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Annual Wine Tasting, Peckham's

by Tom Cannavan, 2000

This was the annual Christmas tasting of the Scottish-based fine wine and food group, Peckham's. I tasted 17 wines from their range, mostly new lines or new vintages, ranging from classic Premier Cru Burgundies, to a selction of New World wines. This was rather a nice tasting, with plenty of interesting and unusual stuff on show, including sparkling reds from Spain, new-wave Hungarian whites and a first for me, Reserve bottlings from Jacob's Creek. Many of these are available from other retailers, though lots of them are in small-scale independents only.

The tasting was not blind. Prices are in pounds sterling (£5=$7.50).

Sparkling/Whites

Domaine Carneros (California) "La Revé" Blanc de Blancs 1993 - £25
Soft fruit on the nose, lots of lightly-spiced apple, a touch of exotic kiwi fruit and melon. Attractive, with a rolling mousse. Palate shows plenty of sweet, ripe fruit. Very juicy and broad with generous acidity and a little creamy, oaky note in the finish. Quite classy.

Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay 1998 - £8.49
Nicely compact and sweet on the nose with creamy vanilla over dense pear fruit and little overripe, tropical notes. Quite restrained overall. The palate shows rich, buttery fruit and plenty of lemony acidity. Quite long. Very good.

Concha y Toro (Chile) "Terrunyo" Chardonnay 1998 - £9.49
Extremely pungent, wafting spices, toast and vanillin oak from the glass. A lush fruitiness of strawberry and nectarine. Lots of spice on the palate too, with bright fruit and a mouthfilling texture. Full-on style and certainly impressive, but maybe just too much?

Ironstone (Australia) Semillon/Chardonnay 1999 - £6.49
Crunchy, fresh fruit on the nose, a little grassiness and lots of zesty citrus. Plenty more crisp lemon and lime fruit on the palate, heightened by notes of pineapple and exotic guava. Really fresh streak of lime acidity into the finish. Very good.

Stifts (Germany, Rheinhessen) Riesling Trocken 1996 - £6.99
Organic wine estate. Herbal quality on the nose. Very dry palate of green apples and a mineral acidity. Simple and quite good, thought maybe a £5 price would be nearer the mark.

Castle Island (Hungary) Dry Furmint 1999 - £5.99
The grape of sweet Tokaji, made in a bone-dry style. Subtle nose, with a gently herbal quality and crisp lemony finesse. Notes of grass and straw, but also lemony fruit. Fruit is clean and citrussy on the palate with a lingering finish showing up a spicy element. Good, but needs food to counter-act a certain austerity.

Castle Island (Hungary) Hárslevelü 1999 - £4.99
Very subdued nose. Some herbal and nutty nuances. Some subtle, crunchy asian pear fruit on the palate, but bone-dry style that is just a bit too sparse. Might work well with seafood in the mouthwateringly fresh style of a Muscadet.

Funtanaliras (Italy) Vermentino 1999 - £7.49
Exotically floral and fruity with little notes of spearmint and ripe peach. Lots of very juicy, fresh, mouthwatering fruit on the palate. Lovely stuff with a stripe of keen acidity and excellent length. Very good indeed.

Red

Muzard (Burgundy) Santeney 1er Cru Clos de Tavanes 1997 - £14.99
Dry, charcoal and earthy quality on the nose. Good sense of terroir, with some smoky oak and dark cherry and raspberry fruit. On the palate a good, robust fruitiness and rich personality. Forward, though tannins dry the finish. Good balance and good length. Nice Burgundy and well-priced.

Domaine de la Solitude (Rhône) Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 - £11.99
Gorgeously rich and spicy nose. A really soft, expansive earthy character filled with creamy berry fruit. The palate is gripped by drying tannins at present, which suggests this needs time. The fruit is all there though: concentrated and dense, with notes of plum and dark berries. Good length, with a really spicy core. Very good indeed.

Domaine Courbis (Rhône) St Joseph "Les Royes" - £13.99
Real concentration on the nose here. A brooding impression of burning embers and schisty terroir. Serious, with bittersweet black cherry fruit and terrific concentration. Structured, with firm tannins and good acidity, but lovley balance and great potential. Very fine indeed, competing with wines at twice the price.

Michel Chiarlo (Italy) Barbera d'Asti "Le Court" 1997 - £18.99
Meaty nose, with a perfume of bloody game and little highlights of violet and cherry, a cedary note. Some soft, gently spicy oak. The palate is lush and full, with ripe cherry fruit and a lot of backbone through ripe tannins and firm acidity. Lovely stuff and will improve.

Jadot (Burgundy) Chorey-lès-Beaune 1997 - £10.99
Quite a pale ruby/pink. Fine, soft autumnal nose of damp leaves, earth and soft fruits edged with vanilla. Gentle on the palate too with an impression of very smoky fruit and a nicely understated but lengthy finish. Very nice for drinking now.

Jacob's Creek (Australia) Reserve Shiraz 1997 - £9.49
Concentrated, dark, sweet black fruit nose. Quite ripe, but not overblown. Cool, rich and classy fruit on the palate. Surprisingly firm and well structured, with drying tannins and a long, liquoricy bittersweet quality in the finish. Very good.

Concha y Toro (Chile) "Terrunyo" Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - £13.99
Very firm,tight, cassis nose. A little super-sweet note emerges, almost minty, along with an underlying leafiness suggesting tea and tobacco. Quite complex. Very juicy and rich on the palate. Lovely fruit in an integrated palate with no real edges. Sweet, balanced and long. Very good. I prefer this to the Chardonnay.

Esk Valley (NZ) "The Terraces" 1995 - £60?
This is a real "cult wine" that has taken the New Zealand wine world by storm and is causing a stir with wine lovers everywhere. You may have read my Meet the Winemaker profile of Gordon Russell a couple of months back. This wine has been changing hands for huge sums on the New Zealand market, and Peckhams have secured a small allocation. It is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Medium dark but dense ruby/purple. Generously sweet nose of kirsch, cherry and blackcurrant. Quite Port-like, but gently so and not at all overblown. No hint of greenness. Lots of cigar-box and cedar emerges and that savouriness carries through to the palate, which is very firm. Chewy fruit, clean and well-defined, with little tobacco notes. Fantastic length; goes on and on. The palate suggests this needs another 5 to 8 years to really hit its stride. Excellent.

La Pamelita (Spain) Sparkling Red - £9.99
Pamela Geddes was showing her baby, the sparkling red she makes in Yecla, in the south-east corner of Spain. Pamela is delightful woman and fellow Scot. She studied biochemistry at the University of Strathclyde before becoming a true flying winemaker, being the first person to vinify sparkling Shiraz for Yalumba in Australia. This wine is getting better and better in bottle, with creamy cherry and red berry fruit punched through with raspberry acidity and a touch of chocolaty depth. Nice, dense and persistent mousse creates a totally luxurious mouthfeel. Lovely and a bargain.