jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A soul-restoring Montlouis

There is always hope for the world of wine when, amongst the sea of spoofulation and depressing commercial correctness, you get ambitious, talented people investing their time and money in worthy but unfashionable regions such as Montlouis. Stephan Cossais is one such winegrower, and this wine of his isn't perfect, but it is beautiful. It's an amazingly rich, vibrant, life-full expression of Chenin Blanc. You can read more about Cossais at Jim Budd's Loire Blog.

Stéphane Cossais ‘Le Volagré 2006 Montlouis-sur-Loire, Loire, France
13.5% alcohol. Beautifully packaged, and with an amazing good-quality long cork. Deep yellow/gold colour. Rich, mineral, toasty nose with notes of herbs and apples, and a lemony, subtly cidery lift on the nose. Bold, intense palate shows a hint of vanilla and toast (this cuvee, unusually, had 20% new oak) with powerful citrus, herb and mineral notes. A distinctive dry Chenin Blanc with power, richness and intensity. This is a producer to watch. 91/100 (retail c. £19, UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene)

[Note added later: sadly, as Jim points out in the comments below, Stephane Cossias died in July at the awfully young age of 42.]

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I love Vouvray

UK importer Richards Walford specialize in the Loire, among other things. Today they put on a treat for trade and press - a tasting of the 2008 Huet Vouvrays, plus a vertical of Huet demi-secs taking in the decades back to the 1940s. My favourite was 1962, but the 1947 was pretty smart, also. The 1957 was remarkably fresh. I didn't really get on with the 1971, which I thought was a bit herbal.

2008s were oustanding across the board. You can just buy these blind in confidence knowing they will taste great now, and great in 20 years, and probably outlive you if you store them well.

Most of these older wines had been reconditioned in the domaine: topped up where necessary, had a small SO2 addition, and then recorked. That's why the labels look so good: they'll have been added fairly recently.

Vouvray is a wine nut's sort of wine. I love it. [And forgive the quality of the picture: I only had my camera phone with me.]

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Full-on crazy Chenin

I really like this wine, but subtle it ain't. It's a full-on, barmily intense Chenin that has plenty to offer, and I think it's great. It's from Bellingham, a South African producer that seems to have really upped its game of late, making commercial but delicious wines.

Bellingham 'The Bernard Series' Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2007 Coastal Region, South Africa
40 year old bush vine Chenin fermented in barrel. Remarkable stuff that will revive even the most tired taste buds. Wildly aromatic nose of peaches, cream, spice and herbs - warm and lively. The palate has an amazing concentration of rich, sweet peachy, figgy fruit with lemony freshness and spicy vanilla oak notes. There's also a hint of cheesy Chenin funk, and the texture is rich and mouthfilling. 91/100 (£8.99 Majestic)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A great Vouvray

I know. Vouvray is unfashionable and a bit geeky, bit it can be great. This is an old bottle that I bought from Oddbins in the 1990s for around £12 if I recall correctly. It has developed beautifully and is now drinking very well, although I suspect it will last a couple more decades. I think I have one more left.

Domaine des Aubuisieres Les Giradieres 1er Trie 1996 Vouvray, Loire, France
A delicious, mature sweet Vouvray that's just beginning to hit its stride. Deep yellow colour, it has a lovely waxy, herby, lanolin nose with some crystalline fruits. The palate is sweet, concentrated and multidimensional, with high acidity offsetting the intense herby, tangy fruit. Although it is sweet, it's not really a dessert wine. Would be great with strongly flavoured cheeses. 93/100

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Serious Loire Chenin

A new wine for me. It was part of the Les Caves de Pyrene tasting I did on Thursday morning, and I brought the remaining 3/4 of a bottle home to study at length(!). It's a fantastically pure, fresh, intense Chenin of real appeal. It also goes very well with mature Cheddar cheese.

