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Showing posts from 2012

Two weekends, two tastings

It's that time of year: wine tastings for a thirsty crowd. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy showing off new discoveries and some of the wines that have started to come round at last. The preparation is the trickiest part - you never know who will be coming or how many people will show up so it's hard to gauge which wines to put in (or which to leave out). Experience has taught me to avoid too much in the over £10 bracket but, still, I could not resist showing a Barbaresco and a Chateauneuf this weekend. At the Norwich tasting last week, there was a consensus that Italian wines are generally overpriced. I would counter that they need food, without which they are easily misunderstood. A little salami and cheese, perhaps, wasn't enough to convince them of this. The whites went down well with the Manzone "Rosserto" proving especially popular. Filippo Gallino 's Barbera always goes down well - juicy fruit and not overly complex (although the totally contrasting

Congratulations to Fabrizio Battaglino

Fabrizio Battaglino has just won best QPR white for his Roero Arnies 2011 in Gambero Rosso 2013 Well done Fabrizio! A well-deserved award. Fabrizio's full entry in the guide reads as follows:  "Fabrizio Battglino's small winery seems to have returned for good among the top producers of Roero. The vineyards are at Vezza d'Alba, on the steep sloping hills of Colla and Mombello, where soils are sandy and face south at an altitude of 350 metres above sea level. The classic variieties of Roero are grown, Arneis, Nebbiolo and Barbera, and tradition is interpreted to craft a series of technically flawless wines full of delicious fruit, carefully designed for delightful drinkability." New entries for this year include: 2010 Roero Sergentin - Due Bicchieri (entered in the finals) 2011 Roero Arneis -  Due Bicchieri (especially good value)

Autumn wines in Norwich

Every year we hold an informal tasting in my childhood home town of Norwich with, usually, between 20 and 30 guests. This year we held it on Saturday, immediately after seeing Matthew Bourne's superb Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal. The wines were almost evenly divided between French and Italian with the Rhone dominating the French selection. I had been tempted to include some Joblot wines - after all, if I don't put them into tastings, how will people know just how good they are? However, I decided against this on purely practical grounds: most of the attendees prefer to keep their spending under £10 per bottle so there seemed little point in including wines the wrong side of £20! This was borne out by the comments - and sales - of Italian wines, the only one of which that sold well was Filippo Gallino 's juicy, fruity Barbera d'Alba. A few other Italian reds did sell but only a bottle here, a couple of bottles there. The whites did well though with the surpris

The Italians have arrived!

At last! Now, what should I open tonight? Tempted by Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero 2010 Sergentin but also by Nada Giuseppe's 2009 Barbaresco. Or, perhaps, keep it simple with the Gallino 2010 Barbera d'Alba. Probably none of the above for two reasons: I have just made a curry for dinner and tomorrow night is our annual Autumn Tasting in Norwich so most of these will take part in that. On the other hand, I do like to challenge the spice with a fruity but tannic red so Fabrizio is looking promising. Too many choices... I will post later when I have succumbed.

Piedmont wines in Dulwich tonight

Note: updated after the tasting! The Dulwich Wine Society has a new meeting venue since I last visited, more conducive to the enjoyment of fine wines. I was there last night to present, for the first time in the context of a wine club, a selection of wines from Piedmont. Here's the running order... White wines 1.     Fabrizio Battaglino , Roero 2010 Arneis 2.     Giovanni Manzone , Langhe Bianco 2010 Rosserto 3.     Nada Giuseppe , Langhe Bianco 2009 "Armonia" All the whites were very well received: the Arneis surprised most tasters who had little or no experience of the grape for its slightly austere nose but fuller palate. The Rossesse was showing well and was also well received as a new wine to everyone in the room. As always, Enrico's wine wowed tasters with its assortment of varieties each bringing something different to the well integrated whole. Red wines 4.      Nada Giuseppe , Dolcetto d'Alba 2010 Casot 5.     Serradenari , Langhe Ro

