Saturday, June 29, 2013

Knotted Up and Tied Together

Although we keep in touch with the Knotters, we haven’t actually visited them for a number of years.  They live in the most beautiful setting, so it is a real pleasure to be at their place.  Of course, staying for dinner and meeting up with earlier-made acquaintances, we all become good friends, and such was the case this night.  The subject of wine helps tie us all together, but it is also the beverage that intertwines and ravels us.  Between us all, we had a selection of wines that all worked together.  It is always a source of amusement how this happens.

The Knotters put up an NV Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier.  Fresher than ever and very fine.  Is the style becoming a little lighter and less aldehydic?  Based on this bottle, I’d say ‘Yes’.  Old-timers might think there’s less character, but the autolysis underlines the palate superbly.  Matching it was our NV Charles Heidsieck Champagne ‘Brut Reserve’, some residual stock before the new label, bottle and blend comes on the market.  Showing a great deal of time on cork.  Full, soft, broad and toasty.  Seamlessly interwoven aldehyde, autolysis, fruit and bottle-aged notes.  Lacking a little pizazz, but making up for in creamy richness.

A 2011 J.J. Prum Wehelener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett was beautifully refreshing.  Classical J.J. Prum reduction on nose, but in no way intrusive.  Clean and pristine, delicately luscious and great refinement, as the blue slate soil of the site gives.  Mouthwateringly refreshing with a hint of succulence.

A brace of Chardonnays ltook us into more complex realms.  A 2006 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er ‘Morgeot’ was affected by cork taint.  SWMBO saw it first, as she normally does.  It needed to warm up and breath before it became a problem for me.  The TCA had dumbed down the fruit expression, but there’s some lovely wine underneath.  Creamy MLF and barrel-feement notes, and perfect oaking, nevertheless.  After this was a favourite for us all, a 2011 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay.  A wine of majesty.  A bit on the young side for sure, but power, bridled and nearly tamed.  Layers of complex reduction allied to beautifully rich white peachy, citrussy fruit and nutty oak in the background.  Some more sensitive than me thought the oaking a little prominent, but no problem for others.

There always is a flight of Pinot Noirs nowadays, the variety now the ’hot’ international, taking over from Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Rider had brought her 2010 Refugio Montsecano Casablanca Pinot Noir, a Chilean number made in ‘egg’ fermenters, seeing minimal oak.  Strangely, I thought it had the typical rauli wood smell.  Or was it a herbal edge.  Identifiably Pinot Noir still and with a sweet and juicy fruitiness, and not a great deal of extraction.  An enjoyable introduction to the reds.  Next was the 2008 Desert Heart ‘Mackenzies Run’ Central Otago Pinot Noir.  Fruit from the estate Felton Road vineyards, and a deliciously sweet-fruited, vibrant wine with everything in support.  Nicely balanced oaking, supple mouthfeel and just spot-on grip.  An all-rounder, bounding with energy.  With a little more airing, the fruit faded somewhat, leaving undergrowth and savoury oak.  It’s a wine that’s drinking now.  A 1998 Montille Pommard 1er ‘Rugiens’ was next.  Quite elegant at first, with the acidity prominent alongside savoury red and brown berry fruit with truffle notes.  The Pommard iron core seemingly missing.  Was it a function of the vintage?  As it breathed, the firm tannin line and strength came through, and the appellation and vineyard personality built up.  It remained an elegant number in the final analysis.

The final wine of the night was a 2011 Ridge ‘Geyserville’, a field blend of 78% Zinfandel, 16% Carignan, 4% Petite Sirah, with 1% Alicante Bouscet and 1% Mataro.  Lovely blueberry, boysenberry and raspberry flavours on a supple, smooth and fruity palate.  The modern Zinfandel style is so smooth and elegant nowadays.  A crowd-pleaser with plenty of style.  But this has a serious side and again style of real interest.  What a lovely way to tie up the night.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Sense of Style

To get the whole gang together isn’t easy.  We’d been waiting for The Young One to find time to take time out, and with JoLo also working hard, some things must be spontaneous.  With the arrival of The Chairman and Jelly Bean Girl, it all clicked, and the opportunity presented itself where we could open some celebratory bottles with a sense of style.  The One Young has some anniversary wines, so three of the more interesting ones were earmarked for dispatching over dinner.  The classical Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone comparison was the theme, and all from 1992, so the wines were 21 years old.  Not the greatest vintage for sure, but hopefully the labels would provide some interest…

