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Pichon-Longueville Baron vertical tasting

Jimmy really excelled with this most interesting of tastings at the West London Wine School, describing it himself as “one if the most fascinating tastings I’ve ever run”.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron is a second growth estate in Pauillac, Bordeaux and these days is considered a “super second”, challenging the big boys at the top of the tree. The estate also possesses one of the most beautiful Chateau anywhere in the wine world, with its fairy tale towers and beautiful reflecting lake in front if it. But things haven’t always been great at Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron. Jimmy described the 80’s as the “dark times” and highlighted that in 1982, a vintage where it appeared impossible to make a poor wine, Pichon somehow managed to do so.

Pichon-Longueville-Baron

The tasting consisted of two wines from the 80’s, followed by pairs from the 90’s and the 2000’s, after huge investment from insurance giants AXA. There was then a 7th wine, tasted blind… More of which later.

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(All prices are from Fine & Rare – correct at 23rd March 2013)

The 1980’s – the dark times

The Bouteillier family bought the estate in 1933 and enjoyed a good reputation under their ownership but the death of Jean Bouteillier marked the beginning of the property’s decline. His children took control and lacked experience, investment and by all accounts, interest.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1985 (£126.48)

Very pale garnet in appearance but a very intriguing nose of blackcurrant and savoury/anise spice. There’s lots of character here and lots of different parts working together nicely. Unfortunately the palate just plain disappointed. Lean and green and real lack of any structure or depth. Not a great deal of fruit and just hints of earth and game. Well past its best. A wine that promised so much on the nose but certainly didn’t deliver on that promise. 86 points

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1986 (£158.08)

Much deeper colour that the 85. Not as opulent on the nose as its predecessor but lots of black fruit depth, mushroom and savoury spice. Quite rich on the palate with layers of dark fruit and still lots of bright acidity. There’s still some good tannic structure balancing the acidity but there’s not much length on the finish. Lovely balance but lacks depth and length. 88 points

The 1990’s – insuring the future

AXA Millésimes completed the purchase of the property in 1987 and the first thing they did was to bring on board Jean-Michel Cazes, of Lynch-Bages and Les Ormes de Pez fame, who oversaw the complete redesign and rebuild of the wine-making facilities.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1998 (£92.68)

This has a very rich nose of blackcurrant and now we also get those classic Pauillac scents of cedar and cigar. This wine certainly has some polish and there is a delightful sweet hint of oak in the background. Lots of body, power and concentration, with lashings of dark fruit and smokey spice. A delightful balance of tannin and acid and altogether very pleasing. A completely different beast to the 80’s with real power and balance. 92 points (voted best value wine of the night)

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1999 (£116.28)

Less fruit and more grunt here! Lots of gamey animal notes, with earthy truffle and leather hints too. Very well developed, with just hints of black fruit and sweet spice in the background. On the palate its butch and beefy upfront but then after a few seconds the wine really comes together. There’s lively fruity acidity and a very attractive spicy finish. You don’t think this is going to work at first taste and then it really falls nicely into place. 91 points

The 2000’s – cometh the Englishman

Jean-Michel Cazes retired in 2000 and AXA brought in Englishman Christian Seely to oversee the property. In his time, Mr Seely has pushed the quality if the wine, with stricter selection for the grapes to be included in the Grand Vin.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2005 (£108.88)

Much more inky appearance with hugely concentrated blackcurrant, cassis even, on the nose. The fruit aromas are backed up with butch cedar and savoury spice and shouts of real power but also finesse. Lots of grip on first taste but balanced with delightful sweet black fruit, cedar and smoky cigar-spice. Lots of lively acidity, balanced with nicely defined tannin and some steely minerality. This is a wine with many years ahead of it, but already in great balance and harmony. It’s polished and sophisticated. Great stuff. 94 points (my best value wine of the night – one to lay down and enjoy in 2020!)

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2006 (£74.88)

More excellent depth on the nose. Here we get the blackcurrant but also swathes of red fruit – raspberry and cranberry, and its all supported with sweet spice – feels like a bit of oaky makeup has been applied here. More medium in body than the 05 and a much more delicate affair. Tannins are very forward here and there’s a touch of acid but the harmony isn’t quite there and I’m not sure whether time will sort it out. A very different style of wine, more delicate and definitely atypical. 90 points

The blind bottle

As we had tasted three very different styles of wine over three decades, how easy would this one be to place?

