Grapevine Archive for December, 2010
We’re on a roll with Jancis Robinson as she includes the following wines in her top 40 fortified and sweet wines for Christmas.
Sánchez Romate, Fino Perdido NV Very pale tawny. Chock full of character. Really light, dry and zesty. Screwcap with señorita label. £7.95 for 75 cl The Wine Society
Sánchez Romate, Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado NV Obviously very old and super tangy. Lots to lose yourself in here though overall much more delicate than most Palo Cortados. Seriously interesting. £17 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest 2008 Tokaji The painless way to enjoy Hungary’s most famous wine. A super-fruity blend of the three Tokaji grapes: the great Furmint, Hárslevelu and Yellow Muscat. Shows the freshness that defines Tokaji without any of the complication. Super clean. £10.95 for 37.5 cl The Wine Society
Ch La Tour Blanche 2003 Sauternes Really luscious for drinking now. So big and round and unctuous. Yet it’s saved from flab by its structure. There’s a beginning, middle and end to this wine with some very agreeable toastiness in the undertow. Great stuff. Enjoy it while you may. £37 The Wine Society
Ch de Fesles 2005 Bonnezeaux Mid gold from the mid Loire. Nutty start and then beautiful, contained sweetness with a savoury streak. Impossible to spit. Great intensity with a hint of dill pickle. So long, so complete. Lovely already yet I’m sure it will last beautifully. £29 per 50 cl The Wine Society
Ben Glaetzer, director and chief winemaker of Heartland and Stickleback wines, updates members on news from the Barossa in this, his second posting from Down Under.
Ben Glaetzer, 16th December 2010
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in the Barossa. For Australians that’s quite the polar (pardon the pun) opposite of the weather you in the northern hemisphere are currently experiencing! A balmy 28 degrees here, sun shining brightly and the vineyards and gardens all vibrant green. Last week however was quite a different story. A slow moving trough passing across Australia channelled tropical storm intensity into South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. At the winery we had over 86mm of rain in the space of 4 hours, just down the road in Krondorf was 110mm. We’re generally not used to this type of unseasonal event so flooding was rife, houses inundated and mud and debris everywhere. Widespread blackouts, lasting upwards of 16 hours were reported and the State was almost in shut down.
Every year in December along with a mate of mine, James Lindner from Langmeil Winery, I organise an event that is known as the Generations Lunch. The concept is that the younger generation get to hear the thoughts, desires and Barossa viewpoint of the older generation. The idea really is to illustrate that the wheel doesn’t need to be re-invented with generational change and many of the issues faced today such as economic downturns, grape varietal choices, urban encroachment and other various topics have all, to some degree, been issues faced by the generations who came before us. Allowing that exchange of knowledge provides both direction and unity going forward. The 2010 Generations Lunch was held in “The Great Vintage Hall” at the historic Seppeltfield Winery, one of the jewels of the Barossa historic crown.
The calamaties of the weather failed to deter the 280 guests who attended this year’s lunch and the vigorous debate was enjoyed by all. It was only towards the end that we told the gathering that we did not in fact have any electricity and that we were running on generators that we had spent hours begging, borrowing and stealing from various wineries in order to ensure the show not only ran smoothly but ran at all. There was a proposal to change the event’s name from the Generations Lunch to the Generators Lunch which drew a few laughs.
Jancis Robinson, in her 75 sure-fire whites, includes the following seven Society wines:
Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2009 Alsace Steely and lively. Very firm and dry. Real earthiness: proper Sylvaner character. 12% £7.95
Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 Nagambie Lakes Unusual full-bodied Australian classic from one of the oldest Victorian wineries. Rich start. Lots of gummy personality (Marsanne is a northern Rhône grape). Lots to get your teeth into. Taste history! 13.5% £9.50
La Réméjeanne, Les Arbousiers 2009 Côtes du Rhône Very interesting nose – quite complex with medicinal herbs in the ascendant. Rich start and then layers with a certain oiliness but it’s not, overall, heavy. Definitely a fair price for a handmade wine. 14% £10.95
Dom J & N Saumaize, En Crêches 2008 St-Véran One of those Mâconnais wines that producers of much more expensive white wines on the much smarter Côte d’Or should be forced to taste and marvel at. £11.50
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2009 Mosel Great value for such a sophisticated wine that arrives somehow in a cloud of complexity and depth. Smoky and with real tingle. Full of Mosel fruit. Just 8.5% £12.50
Millton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2007 Biodynamic. Smells like the honey and damp straw of proper Chenin. Thrillingly authentic and buzzing with life. Super clean but really interesting off-dry stuff. 12% £12.95
Grosset, Springvale Watervale Riesling 2009 Clare Valley Herbs and grass on the nose – much more open than the 2010. Open and easy and more relaxed than the Polish Hill 2009. A good choice for current drinking. Lemon and lime on the end. 12.5% £21
Her rather excellent website, www.jancisrobinson.com, is jam-packed full of fascinating articles, news and tasting notes. Some is free-to-view, other areas require a subscription which, in our view, is well worth it for anyone who wants to do more than simply scratch the surface of the wine world.
