Haven't posted for a while, so I've combined some home drinking notes and several wine dinners held over the last four weeks.
Dinner - 03/08/06
Piper-Heidsieck 1990 Vintage Champagne - quite Outstanding - still fresh, although I'd opt for drinking this sooner than later - lots of yeasty/vegemite/autolysis development with sufficient cleansing acidity to remain bright and crisp. 93 points
Cullens Chardonnay 2000 - another excellent wine, still relatively tight and focussed with plenty of potential. 92 points
Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux-Saint-Jacques 1993 - very deep colour for its age - less developed than the bottle opened last week on my QLD trip - lotsa sappy cherries and new oak - good acidity provides freshness and focus - excellent structure - this bottle suggestive of needing more time. 92 points
Seppelt Show Muscat 375 ml N/V - gorgeous jumbo raisans, counterbalancing rancio with a smooth, viscous palate and extraordinary length. Moorish with just the right amount of astringency. Incredibly long and satisfying. 94 points
Dinner - 05/08/06
For starters we opened my first bottle of the 1996 Jaquesson Avize Grand Cru Champagne - a quite lovely young, vibrant sparkling displaying a bright pale straw colour, incredibly fine beading, a bouquet housing fragrant apple blossoms and blanched almonds with appealling complex yeasty autolysis characters following as the wine warmed in the glass. A super-fine, elegant and somewhat racy palate revealed a most attractive creamy swirling mousse, balanced with abundant cleansing acidity and excellent length. This Outstanding wine will improve with another 5-10 years on cork. 92 points.
Another masked sparkler followed - Pierre Gimonet's "Cuis" 1er Cru N/V - pale colour with an impressive, well-defined column of very fine bead surging up the centre of our glasses. A little soapy on the nose accompanied by broad yeasty notes followed by a relatively simple palate and devoid of much length. Good only. 84 points.
Next cab off the rank was Penfold's 2002 Yattarna Chardonnay - youthful pale colour, very attractive bouquet of fig, peach and butterscotch over a backdrop of slightly oily new oak. The palate failed to deliver whatsoever - somewhat flat, quite one dimensional and lacking structure, acidity and any semblence of length - abysmal for what it supposedly "represents" - and only saved by the calibre of the nose - most difficult to rate this above 80 points.
Luckily the reds were all excellent to outstanding. Louis Jadot's 1990 Beaune "Greves" shocked me with its youthful, exuberant demeanour - enticing funky, feral aromas of game, sap, a slight stalkiness, green Satsuma's and red cherries with top notes of cardamon and cinammon sticks. The palate displayed similar slightly green, but no less attractive complex characters, although the bouyant acidity and firm structure suggest a long, successful evolution. Very long and flavoursome finish. Excellent! 91 points.
Next, Garry produced a bottle of Felton Road 2001 Block 3 Pinot Noir providing stiff competition for the Jadot. Youthful colour; nose of forest floor, tomato leaf, musk, spices and a hint of stalks. Lovely smooth, modulated palate of red and black cherries, some sappiness, bright acidity and very fine tannins combined to produce a classy, finely honed Pinot worthy of 90 points. Noice one, Gazzab.
Mark then pulled out my wine of the night - Paul Jaboulet's 1999 "La Chapelle" - incredibly deeply coloured, perfumed nose of grilled spiced meats, some funk/animal fur (probably a little brett), iodine, minerals, rampant black fruits, forest floor, savoury background oak, gunflint and sweet earth. Wow! The nuance of the palate mirrors "all of the above" with plenty of body, mouthfilling richness, decent acidity and firm, prolonged tannins reverberating through a truly magnificent long departure. An Outstanding example of low yielding old-vine Hermitage. 93 points. Drink now-2019.
I took no notes or scored the evening's last two wines. Firstly, Chapoutier's 2002 Muscat de Beaune Venise was typically perfumed, demi-sec and good but not great.
And lastly, Ch. Reynella's 1972 Vintage Port was very marginally corked, although most of us saw the underlying freshness both in the colour and sense of well-being of the inky licorice/blackberry/lantana on display.
