the nose with plummy fruit and a distinctive sweet-herb character. Dry but ripe tannins and a minerally finish. Grate-Cap is a small estate near Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin. Illustrious neighbours indeed.
£19.99, Majestic

2010 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Polish, layered pinot noir with succulence and depth. Rose and sweet spice perfume, ripe red-berry fruit framed by elegant oak and a satin-smooth palate with  palate.
£25.00, but on offer at £19.99, Majestic

2010 Domaine Vincent Paris Granit Cornas, Rhône, France
Lovely Cornas. Raspberry, pepper and savoury, meaty, minerally notes. Great depth and presence. Can be drunk now, but worth laying down for five years. 13%. Not expensive.
£264 per case, Laithwaites

2010 Valle Pradinhos Porta Velha, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal
Medium-bodied, rounded, fresh, spicy and mineral, with plum/damson fruit and a hint of star anise. Dry, grown-up wine. Made from estate-grown Touriga nacional and tinta roriz (aka tempranillo). 13%.
Went well with a Peruvian recipe for slow-baked, chilli-spiked lamb with pulses and lentils (recipe by Louisa Carter in October 2012 House & Garden). See also the Valle Pradinhos white above.
£7.50, The Wine Society

2008 Quinta Lagoalva de Cima Alfrocheiro, Grande Escolha, VR Tejo, Portugal
A dry, savoury red with herb, licorice and mineral notes, damson-like fruit, a suggestion of leather and  light, dry tannins. 13.5%.
Went well with slow-roast hand of pork with fennel and piment doux. Would be good with a baked Christmas ham too.
£14.95, The Wine Society

2010 Seven Springs Syrah, Overberg, South Africa
Impressive result from very young vines. Cassis, woodsmoke and vanilla perfume, with crunchy black fruit, smoke, liquorice and fresh herbs on the palate. Some tannin and quite marked acidity but both softened by 12 months’ oak ageing. Good with prosciutton and with grilled and roast red meat. 14%.
£13.95, Bijou Bottles (Norfolk)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Join me for a prestige Champagne tasting

Imagine tasting Dom Pérignon and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne in the same night. Dream on? OK, let’s add Bollinger La Grande Année, Gosset Grande Réserve and Laurent-Perrier Rosé to the line-up. Cloud cuckoo land? No, The Wine Gang’s Prestige Champagne Tasting on Tuesday
11th December in central London. It’s from 6–9pm, giving the five of us time to present 10 great Champagnes, two from each of the five houses, and time to break for canapés and a chat with our select group of attendees. There’s even a goodie bag to take home which includes a bottle of Champagne from one of these five great houses.

Drool over the detailed programme and then the full tasting list below, but don’t spend too long because the event is strictly limited to 30 participants, however many ticket applications. 

Nitty gritty: tickets cost £130 per person, to include all of the above (see full list of Champagnes below). Send an email to telling us how many tickets you require. We will hold the tickets and issue BACS or cheque payment instructions. Alternatively you may pay instantly, using credit or debit card

6.00pm    Champagne and canapés on arrival
6.30pm    Introductions, overview of Champagne, the region, soils, styles…
6.45pm    Champagne Bollinger
7.05pm    Champagne Laurent-Perrier
7.25pm    Champagne Dom Pérignon
7.45pm    Break and canapés, chance to talk with The Gang
8.05pm    Champagne Gosset
8.25pm    Champagne Taittinger
8.45pm    The Wine Gang's Tips on buying for Christmas, New Year & special occasions
9.00pm    Close (and head off with goodie bag!).

Champagnes to be tasted
1. Gosset Grande Réserve
2. Gosset Grand Rosé
3. Dom Perignon Vintage 2003 Blanc
4. Dom Perignon Vintage 2000 Rosé
5. Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année 2004
6. Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2004
7. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc des Blancs 2000
8. Taittinger Prélude Grands Cru NV
9. Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé
10. Champagne Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2004

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

White wine gems from the cellar, 17 July 2012

White wines from whenever… Whites from the cellar, pulled out more or less randomly recently. The inspiration was a 2000 Le Faite Saint-Mont that I thought was a 2006 when I chose it (the other six bottles were). The 2000 turned out to be stunning. If it goes on like this I'll give up drinking young whites. And reds.

