Last night I had the great pleasure to visit my friends James and Katie in the company of recurrent drinking buddy ‘The Kid’ Peter for a comparative tasting of Clapham’s pizza establishments. As you can see, Katie gets rather enthusiastic about pizza.
The Burgundies we opened were all wonderful, in an irksomely prejudice denying manner I even loved the Dugat-Py. Whilst I found it to have interest and character, the 5 year old Moulin-a-Vent didn’t live up to the rapturous reputation of Chateau des Jacques Beaujolais. Sadly our Alsace Rieslings were undrinkable. The Weinbach was simply oxidised whilst the Hugel wine we opened and discarded confirmed with eloquent certitude my view that they squander the potential of their top-drawer vineyard holdings. All the wines were served blind and I think James, Peter and I acquitted ourselves with the adroit prowess ex-Oxford blind tasting team captains should display.
Riesling Cuvee St Catherine 1995, Domaine Weinbach
Oxidised to the extent of being revoltingly undrinkable. I rather like Weinbach wines and would certainly have expected longevity from their Rieslings – you’ve let me down, filles Faller.
Riesling Hommage a Jean Hugel 1998, Hugel
This was a gift from someone who clearly didn’t know I feel Hugel are over-rated producers of vapid swill. In theory, one should be expecting this to compel with complex characters of classy calibre, being made from a selection of the best late-harvest fruit grown on the outstanding Schoenenbourg Grand Cru in what was a super vintage for Alsace Riesling. But then, alas, it was Hugel who picked and vinified it. It has merrily meandered a decent distance down oxidised street and reeks of an alarming array of organic solvent compounds so colourfully carcinogenic in character that even the Russians would consider them excessive to use when poisoning political protesters. I’d guess such a terribly toxic combination of chemicals tastes not nearly so noisome. A despicably, detestably distasteful drink.
I’ve long held Hugel efforts in execrable esteem and, whilst having one’s views validated may engender a warm glow of self-congratulatory smugness, there is no joy in drinking egregious wines made by the oenologically challenged. It is a reprehensible misuse of a prime Riesling vineyard to make such an abominable, atrocious wine. I get deeply depressed when encountering wines grown on valued vineyards made by people who piss away their potential. When enlightenment prevails such wines will be sent for industrial distillation and the ownership of the vineyards assigned to the aesthetically adept. Katie’s expression says it all.
Meursault les Tillets 2004, Domaine Roulot
As I smell this for the first time I’m aware of a slightly dirty, vaguely stinky reductive character; Roulot wines are made in a more reductive style than a lot of white Burgundy (so they age a treat) but finding one to be even a hint on the stinky side is a new experience for me. I shall swirl vigorously for a few minutes and sniff again. Yes, that smells more typical. Whilst this is a nose of understated refinement it shows a good degree of clean lemon fruit and a definite Meursault buttery character. Its mineral complexity is prominent. The palate is certainly in that refined idiom, with ripe fruit, pronounced acidity, rich minimality and a hint of supporting oak all bound up in a tightly-wound composition of minimalist beauty. There is a taut youthfulness here which makes the drinking experience a shade exacting, but there is pleasure in being asked questions by a wine of such good report that its demands are breathtakingly riveting. If you have some of this clearly fine wine keep it for a few more years, I think there are characters present yet to blossom to their fullest, most attractive extent.
Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru les Ruchots 2007, Domaine Arlaud
What a ravishing, gorgeous nose charged with ripe, fleshy, fruity allure. I’m smitten from my very first sniff. Whilst being an astronomical unit away from being over-blown or tiresome, I’m finding the fruit so attractive and markedly sensual that only the most churlish of humourless curmudgeons could fail to grin broadly whilst having a sniff. And there is more: a strikingly sophisticated array of earthy aromas and a subtle seasoning of oak – this may be a palpable pleasure to smell but I think it is impregnated with enough sophistication to merit the epithet ‘fine’. It is a throbbing pleasure to drink, too, with complex fruit flavours suffusing its exquisitely wrought texture of intricate, silken tannins and lively, vibrant acidity. Yeah, this seems incredibly lively and vibrant to me, throbbing with youthful exuberance of a winningly delectable nature. Unequivocally a really sexy Morey Premier Cru that is dishing out high-pleasure larks now, as one would hope for in a 2007, but clearly has precisely what in needs where it needs it in order to age over the medium term with considerable class. Morey can be so sensuous and this is irresistibly so – I’m as jolly as a butcher at christmas to own a magnum.
Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2001, Bernard Dugat-Py
Now this is a deep nose of profound personality, I can smell the concentration imparted by old vines. Whilst it is certainly not short of attractiveness, I get the feeling as I nose this that I am experiencing an entity of brooding power charged with such intensity that it demands serious and respectful attention. It shows no excesses of alcohol or wood which would detract from its sober class and render it merely impressive. Yes, it is impressive, but it has the far more fulfilling character of being a harmoniously beautiful entity which has certainly transfixed me. The palate is also charged with a dignified, composed density that speaks of serious fruit vinified with a skilled but light hand, it shows its origins transparently. There are ripe tannins which show a degree of mature softness and, for all its manifest gravitas, it is a thoroughly arresting construction of perspicuous class. And I’ll admit to that resulting in me being somewhat infuriated. Until tonight I’ve never had a Dugat-Py wine that has delivered anything even approximating pleasure; they have all been turgid, unbalanced entities of monolithic toughness. Consequently, I had come to the opinion that the wines were vastly over-rated and worthy only of my contempt. This quite suited me as I delight in pricking the bubbles of ludicrously expensive wines that are sycophantically reviewed by critics of doubtfully enlightened status. But now I’ve had a good one, a bloody good one at that, so its been my bubble that is being popped. Curses! (but thanks for the wine, James.)
Moulin-A-Vent Clos du Grand Carquelin 2005, Chateau des Jacques/Louis Jadot
There are the merest suggestions of bubblegum Beaujolais fruit to this nose, but the more I swirl it and the more I smell it I am finding it becoming rather more meaty and quite clearly having an earthy component to its aromas. It is not stunningly sophisticated but it seems to me there is more dimension than I would usually expect to find in typical young Beaujolais, and those dimensions border on being interesting. Consequently, I think this has improved with age rather than merely persisting. Furthermore, the palate goes beyond hinting at complexity with a degree of maturity showing to its fruit character, more of those meaty flavours and a clear earthiness. There is a valiant stab at harmony with nigh on commendable acid levels and a creditable approximation of a tannic structure; together with the berry fruitiness these characters do enough to keep it from tasting like a can of Heinz oxtail soup. There are distinctly positive attributes on display, which a tenacious taster will find with only moderate perseverance, and I feel it has improved with age. However, I find myself repeatedly thinking these properties do not go far enough in ameliorating the vague lack of charm that disconcerts me with every taste. I know it is well regarded, yet I find the drinking experience marginally too cheerless to really want to share a few glasses with civilized companions. Perhaps the wine is eclipsed by those stunners which preceded it so I’ll not give up on my idea to age some 09s, but I’ll be moderate in my expectations of what’ll happen to them.