Chabriles for a chilly night

Old college friends up from London for Halloween but too cold and damp for a bonfire so, after a hearty meal of meatballs (from an excellent recipe adapted from one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's), and after the children had taken off their Halloween make-up and gone to bed, we decided to go on a trip down memory lane and watch An American Werewolf In London. What a cheesy film! Of course, wines are required for all of this and two from Laurent Brusset were very much enjoyed: the 2007 Cairanne-CDRV "Les Chabriles" and the 2007 Gigondas "Le Grand Montmirail". Both are classic Brusset wines: rounded, fruity, well-structured with plenty of deep, rich Grenache fruit. The Chabriles is 50% Syrah but this does not get too black here. This Gigondas is their standard cuvee. There is little between this and the Cairanne, qualitatively or stylistically, frankly. Obviously from 2007 it was to be expected they would both be very good. My only concern is that it was my l

What I take away with me

If, like me, you have amassed a collection of wine far in excess of the number of bottles you can realistically expect to consume in the life of the wines concerned, you will have picked up a few bottles you have changed your mind about since your original enthusiastic purchase and which you consistently snub whenever you are pulling a bottle from the rack. I have developed a system for using these wines: take them to the in-laws. Not that I want to palm off the undesired on my in-laws, you understand; rather, that when I am there, some 250 miles from home, I am stuck with whatever wines I have brought with me. The local off-licence is unlikely to have anything smarter than Blossom Hill lookalikes so you will believe me that whatever I take with me is going to be preferable. Having come back from a couple of days there, I can report that the visit was successful, wine-wise at least, with a couple of Bordeaux I had been dreading, a Burgundy which has never impressed and a Chateauneu

Beaucastel 2011 allocations just received

The allocation for the 2011 wines, tasted recently in London ( see here for my impressions), has just landed in my inbox and the offer is now available to view here . For the first time, we are pleased to offer Coudoulet Blanc as well as the rest of the range from Chateau de Beaucastel and Famille Perrin.

Does anyone notice a face lift?

Despite Google Analytics statistics, I am never entirely convinced that anyone reads this (except for the small number of people who call me to correct punctuation or grammar - you know who you are!) so was there really any point in the hours I put in to change the appearance of some of the pages on the website? Given what I have written in the paragraph above, I can assume that few will have noticed the changes so I should begin with the information that the pages affected were those that list the estates we work with from the various regions. Out with the tedious alphabetical lists and in with pictures - logos, labels and photos - to make these dull pages more exciting and, if not exciting, more accessible. For example: French wines    -    Rhone wines    -    South-West France    -    Languedoc-Roussillon Italian wines    -    Spanish wines It should be fairly easy to post a response on the blog so let me know whether you think it an improvement - do the changes make things

Memory lane revisited

Domaine de Cristia produced its first vintage of its 80-year-old vine Grenache grown on the Cristia lieu dit  next to Rayas, named appropriately enough "Vieilles Vignes" in 2004. It was an instant hit with critics and consumers alike and, when it was released in 2006, was good value at around £25 per bottle (you can double that today). At eight years old, the wine has shed its primary character but it hasn't quite got round to the next phase yet. At first there is a hint of varnish on the nose (something that seems quite common for this style of wine at this stage of its evolution) but this blows off with a little breathing. As indicated, the fruit character is not giving its best just now but, having come across this before, I know it is just a matter of time before the secondary glow appears. What does interest me now is the texture of this wine. In particular, the weight of the wine is excellent. The tannins are smooth and the alcohol is not overly apparent. T

Uplifiting Usseglio

OK, so Chateauneuf-du-Pape is not generally a Tuesday night wine but, having endured a vegetarian lunch (with some very good friends so I didn't mind too much!) we had a beef stew which cried out for something majestic. Raymond Usseglio's 2005 promised to hit the spot. At just seven years old, this wine has now turned the corner to become a wine that could only be Chateauneuf, a real terroir  wine. Raymond's (or, rather, Stef's) wines are never the most concentrated in their youth but they grow and grow until, when ready, their mouthfeel is perfectly balanced with the acidity and tannins and the fruit, at seven years old, is beginning to show signs of maturity with some secondary fruit poking its head round the corner. Lovely.

