WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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Chateau Haut Condissas – punching well above its weight!

It’s really not that hard to find great wines: go for a prestigious region, select one of the big names, just check that it has a good score from an international critic or two and bingo! As long as of course you don’t mind paying through the nose……  And in Bordeaux the wines have steadily been extracting larger and larger amounts through said nasal passage to the point at which they are now truly eye watering.

Which is why I have been a fan of ChateIMG_9919au Rollan de By for many years, it is a reliably delicious Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc, worthy of aging for a few years and sold at a very fair price.  So I was intrigued to hear that proprietor Jean Guyon (who also owns Chateau Greysac & a few others) also makes a more ambitious wine at Chateau Haut Condissas with the aim of rivalling the classified growths.

Arriving at a recent vertical tasting of the wines the very air in the room was scented with plums, cigar box and coco powder, a very promising start and the wines did not disappoint.

IMG_9922Wine maker Olivier Dauga (who used to work at Sociando de Mallet another of my favourite Medoc producers) explained that his goal is to achieve fine tannins by avoiding too much extraction, the fruit should be in the fore with the wood in a supporting role & not the other way around. His philosophy is that good grapes make good wine very good grapes make very good wines. The vineyards of Haut Condissas are to the very north of the Medoc near the Atlantic on the plateau de By close to the river bar.

These are rich merlot driven wines but have an unusually high proportion of around 20 % Petit Verdot.  This gives the wines colour & spice and extra freshness but they have to be careful as PV can give green tannins. Made without aeration or filtration in a very pure way with 100% new oak of which 10% American. The chateaux believe that affordability is important for high quality wines in the Medoc.

Haut Condissas 1999. Nice cigar box nose with red fruit berries. In the mouth medium body, fresh, light red fruit, more cedar, soft slightly powdery tannins & medium length. At its peak I would have thought but still full of life. Lifted & Refined. Very good. Returning later vegetal notes had developed.

Haut Condissas 2009. A hot year. Ripe plums, red fruit, faint cloves and smoke on the nose. Full body, medium + acid, more plums, cooked red fruit, some more cloves, coco powder, toasty, ripe soft tannin, and a long finish. 14% alcohol so a big wine but finely balanced. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2010. Beautiful scented nose of red fruit, cedar and smoke, clove. On the palate: lovely & cool balanced, medium body, good fruit, lifted, tasty lashings of toast and spice. Very long. Excellent.  Returning later ground coffee & forest fruit compote.

Haut Condissas 2013. A Kosher wine – This is made in a different way observing the Sabbath & according to Judaism’s dietary laws.

There was a lot of rain in 2013 the wine is light in colour and intensity. More fruit driven nose with black plum & coco. Lighter body fruit, some toast and vanilla, slightly more angular tannin. Very drinkable. Very good.

Haut Condissas 2014. On the nose red fruit, some black berries, spice, smoke. In the mouth great balance, lifted and fresh, full fruit, nice spice, ripe tannin. Long a Lovely wine. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2005.60% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot,10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. On the nose rich ripe fruit, smoky, coco & vanilla, forest floor an intense & complex nose. On the palate: lovely texture, medium plus body, more opulent than others, developed with mature flavours, leather, loam etc. with a lovely fruit core, holt chocolate. Very complex & vibrant. Great length and good freshness.  Gorgeous! An outstanding wine.

The chateau bottled a small quantity of single varietal wines from each of the grape varieties in the 2005 blend and in a brilliant twist to the normal wine tasting invited us to produce our own blend.IMG_9921

2005 100% Merlot. Dusty coco and plum nose, not particularly intense. Gorgeous fruit pie and chocolate shake, full body, powdery coating tannins. Medium acid.

2005 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Clove, indistinct fruit on nose. Cool, refined great structure, high acid, full body, long.

2005 100% Cabernet Franc. More delicate fruit raspberries etc. Bit of smoke. Beautiful fruit, fresh, refined, long & lifted wow! Light tannin and light structure.

2005 100% Petit Verdot. Spicy slightly funky with dark and stewed intense fruit, clove & lots of tannin.

My blend: 25% Merlot 25% CS, 40% CF, 10% PV. Slightly less open than actual blend, showing the austerity of CS and lighter fruit & high notes of CF.

It was fascinating to taste each varietal in its mature state and experiment with how each component adds to the blend.  Interestingly the only wine which really stood on its own two was the Cabernet Franc & the 2005 blend was far and away greater than the sum of its parts.

The 2005 and 2010 are still available at around £30- £35 per bottle by the case which for back vintages of an outstanding wine is great value!


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Champage Gosset dinner. It’s not about the bubbles, but they help!

Ahead of our Champagne Gosset wine dinner in the club room at Fredericks Odilon de Varine chief wine maker & deputy MD talked to Kiran about his wine making approach.

There followed another memorable wine diner with each course of the menu designed to complement the wines.

Adam Wander menu.crtr

Highlights included the way the toasty & nutty notes of the Grande Reserve were complimented by the pan fried herb gnocchi with Pecorino sauce and the way the Bream, mushrooms and cream worked with the superbly refined and complex & yet fresh Celebris 2004. Matches made in Heaven!

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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 2)

Champagne Ayala

Champagne Ayala established its reputation for a dry style of wine when it became popular in the second half of the 19th century amongst the English aristocracy thanks to Edmond Ayala’s younger brother who had settled in London. Mind you at that time residual sugar of 19g per litre was considered dry, a far cry from the zero dosage wines which have between 0 and 3 g/l that are increasingly popular today!

ayala-01The house was bought by family Bollinger in 2005 and they have since rejuvenated the winery and put in place a young and dynamic team to take it forward as a house with its own distinct character. With an annual production of around 700000 bottles this remains a small hands on winery in the heart of Ay. Caroline Latrive is the chef de cave responsible for maintaining the fresh and elegant character of these chardonnay focused wines.

