Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Cor! Cahors!

I just took delivery of the 2009s from Cahors. Having tasted them twice from the barrel, I had every reason to be excited but was nonetheless a little anxious that they may not live up to expectations in the bottle. Nothing to worry about (of course). Certainly, they are all young and some of the oak from the barrel ageing needs to be shed but it is quite unobtrusive even now and will give way to the fruit (even more than it has already) in time. Put simply, this is a stunning set of wines.

Pascal  Vehaeghe is clearly pleased with his 2009s. On both of the last two occasions I visited him he was keen for me to taste these (see earlier blogs). Chateau du Cedre is regarded as, probably, the very best estate in Cahors, certainly of those in the modern style, and Pascal is at the forefront on experimentation to make his wines better without losing their typicity. Usually these are wines to age, particularly as Pascal used to use 100% new oak. However, he has cut this back with the 2009 vintage which was aged 22 months in a mixture of new and second year oak barrels including a large new foudre. The 100% Malbec flagship cuvee "Le Cedre" is a stunning wine: wonderfully ripe with complex fruit and floral characters and both concentrated and elegant (just the sort of wine we like) with a delicious, long finish. Refreshingly, not too alcoholic (13.5%) this means the fruit has a chance to come through without being dominated by alcohol. There is some oak on the palate but it isn't anything to be concerned about: there is plenty of fruit to compensate. Delicious.

Pascal's influence is quite apparent in the 2009 "Pur Plaisir" from Haut-Monplaisir. As is usual for H-M wines which are all 100% Malbec, it is deep garnet in colour but the fruit profile is somewhere between red and black with a good pinch of spice. A small amount of oak is evident although this will fade away in time and, frankly, it is already well masked by the incredibly ripe fruit. Full in the mouth with very good length and lots of potential. Rather powerful. Certainly the best vintage of this cuvee to date in my experience. 

As with the other wines, Pascal's ultra-luxurious "GC" is now in the bottle and in the UK. Anyone who reads my blog will know how important textures are to me and this wine is worth the premium for the incredibly smooth and rounded mouthfeel. Pascal describes this as a winemaker's dream and it's easy to understand why. Everything is in place: a nose that makes you want to dive in and hold back at the same time (this reminds me of the scene in Gregory's Girl where Gregory's sister is explaining her love of salt and vinegar crisps) and when you do give in, the wonderfully plummy flavours and mouthfeel are almost overwhelming. The wine lasts seemingly forever too. Words simply cannot do this stunning wine justice. 

Is this really just a Cotes du Rhone?

Now, I am fairly well versed in what a Cotes du Rhone should taste like and that can (and does) cover a huge range of styles - think of all the different grapes than can go into one of these bottles for a start. However, I have certain expectations: a lighter style of Chateauneuf when I open a bottle of Coudoulet de Beaucastel or Raymond Usseglio's CDR, perhaps, or something truly elegant from Grand Veneur or ultra-modern from Domaine de Cristia. Amongst the CDR producers themselves, I expect fruit and a medium body above all else: something easy and very pleasant to quaff but not something that is going to make me stand up and shout.

I have always known the Bressy-Masson 2009 CDR is cut from a rather different cloth (that's why I bought it, after all) but tasting it again last night reminded me just how different it is. Yields were very low in 2009 so Marie-France Masson decided to make only a little of the very top Rasteau cuvee, A la gloire de mon pere, and ensure there were good quantities of the cuvees lower down the scale. In particular, the CDR which is more Rasteau than generic.

What does that mean? Well, Rasteau is the second hottest village in the southern Rhone (after Chateauneuf-du-Pape) so Grenache, which is king here, ripens superbly, especially in a vintage such as 2009 which, I think, produced even better wines here than 2007 (which tended towards slightly overly alcoholic wines here). The fruit is very full but it is texturally that the wine wins for me. The mouthfeel is full with plenty of glycerin and the acidity is just enough to keep the wine perky. The fruit itself is deep and red but not in a light, strawberry way; rather it has all those things going on that some tasters would describe as underbrush and tar along with kirsch and black cherries etc etc. Whatever, this is a lot of wine for an incredibly modest price tag.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Why all the sulfites?

