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Misellaneous notes, 2001

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

Yalumba (Australia) "The Menzies" Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
This premium Coonawarra Cabernet from Yalumba is given the full works with ageing in French Allier oak. This is a distinctly cherry-scented cabernet, with a nose that is juicily sweet, layering cherry, cassis and lightly herbal aromatics over smoky vanilla. On the palate this is medium-bodied, with lots of fruit and oaky warmth. These are brought up short by quite angular acidity and crisp tannins making it rather edgy and a little austere. The label says drink 2005 to 2015, so maybe a little young to judge, but the components are all pretty good if it comes together. Retailers include Majestic, The Wine Society, Selfridges and Peckhams at around £17.00. (12/01)

Ken Wright Cellars (Oregon) Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999
Drunk in Amaryllis restaurant, Glasgow. I have really enjoyed Oregon Pinots from Domaine Drouhin amongst others, and I have to say this is a new star for me. The sumptuous nose is redolent of smoke, tobacco, sweet autumnal berry fruits and just a hint of truffly damp woodland earth. On the palate it has lovely silkiness of texture and a mouthful of cherry and sweet, soft strawberry fruit. There's a nice crispness of tannins and acidity that freshens and lengthens the finish. Absolutely delightful Pinot. This retails at £32.50 per bottle in the UK from Laytons wine merchants (12/01)

Rosenblum Cellars (California) Viognier 2000
Drunk in Amaryllis restaurant, Glasgow. I have to say, I am tasting more New World viogniers now that are making a convincing case for this grape variety, which in the past I have often criticised as being too alcoholic and overbearing. Though this does boast 14.5% alcohol, it has a very refined nose of peach, blossom and ripe pear. The palate is also balanced, with keen acidity and a certain minerality adding spine to the fleshy, broad, lush peach fruit. Very long and mouthfilling, this is a hedonistic and delicious wine. (12/01)

Alvaro Palacios (Spain) "les Terrasses" 1998
Drunk in Braidwoods restaurant, Ayr at £27 (around £13 retail from Berry Brothers, Corney & Barrow, Winesmart and others). Lovely nose on this; immediately appealing with sweetly-oaked and quite high-toned cherry and sweet berry fruit, hints of exotic sandalwood. On the palate it is fruit-driven, with quite a light, brisk texture, yet creamy and rounded. There are gentle tannins and good balancing acidity, with some savoury elements of spice and cedar into the finish. Lovely stuff from Palacios, one of Spain's superstars in the Priorato whose £200 l'Ermita must be bloody good if this is the standard of his basic wine. (12/01)

Summerfield (Australia) Reserve Shiraz, Victoria 1999
This won a 5* award in a tasting of 200 Australian Shiraz wines in Decanter magazine, August 2001. It is a deep, dense, violet-black wine with an immediately sonorous, powerful nose of kirsch, blackberries, mulberries and bitter dark chocolate and subtle notes of vanilla, spice and eucalyptus. On the palate that power surges over the tongue, coating the mouth in sweet, glossy, fat black-fruit flavours. Fleshy, dense and chewy with sweet, ripe tannins gripping and drying the mouth, there is also a shot of acidity freshening the finish. This is a nicely balanced example of the turbo-charged Shiraz style that is uniquely Australian. 15% alcohol is carried well and there is plenty of savoury bite to counter all that ripe fruit. Very good indeed. From Berry Brothers and Rudd ( £19.95. (10/01)
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Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Bordeaux) Graves 1961
A truly memorable bottle, drunk with dinner in a wonderfully old-fashioned Michelin-starred restaurant in the Loire Valley. The short wine list was hand-written, with much crossing out of wines long gone, and newer additions squeezed into margins in a spidery hand. This was mature Bordeaux nirvana at prices to make a wine lover weep. I settled on this Smith Haut Lafitte from the greatest post war vintage, at little more than £60 ($90US). When brought from the cellar it was covered in a patina of dust. I asked the owner how long it had been in the cellar, and she looked at me quizically, removing her glasses and speaking patiently: "Since 1963 Monsieur. This is the first time it has been disturbed since my father bought it en primeur". The wine was just gorgeous. Mellow, fully mature and resolved into a beautiful, slightly gamy, savoury, briar wood and cedar melange, with nuances of smoke and minerals. On the palate there is still good body and sweetness of fruit, and there is no sense of the wine drying out or becoming fragile. Tannins are now very much in the background, but acidity still lifts the palate sufficiently, leading to a long, mellow finish. This wine is drinking beautifully in an understated, poised, elegant format. A really lovely wine and quite a treat. (08/01)
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La Croix du Casse (Bordeaux) Pomerol 1983
Another wine enjoyed in a restaurant in France for not a huge amount of money. Big, vegetal, perfumed nose with masses of truffle, mushroom, woodland and damp undergrowth aromas over spicy bramble fruit. With airing, a sweeter, purer and plush black chocolate and plum fruit emerges that is quite rich and spiked by notes of nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate a lovely texture and powerful, deep black fruit emerges. Expansive and very easy to drink, there is still a fine framework of silky tannins and moderate acidity. Quite savoury fruit, a cetain smokiness and very good length. Mature wine, a touch vegetal, but lovely and showing no signs of decline (07/01)

