Category: Red Wine

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

Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley

Now that we are in December, I think it’s safe to say that we are in the thick of winter, which of course makes it the perfect time to talk about port and Douro wines.

Tribuary, Douro Valley, Portugal

I visited the Douro Valley way back in sunny June when temperatures had already scaled the 30s. Degree C, that is. I think there was talk of it being so hot that it’s essentially nine months of hell, and we haven’t even begun talking about working on the region’s famously steep slopes.

Port really needs no introduction to the English market, especially given English merchant’s heavy involvement in creating this fortified wine. Dry Douro wines, like the lesser known cousin, needs a little more help.

The easiest way of describing these is that they are the unfortified version of port, which they are in many respects. After all, they are both made in the Douro Valley and from almost the same sets of indigenous Portuguese grapes. And the most obvious similarity can be drawn between the red Douro wines and vintage ports, especially at youth. The Douro Valley has some great dry, white wines too but there are far more differences between the dry, white Douro wines and the white ports.

Quintas along the river, Douro Valley, Portugal

The dry, red Douro wines have an intensity of fruit and colour that’s incredibly distinctive and appealing to those who like powerful wines with more than a little wood spice. Vintage ports, meanwhile, fortified and aged in giant barrels with little contact with oxygen, retains much of their fruit but with the added touch of sweetness and of course alcohol. Tasting the two side by side, the connection is immediately obvious.

The IVDP’s website is a great resource for learning about how these wines are made: www.ivdp.pt

Innovation in the Douro Valley

I think what surprised me the most, apart from discovering some incredibly nice wines, is how open to change this very traditional part of the world is. Sure, the slopes remain steep, the sun is just as intense and some Quintas still foot-tread the grapes in the lagares (the shallow, concrete tanks used for foot treading) but the way that port is produced and served is always open to innovation. Pink ports, for example, only arrived on the scene in 2008 with Croft Pink being the first.

Croft Port from the river, Douro Valley, Portugal

For port, the first push for change is about unveiling the alternatives. In the UK at least, we’re always caught up on vintage, ruby and tawny ports, forgetting that there are also white and pink ports as well as a number of esoteric styles that are made by only a handful of producers. For example, Taylor’s Chip Dry, which has been around for a while, was originally produced as an alternative to Fino sherry.

Of course, it’s not just about creating new product lines – there needs to be a certain level of quality guarantee too. It took a while for Croft Pink to be accepted as a port because the category for pink ports did not exist. And indeed the IVDP does a lot to ensure that quality of port we see is maintained at a certain standard – more on that later.

The second push for change is about how port is drunk. It would probably be unthinkable to put a vintage port into a cocktail but dry white, ruby and tawny are all fair game. (I collected some port-based cocktail recipes which you can read on Yahoo) Sometimes, it’s even the winemakers themselves leading the charge like at Quinta do Portal.

Port producers have certainly recognised the need for evolution but I hope the quality of the Douro’s ports and wines don’t suffer as a result of it.

Here are the stops on my Douro trip:

Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP)
Graham’s
Quinta de la Rosa
Quinta de Sao Jose
Quinta do Portal
Quinta do Seixo
Quinta do Tedo
Ramos Pinto
Taylor’s

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

Vinisource – bulk wine production in Bergerac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Almost every wine region in the world has room to make grapes for mass market wines and Bergerac is no exception.

Vineyard, Château Thénac, Bergerac

At Château Les Merles, I sat down with Gerrita Thiart-Martin from ViniSource to taste some of the wines the company made for the mass market.

Firstly, mass market does not equate bad wines, necessarily, but merely that the wines had been made in bulk quantities, and blended for consistency. This means that any “terroir character” that you might have detected with small batch productions are likely to be lost in the blend.

For ViniSource, it was a matter of acting as a sort of négociant by working with producers to blend their wines, often using the same base wines, to create different products for different clients.

ViniSource produces wines for a number of supermarkets in the UK including ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. To give you an idea of numbers, in 2013 its total production was around 4 million bottles.

I tasted a tiny selection of the red and whites on offer.

Kicking things off was the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, an easy-drinking citrusy and simple white, blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. The Tesco Finest Bergerac Blanc 2012, in comparison, had more crisp apple notes. And along with a little more minerality, there was a rounded simplicity.

