Posts Tagged ‘Bandol’
As stated many times on this blog, exposing yourself to trial by blind tasting is a mug’s game. My worst moment was failing to identify the grape variety of an Alsace Grand Cru Gewurztraminer. After I knew what it was its typical rose water and lychees aromas were as obvious as it gets. And yes there are a few easy hits – Riesling, young or aged, tends to announce itself, classic Pinot Noir should not be too difficult – but generally it is extremely challenging. The brain plays funny tricks on you; smells and tastes are difficult to pin down; increasingly, New World producers are successfully imitating the ‘European’ restraint, while the climate warms up in Europe producing ripe fruit which could come from warmer locations. So what the world needs is a blind tasting improbability index, the BTII to the cognoscenti: 0 for wines so bland that they could be made from a blend of the European wine lake or grape varieties so obscure that even the grape grower doesn’t really know what they are called, 7 for classic Bordeaux blend in a cool climate, 9 for young New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and so on.
On ‘the index’ (as I as sure it will be known), wines at the late April Bring a Bottle Club scored pretty low: one grape variety which nobody had heard of before, one rare blend, a red wine from a famous white wine maker, and a white wine from an appellation almost uniformly associated with red. And I thought there was supposed to be only one joker per evening! Ok – there were also two Clarets, one showing classic characteristics, the other rather atypical. Let’s give the index its first outing.
|Curiously amber in colour, this had some oxidised notes as well as toffee and floral aromas. On the palate is was a bit waxy (?Marsanne) with a rather drying finish. It turned out to be Domaine Tempier, AC Bandol Blanc 2003 – probably suffering from the heat of that year. Mostly Clairette with Bourboulenc, Ugni blanc and 3% Marsanne! But an unusual white from a famous red AC: BTI index 2 or 3 at most, though well done to those who thought it was a Rhone white which was in the right area.|
|By contrast this wine had a BTI score of 7 or 8. Restrained green herbaceous and grassy notes, some very mild pleasant oak on the palate, more assertive ripe fruit towards the finish. TerraVin, Marlborough Te Ahu 2008 is a very good oak-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. My only real success of the evening as I spotted correctly the grape variety, the oak and the New World origin despite the restraint.|
|Medium deep ruby in colour, quite aromatic on the nose, a rather thin palate of plum, cherry and perhaps a hint of chocolate. I joked that from the colour it could not be Pinot Noir; in fact it was a blend of oak aged Pinot and Rondo – which I later learnt has some non-vinifera genetic material in it which gives it good protection from winter frost and downy mildew. Useful in northerly climates: Wickham Reserve 2008, a local vineyard here in north Hampshire. Joker no. 1 and BTI index of 2 or perhaps 3 for a wine that is local.|
|Joker no. 2 and BTI index of –2 (ah, you mean you didn’t know the index has negative numbers?). Which red wine has some bell-pepper and cedar notes but then high acidity and tannins, a rasping palate of some interest but not very polite manners? A clue (of sorts): it is a relative of a grape variety which makes a famous white wine. Step forward (and then backward quickly) Listán Nero, the red version of the Palomino variety, the main stay of Sherry. Tajinaste, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, 2010.|
|By contrast, this wine should have been both a great treat and a relatively easy spot, BTI index 8. Moderately rich fruit, leafiness and a rather farmyardy note on the nose, with fair fruit but very high acidity and marked tannins on the palate. An old Bordeaux favourite, but in this particular example the balance of wine was not quite right for chateau or vintage: Ch. Batailley, AC Pauillac Grand Cru Classé (fifth growth), 2002|
|Same BTI score or a nudge up as this wine did exactly what it was expected to do. On the ruby/garnet border in colour with a broad rim, well integrated oak effects, restrained red and black fruit, medium acidity and tannins which were a bit chalky: still in Bordeaux but rather humbler if absolutely true to type: Ch. Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 2000. Enjoyed by all, wide consensus as to its identity.|
||Classy and elegant nose, oak, red and black fruit which managed to be both sumptuous and restrained, The fruit is bright and very attractive – but doesn’t fall entirely into one obvious varietal or wine style, but there is no doubting the outstanding quality. I guessed right but was not really sure as the intensity and structure of the fruit threw put a question mark against Tempranillo: R. López de Heredia Tondonia, Vina Cubilla, 2005. Marketed as a Crianza but much better than that would suggest. 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, with some Mazuelo and Graciano. Wine of the evening, BTI index 7.5.|
|A bonus bottle with the cheese which followed the Red Lion’s superb lamb dish. Pronounced wood notes, rich, caramel, something spicy, obviously fortified, rather too chunky on the palate for my liking: Marks and Spencer’s Dry Oloroso Sherry, made by the excellent Lustau. BTI index 8.5. Score could be higher but, sadly, we just don’t drink much quality Sherry.|
Average BTI score over eight bottles? a miserly 5. This shows how difficult an evening it was – but note that the average conceals a lot of very low scores and some high ones. The BTI – like our tasting skills – might need some honing.
Andover Wine Friends’ monthly tasting featured wines from small French appellations and provided a tour of the south of France with a stop-off in Corsica. Led by Lefty Wright (picture in second box below), it showed what quality there is outside of the well known areas – if you can source these small production bottles, here provided by Yapp Brothers.
