Minervois (Again) (What's your point caller? Minervois pure dead rules!)

Doing a tasting of crowd pleaser wines tonight, I threw in the Hegarty No3 (02004, cork), laughing all the while. There were one or two down-drawn lips, but it drew a reaction from everyone, and nearly all good.

Last time I tried this, I figured I could cellar some and give an updated report, so natch the whole lot disappeared straight away. Tonight's was the new vintage - also, it's AC Minervois this time, not Vin de Table.

It's a very dark purple-to-black carignan/syrah/grenache blend, and (heh heh) it's a stinky wine. Earthy, farmyard-y, big, herbaceous. The carignan has been so skillfully vinified. It shines. The palate is rather softer than the previous vintage, perhaps a little less funky, but oh so tasty. Prunes, sweet-perfumed smokiness, perhaps a little chocolate, some bitter apple pip notes. One day carignan will rule the world {Thppt! That for your malbec sirrah!}, and it's this sort of wine that will be in charge of the Department of Keeping the People Happy.

Pointy scoring thing: 4 - 5 (compares with 15/20 last time, which is roughly (3-)4 ).


Hmmn. Didn't anticipate that

Time for a change of plan, perhaps. At the Oddbins Wine Fair in Edinburgh, someone (nameless, so far, but that may change, depending on what mileage can be extracted) recognised me from the little picture that sits in the top left corner of this blog. All well and good, I hear you say, everyone likes egoboo. Except that what happened was this. We said hello, he poured me some wine, I drank it, we said goodbye, I turned away, then he shouted after me (corporate venue / noisy / crap acoustics), "Smell my cork!, Smell the Cork!".

I could see people on all sides edging away.

Ah well. Lovely wine, too.


Tongue-velvet, and it gets you loaded

Ben Glaetzer is some kind of wine-making demon. He does very fine work for the Heartland label, runs a contract operation which produces hundreds of different wines, and yet he still has time to produce some amazing bottles under his own name. I've mentioned the Glaetzer Bishop before, and have greatly enjoyed the Wallace and the Glaetzer Shiraz. Now I've had a sniff at the Amon-Ra Shiraz (02004, cork), and by golly it's mighty stuff.

We weren't even going to open the bottle, but Smiley's finger accidently pressed the enter key and I went into a sort of de-corking trance, which only ended when I smelt something which made me think of nothing so much as a very youthful Penfold's Grange, all vanilla custard and dark chocolate. But then it evolved through a whole series of tasty treats: fruity blackcurrants, sweet oakiness, meaty savoury notes, smoke and then into more chocolate and a great walloping punnet of blackcurranty juiciness. When I finally stopped pleasuring my nose and tasted the stuff, I found the familiar Glaetzer ultra-smooth tannins, mellower than a stoner Gong fan at a Winter Solstice celebration gig, full of sweet dark fruit and delicate smoky notes, all backed up by a full-bodied deeply satisfying texture.

Big Bad Bob rated the '03 vintage Amon-Ra so highly as to cause an unseemly ruckus amongst his followers, yea unto the point of price hikes, hoarding, and general snapping up of all available stock before a reasonable man might gather his wits enough to find a bottle. I didn't taste the '03, but if it's better than this, I may have to do a deal with Anubis, or someone equally shady, to obtain some (Sorry. I've been reading Goethe. It warps a person. I'd never sell my soul for a mere bottle of wine. Honest). Meanwhile, if I were you, I'd grab some of this before it vanishes. It's a genuine five-pointer. Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz '04: 5 (= Good Lord! Astonishing!).


Boroli Barolo By Golly

Heh heh heh heh. I get to taste this twice in the space of a fortnight, and I haven't done a good deed in, oh, weeks and months. The world has gone awry, but the slope is all towards me, so that's OK.

Boroli Barolo (1999, cork), was offered to us as 'basic' Barolo (translation: cheap, and thus perhaps crap), but I am pleased to say it is the very antithesis of basic. It has such a complex nose, you could spend an hour teasing out the different elements, and still not be half done. I found molasses, aniseed, chocolate, a softly floral note, and some medicinal high tones, all laid over a solid dark fruitiness. As a result of lingering over the wonderful bouquet, I rather glugged it, but I can say that it has a medium body, still with loads of tannins despite being seven years old, and very tasty in a dark fruit way. Superb (= 5).