Beautiful Beaucastel 2011

Yesterday saw the annual Beaucastel EP (en primeur) tasting, this year held at the Church House Conference Centre, a stone's throw away from the Houses of Parliament (it's OK, they weren't sitting: it's conference season, remember?). The line up started, not altogether impressively, with the Vieille Ferme range which I found to have of-putting aromas. Nothing offensive, they just smell cheap (which, of course, they are). Probably OK in the supermarkets but of no interest to me. The newly named Famille Perrin range, however, is increasingly interesting. The CDR Blanc is a correct wine with a decent enough nose and palate made in an easy drinking style. Pleasant enough. The red has a typical Grenache nose with a good helping of cherry fruit and some spice. It's a lively enough wine. The "Nature" was of particular interest as I used to import it before it was certified organic and before Waitrose muscled in. In those days it was quite animal; not so an

Red wines with curry

A local friend who hails from India by way of Kenya and Ealing has his ageing mother living with him now. She wanted to cook an authentic curry for his friends so last night we all piled round to enjoy something rather more subtle than the curries I make at home (or get from the local take-away). I asked what the curry was called to learn that it translated simply as "chicken curry" - no fancy names then. I had been asked to provide some wines and, whilst there were a couple of whites on the table, I stuck with the reds, of course. A Domaine de la Charite Cotes du Rhone had good fruit and a sufficiently soft structure not to be bothered by the spice. However, I was more surprised that the Domaine de Mourchon Seguret from 2007 drank so well alongside the (admittedly fairly mildly) spicy food. Perhaps more understandably, the maturing 2009 Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Bressy-Masson with its softened tannins provided secondary fruit characters that blended well with the spic

Piedmont - at last I have narrowed it down

At last, after much deliberation (make that "tasting"), I have narrowed down the selection of wines from Nada Giuseppe (Barbaresco), Fabrizio Battaglino (Roero), Filippo Gallino (Roero), Grasso Fratelli (Barbaresco) and Crissante Alessandria (Barolo) to just three or four wines from each. The range of wines is quite something: some unusual but beguiling whites, a gutsy Dolcetto, Barbera ranging from easy, everyday drinking to serious, dinner party wine, super ripe Nebbiolo to classic Barolo (not forgetting the Barbaresco and Roero incarnations, of course) and two low-alcohol, sweet wines, one red, one white. Not bad for fewer than 20 wines! I really do think all these wines are stunningly good - normally I am no fan of Dolcetto but Enrico Nada turns out a beefy version that really works for me. However, the highlight of the range (for me) this year is the 2009 Barbaresco "Casot" which is so forward, I have already worked my way through several bottles.

Barbaresco: a (very) mini vertical

When I first tasted the 2007 Barbaresco from Nada Giuseppe it was alongside the 2008. The younger vintage was tighter and harder with more overt acidity - fair enough, it was the younger wine but this year I visited the family and tasted the 2008 against the 2009 which was ripe and forward.  Incredibly drinkable already, in fact.The 2008 remains more classic (I hope that's not just a euphemism) with a harder edge although this is a little more approachable than this time last year. Last night provided an opportunity to taste the 2007 and 2009 to see how they stack up. The 2009 was true to recent form. The tannins are very soft and the fruit forward and rich. It's hard to see where this is going or, to be more precise, why you would want to take it on a long journey when it is so good now. I really can't fault it. The 2007 is still more approachable than the 2008 but has more obvious guts than the 2009 with some zingy acidity and dancing tannins. The fruit it quite simila

The evolution of a (Rhone) wine

Having been alerted to a new phase in the life of Raymond Usseglio's 2001 Cuvee Imperiale (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) I checked out my own stock to find I had enough of this to give it a try. Previous bottles have all shown good promise but they have all stopped short of actually delivering. Not so this one. The wine has put on a good deal weight since last time (when it seemed almost Beaujolais-like) and now has a rich but pure texture with full mouthfeel and tannins that wrap the wine perfectly. Now it is more Burgundian (and I am talking Grand Cru). The fruit has turned a corner or two too with richness and depth where there was once a question mark. This wine is now eleven years old and it has taken over ten of those years to get to this point. That's old school and, certainly, Stef Usseglio is making wines that show their promise much more obviously at an early stage so it is great to rediscover a classical wine - they don't make 'em like they used to!

