Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, comparing 2012 disgorgement with 2005

This was an interesting excercise. The same NV Champagne – the excellent Charles Heidsieck – from disgorgements seven years apart. The older bottled had been professionally cellared in the interim. The younger wine was laid in the cellar in 2008 and disgorged in 2012; the younger laid in the cellar in 2001 and disgorged in 2005. Heidsieck uses a high proportion of reserve wines (40%), many of which are over 10 years old.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV
2012 disgorgement. Profound, with fresh toasty, lemony notes, and lovely pear and peach flavours. With some toast and nut complexity, and great acidity, this is focused and alive. 93/100

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV
2005 disgorgement. Full yeallow/gold colour. A hint of mushroom on the nose, as well as nice toastiness, and notes of almonds and nuts. Sweet crystalline fruits and some fresher citrus characters, with lovely precision. 92/100

Lindes de Remelluri 2010 - a lovely new-wave Rioja

I was really impressed by this new-wave Rioja from Remelluri. 2010 was the first vintage with Telmo Rodriguez back at the helm of the family winery, and this is a stylish effort. If only all Rioja could be made in this elegant, focused, pure style!

Remelluri Lindes de Remelluri Vinedos de Labastida 2010 Rioja, Spain
13.5% alcohol. Lovely fresh, direct pure black cherry and plum fruit with some blackcurrant freshness. There’s a hint of sweet creaminess, but the dominant theme is fresh, pure black fruits. Nicely textured but with great freshness and definition. Lacks the overly sweet, seductive qualities of some modern Riojas, but has better ageing potential for it. 93/100 (£16.99 Davis Bell McRaith; UK agent Alliance Wine)

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Learning to love Nebbiolo: Langhe Nebb from Vajra and Massolino

So I’ve been trying quite a few Nebbiolos of late, in a quest to learn to love it more. This has meant tasting a fair few young Barolos, and struggling a bit with their raw, primary tannins, which can be quite fearsome. This is where Langhe Nebbiolo proves useful. These wines are, as you’d expect, more approachable, and they still have plenty of Nebbiolo personality. Here are two that I’ve really enjoyed.

GD Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 Piedmont, Italy
14% alcohol. Lovely ripe sweet nose of pure raspberry and red cherries. The palate is fresh with pure sweet cherry and berry fruits with a bit of grippiness. There’s some tannic structure hidden under the sleek cherry fruit. This is a lovely supple wine. 91/100

Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo 2011 Serralunga d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy
14% alcohol. Such elegant packaging. Cherry red colour with a nose of fresh raspberries and cherries, as well as savoury notes of dried herbs and a hint of rose petal. The palate has nice balance with sweet red fruits, herbs and a bit of grippy, savoury structure, as well as subtle tea leaf and herb notes. Focused, with lovely elegance, finishing firm and grippy. 92/100

UK agent for both these wines is Liberty

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Gandolini 3 Marias, a brilliant Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo, Chile


Stefano Gandolini’s winery focuses solely on Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley. This wine was new to me: nicely packaged, in a big heavy bottle, it made me a little wary. I was worried it was going to be very sweet, rich and quite alcoholic. What a nice surprise to pour it and find freshness, precision, structure and balance. For me, this has to be one of Chile’s top Cabernet Sauvignons. It’s world class, and I reckon it will age really well.

Gandolini is chief (consultant) winemaker at Von Siebenthal, among others. He also makes the wines and is a partner in Ventolero, whose founder, Vicente Izquierdo Menendez, is a backer for Gandolini’s own project.

Gandolini Las 3 Marias Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Maipo, Chile
This reminds me of a really good Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s just a hint of mint and cedar spice on the nose, as well as restrained, savoury-edged blackcurrant fruit. The palate is focused and fresh with great balance and concentration, lovely restrained blackcurrant fruit and a minerally, savoury core. The oak (21 months in French oak barrels) is well integrated and the hallmark of this wine is exceptional balance. 93/100 (£25 The Wine Society, although it won’t be available until June alas)

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Two great own-label wines from Fortnum & Mason - Franken and Margaret River

You have to love the way Fortnum & Mason get the world’s greatest wine producers to make their own-label wines. Here are two such examples, which we drunk yesterday afternoon while judging the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards. They were superb. The judging was fun, too. Anthony Rose, Victoria Moore and I were the drink people, while Matthew Fort, Sheila Dillon and Valentine Warner were the food people. We had some great discussions, and the list of shortlisted entries will be out in a couple of weeks, with the results announced 13 May.

Fortnum & Mason Escherndorfer Lump Silvaner Spatlese Trocken 2012 Franken, Germany
Packaged in the distinctive Franconia Bocksbeutel, this is a remarkable dry Sylvaner, made by the fabulous Horst Sauer. It’s textured and dry with lovely pear, peach and spice notes, with a delicious fruitiness and some mineral notes. Lovely depth here, this is a really stylish wine. 93/100 (£21.50 Fortnum & Mason)

Fortnum & Mason Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Australia
Made by Cullen, this is just beautifully balanced. It’s smooth and elegant with lovely definition to the pure blackcurrant fruit, with some structure under the fruit. Lovely weight: dense but elegant, and really pure. Will age beautifully. 94/100 (£24.50 Fortnum & Mason)

Wakefield (Taylors) The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

wakefield the visionary
Back in 1969, Bill Taylor bought 440 acres of land on the banks of the Wakefield River, near Auburn in the Clare valley. At this time, the Australian wine industry was focused on making fortified wines. But Bill wanted to make great Cabernet to rival the top wines of Bordeaux.

