Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Waxing Lyrical

The Montlouis appellation of the left bank of the Loire, sandwiched between Vouvray on the north bank and Touraine to the south is classic Chenin Blanc country, and home to excellent expressions of the grape, with enough difference to make them stand apart from their neighbours.  Some aficionados wax lyrical about them, but I’ve never had examples to blow me away. 

With The Spaders in town and the I-Spy Man, it was time to have a little dabble in Montlouis, with a 2012 Frantz Saumon ‘Mineral+’ Montlouis bottling.  Saumon is a ‘natural’ winemaker, quite non-interventionalist and the ‘Mineral+’ is barrel-fermented with wild yeasts.  Fans love its boldness and flavours of apple, honey, and you guessed it, minerals!

Our bottle impressed with its fruitiness and mouthfilling presence.  Certainly waxy and lanolin, up-front with savoury white flowers and stonefruits and a juiciness.  However, along with it was a more rustic earthiness, which sure added complexity, making it very Euro-funky, without being faulty.  Sulphide notes, maybe even a little oxidation, said SWMBO.  The mouthfeel with enough energy from the acidity to drive its mouthfilling size.  Not quite mineral-plus for me and maybe a bit of a country wine.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Terroir Taking Over

Over the years, my impression of Priorat wines has been pretty consistent. This pre-phylloxera region now rediscovered and revitalised with a number of classy producers in action there.  The red wines have been pretty solid, and usually black-fruited with density and structure.  Garnacha is there, but also a host of other varieties including Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot after new plantings made.  The 2007 Scala Dei ‘Cartoixa’ I noted a couple of months ago was a good example. 

One of the ‘new wave’ makers Alvaro Palacios has starred over the last decade plus, notably for his ‘L’Ermita’ Priorat, a wine of regal proportions and regal pricing.  His wines have evolved to show greater elegance and now they are bright, juicy and raspberry fruity, but still with density of core, but fine-grained.  He’s eschewed Cabernet in favour of Carinyena as he believes it shows terroir more clearly.  His accessible 2014 Alvaro Palacios ‘Les Terrasses’ Priorat is a perfect example.  Tasting it now, you could be forgiven that it’s a Garnacha that could come from anywhere, as it’s so modern.  Yet, originally designed as an affordable label, it has been elevated to serious ‘village’ status now. 

But I’ve noticed his wines seem to age rather rapidly.  With just 5 years down the track, they get pretty complex and savoury.  Not as complex as say great Chateauneuf, but the wines are gamey and they grow in density.  Suddenly they appear more like what I expect in Priorat, rather solid and chunky.  Is it terroir reasserting itself after Alvaro’s winemaking for finesse?  The 2011 Alvarao Palacios ‘Gratallops’ Priorat is as dense and dark fruited as any from the region.  Maybe it’s a case of try as you may, terroir will always come through?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Clean Slate

Some people just don’t get Riesling.  The Quiet Voice Man was visiting, and he’s a winemaker and wine judge – a good one too, I might mention.  He’s open to all sorts of wines, having tasted extensively for over three decades.  He loves sparkling wines and fine spicy reds, and what about Chardonnay?  He’s a prince among Chardonnay makers, his wines judged among the best in the country.  But Riesling he just doesn’t get.  He can judge and pronounce the good ones as good and the bad ones as bad.  However, he doesn’t enjoy the taste.  SWMBO and I understand intellectually his reasons, but find it incredible at the level of our souls!

We never realised this, until The Quiet Voice Man told us when we served what was something special, the 2012  Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienburg GG Riesling Trocken ‘Fahrlay’.  Afterall, he’s a special man.  But his glass of wine just didn’t go down.  SWMBO and I loved the richness and presence of the wine.  Clearly Riesling with maybe a little sulphide complexity.  Perfect acid balance, with soft freshness and gentle raciness.  The 13.0% alcohol in wonderful tune with the wine and body.  But the flavour of blue slate shone through.  Pure and clean.  We were in raptures.  The Quiet Voice Man saw our joy and pondered his tastes.  He said he’d approach Riesling again, with a clean slate.  But he admitted he couldn’t love it.  It was lucky for him we had some Chardonnays to enjoy afterwards.