A chily Monday morning

I’ve always liked Monday mornings. This is basically my day. Full of energy, optimistic and sure everything will be just fine. I might take full advantage of this dream-like reality of mine, I keep on saying to myself in a low voice. It might seem strange yet it’s very effective.

With this type of mood I arrived to the courtyard (or should I say little estate) of “The Bleeding Heart”. Slightly disturbing was the fact that this very courtyard was oddly named after Lady Elizabeth Hatton (which apparently was the toast of 17th Century London society) and was found dead just here with her heart still pumping blood onto the cobblestones. Hmmm, intriguing yet no enough to irritate my precious mood. I move swiftly over the bespoke cobblestone and enter the wine cellar room.

Smiling faces are welcoming me; Andrea Bricarello from Corrigan’s Mayfair (winner of best sommelier for Imbibe), Joris Beijn from 1901 at Andaz (his runner up),Roberto Della Pietra from all French Roussillon, and beloved Christine Parkinson from Hakassan group were amongst them. All cheerful, the wine chatting was on the move.

Then came the wines. All from cool climate regions of Chile. Two flights, one white- all Chardonnay, and one red – all Syrah. Quite a challenge I thought. Luckily it’s still a marvellous Monday afternoon and the company is charming, lucky me.

Les Blancs – The whites were how to put it, not very elegant and at times even clumsy. The old question swings again; Chard has seen it all so why, why again?

The style varied from full on acidity (almost felt acidified), to over the top oak monsters (thnx @garyvee). Along the way were a couple of more elegant and soft ones and the obvious oak chips were floating with expression.

The flight was divided by region, Colchagua (down south), Limari (600km north of Santiago) and the obvious cool climate Casablanca.

Chardonnay 07 “The Gran Araucano” from Colchagua (sub region of Rapael in the far South) surprised with an oaky nose, a touch of vanilla and a hint of creamy notes. Rich on the palate, almost confected. Loads of spices and nutty flavours. Vanilla and an almost thick character. A bit over the top with the use of oak. Good acidity and a slightly hot finish. A big boy in town!

From Limari, one of Chile’s up and coming regions came The Reserve Chardonnay 08 Terra Andina. Then suddenly, I unleashed all my superlatives. It felt as if I was waiting for this wine to arrive. I admit that I might got carried away and judging by the price (me? never!) I might have done so. In any case I found the nose to be rich with some very mature peaches, a very light nutty note & a hint of spice. Excellent palate I also thought! Concentrated yet elegant. The minerality seemed to combine with the acidity to create an almost nectar like mid palate. Finally I can say, Burgundian minerality and elegance (carried away did I mention?)

Then came along some 7 or 8 Chards from Casablanca. Mostly I found them to be much more commercial (the old anywhere any grape tune). Some had a feel of residual sugar. it seems to me that these kind of wines while trying to hide some faults and become user friendly, are very difficult to drink. The sugar is heavy, makes me heavy and tired. I didn’t really like any of them, so why bother!

Les Rouges – the worst, so it seemed was still to come. But first I was charmed.

The Casa Marin “Miramar” 06 Syrah felt to be very good start. Located in the San Antonio Valley (just west to Santiago), it benefits from pronounced Pacific influence. Its deep nose shows a lot of black fruit and a distinctive vegetal nose followed by a rich peppery note. Fruit almost feels sweet and the palate much more subtle than the nose. Low alcohol and clean flavours with just a hint of spice. Elegant and sophisticated, some real style was emerging without showing off “I’m here!!!”. Yummy that’s nice. Really tastes like cool climate. Did anyone say Rhone?

Another advantage of mine is that I tend to be impressed by inexpensive wines; I’m that kind of person. I managed to do it again. The Maiden flight Syrah from Cono Sur felt good. Coming from Colchagua and gave everything a 5 pound a bottle wine should, and more. Nose with loads of black fruit. A rustic, earthy almost savoury note and hints of leather and cinnamon. Impressive and surprisingly clean nose. Rich plum my notes dominated the palate. Not much tannins just huge amounts of fruit. Pleasant and enjoyable. My notes told the story – Again the cheapest wine on the flight, I’ve got such a cheap taste.