Taylors (known in export markets as Wakefield) have now released a super-cuvee Cabernet in honour of Bill, titled ‘The Visionary’. It’s an exceptional wine, and I suspect we’ll only really know how good it is in a couple of decades. I’m a big fan of Clare Cabernet: it’s under-appreciated.

This is an expensive wine (Aus$130), but compared with what Penfolds are asking for their Bin series wines these days, it’s a bargain of sorts, because it is pretty serious.

Wakefield (Taylors) The Visionary Exceptional Parcel Release 2009 Clare Valley, Australia
14% alcohol. Sweet, ripe, pure blackberry and blackcurrant fruit nose with some slightly savoury blackcurrant bud notes. The palate is sweet, concentrated, ripe and dense but also has freshness and good acidity. It’s essence of Cabernet Sauvignon, combining attractive sweet fruit with concentration and structure. I reckon it will age well. 94/100

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Three top Bordeaux wines from 2009: Pichon Lalande, Las Cases and Pontet Canet

At the Tesco press tasting on Friday we were presented with three rather smart Bordeaux wines from the 2009 vintage. They’re available from Tesco’s online operation, and they were (I suspect) included as a sort of reward for slugging round 140 or so wines from the regular range (although if you want to preserve your palate, you try not to taste everything).

It was a great chance to look at these wines, which have now been in bottle for a while, and which are all very highly rated. It’s kind of hard to be objective with such famous names on the label, and when it comes to scoring there’s the phenomenon of anchoring that you need to be wary of. Anchoring is when you sort of have an idea of a score in your mind before you taste the wine, and then it’s hard to deviate too much from this, whatever the wine is like. 2009 is also a slightly contoversial vintage – adored by many critics, but which can sometimes have a character that overpowers the terroir. It was a ripe, rich, fruit-forward year. But these wines show the vintage in a very good light. Prices are per bottle equivalent; on Tesco’s website you need to buy by the half-case.

Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande 2009 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
75% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 13% alcohol. I tried two bottles of this, which differed, on the insistence of Oz Clarke (I hadn’t cared much for the first bottle, but the second was fabulous). It’s a really pretty, elegant wine with sweet ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit nose with a subtle green edge. The palate is supple, bright and fruity with real finesse and elegance. Lovely compact blackcurrant fruit with a beguiling purity and elegance. 95/100 (£140 Tesco online)
pontet canet

Chateau Pontet Canet 2009 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 14% alcohol. Supple, smooth and pure with sweet black fruits. Textured and silky with lovely purity and elegance. But there’s good structure hiding under the pure fruit, and this is seamless and quite fine. I think it will develop beautifully in time; at the moment, it’s still quite primary. 95/100 (£150 Tesco Online)
leoville las cases

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2009 St Julien, Bordeaux, France
76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 13.5% alcohol. Rich, dense, powerful and structured, with focused blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, as well as some spicy notes. The plate is dense and has a cedary, mineral edge adding savouriness to the sweet fruit. This is a big wine that’s still youthful and tannic, and it’s very impressive indeed. 94/100 (£225 Tesco Online)

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Two lovely own-label French wines from Sainsbury's

Credit where credit is due. I wouldn’t usually find myself recommending you to hot-foot it to your local supermarket to buy wine, but here are two good own label wines from Sainsbury’s that I really enjoyed. The regular prices are 25% more than what they are on the shelves for at the moment (the prices I have quoted), at which point they aren’t so highly recommended. [I hate the way that pricing of wine is so opaque, and I wish it could be more honest across the board.]

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Pic St Loup 2011 Languedoc, France
From Les Coteaux du Pic, this is a blend of Syrah and Grenache that has the most lovely garrigue-like nose of olives, herbs and meat with some fresh plum and black cherry fruit, and a pepperiness that speaks of the northern Rhone. Supple, ripe and very drinkable with a real sense of place. This is why I like Pic St Loup so much. 89/100 (£7.49 Sainsbury’s)

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Limoux Chardonnay 2012 France
From 50 year old vines, sourced from the talented J-C Mas, this is a powerful, vivid Chardonnay with notes of peach, pear and fig with fresh citrus notes too, as well as hazelnut and toast. Lots of flavour here, with some apricot on the finish, reminding me a bit of Viognier. 88/100 (£8.24 Sainsbury’s)

A superbly focused, fresh Kekfrankos from Wetzer

wetzer kekfrankos
I just love this wine. It’s not expensive (early teens in GBP), but it delivers complexity, precision, freshness and vitality. There are two streams in Hungarian red wine it seems: big, very ripe, oaky wines (such as many of the Merlots and Cabernet Francs from Villany) and then fresher, more precise, balanced wines (such as a few Kadarkas and Kekfrankos I have tried). Apparently, according to my local contacts, the domestic preference is sadly for the former. It’s such a shame, because more wines like these and Hungary could be known as one of the great red wine countries.

Wetzer Kekfrankos 2011 Sopron, Hungary
Peter Wetzer has fashioned a really superb wine here: it has lovely sweet, aromatic blackberry and black cherry fruit on the slightly lifted nose. The palate is precise, fresh and lively with nice fresh acidity and sweet pure black cherry fruit. It’s very bright with some grippy tannins and raspberry freshness. Fresh, juicy and vital, with plenty of complexity too. 93/100

UK agent: The Winemakers Club

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For those who just look at this blog, here are some of the longer articles that I have posted on the main wineanorak site: