Sunday, June 26, 2011


It was a bit of a reunion with the old crew from a wine show a few years ago. A lot has happened since then, and when we all got together, out came all the news and what was on our minds. The Chairman and the Jelly Bean Girl were in transit, so it was a welcome stop-over as far as SWMBO and I were concerned. The Sabre Girl and Hutch we had met up with recently, and they had plenty of family news too. Pouring of wine helps the process, and a general pairing of them helped make the reunion a vinously interesting one.

As is the norm, bubbles really set the scene well. A 2003 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Champagne was delightfully rich, up-front and nearly bold. The dosage was particularly evident, and made the wine lush in a vintage that could have resulted in flabbiness. Then came the 2002 Pol Roger Champagne Rose, possessing that elegance that marks the house style. Succulent and with a luscious finesse, the soft red fruit characters totally harmonious.

Moving on to whites, two absolutely divergent styles. The 2004 Jaboulet Saint-Peray ‘Sauvageres’ was a wonderful surprise. Real freshness for this 100% Marsanne, with lovely white stonefruits and delicate spice from the oak. Initially pleasing was the 2007 Paulinshof Brauneberger Kammer Riesling Spatlese ‘feine herb’. Lovely rich honeyed nose, but oddly lean and lacking substance on palate, despite the 12.0% alc. The wine seemed forward, and even more so as we drank it.

A bit of a lead-in with a lighter red was the 2006 Montille Volnay 1er ‘Carelle sous Chapelle’. We’ve loved this before, for its elegance, but tonight much more substantial, with dense fruit, structure and a bit more oak than I remembered. This ended up being wine of the night…

The main course was served with a quartet of wines. Actually two pairs, each pair being a 1986 and 1985 together. Wynns ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ch. Montrose St Estephe represented in both vintages. In some ways, the vintages should have been of the same ilk. 1986 more ageworthy, and 1985 more classic. And that’s how they turned out. The Aussie pair stole the limelight. The 1986 dense and dark, with firmness and boldness. Real concentration and time to go. That super-ripe fruit and powerful oak in balance. The 1985 was more gentle, more layered, and flowed across the palate with nuance. Most of the group plugged the 1986, the Chairman and I went for the 1985. The clarets were more secondary in character, both showing some horseyness. Drier too, and without the fruit sweetness. The 1986 rather locked up, and austere, being rather hard, but with concentration. Maybe this could go another two decades? The 1985 softer and broader, more evolved, but also more bretty. These French numbers just weren’t that enjoyable!

The night was ending, so came the 2004 Ch. Rieussec Sauternes. I love the elegance of this vintage, Semillon oiliness and waxy textures, just enough ripeness and kindly botrytis. So drinkable. The Riuessec very modern and shiny, and with style and impeccable cleanliness. This ‘New World’ style seems to be more prevalent with the Rothschild ownership. Whatever the reason, it was still a hit at the end of the evening.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Dozen 2009s

It'd been a while since I'd caught up with The Rascal, but there he was, at the tasting billed as a Dozen 2009 wines, a vintage generally deemed to be a top one in Europe. Cheeky as ever, but with insight and the ability to sum up a person's character in just a few words. The twinkle in his eye leaves you in little doubt why he has that moniker from me...

And the wines? A 2009 von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett of great delicacy typical of the Saar. Subtlety is the key word here, and an easy wine to miss in a line-up, followed by 2009 Geltz-Zilliken 'Rausch' Riesling Kabinett, with lovely purity, steel, and a hint of decadence by way of its honied notes. Gorgeous. The third German wine a 2009 H. Thanisch-Erben Berncasteler Badstube Riesling Spatlese was marked by reduction, but carried far more typical Middle Mosel weight. Given a decade plus, these reductive wines can come together amazingly.

French whites began with a 2009 Ch. Gaudrelle 'Turonien' Vouvray Sec, crisp, clean, white florals and stonefruits, a little leanish for me, butagain with delectable delicacy for others. Chardonnay next with a 2009 Corsin Macon-Villages, again a lighter style, but showing complex oak barrel nuances and remarkably sweet fruit. A step up was the 2008 - yes, an error - 2008 Corsin Saint Veran 'Vieilles Vignes'. More depth, more concentration and interest, and better with an extra year of bottle age. Worth the extra asking price of $6.00 over the previous wine.

