These notes are from an gathering in Glasgow. Visitors from South Africa were in town and we managed to fix up a little tasting that combined everyday wines for my column in The Home Show magazine with some bottles from my cellar and others brought along by Rudolph and Simon. These included a lovely South African cabernet and a fascinating Zinfandel from Ridge in California; an experimental bottling from late-harvested grapes with a whopping 15.7% alcohol!
Lagar de Cervera (Spain, Rías Baixas) Albariño 1997
Very pale lemon colour. Nose of flowers, minerals and salts with a citrus tang, but also an oatmeally, almost buttery note. Palate is quite rich and alcoholic with fine pear, peach and lime fruit and a hint of sweetness. Good balance and length. Sainsbury, £6.99.
Le Vigne (Italy, Sicily) Unoaked Chardonnay 1998
Pale lemon tinged with green. There a warm bread and butter pudding note to the nose over melon and honeysuckle fruit. The palate is medium bodied and very fresh with exemplary Chardonnay characteristics of buttery melon and lemon fruit, some spice and pretty good length. Very nice if not terribly distinguished. Peckhams, £5.99.
Longridge (South Africa, Stellenbosch) Chardonnay 1998
Pale to medium gold/green. Massive, charred, French oak nose with burnt toast and ground coffee aromas. Difficult to see beyond that at present. A chewy, packed mouthful with serious lemony fruit, loads of spice, but good length and balance. Needs time but could be very nice in a year or two. Oddbins, £8.99.
Tim Adams (Australia) Clare Valley Semillon 1997
Medium golden colour. Lovely understated nose of cinnamon, wax and butterscotch. A nutty, oily character too. Palate is amazingly dense and rich with masses of buttery fruit, notes of orange marmalade and vanilla. High alcohol, which shows up as a hint of sweetness into the long finish. Delicious. Tesco/Thresher, £8.49/£8.99.
Glen Carlou (South Africa, Paarl) Pinot Noir 1998
Quite a deep, dense, purple/black. Sweet jammy blackberry and forest fruit nose. Lots of ground-spice, little notes of vanilla, and a definite perfumed edge of violets. Palate is quite dense and chewy with tannins and acidity, maybe lacking a little fruit and not terribly long, but something about the substance of this suggests it might develop over a year or two. Oddbins, £7.49.
J. Vidal-Fleury (France, Rhône) Côtes-du-Ventoux 1995
Pale to medium purple colour. Charcoally syrah fruit with notes of burning embers, black fruits and some pepper. Palate is very dry with moderate tannins and acidity, quite high alcohol. There is some creamy berry fruit, but for me this wine is rather tired and really needs food. Majestic, £4.99.
Cortes de Cima (Portugal) Chaminé Red Wine 1998
Medium/dark but dull purple colour. Fine perfumed nose and quite unusual with blueberry and blackberry fruits and sweet brown-sugar nuances. There is a nicely concentrated character to the black fruits on the palate with firm tannins and a rich, creamy texture. The tannins add a structural backbone and the finish is quite long. Very nice. Majestic, £6.99.
Gaia (Greece) Agiorgitiko Estate Wine 1997
Solid purple/black colour. Very distinct rubbery note on the nose: like car tyres. Fruit then emerges, quite baked and plummy, with some sweet blackberry notes and a little bit of Claret-like pencil-shavings. On the palate the fruit is very firm-edged and lean, quite acidic and savoury. Not quite convincing, this might be better with food. Oddbins,
Casablanca (Chile) El Bosque Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Very deep ruby/purple/black. Metal and tinned tomatoes. Obvious volatile acidity – a deeply flawed bottle.
Wines with dinner
Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 1997
This wine was served blind, but had easily-spotted Marlborough Sauvignon hallmarks of pungent, herbaceous aromas over tropical fruit. The nose is redolent of green-beans and asparagus (more pronounced than when last tasted a year ago) before notes of lychee and mango emerge. Lovely weight, with a nice balance of grapefruit acidity into a long finish.
Le Riche (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997
Dense, deep ruby/purple. Real minty intensity to the fruit on the nose, leafy blackcurrant is very pure with sweet vanilla nuances. The palate is restrained and balanced, with fine silky tannins and lots of soft, lush fruit. There is a savoury edge from moderate oak and good supporting acidity keeps the finish long and clean. A very nice wine in that halfway-house style that South Africa does so well, between lush New World fruit and classic Old World firmness and restraint.
Ridge Vineyards (California) Dusi Ranch Late-picked Zinfandel ATP 1997
A wow! wine if ever I tasted one. Absolutely opaque purple black. Hugely aromatic nose with violet perfume, parma-violets, bitter chocolate, turkish-delight, old-roses, coffee and blueberry fruit. On the palate beautifully focused considering the outrageous aromatic profile, with pure, gorgeously sweet black fruits. This wine was a gift sent over by an on-line American friend, Joel Goldberg. It comes from Ridge’s “Advance Tasting Program” of limited release experimental wines.
de Trafford (South Africa) Vin de Paille 1997
Deep golden colour. Very honeyed, with flowery, musky notes and darker fig fruit. On the palate thick, sweet, luscious and grapy, but not at all raw, with fine, cool orangy fruit. Good acidity and not cloying. A lovely if essentially simple dessert wine.
Brumaire (France) “Novembre” Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh 1996
Pale to medium gold. Highly nuanced and beautifully alluring nose of honey, sesame-seeds, toast and sweet, tropical fruits. Palate is honeyed and rich, but has lovely balance with subtle herbal and tobacco notes to pure fruity flavours. Long and clean, a superb wine.
Nuy (South Africa) Muskadel 1997
A fortified wine, this has a fresh and flowery nose, with aromatic components of musky grapes, honey and lime. Super-sweet on the palate it is smooth and easy-to-drink with a real kick of alcohol into the finish. Delicious.