jamie goode's wine blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A brilliant natural wine from the Rhône

I wanted something decent to drink tonight, so I opted for a delicious natural wine from the Rhône. It's made by a dude in Tavel by the name of Eric Pfifferling, who you can read more about here. No sulfur dioxide is added during the vinification, although there's an outside chance that a small amount is added at bottling (the label says, 'contains sulfites', but this might just be precautionary - yeasts can make SO2). Like many natural wines, it is elegant, bright, complex and utterly drinkable. There's an amazing purity to it: with some wines you feel as though you are tasting through a veil; here, all the flavours are uncovered and laser-sharp. And I hate scoring wines like these: it just seems wrong.

L’Anglore Cuvée de la Pierre Chaude NV Vin de Table de France
This is a lovely natural wine from the Rhône, made by Eric Pfifferling from 85% Grenache and 15% Clairette, and although this is officially NV because it’s a VdT, it’s from the 2008 vintage. A bright cherry red colour, it has a vibrant, subtly peppery cherry and red berry fruit nose with just a hint of green herbiness, and some alluring sweet earthy notes. The palate is beautifully bright and fresh with red fruits, herbs, some grippy peppery tannins and a lovely, subtly bitter savoury quality that balances the fruitiness quite beautifully. This is a light, expressive, elegant wine that you’d be hard to place in a blind tasting. It’s quite Burgundian, has a touch of Beaujolais about it, but also shows a bit of Rhône character. I really like it, and it’s amazingly easy to drink. 92/100 (UK availability: Les Caves de Pyrene)

It's wines like this that make me want to hot foot it over to Paris, which has an amazing array of cavistes who specialize in vins naturels (see Bertrand's article here for inspiration). Natural wines shouldn't work, but they do!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 07, 2009

A biodynamic Vacqueyras

I'm acutely aware that some really interesting wine regions are a bit neglected on this blog. It's not my deliberate policy to ignore any particular region - it just happens. One of the regions I should be giving more space to is the Southern Rhone, with its fantastic Grenache-based blends and intriguing, ageworthy whites. Here's a tasty, relatively affordable biodynamic Vacqueyras that I liked.

Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Garrigues 2006 Southern Rhone, France
Deep coloured, this has a lovely spicy, peppery nose with sweet blackberry fruit together with a hint of meatiness and just a touch of mint. The palate is rich and ripe with lovely savoury spiciness and some earthy hints. Ripe but savoury: this is what you come to the southern Rhone for. 90/100 (£11.95 BBR)

Labels: ,

Monday, July 06, 2009

Randall's Cigare

Randall Grahm is one of the most interesting people in the world of wine. Yet his Bonny Doon wines haven't done all that well in the eyes of the critics. Following on from tasting Randall's delicious Sangiovese a couple of days ago, I turned to his top red - Le Cigare Volant 2005. This is a great dop. I particularly like the way it manages to taste of the old world, with a beautiful savoury dimension and a distinctive minerality. It's just as good on day two as it was the night before.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005 California
A blend of 50% Grenache, 24% Mourvèdre, 22% Syrah, 3% Carignan and 1% Cinsault. This has a lively, vibrant, spicy nose with a distinct meaty savouriness to the plum and blackberry fruit. The palate shows a lovely complex spicy character with some lemony acidity bringing freshness to the sweet, meaty plummy fruit. It finishes dry, a bit grippy, and quietly mineral. This is a lovely complex, meaty, spicy, Rhône-like wine with a delicious savoury dimension, and I reckon it will age well for some years to come. 13.5% alcohol. 91/100 (UK retail c. £23, 2004 available from Hailsham Cellars, imported by FMV)

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 09, 2009

St Emilion and Garnacha

Took the boys to Thorpe Park today. It's a horrible, horrible place, but they love it. I spent most of the time on my laptop hiding in a coffee bar. When we got back Fiona chose two red wines for me from my rack - one an inexpensive Spanish Garnacha, the second a high-end St Emilion.

