Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Falling Flat

It was a chance for us to catch up with the 'Atta Girls' both of them lively and fun. The conversation was indeed bouncy and filled with seriousness and laughter. A couple of bottles brought out had all the credentials for adding to the vitality of it all.

Firstly, Germany with a difference for us. We usually have plenty of Mosel wines, so for a change a 2008 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Kabinett from the Rheingau. All very adequate, being soft, gentle with a modest richness, but somewhat out of kilter with the acidity. The end result a little sour and flat. This was disappointing, especially as SWMBO and I had visited the castle, and sat overlooking the Rhine from the restaurant, sipping a near 30 year old Spatlese. Maybe there's a reason why we stick with tried and true?

Next was the 2006 Montille Volnay 1er 'Carelle sous la Chapelle'. We've had this a few times now, the last bottle stunning with The Chairman. Alas, it was quiet and dull. It may have been the temperature? But as it warmed up, just not enough there. We waited and waited, to no avail. It filled up a little, but there was nothing special about it, and indeed somewhat flat.

It came to a trio of Aussie reds from Yalumba to lift our vinous spirits. The 2008 Yalumba 'Hand Picked' Barossa Shiraz/Viognier, just lifted, floral, exotic and spicy. Beautifully so, and with style. Then a 2005 Yalumba 'The Menzies' Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. When opened, it had a forward, earthy, near dirty nose, but it had become very varietal, but laced with sumptuous cedar spices and lush, sweet fruit. However, it was the moumental 2006 Yalumba 'The Signature' Cabernet/Shiraz. Layered and eveloving in glass to show great fruit depth and richness, along with an amazing array of spices.

These did the job and saved the day (or night). If we drunk it all, we would've needed to fall flat to recover!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Bash For Two Birthdays

We ambled down to one of our favourite eateries to meet up with O&E. There were two birthdays to celebrate and a few good bottles needed to be shared. O&E looked fab, and they were in good form. For openers, a 2002 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Rosé. Pretty to look at, but very substantial to drink. This surprised us all how dense and nearly unctuous this was in texture and weight. And as it warmed up, the autolysis amalgam just grew stronger. It was a very cold night, so the power and the body of the wine was a positive. It could have been a good food Champagne too.

Then with the entrée course, a 2007 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio Sudtirol. A bit of a classic, as was the tier for this famous producer. Hinting at complex flintiness on the nose, it was clean and clear-cut, but with good textures and the subtle nuances mandatory for interest. And of course, it went with all the entrees from oysters to salmon and quail. The mains of pork belly, duck and beef had a 2002 Ch. Pichon-Lalande Pauillac to do the job. And it did, working with each dish without any conflict. The wine itself is tight and tidy, showing its vintage provenance. Archetype blackcurrant leaf notes, but with perfect elegant proportion. Fine drying tannins, and just enough fruit sweetness to let you know it could keep for another decade if need be. It will never be a blockbuster or show winner, but always a shy charmer.

We had a platter of cheese presented, and that was the cue for the 1996 Ch, Guiraud Sauternes and 1997 Ch, d’Yquem Sauternes to come out to the table. The former darker burnished gold, with forward caramel and lozenge aromas and flavours. Some phenolic dryness especially on the back palate suggested it will decline soon. Nevertheless a brassy Sauternes that still had good richness. The latter wine was a step up and backwards, as could be expected. Light golden in colour, this had a flashy, deep lanolin and waxy-marmalade and honey-packed nose lifted with VA and a hearty dose of new oak. The palate certainly fruity with youthful characters, the wine yet to become really complex and of interest. Yet the sheer class, richness and potential was all there. It’s a ripe, full and solid Yquem, and better because of its youth. I reckon it’ll be one of the better releases. But it sure delivered plenty for the two birthday people.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bit of a Bash

Out to the Chinese eatery, as a bit of a birthday bash, with Towering Mike, Krystal Kirsty, Stellar Star, the Young One, Jolly Jol and SWMBO. A bit impromptu, but such occasions can be the best.

The wines were just perfect for it. A rare, up-and-coming 2009 Fairbourne Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. You couldn't get anything more Loire-like. Made by Russell Hooper and Sarah Inkersell who may take the Savvy world by storm one day - and probably sooner than later! Then a 2009 von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett, rich and plump, quite exotic as Middle Mosel can ever be. Slight reduction that gave gave to subtle richness. A beauty. Then an outstanding 2006 Felton Road 'Block 5' Central Otago Pinot Noir. Forest floor, with utter sweetness underneath. As it saw air time, the most spectacular structure came evident, showing this could age another 8-10 years.

The food was spot on, and the company, especially Stellar Star was exemplary and funny. You couldn't ask for a better birthday present.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Outside The Norm

A visit to our largest vignoble last week gave SWMBO and I the chance to taste hundreds of wines. Most were current release wines, but many were unfinished current vintage numbers that were still sitting in tank or barrel. It was a welcome change at dinner to have something a little different, somewhat out of the norm from what our business day was offering.

The following were tasted over three meals, but I’ll note them in style. The Rascal and Savvy Sarah love the 2010 Te Whare Ra ‘Toru’ at their favourite Asian eatery. This Gewurz, Riesling and Pinot Gris blend hits all the spots with the food. Mildly perfumed, with acid zip, and good textural integrity, and just enough sweetness to meet a little heat and spice. Chalk one up for blending, and two bottles over the meal for us!

