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Miscellaneous notes, 2000

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

Domaine Denis Mortet (Burgundy) Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combe Dessus 1997
My final "restaurant wine" of the year, having drunk it just before Christmas. And what a stunningly good wine to finish on! Denis Mortet is a really hot property in Gevrey-Chambertin, where even his village wines are causing a stir. The wines are expensive (this is close to £30 retail), but on this showing justify the price. From a forward vintage, this dark-coloured, dense wine has a gorgeous nose; truly sumptuous, laden with berry fruit, brambles, exotic spice, vanilla and a gamy, beefy element. It is dark and velvety, and that impression continues on the palate where a deep seam of rich, fat, glycerine-thick fruit and mellow oak are the driving forces. The wine has good, ripe but not intrusive tannins and acidity is quite low. It is medium to full-bodied. The wine is chewy and savoury, the finish is very long and, despite the ripeness of fruit, oak and low acidity, it is beautifully composed and balanced. Not a style of red Burgundy that will please everyone, but an outstanding wine of its type in my opinion. I'm going to buy some of this for drinking over the next few years (12/00)

Errazuriz (Chile) Wild Ferment Chardonnay 1998
Is this South America's best Chardonnay? It certainly has to be in the running. I've tasted the wine many times over the last few vintages and very few other Chardonnays - from anywhere - can touch it at the price for sheer complexity and intrigue. The colour is pale to medium gold. The nose is nutty, yeasty, rich and dry with nuances of minerals and honey, figs and melon. The oak is subtle, adding a sweet vannilin softness. On the palate it is quite chewy with flavours of quince, fig and butter, peach and apricot fruit and again a nutty, herbal edge that adds a savoury quality. The texture is nicely creamy and the finish has enough acidity to keep it fresh, interesting, and pure. Errazuriz bottle this with a synthetic cork, so either they intend it to drink young, or they are more convinced than some of the long-term effectiveness of synthetics. Well worth trying. £8.99 Oddbins, Unwins (10/00)
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Jim Barry (Australia) Watervale Riesling 1999
Jim Barry is best known for the cult "Armagh", one of a handful of Grange-threatening super-Shiraz from Australia. This is a far quieter wine, and one I've been a big fan of for several vintages. It's a fairly serious style of Riesling, coming from the top quality Florita vineyard in the Clare Valley which, along with the Eden Valley, is Australia's premium Riesling country. It has a pale to medium straw/gold colour and a nose that is laden with lime fruit and waxy, lemon aromas. There are sweet little floral notes and just a hint of petrolly character, but the nose is essentially very fresh with a steely purity. On the palate it is gorgeously clean and elegantly-fruited, with more crunchy lime and apple and a slightly more generous ripe fruit layer adding flesh. Acidity is balanced and the finish is very long indeed. This is both delicious now, and structured to age. (09/00). At time of writing Oddbins Fine Wine are stockists of Jim Barry wines in the UK.

Silvio Jermann (Italy) Pinot Bianco 1998
Here's a lovely wine from Friuli-Venezia in the far Northeast of Italy, where some cracking cooler-climate whites give the lie to the belief that all Italian whites are simple, lemon-fresh quaffers. In many ways this wine has more in common with the wines of Alsace than some of its mundane cousins from the nearby plains of the Veneto. The colour is pale straw. The nose offers very fresh scents of citrus and a certain grassiness, but there are also much richer, more buttery notes of cream, hazelnut and peach as well as complex nuances of flowers and salts. The palate retains wonderful freshness of crisp fruit rounded out by an underlying soft acidity and a full-bodied, unctuous texture. The wine has great charm as well as balance and a bit of complexity. A real eye-opener for Italian white sceptics! (09/00). Available at time of writing from
Chandos Deli, price £12.49 - a couple of quid cheaper than other UK sources. Label image.

