Busy day. Lunch at Bentley’s (Swallow Street, near Piccadilly Circus) with Wayne Gabb (pictured), the man behind new South African producer Lomond. Wayne is an interesting person: he turned to wine after many years experience growing apples in Elgin. Lomond is based at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. It’s a cool climate wine growing region by South African standards, with maritime breezes allied to complex soil types.
The wines really impressed: two single vineyard Sauvignons of great poise; a nice Merlot with no greenness and a bit of spiciness to the fruit; and a wonderful Syrah showing soft, smooth structure and fresh, sweet fruit. These wines will be priced very competitively, with the reds at £7.99–£8.99 and the single vineyard Sauvignons at £11.99. Wayne also runs a company selling a variety of organic pest management solutions, plus nutrients that also act by protecting the vine against disease (he calls them dual purpose nutrients). More on this later.
The food at Bentley’s (a seafood specialist) was very impressive, if a little on the pricey side (starters were £8–15, mains £20+ and desserts were £7.50). It was nice to spend some time with Joe Fattorini (Glasgow Herald) who was the other journo present, who is a lively, entertaining character.
Unfortunately, lunch took a little longer than planned, so I missed the Berry Bros press tasting, which finished at 3 pm, but there was time to catch Waitrose’s (UK supermarket) press tasting. Joe came too. There was a merry crowd present in the red wine room – I tasted with Tim Atkin, Steven Spurrier and Oz Clarke. There was a lot of banter. We discussed brett a good deal, and thought about the idea of putting a brett tasting on for the Circle of Wine Writers. The banter quietened down when Jane MacQuitty entered, which meant that we could all hear the rather odd slurping sound she emits as she tastes. I ran out of time and didn’t get round to the whites and the fizz/fortifieds.
Waitrose’s range is brilliant. As well as the more affordable fare that makes up the bulk of my recommendations for the Sunday Express, there were some swanky wines on tasting. Nice to get to try two of the leading 2003 Bordeaux, which are nice wines, but not perhaps as good as you’d expect, although they will no doubt develop. But for drinking tonight I’d prefer Graillots 2004 Crozes, which is just beautiful now.
Château Cos d’Estournel 2003 Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux
Rated as one of the wines of the vintage at the en primeur tasting. Sweet, complex nose with some tarry minerality. The palate is open with complex, spicy fruit and some firm grippy tannins. Great concentration and some tannic bite on the finish. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£115)
Château Mouton Rothschild 2003 1er Cru Classé Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Sweet, open nose is quite soft and spicy. Oaky and rich, this has a spicy, tarry character and good concentration. A big, rich wine that tastes a little bit like a new wave Rioja. I wonder how this will turn out? Very good/excellent 92/100 (£180)
Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2004 Northern Rhône, France
Lovely perfumed nose that’s just so typical of young Northern Rhône reds. It’s meaty and olivey with lots of bright tangy raspberry fruit. Juicy, tangy, tannic palate with fresh bright fruit and a slightly funky meatiness completes a very satisfying wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£13.99)