Ventoux Viognier

Ciaran left Domaine des Anges last October after 13 years but not before he had vinified the 2011 vintage. Most of the wines are not ready for proper assessment yet (I did taste the white and rose back at Easter) but yesterday popped up to see his old boss, Gay McGuinness, and the new estate manager, Florent Chave, formerly of Domaine Brusset, to have a chat and taste any new wines. The one most interesting to me was the 2011 Viognier "Cherubin". I have had an on-off relationship with this variety over the years, sometimes finding it exotic and frustrating at others. I used to abhor the oaked versions then find un-oaked wines too acidic. When Ciaran told me he was making Viognier starting with the 2010 vintage, I wondered how I would find the wine. That first vintage was aged 50% in third year barrels and 50% in stainless steel but I never got to taste it from the bottle as it sold out quickly (there wasn't a lot of it) so the 2011 is the first bottled Viognier from DD

Filippo Gallino - last stop in Piemonte

Wednesday evening saw my last full estate visit - the rest of the time in Italy was more or less holiday (although a trip to Acqui Terme necessitated a visit to the Enoteca Regionale to familiarise myself better with the local Barbera di Monferrato wines amongst others). We got a bit lost in Canale - should you ever visit, look for signs to Valle Pozzo and you'll be OK. When you arrive at Filippo Gallino , there is the feeling of the Deep South - a distressed row of houses with balconies overlooking a yard where the children amuse themselves by throwing up bottle tops and seeing where they land. It seems all the money is spent on the cantina  and all the family must live here, several generations together. Laura had driven off to look for us but returned just as we were trying out our Italian on her sister. Little English is spoken here except by Laura's husband Guglielmo who doesn't work for the family (except to help out with hapless English people like us). We went i

Mario Giribaldi - another new estate for me

I had been bombarded with emails so eventually investigated and found there is an interesting selection of wines made here. But what about the quality? Having a confused SatNav meant I was late arriving but Katie Pattinson was relaxed as we talked about our attitudes to wine and the wine trade. The wines were al interesting but some stood out more than others for me. Of the whites, I enjoyed the full and fairly complex Gavi  with its minerality and white fruit characters (apples and pears). The simple Barbera 2010 Caj  offers fruity, juicy, easy fruit and good acidity; a decent, straightforward Barbera. The Nebbiolo 2009 Accerto   has good mouthfeel with fairly low acidity and soft tannins - tastes right, feels good. I rather liked the Dame e Fuet 2007 , a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Pinot Noir which has a great, plush nose which lets some Pinot Noir character through. Good mouthfeel. The final two wines of the tasting were a Barbaresco 2007 Gaia Principe , a single vineyard wi

Up the hill to Manzone

Not a great start, as I subsequently discovered: I had got the wrong day! Mauro was busy for the first half hour but we had a guided tour of the cellars from his sister who has recently joined the Giovanni Manzone family estate. It is a fascinating place with an underground spring keeping the area naturally humid. We went through most of the wines: Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Barolo. Frankly, not a bad wine among them. Some highlights though: the Dolcetto 2010   La  Serra  is more complex and structured than most with good acidity and more tannin so can age well (10 years?). Good "purple" fruit, long and fragrant. The Barbera 2010  offers juicy fruit and a simple structure to back up the slightly sour cherry fruit: a good all-rounder. I still prefer the more complex Barbera Superiore 2009 La Serra  which sees 16 months in tonneaux.  It is a fuller, rounder wine with lovely juiciness and good complexity. The Nebbiolo 2010 Il Crutin   is quite evolved but a fairly simple

