What we’ve been drinking (28 May)

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

Guy Woodward

Editor, Decanter

   Summers Charbono, Napa Valley 2006

A discovery, exposed to me by a resourceful Californian contact. Charbono was brought to the west coast from Italy some time in the late 19th century, and has clung to existence in the state under various guises since, often mistaken for Barbara, Dolcetto or even Pinot Noir. It is in fact the practically extinct Mediterranean variety Corbeau (still used as a blending agent in its native region between southeast France and northwest Italy), though some claim it is also identical to the Argentinian grape Bonarda. The Californians are adamant, though, that Charbono is found only in the Golden State, and limited to around 80 acres, half of which grows in Calistoga.

Whatever its heritage, this wine was rather delicious, its vibrant purple colour matched by the bright, generous fruit. It has one of those warm, inviting noses – mainly black cherry – that really draws you into the first sip. Just enough dusty, savoury notes (a hint of cloves) to add a layer of interest to the lively blackberry, fruitcake palate. Not a supremely complex or long wine, but with silky tannins, refreshing texture and – best of all – inconspicuous alcohol.

John Abbott

Deputy Editor, decanter.com

   Bodega del Desierto, 25/5, La Pampa, Argentina 2006

It’s always an interesting exercise, comparing Decanter panel tasting scores to my armchair assessments at home. This wine was awarded a ‘fair’ rating – two stars with an average score of 14.33 in our recent mammoth Argentine Malbec tasting in the June issue of Decanter. And, on the first night, I’d say that was a fair assessment. So too on the second and third nights [one glass, day on day – as evening scheduling allows.] It wasn’t ’til day four that it started to rack up more points. I’d expected it to start deteriorating, given that it was already on the lighter end of the Malbec spectrum, but it suddenly found its perfume, and its sweetness and its coherence. It’s a point that comes up again and again. So many wines don’t shout loudly enough to be fully noticed at first encounter. But how often should you take the risk and give it lead time out of the bottle? On this occasion, it all worked out well. Suffice to say there was no day 5.

Tina Gellie

Chief Sub Editor, Decanter

   Torbreck, The Struie, Barossa Valley-Eden Valley, South Australia 2006

A memorable dinner in London last week with Dave Powell, the larger-than-life owner-winemaker of Torbreck in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. Memorable not least for the fact that he asked Jancis Robinson MW if she’d like to see his bottom (in the middle of the one Michelin-starred Texture restaurant) – specifically the brand he’d emblazoned on there while a touch inebriated at a restauarnt in Sweden. But that’s another story… Of course what was most memorable were the wines, and Powell had brought the whole range with him, from the Woodcutter’s Shiraz, named for the time he was a lumberjack in

Scotland (Torbreck is also the name of the Scottish town) to Juvenilles, an unoaked, ripe and juicy blend of 60% Grenache, and 20% each of Shiraz and Mataro (Mourvedre), chosen from up to 40 different old-vine vineyards. Powell’s affinity is with the Rhone, but he’s adamant he’s not trying to be a Barossan Beaucastel: ‘You’d be pretty bloody stupid – I’m making Australian wines in a warm place, just not one-dimensional, US-oak-laden wines. Does that make me French?´The Descendant, a 94-year-old plot of Shiraz on its own rootstocks blended with 8% Viognier, is perhaps a little OTT for a comparison with Cote-Rotie, but Run Rig – the same dry-grown Shiraz with 3% Viognier is closer to the mark. Two of the best for my palate were single-vineyard wines: Les Amis, a spicy, bright gently-oaked Grenache boasting ripe, lively cherry fruit; and The Pict, a meaty, juicy, heady young Mataro with two years ageing in barrique. But

punching well above its weight for the price is The Struie. perhaps less well known than The Steading, this Shiraz is a blend of two-thirds Barossa and one-third Eden Valley fruit that spends 18 months in French barrique, giving a harmonious whole of leathery, savoury plum fruit with a spiced dark chocolate edge. Fresh, cool and beautifully balanced. Make sure you have a rare steak to give it justice.

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