jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Striking Provencal red: Domaine Hauvette

This is an interesting wine. It's one that will divide people, depending on their tolerance for and acceptance of Brettanomyces (the 'spoilage' yeast that's relatively common in red wines, and which contibutes an earthy, spicy, medicinal, animally quality). Now I'm not a Brett policeman. If I was a winemaker, I'd do all in my power to avoid it. But I recognize that sometimes it acts as a complexing factor in wine; there are some wines where its presence just seems to work. If you approach red wine from the perspective of looking for faults, then often you can't see past the Brett in wines like this through to the actual qualities of the wine itself. That's your loss.

Domaine Hauvette 2004 Les Baux de Provence, France
13.5% alcohol. Firm, savoury and spicy with olive, mineral and animal notes. Very savoury and spicy with hints of clove and pepper. There's real complexity and depth here. Fresh, deep and intense with lovely focus and personality. Not an easy wine, but one that I like quite a bit. 92/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene, available from Oddbins for £29.99 here)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wine faults in Denmark

I'm currently enduring that special part of hell also known as Gatwick South Terminal, en route to Billund in Denmark, where tomorrow I'll be presenting a paper on wine faults at the XXth Entretiens Scientifiques Lallemand. I've never been to Denmark before, and seeing as I'm coming back tomorrow evening, I doubt I'll see much of it. Apparently, Legoland is in Billund.

Most of my talk will be based on the last three years' data from the International Wine Challenge. These data have been collected by Sam Harrop MW (pictured), who is a co-author on this paper, and they're really exciting. The strength of this data set is that it's large (c. 15 000 wines opened, 10 000 separate wines entered); it's a 'real world' analysis of faults; some reasonably smart palates have been involved in getting the data; and there are multiple years' worth of data to look at. The weakness is that it's sensory analysis and not chemical, and also that faults such as reduction and brettanomyces may well be under-reported, as well as the possibility of false positives.

One of the exciting things about the paper is that it will contain a regional breakdown. Some countries are over-delivering oxidized wines, bretty wines, and wines with reduction defects.

There's a limit to what I can say about the data here, because they aren't mine to share. But I can say (and these are provisional figures from an ongoing analysis, so please don't quote them elsewhere) that cork taint is hovering around 3% all three years. Screwcap reduction is around 2.5%, but going down. With 2008, it seems that winemaking faults are overtaking closure faults as the chief cause of problems. Around 7% of wines entered into the challenge show some sort of fault, which isn't really good enough.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blind tasting at home, and a bretty Rioja

As I've mentioned here before, I often do blind tastings at home where I let Fiona select at random from the sample rack and then present me a few wines double-blind. It's a really useful educational experience, although you could argue it's not truly double-blind, because I have some idea of what wines are sitting there (usually around 250 different bottles).

Tonight's two are detailed below. I'm reproducing the notes I made as they were made, and then adding some brief comments made after the wine was revealed.

Wine 1. White. Fresh, spritzy and vibrant. A youthful white with zippy acidity and a spritz. Light, dry and a bit mineralic. There's a touch of herbaceous methoxypyrazine character. I think it's a youthful warm climate Sauvignon Blanc. Price guessing: £5. [It's the Flagstone 'The Berrio' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Elim, South Africa. Tasting it sighted, I think I was a bit unfair calling this a £5 wine, or is this just the sight of the label speaking? It's quite refined and very refreshing, but there's a strong cool-climate feel here: it reminds me a bit of some of the Leyda Sauvignons I tried in Chile.]

Wine 2. Very deep coloured red/black. Rich, dark fruit here: quite weighty with a tarry edge to the dark fruits, together with just a hint of rubberiness. It's ripe and powerful, with black fruits showing some evolution. There's some oak and a hint of mint. Tastes quite expensive, and it has some evolution. It doesn't taste Australian, but it's new world. Chilean? I reckon a high-end Chilean Cabernet-based wine. Price £15. It's quite attractive; almost Bordeaux like in places. [It's the Santa Rita Triple C 1999 Maipo, Chile. Tasting it sighted, a bit later, this does have a lovely evolved aromatic presence that has a bit of a minerally, gravelly, tarry Bordeaux finesse. The palate is nice but doesn't quite match that - there's a hint of bitterness on the finish. Interestingly, this is more than half Cabernet Franc. It's quite a serious effort, actually. I'm pleasantly surprised.]

Interestingly, the Faustino VII Rioja Semi Crianza 2005 Spain (£5.99 Co-op) I opened earlier is remarkable, in that it's a widely available commercial brand, but it's stuffed full of (what my palate takes to be) Brettanomyces. It's worth trying if you haven't experienced a bretty wine before, I reckon.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Organic Italian and bits and pieces

Some late night bits and pieces.

Two long walks with the dog today - Richmond Park and Virginia Water (Windsor Great Park) - both were very enjoyable, and reminded me of how lucky we are here to be in easy access of nice green spaces, even though we're living in a London borough. RTL found a dead rabbit and had eaten part of it before I could stop her; she chased a jogger; she almost got killed by two horses; she harrassed some swans. But we did meet another labradoodle.

