jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A lovely northern Rhône Syrah from Maxime Graillot

This is a really lovely northern Rhône Syrah, made by Maxime Graillot, son of Alan (the most famous grower in this appellation of Crozes-Hermitage). It's quite an edgy, polarising sort of wine, though: with its high acidity and bold, striking flavours, some will fall in love while others will find it a bit too much.

It's just my sort of wine. I'd much rather have these somewhat wild, untamed flavours that speak so clearly of the place it comes from, than something more polished and accessible.

Domaine des Lises Equis Crozes-Hermitage 2007 Northern Rhône, France
There’s no doubting where this wine comes from. With its meaty, peppery, spicy, savoury, almost bloody nose it’s obviously cool climate Syrah from the Rhône. The palate is fresh and savoury with high acidity and meaty, peppery raspberry and plum fruit. There’s a degree of clarity and precision to the fruit that keeps it from being rustic. A brilliant effort. 92/100 (£15.95 BBR)

Labels: ,

Monday, December 07, 2009

An icon a day: Ogier Belle Helene 1999

Ogier La Belle Helène Côte-Rôtie 1999 Northern Rhône, France
Just two barrels of this wine made. Aromatic, rich, warm spicy nose is complex and profound with lovely rich red fruit, cherry, spice and subtle earthy notes. It's powerful and intense, yet harmonious. The concentrated palate has beautifully elegant, open, fresh meaty red fruits with lovely acidity. It has absorbed the new oak beautifully. Meaty and powerful yet elegant with a mineral finish. Profound stuff: the northern Rhône at its best, and starting to age very well. 97/100

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 06, 2009

An icon a day: Jaboulet La Chapelle 1990

After the 1978 reported on yesterday, the 1990: different, but totally compelling.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1990 Northern Rhône, France
Warm, complex, earthy spicy nose with some lovely richness. There are hints of medicine, old wood and game, and there's a distinct sweetness to the aromas. The palate has lovely smooth, warm, spicy notes and rounded, rich fruit. It's a powerful yet elegant wine that's ageing beautifully, and it really is a crime to spit it. Lovely tannic structure keeps the richness in check. Just beautiful. 97/100 (tasted at The Sampler)

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 05, 2009

An icon a day: Jaboulet La Chapelle 1978

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1978 Northern Rhône, France
This 1978 is a legendary northern Rhône wine, and so tasting it knowing what it was made being objective quite hard. But fortunately the wine did not disappoint. A relatively pale colour, it has a complex nose of red fruits, undergrowth and spice, with a hint of medicine and some subtle floral notes. Almost Burgundian in style, weight and elegance. The palate is sublimely elegant with soft, complex cherry fruit, spice, herbs, fine tannins and some mineral notes. It's just so, so elegant with amazing length and an eternal finish. A really beautiful wine, approaching perfection. As with all wines of this age, there will be considerable bottle variation; this is clearly a very good bottle. 98/100 (Tasted at The Sampler)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A stunning northern Rhone at Waitrose's Press Tasting

Spent most of today at the Waitrose press tasting. As UK readers will know, of all the supermarkets in the UK, Waitrose has the most serious wine list. While many of the high-end wines are available in just a few top stores (Kingston and Canary Wharf are the two flagship stores, carrying pretty much the entire range), they're all available from Waitrose Wine Direct, headed up by the extremely able Alex Murray, who used to be with Berry Bros & Rudd. Waitrose Wine Direct allows you to buy mixed cases, which is handy.

Many of the wines in the tasting today were lovely, but my favourite, by a whisker from the 2005 Leoville Barton, was a stunning Cornas. It was just so beautifully perfumed and structured. Almost Burgundian.

Vincent Paris Granit 30 Cornas 2007 Northern Rhone, France
13% alcohol, half matured in barriques. Wonderful nose: thrillingly alive, with fine meaty, spicy notes. Just so lively and expressive with perfumed floral elements. The palate is beautful, with high acidity and lovely firm but fine-grained tannins sitting under the elegant red fruits. Just thrilling: my favourite style of wine. 96/100 (£23.99 Waitrose, 2 branches)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A fresh, peppery Crozes-Hermitage

Supermarket Crozes-Hermitage can be pretty anonymous, but here's a really nice one that I enjoyed. I'd buy it again.

Crozes-Hermitage Beaufeuil 2008 Northern Rhone, France
Really fresh cherry fruit nose with a distinctive pepper character. The palate shows really attractive bright cherry fruit with some grippy tannins under the sweet fruit as well as nice meaty savouriness. Midweight, fresh and delicious, this is lovely cool climate Syrah that's expressive and quite elegant. 89/100 (£8.99 Morrisons)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dinner with Francis and Bronwen

Had a fantastic dinner last night at Francis and Bronwen Percival’s beautifully situated flat above NYD in Borough Market. They’d gathered a jolly crowd, with Jamie Hutchinson and Dawn Mannis of The Sampler, Champagne expert Peter Liem, and Neil Beckett and his wife Luciana. For the main course Francis headed outside to grill some wonderful slabs of beef, and as you’d expect we drank well.

