Grapevine Archive for October, 2010
A great evening on Tuesday night, when we welcomed owners and representatives of 111 Bordeaux châteaux from the Union des Grands Crus for a fascinating overview of the 2008 vintage.
This is the first time they have participated together in an event for wine drinkers rather than the wine trade. 2008 clarets are still babies, bottled between March and September this year, but already show the fruit and finesse and balance of a classic year that will age well and cost rather less than 2009. The dry whites of Pessac-Léognan are particularly aromatic. We were able to compare no fewer than 12 classed growth Sauternes, made in tiny quantity in 2008, but delicious.
Growers were delighted with Society members’ interest and knowledge, and only worried that French strikes might delay their journey back to finish the 2010 vintage which is unusually late. Christian Seely of Pichon Longueville took the easiest option returning to Hampshire to oversee the the harvest at his English vineyard.
I was in Rioja last week and during a visit to Remelluri in the Alavesa they were bringing in the first tempranillo grapes last Friday (the 2010 harvest is especially late). This short clip shows the steps the top Bodegas take to maximise quality. Ten staff, working non-stop, selecting only the best grapes for the fermentation vat. This is the first stage of Rioja’s complex winemaking process which will be completed once the 2010 reserva is released in about 4-5 years!
After the earthquake
Chileans work hard and effectively and some wineries were up and running a few hours after February’s earthquake. The loss of power and water did affect vineyards’ irrigation systems and some suffered dehydration in the month before harvest. Apart from the loss of the equivalent of 15% of a normal harvest, repairing damaged bottling lines took a lot of time and many orders were delayed as a backlog developed.
There are strict building regulations in Chile. Structures are constructed to be able to resist earthquakes, but the 2010 quake was so strong that although virtually all new buildings remained standing, and so protected the lives of those people within, many are structurally damaged and will have to be demolished and rebuilt. It was mainly the old buildings made from adobe that collapsed. However, most aspects of business life are now back to normal.
Chileans are now struggling with loss adjusters from insurance companies, completing forms, submitting photographs, trying to get their claims approved. Most wineries are covered for loss and damage and may eventually benefit from new buildings and equipment.
2010 has turned out to be an excellent crop of high quality and low quantity. Growing conditions were cool and the wines have a welcome freshness, vitality and concentration about them, with some similarities to the 2008s which are looking very good currently. We have started to ship the first 2010s whites and both chardonnays and sauvignon blancs are absolutely delicious. Try the CE3291 The Society’s Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley 2010 which has just docked.
The Wine Society needs little introduction from me, suffice to say that no-one I know regrets the £40 membership fee paid for a lifetime share. The Society’s wines often have more bottle age … , a feature I appreciate. The 2007 Allende White Rioja, £18, showed how worthwhile this can be, a stylish, nutty, deliciously rich dry white whose complexity rivals good white Burgundy. Same goes for the white Burgundy lookalike from California in the gloriously rich, complex, butterscotchy 2006 Au Bon Climat Sanford and Benedict Chardonnay, £25. 2006 Clos Floridène, Graves, £14.95, had retained a vigorous presence through its stylish cassis-laden fruit quality. [This] contrasted with the brilliant Henri Marionnet’s 2009 Touraine Gamay, Première Vendange, £9.95, a nubile, cherryish autumn red that blows most Beaujolais away. If you think The Wine Society pricey, the Alandra NV from Herdade de Esporão, a moreishly damsony Portuguese tinto, £5.95, should change preconceptions.
One long-standing over-performing Mâconnais name is Saumaize, a domaine split in the 1990s between the brothers Roger, who, with his wife Christine, continues to run Saumaize-Michelin with aplomb, and Jacques, who, with his wife Nathalie, has made this great-value St-Véran from vines on slopes with a good proportion of Chardonnay-loving limestone to the north of the robustly priced Pouilly-Fuissé appellation. The Vieilles Vignes bottling is fermented in barrel but this unoaked version is wonderfully sunny, open and attractive already. I loved its almost ethereal perfume, its energy and its creamy texture. According to the label it is only 13% alcohol and I would drink it, with or without food, any time over the next two years. It’s available from The Wine Society (who have a particularly well-chosen selection of Mâconnais whites, as outlined in Young white burgundies – some great buys) for £11.50 a bottle or £138 a dozen
We have bottled exclusively for Wine Society members this golden coloured, mature Jerez fino, almost a fino-amontillado. We estimate it is about 8 years old. The minimum legal age for Sherry is 3 years and most finos are 4–5 years of age. This style is less seen today, and the Consejo does not allow the name Fino-Amontillado, the equivalent of a Manzanilla Pasada, any more. Hence, we named it Fino Perdido or “Lost Fino”.
