Sunday, 23 March 2014

Excellent and rare aged white from the Loire: Domaine aux Moines Savennieres 1998, yes, I said 1998

About as unique as white wine gets, and I
mean that in a good way...
This is a really unusual white wine. I'm usually a red man, but am developing my white wine palate sporadically.

My tastes run to the stronger, heftier wines around. Although I draw the line at about 14.5% alcohol and am not a fan of the huge South African or Australian reds with over powering alcohol and/or fruit.

Back to whites, I have discovered good white Burgundy in recent years (2008 Meursault being a particular but pricey favourite).

Also Carbonnieux from Bordeaux is a cracker, if not cheap.

This white on the left here, Domaine aux Moines 1998 was an extraordinary find at Vinoteca in Soho, recently.

It's amazing aged white wine. You rarely see whites this old that are not sweet wines, so if you can find it, it is well worth a try. The dryness comes off as it breathes, although one out of the three bottles I have tried had gone over the edge. It's hard to explain how it tastes. Like nothing else in white wine.

Imagine a Sancerre with more richness, breadth and a little, well 'edge' to it. Plus the aged flavours. Not to everyone's taste, but very tasty nonetheless. It's about £15-20 at retail prices, which is a real steal, if you can find any left. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

2003 Dofi, superb Priorat at a very good price, if you can buy it

According to a few sources, winemaker Alvaro Palacios is an established wine legend, making unusual wines in Catalunya, Spain, home of the the under-rated priorat grape.

This guide to his work is full of praise.

Having only tried one of his wines I find it hard to comment.

The one I did try though, pictured, at 10 Greek St restaurant London (ask them for the secret wine book), was an absolute cracker.

No less than Parker himself gives it 92-94 and he says it is:

“Super-expressive, rich, and full-bodied,
with wonderfully integrated acidity, tannin, and

It was a couple of months ago when I was lucky enough to try it and that chimes with my memory. I recall fantastic structure which I hadn't expected, and superb full bodied balance and depth. The tannins reminded me of the Gironde.

It's hard to find and not cheap. We paid about £40-45 in the restaurant, and that looks like the retail price too from what I can tell on

If the 2003 isn't available, the other vintage reviews seem to indicate that Alvaro Palacios is one to watch.

Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Risera 2007, two good options

2007: Bad in Bordeaux but superb in Montepulciano
From a layman's point of view, i.e. mine, 2007 seems to have turned out quite well in Montepulciano.

Back in 2010 a blogger who undoubtedly knows more than I, wrote that the:

"2007 vintage was a nervous and aggressive vintage in Tuscany, with brambly acidities and sharpness that have yet to settle out".

Further thoughts and reviews are here.

I've been sampling the odd bottle of Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Risera 2007 from a couple of sources over the last two years and I think the vintage must have moved on considerably from 2007.

The Riserva vintages are not made every year so one should have relatively high expectations.

Some interesting background on the region can be found on the Berry Brother's site here.

Interestingly, I had no idea how much smaller the production volume is when compared with nearby Brunello and Chianti. Berry's says that: "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG covers only 820ha - compared to 12,000ha for Brunello di Montalcino and 7,000ha for Chianti Classico".

Berry's also writes that: "Stylistically, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano combines the richness of Brunello di Montalcino with the perfume of Chianti Classico. Without the limestone spine of other top Tuscan sites, the wines tend to be medium to full-bodied with firm tannins, lively acidity, fleshy strawberry and cherry fruit and hints of tea leaves. The best examples should age 8 to 15 years while Riservas can last for over two decades."

So if you want to tell your friends you are drinking a wine that is slightly off the beaten track, this is a good one to sample. I find rare tuscan steak and wild boar both go very well with these wines.

What I like about the two 2007 vintages I have had is that they, unlike some other good italian wines, don't break the bank when you drink them in a restaurant. That matters quite lot given how pricey a lot of decent, and a lot of frankly mediocre, Italian wine can be.

First up, the wine pictured is available in London's Boca di Luppo for about £45. That's not bad for such a good eatery (Boca is fabulous, eat at the bar if you can).

Here's the producer website. Retail prices seem to be about £18-20 in the UK. That makes it a bit of a gem in my book. Their description of it as "dry, harmonic, fruity and velvety, with an elegant texture and long finish" is a decent one. I would add that it has that lovely slightly aged, earthy Sangiovese tinge on the end and into the finish of a sip. For the price, retail or in Boca, it's a decent option indeed.

The second option is Avignonesi's Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Risera 2007 which I think is even better than the Carpineto above.

I always buy it at Negozio Classica in Notting Hill, London, which is one of my favourite places to hang out. It's always relaxed there, the food is fabulous and the italian wine selection unsurpassed. The restaurant is part owned by the Avignonesi vineyard, a trend I would love to see more of, and the benefits are clear. 

The Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Risera 2007 is not cheap, around £50-60 as a I recall it in the restaurant, but as a special treat it is unmissable. And it likely come with an expiration date given how limited general Montepulciano production is. Drink it while it lasts.