BBC 1 twice

For the second time in a row we decided to postpone a planned blind tasting on the theme of sparkling wine.  While last time the excuse was that it was late July and people were away, this time it was because it was late August.  Most of us are so keen on the sparkling wine theme that we want the the maximum number of people to come, so here’s hoping for a better result in September.  But there was the consolation of another random blind tasting. On this occasion there were one or two unusual wines and then some with real connections between them. 

before ... Dark Chardonnay

Nicholson River

On the whole Chardonnay is relatively easy to spot – it can make classy wines with more going on on the palate than on the nose.  But then someone will decide to make it in a funky way with lots of oxidation even in a young wine, never mind in a 14-year old.   Almost bronze in colour, bruised apple peel and mushroom on the nose, baked citrus rind on the palate … and  bit of salted caramel (really?).  Loads of character here in Nicholson River Chardonnay, Gippsland, Victoria, 1999
Over the previous wine there was a debate between old Loire Chenin (but the wine really wasn’t either acidic enough or floral) or old Semillon (again not acidic enough and no honey and wax …).  By contrast, people liked this more conventional wine but really did not know what it was.  We have all drunk it but we don’t have a snap description to hand for the variety – Oz Clarke goes for lentil and celery!  Contrastingly youthful to the first wine -   there was a touch of sulphur dioxide, spritz and sherbet in the mouth, real freshness and some elegance:  Fass 4, Grüner Veltliner, Bernhard Ott, Wagram, Austria, 2010

Fass 4


We like a challenge in the BBC, something really obscure and difficult.  Last meeting it was Mexican Nebbiolo – you get the idea.  But really if blind tasting is going to be a positive experience, there has to be some clue to detect or all that we learn is that wines can be dressed up in elaborate disguises.  Step forward Saulheimer Riesling Kalkstein, Thörle, Rheinhessen, 2012.  Riesling is one of the most recognisable white varieties in the world but this is the least Riesling-like example I have come across. That doesn’t make it a bad wine of course.  Mildly and rather generally fragrant and restrained, medium or a touch more acidity, hint of tropical fruit but austere … 
Do you remember the Grüner Veltliner two bottles back?  Well now you have to imagine being faced with a mild-mannered version of the same … pale lemon in colour, slight yeastiness of youthful wine, light in the mouth, crisp apple fruit. If Berhard Ott’s wines are well-defined and classy, this is terrific simple version made with the same grape variety:  Little J, Grüner Veltliner, Niedderösterreich, Jurtschitsch, 2012 … great value, everyday drinking.  So the first connection of the evening was two wines from the same variety.  Little J

Posh CdR

Time for some food and some reds? Most of us had this bold red with sweet, ripe fruit  as coming from Ribera del Deuro or Italy.  In fact its was a rather smart Côtes du Rhône, Coudoulet de Beaucastel, 2005. It did have the whiff of acetic acid, VA, which we associate (rightly or wrongly) with certain old wine making styles of the Rhône …

If anything, this was even more of a puzzle. Deep ruby red (not showing any age) and cordial-like fruit – even blackcurrant cordial – set us all off to Australia and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Rich ripe fruit again, medium plus tannins … but in fact we are just a 100 kilometres north on the same river. Not a hint of Cab but solely Syrah  in Terre Brulée, Cornas, Domaine Lionnet, 2005. Same river, same year as the last wine – a modest connection I grant you.  The ‘baked earth’ of the wine name must be responsible for this bold Syrah.  Cornas


The tasting drew towards its close with two fine if somewhat off-the-beaten-track red wines – large and larger, you might call them.  The first up was a medium garnet in colour, a nice easy hint about some bottle age at least.  The predominant impression was the seamless integration of oak ageing and fruit – quite powerful but subtle at the same time.  One happy punter got the identity correct, the rest of us were just impressed with Lebanon’s most famous wine:  Ch. Musar, 2001
As we had not had it yet, I knew this was going to be my wine, so I was not surprised that it was big and powerful.  Dense, even inky ruby, a rich nose with smoke and cloves from 12 months in barriques.  On the palate cooked plums and conserved cherries, some earthy, meaty notes and noticeably high grippy tannins. What I did not expect was the level of sophistication in this wine.  It may be called Stupor Mundi (‘wonder of the world’) but unlike Frederick II this is not an overwhelming wine:  Stupor Mundi, Aglianico del Vulture, Carbone, Basilicata (ie southern Italy), 2006 Stupor Mundi


A very good tasting … but here’s to sparkling wine in September?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply