Our regular blind tasting group teetered between concentrated attention on some fine, puzzling wines and outright hilarity. Prizes for the best sayings of the evening must go to Rob who described typical north European Rieslings as having ‘psychopathic flintiness’ and to Stafford who, among the reportable bot mots, claimed that a pint of real ale was much better for refreshing the palate than anything else. He also offered comfort to those in a post-operative state: ‘After I had my hip operation I could only drink Grand Cru wines.’ Oh, yes and there were some fascinating wines too:
We started with the bargain of the evening: mid lemon in colour, crisp apple to melon fruit with a hint of petrol, a rich palate and finish with a mineral undertow in an off-dry style. This classy bottle from Alsace was bought recently at the winery by one of our tasters for just €15: Riesling, Grand Cru Furstentum, Domaine Paul Blanck, 2007 was a great start to the proceedings.
The tasting group’s immediate response to the next wine was that it was of similar origin but perhaps Pinot Gris. Perfumed, with apricot and spice notes, again there was richness on the palate and some noticeable residual sugar. One person did mention a hint of lychee which could have been a major clue. But we were in New Zealand rather than Alsace: Lawson’s Dry Hills, Gewürztraminer, 2004 – perhaps the more obvious Gewürz features had worn off in time, but there was no classic fuller body.
The puzzle of the evening was provided by light, sulphury, flinty wine with a palate of lemon fruit and high acidity. Most thought that it had been in a barrel, which turned out to be correct. I am willing to report that I waivered between a high-quality Muscadet and Chablis. The person who brought the wine did not recognise it. Nobody, absolutely nobody, was in Australia: Clonale, Chardonnay, Kooyong, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, 2011. The world of wine continues to surprise as this was the coolest style of Chardonnay you could imagine.
Our next wine was the obscurity of the night and I have protected its identity further by failing to photograph the label. Deep ruby in colour, very ripe even baked fruit (and some thought a touch of TCA), quite full-bodied with medium grippy tannins: Vranac, Plantaze, Lake Skadar Valley, 2010 from Montenegro. The Vranac grape is apparently related to Primitivo or Tribidrag as Jancis and co would now like us to call it. The picture on the right is a testimony to the excellence of the Red Lion’s (Overton) venison fillet.
Back to more familiar territory. Medium ruby in colour, the next wine presented with a rich nose, red fruit with vanilla and mocha themes, so it had clearly been in oak. Red berries on the palate, described as simply pleasurable, with soft but evident tannins. I am going to Rioja at the end of the month so this was by way of homework: Rioja Reserva, Contino 2007. Although I have had this wine for a couple of years, it is still among the current offerings of Contino in the UK and now fully ready to drink.
The core of this tasting group was formed in the early days of David Thomas’ time at Caviste. In turn, at that time Dennis Canute’s visits from Rusden introduced a style of wine which none of us will ever forget – bold, structured wines of enormous personality and substance. We recognised the style and winery in the inky liquid in the glass with its powerful super-ripe fruit with hints of treacle, mint and nail varnish and its high glycerol content: Full Circle, Mataro, Rusden, Barossa Valley, 2005 A cool 16% alcohol by volume is well hidden under this huge wine.
We finished the evening with two French sweet wines. Vaillant, AC Bonnezeaux, Dom. Les Grandes Vignes 2000 was a perfect example of Loire Chenin, with its lemon, honey and candied pineapple notes with a fine balance between richness and a clean refreshing finish. By contrast, Cuvée de Château, AC Montbazillac, Grande Maison, 2000 was much simpler ‘golden shred marmalade’ and sweeter but still delicious.
On to the next time – a South American tasting.