Most of the following wines didn’t share this clean style. Simple or complex many of them felt very technical or not enough. Reduction and off flavours were obvious. It felt like a long journey now. I struggled my way upon wines that felt too similar and didn’t leave almost any impression.

Well, well, I did find almost four wines that I would drink, from Chile I felt very content. This was, after all, another successful Monday!

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New beginings

How important are new beginnings.

I am told that in order for something real and important to happen there should always be a breaking point. This one moment when you realize something has really changed and that nothing will ever be the same again. I honestly think this is just a whole load of crap.

Nevertheless, in order to satisfy my loyal audience I will ignore my previous statement and start the new beginning of this write ups with something big.

I was waiting for this email to come for quite a while. I’ve been quiet yet hopeful. Finally on a dull Friday afternoon, on my way to another busy Friday night, it arrived. I was kindly ask if I could help with some technicalities and participate in a tasting with no less than my (and I’m pretty sure that everyone else’s) wine guru.

I was given the task (small yet vital) to put in order and organize an intriguing tasting consisting of 60 red white rose and sweet wine from the most Spanish region of France – Roussillon.

Setting up the wines will be the part that I will not share as I don’t wish to reveal my professional secrets.

We will go straight to the wines, shall we?

Les Blancs-

These were the most diverse and seemed to represent the mood of this colour in Roussillon. Diversity being a positive and attractive quality but can it also point out a lack of style?

More than anything else it felt there is some lack of self identity here. Don’t get me wrong, some of the wines showed beautifully.

The like of Ch Cap de Fouste, Sant Galdric Muscat Sec 2008 that showed just how a simple Muscat can be so much fun. grapey wit a touch of sweetness and enough acidity to balance.

Some other unpretentious whites included the Vignerons des Côtes d’Agly Sauvignon/Vermentino 2008 an unusual blend where the sauvignon plays second best and only compliments aromatic notes to a ripe stone fruit and mineral backbone.

Still, among all the white varieties (isn’t cepage a much more attractive term?) there was one that stood out from the others; The one that felt most at home. Grenache Blanc effortlessly beat all the others. The wines felt right, different and representing this Mediterranean edge.

Cave de l’Abbé Rous, In Fine 2008, was smoky rich and complex. Despite the hint of oak ageing the wine managed to keep depth of fruit and fantastic complexity of flavours. The most authentic with an almost Catalunian scented feel to it. A big boy with graceful moves that is not ashamed of his size.

Les Rouges –

The reds were quite different; stylish and full, they were expressing some Mediterranean passion. Rich and spicy they were not ashamed to show their origins to the whole wide world. Most of the wines were good descent drinks yet as always a few stood apart.

Dom Rossignol, Bérénice 2005 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Les – This showed quite a lot of animal notes here with a very pronounced black fruit component. Not as big on the palate. Somehow, more elegant and restrained. It did benefit from the savoury element yet the fruit was much more present. There was good freshness and even a minty herbal note. Almost Rhone in style.

Another one to impress and maybe to point out the qualities for ageing was the Domaine de Vénus 2004 Côtes du Roussillon- This showed some enjoyable mature red fruit complimented by some savoury spices. The palate was concentrated and fruity. Some of it dried and mature in character yet a hint of freshness was also coming through. Good spices the like ofliquorice, leather & coffee which worked very well with the almost sweet edge that the fruit had. Slightly warm finish. A big Mediterranean chap here, yet polite and open minded.

Some of the wines did take this big and beautiful approach a bit further, which made some of the wines taste like any grape anywhere style. The majority did keep it simple. My experience tells me that less and less drinkers are interested in superstrong giants and much more appreciate charm and elegance.

My general feelings were that red wine making felt much more natural to the producers that we’ve sampled. As I’ve mentioned, the reds showed character and tipicity without the need of proving too much. A slightly more careful tannin and extraction management could result in wines that might shine some elegance behind the familiar thick Mediterranean fruit.

Whitewise again the focus on local varieties and a spicier slightly richer style will draw more attention to the wines. The old formula of cold fermentation crisp and fresh wines just doesn’t give exciting results in this part of France, they have much more to offer.

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