Cruz de Piedra Garnacha 2007 Catalayud, Spain
An example of good modern Spanish winemaking, focusing on intense fruit rather than too much American oak. Vibrant, fresh sweet cherry and berry fruit dominates, with a slightly grippy, spicy, peppery edge. Great value for money, and while it's not the most sophisticated wine you'll ever encounter, it's deliciously fruity. 87/100 (£5.65 Great Western Wine, 14% alcohol)

Chateau Fombrauge 2004 St Emilion
This is one of the Bernard Magrez properties that I visited last November (pictured above). It's a really attractive, almost seductive wine, with a lovely melange of ripe but well defined, smoothly textured blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, and sophisticated oak. It's a really well balanced wine with nice gravelly depth (a signature of 2004, I reckon) and some firm but refined tannins. This oozes class: quite a serious effort. It's modern, but not too modern; oaky, but not too oaky. 92/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A lovely Cote Rotie, and a delicious Cotes du Rhone

Nice wine tonight - a cask sample of one of Gilles Barge's Cote Roties. It's a special cuvee made from an abandoned, steeply sloping site replanted in 2000, and this was one of the samples bottled for Bibendum's recent en primeur tasting. Now samples like this should be tasted soon after bottling, and this was sent to me by Bibendum just after the event but then got lost in transit for a couple of weeks, only arriving today. It's still tasting fantastic, though, with a distinctly meaty, peppery edge and some Burgundian elegance. Bibendum are offering this at £240 per case of 12 in bond.

Domaine Gilles Barge Côte-Rôtie Le Combard 2007 Northern Rhône, France (cask sample)
Just delicious. Fresh, bright nose of meaty, peppery raspberry and just-ripe cherry fruit with lovely floral aromatics. The palate is expressive and elegant, with a meaty, subtly animally edge to the beautifully textured sweet and sour fruit, combining pure, sweet cherries with tart acidity and peppery freshness. It’s complex, brooding and quite profound: the antithesis of clumsy, dark, extracted, oaky Syrah. 92–94/100

More affordable, and almost as good is this robust, sweetly fruited Cotes du Rhone in the same Rhone 2007 offer. Apparently 2007 was an awesome vintage in the Southern Rhone - better than in the North.

Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champauvins 2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France (cask sample)
Apparently, Robert Parker gave this 91/100, which is a high score for a relatively affordable wine. I can understand why: it’s a deliciously rich, dense Southern Rhône red with concentrated, sweet spicy raspberry liqueur fruit, backed up by fresh acidity and a bit of earthy structure. It’s smooth and delicious, with a hint of ginger adding aromatic interest. Much better than most Châteauneuf-du-Papes, with real richness and intensity. 90–92/100 (£55 in bond for 12 bottles in www.bibendum-wine.co.uk’s recent en primeur offer).

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

John Duval Wines: high-end Barossa wines

Two wines this evening. I thought I'd go Australian, so I opened a couple of recent releases from John Duval. He spent 29 years at Penfolds, and, from 1986-2003, as chief winemaker John was the dude in charge of Grange, which is quite a heritage to mantain. He started his own label in 2003, and also consults in Europe, Australia and the Americas. I really like these wines, and I reckon they'll age beautifully. I do wonder, though, whether the tin-lined screwcap used here is the best closure for these sorts of wines. Might they show better with a decent quality cork? [Admittedly, it's quite a job getting a cork supplier who can deliver this...]

John Duval Wines Entity Shiraz 2006 Barossa Valley, Australia
14.5% alcohol. 17 months in French oak, 30% new. Deep coloured. Initially shy and simply fruity on opening, after time this picks up weight and begins to show its potential. Lovely aromatic, slightly meaty, pure dark fruits nose with blackberry, dark cherry, spice and violets. On the palate there’s real elegance to the dark fruits, which marry beautifully with the oak. This isn’t a big blockbuster style; rather it’s a brilliantly balanced, youthful Shiraz with masses of potential for future development. John Duval says that his aim with this wine is to produce a Shiraz with elegance and structure, and I think he’s achieved this. But it needs time. 93/100 (£20.99 Noel Young, Oz Wines, SWIG, Harperwells, Secret Cellar, Wimbledon Wine Cellar)

John Duval Wines Plexus Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvèdre 2006 Barossa Valley, Australia
14.5% alcohol. Half Shiraz, one third old bush vine Grenache, the remainder old bush vine Mourvèdre, aged mostly in old oak. This is dominated by sweet, plum, red cherry and blueberry fruit, with a lovely soft structure and some attractive peppery spiciness in the background. It’s lively and pure with a seductive lushness, but there’s enough spicy structure to provide balance. It’s delicious now, with real Barossa typicity, but it should age really nicely, too. 91/100 (£18.99 Noel Young, Oz Wines, SWIG, Harperwells, Secret Cellar, Wimbledon Wine Cellar)

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The new Spain: Ochoa Graciano & Garnacha

Spanish reds are changing. For the better. In the past, you could bet your salary that most reds above a certain price point would have spent too long in the wrong sort of oak (American), and as a result would be washed out and reeking of vanilla and coconut. There was a bit of a renaissance a few years back, and then you could bet that the more ambitious wines would be overextracted, a little over-ripe, very sweet, and with loads of French oak. Now, however, Spanish winemakers are realizing that with their fantastic resources of warm, sunny climates and old vines, they can make wines with wonderful fruit presence that doesn't need all that much oak to enhance them. The result is increasingly impressive, commercially astute wines like this one from Navarra producer Ochoa. If more producers do what Ochoa are doing, then Australia and California are in for one hell of a beating.

