Friday, 28 December 2012

Wine Society Pauillac 2005: Bargain claret

This is excellent drinking claret from the non-profit UK Wine Society.

I tried it alongside Phelan Segur 2005 over Christmas dinner and it stood up very well.

It was big, smooth, and powerful. Very typical of the commune.

It's hard to find now on their website but the 2006 is likely also very good.

At around £20 per bottle it's excellent value.

I preferred the Phelan, but from a value perspective the Wine Society is hard to beat.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Chateau Phelan Segur 2005: Tasty but far too young

This wine is highly rated by some critics.

Depending on whom you read it's the best year for Phelan Segur since 1982 or 1990.

I decanted it for 15 hours before dinner and it did open up very nicely.

Apparently it's: "The finest Phelan-Segur since the 1990, the 2005 offers up scents of charcoal, creme de cassis, blueberries, and white flowers. With lovely fruit, abundant fat and richness, medium to full body, and moderately high but sweet tannin, it should drink well for 15 or more years. Score: 89-91 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (170), April 2007"

It didn't quite meet my expectations based on the above.

Don't get me wrong, it's a very very decent drop but too young to drink now.

This of course is true for most 2005's.

I couldn't quite pick up all of the above but one gets the sense that this wine could score 90+ in the next 5-10 years.

Worth buying for sure but best for laying down for some time to come.

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Cote Du Py 2011: Lovely Claret alternative

This a lovely Beaujolais wine, made from Gamay grapes. It reminds me of the Tracot I reviewed on here a while ago.

As a lighter alternative to claret yet with some similar characteristics (complexity, minerality) it's a good after dinner drink, when one might nibble on some Stilton whilst watching Boxing Day television.

Berry Brother's review says: "It has a tight, dense nose, with a waft of rich fruit coming through behind. The texture is silky but strong, supported by good acidity. An excellent cuvée."

That seems fair. It's also got a decent 30 second slightly acid finish.

Berry's has it for under £19, whilst the Wine Society has it at £12.50 a bottle.

A good claret alternative.

Cantelys 1999: Bargain vintage Pessac

I'd seen mixed reviews of this wine and was undecided about buying it.

In the end I picked up a Magnum from for pre-Christmas drinking with the family.

Not a huge risk at around £45 for a magnum.

On opening I was distinctively unimpressed. But increasingly I'm learning not to judge a wine until its been open for several hours, preferably 24.

Upon opening this Pessac was closed, flat and unremarkable. There was no sign that its been 13 years in vat, barrel and bottle.

A day later however, and those classic Graves notes come out.

It's age begins to show itself, it opens up and the finish lengthens.

Good fruit, great peppery characteristics, it's got some personality about it, after 24 hours in a wide bottomed decanter.

By no means an extraordinary wine, for just over £20 a bottle equivalent, it's a decent entry level aged Pessac.

For a dinner party where you don't want to spend over £50, it's a decent bet.

Cantelys has been said to have hugely improved over the last decade, so it may well be worth checking out later vintages.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Calon Segur "vertical tasting" 2000, 1996, 1979, 1970

2000, 1996, 1979, 1970, yum
 For the first time, I had the privilege of what's apparently known as a "vertical" tasting of some great years of a Bordeaux vineyard.

The wine? Calon Segur from Saint-Estephe on the left bank of the Gironde north of Bordeaux. 

We took advantage of the Hawksmoor Restaurant's Monday night £5 corkage in Spitalfields, London. It's a great deal.

We put together some good years: 2000, 1996, 1979, and 1970 over excellent steak, spinach, delicious mushrooms and triple cooked chips.

 Starting with the 2000, it was remarkably closed, even after sitting in a decanter for over an hour. It's going to be a wonderful wine in ten years time, but for now it's best left in the bottle. It's perfectly drinkable of course, but like other Bordeaux 2000's I have had, it needs another five or maybe ten or more years.

