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What an end to Xmas

I love Xmas and this year has not been a disappointment. I’ve eaten some fantastic food, most thanks to the father-in-law (Dennis) and drunk some fabulous wines. The Xmas wines I wrote about a few weeks have been incredible and Dennis’ shopping in Tesco, Majestic and Naked Wines has also comes up trumps. Below are the three best I’ve tried this Xmas from Den’s cellar:

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Tesco Finest Chablis Premier Cru (Tesco £14.49)

You would think this was from further south in Burgundy. Lots of peachy fruit but with a lovely citrus steak and bone-dry stones minerality. Possibly the best own label wine I’ve drunk. 90 points

Tesco Finest Barolo 2007 (Tesco £14.99)

Had this with cheese in Xmas day and it was delicious. Lovely structure with tight, fine tannins but also lots of black cherry fruit and leathery spice. Very nice wine at a very welcome price. I’ll be adding a couple to the collection. 89 points

Montaria Reserva 2010, Alentejo Portugal (Naked Wines £9.99)

Very fruity nose with definite hints of wax, almost soapy but definitely agreeable. Lots of upfront fruit, especially damson and blueberry. This is very intense and very interesting. Definitely one to add to the collection when you want something deep and warm. 88 points

To say thank you, on our final day in Worcester I cooked a Goodmans goose – I’ve been looking forward to a goose for about 365 days now. To make things even better, our good friend Richard, who lives next door to the in- laws, came around with a bottle of Lynch Bages 2003… And what a marvellous feast we had. Thank you so much Richard!

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Chateau Lynch Bages 2003, Pauillac Bordeaux (Lea & Sandeman £135)

Decanted 3 hours before… When the goose went in! Very young looking, only a little bit of brick. Huge aromas of black currant and black cherries, old leather and sweet vanilla spice plus a lovely hint of graphite. Huge powerful and concentration of flavour on the palate, very warm alcohol but not overbearing. Big tannins with deep cassis liqueur-like fruit, leather, vanilla and another sweet spice I can’t quite get. Super warm and comforting but silky – very classy, very sophisticated. Seems to linger forever. 95 points

A great end to 5 magnificent Xmas days… Now off to my folks on Anglesey for New Year!

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The Grape Escape

Not another French post! Well no actually, it isn’t. Well not really. I know I’ve written a fair bit about French wine over the past couple of months but I do think its the best place to start and is a great introduction to most of the well known grape varieties. But most of these varieties are grown all around the world, so this post highlights the places to look. I’ll use the recent articles about decoding French wine to take us on a trip around the world. It’s a bit like Amazon… If you liked that, then you might like this!

Pinot Noir

My love of Burgundy has also taken me to a few other places over the past year and back in February I even bought a case of 6 bottles from Majestic of Pinot Noir from everywhere but France! New World wines, particularly New Zealand and USA,I have found to be more fruit focused, which lots of people like, but often without the earthy, forest aromas and flavours of Burgundy. Getting any Pinot for under £10 is never easy, but it can be done, and the best example I’ve found comes from Pfalz in Germany (M&S – find it!). Ive been told that the best up and coming region for Pinot is Tasmania, owing to its cool climate, so I’ll keep my eye out for a couple to try for you. I really am sooooo selfless!

Cabernet Sauvignon

From the epicentre of fine wine in Bordeaux, Cab Sav is grown all over the world and thrives in hot climates. We only need to go back to the famous “Judgement in Paris” in 1976 when the Californian wines whooped the asses of the Borderlais in a blind taste test to realise there are great Cabernets around the globe (get yourself a copy of the film “Bottle Shock” to learn more and to enjoy another superb performance from Alan Rickman). Then there’s the fabulous region of Coonawarra in Australia, famed for Cab Sav. And for value head to South America – Argentina and Chile are making some great stuff.

Syrah/Shiraz

Same grape, different name! In fact Aussie Shiraz is probably better known to most casual wine drinkers in the UK than Syrah from the Northern Rhone! So where better to start than Oz! The Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions of South Australia produce some stunning Shiraz, as does the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Try “The Hedonist” from Waitrose at £12.99 – one of my favourite wines of the year.

