Saturday, 19 October 2013

Veuve Clicquot, Grande Dame 2004

Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame 2004 was a present from a friend returning from Moscow, and what a present it was! Firstly, the presentation is very slick - although perhaps a touch gimmicky. The box has a tag which, when pulled, turns the inside case around to reveal the bottle. Very faux James Bond, but great fun!

Grande Dame is a "super cuvee" and is a premium expression of Veuve Clicquot's house style. As such, I was expecting richness and opulence with full fruit and a biscuitty mousse. I had recently tried Bollinger Grande Annee 2004 which I expected to contrast heavily (given the differing house styles) and so I noted some of those impressions while I tasted.

I felt that by drinking it in late 2013 we were perhaps risking a touch of infanticide, as this champagne will last for a good decade more at least. Still, good company and good wine go together, so we popped the cork.

Colour: Pale gold

Nose: Crisp, zesty lemon. There's grape with an almost grappa-like intensity. Lemon is very clear.

Palate: Sweet lemon, apricot and peach. As expected, it is on the richer side of the champagne chart and extremely strong and powerful - but not overly flamboyant. There's a slight sense of power being held in check by finesse. There's a really round and fruity style - a sharp contrast to the citrus (esp mandarin) I found in Bollinger Grande Annee 2004 but not far from the richer Bollinger Grande Annee 1997, which had had more time to develop. Peach and nectarine come to the fore in time and the Grande Dame evolves into a sweet, rich toasted brioche. Almost like a Sauternes...

Lovely mousse with no harshness or bitterness. Very fine bubbles.

Finish: Extremely long. It develops in clear stages with red apple coming through and becoming almost caramelised. Lemon brings up the rear to clear the palate and prepare for more. This goes on and on!

Conclusion: I couldn't think of many better ways to spend an evening that to have a bottle of this with good company. This grand Lady demands attention and is lavish in her rewards. Immense power and focused intensity with great poise and elegance. Worth the money? Yes!

Points: 94-95. Exceptional.

Corvus Vinium 2009

I came across Corvus Vivnium 2009 on a recent holiday and thought I'd give it a go. I've heard mildly positive things about it (nothing earth-shattering, but positive nonetheless) and it's always nice to unearth a lesser-known wine.

A rather smaller intro than usual on this as I didn't pick up any interesting facts or titbits about Corvus, other than that they are very much at the forefront of a growing interest in Turkish wine. Drunk at Locanda, by Kalkan, with an excellent calves' liver dish. The grape is called Karalahna.

Colour: A little cloudy - deep ruby red.

Nose: It was a touch cold to start with, so a fairly muted nose. In time sour cherry came through but the nose was rather astringent (if a nose can be astringent). It felt very drying. Hint of mint in the back and perhaps a touch of violet and pine sap - encouraging the slightly sharp scent. Leather in there too.

Palate: Regardless of whether a nose can be astringent, the palate most certainly is. A very dry wine with fairly prominent cherry and pepper. Whilst it softened in time, pepper and sour cherry dominate and it remains a dry wine. Not too sharp though.

Body: Med-full - quite hard to tell due to the astringency.

Finish: Simple, shortish and inoffensive.

Conclusion: Rather a nice table wine that went well with the rich and tangy calves liver I had. While it was a very dry wine, which is a style I'm less fond of, it had points of merit and was a perfectly enjoyable table wine for holiday.

Points: 83

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Warwick Estate, Trilogy, 2009

Regular readers will know my interest in South African wines seems never-ending and that I am fortunate enough to have a good supplier nearby, so I have an almost limitless stock of the things. I gave Warwick a go based on positive comments by various distinguished boozers (the boozerati, perhaps?) and on favourable reviews by characters such as John Platter who, love him or hate him, is seen by many as the Parker of South Africa. His list of the Top 100 South African wines consistently dominates the marketing of SA wine - although people often criticise it for only plumping for already-established wines, leaving smaller vineyards largely to themselves.

Another, more superficial reason for choosing Warwick Trilogy is that I rather like the name and the bottle shape. At £20-24 it's not overly expensive and something you can cheerfully share with some friends without worrying about the bank. Might do a post on how to run successful tastings/wine events sometime, as they're a rather good way of getting into wine.

Anyway - onto the wine. Decanted for 2 hours then re-tasted after 4.

Nose: Typical Bordeaux at first - pencil shavings, graphite and cedar with an almost earthy texture to the nose. Tobacco, pepper and dark chocolate coming in from time to time, with the chocolate starting to build its intensity. Dollop of cassis in there. Peculiarly it's a rather light nose, despite the strong-seeming flavours in there. Everything is quite soft and gentle and it took some teasing to get into it. The dark chocolate has developed into a hint of chili and has a bit of bite to it. On the re-taste the nose had become much more opulent and jammy, but there was still a hefty dose of pepper in there.

