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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Domaine Ellevin, Chablis

Chablis is not a big place, a modest market town with a riverside and various remnants of a mediaeval past.
The appellation of Chablis covers both the vineyards surrounding the town itself and those of 20 neighbouring villages. Just a few miles south, in the village of Chichée, is Domaine Ellevin.
We had contacted owner Alexandre Ellevin in advance and arranged to meet up on our way back from a holiday in southern France - Chablis being pretty much half way between the Rhone and Calais.
Working out of a converted garage, Alexandre has a small tasting area hung with maps and the various awards his wines have won over the years.
Beyond is a bottling line and storage area; he farms 16ha but supplies most of his wine to a negociant with no trouble selling the remainder himself - there was pretty much only current vintages available of his four wines.
Describing his choice, Alexandre explained that he has greater freedom with a negociant - the local co-op would take his grapes en masse, but would require his entire crop.
By contrast, a negociant, working through a courtier (middle-man), would agree a set price for a predetermined amount of finished wine which it would bottle and sell under its own label allowing Alexandre complete freedom to do whatever he likes with the remainder.
We tried all four wines; if the petit Chablis is a crisp, uncomplicated aperitif, the AOC Chablis has more complexity and underpinnings.
Most impressive, however, are his two Premiers Crus, from Vaucoupin and Vosgros. In the arcane nomenclature of Chablis, Premiers Crus are in the second rank of vineyards after the top seven Grands Crus.
Both wines have the taut, steely precision and intensity that is characteristic of top Chablis; the Vaucoupin showed a little more fruit and is just ready for drinking now whilst the Vosgros is still intensely mineral and needs longer in bottle to open up.
We bought as much as would fit into a car boot already groaning with holiday stuff and bottles from other wine regions we had visited. It was an easy choice - the two Premiers Crus are not only the best, but also ridiculously good value at under €10 each.
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Monday, 29 September 2014

EASCA Tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants

A tasting of classic European wines with Cambridge ICAEW students at Cambridge Wine Merchants
Sometimes the day job and one's outside interests coincide; I was contacted by the committee of the East Anglian Society of Student Chartered Accountants who were looking to put on a wine tasting.
A few emails later and we had sorted a date, venue and established who would do what.
I chose eight old world wines, with an emphasis on classic standards, paired with a range of breads, salamis and cheeses.
I deliberately did not include prices as I wanted people to try the wines on their own merits, but the range was from around £10 to £30 for the Champagne and vintage port.
As I had a group of trainee Chartered Accountants, I took them through the explanation of how a bottle of wine retailing at the national average price of £5 includes about 50p's worth of actual wine whereas at £10, the value of wine is closer to £3.50.
Fizz is always a good place to start - with brioche and leesy orchard fruits, the Ayala Brut Majeur NV was elegant and precise; fine mousse and persistent finish.
Tio Pepe Fino En Rama NV is pretty much my benchmark for intense, full-flavoured, tangy fino; this was one of my top wines of the night but whilst there was general interest in the production method, the sherry itself did not meet with such universal approval.
However, the next wine proved very popular; Domaine Wachau Gruener Veltliner Federspiel 2013 was the popular choice of the night, its precise aromatics, minerality and structure proving familiar to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers looking for something different-yet-similar.
The final white was the big, oaky Esporao Branca Reserva 2012 - with ripe yellow stone fruit, buttery oak and sweet spice, it appealed to the Chardonnay-drinkers more than to the Sauvignon fans who liked the Gruener.
The first of the reds was, like the sherry, a one-time classic that has fallen out of favour and is making a gradual return to popularity. The Domaine Du Puits Beni Morgon 2013, one of the Beaujolais Crus, is an uncomplicated yet elegant easy-drinker with black cherry fruit with a touch of spice and violet aromas.

The Rosso del Palazzone NV is a declassified Brunello blended across years. It is complex and sophisticated with red fruits, leather and oaky spice.
The Lavinyeta Puntiapart* 2012 from Spain's Emporda region has a vibrant intensity and precise linear focus; a blast of red and black fruits with an assured, muscular-yet-supple structure.
The final wine of the night was a real treat - Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2001 port. Still youthful for a vintage port it was full of ripe primary fruit with eucalyptus and spice. Complex, vibrant and fresh, it was my wine of the night.
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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Loire Masterclass at Berry's

A Loire Masterclass at Berry's with Martin Hudson MW
The Loire has a quality that is not very much in mainstream fashion these days - a freshness and lightness to fall quietly in love with, rather than be bowled over at first acquaintance; marry, not snog.
For all its family resemblances, it is a diverse region of 63 appellations and varying climates with an average vineyard size of just 3ha.

It has the third largest vineyard area in France and produces more methode traditionelle fizz than Champagne.

