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.