The Riesling Man did options on a couple of whites. Of course, we were predisposed into thinking he’d serve aromatic whites, arguably his first love. A 2009 F.X. Pichler Sauvignon Blanc Smaragd Loibner Steinertal threw us off-track away from success straight away. Spices and weight, rounded textures, almost Alsace-like, then finally the herb nuances opening up at the end. 13.0% alc. on the label. And a very petite white burgundian styled 2007 Domaine Gavenet Cotes du Jura Chardonnay ‘Grusse en Billat’. This revealed its variety slowly but surely, and its provenance, just east of Burgundy could be deduced.

It’s much easier when wines are served open. The Great Grape Grower had us around for a curry, and he served the 2009 Fevre Chablis 1er ‘Vaulorent’. Not as ‘out there’ as the 2008 tasted around this time last year, but significant extract and oaking made this a special number. It’s worth the asking price over the other premier crus.

We had a couple of Aussie Hunter Valley reds just to give something different to the Riesling Man. A 2004 Brokenwood ‘Graveyard’ Shiraz at 12.5% was your modern, elegant interpretation. Trying to be aromatic and perfumed peppery, the oak spicing was dominant, and racy acidity was the focus on the palate. Very New Worldy, and reminded me little of the Hunter Valley. However the 2003 Wyndham ‘Black Cluster’ Shiraz 2003 was a different proposition. Funky, inky, gamey, earthy, but without anything truly sulphidic or nasty as the old vintages of yore had in spades. Something very interesting here, and very Hunter, probably a caricatured stereotype of the variety and the region.

Since we had been drinking young things with the Great Grape Grower and his entourage, we brought out the oldies. A comparison of 1987 Wynns ‘Black Label’ Coonawarra Cabernet with the 1987 Wynns ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet – commercial release vs the super-premium. The 1985 and 1986 John Riddoch tasted with The Chairman last month were fab. Here the Black Label was gentle, smooth, still showing blackcurrant fruit with mint, cedar and dust. A slip-down drink. The John Riddoch was hard, harsh and acidic, with pushed-to-far oak, and disjointed components. This is how some of these have gone with age. The 1993 is an example. Hamo thought it slightly corked, and I could see that too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

We were graced with the presence of Gordy and Perfect P. The time with them could be expected to be a good one. They are a vibrant couple, with lots on the go, and we could expect them to look after themselves to some degree. And so it was. What we didn’t expect was for Perfect P to cook us a meal at home! Gordy being in charge of the wines had a couple of ‘Options’ lined up for us. It was to be expected. We had a a couple of ‘Options’ line up for them. That too was expected. But how the wines turned out was unexpected.
To set the scene, we opened a 2006 No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Virginie’ Methode from the famous Daniel Le Brun. It is a tribute label to Daniel’s daughter, and it really is sophisticated. Last time SWMBO and I tried it, it was backward, and seemed to need time in bottle. However, on opening it was harmonious and together and very now. A very pleasant surprise. Lovely autolysis, and waves of flavour.
Then to the mystery whites. Served blind, a 2005 Keller Westhofen Kirchspiel Riesling Trocken from the Rheinhessen was a tough one to figure. It smelt very German, but the dryness, highish alcohol and body suggested Alsace. A beautiful drop, with gorgeous ‘custard and cream’ from bottle-development, and great interest in flavour. If you were critical, it seemed forward too. The acidity was soft and lowish. Both SWMBO and I chose Alsace as our answer, with the proviso it seemed from over the border (at least in our minds). From the Rheinhessen and sitting at 13.0% alc. All that was unexpected, but in retrospect, it all made sense.
Our contribution to the blind game was a 2005 Nicolas Joly ‘Clos de la Coulee de Serrant’ Savennieres. A classic from this biodynamicist. Golden and terribly oxidised on nose, this partly redeemed itself with body and sweetness and richness in this dry wine. We were all disappointed. We’d been told that Joly recommends decanting 24 hours in advance, so it was interesting to follow. Unexpectedly, it began to lose its oxidative nose. Pineapples were seen by SWMBO. Gordy could see ultra-late picking. He could have guessed Rhone white. With 15.0% alc., one could see why you’d go down this track. But, Gordy said Chenin Blanc – and correctly. As time went on, the wine got cleaner and richer, but also sturdier and hotter. You could not expect to understand how this wine would behave…and I don’t think we can yet…
On to the reds, as Perfect P was cooking up the venison racks. Gordy’s red seemed so Bordeaux-like, with lovely dark berried-plummy fruit on the nose, but the richness on palate that ensued was so unexpected. Game, leather, juiciness and great tannic structure marked what was the wine of the night. It was 1999 Antinori ‘Solaia’. Yes, Bordeaux in Tuscany. SWMBO queried brett, but no, it was complexity, and the wine got sweeter, yet more structured with drinking. Cabernet Sauvignon CAN work in Tuscany, we all reckoned.
Then a 2001 Rostaing Cote-Rotie ‘La Landonne’. Much more elegant and considerably more acidic. The freshness and raciness spoke of Cote-Rotie rather than Hermitage or Cornas for sure. Lovely gentle savoury fruit development, then a huge whack of bacony oak and luncheon meat complexity that Perfect P could see. We’ve seen this label with an unhealthy amount of the horses in the past, and the cleanliness was a little unexpected.
To tie up the evening, no guessing games, unexpectedly so, but at that time of night, much easier and better. 2004 Ch. Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes. Sheer elegance with richness. I love these 2004s, even though they are not the best rated. This is really harmonious and soft textured. Rieussec seems more flashy and Suduiraut has lovely tension, but this is sensuous. Expected.