Palate: Largely as above, but without the pencil shavings. The coffee is more intense and the cassis is more noticeable, but not exactly prominent. On the re-taste it was noticeably jammier, but still suffered from the slightly harsh/sharp coffee and dark chocolate. I rather wish I'd been able to decant this for longer as I think it was going really exciting places.

Body: Remarkably it was medium-light. There's plenty of tannin but there's no mouth-coating blast sense to this and it's certainly not overpowering. Rather well poised I thought - a nice weight in harmony with the clear flavours. Nice and smooth (before the tannic hit).

Finish: Quite austere and drying. Not terribly long, either. Not unpleasant, but not exactly one to write home about.

Conclusion: A nice wine, but perhaps unremarkable in some respects? I like the chocolatey-ness (almost like eating cocoa nibs - the intensity and sharpness was very interesting) but at the same time I was hoping for just a touch more fruit. I mentioned my regret that I didn't leave this out for longer, and I suspect I would have been rewarded if I had. Essentially, it tastes rather like classic claret but a little bit more accessible (especially at this age). Definitely worth a try purely to see if the construction is something you like or don't. I will try it again one day.

Points: 85/6 (note to new readers - I prefer to use a slightly broader scale than the traditional 85-100 used by most 100 point markers. By way of explanation, 85/6 is a perfectly respectable wine. Not one I would rush to put in my cellar, but one I would happily buy and drink again.)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Turley Zindandel, Juvenile, 2007

Back to America for this one. First things first - I'm not a wild fan of the bottle design or the label but fortunately it was a present, so my design judgment wasn't a factor. I say "fortunately" because this wine turned out to be much better than it looked. Due to university days I had always dismissed Zinfandel as a grape that was used solely in the production of cheap rosé (hi there, Blossom Hill). To say I was underwhelmed would be a minor understatement... Again, fortunately for me, it wasn't a sentiment that lasted long.

Colour: A lovely clear, deep and pure purple.

Nose: Oodles of dark berries, oak and a hefty dollop of spice. Cinnamon and black cherry intensity with a certain light crispness on the top notes. Much nicer than the insipid rosé I associate it with!

Palate: This is really smooth and mouth-filling. It's busting with fruit and spice but somehow it seems light and clean. A bit of an enigma here. The spiciness lifts the fruit and makes this more than just a fruit-bomb (although it certainly doesn't hold back) while retaining a lovely freshness.

Body: Oomph. Full, but rounded, smooth and with absolutely no harshness - along with the extraordinary feeling that it's actually rather light. I can't work out if this is a hefty beast or a delicate flower. Decent slug of alcohol in there but not oppressive.

Finish: Finishes very mildly and fades with a gentle lingering hint of berries. Excellent balance and decent length here too. A finish this satisfying demands another sip!

Conclusion: What a lovely way to dispel my negative image of Zinfandel. Of course this could have ended up in a cave-man style - a blast of fruit with nothing else - but the balance and cleanness really made it stand out. Crisp and fruity, there's not a hint of mustiness in it. People think it'll last to 2014/15 but I'd say go for it now as it's going down a treat.

Points: 90. Good stuff!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Brightwell Vineyard, Crispin

On trying a rather eclectic mix of wines one evening, I came across Brightwell's Crispin. It's a blend of  two lesser-known grape varieties, Bacchus and Reichensteiner, which are generally described as producing soft, dry wines. Bacchus has recently come to the fore as it is grown across English vineyards, notably Camel Valley (who make a rather good sparkling wine).

Described by the Independent as having 'notes of spicy fruit and rosewater on the nose with bold barley sugar aspects on the palate', Crispin is reasonably well-regarded among the English wines. Whilst the the Independent was describing the Crispin favourably, I couldn't help but think that the rather strange collection of flavours rather clashed with one another. Spice, rose and barley sugar? Not exactly classic bedfellows... As a result, it was with interest but mild trepidation that I tasted it (blind, incidentally, along with several other wines).

Colour: Water. The tiniest hint of yellow informs us that this is, in fact, wine.

Nose: Hm. Not a fan. Considering I knew there would be Crispin in the tasting selection somewhere I was actively looking for wines with hints of rosewater and spice in the nose, but I immediately dismissed this. Fairly bland, with the slightest hint of lemon (rather like a large glass of water with a small wedge of lemon in it), it smelt to me to be a bland supermarket pint grigio.

Flavour: No rose. Hint of slightly over-sweet strawberry. Not nice. Insipid and acidic.

Body: None to speak of. Thin, acidic and sharp.

Finish: Disappointing. Short, with harshness and strawberry again.

Conclusion: When I found out that wine 4 was Crispin I was heartily disappointed - I had wanted to like this wine, or at least be interested by it enough to commend it to others. Sadly, I found it perfectly resembled the Great British Weather - drab, dreary, harsh and unpleasant. I may consider trying it again one day, but not any time soon, especially at the rather unreasonable price of around £10. Amazed Decanter gave it a bronze medal...

