Category: Tasting notes

Quinta de São José, Ervedosa do Douro

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Barrels, Quinta de Sao José, Douro Valley

Quinta de São José, a small, family run estate of just 10 hectares, lies in the heart of the Douro Valley, a short boat ride up from Pinhão. Although accessible by road, it’s much easier to get to the Quinta from the river.

Most of the wines produced at the estate are dry Douro wines but there’s also a small amount of port produced owing to the family heritage – João Brito e Cunha, owner and winemaker, is a direct descendant of Dona Antónia Ferreira, the doyenne of port.

While winemaking is the core business, they’re also beginning to develop a tourism aspect with vineyard tours and accommodation. At the top of the hill, where they do all the lab work, the view across the valley is truly spectacular.

We tasted through the small selection of wines (in a good year, they would make four reds, including reserves, two whites and one port) starting with the Flor de S José Branco 2013. It opened with a slight sulphur to the nose but had a light and refreshing palate of pear and citrus.

It’s relatively rare for a Quinta to produce a single varietal wine in the Douro Valley but S. José had a Touriga Nacional 2011. It’s the first vintage of this wine and is a vibrant red, tinged with purple, showing a smoky, cedar top note followed by cherry, blackberry, rose and a little vanilla on the finish. That vanilla was also obvious in their Reserva Douro Tinto 2011 which showed blackberry and herbaceousness of tomato vines, though it was also ripe with violet and rose.

We also tasted their vintage ports starting with the Single Quinta Vintage 2009, a fruity, approachable port, rich with cherry and obvious residual sweetness. The younger Single Quinta Vintage 2012, a tank sample, was fruity but still closed and a little woody with a much drier finish.

www.quintasjose.com

Quinta de la Rosa, Pinhão

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Quinta de la Rosa, an impressive and imposing estate on the edge of the Douro river, was purchased as a Christening gift for Claire Bergqvist 1906. Actually, it would be more correct to say that, while the winery is sizeable (to include the family home, visitor centre and B&B accommodation), the estate itself has only 55 hectares under vine.

Logo, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro Valley

In the early days, all of the grapes produced on the estate were sold to large port producers such as Sandeman. Today, under the management of Claire’s grand daughter Sophie Bergqvist, the estate produces around 80% wine and 20% port from their grapes. And aside from the tourism aspects (they run winery tours as well as hosting visitors), they also produce olive oil.

The family owned estate is very much traditional in its wine production. Foot treading in the concrete lagares is still used for its ports, followed by ageing in French oak barrels. And there are some really excellent wines at the end of it.

After the winery visit, we had a taste of some of their core products at the small visitor centre.

Ports, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro Valley

We started with the Quinta de la Rosa Douro Tinto 2010. It was an intense red wine with a smoky, pungent nose, spicy palate and plenty of red fruit. Alongside grippy tannins, there was also blackberry, chocolate and a certain plumminess. The second wine, a joint venture between Quinta de la Rosa and its winemaker, Jorge Moreira, was the Passagem Reserva 2010, made at Quinta das Bandeiras. This, a more tart wine, was reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon and would definitely be interesting with some age. Right now, however, it’s holding on to a woody herbaceousness.

The ports in this basic tasting started with a 10 year old tawny. Alongside that oxidative character, there were lots of raisins and a little caramel and nut, making a smooth and elegant port with nice acidity and balance. Next came the Finest Reserve, a rich, ruby coloured port with lots of sweetness, fruit and acidity as well as a hint of liquorice. Finally, we tried the Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) 2010 which was only bottled two months prior to tasting. Beginning with a lightly floral nose, it showed delicate and complex nuances amongst the fine tannins. But, while there was plenty of fruit, there was perhaps not quite enough acidity for balance.

Over lunch, we had a rather more extended tasting.

For this, we started with a dry, white Douro wine, the Quinta de la Rosa Douro Branco 2013. Crisp and aromatic, it had notes of apple and lemony citrus. The other dry wine we tried, the Quinta de la Rosa Reserva Douro Tinto 2010, was where violets came out with blackberry and plummy fruit.

Moving back on to the port, we tried an older 20 year old tawny. Showing more caramel and dried fruits, there was also a hint of Turkish Delight about it.