Grenache

The Grenache blends of the Southern Rhone are available all over the World. In Oz they are often referred to as GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre). The famous Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Papes even transported and planted some of their wines in Paso Robles, California! I’ve also written a lot about my love of Priorat in north-east Spain, usually made primarily from Garnacha (yep, same grape!). Hot country = spicy and fruity and often excellent.

Chardonnay

This grand grape has had a tough time over the past 10 with the ABC gang getting into a tizz. Now it’s true that the supermarket shelves have been full of basically crap stuff from Oz and the States… But what do you expect at 3 for £10? There is so much great winemaking around the world now that Chardonnay is regaining its place as one of the most fantastic and flexible grapes out there, both with and without the use of oak. I’ve found some amazing wines from the US and Oz over the past 12 months and recently tasted a stunner from NZ. Also look to Chile for value. I also tasted truly excellent Spanish Chard on our recent trip.

Sauvignon Blanc

Where else to start but New Zealand? Since the inaugural 1986 vintage of Cloudy Bay ( not Oyster Bay, repeat not Oyster Bay – never pay more that £5 for it!) those clever Kiwis haven’t put a foot wrong. Supermarket shelves are packed with the stuff, and there is some great value to be found as well as some real class if you’re prepared to go above £10. The up and coming country for this often gregarious grape is Chile, but prices are rising with improved quality. Also look to the south of France for some lovely clean wines.

Riesling

Germany is the place to start as they probably produce some of the best anywhere in the world, but as usual the top stuff comes with a hefty price tag. However, if you like something really fun and a bit sweet then give the Dr. Loosen from Sainsburys a go. I’m a huge fan of Australian Riesling, especially from the Clare or Eden Valleys. They offer real concentration of limes and tropical fruit and lovely minerality. Also look to NZ who are really starting to get into the grape more and more. Recently I also tasted a lovely example from South Africa… Expect to see more and more on the shelves over the coming months.

Chenin Blanc

Not unlike Oz and Shiraz, Chenin has become synonymous with South Africa and there are bottles at all price levels. I am really getting into these wines at the moment and have a blockbuster lined up for Xmas day. Australia is another country making some Chenin waves and these are generally easier to find in the supermarkets than the French bottling from the Loire Valley.

When you’re having a dinner party, try buying a French and other country example of a white and red wine and see who prefers what… My guests are probably getting fed up of the same old game but I’m still enjoying it!

Decoding French Wine – Part 2, The Reds

Following on from my post on decoding French white wine it only seemed fair and decent to do the same with reds. Some of the best red wines in the world come from France and the names of Bordeaux and Burgundy are synonymous with fine wine. I love Burgundy and am fast becoming far too interested in Bordeaux so this post will concentrate on them, and the other wonderful red wine producing area of the Rhone. There are some other wonderful regions to explore red wine options in France, and more often than not, at far more affordable prices – I will cover these off next week.
I hope this guide helps you match grapes to regions as well as giving you a bit of inspiration to go and try out a few new wines over the festive season. Well we all need an excuse don’t we??

Bordeaux

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Probably the most famous red wine producing area in the world and commonly referred to as claret in the UK (and not anywhere else!). Most red Bordeaux you buy will be a blend of grapes, most likely containing at least 2 varieties of either Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc.

Red wine production is divided into 3 main sub-regions (there are many more!). On the left bank of the Gironde estuary you will find the Medoc, home to the famous first growth (Premier league – remember!) chateaux of Latour, Lafite, Mouton and Margaux. Medoc wines are made primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Merlot and/or Cab Franc. On the left bank you will find the famous appellations of Pomerol (I’m sure you’ve all heard stories of business men in London spending thousands of pounds on Petrus to impress potential investors) and St. Emilion (Cheval Blanc is probably the most famous chateau here). Pomerol’s main grape in the blend is Merlot (Petrus is normally 100% Merlot), whereas Cabernet Franc becomes more important in St. Emilion.

