Monday, 26 November 2012

Autumn wines in Norwich

Every year we hold an informal tasting in my childhood home town of Norwich with, usually, between 20 and 30 guests. This year we held it on Saturday, immediately after seeing Matthew Bourne's superb Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal. The wines were almost evenly divided between French and Italian with the Rhone dominating the French selection.

I had been tempted to include some Joblot wines - after all, if I don't put them into tastings, how will people know just how good they are? However, I decided against this on purely practical grounds: most of the attendees prefer to keep their spending under £10 per bottle so there seemed little point in including wines the wrong side of £20! This was borne out by the comments - and sales - of Italian wines, the only one of which that sold well was Filippo Gallino's juicy, fruity Barbera d'Alba. A few other Italian reds did sell but only a bottle here, a couple of bottles there. The whites did well though with the surprise (for me) hit of the evening the rare Giovanni Manzone "Rosserto" just pipping the rich and rounded Nada Giuseppe "Armonia" in terms of sales at least.

From France, Domaine des Anges' Ventoux Blanc is always a success - excellent VFM and, more important, a wine with all the elements perfectly in place (in particular, fruit and acidity) but both Chateau de Jurque's Jurancon Sec and Chateau de l'Abbaye's Pouilly Fume were well received, both quite pungent wines, perhaps that is the key to their success. The surprise was that Domaine Treloar's "Terre Promis" just didn't fit into this line-up. Too subtle, perhaps, and still too young to be at its most expressive.

The red successes included Treloar's "One Block" (lovely mouthfeel and rich fruit), Charite's complex "Bastien" and Cristia's pure Vieilles Vignes - all under £10 - with only Chateau de Cedre's 2008 Cahors and, especially, Muro's 2004 Rioja Reserva performing well (if sales are a reliable indication) over the £10 mark.

I thought Bressy-Masson's Rasteau "Paul-Emile" the star of the Rhone selection but at least some CDR was thought to be such a good price that a couple of tasters asked for some even though it wasn't on show!

A good selection and an indication of where the market currently is, perhaps. Now to decide what to show this Saturday in Barton Mills!

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Italians have arrived!

At last! Now, what should I open tonight? Tempted by Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero 2010 Sergentin but also by Nada Giuseppe's 2009 Barbaresco. Or, perhaps, keep it simple with the Gallino 2010 Barbera d'Alba.

Probably none of the above for two reasons: I have just made a curry for dinner and tomorrow night is our annual Autumn Tasting in Norwich so most of these will take part in that.

On the other hand, I do like to challenge the spice with a fruity but tannic red so Fabrizio is looking promising. Too many choices... I will post later when I have succumbed.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Piedmont wines in Dulwich tonight

Note: updated after the tasting!

The Dulwich Wine Society has a new meeting venue since I last visited, more conducive to the enjoyment of fine wines. I was there last night to present, for the first time in the context of a wine club, a selection of wines from Piedmont. Here's the running order...


White wines
1.    Fabrizio Battaglino, Roero 2010 Arneis
2.    Giovanni Manzone, Langhe Bianco 2010 Rosserto
3.    Nada Giuseppe, Langhe Bianco 2009 "Armonia"

All the whites were very well received: the Arneis surprised most tasters who had little or no experience of the grape for its slightly austere nose but fuller palate. The Rossesse was showing well and was also well received as a new wine to everyone in the room. As always, Enrico's wine wowed tasters with its assortment of varieties each bringing something different to the well integrated whole.

Red wines
4.    Nada Giuseppe, Dolcetto d'Alba 2010 Casot
5.    Serradenari, Langhe Rosso 2007 "Renoir"
6.    Crissante Alessandria, Barbera d'Asti 2007 "Rugé"

Enrico's Dolcetto pleased everyone who, like me, seemed a little disdainful of the light, Beaujolais-style Dolcetto that is so common in the region. The grip of this wine was more to our liking. The Renoir showed more Pinot character than usual - tasters asked me to convey to the producers that they appreciated the blend and hoped it would continue to be made, now that the Pinot vines are deemed mature enough to produce a mono-varietal wine. No surprises that Alberto's rich and ready "Ruge" was a big hit, of course.

7.    Fabrizio Battaglino, Nebbiolo d'Alba 2010 Colla
8.    Nada Giuseppe, Barbaresco 2009 Casot
9.     Giovanni Manzone, Barolo 2007 Gramolere
10.  Giulia Negri, Barolo 2007 "La Tartufaia"

After a short break for cheese and biscuits, the Nebbiolo stretch was encountered with Fabrizio's youthful but vibrant "Colla" leading the way. A very different wine, Enrico's 2009 Normale was rather more traditional in style (albeit in a modern way) and very drinkable, as always. The Gramolere needed quite a lot of aeration to get past the oak and tannins but pass it we did and it revealed a magnificent future. A discussion about the ethereal quality of Nebbiolo was checked by the Negri Barolo which is a more powerful wine but one which was also enjoyed by tasters.

Dessert wines
11.  Fabrizio Battaglino, "Bric Bastia"
12.  Grasso Fratelli, Moscato d'Asti 2011

The final pair were the sweet wines. Fabrizio's Bric Bastia should have been chilled but still found favour with tasters who conjured up a myriad of flavours and nuances in this most delicious of wines. The Grasso Moscato provided some welcome relief at the end of the tasting to a group whose palates were not flagging (on the contrary, they seemed to be just warming up!) but who seemed to find its light, grapey, light fizzy manner charming.

The only estate missing from this list is the excellent Filippo Gallino whose wines are in transit as I write (I hope!) which is a great shame as their excellent and superb-value Barbera is always a crowd pleaser and their Roero wines simply stunning.

It's going to be a long but, I suspect, highly enjoyable night! 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Chabriles for a chilly night

Old college friends up from London for Halloween but too cold and damp for a bonfire so, after a hearty meal of meatballs (from an excellent recipe adapted from one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's), and after the children had taken off their Halloween make-up and gone to bed, we decided to go on a trip down memory lane and watch An American Werewolf In London. What a cheesy film!

Of course, wines are required for all of this and two from Laurent Brusset were very much enjoyed: the 2007 Cairanne-CDRV "Les Chabriles" and the 2007 Gigondas "Le Grand Montmirail". Both are classic Brusset wines: rounded, fruity, well-structured with plenty of deep, rich Grenache fruit. The Chabriles is 50% Syrah but this does not get too black here. This Gigondas is their standard cuvee. There is little between this and the Cairanne, qualitatively or stylistically, frankly. Obviously from 2007 it was to be expected they would both be very good. My only concern is that it was my last bottle of the 2007 Chabriles and business stocks are barely a dozen so I can't really justify any samples. At least my friend, who has been ploughing through some 2010s, reckons I don't need to wait for the next vintages. I think I may give 2009 a try first though.