Here are my notes on the wines:

Champagne Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blancs 2005
This is Pinot Blanc from the Aube, effectively biodynamic, with no dosage. It goes through full malolactic, and is bottled with lower pressure than normal. Cedric Bouchard makes just 800 bottles of this, and The Sampler has the UK allocation of 50 bottles. Creamy, elegant and delicate with lovely pure, subtly lemony fruit. Lovely fruit expression: this actually tastes of Pinot Blanc. Fine bubbles with fresh acidity and no harshness. Such balance. 92/100
Champagne Doyard Cuvée Vendémiaire Extra Brut NV
From Vertus, this has a low dosage and is made from a blend of three years, with extended lees ageing. This one is 1998/99/00. Herby, toasty, complex nose. Intense with lovely precision and a bit of grippiness. Subtly toasty and herby with lots of character. 92/100

Champagne Marie-Noëlle Ledru Cuvée du Goulte Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs 2004
From a small grower in Ambonnay who titles herself a viticulturice. Focused lemony, subtly toasty nose is elegant with some restrained richness. Quite savoury with nice density and some subtle honeyed notes. Rich but fresh. 93/100

Domaine de la Bongron Mâcon Clesse Quintaine Cuvée Spéciale Levroutée 1995
14.5% alcohol with some residual sugar, too. Rich and intense with notes of barley sugar, apricot, honey and spice. The palate is dense and off-dry with some sweetness and a rich texture. A lovely wine that’s bold and still quite fresh. 91/100

Bollinger La Côte aux Enfants Aÿ Rouge 2002 Coteaux Champenois
A still red wine from the Champagne region. This is Pinot Noir from a small 2 acre south-facing vineyard in Aÿ. Focused and quite rich with fresh berry and cherry fruit. Dense and berryish, with some structure. There are also some medicinal notes as well as a hint of sappiness. It’s actually quite a big wine, and hard to pick as Pinot Noir. 88/100

Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Thalabert 1983 Northern Rhône
Intense, rich and sweetly fruited with lovely fruit: damson, plum and raspberry. There’s also a lovely savoury, meaty dimension here, with hints of earth, medicine and black tea. This has aged beautifully and is peaking now, I reckon, but there’s still lots of life here. 93/100

Equipo Navazos La Bota de Palo Cortado No 17 Bota Punta, Jerez
This stunning sherry is quite rare: just 600 half bottles were produced. Amazingly complex nose with notes of nuts, herbs, lemon and old casks. Fresh and intense with wonderful complexity, as well as some toffee and nut richness. Good acidity. 94/100

Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla Saca de Enero de 2009 No 16A
really interesting take on Manzanilla, showing floral, aromatic, nutty notes on the nose. It’s broad, complex and softly textured in the mouth with delicious tanginess and apple notes. Remarkable stuff with real complexity. 92/100

Szepsy Tokaji Cuvée 2002 Hungary
Wonderfully complex with rich apricot and peach fruit, as well as a touch of tangerine. Rich and concentrated on the palate, but not overly sweet, with great fruit focus to the fore and good complexity. 93/100

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Here's my Pinot Noir, as it looks today. The berries are starting to form, and you can still see the remains of the flowers. It's a bit less advanced than the same variety in Burgundy, but not too far off. [One Alentejo winegrower twittered today that their vines were going through veraison already!]
Last night was good fun. I met with the fellow organizers of the sparkling wine symposium for a planning meeting followed by dinner. We went to Fino in Charlotte Street (http://www.finorestaurant.com/), which is a swanky tapas joint that allows corkage for £15. So we brought along some wine, and drank well, with a high strike rate. Food was first-rate, and service was just right.
Champagne Philipponnat Grand Blanc 2002
Very fine, toasty, biscuitty, lemony nose with great precision. The palate is complex and fresh with lovely acidity and balance. Serious stuff that’s quite winey with lots of intensity. 94/100 (£39 Oddbins) [Oddly, the neck label on the bottle said 2004 vintage, while the front and back labels said 2002.]

Kumeu River Chardonnay 2005 Auckland, New Zealand
Fantastically bold and intense with dense, mealy, spicy fruit. Lovely intensity on the palate with savoury, spicy richness. A very rich style of Chardonnay, but it is serious and balanced. 93/100 (£21 Oddbins)

Millton Clos Ste Anne The Crucible Syrah 2007 Gisborne, New Zealand
I love this wine. It has a really fresh peppery nose with lovely vivid red berry fruit. Quite northern Rhône like. Lovely freshness and focus on the palate with dark pepper, dark cherry and raspberry notes, as well as some spiciness that may be from a bit of new oak. Fantastic effort. 93/100

Chaupoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2004 Northern Rhône, France
I was pleasantly surprised by this. It shows supple, sweet red berry and dark cherry fruit with a hint of pepperiness. The palate has elegant, midweight savoury red fruits. Lovely focus with good acidity and some pure, bright fruit. 91/100