Bordeaux wines are often characterised with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, pencil-shaving type minerality (sounds weird but it is wonderful!) and big tannins which mellow over time but work brilliantly with red meat. Other flavours and aromas often associated with Bordeaux are woody/cedar and even eucalyptus (especially if the main grape in the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon).

Prices for the top wines are astronomical but there is plenty of value on offer around the £10 mark. Also, most of these wines require a minimum of 10 years cellaring before reaching their best; not ideal if you’re after a nice bottle to go with your steak tonight! 2009 and 2010 were superb vintages and are starting to find their way onto supermarket shelves and merchant wine lists so keep an eye out.

Here’s a few to try from some of the different areas and at some different price-points:

Chateau Tour Chapoux, Bordeaux Superieur 2010 (Waitrose £8.89)
Chateau Labecorce Margaux 2002 (Majestic £8.99)
Chateau Givriere Medoc 2004 (Majestic £8.99)
Mouieux St Emilion 2009 (M&S £13.99)

Burgundy

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If Bordeaux is powerful, then Burgundy is spiritual! The home of Pinot Noir and the most expensive wine in the world, from Domaine de la Romanee Conti… £15,750 for a bottle of 2009 anyone??
From North to South we start in the Cote de Nuits, head down into the Cote de Beaune (together these make up the famous Cote D’Or), then comes the Cote Chalonnaise (you’ll find great value here) before we get to Beaujolais. All red wines from the Cotes are made using pinot noir. Beaujolais is made with Gamay.

The classification of wines in Burgundy is actually pretty simple. On the Cote D’Or the entry level is Bourgogne, the next step is to sub-regional wine such as Côtes de Beaune Villages, Côtes de Nuits Villages, Hautes-Côtes de Beaune or Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. These, like the white wines, are from lesser know villages or a blend of grapes from here, there and everywhere. We then move up to Village wines, which have the name of the village where they were harvested on the label. Examples of these are Volnay, Alox-Corton, Nuits St George and Gevrey Chambertin. The next after this is to 1er Cru, which are vineyards that have been designated the best in the appellation (e.g. Volnay 1er Cru). Each of the vineyards also have their names on the label, for example Volnay (village name) 1er Cru (classification) Taillepieds (name of the vineyard). The top of the tree is Grand Cru. There are 25 red vineyards at this level and prices can be astronomical.

Now that seems pretty straightforward… but we’re talking about French wine here, so here’s the twist! In Bordeaux each plot of land is owned by a Chateau. In Burgundy, each vineyard is split between many producers, the Grand Cru of Clos de Vougeot has more than 100 different growers owning vines within its walls! So finding a god producer can be as important as choosing by classification. A great winemaker’s village wine may well be better than the poor winemakers Grand Cru.

Burgundy is far lighter in colour than Bordeaux, often looking a tad weak –but don’t be put off! Here, the fruits are raspberries and cherries, and the secondary flavours are earthier, mushroomy, and even meaty. A good bottle of aged Burgundy is an amazing thing. It sounds daft, but you could just smell the wine all day and feel very happy. Why not try some for yourself:

Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir (Majestic £11.99)
Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune 2010 (Waitrose £14.99)
Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune-Villages 2009 (Majestic £14.99)
Louis Max Cote du Nuits Village 2009 (Sainsburys £15.99)

Northern Rhone

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You will be more familiar with the wines of the southern Rhone, but the Northern Rhone is home to some wonderful inky, spicy red wines. The key grape of the region is Syrah, better known to most of us as Shiraz (yes, they are the same!).

There is no classification as such in the Northern Rhone, but possibly the pinnacle of the crop is Cote Rotie. Cote Rotie can be loosely translated as the “roasted slope” due to the many hours of hot sunshine the amazing aspect allows it. This is also expensive wine and there are 3 reasons for this. The first is that it is a small area and production is low and in demand (only 224 acres planted), secondly the slopes are so severe that special pulley systems have had to be implemented in many parts in order to harvest the grapes, and thirdly, it tastes bloody great!

