Posts Tagged ‘Semillon’

A study in new world ageing

Unfortunately I could not attend the Bring a bottle club this month due, on this occasion, to a work commitment.  But every cloud has a silver lining: here is a guest blog from Rob: 

IMG_1016For the second notable birthday of the month, attention was focussed on a region known by reputation by all of us and especially by our birthday boy. Through the BBC’s association with Caviste we have a fondness for Australian wines, but more so perhaps for the Barossa. Nonetheless we all felt confident of spotting a cooler climate Margaret River chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon: so how would we fair with all of Western Australia to go at?

Two themes emerged. Firstly, in an interesting twist on the excellent Two Ronnies’ “Mastermind” sketch, an ability to identify the next wine and how wines age differently in Western Australia (and classically the whole of the New World) than the old.

First up, four whites of excellent calibre and unanimity of order of preference from the group.

We started with a lively fresh, limey, just-the-right-amount-of-petrol, well, riesling surely? “Chardonnay” declared one member of the group. The 2009 Plantagenet, Great Southern, Riesling was a good example of cooler climate new world riesling.

The second wine was as predicted by our Ronnie Barker, a chardonnay. The Umamu Estate, Margaret River, Chardonnay, was everything we had hoped it would be: creamy, rich, lovely buttery oak well integrated with tropical fruits and, suggested one of us, Greek yoghurt. Everything a well aged Margaret River Chardonnay should be. However, does a 2006 count as “well aged”? The old world would need 10+ years to be as rich; this was lovely at half that age.

The third wine was just as easy to spot: waxy, good palate-weight, lovely balance, tell-tale lanolin. Mid aged semillon surely? “I know what this is!”, one member confidently declared, “McHenry Hohnen’s 3 Amigos”. The Moss Wood Vineyard, Margaret River, Semillon, 2010 was neither a Rhone blend nor mid aged.

Bottle 2Bottle 5The final white was indeed the McHenry Hohnen, Margaret River, 3 Amigos, marsanne, chardonnay and rousanne blend. Creamy, rich, lovely buttery oak, well integrated (I refer to the previous description!): chardonnay surely, but with even more of that richness of which the old world would be proud. 2000 maybe? No, too old; learning how the whites age, a tad younger, 2004? No, 2008!

The four reds offered a different perspective: do Western Australian reds have a closed phase at the same age as the whites are beautifully showing tertiary characteristics?

The first red was unanimously declared as wonderful. “One of the best wines I have had in quite some time”, thought one. Dense, but feminine: burnt pepper and floral notes of a Coti Rotie; silky but rich; pale cherries and roses. The richness and the density of colour showed the Wignalls, Albany, Pinot Noir, to be some distance from an old world cousin, but unlike the whites, from 2007, it was still an energetic teenager.

Bramble jam! Rich, succulent, sweet, brooding, blackberry, damsons, blackcurrant, tell-tale mint and green leaf. Classic Margaret River cabernet sauvignon. One member spotted the blended merlot in the Cape Mentelle, Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot. We were even not too far away from 2004.

If the 2004 was showing its fruit wonderfully well, the Cullen, Mangan, Margaret River, 2006, a blend of merlot, petit verdot and malbec, was still relatively closed. The nose was not giving much away, although the palate opened up nicely showing violets again (is this a Western Australia theme?) and pepper against a dark, brooding background of dense red fruit. Lovely, but still young.

Bottle 9The final red was even more impenetrable, but then a 2007, Plantagenet, Great Southern, Cabernet Sauvignon would be expected to be more closed than a pinot noir of the same age. Lovely tannins and suggestions of fruit hinted at more to come with time.

A final sweet concluded the evening and returned to the white aging theme. A lovely rich amber colour, suggesting the wine making processes involved, underlined by the rich orange marmalade balanced by lighter apricot. Mid aged, botrytis semillon? Botrytis semillon sure, but the 2009, Vinelane, Noble Botrytis Semillon followed the theme that at three years it showed a depth which a good Sauternes would envy at six years.

Art of fine living at the Harrow

IMG_1459February’s meeting of Andover Wine Friends was a spectacular lunch at The Harrow Inn, Little Bedwyn.  They put on a great show for 17 of us, while running the front half of the restaurant as usual.  I was seriously off duty – too much good food, company and excellent wines – so there are no detailed notes this month.  However, here are a selection of photos of some of the seven or so courses plus cheese, almost entirely from these islands. And a brief note on some outstanding wines.