Green! And Verr Verr Tasty

Frog's Leap Vineyard in the Napa Valley, California, are a forward thinking outfit who make their wines with a strong regard for their environment. Using biodynamic principles, and dry farming, they have been in production for about a quarter century now.

They also approach their work with a light heart, as is evidenced by the name of this one, Leapfrögmilch (2004, synthetic closure). I like a pun, the worse the better, if you see what I mean, and what's more, I liked this wine, really rather a lot.

It's a blend of 70% Riesling and 30% Chardonnay (picked early, according to my notes - not quite sure what that means, but probably refers to the Chardy), and it is lovely.

Floral and green, with lime-y notes on the nose, the palate is soft, smooth, delicate, easy (you get the idea), but the finish - ah the finish! - is sublime. Long, and delicately growing ever more sherbety on the centre of my tongue. If only Liebfraumilch had been like this, the Australians would have given up and gone home back in, oh, 1982, I should think. Excellent, perhaps even Superb (= 4 - 5 ).


TN: Borie de Maurel Cuvée Sylla

At a tasting of syrah / shiraz from around the world, this was the wine for me. I am a Francophile, but even setting that aside, this was a skelper.

A powerful nose of very ripe dark fruit (?cherries?), strangely mixed with what I took for apricot, and the near-suffocating perfume of strongly scented flowers such as lilies makes wild promises that this will be a bold, sensual, sexy wine, and the palate fulfils those promises in a manner which allows me at last to use the adjective 'saturnine'. Strong and smooth and dark, with loads of acid, fruit and tannin, this is a big wine, which will go on being big for years. Go and read 'Snow Crash', if you haven't already, then come back and taste this stuff and see if you find yourself agreeing when I say that if this wine weren't called Sylla it would be called Raven.

We tasted the '03 vintage (cork closure) and I scored it 4-5. (New scoring system! More details to follow. Runs from 0 (faulty) to 5 (Astonishing) with a theoretical possibility of 6 for such marvels as d'Yquem, Observatory, Mouton-Rothschild.)

Link to Borie de Maurel website.


"Peers an Happel"

To a presentation of some of the wines of Marqués de Cáceres by Florent Thibaut, their Export Sales manager. He spoke most knowledgeably and entertainingly, and, I must add, with a wonderful accent - "peers an happel" are the fruit flavours to be found in the Blanco Crianza '03 (cork) which scored a solid 14/20.

The most interesting wine of the evening was the Gran Reserva 1995 (cork). It was still fairly purple, not really aged looking at all, and boy did it show well tonight. Last time I tasted this we opened a second bottle, so dull was the first, and the second bottle only confirmed our opinion of the first. But tonight's bottle was full of wild flavours and aromas - my notes include "spaghetti hoops on very buttery toast, talcy perfume, bananas, ?toothpaste". Yeeeeha! (Also a very strong 16+/20).

I must also mention the Satinela Semi Dulce ('05, cork), which possesses one of the dodgiest labels on any sweet wine anywhere. Don't be put off as I was for so long - try this one soon. It's very, very pale, only just green; mildly aromatic, fruity and very clean; and has a lovely sweet vinous palate. This late harvest Viura scores 15/20.


More Minervois

Last time it was an AC wine - La Cuvée Mythique - for only £3.49. Tonight I'm drinking a Vin de Table which costs twice that. Yup, it's Hegarty Chamans No.3, under cork (£6.99 from Oddbins). The way the wine is labelled though, it's clear that it is from the 02003 vintage.

In truth, the label would make you think this wine was Australian, but one sniff tells you otherwise. I originally wrote, "...it can only be Southern France", but then I thought about how it rather reminds me of the Observatory Carignan/Syrah, from South Africa, so I intend to keep that assertion in reserve until I can test it against my precious last bottle of that finest of nectars.

The No.3 is very youthful looking - bright purple - and has a powerful nose, with a complex mix of herbs, burning green twigs, molasses, licorice, soy sauce and five-spice powder. There is also a fair whack of bright fruit, I'm told, but I was too distracted by all the savoury elements to pay any attention to that. The palate is strong, dry, somehow bitter and sweet at the same time, with fairly rough tannins and a long finish with a sharp little twist to it.

Despite all these good things I'm saying about it, I only rate the wine as 15/20. It falls into the same category as the de Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir (blogged here); interesting but not satisfying. I think it's just not knitted together yet. I'll try it again in six months or a year and tell you how it is evolving.


