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60 wines from Berry Bros. & Rudd

By Tom cannavan, 11/02

What a fine tasting of 60 wines from the portfolio of Berry Brothers & Rudd. I have to say I do not remember a time when I rated so many wines (seven) as "outstanding", which is as good as it gets in my scoring system. The 1990 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill is a compelling example of how Champagne is sometimes desperately under-rated as a wine (albeit that you'll have to pay £75 to be compelled), and then wines like the Gruaud-Larose 1996 and Château Montelena 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon present such a contrast in excellence. Contrast again comes in the shape of Paolo Conterno's 1997 Barolo - with not a square inch of new oak to be found in the winemaking. Much more modestly priced are the twin stars of the 1996 Lynch-Moussas Pauillac at £18, and Ferdinand Richter's Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese 1999, which will leave you change from £9, yet will cellar for decades. Well done Berry Brothers & Rudd.

The tasting was not blind. Prices in pounds sterling (£10 = $15US = €15).

Champagne - dry white - sweet wine - red wine

Champagne

Billecart-Salmon, Blanc de Blancs NV - £32.95
Lovely meally nose, with lots of autolytic aromas and leafy, nettly notes over bruised apple fruit. Fine, persistent mousse, and a palate dominated by crisp, fresh apple and citrus fruit. Nicely balanced and long, this would probably benefit from a bit of cellaring to allow some tertiary development. Very good indeed.

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1990 - £75.00
Dom Ruinart is a relatively small house, producing 1.7 million bottles per annum. The nose is beautifully toffeed, with apple and subtly leesy, very ripe qualities. A mineral note too. Beautiful, thick, creamy mousse and a mouth-filling weight of rich fruit. Lots of dense, full, lemony flavours and a touch of biscuity depth. Concentrated and powerful, yet balanced and refined. Excellent/Outstanding.

Pol Roger cuvée Winston Churchill 1990 - £75.00
Savoury, lightly-oxidised, bruised pear and apple nose. Lovely downy, peach-skin notes and a definite nutty undertone. Soft, rolling, persistent mousse. Palate is gripped by gorgeous, quite fat, grapefruit and citrus fruit. Really scintillating on the tongue, with mineral and complex citrus acidity tautly-balanced against all sorts of nutty and peach kernel qualities. Fantastically long, where notes of ginger and toast emerge. Breathtaking and surely destined for legendary status. Absolutely outstanding.

dry white

Berrys' French Country White, Domaines Grassa - £4.55
Aromatic, with light, zesty, citrus fruit character and a touch of honey. Plenty of fruit sweetness on the palate, with a crisp edge of gooseberry. Very attractive at the price. Very good/very good indeed.

Pecan Stream (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2001 - £5.95
This has a nice nutty and buttery nose over light, elegant citrus fruit. The palate has a little meally richness, with apple fruit and green apple acidity. Crisp and easy to drink. Very good.

Arrowfield (Australia) Verdelho, Hunter Valley 2002 - £7.25
Buttery and rich on the nose, with tropical and pear fruit, some floral notes and some spice. It is grapefruity and tangy on the palate, perhaps a little pithy and bitter right in the finish. Good/very good.

Wairau Peaks (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2002 - £8.95
This has pungent, slightly smoky, green bean aromatics; herbal, but with hints of juicy gooseberry. The palate has racy, mouth-watering fruit. It still holds that herbal, grassy edge, but there is plenty of citrus and good acidity as well as decent length. Very good.

Domaine Ricard (Loire) Sauvignon de Touraine, Le Petiot 2001 - £5.75
This wine rests on its lees for six months, with an average vine age of 30 years. The nose is quite tight with mineral elements to the fore and some fruit salad nuances. The palate is quite full and surprisingly rich given the slightly muted nose, with plenty of ripe apple and refined citrus fruit. Long, classy, and very good.

Lis Neris (Italy) Pinot Grigio, Isonzo del Friuli 2001 - £9.95
Though fermented and matured exclusively in stainless steel, the nose almost suggests oak with a smoky, leesy richness and honeyed suggestion of buttered popcorn. There is nice peachy fruit, and the palate is rich and full-textured with fat lemony fruit, hints of apricot and a big dry rush of grapefruit into the finish. Very good indeed.

