Fruit for the Gloom
I have tried to be as critical as usual, but this was my presentation and I'm biased! The notes are a bit longer as well. The only disappointment on the night was the Burgundy, which was a last-minute replacement.
1. Foxwood Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 1996
This was a real find, in Christopher's on the Green of all places. It's their house white, and it really gives you a very pleasant surprose when you take your first sip. (The only other from a restaurant is the Puisseguin St.-Emilion from Les Frères Jacques, recently on sale in Superquinn). You expect Australia or somewhere from the name, but it's French, from Saint Couat d'Aude in the Languedoc. Made by Michael Goundrey, an Australian, it is cold fermented in stainless steel. Fresh gooseberry and citrus aromas, fruity dry and very refreshing.
Wines Direct £6.50
2.McLaren Vale Chardonnay, South Australia, 1997
Served blind to discourage prejudging based on price and source. A very good example of Chardonnay for the ABC classes. More like a French than a typical Australian, this oak aged wine is rich and creamy without being too upfront, with a hint of peach and a woodiness that doesn't overpower the taste of the grape. 13% alchol. And what a price!
3. Alasia Muscate Sec, Vino da Tavola, Piedmont 1997
Beautiful nose, flowery but not overly so. Hint of sweetness on the palate, dry, beautifully grapey. Modern techniques but retain a bit of characteristic Italian taste from the terroir. Vina de Tavola from Piedmont, by Martin Shaw according to Tom Doorley; by Matt Thompson according to the back of the bottle! This was, for many, the wine of the night. I upped my rating to two stars from the original one and a half.
4. Auxerrois "K", André Kientzler, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, 1996
In her authoritative work "Vines, Grapes and Wines", Jancis Robinson ends her account of Pinot Blanc with the statement "Pinot Blanc remains an enigma". Auxerrois, a quite distinct variety of Pinot Blanc, takes its name from the town of Auxerre, close to the Chablis district. Why this is so is not at all clear, since there is no recorded history of Pinot Blanc having been planted there. The "K" in the name of André Kientzler's wine refers to the Grand Cru vineyard of Kirchberg, the vineyard of production. The appelation controllé rules do not allow the use of Auxerrois in Grand Cru wines, so M. Kientzler gets around the problem by the use of the capital K on his label. What is significant is that one of Alsace's top producers continues to cherish his small parcel of 40 year old Auxerrois vines in one of the finest Grand Cru vineyards of Alsace. Why he should do so will become clear when one has tasted the wine. Good now, it will improve with a further two or three years bottle age, reaching its best in 2004/2005. My wine of the night.
5. Chateau Canon-Moueix, Canon Fronsac 1994
Medium dark ruby coloured, with a spicy, mineral, black-cherry and currant scented nose. Good fruit, medium body and light tannin in the finish. An elegant wine, rich and concentrated, it comes from Fronsac, just west of Pomerol. The vineyard is located on a magnificent slope, with a commanding view of the Dordogne river and Chateau de la Dauphine, another Moueix property. There are 4.3 ha under vines, 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. These are very old vines, producing remarkably full, rich wines. Average annual production is 2,000 cases. Christian Moueix, by the way, is the man who makes Ch. Petrus. Good value Bordeaux - I didn't believe it existed!
6. Etchart Cafayate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina, 1995
Again served blind, and very well received. The Cafayate vineyard is one of the highest in the world, some 1,750 metres above sea-level in NW Argentina. This is an excellent example of Cabernet Sauvignon, with lashings of soft blackcurrant flavours on the nose, and a hint of mint. On the palate the wood and acid give it a bite and good structure, complementing the intense fruit, and it has a lingering and very pleasant aftertaste. Etchart also make a Torrontes here (Fitzgeralds, £5.49), which confounds all the usual views of this Spanish grape and yields a wine with something of a good Gewurtztraminer quality.
7. Weinert Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 1994
From Mendoza, Argentina, which is the new home of the Malbec grape, doing better things with it than ever they managed with "the black wine of Cahors" in SW France, where Malbec is usually mixed with Merlot and Tannat. This one is 100% Malbec, and like all the best ones is stern, chewy, brooding and with intense depth, jammy and with liquorice. The nose is of violets with a hint of floor polish. Great with food, you will find a quite approachable one in M&S. The one I wanted to show was Luigi Bosca from Verlings in Clontarf, which has just become Oddbins.
8. The Stocks, Woodstock McLaren Vale Shiraz, S. Australia, 1991
This is a bit rare, so consider yourselves spoiled. Very old vines produce Woodstock's top wine of 1991, which is aged for two and a half years in small oak casks. Full-bodies, with oodles of complex flavours, it is initially jammy on the nose, becoming seriously spicy and with that "warm-country" smell (after lunch in the square in Chateauneuf). The Australians refer to a sweaty saddle. Still soft tannins, silky smooth, glorious soft fruit, big meaty... Pity about the price.
9. Jacky Confuron-Conteditot, Vosne-Romanée, 1995
Parker says that "the stocky, bulldog-like "Jacky C-C is a very difficult man to talk to or taste with, but says that he makes rich, muscular, full-bodied burgundies from extremely low yields. He tends to leave them alone, uses old oak and bottles late, which RP isn't too happy about. Nonetheless he says that quality can be superb, albeit inconsistent, and awards four stars. This was a serious disappointment; it was intended to replace a Nuits-St.Georges from the same maker which has closed up since last tasted. The 1995 would have been a much better bet. Keep away.
10. Domaine de la Rectorie, Cuvee Parcee Freres, Banyuls, 1996
The half-bottle version of this is made by the Solera system. This is a vin doux naturel, and I think a bigger, fresher wine. Also said to be the only wine to go with chocolate. To prove this my collaborator provided hand-made chocolate truffles which went down an absolute treat! Quite sweet, good acid, like a cross between sherry and port. The grapes are white Grenache, Rose Grenache, Red Grenache, Mourvedre. 16%+ One of my favourite wines. Upgraded from previous one star rating based on continuing good value.