Domaine Bachelet Maury 1929

We had convened with but one wine in mind, an 83 year old Grenache Vin Doux Naturel. But one bottle doth not a tasting make; and so there were ten sweet wines lined up for us to try. Such a lovely selection of wines, and so very sweet that for the half hour or so after the tasting it seemed to me that the world was sparkling and glittery.

We started with two supermarket muscats from Southern France. A Rivesaltes with an annoyingly punctuated name, Mu: is for Muscat (Waitrose) and a St Jean de Minervois (Sainsbury) . The former was dried tropical fruit and rose scented talc, the latter was fresh elderflower, but there was a spicy note in both. The Sainsbury bottle had a terrible whiff of cabbage about it when opened, but that was gone after an hour.

Then came two Chenins, one aged 27 and the other just 2 years old. The elder, Moulin Touchais Coteaux de Layon 1985, had lost interest in its original fruit character in favour of distinguished age, while the younger, Château de la Roulerie Coteaux de Layon Chaume 2010 complemented the typical green apple notes with a peachy touch and intense sweetness. In a double handful of sweet wines, this one seemed the sweetest by a country mile.

The main attraction and purpose of our meeting, Domaine Bachelet Maury 1929, still had some red glints in the depths. The nose was of middling intensity, with the dried fruit and wood richness of old armagnac, edging into rancio.

Very mellow, although still having enough smooth tannin to give it structure, the palate was in harmonious agreement with the nose. Lots of rich dried fruits, prunes, and red berries.There was a bitter note in the finish, but overall a very good to excellent wine, and a rare treat to have such an ancient.

Wine six was a surprise. Pure cherry juice, backed by cedar and meaty notes; Corte Sant'Alda Recioto della Valpollicella 2008 seemed very different from a previous tasting. Vintage variation or just age difference? I don't know.

The next two were also Italian, and served to demonstrate the lightly regulated and heterogeneous nature of the sweet wines of the Appenine peninsula. Maculan Torcolato 2003 managed the clever trick of being simultaneously buttery, petrolly, and minty. I should note here that it goes fantastically well with honey-sweetened goats cheese. Castillo de Querceto Vin Santo di Chianti Classico 2008 was so aromatic that we seriously considered the possibility that it might be aromatised. Coriander, fennel,walnut skins, plus a sherried note made for a delicious and very unusual wine.

The Mission Hill Reserve Riesling Icewine 2003 seemed very fresh. The nose was pure strawberry jam, but oddly the palate was very clear-cut pineapple juice - an unlikely combination of flavours, no? Not very Riesling-y, but very very lovely.

Last up was Kereskedőház Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 1993. It was dryer than expected (and much less sweet than the Roulerie). In an oxidative style and with notes of raisins, butter, brazil nuts and torrefaction, it was, if not unctuous, certainly very richly textured.

And after all that, as I say, the world sparkled.


Santa Carolina Dry Farmed Carignan 2008

Some of the most exciting flavours I've ever found in a glass have been thanks to Carignan, a Spanish variety which was also, for a time, the most widely planted grape in France.

It was, of course, popular because of the large yields it offered, but it's a truism in wine that quantity and quality are generally in inverse proportion, and tonight's wine, I'm fairly sure, comes from low yielding vines.

Santa Carolina don't give much away on their website, but the vines are said to be 80 years old, and - most unusually for Chile, they are not irrigated, two factors which would lead to smaller crops.

And the wine looks, smells & tastes very concentrated. Initially appearing black, a close examination of the rim shows it to be deepest ruby, and it has legs like a dessert wine.

The aromas are lush and super-concentrated, with black plums and smooth woody spices. There's also a thread of vegetal green, and I found a wee touch of black pepper.

The palate is complex. The attack is sweet, the middle is dry, and the finish is sweet again. Lots of black fruits - more bramble than plum I should say - and creamy flavours. A second mouthful reveals bitter chocolate and dried cherry notes. Peppery notes return in the finish.

While I was tasting this wine I also had a glass of Parducci Mendocino County Zinfandel 2007 (although I wasn't really comparing them - that wouldn't be very fair, since the Zin was half the price of the Carignan).

I tried both as a match for a Raclette salad*. While the Zinfandel was fine, the Carignan was fantastic: the cheese was lifted and less sticky, and the wine seemed to get more red.

Santa Carolina Dry Farmed Carignan 2008, altogether altogether an excellent wine, if a couple of years young for my taste, 3+ -4.

*I know, I know, Pinot Gris.


The Edinburgh Raspberry Gin

Unmistakeably gin in all its bitter juniper loveliness, this beautifully coloured drink has a delicate - nay, elusive - red fruit edge.