Ochoa Graciano & Garnacha 2005 Navarra, Spain
A beautiful, fruit-forward red wine made with Grenache combined with the highly regarded but now rare Rioja grape Graciano. Deep coloured, the dominant feature here is vibrant, juicy, sweet raspberry and dark cherry fruit with very little oak impact and a spicy, tangy finish. This is a stylish, modern red wine of real appeal, for current drinking (it's sealed with a purple coloured synthetic cork). 89/100 (£7.99 Taurus Wines, Christopher Piper, Bentley's, Arthur Rackhams)

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A photoshoot, a Merlot and a Roussillon red

Spent most of the day at Denbies winery (www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk) doing a photoshoot for the Sunday Express. This required the services of quite a team: a photographer plus her assistant, a make-up person, the section editor plus her assistant, the art editor, the fashion stylist and me. I was dressed in a white linen suit, brown shoes and a panama hat. While we were shooting in the vineyards a team of cyclists passed us and one of them commented loudly, 'It's the man from del monte'. I was embarrassed. We shot pictures in the cellar, too. The results will be in a special section in the magazine on summer drinks, on August 3rd. It was a really interesting and slightly surreal experience.

Two wines this evening. The first is a Merlot from Australia. Many readers will have switched off at this point, because Merlot sucks most of the time, and almost always when it comes from Australia. But this is quite a good one.

The second is a Roussillon red from the holy trinity of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache, and it's nicely dense and rather attractive.
Linda Domas Wines Boycat Merlot 2006 McLaren Vale, Australia
Slightly reductive on the nose, with a hint of burnt rubber, but also some really fresh, vibrant berry fruit, as well as a hint of gravel. The palate is juicy and medium bodied, with delightfully expressive, fresh, sweet red berry fruit, a trace of blackcurrant, and also some spicy tannins on the finish. I guess that the McLaren Vale isn't the best place in the world to grow Merlot, but this is still a very attractive, supple, sweetly fruited wine of some appeal. Elegant and very berryish. 88/100 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)

Domaine Treloar Three Peaks 2006 Cotes du Roussillon, France
This attractive southern French red is the inaugural vintage from this producer, a Kiwi-English collaboration farming just 10 hectares in the Roussillon. It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A concentrated wine with sweet-yet-focused red and black fruits with a spicy lift. There's a distinctly savoury, spicy quality to this wine which has enough tannin and acidity to keep it quite fresh. Finishes distinctly savoury and quite grippy. A food-friendly style that may develop nicely over the next few years. 90/100 (£10.25 Leon Stolarski)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A birthday and some more wine

It has been another gloriously summery day here in London. I've done the bare minimum of work, because it was a significant birthday for Fiona, and celebration was in order.

After a relaxed start to the day, we went to lunch at The Wharf in Teddington, which is beautifully situated on the river, right next to the lock. The service was good, the setting was stunning, but unfortunately the food was distinctly average. But that's the problem with the restaurant scene in the suburbs: most of our local options are mediocre, but they still do a roaring trade. I suspect that people generally aren't all that fussy about what they put in their mouths, as long as the menu looks good and the setting seems right.

We had a couple of glasses of wine - it was the sort of list that looked OK, but had an annoying tendency not to give the producers' names. Fiona's choice was a Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc and mine a Chilean Carmenere Reserve (yes, the by-the-glass option was pretty limited), and the waiter wasn't able to find out who had made them. The wines were actually quite good, but it's frustrating not being given important information on the list.

Then this evening we met up with good friends Karl and Kate and their kids for a relaxing evening, again on the river. Kate's parents have some land fronting onto the Thames at Chertsey, and keep a boat there, and that was the venue for this evening's fun. We had a few drinks and then took a trip on the river, before heading back for some food. It was a beautiful evening, and the kids behaved themselves. Pictured is Fiona taking a swing over the water. She stayed dry.