Spoke to my parents on the phone. My father likes buying cars, and he has a new one. He bought it from a garage who only had one set of keys available. Mother took a drive to Isleham, and on the way stopped to post a letter. She left the engine running. The door closed. The central locking turned on. She was left locked out, with the engine running, with the car on a main road. She had to walk home and confess (imagine the conversation...), and father had to then drive 14 miles to Bury to pick up the second set of keys, drive back, and then open the door of the car. Hilarious!

Tonight's tipple is an organic Italian red from a producer called Organico (www.organi.co.uk). It's Dominico Colli della Toscano Centrale Rosso 2004, and it's one of their own-brand wines that is priced at £6.35. I like it: it's fresh, earthy, spicy and very savoury. Really bretty, but it works quite well as a rustic, bright food-friendly red. It tastes nice and works with food, and I'd rather have this than a soulless fruit-driven brand, even though it is technically a rather faulty wine. There's a time and a place for savoury, bretty, relatively inexpensive reds, don't you think?

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brettanomyces at the Cafe Anglais

One of the recurring subjects in the wine world is brettanomyces, the rogue yeast that's common in red wines, and which some people think is always bad, and some people think can add complexity according to context.

Kiwi winemaker Matt Thomson (Delta, Saint Clair etc.) ran a masterclass on the topic yesterday, organized by Liberty Wines, who Matt does quite a bit of work for in Italy. It was held at the newly opened Cafe Anglais in Bayswater, where we had a really good lunch. This is Rowley Leigh's new venture, and the food was really good, even though the service was a little patchy. [We had some great hors d'ouvres (oysters, parmesan custard and toast, smoked fish, sardines) followed by spaghetti, followed by a lovely cut of rare roast beef, culminating in a super cheese board.]

I'm writing up the seminar to put on the site tomorrow, but in the interim, one interesting nugget: brett loves oak. It particularly likes toasted new barrels, and has been found 8 mm deep in staves. It can feed off cellobiose that is formed when barrels are toasted. ‘Brett can occur in the cleanest cellars’, says Thomson. ‘If you use new oak, you will get brett: it is not something you can associate just with a dirty cellar’.

But Thomson goes further, to suggest that not only is brett associated with new oak, but also he has identified specific coopers who have a problem with bretty barrels, although he won’t name them.

He also thinks that brett is a growing problem. ‘I am convinced that in large numbers of wineries in both the new and old worlds, brett is a new thing.’ Thomson has a theory that something happened to oak in the relatively recent past. ‘Something happened with the huge demand for new oak in the 1980s. Coopers had a boom period and started doing something different, and there was a change’.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Elian da Ros cheapie

If, like me, you are an irredeemable wine nut, you'll probably have a tendency to buy more wine than you can drink. This is something I've battled with for a while: it's a problem that's compounded if you are thinking in terms of building a cellar. You can always justify another purchase as one for the future. My problem is that I get tempted by offers and end up buying stuff for near to mid-term drinking that I just can't get through. Particularly when I have a pile of samples to wade through.

One such wine was Elian da Ros' Vignoble de Cocumont 1999 Vin de Pays de l'Agenais. I recently found an untouched case which I'd bought a few years back from La Vigneronne (now Grand Cru Wines) for about £3 a bottle, which, it must be said, was a remarkable price for this half decent wines. Elian's wines have plenty of gutsy stuffing, tasting like a half-way house between serious Claret and a beefy Madiran. This, his entry wine, has evolved nicely - now it's showing minerally, chalky blackcurrant fruit (quite Claret-like) with some serious spicy tannins and good acidity. It's turning a bit earthy with bottle age, and overall, I reckon this wine is now peaking in a rather chunky, rustic sort of way. I'm enjoying it a good deal, but then I don't mind robust, tannic reds. One thing that has surprised me with his 1998s and 1999s is the amount of wine travel on the corks, which I've illustrated in the picture. There's something odd about the corks he's used, and I don't know what it is.

The other wine I sampled this evening is the bretty Thevenet Morgon I blogged on a few days back. Aromatically, this is interesting, but the phenol-like metallic brett on the palate is too much. I'm convinced that brett really only works in sweeter, more southern wines where there's something to counter that distinctive bretty signature.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bretty Beaujolais

Time to crack another of my 'natural' wines, which I purchased on a recent Paris trip. Now, although I'm a wine technology sort of guy, I'm not a wine faults policeman. The initial response of those who have learned to spot what are known as wine faults is to then police wines they taste for the faintest whiff of brettanomyces, or volatile acidity, or reduction. I prefer to treat each wine on its own merits, and judge more holistically. I can forgive a 'fault' if it works in the context of the wine. This bottle has left me struggling a little: I don't think brettanomyces works terribly well in the context of a Cru Beaujolais. Of course, I don't have a lab test to prove the presence of brett, but this is about a bretty a wine (to my perception) that I have met. It's a shame: I wanted to love it.

Jean-Paul Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2005 Beaujolais, France
Hmmm, bretty Beaujolais. Quite fresh, brightly fruited nose with a spicy, medicinal, smoky sort of character. The palate has a meaty, spicy, phenolic character imprinted on the otherwise pure red fruits. Quite enjoyable in a very savoury, spicy, funky sort of way, but it's verging on flawed for me, and I don't really mind brettanomyces too much in the right sort of context. Very good+ 85/100

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