Clark Foyster Wines portfolio tasting – the bleeding edge of vinous cool

When I received the list of wines to be shown at the Clark Foyster portfolio tasting I wished I had a hermetically sealed room to hide in to avoid contracting an illness that would spoil my enjoyment. The collection of ultra-hip offerings from Austria, Australia, Burgundy and elsewhere would delight drinkers far more voguish than your humble reporter; this was the wine engagement of the season.

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I did wonder if my normal sartorial strategy, wearing loud clothes, would be acceptable at such a cool event. Consequently, I was both surprised and delighted that my choice of shirt was up to Lance Foyster-level chic. Feeling confident that I had measured up to the appropriate apparel benchmark I set my mood to ‘insouciant’, palate to ‘analytical’ and headed for wine number one.

First up was the selection from Austria; Clark Foyster have an embarrassment of riches from this country which is still in the process of being de-flowered by the international wine market. I was largely interested in trying Riesling and Gruner Veltliner whites and Blaufrankisch-based reds.

The Schloss Gobelsburg 2009 whites were some of the best I’ve had from this producer. The basic Gruner and Riesling had a pleasing depth of character, showing plenty of regional character as well as solid varietal identity. I normally prefer Riesling to GruV but, wizard as the single vineyard Riesling Gaisberg was, it was eclipsed by the real corker of a GruV from the Lamm vineyard – its harmony between fruit, acid and minerality was spot on and totally toothsome.

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I’ve always thought of Stadt Krems wines as being good value quaffers, but some of the 2009s showed they can also make wines that ask more questions of the imbiber. Winemaker Franz-Josef Gansberger informed me that they have a lot of young vines which go into the basic wines; for young vines products these were pretty good offerings speaking of both variety and region of origin. The second-tier Gruner, Weinzierberg, was highly attractive and an absolute steal as it retails for less than £15. I found the frabjous Steinterrassen Riesling to be far more engaging and polished than its £13.40 price-tag might indicate and the intricate, stylish Riesling Kogl had real dimension and refinement making it compelling stuff at £37 per magnum.

2009 also smiled on Franz Hirtzberger from the Wachau region. His wines are made in a distinctly well-titted out style without them lacking anything in terms of refinement. They make a welcome change from the ascetic pursuit of minimalism. The GruV Smaragd Axpoint was a sensuous entity of quite callipygian character; if you like them big, bold and beautiful this would blow your pants off. From further down the hill the Axpoint is grown on comes the Hochrain Riesling, another voluptuous, lascivious wine which is clearly trying to get you wrecked enough to be beddable. Whilst the Singerriedel Riesling is also not lacking in terms of scale it has notably more sophistication and is quite tumescent with complex, beguiling flavours. I have long been a fan of this wine and the 2009 is a seriously top bunny example. Herr Hirtzberger also had a 2006 Singerriedel on show that was still pretty youthful and manifestly a pulsing mouthful of quality Riesling action that was in no danger of falling apart for many years to come.

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Supreme amongst the Austrian reds was Moric from the Mittelburgenland – his top wine was the best Blaufrankisch I’ve had in a very long time (and priced to match). What I loved about his wines, from the the basic to the old vine single-vineyard, was their cool, under-stated beauty and totally graceful harmony. They were subtle and sophisticated with fine tannins and moderate alcohol levels, made in a style analogous to that of quality Burgundy rather than Procrustean efforts to manufacture tediously over-ripe, over-extracted, over-oaked wines of the ‘international’ idiom. I cannot pretend to be an expert on Blaufrankisch, but it strikes me that this is how it should be handled: when intemperately vinified the wines seem hollow compared to those treated with a light touch.

The basic 2008 clocks in at £15 a bottle, an unquestionable snip for this distinctly different taste of vinous allure. Even though I am frightfully hard of income I would try and stretch to the Moric Reserve 2007 for £25 a bottle, its elegance would be arousing for any lover of aesthetic experiences. Not so long ago I never thought I would have a Blaufrankisch worth £50 a bottle, but the Lutzmannsburg Alte Reben 2007 really set the synapses sparking in my pleasure centres. It had old vine concentration and complexity, but was consummately exquisite and of inordinately refined style. I loved it unreservedly.

