5th March 2016 : "European Fine Wine Selection II" with Adrienne & James in Brighton
James had dug deep into his cellar for this evening's tasting, a continuation of his excellent "European Fine Wine Selection I" from this time last year. The majority of the wines this time were from Hugh Johnson's recommendations and we were promised a "Selection III" next year...
The White Wines:
1. Morillon Blanc by Jeff Carrel 2013, Languedoc, France; 100% Chardonnay; 14% alc; £11.00
Producer's Notes: "Dry grape flavours; quince paste, caramel, orange peel. White Morillon is the second wine signed 'Jeff Carrel'. The first vintage was the 1999. It is produced in the Aude (south of Carcassonne). Made from the Chardonnay grape (Morillon Blanc is the original name of Chardonnay). This wine is elaborated based botrytis grapes, vinified dry. It will be more older, the expression of roasted grapes with botrytis will be present." [N.B. The above 'Franglais' comes directly from the Producer's Notes, I don't understand it either! - Ed.]
On the evening, there was almost unanimous agreement that this was an excellent, good value, white wine.
2. Planeta Cometa 2014, Sicily, Italy; 100% Fiano; 13.5% alc; £24.00
James' Notes: "Lots of flavours: peach, pineapple, lychee, honey, lemon zest, thyme; fresh & lively"
Tasting Notes: "Deep straw yellow in colour with a green hue. Intense and full of character, with integrated aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruit, white peach, pink grapefruit and wisteria. On the palate it has plenty of character with elegantly mineral elements. The acidity is well integrated with the fruit, making for a harmonious whole which is without a doubt one of the finest examples of this variety to be found anywhere on the planet."
Since its inception in 1985 the Planeta winery has in a relatively short space of time established itself as one of the most dynamic and quality orientated wineries in the whole of Italy. The fact that the estate is based in the south west corner of Sicily (an island which for so long has been a quality winemaking backwater) makes the achievement all the more remarkable. Run by cousins Francesca, Alessio and Santi Planeta the estate won the coveted Cantina dell'Anno (Italian winery of the year award) in 1999 and has gone from strength to strength in the intervening years.
Adrienne served up some excellent interval nibbles (see below...!).
Moving on to the Reds selected by James:
3. La Grola, Franco Allegrini 2012, Veronese, Italy; 90% Valpolicella, 10% Syrah; 13.5% alc; £23.00
Tasting Notes: Slightly earthy, plum-like nose. It hits your palate with a distinct sweet-sour sensation.
Additional Tasting Notes: "A full bodied, intense and elegant wine. Dark ruby red in colour, it has a wide, embracing bouquet with notes of wild berries, juniper, tobacco and coffee essence. The high plant density and resulting low yields give this wine its unique concentration. Suitable for ageing up to 10-12 years."
All of Allegrini's impeccable wines are produced from estate-grown fruit from their 90 hectares vineyard in the communes of Sant Ambrogio and Fumane. Across the range and from vintage to vintage, they have superb fruit, balance, intensity, length, elegance, tipicity and, above all, drinkability. Each wine has winemaker Franco Allegrini's distinct stamp of quality, but every one has its own distinctive character. They are among the elite of the world's best producers of red wines. The family has been growing grapes in Valpolicella for several generations, and the estate in its current form was founded by Giovanni Allegrini. When he died in 1983, it passed to his three children, who ran it together until Walter's death in July 2003. Franco now looks after the vineyards and is the winemaker, while Marilisa is director of marketing. From the 2007 vintage, Franco sacrificed the Classico status of the Valpolicella and bottled the wine under Stelvin in order to eliminate as much as possible the problems of cork taint and random oxidation. Their south-east facing vineyards are located in the hills of the Valpolicella Classico region ranging from 150-250 metres above sea level for the Valpolicella to as high as 310 metres at the top of Podere La Grola where the chalky, white La Poja vineyard stretches across 2.65 hectares. Soils are very varied but mostly chalky, of volcanic origin, especially in La Poja where the soil is 78% chalk. The older vineyards are trained using the pergola Trentina system, planted with about 3,000 vines per hectare, whereas the newer ones use the single Guyot system with 5,000 plants per hectare. The vines are 28 years old on average.