Matetic EQ Syrah 2006 San Antonio, Chile
Lovely: dark, meaty, spicy and focused. A really dense Syrah with lots of intensity, and sweet but balanced blackberry fruit. We had this chilled down because it was quite hot, and it helped the wine a bit, although it did bring out the tannins a bit more. 92/100 (£16 Oddbins)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A nice lunch in Paris

On the way to Champagne, we stopped off for a lovely lunch in Paris. It was at a small restaurant called Chez Casimir, a short walk from Gare du Nord (6 rue de Belzunce, 75010 Paris, 01 48 78 28 80). Nothing flash; just good simple French cooking, bistro style, with a short but fabulous wine list.

I was let loose on it, and chose two reds. But first we began with a really nice Champagne.

Champagne Drappier Pinot Noir Non-dose
Really interesting: tight and fresh with lemony elegance and a hint of toasty richness. Very bright and lively, and despite the lack of dosage this doesn't seem out of balance. 91/100

Then to the reds: one a natural Loire red; the second a really individual Cote Rotie. Both brilliant. Prices? The Breton was about 20 Euros, the Barges around 50.

Catherine & Pierre Breton 'La Dilettante' 2007 Bourgeuil, Loire, France
Light coloured, this has a lovely nose of elegant cherry and herb fruit, with some hints of earth and spice. The palate is light and complex with a bit of funk as well as juicy, vibrant fruit. A deliciously drinkable wine with some natural elegance. 89/100

Gilles Barge Cote Rotie Cuvee du Plessy 2005 Northern Rhone, France
Wonderful: bloody, earthy, slightly spicy with lovely dark fruits. The palate is a bit meaty with lovely concentration and definition. A fantastic effort in a rather traditional style. 93/100

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Amazing wines at The Ledbury

Keith Prothero (pictured below) convened a lunch at the Ledbury yesterday. The occasion? Chris Mullineux, a South African wine grower who Keith is involved in a venture with, was in town to present the new Mullineux wines. Also present were Neal Martin, Jamie Hutchinson (the Sampler), Jim Budd, Nigel Platts-Martin (owner of The Ledbury, The Square and other restaurants), and Lionel Nierop (Bid for Wine). Keith kindly provided the wines, too.

I won’t dwell on the Mullineux wines, because I intend to write them up separately. Suffice to say, Chris is right up there with the very best South African producers. The Syrah is beautifully expressive with lovely aromatics and a subtle meatiness; the white blend is taut and complex, with lovely depth from old vine Chenin combined with Viognier, Clairette and Grenache Blanc; and the straw wine, a curiosity made from Chenin grapes dried to reach double their original sugar content, is fantastically fresh and complex.

For those unfamiliar with The Ledbury, all I can say is that you must visit. It’s one of London’s very best restaurants. Aussie chef Brett Graham is a genius and I’ve had some of my most memorable gastronomic experiences here. The food is modern and inventive, without being gimmicky. And the lunchtime menu is brilliant value, too.

We began with an old Sancerre that was quite puzzling: it tasted really young.

Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés 2001 Loire, France
Really intense, linear nose with minerality, grassiness, grapefruit pith and taut herby notes. The palate is intense, savoury and quite herbal with bright fruitiness. A remarkably fresh 2001, with an attractive greenness. 90/100

With the first course (cured scallops with frozen horseradish, seaweed and herbs) we had the Mullineux white 2008 and Lopez de Heredia’s Tondonia Gran Reserva white 1981, which unfortunately was corked. We followed this with the Mullineux Syrah 2008, and then the fish course (fillet of turbot cooked on bread with new seasons morels, beef shin and cauliflower) was accompanied by:

Roumier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1994 Burgundy
Lovely sweet pure cherry and red fruit aromatics, with a subtle sappiness. The palate is lively and spicy with lovely grippy structure under the elegant fruit. Nicely structured with a lovely spicy finish, but perhaps not showing all it has at the moment. 92/100

Guiseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato 1974 Piedmont, Italy
Brown colour. Like an old tawny port on the nose, and an old oloroso in the mouth, with a strong molasses character. Sadly this is dead.
The main course (sauté of Berkshire hare with poached grapes and a feuilleté of chanterelles and Jerusalem artichokes) was accompanied by one of the best flights of wines I’ve ever experienced. Quite incredible! [Above: Jim Budd, Chris Mullineux and Neal Martin prepare to tuck in.]

