Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Wine Well-Mothered

What an interesting man Deano is.  Without any doubt he is extremely talented, and he is a person of very wide knowledge and depth on any number of topics.  A conversation with him can leave you considerably enlightened or totally perplexed.  However, there is no doubting his generosity.  Over dinner, he brought along a wine that was special to him, and one that he’d kept and mothered over.  It was one that he wanted to share with his mates.  SWMBO and I are lucky to be deemed mates.
The bottle in question was the 1997 Domaine Arlaud Bonnes Mares Grand Cru.  Sure, it wasn’t from one of the most revered producers, but they are authentic and creditable.  However, the vintage was problematical and the wines looked better when young.  But who were we to argue with a Burgundy Grand Cru, irrespective of such geeky detail?  On pouring, it was a lighter coloured wine with signs of garnet and brick.  Definably Burgundy with savoury and earthy red fruits, and what some call ‘blood and fur’.  The bouquet a little narrowed, but with good detail and interest.  Drinking it, the wine was somewhat leaner, sharper and more acidic than expected.  The tannin structure had begun to resolve, enabling it to slip down.  The development hadn’t not been as graceful as a richer and riper year.  But intriguingly it was very drinkable and really not disappointing.  Deano had taken care of this wine, as it deserved to be.  Doesn’t ‘Bonnes Mares’ mean ‘good mothers’? 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Path of 20 Plus

20 years of age is the new 21.  For people, it marks the coming of age, and the right to adulthood and maturity, and all the trappings that come with it, as well as the responsibilities.  With wine, reaching 20 years of age is something special too.  Some wines are designed to age that long to reach maturity – Vintage Port in point.  Others last that amount of time and can be all the better for it, such as fine Riesling and Bordeaux reds.  But generally, (there’s always plenty of exceptions to the rule) reaching the two decade mark, especially for New World and New Zealand wines in particular is somewhat unusual.
So The Roader and The Ruddy Man both brought to dinner 1998 vintage Pinot Noirs from Central Otago.  By all rights these would have been passed their best.  I remember one wine writer writing off the 2002 Central Otago Pinot Noirs as being too old at 5 years of age.  He was proved wrong by a long shot!  But 1998 is really two decades of age, and most people recommend Central Otago Pinot Noir to show well at 5-6 years, maybe 10 or so.  These two were still very alive but had taken different paths of development, and would seem to continue to do so past the 20 year mark. 
The 1998 Felton Road ‘Block 3’ Central Otago Pinot Noir was a revelation for the way it had maintained its varietal integrity.  Bottles of the ‘regular’ have shown brett, but not this wine.  Still very much in the red fruit spectrum, with reasonably subtle savoury herb notes from the clone 10/5, but no ugliness of vegetals.  Still with red floral fragrance, this had soft textures, but plenty of freshness in the mouth from the acidity.  A little secondary interest unfolds, but at the end of the day, or should I say end of two decades, it was definable Pinot Noir, and very good at it too.  The wine served alongside was the 1998 Quartz Reef Central Otago Pinot Noir.  This was just as alive and interesting as was the Felton Road.  But it had become very densely pack and concentrated, as if it had been reduced as in cooking, rather than referring to sulphides!  It was almost essence of Pinot Noir, liqueur-like without the stickiness, essence-like without being impossible to savour.  Liquorice, spices and balsamic notes.  Very fine tannin backbone, and sufficient acidity to prevent any cloying, as well as providing good vibrancy.  Delicious stuff in another realm, away from Pinot Noir, but fabulous red wine!  It was amazing how after two decades, the paths taken very so vey different, but yielded delicious drinking.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Totally Floored

There was no reason to bring anything weird and wonderful to dinner, but that’s what The Difficult Man does.  He’s a person of broad taste, and that means there’s always variety at his home and when he heads out to meet with others.  It’s certainly not a competition, and there’s no pressure on him to make an impression, but he does it anyway.
On this occasion it was a 2005 Domaine Daniel Dugois Vin Jaune Arbois.  The Vin Jaune wines of Arbois in the Jura are amongst the most distinctive I can think of.  Made from Savagnin which strangely is related to the Traminer variety, the wine that it eventually results in bear no resemblance, due to it being stored under flor, very much as Fino Sherry is.  Pale golden coloured, the bouquet was incredibly intense with pungent yeastiness.  On palate, dry, and the same over-riding pungency.  But also with nutty and savoury flavours, bordering on bitter, but not.  Some phenolic textures and grip, but this carries the flavours to a very, very long finish.  It was a wine to admire, and unless one had seen the style before, quite alien as a table wine.  At 14% alc. it was table wine, but the closeness to an Amontillado was more than superficial.  It was enjoyed as weird and wonderful, but also a classic.  It floored quite a few at dinner.   

