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Fine Wine Encounter

by Nerval, 2002

This report is on wines tasted at Decanter magazine's "Fine Wine Encounter", London, held in November 2002. Riedel Chianti glass were used throughout, and the notes are presented only roughly in the order tasted.

France

Champagne Pommery Brut Royal
Not too clean on the nose with lots of beaten egg, some pear fruit but all in all rather animal. Good length, rather appley in mouth. Decent but that’s it.

Pommery Brut Royal Apanage
This has a bit more Chardonnay and spends 6 extra months sur lie. More marzipan and almonds, richer than the Royal on the nose, in mouth juicy, decently long but rather hardish and still nothing great. Hardish acidity. Better than the above but disappointing.

Pommery Brut Blanc de Blancs Summertime
A bit more perfumed with notes of apple liqueur and marzipan verging on slight artificiality, but more interesting than either of the above. More toasted in mouth, richer mouthfeel but still rather lean and elegant, this is no Bollinger-wannabe monster. Acidity slightly unripe? Lacks length and not giving much length IMO. Green character typical for Pommery but here pushed a bit too far perhaps.

Pommery Brut Blanc de Noirs Wintertime
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. More fruit finesse, some marzipan and praline appearing here. Perhaps more towards a style I’d like.

Pommery Brut Rosé
20% red Bouzy wine. Not much rosé character, very muted on the nose, opens up reluctantly; this is longer but slightly bitter on the palate. Flawed bottle?

Pommery Brut 1992
Clearly richer and more toasted in character than other whites here, showing some animal-bretty character, but pleasant, interesting and quite complex for what it is. Still rather soft, only hinting at evolvd autolytic character. A chemical note of sweetening present here as well. Refreshing texture. Nothing great but a cut above the preceding wine. Clearly the soft vintage has matched Pommery’s style. A bit more fruit finesse.

Pommery Louise 1989
This nis from only three crus: Aÿ for Pinoit Noir and Avize and Cramant for Chardonnay. Over two years of disgorgement. Odd slightly chemical marzipanny note again, walnuts, parsley, this has some finesse in a crystallised apple note on mid-nose. Pleasant, long, good austerity and dryness in mouth reminiscent of walnuts and baked bread. Slightly bitterish on finish, good length. Very good, but much less so than remembered from April 2001.

Pommery Louise Rosé 1990
20% red bouzy wine. Colour is dark golden with just a bit of pinkish hues. Long and tasty, but slightly unripe bitterish acidity towards the finish. Lacks the length of the 1989 Louise (the latter showing its outstanding vintage more than the 1990). Drinkable but lacks much substance and surely too expensive.

Champagne Taittinger Brut Réserve
Dosage at 12.5 g/l. Some stink on the nose, but quite elegant and deep, with a hint of white truffle? Quite dry mouthfeel, with notes of juicy pear. More balanced and complete than usually for this bottling. Very good for sure.

Taittinger Brut 1996
7 months of disgorgement. Quite secondary on the nose, with hints of toast and aged meat; yet seems rather muted. Good length, juicy, light on its feet, in fact rather unsubstantial for a 1996 perhaps. Iron-cast acidity, just a bit longer than the normal brut. Not greatly distinctive if a pleasant drink.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1995
Colour is a dark, saturated greenish. Nose similar to the above, slighty herbal-animal and not too pure; not much more happening in mouth than in the 1996 Brut. Perhaps a bit more complex but not so much. Has some relief in mouth, some roasted coffee character but underwhelming for this bottling (which usually underhwelms me).

Taittinger Brut Rosé
Around 20-30% of Chardonnay and 10-15% red wine (never easy to get exact figures from Taittinger). Rather dark by today’s standards but still light rosey-pink. Strawberry, some lemon sorbet, not very expressive as all Champagnes on this tasting frankly. Tasty but not very long, apparent dosage, rather immediate in mouth.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 1995
Coppery-rusty colour. Has more substance and length than other wines here but seems a bit bitterish and blunt in mouth; not greatly impressive, served too cold? Has some class but far from the sheer power of a bottle tasted a year ago. Judgment for all Champagnes on this tasting reserved.

Taittinger Demi-sec
44 g/l r.s. Rather pleasant on the nose with some complexity, not very aggressive, solid winemaking although rather cloying in mouth for me (washing powder came to mind), shortish. Liqueury note on the finish which shows some class.

Taittinger Domaine Carneros (California) Brut 1999
Quite chemical in a sweet-almondy scent, floor polish, drinkable but foody and without any kind of finesse. Bitterish, vegetal, cooked. Not exciting.

Domaine de l'Hortus Bergerie de l’Hortus VdP Val de Montferrand 2001
Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Viognier and Marsanne aged in steel. Nice fresh and fruity nose, typical Languedoc flavour concoction of apples and wax ; despite the freshness seems a bit to soft on the palate. Has some length. A good wine for the price.

Domaine de l'Hortus Grande Cuvée VdP Val de Montferrand 2001
Viognier and Chardonnay with minor amounts of Sauvignon, fermented and aged 7-10 months in new oak. Oaky but pleasantly scented nose, buttery, quite ripe. Successful.

Domaine de l'Hortus Côteaux du Languedoc Bergerie de l’Hortus Rosé 2001
From Syrah and Grenache, no skin contact. Rather muted on the nose with only faint strawberry smells; as if slightly corked in mouth perhaps but I wasn’t too sure. Pleasant, with decent length although nothing great. Good with food.

Domaine de l'Hortus Côteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup Bergerie de l’Hortus 2001
Syrah and Grenache with traces of Mourvèdre. Good if not very dark colour. God sweaty Mediterranean terroir nose ; some musk and peppercorn, fresh strawberry, not showing much substance in mouth.

