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 Pérez 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.
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