Archive for the Tasting Notes Category

Our September Sale (including 1870 Clarets)

Posted in Bordeaux, News, Tasting Notes on September 6, 2011 by AB

Yesterday afternoon we started our September feature auction – over 100 lots of high quality wines all consigned to us for sale.

At the heart of this sale are some remarkable wines, many of which we’re sure you won’t see at any other auction this year (or possibly ever). This is a collection of Red Bordeaux from 1870 through to 1900. Unusually for wines of this age, they all have impeccable provenance, having been owned by a single family and stored in the cellar their Scottish country house since delivery back in the 19th century!

When I was first contacted about the collection it sounded too good to be true and therefore I endured an uncomfortable 10 hours and several changes of trains to reach Perthshire so I could see for myself.

I arrived at my destination filled with excitement at what I was going to find. Lying in the midst of fine parkland and perched above the river Spey, the property was an imposing sight (see below) and just the sort of place one expects – normally wrongly – to find a collection of venerable claret.

Sure enough, the cellar was as described – perhaps 90 bottles, encrusted in dust and clearly untouched by human hands for many, many decades. Carefully working through the bins (many marked up with ancient handwritten labels), I was thrilled to discover gems such as 1900 Chateau Palmer, 1890 Chateau Lagrange and (believed 1870) Haut Brion La Mission [now La Mission Haut Brion].

In addition to the identifiable wines I also unearthed a large number of old style moulded port type bottles in two bins marked ‘1870 claret’. I commented to my host that it would be interesting to know whether they really contained red Bordeaux and whether it would be drinkable. After all, if really an 1870, this wine was made in the year that Rome became part of Italy and in a world where diesel engines wouldn’t arrive for another 20 years. Generously he offered me a couple of bottles to take with me. Knowing I was going to see Mark Savage MW – a man with a great knowledge of Bordeaux – later in the week, I accepted with the caveat that the bottles would be tasted with him for an unbiased second opinion. At this point I must quote Mark directly:

‘It may safely be assumed that the wine in question was an important one since there can hardly have been much of a market for an inferior chateau at the time. Regardless of speculation with regard to the actual vineyard, the wine in the glass vastly exceeded expectations, with vitality and definition, and a bright intensity of colour that great wines somehow always seem to possess. On the nose there was volatile acidity, by no means unattractive, on the palate freshness and balance, with a final impression of both natural sweetness and acidity. The alcohol was presumably 2 to 3 per cent lower than the blockbusters of the modern era. It did not fade rapidly in the glass, but blossomed further.’

In an era where very old wines are increasingly rare and often suspect, this sale represents an exceptional chance to pick up some legendary wines. Don’t miss out – see the list now or take a look at the whole auction catalogue.

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Lots of lovely Rhones

Posted in Australia, Food, Madeira, News, Rhone, South Africa, Tasting Notes on October 1, 2008 by AB

Lunch today with 19 other readers of Tom Cannavan’s wine-pages.com and more Rhone notes which must give readers of this blog the impression that I drink nothing else.

Recently that’s been pretty much true – mostly because every time I’ve drunk anything worth noting in the past few weeks I’ve been with Keith Prothero, a fellow director of Bid for Wine, organiser of this event and a massive Rhone fan. As it happens Keith did add some regional variety to these proceedings with samples from another project of his, Mullineux Family Wines, who are producing a Chenin/Clairette Blanc/Viognier/Grenache Blanc blend and a Syrah from Swartland in South Africa.

Mullineux Family Wines, White, 2008, South Africa
Restrained; some white fruit, a touch of vanilla oak. Opens up to show a mineral/plasticine character I associate with Grenache Blanc – it seems this element is probably dominating now. Quite oily, nice length. Very good indeed.

Mullineux Family Wines, Red, 2008, South Africa
Massively ripe nose; out of place amongst the other (much older) wines here. Still smells of fermentation. With time some leafiness emerges. Young and hard to assess – clearly will benefit with time but I liked the way this evolved in the glass.
Very good+?

The main event and some lovely wines – great generosity all around.


Risotto of Squid with Cauliflower, Pinenuts and Winkles Sauteed in Sherry

A dish I’ve written about before and equally excellent this time.