The next big name of the Northern Rhone is Hermitage. Hermitage is an amazing hill which overlooks the town of Tain l’Hermitage, just on the right bank of the Rhone River. Again syrah is dominant, although up to 15% of the white wine grapes Marsanne and Rousanne are permitted in the blend, they are very rarely used (up to 20% of Viognier is also allowed in Core Rotie).
The surrounding areas of Hermitage are labelled Crozes Hermitage, and on the other side of the river is St Joseph. These two appellations produce some really excellent (and variable) wines at affordable prices. The other important appellation in the region is Cornas; and the most interesting fact is that this wine HAS to be 100% Syrah. I’ve got a couple of these from the 2007 vintage lying in wait for Xmas 2013!

And what should expect from these syrah-laden wines? Well lots of power, tannin and acidity. Inky dark colours, with blackberry fruit, dark chocolate, black pepper and… Wait for it… smoky bacon! Delicious!

Cave du Tain Crozes Hermitage 2009 (Majestic £9.99)
Sainsburys Taste the Difference St Joseph 2010 (Sainsburys £13.49)

Southern Rhone

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Spicy Grenache is the king grape of the Southern Rhone, and is usually more than 80% of the blend. In this region there is a classification, which is pretty straightforward and also a pretty fine indicator of quality!

We start with simple Cotes du Rhone. We’ve all had it and all thought, do you know what, that’s not half bad. And there are some very good ones out there. Many of the big name Rhone producers make a Cotes du Rhone – Guigal, possibly the biggest name in the Cote Rotie, makes one and you can buy it in Majestic for £10.99! We then move up to Cotes du Rhone Villages, which is a selection of 95 communes and then on to the “better” Cotes du Rhone Villages, which over the years have produced better quality wines and are allowed to append the village name to the label. There are 18 of these villages and my faves are Sablet and Cairanne.

Next, and finally, we come to the “Crus”. These are villages and areas that have consistently produced top-notch wine and have the right to simply call the wine by where it’s from. The key Southern Rhone Crus are Lirac, Rasteau, Beaumes de Venise, Vaqueyras, Gigondas and Chateuneuf du Pape. Again, like Burgundy, finding a producer you like and trust is key in these appellations, and certainly worth the effort to find.

Wines made primarily from Grenache have brambly fruit flavours and lovely spicy and herby notes. Lots of black pepper and after a few years they start to smell like Christmas. Also you can often smell and taste the wonderful aromas in the southern French air.

M&S Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 2010 (M&S £9.99)
La Bastide St-Vincent, Pavane Vacqueyras 2010 (Majestic £12.99)
Ogier Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Co-op £16.99)

My wine hero

Before you read any further, there is something you need to know. Jez is my wine hero. Jez is also my pusher. He started me on the light stuff, got me hooked, and is now reaping the rewards. I don’t mean any if that of course, because Jez is what all of us wine lovers need. An independent wine merchant who cares. Someone who listens, who’s advice you cherish and appreciate.

I first walked into Wine and the Vine, situated in Battler’s Green, near Radlett, about 4 years ago. It’s a really inviting and friendly show room, although sometimes a bit cold… Temperature-wise! The first words after “hello” were “can I offer you a taste?” And that’s how it started, with a taster of the fantastic Don David Torrontes from Argentina. I walked out of Jez’s shop that day with a dozen wines, half of which I would never even have dreamt of lifting off a supermarket shelf. I also walked away without paying – at the time there was no credit card machine (there is now) – instead he gave me a piece of paper with his bank details printed on one side. I was hooked.

Tasting wine is brilliant. You try things you may not have ever considered, or ever heard of. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday Jez offers 6 wines to anyone who comes into the shop. It’s an eclectic mix and I always end up taking home a couple of bottles which weren’t on my mental list. You can’t do this at the supermarket! Don’t get me wrong; they have their place, but they are soulless. Your independent guy has soul. Your independent guy has personality. Your independent guy is there for you.