2004 Millton Gisborne Chenin Blanc, Te Arai Vineyard, Gisborne, New Zealand
Buttercup yellow. Honeyed pineapple and grapefruit. Unctuous texture. Thrilling, fresh, lemon-sherbet acidity. Long. 12.5%.  94/100

1990 Mitchelton Marsanne, Gouburn Valley, Victoria , Australia
A museum release, but I don’t know when from. Golden in colour. Honeyed but fresh nose. Intense, honeyed citrus and green fruit on the palate. Some spice and the gentlest of rancio notes. Concentrated, dry, fresh, very long.  No abv given.  93/100

1994 Muré Clos St Landelin Tokay-Pinot Gris Grand Cru Vorbourg, Alsace, France
Pale, very clear buttercup yellow. Rich, honey and smoke nose with savoury touches of dried cèp and truffle. Opulent lychee and peach fruit, unctuous texture. Very concentrated, with dazzling, bright acidity. Very long, rich, concentrated and fresh. 13%.  95/100

1999 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg, Alsace, France
Rich, ripe, tropical fruit salad aromas and flavours. Spicy ginger notes. Very full, dense and unctuous, but has acidity to balance it. Quite a lot of residual sugar – medium-sweet. No clue as to alcohol or style. Tatty label, so may have lost abv.  93/100

1988 Weingut Brundlmayer Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling Kabinett, Kamptal, Austria
Mid-gold. Candied peel, lemon and delicate honey together with intense mineral flavour – almost petrol but not quite. Light-bodied, high acid, medium dry. Still very much alive, but not as complex as it might be; very slightly tinny. 11.6% abv.  89/100

1994 Muré Clos St Landelin Tokay-Pinot Gris grand Cru Vorbourg, Alsace, France
Pale, very clear buttercup yellow. Rich, honey, smoky nose with savoury dried cèp and truffle notes. Opulent lychee and peach fruit, unctuous texture. Very concentrated, with dazzling, bright acidity. Very long, rich, concentrated and fresh. 13%.  95/100

2007 Les Crêtes Petite Arvine, Valle d’Aosta, Italy
This has acquired some colour – medium primrose, but still completely bright and clear. Intriguing nose – fresh but slightly bruised apples, cooked pears, fennel seed and grapefruit. Medium-bodied, smooth-textured, high acid with apple and pear fruit and minerally, green tapenade notes. 12.5%.  91/100
Not particularly old but no longer available. Les Caves de Pyrène has the 2009. AG Wines has the 2010.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wines of whenever, 16 July 2012

The observant among you will notice that I’ve renamed this slot Wines of Whenever. No need to explain why and no excuses for absence. Here is a selection of wines, as it happens all Spanish and French, that I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. The scoring follows The Wine Gang 100-point system: bronze, 85–88; silver, 89­–92; gold, 93–100.

First, some very good whites from Bodegas Terras Gaudas in Galicia:
2010 Terras Gaudas La Mar, Rías Baixas, Spain
Exceptional wine. Pale straw. Not a lot on the nose, but lovely, salty, fresh palate. Supple, round, textured, almost slightly oily, but firm structure. Lemon peel fruit, a slight nuttiness and long, sea-salty, citrus zest and white pepper finish. Very mineral. Desert island wine. 12.5% abv.  93/100
It’s made largely from caiño branco, a variety that Terras Gaudas, working with the Spanish National Research Council and the (slightly ominous sounding) Galician Biological Mission, has helped save from extinction. Terras Gaudas has more than 20 hectares of it, which is most the plantings. Apparently, it’s tricky and expensive to grow – hence its almost total disappearance in favour of albariño. Albariño makes up about 15% of this blend, loureiro the remaining few percent.
£26, Les Caves de Pyrène

2011 Terras Gaudas Abadia de San Campio Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain
100% albarino. Very fresh, with white flowers and peaches on the nose, pears, lemon and a hint of spice on the palate. Light-medium body, reviving clean finish. 12.5%.  89/100
£13.50, Les Caves de Pyrène

