May’s BBC 1 – bring any quality bottle or the odd joker and taste them blind – threw up a distinctly mixed bag. The whites in general,, unusually, did not shine, the one sparkling wine met a distinctly mixed reception and the evening was saved by good company and a high standard in the reds. Here is a quick rundown with the emphasis on the quality wines.
The best white of the evening by some distance was wine number two. Floral and ‘fresh peas’ on the nose, some fine integrated oak on the palate, beautifully textured and balanced, it turned out to be Trinity Hill, Facon Traditionelle, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2009. The typical grassiness of this grape variety in New Zealand is much attenuated by barrel fermentation, full malolactic and, who knows, the wild yeast. Superbly balanced, finely knit to together and very drinkable.
Wine number 1 turned out to be Angores, Frontignan, South Australia 2006, which may have been a light and pleasant Muscat in its prime but was well past that stage now though it still showed some sherbet fruit on the palate and had commendable freshness. Wine number 3 was apparently a less than typical bottle of Antiche Vie, Malvasia Bianca, Pietro Beconcini, Toscana 2011 which should have been mildly aromatic but wasn’t – fairly high acidity, some apple notes but also a synthetic edge. Number four was a rather oxidised Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray sec 2002 with toffee flavours, some bruised apples and a drying finish. Finally, in the whites there was a wine which was an interesting curiosity and a demonstration of why the inhabitants of Jerez have stuck to Sherry as a style. Again some oxidisation, toffee apple, almonds and some green notes, medium acidity with a cheesy finish: Vino Blanco, Navazos Niepoort, Spain 2005, made from the Sherry grape, Palomino.
The sparkling wine was, in fact, fizzy Australian Shiraz, which some love and others, well, don’t. It leads with oak on the nose and then black fruit, with an unconventional combination of blackberry, oak and fizz on the palate: Charles Melton Sparkling Red, Barossa Valley, Australia. Things can only get better … and they did with four very good to excellent reds in a row.
All four reds showed excellent fruit if in rather different styles. Mithas, Valpolicella Superiore, Corte Sant Alda, Veneto, Italy, 2003 shows a remarkable concentration on the palate and it is difficult to imagine that this is basically the same Corvina grapes which make pale and lightly cherry Valpolicella. More typically transformed in its new home is Famiglia Zuccardi, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2009. if you like your wine big and bold, with marked toffee and coconut aromas, big black fruit, weight and no rough edges, this is the wine for you.
The third red was undoubtedly top of the quality/price ratio league: £10 buys you great depth of black cherry and plum fruit, subtle oak, fruit sweetness, complexity, some richness and balance. Vigna delle Monache, Salice Salentino Riserva, Sampietrana, Puglia, Italy, 2006 won a prestigious Decanter regional prize a couple of years back and you can taste why. And finally, premium Spanish Syrah: Thalarn, Castell d’Enclus Costers del Segre, Spain, 2010 is perhaps in its infancy but is a great big mouthful of dense ruby-coloured sweet red and black fruit, powerful rather than layered but there is no denying the quality of the fruit in a very modern style.
And the moral of the evening: if you are going to have a mixed bag, fortune has shone on you if the wines basically improve through the evening.