First taste of Barolo this trip - Crissante Alessandria

Alberto Alessandria was in a talkative mood when I arrived just after 9.30 on Wednesday morning (25th July). He showed me round the winery before going into the tasting room which has magnificent views over the valley below La Morra (he is based in the small hamlet of Santa Maria, a couple of miles outside La Morra). We skipped the Dolcetto and went straight onto one of my favourite wines in 2007, the Barbera d'Asti "Ruge" 2006 . Alberto explained that it had been too acidic before so they had held it back until they felt it is ready. It has quite an evolved nose now with a warming palate, rounded and together. The tannins are soft and dancing around the slightly baked fruit. The acidity is balanced and the wine has decent length - can be enjoyed now. The 2008 won't be released until October and is different inasmuch as the oak used to age it gives the wine a different flavour profile to the wine at first. I didn't taste it with Alberto but took a bottle away w

Fabrizio's fabulous wines

Over to Roero on Monday evening, the other side of the Tanaro river so no longer in the Langhe. This is a region which has been overlooked by consumers hunting down the more famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco but here there are Nebbiolo wines not to be ignored. At a lunch in London back in February, I tasted through thirty or so wines from this area and was pleased to note that the one that stood out was one of Fabrizio's which I was due to re-taste - properly - with Fabrizio Battaglino at his family's house. We started off with the white wine, a Roero Arneis 2011 . Fabrizio does not want to have anything to do with non-native grapes which is the right choice for him although it may give him something of an uphill struggle when it comes to marketing such wines. Thirty years or so ago, there were few Arneis wines produced; rather, it was used to soften the Nebbiolo, much in the same way as Viognier is used in Cote Rotie. Now there are a good number of these wines around. T

Back to Barbaresco

My second visit of the trip returns me to Treiso, just a few hundred yards away from Nada Giuseppe in the Val Grande, a beautiful oval-shaped valley carpeted in vines. The estate is that of the bro thers  Luigi and Alfredo  Grasso, Grasso Fratelli . Neither of the brothers speaks any English so, with m y limited Italian I am relieved their niece, Elisa, is on hand to show me round. I have already tasted some of the wines back in England. What is immediately attractive is the fact that they can offer a selection of single-vineyard Barbaresco wines going back to 1999 so there is the possibility of trying something that is at least semi-mature, a rarity in this accountant-driven world. Starting out with the non-Barbaresco wines was interesting although, I confess, non of them wowed me as much as the semi-mature Barbarescos I was treated to. There was a  barrique- fermented Chardonnay and a Spumante Brut which was not too dry. A trio of Dolcetto wines included a very young 2011 with a

Nada Giuseppe visit but no Enrico this year

With Enrico Nada on holiday in Sardinia, his parents and sister Barbara were perfect hosts during this year's visit to Nada Giuseppe . Whilst I have been trying to learn a little more Italian, I still have to rely on the better language skills of my hosts which is shameful; I must do better next time (although Enrico will probably be there and his English is extremely good so I am fighting a losing battle - but one I will continue to fight!). Still, even without Enrico the conversation flowed as well as the wine. The wines, as expected, were extremely good, perhaps better than last year, especially the top wines. We started with Armonia 2011 , the estate's only white wine. The nose is quite youthful and hints of the blend that it is (I assume it is the same as the 2010 which included Arneis, Favorita and Sauvignon)   and a touch of oak. There is some interesting fruit here which comes through well on the palate which has good definition: rounded but good acidity to back thi

I know I shouldn't but...