Domaine de l'Hortus Côteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup Grande Cuvée 2000
45% Syrah, 45% Mourvre, 10% Grenache, one month of skin contact, two thirds new oak for 15 months. This was splashed decanted some time before I tasted it. Lots of bacony oak on the nose yet quite terroir-driven, with some granitey minerality of the Northern Rhône as well. No doubt interesting, with a sense of elegance and balance although the oak is still predominant at this stage. Has fruit. Medium length, acidity a bit aggressive and varnish-like.

Domaine de l'Hortus Côteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup Grande Cuvée 1998
This is starting to show secondary scents of leather and some new wood, black olives and other bitterish foods ; dry, a bit bell-peppery in mouth, less rich and sensual than when tasted in summer 2001 when I thought this was outstanding. I wouldn’t keep this much longer.

Domaine de l'Hortus Clos du Prieur Côteaux du Languedoc 2000
From a new estate 25 km north of Hortus. This is Syrah and Grenache with some Carignan from exisiting plantings although Mrs. Orliac says these will eventually be uprooted to make way for more Syrah. 50% nw oak. Colour is quite dense. A bit more finesse on the nose compared to the 2000 Grande Cuvée, fresher fruit as of raspberry and strabwerry, but showing the same kind of semi-volatile sharpness uplifting the fruit. Liquorice and other soft spicy notes. Denser and packed with more fruit on the palate, showing quite impressive in this tasting. Great promise for this estate no doubt. Once the volatility settles in the bottle this should be close to outstanding.

Domaine Mas Amiel Côtes du Roussillon Villages Carérades 2000
The colour is dense but not very dark. Soft but plump and inviting cherry fruit on the nose here, finesse and almost flowery softness of fruit, juicy, Grenache-quintessential griotte showing after a while ; perhaps even a bit too typical, verging on artificiality. But sensually hard to resist.

Domaine Mas Amiel Côtes du Roussillon Hautes Terres 2001
Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, 12 months of barrique. This is showing fresher but also damper-earthy and very terroir-driven in the literary sense, yet still very sweet, almost figgy on the nose and not dissimilar to the sweet wines here. Not very long in mouth. Nothing too special but solid and reliable.

Domaine Mas Amiel Maury Cuvée Spéciale 10 Ans d’Âge
This is Grenache with 5% each of Carignan and Muscardin. Browning but still rather dense at core. Good notes of coffee and torrefaction, old wood with a damp side to it ; good rustic Maury character, quite powerful and pungent. But showing rather weak in mouth with no concentration and a watered-down caramel aspect, some tannins on the finish but too lean. Has some juicy cherry fruit of course but lacks body and real richness.

Domaine Mas Amiel Maury Cuvée Prestige 15 Ans d’âge
Grapes as above, bottled 2002. A bit more aged in colour with rusty and amaranth hues but still dark ruby. Just a bit more complexity with a balance between oxidation and reduction on the nose, leather, musk, again some damp and rustic woody Maury character, a tawny port without the sweetness ; rather simple in profile but surely a nice glass to sip. Softer, substantially less tannic than the 10 y.o., in fact very different in style than the latter, shortish in mouth, clearly stemming from different batches and probably also vineyards. Again diluted and lacking substance to my tastes despite a quite decent figgy lushness.

Domaine Mas Amiel Macabeu Plénitude Vin de Liqueur 2001
15.5% alc. Dark gold. Nose of a dry white wine, with aggressive sulphur and varnish, but also somehow blunt ; lots of honey aromas with apparently some botrytis showing. Tasty in mouth, medium and inviting sweetness though this again is far from a desired concentration and seems diluted or almost vulgarily watered-down. Vaguely reminiscent of Sauternes (though more moelleux than liquoreux really).

Domaine Mas Amiel Maury Vintage 2000
100% Grenache. Very consistent medium purple. Has some tension to the dark griotte aromas on the nose, very Grenache-like indeed ; balanced and fresh-fruity in mouth, perhaps a bit more convincing than others here due to unpretentiousnss. But closes up in the glass and lacks any kind of length on the palate. Another weak showing from Amiel.

Domaine Mas Amiel Maury Vintage Reserve 2000
100% Grenache aged in barrique. A bit lighter in hue? Nose very similar ot the above, with a bit of varnishy character to the strong-flavoured dark cherry ; this has some concentration and seems to be hiding something for the future. Tasty and juicy, the oak only seems to add a volatile character but the fruit was no doubt superior to the straight vintage. But not terribly interesting in any case.

Mas de Daumas Gassac VdP de l’Hérault Blanc 2001
Viognier, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay aged in steel only. Quite stinky and biting-sulphury at first, bitter and hollow in mouth ; later opens up and shows some individuality in an old-Rioja style, with mild oxidation. Rustic and meaty with good character but not really exciting.

Mas de Daumas Gassac VdP de l’Hérault Blanc 1995
Very good honeyed perfume in this case, leather, old wood, maturing convincingly ; quite a bit of petrol as well, harmonious and convincing if suffering from excessive softness and vagueness. A bit hollow in mouth perhaps but enjoyable.

Mas de Daumas Gassac VdP de l’Hérault Rouge 1998
Nice, soft crunchy cherry with a bit of bitter cherries as well. Good personality here, although more distinctive on the nose than on the palate which really seems a bit weak.