A. Kaufmann (Switzerland) Pio della Rocca 1998
This was a first for me: a Swiss red wine. It was served blind by a wine-loving friend who'd just returned from Geneva. The colour is a moderately deep ruby/crimson. On the nose quite savoury black fruit, some background charry oak and a certain mineral edginess. On the palate medium-bodied and a little lean. There is Bordeaux-like fruit and a cedary component, but it feels a little underpowered. There is some complexity, with hints at earth and minerals, and some dark fruit, but the whole impression is of a wine that has some really nice fruit, some good french oak, but which hasn't quite pulled it off in terms of structure and balance. Moderate tannins and decent finish. Good.
I guessed this was a minor claret. When the label was revealed I was - and still am - none the wiser. Classified as a Vino da Tavola from Svizzera Italiana on the Italian border, I can find no information on it - including what grape variety or blend it's made from. It cost around £15 from a specialist wine merchant and was sold as one of Switzerland's best reds. (08/00)
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Alain Brumont (France) Brumaire "Decembre" Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh 1990
Another rare and highly desirable wine at a relatively bargain price in a southern French restaurant. I am a huge fan of Brumont's sweet wines, especially the "Novembre" which is available in a few specialised outlets in the UK. I'd never before tasted the much more rare and expensive "Decembre", of which very little is produced. At £35 per 50cl ($50US) it would have been a bargain in any vintage, but as this was from the fabulous 1990 it really was a bit of a giveaway. I drank half of this with foie-gras as a starter and half with a tart tatin dessert. The colour is a very deep, burnished orange/gold. The nose has beautiful botrytis (not a feature of the Novembre usually) and sweet aromas of orange and quince, flowers and summer fruit. On the palate it is full and luscious, the flavours though quite light with only a honeyed edge to more marmalade orange, apricot and delicate, sweet white fruit. There's an intriguing marzipan note too and the wine finishes with superb length and fine palate-cleansing acidity. Absolutely superb, though possibly better with the starter than the sweet and sticky pudding. (07/00)

Château Haut-Brion (Bordeaux) 1er Cru Pessac-Leognan 1989
This is something of a legendary wine, earning a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker and trading at auction for £300 plus per bottle. When it appeared on the list of posh restaurant on the Mediterranean coast of France at £160 it proved irresistible. I am a huge fan of Haut-Brion, finding it consistently the most subtle and intriguing of the first growths in the half dozen vintages I've tasted. This, as we sat on a balmy terrace high above the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean as a full moon began to cast shadows amongst the fishing boats, was most definitely not the time for too formal a tasting, but rather an opportunity to let this gorgeous wine wash over the senses. Still bright and youthful in colour, the nose is seductive with earth and mineral notes underpinning a glorious depth of ripe berry fruit. There is something animal too: hints of beef and game. The palate is wonderfully resolved already, though this is a wine that should improve for decades. Silk-textured tannins and moderate acidity bolster the fine, sweet cherry and red fruit flavours. There is terrific concentration and always complexity with a nuanced finish that goes on for ever. Even removing the idyllic setting from the equation I am positive this is a great wine. Yes, it would be fascinating to taste it again in more clinical conditions, but isn't sheer enjoyment the whole point of any wine, even the greatest, grandest, most expensive and critically acclaimed? Wonderful stuff (07/00).

Château de Monthélie (Burgundy) Monthélie 1er Cru Sur la Velle 1996
Château de Monthélie is actually Eric de Suremain, one of the leading stars of this high-quality but little known appellation of the Côte de Beaune, lying next to the much more famous Volnay. The colour is a very fresh ruby. On the nose lovely aromas of cherry and Chinese tea, tree bark and softer strawberry and earth. The palate is medium-bodied and very finessed with elegant cherry and summer berry fruit, some fine tannins and moderate acidity. This has good length too, staying fruity and fresh with just a little support from earthy, slightly cedary flavours. Lovely Burgundy with the balance to drink for 5 - 8 years I'd have thought (06/00)

