Thursday, 10 October 2013

A good year, an even better wine

From the château that provided the set in the film, A Good Year...

Château la Canorgue, Luberon, 2011

Youthful deep core with scarlet and lilac rim. Intense perfume of fresh thyme and rosemary and sweet forest floor fruit. Well rounded palette like soft velvet with ripe grapes wrapped in sweet chocolate tannins and blue berries. Herbs and glycerol on the finish which is long and pure. We were told it would last for ten years but, when a wine tastes this good, why wait? 2.5* 9/ 10

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Back to school, back to Bourgogne

As the nights start drawing in, it's time to make the move from rosé to red and uncork some Burgundy. So, I decided to revisit a new friend...

Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Olivier Guyot, 2010
Lovely deep colour for a bourgogne and indeed a pinot noir. Ruby red and translucent with a deep beetroot  core. Sweet vanilla and clove nose. Light palette, with crunchy acidity (just like biting into a Braeburn apple). Surprising that none of the sweetness of the nose is present on the palette. A long and savoury (?) finish with dry tannins. A good wine that improved after two hours but, for me, the palette fell short of my expectations. 2.5* 6/ 10

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A Damascene conversion!

Cava, Spanish for painfully dry, headache inducing fizz... or so I thought. This was the second of two holiday cavas that have changed my opinion 360 degrees on Spain's most well known fizz. Knowing the Raimat still whites, I went with a producer that I know and love...

Raimat, Cava, Brut Nature, Chardonnay Xarello, NV
Pale yellow with a green hue. Lots of bubbles with a delicate and crisp palette. Very refreshing and lovely balance of acidity and fruit. Citrus (like the delicious lemons at Pollença market) and floral with very subtle undertone of tropical fruit. A very good and well balanced wine and not bad for €9. 2.5* 7/ 10

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Sink the pink!

This disproves my theory that all rosé is just rosé - pleasant and carefree but indistinguishable and innocuous. Indeed, I commend Château Vignelaure on creating a genuinely interesting wine in a difficult vintage that, for a rosé, is even fine!

Château Vignelaure, Côteaux d'Aix en Provence, 2012
Pale salmon pink colour with a fine, well balanced palette - spicy (white pepper), and tart with soft strawberry flavours. Good length and a strong finish of strawberries and lemons with even a hint of mango?! Provençal bliss in a glass! 2.5* 8/ 10

Saturday, 11 May 2013

In wine hell!

Too much of a good thing last night. Hungover.

In wine heaven!

What better way to end a tough week at work than with friends, a rack of lamb and a bottle of mature Rioja...

Remelluri, Rioja Reserva, 2000
Lighter than expected with a translucent, very burgundian, colour with a tawny, almost golden, rim which reveals its age. The most striking element of this wine is the  beautiful nose of damsons, vanilla, plums, and just a hint of spice and mushrooms/ sulphur (is that what people refer to as reduction?). Initially quite austere on the palette but then flourishes on the finish which is long and full of plums and damsons with a typical velvet soft vanilla undertone from the oak.  This is a very subtle wine but with layers of interest, each revealing more complexity. 4* 7/ 10

Friday, 26 April 2013

Here today, gone tomorrow

After a week of sunshine, here endeth the case of Bruno Clair's Marsannay Rosé.

Marsannay Rosé, Bruno Clair, 2010
Bright pink. Initially very pinot nose and palette but then receded and ended up fairly tasteless. Aren't most rosés like that? 2* 5/ 10

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Au Bon Climat

Owner, Jim Clendenen, strikes the balance between Californian ripeness and Burgundian style and winemaking. This wine was fermented in barrel and then aged for 9 months in French oak (not new) before being bottled unfiltered. As with most Californian wines, it is not cheap, but at £20.95 a bottle, this compares well with a Puligny or a Meursault and the comparison is not unreasonable.

Santa Barbara County, Chardonnay, Au Bon Climat, 2010
Pale straw colour. Classic west coast nose of grapes, brown sugar and elderflower but more restrained than I expected. More Puligny than California. Full of flavour - passion fruit, apple juice, and sherbet - but well balanced with acidity and a judicious use of oak that keeps it fresh and light. This is a very good but possibly one dimensional wine. However, I'd love to try the ABC single vineyard wines for added complexity and terroir expression. 3* 6/ 10

Thursday, 18 April 2013

¡Ay, Bierzo!

I don't drink enough Spanish wine, which is a shame as Spain is producing some great wines from an increasing range of interesting terroirs such as Bierzo. This is made from 100% Mencía from 90 year old vines and aged in French oak for 18 months, followed by a year in bottle.

