Was at The Remedy wine bar last night, with a couple of dudes. We had some lovely wines, including two stunning bottles from Tenerife. The red in particular was quite sensational. It was a lovely evening, and I was impressed by the food. We had some great cheese and meat, and also lovely smoked mackerel (they smoke it themselves), a cool terrine and very nice tuna. The bread is great, too.
Occhipinti SP68 Bianco 2013 Terre Siciliane, Italy
12% alcohol. This is a skin contact white made from Zibbibo (aka Muscat) and Albanella. Highly aromatic, floral and mineral with some pear and peach notes, as well as a bit of tropical fruit. Slightly smoky, too. The palate shows sweet fruit with a fresh lemony edge. Some terpenic notes in the background. Just lovely, with just a tiny bit of grip. 92/100
Domaine des Cavarodes Rouge 2013 Vin de Pays de Franche-Comté, France
From Etienne Thiabaud this is a blend of Ploussard and Trousseau from the Jura (he’s based in Arbois). Fresh,bright and grippy with lovely raspberry and cherry fruit. Bright acidity and just a touch of dissolved CO2. So utterly drinkable. 92/100
Envínate Táganan Blanco 2013 Vinos Atlanticos, Spain
This Tenerife white is really compelling. Fresh, salty and mineral with a matchstick edge to the nose. Textured and fine with pears, apples, citrus and minerals on the palate. Fine, detailed, profound. 94/100
Envínate Táganan Tinto 2013 Vinos Atlanticos, Spain
13% alcohol. Fresh, supple and fine red cherry and raspberry fruit nose with a lovely mineral dimension. Super-detailed, fresh palate is mineral and focused with red cherries and plums. Profound, expressive and beautiful. 96/100
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Mas Candi is a fairly new project (established 2006) that’s a collaboration between four viticulture and enology students who wanted to make wines from their families’ vineyards. The focus is mainly on indigenous Catalan varieties. They’re really interesting. UK agent is Indigo Wines.
Mas Candi Desig 2013 Penedès, Spain
13% alcohol. This is made from Xarel-lo planted in 1961. Vivid, fruity nose with lemon, pear and some spice. The palate is bright with grapefruit and herbs. Pure, with lovely precision. Lovely fine herbal notes alongside the grapefruit, and keen acidity. 90/100 7/14
Mas Candi Ovella Negra 2012 Penedès, Spain
13% alcohol. Old vine Garnatxa Blanca. Powerful, lively and exotic with notes of minerals, apples and pears. Real intensity of flavour with keen acidity and even a bit of tannic grip. Distinctive and quite lovely. 91/100
Mas Candi Les Forques 2010 Penedès, Spain
From Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1983. Sweet, supple, spicy, warm black cherry and blackberry fruit with a lovely smooth texture and notes of tea, herbs and spice. Warm and ripe and mellow with lovely balance and well integrated oak. Supremely balanced. Noticeably Spanish, but elegant. 93/100
Mas Candi Vincle Mandó 2013 Penedès, Spain
12% alcohol. Fresh, lively and sipple with pure, primary cherry fruit and some plummy notes. Quite mineral with good acid. Primary and slightly reduced: a fresh, vital red with notes of sour cherries and spice. 89/100
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It was very interesting to try these two high-end terroir-based Chardonnays from Catena, and then the next day to have a look at the soils that produced them.
They both come from the same block in the Adrianna Vineyard, high up in the Uco Valley at 1450 m altitude. But even within the same block, there’s quite a variation in soils.
Soil pit 1, above, shows one of the soil types. This is a deep sandy/loess soil that’s quite even. The Chardonnay it produces has quite a bit of ripe tropical fruit quality, so this would usually end up in the Catena Alta Chardonnay.
Not far away, and soil pit two. This is completely different, with large stones, and lots more evidence of roots interrogating the soil. The stones are white, because although they are of alluvial origin (river pebbles), they are covered in limestone that has percolated through the soil and then, because of the low rainfall here, has accumulated on the stones. This terroir makes the White Stones Chardonnay.
