The Diary - October 2002
- Chianti Classico Riserva Rancio 1995 (Felsina Berardenga)
Juicy red berries - very Chianti, brambley and a touch of sous-bois, the whole package quite dry and challenging despite the fruit. Good, if perhaps not so generous right now - is this the vintage, and will it resolve with a few years in cellar? On the whole yes I think but I don't know if it will ever rate an extra star. Right now a low
- Valtellina 5-stelle Sfursat 1999 (Nino Negri)
Interesting wine - made with partially dried grapes like an Amarone but from Nebbiolo - and it sees some new oak. The fruit is deliciously ripe, and with the prunelike quality of Amarone. It drank very well with cheese, and it is hard to find wines that do that. I wonder what the future holds for this - I suspect it may improve a bit - it might even merit another star.
- Quercilaia Alicante 1998 (Mantelassi)
In general, let Grenache and similar grapes not be put in to new oak - it seems an awkward marriage to me. If it is to be done though, let it be done like this: Good cherry fruit with bags of spice from the oak. A pleasant touch of bitterness in the finish. Lovely quality tannins. Probably needs a few years but I don't think it will gain another star. With some reservations:
- Soave Classico Superiore 2000 (Inama)
Stylish, dry, almond and honeysuckle Soave. Good
- Anagallis 1995 (Castello di Lilliano - Ruspoli)
This Sangiovese-based super-Tuscan has a very rustic, gamey nose that I oscillate between finding rather interesting and characterful and a bit much. Otherwise this is quite old-fashioned in some ways: marked acidity, a touch of chocolate, a slightly citric character but it has seen some new oak too I guess. I don't have complete confidence but if it evolves gracefully it merits
- Valpolicella Superiore 1998 (Marion)
Toasty, blackberry fruit - is this done with new oak? The fruit is nicely silky but it doesn't say Valpolicella to me - just a bit international I feel. Bare
- Ribera del Duero Reserva Fiel 1994 (Briego)
I enjoyed this very much at a tasting. It has a wild almost animal quality while still having silky textured fruit. A few more years won't do it any harm, but will it rate another star?
- Rioja Reserva Vina Tondonia 1994 (Lopez de Heredia)
The red from the estate whose 87 white Reserva I was tasting recently. This is old-fashioned winemaking again - underbrush nose with a slight hint of volatility and nail varnish remover but some complexity. A dry palate suggests this may dry out rather than develop from here but it is hard to be sure. Interesting but not the unqualified success that the white is. Bare
- Rioja Reserva Vina Tondonia blanco 1987 (Lopez de Heredia)
Very traditional white Rioja, yet totally fresh and vibrant (the excellent acidity helps of course). Herby vanillan palate, completely resolved and with nowhere further to go this is for drinking now I feel although there can't be any hurry. A really enjoyable
- Champagne 1990 (Taittinger)
Fat and blowsy - this wine seems to get more that way as it ages. I don't want to sound too critical: it's a good wine although not my favourite style. In any case drink in the next year or two. From a magnum.
- Semilon Sauvignon Blanc 1989 (Cape Mentelle)
In good condition - honeyed - attractive in a way. Past it perhaps but in an iteresting way.
- Tilly's Vineyard 1988 (Henschke)
Spicy kerosene hints in this mature white. Rich - excellent fruit. A really top
- Sauvignon blanc 1987 (Cloudy Bay)
Probably not intended that it be kept this long: alive though - high acid - but fairly 1-dimensional. A bare
- Chassagne Montrachet Champgains 1994 (Niellon)
Suave, silky, creamy, amazing texture. Real class from a moderate vintage. Top
- Puligny Montrachet Demoiselles 1994 (Amiot)
Dark colour - quite evolved. Oily hazelnuts. Something attractively vegetal - less obvious fruityness than the Neillon. Good length. Quite different from the previous wine but another top
- Chambolle Musigny Les Hauts Doix 1er cru 1990 (Groffier)
Silky medium-weight gorgeously easy fruit with a huge hit of animality. Long, mineral finish. Lovely.
- Bonnes Mares 1994 (Groffier)
Fine, deep, complex red fruits. As one might imagine this is finer than the above but slightly lighter from the vintage - and with excellent underlying "grand cru" concentration. Intellectually this is probably "better" than the 1990 above but I like that wine at least as much. Another excellent Burgundy.
- Certan Giraud 1990
Pleasant scented Pomerol, nice acidity. Easy drinking in a good sense.