Château Haut-Brion 1982 Graves, Bordeaux
Lovely aromatic, minerally nose with complex sweet fruit and gravel notes. Beautifully poised. The palate is complex with sweet berry and cherry fruit, some mineral notes and hints of tar and gravel. Really pure with fantastic balance, this is super-elegant and still quite fruity with amazing purity. Lovely. 96/100

Château La Mission Haut Brion 1978 Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
Lovely sweet, pure blackberry fruit nose, with spiciness and minerality. Gorgeously aromatic with a gravelly edge. The palate is sweet and quite lush with lovely purity and elegance. Beautifully complex, this is a breathtaking wine. 97/100

Jabulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1991 Northern Rhône, France
Sweet, pure, liqueur-like nose with rounded red fruits. The palate is quite lush with some meatiness and bright cherry fruit, showing a liquer-like, jellied fruit purity. Sweet, with a fresh finish. 93/100

Château de Beaucastel 1981 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
Aromatic, spicy nose with warm dark cherry fruit, herbs, ginger and tar. The palate has cherry fruit as well as notes of soy sauce, earth and herbs. Savoury and earthy, this is delicious, but may be beginning to fade just a bit. 92/100

How do you follow this? With a remarkable dessert (passion fruit soufflé with sauternes ice cream) and two serious dessert wines : the complex Mullineux Chenin Blanc straw wine, and Yquem 1986.

Château d’Yquem 1986 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Deep gold colour. Sweet and viscous with barley sugar, honey and powerful citrus and peach flavours. Luscious and rich with some spiciness, dried fruit and minerality. Almost savoury! Lots of intensity here. 93/100

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A delicious northern Rhone Syrah

When you write about wine professionally, it's hard to answer the question, 'what's your favourite wine?' But when people quiz you on this topic, they usually don't want a five-minute answer explaining why it's hard to give an answer: they want a simple answer.

And in the past, this answer has frequently been 'Cote Rotie'. I'm a big fan of northern Rhone Syrah, and usually the best expression of this is Cote Rotie (unless we're talking Chave, the best producer of Hermitage by a country mile, or Thierry Allemand's Cornas). I feel like I've neglected the northern Rhone a bit in the last year or two, but now I'm coming back to it, and tonight I've opened another bottle that is just delicious.

It's a Crozes Hermitage. Along with St Joseph, Crozes offers an affordable glimpse of the greatness of northern Rhone Syrah, when it's done well. This is one of the general observations I can make about the northern Rhone, though - the producer matters hugely, because the standard varies widely, as does the stylistic expression.

Gilles Robin Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Alberic Bouvet 2005 Northern Rhone, France I really like this wine: it's a fantastic expression of northern Rhone Syrah. Deep coloured, it has a fresh, peppery dark fruits nose with a meaty, slightly animally complexion to the sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. The palate has a lovely earthy, meaty, spicy edge to the ripe black fruits with good acidity and a subtle plummy bitterness keeping things nice and savoury. Tight and youthful, this is great with hearty food right now, but could be kept for another five years to mellow out a bit. 13.5% alcohol. 91/100 (£14.95 Great Western Wine)

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas day, and modest excess is in order

It has been a delightful Christmas day in the Goode household. We were woken just before 7 am, which, when you have kids, almost counts as a lie-in. After an hour or so of opening presents from Santa's sacks, it was time for breakfast, then walking the dog, followed by Church, followed by presents round the tree. Then it was time for lunch. We were joined by Fiona's mum (Patsy), her husband Fred, and Fred's American niece Maeve.

We did the traditional turkey thing, and it was delicious. To match, I opened a range of bottles. Two Champagnes to start: Bollinger NV (widely available, c. £32) is a classic, with rich, bold, toasty flavours. Ayala Brut Majeur is more precise with lovely tight citrussy, toasty notes (M&S £19.99). Both are delicious, but if pushed I'd opt for the the Ayala.

For whites, we went with two. First, a Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2007 Austria (£8 Waitrose), which is a deliciously bright Gruner with some richness and a hint of peppery character. This is a really good, affordable, versatile white. Second, a white Hermitage 2007 from Domaine du Colombier (another Bibendum sample), which is a perfect turkey match. It's rich and textured with ripe pear fruit and notes of honeysuckle and vanilla on the nose. Pretty serious stuff.

Just a solitary red, and it was polished off pretty quickly, which is a sign of a good wine. It's the Chateau La Tour Carnet 2004 Haut Medoc, Bordeaux. This is a serious effort that has the potential for further development but which is already drinking well. It's smooth and dark with rich blackcurranty fruit and some gravelly depth. This is one of Bernard Magrez' wines, and it's utterly delicious and reasonably serious. I wouldn't say it was a terribly good match with turkey, but sometimes you just want a delicious wine to drink whatever you're eating.

Finally, a pair of Vintage Ports, both from 1997. I have a theory with Vintage Port: it's great young, and it's great old. In the middle it has a bit of an awkward phase. I reckon the 1997s aren't showing their best at the moment, and while both of these are enjoyable, they need another 10 years to start singing. Quinta do Portal 1997 (£35 Great Western Wine) is rich, spicy and fresh with some earthy structure and nice balance. It's just beginning to show complex, evolved notes on the nose, and there's quite a bit of fruit left. The Cockburn's 1997 (c. £30 retail) is nicely expressive with warm, spicy, earthy notes as well as a tarry richness to the dark fruit. They're both wines aiming more at elegance than power. If I had to choose one, it would probably be the Portal. But for current drinking I'd probably opt for a cheaper traditional (unfiltered) Late Bottled Vintage Port (e.g. Noval, Crasto, Niepoort) than these.