Bierzo, Peique, Selección Familiar, 2005
Brooding, deep, dark and impenetrable, almost black. The nose is very promising with chocolate and spice followed by toasted oak and a whiff of manure (in a pleasant way!). There is a lot of oak and alcohol, but once they recede there's a lighter palette than the colour suggests. The fruit blossoms with raspberries, blackberries, prunes, and a lot of acidity which makes this an excellent food wine. In fact, it's as though this is a white wine trapped within a red wine. The finish is fairly short but well supported by the oak and acidity. Although not young, I think this wine needs another few years to shake off the oak. This is a very good and interesting wine, full of character, but the palette doesn't quite match up to the promise of the nose. 3* 6.5/ 10

Monday, 8 April 2013

Chez Pavelot, Savigny-les-Beaune

The Aux Guettes vineyard overlooking Savigny-Les-Beaune

The return leg of our trip to the Alps gave me the chance to visit a domaine I have always wanted to visit in a village that has become my favourite on the Côte d'Or. Domaine Jean-Marc et Hugues Pavelot is on the northern edge of Savigny-les-Beaune, next to the lieu-dit 'Guetottes' and produces a range of wines, mainly from within the Savigny appellation. We tasted a range of wines from the 2010 vintage...

Bourgogne Rouge €9
From a vineyard in lower Aloxe-Corton from 50 year old vines. Pleasant fruit driven nose. Drink immediately after vintage. A bargain, bursting with bright fruit. 2* 8/ 10

Savigny-les-Beaune €13
From a variety of parcels in the village and 40 year old vines. Not much more than the Bourgogne, with very similar nose and a short finish. Drink 2-3 years after the vintage. 3* 6.5/ 10

Savigny-les-Beaune, 1er Cru Aux Guettes €20
From a vineyard with 25 year old vines opposite the domaine, named after the watch tower (tour de guet) in the vineyard. An instantly captivating nose, definitely a step up from the village wine. Slightly deeper fruit while still maintaining the house style (or was it the vintage style?) of pure, bright fruit with a touch of mineral tension. Drink 5 years after the vintage. 4* 8/ 10

Savigny-les-Beaune, 1er Cru La Dominode €24
La Dominode comes from a section within the premier cru Les Jarrons, and is named after a previous owner, a Monsieur Domino from Pommard. The vines are on average 35 years old and up to 80 years old. Madame Pavelot told me that only four growers make wine from this vineyard (I make it five: Bruno Clair, Jean-Marc Pavelot, Louis Jadot, Chanson Père et Fils, and Jean-Claude Boisset). A similar nose to Aux Guettes with extra depth on palette from velvety fruit. The tannins, although not huge, need a couple of years to mature and bring balance to the wine. The Pavelots recommend drinking this wine from five years after the vintage but say it can be kept for up to 15 years. Finally, at €24 a bottle, this is a serious bargain both relative to other cellar door prices (Bruno Clair's La Dominode is €46) but also relative to what you'd pay for it in the UK (it's 45% cheaper than the £37.50 Berry Brothers sell it for). 4* 8/ 10

These were all very good wines characterised by their translucent, yet dark cherry colour as well as very pure fruit (blackberries, raspberries & cherries) and sublime balance with little evidence of oak.


I've been hearing increasingly good things of Marsannay, the northernmost appellation of the Côte de Nuits. So, before stopping at Morey-St-Denis for the night, we paid a visit to a couple of domaines in the village, guided by the ever-reliable Bill Nanson.

First up was Domaine Olivier Guyot, where we tried the Bourgogne Rouge and the Marsannay Les Favières. It was snowing outside and the cellar was very cold, which meant that the wines were definitely on the chilly side. The cold temperature masked the tannins and meant fruit was the dominant sensation when tasting. That aside, these were both very pleasant wines.

Bourgogne Rouge, 2010 (€9)
A darker colour than I expected with a deep purple core. The nose was very fruity, almost gamay-esque but also with some interesting Pinot complexity. The palette was initially voluptuous with plums and blackberries but short lived and gave way to a refreshing acidity and a short finish. It seemed odd that sensations of fruit and acidity weren't simultaneous and so separated. Nonetheless, this is a good wine, especially for the price, and there's plenty going on here to make you want to go back for more. The wine comes from the northern section of the Champforey vineyard in Marsannay itself. Olivier explained that Champforey is principally for pinot noir destined for either Bourgogne or Marsannay rosé. 2* 7/ 10

Marsannay, Les Favières, 2010 (€14.50)
Very similar to the Bourgogne but with more depth at all levels and a more seamless palette. Olivier makes reference to this being made from young vines. I think he is modest referring to 25-30 year old vines as 'jeunes'...

"Issu de jeunes vignes (25-30 ans) situées en bas de coteaux… Une robe rubis, brillante, un nez délicat, légèrement épicé (cannelle, vanille). Le terroir est bien marqué par sa finesse et son grain particulier. Bon équilibre et persistance en bouche. À boire dans sa jeunesse..."

