Greybeard’s Corner, February, 2010

Ξ March 7th, 2010 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Greybeard's Corner |

Germany, Rhône Grapes and Indian wine all contribute to this month’s Corner post, but sadly, for the second month running, a natural disaster heads the wine news – this time the 8.8 magnitude earthquake which hit central Chile on 27th February.
The epicentre was north of Chile’s second city, Concepción, and hit the key wine regions of the Bio Bio, Itata and Maule Valleys.
Thankfully there have been no reports of loss of life or serious injuries from the wine industry, but there has been significant structural damage and loss of stock. So far estimates put the loss between 150 and 200 million litres of wine, approximately 12.5% of production and worth $250 million.
James Molesworth, the Wine Spectator’s Chile correspondent, immediately started to pass on news from his contacts on his twitter feed (@jmolesworth1) and since then has been the best source of Chilean wine information, with summary posts from 1st March and 3rd March on There was also a moving first-hand blog post from Derek Mossman Knapp of the Garage Wine Co.
The Chilean Embassies in the US and UK are currently accepting bank donations for Earthquake relief efforts; in the US go to Embassy of Chile website while for the UK Jancis Robinson has posted details on her Purple Pages.
Elsewhere it was the newspaper wine writers making their own headlines with the rumour that author and born-again wino Jay McInerney will start a column in The Wall Street Journal from April. Dr Vino dropped the news first, but if true then it shows remarkable prescience from South African Agent Provocateur Neil Pendock who wrote his piece “Jay for the WSJ” back in December after the unexpected departure of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher from the WSJ pages.
On the other side of the Atlantic Tim Atkin has now moved to The Times shortly after The Observer cut his weekly contribution – read his first Times piece here.
Back in my small northern corner of the UK the month started with a trip to Heidelberg in Germany. Although predominantly business, the visit got off to a good start with an evening meal accompanied by an enjoyable Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), the 2008 Fitz-Ritter from Pfalz, and the Alsace-style Schriesheim 2007 Baden Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir); however, the following two evenings were at a “Tapas” restaurant which only had Italian wine (I had beer) and a nearby Medieval theme-Castle where uninspiring white and red wine was poured from clay pots! I did manage to quickly locate the nearest wine shop, Weinhaus Fehser, where Marius Biskup was very helpful in helping me choose some less common examples to bring home; the Hans Winter 2008 Heidelberger Herrenberg Spätburgunder “S” was the most traditional, followed by Bernd Hummel’s 2005 Malscher Rotsteig Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier) and another Spätburgunder, but this time in the guise of Meyer-Nakel’s 2007 Illusion Eins, an Ahr Weissherbst (Blanc de Noir). I’m planning on using these as the core of a German presentation to my local tasting society next year (this year’s slots already being fully booked).
That leads us nicely into February’s NEWTS tasting, Rhône varieties from across the world. The presentation was given by was by Richard Whinney, who coincidentally, after many years in the wine business (including a spell at Oddbins), is currently Town clerk of Prudhoe where I live.
We started with two white grapes, Roussane and Viognier, where Australian challengers were up against the French – in both cases the Australians fared poorly. The brutish, petrol-nosed D’Arenberg 2008 Money Spider paled in comparison to the elegant and fruity La Nuit Blanche 2008 Cotes de Thongue by Domaine Sainte Rose, while Kangarilla Road’s pleasant 2007 Viognier didn’t stand a chance against the Pagus Luminis 2008 Condrieu by Louis Cheze (my first Condrieu) which had a lemon/orange citrus nose with a subtle and complex set of flavours. While I found it a little flat on the mid-palate it was clearly a quality wine which had most of the members enthusing – as it should at over £30 a bottle!
We moved onto the reds with another Australian, Barossa Valley’s 2007 Cigale GSM blend, a comfortable, easy drinking red with plenty of sweet fruit and soft tannins. California then put in a strong appearance with the Cline 2007 Small Berry Mourvèdre which had a strong, slightly medicinal nose, but was superbly balanced in the mouth with good texture and smooth tannins, hiding its 15% abv well – some in the room complained it was too well integrated!
