Fyne by Name, Fine by Nature

Fyne Ales are a wee brewery at the head of Loch Fyne. Set up in 2001, and almost from the start collecting awards, I like their beers because they take a generous approach to hopping. Here's a round up of tasting notes for five of the beers. I should also mention Avalanche, which I have a clear memory of being the best beer of a very good selection in the Guildford Arms in Edinburgh. A clear memory, but, alas, no tasting notes.

Hurricane Jack is a well hopped blonde ale. Of course this means it's the slightly worrying shade of yellow best described as 'sample coloured', but that's balanced by a lovely creamy white froth.

It smells very bright and clean, and, promisingly, there's plenty of bitter hop character. Dry too.

The taste matches the nose most excellently, being dry, clean and exceedingly hoppy, with the long aftertaste being dominated by the hops. This is a properly refreshing glass of beer. All it needs for perfection is a long hard bike run. Hurricane Jack, excellent.

Highlander is a fruity Amber Ale. Slightly sweet, but with a nice drying finish from the hops, which are rather less bitter and more coppery than in the Hurricane Jack.

Definitely fruitier too. Highlander, good to excellent.

Pipers Gold is the beeriest of these beers, by which I suppose I mean the most malty. It has a light but persistent froth, and a good dry, hoppy nose.

It tastes light, dry, and hoppy, with an interesting salt/sweet finish. It's perhaps a little too gassy to be a good session beer. Pipers Gold, good.

Vital Spark is a dark brown ale, which smells beautifully of sweet jammy fruit - strawberry jam, to be precise.

Off-dry and lighter bodied than the colour would suggest, it has a nicely rounded nutty-to-hoppy palate with a neat wee salty note like the Pipers Gold. A very decent session beer.

Holly Daze, a winter-only beer ("available Advent to Epiphany"), is a dark amber ale. It smells nutty, woody-spicy, and a little bitter - good hoppy bitter, that is.

It tastes dry, with a really good creamy texture. There's a hint of smoke, a generous dollop of hops, and the finish is toffee-sweet but also a little salty, before fading to a memory of very fine hops. Interesting and nearly excellent.


Sweet Wine Wednesday #13

Tonight's theme was Chardonnay, but as ever there were a couple of ringers thrown in.

We started with an elderly fizz, the Sieur d'Arques Cremant de Limoux NV. If it were a person you'd feel the need to qualify "elderly" with "sprightly" or some such. The sparkle didn't last long after pouring, but that didn't matter, because it had a lovely masculine perfume, spicy and woody; and a well developed palate alternating from candied orange peel to almonds. Excellent, 4.

Then, an interesting pair of wines from Marlborough. Cloudy Bay Chardonnay '03 and Highfield Chardonnay '05 were both very full bodied and elegant. The Cloudy Bay, being older and under cork, had a much more evolved character, with plenty of butterscotch and a little bit of earthiness. The acidity was still fairly tangy, though, suggesting that the wine has a couple of years in it yet, and is still excellent, 4. The Highfield was by far the oakiest of the evening's wines, but for all that it is two years older than the winery seem to recommend, it was still fantastically well balanced, with plenty of tropical fruit in the mix. Only the acidity seems to be diminishing, but there was still enough to make it an excellent 4+.

Next, two youthful wines were a refreshing contrast (yes I know we should have tasted the younger ones first, but the logistics of tasting blind make this rather difficult to achieve). Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2009 was very fresh, cool, and intriguingly perfumed with flowers over toasty oak; an excellent 4. By contrast the Michelot Bourgogne Blanc 2008 was much greener, lighter, and with a distinct green tang. Almost excellent, -4.

The first of the ringers gave itself away by being red. Domaine Pouderoux Maury 2005 in fact looks very like a young ruby port. It had a lovely blue fruit and flowers aroma which follows through on the palate, and it does in fact taste rather porty. Porty and excellent, to be precise (porty and excellent = 4++)

And the PĂ©rez Barquero Gran Barquero Pedro Ximinez was fairly unmistakeable (I was convinced it was Rutherglen Muscadelle). It smelled intensely of licorice and cold tea and had that trick of coating the sides of the glasses and then not running down again. It tasted like sweet sticky treacle toffee or honey sweet cold tea. Really rather tasty, 3-4.


Wild Roses

Goodness, I've never seen such a dark champagne before. If I didn't know what it was, I'd be guessing Shiraz for the grape, or perhaps a Cabernet - Merlot blend.

The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rosé Sauvage NV is really dark, but when you hold it up to the light you see more of onion-skin than raspberry. And it smells pretty fantastic.

It smells, in fact, properly Champagne-like, but with a big blast of red fruit flavours and a strong mineral - specifically metallic, most specifically copper - element. The coppery tang almost makes me think of a well-hopped amber ale.

The palate is complex, offering a dry attack, a sweet mid-palate, a drying finish, and lovely red-fruit aftertaste. There's more of the coppery flavour in there; coming from, I think, Pinot Noir.

It looks really beautiful too. The dark colour is complemented by a very lively stream of fine bubbles. An excellent and unusual champagne, 3-4.