Thursday, 26 January 2012

Montescano Refugio Pinot Noir 2010

Made by Andre Ostertag in his Casablanca bolt hole of winery. In contrast to the much more conventional Pinot Noir (see previous post) this is the funky one. Vinified in concrete eggs (buy one here), which allow a better circulation of wine through the tank, as opposed to more traditional tanks. I'm guessing that the vinification is much closer to the French natural school than the fuller bodied Pinot.

On the nose it is a riot of wild brambly berries, floral notes and scented cherries, on the palette it has that zippy drinkable acidity and sinuous tannins that spell drinkability.

I would happily drink a case of this.

Available from via Vin du Monde in France and FMV in the UK (I didn't bother to check the price but I don't think it's that much)

Global Pinot Noirs with Lavinia

Paris des Chefs : Wine tastings

My afternoon at Paris des chefs was spent rather contentedly tasting wines through the varied afternoon degustation sessions;

I’m going to write these us as and when, however the first I’m going to look at in the Lavinia Pinots Noir from round the world session.

They opened with the 08 Momo Pinot Noir from Marlborough NZ. Momo is the second label from the Seresin estate. The fruit all comes from Seresins own vineyards, which means that it is probably younger vines, or parcels that don’t quite make the grade for Seresin’s own wines.
Seresin have a mixture of Pinot clones, UC Davis (5,6), Burgundy (113, 114, 115, 667, 777) and the better-established 10/5 Waedenswil (Swiss) clone.

Marlborough (geology) as a region is characterized by a succession of north/south(ish) river valleys running towards the Wairau river valley. The Wairau river also traces the lines of the Wairau fault, north of which one finds much Greywacke (a hard sandstone found across much of NZ), in the river valley itself the land is flatter but covered in well draining alluvial deposits. The southern valleys such as Awatere are also home to Greywacke deposits.

The Momo Pinot was a nice example of youthful Pinot Noir from NZ, showing good varietal characteristics, an ever so slight chalky note initially on the nose, but this gave way to bright raspberry and jammy cherry notes and a lovely delicately spiced bramblyness on the palette. Structurally the wine sat more on the soft and juicy side of Pinot.

With a neat synchronicity we then moved to Switzerland, home to the oldest of the Kiwi Pinot clones, the Waedenswill 10/5. Though it would be a leap to far to say that there was any clonal overlap between the two wines, as Switzerland has some very old plantings and almost certainly boasts a unique heritage of Pinot Noir genotypes. Commonly referred to as Blauburgunder or Spatburgunder (as per the German).

Domaine La Colombe are from the La Cote AOC in the Vaud, which is on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, steep alpine slopes are planted with 35 year plus vines. The wine then sees a 14-20 month period in tank, before another year or so in wooden cask.

As befitting much older vines, and I’m certain a much lower yield, the 07 La Colmbe Noir was much more powerful with noticeable oak notes, licorice, dark earthy berry fruit, coffee, chocolate. This was clearly a wine designed to show well. I wasn’t quite certain that there was enough fruit weight to fully work with the elevage, but none the less this was a dark and brooding sort of Pinot, indeed I would have probably struggled to place it blind.

Moving to Chile we had the 09 Montsecano Pinot Noir. Made by Andre Ostertag, an exceptional Alsatian producer. Pinot was planted in 04 (115, 777 and some massal, all ungrafted) in Las Dichas in the southwestern corner of the Casablanca valley.
Casablanca is one of the newer Chilean winegrowing regions, and it was planted as a cool climate area. There is a lot of cooling air that comes in off the Pacific, including quite a lot of fog.
Like his Alsatian estate, Montsecano is fully biodynamic, and is making wines on a properly handcrafted scale (something Chile can often lack). I was impressed with this, a powerful nose showing a lot of fruit, however there were some nice slightly vegetal notes, which I think is the result of a decent percent of whole bunch vinification. This certainly helped with the wines structure (along with a little bit of oak). My only slight gripe was that it felt a little lacking in acidity. However I was most impressed by both the Montsecano wines I tried.