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 1996 (£110.40)

Oh this just smells complete! A perfect balance of delicious blackcurrants, worn leather and roasted meat, supported with exotic and smokey spice. On the palate there’s layers of black and red fruit in beautiful harmony with the smokey spice, roasted game and acid lift. The tannins are beautifully integrated and provide a wonderful and generous finish. For me it had to come from the 90s given its evolution and I plumped for 1995, knowing this to be a fine vintage… So just a year out! This really was the wine of the night in every way and one I need to add to the cellar. It has everything in perfect balance and harmony. 96 points

1996

I love Burgundy 2001

Please forgive me this week for I will be indulging in my favourite wine subject. Burgundy.

Just before Christmas I received The Wine Society’s Xmas offers leaflet and included in it was a mixed case of 2001 Burgundy reds, half of them from producers I knew and half from producers I didn’t. All of the bottles are from Premier Cru vineyards stretching throughout the famous Cote D’Or and the thought of drinking these wines with 10 years of bottle age was just too much for me to turn down.

2001 is often referred to as a winemakers vintage. The growing conditions were far from perfect and required lots of work in the vineyard, so although 2001 may fall short of being a first class vintage, there is much to enjoy and they certainly appear to be in their perfect drinking window right now.

Also, to give a truly rounded view of the vintage, I also bought a couple of 2001 whites; you know, just to give you a feel for the total picture!

If you feel like spoiling yourself then look at 2001. The prices are much higher I’m sure than most of you usually pay for a bottle but if you want to know what all of the fuss is about then make the investment; you won’t be disappointed.

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The Whites

Morey-Blanc Meursault 2001 (£29.00 The Wine Society)
Nuts and peaches jump out of the glass and just a hint of smokey oak and butterscotch. This smells its age and smells expensive. The nuttiness is foremost at first taste and then peaches and grapefruit before a lingering finish of beautifully judged and balanced oak that just goes on and on. Its still so fresh. Magic. 93 points

Moret-Nomine 1er Cru Genevrieres, Meursault 2001 (£42.00 The Wine Society)
Mostly gentle oak aromas with some raisin like fruit. It tastes like a fresh cream slice topped with hazelnuts. There’s a hint of pineapple fruit, its lovely medium bodied and the flavour goes on and on. Possibly just passed its best – I’d like to try a 2005 though! Second glass didn’t quite live up to the first. 89 points

The Reds

Comte Armand 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux, Pommard 2001 (£48.00 The Wine Society)
Sometimes you open a wine with such anticipation and are very disappointed. Sometimes it exceeds your expectation. This is incredible. The aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, leather and truffle are truly intoxicating. And then the taste. Those wild strawberries, some black cherry, a lovely black-tar intensity and an amazing damp forest and mushroom complexity. But it isn’t stop there because there is spice. Five spice, because there is a touch of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and some others I can’t quite, fathom. And beautiful silky tannins. I’m in heaven. 96 points

Domaine Hubert de Montille Les Taillepieds 1er Cru, Volnay 2001 (£46.00 The Wine Society)
Oh yes, this is very exciting! Very pale, almost rose look in the glass but the aromas are incredible. Strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, mushroom, truffle and undergrowth. Very sweet fruit on the palate with lively acidity and such freshness. Nicely integrated oak, and dashes of leather and sweet vanilla spice. Warm, long, concentrated and sumptuous. Tannins are prominent but silky. This is my kind of wine and wish I could afford to drink it every night! 96 points

Domaine Hubert de Montille Les Pezerolles 1er Cru, Pommard 2001 (£49.00 The Wine Society)
Very light crimson colour for Pommard but the nose is very interesting indeed. Autumnal with lots of musty leather, sweet spice and sweet red fruit. Raspberries and red currants on the palate with a deep smokey, cigar-like finish. Not super-concentrated but very sweet and refined – I was surprised to find this vineyard is on the Beaune side of Pommard as it is actually very reminiscent of Volnay. Was an excellent accompaniment to the partridge but I do wish I had decanted and given the wine a couple of hours to really open up. Top notch stuff indeed. 92 points

