Douro star Dirk Niepoort has branched out in recent years, acquiring vineyards in Dão (Quinta da Lomba, an old vineyard purchased in 2013) and Bairrada (Quinta de Baixo, purchased in 2012). It may even be (and this is clearly heresy) that Bairrada has Portugal’s best terroirs, so it will be interesting to see what Dirk does with them. Dão has very interesting terroirs, too. Anyway, this was my first look at some of the new wines, and I was impressed. UK agent is Raymond Reynolds.
Niepoort Dão 2012 Portugal
Restrained red cherry and raspberry nose. Supple, elegant, pure red cherry palate with some raspberry and herb notes. Still quite primary but shows typical Niepoort elegance and restraint, without lacking flavour. Good acidity and a savoury, mineral core to the fruit. Fresh and pure. 94/100
Niepoort Projectos Baga 2011 Bairrada, Portugal
13% alcohol. Dirk Niepoort has been making Bairrada since 2010. The 2010 and this 2011 were released under the ‘Projectos’ label, but the 2011 is the first harvest made by Niepoort at Quinta de Baixo. This wine comes is from two old plots, one in Baixo and the other a centenarian vineyard in the region, both from clay and limestone soils. Textured, fine and supple with sweet red cherry and berry fruit, and a savoury, grainy core. It still has the Baga tannin, but there are no rough edges here. Such finesse, and it will likely age beautifully. It’s already elegant and pure, but the best is yet to come for this wine. 95/100
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For the benefit of those who just visit this blog, some recent articles from the main wineanorak.com site:
Three nice older bottles opened at the Gonzalez Byass 10th anniversary dinner last week:
Champagne Deutz Blanc de Noir 1975 France (magnum)
This Pinot Noir comes from Grand Cru Aÿ, and the wine was resting on lees for 37 years before bottling in 2012. A yellow colour, this has a taut citrus nose with subtle pear and toast notes. The complex, taut palate has some herby notes and a hint of honeycomb. Very tight, with some wax, lanolin and toast. Savoury and detailed with keen acidity. 93/100
Quinta do Noval Colheita 1937 Douro, Portugal
Powerful, concentrated and intense, this is lively and spicy with astonishing richness of flavour. Bold acidity and lively spicy notes couple with notes of treacle, raisin, old casks and dried herbs, with an eternal finish. It has some of the complex characters that you might find in an old whisky, and it is utterly delicious. 97/100
Gonzalez Byass Pedro Ximenez 1914 Jerez, Spain
This has probably been in bottle for 20 years: little is known about it. So complex and intense with vivid raisin, black cherry, christmas cake and spice flavours. Viscous and concentrated with tar, raisin and treacle, kept fresh by keen acidity from the concentration that occurs with a long time in cask. A powerful, remarkable wine. 96/100
I love Soalheiro. They’re one of the top producers in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, and it’s time I gave Portugal a bit more love on this blog – it was one of the key countries for getting me loved up about wine. I visited them a few years ago (report here), and this 2013 is lovely and bright. It’s a brilliant value in Portugal, where you can get it for 10 Euros.
Soalheiro Alvarinho 2013 Vinho Verde, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. Lively, fruity and floral with notes of grapefruit, melon and pear. Bright and fresh with a pure, zippy palate showing lovely pear and grapefruit. Delicate and fruit driven, and so attractive. 90/100 (UK agent Raymond Reynolds)
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I’ve written recently about Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap, giving his Trousseau Gris a positive review. Now it’s the turn of two Rhone varieties, Syrah and Grenache. They’re both beautiful, but my preference is for the remarkable Syrah.
Wind Gap Old Vine Grenache 2012 Sonoma County, California
13.75% alcohol. 420 cases made in two concrete eggs. Sweetly aromatic with red cherries and strawberries. It’s quite lush with some liqueur-like notes, but also has some fine spiciness and hints of leather. The palate is smooth and ripe but has great definition. There’s nice grip here with some cherries and herbs, and a bit of structure. Real complexity and interest. 93/100 (£33.95 Roberson)
Wind Gap Syrah 2011 Sonoma Coast, California
11.4% alcohol. 495 cases made in 17 barrels and 2 puncheons. Thrilling aromatics of meat, pepper and black cherries and plums. Sweetly fruited and very Syrah-like: it’s perhaps a little sweeter and riper than classic northern Rhone, but it has all the delicious meaty, spicy cool-climate Syrah character. Just a hint of green sappiness. Smooth and supple in the mouth. Hauntingly aromatic with finesse and beauty. Silky, detailed and quite profound, and I’d drink this now for the pleasure it delivers. 95/100 (£34.95 Roberson)
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Had lunch on Thursday with Olivier Bernsteinm (above), along with some other journos and the fabulous Simon Staples at Berry Brothers & Rudd.
Olivier was born in the Loire, and his grandfather founded a music publishing house. It was while he was working in international management that Olivier caught the wine bug and did a degree in winemaking and viticulture at Beaune. He bought an old farmhouse in the Roussillon, and with 8 hectares of vines formed Mas de la Deveze in 2002. But his true love was Burgundy, and in 2007 he started a micronegociant operation under his own name.