1999 Tyrrell's Semillons
Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 1999
Incredibly youthful bright pale straw in colour, this outstanding example of pristine Hunter Valley Semillon displays a profound minerally-driven nose housing notes of lanolin, hay, honeysuckle and grassy/citrus fruit with only the merest hint of toasty bottle development. The palate’s equally impressive - tight, racy and nervy with rapier-like acidity providing the footstone for a marvellous future in the cellar. Attractive today as a crisp, mouth-quenching, citrussy, grassy Semillon that would go especially well with oysters in the nude, I have no doubt much greater things are in store for anyone prepared to hold on to this youngster for another 10 years careful nurturing. One of the all-time great young Vat 1’s worthy of 93 points today with much higher scores forecast once this beauty sheds the infantile clamps holding it back today. 10.5% A/V and sealed with a cork closure.
Tyrrell's HVD Vineyard Reserve Semillon 1999
Tasted immediately after the Vat 1 of the same vintage this wine shares a very similar youthful colour. Similarities between the two are obvious with the HVD a little more reticent on the nose displaying broader aromatics, a little more honeyed, toasty character but with an underlying soapy, grassy, lemony, lanolin backbone. In the mouth, there’s more weight than the Vat 1, greater breadth, distinctly more diluted lime cordial character and some bright, but much softer, persistent citrussy acidity that provides excellent couterbalance. Finishing much softer but still with impressive carry, this wine lacks the boisterous vitality of the Vat 1 and will not last as long. Still worthy of a solid 91 points with a good chance of going a little higher with another 5 years hidden in a cool, dark place. 10.5 % A/V and sealed with a cork closure.
Postscript - the following evening:
The Vat 1 is still tight as a fish's with lemon pith and that minerally reductive character providing great complexity. The acid died after 4 hours sitting in the glass, although the wine is still drinking superbly. Possibly a higher rating from me tonight.
The HVD also most excellent - but just starting to show some oxidation after sitting in the glass for 4 hours. Still worth the rating of last night.
Wine Club August Champagne Grande Marque Dinner
NB: The first set of notes are from another attendee and good friend, Danny "Baby Chickpea" followed by my comments starting with a "-" and in bold type.
Again, a fabulous night of great food, great wine, great company (some heated debated ensued), surreal DVD interludes by the Hungarian hard rockers Tankcsapda (not bad!), and general all round reverie. Massive thanks to Attila, his mum, and all attendees (very generous as usual). This was one of the better club nights IMO!
1996 Comte A. de Dampierre Grand cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Stunning bead and mousse. Mid yellow. Evocative citrus rind, lemon tarts, sweet florals. Lovely palate also – so soft, creamy. Elegant, focussed and with exceptional balance. A superb wine now. Not showing a lot of complexity now, and not an ageing style, but this is delectable drinking and exceptionally enjoyable.
- 94 points from me too - my note mentions brioche, freshly baked crusty bead, touch of vegemite, minerally. Vibrant palate, layered, focussed, great balance, terrific finish. Will age in my opinion but drinking brilliantly. Fantastic start - thanks to Cam - a house I have not tried before. Worth every cent of $120+ IMHO.
NV Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Non-Dose premier Cru Champagne
Bigger bubbles, less consistent mousse. Very moscato-like nose with too much bubblegum characters and despite lack of liqueuring, smelt very sweet. Palate was initially awful and tasted like an al cheapo sparkler from Oz. I wasn’t kidding when I thought this smelt and tasted like Minchinbury! After time, got better but still hard and bitter on palate. Very minerally and calciferous and chalky. Bit short too. Not really to my liking I’ve gotta be honest, despite the rave reviews. Neville, wanna buy your bottle back?