Mas de Daumas Gassac VdP de l’Hérault Rouge 1988
Colour just as the 1998, amazingly. A bit of leather on the nose, dry aromas. Very intellectual style. Very young in mouth, seems too dry or a bit drying out perhaps. Pleasant to drink but a wine for connoisseurs really.

Mas de Daumas Gassac VdP de l’Hérault Rouge 1986
Great sweet-liqueury perfume with bits of tertiary character as of leather ; great finesse from dried currants and cherries, dry and tannic in mouth, really almost woody as always with Daumas Gassac reds IMO. Ripe, still quite powerful ; if tasted from larger glasses would probably show great. Impressive, and more so for the finesse than the yuoth it shows today.

Mas de Daumas Gassac Rosé de Landoc
A Cabernet Sauvignon made in cuve close. Very light in colour. Pleasant if a bit bready nose with notes of strawberry fruit, fresh, slightly leathery, with again a mild hardness on the palate. Surely a good wine.

Château Pichon-Baron-Longueville (Bordeaux) 1997
Rather light in colour from the modest amount I was served. Nose of a good Bordeaux with an amount of oak fat, pleasant but lightweight and metallic on the finish. So-so.

Château Pichon-Baron-Longueville 1998
A bit denser on the nose but still rather warm and boiled-meaty ; juicy, Bordeaux-esque with a sense of form and proportion but lacks sweetness and richness of fruit. Quite vegetal on the finish. Rather underwhelming for the château again.

Château Pichon-Baron-Longueville 1999
A bit more serious than the 1998 but not very much ; light in hue, beefy oak and fried potatoes on the nose, drier in mouth, pleasant and round in mouth, with some juiciness and a cut above the two above if still nothing great. Pretty good length however.

Château Pichon-Baron-Longueville 2000
Very dark at core. Starts beefy and raw-peppery again, not so different from the abve, with a coffee ashes dryness. A bit softer and more generous in mouth perhaps but nearly identical to the 1999. Not very ripe really, puzzlingly.

Château Rauzan-Ségla (Bordeaux) 1998
Quite dark but not overdone. Pretty serious on the nose, drier, with raspberry fruit but perhaps lacking a bit of substance on the palate.

Château Rauzan-Ségla 1997
Good bell-peppery Cabernet character on the well-defined nose ; very dry in mouth, no New World ambitions of any kind here, thank God. Classic in style and very good.

Château Rauzan-Ségla 1995
Very dense colour for its age. Starting to secondarize, with notes of chalk dust and some sweatiness which isn’t too pleasant in context. Herbal Merlot perfume, good length. Entering a drinkability plateau ?

Château Canon (Bordeaux) Clos Canon 1999
Quite dark but some rim to the colour. Vegetal, bell-peppery and dry on the nose, good for a second vin but lacking some substance.

Château Canon 2000
Quite dark. This is more textured and rich, with pum and black currant jam flavours plus the usual peppery notes. Very good indeed but not earth-shaking.

Château Fombrauge (Bordeaux) 2000
Rather dark. Very good nose showing a lot of concentration, with aromas of leather and old wood, characterful, with a young-winery tension to the whole ; lots of finesse while retaining the essentially dry Bordeaux character. Quite structured and impressive for this estate.

Château Pape-Clément (Bordeaux) 1998
60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Elegant if meaty-oaky on the nose, still dominated by the oak at this stage. Good but nothing more.

Italy

Russiz Superiore Collio Pinot Bianco 2000
Great nose of foody, dense Pinot Bianco fruit, rich and complex. Caramelly mouthfeel, good length, lacks some balance (low acidity) but expressive and impressive.

Russiz Superiore Collio Pinot Grigio 2001
Varietal again, herbal but not bitter, good aromatic definition, with again a caramelly note. Long, slightly bitterish on the finish. Lacks freshness and a bit too similar to the Pinot Bianco.

Russiz Superiore Collio Disôre 2000
A blend of Pinot Grigio, Tocai, Ribolla and Sauvignon (?). Bitterish again, some roasted character and sulphury overtones. Not as impressive as when last tasted. Lacks the expression and power of the Pinot Bianco. A bottle tasted this summer was more impressive.

Castello di Buttrio Marburg IGT 1999
Again a blend of several Friuli grapes, with some oaking in this case. Medium purple colour. Good perfume of sweet fruit on the nose, good concentration, some sandy character of Friuli terroir. Juicy, lacks a bit of freshness, a bit too blunt and soft (though not oaky). Pleasant but lacks élan.

Marco Felluga Carantan IGT 1998
A Bordeaux blend. Some violet to the colour. Good, elegant nose, more character than the two white blends above if with a papery-dry character in mouth; but deeper and broader aromatically. Tasty, decent length. Not much happening in mouth though. A bit too soft though reasonably fresh.

Inama Soave Classico Superiore 2001
All Soaves are 100% Garganega. Great nose of honey and fruit richness while staying fresh and deep at the same time. Just a bit of cooked character in mouth, not terribly long but very convincing for a basic bottling.

Inama Soave Classico Superiore Vigneti di Foscarino 2000
From three different old-vine sites, fermented in second-hand oak. Some minerality appearing, drier than above, lots of dry, almost sandy substance. Has some complexity in mouth, elegant and airy but with a fair dose of rustic temperament. Smoother and richer in mouth, with the alcohol showing just a bit, long and just a bit bitterish on the finish. Powerful and impressive.

Inama Soave Classico Superiore Vigneti du Lôt 2000
Again denser and fatter than the above, richer, verging on animal scents, still with that tense, dry-sandy kind of minerality. Some praline appearing, apple, quite rich but not extremely long and rather fading on the finish. Walnuts and caramel. Another very convincing white.

