Sunday, July 28, 2013

Curiously Workable

The beer hall proved to be a great spot to have dinner with The Moose and Bex.  Hearty tucker, a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere, attentive hosts, and a bit of fun.  Very much like our dining companions.  There we set the world right.  Everything seemed to be in its place and it was all good in our lives.  Two bottles brought along for consumption seemed rather curious.  They didn’t seem to want to add up, but as we sipped on each glass, they came together well, and eventually proved to be very workable, and by that I mean drinkable.  It’s curious how evenings end up like that!

The white was a 2010 Falkenstein Sudtirol Riesling.  The label said 14.0% alc.  Yikes!  No way that would work.  And indeed it was a fulsome wine on palate.  It had the saving grace of minerality and varietal character, so that there was line and length and a refreshing mouthfeel.  At no point did the alcohol appear intrusive.  As the evening progressed, the bottle lowered in level more quickly.  Italian Riesling.  High alcohol. Yes.

The red appeared as if to could work.  A 2010 Coriole McLaren Vale Sangiovese.  These Aossies can make the Italian varieties work, and in a slightly different way, as hearty red wines first, rather than as expressions of the variety.  But on first sips, it was out of sorts.  It didn’t deliver on any account, being mixed up, unsettle and in no-man’s land.  We thought this would be a disappointment for sure.  But as things tend to, with air time, that bitter dark cherry, leather and combination of dried herb and savoury fruits began to show.  Nice grainy grip and a little sourness from the acidity.  Chianti it wasn’t, but Sangiovese it was.  Curious behaviour, but it came through too.     

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

One of our long-time friends, The Rascal has taken his own path and has Inky at his side.  They’ve found it needing hard work, sometimes unexpectedly so, but they have a detailed plan and are taking each step at a time.  Each step is forward, and nowadays, there’s no step backwards.  SWMBO and I were invited into their new home for a down to earth home-cooked meal.  It was delicious, as could be expected, but the wines involved kept us delightfully on our toes.  We should have expected the unexpected, though the wines we chosen not to confuse or surprise, but to show that there’s plenty of variation and choice.
Stylishness set the scece with a 2008 de Ladoucette ‘Baron de L’ Pouilly Fume.  Something I haven’t tasted for a while, the grand-daddy of Sauvignon Blanc as far as I’m concerned.  This was the benchmark three decades ago, and was and still is ultra-refined.  Plus the heavy and unique crested bottle added to the image of class.  New Zealand has taken the path of exuberant fruitiness, and only recently started looking at finesse as ‘Baron de L’ offers.  The bottle is so refined that it’s effortless to drink.  The most subtle flinty, smoky complexities and tight, subtle fruit expression.  The bottle was drained before we knew it.  Something unexpected.

Then onto a Spanish Grenache.  These can be pretty hearty and robust, somewhat rustic.  The 2011 Borsao ‘Tres Picos’ Campo de Borja Garnacha is a thoroughly modern take on the variety, and it is brilliant for it.  Dark as dark, staining the glass, and very aromatic with ripe raspberry jam and red florals lifting the bouquet.  Fresh, modern and clean.  Then a marvel to drink with its sweetness and suppleness.  There’s the faintest hint of earth and background texture.  Some heat shows through.  It isn’t complex or thought-provoking by any means, but a hedonistic, fruity red that goes with anything.  Who’d expect that?

Then with the apple crunble dessert featuring some rhubarb and tamarillo, a 2011 Giesen ‘The Brothers’ Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  These aren’t necessarily the most successful wines, as the herbaceous fruit character can seen at odds with the botrytis and honey flavours.  But again, a real surprise.  Essence of greengage and nectarines, decadent with botrytis and tropical fruits, but with great cut from the acidity.  The Sauvignon Blanc fruit matching the apple and rhubarb especially.  I understand it was picked at 67° Brix!  The 285 g/L rs a honey, if you excuse the pun.

We should know better: Expect the Unexpected and enjoy the difference.      

