Preamble Tasting January 1996
1. Jaoa Pires, Vinho Bianco, 1992 Portuguese.
Made by an Australian wine consultant, Peter Bright. 100% muscatel. Picked early am or pm, small baskets, membrane pressed. 12% alcohol. One star (15 points) from Jacintha Delahaye. Good balance between fruit and acidity. Delicious hints of tangy peach on the aroma carry through in the
flavour. Jaoa Pires (Quinta de Bacalhoa and Tinta de Anfora) even get a mention in Parker!
2. J.L. Chave, Hermitage Blanc 1986
"Life is too short not to cellar and drink the wines of Gerard Chave, one of our planet’s greatest winemakers." Praise indeed from Mr. Parker. Mark Down’s excellent "Tasting we can’t afford" from last month was the first at which I (and others) felt that the white wines outshone the reds - and this from a confirmed red man. The next two wines fall into the same categories: superb and we can’t afford them! We have the pleasure of trying these by the great generosity of a friend of mine who has a secret store of this nectar and who was foolish enough to let me have some. We found the nose had tropical fruits, and some flint. It was incredibly long, fruity, very well balanced. One comment was that it was somewhat reminiscent of a good auslese. The longer it was open, the more complex it got. The bad news is that, two hours later, it was completely dead, disintegrated, knackered. It was opened this evening just before we tasted it.
Private cellar About £25.
3. J.L. Chave, Hermitage Blanc 1990
The 1990, on the other hand, was much the same or somewhat better after two hours. I found it initially more rubbery, and with some ketone smell. Very good acid balance, good fruit. Parker describes the ‘90 Hermitage Blanc as "an explosively rich, powerful, fat, chewy white Hermitage bursting with fruit, with a wonderful purity and focus to its flavours as well as a dramatically
long finish. It may ultimately turn out to be the best of these offerings."
Private cellar, seen on shelves for about £40
4. Cava Tsantalis, 1990
This one is from Chalkidiki, the trident peninsula south east of Thessaloniki in Macedonia. You may have seen it on one of the travel programmes on TV last week. Light ruby or even red-black colour. Slightly organic nose, even a hint of Cab Sauv. - and the grapes turn out to be Xinomavro and Cab Sauv. Xynomavro is described by Emile Peynaud as one of the grape varieties which give an individual aromatic character to wines, although he doesn’t say what this aroma might be. Easy drinking, good structure, not a bad finish and good value at the price.
5. Coteaux de Mascara, 1985
According to Johnson Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia between them accounted for 2/3 of the international wine trade earlier this century. About 90% of their production went to Europe as blending wine, appreciated for its strength, colour and concentration. Algeria was by far the biggest source and went into immediate decline after its independence from France in 1962. Some of the
Algerian wines of the hills were given VDQS status by the French. The Coteaux de Mascara is one of the seven designated quality regions, and has a reputation for making rich reds and very respectable smooth and fruity whites. This wine seems to have some of the Italian reciota style. Purple/pink colour. It is well toasted, has a raisiny nose. A slight taste of bicarb, maybe. Burny aftertaste. Long legs. Superb value.
6. Regagleali, 1992
This comes from a traditional Sicilian noble family who, in the ‘60s, upgraded to stainless steel and modern techniques. It’s a hilly region, between Palermo and Caltinisetta, covering 460 hectares. The grapes are Perricone and Nero d’Avola. A great nose. I find cherries and burnt rubber. Slightly tannic, but soft tannins. Bit dry on finish. Very well made. Good value.
Dieter Bergman. c£7.50
7. Long Gully Merlot, 1991 - Compare with next!
This is from the Long Gully Estate in Yarra Glen, Victoria, Australia. The estate was bought by Reiner and Irma Klapp in 1972 as a quiet refuge in the country from the electronics industry. Planted their first vines in 1982 (2.2Ha of chardonnay, riesling and cab. sauv.). Subsequently planted pinot
noir, sauv. blanc, semilllon, merlot malbec, and cab.franc; now 16 Ha.
This is 100% merlot. Rich, cherry red colour. Very forward nose, organic, gamey and somewhat Burgundy, we thought. Some acid drops in the taste. Body and finish didn’t live up. Has had rave reviews. Travel sickness?.
8. Petroso di Enrico Vallania, Terre Rosse, 1992
Another 100% merlot. This wine comes from a tiny winery on a hill outside Bologna, somewhat as Killiney Hill is to Dublin. It was started some 50 years ago as a hobby by Enrico Vallania, a dentist, father of the current owners Giovanni and his sister. He wanted to make himself some decent wine during the war, so he imported vines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Currently they have cab. sauv., merlot (plus Reserva versions) as well as Riesling, sauv. blanc and a botrytis wine. Young, pleasant colour - somewhat purple. Good complex nose, full of fruit. Berries on palate. Elegant, somewhat stern. Quite sweet. Smooth, even with 13% alcohol.
Dieter Bergmann. £13.50
9. Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux-St. Jacques, Drouhin, 1988
Hilaire Belloc told a story about his youth, which ended dreamily: ‘I forget the name of the place, I forget the name of the girl, but the wine ... was Chambertin.’ Parker says of Joseph Drouhin in his ‘Other Thoughts’: A classic study in ""play it safe" winemaking results in very good but rarely sublime wines. He also says of the 1988 Burgundies in general that there were a handful of great wines comparable to the great wines of 1969, but what about the high yields and astringent level of tannins? It will be an ageing race between the fruit and the tannins. We found this wine to be absolutely gorgeous, with a classical burnt rubber nose. Perhaps a bit acidic. No mention in Jacintha Delahaye’s book, strangely enough ... nor anywhere else that I can find. For about half the audience this was the wine of the night.
10. Ch. La Dominique, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe, 1989
This was the wine that caused one member of my hard working tasting panel to remark that they can explode as many bombs as they like around the Pacific Rim. Parker say: ‘In some ways it is such a shame that the 1989 La Dominique is such a show stopping effort, for it overwhelms the 1988. ... The 1989 is the most massive wine I tasted from this vintage in St.-Emilion. The frightening thing is that despite an alcohol level that would make a grower in ahteauneuf-du-Pape jump with joy there is not a trace of hotness in the wine’s nose, flavors or finish, largely because of the extraordinary intensity and concentration. In 1989 the wine was stored in 100% new oak, and that, plus its stupendous levels
of extract, makes for one of the most dramatic and flamboyant wines of St.-Emilion, a breathtaking wine of great flavour dimension, complexity and ageing potential. Anticipated maturity: 1996-2008.’ Our notes are very brief: Wonderful colour. Nose a bit closed. Intensity in taste. Classical long finish. Velvet. Delightful. A profoundly satisfying experience. For the other half of the audience, including me, this left the Burgundy standing.