Analysis found that the wine contained no proteins so it hasn’t been fined, which can remove a lot of body and flavour. It was filtered to remove yeast but was neither cold treated, which prevents precipitation of naturally occuring tartaric acid crystals but can remove flavour, nor was it charcoal filtered, which removes the colour but also some flavour. I tasted a sample of the wine before and after filtering and the filtration had no negative effect on the flavour, and may even have cleaned up the nose a little. Like all finos its flor character will dissipate over time in bottle. It should be good for five months but is better now. At just £7.95 per bottle it’s an absolute steal. Carpe diem!
There is a chance that this may form a harmless haze and precipitate naturally occuring tartaric acid crystals.
I have tasted a bottle and have hugely enjoyed its golden colour, attractive bready flor, and its broad, full, slightly nutty, rich yet dry flavour. It is a strong flavoured Sherry ideal with richly flavoured seafood like crab or with tuna stewed with onions. It will also partner strong hard cheese like Cheddar or Parmesan better than most red wines. It is probably closest in style to the Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada, though they are both true to their origins. The Fino Perdido (from bodegas in the warmer, inland Jerez) being richer and broader on the palate while the Pastrana (matured in cooler bodegas in coastal Sanlúcar) is fresher and less rich. Fino Perdido is a bargain at this price.
We were inspired to bottle this after the success of the Tio Pepe en Rama offered earlier in the year. The inspiration was to treat less so more flavour gets into the bottle, not to copy the style. The wines are quite different in character, though equally delicious. Tio Pepe en Rama, which some of you tried, is a much younger wine, about 4–5 years old (half the age of Fino Perdido), which was deliberately bottled with a lot of flor yeast in suspension to maximise the pure taste of flor. Both we think are excellent examples of their type. Fino Perdido is richer, rounder and nuttier with nice bready flor character; Tio Pepe en Rama, younger, fresher and dominated by a delicious and overwhelming taste of flor. Experience showed that the flor increasingly was attracted to the sides of the bottle of the Tio Pepe en Rama and that to get the full flor hit it was best to shake the bottle before drinking to send the yeast into suspension!
As ever I would be really interested to hear your views on this wine.
Last night I was lucky enough to attend the launch of
The Wine Opus published by Dorling Kindersley, with The Society’s Head of Tastings & Events, Ewan Murray, and Head of Marketing, Matthew Kirk. One of the most ambitious illustrated wine reference books to be published in the last 20 years, The Wine Opus covers 4,000 of the world’s most significant wineries.
Guests were greeted with a glass of the mouth watering sparkler Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury, 2007 from the South Downs and had the opportunity to taste a selection of wines, recommended in The Wine Opus and supplied by The Wine Society, from Italy, South America, Australia, New Zealand and France. To complement the wines, chef Theo Randall had also created a selection of delicious canapés.
Five teams also took part in the evening’s wine quiz organised by our resident expert, Ewan. The teams included Waitrose Kitchen, Decanter, Waterstones, wine students from the trade and finally The Wine Opus contributors, including Jim Gordon (editor-in-chief), Jamie Goode (Australia, New Zealand and Portugal contributor), Jane Anson (Bordeaux and Southwest France contributor), and Emma Rice (England and Wales contributor). Thankfully, the contributors won!
As the merchant with the most wines featured in The Wine Opus, we have negotiated a special price for members. Members can buy it for £30 instead of the recommended £50, including post and packing within the UK. To order click here and enter thewinesociety2010 in the box marked ‘coupon code’. This offer is open until 31st December 2010.