I’ve had some of the best wines I’ve tried from Jez. Because he listens. He understands what I like and can make informed recommendations. Jez introduced me to Burgundy via a stupendous bottle of Nicolas Rossignol Volnay 1er Cru En Chevret 2006. Not only that, when I told him I was going to Beaune last February, he helped arrange a visit with Nicolas via one of his suppliers. This is why your independent wine guy is so important – you will learn so much and get so much in return.

Please use your local merchants. Talk to them, listen to them, and most importantly of all, cherish them. They are the heroes of our wine world.

Jez Grice
Wine & The Vine
Battlers Green Farm
Common Lane
Radlett
Hearts
WD7 8PH

www.wineandthevine.co.uk

I’ve only recently started keeping tasting notes, so here is a selection from some recent visits to Wine and the Vine. The selection suits all pockets and all styles. There are a couple of expensive bottles below but there is plenty of choice under £10! If you live nearby please pop in and say hello… And enjoy your tasting!

Some whites

Andeluna Torrontes 1300, 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (£10.75)

I tried this in a shop and it was beautifully aromatic – just goes to show how much bottle variation there can be. Grapefruit and a hint of citrus, some floral notes. Pithy grapefruit, lacking freshness. no length. Disappointing. 80 points

Dopff Au Moulin Gewertztraminer Reserve 2010 (£15.99)

I opened this straight after the Torrontes and wasn’t disappointed. Honey, nectarines and spice. Very aromatic. Spicy, full bodied, nectarines and eastern mystery. Lovely, with a hint of sweetness. 20 minutes later the Turkish delight tastes great! 89 points

Domaine Botti Saint Veran 2009 (£12.85)

St Veran is one of my go to communes for value white Burgundy and this wine is no exception. Honeydew melon and pink apples on nose and palate. A dash short on acidity but very tasty and lovely almond and cobnut finish. 88 points

Some reds

Pierre Naigion Hautes cotes des Nuits 2007 (£18.65)

We drunk this when we were doing our Burgundy vs. Oregon tasting (see post). Very good structure and flavour for the price. A hint of brick on the rim and a nose which offers sweet morello cherries and a whiff of smokeyness. Light bodied and the fruit from the nose is there in the mouth, along with that lovely damp forrest floor vibe. Not a wine of great length but certainly one of charm. 89 points

Andeluna Malbec 1300, 2011, Uco Valley, Argentina (£10.75)

Lovely example of Malbec – drink with or without food. Spicy, peppery and velvet smooth. Tannins are forefront but not obtrusive, good acidity and deep black concentrated fruit. Excellent. 90 points

Chateau Langoa Barton 1999, St Julien (£61.85)

My introduction to top quality Bordeaux. Black currant and cassis, I now understand pencil shavings. A bit of greenness, peppers and eucalyptus – lovely nose. Lovely freshness and cassis, with graphite and a slightly herby touch. Fresh, lively, lovely integrated tannins. Lacking a bit of concentration – not quite delivering on the promise but good length and delicious. 93 points

Nicolas Rossignol Aloxe Corton 2010 (£27.25)

We actually visited Nicolas the day after this wine had been bottled and he had already sold out so get your hands on a couple of these quickly! This is a beast! Deep and brooding, concentrated nose. Leather and damp leaves, almost pruney and olive-like; smells very evolved for 2010. In the mouth it’s almost northern Rhone in intensity. Plums, very dark fruit and massive concentration. Unexpected, big, big wine. This is going to be amazing in a couple of years. Was even better the following day (how did it last that long in our house??) 94 points

Leoville Barton vertical tasting, 12th November 2012

I turned up for this Bordeaux second growth tasting with huge anticipation following my bottle of Langoa Barton (3rd growth) the previous weekend. For those with no knowledge of the Bordeaux classification system, think of it like the football league without promotion or relegation. The classification was put in place in 1855 with four properties on the left bank of the Gironde estuary gaining first growth status, or being placed in the Premier League. These chateaux are Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion and Margeaux. In 1973 Mouton Rothschild become the first and only property to be promoted in the classification, making 5 in the Premier league, with prices that only footballers can now afford!