2011 Terras Gaudas O Rosal, Rías Baixas, Spain
70% albarino, 20% caiño branco, 10% loureiro. Very aromatic: smells of very fresh pears and apples. Tastes of fresh, sweet pear with herbs (rosemary and thyme) and white peach. There's a succulence to the fruit, a smoothness and gentle roundness to the mid-palate texture then a fresh, lively, citrus finish. 12.5%.  91/100
£14.95, Les Caves de Pyrène

Terras Gaudas also owns Bodegas Pittacum in Bierzo, where it makes reds from old mencía vines. They’re impressive – monumental, concentrated, high in oak and alcohol – but as far as drinking is concerned they’re not really my style. The one I liked the most was the least oaky, least alcoholic, least expensive):
2007 Pittacum Mencía, Bierzo, Spain
Damson, blueberry spice and minerals on the nose. Rich fruit, thick texture, velvety tannins and smoky, vanilla oak on the palate, but then a long, fresh, black pepper and mineral finish. 14.5%.   90/100 
£12.75, Les Caves de Pyrène

2010 Valdesil Montenovo Godello, Valdeorras, Spain
Another wine from Galicia, but made from godello, a relatively little known and untravelled grape variety. Fresh as a breeze with lemon, apple and apricot fruit and a lovely wheaty character to give it substance in the middle. 12.5%.  90/100
£9.99, or £7.99 if you buy 2 bottles, Majestic

2008 Château Trillol, Corbières, France
Deep, youthful purple colour. Open, aromatic nose with spice, garrigue, wood-smoke and carignan’s perfumy, slightly varnishy notes. Full, ripe and smooth on the palate with black fruit, black pepper and touches of liquorice and leather. It’s grenache, syrah, carignan blend (38:34:28) and is ready now, but there’s no hurry. The property belongs to the Sichel family of Château d’Angludet in Margaux.  14%.  90/100
£8.95. The Wine Society; £9.75, or £8.75 if you buy 2 cases, From Vineyards Direct

2009 Domaine Aléofane Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône, France
A ripe, full-bodied style with a silky rich middle and fine tannins, but brimful of authentic Crozes character – smoke and black pepper notes, a long mineral finish, and violets and black cherry fruit. The vines are old, the yeasts are wild and it’s bottled unfines and unfiltered by Natacha Chave, founder, owner and winemaker of this jewel of a domaine. 14%.  91/100
£17.95, Roberson

2009 Château Barreyres, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France
Dark in colour with appetising, dark, rich, black fruit flavours and a freshening lift of something green but not unripe. Balanced, clean and nicely rounded out with oak. A good example of a cru bourgeois from this excellent vintage. Perhaps not an obvious choice for summer, but it hasn’t been very obvious that it’s summer. 13.5%.  89/100
£11.49, selected Sainsbury’s

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wines of the Week, 17 May 2012

It’s ages since I put up some wine recommendations, not because there haven’t been any to write about but simply because there doesn’t seem to have been any time. There’s not a lot now, so I’ll keep the notes brief. First, some rosés:

Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé Brut
It goes to show that you have to taste with an open mind. I’ve never been particularly impressed by Nicolas Feuillatte, but this pink fizz is a delight. Not complex, but lovely, pure, pinot noir summer berry flavours, a soft texture and an appetisingly clean finish. £32, or £27 when you buy two, Majestic

2011 Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube, Côtes de Provence
Maybe I’m just susceptible to the charms of Provence rosé, but they seem to get better every year. Yes, and more expensive, but at least I prefer this to the more expensive Secret de Léoube. It’s fresh and slightly herby with raspberryish fruit, a touch of orange peel and that silky mid-palate that makes the best so seductive.
£14.25, Corney & Barrow.

2011 Alpha Zeta ‘R’ Rosato Veronese
Deep pink, vibrant, juicy and cherryish rosé made from Valpolicella’s corvina grape. Lots of fun. Great value.
£5.50, The Wine Society

2011 L’Hydropathe Elite, Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire
The strange name of the top rosé from Domaine Sainte Lucie is matched by its odd-shaped bottle. Ignore both if you like your wines to look classic. The wine is a classic – very pale, floral, ripe and elegant, very supple with beautifully sweet, fresh red fruit. 
£15.95, Lea & Sandeman

Now some whites from south west France, by which I mean all the interesting parts south and east of Bordeaux – a great swathe of La France Profonde that confidently celebrates fascinating indigenous grape varieties and is, incidentally, the wine region I have known longer than any other. If you want to wines with personality, this region is a must.

