Friday, May 24, 2013

Changing Views and Fortunes

It’s a pleasure when Gordy gets to town.  He’s got a special or interesting bottle up his sleeve, and we must rummage around to get one ready, or pop into a good wine shop to pick one up.  We’d all had a big day, so a couple of bottles only were brought out at the end of the evening to keep us all on our toes.

Gordy’s contribution was a 2011 Domaine Huet ‘Le Haut Lieu’ Vouvray Sec.  Huet has had a stellar reputation and that seemed to diminish, unjustiably, when Gaston Huet passed away, but his son-in-law Noel Pinguet has brought it back.  There are some who wonder if the wines are the same.  Of course it takes a keen person to keep up with the ins and outs of Vouvray, when its Bordeaux, Burgundy Rhone and Champagne that hogs the limelight.  2011 forced earlier picking because of rain, and continues a topsy-turvy run of years.  Gordy and SWMBO were rather disappointed by this bottle, not having the weight and maybe some issues with pristineness.  I saw it as elegant and varietal, and was more forgiving.  I like the sweeter and richer releases, so this ultimately let me down.

Our bottle was a 2007 Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘Mont Sant’Urbano’.  Black as black, and with black fruits with tar and porty notes, with mineral and earth.  Always a difficult style to get a handle on for me.  I come to the style, then find it too hard.  Gordy noted that reduction is a trait with this label for him, and I fell into the trap of suggestion.  It certainly waxed and waned in this respect.  I could tolerate it, and it added to the ever changing nature of the wine, and thus whether I liked it or not.  The one constant was that glycerol texture.  When a wine has that degree of unctuousness, ehether it’s from drying the grapes or old vine extract – whatever – it’s delicious!  At the end of the night, this was the wine that satisfied our need for something to hold our attention.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Best Endeavours

After a look at a series of benchmarker wines, Gordy and I met up with SWMBO at Just-a-Sippy’s.  He’s a clever man who is utterly charming, and there’s much more going on than meets the eye.  His offer was one you couldn’t turn down.  He had a top class wine that he wanted to serve up.  And there was no way you’d want to pass it up.

In the glass, it had a little gold.  Some age clearly, but not too much.  Just on the tipping point of development.  A rich and powerful yellow stonefruit aroma, with lashings of oak and solids in the ferment.  Ripe for sure to handle the added extras.  A hint of savoury citrus and tropical fruits.  Clearly Chardonnay with barrel-ferment, and not clean with it.  Then a big mouthful with weight, warmth alcohol power and drive to burn.  Layers of flavour coming out in the glass.  Softish acidity, but fruit extract for Africa.  Oaking strong, but not excessively charry or toasty.  Nutty, mealy, but not matchsticky.
We three tried to work it out.  Chardonnay from the New World and more New Zealand than anything else.  Despite the full works, there something maritimely clean about New Zealand Chardonnay.  And North Island from a hotter, warmer year, as there was no greenness nor overt acid zing or edge.  We settled on Hawke’s Bay 2009.  It wasn’t the current trendy reductive-sulphide, tight and elegant style.  Nor was it the overly full, sweet and bold type.  We couldn’t put a finger on whose it was.  Our best endeavours were fruitless beyond this point.

Just-a Sippy revealed it: Clearview ‘Endeavour’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2009.  A real surprise.  It was big as could be expected, but the flavours weren’t over the top with too much oak, too much ripeness, nor too much sweetness.  Gordy reckoned it may have been in barrel a little too long, taking away the freshness.  But then there’s more integration and a softer impression, though possibly a tad drier.  You take your choice on what to do.  Has Tim Turvey tightened up his beloved out-there style?  Based on this, yes.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Planning a Seamless Transition

There is a project afoot, and both SWMBO and I have been invited to participate.  The Planner and Planette have been hatching a plot and it has grown from ideas to action with tangible results.  There’s quite a way to go yet, before it’s all realised, and being detailed people, the transition between phases has been seamless.  When people make something difficult look easy, there’s clearly a lot of thought and skill behind it all.

In one of these sessions to plan for a seamless transition, The Planner and Planette had us around for dinner.  And lovely it was too.  The introduction was a 2006 Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett.  With a half-dozen years under its belt, it showed the expected secondary interest, with definite toast and kero aromas and flavours.  But this was remarkable for its acidity and zestiness.  Sure there’s the creamy richness and textures, but Mosel acidity wins out here.  It’s searingly seamless, and the palate flows with raciness and liveliness.  The mouthfeel extremely fresh, and it will always be the case as it makes a further transition to the even darker and more complex side.  I could tell SWMBO and The Planner liked this.  And The Planette too.  A joy for all of us.

