November’s Bring a Bottle Club was a somewhat random affair – two French classics (Sancerre and a Loire Cabernet Franc), some good regionally important wines (Friulano from Friuli, Grenache from Roussillon, Treixadura from Ribeiro, a Xarel-lo/ Riesling blend from Penedes) and a brace of New World wines (Californian Merlot, White Bordeaux blend from the Cape). Each of the wines was worthwhile in its own right but, as sometimes happens when wines are brought by individuals without a theme, it is difficult to make sense of the whole. From a blind tasting point of view, those regional specialities, with the exception of the Grenache, are well off the radar! But as usual, the wines, the company and the excellent steaks of the Red Lion, Overton, did a lot to make it a good evening.
Faced with an unknown glass of wine, there is that moment when you recognise something about it but then don’t build on your perception and work out what it is. A touch of something perfumed here, green fruit, and a sour palate all pointed to Sauvignon Blanc … but I didn’t then locate it in central vineyards of the Loire. The logic should have been: if Sauvignon Blanc, and not New World, then … Sancerre? Domaine Hubert Brochard, AC Sancerre, 2010 and a good, well-balanced example. Homage to the flinty soils on the label.
I brought this wine out of curiosity. I like the quite classy, if neutral Friulano (Sauvignonasse) and wanted to see how this example from Waitrose would stand up against other wines of some quality when tasted blind. In short: it showed well. People thought it was old world Chardonnay, reasonably enough, attractive medium intensity apple to pineapple fruit on the nose, fine acidity, lively and drinkable and with a clean finish of good length: Luisa, Friulano, DOC Isonzo del Friuli 2010, N E Italy. A decent price at £13.50 as it comes from a lesser DOC than say Collio.
As we know that local wine merchant Caviste stocks a lot of interesting new wave Spanish wines, Northern Spain was a reasonable guess here – correctly. You could have had extensive bragging rights if you guessed that it was made with the Treixadura grape from the Ribeiro DO, called The Flower and the Bee, 2011. Needless to say, no one did. The most marked feature is the pure lemon fruit on the palate, with (another) medium intensity nose, good concentration, balance with its 13.5% alcohol and honouring wine’s first duty to be refreshing.
Some of us should perhaps have been more confident that this was a white Bordeaux blend from a warm place as we had tasted Cullen’s version from Margaret River only last Saturday. This good example was from South Africa: Ghost Gum, Stony Brook, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, 2010. Medium impact on the nose but then a fine, rich palate of ripe fruit and a certain herbiness, the Sauvignon being used to give the weightier Semillon a lift and some natural freshness.
The final white definitely came into the ‘regional speciality’ category, verging on the regional eccentricity for its choice of blending grape: medium in weight, high in acidity, citrus, green apple, a honeyed edge, refreshing and attractive, but what was it? Terraprima, Massis del Garraf, Penedes 2011. It is made from one of the Cava grapes (Xarel-lo since you ask) and Riesling. It is the sort of wine in which you can spot the Riesling once you know it has Riesling in it! Very smart, contemporary label.
Another wine with a connection with the previous post on Bordeaux grapes on their travels. The first of our reds may not have got the analytical attention it deserved because of the arrival of the aforementioned steaks. It showed dense black plum fruit, subtle cedar and leather notes from the well integrated oak (21 months), supple tannins and quite a bit of bottle age. This shows the potential of Californian Merlot, which is what it was: Merlot, Clear Lake, Roumiguiere Vineyard, Deerfield Ranch, 2000.
Another recognisable classic followed, though we rarely drink Loire Cabernet Franc of this age – and therefore don’t factor in that this high acidity wine seems to age extremely slowly, retaining its freshness. The fruit rounds out and is less obvious time, but the wine does not taste old. A fragrant, mid-weight example, with intense knit-together blackcurrant fruit and some leafiness, balanced by the high acidity and fine tannins. Clos de l’Echo, AC Chinon, Couly-Dutheil, 1997 take a bow!
The final wine was a bit of a blockbuster, inky in colour with dense super-ripe prune and black cherry fruit and fairly powerful tannins. Some liquorice, earth and herb notes filled out the picture. We tend to think of Grenache as juicy and approachable but there are big, mouth-filling versions too. It could be from Priorat but in fact, it hails from the other side of Pyrenees: Clos du Romarin, Thomas, Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages 2007, based in the village of Maury – known for its sweet wines but increasingly doing a good job with dry ones as well.
The next blind tasting is on the theme of Portugal … home of countless local varieties as well as internationals. The wine better be good as our chances of success are slim!