Back in October, I wrote about the Coravin, having seen one in action for the first time. Yesterday at a tasting of high-end wines at London merchant Roberson, I had my first proper encounter with the device as a tool of the trade. It’s such a game changer.
From the point of view of the Roberson guys who I spoke to at the tasting, this has really altered how they work. They sell a lot of wine to restaurants. In the past, if you were an agency girl or guy, you’d take some samples, and show them to the restaurants you were pimping wine to during the course of the day. Then you might leave the rest of the bottle with one of the restaurant people. It’s incredibly costly in terms of samples, even if you get a few free from the producer for this purpose.
With a Coravin, you can select the samples you take on the road, and pour what you want. And then you can reuse that sample bottle next time, and the time after. You can get around 20 samples out of a bottle, over a course of months. It’s massively more efficient. And it means that you can take grand bottles to good clients, without worrying about the cost of wasted wine. One of the Roberson folk described Coravin as ‘pretty much essential’, after having used it for a while. Roberson are about to get their third device. The official EU launch has crept back and back, and is currently targeted as September to October, but still some devices have made it into the UK.
The tasting they are putting on during the London wine fair involves some smart bottles, and Coravin allows them to use the same bottle over all three days of the tasting without anyone feeling they are getting a slightly out-of-condition sample.
But there is a faint cloud on the horizon for Coravin. Today news broke that seven bottles have broken while being used for Coravin sampling. It seems that some bottles, already weakened, might break – but it hardly seems to be quite the scare story that some of the wine media are turning it into.
I’m surprised by some of the coverage. It’s as if some of the wine press are wanting this device to fail. I can’t see why, because I think it’s an incredibly positive development for fine wine. Coravin are delaying further sales until they have enough neoprene sleeves to ship with each device, the idea being that you apply a sleeve to each bottle to protect from any breakages. But the chance of breakage using this low pressure argon delivery device is so small, I suspect no one will ever use these sleeves.
This is a really super wine, made from a lesser known IGP on the edge of the Cevennes, not far from Avignon and Nimes. One of the best value reds I have had of late.
Domaine Camp Galhan ‘Les Pérassières’ 2012 Vin de Pays Duché d’Uzès, Rhone, France
13.5% alcohol. A blend of fresh cherry fruit with some peppery, meaty notes. Refined with some olive tapenade colour. The palate is ripe but elegant with a meaty edge to the black cherry fruit, and some garrigue herby notes. Some violet floral notes too. It reminds me a bit of a top Touriga Nacional from the Dao in Portugal. So beautiful with lovely poise: ripe but defined. 93/100 (Yapp £10.25)
Tasted today, at the London Wine Fair, a remarkable red wine from boutique Turkish producer Chamlija. It’s a grape variety that’s new to me: Papaskarasi. Not much is known about its origins. Mustafa Camlica of Chamlija proposes that one of its parents is Prokupac, a variety I have experienced in Serbia. When I tasted it, it reminded me of Kardarka (aka Gamza), which is a Hungarian/Bulgarian variety that tastes like a cross between Pinot Noir and Gamay. There’s some speculation that Kadarka is a child of Papaskarasi. Mustafa found this variety growing in an old parcel of vines in the mountains. Neighbouring winery Arcadia have taken some cuttings and have planted a plot of this variety, too, but haven’t made wine from it yet. It shows lots of promise.
Chamlija Papaskarasi 2013 Thrace, Turkey Beautifully expressive with fresh, lively black cherries and plums on the nose. Supple, juicy, elegant palate with a green herby edge to the sweet black cherry and plum fruit. So expressive and a bit like a ripe Pinot Noir in character, with good freshness and a bit of grip. 94/100
Gauby is the domaine that put the Fenouilledes in France’s Roussillon on the fine wine map. The wines are brilliant, and because of their fame, they’re also (alas) quite expensive. On a recent tasting, this bottle really took my eye. It’s a skin-contact Muscat, a variety that seems to respond pretty well to this sort of fermentation. And it’s made with no added sulfur dioxide at all. Not to be confused with the red ‘La Roque’, which is an old vine Grenache.
Domaine Gauby La Roque Blanc 2011 IGP Pays des Cotes Catalanes, France Whole-bunch Muscat fermented on skins for 10 days. 11.5% alcohol. Amazingly perfumed with pear, apricot, spice and grapes. Precise, fine, subtle palate is spicy and peppery with lovely pear and apricot fruit. Fresh and showing real finesse, this is an utterly delicious wine. 94/100
Paul Old and Hugo Stewart’s Les Clos Perdu makes some really interesting wines from biodynamically managed vineyards across promising terroirs in the Languedoc and Rousillon. This is a varietal Macabeo from 60 year old vines grown in the Agly valley, Roussillon. It’s fermented half in stainless steel and half in wood. It’s not expensive (mid-teens GBP).
Les Clos Perdus Le Blanc 2011 Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Roussillon, France 13.5% alcohol. Complex white with grapefruit, tangerine and apricot fruit characters as well as hazelnut and toast. Fruity and savoury at the same time, combining richness and freshness. There’s a hint of Sauternes to this, with nice texture too. 93/100 (UK agent Indigo Wines)
It has been a while since I reported on my quest to try to fall for Nebbiolo, and I have quite a few wines to tell you about. The first of these is really distinctive. It’s from Piedmont, but from Monferrato rather than Barolo, and so – considering the quality – it’s superb value for money.