Domaine de la Vougeraie 1er Cru Les Cras Vougeot 2001 (£42.00 The Wine Society)
Slightly cloudy in the glass but very old fashioned on the nose. Cherry and raspberry fruit at first, followed by leather, damp leaves and a lovely hint of warming spice. Palate matches up nicely and the finish is very generous. 91 points

Domaine Fourrier 1er Cru Combe Aux Moines, Gevrey Chambertin 2001 (£39.00 The Wine Society)
Fantastic perfumed aromas of ripe plums and sweet spice. The taste is plums and strawberries with a lovely earthiness and just a hint if vanilla. It’s very light bodied but has very marked tannins, making for a long and chewy finish. Great antidote to he snow outside. 91 points

Shopping at Aldi… I like it

I’ve only been to Aldi on a couple of occasions and on both times it was to take photos of in store displays for work. My parents and in-laws are always extolling the virtues of the discount supermarket and Which voted Aldi the best supermarket in the UK for 2012. Mum served up an Aldi roast duck over Xmas which was absolutely delicious so The Fish and I decided it was time for a visit.

We picked up a duck and the much advertised 4-bird roast for the freezer as well as plenty of cleaning products and lots of other stuff we hadn’t realised we needed. Then at the end of the shop we came to the wine section. I have read good things about the Aldi wine range but never really considered buying as we never go there. So why not give it a go I thought. The most expensive bottle is £12.99 for Champagne, the most expensive still wine was £6.99. I selected 6 bottles, 3 white and 3 red for a grand total of £34.94… Less than I often pay for a bottle!

So far we have tasted 3 of the wines and I can assure you we will be going back. Obviously I bought the most expensive wine at £6.99, however I think it may be the best value red wine available in the UK. (I will update the tasting notes as more bottles are drunk)

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White wines

Henri De Lorgere Macon Villages 2011, Burgundy (Aldi £4.99)
Very pale straw colour, lots of citrus and nectarine, even some tropical fruit aromas. Big hit of acidity and lime; very fresh, very simple, very young. For the price this is great stuff and would happily have a bottle in the fridge just waiting to be drunk after a bad day at work. 87 points

The Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Loire (Aldi £4.99)
Had those very pungent Sauvignon aromas of freshly cut grass, gooseberry and also some asparagus. On the palate there is lots of crisp and dry acidity and the fruits is nicely restrained and very fresh. Also lots of flinty minerality. This is very nice and doesn’t have the astringency of lots of the New Zealand Sauvignons on the market. Touraine is only about 100km west of Sancerre and this wine is very much like a Petit Sancerre. 85 points

The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2012, South Australia (£5.99)
Very tropical aromas of melon, mango and even passion fruit. Not what I was expecting at all. You may even think thus is a Sauvignon it’s that tropical on the palate too. Not much body but very refreshing. Thus would be an excellent BBQ wine with some chicken. 86 points

Red wines

The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, South Australia (£6.99)
Umm, I’m not sure where to go with this. It’s fantastic! Massively concentrated black currant and menthol on the nose and a huge whack of deep dark fruit, like cassis liqueur, eucalyptus and tobacco on the palate. Wow. Could this be the best value red wine anywhere? 91 points

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The Exquisite Selection Uco Valley Malbec 2011, Argentina (Aldi £5.99)
Really enjoyable aromas of black cherry, blueberries, violets and that expected rubber note, like a hit squash ball. Fruit carries onto the palate with a bit if spice and maybe a touch too much rubber, but excellent value nevertheless. 88 points

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2006, Spain (Aldi £5.99)
Bright ruby red in the glass and aromas of strawberries and red cherries and a hint of vanilla. Red fruit one palate and some eucalyptus – a bit Bordeaux maybe? Finish is a bit short and lacks depth and concentration. Can’t complain at this price though. 85 points

If that was on interest here’s a link to a more recent article, published in May 2014

Decoding French Wine – Part 2, The Reds

Following on from my post on decoding French white wine it only seemed fair and decent to do the same with reds. Some of the best red wines in the world come from France and the names of Bordeaux and Burgundy are synonymous with fine wine. I love Burgundy and am fast becoming far too interested in Bordeaux so this post will concentrate on them, and the other wonderful red wine producing area of the Rhone. There are some other wonderful regions to explore red wine options in France, and more often than not, at far more affordable prices – I will cover these off next week.
I hope this guide helps you match grapes to regions as well as giving you a bit of inspiration to go and try out a few new wines over the festive season. Well we all need an excuse don’t we??