There were a couple of other Blaufrankisch wines which yanked my bell-pull. Umathum’s Kirschgarten 2006 was moderately, yet not unpleasantly, solvent-like; when smelling it I had some idea that glue-sniffing might be fun. That being said it really was good with nice fruit and a classy texture. Feiler-Artinger made a deliciously fruity 2008 and also a prestige cuvee 2008 blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot which I was peeved to discover I rather enjoyed. Finally, Gerhard Pittnauer made a deeply affordable 2008 that leaned toward the tougher end of the flavour spectrum but was quite balanced thanks to its fun fruit character.

Beyond Burgundy (see below) I didn’t try many of the French wines. One I did taste was the Collioure producer Coume del Mas. If you like odd white wines the Folio Collioure blanc 2009, made from Grenache Gris, tasted like a blend of white Hermitage and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh; totally off the wall but rather enjoyable. Drink it soon before it becomes something even more unhinged. No rush with their two red Collioures which were top examples of the appellation. The Schistes 2009 was a heroically tannic Grenache, I loved its sweet fruit. Even more rigorously structured was the Quadratur 2008, a tightly-wound ball of powerful ripe fruit and astringent intensity. If you like your experiences vigorous and vivacious this administered pleasure like a dominatrix dishes out canings; sometimes you really need to feel you are alive.

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I had a great time swinging past Mac Forbes’ table; he is a lovely fellow who makes beauteous wines. Most I had tried before but there were two that had escaped my attentions until then. The 2010 Riesling from Tasmania was potentially the world’s most acidic wine, it slashed across my palate and far too sensitive stomach with the enthusiasm of a maleficent schoolboy exploiting the sun with a magnifying glass and some ants. I can believe it’ll turn out to be perfectly harmonious, but it might take a while in the cellar. The Yarra Glen Pinot Noir 2008 is made from a relatively young vineyard, only planted 8 years ago. The vineyard is quite cool and this, together with Mac’s minimalist winemaking style, results in a small scale wine of sculpted beauty. At £27 a bottle it is cheaper than some of his other single vineyard Pinots and I would be most happy to buy this in preference to those expenditure-enhanced specimens as the style is just so alluring.

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There were two disappointments I feel I should report. I was very surprised by how unyielding and tough the Domaine Fourrier 2007 red Burgundies were. 2007 Burgundies are generally of a ‘tits out’-ilk and in my experience Fourrier wines have an attractive, approachable style. However, these were distinctly tannic and lacking in fun and general ravishment value. I hope it is just an awkward stage they are going through, which is a possibility, otherwise many people will be disappointed when they pop these hard as nails wines.

Domaine Latour Giraud is a producer I have only tasted infrequently and based on the 2007 white Burgundies on offer I am quite happy to remain not even a nodding acquaintance. I tasted these at the same time as Mac Forbes and after exchanging grimaces we retired to a safe distance and discussed flaws. It struck me that the 2007 Meursaults had the character dirty barrels impart which Mac agreed with and went on to say he thought they had the beginnings of oxidation showing. Seemed fair comment to me. Mac asked what I thought of their Bourgogne Blanc 2007 so I gave him my unvarnished opinion that it was reminiscent of vomit induced by the consumption of rancid yoghurt.

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My final stop was for the wines I can believe attracted most of the attendees to this event: the red Burgundies of Sylvain Cathiard. M. Cathiard is undoubtedly one of the most pulsingly fashionable and certainly highly praised winemakers from the sexiest village on the golden slope. As such, the demand for his wines is Brobdingnagian to say the least resulting in high prices: the Nuits-Saint-Georges villages 2008 on show retails for £45 a bottle and this is his most basic wine. I was intrigued to see if he could cast his magic spell in a vintage as difficult as 2008. As I tasted it became blindingly obvious that his magic spell must have been enhanced by extra wiccan mana points – the quality of the wines was so excessively high it was frankly depraved.