- Very ordinary wine, particularly at the start - smelt like a mix of cheap perfume, cheap sweet grapes, musk sticks and sickly florals - palate rough, coarse and bitter - short finish - 75 points at first. 80 after it lost some of the overt lolly/perfume/grapey characters revealing a modicum of classy yeasty character. Palate didn't improve much, though. Pass
1996 Moet et Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Champagne
Light straw. Good bead with fine small bubbles. Absorbing complex bouquet of butter scotch, herbs (basil), fresh limes, hazelnuts, hint of pepper. Very complex and superb. Palate is incredibly youthful and tart. Super structure. Amazing potential. Classically structured and proportioned. Razor-sharp acidity means this needs at least 5 years, perhaps 10. A great champagne that lives up to its grand reputation. 96/100
- Charry/toasty nose, very similar to how the great 1990 was at 10 years of age. Also noted complex notes of truffles, mocha, roasted hazelnuts, strawberries and a lick of cream. A touch of reductive character didn't hurt either. Brilliant palate although more evidence of charry/toasted flavours - perfectly moulded, fresh, refined but powerful, superbly delineated, incredibly long, needs time. 95 points from me with a bullet for future improvement once the charry/toasty notes subside. Drink 2011-2020.
1999 Lindemans Reserve Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier Sparkling
More mute on nose than 96 Dom and less bead. Mousse OK. Light straw. Palate a little short with too much acid. A bit unbalanced. Pretty good wine I’ve gotta say for a cheapie and stood up well to these grand marques. Hard to believe that for an Aussie sparkler seven years old this was not only holding up well, but flummoxed us all! For A$15, this is a relative bargain and all of us picked French!!!!!! Some embarrassed faces around the table who thought this the Sir Winston (no names but not me!)!
- Exceptionally intact and of excellent quality for a seven year old cheapy. Another sparkling from the Southcorp stable that fights well above its' weight. Lacked the complexity of the Krug, but I scored it the same as the Krug. Easy to give it less as it warmed, especially after it was unveiled! Now I know why GW dislikes tasting blind!
1988 Krug Vintage Champagne
Medium gold (bit more developed than my last bottle one year ago). A lot of honey and toast. Palate lacks structure. Pretty one-dimensional. Very disappointing – until owner Adair revealed this was another Singapore purchase (note to self: NEVER buy champers from Asia no matter how cheap). Fell apart after 30 minutes. Obviously damaged. My last bottle was a 93/100 with searing acidity and requiring 10 years and built like a brick sh1thouse. But, as with Adair’s faulty 1990 Krug last time, even faulty Krug is drinkable!
- Wasn't as "unimpressed" as Danny, Cam and Attila on this one, although the wine did start to fall apart in the glass. Deeper colour than all the preceeding wines. Burnt toast, buttered corn, butterscotch, vegemite, some oxidative oak characters on the nose. Impressive! Pretty smart palate at first but seemed a little tired without the promise of the nose within minutes. Nice swirling mousse, good but not great length, a little burnt toast character but definitely lacked the class and persistence of the vintage and marque found in previous bottles. Progressively got worse over the next half hour. An Excellent - 90 points rating at first but falling apart the more air it saw. Probably closer to 80 at the end.
1995 Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Champagne
Good bead. Slight mousse. Light gold. Sweet nose albeit a little simple. Palate much finer than 88 Krug but nowhere in class of 96 Dom. Excellent length and structure, and got much better with time. Perhaps we should have Audozed this wine. On its own, excellent wine. Unfortunately it followed the 96 Dom tonight.
- A house I've vehemently followed with mostly excellent results over two decades. Without a doubt an Outstanding wine - Danny's notes and points are spot on the diddle-o. My criticism here is the dosage. Overly liquered methinks. Otherwise, hard to fault. Almost prefer the standard '95 vintage to this. May get better with time.
1978 Moet et Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Rose Champagne
Deep orange. Very, very small bubbles persist. Excellent cork and seal and still ‘popped’. Nose is all sweet perfume of acacia flowers, honey, and nuances of orange marmalade. Palate is on downward slope but still very good wine with life in the old lady yet! Very good length, full flavoured and with many nutty/almondy overtones. Very nice. Not bad.
