Got the sauternes bleues

Or bleues sauternais, peut-être?

After the d'Yquem glory of last week, it seemed the obvious next step was Château de Rayne Vigneau 1988.

In the glass the wine was glowing, luminous gold, brighter than any wine I can think of. On the nose it was powerful bitter oranges, with an earthy leaf-mold undertone. On the palate there was marmalade, intense sweetness and acidity, beautifully balanced. The finish was very very long, and as fresh as grape juice (sixteen year old wine, egad). A solid 16/20.

But it wasn't d'Yquem. Hand on heart, I do really have to say, it is worth paying the ridiculous, horrendous price, in order to experience the intensity of d'Yquem.


Easy Quem, easy go

Mwahahahahahahahaa! I have seen the future, and it is skint. But I don't care, for I have tasted the nectar of the gods. Also, the ambrosia. And when I say ambrosia, I do not mean rice. Oh no. d'Yquem and roquefort for tea, that's me.

I'm sorry to say that I have got in with a bad crowd. I don't know who started it, The Big Egg or SmallFierceGlasses, but once the idea was floated, there was a certain unavoidable Juggernautiness about it. ThisYear'sTallAustralian was simply rolled over. I feel slightly bad about that, but only ever so slightly, for I have supped of the sap of the lotos, the blessed fluid that goes by the earthly name of Chateau d'Yquem '96.

A rich dark gold in colour, and with an intense aroma of seville orange marmalade - but with an underlying hint of earthiness, the wine (wine! There should be another word for such a superior substance as this) was sweet, powerfully acid, almost smoky-seeming, the flavour of marmalade being joined by a hint of butteriness. But so fresh. Eight years old, it might have been vinified only this month.

We drank it, in part, on bended knee, and on reflection, we ought to have sent out for hats, in order that we might doff them.

Chateau d'Yquem '96 18+/20.


Smiley's South African Tasting

I know I shouldn't blog when I'm drunk, but sometimes wine gets you so fired up that you just have to talk about it. The Observatory Carignan/Syrah is such. Yes, I mentioned it only last month, but this is the stuff that dreams are made on. There were other wines. It says so here. I hardly remember.

Oh yes, we started with The Berrio '03. The finest sauvignon of the year. I have tasted better sauvignons, but, not this year, and not at that price. Certainly the best non-Loire sauvignon. A rock solid 16/20, despite the acidity having mellowed slightly. I can hardly wait for the '04.

The Observatory '02. Opened at nine in the morning, poured into glasses at five, this was still evolving when we came to taste it at half-eight, it has such jumping-fresh acidity and fruit flavours. This time I also detected a shiny metallic edge to it. Two medics at the tasting likened this to the tang of blood. But that wild herb nose! Honestly, if you care about wine at all, go and get a bottle of this stuff, lock yourself away for two hours and contemplate the magic. 17-18/20


St Hallett blends

Barossa screw-topped wines for early drinking - but actually pretty decent for the money.

The Poacher's Blend '03 is half semillon, then riesling, colombard, sauvignon blanc. It has a pleasant perfumed touch on the nose. The palate is medium-full bodied, with a touch of lime. 12/20.

Gamekeeper's Reserve '03. An interesting twist on the Rhône blend, there is a small proportion of touriga in here. Big and full bodied, with hints of coffee developing, this is really rather delicious. 14/20.


Top whack St Emilion and Pomerol.

Following on the very next night after the Ardbeg vertical, and an ill defined quantity of very fine grappa, my palate was not at its sharpest, but bravely soldiering on I can bring you this report.

Chateau Grand Pontet '97. The Big Egg was obviously starting off on a low key, so as to work up to the good stuff at the end. Considering the price, this was really very ordinary. A decently made, clean claret, but frankly thin and short. 11/20

Chateau La Pointe '00 was tricky to pin down. Slightly rubbery at first, it developed a lovely candyfloss sweetness and a perfume-y edge. Final score 14/20, YMMV.

La Gomerie '97 was reticent to begin with, albeit showing a complex palate which lingered. The green privet hedge (The Small Egg calls it green tea) coffee-ish character did evolve, so it scored 15/20 in the end.

