Sunday, 20 September 2015

Beaucastel 1999

For a few years now, around mid-September I open a bottle of 1999 Beaucastel to celebrate a family birthday. On one occasion, a friend at one of these ritualistic openings who was inexperienced when it come to Beaucastel and brettanomyces (the yeast often found in Beaucastel and Musar amongst others which, for many, contributes much to the enjoyment of these wines).

It's an interesting way to observe the evolution of a wine although there have been disappointments along the way with some bottles opened at just the wrong time: that tricky adolescent stage between youthful energy and middle, or even old, age.

So, I was a little apprehensive when I drew the cork last night: would it be a joy to drink or an expensive reminder that I should probably invest in a Coravin? Well, it was the former, a glorious wine and one of the very best bottles of Beau I have experienced, even from a vintage which was only ever regarded as a four star year. It is impossible to convey this wine in words except to say that it was complete with a richness and weight that were precisely what I was looking for in this wine.

It does lead to a new problem, of course. Do I pop the rest soon whilst they are definitely enjoyable or do I wait to see how they develop over the next several years? Probably both! Now there's a good argument for getting a Coravin!

By the way, if you have any experience of Coravin, I would welcome your opinions.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

More recommendations - Southern Rhone Whites

Decanter panel tastings have become much more reliable since the days when they invited just about anyone (including me) to be a panellist. Now, just three 'experts' taste and review the wines: in this case, John Livingstone-Learmonth (probably the UK's leading authority on the wines of the Rhone), Marcel Orford-Williams (the Wine Society's Rhone buyer, amongst other things) and Ben Llewelyn (who may not have a double-barrelled surname but he has lived in France - presumably he has a little more specialist knowledge to qualify as an expert).

Panel tastings (even where the panel consists of only one person) can only be a guide at best although the number of people who continue to swear by the wines of estate X, claiming they are not influenced by critic Y, never ceases to amaze me. Of course, a world of wine without critics would be a difficult one to navigate. It is the job of the critic (whether wine writer or merchant) to weed out the rubbish and recommend only the worthy.

So, it is pleasing to see Beaucastel, Brusset and Usseglio all recommended - but, then, it would be surprising if they weren't!

Domaine Brusset, Cairanne-Cotes du Rhone Villages 'Les Travers'
'Subdued nose - a note of lime and hint of camomile tea. Yellow flowers, citrus and a saline edge to a palate that has decent length.' 2015-2019

Raymond Usseglio, Cotes du Rhone 'Les Claux'
'White raisin aromas in a nose of sunny depth. The palate is vibrant but mellowing and lingers for a while.' 2015-2017

I confess, I am not entirely sure what yellow flowers and other tasting terms are supposed to mean. For me, 'sunny depth' evokes up rather more. Still, the gist is they like the wines.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Joblot's Servoisine hits hard for Coates

Clive Coates MW is not generally known for his enthusiasm for wines of the Cote Chalonnaise. However, in an article published in the September issue of Decanter, he writes 'The area has much going for it. Most importantly, the wines are very good value for money'.

I would go a step further in proclaiming that, in the wines of Domaine Joblot, at least, the wines are extremely classy and should not be seen as lesser Burgundies. Yes, the money side of things is important for most of us so the question, where else in Burgundy can you buy this quality at these prices is pertinent but of the Joblot brothers and, perhaps, a handful of others there are wines available with fruit and structures that put too many Cote d'Or wines to shame.

Last year, Andrew Jefford reviewed Joblot's 'Cellier aux Moines' in the FT but admitted he could have chosen almost any wine from the estate. Now, Coates says of the (too young to drink at present) 2013 Servoisine:

'Ripe, substantial and a very high class wine. Splendid quality. The new oak (70%) does not dominate at all'.

I have to admit to liking this review. He says very little about what to expect from the wine in terms of its fruit character, for example; rather, we just know to expect a very good wine. He backs this up by awarding an impressive 95 points.

As I say, the wine is presently far too young to drink (Coates recommends 2020-2030) but the 2011s are more forward and there are (at the time of writing) a very small number of bottles of 2010s still available so hurry before I drink them up myself.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A question about politics

Disclaimer: this is not intended as a party political post.

Does a government which goes back on a manifesto pledge (which may have helped it win a considerable number of votes, after all) still have a mandate to govern?

Is this behaviour one of the (many) reasons why so many people who start adult life fired up about politics become so disillusioned with it by their forties? Frankly, I am surprised that it is young people who are joining the Labour party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn - I would expect more of my generation to be inclined to hand over their £3 (which, after all, is less than the price of a pint, let alone a decent glass of wine) to put the wind up the establishment.

It's been a quiet day - too much admin. I'll stop now.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Some new wines

Domaine de la Charite's 100% Mourvedre cuvee 'Dame Noire' from the excellent 2007 vintage is beginning to show well at last. Typical of the variety, it has taken seven or eight years to get past 'muted' and start revealing plenty of sweet black fruit character. Next stop leather!

I realise that, having been very quiet on the blogosphere of late, I never triumphed the wines of Poggio al Gello in Tuscany! Very remiss, especially asthat one of the wines has sold out already. On a recommendation, I agreed to receive samples from the estate (I know it sounds odd, 'agreeing' to samples but so much of what people want to send promises so little that I have to say no - my house is only so big after all). That was a year ago and, tasting the wines then, I found the 2010 Rosso good but, perhaps a little underwhelming, and the 2011 Pugnitello exciting but, probably, uncommercial.

Fortunately for me, them and you, there were two bottles of each wine so I re-tasted these in January. I opened the Rosso at around 7pm on a Sunday evening, intending to let it breathe (I thought the first bottle had perhaps been in need of this) but before long the bottle was empty. Very impressive. Another evening saw similar results for the Pugnitello so I was hooked.

By this time there was a 2011 Riserva available too so I took a punt on this. A friend opened five of these for a tasting group, one freshly opened, one after four hours, another after eight hours, then twelve and twenty four and called me the next day with a big order and a tip to let it breathe for four hours. Call it magic, alchemy or simple oxygenation, it works a treat!

More updates soon.

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.

Friday, 26 June 2015

2011 Burgundies revisted

Nearly six months on from my last tasting of Joblot's 2011 Clos Marole and Bois Cheveaux, when both wines were un-giving and restrained (not at all what I expected from the vintage at this stage, even from a serious producer like Joblot), I have re-tasted both these wines and I am pleased to report that the tannins are much more under control and the fruit, especially in Clos Marole, is singing. Lovely Pinots for the medium term.