15/05/13 22:59 Filed inGermany
Again this was an inexpensive buy that has been in the cellar for about 3 years, though it obviously would be very happy there for much, much longer. Theres jasmine, pithy lime, dried mango and kerosine on the very expressive nose. It’s lithe and nervy on the palate; a fine balance between almost viscous tropical sweetness and piercing, ripe lime acidity. It ends up feeling light and breezy though - yes it’s sweet but there’s real delicacy here. There’s also a sense that this wine is out of its childhood in the haunting, almost savoury twist to the lime-cordial and lighter fluid finish.
15/05/13 21:50 Filed inFrance
A cheapie but a goodie, bought about 2 years ago from Majestic. Lovely rich straw colour. Rich baked apple, vanilla, dried tropical fruits and apricot kernel on the nose.There’s a real vivacity on the palate to match the richness, with keen lemon peel acidity and a touch of pithiness and generous helping off juicy stone-fruit sweetness. Great, and a bargain! Everything you would want from a £25 Champagne - would definitely consider picking up some newer vintages and hoarding them away for a few years.
04/05/13 21:15 Filed inItaly
Interesting reflection of Nebbiolo, blended with small amounts of Croatina and Vespolina from the northern reaches of Piedmont. At first there’s a lovely gaminess on the nose, accompanied by juniper/clove/cinnamon spiciness. With time the sweet, slightly wild strawberry and sloe fruit emerges, with a touch of date and gentle violet perfume. The elegance of ripe autumnal fruit on the palate is really charming; the wine feels open and mature, but the cool, bright acidity is keeping it keen. A contemplative and rather beautiful wine, showing no signs of inelegance from the 2003 heat.
10/04/13 21:02 Filed inEngland
When I bought this a couple of years I remember thinking that Nyetimber was letting its lead slip a little at the forefront of English winemaking - their packaging was starting to look dated and a bit naff, other producers were undercutting them with some good wines and there just wasn’t quite the buzz around the wines that there had been a few years beforehand. As it turns out they were still making some great wines (the 2003 Blanc de Blancs being probably the best wine I’ve had from this country), and, with the 2007 vintage, went on to redesign the whole brand top-to-bottom. The bottles now look fabulous, there’s definition and simplicity to the product line, and the Rosé is proving rather popular. It’s clear that the big boys are going to fight to stay at the top of the pile.
2006 was a very warm year, and it seems as thought the folk at Nyetimber made the most of the ripeness of the grapes. After 20 mins this is quite flamboyant on the nose, with praline, apricot danish, dried apple, pineapple and kiwi all making an appearance. That generosity of tropical fruit and pastry is felt on the palate, which is nevertheless quite focused and savoury, with curt acidity and a gentle vanilla sweetness. It is a delicious wine, quite extroverted and perhaps a bit unusual but very satisfying nonetheless.
Walking through the failed Tobacco Dock regeneration, a dead spot in the otherwise serene and (largely) wealthy enclave of Wapping, promotes a double nostalgia — first of all for the grandeur of the Victorian Docklands, the streets dotted with impressive warehouses that sustained the economic dominance of the British Empire for so long, and secondly, once you walk through the doors of the late-1980s shopping centre with its teal trimmings and pale wooden bannisters, for the time of enormous cell phones, bermuda shorts and a general sense of economic optimism. Beautiful historic buildings are ten-a-penny; I found walking through an abandoned, un-renovated piece of interior design from the era of my childhood a much more evocative start to an entertaining day.
As it happened it was a perfect setting for a sizeable event, showcasing organic, biodynamic and natural wines, mostly from Europe and mostly imported by Caves de Pyrène. The whole ‘natural’ wine thing tends to be an invitation for dogma and polemic, so I’ll try and sum up my attitude to it as follows:
The wines I like best are the ones where human interference allows the unique flavour of a grape from a certain place to emerge.
You can ruin the individuality of flavour of a wine by over-working it, over-oaking it, over-sulphiting it… You can also ruin the individuality of a wine by being under-protective during winemaking, and allowing ‘generic’ flavours of oxidation or volatile acidity to encroach. To me, that’s just as bad as slapping on a few coats of new oak. Perhaps I’m oversensitive to that combination of bruised apple/cider/ground nuts that signals the high VA/mild oxidation syndrome, but if two wines from totally different places and grape varieties both display that trait I feel a sense of terroir being lost, not gained.
Thankfully that wasn’t often the case here, and we came across some really engaging and delicious wines. Here are some of my top finds:
The Moscato d’Asti of Ca d’Gal
Amongst lots of skin-contact whites and high-acid reds, these light, fresh wines were a real breath of fresh air. Sweet, low-alcohol fizz can be a serious drink, like the clean, pear and elderflower-scented Vigna Vecchia from 2011, or the gorgeous, autumnal dried-apple fruit of the 2006.
