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Beaucastel, Jaboulet and Symington

by Tom cannavan, 07/99

Part II of a tasting in Edinburgh to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Wine Society. For full details of the event read Part I.

Château de Beaucastel (Rhône) with Mike Rifkin
All 6 wines on show I'd tasted just a few weeks ago at a Beaucastel tasting with François Perrin, so I used this opportunity to re-sample just a couple.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 1995 - £25.00
Very sweet and pure Syrah-like fruit on the nose, of dense blackcurrant and blueberries. Rounder, earthy aromas beneath. The palate shows tannins and fruit in good balance, though the overall impression is that this tightly-structured wine needs time. Very promising.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 1990
Extraordinary animal nose of blood and beef with earthy, vegetal, compost notes. Palate is very silky and mellow with medium body, good ripe fruit, gamey flavours and a nicely balanced finish and considerable length. This has real presence. Very good indeed.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné (Rhône) with Nicolas Jaboulet

Hermitage blanc "Chevalier de Stérimberg" 1997
Golden yellow colour. Slight Jack Daniels/sherry cask quality on the nose before nutty aromas and peachy fruit. Palate is very rich and mouthfilling with a bitter liquorice edge to peach and melon fruit. Lots of oaky spice, alcohol then fine apple acidity into the finish. This seemed to be rather brutal in style, though the component parts are of high quality. These wines are built to age and this should tone-down given time.

Crozes-Hermitage "Domaine de Thalabert" 1990 - £14.50
Medium to pale ruby. Very concentrated Porty nose. Full of sweet black fruit which is slightly syrupy. Palate is firm, with quite high acidity and good tannins. In the mouth the fruit is layered, with mulberries and raspberries then an earthy, dark, gamey quality. Though it's not a hugely complex wine the fruit is deeply layered and it is drinking extremely well. It is mature but should easily hold for several years.

Hermitage La Chapelle 1991 - £30.00
Beautiful, soaring nose of jammy blackcurrant and sweet strawberry fruit. There is a lovely ripe core of fruit at the heart of this wine and great balance. The purity of the fruit seems to have reasserted itself over the past year or two yet there are still plenty of interesting animal and non-fruit nuances. Decent length. Lovely.
I've tasted this 4 or 5 times over the past 3 years and am enjoying it more and more each time. Lovely now.

Hermitage La Chapelle 1997
Wonderfully ripe, sweet syrah fruit. Cassis and raspberries, then a charcoal note. The palate really does show lovely balance with fine, but firm tannins and good acidity supporting masses of black fruits, pepper and spice. The wine is medium-bodied and is very elegant with fine fruit, concentration and balance. Superb potential.
In the last few vintages La Chapelle has seemed amazingly forward and fruit-driven in the first year after bottling, before quickly closing down, perhaps not to re-emerge for another 6 to 8 years.

Symingtons (Port) with Paul Symington

Graham vintage Port 1997 (cask sample)
Almost black/purple. Gorgeously ripe, aromatic and confected with scents of dark chocolate, blackcurrant and charcoal. Great sense of purity and sweetness, redolant of sultanas and blackberries. Very ripe tannins and fine acidity, already showing tremendous length. I thought this was very, very promising indeed.

Warre vintage Port 1977
Quite a youthful colour. Sensuous, enveloping nose with a bouquet of kirsch, honey, sweet mulberries and vanilla. Concentrated sweetness on palate and medium body. Notes of coffee and cherries. Good length too. Very good indeed.

Graham vintage Port 1970
Very serious black fruit and incense nose that is blackcurranty and spicy. This seems younger than the Warre. On the palate still a powerhouse structure of tannin and acidity. There's a toffee/fudge richness to the sweet black fruits and a smooth texture, but then also a firm edge adding complexity. Huge concentration and very long. This needs time and is a profound wine.
One of the finest Ports I've tasted and amazingly youthful. Though the '70 is now very rare and expensive, this 29 year old wine adds great weight to the impression that the '97 cask sample might turn out to be a very special when it is released....