2009 Le Faîte, Saint Mont
The latest vintage of this extraordinary, oaked and lees-aged white. Concentrated, complex and honeyed, but intensely tangy, fresh and dry, with flavours of orange, peach, candied peel and tropical fruit. It will age for years. I drank the 2000 last weekend and it was wonderful – very slightly rancio, yet still unarguably fresh. For the record, I had a hand in selecting the 2006, but with no commercial interest or gain whatsoever.
£16.99, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen

2011 Finest Côtes de Gascogne
Not a new wine, but I haven’t tasted it before, and it’s a delight. Mouthwatering citrus and quince tang with some Sauvignon gooseberry behind it. I always manage to find quince when I know there’s Gros Manseng about – in this there’s case 85%.
The producer is Grandissime.
£7.29, Tesco

2010 Château d’Aydie Odé d’Aydie, Pacherenc du Vic Bihl
Pacherenc du Vic Bihl is the dry wine of the Madiran region and I’m sure it would be better known if its name didn’t look as if someone had tripped over the keyboard. Let’s concentrate on the wine – full-bodied, vivid and zesty with the quince, dried-apricot, green fruit and mineral flavours subtly enriched by partial oak fermentation and bâtonnage.
If anyone knows of a stockist for this wine, please let me know.

Friday, April 13, 2012

WINES of the WEEK, 13 April 2012

Ridgeview South Ridge Blanc de Noirs, Sussex, England
A lovely glass of English fizz: the palest of apricot colours; rich apple and sweet apricot fruit; rounded, fleshy, yet beautifully tight and balanced. 12.5% abv.
£19.99, Laithwaites

2011 Innocent Bystander Moscato, Victoria, Australia
Deliciously grapey and fresh, peach-coloured, naturally effervescent and naturally low in alcohol (5.5% abv). Bring on the sunshine and drink with fresh fruit and fruit jellies. Crown cap.
£7.35 for 37.5cl, Philglas & Swiggot

2011 Yealands Estate Grüner Veltliner, Seaview Vineyard, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a bit shy on the nose, with just a light smoky pear aroma and leafy freshness, but it makes up for it on the palate. Not that it’s a showy wine, but there’s real intensity and integrity to the fruit (citrus and pear), a rich texture and a tight backbone of acidity. Yet another string to New Zealand’s bow, and to Yealands, the largest privately owned vineyard holding in New Zealand. 13.5% abv.
£11.49-£12.99, Aitkens Wines and others.

2009 Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Rhône, France
Years ago this was one of my regular house wines but other wines came along and I felt that it had rather gone off the boil. The 2009 has put it straight back on the shopping list. It’s dark and full with succulent black cherry fruit and lots of savoury black pepper, black tapenade and liquorice flavours. Rich, precise, structured and very syrah (it’s 50% syrah). It will easily keep five years. 14% abv.
£12.50,; £69.65 for 6, Waitrose is still on the 2007, but the ‘09 will follow.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pinot noir follow-up: Burn Cottage, 25 March 2012

2009 and 2010 Burn Cottage Pinot Noir, Central Otago
I wrote in the 18 March pinot noir blog that I hoped someone would start importing the pinots from this new Central Otago producer. Well, Caves de Pyrène is importing them and has the two vintages that have been released so far, 2009 and 2010. For me, the 2010 has the edge, but both wines are excellent – lovely, lifted, cherry, spice and orange pomander aromas; very elegant, silky and long, with a delicate underlay of oak. The 09 has developed a subtle, savoury, gamey note. The estate, owned by Americans Marquis and Dianne Sauvage, is in the foothills of the Pisa range and the first plantings were in 2003. They now include a little grüner veltliner and riesling and everything is farmed biodynamically. The winemaker is Ted Lemon, the burgundy-trained ex-manager of Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault and owner of Littorai in Sonoma.
£31.00, Les Caves de Pyrène

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wines of the Week – Pinot noir heaven, 18 March 2012

I spent the first few weeks of the year pretty much immersed in pinot noir: first at the 2010 burgundy en primeur tastings in London, reporting mainly for World of Fine Wine (out this week I think); then in New Zealand at this year’s Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration and visiting other South Island regions (there’s one beginning with M – remind me what it’s called); and then, a couple of weeks ago, visiting the Ahr region and attending Germany’s first International Pinot Noir Symposium (aka Spätburgunder Symposium).

