Sunday, 20 September 2015

Beaucastel 1999

For a few years now, around mid-September I open a bottle of 1999 Beaucastel to celebrate a family birthday. On one occasion, a friend at one of these ritualistic openings who was inexperienced when it come to Beaucastel and brettanomyces (the yeast often found in Beaucastel and Musar amongst others which, for many, contributes much to the enjoyment of these wines).

It's an interesting way to observe the evolution of a wine although there have been disappointments along the way with some bottles opened at just the wrong time: that tricky adolescent stage between youthful energy and middle, or even old, age.

So, I was a little apprehensive when I drew the cork last night: would it be a joy to drink or an expensive reminder that I should probably invest in a Coravin? Well, it was the former, a glorious wine and one of the very best bottles of Beau I have experienced, even from a vintage which was only ever regarded as a four star year. It is impossible to convey this wine in words except to say that it was complete with a richness and weight that were precisely what I was looking for in this wine.

It does lead to a new problem, of course. Do I pop the rest soon whilst they are definitely enjoyable or do I wait to see how they develop over the next several years? Probably both! Now there's a good argument for getting a Coravin!

By the way, if you have any experience of Coravin, I would welcome your opinions.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

More recommendations - Southern Rhone Whites

Decanter panel tastings have become much more reliable since the days when they invited just about anyone (including me) to be a panellist. Now, just three 'experts' taste and review the wines: in this case, John Livingstone-Learmonth (probably the UK's leading authority on the wines of the Rhone), Marcel Orford-Williams (the Wine Society's Rhone buyer, amongst other things) and Ben Llewelyn (who may not have a double-barrelled surname but he has lived in France - presumably he has a little more specialist knowledge to qualify as an expert).

Panel tastings (even where the panel consists of only one person) can only be a guide at best although the number of people who continue to swear by the wines of estate X, claiming they are not influenced by critic Y, never ceases to amaze me. Of course, a world of wine without critics would be a difficult one to navigate. It is the job of the critic (whether wine writer or merchant) to weed out the rubbish and recommend only the worthy.

So, it is pleasing to see Beaucastel, Brusset and Usseglio all recommended - but, then, it would be surprising if they weren't!

Domaine Brusset, Cairanne-Cotes du Rhone Villages 'Les Travers'
'Subdued nose - a note of lime and hint of camomile tea. Yellow flowers, citrus and a saline edge to a palate that has decent length.' 2015-2019

Raymond Usseglio, Cotes du Rhone 'Les Claux'
'White raisin aromas in a nose of sunny depth. The palate is vibrant but mellowing and lingers for a while.' 2015-2017

I confess, I am not entirely sure what yellow flowers and other tasting terms are supposed to mean. For me, 'sunny depth' evokes up rather more. Still, the gist is they like the wines.