Peregrine (NZ) Pinot Gris, Central Otago 2001 - £9.75
Rudi Bauer is the Austrian born winemaker here. This is bold and ripe, even overripe with a pungent nose. Quite herbal, there are hints of asparagus and green bean, but plenty of fruit too. On the plate it has a thick, almost oily texture and is loaded with fruit and leesy richness. Powerful, long and dry into the finish with plenty of acidity. Very good indeed.

Domaine Ferraton (Rhône) St. Joseph Blanc, Les Oliviers 1999 - £12.95
This wine is made in open wooden vats with turn of the century vertical basket presses. It has a gorgeous, honeyed, toffeed nose that is lush with scents of pineapple and juicy nectarine. There's lots of buttery richness, and a hint of spice. The palate is rich and full with rounded, spearmint-edged apple and peach fruit. It is powerful and concentrated, with searing alcohol intensity, but it is not overbearing. Supercharged stuff, and excellent of its style.

Waterford (South Africa) Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2001 - £9.75
Nutty and quite toasty, with sesame-seed and deep, peachy, ripe melon fruit. There are hints of tropical star-fruit and mango. It is full and rich, with plenty of acidity defining pear and peach fruit. The texture is rich, and it has good length. Very good/very good indeed.

Avila (California) Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo 2000 - £10.95
Aged in French oak, the nose is smoky and gently toasty, but quite restrained with some apricot and melon fruit. There's a definite smoky quality. Lots of melon and white fruit on the palate, a hint of orange, and a buttery texture. Overripe, quite Burgundian suggestions of overripe, almost cabbagy fruit. Quite complex and good length. I liked this. Very good indeed.

Domaine Denuziller (Burgundy) Mâcon-Solutré 2000 - £7.45
I made a very unflattering note on this, mentioning green, herby fruit and a little dirtiness. A short while later the buyer of this wine withdrew it and the remaining bottle as they were not in good condition.

Domaine Denuziller (Burgundy) Pouilly Fuissé, Les Clos 2000 - £12.75
Quite subdued, typical nose of gentle melon fruit, just a hint of honey, and a minerality at its core. Citrus aromas carry though to the palate, with some richness emerging, but it stays pretty steely and focused. There is a long, lemony core of fruit. This has plenty of punch. Very good indeed.

Jean-Marc Bouley (Burgundy) Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2000 - £9.95
This adds a minty hint of new oak to ripe, but fairly restrained fruit. It has good sweetness as it strikes the palate, with hints of juicy tangerine and peach. It is really quite powerful, and punches through to an impressively long finish. Very good indeed.

Jean-Claude Martin (Burgundy) Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2000 - £12.95
This estate practices culture raisonée, which stops short of organic viticulture, but uses minimal fertilisers and sprays. This has a deliciously nutty, toasty, concentrated nose with fruit and mineral aromas. The palate is flooded by citrus fruit which is racy and elegant, yet that concentrated, powerful core pushes through into a long, savoury finish. Needs a little time perhaps, but very good indeed.

Daniel Defaix (Burgundy) Chablis, 1er Cru Les Lys 1997 - £19.95
Defaix's Chablis is unoaked, but remains on its lees in tanks for at least 18 months before being bottled. This maturing wine has a lovely limpid quality with a suggestion of honeysuckle, honey, barley-sugar and pear. Rich, weighty, textured palate has some lusciousness, but also quite refined with pear and citrus dominating the flavour. Fine acidity and length. Excellent.

Patrick Javillier (Burgundy) Bourgogne Blanc, Cuvée Oligocene 1999 - £15.45
£16 for a Bourgogne Blanc seems hefty, but then the nose immediately offers complex, creamy, toasty, butterscotchy aromas over sweet-edged, ripe fruit. The dominant force on the palate is that ripe melon and rich, nutty apple fruit. There is good acidity and a long, balanced finish. Very good indeed.