The final wine was 09 Hubert Lignier Norey-St-Denis, frustratingly as always seems to happen when these sorts of comparisons are made, the Burgundian examples are much too young. Still Hubert Lignier is an excellent domaine making quite traditional red Burgundy, not too much new oak (20-30%) and no truck with over extraction or excessive cold soaks and such like.
The nose was a bit closed, with the tight greenish tannins that I associate with very young cote de nuits. On the palette there was a lovely craquant acitidy and the expected bracing spritz of tannins that accompanied a good amount of aromatic dark fruits. I’m sure it’ll be lovely in a few years.

So a nice selection of global Pinot Noirs, I’m not sure what the flyby comparison showed as the wines were all of vastly differing vine age/terroir/styles. However they were all very different, from the juicy approachable fruit of the Marlborough, to the brooding dark berries of the Vaud, intense deep reddish fruit from Casablanca, and stubbornly closed aromatic dark berries from Burgundy.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sylvie Spielman 08 Alsace Riesling

Domaine Sylvie Spielmann is based just west of Bergheim, about half way up Alsace (well the chain of vineyards). The domaine is based around an old gypsum mine, with heavyish clay, marl and limestone soils.

The domaine is entirely biodynamic and the winemaking is relatively non interventionist (stopping short of the natural line).

Mineral nose with a touch of exotic lime notes, it's flirting with it's secondary characters. At getting on four 4 years old there is a little bit of bottle age. It's got the directness of acidity that I'd expect, and in contrast to Bergheim's most famous son (Marcel Deiss) it's pretty much totally dry.

Win all round really (in the context of a 11 euro wednesday evening wine)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Gourmet Powder

Admit it, you'd have bought it too, if only for the tin. MSG, shortly to be played with as a secret weapon in soups and such like.

Probably thoroughly unnecessary but it appeals to my sense of curiosity.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Le Chateaubriand

So the 9th best restaurant in the world, it's hard not to be both attracted and repelled by labels such as these. I understand it's difficult to get a table, like most of the trendy Parisian places the first sitting is booked out, but if you come about 10ish you can probably get a seat. I sat in the corner at the bar, some people would have disliked the table, but I quite like have the whole room to look at, and I was on my own.

There's one menu it's 55 euros or 115 with wine (quite a lot of wine). 

Obviously I went with wine.

I started with a glass of sparkling Gamay (though they did tell me it was a Cab Franc) called Moisson Rouge, this was a little bit of an error, because from then on the glasses and dishes came pretty thick and fast.

First was a dry Vouvray, which was apparently a mistake by the (very beautiful) Spanish bartender, so it was swiftly joined by a glass of natural sparkling Vouvray - the 'You are happy' C. Chaussard, and a glass of slightly oxidative Assyrtiko (Pyrgos 06, H. Hatzidakis).

The bouches with which I was amused were three little cheesy bread thingies. 
A mini bowl of ceviche with a rather fab chunk of mackerel (I think) hidden within. 

Tempura Shrimp dusted with tamarind powder, there was an amusingly Proustian moment with the shrimp as the first thing they brought to mind was Scampi fries, though to my mind that's far from a bad thing.

A thin slice of (a very large) beetroot with powdered goats cheese and little splodges of chicken liver parfait. At this point I actually asked what the variety of beetroot was as it was larger than any beetroot I'd seen before, however the waiter assured me that it was just a normal beetroot. Evidently French beetroot grow much larger than English ones. When I get round to it I'm going to look into the possible implications of beetroot envy.
The last bouche was a bouillon de courge (squash), though it was actually very meaty, with two pieces of raw? turnip? and a couple of slivers of very intensely flavoured meat in the bottom.

Onto the actual dishes, mackerel with cauliflower, celery and lychee, was RAW, very sexy raw mind, the florets having been rolled in finely chopped parsley and celery tops, the mackerel was needless to say stunningly fresh and beautiful. It was served with Yvon Metras, Ultime 2010, Fleurie. One of the gang of five natural Beaujolais boys it was, as expected, all about floral cherry scented lithe crisp Gamay goodness.

