Sunday, 28 June 2015

Xavier Vignon, Cotes du Rhone 'SM'


This is a blend of 50% Grenache from the Southern Rhone (Meridionale) and 50% Syrah from the North (Septionale) - it is the French names for the two regions that give their initials to the name of this wine (and not, as I originally wondered, Syrah and Mourvedre). Xavier has learnt to be coy about his sources - the previous incarnation of this wine, Sacrilege, landed him in all sorts of trouble when Parker reviewed it and announced to anyone who cared to know that this was a blend of Cote Rotie Syrah and Chateauneuf Grenache. 'So what?' you might ask. Well, for some reason known only to themselves, the appellation authorities in Chateauneuf-du-Pape do not allow their Grenache to be down-graded so, if you don't want to market your wine as Chateauneuf-du-Pape then mere Vin de France it must be. Not do in other appellations it seems (since this new blend is designated as Cotes du Rhone). I did suggest to Xavier that if he sourced the Grenache from Gigondas, for example, he could avoid the problem and it would appear that he has done just that. However, it is still a non-vintage wine - a blend of wines from 2010, 2011 and 2012 - so clearly he hasn't lost his sense of humour.

So, eventually I pull the cork open the bottle. This has a rich nose and it's very full. Some sweetness is coming though and I would like to see this in another couple of years when everything else has had a chance to come up behind it. As it is, this is more like a young Chateauneuf than, well, most young Chateauneuf.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

2011 Burgundy - a couple of wines tasted

With the 2010s from Domaine Joblot all but finished, I thought a tasting of the 2011s advisable. The Cellier aux Moines was tasted shortly before Christmas (excellent fruit, quite tannic so needs an hour or so to breathe - hmmm) and there is so little of Servoisine left there was no point in trying this now so I have just popped corks on the other two Premier Cru reds from this superb estate.

First impressions: slightly muted on the nose, especially the Bois Chevaux. Both wines (I am also tasting the Clos Marole) are remarkably tannic for the vintage in Givry and this is having the effect of masking the fruit a little. That said, the Bois Chevaux has a remarkable texture and the fruit of the Clos Marole is clearly good. I need to give them a little more time to open up...

Looking back on my notes from nearly two years ago, I see I should have re-read them before pulling corks! Bois Chevaux reads: 'Firmer than other crus, Bois Chevaux' ethereal character will come to the fore in another 3-4 years. For now, the wine is closed down revealing little fruit but a magnificent texture.' Not much has changed yet!

I confess I am slightly surprised by this tasting. Other 2011s are really quite forward (I have finished off 2011s from other Givry estates!) and these haven't even started.

Friday, 28 November 2014

2013 Burgundy: Joblot and Lienhardt, first taste from the bottle

First impression: they used not only the same label designer but the same design. It doesn't matter, of course. Actually it lends a certain elegance to the set of eight bottles I have lined up in front of me.

Second observation: every wine is just 13% ABV. OK, so that's neither high nor low for Burgundy but still very welcome these days.

Now the wines: in what order? The Givrys first or the Cotes de Nuits wines? I think that's probably right so, starting with Domaine Joblot, I will try them in this order: Pied au Chaume, Cellier aux Moines, Clos de la Servoisine. Then, Antoine Lienhardt's Essards, Plantes au Bois, Vignottes and, finally, the NSG Charmois.

It's going to be a long night!



Domaine Joblot, Givry 2013 Pied de Chaume 
The entry-level wine from Jean-Marc Joblot and his daughter, Juliette, is light and bright on the (youthful) nose. The palate is more expressive with sweet red fruits. Fairly approachable now, it will be better in another year or two (but that's not a problem: there is still a little 2010 and some 2011 in stock!).

Domaine Joblot, Givry Premier Cru 2013 Cellier aux Moines
Deeper colour and a richer, fuller nose with slightly blacker fruit. The oak is quite pronounced on the palate but this will fade. Quite candy flavoured, with a great finish, this needs a little time to integrate so that the sweetness of the fruit gives way to the more savoury notes currently lurking in the background.

