It's the bubbles, y'see

That's what makes champagne special. Watching the tiny specks rising slowly up through glass (as plain as possible, please. Crystal just gets in the way) is mesmerising; a gentle, slow, soothing pleasure.

Tonight's fizz was a very fine example, with plentiful tiny bubbles continuing to rise even as the glass was emptied.

It smelled very fresh, like fresh sea air, followed by the classic champagne nose of wet stones and plain bread.

To taste it was dry, full-bodied and delicious. I was starting to wonder where the sweetness was when it slipped in at the end, along with a nice woody note, but then both sweetness and wood sidled off again leaving a brisk refreshing minerality somewhere between sherbet and aspirin.

Altogether a very fine wine, and a lovely way to kick off the Festive season.

Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2000, 4++.


Garnacha Peluda, Sin Filtrar

I'm sorry to keep banging on about typicity, but I do think it ought to matter. You see, I really rather like this wine, with its dark, burnt earth and licorice flavours, but it just doesn't seem very Grenache-y.

Monte La Sarda Garnacha 2009 is a Vino de la Tierra de Bajo Aragon, from near Zaragoza; somewhere in between Rioja territory and the likes of Priorat, in a region where it ought to be too hot and too dry for wine. It's a collaboration between Bodegas Leceranas and Joan Mila, dating to 2005. By only using fruit from vines that are 45 years or older, and consequently having yields restricted to 3.7 tons per hectare, they have arrived at a wine of great concentration.

This is a fairly straightforward wine, which I think ought to be drunk young. It smells dark dry and rich, with lots of fruit which has been generously sprinkled with black pepper and then grilled. To taste, it is darkly fruity, and there's a real big chunk of earthy licorice right in the middle. It gets a little bitter in the finish, but that's probably just the 14.5%ABV. Looking round the web it seems lots of people like it a lot, but I rate it, because it doesn't seem very Grenache-y, sort of good, -3.

I suppose I ought to stop thinking about typicity (of the grape variety), and start wondering about terroir (of Bajo Aragon). There's an interesting project: to drink only wines from Bajo Aragon, and see what it makes of its grapes.


A lovely Porcupine

A full bodied, oily, rich wine from Boekenhoutskloof, the Porcupine Ridge Viognier / Grenache Blanc 08 only comes over to the UK in limited parcels, which is a bit of a shame, as I do believe I could drink a lot of this.

South Africa these days seems to do just as well with Rhône grapes as with the Bordeaux varieties; Marc Kent and Boekenhoutskloof are at the forefront of this trend.

There's a strong spiciness to the nose of this one, along with an oily, mineral character and tropical fruit which is, I think, mango. The palate is full-bodied, not quite dry (as so many ostensibly dry New World wines are), nutty, lemony, and woody. The wine is a very good example of the way producers outside of the Northern Rhône handle Viognier, given that they can never hope to achieve the delicate, vaporous strength of Condrieu.

Porcupine Ridge Viognier / Grenache Blanc 08: somewhere between Very Good and Lovely, 3+ - 4.