I never miss Espace Vin Pirard’s twice annual tastings because they are located accessibly (about 25km round trip) and because it enables me to identify QPR stand-bys.
Pirard is one of the few Belgian merchants with a decent German range (four well known producers as well as Domdechant Werner below) and this year they have extended their Italian range. They also have one producer from each of Spain, Chile, South Africa and Argentine. Nevertheless their overwhelming strength remains in France.
Two thoughts, in particular, emerge from this tasting.
1) Purists from Languedoc privilege native varieties, particularly Carignan, and consider Syrah as an interloper. Yet some very fine Syrah based wines are made there without the vulgarity of a lot of warm climate Syrah/Shiraz (see Viranel and particularly Alquier). There is also a decent Syrah from Valle dell’Acate in torrid Sicily.
2) 2009 Bordeaux are widely admired but I worry from the small sample here (Dom. Courteillac and Clos des 4 Vents) that they may be over-ripe and lacking in the “green” edge which, for me, is an essential part of claret’s character. As it happens Jancis R did a survey of some Bordeaux in her last FT article, addresses the same concern and is quite reassuring http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/96da779e ... z1cMxhU63L
. Nevertheless I will bear this question in my when next tastings some 2009s.
Of the Italian estates I don’t recall having previously tasted the wines of Perdicchi, Emilia-Romagna
, and of Antico Colle, Montepulciano
, Tuscany. Both ranges were decent but unremarkable; the wine from them which I am most likely to buy is Maestrale Trebbiano 2010 from Perdicchi
(€7) which showed floral aromatics, nice minerality and juice acidity; 15/20+ QPR
The three following I had tasted before and these wines confirmed my good impression of them.Valle dell’Acate, Sicily
, attempts to draw as elegant a result as possible from Sicilian conditions. Vittoria Insolia DOCG 2010
(€10) was a remarkably fresh white (NB Insolia is the grape variety) for the climate with lively acidity, a saline touch and juicy fragrance; 15/20++. Syrah Case Ibidini IGT 2010
(€9) showed quite full body, nicely fragrant cherry note and good fruit intensity only slightly marred by caramel notes on the finish; 15/20. Nero d’Avola Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2008
(€14), which contains about 30% Frappato, was much more lively than most Nd’A with some fragrant fruit and tangy acidity (Frappato’s contribution?); 15.5/20+.Monte dall’Ora, Valpollicella
, impressed me two years ago with an outstanding Valpollicella Superiore, as well as by its high prices, and Valpollicella Classico Superiore Camporenzo 2008
(€18) was almost as good as my recollection with its pure round cherry like fruit enlivened by good acidity; 15.5/20++ . Valpollicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Sausto 2007
(€23) was less exuberant aromatically but naturally showed rounder and richer fruit whilst retaining decent liveliness; 16/20+.
Finally Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006
(€46) avoided the trap for many of its kind of jammy cloyingness whilst showing rich fruit cake flavours balanced by quite lively acidity; 16.5/20.Corzano e Paterno, Chianti
, is just outside the Chianti Classico area towards Florence. It is owned by the Gelpke-Goldschmidt family of Swiss origin and makes reliable wine which I sometimes buy at bin-end prices. Il Corzanello bianco IGT Toscana 2010
(€10), made from Trebbiano 40%, Chardonnay 40%, Semillon 10% and Malvasia 10%, was aromatic and lively with some minerals and juicy acidity; 15.5/20 QPR
. Chianti Terre di Corzano 2008
(€13) was already drinking well with some fruity fragrance, hints of leather and a nicely acid tang; 15.5/20+. Chianti Riserva I Tre Borri 2007
(€22) was also drinking well and showed more generosity, body and depth as well as more caressing texture than the previous though oak touches were still discernible; 16/20++.
