No palate?

The June meeting of the Overton-based blind tasting group was the usual mix of fine bottles, some disappointments and perhaps the least good wine we have ever had (is that sufficiently polite?). And it was a large tasting – 17 bottles. While it is difficult to concentrate for that long (even for those of us who are committed ‘spitters’), this was partly due to some members bringing interesting pairs of wines to taste side by side.  As always, the food at the Red Lion was excellent. The photos this month are on my iPhone so there are no technical issues to discuss, you will be pleased to hear!

Wines 1 & 2 we agreed were in the old world.  The Gavi di Gavi (ie Gavi from the commune of Gavi not just the DOCG as a whole), Minala 2009, was mid yellow in colour with a gold tint, quite warm on the palate, pleasant apples/pears fruit, balanced.  Once we knew we were in Italy, I guessed Gavi.  ‘Never more than pleasant’ says Oz Clarke, which is a bit harsh of a wine which can be dull but has some fine examples.

GoliardoMuch more fashionable is the Albariño grape from NW Spain, the Rías Baixas region bordering the Atlantic. Most wines are unoaked, to maximise the Viognier peaches/apricots aromas. But this producer has one barrique for a wine from 100-year-old vines right by the sea. Albariño Barrica, Goliardo A Telleira, Albariño Rías Baixas 2009: richness is the key quality, ‘tinned peaches’ someone offers as a tasting note. For me, by the standards of a premium white wine, I am not sure there is quite enough going on. 

It was not difficult to spot that this was Riesling – green apples and petrol notes on the nose, high acidity, some residual sugar.  Most tasters thought it was new world, perhaps because of its assertiveness. In fact, it was Domaines Schlumberger, Kitterlé, 2005, Alsace Grand Cru. The Kitterlé vineyard has perfect exposition getting sun from morning to night, on a slope of 30-60°, with poor and sandy soil, giving concentrated wines from very low yields.  The wine was mineral and developing those characteristic petrol notes, a good weight, characteristic-ally fatter than the same grape variety across the border on the Rhine. 

It was a great idea to bring two wines from the same Meursault-Genevrières vineyard in Meursault, Burgundy, separated by eight years and produced by two different branches of the Jobard family. 

Unfortunately, the Francois Jobard 2000 was suffering badly from that Burgundian disease, premature oxidisation – caramel and cardboard is not an attractive combination.  The young wine (Antoine Jobard, 2008) had attractive limy fruit with excellent vitality. 

A rare moment in this group – a rosé and an unusual one, Harbourne, England, 2001 – and yes that’s not a misprint, it is 10 years old.  Slight strawberry nose and then … ‘appears to lack any form of palate’ … ‘made in Scotland?’ ‘grape juice and Irnbru?’  Probably the worst wine we have tasted in this group and brought in jest by one of us who has a limitless supply of unusual bottles. Quite instructive nonetheless – we take fruit on the palate for granted until it’s not there.  

Those with eagle eyes will see that the label still tells us that this is Ch. d’Angludet, AC Margaux, 1974. We, of course, did not know this at the time. A mushroomy nose, a rather sour palate and still some tannins. After about ten minutes some sweet raspberry/ strawberry fruit began to emerge, so it was well worth the wait.  Impressive for Bordeaux of this level at this age in a poor vintage – the judgement, ‘mediocre’, from Michael Broadbent is quite kind. 

IMG_0746The next wine started with pronounced bottle stink so we parked it for ten minutes. Bottle stink was the consensus, not faulty, just not showing.  Eventually, some fruit emerged but this wine did not shine.  Definitely a disappointment from Mommessin, Santenay, Burgundy, 1993.  But there was much better Pinot Noir to follow, not that we knew that. 

After the struggles with the last three bottles, this was a straightforward pleasure – pale and fragrant and pretty obviously Pinot Noir, but quite weighty and structured.  Most went for New Zealand but it turned out to be ‘Knox Alexander’, Au Bon Climat, Santa Maria Valley, California, 2007.  Some of the vines are Burgundian apparently, but the wine is definitely from a warm and reliable climate.  Time for some food and give the note-taking a rest.  

Two new offerings from Caviste: Ch. Puy Castéra, Haut-Médoc 2008 and Domaine Cheveau, Saint Amour, Les Champs Grillés, Beaujolais 2010.  No notes on either of these – but both good examples of Bordeaux and Beaujolais respectively – I did say I was having a rest from note taking. 

Barolo For me, this was the wine of the evening, pale ruby with a brick red edge, fresh on the nose but with a bit of ageing, violets and red fruit, but then a real vitality on the palate, great elegant tannic structure and fine acidity.  I was in Pinot Noir territory thought the ‘pale colour + tannins’ should have pointed me to Nebbiolo:  Barolo DOCG, Castiglione Falletto Scarrone, Bava, 2000 To decode the label: from the Scarrone vineyard of the commune of Castiglione Falletto, immediately east of the town itself.  The producer is Bava.

Another pair of wines, the first red, the second for comparison … white.  Two young Australian classics just arrived in a very small consignment at Caviste.  I don’t think anyone spotted the producer, Spinnifex with its Lola 2010 and Taureau 2008.  The former is mainly a Rhône blend – Marsanne, Semillon, Roussanne, Viognier and Ugni Blanc – a really intense wine bursting with energy. The latter is Tempranillo, Graciano, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon – Rioja meets South and South West France in Australia?  Buy now and do not drink yet! 

With this final red, I knew what it wasn’t but not what it was.  Ripe fruit, plums and damsons on the palate, deep in colour, rich with excellent acidity. After a few exclusions, we agreed on Italy and some wanted to make this Sangiovese.  Tuscany was a good guess but not that grape variety – too dark in colour at the very least.  In fact it was a Super Tuscan Merlot:  Girolami, Castello di Bossi, IGT Toscana, 2001.  Late picked Merlot, 28 days of maceration, oak-aged for two years – a powerful, forthright wine.

And finally … a sweet wine with a complex nose of apples, caramel, honey, not very acidic but balanced. No real clues here for Stefano Inama’s Vulcaia Aprés Veneto Bianco IGT, Vino Dolce 2001 – being late-harvested Sauvignon Blanc (no less), part fermented in acacia barrels and then matured in barrels for 9 months.  A suitable climax, and along with the Barolo, a favourite wine of the evening.    


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