Ξ July 5th, 2009 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Greybeard's Corner, Wine News, Winemakers |
Lebanon, Israel, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey & Uruguay are countries whose wines are encountered as way-points by many in their wine journeys, but how many see that list as a typical summary of their monthly activities? I consider myself an eclectic wine enthusiast and tend to find the unusual & unorthodox more interesting that the mainstream (although I know some people would use that as a criticism). June turned into a showcase for my wine eccentricities with a spread of “off-piste” regions and varieties factoring heavily in both my drinking and purchases.
Ironically the month started off as traditional as you can get with a tasting at my local Spanish retailer covering a sample of wines from Toro, Rueda, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. I’d enjoyed most of them before, but new that evening was the Dominio de Ugarte 2004 Reserva, from Bodegas Heredad Ugarte, in Magnum. This was tasted next to the 2003 Reserva in standard bottle size and I was so taken with the freshness and depth of flavour of the ’04 compared to the ’03 (which I like a lot) that I bought my first ever large format bottle.
We’d been chatting to a couple during the course of the evening and once the tasting had finished we invited them back to the house to continue the conversation and open up another bottle or two. When I discovered that neither had tried Lebanese wines before I knew I’d found the excuse to open the bottle of 1999 Château Musar I’d earmarked for drinking this year. A quick decant and pour released some beautiful aromas including smoke and tobacco with a subtle hint of V.A. and barnyard. Sweet and savoury in the mouth this had a Rhône style and was very, very smooth with fine-grain tannins and a long finish. A sublime 4-star wine drinking beautifully the two of us (the girls favouring a Pouilly-Fumé instead) polished off the bottle in two hours – which explained my hangover the next morning!
June weather in the North East of England was dire; thunderstorms and persistent rain with infrequent glimpses of the sun, however one of those rare moments coincided with a Saturday shopping excursion to the nearby market town of Hexham. I tend to come here once or twice a month if only to go to the local Waitrose supermarket for its excellent wine selection, but this time Sarah & I decided to have a treat for lunch and we strolled along to the Bouchon Bistrot for some French cuisine. I’d heard good things about the restaurant and had been meaning to go for some time now. I was not disappointed and, after 2 excellent starters, savoured the Boudin Noir (black pudding/blood sausage) while Sarah had a delicate fish course of Coley in a white wine sauce. To wash down the earthy Boudin Noir I had a couple of glasses of a fine Coteaux de Tricastin from Maison Delas, a young , fruity red perfect for a lunchtime drink.
On the way home I stopped by the Hexham Wine Rack (part of the Threshers group) and took advantage of their perpetual “buy 3 bottles for the price of 2” promotion. The selection is not terribly exciting, but there are some good deals to be had and this trip I can away with the Huber 2007 Gruner Veltliner from Austria, the Kanonkop 2007 Kadette from South Africa and a 2007 Cave de Turckheim Gewurztraminer (part of their own “Radcliffe’s” range).
A business trip to Israel towards the end of the month had me travelling via Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
I dislike this airport for several reasons I won’t bore you with, but its saving grace is the Air France Lounge(s) and an enjoyable selection of wines (French, of course!) to distract you while you wait for your onward connection. I had an intriguing white (Limoux I think) which had a peaty aroma not unlike a fine malt whiskey, while a red Cru Bourgeois was surprisingly complex and enjoyable – unfortunately as I write this my notes are sitting in the office so I’ll have to post an update later. Not so good was the Château Le Bonnat “Jeansotte” 2007 Graves served on the flight – I know I was travelling Economy Class, but this thin, acidic, 2 star wine was not what I was looking for. After that experience I read with a wry smile Michael Broadbent’s column in Augusts’ Decanter Magazine where he bemoans British Airway’s Economy wine offering on a flight to the U.S. as “beyond redemption”!