Inama Sauvignon Vulcaia IGT 2001
From Foscarino, stainless steel only. Again slightly strange walnutty notes, rich and focused, all wines here have very good definition. Sulphur, freshly chopped herbs (parsley). Medium length. Rather round and immediate, less deep and linear than the Soaves here.

Inama Sauvignon Fumé Vulcaia IGT 2000
6 months in 50% new Allier barrique with frequent bâtonnage. Medium dark. This is dense and caramelly but recognisably Sauvignon-like with herbal notes, rich, layered, very good indeed.

Inama Bradisismo IGT 1999
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenère which Mr. Inama says has been planted in the Colli Berici zone for 150 years. 100% new oak for 16 months. This is very serious red wine, slightly volatile or pungent-varnishy, but underneath that lies concentrated red and black fruit. Animal and musky in mouth, not a grand cru but very enjoyable and with character. Has some wildness to it as well.

Inama Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Binomio 2000
A joint-venture with the La Valentina estate, 100% Montepulciano from 30-year-old vines aged 2 years in new oak. 9,000 bottles made in this vintage for a projected maximum of 20,000. Said to retail for 30€. Extremely dark inky purple with a nice rim. Chocolate, liquorice, ink on the nose, huge extract and petrolly power; all that with a sense of elegance and balance. A bit too drying in mouth, as if lacking true fruit richness. But this is Montepulciano after all. Impressive wine. One of the most promising wines of the Adriatic.

Tedeschi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Capitel dei Nicalò 1999
Meaty and balsamic-vinegary, concentrated, a bit woody perhaps on the nose, with some fruit sweetness in mouth but all in all quite dry and almost metallic on the finish. Needs food today. Good wine.

Tedeschi San Rocco IGT 1999
A ripasso version of Valpolicella. Soupy concentration on the nose but still very dry in mouth, showing that dry-metallic residue of the above. Quite interesting by its concentration but does not show too much focus today. Perhaps a bit of smoothness and sweetness from the ripasso in the aftertaste, as usually. But this asciutto wine, to pick a happy Italian term, dry, serious and surely great with food. It is user-friendly if you're a serious user.

Tedeschi La Fabriseria IGT 2000
Mr. Tedeschi says this is not as fat as in previous vintages and will need more time to mature. The 1999 was one of the best wines from Veneto I've tasted last year. Dense colour with a natural hue to it. This is denser and soupier than the San Rocco with still that lead-pencilly dryness on the palate, great balance, juicy and elegant, really a bit softer perhaps (more new oak here no doubt) than the above. Not a mind-blowing wine, this could actually use a bit more finesse, especially on the meaty, slightly hardish finish. But very good still.

Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1999
Same colour as above, dense but a bit austere. Much sweeter on the nose than the La Fabriseria, with almonds, walnuts and some caster sugar as well, not unlike tawny port to an extent. Clear appassimento character, fig marmalade, dark grapes. Really quite inviting. Tasty, different in style than the above, juicy and mild, with macerated fruit character. Medium long. Very reliable as always.

Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Olmi 1999
Concentrated on the nose, starts a bit herbal, then grapey with a beautiful caramel or fudge note; some petrolly extract but nothing too obtrusive. Long, some appassimento showing, perhaps lacks a bit of substance and surely less concentrated than either the 1997 or 1998. Some alcohol (kirsch) showing. Drinking nicely now, quite long but lacks a bit of natural richness and seems, today, almost too dry really.

Frescobaldi Lamaione IGT 1998
Colour seemingly a bit fading. Soupy on the nose, extracted but not exagerated, with some petits fruits rouges elegance. Dry in mouth, very tannic. Quite convincing thanks to a lively acidity and natural juiciness. Menthol in the aftertaste perhaps? Surprisingly interesting.

Frescobaldi Luce della Vite IGT 1998
85% Sangivoese, 15% Merlot. Not very dark colour. Concentrated and oaky on the nose, some petrol, liquorice, not very elegant. Not much substance in mouth and very underwhelming for the price tag. A pure marketing product.

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2000
100% Sangiovese, aged in botte. Strange dense nose with a dominant note of old wood, rather serious, very earthy, verging on vinegary-volatile. Interesting but lacks a bit of distinction on the palate. Dry. Also apparently not very rich for a 2000.

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 1999
18 months of second-year Taransaud oak. Dark, quite serious colour. More finesse here, old wood and dried fruit, still a bit balsamic vinegar-scented. This has more charatcer if still rather masculine and ungiving (a true Chianti, one might add). Again needs a bit more elegance; the finish is too metallic.

Villa Cafaggio San Martino IGT 1999
100% Sangiovese, 100% new oak for 18 months. Dark, dense colour. Leafy, candied-sticky nose with notes of soap or woman's perfume; concentrated griotte and bready extract, but muted and again ungiving. Slight excess of mentholly oak in mouth today, heavy tannins. Needs time, might turn out interesting. A serious wine for sure but needs better balance.

Villa Cafaggio Cortaccio IGT 1999
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, oaking as above. Very dark but not noticeably darker than the above. Very tannic and masculine in mouth again, a true vino da invecchiamento; meaty black cherry, not too expressive in mouth. Powerful tannins again. The balance of these wines seems problematic to me but may be I can't see clearly what will become of them after some bottle ageing.

Cordero di Montezemolo Dolcetto d'Alba Monfalletto 2001
Dark but transparent purple. Very nice nose with lots of sweet fruit, petrol and tyres. Dry mouthfeel, archetypal Dolcetto, really quite good.

