Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Domaine Brusset 2011 en primeur offer

I visited Laurent Brusset on 4th April when we tasted through the current selections including 2012 whites and the 2011 reds. 

Laurent was clearly pleased with the wines and, as expected, the Cairannes and Gigondas showed extremely well. The reds are forward with attractive fruit and good acidity levels to keep them really interesting. Alcohol levels are not too high in this vintage. They can be enjoyed before the 2010s with "Les Travers" and "Le Grand Montmirail" both approachable already. 

The 2012 "Travers" Blanc is the best example of this wine I have tasted in over 10 years.

Five wines offered from Domaine Brusset. They will be shipped in mid-May. Prices are quote "in bond" (IB) for shipment to our bonded warehouse. We are willing to split cases subject to overall quantities.

The best white tasted in the southern Rhone this year below Chateauneuf level. A beautifully fresh and fragrant wine, the Roussanne and Viognier take centre stage this year on both the nose and palate. Quite floral but exotic and a lovely dry quality to contrast with the round fleshy character of the wine. Only a whiff of the oak comes through. Good length. 13% ABV. Drinking Dates: 2013 to 2016

Good fruity nose of black cherry and spice with hints of tar follows through well on the palate which has good weight and balance. Quite rich but very forward - one to drink whilst waiting for the 2010s to come round. 13.5% ABV. Drinking Dates: 2013 to 2017

Firmer than "Les Travers" with some solid, spicy black fruit character. Needs a little time to soften the more tannic structure but will be good from around 2015. 14% ABV. Drinking Dates: 2015 to 2020

Well rounded nose and a fleshy palate of spicy sweet red and black fruits. Tannins are well managed, supple. Good balance. Quite an easy drinking style - certainly very drinkable. 14% ABV. Drinking Dates: 2013 to 2020

Another superb vintage for Laurent Brusset with this formidable wine. He has combined power with elegance expertly. A mere hint of the barrels overlays the sweet fruit which compensates for the additional structure this wine has compared with the "Le Grand Montmirail" cuvee. The tannins glide and there is a wonderful mouthfeel. It will need 3-5 years but last for 15. 14% ABV. Drinking Dates: 2017 to 2025

Friday, 26 April 2013

Nada Giuseppe in Wine Enthusiast

Some good reviews in Wine Enthusiast Magazine - see here.

The 2007 Riserva gets an especially good write up although I am surprised the 2006 is not scored at least as highly. Probably they felt the 2007 has more stuffing and will go the distance better.

Canterbury 2013

Once again, I made the trip to Canterbury yesterday to present a range of Southern Rhone wines. As always, it was well attended by a crowd of enthusiastic and lively tasters. Most of the wines came from the superlative 2010 vintage so I started with the caveat that they would not be close to being ready to drink and, quite possibly, closed. Not altogether true, it turned out.

We began with Laurent Brusset's highly aromatic white Cairanne "Les Travers" from 2012 which is already shaping up to be another top class vintage. Whilst only 30% of the blend, the Roussanne (20%) and Viognier (10%) dominate on the nose and palate and there is just a hint of oak fleshing out the wine and giving it an added dimension. Really drinkable.

After that, there was only one way to go with the whites: Raymond Usseglio's 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "Rousanne Pur" (only one "s" for some reason), a phenomenal wine which I described to the group as a red wine drinker's white wine. They agreed: it has a broadness which is more in keeping with the big reds I often favour. Some aniseed/liquorice comes through but the dimensions to this one are numerous and any oak used in ageing (100% I believe) is barely noticeable. Impressive stuff.

On to the reds and the Domaine des Anges Ventoux 2009 "L'Archange" is the last such wine completely made by Ciaran Rooney who has left the estate after 13 years and is currently working in Chateauneuf. This wine has calmed down since it was first bottled but still has lots of black fruit character (80% Syrah) and considerable body. The consensus was that this is a very good value wine.

Next up was Domaine de la Charite's 2009 "Cayenne" with just a hint of oxidation on the rich nose followed by an incredibly complex, layered palate with excellent spicy fruit and a delicious finish. Christophe seems unable to do anything wrong! We wondered what the 2010 is like, given that it is an even better vintage across the valley (I didn't let on that I have a couple of bottles of this at home, as yet untasted).

