Wine experiments in Beer
Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it? Beer is actually a beautiful picturesque fishing village on the south Devon Coast. A group of us go for a week every Easter; three pubs, a couple of restaurants, great chippy (they even sell gravy!), a fantastic deli… what more do you need? I thought Beer had it all; now I know it does. Unbeknownst to us, a wine bar recently opened on the high street! Where there used to be clothes shop for the “larger” man, now resides a modern and stylish wine & coffee bar, Osbourne’s.
As well as plenty of visits to these fine establishments, there are lots of producers and shops to explore the great local ingredients to pull a meal together. And good food deserves good wine so I use this to my advantage by engaging my (very willing and eager) guinea pigs in some essential wine experiments…
Experiment #1 – Fizz
It has become a tradition that we head off to Steamers, the delightful local bistro, for dinner on the evening of arrival. The food is fantastic and the wine list is small but perfectly formed. The food this year included mackerel with almonds & lemon; prawn, crab & melon; duck & berry sauce (with chips); and locally reared rib eye with chips & béarnaise. The wine of choice was an aromatic and fruity Verdejo from Ruedo, and a bright and quaffable Bardolino from Veneto.
But the fun starts before the meal, when we crack open a few bottles of fizz. This year I wanted to pit the lesser-known Cremant against the might of Champagne. If you’ve been following #newwinethisweek you’ll know what a big Cremant fan I am… and once more it came up trumps:
Domaine Langlois-Chateau Cremant de Loire NV (Majestic £14.99)
60% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Cabernet Franc, spends 24 months on lees. This really is a sparkling version of a delightful Loire Chenin; honey, appley freshness and pastry complexity; nice and dry but with a hint of honey right at the end. Lovely light stream of bubbles and super-duper value (I bought it for less than €10 at the domaine!) 90 points
Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut NV (The Wine Society £12.50)
I think I may have found my new house sparkler! Made from 100% Chardonnay this is absolutely brilliant stuff. As well as rich peaches there is a delightful twist of citrus and a deep and delicious biscuit finish. £12.50 is a daft price for such a fantastic wine – forget your NV Champers – order a case of this stuff. 92 points
Mumm Cordon Rouge NV Champagne (widely available @ £33)
45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Meunier. Mumm CR delivers everything you want for a NV Champagne; it is fresh with a nice citrus hit and something a little more unusual, maybe apricot? There is good complexity with some very nice brioche notes and a dry, lingering finish. But I can get almost 3 bottles of the Cremant du Jura for this price! 89 points
Experiment #2 – Saint Emilion
Sunday night is roast night; and we bullied Den this year NOT to cook a bloody turkey or capon… we got our wish and we enjoyed the most sublime and succulent slow-roast leg of lamb; result! To celebrate I decided a mini-vertical from Chateau Fonplegade in St Emilion was in order. We visited Fonplegade last summer and were so impressed that we signed up to their wine club and have been enjoying quarterly deliveries ever since. We put the 2007, 2008 and 2011 through their paces:
Chateau Fonplegade St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2007 (Fine & Rare £28.80)
Deep rich nose of crushed black fruit with hints of chocolate and even a dash of liquorice – sumptuous aromas and extremely inviting. The palate is rich and luscious with all of the aromatic fruit and the chocolate texture coming together… just a shame it falls off so quickly. Promises so much, delivers upfront but leaves a big hole in the middle. I’m not sure time is going to do anything here so drink up; a decent drop but a tad frustrating. 88 points
Chateau Fonplegade St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2008 (Fine & Rare £37.20)
This is a big, bold ands powerful beast. The deep black fruit has a touch of cassis liqueur but invites you in – heady, intoxicating and impressive. The palate really follows through on this – very rich and luscious – alcohol is 15% but not hot! There is plenty of vanilla from expensive new oak but it’s not masking the fruit. It’s modern and very drinkable – give it a few more years to enjoy at its peak. 91 points
Chateau Fonplegade St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2011 (£24.30)
Young and sultry – it’s like a teenager that hasn’t wanted for anything in its life. You can smell and taste the expense, the best oak, meticulous sorting and very competent winemaking. The tannins are big but there is plenty of acidity to hold it all together for many a year – the fruit is lurking and `I think this is going to be a very good wine indeed. 92+ points
Experiment #3 – Spanish night
Richard and Sue decided we should have a tapas night; and who were we to argue. I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of the best frittata I have ever eaten, the oh-so garlicky bread, the anchovies, the cured meats and the Manchego – how will anyone believe I’ve eaten it without a photo??
I did take a photo of the wines, which were a fine accompaniment and went down very well with the gang:
La Gitana Manzanilla (Waitrose £10.00)
I’m not the biggest sherry fan in the world but I am trying! What got me about this was it’s real grapeyness – that along with the oxidisation and hints of yeast and almond certainly helped my progression… though one glass was plenty!