Last night I opened a 2007 Barolo "Bricat" by Giovanni Manzone . Everything was against this being successful: it is a very tannic wine which, on paper, needs another five to ten years and I was eating something that was never going to partner a wine like this even when it is mature. I just couldn't help myself. To start with, the tannins were a little immature but there is enough sweet Nebbiolo fruit there to cope with them even when the bottle has just been opened. Over the course of an hour or so, the tannins softened. Not completely, of course, but enough to bring the fruit out even more. Texturally, the wine is gorgeous with a velvetiness that makes you want to keep coming back but, at the same time, enough grip from the tannins to keep it pert. But what about the fruit? Classic Nebbiolo - sweet cherry, quite piercing, reminiscent of a very fine Burgundy. Some tar, tobacco and spice too. What's not to love?

From the Southern Rhone to Canterbury

Last night was my annual jaunt to the south of Kent for a tasting with the group. Group chairman/secretary (I am never sure what the roles are), Keith Powis had been called away so there was quite a different dynamic than usual but he was missed. The tasting was very lively and the wines were well received - all showing rather well. The wines I took along (one non-Rhone but who's counting?) were: White wines Mourchon , Côtes du Rhône 2010 “La Source” DomaineTreloar , VDP Côtes Catalan 2010 “Terre Promis” (really lovely wine, coming together well) Red wines Domaine deCristia , VDP Mediterrannée 2010 (mini-Chateauneuf, excellent price) Domaine de la Charité , Côtes du Rhône 2010 (very pure CDR) Perrin , Vinsobres 2009 “Les Cornuds” Raymond Usseglio , Côtes du Rhône 2009 (mini-Chateauneuf, a real contender) Domaine Bressy-Masson , Rasteau 2009 “Paul-Emile” (just gorgeous) Domaine des Côteaux des Travers , Rasteau-CDR Villages 2007 “Prestige” (masterful)

Herts Fine Wine Society

Just back from Easter in the Vaucluse (a working holiday, at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and straight into a wine tasting for a group I haven't met before but who received me generously on Monday evening and seemed to like the wines I presented. First up was a pair of whites: Mourchon's Viognier "La Source", a wine for the summer and Coteaux des Travers' more serious and ageworthy (but not dissimilar) "Marine". Both wines have lots of Viognier and Roussanne so are highly aromatic. On the night, the Mourchon offered the easier drinking but the CDT is clearly the master here. Easing into the reds, Cristia's 2009 CDP Grenache "Vieilles Vignes" is just about there now, the wood which was, perhaps, a little too evident is beginning to give way to some sweet, fragrant fruit with a Burgundian elegance. I defy any Grenache detractor not to enjoy this wine with a summer lunch. Next, a pair of classic wines: Bressy-Mas

World Malbec Day... yesterday

An Argentinian initiative but, frankly, when you get beyond the £6 or £7 wines they do well, I think you are better off looking at Cahors. OK, so I am spoilt for choice with my relationships with Cedre, Lamartine and Haut-Monplaisir but these estates all prove that it is possible to make wines that burst with fruit (in the same way as the Argentinian wines do) but don't leave a saccharine taste in the mouth; rather, they have superb structures to go with burly meats like duck (an obvious choice given they come from the South-West), lamb (think Agneau de Quercy) and a juicy, bloody steak. Sadly, I didn't have any input into last night's meal which was chicken wings so no Malbec for me. Tonight, however, lamb shanks - not the most obvious dish for Cahors but I have to make amends somehow.

Astonishing wine from 1978

Puig Parahy is not a name that is well known but it deserves to be. Georges Puig makes some very good wines at his family's estate in the Roussillon region of southern France but what the family has long excelled at is offering mature vintages of exquisite Rivesaltes Rancio wines. When we visited the estate just before Easter 2011, we were fortunate to arrive a couple of hours after The Wine Advocate's reviewer for this region had left. That meant that not only were there bottles out for tasting meant for us but older vintages of both the table wines and the Rivesaltes. Indeed, this was the first time in my life I tasted a wine older than anyone I have ever - to the best of my knowledge - met. The youngest wine was a 2009, nowhere near ready for bottling but showing good potential. The 2005 was already displaying some of the Rancio characteristics and, skipping the odd bottle here and there (not that I did during the tasting), I found that a jump of six years seemed to brin

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 2

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 we

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?


