An evening’s drinking rarely leaves me this impressed

Once again it was our pleasure to host Peter Sidebotham (of Hand-Picked Burgundy) and Peter Palmer (the Black Sea wanderer) at Elitistreview Towers. We drank quite mind-bogglingly well, but I was a tad dejected that three weeks off the sauce whilst in hospital has done my historically epic tolerance no favours at all. I was distinctly moderate in the measures I poured for myself otherwise I’d still be positively quaquaversal.

Some of the wines we sampled Even though moderation was called for, it is evenings like this that remind one why one drinks wine – not only were all of them hilariously fine but also sharing such delights with enlightened company is highly gratifying. I have to say I was pleased that Peter S was a tad delayed, as this gave me the opportunity to try some Sherry I’d scored before my hospital appointment yet was unable to pop before my pancreas did. It was an exhilarating precursor to a hoopy roller-coaster ride of brilliant wines.

Fino Perdido

Fino Perdido, Sanchez Romate Hnos.

Before I get to the note, this Sherry deserves a bit of exposition. The wine is bottled in April, when the growth of flor yeast on the surface of the wine in barrel is at its thickest and so imparts most flavour. It is also quite old for a Fino, with an average age of its constituent wines being eight years old. Finally, the wine is bottled without fining, filtration or any other form of jiggery-pokery; consequently it retains maximum character. The label warns us that the wine may be a tad cloudy, or throw some deposit, but who really cares about such things? Historically this Sherry style was called a ‘Fino-Amontillado’, but the use of this moniker has been banned – hence the name Fino Perdido meaning ‘lost Fino’.

On to the note. It is the darkest Fino I have ever seen, real golden/amber tones present. Even though it is only 15% it smells incredibly potent and profound; the depth of character it displays is quite arresting. There are all the Fino nutty aromas one would hope for, but they are quite striking in terms of their power and complexity. Brilliant stuff to sniff. The palate also has a prodigious density and layers of complex flavours charged with energy. It is pretty god-damned concentrated too. The finish just lasts and lasts. I think this is the best Fino I have ever tried and it cost me a mere £7.95 a bottle – an obscene bargain for such a captivating wine.

Peter finishing up some brilliant Roulot Meursault

Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 1993, Domaine Roulot

This has all one could ask of a mature Roulot. It definitely has mature toasty, vanilla aroma whilst also not being short on lively fruit, creamy minerality and definite complexity. The energy it has is impressive, not tiring in the slightest but rather fizzing with life. The palate also has an incredible interplay between mature and fresh characteristics which make it highly engaging. The acidity levels are great and it has a really satisfying savoury character. There is some age-derived roundness here but I feel this is more a wine about lithe sophistication. The finish is great. All those people who have been sniffy about 1993 White Burgundies would do well to try this, it is a brilliant wine. Will keep a bit longer too.

David with Colombier Crozes Cuvee Gaby 2007

Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Gaby 2007, Domaine du Colombier

I popped a bottle of the 2008 Cuvee Gaby not so long ago. I liked that then and I like this now. The alcohol level of the nose is a tad higher than the 2008, but it is still far from being hot or unbalanced. There is lovely, refined fruit as well and it is not short on earthy aromas. The nose makes me think it is suffering somewhat from being in a middle-aged hole, but there is still plenty to relish here. The palate is a model of Crozes delight; ravishing fruit, tannins on the right side of rigorous, as is the acidity and it speaks of its appellation in terms of its mineral components. I should have popped this a year ago or waited about five more, but it is a winning Crozes.

Editor Dani modelling two Colombier Hermitages

Hermitage 2007, Domaine du Colombier

Considering the time Hermitage needs to express itself at its best I can understand if you think I am fairly bonkers for popping this and the next wine when they are so young. Moreover, I think Domaine du Colombier make Hermitage that needs longer in the cellar – what can I say apart from “Yes I am bonkers”. I popped them because I wanted to see if I should be acquiring any more of these vintages before they disappear from the shelves, I rather think I might.

A powerful, dense nose suffused with monumental fruit and splendidly complex minerality. We are told that Hermitage is the manliest wine of France and I can see plenty of strapping, virile characters here. You couldn’t really describe this nose as charged with minimalist finesse , but I think if you expect that in a ripe vintage, young Hermitage you need to re-adjust your stylistic expectations. I am really taken with this nose. The palate has a great Hermitage tannic structure; rigorous, but in exemplary harmony with the rich fruit. The acidity seems spot on to me too. This is incredibly long, leaving you will much to think about as the flavours slowly subside on your palate. A serious Hermitage that I will open my next bottle of in at least ten years time.