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: , , ,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A great lunch with Chave 83

Lunch at the Ledbury today, with a rather special bottle: Chave Hermitage 1983. The reason? I was meeting with Keith Prothero and Lionel Nierop, who are starting a new online wine auction system (which I'll write about when it is ready to go, in about a month), and Keith is a generous guy who enjoys sharing his wines.

The day started with the Corney & Barrow press tasting, held at a swanky location in Grosvenor Place. But for some bizarre reason I got Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch tube stations muddled up in my head and ended up at the latter rather than the former. So I decided to walk through Hyde Park to get to Hyde Park Corner, which is a lovely stroll on a day like today, but took longer than I thought it would.

London is well supplied with nice parks. I love Regent's Park, and Kensington Gardens is lovely. Green Park is small but pleasant, and Hyde Park is big and quite pretty. Battersea Park is worth a detour; I haven't yet made it to Victoria Park in east London. Further out west, Richmond Park is absolutely enormous.

After just an hour of tasting, I had to leave the Corney & Barrow event to get to my lunch appointment on time. The Ledbury is spectacular – one of London's very best restaurants. And lunch is a steal here, with the set menu a few pence under £20. For that, you get astonishingly good food and excellent service, in a very nice environment. We had a really enjoyable couple of hours, with a great combination of food, wine and company.

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 1998 Nelson, New Zealand
Yellow gold in colour, this is rich and intense with a lovely toasty depth to the herby, slightly citrussy fruit. It's pungent and dense on the palate with complex herb-tinged fruit complemented by sweet nutty, spicy oak and hints of oiliness. There's citrussy freshness on the finish. A delicious, bold Chardonnay that's evolving well. 92/100

Chave Hermitage 1983 Northern Rhone, France
A fantastic wine. Beautifully aromatic, with a fresh, spicy personality and a complexity that’s hard to put into words. I was getting notes of tar, earth, herbs, blood and meat. It’s sweet but savoury at the same time. The palate showed spicy red fruits with a subtle medicinal character, as well as tangy citrus notes on the finish. A complex, multifaceted wine with nice definition. 95/100

Then it was off to the M&S press tasting, held at their headquarters round the back of Paddington Station. It’s actually surprisingly close to the Ledbury (in Notting Hill) – it turned out to be a brisk 15 minute walk. There were 160 wines on show; I tried just over half, and then slept on the train on the way home.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Two beautiful natural wines from the Rhone

Two wines from Hervé Souhaut at Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet in the northern Rhône. He has about 5 hectares of vines over the river from the Hermitage hill, so the wines are classified as Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche, but they are utterly beautiful, elegant creations, made from old vines with very little sulphur dioxide added. Elegantly packaged with their minimalist labels and black synthetic corks, these are wines of the moment – not designed to be cellared. Best served a little cooler than room temperature, too. [Unsurprisingly, in the UK these are available from Les Caves de Pyrene. No commercial connection, etc.]

Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet ‘La Souteronne’ Gamay 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche, France
Fresh, slightly sappy, herb-tinged nose. The palate has a lovely smooth texture and shows pure red cherry and cranberry fruit, with freshness, elegance and just a little spicy grip on the finish, making this a delightful, food-compatible wine of great purity. 91/100

Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet Syrah 2007 Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche, France
This is simply beautiful. There’s a distinctive cool-climate Syrah peppery kick on the nose, which is otherwise really pure and focused, with a gentle leafy character underneath the red fruits. The palate is beautifully supple, slightly sappy, and fantastically elegant, with real purity to the smoothly textured fruit. I guess the granite soils may have something to do with this: it’s light, but aromatic. Just 11.7% alcohol. 93/100

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A perfect summer's evening with two Rhones

It's one of those rare evenings in the UK that I just love so much. Warm enough, and still light enough, to sit outside even at 9.30 pm. And part of the reason it is so exciting for me this evening is that it's the first time in quite a while we haven't been in a domestic conflict setting.

As regular readers of this blog will know, our two lads were adopted some eight years ago. They had a rough start, and so it's been great to grow this family together, even though it has been tough work. Sadly, elder son has always been the more troubled, and of late his troubles have intensified to the point where he is throwing enormous tantrums both morning and evening. I guess this is understandable given the bad early experiences. You can cope more easily with tantrums from a toddler because of their size; when it's a big 11 year old, it's trickier. Today, though, he went to stay overnight at Fiona's mum's, and in his place, Louis has a friend to stay. Suddenly, it's like living in a normal family. We went for a long walk with the dog along the Thames, and then came back and they've played happily since. Fiona and I feel like different people.

