A tasting with friends of wines defined by their production method
It seems the factors we celebrate as bringing greatness to a wine change over time; the iconoclasts of yore told us it was all about grape variety. Then it became the winemaker's art and now we seem to have come full circle back to terroir.
Celebration of a production method in winemaking feels antithetical, almost heretical - certainly not on the zeitgeist.
Yet many of my favourite wines are defined by the way in which they are made - sherry, Madeira, port, vin jaune; production-method wines are mostly either obscure or unfashionable. Or both.
The only exception is Champagne, which is not really considered a wine at all.
With a trainee Master of Wine in our midst, we picked a course each and provided some matching wines.
It was also a chance to put my recently-acquired set of antique decanters through their paces.
Cremant du Jura, Marcel Cabelier 2012
I asked the MW trainee what she would make of this in a blind tasting exam; her analysis was - appley fruit suggests Chardonnay, fullness indicates a warmer climate than Champagne, more fruit character from shorter lees aging, fine mousse from in-bottle fermentation.
Production method - secondary fermentation
Starters - a mixture of tapas, goose liver pate and bleu d'Auvergne cheese
Colosio Fino tangy, pungent fino, full of flavour and depth
Blandy's Madeira Sercial Aged 10 Years age on a Madeira bottle is more a stylistic indication than an objectively measured fact. Fragrant, tangy-nutty and complex.
Domaine de Durban Muscat de Baumes de Venise 2011 I've never quite acquired the habit of starting with a sweet wine, but well-chilled and fresh, this worked perfectly with the pate and cheese.
Production method - fortification (all), flor-aging (fino), Madeirisation
Main - chicken with sherry and mushrooms in a creamy sauce
Jean-Claud Credoz, vin-jaune, Chateau-Chalon made from Savagnin, aged for six years in barrels under flor and sold in a wax-sealed 62cl clavelin, this is an oddity - and delicious; complex, nutty and tangy with a charming freshness.
Production method - flor and extended barrel aging
Federico Paternina Rioja 1982
Contino Rioja Reserva 2001
Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 2001
With a little reluctance, I had allowed Rioja on the basis that the production method specifies a minimum amount of barrel aging and that it is associated with a particular type of oak.
The 1982 wine was fully mature and complex with red fruits, old leather and gaminess. The two that followed seemed like mere babes in comparison with plenty of primary fruit.
Production method - 3+ years in American oak
Dessert - chocolate and raspberry cake
Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas port, 2001 full of ripe red and black berry fruit with raisins, prunes and molasses plus eucalyptus and spice. Complex, vibrant and fresh
Other related articles