On the return leg of the trip I decided to get rid of a 20 Euro note I’d had in my wallet for the best part of a year and went to the Duty Free wine section at Paris. After a perusal of the ranks of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone I ended up with the Gueberschwihr Goldert Grand Cru 2004 Riesling, taking my stock of this grape variety to over 10% of my collection.
In Israel itself work kept me out of fine restaurants and there was no time for visiting any wineries, so my only note is of the Ramim 2003 Riesling which I bought for about $15 at a local supermarket to drink in my room. I couldn’t tell much from the label as it was in Hebrew but Kosher is guaranteed as it was from a standard state supermarket. At 11.3% abv I expected it to be a dry or semi-dry, but it was heavily sweet, with a golden honey colour and a very luscious and aromatic nose. It was slightly oxidised, but not enough to spoil the oily component (not quite petrol) and, while there was no real complexity or length compared to a Northern European sweet Riesling, it was enjoyable when served well chilled to take the edge off the sweetness.
The final weekend of the month was a family trip to my parents in the South of Scotland. We visited the small town of Moffat and took the opportunity to drop in on the local wine retailer, the Moffat Wine Shop. I’ve been before and I am always surprised about the quality and choice for what is essentially a Scottish country village with a population of only a few thousand – this time round I came away with a Uruguayan Red, the Cata Mayor 2005 Cabernet Franc by Bodegas Castillo Viejo, and a Sauvignon Gris from Chilean producer Viña Cousiño Macul.
The remaining wines in my “around the world” tour were from my weekend drinkers at home. The Domaine de Biéville 2007 Chablis Vielles Vignes and Domaine Raimbault-Pineau 2007 Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Cassandra were both good French whites but both were bested by the 2007 Auxerrois from Apostelhoeve in Maasstricht, The Netherlands, which was a delicate, floral and slightly sweet white with a lot of charm. Moving up the sweetness scale was the Valbene 2004 Picolit from the Colli Orientali del Friuli region of Italy (next to the Slovenian border). Picolit is a rare grape, it is rumoured there are only 25ha of plantings in Italy, and this dessert wine was light and perfumed – not outstanding, but good for £10. Better still I remember to save the half-bottle for future use when I open a bottle of red I know I am not going to finish – a topped-up half-bottle re-corked and put away in the refrigerator lasts several days longer than if left in a standard bottle.
For Reds I revisited Corsica with the Domain du Mont Saint Jean 2006 Pinot Noir but was disappointed by its awkward mid-palate and lack of character. France fared much better with a Chinon from Domaine du Colombier, this was one for those that like edgy, medium bodied wine with a touch of the cabbage patch, as I do! Switzerland was next, with the Cuvée E. Obrist 2005 Vaux Rouge by Obrist Vevey, a Pinot-Noir/Gamay blend typical of the Vaud region, although the wine itself was a little thin and one dimensional. Turkey showed well with the 2005 Bo?azkere by Doluca, a fresh and beautifully fruity easy-drinking red with cherry, raspberry and a hint of herbs and menthol.
We move back into familiar territory with a young red from Portugal’s Douro region, the 2006 Fabelhaft (Stamp) by Niepoort. The nose was the star, smoky with sweet dark berry fruit and although the flavour couldn’t quite match up in the mouth, it was perfectly balanced and a joy to drink at 3+ stars.
I switched to South Africa later on in the month and opened up the Beyerskloof 2005 Pinotage from the famous Stellenbosch producer, prompted by a comment on last month’s Greybeard’s Corner by Peter May of the Pinotage Club. The bottle had been sitting in my cellar for the last 3 years and although only the standard White label Pinotage it had stood up relatively well and was smooth in the mouth, balanced with a little tannin at the end. However there wasn’t any stand-out flavour, fruit or otherwise so I could only just push this into a 3 star – hopefully the Longridge 2004 Pinotage I have will prove a better buy.
And so June came to a close with bottles spanning 12 countries and more than 16 different varieties or blends – welcome to my world! To tell the truth this is a little more on the fringe than even I am used to on a regular basis, but highlights what I’m looking for in the world of wine…..everything!