What’s so exciting about Germany is the number of regions producing excellent pinots noirs. It’s not just Baden and the Pfalz, but the Ahr and even the Mosel and Franken. Here are some of the names to look out for: Meyer-Näkel, Nelles, Jean Stodden, Kreuzberg and Deutzerhof in the Ahr; Ziereisen, Dr Heger, Bernhard Huber and Karl H Johner in Baden; Knipser Johannishof and Ökonomierat Rebholz in the Pfalz; Markus Molitor in the Mosel; and Rudolf Fürst in Franken. Stockists of these wines are few and far between in the UK, and the wines aren’t cheap – the M&S Palataia below a notable exception – but if you put Spatburgunder in the search box on it comes up with quite a few. And although it’s not listing it yet, The Wine Society has bought some Meyer-Näkel.

If it had been any other grape variety, I’d been gasping for something else to taste and drink by the time I’d done this three-stage pinot noir assault course, but you can’t have too much pinot noir. Can you? I can’t. Below are some you can buy in the UK. I’m hoping that someone will start importing Burn Cottage pinot noirs from Central Otago – a biodynamic estate started in 2003; impressive first vintage in 2009 and an even more impressive 2010.

2011 Palataia Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany
Jewel-bright, ripe cherry and strawberry fruit with a hint of cranberry. Medium-bodied, supple, rounded, pure and very pretty. 13.5% abv. Great value.
£8.99, Marks & Spencer

2010 The Crater Rim Canterbury Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand
Fragrant, supple and pure, with plum and cherry fruit, sweet earth and aromatic herb flavours. The cheapest of The Crater Rim’s three pinot noirs from different regions of the South Island and very good value. 14% abv.
 £12.95, Lea & Sandeman

2009 Main Divide Pinot Noir, Waipara Valley, New Zealand
Main Divide is under the same ownership and stellar winemaking as Pegasus Bay (ie the Donaldson family), but is a cheaper label. The pinot noir, made in the same, burgundian way (small vats, hand-plunging, 18 months in burgundy-coopered barriques) has succulent cherry fruit, supported by spicy, toasty oak and a backbone of fine, velvety tannins and acidity. 14% abv.
£15.95, Imbibros

2010 The Crater Rim Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Fine-boned, fresh, young pinot from Central Otago’s wetter side. The oak is still showing in the chocolate, coffee and vanilla flavours, but just feel that lovely raspberry fruit and silky-smooth texture. 
14% abv.
£17.95, Lea & Sandeman

2009 Black Estate Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand
Full and rich, but crisply underpinned by its acidity and light tannins and with hints of truffle and game adding complexity to the black cherry fruit, spice and oak. 14.3% abv.
£26.75, Lea & Sandeman

2010 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
The entry-level pinot from Felton Road, the estate which vies with Rippon (below) for top billing in Central Otago and, like Rippon, is biodynamic. This is a blend of three sites in Bannockburn (and, for the record, ten clones and six rootstocks), whereas the other pinots are all single vineyards or blocks. It’s very young and really should be kept, but it’s hard to resist: crunchy, ripe-cherry fruit, exotic spicy notes, hints of raspberry, vanilla and fragrant herbs and satin-smooth tannins. 14% abv.
£28.50, Swig; £28.95, Tanners, £29.95, Lea & Sandeman

2009 Rippon Vineyards Mature Vine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Rose petals and sweet red berries with a touch of smokiness; ultra silky tannins; long, sleek and polished. Superb, complex pinot from this long-established and biodynamic estate. 
Drink over the next five years. 13.5% abv.
£31.95, Lea & Sandeman

Sunday, January 22, 2012

WINES of the WEEK, 22 January 2012

Just time to slot in a few recommendations before I head off to New Zealand for the Central  Pinot Noir Celebration, then to Waipara and Marlborough. Yes, it’s summer over there.

