History in a Glass

Last night I hosted a tasting which looked at eight wines and the accidents of history which gave us them. It was great fun to discuss, not just the wines, but also their stories.

First off was Gaia Ritinis Nobilis ('04, under cork), a modern twist on retsina, a style of wine which is at least three thousand years old. Light and aromatic - pine! of course - this would make a good aperitif, or else the clean pungency of the pine would very nicely contrast spicy or oily foods. But not many of the tasters liked it: I suppose it's too far out of the mainstream of modern taste. I rated it at 13/20, but I guess the consensus was more like 11/20.

Jumping forward almost the whole three thousand years, we had Wither Hills sauvignon blanc ('04, screwcap). Just about the purest, greenest, freshest expression of sauvignon I know, it is a canonical example of the World's newest Classic Wine Style. Imagine, less than thirty years ago there was no such thing as Marlborough Sauvignon. And now you can get this 15+/20 beaut from Oddbins for £8.99.

Yikes! Fishtank emergency! I'll finish this post later - come back and look again tomorrow.


Summertime, dum-dee-dum-dum-dee-deeeeee-dum

What a glorious day. Ideal weather for sitting outside, enjoying a glass of fizz and some asparagus tips & hollandaise. So we did.

Asparagus needs no garnish. Sizzled butter or perhaps - the decadence of it! - truffle oil would be the height of luxury, but classic dishes exert a kind of gravity. To do otherwise goes against a law of nature.

The Champenois assert that champagne will pair any food. Certainly our bottle of Canard-Duchêne brut (non-vintage, under cork) was a fair match, the dryness and acidity of the wine contrasting with the rich sauce, but other wines would better match the flavour of the asparagus.

Canard-Duchêne has just a hint of pinkness in the depths. The nose is wet gravel (translation: classic champagne style minerality; aka fish tanks), and on the palate I find the same mineral quality. It is very dry, full bodied, and showing just a touch of richness. No real toastiness, tho, which is a little disappointing. I have found it better previously. 13(+)/20.


Swiss wine, by golly!

Yup, courtesy of the Big Egg, a bottle of Jean-René Germanier Dôle Balavaud Grand Cru '03, under cork. Never tasted Swiss wine before, hey-hey. Apparently they keep it all for themselves. This stuff is good. It puts me in mind of bojo, or passetoutgrains, which isn't a great surprise, since the grape blend is pretty much the same; pinot noir and gamay.

Dark red, the nose is still developing - it's a good balance of bright fruitiness and a more mature savoury (maybe potato?) character. On the palate the wine is dry, light-bodied, and markedly spicy, with perhaps a hint of licorice. It's distinctly warming.

I want to be drinking this wine somewhere in France, with a chunk of Tomme des Pyrénées, one of those skinny baguettes they call a flute, and the sun on my back. Thank you, your Eggness.

Whoops, the score... (14)-15/20.


Wine Bloggin' W*****day #11 - "Off Dry"

"Off Dry". Hmmn... tricky, that. In these days of mass-produced wine juice, the boundaries of dry have rather spread sugar-wards. Aha!, here's something which certainly isn't dry, but wouldn't (I reckon), make a good dessert wine. Is that a good definition for off-dry, do you think?

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 02004, under cork, comes in a lovely old fashioned blue flute. It's a light wine from the banks of the Saar, a (very!) cool-climate region tucked into the corner of Germany next to Luxembourg and France.

At only 8.5% alcohol, and palest green, this would make a fine mid-afternoon refresher. It's ever so slightly pétillant, with a fresh mixed salad leaves nose. On the palate it has fairly high apparent acidity, and a moderate degree of sweetness. It is very lime-y, and very-very-very refreshing. The finish is clean but not long. A solid 15/20.

NB 1: I say apparent acidity because I suspect that this is one of those clever German wines which skilfully balances very high acidity against very high residual sugar.

NB 2: Reichsgraf von Kesselstat is the producer (website: www.kesselstatt.de), Ockfener Bockstein is the vineyard, Riesling is the grape variety, and Kabinett is the quality level.

NB 3: I daren't mention W*****days in case it sparks off another fine wine débacle.

NB 4: I bought this in the Co-op. As far as they could tell it didn't exist, so they sold it to me (after much conferring) for £3.99. I reckon it's more like six quid, so if you like the sound of it get in there quick.

NB 5: Thanks to Beau of Basic Juice for hosting Wine Blogging Wed***day no 11.