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Misellaneous notes, 2002

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

Bouchard, Père et Fils, Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 1959
Last year I reported on a glorious 1961 Bordeaux consumed at the fine Jeanne de Laval restaurant in the Loire Valley. I'm just back from there, and without doubt they have once again provided one of my wine highlights of the year so far. This bottle, from perhaps the greatest Burgundy vintage of the century, was brought from the cellars showing a patina of age. The fragile cork was painstakingly removed, and the tasting measure poured into my glass. Absolute bliss. This was ethereal, sweet, simply gorgeous Burgundy at its best, with all sorts of floral nuances around a central core of still fresh, soft, yielding strawberry fruit, with lovely mocha-coffee hints and an earthy, brambly quality. There are truffle and woodland notes too, but really this is remarkably fruity still. On the palate the picture continues, with silky texture and a sweet, mouthfilling breadth of fruit, buttressed by all sorts of game and vegetal nuances, and a warmimg background of sweet, mature tannins and pillowing oak. The length and purity is breathtaking, and this was a wine to savour and languish over for many hours. Heaven.

Domaine de Chevalier (Graves) 2000
I liked this wine when tasting it from barrel back in June 2001. Here's what I wrote then: "Some obvious, high-toast oak gives a layering of coffee, spice and roasted nuts over blackcurrant fruit. The palate has a nice quality of fruit that is rich yet cool and classy, really quite fat in style with a mouthfilling texture before fine tannins push the finish along. Impressive". It was very interesting to have a chance to taste the bottled wine. I found that dominant oakiness had mellowed, and the plushness of fruit had subsided a little behind a powerful, but balanced acid and tannin core. Here's what I wrote on re-tasting: Lusciously sweet, vanilla-infused nose, with cedar and a pleasantly salty, mineral tang. Still rather tight on the palate, with a bitter cherry and plum-skin quality to the fruit, constrained as it is by a blue/black, mineral character and grippy tannins. Very refined and concentrated, this seems to have fine quality but needs several years cellaring yet. Very good indeed. (06/02)

Duval-Leroy (France) Champagne Brut non-vintage
Smart new packaging for this wine. Wine-pages columnist and fizz guru Tom Stevenson has recently said of Duval-Leroy: "quality has soared and for a few years now it has been possible to claim that no other house can beat it for consistency of style - not even the greatest of the great". The colour is a light straw/gold, and there are plenty of streaming, small bubbles which rise evenly across the glass. The nose is citrussy and fresh, with crisp lemon aromas and a definite hint of mineral, tight, steely apple fruit, with subtle floral notes. Not much development here. On the palate a crisp and taut style of Champagne; very refined and elegant, with gentle but persistant mousse and plenty of citrus fruit and tiny herbal nuances. Good balance, and a nimble, aperitif style, though it does seem a little lean for now, and would surely benefit from a year or two in bottle. Sainsbury's £16.99 (06/02).
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Grossett (Australia) Watervale Riesling 2001

Stag's Leap Cellars (California) Petite Sirah 1997
These two wines were consumed at dinner in the excellent No. 16 restaurant, in Glasgow. The Grossett riesling is a classic of the house style, with pure, shimmering lime and lime-leaf fruit on the nose and palate, a sense of waxy density and a rapier-like clarity of citrus and mineral acidity. There's a suggestion of off-dryness, but that's mostly fruit ripeness. Needs time to develop complexity, but very fine already and hinting at more to come. Very good indeed/excellent. The 1997 Petite Sirah from Stag's Leap was a real treat: explosive ripeness of juicy mulberry, spice and blackcurrant fruit with plenty of sweet oak underpinning. On the palate it is ripe and has decent structure, with background tannins and firm acidity. Not terrifically complex, and perhaps lacking a touch of flesh in the mid-palate to really gain top marks, but a delightful maturing wine. Very good/very good indeed. About £22 and £30 respectively in the restaurant. (06/02)

Il Molino di Grace (Italy, Tuscany) Chianti Classico 1999
This Chianti comes from a new producer in the Classico zone, and is being imported into the UK by a regular visitor to wine-pages, Mark Goucher. Mark has already had a lot of success with the wine, with a well-known restaurant group snapping up a large part of his allocation. I can understand why: it has a beautifully deep cherry red colour and a nose that is dark and inviting. There are aromatic suggestions of tobacco and, damp autumn leaves, a hint of black cherry and plenty of earthy, ripe berries. On the palate this is fresh and appetising, with a medium-body and crisp raspberry fruit edge over smoky, charcoally elements and a solid core of ripe, zippy cherry fruit. The tannins are fine and ripe, and there's a nice slick of vanilla into the finish that contrasts with fresh acidity. A complex and impressive Chianti, and very nicely balanced. Very good indeed. Available directly from; Tel: 0777 637 8896, for £7.99. (05/02)

