Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Just a Bit Too Far

Some wines seem just too precious to open on a whim.  They deserve to be shared in good company.  But as is the case in modern life, the opportunities to open up the special bottles just don’t happen as much as one desires.  And when you do get to that significant wine, it may be somewhat past its best.  Sure, you can still appreciate it for what it used to be, but there are elements of clutching at straws and remembering only the good things.  You tend to gloss over what reality is, and that the wine has been aged just a bit too far.

I’m sure it was the case with the Bassinett Babe’s 2004 Felton Road ‘Block 1’ Central Otago Riesling.  We were served blind, and SWMBO and I progressed through the questions pretty well.  Light golden colour, it smelt and tasted of fruit, but well into the secondary honied and toasty stage,  Very soft and rounded, there was some oxidation, nutty and bruised apple tertiary notes.  Still fruity and delicious, and clearly Kiwi, from the South Island.  We wanted the wine to be still young and not the very old option, so plugged 2008, incorrectly.  SWMBO was spot-on when she said Felton Road.  I was wrong in stating Pegasus Bay ‘Aria’.  It wasn’t sweet enough, but thought it may had dried out.  The heavier soils of ‘Block 1’ gave it more richness than you might normally see in Central Otago Riesling.  In any case, still a good example, but kept in the cellar a little too long.   

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ready and Waiting

It’s always a treat to try white burgundy.  The prices mean they are relative rarities in the scheme of things, and recent vintages have been somewhat miserable and meagre.  However very good quality have meant they are wort seeking out and acquiring.  SWMBO and I were lucky to be in the right place and right time to see two lovely examples cross our paths.

The first was the 2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Combettes’.  What a lovely drop this is, still pale and youthful looking, and indeed quite tight and elegant.  But looks can be deceiving, as the aromatics and flavours were coming together nicely, the white stonefruits, florals nuts all becoming integrated.  This had sweetness and lusciousness, in the finest way that Puligny-Montrachet can have, so there was still time to burn.  But why wait when it’s ready.  Our fellow guest who poured the wine was no slouch.  He knew it was delicious and the occasion suited its opening.

Then the 2010 Marc Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er ‘Les Caillerets’.  From the frisky and brisk 2010 vintage, this was still a puppy.  Gorgeous finesse for Chassagne with mealy and stonefruit detail, and the fruit sweetness balanced superbly by the acid cut.  The freshness of the wine was its feature, and while everything else was there in proportion, the briskness of youth was the over-riding factor.  More time needed for sure, and well-worth the effort in waiting.  Nevertheless, such occasion as this allow us the luxury of deciding what to do with our own bottles!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Young Rhoners

If there are any of the French classics that I enjoy when they fresh and youthful, it’ll be the wines of the Rhone.  Bordeaux can be a bit stern, and need the time to soften.  Burgundy can be tight and slight, requiring the time to fatten up.  But the Rhone wines can be generous from an early stage, and they seem to be drinking well from there on in.  I’m sure it’s one of the reasons why they have become classic.  At the big dinner, where, interestingly, white Burgundy and Bordeaux reds were prevalent, SWMBO and I brought along a white Rhone, and just one couple, the Maccas, sitting opposite us, other brought along a red Rhone.  Co-incidentally, both wines were youthful, and we all enjoyed sharing and drinking these fresher wines.

Our was the 2014 Yves Cuilleron Condrieu ‘Les Chaillets’, a favourite of ours, but usually we open the bottles with a bit more time under their belts.  This was relatively pale in colour, but unmistakably Viognier with a firm core of apricot, exotic floral blossom and stonefruit aromas and flavours.  Still with a fresh, not quite zesty mouthfeel, this was truly youthful.  But under the firm, freshness was a viscosity and unctuousness.  The quality and provenance quite unmistakable.  Another 2 years would allow it to become richer, bolder, open and more exotic.  But it delivered enough to make drinking potential a delight.

