Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Currently drinking well...


By Matthew Hemming, Fine Wine Manager

Current drinking
As much as I’d love to say I drink an eclectic and exciting range of wines at home, the corks we tend to pull are generally from the necks of bottles from classic regions.  Amongst the whites we drink, Riesling accounts for the lion’s share – examples from all over the world are not only delicious, but are consistently amazing value.  Dry Sherry, especially Manzanilla, features quite regularly, but disappears with almost indecent haste as an accompaniment to olives and charcuterie.  The other factor determining what we drink is what I have in the cellar.  Having only started buying in earnest 10 years ago, most of my wine is relatively young, so we’ve been dipping in and out of some recent vintages.  Many people would call it infanticide but we’ve been having masses of fun with 2005 red Burgundy in recent weeks.  Australia is my main source of new world wines, but more of that below.

Australia
I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Australia at the end of 2011 and it’s no exaggeration to say I was blown away by the quality of the wines.  The stereotype of over-blown and top heavy alcoholic fruit juice is light-years out of date.  Today, the reality of what is known as the ModOz style is mid-weight, moderate in alcohol and tautly focused.  In particular, I’ve been enjoying some stunning Australian Chardonnay, tipped by many to be the only real alternative to smart white Burgundy.  Chardonnay from estates such as Ocean 8, Bindi, Forrest Hill, Oakridge and Yabby Lake are truly world class and share a chiselled minerality, glassy texture and scent that are quite compelling.



The problem is that many of these wines are next to impossible to find in the UK, and when you do they ain’t cheap.  At the affordable end of the market, the Averys Pioneer Series Chardonnay and Viognier, both from the Yarra Valley, offer a glimpse of this new wave Aussie style, as does the Project Winemaker Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills.  At the other end of the scale, watch this space for Tappanapa’s Picadilly Valley Chardonnay.  The latest release from Brian Croser’s estate showcases the crystalline fruit purity, snappy acidity and high tensile profile shared by the best ModOz whites.  It should retail for around the £30 mark and is worth every penny.

Red Burgundy
There’s all sorts of debate around when to drink red Burgundy.  No doubt that, when it’s fully mature, red Burgundy is a magical drink – but we don’t always have access to perfectly mature bottles.  In his excellent book, The Finest Wines of Burgundy, Bill Nanson suggests that bottles are best enjoyed either in their first flush of youth – on their puppy fat – or after significant age.  This chimes with the way many domaines in the region serve their wine, as they don’t often have stocks of older vintages.  Usefully, it also matches what I have available to me from the cases I’ve bought en primeur.

Recently, I’ve been dipping into 2005 reds at village level.  If you have case quantities, then there’s no reason why not to try a few.  My friend Thierry Beaumont’s wines (Domaine des Beaumont) are lovely, with dense, ripe fruit and velvet tannins.  I’ve also had delicious bottles from Sylvie Esmonin and Emmanuel Rouget, but there’s no doubt that the best is still to come from this vintage.  2006 is showing well, even at 1er Cru level; 2007 provides great current drinking and we’re huge fans of Ghislaine Barthod’s Chambolle Musigny; the lesser wines from 2009 are also drinking well, and offer a mouth-watering snapshot of what we can expect of the grander bottles from this great year.  Look out for our reviews of 2009 Remoissenet wines shown at dinners in Bristol and London in February 2012.

Red Rhone
Wine merchants are starting to sound like stuck records, proclaiming again and again that the Rhone is enjoying an embarrassment of riches with one excellent vintage after another.  It’s true that there’s hardly been a poor year in the last decade and, since the mid-1990s, the only weaker vintages are 2002 and 2008.  The advantage for wine lovers is that it’s now quite hard to go wrong when picking Rhone wine, be it a Tuesday night Cotes du Rhone or a special occasion Cote Rotie.

I’ve found myself drinking more and more Rhone wines at home.  If I want something robust, tasty and good value, I almost always reach for Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Rhone Villages from 2009/10.  Wines from Domaines de Bastide and Haute Marone have become firm household favourites and work well both with and without food.  Domaine de Mourchon is a solid choice if we fancy something a couple of notches up from the everyday – these are powerful and concentrated wines with spicy fruit and firm structures.  From further afield, at a recent tasting the 2009 Les Terrasses cuvee from Chateau Pesquie was strikingly tasty.  As a treat, the 2007 Cote Rotie ‘Cote Brun’ from Gilles Barge is a magnificent, fine-boned and scented wine of real elegance.

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