Friday, November 21, 2014

Homage to Catalonia

I was invited to attend a tasting of mostly Catalan wines yesterday. They were an interesting bunch. When not made in a jammy, extracted, oaky style the wines can be fantastic with genuine personality.

Raventós i Blanc Xarel.lo Silencis 2013
Unfiltered and therefore hazy. Leesy and citric aromas bring life to the neutral fruit. Wonderfully sour and acidic with the leanness and neutrality propped up by the lees. I really enjoyed this. Spanish Muscadet.

Dominio del Aguila Pícaro del Aguila 2012

A Clarete from Ribera del Duero, i.e. a blend of red and white grapes (mainly Tempranillo & Albillo with a bit else added as spices) vinified like a red so the result is a rosé coloured, deep, expressive wine. I was fascinated by this at first. It smelled like resin in a better way than Retsina and has plenty of VA (always nice!) and oxidative notes. Rich, tannic and wild. But when I came back to it a couple hours later nasty, bitter oak aromas had taken over.

Parés Baltà Radix 2013
A "rosé" Syrah from some of the higher altitude vineyards that looks like a red wine. It smells a bit reductive and plasticy and I can't get over that plastic scent during the evening. Some mentioned bloody meat as a descriptor and found all the stereotypical notes of Syrah like pepper, but all I smelled was plastic. Light in body for a Catalan red (ok, so this might make it "rosé"? :D ) with attractive berry flavours. Not so nice to smell; perfectly nice to drink.

Vins del Tros Morenillo Terra Alta Àmfora 2013

Pretty! Morenillo is an autochthonous grape from Terra Alta that some there call the Pinot of Terra Alta. IIRC there are only three producers who make a varietal version of it. This is wonderfully aromatic and smells of peaches and ripe but refreshing berry flavours. It tastes sweetly fruity and moderately rich but it still has an invigorating finish. It's pretty and cute and I think I might have a bit of a crush on it.

Gratavinum Priorat Silvestris 2013
Unaromatic. Dark, dusty smells. With air it begins to smell of cheap brandy. Tannic and overly extracted, massive amounts of fruit and bitterness. I do not appreciate a combination of sweetness and such levels of bitterness. Do not take this note as representative since our host had tried this before and his bottle was completely different. This had no obvious flaws like cork taint. If nothing had been said that this was very different from another bottle I would just have said that it's a bad wine. But now I feel I must try it again.

Mascaró Ànime Cabernet Sauvignon VV 1998

Bodegas Irache Real Irache Gran Reserva 1996
It has a strange mustard aroma at first. But apart from that it is a nice, little wine. Fresh, sweet and savoury with any oak having integrated well. Good structure, refreshing. Nothing grand, but very enjoyable. It's a pseudo-Rioja. And nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ooooh! Long!

Da Yu Ling, a high altitude oolong from Taiwan, and maybe the best oolong I've had in years. Wonderfully aromatic, it smells a bit greenish, a bit spicy like cinnamon. Smooth but refreshing, naturally a bit sweet. And the best thing is that the taste just doesn't go away. I've been ridiculed for this before but I'll say it again: tea is arguably a more complex beverage than wine. This stuff isn't cheap at well over 30€/100g but fuck me is it good.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Climens the highest peaks

A super evening in Carelia's dungeons when Ghostintheshellhelmisimpukka (don't ask, I don't get it either) was overly generous and opened up some fantastic old wines:

Cappellano Barolo 1970

A famous producer that I hadn't previously tried. Though not a great year in Barolo this was very enjoyable. It took some time to open up and had a rather dusty, musty aroma and some weird sweet edge to the fruit, but towards the end of the evening it was just classic old Barolo, stern but aromatic, wonderfully crunchy and moreish. Lovely wine.

Ferrando Carema Etichetta Bianca 1964
I liked this one but some felt it was a bit corked. I'm glad I'm not that sensitive to cork since I thought it was pretty sensational. Lovely woodsy aromas and lovely, bright and pure old Nebbiolo aromas. Sure it seemed a bit drier and more acidic than the Cappellano but I just put that down to terroir differences rather than cork taint. I didn't sense any mustiness.

Château Climens 1985
I don't drink much sweeties these days apart from German Riesling and Loire Chenin. I should correct that mistake. This smelled nicely of honey and had similar richness but with a nice ray of acidity shining through the unctuousness. Good stuff and drinking well now.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Schaal I tell you about a decent Chardonnay?

Julien Schaal Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay 2012
Elgin, South Africa
13,5% abv; c.18€

Chardonnay, unless bubbly from Champagne, rarely excites me. In fact, for such a neutral grape it provokes some rather strong feelings of disgust in me usually - which is strange since neutrality usually tends to be easily likeable though difficult to love. So the surprise here is that this is perfectly palatable.

