Holidays are over, and the wine tasting calendar starts again here in London. I was in town for the first tasting in a long time – a small portfolio tasting from The Perfect Cellar, a new-ish merchant with an eclectic list of small producers, and a shop presence in luxury retail space The Clerkenwell Collection.
The Perfect Cellar have a small but growing band of exclusive agencies. I started off by tasting the wines of Chateau Chantelune, a small 1.4 hectare estate in Margaux owned by Jose Sanfins, a Portuguese in Bordeaux who has 25 years experience as the GM of a leading Chateau. 2008 was superbly elegant and almost Burgundian, while 2005 was fine but firmly structured. 2009 is somewhere in between with ripe fruit and firm structure. These are lovely wines.
One of Sanfins’ neighbours is the talented oenologist Eric Boissenot, son of Jacques. The Boissenots are consultants to some of Bordeaux’ most famous properties, including four first growths. Boissenot makes two wines, a Haut Medoc called Vimieres and a Margaux also called Vimieres, but this cuvee is labelled Tronquera. Again, this is on a micro scale, with the vineyards being 1.5 and 0.5 hectares, respectively. The wines are superb: I tried both in 2009 and they are very stylish, as you might expect from such an experienced winemaking team in charge of good terroirs.
Also from Bordeaux, I tried Les Ormes 2008, which is a small property in St Julien owned by Philippe Pairault, a Paris-based businessman. It’s another small vineyard, just 1.5 hectares, and the wine was being poured by young winemaker Diana Garcia-Gonzalez, who is Spanish but trained in Bordeaux. She didn’t make this wine, though, starting with the 2009 vintage. Diana’s approach is that she is trying to respect the complex terroir she works with, preserving the fruit by not using too much oxygen, working each vat as a function of the plot it comes from. So I’ll be looking out for the 2009 and 2010.
The final Bordeaux winemaker present was Pascal Amoreau, whose family have been working the same vineyard at Chateau Le Puy since 1610. He’s the 14th generation, which is quite some continuity. And this vineyard has been farmed without ever seeing any synthetic chemicals: it has always been organic even before organics was invented. Le Puy is alternative Bordeaux: the wines are made naturally, with some cuvees receiving no sulphur dioxide at all. My favourite wine was the Emilien 2007, which is super-elegant and sweetly fruited, with a liqueur-like character. These are wines with personality. They are not typical Bordeaux.
Olivier Decelle was present, showing his Mas Amiel wines (from Maury, down in the south) and also a couple of Bordeaux wines (Jean Foure St Emilion 2009 and Haut-Maurac Medoc 2009). He was a major food retailer whose switch to wine was inspired by Jacques Boissenot, the famed Bordeaux winemaking consultant. In 1999 he purchased run-down Maury estate Mas Amiel, and has turned this around. Mas Amiel now makes a range of wines, including dry table wines as well as the traditional sweet wines. The soils here are different to the rest of the Rousillon, with a high proportion of schist – he describes it as the Priorat of the south of France. I particularly like the vintage Maurys, made in a style not a million miles away from vintage Port, with an emphasis on fruit, and also the 15 Ans d’Age, a traditional style that’s aged in glass demijohns and then large oak casks. Decelle has also recently taken the plunge into Burgundy. He seems to like turning around underperforming wine estates.
Nicolas Joly wasn’t present, but his wines were. These are such crazy, complex expressions of Chenin Blanc, and every vintage seems rather different. I can’t decide whether or not I like some of these wines; others I just love, like the 2009 Close de la Coulee de Serrant, with its fabulous poise and complexity. Les Vieux Clos 2009 is also superb, but I liked the 2011 and 2010 vintages of this wine a bit less.
Finally, leaving France we head to Spain, and Rioja bodega Perica. Daniel Velasco, commercial director, presented a range of wines including the very modern-looking 6Cepas6 red and white, which are in-your-face, distinctive, oak-driven wines with amazingly vivid fruit. My favourite from the range was the more traditional Ologosa Gran Reserva 2001 which had lots of complexity and a mellow warmth.