jamie goode's wine blog: Three pre-Christmas wines I like

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Three pre-Christmas wines I like

We're gearing up for Christmas in the Goode household. It's approached fast - indeed, this year has just zoomed by. And it feels a bit of an odd sort of Christmas, this year. Not in a bad way; just different. It could be that I'm facing a really important year in 2008, and this is playing on my mind. It could be that our family, which has seen its share of dysfunction (our boys are adopted, and had a very poor start to their lives, which has unfortunately set their emotional 'templates' a little askew), is actually beginning to work reasonably well. Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward more to the festive season this year than I have for some time.

On Friday afternoon we went to see a Christmas film at the wonderful IMAX cinema near Waterloo station. It was Polar Express in 3D, and if you have kids, I recommend it. The screen is fabulously large, and the sound system state of the art.

Then on Saturday it was time for a family winter picnic on Box Hill. We took RTL, of course, and half way round the walk set out our picnic rug, sat down, and had soup, bread, cheese and pate. The few passers by must have thought we were crazy, because it was mightly cold. But it was beautiful: there was a bit of mist in the air, along with some milky sunshine. Later in the afternoon I took elder son to the golf range, where there was a beautiful winter sunset. And I was really hitting the ball well.

Today we had friends round for what turned out to be a delightful Sunday lunch. We had some friends round last Sunday as well. It's good to be sociable, and friends are so much more rewarding than things, aren't they?

So, to some wines.

Cantina di Monteforte Soave Superiore Classico 2005 Italy
Made from 100% Garganega grapes by Kiwi Matt Thomson (he featured on this blog recently for a seminar he did on Brettanomyces). This is a really interesting wine, and it's relatively rare to be able to find an interesting wine for £7 these days. It's a richly flavoured white wine with a lovely minerally, herbal character, as well as richer melon/tropical fruits. There's depth, presence and richness here, but it's all in savoury balance. Fairly serious. 89/100 (£6.99 Waitrose)

Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz 2006 McLaren Vale, Australia
This screwcapped-sealed red is initially a bit dumb and simple on opening, but with several hours of air it begins to come to life. It's a rich Aussie Shiraz, but there's a bit more to it than just sweet fruit and oak. The nose shows attractive pepper spice, a hint of vanilla and bright, fresh raspberry and dark cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with nice tannic structure and vivid sweet red and black fruits. It's certainly a big wine that's sweetly fruited, but it doesn't descend into a sweet fruit mush - there's enough spicy, peppery freshness to act as a counter. The result is very appealing, but do give it time. 90/100 (£9.99 Oddbins)

Domaine Leon Barral Faugeres 'Jadis' 2002 Languedoc, France
Now for something a little different. This is a deliciously complex, funky Languedoc red that tastes a bit like a French version of Chateau Musar, the gloriously funky Lebanese red. If you approached this wine with a 'new world' mindset, you'd probably spit it out. But I think it's fantastic, because it really works, and it's tremendously food friendly. It has a warm, aromatic, spicy, meaty, earthy nose that's incredibly rich and inviting. The palate is rich and ripe, with meaty, earthy, savoury notes as well as sweet fruit. There's a slightly dry, subtly metallic finish, which is perhaps the only downside. I'd heartily recommend this wine, but be warned: it's on the funky side, and if you don't like your wines with a bit of funk, steer clear. 91/100 (£12.50 Les Caves de Pyrene)

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At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Grant said...


The line that separates good and evil with brett (for me) is the metallic finish aspect. A bit of leather etc on the nose is OK, but the taste you describe leaves me a bit cold.

Merry X-mas

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Mike Tommasi said...

Hmmm, I LOVE Barral's wines, in general they are funky without going over the line. I have never remarked a metallic taste in wines infected by brett (is Barral's wine really a brett wine? I do not think so.). The funk comes from the lack of filtering.

In general, I find bretty wines harder and harder to drink. I no longer buy the bit about "typical" brett or brett in small doses giving character. In Bandol where I live some wines ARE bretty, and they are simply not good. Tempier, Terrebrune, Tour du Bon, Suffrene do not have brett!



At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

I am a big fan of Gemtree wines - just back from McLaren Vale where I met with the winemaker Mike Brown and tasted through the entire range - all the reds show great quality I reckon, crowned by the Obsidian shiraz which is stunning. They had a wacky albarino at the cellar door as well, which could well be a first for Mclaren Vale...

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Nice selection. I opened a 2006 Château de Callac white Bordeaux. It was so unique and delicious. Full of buttery lemon and grass.

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Ray said...

I love Barral's wines as well but recently some 98's and 01's have been just too bretty (even for me)
When they hit the spot they are fantastic.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

thanks for all your comments - the issue with brett is one I still grapple with - sometimes I miss it, sometimes I like it, sometimes I spot it and I'm not sure, other times it's a flaw. But I don't want to become a brett policeman, looking hard for it and then condemming any wine I think might possess it.

I'll check out more Gemtree wines.
Greg - white bordeaux is under-appreciated, for sure

At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Not had the 2002 Barral 'Jadis' yet - although I've just noted that where I'm going for dinner Saturday night has it on their list so am tempted to try it then. Had the 2001 several times and mostly been lovely. Seems to be patchy critical coverage of his wines - not sure why - can you shed any light?

At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Don't think these wines are bretty. They do, however, possess a powerful individual identity. Combine wild yeast ferment with a lack of filtering or fining and you have a thoroughly natural wine. I would even dispute the funkiness attributed here: wild, yes, gamey, certainly, but packed with warm garrigue flavour and finishing with lovely balancing acidity. The Jadis has excellent structure, also not something I associate with bretty wines.

Barral's wines are not vintage sensitive. He actually produced richer wines in 02 (an historically difficult vintage in the Languedoc) than 03 (one of the hottest ever).

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Doug - thanks for this perspective - I hope my comments and the use of the 'b' word weren't out of place. I tried to communicate that this is a wine I like a lot, but I was also trying to get across the funk, while suggesting that this was good funk.


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