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Off-line gathering in Oxford

by Tom Cannavan, 09/01

These are notes from an event earlier this summer, when I met up with a bunch of UK Wine Forum regulars in Oxford whilst in the city doing a bit of promotion for my book, the Good Web Guide to Wine. We gathered for a very fine meal centered around pear and gorgonzola bruschetta starters, followed by roast lamb. A selection of interesting bottles were brought along by the participants. The wines were not served blind.

Champagne & White

Bollinger Champagne R.D. 1985
This 16-year old Champagne is 'Recently Disgorged' (in June 1997), rather than being disgorged in 1989 or so and having been cellared ever since. The huge, almost overpowering nose displays oxidised caramel, fig, malt, ripe pear and sour lemons. Quite something! If you are used to only young, fresh Champagnes a bit of a shock. The palate took a little time to shake off a closed, musty character, but blossomed into a richly toasty, full, peachy fruit-driven style with lovely firm mousse and long, well-balanced finish. Very good indeed.

JJ Prüm (Germany, Mosel) Riesling Kabinett Wehlener Sonnenuhr 1989
Extraordinarily high paraffin and wax nose, with a really concentrated preserved lime character. The palate is lovely, showing sweet peach fruit, with a deep, generous character and gentle acidity. Delicious and long, some thought this was rather over-developed and lacking acidity, but I liked the style very much indeed.

Anselmi (Italy) 'Capitel Foscarino' 1999
The very pale straw/gold colour gives no hint of the massively aromatic, sweet nose. Very ripe pear, abundant floral notes, spearmint and a lovely almond undertone. The rich palate has good body and texture with gorgeous oily lemon fruit. delicious and with fine length. Very good indeed.

Reds

Château Cantemerle (Bordeaux, Macau) 5th Growth 1979
Beautifully svelte, gentle, savoury old-leather, tobacco and slightly fragile, cedary black fruit nose. On the palate that fragility is evident, but this is really enjoyable, elegant claret with soft, sweet, berry fruit and still some silky tannins and integrated acidity into a pleasing finish. For drinking up, but very good indeed.

Poliziano (Italy) Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 'Asinone' 1997
A wine which has just picked up 'gold' at the International Wine Challenge. A huge contrast with the previous wine as this displayed a deep crimson colour and wonderfully full-on, fragrant nose of incense and sandalwood, deep, ripe, dark and glossy fruit and chocolate-loaded depth. Fat, sweet and full on the palate too, this has layers of blackcurrant and cherry, tobacco and terrific, smooth, velvety tannins. Very long and concentrated, this is a big, forward, modern-styled wine, and is excellent.

Boutaris (Greece) Ktima Kyr-Yianni Naoussa "Ramnista" 1995
Made from 100% indigenous Xinomavro, this has a very attractive nose of minty blackcurrant and blackcurrant leaf with creamy, ripe berries. Very fresh. On the palate a soft tannic structure underpins lighter black fruits that are quite juicy and nicely acidic. Medium-bodied, and finishes with style. Very good/very good indeed.

Papaioannou Estate (Greece) Old Vines Nemea 1996
Rich coffee-bean oak almost smothers super-ripe, very modern black fruit that is sasparilla-sweet and jammy; almost like Coca-cola. The palate is fruity, balanced and drinks well, with plenty of juicy blackcurrant and decent acidity. Very good.

Weinert (Argentina) "Miscellanea" 1997
Sweet, ripe, chunky black fruit dominates the nose of this Bordeaux-ish blend wine, with massive, dry, dusty tannins coating the palate. Loads of blue/black dense fruit, chocolate and blueberry. This has a real dry-as-a-dustbowl character, but is actually very good and might need time for tannins to integrate more - certainly has bags of fruit.

Wendouree (Australia, Clare) Cabernet/Malbec 1998
Wendouree is a very sought-after producer of tiny quantities of premium wine. This has a dramatically dark, brooding, tightly-wound nose of cedar-wood and pencil shavings, cassis and plum, but all very constrained and tight. On the palate it is clamped by tannins, but there is great concentration and plenty of fruit. Quite a tough one to judge, but seems to be a very promising, powerful wine for the long haul.

Sweet

Tenuta Sant'Antonio (Italy) Colori d'Autunno Passito Chardonnay 1996
In an elegant 50cl bottle, a sweet wine made from dried Chardonnay grapes. It has a deep, burnished orange/gold colour and a fabulously concentrated nose of apricot, honey, sesame-seeds and marmalade. Very intense and classy. The palate is thick and oily, with unctuous toasty, thick, buttered muffin flavours, hints of sultana, brown sugar, orange and sweet honey. Good acidity to balance and lovely length, this is very impressive.