Cordero di Montezemolo Barbera d'Alba Monfalletto 2001
12 months in 50% barrique and 50% tonneaux, not all of them new. Very dark. A bit more serious and pungent on the nose especially, with some cherry fruit showing ; pleasant and juicy on the palate, with some odd sherried and Maury-like woody notes as well.

Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto 1998
A blend of 8 crus aged partly separately, blended and given extra ageing in a mixture of new and old barrique and some botti as well. Quite dark for Barolo with a bit of rim. Cool on the nose, with just a bit of varnishy character ; good length but seems a bit thin at mid-palate. Good acidity, not terribly Nebbiolo-like though no overoaked monster either. Drinkable.

Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI 1998
80% new oak. A bit lighter in hue than the above. More perfumed, some minty barrique and austere Nebbiolo spices. A bit fat and broad on the palate but not overoaked, convincing and pleasurable ; finishing spicy-dry and more authentic. Mr. Cordero di Montezemolo mentions another Gattèra Barolo aged in new barrique only.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino 1997
Rather dense in colour. More dried fruit and finesse on the nose than I remember from last April, with a sweetness and softness to the fruit, good elegance, plenty of interest. But then on the palate it follows with subdued structure and devoid of any distinction. Does not seem a great ager, an impression which I've had with many 1997 Brunellos. Good if you can disregard your expectations.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara 1997
Just a bit darker than the above. More density and concentration, especially on the nose, with a vinegary touch ; then of course rounder and more generous on the palate and difficult to resist in sensual terms. Has some finesse, finishes slightly metallic. Clearly superior to the blended version, a bit less expressive however than in April, closing up in the bottle ? Patience required.

Avignonesi Cortona Marzocco 2000
100% Chardonnay agd in oak. Medium golden colour. Tyre factory on the nose, pleasant in mouth, voluminous and fat, still with that petrolly character. But balanced and quite nice.

Avignonesi Salice Salentino Li Veli 2000
100% Negroamaro from Puglia. Already fading to rosey-violet at rim. Lots of tyres and rubber on the nose, sweet in mouth but with some acidity for balance. Not much structure but sensual and drinks very nicely.

Avignonesi Corton Desiderio 1999
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite dark. Another wine in an upfront Australian extracted style, sad to see really when one remembers Avignonesi wines from 15 years ago. Not much substance, sweeter oak than the Salice but less fruit and less tannins. In objective terms this is not as good as expected from the barrel samples.

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Grandi Annate 1997
I raved about this wine just after release when it smelled of freshly picked roses in a rarely seen direct way. I am happy to confirm reports that it has turned into a caricature of itself. But still has that intoxicating rose petal perfume which is really so un-Vino Nobile like and totally unrelated to any Sangiovese character that one wonders how it was achieved (I heard some rumours of micro-oxigenation and other magical tricks). Relatively dark in the glass, with faded flower character on the nose, quite elegant, but bitter and vegetal in mouth and pretty much faded already. Which also indicated it was heavily over-manufactured to start with. I'd sell my bottles if I had any.

Spain

Marqués de Riscal Rueda 2001
A pleasant white with some grapefruit and gooseberry concentration ; not much substance in mouth but correct and leisurely.

Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon
More muted on the nose, without the tell-tale gooseberrish notes ; juicy, a bit more body but softer in mouth, also foodier and without the sharpness of the above.

Marqués de Riscal Tempranillo VdT 2000
This sees carbonic maceration and 4 months of American oak. Compact purple colour. Some butter and sweaty-fat red fruit typical for carbonic wines, pretty drinkable despite the oak being quite apparent.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 1998
Colour is a quite consistent medium purple. This smells older than it is, but not oaky, with some finesse of blueberry and dried currant fruit. Some sherry vinegar also ; rather too soft and lacking acid in mouth, not much body either even if the length is good. Finishes woody.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Gran Reserva 1996
A bit lighter in hue. This is fallen-appley and stale-buttery from the American oak on the nose, but the fruit seems to have even more finesse than the above. Also oakier in mouth, better length, less aggressive and more balanced if still not terribly interesting.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Gran Reserva 1995
A bit warmer colour with some rim. More fruit and voloume on the nose here with a cooked character appearing, drier in mouth I guess, more naked-structured than the 1996 which seems to have more fruit for the oaking which is excessive in both cases.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva Barón de Chirel 1996
This has 46% of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in, evident in the much darker purple colour. A bit more finesse again, still a bit fat-oaky (the oak is French here), with Cabernet bell-pepper. Too fat in mouth, not completely without elegance but again rather approximative and blunt to my tastes. Really too expensive for £30.

Jean León Catalunya Terrasola 2001
A new wine of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Garnatxa, 3 months of new oak. Some oak fat on the nose, voluminous fruit in mouth but no definition or distinction.

Jean León Penedés Chardonnay 2001
Fermented and aged 6 months of new French oak. Oaky-fat but good Chardonnay character on the nose ; better acidity than the above, quite nerveux in style, pleasant and successful as always.

Jean León Catalunya Terrasola 2001
Again this is a new label for León, with 85% Syrah and 15% Carinyena, 6 months of oak. Medium dark. Good perfume, fresh strawberry with a marmaladey concentration ; reasonably juicy, a bit fattish in mouth where more acid could have helped. But highly drinkable.

Jean León Penedés Merlot 1999
12 months of mixed oak. Medium dark. Varnishy and volatile on the nose, pleasant with some structure ; then more serious in mouth and very French-styled.

Jean León Penedés Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 1996
Not very dark purple. More tannic and drying in mouth, with a degree of juiciness. Needs food.