A mystery wine next: Xavier Vignon has been working on a project in northern Turkey for the last 15 years and has recently started bottling the wines. The entry-level 2009 Syrah (50%), Grenache and Mourvedre (25% each) wine is decent enough and on its own would impress but, frankly, it is no match for the Rhone wines. In a Turkish restaurant it could work very well as it offers a taste of Turkey with the reassurance of known grape varieties.

Xavier's 2010 Vacqueyras is a little closed but the underlying Syrah which, unusually, makes up around 50% of the blend is very promising. I haven't bought any for a couple of years but there are some good 100% Syrah wines made by Vacqueyras producers so, perhaps, the terroir is especially good for this grape.

Two more from Raymond Usseglio: his 2010 Cotes du Rhone, a true mini-Chateauneuf, offers so much more than most CDRs, even at Villages level. Spicy fruit with good depth, this will continue to improve but offers attractive drinking already. I suggested that, in youth, it is often difficult to tell this wine apart from its big brother but there is no doubting the majesty of the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The depth of fruit and the body are magnificent here. We discussed how Stef Usseglio always seems to manage the balance between elegance and concentration so well. Everyone agreed that this is the preferred style of wine from the region rather than those wines that seem to be chasing points with over-extraction but can't be enjoyed beyond the first sip or two. This was another wine I could cheerfully drink now although I know it will be better in another few years.

We finished up with a pair of wines from Domaine Grand Veneur. First, the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (in half bottles) was interesting for its difference from the Usseglio wine. More "modern" in style, there is noticeable oak here but some attractive fruit and a remarkably soft palate. Another year or two should see this develop to the point of utter deliciousness.

Finally, I had promised something special and the "Les Origines" did not disappoint. Despite its 100% new oak, the fruit dominates. I was accused of offering a "Parker" wine, a charge which I refuted. This is elegance in a glass and, if it does achieve high scores, then, as with the Usseglio wines, that is because quality will out. Like the other 2010s, only more so, this wine combines power with freshness and is already one of the most impressive wines from this stunning year.

So, what will tonight have in store?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Burgundy 2011 - Joblot's Servoisine

When I visited Jean-Marc Joblot in August 2011, he was days away from starting the harvest. He was optimistic about the quality even then and, now, at last from the bottle, the verdict is in.

Servoisine, along with Cellier aux Moines, is regarded as the best of the Joblot's holdings in Givry and I haven't had a new vintage from the bottle for a couple of years at least so I was keen to give it a whirl as soon as I could lay my hands on a bottle. It's been in the country for three or four weeks now so it should be well rested.

The wine is quite purple but, frankly, that is of secondary interest. Diving into the nose, there is a heady perfume of red fruits with mineral overtones. Good depth, especially with aeration. Now for the palate... Its youthfulness is apparent - some tannin but good acidity dominates the structural elements. A mid-weight wine with raspberry fruit, the same as the nose, which lingers well.

Sadly, I must re-cork the bottle until tomorrow and then again and again to see how it develops over several days. It's going to last as long as I can hold out, that's for sure. Lovely!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Domaine de Cristia

A busy morning! I have known Dominique and Baptiste Grangeon for several years now so there is always much to catch up on. Baptiste was heading off to Paris so most of the time, Dominique and I chatted whilst tasting the new vintages.

To start, a new wine from the Cristia Collection, a 2011 Grenache Blanc to partner the red vin de pays. Decent nose, medium-bodied and length with good fruit. 13% ABV. Bottled 02/03.

Next another new wine, this time from the Cristia range (neither Domaine de Cristia nor Cristia Collection but somewhere in between, I think - slightly confusing! I do know the vines are not part of the family's estate), a 2012 Cotes du Rhone Blanc from 30% each Grenache, Roussanne and Clairette with the balance Viognier and Marsanne. 13% ABV and full Ecocert status for this wine. Complex nose follows through to a soft palate. Bottled 02/03.

The last of the whites is from the domaine, a 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc made with 40% each Roussanne and Clairette and 20% Bourboulenc. This has a soft nose, a fairly full palate and is well balanced. I discovered that this wine does not carry the Ecocert label as, from 2012, the wine itself must be organic, not simply made from organically grown grapes. This means that if any treatments used in the winery are not on the approved list, the wine cannot be certified in that vintage. The team at Cristia did not discover this until too late for the 2012 white! Bottled 02/03.

