The first Oxford University Wine Society tasting I've been to in about 3 years. And what a cracking wine list!
1. Champagne Salon, 1997
Rich aroma. Oaky, nutty and creamy on the nose. Quite powerful on the palate. Crisp acidity and great length (extremely long for a champagne). The overall character is power rather than elegance… this is one of the most powerful champagnes I’ve had (if we ignore the late disgorgement styles). This opens up quite considerably in the glass. In many ways like a good white burgundy that happens to be sparkling. Very good, and I’m glad I’ve finally tasted it. However, it’s overpriced (£195) so this wine is much better if someone else is paying.
2. Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres, Premier Cru 1999
Very prominent oak on the nose – particularly considering it is around 12 years old. Palate is fantastic though. This wine has both power and elegance. Whilst it still smells quite young, the palate has plenty on offer. Also, once the wine opened up in the glass it became more forward on the nose too. Superb.
3. Domaine Comtes des Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre 2004
Much less noticeable oak on the nose than the previous wine. Lemon, apple and a little nuttiness on the palate. Intense fresh fruit character… this is still a baby. Once it opens up some apricot flavours appear. Noticeable oak tannin on this one, but the oak feels very well integrated. This will improve significantly, but I’m very much enjoying it now. This is a serious rival to the previous wine and slightly edges it for me. I really enjoyed this wine.
4. Domaine Rene Engel, Grands-Echezeaux, Grand Cru, 2004
Serious complexity on the nose, especially considering it’s only from 2004. Extremely pale colour. The nose gives different notes every time I go to it: sometimes floral, sometimes vegetal, sometimes fruit and sometimes savoury. Long, balanced and complex. Excellent now, but feels like it might be aging rather fast. Best drink it soon if you have any just to be on the safe side.
5. Domaine Jean Grivot, Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru 1996
The first thing which needs mentioning here is the serious bottle variation this wine appears to be showing. One bottle was marginally corked. The bottle we had was quite disappointing. The other bottle I tried a little bit from and it was better, but still not stellar. I wonder how much of the disappointment here was caused by my extremely high expectations. One of the best bottles of wine I’ve ever had was a Clos de Vougeot (in the very first ever Bacchus Grand Cru tasting!) and I was probably judging this extra-harshly in comparison to that memory. That being said, here are my notes:
The initial impression on the nose is meat. Definitely a savoury character to the wine. There is some fruit coming through, but not enough. It feels as though it’s drying out already. The tannin is dusty and out of balance. I would have been extremely upset if I had paid £100 for this myself.
6. Domaine Armand Rousseau, Chames-Chambertin, Grand Cru, 1997
Extremely high acid, plenty of red fruit. Quite a lot of power, yet very elegant. Relatively soft mouthfeel with quite low tannin. Opens up wonderfully with more complex aromas coming through. A very serious wine - well balanced, complex flavours and good length.
NB This turned out to be my favourite red wine of the evening.
7. Mascarello Guiseppe e Figlio, Barolo Monprivato, 1996
Extremely tannic and acidic – mouth-puckering on both fronts! On the nose it’s more floral than tar, but definitely getting both. Quite deep colour for a nebbiolo. A very serious wine, but would be much improved by food or age. Not quite balanced yet, but plenty of intensity and complexity and very long. I'd love to have several bottles of this so I could track its development over time. I suspect it will be sublime given long enough.
8. Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, 1995
Yum, yum. This is drinking very well now. More aromatic than the Barolo but lighter in character (although not really "light" on any absolute scale). Lots of cooked black fruit. Quite soft mouthfeel. Perfumed and appealing. Drink soon.
9. Equipo Navazos, 22. La Bota Manzanilla “Navazos”
Intense salty aroma. Also ripe green apple and yeast. This is made in quite a young and fruity style. I liked this a lot whereas Ed did not so it’s perhaps a little polarizing… even for sherry lovers! Complex almond finish. Intense, well balanced and complex. I like this sort of thing a lot. Very very good.
A bargain at £25.
10. Equipo Navazos, 24. La Bota Fino Amontillado “Montilla”
Crisp and refreshing. A little hint of marzipan. Less intense palate than the previous sherry, but good length. The Fino Amontillado seems to fall between two stools… it would have been better as one or the other. Also, some weird chemical aroma lingers after drinking it. Worth trying, but not superb for me.
11. Joh. Jos. Prum, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese, Goldkapsel, 2000
Lovely toffee/treacle aroma and some kerosene. Cooked apple flavour on the palate. Feels a lot lighter than I would have expected for a Auslese Goldkapsel. It’s well balanced, but too short. Quite a poor showing for such a high-profile producer. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it but it’s not a contemplation wine in the way that you would expect.
12. Graham’s Port, 1977
Dried fruit, Christmas pudding, spice. The wine has a fine sediment in suspension, but it’s not noticeable on the palate. Quite an intense nose. Sweet, but balanced. Complex and very pleasant to drink now. Not the best-showing Graham’s-77 I’ve ever had, but I’ll never complain about drinking one.