The top 2009 Bordeaux wines are yet to be released, but two cheapies gave an indication of what's to come. A lovely primary fruited, spotlessly clean, supple wine with real Merlot tobacco was the 2009 'Comtes de Tastes' Bordeaux. It makes some of our Merlot wines 2-3 times the price look wrong! More what I expected was the 2009 Ch. Fongaban Cotes de Castillon, darker and with more extract, but a little rustic, as can be the case.

A bracket of Rhone wines finished off the 2009 line-up. Firstly the 2009 Fondreche 'Mas O'sud Cotes du Ventoux, plump, ripe, lush and an easy approach with a juicy burst through the palate. The 2009 Vendemio 'Regain' Cotes du Ventoux was lifted with a little VA, which reduced the real fruit expression, but more structure was the key. A wine to take a wee gamble on. Far more gutsy and traditional with the taste of garrigue that is often written about was the Aphillanthes Cotes du Rhone Villages 'Vieille Vignes'. Blacker fruits and earth too. Much more to look at in the glass. Then finishing with a 2009 Ch. Saint Cosme Gigongas, the classiest of all the reds, with fine-grained tannin structure and a stylishness to the near opulent fruit.

The Rascal never puts the pressure on you to buy anything, and that's his charm. SWMBO and I will order a few of these wee gems soon...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting Together

It has taken a year for Brit Biker, Tigger, Teacher Ma'am and Niggle and us to get together. Much has happened in that time, and the catch up was full of news and progress. We face changes and continue to move forward. Brit Biker had prepared a good lamb rack for dinner, and the wines flowed around it.

For starters, a wine from the Czech Republic, from the Suche region, a 2009 Michlovsky Palava Sauvignon Pozdni Sber. As far as I can tell, Milos Miklovsky bottles wine showing terroir, this from the Palava area, a 'late harvest' wine coming in at 13.5%. It wasn't Sauvignon as we know it, but very delicate and faint in varietal character, but it had vinosity and balanced freshness. The perfect aperitif, actually, and it surprised us all. Then onto a 2009 Spade Oak Viognier, sealed with a 'Vino-lok'. Rich, dense, still firm. But very varietal and exotic, with a bit of oak showing too. This is going to develop pretty well.

Then the lamb was served. Judged to perfection, even pink inside. Moist and succulent with subtle, but distinctive flavour. Normally you'd think Bordeaux varietal, but no, it was a 2006 Montille Volnay 1er 'Carelle la Chapelle'. Elegant, but so clear-cut, with intensity and a core, yet so gentle. It got together with the lamb amazingly. The best 2006s from the Cote de Beaune can be superb. This was followed by a 2004 E&E 'Black Pepper' Barossa Sparkling Shiraz. Saturated purple red in colour, the nose was dumb and brooding. But rich, sweet and juicy on the palate, the ripe spicy fruit enriched by the residual sugar, but then kept in check by the growing feel of tannin grip. Strangely in balance, and quite sumptuous.

The cheese board came out. Very ripe double brie was the centre piece, with a cheve emerging as a beauty too. Two old Kiwis from a high yield year. The 1986 Coopers Creek Cabernet/Merlot was still dark and dense, robust and solid, with acid and greenness, but still full of vitality, without the spoilage I had seen before. It was hard to drink, but it was surprisingly alive after 25 years. Workable with the cheeses. The 1986 Stonyridge 'Larose' was uber-mellow and faded. There was nothing left of its personality and vinosity. Very smooth, sufficiently ripe, hints of berry fruit, just disappearing to nothingness, as we looked and sipped.

A sweet treat to finish was the 2009 Clearview 'Sea Red'. A sort of ruby port-lookalike. Fruity and sweet, but quite elegant. Sometimes this label has awkward bits hanging out of it, but this vintage was very much getting together, becoming a lovely mellow finish. It helped to make our getting together a success.