John Dory, baby leeks, onions and herbs was a little love letter to the allium family, obviously the herbs were chives, I could have drunk the best part of a pint of the light green sauce. I will leave it at that. Oh and the 09 Puligny-Montrachet from F.Cossart that it came with was great, Normandy apple tart like notes, some lovely biscuit leesiness and what the French would probably call puissance.

Up till this point everything had been outstanding.

Iberico pork with raddichio and citrus. I’ve never really understood the point of kumquats, yes I appreciate the humorous potential of the name, but they always seem to be a bit extraneous. Similarly extraneous was the delicate curry spicing about the pork. (Grotte di alte, Nero d’Avola/Frappato Occhipinti)

If you look at the history of French cuisine, the boldest intellectual leap was to make a break with the pan European middle ages style of spiced and curried dishes. Early luminaries such as Nicolas de Bonnefond stressed that food should taste of its primary ingredient; a soup of leeks for instance should taste of leeks. Prior to this thematic schism the cuisine across Europe had been much closer to what we’d probably identify as Persian. I don’t think that classical French cuisine has ever really re learnt how to deal with curry style spicing, it always seems to stick out like a sore thumb, never being used in a bold enough fashion to actually satisfy, but being there just enough to titillate and annoy.

The first pudding was clementine with a white mushroom and a rum/vanilla cream. The mushroom part was very odd, I really wasn’t sure whether I found it interesting or upsetting. Obviously this is a fascinating dilemma to be confronted with, however I prefer not to wrestle with it at the end of my dinner.

Tocino del Cielo, the classic Spanish dessert, came as a sugar confit egg yolk on top of a mini piece of pastry. I cannot get enough of sugar confit egg yolks, it was properly fab. There was a glass of Fidele, a Blanc de Noir Champagne from Vouette & Sorbee, of which my tasting note was the eloquent and poetic ‘FUCK YES’ read of this what you will.

Le Chateaubriand was excellent, though thinking of it along side meals that I’ve enjoyed at the Ledbury or Roganic I can’t quite justify its acclaim. The wholly natural wine list is fabulous and obviously has been as inspirational and provocative as they probably hoped. 

A final Indian note came with the petit four which was a single piece of mango with a few of the little candied fennel seeds that you sometimes find served after meals in India.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A trio of unrelated wines..

Alexandre Jouveaux (Uchizy)
vdtd France - 08 (on pense qui il et un Pinot Noir)
Initial note of smokey bacon crisps, some raspberry (framboise liquor notes), nice depth of fruit character, some lovely rasping cherry tinged tannins, still the smokey bacon crisp note is a little persuasive through to the back of the palette (hopefully it'll go once food is involved)

Catena Zapata (Nicolas) 08 - 78% Cab S 22% Malbec
Liquorice infused dark cherries and slightly minerally, some buttery edge, not massive oak on the nose (much more present on the palette) pepper, deep liquorice spice infused, lots of cloves, just a hint of smoke finishing - pretty good, I like this, less new oak than I'd expected, still a bit heavy palette wise and quite bruising, decent tannins, and decent acidity.

And then to finish off with something a little it different (sorry I meant unpleasant) Altos Las Hormigas (Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Mendoza) 06.

Well this is 100% Malbec, 36 months in new French oak and boy does it show - for the record I'm told this is between 35-40 Euros trade so 80 on a shelf, and in it's defence you can see exactly where the money went.

Initially there is a chunk of new oak, an almost confected amount, dark fruit, quite chunky, but weighty tannins, more of a body builder than a sportsman in build. Sorry this left me rather cold, I guess I might be slightly biased but I found it tiring. So much deep dark fruit, so much in the palette.

That said, it's opening up a bit as I'm getting into it, now showing minty herbal notes, but it's just so much like hard work..