Brut Majeur NV.  A blend of 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir and 20% muenier. Aged for a minimum of two years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. A nice ring of persistent bubbles with a great tactile & invigorating mouthfeel. A reticent nose of lemon and zest.  In the mouth more subtle citrus, biscuit notes and very fresh. A great aperitif to lift the spirits.

Rose Majeur NV A blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir (of which 6% is added red wine) and 10% pinot muenier. Aged for a minimum of three years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. Presented in a box festooned with pink flowers. Copper salmon in colour. On the nose pink grapefruit a touch of peach. In the mouth fresh and dry some gooseberry & citrus fruit then a slightly salty finish.  This would be great with a meal of sea food.

ayala-03Brut Nature NV. The same blend as the Majeur but with no dosage and about four years aging on the lees. The nose is similar to majeur but with some spice and lovely autolytic notes of fresh bread. In the mouth great freshness hits one with a wash of sea spray then lime. Wow this has a great finish of minerals, bread, lemon peel and is very very long. Fantastic an excellent food wine.

Blanc de Blancs 2008.  A blend of chardonnay from the Cote de Blancs 60% Chouilly (known for its creamy character) & 40% Mesnil sur Oger (known for displaying more exotic fruit notes). It spends 5around 6 years on lees and has only 6g dosage. Served in an extravagant clear glass bottle this wine has a rich & complex nose of baked lemon, scents of roasted nuts, pastry: crème Anglais. In the mouth pineapple, caramel, ripe stone fruit but still delicate with great freshness and persistence. Long finish.

Perle D’Ayala 2005. The blend is 80% chardonnay from Cote de Blancs and 20% pinot noir from Ay which cooled by breezes along the Marne is known for its delicacy. The wine spends 8 years aging on the lees and has 6g dosage. Fine but less pronounced mouse, looks more like a wine. A rich nose of dried hay, pot-pourri and baked lemon, nice tertiary nutty notes. In the mouth spicy notes, baked pastries, lemon, vanilla & chalk, all in a restrained and nicely balanced way. Very complex and long.

None of these wines feel the need to pose or pout for one’s attention but nevertheless they achieve a level of balance, lift and complexity that confidently commands it. Champagne Ayala

 

Dom Pérignon

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Standing high up in the gardens of the Abbaye Hautvillers one looks down on the meeting point of the three most important regions in champagne: the eastern end of the Valley de Marne, the northern tip of the Cotes de Blanc and the final sweep of the Montagne de Reims. Behind are the remains of the monastery where Dom Pérignon himself, the Benedictine monk credited with transforming wine making practices in the region, was cellarer.  One can’t help feel somehow near the epicentre of Champagne.

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The tasting room over the cloisters

Chef de cave Richard Geoffroy’s choice of tasting room; a spectacular thirty metre long hall sitting over the last remaining wing of the monastery’s four sided cloisters, also seems to emphasise the historical significance of the place. However as we tasted & discussed the wines it became clear that far from looking backwards Richard is a forward thinker constantly striving to make new & singular wines. Richard asserts that his wine making is not about style but is all about making the best vintage wines, and yet it is clear to us that they are all undoubtedly Dom Perignon.

 

Not every year is good enough to produce a vintage but in an unprecedented run Dom Perignon produced consecutive vintages of P1 from 2002 to 2006 and it was fascinating to taste these side by side.  The vintage character is discernible but somehow seen through a ‘Dom Perignon filter’ like a pair of tinted sun glasses that make the sunset richer and more vibrant than it might otherwise be. In some years certain characteristics are more pronounced and in others they recede into the background but they are all always present coming together to make up the whole.

Richard doesn’t believe in artificial scarcity, if there is a good wine to make he will make it, this has meant taking calculated risks in certain vintages and thankfully they have paid off. Otherwise we would be so much poorer without superb wines like the 2003 and 2005.  These really are the epitome of champagnes where bubbles are beside the point.

Prestige cuvees of champagne tend to be expensive and Dom Perignon is reassuringly so.  However if have the opportunity to drink these wines you can be reassured of an extraordinarily special experience.

Also see Dom Perignon P2 ‘does exactly what is says on the tin’ for more details of the three Plenitudes that Richard makes and the thinking behind them.

Our contributing editor Stuart Grostern’s detailed tasting notes follow:

All of the wines had the same pure colour, with very little in visible bubbles served in Spiegelau white burgundy glasses.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2002. Sweet and slightly oxidised nose, green apples, smoke, caramel and a little mango, almost burgundy-like. In the mouth, sweet lemon rind, rich, white burgundy mouthfeel. Very concentrated, sweet, very long. Exquisite.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2003. From the earliest harvest to date, August 20th. A hot summer where the vines stopped producing sugars due to water stress while continuing to produce phenolics. Many champenois did not produce a vintage wine, but Richard inspected the ingredients and thought ‘of course!’. Smokey bready autolytic nose, a bit spirity with a hint of windscreen washer in a good and interesting way. Sweet, delicate, a bit of salinity, with a little hint of dessert wine botrytis. Beautiful balance, took me by surprise with its completeness even if it lacked the penetration of other vintages. Wonderful.

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2004. Sprightly apple, smoke, spice nose. A zip when the wine hits the palate, followed by sweet baked apple, spices, a concentrated lemon and apple fizz, followed by a lovely saline lingering finish. This is a more linear wine, with such balance, and persistence and a long, long lingering sweet and salty finish. My favourites of the P1 vintages. Sublime.