Laville-Haut-Brion (Bordeaux) Graves Blanc 1990
Oh the joys of Parker blindness. This Parker "91 point" wine featured on the list of a beautiful French restaurant for £80 a bottle, whereas the 96-scoring 1989 was a shade over £250. A wonderfully Sauternes-like nose of honey, butterscotch, beeswax and almonds is rounded out by buttery, toasty fig and quince. There are orange and peach notes and an undertow of vanilla. On the palate it is medium to full-bodied with a rich, mouth-coating texture and a limpid, pure quality of ripe pear and gentle apricot fruit. There's a lovely plum or greengage acidity giving balance and a core of salty minerality that gives a little bite. The length is stunning. Fabulous wine. (07/01)

Plantagenet (Australia) Pinot Noir 1998
From the cool Pemberton and Mount Barker regions of western Australia, this medium ruby coloured wine has an absolutely sumptuous nose layered with rich, ripe autumn berry fruit, soft, sweet strawberry and a toasty underpinning of vanilla and truffle. There all little gamy notes and suggestions of cinnamon and tobacco. On the palate it is intensely sweet and spicy, coating the palate with silky-textured lush fruit and ripe, drying tannins. The balance is fine, and the cloaked power of the French oak punches through on the finish. Really, I'd stick my neck out and say that as well as being the most enjoyable Australian Pinot Noir I've tasted in a long time, it is also the best. Excellent. This wine is currently stocked by Australian specialist at £10.85 per bottle. (07/01) Label image.

Hewitson (Australia) "Old Garden" Mourvedre 1998
100% Mourvedre from vines planted in the Barossa Valley in 1853, this is surely a contender for the wine made from the oldest vines in Australia, if not the world? The naturally low yields of these unirrigated, hand pruned vines gives fantastically deep concentration on the nose, with powerful, sweet cherry and dark berry fruit and a characteristic meaty, bloody edge - but this is well into the background along with some chocolate and coffee ground oak, and the driving force is ripe, pure fruit. On the palate it is creamy and dense with a fantastic balance of peppery oak and tannins, good acidity and abundant fruit. A real show stopper and well worth a try. I got this from Scottish speicalists Peckham's for about £14, but stock it by the case, and UK importer Waterloo Wine could probably tell you local stockists: (06/01)

Windy Ridge (California) Merlot 1997
This is a really scrumptious, rich, sweet-fruited Merlot from Santa Rosa in California. The cigar-box, vanilla and warm, spicy nose suggests new American oak, layered over sweet, fat plum and blackcurrant fruit. The palate heaves with glossy, deep, sweet black fruits and a warming undertone of tobacco. Soft acidity and mellow tannins mean the opulence is unrestrained, but it is not a wine for keeping. Delicious now. From Aberdeen merchant Wine Racks for £8.95, mported by Liberty Wines: (06/01)

