OK, this isn’t wine. It’s whisky. A subject I know considerably less about than wine. But I am a flavour guy, so when I encounter some really interesting flavours, I want to share them here (unless they are beers – for that, I have beeranorak).
The whisky in question is the new release of Ardbeg’s Supernova, titled Committee Release SN2014. It’s 55% alcohol, and quite remarkable. I tasted 5cl tasting mini-bottle.
Ardbeg Supernova SN2014 Islay Single Malt
Powerfully aromatic, with spice, honey, peat (bonfire), sweet crystalline fruits, citrus peel and toast. Powerful palate with amazing intensity, balancing the significant peaty bonfire and spice notes with rich, sweet toast, nut, honey and baked lemon characters. So much personality. 9/10
Craig Hawkins (pictured above with significant other Carla Kretzel in the background) is one of South Africa’s most talented and brave winemakers. He’s the winemaker at Lammershoek, and also makes his own wines under the Testalonga label. He’s very experimental, and has worked a lot with skin contact and lees. He prefers picking earlier, making lower alcohol wines, and works pretty naturally. These are some of the more recent releases of his wines. The Lammershoek ‘Cellar Foot’ series is Lammershoek’s small batch, adventurous label.
Testalonga El Bandito Cortez 2012 Swartland, South Africa
10.5% alcohol, pH 2.99. No skin contact. Lively, fresh, lemony and bright. Very fresh with lovely purity. A direct, linear, lighter style. 93/100 (04/14)
Testalonga El Bandito Skin Contact 2011 Swartland, South Africa
This had 6 weeks on the skins, and was 40% whole bunch. Lovely grip here: really fresh and detailed with notes of grapes, citrus and pear, as well as some spiciness. 94/100 (04/14)
Testalonga King of Grapes Grenache 2013 Swartland, South Africa
100% whole bunch, 11.5% alcohol. So fresh, lively and peppery with nice grip and brightness. Lovely pure red cherries and herbs. Drinkable and fresh, in a lighter style. 93/100
Lammershoek Cellar Foot The Hárslevelű 2013 Swartland, South Africa
Soft, textured with nice apple and pear fruit. Nuts, herbs and a nice texture. 91/100
Lammershoek Cellar Foot Underwater Wine 2013 Swartland, South Africa
A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan, aged in barrels submerged in water. Lovely purity. Sweet, fresh cherry and plum fruit with a bit of grip. Linear with lovely balance. 93/100
Lammershoek Cellar Foot Mourvedre 2012 Swartland, South Africa
Lively, fresh, sweet and spicy with attractive fruit and a bit of grip. Some ginger spice notes, as well as herbal characters. Lovely freshness. 92/100
UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene (Testalonga); Fields Morris & Verdin (Lammershoek)
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Impressed by these. A Chilean Sauvignon and Pinot from Casa Silva’s Paradones estate in Coastal Colchagua, a new-ish cool climate region of Chile. It’s just six kilometres from the chilly Pacific Ocean.
Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Cochagua, Chile
13% alcohol. Very mineral, fresh and direct with taut grapefruit and citrus fruit, as well as some smoky notes. Lively and fresh with a hint of green pepper. So pure and linear with amazing precision. 91/100 (£15.95 Averys, Fine Wines Direct)
Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2012 Cochagua, Chile
14% alcohol. Bright cherry and plum fruit with hints of liqourice, mint and cinnamon. Nice weight: sweet berries and ripe cherries, but good balance and a smooth texture. 90/100 (£15.95 Stainton Wines, Barrels and Bottles, Roberts & Speight)
Jean-Luc Colombo, based in Cornas, is a Rhone modernist. His Cornas wines aren’t in my favourite style, I’m afraid. But I do like the wines he makes when he tries less hard: I bought a case of his northern Rhone Vin du Pays a year or so back, made from declassified young vine Cornas fruit because it was so honestly northern Rhone in style. And I like these two inexpensive negociant wines.
Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles de Colombo Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2013 France
80% Clairette, 20% Roussanne, named ‘the bees’. Very pretty, fresh and vibrant floral pear, apricot and citrus fruit. Nicely textured. Crisp but with a bit of richness. The key is the pure, expressive fruit. 89/100 (£9.99 Define Food and Wine, Le Mouton Rouge, Dalling & Co, Trinas Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Tivoli, Taylors Fine Wine, Aiken Wines, Partridges, DP Vintners, The Butlers Cellar)
Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles de Colombo Cotes de Rhone Rouge 2012 France
60% Grenache, 30% Shiraz, 10% Mourvedre. Perfumed and supple with ripe cherry and plum fruit. Pure and quite elegant with some peppery notes and a bit of grip. Medium bodied. A stylish Rhone red with lovely drinkability. 88/100 (£9.99 Tivoli, The Bottleneck, Define Food and Wine, Sunninghill Wine, North & South, The Butlers Cellar, Fountainhall Wines, Bacchus et al)
Covela is back. I was a fan of this estate, which was previously owned by Nuno Araújo (related to Pedro Araújo of Ameal), and which made really interesting wines from a blend of Portuguese and international varieties, from biodynamically farmed vineyards on the border of the Minho and Douro regions.
But things went wrong financially in 2008, the property went into receivership, and for a while, production stopped. Then Covela was bought by a Briton (Tony Smith) and a Brazilian (Marcelo Lima) in 2011. Their business venture is known as Lima Smith, with this property plus Boavista and Tecedeiras also in the portfolio, as well as a stake recently acquired in Maison Champy, Burgundy. Lima Smith re-hired winemaker Rui Cunha, and these wines represent the second release (for the whites) of the new reborn Covela.
Covela Edicao Nacional Arinto 2013 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Lively, fresh, linear and pure with nice citrussy fruit. Quite mineral with lovely citrus fruit and good precision. Some pear, apple and citrus characters. A lovely dry white wine. 89/100
Covela Edicao Nacional Avesso 2013 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Very clean, fresh and linear with a mineral, subtly citrussy nose. The palate is lively and bright with subtle green herb and grapefruit notes as well as some lemons and minerals. Pure, focused and assertive. 89/100
Covela Escolha Branco 2013 Minho, Portugal
Avesso and Chardonnay. Lively, fresh, floral citrus nose with some subtle pear fruit. Crisp, fruity palate with pure pear and melon fruit, as well as bright lemon notes and some slightly spicy, mineral characters. A refined fruit-driven wine. 91/100
Ovela Escolha Tinto 2012 Minho, Portugal
Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, from granitic soila. Vibrant colour. Lovely black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of olive and herbs. Ripe yet fresh dark fruits, with a bit of grip. This is very stylish, showing sweet raspberries and blackberries, with good focus. 90/100
Kalfu is a new series of nine wines from innovative large Chilean producer Vina Ventisquero. They haven’t been released yet, but I got to try two of them. The Sauvignon in particular is of great interest. It’s an edgy wine, not a perfect one, but it shows the potential of Chile’s most northerly vineyard area, Huasco, in the Attacama desert. It’s so cool to see that Chile is starting to become a bit more interesting at the high end.
Kalfu Sumpai Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Huasco Valley, Chile
13% alcohol. So fresh and bright with a chalky, mineral, green pepper, tomato leaf nose. The palate is textured and pure with lovely green notes. Very chalky with some sweeter tropical notes and a nice texture. There’s a lot of green methoxypyrazine character here, but it’s a soft-textured greenness that really works. 91/100
Kalfu Sumpai Pinot Noir 2013 Leyda Valley, Chile
13.5% alcohol. Ripe, sweet, slightly spicy nose with cherries and a hint of vanilla, as well as some cola notes. The supple, sweet palate is bright with hints of chocolate and cedar under the sweet cherry and plum fruit. Supple and quite elegant, and needs time to resolve into harmony. 90/100
So, the final instalment of my write up of Tuesday’s lunch wines. The great thing about sharing a bottle among four is that you get to drink a decent quantity, and you have time to consider your opinion. Great wines often do change in the glass. Also, as tasters, we change with time – even over 20 minutes or so, the way we approach the glass, and the way we interrogate the wine will change. Presentation order artefacts will be ironed out. And we’ll have been eating, with the flavours of food bringing out different aspects of the wine. And to begin looking at the wine blind helps too: it removes some prejudice.