Her recent ’100 sure-fire reds’ including the following 15 wines from The Society.
Quinta do Rigodeira Baga 2005 Bairrada Unusual intensity for the price. Lovely stuff – not too austere – based on Baga, the usually tough grape of this northern Portuguese region. Admirably healthy fruit. 13.5% £7.25
Camillo de Lellis Riserva 2004 Biferno Full and sweet and with masses of oomph and personality – not to mention fruit, and evolution. Sure there are bargains like this to be sniffed out all over Italy? There is ripeness and acidity and a certain raspberry sort of fruit in this unusual wine from Molise. 13% £7.25
Ch de Ricaud 2005 Bordeaux Supérieur Drink this great-value claret from Cadillac sooner rather than later but you can really wallow in it. Well balanced, satisfying and persistent. Graceful finish. 13% £8.50
Ch de la Rolière, Brézème 2007 Côtes du Rhône Exciting, artisanal, spicy Syrah from a village in the mid Rhône Valley. 13% £8.95
Ch Bouissel 2008 Fronton Rare to find wine from Toulouse’s own wine district, and its own Negrette grape scented with ferns and violets. Bravo! Firm and dry. 13% £7.50
Trenel 2009 Côte de Brouilly A thoroughly satisfying, even quite rich, top Beaujolais. Drinkable now but should take on flesh and be at its peak from next year. Racy but not thin. 13% £9.50
Barberani, Foresco 2007 Umbria Supertuscan from Umbria? 50% Sangiovese with 25% each Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 months in French oak barriques. Luscious stuff – very international, suave and open but very well done. 14.5% £9.95
Wirra Wirra, Church Block 2008 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon with 37% Shiraz and 15% Merlot, all aged for 15 months in oak barrels. Rich and lip-smacking with lots of fruit. Very mellow but not sweet. Why can’t all Australian reds have such tamed tannins and well-integrated acidity? 14.5% £9.95
Ch d’Aussières, Blason d’Aussières 2007 Corbières 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan. From the Lafite stable – so why isn’t it being shipped straight out to China? A hint of top-quality oak in here and a grown-up dry finish. Bordeaux build. I’d wait a year or two but it’s pretty smart – provided you want a Médoc from the Languedoc. 13.5% £9.95
Nicosia, Fondo Filara 2008 Etna Naughty heavy bottle but it’s not expensive for fashionable Nerello Mascalese from Sicily’s volcano. Racy and rich on the nose with some really grainy minerality. Chewy. 13.5% £10.95
Clos Floridène 2006 Graves Famed oenologist Denis Dubourdieu’s home property. Energetic and seductive. Gorgeously polished fruit. 12.5% £14.95
Tempier 2007 Bandol Full and spicy but clean from the best-known Provençal wine producer. Lip-smacking – hot and almost baked but it has life and lift too. 14.5% £20
Yalumba, The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Coonawarra An Australian classic. Very rich and ripe on the nose with a strongly medicinal streak and still lots of tannin. Quite an ambitious wine that very much expresses the minerality of Coonawarra but has sufficient fruit and weight. 14.5% £25
Dom Alain Burguet, En Billard 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Very fresh, direct fruit and then a little tight on the finish. Lots of spice. Easy to like even if it is not the subtlest burgundy ever. Attractively transparent but with sweetness. No one could object to this. 13% £27
Ch Langoa Barton 2001 St-Julien Léoville Barton’s sister property generally evolves faster. Very fragrant, well integrated and developed. Everything in its place and no excess of tannins. Clever to snap this up – a great property and vintage that is currently undervalued. Great stuff for classicists while the rest will wonder what the heck the fuss is all about… £35
The very first wines bought and sold by The Wine Society back in 1874 were from Portugal. Following our very successful tasting in November, our current offer of almost 40 great Portuguese wines, ranging in price from £5.50 to £18.50, plus some excellent vintage Ports, is attracting much interest from writers. Examples to have recently appeared in the press include:
Big, dark and fruity, with a solid backbone provided by one of Portugal’s trickier native grape varieties, baga. (Andrew Neather – Evening Standard)
Unusual intensity for the price. Lovely stuff – not too austere – based on Baga, the usually tough grape of this northern Portuguese region. Admirably healthy fruit. (Jancis Robinson – Financial Times, jancisrobinson.com)