Hermitage 2008, Domaine du Colombier

Glorious blueberry, plummy fruit bursts from this nose. The alcohol is a tad higher than the previous wine but I see nothing lacking in terms of ultimate harmony. It is a swashbuckling, vigorous nose (just as I’d expect at this age) but everything is in the right place and shows flashes of great things to come in the future. At the moment the palate is perhaps most suitable for the brawny lover of red-blooded hedonism, but this is not an over-blown, over-whelming fighting wine – it is a damned good young Hermitage from what is clearly a top bunny vintage for this producer. It is true I usually prefer minimalist, sculpted little beauties, but when a wine can manage such levels of stirring vehemence and still do that whole harmony thing I’ll drink the bleeder with a big grin slapped across my face. Good stuff, needs time.

Peter P modelling Nuits from Chevillon

Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Chaignots 2005, Domaine Robert Chevillon

Ho ho ho! This is what quality Nuits should smell like: infused with dark, brooding fruit and clear earth characters – beezer! It is clearly very ripe and a tad on the young side but I know I am going to love this when I can drag myself away from sniffing it. Those tannins are a perfect expression of ripe vintage Nuits, bold but not punishing. There is a great acidity to it and its minerality is just right in the zone as well. Freaking gorgeous, no buggering about with new oak or excessive alcohol levels, it is just a brilliant Nuits Premier Cru which you should not really be opening for at least five more years. When mature, this’ll blow your socks off.

Willi Schaefer Riesling Beenerauslese Graacher Domprobst

Riesling Beenerauslese Graacher Domprobst 2005, Willi Schaefer

Sublime.

Oh, you want more? This is one of the very greatest very sweet wines I have ever been lucky enough to try: it hurts me, it moves me, it ignites my faculties of both intellectual and visceral flavours. A great wine is something other – this is boggling my mind. Sure, it is intensely sweet, but the acid levels are more than you could ask for in such a wine – they hurt. The expression of minerality has not been diminished by vintage warmth or high botrytis levels. The length staggers me. Ah I was right first time: sublime.


9 Comments

  • Peter wrote:

    A delightful evening, David, and nice to see you back in the wholesome bosom of lovely Woolwich.
    I agree with most of your write-up on the evening. The fino, the Roulot, the Chevillon and the Schaefer were indeed all marvellous. I thought the Colombier Crozes was OK as well. But I am not with you on the Colombier Hermitage of either vintage. They were certainly powerful and dense, but where was the finesse? All lots of power and alcohol and no interest. And I don’t believe this was just down to their youth. We’ve drunk youngish Chave, and its power has been matched by a dazzling vibrancy that these Colombier wines utterly lack. These are boorish wines that bludgeon the drinker rather than seducing him. I didn’t like them at all. They simply don’t pass muster as a cheaper alternative to grander, pricier Hermitage. Much better to drink Graillot, or to opt for Cornas or Cote Rotie instead.

  • Gernot wrote:

    Ho, ho, ho …. challenging Davids tasting notes ;-)
    I am very interested in comments on this subject as it is very difficult to find Hermitage for a good price these days. At the moment I agree with Peter that Colombier is a tad broad and alcoholic and better Syrah are found in other communes.

  • Peter Sidebotham wrote:

    David, thanks again for a splendid evening. I was relieved not to bring a corked wine this time ! I agree with both of you that the Fino was staggeringly good, but disagree with you both on the Colombier… I thought the Crozes was properly fit for your “sub-interest” category – providing nothing in the way of charm or potential, for me at least. The 07 Hermitage was the better of the two “big” wines, and was really quite impressive – I thought it had superb shape and definition on the palate for such a big wine. It did worry me though that we variously placed it as Southern Rhone or Languedoc, which speaks something of the size and heat. I am on the brink of buying some to cellar, and see what it turns into – though I am held back by the fear that as it ages the alcohol will stick out more and more. Vamos a ver; I look forward to the 10 years on blind tasting.