The approach in this restaurant is easy to describe – genuinely warm hospitality, outstanding sourcing of ingredients, perfect timing in the kitchen, innovative combinations and a profound love of wine.  What a great combination!  The event started well with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Champagne, being poured above left. 






And the wines? Some were bought at the Harrow and some came from people’s own collections. To pick out some unfairly:

  • the Ruinart is wonderfully balanced and very refined
  • Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex, Loire – great, concentrated mineral Sauvignon Blanc … because there is a tradition of drinking this great wine at the Harrow
  • a stunningly good, moderately priced Semillon from Australia which the Harrow stocks: Mount Horrocks Semillon, Clare Valley, Australia
  • a wonderful white Grenache (not a phrase you can often employ!) from Catalan Spain – Ctonia, Masia Serra
  • three Rieslings to compare – Eden Valley, Australia; classic Mosel; Schlumberger Grand Cru from Alsace
  • decent Condrieu from Christophe Pichon and Cornas from Domaine de Rochepertuis
  • sadly another ‘drink at the Harrow’ tradition here did not come to pass as the 1985 Hermitage from Jaboulet was over the hill – I suppose in this case it just rolled gracefully down the hill
  • Spinnifex’s Indigene and Shiraz-Mataro from the Barossa, big fruit numbers but beautifully structured and complex, especially the latter
  • there were quite a few others which probably deserved a mention …
  • and finally, a brilliantly concentrated and only moderately sweet Banyuls: Coume del Mas Quintessence Banyulus Rouge
  • some people found a little space to try two different Grappas

With many thanks to the whole crew at the Harrow – you deserve your success.

Happy and bewildered

Occasionally the tastings and events come along so quickly that it is difficult to do justice to them.  The August meeting of the Bring a Bottle Club was one of these … and my excuse is that the time available for writing has to go on my recent Tuscan trip.  It’s tough, but someone has to do it.  So here is a very quick résumé of a very enjoyable if, from a blind tasting point of view, bewildering evening.  And, mmm, there is another special BBC on Saturday …


IMG_0324 A master curve ball to start with!  An obviously ageing white, now a sort of caramel colour, difficult to tell much beyond that, lemon notes, no oak, high acidity, nutty.  ‘It is amazing what you can do with rhubarb’ comments my learned friend, though most thought this might be Chablis or old Sauvignon Blanc.  In fact this is our local vineyard – Wooldings of Whitchurch, Hampshire, Lightly Oaked Dry 1996, made from Madeleine Angevine and Reichensteiner. It is well past its best but memorable!  It was clearly going to be a difficult evening.
Wine number two was not helped by being rather oxidised, even heading towards Sherry.  Custard, sharp if old apple … more perplexity.  The correct answer was: Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Figuieres Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2001, again lightly oaked and made from Viognier and Roussanne.  We consoled ourselves by noting that we did guess it was from the old world. IMG_0325
IMG_0331 This wine was promoted up the list so we had the clue that it had something to do with the previous wine, but what? Toffee, old cask, mildly oxidised, fruit sweetness and rich … we rightly plumped for the new world. But Australian it wasn’t: Pat Garretson, Roussanne 2004, Paso Robles, California.  Our host Caroline of the Red Lion, Overton, got very excited about this as she and Shannon have strong connections with the area.
An interesting and unusual wine – light bodied, fragrant, lemon drop and spritz even sherbet, young and full of vitality, difficult to know how it would develop. One of our number was in the right neck of the woods:  Semillon 2010, Moss Wood, Margaret River, W Australia, bought on the grounds that the Chardonnay from the same illustrious estate was too expensive!  We need to try a 10 and a 20 year old bottle too. IMG_0334
IMG_0335 Finally something straightforward and quietly classy.  Honey and yeasty notes, rounded apple and melon fruit, excellent acidity and plenty of scope for further development.  About a quarter of the company were roughly right: Les Clos du Château, Bourgogne Blanc, Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, 2005.  I will keep my other bottle for five years if I can.
A pair of red wines to tease us further, the first declared to have been bought for a birthday and from a very limited production, a favour for the purchaser not on the allocation list.  Most rightly detected a warm climate Bordeaux blend from the vibrant red and black fruit, … but from where?  No amount of guessing would have produced Marsovin Grand Maitre Ghajn Rihana, Malta – the premium wine of the island, Cab Sauvignon and Franc, 2001. Remarkably fresh for a 10 year old.  No conventional wines tonight then! IMG_0338
IMG_0340 The second of the pair was positively normal, a Bordeaux blend from … well, Bordeaux. Good depth of restrained blackcurrant fruit, nice smoke notes, in fact much older than we thought. Some wild speculation about the particular commune followed, but we were on the right bank of the Gironde river: Ch. Potensac, Delon, AC Médoc, 1995.
Another pair of red wines, with a clue that they was a point of connection (both red?) and a difference.  ‘Dark and brooding’ was the verdict for number 1 – rich, slightly chocolately, ripe young fruit, a top quality quaffer.  The Rhône was mentioned in dispatches: Domaine de la Soumade, Côtes-du-Rhône 2006, quite unlike most Côtes-du-Rhône for its quality. IMG_0350
red or white? The clue for the second of the pair was that this was being drunk much too young.  A muted and dense red, not showing the obvious Syrah clues: a barrel sample of Clos de Caminaille, Saint Joseph, 2008. Try again in five years time!
A neat progression, I knew we had to try this wine next: juicy, subtle fruit; nice ageing notes, some pepper but not much.   A remarkable split of votes between Southern Rhône or similar, or Pinot Noir … the fruit was that soft and appealing.  In fact, it is the Grenache based Télégramme, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf du Pape, 2002 IMG_0352
IMG_0354 We started with an off-piste wine, we ended without ski slope in sight, well only literal ski slopes.  Red, and some black berried fruit with oak ageing effects on the nose, high tannins and pretty searing acidity, lots of extract … ah yes, a Canadian Bordeaux blend of course!  Osoyoos Larose, Le Grand Vin 2003, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada.  If you read the label carefully you can see the exact blend, but of course we were tasting blind.

