At Decanter we all love our wine, and every week members of the Decanter team - from editorial assistant to publishing director - tell us what they've been enjoying at home and when they go out...
Beronia Blanco, Rioja 2007
There’s an excellent tapas bar close to the office to which I retired for my Friday lunch. Somewhat unprepossessing from the exterior (it used to be a bank in olden times, which may explain the barred windows), the presentation of its wine list could also benefit from an overhaul. But its content was refreshingly adventurous – wholly Spanish, but with a varied selection from the likes of Utiel Requena, Somontano and even Zamora, on which I have to profess ignorance. Alas my selection, a white Rioja, was not quite so cavalier. When limiting myself to a single glass at a sitting, I tend to veer on the side of caution, so perhaps I should have expected the slightly bland nose I was greeted with (not helped by the small glass in which it was served, filled to the brim – a personal pet peeve). The palate had a nice nutty nuance though, married to nicely restrained stone fruit tones. It didn’t really go anywhere, but then sometimes the occasion is more about simple pleasures than getting bogged down in too much analysis…
Chief Sub-editor, Decanter
Luis Pato, Vinha Formal, Bairrada, Portugal 1999
Known more for his work with the region’s dark, tannic but long-living Baga grape, Luis Pato’s whites from Bical should not be ignored. Sadly unable to take this home in my hand luggage after a whistlestop trip visiting northern Portugal, I decided to open it up over dinner on my last night in Porto with two of Pato’s fellow Independent Winegrowers Association members, cousins João Pedro and Nuno Araujo, who hadn’t tasted this white as a 10-year-old. Decanted, as was recommended, it was still slow to open, but when it did the bouquet shone, reminiscent of developing Chablis (probably thanks to the chalky–clay soil Bical thrives in). Rounded cashew nuts, rich apple puree, lemon zest, stony minerals and an earthy, dare I say touch oxidised, toastyness on the palate that gave it real character. Complex and intense, the firm structure and enticing acidity will see it reach another decade with ease. If you can rustle up grilled sardines, barnacles and hake with turnip-top risotto like they do in Portugal, you won’t be disappointed with the match.
Mas Gran Negre, Montsant, 2005
A superb, dark wine from NE Spain. Very elegant and juicy with lots of black fruits and spice, quite earthy and perfumed, great balance. With so many wine regions producing so much with an eye on an international audience – perfectly “made”, very expensive, impossible to dislike but at the same time without any real sense of place – it’s a joy to taste something which could only come from where it comes from…
Managing Editor, Decanter
Villa Farnia di Farnese, Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Italy 2008
Laithwaites held its first press tasting in over a decade last week. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, it fielded just a fraction of its enormous (3,000+) range. Though there are around a dozen Laithwaites shops, the volume of business done by its parent company Direct Wines is via mail order. As well as Laithwaites itself, the company is behind The Sunday Times Wine Club, as well as most other mail order wine offers seen in UK publications or company mailings. I’m rarely tempted by the ready-mixed cases you see in magazines – for me the pleasure lies in putting it together myself, and I always suspect that they use at least some of the space to palm off unwanted stock.(Indeed, I’ve only ever bought one mixed case, from Tesco Wine Club, of award-winning whites including several excellent Decanter World Wine Award winners.) The point is that my expectations were modest before I attended this tasting, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and individuality of many of the wines shown, and by the dynamism of the new management team. Value for money is still a question mark over some of the Laithwaites wines, but this fantastic example of the trendy northern Italian white grape Pecorino is a great buy at £7.99. Mineral, nutty, concentrated and crisp, this has just the kind of personality that I would be delighted to find in a mixed case – so long as all the bottles were equally exciting…
Editorial Assistant, Decanter
Francis Darroze Bas-Armagnac Château de Gaube 1971
I don’t know a lot about Armagnac, but I know considerably more than I did after being invited to a cigar and Armagnac pairing dinner at Boisdale of Belgravia recently, which neatly coincided with flamboyant owner (and cigar aficionado) Ranald Macdonald’s 46th birthday. Six Armagnacs were on show, from a young and feminine 21-year-old to an elegantly aged and knowing 40-year-old. But for me this was the wine of the night – made from 100% Baco, the nose showed notes of orange peel, quince and apricot with a hint of mint and alluring vanilla and cinnamon spices. The palate was more mature, with walnuts, caramel, chocolate and leather dominating. Confident rather than over-bearing, it had a wonderfully long and complex finish and held its own against the might of my 1999 Punch Churchill cigar.