'42 Cuvées'

... it says on the label - obviously this wine is the ultimate answer. The question must have been, "What bargain wine should rodbod buy this week?"

The more different wines I taste, the more I like them all. But if I do have a weakness, it has to be for Minervois, the first cheap-yet-decent red wine I came across. So to find the Coop doing La Cuvée Mythique for only £3.49 gladdened my heart. It's the 2001 vintage, under cork , so obviously they are keen to clear it, but it certainly isn't past it.

It is still a youthful looking purple. The nose is strong and clean, with notes of pepper and cherry jam (or maybe pie filling). There are more cherries on the palate, which is full, dry and rich, with a spicy peppery finish.

A solid 15/20. Grab some before I complete my tour of Coops of the West of Scotland - once I've finished there won't be any left.


Shurely Shome Mishtake, Vicar

I was preparing to present some Pinot Noirs at a tasting last week, and also thinking about how we describe wine. I found a very long list of scents and flavours which were said to have been noted in Pinot. I wrote some of them out, but dismissed a fair number as implausible, and then read out the list at the start of the tasting just to get people in the mood.

Imagine my surprise when three people - at two different tables - said that one wine smelt like Sauvignon Blanc (this flavour/scent was not on the list).

I don't really have anything to say about this, I just want to share my bamboozlement with you.


Exploding Plums and Chocolate Shrapnel

This time it's Colomé Estate ('04, cork). A big, dark, plummy blend of two thirds Malbec, a fifth Cabernet Sauvignon, and some Tannat from the Salta province of Northern Argentina. I was impressed by its claim to be from "The highest vineyard in the World", but Puddleglum assures me that all Argentinian wines have this on the label. The wine is very concentrated, dry, warming, and satisfying. It seems complex, too (my tasting note mentions herbs, barley sugar and blackcurrants), and has a long finish. A very good 16++(?17)/20.

There are two points to note here. My first impression of the wine was, "Whoah! Fruit bomb! Hee-hee!", but that's such a tired description, hence this blog's title, which conveys something of the attention-grabbing nature of the wine, and also tells you a little about the flavours. There was an anonymous comment on the previous post about how we describe wines, but I did detect the hand of TallAsAVan, who once characterised a poor Argentinian Malbec as being "like the dissonant clatter of a filing cabinet falling down some stairs". Perhaps he might think of Colomé Estate as an October storm rushing through a beech copse high on the Downs; powerful, exhilarating, exciting.

Second point: scoring. What exactly does 16++(?17) mean? Mainly it reflects my inability to settle on a single number, but that isn't very satisfactory. This year I am resolved to improve my wine scoring system. Along the way I may well try out Parker-style scoring, a star rating, or anything else which is suggested to me. In the meantime, have a look at this radical new scoring system.


Plum jam and old iron

I'm drinking de Bortoli Yarra Valley Gulf Station Pinot Noir (2004, stelvin) and wondering how to describe it. I don't really hold with the fruit-salad-throw-lots-of-adjectives-and-something'll-stick approach, but I can't just leave it at 'plum jam and old iron'. Then again, if I say that I mean the sort of cheap Polish plum jam Safeway used to sell long ago, before Solidarity got started on doing away with the Communists, rather than the rich, fresh - FRESH! - confection that Bob whizzed up from Mrs O's glut last autumn I'm inviting a nomination to Pseud's Corner.

It's interesting, this challenge we face of trying to translate our impressions of a wine from the personal to the universal. For me, it's a fair proportion of the pleasure I find in wine.

"This is all very well", I hear you say, "but should I shell out £9 for a bottle?". Hmmn. Probably not. It's a decent wine, interesting, does show varietal character a little, but it's not all that satisfying to drink. In truth, I think it's too young. So, buy it and keep for a year or two, or nod wisely and move on. Despite which, I do think it rates 14/20. Interesting but not satisfying.


TN: Lamura Grillo '04

January is a month for belt-tightening, underspending, and general parsimony, so you will be pleased to hear about Lamura Grillo ('04, terrible little spongy doo-dad), one of the extensive range of wines from Casa Girelli.

For only £4.49 (from Oddbins) you get a very decent glass indeed. A strong mainly savoury nose, but with interesting hints of herbs and grass, leads onto a dry clean palate which is full, savoury and long, veering into a refreshing touch of bitterness at the finish.

Grillo is the Sicilian grape variety traditionally used to make Marsala, but here modern techniques have produced a very decent dry quaffer. A solid 14/20.