I cooked this evening. An improvised, simple recipe that involved using lots of tomato, lots of olive oil, lots of garlic, lots of parmesan and a bit of sea salt, served over spagghetti. To accompany it, two Rhones. The first, from Chapoutier, is OK, but like many Chapoutier wines, underdelivers slightly. The second, from Domaine Richaud, is just fantastic: dense, generous, pure and really more-ish.

Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche 2005 Northern Rhone, France
This northern Rhone Syrah is bright, fresh and juicily vibrant, with focused raspberry-tinged fruit as well as a subtle peppery meatiness. There's good fresh acidity here, and it's nicely savoury, but it does taste quite light and commercial when compared with more serious Crozes Hermitage. A useful food wine, I'd buy this if the price was right - around £6. 84/100 (Waitrose)

Domaine Richaud Cairanne 2006 Cotes du Rhone Villages, France
A dark, concentrated Southern Rhone wine, this is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan. The nose is ripe, meaty, peppery and quite pure. The palate is dense with lovely sweet blackberry and raspberry fruit combining well with a savoury, spicy, slightly reductive streak. There's some lushness here (it's 14.5% alcohol), but it avoids being over-ripe. The most impressive aspect is the concentration and purity of the fruit. With its richness, this could almost be a new world Syrah, but if it was, it would be one of the very best because it's still really well balanced and quite elegant. 92/100 (this was around 10 Euros from a Paris wine shop)

Labels: ,

Friday, May 30, 2008

A rainy Guimaraes and some old wine with Dirk

Yesterday was appallingly wet. It rained and rained, and then rained some more. There were sheets of rain, and then there was drizzle, and then the clouds were so low they were at street level, and then the sheets of rain started again. So we hopped in the car and drove through Porto, past the impressive, compact FC Porto stadium and out the other side, heading for Guimaraes, the ancient capital of Portugal (above).

Portuguese drivers have a bad reputation, and there were a few hairy moments with crazy drivers on the motorway, but we got there safely. It was even wetter in Guimaraes, but that didn't spoil the beauty of this old town. We walked up to the beautifully preserved castle, where you can walk round the ramparts, as long as you have a head for heights (no guard rail here, as you can see in the picture below). Then we lunched well and cheaply on some typically Portuguese fare. I ordered a 25 cl jug of house red, and it was utterly fantastic - and just E1.25. It was a red Vinho Verde: amazingly bright red/purple in colour, with a bit of spritz and lovely vibrant, forward fruit. The acidity was really high, but in combination with the fruit this made it a brilliantly refreshing drop.
Then we were off to Dirk Niepoort's for dinner. It was brave of him to invite all four of us over. We were joined by Niepoort general manager José Teles and winemaker Luis Seabra. Time for a cellar raid. Dirk told me and Luis to pick something interesting, but he retained the right to veto. His cellar has a lot of Riesling, white Burgundy, red Burgundy (including a couple of rows of DRC), a bit of Rhone, quite a bit of Bordeaux and lots of old Portuguese bottles, as well as plenty of Port and Madeira.

So what did we drink?

Billaud Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2002
Fine, bready and minerally, this is fresh and bright yet rich and deep at the same time. Quite serious. 92/100

Bernard Van Berg Le Vin Le Plus Simplement 2005 Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire
This red Burgundy shows what you can do with a lowly terroir and yields of just 18 hl/ha. It's quite reductive (burnt match) along with vibrant red berry fruit. It's fresh and quite elegant with freshness and nice depth of fruit and a bit of meatiness. Very stylish for this appellation, and with a few years in bottle should shed its reductive youth and turn out very nice. 90/100

Caves S. Joao Reserva Particular 1959 Portugal
This old bottle is a blend of fruit from Bairrada and Dao. A deep colour with some brown hints, this has a wonderfully aromatic nose that is dark and meaty with a lovely spiciness. There's old wine complexity here, but it is still really alive, with bloody, iron-like notes in the background. There's also a bit of herby undergrowth character. Brilliant old wine. 94/100

Chapoutier Hermitage 1978
Very fresh and complex with minty, herby notes emerging, as well as some dark fruit character. This an appealing wine with brightness and elegance to the fore. It's not a big, heavy wine, but instead shows a precise, well focused personality, and you get the feeling that this has still got a bit more to give. 93/100

Niepoort Pinot Noir 2006 Douro
Still in cask, soon to be bottled. This is from the highest, coolest Niepoort vineyards, and this year Luis Seabra said he cut his holidays short to pick on the 24th August, to keep the wine fresh. It certainly is fresh, with bright, ripe red fruit character and a bit of mintiness. There's some elegance and nice texture, with hints of vanilla oak on the finish. This is actually pretty stylish. 89-93/100

Robustus 2004 Douro
Robustus was the name of Dirk's first table wine, made in 1990 (for more, see here). This new Robustus is a wine made repeating many of the 'mistakes' Dirk made back in 1990, and it's fabulous. It's half Redoma, half Batuta fruit, bottled after four years in wood. Deep coloured, it has a fresh, pure dark fruits nose that leads to a focused palate with elegant fruit and some oak imprint. There's brilliant freshness here with good tannins. It's quite firm with lovely freshness and density. Serious stuff. 'Not a modern, fruit-driven, square wine', says Dirk. Just four 1200 litre barrels made. 94/100

Niepoort 1963 Vintage Port
We tasted this blind. The others were in the 1970s; I was in the 1960s but got no closer. It's mature, super-elegant, spicy and a bit floral. There's nice freshness here as well as a seamless texture. Almost perfect balance: this isn't a big, heavy wine at all. 95/100

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A great weekend, and New Zealand's top Sauvignon Blanc?