4. Château Malescasse 2004, Haut-Médoc, France; 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc; 13.0% alc; £15.00
Tasting Notes: Green dusty fruit, clear structure of tannins, freshness and warmth of body.
Supplier's Notes: "Château Malescasse has been owned by the French telecom company Alcatel Alsthom since 1992. It has invested heavily in a new winery and cellars and Malescasse is now one of the best Cru Bourgeois clarets on the market. It is located in the Haut-Médoc, just outside the town of Lamarque and consists of 37 hectares of vineyards. The wine is a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats and the wine is then matured in oak barriques (25% new) for 14 months. These are medium-bodied, well-structured, fruit-driven clarets that show at their best with around 5 years of bottle age.."
5. Château Corbin 2009, Saint-Émilion, France; Merlot; 14.0% alc; £30.00
James' Notes: "Stellar vintage; powerful and intense; fresh and lively; lingering finish"
Château Corbin is one of the oldest estates in St. Emilion. In fact, it dates all the way back to the 15th century. In 1924, Château Corbin was purchased by the Great Grandparents of the current owners, the Cruse family. Since 1999, Château Corbin has been ably managed by Anabelle Cruse-Bardinet. Her cousin, Emmanuel Cruse manages Château d’Issan in the Margaux. Like many Bordeaux wine making estates, Château Corbin believes in passing down the château through lineage. But what makes Château Corbin unique, the line of succession has been passed from mother to daughter for multiple generations.
6. Orben 2011, Gonzalo & Lalo Antón; Rioja DOCa, Spain; 100% Tempranillo; 14.5% alc; £22.00; supplied by Averys
James' Notes: "A clear, full red; weight and soft-fruit intensity with a creamy elegance that comes with ageing in French oak."
An aroma of plums, raspberries, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla and a taste that's very smooth and elegant; full bodied and intense and a deep plum red colour. Great length
Many Riojas use American oak but Orben is aged in French oak, and it shows through in its very classy, refined, clove scented complexity. This old vine Tempranillo has extraordinary richness, complexity and finesse. One for real Rioja enthusiasts.
Orben is no ordinary Rioja. The grapes are grown by the Anton family who own 75% of their estate. The remaining 25% is shared amongst 50 of Spain's top restaurants, folk who share the same passion for fine food and wine. The vineyards, 550 metres above sea level, were planted prior to 1954. Fruit quality is tip top. Winemaker Ruth Rodriguez is meticulous in her methods - grapes are hand picked and transported to the winery in small 15kg boxes to preserve them intact. After a traditional fermentation the wine is aged in French barriques for 12 months. This intense, well crafted classic is best decanted and served with lamb or game.
7. G.D.Vajra 2011, Aldo Vajra, Barolo, Italy; 100% Barbera d'Alba; 14.5%; £18.00 from Laithwaites
James' notes: "Hints of bananas and plums, of inner sweet warmth, with a trace of iron; all shapely, all structured and somehow pure."
Review (Dec 2013) by Matthew Jukes in "Taste" magazine: "This is a super-smooth, liquid mulberry Barbera with a heavenly texture and very little oak influence. This is another 2011 which is drinking beautifully right now. The fruit ripeness is alluring but it is in no way heavy or imposing. The finish on this stellar cuvée is incredible considering that this wine is driven simply by fruit purity and momentum. Details of spice and earth add interest, but there is only one star here – the sublime, textbook Barbera grape. 18/20"
8. Piccini Villa al Cortile 2008, Montalcino, Italy; Brunello; 14% alc; £24.00
James' notes: "Preserved sour cherry, dried oregano, aged balsamic, red pepper, figs, espresso and leather."
Tasting Notes: A touch of apple or raspberry gives this bright Brunello a very lively and buoyant first impression. The tannins are firm and tight followed by a sharp, crisp mouthfeel. Pair it with breaded veal or lightly fried chicken.
As a special treat, during the interval after 'The Whites', Adrienne served a 'bonne bouche' - delicious slices of 'Anita's Pizza', a Sardinian special with an anchovy, onion, pine nuts & raisins topping.
We all enjoyed the meal at the end of the tastings: a main course of Sage, Sausage & Potato Bake with Roasted Vegetables, the dessert was a Plum Tarte Tatin followed by a splendid Cheese Selection and Tea/Coffee.