Jean León Penedés Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 1994
Mainly American oak with some French, includes 15% of Cabernet Franc. Quite dark in colour. Great sweetness to the fruit on the nose, good length but slightly foody or cooked on the palate and not showing much structure I guess. A good wine but perhaps mildly underwhelming for León’s flagship wine.

Pazo de Señorans Rias Baixas Albariño 2001
Juicy, showing a minor sulphury residue on the nose ; then very typical and varietal, round and flattering in mouth though perhaps a bit too fat and stale-fruity seemingly. Great acidity, only a bit of green lettucey impressions on the finish. Very good as usually.

Enate Somontano Gewürztraminer 2001
Strong and varietal nose ; sweetish and smooth on the palate from the fruit, but finish dry and convincing.

Enate Somontano Chardonnay ‘234’ 2001
Unoaked. Good leafy aromas, no pungent character. Really very tasty in mouth, persistent, great fruit here. Impressive.

Enate Somontano Chardonnay Barrica 2000
A bit of fresh butter, fat and not as fresh as the preceding ; but balanced and juicy in mouth. Quite decent for an oaked Chard.

Enate Somontano Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado 2001
Colour is a medium purple. Some creamy edge to the fruity rosé character, bitter herbs ; following crisp and a bit animal on the palate. Nice.

Enate Somontano Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 1999
A semi-crianza style. Quite compact purple colour. Animal and sweaty on the nose, later bits of currant and blackberry finesse appear. Very Enate in style, with juicy, concentrated, perhaps just mildly artificial- or processed-seeming fruit. Some inky concentration showing. Delicious for sure.

Enate Somontano Crianza 1999
70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 months of mixed origin oak. A bit lighter in hue. More finesse to the nose here, good concentration, lacks some fruit filling but still inky, soupy-dense fruit. Very good.

Enate Somontano Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 1997
One year of American oak. Medium colour. Good concentration and Cabernet character, but seems a bit too soft and without real density. Not much character IMO.

Enate Somontano Merlot-Merlot 1999
Malolactic fermentation and ageing for 15 months in French oak. Darker than the Cab above. Dense and concentrated, very tannic in mouth, perhaps a bit coked and bitter on the finish. This will need more time than usually. Not giving much today.

Enate Somontano Reserva Especial 1996
55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, two years of oak. If kept a bit in the glass this is starting to show quite some character on the nose.

González Byass Alfonso Dry Oloroso
An average of 8-10 years of solera ageing. Stinky and sulphury at first, but then clearing up to show interesting aged character. Pleasant if rather nothing great. Good long finish.

González Byass Amontillado Del Duque VORS
Medium beige-infused amber. Old wood, dried herbs, a bit problematic on the nose with hints of sweetness but also quite varnishy. Rather pointless to taste such complex and intellectual wines in an overheated and -crowded hotel room. Quite vegetal, slightly unpleasant bell-peppery character in mouth despite very good length.

González Byass Palo Cortado Apóstoles VORS
2-3% of PX. Colour seems identical to the above, perhaps a bit more of beige. This is more leathery and woody, with still the sweet marzipan and camphora notes known from the above but more interesting and inviting. Not as long in mouth however and there is rather evident sweetening with PX which blurs the expression of the whole. Has noblesse however and again it seemed useless to taste it in those circumstances.

González Byass Palo Cortado Añada 1978
778 bottles released. Rather light beige hue here. Nose dominated by varnish, hiding some quince and stone fruit character ; reasonably fresh for what it is. Has elegance and airiness, a sense of light-on-its-feet. This is surely very good but again impossible to criticise fairly. Great length, a bit aggressive in acidic terms ; seems marginally too soft for a true Palo (some PX here as well?). Strange marzipanny elegance difficult to pin down. Perhaps lacks a bit of substance and definition. But an very interesting wine no doubt.

González Byass Oloroso Millennium
This is an extremely expensive and limited blend of ten vintages from the 20th century ; I’ve reviewed that before so details should be in the archives. More beige than amber here. This starts again a bit varnishy but with a bit more finesse and lightness than the 1978 above. Amazing length and intensity in mouth, an impression of very solid, crystalline matter ; surely too expensive for what it is however, because the finish is not as multi-layered as in the best sherries and the acidity also seems a bit subdued. Also lighter in body than I remember. Not a great wine, it seemed to me again ; inferior to all and any vintage wines form González which in turn I have difficulty seeing among the best sherries available.

González Byass Pedro Ximénez Noé VORS
Starts typical, raisiny-figgy ; very viscous and syrupy in mouth, good length, reasonably fresh for what it is.

Abadía Retuerta Selección Especial VdT de Castilla 1999
75% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot. Aged in 18 months in mixed oak. Dry wood, some stale vegetables, pleasant and decent but nothing more.

Abadía Retuerta El Palomar VdT 1999
50% Tempranillo, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 months of Allier oak. More finesse here, though ith the same impression of slightly coarse old wood, seems a bit dried out ; some juiciness of fruit here, rather lean, decent length and some tannins on the finish but not really overwhelming.

Abadía Retuerta El Campanário VdT 1999
100% Tempranillo, 18 months of Limousin oak. Very dark. Still those old-woody notes, some dried fruit finesse, all the wines here are quite similar. Some balsamic vinegar showing, clearly warmer in style than the above. Pleasant but a bit hollow.

Abadía Retuerta Pago Negralada VdT 1999
100% Tempranillo with 2 years of French oak. Very dark again. A bit breadier and nuttier, also sweeter oak showing on the nose. But dry in mouth, juicy but a bit lean, the yields here would need reducing a bit. There is also a bcaony touch from the oak.