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2005. A warm and wet vintage in which the Pinot noir suffered from botrytis. On the nose, a lemon lime and iodine character. In the mouth, sweet attack in width of limes and spices with a linear concentration and salty character. The flavours narrow and concentrate onto a single point at the front of your tongue, with a hint of bitterness lingering alongside the lemon, lime and saline flavours. Sweet and savoury, so interesting. A great wine.

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2006. Appley, smokey, iodine nose with something else (something savoury and beguiling), and a hint of red fruit. Good acidic attack of linear lime, slightly baked apples and bready slightly hot finish. Huge concentration that just sits showing the ripe deep fruit, with a never ending length. Amazing wine.

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime Rose 2005. Served in a red burgundy glass. Copper pink hue. Some tar, more typical Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir with a hint of cola and liquorice. Fascinating nose. Sweet light red fruit followed by limes with a slightly tannic and dry palate, followed by more lime and peach. Wonderful length with lingering red berries, amazing persistence and balance. So beautiful, but I didn’t spend quite enough time to really get intimate with this wine.

dp-p2Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1998. Disgorged in 2008/9.

 

Tasting session: Leesy, smokey, iodine and lemon skin nose. Rich red fruit at the start followed by lemons, limes with real concentration. Slightly drying and sweet Chardonnay lingering finish, with a hint of sherbet. Wonderful and so interesting.

 

Lunch: matched with papaya, scallops and caviar. Blended seamlessly and matched the flavours of the food perfectly, though its character was masked. With roast Turbot with olive oil and saffron risotto, this wine really came alive again, bringing out the sweetness of the fish, acidity cutting the flavours and enhancing the dishes just so well. An amazing and inspired match.

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1996. Smokey iodine and lemon candy aromas. As it opened, some oxidative and bruised apple emerges. Brilliant acidity, with lemon and lime attack, laser like acidity on the tongue followed by a savoury and sweet pastry gush. A bit of red fruit of cherry with savoury moreish after taste. So very, very long, an incredible wine!

 

Dom Perignon Brut millesime P3 1973. While all of the other wines had almost exactly the same colour, this had a light gold shimmering hue.

Bready and shy, smokey with sweet mango nose. A sweet light mouth, delicate, precise, with savoury finish. The perfect balance of acidity, fruit, body and flavour, with a fine body. An ethereal wine of great character, paired perfectly at lunch with the yellow plum and osmentus ice cream dessert. A phenomenal finish to a magical day.

 

As I write this review I realise that I forgot to ask Richard perhaps the most important question of the moment: when is the 2008 P1 going to be released?  I can’t wait! Dom Perignon

 

Champagne Andre Robert

 

When I made a surprise request for a video interview in the vineyards Claire Robert and her husband Jean-Baptiste were at first charmingly nervous but by the time I had fluffed the introduction on the first take and run out of battery part way through the second, they were their open and  engaging selves again.  clare-jean-baptisteClaire is the 5th generation of wine makers at Champagne Andre Robert taking over from her grandfather Andre who started making his own wines in the 1960s alongside supplying grapes to one of the big name houses.  There was something slightly reverential in the way that Claire and Jean-Baptiste showed us around the family vineyards situated just outside Le Mesnil sur Oger and clearly they realise just what a special in the Cote de Blancs place it is. At the sometime they are obviously excited at possibilities that their new winery, just outside the village, open up for the future.  Claire and Jean-Baptiste have plenty of new ideas too such as commissioning new oak barrels made from the local woods to make Les Mesnil in Le Mesnil barrels. They also plan to start producing a late disgorgement vintage champagne to add to the range.

 

Reserve Grand Cru  A blend of 2010 & 2009, 100% chardonnay from a selection of plots near the village, 30% made in oak barrels. Then 3 years in bottle on the lees. This wine will soon be renamed Le Gardin de Mesnil.  On the nose lovely lemon,  pineapple & grapefruit. In the mouth great balance, linear crisp & dry with a very long finish.  The wine develops in the glass showing mineral and toasty notes. It has minimal bubbles another real wine. Pure and elegant.

Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2009. 100% chardonnay raised 100% in oak barrels for 7 months, lees stirring and then 6 years in the bottle before disgorgement. A wider creamy nose with butter, nuts, toast & some brioche, complex and accessible. Nice concentrated flavours precise and defined great freshness & balance. Long.

 

Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2008. Lovely has an extra intensity to 2009 some floral notes, more patisserie, cake spices, buttery. On palate rich, hedonistic, but with a saline buzz & citrus zing, then the palate moves on to oak influences: toast, sweet nutty flavours. Great balance and a very long finish.  Potential to age a long time. Superb!

 

Seduction 2008 Still chardonnay lead but with 45% pinot noir from an old parcel of vines dating from 1974. 7g dosage. On the nose ripe apple, some peach and a touch of spice even light pepper. In the mouth chalky mineral notes a hint of cumin, ripe red apple very long.

 

The wines here are superb and under Claire and Jean-Baptiste’s care the winery and the wines are destined to go from strength to strength. Seek them out and try them. Champagne Andre Robert

Available from Scala Wine


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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 1)

Travelling by train from Paris you notice the vineyards lining the Vallee de la Marne long before you arrive at the surprisingly brutalist railway station in Epernay, an early intimation of just how big and diverse the Champagne appellation is.

With three different grape varieties, a vast arrange of vineyards too choose and the ability to add reserve wine from past vintages into the blend the Champenois enjoy more flexibility than almost anywhere else to produce a palatable tipple.  Oh and don’t forget the bubbles, just as carbon dioxide demonstrably improves the flavour of fizzy drinks so does it enhance the taste of most Champagnes.

