What we've been drinking (27 March - 3 April 2009)
Acting Assistant Editor
Domaines Paul Mas, Château Paul Mas, Clos des Mûres, Côteaux du Languedoc, France 2000
At a dinner in London with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas this week, this gutsy red was the star of a very tasty line-up, which included his La Forge Marsanne and a sadly corked 2001 vintage of this wine. Thankfully no such problems here, and the blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Grenache from a 11ha vineyard still tasted fresh, bright and youthful, belying its nine years. Aged in a mix of new and used French oak, the vanilla toast notes highlight the black cherry fruit fruit, wine gums and white pepper spice. The palate is dense, the tannins chewy and the finish long, proving a juicy match for a French feast of roast pork, rillettes, cheeses and charcuterie.
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2005
While many Californian wines continue to price themselves out of the market (Lovely Cabernet – how much? How much?!), this elegant sparkling wine from the region’s premium fizz producer is a no-brainer. With a retail price of just over £20, it beats many a vintage Champagne hands down on taste, and at half the price. Dry, elegant and creamy, it has a lemony zest and some apple and tropical fruit flavours. I am still kicking myself for not buying some of the delicious 1999 vintage to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary with this summer...
Domaine des Roches Neuves, L'Insolite, Saumur Blanc 2007
This is a serious Saumur made by the charming and talented Thierry Germain. Thierry’s goal is to keep the vines and soil at its healthiest and he has been practising lutte raisonnée from the start. The Insolite cuvée is not your typical Saumur wine; the grapes are harvested in several picking sessions according to ripeness with yield of no more than 18hl/ha. The wine is then fermented and aged in new and 2nd oak barrels. The nose is rich with full of ripe apple and pineapple aromas and some honey. Elegant richness on the palate with lots of weight but balanced by a natural acidity and a fine minerality, very attractive concentration of exotic fruits.
Deputy Editor, decanter.com
Craggy Range, Gimblett Gravels vineyard, Block 14, 2002
My problem with good New World wines is that I never cellar any. Correction: I never have enough to cellar. So it's always a pleasure to be able to taste something old from the New World (sometimes the anticipation of opening an old Napa or a screwtopped Eden Valley Riesling is greater than taking a long-lived Bordeaux or Barolo from its place in the cellar). This superb Craggy Range didn't disappoint. Meaty, gamey, witha herbal lift, this showed great, developed Syrah aromas but still with a hint of young fruit. It's weight was beautiful and it combined spiciness and luscious warmth. Really impressive.
Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I had this in the august surroundings of Portcullis House, the annex to the Houses of Parliament, at the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Wine and Spirit Group's report on drink and taxation. MPs are good company, and never more so than when they're relaxed. This was a boozy, convivial affair: 6.30 in the evening after a day at work, after the tedium of queueing for x-rays, friskings and retinal scans, you get to the committee room to see a long table with numerous bottles arrayed, ice buckets and affable chaps serving...this Kiwi Sauvignon. It was perfect; zesty, bright, soft acids, fresh, spicy and herby - one mouthful and you know you're in good hands.
Editor, Decanter magazine
Domaine de Montrieux, Petillant Naturel, Boisson Rouge
At the increasingly popular Terroirs wine bar (fast becoming something of a hangout for the London wine trade and visiting producers) I was persuaded by the intrepid blogger Jamie Goode to push the boundaries with an aperitif. ‘Boisson Rouge’ doesn’t sound particularly adventurous – or enticing – but as red fizz goes, it was a vast step up from the sickly Australian Sparkling Shiraz I’ve been exposed to the past. Made by Domaine de Montrieux in the Coteaux de Vendomois in the Loire, it’s 100% Gamay, a touch off-dry, and dances across the palate in a wonderfully wacky way.