Next up was Domaine Bruno Clair, where the welcome was as cold as the weather outside. Having tried to book a dégustation in advance, I was informed that I could only turn up and buy pre-ordered wine, and promptly leave. Had this domaine not had such a good reputation I wouldn't have bothered, but I couldn't resist buying their jewel in the crown, Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode (€46), as well as some Bourgogne Blanc and Marsannay Rosé (which, like most rosé tastes pretty non-descript). Nonetheless, I look forward to opening the La Dominode in about five years time...

"Les vieilles vignes donnent un vin d'une richesse et d'une puissance peu commune en Côte de Beaune. 
La Dominode fait partie du premier cru Les Haut-Jarrons. C'est en fait le coeur de ce lieu-dit. Les rendements y sont naturellement faibles mais réguliers à cause de l'âge vénérable des ceps centenaires. L'exposition à l'est est idéale et la terre est un mélange de cailloux et d'argiles.

Je vinifie la Dominode depuis 1979 et il s'agit sans doute de la vigne la plus constante du domaine : rendements toujours faibles et belle maturité des raisins. La qualité de l'encépagement et l'âge [vines planted in 1902!] de celui-ci contribue à cette constance. 
Il y a bien sûr des variations annuelles apportées par les millésimes et le climat de ces derniers, mais l'amplitudedes variations y est moindre qu'ailleurs. La robe est toujours soutenue, les tannins sont pleins et riches.

C'est un vin qui demande toujours quelques années de vieillissement (souvent plus de 10 ans) avant de le déguster. Vin de grande garde."

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Morey St-Denis

Visiting Burgundy while en route to the Alps... We stayed at Hotel Castel Tres Girard in Morey-St-Denis and drank this over dinner. Made from 50 to 60 year old vines from the Chenevery, Cognées, and Très Gidard vineyards. We tried to find the domaine the next morning but Morey is full of Ligniers and so we left confused and empty-handed!

Morey St-Denis, Veilles Vignes, Lignier-Michelot 2010
Dark colour with beautiful depth. Sumptuous nose and a voluptuous palette of cassis and just the right amount of oak to support the plentiful fruit. The old vines really shone through with deeply concentrated fruit. This is a great wine, full of expression and above its 'village' status. 3* 8/ 10

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Always a personal favourite of mine, Fontodi is definitely one of the best Chiantis out there. Being a Chianti Classico, this is not a turbo charged, Frankenstein oak monster, as is so often the case with the riservas. When equivalent quality Bordeaux from what is a top estate in the region costs two to three times as much, why would you bother? This wine is seriously good and undervalued.

Chianti Classico, Fontodi, 2006
Very dark and brooding. Cedar and even rubber with Bordeaux-esque fruit on the nose. Still big tannins which are not quite fully integrated, but almost there (give it another 6 months to a year). Palette of prunes and morello cherries, in keeping with Sangiovese. A long finish backed by well balanced oak and acidity. The vintage was a good one and it shows but perhaps not enough acidity for me. A very good, well balanced wine and excellent value. Fontodi rarely disappoints. 3* 8/10

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Aubin & Spills

The last time I tried this I was surprised by its muteness. So, I left it for two years to see if it would blossom from its adolescence...

St-Aubin, 1er Cru Sur Le Sentier Du Clou, Henri Prudhon, 2007
Garnet, translucent ruby red. More on the nose than last time with a little more depth. Like biting into a Braeburn apple - crunchy, with lots of acidity yet bursting with fruit. An hour later, more complexity. A core of dark fruits with liquorice and fennel seeds. A nice long finish of well balanced creamy oak and cherry blackberry fruit. A light but interesting wine 2.5* 6/10

Sunday, 10 March 2013

2002 Burgundy face off!

A boef bourgignon on the table and two 2002 burgundies going tête-à-tête...

Beaune 1er Cru Montrevenots, Domaine JM Boillot, 2002
Tawny brick red colour with a stand out nose (cloves) that makes you sit up and pay attention. Showing age on the palette, with red fruits and even balsamic. A very structured and complex wine that reflects its proximity to Pommard and very good indeed. 4* 8/10

Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Bougeots, Domaine Simon Bize, 2002
A much more 'grapey' nose, reminiscent of fermenting wine in a cellar. Darker colour too, with blood like hues. It has that signature Bize meatiness and velvet texture with ripe acidity coating throughout the palette and a medium finish. Another good wine but the quality of the Beaune premier cru won on the day for its added complexity. 3* 7/10

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Super Savigny!

During a visit to the domaine in 2006, Jean-Jacques Girard explained to me that the vineyard is named after the little streams of water that snake down the vineyard after it has rained.

Savigny-les-Beaune, 1er Cru Les Serpentieres, Jean-Jacques Girard, 2004
Showing its nine years with a deep brick red colour. A captivating nose of game, red fruits and very reminiscent of Savigny. On the palette, some crisp vanilla undertones and bright cherry fruit with a classic mature burgundy flavours and a decent finish backed by well balanced oak and acidity. A point, and a very good wine on fine form.

4* 7/10