Given the quality of the dry red wines, I think the vintage ports are really where Quinta de la Rosa has its strength and we tried two vintages. The Vintage 2011 was still very youthful (there was detectable tea leaf bitterness) with a floral nose in a decidedly sweet and fruity style. I actually acquired a bottle a few months later, which I’m intending to cellar for a good ten years. The Vintage 2000, visibly more aged, had caramel, prune, toffee and chocolate notes, backed by great acidity.

www.quintadelarosa.com

Graham’s Port, Vila Nova de Gaia

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Symington Family Estates, which produces Graham’s (as well as Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s), have been port producers since 1882. Still family owned, they are the single largest vineyard owner in the Douro Valley, with over 1,000 hectares under vine. Not all of those grapes are for port of course as they also produce a number of dry wines under the Douro appellation.

Graham's, Oporto

Graham’s itself was actually established in 1820 by William and John Graham. Having already established a reputation for quality, it was acquired by the Symington family in 1970.

The current Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, inaugurated in 1890, had been refreshed fairly recently with a spacious museum-style visitor centre. In fact, the new wood smell was still in the air when we visited. And with freshly painted blanched walls and strong black lettering, the Graham’s brand image is clear. A second visitor’s centre is said to be opening in Pinhão later this year and will be the brand’s first inside the Douro Valley. But the old lodge is still, and will probably always be, where all of the Graham’s tawny ports are kept in barrels for ageing.

At the Lodge, there’s also a great restaurant called Vinum but it was at one of the bars that we had a tasting of some of the wines and ports from the Symington portfolio.

Ports, Graham's, Oporto

We started with the Altano Douro Branco 2012, a dry, white Douro Valley wine with a peppery nose which opens up to crisp apple, grapefruit and citrus notes.

Next came two dry red Douro wines. The Altano Douro Tinto Reserva 2010 still had a young, purplish tinge with notes of violets and herbaceous blackcurrant. An elegant but reserved wine. The Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2010, made with the Prats family, had an almost minty freshness with fine tannins and plenty of cherries coming through.

Moving on to the ports, we started with the Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port which was a blend of young vintages, bottled and ready to drink. Supposedly an every day port for the vintage drinker, it was very approachable and fruity with good acidity.

The Quinta dos Malvedos 2001, a vintage port, had complex notes of prunes, figs, eucalyptus and chocolate, and perhaps even a hint of cigar and mushroom.

The collection of tawny ports, chilled to 12°C, was the real Graham’s part of the tasting.

Going up in age, we started with the Graham’s 20 year old tawny, a rich and delicious fortified wine with complexity of dried figs, dried apricots, nutty caramel and prunes. The Graham’s 30 year old tawny, a more “sessionable” port if you will, had less of the nutty character and more concentration of fruit, complete with a luscious caramel finish. The Graham’s 40 year old tawny showed considerably more viscosity and displayed intense dried fruits alongside the acidity, slight hint of cigar and a sort of leafy bitterness.

Finishing the tasting was a fantastic Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest tawny (also known as a Colheita), which had more intense oxidative notes showing through alongside macadamia and almond from the nut angle and fig and prune from the fruit. But there was still plenty of acidity to challenge that sweetness.

www.grahams-port.com

Mount Gay Black Barrel

Mount Gay Black BarrelThe spirit: Mount Gay Black Barrel

The producer: Mount Gay rum

They say: Mount Gay Black Barrel is a small batch handcrafted blend made of aged double pot still distillates and aged column distallates, finished in deeply roasted and charred Bourbon oak barrels. The unique technique releases aromas of spice balanced with oaky vanilla and almond overtones, the signature notes of Mount Gay’s smooth and refined Barbados rum.

We say: Lightly spiced with fruity intensity giving into a complex nose. Lots of vanilla, slightly woody on the finish with a little citrus. At 43%ABV, it’s on the potent side. One to get to grips with over ice or in cocktails.

Price (RRP): £29.99

Available from: The Whisky Exchange

Additional notes:

Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2012

Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2012The wine: Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2012

The producer: Fairview www.fairview.co.za

They say: Fairview La Beryl, a traditional handcrafted straw wine, personifies the quintessence of grape. The grapes were carefully handharvested into small baskets and transferred to an old barn where they were delicately laid out on beds of straw to desiccate. Eventually the bunches lost about 75% of their volume, intensifying flavour and sweetness. The grapes were gently pressed and the juice fermented in French oak barrels. La Beryl is an opulent and concentrated wine, with a rich balance of fruit and spice flavours.

We say: The intensity of this wine is immediate with a rush of complex sweetness coating the palate with its unctuousness. Sultana comes to mind first, lightly bolstered by a slight floral note from the Muscat in the blend. The well-structured back bone comes later with the refreshing acidity of the Chenin Blanc.

