Greybeard’s Corner, September, 2009

Ξ October 15th, 2009 | → 2 Comments | ∇ Greybeard's Corner |

September started with a larger than usual Decanter magazine (352 pages!) thumping its way through the letterbox, the annual tome that covers the Decanter World Wine Awards competition held in April. With nearly 7,000 awards it took the rest of the month to work my way through the results picking out the interesting or relevant winners, but with 41% of entries being below the $15 level then this is a good way to add to the quality of your everyday drinkers.
This was the 6th year of the DWWA and this time round 10,285 wines were entered, the largest ever. 4 bottles of each wine are submitted so over 40,000 bottles were received and sorted for the judging, an enormous undertaking (although an entry fee of $150 per wine gives $1.5 million to help cover costs). As with many wine competitions don’t expect to see first growth Bordeaux or cult Napa Cabs in evidence, but the strong representation from wineries all over the world means plenty to choose from across the more affordable price ranges. Even though many wines are not available in the U.K. or U.S. there’s still more than enough to make a decent wine list from, you can browse the results on Decanter’s web-site here.
Two of the top awards, the International Trophy, went to U.K. supermarket own-labels; the co-operative Santa Helena 2008 Pinot Noir and Sainsbury’s 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella by Cantina Valpantena – both of which are now in residence at my home!
For the (British) retailer awards Waitrose and Marks & Spencer (M&S) cemented their reputation as winner and runner up in the Supermarket of the Year award, while by-the-case retailer Majestic took Wine Chain of the year.
I spent a few days in Oslo in the middle of the month through work and had a delicious meal at “The Edge” restaurant at Aker Brygge, the popular night-life area in the renovated Oslo docklands. This is a new establishment (it wasn’t there when I visited Oslo last year) but is well worth a visit with a small but delicious menu and an interesting wine list. To go with our meal that night I had a glass of Vielles Vignes Sylvaner, the 2007 by Domaine Ostertag, which went well with the smoked salmon starter.
Unlike some other Sylvaner/Silvaners I’ve previously tried this was a well flavoured, dry wine with a strong honey aspect in the mid-palate – although the nose was closed with only a suggestion of flowers.
The main course was a hearty wild boar steak in a rich berry sauce and a bottle of M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Villages 2007 Rasteau alongside. The wine had a sweet smoky nose with a little spice and good fruit with some liquorice and cherry, but was too young – overly tannic for its medium body needing some more years to mellow.
To finish I spied a Kracher 2006 Beerenauslese on the menu. This vintage dessert wine from Burgenland was a blend of Welschriesling and Chardonnay; medium-sweet, elegant and refreshing, strong on apricots and 4 stars all the way.
I went to my second NEWTS (North East Wine Tasting Society) meeting in September and tasted some Spanish treats at a presentation by Greg Wilson from the Newcastle Majestic store. As well as a selection of the current Majestic range Greg had also brought some older bottles no longer in stock, including the delicate delight that was the 1985 Marques de Caceres Rioja Gran Reserva. Some around the table said it was past its best but for me it was still a pleasure to have something so venerable which still drank well and offered subtle, almost ethereal flavours to contemplate.
The group vote for best wine of the evening went to the Torres 2005 Mas la Plana, DO Penedès. While I thoroughly enjoyed this I preferred the Bodegas Emilio Moro 2006 Ribera del Duero which I felt had more character – both had plenty of balanced fruit and tannins to keep them going for several years.
The last wine of the evening raised a few eyebrows as it was an overt “blockbuster”, the Bodegas Muga 2005 Torre Muga Rioja. This was much too over-extracted – a tannic and fruit laden points-seeker which didn’t sit well with the more elegant bottles which had preceded it.
As September marked the anniversary of my visit to the Côtes du Ventoux I dropped a line to Château Pesquié to see how the harvest was progressing. Frédéric Chaudière told me that picking began on the 25th August with the Viognier and they were expecting to be finished by the first week of October. First indications were very good and they are hoping for a great vintage after a very dry summer – of the vinification Fred said that the “extraction processes are the easiest ever seen”. This matches news coming out of all the French regions this year, 2009 promises to be an excellent vintage.
I attempted to add another wine store to my list when I went looking for The Corkscrew in Carlisle, on England’s North West border with Scotland. I only infrequently visit the city I was born in even though it’s less than an hour drive from where I live, and it was somewhat ironic that the wine store was shut when I did, the owner’s taking a late summer vacation! I’ll be back though, as this is where the best Rose of the year came from (via my parents); the Vina Valoria from Rioja.
I still managed to end the month with another store though, courtesy of The Italian Wine Cellar in the beautiful old University City of Durham. The store is nestled in a corner of the indoor market and it was a bottle of Pecorino by Tenuta Cocci Grifoni that caught my eye, another unusual and rare variety to try out sometime soon.
Other wines purchased this month include Tim Adams 2006 The Fergus Grenache blend, another wine from this respected Australian producer to go into my stores. After 3 years of buying his wines I still haven’t tried one, although the 2005 Riesling is steadily creeping up the drinking list and I’d expect to have it within the next few months to find out if he really lives up to the praise heaped on him by the likes of Oz Clarke!
Along with the co-op Santa Helena I also purchased the Meerlust 2006 Pinot Noir to add to its predominantly Californian brethren and replenishing my stocks of this variety which, up until May, had fallen to a single bottle (and that was a German Spätburgunder!). Given my budget and anti-establishment purchasing tendencies it probably won’t come as a surprise that I don’t hold any red Burgundy at this time.
On the drinking side September’s wines fitted more into the quaffing category at home. A spectrum of the French regions was covered with serviceable efforts from Fitou, Cahors, Bordeaux Supérieur and Muscadet – even a St. Emilion Grand Cru, the 2004 Château Grand-Pey-Lescours, was uninspiring. South America fared slightly better with a fresh, dry 2007 Sauvignon Gris from Cousiño Macul and an enjoyable Torrontés, the 2006 Crios de Susana Balbo – although it was showing its age a little. Only the Henriques & Henriques Malvasia Madeira added an element of sophistication to the month; deep, dark and rich with complex burnt caramel flavours this was delightful with fresh and juicy acidity.
As for September’s weather – it started off wet but by the middle of the month the sun returned with some dry and relatively warm spells, heralding an Indian summer which should be good news for the English grape harvest.
You will have noticed October is half-way through and I’m only just getting round to September. I apologise for the tardiness of the latest ‘Corner post and can only blame the demands of the day job (the bills have to be paid!). I have some free time coming up soon so expect to be a touch more prolific than recent months, but for those wanting more real-time notice of my monthly ramblings try looking me up on Twitter.


2 Responses to ' Greybeard’s Corner, September, 2009 '

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  1. Peter May said,

    on October 16th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Ref Decanter World Wine Awards: Did you notice that the winner of the International Trophy for Red Single Varietal over £10 was Kaapzicht Estate ‘Steytler’ Pinotage 2006 ?


  2. Greybeard said,

    on October 19th, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Yes Peter, it’s good to see Pinotage getting a little love! John Avery MW (chairing the SA tasting group) wrote that Pinotage was “..possibly the most promising category..” and “..most of the wines had a lovely softness and depth of flavour..”
    With only 2 International Trophies this year South Africa couldn’t match last year’s total of 6, but I was pleased that it’s other one was to a favourite variety of mine, Chenin Blanc – the barrel fermented Beaumont Wines “Hope Marguerite” 2008.

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