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Comfort Zone

It was our last night with The Roadsters and it was very cruisy.  No expectations, and an easy meal for dinner that would put no-one to great trouble.  It tasted even more delicious because of that.  We were even into finishing off the part bottles from our previous effort, so we truly were comfortable.  Then  it started – an escalation in the bottles being opened.  And they were all wines we were very familiar with, consisting of styles we see the most of.
First of the new bottles was a 2010 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett.  SWMBO and I love this label and how Ernst interprets the site.  He captures the beautifully exotic florals that put it into a league of intrigue over the sheer slatey deliocacy of Wehlener Sonnenuhr, but it has greater elegance and finesse than the broader, heavier and spicier wines from Urziger Wurzgaten.  An on top of it all, the special, searing, but fine acidity of the 2010 vintage.  A delicious drink indeed.
Then onto something more serious.  A 2007 Morey-Blanc Auxy-Duresses.  This is white burgundy that punches way above its station.  Served blind, we all knew its provenance, and of course 1er cru was where we mostly placed the wine.  It’s proximity to Meursault and the producer came through in the style of the wine, softly broad, but without any sighn of flabbiness.  Beautiful poise, the 2007 vintage giving it a sense of finesseand approachability.  Hazelbut and cream supreme, it too was a delight for us all, and it’s a wine that truly comfortable in itself.

The Roadsters couldn’t help themselves, and a couple more bottles appeared, one at a time, but served blind as well.  We all love red burgundy, as Pinot Noir is the hot variety globally, and we see so much of it here.  The 2009 Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertib 1er ‘Cazetiers’ had us thinking.  It had the ripe and sweet fruit of the vintage, making it appear New World like.  But realising that it was from Burgundy, there was no sign of overripeness or lack of acid structure.  It had just started to show a touch of secondary development, but wasn’t older than 2008 for sure, from its sweetness.  What a conundrum.  But it was incredibly refined and slippery, with absolutely no hard edges, quite sumptuous.  With no blood and fur, I couldn’t see it as Gevrey-Chambertin, though that was what SWMBO went for.  I chose Vosne-Romanee over that and Chambolle-Musigny.  Well I was wrong, and very pleased to be.  In afterthought, the cooler site of Cazetiers had moderated the 2009 vintage character.  And it was a joy to drink.

The final wine was a 2009 L’Arlot Nuits-St-Georges 1er ‘Clos des Forets St George’.  A tougher beast, darker and grippier, with waves of savoury blackness, and not quite enough sweetness to match the grip, density, whole bunch and oak.  It was an easy guess to get to Nuits-St-Georges, as it lacked the majesty of Grand Cru, and it had much more character than a village wine.  Yet the size of the wine and all its inputs worked.  It was in its place, but we didn’t quite like it, because of our expectations.  It was out of our comfort zone, but drinking it put us into the zone of the zzzzzs, so off we went!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

At an Age

The night was a celebration.  It was my birthday, and SWMBO took The Young One and JoLo off to one of my favourite eateries.  We were allowed to take one bottle, as the right thing to do was to buy off the wine list, this bottle fitting in between a Champers and a sticky.  The red was a 1991 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’, the same birth year as JoLo and the year of conception for The Young One.  And to cap it off, it was the year that I’d worked vintage there.  I’ve tasted it on a number of occasions, and it has been rated well each time.  It was the right time to broach the bottle.  It was at an age to fully enjoy it.

Our Bar Man Sam took great care of it and decanted it accordingly, and served it just before our meaty main courses were served.  Dark garnet-red in colour, this looked soft and warm.  The nose was gentle and using an overly used word, ’elegant’.  Gentle and mellow dark red fruits, currants and plums harmoniously combined.  Nearly ethereal.  Then clean, fine and determined on palate.  Not a blockbuster.  No sign of undue age.  Quite seamless and all together, but with an undercurrent of drive.  It was all too easy to drink.  Just as you thought it would slip down too easily, it firmed up.  A little more tannin grip and structure to slow you down.  A little more interest with game notes.  Yes, that dreaded brett.  But very much in control.  Even SWMBO could enjoy it.  It was perfect to drink and at the right age.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fading Memories

It was our final night with The Knotters and we were joined by The Hutt Man.  We’d talked the talk and walked the walk, as well as sharing good times.  It was the last dinner and a couple of wines were broached to seal the occasion.

