The Observatory carignan / syrah 02002.

Where to start? Well, to temporise, there was the Cantina Birgi rosato. Made from nerello mascalese, or possibly frappato nero (some uncertainty there) it is a pleasantly dry rosé which mostly avoids the typical strawberries and cream fare which is so popular at present. A person might reckon to this stuff even if deeply suspicious of all rosé wine. I must try this one on Aaaaaaar Bob, who deals with rosés the way your spam filter handles viagra adverts.

But enough of such trifles. To the main feature, the mighty Observatory. I'm not gonna scatter superlatives like buckshot. It's enough to say that if you care about wine you will grin when you taste this stuff. You may startle like a spooked colt at the bouquet, eighty percent sharp black concentrated fruit, fifteen percent crazy garrigue herbs and five percent ..., what... I dunno, that intangible something which marks out a wine as unique. You may flinch slightly at the jumping acidity on the first sip, although if you have decanted it and given it air to breath all day it'll be as mellow as a drunken uncle at a big fat family wedding, calling out for rich supper dishes of aubergine parmesan or red dragon pie. You may wonder if there is something funky going on, chemistry wise, which perhaps shouldn't be, until you give it a minute and realise that everything going on in this bottle is goooood.

if you believe in reincarnation then this stuff is the return of Joey Ramone and Jerry Garcia. Which of them is carignan I wouldn't like to say...

But don't take my word for it. The Big Egg likes this so much he blew his entire month's budget to stock up on the stuff. And as for Smiley, his grin was ventilating his cervical vertebrae.

The Observatory appears not to have its own website. There is this.

At an Alsatian gourmet dinner last night

Smiley did the hard work of matching the food and wine, I got to go and talk about the wines, tra-la!

Billecart-Salmon grand cru blanc de blancs NV
(with watermelon)
This had a fine creamy mousse, concentrated lemon and cream flavours, and something of biscuits about it. Lemon meringue pie in a glass. It went surprisingly well with watermelon, although I was too nervous to really enjoy it.

Albert Mann Tokay Pinot Gris 02002
(smoked asparagus, green pea and truffle cappuccino)
I have previously rated this as excellent, but I don't think it was quite as good on this occasion. It did seem like a great match for the cappuccino, although sadly there was hardly enough of that to taste, let alone fill up on. The non-veggies pretty much acclaimed this as the star of the evening, paired with foie gras.

Hugel Riesling 02003
Carillon Côte de Beaune-Villages 02001
(an "interpretation" of pasta which featured no pasta at all. Brilliant!)
The riesling was neutral against the "pasta". On its own it was a fine glass, with a strong blossom nose and great limeiness on the palate, balanced by very smooth mouthfeel. The pinot, on the other hand, was a very, very good match for the concentrated dark flavours in the mushrooms and aubergine. It had the ideal balance of earthy, barnyard stink against light berry fruitiness in the nose, while the smooth tannin and gentle acidity on the palate sat very agreeably with the food.

Leitz Rüdesheimer Schlossburg Spätlese 02002
(Alsatian plum tart with Mirabel brandy ice cream and schenkeles)
This had a slight biscuitiness on the nose which kinda echoed the champagne. A very fine dessert wine, the pure long acids precisely balancing the rich concentrated sweetness. The ice cream was the only element of the dessert which was too much for the wine - I think it must have been one third part plum brandy. One element of the dish, a single plum, stuffed with chopped almonds and baked, had me grinning and chortling, so tasty was it.


A blind tasting last night

Always the best way to try wine. My favourite was an Australian blend, Nepenthe Tryst, which I mistook for my favourite South African sauvignon blanc, the Berrio. The Tryst has a similar fresh acidity, stony and clean. The difference, I guess, is in the slight touch of sweetness the Australian has. This vintage it's just sauvignon / semillon.

Also very tasty was a white rioja, Cosme Palacio, which I haven't tried for a couple of years now. Loads of oak, of course, and 100% viura (which ought to mean dull in my predjudiced worldview), but which was ticklishly complex, full bodied and long lasting in the mouth.