The Maccas wine was the 2012 Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Black-red with youthful purple.  This was concentrated and densely packed with supercharged raspberry essence and black fruits.  Aromatic, lollyish, juicy, plush and very sweet, there was no subtlety here.  But its sweetness meant no coarseness.  Rounded, mouthfilling, with palate expanding flavours and enough underlying tannin grip and extract to provide a backbone, if not a framework.  We knew it was going to change over time.  It will always be generous and warm, but it won’t be over the top in sweetness in the end.  The raspberries will give way to garrigue and earth with maybe some game and minerals.  Instantly cuddly, this will grow up in 5+ years to be sturdier.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nebbiolo Noblesse

What do you take to drink with a couple who have tried the best of most wines.  More of the same of course!  The Ekim Couple don’t give much away and are very inscrutable, so you just take your chances, and hope what you bring pleases them.  If it comes to the worst scenario, you just enjoy it!

So it was with a noble Nebbiolo.  You couldn’t ask for better credentials than a 2008 Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia ‘Colonello’.  Top producer with all the class you could ever wish, and the ‘Colonello’ style one of fragrance and finesse.  The vintage good and hopefully becoming accessible.  Upon opening, very dark coloured, near black garnet-red.  Then on nose and palate an incredibly refined, but concentrated core of black fruits seamlessly infused with minerals and complexed by a savoury note.  Absolutely no funkiness.  Funkiness would be crass.  Not exactly exotic, by brooding with it.  Not really fragrant and perfumed.  None of the dried roses yet.  Maybe a hint of tar, but that’s too earthy.  Just sheer nobility.  Immense extraction, but also incredible elegance.  The tannins so silky, but with a sense of near-overpowering density.  The so-called better years will have more depth and concentration, with more layers and even more backward.  What was remarkable was that it was so drinkable, though it said that another decade of aging was preferable.  NAC said the same in not so many words, and SWMBO just nodded, acknowledging something special here.  I think I could detect a smile on the faces of the Ekim Couple.       

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Die Hard Deinhard

Way, way, back in the good old days, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Deinhard had a reputation as the producer of some of the greatest wines in Germany.  Of course the Deinhard family had the connection of marriage with the Wegeler family, and besides the populist Deinhard ‘Green Label’ Mosel white, there was a plethora of single site bottlings from the Mosel and Rheingau, as well as the Pheinpfalz.  The Wegeler’s do their own thing to a degree, but the memory of the Wegeler-Deinhard beauties live on in the memories of tastings who are long in the tooth.  I won’t say NAC is long in the tooth, but he remembers, and even better still has a few bottles stashed away.  So out came two that I’d almost forgotten about.  Memories came flooding back.  They showed the glories of the past can still be enjoyed today.

The wine in nest condition was the 1988 Wegeler-Deinhard Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese.  Nearly 30 years old and a wonderful drink.  Remarkably fresh still with lime, honey and toast, and the sure signs of maturity of cream and custard.  If you can handle it, a trace of kero too.  But the mouthfeel was poised with piquant acidity to balance the smooth, near-unctuous textures.  No trace of drying out here!  In it’s youthful days, it was marked by reduction.  Flint, earth and minerals and a real hardness to the palate.  Too stinky to drink.  But now a great expression of this vineyard regarded as one of the best in the region.  Funnily enough, its behaviour is very J.J. Prum-like.

Not in quite the same condition, but a wonder, nevertheless was the 1981 Wegeler Erben (Deinhard) Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Auslese Eiswein.  A mouthful in words, but also wine.  These freaks of nature always had ripeness, but not the complexity of botrytis.  Their striking feature was searing acidity, cutting through honey.  Complexity comes very slowly to Eiswein.  But at 35 years, it had it all and had moved on quite a bit.  Orange and mahogany to the golden colour.  Wild honey, toffee and caramel.  Layers of aged and burnished characters, but not decrepit in any way.  Rich and sweet, and viscous on front and mid-palate, but still that searing edge of acidity.  Now starting to dry a little.  The wine has a grippy finish.  But a sensational liqueur-like ending to the night.