Beaucastel, Jaboulet, Pol Roger, Palmer, Hugel and Symington

Some of the Wine Society’s favourite producers rolled into Edinburgh to show examples of their most recent vintages and mature wines.

The wines

Château de Beaucastel (Rhône) with Mike Rifkin

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 1995 – £25.00
Very sweet and pure Syrah-like fruit on the nose, of dense blackcurrant and blueberries. Rounder, earthy aromas beneath. The palate shows tannins and fruit in good balance, though the overall impression is that this tightly-structured wine needs time. Very promising.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 1990
Extraordinary animal nose of blood and beef with earthy, vegetal, compost notes. Palate is very silky and mellow with medium body, good ripe fruit, gamey flavours and a nicely balanced finish and considerable length. This has real presence. Very good indeed.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné (Rhône) with Nicolas Jaboulet

Hermitage blanc “Chevalier de Stérimberg” 1997
Golden yellow colour. Slight Jack Daniels/sherry cask quality on the nose before nutty aromas and peachy fruit. Palate is very rich and mouthfilling with a bitter liquorice edge to peach and melon fruit. Lots of oaky spice, alcohol then fine apple acidity into the finish. This seemed to be rather brutal in style, though the component parts are of high quality. These wines are built to age and this should tone-down given time. Crozes-Hermitage “Domaine de Thalabert” 1990 – £14.50
Medium to pale ruby. Very concentrated Porty nose. Full of sweet black fruit which is slightly syrupy. Palate is firm, with quite high acidity and good tannins. In the mouth the fruit is layered, with mulberries and raspberries then an earthy, dark, gamey quality. Though it’s not a hugely complex wine the fruit is deeply layered and it is drinking extremely well. It is mature but should easily hold for several years. Hermitage La Chapelle 1991 – £30.00
Beautiful, soaring nose of jammy blackcurrant and sweet strawberry fruit. There is a lovely ripe core of fruit at the heart of this wine and great balance. The purity of the fruit seems to have reasserted itself over the past year or two yet there are still plenty of interesting animal and non-fruit nuances. Decent length. Lovely.
I’ve tasted this 4 or 5 times over the past 3 years and am enjoying it more and more each time. Lovely now.

Hermitage La Chapelle 1997
Wonderfully ripe, sweet syrah fruit. Cassis and raspberries, then a charcoal note. The palate really does show lovely balance with fine, but firm tannins and good acidity supporting masses of black fruits, pepper and spice. The wine is medium-bodied and is very elegant with fine fruit, concentration and balance. Superb potential.
In the last few vintages La Chapelle has seemed amazingly forward and fruit-driven in the first year after bottling, before quickly closing down, perhaps not to re-emerge for another 6 to 8 years.

Symingtons (Port) with Paul Symington

Graham vintage Port 1997 (cask sample)
Almost black/purple. Gorgeously ripe, aromatic and confected with scents of dark chocolate, blackcurrant and charcoal. Great sense of purity and sweetness, redolant of sultanas and blackberries. Very ripe tannins and fine acidity, already showing tremendous length. I thought this was very, very promising indeed.

Warre vintage Port 1977
Quite a youthful colour. Sensuous, enveloping nose with a bouquet of kirsch, honey, sweet mulberries and vanilla. Concentrated sweetness on palate and medium body. Notes of coffee and cherries. Good length too. Very good indeed.

Graham vintage Port 1970
Very serious black fruit and incense nose that is blackcurranty and spicy. This seems younger than the Warre. On the palate still a powerhouse structure of tannin and acidity. There’s a toffee/fudge richness to the sweet black fruits and a smooth texture, but then also a firm edge adding complexity. Huge concentration and very long. This needs time and is a profound wine.
One of the finest Ports I’ve tasted and amazingly youthful. Though the ’70 is now very rare and expensive, this 29 year old wine adds great weight to the impression that the ’97 cask sample might turn out to be a very special when it is released….

Pol Roger (Champagne) with Hubert de Billy
Non Vintage Brut (White Foil) – £22.50
Beautifully clean but yeasty nose of baked apple pie. Pillowy, soft, rolling mousse. Fine acidity sharpens a set of toasty, warm flavours of baked apples and lighter, citrus and subtle tropical fruit. Long and lovely.
This is consistently one of my top 2 or 3 non-vintage Champagnes – the art of the master blender!

Vintage 1990
Wonderful nose. Redolent of peach, apricot, nuts and toast with a distinct almondy edge. Rich and mouthfilling mousse. A nettly note on the palate, but otherwise fine marmalade orange flavours and a nutty dryness. Long, pure finish with fine balance and clean acidity. Superb chewy and complex Champagne.
I tasted a pre-release sample of this wine a couple of years ago. It is filling-out and shaping-up very nicely, but will be better in a few years. I’m glad I have some of this cellared.

Vintage Rosé 1990 – £39.00
Very pretty pink colour. Steady stream of bubbles rises evenly. Soft, strawberry fruit on the nose with a nettly edge. Just a touch of tannin in the mouth behind fine raspberry and strawberry fruit. Creamy and densely-flavoured, this is long, balanced, serious rosé.
I enjoyed this more than the ’88, which was the last vintage I tried.

Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1998
Quite a pale gold. Like a deeper, more brooding version of the 1990 vintage with a similar aromatic profile of apricots, brazil nuts, toast and over-ripe pear skins. This is dense, chewy, really concentrated wine that needs time. Not quite so fresh as the ’86 perhaps?
I had only previously tasted one vintage of this, the 1986. I guess that – although not as good as the ’86 – this will need a few more years to show its best.

Hugel et Fils (Alsace) with Etienne Hugel

The Society’s Vin D’Alsace 1998 – £5.25
Very pale, almost transparent. Lightly aromatic nose of spice and apple. A little bit raw on the palate, and though fairly neutral, there is decent citrus fruit and grapefruitty acidity. Not bad.

Tokay-Pinot Gris, Jubilee 1995 – £14.50
Pale straw/gold. Tiny bit of free sulphur blows off to reveal a high, waxy nose with a toasty complexity (almost like new oak!). Very rich palate with a seam of ripe pear and peach fruit and a spicy edge. Rich and alcoholic, but good length and balance. Good.

Riesling, Jubilee 1990 – £16.00
Pale straw/gold. High kerosene and wax notes dominate the bouquet. There is a dry, mineral note beneath. Palate is very clean with lime and pear-drop flavours, notable acidity and an overall light, zippy character. Quite long, with flowery nuances peeking through. I would have liked a little more complexity. Maybe better in a few years.

Gewürztraminer, “Hommage à Jean Hugel” 1997 – £21.00
Hugel’s special new bottling, only from exceptional years. Pale straw/pink. Classic varietal aromas of lychee, pear-drop and exotic Turkish delight. Luscious weight on the palate and definitely off-dry. Fruit is very concentrated and a searing streak of pithy grapefruit acidity, once melded, should provide balance. Lovely spice and purity of fruit in the finish. Very good indeed of its type.

Gewürztraminer, Sélection de Grains Nobles 1989
Pale gold tinged green. Developed wax and petrolly aromas heighten the aromatics. Lychee, peach and pear with subtle mineral notes. Gorgeous sweet palate with a smoky, gravelly edge to peachy fruit. Good acidity and plenty of spice. Sparky, concentrated and very, very long this is one of the best Gewürztraminers I’ve tasted – this could easily convert me to what is not my favourite variety!

Peter Sichel (Bordeaux) with Lee Claridge

Château d’Angludet (Margaux) Cru Bourgeois 1990 – £25.00
Nice medium/pale ruby, just tawny at rim. Lovely Margaux profile of perfumes with red fruits, earth, autumn leaves and an animal note of game and beef blood. Silky body and a very nice concentration of mature flavours: game, leather, plum and mulberry, some vanilla and spice. Long, smooth and lovely finish. Very good.

Château Palmer (Margaux) 2nd growth 1983
Pale ruby, turning to ochre in the broad rim. Sweetly perfumed. More seductive than the d’Angludet with its fragrant nose of berry fruits, cedar, pencil-shavings, leather and a soft, exotic spiciness. Very supple palate with a finely-tuned concentration of fruit and spice flavours. Nice long finish again, showing concentration, depth and balance. Fully mature, for drinking over 5 – 8 years. Very good indeed.