There are 14 chateaux in the second growth category, of which Leoville Barton is one, 15 third growths, 10 fourth growths, and 18 fifth growths. These are the wines that will cost you a decent day’s work and the wine world generally goes wild for.

Both Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton are run by Anthony Barton, who grew up in County Kildare, Ireland. He has a great reputation in the world of wine and was voted Decanter Magazine’s man of the year in 2007. His outlook on wine is remarkably liberal and he tries to keep his prices as low as possible… In the context of top end Bordeaux wine:

“I want people to buy my wine and to drink it – that’s why I release my entire stock at en primeur time, and why I try to keep it reasonably priced.”

The tasting was organised by the West London Wine School, where I studied for my WSET course early in the year, and a great job they did. Jimmy Smith (@westlondonwine on Twitter) is a great host and oozes wine charm and charisma. 20 of us had paid £80 to taste our way through 9 vintages from the Leoville Barton back catalogue… And we weren’t disappointed. Again a bit of explanation – a vertical tasting is a number of different vintages from one wine estate, whereas a horizontal tasting is a number of different estates from the same vintage.

The selection of wines started in 1982, who some claim was the vintage that re-launched Bordeaux, and covered the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. There was a clear differentiation between the three decades, with the 80’s having lots of charm and a few rough edges, the 90’s were more polished but full of character and the 2000’s… well a bit disappointing for me; a bit overworked and obviously not enough time in the bottle to really open up to their full potential. The one standout from all of the wines however, was the pure freshness and abundance of acidity, making for a very enjoyable experience.

At the end of the night we all voted for our favourite wine and the best value (again in context!). I was with the majority on both counts here, with the 1990 coming out on top (1986 not far behind for for me) and the 1997 being the “best value” at only (???) £60 a bottle.

Going back to my previous post on “cheating”, the tasting confirmed a couple of things for me. The first is that I do like Bordeaux and will certainly look to add a few choice bottles to my collection, but secondly, it will never replace Burgundy in my heart and I would rather buy 2 bottle of Premier Cru wines from the Cote De Beaune than a single bottle of a Bordeaux classed growth wine. Oh yes, and thirdly I can’t wait for the Burgundy Grand Cru tasting in January (details at http://www.westlondonwineschool.com/product_info.php?id=286).

Below are my notes, approximate price per bottle and my scores.

1982 (£160)

Dark ruby colour with lovely bricking around the edges. The appearance was a little murky with a fair amount of sediment. The nose was deeply concentrated with dark, black berries, hints of earth and leather but very, very fresh. In the mouth the freshness was still apparent at the beginning but was a bit drying. Taste was of fairly dried fruit and with a lovely smokey and spicy finish, but a bit tough. If you have any 1982’s in your collection I would drink them up pretty quickly as they may have just tipped past their best. I did go back to the wine a couple of hours later and it had mellowed out so if you are drinking, please allow plenty of time in a decanter. 93 points

1986 (£95)

Lovely and clear with a seductive orange rim and deep garnet core. Lots of black currant, lots on minerally earthiness and hints of pepper, smoke, clove and oak. Lovely! Amazing freshness and acidity, the pencil shavings are there on the palate (see previous post!). This wine is soft, warm and long. Fresh, fruity and beautiful balance. 95 points

1990 (£120)

Looks very young and very dark with just a hint of age starting to show at the edge. Really deep and powerful nose. Intense aromas of black currants, plums, earthiness and minerality. I smelt this for some time! In the mouth it is so fresh and has lovely grippy tannins. The fruit comes first and then the menthol freshness of mint and then the smoky, cedar kicks in. This is harmonious and the balance of acidity and tannin is amazing, with a wonderful fresh and very long finish. Can I really pay £120? Maybe for one! 97 points

1996 (£85)