Bordeaux

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Probably the most famous red wine producing area in the world and commonly referred to as claret in the UK (and not anywhere else!). Most red Bordeaux you buy will be a blend of grapes, most likely containing at least 2 varieties of either Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc.

Red wine production is divided into 3 main sub-regions (there are many more!). On the left bank of the Gironde estuary you will find the Medoc, home to the famous first growth (Premier league – remember!) chateaux of Latour, Lafite, Mouton and Margaux. Medoc wines are made primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Merlot and/or Cab Franc. On the left bank you will find the famous appellations of Pomerol (I’m sure you’ve all heard stories of business men in London spending thousands of pounds on Petrus to impress potential investors) and St. Emilion (Cheval Blanc is probably the most famous chateau here). Pomerol’s main grape in the blend is Merlot (Petrus is normally 100% Merlot), whereas Cabernet Franc becomes more important in St. Emilion.

Bordeaux wines are often characterised with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, pencil-shaving type minerality (sounds weird but it is wonderful!) and big tannins which mellow over time but work brilliantly with red meat. Other flavours and aromas often associated with Bordeaux are woody/cedar and even eucalyptus (especially if the main grape in the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon).

Prices for the top wines are astronomical but there is plenty of value on offer around the £10 mark. Also, most of these wines require a minimum of 10 years cellaring before reaching their best; not ideal if you’re after a nice bottle to go with your steak tonight! 2009 and 2010 were superb vintages and are starting to find their way onto supermarket shelves and merchant wine lists so keep an eye out.

Here’s a few to try from some of the different areas and at some different price-points:

Chateau Tour Chapoux, Bordeaux Superieur 2010 (Waitrose £8.89)
Chateau Labecorce Margaux 2002 (Majestic £8.99)
Chateau Givriere Medoc 2004 (Majestic £8.99)
Mouieux St Emilion 2009 (M&S £13.99)

Burgundy

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If Bordeaux is powerful, then Burgundy is spiritual! The home of Pinot Noir and the most expensive wine in the world, from Domaine de la Romanee Conti… £15,750 for a bottle of 2009 anyone??
From North to South we start in the Cote de Nuits, head down into the Cote de Beaune (together these make up the famous Cote D’Or), then comes the Cote Chalonnaise (you’ll find great value here) before we get to Beaujolais. All red wines from the Cotes are made using pinot noir. Beaujolais is made with Gamay.

The classification of wines in Burgundy is actually pretty simple. On the Cote D’Or the entry level is Bourgogne, the next step is to sub-regional wine such as Côtes de Beaune Villages, Côtes de Nuits Villages, Hautes-Côtes de Beaune or Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. These, like the white wines, are from lesser know villages or a blend of grapes from here, there and everywhere. We then move up to Village wines, which have the name of the village where they were harvested on the label. Examples of these are Volnay, Alox-Corton, Nuits St George and Gevrey Chambertin. The next after this is to 1er Cru, which are vineyards that have been designated the best in the appellation (e.g. Volnay 1er Cru). Each of the vineyards also have their names on the label, for example Volnay (village name) 1er Cru (classification) Taillepieds (name of the vineyard). The top of the tree is Grand Cru. There are 25 red vineyards at this level and prices can be astronomical.

Now that seems pretty straightforward… but we’re talking about French wine here, so here’s the twist! In Bordeaux each plot of land is owned by a Chateau. In Burgundy, each vineyard is split between many producers, the Grand Cru of Clos de Vougeot has more than 100 different growers owning vines within its walls! So finding a god producer can be as important as choosing by classification. A great winemaker’s village wine may well be better than the poor winemakers Grand Cru.