If you did not know (I didn't - I was handed a glass with instructions to taste it) you might suspect cranberries or pomegranate; anyway, some sort of tangy red fruit.

Made by Spencerfield Spirits, the company responsible for Pig's Nose and Sheep Dip, this stylish bottle is doubtless colonising style bars everywhere. (or so I imagine. My knowledge of style bars is somewhat hypothetical)

It's sweet in the same way that sloe gin is, and with the same bitter backbone. At the second or third nosing the raspberries are there to be found - Himbeergeist is a good comparison.

It is lovely to drink by itself, but I should think this would make an interesting, if rather potent, alternative to red vermouth in, say, a negroni.


Wine Blogging Wednesday #74

This is my post for Wine Blogging Wednesday 74 - Value Sparkling Wine. I did briefly think about Champagne Pierre Gimonnet, because it's so good that I believe it offers great value for money, but the price of one bottle of the Gimonnet gets me four of tonight's wine, with enough left over for a bag of posh crisps.

Condesa Blanca Cava NV is really rather hoopy.

It's a simple wine, although if you pay closer attention it doesn't fall apart - there is careful wine making here, and good accurate flavours. There's a very refreshing lemon & grapefruit palate, and something which I think might be floral. It is absolutely bone dry, in a way that seems to speak more of chalk than of tart citric acidity.

In the making of this wine the Cavaliers* use the same expensive, time-consuming procedures as the Champenois. Granted, the wine is only matured for 15 months rather than the three years of champagne, but this bottle only costs £7. It's not champagne - lacks the finesse, the lace-like texture - but it only costs £7. That makes it everyday drinking material. Who needs finesse?

And finally, the Condesa Blanca comes with a brilliant food match - fairy cakes. Not iced fairy cakes, just fresh, plain little vanilla sponges. Delicious.

Condesa Blanca Cava Brut NV - delicious: 3-4 (good to excellent).

 * Cavaliers. Ok, I made that one up. No habla español.


Thank you very, very much to the Corkdork for hosting this Wine Blogging Wednesday, on the theme of "The Spark - the wine that got you hooked". In writing this post, it turns out I've managed to make a fair go of summing up everything about me and wine and blogging.

To start with the meta:
  • late  - that's me. Congenitally late in more or less everything (starting with having to be forcibly removed from the womb a fortnight past time, and continuing thus ever since)
  • a list - that's me. Confronted with any situation where I need to get the finger out (say for example an overdue blog post) my first instinct is to make a list (practical, but also a delaying tactic)
  • Um. Is it even a list with only two items on it (obviously this doesn't count because it's about the list (note, please, the meta meta)?
To the wine. Le Roc Folle Noire d'Ambat, a big soft red from Fronton in South-West France. Good Lord but it ticks every box. It's French; from an obscure appellation; made with an even more obscure grape variety; with a comedy label; and closed with a cork.

It's a dark red, wild feral stinky wine. Delicously refreshing on the palate thanks to a nicely judged acidity and grainy but ripe tannins. And it smells of horse (dear reader, this is a good thing, trust me).

Crucially, for a person with a massive caffeine habit, a short little attention span, and severe neophilia, it keeps changing. It's a wine which has been evolving nicely over the past few months, and also offers an interesting series of flavours and aromas in the forty-eight hours after you open it. I think the equine note is gradually going away, however, and taken with the level of tannins, I don't think this is a wine for long keeping.

The only box left unticked by Le Roc is that of price. It is neither ultra cheap, a bargain to be hoarded and gleefully shared with good friends, nor yet is it hideously expensive (which is always allowed if the wine can justify it in terms of quality. See these past examples). I bought it in Oddbins for £9.50, which seems about right to me.

So to Wine Blogging Wednesday. This institution (is it an institution? It has been going for quite a while) played a part in motivating my early Sentir le Bouchon postings, and the theme for this post, Spark, has been very interesting to address.

In truth I might have picked any number of wines to write about. What really truly sparks my interest - and continues to do so after ten years in the wine trade - is the endless infinite diverse variety of wine. I love that Burgundy has 500 (or is it 700?) appellations. I love Carignan when it's made old style and reeks of garrigue herbs and blood. It delights me to know that until 1994 Chilean winemakers thought their wonderful Carmenere was just plain old Merlot. I even love (well maybe not love. Like. I admit I can't bring myself to love it). I even like Bastardo, that vile Portugese grape which reeks of silage, because unless you taste the bad stuff you can never know just how good the gems are, and anything is better than awful bland homogenous supermarket tripe.

So thank you to Wine Blogging Wednesday, and thank you for proposing Spark. I really enjoyed writing this.

Whoops, nearly forgot. Le Roc La Folle Noire d'Ambat 2009: delicious, savoury, floral and complex, 4.