Greybeard’s Corner May 2009

Ξ June 10th, 2009 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Greybeard's Corner, Tasting Notes, Wineries |

I’ve always enjoyed May, if only for the public holidays at either end, and this one was made all the more glorious by clear, sunny skies and rising temperatures hinting that there may be a real summer this year. Supermarkets were the running wine theme throughout the month, possibly not that surprising as, on average, supermarket wine makes up 40% of my purchases.
As I reported in my recent post on the Newcastle Wine Fair this enjoyable event confirmed the strong wine ethic of both Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and only a week later I found myself in the food-hall of M&S showing just how much I liked their Ernst Loosen 2007 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett by buying a bottle. I had also intended to buy the Bonny Doon Shiraz that I’d raved about, but instead opted for another of Randall Grahm’s finest, the 2006 Central Coast Sangiovese.
Things then quietened down as far as drinking goes, although this didn’t stop another corked wine appearing (my second this year). This time the offending bottle was one I picked up from Tesco in early 2007, their own-label (Tesco’s Finest) 2004 South African Shiraz by Boschendal Winemaker James Farquharson. Tantalisingly I could tell that behind that undeniable “off” aroma and taste there was a decent hit of fruit hinting at the quality I had been hoping for.
This was bought at a time when Tesco were improving their wine range, unfortunately they look like they’ve reversed this trend in recent months with a noticeable change back to the bad old days of “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” – the last few times I’ve been in my local stores (for my sins I have 2 of their “Hypermarkets” near my home town) I struggled to find much to interest me. Their regular Wine-Club magazine has similarly seen a drop in quality as well, the last one was nothing but front-to-back page advertisements without even the pretence of a wine “story” hidden within, and hardly any of the usual vouchers to entice you to buy an extra bottle in store – I guess even this corporate giant is being affected by the recession.
For only the second time this year I opened a bottle of U.S. wine, the 2003 Ravenswood Lodi old vine Zinfandel. Having been patiently waiting in the cellar for two and a half years this was bursting with aromas of dark berry fruit & spice and in the mouth there was a melange of secondary flavours; some tar, chocolate, leather and coffee – an excellent 3+ drink and so enjoyable that, only a few days later, I picked up the 2006 vintage from ASDA (a rare purchase from another supermarket I tend to have difficulty buying from).
Image, US-Can Flags.jpg
As the month progressed an unusually high number of (North) American wines were added to the cellar; joining the Bonny Doon and the Ravenswood were the Brook Ranch 2006 Pinot Noir from the Edna Valley (Marmesa Vineyards) and the Jackson-Triggs 2006 Proprietors’ reserve Vidal Icewine. However to put it in perspective my inventory still only stands at 7 bottles and shows the relative difficulty of buying good quality but affordable American wines here in the U.K.
One of the final purchases was another supermarket own label, but this time it was the Cooperative that caught my eye with their relatively new “Reserve” wines. I picked up the St. Gabriel Vineyard 2007 Viognier made by Jean Claude Mas (of Domaine Paul Mas in the Languedoc), as reviewed by Tim Atkin in The Guardian. It was actually the end of last year the COOP introduced this new line of premium wines in refreshing contrast to the direction Tesco are taking, but I’ve only just seen them in my local store and expect to be trying out more from the range in the future.
Of the wines drank during May a few others seemed worth commenting on. The Château Romer du Hayot 2004, my first bottle of Sauternes, was a fresh, honeyed sweetie – light on the palate in spite of a relatively thick texture. I enjoyed the floral, slightly bitter finish with an undertone of honey, but it will take more interesting Sauternes than this to move me away from Tokaji as my go-to dessert wine.
I’ve already mentioned the Ravenswood Lodi, a solid 3+ wine, as was the Viña Peñalolén 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – a very drinkable, although slightly over the top, fruit-bomb. Less enjoyable was the Château Ksara 2005 Le Prieuré from Lebanon, light and acidic in the mouth, a little medicinal at first, weak in flavour and concentration and a dull 2 stars – not what I’ve come to expect from this country and my previous outings with Châteaux Musar and Kefraya.
The last wine of the month was a Dutch red, the Domein van Stokkom De Linie 2007 Rode from the Netherlands that I purchased on vacation last year (and wrote about the winery in a previous article). Although no more than 3 stars I was very satisfied drinking this, and not just for summer memories. The nose was full of fresh cherry & berry fruit with creamy aspects, and while the flavour couldn’t match the aroma there was a good balance of acidity and (light) tannins – it went exceptionally well with roast lamb and benefitted from being slightly chilled.
Overall the month started bigger than it finished, which went for the weather as well with June starting with a drop in temperatures and rain clouds on the horizon – maybe summer isn’t here just yet!


3 Responses to ' Greybeard’s Corner May 2009 '

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  1. Peter May said,

    on June 11th, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Always enjoy your articles, GB. I hope you took that corked wine back to Tesco.

  2. Greybeard said,

    on June 11th, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Peter (that reminds me, I should open one of my Pinotages soon, I hope I haven’t left my 2005 Beyerskloof too long).
    No, I didn’t return the Shiraz, although it would have been interesting to see the reaction if I had, I reckoned that 2 years is a bit too long to return a sub £10 wine with no receipt…even to Tesco!
    As long as TCA restricts itself to a few bottles a year I won’t be too worried, it’s part of the game isn’t it? :)

  3. Peter May said,

    on June 15th, 2009 at 3:39 am

    Anytime is a good time to open a Pinotage :)

    Even the inexpensive ‘white label’ Beyerskloof Pinotage is easily capable of 10 years. I’mnot sure there’s a straight line progression, there could be a blip as it loses its youthful freshness and changes its taste profile.

    2004s and 2006s are drinking very well, but I don’t have any Beyerskloof 2005s or many other wineries. 2004 & 2006 were such good vintages.

    As for TCA — thankfully Beyerskloof put their whitelabel in screwcaps for the 2007 (and the 2006 for Tesco only)

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