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Miscellaneous notes, 1999



Tasting notes from other years are available from links at the bottom of the page.

Santa Carolina (Chile) Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
This is a dark, lush crimson black. The nose is suffused with sweet, ripe oaky vanilla and spice beneath an absolute raft of crunchy blackcurrant fruit. There is a lovely dense, savoury quality on the palate with more blackcurrant fruit but some nice bitter-sweet cherry and black olive nuances. It has a big, chunky tannic structure though it is by no means clumsy. There is moderate acidity, the overall impression being creamy, ripe and rich. This has great personality and is impressive and well balanced stuff. Currently available from www.payneandrayner.co.uk at £120 per dozen. (12/99)
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Landmark (California) "Overlook" Chardonnay 1996
The colour is a deep, glowing gold. The sensational, pungent nose is leesy and toasty with charred oak and a mass of unctuous figgy fruit. There are nuances of Jack Daniels whiskey barrels. On the palate there are buttery flavours of brazil nuts, cinnamon and orchard fruits with a clean, mineral streak through the centre. Succulent through good acidity, this is flamboyant and delicious stuff. Currently in Oddbins UK at £12.99 ($20). (12/99)
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Temple Bruer (Australia, Langhorne Creek) Merlot Reserve 1995
Temple Bruer's Shiraz/Malbec was a recent "wine of the week" so nice to have a chance to taste another of their wines. This merlot has a dark, dense colour and a very sweet, minty, pure berry fruit nose with hints of dark chocolate. On the palate it is less flashy, with a more reserved character though still plenty of ripe berry and plum fruit. The tannins are fine and dusty and the acidity is moderate making it food-friendly and easy to drink. Another very nice wine from this producer. (11/99)

Lecomber et Fils Champagne NV
This Champagne has a fine, yeasty nose that is nettly and fresh, yet has good richness. The palate is balanced between tangy lemon fruit and a rounder, creamy, autolytic character. The mousse is fine but persistent, and it has plenty of fresh lemony acidity without being at all tart. A nice grower's Champagne that offers considerable finesse. This is the house Champagne of Park Lane Champagne (see Merchants) (11/99)
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Château Labégorce (Margaux) 1982
First bottle I've had from this large-scale, well-regarded producer. This wine has a good healthy, though browning colour. The nose is most unMargaux-like, with a straightforward, cedary, old drawer-linings set of aromas, tobacco and subdued black fruit notes. The palate is a mature mouthful of the same. Very soft and spicy in the finish, there are barely discernible tannins though it is quite long and drying only slightly. An enjoyable if unexciting old claret. Drink soon. (08/99).

Yarra Valley Hills (Australia) Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 1998
Pale to medium gold with green. Very, very leafy, nettly, herbal bouquet before sour, ripe melon fruit with notes of quince and lime. Very rich, palate-flooding mouthfeel with high alcohol and full body. There is plenty of ripe, juicy fruit of pear and melon and a vibrant citrus acidity into a long clean and pure finish. A fairly serious £8.99 (Oddbins UK), but it is a very impressive wine, the semillon adding a sensuous depth to the sauvignon. (08/99)
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Lustau (Spain) Almacenista Palo Cortado Vides Sherry
Very pale tawny, lemon on rim. Ravishing nose of marmalade oranges, walnuts and butter. Palate is finely delineated with nut, prune and orange flavours, a wonderfully silky mouth-feel and superb length. A fine, beautifully poised sherry (served blind)
Available in Oddbins Fine Wine at time of writing for around £10. (07/99).

Chalone (California) Estate Bottled Pinot Blanc 1996
Very fresh, delicate nose with citrus and flowers, notes of mineral salts and cool apple fruit. Palate is quite opulent and just off-dry. There is lots of intense peachy fruit and some definite spice. There is plenty of acidity to cut through the weight of fruit and alcohol. Very good (07/99).

Vega Sicilia (Spain, Ribero del Duero) "Unico" 1970
Deep, glossy ruby colour just lightening on rim. Classic claret nose. Serious, complex aromas of cedar and blackcurrant, pencil-shavings, vanillin and spice. The fruit is rich and very sweet, and there's a tobacco note too. Very attractive. There is ripe berry fruit on the palate. Beautifully silky and medium-bodied this has superb balance with lovely rich cassis fruit and sweet oaky tannins. Fantastic ripeness of fruit. It is very, very long and focused with a tremendous sense of harmony and purity. I'm pretty sure this is classy Pauillac from a great, ripe year, maybe 1990 or '85. Guess: Lynch-Bages 1990? (07/99)
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This, one of Spain's greatest wines, was sprung on me blind on an otherwise relaxing social occasion - nice friends! :-) Since then I have been ribbed mercilessly on being half wrong on the grapes, 100% wrong on the country, and two decades out on vintage! If anyone else has the chance to taste this fabulous and rare wine, I'll hope you'll agree the mistake is easily made! From the colour, to the youthful fruitiness, to the superb structure and finesse, a fine, fine wine in a claret style that easily lived up to its legendary reputation.