Try with: Pear crumble and clotted cream

Price (RRP): ~£14

Available from: The Drink Shop

Additional notes:

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 这个高浓度的甜酒马上带来多层次的口感。最先是葡萄干的味道。之后有一些由Muscat葡萄带来的花香和Chenin Blanc葡萄的高酸度。整体平衡。

中餐搭配: 咸鸭蛋

Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Domaine Ogereau’s production is absolutely tiny.

At just 20 hectares, 10 of which are devoted to Coteaux du Layon, they are heavily influenced by the saleability of sweet wines. Perhaps that’s why, with the addition of their son Emmanuel as the new winemaker, the owners Vincent and Catherine Ogereau are exploring the terroirs of Coteaux du Layon for dry Chenin Blanc.

Emmanuel Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

Emmanuel Ogereau becomes the fifth generation of the family to be a winemaker at the property. Having studied wine business in Dijon, trained in Burgundy and made wine in Oregon and Central Otago, he will certainly be giving the family’s wines a facelift.

We tasted their current, mostly sweet, selection starting with the dry Domaine Ogereau Anjou en Chenin 2012 – a lemony fresh wine that was vibrant on the palate but not that exciting.

The Clos le Grand Beaupréan Savennières 2011 felt a little austere with its crisp apple note, steely minerality and tannic finish. With a little age, the Clos le Grand Beaupréan Savennières 2007 had a lightly oxidised nose but revealed a distinctive wine that was very complex with notes of apple and bees wax.

From then on it was the sweet wines.

The Coteau du Layon Saint Lambert 2013 was an entry level sweet wine with floral, white fruit and peach notes.

Domaine Ogereau own a cherished parcel of land that they call “bonnes blanches” which is essentially schist soil that looks like chalk. From that parcel, they produce a few different wines.

The Harmonie des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2011 was rich with apricot and floral notes as well as intense Botrytis nose and a long finish.

The Clos des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2011 had a slightly truffled nose followed by dried apricots, honey and lemon peel. Best described as a rich nectar, it had an extremely long, lip-sticking finish. With a little age, the Clos des Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 2007 had an even more pronounced truffled nose with stunning intensity and concentration of honey and caramel, lifted by a floral note. It was really reminiscent of a great Sauternes.

The last wine was the Cuvée Nectar Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert 1990. Again, the wine was intense and concentrated with notes of floral honey but it also had a tannic, bitter tinge. Developing into a syrup, it somehow felt passed it. A shame, because it could, and should, have been a great wine.

www.domaineogereau.com

Eric Morgat, Clos Ferrard, Savennières

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Eric Morgat is an interesting winemaker to meet, not least because his name is his wine brand rather than that of an estate.

Eric Morgat, Anjou

Clearly passionate about winemaking, Morgat has worked from the ground up acquiring parcels of land to make his wine. His first vintage was in 1995, when he was just 25.

His “garden”, often previously uncultivated land, as this is cheaper than the alternative, are based in different parts of the Anjou; some are right next to the Loire river while others are further inland. His is the Black Anjou – the volcanic schist soil that produces grapes with higher alcohol and a thicker grape skin, giving a tannic structure not unlike that of red wines.

Right now, he has no winery of his own either but is in the process of building one.

Wine glass, Eric Morgat, Anjou

Despite not owning an estate in the conventional sense, he’s gained a cult following of sorts and his wines are well regarded. He used to be known for making dry wines with Botrytised grapes but is now concentrating more on preserving the purity of fruit.

We started the tasting at a cliff’s edge with his vines by one side and the Loire on the other. It was the Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos Fidès 2012 – a wine that’s been barrel fermented for a year before blending and ageing for a further year in stainless steel tanks. Opening with an intense citric nose, the wine had great minerality and acidity; finishing with a savoury note, it also had enough body to match to meats.

Moving into his cellar, we tasted more wines from the L’Enclos and the Litus parcels.

The Eric Morgat Anjou Blanc Litus 2012 was a flavoursome wine to start with, offering notes of citrus, pear and white fruits followed by a savoury finish. The slightly older Eric Morgat Anjou Blanc Litus 2011 was a little closed at first, and should be decanted, but opened with greater proportions of white fruit and minerality than the previous vintage.

The Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2011 had a noticeably richer body, more minerality and a slight hint of honey on the nose followed by crisp apples. The Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2010, in the early stages of development, had become very provocative with a sort of bruised apple note – it would certainly be interesting to see a bit more age on this wine. And finally the Eric Morgat Savennières L’Enclos 2009 made a beautiful final wine – pronounced fruity nose of pears backed by light oak and a savoury finish.

 

www.ericmorgat.com

Domaine des Forges, Saint Aubin de Luigné

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

The family owned Domaine des Forges began when Pierre Robineau purchased two hectares of vines and named it “le Clos des Forges”. Robineau, at the time, was a grocer and draper and the vines were just a sort of side project. It wasn’t until the second generation that more vineyards were purchased and the Domaine grew.

Vineyards, Domaine des Forges, Saint Aubin de Luigné

The current owners, Stéphane and Séverine Branchereau, are the fifth generation and own 47 hectares spread across the Anjou. While also making a fair selection of dry wines, their main focus has been sweet wines – they have vines in Coteaux du Layon and Quarts-de-Chaume.

What is notable is the fact that they have sweet wines at various price points, making their product potentially very accessible to price sensitive consumers. However, it’s also a shame because, while their top end product is stunning, the journey to the top is a slow slug of nice but not quite nice enough.

We tasted a sizeable selection starting with the l’Audace du Domaine des Forgres Anjou Blanc 2013, a simple, citrusy wine with light minerality.

Much of their other dry wine selection was focused on Savennières.

Le Moulin de Gué Savennières 2012 was fruity, rather than savoury, with white fruit and apple notes as well as a slight sweetness and minerality. Le Clos du Papillon Savennières 2012 was a crisp wine filled with apples and pears.

Standing out more was La Roche aux Moines Savennières 2012, which had a much richer palate, greater balance and, I felt, greater potential for interesting ageing. Equally rich was Le Clos du Papillon Savennières Demi-Sec 2011, a honeyed, savoury wine with notes of white and tropical fruit as well as a floral highlight.

Moving on to their Coteaux du Layon we started with the entry level Coteaux du Layon 2013, which was not too sweet after the Demi-Sec and had a bit of a minty, eucalyptus touch.

The Cuvée des Forges Coteaux du Layon 2010, which was good for its price point, had a slight petroleum, Botrytised nose with dried apricots and good acidity.

The quirky, but not unpleasant, Coteaux du Layon St Aubin 2013 had a slightly musty, funky nose with lots of tropical fruit and pineapple flavours. The Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2010 had a nice amount of sweetness balanced with acidity but while there were notes of tropical fruits, it wasn’t very complex. The “En Aparté” Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2010 had better intensity from a period of oak barrel ageing.

The concentration really stepped up with the Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume 2011, which had nice minerality alongside Botrytis notes and fresh acidity.

Next up was the Quarts-de-Chaume 2008, which felt strangely like a Botrytised Riesling but with dried fruit peel and less viscosity. The Quarts-de-Chaume Grand Cru 2011, in contrast, had a rich syrupy texture and incredible acidity blended into the caramel and dried fruit notes.

Finishing things off was the stunning Sélection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1997. It’s the most concentrated wine of the lot, with the highest residual sugar, but still showing a youthful character. With pronounced nose of lychee, caramel, truffle and candied fruit and a rich, syrupy texture, it’s, at last, where great terroir and great winemaking meet.

www.domainedesforges.net

Domaine de la Paleine, Le Puy-Notre-Dame

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

The village of Le Puy-Notre-Dame is known for its subterranean caves, used at one time to grow mushrooms. These days, they form the basis of the cellar at Domaine de la Paleine.

The Domaine is an interesting proposition.

As well as being a mix of private home and working winery, the estate is also open to eno-tourism. And they just so happen to fall between the Anjou and Saumur appellations so produces a little of both.

Winery dog, Domaine de la Paleine, Le Puy-Notre-Dame

Unfortunately on the day that I visited, the winemaker wasn’t around to explain his wines, but what was obvious was the fact that the owner loved opera – many of the wines had names that were related to Italian operas, with each vintage given a different name. The results were pretty haphazard and I didn’t have a whole lot of joy with the tasting.

The tasting started with an Arpeggio Saumur Blanc 2013 tank sample; a simple citrusy wine that’s yet to integrate. The Toccata Saumur Blanc 2012, the same wine as Arpeggio but under a different name, had a slightly honeyed character with a ripe and rounded finish. There were plenty of white peach notes but again, simple in style.

The La Paleine Saumur Blanc 2011 felt disjointed somehow despite boasting some good peach and floral notes. Similarly disappointing was the Pamina Saumur Blanc 2011 – off balance and hot on the palate at 15% alcohol.