Synonymous with celebration & the lubricant of a good party it is easy to enjoy & consume Champagne without particularly focusing directly on the wine itself.  Large quantities of Champagne are made for just this purpose but more and more there are Champagne makers whose aim is to produce first and foremost wines which just happen to have a few bubbles.

Champagne where the bubbles are almost beside the point! These are the wines that we have concentrated upon in this series of tasting notes.

 Champagne Geoffroy

Bristling with excitement and tension at the imminent harvest Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, owner and winemaker at Champagne Geoffroy, arrived in dusty boots straight in from the vineyards.  As he showed us around the winery and introduced us to his wines, it was impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm and it was clear that Jean-Baptiste is someone who absolutely loves what he does.

img_7581Although located in Ay almost all vineyards are in Cummieres at the eastern end of the Vallee de Marne and are pinot noir & Pinot Meunier. The plots are all owned by family having been divided up over the generations.

In 2006 Jean Baptiste bought the winery in Ay from a cooperative because an access road at the rear allows grapes at harvest time to be delivered straight into the top floor and then the whole wine making process can be carried out by gravity down through 3 floors and eventually into deep cellars cut into the chalk below.  Jean-Baptiste uses the traditional ‘coquart’ vertical wooden wine press unique to champagne. Each press takes 4 hrs and he operates 2 in rotation he feels maintaining the tradition is important and it works for his wines even if it’s more labour intensive.

Champagne Geoffroy believes that some oxidation is beneficial to the wines and so age approximately 35% for their non-vintage and 100% of the vintage wines in used oak barrels.  They use a large range of barrel sizes including some large Foudre de chene from Austria along with second hand burgundy barriques. They also use old fashioned enamel vats because Jean-Baptiste finds their use results in less reduction than in stainless steel barrels.

Cuvée Expression Brut NV

A blend of 2 vintages 2011 and 2010 (35%), some oak in the reserve wine and 90% black grapes. It spends a minimum of 3 years in bottle on the lees. Very fruity, bruised red apple, soft red fruit, bread, chalk dust,  nice mouthfeel understated fine bubbles, great lift at end nice minerally chalky finish.  Dry, complex and engaging, fresh but welcoming with great balance. This champagne really punches well above its weight.

Cuvée Pureté Brut nature NV

Same blend as the Expression but older vintages 09 & 10 and with zero dosage. Lovely, more savoury flavours, a bit fresher but not sharp or austere at all. Just super dry. One for food.

Cuvée Empreinte Brut 2009

Pinot noir driven blend. Made in 80% oak using a mix of large and small barrels. On the nose red fruit, strawberries and ripe red apple, creamy notes and a lingering aroma of rising bread dough. In the mouth red berries, baked apples with spice, minerals, nuttiness and a long finish ending with a minty note.  Even more complex. Excellent.

Cuvée Volupté Brut 2007

A blend of 80% chardonnay and 10% PN & PM.  Half raised in oak and low dosage that would qualify as an extra brut.

A lovely nose of brioche, a touch of after eight chocolate and lemon zest. In the mouth an interesting chalky character, dry, pastry, some coco powder & more ripe citrus notes with a long finish. A very satisfying wine that remains fresh. img_7578

Cuvée Rosé de Saignée

Deep pink colour. This wine is 100% pinot noir from a single year.  The colour bleeds from the grape skins rather than coming from an added wine which Jean Baptiste feels does not result in a harmonious and integrated wine. A rather subdued subtle nose, hints of soft red fruit. In the mouth red fruit: cherries, strawberries, fruit salad, and a nice chalky slightly sweeter finish. A touch of red wine body with really great balance overall.

Cuvée Blanc de Rose Extra brut 2011.

Gold pink colour. This rose is also made by allowing the colour to bleed from the Pinot noir grapes but is 50:50 Chardonnay and Pinot noir.  The blend is made by mixing the grapes together and then macerating and fermenting them together. Floral on the nose, rose and chalk. In the mouth lemon peel, pink grapefruit, dry with good body and freshness, dried red fruit. Sophisticated.  Really unique, would be great with a ceviche fish starter.

Cuvée Millesime Extra Brut 2005.

This is a blend of about half Chardonnay, 30% PN and the rest pinot meunier. Made in 100% oak and left for a minimum of 8 years on the lees. Jean-Baptiste recommends to decant older vintages as this allows any initial closed oxidative character to blow off. He also says that this wine which is only made in great vintages is better to taste a day or two after opening.

First bottle which had been opened two days previously. Slightly smokey nose, delicate. A silky mouth feel with minimal bubbles. Delicate citrus, cream, slightly saline, very Burgundian, nice nuttiness and subtle oak notes. A long mineral finish.

Second freshly opened bottle. Bit more edge, more freshness, less of the subtlety of the opened version but made up for with greater vitality and intensity. Very long. Really really good!

Jean Baptiste suggests that this wine can be cellared easily for 10 + years and is beginning to keep back 500 bottles of each vintage to age further on the lees before disgorgement.  The first to be released will be the 1999.

Champagne Geoffroy

 Champagne Gosset

The oldest wine house in Champagne founded by Pierre Gosset in 1584 in the days when the wines were still.  The wine is sourced from around 200 growers from 70 villages mostly in the Montagne de Reims and the Cote de Blancs. The freshly pressed juice of each grape type from each village is vinified separately and even the non-vintage champagnes are left to develop in the lees for a minimum of three years.  Finally all the wines are bottled in the distinctive shaped bottle that champagne used to use in the 18th century.

img_7585In 1994 Gosset was bought by the Renaud-Cointreau group and under new management the annual production has doubled to around one million bottles a year. This may sound like a large production operation but isn’t when compared to many of the larger Champagne houses.  The focus here is on making high quality chardonnay led wines and the recent investment has clearly achieved this. With new wine making premises and cellars in Epernay bought in 2009 the house has capacity for further expansion and as we discovered when we tasted the wines this can only be very good news!