Château Montelena (California) Chardonnay 1999 - £23.95
The nose is flooded with nutty, toasty richness, with notes of almonds, fig and honey. The palate is full and sweet, with concentrated flavours and plenty of punchy acidity. There's plenty of richness and toastiness fattening out the mid-palate, with buttery fruit hinting at tropical sweetness. Balanced and with lovely length, this is excellent.

Arthurs Creek (Australia) Chardonnay, Yarra Valley 2000 - £14.95
Quite overripe, with a slightly vegetal nose and apple and toffeed notes. There's a very sweet edge to the fruit on the palate, with plenty of unctuous tropical fruit: guava, lychee and fig. Powerful and concentrated, this is long, and some scintillating citrus acidity gives balance. Very good indeed/excellent.

Domaine Matrot-Wittersheim (Burgundy) Meursault 2000 - £25.95
Vines here are around 30-year old, and new oak is limited to around 10% of barrels. It has a big, nutty, leesy, oatmeally nose with a toasty edge to quite clean orchard fruit. The palate has fine, juicy, quite a chewy depth of tangerine fruit that is quite tight and savoury. Good weight and texture, this is balanced and very good indeed.

Patrick Javillier (Burgundy) Meursault, Les Tillets 2000 - £25.25
Clive Coates refers to Patrick Javillier as the 'King of Meursault'. The nose is certainly very refined, with notes of hazelnut, ground almond, light toast and super-concentrated, ripe fruit. There are notes of spice and a savoury, mineral grip on the palate. Pear and apple fruit and a broad, sweeping raft of acidity. Concentrated and yet elegant, this is very good indeed.

Jean-Michel Gaunoux (Burgundy) Meursault 1999 - £17.95
Meally and melony, with ripe fruit and only a background suggestion of sweet oak. There's a minty hint on the palate, perhaps oak or just the concentration of sweet orchard fruits. Lovely acidity, with plenty of bite and good length. Nice quality here, and very good indeed.

J.J. Prüm (Germany, M-S-R) Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 1999 - £13.45
Manfred Prüm is the current "winemaker of the year" and the wines are unfailingly impressive. This is intense, with striking mineral and slate character on the nose. Stunningly complex, with minerals, ripe apple fruit, lime and an oily, waxy note. Very concentrated on the palate. Lovely sweetness of fruit suggesting tangerine, peach skins and citrus. Weighty and delicious, a tight, focused mineral acidity extends the finish. Excellent.

Max Ferdinand Richter (Germany, M-S-R) Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese 1999 - £8.75
Much more peachy, figgy and rich, with pear and hints of cinnamon and toast. Quite explosive this. Lovely waxy quality on the palate, with immense sweetness and that core of rich, oily fruit tugged along by crunchy acidity. Lovely balance and length, and really excellent - possibly deserves an outstanding rating at this price.

sweet wine

Cave Spring Cellars (Canada) Indian Summer Late Harvest Riesling 2000 - £13.95 37.5cl
Situated in Niagara, fermentation is in stainless steel at low temperature and can last two months. Fine, fine quality here immediately obvious on the nose. Lovely, bright, peach and pear fruit with a warm nutty quality, displaying a gloriously lush, apricot kernel core. Good backbone of acidity on the palate, with weighty tangerine and apricot fruit. Viscose and mouth-coating, this has delicious balance and great length. Excellent.

Cave Spring Cellars Twenty Valley Vidal Ice Wine 2001 - £24.45 37.5cl
Grapes for this cuvée are bought-in and pressed at a temperature of -10°C. There's a slightly dull, oxidised note on the nose there that doesn't sing for me. There are hints of apricot and orange, a nuttiness, but a rather muted character. Rich and very honeyed on the palate, with fig and quince fruit and lots of power. Concentrated and lush, this has good balance and length, but I do not prefer it to the riesling which is half the price.

Château Doisy-Daëne (Bordeaux) Barsac 1996 - £27.00
100% Semillon, Doisy-Daëne also make a terrific dry white, but this is their sweet Barsac. Lovely, gentle botrytis nose. Lots of ripe, honeyed fruit with little toffee and marmalade notes and hints of leaf-tea and marzipan. Delightful palate which has medium richness and plenty of ripe, luscious nectarine and figgy fruit with lovely acid structure and length. Delightful stuff for drinking now and over five years or so. Very good indeed/excellent.