… big-hearted red, … brimming with redcurrant and Victoria plum, somewhat claret-like with a surprisingly elegant finish. Modern Bairrada for drinking with roast poultry or game birds. (Susy Atkins – The Daily Telegraph)
Quintas dos Roques Reserva, Dão 2003 (£18.50)
At its best, the Dão region of Portugal makes some rich but elegant reds that are highly distinctive. From a warm vintage, this powerful, broad-shouldered wine is full of dark, ripe fruit and would be very comfortable with a hearty, herby stew or a plate of sausages. (David Williams – Observer Food Monthly)
Really quite classy, this is from the heartlands of the Douro valley, made by top port producer Quinta do Noval from traditional port varieties plus some syrah. It’s fat and sweet with solid structure — very satisfying. (Andrew Neather – Evening Standard)
If you think The Wine Society pricey, the Alandra NV from Herdade de Esporão, a moreishly damsony Portuguese tinto, £5.95, should change preconceptions. (Anthony Rose – The Independent, anthonyrosewine.com)
Quinta das Maias 2008 Dao (£10.95)
Get a load of this. It’s a really great Portuguese red, from the Dao region, and it’s brilliant value for money. I love the freshness, grip and definition. Quinta das Maias 2008 Dao, 13.5% alcohol. 55% jaen, 20% touriga nacional, 10% alfrocheiro, 10% tinta amarela, 5% tinta roriz. Lovely firm dark cherry nose with some savoury, meaty notes. Spicy and vibrant. The palate is really fresh with bright, dark cherry fruit and good definition. Precise with some tannic grip, and good acidity to boot. Brilliantly fresh, peppery and quite elegant. An appealing savoury style. (Jamie Goode – wineanorak.com)
Ben Glaetzer is one of Australia’s ‘young gun’ winemakers who in a short space of time has had a massive influence in South Australia. He has the rare knack of making high quality wines at all price points, from the fruity, everyday Stickleback and Heartland range of wines right up to cellar-worthy modern Barossa classics (Ben is behind the iconic Amon-Ra label). He is also a dab hand at writing blogs, the first we publish below which he has written especially for Wine Society members. Pierre Mansour, Australia buyer
Ben Glaetzer, 8th December 2010
The first hints of summer have arrived today with all the subtlety of the English Cricket team.
After one of the coolest springs on record the mercury hit 36 degrees here in the Barossa Valley by 10am. Ample winter and spring rains have rejuvenated the groundwater and the vegetation around the valley is now bathing in sunshine with renewed vigour after what had been an incredibly arid 2007 and 2008. The local gardening enthusiasts have proclaimed 2010 to be the best bloomin’ year in decades, the grape growers are eagerly watching the weather as flowering approaches, the local businesses are booming with the influx of tourists all keen to experience a dose of spring in the Valley, and as per usual the local graziers are whingeing about the cold, the heat, the dry and the rain. Life’s getting back to normal after a few very lean years for us all.
It feels like only yesterday since the last load of grapes from 2010 finished ferment and was transferred carefully to barrels for maturation, and now vintage 2011 is little over eight weeks away. The travel agenda has been no less hectic this year which has compounded the speed of time. Since May I’ve been fortunate enough to visit our importers, distributors and customers throughout the world and although it feels like I spent most of the time in airports and on planes there is a noticeable buzz about the wine industry and positivity about the future despite the economic hardships that many have been battling through.
I’ll be down to Langhorne Creek tomorrow, about an hour and a half from my base in the Barossa, to look through our Heartland vineyards and try to make an early judgement, pre-flowering, of likely crop levels, vine vigour and overall vineyard assessment. There’s always a large degree of approximation at this early stage, although it may appear that all is in good balance tomorrow, we may experience strong winds combined with extreme heat or moisture next week which will have a dramatic effect on the success rate of flowering and thus ultimately will dictate what fruit we will have available to us. Certainly an exciting time of the year and an everlasting reminder that we can try to predict the grape growing and winemaking process as much as we like yet the overriding influence is not ours.
On the winery side, we’ve had a few wines being bottled but the majority of that action is in August each year. With vintage just around the corner we’ve been in full cleaning and preparation mode. There’s something soothing about a warm bucket of suds and a scrubbing brush this time of year…at least that’s what I’ll be telling our new crop of junior cellarhands who’ll join us later this week.
… with another top review of The Society’s wines. The Wine Gang consists of five of the UK’s most respected wine critics: Tom Cannavan of wine-pages.com, Jane Parkinson of The Drinks Business, Anthony Rose of The Independent, Joanna Simon of House & Garden and David Williams of The Observer. To learn more or to subscribe to their excellent wine review website, click on the link above.
Moret Nominé Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatières 2005, 13.5% abv A gorgeous mouthful of rounded fruit, macadamia nuts, cream and lemon zest. This is a really nicely balanced wine with a powerful but subtle finish from an excellent vintage. One of this month’s Five Greatest Wines 94/100 £42.00
Concha y Toro Maycas del Limari Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2007, 14.5% abv The elegance of this wine knows no bounds. A whiff of butter and lemon stays true on the palate which has phenomenal breadth and depth of flavour. Ripe, zesty and with oak that hugs rather than attacks your palate, together with a finish that carries on for a seeming eternity. 93/100 £20.00 (NB – 2007 now sold out, 2008 in stock – Ed.)
Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux 2005, 12.0% abv A classic late-harvest Chenin Blanc from the heart of the Loire. Honey and citrus fruit peel mingle on the nose and palate with a mineral streak, while the precise acidity leads to a very long finish. This bottle is 50cl. 93/100 £29.00
Château Belgrave 2000 Haut-Médoc, 13.0% abv A nicely mature claret (although still with plenty of life left in it), from a much-improved Fifth Growth, part of the Dourthe stable (now owned by the Thiénot family from Champagne). The nose has some dark fruit and a touch of cedar, the palate is still powerful, with nippy, savoury tannins and real freshness and life to the finish. One of this month’s Five Wines for Christmas Lunch 92/100 £32.50
Valdivieso Eclat 2006, 14.0% abv Coming from vines more than 80-years old, this blend of 55% Carignan, 30% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah has a mineral and earthy dominant nose but then a sour cherry mouthful of juiciness and bags of black fruit flavour. Smooth and savoury tannins complement the fruit beautifully. 91/100 £14.99
Viña Leyda Garuma Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Leyda, 14.0% abv This wine is exactly why Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is making serious waves. A mineral, slightly salty, but also creamy and bright wine with a hint of white pepper spice on the palate as well as a zesty lemons, limes and grapefruits, keeping it awash with freshness. 91/100 £9.95 at Harvey Nichols. (£7.95 at The Wine Society – Ed.)
Domaine Alain Burget Gevrey-Chambertin en Billard 2005, 13.0% abv A very serious Pinot Noir for the money this, and a wine that punches above the weight of its appellation. It has a core of raspberry compote fruit leading into more complex, savoury and earthy flavours, and an extremely long, silky finish. 91/100 £27.00
Champagne Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2000, 12.5% abv 2000 was not perhaps the finest Champagne vintage of recent years, but Pol Roger have managed to craft a very fine wine from the year nonetheless. Blossom, critus fruit and patisserie on the nose leading to a fine, silky texture and a clean, persistent finish. 91/100 (single bottle £45 at The Wine Society, buy 6 for 5 = £37.50 equivalent price until 16th December)
Louro Godello 2009 Valdeorras, 13.5% abv A very complex, sophisticated modern white from the up-and-coming Valdeorras appellation in Galicia. Made by Rafael Palacios, brother of the celebrated Alvaro (of L’Ermita in Priorat), it has an intriguing flavour profile that suggests dried herbs macerated in fresh lemon juice, and a broad, rich palate. 90/100 £12.95
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 14.5% abv A touch of mint, a blast of blackcurrant pastille, some blueberries and a lick of liquorice: a pleasure to drink, this is benchmark Coonawarra Cab from Yalumba. 90/100 £25.00
Millton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2007, 12.0% abv An off-dry white of great intensity, Milton’s Chenin always impresses. Richly flavoured, with honeyed apples and the merest hint of lavender, it’s simply bursting with life. 89/100 £12.95