Abadía Retuerta Pago Valdebellón VdT 1999
100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 2 years of French oak. The colour, puzzlingly, is quite lighter than in the Tempranillo wines. Petrol and burnt tyres, hugely extracted but not very readable today. Perhaps a bit juicier and fresher than the Negralada ? Too much body, I thought.

Bodegas Primicia Rioja Curium 1998
Drunk without much analytical sense as a goodbye wine. I’ve no idea what this is but a serious heavy bottle. Medium purple. Cooked, buttery American oak, yet with some balance and finesse. Some dried fruit in the background. Petrolly sweetness and extract in mouth.

Portugal

João Portugal Ramos Tinta Caiada Vinho Regional Alentejano 2001
Medium dark purple. Lots of tyres and rubber on this nose, nothing great but quite concentrated and clearly a lot of effort in the winemaking here.

João Portugal Ramos Trincadeira VR 2001
A bit meatier and herbier on the nose with a note of roasted (burnt ?) herbs ; better juiciness though the overall profile seems quite similar.

João Portugal Ramos Aragonês VR 2001
Again a bit of petrol and varnish but sweeter marmaladey fruit ; slightly better length. This is quite good.

João Portugal Ramos Vila Santa VR 2001
From Cabernet, Trincadeira, Alicante and Aragonês. Darker purple. Stronger on the nose, yet showing some weakness on the palate, juicy and soft with only vague peppery flavours.

João Portugal Ramos Quinta da Viçosa Touriga Nacional-Merlot 2001
Barrel sample. Very good nose of sweet fruit, perhaps a bit neutral, some petrol or tyres extract but this is more precise and interesting than the preceding wines. Clearly interesting. Slightly hollow in mouth perhaps, seems to have potential for development but won't be great. But very good value at £10.

João Portugal Ramos Quinta da Viçosa Syrah-Trincadeira 2000
Barrel sample. This is also quite dark with some violet to the rim. Again petrolly-extracted, a bit stretched really, very modern and winemaking-centered ; drinking OK but the structure seems a bit hollow. Marginaly more convincing than the Touriga-Merlot.

João Portugal Ramos Fálua Sociedade de Vinhos Conde de Vimioso Reserva VR 2000
This is from another estate in Ribatejo : Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Aragonês. Softer and juicier on the nose than the two monsters above, marasca cherry, anise, liquorice, lighter in style and more varied aromatically. Quite nice.

João Portugal Ramos Marquês de Borba Reserva 2000
Quite dark and xtracted again. Muted nose, difficult to assess fairly, this also manages to find som fruit juiciness in mouth despigte the sheer weight. Lead-pencily austerity only showing on the finish. Confirms my impression from barrel samples earlier this year. Good wine.

Niepoort Douro Redoma Branco 2001
Good nose with notes of honey, wax and wet wool. Nothing terribly exciting in all fairness but pretty nice.

Niepoort Douro Redoma Rosé 2001
Good cool pink in the glass. Showing a bit meaty on the nose, again rather difficult to taste in these circumstances. Not much body but good structure, outstanding acidity for a Douro wine. Long. As convincing as the 2000.

Niepoort Douro Redoma 1999
A bit vinegary on nose, mouthfilling, long, quite convincing on the whole. Some meatiness to the fruit.

Niepoort Douro Batuta 1999
3,000 bottles released in this vintage (5,000 from 2000). Decanted 3.5 hours. Unpenetrable colour. Amazing sweet-rosey perfume, much more flowery than when famously tasted last May ; great sweetness and seductiveness on the palate while retaining vital levels of acidity ; some varnishy volatility showing as well. Huge mouth-drying tannins. Massive substance, some vanilla softness from the oak which also seemed a bit more forward than six months ago. Seems more structured and masculine today but surely great.

Niepoort White Port
A pure Malvasia Fina with an average age of 4 years. Pleasant, sweeter and more elegant than other white ports if not very different. A bit drying and austere-tannic in mouth. Good.

Niepoort Colheita 1987
Bottled in 2001. Very light orangey-beige, awkward colour. Sherried nose with a dry wood touch of tawny ports, notes of leather, quite evolved, hinting at greater age. Good acidity and length, quite sweet, with electrifying acidity. A bit to soft perhaps, fading on the finish. A good port.

Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage 1998
Bottled 2002. Quite dark colour. Almondy, rather extracted and strong, quite a bit of raisins and figs. Great acidity and length in mouth, surprisingly persistent. Finishes dry and tannic. Sheer impressive.

Niepoort Vintage 1987
Rather fading candy-ruby at rim. This is showing quite pungent and varnishy on the nose, plus dried wild game meat perhaps. Some dried currants finesse to the sweet syrupy character. Drinking nicely but not mindblowing.

Cockburn Tawny 10 Years Old
Light, very tawnied amaranth colour. Walnuts on the inviting nose, some red fruit. Really quite tasty in mouth, more balanced and linear than most 10 y.o. ports ; good acidity, no alcohol showing, no rough edges. Very convincing as always.

Cockburn Late Bottled Vintage 1996
Slightly fading colour but still quite dark. Some raisiny and evolved aromas, showing more age than expected for the vintage. Juicy and approachable in mouth, long, pungent acidity reminiscent of a dry wine. Good.

Cockburn Quinta dos Canais 2000
50% Touriga Nacional. This is compact and almondy on the nose, not giving much today; great almondy sweetness in mouth. Deserves attention.

Cockburn Vintage 2000
Black. Same almondy character on the nose but denser than the Canais; Mr. Côrte-Real thought this was corked but I did not see a problem. Substantial sweetness, not very long in mouth, showing flavours of liquorice and gummy cherry fruit.

