Sunday, 6 March 2016

Decanter Spain and Portugal Tasting

27 Feb 2016, Landmark Hotel
These Decanter tastings are always great fun, but it's generally hard to make any proper notes. With around 80 tasting stands it's well over a hundred tasting samples in a few hours so the notes are generally brief and, towards the end of the day, utterly incoherent! As a result, what follows is some brief notes on things which really stood out.

Highlight of the day
The absolute highlight of the day was the discovery of the wonderful wines and ports from Quinta da Romaneira. How had I not come across these before? The estate is owned by Christian Seely, of Quinta do Noval and other AXA Millesimes fame, so it's not exactly been flying under the radar.

The Touriga Nacional 2012 was superb: both floral and meaty notes coming over the underlying fruit. The foreign interloper (Syrah, 2012) was also excellent - a really great expression of the classic syrah characteristics. Also well worth watching out for is the Quinta da Romaneira LBV Unfiltered Port. At a retail price of around £12 it's marvellous value. Christian Seely was behind the stand pouring the wines and said that he takes LBV port as seriously as possible. These are single-quinta, unfiltered, trodden in lagares.

I particularly enjoyed the following Riojas:
Valserrano Blanco Gran Reserva Rioja 2009 (Interesting oxidative character)
Ramon Bilbao, Gran Reserva Rioja 2008 (Good, modern style)
CVNE, Imperial Reserva Rioja 2009 (Great modern style)
CVNE, Imperial, Real de Asua, Rioja 2010 (Modern style, very good)
Vina Pomal, Alto de la Caseta Rioja 2010
Vina Muriel, Gran Reserva Rioja 2004 (Very, very good - probably my favourite Rioja of the day. Pretty old school, great concentration, great lenth, lots of tobacco)
Muriel (note, not "Vina" Muriel) Gran Reserva Rioja 2008 (Old schoold, austere, very good)
Muga Prado Enea, Gran Reserva Rioja 2006 (the old classic - a real crowd pleaser)
Bohedal Hebabe Graciano, Rioja Alta 2010 (Very good, but quite hard work without food)
Marques de Riscal, Baron de Chirel, Rioja 2010 (Very interesting, savoury, tomato notes)
Altos de Rioja, Altos R Pigeage Graciano Rioja 2012 (Austere, savoury, meaty, very tannic, but the tannins are well hidden)
Lar de Paula Reserva Rioja 2009 (Classic, meaty and red fruit nose)

Castro Ventosa, Valtuille, Cepas Centenarias, Mencia, Bierzo 2012
Soto del Vicario, Men de Mencia, Bierzo 2007

Tragically, there was only one sherry producer there. Fortunately it was a good one - Valdespino. We tried the whole range and it was all good.
The Fino Inocente was a single vineyard fino with 10-years under the flor. I don't think I've ever had a single-quinta sherry before.
The Tio Diego Amontillado (also delicious) was another single-quinta sherry.
The Viejo CP Palo Cortado was a 20-year aged sherry (after a couple of years under flor).
The Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS basically takes the previous sherry and ages it for another 20 years in solera. This was a really superb sherry.

Random collection of other notables
At the Pesquera stand, I enjoyed all the wines. In particular, the Dehesa la Granja 2009 (Castilla y Leon I believe) was really powerful. The El Vinculo and Condado de Haza were also great.

The Agusti Torello Mata Cavas were great. I really enjoyed the "Kripta" 2008 cava (which comes in a crazy-looking Amphora bottle). The Brut Gran Reserva 2010 was also very rich. These cavas have the base wine aged in barrel and lots of lees contact. This is where the creaminess comes from - no MALO.

The Kopke stand was very interesting. Of particular note was the 30-year old White port. This was really good - very high acid, extremely crisp and refreshing.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Bordeaux vs South Africa

South Africa vs Bordeaux
Monday 22 Sept 2014
VB London Bridge

This tasting was arranged as 4 pairs of contenders: SA vs Bordeaux. The aim was in no way to pair off the best against the best - rather it was to pit similarly priced (usually around 15-20 GBP a bottle retail) wines against each other. As might be expected. in such a competition the SA wines won. You might argue that VB are not the most unbiased party in such a competition. However, Gerrie is a huge cheerleader for Bordeaux wines so he's perhaps not as biased as you might expect.

