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What we’ve been drinking (15 April)

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... What we've been drinking index

Amy Wislocki

Managing Editor, Decanter

   Lesc Blanc, Vin de Pays du Gers 2008

I spent a sunny afternoon last Sunday at Kew Gardens, rounded off – what could be better – with a browse in the local independent wine merchant, The Good Wine Shop. One of two branches, this company prides itself in choosing more quirky wines; the kind of thing you probably won’t find on the supermarket shelves. I came away after plenty of friendly and useful advice with a bottle of sparkling wine (Clover Hill from Tasmania – okay, but would like more refinement) and five bottles of white, including a Lugana, and a Gros Manseng by Alain Brumont. The first and only bottle of white I have opened so far is this one, the cheapest of the lot at around £6, and so simply presented that there isn’t even a back label. I never thought I’d recommend a Colombard, and I’m not pretending it’s anything complex, but it is made by one of France’s best co-ops, Producteurs Plaimont in southwest France, and it’s just what you want from an everyday white from this part of the world – fresh, zippy and citrussy and, an added bonus, only 11.5%. Didn’t taste as good two nights later when I finished off the bottle, but I would definitely buy this again.

Guy Woodward

Editor, Decanter

   Chateau Haut-Carles, Fronsac, 2001

Amid the maelstrom of the recent en primeur tastings, I managed to procure a couple of intriguing bottles of older vintages from lesser-known properties to enjoy on my return. As we all struggle to offer the appropriate level of restrained praise for the 2009 vintage, it’s good to be reminded that the true test of a vintage’s merits comes years later. 2001 wasn’t hailed as a great year on release, but its star continues to rise, particularly for those of us for whom value is a key factor. For despite the pleasure and wonder afforded by sampling cask samples of Latour, Lafite et al, the likelihood is that in 2018, I will be supping more prosaic 09s. If they’re as good as this relatively humble Fronsac, though, I won’t be complaining. From the stable of one-time garagiste Jean-Luc Thunevin, this has all that savoury richness you expect, allied to a warm, almost tapenade-like note. It still has years ahead, but offered a welcome reminder that the best things in life are worth the wait.

Lucy Shaw

Editorial assistant, Decanter

   Samalens VSOP, Bas Armagnac

Monday night was a swashbuckling affair. En route to a dinner at the Connaught celebrating 700 years of Armagnac, I was greeted at the door by a pair of Musketeers. Michelin-starred chef Helene Darroze, whose father Francis is considered the ‘Pope of Armagnac’ for his single vineyard, single vintage unblended Armagnacs, had ambitiously created a menu around Armagnac, which we drank without respite throughout the meal. It was an interesting exercise, but I was crying out for a crisp white by the end. Sat next to Pierre Samalens, a third generation producer, I got to try a range of his brandies. The VSOP, 30% of which is double distilled to add flavour and finesse, had a lovely, almost Oloroso-like nose of vanilla, caramel, toffee and toasty oak. The palate was creamy and rounded, with dried fruit, pepper and prunes in the mix, which mingled into a long nutty finish. At the end of the evening Delia Smith was called to the stage to be made a ‘Musketeer’ for her work in promoting Armagnac in the UK. She had to raise her left hand and swear to ‘respect the eau de vie – the source of all female enthusiasm’. Curiouser and curiouser.

Adam Lechmere

Editor, decanter.com

   Castillo Perelada Reserva, Emporda, Spain 2007

It was the end of the holiday, and my eyes had stopped watering at the Norwegian prices (we were skiing, cross country, in Geilo about 150 miles north of Oslo), and as we were eating out for the first time I splashed out on a reindeer steak. The rest of the party chose slightly more reasonable dishes (my steak, main course, was 27 kroner, about £30 – and this wasn’t the best hotel in town). But what a steak – thick as a pillow, beautifully rare (they didn’t ask how I wanted it done, just presented it with ‘a liddle bit of Rudolf, sir’), and tender to the point of melting. Either the hotel has the best chef in the north, with a sharp eye for a good cut, or reindeer is just like that. Anyway – what to drink? My frugal family and friends (even my children baulk at the prices in Norway) were on beer and water. I chose a glass of house red (80 kroner – about a tenner) and crossed my fingers. This being Norway, the wine list was eclectic, global to the point of Chateau Musar 99 at eighty quid a bottle. And the house red? Castillo Perelada from Emporda, the northeasternmost appellation of Spain, high up on the French border. Carinena, Cabernet, Tempranillo, Garnacha and the rest. A really smoky, spicy, blackcurrant mouthful, rich, warm and with ripe, grippy tannins. Perfect, and what surprise when I’d been expecting Casillero del Diablo.

John Abbott

Deputy Editor, decanter.com

   De Bortolli Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Australia 2008

Drinking Pinot Noir at home is a rare treat. I hang back from opening it too often so as not to get too used to it, opting for richer, sturdier grape varieties to fill the void.

The beauty of doing it that way, I find, is re-remembering exactly why you like Pinot Noir, and finding, without fail, more reasons to like it.

This particular example was on the feistier end of the spectrum. Spice, acidity and fragrance, with jaunty tannins and a clumsy mouthfeel, capitulated into a sweetness and a roundness that charmed.

I often overlook De Bortoli [one of Australia’s First Families of Wine] when choosing Aussie wine because I’m too often looking for something quirky and new. I should re-evaluate once in a while because what they do, they do very well.

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