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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Crus Bourgeois 2015s - The Very Goods

Cru Bourgeois 2015 tasting - the best wines
The Crus Bourgeois represent the best unclassified wines of the Médoc in Bordeaux - more affordable than collectors-only trophy wines of the world-famous estates yet a step-up from the entry-level.

The Médoc covers the entire area and also  includes several smaller appellations where quality (and prices) are generally higher - Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.

2015 was a good vintage for Bordeaux and, on the basis of these wines, seems to have favoured Cabernet over Merlot, with the wines being darker, fuller and generally more substantial adn ageworthy.

This year, there are 271 Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, up around 10% from prior years and perhaps reflecting the vintage.

These were my top wines:


Rollan de By 2015 (c. £20+, Cambridge Wine Merchants) supple and juicy with bramble fruit and oaky spice; firm and assertive with peppery, minty fruit and substance. Will age. very Good.


Chateau d'Agassac 2015 (£23, Bibendum) dark, inky, spicy and focused; spicy, long and linear. Very adept and deft. Will age. Very Good.

Chateau Bernadotte dense, inky and still closed-up; long and substantial with fine tannins. Needs age and will improve. Very Good.

Clos La Boheme focused, poised and substantial; long, supple and harmonious. Still young. Very Good.

Chateau Paloumey complex, dark and inky; fruited, minty and oaky; long and substantial. Will age well. Very Good.

Chateau Reysson supple, harmonious, substantial and fresh; focused, minty and fruited. Will improve with age. Very Good.

Chateau Branas Grand Poujeaux dark, inky, spicy and fruited; adept, supple, firm, complex and substantial. Will age well. Very Good.


Chateau d'Arsac plump, focused, pure and substantial; minty and fruited. Still closed up, will age and only improve. Very Good.

Chateau Deyrem Valentin complex, oaky, minty and fruited; supple, harmonious and long. Still closed up and will improve with age. Very Good.


Chateau Lafitte-Carcasset (c. £20 - £30, Fine & Rare) fresh, juicy and supple with a muscular core. Long, deft and adept. Still young. Very Good.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Crus Bourgeois 2015 - First Impressions

The 2015 Crus Bourgeois tasting in London

For vintage-watchers - and if you like Bordeaux, you should be - 2015 was a good year. And all the more needed coming on the back of a run of disappointing years.

2015's Crus Bourgeois wines were brought to London for a tasting and with almost three hundred this year, tasting all was never going to be possible to rey everything;  so I picked and chose from a list provided by the organisers plus anything else that caught my eye.
My overall impression is that it has been a very good year for Cabernet, with lots of colour, extract and general substance; these wines will age well.

The Merlots that I tried were surprisingly light in comparison - visibly paler with less substance, but still a strong core and good length. Wines to drink in the shorter term, perhaps, whilst the Cabs are maturing.

The better appellations are ... well, better as you would expect. Prices were not universally available, but there were some bargains.

Fuller tasting notes to follow shortly.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

France This Is Not

Two German wines

MOZART: (to Joseph) It's highly moral, Majesty. It's full of proper German virtues. I swear it. Absolutely!

JOSEPH Well, I'm glad to hear that.

SALIERI Excuse me, Sire, but what do you think these could be? Being a foreigner, I would love to learn.

JOSEPH Cattivo again, Court Composer. Well, tell him, Mozart. Name us a German virtue.

MOZART Love, Sire!

SALIERI Ah, love! Well of course in Italy we know nothing about that.

- "Amadeus", Peter Shaffer (1979)

France is to wine what the Beatles are to pop music - its influence is so varied and all-pervasive that it is the de facto reference point for many wines; Sauvignon, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah / Shiraz, Chardonnay (and plenty of others) all call France their spiritual home.

A summer holiday in Germany led to us bringing back a range of local wines that owe no debt to France in their style - on this occasion, a light, refreshing Mosel Riesling and an oaky, pumped-up Pinot.

Von der Leyen Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Riesling Kabinett 2016 Light, just 8.5%, with zippy, lemony sherbet, fresh green apple, gooseberries and pear. Lively, fresh and mineral.


Drink as an aperitif or with the lightest of starters.

Affentaler Spaetburgunder Rotwein Auslese Trocken 2014 they say life's too short for a German wine lable, but some of the details here are telling; it's a later-harvested (auslese) Pinot Noir (spaetburgunder) fermented to dryness (trocken).

