Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Vio-bec tasting

Viognier The theme for BBC 2 (Bring a bottle club) this month was two varieties: Viognier and Malbec, all to be tasted blind.  As it worked out we had an excellent range of Malbec, two sweet wines made with Viognier and an aperitif of just one standard Viognier.  You can’t plan too much in advance as no one knows who is going to bring what.

First up and, as noted, this wine turned out to be our only dry Viognier.  A slight whiff of pear drops to start with; then attractive peach and pear fruit; moderately unctuous, fresh and with a good sharp edge of acidity.  ‘Hot old world’ – most thought this was from the Rhône but not Condrieu, which was not a bad guess:  Piere Talayrach Vin de Pays Côtes de Catalanes, 2010.  All agreed that at only €6 in France it was excellent quality. 

A pair of red (well, very dark ruby) wines to try side by side.  The first had lovely sweet fruit and high-toast oak, the second was tauter, again good fruit, this time more in the dark plum range but also the tannins were more prominent.  There was general puzzlement over their provenance (and what underlay the difference between them) and certainly, no one guessed Australia.  At the grand unveiling, the pair were both from the same estate, the principal difference being that the first is a Tempranillo/ Malbec blend, the second wholly Malbec: Bleasdale Tempranillo Malbec 2008 and second Innings, Malbec 2009, both Malvern Vale, Langhorne Creek, South Australia. 

Another pair to compare and contrast – if only!  Sadly one of these was corked and, worse, it was the grand vin which had suffered.  The surviving younger sibling had intriguing animal aromas, a supple and elegant plum/damson palate, with grippy tannins.  The consensus was that this was from the French home of Malbec, Cahors: Clos Triguedina, Jean-Luc Baldès, Cahors, 2004. The departed bottle was from the same estate, Prince Probus 2000

The name of this estate comes from the local Occitan language, ‘Me trigo de dina’ : ‘I’m longing for dinner!’  We did not have to wait long. And a third pair to try side-by-side.  Number one had buttery oak, even custard notes and rich black fruit on the nose, then real layers of fruit on the palate, some smoke, very good indeed if obviously new world, ergo, Mendoza,  Argentina. Grown at a suitably cool 1000 metres above sea level: Bodega Septima, Gran Reserva 2009, Mendoza, Argentina.  The wine is a blend in which Malbec is just the major component: 55% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tannat. 

The background of these two labels, above and left, may match in a tasteful beige but the wines are very different. Far less opulent oak and less fruit here in the second wine, medium in weight rather than mouth-filling. Wine number two had a nice balance, is genuinely dry and was excellent with food.  It is of course from Cahors:  Ch. Grand Chêne, Cahors, 2005.  And 12 degrees of alcohol, not 14.8!   

Cent visagesThe final ‘black’ wine: good depth of fruit, some chocolate notes, ripe but with good freshness, a cooler style.  Nobody could place this, though one brave soul flirted with the Loire which was correct: Cent Visages, AC Côt Tourraine, Tourraine, Jean-François Mérieau. They really work hard to achieve this depth of flavour: 50-year old vines, low yields, six weeks of punching down and ‘rack and return’ …

And finally a couple of sweet wines, unsurprisingly neither of them made with Malbec.  Although the picture is not very good, it does show the marked difference in colour.  The lighter wine was luscious with some very pleasant citrus notes, fresh and delicious.  The darker was super luscious, even tawny, with saturated fruit flavours. To get an idea of how sweet this is, it is harvested at 46° on the Brix scale and bottled at 30°!

The two sweeties were:
Hobbs, Viognier, Barossa Valley, South Australia, 2005 and Mer Soleil ‘Late’ Viognier, Santa Lucia Highlands, USA, 2002

This was a very enjoyable evening and very informative, especially in the comparisons between the various Malbec examples. From these, you can easily plot the difference that climate, winemaking styles and blending with other grapes make. 

Photographic progress: after last month’s failed experiment with a tripod, this month I resorted to an excellent gadget, the Gorillapod.  This is all high tech joints and plastics and is really intended for rough terrain – getting a grip of a rock or a branch. However, it makes an excellent table-top tripod too. It’s a big plus is that you can get the camera to sit virtually at table level, which is what you want for wine labels.  The result is the possibility of no flash used as before, but long exposure times, up to two seconds in some of the above label shots.  What with setting the correct white balance and using the spider of the Gorillapod, this are beginning to improve.  Next: lighting? 


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