Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Unknown knowns

Perhaps not surprisingly in mid-August, we had a rather reduced BBC 1 – just seven wines to try to identify and, more importantly, to enjoy.  Looking back over the wines, of these seven only three were ‘should have got that’ wines. The others were impossibly difficult or just a bit odd as was one of mine.  I got two out of three which wasn’t bad. I felt I hadn’t done at all well, but that is because we started with a couple of difficult whites and my confidence dropped. I am deducting the two wines that Janet and I brought. On this occasion, I did recognise my own wines. It doesn’t always happen; in fact, one esteemed and very good taster didn’t recognise his own on this evening.  This is the blind tasting version of ‘unknown knowns’.  

Monte VelhoPale lemon in colour, light on the palate in terms of flavour intensity but quite full and rounded with only moderate acidity.  Moderate lemony fruit, attractive mouth feel – none of these led us to the identity of this Portuguese blend (Roupeiro, Antao Vazquez and Perrum – ie – since you ask): Monte Velho, Vinho Regional Alentajano, Portugal, 2012.  I took the hint of nuttiness on the nose to be age but perhaps it was skin contact, unusual in whites.  

If that was difficult, Sauvignon, Jean François Mérieu, Tirage Limité, 2008 was impossible.  Quite markedly oxidised to start with, then candied fruit and a bit of butterscotch to follow, noticeable orange rind on the long finish.  A wine of real character and some obscurity – made from the Sauvignon Rose variety and aged in oak barrels, no perceptible classic Sauvignon characteristics. 

This was one of mine and so I did not have the pleasure of saying, ‘That’s white Burgundy’ as everybody else did!  It was still a bit of a puzzle – was it Maconnais or Rully? In fact, it was a simple Bourgogne Blanc if from a very posh address: Clos-du-Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, 2005.  Whiff of oak and some tertiary notes, muted on the nose, classy, well made, lacked intensity and marked minerality in line with its station in life. 

This was one of the three spot-able wines which I should have got but didn’t.  Rich, slightly baked, fruit, a hint of marmite followed by a large palate of the same hot fruit set off by good acidity level. The puzzle was that the fruit was not that expressive – compare the next wine.  I was in Portugal rather than with classy, restrained, old vine Australia.  VSV 1885, Shiraz, Peter Lehmann (who died recently and whose massive contribution to Australian winemaking we were celebrating), 2009

Diggers BluffThis next wine was much straightforwardly Shiraz from South Australia: Watchdog, Diggers Bluff, Barossa, 2001.  Smelt of old oak barrels and concentrated raisiny fruit, with sleek ripe tannins. A wine of straightforward enjoyment, not really it showing its age except to the extent that presumably it had been fresher and more assertive to start with.  There is always a tension between drinking a wine young, on the turn, mature or gone over. 

Concerto, Merlot, Clos de Barbanne, Montagne de Saint-Émilion, 2010: for some reason I did not take a picture of the label of this youthful, purple-edged wine with a slightly rustic nose and palate. Its roughness and obvious tannins did not point to Merlot – or indeed, even to the person who brought it, to its identity! Those of us who think of Merlot as fruity and approachable in youth, need to think again. 

Here we were in a different world, one of old cellars, venerably aged wines, ruby having long given way to a pronounced garnet.  We had a brief debate on old Burgundy v old Claret and at least some of us plumped for the latter.  Estimations of aged ranged from 15-30 years but it was more:  Ch. de Villegeorges, Grand Cru Exceptionnelle, Haut-Médoc, 1973, a poor year but the first year of the Lurton ownership of this chateau and good winemakers made a big difference.  It is not just in Burgundy where the name of the winemaker is the most important thing to know. 

NebbioloWe tried this wine last which was just as well as, having brought something as straightforward as white Burgundy as my first wine, my red choice was seriously obscure.  Quite deep in colour, raisins and leather on the nose, conserved cherry fruit to follow and high grippy tannins. Definitely one to try with a rare steak.  The colour was very misleading, the tannins were true to form, the aroma and palate no real help:  Private Reserve, Nebbiolo, L. A. Cetto, Baja California, Mexico, 2004.

Photographic postscript: this summer I have had a chance to engage with Apple’s professional image processing programme, Aperture.  I have learned how to use at least 1% of its power!  But the key thing here is that at a click it will correct the horrible yellow cast of photos taken under very yellowing conditions. Welcome to a world where we (and the wine labels) won’t all look jaundiced. 


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