In November 2007 Janet and I set up Andover Wine Friends with our very first public tasting at The Lights, Andover. Five years on we had a happy party at which members all brought a bottle to share. For our tenth, we held a dinner for 26 in our house and a tasting on the theme of ‘traditional v modern winemaking’ – two Grand Cru Champagnes, two white Riojas, two red Riojas, two Grenache/Syrah blends from the south of France and a singleton, Ch. Coutet, Barsac 1989, full details below. This was a wonderfully happy event – with a high quality, focused tasting. We are hoping to continue in that vein: exploring the world of wine, learning from each other, enjoying one another’s company. Happy anniversary!
1. Pierre Peters, Cuvée Reserve, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, NV 12% £34 Wine Society
100% Chardonnay. All their own fruit from vineyards in Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, Cramant and Avize; full malo, moderately high fermentation temperatures in stainless steel; 40% reserve wine from blend of more than 20 vintages (perpetual reserve), 6-7g/l RS
2. Alfred Gratien, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, 2008 12.5% £33 Wine Society
brought-in Grand Cru fruit from Mesnil, Avise, Oger, Chouilly, Cramant; fermentation in small oak barrels, which are bought second-hand from the Chablisienne cooperative in Chablis; no malo; 7g/l RS
Both superb, layered wines of enormous freshness and complexity: the trad element in the Gratien is the oxidative, barrel-fermented style; but Peters use of perpetual reserve could also claim to be traditional. A big vote in favour of the Gratien.
3. Abel Mendoza, 5V Rioja Blanco, 2013 13% £21 Wine Society
18 hectare estate; 5V = five varietals = Viura 30%, Tempranillo Blanco 25%, Garnacha Blanco 20%, Malvasia 15%, Torrontés 10%; fermented in 100% new French barrels, five months of bâttonage
4. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Gravonia, Crianza Blanco, 2004, 12.5% c. £20 (ex-Rob’s cellar)
Fruit from their own 25-hectare Viña Zaconia in Zaco, altitude 340m and 200m from the bodega! 100% Viura, average wine age 45 years; aged for four years in old American oak barrels; one of the best vintages of the decade
‘Do your bit for the wine world by saving this nearly extinct species, classic white rioja…This wine is deep gold and unctuous yet dry as a bone and fresh as a daisy if you will forgive the clichés. It fairly winks at you in the glass and delivers the most wonderful cocktail of wax, citrus, nuts and quince, all very full-bodied but quite refreshing enough, more because of its texture and bite than because of high acidity.’ Jancis Robinson
Two absolutely classic examples, great fruit concentration on the Abel Mendoza wine, legendary oxidative complexity on the de Heredia. Massive vote in favour of the latter, but everyone recognised what an excellent wine the first was too.
5. Torre Muga, Bodegas Muga, Rioja 2011, 14.5%, £45 Wine Society
75% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 10% Graciano; natural fermentation in oak vats, no temperature control, 2-3 weeks on the skins, aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months
6. The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Gran Reserva 2001, 13.5% £52 for a magnum, Wine Society, now sold out
made by CVNE, only produced in the best years, mostly Tempranillo from oldest vines; aged for 3 years in barrels; great vintage
Inky, concentrated Torre Muga which we all recognised was a great wine – but it would be difficult to say this was Rioja if tasted blind. Some love for the second in its extraordinary freshness for a 16-year old wine, red-berry fruit core, and subtle toasty, mushroom, complexity. Trad wine won on a split vote.
South of France
7. Chante Le Merle Vieilles Vignes, Bosquet des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006, 15%, £30 Wine Society
80% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah 10% Mourvèdre, 80-90 year old vines grown in clay-limestone soils with galets; no destemming, fermented in temperature-controlled concrete vats, 35 days on the skins. Aged in large oak barrels and new demi-muids (15-20%) for 12-18 months
8. Chemin de Moscou, Domaine Gayda, Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2008 14% in magnum (bonus bottle)
63% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 2% Cinsault; de-stemmed, berry selection, traditional vinification with 2 weeks post-fermentation maceration. 21 months in French Oak: A third of the Syrah in new oak for 9 months. Grenache and Cinsault in 2nd and 3rd fill for 9 months then blending of the best barrels of each variety followed by a further 12 months maturation of the final blend in the same barrels
The Bosquet des Papes was so subtle (CNP for Pinot-lovers!) that some saw it as atypical. General appreciation for the warm but not cooked Syrah of the Gayda with excellent integration with the oak. Split vote, modern-style won!
9. Château Coutet, Cru Classé Barsac, 1989, 13.5%, £54 (bought for this tasting from Lay & Wheeler)
75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle. An excellent year and harvest conditions, required only 4 passes through the vineyard over only 4 weeks. 100% barrel fermented, 100% new French oak
Given the surprising lack of any Italian wines in this lineup, we also drank two wines with the main course:
Aglianico del Re, Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia DOC, 2014, 14% – modern, fruit-expressive Aglianico (not a phrase you can use very often!): 2-3 weeks skin contact, 6 months in French oak barriques plus further ageing in stainless steel
Villa di Vetrice, Chianti Rùfina Reserva DOCG, 2009, 13% – traditional style, Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino; two years plus in large-format oak. Tim Atkins said ‘a fairly traditional style, combining Sangiovese with Canaiolo, with fairly sturdy tannins and a lift of volatile acidity’.