France's longest river with a viticultural tradition dating back to the second century, the Loire's production is just over half white, a little over a quarter red, the rest rosé, fizz and sweet.
All these wines from Berry's were, as might be expected, elegant and faultless. The only consideration, then, is personal preference and value for money; prices started in the mid-teens and maxed out at around £40.
With four main regions ranging from maritime to continental, the Loire grows a wide range of grapes in varying styles. Its noblest, most versatile grape is the Chenin Blanc which, like Riesling, is highly responsive to terroir and can pretty much do anything - dry, sweet, sparkling; oaked and unoaked; young and aged.
The wines were accompanied by an elegant plate of canapés; a number of the wines that seemed a little ordinary on their own really showed their best with the right food.
St Maure (goat's - wines 1 and 2)
Pennard Ridge (hard white - wine 3)
Cave aged Cheddar (wine 4)
Asparagus quiche (wine 4)
Salmon rillettes (wine 5)
Lamb croquettes (wines 6 and 7)
Confit chicken wings with bbq sauce (no obvious match)

Aperitif: Touraine Sparkling rosé, Domaine Nicolas Paget with just 9m on the lees, this feels fruited rather than bready and autolytic; precise and elegant with a fine mousse.
Wine 1: 2012 Sauvignon de Touraine, Jean-Christophe Mandard modern-style SB with an aromatic nose and modern technique, kiwi-esque expressiveness. Cultured yeasts and cool fermentation enhance the aromatics.
Wine 2: 2012 Pouilly-Fume, Les Chants de Cri, Domaine Grebet more-traditional style, more restrained nose, but greater complexity and texture with a persistent minerality. A touch of flintsmoke from fossil limestone soils.
Wild yeasts; warmer fermentation and lees aging provide a more waxy texture.
Wine 3: 2011 Vouvray Sec, Vincent Careme with some new oak, this has spiced baked apples and conference pears, honey and blossom aromas and freshness. A persistent, honeyed finish but completely dry.
Wine 4: 2011 Savennieres, l'Enclos, Eric Morgat squeaky clean organic, biodynamic and oaked, this is a well-scrubbed exuberant hippy in a power suit.

Toasty-oaky musky nose, baked apples, vanilla sweetness and warmth. The grapes have some botrytis and are partially air-dried - giving it complexity, substance and a powerfullness that is not typically Loire.
Matches the white Pennard Ridge cheese; an impressive wine, but in this line up lacks the discreet elegance of the others, albeit another five or ten year's age may well solve that.
In the short term, it works well with the cave-aged cheddar.
Wine 5: 2012 Sancerre Rosé, Brigitte & Daniel Chotard a PN grown on its preferred soil of clay over kimmeridgian. Pale pink, gentle and pretty. Elegant and long with red fruits and some flintsmoke.
Made from young vines, it is supremely elegant if a little bland, but comes into its own with the salmon mousse.
Wine 6: 2011 Reuilly Rouge, Les Pierres Plates, Denis Jamain unusually dark and toasty for a Pinot, quite extracted and acidic with a grippy finish from cold soaking in stainless steel. Smokey, tobaccoey aromas.
Positively demands to be matched with the lamb croquettes.
Wine 7: 2010 Bourgueil, Grand-Mont, Domaine de la Chevalerie vibrant purple Cab Franc from a good year. Still youthful, primary and very focused - dark fruit, tobacco leaf, green bell pepper with spice and savoury notes.
Precise and expressive; ripeness with freshness; long and persistent. Will only improve with age.
Wild yeasts, large old oak foudres. Again, needs the lamb croquettes.
Wine 8: 2010 Quarts de Chaume, Domaine des Forges bright golden sandy yellow, roasted ripe peaches and some musky botrytis, just a hint of nail polish.
Roasted ripe peaches in butter, the richness of some new oak, cut through with freshness. It only lacks the delicately nuanced elegance of a really top Sauternes.
Delicious. Match with pate, foie gras or blue cheese.
There was nary a bad wine here and all were at least Good. My top wines for drinking now were the Vouvray Sec and the Quarts de Chaume, but I would lay down the Savennieres and the Bourgueil.
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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chemin de Moscou 2008, Domaine Gayda

Domaine Gayda Chemin de Moscou

This was a gift from a wine contact after a tasting and had been sitting under the stairs for a couple of years - when I previously tried it, I had felt it would benefit from further aging.

Dark inky purple, aromas of dark fruits, leather and gaminess.

Sweet ripe dark berries, sweet spices and dried green herbs - a lithe tannic grip and a warming finish.

Drinking very nicely now with plenty more years ahead of it.

Very Good.

Match with venison steak, pigeon or pheasant.

Available (newer vintages) from Cambridge Wine Merchants priced £21.99.

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Gayda at Pays d'Oc IGP Tasting
Chateau d'Angles

Friday, 19 September 2014

Michel Lenique NV Blanc de Noirs, Champagne

Michel Lenique NV Blanc de Noirs
Sandy yellow, musky russet appleskin.
Fresh citrus acidity with a malic tartness, very fine mousse.
Elegant yet angular, it is not without ambition and substance, but somehow not completely convincing.
Drink as an aperitif or with seafood vol-au-vents.
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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Dourthe N° 1 Rouge 2011 - The Wine Society

Dourthe N° 1 Rouge 2011 from The Wine Society

After the great year of 2010, Bordeaux vintages seem to have got ever more difficult with 2013 being an almost complete wash-out.

This 2011 has a typical - and quite expressive - Merlot nose of red fruits, leather and spice; juicy acidity with a supple texture and some persistence.
A relatively light wine, it feels modern and well-crafted but not especially substantial.
Like pretty much everything from The Wine Society, it is technically correct; a modern, entry-level right bank Bordeaux from a less-than-great year.

£8.50 from The Wine Society, provided for review.

60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

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Dourthe Reserve, 2009 - Montagne St Emilion

Monday, 15 September 2014

Juan Gil 12 Meses 2012

An old-vine Monastrell from Bodegas Juan Gil 12 Meses

Gutsy Spanish red - all baked fruit, oak and alcohol. Not without its attractions and will surely appeal to some, but its overblown, blowsy "look-at-me" style is not for me.

If your idea of foodie heaven is dipping a Flake into hot chocolate, this could be for you.

"Don't fancy yours much."

Image credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3759970.stm