- Opened quite volatile and sherry-like but improved over the course of a glass or two offering up honeyed apricots and smoked blanched almonds. Similar points from me. A mildy oxidised curio but still quite drinkable with the finest of gentle acid cut and surprisingly good length.
2000 J-L. Chave Hermitage Blanc 80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne.
Yuk. Like a dry martini with far too much alcohol and heat. Distilled spirit. This was a nothing wine (sorry!) and bitterly disappointing. No semblance of fruit whatsoever, and if underlying, it was certainly swamped by the AV! Parker loves these wines. I don’t.
- Debatable whether this wine will ever come around. Over-oaked, quite hot with high alcohol and under-fruited. Improved marginally with air but difficult to find any endearing features here. 78 points from me.
1999 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis 1er cru Montee de Tennerre
Light gold. Slatey and minerally (oyster shells). Hint of lemon peel. Slightly hard and coarse on palate still with pretty good acid backbone. Still youthful. Good but not exciting. May get better. Bit disjointed at present.
- Appealingly minerally and meally over some nice melon/citrus/calciferous fruit but even the nose is slightly phenolic and broad. Enigmatic and compartmental for a Raveneau - a bit oily although there's enough acid, albeit disjointed, providing freshness. Lacks focus and balance. Nice carry of fruit, though. Remaining bottles to the chopper methinks. 86 points at best. Disappointing FWII.
2004 Savaterre Chardonnay (Beechworth)
Light gold. Far too much banana lollies and lashings of oak galore. Too many estery characters that I find uninteresting and ‘worked’. Palate is very full and acidic. Should get better and already showing complex fermented characters. But fruit quality is lacking. Strange style that has its devotees in Australia, but sorry I have never been a Savaterre fan. This is not my style, and never will be. My wallet is thankful.
- Lots of debate over this contoversial wine. Cam seemed to like it the most. Although made with strong winemaker influence, this is not a fat, blowsy style. Although I recognised the classy worked barrel characters and expensive oak in use here, I just couldn't get over the lack of fruit and distinct tartness/shortness of palate. 84 points from me, tonight with a chance it may improve in a year or two.
1996 Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux-St.-Jacques
Mid red with hints of browning. Earthy, gamey, herbs, strawberry, and so much sappiness – gosh I love Burgundy noses!
Palate still unevolved and requiring ti9me. Dark red and black fruits. Finishes with very dry astringency. Is there enough latent fruit? Very good.
- Most feral and offputting in the decanter at first. Breathing helped a lot here. Fascinating nose of sous bois, forest floor, sappy cherries, musk and an underlying plumminess that all meshed well. Palate youthful, tight, a slight greenness of fruit, plenty of acid yet to fully integrate. Clean, resolute and forceful finish with the tannins a little hard. Got better with time with more sweetness apparent on the palate. Very Good/Excellent. 88 points. May improve with 5 years in the cellar. Not the best bottle I've opened.
1998 Isole e Olena Cepparello (Chianti)
All resiny oak and AV heat. Very new world in style. Yes, it’s still very young, but my problem with this wine was that it shows no varietal or regional typicity. It could be from anywhere in the world and any grape. Plummy nose. Palate is short and acidic and savoury. Went well with food.
- A wine I had severe trouble with. Aged hue. Something dirty in the nose - rubber\mercaptan - resinous oak to the fore over decent, savoury fruit. Big, tough relatively tight palate with slightly deficient fruit to cerry it off. Firm, classy tannins but finishes all too short and tart. 82 points. Good, just.
1982 Chateau Haut-Batailley (Pauillac)
I have always loved this wine, one that has punched above its weight for sometime in 1982. My last bottle. Mid red with clear bricking. Classic Bordeaux nose of cedar, blackberries, ash, and forest. Palate is superb drinking and fully mature, with excellent balance. Some fine tannins on finish poke out a bit but this is excellent wine.