Blanc de Blanc Brut. NV.

Chardonnay sourced 2/3 from the Cote de Blanc and 1/3 from the south east corner of le Montagne de Reims. Dosage 9g. A lovely peanut brittle nose with chalky notes. Vigorous mouse. Nice ripe lemon peels some flinty notes, and tasty leesy notes.

Grand Rose NV

Gosset’s biggest seller at 12% of the production. A 50:50 blend of Pinot Noir and chardonnay with 8% Pimg_7598N red wine. Salmon pink, peach colour with tiny bubbles. Chalkiness on nose, a bit reticent with a touch of soft red fruit & lemon zest.Similar flavours on the palate, chalky with soft red fruit a hint of cumin.  This would be a great pair with Asian food.

Grande Reserve Brut NV

Aged 4 years on lees and with about 20% reserve wines often from 3 different vintages in the blend. The wine is Pinot dominant with 40% Pinot Noir, 20% pinot meunier & 40% chardonnay all from premier cru villages. Rich bright gold colour.  A tight nose of honey, smoke, nuts. Concentrated, rich & intense, on the palette with cooked lemon, pastry, and a great structure. Very long. Put this one in the cellar for a year or two and it will uncoil beautifully.

Grand Milleseme Brut 2006.

The blend is 55%PN & 45% chardonnay with a dosage of 6g. Richer darker gold colour. On the nose fragrant Manuka honey, roasted nuts, biscuit then crystallised orange & lemon a touch of dark chocolate, really complex. Lovely ripe grapefruit, nuts, biscuit a compelling luscious sweet zesty finish. Very long.

Celebris Vintage 2002 Extra Brut.

The blend 52% chardonnay & 48% Pinot noir. Aged 10 years on the lees before disgorgement. A struck match nose over ripe mango, roasted nuts, and with floral notes. Very sophisticated delicate palate of exotic fruits, mango, lemon and cheesecake, really elegant long & complex a superb wine!

15 Ans de Cave a Minima’ Brut

A limited edition late disgorgement release originally cellared in 1999 60:40 chardonnay pinot noir with 7g dosage. Even more golden in colour tiny bubbles. On the nose honey, biscuit, dried fruits a nice touch of oxidation and maturity. On the palate lemon tart, honey, baked fruit, spice fuller body, complex and very long. A wine for those that enjoy maturity & sophistication.

 Champagne Leclerc Briant

For someone in charge of the complete the rebirth of Champagne house Leclerc Briant Frédéric Zeimett looks pretty calm and collected.  In fact he is clearly enjoying the opportunity of creating something new and unique.

Three years ago when he bought the biodynamic winery with American investors Frédéric embarked upon an ambitious program to rebuild the winery which is now nearing completion.  With a keen eye for aesthetics the new winery brings stylimg_0176e and function together with state of the art equipment. Rows of double stacked stainless steel tanks flank each side of the chapel like fermentation room with tall slot windows at each end adding to the effect.

Along with the modern Coquart press we noticed interesting egg shaped terracotta casks and Frédéric explained that he has brought in leading biodynamic wine consultant & ‘wine whisperer’ Hervé Jestin with an open brief to explore and push the boundaries of biodynamic winemaking.  Hervé is experimenting with different the energy that different materials such and terracotta, wood and even glass give to the wine.

This is where the intriguing mix of sophisticated style and esoteric biodynamic ideas that Frédéric calls Bio-chic starts to become evident.

Frédéric elaborates upon his concept of Bio-Chic.

Leclerc Briant. Brut Reserve.

All from 2013, 40% pinot noir 40% pinot meunier and 20% chardonnay with 4g dosage.Served in burgundy glasses at 11 to 13 degrees. Only bottled in June/ July 2014, 30% of the wine having been raised in barrels then disgorged 2 years later. The wine is only bottled so late because it is a biodynamic principle to wait until the next years flowers arrive on vine. Minimal bubbles. On the nose fruity & chalky with a slightly dusty spicy cumin note. In the mouth very dry, lime with pink grapefruit a fresh saline thread lingers in mouth. Lovely!

Blanc de Meuniers Chamery 1er cru

Served blind a sample bottle of a 100% pinot meunier champagne harvested 2013. 100% raised in wooden barrels for 9 months with zero dosage. Unfortunately we failed to identify this as 100% pinot meunier from Vale de Marne! On the nose leesy with a touch of spice nice cumin. In the mouth dry, fresh lime, grapefruit, chalky and a bit spicy.  Frédéric mused whether the final wine would benefit from the addition of some dosage or remain zero?  Interesting as it was and not austere but my feeling was that more fruit might manifest itself with a lift in sweetness.

La Croisette from the single vineyard range.

100% chardonnay all from the 2013 vintage and all vinified and aged in old Sauternes barrels, zero dosage. A spicy nose, lemon peel and a little hint of marmalade perhaps from the barrels.On palate more citrus, spicy notes minimal bubbles and a nice subtle toastiness. Long.

Champagne Leclerc Briant

Champagne Corbon

Agnes Corbon almost single headedly runs this gem of a winery in the heart of Avize on the Cote de Blancs.  Lovingly producing just 10,000 bottles a year Agnes believes in long aging on the lees and minimal intervention. Since Claude Corbon started the tradition 40 years ago the house has always made a vintage wine every year.   Agnes explains her wine making approach in the video below.

Absolument Brut.

