Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Ormes de Pez 2007: Decent early drinking

2007: A forward year, so they say
Ormes de Pez is one of my favourite wines.

A former Cru Bourgeois, (I think) it has probably more minerality than any other wine I know.

There are few Saint-Estephe's that can compete with it for big, bold, earthy mineral flavours.

Calon Segur and Phelan Segur, both of which I have been sampling recently, are at the other end of the Saint-Estephe scale for me. Much more subtle. Not better, just different.

The only other Saint-Estephe I know that reminds me of Pez is Lafon Roche, another big beast from the north of the left bank.

This wine, whilst extremely young, almost criminally, is drinking well right now. It has all the character of Pez you would expect.

 I hear the left bank Bordeaux 2007's are generally drinking well across the board.

Mine came from Carrefour in Brussels. More on where to buy it here.

It's not as huge as the 2003, which is possibly the most extreme of this genre I have tried (it's so intense friends of mine disliked it) and I thought this 2007 was well balanced by comparison. It's well worth a try.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

1978 Las Cases and 1996 Calon, Cos and Leoville Barton

Cos D'Estournel 96', unbeatable
 Yesterday a few friends and I enjoyed a small horizontal tasting of 1996 wines, and a rather special birthday bottle.

First, the 1996 wines. We tried:

1996 Cos D'Estournel

1996 Leoville Barton

1996 Calon Segur

Opinions differed slightly on the Calon. Some felt it still very closed, even after an hour or so in the decanter.

Others said its nose was superb and it was a great example of Calon Segur's more recent output.

The Barton, we all agreed, was a little rough around the edges.

Las Cases, Barton, Cos and Calon, lined up
It lacked balance, but that may be been the bottle: One of our party has tried it previously and noted that bottle was quite different, as far as he recalled.

The Cos won, as Cos usually does in these circumstances. It still has decades to go, and the forest floor mustiness is just emerging, with so much fruit, depth, character, complexity and finish, it was the wine of the night.

The only one that competed, for very different reasons, was the 1978 Leoville Las Cases. This was something of an outlier to the others, impossible to compare really.

A St Julien wine, but overlooking the Latour vineyard in Bordeaux (Pauillac), some might say it had gone past its best. But for us it still had plenty of fruit, depth and complexity, with that wonderful aged claret nose and finish. A truly great "super second" that I doubt I will taste again, at least in that year.

The wines came from Fine and Rare. Not cheap, but well worth it for a special celebratory evening.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Avignonesi Montepulciano Riserva 2007: Holy Mackerel

Best Montepulciano I've had, no doubt
The say Barolo is the king of wines, the wine of kings.

But most kings wouldn't turn down this Montepulciano Riserva 2007, unless they were seriously inbred and a fan of Black Tower instead.

That's entirely possible, Royals not being the brightest of our breeding stock in Europe.

However, that aside, this wine is well worth trying.

As you may know, they only make Riserva wines in Tuscany every few years, and you can see why when you try this one.

It changed dramatically in the glass. At first it was soft(ish), you could taste the age, the complexity and the fruit. Then it shut down and became quite tannic, almost rustic, as Sangiovese can often be. After another thirty minutes it opened up again, and kept it's more tannic edge, but that softness and slight hint of age came back on the mid-palate.

It's one of more complex Italian wines I have had recently. The 2007's are of course far too young to be be drunk now, but I have had quite a few recently (they have just been released recently in the case of Brunello, I believe) and from what I can tell, it's a great year, much better than 2006.

This website gives the wine a community score of 90. I'd score it higher, if I did such things. Gorgeous, fruity, aged and complex, with that tannic change, it's a journey in a glass. Buy buy buy.

I had it with medium rare steak and a rocket and parmesan salad at Negozio Classica in Notting Hill.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Domaine de la Solitude 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Plummy elegance and power

Not to be drunk in solitude
"...mainly a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and a light note of Cinsault. These wines are full bodied, rich textured and soft at the same time able to change according to the vintage from sweet black fruits, red fruits, exotic fruits, kirsch, ripe plum mixed with spice notes, leather and smoked: a rich style with mouth finals long and heady."

So says the website for this smooth, elegant CNP.

I'm not sure I can pick all of that up from the bottle I am trying, particularly given the cold I picked up in China (some of their wines are fantastic) last week.

But for those readers who like a smoother, silkier CNP, as opposed to some of the more rustic Côtes du Rhône wines out there, this is a gem. 

Despite the fact that it's 14.5% alcohol, you really wouldn't know from tasting it, particularly once it has been open for 24 hours. 

I am finding less and less point in drinking wines within 24 hours these days. Much better, I find, to open a bottle, taste a glass, write a few notes, then let it breathe for 24 or 48 hours, and then drink the wine with food. 

This Domaine de la Solitude 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape is for you if like a big, smooth, powerful, plummy French red. My bottle was a gift, but has it for around £20 or a bit less. Worth a try.

I'm really going to miss the 2010 Rhone wines when they are gone. I'm already finding my favourite UK retailers are stocking 2011 Rhone wines now over 2010. 2011 was not as good a year as far as I can tell. Stock up on 2010's while you can, I wish I had.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cos Labory 2005 Saint-Estephe: A keeper and a drinker

Gorgeous left bank, will be a stunner
I've just discovered this chateau and it seems like excellent value.

I picked up some 2005 and two cases of the 1996 recently.

The 1996 is a bargain, I think, at around £250 per case on the Berry Brother's wine exchange system, BBX.

The 2005, they say, will not be drinking properly until 2015.

I've opened one bottle and left for a couple of days after opening you begin to taste how good it will be when it has aged.

The 2005 is scoring between 88-92 and 16.5/20 upwards. What that means I don't know.

I had a 96 pointer wine recently that was plain awful. But this wine is worth laying down for the next decade.

Having made two trips to Bordeaux in the last 18 months and met wine makers from Cos D'estournel, Pichon Baron, Latour, Comtesse Lalande, Smith Haut Lafite, Haut Bailly, Cheval Blanc, Petrus, d'Yquem, L'arrivet Haut Brion, Lynch Bages, Le Pin and a few others, I can tell you they are all worried about climate change. Very worried. Weather may outstrip technology in wine regions in the next ten years. It's worth stocking up now.

Côtes du Ventoux, 'Les Traverses', Paul Jaboulet Aîné, 2010: Balance and power from Provence

Provence Grenache/Syrah 2010
This is, quite simply, the best wine under £8 per bottle I've tried, perhaps ever.

A bold statement? Maybe. I only bought a single bottle from the UK's Wine Society for £7.50.

This wine is big, bold, smooth, rich, elegant, powerful, all the over used words we use with good wine.

The two elements that come through the most for me are the mid palate density. Explained here, and the balance.

I'd also say it has excellent finesse, which is praise indeed considering it's classed as close as you can get to a Rhone wine, which are less known for subtlety than say a Burgundy or Bordeaux wine.

Anyhow, the 2011 is available at the same price here. A must try. Yes there is a connection between price and quality in wine, but this is a great example of just what excellent value you can get if you shop around, stay away from supermarkets and experiment with organisations such as the Wine Society. You just can never beat France for value wines, it's more or less impossible. It's the same at the top end for me. It's in the £20-100 per bottle range that Italy competes, no other country can come close.

I had a 2002 Torbreck "Descendents" recently. Around £70-80 a bottle or so. Awful. All black pepper and overpowering alcohol. This wine at £7.49 a bottle, is miles better.