Cockburn Vintage 1960
From magnum. Mr. Côrte-Real again mentioned this wasn't the best magnum of this wine he experienced, and urged me to return the next day to try another one, which I could not do. Still compact to the eye with a dominating amaranth-brownish hue. The nose was elegant and focused, with notes of rubber ; raw fruit with some bitterness in mouth, some liquorice. A good wine which is completely mature today.

Chile

Errázuriz Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2000
Quite leafy, fresh and green, serious substance with good length on the palate But a bit cooked and over-densified especially on the finish.

Errázuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Max Reserva 1999
Lots of bell-pepper and parsley, all in all quite leafy ; evident varietal character verging on caricature. mint and eucaplytus in mouth but decently balanced and drinkable.

Errázuriz Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 1998
Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc from older vines. Medium dark ; aromatically similar to the above, as metallic on the finish but a bit more precise and fuller on the nose. Good for a Chilean wine.

Errázuriz Viñedo Chadwick 1999
1st vintage of this Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Carmenère blend. Quite dense purple colour. This is more petrolly-extracted, showing some sherried notes of caramel and wood. Medium length, with tannins that could use more polish. Slightly tiresome really if objectively good ; has an easy-drinking juiceness despite the obvious length. Too expensive at £35.

Errázuriz Seña 1999
Grapes unknown, 15 months of oak. Very dark ith a bit of purple at rim. Still parsley- and nettle-like, no improvement here over the preceding wine if not for more accented juiciness. Fruity and vegetal character mixed. Drinks OK but not worth £45 for sure.

Other countries

Domaine du Castel (Israel) Blanc 2000
This Israeli estate has in operation since 1992. Vineyards are located 700 m above sea level. A 100% Chardonnay oaked for 12 months in 50% new barrels. Some tropical fruit, hinting at some true fruit richness but rather herbal and lettucey, anonymous despite the quite marked acids. Acceptable but little more.

Domaine du Castel Petit Castel Red 1999
60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in second-year Seguin-Moreau oak. Rather damp and unpleasant on the nose, as if stale, medicinal and slightly tart in mouth. Drinkable thanks to the juicy, lean register but the whole is rather uninteresting.

Domaine du Castel Red 1998
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, two years in new oak. Vines are young at 6 years, yields at 45 hl/ha ; the owner and winmaker Mr. Eli Ben-Zaken says he uses cold coaking techniques for this wine followed by 40 days of skin contact but not much pumping over, what he terms as « static winemaking ». Very dark, concentrated purple. Some finesse to the nose, though showing oak more than anything else. Pleasantly round in mouth, this is well-made and ambitious but not much is happening on the palate, not much length, and again seems a bit anonymous. Some sweetness to the fruit.

Ktima Kir-Yianni (Greece) Samarópetra VdP Flórina 2001
80% Roditis, 15% Sauvignon, 5% Gewürztraminer. Nice marmaladey nose with hints of grape gelée, slightly hollow in mouth however.

Ktima Kir-Yianni (Naoussa Xynómavro 1999
50% American and 50% French oak, 100% new but in various sizes. Rather light in hue. Strange vinegarish nose with notes of overcooked / burnt fruit confiture ; rather aggressive but the unpleasant notes do blow off rather quickly, leaving some dried mushrooms and a slightly reductive but soft, juicy, bright-spicy register typical of the variety. Palate mixing cherry and raisins, with excellent length. Powerful but refined structure. Individual and very interesting.

Ktima Kir-Yianni (Syrah VdP Imathia 2000
This is showing a lot of varnish on the nose, very good concentration but for the time being a bit too volatile, slightly overdone perhaps? But lighter on the palate than remembered when tasted from cask, meaty-sausagey oak masking the fruit. Pleasant but in objective terms far from the appeal of the Xynómavro above.

Tibor Gál (Hungary) Egri Chardonnay Labirintos 2000
13% alc., 18 months of Hungarian oak of own cooperage. Colour is a rather dark golden. Fat and oaky on the nose, warm (served quite warm also), pleasant, medium-long, with some acidity and juiciness but aromatically not terribly original or interesting.

Tibor Gál Egri Pinot Noir Labirintos 2000
13% alc., 100% new oak for 14 months. Honest Pinot colour. Dry wood and baked bread on the muted nose. Juicy, quite pleasant in mouth with some sweetness to the currantey fruit, but vague, finishing a bit thin and sausagey from the oak. Not very impressive.

Tibor Gál Egri Cabernet Franc 2000
100% new oak. Austere medium-dark purple. More leafy character with notes of bell-pepper, lettuce and parsley, backed by some currant jam sweetness and concentration. More convincoing than the Pinot for sure. Yet rather obvious in character, seems a bit too soft to be really serious. Not much definition.

Tibor Gál Egri Bikavér 2000
From Kékfrankós, Kadarka, Cabernet Franc a bit of Syrah. Colour as above; nose is also mildly volatile with notes of fresh cork rind and liquidized stems, not giving much fruit character. Clearly more acidic than the two above in mouth, hence better length and all in all more convincingly structured. Noteworthy among Hungarian wines although nothing I would go gaga about.



  Wojciech Bokowski prefers to write under the pen name "Nerval". He got the wine bug around 1998, after drinking a bottle of cheap 1995 Médoc. He has now co-written the first Polish wine guide, to be published later this year. He has travelled extensively throughout Europe, spending the last year in London to gain first-hand experience of the wine trade and taste thousands of wines for his book. His special interests include Italy, Portugal, Sherry, Champagne, sweet wines and Eastern Europe.


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