Jumilla DO, Murcia / Albacete, Spain

This was my first outing with the wines of Jumilla and I have been pleasantly surprised. The key grape in Jumilla is Monastrell, better known as Mourvèdre and frequently blended with Syrah and Grenache. This particular wine purports to be from bush vines grown at altitude and I think that comes across in the tasting note. This wine was tasted blind and made a fine accompaniment to a rich lasagna.

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Camino de Seda, Selección Especial, Jumilla DO, 2014

Appearance: An intense and dark garnet, clear legs on swirling suggesting high alcohol.
Nose: Subdued on the nose despite time spent in the decanter.
Palate: Unlike the nose the intensity of appearance was mirrored on the palate. Dark fruits dominate, but these are fresh as if the climate is slightly cooler. There are notes of pepper, dark chocolate and coffee beans but again these are green in nature. Whilst this has a high alcohol content it remains in balance. High acidity focuses a medium length finish on this with a splash of minerality.

Conclusions: I got as far as Spain in identifying this but as for Jumilla I was in the dark. It was a welcome surprise to discover a new DO whilst tasting blind and Jumilla would be an region I seek out to try in future.  A intense and tasty wine suited to hearty, rustic meat dishes.

Score: 87/100

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Hedonism Wines, Mayfair, London, UK

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Flowers planted in the street outside Hedonism Wines

Hedonism:

  1. The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.
  2. The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

An article on a wine shop would normally be somewhat dry, were it any other than Hedonism Wines. Hedonism had been on my radar for a while, often being one of the few places stocking rare and unusual wines. The website is in line with most other independent wine outlets, albeit with a broader selection. The shop in contrast is a sight to behold.

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A practical storage solution for glasses when not in use

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Nestled in the heart of Mayfair Hedonism wines is a modern day Dionysian temple to wine. An astonishing collection of wines has been assembled here, with the very finest producers represented. Certain producers are on show in individual displays within the shop, almost like shrines to these gods of wine. If I consider the definition of Hedonsim above I can’t help but feel wine could indeed be the highest good and proper aim of human life.

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The very finest wines are displayed in individual sections of the shop

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If Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is not your thing how about a whole cave of Sine Qua Non

What makes Hedonism so much more fun that looking through the windows of a Ferrari garage is the downstairs tasting area, equipped with on-trend Enomatic tasting machines. I enjoyed tasting 6 different wine here for around £20 on the Enomatic card including a taste of Benjamin Romeo’s oustanding 2007 Contador.

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A serious number of wines to taste makes for a fun afternoon shopping

There are no real budget wines on sale in Hedonism, but at the same time there are plenty of bottles in the 10 to 20 pound range. It appears care has gone into the selection throughout and I found all of the wines tasted from the Enomatic  machines were of a high standard. Hedonism also appear to be a specialist in large format bottles and several machines to serve them were also on display. For those of us on a tighter budget they stock a strong range in the half-bottle format too.

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Just some of the many large format bottles on offer

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The collection of spirits is also formidable

Conclusions: Hedonism Wines is well worth checking out next time you are in the vicinity. Whether window shopping, tasting, or looking for that special bottle for dinner, Hedonism supercharges the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence in wine. Having thoroughly browsed the website I will be popping back to pick up a bottle of Nikolaihof’s Steiner Hund.

The Mistake

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Recently, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Mayfair’s best premium wine shop, Hedonism. I came with the sole intention of buying a single half bottle of red, but was tempted by the immense selection, and knowledgeable staff. The wine was to be drunk at Hawksmoor, the renowned steak restaurant which offers £5 corkage on Mondays (a serious rarity in London). This was a special occasion, and required something interesting and good. In the end, I opted for ‘New Zealand’s best pinot noir,’ from Ata Rangi.

The story of Ata Rangi’s pinot is the stuff of legend. Back in the 80s, Clive Paton (the founder and owner), called on the help of winemaker Malcolm Abel. Fortunately for Paton, Abel had identified some exciting pinot cuttings, brought over illegally from Burgundy in a Kiwi’s boot. In fact, it is thought that these cuttings came from non-other than the world-famous estate of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. These confiscated vines were bought by Paton, planted in his estate, and have been called the ‘Gumboot clone’ or ‘Abel clone’ ever-since. The estate now employs the characteristic of several different Pinot clones, including the Dijon clone for its perfume, and clone 5 for its structure.

These wines has been incredibly well received in the press. Here are the experts’ opinions:

  • Hugh Johnson explains it as ‘seductively fragrant’ and ‘powerful.’
  • At the 2010 International Pinot noir Conference, it was given the title ‘Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa,’ translating from Maori as ‘Grand cru of New Zealand.’
  • Bob Campbell, MW writes: ‘Ata Rangi produce one of the country’s greatest wines’
  • James Suckling calls it ‘a materpiece’, giving the 2013 vintage 98-99 points.
  • Tim Aitkin and Nick Stock have both called it ‘New Zealand’s best pinot’
  • New Zealand experts Sam King and Raymond Chan reward the 2013 vintage 98 points

So, what is the hype about? I gave it a try… below are my tasting notes.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, 2013, Martinborough

Visuals: Ruby-purple, clean and medium viscosity.

Nose: Austere primary fruit: blackberries, cherry. Very light touch of oak. Peppery and herbacious. Obvious smoked bacon fat. Alcohol is quite strong.

Palate: Some cherry fruit. Very peppery, almost Rhone like! Dried oregano. Good acidity, great tension and minerality and extremely long finish. Masses of tannin; the most tannic Pinot I have ever tasted.

Conclusions: This is clearly very youthful and primary. Overall, actually rather difficult to drink. So intense, so tannic and overall, rather overpowering for steak. This would probably need something gamey to pair with. I am no expert in anticipating a wine’s potential to age, but based on the structure, the tannin, and the primal nature of this wine, I can at least see why the experts suggest you leave this for a bit in the cellar.