Laurent-Perrier (Champagne) "Grande Siècle"
This Champagne is the luxury cuvée of Laurent-Perrier, a blend of 3 or more of their finest vintage wines. It has minute bubbles which rise in a persistent, steady stream. The nose is very fresh, with fine lemony fruit and a little pillow of bready, nutty notes beneath. On the palate the mousse is very refined and creamy, but the wine retains its fresh and delicate character. There is lovely balance. Apple and citrus fruit gives way to a very pure acidity and lightly toasted flavour in the very long finish. My first experience of this wine. Really very impressive. (07/99)
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Cave Spring (Canada) Riesling Icewine 1990
(Served blind). Medium/dark, glowing gold. Very concentrated aromas of honey, peach and sweet, zesty lime. Botrytis. The palate has rich botrytis flavours, flooded with peach and apricot fruit, nuances of fig, melon and long, long, sweet finish. Medium bodied, but silky and glycerine-rich, this is balanced and lovely. Really very good. 7 or 8 year old German Riesling TBA? (06/99)
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Blaauwklippen Estate (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon 1987
Ruby red, but pale and browning slightly. Intense, quite minty nose of blackcurrant and some spice. There is depth, and on the palate juicy black fruit flavours, a nice earthy, vegetal note developing. The tannins have subsided completely, acidity is barely discernible and the whole wine is now sweet, quite long and very enjoyable. New world Bordeaux style, 1986/87? (tasted blind) (06/99)

Domaine Dujac (Burgundy) Echézeaux Grand Cru 1989
At the Peat Inn, a chance to drink again the wine that was my "Red Wine of the Year" 1997 and which I last tasted 2 years ago. The wines of Dujac are full of finesse and are simply gorgeous in a sensual, deep, aromatic style. These wines are understated and never blockbusters, which can confuse certain critics. Along with Domaine d'Arlot, for whom Domaine Dujac's wine-maker Jacques Seysess was mentor and inspiration, this is undoubtedly one of my favourite Burgundy producers. The bouquet of this wine is of crushed raspberry and cherry, coffee and caramel, truffles and forest floor. On the palate it is medium bodied and silky smooth with a mouthfilling, enveloping raft of spicy, soft, sweet and sour fruit and a long, pure, finish. Full of ever-shifting subtlety, this is a beautiful wine - though perhaps now on a plateau of maturity and for drinking over the next 5 years. (06/99)

Mas de Daumas Gassac (Languedoc) 1989
Bright ruby colour, little sign of age. Wonderfully "classic" claret nose of cedar and blackcurrant with some herbal, leafy tobacco notes. Very elegant palate showing firm tannins constraining blackcurrant and cherry fruit, interesting mineral notes and nuances of olives, bracken and cigar box. Long, with finesse and great balance. Very impressive. First time I've had the chance to taste a nicely mature bottle of this wine (this was from a half, so maybe a little more mature than a full bottle, but still with 10 years ahead of it). (05/99)

Jean-Noel Gagnard (Burgundy) Chassagne-Montrachet 1995
Pale/medium gold. Luscious nose of butter, syrup, lemon and sweet oak. Palate is full-bodied and silky with rich buttery fruit, but nice mineral edges that keep it sharp and interesting. Acidity is well integrated and vanillin flavours show up in the finish. Long and poised, this is opulent and delicious yet has a little savoury complexity. Very good village wine indeed, drinking beautifully now from the half. (05/99)

Wirra Wirra (Australia) Scrubby Vale Semillon 1994
This beautifully packaged wine is from Wirra Wirra's premium "Vineyard Series" range. It has a tiny production (less than 200 cases) and is made from a parcel of selected old vines. It was aged in French oak barriques and given a very "hands-off" vinification. It has a deep burnished gold colour and a sensational nose of figs, toast, quince and butter. The heady aromatics lead to an oily, richly-textured palate displaying pure melon fruit with a luscious honeyed edge. It is chewy and savoury, really long and beautifully balanced. Distinctive and quite brilliant. (05/99) (£15/$24 Oddbins Fine Wine at time of writing).
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Domaine Michelot (France, Burgundy) Meursault Charmes 1997
Pale gold colour. Nose totally dominated by heavily charred oak. Aromas of almost-burnt toast and beneath, glimpses of butter and tropical fruit. On the palate good weight, and again, swamped with oak, but there is considerable depth too of ripe pear fruit, lovely round buttery flavours and a long, creamy finish that also has a nice balance with citrus acidity. There are subtle nuances of complexity: nuts and chewy, meaty flavours. This is quite classy. Very good potential (04/99 available for £33.99 from Oddbins Fine Wine, UK)