Francois Cotat La Grande Cote 1996 Sancerre, France
This is atypical for Sancerre in that it’s very ripe and has a hint of sweetness (although it is still just 12.5% alcohol), yet it was immediately spotted as a Sauvignon Blanc, and because we know who bought it, and its unusual characters, it was spotted as a Cotat. Sweet, exotic nose of grapefruit, some boiled sweets, and a hint of greenness. Lively in the mouth with pretty, rounded fruit that’s quite exotic, showing a hint of apricot. Delightful, and quite remarkable. 95/100
Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 1998 Burgundy, France
Spicy, lively and quite mineral with some hints of smoke and just a trace of animal wildness. Lively red fruit, with focused cherry and plums, as well as notes of mint and medicine in the background. Some iodine character. It has some age, but it also has freshness. Spicy, grippy and lively. 94/100
Dujac Clos St Denis Grand Cru 2001 Burgundy, France
Smooth, ripe, pure and quite textured. Sweet, lively cherry fruit as well as some fresh raspberries, and a bit of meat. Some savouriness and meatiness here: it’s quite tight, with a touch of bitterness still on the finish. A structured wine that needs more time. 93/100
Northern Rhone whites are some of the unheralded stars of the wineworld. There’s a good story to this wine, too. Before around 1995, Jaboulet were one of the top producers in the northern Rhône. Something seemed to go wrong after this with the Jaboulet wines, and in 2006 the family sold to the Freys from Bordeaux.
Nicolas Jaboulet and the Perrin family of Beaucastel formed a joint micro-négociant in 2009 with a view to creating top northern Rhône wines, and they seem to be succeeding. This white Crozes is 100% Marsanne, aged for 10 months in used oak, and it’s lovely.
Nicolas Perrin Crozes Hermitage Blanc 2012 Northen Rhône, France
13% alcohol. Full yellow/gold colour. Broad, creamy, smooth textured white with a lovely soft mouthfeel. Subtle melon and pear fruit with some citrus on the finish, as well as attractive hazelnut notes. There’s a hint of fennel, too, but this is all about the mouthfeel. Such a distinctive wine. 92/100 (UK agent Liberty Wines; £15.62 Slurp)
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This was the star wine in a star line-up at Tuesday’s lunch. Just thrillingly good.
Chateau d’Yquem 1986 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Powerful, spicy and intense with lovely flavours of marmalade, apricot, spice and citrus, as well as some sweet melon notes and a delicious creaminess. There’s also a hint of white pepper. This is tantalising. So spicy and profound. 97/100
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Had a great lunch at The Glasshouse restaurant in Kew yesterday, hosted by Keith Prothero. In attendance: Malcolm Thwaites, Greg Sherwood and me. The Glasshouse is such a great restaurant. I have never been disappointed with the food there: really beautifully presented, but also perfectly judged flavours. And the service is super – we were looked after so well, and new-ish sommelier Milena Francisco (pictured above) has really shaped the list there nicely.
We had eight exceptional wines, which I will write up in three posts, because they deserve the attention. It is so great to be able to actually drink wines like these: a quarter of a bottle each, rather than the small pours you get at a larger gathering. There’s only limited joy in a single mouthful of truly great wine. So I’ll start with the three Rhones. We tasted everything blind, so my notes are a mix of blind and sighted descriptors.
Chave Hermitage Blanc 1990 Northern Rhone, France
Quite deep yellow in colour. Mature nose with toast, apricot, nuts and some honey. The palate is rich, and although it is dry, it has a sort of resolved sweetness, and attractive crystalline fruits, with a broad texture and low acidity. Beautifully expressive with a lovely mineral core to the sweet fruit. 94/100
Chave Hermitage 1983 Northern Rhone, France
Very mineral with notes of tar, mint, herbs and spice on the nose. This is probably the best example of this vintage that I’ve tried. Savoury and spicy on the palate with good detail and nice acidity. Linear and precise with good purity, and hints of earth. Showing real finesse. 95/100
Guigal La Turque Cote Rotie 1986 Northern Rhone, France
This took quite a while to reveal itself, initially coming across as shy and reserved. It’s quite iodine with savoury spices and minerals, as well as some earthiness, but very nicely focused cherry and raspberry fruit. Sanguine, with notes of blood and iron filings adding interest to the fresh fruit and more mineral characters. Worth the wait to see it come round. 95/100
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