The 1996 was the standout wine. One of the most amazing bouquets' I have ever experienced. The nose reminded us of the fuss made about Burgundy wines, huge, floral, woody, a hint of must, simply stunning.

It sat in the decanter for a while and got better and better. I am so pleased I own a case of this wine in storage as it was the first time I had tasted it. Wow.

Cork problems but gorgeous wine
Then we moved onto the 1979. Despite a "high neck" on the bottle the cork was nearly gone. The corkscrew went right through it, pushing the cork into the bottle, and we feared the worst.

Luckily the restaurant had a strainer and we rescued the wine.

It was clearly past what many critics might call it's best. But the intriguing thing about wine that is just over the hill in terms of fruit content is the variation, how it opens up, how fast, and how much fruit is left.

The 1979 is well worth trying if you can get it and you like older wines.

Finally the 1970. Oddly it had more fruit than the 1979 and is a real beauty. It was a real privilege to drink a 43 year old Bordeaux and to sample the others with great friends and excellent food. I would recommend to any readers trying a vertical tasting. The four of us spent a couple of months looking forward to it and it was likely a unique wine experience. I'll no doubt enjoy more vertical tastings like this, but probably not with Calon Segur, after all, there are so many great wines to try.

The wines ranged from £50-80 per bottle. Dinner was around £250 for four. So perhaps £500 all in. £125 per head. Not bad at all for an unforgettable evening.

Here's some links for the wines:

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sarget De Gruaud-Larose 2004, solid St Julien

In a blind test you'd say it might be Pessac
Saint-Julien is one of my favourite communes in Bordeaux.

I'm not really a right bank man. I've tasted a few, even some of the greats, and compared to the Medoc wines, particularly Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, Pessac and Pauillac they leave me cold.

That's not a popular view with some real wine buff friends of mine.

The exception so far was the 1983 Petrus. Oh my, now that's a wine. I doubt I'll taste it again but I'll take the memory to the grave.

Anyhow, here's another cracking Saint-Julien, Sarget De Gruaud-Larose 2004. It's the second wine of Gruaud-Larose.

I reviewed (kind of) the 1998 main wine here.

It's a great value entry-level Saint-Julien at something like £25 a bottle.

Mine came from Carrefour in Bordeaux. It's more peppery than others I have tried from the commune. A nice mineral edge. Well worth sampling. I'm thinking lamb chops would work with it.

Haut-Bages Liberal 1990: Classic wonderful Pauillac

This wine is a true gem. 

Beautifully balanced, with ripe fruit and lovely earthy flavours, a truly superb combination.

It's got a supremely long and powerful finish says it's about £40, plus taxes. 

It was a little more than that at London's Planet of the Grapes wine shop/bar.

Parker gives it an 87. I'd suggest he needs to re-taste it. 

For me it was not far off a 95. 

A wonderful experience. One for any wine collection. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Larrivet de Haut Brion 2007: Value Pessac

I wasn't sure what wine reviews meant by "grip" until I tasted this, the Larrivet de Haut Brion 2007.

Suddenly, I got it. This very quaffable red is classic Pessac.

I noticed a great dark fruit nose, I think it was cherry and plum, smooth tannins and a strong, long finish.

 My bottle came from the Chateau, which I was able to visit in mid-October this year with a few friends.

A month after the harvest
The 2007 is not seen by others as the best recent year but I thought it's a really decent Pessac wine, and for £15-25 a bottle you'd struggle to match it for power and elegance.

A lot of five year old wines lack personality, but this is a lovely, simple, peppery claret, smooth, supple and with a more complex finish than you think it will have on first tasting.

It's between £15-20a bottle according to

It needs an hour or so in the decanter, but it's well worth a try for something slightly off the beaten track.

Some photos of the recent chateau visit are below.

More on the Chateau is here.

Bizarrely, this middle barrel was aged in seawater. It didn't work

The first tasting of the day. Very hard to taste at 10am...

The vats