Fuller than a Burgundy, this is a Pinot that has been down the gym and pumped its way up to 14% - with sweet, ripe dark cherries, wild berries and some classic Pinot "vegetal" aromas; supple texture and oaky spice cut through with an elegant freshness.


Drink with classic Pinot fare - darker game such as venison or duck.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A South African in France - Lunch with Martin Meinert

Lunch with Grand Mayne's consultant winemaker, Martin Meinert

What do you get if you cross a South African winemaker with a reviving vineyard on the other side of a prestigious demarcation line in France?

Martin Meinert is a South African winemaker who now consults on Domaine du Grand Mayne in south west France's Cotes de Duras, an area popular with British holiday-makers.

It was created out of a derelict farmhouse and abandoned fields in 1985 and run on a partial-ownership model; punters would buy a row or two of vines and then take their dividends in the form of finished product.

The winery has waxed and waned in the intervening period, but founder Andrew Gordon is still involved with the running.

Martin's CV includes experience at top Cape wineries and Lafite Rothschild, as well as Chile, California and Australia, which sets him up perfectly to achieve the winery's vision of making New World style wines in France.
Being just outside the appellation d'origine contrôlée boundary for Bordeaux brings with it a number of opportunities and challenges - recognition is low, but freedom of winemaking is greater and it brings an opportunity for the wines to sell on their own merits rather than as part of "brand Bordeaux".

Overall, the wines were technically very well-made with good fruit - as you might expect from Martin's CV. The entry-level wines were priced ambitiously, but this reflects to an extent the high level of fixed cost in a UK bottle of wine.

The reserves were demonstrably superior and given the price-quality ratio, arguably better value.
Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (c. £10) saline-mineral, fresh and aromatic

Reserve Blanc 2015 judiciously oaked with a good blend of oak, ripe fruit and freshness. Substantial, with good underpinnings. Very deft and accomplished.


2015 Merlot Cabernet coffee, cherries , spice and freshness

Reserve Rouge 2015 complex oaking, leather and gaminess; red and dark fruits with spices, freshness and hints of florality.


Moelleux 2012 a blend of S/SB/ChB ripe, roasted peaches, chestnutty beeswax, raisins, spices and cidery acidity. Complex.


They are available via the winery's website: https://www.domaine-du-grand-mayne.com/uk-shop/wine.htm

Monday, 4 September 2017

Lost In the Supermarket - German Wine

A random-ish selection of German wines - from the supermarket

I'm all lost in the supermarket
- Lost in the Supermarket, The Clash (1979)
On holiday in the southern Black Forest and needing a few wines for the week, I was faced with a wall of different German wines that I had absolutely no knowledge of - I could make sense of grapes, alcohol levels and prices, but nothing more.

So, I did what perhaps most people do in the circumstances and chose based solely on whether I liked the labels.

Actually, that's not quite true - I did reject one Spaetburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) for its 14% alcohol level, suspecting it may prove to be overcooked, and selected instead a 12.5% example.

All were bought in Edeka, a collection of co-operatives making up Germany's largest supermarket chain, in Bad Säckingen and priced at around €5-7, the equivalent of around £12 retail in the UK after allowing for duty, taxes and additional mark-ups.

In short, all of them were very enjoyable indeed - clean and precise, expressive and well-made, generally with a light-freshness. Perfect as sippers, they also matched with out holiday food (think wurst and spätzle with sauerkraut) I could routinely drink wines like this and never get bored.

Wuttemberg Terra S Weissburgunder 2015 floral and citrussy with elderflower, lemongrass, orchard fruits, zippy lime and sweet spices. Fresh, mineral and long (12.5%)

Merdinger Attilafelsen Spaetburgunder, Baden 2015 pale and cherry fruited with oaky, peppery spice; fine, firm tannins. Fresh, deft and elegant. (13%)

Wuttemberg Besigheimer Lemberger, 2016 dark cherry and red berry fruit with raspberry leaf and spice. Fresh, clean and pure; elegant and light.(10.5%)

Oberkircher Riesling Kabinett 2015 aromatic, zippy lime marmalade and kerosene with ripe lemon, pineapple and peach; pleasantly piercing acidity; flinty and mineral with white pepper.

Baden Markgraeflerland Spaetburgunder 2015 (12.5%) red and black cherry fruit, fresh and mineral with good underpinnings and a seasoning of oaky spice. Like Audrey Tatou taking you out for whisky and cigars.