Birthday bubbles, streams of Syrah

the Dom One birthday at the Overton blind tasting group, marked by the last of three bottles of a special wine. Lively, bubbles, youngish tasting bright fruit, mild nuttiness, noticeable acidity, balanced and attractive – but not really giving its origins away.  One member in the group in the trade thought it was very, very good Cava – which would make Cava makers very happy indeed: Champagne Dom Pérignon 2000. Very good if slightly underwhelming. 

My immediate thought on this was ‘Sauvignon Blanc with attitude’ because of its mildly gooseberry fruit, attractive greenness and high acidity.  From the Mont Damnés, Chavignol, Sancerre, this comes from a micro-production: La Fleur de Galifard, Thomas-Labaille, Sancerre 2010: concentrated rather than highly mineral, perhaps because it is made with very ripe grapes. 

Not many clues on the nose here but then waxy and full on the palate, medium acidity and good length.  Subtle use of oak to give some structure but not flavour.  This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon but not from Bordeaux.  North West Spain was a good punt: more North East: Castell d’Encus,  Taleia, Costers del Segre, 2009, Spain. 

This is the sort of wine you want in a blind tasting: green apples, lime spritz, petrol notes, low alcohol, off-dry with obvious residual sugar.  German Riesling we all thought rightly (except one experienced member of the wine trade – but that is the joy of blind tasting).  Beautifully balanced and complex: Forsterer Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese, Pfalz, 1999

This was announced as  ‘light red’ which it wasn’t.  The colour was not that deep, but then good dark plum fruit, coffee and some slight stalkiness on the finish.  Once we established we were in Australia, the question was: ‘Which island of Australia are we in?’ ‘The big one’ was the answer.  A good quality Australian Grenache from the Barossa: Thiele Road, Schwarz Wine Company, Grenache 2006

Chakana Reserve Bonarda Old Vine 2009 from Argentina is not a wine or even style I have come across before. As with Malbec, it is an example of Argentina doing something remarkable with a grape variety which is not seen as a major player in its (in this case) north Italian homeland.  In this wine it presents a bit like Malbec – good dark fruit, chocolate notes, the richness offset by sharp acidity, very worthwhile. 

By contrast, here is a great red grape variety doing what only it can do in its homeland – and living up to its big name:  beautiful richness and balance, complex dark sour cherry fruit, liquorice and tobacco notes, herbs, excellent length and precise reflection of where it comes from: I am delighted to say that some spotted that this was indeed Brunello from the Montalcino plateau, one of the great versions of Sangiovese which (only?) Tuscany does: Castiglion del Bosco 2007

The key here was the weight – full of rounded, developed fruit but medium in weight, not a really hot climate wine,  In fact with age, this has developed a sort of elegance not often associated with its appellation.  Some experienced tasters even flirted with the idea it might be Burgundy …  but one person was spot on further south and actually named the producer correctly!  Jaboulet, Crozes-Hermitage, 1999

This is turning into a stream of Syrah … this one showing good red and black fruit, soft tannins, very drinkable … and, big clue (use all the available evidence!) a very heavy bottle.  From California’s Central Coast: Syrah, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate, Qupé, Santa Maria Valley, 2004.  

And another … a beautiful young Syrah, old-world this time … Terres Blanche, AC Saint Joseph, 2007.  The name comes from the steep, low yielding patches of limestone and clay, which produce greater concentration that the domaine’s standard St Joseph.  Very impressive.

Definitely not Syrah … gorgeous amber brown, a nose of classy old furniture – beeswax – nuttiness, deliberate oxidation and then searing refreshing acidity on the palate. A bit of a debate on Madeira v. Oloroso Sherry, but he who was certain it was the former was absolutely correct:  Justino’s Malmsey, Broadbent Selection, 10 years old: old school and fabulous. 



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