Frantz Saumon ‘Minérale +’ 2007 Montlouis, Loire
From a grower in conversion to organics, working with indigenous yeasts in large and small oak. Intriguing nose shows classic Chenin notes of herbs, apples, lemon and a faint hint of soft cheese. It’s really pure and focused. The palate is pure and minerally with broad, textured herby, appley fruit kept fresh with high acidity. It’s more-or-less dry, fresh, pure and linear, but with a rounded character that presumably is contributed by a bit of residual sugar. A lovely, precise wine with a long future ahead of it. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene in the UK)
Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Locked in time with a Huet 89

Waitrose press tasting today. Nice to see Neal Martin there - haven't seen him for quite a while. Perfect tasting conditions at the Worx in Parson's Green, with plenty of space and lots of spittoons, as well as fantastic natural light. The tasting is so extensive I'll be going back tomorrow to finish it off.

For as long as I can remember, Waitrose used to be the top supermarket for wine. It was one of the things I quickly learned - they were almost untouchable. But despite having a gazillion Masters of Wine on their buying staff, in the last year or two the unthinkable has happened: people have been starting to criticize Waitrose's wine range, albeit in hushed tones. I began hearing whispers on the tasting circuit that some of their buying was a bit safe - a bit boring even. Tesco began to get plaudits for the work they were doing, and then M&S started to win awards for their range.

From my tasting today - I did the reds and sweet wines - I think this is a little unfair. There are some really good, exciting, innovative wines. Yes, there were a few duds and some rather ordinary offerings, but fewer than most supermarkets have. I found plenty to like, and it's not just the wines that were restricted to only a few stores that impressed.

It's hard to select just one wine to blog on tonight, but I've chosen a Loire classic, which, alas, is expensive and only available in 2 branches (although it is available on Waitrose Wine Direct). Still, it was nice of them to let us taste it.

Domaine Huet 'Le Clos' Premiere Trie 1989 Vouvray, France
Deep yellow colour. Complex, sweet spicy-edged nose showing lemon, herbs and crystalline fruits. The palate is pure and fresh with lovely bright tangy apple and citrus fruit with some apricotty richness. Lovely purity and length. This wine has evolved much less than you might expect and still seems like a baby, with a long life ahead of it. 72 g/litre residual sugar, so it's sweet but not too sweet. 93/100 (£85 Waitrose)

They also showed the 2002 'Le Mont' Demi-Sec:

Domaine Huet 'Le Mont' Demi-Sec 2002 Vouray, France
Lovely intense appeal and herb nose with just a hint of savoury Chenin funk. Concentrated linear herb and apple palate with some lemony freshness. Richly textured and off-dry. Delicious, and still very youthful. 91/100 (£22 Waitrose)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Insolite: a lovely Loire Chenin

Loire Chenin Blanc is geek territory. Chenin is a fabulous grape, but it's not for the masses - it requires quite a bit of investment on behalf of the drinker, in terms of understanding it and learning to love it.

Here's a good one. Appley, minerally, a bit tangy, with some notes of cider (in particular, it has a bit of tannic bite like you get with bittersweet cider apples). Perhaps that is one reason that Chenin can age so well - it's a white wine with tannin.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves 'Insolite' 2006 Saumur, Loire
Fantastic stuff from old vine Chenin Blanc. Notes of honey, spice, apples, vanilla and dry straw on the nose. The palate is savoury and vivid with fresh green apple and lemon acidity and concentrated herb and straw savouriness. Extremely fresh with real cut and bite: this needs food, really. A complex savoury wine with a bit of bite. 91/100 (around £13, Les Caves de Pyrene, artisanwines.co.uk, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, RSJ)

As an aside, it's interesting to compare the corks from this and the Sottimano I mentioned here recently. The Sottimano looks like it is unbleached. The Insolite shows something I often find in sweet wines, and also Chenins - the wine seems to have eaten into the end of the cork, softening it. Is this the acidity? (see below)

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two Vouvrays from Huet

Vouvray is wonderful stuff. It's an unusual white wine from the Loire, made from the Chenin Blanc grape, and it can be dry, fizzy, off-dry or sweet (with or without botrytis) - it just depends on the vintage, the vineyard, and the producer. Huet is one of the best producers, and certainly the most famous. A sleb Vouvray, I guess. Here are two very interesting examples.

Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec 2000 Loire, France
Lovely tangy, herby nose with some appley fruit, as well as a bit of sweetness. The palate is just off-dry, with melon, apple and herb notes, finishing with nice mineral complexity. Quite full and lovely. 92/100 (rrp £16, Richards Walford are the UK agent)

Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Sec 1995 Loire, France
Lovely complex nose is fresh and tangy with cheesy, herby fruit. The palate is bright and lean with high acidity. It’s really expressive. A lean, minerally style with a really fresh personality. 92/100 (rrp £17.49, Richards Walford are the UK agent)

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two stunning whites: South Africa and Spain

Thanks for all the comments on the first video blog. Really useful feedback - and for free! I appreciate it.

Now tonight, two stunning white wines in rather different styles. Actually, these wines are almost (but not quite) polar opposites. Both really good, but really different. Which is one of the reasons I think the notion of a 'best' wine is a bit silly. It depends on the intended use or context.

The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is perhaps South Africa’s finest expression of Chenin blanc. It’s a big old wine with a mighty flavour impact, and comes mainly from low-yielding old bush vines planted in 1967, which is my vintage. Harvested at full maturity, the grapes are treated to a wild-yeast fermentation in new French oak 400 litre barrels, using late harvested botrytised Chenin as a blending wine. Maturation on the lees ensues, with a total of 10 months in the barrel. 9.7 g/litre residual sugar. This is powerful, viscous and concentrated, with sweet vanilla, herb, honey and spice notes. It’s very broad and attractive with an almost sweet tropical fruit quality and some warm, sweet creamy depth. Not really in a Loire style, but really intense and interesting. 93/100 (Tesco, Waitrose, Great Western Wine £16.95)

Terras Gauda Albariño 2006 O Rosal, Rias Baixas
This is utterly brilliant. It has a beautifully precise aromatic nose with perfumed, slightly herby, ripe melon and lemony fruit. The palate is deliciously fresh with light, subtly grapefruity citrussy fruit along with some richer ripe melon notes. Great balance here to create a thrilling white wine that’s a perfect match for seafood dishes. 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

A thrilling Saumur Blanc

Every now and then I drink a wine that (almost) leaves me speechless. It's usually not wines that wow with their first sniff or sip, but rather wines that beguile - that draw you in, and as your attention becomes focused on them, they seem to reveal progressively more, engaging both intellect and appetite in a journey of thrilling discovery. OK, less of the flowery language - I just really, really like this sort of wine. It's what the 'old world' does really well.

Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc La Charpentrie 2004 Loire, France
A fantastic, complex, savoury dry white wine from the Chenin Blanc variety. A yellow gold colour, the nose is complex with notes of apples, pears, minerals, wax and dry straw. The mouth is savoury and minerally, and quite dry, with herb-tinged appley fruit and a flinty/matchstick reductive character that adds complexity. There's an acid tang on the finish, together with hints of apricots and pear-skin. I think this is quite profound - a really thrilling effort that should age gracefully for the next 20 years. With its distinctive character, though, I don't think this is a wine for everyone. 94/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remarkable Loire Chenin

The last couple of evenings have seen me tussle with a profound but challenging Loire Chenin. It's Savennieres Roche Aux Moines 1994 from Domaine Aux Moines (website here), which I'm pretty sure comes from Caves de Pyrene. A deep gold colour it has a wonderful nose of tangerine, lemon, minerals and a faint hint of spice. The palate is tangy, deep and dry with good acidity, some apricot and a lovely cheesy, herby sort of Chenin complexity, together with citrussy freshness. It's dry, savoury and intense: quite a challenging cerebral sort of wine. A bit like a dry Sauternes in flavour profile. Very good/excellent 93/100

It goes pretty well with two cheeses I bought from Harvey Nicholls' food hall before the Craggy Range tasting: a beautifully tangy, nutty Reserve Comte, and a wondefully intense, tangy Montgomery Cheddar which hasn't yet reached the crystalline sort of stage that this cheese can evolve into.

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