jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beaucastel 07 at the Majestic press tasting today

I really enjoyed the Majestic press tasting today. There were lots of really good new wines, affordable and more expensive, and I'll be featuring them here over the next few weeks, along with the other highlights from the last two weeks of intensive tasting activity. It's so good to see the likes of Donnhof, Gunderloch and Nikolaihof make an appearance on their list.

My impression is that the Majestic range is improving. That's really good news. From recent experience, I think the Oddbins range is also improving. The recent Waitrose press tasting was really good; M&S was good too. Could it be that things are looking up for wine lovers?

One of the treats today was a look at the 2007 Beaucastel. This is a property I have a semi-sentimental attachment to, in that when I was getting into wine, this was one of the legendary names I was besotted by. The 2007 has immense potential; it is showing a bit of that already.

Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2007 Southern Rhone, France
Sweet but focused berry and plum nose is elegant, fine and fresh. The palate is warm and complex with dense red berry and dark cherry fruit with fine grained tannins and good acidity. Rich but balanced with lovely elegance and definition, this is quite a pure expression of this wine that has great potential for development. 92/100, but this score will likely improve over time. (£50 Majestic)

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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!

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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)

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Monday, April 20, 2009

A really nice southern Rhone

Two Southern Rhone reds from a forward-thinking property, Domaine du Mourchon in Seguret. The 2007 Tradition really impressed: modern but lovely.

Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Tradition 2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14.5% alcohol, unoaked. A beautiful expression of the southern Rhône, this is a deep coloured wine with lovely sweet, dark cherry, blackberry and plum fruit aromatics, as well as hints of meat and spice. The palate shows lovely sweet, vivid fruit, but with added meat and pepper complexity, adding a deliciously savoury counter to the ripe fruit. It’s dense and well structured, but lush and smooth at the same time. Really successful: modern but interesting, with plenty of non-fruit complexity. 91/100

Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Grande Resérve 2006 Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
15% alcohol, 40% aged in oak for 10 months. Deep coloured, this is a bit of a beast of a wine. The nose shows intense, slightly reduced spicy dark fruits. The palate is intense with high alcohol and firm tannins creating quite an astringent base, over which the ripe, sweet fruit is layered. It’s a big, intense, rather ungainly wine with lots of everything, and a bit of a mouth-drying finish. While it would work well with the right sort of food, it doesn’t have the appeal or drinkability of the 2007 Tradition. Perhaps it will pull together in time. 88/100


Monday, February 23, 2009

The last snowy pictures, and some Southern French supermarket reds

We're back from Norway. I can't speak highly enough of the SAS Radisson in Trysil (well, except for the somewhat limited wine options). When we checked out we were issued with a bill just shy of double what we expected (22 000 Kr as opposed to 12 000 Kr; £1 = almost exactly 10 Kr), caused by the hotel charging us rack rates rather than the internet prices we booked for. But, after showing them our booking, and watching ever-more-senior members of staff being summoned, they corrected it and then knocked a tiny bit more off. For a half-board package at such a beautiful hotel, we were very pleased with the final bill. I've added some pictures (dodgy quality, I'm afraid, from phone camera) just to taunt those who haven't made it to the slopes this season!

We then caught the Trysil Express bus to the airport (3 h journey time, £65 for the family), before catching our Norweigan flight (painless budget airline that actually allocates seats on check-in - useful when travelling with the family) to Stansted.
However good a holiday, there's something comforting about returning home. As I type, I've opened a couple of supermarket southern French reds.

Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires 2006 Saint Chinian
Varietal breakdown: 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre. This has a nose of ripe red fruits with a pronounced roast coffee and cured meat character. The palate shows good concentration and a bit of spiciness, with some grippy tannic structure under the plum and cherry fruit. A solid effort. 85/100 (£7.95 Tesco; 13% alcohol)

Asda Extra Special Vacqueyras 2006 Southern Rhone, France
Surprisingly muted nose doesn't give much away, except for some faint liqueur-like red fruits and a hint of spice. The palate is more expressive with an attractive peppery character under the pure, smooth cherry fruit. This isn't a totally obvious wine: you need to look under the surface, and there you find some attractive Grenache fruit. Finishes a little earthy with some grippy tannin, which makes me think this wine might evolve a little more. Not mind-blowing, but authentic - decant for an hour to get the best from this now? 86/100 (£6.98 Asda; 14% alcohol)

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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).

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

White Chateauneuf rocks

White Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a bit of a geek wine (geek, not greek). It's relatively rare, made from geeky varieties, and takes a bit of effort to appreciate. Here's a really good one, made in a modern, fresh style, but with the personality that white Rhone varieties have still evident. Although this is M&S own-label, and the label is a bit coy about its origins, the cork reveals that this comes from Chateau Mont Redon.

Marks & Spencer Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 'Le Fussier' 2006 Rhone, France
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussane, without oak, from Chateau Mont Redon. Fresh herby, lemony flowery nose is crisp. The palate is rounded and quite fat, as Rhone whites tend to be, but with some crisp minerality on the finish. Delightfully expressive and crisp, and quite complex, too. 91/100 (£13.99 Marks & Spencer) 

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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)

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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).

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