Valdesil Godello 2012, Galicia (Waitrose £15.99)
There are some wonderful fresh Spanish whites on the market these days and Godello could be the next big thing. The Valdesil is fresh and breezy with lemon and melon aromas and flavour, all with the added complexity of white flowers, a precise minerality and zingy acidity. A super summer wine. 91 points
Torres Ibéricos Rioja Crianza 2011 (Waitrose £9.99)
The first wine from Torres’ new project in Rioja has produced very palatable results. There is plenty of strawberry fruit, a dusting of vanilla and refreshing acidity. A lovely smooth texure and extremelt quaffable – good Rioja for under £10. 88 points
Ermita de San Lorenzo Campo de Borja Gran Reserva 2004 (Laithwaites £8.99)
It certainly has a label that suggests Rioja but this comes from the super-value DOC of Campo de Borja and is made from 60% Garnacha and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is dark and smoky and the texture is rich and luxuriant – very decent and reminiscent of a decent Priorat. 87 points
Badaceli Priorat 2006 (Wine and the Vine £13.25)
Now we are really talking! Brambles, spice and smoke. Lots of black currant and blackberry fruit, warm spices that really dance on the tongue and a lovely hint of bacon-like smoke. There is a good proportion of Cabernet here giving that blackcurrant and eucalyptus lift but what I love are the rustic, edgy tannins. So much charm and plenty of edge. I love it. 92 points
Experiment #4 – Riesling baby!
It was my turn to do the cooking so I went for a crowd favourite, pulled pork sandwiches! I bought a magnificent shoulder of local pork from the brilliant Haymans butcher in Sidmouth, coated it with paprika, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, covered it with foil and left it at 120C for 6 hours. It was accompanied with homemade BBQ sauce (tomatoes, shallots, honey, cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano), slaw (cabbage, carrots, granny smith apple, lemon, olive oil – none of that mayo muck!) and some frozen French fries.
The sandwiches rocked… but not as much as the Riesling!
Leitz Kabinett Riesling (Waitrose £14.49)
A lovely citrus punch of flavour, with big searing, precise acidity providing magnificent balance to the off-dry sweetness. Very fresh and ever so drinkable; a great match to cut through the fatty pork buns. 90 points
Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2011 (Tesco £10.79)
Dry as bone with pure lime fruit and freshness, lots of slate-like minerality and just a hint of petrol. The Fish put it perfectly when she said, “it’s like licking a piece of slate that’s just been used to cut a lime” – got it in one! 90 points
Schlumberger Riesling Saering Grand Cru 2011 (The Wine Society £16.50)
This Riesling simply oozes class in every drop. Rich and juicy, starting off with bright citrus then developing more tropical notes of guava, passion fruit and pineapple chunks. There are delightful hints of honeysuckle providing even m more depth and there is a beautiful long and wonderfully honeyed finish. Brilliant. 94 points
Experiment #5 – Pinot Noir… again!
The source of the best Pinot Noir has been a recurring theme on confessionsofawinegeek.com recently; first we had the brilliant “Grape Debate” event at West London Wine School, closely followed by a look at what the New World has to offer in Beyond Burgundy. By this time my brother-in-law and ginger-in-law had joined our number and they were more than happy to see what France, Australia and New Zealand had to offer:
Domaine Drouhin Chorey le Beaune 2011 (Waitrose £15.99)
Plenty of fresh young raspberries and cherries. The palate is very fresh and there is enough tannin to give the wine a good, solid structure and make this wine a very simple and pleasing intro level Burgundy – not quite as good as the 2009 and 2010. 88 points
Cherubino Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir 2013 (Wine and the Vine £15.25)
I may have only reviewed the 2012 recently in the Beyond Burgundy article but this was a crowd please again in Beer. The 2013 is even brighter and fresher than it’s predecessor and is such a wonderful wine it it’s youth. There’s loads of crushed red fruit, a touch of smoke and delicious menthol hit when it starts to open up. I can think of a better Pinot for the price on the market from any country. 92 points
Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (The Wine Society £28.00)
So almost twice the price of the other two… is it twice as good? The simple answer is not at the moment! There is layer upon layer of smell and flavour with raspberry, red currant and cranberry fruit, smoky spice, clean minerality and pure and precise acidity. The tannins are very much to the fore right now but I would love to try this is a couple of year’s time – even after a couple of hours it had developed and started to knit together. Kevin Judd may have built his reputation on the back of Sauvignon Blanc but his Pinots are every bit as good, if not better (and the Ginger-in-law certainly agreed!) 93+ points
May the experiments continue!