Everything on offer for tasting was charged with a lucent beauty and arresting finesse of such bewitching delight I must have worried my fellow tasters crowded around these bottles as I groaned and growled with uninhibited enchantment. Tasting such things gives meaning to existence. Pouring and slurping tiny measures with half of London’s wine buyers trying to snatch bottles from your hands may be less than exemplary conditions for getting the most from these refulgent entities (best would be at a small gathering of enlightened friends), but the arousing, stimulating quality was abundantly clear.

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It’d be easy to recommend the Vosne Premier Crus, they are what he is famous for, but the two wines that did it for me in dissolute style were from other villages. The Chambolle-Musigny Clos de l’Orme 2008 was a Chambolle of utter finesse for £49 retail, and the inordinately brilliant Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru aux Murgers 2008 which was such an elegant, refined Nuits of total seduction I feel a speck of emotion in the corner of my eye just to think of it now (£79 retail). There is very little 2008 Burgundy that is better.

That was a wine event of ‘Oooh fancy!’ quality and I wallowed in all those glorious bottles. If you need some booze-action of definite modish character I am terribly happy to point you in the direction of Clark Foyster Wines, they will keep you at the pinnacle of wine hip.

Clark Foyster Wines, 15 South Ealing Road, London W5 4QT. Telephone 020 8567 3731 Fax 020 8567 1594.

  • Hello David,

    Thanks for sharing that – sounds like a marvellous tasting. Hope someone invites me for the next one!

    I have much success with GruV recently (tasting notes coming up over the next weeks), so pleased to hear you found some good ones too. Interestingly, I do seem to remember that Philglass & Swiggot do stock some of the producers you mentioned, so something to put on the list for my next visit.


  • Hi Torsten,

    There are two other Gruner producers it is well worth looking out for: F X Pichler and Emmerich Knoll. These two make stylish, high-class wines that would grace any table.

    Thanks for dropping by,

  • lance foyster

    David, This is a brilliant write up. Thank you so very much. We were all, Mac included, splitting our sides in the office this morning over the maleficent boy with the magnifying glass. I can’t think of many producers who would have considered your report on the Tasmania Riesling to be complimentary, but, as we know, he’s a little bit special. It was very amusing, later on Tuesday afternoon, watching the Austrians’ utter bafflement at this wine. They really hated it!

    You know at these tastings i find it almost impossible to taste objectively my own wines myself, but i was in no doubt how great the Cathiard wines were. I’m sorry Fourrier and LG didn’t quite do it for you (!) but overall we look as though we re still comfortably in credit.

    We’ll see you soon, i hope.

    May i post the link to this report to a few customers? (especially those who didn’t make it.

  • Many thanks for your kind words, Lance, but super hilarious thanks for inviting me to the tasting; as you could no doubt tell I had a stupendously good time.

    The Fourrier wines could well have been showing awkwardly for any number of reasons, definitely not worth writing off yet. Cradle-snatching quality Pinot is an exercise fraught with uncertainty.

    The LG whites, on the other hand, had problems. Given the vast reserves of oenological knowledge at CFWines couldn’t one of you go over there for the harvest and vinification and give them pointers to stop the raw materials being so wantonly pissed away?

    The Cathiard wines provided ample evidence that the limits of pleasure are yet to be defined or reached. They were permeated with such stupefying beauty that any failure to be engrossed, captivated or mesmerised would undoubtedly be a failure of the taster rather than the wines*.

    You are more than welcome to send links to this post to anyone who isn’t easily offended by unabashed enthusiasm.

    Thanks once again for inviting me.


    *If you are reading this, NPM, give Lance a call tomorrow and score some of the Nuits 1er Murgers for your wine lists. You will bleeding love it.

  • Ralph Thompson

    great post thanks