Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

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 …

A master curveball 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.

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.

Red or white? 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.

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 was 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!

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 there was a point of connection (both red?) and a difference.  ‘Dark and brooding’ was the verdict for number 1 – rich, slightly chocolatey, 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.

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!

Happy and bewilderedA 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.

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.  Anyone for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Shiraz?


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