2010 Waipara West Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand
For those left behind in the UK, a delicious, elegant South Island pinot noir, tasted over Christmas. Deep in colour, fragrant with roses, raspberries, cherries and sandalwood. Fresh, pure, polished fruit on the palate. Rounded and velvety with delicate, well-integrated oak and a clean cranaberry/cherry finish.  13.5% abv.
£18, Waterloo Wines, Lords Wines, Greensmiths, Martinez Wines

2010 Weinrieder Riesling Bockgarten, Weinviertel, Austria
Very pale. Mouthwatering pear and apple aromas with hints of spice and an intense mineral and citrus character. Dry, mineral, citrusy palate with an undertow of barely ripe apricot and fine, sustained acidity. Long and structured. Drink over the next eight years. 13% abv.
£12.15, Waterloo Wines

2009 Montirius Vacqueyras Garrigues, Rhône, France
One of four 2009s I tasted from this excellent biodynamic estate at what turned out to be a very good tasting of French wines from producers belonging to the biodynamic Biodyvin association. This Vacqueyras (Montirius iincludes vineyards in Gigondas) is a Grenache/Syrah blend (70:30) and, like all the reds, is oak-free, which gives wonderful precision and purity. It’s 15% abv but carries it effortlessly in perfume, pepper, sweet fruit, meat, spice and through concentration and silky tannins.
£12.95, Bery Bros & Rudd

2011 Yalumba Y Series Vermentino, South Australia
If you’re looking out for something lower in alcohol, this is ideal – 11.5% abv, light, crisp and refreshing, with a gentle floral and pear nose and delicate grapefruit and pear flavours. For once I haven't been able to get the putative stockists to confirm (it's a Sunday, I'm about to go to NZ etc), but I've been assured that the following have taken delivery or ordered in the last six weeks, so you ought to be able to get it from them without (much) delay. 
The rrp is £8.99 and the retailers are Gwin Llyn Wines, Hoults Wine Merchants, Nidderdale Fine Wines, Reserve Wines, The Bottleneck. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

WINES of the WEEK, 2 January 2012

Three rare and distinctive champagnes that deserve to be savoured when there is plenty of time, rather than given to partying hordes over the festive season.

2001 and 2002 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses
Unusually, Clos des Goisses has released these two vintages at the same time. 2002 was a stellar vintage in Champagne and 2001 was a washout, but Clos des Goisses isn’t like other vintage champagnes. It comes from an 5.5-hectare grand cru vineyard overlooking the Marne – a steep, south-facing hillside, divided into walled plots that have an average temperature 1.5ºC warmer than the rest of Champagne. It’s the extra sun and warmth that encourage Philipponnat to make a vintage champagne from the Clos nearly every year, even after a wet summer like 2001.

Both 2001 and 2002 are 65% pinot noir and 35% chardonnay and were disgorged in June. There’s no doubt in my mind that the 2002 is the greater of the two – riper, more concentrated, yet steelier – but the 2001, which is drinking well now and will continue to do so for five years, has plenty of charm and finesse. The 2001 is lightly biscuity, creamy and smoky on the nose with honeyed fruit – a cross between slightly bruised pears and bletted medlars – and it has fine, citrusy acidity and a mineral, smoky note on the finish.
The 2002 is fresh and much more perfumed on the nose, with peach, brioche and exotic spice notes. The palate has a malty, creamy, milk-chocolate richness with touches of coffee bean, and tight, firm acidity and a mineral finish.
The rrp for the 2001 is £142.49, Bordeaux Index and Fine & Rare sell it. 
The rrp for the 2002 is £180.99, but Joseph Barnes Wine Direct, in Saffron Walden, has it at £135 per bottle, with free delivery when you spend £100 or more (according to the website);  Millésima has it at £880 for six.
Also available from the UK agent Les Caves de Pyrène.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois
This new cuvée is a blend of the three grape varieties, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier (nothing unusual there), but vinified entirely in oak barrels – a return to the past. It’s pale in colour with a nose rich in fruit and honey and with the oak giving an underlying, subtle vanilla and almond sweetness. The palate is full and dry with intense, fresh, candied citrus-peel fruit, a crème caramel flavour and smoothness, a touch of almond and admirably insistent acidity.  
£50.95, We Love Champagne; £56, James Nicholson