Collector’s Corner

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-07


On the gastronomy front an incredible meal was enjoyed at Le Cinq in Paris, bearing absolutely no resemblance to Jay Rayner’s very amusing description from a couple of years ago, to be found here

Visually, texturely and tasting-wise it was amazing, even if not everything agreed with everyone. Turbot, venison and onions remain firmly in the memory. Jay needs to revisit!

Chateau Grillet’s second wine, (rather understatedly) labelled as Cotes du Rhone was discovered here and what a beauty it was, although seemingly impossible to find in the U.K.

Another first time experience enjoyed was L’Assiette in the Montparnasse part of town, a neighbourhood restaurant sending out glorious French classics with a modern twist, but not in the case of the cassoulet – that was just classic! There a new discovery on the wine front was made, Romain Pertuzot, whose Chorey Les Beaune 2015 was bright, tense and juicy.

Sadly, the legendary Tan Dinh, the Vietnamese restaurant in St. Germain, whose regular customers once included the likes of Steven Spurrier and Paul Bowker back in the day seems a little tired. Under seasoned and under spiced food, the list is not what it once was but still heralded some beauties none the less. There is an impressive list of Barthod, Coche, Mortet and Niellon, amongst others, although the latter will not be served, whatever the vintage, due to premox issues - very worrying indeed! A Clos l’Eglise ’78 was full of old world charm.

There was a superbly curated Ledbury lunch will other top drawer collectors with Haut Brion ’96 leading the way, pursued by Palmer ’89 and admirable examples of ’02 white Burgundies, Le Clos from Raveneau and Henri Boillot’s Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles, all preceded by a gorgeous 2010 Keller Abts E Spätlese.

Dry January will have to wait yet another year!


Old school RIOJA dinner - Portland Restaurant, London

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-10-17


Guests gathered for a rather special evening of rare, older Rioja vintages at the Portland restaurant, a one-star Michelin restaurant serving food in an informal style of family-service.

The plates were delicious, and although a couple of the starters - buttermilk and smoked cod’s roe - worried the table in light of the venerable bottles, there was no arguing with the deliciousness of every plate served. The main course of beef was simply outstanding, served with melt-in-the-mouth heritage carrots and brown buttered cauliflower.

The wines were opened 90 minutes in advance, and with so many crumbling corks, insecurity got the better of us and we held off decanting until the last minute in most cases.

Starter course 1

Ygay Etiqueta Blanca 1970

2 bottles were served, one of which opened with a musty nose, the other was much more energetic with purer character.

It’s always worth leaving old bones some time in the glass to recover from the shock of opening, and sure enough, the musty character blew off, but without the zest and purity of the second bottle.

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial 1970

By comparison the Castillo Ygay, bottled we think in the late 1990s or 2000s, and with a fresh cork to prove it, seemed rather clunky and thick. It was as if the extended barrel ageing has rubbed out its finer lines, leaving it smudged.

There was no arguing with the richer fruit, but where was the definition or class?


 

Starter course 2

Berberana Rioja Gran Reserva 1950

From a private cellar in Richmond, this wine was served from a decanter, having been filtered through muslin to strain a few pieces of crumbly cork that the operator of the Westmark cork puller had failed to pull out cleanly.

Arguably the star of the show, this ethereal wine showed intensity allied to a sense of weightlessness. It improved in the decanter over 2 hours and wowed the entire table.

Rioja GR Honorable Gomez Cruzado 1964

Similarly to the Ygay Etiqueta Blanca, a dustiness blew off with time in the glass to reveal pear drops and an earthy, more savoury character.

Bodegas Bilbainas 1964

Fruity and balanced with an alluring freshness and utterly delicious. A surprise since no one had encountered the producer. One to seek out and is very good value.

Main course

Vina Real CVNE 1964

This was the other wine that vied for wine of the night along with the Berberana.