Moving up the scale was a white wine made by David Fourtout, the Château les Tours des Verdots Bergerac Blanc Sec 2012. Gooseberry, citrus and fresh, crisp apple was flanked by nice acidity.

For the reds, the Sainsbury’s Grande Reserve de Bergerac 2012, made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, had notes of woody vanilla with blackberry, strawberry and even sour cherry coming through. It’s not quite elegant though as the bolshy fruit pushes forward. In contrast, the Clos Le Joncal Mirage du Joncal 2007 was much more refined with hints of sweet spice harmonising with the black cherry and blackberry.

Of course the object of bulk wine production is that there’s consistency in the product year after year. This tiny selection has certainly demonstrated that bulk wines aren’t necessarily bad, though they can be overtly simple and doing little to express their terroir at times.

But I suppose not everyone is ready to work so hard for their wine, or pay a sufficient premium for terroir.

Spotlight on: the Loire Valley

vineyards by the Loire

The Loire Valley presents as a very interesting wine region because it is at once a fairly large wine region and lots of smaller, separate sub-regions with very distinct identities.

In some respects, it’s one of the most confusing regions in France (because it uses so many different grapes varieties that produce so many different varities of wimes) and one of the simplest (most of the grape varieties tend to stay within the a main region).

There are also two very different ways of looking at the Loire.

The first of these is by looking at separate regions, something that the WSET focuses on a lot and is easy to visualise. The very useful Loire Valley Wines website splits the Loire into Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire. For example, Muscadet, made with Melon de Bourgogne, is produced exclusively in the Pays Nantais area while Centre-Loire’s focus is more on Sauvignon Blanc.

Following on from that, it’s natural to see that the second way of looking at the Loire Valley is through the study of its grapes. Thankfully, unlike Languedoc-Roussillon, there aren’t that many to remember. The main ones are Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Grolleau for the reds.

I recently visited the Loire specific to learn more about the expressions of Chenin Blanc there (you can read my Chenin Blanc overview at Yahoo and all about the sweet wines of the Loire Valley, including food and wine matching, at Palate Press). While Savennières, Vouvray and Anjou were all well regarded appellations, the wines that really excited me were the sweet, botrytised wines. I was really pleased to discover wines that, at times, matched, and occasionally, even surpassed, some of the Sauternes I had tasted.

Here are the Chenin-centric properties I visited in the Loire:

Château Moncontour

Eric Morgat at Clos Ferrand

Domaine Bourillon Dorléans

Domaine de la Paleine

Domaine des Forges

Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine Ogereau

Spotlight on: Baden and Württemberg

The winelands of Baden and Württemberg reminds me a little of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

View to Bodensee, Baden-Württemberg

Like the Languedoc-Roussillon, Baden and Württemberg lie to the south of the country. And like the Languedoc-Roussillon, they also border a large body of water – Lake Constance, or Bodensee as it’s known locally. Both of these factors make the regions warmer than some of their northern counterparts and the wines in turn are a little higher in alcohol.

But that’s where the similarity stops because although together the regions are part of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Baden and Württemberg are considered separate wine regions under German legislation. (It’s worth noting here that they have been grouped in this case because I visited both regions in the same journey.) What’s more, with some exceptions, Baden and Württemberg make use of an entirely different set of grapes to Languedoc-Roussillon and to each other.

(Read about Baden and Württemberg’s distinctive food here)

Grape flower buds close up, Baden-Württemberg

Baden is more Pinot focussed with the majority of wines made from Spätburgunder (Pinot noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) but Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel (Chasselas) also make an appearance. Württemberg, meanwhile, uses Trollinger, Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), Lemberger and Spätburgunder. Germany’s best known grape variety, Riesling, is also utilised but certainly not as much as in other German wine regions.

What’s been most interesting for me has been the fact that neither of these two areas seemed to produce sweet wines. Again there are exception here but on the whole, many of the producers tended to make a rosé wine for serving with dessert. It’s something that’s worked out well while there are German strawberries in season but it makes me wonder what they do the rest of the time.