SWMBO has always enjoyed the wines of Weingut Paulinshof, and they delivered gentle character in archetype fashion.  While the wines aren’t necessarily the trendy and notable one of the Mosel, they are certainly worthy of attention.  We opened the 2007 Paulinshof Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett, and it was a lovely sipping wine.  A little more sugar than most Kabinetts of yore, and not quite as expressive of Brauneberg as it can be quite blackcurranty.  Just lovely building flavours of richness.  While it was our aperitif wine, we hung onto it for our dessert, and even then, it worked well.  In the end, it faded away.  And if I hadn’t of noted it here, it would probably faded into oblivion, as it wasn’t a show stopper.  And that would not be fair on it.

I have always loved the Wolf Blass style at the top level.  The ‘Black Label’ wine is exoticly spicy and sexy with its smoothness.  It always has showcased new oak, but I love it to this day.  It’s also always so consistent, and these will be my everlasting memories.  Our next contribution was the brand new 2008 Wolf Blass ‘Black Label’ Cabernet/Shiraz and Malbec, made from mainly Langhorne Creek fruit – Wolf’s grape playground.  This bottle far too youthful and marked by volatility on initial sips.  Rather disappointing we thought.  But slowly, slowly, over time and the meal, its glory began to emerge.  Ripe and sweet.  Lifted and spicy, seamless, but with a firm line and concentrated core.  Far too young, as I noted before.  It’ll need a decade before its exuberance will fade so that it fits into my memories of what the wine ‘should be’.         

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Softly Does It

The Roadsters had been on the road for over a month, but they were keen to get together.  We were happy to give them some breathing space, but they were insistent, despite our softly-softly approach.  On arriving, we knew they had pulled out the stops, preparing, cooking and servng a restaurant quality three-course dinner with canap├ęs to start with.  I’m sure they had the wines mapped out, but were gracious enough to open the bottle we brought, even though it’s not really their thing.  The four wines all had the common trait of softness, quite surprising, as they spanned a range of varieties and styles.

The introductory wine was sparkling, no less!  We’ve never come across a NV Bouchard ‘Roses de Jeanne’ Champagne ‘Blanc de Noirs.  Etched on the back label was ‘V09’, and it noted the site ‘Les Ursules’.  Single vineyard, single grower, single variety and single vintage.  More golden than any pink or blush showing, the expression of Pinot Noir was evident, but not forceful.  Neither was the autolysis, but then time on lees was not huge.  It knitted together beautifully and softly.  It’s smoothness was its beauty, and the most subtle gain in richness and depth as the bottle drained was most pleasing.

My thoughts on Chablis becoming less minerally, flinty and acidic were borne out by a 2010 Dauvissat Chablis 1er ‘La Forest’.  Sure it had all the correct flavours of shellfish tang and soft stonework.  Sure it had lovely linearity.  But the acid sear of the past just wasn’t there.  Are growers in Chablis getting the fruit riper?  Is global warming having an effect.  It’s not negative, but it isn’t the same?  The wines are arguably better in this age, as they are softer and less aggressive.  They still have the unique flavour that the Kimmeridgian limestone imparts.  Things must and do change.  But no-one else seems to have made this comment too.

