Saturday, April 30, 2011


My first experience with the property was the 2002 vintage of the it's early years still very closed...then a flower in was all there...and really knocked me out. I had bought a few bottles so was able to enjoy it at it's peak. No doubt it is still all there...just not in my cellar. A couple of other vintages have show a tightness of youth...and have begged to be kept. It was with a blogger's dedication that I decided to try the recent released vintage.
Ziereisen Rhini Blauer Spätburgunder 2008
Baden, Germany
Intense sour cherry aroma...full, slightly muscular on opening which slimmed down with airing...thick fruit..and you look at the label thinking alcohol...but only 12,5%...and there seems to be precision even at this young age...very drinkable...which makes me think that Hans-Peter Ziereisen has changed the style slightly...maybe less oak...and with airing (overnight) there was a lingering vanilla touch to the palate. At € 22,--...a must buy.
Points 17

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

M is for Markus

Markus Schneider
Spätburgunder M 2005
Pfalz, Germany
Fine nose...smokey toasty cherry...which gets you thinking you are on to a winner here. The palate, however, offers you a, heavier than expected, slightly bitter feel. It reminded me of the hot 2003 vintage...and the 14% alcohol maybe doesn't help. Markus Schneider never gives you easy wines...and that is to be I left it overnight. Twenty-four hours later it had softened...losing something of it's aroma...but better balanced...and good acidity that tells you a year or two more. Answer...if I had another bottle...a good decant 6 hours in advance. For the price at the time € 15,-- it is certainly good value.
Points 16.25

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Green Asparagus Wine

Gérard Thomas (ably assisted by his daughter, Anne) is one of the very best producers of white St. Aubin. He took over the domaine from his father in 1982 and has built-up a core of top vineyard sites since then. The vines are situated primarily within the commune of St. Aubin, St. Aubin 1er Crus (Murgers des Dents de Chien, La Chatenière, Frionnes and Combes), also Meursault 1ers Cru Blagny and Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru La Garenne.

Gerard Thomas
Saint-Aubin 1er 2007

Burgundy, France
A barrel fermented wine...Pale green-yellow in colour...a delicate aroma...flinty...hazlenuts. Light buttery palate...crisp but no way sharp...the type of wine that makes you wish you had one of the top wines. A thrust of citrus begs for food and that is what it got.
Points 16.25

Galatiner Potatoes (from Italy)...Green Asparagus...which , thankfully for me, is also grown more widely in our area...and a pork chop. I much prefer green it cold or hot...and whereas the season was always long for me...with every second meal having the I can join in with my green version.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Greek Trilogia

My first real experience with Greek food & wine was on a holiday in Crete in the 80's. Let's get it over with....the food was not memorable...although Moussaka could be enjoyed. A couple of memories...the first where we were invited to a village for a midday meal and the mayor had a goat slaughtered in our honour. We sat under a tree because of the heat and the berries on the tree fell on to our plate as we struggled to even eat any part of the 'strange' smelling dish. We were also invited to a dinner where all the foods were served at once. Such a pity as some of the hot dished were cold by the time you had tried any cold versions. As I said...not memorable. And the wines?...well...what red available was usually more rose than red. Why not a white you ask. Generally a good choice in a hot climate...but wherever I went...there were oxidised wines. After another invite I took along a half-decent bottle for the guest and said we could maybe drink it together. He had a white already he said...which I think must have been opened for days if not weeks. 'My wine' was untouched. Back to the drawing board then...that trick didn't work!
Over the years...I have rarely chosen a Greek restaurant to eat. I want a decent wine with my meal. But...things are changing. I tried some very fine whites last year...and a few reds. Impressive. The labels are becoming 'readable' before...the saying 'It Is All Greek To Me' was appropriate. They also now have a style of their own and traditional grapes are being used. Which brings us to this post...not a traditional grape...but maybe a pioneer with regards to Greek Reds. The story of Christos Kokkalis is well known – he is the man who was a pharmacist in Germany for most of his life, then decided to sell out and start making wine in Greece. He wanted to show the world that great quality could be produced in Greece. He had no prior wine making knowledge and took his chance. It worked!