Domaine Joblot, Givry Premier Cru 2013 Clos de la Servoisine
Similar to the Cellier aux Moines in many ways but, perhaps, a little more together and complete at this stage and a little more structured. I would like to re-visit this in five or six years' time!

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Les Essards
The first of Antoine and Juliette's wines has a slightly muted nose and surprisingly feminine palate but the backbone is undeniably Cote de Nuits. The fruit is more red than black and the oak will play an excellent supporting role when it is more integrated.

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Les Plantes au Bois
Vibrant raspberry fruit - almost a coulis. Good weight and concentration. Excellent potential.

Antoine Lienhardt, Cote de Nuits Villages 2013 Aux Vignottes
The most complete of the trio: less raspberry, more subtle. Very good.

Antoine Lienhardt, Nuits St Georges 2013 Les Charmois
This clearly needs time to soften at the edges but the fruit, structure, balance etc are all superb. This is going to be a great wine.

An impressive haul. If these estates' wines are anything to go by, 2013 looks like a vintage to check out further (just as long as prices don't go crazy).

More later!


Friday, 31 October 2014

Fabulous Fabrizio

In this month's Decanter, an expert's choice of wines from Piemonte includes Fabrizio Battaglino's 2011 Roero Sergentin:

"Smooth and juicy. Hints of oaky spices and vanilla complement rich and cherry, tarry tannins and fresh herbal nuances. A serious wine that's still young." 90/100 (Ian d'Agata, Decanter)
The only issue I would take is that I have enjoyed a few bottles of this already so what does that say about me?

Since the review came out, I have undertaken a thorough review of my own, tasting the three vintages of Fabrizio's Roero Sergentin I have in stock. For me, this is a wine that has got better with every passing vintage: the 2011 is young but approachable and has all the hallmarks of a fine Nebbiolo. More in tune with Barolo than earlier vintages with some oak in support but the lovely Nebbiolo fruit dominant. Moderately tannic, this will be better still in another couple of years or so.

The 2010 is an altogether different wine with a fuller palate of blacker fruit. Less classic than 2011 but still a fabulous wine. Again, moderately tannic but the ripeness of the fruit helps to get past this. More please.

The 2009 is going through a difficult phase just now. Slightly sour notes are coming through; not as enjoyable as previous bottles have been. Inevitably the bottle was shelved so I will take another look today.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

New discoveries in Burgundy

We are just back from our summer holidays during which we worked tirelessly to find exciting new wines to bring across the channel to the discerning UK consumer. Something like that, anyway.

Actually, we left with no plans to buy any more wine than was strictly necessary for the time we were away but, inevitably, things didn't quite work out that way. On day one of our trip, I received an email from a young Burgundian grower that pricked up my ears and, given that we were in the region, just half an hour away from his home in Santenay, I felt obliged to pop along to meet him.

I arranged to meet with Justin Girardin, winemaker (and everything else) of Domaine Jacques Girardin. Jacques' brother is the renowned Vincent (who retired a couple of years ago although his eponymous enterprise lives on with much the same team in place as before).

Jacques started the estate with just 3ha but this has risen to 17ha of vines which are organically cultivated if not actually certified as such. From 2012, his son Justin took over the helm and it was this serious young man we met on a cool August Tuesday with a range of well-crafted wines - proper Burgundies - on the table.

Of the two whites, I much preferred the Santenay 'Les Terrasses de Bievaux' from steep, terraced, chalky slopes which is minerally, citrusy with stoned fruits and just 20% oak providing support rather than flavour. As someone who generally drinks red wines, even on southern French evenings when the thermometer has failed to slide under 30 degrees, you will appreciate that I really do like this wines when I say that most of the box I bought from Justin failed to last the rest of the trip.

The reds were almost universally to my liking - only the Savigny 'Gollardes' needed time to shape up and show what it has to offer. The Santenay 'Vieilles Vignes' from 50-year-old vines is well-rounded with a good Pinot nose and just a touch of oak building to a long, silky finish.