Condrieu, Pichon, 2006
Full, dense nose – apricotty, creamy and a touch of peach. Slightly grainy texture, surprisingly high acidity and lovely length. Very good indeed

Hermitage Blanc, JL Chave, 1995
Honey, marzipan and a slight parsnip character plus a suggestion of oxidation. There’s some subtle vanilla oak in here too. Honied, nutty palate with a rich mouthfeel but not terribly giving at this stage. The nose opens with time to show some toasted nuts, a slightly perfumed character and lots of
spicy ginger. Very good indeed


Warm tart of Wild Mushrooms and Partridge with Walnuts and Truffles


Cornas, Clape, 1989
Lovely dark fruit at first backed up with spice, tea, cocoa and earth. A blueberry note in the mouth with some savoury elements too. Firm, well structured wine – this could handle a lot more age, though drinking well now too. With time in the glass, the fruit changes to gain a figgy/pruney character. Excellent.

Hermitage, La Chapelle, Paul Jaboulet, 1995
Tarry, plummy fruit with smoke and bacon. Astringent and lean at first but the palate fills out with time to show cherryish fruit and smoky bacon. Creamy texture and loads of black pepper too. This wine seems to be drinking well now with food but there’s a lot of firm, chewy tannins that could benefit from time to soften.

Haunch of Roe Deer with Chervil Roots and Licquorice
Lovely tender venison. This was accompanied by some celeriac puree too. The chervil roots were odd but lovely – a texture reminicent of a floury potato crossed
with a roast chestnut with a sweet, slightly parsnip like flavour.

Hermitage, Delas, 1997
Very ripe blackberry fruit; this smells like a cool climate new world wine – perhaps an Eden Valley Shiraz. Shows some tertiary aromas with time – some smoke, meat and cinnamon. Relatively giving and perhaps a little lacking in structure. Very good

Hermitage Blanc, JL Grippat, 1997
Weird swimming pool/pig farm/lactic aromas. Clearly not right – maybe secondary malolactic fermentation in bottle? Not rated

Cote Rotie, Cote Blonde, Rene Rostaing, 1986
Dominant salami and licquorice at first. Kept evolving – smoke, a hint of game, leafiness. Acid holding this together rather than tannins now and quite delicate. Nice length and elegant. Similar structure to Chave ’82? Very good indeed/Excellent


Quince, Roquefort and Verjus

This was presented very cunningly – a verjus granita spiked with quince paste topping a custard made with Roquefort and a touch of vanilla. The cheese in the dish was very subtle at first but seemed to explode in the mouth as one swallowed.

Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat Grapes and Vin Cotto

Muscadelle, Gehrig, NV (Rutherglen, Australia)
Perfumed, orange peel, spice and tea. Not that sweet. Very elegant, poised and balanced. Very good/excellent.

Setubal Moscatelle, JM Fonseca, 1902 (Setubal DOC, not Madeira as previously stated)
Quite volatile at first. Shows some coffee, raisins and figs. Creamy texture, lovely balance. Excellent

I also tasted a few other bottles throughout the proceedings – what follows are more impressions than firm notes though.

Hermitage, B Faurie, 1991
Very strong black pepper character. Dense, tannic – foursquare. Is this the house style? Similar bottles of the ’97 and ’85 would suggest so.

Cote Rotie, Jamet, 1989
Raspberry fruit with some menthol, smoke and bacon. Leafy and smokey on the palette. Beautifully fine tannins and very elegant. Very good indeed/excellent

Cote Rotie, Jamet, 1999
Hugely aromatic nose – lots of Viognier? Not sure where this will go – doesn’t seem to bear much resemblance to the ’89.

Cote Rotie, Cote Blonde ‘La Garde’, A Dervieux, 1985
Hugely gamey and farmyardy. Smells like a well hung pheasant rather than wine.

Hermitage, La Chapelle, Paul Jaboulet, 1989
Full and ripe on the nose. Very primary. Quite creamy palate, ripe and figgy. Seems much younger than the ’95.

Cote Rotie ‘La Landonne’, Guigal, 1986
Wow – oaky nose. More savoury and less oaky in the mouth.

Lunch with Jamie Goode and musings on Chave.

Posted in New Zealand, Rhone, Tasting Notes on September 19, 2008 by AB

Today saw a daytrip to London for lunch with Jamie Goode of www.wineanorak.com. Knowing that Jamie is a fan of New Zealand, I pulled out a bottle of older NZ Chardonnay, whilst, ever generous, Keith brought a 1983 Chave.

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 1998

Deep yellow in colour. Rich nose showing lots of sweet fruit, perhaps a touch of hay and vanilla and a touch of savoury oak in the background. On the palate there’s serious weight and richness – indeed the wine seems almost sweet. Lots of buttery, tropical fruit flavours too. This bottle is marked as 15% alc, (something I spotted too late to find anything more afternoon friendly) so I was expecting something of a bruiser. Surprisingly though, the alcohol is pretty well integrated with just a slight burn on the finish.