Monte del Frà (Italy) Passito Bianco del Veneto 2000 - £12.95 37.5cl
A mix of indigenous and international grapes, including Garganega, Trebbiano, Tocai di Soave, Cortese, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes are placed in wooden boxes until February or March after harvest and are then pressed. The wine spends a year in barrique before bottling. It has a delicious nose of marmalade and honey, with dark, figgy, toasty depth. The palate is powerful and equal dark and inviting, with Muscavado sugar, apricot and sweet, floral-tinged highlights. Pithy, acidity is powerful in the finish and brings this up a little short perhaps, but very good indeed.

Massimo Romeo (Italy) Vin Santo di Montepulciano 1990 - £36.95 37.5cl
Vines here are up to 100-years old and include the little known Pulcinculo (20%) as well as the better-known Trebbiano (10%) and Malvasia (70%). This wine spends 120 days drying on mats before no less than seven years ageing in oak hogsheads. Quite rancio, with nutty, walnutty, butter and leesy notes merged with raisin, fig and then darker Muscavado and Seville orange notes. Most intriguing. The palate is dark and mysterious, with a suggestion of Marmite, more raisiny fruit, apricot and lots of swirling, darkly-layered flavours. Toasty notes emerge and it has good balance. Long and lingering, this is something special and excellent.

red wine

Badia di Morrona (Italy) Chianti, I Sodi del Paretaio 2000 - £6.75
Lovely, bright, focused cherry and mineral nose with a crisp fruit profile. There is plenty of zippy, brisk, tangy cherry fruit with hints of background earth and tobacco. Very nice Chianti in traditional style. Very good indeed.

Domaine Dubost (Beaujolais) Brouilly, La Bruyère 2001 - £9.75
This is Dubost's flagship wine, made from 75-year old vines. 2001 is not reckoned to be a great Beaujolais year, but this Cru wine has a fine, cherry-infused nose with charry, earthy, truffly qualities showing through. There seems to be a really good depth of earthy berry fruit. On the palate it is quite taut and muscular, with a solid core of cherry fruit. Very attractive wine, with good balance. Very good indeed.

Domaine Bertagna (Burgundy) Hautes Côtes de Nuits 1998 - £9.95
I've always quite liked this wine since recommending the 1996 several years ago. This displays a touch of sweet, minty new oak over ripe fruit. There's an almost cassis quality here. The palate is fruit-driven and fresh, with glossy, crisp black fruit and quite a powerful style. This is stylish and drinking well. Very good/very good indeed.

Jacques Cacheux (Burgundy) Vosne-Romanée 1999 - £19.95
Tight, cherry and a mineral nose. Really compact and focused, with barely detectable oak. Serious, sinewy style here, with a concentrated palate of black fruit and raspberry, backed by grippy tannins. This has good fruit and structure, but needs time. Very good indeed.

Domaine Bertagna (Burgundy) Vougeot 1er Cru Les Cras 1999 - £32.45
Quite a lush, round, impressively powerful nose with plenty of red fruit. Kirsch-like qualities. The palate is serious and dense, brimming with spice-edged red fruit that is ripe and generous. This has impressive length and the balance to last, and is very good indeed, and I'd expect it to fill-out and be excellent given a few years cellaring.

Bertrand Ambroise (Burgundy) Nuits-St. Georges 1996 - £17.25
Based in Premeaux, this wine is neither fined nor filtered and is matured in barriques, most of which are new. Huge, but fine coffee-bean and vanillin infused nose over sweet black fruit and lots of earthy, berried richness. The palate is concentrated, with more coffee flavour beneath cherry and blackberry fruit. This is gripped by tannins, which along with juicy cherry acidity suggest that it still needs and will benefit from some time. Very good indeed.

Somerset Hill (Australia) Pinot Noir, Denmark 2000 - £10.95
Gentle, soft, fudge-like quality on the nose, with strawberry fruit and spice, hints of bracken. Sweet fruit dominates the palate, which is powerful and dense, with a punchy weight of fruit and tangy acidity freshening a long finish. Very good indeed.