I haven’t tried the white burgundies from Paul Pillot before, but on this evening, I‘ll be pretty happy to see one opened anytime.  The 2009 Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet 1er ‘Les Grandes Ruchottes’ showed its Chassagne size and richness.  Note quite the fine floral linearity of a Puligny, this was softer, rounder, more approachable and a crowd pleaser.  All the white stonefruits and integrated nuttiness you could want, with that hint of sweetness, breadth and ripeness that lets you understand why 2009 is a year for New World palates.  Subtle ‘Riesling complexities’ meaning reductive hints are there, but perfectly judged for me.  A seamless and complete beauty.

Then a 2004 Ch. Duhart-Milon Pauillacc  From the Lafite stable, one could expect it to perform above its fourth growth status.  It’s not as fine as Lafite is for sure, with a certain robustness showing.  This had real depth and concentration, but a strong case of the herbal streak and animal-like brettanomyces.  Packed to overflowing with ripe blackcurrant flavours, the brett is a significant showing here.  I can see a consumer lovin’ it as it is deep and full of flavours .  And there’s structure too.  Many 2004s show thinness with the green, but not this.  There’s pros and cons here.  On one side the size, fruit sweetness and depth.  On the other greens and animals.  The sides change seamlessly from one to the other while drinking it, except for SWMBO, who saw the animal. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

White Burgundy Behaving

There’s still a residual distrust of white burgundy.  The major troubles of premature oxidation seem to have passed, though not completely.  There’s always the continuing story of whether winemaker signature is overwhelming terroir.  And sometimes the wines are just plain dilute and thus overpriced.  I’m a little nervous about splashing out on bottles.

Vincent Girardin has been a steady performer, in the modernist and up-front school.  His wines generally seem to fit into the international mould, while still reflecting their appellations faithfully.  They’re not overboard on winemaker signature nor are they the contemporary ‘Riesling-reductive’ elegant and linear style that seems to be sweeping across Australasia.  I like their bold personalities, but I wish they were a little better behaved and elegant.

I got my wish with the pairing of a 2009 Vincent Girardin Batard-Montrachet and a 2009 Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet.  The initial surprise was the finesse of both the wines from a warm and blockbuster fruity producing vintage.  The other 2009 wines from Girardin, down the pecking order were much broader and more obvious.  But no, these top-of-the-liners had slenderness, delicacy and poise, with just the perfect amount of winemaker input.  Great class was evident.  The Batard rounder, softer, weighter and with sweeter fruit flavours.  The Chevalier more white floral, tight and with delicacy.  Both will see 6 to 8 years and more.  These were behaving beautifully.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Perfection Past and Present

We all know wines are living, and they go through phases in their lives.  They can get better and they can and do deteriorate.  It’s fun to see the attitudes with wines rated as the best, as the disappointments of wines fading is only matched by the joy of seeing an under-rated wine come into its own.

The big dinner featured two wines rated as perfect.   100 points by one of the Mr Parkers I know, for one wine, and then another 100 points by LPB, the protégé. The wines I’m referring to are 1976 Penfolds ‘Grange Hermitage’ and 2008 Penfolds ‘Grange’, both attaining the ultimate score, by writers of the same magazine, for essentially the same wine, only 32 years apart.  It was a special occasion and indeed a fascinating one.

I’ve had the 1976 Penfolds ‘Grange Hermitage’ several times over the last three decades, and it truly is special.  Penfolds rates it as one of the greats too.  I last tried it 12 years ago, and it delivered everything ‘Grange’ is supposed to.  I remember the size, the richness and the traditional flavours, even though it was 25 years old.  It was magnificence and pretty well perfect to me.  This night, and with this bottle, still looking exceptionally youthful in colour and fruit expression.  But the tell-tale undergrowth, game and secondaries were there.  Not quite the complete richness, and thus the acidity a little more obvious.  Tannins just resolving some more, as it should.  A great wine without a doubt, but definitely moving along and moving out of the zone of perfection.

It was the first time I’d tried the 2008 Penfolds ‘Grange’.  I've tasted more than my fair share of this label, but am still keen to taste more to learn more.  But some wines have it all.  This is a more modern style of the famous ‘Grange’, with lusher and more polished fruit.  Greater smoothness and seamless integration of fruit, oak, tannins and mouthfeel.  The standout feature is its vibrancy and vitality for all its richness and ripeness.  My approach is liberal and positive.  It ticked all the boxes for having everything and more.  If I was a glass half empty man, I’d be looking for faults to knock it back a peg or two.  But there’s nothing to detract.  So from both perspectives, it is perfect.  At present.