Posts Tagged ‘Sauternes’
This weekend saw the chance to taste two interesting but very contrasting sweet wines. I am sorry that it was only after the event that I thought to take the photo. It was one of those evenings that sort of ‘developed’ as it went along But if are very sharp sighted and use a bit of imagination you can see the difference of colour: the Muscat on the left is a browner yellow, the Sauterne on the right a more classical gold.
The difference of colour heralds greater contrasts in the wines. Dom. Cazes, Muscat de Rivesaltes, 1993 is an excellent, long wood aged, Muscat. The wine starts out pale and ends this deep colour after many years in large casks – see my post on Cazes. The nose is dominated by caramel and wood notes, the orange blossom now very subdued; overall only medium in power. But the palate is remarkable for its intensity of those caramel notes, especially the way that it finishes with great concentration and tempered sweetness. A remarkably good example.
By contrast Ch. Sigalas Rabaud, Sauternes Premier Cru, 2003 is a whole decade younger but more complex. One of the best purchases I have ever made was a case of this Sauternes in half bottles – perfect for many occasions, easy enough to keep over the years and see how it develops. I guess it is now at its peak: powerful and exquisite nose of marmalade and floral notes, outstanding palate in which the fruit, the sweetness and the acidity are beautifully balanced. Great length.
Two excellent examples in contrasting styles.
We have been enjoying a number of parties to launch our new garden/tasting room at home. It replaces a plastic conservatory and is proving a real joy – opening up the entire ground floor of the house, giving lovely views into the garden and creating lots of space. And of course we have an excuse for a number of wine-themed celebrations. Here is the splendid magnum of rosé from Domaine Cazes, Roussillon, from the family lunch, a very attractive colour indeed!
You can seat 10-12 in one end of the room for a tasting or meal, and lots more if you go in the other direction. Here is the ‘before’ scene; the ‘after’ we will leave to your imagination, though there is a picture below.
One of the parties was for the tasting group, the BBC (Bring a Bottle Club), which sometimes is a complete free choice for its participating members (BBC 1) or on a theme (BBC 2). This fell somewhere in between as we wanted to taste some bottles of old Sangiovese. Others offered to bring a course to eat with matching wines which was a very generous offer. So here goes:
|Anyone who is kind enough to bring a magnum of vintage Champagne is excused any other contribution! Champagne Vilmart, Grand Cellier D’or 2000, Premier Cru – pale to mid gold, rich on the nose (70% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir), nutty, refined yeastiness, pronounced palate, subtle and substantial at the same time.|
|Domaine Cheveau’s wines have made quite an impression at Caviste and this Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 Les Trois Terroirs was no exception. Full of lively apricot fruit, most plumped for white Burgundy, with a small (and wrong) faction for Viognier. I was in the latter group but a warm year in southerly Burgundy was a fair meeting point.|
||Twins from Ridge California Chardonnay accompanied a delicious smoked salmon parcel dish which I failed to photograph but certainly enjoyed eating. We all agreed on Chardonnay; some thought one from the new world and one from the old, but in fact Santa Cruz Mountains is made with grapes from the young vines, while Monte Bello is the older sibling. In both new oak is still quite prominent (2007), fruit sweetness and varying levels of toffee and golden syrup notes …|
|Triplets from Tuscany followed, with my version of Wild Boar and Olives … People may have rememberedk the Sangiovese hint, but the view was that the 2007 and the 2003 were related wines and that 1999 was ‘different’. In fact this was three vintages of Castello del Trebbio, Lastricato, Chianti Rufina riserva – with the oldest wines outshining the youngsters. A fuller comment on this mini-vertical can be found here.|
|Warning: we are entering unusual wine territory! A bonus bottle from a tiny production Spanish producer which we couldn’t easily place. Delicious, full of character, ripe fruit, lots of substance … Spanish … we still had no idea. In fact Rioja but made solely with Graciano and Garnacha, and no hint of Tempranillo. Tiera Fidel, Rioja 2007. Interesting but quite expensive (£30).|
|Even further off the beaten track: very rich, red-berried fruit, ripeness, some sweetness, dense and … it turns out to be a wine made from three passes through the vineyard for Groppello and Marzemino grapes, the grapes allowed to dry out for three weeks (semi-passito), then six months in barriques: there are less than 1,000 bottles of Simut from Leali di Monteacuto, 2004 on the western side of Lake Garda, Italy.|
||There is nothing particularly obscure about vintage port but nobody guessed the identity of this sweet red wine … 10th wine of the evening? thrown off balance by rare Italians? A trial first bottle of a case: sweet, red, young, with high acidity and many, many years ahead of it. Quinta do Crasto 2003 takes its first bow and accompanied a magnificent cheese board.
|We entered the last lap: a quintet of sweet(ish) whites, including a trio of wines made from Chenin Blanc, of which in turn two were twins from one producer – though of course no one knew about this whole set of relationships at the time.|
|The first of the five was off-dry to the slight surprise of the person who brought it. A pale amber in colour, floral, old apples and cheese on the nose, mild woody notes, yeast – a complex and typically interesting wine from Huet: Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray 1989. Chenin Blanc of this quality and initial level of acidity can age for decades. For further vintages, click here|
Château Doisy-Vétrines, Grand Cru, Sauternes, 1996, a beautiful, structured and elegant wine, sweet with honey notes, biscuit and marmalade flavours from the effect of botrytis, toffee apples, good refreshing finish. Guesses of the vintage neatly spanned the actual date.