Monday, April 10, 2017

Trad Not Rad

With all the buzz about the more radical trocken Rieslings from Germany, many of us have moved away from the older-fashioned, traditional fruit-sweet wines classified under the pradikat system where it’s a Kabinett, Spatlese or Auslese,, or if you ae lucky a Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese.  These ascend in sweetness, and even the Kabinett are markedly sweet.  So nowadays it’s easy to dismiss this system as passé at the Kabinett up to Auslese level, anyway.  However these wines are still delicious in anyone’s terms.
This was proven when The Difficult Man brought along to dinner a 1998 Burklin-Wolf ‘R’ Forster Pechstein Riesling Auslese.  Drinking beautifully now with such gracefulness, yet with the density that the warmth and heavier soils of the Pfalz give, over a region such as the Mosel.  The sweetness wasn’t that obvious, and the wine had a lovely integration which made its richness just merge into a vinous completeness.  Honey, florals and some minerals, all remarkably clear and clean-cut, and absolutely nothing out of place.  There was a time when the three ‘B’s ruled the Pfalz, the other being von Buhl and Bassermann-Jordan.  However others have taken their crown, especially the radicalised trocken makers.  This wine bought it all back. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fresh as a Daisy

We all know some wines have the capacity to age well and develop, whereas others are made to drink soon after they are made, Of course there are special bottling of the latter that surprise us.  But essentially those that keep well have precedence (or is that precedents!).

Hunter Valley Semillon is one style that has the ability to last well, and it also changes dramatically in character.  It is said the cooler vintages best suit the long-aging ability, and that the traditional, minimally intervened wines of old do o too, and show beautiful complexity.  The modern, more fruit-expressive versions don’t seem to behave quite as well, but they still cellar and improve too.
It was a treat when The Knotter brought to dinner a 1999 Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon.  This is in the modern camp, and deliciously bright with tropical fruits and herbs on release, rather than austere, shy and rather non-descript as in the more traditional wines.  But this too had developed beautifully with bottle age.  Not gloriously, as glory isn’t beautiful.  This was still fresh as a daisy with florals, white stonefruits, herbs and a touch of toast, and maybe a suggestion of honey.  The wine was a stylish and elegant drink, the complexity reminding both SWMBO and I of how a beautiful Chardonnay can show.  However, I’d put money on this Semillon lasting even longer.  Thank you to The Knotter.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Not Quite the Deal

As always, The Roaders like to test their guests with their form of ‘wine options’.  However, it’s not your tightly-run and regimented style where there are four of five pre-set questions, each with three possible options.  Instead, a glass of wine is thrust into your hand, and it is totally blind.  Then it begins “Let’s play options!”  The people served the wine are encouraged to talk, and The Roader gleans information on the thinking of the wine.  Then come the questions, which may have more than three options.  It’s a scary scenario where one must bare one’s vinous soul and do some free thinking and tasting.
The glass I got was quite pale straw in colour, with the classical smell and taste of flint and minerals.  Aha! European, and classical Chablis, I said.  It had considerable concentration and depth, but at the same time it was a bit weak.  Not quite the deal.  Not much oaking, so a producer more traditional.  It was the weakness of personality that was the problem.  It suggested it was a grand cru with its dimensions, but the dimensions weren’t filled.  Better than premier cru probably.  It was either a disappointing grand or an over-performing premier.  I went for the former, as I know The Roader to be a generous man who collected only the best.  How old?  Hardly any development, but no longer fresh.  These wines can age slowly, so I thought maybe a decade of age or so.  My words were along the line “it is something wanting to be pretty smart, but hasn’t developed as well as it should have”.  The Roader nodded, and liked what I had said.  It was a 2007 Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’.  A previous bottle from ‘Les Preuses’ tasted earlier was reported glorious.  He agreed it was not quite the deal here, and I felt pretty good.     

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mellower and Mellower

With most wines, we want them to lose the brashness of youth so they become more enjoyable to drink.  Even wines designed to be or are naturally refreshing.  The youngest rosés, Sauvignon Blancs and Chablis can be a bit too hard, harsh and acidic when just bottles, and a few months can help them become more enjoyable.  But one must be aware that a wine can become too soft and mellow.  Flabbiness is note a desirable trait either, and a wine that is overly soft is no longer a satisfying beverage.
The Roaders are always such hospitable hosts.  They know their wines, and when the ideal time to serve them.  Over a relaxed evening a dinner, we saw a number of excellent wines, but the first wine served was rather a surprise.  The 1997 Dietrich Alsace Grand Cru Steingrubler Tokay Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives might be served later on during a meal, but at the very start can be quite valid too.  And this was The Roaders way of thinking.  Something ultra-smooth and mellow that would bring a smile to the face and a degree of satisfaction, without sating the palate.  Light golden yellow, the wine had become totally integrated, such that its varietal expression was fully melded with savoury secondary aromas and flavours, and the sweetness just smooth and gently flowing.  It was hard to pick out the components, as it was a complete and seamless entity.  The wine slipped down too easily, and we as well as the wine became mellower and mellower.