Castello di San Polo in Rosso, Chianti Classico Riserva 1995
Very dense, bright crimson colour. Nose of cherry, almond and tar, cedar and sandalwood. Hints of violets and incense. Classy, cool and restrained palate with more bitter cherry and plumskin fruit. There is a very tight structure with sharp lemony acidity that is rather impenetrable at present, but there is a lot of quality here. Good for a few years too. Currently available in UK Supermarket Sainsbury at £8.49. (04/99).
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Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1989
Beautiful, mature red-oxide/ochre colour. Absolutely stunning nose: bouquet soars from the glass, of aromatic violets, blackberries, fragrant herbs and spices, perfume and mint. Such a depth too, with chocolate notes and beautifully counter-balancing aromas of barnyard, vegetation and forest-floor. On the palate lush and mouth-filling with complex flavours of rich blackcurrants, raspberries, more chocolate and pepper. Gorgeous, enveloping tannins add definite structure, as does a base of well-integrated acidity. All is in harmony and the finish is very long, with sweet, ethereal flavours continuing. The bouquet on this wine is amongst the most seductive and impressive I have ever experienced, and the palate doesn't let it down. Drinking now and for 10 years. Superb. (03/99)
Some good and generous friends brought this to dinner. They served it blind, so I'm glad I was suitably impressed - this is acknowledged as one of the great Rhônes, rated 97 by both Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator!

Bonterra (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
This wine, made from organically farmed grapes has a very dark, dense crimson colour. Wonderfully intense blackcurrant nose, sweet and cassis-like. Palate has cool, minty, blackcurrant fruit and a nicely creamy weight. There is something of a cedary complexity, but basically it is straightforward and easy-to-drink with lovely fruit, good length and no harsh acid or tannic edges. (02/99)
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Big Frank's "Seriously Sticky" Maury N.V.
A whole range of interesting "Big Frank" wines is available in the UK. Though many are Vins de Pays from the South of France, this is a wine from AC Maury, home of France's answer to Port. Maury is a Vin Doux Naturel (a sweet fortified wine) made from Grenache. This example has an intriguing ruby/tea colour that is tawny but light. The nose has sweet violet and raspberry aromas and a definite nutty, clove and spice edge. Closer to "Rancio" in style, there is good, soft fruit and chocolate on the palate, but plenty of older, sherried flavours. It retains a nice balance of sweetness though and has a long, satisfying finish. Worth trying at around £6 ($10) per 50cl. (02/99)
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Rolly-Gassmann (Alsace), Riesling 1993
Alsace Riesling is often my choice when trying to match a range of dishes, in this case 4 different starters ranging from a chicken and roast garlic mousse, to a spinach and nutmeg roulade. The colour is a glowing light-gold. Nose is very flowery and aromatic, with only a hints of waxy, petrolly aromas. On the palate a soft and peachy style. Flavours are crystal-clear with a great sense of purity. There's a hint of sweetness and medium body. Barely noticeable acidity is fine, but offers excellent balance. Finishes well with a shimmering, glassy purity. This is not a wine of great complexity, though it is lovely nonetheless. (02/99)

Bodegas Faustino Martínez, Rioja Reserva "Faustino V" 1994
dark, glossy cherry-red colour. Nose is all black fruit, liquorice and pepper with sweet-oak in the background. Lovely chewy, biting, bitter-cherry and prune flavours with smoke and spice but mainly bitter-sweet fruit and a sheen of vanilla. Tannins and acidity are in balance. Lovely stuff without any pretence to be more than a savoury, gutsy mouthful for drinking now. (01/99).

Château Petits Arnauds (Bordeaux) Premières Côtes de Blaye 1994
The Premières Côtes de Blaye is the most northerly Appellation of the Bordeaux region. It makes some fine, inexpensive reds. This wine has a soft, ruby-red colour and a sweet, inviting nose of earthy, merlot-dominated fruit. On the palate the wine is very soft and delicious with a strawberies and cream fruit and a nice old-leather polish. It is very easy-to-drink and charming. An excellent minor claret for current drinking. Look out for this Appellation. (01/99).

Mount Ida (Australia) Shiraz 1996
Dense, dark, purple/black colour. Intense, pure, ripe nose with mulberry, cloves and treacle. A huge depth of dusty blueberry and bramble fruit with a minty, almost basil-leaf, smoke and pepper intensity. Long and pure. It has that creamy density of fruit and soft, ripe tannins that epitomises top Australian Shiraz. Very good indeed. (01/99)

Casablanca (Chile) "Neblus" Chardonnay 1996
This unusual wine from the highly respected Ignacio Recabarren is made with 60% of the grapes affected by Botrytis. It is described on the label as "medium-dry", but I found it to be just off-dry. Quite a dark, golden colour. Nose is deeply hued with toasty, charred oak, butterscotch and a liquorice with fig and melon fruit notes. On the palate there is a definite sweet edge to white fruits and fat, chewy oak flavours, with nuances of banana and pineapple. This sweetness is quickly swamped by orange and grapefruit acidity however. Rich and quite complex with an overall character not unlike a white Burgundy from a super-ripe vintage, it is also rather disjointed and tends to fall between two stools, being neither sweet nor particularly food-friendly. Fascinating and well worth trying, if not entirely successful. (Current UK stockist is Oddbins Fine Wine at £4.99 per half bottle). (01/99)