1st pair
Bordeaux: Clarendelle 2007, Graves
This is part of the Haut Brion stable so no doubting the quality of the winemaking being applied to it. Medium-intensity aromas of sweet spice, cedar, fresh blackcurrant. Very smooth mouthfeel. The tannins are very fine so it takes a little while to notice that this has quite a serious delayed tannic grip. However, the tannins are not that ripe tasting and the wine is surprisingly light-bodied for a Cabernet-dominated blend.

SA:Meinert DC 2005
Medium intensity aromas of cedar, smoke, mint and (slightly cooked) fruit. The mouthfeel was less smooth than the Clarendelle, with more jagged tannins. However, the wine was more pleasurable to drink. There was more body, and the wine was more approachable. Perhaps the acid was not quite enough to balance the tannin but otherwise very pleasant.

Conclusion: The Bordeaux was more austere and less approachable. It was elegant, with very fine tannin. However, it was hard to drink without food. The SA wine was very approachable by contrast.

2nd pair
Bordeaux: Chateau Haut-Goujon 2008, Lalande de Pomerol
This was pretty low intensity aromas with a mostly primary fruit nose. Little in the way of secondary/tertiary development. Very smooth mouthfeel. Medium body. This was OK, but a little simple. Moderate tannin, relatively high acid, medium(-) body.

SA: Morgenster 2005
Much darker colour than the Haut-Goujon. More intense aromas. Slightly over-ripe/cooked note to the fruit flavours. However, there were more pleasing savoury, vegetal notes on the palate. Well balanced, this was really good.

Conclusion: The French one here was not very good if I'm being honest. The SA wine was excellent.

3rd pair
Bordeaux:Chateau Lagrave Figeac, 2007, St Emilion Grand Cru
Soft red fresh fruit character. This was actually pretty tannic, but hid it well. Elegant. Very pleasant. High acid. Well balanced. A somewhat green aftertaste, but I only picked this up towards the end of the tasting.

SA: De Toren Fusion V, 2010
The "V" refers to the fact that this blend contains all 5 major Bordeaux varietals. Deep colour. Rich aroma - very ripe fruit. Tastes typically warm climate. This was spicy, peppery, well balanced with great length and enjoyable finish. This wine was 15% abv, but I would never have noticed.

Conclusion: This was the first pairing which felt very close in terms of quality. I really liked both of these.

4th pair
Bordeaux: Chateau des Garvieres 2009, Margaux
Again this was somewhat restrained on the nose. Sour acid and savoury notes on the palate. The fruit character is mostly ripe/cooked black fruit. Smooth mouthfeel. The tannins are high, but well hidden and balanced by high acid. Very long. This was very enjoyable - particularly after some time in the glass. It's not that approachable on first pouring though.

SA: Kanonkop Paul Sauer, 2007
Smooth and ripe. Medium(+) body. Quite spicy. Very high tannin, medium(+) acid. Perhaps a bit too much tannin, although with food this would not be a problem.

Conclusion: Both of these were good. The SA wine had more of the classic cigar box flavour than any other wine tasted this evening. The French wine was a bit of a sleeper. It really came alive in the glass. Great length too.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Really interesting article about decanting from Wine Searcher.

It goes into detail about the chemistry of what happens to a wine when it is aerated in this way. Also, they conclude that the oxygen is not reacting with the tannins so it's just an issue of perception that tannins are softened by aerating.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Spain (WSET)

More notes from ages ago... Spain tasting at the WSET Centre.