And now for some Frenchies –Château Viranel, Saint-Chinian
, is frequently on show here but this may be the first time I tasted them. A lot of Syrah is used but, notwithstanding the purists, it is hard to quarrel with the good results at modest prices here. Trilogie VdP de Cessenon 2010
(€7), made from Alicante, CabSauv and Syrah in equal proportions was my least favourite as I found a touch of both coarseness and flabbiness in its quite rich fruit; 14/20.Ch. Viranel Saint-Chinian 2008
(€8), made from 40% each of Syrah and Grenache and 10% each of Mourvèdre and Carignan, was much more to my taste with a fine pure nose showing touches of cherry and an attractive and quite elegant medium+ weight palate with more cherry as well as spice; 16/20 QPR!
. “V” de Viranel Saint-Chinian 2009
(€12) showed more weight and intensity with a similar flavour and aromatic profile; 16/20++.Jean-Michel Alquier, Faugères
, is one of my favourite Languedoc estates producing some of the most elegant wines in the area almost seeming to be Côte Rôtie clones. He too employs a lot of Syrah and also new oak but the latter with such tact that I have never been worried by wood flavours in his mature wines. Le Blanc d’Alquier VdP de l’Hérault 2007
(€19) is a fine Mediterrean white from mainly Roussanne with some Marsanne and this 2007 showed the usual rich, honeyed and meaty flavour with some smooth but juicy acidity and garrigue hints; still fresh enough but not for long, I think; 16/20. Faugères L’Avant Première 2009
(€10), from Syrah and Mourvèdre, is a new entry level wine (does this supersede La Première?) and showed some quite rich and exuberant fruit with nice leather touches and enough grip; 15.5/20++ QPR
. Faugères La Maison Jaune 2007
(€19), mainly Syrah and Grenache with some Mourvèdre, promises to become its usual generous but elegant self with, at present, subdued aromas, smooth and velvety fruit and decent tannic grip; 16/20+++. Faugères Les Bastides 2007
(€22), Syrah dominated with some Grenache and Mourvèdre, was perhaps more subdued aromatically, shows quite similar flavours and extra structure and class; 17/20 potentially (I am drinking the 01s at present).Domaine de Beaurenard, Southern Rhône
is another reliable estate with wines in a powerful and dense style.
I have not been particularly lucky with Châteauneuf du Pape blanc
but this 2010
(€26) was delicious right now; complex fruit enhanced by more lively acidity than usual; 16.5/20+++. Though big claims are made for the longevity of CndP blanc, I would be tempted to drink this up soon.Côtes du Rhône 2009
red (€8) showed lively tangy dark fruit; 15/20+.CDRV Rasteau 2009
(€12) shows richer but still tangy round fruit and more structure but the richness could cloy at a meal; 15.5/20.CDRV Rasteau Argiles Bleues 2009
(€19) was distinctly more refined and complex enhanced by mineral notes and good structure; 16/20++.Châteauneuf du Pape 2009
(€29) showed another notch upwards in fullness and complexity with a smooth mouth-feel. I missed a bit of CndP personality which may need more time to come out; 16/20++.Châteauneuf du Pape cuvée Boisrenard 2007
(€40). Some people complain that this cuvée is too oaky and doesn’t represent an improvement on the basic bottling. Well, on this occasion it did, helped by two years extra maturity. The aromas on the nose were singing with notes of violet and lavender and the palate was full and deep showing dark fruit and was deliciously peppery with touches of provençal herbs and no intrusive oak notes only a suave patina; 17/20.Domaine de Courteillac, Bordeaux Supérieur
. I buy some of this Merlot dominated blend most years as an excellent QPR Saint-Émilion substitute, so I was naturally interested in Bordeaux Supérieur 2009
(€11). It was rich, ripe and slightly leathery but I prefer the 2008 which adds a lively note without which I fear that at a meal the wine may cloy before finishing the bottle; 15/20+.Clos des Quatre Vents, Margaux
. Luc Thienpont, the owner, was represented by his son this year and I missed a bit of dialogue. Like with the Courteillac, I have question marks about the rich character of the 2009s.Z de Luc Thienpont Bordeaux 2009
(€8), Merlot dominated; showed plenty of round meat infused fruit but, unlike in previous years, a lack of zing; 14.5/20.Villa des Quatre Soeurs Margaux 2009
(€19), a CabSauv dominated blend, naturally showed more structure round its ripe fruit as well as wood touches; 15/20.Château Tayac-Plaisance Margaux 2008
(€27), a Merlot dominated blend, was a breath of fresh air being the only wine here with that essential Médocain “green” touch to provide freshness as well as a slightly lighter and more elegant body and fruit; 15.5/20+++.Clos des Quatre Vents Margaux 2009
(€39), a CabSauv dominated blend. I was less impressed than usual. it was quite closed aromatically apart from wood notes and the palate was quite big with more round ripe fruit, lots of tannic structure and at present quite a lot of wood. This will probably develop into a rich, ripe claret with a question mark about lack of freshness; 16/20+ potentially ??Domaine Ève et Michel Rey, Vergisson, Mâconnais
. The Chardonnay derived wines here seemed wonderfully fresh and mineral after the Beaurenard range and Luc Thienpont’s rich Margaux.