He buys grapes solely from premier and grand cru vineyards, and in 2012 he purchased his first vineyard parcels (Grand Cru Mazis Chambertin and Gevrey 1er Cru Les Champeaux). He says prices for 1er and Grand Cru grapes has doubled over the last seven years. ‘I was lucky when I started in 2007,’ says Bernstein. ‘I entered the game at a period when demand was not so crazy. It has increased every year.’ He adds, ‘Bordeaux was too expensive, so a lot of people came to Burgundy. The luxury groups in France want to buy land and make offers that are so crazy that the owners think they can increase the price of everything. What I did seven years ago is now impossible.’
The word is out that one individual is willing to pay 2 million Euros per ouvree of Grand Cru vineyard, which would value the land at 48 million Euros per hectare. Since Bernstein bought his vineyard parcels in 2012 he has received offers for them five times higher than what he paid. ‘Burgundy is becoming the Village d’Asterix,’ says Bernstein, likening it to a theme park.
We drank a range of his wines, and my notes are as follows.
Olivier Bernstein Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2011 Burgundy, France
Nice precision with some lemon and toast notes, as well as hints of peachy richness and subtle nuts. Stylish. 93/100
Olivier Bernstein Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011 Burgundy, France
Wonderfully precise with nice minerality and a hint of matchstick. Real detail here. Lovely lemony precision with citrus and subtle herb notes. Really mineral. Showing real precision and focus. 95/100
Olivier Bernstein Gevrey Chambertin Les Champeaux 1er Cru 2008 Burgundy, France
Sweet cherries and plums. Well defined with juicy focus and nice tannins. Taut and with an appealing spicy dimension, still quite primary but lovely with it. 93/100
Olivier Bernstein Gevrey Chambertin 2008 Burgundy, France
Supple, structured and pure with some plums, cherries and spice. Really nice structure. Ripe and fresh with good precision. 92/100
Olivier Bernstein Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Lavrottes 2010 Burgundy, France
Sweet, lush, ripe and floral with some subtle pepper spice and plummy fruit. Generous with black cherries sitting over nice structure. Lovely finesse here. 94/100
Olivier Bernstein Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers 2011 Burgundy, France
Fresh, robust and nicely reductive with taut fruit and some nice matchstick notes. Fresh black cherries and plums. taut, youthful and reduced with great future potential. 95/100
Olivier Bernstein Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2009 Burgundy, France
Supple, sweet and structured with bright cherry and plum fruit. Quite dense with lovely weight and structure. very fine, and needs more time. 95/100
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Last Friday night I stayed at Château Pichon in Pauillac, in preparation for the long run the next day. I was intending to drink very little, but in the end some nice bottles were opened. Ideal preparation for the run! I’ve also added some notes for a few post-run bottles. The Noval Vintage 2003, which is spectacular at the moment, was tasted on both occasions.
Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2008 Mosel, Germany
Limey, precise and lemony with pure linear fruit and a mineral core. Subtle melon and honey adding richness. Very pure and still quite primary. 91/100
Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2007 Mosel, Germany
Sweet grapefruit and tangerine notes with some melony richness. Ripe apples, too. Fresh and very drinkable, this is a lovely Riesling. 93/100
Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2004 Mosel, Germany
Lively and mineral with subtle hints of cabbage. Very fresh and not too sweet with focused, pure, linear fruit. Not too developed. 92/100
Château Pichon Baron 2007 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Dense, rich blackcurrant fruit with some spiciness and subtle green notes. Lovely structure with some grip and lovely fruit. A real surprise from a badly regarded vintage. 93/100
Château Pichon Baron 2008 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Lovely blackcurrant, blackberry and gravel notes. Smooth and still quite youthful with nice grip and precision. Quite tannic with fresh black fruits dominating. Still youthful, with a lot of potential. 94/100
Château Pichon Baron 2002 Pauillac, Bordeaux
‘This hasn’t finished saying what it has to say,’ says Christian Seely. ‘It’s something I rather like in this vintage.’ Grippy with lovely perfumed blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Sweet with some gravel and lovely black fruits. Smooth, ripe and pure with an attractive grainy structure. 93/100
Château Pichon Baron 2004 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Lovely spicy, savoury blackcurrant fruit with some cedary notes. Nice structure, coupled with good freshness. Fine spices. Ripe but with nice savouriness. 93/100
Corinne Michot and 9 times Medoc marathon winner Philippe Remond
Château Suduiraut 2006 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
This is sensational. Honeyed crystalline fruits with caramel richness and some toast. Complex smoky apricots with orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and white pepper spiciness. Complex and complete. 95/100
Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2003 Douro, Portugal
Quite amazing, with dense blackberry and black cherry fruit with lovely precision. Floral and dense with freshness, structure and complexity. Beginning to show a little positive evolution, but still a baby. 96/100
Quinta do Noval Colheita 1971 Douro, Portugal
Sweet, spicy and rich with powerful cherry and plum fruit. Complex notes of spice and cedar with great concentration and density. Quite profound. 96/100
Some thoughts about perfectionism.
