jamie goode's wine blog: Some incredible wines today

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some incredible wines today

Two rather different tastings today, both of which were really impressive.

First the Waitrose (UK supermarket) press tasting. Their range - a large chunk of which was on show - is unparalleled among supermarkets. Some really good wines, with solid buying across the board. They keep freshening it up with new wines: four that caught my eye were Remelluri Rioja 2004 (brilliant stuff with amazing minerality and intensity), Mac Forbes Coldstream Pinot Noir 2006 Yarra (amazingly elegant), Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2007 (pure, burly, meaty, fresh) and the Penfolds Bin 311 Tumburumba Chardonnay 2006 (really fresh, lively and exciting). But wine nuts need to wait a few months for the next development, which will be Waitrose Wine Online's new website, on a new platform with added functionality. Headed up by Alex Murray, who was at BBR.com before his recent two year stint with game.com, it looks set to become a really exciting wine destination.

Then the Les Caves de Pyrene REAL WINE 2009 tasting. My, there were some fantastic wines here. I could really have done with another day tasting these, but I have to go to Edinburgh tomorrow so I can't do the second day. It seems silly to pick out highlights, but I must - Frederic Cossard's Burgundies are stunning, as are Philippe Pacalet's 2007s. Zidarich makes some fantastic wines, as do La Stoppa (including a wonderful lightly sparkling Barbera, Guturnio Vivace). Camilo Donati's sparkling Trebbiano is really special, and I loved the Foulards Rouges range from the Roussillon, which were so, so pure. Pictured above is Jean Foillard, a famous natural wine maker from Morgon, Beaujolais.

Early flight to Edinburgh tomorrow. On reflection, it's probably not the greatest time to be hanging around Heathrow, what with the emergent swine flu pandemic and all.



At 4:58 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Hi Jamie,

Was the Remelluri the reserva? Agree with you if it was, an excellent drink.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Nick Oakley said...

Also went to the Real Wine tasting as part of MW exam preparations, to taste some really classic wines. The problem ( if you can describe it as such) is that many of the low / no sulphur wines, and indeed those that have used natural yeasts for fermentation have such an unusual 'funky' profile that they seem to be almost 'wrong' - yet they're completely right.

I guess we are all used to drinking and tasting wines made in squeaky clean conditions with inoculated yeasts and such that we have forgotten how real wine can taste. A real eye-opener, but I've come away more confused than enlightened...!

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, surely there is more to it then wild versus tame yeast? Otherwise I could just grow grapes in the easiest of conditions and after a while produce 'great' wine from my expanding wild yeast population.
I am also concerned about the term funky being used to desribe everything that is not clean. Such a non specific term is OK sometimes, but it would be nice to think you didn't always mean fetid or offensively malodorous or foul, but perhaps earthy (in a nice way) or cheesy or indeed of the commonly used trouser funk.

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Plamen said...

Also went to the tasting earlier today. Pretty much agree with James' highlights and just want to echo the delight about that Trebbiano frizzante by Camillo Donati. It forms a perfect sphere in the mouth with an array of different flavours. A dancing wine.

The only problem with natural wines, I have, is the price. A lot of people shy from trying them as even the cheap ones start from well over ten pounds retail. A good selection of natural wines under ten pounds is needed so that more people could dive in and acquire the taste.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Nick Oakley said...

anonymous - you're right to pick me up on the word 'funky' - it's received vocabulary and perhaps a word I would not choose myself. But there is definitely, to me, a lack of cleanliness in the smell - a kind of uncontrolled feeling to the aromas, and yes, they are in the less pleasant spectrum, at least for me.

At the tasting there were two definite, and quite different processes at play. On the one hand the low sulphur/ no sulphur approach, and the other was a determination to only use wild yeasts as this was the best way to express 'terroir'. In some cases both, or one, or the other, were at play (if you follow me!), and this is what confused my radar.

One of the most interesting things I picked up was a producer of Macon wines (with apologies I didn't take his name) who had a low/no sulphur approach an he was finding that this had enabled him to maintain increased minerality in his wine.

His very astute (and logical) technical explanation was as follows...........

In the reductive (anaerobic) environment of lees left in a barrel there is a risk that the sulphur will combine with hydrogen (causing bad egg smells,and worse, over time). This is because sulphur is supposed to be combining with oxygen to prevent oxidation. If it cannot find oxygen, it will go to the hydrogen.

(For this reason it is normal practice to stir the lees and introduce some oxygen for the sulphur to combine with. It is good practice, and becomes a habit)

But if there is no sulphur, as in this producer's case, the hydrogen cannot cause this problem.

So now the producer can take the chance and NOT stir the lees, so he conducted some experiments, and the wine that had NOT been stirred maintained much higher levels of minerality - basically a good thing, and the wine that he had stirred had lost some of the mineral character.

The result,from his point of view, was that the low/no sulphut regime had enabled him to produce a wine of higher quality & minerality. An interesting surmise.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Great, lucid explanation there, Nick. Very well put, sir!

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Plamen said...

Nick, I think the producers you have in mind are Alain & Julien Guillot, Mācon-Cruzille.

If not, then it's probably Philippe Vallette.

Great explanation on the low sulphur techniques. Thank you.

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm sure it was Julien Guillot you were talking to.

The Macon Aragonite is phenomenally mineral wine from a unique terroir of ancient calcium carbonite deposits. Batonnage would obscure this minerality.

If anyone ever doubted that zero sulphur wines could express both minerality and terroir a quick taste of Seb Riffault's two wines - Akmenine (caillotes) and Skeveldra (silex) would have demonstrated that sheer purity enables one to clearly taste subtle differentations of the wines.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Nick Oakley said...

Yes it was the producer of the Macon Cruzilles, and we were talking about the Aragonite wine. My take on the science was critiqued by both wineanorak himself, and leading winemaker John Worotschak, both of whom played cricket with me yesterday for the wine trade against the Gents of Essex. Neither of them necessarily agreed with my take on the reduction and minerality theme, so I will have to look into it more deeply. Neither did they agree with each other!

I expect you will receive a full report on the cricket on today's blog. Was Jamie in the wickets???


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