Christos Kokkalis
Cabernet Sauvignon Trilogia 2004

Peoloponnese, Greece
I last tried this in summer 2007...and was impressed but it was a touch 'violent' on the palate. My 'Greek Wine' part of the cellar comprises of 5 bottles of this wine...and is in a gets by-passed when the evening's choice is to be made. is this 'brooder'? A little more open now...although the colour still warns you to tread carefully. The word SWEET can sometimes be a misguided description....this is definitely not 'sweet' as in any dessert wine...but it has a ' sweet ripe fruit' that battles against the 'sweet tannins'. Now we have explained that...lets start at the beginning. A nose of ripe berries...spices & cedar...and an earthiness that makes you think Bordeaux...and did I detect Darjeeling Tea? Smoke and oak notes and then the palate reveals racy dark berry fruit...and I thought of the Rhône. Not a bad mix then. There is a faint taste of vanilla...which no doubt will develop with more spends 18 months in French and American oak. The finish is solid...the tannins not letting loose...but satisfying any food you have chosen. Another 4 bottles and it will be fascinating to see how it progresses.
Points 17.5
No doubt that Greek wines have improved and it was Alex who first turned me on to this wine. Thanks Alex...sorry about the food criticism...but we English get the same said about our all depends when and where you eat I guess.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scots, Schwabs & Spätburgunder

Rainer Schnaitmann Fellbacher Lämmler

Spätburgunder 'R' Großes Gewächs 2008
Württemberg, Germany
A recent article about German Reds mentioned some top names from Baden, Ahr, Franken etc...that were being exported.
My guess is that Württemberg is way down any list. The area is where the 'Schwabs' live and they are notorious for being thrifty...similar to the Scottish folk.
All a myth of course...but knowing them I can understand that they want to keep the good stuff for themselves.
And this is good...from maybe THE top property in the area.

Rainer Schnaitmann has been in charge for 14 years now...still a babe...but that did not stop Gault Millau voting him Newcomer of the Year for 2007
While I expected this to be youthful and not too forthcoming...there was an instant appeal from the glass. Sweet cherries and some cassis...and a bit of chocolate...followed by some oriental spices.
A really well-balanced wine on the palate...with the oak nicely integrated...sweet fruit and a lively acidity...the tannins remind you of youth but the balance again means you can drink with pleasure now. I closed it up and drank the second half next day...still all intact..and a very fine finish. These are vines over 40 years old...and it shows. This will probably close up soon but is worth searching out and try again in 2-3 years.
Points 17.75

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oldies but Goldies!

Having taken a break from the grape for 7 days I was looking forward to dinner at a friend's house. Volker would prepare the food and Robert & Axel would help with the drinking. I would bring the wines...and had spent a couple of days visiting my cellar. The white had been a quick decision as had the Shafer...but I had been undecided about the Rhône. The four wines had been delivered carefully by car at 5 pm and I was on my bike an hour later to be met by the three friends. Four oldies with hardly a wrinkle....the wines I mean.
What a night!

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner
Smaragd 'M' 2000

Wachau, Austria

Opened and decanted at 4pm...and the colour reminded us of a hospital sample. Gold...nose is rich and
intense...bottle age character...slight trace of botrytis...they started guessing...a dry Bordeaux or a mature Chardonnay. I had decanted for 2 reasons...the first to give it air and the second so that they would not see the bottle. They know my love for Grüner Veltliner. The first sip showed a beautifully layered wine...viscous...the minerals of youth all but gone leaving a jewel of a wine which is still lively...great length of flavour...a wonderful feel in the mouth and a very long finish that leaves you amazed. Volker had decided it was a GV...but as I had mentioned that no wine was younger than 10 years old...that had thrown them at the start. Ah...but this is one of THE top wine properties of Austria. The bottle was revealed as they were very impressed. Everyone marked over 18...Robert...the Wine Merchant gave it 18.5 as did Volker.
Points 18.5
...a great start but could I keep it up?

Shafer Hillside Select
Cabernet Sauvignon 1991

Stag's Leap, California, U.S.A.