Approximately 50% chardonnay and 25% PN & 25% PM zero dosage. Base wine 2010 bottled in 2011 disgorged after about 4 years on the lees in June 2015. Minimal bubbles. Red berries on the nose, lemon rind, white flowers, chalky nuts & a hint of cumin. Dry but not austere, complex buttery, nutty and long.

img_7647Brut d’autrefois

Solera style perpetual blend with 50% new wine added each vintage into a large 30 hectolitre oak foudre. Bottled in 2008. The blend is 80 to 85% chardonnay and about 15% pinot noir although moving towards 100%. The blend was started by Agnes’ father in about 1982. Quite mind boggling but resulting in a wine of lovely complexity with ripe fruit: apples, & lemon, dried fruit, spices & toasted nuts.  In the mouth, honey & hazel nuts with a nice sweetness. Very long. Again minimal bubbles. An extraordinary wine!

Champagne Chardonnay vintage 2005.

100% chardonnay aged 10 years on the lees with 6g dosage. To keep the wine fresh no malolactic fermentation is allowed and the wine is made in 100% stainless steel barrels. On the nose a whiff of smoke, candy fruit & pear drop. In the mouth intense baked lemon a touch of honey& some slightly resinous notes great balance and lift.

These wines somehow reflect the both the location and the winemakers patient approach quirky yet captivating!  Well worth seeking out.

Champagne Corbon


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Dom Pérignon P2: ‘does exactly what is says on the tin.’

dp05Take a moment to consider what ‘Plénitude’ means:

‘A state which is at its highest level of development, which is in full force and intensity, is complete.’

and one might think choosing it as the new name for Dom Pérignon’s Oenothèque champagne a touch immodest, all be it easier to pronounce! Especially so along side  the claim that DP reaches this exalted state not once but no less than three times over the course of its long life!

However having been lucky enough to recently taste a selection of extraordinary P2 vintages I would have to agree that DP’s Plénitude simply ‘does exactly what is says on the tin.’

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Chef de cave Richard Geoffrey

Presenting a vertical tasting of Dom Pérignon’s P2 wines chef de cave Richard Geoffrey reveals his physician’s mind using the metaphor of a double helix to describe the way successive plenitudes of the wine come to the fore during its development. The first after about 8 years when the vintage is first released, the second after a further eight to ten years when P2 is released and finally after about 30 years P3. We stray further into a discussion of how time at Dom Pérignon is non-linear, which is why as DP develops it reaches a series of relatively stable plateaux, and this along with the strikingly elemental marketing imagery contributes to a fleeting vision of Richard the alchemist bending space & time to create these phenomenal wines in the silence of DP’s cellars.

Whether or not there is any magic involved the key factor in creating P2 is extended active yeast maturation over the first vintage release. Richard believes this process preserves the wines energy & intensity and makes it more integrated and elongated. He makes a clear distinction between power and intensity; the latter is never weighty and is lingering and memorable. The prime contribution of the yeast is to fight oxidation and the wine actually eats up the lees gaining depth and profundity.

The tasting notes:

DP 1998 P2

A nose of white flowers, acacia, Hawthorne, patisserie, ripe lemon, toast, smoke, very complex and persistent.

In the mouth, med high acidity, more pastry, a great minerality, tart citron, med body. This is beautifully subtle with great elegance and length.  A really seductive wine.

DP 1996 P2

More pronounced citrus fruit on the nose, some lemon, some orange peel, roasted nuts and a spectrum of floral notes.

On the palate more powerful flavours of nut tart, praline, citrus, a faint touch of the vegetal and then smoky notes. The wine has a taught mineral back bone and has great length and persistence. Really complex and characterful.dp02

DP 1995 P2

On the nose: smoke, baked lemons, then a complex succession of pastry aromas, white flowers and cake spices.

On the palate great balance, fresh acidity and plenty of body. Complex with an endless succession of, fruit salad, smoke, minerals & underlying pastry notes. For a wine of this age it is extraordinarily vibrant yet with the full depth of its many years of development. Superb!

DP 1993 P2

This wine was disgorged in 2006 so has ten years of bottle age too.

On the nose aromas of dried porcini mushrooms, bit of chalk, a touch of acacia honey, with underlying patisserie & bread. An incredible complex & heady nose.

In the mouth again great vibrancy, intensity it takes up residence on the tongue and just stays there. So integrated that it is hard to separate out the individual characteristics of dried mushroom, delicate citrus, bread etc. Taste and silky mouth feel meld into an intensely pleasurable experience. Subtle minerality is the lasting impression.

Richard says an element of oxidity has sneaked in a little extra sweetness & body at the loss of some complexity which is just fine by me! Where the 1995 is a more cerebral pleasure the 93 is much more sensual. For me this wine was the peak of an amazing tasting!

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Current Dom Pérignon vintages are: DP P1: 2006, DP P2: 1998 and there are P3 1997 & 1983.


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Burgundy en primeur 2013 Berry Brothers & Rudd Tasting

En primeur season is upon us again. BBR host one of the most comprehensive Burgundy tastings which I recently attended with wine brother & Burg aficionado Stuart Grostern.  Stuart’s palate & knowledge of the region is fine & deep so we are delighted to share his detailed tasting notes here as contributing editor. Burgundy Harvest

Tasting notes from the Burgundy 2013 en primeur hosted by Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), held at One Great George last week Tuesday Jan 13th.

Quite a range of wines on taste, and I arrived early enough to partake in many of the grand cru reds. In summary, the tasting really turned out to be very pleasant, maybe it was a fruit day in the biodynamic calendar, or maybe these wines are just tasting great at this stage. Either way, the vintage is very beautiful and characteristic of place.

For the reds, wines showed beautiful perfume that took you quite immediately to their places of origin. Tannins were fine, with great acidity, ripe fruits, few green flavours and little over extraction. Most of the wines were mid to lighter weight in the villages and premier crus, and concentration is good in places. The Grand Crus showed even more character but in line with expectation, were a little more closed and less forthcoming.