Points: Is there any use?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Moss Wood Chardonnay 2010

First things first. Apologies for the hideous gap between posts. I got rather caught up in other things and couldn't find time to drink wine, let alone review it! Right, enough of that. Wine:

I'm a fan of Moss Wood. I've reviewed their Pinot Noir here and gave it a high rating 89/90, praising its complexity and the interest it garners among drinkers. Having enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd give their Chardonnay a go - which also went in tune with my Chardonnay renaissance. I've read all sorts of lovely things about Moss Wood's Chardonnay but, being difficult and obstinate, I don't particularly like to take other people's opinions into account when I taste wine. As a result, my tastings often go against the consensus of what tastes like what.

This brings me onto an interesting point that I always remind people of before they taste wine - everything is subjective when it comes to wine. We all have our preferences and styles that we like more than others and its human nature to put an unconscious bias on things we like. This is why I taste things blind (especially given I have a slight conflict of interest here as Moss Wood sent me a very nice email complimenting me on my review of their Pinot Noir). Fortunately this was tasted blind, so the awful flattery that is about to follow is entirely sincere as it could have related to another Australian Chardonnay that I was trying that day (and I have witnesses to prove it!)

Nose: An opulent, heavy, rich Chardonnay nose. There's plenty of oak, but it is suitably restrained and doesn't dominate. This is a really full wine - there's honey, vanilla and a great big dollop of butterscotch. Citrus is fairly restrained on the nose and as a result this is a sweeter and rounder wine than some Chardonnays and eschews the sharp acidic nose that can condemn some bottles (cheap Burgundy being the prime offender here). Super buttery and almondy.

Palate: Again with the butterscotch but in comes some lemon to give a citrus zip to the affair. Vanilla is present and there's an interesting contrast of sweet and sour flavours - they're in perfect harmony and magnificently balanced. In terms of flavour this is a very full wine (as the nose would suggest) and shows that so-called 'Imperial Wine' (to be laid down... and forgotten about) now offers some serious style and ferociously good wine-making. Regardless of the great flavours in here, one word describes this best: balance. I was considering a ballerina in mid-pirouette analogy here but then calmed down a little and left it out.

Body: Acidity comes in at the back, courtesy of the lemon, and forcefully pushes this wine on and on! It's full-bodied and has high alcohol (not that it affects the wine).

Finish: Goes on and on and on and on. Extremely long and with a charming little progression: the sweet and sour contrast is played out in miniature with butter, citrus, honey, citrus coming along in turn and each fighting for their spot in the limelight. A real highlight to an excellent sip.

Conclusion: Is there really much more to say? A different wine to Ataraxia  (click on it for a review) in that Ataraxia was consciously focused on becoming Burgundian while Moss Wood is revelling in its modern intensity, but as good an example of Chardonnay's values as you'll find. It would be brilliant to try the two next to one another and, as they're both around £20 a bottle, what's stopping you?! Not sure on cellaring potential but I suspect a few years might improve things further still - perhaps someone could enlighten me here?

Points: 90+. Accomplished stuff.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2010

So, back to Santa Barbara County for an ABC Chardonnay. Much to my amusement, Au Bon Climat is regularly referred to as 'ABC' - ABC also being the acronym for those who drink 'anything but Chardonnay' (read my review of the magnificent Ataraxia Chardonnay for further discussion). I was mildly interested to see how I would enjoy this wine as I have had a very mixed bag of US Chardonnays in the past (Frog's Leap was lovely but heinously overpriced and there are many hideously watery, acidic and plain bottles out there).

So, clocking in at around £22 (£18 if on offer), I thought ABC would be worth a punt and an interesting option. I also rather like the bottle.

Nose: Very classic oaked Chardonnay - vanilla, honey and oak in abundance with an intriguing hint of lavender and apricot. Quite fresh with some apple and perhaps orange (?) coming through but at the same time delightfully 'creamy'.

Palate: Wow. There is a quite enormous palate of vanilla and honey. This is a real mouth-filler with apricot and lemon coming in in the middle and battling it out.There's also something a bit buttery about this fellow - perhaps a slight crunch of shortbread in there - with just a touch of salt. I wouldn't go so far as to say this is balanced, but there's a certain focus to the intensity. It's forceful, big and brash but at the same time curiously captivating in its slight subtleties.

Body: Full - but strangely it mellows off remarkably well and is (contrary to the description above) extremely moreish and drinkable.

Finish: Strong and long. It develops well and finishes with a rather interesting spot of peppery lemon and a good zing of acidity. Crumbs, this finish goes on and on. This is a really top-quality effort.

Conclusion: Not sure if the sheer honey/vanilla power of this will appease or irritate people who dislike Chardonnay. In one way it's quite enjoyable, but in the other it typifies the extreme nature of modern Chardonnays - they can be insipid and watery or they can be a blast of oak. Needless to say, this wine divided opinion at the tasting and it's quite easy to see why. I, however, like it. It mellows very nicely (once you get over the sheer quantity of honey and vanilla) and has a seemingly endless finish.

Points: 88. Would certainly drink it again - which is good as I have some in the cellar!