Also close by, we find this soil pit, showing the White Bones terroir. It doesn’t have big stones in the soil, but it does have some limestone that has accumulated in a layer (here, it doesn’t look white because it is saturated with water). The predominantly sandy soil here is layered with limestone and other calcareous deposits that can resemble bones.
Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2010 Mendoza, Argentina
Fresh and focused with a hint of mint and lovely precise pear and citrus fruit. Very little oak evident, with just a hint of toast. Very stylish stuff with lovely freshness. There’s keen acidity here (8 g/l), but it’s not at all harsh. Such a fresh wine. 94/100
Catena Zapata White Stones Chardonnay 2010 Mendoza, Argentina
Some subtle but intriguing nutty notes alongside ripe pear and citrus. Lively with lovely focus, but a slightly riper fruit profile than the White Bones, and a touch more development. But it’s still very fresh. 92/100
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On my last night in Mendoza I dined alone. It’s something I rarely do on my travels: often I’ll use a free evening as a chance to skip a meal and try to avoid becoming fat, but my hosts had kindly booked me a table at 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallmann, one of Mendoza’s most highly regarded restaurants. It was also was within 50 yards of where I was staying. Altogether, these factors made the prospect of dining alone considerably more appealing.
There are two downsides to being a solo diner. First, it brings out your own personal insecurities. Am I an antisocial, no-mates loser? Second, it makes the restaurant staff and fellow diners feel uncomfortable. How could someone be happy dining on their own? Is there anything we can do to help this poor, lonely soul?
The only way to counter this is to exude happiness, confidence and a degree of engagement, either with the wine list, the menu, an electronic device such as a phone or kindle, or scribble in a notebook. The latter has the disadvantage that it makes you look like a crazy person. Laptops are bad form, so avoid them.
The other thing to remember is to eat slowly. With no conversation to break the meal, the tendency is to wolf down one’s food. So a deliberate slowing of eating pace is called for.
Mallmann’s is a fine restaurant. The setting is beautiful: there’s a nicely furnished main room, but also a significant outdoor area, undercover, looking out onto an attractively lit garden. The garden, fringed by tall foiliage, has some casual seating, and also some more tables around the perimeter. The use of high-backed chairs gives each table a degree of privacy, but for the solo diner this makes people watching problematic.
The main dining area is separated from the outside area by some tall, round-topped windows with small panes of glass: these are a really nice feature.
What about the food? The menus is largely grill based, which is quite cool, because it’s taking traditional Argentine food and elevating it to fine dining. (In other words: it’s not faux French.) I started with grilled squid salad with Andean potatoes and quail eggs. This was very well prepared, and the flavours worked nicely together.
I then went large, ordering the rib eye steak with chimchile and Patagonian potatoes. You expect large chunks of meat in Argentina, and this was certainly a large chunk of meat. Huge, salt encrusted, with a lot of flavour. It was pretty good, but it defeated me. The Patagonian potatoes? A huge array of thinly sliced potato covering the surface of the large plate. They tasted like bad crisps, and this didn’t really work. A shame.
I’d brought a bottle of wine along (note below), but – of course – I spent ages examining the wine list. It was long and exclusively Argentine, with the exception of some Champagne. Lots of the top names, and the prices seemed pretty reasonable by UK standards, but would probably seem a bit rich to a local.
Service was very professional: attentive and unfussy, with the wine and water being poured with appropriate frequency. I had a long chat with the sommelier who seemed really clued up. A long wine list like Mallmann’s needs a good sommelier to sell it properly. Even though it was solo dining, I had a lovely evening and the combination of wine, food and atmosphere was quite special.
Catena Angelica Zapata Alta Cabernet Franc 2009 Mendoza, Argentina
This is a beautifully vivid Cabernet Franc with slightly salty, intense blackberry and black cherry fruit. It’s sweetly fruited but with freshness and an appealing salty minerality, combining freshness and intensity very well. A delicious wine. 93/100
I have been in Mendoza for two and a half days now, and it has been a remarkable time. I have been with Catena’s Instituteof Wine, a research department bringing together academic resources with those of the winery, to look at some very interesting questions in wine research, in a scientifically credible way.