|A final trio of wines, which in fact were French twins and an Italian non-relative. Some of us did detect Loire Chenin Blanc in the twins, this time in a sweet style. The first was lighter, moderately sweet, rich in fruit, good acidity. In the mouth it was luscious and with a hint of marmalade richness. The second was massively sweet, richer, massively marmaladely…perhaps a bit ‘obvious’.|
|They turned out to be a pair from Domaine de Montgilet (Victor e Vincent Breton) and the appellation is Coteaux de L’Aubance in Anjou. The first was the more expensive Clos des Huttieres 1999, while the second, which people preferred as it was more expressive, was Les Trois Schistes, 2002.|
|Finally, people really loved the Italian non-relative, burnt sugar and toffee apples wine, with its marked toffee, old wood and oxidative notes. The best guess was for Madeira, but in fact it was a Tuscan Vin Santo from a domestic sized production by Lucia D’Antillio Bacci: Fattoria Santa Maria, Montescudaio, 2000 is excellent: rich, sweet and nutty and an amazing bargain at €12.50. You can see pictures of the estate here.|
Thank you to members of the BBC for launching our garden/tasting room in such style – may your choices of wine be ever more rewarding/adventurous (delete as required!)
I suppose it is inevitable that the wine trade will live on hype about certain vintages. It was 1982 which made Robert Parker’s name when he declared it, early and correctly, to be a great vintage. 2000 was much promoted because it was the millennium and fortunately turned out pretty well and 2005 was hailed as for being the vintage of the decade, or at least until we are offered the 2009s next year! And then very occasionally you will have something to celebrate which coincides with a great vintage such as 1990. The very first case of wine that Janet and I bought together was a mixed case of 1990 Burgundy reds including two bottles of Santenay-Gravieres, a fairly modest ‘village’ level wine aimed at the private consumer who had the patience to wait for its drinking window of 2000-10. This formed a centre piece for a 1990 dinner (OK, a 1990ish dinner) with some very fine bottles.
It helps if you are a bit of a hoarder and have enough in the cellar (under the stairs?) to ‘lose’ a few bottles. Some wines are stored because they really need time before they are ready to drink, some because they are special enough that they have to wait for an occasion. This is not just about quality level, as long as it meets your own threshold, it could also be that the bottle was bought on a special occasion or location.
To start with we tasted the Grand Cru champagne from Roger Brun, a small producer in Ay, his Cuvée des Sires. It’s not a vintage wine, though according to its maker this particular bottle was a mixture of 1995 and 96, Champagne making use of its permission to keep quality high by mixing across vintages. This has lasted in the wine store because it is the penultimate bottle of a tiny cache we bought back with us on a memorable trip to Burgundy. People can be snooty about coach travel but for the wine traveller it has one huge advantage – those cases you can stash away in the luggage compartment which travel back with you. So this bottle was a memento of a stop off in Champagne on the way home – is there a better way of sweetening the business of having to come back from holiday? A little bottle age has smoothed all the edges of this wine, with a nose of brioches and apples moderately pronounced. Smooth and sophisticated.
Well out of keeping with the 1990s theme but otherwise very impressive was a 2003 white Burgundy: Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru ‘Les Folatieres’ (Ch. de Puligny-Montrachet) – it’s there on the table with a yellow neck label! This is a wine you can admire from afar – the minute you pour it, its golden-yellow colour announces a grander wine on which lots of lovely new oak has been lavished. Actually, it could have done with a few more years yet. While it was beautiful, a few more years and that fruit and the oak would be yet more harmonious – a wine for a long term relationship?
The main event however was a trio of 1990s or near 1990s. This was a fascinating comparison between the Santenay already mentioned and two clarets. So on the one hand you had Burgundy (Pinot Noir) v. Bordeaux (mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and then between two levels, and indeed near vintages, in Bordeaux.
The Santenay and the Ch. d’Angludet are a fair comparison. The former is a village wine, ie the level between Bourgogne Rouge and the named vineyards of premier and grand cru. The claret similarly is a cru bourgeois, rather than a classed growth. The Burgundy is a pale brick colour with some ruby left, but pale and interesting in comparison to the much deeper red of the claret. Similarly, the Burgundy is now mainly old farmyard smells and a little bit of raspberry and strawberry fruit, while the claret is smooth and integrated, no one flavour dominating, the fine wine version of easy drinking.
By comparison, the Pauillac, Ch. Pichon Longueville is much grander wine, a second growth in Bordeaux’s (or rather Médoc’s) premier league of 1855. In the picture above, note the crest in the glass of the bottle. It is also from a great vintage, the first of the three that run from 1988 to 1990 – Bordeaux certainly had something to celebrate in that run of years. This is a much bigger, more structured wine, the blackcurrant fruit still evident along with the effects of ageing, now mellow and powerful at the same time.
As you can see from the pictures, the evening wasn’t all serious wine but a great evening with friends. But then what better setting is there for sharing fine bottles than with friends who will appreciate them? The final bottle was a Sauternes with some
bottle age – Ch. Filhot 1994. I think I picked this up in a Waitrose end-of-line sale and stashed it away. At this sort of age, the zip of young acids have begun to fade and the marmalade/cooked fruit comes to the fore. I thought that this was a bit short
on the palate but nonetheless a decent bottle from a difficult year in which there was rain during the crucial September period.
So 1990 really was something to celebrate. My only regret was that it is far more difficult to source older Italian bottles, or indeed anything other than Bordeaux or perhaps Burgundy, for mature wine. It’s fine if you are buying right at the top of the market or by the case – a few specialist businesses can meet that need. But apart from that it usually is Bordeaux. Nonetheless, it’s great to have an occasion to try some high quality wines which have survived and developed over the past couple of decades.