I liked the Saint-Véran 2010
(€13) full of white fruit and flowers – 15.5/20 – and the Mâcon Vergisson 2010
(€12) more mineral and generous; 15.5/20.
Two Pouilly-Fuissé 2010
s were an interesting comparison as derived from different soil types. Les Crays
(€17), from blue marl, showed a mineral nose and a tangy structured palate – 15.5/20++ - and La Maréchaude
(€20), from calcareous clay, was slightly more discreet aromatically with rather more fruit and generosity while retaining nice minerality; 16/20.Domaine Muré, Rouffach
, Alsace is a fine estate but, with otherwise only their dependable négociant wines on show, I limited myself to the one grand cru. Alsace Pinot Gris grand cru Vorburg 2009
(€19) was more invigorating than most Alsace PG being quite dry subjectively (though 20g/RS) and full of meaty and mineral notes, grapefruit touches in the fruit and very lively acidity; 16.5/20.
And now for a German estate –Domdechant Werner, Hochheim, Rheingau
, doesn’t figure in anyone’s top 20 (or even 50) German estates but I enjoyed the wines helped by the charm of the elderly owners. About 95% of my consumption of German wines comes from the Mosel or Nahe and these Rieslings initially surprised by being quite a lot fuller and, though “trocken” in principle, the second and third wines were subjectively at least as sweet as the Muré PG.Hochheimer Hölle Kabinett trocken 2009
(€11) showed nice aromatics and minerality mixed with some tender fruit and juicy acidity; 15/20++.Hochheimer Kirchenstück Spätlese trocken 2009
(€16) was still quite discreet on the nose and slightly sweeter, rounder and more grapey and structured than the previous; 15.5/20++. Hochheimer Kirchenstück Erstes Gewächs 2009
(€23) was also quite discreet on the nose but showed a full rich palate with Smaragd type weight enlivened by decent acidity; 15.5/20++.Hochheimer Domdechaney Spätlese 2009
(€16) did not seem subjectively a lot sweeter than the previous two and there was some attractive fruit and structure; 15.5/20.Hochheimer Domdechaney Auslese 2007
(€27) showed lovely complex aromas, attractive fruit and caressing texture allied noticeable sweetness well offset by acidity; 16.5/20.
Back to France -Château Jolys, Jurançon
. I love good Jurançon, which is derived from the Gros and Petit Manseng white grapes with a little Courbu. So it is a pity that two “sec” whites, which were bone dry, were a write off straight after the Hochheimer Auslese.Château Jolys Vieilles Vignes Jurançon moelleux 2008
(€10) resisted better with its greater sweetness mixed in with pineapple and citrus elements and good acidity though it seemed comparatively banal; 15/20.Cuvée Jean Jurançon moelleux 2009
(€14) was much more complex and longer on the palate than the previous and a very attractive wine; 16/20.