Two quick wine mentions. First, Burgans Albarino 2006 Rias Baixas is a classic Albarino with a subtly floral, lemony nose and a palate that displays grapefruit and citrus pith character. It's fresh and quite precise, but with good depth of flavour. Stylish. 89/100 (£8.99 Oddbins). The second wine is a red with a bit of southern personality. Selection Laurence Feraud Seguret 2006 Cotes de Rhone Villages is quite deep in colour with attractive aromas of sweet red fruits and peppery spice. The palate is brightly fruited with some grippy, peppery tannins and a distinctive spiciness that nicely counters the sweetness of the fruit. There's also a hint of meatiness here, together with a bit of earthiness. This is quite seductive, in a modern, fruit forward style, but there's also some old world earthiness and spice that I find really appealing. Isn't cheap, but it is good. 90/100 (£9.99 Virgin Wines)

Nerdy closure note: the Burgans is sealed with a bright orange synthetic cork (supremecorq), while the Seguret is sealed with a screwcap (saranex-only liner).

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cricket (again), Meerlust and Rose

I'm tired at the end of an interesting day. This afternoon I played cricket at Hampton Wick: it was the Wine Trade XI versus Balls Brothers for a fun 20/20 game. I was donated to Balls Brothers as a guest player - technically this was because I was the last to sign up; perhaps, though, the Wine Trade XI fancied some easy runs off my bowling.

I took second over, mixing it up a bit (not deliberately) and going for a few runs. Just two overs though: everyone bar the wicket keeper gets to bowl two overs in these games, which makes for some great comedy bowling moments. The wine trade struck lustily and ended up with 150-odd. In response, Balls Bros fell short by 20 or so, to which my contribution was two (I went in at the rarified position of 7 - perhaps I was suffering from altitude sickness - and was lbw).

A barbecue and much London Pride plus various donated wines followed. Interestingly, one of the wine trade team was Chris Williams, winemaker for Meerlust and also his own venture, The Foundry, which I have written about in the past. Chris is rubbish at cricket, but extremely talented at winemaking. We tried two Meerlust wines which he didn't make, but did blend - the 2003 Merlot and 2003 Red. They're impressive in a distinctive Meerlust style: spicy, quite dense, a little earthy and nicely savoury.

Chris has been changing the wines a bit, but not too much, giving them a bit more generosity and focus. Under the terms of his employment he is able to make 2000 cases of The Foundry wines, a project he operates in tandem with a silent partner. He's invested the equivalent of £50 000 so far, and with the last vintage just began to break even. His commitment is to Meerlust for the forseeable future, but he hopes one day for The Foundry to become the focus of his whole attention.
Now I'm relaxing with a glass of rose, nursing three cricket-ball inflicted injuries, two on my right hand and one on my right foot (a full blooded cover drive). It's Ochoa's Rosado de Lagrima 'Finca el Bosque' Single Vineyard 2006 Navarra. A blend of cabernet and garnacha, this is quite deep coloured. It has a bright, bittersweet nose of cherry and cranberry, which leads to a palate of juicy, savoury cranberry fruit with a spicy finish. This is juicy, full flavoured and refreshing, and extremely food friendly. A hint of seriousness even? 86/100 (£7.99 Abbey Wines, £6.99 Taurus Wines, £6.65 Bretby Wines)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Barossa Grenache

Grenache - the Pinot Noir of the south - is an excellent and underrated variety. Unlike Syrah, which is a big, bold, reductive variety, Grenache is a bit of a hide-in-the-background grape. It makes wines that could be dismissed, on first impressions, as inconsequential and light. But look a little deeper and you'll see that in fact these wines are multifaceted and thought provoking. They just take a bit of getting to know.

I like Barossa Grenache a good deal, with my favourites including those from Troy Kalleske, Kym Teusner and Torbreck. Tonight I'm sipping one from Yalumba, described as a bush vine Grenache from 70 year old vines. Grenache, it seems, can never be just Grenache. It has to be 'old vine' or 'bush vine', or some other such laudatory descriptor, or people will probably just ignore it. Rather than blend it with Shiraz and Mourvedre, I think there should be more straight varietal Grenaches made.

This one has lovely pure, sweet red fruits with a silky texture and some earthy, grainy tannins. It's spicy and peppery - even a bit meaty. There's a hint of cinnamon on the nose. Matured in old French oak, it doesn't have any noticeable oak influence beyond just a hint of sweet vanilla right in the background. Not a wine to have an immediate impact, but a rewarding one if you persevere.

Labels: , ,