Audrey & Christian Binner, Ammerschwihr
There wasn’t a huge Alsace presence at the fair, but the wines from this producer really jumped out at me, especially next to the “we-know-we’re-good-and-we’re-only-really-here-for-the-press-tasting” Albert Mann next door. All those lovely apples and ripe grapefruit were wrapped up with a herbaceous, piney twist in their 2011 Riesling d’Ammerschwihr, with honey, pithy lime cordial and kerosine weight in their 2008 ‘Non-Filtré’ and supreme floral elegance and tropical fruit of the 2009 Kaefferkopf ‘L’Originel’, an unusual blend for a Grand Cru vineyard of gewürztraminer, riesling and muscat. Some of my favourite wines of the day.
The 2007 Vitovska of A.A. Vodopivec, Friuli
My pick of the ‘orange’ wines from Northern Italy, this really stood out for its aromatic complexity. As well as oxidative notes of baked apple and nutty warmth there is crabapple, spring blossom and bay-like spiciness. It featured an extraordinary lift of white pepper on the finish too. Oxidative and quite bonkers (having spent 6 months on skin in underground amphorae) but expressive and individual too.
The Barbera D’Asti of A.A. Trinchero
Timeless wines that taste like they’ve been made this way for generations. The balance of sun-ripened plum skin, clay, liquorice and leather finds a high level of elegance and intensity in the ‘Vigna Del Noce’.
Paradiso di Frassina, Montalcino
These were just lovely wines, complex and expressive. The classical cherry and tobacco of the Gea Rosso di Montalcino 2010, touched with mint and eucalyptus, was very appealing, though it was the 2007 12 Uve that stole the show; an IGT Maremma wine from 12 different varieties that stuck a beautiful balance between sweet, violet-tinged fruit and savoury complexity. A young black cherry and smoke and clove-spiced 2008 Brunello completed an excellent selection.
The Primitivo of Fatalone, Gioia del Colle
Both the basic 2008 and the 2006 Riserva are delicious wines, and represent great value too. Big plumskin, liquorice and red brick aromas, with and extra layer of black cherry and strawberry sweetness and bloody intensity on the palate of the Riserva, which was actually one of my favourite wines of the day. Quite beautiful!
The Wines of Cascina Disa, Elio Sandri, Monforte d’Alba
I loved the 2011 Marapika, a Barbera/Dolcetto/Nebbiolo wine, with its bright berry fruit and classic Piedmontese poise. A wine I’d buy without any hesitation. The 2010 Barbera d’Asti Superiore was also fabulous with its dark blackberry and eucalyptus. The 2000 Barolo and 2005 Barolo Riserva are wines of serious quality, with the mature and suave 2000 Barolo stealing the show over the earthy, young plum-skin intensity of the Riserva. For those with mortally-proportioned wallets the first two wines are seriously good buys.
The Wines of Pyramid Valley, Canterbury, New Zealand
This was an arresting selection of wines, from the elegant, mineral Fields of FIre Chardonnay 2009, through the richer, floral Lion’s Tooth , with its ripe peach and almond, to a lovely series of Pinot Noirs with the delicately-textured Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2009 being my favourite, cloudy in appearance but bright with wild strawberry and mint.
Other interesting finds:
- the 2009 La Pointe Vielles Vignes from Les Vignes Herbels in Anjou. Very precise, almost austere Chenin with lively aromatics of heather, anise and peppermint. Serious acidity.
- Domaine Lemaire-Fournier’s 2004 Vouvray ‘Les Morandières’, a mature, excellent-value Vouvray with all the baked apple and chestnut-honeyed, stone fruit sweetness you’d hope for.
-The 2012 A Pèl from Loxarel in Penedes. Still Xarel-lo, complex with yoghurt, white currants, fennel and fine, persistent acidity. Very unusual.
-The 2004 Brut de Brut Nature Gran Reserva from Cava Recaredo showed classic aged aromas of dried apple, digestive biscuits and red currant on the nose, but a distinctive piercing palate underpinned by milky lees weight. Rather delicious. A producer really at the cutting edge of Cava, with prices to match.
-The totally reliable, mineral and elegant wines of COS, from Vittoria in Sicilia. The 2011 Pithos Rosso, a blend of Frappato and Nero D’Avola was my pick with its crisp strawberry fruit and savoury, almost gamey finish.
I didn’t get to taste anywhere near all of the wines, with large swathes of northern Italy, Spain, and Portugal missed out. We had a slightly inauspicious start with the Georgian wines, the first wine smelling of rendering game fat and finishing with a fiesta of brett, and the second being possibly the most tannic wine I’ve ever drunk - I’m sure there were some treasures to find, but my party weren’t keen to carry on! Challenging, though I challenge I’ll try to take up again soon.
All in all, it was a well thought-out, thought-provoking event and a persuasive argument for minimal-intervention winemaking.