I had drank the 1992 with Volker last year...and it had been very good. This last bottle of the previous vintage had been thought about since then...and as steak was on seemed the perfect moment to open it. Remember the word 'perfect' as we continue...
Opened at 4pm I had decided not to decant. Still full in colour...intense cedar...loads of herbs...tobacco...lovely practically gone...a super length and filled out on the palate...just 'à point'(perfect) at the moment...not yesterday, not tomorrow...just now...that is not to say you wouldn't enjoy this still in 5 years...just that there are those wonderful moments with wine...where you know you made a wise choice...this is super. Robert was thinking Bordeaux 1990 or I told him the vintage and he, knowing his Bordeaux vintages, said it could then not be French...had to be New World. He was VERY impressed and gave it 19 points. Volker gave it 19.5
Points 19

Domaine du Pegau
Cuvée Laurence 1990

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France

I also have a bottle of the Cuvée Reserve from this vintage. Which to open?...the decision was made by the fact that the Laurence spends more time in wood and the Reserve will hold for a few years...hopefully. Decanted 4 hours before experience of anything good from the Rhone needs a help with it's 'funk'. Medium deep...amber and orange on the rim...funky nose (told you)...animal smells...tannins still pumping along...leather saddles...blood (yes I know it sounds disgusting...maybe it is the vampire in me...let's say red meat then)...plums and dark cherries...still there is even more hope for the Cuvée Reserve...this is a super ripe Chateauneuf.
Points 18.25

Fonseca Vintage Port 1966
Douro, Portugal

I haven't purchased a bottle of Vintage Port for almost 20 years now. Why would I? my early years of wine drinking were spent using every bit of extra cash in laying some down. 'Will always be saleable and drinkable' was the advice. So...there are still lots of gems in the cellar. This is only because you just don't open a bottle on the spur of the moment. It used to be a Xmas treat but unless I have a real wine drinker around...I leave it for a special occasion. Checking the cellar...the decision was going to be tough...but I decided on the Fonseca as I had 2 bottles... To open a bottle of aged Port you need various 'tools'. A corkscrew, although this is rarely needed, a 'butler's friend' version...a decanter and a filter. As I said...a corkscrew is superfluous...and as this cork was 'moveable'...I tried it with James (I don't give all my corkscrews names). All he did was push the cork into the bottle. No panic...I have been here before many times with old port. Slowly pour the sweet juice through the filter into your old decanter. Then...leave to breath for 24 hours. The great thing about Vintage Port is that it can hold for days...even a you could open a bottle and drink a glass every night. However...I am of the opinion that you have to drink it with good friends! I had sipped some on decanting so knew all was OK.
Deep red/brown colour...a combination of sweet fruit and restraining acidity. The tannins are all but gone...the palate throws up some liquorice....damsons...aniseed...dried berries...silky...caramel...and there is a superb long finish.
Axel said he didn't drink port usually...meaning the stuff that stands around in the kitchen..but...THIS BOTTLE he did like. Robert & Volker were tying to guess the Vintage. I reeled off the best vintages (yes...I do know them off by heart). 1963, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1983 & 1985. Volker opted for a 1970 and Robert...who I had turned on to Vintage Port many years ago...chose 1966. He grinned like a cat when I showed him the bottle.
Points 19
The group know they will get something good when I delve into the cellar...but four wines over 18 points! A memorable evening!

The Port section of my wine cellar contains the following:

1963 Graham (1)
1966 Fonseca (1)
1966 Graham (1)
1966 Warre (1)
1970 Fonseca (1)
1970 Taylor (1)
1970 Warre (1)
1977 Fonseca (2)
1977 Quarles Harris (2)
1977 Warre (1)
1983 Graham (2)
1985 Quinta do Noval (1)
1985 Warre (2)

We need to drink it more often!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Mon Ami Christophe