The evening finished with Syrah and two powerful examples from Chile and France, both retailing at £20 (as did the Cline). Matetic’s 2007 EQ Syrah was a formidable wine but far too young, a little harsh at first with pronounced vanilla and a refreshing finish. Given a few more years (or a lot more decanting) this would be a satisfying “big” wine, but on the night Paul Jaboulet Aine’s Domaine de Thalabert 2005 Crozes Hermitage had everyone agreeing on its sophistication; smoky liquorice and bacon on the nose, herbal in the mouth with savoury acidity and a clean finish.
The end of February saw me on another trip, this time to India for a week. A hectic schedule meant little time for socialising so I only had one evening where I could try any local wines, all from the Nashik Valley wine region which is the heart of Indian viticulture and just Northeast of Mumbai (Bombay). Two Sauvignon Blancs provided direct comparison, with the tropical and creamy Nine Hills 2007 much better than the limp Sula 2008, although I’m not sure I’d go so far as to recommend the former. Two-thousand eight was not a great vintage for India so the Nine Hills 2008 Shiraz shouldn’t be regarded as an advert for the best the sub-continent has to offer, with a burnt nose and disjointed, jammy flavours. Unfortunately the best wines of the week were on the Emirates flight from Dubai to Chennai, where I had a crisp Wild Rock Marlborough 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and the light and fruity Torres 2008 Atrium Merlot from Penedès – India definitely has a way to go before its wines are going to be on show in the west as anything more than a curiosity.
As an aside to the visit notes I had planned on picking up some wine from the well-stocked Duty Free section in Dubai airport – on the flight over I had seen Château Musar 2001 Blanc for $15 a bottle. Unfortunately my return flight was late arriving and I had a mad dash to (just) get the gate for my connection, which meant I had to leave the Musar on the shelf.
So to the bookkeeping for February’s purchases and openings and by far the best wine of the month was the Villa Narcisa 2006 Verdejo, Fermentado en Barrica by Javier Sanz. This oaked Verdejo has started to take on an oxidative style over the last year with a full, oily mouthfeel and a strong burnt orange & tangerine component on the nose and taste. Some may consider it too unusual but I was intrigued by the complexity which I am more used to in a rich sherry or dessert wine rather than a dry white, so much so that I went out and purchased two more bottles from the local retailer, Spanish Spirit. At the other end of the pleasure spectrum was the Yealand’s Estate 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This wine prompted my article on Yealand’s green credentials last year on Reign of Terroir but unfortunately when it came to drinking it was so over the top with Sauvignon pungency that we couldn’t finish the bottle. I have no doubt that lovers of the full-frontal style of New Zealand Sauvignon would enjoy this wine, but I am not one of them – a supercharged Marlborough offering where more was definitely less!
I’ve already mentioned most of my purchases for the month (unusual Germans and Spanish Verdejos) so that only leaves the Felsner Gedersdorfer Moosburgerin 2008 Grüner Veltliner I picked up from Waitrose worthy of a comment. I feel I have neglected Austria in the last couple of years, especially as I have good memories of Grüner Veltliner, so I’m making an effort to buy more and the Felsner from Niederosterreich joins Willi Bründlmayer’s 2008 Kamptal bottling for The Wine Society which I purchased in January in the cellar. Who knows, I may even open one of them this year and let you know if my memories are accurate!
Looking forward to March and the onset of spring, I’m hoping I won’t be starting the next Corner post with more tales of woe from around the world. Until then, Slainte!


One Response to ' Greybeard’s Corner, February, 2010 '

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  1. Vinod said,

    on March 10th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Karl, you made it to Chennai! I hope you had some good meals. If you’re heading that way again, let me know, I expect to be there again sometime in the next few months.

    Next time you pass through Dubai, try to get to Terminal 3. I had met Serge’s son in the fall and he told me that there will be a shop there called “Le Clos”. He said that they will stock a significant selection of Musar vintages.

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