Without further ado, here are the places I’ve visited in Baden and Württemberg (You can read my short guide to wine travel in the Bodensee on Yahoo):

Collegium Wirtemberg

Mainau

Weingut Markgraf von Baden

Weingut Wöhrwag

Winzerhof Gierer

Château Moulin Caresse, St Antoine de Breuilh

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

The owners of Château Moulin Caresse has been investing a lot of money into the estate recently. Most notable is perhaps the brand new eco-friendly warehouse winery which offers digital controls over temperature, humidity and CO2.

The recent bout of spending is something the owner Sylvie Deffarge is attributing to luck; in that luckily for her and her husband Jean-François, their children are keen to join the family business and therefore making long term investments financially viable.

And what a family business it has been – the property has been in the family since the 1700s although winemaking has been a much more recent phenomenon.

The Château makes three key ranges – Cuvée Cépage, Magie d’Automne and Cent Pour 100 – across the Montravel, Haut Montravel and Bergerac AOCs.

The Cuvée Cépage Montravel Blanc Sec 2013 was fresh and crisp with notes of apple and citrus flanked by flinty minerality. The Magie d’Autumne Montravel Blanc Sec 2012 was more floral, from use of Muscadelle grapes, with a stone fruit character and possibly a hint of toast. The top range, Cent Pour 100 Montravel Blanc Sec 2012, was nutty and creamy in the way Chardonnay can be at times except this one used Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and had very high acidity.

On the red side, Magie d’Autumne Bergerac Rouge 2010 was still too young to drink really but it’s filled with intense berry fruit, a hint of vanilla and a herbaceous pencil shaving finish. The Cent Pour 100 Montravel Rouge 2010, meanwhile, had the beginnings of leafy, leathery development while still holding on to a mix of black and red fruits and light spice. When you move on to the Cent Pour 100 Montralvel Rouge 2008 you can see the visible difference in development. The wine becomes wonderfully aromatic but not forgetting its dose of blackberry and herbaceous character.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

A slightly different offering was the Coeur de Roche which the Château has only recently started producing. The idea is to make a special cuvée from the best grapes of the old vines. The grapes are fermented, must and all, in custom-made oak barrels before being blended for the final cuvée. The Coeur de Roche 2009 was the first vintage and shows off its production method with a dark, inky hue. Somehow, despite all the oaking, it manages to be incredibly fruity, with notes of cherry and blackberry as well as a hint of liquorice. It’s really quite delicious.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

The region also had sweet wine appellations and the Château made both the moelleux (lighter) and liquoreux (more concentrated) styles. The Cuvée Cépage Haut Montravel Semillon Moelleux 2012 was very light indeed with a refreshing style that held the undertones of apricot and white flowers. The Cent Pour 100 Haut Montravel Liquoreux 2011 had much more of a floral note with only a delicate overtone of botrytis.

Château Moulin Caresse, Bergerac

Looking back, the red wines at Château Moulin Caresse were often a little austere while the white wines, and sweet wines, showed much better. But then again, the region’s traditions lay in white and sweet wines so you wouldn’t expect anything less.

www.pays-de-bergerac.com/vins/chateau-moulin-caresse

Château des Eyssards, Monestier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Pascal Cuisset of Château des Eyssards is said to be one of the biggest personalities in Bergerac.

Pascal Cuisset, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

Meeting him, I can understand why.

Cuisset was a tall, rotund man who gestates as he talks about his wines, almost none stop, all the while pointing out the pluses and minuses of wines in general.

While producing organic wine, he doesn’t use copper as he thinks it kills the worms. And unlike many wine-types, he doesn’t believe in terroir. Instead, he thinks that most of the effects of the soil can be manipulated with technology and fine tuning of viticulture.

He had been a foie gras producer and a one-time chef until he discovered wine one day and headed wholeheartedly down that route. Stints of working in South Africa and tastings of wines from New Zealand and Chile formulated his wine making approach. There’s admiration in his attitude to the New World too.

Apart from believing that Oregon Pinot Noir is much better than Burgundy, he thinks the New World wines are so good because “they have no past and they’re very positive about the future”. Essentially, “they dream of a wine and then they make it”.

The wine that Cuisset dreams of is one that’s big, powerful and a real flavour experience because “a man with passion needs a wine with passion”.