So, Fiona and I were given a nice present by our good friends Karl and Kate. The deal was they would get to look after our lovely children and RTL for the weekend; we would get to go to a five star hotel in London at their expense. Very generous of them, especially if you've met our children and hound.

We kicked off our 30-ish hours of liberation by a long lunch at the Tate Britain. The food here is solidly good - simple and effective, with a modern-British feel. The wine list is sensational and fairly priced. The surroundings are nice, too.

I struck gold ordering the wines: a bottle of 2006 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (£29), and a half of Crozes Hermitage Vieilles Vignes 2005 from Domaine du Murinais (£12). The Clos Henri was simply the best Marlborough Sauvignon I've ever tried - big, multidimensional, rich but precise. The Murinais Crozes was all that you could ever expect from a modestly expensive Syrah - pure, sweet fruit with lovely definition and an almost Burgundian elegance. No hint of rusticity.

We wandered the gallery a bit. Turner is the dominant force here - and you can understand why, because his work is remarkable. Afterwards we headed off to the hotel (Renaissance Chancery Court, Holborn) where we slobbed out, with the help of some Pol Roger NV. Then this morning we got up late before finding a fantastic breakfast spot a short walk away from the Charing Cross Road. Now we are home, and the kids and RTL shall shortly be returning. It's been a brilliant weekend.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fizzy lunch and a Graillot

Continuing with our Christmas series of social engagements, today we had a really enjoyable family lunch with my parents and three siblings, plus my aunt, uncle and their kids, plus all the various sprogs. Quite a crowd in all, and it was good to see everyone. Cheerful mild chaos.

Brother-in-law Beavington was in good form and pulled out some magnums of Champagne - Drappier NV and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. There's something special about drinking from magnum. As well as it being the best format for ageing wine, it just feels kind of generous and life-loving and a bit extravagant to be pouring a 1.5 litre bottle. The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs magnum, with its clear glass, looked particularly gorgeous (pictured above, on the table). The wine was really good, too.

At home this evening, I'm using the decanter again. The wine is Graillot's 1998 Crozes Hermitage. To be honest, I prefer Graillots Crozes to many Hermitages. They offer the essence of Northern Rhone Syrah, complete with edges and definition and personality. They can be quite challenging wines, though - the 1998 is an example of this. The last of nine bottles I purchased some time ago, this is still alive but was nicer a couple of years ago. There's high acidity, a bit of austerity on the palate, some green olive meaty notes and a bit of violetty perfume. The overall impression is a very savoury one, and I reckon this is definitely best with food, where it would excel with fatty meat, game, rich meaty stews or something a bit off-piste, like moussaka. A bottle that has been stored in pristine conditions might show a little better than this one, but I'd drink up soon if you have any. The most recent vintages of this wine that I've tried, the 2003, 2004 and 2005 have all been excellent.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A bright Crozes-Hermitage

Tasting notes are fresher, I beleive, if you write them as you are drinking, and without thinking too carefully about what you are saying. There's something vibrant about sharing your perceptions in (close to) real time, as you are experiencing them. So here's tonight's tasting note on the fly.

Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2005 Northern Rhone, France
Nicely packaged with the usual Chapoutier braille label and a good quality bottle. I have had mixed experiences with Chapoutier's wines over the last few years - they just haven't delivered that essence of northern Rhone Syrah that I'm looking for when I come to this region. This bottle sort of delivers, and I'm enjoying it. It has a fresh, savoury nose that's distinctly peppery with rather subdued dark fruits and a hint of greenness. The palate is midweight, showing more of those peppery dark fruits, good acidity, and mouth-drying, rather fearsome tannins. I like the fact that it's not tricked up, and that it is distinctly savoury. It's also showing good typicity. I just feel it could do with a touch more fruit intensity to balance those bold tannins. Still, a good food wine, and I'm happy to drink it. 88/100 (£11.49 Averys, Oddbins, BBR)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Rhones from 2005

Just brief notes on two Rhones from the 2005 vintage.