1. Tinajas de la Mata, Bodegas Bernabe Navarro
Didn't note the vintage
Medium gold colour. Semi-cloudy appearance (unfiltered). Medium strength oxidative aroma. Floral. Very complex. Almost cider-like nose.
Dry, high acid. Quite light body, but complex aftertaste. More apple fruit on the palate than on the nose.
Very good. This would be an enjoyable aperitif wine. Very interesting.
Price: GBP 12.42

2. El Bon Homme, Rafael Cambra, 2010
DO Valencia
Pretty deep purple colour. Somewhat watery rim. This smells like a young red wine - blackcurrant, vanilla. Something savoury overlaying this though.
High acid, medium body. Surprisingly high tannin. Decent length.
Good, but not amazing.
Price: GBP 10.95

3. La Tremenda, Enrique Mendoza 2010
DO Valencia
Deep purple colour. Medium(+) fruit intensity. Meaty, savoury notes overlaying the black fruit. Somewhat stewed fruit - presumably very ripe grapes.
Medium(+) body. Juicy fruit. More likely to age than the previous wine. High tannin, very fresh. Good concentration. Pepper. Silky mouthfeel.
This is very good. Felt like it had ageing potential.
Price: GBP 11.95

4. Altico Syrah, Bodegas Carchelo
DO Valencia. Didn't note the vintage. 100% Syrah
Opaque red wine. Inky.
Almost port-like nose (spiritous)
High tannin, high(ish) acid. Fairly simple character.
Enjoyable, but wouldn't seek it out. Much less refined than the previous wine.
Price: GBP 12.99

5. Doble Pasta, Cien y Pico
DO Manchuela. Vintage not noted (again!)
Inky purple colour. Medium intensity. Woody, with vanilla notes. Also some blueberries and cherries.
Spicy finish. Medium body. High tannin. Only 13.5% abv. Smooth mouthfeel on initial attack, but pretty searing after a while. This gets too much.
Price: GBP 11.45

6. P.F. 2010, Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce
DO Manchuela
This is made from the bobal grape.
Pretty deep purple colour. Watery rim. Green pepper, herbal notes. Some vanilla.
Smooth and silky on the initial attack. Serious tannin comes through after a while though - very fine tannin, even if a lot of it. Intense and mouthfilling. High acid.
Price: GBP 15.90

7. Mestizaje Tinto, Bodega Mustiguillo, 2011
Deep, almost opaque purple. Modern-style nose.
Smooth, juicy fruit. Very balanced. Complex. Very interesting.
Price: GBP 11.95

8. Felipe Gutierrez de la Vega, Casta Diva, Moscatel 2009
DO Alicante
Honey-coloured. Nose has intense orange and floral notes. A little "grapey". Very clean. No botrytis.
Honey and apricots on the palate. Fresh, good acid. Well balanced. Intense. Sweet, but not at all cloying.
Very nice.
Price: GBP 18.90

Monday 10 Sept 2012

1. Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Very pale, almost colourless. Restrained nose for a Sauvignon Blanc - some gooseberry, some citrus notes. Quite grassy. However, the wine has an intense palate - probably as a result of being left on the lees. Heavier mouthfeel. Plenty of fruit on the palate. Good length. Perhaps a little hot on the finish but otherwise very good. Powerful, primary character.

2. Chardonnay 2010
Medium gold. Intense nose. Noticeable oak, apple, nuts, cream, vanilla (the usual suspects). Very high acid. Full bodied, with a silky mouthfeel. Palate is quite intense - nuts, cooked apple, candied lemon. This is good, but perhaps would prefer it if it had more noticeable primary fruit character.

3. The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Really juicy blackberry fruit on the nose. Also, spice, liquorice, tobacco. The fruit is less prominent on the palate, but still plenty of liquorice. Sour finish, but otherwise very easy drinking. Simple and nice, not for storage but enjoyable now.

4. Old Bush Vine Pinotage 2010
Jammy red fruit on nose. Very ripe. Banana note on palate - in fact somewhat reminiscent of a barbecued banana . Quite soft and enjoyable, but somewhat sour finish. Probably better with food.

5. Three Cape Ladies 2010
This is the first serious red wine tonight. Red fruit on the nose... also something like beer too. Can a wine be "hoppy"? Ripe fruit - something cooked or concentrated about the flavour on the nose - not really noticeable on the palate. The oak is there but feels restrained, despite having spent almost 2 years in oak! Prominent tannins. This is somewhat austere, but in a good way. A very good wine. Will age.

