Thursday, 23 November 2006

Waveney Hospice Care charity fundraising tasting.

Fifteen wines turned out to be a few too many for this event, probably because I was asked (at the last moment) to make it a tutored tasting. The Beckers' Crémant d'Alsace (out of stock) impressed, as always, as a better-than-most-champagnes-at-half-the-price. Good yeasty character and elegant mousse. The white Rioja Reserva from Bodegas Hermanos Laredo is very much a wine for people who like the flavour of oak although I am convinced this will
soften in time leaving the fruit (quite sweet and robust) to shine.

The two reds from MarcoMaci both impressed: the Barocca is a light red that doesn't knock you off your feet but has a lovely elegance and surprising length - it keeps going long after most wines in the same bracket have disappeared without making any great impression. This one, however, has a lot of food friendliness (it went pretty well with most of the tapas that was being served alongside the tasting) probably because of its apparent (but certainly nor unbearable) lightness. The slightly fuller and richer and lightly oaked Ribò is exactly what I expect from a Puglian wine. Tasted alongside the Corte Barocca it is easy to see the progression and when one wine would be more suitable than the other. Ribò is more of a sit-down-to-eat wine, proclaiming itself a good partner to roast beef, a combination I have yet to try but watch this space!

I think I may have been in a mood for non-French wines during the evening as I enjoyed Domaine du Seuil's New World-influenced Cabernet-based Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2003 far more than the more traditional Merlot-dominated Chateau Lacroix from the 2004 vintage. The Cabernet had a lovely sweet blackcurrant quality, mixed with just enough traditional Bordeaux character so you knew where the wine came from but none of that early nineties style that drove people down under in their droves. The 2003 Chianti Classico from Il Molino di Grace was tasting better than ever after breathing for an hour or so - when it first opened there were lots of tannins but when these softened up the bitter cherry fruit integrated perfectly with the subtle oak to give a distinctively modern Chianti which took me back to the little pizzeria in the market town of Greve in the heart of the Tuscan wine route where I first came across this wine.

Finally, the Rhône wines, always the highlight of any tasting and the surprise star was the 2002 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Raymond Usseglio. Given the rains that drenched the region just before this vintage, it is not surprising that this is lighter than the surrounding years but that is not necessarily a fault as this wine so ostentatiously shows. Not in the slightest bit over-the-top it is a perfect food wine. And unlike most of its contemporaries, it can go on for a few more years, developing more classic nuances, I would guess.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

The Reform Club Wine Pool dinner

To start, a couple of white wines then with the starter(!), Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l'Hérault 2001 is showing spectacularly well with lots of brambly fruit. Definitely Cabernet but quite plummy at the same time, it fills out the mouth with a lovely warm fruitiness and has quite a dense structure: a meal in itself.

With lamb (the main course) the Bastide Blanche, Bandol 2000 "Estagnol" started out a tannic brute when opened and decanted a couple of hours beforehand but by the time it was served it had softened a lot allowing the fruit to come forward (it makes me want to try the "Fontanieu" again to see how it's shaping up). It has that elegance that mature, ripe French Mourvèdre does so well. The high point of the evening wine-wise, though, has to be Beaucastel's 2000 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, very rich and complex: an experience rather than a myriad of flavours and structural elements.

With the trio of desserts, the fortified red Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel from Domaine des Côteaux des Travers provided a delightful alternative to Port, well-received by the diners who were all keen to experience something new and interesting. I'm still not convinced these wines really go with chocolate but as one of my neighbours at the meal said, what's the point in trying to find a wine to go with something that really doesn't need it?

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

ASDW's second wine tasting

The second ASDW tasting arrives. As usual, I seem to be the only merchant interested in trying others' wines! There is a good Gattinara from one of my colleagues and another has some palatable Australian wines (don't get me started!).

Of my own line-up, the Roussannes from Domaine des Anges and Raymond Usseglio came through superbly as I rather suspected they would and I found Xavier Vignon's "Lili" has really come together: a few months ago the Viognier was knocking everything else out of the picture but today it was working in real harmony with the Roussanne element, the Marsanne providing a good spicy backbone. The real stars for me were Domaine de Cristia's 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, big and beefy and just beginning to drink well now and Luigi Einaudi's stunning 1999 Barolo from the Cannubi vineyard, all oak and fruit to start with but with coffee and chocolate emerging throughout the day (the better-priced 2003 Barbera was rather good too, a mini-version of the Cannubi in many respects). This is a wine to stick away for a decade but it will be astonishingly good when it comes of age.

Other wines that stood out included Marco Maci's elegant 2001 "Duca d'Antene" from Copertino, a very elegant and refined Negroamara wine with a delicate touch of oak and Dominique Rocher's Cairanne 2000 "M. Paul" (out of stock), a superb wine, very pure old-vine Grenache and Syrah with imperceptible oak. It's a real shame Dominique has given up making wine and gone into art (even more of a shame when you see the label!)