Caymus (California) Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 1992
This cultish wine is a real rarity on UK shores, listed by one broker at £140 a bottle, and fetching even more in the US. This was taken along as a BYO to a recent restaurant dinner. Fantastically rich, deep, savoury grilled meat, woodsmoke, autumn berries and blackcurrant aromas intertwine on the nose. The palate is quite full-bodied and silky textured, with a cedary edge to ripe, sweet blackcurrant fruit. The charry oaking adds weight to the finish, which displays fine-grained, ripe tannins and juicy acidity. Structured and full of finesse on one hand, powerfully fruited on the other, this has terrific length and is drinking beautifully, though it should also cellar for 10 more years. (06/01)

André Bonhomme (Burgundy) Mâcon-Viré 1998
This is an old favourite, and Bonhomme has turned in another stunning effort with his 1998 from southern Burgundy. The medium-deep golden colour promises a certain lushness and the nose doesn't disappoint with a wine that displays gorgeous, limpid, lightly-honeyed aromas over buttery fruit and hints of butterscotchy depth. The palate is crystalline and pure with beautifully delineated apple, pear and citrus fruit and broad but key acidity. Fresh and pure into a long finish, this is just delightful, intelligent, precise Chardonnay. About £20 on a restaurant list. (05/01)

Domaine de Chevalier (Bordeaux) Graves Blanc 1983
The colour is quite a deep, burnished gold. The nose is immediately gorgeous, with a wafting, gentle bouquet of honeyed fig, pear and minerals. There's a straw-like element, and nuances of nuts, wax and exotic fruit. On the palate this tastes quite fragile: there is good body, and an almost oily texture, but there's a waxy, brown-paper parcel element that suggests the wine is tiring. The fruit is good in the first glass, but fading by the second. It still has lovely elegance about it, and remnants of that sweet, glossy richness it must have once had. I see that Robert Parker awards this 94 points and in 1991 said "drink now - 2015". This may not have been perfectly stored, but on the evidence of this tasting that lifespan is rather optimistic. (05/01)

Gaia Estate (Greece) Red Wine 1998
This wine is 100% Agiorgitiko, an indigenous Greek grape that can attain wonderful quality when handled with care. From a meticulous estate that follows strict rules on biological agriculture, this is the flagship wine of Gaia. Aged in French oak casks, the wonderfully deep, juicy flavours of the grape are enhanced by an almost claret-like cedary fragrance. The nose displays a lovely mellow toastiness, with notes of pencil shavings and coffee, but the main driving force is wonderfully lush sweet berry fruit. On the palate there's a brambly density of fruit, very rich and mouthfilling, with a deep seam of chewy flavour. Medium-bodied, the wine also displays good acidity to keep it fresh and food-friendly, as well as a little spine of fine, silky tannic structure adding some savoury strength. £10.99 Oddbins (03/01)
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Freixenet (Spain) Cava Cuvée DS 1996
I was inspired to try this wine after UK wine columnist Malcom Gluck described it as 'better value than Krug'. Gluck is prone to flights of fancy on these matters, but a Cava at £12 (around $18US) would be intriguing in its own right, with most Cavas selling for less than half that price. It has a medium straw/lemon yellow colour. There are lots of persistent, miniscule bubbles rising evenly across the glass. It has a lovely, very savoury nose which is thick with autolytic aromas of yeast and biscuits, yet is juicy with berry and apricot fruit. Rich in the mouth, the mousse is dense and creamy. There are layers of buttery toast over strawberry, rasberry and plummy fruit. A little touch of caramel too. Very good acidity, but integrated and quite generous. Long finish. Excellent savoury and serious fizz - and well worth trying. £11.99 Majestic (01/01)
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