- Picked this as an '82 Bordeaux immediately. Very mature hue, classy aged nose of saddle leather, roasted black fruits, umpteen classic sweet and sour "claret" nuances including sweet earth, fresh corn, cigar box, tobacco leaf, blackcurrants and savoury oak. Seamless palate - smooth, harmonious, complete, ripe, soft acid and gorgeous melting tannins. Wonderful length. Outstanding wine - fully mature - great result from this Chateaux. Drink now or very soon. 93 points.
1982 Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases (St.-Julien)
Audozed for 2 hours then decanted for 90 minutes. Still dark purple. Bouquet is a step up: incredibly dense with violets and black fruits galore. Absolutely seamless. Marvellously rich, penetrating nose that is still primary. Such finely honed focus that is extraordinary. Palate is remarkably youthful, but taking on initial stages of secondary complexity. Everything is near perfect about this wine, only the length is less than stellar (at this stage). Truly fine tannins. A near perfect wine that stops you in its tracks. Better drinking than last monolithic bottle we had at Tetsuya's about 4 months ago (which was also great 95/100). I would still hold for another 5-10 years. On its path to perfection. A true ‘wow’ wine.
- WOTN for me. Stunning! Incredible deep, impenetrable colour for its age. Surreal nose, bordering on perfection - dense, power-packed, uber-complex yet fresh and uplifting - violets, cassis, licorice, sweet earth, sweet corn, gorgeously integrated oak, a touch of lead pencil - the list could go on and on. The palate is much more user-friendly than the bottle opened at Marque last December, although this great wine still has time on its side. Exceptional palate with juicy blackcurrant fruits still soaking up the savoury oak, very ripe acidity and firmish tannins hust needing another few years to soften. The stuff of legends, here. Words cannot do this justice. One of my wines of the year! Thanks be to the Chickpea! 97 points. Bravo!
1993 Gere & Weninger Villany Cabernet Sauvignon (Hungary/Austria)
Coriander, basil and more vegetables! Bit jammy too. Palate is slightly short and seems more shiraz-like than cabernet. Not bad. According to Attila, the best ever red wine from Hungary,.
- the alcohol was getting the better of me now and this was the last note I made - "very new worldish, clumsy, jammy ripe fruit, quite moorish. Thick, chewy palate, choco-berries. Substantial, big, extracted, rich and flavoursome but lacks definition and focus. Medium finish. Very good. 88 points from me.
2003 Gere Villany Cabernet Sauvignon (Hungary)
Alcoholic and jammy. Like Benadryl. Far too much charcoal oak and too much AV heat. This wine is all over the shop and has no sense of cabernet typicity. Really unbalanced too.
1986 Farnito Vinsanto del Chianti (Italy)
Mid gold. Reeks of rich full on crème brulee! Palate drops away pretty quickly. Not too bad, but not too good either. Simple and a little harsh. Oxidative style. Had its fans though.
- Oxidative and quite different to any sticky I've tried before with a lot of volatility. Overoaked to buggery. Not that sweet either. Would like to see this when less inebriated. N/R
NV Seppelt DP63 Rutherglen Show Muscat
Massive controversy on this wine as to whether or not it was corked. I didn’t think so. High in AV heat. Seemed to retain fruit raisin and coffee sweetness, and pretty good length and complexity. Who knows. Those who felt it TCA-affected very quite vehement.
- Corked and badly out of condition compared to umpteen other bottles opened over the last few years. Underlying ancient rancio, rich toffee, raisaned characters there in spades but not a patch on what it can be.
Dan Clarke Dinner 26/08/06
The inimitable Daniel J. Clarke Esq. paid a visit to Canberra from Melbourne this weekend to sought out some pressing motoring needs and, apart from galavanting 'round the countryside with the Mayor visiting some of the better local vignerons Saturday arvo', graced us with his presence at my place for dinner last night. The Canberra Wine Mafia Steering Commitee assembled an eclectic range of wines in an attempt to confuse the living daylights out of him. As usual, the renowned palate of Mr. Clarke put paid to our feeble attempts.