We aren't talking about a grand wine. But it's a perfectly decent example of the grape: a fair bit of oak but not grossly malformed by it, ripe and almost tropical fruit but gladly not quite crossing the boundary into pineapple milkshake territory. In fact it has a rather attractive slightly greenish/savoury hint to the otherwise ripe fruit.

Elgin is one of the cooler (or is it the coolest?) area in the Cape and these vines are from a high altitude. And this is probably the reason why the wine has a really rather attractive level of acidity and zip. It finishes fresh, which is a huge relief since so often new world Chardonnays feel sugary and cloying.

Cliff notes: it seems ok. A bit more personality than your average Alko Chardonnay at this price.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Suavia Soave Monte Carbonare 2012

Suavia Soave DOCG Monte Carbonare 2012
100% Garganega; c.20€; 13% abv

Suavia's basic Soave has been available for some time in Alko and has always been a pleasant little wine. It's never thrilling but it is always pleasant and does show a bit of personality.

Now that the single vineyard Garganega from black, volcanic soils became available and was just a few € more expensive, I of course had to buy one to try. Cliff notes version: Alko made a horrible mistake and bought something that does not fit their profile at all. And this is a very good thing because Alko usually only buys wines that are pretty much the opposite of what I like to drink

Like most Soave, the basic aromas are fairly neutral so the wine plays other notes: "minerality" (whatever that is) and lees aromas are abundant. The fruit is ripe and concentrated and even a touch sweet, but it is neutral. There is lots of grip in this wine. It doesn't seem extraordinarily high in acidity but the grip is almost like the sensation of tannins in red and orange wines and it really helps keep the full-bodied fruit in balance.

It is a big but refreshing wine and at least this bottle was very enjoyable. I think I'll probably go through a couple more of these.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Something for a Régnié day

Last week I was invited to taste some wines from AOC51. We had a big tasting at a wine cellar and I'll slowly be posting notes on them.

First up I was poured a mystery glass of white. It smelled quite wonderful in a neutral but fruity and leesy kind of way so my initial idea was some Beaujolais Chardonnay of a richer style than Brun's - it reminded me of Pacalet's white Beaujolais. I wasn't far off. It was P-U-R St. Véran 2013 so it's just a bit north of Beaujolais. In addition to interesting neutrality it has a serious richness on the palate. Normally I am not fond of richness but it worked here perfectly thanks to clean acidity and a lack of heavy, oaky sensations. It was rich and light at the same time. And it was wonderfully moreish for a big wine. Very nice.

There was another P-U-R open - the Régnié sur Granite 2012. This was just a supremely beautiful example of Gamay from a Cru that generally makes a lighter style. This was floral and aromatic, light but racy, wonderfully pure and bright and refreshing. I used to think that Julien Sunier's Régnié was as good as it gets but apparently others can make such perfection from that Cru, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Aux Plantes 2010

Ch. de Bel cellars
Picture by Sari Wines & Spirits
"Aux Plantes" 2010
Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
14% abv; 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

It doesn't say so on the label but this is made my Mr. Cazenave of Château de Bel. This is old school Bordeaux. As explained by Larry Sari of Sari Wines: "Cement tanks. Daily pump overs and "batonage" by hand. Total respect of the vintages and a very solid philosophy. A nice little cellar right in front of the river with old barriques of 600l/800l." 

Not being a fan of new wood I especially appreciate the use of larger barrels and older wood. But there is still the problem that I don't like Merlot. It often seems like the Chardonnay of red grapes: ubiquitous and pretty neutral; pleasing enough but lacking personality.

I decanted it for four hours before drinking. It smells pretty ripe, I do sense a little bit of oak aromas but not in worrisome amounts, it's still pretty primary so doesn't show much else than fruit on the nose. But the palate does have wonderful tannins. It's actually quite wonderfully tasty with plenty of ripe fruit, but it is generally savoury in style instead of sweet and sugary. And best of all, it is genuinely moreish and refreshing despite the 14% abv. A slight negative then appears in the form of slight heat from the alcohol on the finish.

But overall I think this is a success. The nose seems so young that I think it needs a few years to become interesting - unless primary fruit is your thing - but the balance of components on the palate was brilliant. So brilliant that the slight negative of slight heat on the finish is easily forgotten. It's been a long time since I've last been even slightly interested in a Bordeaux so this was a welcome reminder that truly enjoyable and interesting wine is made there, too.

Full disclosure: I arranged some Jazz for Mr. Sari and he provided me with wine samples in exchange. So this isn't quite a free sample but is in some grey area and perhaps ought to be mentioned.