In white, more powerful ripe and concentrated wines have been made, and they felt more like 2010 whereas reds reminded me more of 2007 but with greater fruit. Everything I tasted in white had ripe fruit, strong acidity and varying degrees of concentration that became more pronounced the better the site. On the whole, the whites take this vintage over the reds for depth, concentration and probably relative ageability (meaning the whites will age longer for whites than the reds) but for pure charm and for medium term drinkability, the reds are lovely and many will reward 5 years in cellar. Vosne and Chambolle are the standout appelations in the Cote de Nuits for me. DSC00980

My one complaint is prices but then again, this was not a big vintage. However, despite a strengthening GBP against the Euro, prices are up in the premier and grand cru wines. Villages wines are on par if slightly down year on year. You have to wonder why you would want to buy this vintage in any quantity at the premiers and GC levels given average landed price to consumers for minimum 6 bottles is £50-£70 per bottle for premiers and anything from £80 upwards for GCs?

Here’s the list of wines tasted on the night (42 in total). Generally, my ratings describe nose in first sentence, followed by taste starting with fruit, acidity, tannins, balance, and length. I have arranged by appellation below, (generally) north to south for white, and south to north for reds. Ratings are Good (G), Very Good (VG), Very Very Good (VVG) and Excellent (E) – not very scientific but reflect the overall experience of each from a small tasting pour (with a couple of exceptions where I poured myself). Tasting conducted over the course of 2.5 hours.

WHITES

Dominique Lafon, Bourgogne Blanc Smoky, not showing a lot of fruit. Nothing special. G  

Jean-Phillippe Fichet, Bourgogne Blance Vielles Vignes Heard a lot of people talking about Fichet wines well before I got there. I found out why. Smoky, lemony nose. Super concentrated fruit with honey and mineral notes. Great concentration and depth. VVG

Sylvain Loichet, Ladoix, Les Grechons 1er Cru Apple and mandarin nose, unusual. Good lemon fruit attack and big acidity, medium concentration. VG

Dominique Lafon, Meursault Smoky, sweet lemon nose. Medium weight, good intensity of lemony fruit and high acidity. Very persistent. VG

Jean-Yves Devevey, Meursault Les Vireuils Chalky sweet lemon nose. Sweet fruit, mid weight. Good concentration balanced by acidity. Good length. VG

Bouchard Pere et fils Meursault Les Perrieres 1er cru Green apple, but otherwise closed nose. Intense lemon and mineral with great acidity, concentrated sweet fruit and finish, just hinting about what’s underneath. Very impressive. E     (I bought 6)

Jean-Phillippe Fichet, Meursault Les Gruyaches Super smoky nose, a little unyielding. Very tight, great acidity, very concentrated but hard to taste. Very very long. Wow but not very pleasurable. On feeling, this is VVG.

Jean-Phillippe Fichet Meursault Les Tessons Sulfuric and woody and mineral nose, very intense, a bit gluey and quite typical from the many times I’ve tasted Tessons from other makers. Reassuring. Super concentrated fruit, ripe apples, mineral with a very very long finish. Very impressive. E  

Michel Bouzereau &fils Meursault Les Perrieres 1er cru Lovely nose, light yet concentrated. Acidity very apparent, good concentration but not intense. Very balanced. VG

Patrick Javillier Meursault Les Tillets Subdued nose of lemon and apples. Good acidity and intensity, very nice balance. Good depth and concentration with mineral finish. VVG

Patrick Javillier Meursault Tete de Murger Closed nose, unyielding. Concentrated full mouthful with puckering level of acidity, hints of honey. A full plush, silky wine, very balanced and very long. E

Antoine Jobard Meursault Les Poruzots 1er Cru Big smoky charred nose with lifted white flowers. Very tart acidity dominated at this stage so impossible to taste. VG or better?

Jean-Yves Devevey, Chassagne Montrachet Richer fatter fruit nose, lemon and honey. Tart lemon, high acidity but not very sweet and a little hot. Lingering finish. G

Jean-Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet le Cailleret 1er cru Pretty white flowers and stone fruit, vanilla and light passion fruit nose. Great fruit concentration, mandarin, apply. Really long. VVG

Chateau de Puligny Montrachet Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru Sweet lemon, pure mineral and whiteflower nose. Intense linear lemon fruit, concentrated, great acidity and balance, great elegance. E

Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet Les Caillerets 1er cru Lemony fruity nose with mineral. Very intense, tart apple and lemon, mineral and very concentrated. VVG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos Blanc de Vougeot 1er cr An unusual offering which I’ve tried in the past, a white from the Cote de Nuits made from very old vines. Sweet fruit, lemon and mineral nose. Wonderful concentrated fruit, very deep but also achieving great balance and a lightness. VVG

REDS

Comte Armand, Volnay Intense floral nose, reminiscent of Barolo including roses and violets. Wonderful balance, mid weight with dark fruit character and good length. VVG

Domaine de Montille, Volnay Taillepieds 1er cru Repressed fruit, cinnamon and pepper nose. Slightly harsh tannins masking fruit. Hard to taste. Not sure.

Benjamin Leroux Volnay Clos de la Cave des Ducs 1er cru Interesting nose, definitely Volnay perfume with Pommard fruit and some animal essence. Mid weight palate, black fruit, taut acidity and good concentration. Good length. VG  

Comte Armand, Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1er cru Dark fruit nose, violets, animal. Strong dark fruit intensity but quite closed. Dryish tannins but good intensity and concentration accompanying the tannins. Long. VVG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Nuits St Georges Clos de Thorey 1er cru Animal, strawberries, spices, vanilla, slightly confected. Lovely lifted fresh sweet cherry fruit, not overly complex but good balance and length. VG JF

Mugnier, Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale 1er cru Strong black liquorice and vanilla nose. Dark fruit showing, slightly overripe, or maybe overextracted. Tannins rough. Very concentrated. OK but not to my taste at this stage.