L'Eglise-Clinet had a similar green character, but greater complexity on the nose. It also showed a very appealing marzipan touch on the palate. 15/20

La Gomerie '98
ended up being my favourite of the night. This might have been cuz it was more impressive on the palate than the nose. There was a consensus amongst the tasters that these wines offered more to the nose than the palate: for me, La Gomerie was the counterexample. The nose was not strong and seemed to consist of barley sugar and washing up liquid. But the palate was concentrated, tannic, verging on full-bodied, hinting at marzipan, and ending long and tannic. Yum 15-16/20

Le Bon Pasteur. This was SmallFierceGlasses's favourite, and other tasters made favourable comments. I think I marked it down cuz the initial nose was somewhat burny, like hot green tea. The palate was medium bodied, very tannic, with white pepper. 14+/20

Saved the best fer last, huh? That would work, except that I was operating on only two hours sleep, and waaaay too much grappa. Aaaanyways.

Cheval Blanc '89
. An iconic wine, but not a great year. Yikes. The wine looked well aged, showing dark brown. The nose was reticent, clean and sweet, like boilings. On the palate it was sweet, light to medium bodied, with a vegetal character, perhaps of green peppers. The finish seemed reminiscent of hot menthol. Everything about this wine was balanced, together, integrated, but..., but..., it just didn't excite me. Perhaps it is beginning to become a little ethereal, ghostly. 15/20

Cheval Blanc '97. Distinctly green on the nose. Medium bodied and tannic, with a long sweet finish. In the glass, the wine developed hints of marzipan. 15/20


Small Island Boy's Ardbeg vertical tasting

Ok already, it says somewhere wine and corks, but what the heck, this was a cracking tasting, so wheesht.

Ardbeg has had a slightly wobbly time over the last few years, but that has gone away now, and the present trend seems to be all good. Current owners, Glenmorangie PLC, have spent a fair bit on doing the place up, and the first fruits of their labours are now available.

We didn't taste the whiskies strictly in age order, since the 6yo and the Uigeadail are cask strength, and the new make spirit is stronger still.

The ten year old, which in the past has always seemed very integrated and classically Islay to me, tonight was rather loose and unfocused. "Rather rough at the edges", my tasting notes have it, with smoke, bitter almonds, grass, mealiness and spicy-ness. 13/20

We tasted the 17 year old and the twenty-five, which Ardbeg calls Lord of the Isles, together. The 17 year old is all sweet mellow smokiness. Mellow, or perhaps refined. Next up was Lord of the Isles. Now this is a whisky to contemplate. We had a lengthy discussion about the relative value of LOTI vs 17 yo. Ginja reckons that it ain't worth twice the price, as does the Big Egg and Small Island Boy, but I , contrarian to the core, find there is so much in the bouquet of the LOTI that I would pay the difference, and then not drink the whisky, but just sit and nose it all night. It is warm dustiness, sunshine on old pine, smooth mellow caramel, leading to light smokiness and then a salty tang. I found the palate to have a sweeter attack than the younger bottlings, whilst offering up the same fine elements as the nose. All the same, it only gets 15/20.

That is probably harsh, but the Ardbeg six year old is so very exciting (I apologise for being a sensationalist) that it slightly overshadowed the LOTI. It is full - nay overflowing - with fresh fruit flavours, soapy apples to be precise, plus smokiness, and a zing that the older bottlings can't match. 16/20

The Uigeadail is another fruity one, but without the snap of the 6yo. The burny sensation seemed stronger too. It seemed rather like cognac. 14/20

Small Island Boy also threw in a blind taster, just to stir the pot. I got caramel and a distinct burniness on the nose, and a lengthy salty finish. I guessed Talisker initially, then moved off in the wrong direction entirely, heading Speywards, when in fact it was Springbank 10yo. I didn't give it a rating, but retrospectively I would guess 13-14/20.

We also had a nose at Ardbeg new make spirit - 70% proof. It's foul stuff. Sweet sweet oily fruitiness, overpowering and artificial seeming. Also, you can't actually taste anything, since your tastebuds are instantly numbed by the alcohol. To think that most whisky used to be sold and consumed this way. Not rated.