Again very youthful looking. After the 1990 this is pretty recessive on the nose with only a hint of cassis fruit and some spice, herb and eucalyptus. Massive hit of acidity when you drink it and its there all the way through, although the tannins are almost too gentle so there is a slight lack of structure. This is an acidic, almost flirty wine but just slightly out of balance. 89 points

1997 (£60)

Deep, deep colour, almost purple. This is a base-y wine (The Fish likes to talk about wines in a musical manner!) with lots of oak and spice but slightly recessive fruit. In the mouth however the acid is pure, with delicate, matching tannins and a lovely light body, almost reminiscent of Burgundy! A lot more fruit than the aroma promised, which is always a nice surprise and overall a very pretty wine and ready to drink now. 92 points

2002 (£50)

Really dark ruby and big deep and dark fruit on the nose, almost liqueur like. Very powerful, maybe a bit stewed and also hints of menthol. The tannins here are pretty drying and hides the fruit. There is surprisingly good acid and the black fruit and eucalyptus does come through but is a bit harsh and closed, not one for me, even in a few years. 87 points

2003 (£94)

Another very dark appearance – definitely young but the core is really dark. Sweet smelling fruit and a hint of oak on the nose, very concentrated and deep overall. This is one of the sweetest wines for pure fruit and you can taste the sun of a very hot vintage. There is also lovely balance here and the flavour is very concentrated and powerful with a lovely minty freshness. Really fruit forward and very nice thank you very much. 91 points

2008

This is so purple it could be Ribena! Fragrant and polish on the nose, lovely sweet and fresh smelling fruit. Another fresh wine on the palate with lots of structure and big, strong tannins. Another refreshing wine with black currant fruit and lovely herbs lasting quite some time. One to keep for a few years and will get better and better. 92 points

2004 – tasted blind (£55)

I was really hoping for a wine from the 90’s as the blind option but hey-ho! Deep ruby colour and lovely sweet and deeply concentrated black fruit, almost dried on the tongue. Concentrated and tannic, but again with really fresh acidity and lots of sweet fruit. Another one that needs a bit of time and probably better value than the similar but more expensive 2003. 89 points

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I may be a flirt, but I’m not a cheat

On Monday night I’m off to a Leoville Barton vertical tasting with the wonderful guys at the West London Wine School. But the truth is I don’t really know much about Bordeaux. I’ve been there a couple of times, but I was a wine “liker” as opposed to a lover at the time. One of the best wines I’ve drunk was a Leoville Las Cases 2002. Not a great vintage but the wine was a big step up in class for me. So off I went to see Jez at Wine and the Vine and bought a bottle of Langoa Barton 1999 to at least have a benchmark for Mondays tasting.

Cards on the table time. Another reason for my lack of Bordeaux knowledge is fear. Not fear of learning about the differences between St Julien and Margaux, or Merlot in Pomerol versus Cabernet Franc in St Emilion, but fear for my bank balance! I’ve been to Burgundy twice this year and I’ve fallen in love. This love is expensive! I’m also scared of loving Bordeaux more… And cheating on my love!

Bordeaux or Burgundy… Or both?

So to the Langoa. 1999 looks to have been a reasonable vintage and the wine I felt was showing really well. Lots of black currant and creme de cassis fruit on the nose as well as some green pepper and a shimmer of eucalyptus. Really appealing. In the mouth the wine was fresh and lively with lovely integrated tannins, a lovely structure. The cassis really came though and I now understand the use of graphite and pencil shavings to describe Bordeaux wine. The win really smelled and tasted of freshly sharpened pencils! This was a lovely wine, if maybe lacking a bit of concentration, not quite delivering on the promise when I first stuck my nose in the glass. (93 points)

So now I’m interested and really looking forward to the tasting on Monday. At this stage, however, the balance may take a hit but my love remains in the East, on the Golden Slope. As I say, I may be flirt, but I’m not a cheat. Now should I open the Joseph Drouhin Volnay or Chambolle to go with that slow cooked lamb shoulder?

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