Hermitage 1983, Jean-Louis Chave

Deep ruby with pronounced brick edge. Full, spicy nose (English mustard) with peat smoke aromas and a suggestion of strawberry fruit. Later there was perhaps a hint of rubber too – something I’ve noticed before as a marker of some Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage (rarely though have I found it offensive) – and some polished wood. The overriding impression on the nose is of a mature, savoury wine. Relatively dense and firm in the mouth, the wine still has a good tannic structure and seems less evolved than either the colour or nose would suggest – I suspect revisiting in a few years would be interesting. Deep, smokey, spicy flavours. Very Good Indeed/Excellent

Chave Hermitage 1983
As an aside, it was interesting to make a mental comparison with a bottle of Chave 1982 tasted last October (note below for information). It struck me that the ‘83 was far less evolved and more masculine than the ’82 but that there is a very consistent style emphasising elegance, finesse and savoury characters – in many respects this wine seems Burgundian in character. This is in marked contrast to the richer, denser, often sweeter fruited style that to me typifies Jaboulet’s La Chapelle.

Hermitage 1982, Jean-Louis Chave

Smokey nose (peaty almost) – lots of bacon fat too. Some notes reminding me of mustard and cress along with some spice and a slight burnt rubbery note. Very savoury and dry on the palate – very fine and linear. Hints of menthol, star anis, soy and smoked meat on the palette plus a touch of raspberry fruit. Overall much more poise and finesse than either of the Jaboulet wines but perhaps a touch harder to love – a size zero model here rather than Sophie Dahl, albeit very aesthetically pleasing.

All work and no play? Then let’s drink Beaucastel today.

Posted in Food, Restaurants, Rhone, Tasting Notes on September 17, 2008 by AB

People keep asking me how Bid for Wine is progressing, particularly as our site doesn’t appear to have changed much lately. Well, the answer is that behind the scenes we’re working flat out (and have been for the past few months). The upshot of this is that we’re starting testing of the site at the end of the week and sales should be commencing in mid-October (more on this later but key your eyes peeled for top vintages of La Chapelle, ultra-rare Guigal, various 1st Growths…)!

Although the hard work recently means I’ve seen 1A.M. come and go a little more than I’d like, there have been some notable high points. A recent lunch at The Ledbury in Notting Hill to discuss Bid for Wine with a noted journalist over a couple of bottles of the famous Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateau Beaucastel particularly stands out.

Whilst awaiting our starter, a surprise Amuse Bouche was brought to the table.

Squid ‘risotto’ with Winkles and a Pine Nut foam

This was magical. What at first appeared to be perfectly cooked pearls of Arborio rice revealed themselves to be tiny piece of tender, succulent squid with a subtly fishy binding. This was accompanied by some beautifully cooked and incredibly intensely flavoured Winkles – a later conversation with Brett (the chef) revealed these had been finished with PX sherry, which explained the richness and depth.

Next up was a cunning seasonal twist on Ravioli, eaten alongside a bottle of Puligny Montrachet.

Ravioli of Grouse and Cepe, Elderberries, Toasted Bread Veloute

A really unusual and clever dish. The elderberries were an inspiration giving a touches of acidity and sweetness to underline the richness of the other components.

Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Referts’ 1999, Louis Carillon

A suspiciously deep colour on pouring, this wine unfortunately lack an edge and was suffering a touch of oxidation. However, underneath there seemed to be some elegance with well managed oak and a touch of butteriness. Not Rated

Although the choice of Sea Bass or Beef for the main is often a difficult one, our choice of wine left me with no alternative.

Rib of Beef, Kromesky of Veal, Spinach Puree and Grated Horseradish

Beautifully rare Rib, a Kromesky (a sort of croquette) subtly spiced with 5 spice and some very fine potatoes contributed to a great dish which worked perfectly with the Beaucastel. The dish was crowned with a slice of Apple Wood smoked bone marrow sitting atop the Rib – the sort of thing which always leaves me wondering how on earth it was done.

Chateau Beaucastel 1981

Very elegant lightly peppery nose (almost watercress) with lovely background aromas of grilled meat, leather and tarry fruit. Amazingly youthful colour – just a little bricking around the rim. Not a huge wine but there’s exceptional elegance and poise here allied with great length. Excellent

Chateau Beaucastel 1988

Ripe, creamy nose showing some plum and leafiness. A slightly honeyed leafiness emerges over time seeming to suggest the Grenache is asserting its presence in this wine. The tannins are still dense and don’t quite mesh with the other elements meaning the wine lacks some elegance – good length though. I suspect this suffered in comparison to the ’81. Very Good

A selection of lovely cheeses with crispbreads and a miniature loaf spiked with apricots and figs rounded off a great lunch.