Bodegas Muga (Spain) Rioja "Torre Muga" Reserva 1994
This adds to my experience of truly great Riojas. Possibly criminally young to drink it, but who could resist the sheer opulence of this wine? The colour is deep ruby, with an iron-oxide warmth at its core. The nose is just sensational, layered with seasoned oak aromas of coffee, toast and cedar, yet not at all one-dimensional with a weight of sweet, ripe cherry and summer berry fruits and exquisite nuances of smoke, tobacco and aniseed. The palate is only medium-bodied, but there is such a startling richness of fruit that floods over the palate that the impression is of a thicker wine. Fine, ripe tannins bolster the fruit and classy, charry oak flavours really do integrate well leading to a long, long sweet and pure finish. Sensational stuff. My friends who brought this to dinner took great delight in revealing its Parker 94 points given my recent "point chasing" diatribe, and yes indeed this is a very Parker-friendly wine, but stunning by any standards (06/00)
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Savour Club Hospices de Beaune (Burgundy) Volnay Cuvée Blondeau 1987
An object lesson that it is far better to drink your 'best' wines too young, than too old. This bottle was brought along by a student on one of my wine appreciation courses. A friend of hers had been given this 'special' bottle 10 years ago, and having saved it for a special occasion, eventually gifted it to my student hearing of her interest in wine. The colour was immediately depressing: a muddy, lifeless brown. On the nose, a reek of volatile acidity and musty, dirty, rubbery aromas. I dared put it in my mouth, and got a lifeless, bitter mouthful of cooked vinegar, acid and bitterness. I questioned the storage conditions - under the sink, probably for 10 years. I wonder what it would have been like back in 1990? (05/00)
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Charles Melton (Australia) Barossa Shiraz 1997
Lovely fresh garnet colour. Marvellous nose with ripe raspberry and blackcurrant. There is a great sense of elegance about the fine red fruits on the nose, backed-up with gentle oaking. The palate displays fine tannins that are sweet and ripe giving that same raspberry fruit character a beautiful sense of roundness. Medium-bodied with great balance and very good length. Excellent (tasted blind) (03/00)
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I had previously been very impressed by Melton's "Nine Popes", a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lookalike that has similar finesse and ripeness.

Domaine Long-Depaquit (Burgundy) Chablis 1997
Very pale green/straw colour. Beautifully delineated nose of minerals, apple and pear fruit and hints of yeast and butter. There is real richness and ripeness of orchard fruits on the palate and a delicious, lemony, crisp acidity. Medium- bodied, this Chablis has a winning combination of juicy ripe fruit and firm, mineral and citrus backbone. Lovely for drinking now or over the next few years. (03/00)
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This was one of a number of samples sent to the Wine Pages by, a sponsor of this site. As always, my review and opinions are totally independent. At time of writing the wine is available at £8.99 ($15US).

Chateau Musar (Lebanon) 1993
The nose has a big whiff of something vegetal and rubbery that at first is off-putting, but it's a characteristic I've detected in Musar before. Beneath are leafy blackcurrant and raspberry aromas and an earthiness too. The palate shows no signs of any off flavours: it is a wonderfully fruity and rich mouthful of wine with plenty of raspberry and lighter red fruit flavours, and a lovely savoury set of game, tobacco and olive flavours in a medium-bodied, quite elegant format. The finish is long, spicy, sweet and beautifully delineated. A fine Musar. (02/00)

R.L. Buller & Sons (Australia, Victoria) Shiraz/Grenache/Malbec 1997
Dark crimson colour of medium density. Nose has an attractive mix of bubblegummy, confected fruit, berries and a distinctive pepperiness. Quite aromatic. On the palate a big, juicy mouthful of blackcurrant and blueberry fruit with a spicy, rustic, slightly farmyardy edge. There's a stripe of lean tannin that sears through the centre of this wine leaving it quite drying and a touch astringent in the finish. Decent length though, and not a bad wine with plenty of interest. Imported into the UK by (02/00)
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Nyetimber (England) Sparkling Wine Brut 1993
Stunningly rich and complex, this has a pale golden colour and lovely streaming bubbles that are pin-prick sized. The nose is bready and rich with a brioche butteriness and nettle complexity as well as fine citrus fruit. The palate is broad and generous with a rolling mousse carrying peach and nut fruit edged by good lemon acidity. Mature and complex, this is without a doubt a fine, fine sparkling wine. Served to me blind, I guessed it as vintage Champagne, probably Pol Roger. (01/00)

C.V.N.E (Spain) Rioja Gran Reserva "Imperial" 1982
Deep, rich ruby colour but with a definite browning and lightening to the rim. Wonderfully minty, high-toned, edge to the fruit. There is a leafiness too and a distinctive note of toffee. There is blackcurrant and softer strawberry fruit with an earthy, leathery component. On the palate it has some good tannic structure and loads of cinammon and clove spice. The fruit is rich and brambly. The finish is good, a little bit of hollowness perhaps, but all in all a gorgeous and mature wine for current drinking. (01/00).