Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Twins and triplets

We have been enjoying a number of parties to launch our new garden/tasting room at home.  It replaces a plastic conservatory and is proving a real joy – opening up the entire ground floor of the house, giving lovely views into the garden and creating lots of space.  And of course, we have an excuse for a number of wine-themed celebrations.   Here is the splendid magnum of rosé from Domaine Cazes, Roussillon, from the family lunch, a very attractive colour indeed!


You can seat 10–12 at one end of the room for a tasting or meal, and lots more if you go in the other direction.  Here is the ‘before’ scene; the ‘after’ we will leave to your imagination, though there is a picture below.  


One of the parties was for the tasting group, the BBC (Bring a Bottle Club), which sometimes is a completely free choice for its participating members (BBC 1) or on a theme (BBC 2).  This fell somewhere in between as we wanted to taste some bottles of old Sangiovese.  Others offered to bring a course to eat with matching wines which was a very generous offer. So here goes: 

Vilmart magnumAnyone who is kind enough to bring a magnum of vintage Champagne is excused any other contribution!  Champagne Vilmart, Grand Cellier D’or 2000, Premier Cru – pale to mid gold, rich on the nose (70% Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir), nutty, refined yeastiness, pronounced palate, subtle and substantial at the same time. 

Domaine Cheveau’s wines have made quite an impression at Caviste and this Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 Les Trois Terroirs was no exception.  Full of lively apricot fruit, most plumped for white Burgundy, with a small (and wrong) faction for Viognier. I was in the latter group but a warm year in southerly Burgundy was a fair meeting point.   

Twins from  Ridge California Chardonnay accompanied a delicious smoked salmon parcel dish which I failed to photograph but certainly enjoyed eating.  We all agreed on Chardonnay; some thought one from the new world and one from the old, but in fact, Santa Cruz Mountains is made with grapes from the young vines, while Monte Bello is the older sibling.  In both new oak is still quite prominent (2007), fruit sweetness and varying levels of toffee and golden syrup notes …

Triplets from Tuscany followed, with my version of Wild Boar and Olives … People may have remembered the Sangiovese hint, but the view was that the 2007 and the 2003 were related wines and that 1999 was ‘different’. In fact, this was three vintages of Castello del Trebbio, Lastricato, Chianti Rufina Riserva – with the oldest wines outshining the youngsters.  A fuller comment on this mini-vertical can be found here.  

Triplets from Tuscany Warning: we are entering unusual wine territory!  A bonus bottle from a tiny production Spanish producer which we couldn’t easily place.  Delicious, full of character, ripe fruit, lots of substance … Spanish … we still had no idea. In fact, Rioja but made solely with Graciano and Garnacha, and no hint of Tempranillo. Tiera Fidel, Rioja 2007.  Interesting but quite expensive (£30).  

Even further off the beaten track:  very rich, red-berried fruit, ripeness, some sweetness, dense and … it turns out to be a wine made from three passes through the vineyard for Groppello and Marzemino grapes, the grapes allowed to dry out for three weeks (semi-passito), then six months in barriques:  there are less than 1,000 bottles of Simut from Leali di Monteacuto, 2004 on the western side of Lake Garda, Italy.  

There is nothing particularly obscure about vintage port but nobody guessed the identity of this sweet red wine … 10th wine of the evening?  thrown off balance by rare Italians? A trial first bottle of a case: sweet, red, young, with high acidity and many, many years ahead of it.  Quinta do Crasto 2003 takes its first bow and accompanied a magnificent cheese board. 

We entered the last lap: a quintet of sweet(ish) whites, including a trio of wines made from Chenin Blanc, of which in turn two were twins from one producer – though of course, no one knew about this whole set of relationships at the time.

The first of the five was off-dry to the slight surprise of the person who brought it.  Pale amber in colour, floral, old apples and cheese on the nose, mild woody notes, yeast – a complex and typically interesting wine from Huet: Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray 1989.  Chenin Blanc of this quality and initial level of acidity can age for decades.  For further vintages, click here.

Château Doisy-Vétrines, Grand Cru, Sauternes, 1996, a beautiful, structured and elegant wine, sweet with honey notes, biscuit and marmalade flavours from the effect of botrytis, toffee apples, good refreshing finish.  Guesses of the vintage neatly spanned the actual date. 

Trio sweetA final trio of wines, which in fact were French twins and an Italian non-relative.  Some of us did detect Loire Chenin Blanc in the twins, this time in a sweet style.  The first was lighter, moderately sweet, rich in fruit, good acidity.  In the mouth, it was luscious and with a hint of marmalade richness.  The second was massively sweet, richer, massively marmaladely…perhaps a bit ‘obvious’.

They turned out to be a pair from Domaine de Montgilet (Victor e Vincent Breton) and the appellation is Coteaux de L’Aubance in Anjou.  The first was the more expensive  Clos des Huttieres 1999, while the second, which people preferred as it was more expressive, was Les Trois Schistes, 2002

Finally, people really loved the Italian non-relative, burnt sugar and toffee apples wine, with its marked toffee, old wood and oxidative notes.  The best guess was for Madeira, but in fact, it was a Tuscan Vin Santo from a domestic sized production by Lucia D’Antillio Bacci: Fattoria Santa Maria, Montescudaio, 2000 is excellent: rich, sweet and nutty and an amazing bargain at €12.50. You can see pictures of the estate here.

Thank you to members of the BBC for launching our garden/tasting room in such style – may your choices of wine be ever more rewarding/adventurous (delete as required!) 


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