jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A remarkable day of tasting

Spent pretty much the whole day tasting, today, but it was no chore.

Began with the Berry Bros & Rudd press tasting, where, as usual, we were treated to some real gems from the ludicrously extensive BBR range, including Tokaji Essencia from Royal Tokaji, which we were served on special glass spoons. I was particularly taken by the range of grower Champagnes, by some lovely Grand Cru Chablis from Droin, by the northern Rhones and also by BBR's own spirit range. There was a great turn-out with lots of colleagues to banter with. Time flew.

Then it was off to the annual Madeira tasting. Madeira is great, but off most peoples' radar screens. Barbeito's Madeiras were excellent, as usual. They're my absolute favourites. Blandy had a couple of fantastic colheitas, as well as the wine of the tasting: a 1920 Bual. I was also really impressed by the Justino's line-up: the 10 year old varietal wines all showed lovely freshness and complexity. D'Oliveras rocked: they brought along a wide selection of old colheitas back to the 1960s, which was really kind of them.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Chablis times two

A couple of Chablis to compare, Laroche 2005 and William Fevre 2005 (this will be priced at 8.99 in Bibendum's forthcoming sale, which starts on July 3rd).

Both taste like Chablis: that is they have fresh, bright fruit with a distinctive minerality lurking around somewhere in the background, and they also have a savoury nature to them. They don't taste like unoaked Chardonnays (which is what they effectively are, but which isn't the point of Chablis).

The Laroche is a bit smoother and broader than the slightly edgy Fevre. The Fevre has some citrus pith character; the Laroche has a touch of what I describe as 'straw'. Both are versatile food wines. The Fevre is sealed with natural cork, the Laroche with a screwcap (although the liner used here is saranex, without the common metal layer which allows much less oxygen transmission - it's a wise move for this sort of wine, because you have to be on your guard using a tin liner otherwise you can run into reduction problems).

Both these wines are good examples of Chablis and, while they're not going to blow your socks off, they're extremely tasty and versatile. Fevre just has the edge for me. The Laroche is available as part of a Laroche mixed case from Tesco, or from Sainsbury at 8.99.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Michel Laroche

Spent some time this evening tasting 2005 Grand Cru Chablis from Laroche and Fevre. It was also the first time I'd met Michel Laroche. As well as being a very good Chablis producer, Laroche is also famous for being an advocate of screwcaps. He's been a pioneer in a country that has been quite slow to adopt alternative closures.

'I started using screwcaps in the 2002 vintage', he explains. 'That year we sold 3% of our total production under screwcap; last year it was 32%; and this year we think it will be 60%'. Interestingly, in 2002 he used the saranex-only liner, which allows more oxygen transmission than the tin liner that has been so popular in New Zealand and Australia. Discussions with Jeffrey Grosset and Michael Brajkovic led him to switch to the tin liner for following vintages. The 2002 Les Clos, bottled with the saranex liner, was on tasting, and showed very well.

How has this shift affected sales? 'We've probably lost 5% of customers, but I think we've gained 15% or more', he estimates. 'I'm not going to change my mind!'

I asked Laroche whether he gets fed up about discussing closures; shouldn't the emphasis be on the wine? But he likes the issue; it's one he feels strongly about. I did ask him about the 2005 vintage. 'My first vintage was 1963', he says, 'when I carried the hod.' [Laroche was 17 then; doing the sums, I reckon he looks very youthful for 60.] 'My first proper vintage was 1967, and a vintage like 2005 is very rare'. He cites the 2005 ripeness levels combined with good natural acidity as being unique in his experience.

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