For now, some pictures from excursions into the vineyards, beginning with the picture above, which is taken from Catena’s winery, looking down the Pyramide vineyard in Agrelo. The rest are from the high altitude (1450 m) Adrianna vineyard in the Uco Valley, which is one of the best studied of all vineyards in the world.
This is Lot 1, the first part of Adrianna planted here in 1992. There weren’t any other vineyards around here when this was planted.
Some of the Catena Wine Institute team
Mate – a strong form of local tea.
The clonal Malbec selection made by Catena. This was from plant material taken from Lot 18 of their Anglelica vineyard,planted some 80 years ago. The Malbec clones came from France in 1853 pre-phylloxera. When phylloxera hit France, it was a viticultural bottleneck and lots of interesting clones were lost there. Catena have studied 134 of these clones, and compared them with some of the remainingFrench ones.
Stones with some limestone on the surface.
Hail netting: many of the blocks are protected against hail, which is quite common here.
I’m in Mendoza, Argentina. I just arrived, so the picture above is from my last visit, showing Catena’s high-altitude Adrianna vineyard.
Today started around 5 pm yesterday when I left for the airport. I flew overnight to Sao Paolo with TAM, then this morning flew to rainy Buenos Aires, and from there to sunny Mendoza.
I’m here on an interesting project with the Catena Institute of Wine, who over the last decade and a bit have been investing in research, on topics such as Malbec, high-altitude viticulture, the effect of UV light on vines and terroir influences. I’m here to interview the scientists who have been working on these projects, have a look at the vineyards that have been studied, ask lots of questions, and hopefully produce something readable and engrossing but which also does justice to the science.
So far I have had just a couple of introductory meetings (I didn’t get to Mendoza until late afternoon), but the packed schedule over the next three days should be really interesting. I’m so glad Catena are keen to get all the research they have been doing out there to the wider world, rather than keeping it all in house. I shall report back.
Southern Rhône, I have neglected you.
We used to be good friends.
When I first got into wine you used to give me a lot of pleasure. Vieux Telegraphe and Beaucastel, in particular, were happy wines for me.
But then you started getting all spoofy on me. You chased points, you got rich, you started driving expensive cars, and we drifted apart. It’s a shame, because your Grenache-based wines can be fabulous, when they’re made in an elegant, complex, detailed style.
I liked this wine, which I drank over three nights, which helped allay my suspicions that it might be a bit too glossy for its own good. I remember Brusset from the old days.
Domaine Brusset Les Hauts de Monmirail Gigondas 2012 Southern Rhône, France
14% alcohol. Sweet, enticing, lush blackberry and raspberry fruit is the key theme for this striking wine. Sweet and pure with lovely supple, ripe, focused fruit. Fresh juicy berry fruits nd a bit of grip on the finish, and nice pepper, herb and liqourice complexity, too. Will need some time to show its best, although it is already delicious. 93/100 (£29.50 Great Western Wine)
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I’ve previously written about the first releases from Duncan Savage on this blog, giving them fairly hefty scores. Fortunately most serious commentators are in full agreement about these wines. The new vintages have hit the UK shores, and here are my notes. The score for the white might go up in time, because this is a wine that should repay ageing.
Savage White 2013 South Africa
56% Sauvignon Blanc, 44% Semillon. Very fresh, tangy and citrussy with some herby notes. Pure and taut with subtle oak. Lovely focus. Still very primary. 93/100
Savage Red 2012 South Africa
62% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 12% Cinsault. Fragrant, fresh and supple with peppery red fruits on the nose – a haunting perfume. The palate has a lovely silky, pure, fresh red cherry character and lovely definition, as well as a taut peppery bite on the finish. Elegant and thrilling. 95/100
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I have just written up a Marques de Murrieta Rioja tasting, where we got to drink, among other lovely older wines, a bottle of Castillo Ygay 1925. It was remarkable.