Burgundy is far lighter in colour than Bordeaux, often looking a tad weak –but don’t be put off! Here, the fruits are raspberries and cherries, and the secondary flavours are earthier, mushroomy, and even meaty. A good bottle of aged Burgundy is an amazing thing. It sounds daft, but you could just smell the wine all day and feel very happy. Why not try some for yourself:

Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir (Majestic £11.99)
Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune 2010 (Waitrose £14.99)
Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune-Villages 2009 (Majestic £14.99)
Louis Max Cote du Nuits Village 2009 (Sainsburys £15.99)

Northern Rhone

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You will be more familiar with the wines of the southern Rhone, but the Northern Rhone is home to some wonderful inky, spicy red wines. The key grape of the region is Syrah, better known to most of us as Shiraz (yes, they are the same!).

There is no classification as such in the Northern Rhone, but possibly the pinnacle of the crop is Cote Rotie. Cote Rotie can be loosely translated as the “roasted slope” due to the many hours of hot sunshine the amazing aspect allows it. This is also expensive wine and there are 3 reasons for this. The first is that it is a small area and production is low and in demand (only 224 acres planted), secondly the slopes are so severe that special pulley systems have had to be implemented in many parts in order to harvest the grapes, and thirdly, it tastes bloody great!

The next big name of the Northern Rhone is Hermitage. Hermitage is an amazing hill which overlooks the town of Tain l’Hermitage, just on the right bank of the Rhone River. Again syrah is dominant, although up to 15% of the white wine grapes Marsanne and Rousanne are permitted in the blend, they are very rarely used (up to 20% of Viognier is also allowed in Core Rotie).
The surrounding areas of Hermitage are labelled Crozes Hermitage, and on the other side of the river is St Joseph. These two appellations produce some really excellent (and variable) wines at affordable prices. The other important appellation in the region is Cornas; and the most interesting fact is that this wine HAS to be 100% Syrah. I’ve got a couple of these from the 2007 vintage lying in wait for Xmas 2013!

And what should expect from these syrah-laden wines? Well lots of power, tannin and acidity. Inky dark colours, with blackberry fruit, dark chocolate, black pepper and… Wait for it… smoky bacon! Delicious!

Cave du Tain Crozes Hermitage 2009 (Majestic £9.99)
Sainsburys Taste the Difference St Joseph 2010 (Sainsburys £13.49)

Southern Rhone

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Spicy Grenache is the king grape of the Southern Rhone, and is usually more than 80% of the blend. In this region there is a classification, which is pretty straightforward and also a pretty fine indicator of quality!

We start with simple Cotes du Rhone. We’ve all had it and all thought, do you know what, that’s not half bad. And there are some very good ones out there. Many of the big name Rhone producers make a Cotes du Rhone – Guigal, possibly the biggest name in the Cote Rotie, makes one and you can buy it in Majestic for £10.99! We then move up to Cotes du Rhone Villages, which is a selection of 95 communes and then on to the “better” Cotes du Rhone Villages, which over the years have produced better quality wines and are allowed to append the village name to the label. There are 18 of these villages and my faves are Sablet and Cairanne.

Next, and finally, we come to the “Crus”. These are villages and areas that have consistently produced top-notch wine and have the right to simply call the wine by where it’s from. The key Southern Rhone Crus are Lirac, Rasteau, Beaumes de Venise, Vaqueyras, Gigondas and Chateuneuf du Pape. Again, like Burgundy, finding a producer you like and trust is key in these appellations, and certainly worth the effort to find.

Wines made primarily from Grenache have brambly fruit flavours and lovely spicy and herby notes. Lots of black pepper and after a few years they start to smell like Christmas. Also you can often smell and taste the wonderful aromas in the southern French air.

M&S Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 2010 (M&S £9.99)
La Bastide St-Vincent, Pavane Vacqueyras 2010 (Majestic £12.99)
Ogier Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Co-op £16.99)

Leoville Barton vertical tasting, 12th November 2012

I turned up for this Bordeaux second growth tasting with huge anticipation following my bottle of Langoa Barton (3rd growth) the previous weekend. For those with no knowledge of the Bordeaux classification system, think of it like the football league without promotion or relegation. The classification was put in place in 1855 with four properties on the left bank of the Gironde estuary gaining first growth status, or being placed in the Premier League. These chateaux are Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion and Margeaux. In 1973 Mouton Rothschild become the first and only property to be promoted in the classification, making 5 in the Premier league, with prices that only footballers can now afford!