King Estate (Oregon, USA) Pinot Noir 1999 - £12.95
This has fine, charry, earth and mineral notes on the nose with some deep, smoky oak and a little hint of minerality. Again, quite sweet and fudgy. Lush, ripe fruit on the palate - very sweet with delightful strawberry and raspberry fruit that is concentrated and tangy. Tight-grained tannins and good acidity. Very good indeed, almost makes excellent.

Mount Edward (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2001 - £23.75
Concentrated, silky. coffee-edged aromas to berries and blackcurrant fruit. There's a little black chocolate and vanilla depth. The palate here is really very concentrated and grippy with tight tannins wrapped around a solid core of red fruit. There's a hint of a liquorice toughness at the heart of this, and a sinewy edge. Very powerful, this seems a touch less open and elegant than I've found previous vintages to be. Maybe needs time, but for now only rates as very good indeed.

Monte Verde (Chile) Merlot, Maipo Valley 2000 - £5.95
Nice Merlot nose with some cedar and cool, minty, menthol nuances to ripe, sweet black fruit. The palate is chewy and dense, with a mouthful of black cherry and blackcurrant defined by crisp tannins. This avoids any hint of commercial jamminess and, for the price, is excellent.

Barnwood Vineyards (California) Merlot, Santa Barbara County £12.95
This Merlot adds a schisty, tight, mineral edge to taut, muscular and compact fruit: focused blackcurrant and a charcoally note that continue through to the palate. Good concentration, a sheen of tight tannin and acidity, and good length. Very good indeed.

Avila (California) Zinfandel, Santa Barbara County 2000 - £10.95
Notes of pepper and a slightly metallic, tough, steely character adding an edge to leather, old polished wood and black fruit. The palate is similarly chewy and tough, with a big, meaty, dense mouthful of fruit. Tannins are tight and keep the wine very focused, with crisp acidity. Very good indeed, but not really my style.

Berrys' Margaux (Bordeaux) N.V. £12.95
This is a new wine in the "Berry's Own" range of wines. Sourced from very good Margaux estates, it is a blend of the 1999 and 2000 vintages. It has an immediately attractive, gamy, animal perfume with good red cherry fruit, a hint of mineral and little violet nuances. Very Margaux! The palate doesn't disappoint, with lovely cherry and redcurrant fruit and a nice balance, with well-defined tannin and acid structure. I'm surprised by this - very good indeed and lovely claret for drinking now.

Château de Cazeneuve (France) Les Calcaires, Pic-Saint-Loup 2000 - £9.25
The blend here is 90% Syrah, with the remainder Grenache and Mourvèdre. This has a bright, schisty, mineral nose with emerging scents of deep, smoky leather, pepper and concentrated black fruit. The palate is similarly tight and focused, with crunchy, crisp black fruit and a grip of shiny-tough tannins. Impressive and will need time. For now, very good indeed.

Bodegas Rodera-Villa (Spain) Reserva Ribera del Duero 1998 - £16.95
80% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon goes into this wine, which has an opulent, showy, full-on nose of sweet briarwood, old roses, and aromatic cherry and violet. There's an underpinning of coffee and mint, with lots of layered intensity. This is very fine on the palate. There is great concentration, with a huge core of sweet black fruit, but little savoury notes of game and leather persist, and toastiness joins solid tannins in the finish. Good balance, and good length. Excellent.

Bava (Italy) Barbera d'Asti Superiore, 'Piano Alto' 1997 - £18.95
Big 1,500 litre French oak casks are used here, not small (225 litre) barriques. This has a very serious, fine, classy nose of cedar and sweet black fruit, with little mocha-coffee hints. Fine, sweet, juicy fruit on the palate too: cassis and spice, with some earthy nuances. Fine, fine definition and length, with ripe tannins and freshening acidity. Very good indeed/Excellent.