Energetic, deep and pure. Burgundian texture with a brilliant complexity of fruit that carried though into a long and deeply satisfying finish.

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1964

An absolute dog of a bottle, sadly. Devil’s juice.

Rioja Alta 904 Reserva 1964

A comparatively rich fruit profile on this wine compared to the other wines of the flight, but perhaps somewhat lacking in definition if we were to be critical. This less developed – perhaps worth revisiting in the future?



Cheeseboard

Corral Reserva 1987

Perhaps a touch of rusticity here, but with plenty to like, with a pungent, rose petal quality to the nose.

Corral Reserva 1991

Richer and less evolved than the 1987, this made an interesting comparison. Tasted on its own this would no doubt have seemed excellent, but slightly overshadowed by the context here I fear.

Plus a mystery wine served blind – 1988 Valbuena 5

Elegant and pleasantly evolved with remarkable balance between richness of the Douro fruit and a dry, firm structure reminiscent of cool climate claret, even down to a persistent saline note on the palate lending freshness. Certainly supports the reputation of the producer.




What we learned

1. The dinner challenged the blanket reputation of 1964 as immortal - it isn’t. Delicious though several were, they are not destined to remain so.

2. A common understanding is that Gran Reserva is better than Reserva, that is better than Consecha. Price follows the length of description it seems. Based on this tasting, the length of time aged in wooden vats does not necessarily improve the quality of the wine. The Etiqueta Blanco vs Gran Reserva Especial, both 1970, certainly supports this thinking. Th Etiqueta Blanco was the finer wine, by far.

It doesn’t help that definitions seems to have changed over the years. Our 904 1964 was a Reserva, and possibly all the better for it, whilst other bottlings of the same year are described (in a Bid for Wine auction a year ago) as Gran Reserva. More recent vintages of 904 are described as Gran Reserva.

3. You don’t need to just follow the wines of the biggest Rioja operations, such as Rioja Alta, Marques de Murrieta and CVNE. The least well known producers on this showing delivered very good value for such old wines.


Restaurant tips

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-19



It has been said by some wise sage that 1% of people care way too much about wine and 99% of people don’t care enough. This rings true, and I thought it would be interesting to investigate why this is.

Most of my friends and peers drink wine. With sufficient regularity to alarm the British Medical Council in many cases. And most of them drink rubbish. Seriously – any £5 bottle will do the trick normally, and the second cheapest wine on the restaurant wine list is pretty much as far as they go.

This baffles me.

OK, so not everyone is going to spend a fortune on a wine collection, or consult Parker or Robinson for every wine buying decision, but it is really simple to drink more interesting wines without breaking the bank or having to do hours of painstaking research.Here are a few rules of thumb, aimed at buying wine in a restaurant (assuming it isn’t one of the growing numbers that allow you to BYO for a modest corkage).

1) The cheapest wines normally have the highest % mark-ups, and the second cheapest wine normally has the highest mark-up. Restaurateurs know how people make buying decisions, so be aware of the relative lack of value.

2) The first few wines on a list will have tendency to be ‘neutral’ in style, as they are likely to be bought to match all foods. One size fits all is not the best way to approach buying wine – think about what you are going to order.

3) Don’t be afraid to buy by the glass. Technology such as Coravin means a far wider array of wines can be sampled, so you can avoid just plumping for a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, or a bog standard Rioja, and narrowing your options. Why not order a suitable wine for every course of you meal?

4) Look for exotic grape varieties or little known regions – these are likely to be the sommelier’s attempts to stamp their expertise and personality on the wine list, and will likely be good value and interesting. Think Greece, Portugal, Austria, or regions like Swartland in South Africa or Salta in Argentina.

5) Embrace the joys of dessert wines. Seriously, sweet wines are amazing things that are criminally overlooked. A little bit of ‘sticky’ at the end of your meal is always a good thing!

6) If the restaurant has a sommelier, get their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions. These guys are there to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your meal.


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