The Diary - November 2003
- Champagne Brut Imperial NV (Moet et Chandon)
Much less fruity than VC - almost floral nose - palate like a dry country wine. Might improve with a year or two in cellar.
- Champagne NV (Veuve Cliquot)
The first bottle had a yeasty nose, rich almost fat palate but was slightly corked. A clean bottle was drier and finer and a touch green - surprisingly different. Neither very good. Top
- Champagne 1996 (Moet et Chandon)
Closed nose - touch of vanilla. Nice mousse. Straightforward fruit and no great length. Still needs time but will never be that good.
- Champagne 1996 (Veuve Cliquot)
Honied and more forward than Moet - a touch longer but slightly less ageworthy.
- Champagne Rose NV (Moet et Chandon)
Closed nose again. Disjointed palate. Rose-petal fruit - tending to cloying. Really rather poor. Bare
- Champagne Rose 1995 (Veuve Cliquot)
Much better - alpine strawberry - very glugable. Apparently this (and the Moet) are made by the "bunging in some still red wine at the end" method that I suspect will never make really fine wine. Hardly remarkable at the price but a good
- Champagne Dom Perignon 1995 (Moet et Chandon)
Much more exciting nose - pinot farmard and straw. Complex and long. Delicious but quite forward. So Moet can make the real thing!
- Champagne Grand Dame 1995 (Veuve Cliquot)
Reasonably complex and decently long. Nowhere near the sexy mineral complexity of the DP. This would be a good show for the basic vintage wine but as a prestige bottle it disappoints. Top
- Champagne Grand Cuvee NV (Krug)
Rich wood-influenced palate. Lovely farmyard-pinot nose and palate - not unlike the DP but weightier and owing more to the wood. Lovely creamy mousse.
- La Fonte di Pietrarsa 1999 (Massa Vecchia)
A cabernet-based wine from the estate with the exotic Vermentino. Good colour, slightly yeasty nose more blackberry and plum than blackcurrant and with nutty overtones. In the mouth, dry but with very ripe fruit that hides a bit more structure than is immediately apparent. Quite Burgundian in a way and it shows that one can make attractively drinkable young Cabernet if one has high-quality fruit and doesn't over-extract. Might even merit an extra star in time - for now
- Bairrada Reserva Tinto 1991 (Goncalves Faria)
I bought a few bottles of this three years ago and rated it *(**) three years ago. It is still a very deep young colour and seems to take a lot of airing before it opened out. After a couple of hours some underbrush character emerged to complement the baked fruits. There are still substantial tannins that it may never shake off but they are not unpleasant. It has reasonable length and I have a feeling it may yet improve.
- Muscatel de Setubal Alambre 1999 (J.M. de Fonseca)
Very subdued fruit for a young wine - a traditional style perhaps. Curious - intense in a way - probably OK but needs a bit of time.
- Vermentino Ariento 2000 (Massa Vecchia)
Deep golden colour (it is aged some time in old chestnut barrels, I believe), the nose seems quite animal at first but settles down to remind me of straw in Summer, with herby notes. A wine of great character, completely fresh but miles from modern winemaking. I wonder how it will evolve. Easy
- Amontillado Coliseo (Valdespino)
Excellent depth of flavour, savoury with an almost burnt quality. Really lovely.
- Barolo Bricco delle Viole 1988 (G.D. Vajra)
A wine of substance entering its plateaux of maturity. Nice balance and structure, it seems quite modern in style in some ways but is very much Barolo on the long, scented, tarry finish. Top
- Rioja Gran Reserva 904 1994 (La Rioja Alta)
Not densely coloured by the standards of modern wine, but this style is always lighter. Sweet fruit nose, but with a hint of VA about it that seems to blow off once the wine has been open a while. Attractive and complex with a good finish, but I think I slightly prefer the Prado Enea in this vintage.
- Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea 1994 (Muga)
Fairly light coloured, as one might expect (hope for, even) in traditional Rioja. Scented, raspberry nose and sweet fruit with hints of underbrush and a very subtle overlay of vanilla. Very drinkable and on paying proper attention there is excellent length too.
- Valtellina Sfursat 5-stelle 1999 (Nino Negri)
Hard to know what to make of this wine, which I have noted before is made from partially dried Nebbiolo grapes. It carries its 15% alcohol pretty lightly, has lovely red-cherry fruit and certainly rates at least three stars. I don't think I want to go further than that now but I would be interested to taste this in 10 years. It is already quite sought-after and worth trying if you get the chance. Top
- Chianti Classico Riserva 1997 (Fonterutoli)
Dense fruit and gummy tannins, opening up after a while to reveal forrest floor characters to attractive, mouthwatering Chianti fruit. My guess is this will not really rate a fourth star but it is still quite young.
- Regaleali 2001 (Tasca d'Almerita)
A decent choice from an Italian restaurant wine list - gluggable Pinot Nero (I think). Good for its price. A very top
- Barolo Cannubi 1993 (Prunotto)
A bit rubbery at first but with lovely dry, savoury, scented fruit. Good length and lots of succulenin tannins. Improves after several hours breathing. I think I have under-rated this before - it is still improving and is a very good
- Dolcetto dAlba 2001 (Cascina Morassino)
Juicy succulent fruit. Just what one might hope for.
- Gevrey Chambertin Aux Etelois 1999 (B. Maume)
From a village-level vineyard just below Griottes-Chambertin, this has some of the finely delineated sour-cherry fruit that the Grand Cru is famous for. Meaty too underneath - top quality for a village wine. Will improve further without perhaps meriting another star.
- Monthelie 1er Cru Sur La Velle 1999 (Chateau de Monthelie - Suremain)
Substantial wine, plumskin pinot, tending a touch towards cooked. Rustic but good. I think the fruit is close to maturity although the tannins are still quite prominent. Good food wine that probably merits
- Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru les Baudes 1995 (H. Lignier)
Very decent Burgundy that I thought might be something like a 92 blind - the colour and far more importantly the fruit are quite mature. I am slightly surprised by this given 95's reputation as an aging vintage - the tannins are there but this is for drinking in the next few years. Still a good
- Bourgogne Rouge 1995 (Roumier)
Pleasant strawberry fruit but not much weight. Either a bit light or a bit too old. Bare
- Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 1998 (Raveneau)
Lovely minerality, this gets more interesting the more you drink of it. No hurry to consume but this seems quite forward and is certainly very drinkable, but it might yet develop even further. Raveneau really is the master!
- Puligny Montrachet La Truffiere 1995 (J.-M. Boillot)
Classic Puligny nose, restrained but hinting at nuts, quite a large-framed lees-influenced wine which expands nicely on the palate. Entering a mature plateau and very good - just meriting