Headlines can shock or, at least, make you sit up.
I had opened the new Decanter Wine Magazine and saw the heading...
'Chinese start to look further afield than Bordeaux'
Oh no I thought...masses of Chinese buying all my hidden treasures.
Another short article stated that 'Yes...China is looking beyond Bordeaux, but in settings where 'face' is crucial there is little evidence of change'. It goes on to say that Burgundy and the New World were on their list. No mention of German Spätburgunder or Austrian Grüner Veltliner. Phew...that was close.
As I relaxed in the afternoon sun my thoughts wandered and memories were awakened.
In the 90's when I was driving annually to Portugal on holiday...I would plan stopovers...mainly in France...and one such journey found me in the Lyon Alain Chapel's wonderful restaurant with it's delightful garden.
Alain Chapel, who died in 1990, was one of the greatest chefs of the 20th century and a wine taster second to none. Suzanne Chapel has managed to perpetuate the spirit of her husband by entrusting the kitchen to the excellent Philippe Jousse. His fattened Bresse chicken cooked in a pig’s bladder with foie gras sauce and his lobster salad are fabulous.
But...I am digressing. I arrived mid-afternoon and asked, as one does, for the wine-list.
I spent a leisurely hour deciding what to drink. At 5 pm I went down to the restaurant and asked to speak to the Sommelier. A young guy called Christophe greeted me and we discussed the 2-3 choices I had in mind. Back to the room to change and I was down in the restaurant at 6.30 pm. I was always alone on these travels but that never bothered me. I had reading material and would spend 3- 4 hours enjoying food, wine and and the written word. The Maître was old school French...strict...and a touch too 'greasy' but acceptable. You know what I mean, 'Good Evening Sir, where would Sir like to sit'...and so on. The priority for me when eating alone is to have a table in the corner where I could watch customers and staff. The workings of a fine restaurant have always fascinated me...and to watch what others were choosing & drinking is never boring. With my pile of books to the left and my notepad to the right...I ordered the food. Christophe appeared with some sort of tatty old book. He said I should have a look at it...but not to say anything to the Maître. It was an old wine list from the 20's...all hand written. I carefully turned the pages...seeing what they had been drinking back then. Without anyone was returned to Christophe. My wine was opened and he put some into 'his' glass and confirmed it was fine. During the evening he returned to inquire about the wine but also just to exchange views and discuss the wine world. He had found someone with similar interest...we were now 'Wine Brothers'. It got to a point where the Maître had to call him to another he winked and said we could maybe chat later.
The food was delicious...this was a Michelin starred restaurant...but something you could get your teeth light 'Nouvelle Cusine' which was very 'IN' at the time. My bottle was had been easy over 3 hours..and I asked if I could smoke a cigar somewhere. The Maître led me out of the restaurant to a special room. As I was leaving there was a large party of Asian customers at one of the tables. Christophe was discussing the wines. In the Smoker's Lounge I sat happily puffing away at my Havana. Through the doorway I could see into another room with a large fireplace. You could sit there and choose your food before going into the restaurant. It was about 9.30 pm by now and sat on a sofa was an 'elderly' gentleman. With him..a lady MANY years younger. They were drinking Champagne and choosing the food...and whenever they felt they were not viewable...she was all over him. Very amusing...and I wished him luck with his stamina! As I took in this 'Cabaret' Christoph appeared behind me with a glass of white wine. He said 'Try this'. I was pretty much full of wine...but took a sip. It was gorgeous. I asked him what it was...and he explained it was a Montrachet 1982...a VERY expensive white Burgundy. Thanking him I asked how I come to be getting a glass? He explained that the large party of people I had seen were Chinese. They were ordering wines as though price was no object. They obviously knew the names but had no real wine knowledge he explained. The normal procedure, as I explained earlier, was that Christophe would pour a small glass for himself...smell it...'maybe' taste it and then pronounce it OK. This glass was his 'taster' He smiled...and was gone...only to appear again 10 minutes later with a glass of red. 'Try this one' he said 'they are ordering names but these wines should go to wine lovers'. It turned out to be a Romanee-Conti 1982! This is how all restaurants should look after me I thought! That was may think. Forget it...The 'pièce de résistance' was yet to come...heaven help my stomach. A glass of gold arrived. Yikes...this looked good...and was most definitely a Dessert wine. A legend...Chateau Y'quem 1967! A great Sauternes which was heralded back then as one of the great all-time wines. It went well with my Havana. I was in heaven...and if I had not stopped I may have ended up there. Thankfully the Chinese had not ordered any Vintage Port! I slept well...and after breakfast in bed... managed to find Christophe before I set off on my travels. Like old buddies we said goodbye. An unforgettable evening...ain't life wonderful!
PS...checking Google with the name Christophe and Alain Chapel...I see the Sommelier is...Christophe Equille. Thank goodness he didn't get the boot for looking after his 'Ami'.