Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fresh is Good

I’ve followed the Veuve Clicquot style over four decades and have been fascinated by its continuing evolution.  For much of the time, it was very individual, with richness and strong, positive autolysis and just the perfect amount of aldehydes to give it serious complexity.  But with it becoming part of the LVMH group, there was a fairly rapid change, which I seemed to notice.  This coincided with the growth of the brand at the time.  Clever people at LVMH, in spotting something that was going to grow gang-busters, and capitalise on it.  For a short time, I’m sure production could not keep up with demand, and wine must have been purchased ‘sur latte’.  You could tell, as suddenly, a number of bottles consumed just didn’t satisfy.
But surely and steadily, the label has clawed its way back to being near brilliant.  But with changes in being fresher, cleaner, more fruit oriented.  The wine I’m sure is more elegant nowadays, trading complexity for freshness, and it’s a good thing, and certainly not all bad.  A bottle of 2008 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Vintage chanced our way.  It was actually a gift from The Chairman, but we consumed it with Lazza.  The deliciousness could not be denied.  Detailed and poised, with mouthwatering piquancy.  A fine thread of autolysis only.  For fans of old, maybe a let-down.  But for nowadays drinkers, perfect and beautifully enjoyable. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

All About Fruit

One of my mentors in judging had a catchphrase “fruit is the hero”.  And that is still my creed for most wines, and indeed for New World wines.  Then I learnt about ‘terroir’ and how the expression of such was paramount in the best Old World wines.  So I now have multiple value systems that many wine aficionados will find difficult to accept.  I believe the two approaches do work for me and there is an area of grey which encompasses both, creating a mixed perspective.  Sometimes this philosophy catches me out.

So it was when The Roader presented, as he does, a bottle of red, served blind, and we had to go through the process of trying to identify it.  It was definitely Pinot Noir with its savoury red berry fruits and gentle structure, all presented with the elegance that Pinot Noir has over the other noble varieties.  But the fruitiness was intriguing in that there was a lovely sweetness to it.  This suggested New World, and I kept on thinking out New Zealand, rather than Australia or North America.  But a gamey complexity led me to think Old World and Burgundy.  This had bottle age on it for sure.  Then the structure was in the middle ground.  It was refined but quite positive.  It could have gone either way, but as fruit was the hero here, I plumped for New Zealand Pinot Noir 2010-2012, from Central Otago, Waipara or Wairarapa.  And I was wrong on all accounts.  SWMBO who was on form, was pretty much on form, picking one of the firmer Cotes de Nuits appellations, and at least premier cru level.
It all became so obvious when The Roader unveiled the wine – 2005 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny.  A producer that punches way above the appellation in all his wines.  Maybe I should have guessed, but I didn’t.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Under a Cloud

There is a trend to undermine the quality and style of ‘conventional’ Champagne, from the established houses.  The growth of grower Champagne bottlings and now a move to more ‘natural’ expressions is gaining popularity and market share around the world.  Don’t get me wrong; I think these new developments are indeed exciting, and suddenly the Champagne category has got a lot more exciting.  What I don’t like is the chipping away at the credence and goodness of the houses who have developed a style and way of doing things that work well and have given consistent pleasure to wine drinkers around the world for decades.  I have enormous respect for the likes of Moet & Chandon at the ‘bigger’ end to the fanaticism of small house Bollinger.  And they have their more limited cuvees that are individual, if not idiosyncratic.  But the present trends tend to put these producers under a cloud.
Tasting some of the wines from the new wave of releases is interesting, and there are brilliant wines to be found, but one such wine from The Roader reminded me of the bigger picture,  The NV Pasqual Douquet ‘Anthocyanes’ Champagne 1er Cru Rosé is from Vertus, and a blend of 66% Chardonnay and 34% Pinot Noir, a blend of 20% 2012 vintage, 46% 2011 and 34% 2010 fruit, indigenous yeast fermented with 5 g/L dosage, on lees from April 2013 to disgorgement end of January 2015.  This has a strong pink-red colour living up to its ‘Anthocyanes’ name, but clearly cloudy, if you’ll excuse the pun.  On nose red berry and floral fruit with yeasty more than bready autolysis.  The palate very interesting with layers of flavour, a touch on the savoury side of fruity, and also a little textural.  Not quite finished off, compared to ‘conventional’ Champagne, but more flavoursome with funky ‘pros;’ that will entertain the winemaker, but also slightly coarse ‘cons’ that will not suit those looking for class. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Not Merely a Meursault

Surely one of the classic white burgundies – that’s Meursault.  In this day of going for the best, Meursault can get a little lost when one is expected to go for grand cru Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne or Puligny-Montrachet.  Meursault with no grand cru vineyards tends to get grouped with the second level.  This is wrong, as the wines of Meursault can be pretty spectacular.  At their most typical, they are broader, richer and more accessible than those of Puligny-Montrachet, and thus more consumer-friendly.  The best have layers of richness and complexity, and can age as long as most any other white burgundy.
The Orbiter brought along a Meursault to share.  It was not merely a Meursault, but something bordering spectacular and utterly delicious.  The 2009 Bouchard Pere ‘Domaine’ Meursault 1er ‘Genevrieres’ is from estate fruit and from one of the top vineyards in the appellation, a candidate for promotion to grand cru, surely?  And Bouchard Pere can get it right as it is a top producer as well as a negociant.  Surprisingly pale in colour, this was redolent of ripe yellow stonefruits with a creamy texture showing luxurious barrel-ferment.  Some complexing flintiness allied to the nutty lees and oak, and now a little hint of oxidation.  The wine is afterall, 8 years old, and now in its prime.  There’s no hurry, and I’m sure it will keep on going for another 8 years.  But why wait?  The Orbiter had waited long enough, and he chose to share it at a good time.  All of us in attendance nodded happily.  All the Orbiter said was “it’s a good one – no premox”, and this was a classic understatement.    