The first red, as expected, was the 2012 Grenache, the organic VDP entry-level wine to the estate's production. A rich nose is followed by a youthful palate, slightly lighter than expected. Perhaps a little closed or reductive? It will flesh out well given a couple of months. Bottled 08/03. I had the impression that sales of the excellent VDP Vieilles Vignes have not been as good as they had hoped and that, in future, as they will also have organic certification, these grapes will be blended in with the regular Grenache.

The 2012 Cotes du Rhone is probably the best vintage of this wine I have encountered. Pure Grenache, from 30-40 year old vines, it has a slightly animal nose reminiscent of old school Cairanne. A good, pure palate and moderate tannins. 14% ABV, Ecocert. Bottled January 2013.

I was less struck by the 2012 CDR Villages from 80% Grenache, the balance Syrah. Some oak comes through (from the Syrah'e elevation) but I felt the two grapes were not well integrated at this time. This 14.5% ABV wine is not organic as the 7 hectares of the vineyard it is produced from are under fermage from this vintage.

The 2011 Cotes du Rhone "Garrigues" Vieilles Vignes is pure Grenache again. Less oak than in previous vintages too which is an improvement for me. A lovely rich nose follows through well with some good fruit. Not overblown, this is a medium-full wine in body and in flavour. Dominique tells me this is from real Chateauneuf terroir (red clay). It hides its 15% ABV well.

Only one Chateauneuf this year,the 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape has a good, modern nose - not too much and not at all baked. Liquorice and rich fruit dominate this wine which has good freshness and a pleasingly light touch. The tannins are in check too. Probably one to drink over the next 5-10 years whilst waiting for the 2010s.

Raymond Usseglio visit

My first visit to any of the people I work with in the Southern Rhone was to Stef Usseglio who had just bottled most of his new releases. After such a stellar performance in 2010, I was not expecting such great heights this year but, overall, I found a very satisfying range of wines - no great surprise.

First, the 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, a field blend of Grenache, Marsanne, Rousanne and Bourboulenc which had been bottled just two weeks earlier. This has a lovely nose, full and fruity with hobeysuckle and green fruit characters. The palate is a little shy - but that's only to be expected from a wine so recently bottled - but good and the medium-bodied wine finishes well.

The 2012 Rousanne Pur is more intense with some oak coming through on the nose but the wine has not been bottled yet (bottling due tomorrow!). There is a more waxy texture and richer tones to the fruit in this fuller-bodied wine. A red wine drinker's white wine!

There is also a new white Cotes du Rhone but we didn't taste it on site - Stef gave me a bottle to take away so I will report on it later - and the red has been re-named after the lieu-dit. The 2011 Cotes du Rhone "Le Claux" is 14% ABV but quite soft on the nose, very slightly austere even. It smells like a wine that will be better in another year or two, certainly less apparent than the 2009 and 2010. There are some nice tannins here which don't overwhelm the fruit which is lighter than the 2010. Overall, this is less ageworthy and quicker to mature than the previous two vintages but quite decent. If I was scoring it, I would have to give it a sound 85, I think (the 2009 and 2010 would probably merit 88 each).

A big step up to the 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. With 14.5% ABV and bottled on 1st April, this already has a lovely rich, warm and inviting nose. A little woody still but attractively so. Some good black fruit here, quite modern in style - Stef has been moving in this direction since the middle of the last decade. A little lighter than the 2010, inevitably, but it will drink well sooner.

With 90% Grenache and the rest a blend of Counoise, Cinsault and other old vine grapes the 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Imperiale" is quite elegant; full but not overblown. It has good structure and the lively tannins carry through to the finish along with the black fruit and liquorice. Rich and tannic with lovely Grenache fruit, this is very modern with a long finish.

Finally, the 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Part des Anges" is a wine that hedonists can enjoy now if they don't mind the inevitable tannins of a wine with 70% Mourvedre. It has an intense nose dominated by black Mourvedre fruit with some oak. Excellent balance of fruit and tannins etc with a pleasant sprinkling of vanilla on top. Drinkable now? That's obviously a matter of taste but it can go the distance too.

After this, Stef invited me to taste the white Chateauneuf-du-Pape again, always a good sign that the wine has the fruit and structure to cut through the big, chunky reds that have gone before and refresh the palate. It did the trick.

Overall, there is an attractive freshness in all the red Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines which I found both attractive and welcome after the more blockbuster 2010s. I need to make room in my cellar for some of these!