We opened proceedings with some "mouthwash" - the Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 1996. A wine of, seemingly, excellent quality, except my flutes were abysmally unproductive for beading, making the wine seem flat and missing the mandatory zip one requires to make these great wines sing. 87 points. Previously tried on two occasions with much better glasses and much higher ratings. Freshly roasted almonds and cashews accompanied the aperitif.
Next up, Tony produced a truly excellent bottle of white Burgogne from a producer I must seek out. The 1998 Domaine Caillot "Les Herbeux" reveals a very youthful colour, terrific, complex varietal nose backed with almost perfect oak handling and a palate, apart from appearing just a tad dilute at first, improved radically with air time, providing most rewarding drinking. For what I understand to be a relatively inexpensive wine, this beauty seemed to hit the mark for all present. 91 points! Went well with stir-fried butterfly banana prawns marinated in lemon grass, ginger, garlic, shallot and red chilli accompanied with a simple coban salad.
Mr. Clarke's offering of a 1997 Diamond Valley Estate White Label Pinot Noir was opened next and what a great example it is. Quite mature hue but still holding a solid, deep red core. The bouquet is exceptional for an Aussie PN - profoundly complex, yet fresh and invigorating. Incredibly sappy with moorish morellos, black truffles, black plums, a little sweet freshly turned earth ..... yummo!. In the mouth the wine is no less rivetting with a wealth of wonderful silky fruit, terrific mouthfeel and fantastic structure to boot. Finishes ohso long and with great aplomb. 93 points on its ear! WOTN for me.
As I was serving up the mains of char-grilled Moroccan Beef with roast vegetables, we were greeted by the late arrival of Radioactiveman. We needed something with a bit more oomph and the 1999 Seppelt Dorrien Cabernet was opened. A deep brooding Cabernet with powerful "cool climate" traits far more suggestive of Coonawarra than the more temperate Barossa Valley. Lotsa savoury cedar, a good dollop of mint, weedy blackcurrants, sandalwood and of full body, this youthful, classy wine delivered the goods for me - 92 points.
Next cab off the rank was Jamie's 1999 Greenock Creek Apricot Block Shiraz - initially, a bruiser of a red that was thick, rich and chewy and of sizeable structure - a potent mix of road tar, bramble bush, blackberry jam and black raspberries, heaps of savoury/cedary oak with hints of bitter chocolate. A little of this type of wine generally goes a long way for me but over the course of the evening continued to improve as it toned down to become more approachable and eminently more enjoyable. And only 14.8% A/V! Excellent stuff! 91 points
We changed direction with the next red - Vacheron-Pouizin's CDP "Clos du Caillou" Reserve 1998. Previous bottles opened have consistently scored between 93-95 points. This bottle was barely "good" displaying unattractive, almost underripe vegetal characters and an awkwardness of structure I've never experienced before. 83 points and going nowhere.
Dan and Tony's yet-to-be-released Baxian Yarra Valley Cabernet 2005 followed - a good clean wine endowed with a gorgeous deep ruby/purple colour and lashings of beautifully-handled, newish French wood. Unfortunately, for me at least, this aspect dominated some reticent minty fruit. If the oak levels subside and the fruit comes into balance, this may be worthy of a very good rating. 80 points for now. A good first effort from the lads.
Things were rocking with the Ch. Reynella Vintage Port 1972 - reeking of licorice, lantana, blackberry liquer, heaps of very fine spirit and no signs of VA or senility. Drinking very well with immense length and in no sign of falling over in the next several years, I rated this at 92 points.
A raid of my wine stash by Dan and Jamie saw a terrible bottle of bretty 1999 Mt. Horrocks Watervale Shiraz - 72 points - and likewise a disappointing, lean and mean Faiveley Nuits-St.-Georges "Les St. Georges" 1996 - 80 points come and go in no time.
To restore some faith in the 1996 vintage from my beloved Cote-d'Or, we brought the night's proceedings to a conclusion with the excellent "Clos des Epeneaux" from one of Pommard's very best producer's, Comte Armand.