- Domaine de Chevalier 1978
Lovely tobacco mature claret nose. Fine, succulent. Nice acidity. Might even improve.
- Brunello Riserva 1990 (Argiano)
Good looking, deep brambly, savoury young fruit. A bit closed now - will be very fine.
- Barolo Bricco Bussia Vigna Cicala 1980 (Aldo Conterno)
Gentle, mature but gone a bit rubbery and oxidised. I suspect other bottles might be rather better but others disagree.
- Vino da Tavola, Ronco di Mompiano 1985
It was getting a bit late, but my impression is that this is a high-toned, mature, pleasant wine.
- Comtes de Champagne 1988 (Taittinger)
Dry and flavoursome, yeasty, characterful. lovely rich - grippy fine - great mousse. Classy even to my jaded palate at the end of a long evemning. Probably not yet at peak.
- Merlot 1997 (Heggies)
Big warm-climate cassis and blackberry nose. Sweet fruit, bags of oak and a hot finish. Bare
- McCrea Wood Shiraz 1998 (Jim Barry)
Minty - very so. Sweet fruit, stylish palate - not too intimidating. Bare
- Cote Rotie Les Jumelles 1999 (Jaboulet)
Muted, deep, plummy. Dry palate, a bit meaty - fine acidity (very juicy) - good length.
- Tria Syrah 1997
Highish-toned, sweet fruit and underbrush. Slightly bitter-edged fruit gives character. Pretty drinkable but a bit of backbone too.
- Minervois Cuvee Sylla 2000 (Borie de Maruel)
Complex nut and mushroom nose - smoky coffee emerges. Curiously slightly monolithic character to an impressive front of fruit. Good length. I would like to try this more seriously - for now
- St Henri Shiraz 1998 (Penfolds)
A touch of roast meat, but quite closed. A mouthful of rather anonymous slightly stewed fruit. Australia stripped bare of oak perhaps. Acidity there but fruit rather sweet. It does emerge in the glass. I could almost give it an extra star but for now
- Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier 2001 (d'Arenberg)
In your face red fruits and a bit of clove (slightly confected) - touch of cassis - and a bit of mint. Very soft cloying fruit - although the acidity is quite high in fact. Others will like this but I don't!
- Balmoral Syrah 1998 (Rosemount)
Deep fruit, slightly burnt - cedary too. touch of mint on this as well. A bit higher-toned slightly meaty fruit. Finish a bit sweet.
- Grange 1997 (Penfolds)
Warm raspberry fruit. Very gluggable and not terribly demanding - very juicy - but a drinkable balance. That written when I like everbody else tasting thought the next wine was Grange. This is in fact rather good in an elegant way but suprprisingly insubstantial.
- Magill Estate Shiraz 1999 (Penfolds)
Very deep almost spirity caramel nose. Quite savoury, meaty - less monsterous than one might fear. (I thought this was Grange when I wrote that.) Rather fine - and I think with some scope for development.
- Wine Society Champagne NV (Gratien)
A bit iffy tonight - seems a shade sweet and has a slightly coarse, bitter finish (and one bottle was corked).
- Pape Clement 1998
Deep colour - splendid fine, gamy fruitcake, irony nose. Closed now but good length. Top wine.
- Pape Clement 1997
Lighter colour, less weight, nice fruit but a shade less ripe too. A good decision to make the wine a bit less ambitiously than the 98 but it has the same character.
- Pape Clement 1995
Intense but closed - ripe, nice acidity bags of ripe tannins. Will be a top wine.
- Pape Clement 1994
Fragrant - speaks on the nose in a way that the preceding wines did not. But it is a bit shorter than the 95 and perhaps demonstrates the weaknesses of this goodish vintage. More or less mature, this is a good drink while not being of the standard of the 95 or the 88.
- Pape Clement 1988
A star: dry, savoury (tobacco and iron) - needs food with it now and it could do with a few years yet. Splendid wine - an easy
- Pape Clement 1985
Brown rim (much more so than the 88) - the terroir shows in some interesting flavours but it is a bit dull - I feel it is what happens when an estate believes the terroir is so good they don't have to put in the effort. This belongs to the dull period for this property that ended in the next couple of vintages.
- Petit Clement blanc 1997
The estates second white wine is made in tiny qualntities: lemony, dry, aromatic, pleasant - well worth trying if you see it at a decent price.