Domaine des Bosquets (Rhône) Gigondas Preférénce 1999
This is a sensational wine, from Gigondas, the small appellation of the southern Rhône that lives in the shadow of neighbouring Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The nose has a fantastically concentrated, kirsch-like quality with sweet blackberry and cherry fruit, a dry, incense note and a pillowing layer of smoke, earth and ashes. On the palate it emphasises that fantastic concentration with bitter-edged black fruits, a muscular, dense, broad-shouldered structure, and rich, brambly texture of fruit and glycerine. There is a fine, dry tannic grip on the fruit into the finish, and fresh acidity which, alongside sweet, aromatic elements to the fruit, lifts this and prevents any suggestion of over-extraction. Very long, the lingering weight and power of the fruit is, as the Americans might say, awesome. A stunner. Available from Edencroft Fine Wines at £23.75. (05/02)

CrownCap (Italy) Barbera 2000
Englishman Robin Woodhouse ( is the man behind the small and completely innovative CrownCap range of Italian reds. Woodhouse's proposition is quite straightforward, and in many ways (given the wine world's current obsession with eliminating “corked” wines) ahead of its time. Each of the range comes in a bottle sealed with a variation on the humble beer bottle-style, crimped-edge crowncap. Woodhouse argues that if this is good enough to stopper the finest Champagnes for year after year as they mature in the cellars, then it is good enough for any wine. He has set about releasing a range that has terrific quality behind it, like the simple CrownCap red Number II that was a “wine of the week” a couple of years ago. This new release is a huge step upmarket in terms of quality (and price of course), a classic Barbera from Piedmont, made by the talented Vincenzo Muni, Woodhouses's alternative thinking is continued in the striking and elegant packaging, and the back label message: “CentoPerCento: Barbera. Zero: wood/cabernet/cork. Hand: picked, made, labelled. Still: unfiltered red wine”. And the stuff in the bottle? It has a lovely deep garnet/crimson colour. The nose is just sumptuous; a melange of spices, woodsmoke, damson and summer fruit compote berries. On the palate there's classic Barbera tart cherry fruit and acidity, that smoky, deep, earthy underpinning and warming tannins adding some bite to the finish. Medium-bodied and refined, this is a lovely wine whatever way you look at it, nicely proving the point that the CrownCap system is much more than a gimmick. A bonus is that a perfect little silicon stopper can be detached from the crowncap once opened, which reseals the bottle for overnight storage if required. I did just this, and by the second night the wine was even darker and more voluptuous. Bravo Mr Woodhouse! Label image. The only UK source at the moment is through ChateauOnline, and the price is £13.99. (04/02)

Yalumba (Australia) "The Signature" Barossa Cabernet/Shiraz 1997
Bright, zingy crimson/purple colour. Lovely, fragrant, pungent nose of spicy new American oak, vanilla, coconut, and sweet, minty blackcurrant and mulberry fruit. Little nuances of nutmeg and sasaprilla. On the palate this is dense, rich, powerful stuff with a forceful tannic grip giving plenty of backbone to velvetty-smooth berry fruit and nuances of chocolate and exotic, smoky spices. Round and rich, the finish is long and balanced, though tannins are adding a rough, savoury note at present. I think this latter, slightly unknit though not unpleasant trait, is a product of the vintage. Still, very good indeed. Around £19 from Majestic, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Bibendum and independents. (02/02)

Paul Blanck (Alsace) Gewürtztraminer 2000
Chosen to accompany a foie-gras and ham-based terrine, this dry gewürztraminer has a really lovely nose of fresh grapes, rose-petals and juicy, quite fragrant plum fruit. There is a little note of bacon-fat. The palate is rich and powerful, with plenty of well-judged acidity keeping the wine fresh and food-friendly, but medium- to full-body and displaying good fruit that pushes through to decent finish. I haven't tasted many of Blanck's wines before, but this was perfect with the food and I'd rate it good to very good. (01/02)

Mastroberardino (Italy) "Radici" Taurasi 1995
Another memory of my Italian summer holiday in this region (Campania), where I drank several fine wines, like this one, made from the Aglianico grape. Beautifully mature, this has a lovely bouquet of ripe, bittersweet cherries, cedar, and warming tobacco. There is lovely fruit, but the vaguely claretty nose is quite savoury and has plenty of class. On the palate this is drinking really well, and the character is consistent with the nose; lots of cherry and autumnal berry fruit, backed up by nice, soft, ripe tannins, good levels of acidity and that cedary, integrated oak underpinning. Long, balanced, delightful and really most impressive. About £35 in Amaryllis restaurant, Glasgow. (01/02)