There are 14 chateaux in the second growth category, of which Leoville Barton is one, 15 third growths, 10 fourth growths, and 18 fifth growths. These are the wines that will cost you a decent day’s work and the wine world generally goes wild for.

Both Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton are run by Anthony Barton, who grew up in County Kildare, Ireland. He has a great reputation in the world of wine and was voted Decanter Magazine’s man of the year in 2007. His outlook on wine is remarkably liberal and he tries to keep his prices as low as possible… In the context of top end Bordeaux wine:

“I want people to buy my wine and to drink it – that’s why I release my entire stock at en primeur time, and why I try to keep it reasonably priced.”

The tasting was organised by the West London Wine School, where I studied for my WSET course early in the year, and a great job they did. Jimmy Smith (@westlondonwine on Twitter) is a great host and oozes wine charm and charisma. 20 of us had paid £80 to taste our way through 9 vintages from the Leoville Barton back catalogue… And we weren’t disappointed. Again a bit of explanation – a vertical tasting is a number of different vintages from one wine estate, whereas a horizontal tasting is a number of different estates from the same vintage.

The selection of wines started in 1982, who some claim was the vintage that re-launched Bordeaux, and covered the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. There was a clear differentiation between the three decades, with the 80’s having lots of charm and a few rough edges, the 90’s were more polished but full of character and the 2000’s… well a bit disappointing for me; a bit overworked and obviously not enough time in the bottle to really open up to their full potential. The one standout from all of the wines however, was the pure freshness and abundance of acidity, making for a very enjoyable experience.

At the end of the night we all voted for our favourite wine and the best value (again in context!). I was with the majority on both counts here, with the 1990 coming out on top (1986 not far behind for for me) and the 1997 being the “best value” at only (???) £60 a bottle.

Going back to my previous post on “cheating”, the tasting confirmed a couple of things for me. The first is that I do like Bordeaux and will certainly look to add a few choice bottles to my collection, but secondly, it will never replace Burgundy in my heart and I would rather buy 2 bottle of Premier Cru wines from the Cote De Beaune than a single bottle of a Bordeaux classed growth wine. Oh yes, and thirdly I can’t wait for the Burgundy Grand Cru tasting in January (details at http://www.westlondonwineschool.com/product_info.php?id=286).

Below are my notes, approximate price per bottle and my scores.

1982 (£160)

Dark ruby colour with lovely bricking around the edges. The appearance was a little murky with a fair amount of sediment. The nose was deeply concentrated with dark, black berries, hints of earth and leather but very, very fresh. In the mouth the freshness was still apparent at the beginning but was a bit drying. Taste was of fairly dried fruit and with a lovely smokey and spicy finish, but a bit tough. If you have any 1982’s in your collection I would drink them up pretty quickly as they may have just tipped past their best. I did go back to the wine a couple of hours later and it had mellowed out so if you are drinking, please allow plenty of time in a decanter. 93 points

1986 (£95)

Lovely and clear with a seductive orange rim and deep garnet core. Lots of black currant, lots on minerally earthiness and hints of pepper, smoke, clove and oak. Lovely! Amazing freshness and acidity, the pencil shavings are there on the palate (see previous post!). This wine is soft, warm and long. Fresh, fruity and beautiful balance. 95 points

1990 (£120)

Looks very young and very dark with just a hint of age starting to show at the edge. Really deep and powerful nose. Intense aromas of black currants, plums, earthiness and minerality. I smelt this for some time! In the mouth it is so fresh and has lovely grippy tannins. The fruit comes first and then the menthol freshness of mint and then the smoky, cedar kicks in. This is harmonious and the balance of acidity and tannin is amazing, with a wonderful fresh and very long finish. Can I really pay £120? Maybe for one! 97 points

1996 (£85)

Again very youthful looking. After the 1990 this is pretty recessive on the nose with only a hint of cassis fruit and some spice, herb and eucalyptus. Massive hit of acidity when you drink it and its there all the way through, although the tannins are almost too gentle so there is a slight lack of structure. This is an acidic, almost flirty wine but just slightly out of balance. 89 points

1997 (£60)