Boscarelli (Italy) Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999 - £13.95
Minty sweetness on the nose here, with damson fruit and elegantly-wrought cherry and raspberry notes. The palate has a lovely savoury appeal, with sour cherry and plum giving a delicious, lip-smacking quality. Medium-bodied, there is good balance and a lingering finish. Excellent.

Badia di Morrona (Italy) VignAalta, Colli Etruria Centrale 1998 - £18.95
100% Sangiovese matured in new oak, which immediately gives toasty, deep, chocolate and espresso notes. There is a briarwood and tobacco richness, and berry fruit. The palate is svelte, with plenty of vanilla and ripe, juicy cherry fruit. There's more of that mellow woodsmoke and tobacco warmth, before hefty - but ripe - tannins kick in to give a chocolaty depth on the finish. Very good indeed/excellent.

Paolo Conterno (Italy) Barolo, DOCG, Monforte d'Alba 1997 - £37.95
Stainless steel fermentation for this wine, from the estate of Paulo Conterno who, as far as I know, is no relation to the better-known superstar of Barolo, Aldo Conterno. This has a fabulous nose that is intense and sweet with glimpses of violets and wild flowers, tarry notes, damson, blueberry and a seductive, svelte, compact roundness. On the palate it is tight and powerful, with muscular character but beautiful fruit. It fills the mouth with plums, cherry and chocolate flavours, a herbal note and fine, sweet tannins. There is excellent balance and length. Outstanding.

Domaine Ferraton (Rhône) Côte-Rôtie 1999 - £23.40
This Biodynamic vineyard has produced a wine with a bright, focused, pepper and sweet black fruit nose. There's a shiny, old polished wood gloss to this wine, with little cedary nuances. Dense and mouthfilling texture, with plenty of tight, focused black fruit and good structure, with firm tannins and a very stylish mid-palate and finish, showing good balance and length. Excellent.

Waterford (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 1999 - £11.95
Ripe, minty, mulberry and deep, black cherry nose with hints of coconut and chocolate. The palate is lush and minty-ripe again, with a lovely core of sweet cassis fruit and ripe, sweet tannins. Good acidity and balance, and this finishes with plenty of purity in a ripe, modern style. Very good indeed.

Château Larmande (Bordeaux), Grand Cru Classé, St. Emilion 1997 - £22.95
Stainless steel fermentation is followed by oak barrique maturation (50% new) for 16-18 months. Michel Rolland is now a consultant here. There is a nice sense of minerality on the nose, with a set of tight, kirsch-like cherry, plum and blackcurrant aromas. The palate displays plenty of ripe fruit, underpinned by cedar and coffee. It is really quite grippy, with a sinewy meatiness, but no lack of fruit. Well-balanced and stylish, this is another fine 1997 for drinking now or over five years.

Château Lynch-Moussas (Bordeaux) 5eme Cru, Pauillac 1996 - £18.00
This was an absolute favourite of mine when
tasted on release, and I bought a half case of it. Four years later and it has a gorgeous coffee and bloody, animal nose. Lovely complexity of vegetal fruit, game and blackcurrant fruit. Really quite arresting. The palate has fine definition, with a sweet core of fruit: complex layers of black fruits. There is good structure and fine length - a little star of a claret. Excellent, and can be considered outstanding at the price. Will cellar for eight years+.

Château Gruaud-Larose (Bordeaux) 2ème Cru, St. Julien 1996 - £45.00
Profound, deep, gamy nose. There's a great bloody, almost inky depth on the nose, with fat, herb-tinged cassis fruit. The palate has a gorgeous quality. There is fine fruit here, and a creamy core of blue/black fruity depth. Wonderful concentration and length, with coffee notes and grippy tannins. This needs time, but has such presence. Outstanding.

Château Montelena (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - £68.75
Quite a dominant impression of concentrated, sweet, vanillin oak. Minty ripe, the fruit is dense and rich with a compact, powerful character. the palate is intensely concentrated too, with a great drying quality of deep blue/black fruit that is bittersweet, and massive tannins drying the mouth. This is layered with plum and blackcurrant fruit, and stays powerfully focused into a long finish. Outstanding. I see now that Robert Parker rates this 96-98 and suggests three decades of evolution. I wouldn't argue.

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