Domaine Jean Grivot Nuits St Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru Lovely perfumed nose of strawberry and roses. Very tannic, slightly harsh but then softened. Good core of fruit, with a medium finish. VG

Domaine AF Gros Vosne Romanee Aux Reas Great perfume, very Vosne with tea, rose, and spices. Very characteristic. Sweet lifted fruit. Mid weight. Lovely and complex already. Beautiful. VVG

Domaine AF Gros Vosne Romanee Maizieres Darker fruit here, savoury, with tea, almost bloody. Tart dark cherry fruit. Good persistence with tannins in check. Very long. E

Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Vosne Romanee Les Rouges 1er cru Ripe dark fruit, a little jammy and spice nose. Dark, tart but ripe fruit. Refined tannins. Super concentrated, nice persistence and medium length. VG

Domaine Lamarche Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes 1er cru Slight cola, spice, vivid cherry nose. Sweet fruit, vanilla, with intense acidity and very tough tannins. Very intense wine with sour cherry dominant. A lot there. Good length. VVG

Domaine Lamarche Echezeaux grand cru Majestic nose of dark fruit, perfumed roses and plums, tending to black currant. Dark fruit with high acidity, tannins already integrated. Growing intensity in this wine, very balanced with excellent concentration. VVG

Maison Roche de Bellene, Echezeaux grand cru Concentrated grape juice nose, perfumed blackberry and darker alcoholic fruit in abundance. Very balanced, fruit overwhelming acidity but mid palate a little hollow. Medium bodied and length. VG

Domaine Lamarche La Grand Rue grand cru Beguiling nose, super perfumed, the essence of beauty and elegance defined. Very ripe fruit (too ripe?) with blackcurrants and dark cherry. Great balance. Very long and persistent. Very special. E

Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot grand cru Dark fruit nose with animal scents. Cherry fruit, with a good core of concentrated materials, quite deep with a long finish. VG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot grand cru Very sulfuric nose, with dark cherry and kirsch nose. Sweet brambly fruit but quite closed. Some banana too. Dryish tannins with a darker fruit finish. Good length. VG

Domaine AF Gros Chambolle Musigny Quite dark for a Chambolle. Sulfur and sweet confected strawberry nose, a lovely perfume. Sweet ripe lifted fruit. Very balanced. VVG  

Domaine Michele and Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny Les Cras 1er cru Beautiful floral nose, light strawberry essence. Sweet cherry, good persistence without heaviness leaving a slight bitter aftertaste. Lovely overall and quite complex. VVG  

Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny Exotic nose with spices and perfume. Slightly sour cherry, Asian spice, some peel character, light ethereal body with a medium finish. VVG  

Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny Les Baudes 1er cru Initial hint of horseradish (I’ve experienced this in her 2004 Chatelots), strawberry but not giving away much. Sweet strawberry fruit with raspberry. Intensely fresh with beaming acidity and integrated tannins. Quite intense wine. VVG  

Louis Boillot Gevrey Chambertin Assembled from 7 different parcels with average vine age of 60 years. Lovely dark cherry aromas, fresh and perfumed. Sweet cherry, almost lavish with very refined tannins, good acidity and balance. VVG

Louis Boillot Gevrey Chambertin Les Evocelles Dark and meaty with sandalwood nose. Cherry fruit, tart acidity, giving the cherry a sour edge. Bracing acidity, tannins good, a real mouthful. VG

 Dujac Fils & Pere Gevrey Chambertin Red cherry and cinnamon, with sandalwood nose. Cherry fruit, but woody. Mid weight with good concentration and medium length. G  

Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Gevrey Chambertin Mes Favorites Lovely mid cherry and strawberry with great perfumed rich nose. Great nose. Fantastic balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. Quite closed but very good persistence into back of throat indicating there is a lot of matter here. Very good length. E  

Benjamin Leroux Gevrey Chamertin Les Champeaux Very perfumed for a Gevrey. Quite closed but dark fruit and grapey character. Tannins ripe and mid weight as well as concentration. Is this Gevrey? G

Stuart posts on the Wine Spectator forum as BirDungy


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A recent weekend visiting an old uni mate in Marseille revealed how much the city has to offer and gave me an insight into why he has so happily gone native.

Provence is all about rural retreat and chilling in that charming restored French farmhouse no? Well if you think that’s a bit main stream then a city break in Marseille might be for you. The old port at the heart of this industrial city was recently made over for its role as European City of Culture 2013. There are a couple of stunning new galleries on the water front, some swanky hotels, a fish market and as many cafes and restaurants as you could want all wrapped around a lively marina. Plenty for a full day of wandering.

Venture a short distance deeper into the city and the narrow streets take on a distinct north African flavour or head a few minutes along the coast and guys are surfing waves or trekking up and down the rocky limestone coastline (we sipped coffee instead and watched them march past).

The gastronomic highlight was dinner at restaurant Peron which looks out across the bay facing the sinking sun and serves a fantastic bouillabaisse which we washed down with a local white Cassis. There’s normally a good local wine that matches local cuisine, best just to ask the waiter.

My mate also introduced me to a lovely Provencal red from the tinny appellation of Palette (smallest in France apparently) dominated by Mourvedre but with Cinsault & Grenache by Henri Bonnaud other quality reds are by Chateau Simone.

As one enjoys the spring sunshine the rose wines aren’t bad either!

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