Bottle count: eleven wines, of which six were from mainstream European vineyards and two from major league new world areas … and three, yes three, really unusual wines.  A happy and bewildering evening.  Any one for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Shiraz?

Bordeaux Masterclass (1)

One of the best reasons to start a wine group is to taste wine you would not normally choose or way beyond your normal price level.  So for Andover IMG_3840Wine Friends’ second birthday party there  were no candles but a major treat, a tour around Bordeaux with Martin Hudson, MW.   When not racing motorbikes, Martin works for Berry Bros & Rudd from where these wines came.

Bordeaux’s whites are slightly out of fashion – ratherIMG_3823 ‘proper’, with little new world immediate impact.  First up was Berry’s  Good Ordinary White, a name which tells you that  Berry’s is big on traditional wines from Bordeaux. This one however owes something to New Zealand, with its forward gooseberry and leafy nose, now a recognisable style. 

More challenging to appreciate, with a big jump up in  price (£20), was Domaine de la Solitude 2006, again the name being a great selling point.  From top white IMG_3821appellation, Pessac-Leognan, this balances Sauvignon Blanc with the weightier Semillon for a more restrained nose, with some spicy, creamy notes from it ageing in oak barrels.  Really a food wine.  I would be interested to know what others thought about this wine in relation to the more immediate ‘ordinary white’ …


IMG_3826 When just one glass won’t do …

At the end of the evening – having tasted the glorious reds, see next post – we tasted the other great style of Bordeaux, sweet white.  I can’t really improve on BBR’s comments on this wine, Château Petit Védrines 2001 (£16), on their website:

“A glorious nose of marmalade with just a hint of smokiness leaps from the glass. The palate is equally enticing and has just the right level of viscocity. A light to medium bodied Sauternes from a legendary vintage, this wine offers ripe botrytis and oranges galore. At this quality and price, I defy you not to drink it now, and lots of it!” 

What’s the answer to the ‘problem’ of needing to buy a whole bottle of sweet wine.  Martin offers up a host of tips:

  • buy half bottles (and they mature earlier)
  • be more adventurous with your food and wine tastings: not just with desserts, but also foie gras or salty cheeses, or even with fusion cooking (duck with plum sauce sprang to mind)
  • and he could have added: invite some friends around

An excellent end to a perfect 2nd birthday party.