The first is from a tiny appellation in the northern Rhone - Brezeme - which is a varietal Syrah. It's the Cuvee Eugene de Monicault 2005 Brezeme Cotes du Rhone from J-M Lombard (available from Yapp for £14.50). It's a dense, savoury, slightly backward wine in the style of Cornas, with savoury dark fruits on the nose complemented by a minerally, earthy streak. The palate has high acidity and firm tannins, with a nice earthy freshness to the slightly muted fruit. It's a savoury, fresh style with good intensity and the potential to age well over the medium term. 89/100

The second is one of Waitrose's new 'own label' range, which they have created in conjunction with some leading producers. This wine, a Chateauneuf du Pape, is made by the Perrins of Beaucastel fame. It's pretty good.

Waitrose Les Chemins des Mulets Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 Southern Rhone, France
Made for UK supermarket Waitrose in partnership with the Perrins. Mainly Grenache with 20% Syrah, from two properties. Deep coloured. Spicy, slightly earthy nose with some savoury complexity. The palate is earthy and spicy with raspberry and cherry fruit coupled with firm grippy tannins. There's some richness and complexity here, but overall it tends towards austerity, with its high alcohol and tannin. Just a little more lushness and fruit sweetness would have given this wine great balance, but still, it's an enjoyable Chateauneuf. 88/100 (£14.99 Waitrose)

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cornas threat

Yes, I know, this is old news now - but it is still relevant. I was alerted a month or two ago by a couple of readers for some crazy sounding development plans that could take out a substantial chunk of the Cornas vineyards in the Northern Rhone of France.

Now, as most of you know, Cornas rocks. And there's only 100 hectares of it altogether. So development plans threatening at least 3.4 hectares sound very daft indeed.

You can read all about it on Jon Livingstone-Learmonth's site here. Pictured is a Syrah vine in Cornas.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rewind and natural wines

Rewind: it's nice to catch up with old friends, visiting old haunts - but there's something about going back that stirs up emotions a little. We had a lovely time today visiting some friends who we knew very well when we were first married and living in Wallington, Surrey, but who we've lost touch with a bit since. But despite the fact that it was a nice time, I came away with a little sadness from visiting the old haunts. I don't know why.

I'm drinking Yann Chave's Crozes Hermitage 2004 tonight (Laithwaites, Majestic £9.99). You really don't want to have the name Chave and be making wines in the northern Rhone, unless you are JL Chave, of course. It's a bit like having studied at Oxford Brookes University here in the UK (which I am sure is an excellent educational establishment; it just isn't simply Oxford University). A deep coloured wine, it has a lot of flavour, with lots of green herb and black olive character. It's intensely savoury and meaty, but that northern Rhone olive and herb character is taken to an extreme here at the expense of the fruit. It's turning out to be a rather extreme and funky bottle, and it's a bit much even for me - and I like this northern Rhone style of Syrah.

I'm in the process of writing up an interesting tasting last week of natural wines with no added sulfur dioxide. As you might expect, these were a mixed bag, but there were a few gems.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to the wine...

Feeling great today. After a remission of my vicious gastric disorder on Boxing day (thus no wine, hardly any food), I awoke feeling physically sound for the first time in ages. I actually felt like drinking wine!

It was a good job, because we were off for a family get-together at the Beavingtons (my wine-bibbing brother-in-law's pad), where food and wine were on the menu. It was the first time all four of the Goode children (myself, my twin sister Anne, younger sister Hester and younger brother Arthur) had gathered in the same location for ages and ages. We all brought our kids (12 in all) and a merry time was had. The wines included:

Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port 1966
This old Port wasn’t decanted, and so needs a little air to open up. It has a mellow, soft spicy nose that’s initially a little spirity, but becomes a quite fruity and fudgy. The palate is soft and complex with mellow red fruits, yet still has a bit of spicy bite. Rich, intense and drinking very well now. I reckon there’s no hurry to drink this up, although it’s probably not going to get any better. Very good/excellent 91/100

Château Suduiraut 2001 Sauternes
This is fantastic. Wonderfully intense, full nose with apricot, lemon, spice and vanilla notes. The palate is broad and super-concentrated, showing complex, viscous apricotty, marmaladey fruit bolstered by good acidity and with some honey notes. Even at such an early stage it’s already a first-rate example of Sauternes and is potentially immortal. Excellent 95/100

Francois Mikulski Meursault 2002 Burgundy
Good yellow colour. Rich nose showing some evolution, with nutty, toasty fruit. The palate is quite rich with toasty, spicy notes and some lemony freshness to the fruit. A delicious, modern-styled white Burgundy that’s drinking well now, but which I wouldn’t age too much longer. Very good/excellent 90/100

JP & JL Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1999 Northern Rhône
Another crack at this wine, which I’ve now had several times. At an en primeur tasting many years ago I described this 1999 as possibly the best young wine I’d ever tasted. It’s now approaching a rather savoury phase, now that the puppy fat is shed, and it shows itself as a classically styled Côte-Rôtie. Perfumed nose has spicy, animally, meaty characters alongside the fruit. The palate is savoury and intense with lots of fruit but also a distinctive meaty spiciness. I’ll not be opening my remaining few bottles for a while. Very good/excellent 93/100

Labels: , , ,