Tasting old wines like this can be a bit random. By the time a wine is more than 20 years old, there’s no such thing as ‘that wine’ – each bottle takes on a personality of its own. You can’t talk about the 1961 Palmer, for example, as being a great wine. It’s not a single wine: each bottle will be different because of issues such as storage conditions (key), cork quality (key), and even bottling procedures (variation creeps in at this early stage; if just takes a while to show in most cases). A bad data point proves nothing, because of these factors. But a good data point is significant: you only need to try one fantastic example of an old wine to know that there’s a chance that you’ll find other great bottles of that wine. For some wines, though, all bottles will show signs of decay, and it’s such a shame that they haven’t been drunk when they’d have offered a lot more pleasure. There comes a time where you have to acknowledge that a certain wine is no longer drinkable, even from well stored bottles with good corks.
Often, you have to make excuses for very old wines. You can see some greatness behind some weird funkiness, or some oxidative characters – or the wine may even have got to the stage where it tastes of old wine and nothing more. A great old wine should still be recognizable as an expression of place, to my mind, but this isn’t always the case. I suppose you can have a wine in mellow maturity without too many old off-notes that can’t be placed precisely but which still offers a lot of drinking pleasure.
Back to this Rioja. It was memorable, and for all the right reasons. Fortunately, no excuses needed to be made. It had survived, and survived well, and this is really rare in a wine of this age. Generally speaking, fortified wines often live longer than table wines, and Madeira lives longest of all, but here we have an 89 year old table wine that is astonishing.
Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1925 Rioja, Spain
49% Tempranillo, 19% Garnacha, 17% Mazuelo, 15% Graciano. This was aged for 8 months in 18500 litre tank, 5 years in fairly new American oak barrels, and then 33 years in old, large American oak barrels, bottled in 1964. It’s slightly cloudy and a deep brown/red colour. Savoury earthy nose. Fresh, lemony edge to the palate with warm, savoury, slightly balsamic characters and bit of fruit, still. Lovely balance despite the age with complex, concentrated flavours. Still very much alive and quite delicious. It’s nice not to have to make excuses for such an old wine. 97/100
See also: Do you like old wine?
Back to one of my favourite places yesterday, for a lovely lunch. The Glasshouse, Kew, is worth a detour. The wine list is really creative and diverse, the service is impeccable (and there are always lots of bodies on the floor), and the food is seriously good. The Glasshouse has a Michelin star, but if it were closer into Central London, you could imagine it having two (I always suspect there’s a slight bias against neighbourhood restaurants). It’s that good. There’s a lightness of touch to the cooking and also a lovely creativity. The dishes are always detailed, but not gimmicky, and they just look so good, too.
It was a lovely warm afternoon and Kew was at its gorgeous best. It would be a nice place to live – it always feels so calm and villagey. I popped into The Good Wine Shop first for a nose around, and was really impressed by the selection of wines. Lots of great stuff, and a good beer list too. With a top wine shop, and a top restaurant, the residents of Kew are well supplied.
Starter 1: Ceps with pearl barley risotto, roasted hazelnuts, black garlic, parmesan and autumn truffle (very rich, and quite delicious, maybe more autumnal than the weather was yesterday)
Starter 2: Thinly sliced octopus with mussels, squid ink aioli, grilled red peppers and pickled shallots (perfect balance here, perhaps my favourite dish)
Main 1: Loin of cornish cod with squid, brandade, cauliflower purée, meat juices and gremolata.
Main 2: Brill with black rice, brown shrimps and sea urchin butter sauce.
To drink? We investigated the by-the-glass menu, and did quite well, sticking to whites on account of the weather and the food we’d chosen.
- Weinbach Capuchins Pinot Blanc 2011 – nice and appley with lovely fruit
- Louro do Bolo, Godello, Rafael Palacios 2013 Valdeorras, Spain – fresh, lovely pear and melon notes
- Riesling Kanta Balhannah Vineyard, Egon Müller 2009 Adelaide Hills, Australia – this was very good – more textured and elegant than many dry Aussie Rieslings
- Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin blanc/Clairette Blanche 2012 Swartland, South Africa – this was really impressive, with a rounded texture and fine pear and white peach fruit, balancing richness and freshness with great success