The lightest wine was first up.  A 1992 Domaine Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti is about as good as you can get from Burgundy.  Clearly lighter in colour, this was redolent with all the perfumes you could wish for.  Waves of red florals, a line of dried herbs and some complexing undergrowth and game.  Quite beautiful, really.  The vintage came through on palate.  Though full of ethereal flavours, the wine was essentially light in weigh and high in acidity.  Just not the ripeness, sweetness and body there.  The mouthfeel seemed resolved in texture and grip.  With some time, the tannin backbone became more apparent, and some fruit interest too.  But the acidity was the driving force.  There was a sense of beauty, and especially florality on nose to this, but it was slender, though not too meagre in mouthfeel.  As the wine received air time, a little soy sauce oxidation peeked through.  Most of us enjoyed this the most, including The Chairman.  Certainly The Young One did.

Middle ground was a 1992 Guigal ‘La Turque’ Cote-Rotie.  Much darker in colour, the bouquet was a strange conglomeration of black fruits and savoury herbs.  The wine had moved on with no trace of primary peppery character, and definitely secondary, if not tertiary characters.  Though riper and sweeter on nose, not necessarily more attractive than the burgundy.  However on palate, definitely sweeter, richer and riper.  Black fruit and earth flavours melded with dark gamey herbs.  And all underpinned by a fine grainy tannin line.  Some suggestions of exotics and opulence were present, making it a comfortably sweet and satisfying mouthful of wine.  As the wine got more air time, the fruit started to fade, and the tannins became a little more prominent, as did the acidity, and the harmony it had took a step back.  I was a greater fan of this one for sure, but it was a cooler expression of La Turque as I know it.

Then the big one.  1992 Ch. Petrus Pomerol.  Dark and still with an impenetrable black-red heart, this was a beast of a wine   Volume and density on the nose, and weighty and solid with a robustness on palate.  Dark black fruits still very evident and marked by strong dark herbs and vegetal notes.  And plenty of animal all interwoven, the game and meat too savoury for SWMBO.  The brettanomyces in this very marked, but integral, too.  The flavours were framed by blocky tannins and rugged structure, as well as a streak of acidity.  All of this added up to firmness,  greenness, depth, and gaminess.  As the wine sat in the glass, as we weren’t drinking it heartily, it grew in game and earthy spoilage.  A pity, as essentially, this was the most youthful of the three.  We’re sure that this would find favour among many others, but not us tonight.

We tend to have a mix of technical and style views when it comes to appreciating wines.  On the work side, we’re technocrats.  When we are drinkers, we look at wines with a sense of style.  Technically these were a little weak or worse, but in the scheme of things, these were wines with pedigree and a sense of style.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Farmyard Party

Some wines are just plain agricultural.  Basic, gutsy and down to earth, and they can be enjoyable for it.  But some aspects of the farmyard are quite disagreeable, such as brettanomyces.  A little bit of gaminess and earthiness can be pretty interesting, but it gets to obliterate any grape or place character when it goes over the threshold.  Where the line is drawn is personal and learnt.  The WRXers are very tolerant of the farmyard, but SWMBO is intolerant, and I tend towards the dismissive end of it.

A nice roast lamb dinner was the occasion for the 2002 Leasingham ‘Classic’ Clare Shiraz.  The label has had its issues with the problem and this vintage was in the middle of it. I’d expected it to be a gone-burger.  On opening, black as black still, but the unmistakable tone of wild horses running rampant came out on bouquet.  SWMBO grimaced.  But the WRXers, a tad cautious, slowly began to beam big smiles.  They like a “party in the mouth” with wine, and sure, it was a “farmyard in the mouth”.  On tasting it, there was a mass of brett, but surprisingly, this was still sweet and luscious.  Amazing fruit for sure, and the tannins not obtrusive at all.  No sign of drying or hardness.  I could imagine what it might have been like if it was clean.
The bottle was drained, mainly by the WRXers, a little glass by me, and nary a sip by SWMBO.  Enjoyment is just a balance of how you reconcile the various positives and negatives, the time and the situation.  Here, for me, it was a good wine.