Learning Points: Don’t be greedy. Yes, you can drink wine young, but if everyone is telling you to wait, just wait! To quote Decanter: ‘it would be ‘Sacrilegious to drink it [Ata Rangi 2013 pinot noir) now, despite its deliciousness.’

Château Léoville Barton, Saint-Julien, 1989

Being born in 1989 I hope I am ageing as gracefully as this stunning claret. Léoville Barton is known for long-lived classic claret, often inaccessible in youth. The thing with backward youths is that they have an opportunity to flourish in middle age and this is no exception. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to get a snap of this bottle.  Instead I have included a photo of the stunning 2001 vintage Léoville Barton; one of my all-time top red wines.

Tasting Note: The rich aromas in this bottle were noted immediately on pouring, with blackcurrant dominating, but not in a primary mode.  There was plenty of complexity but the individual components were difficult to pick out – the term that sprung to mind is sois-bois (a French term meaning undergrowth or forest floor).

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On the palate the tannin was mostly resolved leaving the wine medium bodied.  The fruit remarkably is still there: juicy stewed blackcurrants and red berry compote.  Aside from fruit the palate is dominated by pencil lead (unmistakable in this particular wine) with spice rounding out the long finish.  This retains good structure and a high acidity keeping the wine in one piece and balanced.

Conclusions:   Given age this has opened up into a classic mature red Bordeaux. This is a superb wine although to my palate not quite up with the 2001 vintage of the same.  Everything is here but the difference between the two is a question of the balance, poise and elegance at the time of tasting.

Score: 92/100 (DT)

My Least Favourite Wine

Blind tasting is all about testing whether our approach to tasting is objective enough to sort the wheat from the chaff. Today I was served a wine that was unique in being the joint worst wine I have ever tasted.

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Baywood Rich Red, NV, UK

Appearance: Clear ruby/garnet.
Nose: Sickly raspberry and strawberry, incense, light volatile acidity.
Palate: Sweet, thin, mild acidity and absolutely no tannin.  There is far less fruit than on the nose but a sour strawberry dominates. This is very flabby, lacks focus and has no structure.

Score: This is a wine of exceptionally low quality deserving a paltry 55-60 points.

I have only tasted something like this once and it was made in the UK from reconstituted Merlot juice. Lo and behold this was also a wine made from reconstituted grape juice here in the UK. Given the sickly presentation I suspect that sugar is actually added at some point in the production process.

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Unfortunately for the producers of this wine I suspect I could not get much further from the intended audience. My passion for terroir driven wines is somewhat in conflict with reconstituted generic grape juice from an unknown source. I’d resist the urge to ferment this as it was undoubtedly more enjoyable as a fruit juice. For the first time in years I have a suspicion this is a wine that tastes better with lemonade.

Conclusion: I would not waste your liver on this one.

 

Birthday Wine: An Eternal Dilemma

Birthday wine is a funny thing. The dream is always to discover a glorious old bottle, originating from your friend’s date of birth. The reality is that you know nothing about the obscure vintage, you can’t find something that was made to age, and you ultimately have to sacrifice quality along the way.

Now I’m all for birthday wine, but when all your friends were born in 1994, you run into some difficulty. Grange was very good that year, but the student loan won’t quite stretch that far. Port was pretty good, but is again too expensive. Bordeaux was ‘wet and cold,’ Sauternes ‘should be avoided’ and Burgundy was ‘a train-wreck.’

Where to go? Answer: The Wine Society’s ‘Anniversary Wines’ page. However, there is a problem. The only wine they list is a certain Domaine Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, at a meagre £595. Bullocks.

How does one resolve such a travesty? Don’t go broke. Don’t waste more time searching. Instead, buy the much more affordable (£14)/available 1996 Rivesaltes dessert wine, and pretend you got their date of birth wrong. By the time it gets to dessert, they’ll be drunk enough to forgive you!

20160820_183330Parcé Frères, Vin Doux Naturel, Rivesaltes, France 1996

Orange-brown colour throughout this concentrated wine. Orange liquor, burnt hazelnut, mollases and cinnamon come through. Lacking acidity which makes it slightly sickly. Toasted oak on the finish which is well integrated.  This was drunken in the summer, but really would have suited a frosty Christmas night. Overall, very good value: expressive and rich. 88 Points (BP).

Learning Points:

Look towards this under-rated region of the world for great value, crowd pleasing sweet wines.

 

Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc

It has not been a love story between me and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Thankfully the relationship is improving as I have recently tasted a number of far more sophisticated examples. This was purchased from Aldi for £9.99 and I admit to being dubious spending this amount at a low cost retailer. As with many of these wines it is difficult to know who produces this. From my understanding this is barrel fermented and blended from 2-3 selected plots across the estate. As such the wine has the opportunity to explore the terroir relative to more mass produced wines.

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Aldi, Lot 13 ‘Port Underwood’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2015

There is an almost spritzy feeling on first tasting leading in to lemon juice from attack through to the end palate. Searing acidity cuts through to the back of the mouth resulting in good focus.  The late palate has spice, warmth and a rounded body from the oak with nutty tones and a buttery mouthfeel. As this wine warmed up it became progressively more savoury with a note of capsicum coming through although this faded on day 2. The finish has a delightful splash of saltiness and stones.

Conclusion: A serious and sophisticated Sauvignon Blanc showing restraint and a giving sense of the terroir.  The barrel fermentation adds both warmth and body from the oak but also a slight malolactic flare. This would be marvelous with rich fish or seafood but make sure the flavours of the food are robust.

Score: 89/100 (DT)