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Memories can be beautiful.  The memory of a wonderful experience can live for years, and maybe forever.  There’s joy to be had in reliving a special experience, but one should be aware that memories can be altered and that perceptions can change from what was reality.  One of the more common things for the wine lover is to keep a bottle of wine from a special time, not only as a momento, but as a practical recall of the great time.  However, as we know, wines do change in time.  And tasting a wine from many years ago will not represent what was consumed originally.
The Prophet-Man brought out one of his special bottles to share.  He helped make the wine, and the winemaking there has influenced how he has made wine since.  The wine was a Keuntz-Bas ‘Collection’ Alsace Riesling 2001.  However over 15 years later, this had begun to fade well-beyond the lovely freshness it would have had.  A little light golden, this was still redolent of citrus fruit and white flowers, but the thin end of the edge of oxidation was showing on nose and palate.  Interestingly, the wine was still fresh and lively on the palate, as acidity per se doesn’t change, just the perception of it with time, as the other componentry becomes different in expression.   However the mouthfeel was quite integrated, and the textures hardly standing out.  Phenolics and fruit extract here had become one with the rest of the wine. 
It was a drink-up proposition.  I’m sure it was more attractive in its youth.  But the Prophet-Man still had a smile on his face as he reminisced

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dry and Lean

The trend to dry wine in Germany is not really that new, as the style was prevalent years ago, before the fad of ‘fruit-sweet’ wines came to represent the more modern face of that country.  It is interesting to see producers who have excelled in the pradikat-labelled wines move towards the trocken bottlings.  It comes with transitional pains, to me.

The Kerpen famillyin Bernkastel have been very adept at making wines that are deliciously ‘fruit-sweet’.  In fact, I would daresay the wines may show their residual sugar more prominently than other comparable producers, but in the final analysis, their wines are classical, and high quality Mosel expressions.  Their Kabinetts and Spatlesen wines are their calling cards to me.  They’ve resisted the Grosse Gewachs classifications, even though they own vines in sites rated as such.  The style of them just isn’t the Kerpen style, I reckon.  But there are changes, showing Martin Kerpen’s open mind.  There are the ‘feinherb’ bottlings, a sort of stepping stone in style and recognition of wines outside the pradikat square.  And trocken bottlings are made more visibly. 
A taste of a 2013 Kerpen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Trocken, at 11.5% alc. wasn’t convincing to me.  The Knotters brought out the wine on a warm and balmy evening.  The conditions were perfect for the style of wine opened.  It had slatey, lime and florals, with minerals.  It was thirst-quenchingly dry.  It had fruit extract and presence.  But there was just something missing that meant it was rather lean.  A bit of residual sugar would have rounded the wine off perfectly.  Other Mosel trocken wines have astounded us.  I’m sure Kerpen will get there.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We'll Go For Elegance

Is the taste of wine influenced by your surroundings?  Of course it is.  If you are in a beautiful place, with good company and there is delicious food around, the wine you’re sipping on must be predisposed to be good.  However, most people will also know in their heart of hearts that a wine isn’t great.
When we opened the 2014 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken, it wouldn’t dare be anything but stunning.  There we were, in a sumptuously fitted-out house, amidst a hillside vineyard on a crackingly clear and serene evening, after a fun-filled day, chilling out with the Prophet-Man, who was humourously espousing his views on life, with the promise of a home-cooked meal in sight – life could hardly be better.

The wine opened beautifully, with a pale colour, and then a wonderfully balanced bouquet.  Lime fruit, white florals, a suggestion of honeysuckle, and refined minerality.  On palate, sheer elegance, dry to taste, but rich in fruitiness.  Who would guess it is 13.0% alc.?  The mouthfeel with beautiful poise, mouth-wateringly fresh, but in such a stylish way.  This classical Rheingau trocken at its best.

Robert Weil is a younger estate in the region, but has a considerable 90 ha of vines.  But the Turmberg site is steep and has mature vines from 30-50 years old.  And it’s a monopole, owned by the Weils, now in their fourth generation of winegrowing.  Weill be happy to drink this wine, in any situation. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Big Bubbles

A big bottle can be quite intimidating.  One has to think of a suitable occasion to broach these wines in magnum or larger.  However, it’s never an issue when we get together for our regular gatherings at the A-Prentice residence.  She manages to have many good people turn up, and most are keen on good wine.
So SWMBO and I rocked up with an NV Champagne Gardet Brut Premier Cru.  The bottle was a generous gift from a significant wine retailer, The Pooler, who has been influential in the marketplace, but who felt that we had done the wine industry good, for being supportive of it.  The reality is, that like him, we just love good wine, and any service we offer stems from that love.
It was the start of the evening, on a balmy day, and as guests turned up, a cold and frothy Champagne was an ideal start.  Everything about the Gardet is pretty much classical.  Dry, but not austere.  Refreshing but with an ethereal richness.  Fruit character to burn, but stylish in presentation, and balanced by just the right amount of bready-yeasty autolysis.  And none of the savoury aldehydes that can put people off, or say “it needs food”.
The Gardet family have been growing Champagne from the late 19th century but moved to their base in Chigny-les-Roses village in the 1930s.  The ‘Brut Premier Cru’ is one of their ‘traditional’ wines, with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Hautvillers, so has the gravitas to make it a wine with good presence.  And so it was.

Strangely enough, we magnum bottle drained quickly, and we wished we had another…