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.

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,

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!

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.

Roero wines at La Trompette

Our friend from Denmark, Birger Vejrum, organised a wine tasting lunch at La Trompette sand, inevitably, I couldn't resist. On arrival at midday, there were 14 wines to taste, all from Roero producers, ranging from white wines made from the indigenous Arneis grape, through Barberas and Nebbiolos to Roero reds (also from Nebbiolo). Five producers were represented including Fabrizio Battaglino and Filippo Gallino . There were just two whites, both with the Roero designation: a 2011 from Ca'Rossa had immediate appeal whereas Fabrizio's 2010 showed more mineral complexity and potential to age and develop over four or five years. The Barbera grape was represented by Ca'Rossa whose 2009 "Mulassa" is very fruity with quite a rich nose but was quickly put in the shade by Gallino's 2007 Superiore with its structure and depth of fruit which had more complexity (undergrowth etc). Maybe this will have to be added to my next shopping list. A few Nebbiolo d'A

Joblot from the bottle

At last the 2010 wines from Domaine Joblot , the greatest estate in Givry have been assembled, bottled, shipped and cracked open, this last effort completed by me. What a treat! Before getting on with the whites, we sneaked a peak at two of the reds: the non-Premier Cru "Pied au Chaume" and the Premier Cru "Clos Marole" , the only wine that had been assembled last August when I visited the estate. At that time, this had been the wine which had given me the most trouble but that is not unusual for a recently blended wine (often at Beaucastel tastings, I find the recently blended whole is not greater than the sum of its parts but after a couple of years...). I will come back to these later. So, the whites. It seemed logical to try the Vieilles Vignes "En Veau" first although, this being Burgundy, logic is not always the best measure, of course. This wine has lovely rounded Chardonnay fruit well wrapped in sweet oak, not too much of course but enough t

PFV tasting

For some inexplicable reason, I was invited to a tasting put together by the Primum Familiae Vinum group of twelve of Europe's leading wine families which took place in one of the ballrooms at the Park Lane Hilton yesterday. I am not complaining! This was a rare opportunity to taste wines from Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller, Sassicaia, Vega Sicilia and Mouton Rothschild, amongst others. I did. I began with a couple of Egon Muller wines: the Scharzhofberger Spatlese 2010 followed by the Auslese. Where the Spatlese had a delicious tropical grapefruit nose and full palate with sweet fruit and tangy acidity, the Auslese was more so. Astonishing really. I am a convert! I confess to being a little underwhelmed by one or two of the wines I tasted from Tenuta San Guido until, that is, I got to Sassicaia itself. A 2008, this was inevitably too young: restrained and tight but with a promise of things to come. Chateau de Beaucastel was next door so I jumped in with the 2009 Gigondas &qu

Perrin Vinsobres 2009

I hadn't tasted this since the en primeur  tastings back in 2010 so, the wine having arrived at last, I wanted to see how the 2009 Vinsobres "Les Cornuds" has turned out. Rather good, actually, although this was never really in doubt. Lovely black fruit (with a hint of red) and the inevitable tar/ garrigue /herb characters too. Most important, you can drink this now although it will soften and round out over the next year or so and drink well for at least five years.

Manzone's 2006 Gramolere

Having finally finalised my order with Mauro Manzone (of Giovanni Manzone), I have done what I always do, albeit a couple of hours early: cracked open a bottle. This one is the 2006 Barolo Le Gramolere in Monforte d'Alba. This site tends to give medium-bodied but luscious wines and this is no exception. The reason for opening it so early is that I feared it would be a typical 2006, overloaded with tannins. Yes, the tannins are noticeable but they will soften in the couple of hours or so between now and my (wholly inappropriate) dinner and they don't get in the way of the sweet cherry/berry fruit and liquorice/tar characters. This wine has the ethereal quality that I want from a fine Nebbiolo. It doesn't disappoint.