Deep, deep colour, almost purple. This is a base-y wine (The Fish likes to talk about wines in a musical manner!) with lots of oak and spice but slightly recessive fruit. In the mouth however the acid is pure, with delicate, matching tannins and a lovely light body, almost reminiscent of Burgundy! A lot more fruit than the aroma promised, which is always a nice surprise and overall a very pretty wine and ready to drink now. 92 points

2002 (£50)

Really dark ruby and big deep and dark fruit on the nose, almost liqueur like. Very powerful, maybe a bit stewed and also hints of menthol. The tannins here are pretty drying and hides the fruit. There is surprisingly good acid and the black fruit and eucalyptus does come through but is a bit harsh and closed, not one for me, even in a few years. 87 points

2003 (£94)

Another very dark appearance – definitely young but the core is really dark. Sweet smelling fruit and a hint of oak on the nose, very concentrated and deep overall. This is one of the sweetest wines for pure fruit and you can taste the sun of a very hot vintage. There is also lovely balance here and the flavour is very concentrated and powerful with a lovely minty freshness. Really fruit forward and very nice thank you very much. 91 points

2008

This is so purple it could be Ribena! Fragrant and polish on the nose, lovely sweet and fresh smelling fruit. Another fresh wine on the palate with lots of structure and big, strong tannins. Another refreshing wine with black currant fruit and lovely herbs lasting quite some time. One to keep for a few years and will get better and better. 92 points

2004 – tasted blind (£55)

I was really hoping for a wine from the 90’s as the blind option but hey-ho! Deep ruby colour and lovely sweet and deeply concentrated black fruit, almost dried on the tongue. Concentrated and tannic, but again with really fresh acidity and lots of sweet fruit. Another one that needs a bit of time and probably better value than the similar but more expensive 2003. 89 points

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Drink along with Floyd!

Someone just posted a tweet about Keith Floyd… And it got me thinking…

Do you remember the first time you saw Keith Floyd on TV? I remember seeing him when I was at school and just thought, what a mad bastard! A the time I had no interest in food whatsoever, probably too busy working out whether Biactol or Clearasil was he best cure for acne.

It wasn’t until I got to university and started watching Ready, Steady, Cook every day that I got into food. Now I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I was red tomatoes and my flatmate Rob was green peppers. Best of 5 every week, loser bought the first pint… It got very competitive. Anyway I started watching any food programme as I got the bug and saw a programme called Floyd on France. The mad fool was cooking a piperade, being watched by a disgusted looking French lady… And I was hooked.

I’ve seen most of his shows now, although most, sadly, still aren’t available of DVD. When I got into wine I started watching Floyd Uncorked on UK Travel and I fell in love with the man again. What a great introduction to a great subject and what a guy to front it. He and Jonathan Pedley MW in a different wine region of France every week, discussing, arguing, drinking, but more importantly, making wine accessible to us naive mortals.

Floyd Uncorked became a great go-to Xmas present. Buy the book, the DVD and a few bottles to drink along with Floyd! Savigny Le Baune and Chablis in episode 1, Vouvray and Pouilly Fume episode 2. Give it a try… Your friends and family will love you forever and also start to share your interest in wine.

On our recent trip to France we spent the morning in Avignon before heading out to Chateuneuf. I wasn’t that taken by the place but was like a giddy child when we found the Hotel D’Europe… The bar where Keith spent so many of his days entertaining the locals and tourists alike.

Anyway, I want to remember the real Floyd, not the one we saw in that tragic Channel 4 documentary which aired the day after he died. So I recently re-read his autobiography, Shaken not Stirred, as well as the wonderful book by his long time suffering director David Pritchard, Shooting the Cook. Please do the same and remember what a true entertainer the great man was.

Drink along with Floyd… The greatest Xmas present of all time!

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Hotel D’Europe in Avignon. Where the king held court.

Full episode guide:

1. Burgundy – Chablis & Savigny les Beane
2. Loire – Pouilly Fume & Vouvray
3. Rhone – Cotes du Rhone Villages & Crozes Hermitage
4. Bordeaux – Medoc & Sauternes
5. Alsace – Riesling & Gewürztraminer
6. Languedoc – Viognier & Minervois
7. Provence – Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence rose & Luberon
8. Champagne – Champagne!

 

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