The bottle SWMBO and I brought was ceremoniously poured into a decanter.  We were going to drink it tonight!  The credentials were exemplary, and the night a cold one requiring a big wine, such as this one.  But somehow, the lustre had gone out of the fashionabilty of this wine as The Roadsters are Burgundy nuts.  The initial thinking was to give them something they would never normally drink.  I felt we had brought the wrong wine, and was a little ashamed in not recognising their preferences.  But they said the loved it, and the decanter was drained.  The 2002 Penfolds ‘Bin 707’ Cabernet Sauvignon had developed extremely well.  I usually find the Penfolds house style dominant over the variety.  But 2002 was a cooler growing season, which gave the wines great elegance.  This is why it was still blackcurranty with subtle eucalypt and oaking.  The secondary savoury black olive layering was evident, and the wine is one of density and richness.  But the rounded edges and softened flow allowed it to slip down without effort.  It was still a majestic wine that made you take note.

The end of the night was signalled by the opening of a 2005 Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes.  It had the bold style and clear modern marmalade botrytis of its big brother, but maturity had set in.  Slightly savoury, indicating the best lots had been drawn away into the prime Rieussec label.  Somewhat soft and mellow, tending broad and even.  Not flat, as there was still richness, and good alcohol power.  It’s a tier down, but yet it delivered the sense of decadence any Sauternes should.

After this, we all agreed we should take it softly, and we did the right thing, by heading off to retire…   

Friday, July 12, 2013

Developing Style

It is fascinating to see how wine styles change over successive vintages, despite the aims of a producer for consistency.  Champagne marches on imperceptibly in many cases, the house non-vintage wine seen the be a model of dependability as regards its character, but it has become fresher and less marked by aldehyde and oxidation.  The stalwart of house and label consistency in Australia is Penfolds, that bastion of tradition.  But even they too evolve, and their wines seem to be developing more style.

It was a a treat to put our bottle of 2009 Penfolds ‘St Henri’ alongside the My-Schisters bottle of 2003 ‘St Henri’.  I’ve learnt to love ‘St Henri’ for its old-fashioned nature.  The story of no oak influence is well-known.  I see a ‘warts and all’ character, that involves savoury and earthy components in it.  The rougher, dare I say dirtier side of Shiraz?  And it has plenty of texture and structure to make it a somewhat coarsely-hewn wine.  The 2003 was all that, and very enjoyable for its gutsiness and range of ‘interesting’ flavours.  A pleasurable and typical ‘St Henri’ for me,  But the 2009 was all polish and sweetness.  Lovely elegant red berries and black pepper, glossy and shiny, with polished mouthfeel, smooth too.  Thoroughly modern and very well handled and balanced.  Also quite delicious, and in my eyes, as well as SWMBO and the crew, the marginally better wine.

Has the Penfolds ‘St Henri’ style edged towards greater finesse?  Have our expectations of good Aussie wine changed so that we like less the rougher wines?  Is there a trend to developing and appreciating stylishness nowadays?  I suspect so.      

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Maxed Out Mellowness

We were going to be in the district and got the call up to spend some time with Max A Million, as it was long overdue.  He was chilled out with his family and we knew we were in for a mellow time, as that’s what they are into.  Over the course of the evening we supped our way through a trio of wines, and they were all easy to get into, but delivered some real interest.

We started off with a 1996 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese.  Seemingly more youthful on nose, but slowly developed to show its maturity with increasing creaminess and custard notes, plus the obligatory toastiness,  The softness and seamlessness now telling us it was fully ready, if not a little past its apogee.

Then a 2008 Dauvissat Chablis.  Surprisingly dense in weight and texture, this has come on considerably and is now fully mature too.  Is modern Chablis less crisp and flinty-acidic than in the past?  Is global warming playing a part in the modern wines of Chablis.  They just don’t seem as zingy and steely as the used to…

The final wine we meandered to was a very youthful 2011 Joblot Givry 1er ‘Clod du Cellier Aux Moines’, dark with hints of ruby, this had a ‘New World’ feel to the fruit, near primary, but also intermixed with some cooler vintage aspects, and a little rusticity as can be expected from the appellation.  This was an intriguing mix of new and old, and a little out of sorts.  Maybe some time will see it mellow out.