Léon Beyer Alsace Sylvaner 2009, 12.0% abv A really great value white this from Léon Beyer. It’s gossamer light but with excellent concentration: a real blast of pure white grapefruit juice and a lovely match for white fish and mild Asian spices. One of this month’s Five Best Value Wines. 89/100 £7.95
Domaine la Réméjeanne Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Les Arbousiers 2009, 14.0% abv This good value white Rhône blend has a lovely nose full of the joys of early-summer with apple blossom and apricot. The palate is intense, rounded, powerful but not at all flabby, and it finishes rich but clean. 88/100 £10.95
Saladini Pilastri Falerio dei Colli Ascolani 2009, 13.0% abv Crisp and light with just the merest prickle on the palate, this is a simple seafood wine par excellence with nicely tart, clean green apple flavours. Highly refreshing. 86/100 £6.25
Domaine Tempier Bandol 2007, 14.5% abv Extremely dense and powerful, this wine is a real glass of the warm south, with chewy tannins, dark fruit, liquorice and a touch of black olive. Complex and full, it demands a rich beef casserole. 89/100 £20.00
Trenel Côte de Brouilly 2009, 13.0% abv Yet another winner from the production line of terrific wines made in Beaujolais in 2009. Succulent cranberries, zooming acidity, and a lovely aromatic lift to the nose, drink it chilled with a bit of baked salmon. 89/100 £9.50
Hofstätter Pinot Nero Riserva Mazon 2007, 13.5% abv A really well-made Italian Pinot Noir, and another nicely adventurous choice by The Wine Society’s Italian buyer. Light-bodied and fresh, it is winningly precise and direct, with a floral/violet nose followed by fresh black cherries on the palate and a slightly sweet finish. 88/100 £20.00
Henry Marionnet Touraine Gamay Première Vendange, 13.0% abv A “natural” wine this, made without the use of sulphur, and it shows in the vivacious, lifted primary fruit. Crunchy red cherries and blackberries, fresh acidity and an overall feeling of succulence combine to make this a very thirst-quenching, drinkable bottle indeed. 88/100 £9.95
Camillo de Lelis Biferno Rosso Riserva 2004, 13.0% abv What great value for a mature Italian red of great character, from a lesser-spotted appellation. Soft, integrated tannins, macerated dark cherries and a hint of dried fruit are all held together by still perky acidity. A wine for sipping over those long winter evenings. 88/100 ? £7.25
Château de Ricaud 2005 Bordeaux Supérieur, 13.0% abv Under the same ownership as Château Belgrave (the 2000 vintage of which is reviewed above) this is very, erm, supérieur stuff for the appellation and price, and drinking very well now. A core of cassis in a supple frame of nicely mature tannins. 86/100 £8.50
Herdade do Esporão Alandra, 13.0% abv Juicy is the word that springs to mind for this inexpensive Portuguese glugger made by Aussie winemaker David Baverstock. It’s labelled as non-vintage, although the fruit is apparently mostly taken from the 2009 vintage. With its bright, primary cherry fruit, cleaning acidity and soft tannins, it would be nice served just a little chilled. 83/100 £5.95
Chivite Gran Fuedo Seleccion Especial 2007 Navarra, 13.5% abv A blend of Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this is a well-made, if not especially exciting, international-style red. A hint of vanilla oak and some black fruit on the nose, some juicy fruit on the palate, a slightly astringent finish. 82/100 £6.95
The big freeze doesn’t stop at the Channel. This is a picture taken today showing Hermitage under snow. The intrepid photographer was none other than Caroline Frey who is now in charge of this venerable House and responsible for the excellent 2009s which will soon be available from The Wine Society.
Anyone looking for somewhere warm to shelter from the snow whilst shopping in London’s West End this Christmas, could do a lot worse than visit the Cartoon Museum on Little Russell Street in Soho.
The museum is exhibiting Ink and the Bottle: Drunken Cartoonists and Drink in Cartoons until 13th February 2011.
‘Like the best affairs, cartoonists’ relationship with drink has been turbulent, immensely pleasurable but dangerously addictive,’ explains curator Anita O’Brien. ‘Since the time of Hogarth intoxicating liquor has been a distraction and a delight, a solace and a temptation for both the cartoonists and their audience.’
The collection follows the depiction of drink from the shocking debauchery of Hogarth’s 18th-century Gin Lane – mother’s ruin indeed – and the moral indignation of George Cruikshank’s The Worship of Bacchus, to the outrageous, and hilarious, modern-day excesses of Viz’s antiheroes 8 Ace and the Fat Slags.
The exhibition includes 90 cartoons, featuring works by James Gillray, Carl Giles, Reg Smythe, Steve Bell, Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.
Well worth the £5.50 entrance fee.