It’s Andrea Faccio’s Treponti, and it’s a complex wine with lots of edges. It has sweet fruit, but also lots of grippy tannins and angular bits sticking out, as Nebbiolo often seems to have. But I think it’s a really good wine – one that will show its best with food, and which will age well. We don’t want all our wines to be polite and inoffensive.
Villa Giada ‘Treponti’ Nebbiolo 2007 Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy 14% alcohol. Savoury, tarry, slightly minty edge to the vibrant, grippy, edgy cherry and plum fruit. Combines ripeness and savouriness, with dense, sweet berry fruits and also some angular, primary tannins. Really interesting wine with lots of personality, leaving you feeling that it has lots more to show, given time. 92/100 (£16.99 Hawkshead Wines)
Had an excellent tasting at lunch at High Timber today, focusing on older South African Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. It was really cool to be able to try this bottle, in particular – the Lanzerac 1966 Pinotage – because it’s older than me, and it’s still in great condition. This wouldn’t have been an expensive wine when it was released, and it’s served in a very distinctive bottle. Lanzerac, part of the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, still use this bottle shape for their current offerings: it was launched in 1959, the first commercial bottling of Pinotage was the Lanzerac 1961, but the range virtually disappeared in the 1970s before the brand was revived in the mid-1990s. I tasted a 1964 Lanzerac Pinotage in 2012, and it was also in good shape.
Lanzerac Pinotage 1966 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Earthy and spicy with a hint of medicine, as well as plenty of herby cherry and berry fruit. Lovely density and fruit presence for a 48 year old wine, with some smoky, savoury notes under the vibrant berry fruits. This is really delicious, and has some time on its side still. Lovely. 94/100
Red Vinho Verde, most of which is made from the Vinhão grape variety (known elsewhere in Portugal as Sousão), is a bit of an acquired taste. It’s hard to get hold of outside of the region, even though quite a bit of it is made. A lot is sold by carafe in restaurants. Good ones are utterly delicious, and a little wild and rustic, with keen acidity and vibrant fruit. The work well with meaty, fatty food. This is a nice example, tamed slightly to suit the modern palate, but still capturing the essence of this unique and eminently drinkable wine. This is made by the Adega de Ponte de Barca co-op, and it will be inexpensive.
Este Vinhão 2013 Vinho Verde Tinto, Portugal 10% alcohol. Vibrant red/purple colour. Sweet, vivid nose is spicy with raspberry and cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with a bit of spritz and lovely fresh berry fruits, and a hint of cinnamon. A superbly drinkable, fruit-driven red wine in a joyful, vibrant, light style. 88/100 (UK agent is Marta Vine)
This characterful white wine comes from a really interesting micro-cooperative in Sicily, with just 6 members. Olive oil, almonds and wine are produced, with 38 hectares of vineyards. The focus is on sustainable, organic winegrowing and minimal intervention winemaking, with very little SO2 added. They belong to the Addiopizzo movement, which says no to the mafia.
Valdibella Ariddu Grillo 2012 Sicily, Italy
13.5% alcohol. This beautifully packaged wine is organic. A full yellow colour, it has a distinctive nose showing fresh, crisp tangerine and ripe apple fruit. The palate is intense with a herby edge to the fruit, which spans ripe peaches to grapefruit, with a bit of nutty warmth. Real character here. 91/100 (£11.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Three English sparkling wines, all quite new to the scene. The first, Jenkyn Place, comes from a 5 hectare estate on the North Hampshire downs, and the wine is made by Dermot Sugrue, an experienced English sparkling winemaker.
Jenkyn Place Brut 2009 England
12% alcohol. Fresh and tight with lively, precise citrus fruit as well as some apple and pear notes. Taut, pithy and nicely focused with fruit dominating the palate. Ripe and fresh at the same time, showing good purity. 90/100
This new wine won the ‘Judgement of Parson’s Green’ this year, a blind tasting of 94 English sparkling wines carried out by a star studded panel. I reckon they screwed up. It’s good, but not among the very best of English sparkling wines. However, this bottle was from a later disgorgement, and so may be a little different.
Langham Classic Cuvée Brut 2010 Dorset Quality English Sparkling Wine 12% alcohol. Lively and fruity with keen lemony acidity underpinning a creamy, toasty palate showing rich apple and white peach notes. The contrast between the ripe fruit and the searing acidity is marked, and the strongly creamy, almost dairy softness in the middle is quite pronounced, too. Impressive but I don’t find it all that harmonious. 88/100
Meon Hill was established by a Champagne grower, Didier Pierson, in 2004. He found an ideal terroir in the South Downs, planted 11 hectares with the Champagne trellising system (the first to do so) and his first wine was bottled in 2009. Recently, Meon Hill was taken over by the ambitious Hambledon Vineyards, and Didier retained as a consultant.
Meon Hill Brut Grande Reserve NV Hampshire
12% alcohol. Full yellow colour. Rich, fruit driven and a bit toasty with citrus and green apple fruit. Keen and lively showing good acidity. Nice notes of herbs and subtle toast. Full flavoured. 90/100 (Available from Red Squirrel Wines)