There are three premier cru wines from Santenay here and all follow the same vinification techniques, so a good lesson in terroir (along with the Joblot range from Givry). 'Beauregard' offers classic Pinot character in a fairly opulent style with smooth tannins giving it good length- archetypal Santenay. 'Maladiere' is more tightly wound, more structured with a more evident tannic backbone. More feminine on the nose but more muscular at the finish (no comparisons with female tennis players please). Finally, 'Clos Rousseau' has more depth on the nose and beautiful fresh fruit and is somewhat easier on the tannins than the previous wine. Very elegant.

Elsewhere, the family has small holdings in Savigny-les-Beaune whence its 1er Cru 'Les Peuillets' is rounded and accessible with a sweet nose, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Morgeot' (floral nose, big wine, quite creamy oak and slightly smokey - very small production) and Pommard with a 'Tete de Cuvee' which is spicier, richer, more refined but also more tannic than the earlier wines, demanding a few years hiding away in the cellar.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Italians have arrived

It's always a wonderful thing to open cases from the new vintages of any wine so when twenty of so different new wines arrive together it's rather like being a kid with a key to the candy store. Actually, this surprises me as I always rebuff any notion that the pleasure in wine has anything to do with anything other than what is inside the bottle yet I  seem to be saying that the aesthetics of the packaging, and in particular the label, brings something to the table.

Yes, I was interested to see that the 2010 Broccardo is in a sloping 'Burgundy' bottle in contrast to the square-shouldered 'Bordeaux' bottle of the 2009 vintage and I noted the new look label which I admired for its more traditional look than the more modernist 2009 but what of it? I know the real enjoyment will come when, all too prematurely, literally, I crack open the first bottle for my first tasting of this magnificent vintage since I was at the winery back in April. 

One of the other wonderful things about new arrivals is that, according to a chap at DEFRA who pops along from time to time, I must test them for consistency with the wine tasted at the estate. I think they are really looking for alcohol content but there has never been any suggestion that I should buy an Alcohol Meter; rather, I am, apparently, obliged to crack open a bottle and perform that questionably scientific test known to those in the trade as tasting and to everyone else as drinking. Apparently you'll find out sooner or later what the alcohol content is that way! Oh well, at least it's tax deductible (well, the first sip, anyway).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sacrilege

What a great name for a wine! The back story is a little tricky to tell but only because of archaic French wine laws which designate this a mere vin de France The problem is that this is a blend of the two main grapes from the region where Xavier Vignon is based (I don't know if I am allowed to give any more detail than this!), one of which is allowed to declassify the wines from the prestigious AOC to the generic, regional one, the other of which isn't.

Confused? OK, I will delve into the hypothetical. Let's say the region is the Rhone Valley in France and the two grapes are Syrah (the king of the north) and Grenache (the powerhouse of the south). In the north, there are appellations such as Cote Rotie and Hermitage which produce, most would agree, the world's greatest Syrah wines but if, for any reason, a producer wishes to declassify the wine, he can release it as a mere Cotes du Rhone.

In the south, this is possible in appellations such as Gigondas but not, for some reason, in Chateauneuf-du-Pape so if, in this hypothetical world, a producer, by accident or design, blended Syrah from, say, Cote Rotie with Grenache from Chateauneuf, it can't be a Cote du Rhone.  For some reason, it can't even be a vin de Pays, rather it is a lowly vin de France. I think the authorities would just be being spiteful in such a scenario but who really cares about the difference between a "country wine" and a "wine of France". Would such a wine be greeted by any more enthusiasm if it did carry the Cotes du Rhone  insignia? Probably not.

The real spite in the appellation rules is to refuse to allow the producer to give any information about the wine on the label or anywhere else - which is why my example above is purely hypothetical, of course.

So, what of this lowly vin de France that sells for £36/bottle? Well, I think I have written quote enough on the subject and really don't want to fall foul of the authorities. If I told you it has delicious black fruit intertwined with.... No, really, I mustn't. You'll just have to find out for yourself.