Saturday 2nd September 2017 : "La Gloire of Pinot Noir" with Sioned & Peter in East Preston
Sioned & Peter hosted their very first SWAS Tasting at their lovely home in East Preston. The evening was a great success and, had one of our 'regulars' not been unwell and unable to attend and another not been co-opted for baby-sitting duties, we would have had yet another 'Full-house' this year.
Our hosts had obviously put a lot of time and effort into choosing and sourcing a very varied selection of top quality Pinot Noir based wines from across the world. Thus ensuring that a very enjoyable time was had by all...!
1. Fleury Blanc de Noirs Brut NV Organic; 100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% abv; Waitrose; £30 discounted to £24.79 per bottle
It is fully organic in the vineyard, Fleury was also Champagne’s first biodynamic producer. This mature wine – a blend of several vintages – is made from 100% Pinot Noir, with reserve, oak-matured wines used to add richness to the final blend.
2. Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2014; 100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% abv; Waitrose; £28 discounted to £21.49
Strawberry scented, beautifully balanced rosé with sublime raspberry fruit flavours and poised finish. As featured in Waitrose Food. As recommended by Jane MacQuitty The Times wine critic.
3. Fog Head Reserve Pinot Noir 2013; Monterey, California; 100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% abv; Waitrose; £11 discounted from £14
Offering delicate red fruit aromas of strawberry and raspberry with toasted oak and earthy undertones.Red berries and subtle vanilla mingle with rounded hints of oak. Nine months oak ageing have imbued this classy wine with vanilla spice. Fine match for chicken casserole. Copyright © Waitrose Ltd
4. Kumeu Village Hand-Harvested Pinot Noir 2014; New Zealand; 100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% abv; The Wine Society; £9.95
The Brajkovich family own the highly regarded Kumeu River Estate near Auckland. Although Kumeu is a rather less fashionable wine district than some on New Zealand’s North Island, the Brajkovichs have proven that it is possible to make wonderful wines here. Michael Brajkovich, who was incidentally the first New Zealander to become a Master of Wine has been the winemaker since 1982. His non-conformist and forward-thinking approach has been particularly successful in creating wines that show the hallmarks of New Zealand although there is a definite Old Word inspiration throughout. Michael’s brothers Milan and Paul look after the vineyards and sales respectively so it is all a real family effort.
Pinot noir here is restrained in structure and discreet of fruit and definitely more akin to Burgundy than New Zealand. Both the Kumeu River Estate and top Maté’s Vineyard chardonnays are barrel-fermented and aged - they are also unusually ageworthy for New Zealand whites – and are thought of as some of the world’s best chardonnays. Kumeu pinot gris successfully balances vibrant fruit aromas with a smooth texture reminiscent of good Alsace examples. The well-priced Kumeu River Village range is made with the same commitment as Kumeu’s top wines and offers well-integrated stylish wines for everyday enjoyment.
5. Maycas del Limarí Pinot Noir Reserva Especial 2014; Limarí, Chile; 100% Pinot Noir; 14% abv;The Wine Society; £12.95
The 2014 Reserva Especial Pinot Noir is a mixture of grapes from two vineyards, San Julián in the south bank and Quebrada Seca in the north bank of the Limarí River. It fermented with uncrushed grapes and approximately 10% whole bunches in open stainless steel tanks. The élevage was in French oak barrels (only 18% new) and lasted some ten months. It has an elegant and subtle nose with more aromas of sour cherries and Indian spices, quite Burgundian, with nicely integrated oak and a palate that shows the chalky minerality of Limarí. The aftertaste is very long and supple; the flavors linger in your mouth after you swallow (I had to!). Drink or hold. Score - 91. (Luis Gutierrez, robertparker.com, Sept. 6, 2015)
An impressive Pinot from the cool Limarí region where clay and limestone soils produce a wine with more structure and a longer mid-palate than many of the other coastal regions of Chile. The earlier-picked 2014 is the best vintage so far and has more freshness and tension. Bright, firm Pinot fruit softened from a year in barrel. Maycas is part of Concha y Toro and made by Marcelo Papa. Drink now to 2026.
6. Devil's Corner Tasmania Pinot Noir 2016; Tasmania, Australia; 100% Pinot Noir; 13% abv;
Brown Brothers are among the most famous and respected of longstanding Australian wine producers with a range that encompasses every almost every style made Down Under. Established by John Francis Brown in 1889 at Milawa in the King Valley region of Victoria, they have over the years shown themselves to be inspired innovators with a keen perception of what the market wants without compromising on the high-quality that has ensured their place in the pantheon of great Antipodean producers.
They make some 60 different wines and grow 45 different varieties. Now on to the fourth generation, they are members of the prestigious First Families of Wine initiative in Australia, an alliance of the family owned and run winemaking concerns that represent the very best of Australia’s wine heritage over many decades. The family are still based at Milawa but also own four other estates in Victoria and two in Tasmania. On the latter they acquired the Tamar Ridge estate which also makes Devils Corner wines, as well as the famous Pirie company. Across all the estates they crush some 18,000 tons of grapes but because of the sheer diversity of the range head winemaker Wendy Cameron has to oversee a great many small batch ferments and as a result many different techniques are employed. Despite their expansion and range the family is absolutely committed to sustainability in viticulture and winemaking.
Programs for water management, waste management, integrated pest management, soil health and ecologically sound packaging are all in place. Visitors to the cellar door may find wines available that are not yet commercially available. This is the family’s testing ground where wines are tried out on a willing public. If it doesn’t cut it at the cellar door it probably won’t see the light of day on the wider market. The nearby test vineyards are constantly being planted with new varieties to see how they perform before any upscaling takes place. Even the glera grape of Prosecco is being grown before becoming an Aussie version of the Italian bubbly. Italy and Spain are particular inspirations at the moment, but who knows where their curiosity and passion will take them next. Is it any wonder they have been so successful? Drink now to 2021.