6. Trilogy 2009
Complex meaty aromas overlaying black fruit. Really refined palate. Silky mouthfeel. Great fruit intensity. Meaty and savoury on the finish. This is really very good. Power, balance and complexity. Should age well too.

7. Cabernet Franc 2009
Ripe black fruit and tobacco on the nose. Silky and high acid on the palate - the tannins, whilst present, feel well camouflaged. A little restrained at first, this opened up nicely in the glass. Probably needs a little time to really hit its stride - promises great things. However, it's very nice now as well.

Gavalas Winery, Santorini

Visited in Summer 2012.

The contrast beween this winery and Boutari was very interesting. Boutari is a large, modern winery with plenty of new winemaking technology. This is a small old-fashioned family producer. For example, the Vin Santo is still made by foot-treading in a concrete lagare (or whatever the correct Greek word for this is!) with the filtration being done by having the wine drip through a wicker basket!

Like an idiot, I didn't note down any of the vintages here. D'Oh!

1. Katsano (actually 85% Katsano and 15% Gaidouria)
This is a new grape variety for me. Apparently it accounts for around 1% of Santorini wine production. Since this is not Assyrtiko, this is officially a "regional wine of the cyclades" rather than from the Santorini appellation.

Pale lemon colour. Herbal and smoky nose (no oak). Smooth mouthfeel. Very acidic and refreshing. Light body. Well balanced. Mineral finish. This is very good, if unusual.

2. Santorini
Very pale colour. Nose is predominantly primary fruit - lots of lemon. Also some floral notes. Upon swirling the wine in the glass, the usual Santorini sea-salt smell comes through as well. Intense palate. Lots of lemony acidity. Strong minerality. Great length and powerful finish. An excellent unoaked example

3. Nikteri
This is not barrel-fermented, but is aged in oak for 6-months after fermentation. A half-way house between the usual Santorini style and the Barrel-Fermented style. I like it. Medium-pale gold colour. Nose has usual primary fruit, but also spice, nuts and vanilla. Also creamy notes from the oak. The palate is intense and the wine is surprisingly full bodied. This is somewhat rustic in character. High acid, but soft and creamy mouthfeel. Lots of power and well balanced. Very good.

4. Vin Santo
Dark toffee/treacle colour. Strong sweet aromas such as toffee, also plenty of complexity. Coffee, orange. The palate is a bit too sticky, a little raisiny. Some rancio character on the palate. Bitter chocolate. This does have high acid, but the sweetness still feels a little overdone. This is good, but only in very small doses.

Boutari Winery, Santorini

Visited in Summer 2012.

1. Santorini 2011
Pale green. Floral, appley nose. Hints of the sea. Very crisp and acidic. Strong lemon flavour on palate. Lots of minerality. Good fruit intensity. Surprisingly long given that this is just the entry level wine. Well balanced. Very good.
Cost: 8 EUR

2. Kallisti Reserve 2007
Deeper yellow colour than the previous wine, coming from the oak and the extra age. Noticeable oak on the nose - some smoky and creamy notes. Soft and silky mouthfeel, some oak tannins. There is a something of a sherry / oxidation character. Good, refreshing acid. Complex. Very interesting. This was paired with a Greek cheese (didn't get the name) and the pairing was excellent. The cheese tasted sharper and the wine tasted creamier.
Cost: 15 EUR

3. Mandilaria 2009
This is a semi-dry red wine, which sounds like a pretty inauspicious start. The grapes are dried for around 3 days before pressing. This sweetness helps to mitigate the tannins. However, it's not to my taste. The nose is simple red fruit. The palate is sour, with residual sugar. Light and simple. You'd have to be insane to buy this for more than the first wine though!
Cost: 9 EUR

4. Vin Santo Santorini 2007
Vin Santos come from white grapes which have been sun dried. The wine is then aged for over 3 years in barrel - sometimes much longer.

Intense aroma of toffee, nuts, coffee. Some oxidized and rancio aromas. Good acidity... the finish is almost sour. This is complex and well balanced. Very good.
Cost: 16 EUR (didn't note down bottle size though)