Dessert wine, Château des Eyssards, Bergerac

His Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2013 is bold with notes of lychee, white flower and apricot.

The flavourful l’Adagio des Eyssards 2010 spoke of rounded vanilla and warm wood over blackberry, violet and cherry notes. The tannin-tastic Semental 2010 was too youthful at tasting but was filled with blackberry, dark cherry and bramble. With rest, it could be very interesting.

The Saussignac Cuvée Flavie 2007, made in the Quarts-de-Chaume style, boasted apricots, dried fruit, marmalade and white flowers. As well as having really good balance, the hint of botrytis showed off just a little amidst all the acidity.

www.chateaudeseyssards.com

Château Tiregand, Creysse

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Bergerac series

Back of house, Château Tiregand, Bergerac

The Château at Château de Tiregand showed tell-tale signs of the enormous wealth of the family in the years gone by, not only in the size of the building but also in the basic facilities. Today it stands in strange contrast to modernity.

The courtyard that once welcomed horse-drawn carriages, with room for at least six carts, now provides ample facilities for parking cars. The pair of zinc windows, recently restored in Paris for a sum of more than 30,000 euros, glistened in the setting sun the way that its modern counterparts could never imagine. And what seemed like abandoned dove cots were in fact homes to ostriches that would have been de-feathered to furnish the hats of the ladies of the house.

All that pomp aside, the Château is still making incredibly good wines.

Wines, Château Tiregand, Bergerac

I took part in a vertical tasting of the Grand Millésime Cuvées, a blend that’s considered the best wines of the house. It’s one which, over time, has changed from a Merlot-dominant blend to one with Cabernet Sauvignon at its heart.

Starting with a youthful 2011, the Grand Millésime 2011 was incredibly smooth and fruity with red berries, strawberry and sweet cherry notes coming through.

The Grand Millésime 2010 was more restrained with blackberry dominating backed by myrtle and herbaceous vanilla.

Grand Millésime 2009 swings back to strawberry but also includes black cherry and blackberry as well as bramble fruits and sour cherry, all while managing to be extremely smooth.

The Grand Millésime 2008 proves to be a very complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. The result is a heady blend of red cherry and blackberry with liquorice, flanked by soft, silky tannins and the first peaks of development.

It begins to get rather smoky with the Grand Millésime 2007 where the black cherry fruits have developed into rounded chocolate notes. While the tannins have become smooth and developed, the acidity is still high.

While the Grand Millésime 2005 is looking more developed in colour, with the beginnings of sediments, on the palate it actually feels fresher than the Grand Millésime 2007. Again, high tannins, black cherry and bramble fruits show through.

The Grand Millésime 2001 was showing incredibly well. The complex nose spoke of leafy development with blackberry notes while the herbaceous, minty, sweet spice on the palate added an extra dimension. Somehow, it manages to be refreshing enough to still feel youthful.

Grand Millésime 2000 unfortunately turned out to be rather green and stalky with leafy herbaceousness and a mix of red and blackcurrant. It’s also the first vintage where the previously Cabernet Franc dominant blend was changed to Cabernet Sauvignon.

The change was obvious when you try the Grand Millésime 1998, a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend, which was all strawberry and chocolate but not very developed.

Changing to a much older blend, I tried some seriously old vintages from the Pécharmant area. It’s a region close to Bordeaux with a significant amount of iron in the soil.

The Pécharmant 1989 spoke of prunes and cherries with lots of animal and vegetal development. The Pécharmant 1983 had visibly aged with brown tints and slightly oxidised character to its coffee notes. However, while the clearly perfectionist owner (who asked not to be written about) said the wine was passed it, I thought it was still drinking incredibly well with notes of cherry and liquorice still showing through in the long finish.

But even without extensive ageing, the Pécharmant wines were extremely expressive. The Pécharmant 2010 had spicy vanilla notes underpining herbaceous blackberry and violets.

On the more mass market side, the Bergerac Blanc 2012 was crisp with rounded citrus (lemon in particular) and extremely high acidity. The first sample I tried of this had actually been left open for eight days, mistakenly sampled obviously, but even so, it remained fresh and vibrant. Now that is a good wine.

www.chateau-de-tiregand

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