Generally speaking, this is an undesirable trait. There are some people who you would quite like to see perfectionism expressed in: for example, your neurosurgeon, your architect, or the payroll person at work. But perfectionism isn’t easy to live with, and in the long run makes people miserable.
It leads to a binary view of the world. Things have to be exactly right, or they are no good at all. Perfectionists see in black and white, and are continually disappointed by the real world, with its compromises and shades of grey.
Those around them are left to feel like there is something wrong with them; that they have failed to achieve the minimum standard; that they are a source of disappointment.
Like most human traits, perfectionism has a number of roots. I suspect that one root is being badly let down by a significant figure early in life. The perfectionist has a low self image, and doesn’t feel accepted. But, if they are able to turn in a perfect performance, and play by the rules, then deep down they feel that this may be a way for them to earn acceptance. The problem: they become a harsh judge of themselves, and this drives them even further in the direction of perfectionism. Naturally, they expect others to play by these rules as well.
It doesn’t work. The perfectionist feels that if they try hard enough, they can control everything, and in truth they can’t. None of us is in control.
This is where there is a link to wine. If you are making wine, the perfectionist approach is a dangerous one, because it puts you in control. And you can’t control the process, no matter how hard you try. Trying to control winegrowing will invariably lead to disappointing results.
Wine is created by the agroecology of the vineyard, and is steered during the winemaking process. But it is this partnership among organisms that produces the final product, and this is something you join in with, not control.
This is a lovely wine. It’s made from the Valdiguié grape variety, a rather unremarkable variety from southern France that once was popular in California because of its disease resistance, where it was known as California Gamay. However, it was judged to make rather ordinary wine, and now only 300 acres or so are left. However, like other ‘ordinary’ varieties such as Cinsault, Carignan and Pais, Valdiguié is capable of making really superb, drinkable wines. It all depends what you are looking for. If you are looking for deep, powerful, rich, dark-coloured wines, don’t come here. But if you want something elegant, nicely poised and drinkable, this is for you.
Broc Cellars Valdiguié 2012 Solano County, California
12% alcohol. Very fine, fresh and natural. Perfumed black cherry, red cherry and plum nose with a hint of leathery savouriness. The palate is supple, pure and elegant, with a light body and delicious cherry fruit. Lots of detail here: a really pure, expressive wine with freshness and vitality. So drinkable. 93/100 (available in the UK from Roberson Wine)
So, the first vintage of London Cru’s wines are bottled and will soon be on the market. [Read my report on them from last year.] I visited this – London’s first urban winery – to try the new wines with winemaker Gavin Monery. It’s also time for vintage two to start coming in, and so Gavin is quite nervous. ‘You have one chance a year,’ he says. ‘Screw it up and that’s it. So our focus at the moment is getting the grapes off at the right time.’
This year, London Cru are using the same growers as last time. So in 2014 there will be a Cabernet from Jeff Coutelou (Languedoc), a Barbera from Giovanni Cordero (Piedmont), and Chardonnay and Syrah from Château de Corneilla (Roussillon). Plus a new wine: a Garnacha from Norrel Robertson in Cayatalud, which comes from 90 year old bush vines at 950 m.
‘I’d rather make less wine than mediocre wine,’ states Gavin. ‘The whole project is about making good wine, not gimmicky wine.’ All of the 2013s will be the same price (£15), with 1400 cases overall.
When I visited (the week before last) the Cabernet was just about to be harvested and sent back to arrive a few days later. The key part of the grape movement process is that the fruit is chilled within 2 or 3 hours of the harvest. ‘This is the most important thing from the quality viewpoint,’ says Gavin.
The only problem that London Cru have so far found insurmountable is to do with names. The UK rules mean that the wines must be labelled as ‘EC wine’, with no vintage or grape variety indicated. ‘This really annoys me,’ Gavin reveals. ‘The paper trail back to the vineyard is water-tight. The veracity of varieties and vineyards is 100%. It is an arbitrary rule at this end.’
The 2013 releases are all impressive.
SW6 Chardonnay 2013
Very fine nose is subtly nutty with some delicate toastiness and lovely citrus characters. The palate is fine and expressive with gentle bread, nut, citrus and white peach notes. Very stylish wine. Super-clean style. 90/100
SW6 Syrah 2013
From a spot 5 km from the ocean in the Roussillon: a cool site in a warm region. 12.5% alcohol. Fine, fresh black cherry fruit with lovely purity, and a bit of raspberry freshness. Direct and pure with subtle green notes. Nicely textured. 91/100
SW6 Barbera 2013
Supple, bright, expressive wine with spicy black fruits over damson and plums. Lovely acidity and a bit of bite (this was 12.5% alcohol and pH 3.35 after malo). Vibrant juicy fruit and lovely grippiness. 91/100
SW6 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Jeff Coutelou supplies this, and he was previously giving these excellent grapes to the coop because he just wanted to make wine from local varieties. Lovely pure, sweet blackcurrant fruit nose with some blackcurrant leaf. So classic and expressive. The palate is beautifully balanced with nice structure and classic Cabernet characters. A lovely wine with real potential. 91/100