The Overton BBC (bring a bottle club) has a cheerfully random air about it. This is particularly the case with ‘BBC1’. As the idea is to taste the wines blind, there is no plan about who will bring what. Usually this works absolutely fine and often some fascinating themes emerge. By chance three people will bring bottles from a single Burgundy village or there will be a couple of wines from the same vintage and comparisons can be made.
October’s meeting was a bit unusual. There were more people present than in recent months with a resulting 14 bottles to taste and, of these, one was a sweet wine, no fewer than 11 were red, with just one white and, unusually, a rosé. With all the benefits of hindsight we had a fair selection of the important red wines of the world with the following areas being represented:
- Burgundy – Savigny, Volnay,
- Languedoc – Corbières
- Tuscany – Chianti Classico, Montalcino
- Spain – Rioja
- Lebanon – Bekaa Valley
- South Africa – Swartland
- Australia – McLaren Vale
- mandatory off-piste region: Morocco!
We will make up for the missing Bordeaux in a themed tasting next month and no doubt California will get its chance to shine sooner or later. Let’s deal first with the white and the rosé minorities. The white had people fairly foxed – warm climate certainly but then Southern France, Spain and Italy were all canvassed. In fact it was La Forge Vineyard, Paul Mas Estate, Languedoc, 2010: bright citrus fruit, light oak notes, fullish in body, with a creamy texture. A good start, followed a bit later by an outstanding rosé, and you can’t often say that: pale salmon pink in colour, attractive strawberry notes, outstanding freshness, just a hint of leafiness. To add to the pleasure, this wine was bought at the winery by one of our members who had visited it recently, Ch. de Pibarnon, AC Bandol 2010. The reputation of Provence for top rosé from high inland sites continues.
To bring some order to the evening, here are the two red Burgundies together, both slightly surprising in their own way. First up was Savigny-les-Beaune ‘Les Talmettes’ Premier Cru, Domaine Chenu, 2007, a pale ruby; most guessed straight away it was Pinot Noir and some were in Burgundy. Quite savoury on the palate, but rather leathery and not really fresh – the relatively poor 2007 vintage has aged very fast. By contrast 2001 seemed quite spirity and hot, some good savoury fruit, a good depth of flavour if a bit rustic. This turned out to be Volnay AC, Nichoas Potel from 2001.
La Tour, Chateau Grand Moulin, Jean Noel Bousquet 2009 moved us to a hotter climate, with its rich, plummy and forward fruit, dense and compact on the palate, with medium length. 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 20% Grenache.
On a roughly similar latitude, we move to our Tuscan trio, starting with a 100% cru Sangiovese, Reciso IGT Toscana 2006, created by Pietro Beconcini by massal selection from old vines present on his family estate, grown on soil rich in fossils and white clay. It is made a in a very traditional way: fermentation in cement vats, using indigenous yeasts, five weeks of skin contact and 18-24 months of ageing in a mixture of French tonneaux and large Slavonian oak barrels. It has a richness in the fruit which is not typical of more classic, austere Sangiovese. Rancia, Beradenga, Chianti Classico riserva 1999 led with coal dust, tar, some sweet leathery and floral notes which had some of our number thinking this was Barolo, if without the imposing tannic structure. There was no shortage of tannins in the third example, Tenuta La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino riserva, 1995. Dusty, tea leaves and herbs on the nose, some fruitiness still, lively, mildly aggressive tannins.
The Tuscan wines can be followed by Mediterranean West and East – better known as Spain and Lebanon. Contino Rioja Reserva 2007 was much appreciated by people, even if only one person got close to identifying it. Some smoke, liquorice and quite a lot of vanilla on the nose points to American oak in combination with French oak, with fruit from a single vineyard of 66 hectares. Very good depth of flavour – though some thought not enough for a Reserva quality – perfume, good acidity, highly drinkable and elegant. At the other end of the Med is to be found Massaya Gold, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2000, a fascinating blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Mourvèdre and10% Syrah. Plums and raisins and orange peel on the nose, very good density of fruit, persistent tannins – with all that Mourvèdre.
From one of the oldest civilisations of the old world to the so-called new world of South Africa and Australia. A.A. Badenhorst’s Family Red, South Africa, 2007 is a Rhone blend: Shiraz (80%), Mourvèdre (10%) , Cinsault or Cape Hermitage (7%) and Grenache (3%). Heavy weight, deep flavoured with high tannins – we claimed that they there was 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Mataro, but at that stage we thought we were in Australia! Actually in Australia, Willunga 100 Shiraz Viognier 2007 also takes its inspiration from the Rhone, if on this occasion further north: 97% Shiraz with 3% Viognier which is co-fermented with the red grapes. Good fruit, cool climate in style with a slightly flat middle. Perfumed with some nice softness.
Every blind tasting needs a somewhat unusual bottle: Domaine de Mayole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2007 Beni M’Tir, Meknes, Morocco fitted the bill. A 60/40 blend, it had sweet plumy fruit, some of it perhaps a bit stewed, with lots of mouth-filling glycerol, and rather drying tannins. However, no ‘essence of rubber’ as some one remarked!
A sweet and rich conclusion to the evening. Following our excellent ‘every style of Sherry except Fino’ evening of a few weeks ago, we enjoyed this moderately luscious, coffee, liquorice and walnut scented Moscatel from Lustau, 2007. A few more white wines next time? I expect so, but it is northern Italy so we will see.