Several years ago, I imported wines from Domaine Gramenon in the Southern Rhone. Among these were a few cases of Philippe Laurent's last vintage of "Pascal", a very old-vine Grenache which Parker was fond of comparing with old-vine Zinfandel. On the side of the case was a sticker imploring buyers to store the wine between 5-14 degrees as it contained absolutely no sulfur whatsoever.

Last week, when I opened my last bottle of this wine, which has been in my possession for most of its 13 years (and it is only in the last few years that I have been entirely satisfied with my storage conditions at home), I inevitably had a bottle of something else in reserve. Not necessary at all. The wine was remarkably fresh and not remotely oxidised (and it was delicious but that is not really relevant to this post). So how much SO2 do we really need?

Monday, 5 March 2012


There is a clue in the name of one of Baglio del Cristo de Campobella's top cuvees, Lusira - it's Syrah! This 2008 is, as you would expect, a fairly concentrated effort with some Northern Rhone austerity but it is distinctly Italian nonetheless. None (or little) of the Rhone's olive groves here but lots of blackcurrant and mint. The attack is, perhaps, slightly vague but there is plenty going on here and it is on the ultra-smooth finish where this wine really comes together. The lift of the fruit is quite enticing.

When to drink it? Probably not one for the long haul, I would prefer to enjoy this over the next five years or so.

Friday, 2 March 2012

2009 Bordeaux re-rated

Robert Parker has just re-rated the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux and Jonathan Maltus has done rather well it seems.

Chateau Teyssier, St-Emilion Grand Cru - 92/100
The flagship property of Jonathan Maltus (his residence as well), this is the best Teyssier I have ever tasted. A tribute to his efforts, this blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc over-achieves even in a great vintage like "Opaque blue/purple, with notes of charcoal, blackberry, cassis and spring flowers as well as a hint of subtle background oak., the wine is opulent, sumptuously textured, dense, pure and multi-dimensional. It should drink well for at least a decade or more."

Pezat, Bordeaux Superieur - 89/100
"An impressive project of Jonathan Maltus, this blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc is a sleeper of the vintage. Priced realistically, the wine displays an opaque ruby/purple colour and beautiful cassis fruit intermixed with kirsch, liquorice and a hint of underbrush. It is dense, medium to full-bodied, very silky textured, mouth-filling and enormously satisfying. This sleeper is best drunk over the next several years."

Nada Giuseppe debuts in Decanter

The April issue of Decanter landed on my doormat this morning, in it the results of the first Barbaresco tasting since 1999. Wines were 2008 Normale and 2006 Riserva. Although sold out of the 2006 Riserva (one of our wines of the year in 2011) and still on the superb 2007 Normale, Enrico Nada persuaded me to send in some samples and the results are very pleasing. Both wines were awarded three stars and they were some of the very best value wines  of the whole tasting.

Casot Riserva 2006: "Wood, mint, herb, pencil lead and raspberry bouquet. Supple, round and quite concentrated with ripe, dry tannins and a good whack of alcohol." From 2014

Casot 2008: "Liquorice, tar, farmyard, plum and sweet berry fruit bouquet. Moroccan leather on the palate to start. It shows some maturity and also some leanness." 2012-2015

Well done Enrico - looking forward to the follow-up vintages!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Giovanni Manzone, Barolo 2007 Castelletto

First taste from the bottle of this 2007 Barolo which appears to be a mid-weight ruby wine. The nose is a little shy but a few swirls reveal some attractive Nebbiolo fruit in the ethereal style I love so much. The fruit on the palate is more generous but there is no doubting the tannins here although they are less pronounced than with the Gramolere (which was glorious after three days!). This needs a little more time but it is refreshing to find a Barolo that doesn't weigh me down. A lovely wine - one day.

After an hour or so, the wine seems to close up structurally but the fruit has gained some weight and complexity.