The Traviata Saumur Blanc 2010 was an unoaked demi-sec; boasting a savoury nose, it wasn’t quite enticing enough.

The Pamina Anjou Blanc 2010 was made a viscous moelleux-style wine, which was sadly a bit one dimensional with little complexity of fruit.

Moving up to La Paleine’s more premium wines, the Aria Saumur Blanc 2010 had hints of oak with a lemony honey note. The Casta Diva Anjou Blanc 2009 had a pungent peppery and stinky gunpowder nose, followed by orange peel bitterness – it’s a good name for a difficult wine.

Finally it was on to the sweet wines. The Coteaux de Saumur Late Harvest 2011, at last, showed some complexity with floral notes coming up top. The older Coteaux de Saumur Late Harvest 2010 had a sort of savoury tropical fruit note but had lost much of its freshness.

www.domaine-paleine.com

Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Thierry Germain has big ideas; and he’s not afraid to share them.

Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

Owner and wine maker at Domaine des Roches Neuves since 1992, he is an avid supporter of biodynamic winemaking. Despite having more than three times the labour of a normal vineyard, his vineyards are minimally interventionist.

For him, the vine is like an upside down man; the roots are the head and the shoots are the arms and legs. Instead of trimming or green harvesting, he likes to roll the shoots around the trellising so that, come August, the vine will concentrate the grape sugars naturally. The thinking is that if a man can’t function without arms and legs then neither can the vines.

Now if we suppose the sun is the father and the earth is the mother.

Over the course of a day, the vine leaves will move to protect the grapes from the sun. This he discovered sitting still for four hours, just to watch his vines grow. If you trim the leaves, the sun will concentrate the sugars of the grapes but you’ll also get a masculine wine – the wine will be dominated by the effects of the father.

And there’s also his philosophy that “wine is about good and not beautiful”. A vineyard might not be as presentable untrimmed but if the resulting wine is good then that’s all that matter.

Wines, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

In his cellar, the one that he hollowed out himself, we tasted a few quirky and very different wines.

We started with the Clos Ecotard Saumur Blanc 2013, a fresh, citrusy wine with notes of under-ripe apples and extremely high acidity.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2013, an old vine wine, was rich in minerality and acidity, flanked by white fruit and flowers.

Clos de l’Échelier Saumur Blanc 2013, in contrast with the first two wines, was very aromatic with lots of pear, tropical and floral notes as well as a mineral freshness. The Clos Romans Saumur Blanc 2013 that followed was much more closed with more citrus notes and minerality.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2010, opened two weeks ago, had really opened up. It began with white peach and crisp apple before rendering into a complex blend of minerality and freshness. It’s certainly not a classic Chenin Blanc.

The Terre 2013 was an experimental amphora wine (he only has the one) which had nine months of maceration in amphora with malolactic fermentation and no added sulphur. The resulting orange wine was very complex but bitter and tannic with notes of orange peel. It was, at one time, sold at Noma. The rather challenging Terre 2012, in contrast, didn’t have much fruit or freshness but retained its tannic and bitter complexity. It was also a bit reminiscent of bird dropping – not entirely pleasant.

There are more experiments in the cellar.

In one barrel was an as yet unnamed white wine that was a cuvée of the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages of Chenin Blanc. Reminiscent of sherry, there was a definite nutty, oxidative nose; but there was also cabbage pungency and struck match aromas.

There was also a one-off sweet wine from 1995, made to moelleux style. It took six years of fermentation to achieve 6% alcohol, with no added yeast, but the result was a complex blend of raisins, dried apricots and prunes with a concentrated richness that’s closer to liquoreux style sweet wines.

Up in the soon to be completed tasting room, we also tried some of his other wines.

The Bulles de Roche Saumur Brut NV had a bready nose with bruised pear and mushy white fruit as a top note with an underlying bitterness.

The Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 2013 was initially fruit forward before pulling back to reveal more vegetable and spicy notes. The tank sample we tried also had a touch of bubble gum with bramble and grippy tannins. The much older Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 1996, opened for two weeks, had a faintly sweet fermented soy bean nose with teeth stripping tannin, dense fruit and a very savoury palate. The long finish was of prunes and plums.

Many of Germain’s wines were challenging but some were fantastic. He’s happy with that verdict because for him, “it’s good to see people who have emotion when tasting my wine and biodynamic wines have that effect”.

www.rochesneuves.com

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