Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On the cheap, part II: Muscadet

Drouet Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine "La Sancive" 2013
Not bad for an Alko wine under 10€. Neutral in a nice way, the pear-drop cool ferment aroma I found in a previous bottle almost a year ago has faded and now it smells like wine. Instead there's a slight lees aroma and some nice citrus. Crisp and citric and even salty. This isn't Pépière but considering that it's Alko that I have to deal with, this is among the best buys here: it does what it says on the tin.


Bumba pulcherrimaklaasi on its back moulting, 26.11.2014. Hopefully all will go well and it will be stretching its legs tomorrow. The previous moult was way back in April. It might be big enough to sex with this moult (hoping for a female!).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

La Vieille Ferme and Grelling-Nelson

It might be surprising to hear this from a wino, but there are other hobbies than food and wine. And recently I've been spending more time (and €) with other expensive hobbies like musical instruments, antique books, antique aviation watches, spiders, beetles, genetics, etc. so I realized that if I want to drink wine just now, I'm going to have to do so on the cheap.

The Perrins of Beaucastel fame have an entry-level wine, La Vieille Ferme, that is often mentioned as pretty good for a cheap, little wine. So I decided to put the two to the test.

La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2013 was a pretty neutral wine. It's very clean, it's not too heavy or sweet on the palate. But it is kind of like drinking mineral water without its minerality. I can't say it's bad or undrinkable because it is so innocuous. In fact, I seem to have forgotten it immediately after swallowing.

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2013 is very much the red counterpart to the white: neutral, generic, completely inoffensive and completely lacking personality. I like wine to have a few edges. I can even tolerate "bad" wine if those edges are ones that interest me. But the problem with these two VFs is that they feel engineered to be as inoffensive as possible. And for those of us who like to be challenged, inoffensiveness is paradoxically one of the most offensive sensations. (Is that a Russell's paradox? Or a Grelling-Nelson paradox?)

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.