7. Gerhard Aldinger Untertürkheimer Gips Spätburgunder 2015; Neckar Valley, nr Stuttgart, Germany; 100% Pinot Noir; 12.5%; The Wine Society; £19.50
In 1492 Bentz der Aldinger arrived in the town of Fellbach with the intention of growing grapes and in so doing he established the regions oldest wine estate. These days Gert Joachim Aldinger is in charge, ably assisted by the next generation in the form of his sons Hansjörg and Matthias. The family own 29 hectares of vineyards in the country around Fellbach, just to the east of Stuttgart in Württemburg, including some of the most prestigious sites in the region.
They make excellent rieslings but also produce equally compelling red wines from pinot noir, trollinger, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot meunier and lemberger among others. The pinot noirs, in Germany called spätburgunder, undergo a pre-fermentation maceration before natural yeasts begin the fermentation in barriques (for Grosses Gewachs wines) and old oak vats and they age in 100% new oak for 16 months in the case of Marienglas and 9 months for Gips. Lemberger, aka blaufränkisch in Austria, from the Hanweiler Berg first growth vineyard is also macerated before fermentation and spends time in new oak barriques before bottling. The quality of these wines amply illustrates why so much red wine like this is consumed in Germany.
Württemburg has not yet imposed itself on the consciousness of most wine drinkers in the United Kingdom but with producers such as Aldinger making classy reds like this there is more than a glimmer of hope that it will.
8. Felton Road, Bannockburn 2015; Central Otago, New Zealand; 100% Pinot Noir; 14.0%; The Wine Society; £30
The burgeoning reputation of New Zealand’s wines is thanks, in large part, to the performance of few star producers. First among these is Central Otago’s Felton Road, a winery hugely respected for the quality of their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling and now established as the country’s most prestigious estate.
The Felton Road story starts back in 1991 when Stewart Elms planted a vineyard at the end of Felton Road in Bannockburn. While studying viticulture and winemaking, he found himself paired with a young prodigy called Blair Walter, who impressed him so much that in 1997 he persuaded him to leave his job at Rippon Estate and become head winemaker at Felton Road. A few years later the domaine was bought by Englishman Nigel Greening, owner of the neighbouring Cornish Point vineyard. Soon the land was being farmed biodynamically and Blair’s wines were garnering international acclaim.
The Bannockburn range of wines (a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling) are assembled from various plots in the 32 hectare estate, with the best blocks vinified as separate cuvées. There are also single vineyard Pinot Noirs from the Calvert and Cornish Point Vineyards. In the winery, Blair works in a hands-off style. Fermentations are natural, there is no fining or filtration and everything is moved using gravity. The Pinot Noirs are always made retaining a proportion of the stems, which varies from 10-35% depending on the vintage.
9. Domaine Jean-Jacques Girard Savigny-Les-Beaune Cru Les Lavières 2014; Burgundy, France; 100% Pinot Noir; 13% abv; Waitrose; £29
One of Burgundy's oldest surviving family estates, the Girard story began in 1529, when Jean Girard began cultivating grapes in Savigny-Les-Beaune. This wine begins fermentation in stainless steel before transfer into mainly old French oak barrels. It is bright, clear and crisp, with delicate aromas of gunflint and oak toast, and a palate of citrus and gentle honeysuckle flavour.
10. Domaine Maume, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaux Saint-Jacques 2013; Burgundy, France; 100% Pinot Noir; 13% abv; The Wine Society; £75 (currently £67.50)
Maume produce round and appealing wines of high quality and offer them at reasonable prices. The Canadian Moray Tawse bought Domaine Maume in 2013, installing Pascal Marchand as manager and Englishman Mark Fincham as wine maker, though Bertrand Maume is still advising. The name has gone through several changes on the label, for example Domaine Maume Tawse, but apparently from the 2015 vintage will become Domaine Tawse
Perhaps the reason why they offer such exceptional value for money is because of their size. The domaine has only 5 hectares and so is easily overlooked and has not achieved the exposure it deserves. It has a sprinkling of excellent vineyards at all quality levels including grands crus Mazis-Chambertin and Mazoyères-Chambertin, premiers crus Lavaux-St.Jacques and Champeaux, and at village level two lovely lieux-dits, named sites, Pallud and Etelois.
As ever, what sets them apart is the quality of work in the vineyard, and the significant age of the vineyards, which produces concentrated and healthy grapes. Moray Tawse has invested in the vineyards, improved the trellising and is working towards Biodynamic accreditation. In the cellar, they mature their wines for a relatively long period, 18-20 months in barrel, producing a soft and rich-tasting style of Gevrey.
[ed. Although SWAS members thought that this wine was perhaps a little young and needed time to mature, the quality was very apparent. Probably best drink dates will be between 2023 and 2030]
For supper Sioned served an excellent buffet of Spiced Lamb Mince Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce with Peas and Rocket/Tomato Salad and Basmati and Wild Rice. Vegetarian option: Ratatouille and Green Lentil Stew. Followed by Summer fruits (strawberries/raspberries/ blueberries) with cream and/or Brown Bread Ice Cream. Four cheeses: St.Maure soft goat cheese, Cornish Brie, Caerphilly (Gorllwyn) and Manchego sheep's cheese
1. Johann Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé 2016; Pfalz, Germany - won by Peter V.
2. Momo 2014; Marlborough, New Zealand - won by Michael