  • David Strange wrote:

    Hi chaps,

    I am really perturbed that my tastes seem so misaligned with palates I have super respect for. I would have been really interested to get you to have tried the 2008 Cuvee Gaby which was only 12.5% and I thought was one of the most enjoyable, minimalist, sculpted little stunners I’d had in an age. Sadly I scored the last bottle that was in the Lay and Wheeler Bin End sale – I know this because as soon as I had my first sniff and taste out came the iPhone and I hit the web debit card feverishly in hand. I was so disappointed I couldn’t get it to melt (but I did find they had three bottles left of the last ever vintage of one of my very favourite wines, Cornas Domaine de Rochepertuis. 2005, man, for an incredible price! I was pleased as chips).

    Anyway, what is to be done about this Colombier issue? I have some 1998 and 1999 in the cellar in France and when I next visit I will liberate a bottle of each and try to get as many of you as possible to taste them. I’ve been following these Hermitages since 1995, and I’ve always loved them. I suppose my loony sense should have tingled when I saw on the merchant’s website them describing the 2007 as ‘a return to the powerful style of Colombier Hermitage’ – I must admit what I always liked about old Florent’s wines was that they were quite beautiful. I thought the 2003 did large-scale beauty with overt panache, but when not trying these wines blind I know it is so easy to get carried away thinking, “Oooh, I love Hermitage, this WILL be good”.

    I’m also a bit irked to be the one obviously liking my own wines when everyone else didn’t – it is such a boring position to be in (isn’t it, Mr T?)! Far more amusing to despise them and wallow in deserved shame about the hateful filth you have unfairly forced your dear friends to endure.

    On other notes, the Sherry was indeed stunning. Even though I worship Javier as the ultimate good-time demi-god, I think I prefer this to his Manzanilla Pastrana as my favourite light, dry Sherry. What a bargain. The Roulot refreshed my unadorned love for those wines with effortless ease and cool élan, who says all white Burgundy 1993s are dross? Top kit, your generosity was remarkable Peter S. Peter P’s Chevillon was a joy, I hope you have bottles to keep for a while, Mr P. Not only was it a top and ravishingly enjoyable example of the genre but also I thought the boys blind tasting effort was stellar which always slaps a chuffed grin on my face. We should have got the producer, though, don’t you think boys? Once it was revealed it did seem a bottle with M. C’s finger-prints all over it. Finally, the 05 Beerenauslese, when I was feeling a tad limp and spent after a long evening and over three weeks in hospital with a major illness, woke me up instantly and – as so often happens with wines supplied by Peter S – clearly stated that the limits of pleasure are yet to be defined or reached. I don’t normally go for such sweet wines, but by arse that was amazing: it toyed with ideas of balance, harmony, intense sweetness and incredible minerality in ways that really did it for the lover of fine things – me in this case.

    Top effort all around, chaps. I will score old Colombier as a priority when next in France. If the opinion is ‘Nay’ massive apologies from me will follow, and my stash will be sold to buy a Singapore Judicial with which to give me a good flogging – videos could well be downloadable (for that kind of video, used notes only please, massive piles of them if you actually want to administer the flogging *shudder*). This will be definitively sorted out; I find myself ill at ease to be at odds with people I know to be right and the thought that I have been misguided by, let us face it, buying a wine from an appellation I love at a price I can afford, unsettles me to the core. I suppose I have been wrong before… 1983 it was, in June, I said it might rain later….

    Cheers for the thoughtful feedback, chaps, I appreciate it.

    Kisses.

  • Peter wrote:

    Come come, David, such modesty from the writer of the most opinionated wine blog on the web. I feel more comfortable with the David who knows what the objective reality is, and bums to everyone who disagrees. I look forward to trying the older Colombiers though, and am open to being convinced.
    Thanks again for a terrific evening.

  • David Strange wrote:

    Fair enough, Peter, I realise there are fewer laughs in being reasonable. I think normal service has been resumed in my freshest post. Quite opinionated, I’d suggest.

    And you will find I am bloody right about Colombier and wallow in shame! Hahahahhahahaha! For I know all!!!

    Cheers;)

  • Tom Blach wrote:

    Glad you enjoyed the fino perdido, David. I am ashamed to report that my case lasted just seventeen days from delivery. Glorious stuff.

  • David Strange wrote:

    Well, quite, Tom! Totallly joyous. The tension between depth of character and lightness is totally winning. If I didn’t owe the Wine Soc money I’d be ordering more right now rather than writing this comment!

    Any views on Colombier wines?

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Tom Blach wrote:

    Never had one , David. I can be persuaded to drink old Chave and Verset but the Rhone isn’t really my bag.



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